Ramada Inn Express
Welch sat in the growing darkness of the room, afraid to turn on the light. On the bed, Mulder hadn't moved since he'd collapsed some four hours before. Welch checked his watch. If the man didn't wake on his own, he'd wake him in a few minutes. The silence of the room was broken by a cell phone playing 'Walking in Memphis'.
Looking at the still sound asleep man, Welch dug through the leather jacket that had been hastily flung on the dresser, finding the cell phone in the right hand pocket and flipped it open.
"Welch," he said without thinking. He quickly amended. "Sorry, this is Fox Mulder's phone. May I help you?"
After a moment of silence, there was a response. "What hospital is he in?" came the terse voice.
"Uh, none. Who am I speaking with, please?"
"This is Dana Scully. I'm sorry Agent Welch, that was just an automatic response on my part. Is Mulder still sleeping? It's after 6 your time, I thought he'd be awake by now."
"No, not yet. Has he been sick recently?"
"No," Scully said, confusion heavy in her tone. "He's been fine. Can you tell me a little more about what happened? How did this come on?"
"I can't really be certain. We were in the observation room, watching the interview and suddenly he was holding his head like he was in a lot of pain. He and the boy spoke for another moment or two and then Mulder stumbled out of the room. I knew I should have taken him to the hospital, but he refused, said he just needed to sleep." Welch had walked over to the window of the room and was looking out on the parking lot, so he jumped when a hand landed on his shoulder.
"Let me talk to her," Mulder rasped, holding out his hand for the phone. "Scully, it's me. I'm fine," he told her shortly.
"What happened? And don't even think about bull shitting me, Mulder, because now I can call Walt and have your ass hauled back to Virginia and not wreck your career," she warned.
He sighed and sat on the edge of the second double bed. "OK, I went to see the boy. He was working on a puzzle. He appears to have all the classic Aspergers behaviors, Scully. But I got through to him. He spoke to me, Scully -- directly to me."
"So what was the pain, Mulder? Welch said you grabbed your head in pain," Scully reminded him.
He winced, remembering the agony and the hum, that horrible hum. "Scully," he said, searching for words. "It was like the artifact, Scully. The dissonance was back," he whispered.
There was silence and he thought maybe she'd been disconnected but then she spoke. "I'm coming out," she said.
"No, Scully, that's stupid. I'm fine now -- "
"You were fine before, Mulder!" she exclaimed in exasperation. "You kept wanting to work the case, but you weren't fine, Mulder, you weren't! You ended up in the neuropsych ward and you almost died. So don't you tell me you're fine," she huffed.
"Scully, I think it was the boy," he interrupted her tirade.
"What do you mean?" she demanded, not willing to be swayed.
"I think this boy is like Gibson, Scully," he said, so quiet he was afraid she wouldn't hear him, but he didn't want Welch to overhear.
"Mulder, I can be on a plane -- "
"No, I mean it, Scully. Stay there, you have patients. If I need you, I'll call -- or I'll have Welch call. I promise."
Again, silence reigned on the other end of the line until he heard her give an aggravated sigh. "OK. Look, I'll see if I can have someone cover at a moment's notice and I'll hold for your call. But Mulder, we don't have 'injury in the line of duty' style insurance anymore. If you have to be evac-ed back here, my insurance carrier will have kittens," she warned.
"That's my girl -- always looking on the bright side," he quipped. "Look, I'm sort of starved at the moment so I'm going to take Welch out for pizza. I'll call you later to say good night."
"I'll be waiting for your call," she said. Knowing he wouldn't say he loved her with Welch still in the room -- old habits died hard -- she just disconnected the line.
He was smiling when he turned to Welch. "Thanks, I didn't hear the phone."
Welch eyed him suspiciously. "Mulder, you were totally out of it. You've been dead to the world since I got you back here. I was ready to call for an ME's wagon," Welch accused and Mulder was certain the man was only half joking.
"Yeah, I guess I was beat. But I feel great now. How about some dinner -- my treat."
