Dreaming Sea (The) by Revely

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From: Revely <>

Date: Sat, 22 Jan 2000 02:28:56 GMT

Subject: NEW: The Dreaming Sea 1/6 by Revely

Title: The Dreaming Sea

Author: Revely

Rating: PG

Classification: X, UST

Archive: Gossamer, okay. Anywhere else is okay, just please let me know.

Summary: A spectacular sighting in a seaside town brings Scully and Mulder face-to-face with a salt-water surprise.

Spoilers: Through season 6, just to be safe.

Disclaimer: Mulder and Scully do not belong to me. They are copyrighted by Chris Carter and 1013 Productions. I mean no infringement.

Author’s Notes: At end

Thanks: To Barbara D, for scene tweaking, semi-colon slashing and detail scrutinizing. I owe you much chocolate, dear.

To Fialka, for ripping apart the plot and characterization then showing me how to puzzle it together again. Talk about tough love. <g>

And to Lizzie, for well-timed Bournville care packages, encouragement and for being my definitive UST monitor.

Feedback: cherished and answered at

For: Matthew

… …

“If the sea could dream, and if the sea were dreaming now, the dream would be the usual one: of the flesh. The letter written in the dream would go something like: “Forgive me –- love, Blue.”

From “Cortege” by Carl Phillips

… …

The third time Andy saw the savage was the week before Halloween. All the trees on Front Street were a garish pumpkin orange and the leaves on the sidewalk crunched under the tires of his mountain bike as he pedaled from the grocery store toward home. It struck him as strange, since it was the middle of the afternoon, and the savage normally came out in the morning.

Andy caught sight of him on the thin strip of beach and nearly dropped his bag of comic books and candy bars. He hadn’t seen him since August, and that had been back in Florida, but it was definitely him — Andy could tell by the way the sun glinted off his naked body. With a sigh, he tucked his bag up under his chin, where it bounced against his chest, and steered toward the beach. He didn’t bother with his kickstand, letting the bike fall on the sand as the savage made a mad dash toward him. He didn’t move, and the savage finally stopped a few inches away and just stood there, staring, his wide gray eyes focused totally on his prey. Andy shook his head in resignation and rummaged around in his bag, pulling out half a Twinkie. It was only then that the savage smiled, a jack-o’-lantern, gap-toothed grin. Andy reached out to pat his small, wet head.

“How’s it going, kid?”

… …

“Mulder, if you expect to live through this day you’d better be kidding.”

Mulder grinned out the hotel window and tucked his cell phone tighter against his ear, watching as his partner made her way up the walkway toward him, her voice coming through the line with a mixture of horror and disbelief.

He knew this would be her reaction.

“Sorry, Scully, the woman at the front desk said there was only one room. I told her we’d take it.”

“Why did you tell her that? We can drive into Morehead City, it’s only a few minutes away.”

“And give up this view? Now who’s kidding? Trust me, you’ve got to see this to believe it.”

He watched as she stopped on the sidewalk and continued to frown up at him. She opened her mouth once, like she was debating what to say, then gave up with a huff. Mulder saw her stab the end button before she stalked up the porch steps. Less than a minute later she flung the door open. It sailed back and landed against the wall with a thud. Mulder turned in time to watch her glare turn into a stunned smile and she shook her head.

“Oh my God, Mulder.”

In the center of the room were two colossal twin canopy beds, covered with white lace bedcovers and complete with ribboned throw pillows. On the small table that separated them, a chunky black rotary phone sat solidly underneath a lamp with a ruffled shade. The rest of the room was equally old-fashioned. The floor was wood, covered by a large, pink hooked rug that ran from the wicker rocking chair next to the window, under the beds, and toward the huge cherry wardrobe that took the place of a closet.

Scully ventured into the room and placed her overnight bag on the pink velvet chaise lounge next to the door.

“Isn’t it great?” Mulder enthused. “Just wait until you see the bathroom.” He gestured toward the open door in the wall. “It’s got a claw foot tub big enough for both of us.”

Scully eyed him for a second before turning to check it out.

“Theoretically, anyway,” he said.

Her voice echoed from the bathroom, where she was no-doubt noticing the conspicuous lack of mildew on the pink tiles, the hallmark of most of their accommodations.

“And we’re really staying here? Why? Do you have a canopy bed fetish you never mentioned?”

Mulder briefly considered telling her about the mirrored monstrosity that had appeared in his bedroom, then thought better of it. No sense in giving her more ammunition.

“We’re only a few blocks from Andy Holt’s house here, so we can walk. Besides, we really do have a terrific view.” He turned back to look out the window and watched Scully’s reflection as she joined him. They looked out over the road and into the harbor, where three small boats bobbed and swayed in the dark water. Out on the sidewalk, Mulder could see some young girls playing jacks. He could hear them popping their gum and arguing over who had gotten through twosies. An ice cream truck jingled somewhere in the distance. Occasionally, the cheerful tune stopped and a smooth voice urged everyone to remember to vote for Mayor Sharpe on Election Day.

“This is a great time of year,” Mulder said, taking in a breath of the sea air. He felt Scully looking at him and glanced down. She was giving him a lazy smile, which, paired with the spectacular things the low sun was doing to her hair, made him forget what he going to say. It wasn’t until he looked back out the window that he remembered.

“Do you smell that?” he asked. “It’s like…new shoes, and chalkdust. Reminds me of school starting when I was a kid.” Mulder shook his head and let the good memories come floating back.

In the summer, the asphalt streets of Chilmark got so hot they gave way like chewing gum under your feet. Kids all over town knew better than to stand around in their rubber flip-flops, and nobody dared walk their dog until hours after the sun went down, when the sidewalks cooled off enough for the bare pads of animal feet.

When it began to get cooler, people and animals alike took advantage of their brief window of time for pleasure. There were too few weeks between the humid winds of summer to the frigid mistral of winter. October was the time of year the locals liked best. The tourists had all packed up their station wagons and gone home, and the town once again belonged to its citizens. In the evening, it was possible to see dozens of families out for a walk, pushing baby strollers and smiling for the whole world to see. His own family included, but that had been in the idyllic early years.

If the street full of dog-walkers below him was any indication, Beaufort, North Carolina wasn’t much different.

Except, he thought, for the savage.

… …

The red-haired FBI agent was making his mother a nervous wreck. Andy could tell because she was chain smoking and nodding a lot, and she only did that when she was nervous. Every time the agent looked up to make a comment his mom smiled, showing all her teeth and everything, then took a long drag on her cigarette. Her hands shook a little. She was always nervous around important or pretty people, and it made Andy sad to watch her discomfort. He turned his eyes to the couch and saw the other agent, Agent Mulder, looking at him, probably trying to figure him out.

He could always tell when people were trying to do that; it was one of the benefits of 14 years as the son of a guidance counselor. People got a real dazed look about them and blinked kind of slow. Either they were sizing you up or they were really bored. This guy didn’t look bored. He was sitting on the very edge of the couch, probably trying to stay away from the big hole in the cushion that their cat, Hyde, had clawed one afternoon while sulking over having a bath. Nobody bothered to try again, after that. It didn’t do to ruin the only decent furniture they had.

Every few seconds, the agent would tear his eyes off him and turn to look at his partner. The guy seemed to be trying to do two things at once: figure him all out and at the same time, commit to memory every single word the redhead was saying. From what Andy could tell, it was a pretty boring conversation. Blah, blah, blah, Florida. Blah, blah, divorced. Blah, blah, secretary at a doctor’s office.

Andy wished they would get the show on the road. It felt really embarrassing to be the center of attention. Officers Stanley and Macmillan were standing on the porch, staring down the street, waiting for the mayor to show up. Agent Scully finally sat down next to her partner and folded her hands in her lap, glancing discreetly at the clock on the mantle.

“Is there any reason we can’t begin? I don’t think Agent Mulder and I are going to need to talk to Mayor Sharpe again. If we have any questions we can give him a call.”

Officer Stanley opened the screen door and stuck his head in.

“Well, the mayor did say expressly that he wanted to be here, but this is your show, so if you want to go ahead I guess we can fill him in later.”

From across the room, Andy watched his mother gather courage and come forward to sit on the arm of his wingback chair. Good ol’ mom. Nobody would know by looking at her lioness routine now that she’d been at wit’s end with him two days ago. She’d been up to her elbows in raw hamburger and meatloaf mix when he’d walked in. For the first time since the divorce she’d looked cheerful, and he’d felt awful about busting her mood, but she hated to be kept in the dark about things, and he respected that so he’d told her. When he’d mentioned the savage her hands had stopped their kneading motion and she’d dropped her forehead on the table and started to question him mournfully. “Why, Andy? Why are you doing this again? Don’t you see how hard I’m trying to make this a fresh start for us?”

Andy had sighed. She still didn’t believe him. He shouldn’t have been surprised, really, nobody did. His dad had practically convinced the entire state of Florida that he was acting out some divorce trauma by making up an imaginary friend. If it hadn’t been for the mayor of Beaufort and his big yacht-load of classy, important people, including the governor, nobody would believe him still. But apparently the governor had some sway with the FBI, and now he was going to have to be interrogated again.

Agent Mulder cleared his throat, leaned forward and dove right into the questions.

“When was the first time you saw him, Andy?”

Andy thought back for a minute. He really didn’t have to collect his thoughts, because he remembered it perfectly, but it was always just as well to appear not too rehearsed when you were dealing with the law. Anybody who watched TV could tell you that.

“Um…I’m pretty sure it was the first day of summer, June 21st.”

Officer Macmillan left Officer Stanley on the porch and took a seat on a folding chair next to the door while Agent Mulder continued.

“And you saw him on the beach?”

“Yeah. It was real early, about seven I guess. I finished my paper route and rode my bike to the Speedy-Mart to pick up some breakfast and took it to the beach.”

Andy shifted nervously in his chair. To his own ears it sounded like all of his answers were questions.

“What made you notice him?”

“Well, it was kind of hard not to—he was totally naked.”

Agent Mulder nodded and the edges of his mouth tipped up.

“I can see how that would make him stand out.”

“That and he was the only other person on the beach. He looked kind of afraid of me at first, like I was going to come after him. He just stood at the edge of the water and kept looking over his shoulder at me. I thought maybe he was, like, abused or something.”

“What did you do?” Officer Macmillan asked. He’d leaned forward in his chair and was listening intently.

“Nothin’. I just sat there. I thought maybe he didn’t want to be stared at. You know, like maybe he was homeless and didn’t have any beach clothes? People don’t like to be stared at, so I started reading my book and opened my bag, and that’s when he came over to me.”

Andy saw his mother look down at him and shake her head. She hated it when he ate sweets without permission, which is why he had to do it away from the house. She paraded vegetables and fruits in front of him hoping to entice his healthier side, but it didn’t really work. His paper route and the occasional twenty bucks his dad sent him more than paid for candy and comic books. Andy shrugged and tugged on the bottom of his T-shirt, stretching it out over the buckle of his jeans.

“What did he do?” Agent Mulder asked.

“It was so weird. It was like he was totally focused on what I was eating…like he’d never seen a fudgesicle before. I felt real bad about him, you know? He was just a kid. So I gave him my other one. He liked that.”

“And then what?”

“Then Mr. Spinelli came walking up the beach. He was the town drunk in St. Leonard,” Andy explained. “He screams at things – anything: streetlights, cars, people, whatever was handy. Anyway, he started coming toward us, yelling like he was going to kill us and Jonah took off toward the water. He just ran right in and dove straight under a wave.”

“Wait a minute. Jonah? How did you know his name?”

Andy shrugged. “I don’t. That’s just what I call him. You know, like Jonah and the whale?”

Agent Mulder smiled and nodded. “If he doesn’t wear any clothes maybe you should have called him Adam.”

Andy’s mom laughed at that. Andy wondered if she was trying to flirt and make Officer Macmillan jealous. She was blinking a lot at Agent Mulder, and kept tucking her hair behind her ear. He’d heard her, just that morning, say, “That Joe Macmillan has potential if he’d just get over that shy streak. I wish he’d work on that.” It was the sort of thing she said in private, but couldn’t work up the nerve to do anything about in public. The two dates she’d been on since the divorce had ended before Andy had even brushed his teeth and gotten ready for bed. As much as his mom liked to imagine she had a wild streak, when it came down to it, she was every bit as shy as officer Macmillan was.

“What happened when he dove in the water?”

“I don’t know. Spinelli came up to me and started screaming about litter on the beach and I couldn’t see him anymore.”

“What about the second time you saw him, Andy?” Agent Scully asked. She’d been sitting on the couch, mostly watching him and letting Agent Mulder do the questioning. Andy watched Agent Mulder’s head tilt toward her, like a flower toward the sun.

“The second time I saw him was in August, right before we moved here. We were packing the car. I got excited, because nobody believed me when I told them about him diving in the water, and I wanted mom and dad to see him, but they were in the house arguing over who got to take the cat.”

His mother shifted on the arm of the chair and looked embarrassed.

“Well, it was my cat,” she muttered.

“So I got my bookbag from the car and took it out to the beach. I gave him a few cupcakes and told him we were moving to Beaufort, North Carolina and that I hoped he’d be okay.”

“What did he say?”

“He didn’t say anything. He doesn’t talk, I don’t think. Maybe he understands though, I’m not real sure.”

Agent Scully was getting into her questioning; she leaned forward and put her elbows on her knees. Andy could see why his mother was intimidated – she was so pretty, and she sort of stared right in your eyes when she was talking to you.

“And the last time you saw him was in St. Leonard, Florida, two months ago?”

“Yeah, until the day before yesterday.”

“And that’s the same day that the governor and the mayor saw him, correct?” This question she directed at Officer Macmillan, who nodded and flipped open his notepad.

