He could smell the stale smoke. He glanced over at Scully and saw that she could smell it too. Her face was drawn, white. He wanted to comfort her, but wasn’t exactly sure what he could say that would be comforting.
It was evening now, dusk but not dark yet. He looked over at her. “I think we should leave the car here.” He finally spoke, pulling off the road. She nodded. “Scully, it’s going to be okay.”
She met his eyes, silently pleading with him to be right. He squeezed her hand and they got out of the car. They were both armed, but neither of them seemed especially reassured by that fact.
They moved swiftly toward the odor of fire and came out at the edge of the woods. The light was better, but the sight shocking. She gasped at the destruction. The house was gone, the roof had collapsed before the walls had fallen, but only the blackened partial skeleton of the house remained. They had seen fire that burned this hot before. Nothing escaped it.
He realized her fingers were digging into his shoulder. “This way,” he whispered, turning to the left but staying at the edge of the woods even though no one appeared to remain at the ruins.
After several minutes she touched his arm. “Mulder, what are we doing? If, if William was in there . . .”
He turned and took her in his arms. “William is not dead, Scully.”
“But - “
“He called for our help. Scully, we have to find him. Trust me.”
She nodded and spoke softly, “I do.”
He had to stop for just an instant. Those words, from Scully’s mouth. God he loved her. She would never have cause to doubt that for as long as they lived.
He moved off again, cautiously, but wasting no time. He seemed to know where to go now, and his speed increased. He couldn’t say what he knew, but he was going to go with it.
He nearly stumbled over the body of a large man. He was on his knees immediately, checking for signs of life. “Scully?” She was beside him.
“Help me turn him over,” Scully said. “Carefully.”
Mulder rolled him over gently and Scully froze, unable to breathe for a moment. “Skinner. Oh god, Mulder it’s Skinner.” He had burns on his legs and arms, and blisters on his hands. He had lost a lot of weight and the lines in his face were deep.
Mulder was staring down into the man’s face. “What the hell is he . . . Scully?”
“I don’t know. He needs help. These burns need attention. Mulder, what’s he doing here?”
“I . . . “ He looked past Skinner and rose to his feet.
“Mulder? We need - “
Mulder had stepped away, then was moving fast, deeper into the woods.
Scully looked after him, stunned. She rose to her own feet. What had he heard? Were ‘they’ still here?
Her head jerked in that direction and she raced after him. He was already returning to her, but his arms were no longer empty.
She faltered, stumbling as his hand reached out to steady her. “Wi-William?”
The baby in Mulder’s arms turned and looked at her. He was dirty, sooty and his eyes looked tired, but he wasn’t scared or crying.
“Oh my god.” She reached for him and Mulder forced himself to release the boy into her arms. His arms went around them both as her knees gave way and they sank to the ground, holding each other that way for several long minutes.
Finally he pulled away from these two precious people. “Scully, we have to get out of here.”
He nodded, and helped her to her feet, her arms still tight around their son.
“I’ll carry Skinner. We need to move.”
“You can’t carry - “
“I have to. Take the keys, but stay with me. Get your gun back out.”
She nodded and they returned to Skinner’s side. With her help he got Skinner in a fireman’s carry and they moved as swiftly as possible to the car. Mulder was staggering when they got there. Scully sat William in the front seat, then helped Mulder maneuver Skinner into the back.
“Get in Scully.”
“I can drive.”
“No. You don’t know where we’re going. Hold William.”
“No car seat.” She remarked.
“We’ll take care of that. Come on.” He pulled out, grateful there was enough light not to need the headlights. Once they were on the road, he glanced over at Scully. She was staring in awe at the little boy sleeping in her arms.
“He did call me.” Mulder said softly.
“I know.” She nodded, not able to tear her eyes away.
“Is he okay?”
“He seems to be. I haven’t examined him.” She touched his cheek lightly. “He’s gotten so big.”
“Yeah. He looks healthy.”
She forced herself to look up. “Mulder, where are we going? Skinner needs to be in a hospital.”
Mulder shook his head. “No hospital, Scully. You know that.”
“One of the places I set up is not that far from here.” He looked over to see her wondering look. He shrugged. “I decided my instinct was the way to go.”
She nodded. “How far?”
