TITLE: Reservations for Two
ARCHIVE: Gossamer, Jeopardy--others are fine, just let me know.
CLASSIFICATION: V, A
KEYWORDS: MSR, Post "The Truth"
SUMMARY: Sequel to "The Substance of Things Hoped For" and second in the "Faith" series. "Parenting is a learned behavior,Scully. Where does that leave me?"
DISCLAIMER: Mulder, Scully, and Skinner belong to Chris Carter and 1013 Productions. No copyright infringement is intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTES:Many thanks to Vickie, dtg and TCS1121for sharing their time and wisdom in betaing this story. And a big thank you to all of you who wanted to see what happened next.
Reservations for Two
"Well, hello there, Kate. You're looking lovely today, as always."
Scully smiled. At sixty-four, Hal Jenkins still retained the southern
charm of his Mississippi roots. A retired cop, he now spent his
days running building security for the local high school.
"Why thank you, Hal. You're looking pretty dapper yourself."
"Here a little early, aren't you? Practice doesn't end until four, and
from what I've heard your husband's not one to let those boys off a
minute early." He lowered his voice conspiratorially. "I believe the
term 'slave driver' has been used."
She rolled her eyes. "You have no idea."
She made her way down the maze of hallways, sighing contentedly
as blessedly cool air dried the perspiration at the nape of her neck.
The heat had been merciless the past few days, making her dread
the thought of facing the summer eight months pregnant.
The gym smelled of freshly waxed floors and sweaty bodies.
Scully slipped through the doors and took a seat on the bleachers,
watching as Mulder refereed a scrimmage game between his
"Lucas! Didn't you hear me? You're leaving yourself wide open,
and it's going to cost you every time."
The dark-haired boy who had just lost possession of the ball
scowled, but nodded. "Sorry, coach."
The ball sailed through the air from mid-court, swishing neatly
through the rim.
"That's it, that's it! Nice, Joey. See what happens when you're not
afraid to take the shot?"
Scully watched, bemused, as the man formerly known as Special
Agent Fox Mulder jogged up and down the court, alternately
chiding and cajoling his players. He was having the time of his
life--and looking damn good doing it.
Mulder--a high school English teacher and basketball coach. Talk
about your X-Files.
She'd certainly had her doubts. Six months ago, when they'd
decided to settle more permanently in Oracle (a name Mulder
found endlessly amusing), she'd worried about his ability to make
the adjustment. For all his praise of small-town life, he thrived on
excitement--the thrill of the unknown, a puzzle waiting to be
solved. His complex brain needed to be challenged. What could a
backwater Arizona town near the Mexican border have to offer
"Now that's more like it. You guys play like this and those yoyos
from San Manuel won't know what hit 'em!"
Evidently, quite a lot.
Their situation was grim. She tried not to think about William. But
when she did, the pain hit her, as achingly fresh as the moment
she'd placed him in the social worker's arms. She missed her
family desperately; hated that she regarded even friendly faces
with suspicion. And the knowledge of what was to come, the
constant threat of colonization, tarnished every aspect of their
And yet, there were bright moments that pierced the darkness.
Moments like now, when she could forget the tension surrounding
them and simply revel in the sound of Mulder's laughter and the
sight of his unguarded smile. There'd been so little to smile about
these past two years.
"Okay, time's up. Hit the showers and I'll see you tomorrow--same
bat time, same bat channel." Mulder ignored the groans and rolled
eyes at the outdated humor. "Lucas. I want you here fifteen
minutes early, practicing free throws. No excuses."
The boys shuffled off the court in a herd of jostling elbows and
raucous jokes. Hands on hips, Mulder watched them file into the
locker room, still oblivious to Scully's presence. She opened her
mouth, intending to call his name, then realized the boy named
Lucas had hung back from the rest.
He cleared his throat. "Ah, Coach?"
Mulder grabbed for a nonexistent gun, then relaxed. "Lucas. You
"Sorry, you... That is, I wanted to say... I'm quitting the team."
Mulder nodded slowly, watching the boy fidget. "I see. Any
Lucas lifted his head and glared at him with narrowed eyes. "How
'bout I suck, for starters?"
"Says anyone! I'm the easiest mark when it comes to stealing the
ball, and lately I can't make a free throw to save my life. If I hadn't
missed those two foul shots, we'd've won Friday's game. I'm
bringing the team down."
Mulder placed the basketball into the boy's hands and walked him
to the free throw line. "Take the shot."
"This is stupid, I--"
Mulder folded his arms. "Take. The. Shot."
Lucas flinched a little at the stern command. He lined up with
stiffened shoulders and a pout, bounced the ball twice, and tipped
it into the air. It soared in a gentle arc, ricocheted off the
backboard, and dropped through the net.
"You were saying?"
"So I can sink a shot here, when it doesn't mean anything.
What's the point if I choke every time the pressure is on?"
"I can teach you how to sink a basket under pressure, Luke. It
doesn't take a great athlete, just a lot of practice and some self-
discipline. The point is that you have something that can't be
taught, that can make you an exceptional ball player if you hang in
there and don't give up."
