It was going to be a long weekend. Scully had cut out at three to go with her mother to see her godmother. It wasn't a big deal, and he didn't begrudge her the time with her family, but it just didn't feel right without her. Hell, she was probably looking forward to it; a few non-Spooky days, but what was he supposed to do without her?
At least he had no reason to be jealous. She was with her mother, and if he was completely candid with himself, he could now admit she was with him. With him, in every way. Things had changed between them after the invitro, and not in any way he feared.
So, okay, it was dumb to be driving by her place after work, knowing she wasn't there, but he couldn't seem to stop himself. He saw the apartment come into view. The light to the left of the couch, closest to the kitchen was on now. He had gotten her timers for the lights when she was out of town, so they came on at specific times. Random might be better; he'd have to talk to the guys about that.
Something caught his eye and he slowed down. It was darker than dusk, but not full dark yet and he'd seen something move in the bushes. He pulled into the nearest parking space. He hadn't imagined it, and it wasn't a cat. He carefully exited the car, after ensuring the inside light wouldn't come on when he opened the door. His sig was in his hand, but pointed down toward the ground. He was aware he could be overreacting, but someone scoping out Scully's apartment was not something he could take lightly.
Moving carefully, he headed for the corner of the building, so that he would be behind whoever was there. They weren't being especially stealthy, but they were keeping low. Then he saw the hands come up and try to push the window open. She was definitely moving to an upper floor if she wouldn't move in with him.
Then it hit them, these were tiny hands, a child. He reached in to grab the back of the t-shirt and heard the yelp of surprise.
"What do you think you're doing?" He hauled the kid, it turned out to be a boy, out of the bushes none too gently.
"I, uh, I live here and I was - "
"You don't live here," Mulder interrupted. "I'm friends with the person that lives here and you aren't her."
"You, you know the lady?"
Mulder narrowed his eyes. "What's your name?"
"Josh, what's yours?"
Mulder blinked at that. "Mulder. What are you doing out here alone so late? Do you live in the building?"
Josh shook his head.
"So where are your parents?"
"Don't have any."
"Why don't I believe that?" Mulder stared down at him. The boy actually shrugged and now that Mulder had hold of him, and recognized the lack of danger to Scully, he had to bite down on a chuckle. Then he heard the boy's stomach growl. Without quite knowing why, Mulder heard himself say, "You want to get some dinner?"
The boy looked up, startled. "Uh, yeah."
"Come on." Mulder, still holding the boy, but with less of a grip now, led him to the car and he climbed in the passenger side and clicked his seatbelt without being told.
"Sure," Josh said, settling himself trustingly in the seat.
Mulder sighed and pulled out into the street. "I'll spring for dinner, but you have to tell me who you are, where you come from and why you were here. Deal?" When the boy didn't answer, he looked over at him. "I said 'Deal'?"
Josh mumbled something that could have been yes, but Mulder didn't push yet. He wasn't worried about being able to 'take' this perp.
He pulled into a drive through and got large burgers, fries and a drink for each of them, then Mulder pulled into the parking lot to eat, rather than head back to his apartment. He parked under a light and handed the boy his meal. After they had each taken a few bites, Mulder looked over at the boy again.
"You know you have to tell me who you are."
"I told you, I'm Josh."
"It's not real."
Mulder looked at the boy again and this time he looked up and met Mulder's eyes. It was the first time Mulder had seen him in decent lighting and he froze as Scully's blue eyes looked up at him.
"Who are you?" Mulder's voice was barely a whisper this time and the boy looked at him strangely. "Who are your parents?"
"I'm adopted. I don't know."
For a moment, Mulder could speak, then, "How old are you?"
"I'll be six in July."
Mulder's eyes widened. This boy wasn't five years old! He was much too mature, and, and tall for his age. Okay, he wasn't that aware of the size of five year olds, but the maturity level he was sure about.
"Five and a half."
"Where do you live?"
The boy shook his head. "I'm not going back. They're not my parents, I heard them."
"What did you hear?"
"They didn't really want me and the money's going to stop, so I left."
"Money? What did you hear?"
"I don't know, they were being paid to look after me and now the money's gonna stop."
"Are you their foster son?" Mulder asked, groping for better information.
Josh shook his head. "Nope, I'm full adopted, but I think it was a business deal."
"I need to call Social Serv - "
"No! I told you, I'm not going back." He reached for the door handle and Mulder grabbed his arm.
