Title: Prayers Fly Up
Author: Windsinger
Written: 5/26/00
Rating: PG
SPOILERS: REQUIEM, 7th season.
KEYWORDS: Mulder/Scully Romance, Scullyangst
ARCHIVING: Anywhere with permission and as long as the author's name is retained.
DISCLAIMER: Where do I start? No, the X-Files and the characters of Fox Mulder, A.D. Skinner, Diana Fowley and Dana Scully do not belong to me. Chris and David, thank you, thank you for giving us a great season finale and NOT a Mulderless Eighth Season. Author's Notes: A little story about an acceptable partner for Scully until Mulder gets back. My older work can be found on Gossamer under 'Esty, Sue' with the newer pieces at www://members.aol.com/windsinger.

SUMMARY: Three weeks after Mulder's abduction, Dana Scully is introduced to her new partner.

"Agent Scully, I'd like you to introduce you to..."

Dana Scully swore that she could hear those words in her sleep. She tensed every time the phone rang or someone came to visit the nearly silent office, though hardly anyone ever did. What does one say? "Sorry to hear that you partner was abducted by aliens."

"Agent Scully, I'd like you to introduce you to..."

Again and again she told herself that when the time came she would refuse to hear the rest. Maybe it would all go away.

But the day came as she knew it would. Skinner called. Any other time during the past weeks she would have moved quickly, eager for news, any news, a shred of hope. This time, however, she heard a certain tone in his voice that said that this was business and the kind of business she was not going to like.

Sluggishly, she rose from behind her desk. The elevator door slid open, the elevator door slid closed. Rise to Skinner's floor and the doors opened again. Office after office dragged by. His staff assistance kept conspicuously busy as, alone, Dana walked by. Somehow, she kept her brain on hold until she was seated before Skinner's desk. Her stomach stirred, an unwelcome echo of her daily morning sickness.

She kept her eyes averted from the empty chair beside her. Mulder's chair. How many times had they sat so side by side? Sometimes it had felt like they were children in a principal's office. At other times, tempers raised, it had been all they could do to keep the other from saying exactly what both were thinking. They hadn't always managed. If she closed her eyes, she could still hear Mulder's breathing. By sheer will alone he could force his respirations to something only slightly louder and faster than normal. He couldn't slow his pounding heart, however, as he reported that, once more, hard-won evidence had vanished like so much smoke from their hands.

Now, like that smoke, Mulder was gone, and there still wasn't any evidence except what Skinner had seen.

And believed.

Hairs rose on the back of Dana's neck. Another man was in the room. He was standing against the opposite wall from Skinner's desk which was why she had not noticed him when she came in. The form was just a blur. Tall, though not so tall as Mulder, dark regulation suit, broad-shoulders, square jaw. He stayed where he was but he fidgeted, making the occasional abortive move as if he would have come forward to greet her, but decided instead to stay where he was. Very young. Good looking in a Mediterranean sort of way.


Skinner came around to sit on the edge of his desk before her. Eyes downcast, staring at a worn spot on the carpet, Dana didn't actually see his face, but didn't need to. She recognized him just by the way he moved and the muscular bulk of his body.

"Agent Scully, I know that it hasn't been very long..."

Just twenty-three days, fifteen hours, nine minutes...

"... but it's time. The X-Files has to move on or they will close it down. You and I must also move on."

Dana cleared her throat. So dry. "S-Sir, I have. Every day I've come to work. Every day I'm looking..."

"I know you are. That's the point. You're working yourself into a shadow and, now more than ever, you can't afford to do that. I also know that at the moment there are no more leads. Time to move on to other priorities..." He winced at the pain in her eyes. "... at least for a while. Call it a smoke screen if you want. In the meantime it's time to file this particular case."

She couldn't move, she couldn't speak. Three black crows circled her soul.

Skinner cleared his throat. "There's still a file on you, I believe." Reading between the lines he meant, 'You were gone but you're here now, so there's hope.'

"Have you written up his case?" the A.D. asked.

No air in here. Why wasn't there any air in here? "Yes, last week after I updated all the others. Though he had a file already. He made one on himself after he returned from..." She made an attempt at a swallow. "After we almost lost him the last time."

