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Missing Time

Author: tuatha
Rating: PG
Spoilers: No, but contains an oblique reference to En Ami
Author Note: This was written in response to a long ago Scullyfic challenge,
but has languished on my HDD as it only included a couple of elements that
were listed. I decided to post it, as it is.



"Mrs Paretsky, did the other boys go off and leave him by himself? Before
this, I mean?"

"Well, no, they're not supposed to." She was looking very uncomfortable,
casting glances toward the kitchen. Doggett's eyes followed hers, catching
Scully's bright hair as she bent toward the little boy, the dark head of the
woman from social services leaning in, the boy smiling, a little huff of
almost tears, almost laughter at something Scully said to draw him out, to
get to the truth of what had happened.

"I tell them over and over they have to get permission before running off.
You know kids, you never know if they're listening, right? And Angie and I
were here in the house, it's not like he was really left alone, you know?"

Doggett sighed mentally as the woman's tone became defensive, and she began
shifting things around on the coffee table, her hand moving over the half
empty box of chocolates that had sat there ignored since he'd been in the
room. He looked down at the notebook on his knee. He'd written 'Why?' at the
top of the page. He was wondering why they were even investigating this.

"And Bobby was in the yard with the other boys? That the last place you saw
him, before you realised he was missing?"

The woman nodded in response. "Scott was running around like a banshee with
Bobby, and Jordan was hanging his toys on the trellis." At his questioning
look she added in explanation "I'd hung the washing out that morning, and
left the pegs on the stoop."

Doggett nodded. Who knew what was going through the mind of a pre-schooler.
Let alone the kid's mother. "And then what did you do?"

"I cleaned up after breakfast, washed the dishes." Her eyes shifted toward
the television set in the corner of the room. Light slanted from the open
curtains across the screen, dulling the electronic images into grey shapes,
the sound muted to a low drone since their arrival. The little girl, Angie
was sitting in front of the tv, her lips moving soundlessly, forming round
'o' shapes in response to the images on the screen. "I caught the news a bit
while I was tidying up in here then gave Angie her bath. It wasn't until we
were done that I realised the kids had gone quiet."

"What time would that have been?"

"About twelve. I went to the door and called them. I wasn't worried you
know, until I saw Jordan and Scott coming up the street. 'Where's Bobby?' I
said, and they both just shrugged, said he was in the backyard, and so we
looked for him. I looked everywhere."

This was the hard part. The woman reliving those moments of panic, not
knowing but hoping the simple and innocent explanation, just wandered off,
playing hide and seek, anything but the fears beginning to take form and
substance in the background of her mind. Becoming more and more frantic as
she turned the house upside down, questioning the boys, why had they left
their little brother alone, didn't they know they shouldn't run off, Scott
in tears, Jordan not far behind him, looking forlorn as she dragged them
through the house, around the yard again, yelling for her lost boy.

Doggett listened, knowing the story too well, too intimately familiar with
the scenario to not know how it had gone down, even though most of the
detail was left out. He looked again toward the kitchen, Scully listening,
her gaze absorbed as the boy spoke. Asking a question, and the boy bowing
his head, as she gently lifted his collar, running her hand lightly through
the hair at the nape of his neck. Mrs Paretsky, continuing her tale, how
she'd called 911, asking the neighbors whether they'd seen little Bobby, had
he wandered down the street, the squad car pulling up and her relief even
though everything was suddenly much more serious, consequences she couldn't,
didn't want to imagine. Suddenly sobbing into her daughter's neck, because
she hadn't put the little girl down once through the ordeal, only now
realising it was too late to be vigilant.

Scully standing, the flash of red as she moved, smiling down at the boy and
ruffling his hair, then signalling Doggett with her eyes. Thanking the woman
for her time, standing, as the social worker gave the mother her card, if
she needed to talk to her, murmering something about trauma, possible
nightmares, but he and Scully were stepping out onto the porch before the
woman had finished her spiel, watching Jordan and Scott running barefoot
across the lawn in a breathless race, tagging the fence before taking off
around the side of the house yelling, a picture perfect suburban day, bright
sunlight and a light breeze lifting her hair as she walked to the sedan
parked in the street, dappled shade from the tree on the sidewalk, copper
and gold and brass shining like glitter where sunlight struck, too strong
for the delicate pale skin of her face, freckles showing faintly beneath the
foundation she'd applied.

He sat in the driver's seat, preferred being the one who drove and wondering
when she'd challenge him about it, not sure why she hadn't already, but she
just leaned back into the passenger seat looking relieved to be out of the
house with four kids under school age and a mother who probably wished she'd
kept her mouth shut when her kid turned up safe and apparently none the
worse for the experience.

"How was the boy?"

"He seemed fine, completely normal." Doggett frowned at her choice of words.
"A bit excited being interviewed by FBI agents though." He didn't look at
her but could hear the smile in her tone, the affection she'd built up for
the boy in just a half hour sitting in the kitchen talking with him. "He
didn't remember going anywhere, was just playing quietly beside the house
all the time he was missing."

"Do you think he wasn't?" He couldn't help the sharpness of his tone. He
still hadn't figured out why she thought this was worth investigating, and
he was impatient, wanted to know why she thought it mattered. A little kid
missing, then found. So the mother made a mistake, panicked and hit 911,
then the kid turns up again safe and sound, end of story. The cases where
the kids don't turn up again were the ones they should be spending time on,
not this.

"I mean, if he wandered off, maybe he just didn't want to admit it, not
after causing such a fuss."

He glanced at her, saw doubt in her eyes, and something more, something dark
and scared before he had to turn his eyes back to the road. He wondered what
the hell she was thinking.

"If he'd wandered off, someone would have seen him wander back, don't you
think? Mrs Paretsky had the whole neighborhood out looking for him by the
time the police arrived."

"I just don't get this, Agent Scully. Why are we even looking into this?
It's a non-case, it doesn't make any sense at all."

"The boy was missing."

"For all of an hour. Maybe she just didn't look there. The woman panicked,
she could have gotten confused."

"I don't know." Now he felt worse than before, the sound of defeat in his
partner's voice made him feel like a heel for questioning her. He preferred
it when she stuck to her guns, even when he didn't agree with what she had
to say. "When the police questioned him he told them he was only playing
there for a few minutes..."

"How is that relevant? I mean, kids aren't renowned for having a good sense
of time, are they?"

"I wanted to make sure, I fit the profile for missing

"You're kidding?" He chanced another look at her but she was looking away,
her face hardened to his disbelief, shutting him out. "You don't really
think that boy was abducted by aliens?" He laughed, a short hard sound that
he hoped wasn't as incredulous as it seemed to his own ears.

She slumped back in her seat, closing her eyes. "I found no evidence to
indicate that it was, no."

And that was it for conversation for the rest of the drive, her volunteering
nothing, and him wondering how to befriend a woman who believed in insane
tales of abduction and UFO's.