Previous Story




Disclaimer - Mulder and Scully belong to 1013

A post ep for Paper Hearts

MT, MS Friendship

Written for the MR March Fic contest

"Psychological torture"

Assistant Director Skinner's Office

Hoover Building.


"This was your fault, Agent Mulder! Because of
your blatant disregard for Bureau protocol a
young girl was nearly killed. You let your
personal feelings cloud your judgment."
Skinner heaved a deep breath, shoved at a file on
his desk and said, "What the hell were you

"Sir, I -"

"Save it! I've got a meeting with the director
in less than an hour and one hell of a lot of
explaining to do. This time it's not only your
ass on the line, but mine too. And Agent

I stood in front of Skinner's desk, staring
straight ahead, my eyes fixed on a spot behind
his right shoulder.

"Sir, if you'd -"

"I said *save it*!" He swiped a hand over his
head, removed his glasses, inspected the lens
then pulled a cloth from his pocket and wiped
over the glass. When he'd finished, he aimed his
gaze back at me. "You're dismissed, Agent Mulder.
Go home."

"Sir, -"


Fine. Fuck you, too, Sir.

I turned to leave.

"Wait! Leave your badge here. And your weapon.
Both of them."

I glared at him and walked the 3 paces back to
his desk. Digging my badge from my inside pocket
I threw it on the desk, dragged my gun from its
holster and placed it beside my ID. I stared at
Skinner as I crouched down to retrieve the Smith
and Wesson from my ankle holster. Skinner pulled
away from my scrutiny, choosing instead to
inspect something in the far corner of his
office. The revolver joined my badge and service

I waited for Skinner to acknowledge me before
leaving. He broke eye contact with the rear wall
and sought me out. His jaw twitched and I thought
for a second he was going to say something, but
instead, he inclined his head towards the door
indicating I should go.

I strode out of his office and slammed the door
behind me. Scully was still sitting where I'd
left her 30 long ass-reaming minutes ago. When I
came out she stood, took a step in my direction
and started to say something.

I kept walking towards the elevators and held up
my hand. "Not now, Scully."


Two hard jabs at the button followed by another 3
in quick succession failed to bring the elevator
car any faster. I paced the width of the sliding
doors, one hand on my hip the other cupping my

I kicked the wall in frustration only managing to
achieve a shockwave of pain through my big toe.


I gave it another hit in spite of myself.

Scully would be in with Skinner now. Giving him
her version of events. Defending me, making
excuses. But there were no excuses. Caitlin would
probably be in therapy for years because of me.
She's lucky to be alive. Skinner was right. I'd
screwed up big time.

I was just about to vent further frustration on
the call button when the elevator dinged its
arrival. The doors slid open to reveal four
people inside. I selected the basement then moved
to the back. No one spoke. We all stood with our
eyes glued to the space just above the doors,
watching the display light up as we passed each
corresponding floor. By the time I arrived at the
basement the car was empty. No one down here but
the FBI's most unwanted. Yeah, that about fits
me to a tee.

I shouldered my office door open with far more
force than necessary. It rocked on its hinges,
hit the wall behind and swung back at me. I
helped it on its way with a swift stab of my
heel. There was little satisfaction in the loud
crack that cut through the silence.

I started to pace the length of my office, but
there was no escaping what I'd done. Back and
forth, back and forth, getting nowhere. I stopped
in the middle of the room looking at the chaos
that is my office. That is my life. God, what
had I been thinking? Risking the life of one
little girl to find the truth about another?
Jeezus! It made me sick to my stomach every time
I thought about how close it had come. How
differently it could have turned out.

One cloth heart, bagged and labeled sat on my
desk where I'd left it before being summoned by
Skinner. The small piece of flannel taunted me.
Highlighting my stupidity, reminding me there was
still a little girl buried in an unknown grave
somewhere. And now, because of me, we'll never
know who, or where.

Go home, Skinner had said. Yeah, why the hell
not? I grabbed my car keys and reached for my
coat where it was draped over the back of my
chair. It snagged on something and wouldn't
budge. Wrenching hard, I swore when I heard the
lining rip. The coat burst free and my chair
toppled to its side with a bone-jarring crash.
The temptation to kick it from here to kingdom
come was almost overwhelming. In the end I just
glared at it, mentally condemning it to eternal

As an after thought, I slipped the heart inside
Roche's file and grabbed the folder off my desk,
shoving it under my arm. What good it would do,
I didn't know, but maybe this time I was better
equipped to find a clue as to where the body
might be buried.