Lucas looked away, blinking. "Yeah? What's that?"
"Heart." When the boy frowned at him, he nodded. "That's right.
And just between the two of us? It's why I'd rather have a team of
Lucases than a team of Joeys, any day of the week."
"He's our best player!"
Mulder smiled. "Yeah, he is. He's also a star who can be lazy one
minute and a ball hog the next." He gripped Lucas's shoulder.
"You may not be the most skilled player on this team. But you love
the game, and you put your heart and soul into every minute you're
out on the court. This team needs that kind of player, Lucas. We
Lucas ducked his head, and even from a distance Scully could see
the blush coloring his cheeks. "I guess...maybe...I could stick it
Mulder released him with a slap to his back. "Glad to hear it. Now
I want you to practice free throws every spare minute of the day,
till you can make them in your sleep. By the time we're finished
you'll sink a foul shot without batting an eye. Okay?"
"Okay." Lucas took a few steps toward the locker room, then
paused. "Thanks, Coach."
"Don't thank me. I'm going to work your butt off for the next few
months. See you tomorrow."
Scully waited until Lucas left the gym, then stood and walked
toward Mulder. At the sound of her tapping heels, he turned with a
"Hey! I didn't expect to see you here."
She searched his expression, but found it guileless. "I left the car at
the apartment. I thought we could walk home together."
He frowned and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "You sure
you're up to it? It's brutal out there today."
"Mulder I'm pregnant, not sick. I'll be fine."
He sighed, but his voice held affection, not exasperation. "Of
course you will. Let me lock up and I'll be right back."
They exited the building, immediately hit by a solid wall of heat. It
shimmered in the air, drying perspiration as soon as it formed.
February had been unseasonably warm, so they'd been told, and
the high temperatures showed no signs of abating.
Mulder took her hand. "Hey, baby, can I carry your books?"
She gestured to the briefcase slung over his shoulder. "Shouldn't
that be my line?"
They walked in silence, waving to a few straggling teachers as they
passed the staff parking lot, then turned left and cut across the
football field. Scully covertly studied his profile, though she wasn't
sure exactly what she expected to find.
"So what happened? I thought your shift didn't end until six?"
When she didn't answer, Mulder slowed his steps. "Scully?"
Scully pursed her lips and squinted against the glare. "Janet
covered the second half for me so I could make it to the
appointment with Levanthal."
She felt him stiffen, her hand sliding out of his, but she kept
walking. She knew what she'd see if she turned around--his lips
parted in shock, his eyes wide and guilt-stricken. Of course he
hadn't done it on purpose, but right now she didn't care, damn it!
He'd said he would be there. This time was supposed to be
"God, Scully, I completely forgot! I can't believe--"
"I know how crazy your day can get. Don't worry about it; he'll do
another ultrasound at thirty weeks."
His voice cracked, and so did her resolve. She stopped, listening to
the rapid beat of his footsteps as he jogged to catch up with her. He
touched her shoulder, but pulled his hand quickly away. Moving to
stand in front of her, he met her steady gaze with a wince.
"I'm so sorry. Scully, you must know how much I wanted to be
with you for that appointment."
She tucked her chin to her chest. "So you said."
"What?" His contrition vanished. "What the hell is that supposed to
mean? Are you implying I meant to miss the appointment?"
"Maybe not consciously, but..."
He ran his hands through his hair. "I don't believe this. I don't
believe you honestly think I stood you up on purpose."
She hated when he did this. She was the one who'd suffered
through the ultrasound--what should have been a moment of
shared excitement--alone. Again. How dare he twist this to be all
Her anger faded, leaving only weariness and the ever-present fear
that she'd made a terrible mistake. "I don't want to do this anymore,
Mulder. I'm going home."
He seized her wrist. "Don't! Scully, please. I know I screwed up,
but we can work it out. It won't happen again, I promise."
She gaped at him, stunned by the ragged edge to his voice. And
then she understood. "No. Oh, Mulder, no, that's not... I meant I
don't want to argue anymore."
His whole body deflated, shoulders sagging and arms dropping
limply to his sides. Taking his arm, she steered him over to a row
"I need to know what's going on with you," she said once they'd sat
He screwed up his face in frustration. "Scully, it's one lousy
appointment. I don't see why--"
"I'm not talking about the appointment." She hesitated, choosing
her words carefully. "If you've changed your mind about keeping
this baby, I need to know. Now."
Mulder opened his mouth, but several moments passed before he
stammered a reply. "If I...Scully, I don't understand. I've told you; I
want this baby."
"You've told me with words, Mulder. But lately, in lot of subtle
ways, you're sending a different message."
"You won't look at the classifieds, even though you know we need
to find a bigger place. You change the subject every time I try to
discuss names--or childcare arrangements once I go back to work."
"We've got plenty of time; you're not due for six months."
"You tense up every time we run into Julie pushing Matthew in the
"I do not tense--"
"You haven't been to a single one of my OB appointments--"
"That was an accident, Scully, not a statement. I just forgot."
"You didn't put it on your calendar, even though I must have
reminded you ten times." She folded her arms. "I'll bet you never
even approached Rich about taking your eighth period class."
