She wasn't supposed to be out of touch with him, not this long. Okay, she needed family time, he got that, but had she honestly turned off her cell phone? Had he not taught her better than that? He dropped his own cell phone back onto the kitchen counter and heard Josh sigh behind him.
"Still no answer?" The disappointment colored his voice.
"She's off with her mother, your grandmother and her godmother. She hasn't had any time to spend with them lately." Well, he had to defend her actions to the boy, right?
The boy sighed again and wandered off. He flopped down on the couch and picked up the remote. What he watched wasn't exactly Mulder's regular fare, but thank goodness his video collection now resided with Frohike. Scully would have killed him if the boy had found that.
He trailed Josh into the living room. "She'll be back for work on Monday."
"I know. It's okay, really," he spoke as though he just realized he might be hurting Mulder's feelings.
"I miss her too. I'm glad you're here to keep me company."
Josh grinned then, but kept his eyes on the TV. "Will, will I live with her or you?"
Mulder blinked at that. The boy had cut right to the heart of it. What was the plan? Hell, there wasn't a plan yet. That's why he needed to get in touch with Scully. The police were still looking for the boy's adopted father and, of course, the boy. That was one of the reasons for the boy's impatience. He was stuck inside so that no one would see him.
He could go to jail for harboring him, but on the other hand there was no way in hell he was going to let any 'officials' get their hands on his son. His son, Scully and his son. Okay, not made the way he'd like, but finally after all these years, at least they were practicing now. He schooled his face not to smile at that thought. Josh might be five years old, but he was damn precocious. There was no telling what he would make of Mulder's grin.
"Can we do anything today?"
"Sorry Kiddo, not outside, but I think I better have a friend come over."
"Langly? Could he bring some games?"
"No, someone else. I need to start working on getting legal custody of you. I was waiting for Scully, but I can't wait any longer."
"My boss, mine and Scully's. His name is Walter Skinner and I'm hoping he's got some pull in legal areas. At least I need his advice."
That information didn't seem to mean a lot to the boy, and Mulder understood. This had to be hard on him, and Mulder's parenting skills are never been exercised before. The boy had lost the only mother he knew. Okay, they hadn't had much of a relationship apparently, but still she had been his mother. His adopted father was accused of murdering her and kidnapping him. Very damn few people knew he was safe and with Mulder. So far, only the Gunmen and while they were master hackers - okay they hated that term - but he needed real legal advice right now.
After he knew what to do, they could probably fix anything and make it look legal. But he couldn't exactly contact a lawyer at this point. Okay, he'd delayed enough; he picked up the phone and dialed Skinner's home number. The man was truly going to regret ever giving that number to him.
"Hello?" Damn, he sounded annoyed already.
"Yeah, uh, hello. It's Mulder."
Mulder winced, this was going well. "I'm sorry to bother you on a Sunday afternoon."
"I'm sorry too; the game's on."
"Oh, yeah. I'm really sorry, but could you come over to my apartment?"
Mulder winced. "I, I wouldn't ask if it weren't - "
"Important," Skinner interrupted. "What have you stepped in this time?"
"I can't really talk about it over the phone." Shit, had the man actually growled?
"And you want me to come over there."
"I wouldn't ask if - "
"I'll be there shortly. Mulder, this better be good." He broke the connection before Mulder could speak. Mulder hung up on his end and shook his head. Did he have any beer? Skinner might need one for this.
Mulder had to give him credit; he lost no time getting there. Mulder and Josh had turned to the game. Maybe it would help.
He answered the door immediately at the knock, practically sprinting across the apartment so as not to keep the man waiting. Skinner stepped inside.
"Okay, you got me here. What the hell is going on?"
Mulder stepped aside so that Skinner could see Josh, who has still on the couch, staring at the large, and angry, baldheaded man.
Skinner stared back, his eyes narrowing. "Jesus, Mulder, is that - "
Skinner's eyes narrowed. "And you have him here why?"
"Why don't you take a seat? Would you like a beer?"
"No, I would not like a beer. Talk!"
Well, having Skinner here certainly wasn't any easier than meeting in his office. Mulder took a seat beside Josh, not sure it would make the boy feel any more secure, but it might him.