“Yes ma’am. The fundraising party was on Wednesday night. The boat was making a trip around the far side of Carrot Island when the governor’s wife saw a kid in the water. She thought he might have drifted out away from home and they pulled him up. Once they got him up on deck though, the crowd must have scared him, because he tried to jump back in the water. The governor held onto him and got bit for his trouble.” The officer stopped for a minute to chuckle. “All of them were mighty surprised to see he wasn’t wearing any clothes. And that he had webbed hands and feet.”

“Webbed?” Agent Mulder’s eyes opened wide.

“Well, kind of,” Andy said. “Just barely, really. They look like normal hands and feet until you look real close, then you can see that his hands are kind of webbed about to his knuckle. It’s not gross or anything though.”

The screen door opened and Officer Stanley walked in, followed by Mayor Sharpe and his son, Cody. Oh great, Cody Sharpe in his house. He’d probably be telling everyone in school what a dump they lived in. His mom called it a fixer-upper, but Andy was sure that wouldn’t be how the great Cody Sharpe saw it. From what Andy cold tell from his two months in the Beaufort High School, it appeared that being ignored by Cody was preferable to being noticed by him, and Andy hoped to remain as incognito as he could.

The FBI agents didn’t look too thrilled with the added guests either, Andy noted. The mayor took a seat so close to Agent Scully that their hips were almost touching. She stiffened and turned to give him a cold stare. The mayor just shook his head at her and heaved a put-upon sigh.

“I just don’t know what to do about any of this,” he said.

“About what, Mr. Sharpe?” Agent Mulder asked, standing up so his partner could peel herself from the mayor’s side and move over to the opposite arm of the couch.

“What do you mean, about what? About this savage we’ve got running around town.”

Agent Scully turned to give the mayor a thinly veiled look of distaste.

“Mr. Sharpe, from the testimony we’ve gotten from you, the governor, and Andy, this is a six or seven-year-old child we’re dealing with here. Hardly someone you’d want to be scared of, much less call a savage.”

“I don’t agree. Right before I came here we got a call from two residents of Front Street who had their houses vandalized today. Some sicko spray-painted “kill, kill, kill,” in red paint on two of our historic homes. I think we’re talking about a real troubled young person here, and it’s my job to protect the citizens of this town.” The mayor waved a hand at her as if to clarify. “Now, I’m not saying he’s doing it alone, but that child must have gotten up here from Florida some how, and I intend to stop him and whoever else is causing this trouble.”

His speech over, the mayor pulled the cuff of his silk suit up and glanced at his gold watch. He slid off the couch and walked to the door, calling over his shoulder.

“I just wanted to fill you all in. I’ve arranged for some of the officers in town to form a search party at 5 a.m. Feel free to join in if you want to.”

The room grew quiet as the mayor’s posse hustled importantly out the door and clattered down the sidewalk. Andy felt the nervous butterflies in his stomach start fluttering again. His mother asked the FBI agents and Officer Macmillan if they wanted any coffee, even though they probably didn’t have much to offer. She didn’t drink anything with caffeine and generally only kept enough on hand to offer to company. All three of the guests declined, and Agents Mulder and Scully got up to leave. Andy stopped them as they reached the front steps. It was only six o’clock, but the wind from the water had picked up and it was going to be dark before long.

“What are they going to do with him? I mean…if they find him?”

Agent Scully looked really little standing on the step below him and Andy felt kind of lumpish and awkward. He crossed his arms in front of himself.

“I suspect they’ll put him into Child Protective Services until they can find out who his guardians are,” Agent Scully answered.

“What if he doesn’t have any guardians?”

“Then he’ll probably be put into foster care. They’ll find a good home for him, Andy.”

Andy shook his head. “Not if the mayor finds him. All he wants to do is get everybody thinking he’s some kind of hero or something. Like it’s a big deal to catch a seven-year-old.”

Agent Mulder turned toward him then, scrutinizing him in the fading light.

“Then maybe it would be better if we found him first, and not the mayor.”

He was asking a question, Andy could tell. After a second Andy nodded.

“Okay. I can tell you where he might be, but you’ve got to promise me nobody is going to scare him.”

“I promise. Scully and I will protect him.”

Andy turned and went inside, leaving the two agents on the front porch. He figured he didn’t have much of a choice. Either he could tell the two FBI agents, or he could let the mayor find him, and that wasn’t any choice at all.

When he returned to the porch, he had a map drawn on a napkin, and a brown paper sack in his hand, which he stretched out toward them.

“Take these. It’s the easiest way to get him to come to you.”

Inside the bag were four snack cakes and two plastic cups of pudding.

… … End 1/6

The Dreaming Sea – 2/6

… …

The boy bobbed like a seal in the water.

They saw him almost immediately, right where Andy had said he would be, in a small inlet cove on the sound, ringed with trees on the far side of town where the beach was too rocky for sunbathers and the only visitors were the finches and seagulls that made the rocks their landing strip. Scully’s flashlight caught him as he surfaced, his brown hair and dark eyes the only things visible above the surface of the sea.

“Oh my God, Mulder,” Scully whispered as he disappeared under the waves again.

“Turn off the flashlight. It might scare him.”

Scully flipped it off, leaving only the light of the thin moon to illuminate the coast. Mulder looked around the inlet, bordered on its U shaped sides by short piers to which small boats were tied. The water was gentle here, protected from the open sea by the long island out in front of them. He caught Scully’s attention without speaking and motioned for her to walk on one side of the inlet while he slowly perused the other. She slipped out of her heels and walked away from him.

After a few minutes, Mulder’s eyes adjusted to the dark and he kept his gaze focused on the surface of the water. He could hear Scully very faintly in the distance. He couldn’t make out what she was saying, so he turned to her and realized that she wasn’t talking to him at all. Instead of walking, she had taken a seat on a long flat rock and was murmuring something to the child in front of her.

Jonah stood half in the water and half out, as if weighing his options. He must have found something encouraging about Scully, because he tilted his head and walked carefully up on the beach, putting his feet down slowly, ready to bolt at any second. Mulder shook his head in wonder. Give Scully five minutes and she could charm any man right out of his socks…or sea, for that matter. He watched as she smiled at the boy. Her face lit up like a Christmas tree and the child moved to sit next to her on the rock, grinning up at her. The camera in his head took an instant picture of the pair as Mulder hurried over to her side, anxious to get a closer look at their tiny X-File.

“Well, look what you found,” he said, walking toward the rock. He froze when Jonah jumped up, whirling to look at him. Without a sound, the child dove back into the water and completely disappeared.

Scully didn’t even turn her head. Her voice was low and affectionate, but her words spoke a different story.

“Brilliant move, Einstein. Which one of us is the psychologist again?”

Mulder mirrored her easy tone. “I keep forgetting about that degree, actually. Sorry about that. He didn’t look scared of you so I figured we were safe.”

Even in profile, Mulder could make out the subtle furrow of her forehead as she put on her thinking face. After seven years together, he wondered if there was any Scully emotion he could not discern simply by watching her. Because she so rarely said what was on her mind, he had long since learned to forecast her body language the way some people could discern the weather. The slightest change in her face and he could detect a changing front. When she finally pursed her lips, he knew she had come to some conclusion. Sure enough, after a moment she spoke.

“I don’t think he likes men, Mulder. The governor’s wife caught his attention, remember, but he bit the governor. He came to me easily, but he ran when he saw you.”

“Is this where you give me a ‘snips and snails and puppy-dog’s tails’ speech?”

“It might be, if you don’t straighten up,” she said cheerily, patting the rock next to her to indicate where he should sit. “Now, come over here very slowly and sit down. And keep your mouth shut this time.”

“Yes ma’am,” he murmured.

The sand squeaked under the soles of his shoes as he walked toward her. He lowered himself and was surprised when she laid her arm on his leg and moved in closer to him. The wind brushed her hair up against his face and for the second time that day he lost his train of thought. Thankfully, Scully seemed to be in charge.

“Now, since he likes me, we have to make him think that I like you,” she said in a conspiratory whisper.

“What do you mean ‘make him think?’”

Scully chuckled but kept her eyes on the sea. “Okay then, ‘show him’ that I like you.”

Mulder’s voice was getting lower by the second. “I think that sort of thing is frowned on in the presence of children, Scully.”

She was so close she barely had to move to press an elbow into his ribs.

“And what is the ultimate gift of affection, Mulder?” she teased, leaning her head in close enough that he could feel her hair brush his neck. Mulder glanced up at a bright star and made a fervent wish that they could try to solve cases like this every night. He wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her in closer, noticing how soft she felt pressed up next to him. Whatever witty answer he had to her question died on his lips though when her small hand caressed the front of his suit jacket, moving lower. Mulder swallowed forcibly and looked down at her upturned face.

“That’s exactly right,” she said, finding her target with a wicked smile. “Chocolate.”

“I hope you know, this means war,” Mulder said sweetly, as she took the bag of goodies out of his pocket. He could feel her gentle laugh even though she stayed silent. She leaned away from him a little in order to go through the bag. Mulder followed her, not anxious to let her get away.

“Snack cake or pudding?” she asked, holding each up in front of him.

Mulder had a sudden vision of Scully eating the pudding with her finger and he grinned. While watching her lick her finger would make his night, it wasn’t the sort of situation he would want to bring a minor into. He shook his head.

“Snack cake.”

“All right,” she said, innocently.

She broke the cake in half and handed part to him, putting her own in her mouth. After a second, her gaze darted out to the water and he followed her line of sight. Sure enough, large eyes peered back at them curiously. Scully opened the other cellophane wrapper and extended her arm, offering the food to the boy.

“Do you want one?”

Her voice was still low and kind, and Mulder knew that if she offered something to him in that tone he would be a goner. Scully didn’t use seduction to get what she wanted, though it was plain to see that it worked for her, as Jonah started slowly up out of the water. In the moonlight, Mulder could make out the boy’s ribs. He was small, and as brown as a bear cub. When Scully smiled at him he glanced at Mulder suspiciously and then smiled back. His two front teeth were missing. Cautiously, he pulled himself up onto the rock, sitting a few feet away from them. He reached out and took the cake, which he bit into with relish. A small sound of bliss escaped him and he finished with two bites.

“Guess he’s never heard the rule about taking candy from strangers,” Mulder whispered.

When he spoke, the boy looked at him mistrustfully.

“Now, Mulder, give him your half.”

It took Jonah twice as long to accept the treat from him as from Scully, but he couldn’t seem to resist. By the time Mulder offered him the last cake he’d found himself a friend for life. Jonah moved over to sit between them, deftly pushing his way between their bodies and grinning up at them. Scully reached out to feel his forehead and he adored that, moving against her palm like an eager puppy looking for love. He didn’t talk, but hummed with pleasure while he ate the sugar and laughed whenever they did.

Mulder’s mind twisted around a myriad of possibilities about Jonah’s situation. Where did he come from? Who took care of him? They had very little to go on – only the testimony of an awkward teenager and one silent foundling who appeared to be trying to burrow into his partner’s side for warmth. She hesitated a moment before sliding her arm around the child’s shoulder. Her look of wonder was gone, replaced by the familiar calm of her professional mask, but Mulder felt the shift in the air as the waves of her sadness moved in like the tide. Mulder’s heart, buoyant only seconds before, began to sink like a stone in his chest. With her arm still around Jonah, she turned to stare back out at the water as Mulder contemplated her.

“What are we going to do with him, Mulder? We can’t just leave him here, and I’m certainly not calling Mayor Sharpe, even if he was the one who called us down here.”

Mulder watched as a cool wind caused goosebumps to stand out on the boy’s dark skin.

“Let’s take him back to the hotel. We can figure out what we need to do tomorrow, but right now it’s just getting cold out here.”

“Do you think he’ll come?” She asked, finally turning to look at him.

“Only one way to find out.” Mulder shrugged out of his jacket, which he pulled around the boy’s thin shoulders. The second the warm fabric touched him, the child leaned back into his arms, as if exhausted, but he continued to smile. Mulder wrapped the coat around him nearly twice. It covered him almost to his ankles and the child sighed as his eyes drooped. Gently, Mulder picked him up and held him. For a second, Jonah looked startled, but when Mulder smiled down at him his eyes began to drop once again.

“Guess that answers our questions,” Scully said, her voice thick with emotion.

The boy’s small toes poked out from the jacket and he was already fast asleep, leaning against Mulder’s shoulder. Gently, he picked the boy up, careful not to jostle him awake. Scully stood up next to them and reached out a finger to trace Jonah’s thin ankle. When Mulder glanced down at her she quickly removed her hand and bent to retrieve their snack cake wrappers. He watched her stooped back solemnly for a moment before breaking the silence.

“Let’s get him home, Scully.”

It wasn’t until after they were in the car that he wondered why he’d used the word ‘home.’

… …

The savage snored.

He was going at it like a belt-sander when Mulder laid him down on the chaise lounge. The jacket completely hid him from the tip of his freckled nose to his little feet. With sudden disgust, Mulder thought of Sharpe’s men who were planning to beat the bushes as though they were looking for a wild animal instead of a child small enough to be folded up in a suitcase.

“Go get my green T-shirt out of my bag,” Scully said quietly, sitting on the edge of the chaise and peeling back the coat. Mulder rummaged around in her bag for a minute until he found it, the shirt she wore for running. Jonah didn’t even wake up until after she had his head through the collar. Then he opened his gray eyes and looked startled until Scully smiled gently at him. He sat up and squirmed around while she slid his arms into their sleeves. Her small T-shirt brushed his knees and every time he moved he released a salt-sea smell.

“What do you think, Scully?” Mulder asked, kneeling on the floor next to them.

