Shadows of Winter
Part II
By Jaime Lyn

Disclaimers, yadda yadda, all in Part I.  Rated 'PG-13' for language.  


Lily Selden refused to stand still.  

And Paul Selden had no idea how to help her.  

It had been a half hour since they'd returned from Jake Walker's ransacked garage, and Lily's hands still skittered with restless distraction, her fingers shivering and scratching over her palms as if looking for release in rubbing herself raw.  

When they first returned home, she paced back and forth in the entryway, her chest expanding and contracting in evened breaths, her nostrils flared, her back straight, her eyes fraught with purpose: ten steps forward, eleven steps back, repeat.  

And when that wasn't enough, she went into the kitchen and poured herself a glass of ice-water.  And after two sips of water, she entered the living room with a dust rag and dusted the fireplace as if trying to choke it.

 Finally, with no other rooms left downstairs to pace or clean, she climbed the steps and disappeared down the small hallway leading to the master bedroom.  Paul heard their bedroom door creak open and slam back against the wall, and then he heard a thud, and then drawers slamming open and shut.  

With a sigh, he followed her up the steps, fist gripping the banister with world-weary purpose. Truth be told, he had no idea what to make of the evening's disturbing discoveries.  He didn't know what to tell himself about the irrefutable evidence they'd found at the Walker home, and he certainly didn't know what to tell his wife.  "They're here" most definitely was not going to suffice, and anything less than that would be a lie.  Lily Selden was no idiot, and she didn't appreciate being patronized.  Her experience in the area of the paranormal equaled his own, and she'd seen firsthand what happened to those who didn't get away from danger quick enough.  And she knew what would happen, what could happen, if she and Paul were found.  

Either the walls truly did have ears, or else a rag-tag gang of alien hybrids or supersoldiers had just gotten extraordinarily lucky.  

Paul took a deep breath and pushed wide the door to their bedroom.  Lily stood at the foot of the bed with a dangling precipice of shirts, pants, and undergarments captured in her arms.  Some items were hers, others were his, and she didn't seem to care one way or the other.  

On the bedspread lay an opened suitcase - familiar and worn, the leather handle cracked from its many adventures secluded in the trunk of their tiny, used car.  Inside the suitcase sat half a dozen pairs of socks, a few neatly folded shirts, a few pairs of shorts, a couple of bras, and a few pairs of underwear. Lily was nothing if not the most practical and efficient packer that Paul had ever met; she had to be, after all, as necessity dictated they live their life without permanent destination.  

Paul sighed, and wondered how in the world he'd ever repair these new, invisible stab wounds to their flimsy cocoon of safety; the silk was beginning to tear.

"Lily," he said, pausing in the doorway.  

Lily glanced up at him; she blew a strand of red hair out of her eyes from the corner of her lips.   A pair of black-lace underwear escaped from her grip, and she dumped the rest of the clothing beside the suitcase, busying herself with the act of refolding everything.  Each shirt she finished folding she color-coded and laid in clean, symmetrical piles next to the suitcase.  Paul cursed at this relapse of obsessive compulsive behavior, and he prayed to God that there weren't more than two or three shampoo bottles secreted in the cabinet over the sink.  

"Hey, Criminal.  You with me?"

Lily favored him with an impatient up-quirk of her eyes.  "With you for what?"

"I, ah..." Paul stepped further into the room and sat at the edge of the bed, opposite his wife's growing tower of neatly folded shirts.  "I didn't realize we were taking a vacation."

Lily's eyebrow raised, and she straightened out the wrinkles of one of his crisp white t-shirts.  If she had been any other woman so diligently folding clothes, she would have looked for all the world like a regular married person putting away her husband's clean laundry.  The truth of it, however, was much more dry and deadly: suffocating in its coldness.

They had been found.    

"I'm so glad that you feel the need to be cavalier about all of this," said Lily, rubbing the back of her neck with one hand and pausing long enough to stretch her muscles.  "You know what we saw back there.  You know what we're dealing with."  

Paul took a breath and nodded.  The only way he knew how to argue a point with a stubborn Lily Selden was to fight her with her own arsenal.  

"I won't argue with you that the situation looks damning," he said, forcing calm into his voice.  "But for a woman who once prided herself on gathering irrefutable, scientific proof before moving forward, you sure are ready to pull up stakes based on nothing more than circumstantial evidence."

And thus, fire came head to head with fire; he on one side of the bed, she on the other, both radiating like hot coals.   

Lily dropped one of his shirts and turned to him, her eyes glazed with frustration.  "What in the hell is that supposed to mean?"   

Paul simply stood and held up his palms, backing towards the bathroom in his stocking-ed feet.  "I'm not trying to say anything.  I just...  I don't think we should freak out and leave in the middle of the night without first examining the situation.  There's no need."  

"You think there's no need for concern."  Lily blinked at him, her expression unreadable.  "Amazing. I'm in the twilight zone.  Here you are, arguing what would have otherwise been my side of this argument -- "

"Otherwise?"  Paul shook his head.  "No, there is no otherwise right now. Otherwise has left the building.  It's better if we keep this in perspective. We need to step back.  We need to examine this without making assumptions. We'll develop Paranoid Schizophrenia and - and start talking to our shoelaces if we jump to hasty conclusions."  

Lily's eyes widened as if absolutely astounded by him.  "That’s your whole argument? After years of leaping towards your hasty conclusions, you're now insinuating that I'm somehow out of line here?"  Lily waved a hand at him as if the waving kept her from yanking out her own hair.  "No, Paul. I'm not jumping to conclusions.  I'm drawing a logical inference - "  She took a breath.  "My conclusion is based on observation.  On past experience, both yours and mine.   That cat -  Its eyes -"

"Displayed all the symptoms of being exposed to a - " He paused, chose his words carefully, "To a known toxin.  Yeah, I got that.  I know it looks bad, and it probably is what it seems to be, but we can't be sure.  We need to investigate this."

Lily groaned, a hand at her temple.  "All right, I can't believe I'm about to say this, but maybe we need to err on the side of instinct here."  

Paul grinned. "While I think I just got hard at the words 'maybe we should err on the side of instinct' coming from your mouth, I think I actually have to disagree."  Paul tried on a shrug, but his heart wasn't in it.  "We could be overreacting."