Mulder took a deep breath and faced Skinner. "I found him night before last, Thursday, outside of Scully's apartment. He was trying to look in her windows. He'd run away from home."
"He ran away from home and got all the way over to Agent Scully's apartment? What about his father?"
"Yeah, about that. You remember a couple of years ago, Christmas. Scully went out to San Diego to spend the holidays with her family."
Skinner's face went carefully blank. "Mulder - "
Mulder nodded and Skinner looked over at Josh again. It was obvious he was looking at the boy's eyes. Silently he turned back to Mulder. "How . . . "
Mulder was shaking his head. "He's healthy. And maybe because of that, he was being kicked out the 'program', whatever that means. His adopted mother was upset that the money was going to stop and threatened to go to the press. I think that's what happened to her and they're setting up the father to take the blame."
"So you think . . . "
Mulder nodded. "I think his adopted father is gone too. I'm not sure you'll be able to prove that."
"Mulder . . . "
"I know my other parents are dead," Josh spoke finally. "But now I can live with my real parents. My dad says he wants me."
Josh looked over at Mulder. "Yeah."
Skinner sat there stunned and silent for a long moment. Then, "You?"
Mulder nodded. "The guys checked it out."
"And the girl?"
"Emily. I don't think so. Scully never told me if I was."
Everyone sat in silence after that. Skinner couldn't seem to think of what to ask first. Mulder didn't try to help. He was still reeling on some level himself.
Finally Skinner met Mulder's eyes. "I think I will have that beer."
Mulder nodded and rose. He brought back two beers and a Coke.
"Not to be rude, but should we be talking in front of the boy?"
"Yeah, I think so. He understands what's going on."
Skinner scowled, but didn't fight him on that. "So why did you call me and where's Scully?"
"She's off with her mother. She, she doesn't know yet."
"She doesn't know?" Skinner's voice showed his incredulity.
"I haven't been able to reach her yet. Believe me, I've tried. I think she turned her cell phone off. She didn't leave me a number for her godmother. As for why I called you, I think we're going to need some legal advice."
"You think? Mulder, you're going to need a boatload of attorneys on this one. And you've made me an accessory."
"Yeah, I'm sorry about that, but she can't go through what happened last time, not again. I need to start the process to make sure she, we get custody of Josh."
"How do you plan to keep him safe?" Mulder's eyes narrowed then and Skinner leaned back, regretting his words. He glanced at the boy. "Well, if anyone can, it would be you," he muttered. "What about those friends of yours?"
"They're ready to create any documentation we need. Scully's going to need a leave, maybe both of us."
"Let's not jump ahead. The boy's got to be 'found' first. There's an Amber alert out. The FBI is on that. I could assign you to the case. Your 'Spooky' reputation isn't all bad; those leaps could come in handy now."
Mulder grimaced, but didn't correct him.
"In the meantime, keep trying to reach Scully. We're going to need her. I'm going to go into the office and get up to date on the case. I need to figure out how to get you and the boy, and maybe Scully where you need to be." He rose and put the half-empty beer on the table. "Mulder - "
"I know. Thanks for your help."
Skinner turned toward the door without a comment. Talk about stepping into it.
Mulder closed the door behind him and turned to find Josh right behind him. "Will he really help?"
"Yeah, for Scully and you. I just need to stick close to you two."
Josh grinned and turned back to the couch.
Skinner was back in a little over an hour. "I've gotten you on the case." He handed Mulder a file. "You've got the experience. I'll need you to fly out tonight. Can the boy stay with those friends of yours? They'll need to disguise him and take him to Albuquerque. There's a sliver of evidence that the father could take him there. Milton won't be there, can you fake them out?"
"Yeah. I've been thinking about it. I think I have a plan. I'll get Byers to take him, he won't stand out."
Skinner huffed. That much was true. "Did you get hold of Scully?"
"No, and I'm going to have the damn phone implanted before she goes anywhere without me again."
"I'd really like to see you try," Skinner said dryly and Josh grinned.
"Good point." Mulder was already going through the file. He spotted the picture of Josh's adopted mother and closed the file again. That was definitely something a five year old, no matter how mature, should ever see. He looked up to see Skinner watching him and nodded.