“A couple of hours. Why don’t you try to sleep.”
“I don’t think I could.”
He nodded, and glanced at the boy again. He was nearly ten months old now, he’d be walking soon, and talking and, and he was with them.
A few miles down the road, Mulder spotted a filling station and pulled in.
“I want to get a local paper, see what it says about the fire.”
She nodded. He pulled to the side, where no one could see inside the vehicle easily. He picked up a copy of all three papers offered in the bins and returned to the car.
“Do we need gas, Mulder?”
“We’ve got half a tank, I’d rather keep moving.”
She nodded, already glancing through the papers. The light went off when he shut the door. She waited until the service station was out of sight before she flipped on the overhead light.
She found the story and folded the paper awkwardly, trying not to disturb the baby. She read the article quickly.
“According to this, they’re saying the fire was arson because there had to have been an accelerate to burn that hot and fast.”
“And?” He prodded.
“The bodies were charred, nearly cremated; a man and a woman. Their child, a son, is believed deceased as well, but with such a small body . . .”
He nodded, “Have the parents been positively identified?”
“This just happened, Mulder.”
Mulder was silent then, but he knew. Will’s adoptive parents were dead, killed by that fire.
Scully gasped as the car swerved, “Mulder?”
“Skinner. He saved him. He got him out of the house.”
“I, I don’t know. Did he know who had Will?”
“I’m not sure. He, he did help with the, the arrangements.”
Mulder nodded, thinking.
“But Mulder, even if he did know, how could he have gotten here in time to save Will?”
“I don’t know. We need to talk to him about that.”
“In the meantime Mulder, he really can’t wait two hours for treatment. He’s probably dehydrated and when he comes to, he’s going to be in pain.”
Mulder nodded. “Okay. Let’s put a little distance between us and this place. Then we can pull over somewhere private. There are pain pills in the emergency kit and water. Okay?”
“It’ll have to do for now.”
It was closer to nine, and full dark, when he finally pulled into the gravel driveway.
“Let me go in first, make sure no one’s been here.”
She nodded, pulling her gun out. She watched from the car, keeping an eye on both of her charges while he went inside. She saw his flashlight going through the house at a couple of windows. Shortly he flipped on the light and came back out to the SUV.
“It’s clean Scully, as in no one’s been here. It’s dusty.”
“That’s okay. Let’s get these guys inside so I can look after them.”
He nodded and opened her door. She climbed carefully from the vehicle, allowing him to take her arm. “There’s not much in the way of baby supplies.”
Her smile was teary, “It doesn’t matter.” She met his lips as he leaned over her.
“Come on. We’ll put him down then get Skinner settled.”
She nodded and he led her inside. This house was bigger than the one in New Mexico. There were three bedrooms, the third was the lab. After putting William down in the center of their bed, she helped him get Skinner inside and into the second bedroom.
Mulder undressed the man while she gathered the supplies that had been cached. She carefully washed the burns on his lower legs, fortunately they seemed to be first and second degree. His clothing had protected him to some extent. His hands were blistered, but they didn’t seem too deep. The problem seemed to be more malnourishment than anything else. He was thinner than either of them had ever seen him and the lines in his face showed what he had endured alone.
“He’s been on the run, Scully. I don’t know what happened after we ran, but I think he ran too. I can’t say what brought him here, but I know he saved William.”
He glanced up at the shudder that ran through her, and pulled her into his arms.
“I need to know. Mulder, I need to know what happened.”
“We will. As soon as he gets a little strength, we’ll find out. We’re okay here, Scully. William’s here, you’re here.”
She took a shaky breath. “And you’re here.”
His arms tightened around her. “Skinner should be asleep for awhile. He’s not in danger now, you need to get some rest.” She let herself sag against him and without thought he lifted her into his arms and carried her back to the room where William slept.
When he lay her on the bed, she pulled him down, her arms around his neck. “You need some sleep too.” He kissed her nose and pulled back. She watched him remove her shoes.
“I won’t be long. I’ll fix a bed for Will, then join you.”
He smiled and nodded. “In here. Close your eyes.”
“I’m not even undressed.”
“I’ll take care of that later too.” He kissed her eyelids closed and after a few minutes, rose from the bed.
