Title: Lost Child

Author: Amperage

Date: Nov 23 1995

Feedback: Amperage@aol.com

Disclaimer: The X-files, Skinner, Mulder, and Scully are all the property of Chris Carter and 10-13 productions. I have used them without permission.

Lost Child

by Amperage

He was sitting in the dark, staring at nothing. Staring and he did not notice when she opened the door. Scully flipped on the lights, watched him flinch. Wondered how long he had been sitting here. How long it had been since he had seen any light.

"Hey." She smiled, hanging up her trench. "Is something wrong?"

Stupid question.

Mulder looked up from his brooding, concentrated on her face as though realizing for the first time who she was. What she was. "Do you think anything was ever done to me. . .genetically, I mean?"

It was not a question Scully had been prepared to hear, to answer. "I. . .I. . .honestly, I don't know," she finally stammered. "Why is it important?"

Mulder shrugged, said nothing.

There were only two possibilities that sprang to mind immediately. "You haven't been sick, have you?" She would have known that. Should have anyway.

Mulder smiled, shook his head. Bent over a blank legal pad as though it were important.

"What's her name?" She didn't bother to ask if he'd gotten anyone pregnant. He wouldn't be startled enough to give her a straight answer.

"Kathy. Kathy Lower. She's an accountant. She works in the financial department at Hopkins University," Mulder answered, not bothering to deny anything.

Scully swallowed. "How far along is she?"

"Twenty one weeks. She waited until she was too far along for anyone to do an abortion to tell me." He tried to smile, but it didn't get very far. "It wasn't a serious relationships. A month's worth of dates and I cut it off before it could get serious. And now. . .she called last. . ." Mulder trailed. "I don't know what to do. Do you think they did anything to me?"

Scully wanted to hold him, the way she would a child. It was the wrong response and she smothered it. "I don't know. Has she had good prenatal care?"

"I would imagine. She's got free health coverage as long as she uses one of the best hospitals in the world."

"If something was wrong they would know."

Mulder nodded, looked up. "I have to go talk to her today.

She doesn't understand anything."

"No." She wouldn't. How could she.

"What are you going to tell her?"

"I. . .I don't know. . ."Mulder stared at her. "I'm so scared and I honestly don't know."

"I'll go with you."

"No. No." Mulder shook his head. "I've got to do this alone."

"No you don't."

"Yes. I do," Mulder replied, swallowing. "I've got a meeting with her at ten. Can you handle things?"

"Of course."

He nodded. "I'll be back when it's over."

**

She was sitting in her cramped office, staring at a computer screen, when the secretary showed Mulder in. Her stomach was full and round and though she was not yet huge, there was obviously a child waiting its time to be born. She was still beautiful and exquisite and more than anyone could dream of. She did not smile when she saw Mulder. But her expression was not severe either.

"Are you still in shock?" she asked.

"I can't believe you didn't call me before this."

"You said you never wanted children. I thought it might be safer."

"You should have called me. There are issues here that you don't understand. Has anyone been following you?"

Kathy frowned. "What the hell are you doing? Trying to scare me?"

Mulder shook his head. Stared at the round bulge of belly under her expensive suit. He put his face in his hands. "I've thought this over and thought this over. Here's the number for my lawyers." He handed over the small cream business card. "They'll set everything up. Child support, whatever. I don't want my name on his birth certificate."

Kathy stared at Mulder. "Give this time. You're in shock."

"No." Mulder shook his head. "No, I'm not. I know what I'm doing. No contact."

"You're not a selfish bastard. I know things didn't. . ."

"Things didn't work out between us because I don't want anyone in my life!" The words came out in a shout. "Things didn't work out because I don't anyone else in my life that they can use against me. Look, I'm trying to protect you. You're lucky. Somehow they missed knowing about you. Missed knowing about this baby. They probably know *now* though, but on the off chance they don't I don't want any contact. You don't understand. This is dangerous. I have made enemies. Powerful enemies." Mulder stopped, watching the fear grow in Kathy's round blue eyes. "I don't want children. I don't want offspring. I don't want a child. I'll pay the fucking child support because it's mine and I own up to my responsibilities. But I don't want contact with it, and I never want to deal with it. You can just. . .you can just call my lawyers and work out the money. I don't care as long as you're reasonable. Take it from my paycheck every month." He stared at Kathy. Awkward and unhappy and his words lacked all the intensity he'd meant to put into them. But they were said and the look on Kathy's face was devastated.

