Story: Going Solo
Author: WildwingSuz
Author's page:
Category: X-Files
Genre: Tragedy/Family
Written: 02/13/2011
Spoilers: Existence, small for Momento Mori. This story begins after William's birth.

Summary: A/U: What if Mulder hadn't gotten to Scully in time?

Author's Notes: I have no idea where this story came from. Regardless, it was interesting to work on as I've never written anything about Bill before and I had to try and get inside his Mulder-hating head to do this.

I no longer have a beta reader/editor/etc. I'm sure it shows, so advance apologies.

Just yesterday the PCR results had come back and shown, definitively, that I was indeed William's natural father. Even had that not been the case I would still be here, holding a nearly-naked screaming infant and totally baffled as to what to do to make him stop crying.

William and I had been roommates for exactly eight days at this point. For the past seven Margaret Scully had been staying here, showing me how to care for a newborn, but last night she'd pronounced me ready to go solo. I had also thought myself ready to handle the baby on my own, but that turned out to be a gross miscalculation.

He'd gotten up normally for his midnight and three a.m. feedings, but when he woke me again at five—an hour early—I knew something was wrong by the pitch of his cries. Usually when I began to change him he'd quiet down, whimpering and chewing on his fist if he could find it, but this time the loud shrieks continued unabated as he kicked and writhed, making it extremely difficult to get the new diaper on. When he wouldn't take the bottle I knew something was wrong, and wracked my eidetic memory for the many things that Maggie had imparted to me over the last week.

Nothing seemed to match the symptoms and I picked William up without re-dressing him, cuddling his warm, firm little body against my bare chest and jouncing him lightly. I tossed a burp cloth—really a cloth diaper—over my shoulder out of sheer habit. It seemed sometimes when I was cleaning up that Will threw up as much, or more, than he actually ate.

I wanted to call Maggie, but it was barely five in the morning and I knew she needed her sleep after being up with William and I most of the last few days.

As I walked around trying to calm the screaming baby, Maggie's parting words stuck with me. "Fox, if you come to feel you can't do this, let me know. There's no shame in that. I know that either Charlie or Bill would take him into their families in a heartbeat. Heck, I'd love to have him if that's what you want. So you're not stuck, you need to know that."

I couldn't imagine doing anything other than what I was. I knew that Scully had wanted it this way, and William was really all that I had left of her. Of course I was living in her apartment and surrounded by her things, but William was a tangible, breathing part of his late mother.

I turned him to lie against my shoulder and when I put my hand between his little shoulder blades he erupted a huge belch into my ear, and then wet warmth began to soak through the cloth over my shoulder from his usual post-belch spit up. Maggie and I had discovered that Will rarely burped without spitting up, and I was already used to it. The wailing tapered off to whimpering, his head sank down to rest on my shoulder, and then I heard his breathing change to its usual deep, slow sleep pattern within just a couple of minutes as I continued to pace around the apartment.

Thank God. Or whatever, if anything, was up there.

I laid Will in his bassinette, tossed the burp cloth in the general direction of the hamper and flopped back on the bed, rubbing the side of my head where an ache bloomed. Despite Scully's mom taking a week to show me how to care for a newborn, I was beginning to wonder if I was up to this. I'd been a lot more determined before having to deal with him on my own, and yet I couldn't bear the thought of giving him up to anyone, not even blood family who would let me see him whenever I wanted.

As I dozed, I couldn't help but remember how I had gotten to Scully too late, holding her in my arms as the life ran out of her in a thick, steady red stream. I'd begged her not to go, crying into her dank, matted hair as William, barely ten minutes old at that point, shrieked from Reyes' arms. We'd been looking into each other's eyes when she died, and my last words to her had been a promise to take care of William. I would never break that no matter what happened.

But it didn't make it any easier when I felt so helpless and inadequate.

