Spoilers: TrustNo1, Providence, William, The Truth
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the X-Files characters, but I promise to put them back in the toybox when I'm done with them.
Summary: An unexpected child is a burden and a gift.
Author's note: revised September, 2008
It was the final goodbye. The social worker, Carlie Thomas, already had the baby in her arms, and I was half glad that the silly ears on his hat obscured his view because I couldn't bear to look him in the eyes.
I hadn't expected it to hurt this much, not after doing my level best not to get too attached. Months of caring for him had unknowingly worn down my resolve. It wasn't until the first tears slid down my chin while I kissed him one last time that I noticed I was crying. Damn.
Even though this had to be a scene she'd seen dozens of times before, the social worker looked nearly as sympathetic as Monica did. When I'd agreed with John that one of them ought to come for moral support, I'd thought that I was humoring him. Just then I was much less sure.
The smile the social worker gave me was one part pity, one part empathy. "They're a lovely family Ms. Scully, truly. William will be very happy with them."
All I could manage was a nod of agreement. The couple seemed perfect from what I'd been told of them. They were desperate for a child to love and had the means to spoil him. I imagined that they'd buy him a puppy for his third birthday, and have him on a horse by the time he turned five. Best of all they were completely average; I counted on that to keep him safe.
I realized that she was still speaking while swaying slightly to keep him from fussing. "There's still time to change your mind about a closed adoption. Many mothers these days prefer open adoptions so they can monitor their children's progress-"
"No!" My forcefulness clearly startled the other woman, so I hastened to explain. "I can't do this if it's not a clean break." God forbid my curiosity about how he was put him in danger. Again.
"I understand," she said compassionately before turning to Monica. "You're driving her home?"
"Yes, of course." Monica waved at the baby. "Goodbye, Sweetie."
She started to move towards the door but I hung back. "Can you tell his new...parents something for me?"
"Of course, Dear." But I could tell that she wasn't committed to keeping her word, yet. Who knew what mothers had asked her before, so it was hard to blame her for being wary.
"Um, please let them know that he answers to his middle name." I hoped she would remember.
Tension drained from her posture. "I will."
"I have to..." I gulped for air.
"Dana?" Monica sounded even more concerned than she looked.
Beginning to cry again, I pushed past them, and stumbled for the exit. Monica hurried to catch up with me. John was waiting for us in the car.
None of us said anything until John parked the rental car at a park ten miles down the highway. I turned to Monica. "Was that believable?"
"Very. If I didn't know better, I'd of sworn you were heartbroken." There was a note of admiration in Monica' voice.
I actually was heartbroken, not that I was going to readily admit it. "Good. He is better off this way, isn't he?" I asked anxiously. Giving him up had been the right thing to do, for both of us, but I still felt so guilty.
"Monica is right. No one could expect you to keep him. You were a saint for keeping him as long as you did," John added.
"It wasn't a bother. And it's not like it didn't benefit me at all," I said, feeling like a heel again. "Now that he's played his part, I'm glad that he's going to a good family. He deserves that, poor little tyke."
"Yeah," John agreed. "He's a good little guy."
"I was tempted to keep him," I admitted for the first time. Up until then the thought of keeping him forever was something I'd kept strictly to myself. "I was giving how I could work that out serious thought. Right up until Spender gave him that shot. Then I realized that he'd be better off with someone with no connection to the X-Files and Mulder. He'll be safer with another family."
"We know," Monica told me. She'd said it before.
"Before we return the car, do you mind if I call my Brother Charlie?"
"Of course not. You may as well take advantage of a bug-free environment," John said as he restarted the car.
"Thanks." I pulled out a newly activated disposable cell phone and dialed my younger brother. "Hi Charlie, how's William?"
Three Months Earlier
That Saturday morning, I got off to a slow start. I was still rattled by William's abduction earlier in the week, and neither of us had slept very well for days. Maybe he could remember what happened, or maybe he was just reacting to my stress, but he'd been hard to soothe, given to more tears than normal. For the first time in a while, he was sound asleep when I peered into his crib, and I didn't have the heart to wake him.
Extra sleep would probably do him good. It would have done me good too, if only I could sleep. Rather than wake him up, I wandered the apartment in my robe and made a feeble attempt to make coffee and toast.
After indifferently buttering slightly burnt toast, I remembered that I hadn't gotten the morning paper yet, which made it difficult to the crossword puzzle while my coffee got cold. Sighing, I shuffled to the door. The paper was there, pushed to the side of the welcome mat, but something else was sitting there too. A basket.
The basket was wicker. It was one of those expensive Moses-style baskets that the baby catalogues my mother read were always pushing. This was fitting, because although there was no river, this was undoubtedly a foundling. A small baby slept under a blue blanket.
My first instinct was to look up and down the hallway, hoping to see a sheepish parent returning for the baby they absent-mindly set on my welcome mat by mistake, but there was no one else around. Even straining my ears, I couldn't hear anyone else moving in the building, which made me wonder how long the basket sat there. Surely not very long, since the paper person would have wondered what was going on. Wouldn't he? A blind man couldn't have missed the basket, so the paper must have come before the baby was abandoned in front of my door.
