Title: Losing It: Take VIII
Author: Zoë


Take VIII


**

Four Months Later
Palo Alto, CA

Walt

Alex rocks back and forth in his modified high-chair with an expression on his baby-face that I interpret to be concentration. "I think all the options are wrong, but I'll go with A."

Will grins and triumphantly flips over the answer card. "C! I win!"

"Bullshit!" Alex yelps.

"Language!" Will and I remind in unison.

"That's not fair. What kind of survival game is this? Who, stuck out in the wilderness, forced to resort to ice fishing to survive carries around a 10-inch ice auger! It doesn't make any sense."

"I don't care," Will gloats. "That's what the card says."

"Fine! But I think we should burn that card... it's every bit as wrong as that earthquake card we got rid of for Walt the last game." With that pronouncement, he releases the catch on one of the chair arms, allowing it to swing back, so he can utilize the plastic slide leading to the floor. I watch Alex carefully. We designed this chair specially to give him independence at the table, but I worry every time he uses it that he's going to fall out. Again.

"No dice, Alex," Will retorts, also watching him carefully. "The card isn't wrong, it's just improbable."

Alex pads over to the mini refrigerator we have just for him and extracts a bottle of orange juice. I break all the safety seals before I store them, so he only has to pop the top off. He looks up at me. "Okay, Walt, you're the tie breaker."

I pretend to consider the matter. "I think that Will is right... the card is improbable, not wrong. But," I add at Will's pleased expression, "I also agree with Alex that a question in a survival game, where the answer is 'use your ice auger,' probably doesn't belong."

Alex glances at Will and they both nod. "As usual," he mutters, "he speaks a lot but doesn't really say anything."

"Cut me some slack you two. I'm tired. Unlike my two lazy roommates, I had classes all day." And I am tired. I can't think of anything I want more than to sleep right now, but Will and Alex conned me into playing a game. At least they were kind to my sensibilities this time. Last time the game was x-rated. I had to stop after two questions. Logically I know they're both adults, but I can't seem to get past that they look like children.

I start to get up but Will stops me with, "I'd like to talk to the two of you..." Uh oh, sounds serious.

Alex taps my knee, which is my cue that he's willing to accept help in getting back to the table. I lift him into his chair, making sure it's pushed up to the edge so he can't slip out. He frowns at me for being overly cautious.

Will leans his elbows on the table, his eyes darting around the table. "Okay. Here goes... Alex, I know that when you're physically older, you plan to fake home school to satisfy the great state of California's social services department. But I've decided that I'd really like to go back to school."

I blink at that, because I can't imagine anyone wanting to go through lower school again. I'm taking college classes because I want to be able to support myself one of these days with out Krycek's assistance, but I would never have even considered going back to high school. "Uh, why?" I finally manage to get out.

Will is watching Alex carefully because this has the most impact on him. But Alex is silent and stoic. "It's that old cliché... Have you ever wished you knew then what you know now? Well, I do. I have the education and life experiences of a 38-year-old man in an 8-year-old body. I can go back and re-do all those awful childhood experiences. This time I won't have to wonder if I know more than my teachers, I will know more. It'll be fun."

"Fun?" I blurt out. "Your fun could get us inspected very closely by some people we want to stay away from us."

"I don't mean flaunt that a college education all over a bunch of elementary school teachers. Christ, I'm a psychologist. Do you have any idea how much I'll enjoy this?"

"I think you have a really twisted mind." I glance at Alex, concerned that he hasn't said anything about the elephant in the room. I guess I'll have to. "If you go to school, we have a problem here at home and we agreed that we wouldn't make decisions without considering their impact on everyone."

I see a flash of irritation in Will's eyes. "And you aren't stuck here every day. Day after day, with nothing new on the horizon."

"But I am," Alex whispers.

"Fuck!" Will mumbles into his hands as he rubs them over his face. He meets Alex's eyes. "I know you are. And I know this isn't fair to ask. I've told myself over and over that until you're old enough to be on your own, I need to be here, but I'm going crazy and it's only been four months!"

I don't have the stamina for this. The first time this came up, Alex had been adamant that with the modifications we'd made to the house, he could be here alone. But if anything happened while Alex was here alone, I, as his legal guardian, would go to jail. So Alex never fought the issue again. "I'll drop my day classes," I whisper. "To be here with Alex during the day."

"No you won't," Alex asserts adamantly. Those incredibly intense eyes bore into Will. "There's another way around this, but someday, William, you're going to owe me. Big. And I promise you, I will collect." He pivots in his chair and down the slide. With as much dignity as his nearly-two-year-old body can muster, he walks away from us, calling back, "hire a nanny."

