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:: Darkness Rises ::

written by Starlet2367 { e-mail // livejournal }


The ambulance swings wildly around the curve, sirens screaming, lights pulsing in time with the heart monitor hooked up to the man beside me.  I watch his pulse flicker across the screen. Thready, the EMT said.  As if I couldn't tell.  The guy is working steadily on Ed's arm, trying to minimize the damage from the fire.

It looks pretty bad from here, and it smells worse.  Charred flesh.  Nothing like it.  I cover my nose with my hand, breathe through my mouth.  God, I'm glad that I don't have this guy's job.  By the time a body gets to me, most of the burned odor his dissipated.  Which is one of the reasons I went into pathology in the first place.  That and the fact that I don't have to worry about putting my patients at ease.  Hell, most of them are probably more at ease than I'll ever be.  I lean forward and begin talking to the young man bending over Ed's body.

"Can you save it?" I ask.  The EMT spares me a glance, grunts, goes back to work.  I feel impatience rise up in my throat.  What, I don't deserve an answer?  His partner, a woman about my age, but taller and with dark hair held back neatly in a French braid, gently pushes me back against the seat.

"He'll be okay, honey," she says in a sweetly accented voice, "but right now let's get you taken care of."  She pokes an automatic thermometer in my ear.  Shit.  I swat at her hand.

"I'm not sick," I say in a tight voice.  She glances up at me and smiles, notes my temp in the chart. 

"Just covering the bases," she says, and she wraps the blood pressure cuff around my arm, pumping it so it tightens uncomfortably against my skin.  For some reason, this makes my head spin.  

The accent, work on the accent, I think, trying to steady myself.  Okay, below the Mason Dixon line, definitely.  We take a turn too quickly and I grab the seat.  I notice the EMTs don't seem to be bothered by all this movement.  In fact, they don't seem to be bothered by anything.  Including the obvious fact that I don't need medical attention.  Can't they tell that I'm okay?  Why is no one listening to me?  God.  I just wish everyone would just listen to me for once….

Okay, okay, Scully.  Deep breath.  Keep it in the road.  What was I doing…oh yeah, the accent.  The states beneath Maryland scroll through my mind.  Not an Appalachian accent, so I rule out Tennessee and Kentucky.  Virginia is a possibility, I think, as she unrolls the blood pressure cuff from around my arm and notes the numbers in the chart.  

No, not Colonial enough.  Sounds more like that girl I went to school with, the one from…I flinch as she shines her penlight in my eyes.  God, that's bright.  It's hard to stay focused for some reason…and I feel a little woozy…wait, I got it.  Georgia.  Just like Ashley, in seventh grade.  

But what's a Southern belle doing in Philadelphia?  I squint at her to bring her back into focus then shake my head and look down at the chart, trying to read what she's written.  I really wish she'd leave me alone.  Or let me do the fucking exam myself.

"Here, sweetie, watch my finger," she says soothingly, as I look up at her.  I chuff and roll my eyes.  Goddammit, how many times do I have to tell them I'm fine?

"I'm not the one who needs help," I say loudly, but she just pats my arm and makes a soothing noise in the back of her throat.

Jee-sus, I'm over this.  I grab my chart from her hands and look at the information she's filled in. Blood pressure high, I notice, but within the expected range after a trauma.  Eyes dilating normally.  I notice she put down that my eyes are tracking normally, too, even though the only tracking she saw was when I rolled them.  

Oh, and this is interesting: "Subject is exhibiting signs of emotional, as well as physical trauma.  Injuries include what appears to be a mild concussion, sprained shoulder, and bruised face.  Subject is also prone to angry outbursts, denial of trauma, and protection of the murder suspect."  Son of a bitch.  I look up at the EMT and snarl.

"That's a lie.  Take it off my chart," I say between clenched teeth.  

She sighs, but makes no move to take the chart, and starts wrapping a compress against my right shoulder.  I must have banged it pretty hard when Ed threw me against the door, I think, and a little shudder runs through me.  I suppress it, but I can't hold back the quick intake of breath as she wraps the compress against me.

"Oh, I'm sorry, honey" she says.  "Are you all right?"  I nod, though I'm feeling a little queasy.  I'm sure it will pass.  It's probably just motion sickness, or something.

"I don't think it's broken; probably just a sprain," she continues, as if I hadn't read the chart, "would you like some Tylenol?"  Her big, brown, Southern girl eyes are looking at me more kindly than I deserve, and I look down at my hands, feeling a little guilty for my behavior, as I give the chart back to her.  

I notice she's wearing an engagement ring, a small diamond solitaire.  It looks nice against her hand, even though her nails are short and not polished, and I feel something slide in my chest, something like longing.  I bang the door shut on that thought, and get back to her question.

"No.  I'm fine," I say.  I appreciate her concern, but I'd appreciate it even more if she'd just show me some fucking respect.  I take a deep breath and remind myself to give her the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe it's just that this looks like a compromising situation.  I mean, I *am* being brought in with a murder suspect who I happened to sleep with last night.  And then there's the possible ergot poisoning….  

