He woke to the feel of soft, warm breathing against his chest and looked down, smiling. Apparently she had again joined him in the night and it was much nicer up here with a queen bed to stretch out on rather than the couch. Of course the cuddling opportunity was nice downstairs too. He stayed still, enjoying the sensation of her against him but it wasn't long before she stirred and stretched. She halted in mid-stretch and looked up at him. Her face flamed as he grinned down at her. "I don't believe . . . "
"You always find me, no matter where I hide," he mused.
"Oh god!" she was up and rushing toward the bathroom as he chuckled and headed toward the nursery where Will was beginning to stir.
He changed the boy, then picked him up. "If you're behind this sleeping together thing, we're both going to get into trouble. I hope you realize that. It's not that I don't enjoy it, though I could enjoy it a lot more, but if she were armed, I'm pretty sure you'd be setting yourself up as an only child."
Will laughed and buried his face in Mulder's neck.
"Dana, isn't that George outside? The bus dropped him off and I don't think he can get into his house."
She joined him at the window. "I think you're right. Mulder, he's crying."
"I'll go get him. Something's wrong." He headed over there at a trot and mounted two of the stairs leading to the porch. "Hi, George. Everything okay?"
"Mom's gone," the boy sniffed.
"Oh, well I guess she had to run out somewhere. Why don't you come over and help me look after Will until she gets home?"
"Will? Okay." He picked up his backpack and walked with Mulder toward the street. He dutifully held out his hand when they stopped, and Mulder took it to walk across the street with him.
"I bet D-Katy has some cookies too. Would that be okay?"
George nodded solemnly. "I always get fruit or cookies when I get home."
"It's a deal then." Mulder opened the door and Will toddled in from the kitchen.
George looked delighted at the greeting and dropped his backpack to pick up the baby.
"Katy? Do we have any snacks for a hungry afterschool-er?"
"We sure do. Come on in here, George. Have a seat and I'll fix both of you boys a snack."
Mulder noted that George continued to glance toward the window, and took a seat beside him. "Why don't I keep an eye out for your mother? You can do your homework or play with Will. Okay?"
Big nervous eyes looked up at Mulder. "She'll come home?"
"I'll let you know as soon as I see her. Don't you worry." The boy seemed to relax a little at that and finished his juice; then retrieved his backpack and pulled out some work papers. They were no more than kindergarten level, but Mulder watched the large boy frown down at them. "Need any help?" Mulder offered, taking the seat across from George as Dana wiped Will's face and hands.
"I forgot what I'm supposed to do." George looked up.
"Well, let's look at it." Mulder took Will into his lap and the three of them looked over the papers. "This one is a connect the dots. See that dot has a number 1 beside it. You find number 2 and draw a line between them."
"Oh yeah, I remember that!" George dug a pencil out of his backpack and carefully drew a thick line between the two numbers, tongue firmly clamped between his lips.
"Then you have to find the 3."
It wasn't long before the drawing, a large butterfly was revealed. "She said we could color it if we wanted to."
"Do you have any crayons?"
George's face fell. "Not in my pack, they're in my room."
"Okay, you can do that later, when your mom get's home. Anything else?"
"I have two more sheets."
"Then let's get to them. Don't suppose we could have another couple of cookies?" he asked Dana, the puppy dog look on his face caused George and Dana to laugh.
The papers didn't take too long, though Mulder noted that George was looking at Will more and more often and actually nodded at something and painstakingly traced the form of the letters after a long look at Will.
Mulder looked up to see Dana was watching the same thing and they exchanged glances. When George was through, Mulder took the boys outside to play. Mulder didn't know what George was thinking, but Will seemed to be able to follow along.
Mulder looked over as Dana opened the sliding door. "She's home," she mouthed and Mulder nodded. She stepped outside while he slipped in and headed out the front door.
"Lou?" He trotted across the street.
"He's not here! They should never have let him off the bus without checking to see if I was here!"
"George is okay. He's at our house, playing with Will."
He grabbed her as Lou's knees seemed to buckle and she burst into tears. "Thank you, thank you."
"Come on over, Katy's in the backyard with them. Why don't you splash some water on your face? You don't want to scare him."
She nodded and let him lead her to his house. She ducked into the powder room and came out looking a little more composed. "I'm so sorry you - "
"It was no problem. We did his homework."
