My dad's doing very well and you were right. I had to go."
"I was just giving you the advice you gave me." Pilar was checking out the baby as she spoke.
"And your mother?" Dana looked at Pilar
"She's through with the chemo for now and feeling a lot better because of it. The doctors are very optimistic."
"That's wonderful, Pilar. Can you stay home for a while?"
"Yes, Mike's happy about that. He'll be joining us for dinner. You sure you don't want to eat at our place? That way I can handle all the clean up."
"Here is fine. That way when Will conks out we won't have to move him."
Pilar nodded and surrendered the baby to her. "Okay, I'll check on the food and be back in a little while."
Dana put Will in his carrier and smiled as he waved his arms and bounced. He was a happy baby and healthy. She hoped it would always be that way for him. She didn't realize Mulder was watching her from the door to their bedroom.
She had adapted to everything he had thrown at her. She'd followed him across the continent. She'd given birth to his son, alone with him, and survived the . . . the second birth. He took a deep breath; the guys were ready with the second wave. And this one had a twist to it; Skinner's idea, and a damned good one. It made him especially glad Skinner was on their side.
"You know I love you."
Dana looked up and smiled at him. "Yeah, I know. Just so you know, I am glad to be home."
"This place feels like home to you?"
She nodded, "It's where our son was born. It's the house you bought with me in mind. It's where we've lived together as husband and wife. I miss Washington and my family, but now that I've seen them, and they know that we're alive, it's not so hard being away from them."
"You're good for me."
She shook her head, "I'm great for you and don't you forget it."
He laughed then, a rare thing for him and she relished it.
"Come on, we've got company coming tonight."
Pilar opened the door and announced them as she held the door for Mike. "Put it down on the counter, it's hot."
Mike nodded and placed the casserole down, then walked over to see the baby. The two women watched him and Dana saw the longing in his eyes.
Mike turned away when Mulder joined them. "Seen the news?"
Mulder shook his head, "Something happen?"
"Yeah. Remember the alien stuff that was sent to the different countries? They got some more."
Dana looked up startled and tried to catch Mulder's eye. "I haven't seen it. Do you ladies mind if we turn on the TV?"
"No, I don't." Pilar spoke, "I think this is fascinating. You'll probably think I'm crazy, but I've always hoped that we'd be visited by aliens. If they could come here, then they have to have a better technology than we do."
"You're not worried that they might want to take over?"
Pilar shrugged, "Could they really be any worse at it than we are?"
Mulder blinked at that, but didn't speak.
"Here." Mike found the report he was searching for and sat in front of the set. Mulder joined him on the couch and Dana perched on the arm of the couch next to him.
"Interesting, the institutions that were the most vocal about it being alien DNA got the samples." Pilar mused as she leaned forward. "Did they say they had photos?"
Mulder's hand squeezed Dana's knee as he felt her stiffen.
"Are they not going to show them? I want to see what an alien is supposed to look like." Pilar pouted a little at that.
"It might not be the kind of thing we'd want to see just before we eat." Mulder rose. "They're repeating themselves now. Why don't we go ahead and eat, then check back for any updates."
Mike nodded and rose. Mulder put his arm around Dana to help her to her feet. "You okay?" He whispered as he nuzzled her neck.
She nodded, but her eyes looked haunted to him. He hadn't been aware the guys were going to send photos or he would have warned her, or stopped them.
Dana forced herself to eat and carry her end of the conversation. Fortunately Pilar was more than able to carry a conversation on her own. Mulder kept the topic away from aliens for which Dana was grateful.
They didn't stay late, in deference to Dana having to get up to feed the baby in the middle of the night. Mulder barely had the door closed behind them when Dana had the television back on.
"Doc? It will be okay." He saw her hands were shaking.
"Will they release the pictures?"
"I don't know. I didn't know the guys were going to send any. Doc, we don't know for sure that they have. The media isn't always . . . "
He did more than that, settling her onto his lap and pulling her close. "Doc, you know how careful the guys are. They won't let anything out that could be traced to you or Will."
"What about you?"
"Me too. Besides my blood chemistry is back to normal; you've checked that yourself. There's no reason to suspect that I'm involved in this in any way."
She tensed as the story came up on the news. They both turned to listen. There didn't seem to be anything added to the report until the last minute. A suspect in the distribution of the information might have been identified.
For a moment Mulder thought she was going to faint. "Doc, Doc it's okay. The information was planted. Come on, it's not us." He lay her gently on the couch and massaged her wrists.
"It was Skinner's idea. There's just a partial fingerprint on the sample sent to Paris. Remember, they were the most open minded about the DNA last time."
Mulder grinned, "The colonel."
