Title: Wishful Thinking
Author: E.D.
Rating: PG-13 (if that) for language
Category: MSR, Mulder angst
Keywords: Mulder/Scully romance
Spoilers: The Truth, missing scene
Feedback: enigmatic76@hotmail.com
Disclaimer: No ownership, no profit

Summary: Skinner tries to soften the blow. Thanks to akajake for the great beta.

Skinner stepped into the cell tentatively, keeping his eyes fixed on the floor as the guard shut the door.

"Look, I'm sorry about the wisecrack earlier. You may be bald, but you're far from beautiful."

"Mulder, sit down for a minute. We need to talk."

Mulder sat on the floor, arms around his bent legs. From his vantage point, Skinner could see all of his bravado seeping away, leaving a beaten, broken man slumped over on the concrete. He wondered if he could do what he had promised.

Slowly, Skinner sat on the floor, trying to get as comfortable as possible.

"She hasn't been the same since you were abducted."

"Neither have I. A lot has happened, but she's just as strong as she's ever been."

"Mulder, I know you care about...love, her. That may be preventing you from seeing what has changed."

"Why the sudden concern?" Mulder jumped to his feet and started pacing, cutting jagged paths back and forth through the cell.

With a huff of effort, Skinner rose slowly to his feet and leaned against the rough concrete wall.

"When you were abducted she was distraught, using all of her time to search for you. She didn't think about herself or the baby for weeks. Her mother actually called me, asking me to intervene, to get her to sleep for more than a couple of hours at a time. Agent Scully wouldn't listen to me until she fell asleep at the wheel in the middle of the morning and jumped a curb."

"She never told me about that," Mulder whispered, stopping his pacing.

Skinner wondered if Mulder was recollecting Scully's abduction.

"She came in later that night a different person. A few days later, I noticed that your nameplate wasn't on your desk. She never admitted it, but she was starting to lose hope that you'd be returned and wanted to save whatever part of you she could."

"William." Mulder smiled.

"When she buried you, the baby was all that kept her alive. If she hadn't been carrying him..."

"I know" was the whispered reply. Mulder studied Skinner. "Why are we talking about this?"

"When you left this time, she tried to carry on, but taking care of William and worrying about you took its toll on her."

"You're avoiding my question." Mulder stepped closer.

"I'm getting there, Agent," Skinner snapped.

"Go on. Please, but get to the point."

Skinner wouldn't look up from the floor.

"Eventually, people started coming out of the woodwork trying to get to William. He was abducted and we thought you were dead. And then there's Spender."

"Not that black lunged bastard."

Skinner looked up to see the younger agent's eyes flashing green with uncontrolled anger. His fists were clenched, his fingernails surely drawing blood from his palms.

"No, Jeffrey Spender. He came to Agent Scully, impersonating you. The charade didn't last long, but he really had an impact."

"Why did she believe him at all?" Mulder asked incredulously.

"He'd been tortured, but unlike Marita, he'll never be the same. He is unrecognizable, barely human. Agent Scully examined him. Whatever was keeping her together left her completely. A few days later, she called Agent Doggett, Agent Reyes, her mother, and me over to her apartment."

Mulder watched Skinner, who had his arms crossed over his chest.

"Mulder, when she opened the door that day, I saw in her eyes what I saw the night we found your body. She was broken and empty. After getting us all seated, she slowly told us that when she was examining Spender, she felt a crushing fear that she was seeing William's fate."

Skinner looked up to see a tear streaking down Mulder's cheek. He wondered if Mulder felt Scully's pain or if he had figured out where this was going. Either way, he had to say the words that Scully couldn't.

"Scully asked me to come here today because she knows that she'll never survive seeing your reaction. Mulder, she decided to give William up for adoption. I arranged it."

The only reply was Mulder's knees hitting the floor as he crashed to the ground. Skinner watched, swiping away his own tears as they dripped down past his glasses. He continued to watch Mulder cry and shake. The occasional ragged gasp cut the silence. Tiny strips of sunlight drifted across the floor as the afternoon passed.

Finally, Skinner crouched next to the younger man, who was rocking back and forth on his knees, with his forehead pressed to the floor.

"I should never have left. This is my fault," Mulder cried as he slowly pulled himself up to a sitting position.

Skinner couldn't help a small, sad smile. Agent Scully had predicted this response. "No, it's the result of many years of torture that you were both subjected to."

"I should have been there. We could have been strong for each other. Protected William better." Mulder slumped over, holding his head in his hands.

"Mulder, I know you may not think this now, but this is the best solution. She couldn't do it alone any longer and she didn't think you'd ever make it back. Even together back in D.C., I don't think you could have protected him."

"How can you say that? Who are these people who have him now? If they even know about his abilities and the danger, how can they protect him better than we can? I can't believe she did this without me!" His voice was booming as his rage finally surfaced, "I WANT HER TO GET HIM BACK! TELL ME WHERE HE IS!!"

"I don't know. We wanted to hide him..."

Blind fury finally drove Mulder to run head-first into Skinner, ramming him into the wall. Skinner felt the blows and listened to the maniacal screaming. Errant punches landed on the concrete wall; Skinner watched as dots of Mulder's blood appeared on his shirt to mark each hit. Although he knew he could never absorb all of Mulder's pain and anger, he was willing to try. Bruises and blood were nothing compared to keeping his promise.

As Mulder tired, he started mumbling, mostly to himself. "Our baby...he was our baby. Not just hers. Both of us. Why did she give up? Must be dying inside. So strong, still so strong...love them both so much."

Finally, Mulder quieted and stood still, swaying slightly.

"We need to get him back. Otherwise, I'm no better than my father. And Scully will never forgive herself."

"If we can get you out of here and you and Scully agree to disappear, I can give you the information you'll need to contact my Marine buddy. One of his friends and his wife has William away from civilization. I'm not sure where, but he assured me it's out of the way. He'll be waiting for you to call. If something goes wrong, the adoptive parents will raise William as their own the best they can. I've been making some preparations for the two of you, hoping that we can get you out of here."

"That may be wishful thinking."

"We'll find a way. We have to."

The End
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