Welch blinked and then smiled. "Sure. I've heard the rumors about your consulting fees," he said, picking up Mulder's jacket and tossing it at him.
Ramada Inn Express
Mulder was deeply asleep when the dream came. Suddenly, instead of lying on a beach with Scully in his arms, he was standing in a house. He recognized it when he saw Inspector Phoebe Greene coming down the stairs -- it was the house on Cape Cod that the Lord Marsten and his family rented in an attempt to escape Cecil L'ively. He looked around for Scully, but she wasn't there. Phoebe looked up the stairs and her eyes grew wide. "Fire!" she shouted.
"The children!" Mrs. Marsten yelped and Mulder found himself running up the steps and into an inferno in the hallway.
L'ively stood at the end of the hall, laughing manically. "You'll never find 'em," he cackled and snapped his fingers. The fire roared all along the ceiling of the hall, catching the pictures hung on each side, so that soon the entire hallway was aflame.
Mulder duck-walked forward, listening for the children. He could hear a cry at the end of the hall, but couldn't determine which door. He felt the doors as he went, praying he'd find the one with the boys before the room became engulfed.
Finally, he heard a cry directly next to him. He touched the doorknob, but flinched his hand back when he was burned. Pulling out his shirttail, he took hold of the knob again and turned it, pushing against the wood.
The room inside was filled with smoke. "Where are you?" he shouted. "I'm here to get you out."
Over by the window he could just make out a small silhouette, huddled near the floor. "I'm here," he said again, keeping low to avoid the heavy smoke. When he reached the boy, he heard the door slam shut behind him just as the curtains on the window came alight. The boy looked up at him with tearful eyes. "Help me -- don't let me die," he begged, throwing his arms around Mulder's neck.
"I won't let you die, William. I won't let you die," Mulder vowed, just as the flames licked at his pant legs. "I won't let you die."
Mulder woke drenched in sweat, still repeating the words of the dream. "I won't let you die," he choked out, his lungs feeling like they were still filled with smoke. He coughed long and hard, finally getting his breathing under control. He looked at the clock on the bedside dresser -- it read 2:45 am.
He stumbled to the bathroom and turned the tap on full cold, splashing handfuls of the water on his face. He looked at the mirror above the sink, trying to remember the dream. It was already fading as fast as the relief he felt from the cool water. A feeling of deep dread struck him in the pit of his stomach. Someone was in danger, he knew that. Who? He shook his head, trying to recapture the dream, any part of it. He was still puzzling it out when he grabbed his cell phone and started to dial.
Natrona County Children's Home
Mulder had awakened Welch in a panic, demanding that the agent give him the car keys. He'd tried calling the children's home and no one had answered. Welch woke up fully when, just a minute after Mulder arrived at his door, he received a call from the Sheriff's department that there had been a fire at the home.
They made the drive in stony silence, Mulder fearing the worst, Welch still trying to figure out how Mulder knew anything about it and discounting his 'crazy' dream. When they pulled up to the residence, the fire was mostly out, but a cluster of people stood shivering the in the late night spring air. Mulder immediately picked out Nancy and Eddie and ran over to them.
Upon seeing Mulder, the small boy rushed forward and threw his arms around the former agent's legs. "I knew you'd come," he cried, his words broken by sobs. "I knew it."
Mulder wanted answers, but the boy needed comforting first. He knelt down and took the small child into his arms, stroking his back. "It's OK. I'm here. I won't let anything happen to you, Eddie. It's OK now," he repeated until the child finally calmed down to an occasional sniffle.
Welch came over to them after talking to the firemen rolling up their hoses. "Mulder, if I could have a minute?"
Nancy stepped in and took Eddie by the hand so that Mulder could confer with Welch. "They say it was arson," Welch told him with stern look over at the child.
"You can't think -- did they find any evidence?" Mulder demanded.
"A can of accelerant. I'm not thinking it was the boy, Mulder, but I think it's pretty obvious he's the target."