"What if he talks? What if he tries to implicate you?"
"What if he does? Your parents can testify that you’re okay. Skinner's filing the paperwork to decriminalize your case. Apparently we eloped, rather than me taking you by force. And he's burying the paperwork. No one will be looking for either one of us, officially or otherwise. And if they have already traced this to the good colonel, he's going to be too busy to chase after us."
"He won't give up that easily."
"No, he won't. But it will give us time to make public contact, while he's out of the picture. If we turn ourselves in, saying we weren't aware of the problem, and they test my blood . . . "
"The people that did this to us will know."
"Yes. But if we're high profile, gain sympathy . . . Let's face it, a beautiful, well-educated woman like you, with a newborn son, from a good military family . . . Come on."
"How long have you been planning this? And why didn't you say anything?"
"Skinner came up with the basic premise after meeting your father. He wasn't real fond of the colonel's methods either. You made a pretty good impression on him too - it never occurred to him that I could get a woman like you to look at me twice."
Her arm snaked around his neck pulling his lips down to hers and he reclined beside her on the couch. "You know I'm furious with you for keeping this from me."
"It was to protect you."
"You protect me like this again and Mom may have to give up on her dreams of having a granddaughter."
"Doc, are you threatening me?" The question died on his lips as her knee pressed gently on a vulnerable area.
"Threatening, promising, whatever you want to call it. Don't leave me out Mulder."
He nodded, not about to disagree at this point.
“Tell me what brought this about.” She eased the pressure a little and he grinned.
It struck everyone that the investigation into your kidnapping was handled . . . strangely. Your parents reported you missing when you didn’t return from Virginia, the police had your car, but you had never arrived at your destination. Also, the woman that was supposed to be expecting you had no idea you were coming. Because of the pregnancy it was bumped up to the Bureau almost immediately.”
Dana nodded; that had been hard on her mother and she owed Zoe an apology as well, but that would have to come later.
“I wasn’t a suspect, because there was no connection between the two of us. Then the military stepped in, with no jurisdiction by the way. Baldwin floated me as the only suspect and forced the Bureau to step away since I was one of theirs. Apparently Skinner always felt hinkey about Baldwin but his hands were tied. He didn’t know where I was, if I was even alive, and of course he had never met you.”
She leaned up and kissed his lips, interrupting his story.
When he got his breath back, he continued, “anyway, um, Skinner didn’t like the way I was being railroaded and continued keeping files and following what Baldwin was doing to the best of his ability. That was the part the guys couldn’t get to - the reason the Bureau was shut out of a ‘routine’ kidnapping investigation. Baldwin is going to have a lot to answer for when the connection with his print is made. He’s the one that tried to identify me by the weird blood. Skinner talked to Dr. Symons at your hospital. He’s a fan of yours apparently, and he’s convinced that Baldwin did something to you. That’s not hurting our case any either.”
"I don’t want to learn these things after the fact, Mulder. Don’t treat me like some kind of wimp.”
“You’re right and I’m sorry. I just - “
“Want to protect me. I know. We’ll do better if we protect each other.” She sighed, “We should see if the guys have been in touch.”
“Right. Does this mean you leave my lap?”
She smiled at that, “Not for long.”
He booted up the computer and pulled up their email. He looked up at her and she joined him, standing at his shoulder to read.
//Big news, our bird is learning French. Sorry to hear you didn’t make the finals in the finger painting contest. Looks like a weather change brewing here. How’re things out there. Love from the Uncles.//
Mulder leaned back. “Well?”
“It sounds to me like the colonel is in touch with the research facility in Paris, and they know for sure the finger prints on the package aren’t yours. I wonder how long it will take them to check the military database?”
“Not long, especially if the ‘uncles’ drop a hint or two. All hell could break loose when his finger prints are confirmed.”
“It should keep him busy for a while.” Scully glanced toward the nursery with a mother’s eye, but the fussing subsided on it’s own.
“True. You know, it might be a good time to resurface, especially if he goes off half-cocked and mentions me. We can just say we eloped. Your parents and Skinner can collaborate that story.
"You're going to think I'm crazy, Mulder."
"I'd hate to leave here."
That stunned him into silence.
"I told you."
"It's not . . ." He smiled then, "I don't think you're crazy. Living here with you has been the most incredible time of my life."
"But it's not real life, is it?" She ran her hand through his hair as he looked up at her. “You need to get back to your job, I need to get back to mine. We need to have a normal life for Will." She sighed.
"Dana, it's going to be okay. Colonel Baldwin has been completely discredited. He's a known crack pot." Skinner looked up and took the cup from her hand.