Fuck that.  Dr. Scully isn't used to being ignored and she doesn't like it.  The EMT finally seems to be finished torturing me, and she turns to help her partner work on Ed, leaving me alone with my thoughts.

Yeah, I think, Dr. Scully isn't used to being ignored.  But Agent Scully, well, that's a different story.  That's kind of what started this whole mess in the first place, I realize, as I lean my head back against the side of the vehicle and stare at the ceiling.  

It's one of the reasons I went out with Ed, in fact.  I was tired of being ignored, shoved aside, patted on my head and sent off like Mulder's airheaded errand girl while he, king of the X Files, went off to…Graceland.  Appropriate, I guess.  Maybe he finally had the chance to ask Elvis if he really *had* been abducted by aliens.

So despite the signals that said he was bad, okay, maybe *because* of them I went out with Ed.  Ed of the bleeding tattoo, the ergot poisoning, the crisped arm.  Ed of the perfect cock.

You see, Ed listened to me.  Didn't pry, didn't judge, didn't preach, just offered some quiet observations and listened some more.  I guess  that's as much the reason I fucked him as any—that and his cock, of course.  Add that to the fact that I was royally pissed at Mulder—still am, actually—and you have the weekend from hell.  But, hey, at least I got a cool tattoo out of it.

The ambulance screeches to a halt at the doors to the ER, and I have to steady myself against the seat again.  Ed is bundled out first, moaning in pain as they jar his arm.  I hop out of the ambulance and try to follow him, but my progress is stopped first by my spinning head and then by the cops who came to the apartment earlier in the day.  Damn.  I really want to know what's happening to Ed.  He's the one who needs help here.

But I know they want to question me.  And maybe if I get it over with now, they'll leave me alone.  Maybe then everyfuckingbody will just leave me alone.  So I brace for their questions and turn toward them, expecting a verbal assault.

Instead, the two men flank me, twin looks of concern on their faces.  I brace even harder, suspicious of their kindness.  I know all the interrogation techniques, know what to expect.  I slept with a murder suspect.  They probably think I'm a slut.  No, they probably think I'm a *crazy* slut who deserved what she got.  Well fuck them.  They're just trying to throw me off center.

"I'm sure you'd like to question me, gentlemen," I say, in as strong a voice as I can muster.  It pisses me off when it comes out with a tremble.  I have to work harder than usual to pull my G-woman mask into place as I stare them down.  The older man sighs, looks at his partner.

"Agent Scully," the younger one says quietly, "are you okay?"  

"Goddamn it," I growl, "I'm not the one who needs help here."

The cops don't say anything, but the younger one lays his hand lightly on my forearm.  It's the gentleness in his touch that nearly undoes me.

I look down at my hands, which are still shaking, reach up and touch what I'm sure is becoming a livid bruise on my face. 

"I'm fine," I say, but this time I can't hide the tremors in my voice.  The younger man squeezes my arm, as if to assure me that I'm safe.  I give him what little bit of a smile I can manage, but I wouldn't be surprised if I looked more like a wounded animal baring its teeth.  I feel his eyes rove over my face, see him blanch when he gets to the bruise, the too-pale skin.  Then the older one speaks, and his tone is quiet, soothing, nurturing.

"Of course we have some questions for you, but let's get you checked out first.  Oh, and who should I contact to come and get you?"

"No, one.  I'm fine," I repeat.  He angles his head to the side as if to say, sure you are, and then glances at his partner. 

"Agent Scully," the younger man says, looking now at his hands, as if afraid to meet my eyes, "I don't think you should drive home alone."  He glances up at me then, and I see it there, written on his features, how fragile I must look, how broken.  I open my mouth to protest.  I'm fine, I nearly say a third time.  But they see right through my mask, right to my trembling hands and my bruised face and the arm that I'm holding too close to my body, and I can't deny it any more.  

I need help.  The simple fact of admitting this nearly makes me lose my balance, and brings all the pains, all the feelings, all the fears from the last 24 hours roiling to the surface.  I grab for the cop's hand and hang on tightly.  God.

Okay, deep breath.  Focus on what the nice man said.  Who should he call to come and get me?  Even with the turmoil flowing through me, I can come up with a list.  An unbelievably short list.  In fact, there are the only two names on it, my mom's and Mulder's.  Jesus, if last night didn't prove to me that I have no life, this would.  

While I attempt to steady my breathing, I run through my options quickly.  If I call my mother, and she sees me like this, it will just give her one more thing to worry about.  She hates the danger I put myself in as it is, and having her drive to Philadelphia to take me home looking so…so…injured would upset her terribly.  Even if I lied and told her I'd hurt myself on the job, it wouldn't help.  But damn, that leaves only Mulder.  And I know what his response will be: sarcasm, poor humor and wounded eyes.  Shit.  That's nearly worse, but it's better than calling Mom.  I sigh.  

"Call my partner," I say to the cop.  He nods and looks at me as if he's waiting for me to say something else.  I stare back at him, wondering what he wants.

