It was Danny who broke the silence. "Uncle Walter and Mr. Doggett can sneak me into the building. I'm little; I can hide under a desk or in a locker. No one has to know I'm there." He looked over at John and nodded once, in a gesture so like Mulder that even Skinner's eyes widened. "Uncle John. And I can probably handle two of them at a time, but not all eight."
Scully closed her eyes, but opened them immediately as Katy whimpered. Monica patted the baby's bottom and murmured to her, but it was obvious she was gearing up to cry. Mulder rose from his seat and took Katy from Monica, then led Scully to the couch and seated her. He sat beside her, the baby in his arms.
Mulder looked at their son, "Danny, we could run."
"If we run, Uncle Walter won't be here. Then Uncle John and," he smiled, “then Aunt Monica."
"Stopping this, stopping them is not your responsibility."
"Dad, how else can they be stopped?"
All of the adults stared at him then. He only looked five years old.
"So, what's the plan?" Scully still sounded bitter, "are you planning to leave bodies littered all over Bureau headquarters?"
Mulder's arm went back around her. "One at a time."
"I can - "
"One at a time, Danny. I don't doubt your abilities, but - "
"But I'm still just a kid."
"Physically, yes you are." Mulder looked at Skinner, "You were supposed to be a target tonight. I think you should lay low. John, could you contact one of these men tomorrow, mention you saw Skinner tonight but now you can't find him? Ask for his help - and get him to come with you to the garage or someplace? Maybe have him help you check out Skinner's car."
"Yeah, let me look at the list again." He glanced over it, then turned to Monica, "Connors?"
She nodded, "He's the lowest ranked on that list. Yes, he's probably a good start."
"Assistant Director?" John looked over at him, but he was obviously lost in thought. "Sir?"
"Why me?” Skinner looked at the people assembled in the room. “I mean I have no influence at the Bureau. I fill a slot and get the paperwork done. I don't make policy and I'm not consulted by those that do. I'm just counting down to retirement."
"Is that my legacy for you?" Mulder looked over him.
"What? No. I chose my own path, Mulder."
"Did you? Or were you maneuvered into this like Scully was? I think they saw something in you - your integrity, your . . . I don't know, honor, and knew that you'd be a problem for them. Remember this conspiracy dates back to the 40's. "
Skinner stared at him, speechless for a moment. Mulder grinned, "I'm not sucking up, Sir."
"And I know how many times you've helped us." Scully added, "through 'unofficial channels'."
Danny's giggle broke the tension. No one had the guts to ask exactly what Danny was giggling about.
Skinner seemed to shake himself slightly, then, as he had been trained to do for so many years, took command again. "Connors. Do you have a relationship with him? Is he someone you'd go to for help?"
"Uh, no, not really."
"Who do you know best?"
Mulder leaned back, listening to the conversation as he cuddled his daughter. He felt Scully's hand come to rest on his thigh, and he glanced over at her as she concentrated on the plans. Their conversation of earlier today came back to him - she loved him. She was scared, terrified for the kids, their kids, but she was here because she loved him. She'd left everything to be with him and their children. He didn't deserve her and he'd led her back into danger, but she was here.
He felt Danny's look and turned, managing to answer the boy's smile with one of his own. Danny was totally confident of his abilities and he had every reason to be. Mulder had witnessed what he could do, and with absolutely no run over to innocent bystanders. It was 'awesome' as the boy had begun to say.
"Mulder?" Scully's hand squeezed his leg for just an instant to bring him back to the conversation.
"Sorry, just taking it all in. Go ahead."
Skinner nodded. "John will contact Setzer in the morning. He and Scully worked a couple of cases with him while you were gone."
John nodded, "we've had a couple of beers together too. Now I wonder what I was drinking with. Anyway, I'll talk to him; make sure it's on a personal level. Don't want to call out the dogs. Monica will take Skinner's car back to the Bureau and leave it tonight. I'll ask him to check it out with me. Danny, how close do you have to be to him?"
Danny looked over at Mulder for help. "He's able to touch me a football field away. We've never tested for this."
