ELIZABETH CITY COFFEE SHOP

ELIZABETH CITY, VA

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2009

1700

Skinner, Agent Hepburn, and Max Hunter all sat at a table in the little coffee shop. There was an FBI presence outside, and the small shop was currently functioning as a safe house for Hunter. The boy sipped his apple juice nervously, never taking his eyes from Agent Hepburn for more than a few moments.

When Mulder and Scully entered, they showed no sign of anxiety. Skinner stood, and walked over to them. "I got word that both suspects are dead. From what was said on the audio recording, they've been faking these scientists' deaths. What you've done here is huge. This looks to be some kind of illegal genetic engineering ring. The Bureau can assign more resources to this case and determine where the other scientists have relocated to. Good work, both of you."

"Thank you, Sir," Scully said. Mulder smiled at Hunter, who smiled back but didn't run over. Skinner found that unusual, but he didn't comment.

Agent Hepburn looked just slightly uncomfortable. "Excuse me," he said, and rose from his seat. He walked toward the bathroom, and took a deep breath. That's when time seemed to slow.

Scully saw his hand go for his weapon, while his other hand reached into his pocket. She tackled Skinner in one fluid motion, and barely caught the sight of Mulder leaping in front of Hunter just as the fire started. One, two, three gunshots rang out before Scully's own shot hit Hepburn square in the chest. He dropped, and sound entered Scully's ears once more.

A sobbing child, curled up in a ball in his chair. Two crumpled bullets lay beneath him. Skinner scrambling up, a baffled expression on his face. The café's staff rising from their squatting positions, some of them crying out in horror. And then her eyes fell on her partner.

His skin was glossy, his eyes glazed over and dull. He stared at the ceiling, but clearly didn't see anything. Scully dove to his side, and bit back a sob of shock and panic as she saw the bullet wound. Upper left chest…right over his heart.

"Oh God, Mulder," she breathed, ripping off his vest. A copkiller bullet. If the bullets near Mulder's head on the floor of the café were any indication, the bullet was Teflon coated and had gone right through Mulder's vest like a piece of paper.

She applied pressure to the wound and lifted his head with one hand, supporting it while trying not to cry. "Call the paramedics, now!" She screamed, and barely heard Skinner get on his phone.

Hunter fell off his chair, onto his knees beside Mulder's head. He placed his hand on Mulder's shoulder and cried, "Please don't die. Please, don't die like the others, please. Don't let him die, God, please."

INSERT PIC 5

The little boy collapsed into a ball on the floor, his head in his hands as he sobbed uncontrollably. Scully couldn't keep her own tears away. "Come on, Mulder, stay with me," she said, watching his dull eyes blink and his chest rise and fall with less and less frequency.

"Don't let him die, God, please," she found herself whispering.

ALBERMARLE HOSPITAL

ELIZABETH CITY, VA

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2009

1720

Skinner sat with Hunter in the waiting room of the hospital, flanked by two FBI agents as he held the small child in his lap. The hospital was heavily guarded on Skinner's orders. Hunter still whimpered, but was no longer sobbing. He was wrapped in a shock blanket and had refused to leave Skinner's side even for a second.

They stared at the trauma room down the hall, waiting for Scully to come out and announce what was going on. Skinner knew he would be waiting a while, but Hunter asked about every two minutes how much longer it would be.

The assistant director had seen the rounds at the feet of Hunter's chair. He had seen how they were crumpled, as if blocked by some kind of barrier. He had seen that they were most probably Teflon coated, and matched what had hit Mulder's vest. And yet, Scully had confirmed that there was only one gunshot wound, not a through-and-through. And Hunter was untouched. What had the bullets hit on their way to Hunter?

Finally, the trauma room doors burst open and a gurney was rushed out quickly. Scully broke away and jogged to the waiting area. Skinner stood, still holding Hunter in his arms. "How is he?"

"He's stable, going into surgery now to remove the bullet. We don't know the full extent of the damage, but…it may have done permanent damage to his heart," she said, clearly attempting to hold her composure but not entirely succeeding. "He may require a transplant. We just don't know yet."

Skinner sighed, and Hunter buried his head in the man's shoulder.

Scully rubbed the boy's shoulder affectionately, and said, "We're gonna do everything we can, Hunter."

He nodded, but didn't look at her.

"I have to get back. They're letting me observe," she explained, and turned to leave.

"Scully—let us know when you know more," Skinner said, and watched her nod and jog away.

He sighed, and sat back down.

"More waiting?" Hunter asked in a tiny voice.

Skinner nodded. "That's all there is right now, Hunter. Waiting, and hoping."

