Title - Irreplaceable

Author - Rachel West

Feedback - rachelwest1013@hotmail.com

Rating - PG

Classification - SA

Keywords - family fiction

Spoilers - Requiem

Summary - The baby is Mulder's, but things aren't all happy. Mulder has to deal with a little crisis with his young daughter all by himself. Disclaimer - Certainly aren't ever going to be mine. They belong to CC and 1013.

Archive - Yes, just tell me where.

Author's Notes - Just a bit of something I typed out during a wave of doubt and depression.

You can find all two of my other stories at: http://members.xoom.com/rachelwest/

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A few years in the future

"Yes, Scully. I already have her bag packed and we're leaving in a few minutes. Yeah, I won't forget," I say as I hang up the phone and toss it onto the wicker nightstand. I sweep my hand under the bed one more time looking for 'Chessie,' the stuffed cat. No such luck. Just like its namesake, this little stuffed Cheshire cat did a vanishing act over this morning.

Now my daughter is crying in the living room about her stuffed toy while her mother keeps calling to find out what time I'm bringing her home. Grandma Scully is coming to visit and Scully wants Amanda there by noon so they can go out for lunch. I stand up, my knees creaking and cracking from crawling around on the floor, and look at my watch. It's only 11:35. I think we can make it by then. Maybe not with Chessie, but I'll have Amanda there.

"Manda, come in here," I call, staring at the mess in her bedroom. Her little white dress shoes shuffle across the hard wood floor all the way to my side. She's not crying as hard as she was when we first discovered Chessie was missing, but the tears still stain her cheeks and her eyes are rimmed in red. "You want to help me make the bed and maybe we will find her in the sheets?"

"Uh huh," she answers, walking to the other side of the bed and tugging up the white eyelet sheets and comforter she picked out when she moved into a 'big girl' bed last year.

"I think she's missing for good."

"Nothing is ever missing for good. I know that better than anyone," I say, helping her get her bed nice and neat. She tosses some of her other dolls up on it, not even giving them a passing glance. Chessie has been with her since she was born. It was a gift and now I can't even remember who gave it to her. I think it was meant to be a joke about how easily members of our family vanish and Scully wasn't crazy about it, but Amanda took right to it. Must have been the smile. It smiles more than anyone in this 'family' ever did before Amanda came around. Now the toy has been as much a constant as Amanda is herself.

"Chessie's missing for good." Her hands run across the bed, making sure to pat down all the lumps.

She looks up at me and blows a light brown curl off of her forehead. I'm tempted to say 'we'll get another one' but I know there are just some things you can't replace in life. For her, it's a tattered stuffed cat. For me, it would be her.

She was born five days after I was 'returned.' After a lot of arrangements were made, I was moved to hospital where she was born to start my physical therapy. I remember struggling to get into the wheelchair so I could be wheeled down to the nursery to see my baby girl. The baby I didn't know I helped created until Scully waddled into my hospital room after I finally regained consciousness. She looked round and exhausted. Her eyes told me there wasn't much time before she *had* to have the baby. The softness in her voice told me she waited for me for as long as she could. Besides that, I don't remember much else. Hell, I don't even remember the act that led to the conception of this little girl. God knows it never happened again. I remember Scully's eyes looking out the window of my hospital room when I asked how. I couldn't remember how and I think that hurt her.

"Manda Panda, we will do whatever it takes to find your kitty, okay? But your mommy wants you home so you can go out with Grandma for lunch, okay?" I say and she begins to pout. She has her mommy's lips. Besides that, she's me all over again. Even before we ran the paternity test, I already knew. She looked like all the baby pictures I have of Samantha. Sometimes she looks so much like my sister that it is . . . spooky.

"If you find her, will you bring her to me?" she asks, winding her eyes with balled up fists. Her voice sounds less like a child and more like the way she sounded as a baby and it tugs at my heart.

I sit down on the edge of her bed and put my arms out, motioning for her to come sit on my lap. I help her up, straightening out her pink floral print dress that her mother packed. I bought this dress for her. It isn't Scully's taste but I liked it. She her mom's gold cross around her neck and it peeks up and over her collar.

We are trying to raise her together, yet apart and it isn't easy. I was so much older when I had to have two bedrooms. One at my mom's. One at my dad's. Maybe she thinks this is how all kids live but I doubt it.

"Of course I'll bring her to you," I say, the fragrance of her recently washed hair reaching me. She smells like tropical banana something or other or whatever fruity shampoo it is she insists on using now. I take a loose curl between my fingers and pull it out, watching as it springs back into a coil again.

I'm not doing anything else today. Looking for a stuffed cat and driving across town with will seem like a welcome break from the silence that fills this apartment when she's gone. I also came back from the dead with no place to live. It was the perfect time to move into a two bedroom. One for me. One for Amanda. Scully never said a word about me living with them there. Not one word.