"The number?" he prods gently.  I start at his words.  The number, of course.  I rattle it off to him, feeling like a total fool, and it only gets worse when he looks at me kindly and a little pityingly.

"I'll call and get him…him, right?"  At my nod he continues, "I'll call and get him up here."  I sigh again.  His partner drops my hand, with a final pat on my shoulder, and they step aside to begin a quiet conversation.  My head is buzzing too much to be concerned with what they're talking about.  In fact, this odd buzzing in my head seems to carry a question on it:  Would what happened to Ed and me be considered an X File?  And with that, I feel what's left of my control slip completely away, and a hysterical giggle rises up and out before I can squash it back down.  

I look around quickly to see if anyone heard me.  Luckily the cops have gone off somewhere, probably to call Mulder, and I'm standing alone in the driveway in front of the sliding doors that lead to the hospital emergency room.  Good.  No one witnessed that lovely little display.  I try to push the idea of this being an X File out of my mind, but it just won't go.  In fact, it seems to get bigger, rising up in my mind like the incoming tide.

I get laid for the first time in nearly five years, I think with a *hrmph* under my breath, and Mulder probably gets to turn it into an X File.  If it wasn't an X File, I continue, muttering to myself, he'd probably make it one just for spite.  Just to prove that I can't take care of myself without him.  Bastard.

He thinks everything is about him, everything, including my sex life, I think, and the anger brews in my belly like a bitter tea.  But not everything is about you, Mulder, you jerk.  

The worst thing is, I can just see it:  Ed, crisped arm in bandages, night-dark hair sliding into his eyes, memory of my taste still in his mouth, sitting across from Mulder, telling him of our liaison.  And Mulder would listen, nodding patiently, noting everything in my file—yet another file with my name in it—and trying not to act too interested, using his sarcasm as both a shield and a weapon.  

Yes, there they'd be, sitting in the shadowed confines of our basement office, Ed feeding Mulder's prurient little fantasies.  Why did she choose that tattoo, he'd ask clinically?  Those colors?  How did she respond to the touch of the needle; did you sense any change in her from the ergot immediately, or did that come later?  Did you sleep with her?  Oh, I don't want to know *personally*, he'd say seriously.  I just need to note it here in my file.  And Ed would nod, and they'd move on to the next question….

Realizing my train of thought is veering from its normally rational track, I jerk it back in line.  There's no way this is an X File, I tell myself, trying to calm my boiling gut.  Really, aside from me having sex, it wouldn't qualify as an X File, I say under my breath with a laugh.  It's only ergot poisoning.  Easy enough to explain.  Nothing paranormal about this.  Right?  

As I step toward the doors, they open with a hiss, and the younger officer appears by my side, putting his hand on my arm as he guides me into the ER.  I don't mind him being so close; it's somehow comforting.  Not how it feels when it's Mulder in my space—no, that's never really what I'd call *comforting*—this is more simple, as if this guy is just offering me safety.  I guess I have to admit how freaked out I've been by this whole thing.  It *is* nice to have a cop at your back after nearly being murdered by the guy you just slept with.

"Hey, Agent Scully, are you okay?"  I glance up at the officer and see his face crumpled with concern.  He's looking at my nose.  Why…?  Oh, shit.  I feel a trickle of something warm stream onto my lip and I reach my fingers up, stroke them across, look down to see the red ooze on my fingertips.  I immediately pinch my nose closed and tilt my head forward.  The officer rushes to get the nurse and, even though I'm sure I've blocked the flow, I can still feel the blood pounding in my head.  God.  All I can think is that I really want to keep the blood off this coat; it's new.

And why the hell am I having a nosebleed anyway?  This is the second time in a few weeks that this has happened.  I haven't had this many nosebleeds in my entire life.  

My mind flies to the other night, when I woke up coughing, shocked to see the blood sprayed across my pillow case, to find it pooled on my upper lip.  The clinician in me takes over and I being running through the causes of nosebleeds:  getting hit in the nose comes to mind, which is a real possibility, but why didn't it bleed before, when Ed knocked me around?  Then there's pregnancy, which is laughable, because even if I was pregnant, which I'm not, the baby would be less than 12 hours old, and the hormones that cause those nosebleeds wouldn't even have kicked in yet.  Then there are chronic illnesses, like diabetes, though I know I don't have anything like that.  And of course there's always the old standby:  the brain tumor.  I almost laugh aloud, until I notice something funny: why does the cop beside me suddenly look like Leonard Betts? 

Whoa.  I can't get my breath, and the doctor's voice in my head takes over again: Respiration shallow, I think, blood pressure rising.  Shock.  I must be going into shock.  I should tell the cop, the nurse, the doctor, where is the doctor, I wonder, and I open my mouth to ask for the doctor, but nothing comes out.  What's happening to me?

A woman in pink scrubs and white clogs rushes forward with a towel and an ice pack.  "Here," she says softly, "let's get you to a chair."  I stumble over, flanked by the nurse and the cop, towel crammed under my nose, ice pack against my sinuses, and now it's a desperate prayer: God, what's happening to me? 

