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After She Left

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It was the middle of the night when their SUV pulled up to a safe house that Monica had given them directions to. Like the man who had helped Scully and Monica escape FEMA at Our Lady of Sorrows and the pilot that was flying people up to the compound in Great Falls, Montana, there were pockets of the resistance all over the United States.

It felt less like they were going in alone knowing that there were people who believed in their cause. Mulder was impressed that they had developed such an incredible network right under CGB Spender’s nose.

Throughout their work on the X-Files, they often felt like they were going into battle alone with only each other to rely on. They had their badges from the FBI but they had continuously worked against a system that was trying to cover up the truth.

From what Mulder could gather as William spoke about the compound and the other members of the resistance, it stemmed from an idea that Monica had when he and Scully first went on the run. William spoke kindly about Monica and it made Scully smile to hear him describe the few memories he had with her. It was only fitting that the woman who helped bring William into this world watched over him and Scully. Monica did all this while he was off chasing his idea of proof of the syndicate and then helped him escape a death sentence. She was there for William while he and Scully couldn’t be.

He didn’t know how to repay such a debt but they owed her so much more than a simple thanks. He almost felt guilty for being so greedy about Scully’s time when they arrived at the compound.

With most communication lines down in the United States while FEMA had taken over, their family vehicle wasn’t able to check in with their group back in Montana. He knew that once they stopped for the night, Scully would want to try to contact Monica but he wasn’t sure how they would be able to do that.

The fastest route to Monument Valley took them through Idaho and Utah until the border with Arizona where the vast and historic stretch of bronze dessert with a clue to stopping the invasion and Spender awaited them.

The mountain behind them was growing smaller in the distance while also remaining the same ominous size to remind them they had a long way to go. On one side of the highway was a residential area tucked behind high fences with glowing streetlights to keep monsters at bay. On the left to their vehicle was thick brush and a large hill that hid from them more of the suburbs before what should be the busy streets of a small community.

As William drove them to the heart of downtown Provo, Mulder had a sense that Scully was nervous in the back seat as she rubbed her thumbs against each other while her hands were folded in her lap. Her fidgeting was the second indication that she was nervous. The first indication was that she was still awake. Normally after eight thirty, Scully was fighting the overwhelming urge to sleep.

What Mulder did note was that the city was virtually empty. One or two cars passed them as they exited off the I-15 and onto University Avenue but other than that, they had seen no one. He had expected to see police or FEMA patrol cars monitoring the streets but the city was closed for the night.

Mulder was riding in the front with William and scrolling through his iPod while commenting on every album that their sixteen-year-old had downloaded in the last few years.

“Is everyone in your generation obsessed with the 70s?” Mulder asked as he pushed play on ‘If.’

William gave him an unimpressed look. “One thing you should know about my generation is that we can’t really be lumped into any category. That would be our one qualifier.”

Mulder pointed a finger and grinned. “Touche.”

“Do you really think it’s safe to be driving through the middle of one of the largest cities in Utah after midnight?” Scully asked from the back.

“It’s Utah,” Mulder scoffed.

“What happened to the hyper-paranoid man I fell in love with?” Scully asked Mulder teasingly.

“He’s trying to be a strong man and put on a brave front in hopes of inspiring some affection later,” he retorted.

“Should I expect this kind of display of sap and affection all the time?” William asked dryly.

Scully cleared her throat. “Actually-”

“That guy lost everything,” he muttered and didn’t look to the backseat to see her react. “I also don’t have any of my usual alarms going off so I think we’ll be fine.”

William took a left and then a right to pull into the back alleyway of a parcel of businesses off University. Mulder noted that he was driving really well despite having one arm in a sling. “We’re safe here.”

Mulder glanced back at Scully and they shared a worried look but William ignored it.

They parked in a spot next to a small refrigeration truck with produce pictured on the side and exited the vehicle. They took their overnight bags and left the remainder of their supplies in the back of the SUV trunk under the canvas security cover. He hit the lock button on the car twice, a habit that Scully had always had since remote car entry became standard on most vehicles.

William noticed Mulder grinning.

“What’s funny?” William asked as they approached the door.

Mulder shook his head and gestured towards Scully. “She does that.”

William gave his mother a curious look. “I wondered which of my parents was as OCD about locks as I was.”

“You would think it was the hyper-paranoid guy who thinks his phone conversations were being recorded but no,” she teased Mulder. “He leaves his car unlocked a lot.”

“First of all, we were being bugged,” Mulder scoffed. “And second of all, that happened-”

“A lot,” she interrupted.

“I hit it at least twice,” William told them as he looked at the fob in his hands. “Then you know-”

“It’s locked,” Scully finished with him.

