Title: Doom Child: Nature vs Nurture
Category: Babyfic, Mulder POV
Spoilers: Season 9 up through "William"
Disclaimer: CC owns the characters, except the mystery baby.
Notes: For the "Mulder AU Babyfic challenge"
** Please join the challenge! The rules are here
Summary: The question I pondered is this: Are the seeds of the world's destruction sewn into their souls, or can upbringing overcome?
Scully nearly had a heart attack the night I got back. Twice, actually, both times my fault.
I thought I could sneak into the apartment without waking her or William, but I was wrong. It just wasn't obvious at first.
Before I left, we put most of my things in storage, and broke the lease on my apartment. The fish, however, moved in with her. It was pausing to check on them that reminded me that stealth was not my strong suit. Echoing the snap of the tank's light going on, I heard the click of a gun's hammer being drawn back.
"Turn around slowly."
I nearly grinned. Same strength in her voice as always, even after a year on her own, even after the shaking events she told me about in her last e-mail. "Scully..."
"Mulder!" she gasped, safetying her gun. "You nearly scared me to de-" Trailing off suddenly, she must have realized I wasn't alone, even though my companion hadn't made a sound. Scully gave me a hard stare that I could see clearly, despite the low watt bulb in the tank being the room's only illumination. "What is that?"
Her tone put me on my guard; 'what?' didn't sound particularly friendly. "I thought William could use a playmate," I said, keeping my own tone light.
She didn't smile. "Whose baby is it?"
"She's mine." The edge in her voice made me hold the baby to my chest even more protectively.
"Are you saying she's your daughter?" Scully choked on her words, which made me feel bad, since the baby was young enough to raise that suspicion, but no less wary.
"No, she's not my daughter. But she is mine."
– End of prologue –
When I left Scully and William, I hadn't intended to return to them bring home a three-week-old baby, but life is like that some times. At least my life is like that; I just assume that other people's lives are like that too.
"How is she yours?"
"I want a serious answer, Mulder." After I just stared at her for a minute or more, she seemed to give up. "What's her name?"
"She doesn't have a name."
"All babies have names."
"Her designation is XX00032. That's not very catchy, but I haven't thought of something more appropriate, yet," I replied, shifting the baby in my arms, which were beginning to feel pins and needles.
"Is she healthy?"
"She seems to be."
"You haven't had a doctor examine her?" she asked, her voice mildly scolding.
"I've been sort of busy, what with trying to get back to you and all."
"I suppose I could examine her," she said reluctantly, reaching out for the baby. How like her to push aside anything involving emotions in favor of calling attention to something practical.
I pulled away. "Promise me that you won't try to hurt her."
"Mulder! She's a baby, why would I hurt a baby?"
"Just promise me."
"Fine. I promise not to hurt the baby," she said, rolling her eyes a little. "try to" I mouthed, but she didn't notice. Still feeling more than a little trepidation, I agreed to hand the infant over for examination.
After she fetched a doctor's bag I didn't even know she owned, she pulled out a changing pad – must have been William's – and unrolled it on the floor so she'd have a safe place to examine the baby. I was glad she wasn't going to do it on a table, since I had the idea that the baby might be able to roll off, despite her tender age.
Scully tugged gently on the girl's fingers and toes, moved her limbs, examined her eyes and ears. Listened to her heart…She muttered at me as she worked, mostly about me being a ninny if I thought she would ever harm a child. The muttering stopped, however, when she rolled the baby on to her tummy, and got a good look.
"Mulder, her neck! She's-"
I cut her off. "I know what she is, Scully," I said, picking up the baby and cuddling her. "Now do you see why I made you promise?"
Scully didn't say anything in reply, she just stared at the baby's neck until I covered up the knob that protruded from the soft baby skin with the fingers of one of my hands.
"Get rid of that thing!" Scully hissed at me.
"I am not kidding, Mulder. It's dangerous, and you know it."
"She's three week old," I said incredulously. "Do you really think she's capable of hurting you?"
"It's not me I'm worried about. Don't you worry about your son?" she muttered darkly. "Or have you completely forgotten about William?"
"Do you honestly think she could harm a toddler?" I retorted angrily. I didn't think she'd be thrilled about the baby, but I didn't think she'd be so irrational about it. "She's as helpless as any other baby her age."
"Like you would know." She smirked at me. It wasn't an attractive look. "You didn't stick around to find out."
"You were the one who insisted I leave," I reminded her. "You said it would keep William safe, which is what scared me into going."
"Well, it didn't." Her eyes blazed angrily, fixed on the baby. As if anything that had happened was her fault. "I almost gave him away, Mulder."
My heart leapt into my throat. "What? When?"
"Two months ago. I filled out the paperwork, and handed him over to foster care. They took him away…placed him with this earnest, terribly naive, defenseless couple. You have 45 days to change your mind. I brought him home a week later, because I couldn't bear the thought of him being out there without us. Your half-brother convinced me that he'd be safer without us, but how could he be? The super soldiers can find anyone anywhere…" She paused, and gave a brittle laugh. "And you've brought one into my home."
My home, not our. I realized then there wasn't going to be any reasoning with her, not that night. Careful not to drop the baby, I pulled out my cell phone and flipped it open. We'd done so much traveling over the years that I'd managed to memorize the numbers of several hotels. "Hi, I'd like to reserve a room for the night. I have an infant with me so I'll need a crib…thanks, we'll make it before the check in time ends."
She stared at me the entire time I was on the phone, not saying a word. "I'd like to see William before I leave," I said shortly.
"I won't wake him."
With a show of great reluctance, she opened the bedroom door. He was sound asleep in his crib, sprawled on his belly. My mother had pictures of me sleeping the same way. Looking down at him, I couldn't believe how big he'd gotten. And he wasn't bald any more. Scully had told me that his hair had turned red, but even when we'd been in contact through e-mail she'd been too paranoid to send pictures to me.
She hovered like I was going to snatch him away. Did she really distrust me that much, or was it her reaction to everyone who got near him? I was hoping for the latter.
"Scully, you have my things… do you know where the box of baby books are?"
"I think so, why?" She gave me a suspicious look.
"I'd like the book of baby names, if you can find it."
Five minutes later, I left the apartment with the book tucked under one armpit and the nameless baby in my arms.