The nurse is rubbing my shoulder, making soothing noises, moving the ice pack to the other side of my face.  From somewhere outside of myself, I realize I'm not helping her, but I seem to have lost my ability to function.  Somehow my hands are in my lap now, and the towel is there, bloodstained, resting in my lap.  The cop makes a strangled sound—is it my name?—and takes the towel from me, holds it gently to my upper lip.  Dimly I am aware that he's turned toward me now, that with his other hand he has my upper arm in what feels like a death grip.  What's all the concern, I think, it's just a nosebleed.

Isn't it?

Now the cop's shouting at his partner, and he sounds frantic.  I wince—it's so loud, and all I want is to be quiet, to be left alone.  What, I think dimly.  What's wrong?  Why are you yelling, I wonder, and I can barely make out the words, but I hear him say something about Mulder.  Something about Mulder coming up here, where is he, tell him to get his ass up here NOW!  I try to shake my head, no, no I think, I don't want him to see me this way.  I feel a tide of humiliation wash over me.

What did he mean, Leonard Betts, when he said I had something he needed?  What did he mean by that?

Suddenly I feel light-headed and the room swims.  

The next thing I see is the white walls of the private room they've settled me in, with the nurse standing over me, chart in hand.


"Where the hell is she?" I hear his gravelly voice shout at the nurses down the hall.  Poor nurses.  Having to take the wrath of Mulder on top of the shit they already get.  Almost before I can blink, he's in my room, standing by the bed, hand clasping mine.  Just for a second there is tenderness, concern, fear.  And then it is masked, and he moves his hand.  

"Hear you had quite an interesting weekend, Scully," he says dryly.  I feel my eyebrow draw upward like it has a life of its own.  Maybe it does.  Maybe that's my Mulder-o-meter, perched right up there above my eye.  The deeper the b.s., the higher it goes.

"It was…interesting," I say sarcastically.  I was pissed at him before.  But after his opening comment, I am pissed AND hurt.  A bad combination for a passive aggressive girl like me.

"How was Graceland?"  I ask, not trying to keep the bitter edge from my voice.  "Any sign of the King?"  I keep pressing, relentless in my sudden, unreasoning anger.  I can feel his eyes travelling over my face, taking in the bruise, the sling around my arm.  My shoulder is killing me, but I don't want any painkillers.  No sir, not me.  Well, maybe later, after I talk to Mulder.  Gotta have a clear head for this.  

"I hear you got a tattoo with your new boyfriend," he sneers, ignoring my question.  "Marking his territory?" he asks.  I feel the fury in my belly go from red hot to white hot.

"Marking mine," I say, in the same tone of voice, around clenched teeth.  Whose territory am I, anyway?  Just then, the door swings in and the doctor enters the room.  He glances at Mulder, then at me.  I imagine he can feel the tension, the anger.  I imagine he'd just as soon turn around and walk back out, but he's got my chart.  He must want to go over it with me.

"Agent Scully," he says, nodding in greeting, shifting his eyes warily between Mulder and me.  I smile grimly, nod back.  

"This your partner?" he asks.  I nod again.  Mulder stands, sticks out his hand.  The doctor takes it and they shake.

"Agent Mulder," he says.  

"Doctor Mackenzie," the older man replies.  The doctor turns to me.

"I'd like to go over your chart with you, if you don't mind," he says.  "Would you prefer to do this in private?"  He glances from me to Mulder, and back to me.  I look at Mulder, who shrugs, as if to say "It's up to you," though I know he expects to stay.

"In private," I say, and I feel Mulder's eyes on me.  I can't meet his gaze.  It's not what you think, I want to say.  It's not just because you pissed me off, though you have.  It's…more than that.  But before I can put my finger on what it is, he's gone, out the door like a magician waved a wand and vanished him.  I feel a little guilty because I'm relieved that I don't have to avoid the hurt look in his hazel eyes any more.  

The doctor watches me for a moment, then pats my hand, sits on the edge of the bed.  He's a nice looking man, about the age my dad would have been, with a thick shock of white hair, and probing blue eyes.  I like him on sight, and I rarely like other doctors.

"Agent Scully," he says, "Let's talk about your chart."  I nod my head, and he looks at me more closely, as if trying to gauge my response to what he's going to say.  For some reason, the look in his eyes makes the residual fury in my stomach change to something colder, something oilier.  I feel my breath catch, and before I'm conscious of my actions, I grab a fistful of sheet.  Hang on, I think.  Just hang on.  I try to focus more on my breathing while I feel the bleach-smelling fabric pleat and unpleat under my fingers.

"Your run-in with Mr. Jerse," he says, grimacing at Ed's name as if trying to make me smile, "didn't do too much damage.  Just a minor concussion and a wrenched shoulder.  You'll have some nice bruises to go with that cool new tattoo," he says, and grins at me like a kid.  I can't help myself.  The silly grin makes me laugh out loud.