Scully ran her hands gently over the boy’s head, feeling for fever and brushing back his tangled hair that must have been dark brown, but looked gray from the dried salt. Jonah nuzzled into her hands and grinned. There was a sadness in her eyes when she smiled back at him, and she pulled her hands away and folded them in her lap, but the boy wouldn’t let her go. He burrowed his face against her arm insistently until she gave up and began rubbing his back while she turned to look at Mulder.

“First of all, he’s obviously malnourished. It’s hard to tell how old he is, but I guess between four and six. I think he has a cold too, he’s running a low-grade fever. Personally, I think we need to get him to a hospital and check him out completely as soon as possible. There’s no telling what else could be wrong with him that we can’t see.”

Mulder nodded absently and rubbed his hand wearily over his jaw.

“Okay, first things first. Dinner. I have no intention of sending him off to child services on an empty stomach, and he appears to be very empty. I’ll stay here with him if you want to go to the store for food and cold medicine.”

Scully’s raised eyebrows illustrated her surprise. She probably expected to be the one on childcare duty. Mulder didn’t blame her, that’s usually the way it went, but someone was going to have to show this kid how to jump on the bed, and how to turn on the television and he wanted to be the one to do it.

“You sure you’re going to be okay?”

“Of course I’m going to be okay.”

Jonah looked up at him when he spoke, catching the subtle defensive tone. Scully’s hand stopped moving for a moment and then she brushed a hand through the child’s hair one last time and stood up.

“Well then, I’ll be right back.”

The door clicked behind her, leaving Mulder and Jonah facing the silence together. Jonah moved off the chaise and sat down on the floor right next to Mulder, looking up at him happily.

“Want to see something really cool?” Mulder asked, taking Jonah by the hand and leading him into the bathroom. He lifted the boy up to look in the mirror and laughed at his openmouthed stare. Jonah turned to look at Mulder, then back to the reflection. He did this several times before letting out a low giggle. Mulder grinned. This was definitely going to be fun.

… …

“Your tax dollars at work.”

Scully dumped the contents of her bags on the bed nearest the window.

“Clothes were a good idea, Scully, I wouldn’t have thought of that.”

Mulder picked up a pair of khaki pants and a packet of underwear before speaking. “I just can’t quite figure out how to tell a child without any language that there’s a need for any of it.”

“Speaking of our dangerous savage, where is he?”

Mulder nodded in the direction of the bathroom. “I taught him how to flush. He’s absolutely fascinated.”

“You didn’t happen to teach him what it’s used for by any chance, did you? Because I’ll admit I’m at a bit of a loss with how to proceed on that count.”

“Done.”

“Really? I’ve only been gone an hour and a half, Mulder, what else did you get accomplished?”

As if on cue, the bathroom door flew open, and Jonah ran out, launching himself onto the bed where he began to bounce up and down. He was as naked as a rose and giggling like a maniac.

“Oh my God, Mulder, you bathed him.” She reached out to run her hand over his dark hair. “And cut his hair.” His long mane was gone, and short dark curls waved over his forehead and around his ears.

“Yeah. And, by the way, I think your T-shirt is a lost cause.” He fished it off the floor and held it up. Huge chunks of the fabric were missing, cut jaggedly from the material. Mulder shrugged. “He wanted to see how to use the scissors, so I let him practice on the shirt while I did his hair. I think he must have flushed the pieces down the toilet, because I can’t find them.”

Her look of wonder was a direct boost to his ego.

“Mulder, sometimes you amaze me.”

His spirit faded as she tossed the clothes at him.

“Have at it, Dr Spock, while I fix dinner.”

And with a sly smile she left the room again. Mulder turned to Jonah and sighed.

“Hey, Jonah, ever hear the story about the fig leaves?”

… …

If you came from a world of salt, then sugar would be like a gift from heaven.

Mulder watched in fascination as Jonah ate with all the passion of an explorer in a new world. The food appeared to be almost as welcome to his bruised soul as the touch of Scully’s hands. The ravioli, which he insisted on eating snuggled up on Scully’s lap, slid down easily and he ate two heaping bowls full. The milk he adored, and the pears made him hum with pleasure. But they saved the best for last. Mulder watched the child closely as his partner sat the warm bowl of butterscotch pudding down in front of him. She handed him the spoon, which he used awkwardly, like a baby attempting a new motor skill. With the first bite, tears welled up in his eyes and they both stared when he began to shudder in ecstasy. He quit crying only when a saline tear dropped into his spoon and he found the familiar taste of the sea.

The room was hushed. Jonah finished his bowl and eyed Mulder’s half-eaten portion, putting on his most charming toothless smile

“Don’t give it to him, Mulder, he’ll be sick. He’s not used to eating this much at once.”

It was true, she was right, but Mulder felt like a selfish bastard anyway. He shoveled the rest of his dessert in and swallowed without tasting, just to be finished. Scully had unbuttoned the boy’s chinos, which Mulder had finally cajoled him into, and helped him into a soft pair of fleece pajama bottoms. The long sleeved T-shirt stayed on.

They’d made up the chaise lounge into a little bed, taking the two extra blankets in the wardrobe for covers. Mulder turned out the light and laid down in his own bed, hoping the boy would get the message, but he just sat up in the chaise, looking at the light under the bathroom door, waiting for Scully to come out. He seemed to have a definite thing for Scully’s touch, not that Mulder blamed him. She stepped out in a pair of blue silk pajamas that shone in the moonlight. Snapping off the bathroom light, she made her way to her own bed in the dark.

“Maybe we should call Jonah ‘little Ricky.’” Mulder said, staring up at the frilly canopy over his head. Scully snorted and slid under her blankets. Her pajamas made a sound like moving water.

“This is no time for pillow talk, as much as I feel like we should be watching a Doris Day movie.” She yawned. “So, goodnight, Ricky.”

Mulder smiled at the ceiling.

“G’night Lucy. You got some ‘splainin to do to the Mayor tomorrow.”

Her low chuckle was the last thing he heard before drifting off to sleep.

… … End 2/6

The Dreaming Sea – 3/6

… …

Scully had left the window cracked, and when he woke he lay still for a moment with his eyes closed, listening to the wind moving in the trees and the faint rhythm of the waves on the beach. It was unusual for him to wake up while on assignment. Generally, he slept twice as well when out on the road as he did at home. On his couch, his brain never seemed to stop whirling away long enough for him to get any rest. He always felt like he needed to be doing something, searching for something, and it wasn’t until his head hit the pillow in some bland, homogenous motel room that he allowed himself to shut down completely. Scully once confessed to him that after their first year on the road she had quit trying to place herself when she woke in the middle of the night in a strange bed. Instead of trying to fish the name of the town out of the sleepy recess of her mind, she simply thought “hotel, Mulder’s next door,” and went back to sleep.

He wished he could do the same thing tonight, but it was all too obvious where he was. He didn’t have to stop to think about it. This time, not only was he only a foot away from his partner, who let out an occasional soft noise in her sleep, but he was sharing the room with another person as well.

Mulder realized what must have woken him up. He turned and saw Jonah standing next to Scully’s bed, watching her as she slept. He looked even smaller in the dark room, and the canopy seemed to vault over him like the ceiling of a cathedral. Quietly, the boy knelt next to the bed and rested his elbows on the mattress and his round cheeks on his palms. He kept his gaze trained on Scully’s face.

Sometimes it amazed Mulder how easily Scully could be awakened by someone other than him. She was up like a flash if a stewardess on a plane whispered, or if anyone else touched her, but around him she slept like the dead. On one particularly bumpy flight from Seattle that summer, he had spoken to her for three full minutes, trying to get her to put on her seatbelt. Finally, he’d given up and done it himself, running his hands along under her back to find it, touching her in places he wouldn’t dare if she were awake, and all the while she’d slept soundly, her head lolled against his shoulder. Only a minute after he’d finished buckling her in, he had watched in amazement as she sat bolt upright, completely awake, when the man in the seat on her other side barely brushed the back of her hand with his coat sleeve.

She seemed to be sticking to her pattern. Less than 30 seconds passed before she opened her eyes and saw Jonah staring at her. Mulder watched as the boy began slinking slowly under the covers, moving toward her as though he expected her disapproval. She hesitated a moment before pulling her hand out from under the covers and putting it on his dark head. Without a word, she pulled back the blankets and pulled the little boy in. Mulder heard him sigh in contentment as she spooned him up in front of her and covered them both.

“Now, go to sleep, Jonah.” she said softly.

The boy complied, blinking sleepily from his snuggled position. Scully’s eyes stayed open and the slope of her body looked tensed under the covers. Though he tried, Mulder couldn’t stop the flashback to the only other child he had seen his partner cuddle on a bed with. He felt his own body tense up until she began to relax minutes later, finally falling asleep. The bedside clock read 1:55, but it was some time before Mulder stopped looking at the pair in the dark, and was pulled into the tide of sleep himself.

… …

“Scully, wake up.”

She mumbled something and burrowed deeper into the pillow.

“Now is not the time to demonstrate trust and familiarity, Scully, I need you to help me find Jonah.”

That did it. Her eyes opened wide and she sat straight up in bed, ready to go.

“What do you mean? Where is he? What’s wrong?”

Trust his partner to be able to perform the inquisition with bed-head and pillow prints on her cheeks. Mulder shook his head and pulled the covers back. She felt warm sitting up next to him in the chill of the room. He inched toward her slightly.

“I don’t know.”

“He was just here…,” she said, looking down at the bed as if the sheets would yield him up to her scrutiny.

“Put your shoes on and we’ll go look for him. He can’t have been gone long.”

He left her wandering the bedroom and went in search of his tennis shoes. Quickly, he moved into the bathroom, where he found Jonah – sound asleep in the bathtub.

In one moment, Mulder’s heart dropped completely to his toes, but then one tiny air bubble made its way to the surface of the water that covered the boy’s head. He flipped on the nightlight over the sink and bent down for a closer look. Sure enough, the boy was sleeping under the water. Mulder backed out into the bedroom, stubbing his toe in his hurry to get to Scully.

“Found him,” he whispered excitedly.

“What’s he doing in the bathroom, Mulder, is he okay?”

Mulder could only nod. He finally managed a feeble gesture to follow him. She padded in in her silk pajamas and untied running shoes. Mulder put a finger to his lips and then pointed towards the big tub. She gaped when she saw him and dropped on her knees beside his sleeping figure the same way the boy had done with her earlier. Mulder knelt beside her and they both watched in awe.

Every few minutes, Jonah used his heels and elbows to push his nose above the surface of the water. He breathed in and then sank back under, where his hair waved like seaweed on a pale beach.

“He’s not awake, Mulder.”

“I know. I think it’s just a reflex. You know, dolphins actually need air when they sleep too. They come to the surface and breathe through their blowholes every few minutes. Just like this.”

She moved beside him, sitting down so that her feet rested on the smooth side of the porcelain. Leaning her head back wearily against the sink, she closed her eyes before answering him.

“So, raised by dolphins? Is that what you’re trying to tell me?” He didn’t know how to read her tone of voice, but was relieved to see the corner of her lips twitch up one notch. He lowered himself down beside her.

“Hey, it’s been done before, haven’t you ever read the Jungle Book?” he teased.

She opened her eyes and gazed at him solemnly. Any and all rational thought he was generally capable of had a funny way of stopping when she looked him right in the eye like that. Her stare was as hypnotic to him as a cobra’s.

“Seriously. Is that what you actually think?”

“Seriously? I’m not sure. But think about it. First of all, we’ve got a kid who can sleep under water, who somehow managed to make it to North Carolina from Florida. He’s never worn clothes or eaten a hot meal, as far as we can tell, and he’s clearly desperately in need of affection. I don’t know, can you think of a better explanation?”

Scully looked at him as though even she was hard-pressed to formulate a reasonable response to such a crazy theory. Eventually she answered.

“I can think of fifty better explanations, Mulder. You can’t be serious? I mean, how long has he been living like this? He’s still so young, but at least now, at this age, he’s able to forage for food. What about when he was a toddler or younger? There is no reason to assume that some sea creatures could or would take care of a human child, not to mention the fact that there’s no evidence to support that theory. It’s crazy.”

In their past, Scully’s “it’s crazy” arguments had been vigorous, almost irritated lectures, but over the years, while she remained resolute, the sting had gone out of her speech. These days, she was perfectly capable of telling him he was wrong and only about two steps from raving insanity in the same tone of voice she used to order a pizza or address a toll-booth operator.

“I was joking about the Jungle Book thing, but it’s actually true. It has been seen before. There have been documented cases of children raised by wolves and other animals in various parts of the world. It isn’t without precedent.” It had started out as a joke, but he began to warm to his theory.

“But those were mammals, Mulder.”

“Dolphins are mammals.”

“Land animals. It’s not like some dolphin carried a car seat around on its back for three years until Jonah got big enough to hang on.” Though her tone had grown more indulgent, she still looked at him like he was losing his mind.

He couldn’t hold back a chuckle at the car seat image.

“Besides, it’s too cold for a human to survive out there all year around,” she added.

“But that would explain the Florida aspect, Scully. It wouldn’t be too cold in the gulf.”

She shook her head and glanced back over at Jonah.

“Okay then, give me your rational explanation.”

“I can’t give you a definitive one. I have no idea how long he’s been on his own, but I would guess he was abandoned only in the past year or two. At least that way we could assume he was a child of three or four when he found himself alone.” She paused for a moment and furrowed her brow. “Come to think of it, that’s not going to work as an explanation either. How did he get up here from Florida, Mulder, I mean aside from your ‘Flipper’ theory? No. There has to be somebody helping him out. As for his need for affection and malnutrition, he was probably abused.”