Will's shocked eyes meet mine. "Hell... When he decides to collect on that debt, I may not be capable of repaying it."

Feeling more than a little sorry for myself at the moment, I push away from the table. "You put up the game, Will. I'm going to bed."

He's still sitting at the table staring off into space when I round the corner.

After my shower, I deal with one of my least favorite tasks. Drying my hair. Even though it takes all of three minutes, it irritates me. Will suggested I shave my head, but I know with the certainty only a genetic copy can feel that I won't have to bother with hair for more than another seven years, so I might as well enjoy it while I can. Which I do, except for the hair dryer.

The shower revives me enough that sleep is elusive when I finally climb into bed. My mind immediately drifts to Alex's request. A bloody nanny. Who'd've thought? I contemplate not allowing Alex to do this... it's one thing for him to look like a baby, another entirely to have to pretend to be a baby. But I know it's going to happen. If there's one thing we've all figured out, it's that when Alex sets his mind to something, that's the way it goes.

I think back to how this all got started. From our late night escape from Dana Scully's to a smarmy bar in Virginia, waiting for a wanted felon to come to our aid. In the days that followed, while drifting from one seedy hotel to another and waiting for Krycek to finish putting our lives together, we decided to be a family. For good or for bad, we'd stick together. It was an odd choice considering how this all started and what we had in our heads, but it was also the only choice. I'm the only one who could make it alone in the world. I may not be Walter Skinner, but his values are core to Daniel Walter Robertson, and I can't leave Alex and Will until they're physically capable of being independent. I could never live with myself.

So while we waited, we planned. And planned. We had to have new names, a cover story... we had whole lives to construct. We decided I'd be their legal guardian. Though I was physically 17, we told Krycek to make me 19 to deal with the legal aspects of having two wards. Krycek got everything we needed... school records for me, a fake step-sister who died and left her two sons in my custody. Jesse Alexander and James William Robertson. That was Will's idea. Everyone kept a piece of our former selves in the form of our middle names, which we've continued to use with each other, though I'm not sure why. To the rest of the world, we're Jess, Jamie and Daniel.

One day, while we were at a hotel in Ohio, everything arrived... piles of documentation, the deed to a modest house and keys to Subaru 4x4 complete with a baby seat. We were on our way to Palo Alto, California, whose sole claim to fame seems to be that it's home to Stanford University.

Alex keeps in touch with Krycek on an infrequent basis. One important detail that came out shortly after our escape was that Krycek has a lot of money. A LOT of money. Even though the cost of supporting us doesn't seem to phase him--and Alex assures me it's barely a dent in the man's bank account--I still planned to go to work as soon as we arrived. Alex and Will both talked me out of that and into attending Stanford. That way I had a chance of getting a 'good' job some day. I talked to Krycek about it once over the phone. He told me to quit creating extra problems for myself do whatever I wanted. He seems to have a profound need to know that his clone is going to be cared for. A problem at which he's willing to throw unlimited amounts of money. I'm aware that some of the money which keeps us afloat is from illegal sources. At first it bothered me, but then I remind myself that I'm not in law enforcement and that the law doesn't really have a place for us. So, I stopped worrying about that, too.

I asked him about Mulder and Skinner during that one and only conversation. He said they suspected that he knew where we were. He ultimately admitted he did and told them we wanted to be left alone to create new lives for ourselves. Eventually he got them to agree to stop looking for us, but I guess they were mostly relieved to not have to worry about what was going to happen to us, or how much responsibility they would have. Then one day a Fed-Ex box arrived with a bunch of cash and a note from Krycek. 'Skinner's and Mulder's contribution.' Turned out to be half a million. Most of it's sitting in a safe deposit box. Between that and the monthly stipend from Krycek, I don't worry much about the future. Except perhaps for the future they're fighting for. We make a point of not talking about that aspect. Ever. It would be too easy to wander down the path our progenitors chose, which clearly they don't want.

Will and I have talked repeatedly about the importance of minimizing the burden of this situation on Alex. He gets the short end of the stick, so to speak, all the time, in every situation. It's beyond my comprehension what it must be like to be 32 years old stuck inside the body of a toddler. His manual dexterity is poor, his emotions are out of control and he needs help to do the most basic things in life. He's completely isolated until he's physically a little older. Will's request to have some social interaction is completely normal, but the cost to Alex is huge. I wonder what price he's going to exact from Will for this?

So, tomorrow, I have to find a fucking nanny for a 2-year-old with the mind of a 32-year-old criminal. Can life possibly get any weirder? I try to put it out of my head.


Alex

Walt is driving me insane. Fortunately, Will has already left for his first day of grade school so I only have to contend with one of them. He winds down his latest round of pacing and hunkers down to my level. "Are you sure you want to do this?"