But my humor doesn't last long.  There are more serious things to discuss here.  Like the little gift my tattoo may have left behind.

"About the tattoo," I say, "did you do the bloodwork and test for the ergot?"  He nods.

"Yes, and we found very little ergot in your bloodstream.  Certainly nothing to be concerned about.  No talking tattoos for you, I'm afraid," he says with another grin.

"Damn.  And I was hoping to hear Mel Gibson in my head for the rest of my life," I joke back.  Now it's his turn to laugh.  Like mine, though, his smile fades quickly, and with it, a more serious look comes over his face.  I recognize this look.  It's the same one I get when I have to tell someone something I know they won't like.  It brings that greasy feeling back to the pit of my stomach.  For some reason, the room spins, and I hear him as if he's talking to me through a long tunnel.  His voice is all echo-y and funny sounding.

"Agent Scully, there was something we found in your bloodwork, besides the ergot, that shouldn't have been there."  I scoot back into the pillow, burrowing into it for support.  My eyes widen and my breath hitches, but I nod for him to keep going. 

"What is it," I whisper, though as soon as I ask it I know.  The doctor looks at me with sad, kind, old eyes.  He covers my hand with his; it's much bigger than mine and covered with freckles and age spots.  I notice this peripherally, as if part of my mind is here in this moment, and another has closed itself off.  Closed itself off with some horrible knowledge; a knowledge that's too frightening, too impossible to understand.

 "It was an elevated white cell count, Dana.  Extremely elevated.  It seems to reveal a significant blow to the immune system.  We speculate that it's a virus of some kind, a chronic disease like M.S., or possibly…cancer.  As you know, a preliminary test like this one won't show us much, but I've already asked the lab to ship the samples back to D.C. so your doctor can review them.  That way, you can get this thing properly diagnosed and begin treatment as soon as possible."  

Again, he pats my hand; I notice he's blinking back tears and I sigh, feeling as if there is a stone in my chest where my heart used to be.  I nod again and motion him to go on, the clinical part of me detached and ready to hear the rest of his diagnosis, the other part closed off and dead.  Unaffected by his voice as if it were so much white noise.

"Couple that with your recent nose bleeds," he continues gently, "and I think we have something worth checking in to.  But you don't seem too surprised."

"I suspected," I reply, though I realize that I wasn't aware of my suspicions until this moment.  Of course it all makes sense, though.  Leonard's comment, the nose bleeds…and I've been feeling tired lately, more tired than usual, now that I think about it.  I look down at the sheet and realize I've twisted it into an intricate knot, one I must have learned from my father.  I feel myself flush, and quickly start to unravel it.

 "I guess this thing with Ed kind of sped the diagnosis up, huh?" I ask.  Dr. Mackenzie smiles, but it's sad around the edges.  

"It's better that we catch something like this earlier rather than later.  We stand a better chance of fighting it."

"I know what it means, Dr. Mackenzie.  I'll make a check-up with my regular doctor when I get back to D.C. and we'll figure it out."  He sighs, closes his chart.  Pushes off the bed like a swimmer diving off the edge of the pool, ready make his way back out into the busy lane of the hospital corridor.

"I want to keep you overnight for observation, just as a precaution.  Your concussion is mild, but it's routine to keep patients with a concussion overnight, as I'm sure you're aware.  And with your…condition…I think it's smart, anyway."  I smile, thank him.

"Doctor Mackenzie, would you send my partner back in?  And the other officers?" He nods, gives me a little wave, and closes the door behind him.  May as well face them all at once, I think, as I lean back against the pillows.  

When they come into the room I make sure they don't see how weak I feel, how frightened.  I only show them my public face, Agent Scully's face.  My other side, Dana, has gone away.  Somewhere deep and dark and quiet where no one will disturb her.


I'm lying on the couch in my living room watching the cold light of the moon walk across the carpet.  Rachmaninoff plays on the cd player. The Piano Concerto Number Two.  Dark, moody, haunted, lonely.  Am I talking about the music, I wonder, or me?  I'm going over that conversation I had with Mulder at work today.  The one about the desk, or rather, the one not about the desk.

After his little slip at the end of that conversation, I found I had nothing else to say.  I found myself standing at the edge of the abyss, just waiting to slide over.  Waiting to slide over alone.  It made me look at myself, something I'm not afraid to do, but don't do very often.  It made me face some hard truths. 

Here's one:  I did sleep with Ed, but it was only partly for those reasons I said before.  The real reason is, I'm dying.  Oh, the doctors haven't confirmed it yet.  But I know it, thanks to the bloodwork they took in Philadelphia.  Not to mention the help I got from Leonard Betts.  Good old Leonard.  I'd call him Cancer Man, but that name's already taken.

Because of Leonard, I know that somewhere in me is a bomb, ticking my  life away.  It could go off any time.  *Any time.*  In the car on the way to work; one afternoon at lunch; on Saturday morning at the coffee shop.  I'm 34 years old and my life is over.  