I was incredibly, unbelievably sick of hotel rooms. Not to mention more than a little jet lagged. It's fortunate that I'd bought one of those baby snuggi things, not that I'd had it with me at Scully's, since I needed both arms to carry in my suitcase and the kid's paraphernalia – for a tiny person, she sure required a lot of stuff. Strapped to my chest she was dead to the world, and wholly indifferent to the trouble she was causing me. Women.
Fortunately, the bellhop was not blind to my plight, and offered to take my bags. I could have kissed him, but I didn't, no matter what Krycek might have suspected about me. I did tip him a five when we got to the room, though.
The room had a crib like I requested, but no changing table. Fortunately it had a nice empty desktop that made an adequate substitute. Babies are much easier to change when they sleep through it. No small energetic feet kick in places that make more mess to clean up, and they're far easier to dress than the average octopus. It's too bad you can't always wait until they're asleep to change their diapers or dress them.
Once I plunked the kid in the crib, I turned on the radio, very softly, and began to look through the girl section of baby names. It's funny, I'd bought the book, but Scully hadn't bothered to consult it, or me, when it came time to name our son. Typical.
None of the names really grabbed my attention. I thought of Blake since it means Light or Dark, oddly enough, since it's theoretically possible she'll turn out good or evil with or without my help, but I couldn't picture calling a little girl that, even though the book claims that it's a unisex name. She didn't look like a Blake either. I'm not sure what a Blake looks like, but I didn't think it was someone with dark brown hair that liked to spike on its own, and beautiful blue eyes you could lose yourself in. Not like someone who could pass for a child belonging to Scully and I both.
The book had lots of significant names, some meaning change, or prophet or herald or new, even a few that meant unknown, which is exactly what this child was. Definitely a solve for X in this equation. But they were all so…biblical. She'd definitely be the only one in her class with any of those names, but after growing up as the only Fox ever, I wasn't about to pass along the burden to an innocent baby. Instead I thought about names that were less about what she might be than what I wanted her to be, Grace, Hope, Promise all the lovely angel names. None of them seemed to fit this child.
Little did I know that as soon as I gave up in defeat, the name would fall out of the sky. Or out of the speakers as it were. Closing the book with a sigh, I leaned back and finally heard the song playing on the radio.
"…she's cursed as a Jezebel
Opening my eyes wide, I thought about getting up that second to write a fan letter to the Mission UK, but I was too tired. Evangeline, why hadn't I thought of it before? Evangelists are people who preach good news, what better to call a baby that was a harbinger of an uncertain future? Not to mention Evie is a fairly livable diminutive.
Bringing the baby to see Scully before giving her a name had been a big mistake. Of course Scully reacted badly to a nameless creature, who wouldn't? Now that she had a name it'd be ok, Scully would be able think of her as an individual worthy of respect now. A name made all the difference in the world.
Feeling almost giddy with relief, I changed and crawled into bed. I knew Evie would wake me in a few hours, but I was feeling absurdly better about everything, so I feel asleep instantly, my dreams filled with smoke.
The first strains of daylight were filtering in through the hotel room's skimpy curtains when I heard a knock on the door. Fortunately, we were both awake already, though I'd been in the middle of giving the baby a bottle.
However, I had no idea who'd be knocking on my door at that time in the morning, so I was slightly frightened. A look out through the peephole revealed a familiar, if tense, face, but it didn't make me feel much better.
"Where's William?" I asked, noting that she was alone.
"Monica took him to the zoo."
I nodded, then sat down to continue feeding Evie since she was beginning to fuss. "Still afraid that the baby is going to eat him, huh?"
"She's not a European cuckoo who'll take over the nest and be rid of William, and she's not the central figure in a horror movie. She's just a baby, who now has a name. Evangeline. I'm going to call her Evie."
This did not prompt a change of heart like I'd deliriously imagined the night before, but I'd gotten over that fantasy before she came knocking at my door; getting her to see things my way was going to require a lot more work than I had hoped. Her face remained completely neutral; I couldn't even tell if she liked or hated the name.
"How did you get it?" Scully asked. That annoyed me, so I glared at her. Even if she didn't like the baby any better with a name than without, she could have at least said 'she'. "Is anyone going to be looking for…her?" I guess she could read me still.
"No one is looking for her. They think she's dead," I said, standing up. Evie was asleep, so I wanted to put her in the borrowed crib. "They think she's as dead as the rest of them."
"If this is some misguided attempt to make up for not having been around William when he was a newborn-" she said, sounding like she was ready to get herself really wound up, but I cut her off before she could.
"This doesn't have anything to do with missing William," I told her coolly. All right, maybe it had a little bit to do with William, but if I had my way, I wouldn't be missing him for much longer. Her either.
"Mulder, please, I want to understand…but you need to tell me everything." There was a pleading note in her voice that I wanted to believe. She's not that good an actress so it could have been genuine; it was worth the risk to assume it was.
Sighing, I motioned to the room's two uncomfortable overstuffed chairs. Once we were seated, I mentally prepared myself for telling her everything, starting at the very beginning.
"Once you e-mailed me about that woman you met, and her baby, I started to put the pieces together."
"Which pieces are those?"
"Lizzie Gill, Krycek, that McMannon woman you e-mailed me about, what you said you saw on that ship…they all pointed to the existence of a program to create the so called super soldiers, using genetics, not adult subjects like the human replacements we encountered last year. I needed to know if they were real."
"Why? To prove William was one of them?" She looked horror-stricken. Betrayed even. That hurt.
I shook my head. "To prove he wasn't. I know we talked about accepting him as a miracle that we shouldn't question, but I also knew you'd never stop worrying about it, so I decided to see if I could find proof for you. For both of us. We deserve piece of mind, just like everyone else."
"And did you find proof?"
"Didn't I? When I saw William in his crib last night I didn't notice anything different about his neck. I didn't miss something, did I?"
"No. His neck is as normal as yours or mine," she said. I remember her feeling the back of my neck while I was still in the hospital, before she thought I was awake. I'm still not sure how I feel about her need to check.
"So now we know." I always pictured this moment being filled with joy and relief. Damn over active imagination. "Even infant super soldiers have the same defect we've seen in the adult models."
She stood up abruptly, turning to look at the crib. For a moment I felt the urge to put myself between her and it, but she didn't move. "You didn't… take her for show and tell, did you? You could have brought me pictures, I'd have believed you."
