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Blood Ties 11: Evolution (15/17)
Raleigh Community Hospital
"You wanna run that by one more time?" Grey's soft drawl verbalized the incredulity mirrored on every face in the room. "You're suggesting we what?"
An unwelcome sense of deja vu washed over Mulder. Combined with an excess of fatigue and lack of decent food, it left him off balance and disoriented. For a moment he was back in the BSU, a rookie profiler pitching theories that whizzed like fastballs over the senior agents' heads.
He blinked, shaking off the images and focusing on Grey. "You heard me."
"What we've heard is sheer nonsense. " Dr. Hsu stood just inside the doorway, having refused a seat at the large conference table. "Worse than nonsense--it's dangerous. Embarking upon such a course of action would be criminally negligent." He transferred his glare from Mulder to Kira. "Agent Mulder has no medical expertise, just a wild theory. You can't seriously be considering such a crazy, unconventional--"
"Doctor Mulder is an Oxford trained psychologist." Scully spared Hsu only a passing glance, addressing herself to those at the table. "He has more than a passing acquaintance with ECT and its impact on brain function. I suggest we hear him out."
This from the woman who had argued vehemently with him when he'd first shared his epiphany. That she would back him up, despite her own reservations, lifted Mulder's flagging spirits. He tipped his chin in a subtle gesture of gratitude before continuing.
"Yes, it's unconventional. So is Claire's condition. And frankly, after studying the medical records I can say without qualification that conventional methods have yielded nothing but dead children so far."
"I know the drugs haven't worked." Kira's voice trembled but she sat up straight in her chair, grimly holding on to her composure. "But she's still alive; she's still fighting. To take such an enormous risk... The treatment could kill her."
"Damn straight." Talbot pulled his hand from Kira's and leaned across the table. "Dr. Hsu is right; what you're suggesting is crazy. I'm not going to let you try to jump-start my little girl's brain like some kind of dead battery."
"What you're gonna do is sit back and keep your mouth shut." Grey's voice was excruciatingly calm. Dangerous.
Talbot rounded on him. "Like hell I will! I'm her father, Grey. I have the right--"
"You lost any rights to Claire when you walked out five years ago. I let you sit in on this meeting as a favor to Kira, but so help me God--"
"Stop it! Both of you!" Scully's command silenced them. She glared at Talbot, then Grey. "It's time you two stop this senseless bickering and start thinking about Kira and Claire." When both men looked sufficiently chastised, she nodded for Mulder to continue.
"Your jumper cable analogy, however graphic, is inaccurate." He directed his words to Talbot with as much patience as he could muster. "Claire's brain is not dead--just the opposite. It's functioning at a level impossible to sustain. We can wait for the inevitable burn out. Or, we can intervene."
"By pumping electricity into her brain." No longer confrontational, Steve's reply held sullen disbelief.
"By using electricity to re-establish a normal pattern of electroconductivity across the cerebral cortex. Unconventional, yes. Risky, certainly. But perhaps the only hope for reversing Claire's condition."
Hsu grunted derisively. "I'm telling you now, I want no part of this...this madness. If you choose to pursue this course of action, you will do so without my participation." A piercing look at Kira, a scowl for Mulder, then Hsu turned on his heel and left.
Mulder waited a beat before continuing. "Fortunately, we don't require Dr. Hsu's cooperation. Scully and I have already talked to Dr. Pratt, who heads up the psychiatric wing. We've shown him Claire's chart, as well as the records for the other kids. Despite his own reservations, he's agreed to perform the procedure."
Grey lifted an eyebrow. "He has?"
Scully glanced at Mulder with pursed lips before replying. "So long as we provide a signed consent form exempting him from all liability."
Mulder leaned back in his chair, palms up. "It's up to you now, Kira. Only you can decide how we proceed."
Kira bit her lip, eyes welling with tears. "I'm holding my baby's life in the palm of my hand. One word from me could determine whether she lives or dies. No mother should be forced to make such a decision."
Scully's voice was very, very soft. "Perhaps not, Kira. But then again, that kind of decision is the very essence of motherhood." Mulder looked at her sharply but she refused to meet his gaze.
After a long, uncomfortable silence, Kira shook her head and scrubbed at the tears on her cheeks. "I'm sorry, Fox. I know you mean well and that you truly believe this will work, but it's damn unorthodox and just plain dangerous. If Claire died from the procedure I'd never forgive myself." Her voice broke. "Or you. I have to get back to Claire; my parents will wonder what's keeping me." She shoved back her chair and practically fled from the room.
Talbot stood more slowly. "Maybe you do mean well, Agent Mulder. But I'd feel lot better if you stayed away from my daughter."
No one spoke for several minutes after Talbot's exit. Mulder rose and paced the length of the room, hand cupping the back of his neck. Eyes moving back and forth, Scully watched him, her expression a mixture of empathy and apprehension. Grey stared at the tabletop, tracing invisible patterns with his fingertip. And Kristen stared at Grey.
Grey finally looked up at his brother. "Kira's just trying to do what's best for Claire, Fox. It's a pretty radical idea; I don't think she was ready for it. Don't take it personally."
