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TITLE: Reservations for Two


EMAIL: sunrise83@comcast.net

ARCHIVE: Gossamer, Jeopardy--others are fine, just let me know.



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
By Dawn

"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 players.

"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 Spooky Mulder?

"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 lives.

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 startled me."

"Sorry, you... That is, I wanted to say... I'm quitting the team."

Mulder nodded slowly, watching the boy fidget. "I see. Any particular reason?"

Lucas lifted his head and glared at him with narrowed eyes. "How 'bout I suck, for starters?"

"Says who?"

"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 need you."

Lucas ducked his head, and even from a distance Scully could see the blush coloring his cheeks. "I guess...maybe...I could stick it out."

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 grin.

"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 different.

"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 about him?

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 of bleachers.

"I need to know what's going on with you," she said once they'd sat down.

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."

"Such as?"

"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 stroller."

"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."

"I'm listening."

"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 my credentials."

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 bitterness.

"Parenting is a learned behavior, Scully. Where does that leave me?"

"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 terrifies me."

"Me too."

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 dysfunctional."

She laughed. "I suppose we Scullys did resemble the Cleavers on the outside. But believe me, we weren't nearly so perfect on the inside."

"Get out."

"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 back?"

"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 way."

"You won't."

"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?"

"You won't."

"Scully, how--?"

"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 wonderful father."

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, Coach!"

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 day."