Title: Walking The Line: Miracles
Author: Ainsley Wallace
Rating: NC-17 (for adult content)
Classification: SAR
Spoilers: the cancer arc
Keywords: Scully/Other; Slash
Summary: The cancer is back.
A note from xf-stew:
I just wanted to take a moment to introduce the latest in the Walking The Line series. You may have already noticed that this was not written by me, but rather by a very special friend of mine, Ainsley Wallace. Those of you who are familiar with the series know that I (being the squeamish whimp that I am) stayed well away from the cancer arc in the show when writing my Kaz stories. Ainsley, however, was up to the challenge, and wrote this wonderful little piece dealing with an issue I couldn't even bear to contemplate.
I also need to tell you that this story plays with the WTL timeline somewhat, and I hope that will be allowed by you, the reader. "Miracles" is to be considered a part of the WTL series, and all subsequent stories will include the events described here.
This story is very special to me, as is its author. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.
And a few words from the author:
This year, I fell in love with two wonderful women. Luckily for me, only one of them was fictional -- the fair and enviable Anne Kazmerowski -- Kaz to her intimates (well, Kaz to everyone but her mother, but *that's* another story). I admit I was utterly enchanted by the confident young Commander and completely taken with the romance that was unfolding between Kaz and her newly discovered soul mate, Special Agent Dana Scully.
Imagine my delight then when xf-stew graciously let me take her characters out to play (and to wade through a little angst). Here then is the finished product, hopefully a little sustenance for all of you Kaz fans who are craving more of the Italian beauty and her fair Irish companion.
Unending gratitude to stew for creating such an exceptional universe for us all to visit, for her unparalleled patience but more than anything, for making the whole world look different.
Feedback is greatly appreciated at: xf-stew@geocities.com It will be forwarded to the author from there. stew would also like to thank those of you who sent feedback for the last WTL story. Unfortunately, much of it was lost in a bonehead computer mishap. I am very sorry not to have responded. Thanks again.

Walking The Line: Miracles
by Ainsley Wallace
Part one

"Where there is great love, there are always miracles." -- Willa Cather

The first one was easy to ignore.

Even Mulder didn't notice it. A cool trickle on my upper lip at lunch one day while he was staring intently at his case notes, half-eaten sandwiches and empty glasses between us. A silent trip to the lady's room and then I was back in my seat across from him before he'd even noticed that I'd gotten up from the table.

I filed it away and forgot it, buried it in a dozen comfortable excuses by the time I sat down.

The second came quickly, too fast to catch, blots of blood, dark as nightmares, dripping onto his desk top as I stood beside him studying crime scene pictures, my blood spilling onto the victim's face, mingling with hers, staining her bleached skin. Mulder gasped and I searched for kleenex, patting pockets with suddenly cold hands until he gave me his handkerchief to stanch the flow. Mumbled excuses that made him duck his head and sigh. I was fine, they told me I was fine, so I'm fine goddammit and stop looking at me like that.

Cold water and rough paper towels, the green tiles of the bathroom glowing and making everything look bilious. I stared at my face until the shapes all started to blend into one, until I lost myself in my own image. They said I was fine -- he said I was fine. The chip had worked. I had believed. And I had lived.

Her eyes always come to me first. So dark -- a shade of brown so rich that it almost has depth. Brown like coffee, brown like the darkest chocolate, until she smiles, that quick flash of teeth and then they are different. Lighter, somehow. Warmer.

And next, it is her touch that comes. We'd made love in the living room the night before, the pizza still on the coffeetable and the video playing on, unwatched. We were hungry for each other and one lingering touch had turned into a kiss and we'd held onto each other and moved together in that rhythm that was ours alone until we'd slept in each other's arms.

I remembered her walking me up the stairs to bed, pulling cool sheets around me, the feel of her body, warm and strong, pressed against me, her lips on my cheek.

If I close my eyes, I am still there.

The last one was the worst.

The pain had started suddenly, rising up between heartbeats, as if someone had struck me. Stupidly, touching my forehead, thinking that would soothe it.

"Headache?" Mulder asks.

I nod, reach for the Advil that I keep in my briefcase and try to shake it off.

Two hours later, I stand up to leave.

"Mulder, I've got some errands to run so I'm going to head out a little early, today, finish this up at home."

His eyes on me as I gather my things, try not to sway on my feet.

"You feeling okay, Scully?"

"I'm --" and I stop myself because he knows I'm lying. I don't want to talk about it with him. I don't want to talk. "Yeah. I'm okay."

Say goodbye, don't look directly at him and keep your eyes on the door. Outside, I want to lean against the wall, gather my strength to fight this pain, but I know he is listening to my footsteps on the tiles and I make myself walk, every step jolting the pain in my head, driving it deeper into my body.

I drive home without seeing the streets, the people. The sun in my eyes makes my skull burn and scream and I wonder why I have this headache, why the Advil isn't helping and I don't think about anything besides getting home safely, if I can only get up the stairs and to the bed and if I lie very still it will go away.

A phone is ringing somewhere and I have to pull myself up through the layers of sleep to realize that it's beside me. The shadows are longer and I know I've slept for a long time, but I can't remember why I needed to. My hands are asleep still, and I drop the receiver before I can answer it.

"Scully? Are you okay? It's me, hon."

Her voice. Like music to me, an alto maybe, or a mezzo-soprano, dusky and sweet. I realize I want her to sing me to sleep tonight.

"Hi. I'm here. I dropped the phone, sorry."

"Are you all right? I tried to reach you at the office but Mulder said you'd gone home early and that you didn't look well."

Asshole. Why did he tell her that?

"I'm fine, now. I had a nap and I feel much better, actually."

Slowly, my body coming back to me. A tightness in my neck. The shadow of a headache. A warm lump pressed against my legs. I look down and see Brandy peering up at me. Even she looks concerned.

"Are you sick? What was the matter?"

"Just a headache. But I feel much better now, really."

"You're sure?"

"Yeah, I really do." The pain is gone now and there is only the echo of a headache where it hurt before. Relief beats just beneath the surface of my skin. "So, when are you coming home? You don't have to work late tonight, do you?"

"Nope, I should be able to clear out of here in about an hour," she's saying and I can hear her moving papers around on her desk. I try to remember what she was wearing this morning and can't at first until I realize that she was going to court. The dress blues.

"How did your motion go?" I ask. "Did you get it?"

"I most certainly did," she says and I can hear her smiling, I can see the exact shade of her eyes. "I'll tell you all about it when I get home. Do you have any special requests for supper? I'm going to go by the market on the way home, so what do you feel like tonight?"

"Just you," I say and I hear her laugh a little.

"You're not hard to please," she says.

"Nope," I reply. "Not at all."

"All right then, but don't complain when all you get for dinner is a tuna sandwich and me."

"It sounds wonderful."

She laughs again, and I feel better, like I'd never had a headache.

"I'll see you soon," she says. "And get some rest, okay? I don't want you feeling sick."

"Yes, Commander."

"Don't mock me, Agent Scully."

"I'd never dream of it, ma'am."

Another chuckle. "See you later."

I hang up the phone and think about a hot shower to loosen up the knots in my neck. I need to wash my face, wake up before she gets here. I lay there, lazily run a hand through my hair and I'm thinking maybe I should wait until she gets home and we can shower together when my fingers graze across the sticky mess in my hair. I sit up slowly, pulling strands of hair forward to study them, light orange stained to dark. A hand to my cheek and I realize that it's blood, mostly dried but still tacky and I know if I turn and look, it will be all over the pillow in crimson stripes and I know what this means and more than anything else, I know that I can't tell her.

Her car pulls into the garage and Brandy and I both lift our heads and look towards the door. The sound is so familiar and I know that it can't be. She's always home before me, there's no reason that I should know that sound, that I should sit here at the kitchen table and wait for it, yet I do. My lap top is open and I've actually managed to write a few sentences and beneath my feet, in the basement, the washing machine is just finishing its final rinse cycle. I hope my hands don't smell of bleach. She'll ask why I changed the bed today -- we just put on clean sheets two days ago. Or maybe she won't notice. Please don't notice.

