A parting, and a reunion
SPOILERS: post-ep for William
DISCLAIMER: Not mine; they belong to FOX, CC, etc.
Notes: This story is part of a series that rewrites the end of season 9 and then branches off in its own direction. Each part is meant as a stand-alone piece, without any cliff-hangers between parts. There's no guarantee, however, how often I will post or how soon the series will be finished. So, if that qualifies as a WIP to you, read at your own risk. But I prefer to think of it as a series, not a WIP (a fine distinction, I know).
Thanks to Obfusc8er for the beta and for putting up with my demands and nagging.
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"Fold." Langly tossed his cards down on the table.
"Too rich for my blood. I've got to hold on to something for the next round."
"Well, then I guess you guys will never find out if I was bluffing you." Mulder set down his hand, face down, and then scooped up his pile of winnings. He neatly stacked the disks in piles of ten. Three more pennies, and he'd have a full dollar.
Frohike pulled the loose cards into an untidy mass and shoved them across the table. "Your deal, Langly."
Begrudgingly, Langly straightened the deck and began to shuffle. "Man, what I wouldn't give for a nice game of D&D right now."
"Hey, it's either this or bingo down at the community center," Frohike gibed. "Somehow, I think this is the better deal."
Langly scowled and flung the first card at Frohike, adding a little too much force and sending it off the table into his lap.
"So, what's the game, Ringo? You gotta call it before you deal," Mulder said.
Langly opened his mouth to answer, but he was preempted by the trailer door bursting open.
When Gibson entered, he didn't even seem to notice Mulder's guests. His wide eyes were focused solely on the man he sought.
"I had a dream, about a baby. I think it's yours. Someone came to hurt him. Someone who was supposed to be you."
"What? Gibson, slow down. How do you know it was William?"
"There was a woman with red hair, and I'm not sure, but I think she was saying your name. And I didn't understand this part, but there was something about a frog named Jeremy."
Mulder didn't bother to explain or correct that last bit. It was enough to make a connection. He had grown to value Gibson's insights, especially over the past few months as the two fugitives spent more time together. Gibson's premonitions were rare, but they were not to be dismissed.
Standing swiftly, Mulder was too preoccupied to notice his chair tip over behind him. He was immediately in motion. "William's in trouble. I have to go."
A beat passed before it could sink in to the two bystanders just what was going on; once the information had time to register, Frohike stood and jumped into Mulder's path. "Whoa, hold on a minute there, buddy. You can't just go rushing back to Washington. There are people who want you dead."
Mulder leaned over Frohike, both in intimidation and in an effort to push past his unyielding form. "What the hell does that matter? William's in danger, and for all I know, so's Scully. I can't just sit here. I have to go."
"Then let us go. We can go back to Washington and find out what's going on."
Mulder sighed in exasperation, trying not to lash out at his friend, but his patience was wearing thin. "Look, Frohike, I appreciate the offer, but you two aren't federal agents."
"Neither are you." That knocked some of the wind from Mulder's sails. At the sag in his posture, Frohike's tone gentled. "I know you want to go, but there's a reason why you went into hiding. For all we know, whatever's happening right now might be intended as a trap to lure you back to Washington. Now us, on the other hand, we're already a lost cause. Nobody's looking for us because we're supposed to be dead. It's the perfect cover."
Mulder was doubtful, but he didn't shoot down the option yet, so Frohike continued. "At least let us scope out the place first. We'll make arrangements to get information to you right away, and then we can tell you whether you should come back or not."
As agonizing as it was, Mulder knew his friend was right. Looking over the shorter man's head, he met Gibson's eyes in an appeal for more details or a strong feeling about this decision. But the boy just shrugged back at him, having no more to offer.
Turning away from Frohike, Mulder paced a few steps, weighing his options, before facing him again and responding: "Fine. I'll give you 24 hours' head start, but if I haven't heard from you by then, I'm going myself."
Frohike nodded and then gave a slap on the back to Langly, who sat there looking a little shell-shocked about what he had just been volunteered for. "The clock's ticking. Let's go."
"Hold on to your panties a minute, buster. Don't I get a say in this?"
Frohike fixed him with a challenging gaze. "It's either this or bingo. Take your pick."
It took Langly less than five seconds to gather up his poker winnings and fly out the door.
* * *
Wearily stepping out of his car, Skinner locked it behind him and moved off toward the elevator. It had been a long day, but it wasn't the clock alone that was wearing on him. The fact was, he was emotionally drained, mostly from the tumultuous feelings that he dared not let surface. He still wasn't sure that he agreed with Scully's decision, but he also didn't feel he had the right to question it.
As he was reaching for the elevator button, he paused. He had let his guard down, preoccupied as he was, but his instincts were now on alert. No other cars had entered the parking garage after him, but he thought he had heard footsteps.
Turning swiftly with a hand on his holster and readying his weapon, he scanned the shadowy recesses of the lot. In his peripheral vision he caught a movement, and his gun was raised and pointed in the blink of an eye.
"Federal agent. Hold it right there. Raise your hands and walk into the light slowly."
But when the figures entered the circle of dim light, his arm wavered. For a moment, he began to question his own sanity.
