Believer, part 1/?
This is a first for me. Send all kinds of feedback, constructive criticism, etc so I can learn something from your opinions. If you hate it, tell me. Also, tell me if there should be a Part II.
Summary: It's winter in DC, and Scully has cancer. She meets someone who may save more than her life.
Rating: This part: PG-13 for language. No sex yet, sorry.
Thanks: To Theresa. Through rain, sleet, snow, dark of night, metastatic cancer, remission... Also a kick-ass beta reader. Also to Dr. J. Constantine, MD PhD, for giving me free run of relevant material.
Archive: yes, please do.
Cross-post: please do NOT!
Disclaimer and Administrativia: I do not own Scully. 1013 does. No monetary gain, no infringement intended. Elisabeth Shaugnessy is my creation. Any names I throw around are incidental. Geographical screwups are mine alone.
November 1, 1996
It was 1:08 PM. Scully sighed, flexed her hands against the steering wheel, and tried to ignore the froth of acid in her stomach. Thanks to Mulder, she had worked her way through lunch again, trying to make the expense report balance while a headache hovered just behind her eyes. And now she was late for her 1:00 appointment.
*I got held up at work. I was in a meeting. I got lost.* She flipped mentally through a list of excuses. *I got stuck in traffic.Terrible traffic.*
She had been sitting in the parking lot of Georgetown Medical's Oncology Center since 12:42.
Scully considered skipping the appointment altogether, brushing off Mulder and settling down in the cramped, familiar office with last month's FSA statement. Her objective self, Dr. Scully, upbraided her for being so irrationally afraid. It was, after all, just a building. Just a building. And the people inside were doctors, there to help her, not hurt her. But she could not stop her hands from trembling.
'Shit!' She felt it before it came, the sudden stabbing, the darkness and then blinding light, pain twisting through her skull. A warm rush of blood snaked down her lips, startlingly bright against her hand when she tried, unsuccessfully, to contain the flow.
The young woman behind the desk looked only for a moment at the splotch of blood on her collar, and without missing a beat asked, "Doctor Scully?"
"I'm here to see Doctor Shaugnessy."
She nodded, tucking back a stray wisp of hair redder than Scully's own, and removed and folded a pair of gold-rimmed spectacles. "You're a bit late, but never mind. I know it's hard to come through that door for the first time."
"Is she available, please," Scully asked tersely. She had lost the battle with the headache, and the last thing she wanted to do was deal with the doctor's intern. *Get in, get out, go home.*
"Oh." The sudden flush made the intern's freckles more apparent. She stood, smoothing down her white cotton coat, and retrieved an engraved nameplate from behind a stack of papers. "I am Doctor Shaugnessy." She stuck out her hand and Scully took it, mortified.
"Dana Scully," she faltered, managing to make eye contact without being swallowed up by the floor. Dr. Shaugnessy was just above her own height, and holding her gaze was easy. Her eyes were neither green nor gray nor blue, but a combination of all three, like the blurred edges of a watercolor painting, and the look in them was one Scully could not define. She felt the twinge of pain as her left eyebrow furrowed, and suddenly knew she was staring.
"Will you sit down, Doctor Scully?" Dr. Shaugnessy shook her head quickly. "You work with-the Bureau, isn't it? Are you very often afield?"
"Yes." Numb agreement. Her right eye was beginning to seethe with pain. To distract herself, she focused on the oncologist's voice : there was a slight lilting undercurrent that she hadn't picked up at first. It masked the deadly import of her words.
"You've come to us for very aggressive treatment. I can't put it any other way but that we'll be working with straightforward cellular poisons, very unkind things. I'd like you to consider leaving the field, for the sake of your health in the long run."
"No." Scully said sharply. Quick intake of breath, balance regained. "No. I'm afraid that's not possible."
Dr. Shaugnessy only nodded. "I've been asking most of the questions," she remarked. "Is there anything you'd like to ask me? Feel free, you know, as we go along. Any question, any time. There's no reason for one to go about fearing the unknown. Especially when one embarks on a course of treatment like this --" she paused, waiting for Scully to speak. Silence. "Since this is your first visit here, I'd like to do a quick workup, send you down to radiology for an x-ray." She rose and stepped past Scully, holding open the office door. "If you've no objections? Then let me show you our lab."
Elisabeth Shaugnessy crouched in the computer chair with her feet tucked beneath her. Her hair was beginning to slip down in elflocks over her ears, and the lab coat was more for warmth than sterility. Her eyes burned with lack of sleep, but all-nighters were nothing she hadn't done before.
She arched her back, hoping to relieve the tension coiled there, and then queued up the image files again and went back through Dana Scully's CT scan, frame by frame, looking for some hope. The clear-eyed, resilient FBI agent was, by all accounts, dying of cancer. Elisabeth's job was to lead her by the hand through hell, to make things better but not easier. It was a process she'd grown almost efficient at : attack the neoplasm swiftly, palliate when you can, give shallow comfort, never grieve along the way. She had learned to stage brilliant attacks on cells that had turned against self. The patient suffered brutally along the way, but there was nothing she could do about that. She had learned that the hardest possible way...
An image rose unbidden into her mind, fleshing out the digitalized contours on the screen. She saw the fiercely determined eyes of Dr. Scully, the stoic set of her jaw, and the strength cloaked by a frame of skin and bones that should have been fragile and frail. She would put up a hard fight, as hard a fight as Elisabeth herself. The letting go would be reluctant, painful. Eyes as blue as a summer sea slowly fading, but never losing the last sparks --*Do the work, Lissie. Keep your heart out of this, and do the work.*
Believer, pt II
Please Archive. NO Crossposting.
Summary: see part one.
Thanks to Rad for beta-reading. Thanks to the Finals Gods for making Dr. L pop a pulmonary two days before our exam, thereby giving me time to write this. And thanks to whatever Dr. L believes in, because as much as I loathe her guts, I'm glad she'll be okay.
Disclaimer: I don't own Scully, and don't sue me. You'd only run up against a Great Wall of Student Loans ... Elisabeth Shaugnessy is mine.
The Maimonidean Oath is copyright... uh... Maimonides. Or maybe the Einstein School of Medicine.
Believer, Part 2
November 15, 1996 -- 1 AM
Elisabeth dragged her palms wearily down her face, trying to scrub away the dull burn around her eyes that meant she hadn't slept enough recently. Sleep was one of those elusive things, like companionship, the aftertaste of ginger-peach tea, and true love. Blinking her exhausted vision into focus, she looked down at the legal pad where she'd plotted out several possible chemotherapeutic tactics. The jumble of drug abbreviations looked like spilled Scrabble tiles.
CVP COP CHOP
DVP COPP COAP
She swore aloud, tossing the notepad away from her. It hit the coffee table with a less than satisfying whump, and the fact that she couldn't reach it again without moving out of the cocoon of her blanket only made things worse. When she stretched to make up the distance, Molly Bloom, the enormous, undefinably-colored Maine Coon cat that seemingly had come along with the apartment, unfurled her tail strategically onto the ticklish soles of Elisabeth's feet..
"All right. You think it's grub up? At this hour? Learn to open a can." But she rose, with one last glance at her work, and managed to make her way to the kitchen with the cat threading its cradle between her ankles. A few minutes later, as Molly nibbled moistly at the canned food, Elisabeth treated her to a luxuriant ear massage. "So," she said fondly. "How was *your* day?"
