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OTM sheildOUT OF THE MAINSTREAM

18-TAE

SCULLY'S CASE FILES

TAEDIUM VITAE.

Scully closed and locked the door, slid in the security chain then simply flopped onto the sofa in the dark. She was upset and unsettled and worried that she couldnít remember a thing about the ten minute drive back from the New Horizon Psychiatric Centre over in Quail Street. Her bandaged hand throbbed and she automatically cradled it. The cuts, fortunately werenít deep, just painful. Even so, she wasnít concerned about a relatively minor flesh wound. There were more critical matters on her mind.

The past two days had been particularly hard. Not so much the casework; they had encountered such things before and she was able to approach the investigation with a fairly open mind. No, her deductive reasoning continued to function as well as before.

Physically she was a wreck.

She was always tired now, and a frequent, mild headache threatened to become more than a nuisance. Sometimes she could detect the unpleasant metallic taste of blood in her mouth; her legs often felt weak and there was an occasional numbness in her fingers. She was becoming drug dependent and hated it. Sleep, even stamina was difficult without chemical inducement or support. She was losing weight rapidly but had little appetite to counteract it and more often than not had to force herself to eat. The doctors advised her to take it easy. It agreed with her own diagnosis, but somehow she had this impossible notion, fear really, that if she stopped working she, too, would stop.

She was scared now all the time. Not scared for herself so much although she was - but scared of her growing liability. What she saw tonight brought it all to crystal clarity. For the first time she actually had to accept she was dying.

Moved to restlessness by these thoughts, Scully hit the table lamp switch and struggled to stand. She stood a moment then stretched sore muscles. She felt every twinge and ache now. The mirror somehow beckoned and drew her two it. She studied her reflection as she went to slip the overcoat from her shoulders, but stopped. In the refracted light the face that stared back at her looked as if it had been made up for a halloween party. She was shocked by what she saw and backed away from the mirror quickly as if pushing the ugliness away. Close to tears she hugged herself tightly, fighting wayward emotions.

The doorbell rang. Scully frowned and went to use the peep hole to check who it was. She slid back the chain and opened the door to Mulder.

He entered with a curt nod. "You should have stuck around, Scully -" (was his tone just a little condescending?). "The case has taken an interesting turn." He suddenly paused, recognised his brusqueness and his face changed

to a softer, almost brotherly expression. "Sorry to disturb you again at home." He closed the door.

"Itís okay. Whatís happened?" She turned to lead him to the sofa and they sat down.

"Harold Speullerís roomate, er Chuck -" he struggled with the manís last name. Scully helped him out. "Forsch. F-O-R-S-C-H, Chuck Forsch."

"Right, well the guyís gone - whatís that term that you once used, wiggy?"

Scully nodded and Mulder continued. "He says he saw Harold in their room only half an hour ago. Harold was trying to tell him something but then vanished just as suddenly as he appeared."

Outwardly she showed no emotion, but the news hit her in the chest like a fist. Still, it was clear to her that something was missing to complete the picture, vital information that would confirm the terrible implications. Mulder read the urgent query in her eyes.

"Chuckís records show his mental condition is as a result of an inoperable brain tumour. Heís dying."

His explanation only made things worse, and Scullyís whole bearing changed. For her, that was it, and she wanted nothing more to do with it. Her face was stern. "The case is closed, Mulder. The killerís in custody. Forget it."

He was surprised by her answer. "Forget it? This is significant, Scully, itís new evidence."

She sat back. "Perhaps but it proves nothing." She had made up her mind and she wasnít going to let him persuade her to change.

"Scully, it proves everything," he said in emphasis.

"Only to you. Itís an inactionable case," she explained. "You know as well as I do itíll be a Ďdiminished responsibilityí plea. Whatís the point of pursuing it?" she asked, and then added under her breath as an afterthought: "Whatís the point of anything?" She looked away.

He picked up on that and paused to scrutinise her face intently. "Are you all right?" For the first time he saw that she did look pale and tired. His concern was genuine.

To Scully the question sounded stupid and it grated. She resisted the temptation to scowl at the ceiling and she almost blurted: ĎWhat the hell do you think? Iím dying for Godís sake.í She didnít, she said simply: "Yes."

Her difficulties were slow to dawn on him but finally Mulder realised. "Youíre having trouble with this case, arenít you?"

Scully shook her head quickly, unwilling to dwell on the personal. "Mulder, there is no case. Itís finished. Over."

He wasnít going to have it pushed aside without debate. "I donít accept that. How can it be when events remain unexplained."

By then she had had enough and so told him so. "Youíre always right, arenít you, and everyone else is wrong."

Stung, Mulder put his hands on his knees to flex his arms. "Iíve never thought that. I really donít understand you, you know. Considering your background, sometimes you have such a closed mind. Whereís your scientific curiosity?"

Scully stiffened. That hurt, hurt deeply. "I have other concerns right now." She held Mulderís gaze as if challenging him to read her thoughts, though certainly glad he couldnít. She didnít want this to develop into an argument but felt she couldnít stop it from becoming so.

