Title: Reclamation, Part Six
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. email@example.com
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!
Outside of Richmond
Tuesday, October 9
The kitchen was flooded with sunlight as they sat down to breakfast, William more at ease this morning and Mulder and Scully happy that he seemed more natural and less formal with them.
Scully had made pancakes and William ate them enthusiastically.
"You didn't cook this morning?" William asked as he helped himself to another pancake.
Mulder smiled and shook his head.
"I don't do pancakes--too complicated. I'm good with frozen waffles in the toaster, though."
William smiled widely, syrup smeared on his mouth. He licked his lips and turned to Scully.
"They're really good."
"Thanks, honey," she said, returning his smile. She patted his arm and handed him a napkin.
As they finished breakfast, Mulder stood to excuse himself.
"I'll be in my office," he said, pausing to ruffle William's hair.
"William, I think you and I need to do some shopping today." Scully stood to clear away the breakfast dishes.
At William's mildly confused expression, Scully continued.
"You need some clothes--underwear in particular. You could use some pajamas and another pair of shoes, for instance. Anyway, we'll get you all equipped, and maybe get you some books or video games just for fun. And we could use some groceries, too. We can pick out a few things that you especially like."
William nodded at first, but then stopped, a worried frown touching his face. "Is it safe?"
Scully took a moment to clear her throat as she tried to think of exactly what to say. She understood his concern but didn't want him to worry.
"We'll be fine, I think," she answered with a confident nod for his benefit. "We're going to a different town--not into Richmond--and I'll be paying in cash, just to be sure. But I think we're still okay."
William nodded, studying her face. "Are we all going?"
Scully shrugged, doing her best to sound casual.
"Mulder's going to stay here and do some work in his office. You and I can manage." She smiled and put her hand on his shoulder. "Go on up and get your jacket."
Like the good former FBI agent that she was, Scully had done a little investigating among William's few things and had made some observations. His jeans were fairly worn and seemed to be fitting him a little tight and a little short. She was afraid he'd outgrow them right before her eyes. She'd checked his sizes and had made a list of things she felt he especially needed. She hadn't shopped for clothes for him since he was a baby, when what he wore was entirely up to her. Would the two of them see eye-to-eye about clothing choices now? Would he care at all? She wasn't sure she knew what pre-teen boys were wearing these days. She hoped they could just stick to the basics.
Mulder kissed Scully lightly and gave William a quick hug as they were leaving.
"Be good, son," he said with a wink as they stepped through the door.
William looked back at him, but couldn't smile back as he nodded. He took Scully's hand for the short walk to the car.
As they drove away from the house she noticed that William kept looking back and his hands were clenched into fists in his lap.
"He'll be fine, honey," she said softly, turning to catch his eye as he looked up at her. "And so will we." She extended her hand toward him and he took it, but he continued to steal glances in the side mirror.
"I think we're ready to move forward."
The younger man looked up from his computer screen, his brow creasing into a mild frown as he eyed his superior.
"Already?" he asked. He sat back in his chair. "I thought we were going to wait until we had the boy."
"Well, that looks like it's going to take longer than we'd planned." The older gentleman pursed his lips as he scanned the report on his computer.
"They lost him?"
"For now, it seems. But it's not impossible to guess where he might be headed."
"Does he know anything about them? Would he know how to find them?"
"I don't know, but I think we need to cover that possibility."
"Has someone been sent?"
"Yes. We should have a man in place by tomorrow. It might take a day or two to determine if he's with them. We don't want to get too close and tip them off."
"And in the meantime you want to proceed with the first test?"
"Yes." The older man's fingers moved deftly over the computer keyboard for a moment.
The younger man's computer emitted a soft ding signaling the receipt of an email. He turned to his screen and read the brief message sent out to several recipients.
"Proceed item 2-A, standard protocol."
As he had anticipated, Skinner received notification of a nationwide Amber Alert being issued out of Wyoming for an eleven-year-old boy named William Samuel Van de Kamp who was thought to be in immediate danger.
The accompanying photo was William's school photo taken just a month or so ago when the school year started.
Skinner stared at William's wide, carefree smile. The boy's eyes were clear and bright. Skinner hadn't yet seen this sunny version of the boy.
He picked up the phone and called the field office in Cheyenne and explained to the director there that the Amber Alert for William had to be cancelled immediately.
"The boy is in protective custody and I cannot reveal his whereabouts," Skinner said emphatically. "You can explain to local law enforcement that he has been found and is safe, but you must not under any circumstances reveal how you came to know this. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, sir," Agent Charleson answered.
"There may come a time when we can provide more information, but at this time his life depends on your utmost efforts at security. Do you understand me, Agent Charleson?"
"Absolutely, sir," Charleson responded. "I understand."
"Thank you," Skinner said, ending the conversation. He hoped Charleson was as competent as he sounded. The last thing they needed was some well-meaning person on the street calling the hotline to say that they'd seen William, inadvertently leading the conspirators right to Mulder and Scully's doorstep.
