The woman pulled the toddler out of the car seat and settled him on her hip. He was growing so fast it wouldn't be long before she wouldn't be able to do this. But it was just a short trip and sometimes the stroller was more trouble than it was worth.
She had topped out at five foot one, and the way the baby was growing, she was pretty sure he'd be over six feet. His hair was thick and getting dark, not at all like her red curls, but she was grateful for that. Her brothers had suffered with red hair as children; it was easier being a girl when you had red curls.
She headed for the back of the store; all they needed was milk and eggs. At the cooler, she set the boy on his feet and handed him the carton of milk. "Can you help Mommy?"
He grinned up at her and hugged the carton to his chest. "Hep."
"Thanks, Will." She kept one hand on his shoulder to aid his balance and moved to the eggs. She'd hold on to them. Just as they approached the selection, she heard the shot ring out. Startled for only a second, she grabbed up Will and crouched with him in her arms at the end of the aisle, the milk carton abandoned beside them. A second shot caused her to duck and tighten her hold on the baby. When he looked up, she pressed her finger to his lips and shook her head. He must have picked up her fear, because he obeyed her without question. His baby arms went around her neck.
"I told you to give me the fuckin' money! Now give it up or we'll shoot everyone in here!"
She closed her eyes and sent a frantic prayer upward. When she opened her eyes, she spotted the man two aisles away. He was squatting, and she saw the gun in his hand. Her eyes widened in terror for an instant before he shook his head and put his finger to his lips. With his other hand, he held out his shield.
She nodded and felt herself relaxing just a little. This man was obviously a customer like herself, but he was also a policeman and he'd know what to do.
"I know there're people in the back!" The harsh voice rang out again. "If you don't come up here right now, I'm going to blow the clerk's head off. Right now! Lemar, you go check."
More than one? She looked at the policeman and he shook his head at her. He quietly slid his gun into the back of his slacks and winked at her. What was he doing? Was he insane?
Just then, this Lemar came around the corner, his hand was shaking, but he held a gun. "You, get up!" His voice cracked, but the cop nodded and came to his feet. He was wearing jeans and a leather jacket over his t-shirt. Good, he didn't look like a cop at all. He placed his hands on his head and nodded toward her.
"Let me get my family."
She blinked but kept quiet. The cop approached them, his hands still on his head, then held out a hand to help her to her feet. She took it and rose. Lemar didn't have the presence of mind to try to stop them, and Will kept quiet.
"I didn't notice," the cop said. "I don't think so."
"How about in the back?"
He shrugged. "I've never been back there. It's for employees only."
Lemar nodded, believing him. How young was this kid?
The cop kept his hand on the small of her back and moved her to the front. She glanced up at him once, but kept quiet. Surely he knew what he was doing, didn't he? Her arms tightened again around her son.
The clerk had been shot and was holding his arm, where blood had soaked the sleeve of his short sleeve shirt. The shirt was pulled tight over his beer belly and he was obviously in shock. He was pale but conscious. A teenage boy with spiky hair and a tattoo around his throat was seated beside him. The cop motioned for her to take a seat on the other side of the teenager, away from the clerk. Will burrowed into her lap and the cop sat beside her, his arm around them.
"What are you going to do?" the cop asked the man that had shot the clerk.
"That ain't none of your business, asshole, so shut up and let me think."
The man waved the gun toward them, but didn't point it.
"Let's just get the money and go," Lemar begged the older boy.
"Shut up, besides, there's only $17 in the drawer."
"$17? Shit, let's get out of here."
"Listen, you fucking idiot! Can't you hear the sirens? The cops are on the way! This motherfucker hit some sort of alarm."
"We'll go out the back. Come on!"
A police car squealed to a halt out front then, and Lemar closed his eyes. "Fuck! We're trapped, Jerome!"
"Shut the fuck up and let me think! Those cops won't come in here while we've got hostages. This can work out."
Lemar seemed to moan, and she looked up at the cop. He didn't look down but gave his head a tiny shake. She turned back to Jerome, watching him while she murmured reassuring sounds to Will.
The loud speaker caused her to jump. "We need you to drop your weapons and come on out."
Jerome ducked down, but was watching the door.
"Is anyone hurt?" The loud speaker blared again. "We've got an ambulance here. Just let everyone out and we can talk about this."
Jerome kept quiet, but then the phone behind the counter rang. Lemar jumped as much as the teenager and she did.
"Uh, listen, they probably want to negotiate with you," the cop said quietly. "They'll need to know what you want."
Jerome glared at him, but reluctantly picked up the phone. "None of your fucking business," he said to whatever question was asked. "We want a car and some money. Yeah I got hostages, and I'll take care of them if you don't listen to me. Get the car and the money." He looked over at Lemar. "$100,000. You've got thirty minutes." He slammed the phone down then and after a moment took his hand off of it.
"They're more likely to do what you want if you give them something."
"Shut up, fucker!"
"Hey, you're in charge, but say you send my wife and kid out; they'll know you're willing to deal."
"I’m not willing to deal. They give me what I want or I kill everyone in here!"
"And then they can come in guns blazing, because there'll be no one they care about saving. Keep me. Let the clerk go, he's bleeding bad and my - "
"Yeah, I know, your wife and kid. Just shut up and let me think!"
The cop fell silent, but his arm tightened slightly around her shoulders. She moved even closer to him, keeping Will's face away from the scene.
"It's gonna be okay. Trust me," he whispered to her. "What's your name?"
"Dana, this is Will."
"I'm Mulder. Try to relax."
"Shut up! Get over there and keep them quiet," Jerome ordered Lemar, who obeyed him silently.
They sat in silence then, until the phone rang. Jerome picked it up and listened for a moment. "The car ain't enough. I told you, money, then you guys back the hell away and let me and my bro out of here. No way, you show me that you're willing to 'work' with me. You got fifteen minutes." He slammed the phone down again.
"They ain't gonna do it, Jerome!"
"Shut up. Get over here. Keep an eye on them. Keep your gun on them." He grabbed Dana's arm and yanked her to her feet.
"No, take me," Mulder said quickly, also rising.
"Just take me, leave Dana and the baby alone." Mulder watched Jerome’s eyes. He was beginning to need whatever he'd wanted to steal the money for now, which made him more dangerous.
"Sit down and maybe they'll live."
Her eyes were on him, asking for instructions as she held her son against her chest. He nodded to her, and she let Jerome lead her in front of the windows. His gun was now aimed at her head. Mulder chanced a glance at Lemar. The younger man was terrified, and in way over his head. His gun hand was shaking and the gun itself was now aimed at the floor instead of at any of them.
"Let her go, Sir." The loudspeaker blared again. "The car's on the way and we're working on the money." Dana squeezed Will to her.
"Work faster!" he screamed at the cop. It probably did carry through the glass door.
"Hurry, or she and the kid are a memory!" He held the gun up, wagging it in the air, so that they could see he wasn't bluffing. Dana looked away and suddenly his head exploded beside her. She screamed as he crumpled beside her.
"Put the gun down, Lemar." Mulder voice came from behind her and he sounded dangerous now. Lemar didn't ask any questions, laying his gun on the floor. "Kick it over here to me."
Lemar did, then landed on his knees, his fingers locked over his head.
Mulder turned to the teenager with the tattoo. "Get them in here. Put your hands over your head so they can see you're not armed, and get the EMTs."
The teenager was already on his feet, heading for the door. He slowed down at those words and nodded. He pushed the door open and held his hands high in the air.
Police converged on him, pulling him to the side, while others raced to the door. Dana, finally able to move again, hurried behind Mulder. He nodded, but didn't take his eyes off of Lemar.
The police burst in, guns out to see the young black man on the floor, while a tall white man held a gun on him. He displayed his shield to the oncoming cops. "We need an ambulance." He jerked his head toward the clerk while Lemar was cuffed and dragged out. He surrendered his gun to the police and headed outside at their directions, his hand on Dana's back. He led her toward an ambulance, but as she realized it, she demurred.
"Let them check you out," he said gently.
"I know you are, but let they make sure. Here, let me take Will."
She looked up terrified at that. "No!"
"It's okay. I'm not going anywhere. Just let them look you over. Please, trust me."
She looked up into his eyes and seemed to relax slightly.
"He'll be right here."
"Will, can you go to Mr. Mulder for a minute?"
Will looked up at the tall man, and let go of his mother's neck for the first time since they had crouched at the end of the aisle. He reached for Mulder, who lifted him into his arms. The boy took hold of his shirt, rested his head against Mulder's shoulder and stuck his thumb into his mouth. She watched in amazement, then sagged down on the tailgate of the ambulance. Mulder's free hand came out to her.
"Put your head down. It's okay." He gently pressed her head down between her knees as the EMTs took over. He took one step back, but no farther. She needed to be able to see her son. The EMT draped a blanket around her shoulders.
"I'm okay, really. It's just reaction," she tried to reassure them.
"Which you're certainly entitled to," the female EMT said. "Let me take your blood pressure."
Dana kept quiet then, looking up to see her son watching her solemnly from their rescuer's arms.
She was fine, and they gave her a clean bill of health quickly, then allowed the police to approach. "We're going to need a statement - "
"Not now," Mulder interrupted. "I'll get you a full report. Right now, I'd like to get her home."
She blinked at that, but didn't protest.
"You're not a cop."
Dana's head swiveled toward him.
"Bureau. I know the drill. You have the information you need to contact us. She needs to get the baby home and settled."
The detective stared at him for a moment, then finally nodded. "The kid's not going anywhere, and neither is Jerome, finally. He's been known around here for years. I'll need to talk to you tomorrow."
"You got it." Mulder shook his hand and turned back to Dana. "I'll drive you home."
"What about your car?"
"Not a problem. I can get a ride back."
"Really, I'm - "
"I know, you're fine. I still don't think you should be driving right now. Let me do this, please?"
She looked at Will, so comfortable in his arms. "Thank you."
He grinned and led her to the car she indicated. It was a sage green Highlander hybrid. He opened the back door. "Hey, Will, let's go home."
The boy looked at him, and then let his mother take him back to fit him into his car seat. His fist only released the gray t-shirt when it was too far away. Dana buckled him in and kissed his forehead, then moved to the door Mulder had opened for her and seated herself, buckling in. He was right; her hands were shaking too much for her to drive.
He started the engine with her key. "Just for the record, I’m Special Agent Fox Mulder. I prefer to go by Mulder."
She nodded and held out a hand that just barely trembled. "Dana Scully, and this is William." He shook her hand, and watched her relax just a little more.
"I'm gonna need an address."
She gave a nervous laugh and nodded. She gave him the address, and he pulled out. She glanced back at Will, but he was fine, watching out of the windows as he usually did.
Mulder was quiet, allowing her to relax as they drove. He pulled into her parking slot at the condo and turned to look at her. "Is anyone home?"
She shook her head.
"Is there anyone I can call for you? Your husband? Family?
"I'm not married."
He absorbed that and looked back at Will. He'd fallen asleep on the ride. Dana took a deep breath and unbuckled the seatbelt, then opened the car door. Mulder was already beside her and opened the back door to give her access to Will.
He followed her inside, not offering to carry the baby, but he did keep her keys in his hand and opened the door for her. She entered and he followed. She didn't mention it, not wanting to admit she was relieved he was still there.
"Let me put him down. I'll be right back."
Mulder gave her a small smile and remained standing by the door. She wasn't gone long. He was still at the door, but looking around the bright, homey room. They were on the third floor, so the blinds were open letting in maximum light. The walls were a soft yellow and white lacy curtains framed the three windows that lit the room. There was a plaid couch, greens and yellows with a blue thread running through it. The couch had its back to the door, facing the wall unit that held the TV. A hand knit afghan with blue and coral shades lay across the back. A matching chair was to the side. The coffee table had a couple of magazines and several children's books on it. The side table between the couch and the chair held a ceramic lamp and a phone. Bookcases lined the wall that led to the hall. The shelves were a mishmash of books, photos and some toys.
An arch led to the kitchen with a table and four chairs in a small nook. The kitchen counter was clean and there were fresh flowers on the table. Everything looked very inviting.
"He didn't wake," she said softly when she returned.
Mulder nodded. "I'm sure he'll be okay."
She nodded, but he noted she'd wrapped her arms around herself.
"Why don't you have a seat?" He led her to the couch and took the chair beside her. "Are you sure there isn't someone I could call for you? A friend, family?"
She shook her head and took several deep breaths, forcing control. "Milk, milk and eggs. That was all we needed and we nearly . . . "
"It's over. You're safe."
"I know, I know. Thank you for bringing us home."
"It was no problem, but I don't like the idea of you being alone right now. Is Will's father - "
"He's not part of the picture. We're fine. I really can't keep you here any longer. I'm sure you have things you need to be doing."
A definite dismissal and he nodded. "I'll call a cab and get out of your hair." He slipped his business card from the wallet that held his shield and scribbled something on the back of it. "Call me, if you need anything. Okay?"
"Thank you." She started to rise but he stopped her.
"I can show myself out. You just take it easy for a little while and don't hesitate to call me."
She nodded and watched him open the door. He checked the lock. "Put on the chain when I'm gone. It'll make you feel better."
She kind of smiled and nodded, watching him as the door closed. She sank back into the couch then, and pulled the afghan off the back and around her.
In a few minutes she rose, and followed his instructions about the chain. She checked on Will, who was still sleeping peacefully and then started some laundry even though she had done some the day before. Sitting and thinking was not an option.
She had moved the load to the dryer, and was sitting on the couch with a glass of wine when the knock came on the door. She froze, momentarily terrified before she caught herself. Jerome was dead and Lemar in custody; and neither even knew her name, much less where she lived. She placed the glass on the table and hurried to the door. She looked through the peep hole and spotted Mulder.
Surprised, she hesitated for just an instant before opening the door. "Mulder?"
He held up a bag. "Milk and eggs. I didn't think you should go out again tonight."
"And ice cream?" She looked into the bag.
He pulled his other hand from behind his back. "It goes with the pizza. I was thinking comfort food, and pizza always does it for me."
She did laugh then and it felt good.
He spotted the glass of wine on the table. It was only one glass and he didn't see the bottle. That was good. "We should put the ice cream in the freezer."
"Oh, of course." She stepped back and let him in. He carried the groceries into the kitchen and opened the 'fridge door. The bottle was in there, the cork in it. She had only planned one glass. She was handling things, he thought with relief.
Balancing the pizza box with expertise, he grinned down at her. "Napkins or plates?"
"Plates, thank you." She moved past him and pulled two plates out of the cabinet. "Would you like wine or iced tea?"
"I'll live dangerously, iced tea."
She poured him a large glass and joined him at the table. "You know you really didn't have to check on us."
He shrugged and pulled a slice from the pie between them. As if on cue, the baby monitor on the counter came alive. "Mamamama!"
"Never fails," she smiled and rose. She was back shortly with Will in her arms. He was in fresh clothes and babbling happily. He spotted Mulder and accepted his presence, as Dana slipped him into the highchair. "You hungry too, Will? Let me heat you something up."
With practiced ease, she filled a colorful plastic plate with toddler food and slipped it in the microwave for a few seconds. "You had a big day, didn't you, Kiddo. I wish I'd gotten to take a nap myself," Mulder conversed with Will while waiting for her to rejoin them.
She sat a sippy cup with the milk Mulder had picked up in front of the boy. He grabbed it up and drank while she tested the food.
They ate together and when it was time for dessert, she shared a few bites of the ice cream with the boy and he grabbed her hand to demand more. Mulder laughed out loud at that and Will turned to watch him.
"You need a bath, little man."
Will seemed to agree, but reached for Mulder. "You want me to bathe you? I'm not sure I know how."
"You don't have to - "
"I don't mind watching," he interrupted.
She blinked and smiled. "We'd love the company, but I warn you, you might get wet."
"Not a problem."
He cleaned up the table, putting the dishes in the dishwasher while she ran the tub and got Will ready. He slipped the box with the leftover pizza in the refrigerator, then headed down the hall.
The baby sat in the tub inside a small yellow ring with rubber feet. He was splashing enthusiastically, and greeted Mulder with chortles and offered him a small plastic Big Bird. "Well, thank you." He took the bird and offered up a small plastic Elmo in exchange. Apparently that was the correct move and they played while Dana washed the baby's hair and body.
"Okay," she said finally, "that's enough water all over the place. Let's get out." For a wonder, Will lifted his arms to get out. "He likes the company," she remarked as she handed a towel to Mulder. She lifted the baby out of his circle and let him drip for moment, then turned toward the towel. Instead of giving it to her, Mulder took the baby in it and wrapped him up, drying him.
"Uh, you better face him toward the tub."
"Why - " he started to obey when the stream of urine started. "Nevermind." He cut his eyes toward her, but she was grinning.
"I tried to warn you."
"A little quicker next time would be nice."
"Yeah, I'll work on that," she said dryly. She cleaned the boy up and grabbed a diaper off the sink. She took the boy and lay him on the towel now lying on the bathmat and diapered him. "There you go, Will. Now let's get you some pj's."
He was dressed quickly and they headed back to the living room. "I don't know if he'll sleep tonight. His nap was very late."
"What would you normally be doing now?"
"Reading, sitting and cuddling to slow down into bed time."
"Try it. He might like the routine."
She nodded and settled him in her lap, picking up In the Night Kitchen, his favorite. It took several readings, but sure enough, his eyes began drooping.
His thumb found its way to his mouth and he was out. Mulder winked at her and she looked down at the boy with pride and love. "I'll be right back."
He rose as he heard her return. "I should get out of your way."
"I'm sure you have plans."
"Actually, I don't."
"Oh, would you like a glass of wine now?"
"Sure, if you don't mind."
She headed for the kitchen and he returned to the chair. She handed him a glass of the red wine and took a seat on the couch. "I'm not sure I believe you didn't have plans," she said, watching him. "I really don't need a babysitter."
"I know you don't, but today had to be way outside of your norm, and I really was free tonight."
"You're not married?"
"Nope," Mulder took a sip of his wine.
"But you're seeing someone," it wasn't a question.
"Yeah, Diana. She works at the Bureau too."
"Is it serious?"
He shrugged. "It's convenient." She winced and leaned forward. "Sorry, that did sound callous."
"She'd be lucky. I can already tell you'd make a great father."
"That would probably send her running in the other direction. She's . . . ambitious. Diana's heading for the fifth floor as fast as possible. Me, I'm gunning for a basement office with intermittent heat."
She looked the question at him and he shrugged again. "I have a project I'm working on, and she doesn't really approve. What about you? You didn't want to marry the father?"
Her smile slipped slightly.
"I'm sorry, I - "
"No, it's okay. The father didn't want the job. In fact he's convinced he's not the father."
