Title: Promises in the Dark
Rating: PG - A little violence, but nothing major
Classification: VA
Spoilers: Paper Hearts and Memento Mori
Keywords: Mulder/Scully Romance
Summary: How many times can one man risk himself for the truth?

Disclaimer: Who would even think that they belong to me? I mean, come on. Its only obvious that they belong to 10-13 and Chris Carter. The song ‘Promises in the Dark’ is Pat Benatar’s, what a genius.

Author’s Note: Please send all comments to XScout@hotmail.com All comments and advice are enjoyed and flames are used for barbequing my lunch.


Promises In The Dark


He had done it once again.

That in itself was enough to rise her Irish temper and set her blood boiling. Never mind the fact that there wasn’t an ounce of evidence to support the claims that had been made or all the proof to the contrary; he had done it again.

He had pulled the infamous ‘Mulder Ditch’ and gone running off after some infinistesimal clue about his sister. Why should that surprise her? If there was one thing she had learned about her partner, it was that it only took one word to get him motivated - Samantha. Off he’d go, half-cocked and ready to believe any wisp of information that came his way. And there was also something she’d learned about herself - she would always end up following him. She would trail after him, collecting the emotional flotsam and jetsam that invariably resulted, trying to put it all back together when nothing was resolved. Nothing was ever resolved when it came to Samantha’s abduction, only more questions posed. More questions that he would need to have answered and so more chances to go running off yet again. So once again, she’d had to track him down and pick up the pieces of whatever was left. She wasn’t sure if she had enough energy or even willpower to do it again. Cancer was eating away at her, devouring her strength - emotional and physical, until there was barely anything left to draw upon. She didn’t want to waste it or spend what little time she had remaining in this world chasing after false promises.

But as she stared down at the motionless figure before her, her anger melted away and was replaced by a cold feeling in the pit of her stomach that she recognized as fear. What if she was never again given the choice to follow him or not? What if he didn’t make it this time? What if he made the ultimate ditch? She might follow him into death in a few months time but they would be months of emptiness not even worth living.

Dana reached over to caress damp forelocks from the forehead of her partner of four years, Fox Mulder. A long time for two people to be paired in the FBI and yet it didn’t seem to be enough at this moment. Four years of shared laughter, tears, heartaches and triumphs had passed, the memories crowding in on her at the very moment it seemed like it all might come to an end. He had been in surgery for over six hours and the doctors were not optimistic. A bullet had been lodged next to his heart, another one directly in his left lung; it was a miracle he made it to the hospital alive. Upon entering the Emergency Room he had promptly gone into cardiac arrest and disappeared behind swinging doors, leaving his partner to answer questions. Now, eight hours after that traumatic moment, she was sitting quietly by his bedside, trying not to disturb any of the numerous tubes and wires hooked up to him. Touching him required maneuvering through an obstacle course of readout monitors and fluid dispensers. The doctors had done an admirable job patching up his lung and partially severed artery, but unfortunately that was all they could do - repair, not fix. So she had called her mother and Assistant Director Skinner to tell them she was at County General, waiting for her partner to die.

And for what? For empty promises to be fulfilled? For his search to come to an end? For the truth? After all this time, she knew what for. For hope. His passion for the search and his unwavering faith never ceased to amaze her, especially considering that his life had been filled with nothing but betrayal and longing. Then again, that might be the exact reason he had such strong beliefs. Perseverance against adversity as they say.

God, she was tired. Folding her arms on top of the bed, just next to Mulder’s ribcage, she dropped her forehead down and closed her eyes in a futile attempt to ease into sleep. But underneath her eyelids all she could see was her partner, bleeding all over her. And then she would begin to focus on that damn beeping, the incessant shrill sounds that mocked her from the heart monitor as if each one promised to be the last.