From when they'd tried to dissect his brain. The operation had come within a hair's breath of killing him, but it had also saved his sanity and his life. He had been so pleased to be back, so grateful to be alive, that he'd clowned about the file and it's big red 'X'.

One shouldn't laugh at the sound of FATE snipping at the weave of your life.

He hadn't known what it signified then, that surge of power in his mind. At least he'd never spoken to her about it, though she knew, despite the lazy grins and bad jokes, just how badly the betrayal of his body had terrified him. So many shadows behind his eyes during that long recovery. She knew he needed to talk, but she also knew that first he had to come to peace with what, for a time, he had become. He had to try to make some sense of it, before he could speak of it even to her. She had been waiting. Patiently waiting. Just a touch on the scar now and then to let him know she hadn't forgotten. As if she could. She had just been giving him time. Now there was no more time.

Skinner picked up some slim folders from his desk. "Here's some new cases I want you to look at. I didn't want you to just receive them through interoffice mail. They seem like X-Files to me. You'll take over, you know. I assumed you knew that."

"Since you didn't tell me to pack, I thought so."

"You'll need help."

"I'll wait for Mulder." Another attempt to swallow. Dust in her mouth. "They do come back. They always have before." Almost always.

"I know. I've read a lot in the past three weeks. I even borrowed some books and articles from your office. You were even there at the time. You didn't notice." He voice lowered. "I've also read that if abductees are not recovered quickly, their return can sometimes take a very long time."

He leaned a little closer. Damn it, what was he going to do? Take her in his arms and comfort her? If he did, she'd break into tears, into the sobs that only came at night. 'And you can't do that, Dana. Not here, not now.' Save that for the witching hour when the cry from a desperate heart just might be heard.

He didn't try to hold her as he had before -- like a child, like a daughter. Just as well. He had that first time in the hospital when the conjunction of her sorrow and her joy had suddenly become too much to bear. It had felt good to be comforted then, very much like having her father back, but that couldn't be allowed to happen again. Not that Skinner would. For a moment he had gotten as caught up in Fate's cruel joke as completely as she had.

"Agent Scully - Dana - I take responsibility for Mulder's loss, you know that. But Mulder was also my friend. The two of you saved my life more than once, I've never forgotten that no matter how much the part of the bastard I've had to play over the years. You know that I will do all in my power to see that we find him, and to that end it's critical that I keep the power I have. That's where I can do our cause the most good. Even though I can't be with you, day in and day out, there's one thing I can do. I can make sure that you're here and healthy when he gets back. It's what he will need. Remember, I've been on he wrong end of his anger before. You can't go solo on this. You need a partner."

When hell becomes a very cold place.

"That's why I'd like you to introduce you to someone. Agent Eric Rivera, this is Special Agent Dana Scully."

She forced her eyes up. Forced legs of shifting sand to stand. The man by the wall had come forward. His grip was firm but not too firm, his face - distressed - mirroring her distress, no doubt. At least he wasn't just some insensitive lout with a gun, but there was nothing else Mulder-like about him. From the first moment of their meeting Mulder had always radiated such self-confidence. Maturity - well, most of the time, anyway. He knew what he wanted, he knew his place in the world, and be damned what anyone else said. Yes, he'd lost his way from time to time over the years - so had she, so do we all - but overall, the Fox Mulder he'd shown the world had been champion and prince over his own little, mad kingdom. Compare that to this untried, unbloodied boy, so very young, who stood before her looking almost shy.

"Agent Scully, I'm so sorry for your loss," he was murmuring.

Don't you dare talk to me as if he were dead!

"Just tell me how I can help," he asked so very properly.

She couldn't think of anything to say that wouldn't be worse than nothing, so nothing was what she said. The silence was awful, not like the silence between she and Mulder, which from the first had been so full of meaning. It was as if she had been only half alive since that moment when her mother relayed Skinner's terrible message. What else had shattered besides her spirit and her heart?

How was it possible that one could be so dead and yet so alive at the same time?

"Agent Rivera," Skinner was saying, filling in the emptiness that was as cold as the dark side of the moon, "why don't you go on down to the X-Files office. I showed you where it is."

A slow nod of the black-haired head. Straight hair fell over his forehead.

Mother Mary, make it stop.