"There was no one else. Yes, we were careful, but nothing's foolproof. He didn't want a DNA test, so he bought me this condo and signed away all parental rights."
Mulder took that in. It did explain how she could afford this place in such a nice neighborhood.
"He could better afford this place than giving his time," she seemed to respond to his thoughts. "I didn't ask for anything," there was a touch of defensiveness in her voice. "When I realized I was pregnant, it felt like it was meant to be. I wanted him, Allen didn't."
"That was his mistake. Will's cool."
"Thank you. He was on his best behavior for you."
"How old is he? I'm not real good at guessing ages."
"He'll be a year old next week, May 10."
"Wow. Do you have a big party planned?"
"Not really. I thought we'd go to the park and swing, maybe have a picnic if it's nice."
"What about the grandparents? Won't they want to make much over him on his first birthday?" Mulder took another sip of wine.
"They don't live here. They, they weren't thrilled that I wasn't married."
"They love him, really, but they're pretty disappointed in me. I mean, I wasn't supposed to get pregnant and have to quit school." She shook her head. "I can't believe I'm telling you all of this. You're too easy to talk to."
"We shared a traumatic experience this afternoon, we bonded."
“You said you had to quit school?”
She nodded. “I’m studying to be a doctor. I was interning at Georgetown. I have a long way to go, but right now . . .”
“Wow, beautiful and smart.”
She blushed lightly, then smiled up at him. “Maybe not so very smart.” She shrugged. “I still have my hand in, at least a little. I may not have to pay rent, but there are lots of other expenses. I work at Georgetown now, transcribing medical records. It keeps me familiar with what’s going on at the hospital and gives me time to study. Will goes to the daycare there, so he’s close by.”
She chuckled, but it was cut short by the sudden screaming from the bedroom. She was on her feet instantly, racing toward his room. Mulder rose, but didn't follow her. The baby was still crying when Dana brought him into the living room. When he spotted Mulder, he reached for him and Mulder didn't hesitate. He took him into his arms and the boy rested his head on Mulder's shoulder again. After a couple of hiccups, the thumb was back in his mouth and he relaxed.
Dana was still standing there, stunned. "He's never cried out like that. Could, could it have been a nightmare?"
"Have a seat," Mulder suggested. This time he sat beside her on the couch rather than in the chair. "I doubt it was a real nightmare. Children this age usually don't - "
"How would you know that?"
"Uh, my child psych courses. It's not something that should be long term. He didn't see anything. You were very careful to keep his face hidden, and kept him safe in your arms." He saw the tears fill her eyes.
She blinked them back and groped for composure. "You're a psychologist?"
He nodded. "I'm a profiler at the Bureau. They recruited me out of university."
"Wh-where did you go?" she asked, wanting to change the subject.
Her head came up. "Oxford? England?"
He smiled slightly. "You’ll get your education too."
She nodded. “I'll go back, when he's a little older."
"What kind of doctor?"
"I'm not through my rotations. Now I'm going to need something with more regular hours, and I'm pretty sure that doesn't include pediatrics which was my original goal. It wouldn't be great bringing every germ home to Will either."
"Well, he'd be exposed and get immune in a hurry that way."
"I hope I get the chance to find out."
"You will. You're a strong woman." He seemed to realize what he'd said then, and looked back down at the boy. "I think he's out again. Do you want me to put him down?"
"What? Oh, yes, thank you." She rose and he stood beside her. He followed her into the nursery, which was painted a bright blue with white furniture. There was a Big Bird lamp by the crib and a tub of toys beside a white platform rocker with blue cushions.
He lay the boy gently in the crib. Will sighed and slept on. They both watched him for moment, then Dana turned back toward the living room. Mulder followed after a second. "I guess I need to head out."
"I had a good time. You're a very good mother." He saw her eyes moisten again, and held out his hand. "You've got my number."
She nodded and walked him to the door. It had been one of the nicest evenings she'd had in a very long time.
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.
He wanted to call her; he woke up wanting it, but refused the indulgence. At work, he buried himself in the case Patterson was exploring, making notes, looking at evidence. It did distract him, at least until lunch. The break was unwelcome today. Immediately his mind returned to Dana. He reached for the phone to call his friends, to ask if they had anything for him, but they knew how to reach him and they would, when they had something.
He grabbed a semi-stale sandwich from the cart and slipped downstairs. No one had disturbed the door; the hair he had laid across the doorknob was still there. He couldn't say why he was there. He had the files that mattered to him memorized, but this was where he needed to be, since he couldn't be where he wanted to be - there was no way he could explain just showing up at her place now. He'd wanted to go to the park and join them for the small birthday party. He couldn't explain why really, but he was drawn to them. Maybe he really had bonded with them during the hostage situation. He shook his head and retreated from the room, replacing the hair.
His lunch hour wasn't over, but he returned to his official desk and picked back up the information he'd been working with. At least Patterson would be pleased, though he'd never admit it.
It was after four when he felt the hand on his shoulder. "Are we getting together tonight, Fox?"
Mulder looked up and spotted Diana. "Uh, I'm not sure what kind of company I'd be tonight."
"Bad case?" Diana looked over his shoulder at the information scattered around his cubicle.
He shrugged. That was as good an explanation as any. He wasn't going to explain what was really on his mind. In the first place, he didn't think she'd be that pleased that he had another woman on his mind, and he knew how she felt about his theories. Again he felt regret that he'd ever mentioned any of it to her, but it was too late to take it back.
"Come on over to my place, Fox. We can have a relaxing dinner and put it out of your mind."
Well, that was probably the best offer he was going to get today and the guys hadn't called. He gave her a lopsided grin. "Sure, sounds good."
She nodded. "I'll see you around six?"
"I'll be there."
He was, but he was feeling even more uncomfortable about it now. He hadn't even bothered to go home to change, spending that hour down in his place in the basement, looking for other files that matched the two he now held safe in his office and his mind.
She had picked up dinner, but instead of Styrofoam, there were plates on the table. She'd pulled iced mugs from the freezer and, after opening the door for him, began pouring beer into one for him. "Come on; let's eat while it's warm."
He took the mug and slipped into 'his' chair at her table. She sat across from him and they made small talk, rather, she made small talk while they ate. He tried, but his mind kept returning to his files. When they were finished, Diana rose from the table.
"Go have a seat in the living room. I'll be right there."
He obeyed without much thought, and took a seat on the couch. She joined him in just a minute with another beer. She handed it to him and sat beside him. "You haven't relaxed much."
He shrugged and tried to smile.
"Drink your beer," she whispered and he took a sip. She loosened his tie; he hadn't even thought to do that and unbuttoned the top two buttons on his shirt. He looked down, watching her hands, but not commenting. She leaned in closer and kissed his ear, his neck. Her hand caressed his chest and began unbuttoning his shirt there too. When her hand found flesh, he leaned forward and put his mug on the table.
"Diana, I'm sorry. I need to go."
"Fox - "
"Really. I'm sorry, but I'm not able to do this tonight. I appreciate dinner, but I need to go."
She watched him for moment. He was right; she hadn't been able to reach him tonight. She decided to cut her losses. "Okay, Fox, try to get a good night's sleep. Maybe lunch tomorrow?"
"Sure. I'll call you when I get a break and we'll meet up."
She did smile then, it was just the case he was working on, no doubt. Patterson could be a real prick. She leaned in and kissed him once more, and he managed to respond. Then he was up and headed for the door.
He headed home, not allowing himself to return to the office. There was no need; there was no more information in the files for him to stare at now anyway.
After a less than restful sleep, populated with dreams of the past, intermingled with Dana playing the starring role, he took a quick shower. He was brushing his teeth when the phone rang. He spit and hurried to his bedroom. "Mulder."
"You have time to stop by before work?" It was Byers' voice.
He felt his heart rate increase. "Yeah. Did you - "
"Not over the phone. See you soon." The phone went dead and Mulder had to smile.
He was pulling into a space at their building in less than twenty minutes. He really needed to start leaving earlier. The traffic was great this time of day. They were already unlocking the door when he approached.
"You found the info?"
Byers nodded. "Come on."
Frohike met them at the door with a mug of coffee in his hand. He handed it to Mulder, who took it gratefully. He hadn't taken the time to stop and get any, so this was especially welcomed.
After a couple of sips, he nodded. "What'd you find?"
Frohike smiled. "The records. Come on." He led them to the workroom, where Langly was scrolling through information on his screen. His coffee was sitting untouched in front of him.
"Mulder, great hack. This was major cool."
"You weren't caught?"
"We've done all this work for you, and you insult us?"
"Sorry." Mulder grinned. "What was I thinking?"
"I tell you, they ran every test in the book on her."
"She was told she'd been drugged the whole time she was gone." Mulder commented, leaning forward to see the screen.
"Not with anything we recognize," Frohike said.
Mulder smiled. "Then it couldn't have been made by man."
Langly grinned and Frohike chuckled.
"Go ahead, spell it out for me."
"She wasn't restrained; there were no marks on her. No sign of sexual assault."
Mulder flinched but kept quiet.
"Mulder, they ran some truly funky tests on her."
"Like full body scans, blood tests on things even we've never thought to do. They were checking her lymphocyte population, her damn gluco-cordacoids. Those are not tests you run on someone that shows up unattended in an ER. We don't even know what they're for."
"To test for weightless sickness," Mulder said without emotion.
"Weightless? You're kidding, right?" Byers looked at Mulder.
Mulder looked up and shook his head. "Was she pregnant?"
Langly blinked at that. "Uh, yeah. They confirmed a pregnancy."
Mulder leaned back then. The baby, he wasn't this Allen guy's kid after all. No sexual 'assault,' however they could easily have done an in-vitro procedure. But why?
"Mulder, you okay?" Byers put his hand on the man's shoulder.
"Just thinking. I, uh, I need to get to work. This is good; this is exactly what I needed. Thanks, guys. Can I have a copy?" He placed his mug on the table and took the printouts, then headed for the door. Frohike trailed him and opened the door.
"Man, you okay?"
Mulder seemed surprised to find Frohike beside him. "Yeah, I'm good. Thank you for this."
"It was our pleasure. Is there anything else we can do?"
"I'll be in touch." Mulder nodded and headed for his car.
He managed to submerge himself into Patterson's case when he got to the office, and actually came up with an idea that Patterson decided needed to be checked out.
Mulder felt unexpected relief when Patterson assigned that task to someone else. Unusual, but he found he didn't want to be out of town right now.
He didn't admit his intentions to himself, but when he left work that night he headed to Dana's apartment instead of home. He sat just outside for a few minutes, but couldn't make himself leave. Finally, he opened his door and stepped out.
Mulder took the elevator up and stood outside of her door. Again he hesitated, but it was probably the last time he'd see her and he wanted, no he needed, a little time with her. He knocked on the door.
She opened it with a surprised smile on her face. "Mulder? Come in, it's good to see you."
Her smile faded. "Is everything okay?"
He forced a lopsided grin. "Been a long day. I hope you don't mind."
"Of course not. Please, come in." She stepped aside and he entered. "May I have your coat?"
He nodded and slipped it off, letting her hang it in her coat closet.
"Will's already asleep?"
She nodded. "You need to see something." She put her finger to her lips and led him down the hall. She pushed open the door to Will's nursery and they entered quietly. She pointed to the crib and he moved in that direction. In the light of the nightlight, he saw the boy, asleep with his head resting on the shoulder of his 'Mudder Air', his hand resting on the bear's arm he had obviously been holding until he fell asleep.
Mulder felt unexpected tears, which he blinked back. This kid had gotten to him, him and his mother. Yes, there was a connection - that was the real reason he was here.
He turned and smiled at her. She spotted the tears. Her look of concern told him that. He silently followed her from the room.
"Mulder," she turned to him once they were back in the living room. "What's wrong?"
"Do you mind?" He pointed to the couch.
"Of course not. Would you like something? Wine?"
"You know, that might be a good idea."
"I'll be right back." He took a seat, and she hurried into the kitchen. He could see through the archway that a cup from a fast food restaurant and a sippy cup sat on the counter. She poured them each a glass of wine and returned. He took his glass from her and watched her take a seat beside him.
"Are you okay?" she asked after he took a sip.
"I, I need to tell you a story, and I'm afraid I'll never see you again afterward."
She blinked and reached for his hand. "I hope that's not true. Will and I enjoy your company very much."
"That's before you decide I'm insane. I need you to listen."
It was late, the wine glasses were empty. She hadn't said very much, just listening, hearing the pain as well as the words. He leaned back, exhausted emotionally as well as physically. This was not a story he’d ever told before in this way. "Do you want to call the white coats, or should I?"
"I don't think you're crazy," she said quietly.
He gave a sad laugh. "Hell, I think I'm crazy. Did you hear what I just told you? My sister was - "
"I heard you," she interrupted.
"Well, I can see some similarities to what happened to me, but it’s, what do you call it - circumstantial evidence? Is that why you told me about this?"
"Dana, I . . . " He looked away, then straightened his shoulders. "I did something you're not going to be happy about."
"I had some friends of mine hack into the system at Walter Reed, and check on your records."
Her eyebrow rose then. "You did what?"
"I used you. I apologize, but I needed to know what a military hospital would, would look for, if this was what I suspected. You didn't just show up there. You were left there by the people in our government who work with these . . . beings."
She drew back a little at those words and his heart sank.
"You have my medical records?"
"No, just the tests that were done while you were there. I wasn't trying to . . . I guess I should get out of here."
"Wait, please. Do, do you have the information?"
He nodded and moved toward the closet. He withdrew a handful of folded papers from his jacket pocket. The pregnancy test had been carefully removed. He thought about the tiny boy lying in the crib in the next room. He was her son, wasn't he? There were no red curls, no button nose. The baby's eyes were darker than hers. No sexual assault? Shit, it was the ultimate rape.
"Sorry." He spotted the look of fear that flitted across her face, quickly hidden as she took the papers. Regret welled up in him. Should he have done this? Had he used her just to get information on Samantha?
While she was looking through the papers, he took the wine glasses into the kitchen and put them into her dishwasher. Then he took the sippy cup and removed the lid, the cup went into the dishwasher, but he slid the lid into his pocket, then he removed the straw from the fast food cup and took it as well.
When he returned, she was perusing the papers. "I don't know some of these tests." She held the paper up and pointed.
"That's a test they run on astronauts after they've been in space. They can get weightless sickness, lose bone mass."
"Why would they . . . I was tested for problems in outer space?"
"Well . . . "
"Oh my god!" She looked up at him then, for reassurance.
"We don't know that's what - "
Her arms went around herself and he saw she was shivering.
"Dana, I'm sorry." His arms went around her then and she didn't pull away. Instead her arms went around his waist and she rested her head against his chest.
They sat that way a long time and eventually her shivering slowed and stopped. She took a deep breath and finally sat up. "May I keep these papers?"
"Sure. One thing I think I should point out - " She stiffened, and his arm around her tightened. "You're in perfect health. I don't know if you had any problems before. Looking at you, I'd say you didn't, but your health was not harmed."
She blinked and a small smile began to appear. "I guess that is something. My pregnancy was perfect and all of Will's exams say he's above the curve."
"That's good, right?" Mulder asked.
She did smile then. "Yes, that's good. He's tall for his age, ahead in things like motor skills, verbalization."
"Shows you're a good mother."
Her eyes met his. "Thank you."
"You're feeling better."
She nodded. "I am. You need to go?"
"I should. Go on to bed. I'm sure the kid will have you up bright and early in the morning."
She chuckled at that. "You are so right. Mulder, thank you for coming tonight, for sharing what happened - "
"For scaring you to death?"
"You've given me plenty to think about."
"Not tonight. Go on to bed and I'll give you a call tomorrow."
"Yes, please." She stood and he followed, and let her lead him to the door. He took the coat from the closet and suddenly found his eyes focused on her lips. It wasn't appropriate, but then neither was coming over here to tell her she'd been abducted by aliens. He leaned over and met those lips. The contact was electric and their arms were back around each other. When they broke for air, he scanned her face. No condemnation, a little surprise but she seemed pleased.
"I better get out of here," he said quietly.
She nodded and opened the door. He left without another word. It was late, but he headed for his friends' place first.
It took some knocking, but Frohike finally appeared at the door. He was wearing full pajamas, but Mulder decided against comment. He pulled the sippy cup lid and the straw from his pocket. "Can you check the DNA on these?"
"What time is it?"
"It's late, I'm sorry. Could you get DNA from these and compare it?"
"Yeah, what are we looking for?"
"After what was done to her, I want to know if the kid really is hers."
"What would it matter?"
"I just need to know."
Frohike yawned. "Want to come in?"
"No, no I don't need this tonight. Go back to bed, but let me know."
"You got it." Frohike closed the door in his face and he turned back toward his car.
Patterson was on a tear the next morning, which was actually a good thing for a change. Mulder was pulled into the case, and didn't look up for hours. He ate the sandwich the admin placed on his desk along with the cola - not something he would have chosen, but time was critical.
"Patterson!" he called out when the next screen popped up. Patterson looked up annoyed on several levels - not the least of which was that Spooky had called him Patterson. "Look at this."
Patterson leaned over, the tone of Mulder's voice staying his snide comment. Shit! A pattern, this spooky son of a bitch had found the pattern. "Get Walsh on the phone, the team needs to move." Patterson was in charge now and they were moving.
"Do you want me to fly - " Mulder started.
"I'm going. You stay here and coordinate the effort."
Mulder nodded. Normally, he'd be pissed that Patterson would be taking credit for his work, but he still did not want to be out of town. "Let me know what you need."
Patterson managed to hide his surprise quickly, and immediately wondered what Spooky was up to, but he needed to be out there for the take down. "Yeah." He was already moving to the door.
Mulder was back at work before Patterson was out of sight. Several hours later he looked up when a hand touched his shoulder. "Guess I was stood up." Mulder looked up into Diana's face and it took him a moment to even understand what she was saying.
"Lunch. I forgot lunch."
"Boy, you really know how to flatter a girl."
He rose from the desk. "I'm sorry. Did you hear we caught a break?"
She nodded. "That's why I forgive you. How about tonight?"
"Diana . . . "
"Okay, you're busy tonight, but call me, okay? We need some time together."
"Promise. I need to get back to this."
She ruffled his hair, knowing that a public kiss would not be a good idea for either of them.
He watched her walk away, but he had been distracted now. And it wasn't Diana he was thinking about. Dana's lips were what came to him. He wanted more of that. He shook his head to clear it; there was work to be done. He'd have to think about this.
It was around seven when they got the call. It had been messy, but they had him. One agent had been wounded, but no one killed and the woman, his latest victim, had been rescued. She'd need a life time of therapy, but that wasn't what he wanted to dwell on right now. He was watching the press conference that Patterson had hastily called, and shook his head. The man did understand PR.
