She had finished cleaning the kitchen and taken a shower. There was a load of laundry going when the phone rang.
“Are you mad at me?”
“Will? No, no I am not mad.”
“Do I scare you?”
This child was very different than the children she worked with daily. “I’m surprised at how close you are to your father.”
“Does it bother you?”
“I guess the fact that you knew he was here troubled me a little.”
“No, don’t apologize, Will. Your father needs you. You’re the most important thing is his life.”
“You’re important to him too,” Will offered.
“I hope to be.”
“You already are, Dr. Scully.”
“I’d like to get to know you better, Will.”
“Really?” The sounds of hope and happiness intermingled in his voice.
“Definitely. Maybe you and your Dad could come over on Wednesday. We could plan something.”
“Yeah, that would be great! Uh, I need to get off. I’ll talk to you later.”
“Thank you for calling, Will.” The line was dead Had his mother come into the room?
When they arrived Wednesday night, she had dinner ready. They talked about their days and Will explained the project he had to do for class the next day. “I brought most of what I need, but I forgot the construction paper. I need blue and brown and orange.”
“I’m afraid I’m a little low on that myself,” Dana admitted.
“Then I guess we’re going to have to make a trip to the store.”
“Mulder, why don’t you leave Will here? If you trust me, that is.”
He grinned, catching sight of the look of delight on Will’s face. “Yeah, I guess I could trust a pediatrician for few minutes.”
“Gee, your confidence is overwhelming,” Dana rolled her eyes, but was smiling too.
“I won’t be long,” Mulder chuckled, ruffling Will’s hair. He winked at her as he closed the door.
“Want to help me in the kitchen?” she turned in the direction. Will jumped off the couch and followed her. “Do you help your mother with the cooking?”
He shook his head. “She doesn’t like me to be around her much.”
Dana looked over at him. “Excuse me?”
“She’s not . . . comfortable around me; not like you.”
“Will, what does that mean?” Her first instinct had been to reassure him that he was seeing it wrong, but this boy would only pretend to accept her comfort.
“No, I don’t. Will, she went to court to get custody of you. If she - “
“That was to keep Dad from having me.”
That silenced Dana for an instance. Was it true or had he picked that up from Mulder? “Do you want to talk about it?”
Will shrugged, taking one of the carrots she offered him. “I think she’s afraid of me. She knows I can pick up on Dad’s moods. Even when I was little, she didn’t want me to sit in her lap or hold her hand when we went shopping. She’d put me in the cart and then not touch me again until she had to take me out.” Will looked Dana in the eyes then. “Sometimes I wonder if she’s my real Mom.”
“Wh-what?” Dana stared at him.
“You could check for that, couldn’t you?”
“Will, you know she’s your mother.”
“I know Dad married her because she was pregnant,” he said it matter of factly.
“Will, a lot of marriages start out that way. That doesn’t - “
“Oh, it doesn’t bother me, Dr. Scully. I wouldn’t get to spend as much time as I do with Dad if they hadn’t gotten married.” He shrugged. “Sometimes when she thinks I’m asleep she talks about it.”
“Talks about it?”
“Yeah. There’s this person, I guess he’s her friend; anyway she talks to him at night. She calls him. She tells him how I creep her out, how this wasn’t what she’d bargained for.”
Dana took a seat at the kitchen table and Will joined her. “Will, I - “
“I don’t know who he is. She always checks to make sure I’m asleep before she calls him.”
“But you’re not.”
Will grinned then. “I’m good at pretending.”
“Will, I’m sorry you’re having to - “
“It’s okay. I get to see Dad every other weekend and he loves me enough to make up for her.”
“Will, she gave birth to you, she nursed you - “
“No, she didn’t nurse me. Dad got to the hospital in time to give me my first bottle. It’s one of his favorite stories. And when they brought me home, since Dad works at home, he kind of took care of me. Mom wasn’t . . . “
“Honey, a lot of women have what’s called Post-partum depression. It’s still being studied, but - “
“Would she still be having it?”
Dana blinked at that.
“I wish I could live with Dad. He’s not afraid to touch me, he lets me sit in his lap and he talks to me.”
Without thought, her arms came out to him. His mouth dropped open, then he was on his feet, racing around the table. He was in her lap and her arms closed around him. She was rocking and holding him before she realized it. This was a mistake. There was no way to know if her fledgling relationship with his father would come to anything, but this felt right as though holding her own child.
That’s where they were when Mulder returned. He’d started to knock, but for some reason tried the knob. They hadn’t locked the door behind him and he entered quietly, ready to chastise them for it when he spotted them.
He was beside them in an instant. “What’s wrong?”
Will looked up at him. “Nothing. We’re just hugging.”
Mulder met Dana’s eyes and saw the truth of it in her blushing face. “Well, good. I . . . I’m glad nothing’s wrong.” He dropped the bag on the table.
Reluctantly Will left Dana’s lap and they watched him work on his school project. All too soon it was time to leave, so Dana found a box lid to hold the precious montage. She gave him another hug at the door and Mulder gave her a chaste kiss and a promise to call.
