He woke to the soft hand gently brushing his hair back and he gasped at the emotions that bombarded him.
“You’re really here. You really exist,” she said in a whisper.
“And so are you.” His voice was choked with emotion so he said nothing else just devouring her with his eyes.
They looked up to see Mulder standing in the door, watching them. Even Scully would feel his uncertainty, his unease at what he was witnessing. She smiled at him and held out her hand.
He moved swiftly toward her then and took hold of her hand, squeezing it slightly.
“Morning,” she said softly, straightening up and giving him a kiss.
David watched them, a warm feeling he was just beginning to recognize filling him. Parents. He had parents and they loved each other. They were even beginning to care for him.
He’d never had that.
830305MS, or David as he called himself, woke to a feeling of stunned delight, happier than he ever remembered being. What was causing that? He felt for the other children in the room, no they were all still asleep. Then who or what? He cast around the building feeling for the night crew and then even into the kitchen. No, it wasn’t someone close by, but the feeling was the strongest he’d ever picked up. *I did it! Number one!!*
What did that mean? Number one at what? This wasn’t like the thoughts he continually picked up from the other kids. This was so much stronger than anything he remembered feeling before. The mind felt so happy, and . . . well, like it was okay for David to be there. He wanted to lie there and just drink in the energy he was feeling, but it was already fading. He cast around, looking for it once again, but it was going.
Disappointment gripped him and he anchored what little was left of the feeling, so that he would recognize this mind if he ever had the opportunity to feel it again. With a feeling of bleak loneliness, he stumbled out of bed and headed for the bathroom. The others were stirring now and their thoughts were coming to him. The cook, down in the kitchen burned his hand on the handle of a pot and swore, the nurse who stayed at night was anxious to leave. She had a manicure scheduled, then a date for lunch. He knew she’d be in a bad mood tonight from lack of sleep, but what else was new? His day had started.
It was over two weeks before he felt the mind again. They were outside, exercising when it came to him again. *They want me! Now I can find her!*
Find who? Who wanted him? Did he mean to share these things or did he even know he was sharing? Somehow it felt unfeigned, unprotected. Whoever this was had no idea anyone was listening, but for some reason it felt as though he wouldn’t have been totally surprised or even upset by it.
He clamped down harder, forgetting about the game he was supposed to be participating in. He didn’t want to lose the connection again. It was important. Where was this man? After the last time, he’d clung to the hope that he was here, at the school but after checking in every way he knew, he was now convinced this mind wasn’t here. It was too strong to be very far away, surely that was true, but not here.
Not here didn't mean a whole lot, he was three and already he knew he was different from the others, but this was . . . different. He didn't have a better word for it.
The ball hit him in the back, distracting him for an instant then he clamped down with all his might to lock onto this mind again. He didn’t want to be without it now that he had felt it twice.
“Come on! Pay attention!” The teacher, Calvin this time, though he hated the name and made everyone call him Cal, yelled at him. He was messing up the schedule, not conforming again. That was easy enough to pick up. He tucked the connection away in a special place in his memory and turned back to the game. He hadn’t mentioned the first contact and he would not be mentioning this one either. Even at three, he already knew that.
The people that tested them didn’t need to know about this.
There were occasional contacts after that. Nothing close to the intensity of those two euphoric moments, but he was getting better about linking to that mind, concentrating on finding it amongst the tumult of minds out there that he had always shielded himself from automatically. He wanted more contact, constant contact if he was honest, but this mind had a shield of its own. That was unusual, most minds were just there, open, easy to probe, if he wanted.
The teachers here hated and feared that, so he had learned to hide it from a very early age. Since about the time he had realized that the other kids couldn’t do what he did. That had surprised him, and he still didn’t understand it.
The other kids couldn’t feel minds, so they couldn’t see what was coming from the teachers. At first, when this information had come to him, he had been excited. He could do this thing and they couldn’t; that was until he had realized how vulnerable the other kids were without it.
Sarah cried, she cried every night when they turned out the lights. She was afraid of the dark, but no one cared. Of course no one called her Sarah, just in the back of her own mind. She was 830316BK. He knew the B was for Barlow and the K for King, but she didn’t and he didn’t understand it. He knew she had chosen the name Sarah from a story one of the nurses had read to them, but no one cared and she kept it a secret to comfort herself. They'd all learned early to keep secrets.
Kelly was scared too, but she didn’t cry, she just burrowed into her bed and thought about being outside. She loved the exercise time when they were out in the yard - almost free, she preferred the unstructured time, but any time outside made her feel better. She was 830217FN and she didn’t remember why she had started called herself Kelly. He knew, she had heard some other kids, kids that didn’t live in their school ride by on bicycles one day and a boy had yelled for Kelly to keep up. The whole thing had lasted only seconds, but she had heard the name and liked it.