"Guys, I'm outta here," he spoke to the other agents leaning on desks or sitting watching 'the man'. They didn't say much, they knew Spooky had done it again, and decided not talking about it was for the best, for now anyway. Mulder grabbed his suit coat off of the back of the chair and headed for the parking deck.
He was about half way when his cell phone rang. "Congrats on the case."
Mulder smiled when he recognized Byers' voice. "Shouldn't you be asking for Patterson?"
"We prefer the truth. Stop by, we have some news."
Mulder paused in his steps. "Yeah, I'll be right there." He disconnected and hurried to his car. He shouldn't be surprised at the speed of their discoveries, he knew they put their stuff aside for him, and that humbled him. They were good friends.
He knocked and was more than a little surprise when Frohike answered the door without a welcoming word. He stepped inside and turned to look at him. "You okay?"
The little man looked him up and down, then headed for the work room. Bemused, Mulder followed him. Mulder spotted Langly and Byers. "Is something wrong?"
"Was this some sort of test or something?" Langly snarled at him.
"Mulder, she is the mother," Byers said, trying to soothe the atmosphere.
"Uh, good. What's going on?"
"The guys are a little, uh, put out that you didn't tell us he was yours as well."
Mulder froze, staring at Byers with his mouth open. "M-mine? How the hell - "
"I told you he didn't know," Byers faced the other two. "He's not that good an actor. He didn't know."
"Okay, okay." Frohike shook his head. Langly still looked unconvinced.
"Wait a minute," Mulder sank into the empty chair. "It can't be my kid. I didn't even meet the woman until the hostage situation. She had already been impregnated when she was returned. How - "
"You never heard about artificial insemination?"
"So where did that get my sperm?" Mulder demanded.
"Dunno, where you been leavin' it?" Langly asked with a sneer.
"Nowhere. I don't - "
"What about your chickadee?" Frohike asked.
"Yeah, has it been safe sex?" Langly watched him.
"It has, not that it's any of your business," Mulder retorted.
"So who disposes of the toy balloons?" Langly wouldn't let it go.
"Diana? You think she - "
"I think she doesn't like the fact that you haven't given up your idea of taking on the 'X-Files' and has tried to thwart you on several occasions. But you've been thinking with your cock and ignoring it."
"Hold it! What I do in my personal life is none - "
"Personal life - my left nut! She's in it for what she can get for herself."
"And that's my sperm?"
"Yeah, it might be. If she's working with them." Langly and Mulder were nearly nose to nose now.
Mulder fell silent in shock. Yeah, they had brought this up before, but not . . . all of the things they'd tried to point out to him before were suddenly clear. Had he been that clueless? She didn't know all of the story, at least he hadn't told her, not like he had Dana. That little boy, Will, was his son? He had his coloring; he'd bonded with him almost instantaneously. The role of Dana's husband had just appeared in his mind during the hostage situation and it had felt right, but this . . .
Langly eased off and took his seat. "The kid is yours. We ran the test three times."
"Does Diana know you've met this woman?" Byers asked.
Panic filled Mulder's face for an instant. "No, I haven't discussed the case with her."
"And she hasn't asked. But does she know?"
"I don't know." His face was hard now, anger growing.
"And you don't know how many times this has happened."
"How many kids do you have? How many times have they - "
"Stop it." He wanted to shout it, but it was a whisper.
"Leave him alone for a minute," Byers ordered. "Just back off." He left the room for a moment and returned with a beer for Mulder, but not the others. Frohike started to say something, but fell silent at Byers' look.
Mulder downed it in one drink. "I have a kid, a kid with a woman I've barely met."
"You don't have to do anything about that, Mulder. It's a miracle you even met her."
Langly drew back at the look on the man's face.
"I need to go."
"Mulder, what are you going to do?"
"I don't have a clue." Without another word, he was out of their place and jogging toward his car.
He drove straight to her place and parked, but didn't get out. He sat staring at the door. His son, well, their son was probably asleep. She was comfortable, she didn't need any money. Langly was right, if he drove off he could forget all about this. Only he, and the guys, knew he had a stake in . . . The phone ringing startled him. He pulled it out of his pocket automatically, but looked at the display. Diana.
Disgusted he shoved the phone back into his pocket. He needed to think about everything. If he went in there tonight he could only blow it.
He exited the car and headed for the building. Instead of taking the elevator, he took the stairs, trying to work off a little energy. He hadn't slept well, too many thoughts going in too many directions. He woken early for a Saturday, without having set the alarm. Now he didn't hesitate once he reached her door, knocking before he could talk himself out of it.
It took a moment, but she opened the door with the smile and Will in her arms. "Well, hello. We were in the middle of a diaper change."
"I'm sorry to just drop by so early."
Dana shook her head. "You're very welcome. We’re normally up at the same time on weekends anyway."
To show his approval, Will reached for the man. Mulder held out his arms to the boy and took him and Mudder Air against his chest. For just an instant, Dana's brow furrowed, but Mulder looked up and smiled at her.
"Could we go somewhere, maybe the park?"
"Uh, well, yes I guess so. Let me get Will's shoes and jacket."
"Mulder, is everything okay?"
"Sure. It's just a pretty day."
She looked at him, but nodded. He wasn't handling this well, but he wanted to get her out of here, to somewhere they might not be overheard. Shit, why hadn't he thought of this before? Should the guys run a sweep of her place? Was she under surveillance? Or, now that the child was born and healthy were they just leaving her alone?
While Dana left them to get the diaper bag, he pulled his cell phone out. "Can you sweep her place?" No hello, no time for that.
"Is she home?"
"We're going to the park."
"On our way." The connection went dead and Mulder smiled grimly, then remembered the boy in his arms. He seemed to be watching Mulder, even . . . understanding. That was projection on his part, but . . . The boy suddenly smiled at him and Mulder couldn't help but answer. He tucked the phone back in his pocket and gave Will his full attention.
He hadn't seen it before, but the eyes that he'd thought of as darker than hers were exactly his color, the hair as well. No wonder the kid didn't have a button nose, he grimaced slightly but when Will laughed, he joined him.
"What's the joke? May I join in?" Dana returned with a jacket for Will, wearing a light sweater herself.
"Just guy stuff," Mulder replied offhandedly and took the diaper bag from her. "Since I don't have a car seat, may I join you?"
Again she seemed to be trying to read him, but she nodded. "That's makes the most sense. I heard you had a good day yesterday."
He looked over at her surprised. She couldn't know what he'd found out.
"The guy in Indiana?" she reminded him.
"What did you think I was talking about?"
"I'll tell you later."
She decided to go with her instincts. This was a man she felt she could trust. Yes, he had looked into her private medical records, but it was because of his concern for his sister, and maybe for her. The fact that she was physically attracted to him, very attracted, needed to be swept aside. She was in good health and Will was too. So far he hadn't even had a case of the sniffles, even though he was attending the day care at the hospital.
Today they didn't have to think about any of that. It was Saturday; a man she wanted to get to know had come over to spend time with them. Maybe, just maybe he was attracted to her a little as well.
He didn't assume he would drive, which raised him a notch in her opinion. He just took a seat on the passenger side after watching her strap Will into his seat.
The park was mostly empty of kids this early, but Will certainly didn't care and made the most of his time on the swings. They took seats at a nearby picnic table after the swinging.
"What's wrong?" she asked, looking him straight in the eye.
"Do you already know me too well?" he evaded.
"Maybe beginning to. I hope that's not a bad thing. Please, if it's not highly classified, talk to me."
He observed her for a moment. He wanted to talk to her, confide in her. He had found himself thinking about her nearly constantly, even before he'd had any inkling about the child, their child. He'd already told her his most precious secret - Samantha, and she had still accepted his invitation to come out here with no warning. He opened his mouth to speak, but his cell phone cut him off.
He pulled it from his pocket with a wink at her and saw the familiar phone number.
"Sorry, I need to take this."
She nodded and he rose to put a little distance between them while he had this conversation.
"Her place was crawling with bugs. Whatever the two of you have talked about has definitely been heard. You can't go back there. We're pretty sure you shouldn't even go back to your place. Whoever did this knew you were the father, you need to disappear for a little while at least, and take them with you."
God, these guys were really rattled. They never said this much over the phone. "Can you get things moving?"
"Yeah, ready to start at your word."
"Do it now. Use number two. Is the car there?"
"Yes, checked it last week."
"Thanks. I'll be in touch." He slipped the phone back into his pocket and looked up. Dana was watching him with concern.
"Mulder? Is everything . . . "
He approached her then and managed a smile. "My lousy memory. I completely forgot that I was supposed to pick up a friend at the airport. He's there and - " Mulder shrugged. "Look, I know it's an imposition, but we're closer to the airport than your place. Could you take me over there and get him. I promise to buy you a tank of gas."
She chuckled then. "Of course. From your expression I thought something terrible had happened."
"No, just kicking myself that I forgot." He shook his head. He gathered up the diaper bag, while she picked up Will and Mudder Air.
"Mulder, would you like to drive? I don't mind, I know you're anxious to get there."
"That wouldn't be sexist?"
"Well, normally yes, but this time I guess you can get away with it."
He seemed to relax at this show of trust, and she was doubly glad she'd made the offer. "I'll be careful. Precious cargo."
He headed for National, weaving a tale about this guy that he'd known at Oxford who was in the States for a short visit, kiddingly accusing her of distracting him too much. Will watched them, especially Mulder, rather than looking out the windows as was his normal practice.
She was surprised when, instead of pulling around to baggage claim, Mulder headed for short term parking. She started to say something, but bit her lip. He surely spent a lot more time here than she did. He pulled in beside a dusty black SUV and parked. He got out and reached into the back for the boy.
He put his finger to his lips, in a hushing sign and pulled the boy into his arms. Instead of picking up the diaper bag, he reached in and grabbed a handful of diapers and the box of wet wipes. She was out of the car by now and at his side. He thrust the supplies into her hands and snatched up Mudder Air.
"What - " Again he motioned for silence, then to her utter shock, opened the SUV parked beside them and began buckling Will into the back in a regular seatbelt.
"Get in," he whispered. "Hurry!" He couldn't explain it, instinct maybe, but he knew time was short. Maybe the guys had tripped something, but they needed to hurry.
She stood there, holding the diapers and staring at him. "Dana, I promise you I will explain. Get in!"
For the first time since she'd met him, he frightened her. But the baby was already out of her reach. She did the only thing she could do; she hurried to get in on the passenger's side.
Mulder pulled out and headed for the exit. "Get down, so you won't be seen by the security cameras."
She looked at him, but he was completely serious. She unbuckled and crawled into the foot space. In a small voice she said, "I don't even have my purse."
"You won't need it. Be quiet."
It was an order, and she obeyed it, but she was beginning to shake. He chose an exit that wasn't manned and fed the money into the slot. When they were away, and he picked up speed, he looked over at her again. "You can get up now."
She did, watching him with true fear in her eyes now. "What's going on? Please, are you going to hurt us?"
He looked over at her, but didn't smile this time. "No."
"What are you doing?"
"Trying to keep you safe, you and Will. I know it's hard to believe right now, but please try to trust me. I'll tell you everything I can as soon as I think we're safe."
"Trust you? How can I do that?" Her voice was shaking, though she tried to hide it. "You lied to me. It was that phone call. You lied about having a friend at the airport."
She looked back at Will, who was watching them. She tried to lower her voice, at least have it not get shrill, but she was beginning to freak out. She'd gotten in the car with him - he'd had Will, so she had to, but . . . What was going on!
"I'm sorry. Really, I am, but I didn't have a choice."
"You didn't have a choice to take us captive? Mulder, please, Will is just a baby. He can't hurt you, I . . . Just, just let us out at the next filling station. I'll call for someone to - "
"No, you can't go back to your place. It's not safe."
She just looked at him then. Finally she spoke. "Are you . . . "
"Mulder, you haven't hurt us. Please, just let us go. I can walk. It doesn't have to be - "
"No. I know you don't understand, and I'm probably handling this as badly as possible, but please let me get us to a safer place and we can talk."
"It's not a conversation we can have while I'm driving."
He didn't look crazy, he wasn't wild-eyed or anything, but . . . He had protected them before. She wasn't blindfolded and Will was quiet. She held her tongue, for now, what else could she do?
He stopped once, at a car wash and got out. He didn't wash the car, just rinsing off the dust, but he spent some time at the back of the car.
He drove for over an hour after that, much longer than she was comfortable with, considering Will was in a regular seatbelt. The boy had finally cuddled up with Mudder Air and fallen asleep without protest. She had only looked out the window and toward the backseat, never focusing on the man beside her and keeping her mouth shut, no matter how hard that had become.
She was surprised when he pulled off the highway at a nondescript exit near Quince Orchard, Maryland. He found a small motel, one story and parked away from the office. He had the keys and his phone, but as an extra precaution, took the boy into his arms.
"We'll be right back." She wouldn't leave without Will. Could he handle this any worse? Every glance at her had shown him the back of her head, and he could see her exasperation and fear were cycling back and forth even faster now.
He quickly got a room with two double beds and returned to the car. He moved the SUV even farther from the office, and after surrendering the baby to her, escorted them into the room. It was nothing fancy, but it looked clean. There was a small table and two chairs to one side. The bath was at the back of the room and there was a small coffee maker sitting on the smallest microwave he'd ever seen. There was also a dorm-size refrigerator just outside of that door. The walls were covered in fake grass-cloth and the 'art work', at least two steps above Elvis on velvet, were of the paint by number landscapes genre. He took all of this in with a glance; she barely even looked.
Will was squirming to get down, so she put him on his feet with both beds between them and Mulder. With her hands free, and Mulder pulling the drapes, she lunged for the phone. When she looked up, he was pointing his gun at her.
"Put it down."
She dropped the receiver from nerve-less fingers and stepped back, grabbing up Will.
He disconnected the receiver from the phone and tossed it on the bed.
"What happens now?" She was holding her son tightly, and he was beginning to squirm.
He sighed, he'd blown it. She would never trust him now; in her eyes, he had put her son in danger. How did he tell her Will was his son too, and he had to keep them both safe?
"Sit here." No please, he didn't dare let her contact anyone at this point.
Slowly she took a seat at the small table and he took Will from her. He could feel her resistance. "Put your hands together behind your back."
"No. Mulder, I don't know what's wrong. Let me help you - "
"I'm not planning to jump off a ledge, Dana. I don't have time to win your confidence again right now. Just put your hands behind you."
She looked up at Will in his arms and knew true fear. He had done nothing to actually harm either of them, but he had drawn his gun. Reluctantly she placed her arms behind her, and felt the cuffs snap around her wrists. He had placed the baby on the floor to do it. While she tried to remain quiet, he scooped the boy back up.
"Dana, I will be asking your forgiveness, though I don’t expect it. For now, I have to do this and I swear to you, your safety and Will's are the only reason for my actions."
She didn't say anything. Maybe he'd snapped, maybe he had never been what she had thought he was. She pulled on her wrists and realized he had wrapped the cuffs around the chair as well, so she was unable to rise.
He returned from the bathroom with a hand towel. With a sigh and look of deep regret, he gagged her with the towel. Her look of hurt made him turn away. "We'll be back shortly."
Her eyes widened as he picked up Will again. Now she was struggling against the cuffs in earnest. "No!" It was muffled but he could easily understand.
"We won't be long. Dana, I'm so sorry. I . . . We'll be back." He left the room then, placing the Do Not Disturb card on the outside knob. He closed his eyes for a moment, and felt Will's hand rub his face gently.
"Come on, Will. We're on a deadline." He buckled the boy back into the backseat of the SUV and turned left out of the parking lot.
He followed the signs to the Wal-Mart and hurried inside. After he put the boy in the cart, he began his shopping. First came the car seat, the same one she'd had in her car, then diapers and other supplies for Will. He grabbed up a package of boxers and t-shirts and one pair of jeans for himself. Then he headed for the women's area and picked up a six-pack of panties for her. He was guessing at size, but knew he was close. He grabbed a couple of t-shirts and a pair of jeans for her as well. A large gym bag joined the supplies.
Since it was a super store, he headed for the grocery side and picked up a box of Cheerios, those milk cartons that didn't need refrigeration and some toddler food that he hoped Will liked. He got some food for adults too and a small cooler.
He hesitated at the women's aisle. Hell, did she need 'supplies'? Looking helplessly at Will, he picked up a box of medium tampons. He'd taken the woman away without even her purse. He'd never be able to get her forgiveness now, but he might as well make things as easy on her as possible. Other supplies, toothbrushes, deodorant, made his mental list as well.
After one more aisle, he checked out, using cash, then hurried out to the car. With Will's 'help' he installed the car seat and strapped the boy in. Then he loaded the rest of the supplies, except for the bag of diapers, into the gym bag. He topped off the gas tank, then hurried back to motel.
He lifted Will out of the car seat, then hefted the gym bag onto his shoulder. The diapers could stay in the car. They had the ones he had snatched from the diaper bag. Damn, he'd forgotten a diaper bag. Well, they would need more supplies soon and he didn't want to draw any more attention than he could help.
He took a deep breath and unlocked the door to their room. Her head came up instantly and with a sinking heart, he could see the track of tears on her face.
"Dana - "
She wouldn't look at him, her eyes locked on the baby. He realized she was checking for injuries on the boy, and his mood sank further. He set the boy on his feet and dropped the bag on the bed. He held Will's hand as they walked to Dana. He removed the gag and then hurried to free her hands.
She shot out of the chair, grabbing up the baby and retreating from him. She saw the pain on his face, but didn't care. She was hugging Will, crooning in his ear.
She glared at him, staying at the far side of the room.
He couldn't blame her. He began unpacking the gym bag, putting the food on the table.
She watched from the distance she could manage, and blinked when she spotted the tampons he carried along with the other supplies into the bathroom. While he was in there she chanced looking into the bag.
She looked up to see him standing in the door of the bath, watching her, not approaching the bed since she was there. She reached into the bag and pulled out the book, In the Night Kitchen. She held it up. "Why?"
"You said it was his favorite."
Tears spilled out of her eyes again. "What's going on?" She heard the pleading note in her voice, but she had to know.
Now he looked away, but he had to tell her. They were in for the night, even though it was early. It was time. He nodded and made his way to the table. He offered her a bottle of water but she shook her head. He opened it and took a swig.
She sat on the bed farthest from him, Will in her lap.
"I told you about my sister." She nodded. "I told you I thought that the government was working with . . . them." Again she nodded. "I pointed out the similarities to your abduction and we discussed the tests they ran on you that made no sense."
"I don't - "
"I ran some more tests."
She stiffened then.
"Dana, I didn't expect - " his phone ringing cut him off and he pulled it from his pocket. He answered but didn't speak.
"Email two." The call disconnected.