"You fucking, fucking bastard," she yelped, wounded. Mulder got up, turned to the door, opened it.

The coffee mug missed his head by an inch. Ceramic shattered on the door frame into thin, white-edged shards, and hot coffee fell onto his suit, drenching and staining the grey material.

"HOW DARE YOU! THIS IS YOUR BABY! YOU BASTARD!" Mulder glanced back at Kathy, trying to imitate a glower. Kathy sank into her desk chair, burying her face in her hands. Mulder continued out the door.

**

He didn't come back to work. Scully didn't ask, didn't think. She just locked the door to their office and drove to his apartment. Brain racing as she drove, carefully maneuvering daytime traffic.

Mulder was worried about possible genetic problems. For Scully, it wasn't just a possibility. She knew, she most certainly knew, that *something* had been done to her. What she did not know was how this might affect her progeny. She understood Mulder's terror, echoed it the way a harp string will echo when it hears its sister note. And as far as Scully knew she was quite fertile. There were the BC pills and she insisted on condoms, but her body seemed, at least, to be as fertile as it ever was. Genetic problems. Problems testing wouldn't catch. Missy had been a high payment to her work. And here was another. Every step she took led her further into the darkness and now, now there was no way back and there never could be.

**

Mulder was curled up on his couch, his fingers curled around the remote, face drawn and expressionless, watching a porn film that had probably been in the VCR when he got home.

"What happened?" Scully asked softly, ignoring the soft moans and musak, the intertwined bodies.

"She called me a bastard. Oh God, Scully. She doesn't know and nothing I can tell her will let her know. What do you think they'll do to her?"

Mulder sat up. Moaned. "I have a headache."

Scully sighed, went to the kitchen for bottled water and some aspirin. Smothered her own fears again. She had to be Scully for him. Strong, logical Scully.

"She wants half my paycheck."

"Can she get it?"

"No. My lawyers said that the courts will probably take three or four hundred a month. My salary, her salary. The kid's not going to be living in poverty, after all."

"Do you want me to go in and talk to her?"

"No. She was right. I was a complete bastard." Mulder took the pills, swallowed the water. "She won't want to listen to you." He grimaced. "Another generation of Mulders. Too bad my dad's already dead. Little Spookster."

"Stop it." Scully took the remote, flicked off the tv. "Stop this. I know you're scared, and for good reason, but stop wallowing in this. . .this bed of self-pity. She should have called and told you when she found out. She shouldn't have waited. No, she didn't know what the consequences of her actions were, but she made her own decisions."

"I let her tell me she was on the pill. We showed each other our HIV negative tests. I should have worn a condom. It doesn't matter. . ."

"Mulder, stop it." Scully forced herself to be cold. "Just stop it."

"If it weren't normal, they would have caught it, wouldn't they?" Mulder asked, pleadingly.

The answer was no. Scully couldn't say it. She sat down beside her partner on the couch. "She's got the best medical care in the world. If they suspected anything, they would have investigated it." Not a lie. Just a half-truth.

Mulder closed his eyes, undeceived. "What if they did something to me? My name was on the file first."

"And that probably has nothing to do with your genetic material, other than the fact that you were the son of your father." Scully put one hand over his, squeezed. "This isn't doing you any good. Get dressed."

"Where are we going?"

"I don't know. Do you want to go anywhere?"

"I want to exercise. I want to swim until I can't think anymore because my arms and legs are so tired."

"Then we'll go down and you can swim. I'll do the stairmaster upstairs. Come on."

**

"Kathy Lower?" Scully smiled, nervously.

The woman looked up from her lunch. Healthy, homemade lasagna. She was in the late stages of pregnancy. The twenty second week, after all. Made it into the home stretch now. "Yes." She smiled, tensely. It was obvious that she was unhappy.

"Hi. I'm sorry to come during lunch."