The door opens and the dog is on her feet, little stub of a tail wagging furiously, nails clicking against the kitchen floor and I am smiling the moment I see her come through the door. She meets my eyes and I feel it, the same way I felt it the first time she asked if she could kiss me, several lifetimes ago. I love this woman.

She puts down a bag of groceries and her briefcase and then bends down and pats Brandy which only serves to make her more exicted. The dog is snorting and dancing around her legs now and I hear her laugh and talk to her like a mother with a small child. We've never talked about children, I don't even know if she's ever wanted one, I realize, and this makes me suddenly very sad.

And then she's stepping over Brandy to meet me, wrapping her arms around me and I want to sink into them and stay there forever because it's safe and it's warm and nothing can hurt me there. Her uniform is soft against my cheek, spun wool so fine that it's like brushed cotton and she kisses the top of my head and I never want to move.

She's speaking to me now and I have to make myself listen to her words.

"...because you look a little pale. Are you sure you feel all right?"

I nod and I'm not lying. I feel fine, now that she's home.

"You're sure?" Tipping up my chin to search my eyes.

I run my hands along her arms. "I'm sure."

A strange expression -- a question?-- and then a long, warm kiss and her hands slip up under my sweater and touch the cool of my back. Dizziness, her tongue on my lips and my body is filled with such sweetness. When we break away at last, I am breathless and she holds me against her, cradling me.

"Are you hungry?" she asks.

"Yeah," I say but I can't remember if I am, or if I've eaten today.

"All right," she says and she holds me at arm's length, rubbing my shoulders. "Why don't you pour me a glass of that wine and I'll go change into some cooking clothes."

Another kiss and then she bounds out of the kitchen, towards the stairs, Brandy scrambling after her. I stand there listening to them pound down the hall to our bedroom, knowing that the dog is jumping on the bed to be closer to her, dragging some drool covered toy with her to throw in her direction, to invite her to play. In the quiet of the kitchen, I hear the washing machine chug to a stop and I head down to the basement to put the pillowcases and sheets into the dryer.

She cooks like she does everything else -- there is a fluidness about it, a grace that reminds me of someone playing the piano. It would embarass her if I said this, so I don't, but I sit nearby, my wineglass cradled in my hands and I watch her work. Even when she drops the knife, her bad hand betraying her again, she is elegant, somehow. Slamming cloves of garlic with the flat of the knife, dropping strips of peppers into hot olive oil, she moves from the counter to the range with ease, talking all the while, telling me about her court appearance, about the incompetence of the opposing counsel. I follow along, nodding at the right moments, but I'm not really listening because I want to concentrate on her body, I want to memorize the exact curve of her forearms, I want to know the arch of her back by heart. Long legs, tanned and lean. How can anyone look that good in a torn t-shirt and pair of running shorts?

She glances at me and I know I've missed something, dropped a cue.

"You're sure you're feeling all right?" she askes.

I roll my eyes at her and sip my wine. "I told you I was. Stop worrying so much."

"It's just --" she turns away to the range, then back again, picks up her wine, regards me with a scrutiny that must make witnesses jump on the stand. "You just seem pre-occupied."

I smile and it is an easy smile because we are here in the kitchen of our house and it smells of garlic and olives and I know that any moment she is going to leave her spot by the counter, cross the distance between us and take me in her arms.

"I'm fine," I say and I'm not lying.

She is even more beautiful in the glow from the candles and I know this is as much a trick of my mind as it is the light. We sit in the dining room of our house, the house we share and I know that my grandmother's china is stacked neatly in the antique sideboard behind me. My furniture looks right in these rooms, as if this was where it was supposed to have been in the first place. One of her paintings hangs on the wall in this room and each night as we have dinner together, I look at it. We almost argued over it -- she didn't want to hang it, didn't think it was any good, but I loved it and made her put it up. She did it in acrylics, but the colours are muted and sorrowful, like they are lost in a fog. An old trawler floats just off center, moored to some point deep beneath the surface and there is no sun, no horizon, no wharf, but this little boat is secure in the gloom, tethered to its anchor. She says that everytime she looks at it, all she can see is how the composition is off balance, how the lines of the boat and the mooring line should be corrected, the blending changed. I look at it and it makes me feel safe, but I've never told her this. Maybe I should.

I know the dinner is very good and it has some fourteen syllable Italian name that she rhymed off to me when I asked. Her grandmother used to make it and they often had it when she visited, but I have to force myself to put the food in my mouth, to chew and swallow.

I have decided that if I don't tell her, it won't be real.

I actually think this, out loud in my head and I consciously debate this statement until I make it true. Medicine and logic, knowledge, experience and intellect defeated by fear and love. As it should be.

We slowly clear the table together, as we do every night and while I'm at the sink, she slips up behind me and wraps her arms around me, another part of the ritual. We fit together like long lost pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, sliding perfectly into a space that was designed to only ever fit one particular shape. She rests her cheek on my hair and I feel the warmth of her body through our clothes, that long, flat belly pressed into my back. It's like coming home.

"You're so quiet tonight," she murmurs, her lips close to my ear. "Are you sure you're feeling all right?"

I nod. "I'm just tired, I think."

"Tell you what," she says, tightening her arms around me and rocking me gently, "why don't you go and have a bath and slip into bed. I'll finish up down here, let Brandy drag me around the block a few times and then I'll join you."

I want to say no, don't go, don't you know how much it hurts when you're not right here, beside me, touching me, but instead I nod again. She kisses the top of my head and then releases me and I make myself walk to the staircase.

It's so quiet without her. I lie in our bed and listen to the sounds that make up the life of our house -- creaks and sighs, the hum of the fridge far away but soothing -- and I wish for her to come back.

I know there is something to decide but in a trick of survival my mind won't let me remember what it is. It's important and I know I should think about it, come to a decision so that I can plan my actions for tomorrow, it's not like me to be so disorganized, but I just can't seem to retrieve it, can't make it stay in the light long enough to think about it.

The front door opens and closes downstairs and I hear the rattling of her keys and Brandy's asthmatic huffing and puffing. They've been chasing each other which is why they were gone so long. She took her to the park, played tag among the elms that grow there and Brandy is out of breath from the race home. She loves that dog. She'd make a good mother I think and then I wonder why this should surprise me. I'd always sensed that, always known it but had never formed the words before.

She is beside me suddenly, sliding between the sheets and I realize that I must have fallen asleep because the lights are off and she has changed into her boxers and she smells of soap and tooth paste. A warm arm slips around my waist and as I search for her hand, she draws herself closer to me, I feel her belly and breasts against my back and in spite of everything, a rush of excitement ripples through me. I can forget this, I must forget this, just for tonight.

I turn to meet her and see her eyes in the darkness, know that there is a question there. My hand is touching her face, learning its paths, recording the slopes and valleys, tracing the arc of her eyelashes, dark against her cheek.

My lips brush across that cheek, so soft, trailing slowly down until they find her mouth and it's like a sail suddenly filling with wind, pulling me forward, wakening my body. Her hands on me, sliding under my t-shirt, deftly dancing over my thighs, my belly, my breasts. I sigh and and there is nothing in the world but this closesness, this softness that is her.

She is prone now and I am kissing her breasts, coaxing and teasing the nipple that grows hard between my lips and I feel the rhythm start to grow in her body as she moans and reaches for me. Time is elastic and I want it to stop right here so that we can lie like this forever, our skin hot and electric, our breathing synchronized, her voice always in my ears, always making that low sound it's making right now, always saying my name.

She is warm and wet and she groans as I run my finger through her slippery folds. Her hips are rocking with need and I feel myself soothed by it, as if she were holding me and we fall into the slow beat that we have found together. I want to touch her everywhere, run my mouth across every inch of her skin, carry her to the very edge and hold her there while she writhes in pleasure and hangs onto me. I want to give her this and it still shocks me sometimes, when I realize that I can.

