Title: Much Better Than This
Author: Vesper (Regina)
Category: Story, Angst
Spoilers: The Blessing Way, Memento Mori
Summary: A verbal reaffirmation of vows that have long remained unspoken, prompted by their own inner voices.
Disclaimer: All characters in this story, namely Mulder and Scully, are copyrighted by 1013 Productions, Twentieth Century Fox, and Chris Carter. I merely borrowed them, because they relax my mind while I try to write about people who I can copyright. The song belongs to Sarah McLachlan. I make no profit from this.
Archival: If you wish to archive, please link to my website. Please keep all my headers intact.
Notes: This was inspired by "Full of Grace," that marvelous song by Sarah McLachlan. This story assumes M and S have been partners for a long time, which in the timeline of the series would put them somewhere in the sixth season. However, this is a story that stands separately from the series. The entire song can be found at the end of the story.
"The winter here is cold and bitter--it's chilled us to the bone,
We haven't seen the sun for weeks, too long, too far from home."
The wind was chill but it bathed his heated face as he escaped from the overwhelming voices in the student center. He welcomed it, and the darkness that accompanied it, as he wandered the concrete path into the center of the quadrangle. The sounds of the quietness calmed him, and it came to him, with the certainty of time itself, that he expected someone to be here...
He woke, the low voices and faint light from the television an intrusion into the peaceful feeling that enveloped him. He turned the sound completely down and thought about what he had dreamed. The dream that had come the other night--it had been among his old friends at Oxford--and now the continuation. He believed in strange, unexplained occurrences, but most of them, in his line of work, came with the edge of fear and danger. His dreams, as a consequence, had the same edge, and never before had this peace permeated them.
This peace remained with him all through the day, through all his work. He could not tell if his partner sensed it, but once he caught her staring at him, a somewhat quizzical look in her blue eyes.
That night he lay in bed, anticipation making him smile, and he fell asleep...
The wind was chill, and the dead leaves skittered across the concrete path. He walked head down, seeing and yet not seeing the concrete's scars from past ice melts. He looked up and saw her. She was small, or she seemed small. Everything about her whispered alone, and lonely. Her red hair was long, wavy, and reminded him of the Birth of Venus. Her head was bent down, and he walked so silently that he was barely two feet from her when she looked up. There were tears in her eyes...
"Feels just like I'm sinking, and I claw for solid ground.
Pulled down by the undertow, never thought I could feel so low.
Oh, darkness, I feel like letting go."
She woke, and the sorrow that she felt enveloped her. She remembered his hazel eyes, so calm, so deep. Her tears flowed freely as what she dreamed came back fully to her memory, yet the sorrow seemed calm, not tempestuous. She had visited her friend, at Oxford. The loneliness drove her from her friend's room outside into the chill November wind. She found the quadrangle, and wearied from her walk--everything seemed to make her weary now--she sat down on the bench. The silence of the night was deep, until she forsook her loud thoughts and lost herself in the sounds of the wind that caressed the bare limbs of the trees. She could hear a lone cricket, no doubt lost, sharpening his legs. She sensed someone's presence then and looked up into his eyes...
That was when the dream had released her, and she opened her eyes to the moon's liquid light flowing through the glass of her window and bathing her face. She could not sleep until the early hours of the morning.
He noticed her eyes that morning as she came into the office. The blue was clouded with darkness that was matched by the smudges beneath her eyes. He felt as if he should say something, but the words would not come and he held his silence. She broke that silence with three words, as she sat behind her desk, "Good morning, Mulder."
He looked at her, shocked that she would seem so calm, but she was not looking at him. He decided to open the subject and asked, "Scully." He had to clear his throat and continue, "Scully, what do you know about dreams?"
She jerked slightly and then said, "Do we have a new case?"
"No, just asking."
"Jung considered them a network to others, Freud believed that they were a link to our subconscious desires. Others say that they hold no significance. But this is more your department, isn't it?" A faint taste of accusation laced her tone.
He looked at her steadily, disregarding the rancor, his hazel eyes dark in the shadows, and asked, "What do you think they are?"
A long pause, as she recalled a time when he had spoken to her, when she thought he had died. Mulder prompted her, "Scully?"
"Reflections of our everyday life." She turned back to her computer, leaving him to unravel the threads of her blouse with his thoughtful gaze.
He spoke, "May I sit here?" She opened her mouth, slightly, then motioned for him to sit. She wrapped her arms tightly around her, and he knew that she did not want him there, but something about her compelled him to stay. They did not speak and the silence stretched long and tight. When she spoke, her voice, low and rasping, startled him.
"What is your name?"
She nodded. "Dana Scully." And they were silent again.
He spoke this time. Hesitancy in his voice, he asked, "If...if I were to say that...I feel I know you--"
If she had looked at him, she would have seen him trying to memorize her features. But she didn't.