Placed under a pressure she didnít at all need, she suddenly felt

light-headed and knew immediately that her nose had begun to bleed. With an annoyed grumble she got up and extracted a tissue from the box on the coffee table to stem the flow. Mulder also rose and put his hand out to try and help her. She backed away. "No, itís okay." She swung from him embarrassed still and terribly depressed.

"Scully is there anything I can do?" He saw her place a hand on her hip

and bring her head up sharply. There was an odd, pregnant pause.

Suddenly she turned on him. "Havenít you done enough?" Her eyes drilled into him.

Mulder latched onto her tone. It was spiteful. "What do you mean?"

She walked away from him, towards the fireplace. "Just leave it, canít you?"

Mulder reacted to her body language. "Go on, say it, youíve never been afraid to speak your mind before."

In her current mood Scully certainly felt like unloading all the irritations he caused her and dumping the lot onto him. It didnít take much to do so. "All you can think about is the work," she accused him, still unwilling to make any personal insults. Her voice was measured and low.

He spread his hands. "Thatís not true!"

In the heat of the moment she turned and let him have a full broadside. "It is!" She got a little more angry than she had intended to, yet went ahead anyway.

"Damn it, Mulder, youíre obsessed, you know that? Chasing after the impossible, the intangible, the invisible. Why? Whereís it going to get you - dead, you and everyone else you take with you. After all the warnings youíd think youíd have the sense to back off. No, youíre too bull-headed to listen to reason. And you expect me to follow without question!"

Mulder kept his own temper in check, and tried to appeal to her usually so abundant compassion and common sense. "Scully, I need you to question. The work has relevance, and not just in the realms of extreme possibility. Crimes are still committed, innocent victims as a result. Iíll admit there are times when I stray from the purpose of the work - you keep me on track; youíre the voice of my conscience."

His admission caused her to falter and she had to rethink quickly to maintain her anger. "The trouble is, Mulder, you have selective hearing. I sometimes feel Iím talking to myself. There comes a point when you wonder if any of this is worth the trouble."

He spread his hands. "Surely you just canít deny everything that has gone before, to simply cast aside your natural sense of justice. Doesnít the search for the truth outweigh the risk?"

Scully took a moment to consider. "Maybe, if there was only one to risk. But with you itís boots and all. I honestly donít think youíve ever really considered the consequences on everyone else."

He clenched his fists. "How can you say that?"

Mulder could have taken the offensive. He was hurt and angered by the outburst and his posture remained ramrod straight. He wouldnít take this kind of crap from anybody else. "What do you want me to say, that there is nothing more important? You know itís important to me."

Scully almost clicked her tongue. "Right, to the detriment of everything else. Running off blinding to satisfy your own ego, to simply justify the work. And you still canít prove any of it. Youíre chasing shadows, clutching at straws."

Mulder frowned and his voice rose a pitch. "How can you say that after all youíve been through, after all youíve seen? Thereís too much investment in this to walk away now."

Scully wasnít buying the argument, much too wired to see his point of view. "Investment? Cost, you mean."

He understood her accusation. "There are broader issues here. Donít you realise that? This has never just been about me or you."

Scully angrily wiped her nose and thrust the used tissue into her coat pocket. "I know that, but do you?"

Mulder walked towards her. "Thatís not fair. I feel the losses, too!"

Scully moved further away from him."Do you; do you really?"

Mulder stopped dead in his tracks. "What kind of question is that?"

Scully folded her arms almost defensively. She looked down. "I sometimes think youíre seeking revenge, not justice."

Mulder couldnít believe his ears. "Is that how you see all this, some kind of payback for taking my sister? A personal crusade?"

Scully looked up, unfolded her arms and straightened. "There are rules and regulations, Mulder, restrictions and safety precautions which you continually ignore. Itís reckless and irresponsible. And people get hurt." A sweep of her bandaged hand, a unintentional reminder and her expression, as she fumbled for another tissue conveyed the accusation that Ďthis is all your fault!í unsaid. It didnít escape him.

"Donít lay the blame on me. This has been just as much your obsession as it is mine. Iíve never twisted your arm. You took your own risks; made your own choices. Iíve always respected that." He held her gaze. "Iíve always admired your integrity and commitment."

She made a face and a derogatory noise. "Stop fencing, Scully and say what you really mean," he demanded.

"Integrity and commitment" she made the words drip with sarcasm and venom as she lashed out spitefully, raw emotions taking control. "And look where itís got me."

Mulder got the drift. What she was saying was that all this was because of him, and it hurt more than he could have imagined.

"Donít you think I know that? I would give anything to change what has happened? I know what youíre going through."

She was offended by his presumption. "How the hell could you? How do you know what itís like to have this demon inside you, killing you just a little bit more every day, knowing thereís nothing at all you can do about it? Iím a doctor for Godís sake and that only makes it worse. "íPhysician heal thyselfí?" she almost laughed out loud at the total futility of the saying. She went on before Mulder could speak. "When are you going to realise the cost is too high? Youíve got the Medusa Touch, Mulder, you know that?"