John had blinked at that. A hundred yards? "Okay, so a couple of cars over shouldn't be a problem."
"You're sure these guys can't read each other's minds?"
"Yes, I'm sure. That's why the one guy was so worried at the grocery store. He couldn't find them or contact them."
Mulder nodded, "Right. Since I'm not going to be able to get too close myself, and I won't fit in a locker," he grinned at the boy, "how do we know you're okay?"
"I can touch you, like we practiced. If I'm in trouble, I can push a little."
"I've never felt this touch." Scully finally spoke. Almost before the words were out of her mouth, she felt a little caress to her brow; in the place Mulder had so often kissed her before they had allowed themselves more.
Tears immediately formed in her eyes, and the touch vanished.
Mulder took a deep breath, "Okay. Setzer tomorrow, first thing. If there's a problem, call this number." He handed John a scrap of paper. "Walter's going to stay here tonight."
Skinner looked over at him, startled. For one thing, Mulder had never called him Walter before. "You guys need some privacy."
"No, he's right, Walter. You're safer here and you have to stay out of sight." Scully responded.
John and Monica exchanged glances and rose as one to leave them. Skinner started to make another protest as they moved to the door, but Scully’s look stopped him.
Once he was sure everything was in place the next morning, John went looking.
He caught up with Setzer, and stood behind him to get coffee. The look on John’s face caused Setzer to look at him more closely.
“Something wrong John?”
“Yeah, Skinner. He asked me to get some information for him first thing this morning and now he hasn’t bothered to show up or call.”
“You checked with his secretary?”
“Yeah, Kim said he was here when she left last night. He didn’t leave a note. He usually beats her in mornings, so she’s clueless.”
“You’re not worried about him?”
“Skinner? No, he can take care of himself. I just wish I hadn’t rushed to get this information. I could’ve used a few extra winks myself this morning.”
Setzer grinned, “I hear you.”
“Well, I might as well get to work on my real assignment.” John walked off, but noted the other man’s satisfied expression.
After checking out the garage about an hour later, John went looking for Setzer again. He tapped on the metal strip of Setzer’s cubicle. “You busy?”
“John? Everything okay?”
“I’m not sure. Remember I couldn’t find Skinner?” Setzer nodded, “Well, I just had to go out to the garage to get something out of my truck. His car’s here, but no one’s seen him.”
“You sure it’s his car?”
“You want to come with me to check? I don’t want to raise any flags . . . “
“I agree. Come on, it might be someone else in his space.” Setzer rose and followed Doggett out.
John walked out of the elevator first, though his neck tingled at the exposure. They walked over to the vehicle. “This is definitely Skinner’s car. Hey, the trunk’s not latched.”
“Be careful.” Setzer stepped back to allow John to open the trunk. John took a deep breath and reached down. He saw the movement out of the corner of his eye and pivoted. Setzer had his arm raised to strike, but the blow never came. Instead, the man grabbed his head in pain. He sank to his knees; his eyes were fixed on John and showed his disbelief. Then he was on the floor of the garage. John heard the sound of metal twisting and the vertebrae was protruding from his neck.
Monica relaxed her stance and let her gun drop back to her side. She had risen when she saw the man’s hand go up. Now the two of them exchanged glances.
“I’m fine.” Danny emerged from the backseat.
John nodded, then moved to lift the body. Monica took the legs and they loaded the body in the trunk.
“Okay, Monica, get Danny and the body over to Dana. I’m sure she needs to see this little guy.”
“Okay, I - “
“Wait.” Danny was looking at the elevator. “Another one of them is coming. Aunt Monica, get down.”
Neither of them hesitated. Danny had already jumped back into the back seat. Monica slipped down on the far side of the nearest car.
John turned to face whoever it was, leaning against Skinner’s car. The doors opened, revealing a large man that John had seen around the Bureau. He searched his mind for the name and it popped into his head. Drum, Dave Drum. John wondered whether or not to thank Danny for that information. He straightened up. “Agent Drum, you lookin’ for me?”
“I thought you were with Setzer.”
“I was. He got stopped, so I’m waiting for him to meet me.”