Mulder huffed out a relieved sigh but it only lasted a second until the gravity of the situation came crashing down on him. "The kid's not safe here."
"I know. The county is making arrangements -- "
"No, Welch. He's not safe anywhere, but especially not here. Not in Wyoming. He needs constant protection."
"Are you suggesting I take him back to Denver?" Welch asked incredulously.
"No. I have a better idea," Mulder replied.
Mulder and Scully residence
Outside Richmond, Virginia
you're there, pick up." Mulder waited a moment. "Okay, well, I wanted you to
know we'd landed and are on the way home."
"Mulder?" She sounded breathless, like she had run to the phone. "Sorry, I'm here. We?"
"Uh, yeah. You were absolutely right about Eddie needing a safe house. They didn't have the knowledge or the means to set something up, so . . . I brought him home with me."
There was dead silence from the other end of the phone.
"You brought him home with you?"
"It's the perfect arrangement, Scully. I can be home with him, a personal bodyguard. I've got a permit to carry and you, hey, you're a pediatrician par excellence."
There was another silence, which found Mulder wincing as Eddie watched.
"Scully, it was the right thing to do. This kid needs - "
"He needs a stable home, protection, yes, but Mulder . . . "
"Protection, Scully. Who better than us? Remember, you did beat me on that last - "
"I'll finish up here and be home as quick as I can. We'll need groceries. If you beat me there, start airing out that extra room. There's no bed in there!"
"Don't worry about that, we'll make it work. Scully, thank you."
"I'll see you at home."
She hung up and dropped her face into her hands. Now what?
Scully let herself into the gate and spotted the strange car in front of the house. They had beaten her home, which didn't surprise her. She'd run by the grocery to pick up a few things. She'd buy more when she found out what this Eddie liked to eat. In the meantime, she had picked up ingredients for the macaroni and cheese her mother used to make. Kids liked that, and a few other things.
She parked next to the rental car and opened her door. Mulder appeared on the porch and trotted down to meet her. "Missed you." He kissed her with a promise of things to come and took the bags of groceries. "Come on in and meet Eddie."
He soothed the worried look on her face with a kiss to her brow. He followed her up the steps and into the house. She saw the boy sitting on the couch and after glancing back at Mulder, approached him.
He looked up at her with strangely familiar blue eyes, but didn't quite meet hers. For just an instant a song appeared in her mind -- 'Jeremiah was a bullfrog, was a good friend - '. She shook that off and held out her hand. He took it, shaking it solemnly.
"I'm sorry I wasn't here to meet you, but I wanted to get a few things for us to eat. Did you see your room?"
He just looked at her, still not quite meeting her eyes but watching her somehow.
She tried again. "My name is Dana, and I'm looking forward to having you stay with us for a while." At his continued silence and slightly unnerving stare, she turned to look at Mulder.
"It was a long trip. Why don't Eddie and I go unpack his stuff while you fix dinner? You okay with that, Eddie?"
The boy rose and followed Mulder to the stairs. Scully looked up and saw that Eddie had stopped on the first stair and looked back at her. She smiled, but he turned away and headed up after Mulder.
With shaking hands she picked up the groceries and turned to the kitchen. She was glad she'd followed her instincts about the macaroni and cheese. It was good comfort food and right now she felt like she needed it as much as he did. What kind of trauma was going through the child's mind?
She assembled the casserole and then put together a simple tossed salad. She'd bought those little grape tomatoes, hoping the boy, hoping Eddie, would enjoy them. Once the casserole was in the oven and the salad in the refrigerator, she straightened up the kitchen, looking up as she heard some bumps and scrapes from upstairs.
She squared her shoulders and headed for the stairs. She needed to spend some time with them. She was a pediatrician for goodness sake, she should be able to at least use bedside manner to get to know him. There was no reason to be this nervous.