Lily shook her head, pressing her knuckles to the bridge of her nose.  "Normally, I would agree with you, P.I.  My head... my head tells me that we should just take the sample you bagged and send it anonymously to a trusted source, maybe even sneak it into the toxicology lab at the hospital to get it analyzed.  And then...and then I'd suggest that we go back to Mr. Walker's garage and do a follow up.  Hell, I'd even autopsy the cat myself and run the exam results against the results of the compound analysis.  At least that would give us something concrete, something solid for me to put my back up against.  But this - "  

Lily's shoulders drooped.  Her carefully sculpted eyebrows furrowed, her fists clenched, and all at once, she was a detailed portrait of desperation and malice and fight versus flight, wrapped in a fragile skin.  

"My gut," she finished.  "My gut tells me there isn't time for science.  And if I have to forgo that safety net, if I have to relinquish my need for practical methodology in order to, to - "  She took a few breaths, circling with her hands, "To get a head start on whatever this is -  to keep you safe, to keep us safe, then, well, that's what I'm going to do.  I refuse to be caught with my eyes closed.  Not again."  She folded her arms.  "Obviously, we don't have a lot of luxuries here.”

And as if lowered by a string, Lily Selden bowed her head; the idea of losing her science, such a valued part of her existence, was likely the most abhorrent thing she could ever think of. But she'd said it now, and it was out there on the table for dissection.  

"We don't necessarily have to pack up and leave," Paul insisted.  "There are other ways."  

"What other ways?"

"We could do that compound analysis thing.  I could investigate this as a side-case and maybe... maybe call in some favors from Skinner?  Nobody has to know that it's me."

Lily frowned.  “I don’t understand you, P.I.  You hate Canada.  Why do you want to stay so badly?”

Paul shook his head, unsure of how to answer.  How could he say, “Because I really want to uncover the truth” without diminishing her importance to him?

He didn’t want to put them in any more danger, but he didn’t want to run, either. And if the truth was waiting for them here, then Verona, Lake Ontario was where Paul wanted to stay until he discovered it.  He wanted to reclaim his life, and this was as close as he’d ever get.  And if he could have his fight for the truth, and the woman he loved in bed beside him, and a place to hook up his cable, well, then darn it, he’d be a happy man.

Lily used to be like that.  She used to live for the fight.  But now she was running scared and Paul had no idea why.  

"There isn’t a good reason,” Lily answered for him.  “And I'm done pretending I can win the game when I can't even move fast enough to keep up with the rules." She took a shallow breath.  "I won't lose you.  Not again."  

Paul spread his arms wide, at a loss for much else.  "I don't know how else to assure you that I'm not going anywhere.  Because I'm not, you know."   

Lily just gazed at him, her blue eyes clear with disbelief.  A hollow laugh erupted from her throat, and she gathered another of his shirts in her hands, crumpling the material to her chest.  "And how many times have you promised me that very thing?" she asked. "And how many more times will you insist on patronizing both of us with it?"

Silence exploded between them with a rush of tension.  

Suddenly, Paul had a brief flash of lying on a metal table, watching helplessly as steel saws rushed down at him and sawed open the skin of his chest, splitting apart the springy brown hairs and splashing his own blood onto his cheeks like water from a Dixie Cup.  Drills ripping open the roof of his mouth, pulling apart the cartilage inside his nose.  

He'd dreamt of this woman in fits of insane delirium, imagined her soft hands healing his wounds, her lips kissing away the bruised splotches on his temples.  Lily was his anchor, his Plymouth Rock; he'd tried to escape his captors, to come home to her. He hadn't wanted to leave her in the first place, for crying out loud.  He'd thought he was protecting her by leaving, keeping her safe with his absence.  He wouldn't have gone if he hadn't thought that.  Each and every time he left -

His hands shook with the venom of unspoken grievances.

"Good job, Criminal.  After all these years, you've finally figured me out."  His voice was low, and laced with anger, and he took a step towards her to better direct his rampage.  "I live to promise you false truths, break them, and then thrust myself right into the pyre of danger to toy with your emotions.  It's all about misdirection."  

Lily's eyes narrowed at his sarcasm, and she shook her head, shoving him aside in order to gain access to their clothing.  "Congratulations," she muttered, folding his shirt as if she was trying to kill it.  "Now get out of my way so I can pack."

Heart pounding, Paul saw red spots dance in his vision.  His nostrils flared.  He pictured again and again the metal table, the vision of her that floated to him, that kept him from bleeding to death out of jagged holes in his abdomen.  

That Lily could believe he'd willingly lie to her, or that perhaps he'd lied to her in the past - for no other reason than to ditch her in lieu of a more direct path to the truth... What could she possibly be thinking?  That he was jealous of her file history? That, after having fallen one abduction short in the race to see which of them could get abducted and tortured the most, he'd only abandoned her in order to finally break even?

No. He didn't keep score.  He really didn't.  They'd both been abducted once and that was it.  

Not that he was counting.

 "No," said Paul.   "Oh no, no, no."  He grasped her upper arm and whirled her around, pulling her upright.  Her head snapped to his, her expression furious.  

"I tried like hell to protect this partnership," he hissed.  "Every.  Single.  Time.  So don't you tell me what I did or didn't promise, because if I ever promised you anything, it was that I wouldn't let you die."  When she opened her mouth to respond, he bit out more: "I may have gone off in search of my truth and God knows I've made some mistakes, but whatever I did, I did for us.  For you.  Any promise I ever made was with your best interests in mind."

Lily yanked her arm free and tilted her head back to stare frankly and boldly into his eyes.  She looked unafraid of him.  "First off," she said, "Let's not kid ourselves that anything was more important to you than your truth.  Even now.  That’s why you want to stay here, isn’t it?  What, do you think I don’t know you?"

Paul opened his mouth to object, and Lily cut him off with a searing-hot glare.  

"Second of all, who the hell died and made you hub of the universe?"

Paul tilted his head, wavering between disbelief and rage.  "What?"

"Who asked you to martyr yourself for me?" Her palm fluttered to her chest, her eyes alit like glinting shards of sea glass.  "Who made you head of this operation?  And who put you in charge of my life?"

Her voice grew louder, eating up strength like a hurricane in the warm waters of the Atlantic.   

"That kind of self-referential egomaniacism didn't fly with me ten years ago and it doesn't fly now."  She jabbed a finger in his direction.  

 From the south-side of stunned, Paul managed only to get out a single syllable, before she all but severed his comeback with a short, quiet, "I'm not finished."

Paul glared at her, heat rising in his face, but he shut up, all the same.