“I like my Kipling version better, Scully.”

She smiled and kicked off her shoes, sliding down until she was almost curled up on the rug. Mulder watched her blue pajamas move around her like the waves slipping over sand. In the gold glow of the nightlight she looked like she could be underwater herself.

“That doesn’t surprise me, Mulder.”

“Have you read Kipling?”

She scrunched up her nose a bit, thinking. Finally she shook her head and yawned.

“I don’t think so. Seen the Disney version of the Jungle Book a thousand times with my nephew, but I don’t think I remember reading anything.”

“You’re missing out, Scully: Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, Twice-Told Tales.”

She slid down further toward the floor, allowing her head to rest lightly against his arm. He never failed to be undone when she touched him. At first, he’d thought he would get used to it, but after seven years she still stripped his emotions bare when she got anywhere close to him.

“Well then, tell me a story,” she mumbled drowsily.

“I don’t think I know any by heart, Scully, and it’s really all about the language. My mom used to sing me a song called the Seal Lullaby when I was really small. I think that was Kipling.”

He paused to remember. Lying in bed sometimes, with his mother sitting on the edge beside him, singing softly and stroking his forehead he’d felt like the most treasured person in the world.

“Those were in the early days, of course,” he said, dryly.

Without opening her eyes, Scully laid her hand on top of his on the floor and his heart turned inside out. She moved her mouth to speak, but her breath was already slow and even, and she was only barely hanging onto wakefulness. After a moment she spoke.

“So, sing it to me.”

He widened his eyes. She had to be kidding.

“Scully, trust me, you don’t want me to sing to you. I can’t sing.”

She didn’t answer, and Mulder wondered if she was asleep. After a moment she smiled, still with her eyes closed, and spoke.

“You owe me, Mulder. I sang to you.”

That was true enough. He remembered it well; Scully, leaning against a felled tree, cradling him on her lap and singing to him in the night forest. It seemed like an eternity ago. He’d been so scared: scared of losing her, scared of moving past whatever line they had drawn in their relationship, and scared that she’d just decide she’d had enough one day and walk out. And now he was sick of being scared. Their line in the sand was slowly washing away, and lately they seemed to be re-discovering a certain satisfaction in their partnership that was sorely lacking at times. Besides, she was right. He did owe her.

Clearing his throat softly, Mulder tried to remember the words to the song that had comforted him so long ago. After a minute they came back to him and he leaned his head back and decided he owed it to her. It wasn’t like she was expecting Pavarotti anyway. So he began, so softly it would have been hard to make out the words even from the bathroom door, the lullaby whose melody rocked like the waves.

“Oh hush thee, my baby,

the night is behind us,

and black are the waters

that sparkled so green.

The moon, o’er the combers,

Looks downward to find us

At rest in the hollows

That rustle between.

Where billow meets billow,

Then soft by thy pillow;

Ah, weary wee flipperling,

Curl at thy ease!

The storm shall not wake thee,

Nor shark overtake thee,

Asleep in the arms

of the slow-swinging seas.

He sat still for a few minutes after he’d finished, then gently picked Scully’s head up off his arm, laying it on a folded towel he pulled down from the sink. As usual, she didn’t move when he touched her. Dipping his fingers into the bathwater, he found it slightly cold, so he turned on the warm water and brought the temperature up. Neither one of the sleepers woke at the sound of the faucet. He briefly wondered if those born and raised as children of the sea would ever be startled by water. He spend a few minutes taking in the sight of his sleeping partner before trying to wake her.

“Scully,” he said softly, kneeling over her curled form.

She didn’t respond, of course, and he slid a hand under her back, pulling her up against his chest. That did it. She opened her eyes a little and looked up at him with sleep-shrouded eyes, not bothering to support her own weight, just letting him cradle her fully for a few moments. Now is not the time, he thought, pulling his gaze away from her face and looking toward the boy in the water.

“Third bedtime is the charm, partner,” he managed, pulling them up. She nodded sleepily and took a step with her eyes closed, nearly running into the bathroom door. He reached out to steady her and allowed himself to slip an arm around her waist. She leaned on him as they made their way back toward their beds, letting her head rest sweetly on his shoulder with the same trust that Jonah had shown earlier. Mulder pulled back the covers and she sat down, sliding her legs under the blankets.

He heard her mumble her thanks before curling over on her side and closing her eyes.

“My pleasure,” he said softly, but the night was the only thing that heard him.

… …

There is only one dream:

He feels Her arms holding him close and the blanket is scratchy and tight and as blue as the brilliant sky above them. With a sudden jolt, and a terrified cry from Her lips, that blue sky rushes up to meet him and for one breath there is pure joy – as he moves up, up, higher and higher into the heaven and toward the lights.

Then suddenly, it all changes. Something pushes him down, pulls him back, away from Her and the winking lights overhead. It sucks him and pulls the blanket loose and he reacts, throwing his arms out to catch himself, but there is nothing but air to hold and the sound of Her screaming, and he can’t grab anything so he closes his eyes and hits.

Blue.

It is familiar. Warm water swallows him as easily as a toy bank swallows a penny, and he opens his mouth to cry relief, but this world is different – this one is salty and it burns when he breathes. But there is no choice — it is home now.

He hears the beating of it, and the warmth soothes him as he is bourne down into the all of water. Rocking in the arms of the sea.

… …

On Saturday morning, everyone in Beaufort woke up craving sugar. Up and down every block, mothers jolted out of a deep sleep at the break of dawn and decided to make waffles for breakfast. Children were summoned from their dreams by the glorious smell of syrup and, for the first time in ages, the briny tang of the sea wasn’t overpowering. By noon, people had broken into their stashes of Halloween candy, and tired fathers were badgered into driving to Morehead City in the evening to restock. Miranda Murphy, who owned the Toddle-By-The-Sea Daycare, found the children’s coat pockets stuffed with Gummi-Bears all day, no matter how many times she emptied them. Her two assistants, both teenage girls who weighed next to nothing and constantly worried about any additional ounce, blew-off their diets and spent their coffee break sitting on the radiator sipping chocolate milk from a paper carton and eating pink frosted animal cookies.

At city hall, Mayor Sharpe, disgusted at the negative report from his savage-hunting posse, ate half-a-dozen cream filled doughnuts for breakfast and felt his belt get a little tighter. This put him in such a bad mood he rescheduled the meeting set to determine how many new crossing guards were needed near the elementary school, and sent everyone away. The group of mothers thus dispersed on the front steps of city hall and went home to find their husbands home for lunch, with ideas involving a lot of love and even more whipped cream. Each mother took one look at her husband holding a can of Redi-Whip and willingly followed him upstairs, past carpets that needed vacuuming and the sinks full of sticky dishes.

… …

When Andy awoke to the smell of chocolate chip muffins he knew something was very, very wrong. His mother was a health nut. She thought that if your teeth didn’t crack when you chewed it, it probably wasn’t worth eating. In his fourteen years, Andy had single-handedly eaten more granola, whole grain bread and lean protein than any kid on the East Coast, and he still managed to carry around an extra 15 pounds that just wouldn’t go away. He knew if his mother was resorting to baking the type of breakfast he liked she’d probably given up hope of them finding Jonah and anything good coming of the whole situation.

Andy swung his legs over the side of his bed and padded down the hall toward the kitchen, where his mother was nibbling on a muffin. She smiled brightly at him and got up to pour him a glass of juice. He felt oddly comforted by the sight of the “organic, no sweetener added” label.

“So?” he asked.

“So what, sweetie?” his mother replied. Her nervous fingers fluttered over her muffin, pulling it into tiny pieces that she didn’t put in her mouth. Andy shook his head and wondered why his mother even bothered trying to pull things over on him. She was the world’s worst at keeping her feelings hidden.

“So, did anyone call? Did they find Jonah? What did they do with him? Where is he now?” The questions poured from him and he pushed his breakfast away, feeling the same nervous churn in his stomach that had kept him awake half the night.

“Nobody’s called. I haven’t heard a thing.”

“So can’t we call somebody? Officer Macmillan or someone?”

As if on cue, the phone rang harshly. His mother reached the phone before the second ring. Andy listened to her breathless hello, then watched as her face fell. She nodded as though the talker could see her.

“Well thanks, Joe. I appreciate you taking the time to call. Yeah, yeah, thanks again.”

He knew it wasn’t good news. Watching his mother tying to skirt his gaze by cleaning up the dishes reminded Andy of the day she told him about the divorce. That day she’d seemed so whipped and mournful, but Andy had been more relieved than anything. He’d known his father was fooling around for the whole summer. It had made him different, the knowing. It had made him quieter. And that made his mother sad also.

“What did he say?”

She turned from the sink and threw the dishcloth lightly on the counter before answering him.

“They didn’t find him. The mayor had his men out all morning and no sign of him. But a few hours ago Joe discovered that the Maritime Museum was broken into. Someone got inside and smashed a few exhibits and a couple of the aquariums and basically trashed the place.”

Andy closed his eyes and pounded his fist on the table. He felt a lump at the back of his throat when he thought about them blaming Jonah.

“It wasn’t him, Mom, I’m telling you. He’s just a little kid. It is totally stupid to even think he’d do something like that.”

His mother walked to the table and sat down in a chair across from him, taking his clenched fist in her hands. She waited until he looked up at her to speak.

“Are you absolutely sure?”

Andy felt a frustrated anger building up in his chest.

“Of COURSE I’m sure! What do you mean…” but his mother interrupted him.

“No, listen to me, Andy. I’m just asking you a question. You know this boy,” she said, rubbing his hand between hers soothingly. “Nobody else knows him. If you honestly don’t think it’s him then I’ll agree with you. Just think about it for a minute. We don’t know how he got here, and we don’t know where he is now. But you tell me what you think.”

Andy closed his eyes and released a deep breath, letting his mind wander back to his interactions with Jonah. Nobody had ever looked up to Andy like that before.

Andy opened his eyes and met his mother’s gaze.

“It wasn’t him. I know that for sure.”

… …End 3/6

The Dreaming Sea 4/6

… …

The sound of Mulder’s coat pocket ringing startled Jonah so much he rocketed backward, tumbling into a small pile on the floor. Amused, Mulder picked him up and let him listen in on the conversation. Though after a minute spent listening to Mayor Sharpe rant over the destruction of the museum, Mulder seriously hoped Jonah wasn’t capable of understanding much of what the man said.

However, though the boy didn’t seem to have much understanding, yet, he had an astounding capacity for learning. By 8 a.m. they’d discovered he definitely understood ‘eat,’ drooling like Pavlov’s dog when Scully said the word. He launched himself onto the bed and began to bounce when Mulder mentioned the word ‘jump’. From what they could tell, Jonah was also becoming well versed with yes, no, food, play, good job, his own name and theirs as well. Scully taught him that over breakfast. She withheld his pancakes until she’d gotten him to nod for yes and shake his head for no, then she quizzed him on their names.

“Scully,” she said, testing him by pressing her index finger in Jonah’s small chest. The boy giggled and shook his head, then used his own finger to point squarely on Scully’s left breast, giving it two pokes as though surprised at the soft resistance she offered. Mulder snorted and swallowed a laugh.

“Well, guess we know whether he’s going to be a breast or leg man.”

“Shut up, Mulder.”

At the mention of Mulder, the boy whipped his arm across the table, almost upsetting the jar of syrup, and pointed his finger in the center of Mulder’s tie.

“Good job!” Scully said enthusiastically, setting his plate of pancakes down in front of him. She slathered his breakfast in thick maple syrup and he took a bite, whimpering in pleasure as he chewed.

Mulder surveyed their small picnic breakfast. Scully had gone down to the dining room and persuaded the inn owner to let her bring the food up to the room. Now, they all sat cross-legged on the pink rug and ate from thick white plates. Jonah didn’t touch the bacon or eggs Scully dutifully spooned onto his plate, but he adored the pancakes and looked up at her as if seeing an angelic vision when she smeared grape jelly on his toast.

It surprised Mulder to note that Scully was not encouraging the child to eat the healthy things. “Dr. Scully” had not yet made more than a cursory appearance. In actual fact, she seemed to be determined not to focus on Jonah. All of her movements toward him involved hesitation. She looked out the window as they ate, and kept her eyes on Mulder’s face as she refilled the boy’s plastic cup of orange juice. Though her eyes were watching him, Mulder couldn’t help noticing that she was the first to see when Jonah ran out of food. He doubted if she would even see it if he made a face at her – so focused was her peripheral vision on their small charge.

Sure enough, before Jonah had set his empty milk glass on the carpet, Scully had reached for it and stood up, moving toward the carton on the bedside table for a refill. Jonah glanced at her retreating form, threw Mulder a smile and began to lick the last traces of syrup off of his plate. The impish look on the child’s face along with the sound of Scully’s soft footfalls on the carpet made Mulder’s throat start to hurt. He swallowed his bite of toast. It felt like broken glass.

Aside from the methodical joy he got from sunflower seeds, Mulder wasn’t that enamored with food in general. He’d once written a paper in college on the social aspects of eating. His professor had urged them to consider the root of their love for their favorite food. Had their grandmother fixed a wicked banana cream pie, or did they associate their favorites with a particular incident? That had been the first time he ever considered an explanation beyond simple genetics for his sunflower seed habit. Certainly, he hadn’t had much else to go on, generally seeing mealtime as another example of how uncomfortable family life could be.

