Title: Between Sleep and Awake
Author: XScout
Rating: R
Classification: VA
Spoilers: Kitsunegari, Red and the Black
Keywords: None
Summary: Somewhere between sleep and awake, dreams - and nightmares - become reality.

Disclaimer: Any sort of pleasure derived from reading this belongs to me. The characters who are subjected to being my pawns belong to CC and 10-13.

Authorís Note: There are a lot of spoilers in this but the only really important one is The Red and the Black. Can be considered MSR or just good friends. Every other section is linked, so donít get confused.

If you liked it, e-mail me. If you hated it, E-mail me. If you *thought* about reading it, E-MAIL me. If you have no opinion, E-MAIL ME! In other words, e-mail me. XScout@hotmail.com

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Between Sleep And Awake

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Somewhere between sleep and awake, dreams - and nightmares - become reality.

******************

Blood, gray matter, and pieces of her skull flew through the air to land with a sickening *smack* seconds before her body hit the ground.

She had begged him to help her and he had done nothing, just stood there. Now he struggled to reach her but he couldn't move, couldn't think, couldn't breathe.

"Noooooo!"

*******************

She didn't know what was wrong, if anything at all. He was always a bit peculiar and though she prided herself on being able to read his every nuance, there was always something waiting around the corner of his psyche to throw her off.

Dana Scully sat down on the hard mattress of another cheap motel and stared at the door in front of her. The door led to the subject of her thoughts - her partner, Fox Mulder.

For the past month he had been acting strange...at least strange for Mulder. She often came in to work to find him hunched over a file that he had been reading since before the sun came up, which in itself was not unusual when he found a case that peaked his interest. But he would be wearing the same clothes as the day before, rumpled with inactivity, and a stubbly growth on his jaw. All evidence that he had spent the night in the office.

**************

His struggles proved futile, the taut wire cutting into his bare flesh. He looked about frantically but he was surrounded by darkness, cold black shadows. The gaping mouth of a pipe hung a few feet from his face, mocking him. He heard the squeaking of valves opening and then the sickening gurgle of *it* rushing down the pipe.

He renewed his efforts to escape in earnest, fear coiling in his stomach, until he could not stand the frightening suspense any longer.

Then *it* came.

Black and slippery, it poured across his face, splattered into his eyes and dribbled down his chin. He could feel the wet puddles coalescing into long thin shapes that slithered about on his feverish skin. They crawled into his eyes, up his nose, and slid into his mouth.

All he could do was scream.

*****************

Then there was his physical appearance. He had lost what she estimated to be at least twenty pounds from his already thin frame. His face was pale and his hands trembled occasionally, the dark circles under his eyes defied description and he seemed to be in a constant state of exhaustion.

But whenever she voiced her concerns, she was always rewarded with an "I'm fine". She berated herself for telling him the same lie every time he had asked about her cancer, if she had been more open about her condition then perhaps he would be more open towards her.

******************

Lights.

Huge blinding lights of every shade exploded around him. And in the center stood a thin figure, identity shrouded by the blazing glow, reaching out for him. He shrunk back, terrified of the long bony fingers covered with dead gray skin.

He heard a shrill voice behind him, calling his name. He turned with agonizing slowness to see a small girl floating in the light. Her floral nightgown was billowing around her, her dark hair whipping in the howling wind.

He tried to move, tried to help her, but he was paralyzed. All he could do was watch as the child floated out the window, up into the sky.

"Samantha!"

**************

Sometimes she had to take a second look, questioning her own instincts, as he joked with his normal skewed sense of humor and excitedly updated her on their latest X-File. As with the last five cases over the month, Mulder had met this one just as fervently as ever, and perhaps, she thought, more than ever.

Their current case involved a killer who, Mulder believed, could walk through walls. Personally she felt that the perp was just extremely good at hiding his entry point into homes...okay, phenomenally good.

They had just arrived here in the quiet town of Blair, Nebraska and she had finished unpacking about ten minutes ago. Now she just sat and stared at the connecting door between their rooms and wondered. Over the past four weeks Mulder had chased after mutants, ghosts, and killers with an almost frantic passion. He worked late into the night, followed up on every infinitesimal lead, and was taking increasingly less time to attend to such necessities as eating and sleeping. And by the time they solved each case, he had another ready to go.

****************

It was an incongruous mixture of light and dark.

The large flat table in the center of the room was bathed in light, illuminating its lined surface and restrained occupant in an ethereal glow.