The journey home was a blur of car horns and
raised middle fingers as I committed at least a
half dozen traffic violations. Where's a cop when
you need one? Apparently not on the route to
Alexandria much to the disgust of my fellow

There was little solace in my apartment. It was
too quiet, too cold, and too lonely, yet too
crowded with shame, guilt and self-loathing. I
huffed a bitter snort and dropped the Roche file
on the coffee table, then shed my coat and let it
fall to the floor. The tie went next, scrunched
into a tight ball it sailed through the air where
it hit the far wall and slid behind a chair. My
jacket landed beside my coat, and last but not
least I thumbed the top button of my shirt

Now what?

Too quiet. I turned the television on and
lowered the sound until the volume was little
more than a drone.

Too cold.

Too bad, I didn't care.

Too lonely. I headed for the kitchen, opening and
closing cabinet doors until I found what I was
looking for.

Ah there you are, Mr. Daniels. Long time, no

The kitchen light illuminated a thin coating of
dust over the glass bottle. It was three quarters
full. Liquid fire. Man's best friend. Man's
worst enemy. But tonight, Jack was a long lost
buddy and he and I had a lot of catching up to
do. I wrapped my fingers around the neck of the
bottle and a small dust cloud spun into oblivion.
With some luck I'd be heading the same way before
the night was over.

I snagged a glass and thought about ice, but the
effort to extract it from the freezer just seemed
like too much trouble.

Dodging strewn clothing I settled on the couch,
kicked off my shoes and hefted stockinged feet
onto the coffee table, my heels resting on
Roche's file. I poured myself a healthy 3 fingers
of bourbon and made a mock toast to John Lee
Roche. "I hope you rot in hell, you son of a
bitch!" I slugged the drink back in one long
swig. It burned all the way down, brought tears
to my eyes and squeezed a cough from my chest.

The second one went down a little easier, and by
the third there was a soothing numbness spreading
through my circulatory system. The alcohol
wrapped around my brain like a silky caress.
Anesthetizing my guilt, shrinking my shame and
dulling my self-loathing until it was a mere
shadow of its former self.

I toasted Skinner, imagining him squirming in
front of the Director, trying to explain my
actions. His rogue agent. I laughed out loud. But
then I couldn't remember why. Had I done
something funny? Maybe another little sip would
help fire up my memory. With a trembling hand I
spilled the contents from the bottle into my
glass. It splashed up the side, a few drops
landing on the case file. I stared at it, angry.
What a waste of fine Tennessee whiskey.

Better drink it before anymore spills. So I did.
It was barely making an impression now, sliding
down my throat as easily as a glass of warm milk.

Sliding down. Deeper. Buried in the pit of my
stomach, seeping into the black hole that was my
soul. A cold black hole. Hiding the skeletal
remains of Addie Sparks.

'Show me the way to go home,
I'm tired and I want to go bed,
I had a little drink about an hour ago
and it's gone straight to my head.'

I laughed again. Stupid lyrics. Would only make
sense to a drunk.

Show me the me the way to another
victim. Number 13, number 14, 15, 16. Who are
you, number 16? Where had you lived? Gone to
school? Did you have a brother? Did you fight
with him? Was he taking the blame for what
happened to you? Are you *my* sister?

No. Too early.

1973 *was* too early. It had to be.

And Roche was wrong.

'Wrong house you stupid son of a bitch.' I threw
the remaining dregs from the glass down my

And poured another. A little heavy-handed, but
hey, what's a few extra ounces of bourbon among
friends. And we are friends, aren't we Roche. Can
I call you John? We shared a nexus. Imagine that.
Me and him linked. Me and you...I shoved at the
file with my heel and it skittered across the
table. "You sick FUCK!"

Oh god.

I squeezed my eyes shut, both hands clasping my
head but I couldn't shake the images scrolling
through my mind. Addie Sparks' father. <How many
more people like me are you going to visit

Samantha on her swing, laughing, flying higher
and higher, squealing with joy and then
screaming. Screaming in pain. Crying. <Fox! Help
me, Fox!>

A skeleton spread out on an autopsy table. <It's
not her, Scully.> It's someone, though.
"Someone's child, Roche. A fucking little kid!
You murdering son of a bitch!"

I dropped my feet to the floor and snatched at
Roche's file with all the grace of a Sumo
wrestler. Papers, envelopes and crime scene
photos spewed from its cover. I stared at them
scattered across the floor. Fuck. I stood up,
swayed to the left and back again, then staggered
over the top of the coffee table, landing flat on
my back.