She managed a shaky chuckle. "I had a doctor's appointment. I was supposed to be home in plenty of time, when I realized I wasn't going to make it, I called the school and they said they'd hold him at the office. I don't know what happened, but I got there and he wasn't there and they finally realized they'd put him on the bus after all. I got here as fast - "
"He's fine, Lou. Come on outside. I know he wants to see you."
She nodded and followed him out to the back yard.
"Mom!" George spotted her and raced across the yard. "You weren't home."
"I know and I'm so sorry. I thought you'd be at the school so I went there to get you and you weren't there either. Wasn't it nice of Mr. and Mrs. Hale to help us out?"
"I did my homework."
"Yes, I heard. That was very good."
"He also helped me out with Will," Mulder said. "He's very good with him."
Dana touched Lou's arm. "I have dinner almost ready. Why don't the two of you join us."
"Oh, I - "
"It smells real good, Mom!" George interrupted, his eyes shining.
Mulder laughed. "Guess that's settled. George, let's get Will changed and cleaned up for dinner. We'll leave the ladies to the cookin'."
"Yeah, my mom's a good cook."
They headed inside and Lou seemed to deflate next to Dana. "You okay?"
"Still shaky. We can't intrude like this."
"You're not intruding. William is having a great time with the boys. Come on inside with me." The women returned to the kitchen and heard the laughter coming from upstairs. At Dana's urging, Lou sank into a kitchen chair. "Lou, if I'm not being too nosey, you said doctor's appointment? Is everything okay?"
Lou faced the staircase, but shook her head. "I'm having some . . . treatments. Today was the second one. I guess I need to find some sort of after school care for George because this could happen again. The place that keeps Kevin and Candice is very nice, but they don't want someone just one day a week, and they're really not set up for someone like George. He's . . . a lot of people expect him to act his size, rather than his age."
Dana nodded. "You just need someone one day a week?"
Lou sighed. "Yes. I need to call ARC and see if they have - "
"How long are the treatments for?" Dana interrupted.
"Six more weeks."
"Lou, let George come here. There's no reason to disrupt his schedule and pay out all kinds of money. I'm going to be here with Will, and William needs a break about that time of day."
"He's writing, sometimes late into the night. He needs the 'real' time and I think George feels comfortable here." She was glad to be able to slip into the back story with some ease.
"He does, I could tell, but I can't ask - "
"You didn't. I offered. Really, it'll be good for both Will and William."
"I, I don't know what to say. You really saved me today, but . . . "
"Then it's settled. We'll tell the guys when they come down to see what we 'ladies' have cooked up for them." She smiled and opened the oven.
It wasn't long before the three guys trooped down the stairs. "Take your seats," Dana said, placing the casserole on the table, as Mulder slid Will into the highchair. "I have some good news. George is going to be coming over here after schools on Tuesdays for a few weeks. George, you'll help me look after Will and Mr. Hale won't you?"
The boy's eyes were sparkling and he laughed. "Mr. Hale doesn't need lookin' after."
"You'd be surprised," Dana commented but turned to Mulder, who was smiling.
"I think that's a great idea. George, you'll help me look after Mrs. Hale too, won't you."
The boy laughed out loud and Lou seemed to relax in her chair. "I can't believe . . . If it gets to be a problem, or you need to go somewhere on a Tuesday - "
"Don't worry about it, Lou."
After the Lou and George had left for the evening, Mulder cornered Dana in the kitchen. "You've started reading my mind now?"
She smiled up at him. "It wasn't hard this time. We were both seeing George respond to Will. I knew you'd want to explore that and this way you'll have some time to do that without anyone watching."
"You make a good wife." He bent down and kissed her cheek enjoying the color that rose at the gesture. "Uh, about that . . . "
"Look, it's . . . geez, Dana, I'm not going to attack you. Yes, if we were still in DC and dating, I hope I would have persuaded you into my bed by now." He watched her cheeks flame and the quip he'd been about to make died. "Dana, you know I'm attracted to you. You're gorgeous, intelligent . . . and hot. You're also the mother of my son, though we didn't get to make him together. I'm not . . . " he ran down then not sure what to say.
"You're not going to take advantage of me just because I keep coming to your bed uninvited."
"You're not uninvited," he said quickly and she did smile then. He relaxed a little.