"I may love you beyond all good psychiatric health, but I am your partner first and foremost, and I thought the deal was that we protect each other.  Quid-pro-quo.  Not you protect the little wife by guarding the homestead with a shotgun, while I wait in the bedroom for someone to come and kill all of us - that kind of procrastination and stupidity is what's going to get all of us killed now. I don't need you promising things you can't promise, or... or sacrificing yourself at the altar of your convictions like some self-serving, egotistical Romeo."

“All of us?” Confused, Paul turned to gaze about the room.  As far as he knew, it was just the two of them. Had he missed something?  “I don’t even understand what you’re trying to get at, now.  Who is all of us?”

Lily reddened, folded her arms. “You’re still in my way,” she hedged.

Paul swallowed back stomach acid.  His head was two seconds away from imploding. "Well, this is great," he said. "Now that you've lectured me on proper fugitive etiquette, does this mean you're going to file for pretend divorce from our pretend marriage?"

Lily pressed towards him like a wild creature, and her mouth opened hotly over his earlobe, a slithery caress.  "Don't make me fucking hit you, Mulder."  

Paul stilled at the sound of his real name, tried to pretend he wasn't startled by it. "Or what?"

"You really want to know?"  

He stood his ground, and tried to act like an angry Lily Selden didn't scare the shit out of him.  

She jabbed him and nearly punctured his lung.  "You act like I'm broken, like I need protection from myself, or like I don't know what's important to you anymore.  Trust me when I say I know.  I make an informed decision concerning our safety and instead of considering it, you tell me I need to calm down."  Her fingers curled into a fist.  "You used to trust me. You used to trust my judgment.  Or did that all end when I told you I enjoyed fucking you? You're not the only one who's been forced to make sacrifices, and I don't need to calm down.  I'm perfectly fucking calm.  I've made harder decisions in my life and I won't make the same mistakes twice and I know - I know, damn it, what we have to do to stay afloat."

Paul gaped.  He’d never before seen Lily this unhinged.  He had no idea how to respond, but he needed to say something before his wife got out her gun and blew his head off.

“Well, at least we both know you enjoy fucking me,” he muttered.
He’d meant it as a leavening tactic.

Granted, he should have come up with something better.  

"You’re not taking me seriously," she said.

 "Look. Just - " Paul scratched his head.  "Back the train up.  When do I not take you seriously?  And – and - when did I ever say you were broken?  I never said that."  

Exhausted, Lily teetered backwards towards the edge of the mattress, her shoulders hitching.  She dropped onto the bed and slammed her fist into one of the shirt piles; another minute passed, and she pushed all of her handiwork clean off the comforter, spraying the floor with their clothing.  

When she turned back to him she looked nauseous, literally nauseous, and she whispered hoarsely. "Paul, I...  I just can't do this anymore.  This constant rage against the light.  It's not like I want to give up, but it's just..."  

"I don't understand what you're trying to tell me." Paul frowned.  "What can't you do?  And what's this about Dylan Thomas?"

She sighed, patting his shoulder, as if unsure how to explain.  "What if I think it's me holding us back?"

Numbed, Paul said nothing.  Out of all the things she might have said, this was not on the list.  

At his silence, Lily shook her head at some invisible evil, and went on, "You trusted me to be there that first time, and I lost you."  She fought for control through ripples of breaths, her neck bobbing as she swallowed.  "I tried but I couldn't - couldn't do it.  I was the one who couldn't cut it, who couldn't keep you safe.  When you left for - " She stopped, re-chose her words, and went on, "When you said you were going back, I just, I let you do it.  I fucking, I let you go, when I knew, I knew something wasn't right.  But I was so arrogant and I...  I convinced myself you'd be okay, that you could handle yourself, that I should let you handle yourself.  I thought, we had plenty of time to sort out particulars when you returned."

Paul deflated, losing air quickly, his chest collapsing like a dying balloon.  "You can't really think that what happened was your fault.  You're not psychic.  How could you have known?"

"I let you go so that you could find your truth, but I shouldn't have let you do it without me.  I dropped my guard -" She punched the mattress again, her knuckles a pale ivory.  "And that was my fault, because I'm better than that.  And then when the baby..."  Her throat seemed to close around the word baby, and after a moment she continued, "When the baby was born, I told you to leave.  I divided us and I was wrong. God, I was so wrong to do it.  The thought of turning my back, even if only for a second, and finding you gone because I let you stay when secret intelligence said you should go..."

Paul reached for her hand and she wriggled it away, trembling. Her eyes communicated to him her distress; much too vulnerable still to be touched.  

"I gave you up.  I gave my child up. I was positive I couldn't protect him because I couldn't even protect you.  Because I couldn't even protect myself.  I was angry and frightened and, and now here we are again, and they've found us again, and all I know is that I won't make the same mistakes twice, even if it means we run forever.  We can't protect each other by separating, and I won't have you bargaining yourself for my safety again.  I refuse to wear your sacrifices around my neck."  Her eyes glistened; a watery film over blue sea glass.  "But I keep thinking, that's exactly what I've done to our child."  

"What?  Sacrificed yourself?"

"No." She shook her head.  "Well, yes.  Yes and No.  I keep thinking, that what I did for him - that he'll be forced to carry the burden of this, this sacrificial legacy."  

Paul closed his eyes, dropped to the bed beside her, and leaned back on his hands.  "You made the right decision," he said.  He didn't know what else to say to her. "And even if you could take that back, would you have wanted this?  This life of uncertainty? For him?"  

Lily opened her mouth, but said nothing.  Her fingers closed around a clump of the comforter, squeezing.  

"We've always made decisions based on the knowledge that what we were doing was right," he continued.  "Hindsight fucks with your confidence, but you can't possibly think that this is a situation either of us could have changed or predicted.  Or wanted."  

"No, I don't," she said, wiping away a smudge of brown eyeliner from her cheeks. "Don't misunderstand me.  I've always felt confident that the life I chose was just and good.  That someday I would look back on all of the difficult choices and compounded losses, and understand the greater truth in them.  But I'd also like to think I'm not at the complete mercy of circumstance.  That I could have made different decisions.  I could have made better ones. Because I'm better than that.  Not every path is the right one just because we chose it."

Paul gazed at her and thought, for the umpteenth time in his life, how beautiful and amazing this woman was, for all her infinite imperfections and complications.   And he was wholly unable to remember a time when he hadn't loved her. Her cheeks were red, her eyes swollen, but her gaze was as steady as ever.  She was a foot shorter than he, and painfully slender, but she was made of much stronger stuff than anyone gave her credit for.  