Tonight after he was asleep, and after Mulder had brought her up to speed on what he knew, as well as what he theorized, she needed to spend some time researching Aspergers. So much of her time had been spent on Sandoff's recently that she hadn't made the time to study up. Had she avoided it? She shook her head, shoving those thoughts aside and headed upstairs to join them.
Mulder had the camp bed set up, and was attempting to make the sheets fit. "Let me do that."
"It's all yours." He stepped back and waved his hand in a flourish. She shook her head, and rearranged the sheets and laid a light blanket over it. They would need to get a real bed for the boy.
She moved over to the suitcase and opened it. "We should put this stuff away too." Scully pulled several t-shirts from the bag and walked toward the closet. She felt the tension suddenly in the room and stopped.
"Uh, Scully, we've decided to put the clothes here on the bookcase. There's enough room for now."
He was telling her something, though she couldn't pick up exactly what for now. "Okay, that works." She stacked the t-shirts on a shelf, his jeans beside them. Pajamas, underwear and socks went below that. Her finger traced the Spiderman on the underwear and she smiled slightly. He was just a little boy.
There was a draw-string bag at the bottom of the suitcase and she picked it up. There was obviously something inside.
"Oh, okay." She laid the soft bag on the pillow of the camp bed. Obviously this was private, a security object.
Scully turned to look at Eddie again. His hair, only slightly lighter than Mulder's, looked like it had been in a buzz cut, but he'd missed a couple of haircuts. She let her hand lightly brush his hair. "Do you need a haircut?"
He shook his head.
"Okay, let me know when you want one."
She took a seat on the bed and patted it, inviting him to join her. He did, sitting not quite close enough to brush against her. "I'm really glad you came with Mulder. You can help me keep an eye on him. Mulder needs a lot of supervision." She watched Eddie. He wasn't looking at her, but she could see the curve of his lips as he smiled.
They all heard the timer on the oven go off and she rose. "I made macaroni and cheese. I hope you like it."
"Your Mom's recipe?" Mulder asked quickly. "You're in for a treat," he said to Eddie at her nod.
Both Eddie and Mulder seemed to enjoy dinner and the little grape tomatoes were a hit. The ice cream with chocolate syrup was an even bigger hit. All three helped with clean up, then they moved out to the living room. Eddie was quiet, but Scully talked, asking him about himself, trying to get some sense of what he liked. She caught him yawning and glanced over at Mulder.
"Why don't you go ahead and get ready for bed, brush your teeth. Would you like for me to read you a story tonight?" He looked up quickly and again she saw the slight curve of his lips. After a moment he gave a slight nod.
"I don't know what your favorite books are, but we have a few here. Have you ever heard Treasure Island?"
"Okay, let's read a little of that tonight. Come on."
She led him upstairs, feeling Mulder's eyes on her. While he changed, she took the small nightlight from the hall and put it in his room along with a small chair for her. He joined her and look down at the camp bed. "My bag."
"Oh, it's here." She lifted the pillow and showed him that the soft bag was there.
Relieved he lay down and she spread the covers over him. She took a seat then and opened the book.
He didn't last long, drifting off quicker than she expected. She closed the book quietly and laid it in the chair when she rose. She turned off the lamp and the blue light from the nightlight lit the room. He would be able to see the room clearly if he woke during the night. Pulling the door nearly closed she headed downstairs. Mulder was waiting.
"You did great, Scully."
She let him lead her to the couch and spotted the glass of wine. "Thanks," she said faintly and sank onto the couch. "Tell me what happened to you."
"I will, but right now let's relax a little."
She opened her mouth to protest, but he handed her the wine glass. She took it with a half smile and let him tuck her up against him. "I hate it when you're gone."
"Thank you." He kissed the top of her head.
"We need to talk."
"We will, but right now let's just relax a minute."
She nodded and allowed him to pull her close. She sighed and relaxed against him. When about half of the glass of empty, she sat up again. "I'll start researching Asperger's tomorrow."
"You have a full time gig with the Sandoff's, Scully. I can do it. I'm gonna be here anyway."
"I need to know too."
