Category: S, A, C, MSR
Spoilers: Assumes thorough and complete knowledge of every single episode. EVERY SINGLE ONE!
Timeline: Post *Existence.*
Archive: Sure. Thanks!
Thanks to: Plausible Deniability, Euphrosyne, and Ebonbird, for beta, Connie, Meg, Peggy, Weyo, and Susan, for test driving, Dee, for appearing pro bono, and in shorts, this time; Uncle Chris, cuz it was his idea in the first place.
Special thanks: to the many, many, many people who wrote and asked for more. None of this would have been possible without your love, encouragement or really pointy sticks.
Summary: More of the same, and then some. With seagulls.
Our Lawyer says: Chris Carter owns M&S; Fox owns The XFiles; we own this story. No infringement intended.
NOTE: This won't make a lot of sense unless you've
read Book One, available at Ephemeral, Gossamer, from one of the dozens
of archives thoughtful enough to house it, or here: http://www.geocities.com/maybe_aa/rl_0.html
It might not make sense then, either, but at least you were warned.
"Really." Langly quickly punched a sequence of numbers into the keypad set into the wall.
Monica noted that he turned his body just enough to block her view. She looked away. "No way."
"Way." The green light on the keypad blinked, the door swung open, and Langly waved her inside.
"I can't believe you actually *saw* the Butthole Surfers, Rich." Monica waited for Langly to take the lead again, then followed him down the narrow hallway, glancing up briefly at the small surveillance cameras tracking their movements.
"Not just saw; partied with," he said. "And sometime around four a.m on the third morning, Jeff Pinkus lost his lunch, and probably a couple of other meals, right about-" he made a vague circle around his left shoulder "-here."
"Oooh!" she responded. "Celebrity vomit! Can I touch you?"
They'd been working at the Gunmen's office all day, placing phone calls, tracking down leads in Toronto, making travel arrangements. She was still marveling at Langly's ability to find, gather, and steal information without leaving a trace. Covert operations were not her forte; even though she occasionally strayed into the margins, Monica pretty much played by the book. The Gunmen, on the other hand, not only scribbled in the margins, but they colored outside the lines, doodled on the fly-leaf, dog-eared the pages, cracked the spine, then casually tossed the entire book into the nearest shredder.
So, when Langly had asked, quite casually, if she wanted to grab something to eat while the computer did its number- crunching thing, she was surprised to see Frohike and Byers do textbook double-takes. John, bless him, had just rolled his eyes, shaken his head, and gone home to pack.
Monica had barely been able to contain her amusement. Apparently none of them had any real idea how much time she and Rich had been spending together. But they *had* been spending time together - lots of it. Granted, it was mostly virtual time -- phone, email, instant messenger -- but in the midst of it all, their relationship had shifted from strictly professional to - well, to something else. Something more, she was starting to think. Starting to hope, even.
"Heck yeah, you can touch me," Langly enthused, flicking his loose ponytail away from his face. Suddenly, he swallowed hard. "I mean, your hands *are* clean, right?"
"Uh huh. See?" she answered, holding her hands up, palms out, and wiggling her fingers. She felt about 15 years old again, but she was enjoying it more than when she'd had the braces, acne, and baby fat that went with it the first time around. "I licked all the garlic butter off."
"Oh?" Their eyes locked for a moment. Langly swallowed again and smiled. For just a second she thought he was going to blush, which would have been simultaneously too strange and too wonderful for words. "That's, um, that's good to know." He looked down at the keys in his hands. "Good to know," he repeated.
There was no other word for it -- she was charmed. Langly was charming. Who could have guessed? "So, was that the best show you ever saw?"
"Nah. The best show ever was a bunch of shows, actually. Spring break my freshman year, we followed the Pixies down south - started at the 9:30 Club, stopped in at the Cat's Cradle, and we had tickets for a show in Orlando but we stopped in Atlanta 'cause Fugazi and Yo La Tengo were playing the Masquerade. Awesome show, just awesome. Next night we scammed tickets for the Pixies in the same club - they played for almost three hours, did a twenty minute jam on 'Vamos'..."