In the awful years after Samantha disappeared, when his mother refused to change out of her bedroom slippers and his father only came home to change clothes, Mulder took over the family cooking. On New Year’s Day in 1974, when he finally managed to walk through the living room for the first time in months without wanting to throw up, he made dinner. He stuck to easy things at first: soup from a cheerful red can, t.v. dinners, macaroni and cheese from a box, but soon he started to experiment. His widowed next-door-neighbor traded recipes with him over the back fence. She told him her secrets: always add a little oil to your canned green beans, never use anything but Crisco in pie crusts, and he improved. At an age when most boys could burn boiling water, Fox Mulder was an epicure. He made a honey pecan bread that would bring tears to your eyes and he rode his bike six miles to a store in Gay Head to buy mint sauce for his leg of lamb. Every meal was more elaborate than the last. He attempted meals solely to garner attention. Still, no one ever said a word.

When he achieved his first souffle he felt certain his mother would congratulate him, but she just shoveled in a forkful and kept her eyes on the television. Every new meal, each more mouth-watering than the last, was met with the same oblivious silence. Finally, he gave up. His father ate with a tongue already deadened by alcohol and his mother was just as happy with a can of tomato soup. On the night before he left for Oxford, in what he knew would be the final meal he ever ate with both of his parents in the same house, he made pork chops. It was during that dinner that his parents finally broke their vow of silence toward one another and launched into a fight so acrimonious that Mulder would never again cut into pork without thinking about bitterness and destruction.

Over the years, Scully had worked her usual magic and helped repair some small broken part inside of him, to say nothing of his eating habits. In the early years of their partnership he would shovel in tasteless food so quickly that she would actually stop eating to stare at him. Eventually, he learned how to savor conversation over meals again. From one meal to the next, they made themselves into a family of sorts. They occasionally argued over dinner, but it was never mean spirited. He knew that while in the middle of explaining to him how completely irrational his theory was, she was likely to pause and tell him he had to try the cobbler, or steal one of his french fries. And at this moment, sitting on the floor with his partner and a child he could feel himself becoming attached to, Mulder felt some coiled part of him loosen and heal.

“When we’re done with breakfast, we need to check out the museum, Mulder.”

Mulder glanced at his watch: 9:20. They’d had Jonah for nearly 14 hours now. It felt like years.

“What about you-know-who here? What do we do with him?”

Scully stopped mid-pour and looked down to meet his gaze.

“What do you mean? I assume we turn him over to child services. Isn’t that the whole point? We were only sent down here to find him.”

Mulder knew that was the point, but he didn’t want to face that just yet. All night long he’d dreamed of the boy. Small, random dreams that didn’t have a plot but felt warm and homey: teaching him to throw a curveball, to ride a bike, to drive a car. And the final dream, the one he’d been having when Scully woke him with a shake, of watching Jonah frolic in the surf and sand while he walked down the beach, his arm wrapped around Scully’s waist, was the least likely of them all.

It was all so pathetically obvious that the psychologist in Mulder laughed. If he was going to have issues, damnit, then at least they could be original. But not this one, not this time.

Even in his mind – in the deep recesses where he fed on guilt and culpability – Mulder was careful to avoid certain issues. Any room marked by Scully’s infertility stood locked from him by his own key. He paced the space between his sorrow and the belief that he did not have the right to grieve. She had made it clear that she did not want help in dealing with Emily. It was her tragedy, and in his care to keep from appropriating her grief, he simply shut his own despair away. What he knew of his own feelings on the subject was vague, having less to do with the actual person of Emily than the possibility of never being part of the life of a child – of her child – their child.

Why he was getting so attached to the idea of this boy was another matter. Maybe he liked the fact that, for once, the unexplainable phenomenon was wrapped up in a big-eyed, curly- haired little package.

“Mulder? Did you hear me?”

He nodded and stood up, grabbing his coat off the bed.

“Yeah. Will you call Child Services though? I don’t feel like it.”

He stopped fidgeting when Scully turned to stare at him and he immediately felt the familiar cloak of guilt. Talk about selfishness, he chided himself. Scully didn’t need to be calling Child Services, he should be taking that responsibility. Looking up, he prepared to see the familiar pain shining in her eyes, but instead, she was giving him a level look, with only empathy in her gaze.

“That’s okay, Scully, never mind, I’ll call them.”

She continued looking up at him with such complete understanding that his heart clenched, but he felt incapable of turning away or saying another word. So he stood there, clutching his coat and waiting for her to speak. When she did, her voice was soft but firm, and her gaze never faltered.

“Now that I think about it, there’s really no point in getting Child Services into this until we’ve cleared up the museum ordeal. I gather they want to blame Jonah for that, and we know that’s impossible, but Mayor Sharpe doesn’t seem to be terribly interested in details. We should probably get that settled before we go any further. And I’ll call Child Services later.”

She emphasized her “I’ll” with a slight nod of her head, and then offered him a tiny smile. Relief coursed through him. Watching Scully hide in her pain was harder on him that handling his own at times. His own he had grown accustomed to, but the landscape of her pain was foreign, the sands shifted, and he lost sight of her at times.

“So what do you think we should do with him?” he asked.

Scully turned to look at their small charge, who was using his finger to wash the sides of the jam jar clean and bobbing his head back and forth as if dancing to his own private, happy band. Scully narrowed her eyes thoughtfully.

“I think I know someone who’ll be very glad to see him.”

… …

His mother cried when they brought Jonah into the house.

“He’s just a baby!” she said, getting down on her knees and wrapping her arms around the boy. Instead of being taken aback by such familiarity, Jonah seemed delighted. He nuzzled his face into her shoulder and hummed happily when she caressed his cheek. He seemed even more thrilled to see Andy, popping out of Megan’s arms like a cork and throwing himself on his friend. Andy looked up at everyone in the room as they stood there, grinning like idiots, himself included.

“We found him last night, just where you said he’d be,” Mulder said, smiling at Andy.

“If you don’t mind, Ms. Holt, we’d like you to keep Jonah here today while Agent Mulder and I check out the Maritime Museum.”

His mother pulled her head out of the cabinet she was already rummaging around in and nodded enthusiastically.

“Oh, sure, my pleasure. I have the day off, and Andy and I can keep an eye on him, can’t we, Andy?”

Andy nodded dumbly, too amazed at the sight of his mother making Jonah a snack to bother with a verbal answer. She cut two thick slices of lemon poundcake, smothered them in honey and warmed the whole thing up in the microwave, licking her fingers when she set it down in front of him. He was so dumbfounded, in fact, it took him a few minutes to realize the FBI Agents were gone and that his mother was watching Jonah eat his sugar with a look of pure bliss. When he finished, she scooped him out a mountainous bowl of Butter Pecan ice cream. It was plain to see Jonah had won her over already. It was also plain that his mother had been hiding the junk food. When she sat down at the table with the ice cream, the boy moved over to sit on her lap, swinging his legs happily under the table as he ate.

That was how Joe Macmillan found them when he entered the kitchen. He’d seen the open screen door and just walked in, catching them all off guard, including Jonah, who stiffened up like a statue when Joe’s heavy boots clomped on the kitchen floor.

“Holy moly…” Joe looked from Megan to Jonah in wonder and Andy could see why. If it weren’t for his webbed hands, Jonah would look like any other kid right now, and Andy could almost see the little wheels in Joe’s head turning as he tried to put the pieces together.

“Now wait a second, Joe Macmillan, before you say one word,” Megan said, holding her hand up defiantly. “I would like to introduce you to Jonah. If you scare him, I’ll have your head, are we clear?” Andy gawked at his mother. She didn’t have the nerve to say things like that.

Andy wasn’t the only one surprised. Joe’s chin dropped and he looked around the kitchen for a moment, as though wondering if he’d somehow walked into the wrong house. With a nod to Megan, he walked carefully over to the table, laying his feet down lightly, waiting to see Jonah relax. Finally, he eased himself into a chair and smiled shyly at the boy. Andy was relieved to see Jonah smile back, his spine melting back to meet Megan, who hugged him and threw Joe a smile.

“Hi Jonah, I’m Joe.”

The curls on his head bounced a little when Jonah tilted his head, considering him. Andy got up and poured Joe a cup of coffee. When he set it down, he put his hand on the officer’s shoulder and smiled at the boy. Jonah’s face lit up as Andy gave Joe his seal of approval, and went back to his ice cream.

“So, Megan,” Joe began, keeping his tone light, “do you want to tell me what’s going on here, or am I going to have to guess?”

“Agents Scully and Mulder found him, Officer Macmillan,” Andy answered. The last thing he needed was the police thinking his mother had done something wrong. “They brought him over a while ago and we’re watching him until they figure out who broke into the museum.”

Joe nodded, eyeing Jonah curiously.

“He sure is adorable,” Joe said. “He even looks a little like you, Meg.” His words caused Megan to look up in surprise. Their gazes held for a minute and Andy shifted uncomfortably in his seat until Megan cleared her throat and looked down at the table.

“I think I’m gonna take Jonah out to the backyard for a while,” Andy said, taking the boy by the hand and leading him toward the door. He stopped with his hand on the door and turned around.

“You’re not going to tell anyone about him, are you, Joe? The Child Services, or Mayor Sharpe?”

“Ted Sharpe?” Joe said in surprise. “What, are you kidding?”

Andy was satisfied. He led Jonah down the brick path in their yard, which was shaded from the street by sugar maple trees that had turned blood red. In the summer, the leaves grew so thick the yard was covered by a green canopy that kept it cool even in the noonday sun. Jonah discovered the hammock that swung between two trees, and Andy spent a few minutes swinging him in it while the boy laughed like crazy. It sounded good to hear him laugh. Andy didn’t hear enough of that. He tended not to be a laugher, and he rarely had friends over, and none at all since he’d moved to North Carolina. The kids at school here generally thought he was too quiet, and even the ones who had made a friendly overture stopped when Cody Sharpe started making fun of him. Nobody wanted to be anywhere near someone Cody was picking on. That was the surest way to invite trouble.

Jonah wandered over to the side of the house, where Andy’s bike was standing. He’d seen Andy ride it, and tried to climb on. His feet dangled over the pedals and he scooted a little on the seat, trying to make it go. Andy grinned and pulled the boy off, throwing a leg over the seat and flipping up the kickstand in one practiced motion. Then, he helped Jonah onto the handlebars and they rode around the backyard and out onto the alley.

Andy told himself he was only going to ride the alley for a second, but Jonah’s gleeful high-pitched laughter made him feel powerful and he pumped the pedals faster until they were almost at the end of the block.

By the time he saw them it was already too late.

Before he could get the bike turned around, Cody and his two friends had caught up to them, and were dragging Jonah off the front. On television, at times like this, Andy knew things always went into slow motion, but that’s not what it was like. Everything seemed to be happening too fast. Cody was dragging Jonah by the shirt collar, and all Andy could hear was the words ‘police,’ and ‘juvenile hall’. There was a split second when he knew what he was going to do before he took action, and he debated the intelligence of it for less than one second before pumping his tires in earnest and catching up to where the mayor’s son was dragging Jonah down the alley. He heard Cody’s cry of pain when he rammed the bike into the back of his legs. In surprise, the older boy let Jonah go, and Andy caught him up by his shirt collar and cradled him to his side.

Both boys rode home crying.

… …

Everything is quiet.

There is a vague murmur of faceless creatures, and the pulse of the tide like Her heartbeat, and he is a little scared.

Sinking softly, he feels the touch like a kiss on his cheek when it nudges him. Several warm touches make him squirm in pleasure, and then he is traveling up, toward the lights in heaven that wave and shimmer overhead. They hold him up as he coughs out water, breathing again. Over the lapping wavelets and the gusty blowing noises from his saviors, he can hear Her screaming, still, and His hard, loud voice. He stays quiet.

That is what always works best – keeping quiet until someone comes to take him away.

Now he is scraped on the ground and the voices surrounding him are harsh, like the sounds He made. There is fear in him like there used to be all the time, as far back as he goes, even from the time when he should have been safe and warm, floating inside. It hurts. There is one just like Him, who walks heavy and gives mean pinches.

But wait…he feels the touch again, the warm one. It nudges his back when his heels touch the ground and he is lifted up, riding toward the light, tasting the salt water of home on his tongue.

… …

Blackbeard the Pirate was the bane of every Beaufort fifth grader’s life.

In June, 1718, Blackbeard ran his ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, into the inlet where she sank like a stone to the bottom. While a lot of kids thought this was cool, they weren’t at all thrilled with having to do a ten-page report on the pirate and the modern recovery efforts. When Mrs. Henry’s fifth graders found out on Saturday afternoon that the museum housing so many of the precious artifacts had been vandalized, they vacillated between complete euphoria and a nervous worry in case their teacher would make them do book research. Most of them spent the afternoon on the phone, chomping away on mini-candy bars and wondering why their fathers had come home in the middle of the afternoon, and come to think of it, where is mom? Still, they all agreed that this was a lucky break, and things would be great as long as those Trask twins hadn’t already gotten their research done, the goody goodies. Ten of the kids met on the corner downtown to watch the police work going on in the museum, having been kicked out of the house by their fathers, who insisted they needed to be out in the fall sunshine and giving their parents some privacy. They started out talking about their reports, and boy wouldn’t old Henry hate this development, but they ended up gabbing about their Halloween costumes.

Six of the 10 were going to be pirates.

… …

It took them less than an hour to survey the damage at the museum. Broken glass littered the floor, and they carefully picked their way from one end to the other, avoiding the piles of rotting fish that lay with their glassy eyes focused on the ceiling. A few police officers stood near the doorway watching their progress, occasionally shuffling outside to light cigarettes and escape the stench. Mulder’s own sense of smell was taking a beating as well, and he motioned Scully over toward a small open window that brought in a fresh breeze.

“What do you think?” he asked.