And if I admit it to myself, I knew I was dying before any of this happened.  Before I went to Philadelphia; before I slept with Ed.  Call it women's intuition, call it whatever you want.  I guess I just needed to feel someone next to me, with me, inside of me, one more time.  

I guess I just needed to someone to help me stop feeling so alone.

You want to know another truth?  I really wanted it to be Mulder.

Part 2/2

The pounding on the door jars me awake as the last notes of the concerto die away.  I must have fallen asleep, though I can't remember dreaming.

"Scully," I hear him call, as he hammers his hand on the wood.

"Open up.  I know you're in there."  I push the soft wool throw aside and stand.  It takes me a second to get my balance, and my head and shoulder throb under the haze of the painkillers.  

"Coming," I call.  I go put the cd player on pause, make my way to the door.  I feel my gut wrench at the idea of seeing him, of talking to him.  But I know Mulder.  If he's here, it's because he needs something.  It'll be easier to just let him in, not fight it.  I'm too tired to fight.  

I unlock the door, hear the rasp of the chain as it slides free, the metallic click of it as it slaps against the wood.  He is standing in the hallway, in his jeans, a t-shirt and sweater, and his leather jacket.  His hair is plastered against his head, and I see now that his coat is wet.  It must have started raining after I got home.  I hadn't noticed.

"Come in," I say.  "You're soaked."  He steps in, sheds his jacket.  I know my voice is cold, distant, but I can't help it.  

"Yeah.  It's raining, and it's colder than hell," he replies, going toward the bathroom for a towel.  

"Probably snow by morning," he finishes.  He's trying to ignore, or get past, the conversation we had earlier.  I don't know whether to admire his courage, or shake him.  Are my needs so easy to push aside?

"You want some tea?" I ask.  I know hot tea's not his favorite, but I can't bring myself to drink coffee at this time of night.  And with the painkillers, it'd be a disaster.  I'd really feel like shit in the morning with a double dose of drugs and caffeine in my system.

"Sure," he says, coming out of the bathroom, towel in hand.  Now his hair spikes up all over his head.  He runs his fingers through it, lays the towel carefully on the back of a dining room chair to dry.  He follows me to the kitchen, watches as I go through the motions of making tea.  Fill the kettle, warm the teapot, spoon the tea into the strainer.  

I finally look up at him, catch him searching my face for some sign that I'm different.  Or for some sign that I'm the same person he knew before Philadelphia.  I don't feel like giving him any clues.  Let him suffer.  

I pick up the teapot and he grabs the mugs.  We go into the living room.  On the way I reset the cd player and the disk clicks over to a favorite from my college days.  Ah.  Bryan Ferry.  Seduction music is *not* what we need.  But it's familiar strains soothe me, so I leave it on.  The random play button must be set because the disk starts somewhere in the middle.  I hear the atmospheric sounds of Wasteland start up.

"Bryan Ferry," Mulder says.  "'Boys and Girls'.  I didn't know you were a New Wave girl, Scully," he finishes.  I pour the tea and hand him a mug.  He smiles slightly and rolls the hot mug between his hands, as if he's warding off a chill.

"There's a lot you don't know about me, Mulder," I reply.  "What are you doing here, anyway?"  I hear my voice coming out, hear its mean tone, and, again, don't have the energy to change it.  I see him flinch.  Must've been a direct hit.  He shifts on the couch, looks at me.  Damn those wounded eyes.  But there's something more there, too.  Something I'm afraid to look too closely at, so I study my tea, suddenly interested in the tiny chamomile leaves that float on the surface of the soft golden liquid.

"Look, Scully, I'm sorry about this afternoon," he says.  My head snaps up, my eyes narrow.  An apology, I think.  Well, well.

"Okay, Mulder.  I accept your apology," I say.  His mouth tugs up at the corners in a small smile.

"What, you were expecting one from me, too?" I ask.  His smile grows.

"Sorry…" I say, and then pause for effect, "…you're not gonna get one."  He leans over me to pick up his mug.

"It's okay, Scully.  I know the truth."  For some reason, his cocky attitude pisses me off.  Pushes me past the hurt and really pisses me off.  I mean, who does he think he is?  For just a moment, I forget everything.  Forget Leonard Betts and the cancer, forget Ed Jerse and his sweet face and willing ear and perfect cock.  Forget everything but this rush of anger slinging through my body, and Mulder sitting before me.

"You know, Mulder," I say coolly, not wanting him to know how hot I'm really running, "not everything is about you."  In this one line, I bring us back around to the crux of our conversation earlier today.  Mulder sets down his mug with a clack.

"You said that earlier, Scully.  What makes you think you need to repeat it?"  Now I set my mug down.  The matching white mugs look like the perfect couple there on the table top.  Too bad Mulder and I will never look like that.

"You seem to keep forgetting it," I say, voice practically frosting my vocal chords.  

"In fact, you seem to have forgotten it for several days now," I state, looking him in the eye and daring him to deny me.

"Well you seem to be forgetting that…." He trails off.

"What, Mulder?  I seem to be forgetting what?"