With the week I'd just had, the last thing I needed was another baby to take care of. But no one else was volunteering for the job, so I tugged on the basket's handles and backed into my apartment. It was so awkward to carry that I was imensely happy I'd managed to talk my mother out of wasting money on one.
The baby stirred as I set the basket down, and when it shifted positions, I saw something sticking up against the side. I plucked the envelope out without further disturbing the basket's occupant. It soon became clear that my welcome mat had not been picked at random like I initially supposed.
That was the full extent of the note.
Little Joey began to cry just seconds after I finished reading the note, in big heartbroken sobs that left me wondering if he could somehow comprehend his abandonment. I decided that was far less likely than from being wet and afraid of strangers. He thrashed around hard enough to uncover himself.
"Hey, there, Joey, it's okay," I lied as I picked him up and tried to restrain those flailing limbs. "I'm sure your Mommy will be back soon."
When the words left my mouth, I fully believed that they would soon come true. No one in their right mind just abandoned their baby on someone's welcome mat. She may have heard positive things about me, but she didn't know me from Adam. I could be completely insane for all she knew. She'd be back. Soon.
That's just the way it is with foundlings. They don't stay lost very long. Countless movies, shows and books about abandoned babies ended with them being reunited with their families, breaking the protagonists' hearts. Not that I worried about feeling that way - I had a baby of my own to exhaust my maternal instincts on. Joey's reunion with his mother would be a relief for all of us.
So I waited while time slowly ticked by. William eventually woke up, and I put them both in his playpen. They goggled comically at each other, and I realized with them side by side like that, that Joey was just about William's age. Within a month, I'd say.
My irritation grew as the day waxed on. There were things I would have liked to get done, especially considering my plans for the next day, but I was trapped at home waiting for the woman to come back. It struck me as extremely unfair to be waiting on the whims of someone I was increasingly sure was unbalanced.
By the time I put them both down for the night I was exhausted and felt a lot of sympathy for parents of twins, but I hardly slept because I was convinced that I'd be woken up by the boy's mother.
The anticipated knock at the door never came.
I woke up agitated the next morning. It wasn't the baby's fault, but his mere presence threatened to undo carefully laid out plans. Waiting until eight a.m. to make a phone call taxed my patience to the limit.
When Monica arrived at nine, I had the air of someone who had expected to be needed. I never put much stock into the other woman's claim that she was "sensitive" but I found myself grateful for it just then.
"You said you've run into some sort of problem?" Monica asked before she was even through the door. "Your brother didn't change his mind, did he?"
"No, he didn't." That came out more short than I intended, so I offered an apologetic look. "I have an unexpected houseguest." I waved towards the playpen.
"Oh, he's cute. Is this one of your nephews?" She made silly faces, and Joey started to laugh at her. "Or a neighbor's kid?"
I handed her the letter to read, and she quickly skimmed through it. "This isn't good."
"That's an understatement. I've been waiting for her to come back since eight yesterday morning." I made sure she was looking at me before I revealed the reason I'd asked her to come over. "I still think she's going to come back. But I can't miss my flight. Do you... do you think you could stay here in case she turns up?"
At first she looked like a deer caught in the headlights, but she seemed to force herself to calm down. "Um. Sure, I can do that."
"Really. We'll be fine," she said nervously. "I'm sure his mother will turn up soon, anyway."
"She will." I spent the next couple minutes showing her where to find baby food and diapers, and offering her whatever she wanted from the kitchen. Then I grabbed William's bags and him as well. "Thank you so much for this."
Monica offered me a weak smile. "When you get back I'll tell you what she said to explain her actions."
A Few Hours Later
The hours that followed were some of the hardest of my life. Charlie tried to make me feel better, but I was unable to be cheered. I knew that William would be safer with him, at least until Mulder came back, but not knowing how long it would be until then was depressing.
"I'll take good care of him," Charlie assured me at the airport. He had William in his arms, and he looked comfortable. Of course he did, he had three kids of his own.
I kissed my little brother's cheek. "I know you will. I'm just going to miss him."
Charlie hugged me with one arm. "Of course you will. But you're still doing this anyway because you know it's what's best for him."
"Yeah..." I nodded slowly. All of the sudden I felt a lot more sympathy for Joey's mother. It must being tearing her up inside to be apart from her baby, too. "We'll be back for him soon, I promise."
"We know." Charlie moved William's arms. "Don't we, Will?"
The last thing I did before getting on the plane was to kiss William and whisper, "I love you, Baby."
The lights were on in my apartment when I got home, and I wasn't really surprised. Monica was on the couch, her head against the arm of the couch, and one of my magazines draped across her lap. Joey was just as soundly asleep in William's playpen.
Monica's eyes fluttered when I put my purse down. "Hey, she didn't come."
"I can see that. Thank you for watching him."
"No problem. But what are you-" She stopped in mid-sentence as someone knocked on my door.
"Oh good, that could be her," I said, flooded with relief. But when I swung the door open, it wasn't a woman.
It was Skinner. "I'm sorry to bother you this late, especially on a Sunday, but I have a few questions about what happened earlier this week for my report. I figured that here we can speak freely. I hope you don't mind."