"Oh for Christ's sake!" I yell at him. "Would you stop it! You're making me nuts!"

He sighs and gets back to his feet. Then he resumes his pacing and I want to kick him. "Okay. Let's see... I've warned her that you're a weird kid. Told her you like to be left alone, don't like to be cuddled and for some reason like to stare at newspapers for hours on end. I even told her that you 'self-regulate' on naps, though she didn't believe me."

"Stop!" I chase him down and thump the back of his ankle, which drives him nuts, but always gets his attention. "Would you quit freaking out! I can handle this. What is up with you?"

After picking me up and setting me on the counter, Walt glares at me, then his expression shifts to extremely anxious. "Alex, I'm terrified that you're going to say or do something that will cause her to call in child services."

I'm touched that he's so worried about me. "Okay, let's say the worst happens and I forget how I'm supposed to act. All I have to do is act like a baby once the authorities are involved and she is written off as a nut job. Then I'll be right back home."

Still looking concerned, he gives a slight nod.

"Walt, I don't have any place in the world that I belong but here. I'm not gonna mess it up. All right?"

"Okay, Alex. I trust you."

"Good. Now, did you fix my broccoli?"

He laughs and sets me back on the floor. "Of course."

I wave him out of the kitchen. "Go get ready for school."

Ten minutes later the chime of the doorbell causes my stomach to flip over. I wouldn't admit this to Walt, but I'm nervous as hell about this. The last thing in the world I want is to have someone taking care of me, thinking I'm two. But I'm not prepared to let Walt make any more sacrifices for me or Will. Because of an accident of birth, he winds up responsible for everything. If I have to pretend to be two seven hours a day to keep him from sacrificing any more, then it's a small price.

Walt and the new nanny appear in the living room. She immediately crosses to me and picks me up. "Well hi there, sweetie. My name is Margie and we're going to be best friends." She bounces me on her hip.

This is not a good way to start.

Walter extricates me from her arms with a slight frown and sets me back on the floor in front of my newspapers. "As I mentioned to you the other day, he really doesn't like to be handled much."

I turn my attention to my newspapers, though I'm not really reading anymore... I'm listening too closely to everything that's said.

"He just sits there like that, staring at newspapers?" Margie inquires. "I didn't think you meant that literally."

"Uh, yeah." I glance up at the note of worry in Walt's voice.

Margie leans toward him and whispers, "Have you talked to a doctor to see if he's okay."

I nod subtly, trying to tell Walter to go with it.

He gets the message, but he's not happy with the situation. "Yeah... his doctor thinks he's okay. He's just a quiet kid. Trying to change his routine just upsets him, so go with the flow. He's actually very easy to care for once you get used to his, uh, quirks."

Margie nods encouragingly and smiles at me. I don't have a good feeling about this.

With great reluctance, Walt leaves for school 20 minutes later.

Margie immediately picks me up, taking me away from my morning reading, and settles on the couch to begin a cuddle fest. "You know what I think, little Jesse... I think you just miss your mommy."

So I scream. And scream. She tries bouncing me, so I scream some more. She shushes me, so I scream again. Finally, she plunks me on the floor with an air of franticness. I stop screaming and scoot back to my papers. She blinks at me for a few minutes as if trying to figure me out.

A peaceful half hour passes before she has me back in her arms again, checking to see if I'm wet. I know Walter told her I'm potty trained. So I scream again. She's disconcerted by how quickly I scream if she bugs me.

She spends the next hour or so orbiting around me, obviously not quite sure what to do with me... or herself.

When I've had enough of the newspaper, I grab the remote control. I can't hold the damn thing and push the buttons, so I have to set it on the coffee table and push them. I turn to CNN, then climb up on the couch.

Margie sits next to me, pulling me in close to her. "Oh honey, you don't want to watch that yucky adult stuff. Here, let me get you something you'll like."

She changes the channel to something with four colored bloated looking things with shapes on their heads and televisions in their stomachs talking baby talk. I look up at her and in disbelief. I'm about to scream when she rubs my head and kisses me on the cheek. "Now, isn't this better?" Her smile begins to fade. "Just look at the TV. You'll like this." Finally, her smile is completely gone. "Don't you like teletubbies?"

Tele-what?

"Come on, sweetie-pie, I know you must talk a little. If you don't like this, why don't you tell me what you do like? How about Sesame Street?"

"CNN," I offer simply. I don't have to work on sounding childish... I always do.

A frown forms, both on her lips and on her forehead. "Jesse... that's not for children." She rubs her forehead and her baby talk turns into muttering. "I don't know where you picked up the habit of watching the news. It's weird."