"That…." He continues.  I can tell he's trying to say something, but his eyes have flared, and I wonder if the heat behind them has burned out his ability to form words.  God knows I'm near that point myself.

"Oh, hell," he says, and he yanks me toward him.  I let out a yelp.  What is he doing, I wonder, and then I realize it.  Oh my God.  He's kissing me.  I shove him back.

"What the *fuck* do you think you're doing?" I screech.  It's not a nice sound.  In fact, it's a sound not many people have heard me make.  But I don't care.  He can't mess with me this way, all hot and cold, and, dammit, now it's Sensation on the cd player, and I shiver.

"Proving you wrong," he says, snide, even as he eyes my mouth.  I want to slap him.  If I were a different kind of woman, I might.  Instead, I stand up.

"I think you'd better go, *Agent* Mulder," I say, and point to the door.  He stands up, grabs my arms.

"Why did you do it, Scully?"  he asks, glaring at me.

"Why did I do what, Mulder?  Get a tattoo?  Get the crap knocked out of me?  Fuck Ed?"  At that, he draws back. 

"Don't you mean, why him and not you?"  I ask in an enraged whisper.  His face curls up in a snarl and I know I've gone too far.  His hands tighten on my arms, and he jerks me to him.  Ouch, I think, my shoulder.  My head.

And then nothing.  Nothing but his mouth on mine and nearly five years of waiting behind us.  Nothing but lips and teeth and tongue and the dark river of sound driving in my ears.  He reaches up and grabs me by the back of the head, pulls me closer.  Our teeth click together.  I can't get my breath.

"Dammit, Mulder," I finally choke out between kisses, "don't make it like this, don't make it about someone else."  He stops when my words filter through.  Stops and steps back.  Dammit.  God dammit.  He's walking to the door.

"You're right, Scully," he says.  I follow him.  My heart is racing and I taste blood in my mouth.  I think he must have split my lip.  He's grabbing for his jacket now, and I know I can't let him go.  I panic.  If he leaves tonight….  If he leaves like this….

Ah, God, my heart is thudding furiously and what is that ache I feel in my gut?  Who cares, I think.  Even if it's about someone else, I don't care.  I can't let him go, not like this, not ever, so I lay my hand on his arm to stop him.  He shrugs me off and begins pulling on his coat.

"Mulder," I say, turning him to look at me, "stay."  He looks at me, one hand on the doorknob, Bryan Ferry's music pumping through the dark air.

"Please," I whisper, knowing that I never wanted it to come to this, but not caring, ultimately, if it brings us together.  I'm so tired of being apart.

"Why should I?" he asks, voice bitter, eyes haunted.  I step closer, slip my hands up to his shoulders, wrap my arms around his neck, and kiss him.  He inhales sharply against my lips, but doesn't kiss me back.  Clearly he's not taking this trip till he's ready.

"Because I want you to," I whisper.  Then, his mouth is crushing mine, his hands are in my robe, on my body, warm and electric on the silk of my pajamas and the skin of my belly.  

"God, Scully," he says on a moan, and I shove his jacket off.  It hits the floor with a heavy thud, and is followed by the whispering sound of my robe sliding on top of it.  

"God, Scully," he repeats, and he's kissing my face, raining kisses over my forehead, my earlobes, my cheekbones, the little indention behind my ear.  My breath roars through me like a lion and, through some funny twist of fate, "Slave to Love" begins playing on the stereo.  Mulder grabs fistfulls of my hair and ravages my mouth, eating me like one of Anne Rice's vampires, and oh, please don't stop…I'm alive.  

For just a little while, tonight, I'll lose myself in Mulder the way I've wanted to for so long.  I'll lose myself in his heat, in his flame, in his darkness.  I'll forget everything.  Especially the fact that I'm dying.   *** 

As Scarlett said, tomorrow is another day.  And as the soft, snowy light traces its way into my room, I can feel his warm body behind me, feel his arm draped on my belly.  I have to tell him, I think.  Now, of all times, I have to tell him.

I shift in the bed, turn over to find him watching me.  How long has he been awake?  Does it matter?  He kisses me softly, his kiss matching the quietness of the morning.

"Hey," he says, searching my face for something different, for something not different.  I smile at him.

"Hey," I say.

"Why now?" he asks, leaning his forehead against mine.  I feel my eyes shift and refocus; he's so close now it's difficult to tell if I'm looking into his eyes or into his soul.  

"Why now, after all these years?"  That unspoken communication I usually take for granted?  Well, now I wish it would take over and do this for me.

"Mulder," I start, "I have something to tell you…." For some reason the words stop coming out right there and I have to consciously start them again.  For strength, I touch his hand, twine our fingers together.  How do I say this?  How do I put an expiration date on my life as if I'm a gallon of milk in his refrigerator?

"What is it, Scully?"  I take another breath.  Start with the obvious, I think.  Start with the easy stuff.

"Leonard Betts, Mulder.  Remember Leonard?"  He snorts.