She finished cleaning off the table of the supplies she had volunteered, but that didn’t keep her mind from the conversation. Of course there were women out there who didn’t enjoy motherhood, she had met a couple in her practice, but why fight so hard for custody unless Will was correct and it was just to hurt Mulder. Was it money? Surely Mulder would pay a generous alimony, wouldn’t he? Yes, she assured herself. She already knew if he could have Will, he’d pay anything the woman asked.
Since it was a pretty day on Saturday, they headed for the zoo. It was crowded but Will seemed to enjoy that and it added to Mulder’s anonymity. Will was wearing his backpack and at one point Mulder offered to carry it, but Will refused.
When Mulder left them to get some drinks, Will quickly pulled the backpack around and opened it. “Dr. Scully,” he pulled out two sealed plastic bags. “I got what you need.”
“What I need? What are you talking about?”
“To check to see if Mom is my mother.”
“Will, I didn’t say - “
“Please. You know who could run the tests. We don’t have to tell Dad. This is my Mom’s hair,” he handed her the bag, carefully lettered in his handwriting. “And this is mine, just like on TV. Please?” He was looking around her now, to make sure his father wasn’t on the way back to them.
“I’m not sure this is a good idea, Will. You know she’s your mother - “
“No, I really don’t. If she is, I’ll drop it and you and I will be the only ones that know this happened. Please.” He was pleading now and she realized how serious he was about this test.
“I’ll . . . I’ll think about it.” But she took the two small bags and stuffed them down in her purse.
The rest of the day went well and Mulder hadn’t noticed anything.
On Monday she reached into her purse to dig out her car keys and found the bags. She had purposefully shoved the thoughts of this away while they had spent time together, and Will had not mentioned it, but now the conflict was back full force. She knew she should just throw the hair away and tell Will that she had decided against it, but he had been so earnest about it. What in the world was going on in his home that would cause a boy as young as Will to truly believe the woman raising him was not his mother?
Shaking her head, she headed for the office. Instead of going over the charts of the patients she would see that morning, she headed for the lab.
“Dr. Scully, long time no see,” the young technician, Barry, smiled when he spotted her.
“I know. I’m sorry. I seem to have less and less time to get to everything.”
He smiled gravely. “So, what do you have for me?”
“Would you believe a maternity test?”
“Did you say ma-ternity?” He took the bags she held out to him. “Court case?”
“It could be, depending on what you find,” she admitted.
“It’s gonna take a few days.”
“It’s not a top priority. Don’t push anything back to get to this,” she cautioned.
“Okay, I’ll give you a call when I know something.” He winked at her and she smiled indulgently. He’d been flirting with her since he’d come to work in the lab. He was much too young, but it did give her a lift, especially since part of her wanted to snatch the bags back and tell him to forget it. Instead she let herself out and went across the street to work.
He almost didn’t answer the phone, anxious to pick up Will and meet Dana. “Hello?”
“Mulder, it’s Dana. I’m sorry to be calling so late, but I’m afraid I can’t meet you tonight.”
“What’s his name? Think I could take him?” Mulder asked, sinking onto the couch.
“Probably. I have a new patient, a very new, very early patient. I’ll be staying at the hospital tonight.”
“A premature baby?”
“Yes. She’s a fighter and fortunately she’s female. Statistically that makes her stronger, but it’s going to be a long night. I am sorry.”
“Dana, you’re a doctor. These things are going to come up. Don’t worry about us; just take care of your patient.” He shoved down his disappointment. Those hours with her and Will made him feel like he had a family finally. Yes, he had spent a few nights with her now, but not enough.
“Thank you and tell Will I’ll see him soon.” She hung up and sighed. She would miss seeing them, but that tiny baby girl needed her tonight.
Dana let herself into the nurse’s station. She could use the computer in the back and get a cup of coffee. She sat down with the cup of bitter brew and started typing in her notes. She had her back to the door. She didn’t turn at the tap on the door, concentrating on getting her last note entered. Satisfied she leaned back. “Come in.”
She whirled around at the sound of his voice. “Mulder? What are you doing here?” She didn’t try to disguise the joy on her face. He saw that and returned her smile.
He held up a paper bag. “I figure you missed dinner.”
“Uh, I did. What time is it?”
“9:30. I took Will home; then thought I’d stop by.”
“I didn’t realize it was that late. What did you bring me?” He offered up the bag and she pulled out the sandwich. “I’m starving.” She opened the sandwich and looked up at him. “What is this?”
“Turkey and spouts on whole wheat with light mayonnaise.”
“And you picked this out?” Her eyebrow was rising.
He grinned. “I told the guy to make me the healthiest sandwich on the menu.”
She chuckled and took a bite. “So what did you and Will do tonight?”
“Not much. He had homework and we went over his spelling words. He’s good.”
“I’m not surprised.”
He grinned as she took a large bite of her sandwich. “You were hungry.”