Then the apparition spoke. "No need to shoot, G-man. We're not armed. Besides, you've got a pretty good draw there, so I doubt I'd stand a chance."
"This is not happening," Skinner mumbled to himself, but loud enough for the others to overhear. "I'm just tired. I've had a long day. I just need a good night's sleep."
The blond apparition now spoke, but to his companion. "Man, I told you he wouldn't believe us. We should've gone to Scully."
"You know we couldn't take that risk. She's probably being watched, and then someone would've spotted us."
"Then what about that Monica chick? She'd probably talk to us, even if she thought we were really dead."
"Hold it!" Skinner interrupted. "There's no way my mind would make up this conversation. What the hell is going on here?"
Now that the gun was lowered, Frohike dared to step closer, bringing him further into the light. "Well, first of all, we're not dead."
"Yeah, I'm beginning to catch on to that. I think you owe me an explanation, especially considering the favors I had to call in to get you three buried in Arlington." Skinner frowned as he realized the discrepancy before him. "Wait a minute, what about your other friend, John Byers? Didn't he make it?"
Frohike exchanged a glance with Langly and then carried on. "Last we heard, he was alive and kicking, but that's another story. The reason we're here now is because of William. Mulder received word that he might be in trouble."
Skinner narrowed his eyes and looked between the two men. "You know where Mulder is?"
Frohike scanned their surroundings and stepped closer. "The walls have eyes, and maybe ears. Do you think we could continue this somewhere else?"
* * *
Langly self-consciously adjusted his cap again, making sure the stray hairs were tucked up in the back, even though he couldn't really be seen in their shady booth in the back corner of the bar.
As Skinner finished his narrative of the events of the last few days, culminating in Scully's shocking decision to give up her child, Frohike let out a whoosh of breath.
"Wow. No wonder Gibson felt something was wrong. But William's okay now, right?"
Skinner nodded. "As far as we can tell. But Scully believes that as long as William is in her care, he will always be in danger. You two know the truth of that well enough from the kidnapping a few months ago."
The buddies shared a sheepish look. The memory was all too fresh of how William had been placed in their charge, and then taken from them--by a woman, no less.
Langly spoke up. "So, uh, is this final? Has she already done the deed?"
"We initiated the paperwork today. She wanted to expedite things and avoid the normal channels so that no one will notice until he's already out of reach. I spent the better part of the afternoon making arrangements."
Frohike jumped in. "Wait a minute. Doesn't Mulder get a say in this?"
"Well, as far as I understood, Scully had no way of contacting him. But with you here, I suppose that changes things."
Frohike looked at his watch. "He'll be expecting us to get in touch with him soon. Maybe we can propose an alternative."
"You have something in mind?"
"Yeah. A place for people to go when they don't want to be found."
Skinner frowned at the cryptic answer, but then his brow smoothed and he nodded once, indicating that he understood.
"What about Scully?" Langly asked.
Skinner looked uncomfortable as he answered. "We can't tell her. If she knows where he is, it will put the boy in danger, which will defeat the whole purpose of what she's doing."
"Then what are you going to tell her?" Frohike countered.
"That her son will be cared for and well loved."
The three men avoided one another's gazes, the awkward pause highlighting the gravity of what they were about to do.
Frohike broke the moment. "I'll contact Mulder and start laying plans. We'll let you know as soon as we have the details."
With another curt nod, Skinner moved to slide out of the booth, but Frohike stretched out a hand to stop him. "There's something else you should know."
Skinner shifted back into his seat and waited for the explanation.
"We told you about our, uh, escape, but not about who was behind it."
Frohike glanced over at Langly and then responded: "Deputy Director Kersh."
Skinner huffed out a laugh. But as the two men across from him remained somber, his smile dropped. "You're not kidding." Both men shook their heads. "Alvin Kersh? But, why?"
"We're not entirely sure. Maybe to smoke out Mulder, but we haven't seen any evidence that we've been tracked or followed."
"No ninja dudes shading our ass," Langly added helpfully.
"He just made some comment that he was tired of being a pawn," Frohike summed up.
Skinner nodded thoughtfully. "That's a sentiment I can understand. Maybe the man finally realized just where he stands."
Frohike shrugged. "Maybe."
A foreboding silence descended, lingering around the three as, one by one, they inconspicuously rose from their shadowed booth and trickled out the door.
* * *
Two lone figures waited in the dimly lit parking lot, one of them cradling a sleeping baby to her chest. She hummed quietly to him in off-key tones while her companion kept a watchful eye on the shadows.
Beams from headlights sliced across their faces, announcing the car that pulled into the lot and slowly came to a stop. A woman stepped out, a kindly smile gracing her face, but Scully did not see it. Her eyes remained riveted to the precious bundle in her arms, resting there so trustingly.
Skinner moved to help the woman. The two busied themselves, transferring the car seat from one vehicle to the other, foreshadowing what was to come. When the task was completed and only one thing remained to be done, they waited patiently and wordlessly, sensitive to the fact that this parting would not be easy.
Scully turned away from the scene, immersing herself in the darkness. As the minutes extended, she felt a warm hand settle on her shoulder. "Dana, it's time."