Between her legs now, my mouth buried in her, my tongue pushing against her, feeling the throbbing in every arch of her back, her hands cradling my head, trembling fingers laced through my hair and I sense it building until suddenly it is released and she cries out, her head thrown back, her face contorted in a mixture of pleasure and pain. I press on, kissing her deeply, drunk with the taste of her, every flick of my tongue making her flail and writhe beneath me and a deep sorrow opens up within me because I don't want to stop, it can't be over, I want her to feel like this always.

And then her arm is around me and she is scared, I can hear it in her voice, because I'm crying and crying and I can't seem to make myself stop, hot tears rolling down my face and she's pulling the blankets around us against the chill and holding me so tightly against her that I can hear her heart pounding. She's whispering to me, saying soothing things, rocking me in her arms and I know that if I could just stay there, everything would be okay.

Dr. Zuckerman's waiting room at the oncology clinic is decorated with prints of ships and I study them while I wait. They are all hazy, pastel coloured little boats, sailing along on happy waves and you can tell that the sun always shines in this little soft hued corner of the world. These pictures have no soul, they were probably churned out by a machine somewhere and I wonder if there's a catalogue of art for doctor's waiting rooms, designed to soothe and reassure frightened patients. To give the dying something to look at so we won't feel upset. I think about the painting in our dining room, her ship, moored on the edge of the world and I feel better.

The bandaid in the crook of my elbow is pinching, pulling on some sensitive skin, and I want to rip it off, but I'd have to take off my suit jacket to do that and I'm too tired to stand up. I had to wear the suit, had to keep up the appearance of getting ready for work, blowing dry my hair, applying my make up carefully, knowing that no amount of foundation and eye liner was going to change what the machines saw within me today.

Finally, it is my turn and I know when he walks into the room with the x-rays in his hand that the cancer is back, that it has been growing and blooming within my skull, even as I held her and made love to her these weeks and I know when I see his face that he thinks this time I'm going to die.

I sit in the park until I can go home and not have to explain why I'm so early. People walk by me and they glance at me and I wonder if they can tell. Does it show? Can they tell, by looking at me, that something foreign and poisonous has taken root again, deep within me?

Will she know?

I sigh because I know I'm not being rational and I can't afford the luxury of emotions today. There are choices to be made and I need to keep a level head.

A level head.

I can't tell her. I can't tell her until they're sure and they can't be completely sure until they do the MRI. I can't tell her until I know what I should do.

I can't tell her because I don't think that I could bear to see her face when I say the words.

Her briefcase and keys are on the kitchen table when I come in, and from the looks of the pot simmering on the stove, she's been home for a while. The door to the back porch is open and I see her through the screen door, on her hands and knees at the edge of a flower bed, pulling weeds and clawing at the dark earth with a trowel. I stand there and watch her and then, as if she senses my presence, she turns and looks over her shoulder at me. A smile.

"Hey!" she says and she's getting up, brushing dirt and grass off her knees. "When did you get home?"

I push open the door and step out to meet her. "Right now. Supper smells good," I say and in two more steps, my arms are around her and she's kissing me. She tastes like red wine and I touch her cheek with one hand, as if I could hold her there forever.

"Guess what," she says and there's a smile dancing in her eyes.

"What?" I say and I am smiling with her and I don't even know why.

"The case I've been arguing, you know the Franklin kid?"

I nod.

"They threw it out today. Dropped all the charges and let him walk." Her smile blossoms, transforms her face.

"That's wonderful," I say and I know that the main reason that PFC Edward Franklin is walking free tonight is standing in front of me now, holding me in her arms. "Yeah, I'm happy for him. He's a good kid. He didn't deserve to be shafted like that," she says and as she's talking, I scramble to remember what he had been accused of. She's told me about it, has talked about little else for the past two weeks as the trial neared and now the details are gone from my mind and I'm so tired, I just need to sit down for a minute.

She's peering at me with a concerned look and so I try to summon a smile. "Well, this calls for a celebration," I say.

She nods, but there's a heaviness there, just below the surface.

"What did I smell in the kitchen?" I ask because I know I have to divert her quickly, before she can ask.

"It's a surprise," she says.

"Can't you give me a hint?"

She shakes her head, tucks her hair back behind her ear with a dirty hand. "Nope. Because if I told you, then I'd have to kill you." A grin and then she's turning me around and steering me back through the screen door into the kitchen. "You go upstairs and change and when you come back down, I will have a glass of wine waiting for you."

I do as I'm told, wearily kicking off my pumps as I go. The dining room table is already set and there's a huge vase of fresh flowers in the center. The crystal wine glasses sit by our plates. She's happy and she wants to share it with me and I wonder how I ever lived before I met this woman.

I am on the third step when she pokes her head into the dining room and says, "Hey, I forgot to ask, how was work?"

I stop and have to concentrate on answering, on keeping my voice steady.

"Oh, fine. You know. Did a lot of paperwork."

She seems to accept this, and I realize it's becoming easier to lie to her.

"How's Mulder?"

"He's fine," I say and I start climbing the stairs again, my stockinged feet soundless on the wooden steps.

"Tell him I said hi," she calls after me and I can tell from her voice that she's back in the kitchen, puttering with supper.

Every step an eternity and I know that I have to rest. For just a minute.

I feel her beside me even before I open my eyes and the room isn't completely dark but everything is cloaked in a haze of leftover sleep. Pages turning and the muted squeak of a highliter pen drifting across some legal text.

I try to turn over, I want to see her face but my body is betraying me, and my limbs ache with fatigue. Without meaning to, I moan softly and immediately her hand is on my shoulder, soothing, stroking, restoring peace. I lift my head to gaze at her.

"Hey," she says quietly, a voice you use with someone you love, "how're you feeling?"

I can't seem to rub the sleep from my eyes, but I try. "Um,...better. I guess I fell asleep."

She chuckles, closes her file folder and tosses it onto the floor beside the bed. "You sure did."

And then I notice that the curtains are closed but behind them, there is no light seeping in, only darkness, and she is sitting beside me in a t-shirt and boxers, her glasses low on her nose. I look at the clock on the bedside table and realize it's 11:30.

"Oh, God, I'm so sorry -- you made dinner and I just wanted to lie down for a minute, I was --"

"Shhhh, it's okay," she's saying and she's gathering me up in her arms, pulling me to her, resting my head against her breast. "You were tired. You needed to sleep."

"But you made dinner and I --"

"Don't worry about it. It'll keep. It's more important that you get your rest."

Her chin rests on my head and my ear is pressed to her chest and I can hear her breathing, the steady swoosh of air in and out like ocean waves on the beach. It comforts me.

She pulls the blankets up around us and we stay like that, her propped on her pillows, me clinging to her, not speaking, never giving voice to the howling that is just inside me. I notice, finally, that I'm not wearing my suit anymore.

"Thanks for tucking me in," I say and I feel her soft laugh move through her body.

"My pleasure," she replies. "The best part was that I got to undress you and you know how I love to do that."

She has made me smile and I am suddenly newly grateful for this woman who is holding me. I run a hand along the skin of her arm, trailing it gently across the softness inside her wrist and as I do, I feel her body react beneath me, relaxing and unwinding. I caress her hand, her fingers, then travel back to that vulnerble wrist, over the delicate topography of her bones and veins until I find the spot I'm looking for and I press softly with my fingers until I find her pulse. I let it throb beneath my touch.

It is steady and strong, like her.

I sit in the car, across the street, parked in the shade of an old tree, sheltered from the last of the day's heat by its cool green embrace. I don't know how long I've been sitting here and even if I looked at my watch, the hour would be meaningless, numbers that measure but do not cling to the moment. They slip away without order and I can't seem to keep track of them, so I don't try.

There is a certain calm that comes with knowing.

I've always dealt well with facts. I used to think that they were the currency of my soul, but I know better now, she showed me that I was wrong. Still, they comforted me as I navigated blindly through the traffic today, they consolled me as I drove down this street, towards our home. They soothe me still as I sit here, staring at the front door, the windows, wondering what she is doing, why she's home so early. Soon, facts are the only thing I will be able to give her, the only strength that I will be able to offer, so I don't move from the driver's seat.