“It’s good and I really appreciate it.”
“I wanted to see you, even if we couldn’t spend a lot of time together. How’s the baby doing?”
She opened her mouth, but her beeper went off before she could speak. “Sorry.” He nodded and watched her check out the message. She picked up the phone and dialed an extension. “This is Dr. Scully.”
“The results on the NICU patient are ready. They’re printing out now.”
“Good. I’ll come down for them.” She hung up and turned back to Mulder. “I have to go down to the lab.”
“I know. I’ll let you get back to work.”
“Thank you so much for the break.”
“It wasn’t much of a break,” he demurred.
“You don’t know how good a break it was,” she gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, then rubbed the lipstick off with her thumb. “Walk me to the elevator?”
He took her hand and led her in that direction. With visiting hours over, the elevator was empty when it arrived. With a gleam in his eye, Mulder pulled her inside and pressed the button.
If she was a little disheveled when the doors opened several floors below, there was no one to notice. She adjusted her coat and headed for the lab.
“Dr. Scully, hi. Your stuff is coming off now. Oh, by the way, Barry left you some DNA results that came up a few minutes ago. We don’t have a code to charge it.”
Dana stopped in her tracks. She had successfully forgotten, or at least shoved aside, the DNA test she had requested for Will. How could she have been so stupid? She had no business encouraging this. She came very close to telling the tech to toss the information, but that wasn’t feasible, and the work had to be paid for anyway.
“Charge it to the office, please.” She accepted the envelope as well as the information on her patient. She shoved the envelope deep in her lab coat pocket and opened the information on the baby.
It had been a long night, but the baby was stable, breathing on her own and they were supplementing oxygen. Dana walked out with Dr. Kuhn. “That was great work, Bob.”
“Thanks. I always enjoy adding to my premie survivors.”
“You think she’ll make it?”
“I wouldn’t want to be quoted to the parents, but she’s got a good chance.”
Dana smiled, then her hand found the envelope she’d stuffed there earlier.
“Dana? You okay?”
“Yes,” she looked down at the envelope in her hand. “Another patient.”
“It never ends. Can I help?”
“No, this one’s more mundane, but thanks.”
He nodded and peeled off to check his pager. She wearily made her way toward the parking deck.
She entered the car and tossed the envelope into the passenger’s seat. Once she had parked at her building, she glanced over at it again and forced herself to pick it up. She hurried inside and with no other excuses sank onto the couch and tore the envelope open.
The words at the bottom jumped out at her first. “No Relation”. No relation? That was impossible. The woman had been pregnant; she couldn’t have faked that. Had there been a mistake?
Her mind wandered over a dozen scenarios - switched babies? Mulder hadn’t been there for the birth but surely . . . that little boy had to be his. Those eyes, that lower lip - but were they real or did she just want to see them in each other?
What was she supposed to do? There was no way she could just tell that little boy anything about this. But what did that mean? She tucked the information into her purse and got ready for bed.
She did fall asleep from sheer exhaustion, but it didn’t last long. Whatever the dream was that woke her, she couldn’t remember it, but her mind refused to shut down once she was awake. Between her newest patient and information from the DNA test, she finally got up around four a.m. defeated. She took her shower and got ready for the day.
She was leaving the hospital after checking on her patient when her cell phone rang. “Hello?”
“Good morning. How’s your patient?”
“Uh, yeah. Dana, are you okay? Did the little girl - “
“She’s doing okay. I just left there.”
“Is something wrong? Are you - “
“I’m sorry. I didn’t sleep well.”
He nodded, though she couldn’t see him. “Do you think you’ll have some time this weekend? I thought maybe we could do something.”
“Dana, are you okay?”
“I will be, especially if I can see you.”
That left him speechless for a moment. “Thank you. Friday night?”
“Yes. I’ll have to be at the hospital for little while.”
“No problem. I’ll take any time I can get,” he smiled. “Why don’t you call me? We can go out late.”
“Or stay in?”
Again he had to take a breath. “Yeah, yeah we could do that too.”
“I need to get to work, Mulder.”
“Me too. Look, if you need to talk, you can call me any time.”
She let herself into the bathroom as he left to make coffee. She smiled as his hand caressed her shoulder. His need to touch her felt good. She’d never had a lover like him, one that made her feel as wanton as he did delicate.
Once in the bathroom, her gaze fell on his hairbrush. She watched her hand extract a few hairs and hold them. Was she going to do this? She heard him coming her way and stuffed the hairs down in the pocket of her robe.
Monday morning she hurried to the lab prior to her first appointment. Barry looked up and smiled. “You’re becoming a regular.”
She nodded, trying to hide her agitation. “I have one more DNA test I need run.”
“The case is getting hotter?”
“You could say that. Is there any way I could have this by Wednesday evening?”
He looked around, then leaned in closer. “Just for you.”
She did chuckle then, at least her ego was getting a nice workout. She let herself out and pushed this to the back of her mind again.