"What?" She could tell the call had ended. Had it been a wrong number?
He looked up at her. "Email two," he responded.
"Okay, email too, what does that mean?"
"Not also, two." He raised two fingers. "I'll be right back." He stepped outside and returned quickly with a laptop computer that had apparently been hidden in the back of the SUV. He opened it, grateful that, cheap as this place was, there was wireless access, probably due in part to the restaurant next door.
While it was booting up, he looked back over at her.
"Is that what you were messing with at the car wash?" She asked.
"No, I was changing license tags. I didn't know if the original one was caught on camera, but I had to assume it had been. Now we have Pennsylvania plates."
Her eyes widened but she didn't ask any more questions.
He opened the account that led to email two and was quiet, watching what looked like pictures load. He closed his eyes after a moment and shook his head.
"What?" she asked again.
"They know we're together."
He just looked at her then.
She blushed, at his look of pity. He wasn't right; the government didn't conspire with aliens from other planets. The more she thought about that, the more absurd . . .
She rose then, Will tight in her arms, and approached the table. Mulder moved back to give her room, knowing his presence wasn't welcome. "Oh my god." Photos of her apartment, completely ransacked, were on the screen. Whatever they had been looking for didn't seem to have been found. She scanned through and came to another apartment. "Is this - "
"Who did this?"
"Whoever doesn't want us together."
"That other test I ran . . . "
She stood up and took the baby back to the bed, putting distance between them. "Tell me."
He resumed his seat at the table and studied his hands for a long moment. "Because of the circumstances of your disappearance, I, I decided to make sure that Will was your biological child."
"What? I wasn't pregnant when I - "
"Yes, you were. They didn't tell you, but it was part of the tests they ran at Walter Reed."
"That wasn't in what you gave me."
"I know. I wasn't sure you were ready for that." He watched her kiss the boy's head.
"He is your son. The DNA tests proved that."
"How did you get our DNA?" Her voice was nearly steady.
"You're missing the lid of a sippy cup. The cup was in your dishwasher . . . " He saw that she knew what he was talking about. "There was also a cup with a straw on the counter. I took the straw as well."
"He's mine. I could have told you that," she said defiantly.
"He doesn't look much like you. He really more resembles his father."
"How would you know that? You've never met Allen - " she stopped when she realized the implications. Allen wasn't the boy's father, not if she had already been pregnant. She met his eyes then. "Who?"
He watched her mouth fall open in shock.
"That, that's not possible," she stuttered.
"I know, but it doesn't change the facts. That's not what I was looking for. It never crossed my mind that I . . . I can see it now, when I look, but I wasn't looking and certainly not for that. I don't know why, and I'm not sure how, but, but you were impregnated during your abduction and you - "
"No! I've listened to your theories, I sympathize with you losing your sister to whatever happened to her, but - "
"We can do the test again. You can pick the place. But for now, we have to stay hidden."
She looked over at the laptop, at the pictures that were still showing. "Because of that?"
He nodded. "I'm positive that we were never supposed to meet, much less become involved. I don't know why either of us were chosen for an experiment like this. Hell, I don't know how many kids I might have out there right now because of . . . " He shook his head and shut up, then turned to shut down the laptop.
Now she was watching him closely. Was he acting? It didn't seem like it. She hadn't known him long, and certainly not that well, but this . . . He seemed to be truly devastated by what was happening.
She looked down at her son, who smiled up at her. She'd never made the connection, there had been no reason, but the hair was like Mulder's, even the cowlick and, and his eyes. Her head came up to find him watching her, wary of what she might be thinking.
"I never told you this, Dana, but that day, in the grocery . . . I had no reason to be there. I had driven by it and turned around. I didn't know why, it just felt . . . "
"Maybe you saw the men with the guns," she whispered.
He shook his head. "They came in after I did. I didn't see anyone there until after the shooting started and I crawled around the end of the aisle and saw you."
"You drove past . . . "
He shrugged. "I've learned to go with my instincts. Sometimes I feel like there are things I should do. I don't fight it any more. It's been that way since Samantha . . . "
Will made his presence known then, demanding to be let down. The glance she sent him pierced Mulder's heart, but he said nothing. Will, free again, toddled over to him and held up his arms to be picked up. Mulder looked up at Dana, as though for permission, then lifted him into his lap.
Will's took a fistful of Mulder's t-shirt into his hand and lay his head on Mulder's chest. "Dadadada."
Mulder looked down, his mouth open in shock. He managed to look up at Dana, and her expression mirrored his own. "Has, has he ever . . . "
She shook her head. "He's never said that before. He said Mama early. Dada is, is easier to say and usually comes first, but . . . " Her voice trailed off or ran down. She sat staring at the two of them. She hadn't seen it before, hadn't looked for it, but she couldn't deny it now. Mulder was Will's father.
After a long moment in which no one spoke, Dana met Mulder's eyes. "I guess I better give back the condo."
Startled, because that was not where his mind had gone, Mulder laughed and the atmosphere lightened.
"Yeah, I guess you could consider it. Dana, I - "
"Just wait. We need to talk, but not now."
Mulder nodded. "Do you want to eat? It's fast food, but - "
She shook her head. "Not right now. Let me feed Will, maybe later."
"Sure, we can heat it up or . . . " He shrugged and when she approached him, relinquished the boy to her.
He again retreated to the far side of the room and finished emptying out the bag while she fed Will. They studiously avoided looking at each other. When she took Will in for his bath, Mulder couldn't stop himself. He followed them into the bathroom.
"Uh, yeah, okay." Dana said, again not looking at him while she ran the water. She let Will stay in the water extra long, since he'd spent so much time in the car. He had a wonderful time splashing, even without his big bird, and got in some exercise finally.
"It's early for bed," Dana remarked.
"Yeah, normally, but I'd rather travel at night right now. I'm sorry he's going to be strapped in for so long."
"Where are we going?" She was wrestling the boy into the new pajamas that Mulder had purchased, but she stopped to look at him. "Mulder?"
"I have an idea, but . . . "
"Do you think I'll call someone and tell them?"
The color rose on his face. "No, I know you want to protect Will as much, more than I do, but I need to make sure about some things now."
"If I can get hold of some money, if I can make sure that we're not being tracked."
"How, how bad is it that, that we know."
"I'm not sure, but - " He looked over at the laptop. "I don't want to be on-line again tonight. I'll check in when I get up."
"You're going to bed now?"
"A nap, when I wake up, we can leave." He took the gym bag off of the bed closest to the door. "Are you planning to run off?" He tried to smile, but failed.
"No. I'm not. There's a lot I need to know."
"Me too," he admitted. "Is he ready to go down?"
"I'm going to go with routine and read to him."
He stretched out on his bed, pulling out the pillow. "May I listen?"
She gave a small smile then and gathered Will up into her arms. The two of them sat at the head of the bed with Will in her lap. After only a page, the thumb had gone into the mouth and his eyes began to droop. She looked up and smiled at Mulder without thinking. He watched as her smile faded, and he looked away.
He fell asleep fairly easy for him; he hadn't slept much the night before. She moved over to the little table and watched these two males sleep. They were in the same damn position. Mulder didn't have a 'Mudder Air', but his head rested on the pillow at the same angle.
How had all of this happened? All she had done was go into the market for milk and eggs. No, it had started long before that, she might as well admit it. Why had she been chosen of all of the people at that stupid picnic, taken for a month, and now . . . impregnated. She shuddered.
She looked at the tiny boy in the large bed. Her son. She had carried him, loved him from the beginning. It hadn't mattered that Allen hadn't wanted to be involved, to be a father. She'd wanted the baby. The disappointment of her parents, the delay of her education - none of it had mattered. Now it looked like she was 'on the lam' in order to keep him safe. She looked over at Mulder again. He'd done the same, even before he had known of any involvement, he had become involved. The birthday party, the bear where her son's head now rested . . . Would it have been better not to have met the man? She and Will wouldn't be in hiding. But if he was being honest - and despite everything she did find herself believing him - they would have met somehow. Had he really turned around and come back to the grocery store that day?
This was maddening. She got ready for bed, leaving her clothes on as well. At the last minute, she moved one of the chairs to fit under to doorknob. She wasn't sure whether she was more afraid of what was outside the room than what was inside, but in any case, the sound would give Mulder more time to pull that damn gun he had under his pillow. He would defend them; she had no doubt of that.
He was certainly the most complicated man she'd ever met.
Mulder woke slightly disoriented and took a second to recognize his surroundings. What was the dream? He'd been in some sort of suburban neighborhood; all the houses were basically the same, located on postage stamp size yards, a lot of young kids. One of the places he'd bought was in Lexington, Kentucky, yeah, that felt right. He hadn't seen the place, though he knew the address. But why had he dreamed of it? Was his subconscious telling him that was a safe place? It looked like they would fit in pretty well. She had been standing at his side while he held Will. She'd been blonde in the dream. Would she consider that? It was probably a good idea.
He took a quick shower and dressed, then booted up the computer as the coffee brewed. He watched her stir at the smell.
He had no new messages, so he sent a one word message to the guys. They'd know where to send the package, and logged off again.
"Is it morning?"
"No, it's night, almost eleven. I thought some coffee would help me get going since I'll be driving most of the night." She nodded. "Want some?"
"No, thank you. I guess we should pack the car."
"I can get it, there's not that much to pack."
"We still need a car seat. I don't - "
"It was the first thing I bought. I got the same one you had, since I've never investigated the things."
She was watching him with wonder. "Really?"
"Yeah, I want him safe. I want you both safe. Dana, I wouldn't be doing this . . . "
She nodded and rose, pushing her hair back. She slipped on her shoes. He fell silent, just watching her. For some reason the kiss they had shared came back to him. That was probably never going to happen again, not after this. The sharp pain of regret surprised him though he wasn't sure why. He'd already admitted to himself he was attracted to her - hell, they had a child together. A very small part of him wanted to laugh.
He loaded the car with their meager possessions and helped her fit the still sleeping boy into the car seat.
"You should try to go back to sleep. One of us needs to be awake for him tomorrow."
"And you don't want me to see where we're going."
"No, no that's not true. In fact I've decided where we are going."
"You don't have to - "
"I want to. I really didn't know until I woke up. Please, believe that. We're going to Kentucky. There's a house in a neighborhood, it's a starter home and all the houses look nearly the same - "
"On little green lawns and lots of kids . . . " She stopped as his mouth fell open.
"Where did you - "
"I dreamed about it. Is it a real place?"
"I, I'm not sure. The house wasn't built when I bought . . . You dreamed the same thing I did?"
"You . . . "
He took a deep breath. "We need to get moving."
She thought about stopping him, asking again what was going on, but from the look on his face, decided against it. She climbed into the front seat and buckled in. The tenseness didn't abate, so she finally closed her eyes just to escape a little. She did fall asleep, her even breathing let him know that. He looked over at her then. She was holding up pretty well, considering. He had thrown her back into her nightmare, she had been kidnapped, again, and this time her son had been taken as well. He wasn't going to hurt her, but she had no reason to believe that.
The thought he kept suppressing came up then. She'd had the same dream as him. She had dreamed about the house in Lexington. Hell, he'd never seen it, but she had described what he had seen.
What the hell was going on? Yes, he was glad he'd turned around and gone into that grocery. The guys in there could easily have . . . hurt them. They were safe, and on the run, because of him. No, he needed to concentrate on getting them to Kentucky and make sure they weren't followed. No one should know where they were.
He shoved it all out of his mind and drove, listening to his . . . his family, sleep.
He was bleary eyed when she woke.
"Let me drive for a little while."
"No, you're not and you're a danger to Will driving this tired. I've told you, I'm not going to do anything that will put him in danger."
For just an instant she thought he was going to argue, but instead he nodded.
"Thanks. If I could get an hour or so. Just stay on the highway. We're only a couple of hours from Lexington."
"Are we going directly to the house?"
"No. We have to pick up some things first."
"Supplies." That was all he said, then he took the next exit. At the top he pulled over and got out. They passed each other in front of the car, then he buckled himself in.
She could see this was making him uneasy. "Mulder, I'm not going to put Will in danger. Get some sleep."
He looked at her for a long moment, then nodded and reclined his seat. He really did fall asleep. It was nearly fifty minutes later when he jerked awake. "What the - "
"It's okay, Mulder. It's okay. It was just a dream."
"Did I say anything?"
"No, you just got really restless. You didn't sleep the whole hour. Just relax."
He looked back at Will, sound asleep against Mudder Air. "He's a good kid."
"Yes. He doesn't give me any trouble. He's slept through the night since he was just a few weeks old. He's everyone's darling at day care."
"At the hospital?"
She nodded. "Mulder, they're going to be looking for me, for us when I don't show up for work on Monday. They may already be looking for us, if the police contacted work after the break in."
"They won't be able to find you. Think of this as a safe house, or a witness protection program. I've taken care of them looking for me temporarily at least."
"You have a lot of experience with this?"
He smiled at her then. "I'm motivated."
She huffed, but didn't protest. "You said we had to pick up some supplies. Where?"
"There's a Fed Ex on Harrodsburg Road. There should be a package there for us after ten. In the meantime we can get some breakfast and some clothes for you and Will. From what I hear, there's everything anyone would need on either Harrodsburg or Nicholasville Roads."
"Then we go to the house?"
"No, then we check into another motel. Before anyone in the neighborhood sees us, I want you to dye your hair."
"In the dream, do you remember?"
The car jerked slightly. "I was blonde, with, with curls."
He nodded. "Do you want me to drive?"
"No. I, I need the . . . "
"I understand that."
She wanted to drive, so he kept quiet. After they reached Lexington, she drove around a little, around New Circle until she reached Harrodsburg Road. She drove down it for a few miles, then moved over to Nicholasville and did the same. When she spotted a pancake house, she pulled in and parked.
Mulder looked back to see Will smiling at him. "Dadada."
"You got it, Big Guy." He couldn't help but smile back at him.
They had a leisurely breakfast, though she moaned at the calories in the pancakes. He and Will just laughed at her and continued eating. When they were through, they found a Target and did some shopping.
When it was finally after ten, he drove them over to the Fed Ex store he'd mentioned. While she waited in the car, he went inside. It took a few minutes, but they found the package that had been delivered to a Richard Morris that morning and he signed for it.
She watched him return to the car with a rectangular box, three by twelve or there about. She admired the man during this crisis, at ease in his body, but alert. He was watching his surroundings even now, just returning to the car.
He got in and handed her the box. "Will's been in the car for days now. Why don't we find a park or something?"
"That would be nice."
It didn't take long, since there was a good size park behind the Fayette Mall, and parked near the swings. He opened the back door and started unbuckling Will. "Why don't you bring the box? We need to check it out."
She nodded and reached back in to get it.
"Wanna swing, Big Guy?"
"Ing!" Will bounced in his arms and Mulder laughed. Dana, following them couldn't help but smile. Will certainly liked the man, and felt safe with him. That was a good thing, didn't little kids have instincts about things like this?
Mulder placed Will securely in the swing and push him lightly. Will chortled at Dana who took a seat in a nearby swing, the box in her lap.
After a little while, Will wanted to get down, so they let him 'run' around a while, doing better at walking with each step.
"He's growing so fast," Dana mused, watching him as Mulder followed/chased him around the area. When she pulled a sippy cup out of her bag, Will made a beeline to her. Mulder took a seat at the picnic table and put Will into his lap. Dana joined them and handed the cup to Will.
"Why don't you go ahead and open the box," Mulder said watching Will.
"Sure. We're in this together for right now, right?"
She didn't comment on that, but after a moment she pulled the string to open the box. There were several envelopes inside. She pulled out the biggest.
"Be careful opening that one," he said as he looked down at Will.
Curious now, she carefully opened the flap and gasped, then looked around to see if anyone else could have heard her. "What in the - "
"Probably $20,000, in small bills. That's what I told them we'd need to get started. Put that back, and open the others."
"Whose money is this?" she hissed.
"Mine. I had a, a disappearance fund."
She stared at him for a moment, then at the nod of his head, pulled open the next envelope. It held ID, drivers' licenses, passports, social security cards, insurance cards, credit cards, even library cards. "I don't believe . . . "
"There's another one," he commented.
After looking at him, she pulled the third envelope out. It held the lease, keys to the house, and a background story for them.
After staring at the papers in her hand for several moments, she looked up. "How, how did you get this?"
"Those friends that ran the tests for me? I called them, they got this together. Well, mine was already set up; they had to fix the stuff for you, which is why there are no pictures. We have to get some passport pictures made for you and I'll fit them in."
She stared at him.
"Yeah, uh . . . "
"They were able to do this in a day?"
"Damn it! What am I into here?" She looked down at the baby, but didn't apologize.
"You've never gone underground before, which is good . . . for you . . . Dana, I'm trying to keep you - "
"Safe, I know." She sighed. "What do we do now?"
"We find a motel room and get everything together."
"Why don't we go to the house, since we have the key?"
"We don't look like we're ready to move in. We need to put the things we have in boxes, not Target bags, and you need to fix your hair."
"Is the place furnished?"
"No, I've never been inside. We'll do that after we see the place. If he's had enough exercise, maybe we should find a room."
She closed her eyes and shook her head. Mulder looked down at Will and shrugged. Will laughed and grabbed a handful of t-shirt. Mulder rose with the boy in his arms. "At least you're on my side," he whispered.
They found a room and Dana put the baby down for a nap. Mulder went out to the dumpster and brought back a few boxes, which he then loaded up with the things they had purchased. He packed those into the back of the SUV.
When he returned he took a seat near the window and sat watching the traffic. She watched him for several minutes, then came over and took a seat across from him.
He shrugged. "You saw your place, my apartment. They're looking for any clue to find us."
"I don't know. But then I don't know why they created Will." She winced at that and he looked apologetic. "I'm sorry."
"I carried him, he's my son."
"I know that. He's mine too."
Her eyes flared for an instant, then she seemed to deflate. "I . . . What does that mean?"
"I don't know. I care about him already. I want to be part of his life, if you'll allow it. I know he's yours, but something has caused me to be part of this. I didn't ask for this, hell it never crossed my mind. But I'm the reason you're in danger now. If I'd stayed away, 'they' wouldn't have come after you."
He looked down at his shoes. "No. Since they orchestrated his birth, they would have done something eventually. Probably taken him."
Her eyes were wide and scared now. "Why!" She glanced over at Will, but she hadn't woken him.
"Do you believe in the existence of extra terrestrials?" he asked softly.
Instead of answering, she let her face drop into her hands. He kept quiet. This was too much, too soon, especially for a woman who had never considered what she was facing now.
When she finally sat up again, she asked, "Why a house in the suburbs? I mean if you're hiding - "
"Yeah, this is the only one of these I got. Usually I figured I'd get an apartment in a big city, but this felt right."
