TITLE: Faith Restored
AUTHOR: Polly - polly122456@yahoo.com

SPOILERS: Irresistible, Aubrey; tiny ones for The Pilot, One Breath, Nisei, 731, Memento Mori
CATEGORY: Mulder POV; post-Irresistible

DISCLAIMER: Much to my chagrin, everything belongs to Carter, 1013, and FOX
ARCHIVE: Be my guest.
FEEDBACK: Always appreciated
THANKS: To all those who continue to encourage me to write and to Jenna for creating a place for my fic to reside; Jenna - you're the best!
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Written for the Irresistible post-episode challenge at After-The-Fact (a little late)

SUMMARY: "It never occurred to me that the real danger would come from something far worse: an unremarkable, ordinary man who turned into a monster."

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~ Begin the procedure ~ We'll be together again, Starbuck, but not now ~  Would you say your hair is normal or dry ~ The tests are hardest the first time, Dana ~ Somebody's gotta take the blame, little sister ~ If you're having trouble with this case, Scully, I want you to tell me ~ My life felt as if it had been the length of one breath ~ I trust him as much as anyone; I'd trust him with my life ~  There's no way out, girly girl ~


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You sleep with the TV on because you need the noise to keep you company, to keep the monsters at bay. The cacophony drowns out the silence so you can find dreamless slumber, snoring your way through gunshots, car chases, laugh tracks, and bloodcurdling screams. And I usually do. It's the silence that wakes me up.

But not tonight. This was different. This bloodcurdling scream permeated my soul and chilled me all the way to my spine.

My eyes flew open and it only took me a second to get my bearings. My legs momentarily tangled in the blanket, but I was off the couch in an instant, grabbing my gun as I bounded toward her bedroom. In retrospect, I don't know why I picked up the Sig. Maybe I thought all I'd have to do was wave it officially in the air and the demons would be driven away. I'm surprised I didn't grab my badge as well.

She'd left the bedroom door open, the streetlights just outside her window casting the room in eerie shadows. But there was enough light for me to see her clearly. She was sitting bolt upright in bed, her arms circled around herself, screaming as loudly as her lungs would allow.

"Noooooo! Get away from me! Don't touch me! Mulder, get them away from me!"

I tossed the gun on the floor and was beside her in two steps. "Scully, wake up." I put my hands on her shoulders and shook her gently. "Wake up, I'm here. You're safe. It's just a dream."

Another gentle shake and the screaming stopped. I tilted her chin upward so she could see me; and after a few moments, recognition finally set in.

"It's okay," I said softly. "You're okay. It was only a dream."

Her arms suddenly snaked around my waist and she sobbed. She clung to me as tightly as she had when we'd found her with Pfaster, maybe even tighter, and didn't let go when I sat down on the edge of the bed and placed my arms around her. "Oh, God, Mulder, they were touching me and I begged them to stop. I called for you and they told me you were dead."


"I'm fine. I'm right here. Pfaster's locked up, Scully. He can't hurt you anymore."

I stroked her hair and let her sob into my shoulder, grateful that she wasn't holding back, wasn't shutting down. In Minneapolis she had cried in my arms for a few moments, but quickly pulled herself together, wiping away her tears before anyone else could see. I could kick Captain Ahab for instilling in her so thoroughly the importance of always being the brave little soldier - sailor - whatever.

'I'm fine' she told me repeatedly that night, and unfortunately the paramedics agreed, vetoing my insistence that she go to the hospital. Her injuries were superficial, they said; cuts and bruises that would heal quickly. Just like Scully to keep the real scars hidden where no one would be able to see.

With a night in the hospital out of the question, I lobbied for a hotel room. 'You need to rest,' I told her. 'We'll get a flight out tomorrow or the next day.'

But she flatly refused, wanting to put as many miles between herself and Pfaster as quickly as she could. I didn't blame her, really. We couldn't get out of Minnesota fast enough for me.

I'd wangled the football tickets so this weekend could be our first 'date.' After a day of easy companionship watching the 'Skins and the Vikings, I had planned to tell her all the things I promised myself I would if I ever got the chance. All the things I had figured out during the three months she was missing - how much I cared for her, how important she was to me, how I needed her as much as I needed air to breathe. I knew she might not feel the same, and that perhaps I was risking our professional relationship, but I knew I had to do it. The weekend in the Twin Cities seemed just the right time.