"That's one of my favorites."
His smile grew wider. "Yeah? Me, too. Mine, too. Um, anyhow, after the show I actually got to shake Black Francis' hand, or Frank Black, or whatever it is he calls himself now."
"Quite a feat." She waited while he worked the locks.
"That was the best week of my life, hands down." He straightened and cleared his throat. "Um, to date, anyway..."
They gazed at each other for a long moment. He grinned. She grinned in response.
Oh God. He was so not her type. In high school, she would have been more likely to take up motorcycle repair than go out with a guy like him. Rich was strictly Audio-Visual. Band, maybe. GeekCity, USA.
In the past, she'd put a high priority on appearances, on ambition. She'd wanted someone driven, motivated, yet still socially aware. She'd always pictured herself with an incredibly handsome lawyer from the Sierra Club or the stunning CEO of an environmentally-responsible multinational.
Lately, however, she'd realized she just wanted someone who never felt the need to make apologies for himself. Someone who would never ask her to pretend she was something she wasn't. Someone who wasn't insane. Who wasn't married.
She was still grinning. Jesus, she thought, is it just me, or does everybody grin like a moron when they finally meet the one person they can actually talk to?
"What about you?" Langly asked.
"The best show you ever saw?"
"Me? Well...when I was fifteen my older brother got me an ID and snuck me into a Black Flag show. I'll never forget that."
He whistled. "Nice one." The final door to the underground rear-entrance of the Gunmen's offices stood unlocked but unopened before them.
"Then there was L7 opening for Babes in Toyland..."
"Wow. Wow wow." Langly leaned back against the cinderblock wall and folded his arms across his chest. He gave her an appraising look. "I'm surprised, you know?"
"Hmm?" She drifted a little closer.
"You seem so, uh. . ."
"I seem so?" she prompted. He smelled good. It was just your basic guy smell - laundry soap and cheap shampoo mixed with a hint of sweat - but she liked it. It was honest. It was real.
He shook his head, derailing that train of thought. "I, uh, . . .I don't like this, you know."
"This expedition of yours."
She shrugged a little. "So you've said."
Langly shifted uneasily from foot to foot for a moment. "It's just, if Mulder's one of THEM now, one of the pod people, shit, it could be seriously dangerous."
She nodded. "I know. But I have. . .I have a very strong feeling that that isn't what's going on."
Langly chewed the inside of his cheek. "You think like Doggett? You think Mulder had something going on with Yves and just took off?"
"No way." Monica shook her head. "I didn't get a chance to get to know Fox Mulder all that well, but he was devoted to Dana. Absolutely devoted. He wasn't voluntarily going to leave for anything. For anyone."
Langly cocked one eyebrow. "You have a very strong feeling about that, too, huh?"
"Yeah. I do." She grinned shyly. "And even if, by some weird chance, that were the case, I can't see why they'd be with Billy Miles. John doesn't seem to have a problem with it, but that part makes no sense to me."
"Me neither," Langly agreed. "Mulder survived so much shit, so many times, you know, and he always made his way back. That's why I'm sticking with the 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' theory, much as it sucks." His voice dropped. "And that's why I don't like this whole road trip you and Doggett have planned, either."
"I expect it'll be nothing but reconnaissance, in the long run - fly in, ask a few questions, fly out. The trail's pretty cold, and we both have to be in the office first thing Monday morning." She shrugged. "Besides, John's got my back."
Langly snorted and rolled his eyes. "Oh, THAT makes me feel so much better."
Monica found herself reaching impulsively for his hand. "Hey. John's a good guy." When she latched on, his long fingers twined with hers almost automatically.
Rich nodded. "Maybe. I don't know. I mean, yeah, he is. Probably." He squeezed her hand.