"Stop, stay here. Finish your dinner and let me think."
Warily the boy eyed him, then hunger won out and picked back up his burger.
Mulder was reeling, he'd picked up a five year old, put him in his car and gotten him dinner? Was that grounds for arrest? No, as an officer of the law, he was looking after the boy - the boy with Scully's eyes. The boy going on six years old. His mind was sent back to that Christmas, all the turmoil and heartache. He shook his head.
"What?" Josh asked him.
"Why that apartment?"
"That's where the lady lives."
"The Scully lady."
Mulder felt the half burger turn to stone in his stomach. "What about her?"
"I'm not sure. But she has something to do with why the money is stopping, I think."
"Are you angry with her?"
"No, I'm glad for whatever reason to leave. I just wanted to see her."
"How did you know where she lived?"
"Her address was in the papers. M-mom and Dad had left them out when they thought I was asleep, but I was listening to them fight about the money going away and when they went to bed I read the papers."
"You can read?"
Josh looked at him scornfully. "Yes, can you?"
Mulder cut his eyes at him, but motioned for him to continue.
"Anyway, it said she was "the source", so I looked some more and found her address."
"How did you get there?"
"They let you get on a city bus alone?"
"No," Josh sounded scornful again. "The school bus. I got on it and rode to the hub, then I got on a wrong bus to go closer to here. When everyone else got off, I hid and then got on another bus that took me to a closer hub."
Mulder sat there speechless. A five year old had figured this out? "I, I thought they had to check the bus to make sure everyone was off," he finally said lamely.
Josh shook his head. "They're supposed to, but they never do. That's where I slept last night."
That brought Mulder upright immediately. "When did you leave home?"
"Yesterday morning. Thursday."
"So you've been missing since Thursday morning?" He'd seen no reports, heard nothing about an Amber alert.
"Yep," Josh took another helping of fries.
"You have to live close, to have done all this with school buses. How did you find out about all the buses and the hubs you hadn't seen before? How did you remember which bus to take?"
Josh just looked at him, eyes narrowed. "I never forget anything and I'm not going home."
"You're five; you don't get to make those choices."
"I'll run away again. They don't want me. Without the money, they'll probably give me back anyway. I won't go to the testers. They don't want me now either!" his voice rose in the first really despairing note Mulder had heard.
"Okay, okay, calm down. Tell me everything."
"Because I'm a friend of the Scully lady and I want to help you."
Suspicious now, Josh looked him over. "Maybe you work for them."
"Nope, I work against 'them'." He pulled his ID from his pocket.
"Fox? Your name is Fox?"
"A little respect, kid. I bought dinner."
For a wonder, a smile appeared on the boy's face and his resemblance to Scully grew. Mulder sucked in breath.
"A little off balance," Mulder admitted. "I need to know who you are, the whole story."
"I don't know the whole story," Josh admitted.
"Tell me what you do know."
Before speaking, Josh finished off his burger and took a long sip of his drink. Then he turned to face Mulder. "I'm adopted, like I said. But it wasn't like my parents wanted a baby, I think they were paid to take me. They don't hit me or anything, but they don't seem to like me. My adopted Mom pretty much stays away from me and my adopted Dad works all the time."
"You said testers," Mulder prompted.
"Yeah, every month I go to the doctor. I'm not sick, I'm never sick, but I go and he gives me an examination and takes blood and pee and all and tests it. When they found out I could read and remember real good, they did more tests. Then a couple of months ago they told my adopted parents that 'it didn't work' and they were 'releasing me from the program', whatever that means. I wasn't supposed to hear it, but I didn't have to go to the doctor this month and Dad was pissed off because there would be no more checks and Mom got furious and threw things, then just went to her room and wouldn't come out. They got out the papers and talked about suing somebody. That's how I got the name and address."
Didn't work out? Released from the program? Mulder's mind was spinning. "I, I need you to go somewhere with me."
"I'm not going ho - "
"It's not home; it's to see some friends of mine."
"Can we go back by the lady's apartment and get my backpack?"
"When you grabbed me, I didn't get to pick up my backpack and all my stuff is in it."
"Oh, sure. We'll do that on the way. Uh, are you still hungry?"
"No, I'm good."
Mulder looked over at him again. He was 'good', and much too mature. He wasn't scared of being 'on his own' and seemed to think everything was going to be fine. He wasn't afraid of Mulder or what he'd gotten himself into. The innocence and bravado were completely disconcerting.