“I think I wonder what we’re doing here. This clearly isn’t as dire as the Mayor made it sound, not that that’s a surprise. This is certainly vandalism, and there’s a lot of damage to the displays and two or three tanks, but it doesn’t look like a theft, and other than that, I don’t see anything that would make me suspect a rampaging killer.”

Mulder glanced down at a stunned looking baby shark.

“I think he’d disagree with you.”

Scully followed his line of sight and grimaced.

“It is sad, really. Some of the findings from the recovered ship are completely destroyed, from what I understand.”

Making their way back across the floor and out into the afternoon sunshine, Mulder noticed a small crowd had gathered. Mayor Sharpe stood in front of a group of citizens, pontificating on the wonders of modern forensic techniques and assuring everyone that the guilty party would be found and duly punished. When he caught sight of the agents, he bid the crowd goodbye and walked over to them.

“Well now, what do you say we’ve got in there?” he asked, rolling up on the balls of his toes, as if delighted with the prospect of real crime in his small town.

Scully threw out an answer that made Mulder proud.

“A lot of broken glass and a few dead fish.”

The mayor stiffened and turned to glare at Scully. Mulder swallowed a smile and looked out over the front sidewalk where four officers stood cramming jam tarts in their mouths.

“I have a feeling you all aren’t taking this too seriously, little lady,” the Mayor said. “And I know this isn’t usually your business, but the governor called your boss and he sent you down here for a reason, so I think we need to concentrate on finding this savage and making sure he gets put somewhere he can’t hurt anybody.”

Mulder felt disgust welling inside him once again, as he had the night before when he watched Scully unwrap the boy from his coat. He glanced down at his partner and saw her own well- concealed irritation. Her fuse had probably been lit by the “little lady.”

“Can you tell me what evidence you’re basing your assumption on?” Scully asked. She crossed her arms in front of her chest and mirrored the mayor’s menacing pose. Although Sharpe dwarfed her by at least a foot, Mulder would have been willing to bet that she would come out on top in any showdown.

“I sure as hell can, Miss. For one thing, nothing like this has ever happened before that kid showed up. Now, I’m not saying he’s in it alone, but he’s definitely partly responsible.”

Before they could answer, the mayor’s phone rang and he fished it out of his pocket. His “What do you mean you saw him?” made Mulder glance uncomfortably at Scully. The mayor flipped his phone closed and turned on his heel, heading toward his shiny BMW parked on the edge of the museum lawn. Mulder immediately pulled out his own phone and dialed the Holts number. Megan’s rusty voice made his heart sink.

“Agent Mulder, you’ve got to come quick. Andy’s taken Jonah back out to the beach and sent him away. He’s gone again.”

… … End 4/6

The Dreaming Sea – 5/6

… …

They walked the waterfront in silence for over an hour, keeping their gazes and flashlights trained on the boiling black waves, hoping to catch a glimpse of a small head in the surf, but the water yielded up no sign. They’d started at the inlet where they found him the first time, calling his name softly from the rocks. Eventually, they made their way across the strip of sand that ran parallel to Front Street and around to the residential area, where wooden docks ran out into the calmer water. Still, no Jonah.

Andy had been particularly unhelpful when they’d arrived at the house, telling them only that Cody Sharpe’s gang had tried to attack Jonah, and that he’d decided to send the boy back out to sea. Mulder imagined it must have been an excruciating decision for Andy, who wouldn’t look any of them, including his mother, in the eye. The only time he lifted his head was when Mayor Sharpe tried to defend his son’s actions, saying he was trying to apprehend a boy wanted for criminal behavior. Then, Andy’s head snapped up like a rubber band and he’d told them about Cody pushing Jonah down and dragging him along the alley like he was no better than a rag doll while Jonah cried out in pain and confusion.

Mulder had felt the abuse like it was his own. All evening his tongue felt oil-scummed and gritty, like he’d licked the pavement himself.

Now, standing on the sand with the lights of the Holt household burning just down the street, he wondered if it wasn’t better this way. He felt a curious sense of relief at not having to hand the boy over to Child Services. It had felt wrong all along. He’d tried to picture the best case scenario: that Jonah would be adopted by a family that loved him and didn’t care about his webbed hands and lack of language, but in the back of his mind he pictured the more likely story – that Jonah would spend the next twelve years of his life being shuffled from one foster home to another, feeling like an outsider and far away from his only friend.

The waves lapped at the shore and Mulder looked up into the moonless autumn night, convincing himself that Jonah was somewhere familiar. He felt a hand on his arm and his conviction fell away as he remembered how desperately needy the boy was emotionally, how hungry for a touch or a kind word, or a smile. Mulder dropped his chin and studied the water again, while Scully moved quietly to stand beside him.

She didn’t speak, and for that he was grateful. He knew it was ridiculous, that this was just a case and that getting emotionally involved with children tended to be his partner’s territory, but he couldn’t help himself. This time the child was an X-File, albeit all wrapped up in a winsome smile and puppy-dog affection. He wasn’t impartial and he didn’t want to be. Jonah was someone who needed protecting, and with the exception of Megan and Andy, nobody else was going to do it for him.

Scully turned and walked a few feet to a set of wooden steps that led up to the sidewalk. She brushed some sand from the third step and sat down, looking at him, waiting for him to follow.

“Well, guess that’s that,” he said as he sat down, attempting to put some levity in his voice. He knew he wasn’t fooling her, but she didn’t call him on it. “Maybe this is the way it’s supposed to be,” he said evenly, hoping to phrase his remark in the vaguest way possible. “Maybe he’s just not supposed to have a family.”

Scully had been glancing up and down the beach, sweeping her flashlight beam over the sand and scaring crabs. When he spoke, her light stopped and remained steady for a few moments before she punched it off and plunged them into darkness.

“Maybe,” she said softly, “maybe not.”

Mulder shifted so that his back was against the railing, in order to watch her profile in the half-light of the stars. He could only tell what she meant if he watched her.

“But just because he’s unusual, Mulder, doesn’t mean he can’t have…” she left off, shaking her head.

“A normal life? Isn’t that exactly what it means?” he asked. “He’s not average, you know? He’s different. Maybe it’s not even possible for him to be like the others.”

Finally she turned to look at him. In the dark, her eyes looked black and deep, as deep as the ocean. “But that’s just it, Mulder. Why does he have to be like everybody else? Being different just…makes him special to the people who care about him.”

With a sigh he leaned his head back and shut his eyes. “Yeah, well. Maybe he’d hate it anyway. Maybe he’d be miserable having an ordinary life.”

Her soft hand on his cheek made him open his eyes. She tilted his head down to look at her. Suddenly, it felt very hard to swallow and he blinked and looked away. Her hand dropped.

“Would he?” she asked. He could feel her gaze on his face. “Would he really hate it?”

Mulder closed his eyes and let his chin fall toward his chest. There was a tidepool of seawater inside him, and a wave of it threatened to breach the shore. When he spoke, his voice was as gritty as the sand.

“No,” he said, shaking his head, “no, he’d love it.”

Scully reached out and laid her hand over his own, threading her fingers between his.

“You can look at it this way,” she said, pausing as if to find the right words. “We can get attached to children who aren’t ours…” she stopped and stiffened, as though afraid she’d gone too far in drawing back the curtain on their veiled conversation. She shook her head and started again. “I just…I just think that the Holts are a good example of how attached you can get to someone who isn’t biologically connected to you.”

She slid her fingers out of his, rubbing her palm along the top of his hand absently while she waited for his response. God, he wanted this woman’s touch. She looked startled by his movements, but didn’t resist when he pulled her close and wrapped his arms around her. She let her head rest against his chest, her ear just over his heart. Mulder trailed a hand through her hair, and she shivered exactly as Jonah had. He felt her shudder move through him, all the way down to his toes. After a moment, she moved away a little and looked up at him, her eyes searching his face. Just let me, he said wordlessly, please don’t move away. She hesitated and then looped her arm around his back under his suit jacket and laid her head down, staring out at the sea.

Mulder closed his eyes, reveling in the feel of her soft warmth against him and the slow caress of her thumb on his back. It was a small breach in their code of partnerly conduct, but at the moment, it felt monumental.

They sat that way for long drowsy minutes, he daring to nuzzle the top of her head with his chin and stroking her turned cheek with his warm fingers. The soft burr of the telephone in his pocket made them both jump, but neither moved. Finally, Mulder moved a hand from her face and reached for it.

“Damn technology,” he muttered. He could feel the arch of her smile through his cotton shirt.

He answered, mmhmm-ing and huh-uhing his way through a conversation with Mayor Sharpe, trying not to be too loud, lest Scully have to move her ear from the cacophony reverberating through his chest. She stayed still though, only bringing up her other hand to lay it gently over his ribcage in a manner that almost made him drop the phone. Finally, with a sigh he clicked it off and dropped it back into his pocket, snuggling his partner close for one last second.

She broke the silence.

“I guess this means we’re going to have to move?”

Mulder chuckled and ran a hand through her hair once again.

“Damn bad timing.”

“You’re telling me. What did the mayor want?”

“There’s been another break in. Two historic homes down the street that were boarded up for the off-season have been broken into. The Mayor said the police chief just called him five minutes ago.”

With a sigh, Scully pulled away from him, leaving a warm spot where her head had rested. She stood, holding out a hand to help him up.

“I know I’m getting older, Scully, but I’m not that old,” he teased.

He took her hand and raised himself up, until he stood a few steps below her.

He leaned in, and this time she put her hand on the back of his head. His arm went around her waist easily, and he pressed his face into her neck. A thin, blue vein was beating as frantically as a butterfly’s wings in her neck, and Mulder lightly pressed a kiss to where it met her collarbone. She splayed her hand over his hair, holding him there for an endless second before giving him one last caress and stepping back.

“Time to go, Mulder.”

Mulder grinned, unable to stop the rush of happiness. She turned and began walking up the stairs. He reached her at the top, and put his hand on the small of her back, smiling as they walked off the sandy sidewalk to cross the street.

“Spoilsport.”

… …

Andy sat on the front porch steps, rubbing the frayed hem of his sweatshirt between his fingers and waiting for the FBI to turn up. He’d always thought he wanted to have an exciting life, to finally do something instead of just waiting around for things to happen. Before the divorce, when he’d watched his dad sneak out of the house late at night to meet the school nurse down at the Hide-Away Motel on Route 9, he’d been thinking about being a guidance counselor like his father when he grew up. It always seemed like such a responsible, take-charge kind of profession. Now, as he sat staring at the empty street in front of him he decided he’d like to be an FBI agent. The two who were on this case sure had the life. He could see them walking up from the beach, smiling at one another and walking like they were the school quarterback and head cheerleader. It was only six o’clock, but the night was already dark and he figured they would be worrying about Jonah out all by himself.

They sure didn’t look very worried, right now. That meant they probably knew. They probably had the whole thing figured out and he was going to get into big-time trouble. Andy scuffed his tennis shoes against the steps. His sneakers had a tiny hole right in the toe, from which his sock peeked out a little. His mom had thrown these shoes out a week ago, and he’d had to fish around in the trashcan for them for half an hour. With a sigh, Andy looked over his shoulder back toward the house, wishing his mom would think to bring him out a coke or something. There was no way he was going back inside with the mayor sitting right in his kitchen looking all important and slimy.

At the edge of the porch, Andy saw Cody Sharpe come around the sidewalk from the alley. When he saw that Andy was alone, his eyes became slits and he stalked toward him with revenge on his face. Nervous waves passed over Andy and finally settled low in his stomach. He was so going to pay for his one second of guts.

“Think you’re hot stuff, don’t you, Holt?” Cody didn’t bother to come up the sidewalk, instead mashing the bed of sea grasses and ivy that bordered the porch with his boots. “Well, think again. You are so gonna pay hell for knocking me down.”

Before Andy could think of a reasonable comeback, the FBI agents appeared, striding up the sidewalk under the sodium streetlights. Andy breathed a small sigh of relief as Cody’s face turned bland and innocent.

As the two made their way up the sidewalk toward him, the screen door opened and his mom peeked her head out to ask him if he wanted any supper. She came to stand on the porch when she saw the partners, and Joe followed her out the door. Andy slid over to lean against the porch bannister. He should have known this was going to attract a huge crowd.

“No sign of him,” Agent Mulder began, looking from one sad face to another. “We searched up and down the beach and called for him. I think if he had been in the area he would have come to us. He knew we wouldn’t hurt him.”

Joe sat down on the steps next to Andy, and looked at him closely. Andy did his best to look the officer in the eye, since that everybody knew not making eye contact was a major sign of guilt, but he faltered under the scrutiny and settled for focusing on Joe’s forehead. “Can you show us exactly where you left him?” Joe asked.

Andy paused for a second. Sometimes saying too much got you caught, and sometimes not saying enough did. It was always a gamble. After a second, his mother put her hand on his shoulder and he knew he didn’t have much of a choice, he was going to have to give them something.

“I told you already. I left him right next to Clapham’s dock, right where the waves start to get bigger.”

“Well that explains why he’d break into the houses down there. The Ford’s house and Lewis’ house are right near there. Guess that settles that.” Cody Sharpe smiled a little. In the porchlight Andy thought he looked like he had shark teeth, baby shark teeth. And he didn’t look so tall, either, standing next to Agent Mulder.

Andy drew himself up. “You know, that’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard you say, Cody, and you’ve said some really, really dumb things before. Why would Jonah want to break into two people’s houses? He isn’t even tall enough to reach the windows so how could he break them?”

“Shows what you know, Holt,” Cody said. “For your information, it was the basement window, so he could have reached.”

“He’s like…the size of a four year old. He wouldn’t even be able to break a window.”

“With a rock he could. You don’t have to be very strong to do that.”

