Strength of Your Beliefs
He comes back to the hospital much later, well past the end of visitor’s hours, when he’s certain that Maggie and Melissa will have gone home for the night. He’s held up for a moment at the nurse’s station, but they all remember him as the lunatic who had completely lost his mind when Scully had first been admitted, and none of them seem too keen on telling him he can’t see her.
Her room is dark; more likely than not, he realizes, she’s asleep. Sudden misgivings make him pause just outside the door.
She’s been through an unimaginable ordeal. Mulder’s mind is full of the transcripts that clog the files in his office- the testimonies of alleged abductees who returned with stories of unimaginable torture, of extensive and invasive testing done without any anesthesia, and the idea of any of that happening to Scully makes him want to vomit. Even if her mind doesn’t remember what she’s suffered, her body still does, and she needs her rest.
Mulder asks himself, before crossing the threshold into her room: who is he here for? For her? Or for himself? He’s about to turn and leave, to let her rest undisturbed, when a soft, scratchy voice calls out to him from within the darkened hospital room.
“Are you going to stand out there all night, or are you going to come in and see me?” His face breaks into a grin, the muscles of his cheeks aching from the almost-forgotten act of smiling, and he ducks into her room.
Scully smiles softly up at him as he crosses to her. Without sparing a glance at the chairs waiting along the wall to receive visitors, he sits down at the edge of her bed, by her hip. She reaches for him without hesitation, and he holds her hand tightly in his own, the way he had longed to before, when he’d felt too self-conscious under the infuriatingly knowing smiles of her mother and sister. She smooths her thumb over the backs of his knuckles in a gentle caress and he feels, finally, as though everything is going to be all right.
“I didn’t know if you would be awake,” Mulder says, his voice thick.
“I was waiting,” she tells him. “I had a hunch you might come back.”
“How are you feeling?” he asks. The smile slides slowly off of her face.
“Frustrated,” she confesses. “I’ve been lying here all afternoon, trying to remember something, anything, about what happened, about where I’ve been.” She sighs. “I remember calling you, leaving you a message… I remember Duane Barry breaking my window, and then….” She shakes her head. “Nothing. Nothing at all until I woke up this morning.” She frowns. “Well, nothing except….”
“I think… I must have been dreaming for at least part of the time I’ve been here, Mulder. I can’t remember all of it, but there was a nurse….” She trails off, frowning in confusion. Her eyes close for a moment.
“A nurse?” Mulder prompts her, and immediately feels guilty. If she’s drifting off to sleep, he should let her.
“Yeah,” Scully says sleepily, and her eyes flutter open again. “Nurse Owens. I remember hearing her talking to me, telling me that she’d be taking care of me… but the nurses here told me that there’s no one here with that name.” She looks up at him. “And I thought… I thought I heard your voice, too.” She yawns. “That was real, wasn’t it? You told me that you didn’t think I was ready to go yet.”
“Yeah,” Mulder whispers. “Yeah, that was real.” She gives him a gentle smile, her eyelids at half-mast. The hand not holding his gropes clumsily on the nightstand to her right, and when she brings it back, Mulder sees her cross glinting golden in the faint light from the hospital hallway.
“My mom says she told you to keep this with you,” she says. “So you could give it back to me, when you found me.” She looks up at him. “She says you wore it.”
“Yeah,” he admits, ducking his head. “That part’s true, too.” She smiles bemusedly.
“Why?” she asks, perplexed. “It’s not a symbol that means anything to you, Mulder. You believe in lots of things, but Christianity isn’t one of them.”
“You are, though,” says Mulder. Scully’s hand tightens around his, and her eyes sparkle with tears. “You have your beliefs, Scully, and I have mine… and whatever the Pope might believe, the Catholic Church can only dream of being as much of a force to be reckoned with as you are.” Scully chuckles, shaking her head.
“If that’s not blasphemy, Mulder, I don’t know what is,” she says. She starts to speak again, but her words are lost in an enormous yawn.
“Get some sleep now, Scully,” Mulder says.
“I’m probably going to need all the rest I can get, to undo whatever disasters you’ve created in our office while I’ve been gone,” she grumbles, rolling onto her side, getting comfortable.
“Hey, I’ll have you know that I kept that office running just fine before you came along, Scully,” he protests.
“It’s a wonder you managed at all before me, Mulder,” Scully sighs, her eyes closing, her hand releasing his as she starts to drift off.
“It really is,” Mulder whispers as he stands, his voice so quiet that he’s certain she can’t hear him.
But as he leaves, she opens her eyes to watch him go… and she smiles.