"We need some closure on this. It's our best lead, Rich. It's our only lead."
"Yeah." He nodded again. "Um, what time do you have to leave in the morning?"
"Early. As you know. You 'arranged' my flight, remember?" She'd found it odd that they had to book her and Doggett on separate flights. At the time she had assumed it had something to do with their innate love of stealth, but now she wasn't so sure. She lifted one brow. "Why?"
"I was just wondering if, um, after we print up that information about the Korean grocery, you got time to sit down and have a beer? It's still early and I'd love to play those Sonic Youth tapes for you. And we could..." his voice trailed off.
"We could what, Rich?"
"Um, you know." He squeezed her fingers again. "Whatever."
She almost had to laugh. He was blushing, now; it wasn't hard to tell what he had in mind. Her smile grew until she felt like her face was going to crack. "Here? Are you kidding?"
His face fell. He straightened, tried to disentangle his hand from hers. "Oh, I, um. . ."
"No!" She gripped tighter. "No, Rich. I just meant, I mean, there are cameras everywhere..."
"Oh. That." He chuckled, visibly relaxing. Taking a deep breath, he pulled her a little closer. "That's half the fun."
She laughed. God, he was just what she needed.
"I'm not. . .no pressure, okay?" He leaned toward her. "Stay awhile," he murmured. "Jimmy's gone to visit his mom in New York and Byers and Frohike are heading out for the evening. We've got the whole place to ourselves. I'll turn off the cameras, if you want, and. . ."
A speaker above them crackled to life. "The hell you will." Frohike's voice echoed off the cement walls.
Monica jumped back a step, self-consciously dropping Langly's hand, scanning the hall instinctively for the source of the sound.
Langly emitted a low growl. "Frohike, you are so fucking dead."
The bomb door swung open. "Sorry to, ah, to interrupt," Byers began, addressing Monica. His eyes swung to Langly. "We've got a . . .a situation, Langly."
Langly looked both furious and unimpressed. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Scully came by."
That got Langly's attention. "Scully? Shit. I thought we agreed not to tell her anyth -"
Byers shook his head. "No. It's not about the tape. And we didn't say anything. This is. . ." His eyes flicked nervously to Monica. "This is something else."
"Like. . . " Byers glanced apprehensively at Monica again. "Like something else."
"Maybe I should go, Rich," she began. "I've got an early flight and. . "
Langly shook his head. "Look, Byers, what is it?"
Byers exhaled slowly. "She's got some questions about, um..." Byers scratched the back of his neck.
Langly picked up Byers' obvious hint. "Ah, shit. The chip."
"Um, yeah." Byers swallowed hard.
Langly's whole expression and demeanor shifted. "Oh."
"She was pretty upset."
"And she wants to keep it, um," Byers jerked his head ever so slightly toward Monica, "strictly extra curricular. Sorry, Agent Reyes, it's nothing persona-"
"It's okay. Really. Look, it's getting late. I still have to pack, anyway," she lied. "I'll go. Just let me grab my. . ."
Langly reached out and clasped her upper arm gently, pulling her almost undetectably closer. "Give us a minute?" he said to Byers.
Byers looked away, cleared his throat. "Um, sure. Sure." He went back inside and drew the door quietly shut behind him.
"Sorry about this."
"Oh, don't be." Monica turned and gave him the best smile she could muster. She was surprised how disappointed she felt. "I know all about 'duty calls.' Believe me."
"Still," Langly shrugged. "I am sorry. It's just, it's Scully, you know? Since Mulder disappeared. . ."
"I understand." And she did, almost. She found herself tugging at the front of his t-shirt. "So, ah, Rich. Can I get a rain check?"
Langly's brows rose. "For?"
"You know. Beer, Sonic Youth." She half-shrugged "Whatever."
Langly smiled. "Absolutely."
"You better get two rain checks." Frohike's voice poured out of the speakers again. "Langly's whatevers are pretty small."
