Rating: R for language
Warning/Spoilers: kidfic, slash, Season 2 but Nathan is still head of GD.
Author's Notes: This is not beta'd. All mistakes are mine. The science in this is awful and probably all wrong but hey, its sci fi… go with it! ; )
Summary: How do you say, 'Do you want to keep our genetically impossible baby on the weekends?' to a man you're not even really friends with?
"Carter, what are you doing here?"
Jack skipped up the last step and fell in stride with Allison. "Taggart needed some help wrangling. All taken care of though. Nothing to worry about."
"Good. The last thing we need right now is a flock of Taggart's whatever-they-are wandering around the building."
"No, not specifically; just the usual deadlines. The DoD is breathing down Nathan's neck for progress and when he's stressed, we're all stressed."
"Ah, I see." Jack followed her down the hall to Nathan's office. Nathan was at his desk listening intently to an uncomfortable, nervous looking scientist present something Jack probably wouldn't understand.
"…the two genomes then intersect and form one, thus creating…"
"What's he talking about?" Jack whispered to Allison.
She and Jack sat down quietly, trying not to interrupt. "Dr. Mehta is a molecular biologist. He is the head of the cloning department."
"Cloning? Like Susan Perkins?"
"Similar, yes." Allison answered then turned her attention to the presentation after Nathan gave them a sideways glance, looking annoyed.
"Dr. Stark, I believe we are ready for a trail. All we need are two donor DNA samples and we can begin immediately." The Doctor was practically bouncing on his feet with excitement.
Nathan thought for a moment then said, "This room has three perfectly healthy donors just bursting with DNA. Take your pick."
Dr. Mehta's glee nearly burst through his wide eyes. "Excellent! Thank you very much, Dr. Stark. You won't be disappointed." He pulled a small device form his pocket and began entering data into the display.
Nathan turned Jack and Allison, "Ready to be a part of history?" He asked unenthusiastically. Another day, another breakthrough.
"I don't want to be cloned," Jack spouted quickly.
"Trust me, Sheriff, I would prefer if there weren't multiples of you running about town."
"Yes, yes, there is nothing to worry about Sheriff Carter. You won't have to compete with yourself anytime soon." Dr. Mehta assured.
"What about Walter Perkins? He created a clone of his wife."
Allison spoke up, "Yes but he destroyed all of his research after the fact. Dr. Mehta's department has been working to reverse engineer with the Susan clone."
"That is true, Dr. Blake, but my research is quite different." Dr. Mehta interjected without looking up from his device. "Dr. Perkins used stem cells from the real Mrs. Perkins to create a complete duplicate. My team and I are working to procreate using DNA."
"Procreate? As in babies? Why do you need cloning for that? Why not just have two people… you know." Jack said, gesturing vaguely.
"I hypothesize two distinctive strands of DNA could merge at the molecular level and by using the cloning techniques similar to what Dr. Perkins used when he created his wife, create an being from the fetal state."
"Ok, I get what you're saying but how is that different from a couple having a child the good old fashion way?"
Allison spoke up, "If Dr. Mehta's work is a success it could be the answer to infertility, Carter. Thousands of couples wouldn't have to suffer the loss of miscarriages or struggle with in vitro fertilization."
"Well, when you put it that way." Jack sighed, giving up. In college he joined a medical test program to make some extra cash and that hadn't turned out in a disaster.
A quick prick to the finger with some kind of thingamajig and Jack's DNA no longer belonged to only him. He never knew what to expect from the town and was always surprised and annoyed that he never saw the next insane incident about to happen.
"Alright then, I have everything I need. I'll head straight to the lab and begin molecular fusion. I hope to be ready for implantation shortly after. Thank you again, Dr. Stark."
"Just have some results this time, Doctor." Nathan said with a nod of dismissal.
Dr. Mehta's last words were echoing in Jack's ears as he left. "Uh, did he say implantation?" Yep, he never saw it coming.