Mulder laughed, a harsh, humorless sound. "Personally? Nah. This is Spooky you're talking to--remember?"
"This doesn't have anything to do with--"
"The hell it doesn't!" Mulder slammed his palm against the tabletop, startling Grey to silence.
He rounded on Scully, past caring where he directed the anger and frustration. "You can't possibly understand what it's like to see...to know things that other people can only begin to understand. I'm sick of shouting out the truth like a damn prophet only to have it fall on deaf ears, or worse..." He trailed off, the fire in his eyes dying as he turned back to his brother. "To see that look. The one somewhere between pity and contempt. God, I'm tired of that look." He drew one hand down his face, shaking his head. "I have to get out of here. I need some fresh air."
Scully was by his side before he'd taken three steps, one hand on his arm. "I'm coming with you."
Mulder frowned. "Look, Scully, I..."
She folded her arms; raised an eyebrow. Mulder sucked in a deep breath and let it out with a resigned huff. His hand settled comfortably in the middle of her back and he guided her toward the door.
Grey braced his folded arms on the table, dropping his head onto them. After several minutes passed he felt gentle fingers at the nape of his neck, sifting through tension-damp curls.
"Talk to me, sweetheart. What's going on inside that complicated brain?"
He moaned a muffled laugh. "I want a do-over."
Bafflement colored Kristen's response. "What?"
Grey lifted his head. "A do-over. It was a game rule we had when we were kids. If the dice fell off the table when you rolled them, if you served the ball and it landed on the line--then you got a do- over. A second chance to get it right."
Kristen's lips curved and she stroked a lock of hair back from his brow. "If only life worked that way."
The tenderness, at a moment it felt least deserved, did him in. Grey closed his eyes against the burn of tears. "I've made a hell of a mess of things, Kris."
"You've made some mistakes. Nothing that can't be fixed."
"I wish I could believe that."
"Believe it." When Grey opened his eyes and fixed her with a questioning stare, she explained. "I talked to Fox this morning."
"About the trouble between you two. About your fear that he's shutting you out of his life."
Grey's eyebrows drew together. "What's happened between me and Fox is just that, Kristen--between me and Fox. It has nothing to do with you."
"You're wrong. It has everything to do with me. For three days I've listened to your heart break over this rift between you. I love you, damn it! Do you honestly expect me to sit by and do nothing? Would you?"
Grey winced. "I see your point." He searched her face. "What did he have to say?"
She made a face. "Not much. He fed me a line about the benefits of a little distance. Not too convincing, really, since it was obvious he didn't believe it himself."
Grey swore under his breath. "He must be the most stubborn, pigheaded..." Kristen's pursed lips stopped him. "What?"
"Oh, please. You two are poster boys for the expression 'it takes one to know one.'"
Grey tried to feel outraged; gave up. "The point is, he's made up his mind. He's constructing walls thicker than Fort Knox."
Kristen leaned in, her voice turning to stone. "The point is, you have to change his mind; it will never come from him. He's been hurt too many times in his life not to have developed some impressive coping mechanisms--namely, making sure you don't get close enough to repeat the job."
Grey's eyebrows soared. "Since when did you become an authority on my brother? You barely know him."
She snorted. "Since Dana and I spent two days pulling your butts out of the fire after that little camping excursion you took last fall. Guess we've become closer friends than either of you realizes."
"Obviously." Grey ran his fingers through his hair. "The hell of it is that he's been right from the start. It's all gone down the way he said it would--Claire's disappearance, the way she was returned, even her current condition. Crazy as his ECT theory may be, deep down I believe he's really onto something. And yet, even now, I can hardly bring myself to admit it."
"Are you saying you think Kira should have tried the ECT?"
"I'm saying I think it makes a helluva lot more sense than pumping her full of drugs. Or sitting around and waiting for her to die." Surprise colored his voice. "Yeah. I guess I am." He searched her face. "Kris, do you believe in aliens?"
She gnawed on her bottom lip. "I don't know. But your brother does. And I've heard enough around the Bureau to understand that at least 90 percent of the talk surrounding him is fueled by pure jealousy. He's not a fool, Grey. Just a guy who doesn't give a damn about what most people think." She ran the backs of her fingers down his cheek. "Of course, you and Dana aren't most people."
"Dana told me he believes I don't respect him." Grey chuffed and shook his head. "Can't say I blame him, considering the shitty way I've treated him. But he's wrong, Kris. I'm proud as hell to be his brother."
"Then you need to show him. Words aren't going to get the job done."
Grey propped his elbows on his knees and cradled his face in his hands. "Sure. Simple. Except how in the hell am I supposed to accomplish that?"
Kristen's hand returned to rest on the nape of his neck but she remained silent. He let his eyes close but was unable to shut out the memory of his brother's agonized expression, his earlier words to Kristen echoing in his head. The hell of it is that he's been right from the start. It's all gone down the way he said it would--
He dropped his hands and bolted upright, eyes wide.
Startled, Kristen instinctively recoiled. "Grey?"
"I know." Hope kindled inside him, making his heart beat faster. "Kris, I know what I have to do."
He stood, reaching down to tug her to her feet. "Let's go. I have to talk to Kira. Right away."