She sighed deeply. Up at one in the morning and talking to a cat. Well, there was no one else to talk to. No one else to stay up with, for that matter. *This is not a good train of thought.* She scowled, as a yellowed paper stuck to the fridge door caught her eye.
"May I never see in the patient anything but a fellow creature in pain," she read in a murmur. Obviously Maimonides had never seen anything like Dana Scully. Something made the air hum with electric current whenever Elisabeth thought of her patient, there was a nervous crackling from synapse to synapse along her limbs that made her pause and blot her sweating palms on her scrub pants. The response was an immediate one, and physical; they might have been meeting for the first time on a dance floor and not in a consult room. The feeling had set its teeth into her and nagged now for days. She couldn't have told herself what it was; only that she had not felt such a dizzying, marvelous, dangerous thing in years.
November 15, 9 AM
Scully looked fixedly at the wall, her lower lip snagged on her teeth. Her IV hand was curling slowly into a fist. It took her last reserves not to tear the IV lines from her arm and bolt from the treatment room; the only thing tethering her was the thought of the alternative. *If I don't let her do this to me, then I die. They win. That's simple. Isn't it? I can't let this thing kill me. I can't let them kill me.* Her heart was pounding hard enough to send a cold, distant ache through her arms and chest. *But if I go into full ventricular fib, can I get out of here?*
"This is the cyclophosphamide," Elisabeth murmured. "You'll feel some localized burning around the infusion point. Try and stand it as long as you can. I need to get as much of it into you as possible." She winced as the first shock of the drug hit Scully. "You doing all right?"
"I'm fine." She was breathing in little sips and gasps, and the room was suddenly hideously hot.
"Today's menu also features a cocktail of vincristine and procarbazine, shaken, not stirred, with a dash of prednisone. You can't do much better than this," Elisabeth went on,with a dark smile. She tried not to notice the droplets of sweat pearled at Scully's temples.
"Sounds great." She leaned back, willing her body to relax and not rebel. Was this dying? The slow, creeping pain spreading its fingers along her body, tracing, in her mind's eye, the perfect webwork of arteries and up again through the veins? The young oncologist seemed to hover just in her line of vision, and the immaculate white of her coat was beginning to blur with the walls of the room. Elisabeth's face was fixed in concentration, but her pale eyes held a measure of compassion as she looked at Scully.
"I have to warn you," Elisabeth said softly. "This therapy is designed for speed, not accuracy. We're trying to circumvent metastasis with massive intracellular kill. You're going to feel it almost immediately."
"Fortunately, I think --" She paused, timed the flow of liquid against the second hand of her watch -- "you'll only have to cope with a few rounds of this. I plan to focus more on localized radiation, go for the mass in situ. It's pretty terrible, but not so unkind as this." Elisabeth leaned down and straightened Scully's arm at the elbow, giving a light, guiding touch to her opposite shoulder. *This is no good. Find something gentler. No, no, gentler is not going to work here. If I went with anything else --*
Scully gasped in pain, a tremor skittering down her limbs and into Elisabeth.
"I- I'm fine." She clenched her teeth. *Focus, Dana. Keep breathing. Just keep breathing.* Something bright caught her eye, and desperately she concentrated on it. It was a few minutes before she had recovered enough from the assault to realize what she was looking at. A small gold pendant, somewhere between a Caduceus and a Crucifix, centered along the soft, symmetric curve of Dr. Shaugnessy's chest.
"Oh!" She stammered, though speaking was an effort against the icy weight settled on her throat. "I, ah, I -- I wasn't -- I'm sorry --"
"Oh," Elisabeth echoed. "Look at whatever you like. I -- I mean, whatever helps." She trailed off, adjusting the IV flow with a critical eye.
Scully sighed, clenching her fists once more until the neat rounds of her nails dug into her palms, and tried to ignore the nausea seeping into her bones.
Elisabeth's voice, when it came again, was low and smooth and confident, like a reassuring hand. "Almost finished now. You'll feel like hell for the next few hours. Blame me, if you need to."
Scully was surprised to find no trace of humor in her oncologist's eyes. The words were seemingly just part of a longer litany of recommendations:
"If you feel hungry, stick with Saltines. Plain toast. Simple carbs. Drink as much cool water as you can, and try for a nap during the day. Hey! Easy, you can't get up just yet." Elisabeth's hands braced gently over hers. "Is there someone I can call for you, someone who can give you a ride home?"
The world stopped spinning and she could speak once again. "Mul --" she broke off. "My mother."
Scully slid into bed exhausted, though the last weak winter sunlight still gave the room a gray light. The simple motions of unbuttoning, unfastening and hanging neatly had overwhelmed her. The neat black suit she'd worn to the treatment center lay kicked and crumpled on the floor.
The sheets were blessedly cool to her scalding skin, and the pillow was dented into a precise and comfortable ellipse, but the deep ache of every muscle in her precluded rest. She tossed and shifted a few times, finally settling on a fetal curl that let her almost ignore the last queasiness of her stomach, and stared at the blinded window until her vision slipped out of focus and tears teased at the corners of her eyes. She thought of her mother, of the stony silence between them in the overheated car. Of Mulder, away somewhere -- the Arctic this time,wasn't it? And of the oncologist. She had been with Scully, *with* her, not just as a hand to hold briefly but every inch of the way, keeping her anchored. Looking as if she had somehow drawn some of Scully's pain into herself. It made Scully ache to pull the young woman into her arms and comfort her, tell her this was not her cross to bear. As she slid down into fitful sleep she said aloud,. "Elisabeth..."
End Believer pt II
...The last in a while (at least two weeks). I must make my holiday sojourn to see Mother, and computer access will be whenever I can kick my laptop hard enough to make it work. <j/k> Enjoy, and I bid you a brief adieu, and have a great holiday, whatever your holiday is!!!!
PS, Rad, you were right, I did want to post this. A very public THANK YOOOOUUU!!!!
Believer Part III
Address feedback (hint hint hint) to Chana... firstname.lastname@example.org
Crosspost: Please do not.
Rating: PG-13 at least. Slash.
Thanks: To Radclyffe, and " Meine lieb und leben immer" to Tess, for prodding me until I wrote about something I have the dark privilege of knowing personally.
Disclaimer: I own Elisabeth Shaugnessy. I do not own Scully. She is borrowed without permission or profit.
November 24, 1996
"Stay... very... still." Elisabeth slid one gloved hand into Scully's hair. She was so close that Scully could feel the heat emanating from beneath her lab coat and thick sweater, and could just catch a wisp of scent that was too flawlessly fitting to be perfume. The half-familiar, vanilla-y note of clean perspiration ...
With the other hand Elisabeth perfected a tiny, precise circle of red marking pen above Scully's left brow. "Ah! Lovely. It brings out your eyes."
Scully's stomach fluttered. "So," she said breezily. "What are you doing for the holiday?"
"Putting in a trunk call to Ireland, I expect. Reading something without the words 'journal of' in the title. You know, exciting stuff."
"Alone?" The question slipped past before Scully could contain it.
Elisabeth nodded, briefly. "And you?"
"Actually, I was thinking of just staying home." Scully smiled wryly. "Usually I spend the holiday with family, but lately -- it's stifling. Everyone's so concerned about my health, what I'm eating, how I'm sleeping..."
"I'd say they care about you."