"No. It's okay. I had plans to eat with a couple of friends, but they got tied up. Spring registration." Kathy smiled. "Please, have a seat. What can I do for you?"

Scully took a chair, watched Kathy Lower move heavily, competently.

"I'm Dana Scully. . .you don't know me. I'm Fox Mulder's partner."

Kathy's smile became brittle and her eyes grew tired behind the glasses. "Oh," she said softly. "I see."

"No. I don't think you do. I'm not fucking him. I never have." Scully didn't know why it was so important to get that out of the way. But it was. It was very important. "Mulder acted like a bastard. I know he did. I know he hurt you. Mulder didn't know what he. . .He's terrified of this."

"Aren't we all?" Kathy muttered sarcastically.

"No. You don't. . .Mulder's father worked for. . .for the state department." This was so terribly, horribly awkward, but she had to try, for the sake of this woman and her baby, Scully had to try, even if it wasn't what Mulder wanted her to do. Because if it were Scully in this position, she imagined she would want to know. ". . .You've heard of all the radiation experiments done on children in the fifties. . ."

Kathy's eyes narrowed. "So?"

Scully swallowed. "We have reason to believe. . .that. . .there may have been genetic experimentation in the sixties and in the early seventies." She did not finish, did not elaborate. "We have reason to believe that some of the experimentation is ongoing," she said when the first words had had a chance to sink in. "And that. . .the. . .Mulder family may have been part of it."

Kathy swallowed, putting her fork down. She stared at her lasagna. Just stared at it. "You're trying to scare me. You're telling me lies."

"No ma'am. I wish I were. Mulder's terrified and for good reason. We don't. . ."

"I'm going to the University Hospital. I'm seeing a very good obstetrician. There's nothing wrong with me or my baby." Kathy lifted her eyes. "If that bastard thinks he can scare me out of child support and his familial obligations, he's got another fucking thing coming. I swear, he's going to do what's right by this baby. He's going to do what he's supposed to." There was something decisive in her eyes and in her body now. Something offensive and territorial. "You go back to your *partner* and you tell him nice try but he's fucking going to take care of this baby. I don't care how many fucking courts I have to drag him through."

Scully tried to think of the right comment, the strong, right comment. Nothing came to mind. "Ms. Lower, I came here without Mulder's knowledge. He doesn't know. He's worried sick that. . ."

"He's worried sick that he'll have to take *any* responsibility in his life," Kathy replied with a sharp little snap to her words. "He's worried sick that he'll have to clean up that little porn collection of his. That he'll have less money to spend on Armani suits."

"No. It's not that." Scully shook her head.

"Look. Nice try, but it's *not* working."

"I'm a medical doctor, Ms. Lower. Mulder's sister was kidnapped when they were children, possibly because of these experiments. It's a very real. . ."

Kathy Lower cut her off then, she was having none of Scully's calm, rational explanations now. "Look. You just get out and tell Mulder I'll talk to him when he wants to talk face to face, honestly. When he wants to admit to his responsibility and grow the hell up."

**

"Agent Mulder, are you listening to me?" Skinner's voice was sharp.

Mulder considered Skinner a moment. "Yes sir," he replied, in a slow and careful voice. "You were saying that we didn't file the proper documents with the sheriff's office in Orin County. I'll make sure it never happens again, sir."

"Do you want to talk about what's got you so preoccupied?"

"No." Mulder pulled it together then. Sat alert, the perfect, perky little G-man. Skinner sighed and took off his glasses.

"What's going on, Agent Mulder?"

"Nothing is going on. Everything is fine."

"That's not what I'm seeing," Skinner replied, wondering why he'd ever taken this job in the first place. Wondering what he had ever done to deserve Spooky Mulder in his fiefdom. "Do you want to talk about it?"

"No sir."

"Is it a matter for the Bureau?"

A slight pause, a hesitation, then, "No sir. It is not."

"Could it develop into a matter for the Bureau?"

Mulder did not answer this one.

"Agent Mulder that was a direct question. You will answer." The marines taught you that voice.

Mulder stared at Skinner. "It might develop into a matter for the Bureau, but it is not at this time. Right now it's a confidential matter."

"I see." Skinner glanced at Mulder askew. "Do you need leave time to deal with it?"