"Take my desk," she forced out. "The one by the window. You can move my stuff. I'll take... Mulder's." The name at the end of the sentence had barely stirred the air. She would not have him sitting at Mulder's desk. She would keep it for him or no one would.

Seconds later, as if he were letting himself out of a church or a funeral home, Dana Scully's new partner was gone. He made not a sound. At least he wouldn't disturb the ghosts.

Dana found herself in the chair again. Mulder's chair this time, a paper cup of water in her hand.

"It's not too early for this," Skinner told her.

"I know."

"Give him a chance. He's green but that's rather what I thought you'd want."

"Y-Yes." And it made sense. Work him in.

"He's also very bright and as open minded as I could find."

"We'll see about that," and realized she had made a joke. Pretty lame, but a place to start.

Travel back to the office wouldn't take nearly long enough for the time she needed. Instead Dana took the stairs out to where there was a small circle of trees and a couple of benches. She needed air. It was as if she could never get enough these days. It must come from holding her breath while she listened for familiar footsteps in the hallway that never came, for the phone to ring in the lonely hours of the night that kept silent. At least it was cool for Washington in late spring. The sun would get hot later.

She looked towards that sun. You think of stars at night, not during the day, though they are there just the same. Where are you, Mulder? What are they doing to you? Have they hurt you?

God in Heaven, please, please, don't let them hurt him.

Two lines of Shakespeare came to her mind. From Hamlet. 'My prayers fly up, my thoughts remain below. Prayers without thoughts never to heaven go.' She feared that that was how it was with her now. At one time her prayers and her very breath and blood and bone and spirit would all have been with Mulder, wondering where he was and how he fared, willing him back to her. Now she was tied to the earth as firmly as ever a woman could be. Split loyalties? Yes... and no.

For a few minutes she watched the people on the streets, so many two by two even at this early hour. Reluctantly, she had to admit that Skinner was right. The day had come. She needed help and she could certainly use all the help she could get. She wasn't taking care of herself and this miracle needed to be nurtured and protected just as surely as its father needed to be found.

Oblivious to the well-dressed people on the street, she hugged herself, knowing at the same time that she was embracing both the baby and Mulder. Their miracle. Her joy was short-lived, however, overshadowed as it always was by an ominous cloud of doubt and fear that threatened to spread across her mind. With a shudder she shut her mind against the darkness and recited her mantra - Mulder was the father, Mulder was the father. Of course, he was. Who else could it be? So what if one time was all it took. It happens, as, all too often, teenage girls came to realize.

But with a barren woman?

The explanation was simple enough, the tests had been wrong. Her being pregnant now - her being ABLE to be pregnant now - had nothing whatsoever to do with waking up in a strange bed in a strange room to find out that Mr. I'm-dying-so-pity-me Spender had undressed her from her traveling clothes and then dressed her again in her nightclothes.

Nothing at all, Dana swore to herself.

Then why didn't she have an amniocenteses performed and find out for sure?

Because it was better to live as long as she could with some doubt than have her whole life fall apart again so soon. She wasn't ready for that. In the meantime, Mulder was the father. Mulder, baby, herself - family. And it could be true. Probably was true. Mulder had just turned out to be one fertile sonofabitch.

Mind-boggling how these things happen. How that night had happened. How all the barriers around all the hurt had come tumbling down.

There had always been fences between them, professional ones, Mulder's guilt. The really high ones hadn't come to be, however, until Diana Fowley walked back into Mulder's life. How dare she, how dare they, ruin Dana's secret dreams. So much hurt, so much betrayal, so much not explained. Insurmountable, Dana had sworn in her self-righteous fury.

Then she had heard that fateful name in a hospital corridor: Daniel Waterston. Oh, how that had rocked her virtuous little world. What a hypocrite she had been, resenting what Mulder and Diana had while all along she had been privately nursing her own little family-busting student-professor crush. We all, all of us, take on many roles in our lives. More than that; we are actually different people. That was what she came to realize those momentous two days - that she was no longer that arrogant, idealistic young woman. She had left her behind. Left a lot of her prejudices about spirituality and health and healing behind as well. What a stubborn fool she had been! How could she have worked with Fox Mulder for seven years and not come to appreciate how complex life can be.

Most of all, she had learned that we all have to be forgiving, and must equally be willing to be forgiven.