She said, "I wouldn't laugh at you, because," and she turned to look at him and what he saw in her eyes took his breath away, "I feel I know you as well as I know myself." She looked away and he could breathe again.
"Why were you weeping?"
He never heard an answer. As he rolled over to pick up the phone, he looked at the time--1:48 am.
"Mulder, it's me." Her voice was strained, trembling, and he straightened up into a sitting position.
"What's wrong, Scully?"
"I don't know, Mulder. Who..." Her voice trailed off.
"Say it, Scully, who what?" He suddenly felt possessed by the need to know.
"Who am I in your dream?"
Her voice was soft, yet so tense with some unspoken emotion that he was left bereft of words.
"Please answer my question." Her voice was thick and clotted and he realized that sorrow was choking her.
He closed his eyes and saw another version of her, sitting on that bench, her blue eyes filled with tears.
He answered, his voice a whisper, "I've just met you and you are so sad, so sad." He opened his eyes.
There was silence on the other end, but he could hear her pathetic attempts not to sob.
Fully aware he was not supposed to continue walking through the minefield they were now trapped in, he did it anyway.
"Scully, who am I?"
She sniffed, then said, "You are so kind to me, and when I look into your eyes, I don't see the pain you have now. You are so young, alive, so much like you were when I first met you." She sniffed again, then asked, "Mulder, what is happening, why are we dreaming this?"
For once, he knew theories were not what she needed, so he answered honestly, "I don't know, Scully. These dreams seem so much more than a subconscious reliving of the events of the day."
"Then we should let them run their course?"
"What else can we do?"
"Nothing, Mulder, nothing."
He heard the click and did the same, then lay on the couch, staring into the darkness.
When sleep came to her, after long hours of wakefulness, she slipped back into the new world her, their, minds had created.
He looked at her, reluctance and a desire to know warring in his hazel eyes, and asked the question she had hoped desperately he wouldn't ask.
"Why were you weeping?"
The one true answer to that was one she did not want to give--it was too personal, too close to the bone. If she answered he would not believe her. He cared for her; she knew this with a certainty that took her breath away. She had looked down, to avoid his piercing eyes. When she looked, foolishly, again into his eyes, she relinquished the last of her stubbornness into the depths of those eyes. She was lost forever, and she did not mourn it.
"I only have a few months to live."
Mulder woke, gasping, tears gumming his eyes together. As he tried to gain footing on the slipping sand of reality, the last words she had said clanged loudly in his head, I only have a few months to live.
He sat up on his couch, and placed his head in his hands. How long, he wondered, how long would the dreams continue? It had gone beyond a simple, recurring dream. It now haunted him even awake and there was nothing he could do. His nightmares had receded into the background and all that was left was this echo of a past unlived or the promise of a future not yet existent. All he knew was that the man in his dreams was he and the woman was his partner.
The thought had occurred to him that this was a remembrance of a past life, one unaided by a regression session. But hypnotherapy was no longer a god that he looked to; it was too uncertain, too dependent on personal experience. He no longer operated on faith alone. It was now accompanied by needing the proof.
The proof was always scarce.
He contemplated dialing her number, knowing that if she was not yet awake, then she would be, but a prompting within him urged him not to call, to let her sleep.
He lay down again, placing his forearm over his eyes, and tried to sleep.
"If all of the strength and all of the courage,
Come and lift me from this place,
I know I can love you much better than this.
Full of grace, full of grace, my love."
He looked at her with sad eyes, and his next words broke her heart.
"I refuse to believe that."
She smiled cynically, and said, "So your faith is strong enough to withstand even cancer."
He shook his head, uncomprehending of her agony, and said, "The strength of belief is amazing, Dana. I will not believe that you have this illness, you mean too much to me."
She stood, breaking eye contact. With bitterness straining her voice, she said, "After only fifteen minutes and already you profess undying love. I have to go."
He caught her hand, "Please stay."
She shook her head. "No, I can't. My friend would miss me."
At this order, she looked down into his eyes, and saw again what she had demeaned. It was love, hard and stubborn. She couldn't leave.
He pulled her back down to sit beside him. She felt the strong urge to lean her head against his shoulder, but thought better of it. It was too soon to act on the love he had shown her. He still held onto her hand and the security of it enveloping her small hand was enough.
She awoke slowly, consciousness returning long before she opened her eyes. When she did, she became aware that she was smiling, a small, content smile. She remembered all that had occurred, how bitterness had given way to release in the simple basking of his love. How strange that she could not give way to their mutual understanding outside of the disconnected surrealism they shared, how strange that the only time she felt truly free was in the dream.
The course this dream, or was it a prevision, was taking her on was not one she wanted to take. It was happening, though, and there was nothing she could do to stop it. The events that happened in her dream were out of her control, and although she hoped with all that was in her that the dream was something from her subconscious, time with Mulder had taught her that all was not as it seemed. Faith was required with this, and faith was scarce for her. The only things that remained solid and true were her faith in the existence of a God, and Mulder, who had truly remained closer than a brother.