But Donnie Pfaster had put my plans for declarations of love and devotion on hold indefinitely. God knows when, or if, I would work up the courage to try again.

So we stopped by the FBI field office long enough to file our reports and pick up her luggage that was retrieved from the smashed rental car. Then we sat in the airport, side by side in silence, until we caught a nonstop flight for home at 6:05 a.m. But the fates still conspired against us, and our plane was grounded in Columbus due to engine trouble. We finally reached the safe haven of Scully's apartment at just past eight that evening. We were both exhausted, so she didn't argue when I said I was spending the night on her couch. She probably figured she'd have more strength to chase me off in the morning.

The LCD display on the clock by her bed read 3:16 a.m. when her sobs finally turned to little hiccups. Her arms relaxed, so I brought my hands up to cup her face, using my thumbs to wipe away the tears that lingered on her cheeks. "I'm going to get you some water," I said, figuring I should give her a moment alone.

When I returned, Dixie cup in hand (I marveled that anyone really kept those dispensers in their bathroom), she was sitting just as I'd left her, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue. The hiccups had subsided, but I handed her the cup as I sat back down on the edge of the bed.

"Here, drink this. It'll make you feel better."

She nodded numbly and took a few sips of the water, then handed the cup back to me. "Thank you."

I sat the cup on the nightstand and took her hands between mine. They were like ice. "Would you like me to make you some tea? Maybe that would help you sleep."

"I'm fine, Mulder. I'm sorry I woke you."

"You didn't," I lied. "I was watching a movie."

"You can't get comfortable on that sofa." She absently stroked my knuckles with her thumb. "I wish you'd go home so you can get some rest. I'll be fine."

"I'm staying here. And that's final."

She smiled weakly and her eyes met mine. They looked misty gray in the muted darkness. "All right. Just for tonight, because it's late. But you have to promise me you'll go home in the morning."

I shook my head. "No can do. You're not getting rid of me that easily."

"Mulder, I will be fine. I don't need you to stay here and hold my hand."

I squeezed her fingers and smiled. "Maybe I need you to hold mine."

Another small smile and she squeezed back, then reached over to turn on the lamp. "I just need a few days, Mulder. You need to get back to work."

"I can't, Scully." I started to fiddle with a loose thread on her comforter.

"Mulder, we're not going to argue about this."

"Scully, I *can't.*"

"Mulder, what aren't you telling me?"

I had a hard time getting the words out. "I ... I got suspended."

"Suspended? Why? For what?"

I couldn't look her in the eye as I explained. "I went back to question Pfaster while the paramedics were checking you out ..."

She nodded and waited for me to go on.

"And I also tried to beat the crap out of him. Bocks and a couple of other agents pulled me off before I could do as much damage as I would have liked."

"Oh, Mulder." She pulled me into an embrace and I rested my head in the crook of her neck.

"I know Bocks didn't want to report it. He figured Pfaster had that coming and more, but he had to cover his own ass. Skinner reamed me out over the phone before we left Minneapolis."

What I didn't tell her was that Skinner wasn't really concerned about disciplining a hothead Agent. He was concerned for my sanity and my ability to do my job objectively. He knew I had tried to kill two men with my bare hands within the course of a few months - both for the same reason. I lost control with Duane Barry, but I *wanted* to kill Donnie Pfaster. I still did. I wanted to beat him to a pulp and start hacking pieces off of him, just like he'd done to those other girls, just like he planned to do to Scully. It made me shiver to realize how close I'd come to losing her again.

Since she was returned, I worried about protecting her from shadow conspiracies and unseen aliens. It never occurred to me that the real danger would come from something far worse: an unremarkable, ordinary man who turned into a monster.

"Two weeks suspension without pay and mandatory counseling," I continued. "I have an appointment with somebody named Kosseff tomorrow."

She chuckled and the rush of air tickled my ear. "What's so funny?" I asked. "You know how I feel about talking to Bureau shrinks."

She pulled out of our embrace and lowered her eyes. "There's something I've been keeping from you too, Mulder. Karen Kosseff isn't a psychiatrist. She's a licensed clinical social worker with the Employee Assistance Program. I know that because ... because I talked to her while you were in Minneapolis. You were right about this case. It *was* bothering me." She finally looked up at me. "I just couldn't admit it."