"Sleep with me, the bed's big enough and if you trust me . . . "
"You're not the problem," she said then realized it had been out loud and froze.
"I, I'm attracted to you too, you know that."
"Uh, no, I don't," he was looming over her now.
She fought the urge to step back and won. "Okay, we can go to bed in the bedroom tonight, but - "
He crossed his heart and held up the boy scout symbol with his right hand. "No advantage, I swear."
With no sleep walking, he found himself in the middle of the queen size bed, spooned around her and damn comfortable the next morning. He did ease back from her before she woke, since he knew his morning hard on was for other reasons this morning, but if she noticed, she didn't comment on it. He watched her for a moment, then slipped out of the bed and headed down to start coffee.
When Dana heard the door close she opened her eyes. Good, he hadn't realized she was awake, or how disappointed she'd been when he had moved away. Hell, she was more than 'attracted' to him. She wanted to jump his bones, especially the one that had been pressing into her ass a couple of minutes ago, but this was such a weird situation.
When she came downstairs he was waiting for her. Will was already in his high chair with some slices of apple.
"Did you sleep okay?" he seemed almost afraid of her answer.
"Very well. Maybe walking up or down the stairs at night isn't a really good thing."
"Yeah," he nodded and turned away. After an instant she moved to him and laid her hand on his arm.
"It, it feels good in your arms."
He looked down at her clearly startled. It seemed to take a couple of tries to form words. "It feels excellent."
She nodded and moved away to speak to Will, who was watching them with great interest. Mulder's eyes followed her, not sure what to say.
Their day was normal, though with little housework to do she felt a little useless after a couple of hours. She had never had time at home like this. When Will was first born was the only time and that only for a few weeks. She'd held a job since she was sixteen years old. With two of them to look after Will it wouldn't be long before they were tripping over each other.
She picked up the paper and turned to the help wanted ads. Even if they didn't need the money, she needed to have work of some kind.
Mulder came downstairs after doing his normal research on the computer. There was nothing more that the guys had learned about Diana so he felt stifled on that point. But no way would he break cover to find out right now. He 'helped' her get lunch together. She turned toward the kitchen, then turned back again. "Uh, I did something today."
"Oh?" He watched her, seeing her nervousness.
"I saw that UK was looking for lab assistants in the medical school, so I called about it. They want me to come in and fill out an application. It's only part time but - "
"You're not doing this because of that kept woman thing?"
"No, really I'm not. I do want to contribute, but this is kind of in my field and frankly, Will doesn't need both of us to look after him every day. I need to see what kind of schedule they're talking about, if they even want me - "
"They will," he assured her and appreciated the smile.
"I don't want to trap you here babysitting all the time."
"No, don't worry about that. If you're talking part time, we can switch off or something if I need to go anywhere. The real question is, do I have to wear the pearls when you get home from work?" He cringed back from the look she threw him and gathered Will up. "You'll protect me from her, won't you?"
Will looked over at his mother as she harrumphed and grinned.
They did hire her for three days a week and life took on a routine the likes of which Mulder had never anticipated. He rose first each morning and had coffee going before she stirred. This was usually a good thing, giving him time to 'compose' himself before having to face her. That was getting more difficult to do, but he had vowed patience and so what if he had to grind his teeth when he woke to her warm, pliant body each morning. He was enjoying some truly great fantasies anyway.
The weekly sessions with George were also going well. It was obvious, at least to Dana and Mulder that the boys were communicating. Will was probably doing the same with the other kids in the neighborhood, but they were busier and less likely to notice anything.
George had been coming for four weeks when Lou knocked at the door slightly later than usual. "I'm so sorry. I didn't - "
"You're fine," Dana told her. "The boys are all outside. George's homework is all done. Lou? Are you okay?"
"Oh yes. I had to go by the school before I went to the doctor's this afternoon. They called me . . . "
"Is everything okay?"
"Yes!" Lou positively beamed. "George is, is learning. I mean, he's able to do some arithmetic."
The sliding door opened then and Mulder stepped inside, glancing back to ensure the boys were in sight. "Hi," he stopped and his brow furrowed. "What's - "
"I was just telling Katy, George is better."
"Do you remember the kind of number work he was doing when he first started coming over here?"
"Uh, yeah. He was doing connect the dots."