He got a few towels from the closet and made a pallet for the baby on his side of the bed. If he woke during the night, Mulder would look after him. He lifted the baby gently from the bed. The boy stirred slightly and opened his eyes.
He looked into Mulder’s eyes and smiled slightly, then cuddled in. Mulder’s knees went weak and he sat on the side of the bed. His son, their son was in his arms and felt safe there.
Scully stretched, rolling to her side and he looked over at her. She was smiling in her sleep. She hadn’t done that since they had taken off. He knew she was happy to be with him, she knew that he loved her, but now . . . now they were a family.
He took a centering breath and rose, cuddling the boy to his chest. Mulder settled him in his bed and watched him for a moment.
When he could tear himself away, he stepped down the hall and checked on Skinner. The man hadn’t moved, but was breathing evenly.
After a thorough check of the house, he returned to Scully and carefully removed her clothes. At one point she looked up at him, “Muld . . . “
“I love you, Scully.” He gave her a small kiss, then pulled the covers up over her. He undressed quickly and joined her in the bed. Mostly asleep, she moved into his arms and they closed around her.
When he woke the next morning, he was alone in the bed. He glanced over at the bed he had made for William. There was no trace of it on the floor. Blind panic seized him. He had found William, and Scully was with him, it wasn’t a dream. He was out the bed, and racing out of the room.
Scully looked up startled when he burst into the kitchen, stark naked. “Mulder?”
He stopped at the door, taking in the sight of these two most precious people. “I . . . I didn’t know where you were.”
She looked at him for a moment and saw the fear that sent him racing to them. “I’m sorry Mulder, I didn’t think.”
He shook his head. “For just a minute I, I thought you . . . I thought I’d dreamed it, having you, finding William.”
“You didn’t dream it. We’re here, we’re together.”
She smiled, “He seems to be wonderful. He doesn’t seem the least bit uncomfortable with me.” She kissed the baby’s forehead.
“What about Skinner?”
“I gave him some more Gatorade, but he needs to eat. He was semi-awake, enough not to choke, but I’m not sure he knew who I was. He’s not running a fever, which is good news.”
Mulder nodded, finally able to concentrate on something besides their existence. “What can he eat?”
“Probably the same as William for awhile. Very soft, very bland.”
“William doesn’t look like he ate ‘bland’.” Mulder’s lips twitched.
“Of course he’s a mess now. I found some oatmeal, there’s no baby food here. Oh, I did find some diapers. You stocked the place well.”
“He liked the oatmeal?”
“Loved it. The problem was, he was impatient and starving, so he ‘helped’.” She smiled fondly at the boy. “Now we need to have a bath, don’t we, William?” Scully looked back up at Mulder. “Uh, I like the view, but . . . “
“Oh.” He glanced down, “Yeah. Listen, if you’re gonna bathe him now, I could take him in the shower with me, hose him down.”
“Well, yeah. If you trust me to - “
“I do.” She smiled.
He looked at her for a minute, then nodded. He took the baby into his arms and moved toward the bathroom. She thought her heart would burst at the sight.
Scully gave them a little time, but after cleaning up his breakfast, she needed to be close to them again. She quietly let herself into the bathroom and listened to Mulder’s conversation with the boy.
He was explaining basketball and she leaned against the wall, just enjoying it. Then Mulder chuckled. “Hey, hands to yourself boy. It’s not that big.”
Her eyes widened, “Mulder?”
He looked out of the shower curtain. “Oh hi. I think I’ve been insulted. William here seems to think my nose is too big.”
“Your nose. Oh.”
“Well what did you think we were talking abo . . . Scully!” He spotted her scarlet face, then glanced down at his semi-erect state. He held William in front of him. “Now you know the big family secret, William. Your mother is a pervert. She’s after me all the time, three, four times a day. I’ve heard she had these videos that she claimed weren’t - “
She was standing just outside the shower now, holding a towel. “Mulder, give me that baby right now. And don’t ever talk to him again.” She struggled to keep her face impassive though her eyes were twinkling. Mulder did place the boy in her arms.
“William, do not listen to that man.”
To her delight, the baby looked up at her and chortled with glee. Her knees gave way and she sank onto the toilet holding him close and burying her face in his damp baby neck.
“Scully? Scully, are you okay?” Mulder was out of the shower, kneeling in front of her.