Frustrated by her inability to concentrate on anything else, she tried to drown the whirs and blips of the hospital with the radio that rested on the small endtable next to the bed. Flipping through several stations until she found one that wouldn’t annoy her, she again tried to get some rest. After several minutes her weariness overwhelmed her and she drifted off into a restless sleep, her slow breaths a counterpoint to the beats of the music softly playing.

She was running through the darkness, unable to get anywhere, endless mist seemingly wrapping itself around her cold body. Countless arms reached out and pulled at her, keeping her away from the light in front of her. “Mulder!” she screamed, “I’m coming!”

Suddenly the fog lifted and she was in a dimly lit warehouse, surrounded by a conglomerate of boxes, bags, and equipment. She frantically searched for any sign of her partner and almost fainted with relief when she saw him walking towards her, a slight frown on his face.

“Scully, what are you doing here?”

Relief quickly dissapated into anger. “I should ask you the same thing! You said that your days of running off on me were over, you gave me your word! I thought I could trust you; I thought you trusted me. But here you are in an abandoned warehouse in the middle of nowhere, waiting for an admittedly dangerous felon who claims to have some scrap of proof that Samantha is still alive. And you have to gall to ask me what *I’m* doing here??”

Mulder’s eyes filled with shock and every line in his face evidenced his hurt. “Scully, you don’t understand, he said he’d found...” Suddenly he paused and glanced up onto the catwalk that ran the entire length of the building. “Scully, get down!”

He lunged at her, his body slamming into hers just as two loud explosions reverberated across the cavernous warehouse. Scully was thrown to the ground in a tangled heap, Mulder sprawled across her like a human blanket. She struggled out from underneath him and drew her gun, pointing it in the direction from which the shots had been fired. There was no one there, the catwalk was vacant.

Breathing raggedly from the adrenalin and from her partner’s heavy body slamming into hers, she whirled around. “Mulder, what the hell did you think was going to...” She trailed off as she realized he wasn’t moving. “Mulder?” She dropped to her knees by his side and did a cursory examination to make sure he could be turned onto his back. Finding no reason he couldn’t be moved, she gently pulled him over.

He groaned as the movement undoubtedly sent waves of pain coursing over him. Two gunshot wounds decorated his torso, one on his left side, the other perilously close to his heart. “Scully,” he whispered through a thin layer of pink froth on his lips.

“Shhh, don’t try to speak.” She applied pressure to the gaping holes in his chest, knowing full well that they were too deep and severe for pressure to be of much help. She quickly got out her cellular and called an ambulance, her fingers, slick with Mulder’s blood, slipping on the buttons.

Mulder’s hand reached out blindly and she took it, surprised at the strength of his grip. “Scully... I’m sorry.” He coughed, blood spattering across her blouse to create a morbid butterfly pattern.

Any respose lodged in her throat as tears began to trickle down her face. She had to swallow several times before she was able to choke out, “I know.”

“I... have to... tell you...” he wheezed.

She placed a forefinger on his bloodstained lips. “Not now, you can tell me later. Just hold on, Mulder, *hold on*.”

Then they were in the ER and she heard the monitor flatline and the hum on the defibrillator as it charged. “Clear!” The high-pitched whine of the heart monitor droned on. “Clear!”

Scully awoke with a start, caught in the grip of a nightmare that was more memory than dream. She shook her head to clear it and her eyes flitted around the room, reestablishing her whereabouts. Her gaze came to rest on the prone form in the sterile bed.

He had saved her. He had thrown himself into the line of fire and taken the bullets meant for her. Why should that surprise her? He had often imposed himself between her and danger, as she had for him just as many times. It was what partners did, protecting each other’s backs. So why did it seem so different this time? Perhaps because she had practically denounced him for deserting her, destroying the trust between them and betraying everything it meant to be a partner. Then he had proven her wrong with the ultimate sacrifice. Tears sprung to her eyes as she relived those moments in the warehouse and heard her own voice, cold and accusing.

As she sat there, her mind absorbed by the past, the music floating through the air slowly penetrated her reverie.

