Title: Reclamation, Part Four
Author: phantagrae
Rating/Pairing: PG-13, M&S (w/William)
Summary: In the fall of 2012, William Van de Kamp shows up on Mulder and Scully's doorstep. As they learn about the circumstances that brought him to them, they must learn to be a family together while also protecting William from the conspiracy that still seeks to use him for their own purposes.
Feedback: Yes, please. phantagrae@earthlink.net
Archive: Not to Gossamer. I'll submit directly there. Yes to anywhere else. Just let me know, please.
Warnings: Mild violence/violent imagery, mild bad language, William-centric (not baby-fic); Post-IWTB, mytharc-ish.
Author's Notes: Written for XF Big Bang 2010. Thanks to all who helped me--my sister, my great beta, Anubis (whose knowledge of guns and ammo came in very handy!) and my great artist, Fidella!

Scully stepped into Mulder's office and laid a hand on his shoulder as she glanced idly at the computer screen where Mulder was working.

"What's up, doc?" he said, turning his face up toward hers for a kiss. "How's Will?"

She kissed him lightly.

"He's fine," she replied. "Listen, do you think you could take him outside for a while, until lunchtime? I think he could use some fresh air and a little exercise to get his mind off of everything, and I want to get started on his blood tests. Maybe you could play a little basketball or have a game of catch or something."

Mulder smiled broadly, feeling a surprising surge of warmth in his heart.

"That sounds like a good idea." He rose and grabbed his old basketball from a messy table in the corner. He kissed her one more time and made his way out into the living room and up the stairs.

"Hey, Will," Mulder said casually, knocking on the wall just beside the doorjamb to William's room. "I was wondering if you'd like to get dressed and come outside and shoot some hoops. I've got a goal set up in the back yard."

William had pulled on the jeans Scully had brought up to his room, but still wore the oversized t-shirt. He nodded at Mulder's suggestion.

"I'm not very good at basketball. I just started playing over the summer," he said with a shrug.

"That's okay. I can give you some pointers and we'll just have some fun."

"Okay," William agreed. "I'll be down in just a minute."

Mulder was already working the little half-court he had in the back yard when William appeared at the back door. Mulder had long ago had a permanent basketball goal installed on one end of a small slab of cement just off the back patio, just far enough to hopefully keep any wayward shots from breaking a window in the house.

"Hey!" Mulder called when he spotted William coming out. "Come on over. Show me what you got." He smiled and beckoned the boy over, dribbling the ball with his right hand.

William shrugged as he walked onto the court.

Mulder passed the ball to him and William caught it easily, bouncing it slowly as he neared the basket. He took a simple shot at the basket, but the ball hit the rim and bounced down.

Mulder caught the rebound and bounced it back toward William.

"Try it again," he said in an encouraging tone.

Soon the two of them were taking turns shooting the ball, Mulder giving William gentle advice on his form and movements, then playing an easy game of one-on-one.

After a while Mulder stepped aside to take a little breather, so he stayed near the goal and watched William's movements. The boy was athletically graceful and yet still a little hampered by the awkwardness of his adolescent body. One minute he'd move with assurance and agility, and the next he'd be all knees and elbows, tripping over his own feet.

He could see himself in the boy. William had Mulder's dark hair and long body, his inherent athletic prowess. He was moody, but thoughtful and intelligent, the way Mulder had been all his life.

Mulder remembered the too-brief moments he'd had with William before circumstances had forced him away. Holding his infant son, the world had seemed brighter, more hopeful, and at the same time, more frightening.

He had sometimes imagined what it would be like to be a father, wondering if and when it might happen for him. Once his relationship with Scully had begun to evolve into something more personal and he began imagining a life with her outside of work, he had occasionally allowed himself to dream of having a family with her, even after finding out that she could no longer conceive because of what had been done to her by their enemies.

But William's birth had been a miracle for both of them. Though he hardly dared to believe in God, he found himself thinking of William as a blessing, as an answer to prayer--a prayer he'd barely been able to perceive in his heart. William was the restoration of the family Mulder had lost, the reward for all the sacrifices he and Scully had been forced to make in fighting to save the rest of the world.