"No sir. No sir." Mulder shook his head.

"Well, can you tell me what part of it might develop into a Bureau matter? I'm getting tired of receiving phone calls informing me that you're hypothermic in Alaska or running from the army in Puerto Rico or that you're holed up in the Virginia Mining country."

Mulder stared straight ahead. "I got a girl pregnant and it's too late for an abortion, sir."

Skinner stared at Mulder. Contemplated this, the ramifications. He took his glasses off, rubbed his eyes, took several deep breaths. "I take it congratulations aren't in order."

"No sir."

"Who is she?"

"She's an accountant."

"With the Bureau?" The alarm in Skinner's voice was immediate.

"No sir. Hopkins University. I just found out."

"What are you going to do?"

"I don't know." Mulder swallowed. "She won't listen. She doesn't understand."

"I don't know that she could. What are you worried will happen? That the baby will be kidnapped?"

"Yes sir. Or that my genes are screwed up."

Skinner opened his mouth to say something, then shut it. "I'm sorry, Agent Mulder. Truly. I am sorry."

 

"Yes, sir." Mulder stared at the Assistant Director. "They take everything. Everything I ever have they take. They'll take this too. One way or another, and that woman won't ever understand."

Skinner swallowed. There were no words to be said. No words because polite sympathetic words are written and staged out in our brains, drilled into us until they are almost automatic. Politeness is rehearsed. Society does not prepare its participants on how to console a man because a casual lover is having his baby and now that man is afraid the government will kidnap it or that he has been experimented on and the baby will be monstrous. What words should be prepared for such contingencies?

Mulder got up and left before he was dismissed and Skinner didn't even notice.

**

"Dana?" The voice was soft and rushed and feminine.

"Yes." Scully blinked and yawned and tried to ID the speaker.

"Dana it's me. Anda. Listen. They just brought Kathy Lower in." The phone clicked as Anda Bridges, an RN on Hopkin's Gynecological Ward, went back to her duties, was unable to speak in private any longer. Scully was left, sitting up in her bed, staring at a receiver and a clock and the patterns of light on her floor, feeling a nameless dread rise up through her gut, from the viscera in her intestines and uterus, up into her stomach and her lungs and her heart and her throat, and it was suddenly hard to breathe. Her fingers trembled and her throat felt hot and hard and sore as she dialed Mulder's number.

**

Kathy's mother and her sister and two friends were outside in the waiting room. The friends stared at Mulder in dawning recognition. "You bastard! You complete bastard, you son of a bitch!" one shrieked. Scully kept on walking, towards a young man in a white coat and blue scrubs, holding up her credentials and talking the patterned, competent speech of an FBI agent. The woman came up to Mulder. Stared at him. Mulder stopped and stood, hands loose at his side, staring darkly.

"This is the baby's father, the son of a bitch! How could you do this to her? How the hell could you be such a complete, heartless bastard!" the woman sobbed. Her hand was up and it fell squarely across Mulder face, pushing his head back and to the side, jolting him backwards against a wall with the force. When her hand came away, his face was already reddening and bleeding. An orderly was coming up to them.

The woman was still raging and the sister was trying to calm her. Mulder just stood, staring. The mother stayed in her chair, crying, lost in her own world. Just like his mother had done after Samantha was gone.

"YOU FUCKING FUCKING SONOFABITCH." The woman was louder now. Hysterical. An arm tugged at his, and the other friend and a nurse were there, tugging at the friend, trying to make her stop. The arm tugger was a little nurse. She pulled him by main force down the hall. Into a niche in the wall.

"Are you all right?" she asked.

Mulder started to answer, and tasted the blood in his mouth.

Felt the bruise on his face. Closed his eyes.

"Sir. Talk to me. I'm overworked. I really don't have time for this. If you aren't all right, I'll get an orderly to take you down to. . ."

"I'm okay. I'm all right," Mulder reassured her weakly, slumping against the wall. "Just leave me alone." The woman left and Mulder heard other voices and then the voice of the woman grew more distant, muted. He stayed where he was, eyes closed. Nothing to look at. It was happening exactly as he had known.