So I start screaming.

She's adamant about not turning on the news and I'm adamant about not stopping until she does. Every time she baby talks me, I scream louder. Finally, she grabs me by both arms and gives me a shake. My head snaps back and I'm startled into silence.

Margie pulls me into her arms and starts stroking my back. "I'm sorry I scared you, baby. You just have the most piercing scream, and I don't understand why you're so unhappy."

I'm getting unhappier by the minute.

She releases me and sets me on the floor. "How about I make your lunch and I'll leave you with your newspapers, which seem to keep you happy." With that she heads to the kitchen with the remote control. Damn her.

I want to call Walter and tell him to come home. Not that I can use the regular phone... we keep a small cell phone with several pre-programmed numbers in one of my drawers in case of emergency. It's small enough that I can manage it with my tiny hands.

I don't like that she shook me, but I personally have no experience with babies. Maybe this is all normal. Maybe after lunch, I can go to my room and pretend to play so she'll leave me alone.

Shaking off my unhappy thoughts, I decide to go to the bathroom while she's occupied. I hate having to use the stupid kids toilet chair. But Walt felt the stepstool onto the modified toilet seat would be too much for a nanny to take in until I'm at least three.

Three. Christ, I'm so tired of this.

"Jesse!" Margie's scream comes from the front of the house. "Oh my god, where are you!"

I try to hurry up, but it only takes her a couple seconds to find me. "Dammit, Jesse! You scared me half to death." She tries to aid me in finishing, but I keep swatting her hands away.

My mind spins trying to figure out how a kid would say 'leave me alone.' "I do it!" I finally manage.

Margie ignores me and insists on making sure everything is clean, even though I'm fighting with her. So I resort to screaming.

"Stop it!" she yells over me, then sighs with frustration. "What is wrong with you?"

Next thing I know she's picked me up and is hauling me to the kitchen for lunch. She puts me in my high chair, mumbling about how irresponsible 'Daniel' is for having a chair without straps. Then she puts something in front of me. I stare at it for several seconds, not sure what it is.

My broccoli! She's ruined my broccoli. Walt goes to the farmer's market every Sunday and gets my organic broccoli. He marinates it just the way I want, then roasts it. And she's ground it up to a pulverized pile of green mush!

I push it away. "No!"

The wicked witch of the west frowns at me, then tries to feed me. I turn my head to avoid the spoon. The battle of wills begins. She tries to force feed me, I twist around in the chair so much, I nearly fall out. That's when she jerks me out of the chair with a growled, "That's it, young man. You're taking a nap."

"No!" I yell in her ear. I'm never sleepy until 2:00 or 3:00. There's no way I'm going to sleep now.

"Yes you are! You are spoiled and bratty. And cranky. And cranky boys go to bed."

I've had just about enough. I'm not going to be treated like this for any reason. I start fighting her, yelling, "Put me down!"

"No."

Next thing I know I'm being dumped on my bed. The bed seems to make her angry. It's a normal twin bed, albeit it's very close to the ground.

"This isn't a child's bed." She looks around. "Or a child appropriate room. Your uncle needs some lessons in how to handle you!"

Arrogant bitch. I slip off the bed with the intention of kicking her. But I find myself grabbed by the arm and then she hits me. Really hard on my bare leg.

I wish I could kill her because now I have to deal with being completely humiliated when I start crying. I can't help it. I don't process pain well. Every time I bump my head or stub my toe, Walt has to deal with me crying. It's totally embarrassing.

She picks me up and dumps me back in bed, pulls the covers over me and walks out of the room.

I'm miserable, my leg hurts and I'm completely humiliated. It's all too much and my crying turns to sobbing. I slip out of bed, barely able to walk because of my erratic breathing and sniffling, and get the phone out of the bottom drawer. I take it back to bed with me and hide under the covers in case she comes back. I push the button for Walt's number, then just lay my head on the phone and listen, trying to stop the damned crying.

"Alex, what's wrong?" Walt's voice is reassuring, so of course I cry more. "Alex!"

"She hit me," I manage to get out.

"I'm having someone call the police so I can stay on the phone with you."

"No!" I yelp. "Please no. Just come home." I try to control myself. "I'm pretending to sleep."

He seems to understand. "I'll be there soon. I promise." He's breathless and I hear odd noises. I realize he's running.

Once the phone clicks off, my crying gets worse. I keep the cell phone in my hands. Walter's at least 15 minutes away.

When I hear the door slam open and Walter's voice only eight minutes later, I start crying again. I hate this, I hate it, I hate it!

He's yelling something at the witch, then he nearly breaks my door down. I've never been so happy to see anyone. When he picks me up, I cling to him, crying against his chest.