"Yes. Yes, they do." Scully sighed. She studied the oncologist's expression for a moment, and felt a twinge of pain at what she saw. Distance and desolation filled Elisabeth's eyes, making them seem the cold color of the sea in winter. It was a look far too old for her years. "Look, if you -- if you don't have plans or anything, you're welcome --" Shut up, Dana, shutupshutupshutup --*
"Doctor Shaugnessy," the receptionist called from the doorway, "They're ready in Radiology."
Elisabeth drew in an audible breath. "Well. Are you ready, then, Doctor Scully?"
She rose, a bit too quickly. "I -- I don't want to keep anyone waiting."
"No," Elisabeth said tenderly. "That's not what I asked you." She put a hand on Scully's arm, levelled her eyes with her patient's. "I can't be in there with you, but that doesn't mean you're alone. And -- say the word, and I'll pull you out of there in half a second. Okay?"
Scully nodded, breaking the eye contact. The slight tremor in Dr. Shaugnessy's voice made something twist deep in her chest.
She took her time in the corridor. Her only prospect for lunch was the medical center caf's "traditional" turkey dinner. *Ah, turkey's full of neurotoxins,* Elisabeth grumbled mentally, well aware of how cynical it was. In truth she didn't feel like eating. The image of Dana Scully, laid bare for attack, gripping hard at the edges of the table as her blue eyes grew steadily wider and wider with pain and fear, was still graven on Elisabeth's mind's eye as if the rays had touched her, too.
*A walk. A walk'll help me. Maybe I'll go for lunch, after all.* She shrugged out of her lab coat and pulled the elastic from the knot of her hair. It came down in an unruly cloud, wisps and tendrils springing to life around her temples where the threads of silver were starting. *And thirty's still a year off. This is what's called doing it gracefully?* she wondered. When running a hand through the mass of her hair only made it spiral outward like blown circuits, she muttered a curse and ducked into the public restroom. She nearly stumbled over the woman hunched at the sink.
"Dana?! Dana, my God!"
*She called me Dana.* Scully stirred her cup thoughtfully, watching stray leaves whirlpool in the liquid's amber center. She barely remembered what had happened to her the day before; everything seemed to spin in her mind, a blurred and bloody waltz. Shock. Pain. No coherent sense of time or place. And at the core of everything, the voice coaxing her down from wherever she was.
Now she was sprawled on her own couch, a dull, leaden headache the only remnant of yesterday. She'd have to take the weekend easy, but with a decent amount of rest she could make it in to work on Monday. Have a look at those ice core samples Mulder had come up with. Shoot them full of --
A knock, too light and discreet to be her mother's, startled her out of the sluggish reverie. She got to her feet without too much dizziness and fumbled for a moment with the police bolt on the door.
"Doctor Shaugnessy?" She gasped. "What are you --"
"You are completely mad," Elisabeth said incredulously. "What the hell are you doing here?"
Scully's brow lurched toward her hairline. "I think I'm the one entitled to that question," she said, filling her voice with the level fury she saved for difficult Bureau personnel. "How did you find my apartment?!"
"Rather easier than you did, considering the state you were in when I saw you last!" Elisabeth's eyes turned to chips of deep ice, but when Scully swayed on her feet, she shot out a steadying hand. "Sit down, Doctor Scully, at once."
"Doctor Shaugnessy, I object to being treated this way in my own home."
"And I object to my patients taking matters into their own hands!" Elisabeth clenched her teeth for a moment. A screaming match in a chilly doorway was not what she'd had in mind. Then again, expecting Dana Scully to come quietly along to the hospital was perhaps not the most realistic of thoughts to begin with.
Wordlessly, Scully stepped back from the door, and Elisabeth eased past her into the main room. As soon as the lock had clicked behind her, Scully spoke again. "Would you mind telling me exactly what it is you're doing here?"
Elisabeth did not flinch from the veiled hostility. "I got a call this morning saying you'd discharged yourself from the hospital. *That* is exactly why I'm here." She fought her tone into something clipped, professional, neutral. "When I admit a patient to a facility, you'll find I usually have a strong reason for doing so."
Scully was silent. Tension hummed along the muscles of her neck, and rage still simmered just beneath the surface, but she could not make herself feel resentment.
"I don't mind having my reasoning challenged. But if you intend to ignore every decision I make, Doctor Scully, then I think this alliance will not be a successful one." Elisabeth's breath hitched. She had lived, in her mind, all her patient's worst consequences, and now they flashed through her thoughts again, dark and mocking.
"You are an intelligent woman and a physician and you *know*," she blurted, "You know it was stupid -- and reckless -- and I was afraid for you." Her voice soared and wavered and cracked. "I was worried out of my mind!"
The tears, sliding bright and unheeded down her flushed cheeks, were what struck Scully in the chest. Without thinking she reached out, her fingertips just brushing over the wild filaments of Elisabeth's hair. "Don't," she half pleaded, a rush of tenderness sweeping aside anger. She slid the pad of her thumb across the plane of a wet jawbone, meaning only to comfort, and suddenly, half accidentally, the thumb was tracing the damp velvet curve of Elisabeth's lower lip.
She had no clear sense of who bridged the last distance, but Elisabeth's arms slipped around her shoulders, and her mouth was soft and pliant against Scully's. With her tongue, Scully traced the slick inner surfaces of Elisabeth's mouth, tasting the faint saline of tears. She flicked for a moment at the delicate ridges of teeth and palate, and Elisabeth responded, twisting her hands desperately into Scully's thin sweater. They stood motionless on the rug, each learning the other, and neither tiring of it. Beneath the salt, Elisabeth tasted faintly of cinnamon...
Scully jumped, startled, when Elisabeth pulled swiftly away. *Jesus, no, don't let her be afraid of this.* But as soon as she looked up, she saw it. The blood like some sinister paint across Elisabeth's cheek -- bright, fresh, startling arterial blood. "Elisabeth!"
Heartbroken horror masked Elisabeth's features, the last embers of desire flickering out of her eyes. "Be still, Dana, just be still."
End part III
Rated: PG13, or whatever kissing gets, for Slash.
Archive: Please do.
Crosspost: No, please.
Thanks: to Tess as always, just for breathing, and my talented beta readers, and to J. Constantine, MD PhD.
Disclaimer: I do not own Scully. If I did... Well, anyway. Mulder, et al belong to CC and 1013. Elisabeth Shaugnessy is mine. Any errors in this story are mine alone.
Enjoy!!! Send feedback, comments, etc to email@example.com .
December 1, 1996
The hospital cafeteria was crowded and noisy, even at this time of day. When Scully's partner had asked where he could find a cup of coffee, Elisabeth hadn't thought to snag a table in the section reserved for physicians. In the adjacent booth a mother tried unsuccessfully to feed her screaming toddler, and a plastic dish clattered to the floor. Scully's partner, Mulder, looked slightly unsettled by the situation, and maybe that accounted for what she had just heard him say.
"Come again?" Elisabeth leaned forward, her eyes wide as she searched hard for this man's credibility, or his sanity, for that matter. But his hazel eyes were earnest and unwavering under her scrutiny. "Agent Mulder, you can't just -- just *give* someone cancer. Cancer arises from a point mutation in a single cell. No one can cause it or predict it or --"
"I hear what you're saying," he persisted. "But *I'm* saying that in this case, all your facts, everything you learned about cancer in medical school,it doesn't apply."
She pursed her lips, exhaled sharply and concentrated on stirring another sugar into the styrofoam depths of her cup. "Do you understand the ramifications here, Agent Mulder? You ask me to believe that someone, somewhere, at the behest of some dark force inside your government, used this implant as a means to inoculate my patient with oncogenes?!"
