Title: Reclamation, Part Eleven
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!
Outside of Richmond
"Tell me again why you have to fix these bullets?" William asked as he loaded the magnetite-tipped bullets Mulder had finished into clips and magazines according to their caliber. He wore surgical gloves and a mask over his nose and mouth as a precaution while he worked.
"There are aliens and there are replicants, or SuperSoldiers, as some call them." Mulder worked on the last large batch of ammunition.
"The aliens are using the humans and these replicants to instigate the beginning of the invasion. The only real weakness the replicants have is their vulnerability to magnetite."
"What is magnetite?" William asked. "How did you figure out how it worked?"
"Well, we discovered their vulnerability kind of by accident, but magnetite is the most magnetic of all the naturally occurring minerals on the Earth. Fortunately, you can create it in the lab, which is what your mother has been doing for some time--although in a highly concentrated form.
"It's been impossible to get our hands on a dead replicant, for an autopsy or other in-depth study of their make-up, since the magnetite completely destroys them. We just know that it works--it somehow reacts to what are apparently metallic aspects of their bodies. It doesn't seem to take much of it to destroy them from the inside, so we figured that altering the ammunition was the easiest way. You don't have to get up close to them and you don't have to look for naturally occurring mineral deposits."
William was again struck by the idea that he'd be using these bullets to shoot at others, that the point of using them was to kill and destroy. Would he be able to tell the difference between a regular person and one of these replicants?
"What does magnetite do to normal people?" he asked in a small voice.
Mulder looked at him steadily. "Nothing, by itself. One of these magnetite bullets will injure or kill a normal person the way any other bullet will."
William nodded and turned back to his work, trying not to think too much.
After a while Mulder straightened up from where he had been hunched over the workbench. He looked over at William, who was moving more slowly than he had been when they'd started.
"Will, why don't we take a break," Mulder said, stripping off his mask and gloves. "Would you like something to drink? Maybe a snack?"
William finished the clip he'd been loading and nodded, removing his mask and gloves as well.
They climbed the stairs to the kitchen and Mulder got them each a bottle of water from fridge.
"Um, Dad," William began, leaning against the kitchen counter as he drank. He kept his eyes on the toes of his new sneakers. "Would it be okay if I just went up to my room now?"
Mulder's brow furrowed as he looked at William. There was definitely something different about the boy's mood.
"I guess that would be all right," Mulder answered. "Are you feeling okay? You're not feeling sick or anything, are you?"
William shook his head. "I just want to go upstairs," he said, unable to articulate what he was feeling.
"Okay," Mulder said gently. "I'll be downstairs if you need anything." He gave William a quick hug, but felt the boy's shoulder's tense at the gesture.
"Thanks," William said, putting his water bottle on the counter as he left the room.
Mulder stared after him.
Alone in his room, William had his laptop open on the desk. He slumped over it, idly tapping through a game of solitaire, mostly because it didn't really require any thinking. He had tried to lie down, but found he wasn't really tired or sleepy. He was oddly restless and couldn't quite understand exactly what was bothering him.
As he finished the game and sat up to stretch his back and shoulders, his gaze fell on the picture of his parents. It was now in a nice wooden frame, looking like it had always been on the desk.
He turned back to his laptop and opened the family tree document he had been preparing for school. Could it really have been a matter of only a few days since he'd last worked on it? It seemed like a lifetime ago.
In a way, it was a lifetime. The life he'd known was gone. He looked around the room. Was this his new life? This house, this room, these people. Did he belong here? Really belong?
The room was full of things that didn't belong to him. The few things he had brought with him had been put in place, like the picture of his parents, as if they belonged. His clothes were in the closet and dresser, now mixed in with the things Scully had bought for him. His backpack hung on the bedpost at the foot of the bed. His stuffed dog was on the bed, tucked under the pillow.
Suddenly he felt oddly scattered, as if he himself had been spread around into the corners of this new room, trying to make himself fit in.