"You've never seen it, you said."
"No, I bought the lot a . . . "
"What?" She looked up concerned.
"I bought it a year ago, on Will's birthday."
"On Will's . . . that's a coincidence."
"Is it? Like it's a coincidence I went back to the store?" Mulder looked over at the sleeping boy.
"What? What are you thinking?"
"I'm not sure. Look, tomorrow we can move into the house. We'll buy some furniture, fit in and just keep a low profile. Let my friends and I do some research, please."
"I don't have much of a choice, do I?"
"I, I'm sorry."
She rose then and moved to the bed where Will lay, and curled up beside him.
Mulder watched her silently. What was he supposed to do? He couldn't let them be taken like Samantha. He wouldn't allow that.
When Will woke, Mulder played with him and they ate at the diner next to the motel. When they were in for the evening, Mulder pulled out the hair dye and handed it to her. She looked over at Will who was clapping, and carried the box into the bathroom.
When she came out, the towel around her head, they were waiting.
"I feel ridiculous. I didn't get a hair straightener."
"Good. You're going for a disguise, let it go natural."
She grimaced but didn't say anything. Finally, she removed the towel. She was blonde and soft damp curls outlined her face. "When it dries it'll be worse."
"I like it. I liked the red, but I like this too."
She sighed and picked up Will. "What do you think?"
He took a handful of the curls and babbled, clearly showing his approval.
The next morning, Mulder saw what she meant. The curls were out of control. With a growl, she pulled it back into a clip and gave up. She was definitely not in a good mood.
He carried the few things they had used overnight out to the car, and then took Will. She followed and watched him buckle in the boy. He knew how to do it now, and she watched as he tested the straps in any case.
He drove them into the neighborhood and slowed down. He glanced over at her and saw her jaw hanging slack, same as his. It was the neighborhood from the dream. "It, it's that one," she said with a shaky voice. She was right. He looked over at it. All of the houses were a shade of beige, but some had a hint of pink or green. Theirs was green with a double car garage sticking out front.
"Mulder - "
"I don't know," he answered her unspoken question. Silently he pulled into the short driveway and turned off the engine. He looked over at her and saw her fear. "It'll be okay."
She didn't respond, but unbuckled her seat belt. He did the same, then opened the back and hefted Will from his seat. He leaned in and whispered to the boy. "Do you have anything to do with this?"
Will smiled and wiggled to get down. Holding his hand, Mulder joined Dana, and they headed for the front door. The key fit and they stepped inside.
It was empty. All of the walls were cream with a beige brown carpet. There was a tiny bit of hard wood at the entrance, enough room for a mat before stepping on the carpet. There was a wall dissecting the downstairs into a formal area on the side with the front door and a family room on the other side with the sliding door and fireplace. The wall stopped about four feet from the stairs, but couldn't be called a hall, just an opening. It was a good size family room, twice the size of the formal area, with the kitchen around the corner behind the stairs. There was a space for a table, but no dining room, just off of the kitchen. The fireplace was on the outside wall opposite the kitchen and around the corner from the sliding doors. A small patio and yard was visible through those doors. Mulder opened a door to reveal a half bath. Dana moved on into the kitchen and he followed with Will.
It was 'U' shaped with the sink facing the great room and the counter had space to eat if they bought some stools. The counters were a mottled dark gray linoleum, which worked okay with all the white of the appliances and cabinets. The appliances were white and basic. There was a microwave over the stove, which was beside the refrigerator.
"What do you think?"
She looked up and tried to smile. "It's very nice."
"But how did we know about it?"
He shook his head. "Let's shelf that for now. Want to go upstairs?"
She nodded and moved out of the kitchen. She followed him up the stairs, watching Will in his arms.
"We've got to get a stair guard," she said to him.
"First thing, I was just thinking that." There was a small sitting area at the top of the stairs. He turned left into the master suite. This would make up for anything plain downstairs. There was a tray ceiling and three windows that gave great southern light into the room. She moved into the large bath and walk in closet. She did smile now as she looked back at him. He gave her an answering smile, then followed her back through the sitting area to the nice size front bedroom with two windows. There was full bath between it and another bedroom on the back of the house.
"This should be Will's room," Dana said of the back bedroom. "It's not that close to the stairs, and it not over the garage, so that shouldn't wake him up."
Mulder looked a little surprised at that. Another thing he hadn't thought to consider. "Yeah, good idea. Do, uh, do you want to go look for furniture?"
"What do you want to get?"
"Well, it's your money."
"It's our house, at least for now. I think you'd be better at picking out what we need and could probably make it look like it belongs."
Her lips twitched then. "I'll take that as a compliment."
"Thanks. We need to make a list."
He picked up Will, tucked him under his arm and raced down to stairs to Will's squeals. Dana followed more slowly. "I'll get the boxes we do have out of the car. You start on the list."
"Chicken!" she called out to him as he headed outside.
When he brought in the last box, she was leaning against the counter in the kitchen, watching Will who was looking out the sliding door.
"Okay, bare minimum - we need a couch, table and chairs for down here. Two bedroom sets, and a crib for upstairs."
She chuckled. "Okay, a TV and something to put it on."
"And a chair. We only need one bedroom set."
"Excuse me?" Her eyebrow started to rise.
"Uh, I can sleep down here, on the couch. We need to get one long enough for me."
"You want to sleep on the couch?"
"I'll be kind of on guard . . . " He stopped that her expression. Shit, he'd brought it all back when she’d been in a good mood. "Let's go on."
She nodded. "Let me change Will first."
When she was through they turned to the door, and she started when they heard the knock. Mulder immediately stepped in front of her and looked through the side window. He looked back to tell her it was okay, and saw her clutching Will to her. "It's okay."
He nodded. "Trust me, please?"
She closed her eyes, but nodded. He opened the door as she stepped up beside him.
"Hi! I know you're moving in and don't need any company," the brunette with the ponytail said. "I'm Marge Carpenter and I live next door. I saw the truck with your stuff isn't here yet, and I thought you could use this." She held out a baby gate, and Dana smiled.
"We were just talking about that."
"Won't you come in?" Mulder asked, stepping aside. "I'm William Hale, this is Katy and Will."
Marge stepped inside, and propped the baby gate against the wall. "You'll be able to get a lot more done with the steps blocked off, I know. And don't worry about getting it back. Mine are way beyond me being able to stop them with this."
"How many do you have?" Dana asked.
"Two, Kevin is six, and Candice is three. How old is Will?"
"A year, just barely."
"Ah, the twos are still to come. You're welcome to escape to my house any time. Well, I know you're busy, when is the truck expected?"
"That's the fun part," Mulder said. "We are now officially educated, but along with losing student housing, the stuff that was 'ours' wasn't worth keeping, so we get to go shopping."
Marge's eyes gleamed. "Now that is fun. Check out Furnitureland South on Nicholasville. They always have a sale and good discounts. Head into town, cross the bridge and it's on the right. Were you in UK's graduate housing? I have a friend that's over there."
"No, we were in North Carolina."
She nodded and missed the evasion. "Okay, gotta run see if I still have a house. I'm right there," she pointed next door. "Hollar if you need anything."
"Thank you," Dana said, watching the woman hurry away. She turned to Mulder. "Can I trust her?"
"How do you know?"
"Just a feeling. Come on, let's head over to Nicholasville."
He had no trouble finding the place, and followed her inside looking bemused. "This is definitely your field."
"Have you never bought furniture?"
"I have a couch and a TV. Oh yeah, and a couple of tables, but none of them match like this."
She looked at him for a moment, then led him on inside. Her choices were well thought out and coordinated in a way he didn't even try to follow. She was holding on, making the best of the situation, but not what he could call comfortable yet. Leaving the decisions to her after a few minutes, he took Will over to the children's furniture and let him climb on the bunk beds, advising the boy that this was far in the future for him. He spotted her watching them, trying to keep Will in sight even as she worked with the salesman, so Mulder returned to her side. He didn't want to make this any worse for her. He found Dana studying the bedroom furniture. She was standing at a fairly plain set, with a maple stained wood.
He was behind her, and noted her glance a couple of times over at a four-poster dark cherry wood set with rice pattern posts. Then he watched her turn her back on it. She asked the very attentive clerk some questions about the maple set.
Mulder stepped closer. "Excuse me. How much is that one?" He pointed to the one she had been trying to ignore.
"Oh, that's a lovely suite, made by Broyhill. It comes with six pieces, bed, dresser, bureau, two side tables and the mirror. I can let you have that, along with everything else you're purchasing for, um, $1900."
"Great, we'll take it."
"It's pretty, I like it. You got to pick the couch and chair. We're going to need something to hold the TV, and a table and chairs."
"We're headed that way," the salesman, his smile growing every minute, responded.
Mulder grinned and looked down at Will. "She needs our help."
"Oh I do?"
"Definitely. You probably don't even know the size cabinet we need for the big screen."
"Big screen?" She shook her head, but didn't dispute it. Mulder trailed her, Will in his arms. They looked over the TV cabinets and chose one. Mulder found a matching coffee table, but Dana vetoed it. "It's got sharp corners."
"Oh, yeah." Shit, another thing he'd never thought of.
"There's more over there," the salesman pointed. "Pick out any one you like. With this order, it's on the house."
Dana blinked at that, but followed Mulder over to the other side of the store. "Free? He's giving us a coffee table for free?"
Mulder grinned. "We've made the man's commission for the month. What do you like?"
She picked a rounded one that matched the TV cabinet, and the salesman added it to the order.
They left with the promise that the small truck would be by with at least part of their furniture that afternoon. The bedroom set, which had to be dissembled and set up would be delivered the next day.
They headed for the car, and after they were in and buckled, Mulder looked over at her. "TV shopping now?"
She tried to stifle the chuckle. "I suppose you're the expert there."
"Definitely," he affirmed.
They had only been home a few minutes when the van pulled up with most of their new furniture. Mulder helped the two guys unload the truck, while Dana kept Will out of the way. Mulder looked down at her as he hauled the mattress up the stairs, holding their son and smiling at the new kitchen table. He didn't understand the emotion that threatened to overwhelm him. He'd been doing this to protect her, protect their son, but this felt . . . different. Even if it was 'acting' it felt like a family.
As though she felt his eyes on her, she looked up and something caused color to flood her face. The older delivery man cleared his throat and Mulder jerked, and continued up the stairs. That was . . . awkward.
Once the men had left, she had him rearrange the furniture a little, then he sat down on the floor and began working on setting up the TV. Will 'helped' by crawling over him and trying to put things in his mouth. When he finally got it hooked up, Mulder was exhausted and knew she was laughing at him somewhere upstairs.
"Okay, Big Guy, let's see what's on." He took the baby over to the couch and stretched out. Within moments, both of them were sound asleep in front of ESPN.
Dana slipped downstairs to check, and stopped dead on the next to the bottom step, watching them. Again, in nearly identical positions, Will perfectly comfortable on Mulder's chest. What was going on?
The boys woke from their naps to the smell of dinner cooking, and after a quick change for Will, came to offer their assistance.
"Oh sure, now that everything's ready . . . " She tried to glare at them but Will was so obviously happy in Mulder's arms, she couldn't sustain it.
That night he lay on the new couch, wide awake, thinking about what the hell he had done. Could he keep them safe this way? 'They' knew he and Dana were missing; they had to assume that he knew about Will, and the boy's parentage. What was it about Will? Was he different from other kids? Dana had been in their custody, they had impregnated her. He had been . . . changed by them the night they had taken Samantha. Okay, he hadn't admitted that to himself before, but it was true. They had 'enhanced' him, his memory, his intellect - okay he'd only been twelve, but he knew. Hadn't his grades improved dramatically? It wasn't just that he'd had few friends left after that, or that the mothers of his friends had kept them away, and therefore more time to study. He had understood things better. So he was different, and for some reason they had wanted a child from him, from them.
He couldn't talk to her about this. She already thought he was a fool, believing in extraterrestrials. At least she had believed him when he had told her Will was his. She wouldn't admit it any more than he would, but they had both known it on some level.
They should be safe here, at least for a while. He'd keep emergency supplies in the car, and hope.
Upstairs was no better. The mattress was on the floor and she was comfortable enough, but her mind wouldn't quit. What the hell was she doing? She was in a state where she knew no one but the man that had kidnapped her and her son. He was Will's father; somehow she knew that, but it made no sense.
It felt like the first time she'd drawn a breath since she had stepped out of her car at the airport. He had said he was an FBI agent and shown her his badge, but so what? He could have been stalking her, followed her into that grocery and just lucked into a robbery. That's idiotic, she chastised herself. He had been good to her and to Will, but he had drawn a gun on her. Okay, he'd been back in less than an hour with all kinds of supplies that proved he had her best interests at heart. Had he really signed to build this house on the day that Will was born? Will, the baby liked Mulder and trusted him. That was not feinted. They got along famously. He had shown her where he was hiding the cash that came in the box, and given her the ID in her new name. She wasn't being held prisoner in any way she would have thought, having only one car wasn't the same, was it?
The pictures of her apartment returned to her mind. That could have been staged by these 'friends' of his, the ones that did DNA tests and hacked into government computers. So why was she lying here trusting him? What was it that made all this bearable? Okay, he was more than attractive, though he'd made no move since everything had fallen apart. He hadn't even attempted to kiss her, and no, she was not sorry about that! Those eyes - could he look at her with those beautiful eyes and be lying? God! She was more than a fool, putting her son in danger, but something about him was keeping her from being scared out of her mind.
She finally fell asleep from sheer exhaustion, but was awakened by Will crying out not long after. She blearily made her way to his room, but he was sound asleep. She heard it again, and realized the sound was coming from downstairs.
What was going on? Was that Mulder? Was he hurt? He was all they had right now. If someone had found them, broken in . . . She moved quietly to the stairs and stepped over the baby gate now placed at the top to prevent Will tumbling down. The steps were new and didn't squeak as she made her careful way down.
The TV was on, but the sound was muted or turned very low. From the light she could see him on the couch and realized he was caught in a nightmare. Later she would question herself, but it didn't occur to her not to go to him.
He was restless, his voice rising now. "Don't take . . . No . . . No . . . please don't . . . " He sounded agonized.
She touched his shoulder. "Mulder? Mulder, wake up." A tear trailed down his face into his hair.
"Mulder." She shook his shoulder now and he woke abruptly, jerking away from her hand. "Sorry, I - "
"What are you doing down here?"
"I heard you. You were having a bad dream."
He looked more embarrassed than anything else. "Did I, did I say anything?"
"You were asking someone not to take something. Your sister?"
He sat up then, letting the afghan fall into his lap. He didn't have on a t-shirt; she wasn't sure what was under the afghan. For some reason it didn't seem to matter. She took a seat at the far end of the couch and tucked one leg under her.
Now he looked a little frightened, but kept quiet.
"Were you dreaming about when your sister was taken?"
He shook his head. "Actually I was, it was you, you and Will."
She blinked at that. She bit her lip, then looked up at him. "You’re really not a stalker or - "
"I'm not a stalker. The Bureau frowns on it."
"You really work for the FBI."
He nodded. "You saw my badge."
"I also saw my new driver's license."
His lips quirked then. "Touche."
"You really do care about Will."
"And you," he said before he could stop himself.
"You're the mother of my child."
That statement rendered her speechless for a moment.
"Who was with you?"
"With me?" she asked.
"When Will was born. Who was your coach?"
"Oh, I didn't have one. I went in alone."
"Alone?" He looked disturbed at that.
"Well, Allen had already made it quite clear that he wasn't interested in being involved in any way. And my parents weren't especially thrilled that their medical student daughter had . . . Anyway, maybe if I had it to do over, I would have liked to have Mom there, but at the time I was being very . . . independent."
"Were you okay?"
She shrugged. "It was . . . difficult, and I wasn't as prepared as I should have been."
"I'm sorry I wasn't . . . "
"Me too." He looked up startled to see that she looked just as surprised as him. "I'm sorry - "
"The woman, the one that supplied your . . . are you close?" His expression made her regret the question instantly. She wasn't sure he had meant to mention the possible mode of transportation of his DNA. "I'm sorry, that was - "
"I thought so, I guess. Remember, I mentioned her to you. I said she’d run screaming if I got her . . . We had been together for awhile, but I probably shouldn't have been surprised."
"What, that she betrayed me? I guess I'm used to that."
"Sorry, just a little self-pity," he tried to grin but it didn't quite come off.
"Why should you be used to that?" she pressed.
He sighed, realizing she really wanted to know. "I've had two 'significant' relationships in my life, not counting you, of course." She did smile faintly then, but didn't interrupt. "The first was while I was at Oxford. Phoebe. She enjoyed pursuit, but when she realized she'd caught me, I guess I wasn't as interesting. She liked seeing how many times she could get me back after 'experiencing' other men." He continued though she opened her mouth to speak. "Then Diana. Shouldn't have dated a co-worker, right? She seemed to be interested in my project, the X-Files, and believe in the conspiracy like I do, but apparently she was more mixed up it in than I was."
There was silence for a moment, then, "If she's the reason I have Will, I'm grateful."
He looked over at her surprised and smiled for real. "Me too."
"Neither of those women sound especially bright to me. In my opinion, they have very skewed views of what life is about."
"I hadn't thought about it that way. I'm sorry you had to go through everything that happened to you, especially alone, but Will seems like a super kid."
Her smile was full wattage then. "He is. I was concerned about having the responsibility all alone. Of course I had to drop out of school, but it's not been what I feared. I mean, yes, I had little sleep in the beginning, but he's really fun to be around. I've been very lucky that he hasn't been sick, even when the others in the daycare get something, he usually just keeps on truckin'. I feel . . . I feel good around him. Maybe all mothers feel that way - "
She didn't ask where he'd gotten that insight, just settling back on the couch.
"I don't understand."
"Don't understand what?" he asked.
"Why I'm sitting here, comfortably, visiting with you after . . . "
He nodded. “I’m sorry for - "
“Don’t apologize. I, I trust you. Will trusts you.” The expression on his face caused her cheeks to warm. “I guess I should let you get back to sleep.”
“I’m through sleeping for the night, but you should try to get some more rest. Will's gonna be up in a few hours.”
“Do you think you could sleep in the bed? I could take the couch for the rest of the night.”
“There’s no need for that. I don’t need that much sleep.”
“Would you mind the company?”
“Not at all, if you’re not tired.”
They visited, speaking of less critical things, just getting to know one another, as they would have on dates had things been different.
He glanced over at the TV, which was still on mute and when he looked back, he realized she had fallen asleep, her head on his shoulder. He couldn’t help but watch her sleep against him. She had given him the chance to regain her trust under damn trying circumstances. Now she had gotten comfortable here against him. He let his arm go around her and allowed himself to get comfortable as well.
