She threw the door open before he could reach it and threw herself into his arms. He held her close, “Hey, I’m okay. Baby, don’t. They shouldn’t have worried you.” He glanced over at Walter.
“Of course they should have, but they didn’t.” He looked down at her. “Katy did.” Mulder’s eyes closed and he shook his head.
“I’m sorry,” he nodded to Walter, “but I am fine.”
“Tell us everything.” Scully looked up. Mulder kissed her thoroughly.
“Let me take a quick shower, then we can eat and talk.” He caressed her face. “We all have questions. We might as well get comfortable.”
After a long moment she nodded, though the worried look didn’t leave her face. Mulder ruffled Danny’s hair and moved toward the bedroom.
Walter stopped him, “I know I said I’d get out of here as soon as possible, but I didn’t feel right leaving them - “
“I’m glad you were here.” Mulder nodded. Walter didn’t say anything, but nodded. Mulder moved past him to take the shower.
When he emerged in clean jeans and t-shirt, dinner was on the table. “Looks great.” He watched Scully. She was shaky but better now that he was actually home.
“Thank Walter, he cooked.”
Mulder looked over at him, surprised. “You cook?”
“Of course. I’ve been on my own for a long time, and I got tired of take out.”
“Tired of take out? Blasphemy. Danny, don’t talk to this man.” He grinned as Danny laughed and Walter rolled his eyes. Scully closed her eyes, sinking into the chair. He was home, he was safe. She hadn’t realized how frightened she’d been. She felt his hands on her face, caressing her lightly.
“I’m okay Scully. Try to eat something.”
She nodded and finally opened her eyes to see the concerned look on his face. Her hand touched his face then. “I will. It smells good.” She looked over at Walter.
They took their seats and she was able to eat a little, not enough to satisfy Mulder, but he didn’t push.
They didn’t speak of what they were all thinking about, instead letting Danny relate how he had spent the day with Walter. When they finally finished, Mulder pushed back his chair and took Scully’s hand.
“I’ll help with clean up in a little while. Let’s go ahead and talk.” He took Scully’s hand and helped her to her feet. Everyone followed him to the living room. He sat beside Scully on the couch. Walter took the easy chair and Danny cuddled in next to his mother. Her arm went around him and Mulder took them both in his embrace.
“I guess I’ll start.” Mulder looked over at Danny. “He says his name is Joe Prentiss. He seemed like a regular guy, he didn’t flaunt any super strength. He said he grew up in Cleveland and decided to move back after his divorce. He’s only been there a couple of days, but he seemed to be a good worker. To be honest, if I weren’t wearing the stone, I would never have suspected.” He shrugged and looked over at Danny.
“He did just move here. He used to live in Atlanta, before what happened in Washington. Most of them used to live near each other. There were a lot of them in Washington, and Atlanta to be near the CDC and another group in California, in Silicon Valley.” He fell silent then and puzzled look came over his face.
“Honey, what?” Scully looked down at him.
“What do breasts have to do with these guys?”
“Breasts?” Before Scully could ask anything else, Mulder was laughing. Scully turned to look at him, then saw Walter’s eyes crinkle in humor as well. “Frohike! I’m going to strangle that little toad.” She glared up at Mulder.
Danny looked at Mulder, and almost immediately his expression became one of embarrassment, but he grinned. “Oh.”
“Now that we have that cleared up,” Mulder chuckled, “were you able to read him?”
“Yeah, but he only knows where two of the others are.”
Mulder’s face became solemn then, “They’ve gone to cells.” He looked over at Walter, who nodded his agreement. “Why here?”
“I think it was a coincidence. He’s not looking for you. He’s not thinking about you at all. The real Joe did live here before, so he had those memories a little.”
Mulder smiled, “It’s nice to be off radar.”
“Where are the two he knows?” Walter asked.
“One in Chicago and one in Cincinnati.” Danny replied. “Do you want me to get rid of Joe?”
“No. I especially don’t want anything to happen to him. We want no attention drawn to Cleveland.” Mulder ruffled the boy’s hair. “But over the weekend, we might drive down to Cincinnati. We could take the kids to the zoo.” He looked at Scully.
The look on her face showed her worry.
After the kids were down for the evening, they said their goodnights to Walter and Mulder led Scully into their bedroom. There was still a sense of weird around that. Walter had been their boss for a long time.
