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A simple thing By Xphylia

Author: X-Phylia
Disclaimer: They *are* ours, so sue us all if you
Category: MSR, angst
Spoilers: Within/Without, Deadalive
Rate: PG13
Feedback: Write me and you'll be part of my Feedback
Summary: A tormented, paranoid Mulder finds comfort in
a simple thing.

"A simple thing"
by X-Phylia

Mulder stirs in the bed, moaning and whimpering in his
sleep; plagued with visions he wishes were just
nightmares and not memories. But dreams don't have the
right to be so real, and the pain they evoke shouldnt
make his muscles twitch in agony. He screams, he
reaches out, but he cannot move; his arms and legs are
immobilized against a hard metal chair, the soft skin
of his face is torn every time he tries to change his
uncomfortable position. The bright, blinding light
hurts his eyes adjusted to the dark and all he can see
are blurry figures around him. He he feels so exposed,
so humiliated. He is poked, probed, hurt by rough
inhuman hands and there's nothing he can do to prevent
it; he trembles from the cold and trepidation of what
they are going to do next. Over time, pain and fear
had replaced all other sensations or emotions,
wiped-out an otherwise perfect memory. He's going to
die soon and he knows it.

Scully tries hard, but she cannot comfort him. Mulder
continues to scream with such desperation that her
heart aches, and she thinks it's so unfair that she
feels so powerless once again. After all those months
of impotence, of not knowing what else to do to find
him, where else to look he's right beside her now,
suffering, and she still can't help him. Sometimes
Scully believes only his body came back, the Mulder
she knew was left behind either in the ship or in his
grave. This man struggles to re-locate himself in the
world of the living, but something's missing,
something vital, and she can't make out what it is.

Mulder wakes up drenched in sweat, his throat sore
from the screaming, his eyes swollen with tears. He
gets up automatically and rushes to the bathroom, he
knows he's going to be sick the next minute. This has
become a routine after he was released from the
hospital and the numbing effect of the drugs wore out.
He is disgustingly healthy now so there's no excuse to
be admitted again, even though there are times he
misses having sedatives fed up his veins, making him
oblivious to a painful reality he isn't ready to face
yet. He wonders if he should ask Scully for something
to help him sleep, but he's afraid of how she might
react to that request. 

His breathing slowly goes back to normal and he washes
his face, wincing at the burn of recently healed scars
on his hands and cheeks. He bents over so he won't
have to see his reflection in the mirror, he's too
afraid of what he might see. It takes all the self
restraint he has left not to smash the offending
object into shards. As he walks back to his room,
Mulder wants to remember a time when he found comfort
and peace in the arms of the woman lying on his bed.
It's so unfair that he feels so lonely once again.
After all those months of crying out for her, of
wishing she were there to take away the pain, Scully
is right by his side, waiting, and he couldnt go to
her. His life previous to the abduction feels like
somebody else's. In his most paranoid times, Mulder
imagines himself still prisoner in the spaceship, his
naked body covered with wires and sensors, and his
skull penetrated by electrodes sending impulses to his
brain. What he calls life is nothing but a distorted
perception of it, realistic but not real. So many
things dont add up, he feels like a zombie; a living
dead walking around in search of his soul.

He lays himself back on the border of the bed, as far
from Scully as he can manage, and she notices his
intent to stay away. He cries quietly, as if not
wanting to disturb her sleep, not realizing she's wide
awake and watching him. Scully begins to think it was
a mistake to try to force intimacy when Mulder is
still so emotionally raw, but she has to do something
before he is lost in his depression forever. It would
be the mother of all ironies, Mulder alive and
physically healthy, but irremediably lost to her due
to a mental illness. An irresistible yearn to hold him
and protect him fills her whole being, making up her

She crawls closer to him and tentatively calls his
name. Experience has taught her not to initiate
contact without warning, he can barely handle being
touched at all. She finds that so heartbreaking, the
things they must have done to him to make him so
scared even of her caresses. Her eyes fill with tears
when she remembers Mulder snuggling against her after
making love, all that warm, naked skin for her to
adore, and his contented sighs as her hands roamed all
over it. Now he sleeps curled up and fully dressed;
socks, sweatpants and long-sleeved t-shirts. He has
become extremely self-conscious of his body, he can't
stand the sight of the scars left by the alien
torture. Clothes give him a sense of security he
didnt have for a long time.

The sound of his name in her lips brings a litany of
bittersweet memories. It once meant everything to him,
he couldnt bear the thought of being away from her
until it happened. He didnt think he could survive
the separation and here he was, alive. He never
imagined *she* could move on so easily without him
but she is eight months pregnant. He needs her to
understand how he feels, and yet he can't speak about
what happened to him, there are no words to describe
such horror. Mulder doesnt remember being 'dead',
just like he never remembered being in a coma, but he
knows he spent three months in a coffin buried six
feet under and the thought terrifies him. What if he
had woken up down there? He likes to think he would
have died immediately of a heart attack. Or maybe he
would have used the cell phone Frohike claims he left
in the coffin, because "With you, Mulder, you never
know. I'm starting to think you're a Highlander." He
never told Frohike how much comfort he takes from that