"Maybe you're right," he said, "And maybe there are an infinite number of opposing universes mirroring this one, each universe representing the choices we never made, right or wrong. But 'what if's' can't change the past.  They can't reinvent the present.  Thinking about it will only make your head spin."

Her eyes searched his, her skin glistening with tracks of saline. "But what if I was wrong to do it?  And what if I can fix that wrong, now?”

Paul frowned.  "Wrong about William, you mean?"    

Lily opened her mouth to answer, but was abruptly cut off.

A deafening crash, like the sound of a hundred pianos being dropped on a hardwood floor, interrupted the safety between them, startling the air, destroying the moment; the walls rumbled their disapproval. The ruckus was sickening in intensity and painfully short, like a gunshot.   Lily gasped in an 'Oh' of surprise and gripped the tucked-comforter of the bed with both hands, her shoulders going utterly rigid. Paul grasped her knee with one hand and shot the other out like a propeller, balancing himself as if waiting for the floor to open up and swallow them.  

The silence that blanketed them in the wake of such a noise seemed to be choking off oxygen.

Lily's gaze met her husband's, and neither of them dared breathe for a full ten seconds.  The house was still, electricity pumping light through all the dark corners, and the only sound now was that of the heater blowing warmth from a vent in the ceiling.  

"Was that them?" Lily whispered, either unwilling or unable to move.  

"I don't know," said Paul, his heart beating erratic symphonies inside his ribcage.  

Refusing to take any chances this time, Paul swiftly decided that they had no other choice but to utilize the road his wife had argued only minutes earlier; act first, ask questions later.  No science, no waiting, no thinking.  

Lily's exhalations thrumming in his ears, Paul turned to the right side of the bed and bent over, reaching beneath the mattress to pull out a tiny, rusty key.  With surprisingly stable fingers, he pressed the key into the lock of Lily's nightstand drawer, and slowly turned, positive that at any moment, the entire house would explode or collapse or start bleeding from the walls if he took too long.  

The drawer seemed to unlock and creak open in agonizing slow-motion, and when Paul reached for his wife's  nine-millimeter, he could swear he was barely moving at all.

He handed the gun to Lily without introduction, and he could hear her click the safety off behind him.  The mattress dipped with each of her movements.  She didn't argue and she didn't ask questions; Lily had always been, and would always be, a professional hard-ass first and a mere mortal second.

Behind the gun, in an old necklace box in the back of the drawer, was another weapon Paul had hoped he would never have to use again.  Long and sleek, and glinting silver like a stainless steel socket-wrench, only the two of them knew the amount of damage that this tiny, iron weapon could cause.  As a matter of fact, they counted on it.  

The deadly truth was that Mr. and Mrs. Paul Selden were wanted by everyone: by the FBI, who sought Paul as an escaped fugitive of the law, and Lily, because she had aided and abetted and disappeared along with him. Within that structure of power, they were also wanted by men who weren't really men at all, by men who were un-killable and unstoppable, by men who had no names and needed no reasons for their actions.  It was an uphill, relentless battle for survival, for everyone's survival, and December 22, 2012, was the payoff date; in reality, it wasn't all that far off.  

Paul picked up the iron weapon and clutched it tight.  He nodded at Lily, who stood up behind him and held her gun to her shoulder with both hands.  

"We're getting out of here," he said.  "But if someone's down there, I might need a distraction.  You go down first and I'll be right behind you.  Lights off.  If you think you see something, shoot.  But shoot wide.  You saw what happened to that cat.  I need you to attract attention without giving away our exact position, but I need to be close  to do any serious damage, okay?"  

Lily swallowed, nodding, her chin jutted in defiant resolution. "Stay close then, and if you're going to move, let me know," she ordered, making her way to the door.  "I could be shooting at nothing.  Or I could be shooting at you."  

Paul flipped off the light-switch and thrust them into darkness.  "You're my partner," he whispered, his hand on her shoulder, remembering her earlier concerns. "I trust you."  

Lily turned, the soft smile on her lips communicating that she understood him, that she understood all of him. "Stay close," she warned a final time.  

There was a fuse-box upstairs, embedded in the wall alongside the master bedroom, which had been a crucial selling point when Paul and Lily first looked at the house.  Killing the electricity in a hurry was a necessary evil when you were on the run from everybody.  

Paul peeked out from the doorway and crept down the hall, flipping over every switch he saw, killing every light in the house quickly and efficiently.  The heater shut down as well, and the walls rocked with the sounds of breathing, of branches slapping the windows, and of the hiss of wind rocking through trees.  Lily slid carefully in front of Paul and he touched a palm to her back, eyes searching for her outline in swallowing darkness.

Quiet and slow, they made their way downstairs along the wall opposite the banister, and at the foot of the steps, Lily motioned for Paul to take up a crouching side position, just in case there were alcoves and hiding places she could potentially miss in her initial sweep of the room.

 The walls were opaque black in the dark, nearly indistinguishable from the open areas, and each piece of furniture was a possible target, each shadow a menace.   Paul knew that Lily was near to him because he could smell her hair and hear her breathing.  Otherwise, he could barely make out anything.  The house was a black-hole of suspicious movement and sound, and the air seemed to constrict on them, threatening.   

Lily turned to face him in the darkness, and he only knew she did this because her hair whipped his cheeks.  

"We need to stay in a central location," she whispered, grasping his shirt so he could follow her.  The logic was sound enough; they'd not searched the living room or the kitchen yet, and it was just as well, because the entire floor-plan was swarming with pitch black uncertainties. If something lurked in waiting, they had a better shot of standing still and surprising it, rather than walking out into the open and exposing themselves to possible danger.  They didn't want to fight this thing - not here and not now- they just wanted to get away.  

When they finally hit something hard, Lily pulled Paul up alongside of her and patted a hand to his shoulder; she was alright.  A sliver of light peeked through the wall behind her hand, and Paul realized that they weren't standing in front of the wall at all, but rather, in front of the doorway windows; he could make out the outline of his wife's body, bending towards the heavy blinds that kept out unwanted visitors.  A faint glow from the front-lawn streetlamp invaded the darkness.  

Lily nodded for him to keep watch while she peered outside, gun secured against her right shoulder.  Paul nodded back.  

When she gasped a second later, Paul darted his eyes to regard her without taking his sights off the negative space in front of him.  His head throbbed with a swarm of possible outcomes, none of them good.  "What is it?" he asked.  

She didn't turn, but touched a hand to his shoulder.  "I have to get out there," she whispered.  "There's a car that must've crashed into the tree out front.  I can see... Jesus, there are people still inside."  