Something woke him, but as Mulder lay in the half-light of early morning, he couldn't say what that something might have been. He held his breath, listening with his whole body for some clue, some familiar horror.
He heard nothing; no tinkling of shattered glass, no wood splintering, nothing even as mundane as a smoke detector whining or one of the ridiculously redundant burglar alarms buzzing. The house was still; only silence bounced off the plaster and polished hardwood.
Maybe, he reflected, exhaling through pursed lips, that was horror enough.
He reached for the clock on his bedside table and held it where he could see the display. Quarter to five. Beyond the gauze curtains and custom wooden shutters, the sky was taking on a deep purple cast as the sun lifted over the horizon.
Another day in paradise, he thought, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. Fang sat bright-eyed and alert atop a wad of bedding, tracking Mulder's every movement with a feral intensity that was all wrong on so small a creature.
Mulder put his finger to his lips while he felt around for his t-shirt. "Shhh," he told the dog, wondering why the Yankees jersey wasn't on the floor where he distinctly remembered dropping it just before he'd. . .
A sleepy sigh rose from the far side of the bed. Leah, clinging to the edge of the mattress like a rock climber on a treacherous slope, rolled over.
Ah, yes. That's where his shirt went.
He rose as quietly as he could and stood still for a moment, watching Leah as she slept. She looked so small, so vulnerable. So easily hurt or broken or taken advantage of.
Mulder sighed and rubbed his eyes. Leah's scent still clung to his fingertips.
He liked Leah, probably more than he should have let himself. She was good to Will, good to him, and she was his only real source of human contact, something he was surprised to have discovered he not only wanted, but craved. And there was no way around it -- Leah was beautiful. Someone had chosen her specifically for him, and chosen very carefully. If he'd ever had a type, Leah was it.
But she didn't belong in his bed, and she never would.
I don't need a mate, Billy, Mulder thought, absently twisting the gold band on his finger with his thumb. I don't *want* a mate.
Will, spread-eagled in the exact center of the bed, stirred in his sleep. Grumbling gently, he rolled toward Leah, pudgy fingers latching on to her sleeve. Gripping the cotton tightly, he sighed and settled again.
No, Mulder thought, he didn't need a mate.
What he needed was an idea. A plan.
Problem was, he'd spent the last year deliberately chasing away any real thoughts, filling his head with bullshit, feel-good mantras, doing what he had to to ensure Will's safety. At this point in the game, even when he did relax and allow his brain to function normally, the self- inflicted banalities came seeping in as if they'd always been there.
Mulder stepped back, dropping heavily into an armchair in the corner of the room. He winced when its legs squealed against the hardwood, then relaxed when neither Leah nor William stirred. Leaning forward, he ran his fingers through his unruly hair, cradling his head in his hands. Let me wake up on an operating table again, he thought. Let me find out it's all been a dream.
What he wouldn't do for a teleph. . .
He raised his head. The hair on his forearms was slowly lifting.
Will whined and rolled away from Leah, flopping onto his stomach with a small cry.
Mulder closed his eyes and willed his thoughts back into place. No, he didn't want a phone. No telephone was okay. His former associates could not be trusted. He and Will were safe. They were protected. They were loved.
"Safe," he whispered under his breath. "Safe," he mouthed again, and watched as the gooseflesh receded. Will's breathing became even and peaceful again.
Behold the power of positive thinking, Mulder reflected, rubbing his eyes with the heels of his hands. Have a nice fucking day.
Growling softly, Fang hopped off the bed and galloped resolutely toward the dining room. He got as far as the vestibule before he started running in tail-chasing circles, barking in earnest.
Doing the Billy Dance.
Mulder pulled a t-shirt off the laundry pile, closed the bedroom door behind him, and followed the dog. "Shut the hell up, Fang," he whispered.
The little dog stuck his tail between his legs and disappeared under Mulder's desk.