"What the hell did you do to him?" Walter's yelling. He's shifting me in his arms, feeling my legs and checking under my shorts. I'm too upset to even care.

"Nothing!" Bitch defensively yelps.

Walt's hand gently touches the part of my leg that still stings. "Then whose handprint is this? I know it's not mine... I'd never hit him!"

"Well maybe if you had spanked the little monster once in a while, he wouldn't be such a brat!"

I think if Walter weren't holding me, he'd kill her. "I swear to god, you had better get out of our house right now, and pray that I don't call the police!"

She makes some kind of fuss, but it's clear she's leaving. Once she's gone, Walter tries to ask some questions, but I'm too upset. I desperately want to get control of myself, but I can't. Finally, he lies down with me in his arms and I realize he's moved us into his room. This is completely contrary to my plans for this family. But I'm too far gone to care about getting things back on track.

A strong hand strokes my back while my emotions finish their free fall. When it's all done, I realize how tired I am and let Walt's gentle rocking lull me to sleep.


Will

The first day at school was awesome. I managed to humiliate two bullies and successfully ducked the punch one of them threw. And the girls even like me. Too cool.

I get to the block where our house is and see our car parked haphazardly, half on the driveway, half on the lawn. Walt's not even supposed to be home. In the next breath, I'm at a dead run, terrified that something has gone wrong with my family.

The door isn't locked, and I can barely breathe as I enter the house. Years of Mulder's training kick in and I process everything as I walk through the house. The car keys are on the floor in the entry, the kitchen is a mess, Alex's paper's are still on the floor. I blink at the remote control on top of the refrigerator.

With every room I enter that's not the way it's supposed to be, I feel my gut tightening with dread. Alex's cell phone is on the floor in his room, his bed unmade. I pass my room, finding it the same disaster area it was when I left. Walt's door is shut. With great trepidation, I turn the knob. My heart remembers to beat again when I find them both on his bed.

Walt is awake, eyes tracking me. He puts his finger to his lips. "Shh."

Alex is fast asleep on Walt's chest as Walt rhythmically rubs his back. And suddenly I'm terrified again. What the hell happened that Alex is allowing this, or even worse, asking for it?

I pull up a chair next to the bed and whisper, "What happened?"

"Nanny hit him."

"What!" I yell, then cringe when Alex is jolted awake.

"Sorry," I mutter at Walt's frown.

With obvious haste, Alex climbs down and sits on the bed. His face is red and streaky, eyes bloodshot and swollen. He looks so pathetic it almost makes me want to cry.

Walt rises and heads toward the bathroom, returning with a wet washcloth, which he hands to Alex. While Alex wipes his face, Walt sits cross-legged at the foot of the bed.

I know Alex is disquieted by every display of emotion, but it doesn't really bother me. Because, in an odd way, it's made our life possible. His lack of control has made it easier to separate the clone, with no real past, from the rigidly in-control man we knew before. Not that I think of us as clones. Definitely not. I just think of us as having an unfortunate head full of memories. Though I think it's often been helpful that part of my head full of memories is that I'm a psychologist.

"So, what happened," I query gently.

Alex shrugs. "It was just all wrong. She didn't listen to a damn thing Walt said to her. Started talking about how I missed my mommy and I needed to be loved."

I have to put my hand over my mouth, so Alex won't know I'm trying not to laugh. I glance sideways at Walt. He's staring at his lap. I suspect he's trying not to laugh as well.

"Oh, laugh it up, you two." Alex is glaring at me. He's seriously miffed.

"I'm sorry." I try my best to not giggle. "I know what happened to you isn't funny, but that just sounded weird. Please... just tell us what happened."

He has his arms crossed over his chest with an expression I imagine he hopes is deadly. It just makes me want to smile.

"Fine. She wouldn't let me 'stare' at the paper, then she wouldn't let me watch the news. I couldn't figure out how to deal with her other than to scream when she was interfering."

"Scream?" I've never heard Alex scream. "How?"

He glares at me. Even though his facial expressions are limited, his eyes are so piercing that his glares are quite effective. "You think I deserved this?"

"No!"

"Alex," Walt interjects, "we're not trying to blame you, we just want to get a picture of what happened here today. I have to call that bitch's agency after all."

All of a sudden, Alex screams. It makes my brain hurt and I want to cover my ears. I wonder if my eyes are bleeding. The sound is mercifully short, because he's rubbing his head like he has a headache.

Walt and I stare at him with twin expressions of amazement. I've never heard a scream like that. "How many times did you scream at her?"

"Every time she picked me up or tried to kiss me or when she tried to make me watch these tele-frumpy things."