"They might not be people," Paul warned, tugging on her arm to read her expression.  

Lily turned to him and nodded that she understood this, looking from the gun, to the window, and then to the gun, and then to the window again: the doctor in her at war with the nervous fugitive.  "You might be right," she agreed.  "But I can't take the chance that you're not."  

Fiddling around with her opposite arm, she groped for invisible objects on the barely visible entryway table.  Silent for a moment, she rummaged around until she finally pulled back with a flashlight.  

When she flipped on the switch, a single beam of dusty, thread-y light flooded the hallway.  Her gun still in hand, she directed the beam at the table and grasped two more items as she found them: a cell phone and a sparsely populated key-chain. Thrusting them at his chest, she said, "The crash was what we heard.  I'm going out there to see if anyone's been injured and you're coming with me.  If it's nothing, we call 911.  If it's suspicious... then we get in the car and go.  No arguments."  

The flashlight beam hit Paul square in the chest, bouncing dim shards of light back at his wife's face.  The lines of her cheeks undulated in shadow, and her eyes were dark, determined.  The planes of her skin reflected the stark contrast of black and yellow shading like a silhouette portrait.  

"Agreed," said Paul, his hand on the front door, his back against it.  

Lily guided the flashlight beam to the coat-hooks by the door, and Paul grabbed their trench-coats with his left hand.  Undoing the lock, his eyes darting from the open blackness to the brass knob, he pushed open the front door to a blast of icy wind, and thrust his wife's coat over her left shoulder.  She handed her gun off to him and grabbed the coat with practiced, skilled fingers, and was out the door in a sprint.  He followed behind her, his head darting back to the house to make sure nobody came at them from behind.

Pausing to yank his coat over his freezing shoulders, Paul held both the gun and the iron weapon in one hand, and gazed out into the sweeping landscape of night.  The grass in front of the house was crunchy and brown, and the sprawl of it stretched for about fifteen feet.  Beyond the grass lay a jutted, concrete sidewalk, and then another stretch of grass that lined the gutter up and down the block, until the street intersected with another street.  Each house along this street was dark and silent, hidden to the world as if asleep.  Winter, with all its frozen breaths and icy promises, had come to claim the country of Canada with cold fingers, and most of the neighbors here, a good deal older than Paul and Lily and long retired, had left for warmer destinations.  

Paul took measured steps towards the edge of the lawn, and Lily turned back to him, stilling him with an upturned palm.  "Wait there," she mouthed, and then she disappeared for a moment into the shadows.  

Paul groaned to himself and yanked his coat as closed as he could get it; this kind of cold had to be outlawed somewhere.

The towering oak tree in front of Paul and Lily's house was where Lily had run off to. At the base of the trunk rested a gnarled, twisted wreck of a car, the metal buckled and folded in like tissue paper crumpled at the foot of a trash bin.  The hood, or what was left of the hood, swam in wisps of feathery smoke, and one of the front wheels hung nearly dismembered from its mortars, dangling like a loose tooth.  

From the front lawn, Paul could make out a woman's head pushed clear through the front passenger's side window, splatters of dark, almost black blood staining the shards of glass left inside the pane. Her arm dangled listlessly over the mangled passenger's side door. On the opposite side, the driver appeared to have impacted his window in a similar manner.  Both individuals were slumped, unmoving.  The car looked old - 80's model Honda Civic, perhaps - and there had been no airbag protection for either of them.  The windshield was completely destroyed, glass chunks lying pell-mell about the grass and sidewalk, and the amount of blood seemed to indicate that neither of them had survived the crash.  

Lily reappeared next to the woman hanging over the passenger's side, and she shone her flashlight at an odd angle on the woman's neck to check for a pulse. When Lily looked back over her shoulder and shook her head, Paul breathed a bizarre sigh of relief; the crash was a fluke. The people inside were human, only human.  Thank God.  

Not that he had wanted anyone to die, but....

The victims were only human.  After the night they'd already had, and with the threat of their enemies having found them again, this was really all anyone could ask for.  

Shoulders slumped, Paul unearthed the cell phone from his pocket and activated it.  


He looked back up to see her tugging hard at one of the back doors, utterly frantic.  Air escaped from her lips in quick, smoky puffs, and when she yelled it was with a terrified waver, a high pitched shriek piercing the blanket of frozen silence.

"Help me!  Paul!  Get over here and help me!"  

She tugged harder, wilder, her hair flying with effort.  And when that didn't work, she struggled to unlock the door by thrusting her hand through the shattered driver's side window.  Jesus, she was going to slice her arm open like that.  

Without question, Paul sprinted forward as she shrieked again.  "It's stuck!  Oh God, it's stuck!"  

She was hysterical.  

His heart pumping, Paul scrambled to the edge of the lawn and nearly slid down a patch of ice.  He tripped over the sidewalk, rushing forward. Closer now, he could make out the muffled sobs of a child; Good God, there was a child still alive in that car?

By the time he pulled up beside the crumpled heap of vehicle, Lily had already somehow tugged the backseat door free, and her upper body was buried in the car's interior.  The back windows had been cracked down the sides, but had somehow managed to remain intact despite what must have been heavy impact.  The glass was tinted, and Paul couldn't see inside the car to gauge the amount of damage done to the backseat, or even where the child was located.  

Lily was in there with the child, and she was saying something, but he couldn't make out what it was.  Sounded like whispery, motherly shushing noises.  If that kid was hurt, she would at least know how to help him.  

Circling the back of the car, Paul pulled up short beside his wife as she emerged with a small, trembling bundle of  terrified child in her arms.  The child's wails were louder now, almost deafening, and the eerie, unfamiliar sound echoed down the street.  

"Jesus," Paul managed.  "Is he okay?  Is he hurt at all?"
There were tears in his wife's eyes as she clutched the child to her shoulder, ignoring Paul almost completely.  She rocked the child back and forth with trembling arms, rubbing its back, assuring it that everything would be alright. She cooed and gasped, and interspersed hiccoughs with barely controlled sobs, and breathy exclamations of "oh my God, oh my God."  

Paul frowned and crept closer, his palm on the child's back as he sought to make eye contact with his wife.  The wind froze tears on her pale skin, and Lily pressed a kiss to the side of the child's warmly bundled head.  She didn't even seem to realize anyone was addressing her.  

"It's okay," she whispered. "Shh, it's okay.  I'm right here.  Right here..."

The first tendrils of dread rose in Paul's throat, and he ventured, "You want me to call the hospital?"