He lounged on their bed as he watched her change into her nightgown. When she turned toward him his smile faded. The look of worry on her face brought him back to his feet. “Scully it’s okay.” He pulled her close to him. “Joe doesn’t know who I am and Danny’s watching him.”
“So you really think it’s just a coincidence that this thing is working where you work?”
Mulder blinked, thinking about that question. “Scully, we never discovered why Danny said we were supposed to come to Cleveland. He couldn’t say either when he woke up. Maybe this is why. We don’t know what Danny can do, what he can see. But he brought us here. It’s going to be okay.” He led her to the bed and sat against the headboard.
She leaned against him, then she pulled his arms around her as she straddled him.
“Uh, Scully.” He glanced toward the door.
“Its been long enough.”
“I know. I want to reassure you and I want . . . but its been a while and, and I don’t know if . . . “
She nodded trying not to smile; it would be better if they were alone the first time. She started to retreat. His arms tightened around her. “I want you, Scully.”
“I know.” She nuzzled the skin under his ear.
“You’re playing dirty.”
She smiled at him then. “I guess I can wait one more night.”
“We’re getting rid of our company?” He asked hopefully.
“If we don’t, I’m going to ask him to take a long walk at bedtime tomorrow.” She groused.
He laughed out loud then and she immediately clapped her hand over his mouth. “Sorry.” He was still chuckling. “I visualized his face when you asked that.”
“Hush.” She hissed at him, “or I’ll change my mind about tomorrow night.”
“Oh no you don’t!” He pulled her down, twisting to pin her under him.
“Changing your mind, Mulder?”
He tried to stifle the groan when she moved under him.
Walter went to the office of the apartment complex first thing the next morning, after checking to ensure that Danny had Joe in his sights.
Nothing was said, and for a few minutes Scully worried about what he might have heard the night before, but then dismissed it. She and Mulder were together, they had two children, and shared a bedroom, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that they loved each other physically as well.
Walter was pleased to find there was an empty apartment in the same building as Mulder and Scully, upstairs and to the back. He put down the necessary deposit and returned to Scully to show her and the kids his new place.
“I need to buy a bed and some things to make the place livable. I hate to borrow your car - “
“Nonsense. Mind if we came along?”
“You wouldn’t mind?” Walter asked quickly.
“No, it’ll be fun.” Actually hanging around the apartment, waiting in limbo for Mulder to come home was not appealing. “Danny and I know a good consignment shop near here. We’ve learned not to put a lot of money in material belongings.”
“We need to get him a bag too.” Danny spoke up.
“A bag?” Walter smiled, puzzled.
“Yeah, an emergency bag like we all have.” Danny looked up at him, his face serious.
“Okay.” Walter looked up at Scully. “What do I keep in it?”
“Your most precious things. And some clothes, a toothbrush.” Danny turned toward his room. “I’ll show you.”
He was back quickly, carrying a duffel bag. He placed it on the couch and unzipped it. “See, some clothes and here,” he withdrew the photo album. “This is my grandmother Scully and Mom’s brothers and sisters.”
Again Walter looked over at Scully as he took a seat on the couch. Her eyes were slightly red, but she didn’t speak. She watched as Danny showed his pictures to Walter.
“This is my 5th birthday party. We didn’t have Katy yet, but that’s why Mom’s so big in the pictures.”
Scully rolled her eyes slightly, then moved toward the bedroom when she heard Katy stirring.
By the time Mulder arrived home that evening, the new apartment was at least partially furnished. The mattress and frame had been delivered. The furniture, a dresser, couch, desk and a small table with four chairs, promised before the end of the week. Walter had also purchased a TV, which was currently sitting on a chair borrowed from Scully.
The sheets covering the mattress were also borrowed.
Mulder looked around, grinning. “And I thought my old place looked like a dorm room.”
Walter cut his eyes at him, but Mulder was too grateful for the privacy to let it bother him.
The drive down to Cincinnati was fun. They took Walter’s new SUV and Danny was in love. It even had a DVD player in it.
Walter’s shrug, when he gave Mulder the two extra keys, was followed by “There’s more room. We should keep emergency supplies in it, just in case.”
After a minute, Mulder accepted the keys, nodding. “Really nice wheels, Walter. I guess I didn’t realize how much more you made than me.”