He remembered it; he remembered everything. He remembered the first time they had read David Copperfield to them. The other kids didn’t; they were too young, but he had liked that name so he’d chosen it for his own. Yes, he remembered everything. He learned to hide that as well. Sometimes the teachers said something one day and changed it the next. A couple of times he had mentioned it and they had decided to test him on that too, so he quit doing it. There were enough tests without that.
No, this mind and his contact with it, that was just for him.
Frustration was the obvious feeling this time. *When the hell did I accumulate all of this crap?* was what David was feeling from the man. David, still in bed, grinned. He had no distractions this time, so he pushed a little and was able to get an impression of light. Was he seeing through his ‘friend’s’ eyes? He’d never tried this with the teachers here. He could see what they were thinking, so he hadn’t tried to see what they were looking at. Interesting!
The door opened and a voice called. “Mulder, aren’t you finished yet?”
Mulder! A name at last. Wait a minute, Mulder? That was the M in his code, the S was Scully. Was, was this guy connected to him somehow?
Mulder was throwing things in a trash pile, a give-away pile and a very small keep pile. He opened a drawer and pulled out papers, getting more disgusted by the moment. That stopped, everything stopped, when Mulder picked up the photograph.
Concentrate, what was this Mulder seeing? He closed his eyes to better push and saw it, a young woman with short dark hair and a smile. The smile didn’t reach her eyes and for some reason the word ‘cruel’ came to him. Who was she?
Without warning a shield slammed down. David nearly reeled physically from the action. Mulder was still there, but no thoughts about this woman were leaking. What had she done to him? He’d never felt such a solid shield. David had noticed this Mulder's shield before, but not like this. He could still feel Mulder; still feel a touch of the annoyance at the clutter he faced.
It was late, and David was tired. He slipped into sleep with Mulder’s mind touching his.
It was several weeks before he felt Mulder again. David was a little surprised at how lonely that had felt. He was still surrounded by everyone he had ever known, ever seen, but this mind intrigued him. It was familiar, but so complex and it worked . . . it worked like his.
He actually stumbled when he felt Mulder in his mind again. The teacher looked over at him, curious. He was one of the better athletes here and usually never clumsy. He could do things that the other boys here couldn't, though he no longer displayed that. He pretended that his shoe had come untied and squatted down to retie it. He smiled to himself as he reveled in the feel of this mind.
Mulder was back in school. That was strange; he had graduated, hadn't he? But this school was different. He was learning different kinds of things now, defensive driving, he watched autopsies, he was exercising, and using an obstacle course. The driving was especially cool when David could see through his eyes. But the course what Mulder liked best, was the course where he learned about profiling. Maybe that was the psychologist in Mulder, but he seemed to understand what people were thinking. David absorbed everything he could over the weeks. It was almost like attending school 24-hours a day, but the stuff here was certainly no challenge.
Supervisory Special Agent Patterson had visited the class and pretended to ignore Mulder completely. David knew better, knew that the man was actually there just to see Mulder, but of course Mulder didn't know that. Patterson had casually given an assignment to the class, framing it as an older case that had already been solved. He'd been lying, wanting to see what this wunderkind they kept talking about could really do.
David could almost see the wheels turn in Mulder's head. When class was over the students headed out to the bar as usual, this time Mulder had begged off - he never drank more than a couple of beers anyway - and returned to his apartment.
For the first time, David saw the door - 42. He didn't know where 42 was, but it was where Mulder lived. This man that intrigued him so sank down onto his couch and went back over everything that Patterson had told them. He couldn't let it go, there were patterns and he just needed to concentrate.
David felt him slip into sleep and nearly pulled away to sleep himself, but before he could, the dreams started. David smiled, even in his sleep, Mulder didn't let go of the problem. He'd been wrong, he hadn't needed to concentrate, he'd needed to relax. The connections fell into place. David didn't understand it all, but Mulder knew so many things, understood so many things he didn't. David was delighting in this mind and learning to be with him and still function around this place.
The next morning, Mulder rose with an idea in his head and hurried to work. He asked to speak to Patterson, and was led to the war room. David was nearly vibrating with excitement to be part of this, even from a distance. The full team was there hashing over what they had so far, and Mulder realized what David had already known, that this was a current case. Patterson was less than welcoming and fairly snide as he asked Mulder to 'present' his theory to the room. Rather than back down, Mulder did just that and David cheered silently as he watched the smiles slip off of the men's faces and notes being taken.
Patterson dismissed him rather curtly when he was through and because of his position in the chain of command - less than human - Mulder hurried back to Quantico and class.
David was called to attention in his class, and reluctantly let go of Mulder's mind. He could find him now, probably at a great distance, so he wasn't worried.