"Maybe he is Walter, maybe his obsession with Mulder has driven him over the edge, but what he knows happens to be true. That was Mulder's blood I had analyzed. They have taken him twice and they've taken me. He knows that. Maybe they’re willing to let him be the scapegoat, but his superiors know too."
Skinner looked over at Mulder. The younger man was focused on his wife. Finally Skinner spoke. "Mulder, help me out here."
Mulder shook his head. "This is up to her. If she says no, you turn around and go home. We stay underground."
Scully's eyes widened at that statement. He'd never said that to her. "Mulder - "
"Doc, if you don't feel safe, we don't go."
She sighed, "If we stay in the public eye . . . "
"I think that will keep you safe, Dana. I'd guarantee it if I could. You have my word I'll do everything in my power to keep you safe."
"I know you will." She reached for Mulder's hand and he met her halfway. "What do you think?"
"Doc - "
"No. I really need to know. This is a mutual decision."
Mulder looked over at Skinner, who immediately excused himself.
“I could go without you, expose Baldwin and keep you and Will -“
“No. Don’t mention it again Mulder. If you go public, so do I. Will and I will not be separated from you. Walter thinks he can keep us safe. We have to trust someone.”
“I’m more inclined to go with Frohike. They’ve taken me twice while I worked for him.” He shook his head; “I’m kidding, mostly.” He took her hand. “If we’re going to do this, now is the best time, while Baldwin’s off balance.”
She nodded and gave him a quick kiss, then rose and went to find A.D. Skinner.
She picked up the phone. Her mother nodded and took Will to the kitchen. "Zoe? Hi, it's Dana."
"Dana! Oh my god, Dana! Are you okay?"
"Yes, Zoe, yes, I'm fine."
"The . . . the baby?"
"A boy! I can't . . . Dana, I was so scared. Did they get that agent? Is he in jail?"
"No, Zoe - "
"Zoe, listen to me. It wasn't a kidnapping. I'm so, so sorry I got you involved. Mulder never hurt me, he couldn't. We eloped."
"E . . . eloped? But your parents - "
"I know, we had to leave town. You’ve met Colonel Baldwin."
"That man is a psycho."
Dana smiled, "You get no argument from me. Fortunately, he's in custody now and can no longer harass Mulder, so we've come home."
"The colonel was the reason you had to leave? So it's true, he has been sending that stuff to the labs around the world?"
"I don't know about that, but at least Mulder can come home now. I just wanted to apologize to you. I really didn't realize how obsessed Colonel Baldwin was, or that we would be gone as long as we were. You heard about Dad's heart attack?"
"Yes. I heard he was home now."
"He is and doing very well. They think stress caused the attack. We know the colonel was harassing him as well."
"Dana? What in the world did that colonel think was going on?"
"Well, I'm not sure, but you've heard about what’s been sent to the labs. They can't identify it as earth based. Not to get too technical, but the DNA of the samples . . . listen, Zoe, I think Baldwin knew it was for real and wanted to get the information out but didn't want to incriminate himself. For some reason he fixated on Mulder because of his work at the FBI. When Mulder found out and went underground, Baldwin used that to show guilt on Mulder’s part, instead of protection for me. Since he's military, he got the FBI to drop the case. It's been a nightmare."
"Dana, I can't imagine! Are you sure you're safe from him now?"
"Well, he's out of the way. We don't know about his superiors. We don't know how high up this goes. But we wanted to come home, let our son get to know his grandparents."
"Of course you do! Is there anything I can do?"
Dana smiled, "You can forgive me for what I did to you."
"Done already. If you need anything else, I want to be there for you. I can't wait to see your baby."
"You're such a good friend, Zoe. As soon as I know you wouldn't be in danger, we'll come see you. But not yet. Until we know for certain . . . "
"Okay, for a little while. But I'll be in touch. If you don't call me, I'll call your mom."
"That's a deal. I hear the baby. I promise I'll talk to you soon." She hung up and turned to Mulder. "She'll be on our side. She didn't think much of our colonel either. It's a good thing he's such a prick; it's making our work a lot easier."
Mulder gave her a slight smile and let his knuckle caress her cheek.
He’d been on the phone as well, with Skinner. Things were in place for them to meet with the people that he thought could help them. Skinner had contacted the men through ‘unofficial’ channels and Mulder was wary of them having information about when they were supposed to arrive in town. The ‘uncles’ had planted information on several arrival dates and times and Mulder had no doubt that each of them would be watched.
He watched her leave the room to go get Will and closed his eyes. This was too dangerous a game to have her involved. But could he handle her fury if he kept her out?