"What the hell does that mean?" Jack yelled into the phone and promptly ignored the stern look Jo gave him for screaming in the station.
"You see, Sheriff," Dr. Mehta's voice came through the line. "We were successful in the duplication after many failures and we now have a viable organism. It's quite remarkable actually."
Jack had almost forgotten about the DNA sample the doctor had taken for his experiment. Nearly five months had passed since that morning in Stark's office and the last thing he expected was a call congratulating him on his bastard-clone-baby-duplicate-thing.
He pinched the bridge of his nose and took a deep breath before saying, "And by 'duplication' you mean… a clone?"
"Well, what exactly?"
"Using the DNA samples, we were able to generate a new human being from the conception stage."
The words 'generate', 'conception', and fucking 'human being' forced Jack to sit down in his chair and let his head drop onto his desk.
"You've got to be kidding me?" he groaned.
"Not at all, actually. We're all very excited! Of course you are under no obligation but I thought you would be thrilled to know the outcome of the experiment. We couldn't have done it without you."
"Yes, I'm thrilled," Jack said, apathetic. "Wait, what do you mean I'm not obligated?"
"To the child. We decided to tell you of the success once we knew it was stable but we certainly don't want you to feel the need to take responsibility in the matter. This is, of course, our experiment."
Strangely, Jack hadn't realized Dr. Mehta actually meant a baby but now he recalled that day in Stark's office; Allison talking about infertility and changing the world and what not.
"It's a baby?" he asked quietly.
"Not quite, but it's on its way. It is entering the second trimester."
"Is someone… is there a woman who is…"
Thankfully Dr. Mehta realized what Jack was trying to ask and spoke up. "No, no, we're not using a surrogate. We've engineered an artificial womb."
"Oh." It was too much to comprehend. Did this mean he was a father again? Was 'It' even a real, biological human or some kind of hybrid? And really, what the hell? What the hell was he supposed to do with this information? They obviously didn't expect anything from him but how could he go about his days as if he didn't have a hybrid-bastard-baby-thing stewing in some lab at GD. Did they really think he'd do nothing?
"Can I see it?" he asked quietly, trying not to look at Jo, who was watching him intently with a curious look.
Jack was perched on a barstool in a small, dimly lit lab located at the end of section three. The room was empty aside from a few stools and the focal point, a large horizontal cylinder fixed upon a table. It was filled with what Jack would describe as a goo-gel substance that surrounded the 'baby'.
Dr. Mehta explained, in great detail, that 'It' was biologically Jack's 'child' even though 'It' was created using his own DNA, like you would a clone. Dr. Mehta seemed to think it was no different than conceiving a child naturally. He said, "Our children are made from our DNA and are essentially forms of duplicates that evolve."
Jack got it, he did, but it didn't change the fact that he was freaked out. Really though, he was reacting better than he did the first time he found out he was going to be a father. When Abby announced unexpectedly one evening that she was pregnant, Jack practically had a panic attack at the thought and continued to panic until he held Zoe for the first time and fell madly in love.
But this was different. He didn't create this 'child' with his wife or anyone for that matter. 'It' was an experiment. The scientists kept insisting he needn't worry or feel obligated but every time he showed up, their smiles told him they thought it was good he came to visit.
It was the third time that week he had come to the lab to watch 'It'. He couldn't help but feel connected to the little thing. The best way he could describe the feeling was when he saw the sonogram of Zoe for the first time. You can't believe it but there it is, proof of life.
A soft glow emanated from the artificial womb while a console displayed multiple readings. Jack leaned closer; he could see the arms and legs. He was starting to think it was pretty amazing, being able to see the process of life so vividly.
Dr. Mehta came around the table and began checking the readings on the console.
"You know Doc, I was thinking about when you took the DNA and I remember you saying something about needing two samples."
"Uh, yes that's correct," he answered but looked uncomfortable.