Finally, Lily gazed up at her husband and turned so that he could see for himself.  It was dark, but Paul could make out a child's face beneath a fur-lined, heavy hood: a pair of tiny eyes screwed shut in terror, a button nose scrunched, dark lips twisted in sob, cheeks blushed with cold. Lily rocked the child harder, held him tighter, and her ministrations seemed to calm him, if only slightly.  

The child's eyes finally opened, and from the ray of flashlight beam that shot up from the concrete, Paul could decipher the eye color: deep, pacific blue, and framed by long, brown lashes.  

Paul and the child gazed solemnly at one another, both sets of eyes searching, probing, and a stab of inexplicable familiarity cut through Paul with laser sharpness.  

He didn't know what to say, and he thought he might be sick if he tried.  

"Don't call the hospital," Lily ordered.  "Not yet. We have to get him in the house.  We have to get his things out of the car.  Oh my God, the police will be by - he might be in danger.  We have to protect him.  I don't believe that he - is this really happening?  I think it has to be some twist of fate or it has to be - I don't know.  He just, he came back to us." She was rambling and barely breathing between sentences, and clutching the child to her chest as if she thought Paul might snatch him away.  "Help me get him inside," she whispered.  "Oh God, my baby. We have to get him inside before the police get here.  Or God knows what else gets here."

Paul swallowed over the basketball sized lump in his throat, unable to move or speak at this. If there was a word that encompassed the exact opposite of fortunate, a word that somehow surpassed unfortunate in passion and brevity, then that's what Paul would have used to describe this freeze-framed moment of his life.  

What were the chances of this baby returning to them so coincidentally? Of his and Lily's biological child just so happening to be in a car that just so happened to crash into the tree outside of their house?  

Paul shook his head, trying to gauge this strange turn of events objectively.    

The scene of the accident presented little to no clues.  

The car had hit the tree head-on at a high, undetermined speed, although there didn't seem to be any indications that it had been forced off the road.  The back of the car was practically untouched, free of the usual dents or marks that indicated foul play.  Paul hadn't heard tires squealing after the crash, or even seen a second set of marks on the road or the grass, but that meant very little.  The people who had once locked him up and tried to brainwash him, who had gone after the X-Files, were also good at covering their tracks.

Not that the possibility of coincidences didn't exist; everything, at the moment, was an open possibility.  From the looks of things, chances were great that reckless driving had most likely been the cause of this accident, but that conclusion did nothing to satisfy the acidic unease in the bottom of Paul's stomach.

Either someone was trying to orchestrate their destruction - his and Lily's and the child's - by luring the parents and he and Lily out into a trap, or else the parents themselves had been untrustworthy as adoptive candidates.  And while Paul wasn't so sure the latter was entirely true, neither was he under the erroneous assumption that this car accident was a lucky stroke of fate, or a sign from God that he and Lily were destined to raise their child.  Coincidences rarely ended up being less than contrived, and divine intervention didn't mesh well with him.  Dangerous forces were still looking to wipe he and his wife off the map, and Paul shuddered to think what they would do to this child, if ever they got their hands on him.   

"Mulder," came his wife's voice, and Paul nearly jumped at the sound of his real name coming so loudly from her lips.  The syllables sounded...foreign.  Strange.  And even her voice seemed hoarse, battered, unconvinced that the name should be spoken aloud.  

While it was true that his wife had first forbid any utterances of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, of their names or their lives, Paul had willingly played along.  More than willingly, even.  It wasn't truly fear of being overheard that drove them to such lengths; it was regret and sorrow, and a need to shed their wounded skins to try and forget the past.  

But the truth was unforgiving, and the past could never be forgotten.

Paul obediently looked towards his wife, searching for her familiar eyes like a lost hiker searching for the direction of the setting sun.  He shivered and pulled his coat closer.  He wished he could somehow erase all of their fear and unhappiness, just wipe the slate clean and start over with new chalk.  

"It's him?" Paul managed, his feet too heavy to move.  "Are you - you're sure?"

Lily's familiar gaze sparked with conviction - completion, a glittering of happiness, a light that he imagined had long ago been snuffed out. She smiled through her tears, her lips grazing the hood of the baby's winter coat.  "I haven't seen him in such a long time, but I knew when I first saw him.  He's bigger now, but he's still my baby."   She swallowed, her tentative smile setting off its own illumination.  The child sniffled, but otherwise didn't cry.  "Look at him, Mulder.  He has your smile. And the shape of his eyes - he's so much like you."

And thus, all tenuous control over objectivity he'd previously felt was abruptly lost.  Paul's lower lip trembled, and he felt suddenly afraid to speak.  He had never before considered that their child could look anything like him; her pregnancy had been hard and strange, and he'd always partially viewed this baby as her baby, and not his - well, yes of course it was his, but only his in the most marginal, biological sense.  Besides that, the last time Paul had seen this baby, he'd looked....well, like a baby.  Any baby.  Like her baby, perhaps, but not his baby.  

But now that Paul really looked...

No longer a tiny infant, this child was approaching the threshold of toddler-hood, and while his face was shaped and shaded like Lily's, he had big blue eyes that reminded Paul of his mother's eyes.  Of Samantha's eyes. Come to think of it, the shade of this baby's eyes were more like Samantha's violet-blue than Scully's aqua-blue.  

Or Lily's.   Lily's aqua-blue.

Or whoever she was.  

 "Oh my God," Paul breathed.

Awe-struck, he touched the child's nose with a trembling index finger, all at once nervous that William would somehow pop and disappear if he pressed too hard.   Breaking his own son right after being reunited with him was probably not a smart idea.

William merely blinked, still unconvinced that this big tall guy was friendly, and he burrowed his face into Scully's heavy overcoat.  The air was unbearably thick with cold, with biting wind whisking about their flushed cheeks; tears dried quickly on his partner's skin. They were together again, just the three of them, suspended in time, trapped in this icicle of circumstance, drifting without purpose through the heart of winter.  

"It's okay," Scully soothed, her throat bobbing in uncontrollable hiccough, and Mulder was unsure whether she meant him or William.  She nodded at Mulder for clarification and ordered, "Breathe, Mulder."    

And, noticing for the first time that his lungs hurt, Mulder complied.  He drew in a large breath, and felt suddenly as if he'd been drowning for much too long.   

"Deep breaths, in and out, there you go," Scully said. Her grin was lopsided and peppered with lingering sniffles. "You can say something, you know.  I promise, you won't hurt him."

Mulder nodded, utterly unconvinced, and drew in a second, heavy breath.