He heard Scully speaking and a woman's voice answering. He was so tired. So tired and this was how it was fated to happen. This was his weird. His place on Fortuna's wheel. No choices here.

This was simply what was assigned to his lot. And all his fighting and his raging and his desire and need to know meant nothing. It had never meant anything.

A long time, a time when he could close his eyes and feel tears on his face. And demand answers of a ghost who had loved him and had offered him up to nameless men who had chosen his sister instead. A time to wish he had never been born.

"According to hospital records, Kathy lost her baby at ten o'clock." Scully's voice, soft and low and careful. Mulder opened his eyes and said nothing.

"She had an ultrasound done two days ago. After our visits, she decided to go ahead and do an ultrasound. The ultrasound showed. . .deformities. . .massive deformities."

Mulder swallowed.

"An amniocentesis was preformed yesterday and that may have been what caused this..." Scully swallowed. "The results of the amniocentesis were inconclusive. But the ultrasound was very clear."

"My sperm makes monsters."

"No. We don't know that. The hospital has to keep fetal tissue. Kathy's mother has given her permission, since Kathy is still sedated, and I'm going to look at the fetal tissue down in the lab."

"I make monsters." Mulder's voice was cold and soft and came from some quiet, desolate place that was beyond despair.

Scully's fingers were probing and it hurt. "Come on, I know some people at the hospital. Let's get you some ice and I bet we can let you sit in the nurse's lounge while I look at the fetal tissue."

"She was right to hit me. I wish she'd hit me twice."

"No. She wasn't right. Come on."

Mulder followed her bleakly.

**

The little room behind the nurse's station was empty right now. Scully came back in with a blue chemical pack.

"It's my fault that Kathy lost her baby."

"We don't know that." Scully got a washcloth down and wet it with hot water from the bottled water dispenser.

"It's my fault. It was my sperm." Mulder resisted her hands, turning his face. "She just slapped me."

"With a ring on. She cut your cheek open."

Mulder was aware, as the washcloth scraped against his face, that Scully was right about the ring. He hadn't known that before.

"Cut it in two places. And you've got a big bruise on your cheek." Scully sighed. "I've got to go down to the labs. Okay?"

Mulder nodded tiredly, took the chemical pack. "I'm so sick of this. I am so fucking sick of this. I wish they would just kill me. Just shoot me. Get rid of me."

"No, you don't." Scully had to leave, but she put her hand on his head, to comfort him.

Mulder dropped the pack as soon as she was gone. Sat staring at his feet, trying to think. Not sure what to think or say or do.

"Dr. Scully asked if I would give you something." The voice was soft. Mulder looked up at tired face. At a lab coat embroidered with a doctor's name in red silk. At a small ID tag that read "Dr. MacMillian." The man had a pill in a cup. He sat it down on the table beside Mulder, got a cup of water. "Come on. Keep Dana happy," MacMillian told him.

A little pink pill. Four milligrams of Valium.

"No thanks. I'm all right."

"Dana can be a bitch if she's not happy. Come on. It won't put you to sleep or make you woozy."

"I don't need it," Mulder said sharply, more sharply than he meant. "Leave me alone. Fucking leave me alone! I don't need any fucking pills."

MacMillian was staring at Mulder now, with apprehension. "Calm down, Agent Mulder. Calm down. You don't have to take the pills."

Mulder realized suddenly that he was standing, standing with his hands clenched. He unclenched his hands. "I'm sorry," he muttered, deflating suddenly. "I'm terribly sorry. I didn't mean to yell."

"That's okay," MacMillian replied, in the tones of one who is comforting the violently insane.

Mulder swallowed, staring at the man who was still terrified of him. He sat down in his chair again. "I'm sorry," he muttered, closing his eyes. Ignoring the Valium. "I'm sorry." He swallowed, fighting back the soreness and the harshness in his throat, the quiet waiting of tears to engulf and consume him. Put a hand to his eyes and rubbed. Bit back the tears. But he could not open his eyes. He took the water, swallowed it clumsily. Crushed the paper cup in his hands. Tried not to think about why he was going to cry.

**

"What do you mean?" Scully replied, amazed at how many different ways there were to get the runaround. It all boiled down to one simple, basic, pertinent fact. The lab had never gotten *any* fetal matter from Katherine Lower. None. Nothing. Kathy Lower's fetus had never made it down to this lab.

