Title: Answered Prayers

Fandom: X-Files

Author: Ayiana

Category: Vignette

Spoilers: Through early season 9

Wordcount: 1177

Disclaimer: The X-Files television show doesn't belong to me, nor am I making any profit from this story.

Acknowledgement: My thanks to Moonshayde and Daisycm83 for the beta help. I appreciate your taking the time from your current fandoms to revisit an old love.

Summary: Scully gets an answer to a frightening question.

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The rain-washed window made her remember the first pictures she'd ever taken with her father's 35mm camera. The results of those initial attempts at photography had been horribly distorted, much to her brothers' unending amusement. The memory of their teasing brought a fleeting smile to her face, but it was gone almost as quickly as it had come, chased away by a flash of lightning.

As often happened during these quiet moments alone, her thoughts turned to Mulder, and she found herself wishing that she could see the world beyond the storm limited boundaries of the night. Where was he now? What was he doing and thinking? And more importantly... was he okay?

No. She shook her head sharply. She couldn't go there, couldn't allow a hint of doubt to enter her thoughts, for in doubt lay the seeds of defeat. For William's sake, she had to be strong. For William. And for Mulder.

She remembered their last precious hours together. It had all been so perfect until Mulder had told her about Kersh's warning. They'd argued then. That in itself wasn't unusual, since they'd often disagreed during the course of their years together. But this fight had been different, an emotional firestorm fueled by fear and worry. Each had known that the other was arguing out of a desperate need to protect, to keep safe that which held more value than life itself. In the end, her tears had convinced him where her words could not. And so they'd made plans, hired movers, and packed suitcases.

When he'd asked her to look after his fish, she'd only nodded, unable to speak past the lump in her throat. It had taken hours to drain the water, move the tank, and set it up in her apartment, but as she looked over at it now she was glad they had. Fish lived such simple lives, free of convoluted conspiracy theories and political maneuverings. They were content with their place in the universe, and watching them often brought her a few moments of unexpected peace.

A single sheet of paper lay near her elbow, and she picked it up. It was crisp and new, one of thousands spewed out by FBI printers every day. And yet for Scully it was more precious than the Hope Diamond or the Mona Lisa. She read it again, tracing the shape of each word with her eyes as she scanned the series of numbers and letters with which God had chosen to answer her prayers.

She'd hesitated to order the tests, doubted herself to the point that twice she'd picked up the phone to cancel them. They would reveal so much, maybe more than she really wanted to know. And yet, the not knowing had been slowly tearing her apart. In the end, she'd let the orders stand and made intricate plans to erase the results from Quantico's data banks. She needed to know. The rest of the world did not.

The report had arrived in her office early this morning, dynamite camouflaged in a plain white envelope and dropped on her desk by an oblivious errand boy. She had known what it was immediately, but instead of opening it, she'd slipped it into her purse. She wanted to be alone when she read it.

When she'd gotten home, she'd taken care of William, then changed her clothes and fixed herself a light dinner. It wasn't until after she'd put the baby to bed for the night that she'd finally retrieved the envelope from her purse, annoyed by the trembling of her fingers.

Time had slowed as she'd torn it open, the sound unusually loud in the quiet room. Then, when she finally held the folded paper in her hand, she'd been struck by momentary indecision - to read it or to burn it. It could change everything. It might change nothing. Finally, she'd taken a breath, unfolded it, and begun to read just as a distant rumble of thunder announced an approaching summer storm.

She'd cried when she'd read the news, the tears slipping down her face in mute accompaniment to the first drops of rain on the windows. Science. Logic. Facts. Evidence. These had been the foundations of her life in the beginning, before the X-Files, before Mulder. But working with him had shaken those foundations, forcing her to look for the deeper truths hidden beneath the numbers and the logic. Skeptical of his gut-instinct methods, she'd fought him, trying time after time to convince him that science was the only investigative tool that mattered.

He'd never changed his convictions, and never given up on changing hers. He'd stayed by her side through case after case until finally she'd begun to see that maybe they could both be right. Maybe her beliefs and his could coexist in the same universe.

Her thoughts returned to the present, her gaze dropping once again to the paper in her hand while outside the rain washed away the day. How ironic was it, she thought, that at this point in time, with Mulder lost to her and her infant son sleeping in the next room... How ironic that her greatest source of comfort should arrive in the form of a lab report.

A demanding cry cut through the silent apartment, startling her out of her reverie. She smiled softly and set the paper down. Her son was hungry, and he thought the world should know.

"It's okay, William," she called as she crossed the living room. "I'm here."

She reached him just as his cries began to escalate from demands to furious impatience. Picking him up, she nestled him against her shoulder, then reached for his pacifier. It would satisfy him for the few minutes it took to heat a bottle.

"See?" she said as she walked to the kitchen. "There's no need to cry. I'm right here, and in a few minutes you'll have something nice and warm to drink."

Calmed by the sound of his mother's voice, William sucked at his pacifier, and Dana wondered absently if he expected it to reward him with a gulp of warm milk. She knew that it wouldn't be long before he'd realize the futility of that idea, so she wasted no time in heating his bottle. She tested it against the back of her wrist before popping it into his mouth in exchange for the damp pacifier.

Later, fed, burped, and changed, he was ready to go back to sleep, and Scully laid him down in his crib, then bent to rub his small back in slow, rhythmic circles.

"We love you, William," she said as his eyes drifted closed. "Sweet dreams."

On the dresser, a tiny photo in a simple wooden frame held a place of honor. The picture showed a couple standing close together, his arm around her waist and her head resting in the hollow of his shoulder. They seemed almost impossibly happy as they gazed at the newborn infant cradled safely in crook of his father's arm. Outside, the rain finally stopped.