Title: All That Once Was Good
Author: Maidenjedi
FANDOM: The X-Files
Rating: PG-13
Category: post-series, AU
Spoilers: Whole series is up for grabs
Disclaimer: Not my characters, my concept, or my show. Damn it.
Archive: Anywhere, just keep my name on it.

Summary: Mulder and William. Play ball.

Notes: For sopdetly; she said something once that made me think this scenario would be a happy place. Title from a quote in "Field of Dreams."

"Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona." George F. Will


William was eleven years old when they were able to bring him back. His foster parents had died in a fire, and William had woken up in a field, having somehow escaped with nothing more than smoke inhalation and a bruise on his knee the size of a golfball. It hadn't taken too long for paperwork to be filed and a case made that the boy should be returned to his birth mother, and in any event it turned out that the Van de Kamps had asked for that very situation.

He was not without scars, of course. He had nightmares about smoke and flame, and didn't like talking about his life before. What he did like to do was take a bag of baseballs and a bat out to an open field, and just knock the stuffing out of each ball until the sun was sinking in the sky and he knew Scully would be getting home and Mulder was making dinner. He came in the house sweaty and smudged with dirt; he often smelled like grass and he gulped two glasses of lemonade with swift and terrible precision. His hat, new upon his arrival, became limp and stained the way all well-worn ballcaps do over time, and he would not let Scully wash it, just as all baseball-obsessed boys do when their mothers fuss over lucky but dirty caps.

In short, he reminded Mulder of another little boy, from another universe, it seemed, who salvaged forgotten balls from Little League fields and sandlots, whose cleats were a season too small but whose ambition was limitless. He was the next Roger Maris in those days; he was a young Babe Ruth.

William's adoptive father was a baseball fanatic and had schooled his son in everything related to the game, from trivia to curveball technique. William was never allowed to play Little League, as the sense of danger never left his young life, but he knew how to hit and he could throw a decent fastball for a kid his age.

Mulder found that out one bright day, about two months after William's homecoming. Mulder offered to go with William out to the field. Surely hitting a ball around would be more fun with two, right?

And yes, it was, for both of them. William hit the ball for awhile, Mulder throwing him rather weak, easy pitches so there could be home runs and the elation, the catharsis that goes with them. Mulder knew why William came out here, after all, even if they never talked about it, never said a word about it out loud.

Mulder felt a bit spooked, though, after awhile. William hit a particularly long ball, what would have been a triple had there been a game going on a real field. And he shouted and threw the bat, ran imaginary bases in celebration. He had every reason - but Mulder heard his own voice in that shout, and felt his own reasons for this long-lost escapism flood his heart. Samantha may be dead, but it didn't matter. She haunted him as often as she could, danced in his thoughts and made him long for a reason to search for her still.

He decided it was his turn at the bat.

William took up the pitcher's post with ease. He tossed the ball in his hand, behind his back, expertly searching for the seams so he could line up his fingers exactly. Mulder laughed at him from the plate; what's taking you so long, meat? William smirked and wiped the sweat from his brow with his forearm. He wound up and threw - it was the best fast ball Mulder had ever taken a swing at. William's face, twisted in a grimace of exertion, looked eeriely grown-up in that split second.

Mulder swung, too late, too low. Ball one.

William pumped his fist but made no noise. Mulder was still blinking, trying to focus, when the next pitch came screaming over the grassy patch acting as the plate.

A third pitch came, Mulder better prepared for it. He foul-tipped itand William hooted. Careful there, batter, careful there.

The fourth pitch was a curveball, taking a crazy turn downward and fooling Mulder completely. It was an amateur pitch, though. William was grimacing this time from pain more than exertion or triumph, he would need to work on that one.

Three strikes, you're out, Mulder thought, and tossed the bat to the ground. William was shaking out his arm and grinning. He had Scully's smile, her dimples. It was so good to see that smile on this boy-child of theirs that Mulder had to return it, and he hugged his son.

It was an unbidden thought, but there it was. His son.

They made it an almost daily activity, the two of them out in the field taking turns hitting the ball. That summer, William's curveball got a little better, his fastball deadlier, and they talked about Little League. They came in each day, both smelling like sweat and dirt with smudges on their cheeks. And Scully found it all endearing and wonderful, seeing her brothers and her father as readily as her lover and her son in baseball caps and torn t-shirts.

Their world was always punctuated with fear or doubt or danger, but baseball took off the edges, and slowly, William could talk about his childhood. Because as long as he could throw a ball, hit a ball, catch a ball, it was as though his childhood hadn't ended too soon after all.

It would surprise no one to know that it was the same for Mulder. In that field, with the sun high in the August sky, the buzz of lazy flies and bees marking time, he could believe Samantha was there, too, playing shortstop or catcher or counting wildflowers in right field.

The end.



It's cold and I'm tired of football playoffs and I want baseball, damnit! That's why I wrote this.

Feedback always welcome at maidenjedi@gmail.com

"What's important is that baseball, after twenty-eight years of artificial turf and expansion and the designated hitter and drugs and free agency and thousand-dollar bubble gum cards is still a gift given by fathers to sons." - Michael Chabon

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