Billie Holiday is singing in the living room as I open the door. Dark, moody chords and her voice, keening over it all, filling the house. I put my keys on the kitchen table and through the screen door, I see her, sitting on the back steps, still in her dress uniform. Further away, in the yard, Brandy is rolling on her back in the grass. I stand and watch them both, the curve of her back, the straight line of her shoulders and I wish myself away from this place.

I am calm because it has been decided.

She lifts her head at the squeak of the screen door, but does not look at me and I know that she is upset.

"Hey," I say and I touch her shoulder, the fabric cool under my fingers.

"Hey," she replies softly as I sit down beside her on the step.

Her eyes are hooded and sad and when she finally looks at me, I feel alone, like she's not completely here with me.

She's holding a glass in her hand, a precious inch of scotch and two metling ice cubes, and I know that this isn't her first.

"Hitting the hard stuff?" I ask and then know instantly that it was the wrong thing to say. Everything will be the wrong thing

She nods silently, stares away from me.

"Bad day?" I ask.

She doesn't speak and I realize suddenly that she is afraid.

Her voice is ragged, as if she's holding something tightly down within her. "I tried to call you today..."

"I didn't have my cell phone on. I needed to --"

"I talked to Mulder," she says and I stop trying. I want to hold my breath.

She swirls the ice and liquid in her glass, watching it with such seriousness, then turns those burnt chocolate eyes on me again. "He, uh,...he wanted to know if you were feeling better, since you hadn't been in to work for two days."

I can't look at her. I have to close my eyes for a moment, break the link and hide. I am afraid and ashamed and I hate the words that are welling up in my chest and I hate Zuckerman and his fucking MRI because now we know and I have to tell her and she knows I lied and now she has to know. I can't protect her.

Every sound comes to me in that silence while she waits. A car door slams out on the street and Billie is reminding us that she hurts worse than anyone and I know that I am still alive. Still among the living.

"We have to talk," I say. "I...um, ...got some news today."

"What kind of news?" and I know she is still hurt because she can't raise her eyes to meet mine.

I ache to touch her but I can't move. "I didn't want to say anything yesterday because I wanted to be sure."

"Sure of what? What's the matter?"

I swallow, my mouth is so dry and suddenly I am nauseous, I think I might vomit right here on the steps.

"I had an MRI today and they told me that I'm not in remission anymore." The words are spilling out now, out of my control, but my voice is measured and calm because I can't scare her, I can't let her be scared, it will be too much to bear.

She stares at me, startled, not moving, not breathing. "That's -- how can they be--?"

I touch her, finally, place a hand over hers and it's cold. "The cancer, Kaz. It's back. The tumour is growing."

She closes her eyes and it looks like something has sliced through her. On her feet, pulling away, walking out into the tiny yard, walking past the rose bushes that we planted just two weekends ago. She stops and holds her head with one hand, making no sound, hiding her face from me. And then, a fluid motion, twisting and flailing with all her might, throwing her glass at the fence. It explodes into shards and Brandy is up now, running in confused little circles, watching her, trying to read her face.

She turns and I see the tears in her eyes, on her cheeks, flowing, unchecked. "There's a mistake, right?" she says and she's battling to speak, every word choked and clipped by held back sobs. "I mean, it's not possible. The chip you told me about, it's -- this isn't supposed to happen to you."

I go to her there in the middle of the yard and I hold her, I lower her head to my shoulder, stroke her hair and feel the sobs crash through her body. We stay there a long time, clinging to each other, not moving, while daylight slowly dies above us.

She is being stubborn, refusing to understand.

"Isn't is worth a try? I mean, isn't there a chance that it might work? Just because it didn't work before..."

We sit together on the couch, so close. She is holding my hand in her lap and she has never looked so childlike to me, so beautiful.

"None of the traditional treatments that we tried worked the first time. There's no reason to believe that this time would be different."

"But it's worth a try, isn't it?"

I don't want our time to be like this and I realize that I've already started to think in terms of time. Time left. Time enough.

"It's just not logical to try them again. You don't -- medicine just doesn't work that way."

She settles herself with another shaky breath, her uniform tie dangling around her neck, the top buttons of her blouse undone. Physically struggling to stay calm. I want to look away.

"Why isn't the chip working anymore?"

I sigh and I realize that I am tired again. "I don't know. We didn't know anything about it in the first place. There was no logical reason it should have worked."

"Is there any way --?" she starts to say but she lets it fall because she knows that it's an impossibility. I watch her eyes, see her thoughts reflected there, know that she is going through the same list that I have slept with these past days. Abruptly, she stops, and takes my hand between hers as if it were delicate, as if she were suddenly afraid of breaking it. She searches my eyes, watches me with an intensity that is palpable. "Tell me again what they're going to do."

"It's an experimental form of chemotherapy. An intensive three week course of treatment. They've had some success with similar cancers."

"But not yours..." The words barely make it out.

"No, not mine."

The fear is cresting again, and I hear it in her breathing, read it in her eyes and I want to gather her up in my arms and rock her, but she quells it.

"Will it make you sick?"

I nod. I can't tell her tonight that this is like compressing the usual four month course of treatment into a month. He's warned me. I'm going to be very sick. And it probably won't work. But I won't tell her this.

"Do you have to stay at the hospital? Couldn't I take care of you here?" she asks. "If they could just show me what to do, I'd --"

"Dr. Zuckerman thinks it would be best if I was at the hospital," I say and I see the sadness again. I squeeze her hand. "But it's just a few weeks and then I'll be home and you can fatten me up with your cooking again."

She doesn't smile and I know that she's fighting not to cry because she doesn't want to upset me.

It's dark in the living room, we haven't turned on the lights and I am watching her by the light slipping in from the street. Everything is blue and soothing, a twilight of sorts and my body is weary from this day, from these words. I want to sleep.

"Is there any other way?" she asks. "Is there anything else they can do?"

I try to smile but I know there is no reassurance in it. "They've tried everything else."

She doesn't speak and I can tell from her eyes that she has reached the end of the list. The fatigue washes over me now, makes me dizzy. She sees it instantly and shifts to draw me against her, laying my head against her shoulder, folding her arms around me. She has decided to keep me safe, to protect me from this and her body tells me this, tells me that I can sleep now, she will stand guard, she will shoulder this for a few hours.

I want to tell her I love her, but I'm so tired.

The pain wakes me, forcing me upright in the darkness, hand clamped to my forehead, as if that will help. Unsteady pain, throbbing with my heartbeat, making my eyes squeeze shut, as if something is slicing through me.

I swing my legs out of the bed and make my way through the gloom that comes before dawn, to the bathroom, pulling on my robe as I go. I can walk this path with both eyes shut, this house so familiar to me now. Like her body to me, I know every turn, every secret.

The Advil catches in my throat and I have to gulp more water to ease the way and I know that soon a handful of these pills will not distract this pain. The tumour is growing, strengthening its roots and soon I will need stronger drugs to pacify it, to smooth the trip between morning and night.

I find a washcloth in the cupboard, let the hot water warm. I soak the cloth and sit wearily on the side of the huge old bathtub. Cloth to my face, stinging my fingers with the heat, I hold it against my cheek, my forehead, press the wet warmth into the hollow of my eye, steam and relief flooding into me. Soak it again and wring it out, press it into the pain, breathing in the moist air. I prop my elbows on the sink, clinging to this washcloth, trying not to breathe, to be so still that the pain will forget.

The window in the bathroom is open a crack and cool morning air is carrying in the songs of birds, unnaturally loud in the quiet of the city. I wonder why they cry like that. Are they hungry, calling to their mates, their mothers? Or are they singing, coaxing the sun from below the horizon?

A rustle and there is Brandy pushing the bathroom door open with her nose, peering at me with sad and puzzled eyes. She has left the bed to come and look for me, to look after me, as her master would do. I don't want to wake her. She was so tired, so spent. She needs to rest now because it's not going to get easier.

Brandy ambles through the door, her sturdy paws pacing off the cold tiles and settles herself down right beside me, leaning her warm weight into my leg, lending her support somehow, reminding me that she's there.