It was two days before David felt the excitement again. Mulder was in class when a note was delivered. Summoned to Patterson's office, both Mulder and David were unaware that the gleam in their eyes was identical.
Neither anticipated the dressing down that Patterson began. Damn it, it was as though he thought Mulder was a suspect. The others in the room were quiet, one older gentleman in the back lit cigarette after cigarette as he listened to the questioning. It didn't take long for Mulder to lose his temper.
"Look, I'm sorry I wasted your time. I thought the information you gave us in class was intriguing, and I continued to think about it. I realize I have a lot to learn about profiling but I - "
"We got him," a tall black man over in the corner said quietly.
"didn't have any . . . What?"
"You were right. You saw it and we all missed it, didn't we, Patterson?"
Patterson looked like he'd bitten into a grapefruit, but reluctantly nodded. Kelly looked over at David who was trying not to laugh out loud. He composed his face and returned his attention to his class.
It was more than a week before David checked in with Mulder again. The others had come for testing again. He hated the testers. The people that were around them all the time were bad enough, but the testers came four times a year and made life completely miserable. They had always come, since before David could remember and he'd always hated it.
They took blood, a lot of it and did complete physical examinations. That confused David, no one was ever sick, not even colds. They were given shots too, but David didn't know what they were for. That wasn't fun, but the psychology tests were worse. The other kids often came out crying. At least he saw what was coming. They couldn't trick him any more, but they seemed to sense that and tried harder. He wanted them to think that what he had displayed when he was too young to know any better had gone away, faded with age.
They were always saying one thing and thinking another, trying to see which he'd do. He'd learned to use extra care, doing things wrong to ensure that no one realized he was 'hearing' them. They didn't trust him, that was obvious, but they couldn't prove it without a brain-ectomy and they hadn't wanted to go that far, yet.
They were gone again for at least three months, and good riddance. He hadn't taken the chance to be in Mulder's mind while they were here, and he found he missed that contact more than he could have realized. Being in Mulder's mind was like going to a home he'd never known. He knew a little about Mulder's home life now, tiny bits that had slipped through.
David had always imagined a family would be the best way to live, parents that cared about a child as an individual, someone to protect and love. Mulder's memories didn't show that. The man's father had always held himself slightly aloof and when he was drinking had been either abusive or completely detached. There was a strain as well between the mother and father. But Mulder's younger sister had been there then and even as a boy he had kept an eye on her, trying to give her what their parents didn't.
David tried to probe more about this sister, Samantha, but there was a wall around thoughts of her, and she hadn't been in contact with Mulder since David had started hearing him. David had tentatively probed for her mind, but hadn't ever found it.
Mulder's mother had been more of a parent than his father, but even she had kept a kind of distance between herself and her son. David knew they had divorced and Mulder had stayed with his mother. Contact with his father had been even more sporadic then and when they were together, it had felt, at least to Mulder, like a kind of duty rather than a time to bond.
In short, Mulder was as alone and lonely as David was. Maybe more, at least he had the kids here at the school. Sarah, Kelly, AJ, MB, and the others. They tried to look after each other at least a little. The teachers here didn't allow them to form 'clichés', whatever that meant. But each kid in the school had to spend the same amount of time with every other kid in the school. No one was allowed favorites or best friends. Once they had discovered that two girls whose beds were next to each other in the dorm had become close and they had moved them to separate ends of the room.
At first David had just ignored that, he didn't really care, but the girls did. The girls in the group wanted to have best friends, wanted to be close to someone. David was always close, closer than he wanted to be, to everyone if he wasn't careful. Maybe that's why he was most comfortable in Mulder's mind. He felt the same. He didn't especially want to be close to others. There weren't that many people out there that could be trusted.
David remained in school growing and learning from Mulder as much or more than the teachers and testers that continued to monitor the students. After years of contact with this man, it was as normal as having breakfast. Mulder was learning too, working nearly full time with Patterson even though he hadn't officially completed his training.
One problem, for David anyway, was that Mulder's shields were growing increasingly stronger. He kind of understood that, some of the cases that Mulder was working on now were really horrible. Even at six, he could feel how conflicted Mulder was when he really understood the men that did those crimes he investigated. Now the relief of closing a case was no longer able to bring Mulder back to himself.
David was jerked awake. It wasn't even close to dawn; he could feel that, but what . . . Mulder! Oh shit, he was alone, in his apartment. He was sitting there, crying. What? What had happened? David pushed a little harder than usual. Mulder had been on one of those cases that really pulled him under and something had happened. Barnett? Yes, John Barnett, they had caught him, he was in custody but . . .
Oh no. David could see it leaking around the shields that weren't strong enough to hold this kind of guilt. Steve Wallenberg? Who . . . another agent. He'd been killed and Mulder felt responsible. He had been behind Barnett, he could have shot him but then the hostage might have been injured. *Mulder, no, you're not to blame* David tried to console him long distance, *there was no way you could have known.*
David lay awake, trying to comfort this man he thought of as his father now until Mulder cried himself to sleep.