William stepped up to the service entry door that had ‘APARTMENTS’ written in white block letters. He tapped his fingers against the door but didn’t knock. The sound of his fingernails meeting with the metal echoed up in the back alley and into the night sky. It was such a slight sound but created an aftermath Mulder didn’t anticipate. A siren for an ambulance sung in the distance that caused them all to look around the parking area nervously.

They were hidden there but Mulder only sensed a feeling of exposure to the unknown. He had a gun on his hip and he had a cell phone to get in touch with the base. He knew that he and Scully and William could run if chased by foot or by car but he was hoping for a solid night’s rest and some decent food.

William looked at the door and did nothing.

“Are you going to knock?” Mulder asked.

“I am,” he whispered.

Scully and Mulder shared the same surprised look behind him and Mulder turned around to watch the empty lot. His head snapped back towards the door as he heard footsteps coming down the stairs.

The padlock turned and the door opened slowly. A young woman stood on the other side of the door who was about William’s age and they shared a smile.

“You made it,” the young woman greeted William and they stepped to each other to embrace. She had long brown hair and green eyes that reminded Mulder of someone. William gave her a slight squeeze and she chuckled. “Hi.”

“Hi,” he said quietly.

“What happened?” the young woman asked about his arm.

“I was trying to be brave,” William admitted self-deprecatingly and she shook her head at him. “Things got dicey at Milk River.”

Mulder glanced down at Scully and they shared another look that was more curious. He wondered if this was how parents normally felt when they watched their children. He didn’t have a reference point with his own family on that.

William gave his friend a pat on the back and they smiled at each other again. “We’re just here for the night.”

“I know,” the young woman responded quietly. She looked past William and smiled at Mulder and Scully. “Hi. I’m Mary. You must be-”

“Mulder and Scully,” William offered quickly.

Mary and William shared a pointed look and she nodded. “William’s parents? Wow, it’s really nice to see you in person.”

“What?” Mulder asked as he and Scully shared a confused look.

William shook his head. “Come on.”

Mary lead them up the long staircase up to the apartment level where she unlocked the door to the second floor. They piled into the anteroom and Mary locked the door after them. She turned a padlock and then put a chain across the door before nodding at William.

“How’s everyone?” he asked.

“They want to get up to the compound but we haven’t all checked in,” Mary replied as she turned to the left. “The timetable was moved up from what we thought so we weren’t as prepared as I hoped.”

“No one likes to believe the paranoid people are right,” William commented and Mulder and Scully exchanged another surprised look.

The hallway to the right showcased a longer hallway with more doors to offices or apartments but to their immediate left was a large, metal door that spoke loudly about what hid behind it.

Mary looked intently at the metal plate and the distinct cutting of a heavy bolt against a lock mechanism echoed through as it slid into the opened status to allow the door to open. It spoke ominously to the place where they were entering, more so than the compound where they had guns pointed at them upon arrival. It was all dramatic and secretive but it was most likely necessary.

A woman about Scully’s age stood on the other side of the door with a delicate floral scarf around her head and a flowy skirt that reminded him of Scully’s departed sister, Melissa. Her long skirt was paired with a fitted grey tank top and she had on about ten necklaces.

If the situation wasn’t so dire, Mulder would have made a comment about her attire but he knew at a time like this, making sardonic remarks about hippies wouldn’t be welcomed.

“You made it,” the woman spoke softly.

Mary put her arm around the woman’s waist and smiled at Mulder and Scully. “This is Josephine.”

Josephine had sharp green eyes and lightly tanned skin. Her long dark hair was styled away from her face and her thin lips smiled at them. There was something familiar about her that Mulder couldn’t quite place but it was possible he was just overtired.

“Welcome,” Josephine greeted them as they shook hands. “We have everything set up for you to stay the night.”

“Thank you for your hospitality,” Scully obliged.

“With the state of the world being as it is, we need to help each other,” Josephine replied calmly. “Mary can show you to where you’ll be sleeping. We have a room set up for you.”

Mary stepped away from Josephine and began walking through the loft towards another hallway. As they walked past the open doors, there were bedrooms with multiple sets of bunk beds. Teens around William and Mary’s age were hanging about and watching as they walked down the hall towards a small bedroom with a queen-sized bed pushed against the wall and an end table. There wasn’t room for much else.

Cozy,” Mulder commented as he peered inside over Mary’s head.

“Toilets are across the hall,” Josephine informed them. “Showers are across the hall from the boys’ bedroom.”

“Boys’ bedroom,” Scully repeated. “So I guess-”

“William is going to stay with the other boys,” Mary interrupted. “Even with his bum arm, he’ll be fine.”