Then, before either of us could explain what was going on, the strangest thing happened. Skinner walked over to the playpen and looked down at Joey. "He doesn't look any worse for wear, does he?"
"What?" I'm sure I wore a blank look on my face.
He waved a hand in the baby's direction. "I was just saying that William doesn't look traumatized by his experience."
"Oh." It was on the tip of my tongue to tell him that he wasn't looking at William, but Monica shot me a pointed look. I knew what she was going to suggest, long before we got a chance to speak alone after Skinner left.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Mulder and I held hands while we stood in the airport. It wasn't even three in the morning yet, so there weren't that many people around. The lack of a crowd made me feel a little less uneasy, but it was going to take leaving there safely before either of us could really relax.
He smiled up at me and said, "Tell me again about how you fooled everyone."
I shrugged. "It wasn't as though I planned to deceive anyone, Mulder. It just seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up."
"So they really couldn't tell that it wasn't William?"
"They really couldn't. I mean, my mom, Doggett and the gunmen could tell, so we explained what was going on, but most people? They didn't have a clue. The day after Skinner mistook Joey for William, I brought him into the office. Everyone gushed about how cute he was. I guess people don't really pay much attention to what infants look like." That had really surprised me, until I realized I'd done the same thing to friends' babies - said they were cute without really paying attention to the child at all.
"And his mother never came back for him?" Mulder looked concerned.
"No." I sighed. "About a week after Joey landed in my life, I stopped expecting that she was ever coming back for him. There was this news story about a single mother who had been murdered, and whose baby son was missing. Debbie Tyler, the same initials as in the note. I worried for a while that someone would come up to me and recognize him, but that never happened either."
"And now he's got a good home." Mulder squeezed my hand.
"A safe home, where no one will know that he wasn't born normal. More human than human." The image of Joey tear-stained and screaming at the hospital was the one thing that let me give him up. It hadn't seemed like a risk to allow him to "be" William up until then, but that night made me fully realize that we were playing a dangerous game with that little boy's life. Giving him to someone else was the only way he'd ever be safe, and at the very least I owed him that much.
"There are probably a lot of babies like that out there," I added as an afterthought.
"And here's one now," he announced, and I looked up to see my younger brother striding towards us. William looked terribly excited, and was holding his arms out to me.
"William!" I took him immediately and cuddled him in my arms. When I looked up both Mulder and Charlie were smiling at me. "Charlie, I can't thank you enough-"
"Nope, you can't." He grinned at me. "But seeing the look on your face just now makes it all worth it."
"Thank you," Mulder told him.
"You're welcome. Keep him safe."
"We will." I was still stunned to be holding my baby in my arms, finally.
"And if you can drop Mom a line when you're settled, I'd appreciate it," Charlie added.
"I'm not sure how long that'll be, but we'll get in touch with your mom," Mulder promised. "I wish we'd finally met under better circumstances."
"Me too." Charlie turned to look up at the fight board. "When's your flight?"
"Pretty soon." I shifted William to my hip so I could hug Charlie. "Thanks, little brother."
A minute later I watched him walk away, and prayed it wouldn't be the last time that I saw a member of my immediate family. It was hard, but at least I had Mulder and William with me as I faced an uncertain future. We'd get through it. Together.
Author's notes: this fic was written for The Foundling's Tale challenge. It was also initially written in third person, but it sounds less distant in Scully's voice.
- Send a character out somewhere in public where lots of people come and go without there being much attention paid to their movement. Examples: a store, bus or train station/airport, fair, concert etc.
- Have that character be asked by a stranger to watch a baby or small child (five years old or younger), or small children, for "just a few minutes."
- Someone discovers an infant or toddler on their doorstep. With a note asking for the character take care of their child for "just a little while."
- A day or more passes and the parent doesn't return. Now what? Does the parent ever return? If not, what happens to the child?
Write your own fic for the challenge!
Author's note II: If you're wondering why I've revised this after so long, there are sequels for you to read here or click the links below to go to each story directly:
II. Recovering Gemini
III. Christmas in (Haven) Maine
IV. A Sleepy Little Town: Memory House
V. A Sleepy Little Town: Free Fall
July 2014 - so...your author has just now discovered a older draft of this story, which has much the same content, except it also contains the scene below. Thought I'd share =)
The Day After The Adoption
The first word out of Carlie Thompson's mouth upon her arrival at the office was "shit." She'd been a social worker for the better part of ten years, and liked to think that she did a good job. Today, however, she realized that she'd dropped the ball.
The birth mother had made only one, reasonable, request and she'd forgotten to honor it. Thanks to her the poor kid had probably spent the last twenty-four hours wondering who his new parents were talking to.
Determined to remedy the situation immediately, she picked up the phone. She got the answering machine, which she really didn't mind. "Hi, this is Carlie Thompson. I'm sorry that I forgot to mention this yesterday, but the baby goes by his middle name. Apparently there are several Williams in his birth family, so he responds to Joey. Sorry about that! Take care."
Guilt assuaged, Carlie got on with the rest of the day.
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