"Shit," he said vehemently. He wasn't armed. All that thought about it and he'd come downstairs as though he was just a normal guy in the suburbs. The two men were already out of the SUV which sported quite a dent on the front driver's side. They'd replaced the light bulb, probably to keep from being pulled, but they'd had no time for bodywork. He needed a weapon, all he had right now was surprise.
He darted into the family room, mind going over possible weapons at top speed. His eyes fell on the fireplace utensils and he nodded to himself. He grabbed up the poker and felt the heft of it, then raced back to the front door and stood out of sight beside it.
Only one man was approaching the front, the other was probably headed toward the sliding door in the back. With the wood in the track, he should be slowed down a little. Mulder heard the lock pick and tightened his grip on the poker.
The door opened and the large man with a blonde buzz cut entered cautiously. Mulder gave no warning, swinging the poker up into the man's face. Blood spurted from his nose and he went down like a rock. Mulder shifted him enough to close and relock the door behind him and looked around for the gun he'd dropped. No time, and he couldn't turn on a light.
Mulder positioned himself at the wall that separated the smaller formal area from the family room and waited again. This guy hadn't been able to maneuver the wood out of the slot as he'd wanted and had stepped to the window next to it. Using his own gun, he quickly broke out a pane and reached inside to unlock the window. Mulder glanced upstairs but the noise had been quick and slight, the glass had fallen on carpet, hopefully both of them had slept through it. He was comfortable with the poker now, but he couldn't do anything until the man was all the way inside. The neighbors were friends and he didn't need anyone else getting involved or hurt.
The man was climbing in the window now. He was as beefy as the first guy with a dark buzz cut. Could they look more military? He was raising the poker silently when he heard what he least wanted to hear.
"Mulder? Is everything okay?" and the sound of her limping down the stairs. Shit! The gunman turned toward the stairs and took aim. Mulder's poker slashed down. He heard a satisfying crunch just before the gun hit the floor.
"Get down!" he hissed toward Dana and he kicked the second gun out of the way. The man might only have one useable arm, but he wasn't down and he launched himself toward Mulder. Dana slid down the rest of the steps and grabbed up the gun that Mulder had kicked toward the stairs.
Her right hand was shaky but not completely out of commission, not in a case like this. Whatever it was Mulder was using the strike the man, he had gotten too close and Mulder couldn't swing. The larger man slammed Mulder into the wall and Dana heard his head connect hard. He took a step back and started to lift his leg to kick Mulder and Dana fired.
It had been years since she had fired a gun and then nothing like this one. Her father had taken her brothers shooting a lot more often than her. She had been aiming for center mass like she'd been taught, but with the weak right hand, the shot was lower. As though in slow motion she watched it enter the man's hip and he turned to look at her before anguish took over his face and he doubled over.
Mulder was staring at her too, breathing heavily. He stood up straight from the wall and moved toward her. "Are you okay?"
She nodded. "What's going on?"
"These are the men that ran into you earlier." He watched the color leave her face as she eased herself down on the stairs. "We've got to get them out of here. I don't think anyone could have heard that shot outside, but . . . "
She nodded, reaction setting in and he took the gun from her trembling hand. "Just sit there. I have to get something to catch the blood." He stepped into the kitchen and brought back a large black trash bag.
"He shouldn't be bleeding that much. I must have hit an artery."
Mulder shook his head. "The shot went through the hip, then . . . well, you castrated him."
Her eyes flew open at that. "I . . . "
"Yeah, I didn't think you were aiming for that."
"Let me help you." Before he could protest, she was back on her feet, limping over and helped him cover the carpet before any more blood could reach it. "We have to call 911."
He looked up at her. "These men won't go to prison, even if they live. Dana, look at them, they're military. They came to get Will."
She wasn't as shocked as he'd expected. In fact she seemed to have already worked that out herself. "So what do we do?"
"I'm going to pile them in the back of their car and take it somewhere, abandon it. We have to make sure they can't be traced to here." He expected an argument, readied himself for it, but she looked up the stairs.
"Is the other one bleeding?"
"I, uh, probably. I'm pretty sure I broke his nose." He headed that way, seeing the gun finally partially hidden by the drapes. The man still hadn't moved and Mulder checked his pulse. "Dana."
"I think he's dead. I hit him in the face with the poker, on an upswing."
"You probably drove the nasal bones into the brain," she spoke matter of factly and he didn't dispute it. She limped over in that direction. "Not much blood, he must have died instantly."