Her afternoon had been devoted to paperwork, which was not her first preference, but it needed to be done. Besides, she wanted to be out of here on time tonight. She was meeting Mulder and Will for dinner. Her Wednesdays were beginning to revolve around them and she knew this was a relationship she wanted to pursue.
When the phone rang, she picked it up without looking away from the computer screen. “Dr. Scully.”
“Hi, it’s Barry.”
“Barry, hello. Do you already have my results?”
“Well, yes and no. The hair you brought me Monday; it’s from the same person you brought before.”
“Yeah, it’s identical to the male hair you brought last time.”
“Not a father and son?”
“No, ma’am. This isn’t even a twin thing. It’s the same person.” When she didn’t respond, he tried again. “Dr. Scully? You there?”
“Yes, I . . . I’m sorry I wasted your time. I didn’t . . . “
“Hey, it’s okay. I’m going to fax you the results anyway, but I wanted you to be at the machine.”
“Thank you. And please, charge that to the same account.”
“Will do, Dr. Scully. If you ever need - “
“Thank you, Barry. I do appreciate this.”
“Yeah, uh, okay. I’m faxing this now. Bye.” He hung up when she didn’t respond. He hadn’t thought the information would upset her like that, but it obviously had.
She sat at the desk, staring at but not seeing the computer screen in front of her. How stupid could she be? The boy had wanted to live with Mulder so he had given her his father’s hair to test. Of course there was no relation between Mulder and his ex-wife. She dropped her face into her hands. How gullible could she be and how angry should she be for being used like this? Will was only five years old.
She heard the fax machine in the hall whir to life and rose from her chair.
Dana pulled into a parking space outside of Mulder’s apartment and killed the engine. She was still angry, at least disturbed, over what had happened, and she needed to calm down. He was a little boy who was trying to be with his father. He was an extraordinary child to have come up with this scheme and she had allowed herself to become involved enough to be taken in. She shook her head and left the car. Later, she could dwell on this later.
Mulder answered her knock quickly and gave her a semi-smoldering kiss when he let her in. “It’s good to see you.”
“I’ve been looking forward to seeing you all day.”
His brow furrowed. “Are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine,” she managed to smile up at him, but it wasn’t the smile he had come to know. Before he could ask again, Will raced from the other room.
“You’re here!” He threw his arms around Dana’s hips and hugged her tight. She closed her eyes even as her arms went around him. He looked up at her. “Are you okay?”
She actually chuckled at that. “You two are certainly a protective bunch tonight.”
“We care about you,” Mulder said simply.
“I know. I care about both of you. It’s just been a long day. This is the best part of it.”
Will smiled and Mulder seemed to relax. “Well, I hope it continues to be, because I cooked tonight.”
“Now, there’s something to brighten my mood,” she laughed lightly.
“I think I’ve been insulted,” Mulder looked down at Will, who grinned. “I’ll get you a glass of wine and you can help Will with his spelling words while I check on dinner.” He took her jacket then and ducked into the kitchen for her glass.
She took it from him and followed Will into the living room. They sat beside each other on the couch and she picked up his spelling book.
“Dr. Scully,” he whispered, “have you found out if she’s my mother?” He glanced back toward the kitchen.
“Will . . . “ her voice was flat. She should not have come over here tonight. She could have found an excuse if she’d wanted to.
He turned back to look at her. “Did you find anything?”
“You know I didn’t, Will. Let’s just not talk about it.”
“What, what do you mean?”
“Will, Will I understand that you’re not happy sometimes with your mother, but you shouldn’t have tried to trick me - “
“Trick you?” his voice was a little louder now but he didn’t even look toward the kitchen.
“Let’s just forget it, Will.” She opened the spelling book, but he just stared at her.
“I didn’t trick you. I wouldn’t do that.”
“Will, please - “
“Do you think I lied to you?”
“Will, calm down. I don’t think you - “
“I didn’t! I don’t lie. You have to believe me!”
She realized that Mulder had joined them and was staring at her from the doorway. “Dana? Will? What’s going on?”
“Dad, I didn’t lie. Tell her I didn’t lie!”
“Calm down, Will. Tell me what you’re talking about.” He looked at Dana then.
“Mulder, I . . . “ she sighed, looking down and shaking her head.
“Okay, you’re both scaring me.” Mulder took a seat on the coffee table, facing them.
“I, Mulder, I did something stupid.” He just waited for her to continue, taking Will into his lap. Her heart sank. “I’m sorry.”
“What did you do?”
She looked at Will and tried to smile. “We have to tell him.”
The boy nodded from the safety of his father’s arms. Mulder looked down at him confused. “Yeah, you do.”
Scully took a deep breath. “Will asked me to do him a favor. I, I should have come to you, but I . . . “
“You wanted to help him out?” Mulder asked.
She met his eyes then, he was trying to help her. “Will thought that maybe his mother wasn’t his biological mother.”
Mulder’s head jerked down toward his son, but he didn’t speak.