"Who was the other sample used to create Junior here?" Jack had thought a lot about who it might be. Allison would be the obvious choice but he didn't know if they had other samples to choose from. The Doc said they had some failures.
Dr. Mehta laughed nervously, "We tried several times to generate a viable solution using Dr. Stark and Dr. Blake's DNA, as well as yours and Dr. Blake's but they were all unsuccessful."
Jack could tell he was skirting the subject, "So did you get another sample?"
Jack sighed, "What exactly, then?" He was getting really sick of people in the town avoiding his questions.
"We tried a different combination."
He was starting to regret asking in the first place. "And what does that mean?" he asked cautiously.
The doctor fidgeted and actually took a few steps back before answering. Yep, Jack really didn't want to know the answer. "We used yours and Dr. Stark's DNA."
Jack stared at him with a blank face. Dr. Mehta tried to smile but 'Oh God, oh God, please don't kill me!' was written across in his face.
A few long, silent minutes later Jack's voice pitched as he yelled, "What?!"
Dr. Mehta spit out quickly, "It's funny really, we're not sure why it worked but it did when no others would and it was the only combination that created a successful and viable-"
"How is that even possible!?" Jack nearly shrieked again as the doctor tried and failed to explain. "Wait, nevermind! I don't want to know!" Dr. Mehta scrambled back when Jack got up and walked right by him and out of the lab.
Jack stormed through GD. A man on a mission. What mission? He wasn't sure but he was pissed. Or more like completely freaked the fuck out.
In no time he was pushing through the doors to Stark's office, ignoring Fargo's protests. Nathan was in the middle of a video conference when Jack yelled, "Are you fucking kidding me?!"
Nathan paused to look at Jack with a raised eyebrow, but ever the professional, he turned back to his colleagues and smiled, "You'll have to excuse me, there's something I need to attend to that apparently can't wait." He clicked the monitor off and turned to Jack, looking angry. "Care to explain the dramatics, Sheriff?"
"Oh don't act like you don't know, Stark! You're the reason this is happening in the first place. You said, 'lets be a part of history' but you didn't think about the consequences did you? No, you only care about science and numbers and your stupid DoD quota." Jack paced in front of Nathan's desk, pointing and waving his arms. "You don't care about what it does to people or how it affects them!"
Nathan stood up and heatedly said, "Don't come into my office and throw out accusations, Carter."
"Well, when the shoe fits!" Jack yelled.
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"The fucking bastard-clone-baby-duplicate-thing, that's what!"
"Dr. Mehta's project? What about it?"
"What about it?!" Jack repeated. "Oh of course it wouldn't bother you!"
"The project is a success, why are you so worked up?"
"Because it's weird!"
"Carter, calm down," he said, taking his seat, his anger gone. "I'll admit that I certainly didn't expect Dr. Mehta's project to succeed so quickly and I understand the idea of DNA manipulation in regards to cloning is unsettling for you. But don't you think you're overreacting?"
Jack thought about little 'It' and the way he felt before he received the disturbing news about his spawns other half. He felt a connection with the little thing. He wanted to see 'It' grow. He took a deep breath, "Ok maybe." He rubbed the back of his head, willing himself to calm. "But I can't believe you're not at least a little freaked out."
"I'm a scientist. I haven't been 'freaked out' by cloning since Dolly."
"That was a sheep, not a person."
"An ewe, actually."
"Oh whatever. This is so much bigger than that. This is your own DNA."
Nathan looked at him incredulously, "It's your DNA. I read the report."
Jack smiled, "You don't know?" No wonder he wasn't freaked out.
"I guess the Doc left that little tidbit out of his report," Jack mumbled to himself. "Probably figured his career was safer this way."
"Carter!" Nathan got his attention, "What the hell are you talking about?"
"The good old Doc just told me the only DNA combination that worked was my DNA and yours. Congratulations."
Nathan gave him a quizzical look before realizing he wasn't kidding. He stood and yelled, "Fargo!" as he left his office.