He looked wounded, and Elisabeth saw, for a fleeting moment, how important this was to him. He looked to Elisabeth as though he had set off long ago on a search for the Grail, and returned home torn and jaded. She felt sorry for him. When she spoke again, it was carefully. "Agent Mulder, I am doing everything within my power to save Dana's life."
"But what you're doing is wrong," he replied, his gravelly voice somehow managing to sound petulant as a child's. "It won't help Scully. It'll only make her worse."
She lashed out then, all patience crushed to powder. "Tell me what I should do, Agent Mulder. Tell me what you would have me do."
"Stop your treatments. Leave her alone."
*Your* treatments. For a moment, she felt the sting of it. She set her teeth, ready to win the argument.
But he was silent, and when his head dropped into his hands, she left the table without another word.
December 2, 1996
"My hair's falling out."
Elisabeth set down the paper bag she was carrying, and stepped fully into the apartment just as a soft tuft of red-gold hair fluttered from Scully's brush to the floor. It lay there like an accusatory eye.
Elisabeth winced. "Here. Let me." She took the brush and the covered elastic, heedless now of minor things like the dirty slush sliding off her boots, and intent on the task at hand. Scully's hair was still damp and fragrant from a shower, and fell unruly over her ears and the sharp planes of her cheekbones. Keeping an almost weightless grip on the brush, Elisabeth gathered it into an orderly mass and then a smooth knot at the nape of Scully's neck. She stepped back to survey her work, and handed the brush back without a stray hair clinging to its bristles. "I've a lot of practice," she murmured, and felt a warm rush of delight when Scully gave her a lazy half-grin.
"Thanks. I'll have to keep you around." She took Elisabeth's coat, pausing surreptitiously as she did so to check that the door was double-locked. "What's in the bag?"
"Dinner. As promised."
Scully suddenly remembered the ostensible reason why Elisabeth had come across town in such wretched weather, "Oh, no, I don't think I can --" She closed her eyes, nausea spiraling upward.
"Have you eaten anything at all since I saw you last?" Elisabeth asked, in the patient tone that meant she could argue her point forever. Scully averted her eyes, effectively dodging the question and giving the answer. "Then trust me."
She was hungry, she realized, as Elisabeth moved expertly through her small kitchen. Hungry enough to eat something besides half a Saltine. And though for the past two days even looking into the fridge had repulsed her, she found herself fascinated with the cheese omelettes and plain salad that materialized. Elisabeth fit so well into Scully's space, and she turned the simple, orderly motions of cooking into something almost ritual, and, and... and Scully couldn't take her eyes off the other woman for a second. She looked so young, so luminously pretty, with her bright copper hair loose over a thick, plain sweater. Her necklace rested, a quiet talisman, on the slope of her chest; whenever her hands were idle, one of them would move upward and the fingers slip gently over the pendant.
"That's a beautiful necklace," Scully observed, breaking a long silence she hadn't known had fallen. "And it's an unusual pendant. Was it a gift?"
Elisabeth's hands went to her sides almost guiltily. "It was indeed." She cleared a sudden gruffness from her throat, and flipped the omelette. "You'll have to tell me where the forks are, I don't think we could manage this with just fingers."
They were working on the second pot of tea, and Scully was laughing. Elisabeth thought she had never heard such a sound, low and rich and wonderfully seductive.
"You brought your Glow Worm to *medical* school?"
"Hey," Elisabeth looked wounded. "Cadavers give me nightmares."
Scully shook her head. "You have to know how to look at them, that's all."
"With my eyes closed?" She ventured. "And anyway, it was hard. Here's me, this kid from Ireland, halfway into the second year and a transfer into bloody *Tufts*. I must have been mad."
"You must have been brilliant."
Elisabeth accepted the compliment with a shrug.
"So tell me," Scully resumed, shifting her weight more deeply into the couch cushions. "Why oncology?"
"Because." Elisabeth exhaled, rippling the contents of her tea cup. "Because I made someone a promise." Her voice was slow and deliberate and even, but she had to hunch forward to make the pain bearable. "And tell me, then. Why the FBI?"
Scully looked carefully at Elisabeth's profile, limned by dim bluish light from the television set. "I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to do what was right."
Elisabeth turned to face her. "Dana?" She asked, leaning out to stroke her knuckles along Scully's cheek.
"What happened to us along the way, do you think?"
Scully didn't answer. She slid both hands into Elisabeth's hair, ensnaring, ensnared. Elisabeth was perfectly still, her breathing suddenly erratic. She was achingly aware that her cheeks were sparking with color, her lower lip had begun to tremble, and the heels of Dana's palms, pressed to her temples, were etched with light calluses. The world had narrowed to the two of them, to their mutual pulse and the shadows lent by winter darkness to pale skin.
"Elisabeth," Scully whispered, an instant before giving herself up to the kiss.
"Elisabeth." The echo was distant, as if through layers of water or of time.
That voice could call her from the heaviest sleep, and the rickety bones of the hospital chair had only allowed her a light doze. She unfolded, pushing the heavy textbook off her knees, and forced herself to smile.
"Lissie, what are you doing here?" Maire persisted, reaching out from the bed to slip her cold fingers around Elisabeth's.
"I came to see you," she whispered, suddenly afraid her voice would break. "But I didn't want to wake you, I --" Her lower lip snagged on her teeth.
Maire gave a rueful smile. Her face was so thin these days that it seemed the grin of a fleshless skull. "You should have. I wanted to talk with you."
"What is it?" Elisabeth nearly choked on her own breath. "Have you had the tests back? What do they say?"
"Nothing we weren't expecting, love."
"Jesus, Maire, no -- no, you can't tell me --" Tears burned in her eyes. "Not now. Not after so long."
"Cancer's a tricky thing, love. I've played the game before." She averted her eyes and cleared her throat, and kept her grip on Elisabeth's hand.
"Yes, and you won it then," she said hotly, refusing defeat. "You will again. I promise you! I promise..."
"Promise me you'll take decent notes in Hematology," Maire cut in, changing the subject with one of her gentle smiles. "So at least one of us gets her white coat on time."
"You're not going to be far behind me, Maire, I won't let you."
"I wouldn't dare otherwise, Lissie." She coughed, that sawing sound that sent chills chasing down Elisabeth's spine. "You think I'll make the final?"
"I'm saving a seat for you." Outside, the bells tolled five o'clock, the end of visitors' hours, and reluctantly she gathered her books.
"Please stay, Lissie," Maire said suddenly. "Please, as long as you can --" The words died, as if the air had been struck from her chest, and her gray eyes were desperate and wild. Something long caged at their depths was struggling to the surface. "Please... Lissie... Please..."
Dr. Shaugnessy gasped and sat upright, frantic for breath. She was... she was... in Dana Scully's apartment. The room was quiet, the television gone to a test pattern. Scully was asleep, her red hair fanned over the pale sofa cushions, a woolly afghan drawn up to her cheek. Her slight weight rested in the curve of Elisabeth's hip, warm and anchoring. Elisabeth glanced over the room, seeking out the last cobwebs of the nightmare as if they might become real again, and cursed herself for ever falling asleep.
End Believer IV
Summary: "Trust is the foundation of the therapeutic alliance".
Rated NC17 for slash
Crosspost: No, please.