While Mulder was away, after being with William for such a short time, he would comfort himself by imagining all the things he would do with his son once he was able to return.

He would teach him to play baseball and basketball, teach him to ride a bike and swim. He would teach him how to shave, how to treat women, how to respect his mother. Maybe they would be in Scouts together and Mulder would help William earn his merit badges, help him become an Eagle Scout. He would help him with his schoolwork and go to all his games.

All of that was shattered when he returned and found that Scully had felt that sending their son away was the best thing to do, the only thing to do to keep him safe.

Mulder had struggled with his feelings, with anger and sorrow and grief. Part of him had wanted to blame Scully for not being strong enough, but he knew that he hadn't been there to help her be strong, that she had no way of knowing when he would return or what new dangers would arise to threaten their son in the meantime. How could he blame her when he hadn't been there with her?

He had forgiven her, though the pain and anger lurked in the deepest, darkest corners of his heart. When they had occasion to argue, to be angry with each other, he felt his inner demon telling him to throw her actions back in her face, to use it against her. But he knew that Scully had forgiven him for many things over the years and that they both had to make the best of their life as it was now, without their son. He knew she was as heartbroken as he.

He had not quite given up on hoping for another miracle. He'd never dared to voice it, but he'd always dreamed that some day he would see his son again, that all of his earlier dreams of fatherhood would come true.

William dribbled the ball out past the free-throw line and turned to shoot the ball. It arced perfectly through the air and swished cleanly through the net.

"Did you see that?" he cried, his face the picture of purest joy.

Mulder could only nod as his throat was too tight for words. He caught the ball as it bounced under the net, tossing it back to William, finally finding his voice.

"It was beautiful, son."

Scully watched them briefly from the back door just before calling them in for lunch. If circumstances had been different it would have been such a natural scene--father and son playing basketball together. She hoped that somehow they could eventually have that normal life.

"William! Mulder! Lunch is ready! Come on in and wash up," she called from the doorway.

They came in, smiling and panting, both of them a little sweaty from their exertions.

"This boy's got some skills, Scully," Mulder said, with a grin. He had recovered his casual, light tone, but Scully could see the shine of unshed tears in his eyes.

After lunch, Scully began to clear the table.

"William, I was wondering if you'd maybe like to watch a little TV this afternoon," she began. "I've got to do a little more work downstairs and Mulder needs to leave in a little while to run his errand."

William nodded agreeably, but he was a little disappointed to learn that Mulder was leaving.

"I'll be back soon," Mulder said, catching the look on William's face. "If there's nothing interesting on TV, we've got a lot of DVDs you can choose from."

Scully raised an eyebrow at Mulder.

"Um...you'll have to check the ratings on a few of them," he quickly added. "Some of them might not really be appropriate for someone your age." He winked at William and rose from the table.

"Come on out to the living room and I'll show you how the cable is set up."

Scully watched them leave together, happy that they were already forming a bond, then made her way downstairs to the basement to finish working with William's blood samples.

Somewhere Between Richmond, VA and Washington, DC
6:00 pm

Mulder stood in the dimming sunlight, shifting his weight from foot to foot, eyes scanning all around, more out of habit than anything else, since he'd already scouted the field and was as sure as he could be that he hadn't been followed. He had been chewing the same piece of gum for more than an hour and his jaw was beginning to ache. He had decided to forego his sunflower seeds this evening because he couldn't help thinking that someone might stumble across his discarded shells and somehow figure everything out.

The sight and sound of an approaching vehicle made his heart pound until he recognized Skinner's face behind the wheel of the black SUV. He exhaled a plume of fog into the cold air as he finally allowed himself to relax just a bit.

"What's up, Mulder?" Skinner said, without preamble as he stepped out of the vehicle. He scanned the area just as Mulder had done, his face pinched and tense.