He woke first, to find that they had stretched out and slept quite comfortably together there on the couch for the rest of the night. She certainly wouldn’t be happy to find them cuddled together. He carefully removed himself from her arms and headed upstairs.
He took a shower, on the cool side to bring his libido down, and got dressed.
She woke up confused. Where was . . . oh God! She’d fallen asleep down here with . . . Where was he? Had he gone upstairs when she took over his space? No, it came to her, the feel of his arms holding her, her arms holding him as well. She felt her face flame at the memory. Was she still attracted to him? Well, yes, physically. What woman wouldn’t be? But under the circumstances . . .
She rose from the couch and hurried upstairs. She had just reached the top when the door to the hall bathroom opened and he emerged, dressed, but with his hair slicked back and still wet.
They looked at each other for a long moment, then she turned away. Silently he watched her enter the master bedroom and shut the door. He felt his mood plummet, the memory of the feel of her evaporating.
After another moment he turned toward the nursery. He hadn’t heard anything, but something made him step inside. Will was awake, standing quietly in the crib. He reached for Mulder when he saw him.
“Hi, Son. Did you sleep okay?”
The boy merely held up his arms to be picked up.
“I think I better change you first.” Mulder dressed Will for the day, with considerably less skill than she exhibited, but he’d learn.
Mulder played with Will while she fixed breakfast with what was available. They were slightly embarrassed around each other, but Will’s delight eased that. In her head, she began making a list of essentials. They were barely finished when the bell rang. The men brought the bedroom furniture and Mulder helped them carry it in. Once assembled, they arranged the room to her satisfaction and the two men from the store headed downstairs.
Mulder went with them to let them out, and in a couple of minutes Dana came down with Will in her arms.
“You like it?”
“I love it. I’ve looked at that bedroom suite for ages, but I never thought I’d . . . thank you.”
“You still need bedroom furniture.”
He shook his head. “The couch is fine. It’s where I slept in my apartment. I’m used to it.”
“You slept on a couch?”
He shrugged. “It wasn’t that big a place. I used the bedroom for storage.”
“You must have had a lot of stuff to store.”
He only smiled.
“Well, Will and I need to get some supplies. I thought I’d get groceries. Is there anything - “ She saw his expression then. “Mulder?”
“You, uh, you will come back.”
Her eyes widened. “I, yes. Mulder, I didn’t . . . Look,” she took a deep breath, “it would be easier if you kept Will while I ran the errands. I could get back quicker.”
“You, you’d do that?”
“You were good with him last time. You need some time to get to know how to look after him, get to know him.” She gave a tiny shrug.
“You . . . you’d - “
“Mulder, I’ll be back as quick as I can. Do I have a budget?”
“Uh, no, whatever you . . . “
She handed him the baby. Mulder took him, looking bemused. Dana leaned in and gave Will a kiss on the cheek and then without thinking did the same for Mulder. She drew back, blushing and he just stared at her. Will laughed out loud drawing their attention.
“He seems pleased with our arrangement,” she managed to say, which drew a laugh from Mulder.
“He’s not alone.”
Color flooded her face again, remembering last night and she turned away, picking up the keys from the counter.
“Dana, be careful. Don’t be . . . too long.”
She nodded, looking at the baby one more time. He met her eyes and nodded.
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.
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.
"I think you need to meet my friends, the ones that got your ID together."
"Are they coming here?"
"No. They could attract attention we don't want or need, but I do want you to be familiar with them. If, if anything were to happen, well, they would do everything in their power to protect you and Will."
"They sound like very good friends."
"They're the only people I've trusted with your and Will's location."
She nodded at that.
While Will took his nap that afternoon, Mulder placed a call to his friends. After asking permission, and ensuring every precaution had been taken, he put the phone on speaker and introduced Dana.
They chatted for a little while and Dana was grinning shortly at Frohike's flirting long distance. After calling a halt to that, Mulder asked what was happening.
"Well, we've got some information on your chickadee," Frohike spoke.
There was a derisive silence for a moment.
"Oh. How would you know?"
"We, huh, we've kept an eye on things," Byers sounded embarrassed.
"That could be dangerous. I don't - "
"We've been careful and we think it's necessary. Listen, we just happened to be outside of the building, like tourists and she came rushing out the front and took off down the street. We followed, discretely - "
Mulder snorted, but was more than a little uncomfortable since Dana was listening. Shit, he hadn't given Diana a thought since they'd run.
"She met up with an older man, six feet, gray hair, mostly nondescript. He smoked like a stack."
Mulder sat up then. Heavy smoker? He'd seen that guy around the building, felt like he'd been watching him more than once. He was meeting with Diana?
"He was seriously pissed. At first she seemed to defend herself, but then she just took it and he tore her a new one. We weren't close enough to hear and we're not expert at lip reading, but we caught that he said your name at least three times, maybe more."
"What? What could he have - "
"She didn't keep you in line? She allowed you to meet up with . . . "
"She never knew we'd met. I never mentioned anything to her."
"Wonder what would have happened if you had," Frohike mused.
Mulder shuddered and felt Dana's hand on his arm.
"Stay away from her and him. He's dangerous."
"We got that. Don't you want to know who he is, what is role is?"
"Did you get a picture?"
"Yeah, a couple."
"Send those securely, then back off."
"We could - "
"Back off. I don't want anything happening to you."
There was silence for a moment. "Okay, we appreciate that, but if you change your mind . . ."
"I'll let you know. We need to get off. Send that picture."
"Oh it's way. Let us know what you need."
The connection was broken and Mulder leaned back in his chair.
"She's the one you were seeing, the ambitious one."
Mulder didn't meet her eyes. "Yeah. Maybe she was more ambitious than I realized."
"You never mentioned me?"
"It's bad form to tell the current flame that you've met someone more interesting." He finally looked up and gave her an abashed grin.
Dana's cheeks pinked but she didn't look away. She'd woken up in his arms that morning even if they still hadn't . . .
"Did she know about your project?"
He closed his eyes then and sighed. "Yeah. She seemed interested and she said she believed like I did. That's really how we met. When I started studying the X-Files, she asked to help."
Mulder shrugged. "Now I'm wondering if she was assigned, to spy on me. She knows the smoking man."
"You know him?"
"No, never been introduced, never heard a name, but I've seen him. My spidy-sense always tingles when he's around."
She hesitated for a moment, then, "Why?"
He took a moment for that. "I don't know."
She nodded and they both turned to the computer as it chirped an incoming email. Her eyebrow rose as he didn't reach for the keyboard.
"Yeah, okay." He pressed enter and a photo began to download. They were silent, but she found her eyes drawn more to the woman than the man. This was his type? They were obviously nothing alike. This Diana was at least 5'9" and . . . top heavy, was her assessment. That probably wasn't fair, but she did seem to be flaunting her breasts. Dana gave her own healthy Cs a quick glance. At least she wasn't out of proportion or, or pointy.
"What do you think," Mulder asked, glancing up at her. She startled, then realized he was asking about the man. She focused on him and he watched the color leave her face. "Dana?" He was already rising and his arm went around her, steadying her. "Do you know him?"
"N-no, I've never met him, but I have seen him."
"At, at the daycare."
"The - Will's daycare?"
She nodded. "I assumed he worked in the hospital. I might not have noticed him if they hadn't gotten after him about smoking in the building and near the children. God, was he watching Will? Did this man know about him even then?"
Mulder was chewing his lip now. "Dana, if he was . . . involved in his conception, he's known about him for a long time."
Now it was Dana that closed her eyes.
"Doesn't it look like he doesn't know where we are?" she asked hopefully.
"Yes, it does. That's a good point. Did he ever see you?"
"Well, probably. I mean I saw him. He was never in the day care itself. They have very strict security. I couldn't tell you that he ever showed any interest in Will, but . . .
She had gone internal, thinking. He waited.
"What if Will couldn't do what he, uh what he does now back then."
"What if, what if meeting you triggered it. I know that sounds insane - "
"After some of the things I've told you? No, keep going, what are you thinking?"
"The two of you bonded instantly. It was almost as though he recognized you. That day in the store, I was so scared and he picked that up. He was scared as well, but even with all of the trauma, he went to you without fear while I was sitting at the back of the ambulance. But later, when we were in the hotel and you pulled the gun on me, I was terrified, but he wasn't. He wasn't the least bit scared of you then, he knew you wouldn't really hurt me or him."
Mulder blinked. "I wouldn't."
"I know that now, but he knew it then." She shook her head. "I'm sorry, that's crazy. He's a baby."
"He's our baby. That automatically makes him special," Mulder smiled. For some reason that caused the color to tint her cheeks and he noted it silently.
He had changed Will and was headed back downstairs, when out of the blue, Will screamed "Momma!" and burst into tears. Stunned, Mulder hurried down the stairs cuddling the boy. He knew he hadn't stuck him with a pin, since they used disposable diapers.
"What is it? Will, it's okay. Daddy's got you." Nothing consoled the boy. This had never happened before and Mulder quickly ran out of any idea of what do to. He was headed for the door, to seek help from Lou or Marge when the phone rang. The caller ID showed Dana and he grabbed it up. "Thank goodness, where - "
He froze and so did Will. "Who is this? Why do you have - "
"Mr. Hale, this is Officer Dedona. I'm calling to let you know that your wife has been involved in a traffic accident. She is being treated by EMTs right now and - "
"Where are you?"
"Near Turfland Mall, the corner of Lane Allen and Broadway."
"I'm on my way." He hung up before the officer could speak again and then looked down at Will. "You knew. Is she okay?" The boy wasn't crying now, at least, that was a good sign, right? He headed for the door and stopped dead. Dana had the car and the car seat. He glanced toward Marge's house but there was no car in the driveway, so he looked across the street. Lou's car was there and he raced over with Will in his arms.
"Lou!" He didn't bother to knock.
"William? What's wrong?"
"D-Katy was in a wreck. I need to get there. Can I borrow your car?"
"Of course. Do you want me to drive you?"
He shook his head and followed her into the kitchen to retrieve the keys.
"I'll keep Will," she said reaching for the boy.
Mulder looked down at him. *Will, I need you to stay here. I need to check on your mom.*
The boy sniffled but didn't burst back into tears at least. George had come running by this time and took Will into his arms. "What's wrong?"
"Mr. Hale has to go somewhere. We're going to keep Will for him."
"Okay," the boy said happily.
Mulder was already headed for the door. This time of day there was little traffic, headed into town, unlike the parking lot feel of Broadway during rush hours. He saw the ambulance and made a swift turn into the Turfland Mall parking lot, throwing Lou's car into park and racing toward the blue and red lights.
He couldn't see the back of the ambulance from this angle but he could see the SUV. The front passenger side was bashed in and the air bag had deployed. Shit! He didn't even slow down as he rounded the ambulance.
He spotted her, sitting at the back of the ambulance. The EMT was placing a bandage on her forehead, but she turned to look at him. He skidded to a stop and to her surprise, bent over as though he'd been punched in the gut. He was breathing as though he'd run from the house.
When he could, he straightened up and approached. His hand came up to touch her face, but he stopped just short of contact. "How is she?" He was obviously speaking to the EMT, but didn't take his eyes off of her.
"I'm fine. I told them to tow the car to the dealership, okay?"
Now he glanced at the EMT, ignoring her concern about the car. The young man nodded. "I'd like her to get an x-ray of her wrist and ankle, but - "
Mulder nodded. "Where are you taking her?"
"M-William, I don't - "
"It's just a precaution. I'll follow the ambulance."
"I certainly don't need an ambulance."
"They'll see you quicker. And you hit your head. Go with them, I'll be right behind you. UK, right?"
The EMT nodded, grinning. Dana opened her mouth, but Mulder already had his arm around her to help her onto the gurney.
"I really don't - "
"Do it for me," he whispered and stepped back to allow them to close the door. He closed his eyes and leaned heavily against the ambulance for a moment, then stood up and trotted back toward Lou's car. A policeman stopped him.
"I'm Officer Dedona. We spoke earlier."
"Yes, thank you for calling."
"No problem. I know you're anxious to get to the hospital." Mulder nodded. "But I wanted to talk to you about the accident."
At that Mulder looked around. "Where is the other car? Has it already been towed?"
"They backed up and raced off."
"A hit and run? Probably no insurance."
"Mr. Hale, from the witness statements, it appeared that your wife's car was targeted. We're getting the surveillance cameras from the mall, but I've got three people who are adamant that the vehicle that hit her was waiting and hit her on purpose. Do you know anyone that would want to target you or your wife, someone with a black SUV similar to yours with darkened windows? Mr. Hale?"
Mulder had gone pale at those words. Had they been found? How?
"Mr. Hale?" Dedona repeated.
"Uh, no, we barely know anyone in Lexington. We just moved here. Is there any way I could look at the surveillance film?"
"I don't think . . . "
"I understand. I need to get to the hospital. You know how to reach me?" He took the copy of the accident report the officer handed him.
Dedona nodded. Mulder got in the car without another word and waited until he was out of sight of the police to pull out his cell phone. Two quick calls and he had to put it aside, at least for now. Lou knew the Dana wasn't badly hurt and the guys were on the case. They'd see the surveillance film before he could.
He did follow the ambulance, which had not turned the siren on. He handled insurance while they checked her out, then paced until he realized how annoying that could be. When she was returned in a wheelchair, he was on his feet. There was a boot on her left foot and a brace on her right wrist.
"No, they're sprained, but I have to be careful with them."
"Just a bump. I really am fine." She hesitated then.
"What? Do you need a doct - "
"No. Listen to me, I'm good. How did you get here?"
"Lou's car. She and George are looking after Will."
"I'm sorry. I didn't see him comin- "
Mulder shook his head. "Don't think about it now. Let's get you out of here and home where I can keep an eye on you."
"I need to call the lab, tell them I won't be in tomorrow."
"I'll take care of that. Let me look after you, please." She started to protest, but the expression on his face stopped her.
He pulled into their driveway, so she wouldn't have to walk as far. Mulder helped Dana to the couch, then returned the car to Lou and retrieved Will. Lou already had a meal in the oven for them and wouldn't listen to any protests. "I'll bring it over when it's done. William, after all you and Katy have done for us, just hush and get out of here. I know she needs to see Will."
He nodded, emotion closing his throat for a moment. He'd never had this, neighbors, friends, a family. Were they all in danger now?
Mulder carried Will to the couch and the boy nearly leapt from his arms to get to his mother. She held him tightly, rocking him with Mulder hovering over them both until she could regain her composure.
"Lou," he stopped and cleared his throat. "Lou is bringing over dinner. She insisted," he said, holding up his hands. "Do you need anything? Pain medication?"
She smiled gently at him. "I - am - okay," she said slowly and deliberately. "It was a jolt and I'm sure I'll be sore tomorrow, but right now it feels so good to be home with you two." She leaned back and sighed. He couldn't take his eyes off of her. When she opened her eyes she couldn't look away. "Mulder?"
"You should be lying down."
She opened her mouth to protest but if anyone wasn't okay, it was him. She found her hand cupping his cheek and he leaned into it. "Okay. I'll go up."
Instead of allowing her to rise, he lifted her into his arms and looked down at Will. "Stay right here. I'll be back to get you in a minute."
The boy watched him and Mulder felt him agree.
He carried Dana up the stairs and lay her gently on the bed. He wouldn't meet her eyes and when he turned to go get Will, she took his hand. "Are you okay?"
"Let me get the baby."
his hand, then released him and watched him leave the room. She tried to get
comfortable; she was getting sore but didn't want to say anything to make it
He was back quickly with Will. "What can I get you?"
She patted the bed. "Your company."
"How's your head?"
"Don't ask me anymore about me. Tell me what's wrong with you."
"Me? Nothing, except - "
He glanced over at Will, sitting on the bed, playing with a plastic ring he'd had in his hand when Mulder had picked him up. He shook his head and she looked over at the baby too.
He shrugged. "I'm going to get your pain pills."
"I don't - "
"You've got a headache."
She wanted to ask how he knew, but realized he wouldn't answer that either. He knew by looking at her.
"You okay with Will?"
"Yes, we'll be fine.
He loosened the boot and slid it off her foot, slipping a pillow under it to keep it elevated, then left to get her medicine.
He watched to make sure she swallowed it, as though the thoughts of palming it had ever occurred to her. "Close your eyes. I'll keep Will - "
"He can stay."
Mulder swallowed. "He knew you were hurt."
"What?" she asked quickly, sitting back up.
He gently pressed her back down. "When the car hit you, at least the timing's right, he screamed. He was inconsolable. I got the call from Officer Dedona and ran over to Lou's. He agreed to stay with her."
Mulder shrugged. "He stayed without a protest, even though he'd been sobbing just minutes before. Close your eyes."
She took a deep breath and obeyed him. Will lay down beside her, cuddling in. Mulder looked at them for a long moment, then let himself out of the room.
Once she heard the door close, she opened her eyes. She was far more worried about him than about herself at the moment. The way he had looked at the scene, his obvious guilt confused her. He'd had nothing to do with accident. She was the one who should be guilty. Okay, the accident definitely hadn't been her fault, but now they didn't have a car at all. She lay there a few more minutes and realized that Will was alternating between watching her and the door.
"Okay, little man, we need to go check on Mulder." She sat up and slid her foot back into the boot, fastening it as tightly as she could with one hand, then since she couldn't lift Will, helped him slide off the side of the bed. He walked with her to the door and she checked to make sure the gate was at the top of the stairs. She smiled when she realized that even with everything else on his mind, he had thought of that.
Will dropped her hand and moved towards his room, but she continued on to the office. She was moving slowly and pushed the door open. He had his back to the door and seemed hunched over in his chair. Was he crying?
He shot up, turning toward her. "You shouldn't be up." Okay, no tears, but he did seem, oh hell she didn't know.
"Talk to me. Are you angry because of the car?"
"Angry? I'm not . . . " He approached her then and again picked her up in his arms. He headed back toward the bedroom and she cuddled against his chest. He lay her back on the bed and started to retreat when she grabbed his hand.
"No. Talk to me. If you're not angry, then what?"
He sank down on the bed beside her. "I know we're not . . . but we're growing closer." She nodded, waiting. "I, I saw the car . . . Dana, you, you're important to me. You're, damn that car. You could have been . . . "
She stared at him, her mouth opened. "I, I didn't . . . "
"I've been playing by your rules. I know we're not really husband and wife. I knew I was . . . this hit me . . . "
Her hand reached out to him and he grasped it.
"I know I kidnapped you, hell, I pulled a gun on you and just knowing me has put you in danger, but - "
Her finger touched his lips, silencing him. She leaned forward then, pressing her lips to his. That was effective in silencing him. His hands were fisted when she pulled back. "When the car hit me, I called out for you. Maybe I was letting Will know I needed you, I don't know, but it was you I wanted, you I called for."