I knew she wouldn't have, but I didn't feel like making an issue of it just then. "If I didn't take her, she'd be dead."
Scully tried to hide it, but the look in her eyes betrayed her thought; she didn't know that it wouldn't have been such a bad thing. "You said they think she's dead. But why? What happened?"
I opened my mouth to tell her, but Evie began to cry just then, announcing that she was awake and bored. I scooped her out of the crib, blanket and all.
"Does she need to be changed?" Scully asked hesitantly.
"I think she just wants to be held."
Evie proved me right by quieting almost the instant she felt herself being lifted. After a week and a half, I was already an expert at figuring out what her different cries meant. I'd rather it been Will's cries I knew so well, but that never was the hand I'd been dealt.
Scully looked a little unnerved when I rejoined her, baby cradled in my arms. I wanted to tell her 'See? She's a real baby, she gets tired and hungry and lonely, just like William does. Like we did at this age, and billions of other people before and after us' but I didn't. The message wouldn't be well received.
"It took me a long time, but I was finally able to track down where they housed the experiment, and it didn't close down just because the ship's lab was destroyed. The problem was trying to break into that place, since it was as secure as Fort Knox. The first time I drove by, I only stayed a minute before I left, knowing there was no way in."
"But you went back."
"Of course, once I got a little help. Using a contact I made through the lone gunmen a few years back, I found someone who would break into any security system, and liked a challenge. I don't think Jake believed a word of what I was telling him, since some times the truth is stranger than fiction, but did agree to go with me. Eleven days ago, he and I were able to break into the compound."
"You said there were deaths… Did you… I mean, was it because of your breaking in that these people died?"
I'd agonized over that the first night, but it had been a coincidence, which was good, because I don't think I could have lived with the guilt otherwise. "No. By some twist of fate, the night we broke in was the night everything unraveled. Things were already in motion when we got there, we just didn't know that at first."
"So what did happen?"
I didn't want to remember, but if I wanted to get her to understand, I was going to have to revisit that horrific night…
"Jake and I broke in, and it was eerie. No one was in the hallways. I mean no one. You'd expect there to be gun toting security guards, but the place seemed abandoned. We were both spooked, and Jake kept urging me to go faster, faster as we looked for where they kept the records. Finally, we found the room, and it was unlocked."
Scully's eyes were glued to my face, which was sort of comforting. Even if she didn't want to hear what I was saying, she was at least listening very closely.
"I looked through the M and S file cabinets…"
"And William and you, and I… none of us were there. There were other names, though, so many other names."
I think she wanted to smile, knowing that there were no records on us there, but something else swarmed into her eyes instead. "Last night, when I asked you what her name was, you said 'her designation is XX00032.' XX as in female?"
"I think so. I think the zeros at the beginning mean whoever made her was pretty ambitious. They were planning for there being a lot of these children."
"But Mulder, how do you know her number?"
That was the thing I didn't want to think about.
In self-defense, I ignored the question, at least for that moment. "We were going to leave as soon as we checked to make sure there weren't any other records rooms, but as we left the room, it became apparent that things were not all quiet on the western front. Down the hall from us, there was smoke."
"Smoke," she repeated. The sympathetic look on her face told me that she recalled my fear of fire.
"And where there's smoke, there's fire. Jake bolted right then, and screamed at me that I was an idiot for not running too."
"But why didn't you?"
"I heard…" I glanced down at Evie. "Crying."
"You would have done the same thing, Scully. Could you have left if you heard a baby crying?" I knew what her answer would be.
"I couldn't leave a child that was in danger," she admitted. As much as I would have liked to express my triumph, I was careful to adopt a neutral expression. At least I'm good at that.
"Even though I was scared to death of running into the fire, I ran in the direction of the crying. The sounds of my shoes made the crying hard to hear, and that annoyed me a lot. Finally, I found the room Evie was in."
I don't think my face was still calm when I spoke again. "The room was on fire."
"The smoke was thick, and it stung my eyes. All I could do was to hold my sleeve over my face, but my lungs still felt seared, and I couldn't get enough air. I began to panic, not because of the fire, but because I couldn't locate the crying."
"Mulder, it's ok," Scully said, being kind to me for the first time since before I'd left her and William last year.
I shook my head. "It's not ok. The reason I couldn't find her is that the rest of them were dead. It was a nursery, but all the babies were dead."
Horror crept over her face. "The fire?" I could barely hear the question, she spoke so softly.
"The smoke. It doesn't take that much smoke to overcome such little lungs… Row after row of little clear bassinets, each holding a tiny, lifeless body. I ran from one to the next, checking each of their pulses, but…" I didn't want to think about it anymore. Or ever again. "At the far end of the room, there was a window cracked open. Someone must have forgotten about it. Under that window was one last bassinet, and Evie was in it, crying her heart out."
"At first I thought she was just a trick my mind was playing on me, a cruel joke, but she let out a wail, and I realized she was real. I couldn't just leave her there to die, no matter what she was, whatever purpose they'd created her for. So I picked her up, using her thin blanket to cover her face, and paused only long enough to notice that her number and birth date were labeled on the bassinet. I ripped the label off, and stuffed it in my pocket."
"Then you left?" Scully asked, eyes wide.
"Then I left," I lied. I wanted to leave, but I turned back to look at the fire. Some of the bassinets were melting from the heat…what happened to the bodies of other little XXs and XYs closest to the fire's maw is something I still have nightmares about. I know they couldn't feel anything by that point, but– "The rest of the building was burning merrily by that point, and I never did see another adult. I guess they were where the fire started. The smoke and flames were the only thing that challenged us as we fought to get out. I thought my lungs were going to burst by the time we got outside."
"Then what happened?"
"Then I found Jake, the coward, cursing as he stood by my locked car. I guess he thought I'd gotten myself killed, leaving him stranded. He looked at me like he thought I was a ghost. For a couple of minutes he didn't say a word, just watched the building burn. But as soon as we began to drive, he started to rant about how I should have left with him, and what the hell were we going to do with the baby.
"I told him I'd take care of everything. Jake was still in a pissy mood when I dropped him off. The last thing he said to me was ' If you ever need help again, don't call me.' So then it was just me and a week and a half old baby, the only survivors of what the local news called the area's biggest fire this century. The place burned to the ground."
