Title: Reclamation, Part Nine
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. firstname.lastname@example.org
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!
Social Security Administration Building
Curtis was back at this desk, a small bandage on his upper arm. He had indeed beaten the crowd and gotten his shot in quick order. But now he felt a little strange. He'd felt a little feverish when he first got back to his desk, which he figured was a reaction to the vaccine, but now he was feeling worse and worse as the morning went on. He had taken some Advil to try to take the fever down, but it didn't seem to be working.
He was frustrated that the flu vaccine was going to end up making him sick, but he had to admit he needed to go home. He made a couple of phone calls and sent some emails, cancelling the meetings he had called and excusing himself from the others.
At last he went to see his supervisor.
"Al, I'm heading home for the day. I'm not feeling well."
"I'm sorry to hear that, Curtis. Do you think you'll be in tomorrow? We have that conference call scheduled for tomorrow morning."
"I'm sure I'll be back. I got the flu shot this morning and I think I'm just having a reaction to it. I'm sure I'll be fine tomorrow after I get some rest."
"Go ahead and go home. Feel better, my friend."
"I'll see you tomorrow, I'm sure."
Curtis headed for the elevators feeling worse than he had just half an hour before. He just wanted to get home and crawl into bed.
Outside of Richmond
Mulder sat on William's bed and gently squeezed his shoulder. "Hey, buddy," he said as William rolled over and took a deep breath.
William blinked up at him and yawned, stretching his body and scrubbing at his eyes.
"You ready for some lunch? Your mom has some sandwiches made and if you play your cards right I bet she'll let you have a soda." He smiled warmly at his sleepy son. "Go ahead and get dressed and wash up, okay?" He stood and turned the covers back.
William nodded and swung his feet over the side of the bed, taking a moment to tuck his dog back under his pillow.
William walked into the kitchen and Scully's breath caught in her throat. He looked like a miniature version of Mulder. Warm brown hair, dark blue Henley, jeans and sneakers--how many times had Scully seen Mulder dressed the same way? William's face looked so much like the pictures of Mulder as a boy, it was like peeking into Mulder's childhood.
William caught her staring at him and he stopped and questioned her with his eyes, making her smile even wider.
"What?" he asked, looking down to make sure his fly was zipped.
"You look just like your father," Scully said, reaching out to smooth his hair. "Come and sit down."
Mulder joined them at the table a few minutes later, wearing a moss-green Henley and jeans, wondering why Scully was smiling to herself.
As they began to eat, Mulder looked pointedly at Scully, then turned to William.
"Son, you and I have something we need to do this afternoon."
"Oh?" William looked at him, then noticed the way his mother was pressing her lips together. "What is it?"
Mulder cleared his throat and wiped his mouth.
"I'm going to teach you how to shoot a gun."
"A gun?" William squeaked. "A real gun?"
"Yes, a real gun," Scully said tightly. She softened her tone and looked at William. "It's very important that you pay attention and follow all of Mulder's instructions carefully, especially about how to safely handle a weapon."
"Yes, ma'am." William nodded somberly, considering her serious tone.
"Have you ever handled any kind of weapon before, Will?" Mulder asked him.
"My father let me shoot his rifle once, and one of my friends had a BB-gun that I shot a few times."
Mulder nodded. He'd wondered if William had learned to hunt or fire a rifle, growing up in Wyoming.
"There are some important rules we need to go over before you even look at a weapon, and I need you to really understand and remember them at all times."
"I'm going to ask you to repeat them to me as I explain them to you, and then when we get outside I'm going to ask you again."
"First--all guns are always loaded. No 'ifs' or 'maybes', and you don't take anyone else's word for it. You always assume that any gun is loaded. No exceptions. Period. Do you understand, William?"
"Yes, sir," William answered. He repeated the rule back to Mulder, explaining his understanding of it as Mulder questioned him.
"Second," Mulder continued, "never--and I mean NEVER--point the muzzle of the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy, including any part of your body. What's the second rule, William?"
"Never point it at anything you don't intend to destroy," William repeated.
"Because every gun is always loaded."
"Very good. Third--keep your finger OFF the trigger until your sights are on the target. NEVER stand or walk around with your finger on the trigger. Repeat the third rule to me, William."
The boy repeated it soberly.
"And finally, be absolutely certain of your target, William, because you do NOT want to accidentally shoot the wrong person. This is not a game and it's not the movies. Do you understand me, son?"
William's mouth went dry at the mention of shooting a person, but he dutifully repeated the rule back to his father.
Scully had sat silently during the lesson, sipping her tea and willing herself not to interfere. Yet, as much as she disliked the idea, she knew Mulder was right and she was glad he was being so serious and cautious in his approach. The last thing either of them wanted was to glamorize or trivialize the use of gun.