Scully looked from Mary to William worriedly but said nothing. He didn’t need to be telepathic to see that she was uneasy about being away from him. William gave Mary a pointed look and that prompted Mary to usher Josephine away from the end of the hall. While having others knowing your emotions was slightly intrusive, it also allowed for people to give privacy when needed.

William stepped towards her and despite his arm in a sling, he took her forearms in his hands. “Uh… Mom, I’ll be down the hall if you need anything. I’m with other kids like me. I’ll be safe.”

“I’m supposed to be saying reassuring things to you,” Scully said with an embarrassed laugh as she set her bag down. She and William held eye contact for a beat and she nodded. “Okay.”

Mulder was still delighted that William was calling them mom and dad and regardless of the situation, he was appreciating that she was getting some time with their son. It was the least she deserved after the hellfire that she had been through.

William pulled Scully into an embrace and she pushed her face into her son’s chest before pressing her ear to hear his heartbeat next to the strap on his sling.

“You’ve been through a lot too, Dad,” William reminded Mulder and he looked at Scully who was concentrating on the embrace. “Just get some rest tonight. We have a long day tomorrow.”

Mulder wrapped his arms around William and kissed the side of his son’s head. “You’re the boss.”

There was a beat of quiet around them as the family was able to appreciate this moment only the second time since William’s birth.

William smirked and put his nose gently to Scully’s hair. He commented to her softly, “It’s funny… You smell like I remember.”

Scully looked up to her son and Mulder could see her chin waver. “Oh…”

William tentatively leaned in and kissed her forehead. The kiss lingered for a moment and Scully froze as her face conveyed a nervousness in what to do. He squeezed her arm before walking quickly away from them. There was something reminiscent of his actions to the way that Mulder and Scully had bestowed upon one another prior to becoming romantic partners. The look on Scully’s face as she touched the place their son had just kissed her told him that she was thinking of those kisses too.

It was never spoken about while they were in the early years of their partnership but later, while they were on the run from the government and facing a future that felt too bleak, they finally talked about how their relationship as partners sometimes waivered between romantic and platonic. They both agreed that a kiss to the forehead, while it implied a familiar act for their partnership at the time, was a safe zone. A kiss on the cheek could wander too close to a mouth and be akin to something more romantic than they were ready for at the time while also being far too personal and intimate for a burgeoning friendship and forced partnership. Mulder could only hope that their son wanted to have a something close to a functional and healthy relationship with his birth parents even though things were still somewhat awkward.

Mulder looked back to where Scully had been standing and realized he was in the hallway alone as he waxed on about a future with his family of three. Four, if you counted Daggoo. Hopefully, the small mutt was all right.

Scully walked into the bedroom and set her bag on the floor next to the bed. Mulder closed the door softly behind him and looked at her sitting with her head in her hands. She had to be exhausted. He was hoping they could get at least five hours before the rest of their drive tomorrow.

Scully sniffled and Mulder furrowed his brow.

“Scully?”

“I’m fine,” she lied as she wiped a hand across her cheek.

He sat down on the bed next to his long-time partner and put his hand heavily on her back. Mulder noted there was a slight indent on his left digit at the absence of the symbol of her love and devotion that she slid on his finger almost ten years ago. Their wedding rings and her necklace were still absent and he had to make good on getting those items back to her. He could feel the lean muscles under her jacket. The last few years had taken a toll on her but he needed her to hold on just a little bit longer.

“We should get some sleep,” Mulder prompted her as she began to massage her temples. “You haven’t slept much the last few days.”

Scully looked up at him and her stomach growled if on cue.

“Or eaten,” he laughed and his eyes left her face to look towards the door. “You think they have any food around this joint?”

Scully sat up and adjusted herself on the bed. “They have a room full of teenagers and we’re right above a small market. I don’t know how they couldn’t have food.”

Mulder held up one finger. “I’ll go scavenging. You want something like a bun with butter on it? Apple slices? Cheese?”

He was referring to a weird sandwich she ate almost every day while they were running from Mulder’s death sentence. She told him it was because the ingredients were cheap but the mix of ingredients provided the proper amount of fat and salt that kept her stomach satiated until they could find a place for dinner. Mulder didn’t question it after a warning glare from her and the happy hum she made after a few bites. He found it adorable as strange as the craving was.

“If they have some Genoa salami, you want me to put a couple pieces of that on there too?” he offered as he got up.

“Don’t get a girl’s hopes up,” she retorted.

“Some prosciutto?” he suggested.

“Don’t tease,” she pleaded and fell back on the bed.

It had been a long day, the trip had worn on him and he was hungry too. The last thing he wanted to do was walk into a kitchen to find locked cupboards or strange foods neither of them would stomach.