"What was your plan, after you rescued her?"
With her staring at me, I knew that I couldn't tell her. How do you say 'Well, I was thinking that she's a year younger than William, so we go somewhere where no one knows us, and we just sheepishly tell people 'we weren't as careful as we should have been when Will was small, oops' to explain the quickness of having a second baby. And I thought the gunmen would be willing to help us with something as simple as making up a fake birth certificate. When you were pregnant, and we didn't know we'd be parted so soon, we talked about adoption to complete our family, so this seemed too good to pass up, especially since we're about the best shot a kid like this has at a normal life.'?
"To keep her safe."
"I understand that you felt an obligation to her once you took her from the fire, but why do you still have her?"
"I don't follow what you're asking," I said, honestly puzzled.
"Once you were free of the fire, there were a lot of places you could leave her. A hospital, a police station, an orphanage…" Scully said slowly. "Did you just not think of these places?"
"I thought of them. I just couldn't leave her with them."
"Mulder, if you're afraid that someone might figure out what she is and come for her, she's not any safer with you. In fact, given that the super soldiers know who you are, she's probably less safe with you-"
I looked at her then, forcing her to meet my eyes. "I don't mean safe from someone else, though it would be tragic if they got ahold of her again. I mean safe from becoming one of them."
"You're a doctor, you know all about the theory of nature vs nurture."
"She needs to be raised by someone who understands what they meant her to be. That's the only way she'll be able to overcome whatever they did to manipulate her genes before she was even born."
"Mulder, super soldiers-"
I interrupted her. "Don't tell me they're all killers, Scully. We know from what Lizzie Gill told us that they have only just been able to create them, so the oldest of them are barely William's age. We don't know that they're like the humans that were turned into them, since none of these kids has had time to grow up into anything yet. "
"But they might grow up to be killers."
"They might," I agreed. "And William might grow up to be a dictator with his eye on mass genocide. I think we're both willing to give him the benefit of the doubt though." I think I meant the comment to be a joke, but it felt flat, even to me.
She looked frustrated. "So the fact that they might not grow up to be…what they were supposed to be, but might be gentled with the right upbringing like pit bulls is reason enough to make an eighteen year commitment?"
Putting aside the pet comparisons, I gave her a sad look. "What if William had been like her?"
"He's not like her, you proved that yourself."
"I know, but what if he was?" I persisted. "Would you have thrown him away like an unwanted kitten?" A second too late I remembered that she had temporarily given him up.
Fortunately, she didn't interpret my statement in a negative way, since she just said "No. I would have done the best I could to see that he didn't grow up to hurt anyone."
I just nodded.
"But she's not yours."
"Who else does she have?"
One thing I've always loved about Scully is that she doesn't have a very good poker face. Everything she feels, you can see. And now she was upset and confused. I wished I could change that, but I knew it was up to her. "So you thought she should have you?"
"I thought she should have us. You, me, William…" I spoke softly, hoping that would make the idea easier to consider.
She didn't say anything.
"I thought this was about William," she said, I couldn't read her tone. "But it's not, is it? It's about Samantha."
I blinked, shocked. "How so?"
"Picking up a stray, wanting to give it a good home… That's what you wished happened to your sister, isn't it? Someone taking care of her, loving her, instead of what did happen to her."
"I wanted my sister to come home," I replied heavily.
"I know." Her voice was almost gentle. "But since she couldn't…"
"I would have preferred that than have her be tortured for someone's agenda, yes." Did I sound angry? I didn't think so, but my voice made Evie flinch, even though she'd long since fallen sleep.
Why were we talking about my sister? Was she trying to hurt me? I hadn't meant to hurt her, and I'd never known her to retaliate unintended harms with cruelty. God knows there'd been a lot of them over the years…
She surprised me by getting up and putting her hand on my shoulder. "I understand."
"You do?" I asked, looking up at her.
"Yes. I'll have to think about it."
"Think about what?" I asked stupidly. I felt like I'd missed half of a conversation. What did she have to think about? A voice in my head ordered me to shut up and listen, so I did.
"Whether or not she should have William and me too."
Before I could wrap my brain around that, she was out the door, promising that she'd give it serious consideration.
Sitting in stunned silence, I looked down at Evie. "Did she just say what I thought she said?"
The baby opened her eyes for a moment, but then closed them again. Obviously she didn't have any answers either.
Did Scully, was the real question. Was the reason I was so keen on keeping Evie and getting Scully to come around because I was projecting my own feelings about my sister's life after she was kidnapped onto to the baby? And if I was, did it even matter?
I wished I could figure out if it mattered.
I spent the whole rest of the day pacing the hotel room, wondering what she was going to decide. Not knowing was killing me. Finally it got late enough to go to bed so I didn't have to think about it anymore.
In the end her decision was no. I guess I sort of lost it then, but can't you understand why? She didn't want us to be a family. Some men have killed for that, and I don't think what I did was as bad as that. No one got hurt, anyway. Not physically. William's too young to remember anyway.
If she'd been thinking, she would have demanded that I return the key to her apartment when she came by to deliver the news. But she wasn't, or I was simply too erratic to guess what I'd do, so I kept the key.
She seemed sorry about it, which is what made me do what I did. If she'd been cold, I would have known that it was impossible, and there was no use, but that regret… that told me that maybe she could learn to love Evie, and relearn to love me again too. I know, you're thinking it's a flimsy defense, but just then it seemed like justification enough. We all do things based on misconstruing things, don't we?
I waited hours. Finally it seemed late enough, so I gathered up all my things, and checked out of the hotel room. We wouldn't be back, not there. Not where someone might have seen Scully either of the times she'd come to my room. It was so dark as I drove to Scully's apartment. There wasn't a star in the sky. That was comforting, the feeling that we moved in complete darkness.
Knowing Scully's habits served me well. The first thing I did was to check that her car was unlocked, which it was. That was a good thing, because it meant that I wasn't going to have to break a window to get in. All I had to do was swing one of the back doors open, and fiddle with the straps for a moment. I almost staggered when the car seat broke free suddenly, but I caught my footing before I fell.