Then, out of the blue, out of a dream, she had Mulder on the street when he should have been in England. Fate. She followed him home with no plans beyond an evening of personal revelations.

She had just needed him; needed to unburden herself and needed for him to listen. He had. He had nearly swallowed her up with his eyes as if she were a creature that he, even with all his experience, had never seen before. He had frightened her with those soulful eyes, thrilled her, too. But all she had done was keep on talking.

She had no memory of when she had fallen asleep on his couch. She only remembered waking, tucked warm under his blanket, and breathing in the scent of him. She had stayed where she was for perhaps an hour, just staring into the night-blue shadows made by all the familiar shapes. She remembered feeling older, older and yet lighter, as if she had finally shed the heavy ghost of that star-struck twenty-three-year-old. She should have felt lonely. She hadn't. What she had felt was much more positive than that pitying emotion. Much more - assertive. Diana was ancient history - dead and buried - he had told her as much and Dana had had enough of observing life from the sidelines.

Time to do something about the deep pools of those eyes

She would forever remember standing that night over Mulder's bed and watching the moonlight play on the beloved planes of his face. Even in sleep he seemed in pain and so vulnerable. The memory tugged at her heart still.

She didn't think. She pulled back the blankets and slipped in beside him. The amazement in his sleepy eyes had been something to see.

"Something wrong, Scully?"

"Not a thing."

She had allowed him to get out only one rather strangled question, "Are you sure you want to do this?"

She did.

A police siren cutting through the morning traffic, roused Dana with a jerk from her bittersweet reflections. Gentle that night had been. Gentle with promise and plans. It had been the only time. Just too special to rush his eyes told her each time they passed and she had agreed. When life slowed down. When they had a free weekend to do it right.

They had run out of time.

Dana sighed. She needed to go back inside. It was time to face this stranger who would soon be no stranger. How was she going to deal with this? He was a handsome man. Smart, too, if he had been handpicked by Skinner. Sensitive, quiet, she already knew. It all added up to dangerous, as any man could be, if - she shivered in the warm sun - Mulder did not come back. At the moment, there was no problem. The very thought of any kind of relationship other than with Mulder made her physically ill. The baby and her grief were her whole existence. But Dana had ever been the realist. When grief had worn out its welcome, this hole in her heart would strive to be filled. It was a fact of life - sorrows fade and babies grow and need more than one parent can provide. Hadn't she already admitted to shedding one life? No, not shedding. Loving Daniel would always be a part of what had brought her to this point. He was just no longer a hinderance to her going forward.

But all of that for later. Much later. Giving up hope of ever having Mulder in her life again was a special sadness which was too far down the road even to contemplate.

What she had to guard against now was this Eric getting too attached. There had been no ring on his finger. She was an older woman, though that mattered little these days. Sometimes that was its own allure. She still had her looks and now she was as much a legend as Mulder had been when she had first come to the Bureau. It was easy to fall in love with a legend. She knew, twice over. It was all so Romantic. You can add to that the mantel of tragedy she now wore as Mulder had. Mulder had lost his sister and his childhood and all the anchors a young life needs. She had lost her future, her partner, her friend, and her lover. Well, not 'lover' except that once, but certainly 'love'. For years he had been that. She knew more than anyone the irresistible combination of being together all day with someone you learned first to respect, then to fear for, then to care about. So close all day, every day. Road trips... and motels... connecting doors.

Would Eric come in response to her nightmares the way she had to Mulder's?

Shit... shit... She was going to completely ruin what was left of her makeup at this rate.

The tragedy would come with her isolation. She was going to have to be so careful. Keep her distance. No clever banter. No innuendo even in jest. Couldn't take the chance. Of course, her ever-growing pregnancy would help for the time being, but some men find even that a come on. Even a smile of encouragement could be taken the wrong way. Such a sterile, forbidding future between two people who held each others' lives in their hands. Bare in the back without a brother, or a friend, or a lover. She had shared so much with Mulder. Were all partnerships so? How could they not be? After what she had been blessed with, how could she manage otherwise?

But enough of this standing out in front of rush hour traffic, going on and on in her mind like a mad woman. She was spending too much time alone. She needed someone to talk to. Too bad that she would have to learn to do without the deeper bond that she and Mulder had had and which even a female partner would have provided. Women can share, like sisters. With a man you don't want to become attracted to and you don't want to attract, you have to be so careful.