"There's a record here." The tech pointed at the monochrome amber screen in front of him. "But we never got the sample and the record here has been re-issued. If you hadn't made such a big deal we wouldn't have noticed."

Scully swallowed. Stared at the screen again. It was all quite simple. The doctors had shown her an ultrasound and an inconclusive amniocentesis. Until the discovery that this infant belonged to Fox Mulder the pregnancy had been remarkable only in it's unvarying insistence on normalcy. Until that point nothing odd, nothing unusual. Until it became known that Fox Mulder was the father.

And now the fetus was gone. Scully felt her stomach grow tight and her body shiver. She was cold and she was terrified and that baby was twenty three weeks old. That baby was quite viable. That baby's remains weren't in this hospital.

**

She had the ultrasound photos in her hand when she came back in. Mulder was still sitting there and there was a little pill in a cup beside him. Scully got some more water. "Take the Valium," she ordered tiredly. Mulder shook his head.

"Take the fucking Valium or I won't tell you what I've found."

Mulder opened his eyes. He was tired of fighting. Tired of losing. Tired of never winning. Tired of knowing that everything of value to him would disappear. They always won. His eyes held despair. He did not reach for the cup. Scully turned on her heel.

"Where are you going?" His voice startled her.

"For a needle and some suspension Valium," Scully replied evenly.

Mulder stared at her. Gauging her seriousness. Normally he would have fought her tooth and nail. Normally he would have cared. It was so fucking hard to care. "They killed my father. They tried to kill me. Tried to kill you. They killed your sister. They killed Deep Throat. They have my sister." It was a dull litany he recited as he put the pill to his tongue and then took the Valium.

He was woozy and tired and Scully told him word for word what she had found. Mulder buried his face in his hands for a long moment, absorbing her words. Absorbing the pain and the loss and the outright despair. She did not expect the reaction, when he finally did react. Not with the way he had been sleepwalking lately, not with the drugs and the lateness of the hour. He threw back his head. And he howled his anger and his grief and his pain. "NOOOOOOOOOOOO. YOU SONS OF BITCHES. YOU ASSHOLES. YOU BASTARDS."

It was not eloquent and it would never take the place of Hamlet's soliloquy. But for sheer emotion and for sheer intensity, it satisfied the need in Mulder's heart immensely.

 

He woke in Scully's bed. Sleepy and tired. Sunlight was streaming in and for a moment he thought he was alone. But then he heard her in the living room and wandered in.

"These weren't from Kathy's ultrasound," Scully said, bent over her coffee table. "They aren't Kathy's."

Mulder sat down in an end chair. "I want to be DNA tested."

Scully looked up. "Your child was probably perfectly normal. No one suspected anything weird until Kathy contacted you that it was your child. It was a normal, healthy pregnancy until Kathy called you.

This isn't Kathy's ultrasound. Somehow they substituted things. I don't know how. But this baby isn't twenty two weeks. I don't think this baby is twenty two weeks. It could be. I mean, it could, but I don't think it is. I think it's more like nineteen weeks, maybe twenty."

"I want to be DNA tested," Mulder repeated. "Do you know who could do it?"

Scully swallowed. "Do you want some coffee?" She asked, getting up.

Mulder stared at her. "Answer my question."

She got up and went into the kitchen.

Mulder followed her.

"DNA testing only looks for certain diseases and certain abnormalities. The human Genome project is only ten percent done. You don't carry Tay-Sachs or Sickle-cell and you're not gay."

"What does that mean?" Mulder asked, frowning, watching her set his coffee down before him on the kitchen table, not bothering to sit yet.

"I mean something you already know, and when you're thinking more clearly you'll see it too. DNA testing won't catch anything that could feasibly be wrong with your genes, because any experimentation by Operation Paperclip or other. . .covert operations, wouldn't be on any part of the genes that we currently understand. But it doesn't matter. Your baby was probably perfectly normal."

"And it's probably still alive. It would have been viable."

Scully sighed, swallowed. There was no way around this. Mulder wasn't stupid, just foggy. "Yes. It would have still been viable."