It was hard after that. David was up against shields the like of which he had never known. Mulder had shut everyone out, throwing himself into his work, but not connecting with anyone. It was painful. Sure, Mulder didn't know David had been in his mind, but being cast out felt like abandonment.
It was a long time before Mulder lightened up enough for David to probe his mind again with any regularity. David could still brush against Mulder's mind, find comfort in that, but he let no one get close. David, growing himself, realized that the man was as lonely as he was. That came as a revelation, because Mulder was out there in the world, not being tested or watched continually.
With a little patience, David finally saw what was bringing Mulder out of his depression. He'd found a stash of files, thrown away or something, that had caught his interest. David was able to push enough to see some of them and had been amused until he realized that, in other circumstances, he could be the subject of one of those files. They were about weird things, paranormal things, even aliens and freaks. He would certainly fit into the freak category, he realized.
For the first time, he withdrew from Mulder's mind feeling uncomfortable. Would Mulder think of him as a freak? Would he be angry that David had been trespassing into his mind all these years? That had never been his intention, but it didn't change the fact that he was indeed where he didn't belong.
Guilty and ashamed, he forced himself to stay away then. People didn't read their parents' minds, didn't probe for their darkest secrets. So what if Mulder didn't realize it was happening. David was a freak, that's why he was locked up here. Maybe the other kids were going to become freaks as well, or were already freaks in ways he didn't understand.
He withdrew himself from everyone at that point. He refused to play the organized games, allowed his grades to drop and became basically anti-social. The testers were brought back early, just for him and ran a battery of tests that exhausted him, but he managed to keep his mind reading from them. He now knew that's what they wanted more than anything. They had isolated this group of kids purposely to raise their own freaks. It wasn't working; well it hadn't worked except with him, so he made sure they thought their failure was 100%.
David held off as long as he could, but the pull of this man who had become so important to him was too much. David already felt like he'd missed so much during the time that Mulder himself was withdrawn. Now, he only wanted to be with him. Hell, if he could get to Washington, he'd break out today, but that would no doubt freak Mulder out completely.
Yes, he finally knew the location. Washington, DC. He'd been pretty startled to realize that he could feel Mulder's mind all the way in Atlanta, but he'd been astounded to realize that those original thoughts, when Mulder had been in school had come from England! That had to mean that they were bonded.
David kept a low profile, but did check in on Mulder at least a couple of times a week. The man's mood swings were wild, from the depths when working on something Patterson had assigned, to nearly euphoric when going through the files he'd found. Mulder had begun to refer to them in his head as 'X-Files' because they were filed there. He had puzzled over why there weren't under 'U' for unsolved, but there was no one to ask.
Today David found him on the happy side, but realized he wasn't alone in that little room he went to when he was reading those files. David pushed a little and saw a woman in the office with him. She was tall with long dark hair, and damn, her boobs were bigger and pointy-er than some of the women in the movies Mulder watched when he couldn't sleep. David realized suddenly that he didn't find those movies nearly as icky as he used to when he was just a kid. Now that he was eight . . . But there was something strange about this woman. David couldn't read her mind. He couldn't read anyone's mind that far away except Mulder really, but he could get impressions. Not from her thought, and he didn't like her.
They were talking about an X-File. Mulder never talked to anyone about those files. Who was she? They were actually discussing the case, like they were working on it. David didn't recognize his feeling as jealousy.
After that they seemed to be together a lot. David still didn't trust her and couldn't figure out why Mulder did, unless it was that he had sex with her sometimes. That was a first too. David had figured Mulder had sex, but he'd not had a girlfriend before. And this was definitely not the one David would have picked of the women Mulder looked at.
Mulder still worked for Patterson, but he didn't seem to get so depressed, and when he was through, he'd go to his new files and start feeling better. He and this Diana were allowed to go out and investigate a couple of the X-Files Mulder had found, sort of as a reward for the work he was doing with Patterson, and Mulder had been nearly giddy with delight.
There had been no arrests and no actual proof, but Mulder felt like the case had been solved. He wrote his report with that in mind. He didn't know the report that he'd turned in had been thoroughly read and passed on to that man that smoked so much.
To David's relief after a few of those excursions, Diana had announced to Mulder that she was seeking a transfer and advised him to be careful. She'd told him that the 'Spooky' nickname was no longer quite the compliment it had been, not realizing that Mulder didn't care. David felt Mulder's mild regret at Diana's leaving. She had been someone to share the X-Files with, but he didn't begrudge her that kind of promotion and he still hadn't heard if the proposed division he was requesting would ever become a reality.