As he turned the corner, he saw William and Mary standing in the living room. William was still in his clothes with his backpack slung over his good shoulder. If he didn’t know any better, he might think that they were trying to make a break for it.

“Hey guys,” Mulder greeted and the two jumped slightly from their quiet discussion in the dark space. “Your mom is hungry so I’ve been sent on a quest for some strange foods.”

The teens exchanged a glance and Mulder cleared his throat as he opened the fridge in search of the items he promised Scully.

“You know it’s one thing to snoop around in my head but an entirely different one to talk about me while I’m standing right here,” he commented. “It’s like being talked about in a foreign language.”

He pulled out an apple and a block of cheese from the fridge. Upon further investigation around the kitchen, he found a bag of crusty buns in a bread box and brought out a cutting board and plate once he found them in the appropriate cupboards.

He put a bread knife on the counter and looked up at the kids as the walked hesitantly towards him.

“Taking off to the desert?” Mulder guessed and William sighed. “You are, aren’t you?”

Mary sighed. “Well…”

“In the middle of the night while your mother was trying to sleep after worrying about you all day?” Mulder described. He dropped the mother title more than he might have if not to guilt William and Mary into staying. “You might not know this about her but she falls asleep in the car before the automatic car locks come on.”

William clenched his jaw. “She didn’t sleep today.”

“No, she was too stressed to sleep,” Mulder reminded him and he began cutting up the apple into thin slices.

He set the fruit slivers aside and cut the bun down the middle. He tried to cut thin slices off the cheese block and put it back into the thick Ziplock bag, pushing the air out before sealing it again. As he spread the butter across the bread, he looked up to Mary and William’s guilty faces.

“The thing about Dana is,” Mulder started as he walked towards the fridge to look for salami or another meat to put on Scully’s sandwich. He put the package of prosciutto on the counter and looked at the teens calmly. “She wanted you from the moment she met your sister. You had a sister, Emily. Did you know that?”

William shook his head slightly. “I don’t… Gibson didn’t tell me about her.”

“She was an experiment,” Mulder told them. “It’s a crude way to talk about a child and she was loved by your mother but in all sense of the word, she was an experiment. Dana didn’t have a choice to have Emily and… when we found her, I really was blown away by the way that Dana put everything on the line to help her.”

It was true. Scully did everything she could to try to adopt Emily and prevent her from becoming another failed experiment that the syndicate had carelessly created with their ulterior motives. If Scully was going to have a daughter, she should have had the option to know about her before Emily was created in the womb of another woman. They never had confirmation who Emily’s birth mother was but Mulder had a feeling that the pregnancy and birth were against that woman’s will as well.

William furrowed his brow. “What do you mean?”

“She was taken from Dana and created without her consent-”

“Spender?” William guessed, cutting Mulder off and he nodded in reply. William looked down the hallway towards Mulder and Scully’s room and he frowned. “I had a feeling…. I mean I didn’t know about the full extent but when something is this bad, I guess you don’t always want to know the whole truth, you know?”

“Right before we found out about Emily, Dana was told she couldn’t have children and motherhood wasn’t a possibility. She had been silently suffering through that pain and I didn’t know how to help her,” Mulder explained. “By the time you came around, she thought motherhood wasn’t in her cards. She wanted so much to have a child and for you to be something that came from us, out of love, that she stopped at nothing to have that truth for herself. She put everything at risk. Spender and his goons wouldn’t stop until they were able to take you from her. Fate worked against her again and she sacrificed the chance at motherhood to keep you safe.”

“Dad-” William started.

“You know Will, you should rely on us while we’re here,” Mulder said as he prepared another bun of apples, cheese, butter and meat. “We’ve been in life-threatening, end-of-the-world, slim-chance-of-survival situations before. We might be an asset.”

“That’s what I was trying to tell him, sir,” Mary spoke up.

“Sir? I like her,” Mulder grinned and Mary smiled back at him warmly. “Well, Dana was usually the one trying to talk me out of taking off and handling things on my own.”

“What happened?” Mary asked curiously as she watched Mulder tidy up the kitchen.

“She had to come to rescue me from whatever mess I got myself into,” he told them. “She saved me a thousand times over and if I learned anything in my adult years, it was that going it alone never guaranteed survival. You need someone else in the foxhole with you.”

William sighed and picked up the first bun Mulder made and looked up at him. “The other kids in school told me I was weird when I was growing up because I had these three times a week.”

Mulder watched William take a bite and he closed his eyes as he chewed slowly.

“And?” he asked his son.

“Tastes like home,” William said. “But not my home in Wyoming… home like someplace where Mom and you live together.”

