Will's walking was rapidly improving, but she'd been right to use the stroller this time. Babies needed so much stuff. She had a blanket under the seat with a small cooler on top of it. The diaper bag hung from the handle. She lifted Will out of the stroller after she parked it beside the swings.
She fitted Will into a swing and his little legs pumped, urging her to hurry up and push. Laughing she complied, giving him a little push and he squealed with delight.
After several minutes, she lifted him back out of the swing. "Time for some food, little man. Do you want to walk?" She stood him on his feet and took his hand. She steered the stroller one handed as they made their way to a nice spot in the shade. She spread out the blanket and he sank into a crawl when it was smoothed out.
She pulled the bag off of the handle and sat it on the blanket, then pulled the cooler beside her. She took a seat beside him and began digging for his lunch. It was a beautiful day, warm enough, even in the shade. She looked over toward the swings and smiled. Will suddenly squealed with delight and began crawling rapidly toward something behind her. "Hey, hold it, Little Man, what - " She turned to look and had to crane her neck to look up into the face of Special Agent Mulder.
He was carrying a large shopping bag, which he dropped onto the grass and picked up the boy who was reaching for him, his little hands opening and closing in the age old 'pick me up' signal. Mulder tossed him gently into the air and caught him, then looked down at Dana. "Hi, I was just in the neighborhood . . . "
She laughed. "Right. Well, I guess I could offer you a corner of our blanket."
"I'd be honored." He took a seat on the blanket and Will made himself comfortable in the man's lap.
"Really, what are you doing here?"
"You might have mentioned a birthday party, and I thought I'd crash."
She blinked in surprise. "You remembered that?"
He gave her a sad smile she didn't quite understand. "I remember everything, but I wanted to remember this. Do you mind?"
"No, not at all and I think you saw Will's reaction. He really must have fixated on you, to remember you that well. He's gone into that shy stage, and won't let most people near him. You're a major exception."
"Good, I like the sound of that. Oh, I brought us some lunch."
"Lunch? I brought - "
"I couldn't see you eating Cheerios and those beef sticks I spotted in the refrigerator. I got us a sub to share, Italian. Hope you like it."
Her smile grew. "I love Italian subs and yes, that does sound better than the peanut butter and jelly I brought."
He mock shuddered and pulled out the sub. The three of them ate, enjoying the company. Dana found herself watching this man, unsure what to think. He'd saved her and her son, and been exceedingly kind to them following it, but even in her wildest fantasies - which she would never confess to - she had never expected to see him again. For him to show up like this to celebrate Will's birthday was blowing her away.
After the meal had been consumed, Dana reached into her bag and pulled out a plastic container with four brightly colored cupcakes. "I thought this would be a little better for out here. She snapped open the container and pulled one birthday candle out. She stuck it in the cupcake and handed it to Mulder. "I have matches somewhere." She dug into her bag and came up with her camera. "I almost forgot! Where is my head? Here's the matches. Hold it in front of him and let me take a picture. Don't let him grab the flame."
"No flame grabbing; got it." Mulder grinned as her cheeks flushed.
She shook her head, but focused the camera on Will's smiling face as he did indeed reach for the flame. Mulder pulled the cupcake away and explained things to the boy, which didn't seem to help at all. Finally, the picture was taken to her satisfaction and she put the camera down.
"Wait a minute." Mulder said. "Let me get one of the two of you. This is a special occasion." He picked up the camera and centered them in the lens, as she held the boy up to her face and kissed him. "I like that one. I think I'll need a copy." He took several more, then lay the camera back down.
"May I take one of you and Will?"
Mulder's smile lit his face and her breath caught. "I'd like that." He picked the baby up and Will grabbed Mulder's nose and laughed. "Gee, thanks kid. It's not big enough without you pointing it out."
"I wouldn't change a thing," she said before she could stop herself. She turned back to her bag immediately; her cheeks pink again and rummaged through it.
"Uh, I brought the birthday boy a gift, if you don't mind."
"A gift? You didn't have to - "
"I wanted to." He reached into the shopping bag again and brought out a box from Build-A-Bear. He 'unlatched' the cardboard container and allowed Will to pull the box open. Will babbled something and grabbed for the bear inside. Mulder helped him get it out, and Dana saw that the bear was dressed in jeans, gray t-shirt and leather jacket.