"Scully, I told you ..."

"I know you did." She swallowed hard and blinked away the tears that were threatening again. "But since I returned to work I've been trying so hard to prove to everyone, including myself, that I was able to do my job. It's hard enough for a woman in the Bureau, and I didn't want to admit to anyone, especially you, that this case made me feel vulnerable. I talked to Karen because I've lost faith in myself and my abilities and I'm trying to get that back. I didn't tell you because I don't want you to feel that you have to protect me."

"But I do feel that way, Scully. Not because of what happened to you, or because you're a woman, but because you're my partner." I took her hand in mine again. "And if you've lost your faith in yourself for a little while, don't worry. I have enough faith in you for both of us. That'll be enough until you get yours back. One day you can return the favor."

She sniffled and the words came out in a whisper. "But I don't want you to think that you can't depend on me when the chips are down. I don't want you to see me as the weak link in our partnership."

"Weak?" I smiled in the most reassuring way I know how. "Scully, you are the strongest person I know."

A single tear rolled down her cheek and splashed on our clasped hands. "I don't feel very strong right now. Sitting here shaking and crying because of a ... because of a ..."

"It was only a dream, Scully."

"That's what I'm afraid of."

I shook my head. "I don't understand."

She wiped her nose with the tissues wadded up in her hand. "A few weeks ago, you said that dreams are answers to questions we haven't yet figured out how to ask."

I nodded and waited, giving her all the time she needed. "The dream I had tonight ... the nightmare. It was like a series of unrelated images flashing before my eyes. I saw Pfaster, Harry Cokely, I even saw you and my father. But there were other things that didn't make any sense. I couldn't so much see them as I could feel them. Men standing over me. And a woman holding my hand."

"And you think there's an answer for you in that dream?"

Another tear spilled out, but she wiped it away quickly. "I think I'm starting to remember what happened to me when I was abducted."

I sighed and ran my thumb lightly over hers. "Don't you want to remember?"

"I don't know." It was an honest answer. "I don't know if I'm ready to face what happened to me."

"I think you'll know when you're ready," I said. "And whenever that time comes, I'll be right there beside you. We'll face it together. Okay?"

She nodded slightly, but I could tell she was unconvinced.

"You've been through a lot in a very short time, Scully. Nobody expects you to bounce back overnight."

"I expect it."

"I should have known that anyone who rewrites Einstein would be an overachiever."

The short burst of laughter was like music to my ears. I pushed her hair away from her eyes and looked deeply into those azure pools.

"This was just a temporary setback, Scully. I know you're a very private person, but please promise me that this time you won't keep these feelings inside. That you'll talk to me, your mother, your sister, this EAP person - whoever you need to *if* you need to."

I straightened the pillows behind her, then guided her back until her hair cascaded across the crisp striped fabric. I clicked off the lamp before pulling the covers up to her shoulders. "Strong people know when they need help and they aren't ashamed to ask for it, Scully. And despite how you're feeling right now, you *are* a very strong person. Believe it."

She managed a sad smile and I leaned down to kiss her forehead. "We'll talk more in the morning. Goodnight, Scully."

As I stood up and turned to go she reached out and took my hand. "Can I start right now? Asking for your help?"

"Name it."

"I don't want to be alone. Will you stay in here with me?"

I smiled and squeezed her fingers. "I'll be right back."

A few minutes later, service weapon reholstered and TV turned off, I returned to the bedroom bearing the blanket and pillow I'd been using on the sofa. I smoothed out the comforter and lay down beside her, then draped the blanket over my feet.

I confess that I've dreamed about sharing a bed with Dana Scully. In my dreams, her satin pajamas and my sweat pants and tee shirt are usually already in a heap on the floor, and we're both under the covers - or at least we end up that way. But when she reached over and took my hand, I discovered what true intimacy was.

"Thank you, Mulder."

"For what?"

"For giving me back my faith."

Her breathing soon turned deep and even, and I kept waiting for her fingers to release from mine, but they didn't. Somehow I knew I wouldn't need the TV on tonight. The monsters would be kept at bay - for both of us - because we were here together. Protecting each other.

Faith restored.

The End

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