Mary put a hand on William’s arm. “I’ll come with you in the morning.”

William nodded and put the sandwich back on the cutting board. “She won’t mind I did that.”

Mulder shook his head. “I’m sure she won’t.”

William set the keys down on the counter. “Just a gesture of faith.”

Mulder pocketed the keys. “Thanks.”

William gave Mary a lingering glance and headed back towards the hallway to the boys’ bedroom. The young woman pushed her hand through her hair and sighed as she sat at the counter. She studied his face and he wondered if she was reading into his thoughts. He wasn’t sure if all the kids could do it or if she was able to do other things.

“The other kids and I can read minds but I’m more polite about snooping than most of the boys here,” she said with a smile.

“What is this place?” Mulder asked her as searched for glasses for water. “Why are there so many of you?”

Mary got up off the stool and grabbed three bottles of water from the refrigerator. She set two on the counter for Mulder and Scully and cracked the third for herself. Mulder opened his and they paused before tapping the plastic bottles together.

“Cheers,” Mary wished him with a grin. Mulder looked at her expectantly as she took a long drink. She set the bottle down and wiped at the edge of her mouth in a way that reminded Mulder of her young age. It was young and uncoordinated. A drastic shock from the ominous vibes they walked into just an hour before. “Gibson Praise had tracked us all down while he was working with that son of a bitch, Spender. We’re all like William in a way.”

“Are your mothers-”

“Those who are still alive have been taken up to Milk River. Against their will or not, I’m not sure,” Mary explained and took another sip of water. “Spender… he’s like one of those old pervy polygamists. He just wants the women to himself and all of us as his children.”

Mulder made a face.

“In this day and age, you’d think misogynist perverts with plans to populate the earth with his disgusting seed would be a thing of the past,” Mary replied. “But apparently a lot of money and blackmail can get you whatever you want.”

“Seed?” Mulder asked and shook his head. “You don’t mean-”

“No, he’s not our father,” she clarified. “He just believes because he orchestrated our creations that he’s like God or some disgusting shit.”

“I really feel like I should tell you to watch your language,” Mulder admitted and Mary’s cheeks pinked. “So Josephine is okay with you coming with us tomorrow?”

Mary shrugged. “She will be. When it comes to stopping the end of the world, no one really argues against methods to stop it.”

Mulder wanted to tell her this could be a suicide mission but he decided against it. She probably had a response for that too.

“I’m going to get these to Scully,” Mulder replied as he looked down at the two sandwiches.

“I can clean up,” Mary offered with a nod as she tore two pieces of paper towel off the roll and wrapped the sandwiches. ”See you in the morning.”

Mulder gathered up the food and bottles of water. “Good night.”

 


*** *** ***

 

Waking up in the small bed with Scully nestled in the crook of his arm and the sound of a quiet street beginning to rumble as the day began, Mulder almost forgot where he was for a moment. A slight confusion washed over him because the bed was too small to be at Scully’s apartment and the room was too clean to be at the small farmhouse.

There had been so many changes in scenery for them in the last seventy-two hours that Mulder had to retrace his steps.

His stay in the ICU at Our Lady of Sorrows had been brief and he was aware this bed, complete with Scully in it, was not that place. The one room cabin they slept in on the compound was cozy and he felt a strong urge to stay there if only to protect Scully and their son. This bed with the starched white sheets, heavy blankets and bare walls was the antithesis of that space in Great Falls, Montana.

The curtain above the bed allowed a small crack of light to peek through and Mulder winced to turn his face away from the sunbeams trying to warn him to the responsibilities of the day. A light knock on the door alerted him to the reality of Provo, Utah.

“Breakfast is ready,” a young voice called before the footsteps retreated away.

Mulder looked down to see Scully’s mouth frown as she slowly came into consciousness. “Wakey wakey.”

“Mmmmm,” she grumbled and pushed her face into the pillow under her head.

“I think we have plans to save the world today, Scully,” Mulder commented. “We probably should get a wiggle on.”

Scully turned her face and opened one eye to glare at him. “What time is it?”

Mulder picked his watch off the counter. “Six fifteen.”

A.M.?” she repeated incredulously and slowly sat up. “I thought teenagers were supposed to sleep until noon.”

“I guess these kids know the importance of a future and all that,” he mused as he smoothed his hand up her back. “How was your sleep?”

Scully rubbed her hand across her forehead and pushed her hair back from her face. She was gorgeous in the soft morning light with her face scrubbed clean and her lips puffy from sleep.

“I know I slept because my body was in the bed but I don’t remember dreaming,” she half-mumbled. “Scientists have proven that even when a person can’t recall their dreams, they’ve gone through the five stages of the sleep cycle. If I did dream, it wasn’t anything alarming although it’s possible… I don’t remember.”