The look on his face told her she'd hit her mark. Scully linked her
arm with his and leaned her head on his shoulder. "I'm not saying
any of this is deliberate. But I think if you're honest with yourself,
you'll see that something has changed this past month. You've
changed. And I really need to know why, because I can't go
through this alone again. I won't."
"Ah, Scully." He enveloped her in a hug and pressed a kiss to her
temple. "I'm sorry I've hurt you. I don't have a problem with you or
the baby. The problem is with me."
"With Will...I was an instant parent. My time with him was so
brief--before I could truly process the fact that I was his father, he
was gone." Mulder sighed and rested his cheek against her head.
"But now... Well, let's just say I've had plenty of time to consider
the requirements of fatherhood. And I have serious doubts about
It all made sense now. Mulder didn't talk much about his home life
after Samantha's abduction, but she'd gathered enough pieces to
form a fairly accurate picture. Grief, guilt, and alcoholism had
consumed Bill Mulder, spilling over to poison his relationship with
his wife and son. He'd struck out with words, not fists, but the
blows were just as painful. It was only natural that Mulder would
fear perpetuating the cycle of abuse.
Something--a change in her respiration, the movement of her body-
-must have alerted him to her thoughts. Mulder lifted his head and
tipped up her chin until he could see her eyes.
"Several times lately I've been awakened by you talking in your
sleep." She hesitated. "You were dreaming about your father."
Mulder gazed out at the field, chewing his lip. She gave him space,
waiting for his reply. When he spoke his words held an edge of
"Parenting is a learned behavior, Scully. Where does that leave
"Nobody's childhood is perfect, Mulder. The best we can do is
acknowledge our parents' mistakes and try not to repeat them."
He shook his head. "The first part is easy. It's the second that
He raised an eyebrow. "Scully your family could have stepped out
of a 1950s sitcom. Mine's the one that took the 'fun' out of
She laughed. "I suppose we Scullys did resemble the Cleavers on
the outside. But believe me, we weren't nearly so perfect on the
"Think about it, Mulder. My father was away at sea for long
periods of time, making my mother a single parent by default. She
ruled the house with an iron fist--we were to be Commander
Scully's children first, and good Catholics second. Neither one of
those standards would be easy to live up to, but when you put them
together..." She shrugged. "I guess we each handled it in our own
way. Bill became the enforcer--and an incredible bully, to boot.
Melissa rebelled and ran away. Charlie married the first girl that
came along. And me? I was the good girl, the one who kept trying
to reach the bar, no matter how high it got."
"Until you chose the FBI over a career in medicine."
"The fallout was ugly, believe me. Suffice it to say, my parents
weren't exactly ideal role models when it came to raising kids. I
have plenty of my own reservations about motherhood." She
studied his profile. "Mulder, when I told you I was pregnant, you
were so certain we should keep this baby. What happened to all
your talk about redemption and second chances? When did you
start losing faith?"
Mulder rested his chin on his clasped hands. "A few weeks ago I
was at the store, picking up some milk and bread. There was this
guy about my age with a couple kids and a cart full of groceries.
His son, who couldn't have been more than eight or nine, knocked
over a display on an end cap. It caused a hell of a mess--broken
glass and spaghetti sauce splattered all over the place."
He hunched his shoulders and his voice hardened. "It was just an
accident. Yeah, maybe the kid had been goofing around, but
anyone could see how mortified he was by what he'd done.
Anyone but his father."
Scully slid her hand onto his leg and leaned into him. "Took you
"Suddenly I was that twelve-year-old kid again, wishing the
ground would open up and swallow me. 'What were you thinking?'
'Do you use that head of yours for anything besides hanging a hat
on it?' 'You're useless; you can't do anything right.'" He scrubbed
his hands over his face and looked at her with reddened eyes.
"Scully, I'd rather put a bullet in my head than talk to our child that
"God, I hope not. But I can't undo years of conditioning. I may
have the best of intentions, but what happens when nurture kicks in
and I royally screw up?"
"I've watched you. With Gibson. Your students. The kids on your
team. The way you handled that boy--Lucas... Mulder, you made a
real difference in that kid's life." She cupped his jaw, stroking her
thumb over sweat and stubble. "You're going to make mistakes.
And yes, sometimes you will screw up. But you're going to be a
He bit his lip. "I want to believe that, Scully. I'm going to try."
He kissed her, a chaste brush of lips that quickly progressed and
was getting really interesting when a shrill whistle followed by
several hoots broke them apart. Her cheeks flushed, Scully saw
they'd drawn the attention of a pack of teens.
A boy in a letterman jacket pumped his fist in the air. "Way to go,
Mulder rested his forehead against hers, his silent chuckle ghosting
across her cheek. "How 'bout we take this somewhere else?" He
stood and tugged her to her feet.
Scully wrapped her arm around his waist, smiling up at him. "Let's
go home. I'd say you owe me the dinner of my choice. And then I
have some pictures I think you'll want to see."
"The doctor gave you pictures?" When she nodded, Mulder draped
an arm around her shoulders. "That's the best offer I've had all