“He asked me to run a test and . . . and I did.”
Now Mulder’s head swiveled up toward her. “You - “
She seemed to deflate before his eyes. “Mulder, I . . . “
“So what did you find?” his voice was hard now.
“The test, the test didn’t show anything. Will substituted your hair for his, so - “
“I didn’t! Dad, I didn’t. It was my hair. I pulled it out myself; it hurt! It’s the truth, Dad; cross my heart.” He was crying now and Mulder’s arm tightened around him.
Dana seemed to curl up on the couch and wouldn’t look at either of them.
“Dana - “ The sound of the oven timer startled her and she jerked. Mulder, watching her, sighed. “Let’s eat, guys. Then we’ll figure this out.”
“Mulder, I should go. I’ve ruined - “
“Please don’t leave. You haven’t ruined anything. Come on.” He held out his free hand to her and led them both to the table.
They were quiet. Will mainly pushed his food around. Dana tried to eat, but her appetite was gone. After a few minutes Mulder put down his own fork. “Okay guys, we need to clear this up. Will, grab your stuff; we might not have time to come back by here before I have to get you back to your mother’s.”
“Where are we going?” Will looked up from playing with his food.
“To see the guys.”
Will’s eyes lightened a little, but Dana only looked confused.
“Come on, I’ll explain on the way.” Mulder shoved back his chair and rose. Dana didn’t move.
“Maybe I should just go on - “
“No, please.” He held out his hand and she sighed, but took it.
Mulder led his silent charges out to his car and seated them. After he was in traffic he glanced over at Dana. “These guys are a little . . . strange. They help me with research and, and I like them.”
“I’m not sure why we’re going to see them.”
“Because they can get to the bottom of this. Will is a pretty honest kid - “
“I know that.” She glanced into the backseat and found him watching her. His expression was so yearning. “I know that,” she repeated. “I should never have - “
“I appreciate you helping him out, Dana. Now we have to find out what happened. Since Will insists he pulled a hair from his own head, and it matched mine, let’s just get the guys to check everything out.”
Dana’s brow furrowed, but she didn’t argue.
She was more than a little surprised at the building when he pulled over and parked. It wasn’t a place she would have brought a child, especially at night, but he seemed confident, so she let herself out of the car and watched him take Will’s hand and felt his other hand come to rest on her lower back, guiding her inside.
Will kept on the other side of Mulder, his feet dragging, instead of walking between them, and Dana’s mood plunged even further. The relationship had been destroyed and she was the one who had destroyed it.
It took several minutes to get inside. Dana looked at all of the locks and the surveillance camera but kept quiet. A short man with a couple of day’s growth of beard stood in front of them. “Mulder my man, and you brought Will, excellent! Come on in.” He looked Dana up and down and Mulder’s arm went around her. “Nice, Mulder.”
“Back off, Frohike. She didn’t know I associated with the likes of you and I don’t want her spooked off.”
“So, to what do we owe the pleasure of your company on a school night?” Frohike tousled Will’s hair while he looked up at Mulder.
“I need you to run a test.”
“Cool.” A blonde with long stringy hair moved toward them and Dana looked up at Mulder. He gave her a reassuring grin.
“Where’s Byers? I want her to still respect me in the morning.”
Langly grinned and pointed over his shoulder. A man with a neatly trimmed beard and suit joined them then. Stepping around the blonde, he approached Dana. “I’m John Byers.”
“This is Dr. Scully?” Frohike moved closer.
Mulder raised one finger and Frohike stopped again.
“What can we do for you, Mulder?” Byers interrupted.
“I’d like you to run a paternity test.”
All three men gaped at him then. “You’re kidding, right?” Langly blurted out.
“Yes and no. There was some confusion with another test. Will’s mine, there’s no doubt of that, but I’d like this other cleared up.”
All three just looked at him for a moment. Byers moved first. He nodded to Mulder and headed for the other room. The other two moved in opposite directions and took seats at computers.
Mulder squatted down in front of Will. “Do you understand what’s going on?”
The boy nodded. “You want to prove that I really did pull the hair out of my head. Daddy, I did, honest.”
Mulder pulled Will against him, hugging him tight. “You should have told me you had questions about your mother.”
“I just . . . if she found out she’d blame you or, or maybe not let me see you.”
Mulder just closed his eyes and held the boy tighter.
Byers reappeared then. “Ready?” He leaned down to Will and took a swipe of the inside of his cheek. He capped the container and took it over to Frohike. When he returned he did the same for Mulder and took that the Langly. “We won’t get them confused, Mulder. Don’t worry.”
Mulder nodded, then moved over to Frohike’s worksite.
That left Dana and Will alone. They took a seat on the couch and after a moment Will looked up at her. “You hate me, don’t you,” Will said, his voice full of hurt.
“No, no Will. That can’t happen. I wouldn’t have started this if I didn’t care so much about you.”
“But you think - “
“Will, I handled this all wrong, but that’s my fault, not yours. You and your Dad cause me to do things I don’t usually do.” She gave him a small smile.