“I’m fine, just a little overwhelmed.”
“Yeah, I know.” He pulled her to him. “It’s going to be okay. We’re together.”
She took a deep breath and looked up, giving him a tremulous smile. “I was just afraid to dream we’d ever have the chance.”
“We do, Baby. Believe it.”
After a moment she nodded. “Well, I guess I better get a diaper, so we don’t have any accidents.”
“He should be dry for a while, but his aim needs work.” Mulder said ruefully.
Scully’s lips twitched, “As his father, I’m leaving that chore to you.”
Mulder’s hand came up to caress the boy’s back. “Father. I’m someone’s father. Scully, I’m going to need your help with that.”
“He’s a baby, Mulder. Right now all he needs is to know you love him.”
“Will, you know that don’t you, that I love you?”
The baby smiled broadly and grabbed for Mulder’s nose again. Mulder took his hand and kissed it. “Dadadadad.”
Mulder froze. When he could look away, he met Scully’s eyes. Her tears gave him movement again. He took them both into his arms, still unable to speak.
Will was the one the broke the embrace, being confined to the center. He reached up for Scully’s face and they reluctantly released each other. “Finish your shower, Mulder. I’ll get him dressed and check on Skinner.”
He nodded and rose. She left the bath and dressed Will on their bed. The boy was calm and happy, it almost seemed as though he’d been waiting for her to return.
She held him to her and headed down the hall to the second bedroom. When she quietly entered the room, Will reached for the man lying in the bed. “Do you know him, Will? Do you remember Skinner?” She whispered. “He came to see you before, when we were together.”
The boy just smiled. She sat him on the carpet and removed the sheet from Skinner’s legs. There was no seepage on the bandages. He stirred then and opened his eyes. “Scully?”
She smiled, “Yes. How do you feel?”
“I . . . Where are we? How did you find me?”
“Will led us to you.” Mulder said from the door.
All three of them looked toward him. Will crawled quickly toward him and Mulder took him into his arms. “Will?” Skinner looked back at Scully, “Your son?”
She nodded, her eyes moist.
“You didn’t answer Scully’s question.” Mulder reminded the man, as he took a seat beside the bed.
“I . . . I’m tired, I’m hungry. My legs hurt and my hands.” He shrugged. “I’m alive.”
“Thank goodness.” Scully said softly. “You saved Will, didn’t you?”
After a moment Skinner nodded. “I didn’t know it was Will. I didn’t realize. I saw the house was on fire . . . “
“Why were you at the house?” Mulder asked quickly.
“I . . . I’m not sure.”
Mulder nodded, “Why were you in Wyoming?”
“I was on the run. It seemed like a good place. I didn’t know anyone, there’re lots of wide open spaces.”
“Dreams?” Skinner asked dryly.
“A young boy, dark hair, maybe on a beach.”
Skinner’s frown slipped away after just an instant. He glanced down at the boy in Mulder’s arms and shook his head. “You’re not saying . . . “
“Will led you to him, to save him. It worked.”
Skinner looked at him for a long moment, then winced as he moved his leg. That put Scully back in charge. “I want you to eat something, then I can give you some pain medication.”
She pleased with Skinner’s healing. He wasn’t walking much yet, just to the bathroom and that slowly, but his hands were much better and he could feed himself again.
He had been through the wringer. Even as Mulder and Scully had been presumed killed, he had been called upstairs. He had been very sure that he wouldn’t leave the office alive. Only their arrogance had allowed him to walk away. They had been so sure that they had him.
He’d let them believe it too. He’d gone home and poured himself a drink, then written out a suicide note. He left it under the half empty glass, packed the basics in a gym bag, took the cash he had stashed at the apartment and taken the Capital beltway to the Potomac. He’d driven around, unable to spot a tail. There was probably a sensor on the car anyway. Once he had parked the car at the bridge, he’d walked away. They might find his watch someday, washed up on the bank, maybe a shoe, but that was it.
He’d walked away, and he hadn’t looked back. The bus to South Carolina had been the first step. From there he lost track, living in flea bag hotels for days or hours at the time. Then the dream had started.
He hadn’t consciously followed it, but had begun moving west.
“I didn’t know who had Will. My friend that set this up didn’t tell me. That was part of the deal. I wouldn’t let him. If they got to me, I couldn’t have the information.”