The ceiling swirled in dizzying circles, sending
a spiraling bout of nausea straight to my
stomach. I rolled on my side, breathed deeply,
then pushed myself up on all fours. The room spun
and I waited it out, then gripped the coffee
table and dragged myself up. Still swaying, I
made it back to the couch, reached down and
scooped the innards of Roche's file up from the
floor and stuffed them haphazardly back into the
folder. All except a photo of the man himself. I
stared at it until my eyes hurt and the
definition blurred almost beyond recognition.

"You are one sick bastard." I informed him.

And then I wasn't looking at the face of a
monster, but that of a little girl. Her innocence
protecting her from knowing how close she was to
death. Brown doe-eyes looking up at me, trusting
me. <My name is Fox, I'm going to take you home.>

Yeah, Mister Special Agent Super-hero-Mulder! Can
I offer you my card? On duty 24/7, just call and
I'll come running. My specialty? Retrieving
children from pedophiles. Yes sir, I'm your man.
Ah, but there's just one catch. The perp is on
the street because I set him free. Oh, I didn't
mention that in my resume? But it's true. Yes,
yes, one phone call and I can make all your worst
nightmares come true.

Shut up, Mulder, said the little voice in my
head. Have another drink.

Don't mind if I do.

My apartment was doing a pretty keen impression
of a fun parlor mirror. Blurry and distorted
images danced before my eyes. Where was the damn

I dropped the photo of Roche and scrubbed at my
face, guilt and horror breaking through my
alcoholic stupor. I found the bottle, poured
another glass of fiery liquid and downed it in
one go. I waited, relishing the warmth spreading
through my body, cursing the fact that I could
still think, could still feel. Please, I prayed
to the God of all things addictive, take away the
pain. Make me numb, make it so I can't think,
can't feel, can't...don't

My pity party was interrupted by a knock at the
door. It took another few seconds for the
significance to trickle through. "Hey, Jack ol'
buddy, looks like we've got company." I lowered
my voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "I'll give
you one guess."

I stood, and swayed dangerously to one side. When
I had my balance under some semblance of control,
I offered my bottle of bourbon a 'thumbs up'
signal and a friendly wink. "You got it in one."

I staggered to the door, taking out several items
of furniture on the way. There was another round
of fist pounding before I managed to get a grip
on the handle. I hefted it open with absolutely
no concept of the amount of force required to
move an inanimate object. It swung far too wide
and I went with it. But I didn't fall. No Siree,
I just hung on and swayed backwards and forwards
as the hinges creaked their protest.


"Hey Shcully, waddya doin' here?" I worked my
tongue around in my mouth, giving it a little
warm-up exercise before my next attempt at

"Are you, all right, Mulder?"

"Course I am. Whydya ask?" I wish she'd quit

She looked at me long and hard then shifted her
line of sight over my right shoulder. "Can I
come in?"

I flung the door wider and stood to the side,
stretching out my hand as any gentleman would,
indicating she should enter. "Come in, come in.
I'm having a par-tay."

I almost missed the sideward glance she gave me
as she waltzed past.

When we entered the living room, she pulled up
suddenly and I walked right into her back.


"You've been drinking."

"Who? Moi?" I can do innocent as well as the
next man.

Her right eyebrow headed for the stratosphere.

She gave me another long look before moving over
to the coffee table where she picked up the
bottle of Jack and inspected it like it might
suddenly lunge at her.

Placing the bottle back where she'd found it, I
watched as her gaze swept around my living room.
With the tip of her index finger, she drew the
Roche file towards her, reading the name quietly
to herself.

"Doing a little homework, Mulder?"

I stumbled back to the couch and sat down
heavily, scrubbing at my eyes with both hands.
"What are you doing here, Scully?"

"I was worried about you."

"Well, as you can see, I'm just fine and dandy."

"Actually, Mulder, if I had to hazard a guess,
I'd say that was the last thing you were."

I slumped back, shut my eyes and let my head rest
against the couch. Big mistake. The room
immediately tilted on its axis, turning in a
sickening circle, quickly gathering speed until
it felt like I would be flung from the couch. I
attempted to burrow my fingernails into the
leather cushions, and then let out a long groan.