“Because I love you.”
His eyes widened in wonder. “You love me?” She nodded, cupping his cheek in her hand. “What about Dad?”
“I, I think I’m falling in love with him too.” The smile on the boy split his face, his eyes dancing.
She jumped when Mulder’s hand came to rest on her shoulder. She looked up, blushing furiously. His eyes bored into hers. Nothing was said, but he pulled her up to her feet and gave her a kiss, a promise of things to come.
“We need to get going. I don’t want Will to be late.”
“Dad!” He sounded betrayed.
“I know, but neither one of us needs to get in trouble with your Mom while we get everything straightened out.”
“Will I be able to come live with you?”
“I promise I’ll try.”
The boy relaxed then and gave them both a hug. Dana looked over at Mulder, her concern obvious. He just nodded. “Come on, guys.”
She remained in the car while Mulder took Will to the door. Will had hugged her neck from the backseat, but his whispered “I love you too” had brought tears to her eyes.
When Mulder returned to the car, he didn’t ask, just turned toward his apartment.
“Mulder - “
She sighed and seemed to burrow into the passenger’s seat. When he stopped the car he turned to her. “Please come back inside with me.”
She opened her mouth, but then just nodded and exited the car. His hand came to rest on her lower back and led her inside. Once inside she turned to him immediately.
“Mulder, I’m sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking. I was totally irresponsible. I should never - “
“Don’t apologize, Dana. Please. I should have seen how unhappy he was. I thought I was projecting my feelings on him.”
She shook her head, but his hands caught her face and brought it up to him. His kiss stopped her. “Are you really falling in love with me?”
It was the tiniest of nods, but it was all he needed. His arms closed around her.
He picked her up at her apartment the next night. “Before we go to dinner, we need to stop by the guys’ place. I got a call.”
“They have the information already?” Her eyebrow rose.
He grinned. “Their lab doesn’t have the back up yours does.”
She shook her head, but let him lead her to the car.
He held her hand as they waited for the door to be unlocked. He had her precede him inside and found Byers standing there waiting for them. He glanced at Dana, then back at Mulder.
“I got your message.”
Byers nodded. “I, uh, we - “
“We didn’t know you were bringing company,” Langly came up behind Byers.
“She’s not ‘company’, Langly.” Mulder drew her closer. “Anything you say to me you can say to her.”
Frohike joined them, hearing the last words. “You might want to take a seat, Mulder.”
“What’s wrong? The test, is something wrong?”
Byers looked over his shoulder at the other two, then back at Mulder. “We’ve run the tests twice. It’s running a third time now.”
“Three times?” Dana spoke then. “Why would you do that?”
“Because we didn’t understand the results,” Frohike responded.
“And they were?” Mulder spoke up.
After one more glance at Dana, Byers nodded. “The samples were identical; as though they came from the same person.”
“He’s my son.”
“Actually - “ Frohike started.
“He’s you,” Langly interrupted.
“I beg your pardon?” Dana turned to him.
“He’s a clone,” Frohike said flatly.
Dana smiled at that, sure he was joking. “Very funny.”
Silently Byers handed her the report. After a last glance at Langly, she looked down at the paper. Immediately her attention was riveted. “There has to be a mistake.”
“You saw us take the samples. We were very careful.”
“That’s, that’s not possible. We don’t have the technology for human cloning.”
“Well someone does,” was Langly’s response.
“And she had a strange conversation last night,” Frohike added.
Mulder turned and stared down at the little man. “And you know that how?”
“Uh, well . . . “
“You had my son tap Diana’s phone?”
Frohike and Langly turned to look at Byers. After a second of panic, Byers took a deep breath and met Mulder’s eyes. “Uh, Will mentioned to us that his mother had these strange conversations with some man after he goes to bed at night. The calls upset him, it was part of the reason he wanted the test done in the first place. We offered to, uh . . . “
“You had my son tap Diana’s phone,” Mulder repeated.
“Yeah,” Byers nodded.
“You should hear it, man,” Langly slouched in the chair.
Byers and Frohike nodded their agreement. Mulder looked over at Dana and shrugged. He took the earphones that Frohike held out to him. He listened for a few minutes.
Dana looked back down at the report Byers had handed her. She realized that Mulder had sunk into the nearest chair. “Mulder?”
Instead of speaking, he met each of the three men’s eyes, then closed his eyes. After a moment he rose. “Get rid of the information. Get it off of your computers, really off, so that no one can retrieve it from your hard drives.”
“Mulder - “
“Burn the hard copies, burn them and stir the ashes.”
“Mulder, I don’t understand,” she stood looking down at him.
“I’m not sure I do either completely. We need to talk.” That last was directed at Dana. She nodded.
She kept quiet then, they all did. He took her hand and pulled her toward the door. “Thanks, guys. I’ll, I’ll be in touch. Get your computers cleaned, don’t forget.”
“We’ll take care of it, Mulder,” Byers assured him.