"Thank you for coming in Mr. Mulder, Dr. Scully - "
"That's Dr. Mulder." Dana interrupted quietly.
"Excuse me, Dr. Mulder. I'm sure you are both aware of the . . . the allegations that Colonel Baldwin has raised, and in light of the information being distributed around the world - "
"I understand Colonel Baldwin has been implicated in that distribution." Mulder looked directly at the large man seated at the center of the table.
The members of the panel exchanged glances. Finally the man in the center spoke, "We're here to get answers from you at this time. Assistant Director Skinner came to us with a proposal to allow you to return to the Bureau. Colonel Baldwin is under investigation, that's all we're at liberty to say at this time."
"The allegations that Colonel Baldwin made were about me," Mulder spoke up, "Why is my wife here?"
"Your . . . wife may have information regarding the information that has been leaked to the research labs."
"Let's cut the crap here. You want my blood to prove that the abductions can't be traced to you." That caused fear and shock to appear on the faces of far too many of the people questioning them. The man in the center made a move to clear the room. They had not expected an agent of the federal government to blurt out such information. "Fine, you can have my blood but we'll do this my way."
"Mr. Mulder - "
"That's Agent Mulder, and everyone in this room stays. You try to go behind locked doors and all of the information I have will be public in a matter of minutes. You don't want to test my resolve on this. Now we can pick some people to accompany us to a lab - you pick five and I pick five. They will escort us to a lab of my wife's choosing where they will observe the extraction of my blood and the processing of it. The technician will not be out of our sight and neither will my blood. And if I decide that Morley Safer is to be one of my witnesses, you will have to live with that."
"Agent Mulder - "
"If you want my blood, and my silence, I want to be left alone with my wife and my son. You've already got enough trouble with whoever is sending out the information. It's been verified by too many legitimate laboratories to be swept under the rug again, but I didn't send it. You better check into your own spooks a little more closely in the future." He rose and Dana stood with him. "You ready to make your choices? I am."
"You seem very secure."
"No, just determined. Whatever it takes to keep my wife and son safe, that's what I'm going to do. If you want my cooperation, this is a one time offer."
The men facing them were whispering, glancing over at them. Mulder and Dana stood quietly, watching them. Mulder wasn’t familiar with most of them, though he had seen two of them in the halls of the Bureau. They didn’t work there, at least officially, but they had access. This was becoming more interesting every minute.
"Agent Mulder, if we keep our end of the bargain, how can we be sure that your 'witnesses' will keep quiet as well."
"I have honorable people on my side. Can you say the same?"
The man's face darkened, but he didn't contradict the words. "Choose."
Dana watched the entire procedure with an eagle eye, and made certain that everyone present had an unobstructed view. There could be no one who could voice a doubt about the process.
Dr. Symons was careful to not only show, but to explain what he was doing at each step, as though holding a class. When the work was done he held up the results for all to see.
"It's just blood, O+ and a little high in hemoglobin, which is a good thing. I detect no drugs. This is definitely not the same blood I tested in my lab the day that Dr. Sc - excuse me, Dr. Mulder brought the sample to my lab. You understand that Colonel Baldwin stole all of the equipment from my lab that day, so I only have my own memory; however, that blood chemistry is not something I'm likely to forget. It was the first time I had seen anything like that. The information I have been able to glean from the samples being sent out, lead me to believe that was what I processed before."
The five men chosen by the panel exchanged glances. It had all taken place before their eyes. Mulder did not have the blood chemistry that had been sent out. They had the proof and the witnesses.
"Thank you Agent Mulder, Dr. Mulder. We apologize for the inconvenience we have caused you."
“Apologize for the inconvenience. How nice. Will my family be left alone?"
"Yes sir. You’re not going to have any worries on that count. You obviously do not have the blood chemistry that the Colonel was tracking. That’s been proven in front of witnesses. There is no evidence that the information being released to the public came from you or that you had knowledge of it.”
“Are you saying that it would be safe for me to bring my family home and for the both of us to resume our careers?”
“I’m saying we have no reason to continue our investigation where you and Dr. Mulder are concerned. Obviously we have no control over your position with the FBI.”
Mulder actually laughed then, and the older man looked away, not meeting his eyes. After a second he rose, “Again, our thanks for your cooperation.” He turned and left the room, followed by his witnesses.
Byers clapped Mulder on the shoulder. “Well done.”
“Thanks. You think the video pick up worked okay?”
Byers nodded. “We won’t use it, unless you tell us. I better get back.” Mulder shook his hand, then thanked the others.
He turned to Doc then, “Let’s go home.” She nodded and hugged him quickly, ready to get back to Will.
“You think they’ll really leave us alone?”