Mulder put the car back into gear and returned to Scully's apartment. Extracting a promise that Josh wouldn't leave the car, Mulder retrieved the backpack and handed it to Josh, then turned toward the offices of The Lone Gunman.
Frohike answered the door. "Hello," he looked around and didn't spot Scully. His disappointment was obvious. "Who's the little dude?"
Josh's expression said, who you calling little, but he kept his mouth shut. Mulder managed not to laugh out loud, and turned his chuckle into a cough. "Uh, this is my friend, Josh. We needed to see you guys."
"Sure, come on in. Want a beer?"
"No, thanks. You got anything soft?"
"I'll check. The guys are in the workroom."
Mulder led Josh into the large open space the guys maintained for their computers. Byers looked up and smiled. "Mulder, good to see you." He looked down at Josh.
"This is my new friend, Josh. We need to talk to you."
Langly wandered in and Josh's eyes widened. He moved slightly closer to Mulder.
"He's okay," Mulder assured the boy.
"What's going on?" Langly asked, watching the boy as though he were a time bomb.
"That's what I want to find out. You guys up for a little DNA testing?"
"Testing?" Josh's voice was loud.
"Not bad testing, they'd only swab the inside of your mouth. No pricks or needles."
Josh scowled at him, then sighed. "I shoulda known."
"No, Josh, I'm not going to let them hurt you. This is to help find out who you are, okay?"
"Who he is?" Byers asked.
"Yeah. He tells me he's adopted and wants to know who he really is."
"Uh, Mulder, couldn't you just look at the records?"
"Not for this."
Byers looked like he wanted some more information, but Frohike nudged him. "It's Mulder, he always has an angle. Let's just do it."
Langly chuckled at that and watched as Frohike went for the supplies they needed.
The small man had Josh open wide and took a quick swab of the inside of his cheek. "You know this is going to take a couple of days. Want to tell us a little more?"
"Nope, I think you have all the information you'll need. Just give me a call as soon as you have anything."
"This is important," Byers said softly.
"Yes, very. It's getting late, we need to go."
"Where are we going?" Josh looked up at him.
"For tonight, my place. We'll make some decisions in the morning."
"Mulder?" Byers met his eyes.
"Let me know what you find out."
Mulder led Josh back out to his car. "You're going home with me tonight. That okay with you?"
"It'll be better than sleeping on the bus."
Mulder marveled at the boy's innocence, but kept quiet about that. Josh was already nodding off.
When Mulder parked, he gently nudged the boy. "Mmm? We here?"
"Yes. Do you want me to carry you?"
"No!" That seemed to rouse him and he unbuckled his seatbelt. He grabbed his backpack from the floor of the car and fell in beside Mulder heading inside. Mulder pressed the button to call the elevator.
Josh was quiet, following him and watched as he slipped the key into the lock. He sighed and headed in with Mulder following.
"I'm going to make you a bed on the couch. That sound okay?" At the boy's nod, he continued. "Bathroom's that way. You need anything?"
Josh shook his head and headed for the bathroom. He returned in a few minutes, wearing light blue pajamas, a touch of toothpaste at the corner of his mouth. Mulder watched him make himself comfortable on the couch. Josh looked up at Mulder, "You're not going to call social services, are you?"
"No, I need some more information first. I won't call without talking to you."
Josh met his eyes, then nodded and rolled over to go to sleep.
Mulder watched him for a moment. It couldn't be, but Mulder couldn't just dismiss it. He was already violating about ten laws, might as well continue at this point.
He got ready for bed himself, he didn't want to turn on the TV and wake Josh. He went ahead and lay down, but he wasn't sleepy. He missed having Scully beside him, but right now, he was actually glad she was out of town. He needed to find out some things before she returned. He pulled her pillow to him and breathed in her scent.
The sound of a toilet flushing woke him the next morning and for an instant he thought Scully was there. He glanced at her side of the bed and saw it wasn't mussed, then he remembered Josh.
He used the facilities himself, then headed for the kitchen. Josh had located some frozen breakfast burritos in the freezer and was nuking one. "You want one?"
"Uh, sure," Mulder agreed, reaching for the coffee. He had that brewing by the time his burrito was ready.
"Don't you have any juice or anything?" Josh looked through the refrigerator.
"Sorry, I didn't know I was going to have company," Mulder sighed.
"Can I have a Coke?"
"Uh, okay." Well, it was caffeine and Mulder understood that.