She placed one last kiss on the downy head, then tugged down his cap to keep him sheltered from the cool air. He stirred slightly as his weight was shifted from one set of arms into the other, but he didn't wake. Scully ached at not seeing his beautiful eyes one more time, but she was also grateful; she wasn't sure that she'd be able to let go of him with his innocent eyes asking her "why?"
Her watchful gaze remained fixed on the back seat until the car had turned onto the road and disappeared from sight. She and Skinner were left alone in the darkness, the air around them eerily still, deathly quiet.
A tentative hand came to rest on Scully's back. It was unfamiliar there, making her ache for the touch she truly desired.
"Are you okay?"
"I'm fine." She had intended it to be more than the whisper that came out.
A hand ventured to her cheek and gently tugged her face in his direction. She watched Skinner's mouth move hesitantly, struggling to form words that remained unspoken. Finally, he offered, "He'll be in good hands."
But not hers. She nodded and closed her eyes against the torrent of tears that would no longer wait. A sob escaped, and strong arms wrapped around her, holding her to a warm chest. But the attempt at comfort only made her feel the loss more profoundly. There was no soothing presence awaiting her at home--and even if he were, she feared that he would never forgive her for what she had just done.
So consumed with her own guilt, Scully did not look up to see reflected in Skinner's eyes the very same emotion.
* * *
"I want you to meet William."
Mrs. Van de Kamp smiled down at the baby in her arms. He watched her with wide eyes, and she marveled at the fact that he didn't seem frightened around so many strangers.
Mr. Van de Kamp stepped forward to shake hands with the social worker. "Thank you so much. You have no idea what this means to us. Is there any more paperwork to be signed, or is this the last of it?"
"No, this is it. You now have full custody. Is there anything else you need from me?"
The couple looked at each other, and Mr. Van de Kamp moved close to his wife to place an arm around her shoulders.
"No, I think we're all set. We're just so happy to finally have him here."
"Well, all right then. You have my number, so just call if you need anything."
The couple stood and waited as the social worker and her companion got into their car and drove away down the isolated road. As soon as the vehicle was out of sight, the pair moved into action.
Frohike opened the front door and met them halfway. "Are we clear?"
The man going by the name of Van de Kamp answered, "She said it's finalized. They scheduled a follow-up visit, but by then, our trail will be cold."
His wife handed the baby toward Langly, who held him awkwardly, but William didn't seem to mind. "Can you guys handle him from here? We don't have much time to get the house cleaned up and move out before the owners come into town."
"What time does their flight get in?" Frohike asked.
"It's not a scheduled flight--private jet. The guy's a movie producer, or something like that. He flies in from LA every other weekend. The word from our contact is that he's due back tonight."
Frohike stepped forward and extended a hand to his old friend, known to most as Joe Fuhrman. "Thanks for everything. This means a lot to us, and especially to the boy's father."
"Hey, no problem, Mel. Just don't be a stranger. The newsletter may be out of circulation, but you've still got a lot of friends out there with their eyes and ears open."
After a few more words of farewell among the four, Frohike and Langly hastened to their car parked around back and headed for New Mexico. They still had a long drive ahead of them, and they were eager to see this errand to its conclusion.
* * *
Mulder could hardly sit still as he waited for the car to finally arrive. He had spent the better part of the last few days like this, sitting and waiting--or, more accurately, pacing and waiting. Gibson kept him company for most of that time, but he had received no further dreams, and contact with the Gunmen had been too limited for Mulder's liking.
The crunch of gravel outside was the first indication, but Gibson quickly confirmed, "They're here."
Mulder emerged from the trailer just in time to see Frohike exit the vehicle with the precious cargo sleeping in his arms. Without a word, the two men made the exchange, and Mulder cradled his sleeping son to his chest.
"I can't believe how big you are," he whispered into William's ear. "I've missed you so much. I just wish your mother could be here with us." Mulder didn't even realize he was crying until he saw the teardrop splash onto the child's face.
His world reduced to this one small bundle, Mulder was oblivious to his three friends who quietly made their way to the car and back down the drive. Mulder's eyes were riveted to the round, perfect face as his legs mechanically carried him up the steps and through the door of the trailer.
A newly acquired rocking chair waited in the corner, amidst piles of baby paraphernalia and books on parenting. Mulder toed a stack out of his way, unconcerned when it tipped over and spread across the floor, and took a seat in the weathered rocker. At the change in position, William sleepily blinked his eyes open.
Mulder couldn't help the bright smile that broke out across his face. "Hey there."
The boy blinked up at him once, then closed his eyes again. But even in his sleepiness, he shifted toward Mulder's chest and started moving his lips in a suckling motion. Having nothing else within reach, Mulder offered his finger. He chuckled when the poor substitute was soon rejected.
"Not quite the same as Mom, huh?" Mulder sighed and repositioned William so he could lean down and kiss his soft forehead. Into the quiet, he whispered, "I promise you, Scully, I'll take good care of him."
William shifted again but remained asleep. With a push of his foot, Mulder set the old rocking chair into motion. To its creaky rhythm, he gently began to sing:
"Jeremiah was a bullfrog..."
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