“I earned it, I supervised you.” Walter grinned at the younger man as Danny laughed.
Mulder turned to mock-glare at the boy.
“Actually, I never used any of the money Sharon left me. This is a good cause.”
Mulder nodded then, “Thank you.”
It was a nice day for the zoo. Cool, even cold in the shade, but the sun was bright. They had a good time. Danny was delighted. His favorites were the monkeys. Katy wasn’t too interested, but she seemed to enjoy riding in the pouch against Mulder’s chest.
They took a break for ice cream and for Scully to nurse Katy. They found a picnic table in the sun, but not too close to the others. Scully tossed the blanket over her shoulder and Mulder sat shielding her from view.
Daniel used the napkin to wipe his mouth, then looked between his Dad and Walter. “You want me to look for the other man.”
Mulder’s arm went around Scully and he nodded at the boy. “Yeah, we do.”
“I’ve already found him. He lives on the north side of the city, we passed closer on the way here.”
Mulder closed his eyes and chuckled. “Okay, what does he know?”
“This guy knows five others. One in Lexington, Kentucky, Oak . . . Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Atlanta and St. Louis, besides Joe.”
“Any names?” Walter asked.
Daniel thought about that for a moment, “The guy in Atlanta is Mike Cynkowski. He works at the CDC.”
“He’s a scientist?” Scully leaned forward to look at Danny.
“No. He’s a janitor.”
Mulder’s head whipped around from Scully to Danny. “A janitor. He can get in anywhere. He’s probably got keys to everything that’s not bio-hazardous. Shit! Uh, sorry.” He gave a quick apology, more to Scully than Danny. “The others, do you have names?”
Danny thought about it, his face screwing up. “He’s not thinking about them now, but the guy in Lexington is Ed something. He works at the College there, the College of Pharmacy.”
“Pharmacy? Is he a professor?”
Danny shook his head, “He works in a lab, he cleans up after the animals.”
“Another low profile job.” Walter nodded. “I bet they all are.”
“Hiding in the light.” Scully said softly. Mulder’s arm tightened around her.
“Are we going on to Lexington?” It was Danny who asked the question out loud.
“It’s the weekend; this guy won’t be at work.” Scully immediately demurred.
“He has to go in everyday. He looks after the animals.” Danny explained.
Everyone was quiet then for a moment. “Scully? Do you know anything about the school?” Mulder asked quietly.
She handed him Katy and adjusted her clothes, folding the blanket. “Yes, let me think. They have some renowned researchers working on drug delivery.”
“Bees?” He managed an ironic grin.
She shot him a look, but her mind was going over what she remembered from her reading. “They were working on nasal delivery. It’s effective and quick.”
“Right, right.” Walter nodded. “Didn’t they develop nasal Viagra?”
“Oh yeah.” Mulder chimed in, ‘They were talking about it on Letterman. Sounds like a place to plant one of them.”
They were quiet then, thinking their own thoughts as Mulder patted his daughter’s back to burp her.
“I’m not sure I can get him from here.” Danny finally spoke.
They all looked at him quickly. It was nearly a three hour drive. “No, Danny. I don’t want you to. If, when we take him, we need to be there. So far ‘they’ haven’t recovered the vertebrae that you’ve twisted. That needs to continue as long as possible. He’s someone that should disappear without a trace.
Walter cleared his throat, “We have a better chance of finding him alone at work when classes aren’t in session, like a weekend.”
Mulder nodded and Danny stood to go to his mother. “You know I’ll be careful.”
She blinked back her tears and hugged him. “Yes, I know.”
“We don’t have to do it this weekend.” Walter spoke again, “I didn’t mean to - “
“The sooner the better.” Mulder interrupted. “They’re off balance now with the developments in DC. If this guy is minor, like Joe, he’d be a good next candidate.”
“What about the body?” Scully joined the conversation, her voice slightly bitter. "Do we just load it in the back of the car and take it back to Cleveland?”
"No, Scully please." Mulder pulled him to her, holding her against his chest beside Katy. He looked over at Danny to give him reassurance as well.
Walter cleared his throat, "Maybe it would be better for me to come down during the week. I can reconnoiter; find a place for the body. Then maybe Danny and I - "
"No." They said it simultaneously. Danny would not be away from them. He was only five years old.