It was adorable to listen to her explain sleep in her heavy jargon even first thing in the morning but they didn’t really have time for him to express how he felt about her. The world was in danger and he worried if they didn’t leave soon, William would start walking to Monument Valley.

Mulder kissed the side of her head and pulled back the covers to find his clothes for the day. “I need a shower and a giant cup of coffee.”

“Make mine a double,” she groaned as she flopped back on the bed and stretched.

The waffle print of her night shirt revealed the creamy white of her belly. Mulder turned and began to lean down to kiss her but if he started, he wouldn’t be able to stop. He really needed to get into a cold shower.

Mulder grabbed his bag and put it in front of his groin to cross the hallway to have a shower. He tossed one of the body towels over his shoulder and glanced back to the woman stretching in bed. She was mumbling something about needing caffeine before she had a shower when he left the bedroom.

The bathroom reminded him of something from a college dorm with a row of five shower stalls and sinks. The white tile and black grout that covered the floor and walls was remarkably clean for a place that housed so many teenagers but the evidence of their presence in the apartment was displayed along the shelf where all their products stood. Hair gel, hair spray, hair styling tools Mulder recognized from Scully’s side of the bathroom and scented lotions and body sprays. There was a lot going on along that glass shelf while the rest of the bathroom was stark from clutter.

A wand with a round ball at the end sat in a metal tube on the wall next to the flattening iron. Mulder picked up what he imagined had to be a hair styling tool and inspected it. There was an opening in the ball at the end where he expected hair might go into or come out of but he had no idea. He put the wand back in the tube and frowned at it.

He opened the curtain on the shower stall at the end and hung his bag on the hook on the wall. Beyond the first enclave was a secondary part of the shower that was separated by another curtain. He found his toothbrush and toothpaste in his bag and ran the bristles under the shower head to start brushing his teeth while he unpacked his toiletries and clothes onto the small bench. There was a rubber mat under his feet to keep them dry that he appreciated as he disrobed.

Once he stepped under the shower head and began washing, he reached out of the stall into the first vestibule to tuck his toothbrush into his jeans pocket and tried to finish his shower quickly. There wasn’t time that morning to linger and contemplate the end of the world while he slowly woke up.

The door to the bathroom swung open and some voices echoed along the tile.

“Jackson’s parents are here,” a young man mumbled as the sink turned on. “They got in last night.”

“He doesn't like to be called Jackson,” a young woman reminded him and another tap turned on.

“Right, William,” the boy reminded himself. “Did you see his mom? Babe.”

“His dad isn’t too bad either,” the girl replied and they laughed. “Explains a lot about him.”

“Josephine is going to give William the dose before they go,” the boy said. “I want to see him lose it when he sees the needle!”

“Not everyone is afraid of getting a giant needle as you, Darrin,” the girl said and Mulder could picture the eye roll that accompanied her tone. “It’s no big deal.”

“That thing was six inches long at least, Claire!” Darrin protested.

Mulder cleared his throat and the kids stopped their chatter.

“Who’s in here?” Darrin called.

“William’s dad,” Mulder replied.

“Oh shit!” Claire laughed.

Mulder finished rinsing the shampoo out of his hair and turned the shower off. He wrapped the towel around his waist and poked his head out of the stall to look at the teens watching him.

“Good morning,” Darrin said and nudged Claire. She nudged him back and smiled at Mulder. “Josephine is really lax about the showers since our bedrooms are gendered but we can leave if you’re uncomfortable.”

Mulder raised his eyebrows. “I-”

Josephine poked her head into the bathroom just then. “I asked you two to let Mr. Mulder get ready. You’re done brushing your teeth. You can shower when he’s out.”

Darrin put his toothbrush back in one of the holders by the mirrors and awkwardly pointed a finger gun at Mulder before leaving. Josephine laughed and followed Darrin. Josephine gave a lingering glance to Mulder and shook her head.

“There’s breakfast ready,” she said quietly.

Mulder nodded. “I’ll be right out.”

Josephine pushed her long braid over her shoulder and smiled. “Right.”

The door slowly began to close but then opened again.

Mulder poked his head back out of the curtain. “For fuck’s sake-”

“Mulder?” Scully questioned. “Sorry, I wanted to brush my teeth and grab a quick shower.”

“No, my bad,” Mulder replied as he opened the curtain and walked towards her with the toiletries bag. “I thought you were Josephine.”

Scully found her toothbrush and the paste in the bag. She set it on the small ledge and raised a questioning eyebrow at him. “What’s going on?”