When I woke up to Will's sniffling and slowly escalating whining, the sun was shining in brightly and a squint at the clock showed it was nearly eight. Though he'd never slept in so late nor for so long at one stretch before, it was a welcome change of pace. As I stood and dry-scrubbed my face I could tell that I felt better just for having gotten an extra hour or two of sleep.

After his breakfast of four ounces of formula (which he all but gulped down; feeding was not a problem with this boy) and bath, Will stayed awake for a while rather than going right back to sleep. I desperately wanted a shower but took a few minutes to just hold and cuddle him, murmuring to him softly and doing my best to keep eye contact. All of the books that Maggie had had me read emphasized the importance of bonding, that it could literally make or break a child in the first few months. I took every chance I could get to bond with William, as I was determined that he would be a well-adjusted child even if raised by a single father.

Because I never wanted another woman after Scully.

Finally he dozed off and I put him in the bassinette beside the bed, pausing a moment to run my hand softly over his dark auburn hair. Yet again I thought, why did Scully have to die before she did more than glimpse William? All her sacrifices, her excitement over this miracle pregnancy, for nothing in the end. At least for her. Now I understood the hope of their being a Heaven, but as much as it would have comforted me I still couldn't believe that Scully was looking down on us from above. No, she was just gone, leaving a huge gaping hole in my heart and our lives never to be filled again.

Finally I turned away and headed for the bathroom, which was just outside the bedroom doorway. If I left the door open I would be able to hear William if he woke up, but still I was going to take a fast shower. I was getting good at it.

However, of course, the moment my hand touched the hot water tap there was a knock from the front door. I groaned, but turned and went through the apartment; it could be Maggie or the guys or even Skinner stopping by to see how we were doing.

But it was neither of them. It was my nemeses and second-least-favorite person in the world: Captain William M. Scully, Jr.

"Bill. To what do I owe this dubious pleasure?" I said tiredly, glancing out into the hall and hoping that Maggie or Tara was with him. No such luck. Bill was in mufti, a pair of tan Dockers and striped grey polo shirt. He looked like an oversized schoolteacher if you didn't count the strict military bearing and haircut.

"Are you going to invite me in?" he said, meeting my eyes squarely and without malice. "If it's not too much trouble I'd like to see my nephew one more time before we fly back to San Diego."

"Of course. Sorry. I'm a little sleep deprived even with your mom's help," I admitted, stepping back and then closing the door behind him once he was inside. "Will's sleeping but you're welcome to look in on him."

"Jesus, it's like Dana will come walking in here and laugh at us for being so gullible to believe that she's gone," Bill said in a low voice, glancing around as he paused by the couch. Very little had been changed since I'd moved in here, including the Scully family pictures scatted here and there. It was messier than Scully had left it, although I was glad that I'd at least done the dishes and picked up after myself before hitting the sack last night.

"I know," I sighed. "If I hadn't been there when she went, I wouldn't believe it myself." I was braced for another tirade, this time most likely about how I'd cost him both sisters. To head it off I walked around him and gestured to the bedroom doorway. "Will's in the bassinet on the other side of the bed. I was just about to take a shower," I added hastily, seeing what a mess the bedroom was in from my early morning unexpected wakening. The bed wasn't made, both the baby's dirty clothes and mine strewn around the general direction of the hamper, and the damp towel from his bath was still lying across the changing table. Scully would have kicked my ass ten ways to Sunday if she could see this, I couldn't help but thinking.

"Why don't you go ahead? I'll sit with him while you're in there," Bill said in a soft voice I'd never heard from him before as he gazed down at his sleeping nephew. I'd dressed Will in a fuzzy blue sleeper after his bath and covered him with a hand-knitted blanket, and he was sleeping on his back with both fists curled up by his face. Still gazing down at him, Bill flipped the quilt over the mussed sheets and sat down on the edge of the bed, resting one hand on the edge of the pale blue and white bassinette.