"I’m sorry." Walter said immediately. "I didn't mean to presume -"
"Walter, I'm sorry." Scully said softly. "I can't . . . I hate it when he's out of my sight. I know you would protect him with your life, but I can't let him go off alone with you."
"I understand Scully, I wasn't thinking." Walter nodded to Mulder, who attempted a relaxing breath.
"We're this close to Lexington," Mulder finally spoke. "Let's go see the place. Maybe find out where this guy lives. I'm sure it's alone. That could give us options." He managed a smile. “We can discuss this on the way. Right now we’re still on holiday and should see the rest of the zoo.” Mulder winked at Danny. “Let your Mom change Katy and we’ll go see the snakes.”
“Me change her, huh?” Scully retorted, grateful for the respite. She took Katy back from Mulder. Her hands were only slightly trembling. He kissed the tip of her nose.
They didn't stay much longer. The trip to Lexington now more important than any animal in captivity. Once on the road, Danny tuned out from the adults and began his own scan of Ed.
Walter drove to the campus and Danny pointed out the College of Pharmacy to him. “There’s a back door and a loading dock. That’s where Ed comes and goes. He has a key card he has to swipe.”
Mulder looked at the five story building for a long moment. “Is he here now?”
“Yes. On the fourth floor.” Danny was looking up at the building himself.
“Let’s park over there, in the hospital garage. Then you and I can look over the site.” Mulder looked over at Walter. Walter nodded and turned into the parking garage.
After finding a space on the second level, Mulder turned to Scully. “We’re not going to do anything but look around, Scully. You and the kids wait here.”
Scully started to protest, but Katy was asleep. Danny looked unhappy but he didn’t say anything.
Mulder gave Scully a quick kiss and winked at her. She kept quiet but he could see how upset she was. He motioned for Walter to hurry, and they moved toward the stairwell.
Danny kept quiet. He knew how worried his mother was, that she wasn’t watching his father’s back. His head came up when Ed locked up the animal lab.
“Danny, is everything . . . “
“Dad’s calling me. I’ll be right back.” Danny opened the door of the SUV.
“Danny, no. I - “
“I’ll stay in touch with you. He needs me now. It’ll be okay.”
Scully felt the soft touch in the middle of her forehead. She didn’t like it, but if Mulder needed him . . . She watched with trepidation, keeping one hand on Katy as she slept in her car seat. Katy wasn’t upset, so Mulder must not be in trouble.
Danny felt a little bad lying to her, but he needed to do this. He headed for the loading dock of the building where Ed worked. Ed was coming and he was alone.
Danny took a seat on the bench and waited. When the door opened he jumped and looked up at Ed, tears in his eyes.
Ed faltered and stopped. “Uh, you okay?”
“I can’t find my Mom.” He turned large puppy-dog eyes up at the man, even as he seemed to cringe away from him. Scully would have recognized the expression, but still had little immunity to it. “I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.”
*You have no idea how strange.* The man thought. Danny kept the pitiful look on his face.
“Well, uh, where was she?” Ed wasn’t sure how to handle this. He had no experience with kids.
“We brought my baby sister in to see the doctor. I didn’t mean to walk away.” Danny let a tear fall. “There was this bridge . . . “
For the first time Ed gave a small smile. “Yeah, that bridge is cool.” He turned to look at the pedestrian walk that connected the third floor of the hospital with the doctor’s offices on this side of the street. It was enclosed and had a curve to it.
*Dumb kid to wander off. How do I get rid of him?*
“Can you help me find my mom?”
“Uh,” Ed checked his watch. “I have somewhere I need to - “
Shit the kid really did sound pitiful. “Yeah, okay. But let’s hurry.”
Danny nodded and stood up, but didn’t move close enough for the man to touch him. They walked side by side back to the entrance to the bridge. *Where the hell are the pediatric offices?*
As they entered the building, Mulder and Walter neared the corner from the parking lot to the back of the Pharmacy building. Mulder felt the stone pull away from his chest.
He glanced over at Walter and saw that he had noticed the same thing with his own stone. They nodded quickly to each other and moved carefully around the corner.
They spotted a large man walking to the back entrance of the next building. The sign said it was the clinic and doctor’s offices. Both of their stones seemed to follow him.
“I think I can - “ Mulder froze, his heart in his mouth, when the large man reached for the door. He'd spotted the small person in front of him. “Danny - “
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.