"What do you think it's going to be?" Zoe asked, tapping on the glass of the cylinder.
"It's not a fishbowl, Zoe." Jack leaned back and crossed his arms. "They tell me it's a 'baby'."
Zoe rolled her eyes, "Well duh. I mean, do you think it'll be a boy or girl?"
"I don't know. Does it matter?"
"I've always wanted a sister and this way she's not old enough to steal my clothes."
"We're not keeping 'It'. This is just an experiment."
"Oh please," Zoe sat next to him. "If this were just an 'experiment, you wouldn't be up here everyday."
"What am I supposed to do? Take 'It' home?"
"First of all, stop calling it 'It'. And what do you think they'll do with a baby at Global? You can't leave her with these scientists."
"Her?" Jack raised his eyebrow.
"Or him," Zoe smiled and eyed the baby again. "I guess I wouldn't mind a little brother either."
"Zoe, I know you're excited about the idea of having a sibling but this isn't right. It's not natural."
"That doesn't mean it's not here and not real."
Jack sighed, rubbing the back of his head. Sometimes Zoe would say something so mature that it would hit him that his little girl was suddenly becoming a smart, beautiful woman.
"Has Dr. Stark come down to visit her?" Zoe asked.
"I don't know. After he found out, he nearly bit Dr. Mehta's head off but I think he's actually impressed."
"Yeah. When you think about it, it's pretty insane that it worked at all."
"I think it's a miracle," she beamed.
Jack smiled back, "Yeah, maybe."
Jack thought it would be awkward when the town found out about his and Stark's (not)love child but no one seemed to care much. It had been the talk of the town for a few days until a small and only somewhat radioactive explosion claimed Fargo's eyebrows. But every morning at breakfast, Vincent would ask him questions about the baby and his plans. He even gave Jack hand knit baby booties. S.A.R.A.H repeatedly switched the channel to Bringing Home Baby 'accidentally' and even played nursery rhymes when he went to bed. Jack was now firmly convinced she was the devil incarnate.
He hadn't decided if he should keep the 'baby' or not. He wasn't really sure if he even had the option but no matter how many times the scientists told him he wasn't responsible, he still felt it. The 'baby' was his blood and deep down he knew when the time came, he couldn't abandon 'It'.
He and Stark avoided each other like the plague. Jack didn't want to have the conversation they probably needed to have. How do you say, 'Do you want to keep our genetically impossible baby on the weekends?' to a man you're not even really friends with?
A month later, Allison called him to GD under the guise of an emergency. When he arrived she led him straight to a small room in section one but wouldn't say a word about the so-called emergency. They entered the room and Jack immediately turned to leave when he saw Nathan sitting in one of the two seats. Allison stood in his way with her arms crossed, just daring him to try to get past her.
"You two need to discuss some things and I'm not letting you out of this room until you have."
"Ali, this is ridiculous. I don't have time for this nonsense." Nathan moved to leave but she quickly stepped over to block him as well.
"No Nathan, you have plenty of time. Fargo has taken care of your appointments and I'll make sure your paperwork is covered for today," she said, grinning.
"Oh you're evil," Jack said, plopping down in the chair.
"You can thank me later," she said before slipping out the door and locking it from the outside.
Nathan made an exasperated sound before sitting across from Jack. He gave him an annoyed look.
"Don't look at me, she's your wife."
"Ex-wife. And now I remember why."
"Can't you use your computer thingy to unlock the door?"
"If I had my computer thingy I could get us out in a heartbeat, but Allison took my tablet when I came in." Nathan crossed his arms, leaning back. "We may as well discuss the situation or we'll never get out of this. Ali is persistent."
"Fine," Jack said with a pout.
Neither of them said a word or looked at each other for ten minutes until Jack, sick of the silence, finally spoke up. "Have you been to the lab?"
"Oh come on!"
"No, I haven't."