Evie was still asleep as I strapped the other car seat in beside her. I knew it was a risk, taking that long to mess with a car seat, but William was only one, so he was too little to be without one. Once I was satisfied that it was safely in place, and that Will wouldn't be able to reach Evie since babies usually were jealous of each other, I closed the door to my car. There didn't seem to be any point to waking Evie up, so I just locked the car up and left her. It wouldn't take long anyway.
Letting myself in this time, I was much more careful not to make any sounds. I was counting on Scully being asleep, and I knew that things would go badly if she was awake.
I'd already slipped the bottle and cloth out of my pocket by the time I reached the door to her bedroom.
You'd think that ether would be hard to find in this day and age, given that they no longer use it at hospitals, but it really isn't. She was pretty deeply asleep already, so she didn't struggle at all as I held the cloth over her face. It was harder to tell if it worked given she'd been asleep, but I figured it had. You don't want to use too much ether, that can kill a person. She was fine though, breathing deeply and evenly when I went for William.
Before you get upset, I didn't do that to William. He's just a baby, who knows how much to give someone that tiny? Even though he cried when I picked him up, it didn't matter. Scully couldn't hear him. It made me sad that he cried, but you can't expect a kid that young to remember you. He fussed as I threw a bunch of his clothes into a bag, then did the same thing with her things after I carried him into Scully's room. She didn't stir, not even when I made a lamp wobble as I dragged the now heavy bag past it.
I brought William out to the car first, figuring that if the ether didn't work, at least I'd have him. That wasn't what I wanted, but something is better than nothing, right? I dropped the bag by the car, and unlocked it. Once he was buckled in –still screaming- put their things into the trunk. Evie woke up and began to cry too, either because of Will or the trunk slamming. The thought of two screaming babies started to give me a headache, but everything was going as planned, so it seemed like a fairly small price to pay.
The second to last thing I did was to go to the fish tank and throw in one of those week-long food pellets. At first I'd wanted to take them with me, but I decided that it wasn't a good idea. The thought of a bag of fish sloshing between the car seats seemed kind of crazy, so I dismissed it. The fish would be ok for a week this way, and it probably wouldn't take a whole week for people to realize that she and Will were gone. Of course people would say missing, but they wouldn't be missing, they'd be with me.
Every time I've picked her up, the realization hits me all over again. She is so light. You don't expect that from an adult, especially not one that's such a powerful presence. I almost left her room without grabbing her cross, but it seemed like it would be bad luck, so I pocketed it.
Adults are harder to seatbelt, sleeping or not, that small children. I managed, though, glad that I'd thought to buy one of those travel pillows so her head wouldn't hurt from leaning against the glass.
There are a lot of ways to transport two babies and an unconscious woman, but I don't recommend boat as being one of them. I had to do it that way, though, really, so I suppose I shouldn't complain too much.
You see, when my mother died, I was left all of her and Dad's properties, since there were no more Mulders. At least not until William and Evie. There were the two houses, but there were smaller properties scattered throughout as well. In a somewhat misguided effort at father-son bonding, not long after I joined the bureau Dad bought a little cabin … that just so happens to be on a tiny island in the Atlantic ocean. Don't get me wrong, it's only a stone's throw from shore, but it was a genuine island. We spent a few odd weekends there fishing, but he didn't live long enough after that for it to become a regular thing.
I did, however, spend enough time there to realize that it's extraordinarily secluded, which is just what I wanted for this endeavor.
The thing I'm most grateful for is that dad also purchased storage space in marina, as well as a parking spot, so we'd always have a way to get to what he referred to as "our island."Thank God I'd kept up with the fees for both luxuries. Apparently consorting with the syndicate paid well, so he was able to buy quite an impressive boat to store there. Alas, that boat didn't suit my needs, but the tiny dingy that we'd lazily equipped with a motor was more than adequate.
I suppose it was a very good thing that it was late at night, since it'd be sort of hard to explain to local authorities what I was doing. "They're my wife and kids" or "I'm an FBI agent and I'm taking witnesses to a secure location" both would seem suspect given Scully's state, especially since she'd begun to stir about a half hour before we got there, and I'd had to dose her again.
Luckily, there was nobody out but the stars.
Given the size of the boat, and the necessity to bring a play pen and two travel cribs in addition to myself, Scully and two babies in carriers, it was a tight fit. I worried for a moment that the load would be too much and cause the boat to sink, but it didn't. It was a tense fifteen-minute ride to the cabin, though. I tried to distract myself by planning the order of things to come.
What I finally settled on was to bring the babies and the playpen in first, then Scully, and then, once William was in the playpen and Scully resting comfortably on a bed, I brought everything else in too. William didn't seem capable of climbing out of the playpen, but I wasn't going to take any chances, so I locked the cabin behind me. Taking care of the boat was the last item to check off my list.
One of the things Dad and I discovered about the island during our fishing weekends, is that there was a small underground cave at the far end of the island. With my usual luck, I'd been the one stumble across it, literally. It was the perfect place to stash a small boat, since you don't notice the opening to the cave if you don't know exactly where to look. Even though the boat was light enough to lift, once I'd dragged it through the water as close to the cave as I could, I had to take the motor off and carry that separately. All in all it only took ten minutes to get both pieces down out of sight.
When I was done, it didn't look like there was a way off the island but swimming, and we were too many miles from the mainland for Scully to have attempted to swim back herself, never mind with William in tow. I whistled happily as I walked back to the cabin; things couldn't have worked out more perfectly.
When I got back to the cabin, it was very quiet. William was standing in the playpen, staring at Evie with a curious expression on his little face. It was hard to tell, but I think he found her interesting at least, if not likable. No sibling rivalry had raised its head yet, so that was good. I couldn't remember how old Samantha and I were when we first started to fight, though, but maybe by the time they were old enough to argue they'd already be inseparable.
They were being so good that I didn't want to disturb them, but I knew it'd been too long since they'd last eaten, so they needed to be fed immediately. I gave Evie a bottle, and William some cheerios. I had no idea what he liked to eat, so I'd gone a little overboard at the grocery store earlier in the day. That was ok, though, I'd needed a way to kill time, and it's not like groceries cost a fortune. He had a bite of my ham sandwich too, and all those sharp little teeth surprised me.