"Thanks, appreciate it," I said, then headed for the bathroom. I couldn't imagine Bill stealing him from me, though it wasn't beyond the realm of possibility. But if I couldn't trust Scully's brother with our son, then who could I trust? I was going to have to let go of my deep-seated paranoia with her family, I knew, and this was as good of a time to start as any.

I indulged in a fairly long hot shower, letting the water from her shower massager beat down on my shoulders for a few minutes once I was clean. I was buffeted by memories; Scully and I had christened this shower stall more than once, the large claw-footed bathtub even more often. We'd only been together as a couple for a few months before I'd been taken, but I clearly remembered every romantic encounter whether we'd had sex or not. One of my favorites was the Friday night we'd driven out to a remote beach in northern Maryland. We'd built a small bonfire in the sand, cuddled together under my Knicks stadium blanket, and talked until we ran out of firewood around three a.m. There had been nothing more sexual than kissing and holding each other; had we known it was less than a week before I'd disappeared I'm sure more would have happened, but at the time we were content with just being together. It was one of my best memories; about the closest we came to being a normal couple in the short time we'd had.

I had brought clothes in with me and once I was dried off and dressed, I opened the bathroom door to find Bill just walking past with Will on his shoulder, wide awake and nuzzling his uncle's neck. My first flash of thought was that he was taking him away, but then Bill nodded at me and said, "Someone woke up hungry. I already changed him, and I assume his bottles are in the fridge?"

"Yeah, there should be two in there," I said, following him into the kitchen while trying to finger-comb my damp hair into some semblance of order. "I try to keep at least four ready when I can, your mom said that helps keep things organized."

"Yep, that's my mom. I'll make a fresh one so you can keep those two," Bill said, tuning and handing Will to me before going to the counter where a can of powdered Enfamil and measuring cups were. I sat down in a kitchen chair with the fussing baby and watched as he prepared the bottle with easy familiarity; had I not already known that Bill was a father of two this would have keyed me in.

"You do that pretty well for a man who's at sea more often than he's home," I said thoughtlessly, and then cringed when I realized that it could be misconstrued as a criticism.

Luckily he didn't take it that way. "Well, yeah, but when I am home I spend all my time with Tara and the kids," he said, punching a minute into the microwave. "And now that I'm a captain I actually have more time at home than I did before." He turned to face me, bracing his hands back on the counter. "Mulder, are you really going to raise William alone? How are you going to work?"

His tone and attitude weren't hostile, only curious, so I decided to tell him the truth. "I don't have to work. I have a pretty nice nest egg since my parents died which we can probably live on until Will's in kindergarten." This was a partial truth since the inheritances from both of my parents as well as the sales of their several houses had netted me enough to live on for a lot longer than that if I was frugal. "On top of that, I can do a lot of things from home—profiling, writing, consulting, that sort of thing."

The microwave dinged and he turned to get the bottle out. "You know, Mulder, when my mom told us that you were going to raise Will alone I thought that was one of the most idiotic things I'd ever heard. But now… I'm a big enough man to admit when I might be wrong." He dripped a bit of the formula on the inside of his arm, and then used the dishtowel hanging over the sink to wipe it up.

I stared up at him, surprised, as he set the bottle on the counter and reached for the baby. All I could do was blink as he took William from my arms and, picking up the Playtex nurser with one hand, carried both into the living room.

I got up to find him comfortably ensconced on the couch, the arm he was holding Will with braced with a pillow. My son, as always, was sucking away with little grunts, waving his fists until Bill put a finger out and captured one. Will's grip was strong and steady, his other hand coming to rest by his face. "Well, I guess I'm glad to hear that, though it wouldn't change my mind even if you did think this was a mistake."

"What if my mom thought that?" Bill challenged, though his tone was mild and eyes on the baby.

"Then I would have thought twice," I said. "But more than likely I'd hire a housekeeper or nanny, not give him up to someone else to raise."

"When we heard that Dana… was gone… Tara began making room for Will," Bill said, still not looking up at me. "Even when we heard that you were going to keep him she didn't stop. If you change your mind, we'd love to have him. But I don't think that's going to happen, is it?"