ALBERMARLE HOSPITAL

ELIZABETH CITY, VA

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2009

2200

Scully walked into the waiting room to find her boss and Hunter both asleep on a small chair. Hunter's head rested on Skinner's shoulder, in a position that looked like it hadn't changed since she had last seen them. She shook Skinner's shoulder gently, arousing them both.

"What's the news?" he asked drowsily, using one hand to rub his eyes under his glasses, while the other still held Hunter on his lap.

"The surgery was successful," Scully said, exhaling with a smile. "And no transplant is required. The bullet punctured a lung and nicked a vessel going to his heart. They were able to repair the damage. He's got a chest tube in and he's on the ventilator for the next five or six hours at least, but he's going to make it."

"Mulder's gonna be okay?" Hunter asked hopefully.

Scully nodded. "That's right," she said, and smiled at him. "And when he's feeling better you can see him."

"I want to see him now. I promise I won't be loud."

"I don't see any harm in it, Scully," Skinner said. If it was any other situation, he would understand where Scully was coming from. But this little boy was as attached to Mulder as Mulder was to him, and he needed to see his hero was alive, and would be okay.

"It might be a little scary," Scully began, but Hunter rolled his eyes.

"I've seen scary stuff," he said. "Mulder will never be scary."

Scully glanced at Skinner, and then sighed. "Okay," she said, and extended her hand. Hunter slid off her boss's lap, shed the blanket on the chair, and took Scully's offered hand in his. Skinner followed behind, but when they got to Mulder's room, he waited outside as the two entered.

Hunter held Scully's hand tighter when he saw all the tubes and wires attached to his friend. He walked up to the bed and let go of Scully's hand, placing both hands on plastic rail. Then he slipped his hand down into Mulder's limp one, and said, "Hi, Mulder, it's Hunter."

Mulder, of course, didn't stir. Scully felt a lump rise in her throat when Hunter said, "You need to know I love you. And I miss you." She stared in confusion when he continued, "When I grow up, I'll be just like you. I know it. Just like I know other stuff, like the bomb on the ship. So I need you to wake up, and show me how to be like you. So I don't mess up. Okay?"

"Scully loves you too," he said, and squeezed Mulder's hand. He turned back to Scully. "Can I stay here 'till he wakes up?"

"That might be a while, Hunter," Scully cautioned, quelling her emotions for now and trying to be responsible. But in her heart, she knew this little boy wasn't going anywhere. Finally, she nodded. "Okay. You can sleep here."

Hunter smiled, and pulled a second folding chair from the corner of the room over to the side of the bed. He set it up himself, and then sat down. His legs swung, not reaching the floor, and he watched Mulder as if it was as interesting as TV. Scully shook her head in amazement, and sat down in her own chair.

"You were the one who told Walter about the bomb?"

Hunter nodded. "You guys stopped it, right?"

"We did," Scully said, thinking of Krycek and hoping the rat bastard had actually followed through with his promise, and they wouldn't see explosions on the morning news.

"More waiting," Hunter said.

Scully nodded. "He's going to be okay," she said, and took her partner's hand. She rubbed the back with her thumb, and tried to hold back tears at the sight of him in this position, yet again.

"If he's going to be okay, waiting's fine. We can wait," Hunter stated. His eyes never left Mulder's limp form. Scully gave him a small smile, and nodded her agreement.

ALBERMARLE HOSPITAL

ELIZABETH CITY, VA

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2009

0630

Mulder had been extubated only an hour previously, and Scully was utterly exhausted and about ready to fall asleep. Hunter had konked out in the folding chair, and Scully had asked for a nurse to bring in a cot so he could sleep more comfortably. But the second Mulder's eyes opened, Hunter also magically awoke and hopped down from the cot.

He walked over to where Scully was holding Mulder's hand and greeting him, and poked his head around the bed rail. "Hi," he said.

Mulder smiled. "Hey," he said weakly. His voice was raspy and barely rose above a whisper. Scully picked up the cup of ice chips on the nightstand and offered him one.

He took it gratefully, just as Hunter said, "You saved my life."

Mulder never stopped smiling. "Nothing to it," he quipped.

Hunter smiled back. "Two bullets missed you and I stopped those, but the other one I didn't think was coming. I didn't know I could stop bullets. I guess my powers do all kinds of things."

"I guess so," Mulder whispered, and closed his eyes.

"I know you're tired," Hunter said. "I'll just sit here and wait till you're not tired anymore."

"Thank you, Hunter," Scully told him kindly, and turned back to her partner. "Sleep, Mulder. We'll both be here when you get up."

Mulder nodded slightly, and was asleep instantly.