"Daddy?"

"Hmm?"

"Did you ever lose anything like Chessie?" she asks, looking up to me with eyes still brimming with tears.

"I've lost a few things in my lifetime but I found most of them. Or the most important things. You'll find your kitty, too," I say.

"If you lived with me and mommy, you wouldn't have to bring Chessie later. Chessie would have never gotten lost. You know that, don't you?" she asks with such a sound of hope in her voice. She has asked a few times in the past about why her parents don't live together. Someday she will realize we have never lived together. Unlike a few of her preschool friends whose mommies and daddies are already divorced, her parents were never even married.

"Yes, I know that," I say, rocking her in my arms.

"Do you love my mommy?"

That's a new question and one I haven't thought of an answer for. Do I tell her the truth, letting her know I've loved her mother for many years now or do I just let it slide for now?

"I love you, Mand, don't you ever forget that," I say, not giving her a real answer. It would just make everything more confusing, if that is possible.

I wish I knew all the reasons why and could tell her in a way she would understand. Sometimes I don't even understand what happened and why. If I would have never left . . . would have never gone to Oregon looking for something that seems to matter so little now . . . would we be living together, raising this child?

I don't know. I will never know what happened while I was gone and why her feelings toward me changed. Maybe she just never wanted to live through that again and this was the only way she could assure herself she wouldn't have to. A way to protect herself from the pain she felt. Then again, maybe the fact that we only ended up together in bed once should have been clue enough for me to realize it wasn't ever going anywhere.

Now we aren't even partners anymore. Haven't been since the day I left with Skinner for Oregon. Scully has a different partner. She works in a different division. I can tell they work well together even if I don't know him very well. I, too, have a different partner and was amazed Scully managed to keep them from closing down the X-Files while I was gone.

"Mommy's waiting for me, Daddy," Amanda says, slipping out of my arms and standing in front of me. She wriggles from foot to foot and looks around the room, a hopeful look on her face. I'm sure she thinks Chessie is just going to appear out of nowhere. Then again, like other members in the family, that particular toy usually does.

"Do have to go potty before we leave?" I ask and she adamantly shakes her head no. "You better not ask when we are in the car."

"I won't. Let's go before Mommy gets mad," she says, tugging on my hand. I stand up, letting Amanda pull me like's actually helping her old man get off the bed, laughing the whole time. Scully rarely gets mad about anything having to do with our child. She's just glad she has her. She's glad I wanted to participate in her life even if we weren't together.

"I'll make sure Mommy doesn't get too mad," I say, grabbing her overnight bag from off of her dresser and following her out if her bedroom.

She dances her way across the floor and to the door, pretending her shoes have taps on them. Dance lessons just started. That and soccer for very, very small people. I pick her up and drop her off every Thursday evening that I'm in town and spend my time sitting with the other 'mothers' on the bleachers. Scully does the dance. I do the sports. Somehow we came to that arrangement over the phone one afternoon while I was a thousand miles from home. We have a lot more decisions to make about this person's life over the next few years.

"I got your keys!" Amanda shouts, trying to jump up to get them off the hook by the door. I hand them to her and she jingles them on the their keychain while I unlock the deadbolts and we both go out into the hallway. "Can I lock it?"

She tries her best and with my hand over hers, finally gets it into the slot and gets the key turned.

"Are you going to drive yourself home, too?" I ask and she hands me the keys before running on before me. Right after was born, Scully wouldn't let her more than five feet away from her. The first weekend I ever had her myself, she called every ten minutes to make sure all was okay. Now this little being runs so far from us and someday we won't be able to catch up. Won't be able to protect her from everything. But for right now, the heavy glass front door stops her and she waits for me as she twirls around like a ballerina.

I let her out the door and she dashes to the car through the chilly spring air, telling me I'll be a rotten egg if I'm not there first. She sometimes sounds so much like Samantha that it hurts. I wonder what she would be like with a sibling and then I cringe, realizing that if her mom could ever have another baby, it probably wouldn't be mine. And I just have . . . never met anyone else.

"Get in here, squirrel monkey," I say, opening the door to the backseat. She scrambles in and sits on her booster seat, waiting for me to pull the seatbelt over her. That's when I spot it. A big old cat grinning at me from under a pile of folders on the backseat floor. It must have fallen there when we ran to McDonald's for pancakes early this morning. I lock the seatbelt in place and reach over her to grab it. "Look who I found."

"Chessie!" she shouts, grabbing for the mottled orange piece of fluff. What was once white on its body is now a faded shade of gray. It's fur is matted except for in the creases and it's getting downright ugly but it's her favorite.

She clutches at it with her fingers and that simple act tugs at my heart. It's irreplaceable, actually. Just not as irreplaceable as she is.

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The End

 

 




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