'Never again, isn’t that what you said,
You’ve been through this before and you swore this time you’d think with your head,
No one would ever hurt you again,
And if takin’ was gonna get done, you’d decide where and when,’

It was as though the song was describing her partner, his complexity captured in the verses of a simple melody. He had promised after coming back from Boston, where he had just killed John Lee Roche, that he would never ditch her again. It took the shock of putting a little girl’s life in danger for him to realize the stupidity of his actions. After that he swore that he would think before he acted and inform her of his intentions if he felt the need to pursue information. It was the smart thing to do, both physically and emotionally. He had been hurt so many times in both venues that finally it appeared the ramifications had sunk in. It was better to have your partner there to watch your back and to be there to lean on when things got tough than to risk everything alone. He had said he wouldn’t let himself be helplessly taken over by the powerful emotions related to his sister’s abduction just because someone *seemed* to have the truth. He would be the one to decide when to accept that truth.

‘Just when you think you got it down,
Your heart securely tied and bound,
They whisper promises in the dark.’

He had kept his word and had told her every time he planned to do something rash. She had sometimes talked him out of it, but most of the time she ended up going with him, which was certainly preferable considering what usually happened whent he went off by himself. She liked to think that it was mainly because of his promise that he included her, but she also had the nagging suspicion that he wanted to keep an eye on her since she had been diagnosed with cancer. She wanted to be angry with him for being over-protective and sexist in a round-about way, but in the end she couldn’t because it was too damn sweet. In the most secret part of her mind she entertained the idea that their hearts were securely bound to each other and, though it could be stretched tight, that bond would never be severed. But in the end neither her condition nor his oath had come through when someone had dangled promises of the truth in front of him.

‘Armed and ready, you fought love battles in the night,
But too many opponents made you weary of the fight,
Blinded by passion, you foolishly let someone in,
All the warnings went off in your head, still you had to give in,’

Love battles. If the endless nightmares he faced were caused by love then she could see how he had learned to push everyone away. His love for his sister forced him on a journey that scarred his very soul. Coupled with the efforts of the Consortium to crush him beneath Their manipulative boot, it was enough to weary any person, even someone as strong as Mulder. So was it any wonder that he had let down his guard and took the bait, despite every fiber of his being telling him not to?

‘Just when you think you got it down,
Resistance nowhere to be found,
They whisper promises in the dark.’

‘The Truth is Out There’. How about ‘The Truth Disappears’. That would certainly be a better tagline for the X-Files. Whenever he thought he had the answers, some shred of hard evidence that his sister was alive and where to find her, it slipped through his fingers like blood from a wound. Then the promises would come in, tempting him with so much more than he thought he knew, rubbing salt in the already painful wound. So his search continued.

‘But promises, you know what they’re for,
It sounds so convincing but you’ve heard it before,
‘Cause talk is cheap and you gotta be sure,
So put up your guard and you try to be hard,
But your heart says try again.’

Mulder wasn’t foolish, he knew that Their strategy was to string him along as far as possible then cutting the cord when his goal was in sight. But the Consortium knew how his mind worked and always gave him just enough of a glimpse to leave him open to Their next lure. She gave him all the scientific explanations she could to convince him that all the promises were nothing but smoke and mirrors and she could tell that it was getting harder and harder for him to ignore her reasoning. He had nothing but the word of a shadow government against her rationale, which was almost like saying it was his heart against his mind. So although he tried to be objective and occasionally even skeptical, he always eventually let his heart decide for him. It was one of the main differences between her and her partner. She let her mind lead her, he, his heart. Theirs was a perfect combination of passion and science that often created results where others had failed.