"We need to get fingerprints and pictures. These are the kind of guys that never make it into the system. If you see any of my hair or anything that might tie back to us, get it." He rose from his crouch next to the blonde man. He headed into the kitchen and found some paper. He made two complete handprints of each man using the second man's blood, and used one of the disposable cameras to take several pictures. He stashed everything on top of the refrigerator, out of sight.
"Let them dry. I'll scan everything and send it to the guys in a little while. Look, I'm going to back their car up into the garage, the less visible from the street the better." She nodded.
He slipped on some old basketball shoes he kept in the garage after Dana handed him some rubber gloves. He found the key in the blonde man's pocket. He didn't use any lights and closed the door carefully. Using extra care to keep the blood off the floor, he dragged the second man through the kitchen and utility room to the garage. Dana helped as she could. The second man was thrown over Mulder's shoulder in a fireman carry since he wasn't bleeding. He shoved them both in the back storage area of the SUV and closed the door quietly. Then he retrieved both guns and wiped them down thoroughly. He put them in the men's hands and made several sets of fingerprints on them. Once they were safely in the back of their own car, Mulder checked their clothes for ID, there was none.
"At least he was shot with his own gun. Mine's upstairs, Dana, in the office, top drawer of the desk. Get it and keep it with you while I'm gone." She didn't respond to that. "I'll clean up when I get back."
"I can do that."
"There's glass, from the window."
"I'll be careful. Mulder, there's no way I'm going to be able to sleep." He couldn't deny that, so he nodded and gave her a quick kiss. Then pulled on a dark jacket and pulled a baseball cap down hiding his face.
"I'll be back as soon as I can."
"Always." He forced himself into the vehicle then and carefully pulled out onto the road. He watched as the garage door slid shut, then turned right toward the entrance to the subdivision. He was well away from the house before he turned on any lights.
Dana stood looking at the closed garage door for a long time. She knew she was in shock and needed to get moving, but just stood there. She had killed a man, even if he wasn't technically dead right now, he would be soon from blood loss. She had done it to save her son, and she realized she would do it again for him. With a deep breath, she closed the door to the garage, locked it and turned back toward the room.
There was little blood on the carpet. Mulder had acted quickly with the trash bags, just a few drops. She quickly soaked them with carpet cleaner, then she gathered up all of the broken glass and threw it in the trash. They'd have to come up with some story about how the window was broken, but there was no blood on any of the pieces, so that was good.
The poker did have blood. She took it to the sink and washed it well with bleach. She placed it back in its holder and looked around the room. She didn't want to vacuum and wake up Will, but she'd do that first thing in the morning. She taped a small paper bag over the hole.
Then she sank down on the couch and let her face fall into her hands.
Mulder headed downtown. He remembered a small abandoned car repair shop on Third. He found it and was pleased that he had remembered the rusted wrecks that were scattered around the old parking lot in the back.
He made sure the interior light was still off and got out, closing the door with barely a click. He locked the doors and headed down the street.
In a couple of blocks he found a bar and walking unsteadily let himself in. He took a seat at the bar and ordered a shot. The bartender looked at him a moment, then poured the shot and sat it on the bar in front of him. Mulder picked it up and drank part, part he spilled on himself. The bartender shook his head and handed him a couple of paper towels. "That's it. You need to head home."
Mulder wiped himself up a little and leaned an elbow on the bar. "Yeah, where's my car?"
"Who cares. You're not driving." He picked up the phone behind the bar and pressed one number. "You've got a passenger. Yeah, no, he ain't goin' anywhere."
The cab was there quickly, leading Mulder to believe it had been close by waiting for such a call. The cab driver stepped inside the bar.
"Right here," the bartender pointed at Mulder.
"Hey, guy. What a ride?"
"Yeah," Mulder rose and fell back against the bar. The bartender shook his head and Mulder righted himself and moved toward the door.
"Buddy, you got the bucks for a cab?" Mulder nodded tiredly. "If he doesn't - "
"Yeah, I know." The cabdriver took his arm and led him to the car. He seated him and buckled him in. "Do you know where you live?"
"117 Willowbrook," Mulder muttered. It was three streets over from his house. Then he slumped down in the seat and shortly began light snoring. With little traffic they reached the house quickly and the cab stopped.
"Hey, wake up. You're home."
Mulder sat up and blearily looked around. "Yeah."