After exchanging a little more information, Skinner left and Mulder had Josh pack up his things, using a gym bag of his. The backpack wasn't that memorable, but no need to have anything that was identifiable. After a quick call to the Gunmen, they were on their way.
Mulder made one stop. Josh hid in the floorboard until he returned with his small bag of items. For the first time Mulder could remember, the door to the Gunmen's building was open, Frohike standing guard, so they were inside in record time.
Frohike took the bag from Mulder and glanced inside, then nodded. "We can take care of this." He led them to the workroom. "Byers will be ready to leave when we get your call. Is Scully meeting you there?"
"I still haven't talked to her."
"She avoiding you?" Langly asked.
Mulder cut his eyes at him, but didn't bother to answer. Instead he took Josh aside and the others left them alone for the moment.
"Are you okay with this?"
"If it works can I live with you and my real mom?"
"You'll be with us. The living arrangements haven't been worked out yet, you know that, but we will be together."
The look the boy gave him wasn't that reassuring, but Mulder wasn't sure what else to say.
"Look, I need you to trust me."
The boy sighed. "Okay. Are you at least going to marry her?"
"Well, you had me, aren't you supposed to be married?"
"We didn't exactly 'have' you and remember, she doesn't know we found each other. You need to give me some time on this. Okay?"
"Yeah," he muttered.
"Try not to overwhelm me, Kiddo."
Josh didn't meet his eyes, but Mulder saw a quirk of the boy's lips. Mulder grinned, yeah, he was Scully's son.
He knew he needed to leave, but he found actually walking away from the boy was damn hard, even after just a couple of days. Byers approached him. "Mulder, we're going to look after him. We're not going to let you down."
"I know that. I do," he sounded defensive even to himself. He squared his shoulders and nodded. "Josh, be good for these guys. You understand the plan, right?" The boy nodded. "It'll only be a couple of days. Then we'll really get to be together, all three of us."
"Will you call me?" It was the youngest Josh had sounded.
"I will." He held up a cell phone the guys had given him. On impulse, he pulled the boy to him and gave him a strong hug.
His cell phone rang just as he got back to his apartment, the key in his hand. "Mulder."
"Scully," she said and he could hear the smile in her voice.
"Where have you been?"
"Uh, with Mom and Celeste, remember?"
"You haven't been answering your phone. I was trying to reach you."
"I could tell from the 100+ messages. Mulder, I'm sorry. I didn't realize it had turned off, then the battery died. I'm coming home tomorrow."
"I need you to fly to Albuquerque. I'll meet you there. Skinner gave us a case." He heard the sigh.
"I don't have work clothes with me."
"That's okay. I can run by your place and pick up some stuff."
"Are you serious?"
"Sure, what do you want?"
"Uh, I don't . . . my gray suit and, and the black one with the thin lapels. A couple of blouses and my black medium heels."
"Okay, I can do that. What about lingerie?"
"Mulder," the tone was warning, but there was a teasing note to it now.
"I'll make those decisions, then. This is an important case, Scully."
She caught the serious note in his voice then. "What is it?"
"I'll brief you when I see you." He gave her his flight information and she promised to send hers as soon as she had it. "Scully, "
"I missed you."
"I missed you too." Then he was gone and she was left with the feeling that there was a lot he wasn't telling her. That always made her a little nervous.
He was never going to admit that he was enjoying picking out her clothes. He had the two suits in his suitcase, but the blouses were up to him. Okay, black but that didn't mean it had to be drab. Where was that sapphire blue blouse? That would liven up the black, and for the gray, that lavender low cut blouse. Hey, she needed to make a good impression on their son, right? The stockings were for him and he found the shoes she liked to wear for work.
Why was he thinking of this stuff. They had a son. There were plans to be made, but he couldn't do that until she knew. There was no way he could tell her something like that over the phone. Tonight, they'd be together tonight.
Byers stiffened beside Josh and the boy looked up to see an airport security guard watching them. When he realized he'd been seen, the man approached. "So, where are you and your Dad going?" he spoke to Josh.
"He's not my dad, he's my Uncle John and we're going to Albaturkey to see my Dad. Mom says I'm too little to go all the way by myself and she and Dad won't talk to each other."