"You're doing very well, honey," she said, rising from the table and picking up their dishes. "I've got more work to do downstairs. Please, both of you, please be careful."
"I will, mom," William said. "I promise."
Mulder stood to kiss her lightly. "We'll be careful."
Mulder led William into his office to a locked cabinet in the corner.
"William, you are never to touch this cabinet unless your mother or I tell you to, do you understand?" Mulder looked at William and waited for his answer.
"Yes, sir," William answered obediently. "We had a locked cabinet for my dad's hunting rifles back home. I wasn't allowed to touch it. I know the rule."
"Good," Mulder said, turning his attention back to the small key he turned in the lock. He carefully chose a gun, a couple of boxes of ammunition, and an ammunition clip and locked the cabinet again. "Let's go outside and I'll show you how to load the clip."
Mulder took the small pistol from the holster on his belt, gave it a quick once-over and took a deep breath, exhaling slowly as he turned his gaze to William's small form. He couldn't believe what he was about to do.
The boy looked about as scared as Mulder felt, with his blue eyes wide and staring, focused on the weapon. Though he and his adoptive father had talked about maybe getting him his own rifle this Christmas, he'd never held a handgun. Rifles were for hunting animals. Handguns were only used for one thing.
"Okay," Mulder finally began. "Safety first. Tell me the rules."
"Yes, sir," William gulped, both eager and afraid to touch the gun. He dutifully repeated the four rules he had just learned.
"You keep it pointed at the ground until you're ready to aim, finger away from the trigger, and keep the safety on until you're ready to fire." Mulder waited until the boy looked him in the eye. "Got that?"
"Now, this is the smallest weapon we have here at the house. It's a .22 caliber, but it's still going to be a little big for your hands." Mulder moved to stand behind his son, wrapping his arms around William's as he put the gun in the boy's hands.
"You're going to hold it with both hands anyway," he directed, pressing the boys hands in the proper position, one gripping the pistol, the other bracing it underneath. "Spread your feet about shoulder width apart to give you a better stance and more upper body stability. And now, we're going to take the safety off...right here. Did you see how I did that?"
William nodded quickly, putting the safety back on, then taking it off again.
"Good. Now I want you to just dry-fire it a few times. I took the clip out, but..."
"Always assume it's loaded," William said automatically.
"Okay, go ahead and squeeze the trigger, nice and smooth. Practice your aim, feel the weight of it."
William practiced squeezing the trigger, tensing up as he felt it move beneath his finger, expecting a shot, even though the gun was empty. He'd already learned the first lesson.
"Got the feel of it?"
"Yeah," William said breathlessly.
"Okay, here we go." Mulder took the gun from William and showed him once again how to reload, then let William remove the clip and load the weapon on his own. "Now you know for sure that it's loaded, so we're going to make sure the safety is on until we're ready. Get back in position."
Mulder had to bend down to get his head at William's eye-level, even though the boy was tall for his age. He helped him aim at the cans and bottles they had lined up along the old stone wall at the far edge of their property.
"Okay, take the safety off and now we're going to aim--since you're right-handed, look down the sight on the end of the barrel with your right eye and close your left eye. Center it on your target, and when you're ready, hold your breath, and then just squeeze the trigger, nice and smooth."
William stood with his feet braced as Mulder had said; his arms stretched forward, the gun heavy in his hands even with Mulder's support.
"I'm ready," he said, taking a long, slow breath, carefully sighting the target the way Mulder had explained.
He squeezed his forefinger for what seemed like forever. Just when he had begun to think that he'd forgotten to take the safety off, the gun went off with a bang, knocking him back a little, against Mulder's firm strength. Mulder's grip over his own kept the pistol from recoiling too much in his hands, but William knew it would have been hard for him to control it by himself. It was a lot stronger than he'd expected it to be.
None of the targets were disturbed.
"I missed," William said, taking a moment to wipe first one sweaty palm, then the other, on his jeans, pointing the gun toward the ground as he did so.
"Most people miss the first time," Mulder said kindly. "Sometimes quite a few times. How did it feel?"
"It has a kick," William admitted.
"Yeah, but not a bad one. You'll get used to it." Mulder stepped back and watched William resume the stance he had shown him.
William hesitated, then lowered the gun and turned toward Mulder.
"Do you really think I'll have to use this?"
Mulder considered for a moment. There was no use in being anything but honest. The boy had already witnessed a horrific example of what they were up against.
"I hope it doesn't come to that," he began, "but I think you know something about what's at stake. Whatever happens, I don't want you to be helpless. And if it comes to that, I don't want you to be afraid to do what you have to do."
William's mouth went dry. He saw again the view of his home in Wyoming, his adoptive parents lying dead. He met Mulder's steady gaze, then turned and raised the gun again. Bracing his whole body, he took careful aim, took a deep breath and squeezed the trigger, sending a can flying off the fence.