Thanks: to Tess, and to Maire McDermod for her endless patience and the shameless use of her accent. Elisabeth could not ask for a better cultural liaison, speech coach or cliche-proofer.
Disclaimer: I own Elisabeth Shaugnessy. As for Scully, Mulder, and the events of US4/5, they are owned by 1013 Productions.
Feedback and Comments: Will Drool For Feedback. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org
Cave Website Canem: If you are under your country's legal age of majority, use your better judgement. If slash offends you...you took a wrong turn at Pismo Beach.
Sleet mixed with hail coated the windowpane, making it impossible to gain a sense of time. Maybe she had slept through the night, maybe it was twilight all over again. She was warm. She was comfortable. Mulder was not on the other end of the telephone. Except for a vague, distant headache, there was nothing that should have woken her.
A light hand was meandering along the curve of her breast, sending slow, decadent little wisps of sensation out along the edges of sleep. She reached up and seized the hand, and her smile widened. A deep and definite flush was rising in Elisabeth's cheeks. No artist in the world could have named the color that suffused her ears. And the heat surrounding her had nothing to do with her thick sweater. She's breathtaking, Scully thought. This should have happened last night, last week, the moment we met...
"Hello," Elisabeth said faintly.
Scully sat up, still clasping Elisabeth's hand. "Are you okay?"
"I am." She blushed again, certain Dana could hear the mad rush of her heartbeat. Seconds before she could lose her resolve, she found herself tangled in a kiss. *So this is Dana,* she thought, a strange happiness swirling through her as her head hit the couch cushions, stirring a breath of familiar scent. *This isn't Dr. Scully; this isn't the Agent; it's my Dana.* Soft, almost timid kisses trailed down her throat, stopping at the barrier of her sweater. "Off," she gasped, her own fingers tugging and tangling in the weave. "Take it off me -- please --" She struggled upward, writhing free of the heavy thing, and then lay still.
"Elisabeth," Scully murmured. She traced one fingertip from clavicle to clavicle, mapping the freckles, and then eased lower. Elisabeth's eyes were half-closed and dreamy, her lips softly swollen from their kiss. She seemed at peace where she was. Scully dared to unclasp the front of a very plain cotton bra.
"Don't look." Elisabeth gave a quiet, self-conscious laugh. "Gravity's so unkind."
"No," Scully silenced her. "You're beautiful." She'd never actually said it to a woman before. But here, now, it was the only thing to say... She lowered her head and gently drew Elisabeth's nipple into her mouth. The pale luminous skin warmed to pink beneath the freckles, and Elisabeth moaned.
"Shhh." Scully went on, with lazy flicks of her tongue. *Since you don't believe me, let me show you how beautiful you are.*
"Dana, wait, ow." Elisabeth reached beneath her, fumbled in the heavy cushions and drew out a --
A steadily vibrating pager.
"You're on call?" Scully said, her expression twisting.
"No. It's you."
Scully didn't need to look at the display digits. She tossed it onto the coffee table in disgust. When the telephone rang a few seconds later, Elisabeth had to wonder if she wasn't very, very practiced at ignoring these sort of things.
"Pick up the phone, Scully. It's an emergency."
Elisabeth wrapped her sweater around her shoulders and listened to Scully's side of the conversation. She was perilously close to tears. Frustration had set her teeth on edge, and her fingernails tapped a muffled staccato on the arm of the couch. But as the look on Scully's face slowly darkened, concern for her blotted out everything else.
"Mulder no. Mulder, absolutely not. I can't, I -- no, I -- no." She hung up the phone slowly, her tongue firmly tucked against her cheek. "Elisabeth, you're not going to believe this."
"If Mr. Mulder's involved, I'd believe anything short of a fairy ring on the White House lawn." She paused, lowering her eyes. "I'm sorry, Dana, I didn't mean that."
Scully kissed her."I know, sweetheart." It surprised her for a moment. The endearment wasn't adequate, but it had come to her so easily. A faint, charming color came back into Elisabeth's cheeks.
"So. Off to save the world, are you?"
"Right," Elisabeth said shakily. "Of course. Brilliant."
*Sure. Fine. Whatever.* Scully winced. "I just have to examine some samples for Mulder and -- wait for me, Elisabeth. Please."
December 3, 1996
Elisabeth half jogged to keep up with Mulder's strides, pinning her ID haphazardly to her collar as she ran down the ward. "What do you mean, somebody pushed her down the stairs? Somebody assaults a woman in the public stair of a public building in the middle of your nation's capitol," she gasped, "And nobody sees or hears a thing that's strange? We've got to have the police on this, we --"
Mulder looked at the young oncologist. She was white as her coat with fury, and energy seemed to snap in the air around her. "These men are not responsible to any police."
"Right. Of course." Elisabeth's mouth tightened at the corners. "Why was she triaged through the ER? Why did nobody call me? None of this makes sense to me, Mr. Mulder, but then I'm finding that's fairly common where you're concerned.". She kept her voice at a steady, unobtrusive volume, but he had the distinct feeling of being outshouted. *Mr. Mulder.* He disliked the way her voice curled around his name, hung on to the consonants and spat them vengefully out. He disliked the haughty set of her chin , the impassive mask of her features. He disliked the fact that she'd answered Scully's phone.
"Oh!" When she stopped short, Mulder nearly crashed into her. She rounded a sudden corner, and Mulder found himself on the closed side of the door to Scully's room.
"Oh, love, look at you." The back of Elisabeth's throat tightened. Her first instinct -- to pull Dana into her arms and never, ever let go again -- was overwhelmed by an older one: *Do the work, Lissie.* She checked Dana's charts, noted the painkillers being fed into her veins at a steady push. And --
"They sent you to radiology? Why?"
Scully watched Elisabeth as she moved. Graceful but nervous as a cornered bird. *This scares her too much. She shouldn't be here, confused and hurt and hurting with me. She should be --*
"Dana? Can you hear me all right?"
She blinked."I kept -- losing consciousness. They were thinking depressed fracture."
*Instead of immediate MRI they check for a skull fracture.* Elisabeth bit her lip. "All right. Can you tell me how it's been since then? Any headache? Nosebleed? Seeing spots or seeing stars?"
"Any pain at all -- any part of you numb?" She leaned closer, half perching on the edge of the bed, to examine the dark, shiny contours of a bruise along Dana's cheekbone. This hadn't come from the fall. Someone had punched her in the face. For a moment, her fingers tightened possessively on Scully's cheek.
"Do this." Elisabeth touched the fingers of one hand rapidly to her thumb. Scully mirrored her perfectly: no loss of coordination. Gingerly Elisabeth traced her known outline of the tumor, forming a skewed circle along the bridge of Scully's nose and the top of her brow. "I want to get a better print of that x-ray," she said finally, "but you don't appear to have any local hematoma. That's good. The little fucker's vascularized in a very delicate space, and the last thing we need is any problems there."
"In other words I'm fine."
"No, but you're not bleeding into your brain." She paused. "I would say the loss of consciousness was caused by repeated brief pressure on the nerves within the ethmoid, probably from the motion and impact of that lovely fall you took."
"Ethmoid," Scully echoed. "Is that the bird or the butterfly?"
"The bird," Elisabeth replied, vaguely uneasy. *You should know that. I know you know that.* She sounded too uncertain, too cloudy, for Elisabeth to be comfortable. Maybe it meant nothing more than that young Dr. Scully had taken a bad mark in skeletal anatomy. Maybe it meant that Dana's higher cognitives were being insidiously impaired. Dana Scully bereft of the power of her mind...