"I promise to share."
She shook her head, but didn't argue anymore. "Tell me about what happened to you."
"I have other things on my mind."
"Wha - " She looked down bemused as he began unbuttoning her blouse.
"I wasn't gone that long."
"Mulder, Eddie is just upstairs."
"Which is one of the reasons we're down here." He smiled slightly as her breathing sped up.
Later, much later, he led her up the stairs. She was wearing his shirt and he'd slipped back on his boxers. She glanced at Eddie's door and saw that it hadn't been moved since she had left him asleep.
She followed Mulder into their bedroom and they crawled into the bed where Mulder spooned around her. Just as her eyes closed, she realized that Mulder had managed not to tell her a single thing about what had happened to him.
Mulder and Scully residence
Outside Richmond, VA
Scully reluctantly pulled on her jacket and picked up her briefcase. "So, what are you planning to do today, the two of you?"
"Oh, I thought we'd clear the back forty, plant some cotton and see if we can't make something out of this plantation," Mulder quipped as he leaned in to kiss her goodbye. When she reared back and gave him a fixed raised eyebrow look, he relented. "I found a home school website after my run this morning. They have a first grade curriculum and I thought I'd spend some time with Eddie, seeing what he knows."
Scully's eyes grew wide. "School? Oh my God, I hadn't even considered -- Mulder, he should be in school!" she exclaimed.
"I talked it over with Skinner before we left Wyoming. Virginia allows for home schooling and I think that's our best option. That way we don't have to enroll him anywhere and he'll be safer if no one knows he's here with us. Less questions, lower profile."
Scully chewed her lip. "But it means you're stuck here again," she noted.
Mulder smiled. "But when you get home, I can go anywhere. A much better situation than we were dealing with before. Besides, it would be best if we didn't advertise that Eddie is here with us."
That got her attention. "Of course. You're right. I probably shouldn't say anything at work about him," she said, swallowing. "But what about . . . getting him a bed and toys and clothes -- "
"Well, we'll get a used bed and if anyone asks we'll say your nephew Matty is coming to visit for the summer and we're getting a room ready for him."
Sighing, she nodded. "We should probably start locking the gate again," she said absently.
"Yeah, that's a good idea. Skinner is sending out an agent today, we're installing some cameras around the house, electronic security."
Scully snorted and shook her head. "Gee, just like old times," she muttered.
"I know this isn't what you wanted -- I'm sorry, Scully. I really am. But this boy -- "
She took his hand and brought it up to her lips to kiss the knuckles. "I know. And I agree with you. We have to protect him. I just . . . this has just been some kind of year, that's all."
"And it isn't even summer yet," Mulder joked.
"So we just keep him here -- for how long?" she asked. "He's a little boy, Mulder. He needs to interact with other children."
"I know, I know," he answered patiently. "I can't tell you how long, Scully. Sometime today I'm going to see what Welch found out in Wyoming between the house and the children's residence fire. They had to have left some evidence, Scully, and that will be our first steps to finding whoever is after him."
She looked up at him, words on her lips, but she kept them to herself. She refused to ask the obvious question 'then what?' since it was on both their minds.
"Hey, don't you have a job and stuff?" he said, kissing her on the top of the head.
"Yeah. I do." She turned toward the door. "Want me to bring home a pizza tonight?"
"Sounds great." He followed her out on to their porch. "Better make it at least half cheese."
"Will do," she promised. "I'll call later, see how you're doing."
He smiled as she entered the car and drove off. He watched her car until she'd passed the gate and was on the main road. He knew he couldn't stand on the porch all morning, he had to go in and find his charge.
Eddie was coming down the steps, rubbing his eyes and yawning. He was still in the pajamas Scully had dressed him in for bed and his feet were bare. Mulder felt a huge lump form in his throat and quickly swallowed past it. Yes, this child needed someone to care for him, to love him, but it wasn't them. They had a child somewhere . . .