The man glanced up at Byers, who mouthed the word 'divorce'. He nodded. "Do you do this often?"
Byers shook his head. "It's a . . . new situation."
"Uncle John, can I go look at the planes?" Josh indicated the large window.
"Uh, okay, but stay right there where you can see me." Josh nodded.
The security guard ruffled the boy's light blonde hair. "You have fun in 'Albeturkey'." He grinned and Josh hurried over to the window. Byers watched him, then turned to the guard.
"It's good of you to do this."
"She's my sister, but it's not all black and white."
"It never is. Have a good flight." He nodded to Byers and moved on. Byers hurried to where Josh was standing and took a seat beside him. After looking around to make sure no one was watching them, Josh put his hand on Byers' shoulder.
"Don't be nervous. No one's going to recognize me. I don't look anything like the pictures they have on the TV now and I'm not trying to get away." He adjusted the fake glasses on this nose and grinned.
"You're a lot cooler about this than I would be."
The boy grinned and took the seat beside him.
Mulder snagged his suitcase off the circular mover and moved over to the electronic board to check on Scully's flight. Of course it was delayed. This was a damn conspiracy, keeping them apart. With a sigh, he headed for the rental car area to go ahead and secure a car.
Byers and Josh should already be here. They had left immediately in order to be in place when Scully arrived. He didn't dare contact them yet. Now he just had to wait, one of his better qualities, yeah, right.
He took a seat near the board, and smiled when he saw her plane was on the ground. He'd wait here, she would have checked her bag. She'd taken the large one for the visit with her godmother. Even knowing it would be a few minutes, he was on his feet.
Okay, he hadn't been invited along, why would he be? And if he hadn't been left behind he wouldn't have driven by her place and found Josh. Found their son. But damn it felt like she had been gone for weeks.
There! Finally and who the hell was the man being so damn friendly. She's seen him and though she wasn't exactly smiling, her eyes showed what he needed.
"Mulder, this is Detective Tate. He's here to escort us to headquarters."
"I've already rented a car. We might need to move around the city."
"Oh, of course. Well, I can lead you in. Have you picked up the car yet?"
"Yes. My things are in it."
The buzzer went off, announcing the arrival of the bags for Scully's flight and the detective moved closer to the carousel, not exactly feeling any warmth from Mulder.
Once he had stepped away, Mulder leaned down and Scully gave him her private smile. "I let you go away for a few days and you pick up a dweeb like that?"
"Let me, huh?" she teased. "I'm afraid we're not going to be able to shake the dweeb on the way to the station, but I would like to know why we're working on the Milton case."
Mulder winced, he had wanted a chance to talk to her, but not in front of this Tate dude. "Skinner called me. We have 'experience' in this type of case."
"You and me? On a child abduction? Since when?"
Mulder shrugged. "It was Skinner. What was I supposed to say?"
"Do they think the boy is still alive?" Scully glanced over at Tate, who was watching the bags begin to emerge from the back.
"Yes," Mulder said quickly. "Since his father is the obvious suspect."
"Do they have a motive on why he killed his wife?"
Mulder opened his mouth, but Tate was approaching with Scully's bag. She must have described it to him. "Some theories. We can talk in the car."
That caused Scully to look up at him sharply, her eyebrow on the rise. He knew something, but didn't want to talk in front of the police? Oh lord, was this an X-File after all? She bit down on her questions.
Tate followed them out to the car as though a porter and slid her suitcase into the trunk beside Mulder's, then pointed to his car. "We're only about ten minutes from the station." He gave them directions in case they became separated and Mulder managed to keep his face bland. Ten minutes? He needed a couple of hours and then they also needed to talk. He sighed and shoved it back for a little while longer.
Alone in the car, she turned to him. "What's going on?"
"It's too much to get into in ten minutes. Let's check in and then we have to meet someone."
"Meet someone? Mulder - "
She sighed and settled back into the seat.
"Tell me about your visit."
Okay, he was definitely not going to talk about it now.
Mulder was in charge at the station. Scully hid her smile. In that suit, and with his reputation, which always preceded them, the police didn't stand a chance. Damn, she wanted some time alone with him and not just to find out what he was hiding.
