Title: The Substance of Things Hoped For
Author: Dawn
Feedback: sunrise83@comcast.net
Archive: Gossamer, Jeopardy--others are fine, just let me know.
Rating: PG
Classification: V, A
Keywords: MSR, Post ep for "The Truth"
Disclaimer: Mulder, Scully, and Skinner belong to Chris Carter and 1013 Productions. No copyright infringement is intended.

Summary: "Even an agnostic like me can believe in second chances, Scully. To atone for our mistakes. To get it right."

Author's Notes: Thanks to Vickie, dtg and TCS1121 for their insightful beta.

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of
things not seen." - Hebrews 11:1

He found her sitting on the park bench. Again.

Mulder slowed his steps, giving in to the relentless heat and the compulsion to watch her, unobserved. The same sunlight that sent beads of perspiration trickling down his back set her hair ablaze and blushed her pale cheeks. Though dark glasses concealed her eyes, he had no difficulty guessing the focus of her gaze. The angle of her body and the tilt of her head confirmed it.

"Hey." He sat down, close but not touching.

Scully tensed and turned toward him. "I thought you were working late."

Hating the wariness in her voice, Mulder stretched his arm along the back of the bench in an almost embrace. "I cancelled practice. A lot of the boys had exams tomorrow. Anyway, it's too damn hot."

She raised an eyebrow, but the curve of her lips betrayed a smile. "That's not much of an excuse, coach. This is Arizona; it's always too damn hot."

"Okay, I admit it. I know your next shift isn't until morning and I thought we could drive into the city. Maybe have dinner at that little hole-in-the-wall Italian place you're so fond of."

"What's the occasion?"

Mulder shrugged. "Does there have to be an occasion for a guy to take his woman out to dinner?"

"His woman?"

God, how he loved that low, dangerous tone. "Yeah, you know. His best girl. Main squeeze. We're talking romance, Scully. ROHOHO-MANCE."

"Thanks for spelling that out for me."

"So, what do you say?"

She bit her lip. "I... I told Peterson I'd look over that protocol and make any recommendations before he takes it to--"

"Peterson can wait. It's a research protocol, Scully, not the Holy Grail."

"I thought you had a stack of papers to grade."

"Screw the papers. When did we last spend time together that didn't involve work? My students, your patients, and the impending threat of alien colonization will still be here tomorrow. I just want... I need to be with you tonight. Is that so much to ask?"

"No. Of course not." She turned away, back to her earlier contemplation, but he still heard the thickness of tears in the concession.

Mulder followed her gaze to the brightly painted playground where stubby-legged toddlers chased each other with shrieking abandon. His throat tightened as he saw a round-faced little boy with auburn curls squealing delightedly as his mother pushed him on a swing. He closed his eyes and swallowed.

Scully wove her fingers with his and leaned her head against his shoulder. "He loved to swing."

Mulder opened his eyes, surprise and hope buoying his spirits. For more than two weeks she had been brooding, distant, rebuffing all his attempts to draw her out. Even now, severed from family and friends and forced to rely solely on each other, Scully rarely talked about the burdens she carried. And she never talked about William.

He curled his arm around her shoulders. "He was so little when I left. I missed the things that made him unique. That made him William."

She squeezed his hand and drew in a shaky breath. "Let's see. He adored Cheerios--to play with and to eat. He'd drop them over the side of the highchair and laugh at me when I had to sweep them up." She swiped a finger under her glasses.

"His favorite toy was a bright yellow rubber duck that Charlie gave him. He gnawed on it almost constantly once he started teething--chewed the beak until it had little dents in it."

"What else?" Mulder asked, quietly so as not to break the spell.

"He loved when I sang to him." She gave a watery little chuckle. "Hard to believe, I know. His favorites were 'Joy to the World' and 'The Itsy Bitsy Spider.' I told him he got his eclectic taste from his father."

Mulder rubbed his thumb over the back of her hand. "Did he still have that blanket?"

"The one with the little frogs on it?" When Mulder nodded, she smiled. "Are you kidding? He wouldn't go to sleep without it. I made the mistake of forgetting it at Mom's once and he was up all night, fussing. I included it in the list of instructions I gave the social worker when she..." Scully choked on the words, then pulled off her glasses and covered her eyes.

When Mulder tightened his embrace she turned her face into his shoulder, warmth dampening his thin tee shirt. He cradled her head in his palm.

She pulled back, scrubbing away tears and mascara. She watched the children for a few moments before speaking. "When I was a child, I could have given you a list of all the things I thought my mother did wrong. I vowed I'd do better, that I would never make the mistakes she made. Truth is, I was a terrible mother."


"I was, Mulder. I failed our son. I couldn't protect him, so I gave him away."

"You did the best you could. When all's said and done, you kept him safe."

"Did I? I took a fool's gamble and now we have no way of knowing..."

He looked away from her sharp gaze, concentrating on a pair of little girls pushing dolls in toy strollers.