"Nope," I said firmly, sitting down in an armchair across the coffee table from them. "Unless something happens to me, Will's staying here."

"Are you going to keep this apartment?" Bill looked around, his eyes sad.

"I haven't decided yet, in fact I've been putting it off," I admitted. "Although I think you're right, it's like Scu—Dana will come walking out of the bedroom any minute. I think that's why I'm staying here, and that's probably not a good thing. Yeah, we should move, but I don't know when or where."

"Don't worry about it right now, but stay close to my mom if you can; Will's all she's got in this area anymore and she doesn't want to leave that house," he said.

"Will and I," I corrected. "I'll be here for her as much as I can."

"That's a help," Bill said, again without malice. I had not seen him in almost a year, in fact the last time being this past Christmas at his mother's house when I'd been so annoyed with his verbal jabs that I'd slipped out immediately after dinner. Scully had caught me at home and berated the hell out of me, then ended up spending the night after I apologized. Mentally shaking myself out of the reverie, I remembered how cold he'd been the last time I'd seen him and compared it to this.

"Why are you being so nice to me, Bill?" I asked with sudden open suspicion as I began to realize that this could be a setup of some kind. "Can I take this at face value, or is the axe about to drop?"

Now he glared at me, shaking his head. "I should have known. Dana told me you were one suspicious son of a bitch. "

"Guess that fits in with your assessment of me being a sorry son of a bitch," I sniped back. Then I heard Scully's voice in my head, almost as if she was there: "Stop picking at each other like children; you're supposed to be the adults here!"

I leaned forward, resting my elbows on my knees and scrubbing at my rough face; I had forgotten to shave. "I'm sorry, Bill, I don't know why I suddenly got defensive. Your sister's voice just popped into my head and reminded me that I'm supposed to be an adult."

Bill snorted amusement as he took the bottle from Will's lax lips, setting it on the coffee table, then lifted the sleeping baby to his shoulder. I opened my mouth to warn him to use a burp cloth but it was too late; Will blurted spit-up down his uncle's shoulder and across the back of the couch.

"Hang on, I'm well equipped for this," I said, getting up and hurrying into the bedroom. I returned with a roll of paper towel, a pack of baby wipes, a clean onesie for Will, and a bottle of Miracle Clean spray for the couch.

"If baby spit is the worst thing I get on me today I'll count myself lucky," Bill said as we cleaned up, William dozing on the other end of the couch with two throw pillows tucking him in. Luckily there wasn't much on the back of Bill's shirt, which he was able to take into the bathroom and clean off, though I did have a job getting the majority off the back of the couch.

When we were back in the living room, Bill sitting on the couch by Will's feet and me in the same chair I'd been in earlier, he turned to me. "I also came by to let you know that Tara and I will be here if you need us, but I can see that you won't need the kind of help that I thought you might."

I shrugged, uneasy even with his backhanded praise. "Yeah, well, I made a promise to Dana that I intend to keep. No matter what."

"You know, I have blamed you for a lot of our family's losses and while it's true, I can't change history so I just have to deal with it. Had you not decided to keep Will I would have thought a lot less of you, and while I still don't like you, I do rather admire you for this." Bill got to his feet and I rose as well. "I have to go, we're flying back to San Diego in the morning and if I'm not there to help pack, Tara'll have my balls."

He leaned over and picked William up carefully, not waking the sleeping infant. "See you in a few months, little buddy," he whispered, kissing one plump cheek gently. He handed the baby to me, glanced briefly into my eyes then away. "Call us if there's anything we can do," he said in a gruff voice, then headed for the door.

"Bill," I called. He stopped, but didn't turn. "Thank you."

He waved a hand over his shoulder, opened the door, and then was gone. I stared at the closed door for a while, not sure if I should be bemused or annoyed, then shook my head and carried my son back to his bed.


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