“They don’t want me to go public. We had witnesses that are prominent in the government and the public sector. And we’ve got the video. They don’t know what else we have or know; they’re not going to want to take the chance - not with the web being accessible to the whole world. I don’t trust them Doc, but they don’t trust me either. I think that’s called détente.”
She grinned and they walked to the car together.
Mulder took her hand to help her from the car. Skinner’s car was where he had left it. She looked up at this husband of hers. She had never seen him as he had been today. He had been in command in that room, calm and confident. He had done it for her, to protect her and Will. She had been right to entwine her life with this man’s.
She hurried toward the door, anxious to see Will and let her parents know Mulder had passed the test with flying colors. As she reached for the knob, Mulder grabbed her arm and without a word pulled her behind him. Still without speaking, he pulled a gun from his ankle holster. She hadn’t been aware he was armed and she gasped. He put his finger to his lips and she nodded.
He eased the door open and looked around before continuing on. She followed him, every sense on alert. She barely managed to keep from running into him when he stopped abruptly. She peeked around him and spotted Assistant Director Skinner sprawled on the floor.
She clutched Mulder’s arm. “Will.” She barely breathed the word.
He nodded curtly, in full agent mode now. He squatted beside the comatose man and felt for his pulse. He nodded to her and continued on. Whatever he saw made him turn and block her.
Her eyes widened in fear. “Mulder, what!” She struggled past him then, and saw her father on the floor, blood oozing from a wound on his scalp. ”Oh my god!” She was around him then and on her knees. “Call 911!”
Her father groaned then and stirred under her hands. “Dad, it’s Starbuck. An ambulance is on the way. Where are Mom and Will?” Her voice shook on her son’s name.
Bill’s hand came up to his forehead. “There were three of them. Walter and I - “
“Ahab, don’t try to talk.” She was checking his pulse. “I want you to just relax.”
“Doc?” She felt Mulder close behind her.
“I, uh, I need to check Skinner.”
Mulder nodded, he moved toward the steps with a heavy tread. He knew he wasn’t going to find Maggie or his son upstairs. They were gone, taken, while he had wasted his time trying to cut a deal.
While Dana checked out AD Skinner he made a thorough search of the rest of the house. As he had known, there was no one else there.
He had to hold it together. Doc needed him. This wasn’t going to be like Samantha. Humans had stolen their son, and they would find him.
He was moving toward her voice before he processed the word. He was down the stairs in three steps. “Doc?”
“The first ambulance is here, let them in.” He moved immediately to the door and opened it. The EMTs were rushing up the walk and he could see a second ambulance turning the corner onto the street. The police were brining up the rear.
He closed his eyes for a minute, letting despair overwhelm him, then the EMTs brushed past him.
They were treating Skinner already. His father-in-law was sitting on the couch, holding a towel to his head. “Starbuck, I don’t need to - “
“Dad, listen to me. You are going to the hospital; you are going to be checked out. Don’t fight me on this because you will lose.”
The captain recognized the voice of command and subsided. “We need to be looking for your mother and Will.”
“Mulder and I can handle that. But I have to know that you’re okay. I can’t . . . “ She nearly lost it then and struggled to regain her voice. “I can’t worry about you too. Please.” He nodded and looked up at his son-in-law, silently asking him to look after her.
Mulder nodded with his eyes and moved Dana out of the way of the second set of paramedics. At his touch she shuddered and his arm went around her to keep her on her feet.
“Mulder, what are we going to do?”
He shook his head as the police approached them. They gave their statements. It didn’t take long, the only thing missing from the house besides Will and Maggie was the smaller diaper bag. At least whoever had taken them had allowed that. Then he tilted her head up to him and wiped a tear from her cheek. “You should be with your father.”
“No. I’ll have Missy meet him. His heart is fine; he just needs a couple of stitches. I’m staying with you.”
“Doc - “
“We can’t be separated now. Mulder, please.”
He nodded after a moment, then turned to the policeman standing in front of him. “I need to make a phone call.”
The cop nodded and moved slightly away. Mulder pulled his cell phone from his inside coat pocket. “Frohike, they’ve taken Will, and Doc’s mom.”
“Those sons of bitches. What do we do?”
“Get hold of the others. Make sure they’re safe and ready to broadcast. But do nothing for thirty-six hours or until you hear from me.”
“You got it. What else can we do?”
Mulder looked over at Dana; she was staring at something in her hands and looked completely devastated, tears leaking from her eyes. “Pray.” He broke the connection and moved toward her. He could see the object in her hands now, one of Will’s pacifiers. He had to close his own eyes for a moment against the pain.
No, he couldn’t give in yet. He had things to do.