"I've fallen in love with you," he whispered, seemingly as stunned to say it as she was to hear it. "I'm not just playing house here with you. I want this, I want it with you and with our son."
She kissed him again and this time his arms went around her. "You would admit this when I'm all banged up," she said wistfully.
He led his head fall softly to her shoulder. "My timing has always been impeccable."
She chuckled then. "Sleep with me tonight, just sleep for a few more days. Okay?"
Will toddled back in then, carrying Mudder Air and demanded to be helped back up onto the bed. He cuddled in on the other side of his mother from Mulder and Mulder sighed looking at his family. It was his family, maybe it had taken a crisis to see it, but this was his family for better or worse. He wanted to make an honest woman out of her.
He saw that she had closed her eyes now, and she seemed completely relaxed. Will's eyes were closed as well, spooned around his bear.
Mulder leaned down and kissed her forehead and she smiled in her sleep, then he let himself back out of the bedroom. This time when he returned to the office, he was in a much better space and contacted the guys.
Shit. He picked up one of the disposable phones and dialed. "What?"
"We don't know for sure, but the license on the car that hit her is bogus. The car was sitting there, idling until they spotted her. They were definitely looking for that car, we're not saying they knew she was in it, they could have been targeting you."
"Can you see him?"
"Them. There at least two in the car. Look like men, but the cameras aren't that good. Your home address is on the police report."
Mulder closed his eyes. How long did they have? Were they already on the way? One thing he hadn't stocked up on was ammunition. He had one of his weapons; he'd pulled it on Dana that first night. Just the memory caused him to grow cold. But that was all, what was in the gun and one clip. He sure wasn't going to leave them here alone to go shopping.
He jerked when the doorbell rang and hurried downstairs, sticking the gun in his waistband. It was Lou and George with dinner.
"How is she?"
"Resting. Her wrist and ankle are in braces but they're not broken, just sprained. Her wrist was caught when the airbag when off. She hit her head on the window but they're not even calling it a concussion."
"Oh my god! What about the car?"
He shook his head. "I couldn't tell. It was towed to the dealer. The front bumper was messed up, the headlight, I don't know."
"Let me know if you need anything and of course you can borrow the car."
"Thanks. I don't think she's going to be going anywhere in the near future. That reminds me, I need to call the lab and let her know she won't be in for a few days."
"You go take care of your family. Just holler if you need anything." She took the hot dish on into the kitchen with George carrying the salad. She refused to stay or go up to visit with Katy, saying she needed her rest.
He carried her down for dinner and she kept the protesting to a minimum. The stairs would be hard right now. He allowed her to relax on the couch and play some with Will while he cleaned up.
When it was time to return upstairs, she forestalled him. "Let me try to walk up them, Mulder."
"Try tomorrow. If you must know, I'm enjoying this and it'll end too soon already."
She laughed at that, but obediently put her arms around his neck. She supervised as he got Will ready for bed, then allowed him to help her some in getting ready herself. He stretched out beside her, massaging her back and shoulders between kisses which caused as much tension as it relieved. He was the one that called a halt to the activity to her disappointment, citing her injuries.
He forced himself to return to the office to see if anything else had been discovered and worked a little while, then returned to the room and peeked in. She heard him but knew he'd get after her for not being asleep, so she lay still and heard him head downstairs for a final walk through for the night.
He padded down in his sock feet. The lights were already out and he knew everything was locked tight for the night, but couldn't stop himself from one last look. The dowel nestled nicely in the sliding door runner and the door itself was locked. The garage door was down and the door into the kitchen was dead bolted. He liked this little house especially for what it had come to mean to him, but occasionally he thought about how much easier it had been to secure his fourth floor apartment with one door.
He was headed for the front door when the flash of light on chrome caught his eye. He glanced cautiously out the side window and saw the car cruise quietly to a halt half in/half out of the driveway with the lights off.
"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.
He let himself in the front door and saw her reach for the baby. "It's me. I should have let you know."
"It's okay. I'm still a little jumpy."
He approached her and caressed her arm. She leaned against him and his arms went around her. "I'm sorry."
He gaped at her. "For, for everything. For the mess I've made of your life."
"I feel like you saved it last night and Will's."
"It wouldn't have needed saving if - "
"I wouldn't have Will without you. Remember?"
He closed his eyes. "I need to check out the house."
"No one's been here today."
"I still need to check. Who all has been inside the house since we moved in? The furniture guys, the neighbors. I need to call to get the glass replaced."
"I called. You left the number you got from Marge. I told him not to come until this afternoon, so you would be back."
He nodded. He wasn't going to let any strangers near his family again.
"What are you looking for?"
He held out the instrument he'd received in the package. "Bugs," he mouthed and she nodded. Will was very interested in the process and followed Mulder around the house, laughing as Mulder crawled into spaces, playing with him as he went. Dana sat on the couch, foot up, watching them. After an hour Mulder rose and stretched. "Nothing."
"That's good news, isn't it?"
"Yes. These guys sent their best." He plopped down on the couch next to her, holding William.
"Then what's wrong?"
Again he just blinked at her. "What's wrong?"
"Yes. We're safe - "
"For now, maybe."
"And we're together. I feel pretty safe having you around. After what I saw last night - "
"That didn't scare you off?"
"Obviously not. Mulder, I admit I don't know what's going on and it is more serious than I had realized, but you're here."
He looked at her for a long moment, then leaned forward and took her lips with his. They only drew back when William's laughter penetrated. Dana rubbed her wrist.
"Did I hurt you?"
"No, I was just thinking how in the way this is." She smiled up at him and watched his pupils dilate as he understood her words. "I shouldn't have to wear it long."
"No, not long at all," he agreed. Will again drew their attention as he climbed down from the couch and headed for the sliding glass door. "I think it's outside time," Mulder commented. "Come with us?"
She nodded and let him help her to her feet. Holding her arm, he let William out the door and watched as he scampered over to the swings next door.
"Go on, Mulder. I'll take it slow," Dana offered as they watched their son
"He can wait a minute." They both looked over as their neighbor's back door opened and Marge stepped out on her patio, an older woman on her arm. She waved at them, then helped the woman into a chair.
"Come have a seat, Katy," Marge offered adjusting a shawl around the woman's shoulders. She held the seat as Mulder helped Dana take the seat.
"Katy, William, this is my mother-in-law, Mildred. Mildred," she raised her voice slightly, "these are my neighbors, Katy and William. That's their son Will at the swings."
The woman nodded slightly but didn't really seem to get it. Marge lowered her voice and kind of mouthed 'Alzheimer's'. Marge settled a shawl around the woman's shoulders and let Mulder pull up another chair for her.
He glanced over at Will again and saw the boy was staring at the house. He headed for the swings when George raced into the yard. "Hi! There's a truck in your driveway. It has g-l-a-s-s on it 'gull-ass', glass, right?"
"Perfect, my man." Mulder slapped hands with him. "I better go let him in. Can you keep an eye on Will? Mrs. Hale can't get around too well."
"Thanks." He turned to Dana and winked, then headed for their house. He let the man in and stayed, not willing to let anyone be alone in their home.
It didn't take long and the man made no move to do anything except change out the window. When Mulder rejoined them Kevin and Candice were playing with Will and George at the swings.
George and Will headed toward the patio as Mulder headed back to them. Will bypassed him and headed for Mildred. Without a word, George placed him in Mildred's lap. She looked confused, but her arms automatically went around him protectively. "Kevin?"
"No, Mildred, that's Will from next door."
She looked down at the boy and he met her eyes. For a long moment they stared at each other, then Will smiled at her and started to scramble down. George helped him and they returned to the swings. Dana looked over at Mulder but he shook his head slightly.
"Sleepy," Mildred murmured, closing her eyes and letting her head fall back.
Marge blinked at her. "That's new. At least I think it is. She lives with Stan's sister and her husband. I go over there most weekends to give them a break, but she's gone downhill quickly. They were going out of town; it had already been planned, so I brought her over here. I hate how uncomfortable it makes the kids. Do you think she's okay?"
Dana leaned over and checked the pulse in her wrist. "Firm and steady. I think she just fell asleep."
"Would you like me to take her inside?" Mulder asked.
"Oh, would you mind? We've made up the study downstairs. She really doesn't do stairs too well anymore."
"No problem." Mulder lifted the older woman into his arms and carried her inside. The children came running over.
"What happened?" Candice asked in a hushed voice.
"Nothing," Dana reassured them. "She fell asleep and we thought she'd be more comfortable in her bed than the chair."
"Oh, she's really old. We thought maybe she'd died."
"No, no, she's fine, really."
"She doesn't know who we are anymore. She's forgotten us. Sometimes she thinks Kevin is my Dad."
"I'm sorry," Dana caressed her hair.
Mulder came back out then with Marge. "She's all tucked in and I think Will needs to be too." She looked over to see Will in the toddler swing, his thumb in his mouth and his eyes drooping. Chuckling, Mulder retrieved him and then returned to the table and helped Dana to her feet.
"You need any help?" Marge asked.
"I got 'em. Thanks. I think I'll put them both to bed and get some work down." They walked slowly back to the house and followed her up the stairs with the sleeping baby on his shoulder. He changed him and put him down then moved to their bedroom. She was sitting on the side of the bed.
"He did something to her."
"Yeah, I think he did. But I don't think he harmed her."
"So what did he do?"
"Maybe the same thing he did for George; fix her."
"You don't think . . . "
"I don't know. We need to wait, see what happens with her. You said yourself her pulse was strong and steady. Marge told me she was healthy as a horse except for her mind. Right now you need to rest."
"I'm okay except for my wrist and ankle. Sleep won't - "
"Try it. I'm going to check in with the guys. Lie back." He pulled the blanket from the foot of the bed up over her and kissed her brow. "Relax."
To her surprise, she did fall asleep. When she woke she limped to the office to find Mulder still working on his computer. "Find anything?"
He turned a grinned at her. "There's not a lot on this particular field. Have a seat." He rose and gave her his chair. He perched on the desk. "Will was able to help George; I've been working with him on Tuesdays and let me tell you, he's already at grade level and wanting more. They're connecting and Will has helped. I, I've got an idea and I need you to tell me if it's stupid."
"Did you notice that Will knew the guy from the glass place was here before George told us? He sensed him or felt him, I don't know. I, I think he could be an early warning device."
She blinked, but didn't speak.
"Really bad idea, huh?"
"Would it be dangerous? I mean, would it hurt him?"
"Excellent question, but I haven't seen any problem. I mean, after he did whatever it was he did for Mildred, he went back to playing. He's been working on George for several weeks and I haven't seen anything."
"No, neither have I," but she sounded worried.
"Look, we can forget this. I would never do anything - "
"I know that. We could, could check it."
"We can stop at the first sign - "
She did smile then. "I know that." They headed downstairs then. A sound at the sliding door drew their attention. They turned to see a large black dog looking back at them.
"Have you ever seen him before?" Mulder asked.
"No, not in this neighborhood. He looks kind of rough."
Mulder took a better look at the dog. He was large and very dark, not truly black, but a dark brown. He was short haired and had his tail bobbed. His chest was deep and broad, but he wasn't fully grown; well beyond puppy-hood probably partially due to circumstances if his appearance was any indication, but young. He had obviously been in more than one fight, there were scars on his face and body and with his short fur they showed. He could also use a few good meals.
"What kind is he? Do you know dogs?" she asked.
"I'd say part bulldog, part sneaky neighbor's dog."
Dana laughed out loud and the dog turned to look at her, then he scratched at the door again. Mulder moved toward the door.
"What are doing?" she asked.
"I want to see what he wants."
"What? You think you can read his mind?"
Mulder blinked. "I hadn't thought of that, but no, I wanted to see what he wants from us."
He nodded and looked down at the dog, then slid the door open. As soon as there was room, the dog slipped inside and headed for the stairs.
"Mulder! Stop him!"
The dog was already half way up the stairs, but Mulder was right behind him. The dog turned unerringly toward the nursery and Mulder made a grab for him. He could hear Dana racing to catch up. "Stay back! Let me - "
The dog had nosed the door open and Mulder spotted Will standing in his crib. "Og!" He reached through the bars before Mulder could reach him and the dog sniffed his hand, then gave him a small lick.
Mulder grabbed hold of the dog's neck then to pull him back. He expected a growl, a struggle, but the dog calmly allowed him to pull him away from the crib.
"Og!" Will was reaching for him and the dog sat watching the baby, ignoring Mulder.
"Will? Did, did you call him?"
Will smiled broadly. *Guard.*
Dana was beside him now, gasping for breath and looking completely confused. "Did he try to bite - "
"No. He only sniffed him, then licked his hand."
She stared at Mulder for a moment. "He licked . . . "
"He's our new guard dog."
"Will called him."
She moved around Mulder then and gathered the boy into her arms, then took a seat in the rocking chair. "Called him."
"Uh, yeah, I think so. Will told me 'guard'."
She closed her eyes at that and pulled the boy closer, cuddling him.
"Dana, I really think - "
She held up her hand and he went silent. He knew this was much more than she'd bargained for. She'd been a medical student, on track for her chosen career, then been chosen by this unknown group for experimentation and . . . Now she was trapped in a global conspiracy, and her son was able to do things she would have never believed possible.
"Dana - "
"I just need a minute."
He nodded though her eyes were still closed. "Come on, Sarge, let's get you some water."
Her eyes flew open. "You named him?"
"What? Uh, no." He'd just realized what he'd said. "I, I think that was his name already."
She merely nodded and closed her eyes again. Mulder and Sarge left the room.
When dinner was over and dishes washed, Mulder asked if she felt okay alone with Sarge for a moment. At her quiet nod, he headed next door to return a dish to Marge and check on Mildred. He tapped on the sliding door and let himself in at her gesture.
"Hi," he held up the dish. "Thought I'd check on your mother-in-law."
"She's doing okay. She was confused when she woke up, but she came out here on her own and she did recognize Kevin. Her appetite was good at dinner. Unfortunately Alzheimer's isn't a linear disease, so I just don't know what to expect."
"I'm glad she's doing okay. Look, we're going to look for a car tomorrow - "
"Really, there's no hurry."
"I know, but we heard from the insurance company. Since we still don't know who hit her, and they probably weren't insured anyway, we need to get started at least."
"Okay, but if you don't find what you want, give yourself a day or two. Would you like me to keep Will?"
Mulder managed to hide his surprise. The thoughts of leaving his son with anyone but Dana had caught him off guard, but now with Sarge. . . "Uh, yeah, I'll mention it to Katy. Listen, have you seen a dog hanging out around here, large, almost black?"
"No, there are strict rules about leashes in this neighborhood, with all the kids. I'd have noticed a stray. Why?"
"He came to our backdoor this afternoon. Seems to want to stay."
"What about the baby?"
"They're cool with each other. We haven't left them alone of course."
"Well, be careful."
He was relieved to see that Dana felt the same way about leaving Will, even with Marge when he brought it up. "No, I mean, I'm sure she's - "
"Yeah, me either, even with Sarge since we don't know him that well. We'll take him with us, Will might have an opinion about the car."
"Of course." She smiled and watched the boy indulgently as he watched Sarge eat his dinner.
They had settled into a good routine. Mulder had talked her into leaving her job, finally convincing her that looking after their son was more important than bringing in 'her' share of the household income. Besides there was always the hope she could go back to school in the future.
They still shared the bed and now woke up routinely in each other's arms but due to her injuries they hadn't moved forward. He thought he was picking up signals that maybe that could change, but hadn't worked up the nerve to address it directly.
They had contacted the police about the hit and run and been told that nothing new had been learned. At least they wouldn't think it strange that Mulder hadn't pursued it. Apparently the bodies had not been discovered, at least there had been no press.
Mildred had returned to her daughter's house and for now they were talking about a 'remission' or 'misdiagnosis'. He and Dana didn't disagree.
He was downstairs fixing coffee when he realized Sarge was moving his water bowl around behind the counter. Then he nudged the empty food bowl as well. "Whatja doing, Sarge? I thought you liked the window."
He heard Dana come to the top of the stairs. "Mulder?" It was a stage whisper and he hurried to the bottom of the stairs. She quickly motioned for him to come up. Sarge was ahead of him, his pull toy in his mouth. He took the stairs three at a time.
She pulled him to a window in the bedroom where the blinds were partially opened. "Look." She pointed to a dark blue sports car parked across the street and down two houses. The windows were completely blacked out. "It was there earlier too, around five."
"I woke up and went to check on Will. He was asleep, but I looked out as I was coming back to bed. I should have paid more attention, but I thought it was just someone picking Jerry up for work. Sometimes he goes in that early."
Mulder nodded, they had made a point of learning everyone's schedule just for the purposes of noticing things like this.
"I couldn't see that the windows were black before. Look, they've started the engine." She looked up at Mulder as the car moved into their driveway. Fear was plain in her face. They both looked down as Sarge growled low in his chest.
*Daddy* Mulder heard the voice clearly in his head. "Let me get Will."
He headed for the nursery and picked the boy up. "Oh my god." He heard her and glanced down at Will, already moving back to the room.
"What?" He moved so he could see out the window himself and froze for an instant. Diana was walking toward their front door in full power suit mode. She was wearing a navy suit with a white blouse. There was a navy and red scarf around her neck. "Fuck."He didn't bother to apologize and Dana didn't say anything. Mulder looked down at Will. "Is she alone?"
"Look, I don't know if you can do this," he spoke quickly to Will, "but I need to know what she knows. If you can, please read her mind. We'll figure out a way for you to get me the information later, but anything will help." He looked over at Dana and she didn't attempt to tell him that he was crazy. He gave her Will and turned toward the stairs. "Stay up here. Sarge, look after them."
"Don't you - "
"Get your gun and hold onto it." He tucked his own into the back of his jeans and trotted down the stairs. He was half way down when he heard the knock. He moved to the door and opened it. "Diana."
"Fox." She hesitated; he didn't seem as startled at her appearance as she would have thought or hoped. "May I come in?"
He nodded and moved aside. She stepped inside and looked around, but made no comment.
"I figured with a little one, you'd be up by now."
He absorbed that; she wasn't playing coy about that information at least. He motioned for her to move into the great room and followed her. "Why are you here?"
"The letter you sent Patterson didn't ring true to me."
"How did you see it?"
She ignored the question. "The Bureau needs you and I'd like you to come back."
"Come back? Why?"
"Well, Patterson could use you. Word is his area is struggling right now without you there to do the work so he can take credit." She smiled slightly at that, but his face remained impassive. Her smile faltered. "You should come back, Fox."
"Want to tell me how you found me?"
"I work for the FBI."
That did cause a grim smile. "So 'Smoky' didn't tell you?"