I sat forward clasping my hand over my mouth and
tried to get to my feet. In a split second Scully
had it figured out. She hauled me up and I swayed
against her, my stomach already convulsing. I
used her as a starting block and pushed off like
an Olympic sprinter but that's where the
resemblance ended. Lacking anything close to the
grace and coordination of a well-trained athlete,
I wove a clumsy path to my bathroom, kicked the
door shut and dropped to my knees in front of the

The pain of puking my guts up was almost a
welcome relief from the mental torment of the
past 24 hours. I lost myself to the sickly-sweet
smell of bile and bourbon, relished the
contractions of cramping stomach muscles while it
felt like everything I'd eaten in the last week
was spewing from my throat. I coughed and gagged
and the burning sensation of the alcohol going
down was nothing compared to the feel of it
coming back up again.

When the heaving finally stopped, I sat hugging
the rim of the toilet, breathing through my
mouth, spitting and swiping uselessly at my chin
with the back of my hand. I felt around the top
of the cistern and flushed. Water splashed from
the bowl, landing on my face. That was the kick-
in-the-ass I needed to make a move. Slowly, I
dragged myself up, relying on the sink to keep me
on my feet. I stood, hands gripping the basin,
chin resting on my chest and breathed deeply.

Still with my eyes closed, I turned on the faucet
and leaned over, dousing my face and rinsing my

When I lifted my head I caught a glimpse of
myself in the mirror. Dark, sunken eyes stared
back at me. The face of a coward. A man too
afraid to face his demons, who chooses instead to
lose himself in a bottle. You ass hole, Mulder.
What gives you the right to seek respite from the
horrors inflicted on a small child? It was *your*
fault. Her nightmares tonight will feature you in
a starring role.

I watched the man in front of me straighten like
it was happening on a movie screen. I saw him
draw back his hand and then felt his fist slam
into the mirror. There was a loud crack, the
glass stayed in tact, but the skin across my
knuckles split and blood spattered across my
reflection. It dripped into the basin and gurgled
down the plughole.

I felt no pain.


Scully hammered on the door, but I couldn't
answer. I was mesmerized, watching my blood
mingle with the water in the sink, forming
abstract patterns on the clean white
porcelain. I lifted my hand, and the blood
changed direction. It ran down my arm, coated the
cuff of my shirt, soaking into the material like
a blotter absorbing an ink spill.

The door burst open and Scully was at my side.

I heard her gasp, curse, and then her hand was on
my arm. "Mulder! What did you do?"

She ran her hand along my arm, turning it so she
could see the inside of my wrist. She swore again
and rolled my hand over. "Jeezus, Mulder." She
grabbed a towel and pressed it over my knuckles,
then bent my arm so my hand was resting against
my shoulder.

I watched in silence. Numb on the inside.
Indifferent to the outside.

Scully's fingers rested against my jaw, turning
my head so I was facing her. "What happened?"
Gentle, like you might address a fragile child.

My mouth started to work, but no sound came out.
In the end I gave up and just looked at her.

"Come out here and sit down."

I let her lead me from the bathroom. We headed
towards the living room and I complied without
argument when she encouraged me to sit on the
couch. She sat beside me, took my injured hand in
both of hers, removed the towel and inspected the
damage. I stared straight ahead.

There were a few seconds of careful scrutiny
before she announced, "This is going to need
stitches, Mulder."

So? Did I care?

Not one iota.

I kept my eyes fixed on a water stain just above
one of the paintings on the wall. It swam in and
out of focus, distorting into something hideous.
A face with no eyes. A mouth drawn back in a
silent scream. It squirmed and writhed as if in
agony. It was a child. A woman. A man. A monster.
It was Roche. I jumped as if shocked by an
electric current.

"Mulder, did you hear me? We need to go to the

"No," I mumbled quietly to myself, still staring
at the water stain.

Scully tilted my head towards her. I was facing
her, but not seeing her. I knew she was there,
but my mind was occupied with a slide show of
horror. Cloth hearts, grieving parents, a
frightened child, a shallow grave, more hearts, a
prison, punching Roche.

My hand throbbed.

"Mulder, look at me!" Stern. Scully was angry.

I let my eyes slide to her face, blinking until
she came into focus.

She didn't say anything, just lifted a hand to
cup my jaw, her thumb drawing soothing circles
across my cheek. I heard the rasp of smooth skin
against unshaven stubble.

"Mulder, you're hurt. And..." Her gaze dropped to
her lap then latched onto my face again. "You
need to speak to someone." She swallowed. I saw
her body language but I didn't understand it
until. . . "I think you should speak to a counselor."