He stared dumbly at his family tree--his adoptive parents and their parents, as well as a few other relatives. None of these people existed now. What few extended family members had once lived had since died, most of them before he was born. He'd known one set of grandparents when he was younger, but they had also passed away. With his parents gone, he had no one else.
Except Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. He had begun to call them mom and dad, begun to feel like their son, to love them, but looking at his adoptive parents' picture, his face burned with shame and confusion. Was it wrong to think of Mulder and Scully as his mom and dad? It had felt right yesterday morning, but now he felt like a traitor, as if he'd abandoned his parents, forgotten where he came from.
Since he'd been here, he'd done things he'd never done at home. He'd watched a DVD that he knew his mother wouldn't have approved of, stayed up later than his usual bedtime, played video games longer than his parents would have allowed. He hadn't been saying his prayers. And worst of all, he'd shot that gun.
His parents would never have let him do that.
He closed the document and shut off his computer, barely resisting the urge to slam the laptop shut. Almost before he knew what he was doing, he had gathered his belongings from the desk and taken them over to the bed. He took up his backpack and started stuffing the items he'd brought from home back into it. He felt he needed to keep everything together. He was suddenly afraid that he would lose something, and by losing his things, lose his memory of his home, lose some part of himself.
Part of him wanted to take his backpack and just go back the way he had come, to go back to Wyoming where he belonged, where things were familiar. He wanted to just turn back the clock and make things go back to the way they were before.
But he knew that was impossible. And dangerous. As much as he wanted to go home, he knew he couldn't do it. He remembered what he'd seen and heard. And there was no one there for him. He felt trapped--not able to go home, but not feeling that he really belonged here, either.
As he stood at the side of the bed, he looked out the window at the field beyond the backyard. Back home he had been very active, riding his bike almost every day, playing in the woods behind his house. He'd even started running to prepare to try out for the track team now that he was in middle school. But he hadn't been out of the house much since he'd arrived here.
Suddenly he needed to get outside. He needed to move, to clear his head, or to just push his body and not think at all.
He stepped to the door and listened for a moment. He didn't want to try to explain how he felt or what he needed to do. He didn't hear anyone or anything, so he slipped down the stairs and through the kitchen to the back door and out.
Scully entered the house, surprised to find it quiet. She checked Mulder's office first, then went through the kitchen to the basement stairs.
"Mulder, are you down here?" she called as she took a few steps down. "Where's William?"
"He's up in his room," Mulder replied, concentrating on his work. "I think he's a little tired."
"I need to talk to you," Scully began, "but I'm going to go check on William first."
"I'll be here," he answered as he heard her go back up the steps.
Scully looked into William's room, a little surprised that he wasn't there or in the bathroom. She then checked through the rest of the upper floor before heading back downstairs. After walking through the ground floor twice, checking Mulder's office again, even though she already knew he wasn't in there, and looking out the windows, she went down to the basement again.
"Did William just come down here?" she asked, knowing she couldn't possibly have missed him.
"He's not upstairs?" Mulder asked without turning from the rack of ammunition he was working on.
"No," Scully answered, a hint of alarm coloring her voice. "I looked through the whole house and didn't see him in the yard, either."
Mulder looked at her as his heart rate began to quicken. He didn't know what to think, but he pushed up from his chair.
"I'll go look for him. Get on the phone to Skinner just in case we need to call him in."
"Do you think he's in trouble?" Scully followed him up the stairs, hoping they were both overreacting.
"I don't know," Mulder answered grimly, grabbing his weapon and clipping it to the back of his jeans. "Hopefully I'll find him right away. He may have just gone for a walk. But we don't know if they've finally figured out where he is. They could be watching the house and if he went outside... Anything could be happening." He paused to kiss Scully, hoping to reassure her and himself. "Call Skinner."
William kept pushing himself further into the empty field. He looked back over his shoulder and could no longer see the stone wall, let alone the house. He didn't know where he was going or what he wanted. He just had to move. The cold air felt good as it burned his lungs. The more he felt his body, the less he focused on his confused thoughts and feelings. There were trees up ahead and he headed for the shadows at their feet.