The last was too much. Mulder squared his shoulders, almost seeming to shape up to protect himself from a flurry of fists. "Youíre suggesting I get everyone killed?"

Scully did hit back hard. "Draw your own conclusions. All I know is that people perish around you." Sheíd lost almost everyone she had ever cared about. She was so close to telling him so to his face, instead she sniffed and turned her back on him to look out the window, to the darkened street, somehow wishing she was out there, in the shadows, hiding. Mulder took up the thread and knew what she was driving at.

"I canít bring Melissa back," he said in a low, emotional voice.

Scully appeared about to burst into tears but he went on. "I feel her loss, too. I owe Melissa more than you know. If it hadnít been for herÖ" he didnít finish.

She glanced back at him. Scully never considered that there had been something between her sister and her partner. Neither of them had spoken of it. Her anger subsided a little, but she couldnít bring herself to quite forgive him. Distracted she heard the sound of a distant siren, the distinctive pitch of an ambulance and she had the vivid mental picture of it racing to aid someone in distress. Nothing could save her now. Scully knew what a elegy was: a lament for the dead.

"Maybe this is the place and time, Mulder," she said, finding the words so hard to vocalise.

He blinked several times. "You think weíve worked together too long?"

"I donít know."

"You know what youíre saying?"

She didnít reply. He shook his head in bewilderment. Why did he feel so hurt and angry? Worse still, rejected, just when she needed him most, just when he realised how much she meant to him. It was like a slap in the face, and he reacted as if he had been.

"Well, I wonít give up. I canít. Do what you like. Throw in the towel. Itís your decision, but Iíll find the truth with or without you."

Scully stabbed the air with her finger. "Which truth? They want you to believe the lies and there are so many of them now how do you know which one might lead to the truth? Itís an endless line of questions with no answers. And itís fraught with danger."

"I donít care. It wonít stop me."

It was like talking to a brick wall. "Goddamn it, Mulder will you just listen to me? Why canít you see Iím right?" She spread her hands then suddenly clenched her fists and drew them tightly across her chest as if she suspected they were shaking. Mulder saw that they were, and he understood why she was so upset. Scully was caught in a downward spiral of depression and she was lashing out, desperately needing a focal point to vent her frustration and anger. She needed someone to blame. He felt his emotions take a sharp turn. Well, he would be that someone. He would take whatever she could dish out.

"I know itís been hard and that the further we go the harder it gets, but we owe it to those weíve lost, we owe it to ourselves not to give up. Whoever is responsible for all of this, canít you see, they want us to step aside and the truth will never be uncovered. Scully, I need your help to find it."

She remained silent. Mulder again took a step towards her. "Youíre the only one who knows what Iím going through."

A tiny nod, lips tight, the glint of a tear. She looked up at him in anguish. "I donít think I can any more." She saw that it was something he did not want to hear but it was getting to a point where she wasnít physically able. She wanted so much to tell him so but didnít want to admit to the weakness. He regarded her steadily.

"All this time," he said slowly, "telling me you were fine. Why?"

She could not tell him those reasons. "Iím sorry," was all she could say.

Mulder felt the impact of her apology, so unnecessary, and it moved him so much he actually felt the sting of tears in the corners of his eyes. She had tried to stay with him as long as possible, but the effects of the cancer were becoming more physical, its symptoms more noticeable. At first the nose bleeds were an inconvenience, now they were more frequent and unpleasant. She looked almost as waif thin and her face was near to haggard. The burden, however, showed in her eyes. Despite her best efforts to conceal it, he could see her pain. Scully was being systematically worn down, physically, mentally, emotionally. The strain was all too obvious to him now. He couldnít help thinking that she felt her life was becoming unbearably wearisome.

In many ways she was right: he was to blame.

"Donít let this demon come between us." he appealed to her quietly.

"I donít want that either," she said.

Mulder felt relieve, more than he would have cared to admit. "I still believe the truth will save us, Scully. Together weíll find it. All that I ask is that you trust me."

"Iím tired, Mulder."

He nodded. "I know. You can lean on me."

She shook her head. "I donít think I can any more."

"Why not?"

"Because itís too late." He anticipated her and waited for the words he so dreaded. "Iím dying, Mulder." Her voice chocked off. Was it a plea for help?"

He moved towards her intent on simply gathering her up and holding her to quiet her fears, but she backed away and raised her hand, palm up. "Please, donít touch me."

He stopped abruptly. "Scully -" He wanted so much to comfort her.

"MulderÖ I canít. Just give me some time. Please understand. Iím asking you to leave."

He stood still and dropped his hands. Their eyes remained locked until he looked down and turned to walk to the door. As he opened it he swung to face her.

"Scully, I would die before Iíd let anyone hurt you. You know that."

Her eyes brimmed with tears as she nodded, even so she said softly, voice breaking, almost inaudible. "I need to be alone right now."

He nodded with resigned acceptance. As he walked out and closed the door behind him, he could hear the soft sound of muffled weeping.

--end of file--

C L Goodwin 1998

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