Andy wanted to get up and pummel Cody. He could feel the same burning desire he felt earlier, when he rammed him with his bike. Before he could get up, Joe put a hand on his knee.

“Wait a second. How did you know the basement window was broken, Cody?”

All eyes turned toward the boy, who just shrugged and scowled. “My dad told me.”

“No,” Joe said, standing up slowly. “No, your dad said he hadn’t told a soul. Said he wanted to keep it to ourselves until we found Jonah and assigned some blame.”

It was a sight to behold, Andy thought, as he watched Cody’s face turn a deep magenta. It was absolutely amazing. In wonder, he watched as all of the adults shifted slightly to face the mayor’s son.

“Now that you mention it, Officer Macmillan, Cody was the only one other than the six of us to know about Jonah in the beginning. Funny that the first vandalism act would take place that very day.”

Mulder turned to look at Scully and jerked his head in Cody’s direction. “Guess we’ll just have to wait until we get the report back on those fingerprints we found in the museum.”

Cody’s shook his head, holding close to his cocky attitude, despite the nervous tap of his foot.

“There weren’t any fingerprints.” His self-righteous sneer began to fade a bit around the edges as the adults kept staring at him. Andy felt his own nervousness beginning to bleed away into the night.

“Yes there were,” Agent Scully said, “we’re simply waiting for the forensic analyses on those. The results should clear everything up.”

Andy hadn’t known the woman for long, but he got the feeling she was lying. She had the same forced, practiced voice that he used when he was telling a fib, but Cody didn’t seem to notice.

Mayor Sharpe must have heard the raised voices from inside, because he hurried out onto the porch.

“What’s going on out here?”

Joe Macmillan turned to look at the mayor and straightened his shoulders. He looked every inch the tough cop when he did that, Andy thought.

“Well now, maybe you can tell us, Mayor. Seems your son knows an awful lot about these acts of vandalism that he doesn’t have any right to know. Care to tell us where he got that information?”

The mayor drew himself up. “I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.”

“Did you call your son and tell him about tonight’s break in?” Joe asked again, pulling his notepad from his shirt pocket.

“No, I certainly did not.”

Joe turned to Mulder and motioned toward Cody. “Agent Mulder, would you mind taking Cody in the house for a minute?” Mulder smiled and clamped a hand around the boy’s shoulder, leading him up the stairs and right past his father.

“Mr. Sharpe, can you tell us how your son knows all the details of these acts of vandalism?” Scully asked.

Andy wondered if the mayor misunderstood the question. He seemed to think he was being reprimanded for leaking information.

“And I just told you, Miss, that I didn’t say word one to my boy. I expressly told everyone involved not to let any information out and I’m certainly not the type to break my own word.” The mayor’s scowl deepened as he looked at Scully.

“Well then, Sir, we have a problem. For some reason your son knows quite a few details about these break-ins and you say nobody told him. Now, one of you can’t be telling the truth. Either you told him, or we’re looking at having to investigate Cody,” Joe said.

The mayor’s mouth opened and he shook his head, staring at the officer dumbly. When he opened his mouth, nothing came out. Everyone stood silently for a moment before the man finally spoke.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Cody knew about that child, yes, he was here the afternoon you questioned this one,” the mayor said, gesturing down at where Andy sat on the step, staring up at him.

“And then what, mayor?” Joe asked.

“And then nothing. We went home, had dinner. Listen, I don’t know what you’re trying to pull here, but if you’re tying to pin this on my son you’d better think twice. I don’t see as you have a bit of evidence.”

“Well that didn’t bother you before,” Andy said. “Nobody’s got any evidence that Jonah did it either, but you’re just assuming he’s guilty.” Andy felt everyone turn to look at him. He felt the tinges of an embarrassed flush rise up his neck and over his ears. The mayor seemed to ignore his comment.

“Let’s be logical here. We’ve got a boy running around town who doesn’t have a single alibi. When we find him, we’ll see what kind of excuse he’s willing to offer.”

“You know he can’t offer an excuse!” Andy said, jumping up off the step.

Scully just smiled at the mayor. “Actually, he’s got an airtight alibi. He was with Agent Mulder and myself last night at the inn.”

The front door creaked as Mulder came back out onto the porch, gesturing for Andy to follow him. Nervously, Andy obeyed, moving over to the door where Agent Mulder stood.

“You said you knocked Cody down today, Andy. Was anyone else with him?”

Andy nodded, glancing over the agent’s shoulder to where Cody sat slumped at the kitchen table, cowed by whatever riot act Mulder had been reading to him in there.

“Yeah. Uh…Todd Platt and Doctor Chapman’s son, Robby. They were there too.”

“Great.”

Agent Mulder turned and walked back into the house, moving toward the phone book on the kitchen counter. Andy moved inside after him, careful to keep to the living room where he could hear, but not be too close to Cody. Just in case.

From the other room, Andy could hear agent Mulder rustling the pages of the phone book and questioning Cody.

“Did your dad put you up to this?” he asked.

“What are you talking about?” You had to hand it to him, Andy thought, the boy just didn’t spook easily.

“I mean it’s a hell of a way to garner re-election votes. Stopping a vandalism streak. That would be something to get the voters’ attention.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Cody mumbled.

“Andy?” Agent Mulder called out. Andy flinched. He hadn’t known the man knew he was eavesdropping. Red-faced, Andy moved into the kitchen, wondering if he was going to get in trouble.

“Yeah?”

“You said Chapman and Platt, right?”

Cody’s face blanched. He leveled a malicious glare at Andy and glanced toward the kitchen door, as if contemplating a possible means of escape. Agent Mulder didn’t even look up from the phone book when he spoke. “Don’t even think about it.” He dialed a number and folded himself onto a small kitchen chair across from Cody, grinning when a voice answered the phone. He sounded thrilled to be relaying his information.

“Good evening, Ma’am. This is Special Agent Fox Mulder with the FBI. I need to speak with Robby Chapman.”

… … End 5/6

The Dreaming Sea – 6/6

… …

Two phone calls and forty minutes later, Officer Macmillan escorted Cody out to his squad car for a ride downtown. An embarrassed and silent mayor got into his car and followed them down the street and around the corner. Mulder noticed with some satisfaction that Macmillan even turned on his flashing lights for effect. By his side, Scully was watching the trio move away into the evening.

“Cody,” she said. “Not the mayor?”

Mulder shrugged and shook his head. “I’m not positive, but I think it was just Cody. His friends seemed to indicate that he wanted his dad to be re-elected, and just assumed that his father would be proud of him when he found out what he’d done. Now it’s just regular police work from here on in.”

Megan Holt and Andy moved down from the porch and walked toward them. Megan gave Andy a gentle shove toward the pair. “Go on,” she urged, “tell them.”

“Tell us what?” Scully asked.

“You know where he is, don’t you?” Mulder broke into a smile and Andy sighed with relief. He nodded and motioned for the adults to follow him. He led them upstairs, down the long hallway and into his bedroom. With a finger to his lips, he opened the closet door to reveal Jonah lying sound asleep on the floor, wrapped in an indigo blanket and surrounded by discarded candy wrappers.

“I thought maybe if everyone left they just wouldn’t know we had him,” Andy said sheepishly. His voice roused Jonah, who sat up, rubbing his eyes with his small fists. He blinked and looked up into the faces of his five friends. With a smile, he stood up.

“Hi!” he said in a cracked little voice, looking terribly pleased with himself. “H’lo!”

… …

It really was amazing, Mulder thought, how much things could change in an hour. Right now, Cody Sharpe and his father were down at the police station, trying to explain everything to a roomful of lawyers and officers, while he was sitting in the Holt’s kitchen, nursing a cup of stale coffee and watching his partner dress up a very wiggly six year old for a night of Halloween magic.

He’d almost forgotten it was Halloween. Technically, it was the next day, but the town of Beaufort frowned on celebrating anything so pagan on the Sabbath, so this year, Saturday night was reserved for candy begging. Andy sat across from him, dividing his attention between Mulder and Jonah, who whooped and laughed maniacally as Scully put Andy’s old football helmet on him.

“You’re think you can get them to listen to you?” Andy asked, one of the times he managed to peel his eyes away from the sight of his small friend.

Mulder smiled and nodded. “For the tenth time, yes. There are a lot of hoops to jump through with foster care or adoption, but I promise that Scully and I will personally file recommendations for you.”

Scully looked up from where she was kneeling on the floor, helping Megan Holt stuff Jonah’s legs into the pee-wee league pants.

“Are you sure you want him?”

“Yeah,” Megan said, nearly falling over when Jonah grabbed her around the waist, pulling her toward him. She oofed and tickled his armpit to get him to let go. “Who wouldn’t?”

Mulder watched Jonah stand up in his new, padded pants. He picked up his legs experimentally and then began to do a little dance, using his stocking feet to slide across the floor. It felt all right, turning this boy over to these people. It felt more than all right, in fact, it felt good. He could feel Scully looking at him, and he turned to give her a smile.

“Well,” Megan said, getting up off the floor and dusting herself off. “Andy had his last year of candy begging last fall, but if you three want to take Jonah out for a while I’ll stay here and get the door.”

They all trouped outside, noticing porch lights coming on up and down the block, and small bands of costumed kids filing out of doors to wander up and down the street. Once they were safely away on the dark sidewalk, Mulder took advantage of the cool night and slipped his arm around Scully’s waist. They watched as Andy led Jonah up to a neighbor’s door, following two fair princesses and a four-foot Frankenstein. When they came back down the stairs, Mulder could see Jonah’s pumpkin grin from under his helmet.

“Candy!” he said, holding up a miniature Mars bar. Mulder’s smile was exceeded only by Andy’s. By the second house, Jonah caught on, dragging them up and down lit streets with the zealous devotion of a sugar worshipper. Several people who knew Andy stopped him to ask about his small charge, and, grinning, Andy introduced him as his little brother, soon to be adopted.

After an hour, Jonah’s pillowcase was bulging, and the crowd on the streets was beginning to thin out. They walked back toward the house, listening to Jonah babble on senselessly, using his new-found voice, which had the deep rasp of a smoker Andy had taught him to say, “Jonah,” “mommy,““Andy” and “ocean” by the time they were halfway around the block. He repeated the words over and over, occasionally skirting away from Andy to run back toward them, circling Scully and wiggling his way in between her and Mulder like a jealous puppy. He generously offered up his bag of goodies to Scully and she smiled and reached in to take out a small peppermint.

“I think he has a crush on you, Agent Scully,” Andy noted with a grin before he and Jonah began moving quickly ahead again.

“At least he has good taste,” Mulder said when they were out of earshot. Scully remained silent, but moved back in close to him. He took that as a sign and moved his arm around her waist again.

“Mulder, I know we were called here to help find Jonah, and the vandalism case is closed, but if you want to stick around…” she trailed off for a moment. “I realize we don’t have any answers about where Jonah came from. If you think we should continue to check it out, that’s okay. I mean…I’m fine.”

A paper flier skittered along the sidewalk, and Mulder bent to pick it up. It was an election pamphlet urging all Beaufort citizens to vote for Mayor Ted Sharpe on November 3rd. Mulder wadded the paper up into a ball and tossed it into a curbside trashcan.

“We’ll have to run his face and prints through the Missing and Exploited Children database, but you know what? Something tells me we won’t find him on file there. And to Be honest, I’m not really worried about it.”

She stopped on the sidewalk to make way for a gang of small pirates who were bouncing around like pinballs from one exhausted parent to another. Somewhere down the street, a child wailed as her sibling pushed her toward a house playing creepy music. Mulder stopped to take a look around. He loved Halloween.

“You’re not?”

“At this rate, Jonah will be able to tell us himself where he comes from in a few months. Until then, I’m just happy to see him get a chance to live with people that obviously adore him.”

Mulder turned a full circle on the sidewalk, taking in the bright trees and the manicured lawns that led up to cheerful looking houses. It wasn’t perfect – no place was – but he felt that the boy had a shot at a good life here. After a moment he became conscious that he was standing with his back to Scully. He turned and looked down to see her smiling up at him. Her hair shone in the reflection from the streetlights and she looked good enough to eat.

“Still with me?” she said, raising an eyebrow at him in amusement.

Mulder liked her choice of words. He leaned a little closer to her. “Yeah,” he said, putting his hand on her back as they started walking again, “I’m still with you.”

Mulder looked up and saw Andy and Jonah reach their front gate. Megan met them on the porch and Mulder could hear her exclaiming over Jonah’s loot.

They walked up the sidewalk through a carpet of fallen leaves. Silence reigned for a moment as they all stood, wondering how best to say goodbye.

“Well, looks like this is it,” Mulder said, squatting down beside the boy. “You be good,” he said, ruffling Jonah’s curly hair. He pulled the boy to him and gave him a warm hug. Jonah wrapped his own arms around Mulder’s shoulders and smacked him a kiss on the cheek. Mulder pulled back in surprise and everyone laughed. Chuckling, Mulder got up and handed his card to Megan and one to Andy. “If you need anything, just give me a call,” he said. “And I’m going to keep in touch, if you don’t mind. I have a lot of questions for this boy when he’s able to answer them.”

Scully’s farewell was more brief. She hesitated before leaning in to give him her own hug, but Jonah’s wriggling eagerness softened her up after only a touch. He nuzzled his face into her shoulder, and wrapped his strong thin arms around her neck, holding on for a long moment until Scully’s brisk attitude returned, and she loosened her hold on the child and stood up. She had moved halfway down the walk before Mulder noticed. He put on a smile and gave a slight wave, moving quickly to catch up with his partner.

“Bye!” Jonah called in his new voice. They turned to say it to him but he was running at them full tilt. At last he stopped, wrapping his arms around Scully’s waist and looking up at her adoringly.