"William is at the house," Mulder blurted out. He had thought of a million different ways to break the news, but the words were out of his mouth before he knew it.

Skinner actually stepped back, his mouth agape, struggling to keep his footing as his knees suddenly turned to Jell-O. "What did you say?"

"William," Mulder repeated more slowly, "is at the house."

"How is that possible?" Skinner found himself leaning against the SUV for support, his mind racing through a number of scenarios. "Who brought him?"

"No one. He made it out here on his own." Mulder leaned against his own vehicle as he related William's story about figuring out his true parentage and what had happened to the Van de Kamps.

"Are you sure he wasn't followed?"

"We haven't seen or heard anything suspicious, but it might be too soon to tell."

"Are you all secure?"

"We're fine for now, but Scully's going to pick up some things tomorrow. We needed groceries anyway, and William needs a few things, so she's headed out to Lynchburg tomorrow. Scully was already off for the next few day, so no one should be suspicious that she's not at work. From what the kid said, I think he was smart about staying low and avoiding notice."

"A chip off the old block?" Skinner's rough grunt was as close to a chuckle as he could manage. "So, what do you want to do?"

"I don't know what to do," Mulder admitted with a confused smile. "I guess I need you to keep an ear to the ground, see if there's any sign that anyone is looking our direction. See if there are any reports out of Wyoming...anyone looking for William, Amber Alerts, whatever."

"What are you going to do with him?"

Skinner's question stopped Mulder's brain from functioning. He had avoided asking himself or Scully this very thing.

He caught Skinner's eye and opened his mouth, but found nothing to say.

"You can't just start playing house with him, Mulder." Skinner pressed forward with the hard issues that needed to be addressed. "It's not as if you can just enroll him in school and act like everything's normal."

"What do you think our options are?"

"I'm guessing you don't want to go underground again," Skinner said with a shrug. "You can move and start over, I guess, but again, if you want to have a normal life, if you want William to have a normal life, there are all kinds of legalities and paperwork involved, and that leaves a trail. We could come up with something, I suppose, but the three of you together they find one of you, they find all of you."

"So, we can be found here or we can be found somewhere else." Mulder made a decision, turned his head to one side and spit his stale gum as far as he could. Let them find his DNA if they came looking. "We have the home advantage here. If we're going to be targeted, I say we stand and fight."

"With William? You gonna train him to shoot a gun or something?" Skinner studied Mulder's face as the other man shifted from foot to foot.

"Look, they already came after the Van de Kamps. They made the first move. If he'd been there they would have taken him." Mulder felt his face begin to burn, surprised at how angry he was about what had happened.

"William is our son--my son," he continued, pounding a finger into his chest. "My fate is his fate, my actions affect his life, have already affected it. He figured out how to make it all the way out here on his own, how to avoid being caught. He probably bought us all some extra time. I don't think we need to hide him under a rock. Hiding him in Wyoming didn't keep them from tracking him down."

Skinner felt his own face flush at that. Though it hadn't been his idea to send William away, he felt guilty that they hadn't been able to keep his location truly hidden.

"Look," Mulder said with less heat, "I think we're ready. Scully has a formula for the vaccine and has been able to produce several doses, plus we've got a sizable stash of magnetite-tipped bullets. We may not be able to fend off the full invasion yet, but we can protect William and let those bastards know that we're on to them and that we've got the means to destroy them."

"But again, what about William?" Skinner urged. "What is he supposed to do while you're hunting for replicants and aliens?"

Mulder shook his head, digging in the dirt with the toe of his shoe.

"It's not as if we can just hire a babysitter." He looked up and met Skinner's eye. "We're the only ones who can truly keep him safe. He's got to be with one of us at all times."

"I hope you're including me in that 'us', Mulder." Skinner took a deep breath as he considered all that it might entail.

"Uncle Walter?" Mulder said with a tight smile.

Skinner couldn't quite bring himself to smile in return.

"How do we get started?" Skinner asked.

"I think you need to come out to the house and meet him."

Continued in Part Five