He listened to the car leave the driveway and didn’t want to admit how uneasy her absence made him. How must she have felt when he’d taken the baby after tying her up? He closed his eye at that memory until he felt Will’s hand on his face.
“What am I doing, Will? Is it going to help? Are you safe, you and your Mom?” Will squirmed to get down and Mulder followed him to the back door. “Outside, huh? Okay, let’s see what’s out there.”
He opened the sliding glass door and they headed outside. The lawn had been sodded, so there was a nice stand of grass. Will tumbled around on it, delighted to be outside and playing.
In a few minutes the children from next door also came outside and when they spotted Mulder and Will, came running over. “Hi!” the older boy said as his little sister hid behind him.
“Hi, are you Marge’s kids?”
“Yeah, I’m Kevin, this is Candice. He’s Will, right?”
“Right, I’m William.” He held out his hand and Kevin shook it, grinning.
“Mom said to let you know that Will’s welcome to use the swing set. There’s a baby swing and Candice’s outgrown it.”
“Ing?” Will caught that word and Mulder grinned.
“I think he’d like that.”
The four of them headed over to the next backyard and Mulder sat Will in the molded yellow plastic swing. While Mulder pushed both Will and Candice, Kevin proceeded to interrogate him with some skill.
Marge stepped out in a few minutes, wiping her hands. “Has he extracted your entire history yet?”
Mulder chuckled. “Not quite, but not from lack of trying.”
“He’s planning on a career in the media,” she said dryly. “I saw the furniture truck. You find everything okay?”
“She had a field day. It does look nice and actually goes together. She’s waited a long time for that.”
Marge laughed out loud. “I remember. The first time we had a couch and chair that coordinated, I thought we’d hit the jackpot. Of course then Kevin spilled his juice all over it, but that’s another story.”
They visited, relaxing. Will used the slide, with Mulder’s help, and seemed to love the experience. Candice loved taking over as mommy, and held his hand as they played around the yard.
“We’re going to have to get a swing set,” Mulder mused.
“Oh don’t bother, use this one any time. If you want to get some play equipment, get something with one of those mini-climbing walls or something different. We’ll build our own play park back here.”
“That’s a great idea. I’ll talk to Katy and look at what’s out there. I bet Kevin would be a huge help on this.”
Marge nodded in agreement, watching Candice holding Will’s hand as they walked toward them. “I think you’ve got a babysitter.”
Mulder chuckled. This was so far outside his experience, but he was truly enjoying it.
After a little while Marge headed back inside and Mulder retrieved Will. “We probably need to head inside, Big Guy.”
“She should be back soon, Will, don’t - “ He didn’t finish his comment because she pulled into the driveway at that point. Mulder looked down at the boy. He couldn’t have seen her from this angle, or heard the car. Not having anyone to ask, Mulder headed to the front of the house.
She was getting out of the car, but she looked worried. He picked up his steps and met her at the driveway. “I’m glad you’re home.”
She looked up and managed a smile. Concerned, he handed Will to her and she hugged him. “Go on in. I’ll get the bags.”
“There’s a lot of them,” she admitted.
“I can handle it. Go on.” He watched her head inside and in seconds the garage door opened. He opened the back of the SUV and his eyes widened at the number of bags.
He picked up four and headed inside. He deposited them on the counter, but she wasn’t downstairs. He heard her voice from upstairs, she was probably changing Will. He should have checked that, she’d think he was waiting for her to do it or something. Shit. He headed back outside and got another armful of bags.
She was back downstairs when he returned to the kitchen. “Hey, I’m sorry about the diaper. We were playing and - “
“Oh, that’s okay. He was fine.”
“Then what’s wrong?”
“I spent too much. I was buying the basics. We didn’t have anything, so - "
“That’s okay. We needed this stuff.”
“But we only have $20,000. We spent over three on furniture. It’s not going to last
for - "
“Hold it. I didn’t explain it right. That money, the $20,000 is just emergency funds. We’re not using that for daily expenses.”