Gentle fingers run through his scalp, and strangely
enough, it doesnt startle him. It feels good, it
brings nice memories. He used to love it when Scully
fondled his hair. He recalls quiet evenings eating
take-out Chinese, after dinner they'd sprawl on his
couch and he'd lower his head to her lap to watch TV
together. Scully's hands invariably ended up caressing
him somehow. Mulder misses that kind of closeness, but
feels largely inadequate to deserve it in any way
these days. He's afraid of physical contact, he's been
hurt too much and his skin is overly sensitive. But
the pads of her fingers are so soft, so soothing 

She whispers an old tune that sounds like a lullaby
and indeed has that effect on him, it calms his frayed
nerves. Her hand descends to his shoulder, her thumb
draws small circles on the back of his neck. Mulder
allows himself to relax a little, lulled by her
actions. Maybe he is back into the real world after
all, he's not being projected all this in his mind.
Tenderness is not a concept the aliens would

It wasnt such a bad idea to let Scully to stay for
the night, after all. It's hard for him to admit that
he doesnt need her as a lover, but as the figure that
would redefine the meaning of life itself. He knows
it's irrational, but he envies the baby inside her,
safe in her womb, innocent and unknowing of the
horrors in this world. His own innocence has been
brutally raped and destroyed forever, he'd never feel
safe again. The sight of the stars would always bring
him grief and desolation, a permanent reminder of his

Scully suffers at his all-too-evident pain. She
wonders if there is hope for Mulder, if he'd ever get
over all he went through. Tonight he sees him fighting
the fear that chained him to the darkness, desperately
trying to break free. But freedom can be scary after a
long seclusion. As sad and lonely as he is, Mulder has
learned to live like this. No one could blame him for
being afraid of stepping out, he had paid a terrible
price for the answer he spent his life looking for. He
can't take any more hurt. When she considers this,
Scully is immensely grateful for being able to touch
him again, if only a little.

As she tucks him in, Mulder sighs relieved. She
doesnt intend to take this farther than he can allow
it, and her gentle caressing is slowly permeating the
thick wall he has built around himself. It had taken
her almost seven years to claw her way to him the
first time, how long will it take this time? Mulder
doesnt want to be alone, but will she understand what
he needs? And what about what *she* needs? Certainly
there isn't shortage of men willing to do whatever is
necessary for her.

He wants to stretch his arms to her and burrow against
her chest, but he has trouble letting go. So many
times his mind had played tricks on him, in the ship
he'd have these wonderful, vivid dreams of Scully's
arms around him, saving him from the ongoing torture.
Her voice was clear in his head, her touch warm and
soft against his abused skin. The fake comfort usually
ended with harsh lights blinding him; and yet another
round of endless tests that warned him not to rely too
much on his senses anymore. The aliens could fabricate
very convincing perceptions, but in the end, the only
thing that was real was the pain  both physical and

Scully senses Mulder's doubts and decides to take the
first step. She intuits he needs her close, a
touchstone to find his way back. It doesnt matter if
he won't whisper beautiful words in her ear, or touch
her the way he used to, driving her to ecstasy.
Tonight is about re-establishing contact, and there
has to be something she can give him to lead him home.
Still murmuring the words of an old song from her
childhood, she carefully pulls Mulder's shoulder
towards her and rolls him to his back. 

Their eyes cross for a fleeting second and Mulder
immediately lowers his, unable to meet her gaze. Far
from feeling rejected, she kisses the top of his head,
accepting his insecurity. When he instinctively tries
to curl up again, Scully restrains his long, slender
legs with her own and draws him closer; gingerly
guiding his head to her shoulder. Mulder jerks and
whimpers for a while, but she doesnt let him go, and
he doesnt try too hard. It's like his body is
adjusting to a temperature shift, his arms are still
tightly wrapped around his chest. Hers, on the
contrary, are fully stretched to hug as much of him as
she can. After a few minutes his agitation subsides
and she hears him inhaling deeply into the crook of
her neck. Scully holds back her tears as he nuzzles
against her hair and relaxes in her embrace. She
doesnt think she ever loved this man so much.

Mulder feels the fog starting to clear as he is
claimed by exhaustion. His lips curve in a brief
smile. Amongst the complexity of this life, of the
previous one and of the frightening gap between them;
a simple thing has changed the odds. The betrayal of
his main senses has been redeemed by the one that
hadn't been tampered with, that functions just like he
remembers it. The first glimpse of reality he can
really trust comes in the form of a smell. Mulder
takes another deep breathe and rejoices again in the
unmistakable scent of Scully's shampoo, a distinct
memory of nights spent in her arms, when they both
thought nothing and no one could ever tear them apart.
Her soft perfume acts like a balm on the rest of his
senses, so basic and genuine that no alien electric
impulse could possibly duplicate.

He cries now with sweet relief, not bitter angst. He
feels her tears slide from her cheeks down to his own,
close as they are. Maybe soon he'll recover enough to
let her touch him - *really* touch him - but tonight
he is contented with the smell of her comfort,
something that had transcended the boundaries of
torture and death intact, unblemished.

Such a simple thing.


"Happy people have no stories"  (Therapy?)

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