"That, that's what you were wearing . . ."
He nodded. "The Bureau's 'uniform' is a bad suit and tie. I wanted him to feel safe, not disgusted with the dress code."
She chuckled, but she was more moved than she could have thought.
Will held the bear up to show Dana and babbled, "Mudder Air."
"I think it's a boy bear, Will," Mulder offered.
"I, uh, I don't think he's saying mother, I think, I think he's saying Mulder."
"Are, are you serious?"
She nodded, watching the wonder in his eyes.
"Thanks, Big Guy." He ruffled the boy's hair. Will was hugging the bear tight and telling him something seriously important. Mulder chanced a glance at Dana to find her watching him. He shrugged and gave her a goofy little grin, but she could see he was touched.
"How about a swing, Will?"
Will looked up, recognizing the word. "Ing! Ing!"
"Just be careful, swing slow. He did just eat."
"Good tip. We'll be careful." He lifted the baby and bear into his arms and headed for the swings.
"Uh, Mulder - "
He turned back.
"Don't, uh, don't get out of sight."
"Promise." He nodded reassuringly and moved on. She watched for a moment, then began packing up their things. She never took more than thirty seconds to look up again and spot them. Mulder noted this, and kept their time on the swings short. She was obviously bothered by separation, and was just as obviously trying to hide it.
He let Will walk part of the way back, then swung the boy up again to peals of laughter and trotted back to her. Mulder settled back down on the blanket and Will reached for Dana.
"I think you're getting tired, Little Man," Dana said as she took him and the bear into her arms. The thumb entered the mouth and his eyes fluttered closed. She watched him fondly for a minute, then looked up to see Mulder watching her. She couldn't read his expression.
"I hope I didn't make you uncomfortable taking him like that. I know what you went through - "
"No, it's not that. Besides, who else would I trust him with? No, actually it's something else. I, almost two years ago, I was kidnapped. I have trouble letting him out of my sight when we're not at home. Guess I'm going to be in big trouble when he's really mobile."
"Kidnapped? What happened? Uh, if you can talk about it."
"I can talk about it; I just don't know what happened. The authorities think I must have been drugged the entire time."
"How long were you gone?"
"A month? What . . . "
Dana looked down at Will, sound asleep. "It was another picnic. I don't go on nighttime picnics anymore."
"Were you with Allen?"
She was slightly startled that he remembered the name, but she shook her head. "No, I was with a crowd from the hospital. We'd had an especially hard week, so we decided to take a night, just play for few hours. We drove down to a place in Virginia, Skyland Mountain. It has a lift that goes up to the top, but it doesn't run at night. Some of them were partying pretty hard; I'm a cheap drunk, so I'd only had one beer. I don't remember much, but from what I've heard, there was a deer hunter up there, spotlighting, because everyone remembers a bright light. I think even I remember that. Then, it's the strangest thing, but everyone seems to have passed out. When they woke up, I was gone."
He was watching her a little too intently, so she looked back down at the baby.
"They thought maybe I had wandered away, and they got the ranger up there as fast as possible. It was dark, they couldn't find anything. They looked for several days, but . . . Then I turned up at Walter Reed."
"Walter Reed Army Hospital."
"How did you get there?"
She shrugged. "No one knows. I was in the ER, unconscious. No one remembers me arriving. They ran all kinds of tests, but there were no drugs in my system, no obvious trauma to my body. I haven't had any long term effects."
"You got pregnant after you got back." It wasn't a question.
"We were always careful, but I guess nothing's foolproof," she said, trying for a light note. She drew herself up. "The hospital drew blood, they ran every test. If I'd been pregnant, they would have told me."
He seemed to come back to himself. "I'm sure they would have. Sorry, I was just thinking. I wonder if this case was investigated by the Bureau. You know, kidnapping."
"I, I don't know. I assume so, but since I was returned . . . "
"Yeah. Thank goodness."
She smiled then, and looked back down at Will. "Yes."
"Are you going to stay here until he wakes up?"
"No, I need to load him up. He's good and asleep now, so I should be able to get him home. He really wore himself out today."