“But, but what are we using? I mean, neither of us is working.”
“Dana, I have, uh, money.”
“Yeah. You mentioned that Allen had more money than time to spend with Will. I understand that. My parents divorced after, after Samantha, and they felt that way, and my Grandmother Mulder left me a trust.”
“Why do you work for the FBI?”
“Samantha,” he said simply.
After a moment she nodded.
“Don’t worry about the finances. We could probably live here for ten years before I forced you to get a job.” He grinned.
“Do you think we’ll be here that long?”
“Good question. I hate that you have to put your life on hold like this.”
“I, I feel safe and that means a lot.” She turned toward the counter. “Let me get this stuff put away.”
He nodded and brought the last of the bags inside. He started unloading them, letting her decide where things belonged. “You know, this isn’t really that much out of line. I mean, you’re not going to be buying tin foil or detergent or, or salt every time you go to the store. And we probably won’t be buying furniture on a weekly basis. We just need to get settled.”
“And if they find us and we have to run?”
“Don’t. Please don’t dwell on that. You need to concentrate on Will and, heck there’s a medical school here. Maybe you can - "
“I’d have to apply and since I have no background or grades . . .”
“I can work on that.”
She blinked. “You could, couldn’t you?”
“Well, not personally, but I know these guys . . . “
They changed the subject then, to what he and Will had been up to while she was gone. The idea of a play park in the backyard did bring a smile to her face.
She fixed some lunch, then Will went down for a much needed nap. While he was down they filled cabinets and she got the ingredients for dinner ready. After she assured him she could handle the rest, he headed upstairs to the second bedroom to set up a make-shift office. He powered up his computer and contacted the guys.
"Anything happening?" he typed.
"We got the footage of the guys breaking into both apartments. We're trying to do facial recognition."
"When we found the . . . evidence, we mounted cameras outside both doors, you know, just to see if anyone came calling when you didn't return."
"Two guys, looking very military - in a bad way - showed up."
"Uh, after they were inside someone else . . . joined them."
"Who?" Pulling this out was frustrating him. If he'd been closer he'd have Frohike hanging from a hook by now.
"Di - How did she know where - "
"We don't know, unless she was listening in."
There was dead silence on both ends then. He startled when he heard her on the steps. "Don't mention this, I need to think about it."
He broke the connection, then called her into the office. She looked around. “Maybe we do need a little more furniture.”
He managed a smile. “Yeah, a desk, a chair and a file cabinet. Then I’ll be all set.”
“Sounds like something you could decide on without too much input.”
“But I’m getting into this coordinating thing.” He shoved the information about Diana aside and made his decision. "We have a little more information on the break-ins. The guys put spy cameras outside of our apartments after they found the bugs."
"Oh, uh, we weren't communicating too well then. The guys, my friends, went over to your place to make sure you weren't under surveillance."
He nodded. "So they put one of those nanny cams outside your apartment to see if anyone came by. They got some pictures of the men that, that searched it."
"Do you have them?"
He nodded and pulled up the grainy pictures of two burly men with short, military haircuts. "The guys aren't sure, but they may have tripped something, let whoever was listening know that the bugs had been found. They heard me tell you about Samantha, about my theories. They knew I'd made the connection. That's why I couldn't waste any time getting you out of the way."
"You were right," she said softly.
After Will woke up, they took a walk around the neighborhood, getting their bearings. There was a swimming pool, tennis courts and club house only four blocks away.
“Do we belong to that?” she asked as they looked around. The sign on the pool said it was slated to open Memorial Day.
“Yeah, we pay dues to the neighborhood. Do you play tennis?”
“I haven’t since before Will was born, but I remember the rules. What about you?”
“I played in England, but I’m more of a swimmer.”
“We’re really acting like a married couple,” she mused.
“I’m sorry, I - "
“Don’t apologize. I’m not complaining. Come on, I need to start on dinner.”