Even though he seemed to enjoy the cereal, and my sandwich, he still gave me mistrustful looks. I suppose that I ought to have admitted to myself that it'd take a while for him to warm to me, given he didn't know me from Adam, but it did hurt a little. I pushed that feeling away, though, since I was determined to get to know the little fellow in due time, and be as patient as possible while waiting for him to like me. All in all, I figured he'd be an easier nut to crack than his Mommy.
Once they were both sleeping, I put them in the portable cribs I'd set up in my room. For a second I'd considered putting William in the same room as Scully, but she was in no condition to see to him if he woke up and needed something. Besides, I didn't want to give her any ideas about running off. I knew there was no way off the island, but she'd probably grab him and thrash around outside for a while before coming to that conclusion. The day had already been upsetting enough for him as it was, so I wasn't going to let that be added to it. All I left in her room was bottled water and a bag of organic trail mix I thought she'd like; It'd been too long since she'd eaten too.
It was nice that they both drifted off so quickly. In cribs side by side they looked like peaceful little angels. I can imagine Maggie Scully looking down at Bill Jr and Melissa the same way, since there wasn't much more of an age difference between them. That made me a little bit excited, I liked Maggie, and I was sure that once things worked themselves out she'd love Evie too. Don't all women want granddaughters?
Knowing Scully, I'd expected there to be a lot of screaming when she woke up, maybe even some things thrown at me. This is the reaction I was prepared for. What I wasn't prepared for was what really happened.
The faint sound of the cabin door shutting was my only clue that she was awake. I wondered if maybe she didn't realize that William was there too, which is the only way I could rationalize her bolting outside without having tried to get into my room. But how could she have missed the playpen and the scatter of William's things? Both kids were still asleep when I unlocked the bedroom door, so I exited as quietly as I could.
When I got outside, Scully was waist-deep in water.
"What are you doing?" I called as I closed the distance between us.
"Swimming back to land, what does it look like I'm doing?" she asked tonelessly.
"It's too far to swim. Besides, I have William here too."
"Look Mulder, you win. If you want him badly enough to kidnap him, I can't really do anything right now to keep him from you. I'll take you to court, of course, and have you declared insane, but…" she trailed off, letting her hands drop into the water.
"If I wanted to keep William, I would have just taken him," I pointed out. "I'm not trying to take him away from you."
"Then what are you trying to do?" She looked slightly exasperated. That was an improvement over the wooden way she looked before.
"Trying to convince you that we should be a family."
"By kidnapping me and William?"
"Call it an intervention." She stared at me. "Come out of the water. You'd drown of exhaustion before you could make it back to the mainland."
She seemed to be weighing the two options, coming inside with me, or drowning. It looked like it was a close call as to which was worse. After what seemed like an eternity, she slowly trudged out of the water, giving me a wide berth as she passed by.
I left her alone to take a shower and change into dry clothes, occupying myself with getting both babies changed and dressed while she did. William didn't seem as shocked to see me when he woke up this time, so I was feeling a little better about things when I brought them out to start breakfast.
They tell you that honesty is the best policy, but I don't think the person who came up with that theory was a terribly bright one. Sometimes, a lie is a hell of a lot more serviceable than the bare truth. More believable too.
Maybe I should have lied to Scully. She seemed willing enough to think that Evie was mine, biologically, on first sight, so maybe I should have let truth take a back seat and told her, Yes, this baby is mine. I had a fling while I was gone, I'm so sorry, so sorry. Her mother died when she was born, so now I'm stuck with her.
Sure, she would have been mad, but I think she'd eventually have forgiven me. At least she wouldn't have been scared to death of the baby, like she so obviously was. Even now, I still don't know what she thought Evie was going to do to her. The saddest explanation, perhaps the closest to the truth as well, is that she was really afraid that she could grow to love someone she considered a monster. I'm sure that her religious upbringing was wrapped up in that somehow, even tighter than the wrapped up baby I offer to her.
You'd have thought I was offering her the alien embryo that Deep Throat had her go get for him. To my surprise, Scully did take the baby from me, though, suddenly, and held her very stiffly. Evie didn't like how she was being held, and began to snuffle. Babies do that all the time when they're not in comfort, but they don't usually cause the person holding them to look terrified when they do. What was she expecting, that Evie would retaliate like the kid in that "It's A Good Life" twilight zone episode?
I sprang to the rescue and took Evie back before she began to cry in earnest. A binky stuck into her mouth calmed her down quickly. Too bad the same could not be said about Scully. I wasn't sure what I should do. Make a dumb joke, offer a word of encouragement? Insist she stop being so silly? Ok, I knew that the third one wouldn't help matters.
In the end, it was William who changed the mood of the situation. I'm not sure how long he'd been walking, but he was able to stand on his own, if unsteady, feet and toddle around. And what he did was come over and look at Evie.
When he reached out to touch her, I was sure that Scully was going to scold him, or maybe even get up and snatch him away, but she did neither. She just sat there tensely, and watched as William patted Evie with one small hand.
"Baby," he remarked with a toothy grin. It seemed to tickle him that Evie was smaller than he was.
"Yes, a little baby. We must be gentle," I told him, helping him touch her softly. She didn't seem to mind, and just continued to suck on the pacifier.
"Will's baby?" He gave me a questioning look, and I didn't know what to say.
Scully, however, said "No." So quietly you could barely here her. But William did, fixing her with a puzzled look. "Daddy's baby," she added.
I wasn't sure how to take that. Did she mean no, she's not William's because this wasn't going to work, or not she's not William's because I'm the dad in this family? I was afraid to ask, so I didn't challenge the statement.
After that things seemed to get a little better. Scully wasn't in love with Evie, but she seemed to at least tolerate her, and there was far less fearfulness in her eyes when it came to touching her. Eventually she was helping me look after both Evie and William, so I didn't feel compelled to keep them locked in at night with me anymore. I was beginning to think that things might work out after all.
Until I woke up late a couple of days later, and found Scully in the kitchen, crying. Scully must have gotten the kids up for breakfast, since they were both in the kitchen with her. Evie was in the baby carrier on the table, and she was fussing, but Scully worried me more, so I let Evie stay where she was. At least William seemed content, playing on the floor.
"What's wrong?" My voice was gentle.
Her eyes were red rimmed when she looked up at me. "I know you want this to work out, and I'm trying. I'm really trying. But after breakfast I was going to cut up some tomatoes for lunch, and all of the sudden…"
"All of the sudden what?"