‘You desperately search for a way to conquer the fear,
No line of attack has been proved to fight back the tears,
Where brave and restless dreams are both won and lost,
On the edge is were it seems, it’s well worth the cost,’

A life filled with shattered hopes and unfullfilled promises produced a man who feared the truth more than the lies because he was never sure if it was real or not. To have come close so many times only to have it ripped away left him struggling with his losses, striving to regain his footing in the world he thought he knew. But was it worth it? The answers were buried so deeply that to uncover them was often too great a cost. Mulder believed the answers were worth the cost to him; he’d already lost so much that what would it matter? The cost to anyone else was another matter. She had seen too many times the guilt and self-recrimination he immersed himself in when someone else got hurt as he pursued his quest, especially when it was she who had to pay. This cancer was a direct result of her involvement in the X-Files and, despite her assurances that she had chosen this path, she knew her partner would never forgive himself for not pushing her away at the very beginning. The cancer was eating away at his soul as much as it was eating away at her body, consuming them both with its inexorable march through her brain.

‘Just when you think you got it down,
Your heart in pieces on the ground,
They whisper promises in the dark.’

She couldn’t be angry at him for this. With his heart already cracked under the constant strain of guilt and shattered beliefs, any diversion that offered hope must have seemed like a Godsend and he had jumped at the chance to gain some validation of all they had suffered.

As the song ended, she leaned over to turn off the radio and looked down into the intense hazel eyes of her partner. “Hey,” she smiled sadly at him.

He blinked in a practiced response, the respirator down his throat an obstacle to any speech. He made an effort to smile back but it turned into a grimace as she watched a shudder run through his body. She closed her eyes at the look of pain on Mulder’s face, unable to digest the implications. Sometimes she wished she wasn’t a doctor; that she couldn’t tell from all the information on the machines surrounding them that he only had a few hours at the most before he... She couldn’t even finish the thought. Oh God, what was she going to do?

She opened her eyes to find Mulder staring intently at her. He blinked twice and then his hands waved weakly at the tube in his mouth.

Scully licked her lips as she realized what it was he wanted. “Mulder, we can’t take out the tube yet, we need to get you stable first.” No point in telling him his chances of gaining stability were almost nil. She almost laughed at the double meaning but reality set in.

He frowned and blinked twice again, his right hand grasping the tube and making a pulling motion.

Taking a deep breath, Scully mulled over her options. Mulder had enough experience with respirators to know what removing one too early would do but was still insisting that it be done. He must have important information for her and his stubborn insistence for the truth was demanding he tell her now. He wouldn’t rest until he had divulged whatever it was and that wasn’t conducive to his good health, so she supposed the risk was even both ways. They could always reintubate after he unburdened himself or if his breathing became labored.

“All right, Mulder, I’m going to get the doctor so we can do this right.”

His face relaxed as she placed a hand on his forehead, the other moving to the call button. A nurse came in and Scully explained what was going on and what needed to be done. The nurse didn’t look too happy about it but she nodded and disappeared in search of a doctor. It wasn’t long before she returned with a physician in tow.

The man looked over Mulder’s chart and then turned to look at her with a befuddled expression on his face. “Agent Scully, if we remove the respirator it is very likely that your partner will go into respiratory arrest and in his body cannot handle another shock.”

“Doctor...” she paused to look at his namebadge, “Morrison, you are aware that we are Federal Agents, so I don’t need to explain to you that impeding a Federal investigation has very serious ramifications. Now, my partner has information that could save lives and if he cannot debrief me, then you will be responsible for the results.”

Morrison opened and closed his mouth several times before he turned away and moved to the head of Mulder’s bed. “Agent Mulder, I’m going to remove the tube down your throat and I want you to try to help as much as possible in the procedure. Hold as still as possible and blow out when I begin to pull. Do you understand?”

Mulder’s head tilted slightly and Scully saw his body go rigid as he strived to remain absolutely still. The tube came out easily but his lungs were shocked at having to suddenly take up their duties again and he gasped ineffectually for few moments before he was able to take a full breath. This of course sent him into a coughing fit that made his eyes roll up and his body go limp. Scully was about to ask the doctor to reinsert the ET Tube when Mulder’s eyes fluttered open and his hand touched hers in reassurance.