"I'm the director of GD. I don't have time to visit every lab regardless of nature of the experiments. I've read Dr. Mehta's progress reports."
"This is a little different, don't you think?"
"Carter, a scientist cannot allow himself to become emotionally involved in the process of experimentation. I don't expect you to understand."
"You're right, I don't understand. This isn't some random experiment. Maybe it was, but not any more. There's another life involved now."
"The research accomplished at Global involves putting lives at risk. It comes with the territory."
"You think I don't know that? I come into this building everyday and risk my life to extinguish the fires you scientists choose to ignite. That baby shouldn't be subjected to you people and your insane games until it can choose for itself."
"You can't choose how and where you're brought into this world and you certainly can't choose your parents."
"Oh I'm painfully aware of that fact thanks to this psychotic situation. But that baby is ours and whether you like it or not, we're responsible for it."
"No, we're not. Our DNA may have created it but that doesn't entitle you to anything." Nathan said, cold.
"So I'm supposed to ignore that the fact that I have another kid?"
"From what I've heard, it shouldn't be too hard for you."
Before he could think about how bad of an idea it was, Jack had Nathan out of his chair and shoved against the wall, his stress and frustration over the whole situation finally releasing in a burst of stupidity. "You know what I think?" Jack snarled close to Stark's face. "I think you're afraid to get close or let yourself feel anything for that baby because of Callister."
Nathan's face turned dark. "Don't go there, Carter."
"Why not? If we're going to judge my parenting skills, then we'll take a look at yours too. He was practically your son and you sent him away from the only place and people he'd ever known. What kind of parenting is that, Stark?"
"Shut your fucking mouth," Nathan said through gritted teeth before he shoved Jack off and punched him in the face. "You don't have a right to talk about him!"
Jack stumbled back, holding his jaw. When he looked up, he saw the hurt in Nathan's eyes and realized it was no different than the guilt and pain he felt for his own parental shortcomings. "Shit," his jaw was burning and his conscience was screaming at him. "Shit. I'm sorry," he sat down and put his head in his hands. "You're right. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have..."
Nathan stood, breathing heavily for a minute before sitting down again. "I didn't mean it… what I said. I'm sorry."
It wasn't the fact that Nathan said it that had angered Jack so much but the fact that it was true. Or used to be. "I'm not proud of the parent I used to be."
"I know the feeling." Nathan looked away from him and spoke quietly, "You were right, you know."
"Why I haven't been to the lab. When Callister became aware for the first time, it was essentially his birth. Everything was new and amazing to him. He learned so quickly."
As he spoke, Jack didn't see the Nathan Stark he was used to seeing on a daily basis. This Stark's eyes lit up and his voice softened as he spoke about Callister. Jack felt like such an ass for accusing him of being an awful father, especially since Callister was gone.
"I did love him like a son but I sent him away because I got too close and I was afraid of what would happen to him in this town. That baby down there is no different. It's something extraordinary and unique, and that makes it impossible to lead a normal, safe life. Not in this place. I know too well how the DoD operates."
"Which is exactly why we can't leave her to be studied and raised like some kind of lab rat."
"Her? It's a girl?" Nathan asked, finally looking at him.
"No. I don't know. Zoe wants a sister."
"Oh." Nathan sighed. "I don't know what you want from me, Carter."
"You think I know?" Jack let out a desperate laugh. "You've probably figured out by now that I don't exactly know what I'm doing." Nathan snorted but Jack ignored him and continued, "All the years I spent as a Marshal couldn't have prepared me less for this town. I never know what's coming until it's smacking me in the face. Literally." He rubbed his jaw.
Nathan smirked, "Yeah, sorry about that."
"I deserved it."
"Yes, you did," Nathan said, matter of fact.
"My point is that I'm not sure what we should do about this baby except I know that I can't do nothing. I made a commitment to Zoe to be a better parent and that extends to this new one too."