"Up to ten, right?"
"I think so, yeah."
"What was he doing today?"
"Simple addition and subtract - " He stopped looking at Dana for an instant. "He couldn't do that before?"
She shook her head. "How are you doing it?"
"Me? I'm not - "
"Something's changed and George coming over here is the only thing that's different. They told me he wouldn't ever be able to live alone; maybe he would learn to write his name. Now he's adding numbers, he said the whole alphabet the other day!"
"Maybe they misdiagnosed him. You read about those cases where they think a child has a learning disability, but they find out they're deaf or - "
"Because of those stories they were extra careful with George's testing. His IQ was 52. He's very sweet and has a great disposition, but - "
"But nothing. They had to have made a mistake. You should have them retest him," Dana said firmly.
"They're already setting it up, but I can see the improvement. He said once that he feels smarter around Will, whatever that means. I can't thank you enough."
"We haven't done anything, except maybe some one on one work and I'm sure you were already doing that. Maybe he just matured enough for it to click."
"Do you think so? Really?"
"I can't think of anything else," Mulder said, carefully not looking at Dana, or contemplating what George had told his mother. "Do you mind if I try some more advanced stuff? Not rocket science, but - "
"No, I don't mind. He's actually doing some first grade work now. They didn't think . . . I know he'd in the third grade at his age, and that doesn't sound like much - "
"It sounds terrific," Mulder interrupted her. "I know you're going to find out they messed up something before."
"Wouldn't that be something," she said wistful now.
George brought Will inside then packed up his stuff. In a few minutes George and Lou headed home. Mulder sank down on the couch with Will in his arms. "Are you helping George?" He asked the question out loud and Dana moved to sit on the arm of the couch, watching Will.
Will smiled brightly at them and reached for Dana, who took him, giving him a big hug. She looked over at Mulder. "You believe it, don't you?"
"I need to do a little checking, testing," he hedged.
"What are you planning to check for?" she pressed.
"Well, Lou's right. That first day he could barely do the connect the dots up to ten to draw the butterfly. He had a death grip on the pencil, very tense. He wasn't tense a little while ago. He was doing math problems; first grade ones, but way above counting to ten. And he wasn't asking me for the instructions; he remembered them even though they were a lot more complicated than before."
"How could that happen?"
"It couldn't." He looked over at Will again. Dana's arms tightened around the boy and he watched her throat contract. "Don't worry about it, not now. If George is . . . improving mentally, I'm going to count that as a good thing.
Mulder came home the next day with a set of the Bob Books, beginning reading and looked through them. He was going to see what George's level was for himself, not just rely on a standardized test, even though he knew that Will was at least partially responsible for the improvement.
Dana looked the books over when she came inside and responded to his question. "I don't see a problem. You're an excellent teacher; I've seen your patience. Go ahead and try these."
"I don't know about the excellent teacher part for me, but Will seems to be."
"Mulder, he . . . "
"He couldn't do these things before you came into his life."
"I don't - "
"He's bright, smart, but I've seen the change in him too. It's not just George. I spent a lot of time with him, all the time except when he was at daycare. He was able to do some things that were above average, but not like after you came into his, our lives. Could he have . . . recognized your mind?"
Mulder gaped at her, unable to think of anything to say. She blushed and started to turn away.
"No, wait. I don't know, I haven't thought about it recently, but I was thinking just the other day about how things were for me after Samantha was taken. Dana, I was different, smarter, that's when my memory got so good. Maybe they . . . enhanced me and that's why they used me in this experiment."
She didn't comment, but he could see her fear again. Damn it! But they needed to talk about this. He needed to talk to the guys.
She left for work shortly after that. He missed her during the days she was at work, but she really did seem to be enjoying it. He enjoyed the fact that she was comfortable with leaving Will with him for those few hours during the day as well as sharing his bed, at least in the most innocent sense of the word.
He and Will played and hung out until lunch time, doing a load of laundry, then during Will's nap, Mulder surfed the web, investigating what he could and contacting the guys. He had become the defacto 4th gunman.
They had few comments about his theory on George, but didn't try to dispute it.
The search for the three of them, if there was one now, was deep underground and not official, but he kept the guys watching for it. One thing that he realized he had neglected so far was to introduce Dana to them. He needed to remedy that and soon.