"I didn't know whether to say anything. I wasn't sure how you'd react."

She dug her fingers into his arm. "How I'd react? If you have information about my son, you'd better tell me. Right now."

Mulder winced, stung by her lone claim to parentage. "Skinner knows where Will is. He's been keeping tabs on him, making sure he's okay."

She looked as if she wanted to slap him. Instead, she jerked away from his touch, then stood and walked several paces from the bench, her arms folded tightly across her chest and her back rigid. For a long moment they stayed that way, a silent tableau of anger' guilt, and regret.

"How could you keep something like this from me?" Scully asked. "What gave you the idea you had that right?"

"I know how difficult this has been for you--never settling in one place for long, always looking over our shoulders. Can't you accept that I was only trying to protect you?"

"Not when it means treating me like a fragile rose. I'm sick of this bullshit from you, Mulder. I've survived death, cancer, and the loss of two children. I do not need you to pad life's corners for me."

Why hadn't he just held the damn basketball practice? Mulder lifted his hands, palms out. "You're right."

Her lips parted and she narrowed her eyes. "Excuse me?"

"I should have told you, and I meant to, Scully. When I was in prison, and you started talking about giving Will up, I wanted to then. I kept waiting for a better time and place, and it never came. Then you seemed to be doing so well, and I... I didn't want to reopen a healing wound."

"It's my wound, Mulder. *My* pain. I don't need you determining what's best for me out of some misguided desire to protect me." She tipped up her chin. "Or to lessen your own guilt."

Anger flared, then died. She was right. The ache of seeing her grieve for their son was inseparably entwined with his own guilt.

A large rubber ball whizzed toward Scully's head. She caught it, then tossed it to a blond-haired boy, who rewarded her with a gap-toothed grin. After watching him race back to his playmates, she reclaimed her seat beside Mulder.

She leaned into him, and he slipped his arm around her shoulders. "Nice catch, Ace. I could use you down at the gym."

She kept her gaze on the children. "Did Skinner tell you where he is?"

"I figured it was better...safer if we didn't know." He paused. "Skinner said they live on a ranch. It's a small town, quiet. Perfect place to raise a kid."

She nodded, but he could still feel tension under his fingertips, magnifying the sensation of uneasiness that had plagued him for days. "Scully--"

"I'm pregnant."

The words hit him like a physical blow, stealing his breath. He couldn't move, couldn't speak, couldn't think. She met his gaze without flinching, but her lower lip trembled.

"How long have you known?"

"I'm two weeks overdue. I had Jackie run a pregnancy test yesterday while I was at work. She's very happy for us." Scully's chuckle became a sob but she shrugged off his attempt to pull her into his arms. "I can't believe this is happening."

Mulder clasped his hands to avoid reaching for her. "This is going to sound stupid, I know, but...ah... We've been careful. How exactly did this happen?"

"Ninety-eight percent, Mulder. We're just part of the lucky two." She sucked in a deep breath and slowly released it. "All those months I prayed with all my heart and soul for God to grant me a child. I'd forgotten how cruel He can be."

"Maybe not."

He uttered the words in little more than a whisper, but her head snapped around as if he'd shouted them in her ear. "What?"

"God seems pretty determined to give us a child, Scully. Maybe we should accept this baby as a blessing, not a curse."

"We're refugees, Mulder. We've left our home, our friends, our families--I haven't spoken to my mother in nearly a year. It's very possible the forces that cost us our son will be just as interested in this baby. And even if--IF--we manage to protect this child, when all is said and done, there still may not be a future for him. Forgive me if I don't feel blessed."

Mulder's chest felt tight and his voice was raspy with emotion. "Everything you said is true. And I'll admit the idea of bringing a child into our lives, into this world scares the hell out of me." He took a steadying breath. "But this is our baby, Scully--yours and mine. And I can't regret it."

She wilted, melting into him, finally accepting the comfort of his body, his hands, his lips. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she held on. "Mulder, I can't lose another child."

He settled her against his chest, hot and sticky with sweat and tears, and tentatively rested his hand on her belly. "Maybe this baby is a sign, Scully. A reminder that there's more at stake here than you and me. That there's a reason to keep fighting."

"I don't want to fail this baby the way we did William."

"We won't." Mulder ducked his head and looked into her red-rimmed eyes. "Even an agnostic like me can believe in second chances, Scully. To atone for our mistakes. To get it right."

"I never expected..." She touched his cheek, her lips curving in a smile as she studied his face. "You really want this baby."

"Yeah. As crazy as it sounds, I do. You wouldn't let me accept defeat, Scully. Now I'm telling you, there is a reason to hope. If this baby isn't the substance of faith, then nothing is. Don't give up. Believe in yourself, in us."

Her voice was soft, but firm. "I do."

He held her amidst the shouts and giggles, shrieks and squeals, his heart fluttering with fear and joy. Hoping they could get it right this time. Hoping they weren't bringing a child into a dying world.



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