Maybe if Eric didn't work out she'd ask Skinner, but she knew why a male, and a physically strong one, had been selected for her. For her protection. And so, welcome back, Ice Queen. Assume your throne. It was time to bind in frost again all that hazel eyes and a sad smile had thawed within her.

Swallowing unshed tears, she found her way blindly back into the building.

Agent Eric Rivera had stacked the contents of her desk neatly on a couple of chairs near Mulder's. He had also unpacked a few items of his own and arranged them neatly on the empty desktop. A far cry from Mulder's clutter. Another difference. The differences should have helped, but they didn't. She'd make comparisons anyway both for good and for ill. She wondered for how long?

He was reading one of the case files that she realized Skinner must have given him on his way out. She walked over and held out her hand for them. He relinquished the entire stack without a word. She returned the one he had been reading.

"Take a few minutes. Do research if you feel you need to. When you think you have an approach, we'll talk about it."

"No problem." His voice was pleasant. Deeper than Mulder's with a bit of an accent. Something European or was that South American? It went with his olive skin and dark brown eyes.

Dana's gaze happened to fall on a small picture frame. It had been positioned in a particular way on the bookshelf so that it could not readily be seen by anyone just passing by. It was a picture of two dark-haired young men on horseback before a breath- taking western vista. One was Eric.

"Nice picture," she commented. "You and your brother?"

His head dipped. He blushed. It was harder to tell with his complexion than Mulder's but she'd had practice. "No, my, ah, friend."

More blushing. Definitely uncomfortable.

"Friend?" Dana asked, knowing there was more here and sensing that he wanted her to ask.

"Lover. And we're monogamous," he felt a need to add. "Four years now."

Dana's mouth opened with a silent 'ah', her turn to be uncomfortable. Things certainly had changed since J. Edger's time.

"Do you mind the picture?" he asked, quickly. "In most work places, we don't - you know - advertise. Makes the straights uneasy, but I felt that considering the type of cases I'm told that we'll be working on, my life style will seem pretty tame."

"Mind? No, I don't mind at all." And she didn't. In fact a huge weight was easing from her mind.

"Stan's nice. You'd like him. Everyone likes Stan. He's a dancer with an experimental dance troupe - travels a lot - but when he's in town next I can get us some tickets and then take you back stage. Would you like that?"

"Yes," she found herself smiling. Genuinely smiling. It was like meeting the wife.

Eric looked over to where he had moved her things. "Is that Agent's Mulder's picture you have on your desk?" he asked.

"Yes." She went to get it. Eric rose and followed her, his movements unconsciously like a great watchful cat - or a guard dog. He had laid the picture carefully in the center of the too- familiar desk where it could not have gotten bumped accidentally and broken. It was all Mulder, at least to her it was. All but not nearly enough. Bright, intelligent, a little sulky, a touch of the imp, years of sorrow behind the eyes.

Eric stood at her back. He smelled... like Eric. Not at all like Mulder, and so impossible to confuse him for Mulder's ghost hovering over her shoulder. "If you don't mind me saying so," he remarked, "your partner is a real fox."

Dana touched the picture lovingly. "No, I don't mind you saying so at all."

"I'm looking forward to hearing about the cases you two have worked on, if that won't be too painful."

"Not too painful. In fact, I'd like that very much."

Eric made a motion then as if he would return to his reading, but turned instead.

"They say you two were close, as close as partners can be."

Closer than that. Clearly, Skinner had not told him about the pregnancy, Dana surmised with an inward grin.

"I just wanted to let you know -" Oh, how very earnest are the young. "- that I won't try to take his place. I swear I won't. I couldn't. Who could? But, if you let me, I'll help find him for you."

She couldn't speak just then. She had to keep her head lowered to force down the swelling ache in her chest. Finally, she was able to form the words, though she had to admit that the undertones were a little rough.

"You know, there is something you can do for me right now." She raised her head and studied the ceiling. "You're taller than I am. Do you think you can pull those pencils out of the ceiling tile up there. Not all of them, just the ones immediately over the desk. I'd rather not be sitting here and have one fall on my head."

She had a feeling that those prayers were going to fly up after all and she didn't want any obstacles getting in their way.

After all, one had been answered already.

The End


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