*Spender? How the hell does he know about Spender?*
Mulder blinked, he had heard that as clearly as if she had spoken. In fact he'd thought she had been speaking in the beginning, but her lips hadn't moved.
"Who's Smoky?" she said.
He ignored that. "Little one?"
"I know you're here with the Scully woman and her son."
"Our son," he corrected.
"I understand you not wanting to have a kid with me, Diana, but I never thought you were the type to share my . . . essence."
For an instant her face went white with fury, her eyes black and hard. He turned away to hide his shock and moved toward the kitchen. "Coffee?"
He headed behind the counter, keeping his back to her. He couldn't let her know what he had seen. She had tried to get pregnant by him. She hadn't want his child, but she had wanted to be the one to give this 'valuable commodity' to the people she really worked for. It hadn't happened. It hadn't happened with any of the other women they had tried. Only Dana had conceived, only Dana had given birth to his child. The burst of relief he felt would have to be examined later.
They wanted the boy, no she wanted the boy. She had tracked them down somehow and she would have killed Dana eventually to get him and he would have been completely ignorant of everything. Pure fury shook him. He couldn't pull his gun, the neighbors were awake now, they might hear and he didn't think his luck in getting rid of bodies would hold. His hand reached for the drawer that held the knives.
He actually felt the small warm hand come to rest on his forearm. *Mulder, don't do it. We're here and we'll work through this. You have a family that loves you. We're in this together.*
The tightness left his shoulders and he closed his eyes, feeling her in his mind. He took a deep breath and poured a cup of coffee for the woman. Slightly steadier, he carried it over to her, not bothering with a cup of his own. Oh yeah, he needed caffeine, not.
He took the chair beside the couch and watched her. She didn't know what had happened to her two employees, they hadn't checked in and that was bothering her, and the only reason she had turned up herself. She took a sip, then set it on the coffee table. "This won't work, Fox."
She looked exasperated then. "This, living in the suburbs with the little woman and child." Her hand waved to encompass the house. "This isn't you. You and I know each other, we think alike. By now you have to know he was created. Fox, he's an X-File."
She didn't seem to even notice the tightening of his body. "Why?"
"Why? Why was he created?" she asked, stalling for time. She had said too much.
"Born. Why did Smoky want him?" He was listening to her mind now, not her lips. She didn't know. It steamed her, but she wasn't in the upper levels of this conspiracy, so they hadn't told her why they wanted Mulder's child. That galled her, that and the fact she'd not been the one to have the child.
He found himself completed disgusted. He had slept with this woman. Well, no not slept with, not cuddled up and comfortable like with Dana, but he'd had sex with her. Right now he couldn't imagine getting hard for her, the thought nauseated him. Shit, he was going to lose it. His anger was growing again.
He heard the sound and almost shouted for her to stop, but Dana was coming down the stairs holding Will's hand. She was not wearing the boot and not limping at all. When they reached the bottom, Will broke free and ran to his father. Sarge was nowhere in evidence. Mulder stood and scooped the boy into his arms. Dana came to stand beside him and his arm went around her shoulders. Her arm snaked around his waist and they all three turned to look at Diana.
"He's a toddler, Diana. He's bright, he's energetic and he's healthy. What are they looking for that makes him 'special'? He's not reading Shakespeare, or dunking basketballs. I'm pretty sure he doesn't understand string theory, but since he can't talk yet - "
Diana watched Dana look up at him, not speaking, but he calmed down. He, he was in love with this tiny little woman. Diana gave her a longer look, eyes narrowed, and was unimpressed: too short, not especially bright looking, though she had been a resident at Georgetown. She had been an incubator, that was all, but she was certainly comfortable with Fox, and seemed to be struggling not to laugh at something. What was the joke?
She had come to get Fox, and leave her vulnerable with the child. When she got hold of those two idiots she'd hired maybe she could wrap this up. That was going to be harder with this complication. He thought he cared about these people.
Diana saw both of their faces go impassive, shielded.
"How did you find us? How did Spender know where we were?"
In her mind, Diana huffed. Spender hadn't found them and he didn't know she had. It had been a wild guess. He'd only mentioned Lexington in passing one time. She was amazed she'd even remembered it. He really had fallen off the grid. If she hadn't heard the recording, even she wouldn't have known he had found the woman. He hadn't said a word to her, damn him! But he hadn't known, not about his involvement, at least not in the recordings she'd heard. It had been incredibly bad luck that he had happened on a damn hostage situation.
"You go back, Diana. Tell them, tell him, I'm out of the way. I'm not working on the X-Files; I'm not chasing down conspiracies. I want to live here, with my family and keep them safe. I'm low profile and he can be as well, but I'm going to protect my family, with whatever it takes and if means going public with things I know, or even things I can only speculate on, know that information is available at the touch of a button."
Good, Diana thought, he was focusing on Spender. He really could be so clueless when it came to women.
Dana watched her silently; she really was reading the woman's mind. She forced her face to show no emotions, but she was reeling from the hatred Diana felt towards her. She had been the target of the hit and run, not Mulder. Diana had wanted her dead, then she would have their son and Mulder. She was furious that her men had disappeared with her money.
When Diana had realized that they must have gone underground together, she had dismissed his feelings for Dana. Now she was seeing them stand beside each other, so comfortable, so right together. Diana was burning, bouncing between fury and jealousy. Dana realized that this woman had never loved Mulder, he had been a means to an end, but the relationship with a woman she saw as inferior was in her face. He had never felt anything like this for her. She'd been a piece of ass to him. That thought alone was shaking Diana to the bone.
Dana realized Mulder was speaking, and he wasn't making it better. His words were only fueling the fire. "I want my wife to be able to go back to school, get her MD, I want my son to be able to go to school, make friends."
"She's not your - "
"Not my wife? Legally that's true, for now."
Fire flashed through her eyes for just an instant, but they both caught it. Now humiliation was feeding her fury. "They'll take him. You have no idea what they can do." She actually cringed as he seemed to probe her with his eyes. Damn, it was giving her a headache. She forced her eyes away from his. He was lost, they would kill him. Fine, as long as she got the boy. That would raise her position in the hierarchy.
Dana knew Diana was telling herself that she had no real emotion around it. Diana had never tried to delude herself that she loved the man, but damn could he fuck. He was without a doubt the best she'd ever had in bed and she'd had her share. It was like he was made for it, hung like a bull and with the stamina to match. Why were his cheeks coloring? And suddenly the little bitch seemed uncomfortable in his arms.
"What will it take for them to leave us alone?" Mulder asked. "What the hell do they think they'll get from a toddler? Tell them to leave him alone. You know them."
"You think they'll listen to me?"
"Go back, Diana. Tell him what I said. We can leave each other alone."
"They won't go for it, Fox." She rose and brushed her skirt, not wanting to face him, face them, because she realized, she wasn't entirely sure of that. Spender was too involved with Fox, she didn't know how or why, but . . . mentally she shrugged, shoving down her anger. She couldn't let emotion lead her now. She had to get the boy. If Mulder got in the way, too bad for him. He'd suspect Spender, not her.
Mulder would have smiled if this weren't so important to his family's safety. This woman had no idea he and Dana knew what she was planning. He could kill her; he'd have no trouble doing it to save Dana and Will.
"I'll go, I'll see if he'll take your offer, but don't count on it."
Mulder watched her rise and turn toward the door. He moved closer watching her, but he was still caught off guard when she whirled, her gun out. His eyes widened. She had given no warning. Things moved in slow motion then. Mulder started to move, to get his body in front of Dana and Will's. Before he could actually get there, a black shadow flowed past him and before he could blink, Sarge's jaw clamped down on Diana's wrist. The gun fell to the floor as Mulder heard the crunch of her bones.
Mulder flashed back to Sarge moving his bowls out of sight, taking his toy upstairs and it staggered him, the dog had hidden his existence. He hadn't come down with Dana and Will, he'd held in place until he was needed.
Shaking that off, Mulder raced to Diana, taking her good arm and twisting it behind her, placing her in a choke hold. "I've got her, Sarge. Thank you."
The dog huffed and let go of her arm. Mulder shoved Diana into a chair and using her handcuffs, cuffed her to the chair. She was moaning, cradling her injured arm to her chest. Finally he looked over at Dana. She had grabbed up Will and moved to the fireplace, as far away as she could get in the same room. Sarge had taken up a place in front of them, facing Diana, obviously standing guard.
Mulder moved over to them, not turning his back on the woman. "Are you okay?" Dana nodded. "Come in here. Sarge, watch her."
The dog barked once and took a seat on the floor closer to the chair. Mulder led Dana and Will to the other side of the wall, into the unfurnished formal side. He took both of them into his arms and just held them for a long moment. Dana's arm not holding Will went around him as well.
After a minute or two, he stepped back and they sat on the rug. "What happened?"
"I don't know. Will?" The boy looked up and smiled. "Want to explain what all that was?" he asked the boy.
Will smiled at him. *You got it all.*
Mulder looked over at Dana and she nodded. "We were reading Diana's mind. Dana, you agree with that?"
She hesitated, but what other explanation could she offer? Finally she nodded and he gave her a lopsided grin. "I know, but we both experienced it." He turned toward Will. "Did you . . . do something like with George or Mrs. Carpenter?"
*You weren't broken.*
Mulder looked over at Scully. "Glad you think so, but are we 'changed'? I mean can I read everyone's mind now?"
*You have to try. Not be overwhelmed.*
"Oh, I hadn't thought about that. So I can receive only when I want to."
Will smiled brightly and laughed.
"You haven't said much," Mulder said quietly to Dana.
"I don't have a clue what to say. I was beginning to get used to the idea that Will had helped George. I don't understand it, but something obviously happened. With Mrs. Carpenter it's a little harder to see, but she was definitely better when she went home than when we met her. This is not something that I ever even imagined. I don't know what to think."
"I don't have a lot of experience with this either. I think you're handling it very well."
She huffed then. "I'm not an actress, and I'm freaked, but he's my son." She sighed then.
"Dana, she says she's the only one that knows where we are. I don't think she can 'think' a lie. I need to take care of her."
"Mulder - "
"I can do it, for the two of you."
"Can you? You cared for her until recently."
He shook his head. "None of it was real."
"But you didn't know that, not for certain until just now. And I'm not sure I can live with you doing it for us. I, I have another idea."
Instead of answering she turned to Will. "Remember what you did for Candy's grandmother? She couldn't remember things and you fixed her. Could," she swallowed then continued. "Could you make Diana forget things, like you and me, and finding us?"
Mulder's eyes widened and then a smile grew on his face. "You're bloody brilliant!" He turned to the boy as well. "Can you?"
Mulder and Dana looked at each other. She reached for his hand and said, "I believe him and I certainly trust him."
"Me too," she said faintly and let Mulder help her to her feet. They each took one of Will's hands and returned to the table where Diana sat, furious and in pain.
"This is the boy you want to take, to use, to experiment on. He's my son and you'll never have him. Look at him, Diana, look at him!"
Against her will she met the boy's eyes and froze. No one spoke, even Sarge remained silent and still, though he had jumped to his feet at their return.
The moment stretched and it was Diana who broke the gaze by closing her eyes and letting her head fall to her chest.
"Are you okay?" Dana immediately asked Will, who smiled at her, then put his arms around Sarge's neck and hugged him. Mulder joined him, scratching behind Sarge's ears.
"You're a hero, Sarge. Thank you." The dog looked up and gave a short bark, then licked Will's ear to his giggling delight. Dana sank onto the couch.
"What do we do now?"
"Now I get her out of here," Mulder announced. "And fix it so she has no ties to Lexington at all."
Mulder thought for a moment. "I'll drive her to Cincinnati; that should be far enough. I'll put her on a bus to Dallas or somewhere, then leave her car at the airport. It should take quite a while before it's noticed there. I'll rent a car and drive back here. I'll be gone most of the day."
Dana just looked at him and, concerned, he took a seat beside her.
"Did I ask my son to give that woman Alzheimer's?"
"No, you asked him to make her forget you, him and the fact that she found us. Only she knew where we were because of a stupid comment I made two years ago. You were a hell of a lot more humane than I wanted to be."
She looked up, grateful and still concerned.
"Will you be okay, if I'm gone all day?."
"Lonely, but we have Sarge here to look after us."
The dog turned and looked at them and then, Mulder was ready to swear to it, he nodded.
"Let me get going so I can get back. I don't have a clue when a bus to someplace far away will leave and I can't leave her alone at the station. I have to make sure she gets on."
"You'll need cash, for the ticket. What about the rental car home?"
"I have some other IDs. I'll be okay and I will not bring anyone here to our home."
She moved forward then and kissed him. His arms pulled her tight for a longer moment, then he forced himself back and headed upstairs.
He returned shortly in jeans and t-shirt with a light jacket and baseball cap. He had covered the logo on the jacket. The cap had only a swish. Mulder glanced at Diana who was still sleeping in the chair, then turned to Dana. He saw that Dana had bandaged her arm and used her scarf as a sling.
"Are you sure you'll be okay?"
"Yes. All three of the people that knew our location are taken care of. Sarge and I can handle things here for a little while. Did you get the cash?"
He nodded clearly torn about actually leaving her.
"You need to go, Mulder, so you can get back."
He made no comment, just looking back at Diana. With a sigh he approached the woman. He removed the handcuffs, but Diana barely stirred. He got her to her feet and walked her toward the door. Dana opened it and headed outside with them. She opened the passenger's door and Mulder seated Diana inside, buckling her in.
They both looked around but no one was outside and they didn't feel anyone watching them. Dana moved around the car with him and kissed him. "Be careful."
"You too. I'll call when I'm on the way home."
She nodded and stepped back. He let himself into the driver's seat and adjusted it, then buckled up and pulled out of the driveway. He watched in the mirror until he turned the corner. She had waited until he was out of sight. Finally he looked over at Diana. She was asleep again. He took a deep breath and headed for the interstate.
He didn't bother with the radio. He just drove, eating up the miles to Cincinnati. It would take around three hours and he wasn't about to break any speeding laws.
He reached the bus station around 10:30 and parked away from the front door. Diana continued to doze in the front seat. He went inside and scanned the board. Dallas was out; no buses were headed there until tomorrow. He made his choice and headed for the window. Paying cash he bought one ticket for Boise. He was slouching and kept his face away from the camera, not removing his baseball cap. The bus was leaving in less than an hour and that had been his final basis for selection.
He returned to the car to wait. That seemed longer than the drive up, but he kept quiet, not drawing any attention to himself. With ten minutes left, he began waking her. No need to draw attention that he was putting a damn comatose woman on a bus.
She roused slightly and he sent her into the ladies room, then led her to the bus. He got on with her and led her to a seat about three quarters of the way back, seating her. She still hadn't spoken and that was fine with him. He seated her next to the window, stashing her purse between her and the window and placing the ticket in her hand.
"Go back to sleep."
She seemed to look at him for a moment, then her eyes closed again. It would have to do. He left the bus taking advantage of the confusion of the people taking their seats. Boise was the last stop, and hopefully most of these people would never even remember the sleeping woman near the back.
He waited until the bus pulled out, then headed for the airport. A rental car in the name of Vince Dillon was easy enough to obtain and Diana's car could sit out in the long term parking lot forever as far as he was concerned. It had been wiped down thoroughly.
Finally back on the road to Lexington, he had time to think and found his mood plunging. They had 'taken care' of everyone who knew where they were. He suspected that Will had gone a little farther than necessary and that Diana wouldn't be remembering much of anything. If she was found, and returned to Washington, he'd have the guys check up on her. If she was never heard from again . . . he couldn't be sorry about that. But if they were safe, would Dana want to stay with him? She had only come along under duress. They still weren't really a couple, not like a real couple.
On the other hand, she couldn't go back to her former life because Spender was obviously in the mix. She needed to stay hidden, but did she want to stay hidden with him? If she wanted him to leave . . . She'd seemed happy with him and she'd been very appreciative of him when he'd taken care of those two guys.
He'd told her he was falling in love with her and she'd seemed to listen, even to maybe accept it, but nothing had moved forward. Was she letting him down gently? Shit!
It was the longest three hours of his life. He didn't bother to stop for lunch, he wasn't sure he could keep anything down. He wanted to be home with Dana and their son.
Instead of driving straight home, he headed for the airport and turned in the car, taking a cab to his neighborhood, and then jogging home again.
She had the door open before he could reach it, Will in her arms. "Dadada!" He took him, then them into his arms, kicking the door closed behind him. Her grip on him was fierce.
"That took forever," she said finally and he realized she was crying.
"Are you okay?"
"I am now." He felt the gloom that had envelop him lighten.
"You mean that?"
She blinked, "You can doubt it?"
"No, I don't. Dana, if we're really off their radar . . . will you stay with me?"
"There's nowhere else I want to be."
"Do you want me sleep on the couch tonight?"
"Why would I . . . " She decided to lightly check his thoughts. Diana's description of him. "Oh. No, I believe I'd rather you sleep upstairs."
"Look, the advertising doesn't necessarily - "
"Mulder, I don't want to fuck you." He reddened and looked away but her hand on his arm brought his attention back to her. "I want to make love with you."
It took a couple of heartbeats, she saw it happen. The smile that lightened his face made him absolutely beautiful. Her answering smile shone.
He looked over at Will, wondering when the boy would go to bed. Will's laughter caused Dana's cheeks to pink and Mulder's eyes gleamed.
She had a routine. She always did the restroom first so she could prop the door open and let it air out a little while she picked up the trash left behind by the bus passengers. Did these people leave this much trash in their own damn cars?
She spotted the small black purse between the seat and the window and pulled it out. There was a wallet with a driver's license, one credit card and forty-seven dollars in cash. Diana Fowley. How did a woman forget her purse? There was no indication of her destination, so no telling where she might have gotten off. Oh well, she'd turn it into the lost and found. The woman would realize she was missing it soon enough.
Will ran to the window. "They're here!" Sarge barked twice.
George joined him at the window and then moved out of his way as Will rushed to the door and jerked it open. Mulder was already moving around the car to open Dana's door.
"Hi, Big Guy." Mulder smiled over at him.
"Can I see her!"
"You sure can. Give your Mom a hug." Mulder turned to the back seat. Dana gave Will a big hug, seated sideways in the front seat. When Mulder straightened up, she rose and he gave her the bundle. His arm went around her, one hand on her elbow and he walked her inside.
Lou met them at the door wiping her hands. "Welcome home," she whispered looking at the bundle in Dana's arm.
"Do you want to go upstairs?" Mulder asked.
"No, I'd rather stay down here for a little while." She smiled at his slight frown. "I'm fine."
He said nothing, the day before still in his mind along with the realization of how strong this woman truly was. He nodded. "Will, come meet your sister."
Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunmen and Skinner all belong to Chris, 10-13 and Fox – Bless them for it!! No infringement intended.