Mulder got to his feet and lifted the sleeping boy into his arms. She stood, brushing off her jeans. Mulder maneuvered the baby into the seat of the stroller and buckled him in. Dana loaded their supplies and walked beside him as Mulder pushed the stroller toward the parking lot. It wasn't the smoothest ride, but Will, head resting on 'Mudder Air' didn't wake.
He loaded her things while she transferred the boy to his car seat. When he finished, he gently closed and latched the trunk, then joined her at the driver's door. "Thanks for letting me attend the party."
"You made it a party. I really appreciate it."
"May I call you sometime?"
She blinked and stood up straighter. "You, yes, I'd like that."
He grinned then. "I'll be in touch." He winked at her and shut the door after she was seated. He watched as she pulled out of the parking lot and left.
When she was out of sight, he pulled his cell phone from his pocket. He pressed one number and put it to his ear. "I need to talk to you. Yeah, thanks." He didn't say goodbye, just slipping the phone back in his pocket.
He heard the locks being disengaged as he waited, trying not to show his impatience, since he knew he was on camera.
"Mulder, my man, that's a little casual." The short scruffy man looked him up and down.
Mulder looked down at his jeans, pot calling the kettle with Frohike. "I took the afternoon off. I need some help."
"Sure, what's up?"
"I need some sophisticated hacking."
"Then you've come to the right place. What are we looking for?"
"Medical records," he responded as he headed inside.
"Did you say hacking?" A taller blonde, Langly, his hair pulled back in a ponytail, joined them. A man with a beard, wearing a tie followed him into the room. This one was Byers.
"Mulder, it's good to see you." The bearded man held out his hand to shake, the others hadn't even considered it.
"Thanks," he took his hand. "I'm hoping you guys can get some information for me."
"I know these guys will try. Would you like a beer?"
"Yeah, thanks." Mulder followed the trio into the work room. Byers continued on to the back, to the living space of their building.
"Whose medical records?" Frohike took a seat at his computer as Langly leaned back in his chair, listening as well.
"Dana Scully. I don't have a social, but she's mid-twenties. She was a kidnap victim and returned to Walter Reed."
"Military?" Langly's grin grew. Mulder could visualize him rubbing his hands. "When?"
"Eighteen, nineteen months ago. There was no record of her arrival; they found her there, unconscious. I haven't been to the office. I'll have more details later and I'll get them to you. That's assuming there's a report at the Bureau."
"What's this about, Mulder?" Byers handed him a bottle.
"There's something familiar about the circumstances of the kidnapping," Mulder said cautiously.
"Okay," Frohike turned away, and he and Langly got down to work. Mulder visited with Byers for a short while, but his obvious nerves led Byers to fall silent.
"You've got something you want to be doing," he said finally.
Mulder met his eyes. "Yeah, I do."
"Go on. We'll get in touch. Since it's military, it could take some time."
"Thanks. Give me a call any time." Mulder rose and Byers walked him out.
Instead of going home, Mulder headed toward the office. He was hyped up anyway; he might as well start looking for the case on Dana.
It was after hours, so he was pleased to see that he was unobserved, or at least un-approached when he entered the building. He hurried down the stairs to his squatters 'office' and booted up his computer. Finally he was able to locate her information and felt only a little jolt when he saw that her file had been designated 'X'. So, the Bureau thought she'd been abducted as well, he thought dryly. He rose and headed next door to the storeroom that apparently only he and some out-of-favor file clerk ever entered.
It took a few minutes, those out-of-favor file clerks weren't always the most careful about doing the job well, but he did find her file only a few spaces from where it should have been in the current filing 'system'.
He removed it, returned to his make-shift office and made himself comfortable in the chair.
It was hours before he moved again. He’d absorbed the information on the first read through, but read it again, and for a third time before he stopped. So many similarities . . . He dropped the file on his desk and leaned back in the chair, staring at the ceiling, but not seeing it. So many similarities.
Finally he rose. He unlocked the file cabinet he had moved into the room and locked the file in the top drawer, next to his holy grail, which he touched for an instant, but didn't remove. He finally looked down at his watch. Shit, nearly midnight, time had gotten away from him. He headed for the stairs; there was no energy in his steps.