"Dana." Tension raised a sudden sharpness in her voice. "Tell me the bone that makes the butterfly."
"Sphenoid." Scully paused. "Elisabeth, I --"
End Believer V
To Be Continued In...Chapter 6
Summary: "Trust is the foundation of the therapeutic alliance".
Rated PG13 for angst, yelling and the romance between two women.
Crosspost: No, please.
Thanks: to Tess, and to Maire McDermod for her endless patience and the shameless use of her accent. If I could pronounce it, I'd thank her in Gaelic.
Disclaimer: I own Elisabeth Shaugnessy. As for Scully, Mulder, and the events of US4/5, they are owned by 1013 Productions.
Feedback and Comments: Will Drool For Feedback. Send to email@example.com
Cave Website Canem: If you are under your country's legal age of majority, use your better judgement. If slash offends you...you took a wrong turn at Pismo Beach.
December 4, 1996
She had lost.
Elisabeth burst into tears. Calipers, red Sharpie, charts, x-rays and MRI printouts crashed off the desk and onto the floor. They all showed her the same thing: a phenomenal increase in the neoplastic mass. Too much to attack at one time, and lodged inoperably tightly in a snug triangle of brain and bone., pressing ever more closely to the meninges of the frontal lobe. Her initial assessment had, as always, been deadly accurate. Dr. Scully was going to die. Perhaps within days.
She was losing Dana. Everything in her kicked and fought and bitterly screamed. Outwardly she sat silent behind her desk, grinding an antacid tablet between her teeth. She hated the texture. She hated the image it gave people, of an overworked, harried young physician who didn't know which way was up, never mind how to grab a meal. But she'd worked through four of the awful things in the past forty minutes. It gave her something controllable to hate.
When the phone rang, it nearly joined the clutter on the floor. She let it go for ten seconds, twenty, half a minute. Finally she tucked the receiver against her shoulder with a sigh. "Elisabeth Shaugnessy."
"Dana.What's wrong?" She dug her nails into her blotter. *Please God let her be all right.*
*She's not all right.*
"I need you to come down here. As soon as you think you can get away."
"I'm on my way," she answered, and let the telephone drop.
Georgetown University Hospital
She had the feeling she'd walked into something. People lined the walls of the tiny private room: Mrs. Scully, a Catholic priest, the brothers Scully. And Mulder.
"Mrs. Scully, Ensign Scully, Ensign Scully, Father. I'm Elisabeth Shaugnessy, Dana's oncologist. Mr. Mulder," she added, purely as an afterthought.
"Doctor, what's going to happen to my daughter?" This was a woman who had seen too much happen to her daughter already. Elisabeth was sure of it. The face was worn and mournful and it hurt to look long at her. She chose her words very carefully.
"Mrs. Scully, there are some quite recent developments that I'd like to discuss with Dana. Once that's out of the way, I promise I will answer any questions you have." She smiled her best tension-diffusing smile, and the Ensigns Scully led their mother from the room. The priest followed.
" *Agent* Mulder," he corrected.
"Agent Mulder, please do us the courtesy." She was no longer smiling as she gestured to the door.
"He can stay."
Elisabeth rubbed her forehead. This was hard enough without an audience. And she had no idea what to say to Dana in the first place. *I'm sorry, you put your faith in me but I wasn't skilled enough or quick enough to catch this thing and kill it? I'm sorry, I'm falling in love with you and you have a week or so to do what you like with it? I'm sorry, but you touched me to the bone and I can't tell you this at all, I really can't? Or just that I'm sorry... I'm sorry...*
"Dana," she began as if the word was ripped from her. "I don't know how, or why, but the tumor isn't responding to any form of treatment. If anything it -- it seems to be thriving on what ought to destroy it."
"That's what I was trying to tell you," Dana's partner fumed. "This is not a cancer you can treat. You'll kill her first."
She ignored it. He was venting now. Let him. "I want to send you up to the Dana Farber. Maybe they've got something I don't, some trick that I can't play on this thing. It's a long shot, but it's the only one I've got." She swallowed. "I really -- I really don't know what else to do, Dana." *Please let her forgive me, let her know I tried, God I tried ...*
"You're sending her to Boston on a maybe? You run your little tests and dick around with your little charts and hope for a miracle, and you're killing her!"
"Mulder." When Dana spoke, Elisabeth moved to her side. But her eyes and her mind were fixed on Mulder.
Her voice was soft and low and deadly cold. "Agent Mulder, I do not *dick* *around*." She wanted to knock him down with the words. "I am young but I am not stupid, and you will not speak to me in that way again."
He looked taken aback. His mouth opened but nothing came.
" I don't hope for miracles, not where there are none. But I believe with all my heart in the work I do and the choices I make. And I believe I've done the best I can for Dana, and I'll continue on until she tells me to do otherwise."
"Yeah? And what if what you believe is wrong? You just let her die?!"
"Agent. Mulder. Enough." She wrapped each syllable in enough ice and hatred to make a saner man cringe.
"Mulder... please go." Scully had turned her face against the pillow, the thin remnant of her hair falling like a mask over her face. She looked too pale. Bruised all over, bruised far beneath the surface. Her scalp beneath the fading red was the color of old paper. When he tried to speak, she only put up her hand.
"Are you all right, Dana?" Elisabeth winced. *Lissie, you just blew your top. Maybe blew more than that. Are you quite pleased with yourself?* "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have --"
"No," Scully cut her off. "You should have. What he said to you ..." She coughed, and there was a moment's battle just to find air and breathe. " I know how far you've gone for me. I know you'd go further, if I'd let you." She took Elisabeth's hand and slowly, idly traced the blue of a vein. "Elisabeth, look at me." She lifted her head on the pillow just enough to meet the gaze. Elisabeth's eyes were wide and earnest and too bright to be dry. "You didn't fail here."
"Didn't I?" She closed her eyes tight against the tears. But Dana had laid her finger on the ancient hurt, and there was no stepping back from it. The breath crashed from her chest and she cried. The edge of the bed caught her weight; she felt Dana's arms around her. They curled together fragile as children.
It was a quarter of an hour before Elisabeth could find herself again. She lifted her head, pushed the last tears from her eyes and said almost steadily, "Your family's out there. Your -- your brilliant partner." She sniffled. "Christ, they'll think we're indulging in the carnal."
It worked. Scully allowed it to work. A small smile curled the corners of her mouth.
"I need to make some calls. We need to set up something definite with the Dana Farber --"
"I'm not going to Boston," Scully interrupted.. "I need you with me. I can't do this alone."
"I can go with you to Boston, Dana."
"I need you with me," Scully repeated, "not as an oncologist. As a friend. As my lover." She said it without wavering. She had said it so many times before, in her mind. "I know how much I'm asking..."
"You have it. " Elisabeth laid a kiss in the center of her palm. "You have it and more already."
End Believer VI
To be continued in Chapter 7
Believer VII: We Two Together Clinging
Summary: Do the dying dream?
Archive: List archive okay; anywhere else, ask first.
Disclaimer: I do not own Scully or Mulder. I own Elisabeth Shaugnessy. This was written under the influence of Immunology 125a, four hours of sleep in the past 32, and finals being Monday.There is cancer, there is angst, and there is sex involving two women. If you are not allowed under state or national law to view such material, please do what you consider right.