After a much nicer dinner than he was accustomed to, he and Will handled clean up, then under supervision, Mulder also handled Will’s bath. Even Dana was laughing when that was over.
After Will was down for the night, they relaxed in front of the TV, bickering mildly over the remote. She finally went upstairs for the night and he got ready for bed himself, then stretched out on the couch, turned the TV low. His thoughts immediately returned to Diana. She'd help orchestrate the birth of his son, but it hadn't just been sperm delivery apparently. She had known where Dana lived, she'd shown up during the search of her apartment. He knew without a doubt that nothing about this place was there, but what had she been looking for? After a long time he drifted off.
He woke the next morning to find her cuddled in beside him, sound asleep. Okay, now what was going on? He didn’t remember a nightmare. Hell, he didn’t remember her joining him on the couch, but she most definitely was here and warm and comfortable. She felt very good in his arms. How was she going to feel about this? She had come down here, obviously, but was she aware of that?
She stirred, stretching and opened her eyes directly into his. Startled she drew back and his arms tightened around her to keep her from falling from the couch.
“Morning,” he said softly.
“What’s going on?” She looked around. “What am I doing down here?”
He shook his head. “I don’t know, but I’m not complaining.”
Her face flamed as she took in the fact that her body was pressed against the full length of his. His 'approval' of that fact was damn evident.
She did pull away then and he allowed it. He sat up himself and kept quiet.
“What happened? Did you have another nightmare?”
“Not that I remember. I was surprised you were down here. I’m thinking we paid a lot of money for a bed neither of us is using.” He grinned and she looked down.
“I don’t remember coming down here.” She sounded scared now. “If I’m sleepwalking . . . “
"I'm not sure what's happening. It would do my ego a lot of good to think you felt safer in my arms." He watched her blush and realized there was a possibility she really did feel that way. "Look, nothing happened, except we got a good night's sleep. Why don't you go on and take your shower. I'll wrangle Will into something and meet you back here in a little while."
She nodded and rose. He waited until he heard the sound of the bedroom door close before he headed upstairs. He made a beeline to Will's room, to find the boy standing at the crib. He started jumping and smiling at the sight of Mulder.
Mulder lifted him into his arms and looked the boy straight in the eye. "Did you have anything to do with your mother coming downstairs last night?"
Will smiled brightly and babbled something, cuddling against Mulder's bare shoulder.
"I thought so. Now how am I supposed to explain it to her?"
He dressed the boy and headed back downstairs. She was there, her hair pulled back into a ponytail, scrambling eggs.
"I should have waited," she sighed.
"Your shower. Now your eggs will be cold."
"Not a problem. I'll shower afterward. You okay?"
That didn't sound exactly true, but he didn't pursue it. Instead he settled Will into his highchair and poured the juice she had purchased. When they were settled at the table and eating, Dana assisting Will, Mulder turned to her. He watched her tense up, but didn't let it stop him.
"You said Will was 'above the curve' what does that mean exactly?"
The question obviously surprised her and she smiled. "Well, he's tall for his age, but his weight is proportional. He's walking right on time, and his verbal skills are advanced. Besides Mama and, and Dada, he's said words that aren't nouns, which is unusual for his age. Of course he knows 'swing', 'juice', but I've heard him say 'help' which should be above his level. And, and Mulder Bear . . . that's a two word 'sentence' using skills that combined your name and the animal. That's totally above a 12-month olds usual ability. Many times I've been just talking to him and, and it seems like he understands what I'm saying." She looked over at Will. “Like now, for instance.”
"And you're not proud or anything," Mulder chuckled.
Her eyes gleamed. "I'm terribly proud.”
“Did you have him tested?”
She shook her head. “He’s a baby. What if I discovered he was gifted? I certainly wouldn’t want to take away his babyhood. I want him to play and be loved and happy. There’s time to figure out the rest.”
“For being such a good mom. I totally agree.”