The clock on the mircrowave tells me it's 4:23 a.m. and I know that I won't sleep anymore, but I think I can fool myself with some warm milk. Brandy waits by her dish, her eyes following me around the kitchen and by the time my milk is hot, she has been rewarded with a morsel of leftover veal from the fridge. We drift into the living room and I am glad for her company. There are more decisions to be made, plans to be laid out and already the day is stretching ahead of me like some surreal obstacle course. I have to tell my mother and the thought makes my stomach tighten. I can't just call, I have to see her and she will try not to cry, she will hold me and summon up her formidable strength but there will be a moment when she will cling to me, and I will have to be strong.

And then, there's work. There are offices to be notified and forms to be circulated, memos to be sent and files to be handed over. I don't want to have to see Skinner -- something in his expression unhinges me and I lose my words -- but I know I can't just send him a memo about this leave of absence, I owe him more than that. Maybe Mulder will tell him for me.


I sigh and for the briefest moment, I think, I don't want to tell him, I can't tell him, he doesn't have to know, and I know, just as quickly as these thoughts fly through my mind, that he will blame himself. This will be his failure. I can see the exact expression on his face, the shadow that will cross his eyes as he tries to find words to reassure me. I don't know if I can face him, if I can bear to see him like that, once more.

I will ask her to come with me.

She'll sit in the car or wait for me someplace nearby and when I return she will hold my hand or wrap me in her arms and that will make all the difference. It will get me through.

Out on the street, a car is pulling away from the curb and the noise of the engine shatters the stillness. In an hour, she will wake up and put on her running shoes and that worn out old ball cap and she will kiss me before she leaves to pound the miles out of the morning pavement and I realize as I sit there and listen to the city slowly waking up that I have decided to live. I have decided to fight to stay in this life because after she is done running, she will come back to our home and she will smile and coax me into the shower with her and run her hands over my slippery body, promising me that we have tonight and there will be a moment over breakfast, before I straighten her jacket and adjust her tie, when we will look at each other and it will all be there, right in front of us. What I'd waited all this time to find.

I will not give this up.

I lie on the bed, covered only by the quilt and I listen to her move around in the house. The spray of the faucet in the kitchen, the hum of the printer in her office and each sound tells me where she is, what she is doing. Every second passing tells me that she can't come up here and face me.

She's been on edge all day -- sharp angles and choked words, as if she's somehow trying to make herself smaller and quieter, as if she's trying not to take up as much space, as if that might make this all go away.

A day of details, phone calls, paperwork. A cup of tea with my mother because she needed to do something with her hands after she'd cried on my shoulder.

I couldn't even catch her eye today, couldn't make her look at me for long, but I knew how her face would look, had she shown it to me. She waited patiently for me while I talked to Mulder, sat in the car and pretended to read some huge legal tome, but I know that she didn't.

She looks hollow all of a sudden.

I am tired tonight, but not nearly as tired as I thought I would be, having spent the afternoon telling my mother that the cancer was back. This should tire a person out I know and yet, it isn't fatigue I feel so much as numbness. I lie here, watching the shadows lengthen across the floor of our bedroom until they are extinguished, and I feel nothing. I have become hollow, too.

Finally, I hear the chain of the front door rattle as she hooks it securely for the night and then she is at the bedroom door, wondering if I'm asleep.

"Hey," I say to her and my voice sounds foreign to me.

"Hey." Uncertain steps towards the bed. "How...um..." Looking at her feet, now. She always does that when she's scared, or ashamed of something. "Can I get you anything?"

It's all there in her voice.

I hold out my hand, reaching into the space between us. She hesitates, doesn't move and in that instant, my heart stops.

I need her. How can she not know this?

And then she is there, sitting beside me on our bed, drawing me into her arms, her hands on my back, like a balm, her lips against my neck, her breath sweet and warm. We cling to each other like that, letting precious seconds pass, defying time.

The ache for her crests within me and I want her close to me, inside me, with a desperation that scares me. The urgency is there where our mouths meet and she senses it, pulls away slightly to search my eyes.

"Are you...Is this okay?" she asks, and she is holding me as if I was something fragile and tempered, as if I would shatter if she dropped me.

I nod, feeling the breath building within me, the slow burn growing from the contact of her body with mine. "I want this. Please," I say, but what I mean is, I'm not dead yet, please don't treat me like I'm dead.

Under her sweatshirt, her skin is hot and smooth and my fingers travel across her back, her shoulders, down across her belly and I feel the tension building in her muscles. She undresses me slowly, my sweater and then my undershirt, she smiles because there's no bra and then her hands are warming me, her palms soft and warm as they cup my breasts. She lowers her head to kiss them and I am dizzy with the smell of her, this close to me.

There are sounds, low whimpers and soft breaths and I think that they are my voice as she lowers me backward until I touch the cool of the sheets. Tugging my jeans off, sliding over my hips, tossed on the floor and I want her back, I want her close to me, holding me, waking me with her mouth. She is above me, her pleansant weight against my belly and my hips, her thighs smooth and comforting against my skin and I hook both arms around her neck and draw her mouth to mine, taste her again like I need to memorize her. I feel the heat of her low against my belly and I want to touch her everywhere, run my hands across all of the places that I know, that are ours now, not just hers.

Her arm around me now, cradling me protectively as her hand slips between my legs, caresses me, makes me throb and burn and ache for her touch. I can only moan and my mouth finds her nipple, suckles at it, teases it, makes her sigh and lean into me, the rhythm of her fingers never altering.

She is inside me now, sliding slowly, forcing me to rock with her and I can't break the contact, I trail kisses across her collarbone and her breasts, take one taut nipple in my mouth and feel her moving with me, a slow dance that slices us to our middles. Her fingers are long and she is touching me so deeply that I pull in breaths in sharp little gasps as she moves them, as she strokes my insides.

And then she is lying between my legs, holding me tightly, her mouth hot and urgent against me and I can't speak, I can't think, I can barely breathe because everything else has ceased and it is only us now, only we two who exist and something curls tightly in my belly and suddenly nothing else matters but this woman who is kissing me, caressing me, holding me in her arms, brushing damp hair off my forehead.

I sleep in her arms.

Afternoon and I am feeling ridiculous.

The irony of being a dying woman sitting in her pajamas, in a hospital bed, waiting to be sick is not lost on me, but I say nothing, I let them poke me and prod me, these white-coated shamans, I let them take my blood, I let them listen to my heart and I try not to look at their eyes. I know they are grateful for this, this tiny but necessary gesture in this elaborate game of hope. This treatment is experimental. I am only lately fallen from this priestly medical caste and I know what this means: I am a sum of statistical measurements to them, a deviation from a cancerous mean and they do not think that this will save my life, or even prolong it. They don't allow themselves to wonder who I am, what life I live, whom I love and who loves me, instead they cross their fingers, administer the meds and let science and healing dance that supernatural waltz that they pretend to understand. They've taken an oath and they will not break it by looking into my eyes and telling me with their expression that I am going to die. Do no harm, they were told, and above all, reassure the patient, convey to them your unshakable belief that they can get well.

I know they cannot do this, so I don't force them to lie.

She walks easily into the room, at least her body walks easily, but I can see that she is worried. The smile is for me, to comfort me, to encourage me, to tell me that she is all right, and I know that she is the one who needs the comfort. I wonder, fleetingly, what she will be like if I die.

"I just talked to your Mom," she is saying, moving across the room as she speaks, graceful and fluid. "She wanted to know what time she should come by and if she should bring anything."

"I'm fine," I say. "I have everything I need."

"Well, that's what I told her, but she seems to think that chicken broth will be just what you need later today, if you're feeling sick."

We both smile and she ducks her head as she chuckles. I know this gesture, she has laughed like that a thousand times since we first met and yet somehow here, in this antisceptic room, it seems more precious to me, suddenly.

She leans on the railing of the bed, takes my hand in hers. Her skin is soft and warm.

"How do you feel?" she asks and instinctively, we both glance at the IV bags that hang at my beside.

What I feel is silly, like a malingering child, but I don't say this, I know it's not what she means. Instead I force a smile and shrug. "I'm fine," I say, because there are no other words.