“I believe I can help you, so you won’t have to wait.” His hand came up and grabbed the lapel of John’s coat, but before he could strike, a grimace took over his face and then he loosened his grip. His hands went to his head. John watched in amazement as the large man toppled to his knees, then sank onto the pavement.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Monica join him. The boy stayed in the car out of sight. They heard the metal wrench apart and were moving. Getting this guy off the floor of the garage and into the trunk took considerably more effort, but it was done and John slammed the lid of the trunk shut. Nobody else better show up. The axle wouldn’t take it.
He turned to see Danny beside him. “You guys get going. Dana’s probably frantic by now.”
“Be careful John.”
“Don’t worry about me. Just don’t you get stopped.” He turned to Danny. “Thank you.”
Danny nodded and crawled into the front seat, buckling himself.
Monica joined him and they pulled out into traffic. Both were silent for several blocks, then Danny spoke. “You’re worried about how I feel, killing these men.”
Monica glanced over at him, “Yes, I am. It’s hard on an adult in the line of duty . . . “
“The men were killed before. These are machines that replaced them. They don’t feel. I’m not trying to read you, I know that’s rude, but I know how worried you are about Mom and Uncle John. These things don’t do that. They don’t have . . . “
“Yeah. They’re just strong machines.”
“Okay. I just want you to be okay. You’re the only baby I’ve ever delivered and you’re very special to me.”
Danny grinned, “Thanks.”
“Hey,” she looked back over at him, “Are you allowed to ride in the front seat?
The boy chuckled, blushing.
“Don’t you tell your mother I allowed it.”
Mulder was doing his best not to pace. It didn’t help and it annoyed Scully. Scully. He looked back over at her. She was near tears. Frohike had Katy, hoping that would keep the baby calmer, away from his and Scully’s roiling emotions. He should be holding his wife.
He had taken a couple of steps toward her when she looked up and gave him a wavering smile. Her fingers touched her brow. “They’re okay.”
He had her in his arms then, lifting her to his lips.
In a couple of minutes, he turned to Byers. “Everything ready?”
Byers nodded, “Monica knows to pull into the building.”
“Okay, maybe we’ll learn something.”
Monica arrived shortly. Langly pulled the large metal door closed behind her and watched the family reunion with a grin.
It took Mulder, Skinner, Byers and Langly to get Drum out of the trunk and onto a gurney. Monica’s quick explanation of events halted Scully’s lecture on their agreement to have one autopsy.
A second gurney was improvised and Monica took Danny to join Frohike and Katy. Mulder stayed to assist Scully with the autopsy.
She looked up at Mulder finally. “Except for the spine, these look like normal men. They’re in excellent health. Phenomenal really; hearts, lungs, everything in top shape. This isn’t just taking care of themselves, working out. Byers is going to do the tox screens he can, I just . . . “ She shook her head.
“The guys have a lot of contacts. They’ll be discrete, they’d do anything to protect you.”
“I know.” She gave him a wan smile and sighed. His eyes bored into her and she felt a thrill, knowing he would too. Suddenly she stood up straighter. “Umm.”
“What? What’s wrong?”
“My milk let down. I need to find Katy.”
“Go on. I’ll clean up.”
“Thanks.” She hurried from the room.
He didn’t take long, putting the instruments to soak in alcohol and covering the bodies with a grimace. Then he went in search of Scully.
He found her in Byers' bedroom. He stood watching her from the door. She never ceased to amaze him. Just minutes ago she’d been up to her elbows in dead bodies and now she was holding his daughter to her breast looking like a sexy Madonna.
She looked up, “Mulder?”
“Just enjoying the view.”
“Ever going to outgrow the breast obsession?” She smiled.
“Not if they’re yours.” He sat beside her on the bed.
When the baby was through, Scully handed her to Mulder and cleaned up while he burped Katy.
“You know, I’m surprised you were able to get her away from Frohike.”
Scully glared at him, then she huffed. “If the man could nurse her, I’d never see her.” Her eyes narrowed at his grin. “What does she get from him?”
“I’d say unconditional adoration. Face it Scully, Frohike’s been in love with you since before I admitted to myself I loved you.”