Scully heard the back door creak as the boys came in. She smiled as she caught herself already thinking of them that way. That was how her mom had often referred to her dad and brothers whenever they were out doing something together--playing football, getting the grill going, watching the Superbowl.
Her boys were hanging up their jackets and coming into the kitchen and she knew they'd be hungry. She was already working on stir-frying meat and vegetables in a wok.
As they approached she could smell the gunpowder on them and she felt her smile fade a little.
"Hi, honey, we're home!" Mulder teased, coming up behind Scully to kiss her cheek. "Mmm What's for supper?"
"Nothing, until you two get washed up," she answered, willing her smile back into place. She returned Mulder's kiss and paused to cup William's cheek.
"It smells good, Mom," William said.
Scully felt her heart flutter a little at how normal and natural his words sounded. She had to fight back a tear as she smiled at him. "Go wash up, honey."
"It does smell good, Mom," Mulder whispered in her ear, after William had left for the bathroom. He wrapped his arms around her and gave her a squeeze, knowing what it meant to hear the boy call her that.
They stood that way for a moment, each lost in their own thoughts and feelings, each marveling at what they had missed out on in the past eleven years, as well as what they had just regained.
Our Lady of Sorrows Hospital
Amy Clendenin hurried through the emergency entrance of the small hospital, searching for a nurse or orderly.
"Please, someone help me!" she said, hurrying toward the nurse at the reception desk. "It's my husband--he's very sick!"
"Where is he?" the nurse began.
"In the car," Amy said. "He passed out on the way here and I can't wake him up." She fought her growing panic. "There's something wrong with his eyes..."
Soon they had her husband on a gurney and had rolled him into a treatment area. His temperature was very high and he was unresponsive. She had been pushed aside by the medical team, but she heard the doctor speak to one of the nurses.
"I've never seen anything like this. His eyes are completely black."
Outside of Richmond
After dinner, William wandered into Mulder's office, not sure if he was allowed in uninvited, but too curious to stay out. He'd only glanced at the pinned up articles before, but this time he stood and read through the shorter ones. He noticed that there were more clippings tacked up on the back of the door, so he pushed it partly closed, only to find himself looking into the eyes of a dark-haired girl only a few years younger than himself.
"Samantha," he said aloud, reaching out to touch her image. He could see the resemblance to Mulder and wondered what she had been like. She looked bright and sweet and he thought about some of the girls he'd known at school.
He didn't have any siblings, but he knew boys his age who had little sisters that they both despised and loved. He'd seen his friend Jackson beat up another boy for teasing the little sister he constantly complained about. Mulder said he had been about the same age as William was now when Samantha had gone missing. Suddenly, he had to turn away from her smiling face.
He walked over to Mulder's desk and helped himself to a couple of sunflower seeds from the heaping bowl that stood there. An iPod sat in the middle of a cleared space, the earphones wrapped neatly around it.
William startled at Mulder's voice from the doorway.
"Um...sorry," William began. "I didn't mean to be nosy. I was just curious..."
"That's okay," Mulder answered. "I was just wondering where you'd gotten to."
William shrugged. "I didn't feel like watching TV."
Mulder pointed at the iPod. "Is that like the one you had?"
"I think so," William answered. "Is it yours?"
Mulder nodded and stepped up to unwind the earphone cord from the device.
"What kind of music do you listen to?" William asked, finding it impossible to imagine. His adoptive parents had listened to a lot of country music and Christian music, but he was sure Mulder's tastes were different.
"Oh, probably a lot of stuff you're too young to have ever heard of," Mulder replied with a chuckle. "I'm an old fogey, remember?" He smiled at William and handed the iPod to him. "Want to check it out?"
"Sure." William took it, donned the earphones, and turned the device on. He listened for a moment, a bemused smile on his face.
"Is that something by the Beatles?" he asked. "Two of us, riding nowhere..." he sang shyly.
"Yeah," Mulder said, his grin growing wide. "Do you know it?"
William shrugged. "I've heard it before." He turned his attention back to the player and clicked through a few more songs, listening briefly before moving on to the next one.
Mulder couldn't tell from his face whether or not he recognized or liked any of the other songs he'd uploaded. At last the boy turned it off and looked up at him.
"What do you think?" Mulder found himself embarrassingly worried that his son would think he was completely uncool.
"I don't think I know the rest of the songs, but they're not bad," William answered. He pulled the earphones out of his ears and handed the player back to Mulder. "Thanks," he said politely.
"Keep it," Mulder said, closing William's hand around it. "Later on we'll upload some new songs for you."
"Really?" William looked down at it for a moment, feeling silly about the tears that threatened to spring up in his eyes.
"Well, I figured you'd be missing the one you gave away," Mulder said gently.
William looked back up at Mulder and smiled.
Continued in Part Ten