"I had the knife in my hand, and I couldn't help but wonder. If I cut her, would she bleed? Would she heal immediately, like the super soldiers who had been after us did, would she even feel it?"
"I just kept staring at the knife…"
I put my arms around her. "It's ok."
"No, it's not ok. My rational side tells me that you're right, but still I can't keep myself from wondering these things."
"Why don't you go lie down? I'll make lunch."
She nodded, but her shoulders were slumped as she went to the bedroom. Even though nothing had happened, it was clear that her emotional storm had tired her.
Shaking my head, I reached for the knife, then stopped. There was a smear of red on the blade. Shaking off my shock I started to smile. The tomatoes, of course. But then I noticed that they were all whole.
Dropping the knife with a clatter, I lunged for Evie, which startled her into crying. I looked all over, but I didn't see so much as a scratch on her. My relief was arrested, however, because there was a maroon stain, half as big as a dime, on the baby blanket that lined the carrier; I'd picked Evie up so fast that I'd missed it. From the position of the stain, Scully must have cut the baby's arm. Double checking, though, I still didn't find a mark on her skin.
Holding the infant to my chest, I gave the closed bedroom door a wide-eyed stare. I hadn't realized that Scully was capable of violence, especially towards a tiny baby. Even if I took all the sharp objects and threw them in the ocean, it didn't mean that Evie would necessarily be safe if Scully lost it. We knew they could die of smoke inhalation, who's to say they couldn't drown? We were surrounded by water.
This wasn't working. I was going to have to–
The hotel phone rang, so I reached out and grabbed it, hoping to shut up the ringer before it woke Evie, who was sleeping on my chest. "Mulder."
"Mulder, it's Frohike. You left a message saying you needed our help with something?" Melvin sounded like he was barely able to contain his curiosity.
"Yeah, it's such a little thing I feel like I'm insulting you by asking, but I don't know who else to go to…" I paused for affect. "I need a birth certificate created, one that'll pass inspection. Maybe a social security card too."
"What about other things? License, credit cards, passport?"
"Nope, the person they're for doesn't need any of that stuff."
"You're right, this is easy… Let me grab a pen to take down the information. What do you want the birth certificate to say?"
"Say it was a home birth so there's no hospital records a suspicious person could look into. Name Evangeline Mulder. Born-" I paused and decided to make her a couple of days older than she was, to seem less suspicious. "– April twenty-eighth, two thousand and two. Father Fox Mulder."
"Is there something you've been meaning to tell us about your time away?" Frohike's voice was sly. When I didn't give him the satisfaction of an answer, he asked another question. "Who should I say the mother is?"
That stumped me, but then I had an inspiration. "Do you think you could make two different copies? On one list the mother as Dana Scully, but leave the other one blank."
"I'll make two copies, but some day you're going to tell me what this is for, Mulder. Whoever this kid is, I know she's not Scully's."
"When it's safe to say, you'll be the first to know," I promised.
"Is there really a baby?" Frohike asked suddenly. "Or is the paper work for something else?" He sounded amused by the idea of subterfuge, but who isn't?
Just then Evie began to fuss, flailing at me with tiny hands, and I'm sure Frohike heard her. "There's really a baby."
"Ah. Congratulations then, I guess."
Of course I didn't do any of that stuff in my lurid daydream, what do you take me for? The sad little mental adventure did prove one thing to me, though. If we were going to be a family, it was going to have to be on Scully's terms. I was going to have to be patient. I don't know if you know this about me, but I've never been the world's most patient guy. It was going to be a challenge.
The hotel room was getting claustrophobic, so I decided to look for an apartment the next day. I suddenly wished that I'd kept up the lease on my apartment, since it was as much home as any place, but I'd had no idea how long I'd be gone. Even if it would have been nice to go back there, it wouldn't have been worth a year's worth of rent.
The realtor seemed very taken by Evie, which sort of grated at me. Why couldn't Scully have been instantly charmed by the infant too? Of course the realtor didn't know that Evie wasn't quite normal, and had never heard of super soldiers, so I suppose the difference lay there. For her part, Evie didn't care too much about the woman's attentions. Mostly she just yawned in the baby carrier as I lugged her from apartment to apartment.
The realtor, a frumpy woman named Lydia, kept up a steady stream of chatter that got on my nerves. She was the type of woman who seemed to think that friendliness entailed prying for details of your life so she could see what you had in common. As a guy with a lot of secrets, I didn't find this very charming.
"Are you a widower, Mister Mulder?" she asked, looking up from making faces at Evie.
"Actually no. My wife and our son are looking after her sick mother." The lie rolled easily off my tongue. "We didn't want the baby to catch it, so I'm taking Evie with me while I look for an apartment."
"How old is your son?" She looked slightly disappointed at the mention of a wife, and I didn't want to think about it.
She chuckled. "Didn't waste any time, did you."
"The wife's biological clock was ticking down. I'm sure you know how that is."
"Gracious yes. My three were all born the first five years I was married. I'm divorced now, though."
I nodded, ignoring the expression her face. "I like this apartment." I actually did. It was fairly spacious for DC. "But would the landlord really be ok with a month-to-month lease? I'm supposed to be transferred again before the end of the year, but it's up in the air as to when."
"Where will you be going?"
"That's so exciting. What do you do?"
"Ah. The landlord said that sort of arrangement suits him, so it shouldn't be a problem."
"If we meet with him this afternoon, you should be able to move in the day after tomorrow."
"Let's meet with him then."
I moved in a couple of days later, and was I ever glad to be out of that horrible hotel. Well, it wasn't that horrible, it was fairly nice for a hotel, but it was a hotel, not a home. It didn't take much to move in, since it was a partially furnished apartment. The only major things I had to buy were a crib and a changing table.
The baby furniture was being delivered when Scully arrived – with William. I tried to be casual about their appearance, though I'd been hoping to see her ever since I left a message with my new address. I'm not sure if I pulled it off or not, since I was really happy to see my son, and I'm sure it showed.
Scully seemed a little shy all of the sudden, so she spoke to William before she spoke to me. "Hey Will, here's your Daddy. Remember I said we were going to see him?"
William, for his part, just stared at me wide-eyed. Since the word "daddy" seemed to mean something to him, it made me wonder if she talked about me to him while I was gone. I really hope she had.