I watch her thumb move across the backs of my fingers, her skin tones darker than mine, more olive than rose and when I look up at her face, I see that she is staring at the IV pole and the regulator, at the bags of clear fluid that drip quickly into my veins. I watch them with her, hypnotized by the rhythm of the silent drops. They look so harmless, like water.

The ceiling light in the bathroom is excruciating, it pierces my skull and drills into my brain like jagged shards of glass and if I could just catch my breath, I would tell her to turn it off, but I can't speak, I can't breathe, I can only cling to her arm, brace myself against the cool porcelain of the sink and ride out the heaves that crash through my body.

The vomiting began at six. At ten, they started another line, this one pushing fluids into my body to replace what I was throwing up. I'd gone through two pairs of pajamas and a hospital gown by then and now my mother was off searching for another gown for me to change into. It comes so suddenly, so violently and I feel slightly ashamed that I can't control it, can't even keep from soiling the front of my gown.

Everything tastes like metal in my mouth and I know it's the chemicals that are trying to save me, but the taste of it makes my eyes burn and my swollen head pound and why don't they turn off that fucking light it's making me sicker --

The spasms rip through me again and I don't know how much longer I can do this. My knees are weak and she is holding me up now, supporting me with gentle hands, the IV lines tangled around her arm, the pole to which I am tethered shoved off into the corner, out of the way. I never realized how strong she was, and I feel her hands on me now, holding me as my muscles sag. She's speaking to me, a litany of soothing words, but I don't hear what she's saying, only the sound of her voice, calm and steady, as she rinses out faceclothes and wipes my forehead, my cheeks, the back of my neck.

The cool touch of it brings me back to myself and I am breathing now.

"Do you want to lie down?" she is asking and what I want is to lie in her arms at home in our bed and to sleep there until this exhaustion that is smothering me has left.

"Do you want to go back to your bed or are you going to be sick some more?" she asks.

My lips are parched and I feel them crack as I form the words. "There's more..." I try to finish but it comes again and I can only shake my head and squeeze my eyes shut, uselessly try to will it away.

It is her touch that wakes me. Warm fingers against my forehead, pushing back damp hair, stroking tenderly and I know the rhythm and melody of that touch, those hands. It is all there is in this world, those gentle hands.

My senses return, descending on me like suffocation and my body feels bruised, as though someone has beaten me. It takes a moment to place the memory and in those seconds my muscles ache. I know it is the aftereffects of the vomiting, I tell myself that this is standard in chemotherapy, that I'm just feeling the sudden depletion of minerals and electrolytes, but for the sharpest moment, I wonder if it is worth it and whether or not I can do this for twenty more days.

Her fingers again, gliding across my skin and I know that I have already decided.

I force my eyes open and my head is thick with the cobwebs of sleep and the chemicals that beat in my veins. She is there, beside me, her face close to mine, one hand propping up her head, the other soothing me, stroking my hair. She smiles at me, the gentlest of smiles, as if she has been waiting for me and is glad at my arrival.

Behind her, through the window, I can see the pink glow of dawn and I realize that she has not slept. The fatigue hangs on her like an old coat, but she seems oblivious to it.

"Hey," she says and she tilts her head to study my face.

"Hey," I try to say but my voice is a whisper.

"Long night, huh?" and the touch of her fingers in my hair is making me sleepy again, lulling me like a song. I rouse myself. I want to be here with her.

"Where's my mom?"

"I sent her home around two when you fell asleep. We figured the worst was over funtil the next dose," she explains, still running her fingers languidly through my hair. It is a battle now, to keep my eyes open, to stay with her, here in this room. "She's going to come and spell me around ten."

I reach for her hand, take it in my own, cling to its heat.

"You have to get some sleep," I say.

"I will," she replies. "There's a couch down the hall in the visitor's lounge. I can catch some naps there."

I shake my head sleepily, push open my eyes again and try to fix her in my sights. So tired.

"You should go home. Get a decent sleep."

She lays a gentle finger on my lips to silence me and she shakes her head.

"No. I'm not leaving you," and I know that there is no point in arguing with her. Her eyes travel across my face and what she sees makes her smile sadly. "I need to be here."

Another long look and I can feel my eyes closing, know that I can't hold off the black sleep that is coming for me. I feel her close to me now, her lips on my forehead, a soft kiss on my cool skin.

"Go back to sleep," she says and I know that she will watch over me.

I lose count too quickly, even before the third day is over. I am disoriented when I wake and sometimes I think that I am at home and that it's Sunday morning and that she is making coffee downstairs, until the smell makes my stomach seize and my body purges itself of the deadly metals that are pushing into my blood.

I had decided that it was important to keep count, to number the days, to feel the accomplishment of each cycle of drugs and sickness and hazy sleep. But sometimes it's daylight when I wake and I can't remember if we've started the next treatment, and I'm angry with myself because I should be paying attention, I want to know, it's important to know, it will help me get through and why can't I just remember?

Once, I woke during the night and she was sitting in the corner, her elbows on her knees, her hands clasped together, her head lowered, a prayerful pose. I lie still and watch her through the gloom, her back heaving with silent sobs.

I want to spare her this. I want to send her away to keep her from seeing this, from seeing me, from feeling this. I want to make it all stop, I want to dry her tears and make everything like it was.

"Kaz," I say into the quiet stillness and it startles her. She swipes at the tears on her face, sniffs, then runs a quick hand through her hair.

"I didn't know you were awake," she says. "Are you okay? Do you need anything?"

Tears linger in her voice. She hates to cry.

"Come here," I say, and she gets up and quickly moves to the bedside.

"What do you need?" she asks and she is worried that something is wrong. Her eyes are wide with worry and even in this dull light I can see that they glitter like shards of obsidian.

I pull back the sheets, warm from my own heat and clumsily swing my legs over the side, wearily sit up. She helps me automatically, so close to me that her scent fills me, blots out the stinging hospital smell. A gentle tug on her arm and she is sitting beside me on the bed, watching me. I search her expression, read every whisper in her eyes and I know that I can never give this up.

I take her in my arms, feel hers slide around my waist and hang on tightly. She rests her head on my shoulder, her breath hot and sweet on the hollow of my neck and I know that I have to live.

Zuckerman is talking to her at the foot of the bed, his hands drawing precise little shapes in the air as he explains himself to her. I should be listening, they're talking about me, but I'm too tired. She will deal with the details, she is listening raptly while he talks, her arms folded in front of her, her eyes trained on his face. In another life, she would be scribbling notes on a long yellow pad and then Zuckerman would be in for the cross examination of his life, but today she just listens, committing every detail to memory.

I think again that I should be listening, but they are letting me go for the weekend and nothing else matters to me now. My bag has been packed and is waiting by the door. I have a two day reprieve before this chemical gauntlet begins again and while Zuckerman talks to her about vitamin injections and anti-nausea drugs, I sit on the edge of the bed and think that I will ask her to put the top down on our way home. I dream about the feel of the sun on my head, the wind caressing my face.

He is telling her something about my immune system now and Mulder comes to me as I sit there on my hospital bed, waiting to leave. He hasn't been by in two days, or maybe it's three, it's such a blur of drugs and sickness that I can't remember and I'm annoyed with myself. I frown, trying to remember his visit and I can only recall that he looked awful, like he hadn't slept. He didn't stay long; I remember him to talking to her, at the foot of the bed, like they are doing now, as I drifted in and out of sleep. Their voices, arguing in hushed tones, and when I woke up, he was gone.

Zuckerman is talking still and all I can think is that I need to see the sky.

Our house has not changed since I left it and I wonder why I would think that it would. It feels like months have passed since I was last here, since we last ate breakfast together at that small table in the kitchen. The furniture is all in the same places, Brandy's water bowel by the fridge, the china is still stacked in the sideboard and even the smells are still the same. Sandalwood and oil paints, flowers and sunshine. It just feels right to be here again and as I make my way through the dining room to the stairs, I know that when I turn to look, the little ship will still be there on the wall, safely moored, steadfastly anchored and no matter what storms may come, that this little trawler will be safe.