"How could I forget?"  But now he's backed away from me, searching my face with his hazel-fire eyes, mouth solemn and questioning.  Mulder is nothing if not intuitive.  He knows something's going on here.  Something big.

"Mulder, he told me that I had something he needed," I whisper, and I feel my eyes water and I pinch my lips together to stop the sobs from coming out, the sobs that seem to have snuck up on me out of nowhere.  It takes him a minute to put it together, and then he's cupping my face with his hands, looking right into my eyes.  I feel the tears bubble over and fall.

"What do you mean, Scully?"

"When I was in the hospital this weekend, Mulder, they took some blood."  My breath hitches and I struggle to sit up.  He nods and slides up so he's sitting next to me.  He wipes my tears with his fingertips and licks the saltwater away, almost as an afterthought, almost as though he wants to absorb all of me that he can.

"For the ergot," he says, still not quite sure what I'm driving at. 

"Yes.  But they found something else, Mulder.  They found that I have an extremely high white blood cell count."  I hear him draw in a breath.  Ah, God, I'm about to say it out loud.  Will this make it real?  Could anything I would ever say—or not say—make this nightmare go away?

"Mulder, I think I have cancer."  His eyes are suddenly boring right into mine.  I can practically feel them, like laser beams, drilling right through my head.  I can practically see the thoughts whirl and then click into place like the tumblers in a combination lock.  Suddenly his eyes narrow.

"Scully, did you do this," he waves his hand to indicate the scattered clothing, our naked bodies, "because you think you have cancer?"  

This stops me.  Cold.  Shuts down my mind, shuts down everything but a flush that begins at my knees and works its way over my entire body.  I feel its heat whoosh through me, and on its tail rides a growing feeling of incredulity.  How could he *think* that?  

And what if he's right?  I mean, shit.  Is he right?  Did I sleep with him out of fear?  In the silence, Mulder's face begins to crumple.  Did I?  I ask myself again, and the answer suddenly comes to me clear as day.

"No," I say, certainty ringing through my voice.  I reach out, and now it's my turn to wipe the tears from his face, to press them to my lips, to take yet another part of him into me.

"I did it because I've wanted to for years, and because if I *am* dying, I don't want to leave without you knowing how I feel."  He shifts away from me on the bed, and covers his face with his hands.  Now he's up, shoving the covers back, walking the old oak floor.  He turns on me like a warrior, bare chest lit like snow in the moonlight, scarred shoulder gleaming like a star.  God, I pray, I don't want to leave him.

"Well, I don't give a *fuck* why you did it, Scully.  It was wrong not to tell me the *minute* you suspected," he growls, jerking on his pants.  

"If you're not working *with* me, you're working *against* me," he spits as he walks away.  The bedroom door slams behind him and I can hear him prowling out in the living room like an agitated animal.  The mugs and teapots from the night before clatter in the sink before I can even get the covers pushed off of me.  Damn the painkillers for making me woozy; damn Mulder for making me see the truth when it hurts this bad.  I slowly draw on my robe and open the bedroom door.

He's standing at the window, looking blankly out into the soft air of morning.  I go to him, lay my hand on his shoulder.  He refuses to turn, so I walk in front of him.  The silver tracks of tears line his face.  He is crying silently.

"Oh, Mulder," I whisper.  "I'm sorry."  And here is the apology that I refused him last night; why do I feel I must make it now?  Maybe because it's not about my wild weekend anymore, but about us, about our partnership.  About trust.

I feel his arms snake around my waist and I lean my cheek against his bare chest.  He smells sleepy and musky and so safe that I almost start crying.  God, I pray, please don't make me leave him.

"Scully," he whispers, "I don't know if I can do this alone."  I lean back, look into his face and smile.

"You'll never have to, Mulder.  I promise.  We'll fight this thing.  There are ways…."

"But if it *is* cancer," he starts and I put my fingers against his lips.  I don't want him to finish that sentence.  I don't want to think that way.  I don't want to think that in six months, or a year, I'll be just another woman being zipped into a body bag.  Just another body in a pile at the crematorium.  Just another casualty in the war that we never win.  I lean against him again and feel him melt into me.  

"We always have now, Mulder," I say.  I hear him sigh, feel it resonate in my body, the slight buzz moving me inside and out.  He strokes my hair.

He pauses for a long moment, stares out the window into the snowy morning.

"Then let's take it," he says finally, and he leads me back to the bedroom.  I follow, dropping my robe on the floor, leaving it there like a puddle of light on the dawn-soft floor.

The bedroom door closes behind me with a click, and I climb naked into bed with him.  For just a little while longer, I pretend that death is not there, sitting in the chair by the closet, waiting.


Notes: Thanks go to swikstr (whose amazing crossover, Homicidal Tendencies, should be the VERY next thing you read) who gave me the idea that Scully may have told Mulder about her suspicions before Memento Mori. 

Thanks also go to my First Line of Defense: Marla and Angie, who've made feedback over the phone an art.  I also couldn't have done this without beta reading by Brighid and Lauren Metal, whose insightful feedback helped polish this piece till it shines.  Thanks, all.