Glancing at the clock she saw that it was 1:26 am. The night was still young and she needed her sleep, so she closed her eyes, and prayed that the dream had finished its course for the night.
"It's better this way I said--having seen this place before,
When everything we say and do hurts us more and more."
They were sent on a case the next day. No dreams came while they slept on the plane, lulled into slumber by the gentle hum of the engines. When they arrived at their destinations, eyelids heavy and clothes rumpled, their time sense knocked out of equilibrium, the last thing on their minds was the trip their subconscious had sent them on.
There were no dreams that night either, drugged as they were by exhaustion. The following day, after long hours interviewing witnesses, suspects, examining sites, they each went into their motel rooms, silently, with no discussion of the day's events.
It was an eerie silence they observed, Mulder thought. Revealing words did not come easily to the both of them, they were both very private people. What revelations they did make verbally were on a need to know basis, and that need to know was rare. Most of them were nonverbal, a glance here, a touch there, all taken together, a meshing that was more total than a lifetime's worth of words. The intimacy that existed in the silence was not something he would trade, even if it brought back his sister.
But the silence was sometimes wrong, a wall that kept them apart, until the issue between them was resolved, silently as always. Then it became that intimate union once again. He'd learned the hard way not to push his luck with her. She solved her problems internally.
With an uneasy peace, he closed his eyes and fell asleep.
The air was sharp with the tang of burning leaves as he walked up the path to the house. He'd left his car parked in the dirt road in front. He hoped that she would be here. He needed her to be here.
He rapped on the door with the doorknocker a few times. It was opened by a dark-haired woman, who had laugh lines around her eyes, yet at that moment she seemed sorrowful.
She looked at him, sad-eyed, and said, "She doesn't want to talk to you."
"I know that, but will you let me?"
She opened the door wider to let him in and said, "She's on the porch in back."
He found her, a blanket wrapped around her, sitting on the porch swing. Her hair was cut short, and he mourned for the loss of the hair he used to caress. There were more subtle changes as well, a pinched look about her lovely mouth, a tightness of the skin over her cheekbones, and faint shadow lines under her eyes. The illness had taken her youthfulness.
She was looking away from him, into the distance, but as she heard his footsteps she turned her head to look at him.
There was a brief flicker of joy in her eyes on seeing him, but it was quickly stifled by cold neutrality. It was worse than seeing anger.
Her voice was low, tired, and weak. "Why are you here?"
The only answer. "To be with you."
She sighed and nodded. "Of course."
He advanced further, timid that she wouldn't let him and sat beside her.
"Yes." She was looking out into the distance again.
"Why did you leave?"
She closed her eyes, and her face grew tighter.
"I had to."
She opened her eyes and he could see the anger that had been missing before.
"Look at me, Fox, why would you want this? I can't even stand myself this way, and I couldn't bear to--" her voice broke, and became clogged with tears, "let you see me like this."
He reached out to wipe away her tears and she flinched. He paused momentarily, then wiped them away. "It doesn't matter to me. You know that. I want to take care of you."
"And I can't allow that." Her voice was hard.
"I love you."
She shook her head. "Please leave, Mulder. Leave."
She wouldn't look at him, so he knew she didn't really want him to leave, but he did as she asked.
Mulder woke, and stared into the unrelenting darkness of the room.
"Just as we stay, too long, in the same old sickly skin,
Pulled down by the undertow, never thought I could feel so low..."
In the next room, his partner awoke with a gasp. What she had dreamed seemed so vivid and so sure that she felt overwhelmed by the need to check if he was still there. Before reason could take over, she slipped on her robe and quietly exited her motel room. She paused hesitantly in front of his door, then rapped lightly on it with her knuckles. She called softly, "Mulder...."
She was about to go back to her room when the door was opened and he stood there, the lostness that she felt reflected on his face. He reached out to her, sliding his hand from her shoulder down to her forearm and pulled her into his embrace.
Her arms slid around his middle drawing him tightly to her and they remained that way for a long time.
Eventually she spoke, "I dreamed I sent you away."
He whispered back into her hair, "And I dreamed that I left you behind."
"But I could never send you away. I hope you know that, Mulder." This confession came out in the merest whisper, but she sealed its sincerity by looking up into his face.
"I know, Scully. Much as I believe it would sometimes be best for us if we had never met, I know that you would never send me away. As much as I know that I could never leave you."
She exhaled and looked down briefly, then back up at him, and said, "May I stay with you here, tonight?"
He smiled and nodded. "I promise not to try any funny stuff."
The mood broken, she smiled back, "Not anymore so than usual?"
He looked at her briefly, surprised that she had humored his humor, took her hand in his and said, "Let's go to sleep."
"Whatever you say."
And they slept, peacefully, the dreams having run their course.
"If all of the strength and all of the courage,
Come and lift me from this place,
I know I can love you much better than this.
Full of grace.
I know I can love you much better than this
It's better this way."