Feedback, Questions, Cold leftover turkey: firstname.lastname@example.org
December 24, 1996
"Merry Christmas." Scully had never felt herself at the limit of speech. Now drawing in enough air for words was an act of resistance, a struggle against the part of her that soothed, *letting go would be so much easier than this*.
"Merry Christmas, Dana." *It's not Christmas yet. It's not midnight. Please stay with me past midnight.* Elisabeth's eyes were sticky with tears. She looked at the floor, at the rail of the bed, anything for Dana not to see them, and take in Elisabeth's grief as she had her family's.
"Have you slept?"
"Yes, I - not really."
Scully sighed. Slowly, every inch of her bruised and burning, she shifted to leave enough room for Elisabeth on the narrow mattress.
"Please." She ground her teeth against the sudden stabbing behind her eye, and against the small, leaden syllables her voice allowed her when there was so much still left to say. And then Elisabeth was beside her, awkward and hesitant and scrupulously careful not to touch her and cause pain.
Fuck pain. Scully broke the awkwardness, closed the distance, and pressed her face into the hollow of Elisabeth's throat. Her first impression was of warmth, curtained by Elisabeth's long hair and cushioned in her sweater. A faint rich scent that stilled the nausea. At last Elisabeth's arms went around her, and her lips pressed hard to Scully's forehead, and all the vague impressions solidified.
She drew away, to look into Elisabeth's eyes. "This is... This is not where I want us to be." Scully tried to laugh, but the sound twisted in her throat and surfaced as a sob.
"I know, love."
"What would you be doing at home now? For Christmas."
"You mean, at home in Ireland? Or at home with you?" She chose the answer herself. "Drinking eggnog and finishing up the tree. Singing Christmas songs, though you'd have to handle the high notes."
"Oh, no. I can't sing." Charmed, Scully smiled against Elisabeth's skin.
"Neither can I. We'll do it anyway." Elisabeth swallowed. This was too sweet, and too painful, and too much. But she went on, spinning a roomful of light and warmth for the sake of Dana's Christmas. "And we'd hang mistletoe, and watch 'It's a Wonderful Life' , and stick a Christmas bow on the cat. And at midnight we'd open champagne, and just sit in the dark and just look at the tree..." She yawned. Dana was already still against her, her breath light and slow in sleep. Everything would still be all right if she only closed her eyes for a second...
The apartment was strewn with ornament boxes. Scully threaded her way through the drifts of tissue paper without spilling too much of her eggnog, although the fact that Elisabeth had thinned the mixture liberally with some fragrant alcohol probably contributed to her unsteadiness. Or maybe it was just Elisabeth herself. She had shed her sweater and turtleneck, and stood on a chair between the hallway and the living room in a silk tank top, her bare arms glowing in the candlelight as she reached up to hang the last sprig of mistletoe. Her feet were bare, her jeans were held on only precariously at her hips, and she had forgotten to put on a bra that morning. *Forgot. My ass.* Scully smirked. She set down her cup and worked open the buttons of her - well, Mulder's - oxford. Two could definitely play at this game.
The tack hammer slipped from Elisabeth's grasp. She stood where she was, blushing, until Scully crossed the floor and reached up for her hand. Then she slipped down from the chair, her hair falling forward to brush like leaves against Scully's cheek.
"That takes care of the mistletoe, then," she whispered. The color spread from her cheeks to her throat to her freckled collarbones.
"It does," Scully agreed, and kissed her. She stepped back, drawing Elisabeth with her, and suddenly her vision blurred into a wild tangle of arms and legs, pale and dark red hair. Their teeth clicked together and Elisabeth yelped as they unbalanced, landing on top of one another on the couch.
*The couch? Since when is the couch there? Oh...yeah... the tree.* Scully blinked, dazedly, and heard a laugh from the woman pressed beneath her.
"That, Doctor Scully, was incredibly romantic." Elisabeth giggled. "But your knee is kind of - oh - ah, you can leave it right there," she finished as Scully shifted her weight, bringing her leg up hard between Elisabeth's. Her fingertips dug into Scully's shoulders, and her nipples were suddenly apparent beneath the thin silk of her top. A low, first-glass-of-wine excitement heated the air between them.
Scully swept her hand over the warm curve of her lover's stomach, from the waistband of her jeans up to the valley between her breasts, where Elisabeth trapped the hand in hers and held it. "Dana, wait."
She fought the urge to grind her teeth in frustration. And waited. The intoxication that rippled through her, making her so impatient, had very little to do Elisabeth's recipe for eggnog.
"I love you."
Scully smiled then, and watched Elisabeth's expression blossom in kind. She gazed down for a long moment, knowing Elisabeth would wait, too. But she didn't need the time; the answer was right there. Blending with the trust and the desire, or giving rise to it, she wasn't sure. "I love you. Oh, God, I love you."
Again they kissed. Pressed body to body in the slim confines of the couch, they fumbled with buttons and zippers. Here there was no outside world, no darkness, just their bodies and the faint glow of candles and Christmas lights. Scully's mouth sought and found a nipple, ribs, navel, until with Elisabeth's hands tangled tight in her hair she paused.
"Don't stop, please!"
*No. Never.* Scully breathed deeply, learning the scent of Elisabeth's arousal, before dipping her head to taste. She felt Elisabeth's thighs tighten under her palms as she parted the soft curls with her tongue; she licked once, twice, and fingertips dug into her scalp. Salt and heat and unbelievable wetness surrounded her. Elisabeth tasted like the sea to Scully. She thrust her tongue hard against the pearl of Elisabeth's clit, again and again, and would gladly have drowned...
"Dana!" Elisabeth lifted her hips frantically. Small moans slipped through her teeth.
*Yes, lover, yes, like that.* Scully held her down, gentle, unrelenting. Her fingers slid deep and fast into Elisabeth, giving her that final push past the edge, and the younger woman arched her back and screamed.
"Oh, God, Dana..."
December 25, 1996
Scully drowsed. She was not exactly comfortable, but warm. Elisabeth's arms were around her. The headache was gone. She smiled, drifting in and out of the dream. They had fallen asleep on the couch again; that's why there was so little blanket, so little room. *Really have to work on making it into the bedroom, honey.* But it was Christmas morning, and this way they were only closer to the presents...
Elisabeth stirred next to her. Scully opened her eyes. The room was too white, too bright. And someone was opening the front door. The lock didn't sound right. Someone was breaking in. Her hand shot out for the coffee table, for her clutch piece, and came up hard against the metal railing of her bed. An IV line yanked out and she managed to swallow the scream, but the sudden movement was enough to wake Elisabeth. She blinked, her eyes wide and bewildered, at the slowly opening door.
"Merry Chris -" Bill Scully dropped the miniature fir tree he was carrying. It crashed to the floor in an explosion of clay pot, loam and shattered glass balls. Behind him, Maggie Scully's gloved hand flew to her mouth.
Elisabeth would have moved away, or jumped away, or run all the way back to Dun Laoghaire, but Dana was holding to her for dear life.
Believer, VIII: And the Soul Felt Its Worth
Summary: A test of allegiance proves the strength of belief.
Archive: List archive okay; anywhere else, ask me.
Disclaimer: Elisabeth Shaugnessy is my intellectual property. Scully, Mulder and the Scully family are not. All are used without permission or profit. This story contains angst, and romance between two women. If that bothers you or you are under state or national law prohibited to read such material, please do what you consider right.