The surrounding area was enveloped in darkness, black shadows flickered back and forth within it, moving halfway into the light to reveal gloved hands. They reached out to the woman lying on the table, silver instruments gleaming from their fingers.

The woman was awake and fully aware, trembling with fear as the hands came closer and closer. She shook her head and screamed in terror as they cut into her soft flesh, stuck her with countless needles, and removed parts of her internal organs.

She cried and prayed for help, calling out to the only one who could save her, yet had not come.

"Mulder!"

****************

The thought had crossed her mind that he was avoiding something. That he was using work as a shield against some unknown enemy, immersing himself to the point where he was oblivious to all else.

Even Skinner had remarked on her partner's condition, right after congratulating them on solving so many cases in record time. He had dismissed Mulder and then held her back, ignoring the question in his male agent's eyes. Skinner had asked her if Mulder was all right. Of course he's not all right - look at him, she wanted to scream, but instead she just nodded and made up some excuse about him working hard. Skinner seemed to accept that and just as she was headed out the door he had added, "Working hard is one thing, working yourself to death is another."

She had to agree.

************

They were laughing. Harsh bitter guffaws, high-pitched insane giggles, maliciously evil sneers, and leering vulgar taunts.

Each laugh was like a physical blow, penetrating his ears, echoing in his head, clawing at his mind. Their faces came in and out of focus, rushing at him with inhuman speed, only to recede back into the darkness.

He recognized each face and a heavy weight descended on him as each one laughed at his inability to defeat them. Monty Propps shook his bloody fists and screamed in primordial rage, Eugene Tooms stretched out his elongated fingers, the stench of bile wafting up from him, Cecil L'Ively, engulfed in flames, danced about hysterically, and Luther Lee Boggs ranted about the dead. Then it was John Barnett, his huge salamander appendage wrapped around the throat of Reggie Purdue, Duane Barry was holding tightly to a red headed woman and yelling to the sky, Donnie Pfaster held that same woman by her flaming locks and scissors flashed in his hand.

His body wrapped in a white straightjacket, Bill Patterson's face shifted back and forth from human to grotesque gargoyle, Robert Modell held a gun to the red haired woman but offered the trigger to another, and John Lee Roche caressed the face of the young brunette girl he was strangling. Next came Leonard Betts who held the head of the oft seen woman and was licking his lips as red poured forth from her nose, Alex Krycek held a smoking gun in his right hand, his left prosthetic arm pointing down to a motionless old man on the floor, and last was Cancerman, smoke curling around his face, his gray pallor like dead skin, and his eyes were the same as the brunette child.

And they laughed as he lunged at them, desperately trying to keep them from disappearing back into the depths from which they came.

But he never could. So he cried out in anguish and sorrow.

***************

She was glad they had the connecting door. Not only did it make her feel safe, but it also gave her a sense of peace, knowing that she was close enough to offer assistance at a moment's notice. On the last five cases they had been separated by more than one wall, as necessity had made them take rooms several doors apart.

It was too late when they had arrived to do anything more than check in and unpack. She was so tired she had even dismissed Mulder's offer to start working on the case, knowing that she would be of no use until she got some sleep. She could only wish that he would do the same.

************

He was shaken roughly, his head snapping back and forth on his thin neck. A large hand slapped him across the face and a voice sneered as tears began to form in his eyes. The voice berated him for being a crybaby, to take it like a man.

He was thrown to the floor and a foot swung like a pendulum, connecting with his body time and again. He would not cry out, could not. That would only make his attacker angrier. He curled into a ball to protect his skinny form, sending his mind to a warm and comfortable place, only to be ripped from his safe haven as a broken bone shot pain through him.

The voice was yelling now, drunkenly shouting bits and pieces of sentences about merchandise, the project, and vaccinations. Then he was picked up and slammed into a wall and he could smell the alcohol and cigarette smoke on the breath of the mouth right in front of his eyes.

"You let THEM take her! You good for nothing...it should have been you!" the voice screamed.

He whimpered. "I'm sorry Dad."

**************

And so she had left him in his room, his papers already out and spread across the floor. He had wished her a good night and she had done the same just before closing the door which so captivated her attention now.

She looked at the clock again - 11:09. She debated once more on whether to go through that door and demand an explanation but in the end her mind won out over her emotions. She was too tired to think straight and a simple query could turn into a raging fight if she wasnít tactful.