She looked down at her breakfast, but he saw she was smiling. When he looked over at Will, the boy had returned to his eggs and picked some up in his hand. Without speaking, Mulder thought *Will, look at me.* The boy stopped what he was doing and looked up at Mulder. *Thanks, go ahead and eat.*
Will turned back to his breakfast and stuffed some eggs into his mouth.
“Will, I’ve got a spoon here,” Dana said, holding it up.
He gave her a toothy grin. She looked over at Mulder, to find him staring into space. She couldn’t interpret the expression.
“Mulder? Is something wrong?”
He came back to the present. “Sorry, what?”
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, yeah, just thinking.”
“It didn’t seem that pleasant.”
“Not unpleasant, just puzzling. Sometimes I go back to one of those cases in the basement.”
“You can remember that kind of detail?”
He shrugged. “I remember everything.”
He nodded. “It’s not always a good thing, but it has come in handy on some occasions.”
“I guess I always thought having a perfect memory would be a great thing.”
He shook his head. “No, there’s lots of things that I’d really like to forget.” He saw the sympathy in her eyes and shook it off. “But you’re right, some memories are good.” He glanced at the couch and her eyes widened. She got to her feet and became busy in the kitchen.
Dana kept her back to him, but asked, “Do you want to shower now?”
“Yeah, I guess I better. Can you keep an eye on Will for me?”
She turned, her eyebrow high, to see the grin on his face.
“Yeah, okay, I’m goin’ up.” He loped up the stairs with Will’s laughter in his ears.
When he returned, he scooped up the boy. *Will, outside?*
Will look up, his eyes gleaming. Mulder wondered if he even realized the difference in the method of communication.
“Hey, Mom, can we go outside to play?” Mulder looked over at her, and she nearly choked at the puppy dog look on his face.
“Go!” She shooed them out the sliding door, then stood watching them a moment. Will really was a little miniature of the man. It was hard to believe how quickly he had taken to Mulder. He’d never done that with anyone else.
She’d trained to be a doctor, she was practical. She knew that ‘blood’ didn’t automatically know each other, but in this case . . .
Mulder allowed Will to move to the far side of the yard from him. It certainly was no great distance, but he waited until Will was looking the other way, then thought *Will, look at me.*
The boy turned and smiled at Mulder. Mulder felt the hairs on his arm stand on end. Coincidence? Whatever, Will toddled over to Mulder.
Mulder picked him up and swung him around, causing the boy to scream with glee. Mulder pulled the boy into a hug. He’d never thought about children, not having them anyway. His own family life, or lack thereof, had just not leant itself to craving reproduction. But this boy, his son, was changing all of those ideas. Okay, he hadn’t been at this ‘father’ thing for very long, but he was loving it.
He gave the boy another squeeze. “I love you, Will.”
In his head, he clearly heard the word “love”. It wasn’t his voice, it was younger than him, much younger, but it had been completely clear. He looked down at the boy, Will’s head against his chest. Emotion closed his throat. The boy had responded to him.
Dana stepped outside then and saw them. She didn’t approach, but Will looked up and smiled at her. Mulder took a deep breath and moved toward her.
“You two looked awfully serious,” she mused watching them approach her.
“Just bonding,” Mulder said, looking back down at the boy.
Her brow furrowed, but she didn’t say anything.
“What are the plans for the day?” he asked to break the silence.
“Well . . . “
“Uh oh, I’m beginning to learn your expressions. What?”
“There’s still some things we need around here.”
She glanced back in the house. “I can’t believe they put beige carpet where the table has to go. We need to get something to protect it.”
“You want one of those plastic things to go under the high chair?”
“He’s not the only one that might spill things.”
Mulder looked down at Will. “I think your mom just dissed us both, Big Guy. How should we take that?”
Will grinned and reached for Dana. Mulder surrendered him to her. “That’s not all we need, you know.”
“Well, clothes for one thing,” he responded.
“You’re tired of my outfit?”
“No,” he grinned, “but I’m pretty sure you left more than a couple of pairs of jeans and some t-shirts at home.”