I crouched down to see him better. "Hi, William."
"Hi," he parroted, looking far less shy than Scully.
"How about you and your mom come inside?"
He nodded, and Scully carried him in. Evie was asleep in the baby carrier, and she didn't seem too uncomfortable there, though I was determined to get the crib together as soon as possible.
William could walk, I realized, as he rushed towards Evie. "Baby!" he crowed, just like in my, um, daydream. I guessed it wasn't too strange, since most small children were fascinated by those younger than them.
"Do you like the baby, Will?" Scully asked, a decidedly different response than my daydream.
Instead of answering, William offered a big grin.
"That looks like a yes," I ventured.
"I think you're right," she said, as we watched him pat Evie's feet. This woke her up, and she gave him an unfocused glance, but didn't cry. "Do you need some help putting the crib together?"
"I'd love the help. I'm not too mechanically inclined, which, as you know, is why I never wanted to go to those team-builder seminars."
"Funny," she said as I dragged the box into Evie's new room. "I thought I recalled something about a severe hemorrhoidal condition."
"It would have been a pain in the ass."
She chuckled, and that put me a little more at ease. It was a few minutes before we started on the crib, since she wanted to go out to her car for William's playpen – which I was more than a little surprised she'd brought. How long a visit had she counted on? – and I had to man-handle the parts out of the box. Once Will was properly imprisoned, and I'd finished cursing the thick cardboard under my breath, we were able to begin our project.
I'll admit, it was really nice to be working on something with Scully again, even if it was merely putting together some baby furniture, not something like an interesting case. It made me feel lonely, though, since I knew that it couldn't last.
Or I thought I did.
"So you're really going to do this," she said.
She waved her hand about, I think to indicate the apartment. "Move in here, raise Evie as your own."
"Yes." Did she think it'd had been a whim?
"Even if I don't fit into the plan."
"Well, I'd like for you to, but if you can't handle it, I'm willing to let you go. I don't want to, but…" I trailed off, trying to think of what to say. "She needs me more than you do."
"More than William does?" There was no edge to her voice, which I found curious.
"William has you, and… you're a lot to have."
For a second I thought she was going to cry. "Thank you, Mulder."
"For what?" I was truly puzzled.
"I thought…you would use Evie's helplessness as a way to get what you want."
"I'm not sure I know what you mean."
"I thought you were going to blackmail me, maybe. Say you couldn't keep her if you didn't have help, and if I didn't agree to help it'd be my fault you had to give her to someone who might let something bad happen to her."
I blinked. That was certainly nothing that'd ever crossed my mind. "I wouldn't do that."
"I know, it's just… We think strange things sometimes, do you know what I mean?"
God did I ever. "Yeah."
"At first I thought you were crazy to want to keep this baby, but I think I understand. I wanted Emily too right after I met her, even though it might not have been the best thing-"
"It would have."
"–and she wasn't much more 'mine' to begin with than Evie is yours. I just mean I can understand the desire to make a child who has no one yours."
"Ok." I waited for her to continue that line of thought, but she didn't.
We finished putting the crib together, and as I struggled to get the sheet on, she surprised me with a kiss on the cheek. "You're a good man, Mulder."
Before I could think of a coherent response, she and William were gone.
A Month Later
"So explain to me again what's going on?" Frohike's voice sounded static-y so I wondered what unsavory place he was calling from. I didn't really want to know.
"About six weeks ago, I was poking around looking for answers- "
"– and the building I was in seemed to be on fire. Before I could use the brains God gave me and make a quick exit, I heard a baby crying. So I rescued her."
"And…she's not exactly a normal baby. She's, um, a super soldier baby."
"I bet Scully was thrilled when you came home with that."
How'd he know she'd be unhappy? "Yeah. She was pissed. But Scully eventually came to the same conclusion I did – this kid's best shot at growing up to be normal is to be raised by a couple who know what she is, and who'll do their best to counter-act any inborn violent tendencies she might have."
"So this family is you, Scully and Will?"
"Exactly. I think we'll be the best thing that could ever have happened to Evie. It's nature versus nurture, Melvin. It's very scientific."
"Don't call me Melvin," Frohike groused. "So, when are you leaving?"
"Next month. Scully had to give her notice at the hoover building, and arrange for a transfer to the area we're moving to."
"And what about you, are you going to be a kept man?"
"I prefer stay-at-home Dad, but yeah, I'll be staying home with Will and Evie until they start school. I've got money I inherited from my folks, so things should be just fine even without me earning an income."
"If only we could all be so lucky…Oh. Good luck with the new kid."
"Thanks, but I don't think we'll need it," I told him, cuddling Evie to my chest. "Everything is going to be smooth sailing from here on out."
"God knows you deserve some happiness and an easy life."
Maybe he was right. Things had finally gone my way because I'd paid my dues. All I knew was that I was going to have the family I wanted, and that was the best thing in the world.
Six Year Later
I had a bad cold, but fortunately Scully and the kids all managed not to get it from me. Daytime TV didn't seem to have much charm, but I was too tired to get up and turn off the TV, so I let the irritated talk-show voices dull my senses until I was in a half awake stupor.
The jangle of the phone's ring broke the swaddling of ennui that I'd covered myself with, and I snatched it up, thinking only to stop the noise. I couldn't imagine who'd be calling, since Scully promised to call at noon, and it was only 10:30.
"Hellow?" I knew I sounded as bad as I felt.
"Could I speak to Mister Mulder please?" an unfamiliar feminine voice asked.
"Mister Mulder, I'm the principal of Green Oaks elementary school. I need you to come to the school immediately. There's been…an incident."
My heart skipped a few beats. "Involving Will or Evie?"
"Both, but mostly your daughter. It seems as though another boy was picking on William during morning recess, and Evie intervened. If a teacher hadn't witnessed it, I never would believe… the other child was injured, Mister Mulder. By your daughter."
My grip on the phone tightened, my knuckles white. "How badwy injured?"
"Very badly," she said curtly. I half expected her to go on and say the boy was dead. What she said next wasn't much better. "He's in the hospital. In the ICU. His parents are talking about police involvement."
I said nothing.
"Hello? Mister Mulder, are you still there?"
Oh, God. How could I have been so wrong?
Read the Sequel!
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