Skinner opened the door, and stuck his head in. "Can I come in?"

"Mulder just woke up. He's sleeping now," Scully informed him.

"That's great news," he said with a smile, noting Hunter's thrilled grin. "I just talked to Social Services…" he began, and saw Hunter's grin falter. "They and the FBI are in agreement that Hunter should be placed into the witness protection program."

Scully nodded, a bit sadly.

"I was going to explain to Hunter exactly what that meant…"

"It means I have to change my name and pretend I'm someone else," Hunter said. "I don't want to do that! That means I can't see Mulder and Scully anymore!"

"Hunter, it would keep you safe," Scully told him.

"I don't care, if I never see you again! I have to stay with Mulder; he has to show me how to grow up!"

Skinner looked confused, and Scully simply said, "You'll grow up just fine, Hunter. I promise."

"No, you don't understand," he protested. He got up, and took Mulder's hand. "Can you explain it to them? Please? Mulder, please, wake up?"

Mulder's eyes slid open, and he looked at his surroundings, clearly confused.

"Mulder, I need you to explain to them why you have to show me how to grow up. Explain it to them! Tell them why—"

"Hunter, Mulder needs sleep right now," Scully said as gently as she could manage, trying to pry the child away from Mulder.

Mulder shook his head, though, and held the child's hand tighter. He stared into Hunter's pleading eyes, willing himself to understand what the boy was talking about. "Memories?" he finally asked.

Hunter nodded.

"You know…everything?" he asked, his voice reduced to a barely detectable whisper. It was clear he was exerting himself well beyond what he should have been, and Scully's agitated look was normally enough to move a mountain. But not Hunter.

The little boy nodded eagerly, and said, "That's why you have to show me."

"You…already…know," he said. He retracted his hand from Hunter's, and motioned for Hunter to come closer. He then said, "It's all…here." He tapped Hunter's forehead. "Someday…we'll talk again." He winced in pain, and squeezed his eyes shut.

Hunter was now starting to cry, but Mulder composed himself and shook his head. "No," he said firmly. "No…be brave. K?"

The little boy nodded with uncertainty, and Mulder gave his hand another squeeze, before closing his eyes. "Listen to Walter," he whispered. "Be good."

"I will," he said, and sniffed. "Bye."

"Not bye," Mulder told him, but didn't open his eyes. He was pale and breathing heavily.

"See you later, then," Hunter said.

With a small nod, Mulder smiled slightly and then couldn't help but fall back asleep.

Hunter turned to Skinner, who walked into the room and took the boy's hand. He wasn't sure what just happened, but Mulder had managed to convince him to go.

With a wave to Scully, and one final look back at Mulder's sleeping form, the little boy walked out of the hospital room. Scully took Mulder's hand, her expression intensely worried and confused, and sat down in the seat next to the bed. "It's gonna be okay, Mulder," she found herself saying softly. "Both of you will be okay."

UNKNOWN LOCATION

ONE WEEK LATER

UNKNOWN TIME

He walked down the dark underground hallway, glancing disapprovingly at the leaking pipe above his head. He took one last drag of his cigarette before dropping it to the cement floor, and stamping it out with his foot. He pulled another as he waited for the scientist to show up.

Bruce E. Ivins walked down the corridor to meet him, sticking a pen in his overalls and jogging slightly to make up for lost time. "I apologize. I was delayed," he said simply.

Spender nodded. "Of course. What is your progress?"

"Our decision to watch the boy has proved even more effective than attempting to eliminate him. He clearly has passed all of our assassination attempts in the past, and it was time to move on. Excellent decision—"

"Thank you. I want to know what your progress is."

"We've discovered that he's responding quite well. He's even developed an affinity for Star Trek."

For a millisecond, Spender actually looked surprised. Then it was gone. "Good," he said, nodding in approval. "Ensure that his development continues in this path. Four years from now, when we take his sister, we'll know for sure."

"What we're doing here is amazing. Scientifically, it's more spectacular than I ever could have imagined," Ivins said excitedly.

"Yes, I know. It is a shame Greta couldn't join us. But that's the way it is sometimes. Very well. Carry on with your work. I'll speak with you later."

"Of course. Have a good day," Ivins said as he nearly skipped off. The man was far too enthusiastic, Spender thought. But oh well, his quirks were well worth their price. For what he was gaining…never, in all his years, did he think he would have this opportunity. Not only did he now have a son…in a way…but he had his son. He had found a way to adopt Fox Mulder. And now he had the pleasure of watching him grow…from a distance, but not without influence. It certainly was a Great Adoption.

Turning back the way he had come, the smoking man disappeared into the depths of the cement corridor.