"William," he whispered, for lack of better things to say.  He kept his distance, but smiled in a way that he hoped wouldn't frighten anyone. "Hey - um... Let's say we do what we need to do and go inside.  It's cold out here, isn't it?"  


The house wasn't warm enough.  

That was all Mulder could think of as he opened the door and ushered them across the threshold; damn house was swimming with stowaway wisps of iced uncertainty, unwanted winter reminders trickling up the stairs, through the kitchen, up into the fireplace.  It was always too cold outside, snowing all the damned time, freezing up the roads, suffocating the grass, and now the house was just as bad.  

Mulder guided them up the steps with a soft, slender beam from Scully's flashlight.  He shivered into his overcoat but couldn't shake the tendrils of winter from his skin.  

He'd slipped the gun and the iron weapon into his overcoat pocket, worried that such dangerous items would scare (or perhaps somehow injure) his already disoriented son.  In the hand opposite the flashlight, Mulder lugged a small, rather utilitarian plastic child's seat up into the swirling, stairway darkness. Because there didn't seem to be anything else of William's in the car, removing all traces of the child from the scene of the accident had been easier than Mulder would have thought possible.

About three steps ahead of him, Scully clutched William to her chest with the practiced care of not-so-forgotten motherhood.  She whispered indecipherable utterances into the baby's soft, delicate ears, occasionally humming to him, and she glanced backwards every once in awhile to make sure Mulder was right behind her.  

Mulder swallowed and winced at the sight of Scully so content; William had been returned to them, but that didn't make everything alright.  Danger still hovered over them like cumulonimbus cloud-tops gathering for a downpour, and if William had been brought back to them for a specific purpose, chances were great that this purpose involved either abduction, torture, death, or all of the above.  Fox Mulder and Dana Scully had a bad track record with that sort of thing, and dying for the truth wasn't anything they hadn't already considered or planned for; it wasn't terribly uplifting, but it was acceptable.  Their son meeting a similar end, however, was simply unthinkable.

"I'm putting him in our bed," Scully whispered down to Mulder. "We'll have to stay on the floor tonight."  

Mulder nodded, angling the flashlight beam at a point above her head.  "Are you sure that's safe for him?" he asked, although he wasn't really talking about the bed.  

"Should be alright," said Scully.  She sounded far away.  "I'll just have to put some pillows down and watch him."  

"Okay," said Mulder.  He didn't know what the hell else to say to her, or to himself.

Questions and worried musings roiled around in his head like mush; Did he love his son?  Yes, of course he did.  Did he know how to be a father to him? Well, no, not really, but lack of parenting skills wasn't really the issue.  The issue was safety, stability.  And even if William's return hadn't been orchestrated, if the car accident truly had been a bizarre coincidence, then the danger the child faced still stood.  Except now, the danger arose not from without, but from within.  From his mere proximity to the two people that were, by default, supposed to promise him safety.

Except they honestly couldn't ever promise William that, could they? Nothing had changed in the uncertainty department.

"I think we should call Skinner," said Mulder, directing the yellow flashlight beam up the stairs like a grip wielding a spotlight.  The night was dark and sucked away - everything but the outline of Dana Scully and his child, stretching before him in hues of yellow and orange.

"We're not calling Skinner," Scully answered, her voice soft and melodic, but resolute.  Either William had fallen asleep in her arms or else she was just afraid of frightening him into crying.  

"Scully..."  Mulder shook his head and paused on the steps behind her.  The flashlight beam wavered on the wall at the top of the stairway, and its jerky expansion stilled.  Taking note of this, Scully turned in mid step to face him, bracing their son on her left hip.   Her lightly chiseled features glowed yellow and black, shadowed, and the line of her lips thinned.  

"We need help," said Mulder. "A form of backup.  If our cover hasn't been completely blown already, it will be."  

"We don't know what's happened to bring William here," Scully argued.  "If we attempt to contact Skinner, we might give away our location.  And that's not acceptable for anyone, not for William, you or I.  If the people in that car were running from something - "

"But what if they weren't?  What if this is a trap?"  

"A trap?"  Scully shook her head.  "The people in that car are dead, Mulder.  Their heads went right through the windshield - I highly doubt they planned that part."  

"Maybe not, but how do you know?  How can you know?"  

Scully pursed her lips and nodded as if in agreement.  "You're right," she said, wistful.  "I suppose I can't."  

Her head tilted, and her dark eyes found the sleeping face of their little boy, his flushed cheeks slumped into her chest.  Seemingly exhausted from crying, he'd fallen asleep quickly, and he clutched her shirt with both fists as if afraid she would evaporate.  "I feel that this is right," she said.  "Our protecting him is right.  And while following my gut over my head isn't something that comes easily to me, I am his mother, and I can't explain how or why that makes this instinct better, or more accurate than any other.  It may not be.  I don't know."  

Mulder breathed slowly, trying to digest these words for what they were.  Dana Scully relying on instinct was a sight to behold.  It was almost too good to be true, and it would have been reason for song and dance, if not for the precarious nature of the situation.  And the fact that he wholly disagreed with her.  

"We could be putting him in danger," Mulder said lowly, mindful of the sleeping child.  "You yourself said you didn't want to take risks anymore, and this is the grand high pumbah of risks."  

"I know that," she said, "But this is different.  And I've faced greater danger before - I've faced this kind of danger before.  I've killed for my convictions, and for you, and I'd kill for my child.  I don't want to take unnecessary risks, but after pulling William out from a twisted car-wreck, I can't help but think...he could have been killed."  She kissed the top of William's head.  "Why?  Because I let someone else take care of him?  I told you before; I'm not the type to make the same mistake twice."  

Mulder shook his head.  In the sallow stream of light, his partner and his son looked more like apparitions, like afterimages of memory, like the shadows left behind from bright flashes.  

"But how can we protect him?" he asked, swallowing against the answer he wasn't sure he wanted to hear, despite his arguing the point.  "How can we promise him any kind of safety here?  We can't even promise ourselves safety.  You - you were ready to pack up and leave not half an hour ago because you were positive we had been found. What's changed?"

The stairs were suddenly silent, and the quiet somehow seemed louder than the crash that had rattled them not too long ago. The sound of nothing was definite and pronounced, like ringing in the ears.

Scully's gaze fixed on William's tiny mouth, and she brushed his cheek with the pad of her thumb. "Maybe nothing's changed. Maybe everything's changed.  I don't know. All I can tell you is that I've found something I've lost."  Her eyes met his, clouded but fierce, and she finished, "A reason to fight back."  