I start laughing. I really don't want to, but it's so absurd. Walt's head is in his hands and his shoulders are shaking. Alex is tapping his foot impatiently. Clearly the woman had a psychotic episode after all that yelling.

Walt looks at me imploringly, his eyes watering. "This isn't funny, but I can't stop laughing. What's wrong with us?"

"It's the stress," I gasp around giggles.

Alex starts trying to get off the bed, but Walt intercepts him, making him stay. It always makes Alex furious when we take advantage of his size that way. Walt is no longer laughing, trying to get Alex to just finish what he was telling us.

Finally Alex relents. "She made lunch, but I refused to eat, which made her mad."

Walt looks blankly at Alex. "Why didn't you want to eat?" It does defy explanation. Alex is always hungry.

Alex glares at us, clearly daring us to laugh at whatever he's about to say. "She blended my broccoli."

Oh, dear.

I would laugh if Walt wasn't so annoyed. "She used my blender for broccoli?"

Nodding vigorously, Alex yelps, "Yeah. She's nuts!"

"Then?" I prompt.

"She said I was a spoiled brat and that I had to go to bed."

Walt is frowning. "I told her very clearly that you decide when to go to bed."

It's clear why this woman crawled under Alex's skin so badly. He really hates being told what to do, and especially being manhandled into doing it.

"I know you did. And I didn't feel compelled to stay in bed. I was actually going to kick her after she made some comment about how you needed lessons on dealing with me. That's when she grabbed me and hit me, then dumped me back in bed."

"Hit you where?"

He gestures to the side of his leg and I insist on inspecting it, even though he thumps me several times for touching him. I don't see anything.

"There was a red hand print on his leg when I got here," Walt offers, clearly still pissed off.

I only need to think for a few seconds. "I'm sorry, Alex. This was my fault. I'll be-"

"Oh, knock it off, Will," Alex nearly spits at me. "It wasn't your fault."

Walt seems to have nothing to say about this.

"Well, I won't be going back to school so it won't be an issue any more."

"Of course you're going back-" Alex breaks off, rubbing his head.

I find myself grinning at him. "How did you manage to do all that screaming if it gives you such a headache?"

He shakes his head, but it seems to make him unhappy. "It didn't give me a headache. I think my head hurts because my neck is sore."

Glancing at Walt, I find that he looks as confused as I feel. I look back at Alex. "Why does your neck hurt?"

"I think from when she shook me... it kind of snapped my head back."

My intestines twist into knots. Shaking can be a serious problem. Without thinking, I grab Alex and head out of the room. "Walt, let's go the hospital."

"Hey!" Alex yelps indignantly, he thumps me on the head all the way to the car.

Two hours later, Walt and I are nervously waiting in the ER exam room. They wouldn't let us go with Alex to have the CT scan. Walt tried to insist, but they were adamant that they weren't letting him go.

Walt seems tired and frustrated and worried. I feel tired, frustrated, worried and guilty. If I'd just stuck by our agreement and stayed home until Alex was a little older, this wouldn't have happened.

"Stop blaming yourself," Walt murmurs.

I just shrug, not wanting to talk about it. "It won't ever happen again."

"You know, at first, I was upset with you for reneging on our deal. But this situation is unfair to all of us and we all have to figure out how to make this bearable. And you know as well as I do, that now that Alex has made up his mind that you're going to school, that's what's going to happen."

I'm fine with letting him think that. "Well, I won't be going back until we've figured something out." I just plan on there not being any other solution.

Walt frowns at me, but doesn't say anything.

A few minutes pass when I feel a tap on my arm. I look up at a smiling Walter. "Can you believe how those nurses went ga-ga over Alex."

I recognize the ploy for what it is, but I can't help but chuckle. "He is really cute." Probably yet another reason why Alex doesn't like to go anywhere. He hates being fawned over. And every time we go out, that's exactly what happens.

We're both startled by the drape being whipped back. And there's the doctor holding Alex, who is wearing a tiny little neck brace. I suddenly feel sick. Alex has also clearly been crying.

The doctor hands Alex to Walt. Alex hides his face in Walter's chest.

"He's going to be fine," the doctor offers. "The CT scan showed some inflammation in his neck... probably a bit of a sprain, so it's best if you try to minimize how much he moves it for a couple weeks. His head is just fine." He speaks simply to us, in deference to our youth. It's really fucking annoying. "He was remarkably cooperative with the scan... I've actually never seen a baby so placid about it."

I'll bet.

The doctor makes some notes in his chart. "If he gets cranky because of the discomfort... try some baby Tylenol. Also, at bedtime, a little Benadryl will help him sleep and is perfectly safe. Follow-up with his pediatrician within the week." He then sits on the gurney and offers Walt a slightly condescending smile. Walt looks ready to spit nails. "Daniel, I have to talk to you about the legal issues of what happened today." His gaze flicks to me. "Maybe your older nephew can wait in the hall?"