He watched her begin her vigorous brushing routine and he shook his head. “It’s nothing.”

A tilt of her head questioned him silently and he cleared his throat. He walked towards the shower stall holding the towel in place around his hips, grabbed his belongings and brought them back to her. As he pulled his boxers on, he sighed.

“Seriously, Mulder,” Scully began and spat into the sink. “What?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. I just… something’s off about this place.”

Her eyebrow arched again as she gave him a doubting look but she didn’t argue. “How?”

“It’s not too familiar like the compound. I realize now that cabin was probably designed with us in mind to stay there permanently if the end of the world really did happen,” Mulder explained. “I just… I don’t know. Those kids were talking about William getting a dose of something. Josephine kind of checked me out.”

“I see,” Scully grinned as she put her things in the shower where Mulder just vacated and hung up her towel. She pulled off her pyjama pants and folded them into a small rectangle before tucking them in the side pocket of her bag. “What are you thinking?”

“I don’t know,” he shook his head and pulled his jeans up his hips but left them undone while he searched for a tank top. He tossed the white tank over his left shoulder and rubbed the towel over his hair. “I just… I want to get on the road.”

“I do too,” she agreed as she pulled her long-sleeved shirt over her head.

Scully turned the tap on the shower and pulled her hair into a bun at the top of her hair. Mulder leaned against the tile wall as she finished disrobing and she gave him a playful grin before stepping under the shower.

There was something sweet and familiar about working through a problem while they were getting ready in the morning. This wasn’t Scully blow drying her hair in her underwear while Mulder pretended not to watch as he was supposed to be picking out a suit for the day and the case file sat open on his bedside table. This was not quite them pausing a movie with popcorn between them while their beer sweat on the coffee table and they argued over the validity of the science in a sci-fi movie. The end of the world was slightly more pressing but the domesticity was all the same.

Scully lathered up and began washing her body which was erotic all the same, but he tried to maintain a flaccid state since he didn’t really have time to satisfy any particular needs that morning. He didn’t even think the bathroom locked to ensure they wouldn’t be interrupted.

“So what do you want to do?” she asked. Mulder cleared his throat and she gave him a reminding look. “I mean about this morning.”

“Oh!” he replied and cleared his throat again. “As much as I want to get to Monument Valley, I want to ensure these kids aren’t at risk either.”

“We should try to trust William’s judgement. If he has these abilities and Gibson has been helping them, can’t we try to-”

“Trust?” Mulder asked. “Me? In this economy?”

Scully laughed and he felt his erection stir in his pants.

“I can’t talk to you while you’re doing that,” he said and shut the curtain on the shower.

Mulder!” she protested with a laugh.

“I’m going to get some breakfast and some coffee,” he told her as he gathered his things. “I can’t talk to you while you’re naked.”

“Men your age are usually going to a doctor for the opposite reasons,” she called to him.

“I’ll be grateful for this after we save the planet, okay?” he retorted and she laughed again. Mulder shook his head and muttered as he left the bathroom, “Trust people. Pfft.”

 


*** *** ***

 

Mulder was sitting at the long dining room table with sleepy teens surrounding him. Most of the teens were still in their pyjamas with a select few dressed for the day.

As he stabbed the scrambled eggs with his fork, he looked around the table for Mary and William but neither of them had made an appearance. Mulder shrugged that off since they had been up late the previous night and teens generally need a lot of sleep.

As he looked across the table, Darrin and Claire were watching him closely.

“Hello again,” he greeted.

“Hi,” Darrin replied quietly while Claire took a long drink of her orange juice. “Nice to see you… uh dressed.”

Claire choked on her juice and Darrin rolled his eyes at her.

“You’ll have to excuse her,” Darrin said with a sigh and widened his eyes at Mulder in interest. “Mary said you’re leaving this morning. Are we allowed to know where you’re going?”

“I think… probably you two should concentrate on getting up to the compound,” he replied and took a sip of his coffee. It was a strong blend but without an undertone of bitterness. He was impressed with the beans Josephine had purchased and made a mental note to thank her later. “Can I ask where your parents are? How long have you been here?”

“Josephine found us last year,” Claire explained. “Our mothers were in the same chemo trial in Jacksonville.”

“Cancer?” Mulder clarified and Claire nodded. “Did they have a family history of cancer or was this after they had a procedure? I have a lot of questions but I need to know. Did they have something like a chip in the back of the neck? What kind of treatment were they getting? What kind of cancer was it?”

“The kind of cancer that was supposed to kill all of our mothers,” a kid next to Darrin spoke up as he held a spoonful of Cheerios above a bright red bowl. He set it down and looked grimly at Mulder. “Gibson told me that William’s mom is one of five women who are still alive. Five women out of how many kids?”