“Yes, I did,” she said mournfully.
“Shopping trip, Will. The lady needs some new duds.”
“I know we need this stuff, but I still feel guilty spending this money without contributing.”
“You don’t like being a kept woman?”
“That’s exactly how I feel.”
“Umm . . . “
Her glare caused both males to chuckle.
"Come on, let's get the rug and clothes, and maybe my office stuff."
She nodded. "I'd forgotten that. I'll check diapers, then we can go."
They had a good day, stopping at McDonald's for lunch, more for the Happy Meal toy than the actual food and a little time in the play area. During Will's nap, Mulder found Dana downstairs sorting laundry.
"Dana, we need to talk."
She turned, curious and stopped at his expression. "Has something happened? Have they found - "
"No, no nothing like that. It's another one of those topics where you'll decide I need a straight jacket again." He led her back to the couch and took a seat beside her. "It's Will."
"What about him?" she sounded wary now.
"You were talking about how advanced he was, how he seems to understand more than 'normal'." She nodded. "I think you're right. I think . . . "
"I think he can read minds."
Her expression didn't change; she just sat looking at him.
"Really. I'm not kidding. I've done a little testing and - "
"Well, I've been 'thinking' things at him and he responds as though I've said them out loud."
"You're right; the straight jacket is beginning to look good again."
He managed a sick looking smile. "I'm not kidding, Dana. When we were playing outside this morning, I would let him get across the yard from me and I wouldn't say anything out loud, I just thought for him to look at me. He stopped and turned and, and looked at me."
"That's called a coincidence."
"Yeah, maybe the first couple of times. He's done it every time I've tried it."
Her brow furrowed a little at that. "How many times?"
"At breakfast this morning, playing outside, at the stores several times. And . . . "
He looked down, blushing. "I told him I loved him, and I distinctly heard the word 'love' in my head. It was a young boy's voice, not mine."
"You love him?"
He looked up quickly. "Yeah, I do."
She was quiet then for several long moments, then, "You didn't have to tell me this."
"I know, but I'm trying to be upfront with you, honest. This may be the kind of thing they were looking for when they . . . " Her eyes widened, and the thought of biting off his tongue came to him. "I'm sorry."
"Is he in danger, if this is true, what - "
"I think, if it's true, and we need to keep testing that, but I think he'd be safer than either of us. He could see them coming."
"But how would he be able to protect himself!"
"He couldn't, but he could warn us. Dana, I will do everything I can to keep you both safe. Please, believe - "
He blinked. “Thank you.”
“What do we do?”
“We wait. I’ll put my desk together while he’s asleep. When he wakes up, you test it.” He turned toward the stairs.
“Uh, do, do you need any help?”
He turned back. She looked scared again. When the hell would he learn? “Yeah, that’d be good.”
The desk didn't take long and was even faster with the help. They finished just as Will woke.
A potluck cookout was planned by Marge to welcome them to the neighborhood and the whole block turned out. One of the last to arrive was the woman directly across from Marge's house, Lou and her son, George.
Marge was standing with Dana and Mulder and waved at Lou. "Single mother, the father split when they found out George is retarded, sorry, MR now. He's a sweetie, eight years old, and big for his age, but he kind of looks after everyone. No one picks on the little ones on the bus, George won't allow it."
"The father left?" Mulder asked.
Marge nodded and waved to Candice. "Just couldn't face not having a perfect son. Lou never says a word against him. He bought her the house and a check comes regularly, he just can't be around. Come on, I'll introduce you."
Marge drew them toward the woman. She had one hand on her son's shoulder, a bowl in the other. "Let me take that," Marge relieved her of the bowl as soon as they were close enough. George was carrying a bag of potato chips. "I'd like you to meet our newest neighbors, William and Katy Hale and their son, Will. This is Lou Sexton and her son, George."
"Please to meet you." Mulder shook her hand, then Dana.
