Title: Code Adam

Author: Julie Cantrell

Rating: PG

Category: S/A

Spoilers: No specific spoilers. General knowledge of season eight would be helpful. :)

Keywords: MSR/DAL

Summary She couldn't protect him forever.

Feedback: xfsista@hotmail.com -- if you're inclined ;)

Archive: DO NOT ARCHIVE at Gossamer (I've already done that). All others by request only.

Disclaimers: All of the following characters belong to Chris Carter, 1013 Productions, and Twentieth Century Fox Television. Also, David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch

Pileggi, and Robert Patrick who make these characters come to life week after No infringement is intended.

My collection of fan fiction can be found at http://fbimagination.faithweb.com/

**

Code Adam

by Julie Cantrell

**

 

It was supposed to be a routine trip to the store. But, she never dreamed it would turn her night terrors into a reality.

It had started out quite innocent, of course. It was the day before Easter and she had some last minute things to pick up. Her brother's family was in for the holiday and she had invited them to dinner.

Her kitchen cabinets lacked the sweets that little children like to find in their Easter baskets, so she packed her own three-year-old bundle of joy into the car and headed to Wal-Mart.

She normally made him sit in the cart. But, not that day. When he looked up at her with pleading blue eyes and his father's pout, she gave in. He was growing up and needed to learn a little independence.

She couldn't protect him forever.

He was instructed to hold onto the wire basket and to not let go, no matter how tempting it may be.

He wanted to be a very good boy for his mommy. After all, she was a very special mommy. His daddy had told him so. And his daddy *always* told the truth.

But, like his daddy, he had an irresistible curiosity. His wondering eye found brightly colored Easter goodies. Candy and bunnies and tiny ducks surrounded him and he just couldn't resist.

So, while his mommy eyed marshmallow Peeps with scrutiny, little William Joseph Mulder wandered away.

And in an instant, Dana Scully turned around to find her only child gone.

It was a different variation of an old nightmare. Usually, her dreams were full of smoking shadows or little green men always coming to whisk her little one away.

Her mind never fathomed that he would be stolen away in broad daylight of a busy department store.

"Joey!" she called out.

Gone. How could he be gone?

Her heart began to pound, threatening to shatter her ribcage.

Gone.

Blood drained from her face and she felt light-headed and nauseous.

Gone.

The busy customers around her seemed to fade out and all sounds except for her own pulsating heart tuned out.

Oh my God! He's gone!

Not knowing what else to do, she panicked.

Turning her head from side to side, she abandoned her shopping cart and began scanning the aisles one by one.

"Joey?" she cried. Tears started to threaten her vision as she broke into a light run. "JOEY!"

"Ma'am? Can I help you?"

She turned to see an employee of the store, wearing a familiar blue tunic with a look of concern in her eyes.

"My baby," she said, "I lost my little boy."

Scully started to shake with the realization of her own words.

How could she have lost her own child? She had been so careful.

"It's okay, ma'am," the woman smiled at her. "We'll find him."

Within minutes, the store had called a "Code Adam" and all of the doors were locked so no one could leave or enter. Scully gave Joey's description, right down to the cowboy boots he insisted on wearing, and the search began.

No department was left unsearched: toys, electronics, clothing, and sporting goods.

And as each department turned up empty, she watched her child's life pass before her eyes.

She remembered how she nearly died giving her son life.

She remembered his first steps and how he giggled at his accomplishment.

She remembered the first time he said "mommy."

She remembered staying up all night with him when he had an ear infection.

She remembered the sly look he'd given her when his father taught him to feed his broccoli to the dog.

She remembered his watery eyes when they'd given his fish a burial at sea.

Frowns when it was bedtime.

Giggles as they cuddled and watched Saturday morning cartoons in their pajamas.

Pretending to be a cowboy.

Singing church hymns loud and off-key.

Or driving his Hot Wheels up and down her legs as she read *Moby Dick* to him.

Mud pies and teddy bears.

His tears.

His smile.

His cry.

His laugh.

Gone.

Perhaps never to be seen or heard again.

Two hours later, she was giving his description again. This time, she was describing him to the police.

It was as if he had vanished into thin air.

Another hour passed and she was swept into her husband's arms. He whispered words of comfort and love as he stroked her hair away from her face.

Those words fell on deaf ears as hot tears slid down her cheeks.

"I lost him, Mulder," she murmured. "Oh my God, I lost him."

He guided her toward a bench at the front of the store. She sat down and he kneeled in front of her. Gently, he wiped her tears away with his thumbs as his hands framed her face. Her skin and bones felt tiny and fragile underneath the roughness of his hands.

"It's not your fault, Scully," he said with conviction.

"How can you say that?" she shook her head vehemently. "You and I both know of our past and of the danger surrounding it. I should have known better. I should have made him ride in the damn cart!"

It was Mulder's turn to shake his head. "No, Scully. I will not let you take the blame for this. If our enemies wanted Joey, there is nothing we could have done to stop them from taking him at any time. You couldn't have prevented this."

"Mul-" she started, but he cut her off quickly.

"Shhh..." he kissed her lightly on the mouth and rested his forehead against hers. "Don't let this eat you alive, Scully. I know it hurts like hell. But, I also know what guilt can do to a person. I can't watch you be hurt like that."