He hurried her to the car and she had to nearly run to keep up with him. He was obviously shaken by whatever he had heard. They drove in silence. She realized he wasn’t heading for the restaurant when he got on the highway headed south.
“I’ll get you home in time to get ready for work.”
“I’m not worried about that.”
She saw that tiny nod and was silent.
After several miles, she noted that his knuckles were white around the steering wheel. She reached over and pulled his little finger free. “It’s okay, Mulder. Whatever it is, it’s okay.”
He grasped her hand then and placed it on his thigh, then covered it with his own. “I hope so.”
Her brow furrowed, but she didn’t push him, just squeezing his leg and being with him.
He left the highway finally and pulled into a motel parking lot. “Not the fanciest place.”
“It’s fine and you probably won’t be recognized,” she gave him a worried smile. “Why don’t I check us in, just in case?”
He looked surprised, then grateful. “I don’t deserve you.”
“I disagree. I’ll be right back.” She let herself out of the car after a quick kiss and headed inside.
She was back quickly with the keycards and led him inside through a side door close to the stairs. She opened the door to their second floor room and he followed her in.
She turned to look up at him. “Do you . . . are you hungry?”
He shook his head. “I need to tell you about my sister.”
She nodded, and took a seat on the bed. He sat facing her in the only chair.
“Mulder, you’ve already told me about her disappearance. Is there something else?”
“It bothered me that I couldn’t remember that night,” he said quickly, anxious suddenly to get the words out. “Oh, it gave me some great stories to write, but besides losing Samantha, I had this hole in myself . . . in my soul.” He shrugged. “Something traumatic had happened to me and I had blocked it out. When I got back from Oxford, the nightmares increased. Maybe it was being back here, close to home. I started drinking. That didn’t last long, but I realized I needed help. I started seeing someone, a shrink, and he finally recommended hypnotic regression.”
He gave Dana a rueful grin at her expression. “I know, but he did help me.”
After a moment he nodded, but didn’t continue.
“Mulder, I know you brought me here to tell me something. Please, talk to me.”
He stared down at his hands. “The lights went out. Samantha called out my name, afraid, then the house started shaking, like a earthquake. There aren’t a lot of earthquakes on the Vineyard. Then she started screaming, begging me to save her. That’s when the light came on, not inside the house, outside; at first it was red, then hot white, the brightest light I’ve ever seen. It was searing and it came in every window, the spaces around the doors . . . She kept screaming and I could see her then. She, she was on her back, floating away from me. I know,” he looked up at her and his look was pleading. “She was weightless. I ran for the desk. I knew Dad kept a gun on top of the desk in a locked box. I knocked it off to the floor and it broke open. I dropped to my knees to pick it up and the front door opened. It wasn’t locked, it never was back then. I saw it, a gray, an EBE.” He faced her then.
“I’m sorry, a what?”
“An EBE; exterrestrial biological entity. An alien.” He seemed to run down, like his batteries had given out.
She just blinked.
“Ready to call the white coats?” He sounded defeated.
“I’m still listening. Mulder, please talk to me.”
In a grateful voice he continued. “He, it, came inside. The police said I must have frozen because I didn’t fire the gun, but that wasn’t true. I pulled the trigger, and I kept on pulling it, but the gun wouldn’t fire. It just walked toward me and reached out. It touched my forehead and, and I woke up three days later in the hospital.” He was silent then, staring back down at his hands.
He jumped slightly when her hand came to rest on top of his.
“Any questions about why I didn’t want to talk about it?”
“Do you have any physical evidence?”
He took a deep breath. “I was a bright enough kid, good solid B’s, until that night. After that I was an A+ student all the way. Dana, I can remember every book I’ve ever read, every movie I’ve ever seen, hell, every conversation I’ve ever had. I’m one of those people who can look at a page and recite everything on it.”
“What shook you up about the phone call Will tapped?”
“It’s the first time I realized my parents, at least my father, was involved.”
“My parents fought, they fought a lot before Samantha was taken. Not so much afterward, because . . . well, they were both numb; Dad from booze and Mom from Valium. But before, Dad had ‘friends’ that came by. Mom hated them; she didn’t want them near us. There was one; he came by the most often. He was the scariest of them. His eyes . . . he was completely cold. He smoked all the time, he’d light the next cigarette from his current one.”
“What about him?”
“That’s who Diana was talking to on the phone.”
She was silent for a moment. “You’re sure?”
He nodded. They sat there for a long moment, then he met her eyes. “Dr. Scully, do you believe in the existence of extraterrestrials?”
“I believe in Fox Mulder. I haven’t thought too much about the rest.”
His jaw had dropped open at her words, then he clutched her to him.
She answered the knock and her eyes narrowed. “What are you doing here? Where’s Will?”
“He’s safe. I wanted to talk to you,” Mulder stepped into the apartment without waiting for an invitation.
“I don’t believe we have anything to say to each other.”
“Just one thing, Diana. I want full custody of Will.”
“Right, Fox,” she sneered at him.