"No." The word gushed from my lips. Barely more
than a whisper. "I can't." I started to tremble,
the false warmth and security from my encounter
with Jack had headed into oblivion without me.
Leaving me here to face the music alone. And I
didn't like it. The truth was always something
I'd yearned for, but here I was confronted with a
truth that hurt so badly I wasn't sure I could
bear it. I'd failed miserably. My own selfish
need to absolve myself from blame; to put a
reason to Samantha's disappearance other than my
own incompetence had driven me to place another
child's life at risk.

I had to make Scully understand. I had no right
to expect sympathy, or understanding. I didn't
want to speak to a shrink and have her tell me it
wasn't my fault. To point out in overly placating
tones the twelve-step plan I needed to embrace in
order to recover from my trauma. I'm not a
fucking child. I'm a law enforcement officer. I'm
supposed to protect the public, not put their
lives in danger.

Scully let her hand trickle along my jaw, down
the side of my neck until she came to my
shoulder. When she spoke, her voice was so gentle
that it almost cracked my thin veneer of

"Why can't you, Mulder?"

I chewed on my bottom lip, trying to still the
quivering, but that just forced the emotion to
well up in my throat. A hard ball of pain,
constricting my voice box until it was
almost impossible to swallow around it.

Hot tears leaked from the corners of my eyes. I
snatched my hand from Scully; the pull of torn
skin against terry cloth sent a sharp stab
through my knuckles.

Concentrate on the physical pain, I told myself.
Focus on it, hide behind it.

I wrapped both arms around my chest, squeezed my
eyes shut and rocked back and forth. It hurt,
everything hurt. My chest, my head. The core of
my very being. I drew in a long breath that
sounded more like a sob and the lump in my throat
grew to the size of a small boulder. I shivered
and rocked, vaguely aware of a thin band of
warmth around my back. It moved rhythmically up
and down in time to a soft

"It's okay, Mulder. Let it out. Let it go."

No! I didn't want to let it go. This pain
*should* be mine. But I couldn't hold it in.
More shuddering breaths, more tears streaming
down my face and no matter how hard I squeezed my
eyes, hugged my chest it just kept coming. The
dam crumbled bit by bit until Scully drew me down
towards her, my head resting in her lap and her
arms wrapped tightly around me.

I did let it out. All of it. "Scully," I
whispered against her stomach. So tempted to bury
myself in her warmth and stay there forever.

"Shhh, I'm here, Mulder. It's okay, it's going to
be all right."

And that was like twisting a knife in my gut.
Because it wasn't okay, no matter how much I
wanted it to be, it wasn't. I'd killed a man. A
scum-sucking son-of- a-bitch but in the eyes of
the law he deserved a hearing and now I had
to face the consequences. I shuddered against
her, my chest heaving, my tears soaking the soft
fabric of her shirt.

"It's my fault, Scully.'s my f...fault."

I felt her arms tighten around me. As if by sheer
will alone she could make it okay, take away my

"I screwed up."

"No, Mulder, you didn't screw up. Under the
circumstances..." She paused. "Roche was playing
with you. He knew you were vulnerable and he used
that against you. It could have happened to

I pushed away from her and sat up. Mucous and
tears a slimy mess across my cheeks. I swiped at
my face with my sleeve. My hand was still
dripping blood.

I ignored it.

"Could have happened to anyone?" I asked,
incredulously. "To you? Would you have released
a prisoner based on a dream and flown him across
the state purely for personal reasons?"

She sat in silence.

"No, I thought not." I stood up, swayed and then
got my footing. "Don't sit there and tell me it
could happen to anyone, because that is
BULLSHIT!" Fuck! Anger seethed in me like a
living beast. I walked around the coffee table, a
path of blood following in my wake, and paced
between my computer desk and the door.

Scully was on her feet too. "What the hell do you
want me to say, Mulder? That you are to blame? So
you can hide here and wallow in your self-pity?
And then what? What will you do when the pity
wears off, when the blame finally gets placed
where it belongs? Come..."

"The blame *is* where it belongs, Scully." I
jabbed my thumb at my chest. "With me!"

"And what about Roche? *He* took Caitlin, he got
inside your head and convinced you that he had
killed Samantha. You're as much a victim in this
as Addie Sparks, as Karen Anne Philipontie. Yes,
you made a mistake. But...."
" He made me hand in my badge. And
my weapons." I'd stopped



She heaved a weary sigh. "That's normal Bureau
procedure. Your service revolver was stolen by a
known felon and you fired your own gun. There has
to be an inquiry, you know that."