Now I'm going to spit nails.

"No." Walt states emphatically. "I don't hide things from Jamie, so just spit it out."

The physician is disconcerted by how forceful supposed 19-year-old Daniel Robertson can be. Anyone who talks down to Walt has the same experience. "We're all fortunate that Jesse was able to articulate to you what happened."

I had to coach Alex on exactly what to say to the doctor. It was actually kinda funny when he looked the doctor dead in they eye and said, "She shooked me."

Walt grins down at Alex. "He's a very smart kid."

The doctor nods, smiling condescendingly again. "He's a little small for his age, though."

Yeah, no kidding. As far is the world is concerned, he's already nearly two and a half. But in reality, he's not quite two. We all decided our birthdays would be the same day... the day of our cloning. Walter's age was going to be fictitious anyway, but we had to advance Alex's age by several months. I told them we were only adjusting my age by a month. But, in truth, our cloning day was already my birthday. October 13th. For some reason, I never wanted to tell them that.

I try to pay attention to what the doctor is saying. "Legally I had to report what happened to social services, and I've already called the agency and to ensure that they're aware. Though I don't understand why you don't want to pursue this legally, social services may not give you much of a choice."

I'm actually certain Walt would love to nail this woman to the wall, but Alex and I were adamant with him on the way here that we not do anything to bring legal scrutiny to our situation. Still, he had to tell the doctor what happened, because a shaking-related injury can't be passed off as a bump on the head. And we had to say who, so Walter didn't wind up in trouble.

Walt encourages the doctor to be expedient in our discharge. All the way home, we try to get Alex to talk, but he's steadfastly silent. This is so fucked up.


Three Weeks Later

I rush through the last math problem, plunk my pencil down and check my watch. Bitchin! An entire day's school work in only 38 minutes. There is definitely something to be said for doing this at home. Though I really like the social aspect of 'real' school.

From his position seated on the coffee table. Alex picks up my pencil and taps my nose. "Problem 12 is wrong." I doubt that. I check it only to find that he's right. What an annoying little twerp.

Looking up, I find Walter frowning at me again. I roll my eyes. He and Alex have been adamant that I'm going back to school, but now he's pissed at me for finding someone to be here with Alex.

"Would you quit glaring at me!"

"I can't help myself... I'm missing my physics class, which I'm barely passing as it is, for a complete waste of time."

Walt and I agreed three weeks ago that we'd both be here the entire day if ever we brought anyone new here. "It's going to be fine."

"How can it be fine? The guy is 20 and has NO experience."

"Exactly!" We've had this argument at least a dozen times. "No experience with kids is almost perfect. He won't have a clue how weird Alex is." I now have to meet twin frowns. "Look, we said it was up to Alex as to whether or not the guy stays. So, quit fretting. Besides, I can help with your physics."

Walt is saved from replying by the doorbell ringing. I bound up to get it, but he follows me. When I open the door to admit Dytch. I can feel Walt's disapproval as he takes in the tall, tanned guy with blond dreads, goatee, dressed in board shorts and a tank top with wrap-around Oakleys.

"Hey, man!" he greets me with some weird handshake I've had to get used to.

"Hi, Dytch." I gesture to Walter. "This is my uncle, Daniel."

"Yo, Danny."

Walt saves his glare for me. I implore him with my eyes to see where this is going.

He invites Dytch to the kitchen, where we sit around the table. "So, uh, Dytch... why do you want to be a nanny?"

Dytch sprawls in his chair "Nanny? No way, man."

Walt's smile is saccharine. "You prefer au pair?"

"Huh? Look, Jamie, who by the way is turning into a great surfer, said you need some help with his little brother and it pays good. That's why I'm here." He grins at both of us. "Call me child technician."

Surfing is how I met Dytch. Walt's driven me to the beach two weekends in a row to learn how to surf from Dytch. I glance at Walt. He's not happy.

"You have any experience taking care of children?"

"Nope."

We're never going to get anywhere like this. I lean forward and offer, "Jess is almost two and a half. He's very smart, very independent and you don't really have to do anything but fix whatever food Daniel's prepared and make sure he doesn't get hurt."

Dytch grins as me. "I can handle that."

I continue before Walt can say anything. "He's also a little strange... he likes to stare at newspapers and sometimes even books," not really, because it's hard for him to hold books and he hates showing any weakness. "We don't really know why, but it makes him happy. Also, he likes to watch the news."

Our nanny-to-be frowns at that. "Are you raising a stockbroker or something?"