“I’m not kidding. I can take you to court.”
She straightened up then. “Have you lost your mind?”
“You know I have grounds.” He spoke calmly, his tone matter of fact.
“Grounds? What are you talking about?”
“He’s not your son.”
She blinked at that, and actually took a step back before she could stop herself. “What, what do you mean? Of course he’s my - “
Mulder shook his head. “I’ve done the testing, Diana. I’d rather not have the information made public. I think we both know it’s not the kind of thing certain people would want well known, but he’s mine and I want him with me.”
“What, what kind of test - “
“Diana.” It was only the one word, but she retreated another step.
“You can’t be serious.”
Mulder didn’t respond to that and she paled slightly. “Why did you, why did you test . . . “
“It’s not important. He wants to come live with me and I want him there. Do you want me to contact my lawyer, or do you want to handle this more discretely?”
“I, you’re crazy.”
Mulder smiled then. “Never denied it, Diana. But I’m taking Will and I’ll go through the court system and full publicity if I have to.”
“Where is Will?”
“No, it’s my weekend. He’s not supposed to be back to you until Sunday evening. I want this cleared up by that time. I can call my attorney right now.” He pulled his cell phone from his pocket. When she didn’t speak, he began to dial.
“Stop. May I, may I see the tests?”
“Of course.” He pulled a copy from his inside jacket pocket and handed it to her.
She just held it, growing even more pale. She obviously had not expected such cooperation. She didn’t bother to look at the paper.
“You can’t do this.”
“I’ve done this. That’s your copy; obviously, it’s not the only one. I would suggest that you call your friends and tell them you’re giving him to me. You might also mention that the information you’re holding is extremely available. I think you understand me.”
He turned then and moved toward the door.
“Fox.” He looked back. “Don’t do this. It could be dangerous.”
Mulder nodded. “That’s why the information is so readily available. I wouldn’t think that the people you work for would like this to be made public. I’m fine with keeping it between us, as long as you and your friends stay away from my family, from the boy.”
He reached for the doorknob and let himself out without another word. In the elevator he leaned against the wall and closed his eyes. Did it work? He headed for the guy’s place, taking the long way and doubling back several times.
They were already releasing the locks when he approached the door so he was inside in minimal time. Dana was beside Frohike and her arms went around him instantly. When they finally broke apart, she rested her head against his chest. “How did it go?”
“That’s what I’m here to find out,” he squeezed her and looked over at Frohike.
The older man winked and led him back toward the computers. Byers was sitting there listening to something through the headphones. He spotted Mulder and removed them quickly.
“He’s with Langly. There was a new videogame . . . “
Mulder smiled then. “Good, we won’t be disturbed. Did anything happen?”
“Did it,” Frohike chortled. “Your elevator didn’t get to the next floor before she was on the phone.”
“Did you get it?”
Byers smiled. “That kid of yours is a natural. Want to hear what we picked up?”
Mulder reached for the headphones. When the recording went silent, he closed his eyes. He felt Dana’s arms close around him. “Have you heard it?”
“You might want to take off running now,” he said quietly.
“No where I want to go, Mulder, except with you.”
“Why? You didn’t bargain for this.”
“I don’t know that I can explain it, but you, both of you, are important to me. I don’t want to lose that.”
He opened his mouth, but then just closed it and pulled her close again. That’s were they were when Will raced in.
“Dad!” He threw his arms around both of them.
“Hey, Kiddo.” Mulder lifted him into his arms and pulled Dana into the family hug.
“Am I going to live with you?”
“Workin’ on it.” Mulder assured the boy. Will nodded and grinned at Dana.
“Dr. Scully will be with us too, won’t she?”
Dana blinked at that, but Mulder’s grip on her didn’t loosen. “I’m counting on it.”
If possible Will’s grin grew wider as Dana gaped at both of them. “We’ll talk after this weekend. Okay?”
Slowly Dana nodded her head, a small smile now gracing her face.
It was early, but Will wasn’t with him. He was safe with Dana. The guys had been thorough in their check of her apartment and both of their cars. It was an exercise he would continue for a long time.
He hadn’t heard from Diana since he had confronted her. That was more annoying than frightening so far, but he would contact his attorney if it was necessary.
He exited the elevator and headed for the apartment. At the door he squared his shoulders and rang the bell. There was no answer. He tried again, then knocked. Damn it, she should be home. Finally he pulled his old key out of his pocket.
It fit and he pushed the door open. He stopped dead still, his eyes scanning the place. It was empty, bare to the walls. Even the pictures were missing.
Carefully he stepped inside. Had she left him a note, anything? He headed for Will’s room and opened the door. It hadn’t been touched. Everything was there, all of his clothes, books, toys, just waiting for him to return.
He approached the bed and saw a note half hidden under the pillow. “We agree to your terms, Mr. Mulder.” That was it, nothing else. He picked it up using his handkerchief.
He backed out of the room and closed the door. Now he had an official question to ask Dana.
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.