Mulder was staring at her coffee pot. Staring and breathing deeply. "It's probably still alive somewhere. Still alive and they're probably using it. . ." Mulder swallowed. "They have Sam's DNA. And we know they use viable fetuses. We know that they. . ."

"Mulder stop it. Don't make yourself sick," Scully said sharply.

"How the hell can I not be angry?" Mulder demanded. "There's a fetus out there that's half mine. It was taken, ripped from its mother's womb because it was mine. My baby. My child. And I don't even. . .I don't even know what they're. . ." He stopped, stopped yelling. Stopped yelling and just stared. Closed his eyes. Took a deep breath. "They've got it. And they'll do whatever they damn well please with it," he said in soft, shuddering voice. He closed his eyes, held the chair back in trembling hands.

The absolute finality of the situation overtook him, the exhaustion and the contempt of Kathy and Kathy's friends. The thought of what could now be considered a child overtaken by the same forces that had taken Samantha. Had taken Scully. The trembling passed up his hands and into his body; he didn't know how much longer he could stand, but he could not move.

Scully's hands were gentle and led him to a chair. "Come on." She had another Valium and he didn't want to take it, he jerked his face away from the pill.

Her sigh as she simply set the pill down on her table expressed her sympathy, her fatigue. Mulder stared at his partner.

"What are you thinking about?" Scully asked, gently, putting the coffee in front of him.

"About how awful. . .I. . .I. . .I wish I could stop, but I can't. It's like an amusement park ride. I can scream and scream and scream, but I can't get off."

"It wouldn't make any difference now anyway. This might have happened if you had gone another direction. Never opened the X-Files."

"I wouldn't have known," Mulder replied.

"No," Scully agreed, pouring sugar and creamer into the coffee cup. She knew he drank his black, but this thick, syrupy concoction would help him out more than his usual bitter drink. "Come on." She put a hand to the cup. He drank it, finally, eyes staring somewhere else.

"What are you going to tell Kathy and her mother? They'll call, you know."

Scully contemplated this. "I'll tell them that the baby died due to abnormalities, that it wouldn't have lived anyway."

"Tell them it was my fault, my genes," Mulder said without emotion.

Scully nodded. Easier that way. If Kathy was fairly sure it was not her genes.

"I want to. . ." Mulder closed his eyes, summoned his presence of mind. "I want to get a vasectomy. I don't. . .I don't want to deal with. . .with this. Not again." He drew a shuddering breath.

Scully swallowed. Did not say anything. Speak and she would be forced to acknowledge and admit.

"Please. I . . ." He floundered. He was very close to tears and not able to continue.

"You can freeze some sperm, so that if you're ever in a position to have a baby, you can. . ." she began quickly, mind spinning. Not wanting to think, to admit, to say yes to him was to know.

"No. Please." Mulder broke through her spun glass words, shattering the train of thought.

Scully swallowed, let an entire world of dreams and hopes slip through her fingers where they fell like water at her feet. "All right. I know someone," she said quietly. Closed her eyes. Condemned her own body to never know the feeling of a child growing and kicking inside. Condemned herself to be forever without a daughter or a son. Because as surely as Mulder could not afford the risk, neither could she. "I'll call him, and whenever you feel like it, he'll do it. You only need a few days off work for a vasectomy."

They sat a moment, Mulder drinking his coffee, Scully staring at the rejected Valium. "Finish your coffee and we'll go do something. Exercise some more, review old case files before Skinner rakes the skin from our flesh for not keeping the unsolvable at least current." Scully smiled, brought up her best face. Mulder nodded, closed his eyes. Put the mug to his lips and finished drinking the sweet, hot brew.

Scully's mind wandered back to that infant. Nothing they could do now. Nothing. She could imagine it. Imagine it much better than Mulder, because she had autopsied women pregnant around twenty weeks. It would be alive in one of the tanks she had seen. She could see it studied and watched and changed. Imagine the small size, about as big as her hand. Somewhere, someplace, Mulder's child was alive, though he would never know that child. And that was one more thing taken from him.

She heard the scrunch of an alien embryo under her running shoe again and shuddered. Wondered whose child that had been.




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