Forcing a smile on his face, he patted the boy's head. "Hey, I do believe there are some Reese's Peanut Butter Puffs in the kitchen. You look like a man who could use a bowl of those this morning."
Eddie looked up and glared. "I hate cereal," he announced.
"Well, this is different than plain 'cereal'," Mulder replied. "Do you like peanut butter?"
Eddie shrugged, which Mulder took for a glowing endorsement.
"Do you like chocolate?" Mulder prodded again.
This time he got a truly enthusiastic nod.
"Well, you are about to meet their king," Mulder continued, and ushered the child into the kitchen.
There was a small but heated battle over which cup to use -- Eddie wanted a glass glass, Mulder figured that was a recipe for destruction, and a near disaster when Mulder discovered that what he thought was chocolate syrup suitable to make chocolate milk was actually hot fudge sauce -- in a pinch, it seemed to do the trick, but finally breakfast was a done deal, and it was time to get moving on the day. That's when the real trouble started.
Eddie, it seemed, wanted nothing whatsoever to do with sitting down and working on the printed pages that Mulder had painstakingly pulled off the home schoolers website. Mulder was just as convinced that he should at least try to work on one of the pages -- a very basic dot-to-dot of a flower using numbers 1 to 20. It started out as a staring contest, but escalated quickly into a full-blown tantrum -- neither party would admit to who was loudest, and ended with Eddie slamming Mulder's office door hard enough that several pictures pinned there floated to the floor.
As Mulder sat in his chair, trying to figure out exactly how he had lost control of the situation, he admitted to himself that child psychology was one of those classes where he should have paid more attention. He was about to follow Eddie's stomping steps up to his room when his cell phone rang. He saw a suitable diversion and snatched it out of his pocket.
"Yeah," he said tersely, having not bothered to look at the caller ID.
"Mulder? It's Skinner. Is everything all right?"
Mulder sighed and sat down in his chair. "Oh, hi Walt. Sorry. Just the challenge of the young child. What's up?"
"We got some reports back from Jerry out in Casper. The accelerant used to set the fire at the children's home was jet fuel, just as we'd thought."
"Were they able to pull any prints off the can?" Mulder asked.
"Yes, and one print matched a print found in the foster parent's house."
"But it doesn't match anything on the database," Mulder predicted.
"Yeah," Skinner admitted. "But it's something. They're going back over the evidence of the other attempts, but so far, not much has turned up. In most cases, it wasn't linked to the boy originally. They looked more like home invasions, breaking and entering for drugs, money."
"Sure. I mean, it's common knowledge that people who house kids for the state are rich and/or drug dealers," Mulder sneered, then caught himself. "Sorry, Walt. It's been one of those mornings."
"I hear he can be a handful. A couple of the previous foster parents have been interviewed. They all said he was more than they signed on for. If you're having trouble, Mulder, maybe we could figure out another placement."
"No," Mulder said firmly. "No, that's not necessary. I was trying too hard, pushing him. I can deal with this kid, Walt, really."
"OK. Just know that we realize this isn't in your usual contract, Mulder," Skinner offered.
"So, when can I expect the security guys out here? I was thinking of whipping up a bundt cake," Mulder joked, trying to lighten the moment.
"I just got off the phone with Agent Drummy, he's heading up the group."
"You're kidding me, right?" Mulder whined.
"Sorry, Mulder. He's been assigned to the case and his specialty is electronic surveillance. He's also been warned to be on his best behavior around you."
"Oh, I'm sure that will help," Mulder quipped. "Great. Well, when can I expect the bridge club?"
"They left about half an hour ago, so I would expect them out there in about an hour and a half."
"What, no chopper? I was hoping to impress the kid."
"Sorry, not this time. You can show him a bu-car," Skinner suggested.
"Pass," Mulder sighed. "They know to call me?"
"When they're at the gate, yes."
"OK. Let me know if anything else comes out of Wyoming."
"Any luck with getting anything out of the boy?" Skinner asked finally.