Mulder circled the house, looking for any sign of William, when he saw a few footprints heading toward the back of the property. The tall grasses were still slightly pressed down where the boy had passed. He hadn't seen any sign of larger footprints, but he hurried forward anyway.
The boy's trail led to the stone wall where he and William had practiced with the gun, and on the other side he saw the boy's footprints in the slightly muddy ground there.
He jumped the low wall easily and continued quickly until he spotted his son just at the edge of the field where a small stand of pines began.
"William!" Mulder barked. "Where are you going? We've been looking all over for you!" He tried to take some of the anger out of his voice, but his heart was still pounding.
"I wanted to get out of the house," William answered, his brow furrowed in annoyance, though his voice seemed to falter.
"You can't just walk out here by yourself!" Mulder pressed as he neared the boy. "It's not safe. You know that."
"No, I don't know that," William answered, turning away from Mulder and taking a few steps further from him. "I don't understand any of this stuff you're always talking about."
"What?" Mulder asked. He closed the distance between them and took William's arm to turn him around. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, I don't know what's going on!" William shouted, yanking his arm free. "My name is William Van de Kamp, but that's not who I really am, is it? My parents are dead and I don't have a home anymore. I don't understand why they were killed or why these people are supposed to be after me. I miss my friends, my school, my stuff, my room, my bed. I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know who I am anymore. I don't even know why I came here." His hands were balled up into fists and he started to pound them against his head.
"Hey, hey," Mulder said gently, taking William's hands, pulling him close and wrapping his arms around him. "I'm sorry."
William struggled against Mulder's embrace at first, but as his anger subsided into tears he pressed his face into Mulder's shirt.
"I'm sorry if we've confused you or frightened you," Mulder began, "and that there's nothing I can do to give you back your life. But this is where we are now. Scully and I...we can't ever replace what you had with your parents, but...we..." His heart was full of such a mix of emotions--sorrow, grief, pain, joy, fear, hope--all these jumbled together, warring in his heart, overwhelming his ability to articulate his feelings. He could do nothing but join William in tears.
"I'm tired of being afraid," William murmured into Mulder's shoulder. "I just want to go back to being normal."
"Oh, God, I want that for you, Will," Mulder said, his voice husky as he spoke past the lump in his throat. "That's what Scully and I are hoping to accomplish at the end of all this. But it's going to get harder before then."
"No!" William sobbed. "Please! Please just let it be over. Can't we just get away? Can't we just leave and go somewhere else?"
"There's no place safe until we end it," Mulder said, trying to soothe the boy even as he fought in his own heart against the same fears and the desire to escape.
William suddenly twisted away, pushing angrily at Mulder's arms.
"I don't believe any of it, anyway!" he shouted, stepping back. "You're crazy! There's no such thing as aliens and secret plans to take over the world. That stuff only happens in the movies, not in real life." He was shouting, tears and snot making a mess of his face.
"Son " Mulder took a step forward, but William moved further away.
"Don't call me that!" he bellowed, pointing an accusatory finger at Mulder, jabbing the air as he continued. "You're not my father! My father is dead! If you know so much, why don't you find out who killed him and my mother! I don't want this...this... I want to go home! I want to go home!"
He collapsed onto the damp grass and folded himself onto his knees, sobbing so deeply that he could barely breathe.
Mulder stood still, his arms wrapped around his own body, his heart burning from William's angry words. Even as the boy's biological parents, what right did he and Scully have to put him through this?
William was right. They weren't the parents he knew. He'd been raised in a quiet, comfortable home, in a world where he only had to worry about not talking to strangers and getting his homework and chores done. And suddenly he was thrust into a world of chaos and fear, murder and destruction--of outlandish stories of conspiracy and aliens.
And yet, he and Scully were indeed his parents. And only they knew the reality of the strange world they all found themselves in.
He'd never wanted to think of himself as any kind of hero. But he knew too much to sit by and watch the world end in subjugation and destruction. As much as he would have loved to take Scully and William and try to find some peaceful corner of the world, he knew there was no such thing.