Mulder sighed. "You can still fight back, Scully."  

"But you won't fight with me - not if I want my son with us.  Is this what you're telling me?"  

Scully breathed slowly, waiting for an answer.  

"No, that's not what I'm saying."  Mulder waved the hand with the flashlight, and its beam followed his motions, jutting wildly on the steps and throwing Scully in and out of darkness.  "I'm saying... what happens when the police show up in front of our house and want to know what happened to the car out front?  What happens when the authorities come looking for a missing boy?  We're already in enough damned trouble, and we can't afford any more. There are so many goddamned federal agents already looking to throw us in jail they're probably holding telethons to raise money for the cause."  He held up both hands now, and the baby carrier dangled, the handle cut into his right hand, the flashlight beam sparking madly off the walls.  "But why don't we add kidnapping to the list?  Just for fun. Lily, we can't raise a child from prison.  Not that they'll let me live long enough for that."

Scully took a strangled breath.  "We could move someplace else," she offered.  "Nobody has to know -"

"What?" he demanded.  "That we illegally took custody of our son?  That we don't even know what happened to the people taking care of him - if those people in the car were the people taking care of him?  Let's say his adopted parents were murdered, and that couple in the car did the murdering? - who do you think the authorities will blame?"

"No," said Scully, backing up the stairs a step, and she leaned against the banister as if weighted with heavy boards. Her eyes sparked with desperation.  "Nobody finds out about us.  Nobody has to.  We disappear.  We've done it before, we can do it again -"

"And then how could we ever enroll William in school?  We couldn't.  How could we ever stay in one place?  We couldn't. How - how could we ever know that those... those things from the Walker garage wouldn't come after him because of us?  How do we know they're not already after us?  How do we know that we won't end up dead, or that William won't end up dead, and all because we thought we could do this when we couldn't?"  

"I can do this!" Scully's brows wrinkled the bridge of her nose with frustration.  "I have a responsibility to ensure his safety.   He's my child!"

And thus, the heart of it from months past, the white elephant lodged between them; that all the time he'd been searching for the truth , she'd been forced to raise William, and she'd been forced to give him away, and that agony, that wrenching, all-consuming agony William had left behind, that was somehow her pain and her pain only, because the decision she'd made was hers, and she'd been alone in making it, and she was his mother, his mother, and damn that Mulder for knocking her up and ditching her.  It didn't matter any longer who had asked him to go; it just mattered that he had gone.  

Mulder closed his eyes, forcing air out through his nostrils.   He wanted to hit something.  "He's my child, too, Scully."

Scully looked away, her cheeks flushed.  "I know that."

"Do you really?"  

"What are you suggesting?"  Scully's voice was defensive, and she switched William from one hip to the other, and if Mulder hadn't known better, he would have sworn she was unconsciously trying to shield the baby from him.  The intent behind the gesture stung him with its quiet intensity.  

"I told you once before," he tried, his watery focus resting on the sleeping baby.  The sleeping baby who had his imperfect mouth, and whose eyes were shaped like his.  "I know it wasn't easy.  You made the decision you had to make considering the circumstances.  I didn't like it, but I understand it. And it took me a long goddamned time to come to terms with that."

Scully's expression softened, but she still held William like she'd hold her gun-side away from a suspect.  "And now?"

Mulder sighed.  "And now I realize what it is to be on the other end of that stick.  We live a hard life, Scully, a hard, dangerous life.  There are people trying to kill us - people who will never relent, who would probably not mind killing William as an added bonus just because he's with us.  And as much as I care about that child -" Mulder's breath caught in his throat; there was William Mulder, asleep and healthy, chest rising and sinking with air, his fingers clutching Scully's shirt. "And I do care about that child - we need to do what's right to ensure his safety. It's the only way to give him..."   He paused, swallowing.  "To give him a good life.  And that's what I want for him.  It's all I want for him."

"He's safe here," Scully argued.

"He's not," whispered Mulder, distrustful now of his own voice.  The steel cord around his heart twisted, and all at once he thought he might burst.   

"You're not calling Skinner," she repeated, her cheek resting on William's forehead.  The red gold of her hair twisted at her shoulders in inky shadow.  "I tried that route already, I chose that path, I gave him away, Mulder, and I'm telling you, if it was the right choice then - and maybe it was - it's the wrong choice now.  I was alone, and...and fighting for the work, and for the truth, and for him, and for you, and for myself, and it was all too goddamn much.  I couldn't do it alone.  I shouldn't have had to.  But that was my mistake.  And I paid for that.  But now..."  Her voice wavered with conviction, and her hand moved up and down the child's back; her grip was trembling, but unrelenting.   "Now I'm not alone. This child doesn't need some heroic, undue sacrfice from us. We're damned if we do and damned if we don't, but at least if he's here, we have some measure of control. I want that control back."

Mulder clutched the base of Scully's flashlight with chilled fingers, shining the beam up towards the ceiling, marvelling how the cone of light looked almost like a faded tractor beam.  Another spaceship come to claim him, to take his child, his partner, and steal them away forever.  

On the verge of either laughing or crying, Mulder fought the instinct to just grab Scully and William and board them up downstairs in the basement, just keep them locked away forever like crystal figurines in a glass case.  All this running and crying and looking over his shoulder was going to crack him down the center like an egg, like an old decanter, like a piece of paper.  He'd lose his mind completely; they'd find him on the stairs three days from now, babbling nonsense about his baby and his wife, and then they'd kill him or throw him in jail, and Scully and William would be long gone.  

Mulder cleared his throat, trying to shrug off insanity.  "He needs to be free from all of this, Scully.  You said so yourself.  Our son should be able to live his life, unattached to this quest, this search for the truth. This legacy of - of... of loss."  He felt sick, manic.  "He needs stability."

"He needs his parents to keep him alive."  Scully closed her eyes and breathed in William's feathery soft hair. "It's up to us now, Mulder.  It always has been."

"But what if we're not enough?"

Scully took a deep breath and then exhaled in dignified tatters of air.   "We're going to have to be," she said.  

And with that, she turned and finished making her way up to the top of the steps with the baby, her shadow wriggling and dancing in the flashlight beam on the wall: Case closed, goodnight moon.  Mulder just blinked and watched her go.  A second later, there was a series of loud clicks, and the hallway flooded with pure, white light. The heater whirred restlessly from the vents, agitated at having been awakened.  Mulder simply stood on the stairway, baby carrier in hand.  The great and powerful OZ had spoken.