"Not yet. But it's still early," Mulder pointed out defensively. "We just got in yesterday."
"I'm not pressing, Mulder. Just asking."
"I know, it's just been a long morning," Mulder said. "And it's not even 9:30."
"Well, good luck."
Mulder flipped his cell phone closed and slipped it back in his pocket. He stared at the closed door, and slowly went over to pick up the pictures that had been shaken loose. Carefully, he pinned the pictures, Samantha's second grade picture and a blurry image of a possible ape man, back on the door. He was stalling and he knew it. Sighing deeply, he grabbed hold of the knob and prepared to meet his destiny.
He was a little taken aback to find that destiny was currently huddled under the small cot, clutching his 'bag' and his breath coming in hitches. Mulder had to get down on his hands and knees to even find the child and decided it might be the best place to address him.
"Eddie, c'mon out, buddy," Mulder cajoled.
The child curled even farther into himself and shook his head no.
"I'm not mad, Eddie. C'mon. C'mon out from under there. You're scaring the dust bunnies," Mulder teased.
Slowly, taking pains to protect his bag and wiping his nose on the sleeve of his shirt, Eddie crawled out from under the cot. He stood before Mulder, the picture of desolation. "Are you gonna call the lady?" he asked between sniffs.
"Lady? Scul -- Dana? You mean Dana?" Mulder asked, confused.
"No, the lady. The lady in the tan jacket. She takes me to my new home. Are you gonna call her?"
Mulder was stunned, but swallowed to cover. "Why . . . why would I call her?"
"Because I was bad," Eddie replied, toeing the hardwood floor with the edge of his sneaker.
"Is that what happens? You do something bad and then . . . "
"The lady comes and gets me, and I go someplace else," Eddie explained triggering more tears.
When the boy started to cry, Mulder leaned forward and pulled Eddie onto his lap. This time the hum was expected and in a strange way, comforting. "Nobody's going anywhere, buddy. I promise you that. I'm not calling any lady, except Dana -- to tell her what you want on your pizza and see if she'll bring home some chocolate syrup for your milk tomorrow morning. Okay?"
up at the computer screen to see that it had gone into sleep mode again. Damn
it, she needed to get her act together, but what was going on at home, or
possibly going on, had her completely distracted. Should she have left them
alone so soon? Yes, they had been alone on the trip home, but that wasn't the
same thing. Mulder was good with children for short periods, but this was so
different, and Eddie was a special needs child. Mulder's education had taken
place a long time ago, even with his memory.
She wanted to call and check on them, but didn't want to disturb them, or worse, let Mulder know she didn't think he could handle things. Hopefully the pizza tonight would make Eddie feel welcome. Oh hell, since she obviously wasn't going to get her own work done today, she might as well do some investigating on Aspergers.
Scully sighed when Google turned up 1,510,000 entries in .23 seconds.
Scully pulled up to the gate and got out. She unlocked and swung the gate open and moved the car, then re-exited to lock the gate back. She noted that Mulder hadn't picked up the mail and pulled it from the mailbox. She came across a small package and glanced down at the return address. Wyoming, from Agent Welch. She tossed everything in the passenger seat next to the pizza box.
Mulder came out to greet her when he heard the car.
"How did it go today?" she asked seeing the expression on his face.
"It was a learning experience," he replied and took the box from her. "Maybe this will help." He didn't say anything else and Scully followed him up the stairs to the porch with the mail, wearing a worried expression.
The pizza was a hit; Eddie even ate one slice with sausage after Mulder theatrically removed the offending green peppers and mushrooms, muttering about Scully trying to poison them. Eddie didn't exactly laugh, but they saw the upward curve of his lips while he stared down at the pizza.
After some TV and a bath, Scully read another chapter in Treasure Island, and the boy rolled over to go to sleep, his bag clasped in his hand. Scully ruffled his hair a little, and at the last minute, leaned down and gave him a kiss on the forehead. That seemed to surprise him, but please him as well, though he said nothing. She pulled the door too and headed downstairs.