Thanks: Maire McDermod, Dedric Byrne for providing daily insight, criticism and structure for the character of Elisabeth. To Tess for her rendition of "O Holy Night". And to Adrian, Rad, Athos and all the others who never failed to encourage, by feedback and by example.
Feedback: Fire away: email@example.com
December 25, 1996
Everything she thought sounded clumsy on her tongue. She dug her elbows into her knees, hunched her back against the concrete wall and fanned her fingers through her hair. *Think, Lissie. Just think something to say. Are you going to leave her on her own in this?*
"What did I say when I came out to my parents? Oh, right, I didn't." She let her breath out in a rush and wished to be Maire. To have Maire's unapologizing sexuality, clear and unflinching as typescript for all who wanted to read. To feel utterly certain when she moved through a room full of hostility. To have a stunning retort for the look Dana's brother had cast her. *Or maybe,* she thought bitterly, *you just wish to be safe under six feet of earth.*
It shocked her, and she stood up quickly.
"Agent Mulder!" *Today just gets better and better.* But she saw the look in his eyes and softened. He was pale. One corner of his lip was clotted with blood from his biting - he bit down on it again as she watched - and he was unshaven. The coat he wore was no match for the weather outside, and she suspected he'd thrown it on merely to hide the condition of his clothing: torn and wrinkled and bloody. "Agent Mulder, what happ-"
"I have something that will save Scully. I need your help."
*You're no longer Dana's oncologist. You have no authority here. Think of your license, Lissie, think of the lines before you cross them. Think...*
"What can I do?"
She turned the vial over and over in her hand, the little chip sparkling like a fish's shed scale in the cold light. "I can tell you nothing about this, at least as it might have to do with treating cancer."
"But you could get it into her. In place of the original implant."
Elisabeth rubbed the back of her own neck, considering. "You're asking if I have the skill for it? You're better off to get one of the house surgeons -"
Mulder shook his head. "That's not an option here. "
"It's up to Dana, not me. And I'm no longer so much as a consulting physician to her treatment; it's out of my hands now to even suggest procedures."
"But it can be done."
Elisabeth took in a deep breath, and held the chip at eye level once again. "It would be fairly straightforward. A little subcutaneous thing, done under local. It might take ten minutes, quarter of an hour the most."
"And - the procedure itself - would it harm her?"
"At this point, Agent Mulder, nothing can harm her." She swallowed. "But tell me, Agent, if I were to do this, how would it help her?"
"It would cure her." Mulder looked at her earnestly.
"This is it? Your entire cure? I've exhausted the known chemotherapeutic arsenal and irradiated her all to hell, and God above knows how she's suffered, and now you show me a cure than can fit the tip of my little finger?!" She moved in a sudden flurry. "We nick it in the back of her neck and the neoplasm just disappears?"
He nodded. "Men made this disease. And they made the means to take it away."
Mulder stared, and choked, and nearly dropped the vial.
"I will do anything in the world to help Dana," Elisabeth said, her voice gravelly and her eyes darkened. "But I can't ask her to put her faith in this. Not now."
"Why, because you can't put your faith in it?"
Her teeth were clenched so hard her jaw creaked; she wanted a fight, she wanted to strike him, she wanted anything to lift the weight of worry from her even for a moment. "Because I don't seek miracles where there are none."
"When did you stop, Elisabeth?"
*Oh fuck.* Tears flooded her eyes. She couldn't see. Her eyes burned with the strength of the saline. And she managed at last to ignore him. "If you're wrong, Agent Mulder, and if I ask her to place her last hope on this chip, what happens then? It goes against everything I believe to betray -" *a lover* " - a patient like that. Even if I can't save her, I will be careful of her heart!"
"And what difference will all that make if she dies?" Mulder fumed. "I don't care what you believe. I care about Scully."
"So do I." She looked up at him, unflinching, until she thought he began to understand. And then, as the fight drained out of her, she took his hand. "It's up to Dana. If it's what she wants, then I'll do what she needs me to do."
"I look like death warmed over."
"No, your vanilla pudding looks like death warmed over. _You_ are lovely." Elisabeth kissed Scully's hand.
"That be me." Elisabeth probed the dinner tray with a plastic spork. "You don't have to actually eat this, you know. If there's anything you really want - if you thought you could eat - I'll go anywhere in the city."
"On Christmas day? We'll send Mulder." Scully's voice broke as the mask of levity slipped. "I don't want you to leave." *We have to talk. Even if I never laugh with you again, this has to be now.* "My mother -"
"Dana, I'm sorry -"
Somehow it was easier when both faltered at once. Scully gathered her thoughts again, and drew Elisabeth closer. "My mother's all right. Not where I'd like her to be, but all right. We talked for a long time." She sighed, weary with memory. "I know she understands how important you are in my life, even if she doesn't understand the rest. And she'll - try."
"And your brother?"
Scully sat up. "Did he hurt you?!"
"Dana, he didn't touch me." Elisabeth took Scully's hand almost before she reached out. "I only wanted to know what he thinks."
"I could give a fuck what Bill thinks."
"I'm fine," she said flatly. "He's just - he pisses me the hell off."
Elisabeth nodded. *Mutual.*
"And then Mulder." Scully had lost count of her sighs. But Elisabeth understood them as well as any words, and exhaustion was creeping along her bones.
"No. And I doubt he would care, but that's not --." She frowned and picked a strand of red-gold hair from her hospital gown. "Shit."
"That's mine, love," Elisabeth said gently, plucking the offending hair from Scully's grasp and stretching it for length. It was easily as long as Scully's arm. "Yours're still intact."
"All eight of them."
"I've told you, if you want to shave your head, I'll shave mine too."
"Don't," Scully said firmly. She maneuvered to gaze up at Elisabeth's long hair. It was smooth and gleaming as polished wood, even so late in the day, and the winter damp had managed to inflict only a few unruly tendrils along the length. Scully ran her hand over the burnished-copper mass, delighting in Elisabeth's smile. "It's beautiful."
"Mmm. So you were saying - Mulder?"
"Right. Mulder. He..." Scully paused. Considered. Stroked. There were more important things than talking about Mulder. This was life, and life was quick... "I don't want to think about it tonight."
"Right, so we won't then." Elisabeth knew what she would have said anyway: *Mulder has this crazy idea, and let's give it a try, for we've nothing to lose.* She didn't want to think about it tonight, either. It was still, somewhere, Christmas. *Please, let us keep hope, for tonight.*
"Can I play with your hair?"
December 26, 1996
Mulder stared at the young oncologist. She looked as if she had slept. Her gray eyes were clear, without the deep, red-rimmed circles of yesterday, and her long hair swept into an elaborate French braid. A strange pendant, half caduceus, half Crucifix, sparkled at her throat; as she stood before the MRI monitor, too rapt to notice him, she reached up and clutched the pendant in one hand. The house oncologist was speaking to her, but she seemed not to hear him, either; he could have been standing across the room and not at her side. The images on the monitor shuffled, a blur of vaguely rounded colored splashes like a cross section of an apple, and her lips moved over and over again, silently, as if she mouthed a prayer. But the prayer had only one word...
For a split second he thought he had killed her, that they were all lost in another dark tangle of lies. But Dr. Shaugnessy, silent as she was, did not speak to him of death. From her well-plaited hair to the gold at her throat to the grommets of her beaten-up hikers, she sparkled with hope. And no one could mistake what was in her eyes for grief.
He was unsure how he'd ever mistaken it for less than what it was.
End Believer VIII
To Be Continued!