"Sweetheart, what is it?" my mother asks, and for a moment I had forgotten that she was here with me, holding my arm, helping me to the stairs. I blink stupidly at her and know that I must look like I just woke up.

"Why are you smiling?" she asks and my smile is reflected in her face as she studies me.

I chuckle, suddenly self-conscious because she caught me daydreaming about a painting. I squeeze her hand tightly.

"It's just good to be home."

She smiles in earnest now and I know she understands.

I lay there in the darkness and listen to her breathe. The tempo soothes me, reassures me, like the touch of her palm on my cheek when she cups my face in her hands to kiss me. My head rests in the hollow of her shoulder and my hand on her belly is still, rising and falling with the absolute rhythm of her sleep.

I want to wake her, I want her to be present with me as I wish for sleep, but I know that I won't. She needs the rest.

In the dimness of the room, I can just make out her profile, the curve of her forehead, the line of her nose, the full arc of her lips and it is all I can do to keep from touching her, from tracing the paths of her face with my fingers. She sighs now and moves slightly, and I watch her carefully, listening to every breath and I remember snowy kisses with her at Christmas. So long ago. Another lifetime.

I feel a drop run across my lip like a heavy tear, and I stiffen, one hand reflexively to my nose. It comes away wet, my fingers thick and sticky with blood.

Distentangling myself now, flicking on the bathroom light, wads of white tissues to my nose as I run the water hard, search for a facecloth. Brandy is suddenly underfoot, pacing back and forth, nearly tripping me, her sad eyes never leaving my face.

A glimpse in the mirror and for a moment, I am startled, I don't recognize myself, it's some woman with hollow eyes staring at me as I clutch the wad of soggy tissues in my hand. Another heartbeat and there is a pain in my head, deep inside like a pressure that's building and then there's blood soaking through the handful of tissues, they're crimson now and where is the goddam facecloth?

Brandy dancing frantically, while I pull open the cupboard under the sink, where did she put the fucking facecloths, and there are blots of blood, perfect spattered circles growing on the white tiles by my feet. I straighten up and the light seems brighter suddenly so much brighter and the pain inside my head makes me wince. I think I am going to throw up.

I try to say her name, try to call to her, but my strength is flowing out of me with the blood, so dark, trickling down my chin and I can't make it stop.

"Kaz--" My own voice is far away from me now and I know what's happening, I have to tell her, I have to call her.

"Kaz?" But there is so little sound it seems and I'm stepping backwards, searching for the wall against my hand, sliding slowly down now until I reach the mercy of the cold tiles, curling into myself from the pain, the floor pressed to my cheek.

"Kaz, I need --" And it's dribbling into my throat, choking my voice and some tiny part of my brain knows that the tumour has torn into a blood vessel and that I am hemorrhaging. Shock. We have to treat the shock.

Brandy is howling now, barking and barking and barking and I'm so tired, I just want to close my eyes but I know I shouldn't, everything is sticky and limp and cold. So cold.

I feel the pounding of her feet as she runs to the bathroom.

"Oh, sweet Jesus! Scully! Oh, my God, Scully!"

And I am in her arms, my face pressed against her chest and she is talking but there are no words.

There are lights, dancing and swimming and there is pain, deep within me. Worse than pain, a loss, a hollow ache of the essential, torn away.

So tired. My mind knows. It remembers, when I can't. The key that would unlock it all, that would tell me the secret of the darkness and lights, the secret of the pain.

Soft voices above me, soothing words and the touch of relief deep inside me, soft as snow falling, it seeps into my veins.

All I remember is the blood and the sound of her voice. A flash of the front door, bathed in redwhiteredwhite and then emptiness. There are other voices now and I think if I could just climb out from under this crushing weight, I could listen to them. They would know that I was still here.

"...tumour has progressed at a surprising rate...never seen anything like it, but then her illness has been atypical since the beginning..."

She speaks next and I know that it is a question but her voice is low and pressed down with fear. He replies and it is neutral, some apology to soothe the waters, to put her off.

"...reassess the situation. She's barely over the hypovolemic..."

The darkness comes to cover me again and I let it.

It is late Monday when I wake, but she is waiting for me. Time stretches by me while they remove the tubes that have been choking me and I pacify them by drinking sweet orange fluids that are supposed to help.

At last, she is allowed back and I suddenly don't know what to say to her. She stops in the doorway, biting her lip, glancing down at the floor and I know that the words have been bled out of her too.

The smile I offer must be one part pleading and it draws her into the room, pulls her to my side. A long kiss on my forehead and when she straightens up, I can see the tears just behind her eyes. I take her hand, squeeze it.

"I'm okay," I tell her and I can see how much she wants to believe me.

She pulls a chair close to the bed, sits down, never letting go of my hand, as if I might slip away if her fingers weren't intertwined with mine. We sit like this for what might be hours and she strokes my forehead while she studies me.

When she speaks, finally, her voice is gentle, caressing. I know what is coming and I am ready.

"Zuckerman says we need to talk about whether or not to continue with your chemotherapy." She looks at our hands, laced together. "He needs to know by tomorrow morning if you're strong enough for the second round."

"I'm going to do it," I say and my words startle her and her eyes flick to my face, measure what she sees.

"Scully --"

"There's nothing to be decided. There's no question. I'm going to continue with the treatment."

She is biting her lip again, staring intently at my hand, pressed between her own. Her words are slow, measured.

"It's -- it's your decision and I don't want you to think that I..." She squeezes her eyes shut for a moment until the words come. "It's just that it makes you so sick."

"That's just what it does. That's normal."

Something deep inside her halts and I see it in her body. There is more and she doesn't want to form the words. I wait, watch the pulse of her breathing at the base of her throat and I long to touch her there.

It comes finally.

"Zuckerman also said that because your...situation is so unusual, he can't be sure that this particular chemotherapy, all these new drugs didn't cause this sudden growth spurt." My situation. He can't begin to understand. There is no other choice.

"But he doesn't know that it did, so there's no reason to discontinue the treatment," I say.

"But what if it's --"


She looks at me, into me, reads my resolve and I see something closing in her face, like she is moving away from me. Like I've just pushed her away. We sit in silence, not meeting with our eyes until I can speak again.

"I don't mean to --" I begin to say, but then I sigh wearily. I need the words. "I'm just trying to look at this logically."

Her eyes are on my face suddenly and there is such sadness in them that I want to look away.

"Scully, I nearly lost you. You went into shock from the blood loss. The paramedics said --"

She chokes on her own words and stops, unable to finish. She lowers her head, hiding her eyes until she can wrestle the tears away. I want to hold her in my arms, rock her until she forgets.

At last, she looks up, meets my gaze and her words are slow, deliberate.

"I have never been so scared in my life. I ran in there and you were -- for a minute, I thought you might be dead. And there was absolutely nothing that I could do."

My own tears come as I touch her face. "I'm so sorry."

She laughs self-consciously, wiping at her eyes, sniffing. "No, I'm sorry. I promised myself I wasn't going to cry."

I smile through my tears at this face that I love. She watches me carefully and I know what she is thinking.

I cup her cheek in my hand and she leans into it.

"I want to have the second round of the chemotherapy," I say and for several heartbeats, she doesn't move, she doesn't speak and a vein of fear stirs within me.

"Okay," she says and she kisses my fingers. "Then that's what we'll do."

It is difficult to know now what is real and what takes place only in the cool shadows of my mind. I think that the pain is growing but relief floods through me in four hour cycles, easing me away from myself, surrounding me in the comfort of unknowing. The toxins drip into me, their deadly beat keeping time with my tired heart and they eat away at my insides. I wonder suddenly if they will leave me hollow but alive, a fragile shell of who I was and it scares me. I try to pray, but I can't remember what to pray for.

My father came yesterday and spent the afternoon. He sat by my bed, whispering to me, telling me stories to make me remember, to make me sleep, like he did when I was little. Later, Kaz smiled sadly at me when I asked if he was coming back and I knew then that he wasn't but I couldn't remember why. She held my hand.