With that, Scully's began to sob quietly and Mulder's own eyes filled with tears. His chest constricted painfully as he thought of their missing son and his wife's sorrow that she had taken upon herself.

He pulled her shaking frame into his arms and allowed her to release her anguish.

"It's going to be okay, Scully," he cooed. "If we have to move heaven and Earth, we *will* find him."

Despite his assurances, his own mind began to play cruel images from past cases. Images of murdered children and the eyes of pedophiles. Tortured, beaten, molested...

Images that no child should even have to think about, much less experience first hand.

And then, an image of a sister lost flashed in front of his eyes.

Mulder shuddered at the thought and clung to Scully even tighter. He held her for what seemed like an eternity when they were interrupted.

"Mulder?"

He pulled away from Scully to look into the sympathetic eyes of Walter Skinner and John Doggett. Scully, too ensconced in her grief to hear the soft words Mulder mumbled, stared at some unknown spot in space. Her hands writhed together in her lap in a strange dance of comfort.

Her husband stood slowly, as his joints popped and cracked after being stationary for too long. He stroked the side of her face and stepped toward the two men.

"Sir. Agent Doggett," he nodded to each respectively.

"Thank you for getting here so quickly."

"Not a problem, Mulder," Skinner answered, then tilted his head in Scully's direction. "How's she holding up?"

Mulder glanced at Scully, then turned back to Skinner. He gaze remained anywhere but at his former superior's eyes.

"She's barely keeping it together," his eyes teared slightly and he scrubbed his face with his hands. "Jesus Christ! This can't be happening. I thought this shit was over. I thought we finally got the happy ending we deserved!"

A heavy hand slapped upon Mulder's shoulder.

"Hey," Agent Doggett said, "It looks like Scully isn't the only one barely keeping it together."

Mulder looked up at the man who he once despised. The same man he felt had replaced him.

But, now he saw a man who not only felt sympathy, but empathy.

This was a man who understood what it was like to have a child missing. It was a man who had experienced the heartbreak of losing a child in a violent manner. A man who was quickly becoming a kindred spirit.

Mulder did not want to feel that kinship with Doggett.

Definitely not like this.

"I know what you're going through, Mulder. I wish I didn't, but I do. I know what's going through your head." Doggett's harsh accent softened, "But, now I want you stop having those thoughts. Stop imagining the worst. I didn't get a happy ending, and I'll be damned if you and Scully don't get one. No one deserves a happy ending as much as you two. So, don't you think for a minute that because it didn't work out for me that it won't work out for you. Because I think it can."

Mulder dropped his head and let a tear or two fall. He brushed them away angrily and nodded his understanding of Doggett's words.

"Okay," he cleared his throat with a new conviction. "So, what do we have to do to get this investigation started?"

"Well," Skinner began, "I spoke with the police chief..."

He trailed off as he caught a glimpse of something over Mulder's shoulder. Mulder whirled around to see a young officer trying to question Scully.

"Hey!" Mulder shouted as he began charging toward the man. "Why don't you leave her the hell alone? She's already answered all of your damn questions!"

"S-sir," the young man stuttered, "you don't understand.

I need for you and your wife to come with me."

A look of horror flashed over Scully's already pale features. Her face went from bedsheet white to downright ghostly.

Something was found.

Scully grabbed Mulder's arm in a vice-like grip and stood on shaky legs. For a second, Mulder feared he would have to keep her from crashing to the ground. Bracing herself against him, he felt her heart beating at an alarming rate. Strangely enough, he noticed that it was beating in time with his own.

They followed the officer toward the clothing department with Skinner and Doggett hot on their heels. A crowd of people were standing around a rack of coats. The people parted like the Red Sea and Scully hand flew to her mouth and she let out a tiny gasp.

Underneath the coat rack was Joey Mulder and he was fast asleep.

Scully scooped the child up and squeezed him tightly. A pair of sleepy blue eyes looked at his mother's tears in alarm.

"Mommy?" his tiny voice chimed, "Did I miss Easter?"

The small group laughed at the child's innocence. The three-year-old had no idea of the stir he had caused.

Choked with emotion, Scully looked at Mulder for help.

"No, buddy," he told his son with a smile, "you didn't miss Easter."

"Oh, good!" he smiled. Then, he frowned once again, "Daddy? What are ya doin' at Mal-Mart?"

Once again, chuckles arose as Mulder wrapped his arm around his little family as he walked them out of the store. In their happiness, they were blissfully unaware of the pair of intense, blue eyes that belonged to a man who was grateful that happy endings really *do* exist.

Even if they didn't for him.

~~ The End ~~

**

Notes: Not too much to say about this one. It's the first story I've written in nearly a year. It's just a little idea that popped into my head last night while waiting for my mom in the Wal-Mart parking lot. I was people watching and noticed all of the little kids going in and out and thought of how terrifying it would be to be separated from your child in a huge department store.

I then recalled a story my own mother told about losing my sister in a store and how she found her asleep in the coat racks.

And since I'm a sucker for happy endings...

Anyway, that's all she wrote! :)

Btw, *Code Adam* is a real program that is found in all Wal-Mart stores. It's named after Adam Walsh (son of America's Most Wanted founder John Walsh) who was kidnapped from a department store and later found dead.

**

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