“It’s... okay, I’m... fine now,” he whispered, his voice hoarse from the coughing and the rough passage of the tube.

“Fine,” she echoed tonelessly. That word meant nothing. They had both used it too often.

The doctor and nurse waited a few minutes, making sure that their patient wasn’t going to die on them right away. Finally they appeared satisfied and went back to their duties, Morrison giving Scully a curt reminder that she should call him the second Mulder had any trouble breathing.

She nodded absently, her focus on her partner, who was concentrating on pulling air into his lungs with as little movement as possible. He noticed her gaze and motioned for her to come closer. She sat down in the chair she had so recently vacated and leaned forward so that her face ws just inched from his.

His left hand groped blindly across the sheets until she took it in both of hers, surprised at how warm he was when he looked so pale. “I’m here, Mulder,” she said softly.

“I’m sorry,” he gasped, “but I had to... go, I didn’t want... you involved.”

She leaned back, disbelief on her face. “Involved? Mulder, Samantha may be your sister but after the last four years I would have hoped you understood that I’m invested in finding her too. I’m not angry with you for ditching me, though I should be, but I understand that you needed some hope right now and that-”

“Scully... Dana.”

He spoke so quietly that she would have missed it if he hadn’t used her first name. She could count the number of times he used her first name on one hand and still have fingers left over. She shut her mouth and looked back at him, a question in her eyes.

“The source said he had... information about your cancer.”

The breath she had sucked in exploded from her chest and she stared in shock, unable to reply.

“He said... he said he had... a cure.”

“Oh God,” Scully’s voice broke on the last syllable as she dropped her face into her hands to hide the tears.

His palm was touching her now, pulling at her fingers. She let him draw her hands away and she dropped her eyes to their entwined hands. She was ashamed for her selfish assumption that Mulder had thought Samantha was more important than her. She berated herself for not remembering all the times Mulder had proven that he would do anything for her, despite any repercussions to himself. And she was desolated by the fact that it was obvious Mulder hadn’t gotten the information he had sought.

“I would have told you, but... I knew you wouldn’t let... me go if you knew what I was willing to... exchange for your cure.”

That brought her out of her preoccupation with guilt. “What?”

Mulder looked anywhere but at her. “Samantha.”

“You mean... “ she speak through her disbelief.

“If I gave up... my search for her, they would... give me the cure.”

“Oh Mulder,” she murmured.

“Dana, the truth... means nothing to me without you.”

Scully looked deep into his eyes and understood. He loved her enough to give up the most important goal in his life. She wasn’t sure if she should be angry with him giving up after so much time and effort put into finding his sister or if she should be comforted by the fact that his love for her was the only thing more powerful than his need for Samantha.

In the end, she let her heart decide. “Mulder, I love you more than I can say, but don’t you understand? What good is my living if you’re not here to share it with me? Risking your life to save mine would leave me with half a soul. That is no way to live.”

He stared back at her silently, his eyes turning a deep amber. At first she thought he was in shock at her confession but then she saw the burning love and trust in his gaze. “The Gunmen.”

Her eyebrows arched. “Excuse me?” That was the last thing she expected to hear after professing her love.

“The Lone Gunmen, they have the cure.”

“How is that possible? I arrived at the warehouse just after you.”

“I had already made the deal and sent the notes... on the cure to the Gunmen. I had returned to the... warehouse to give up all my files on Sam.”

“A cure?” she whispered in wonder. Hope turned to fear. “But the cost... the cost is too much. I don’t want to live having lost the only thing worth living for.”

He smiled in a way she had never seen before. It was warm and comforting, sending contentment through her as though he had suffused her with his love. He extended his arm and lovingly brushed away the single tear that trickled down her smooth face. Then he moved his hand to the back of her neck, pulling her towards him until their lips met. Though only a brief caress, it was filled with enough passion and hope to fill two lifetimes.

“I’m not going anywhere. I promise.”