Taking a deep breath, Mulder grasped the doorknob. 'Safe' he reminded himself as he plastered on an annoyed expression and swung the front door open. "Jesus, Billy, how many times have I told you to. . . "
Billy was not alone. In fact, the tiny front stoop was full.
Craning his neck, Mulder peered over Billy's shoulder. Ray was standing to Billy's right, and Dee, Mulder's running partner, stood to Billy's left. Behind them, other members of the pack milled about the courtyard. They all looked. . .odd, somehow.
"I did not wish to wake William," Billy began. The timbre of his voice was the same as always, but his usual vacuous smile was missing. "William did not sleep well, Mulder."
"Wonder why that was?" Mulder asked icily.
Billy blinked. "Did you sleep well?"
"You know damn well I didn't." The floor was cool under his bare feet. Mulder scanned the entrance hall, looking for his shoes, trying not to imagine why 30-odd non-people were swarming at his front door.
Reasoning that his best defense was probably a good offense, Mulder decided to conduct a verbal first strike. "I'm glad you stopped by, actually. You and I have got to have a little talk about last- "
"Here," Billy said abruptly, thrusting a white paper bag in Mulder's direction. "This will make you happy, Mulder."
Mulder paused, nonplussed. "What?"
Billy held the bag higher. "This will make you happy."
Mulder snorted softly. "Bill, there's only one thing that would make me happy, and believe me, it's not in that bag."
Mulder looked over Billy's shoulder. Dee was swaying back and forth almost imperceptibly, shifting from one foot to the other, her eyes slightly unfocused. Beads of sweat dotted Ray's bald head, and his jaw worked furiously from side to side. Out in the courtyard, members of the pack were edging nervously toward his front stoop, their normally expressionless faces strangely clouded.
Mulder fought back a surge of apprehension. "What's going on, Bill?"
Billy thrust the bag toward him again, his brow furrowing. "Take this, please, Mulder."
"Please," Ray echoed. He looked desperate. Mulder scanned the crowd again. Christ, they all did.
He couldn't begin to imagine why.
He folded his arm across his chest, the novelty of the situation making him feel unexpectedly reckless. "Okay, I'll take the bag, Billy, but I want to make one thing clear - Leah stays."
"Please, Mulder." The paper bag rattled in Billy's grip.
"I mean it, Billy. She stays. You don't replace her or threaten her and you don't. . ." he stopped, took a deep breath, "you don't dictate where she sleeps. William wants her to stay. I want her to stay. Am I making myself clear?"
Billy's face was blank, but his eyes were fierce. He thrust the bag toward Mulder again. "Now, Mulder."
Mulder took the small bag from him, peered cautiously inside. "Four bottles of Children's Tylenol? This is supposed to make me-?"
In the bedroom, Will suddenly began to wail. Leah cooed his name, trying to soothe him. Mulder wondered how long she'd been awake. "I'm out here, Leah," he called. He looked inside the bag again, pulled out the receipt and studied it briefly, perplexed. "Billy, why did you go all the way to to New York to buy. . .?"
"Mulder?" Leah appeared in the dining room door, still wearing Mulder's t-shirt, Will cradled against her chest. She raised her voice and spoke over Will's wailing. "We were asleep and Fang woke him. He feels really warm."
Mulder met Leah halfway across the dining room. Handing her the bag, he laid one hand on Will's forehead while the other stroked his back. "Yeah, he's got a fever," he remarked. "I wonder what's- "
"Now, Mulder," Billy repeated, urgently. "Now. Please."
Mulder glanced over Billy's shoulder. Dee's rocking had increased in tempo. Ray stared at Mulder imploringly, rubbing his hand back and forth across the stubble on his left cheek, digging his fingertips into the flesh.
What the hell was going on?
Mulder turned and took a few steps back toward the entranceway. "Now *what*, Bill?"
The pitch of Will's screaming climbed higher. "Dadadadadadadadada...."