"It's eleven bucks. You got that?"
Mulder shifted and pulled his wallet out. He pulled out a twenty. "Keep it, I think you just saved my life."
"Well someone's anyway. Thanks. You have your keys?"
Mulder climbed out of the cab and pulled his key ring from his pocket. "I think I better see if I can get in the back real quiet."
"Good luck." He pulled away to head back toward the bar. With a little luck he'd get a couple more fares tonight. Mulder began walking slowly up the driveway, but once the cab had turned the corner, he headed back out to the sidewalk and began jogging toward his house.
When he was only a block away, he removed his cap and jogged home, not trying to disguise himself at all. At the door he pulled out his keys and let himself in.
He stopped and raised his hands in the air. "It's me."
Dana lowered the gun with a shaking hand and moved back into the family room. He wanted to ask if she was okay, but since he knew she wasn't, he kept quiet. He took a seat beside her and reached for her hand.
"I am so sorry I pulled you into this," he said softly.
She looked up and he could see the tears. "I was going to say thank you for saving my life."
"And thank you for saving mine."
She didn't acknowledge that. "You were gone a long time. What did you do?"
He relayed his travels and she actually smiled at his rendition of his drunk act. "Did Will wake up?"
She shook her head and her small smile faded. "Are you sure these are the same men that hit me?"
He nodded. "The front of the car. They'd replaced the light bulb but the damage was there. In the dark, since the light was working, it wasn't visible, but . . . "
"You think they want to kill me?"
"No! I think they saw me in the car earlier. They may have put a tracking device on the thing, for them to be so sure of the car they were aiming for. At least, that's one of the things the guys are looking into. That reminds me, I need to scan in the prints and pictures. And you need to go to bed."
She shuddered. "I don't think - "
"I murdered a man."
"You defended your home from armed intruders."
"We didn't call the police."
He didn't really have an answer for that. How could he make her understand that the people that had created their son, that worked for the conspiracy, would never be punished regardless of their actions?
"We should go to bed."
She sighed and started to rise. "Oh I forgot. I need to bleed on the carpet."
"I cleaned up the blood, but I've seen enough TV to know it's still there. I was going to confuse the DNA by adding my blood."
"I'm living with a CSI freak?"
"If I become a pathologist . . . "
"You're full of surprises, but I'll do the bleeding. Let me get a pin."
"Needle. You don't need blood poisoning on top of everything else."
"Yes, ma'am." He found a small sewing kit in their bathroom and brought it down.
"I marked the places." She pointed to the tiny pieces of tape. He nodded and knelt on the carpet. He pricked his finger and squeezed a few drops out.
"I'll go to the airport in the morning and get a rental car. For now, there's nothing else we can do."
She nodded and rose to her feet. He scooped her up. "Mulder - "
"I need this."
She didn't dispute that and sighed pressing her face into his chest. He lay her back on the bed. "Would you mind if Will slept with us tonight?" she asked.
"I think that's a good idea." He got the baby and brought him to their room. He just rolled over and cuddled in to his mother's side, not waking. Mulder watched him for a moment, then looked up to see Dana watching him. "It'll be okay."
He placed his gun carefully in the top drawer of the bedside table and stripped down to his shorts, then crawled in with them.
The next morning he woke to find Will sitting up between them, watching them with a serious expression. Dana stirred and opened her eyes. Before she could speak she distinctly heard the words, *thank you*.
She stared at the baby for a moment, then turned to Mulder. "Did you - "
"Thank you? Yeah, I heard it."
"He wasn't asleep."
Her eyes widened in horror and she reached for the boy. He came into her arms, seemingly giving her comfort more than taking it. Mulder hesitated for a moment, then stroked the boy's hair. Dana looked up at him, but he only shrugged.
"I'll make the coffee." He pulled on the jeans he had dropped beside the bed and headed downstairs. He caught the glint of a sliver of glass they had missed the night before and an idea came to him. He carried a cup of coffee up to her and took Will to change him. He brought the boy back and explained his plan. She couldn't find a flaw, and nodded.
She made her way to the bathroom with Will and closed her eyes when she heard the lawnmower start up. The sound didn't last long and she limped back to the bed.
Mulder tapped on Marge's back door.
"Hi! I was going to come over in a little while. How's Katy?"
"Sore and still kinda shaky." He stepped inside at her gesture.
"What can I do for you?"
He held up his hand, showing the bandaids on his fingers.