And now Mulder comes to me in a dream. It is night and he talks to her, touches her arm. She is angry with him, refusing to listen. She pulls away from him and it tears at me, I want to intervene, I want to make them stop and speak civilly to each other but I know I can't get up from my bed, I can't even make my eyes open.

If you want to save her life, Kaz, you'll listen to me. You'll do this.

It's insane. Like all of your other plans, your stupid fucking little quest. It's crazy.

It might work. It might be her only chance.

She's going to be fine. She's had three more days of chemotherapy and --

Can't you see that she's dying?

Their voices, harsh and angry and it is a terrible dream and I want it to end but a deep sadness is opening within me and I know that I can't alter the course of this dream. I can't make it stop or change direction. I want to cry, but I'm too tired.

I feel the drugs trickling into me, know each drop as it enters my skin.

I wonder who it is they're talking about.

Angels walk silently in this world and just as I know that I am asleep when he creeps into my room, I know that he has come for me. She is asleep not ten feet away from me, curled up in the chair where she's spent every night, sleeping in fits and starts, wrestling with angels in her dreams.

Jacob wrestled with an angel in his sleep and lived to see the face of God.

She has stroked the fevers from my head with her touch and if I could open my eyes now, I would see her asleep, long dark lashes at rest on her cheek and I would want to reach out my hand and touch her, ground myself in the steady innocence of her soul.

In some other half-remembered life, I laid awake beside her, cradling her in my arms while she slept, listening to her fragile breathing and whispering prayers of thanks to whoever had sent her to save me from myself.

When I was a little girl, my mother taught me a prayer about angels watching over me while I slept, and I would recite it every night, on my knees, beside my bed. I know that this angel is just like the one I pictured, with my father's eyes and my mother's smile and I am not afraid.

This is what it's like to die.

He stands over me now and speaks my name. I wonder if Kaz can see him and if she is sad or afraid. I want to comfort her, hold her against me one more time, reassure her, but I am so tired and I know there is no time.

It all happened too quickly, I didn't even get to say goodbye and for one heartbeat, I am in hell because I know that I am leaving her alone.

He is speaking again.

"Open your eyes, Dana."

Such pure, undilluted love and the softness of it startles me, like her first touch. The voice is like her voice, whispering to me from inside myself, shaking me from my cloudy world and I want to see her again, I have to touch her, I can't leave her like this.

"Open your eyes."

Such gentleness, a cressing hand on my forehead and somehow within me, loving, lingering and I feel drawn up from a deep darkness, as if I am waking up from a dreamless sleep.

I open my eyes.

He is like the angels of my childhood but different somehow, more commonplace in his nurse's uniform, but I know that he is an angel and I know now why he has come.

The light is bright, but it doesn't hurt.

This is what it's like to be alive.

Her face is close to mine, and the heat of her touch is like a line pulling me back to shore, anchoring me in the present. Her lips, close to my ear, murmuring a thousand soothing things, and although I can't make out the words, it doesn't matter because it is the sound of her voice that holds me there, that shelters me.


My name on her soft, sweet lips and in that instant, I know that I am no longer sick.

"Kaz --" My voice is raw and loud in my ears. "The tumour, it's -- "

"Shh, shh, it's okay, hon, I'm here, " she says and her arms are around me, easing me back, lowering my head down to the pillows.

I turn to her and see her and my heart catches in my throat because I have been gone for so long and she is more beautiful than I remember.

"How are you feeling?" she asks and she's holding my hand, smoothing hair back from my forehead with her other hand. "You were really out."

I squeeze her hand and try to form the questions, words swimming through my mind but still shapeless. Something is different. I feel --

A pinch on the back of my neck and I fumble to touch it, run my fingers across surgical tape, gauze. I meet her eyes.

"It's a new chip, Scully. Mulder brought another microchip and Zuckerman --"

"How? I mean, where did he get it?"

She shakes her head and shrugs, her eyes never leaving my face, the smile never dimming. "I don't know. I suspect Skinner had something to do with it though because they've both been pacing around here for two days like caged animals. I'm sure they'll tell you all about it. I think it took some doing." She lays her hand on my cheek, smiles as she searches my eyes and before I can ask, she knows.

"Mulder's fine. I don't know how he did it and frankly, I don't care. All that matters is that it's working."

I touch the cool gauze on my neck again, plumb my own insides and I know that this is not what did it, but I can't remember why I know that. There is an image, just out of my grasp, it brushes across my mind like a broken spider web.

"Mulder convinced Zuckerman to try it and since he knew it had somehow caused your remission, he agreed, even though he has no idea why it worked." She runs her thumb across the back of my hand as she talks and her face is relaxed and happy.

"Is it gone?" I ask and her eyes lock with mine.

"Not completely. They gave you an MRI yesterday, do you remember it?"

I shake my head. Another memory, something further away.

"There's been a significant reduction in the tumour. Over seventy five percent. Zuckerman says he's never seen anything like it. He doesn't know if it's a sudden overreaction to the chemotherapy or --"

"The light," I say and it comes to me suddenly. "There was a man. And a bright light. I remember it."

She pauses ever so briefly, concern lighting gently on her face, then it's gone. "You must be remembering the light in the operating room," she says. "Dr. Zuckerman said you were mumbling something through the whole procedure. He said it sounded like a little prayer or something."

He called me by name and he told me to look at him and I knew that he'd come to help me, but it's slipping away as suddenly as it came and I'm not sure anymore. It's like pieces of a puzzle that won't fit and my memory is foggy now and all I can do is cling to her hand as if it's keeping me moored to this world and I am so afraid to let it go.

"But -- I thought --" It upsets me that I can't remember the sound of his voice anymore, or his face because they were familiar and I know I've lost something precious.

"You thought what, hon?"

She is peering at me with concern and puzzlement and such love that I forget what I was going to say and instead I lose myself in her eyes. I feel foolish now, addled by so many drugs, so much fatigue.

"I thought someone had come. I guess I was wrong."

She smiles and there is gentleness in it. "No one came, sweetheart. I was here the whole time."

I nod and realize that I am sleepy. My eyes are closing before I can draw out the words.



"Are you going to stay?"

She kisses my fingers. "Always."

She holds my hand and I sleep.

The rosebushes that we planted in the spring are full with the promise of blooms now and I sit on the patio studying one as she stretches after her run. The flowers are still tightly coiled around themselves but I know that in a week or so, they will unfold into blood red roses that I will cut and put in a crystal vase that will catch the candlelight at one of our dinners. The thought makes me want to smile.

"Do you know what would be nice?" she is saying and she's sitting on the patio, her legs splayed out in front of her, stretching in the yellow morning light.

"What?" I reply and I only want to hear her voice.

"I was thinking it would be nice to get a little stereo for out here, you know, with speakers on the patio so that we could have music. What do you think?"

"That sounds wonderful," I say and I smile and my eyes never leave her.

The lattes and bagels and newspapers she's brought back are on the table in front of me and once she's stretched, we will sit together on our patio and greet the day together, reading the paper, drinking our coffees and talking. She is still glowing from her run and even with sunglasses and a baseball cap on, I can see the exact colour of her eyes and the way the sun softens her hair. She grasps her ankle and pulls her torso down until her forehead touches her knee. She is elegant and beautiful and I love every line and curve of her body.

"Do you want to invite your Mom for dinner?" she asks. "Cause I was thinking of making something special, you know, for a Sunday dinner and I thought it might be nice to have your Mom over. And maybe Mulder, if you want. Lord knows the last time he ate something that didn't come out of a styrofoam box."

She stretches again and I watch her, let my eyes run over every part of her and I know that we will invite them, but I want to tell them to come late so that I can be alone with her. And I know that after we have had our breakfast, we will lie together on our bed, in our house, and we will hold each other for a long time and perhaps we will make love slowly, because we have the whole day to ourselves. And later, maybe when we're driving to the market and she reaches over to take my hand, or when we're cleaning the kitchen and I wrap my arms around her waist and hold her, I will look into her eyes and it will all be there, right in front of us, this thing I'd waited so long to find.


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