Billy's face creased with an uncharacteristic scowl. He crossed the threshold abruptly, sweeping past Mulder and raising an arm toward Leah, who pulled Will closer and began to back away, shooting a desperate, terrified glance in Mulder's direction.
"Billy, no!" Mulder growled, traveling across the hardwood on an intercept course.
Billy brushed him aside like a cobweb, sending him stumbling, slamming against his desk. Mulder righted himself quickly and turned, ready to defend his family. Kill me, you bastard, he thought viciously. Kill me, Billy, I fucking dare you...
But Billy was busy fumbling with a child-proof cap.
The white paper bag lay like a shed feather at Billy's feet, three unopened boxes of medicine piled in a jumbled heap beside it. Billy struggled with the stubborn plastic cap, twisting it first one way, then the other. Finally he stopped, his eyes nearly crossing as he tried to focus on the red-letters that told him to push down and turn counter-clockwise.
Mulder stepped cautiously toward him. "Billy, what are you-?"
His host abandoned finesse and snapped the neck of the bottle. "I have opened the medicine, Mulder." His hands were shaking.
"I see that," Mulder said gently. "I take it you want to give Will some Tylenol?"
"He is suffering, Mulder." Billy said anxiously, his face drawn and ashen. "We cannot keep him safe. He must be safe."
"Okay, okay," Mulder told his host, speaking as soothingly as he would to any mad dog. He took the broken bottle and placed it on the desk. "You're right, Billy. He's running a fever and giving him some Tylenol might be a good idea. But it's not safe to give that to him now. Some of the plastic from the bottle may have fallen in when you broke it. Give me one of the other bottles and I'll show you how to open it."
Billy immediately did as Mulder asked. Mulder opened the box and peeled off the protective wrap surrounding the cap. "You have to press and turn at the same time." He gave Billy the dispensing cup to hold while he worked the lid. "See?"
"I see," Billy answered.
"Why is it you can remember the rules of football, but you can't remember how to do this?" Mulder motioned with his free hand. "Give me the cup."
"The package says a child William's age requires 15 milliliters for relief of pain due to fever and/or teething," Billy commented as he handed it over.
"Okay," Mulder said soothingly. "It's just we've never done this before. He's run a fever with every tooth but it's never been bad enough to give him medication. I don't like to give him this stuff. It's hard on the liver. You understand?"
"He must be safe, Mulder."
"Yeah," Mulder agreed, although he wasn't completely sure what he was agreeing to. He poured the thick purple liquid into the cup. "Hey, Bud," he said, turning back to Will and Leah. Adrenalin was still pumping through his system at top speed and it was an effort to keep his hand steady and his voice calm. We're safe, he silently reminded himself. We're protected. We're loved. We're safe and protected and loved. Safe, protected, lov- "Look. Billy brought you some medicine."
Will shook his head and tried to hide his face against Leah's shoulder. "Nonononononononononono."
Billy edged toward them, his breathing rough and raspy.
"Look what your daddy's got, sweetie." Leah's voice was calm, but her eyes flicked nervously from Will's sweaty head to Billy's grimly determined face as she spoke. "And it's grape. Our very favorite flavor, after all the other ones."
"Here." Mulder exchanged the medicine cup for Will, pulling him into a tight hug and pressing his lips against his son's hot forehead. "Come on, big guy. Let's take some medicine."
"I've never seen him like this, Mulder," Leah said, a thread of panic running through her voice. "Maybe it's not his teeth. Maybe he's really sick. We need to call a doctor."
Will's hot little head dug into Mulder's sternum. "Nonononononononononono."
"Nononononono..." Billy whispered, mimicking Will in a voice so low it was almost impossible to hear.
Mulder stared. "What is it, Billy?"
Billy straightened and tried to compose himself. "Symptoms associated with teething include biting, drooling, gum- rubbing, low-grade fever, ear-rubbing, mild irritability, increased sucking, and increased wakefulness."
Mulder watched Billy intently. "So, he's just teething. Right, Billy?"