“What?” Mulder asked.

“That’s why we don’t want to go up to Milk River,” Claire explained. “I mean, sure self-preservation is one thing but the guy is a murderer.”

The cereal eating kid cleared his throat. “Would you want to go live with the man who killed your mother, your father or your siblings? You couldn’t have any idea what it’s like to be faced with that choice.”

Mulder could related. “I actually know how you-”

A door slamming against a wall interrupted the conversation. Mulder saw the reaction by the kids and he turned to look towards the noise as well.

Stop!” Scully shouted.

“Scully?” Mulder called as he set his mug down.

“Leave him alone!” she shouted. “Get back!”

Mulder ran across the apartment to the hallway. He found Scully standing in the doorway of the boys’ bedroom with her gun drawn on those inside.

Mulder approached slowly and unsnapped the pin on his holster at his side to get his own weapon ready. When he reached the doorway, he could see what the fuss was about.

A tourniquet was wrapped around William’s bicep as he sat on the bed with Josephine. Her hands were covered in blue latex gloves and she was currently holding a syringe with one while the other was up in surrender. A small medical kit sat between them full of vials and a needle was sticking out of his arm. The syringe was full of a liquid that was definitely not a vitamin boost.

“Will? You okay?” Mulder began as he drew his gun and held it pointed down away from his son.

William nodded slowly but winced as Josephine pushed on the syringe.

“Will,” Scully began. “Josephine is going to pull the needle out and you’re going to come to stand behind me, okay?”

“He needs this,” Josephine insisted to Mulder as she turned her head back to William to continue administering the shot. “This will keep him safe.”

Josephine was in baggier clothing than the night before but he wasn’t recalling if he noted that earlier in the bathroom. There was something off about her but he couldn’t quite place it.

“Like hell it will!” Scully snapped. “What are you giving him?”

“What’s going on?” Mulder asked as he stepped into the bedroom and took a few steps towards the woman who asked for their trust. “Josephine?”

“It’s going to help,” she insisted vaguely.

“Dammit, answer our questions, Josephine! What is that?’ Scully shouted as she took a step towards them. “What are you giving him?”

“Mom, it’s okay,” William reassured Scully but winced as the syringe pushed more of the liquid into his veins.

“William…” Mulder started. “Talk to us, here.”

“I’m helping him,” Josephine insisted. “Magnetite-”

“Magnetite? You’re giving my son magnetite? In what dosage? What is the intention?” Scully fired off these questions quickly with her finger now on the trigger. “What are you trying to do?”

“Relax,” Josephine insisted and turned her head to William.

With Josephine’s neck exposed, Mulder saw immediately saw a lump and caught Scully’s eye. He gestured with his eyes to look where he was and the expression that changed on her face indicated that she saw it too.

The size of a golf ball and slightly green in hue, a bump indicating Josephine’s origins protruded from under her skin at the base of her neck. The last person Mulder encountered that had one of those lumps was an alien bounty hunter. They could shape-shift from one form to another but they rarely took on a female form.

“Who are you!” Mulder shouted as he pointed the gun at her face.

If she really was an alien bounty hunter, a shot to the face from a bullet would do nothing but expose them to the green foam that was toxic to human lungs. It didn’t change Mulder’s intentions to keep his weapon pointed at her.

Josephine pushed the last of the syringe into William’s arm and took the long needle from his vein. She discarded the latex gloves and as she stood up, her face began to shift.

Mulder and Scully both took one step back as they watched Josephine transform.

Her hair suddenly was shorter and grey, she stood a little taller and her face shifted slightly to a man more familiar.

“Oh my god,” Scully breathed as she lowered her gun.

“Are you… You’re Jeremiah Smith? How did you get here?” Mulder asked. “I thought you went into hiding?”

The baggy clothes that were around his previous frame were now better suited for his form. He was the same man Mulder had been shown the hive children on the farm in Alberta. He hadn’t aged a day since the last time they saw him when he escaped custody and disappeared from Spender’s grasp. This was a man who knew every secret CSM and the syndicate had. If there was a chance at stopping colonization, Jeremiah Smith added to the probability of their success.

“Your friend… Monica Reyes found me in Montana while she was acting as a double agent and organizing the compound,” Jeremiah explained, his voice deep and silky. “I was planning to stay in hiding but I knew the end was coming. She and I have the same vision for stopping the colonization and Spender’s plans. I’m part of the resistance. I need you both to trust me.”

Scully and Mulder looked at one another in disbelief and she nodded at him that she would follow Mulder’s lead.

“Okay,” Mulder said. “What do we need to do?”