Their graves are marked by rough wood crosses, but even if they weren’t, he knows the boundaries by heart.
He doesn’t visit as often as he should, but today was a good day for a hike. It will be winter soon; the wind carries the last of the leaves away from their limbed masters, and they rattle along the grass and through the great field that looks over their tiny town.
It’s been exactly one year since his father passed; Mulder’s heart gave out in his sleep, and they’d buried him in the meadow behind their property, the part that was overgrown with dandelions—as close to Scully’s cross as they could get.
Mulder doesn’t visit Will the way Scully used to. At some point, her visits stopped, too. He doesn’t know why, but it probably had something to do with moving in with Charlie. He’d taken his biological father’s advice to heart; at some point, you have to stop looking back and start looking forward.
His thoughts are interrupted as Charlie walks up the slope behind him, kids in tow; she carries Gwen, the youngest, in her arms, while Dana hangs back, examining something in the grass—a flower, perhaps, or an insect. She’s taken to collecting both, though neither seem to do well under her six-year-old ministrations.
“The natives are restless,” Charlie says, giving him a thin smile. “Gwen is ready for a nap, it’s a long walk back…”
Indeed, the two-year-old is blinking and rubbing her eyes, subdued against her mother’s shoulder.
“OK,” he says, “Thanks, Char. I’ll be done in a minute. Promise.”
She nods and turns away; he can hear her negotiating with their elder daughter over the girl’s latest acquisition, and he has to smile at the young girl’s tenacity. It reminds him of his mother.
He’d taken his given name to honor her in death, although he doesn’t know how much of an honor it is. He’s of split minds—and split names—two faces, one person, two lives stitched together with time, the seams feeble where the stuffing pokes through.
Years of searching, but he still can’t say he knows who he is yet; Isaac, the sickly Wyoming farm boy, or Will, member of what’s left of the half-human race.
If nothing else, he knows he was their son, but his place in the grander scheme of things is murky.
There are more pressing matters to tend to. He’s been sitting on the grass for an hour at least, overcome by nostalgia and longing for something he can’t divine, listening to the sounds of his children playing in the distance. Now he stands and groans. He’ll be 32 next year, and he likes to joke that he looks 24, but feels 40. Today, the latter estimate might be pushing 45.
He hadn’t expected to miss them this much. He’d only had them for a few years—some of the scariest, most tumultuous years—but perhaps their shared blood ran thicker than any of them understood.
In the end, he’d known his biological father for much longer than his adoptive father, but now that both men are on equal footing, he can’t say he knows any more about Mulder than he had about the other man. The thought is troubling today, more so than usual.
“Gotta go,” he whispers, bending to touch his fingers to the soil one last time.
The bedtime routine takes longer than usual that evening; the kids are fussy, overtired from the hike, and Will finds himself distracted by thoughts of his late parents—all four of them, biological and not—while struggling to get the girls to stay put in their beds.
Their thoughts are frantic, the wild whimsies of small children, and he finds it’s no easier to be able to read them than not. They want impossible things. Parenting is the one place his powers don’t give him an advantage.
He breathes a sigh of relief when he checks in on them and they’re breathing evenly, and he’s finally left alone with his thoughts, heavy as they are.
“Thank God,” Charlie sighs when he delivers the good news. She’s sitting on their worn couch, head propped up in her hand and a book in her lap. “You’re a miracle worker, Will. I didn’t think they’d ever go down.”
“I didn’t, either,” he confesses, but he’s already moved on, thinking of other things. She senses his unrest in that uncanny way she has. Sometimes he thinks she must be able to read minds, too; his, in particular, is an open book.
“You OK? You seemed lost today.”
“Have a lot on my mind,” he admits, his tone rough. She’s learned when to push him to talk; tonight is not one of those times.
“Well…when you’re ready, I’m here,” she says, standing and placing a kiss on his temple. “I’m going to bed. The girls wore me out.”
He looks up, smiles a little, though his expression remains distant. “Char?”
A pause, as if he wants to say something, but he doesn’t know what. He finally settles on, “Love you.”
She reaches out to ruffle his hair. “You too…new kid. Goodnight.”
Quiet settles around him as the house and his family dreams; their visions weave through Will’s consciousness like honeysuckle vines. The girls’ thoughts are the flowers blooming, fireworks of color and sweetness against a backdrop of gentle greens and blues. It relaxes him, innocence after so much turmoil, and he wishes he could share in their collective blank slates.
He sighs, restless, wanting for something he can’t articulate.
Mulder had finished it one year shy of his death; it needed editing. Will had agreed, reluctantly, but there was always an excuse to put it off, especially after the kids came along.
At least he was alive to meet them, he thinks, remembering the pride in his father’s eyes when he’d held his firstborn granddaughter.
Will can’t help but wonder if that had been the catalyst for his death, the reason he felt he could move on, knowing his life’s work was in good hands, that there was hope for future generations. There had been six other babies born around the same time as Will’s elder daughter, as if some magical spell had lifted and granted their community a reprieve from dark years of worrying if they were the last.
He wanders, much the way his father would have, and ends up holding the patchwork manuscript in his hands, wondering if he’s ready to relive it. The oldest pages are yellowed, the fresh ones underneath are still white and crisp.
No time like the present, he sighs to himself, buoyed by the lull of his family’s dreams as the clouds around him darken.
He fixes himself a cup of coffee, hesitates, then adds a shot of the amber liquid he keeps in the top cabinet for special occasions.
Can’t get much more special than this, he thinks, sending out a silent toast to the author as he takes his first sip. The coffee burns not in temperature, but in spirit.
He sits down at the table and begins to read.
And there you have it.
Do you hate me?
You probably hate me…
…please don’t hate me! I tried not to do it, I really did, but the muse wants what she wants, and sometimes she’s bloodthirsty and kind of a bitch. :-/
If you made it this far without throwing your computer/iPad/Kindle/sheaf of printed papers out the window, I applaud you. Thank you for reading, for sharing, for commenting, and for putting up with my flakiness as a fanfic writer.
…and I swore I wouldn’t do it, but see the part about my muse being uncooperative….
I *may* have outlined a fifth part to this universe, in the form of a longish short story. Maybe. I’ve learned my lesson, and I’m not making any promises or setting any deadlines, but these characters aren’t done with me yet.