Scully nodded, tears in her eyes. He had moved to protect them all. As it turned out they had protected each other. She knew that Will had sent him the dream as he had to Mulder.
They would work together now.
Skinner watched her walk away from him, toward the baby playing on the carpet. He had saved the boy and they had saved him. For the first time in months, he had at least the illusion of security.
She hesitated as she began to bend down. Then to Skinner’s horror she was lying on the floor, unconscious. “Scully!” He struggled to rise, ignoring the burns on his feet and legs. “Scully!”
Mulder burst into the room, Skinner’s tone causing a panic to well up in him. The sight of Scully on the floor drained the blood from his face. “Scully.” He was on his knees beside her, his fingers at her throat. The feel of a pulse, steady beneath his fingers, sent him the rest of the way to the floor.
“Mulder? Is she okay?”
“Uh, yeah. She, she’s fainted.” Mulder looked at Will as the boy crawled to him and tried to pull up using his leg. His voice was shaky, and his hand was less than steady. “I need to get her in bed. I’ll come get Will in a minute.”
“He’ll be okay here, Mulder. I can call you if he needs you.”
Mulder nodded, and gathered Scully carefully into his arms. “Will, you behave for Skinner, okay?”
The boy babbled something in agreement. Skinner heard the fear in Mulder’s voice, but kept quiet. There was nothing he could do right now.
She was already stirring before he reached their room. He lay her gently on the bed.
“Mulder? What - “ She started to sit up, but he put one hand on her shoulder, the other on her cheek.
“You passed out, in Skinner’s room.”
She was watching his eyes. “I’m okay now.”
“No. You’ve been working too hard, looking after the baby, Skinner. I knew you weren’t feeling well earlier, I didn’t - “
“Mulder, really, I’m okay.”
“People who are okay don’t faint. You need to see a doctor. If we’re careful - “
“I don’t need to see a doctor. Mulder, I, I’m pregnant.”
The words didn’t register for a long moment. “Scully, you, we’ve been careful.”
“Not that first time.”
“You mean the first night, the night we ran . . . “
She nodded. “That’s why I was so lethargic, why I couldn’t keep my eyes open.”
“I took a test this morning.” She was watching him. “Are you upset?”
“I . . . I’m surprised. Are you really okay?” His hand lightly caressed her cheek.
“Surprised. What else?” She asked quietly, watching him closely.
He reached out and let his hand trace her jaw line. “I . . . I wasn’t there when you found out about Will. I’m not sure what I’m feeling right now.”
“I know it isn’t a good time - “
He took her hand, “Define ‘good time’. We’re having another baby. Knowing the one we already have, I can only be happy, Scully. For a woman who can’t have children, you and I seem to connect at the right time.” He gave her that little sideways grin that she’d fallen in love with a decade ago. “I kind of like the idea of being around more this time.” He smiled then. “Yeah, I want to be here for everything this time.”
She started to sit up, but again he held her in place. “I want you to rest here for a little while.”
“Mulder, I’m fine.”
“You still fainted. Just stay here for a little while.”
She started to protest again, but his lips stopped her. Then he rose and moved to the door. He winked at her as he shut the door behind him. She curled onto her side and let her eyes close.
She was on the beach, the one in Africa where she’d seen the spaceship. She looked down and saw that she was holding the hand of a little girl with long, dark hair with reddish highlights. The little girl looked up and smiled at her.
At the shout they both turned to see Mulder, Skinner and the boy working on a large sand sculpture of the same spaceship. Will, it had to be Will. He looked just like the pictures she had seen of Mulder as a child.
The boy waved at them, urging them to run, so they hurried in that direction, the little girl trotting at her side. Mulder moved toward them, picking up the little girl and giving her a hug, then putting her back on her feet. She ran to Will and started working with him.
Mulder took Scully into his arms then and kissed her, then they turned to watch Skinner with the children. “We have work to do.”
Author’s Notes - My thanks always to Marianne and Carol. In addition this time special thanks to Fatcat, who gave me direction and permission on a story that I couldn’t make move <g>. This isn’t a new series - for that you need to check out Vickie Moseley’s latest! Thanks so much for allowing me to enjoy this hobby so much!!
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.