“Kiss Scully,” he said, puckering his lips. Scully grinned and bent down to accede to his command, letting herself cradle him tenderly this time and giving him her own kiss on the cheek. Just as swiftly as he came toward them he moved away, making a beeline for the house where Andy stood in the yard waiting for him.

They walked back to the hotel without further conversation, but it wasn’t an uncomfortable silence. Mulder heard his partner humming a tune under her breath and was surprised when he recognized it as the Seal Lullaby. He thought about Jonah’s command and stopped on the sidewalk in front of the inn.

Quietly, she came and stood beside him and they both looked out at the sea. Mulder slipped an arm around her shoulder and she nestled against him. It was becoming easier, he noted with satisfaction, for them to touch one another. It was a most welcome change.

She turned to face him and wrapped both her arms around his waist, under his jacket in the same way she had earlier. He looked down at her. The sea breeze whipped her hair around her face and Mulder reveled in getting to really look at her. Finally, she broke their sweet silence.

“Trick or treat, Mulder?”

Mulder folded himself over her small form, pulling her up against him until his forehead leaned against hers. She raised herself onto tiptoe to accommodate his height. They were so close, Mulder was going cross-eyed trying to look at her. She must have been having the same problem, and she chuckled and let her eyes slide shut. Soon, he thought, we’re going to work on your problem with eye-contact in intimate situations, Scully. Very soon.

As if she heard him, her eyes flew open and she pulled back, lowering herself off her toes but remaining in the strong circle of his arms. She smiled shyly and Mulder traced her back, up her neck and her cheek with his palm, finally running his finger over her soft lips. Her smile died, and her eyes widened, but she still didn’t move. With infinite care, Mulder lowered his mouth and lightly brushed a gentle kiss against her forehead, her cheek right under one closed eye, and then, finally, her lips. He pulled back slightly and cupped his hand around the back of her neck before leaning in to her again. This time she relaxed against him, and he traced her mouth with his tongue, getting the last vestiges of her gift of peppermint. Mulder smiled against her mouth. She tasted like candy canes. It was pure effort, but he managed to pull himself away from her long enough to murmur something against her lips.

“Treat,” he said.

… …

End

… …

Author’s Notes: Beaufort, North Carolina, is a real town, and Blackbeard’s ship did indeed sink in the harbor there in 1718, though I’d appreciate it if you didn’t hold me to all of the details I provided in this story. <g>

For those of you who haven’t read Kipling, I urge you to go out and grab a copy of “Twice Told Tales.” The Seal Lullaby that I refer to in this story is from “The Jungle Book” and Alec Wilder arranged the tune. You can hear a version of this on Shawn Colvin’s holiday album “Holiday Songs and Lullabies.” I urge you to get a copy of that too.

The quote from the beginning is by the great poet Carl Phillips. I urge you to…oh, nevermind, you get the idea.

Extra-special thanks to Barbara D, for her genius rewrites. <g>

I would love to hear what you thought.

The Dreaming Sea – 6/6

… …

Two phone calls and forty minutes later, Officer Macmillan escorted Cody out to his squad car for a ride downtown. An embarrassed and silent mayor got into his car and followed them down the street and around the corner. Mulder noticed with some satisfaction that Macmillan even turned on his flashing lights for effect. By his side, Scully was watching the trio move away into the evening.

“Cody,” she said. “Not the mayor?”

Mulder shrugged and shook his head. “I’m not positive, but I think it was just Cody. His friends seemed to indicate that he wanted his dad to be re-elected, and just assumed that his father would be proud of him when he found out what he’d done. Now it’s just regular police work from here on in.”

Megan Holt and Andy moved down from the porch and walked toward them. Megan gave Andy a gentle shove toward the pair. “Go on,” she urged, “tell them.”

“Tell us what?” Scully asked.

“You know where he is, don’t you?” Mulder broke into a smile and Andy sighed with relief. He nodded and motioned for the adults to follow him. He led them upstairs, down the long hallway and into his bedroom. With a finger to his lips, he opened the closet door to reveal Jonah lying sound asleep on the floor, wrapped in an indigo blanket and surrounded by discarded candy wrappers.

“I thought maybe if everyone left they just wouldn’t know we had him,” Andy said sheepishly. His voice roused Jonah, who sat up, rubbing his eyes with his small fists. He blinked and looked up into the faces of his five friends. With a smile, he stood up.

“Hi!” he said in a cracked little voice, looking terribly pleased with himself. “H’lo!”

… …

It really was amazing, Mulder thought, how much things could change in an hour. Right now, Cody Sharpe and his father were down at the police station, trying to explain everything to a roomful of lawyers and officers, while he was sitting in the Holt’s kitchen, nursing a cup of stale coffee and watching his partner dress up a very wiggly six year old for a night of Halloween magic.

He’d almost forgotten it was Halloween. Technically, it was the next day, but the town of Beaufort frowned on celebrating anything so pagan on the Sabbath, so this year, Saturday night was reserved for candy begging. Andy sat across from him, dividing his attention between Mulder and Jonah, who whooped and laughed maniacally as Scully put Andy’s old football helmet on him.

“You’re think you can get them to listen to you?” Andy asked, one of the times he managed to peel his eyes away from the sight of his small friend.

Mulder smiled and nodded. “For the tenth time, yes. There are a lot of hoops to jump through with foster care or adoption, but I promise that Scully and I will personally file recommendations for you.”

Scully looked up from where she was kneeling on the floor, helping Megan Holt stuff Jonah’s legs into the pee-wee league pants.

“Are you sure you want him?”

“Yeah,” Megan said, nearly falling over when Jonah grabbed her around the waist, pulling her toward him. She oofed and tickled his armpit to get him to let go. “Who wouldn’t?”

Mulder watched Jonah stand up in his new, padded pants. He picked up his legs experimentally and then began to do a little dance, using his stocking feet to slide across the floor. It felt all right, turning this boy over to these people. It felt more than all right, in fact, it felt good. He could feel Scully looking at him, and he turned to give her a smile.

“Well,” Megan said, getting up off the floor and dusting herself off. “Andy had his last year of candy begging last fall, but if you three want to take Jonah out for a while I’ll stay here and get the door.”

They all trouped outside, noticing porch lights coming on up and down the block, and small bands of costumed kids filing out of doors to wander up and down the street. Once they were safely away on the dark sidewalk, Mulder took advantage of the cool night and slipped his arm around Scully’s waist. They watched as Andy led Jonah up to a neighbor’s door, following two fair princesses and a four-foot Frankenstein. When they came back down the stairs, Mulder could see Jonah’s pumpkin grin from under his helmet.

“Candy!” he said, holding up a miniature Mars bar. Mulder’s smile was exceeded only by Andy’s. By the second house, Jonah caught on, dragging them up and down lit streets with the zealous devotion of a sugar worshipper. Several people who knew Andy stopped him to ask about his small charge, and, grinning, Andy introduced him as his little brother, soon to be adopted.

After an hour, Jonah’s pillowcase was bulging, and the crowd on the streets was beginning to thin out. They walked back toward the house, listening to Jonah babble on senselessly, using his new-found voice, which had the deep rasp of a smoker Andy had taught him to say, “Jonah,” “mommy,““Andy” and “ocean” by the time they were halfway around the block. He repeated the words over and over, occasionally skirting away from Andy to run back toward them, circling Scully and wiggling his way in between her and Mulder like a jealous puppy. He generously offered up his bag of goodies to Scully and she smiled and reached in to take out a small peppermint.

“I think he has a crush on you, Agent Scully,” Andy noted with a grin before he and Jonah began moving quickly ahead again.

“At least he has good taste,” Mulder said when they were out of earshot. Scully remained silent, but moved back in close to him. He took that as a sign and moved his arm around her waist again.

“Mulder, I know we were called here to help find Jonah, and the vandalism case is closed, but if you want to stick around…” she trailed off for a moment. “I realize we don’t have any answers about where Jonah came from. If you think we should continue to check it out, that’s okay. I mean…I’m fine.”

A paper flier skittered along the sidewalk, and Mulder bent to pick it up. It was an election pamphlet urging all Beaufort citizens to vote for Mayor Ted Sharpe on November 3rd. Mulder wadded the paper up into a ball and tossed it into a curbside trashcan.

“We’ll have to run his face and prints through the Missing and Exploited Children database, but you know what? Something tells me we won’t find him on file there. And to Be honest, I’m not really worried about it.”

She stopped on the sidewalk to make way for a gang of small pirates who were bouncing around like pinballs from one exhausted parent to another. Somewhere down the street, a child wailed as her sibling pushed her toward a house playing creepy music. Mulder stopped to take a look around. He loved Halloween.

“You’re not?”

“At this rate, Jonah will be able to tell us himself where he comes from in a few months. Until then, I’m just happy to see him get a chance to live with people that obviously adore him.”

Mulder turned a full circle on the sidewalk, taking in the bright trees and the manicured lawns that led up to cheerful looking houses. It wasn’t perfect – no place was – but he felt that the boy had a shot at a good life here. After a moment he became conscious that he was standing with his back to Scully. He turned and looked down to see her smiling up at him. Her hair shone in the reflection from the streetlights and she looked good enough to eat.

“Still with me?” she said, raising an eyebrow at him in amusement.

Mulder liked her choice of words. He leaned a little closer to her. “Yeah,” he said, putting his hand on her back as they started walking again, “I’m still with you.”

Mulder looked up and saw Andy and Jonah reach their front gate. Megan met them on the porch and Mulder could hear her exclaiming over Jonah’s loot.

They walked up the sidewalk through a carpet of fallen leaves. Silence reigned for a moment as they all stood, wondering how best to say goodbye.

“Well, looks like this is it,” Mulder said, squatting down beside the boy. “You be good,” he said, ruffling Jonah’s curly hair. He pulled the boy to him and gave him a warm hug. Jonah wrapped his own arms around Mulder’s shoulders and smacked him a kiss on the cheek. Mulder pulled back in surprise and everyone laughed. Chuckling, Mulder got up and handed his card to Megan and one to Andy. “If you need anything, just give me a call,” he said. “And I’m going to keep in touch, if you don’t mind. I have a lot of questions for this boy when he’s able to answer them.”

Scully’s farewell was more brief. She hesitated before leaning in to give him her own hug, but Jonah’s wriggling eagerness softened her up after only a touch. He nuzzled his face into her shoulder, and wrapped his strong thin arms around her neck, holding on for a long moment until Scully’s brisk attitude returned, and she loosened her hold on the child and stood up. She had moved halfway down the walk before Mulder noticed. He put on a smile and gave a slight wave, moving quickly to catch up with his partner.

“Bye!” Jonah called in his new voice. They turned to say it to him but he was running at them full tilt. At last he stopped, wrapping his arms around Scully’s waist and looking up at her adoringly.

“Kiss Scully,” he said, puckering his lips. Scully grinned and bent down to accede to his command, letting herself cradle him tenderly this time and giving him her own kiss on the cheek. Just as swiftly as he came toward them he moved away, making a beeline for the house where Andy stood in the yard waiting for him.

They walked back to the hotel without further conversation, but it wasn’t an uncomfortable silence. Mulder heard his partner humming a tune under her breath and was surprised when he recognized it as the Seal Lullaby. He thought about Jonah’s command and stopped on the sidewalk in front of the inn.

Quietly, she came and stood beside him and they both looked out at the sea. Mulder slipped an arm around her shoulder and she nestled against him. It was becoming easier, he noted with satisfaction, for them to touch one another. It was a most welcome change.

She turned to face him and wrapped both her arms around his waist, under his jacket in the same way she had earlier. He looked down at her. The sea breeze whipped her hair around her face and Mulder reveled in getting to really look at her. Finally, she broke their sweet silence.

“Trick or treat, Mulder?”

Mulder folded himself over her small form, pulling her up against him until his forehead leaned against hers. She raised herself onto tiptoe to accommodate his height. They were so close, Mulder was going cross-eyed trying to look at her. She must have been having the same problem, and she chuckled and let her eyes slide shut. Soon, he thought, we’re going to work on your problem with eye-contact in intimate situations, Scully. Very soon.

As if she heard him, her eyes flew open and she pulled back, lowering herself off her toes but remaining in the strong circle of his arms. She smiled shyly and Mulder traced her back, up her neck and her cheek with his palm, finally running his finger over her soft lips. Her smile died, and her eyes widened, but she still didn’t move. With infinite care, Mulder lowered his mouth and lightly brushed a gentle kiss against her forehead, her cheek right under one closed eye, and then, finally, her lips. He pulled back slightly and cupped his hand around the back of her neck before leaning in to her again. This time she relaxed against him, and he traced her mouth with his tongue, getting the last vestiges of her gift of peppermint. Mulder smiled against her mouth. She tasted like candy canes. It was pure effort, but he managed to pull himself away from her long enough to murmur something against her lips.

“Treat,” he said.

… …

End

… …

Author’s Notes: Beaufort, North Carolina, is a real town, and Blackbeard’s ship did indeed sink in the harbor there in 1718, though I’d appreciate it if you didn’t hold me to all of the details I provided in this story. <g>

For those of you who haven’t read Kipling, I urge you to go out and grab a copy of “Twice Told Tales.” The Seal Lullaby that I refer to in this story is from “The Jungle Book” and Alec Wilder arranged the tune. You can hear a version of this on Shawn Colvin’s holiday album “Holiday Songs and Lullabies.” I urge you to get a copy of that too.

The quote from the beginning is by the great poet Carl Phillips. I urge you to…oh, nevermind, you get the idea.

Extra-special thanks to Barbara D, for her genius rewrites. <g>

I would love to hear what you thought.

Downloaded from x-libris.xf-redux.com

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