"William," Mulder said quietly, finally bending down to gently touch the boy's shoulder.
"Go away," William moaned miserably, his voice still thick and hoarse.
"Get up," Mulder said more forcefully, taking the boy's arms and lifting him to his feet.
William tried to pull free, but Mulder wouldn't let go.
"Look at me," Mulder said firmly. "Look at me, William."
William finally dragged his red, puffy eyes up to meet Mulder's gaze, but his face was still closed off and defiant.
"I know this is hard for you to accept and I know that it's overwhelming and painful." Mulder eased his grip a little, but a tinge of anger hardened his voice. "I would spare you from it all if I thought there was a way. I'm sorry, but you're going to have to trust me and Scully. We've been up against this fight for years now. We've both lost family members to it--my sister, my father, Scully's sister and we lost you, too."
William's breath caught a little at that and he felt his fury begin to subside.
"If it hadn't been for this fight, you would have known only me and Scully as your parents. She and I would have taught you to walk and talk. I...would have taken you to your first day of school and taught you how to throw a baseball. All of that would have been mine." Mulder looked away for a moment and swallowed the anger and tears that rose up in him.
"I know you loved your parents," he said more quietly, unable to meet William's gaze, "but part of me hates them. I hate that they had all of that with you when I should have had it. But none of that was your parents' fault, and they never should have died because of what I've done. It's the fault of the bastards behind this whole thing."
He sought William's face again, squeezing the boy's arms gently to emphasize his point.
"William, you are my son. I am your father. I didn't get to raise you and we don't quite know each other yet, but still, I love you and I would never wish you pain or fear or danger. I would spare you this knowledge if I could, but we're all in the middle of it. Please, please try to understand and let me and Scully help you."
Again, Mulder looked away. "I understand if you don't want me to call you son. I'm sorry about that "
"No." William's voice was quiet and small.
"What?" Mulder touched William's chin to turn the boy's face up toward his own.
"It's okay...to call me son. It's okay." William dragged his sleeve under his nose and sniffed loudly. "I don't know...why I said that, why I feel like this. You've both been good to me. You let me stay with you and you've taken care of me."
"Here," Mulder said, fishing a hanky out of his pocket and pressing it into the boy's hand. "Use this so Scully won't scold both of us. We love you, Will. Of course we want you to be here with us.
"There are all kinds of explanations for what you're going through, Will, believe me. It's only natural that you're going to feel confused, hurt, angry, after what you've seen so far, even if we hadn't been telling you about aliens and government conspiracies. Feeling more comfortable with us doesn't mean that you're betraying your parents or that you don't love them anymore...or that you're ever going to forget them; you won't, Will. I promise you. Just, please, try to trust us and tell us when you're feeling upset. Please don't run off like this ever again."
William nodded as he tried to clean up his face, but the tears began again and he simply pressed himself into Mulder's arms.
They entered the house to find Scully waiting anxiously by the back door.
"Is everything okay?" she asked as she saw William's red eyes and dirty face.
"I think we're fine," Mulder said, diplomatically, guiding William through the kitchen with a hand on his shoulder. He led him to the foot of the stairs.
"Will, I want you to go on upstairs and get cleaned up, then I want you to stay in your room and lie down until we call you."
William's brow furrowed as he looked up at Mulder.
"Are you making me take a nap? I don't "
Mulder shook his head and interrupted William's protest.
"I don't care whether or not you sleep, but I want you to lie down and rest. We're all tired and you've only just gotten over that fever. Go on up, now."
"I don't want..."
"William," Mulder repeated more sternly, "do as I say."
William blinked at the commanding tone, weighing how it made him feel. Even as he objected to being sent to his room, there was something in Mulder's voice that seemed to ground him. And if he was honest with himself, he had to admit he was exhausted.
"Yes, sir," he finally replied and started up the stairs.
Scully slipped an arm around Mulder's waist, wondering what had transpired between the two of them.
"Are you okay?"
Mulder nodded and offered Scully a bemused smile.
"I sounded just like my dad," he said, shaking his head.
Continued in Part Twelve