"William is not sick. There is no need for a doctor." Billy answered. "But William is suffering. Please, Mulder. Now."
Mulder looked from Leah to Will to Billy. Billy was watching his son with a worshipful expression, a look of tenderness, of genuine, unguarded love and care. Mulder knew Billy was right. Billy was always right, it seemed, when it came to Will. He took the cup from Leah. "Hey Will, this'll make you feel better. Do daddy a b-i-i-i-ig favor and drink this, okay?"
Will gave a quivering sigh and looked up. "Dadadadada," he complained, smearing snot and tears over his face as he rubbed his mouth and nose with his open palm.
"I know, buddy." Mulder swayed slightly from side to side. "I know. Drink this, okay? It'll make you feel better. Drink this for daddy, okay?"
Will looked at Mulder, concentration plain on his face. After a moment the boy nodded, his expression serious. "T- t-tay," he stuttered.
Mulder's brows rose. "You say 'okay,' Will?" He looked at Leah. "That's a new one."
Will shuddered again. "Tay," he repeated. He reached awkwardly toward the tiny cup and drained its contents. "Yum."
"Good boy, Will," Leah said. "You'll feel better soon."
Mulder swayed, rocking Will back and forth. His son settled against his chest, his sticky-sweet fake-grape breath swirling up with each miserable moan.
Billy's face, still strained, brightened somewhat as he gazed at Will adoringly, mesmerized, it seemed, by the soothing motion. "William will be safe. You will be happy, Mulder."
"Will's safety is all that matters." Mulder nodded, trying to grasp the meaning behind Billy's words. Billy had told him the contents of the bag would make him happy. The Tylenol was meant to take away Will's pain. So if Will was no longer in pain, then -
He could see that the pieces were there, spread out before him like the rough-edged tiles in a giant mosaic. But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't make the individual pieces resolve into a coherent whole. He needed to step back to achieve the proper perspective, but his cage was too confining.
Mulder watched Billy watching his son. There was something gnawing at the edge of his exhausted brain, something --
"Leah, could you pick up that mess on the floor, please?"
Leah blinked. "What?"
"And bring me the bag from the Tylenol?" He kept his tone overly-casual.
Leah's eyes cut to Billy, then back to Mulder. "S-s-sure." She hurried across the room, picking up the discarded bag, receipt, and bottles, and returning quickly to Mulder's side. "What should I. . .?"
He took the bag from her. "Just put those bottles away in the kitchen. Up high, somewhere, please."
Mulder rocked. Will whimpered. Billy gazed, swaying gently, shadowing their motion.
"Bill, if you thought I needed to give Will some Tylenol, why didn't you just say something?"
Billy swayed. "I did."
Mulder glanced at the window. Beyond the drapes, sheepdog silhouettes were still wandering aimlessly around the central fountain. He pulled Will closer. "Yeah, but you might have done it a little sooner, and just a little less dramatically. I'm a reasonable guy."
"Yes, Mulder." Billy paused. "Sometimes I am not certain what you have remembered, and what you have chosen to forget."
Mulder scowled. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"It is supposed to mean that sometimes I am not certain what you have remembered, Mulder, and what you have forgotten."
Mulder shook his head. "Geez, Bill, thanks for clearing that . . ." He glanced down at the drugstore bag in his hand and paused, frowning at the navy blue lettering on its side. "'Williams' Family Pharmacy,'" he read in a low mumble, "372 Danah Ave., Skellie, New York."
The tiles in the mosaic shifted, twisting and blurring. Mulder struggled to bring them into focus.
He looked up at Billy, swallowing the urge to scream. "'William wants a family. . .'"
"Yes, Mulder. William will be happy now. You will be happy."
Mulder's voice lowered. "Billy, please, why did. . ."
Billy turned to the door. "You should sleep, now, Mulder. Have a nice day."
Our Lawyer says: Chris Carter owns M&S; Fox owns The XFiles; we own this story. No infringement intended.