Mulder was sprawled on the couch looking pretty much done in. "Want to talk about it?" she asked as she joined him.
"Can I just hold you for a little while?" She didn't bother to respond verbally, just taking her seat and cuddling into him.
They sat in silence for several long minutes before Scully sighed and straightened up. "What did Agent Welch send you?"
"The mail, I brought it in. Didn't you look at it?"
"Didn't even think about it. Sorry." He heaved himself up off of the couch and headed for the little table by the door. "It's a DVD." He looked over to see Scully's eyebrow rising and grinned. "Not that kind, I'm fairly certain."
She relented and watched him slip the disc into the DVD player. He rejoined her on the couch and picked up the remote. For a moment there was static, then a playroom came into focus with Eddie still alone at a small table, working on a jigsaw puzzle.
"I didn't realize they'd recorded this," Mulder said quietly, a little nervously.
The door to the room opened and a woman led Mulder in. She spoke first "Eddie, this is Mr. Mulder. He'd like to talk to you. Is that all right?" She touched the boy's shoulder and he moved slightly, away from her hand. "Do you want me to stay?" The boy didn't respond.
"I think we'll be fine," Mulder said and the woman looked down at Eddie once more, then left them alone. Mulder pulled up one of the small chairs and folded himself into it. "Nice puzzle." He picked up a piece and began to add it to the puzzle. "Here, Orion's belt."
The boy reached out to stop him, grasping his hand. "I'll do it," Eddie said, taking the piece from Mulder's fingers and putting the piece down. On the DVD, Mulder jerked as though touching a live wire. He paled and clutched at the table. Scully gasped and leaned forward, watching closely.
"What - "
Mulder on the recording looked like he was going to throw up; Mulder beside her didn't look that much better.
"You'll get used to it," Eddie said, not facing Mulder. As Scully watched, Mulder reached over and lightly touched the boy's hand again. His face went gray and his eyes narrowed to slits. He seemed to sway in the chair. Scully found that she was gripping tightly to Mulder's hand here beside her.
Eddie reached over, and removed Mulder's hand, then returned to the puzzle.
"Eddie -- what just happened?" Mulder whispered, he sounded out of breath.
The boy looked up finally and Mulder gasped. "It'll get better. You get used to it," he repeated. Scully's list of questions was growing exponentially in her head.
"Do you hear that?" Mulder asked.
Hear what? This was maddening.
"Only with you. But it's okay, I remember it. From a long time ago." Eddie returned to the puzzle. "What's my name?" he asked.
"Your name is Eddie Vender." As pale as he was, Mulder was obviously trying to hang in there.
"No, it's not. They call me that, but that's not my name."
"Why do you think I'd know your name?" Mulder again, not looking any better.
"You're the only person I can feel," Eddie replied. He finished the puzzle and looked up. "You should sleep. You're really tired and you're scared. I'll see you tomorrow." The boy got up from the table, went to a box of toys and pulled something out, Scully couldn't see what, but she really didn't care at this point.
"Eddie, what happened? What do you mean, you remember it? Eddie, we have to talk," Mulder looked like he was going to fall over, but the boy didn't acknowledge him at all now.
Mulder managed to pull himself to his feet from the tiny chair and staggered toward the door. He pulled it open and Scully saw a man take his arm before the door closed completely behind him.
Mulder pressed stop on the remote control.
"What the hell happened? Why didn't you tell me about this!"
"Scully, I - "
"No. Don't you dare try to weasel out of this again. What happened to you?"
She seemed to grow along with her fear and anger, and Mulder fought the urge to cringe. "I don't know what happened, Scully. That's the truth. I got incredibly tired and Welch took me to my room. I talked to you when I woke up, remember?"
"You talked to me before you passed out as well, but I didn't realize it was this bad. Mulder, all you did was touch him. What did you hear?"
"Uh, the hum, remember when I was around the, the artifact."
Her eyes widened and she glanced upstairs. "What are we into this time?"