"The Bureau has discovered that Alan Milton spent time here for several summers when he was a child. We're thinking he may have fond memories of the area."
"You think he brought the boy here?"
"It's one of the things we're looking into. The family is gone, we're already checked that, so we need to check out the area." He pulled a paper from his coat pocket. "His uncle lived here." Mulder handed the paper to Tate. "I'd suggest you send people to speak to the current owners and neighbors. See if anyone remembers him and may have seen him."
"The FBI thinks the boy is still alive?"
"Since he's the father - "
"Isn't the boy adopted?"
"Yes." Scully looked up, there was something in his tone . . .
"Don't you think - "
"The Bureau is going on the premise that he thinks of the boy as his, since he took the boy when he ran."
"Uh, yes. We'll send some people out to check on this. Would you like to accompany - "
"Agent Scully and I will check into a hotel, if you could give us a recommendation, and go over my notes. We haven't had time to confer."
"Oh, of course. The Marriot is just down the street."
"Good. We'll head over there and check back here in a couple of hours."
"We'll have some information for you by then."
Mulder nodded as though releasing a serf to his duties and turned toward the door. His hand on the small of her back felt warm and familiar. Since they were parked in front of the station, he did not open her door, but once inside she looked over at him. "A couple of hours?"
He grinned at her. "Get your mind out of the gutter, Agent. We're late."
"Yeah." He pulled up to the Marriot and left her in the car, checking in and leaving their luggage at the desk. He was back quickly. She was begging to be annoyed and her curiosity was threatening to overwhelm her.
Instead of heading toward the neighborhood he had pointed out to the police, he headed toward the seedier part of town and finally pulled up in front of what looked like an abandoned warehouse.
"Mulder, what the hell is going on?"
"This isn't what I planned, but nothing has gone exactly as I planned since you left town. We need to talk about that too, but later. Come on."
He stepped into the warehouse and looked around, then motioned for Scully to step inside as well. "Mulder, what is going on!"
Before he could respond, Byers stepped from around a corner. "Mulder?"
Then a young boy was running toward them. Mulder blinked, they'd done a good job. Josh now sported nearly white blond hair instead of Mulder's chestnut and he was wearing glasses. He threw his arms around Mulder's waist and Mulder hugged him back hard. Damn, he had missed the boy, even knowing him for such a short time, he was his. "Well, do blondes have more fun?"
Josh drew back grinning then he caught sight of her and his eyes widened. "Is that . . ."
"Yes, this is Scully. Dana Katherine Scully."
Confused and suddenly nervous, Scully met Mulder's eyes then looked down at the boy. "Is this Josh? What - " Then she met the boy's eyes and the world ceased to revolve. Emily's eyes looked up at her.
"This is Josh. Scully, he's your - "
"Son. Oh God, how, what -
"Scully, take a breath."
"Is he healthy? Are you healthy?" She turned to the boy and held out her hand. He didn't need a second invitation and threw his arms around her waist as well. Mulder stepped behind her to keep her on her feet, since her knees seemed ready to buckle.
"Scully," Mulder said gently into her ear. "Who was Emily's father?"
"Wha - I, I don't know."
"It wasn't me."
She shook her head, her throat closed now with emotion.
"Josh is healthy; they picked the right father this time. Scully, he's mine. The guys checked."
Now her knees did buckle for just a moment and he held her against him as their son watched anxiously. Byers stepped up behind him and put his hand on Josh's shoulder.
"How did you find - "
"He found us, Scully. He figured it out and came to find you. He knew he was adopted. We need to talk."
She looked at him stunned. Talk? Good lord!
"Byers, you better get out of here. Head home and let me know when you're there safe."
Byers nodded and squeezed the boy's shoulder. "If you need anything, Josh, you know how to reach us. We'll always be there."
He nodded. "Thanks, Uncle John. You'll be okay."
Byers grinned. "Yeah, but not as good as with you." Puzzled, Mulder looked up at his friend. "He'll explain. Be careful." Without another word, Byers gave the outside a quick check, then let himself out of the warehouse.
Mulder looked back down as Scully took a seat on a crate, her arm around Josh. "Okay, Mulder, talk."