"What about Caitlin? She could have been killed."

"But she wasn't. You figured it out, Mulder. You
saved her."

I laughed this time. A hollow, offensive sound.
"It's because of me that she was taken in the
first place. Don't you get that, Scully? How can
this be anything *but* my fault."

I turned in a circle, one hand pressed against
my forehead. "Shit!"

Scully stood by the couch, both hands massaging
her temples. She had to be seeing how it really
was. How could she possibly have imagined it any
other way?

"Skinner is on your side, Mulder."

This time when I laughed I was genuinely amused.
"Skinner's on my side? He just spent the
afternoon reaming me a new ass!"

"Hey, I didn't say he was happy. Because he's
not. But he does know what Roche was doing to
you. And yes, you probably could have acted with
more care and discretion, but there were
extenuating circumstances."

"Yeah, my narcissistic need to prove that Roche
was involved with Samantha's disappearance.
Despite the fact that I've believed she was
abducted by aliens for the last seven years."

"Mulder. What do you want? To spend the rest of
your life beating yourself up over this? Or do
you want to work through it, take whatever
disciplinary action the OPR sees fit to issue and
then move on?" "You sound like a shrink, Scully.
I'm the one with the degree in psychology,

"Then, use it, Mulder. If you won't speak to
someone else, move past the emotions and work on
the facts. Roche is gone. But the world is full
of other men like him. Monsters preying on
innocent children. You figured out what made him
tick, you put him behind bars the first time, and
you caught him before he could kill again the
second time. There's still a little girl out
there who needs you, Mulder. You're the best hope
her family has to find closure."

I let her words wash over me. Absorbed them.
Allowed them offer me a small glimmer of hope.



"You're dripping all over the carpet. Come and
sit down and let me fix your hand."

I stared at my right hand. The knuckles were
swollen and purple, blood oozing from two jagged
cuts, and for the first time since punching the
mirror I was starting to feel it. I held my hand
against my chest and sat beside Scully on the

Another 'doctorly' examination took place before
she declared; "You know I'm going to have to take
you to the ER, don't you."

I groaned. "Can't you just put a band aid on it?"

"I'm not even going to dignify that question with
answer." She stood and walked to the kitchen.

I sat studying the self-inflicted abuse to my
knuckles. Could Scully be right? Was there a way
to move past this? No matter which way you cut
it, the long finger of blame was pointing
squarely at me. But I had a goal now. Something
else to focus on other than my own self pity. The
last victim.

"Here you go, Mulder."

Scully was back. She sat beside me and took my
hand. I flinched. The more my internal torment
subsided, the more the external battering was
staking a claim.

"What's that?" She was pressing a folded hand
towel against my knuckles.

"Ice. I want to stop this from swelling any more.
You might need an X ray."

'Scully, I don't want to go to the ER. Not


She must have seen something in my eyes.
Pleading, desperation. Not exactly hard to miss.

A slow nod, then. "I've got my medical kit in
the car. I'll butterfly the lacerations and we'll
keep the ice pack on all night."

"We, Scully?"

"I'm not leaving you alone, Mulder."

"I can take care of myself. I don't need a

Scully ran a critical eye over my apartment. My
clothes were still spread across the floor. The
Roche file lay on the table next to the near-
empty bottle of Jack Daniels. My living room
looked like someone had been murdered, blood
spatters coated the polished floor boards and
rug. Not exactly great endorsement for
responsible living.

When she'd finished mentally cataloging the chaos
of my apartment, she turned to me. "I'm not
staying as your nursemaid, Mulder. I'm staying
because I care about you."

I stared long and hard into her eyes, habitually
seeking some hint of deception, before I
remembered who I was dealing with. This was
Scully, the one person in this god-forsaken world
of monsters and deviates that I could depend
on for the truth.

I didn't want to be alone. I needed her. Wanted
her to stay. If only to keep the demons at bay
for a few hours.

I mumbled a quiet, self-conscious thank you.

Her smile constricted my chest, sending already
unstable emotions into a flurry of activity.

She scooted back against the couch, twisting
slightly so she was facing along its length, then
she pulled me back against her. Both of her arms
encircled me. "It will be okay, Mulder," she
whispered in my ear. "It will."

I nodded against her shoulder, feeling the beat
of her heart against my back, the even rise and
fall of her chest, and at that precise moment in
time, I believed her.

The End.