After hanging up the phone, Skinner went back to the paperwork he was finalizing. He had a lot of details to chase down to prepare to bring Mulder and Scully back into the Bureau, even on a limited basis.
They had already begun the long process of recertification and reinstatement following the Joe Crissman case that Mulder and Scully had consulted on. Skinner had pulled every string he could find to get the approval needed to bring them back aboard, but now he had to speed up the last of the formalities in order to get it done before all hell broke loose.
They needed the authority to fight against whatever corrupt personnel still remained in the Bureau and other government agencies and Skinner needed them on his team. He had long ago cleared a team of trusted agents and he was going to have to call on all of them when the time came, but he trusted no one as he did these two.
They had already agreed that they needed to be in the DC area so Skinner was arranging a safe house and whatever equipment he could discreetly pull together.
William held Scully's hand and walked close to her as they entered the big Wal-Mart Supercenter. He finally relinquished her hand when she got a shopping cart, but he walked beside her with one hand on the cart handle.
"Will," Scully began as they got to the boys' clothing department, "why don't you look for some shirts that you like while I find you some jeans to try on."
He looked at her with his mouth open, as if he wanted to say something, his eyes a little wide.
"It's okay," Scully insisted. "I'll be right here."
He looked at her a moment longer, his fingers rubbing at a spot on the corner of the cart, then he looked all around the store before finally nodding minutely and moving to a nearby rack of shirts.
William found it hard to care about the clothes he was looking through. Being out among so many people was making him nervous. He'd been worried about being followed when he had left Wyoming, but after all he'd been told about aliens and conspiracies and dangerous men, he found himself afraid of everyone. There were too many people to keep track of in this big store. He couldn't keep from looking all around him every few minutes, then checking for Scully again.
At last she pushed the cart over toward him, a few pairs of jeans and khakis draped over the side.
"Find anything you like?" she asked with a smile.
He looked stupidly at the rack and shrugged. She was studying him with that little frown between her eyes so he started working through the rack again, still not really seeing the shirts.
She laid a hand over his to stop him.
"What is it, honey?"
He looked down at their hands, and turned his over to grip hers. "I'm sorry...I can't...I can't..." He looked up at her and again couldn't help casting his eyes all around the store.
She squeezed his hand and silently chose a few shirts she thought would work for him, then led him to the dressing rooms.
She took the clothes and explained to the clerk that she needed to go in with him.
Once inside a dressing room she sat him on the little bench and sat down beside him.
"Are you scared, son?" she asked simply, slipping an arm around his shoulders and taking one of his hands in hers.
"There are so many people," he whispered, looking down at their hands. "If that man is looking for me, what if he's out there somewhere right now? What if he comes to the house while we're gone? What if he followed us to this store and he's waiting for a chance to grab me?" His voice rose into a strangled squeak as he tried not to cry.
Scully held him a little tighter as she tried to reassure him.
"I know it must seem as though everything is a threat right now, especially after all we talked about last night. But I really believe we're okay. It's understandable that you might feel frightened or nervous, and you don't have to be afraid to say so. Okay?"
He nodded, sinking a little more into her, taking assurance from her solid embrace.
"Do you think you can go ahead and try on some things now?" Scully asked gently. At his quiet nod, she stood and chose a shirt and a pair of jeans.
"Start with these and let me know how they fit. I'll be right outside the door, okay?"
"Okay," he replied, sniffling a little as he toed off his sneakers.
Scully slipped out the door and stood in front of the room so he could see her feet below the door.
After finishing in the clothing and shoe departments, Scully worked her way through the pharmacy department, picking up some extra first-aid supplies in anticipation of whatever lay ahead.
William tugged at her sleeve.
"Um...I need...I need some deodorant," William whispered shyly. "I forgot to pack mine at home." He'd just started using it, at his mother's insistence, and he still had trouble remembering to use it every day.
Scully smiled and pushed the cart over to the appropriate aisle. "Go ahead and pick out the kind you like. Is there anything else you need--shampoo or shower gel? If there's a certain brand you're used to, we can get that for you, too."
By the time they'd finished going through the grocery aisles, the cart was brimming. Scully had been a little indulgent of him and had allowed him to pick out some DVDs, video games and his favorite cereals and cookies, but she found she wasn't quite sure what amount of indulgence was normal and what was overindulgent.
She hadn't had the chance to make such decisions as a mother and she was suddenly faced with a half-grown child. She knew that their situation right now wasn't normal and she was reluctant to ask him what his parents had or had not allowed him to do. There would be time later to discuss such things and she didn't want to make him dwell on the loss of his previous normal life. They had to create a new sense of normal for him now; everything else could wait.