“Mulder - “
“Well it’s true. You might as well face it.”
He rose, patting the baby then holding out his hand to Scully. “Come on. Let’s see what they’ve found out.”
They returned to the main room to see Danny playing some computer game with Langly as Frohike watched. Frohike’s face lit up when he saw Katy on Mulder’s shoulder. Mulder struggled not to smile and didn’t look at Scully, just handing the baby over to him. He even managed not to react to the pinch she gave to his waist.
“We’re going to see if Byers has anything. You guys okay?” Mulder asked them.
Langly glanced up, “We’re cool. Go ahead. Skinner’s with him.”
Danny nodded, then as they moved on past him, spoke, “Dad, what’s magnetite?”
“Magne . . . I don’t know. Why?”
“It’s the last thing that Drum thought before I turned him off.”
All of them stopped, looking at the boy. Then Mulder looked over at Langly, “You want to find out everything there is to know about magnetite?”
“I’m on it.” The blonde moved over to the other computer and booted it up.
“Come on, let’s check on Byers. You and I can’t compete with ponytail boy in this area.” Mulder put his arm around Scully. Langly winked at him as they left.
Skinner was leaning over Byers, trying to read over his shoulder. “Anything?”
“It’s a little, uh, crowded in here.” Byers glanced up at Mulder.
Skinner sighed and moved away. “Sorry, I . . . I’m used to doing something.”
Mulder seated Scully beside Byers. “Hey Walt, why don’t we pull Danny away from the game and check in on Doggett and Reyes.”
“Walt?” Skinner’s eyes narrowed, then he nodded, “And maybe I can get back to work.”
Mulder and Scully exchanged glances at that but kept quiet. Mulder followed Skinner back the way he had come.
Once they were alone in the hall, Mulder put his hand on Skinner’s shoulder. “Walter, you know you can’t go back to the Bureau.”
Skinner turned and looked at him, glared really, then his shoulders slumped. “Then who will I be?”
“Our friend and protector?” Skinner really did glare then. “Scully and I have talked about this. How about my father-in-law?”
“Yeah, if you had her really really young, like maybe you got her mother pregnant at 16 or - “
Mulder chuckled, “What? You weren’t doing it then?”
His eyes narrowed, “That’s none of your business.”
“Yeah, I guess you wouldn’t want your daughter to know about your early escapades.”
“And to think I used to think you were insane.”
“If you’re looking for me to validate, you’ll have to wait your turn.”
Skinner gave a low growl, then sighed. “Mulder, really, what am I supposed to do? Who am I supposed to be? I’ve worked my whole life, the Marines, the Bureau. I was within spitting distance of retirement.”
“Yeah,” Mulder agreed. “Too bad you can’t inherit your own - “ Skinner looked away, his face had gone bright red. “What?”
“I, uh, do you think we could convince everyone I was dead?”
The man obviously had come up with something. Mulder thought about it. “I don’t know. We have the world’s best pathologist on our side and some people at the FBI as well as the three stooges.”
Skinner rolled his eyes, but then took a deep breath. Skinner looked around as though for escape for an instant. “I, uh . . . I recently changed my will and left everything . . . I left everything to Laura Petrie, my niece.”
Mulder gaped at him. “You, you left everything to . . . “
“It wasn’t hard.” Skinner straightened his spine, “All I had to do was change the name. Dana was already my sole beneficiary.”
“Since when?” Okay his voice was a little harsh, and the accusation was clear in his tone, but Skinner didn’t flinch.
“Since you disappeared and we thought the baby had died. I wanted to make sure she was provided for, even if I wasn’t around.”
“She’s - “
“Mulder, look at the people around you now. Every single one of us is in love with Scully to some degree. Hell, even Monica may be. And Scully loves us.”
Mulder’s face darkened.
“It’s not like you have to worry. She’s in love with you and only you. You return after being gone for years and she’s gone with you in a day. You have two beautiful children together.” Mulder turned away, “Mulder - “
“I need a minute.” He kept walking and Skinner leaned back against the wall. After a moment he stood upright again and made his way to the kitchen, hoping it was deserted.