She changed into an overly large T-shirt and pair of cut off sweats before crawling beneath the thin covers of her bed. She sighed dejectedly and closed her eyes.

***********

They were everywhere. Burnt bodies strewn along the street, steaming in the cold morning air. The road was dotted with bright yellow body bags and paramedics were rushing to and fro, trying to save the few poor souls unlucky enough to have survived.

He scanned the carnage, his heart constricting with fear as his eyes settled on each blackened corpse. He wanted to lean over the side of the bridge and lose the contents of his stomach but something caught his eye.

Red.

Red hair peeking out from one of the yellow bags. He ran over to it on rubbery legs, his head pounding, and his heart in his throat. He crouched down and unzipped the bag.

It was her.

Her body was charred and twisted, bits of flesh crackling off as the bag rubbed against her. But her face was untouched, unscathed by the flames that had ravaged her body. He reached out to stroke the hair from her face, caressing her cheek with the other hand. He stared down into her cold blue eyes, frozen open in fear as death claimed her.

He felt his body numb, and his mind crumble. His soul began to collapse and his heart shattered as tears streamed down his face.

A gut wrenching sob was torn from his throat, "Scully!"

**************

She bolted upright in her bed and stared unseeing into the darkness. Could she have imagined it? She waited a moment, straining her ears.

Nothing.

Then she heard what sounded like a sob, coming from the next room. A nightmare she supposed. After five years with Fox Mulder, she knew that he had nightmares every now and then. More often than either of them would like but with as much emotional baggage as he was carrying around, it wasn't surprising. She dragged her body out of bed and took the time to glance at the clock - 3:25.

She was reaching for her robe when an earsplitting scream reverberated through the thin wall. The robe forgotten, she instead grabbed her gun before barreling through the connecting door.

She had expected to find Mulder being attacked by someone, even someTHING, but not this. Not nothing. He was in his bed, the sheets twisted around his legs, the pillow dangling over one side. He was thrashing about, low moans escaping along with tears.

"Mulder?" she said softly, not wanting to startle him if he were awake. She knew about the nightmares, had even been witness to a few while on stakeouts, but nothing like this.

He did not respond to her voice so she reached over and laid a hand on his tense shoulder. "Mulder, wake up."

And wake he did. Screaming.

She stepped back instinctively as he suddenly sat up, his arms crossed in front of him for protection from some dream phantasm. He scooted back until he hit the head board, his feet continuing to push at the mattress. His eyes darted around the room then closed tightly, tears squeezing out the corners. His breathing was ragged and fast, sweat soaked his shirt and beaded on his forehead.

"Mulder?"

His eyes snapped open and his head whipped around to face her. But instead of calming, he tried to burrow even further into the headboard and he was close to hyperventilating. He searched the room again and that was when it hit her - he couldn't see her.

She stepped out of the shadows and sat cautiously on the bed next to him. He shuddered violently at the movement, his arms wrapping tightly around his ribs.

She tried one last time, "Mulder, it's me."

His dark eyes focused slightly and his shivering abated. "Scully?" he whispered.

"I'm right here Mulder." She stroked back the damp hair from his face.

"Oh God," he choked, "Scully."

Suddenly she found herself enfolded in strong arms, her head pressed against a heaving chest, a long hand running through her hair. It felt...good. She relaxed into his embrace, letting him hold her for as long as it took, all the while murmuring reassurances that it was okay, she was here.

His sobs turned into soft cries and then to quiet whimpers and then just an occasional sniffle. Scully raised her head to meet his eyes and what she saw in them almost tore her apart.

Sadness. Utter despair, loneliness, and deep pain. She had to look away before the darkness consumed her as well. It was staring into those black depths that she found her answers. He had been using work to circumvent an enemy that is impossible to avoid - sleep.

She sensed his full return to reality seconds before he released her. As though he finally realized where he was and who he was with, he turned away, ashamed.

"I'm sorry."

Scully lifted her hand and took his chin to force him to look at her. "Mulder, no. Don't be sorry, not for this."

He just sniffed mightily and wiped his nose with the back of his hand. It was such a boyish gesture that Scully smiled slightly and ruffled his already tousled hair.

It broke the mood. She regretted it instantly as she saw his barriers fall back into place. To relieve her need to do something, she got up to get him a glass of water. Before she could step away a hand caught hers and held tightly.

"Please don't go."

She turned around to see a look of panic etched across her partner's face. "I'm going to get you something to drink."