"Uh, no." Hell, I don't know. "He always sleeps in the afternoon, but he'll put himself to bed when he's ready. Oh... he'll scream loud enough to break glass if you do something he doesn't like. But it should be really easy."

He frowned at the scream bit, but now he grins at us again. "I can totally handle this."

Walt is still frowning, so I kick his shin. "Ouch!" He glares at me, then turns back to Dytch. "We're going to watch you with him, and if this works out, you'll start on Monday. But I promise you, if you ever do anything to hurt him, I'll break your legs."

Dytch looks alarmed and pushes his chair back from the table. "Uh, maybe this isn't such a good-"

"No!" I try to make a placating gesture. "Daniel's just... well, we're kind of protective. The last nanny hit him, so it's hard to trust-"

"I'd never hit a little kid," he offers indignantly. "Did you break her legs?"

"Of course not," I reply trying not to sound too exasperated. "There was an investigation, but it was dropped for lack of evidence." Even though it was what we wanted, it pissed Walt off so badly, he stomped around the house like a wounded lion for days. But she said Alex hurt his neck falling and, after a visit by child protective services, the whole thing went away.

"Huh," Dytch offers cryptically. "Look, just let me meet the little thing. Oh there he is... Hey little man!" He waves over my shoulder.

I look back to find Alex standing in the doorway, his expression shuttered. He turns and toddles back to the living room.

"Not very friendly, eh?" He pushes back from the table and follows Alex. "I'll just have to go meet him."

Walt is hot on Dytch's heels. I literally jump on him, trying to slow him down. "Let's just see what happens," I hiss in his ear.

So we find ourselves standing in the doorway, watching as Dytch watches Alex read the newspaper.

"Man you are one strange little dude." He sits cross-legged on the floor and contemplates whatever's open in front of them. "So are you like some super smart kid, or are you just strange?" His tone is playful, not condescending. He reaches into his pocket and comes up with some change. He holds his hand out to Alex. "So, which is the quarter?"

To my eternal shock, Alex reaches out and plucks a quarter from Dytch's hand. Then hauls back and throws it right at Dytch's eye. Dytch collapses on the floor, hand clapped over his face, groaning. Then he sits back up and smiles at Alex. "Smart kid, huh. Well, go on, little man, read your papers." He looks back at us. "What a cool kid."

By the end of the day, it's clear this is going to be perfect. Dytch let's Alex do whatever he wants, more amused by his eccentricities than amazed or scared by them. Alex even allows Dytch to hold him on his lap while they watch TV together.

Walt leans over and whispers to me, "Who knew Alex needed someone to play with?" I have to leave the room so I won't laugh.

A week later, my world seems nearly idyllic again. Nearly because in my perfect world, I wouldn't be facing puberty again. While I wait for the rest of the class to finish during study session, I think about things at home.

I could never have predicted how well Dytch would work out. And certainly Walt didn't expect it. I wasn't surprised at Dytch dealing with Alex, I was surprised at Alex putting up with Dytch. I asked him about it one day. His response, coming from his angelic face, still causes me a disturbed shiver every time I think about it.

"Actually, in my previous life, he's just the kind of guy I would have fucked."

After I nearly passed out with shock, Alex chided me for being so 'provincial.' I explained it wasn't what he said, just that he said it. And I really didn't think he sat around contemplating who he'd like to fuck. If only...

"Don't you," he queried.

I reluctantly admitted that I did. I miss it, too.

"Exactly... just because our bodies don't work, doesn't mean our brains have stopped. Besides, you wouldn't believe the mind games I can play on him. It's kind of fun."

I've found that I can talk to Alex about many things--difficult aspects of this whole thing--that I can't discuss with Walt. Probably because Walt is always trying so hard to protect all of us. Even from ourselves.

At recess, I abandon my 'friends' and sit on the far side of the playground, watching the bustle of Palo Alto beyond the school fence. Sometimes I feel guilty because our world seems so perfect, and I know how far from perfect the real world is. There are things I hear in the news that I know to be evidence of a silent war that's raging for the future of our planet. One of the hardest things for me to accept is that there's not a god damned thing I can do about it.

I know from Alex's contact with Krycek that Mulder and Skinner left the Bureau. All three are working together, for the rebels. Scully stayed behind. The nature of their work is secret. Though I have a hunch that Alex knows more than he lets on.

Each of them has followed through on what they believe. In a way, I'm proud of them. And in another way, I'm grateful. For now, they fight, and we get to live.

**

End Take VIII

28 August 2005

Well, that's it. I hope you enjoyed the story. I am writing an epiloge that takes place 12 years in the future. Your feedback helps to keep me motivated.


Zoë

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