"You too. Looks like you're getting the whole crowd at once."
Dana smiled. "I'm thinking of pulling out a notebook and jotting down names."
Lou and Marge both laughed. "Don't worry about it. We'll help, and there's no test at the end of the evening."
They looked down to see George staring at Will, in Mulder's arms. A wistful smile came over Lou's face. "George, this is Will. Can you say hi?"
Instead George looked down shyly. Will decided he'd been held long enough and made his desires known plainly. "Own!" Mulder put him on his feet and the baby immediately reached for George's hand. The larger boy looked up at his mother as though for permission.
"Be careful, he's just a baby." George nodded and slowly let Will walk with him to the play area. "He will be careful with him. He loves children."
"Will certainly took up with him quickly, didn't he?" Dana smiled, watching them. "I'm not looking forward to the separation anxiety."
"It comes and goes, don't worry about it." Marge led Lou and Dana toward the serving table set up in her back yard. Mulder wandered over toward the grill where the men were congregating and took the proffered beer from the cooler nearby. He stood where he could keep an eye on Will and noticed that Dana did the same. Mulder had no doubt that if Will needed them, he'd let them know, but it felt better being able to actually see him. There were some big kids out there and he could get knocked down easily.
Mulder quickly reached the conclusion that wasn't going to happen. George was keeping a closer eye on the baby than they were and protecting him from the roughhousing, even calling other kids down if they got too rowdy. When it was time to eat, George scooped Will up and brought him to Mulder.
"I'm sure he is," Mulder said, taking Will into his arms. "You guys were playing pretty hard."
"He didn't get hurt!"
"I know he didn't. I saw you were taking really good care of him."
George blushed and stubbed his toe in the grass, but seemed pleased at the praise. The three of them made their way over to one of the tables and Dana slipped Will into a baby seat borrowed from Marge and fixed a plate for him. That was the signal for all the kids to head over and Dana sat with them as they commandeered the table where Will and George now sat eating.
The kids went back to play while the adults ate and then Dana put Will down on a blanket over to the side. George immediately left the playing and took up his post beside the sleeping boy. Lou looked over a little puzzled. "He loves to be around babies, but I haven't seen him do that before."
"He was looking after Will very carefully before; I guess he just thinks that's his job now."
"I hope you don't mind."
"Not at all. These days the kids need all the watching they can get," Mulder said easily and watched Lou's shoulders relax.
With so many kids in the mix, the party didn't last late. Dana offered to help Marge with clean up but was waved again. "You get one free. Stan can help me. Go tuck Will in for the night. The next one can be at your place."
Chuckling, Dana agreed and followed Mulder back to the house. She changed Will and settled him for the night. "He should sleep well. He did a lot of trying to keep up with the big kids tonight."
"What?" Mulder said at her expression.
"Did you find it odd that George wanted to be around him so much?"
Mulder nodded. "I was thinking about that. George's thoughts were probably simple, easy to follow."
"But it wasn't Will following George around, it was George following Will."
"Good point. I don't know. Uh, what are the sleeping arrangements tonight?" He enjoyed the color that stained Dana's cheeks for a moment.
"Since I usually end up downstairs anyway," she said quietly, "why don't I start out there tonight. You can have the bed."
"You know I don't mind sharing," he tilted her head up to see her eyes.
"Mulder - "
"Sorry, just thought I'd mention it. Go on and get ready."
She hurried to dress for bed and get out of his way, though he told her not to. He stayed downstairs and watched a little TV while he was waiting. She came down shortly in pajamas and robe looking a little embarrassed.
"I really don't mind sleeping down here, Dana. You do know that, right? I'm used to it."
"I think we should try it. I've never sleep walked before and I don't . . . "
"Okay. Just know I don't mind."
"I do. Are you ready to go to bed, or do you want to finish this?"
"I'm not watching it. I'll go get ready for bed and give you one more chance to change your mind."
She chuckled and watched him lope up the stairs. No way would she admit she was admiring the view.