Jack waited for him to elaborate, declare he's seen the light, start suggesting baby names, or something, but Nathan remained quiet. "Ok?" Jack questioned. "What the hell does that mean?"
"It means ok," Nathan looked at him as if he were mentally ill. "Do you really need a definition?"
"No," Jack laughed, "Well, yeah maybe actually." Nathan rolled his eyes and was about to speak but Jack piped up again. "No, I mean, what are you ok with? With not letting the DoD get their hands on our kid or me wanting to try this parenting thing again?"
"Both, I suppose. You can do whatever you like and I'll do what I can to keep the DoD away but don't expect anything else."
"You seriously don't want to be involved in your own child's life?"
"Don't get self righteous on me, Carter."
"Alright, fine," Jack knew that he of all people wasn't in any place to judge. "But do me one favor? I promise I won't ask for more."
"Come to the lab, just once. If you really don't want any involvement after that, I'll drop it completely."
Nathan was quiet for a moment, thinking. "Fine."
Once Allison finally let them out of the room, they went down to the small lab in section three and sent the technicians away. Jack took his usual stool and Nathan sat in the other, both silently watching the baby.
"I think it's a boy," Nathan said after a few minutes.
"Really?" Jack said, excited. "How can you tell?"
He pointed at the artificial womb, "What does that look like to you?"
Jack leaned forward, squinting. "Oooh. Zoe's going to be disappointed."
They laughed and Nathan asked, "What does she think about all this?"
"She took it better than I did, that's for sure." When Jack first told Zoe, she only seemed to care that she had a sibling on the way and not at all that said sibling was a genetically engineered cloned offspring of two males.
"She's a smart girl."
Jack smiled, "Yes she is."
"She must have gotten it from her mother," Nathan quipped.
"Haha, very funny." He pointed at the baby, "Well, he's got fifty percent of me so I'd watch the 'Jack's stupid' comments if I were you."
"I don't think you're stupid, Sheriff."
"Good, 'cause I'm not. Wait… Really?" Jack said, surprised.
"You wouldn't be in Eureka if you were. And you have, on occasion, been helpful."
"That would be more convincing if you didn't cringe as you said it."
Nathan smiled, "Sorry, natural reflex."
Jack laughed and thought maybe Nathan wasn't as bad as he thought once he got to know him. Sure he was frustrating and infuriating but he was also quick-witted and obviously brilliant. Try has he might, Jack couldn't help but be impressed when Nathan would spout off some technical, scientific jargon he didn't understand.
Their verbal sparing died down and both just stared at the tank holding their (impossible) child. Jack wondered what Nathan was thinking, if he was reconsidering his stance on being un-involved. All those years ago, Jack felt trepidation about becoming a father for the first time but he never really thought about not being there. His life and job took him down that path eventually but it just sort of happened and before he knew it, he was the absentee father. Choosing to purposely stay away from his own kid never entered his mind and he wondered if Nathan was really that cold. Callister was evidence to the contrary.
True to his word Nathan stayed away. The baby was nearly full term, Vincent threw Jack and Zoe a baby shower, S.A.R.A.H stocked her systems with every version of the What to Expect book series, the guest room was now a nursery, Jack even watched a few episodes of Bringing Home Baby, and Nathan still hadn't shown an interest in his child. Jack became angry with him for his non-involvement but the fact that he was mad at all, made him even angrier. Just because Jack chose to take responsibility in the matter didn't mean Stark should as well. Or so he tried to tell himself.
Every time Jack visited the baby at GD, he took alternate routes and entrances in an effort to avoid Nathan's office or anywhere he might run into the other man. Jack knew he shouldn't hold it against Nathan because he was at least honest from the beginning about not wanting to be involved. But Jack really thought he would change his mind somewhere along the way.
One night he had an epiphany of sorts where he realized the reason he was really upset was because he would have to do the parenting thing on his own. He called Abby the next morning apologizing profusely for leaving her alone so often.