After a few moments, Mulder crossed the room and sat down on the bed beside Scully, placing the package behind her. He could feel her trembling beside him, reaching out he rested his hand on her leg causing her to jump slightly; she looked up at him nervously through her eyelashes.
"OK," he began "I'm listening. Clearly there's more going on here than I first thought. Tell me." Scully swallowed, clearly trying to work out the best point to begin from.
"Mike is an old college friend, an old boyfriend to be exact" she started. "He and I went to med school together. We dated for about a year but grew apart, we split up before I graduated and went to Quantico. We've always kept in touch but not much, just Christmas cards, I sent a present when his son was born, that kind of thing." Mulder nodded.
"Mike's been married about ten years now, he and Katie live about a half hour away. Well last night, they were out at a dinner party and…" she faltered a little, upset by her story; Mulder squeezed her leg. "They were at this party and Katie had a bit too much to drink, she stood up at the table and announced to everyone that she's been having an affair with a guy at her office for the last nine months. Absolutely tore Mike apart, he had no idea. She just laid into him, told him he was a useless father, a lousy husband, everything you can imagine." Mulder felt the first twang of pity for the man in the other room.
"She said she never wanted to see him again. He didn't know what to do, she left the party laughing, all their friends were there and he was completely humiliated. He just got in the car and drove home to pay the babysitter but then he realised that he'd never looked after Joel by himself so he panicked, began to think everything Katie said was true. He was so embarrassed he didn't want to call anyone and admit that he actually didn't know what to do with Joel when he woke up – they'd all been at that party and heard what Katie said, then he remembered that I live nearby and that I'd mentioned looking after my nephew a few times. He rang me at ten last night in such a state, I just told him to come over here with Joel."
Mulder put his arm around Scully and hugged her. He felt guilty for jumping to such an awful conclusion so quickly, he was better than that, or at least she was. For a while they simply sat there together until Scully pulled herself free and announced that she'd better go check on Mike. Mulder stood up and followed her at a distance, lingering by the bedroom door to watch as she praised Joel for eating all his breakfast and checked if Mike had eaten yet. As she turned to make some toast for the three adults, Mike met Mulder's eye. They looked at each other for a few moments before Mulder nodded slightly acknowledging his acceptance. He crossed the room and shook Mike's hand, the two men both unsure of exactly what to say,
"Nice to finally meet you Mr Mulder, "Mike managed, "Dana's mentioned you every time we've spoken for a good few years now."
"Nothing good I hope?" Mulder quipped. Mike managed a slight laugh as Scully brought over the toast, having seated Joel on her couch in front of a cartoon.
"I'm not sure I want you two talking too much" she said, smiling at them both. "Agent Mulder does not need access to college stories of mine."
"Oh yes he does!" Mulder laughed, his eyes lighting up at the prospect. Mike was properly laughing now.
"We'll have to get together and I'll tell you some" Mike replied, a wicked grin on his face as he looked at Scully, who winced. "I may even have some pictures buried in a shoebox somewhere. Plus I think you definitely need to hear about the night someone gave Dana tequila shots in the bar just off campus, I know I'll never forget it." Scully hit his arm, attempting to make him shut up, it worked but Mike gave Mulder a wink as he turned to walk over and sit by his son.
"Tequila shots huh Scully?" Mulder asked, grinning as he munched on his toast, "would never have pegged you as the shots type." He elbowed her in the ribs.
"Never again," Scully muttered, shooting him a significant look.
A few hours later, things had settled down a lot more at Scully's apartment. She had sorted through the large bag Mike had hastily thrown together the previous night and made sure he knew all the basics. Joel attended nursery on weekdays so that took care of a lot of the time, Mike knew how to handle bath time and Scully made sure he understood more about feeding a two year old. As it turned out, Mike knew a lot more about taking care of his son that he had thought he did in his late night panic. After lunch, Scully had found herself sat on the living room floor drawing pictures on some scrap paper with Joel whilst Mulder & Mike chatted on her couch. The two men shared a passion for baseball and both were avid basketball players whenever they found time. Scully had also been surprised to hear that Mike was considerably open minded toward many of the crazy ideas that populated her partner's mind. After a short period of time, the two men were trading theories on the nature of the Bermuda Triangle with gusto. Eventually Mike brought the conversation to a close and turned to Scully.
"I'd better head back home" he announced, looking less than thrilled at the prospect. "I want to get things in order tomorrow ready for next week." Scully stood up and hugged him.
"OK, you take care of yourself and this little one. Keep in touch won't you?"
"Yeah," Mulder agreed, standing up to shake Mike's hand "Listen how about we get together for dinner next weekend, I'd like to get to know you better."
"Yeah I bet" Scully mumbled darkly.
"Sounds good" Mike said with a hint of a smile, "I'll probably be in need of a good meal with some friendly faces by the time this week is over."
"It'll get easier" Mulder told him. As a child of divorce, Mulder had seen it all unfold before. Mike nodded but didn't look entirely convinced.
"I suppose when your world falls apart, anything that happens next will be easier?" he conceded, looking meaningfully at Scully who nodded sadly.
Mulder and Scully helped Mike pick up his and Joel's belongings from where they had been scattered across Scully's apartment. He packed the two bags he had with him and they waved him off at the door, telling him to keep strong and Scully adding to call if he needed to. Finally they shut the door and Scully collapsed onto her couch, looking crestfallen. Mulder stood looking at her then remembered,
"I brought you something" he told her, fetching the package from where he had left it on her bed hours earlier. He handed it to her and knelt beside the couch. Scully sat up and opened the package, smiling hugely when she saw the contents.
"Oh Mulder you shouldn't have" she smiled, reaching out to him as he embraced her in a hug.
"I'm sorry" he whispered into her hair.
"It's ok" she whispered back as he pulled her into his arms for as long as they wanted.