He reluctantly let her hand slip from his but his eyes followed her to the bathroom, never leaving until she returned with a cup of water. He took it gratefully and gulped half of it down, ignoring her reproving look.

"I could give you something to help you sleep." she offered.

"No!" his vehemence shocked her. "I don't want to sleep...please."

"Mulder, how long has this been going on?" she asked, but she already had her suspicions.

"Since Ruskin Dam," he whispered.

That confirmed her thoughts. He'd been having nightmares - night terrors more like it - since she'd gone to that 'group abduction' in Pennsylvania about a month ago.

She didn't know what to say. Something traumatic had happened to him there but she couldn't remember anything about the entire incident. So she fell back on her medical solidarity, "You need to rest Mulder."

He shook his head, biting his lower lip so hard she expected him to draw blood.

"Please, Mulder. I'll be right here." When he didn't reply she took that as an acceptance. She resituated the pillow and sheets then took the empty cup from his limp hands, setting it on the nightstand. She laid her small hands lightly on his chest and pushed him back down.

"I'm here," she murmured. He was asleep in seconds.

*************

A deep rumbling broke the silence and brilliant lights pierced the ceiling of the truck. He huddled further into the shadows behind the crate, his gun pulled from it's holster.

He cautiously leaned out from his protection and saw the Bounty Hunter, weapon in hand, facing a similarly built man whose features were marred by scar tissue. The other man had no face.

The light grew so intense he was almost blinded. He lurched to his feet and aimed his gun.

"Nooooo!"

*************

She almost fell out of the chair she had dozed off in. A bit dazed by being woken so abruptly, she glanced around, getting her bearings. The clock read 4:03 - they had slept for a little over half an hour. No wonder he looks like hell, she thought. This time she was prepared for his violent outburst. She caught his flailing arms and held on, calling out to him. "Mulder, Mulder calm down, it's me. I'm here, it's all right."

He was sobbing again, his cries hoarse in a throat raw from screaming. This time she held onto him, cradling his long body with her own. She rocked him back and forth, stroking his hair and shushing him.

After a while he took a deep shuddering breath. "I can't take this anymore. I can't." He looked at her with those bottomless sad eyes. "Make it stop."

"Oh Mulder, you know I would do anything for you." She took his face in her hands and placed a gentle kiss on his forehead. "Come on, let's go to bed."

He didn't argue. He trusted her with every fiber in his being. They both lay down on the mattress, her arms secured around his waist and her legs tucked behind his. She rested her head against his back and felt the tension slowly leave him. His hands covered hers and he squeezed them.

"Thank you," he whispered.

Together they slept through the night and well into the day.

*********

Scully woke with a strange tingling feeling in her right arm. It was numb from lack of circulation and she badly wanted to move it. But it was under Mulder.

As though reading her mind, the man next to her shifted and then rolled off of her arm. She gratefully shook her arm, clenching and unclenching her fist. She heard someone chuckling.

"Sorry about that Scully."

She looked up to see her partner smiling down at her, looking far better than he had in weeks. He was still too thin and too pale, but the circles under his eyes were less apparent and he looked more focused.

"Mulder, we need to talk about this." she said softly, not wanting to push.

To her surprise he just nodded.

"The occasional nightmare is to be expected but night terrors like these, every night for a month is not healthy and not normal. You need to see someone about it." Her small mouth pressed into a firm line.

He sighed heavily. "I know, I just...I was hoping they'd go away. Like last time."

"Last time?!" Her eyes widened. "When was 'last time'?"

"When you were abducted." He stared at some point on her neck, refusing to meet her eyes. "But they went away when you came back."

"Mulder, look at me."

His eyes slowly inched upwards.

"It was not, I repeat, NOT your fault. I know you don't believe that but I want you to know that I blame you for nothing that has happened to me. Not my abduction, not my cancer, nothing." Her voice was steady and serious as she stressed each and every word.

"And though I must admit that this is a nice way to wake up, this cannot become a habit. You need help. You can either talk to me or to a psychiatrist, but you have to get it out." She took his hand in both of hers, bringing it up to lay on her heart. "Please. I need you as much as you need me."

His eyes shone with tears at her unexpected display of love and devotion. "I'll talk to you Scully. About everything, no holds barred. I trust you."

"Everything?" she queried tremulously.

"Everything," he nodded. "My nightmares, my fears, my hopes, my dreams,...and my heart are yours to know."

She snuggled closer to his warm body and held him close. "And you may know mine."

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END