Useless Disclaimer: The X-Files and its characters belong to Chris Carter and 1013 Productions.

Author's Note: This is set post-"Roadrunner." Spoilers for that episode, and anything up through mid-season 8.

HOPE?

by izhilzha

She wished she could forget this was a hospital room. Even with her eyes closed, cheek pillowed on one hand, that antiseptic, sterile smell still got through to her. It tugged on her mind, pulling up memories she would rather not deal with, especially with that behind-lids darkness already haunted by the past two days.

Scully sighed and opened her eyes. Not much to see, but it was better than the blood-stained side of a bus, closed doors, the darkness of a seat that she clutched to keep herself upright, screaming . . . . And at least Doggett wasn't peeking in through the door to see if she was asleep or not. She was sure he would feel the need to personally check on her as soon as possible, and she didn't feel up to facing him just yet. Her gratitude was almost overwhelmed by anger at herself for not being able to cope with the situation alone-she wouldn't know what to say to him. If it had been Mulder, she might not have needed to say anything; he would understand her unspoken apology, and instead of stammering through the fog of pain meds, she would just touch his hand . . . .

Scully blinked back sudden tears. One hand slid down to cradle her barely-rounding abdomen through the hospital gown and coverlet. Such a relief to know the baby was still alive, unhurt by her own trauma. A miracle-she had been nearly sure that she would lose it. Thank you, God.

That reflex of gratitude threw back her train of thought. Those words echoed in her memories too: the cult leader, his wife: "Thank God," "Amen." Scully's hand gingerly groped for the cross that was not around her neck where it should be, because of the wound. If she squinted, she could catch its gleam on the bedside table, not quite within reach. The familiar shape suddenly seemed strange. How could the Man whose sacrifice created that symbol be worshiped by a cult that infected, then killed, people as a part of their religion? How could the truth, assuming it was such, become such a twisted lie?

Trust no one. She had learned that lesson long ago, and thoroughly, but it was still hard sometimes-to be constantly reminded that a friendly smile or offer of help could hide insanity or a terrifying secret. That a promise could be broken, that the search for her partner could be all but shelved by the rest of the FBI. Is there hope for any of us? she thought suddenly, bleakly. Have we all been deceiving ourselves? Carefully she eased up on one elbow, ignoring the muffled stabs of pain down her spine, and reached out to snag the chain of the tiny cross. "It means that God is with you"? As she settled back, gaze fixed on the pendant, her thoughts coalesced into a cry. Is that true? Is there any hope at all?

Scully's grip on the cross tightened, her eyes squeezed shut, and she found that the memories in her own shadows were not so recent after all. The dull pangs in her neck took her years back: to the dim awakening from a coma; to another parasite, cancer; to another miracle of healing; to a face and voice she missed more than she could safely admit even to herself.

So much pain, so much sorrow, so many hard things. The prayer was without premeditation, a gathering up of herself, her emotions. And yet you kept me alive. You kept Mulder alive. You protected my baby. Is there hope then? Is there?

Overwhelmed and exhausted, Scully turned her face into the silent pillow, willing an escape from the questions and pain in sleep. As the surge of emotions faded towards dreaming, she felt something stir within her, for the first time. The thrill of recognition jerked her back from the edge of sleep with a joy sharp enough to draw tears. The hand holding her cross drifted down to her belly again, to touch this time in wonder.

Immediately following that tiny motion came something else, something she had heard only in dreams since the night he was taken. His voice. It was raw with pain, but she was surprised to also hear a lift in it, a relief that resembled her own at the baby's movement. "Scully..."

She wanted to call back, but the voice faded, and she found her own too tired to vocalize her longing. As she drifted into sleep, the amazement of the motion and the call sparked that question again. Hope? Yes. For herself, for the baby, even for Mulder. Scully's fingers relaxed onto the sheets, the cross and its chain still tangled in them.

Hope...