"What happened to you?"
"I was mowing and hit a rock. It broke a window. Thank goodness Katy and Will were upstairs. While I was cleaning up . . . " he shrugged. "Just call me klutz. We discovered we don't have a phone book, and therefore no yellow pages. We need someone to fix the window."
She shook her head, laughing. "I'll get it." She pulled the phonebook out of the drawer by the fridge and opened it to glass repair.
He jotted down a number, then turned to taxis.
"Oh, I need to get a rental car from the airport."
"I was just at the airport. Stan's out of town until the end of the week. Use his car."
"I can't - "
"Sure you can. I don't need two cars. Fill it up when you return it and we'll call it even." She pulled the keys from the hook and handed them to him.
"I really appreciate this."
She waved her hand in dismissal. "Oh, and I'm bringing dinner over tonight. I know Lou brought something last night."
"You don't - " He stopped at the look on her face. "Thank you." She smiled and nodded.
"I better get back."
"Okay. If you need any help with the baby, let me know."
He returned home and called the glass company, then signed on to his email. "Whoa."
"What?" He hadn't heard Dana limp into the room. Will scrambled into his lap.
"Uh, well, the guys were able to identify the two men." He looked over at her when she remained silent. "We did society a favor. These were seriously bad dudes."
"They were ex-military, dishonorable discharges for multiple offenses including rape and assault. The blonde guy was out on bail for an alleged murder for hire. The brunette has been up for murder three times, but gotten off each time, almost as though he had friends in high places. You know, the kind that used his services occasionally?"
"They were criminals."
"Dana, honest men don't break into houses with guns and try to kill unarmed people."
"I know that," she snapped.
"But you were thinking like that. You saved my life last night. If you had taken the time to think about it, we'd probably both be dead and Will taken. That's what you need to concentrate on. I know what happened here is going to weigh on you, but you saved our son."
He smiled then. "We also got a package, so I need to run by the UPS store. I could go by the dealership and see if the car - Sorry, I'm not thinking."
"Not thinking about what?"
"I can't leave you here alone that long."
"How long are do think that will take you?"
"Probably an hour or so."
"Mulder, I am certainly capable of looking after myself and Will for an hour."
"What if he needs a diaper or - "
"Check him before you go. Really, we'll be fine."
He hesitated. "Will you keep my gun on you?" She stared at him for a moment, then nodded. "I won't be long."
She moved toward him and leaned up, giving him a kiss on the cheek. "I know."
His arms went around her and he kissed her. "I don't think I've ever said this, but my life is much better with you in it."
She blinked at him, then smiled and nodded. He checked Will, then headed toward town. He was a little early for the shipment to UPS, but another shop caught his eye and he pulled in. He purchased a box of 9 mm rounds for his gun, only one, but he could begin a small stockpile. While there he also purchased a couple of wind up flashlights to keep by the bed and in the kitchen. By the time he completed his shopping, it was time for the UPS delivery so he headed over there.
It didn't take them long to find his package and he headed out to the car to open it. The CD didn't surprise him, but the small pieces of equipment stumped him. He found the note at the bottom of the box and realized they had sent him something to check for the tracking device and bugs at the house. Well, it couldn't hurt.
He headed for the dealership and was led to the car by Ray, one of the service managers. "I'm sorry, Mr. Hale, you don't want this car any more. The axle is shot, the block is cracked, the radiator is punctured." He shook his head. "I saw the car seat . . . "
"He wasn't in the car."
Ray shut his eyes for a moment, then nodded. "Thank goodness."
Mulder nodded, seeing the car again had brought back the horror of yesterday. "I, uh, I need to get the car seat and . . . "
"Of course. Look, whenever you're ready to look at something to replace this, you come on in. We'll take care of you."
"Thanks," Mulder nodded and took a deep breath. He opened the back door and began unhooking the car seat. Ray responded to a call. "Go ahead, I'll let you know when I'm ready to leave."
"Okay, you take care." He walked away and Mulder pulled the instrument he'd gotten from the guys out of his pocket. The light immediately began flashing. He wasn't surprised, more angry with himself. Why hadn't he been watching for this? How could he have let his guard down just because he thought they were off the radar? He'd allow his family to be in danger. That couldn't happen again.
He found the tracker in the wheel well of the rear tire on the passenger's side, but left it there. Putting it on another car could get someone else hurt. Now he needed to get home to his family.