They ate their breakfast in silence, then Josh looked up at Mulder. "What do we do now?"
"Now? I guess we wait until we hear from the guys."
"Why can't we go see the lady?"
"She's not home this weekend."
Josh looked crestfallen at that. "I thought she was just not home last night. Why do you think my parents had her name in my papers?"
"I'm not sure. Are you going to tell me your parents' names now?"
"You can't call them."
"I told you, I wouldn't call them without talking to you, but I have to have more information. It was illegal for me to keep you here last night. I could be in a lot of trouble because of you. I need to look into this, please. You need to trust me."
Josh looked down at the table for a moment, then sighed. "I don't want to go back to them."
"Did they abuse you?"
"They didn't hit me, it would have shown up on the tests, but they didn't want me around."
Mulder could relate, but he kept quiet.
"Cynthia and Alan Milton. 1772 Chestnut Lane in College Park."
"Thank you." He rose then and headed for his computer. Finding them was a lot easier than he thought it would be. The police report came up first. Cynthia was dead, murdered in their home and Alan and Josh were listed as missing. Mulder lowered the screen as he heard Josh approaching.
"Did you find them? Are you going to call them?"
"No, I'm not
going to call. I need to know some things first. You want to watch some TV or
"Yeah, okay." Josh seemed disinterested, but picked up the remote and took a seat back on the couch.
"I'm gonna take this in the bedroom to work. You okay with that?"
"Sure," the boy sounded disgusted, but Mulder needed the privacy. He opened the laptop again and read the information in front of him. The husband was the obvious suspect; that was standard operating procedure. There was an APB out on the husband, but Mulder had an idea that he wouldn't be found alive. It was a puzzle though, if they had been about to cut the boy loose from the program.
Mostly he was anxious to hear from the guys. That would solidify his beliefs.
The murder was professionally handled, not something an insurance analyst would be able to pull off. Of course, the house they owned didn't seem to be something an insurance analyst could pull off either. He couldn't leave to get a first hand view of the site and he needed to keep the boy completely underwraps for now. He was an orphan now, like . . . but he didn't appear to be ill in any way.
A knock on the door caught his attention. "Josh, get in here. Stay out of sight." He closed the computer and waved the boy into the bedroom, then headed for the door. He checked and was mildly surprised to see all three of the guys. He opened the door and invited them inside.
"You knew," Frohike said after the door was closed behind them.
"You have the results? I didn't expect it this quick."
"We had all the necessary information for comparison at our fingertips. How many do you think there are?"
Mulder shook his head and glanced toward the bedroom.
"Is he still asleep?'
"No, Josh, come on out."
Byers looked startled that the boy would be part of the discussion. "Mulder, he's - "
"He's involved. He needs to know what's going on."
"You know about - "
"Yeah," Langly spoke and looked over at Josh as he joined them.
"You know something?"
"Yeah, have a seat."
"Mulder, he's five," Byers reminded him.
"Only chronologically, have you talked to him? I have to help her this time. I have to make this happen."
"You tried last time," Frohike said.
"Yeah, but it's different now."
"What are you guys talking about?" Josh joined the conversation.
Mulder took a seat on the coffee table facing Josh. "I have some bad news for you."
"Josh, your mother - "
"They killed her, didn't they?"
Mulder blinked. "How did you know?"
"She was mad about the money going away. She was talking about going to the newspapers. Is Dad dead too?"
"He's missing, along with you. They're speculating that he killed your mother and took off with you."
Josh looked down and Mulder covered his hand with one of his own. "What happens to me now?"
"We’re working on that, but you're safe here with us. I have some good news though."
Josh looked up. "Good news?"
"We know why Scully's name was in the papers your parents had. Josh, she's your birth mother."
Josh blinked and then his eyes started to lighten. "She's my mom?"
"Is she looking for me? Did she want to give me away?"
"That's going to be a little harder to explain, but she doesn't know about you. She didn't have you, but you are her son."
Josh thought that over for a minute, then met Mulder's eyes. "Will she want me?"
"Are you my Dad?"
Mulder didn't look at the guys, but shook his head. "I wish - "
"Mulder, we thought you knew. You are his father. The DNA confirms it."
Mulder threatened whiplash he looked over at Byers so quickly. "I'm what?"
"He said you're my Dad," Josh said softly. "Do, do you want me?"
"Damn straight I do. I need to get Scully home. We have a lot to talk about."