They bought lunch at a McDonalds not far from the house, picking something up for Mulder as well. As they neared the house, William was more relaxed, snagging fries from his bag and sipping his soda. Scully had helped him relax at the store and he had tried not to be greedy as she offered to buy him things just for fun. But now they were headed back to the house and he found himself thinking of it as home and he knew he'd feel safe as soon as he walked in the door.
At the house, Scully handed William a couple of bags to carry in as she found the bags with freezer items.
"We're home!" she called out as they entered, turning in to the kitchen with her bags. "Mulder! Can you come help bring the things in?"
"Coming," Mulder sang out as he came out of his office. He passed William who was taking his bags of clothes to his room.
"Looks like you hit the jackpot, Will," he said with a smile, gently ruffling William's hair.
William smiled shyly and continued on upstairs.
They brought in the remaining bags then sat down to eat their hamburgers, William smiling at the way Mulder stole Scully's fries and how Scully delicately removed the onions from her burger.
After lunch Scully helped William put his new clothes and things away, then left him in his room exploring his new video games.
She made her way down to the basement to go over the results of William's blood tests.
William left his games on the desk and stretched out on his bed, a little tired from the long shopping trip. He was a little surprised at how frightened he had felt and again how safe he felt here. And yet, this was still the home of strangers, people he didn't really know. It seemed strange to him that he was beginning to feel at home here even as he missed his own home and the parents who had raised him. He was still confused about everything he'd been told. He rolled over and took his little dog from where he'd tucked it under his pillow, holding it to his face, inhaling its familiar smell. It was the only thing he had that still smelled like home. All of his clothes had been washed in whatever detergent Scully used, the bed linens smelled different than his bed at home and even his own skin smelled different.
But the little dog still smelled the same and it comforted him.
"Mulder, I need to talk to you." Scully spoke quietly, but in what she hoped was a normal tone.
Mulder looked up from his desk, immediately knowing that Scully had something less than pleasant to tell him.
"Come downstairs, please," she said, turning from the doorway.
"What is it, Scully?" Mulder asked after she had led him all the way down to the basement.
"It's William's blood test," she said abruptly. She opened a folder that was lying on her workbench.
"Is there something wrong with him?" Mulder looked at the paper she now held out toward him, but the information on it meant nothing to him. He struggled to keep his breathing even, though inside he was beginning to panic.
"I checked him for immunity to the black oil virus. He does show some antibodies for it, but I don't think his count is high enough to make him fully immune. It's hard to say because we've seen so little evidence of immunity. But I checked the records I have from that oil rig worker and from your tests, my tests, Marita Covarrubias's tests. We all have significantly higher antibody counts than he does, but apart from the oil worker, we were all directly exposed to the virus and the vaccine. I wasn't sure if it was possible for him to inherit any immunity from us, since it would require a genetic alteration. There's a little evidence that that might have happened on some level, but I'm afraid that he'd be vulnerable to the virus after all."
Mulder shook his head in denial. They had long ago discussed the idea that William might be naturally immune, because of all they'd been told about how special he was supposed to be, but it was more speculation than solid theory. They'd hoped that he would somehow be spared if they couldn't get to him when the time came, if the aliens chose to use the virus on the populace. But he'd never seriously considered what to do if it wasn't true.
"What are you going to do, Scully?"
"I think that I'll have to give him the vaccine." She looked into his eyes for a long moment, then the words began to spill out of her in a rush.
"I don't know how it will affect him, though. We've only done basic tests on the vaccine and what it's supposed to do, since we don't have any samples of the black oil virus. William has never been exposed to the virus itself, but whatever elements of the virus are in the vaccine, though they're synthesized, could actually make him sick--even give him a real infection--if he has some kind of adverse reaction. And since he does have a certain level of magnetite in his system, I'm not sure how the two will interact. I'm going to run some more lab tests before I actually give him the injection, but in the end, Mulder, I think it's the only answer."
She chewed her lip as she waited to hear Mulder's reaction. She was about to risk the life of the son they had only just reclaimed by exposing him to the very thing she had sought to protect him from.
"If the vaccine makes him sick, will it be possible to treat him?" Mulder asked in a tight, quiet voice. He tried to block out what he remembered of having the black oil poured onto his face as he lay helplessly bound on a cold, hard table in a Russian gulag. He'd been given the vaccine beforehand, but it had still been a horrible experience.
"A dose of the antiviral you were given when you were returned should work, if it comes to that." She looked down at her hand to see that she'd begun to crumple the paper she still held. She set it back in the folder and wrapped her arms around herself. "I just hope he still trusts us afterward."
Mulder took her into his arms, as worried and apprehensive as she.
"When do you want to do this?" Mulder asked, casting his gaze around the room as if he would find some reassurance in Scully's equipment.
"Soon...today," she said simply. "I need some of the files you have upstairs and then I'm going to double check these results. Give me about an hour or so."
Mulder nodded, finally stepping back to look into her eyes.
Continued in Part Seven