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Confronted so dramatically by the very crisis he had feared, Skinner could not stop his hands from shaking. Scully’s collapse had cut him to the bone. So totally unexpected was it he’d stood there like an idiot watching her sudden difficulty like everyone else. She had seemed strong, determined, in command. Then it happened. Not just a nose bleed this time. When he saw her legs go from under her he finally roused himself from his stupor yet even then barely managed to brake her fall with the conference chair.

Skinner gently turned her face toward him. Blood trickled from her nose, her eyes were glazed, she looked deathly white and desperately ill. Her sudden, cruel debility was a brutal reminder that Scully had cancer and was dying from it.

She looked at him in alarm, "you," was all she could say and it mystified him. Why did it sound like an accusation?

"Someone get a doctor," he ordered, but was it already too late? She was breathing hard as her eyes closed. Her head lolled into his open hand. You didn’t need a medical degree to see she was unconscious and weakening.

In front of all these people he had to seem calm, unaffected but the truth was he was afraid that she would die right there and then and all he could do was watch her, hold her. He thought he knew, but he never really understood how frail she had become; never actually saw what she had been trying to cope with. Scully never wanted special treatment, refused any kid-glove approach. She wanted to work. For God’s sake she shouldn’t have even been in the field. He should have insisted that she take a leave of absence. This was all his fault.

He started to panic, to lose his demeanour. He didn’t give a damn.

"Call a doctor!" he shouted. He was assured that someone had, but it didn’t allay his fears.

Skinner stayed with her, supporting her, as he waited for help to arrive. He couldn’t fight the rising nausea within him or the tightening of his throat. He’d willingly traded everything to prevent this moment. Now he was a witness to it. He gently took her hand and then realised he had to do something. She was cold. Beads of sweat had formed on her brow, she continued to hyperventilate and her carotid pulse raced. He knew about shock. So he tried to stem the nose bleed. At first it had been just a few drops then a trickle, but had developed into a flood. Fortunately an ice-filled cold compress to the back of the neck began to restrict the flow.

He was certainly glad when the EMTs arrived but in two minds. He yielded his position grudgingly, reluctant to leave her side, and managed to hover close as they worked. There wasn’t much they could do, simply put her on her oxygen, get an IV line in and prepare her for transport.

He insisted on going with her to the hospital and took the seat across from the stretcher. He didn’t take his eyes off her face. Above the oxygen mask her own eyes were tightly closed. The gold cross she wore caught the light and flashed at him accusingly. There was guilt as he remembered the last time they had shared an ambulance and the places had been reversed. Never once had he forgotten her tenderness and compassion and it occurred to him that he’d never really thanked her. Now he was going to lose her. Not quickly as you could expect in this job, (they all understood the danger), but long, drawn out, gut wrenching, heart breaking. Why? Why did that have to be?



ICU, 4.55am

For hours Skinner aimlessly paced the corridor outside the ICU until he couldn’t stand it any longer. No one could tell him anything of her condition. He’d been left dangling, virtually ignored. He wanted answers; he would get them himself. He got rid of the empty coffee cup, his fourth of fifth, he couldn’t remember, and walked inside to stand at the cubicle window. The ER doctor had been joined by another, an older man wearing a white lab coat and glasses. This second doctor examined the chart, then cast an eye over the patient, looked at her pupils, checked her pulse, blood pressure, the instrument readings and conferred for what seemed like an age. Finally both men left the ICU cubicle and the doctor in the lab coat stepped over to him. Skinner introduced himself. They shook hands.

"Mr Skinner, good to meet you. I’m Dr Zuckerman. We’ve spoken on the phone." Skinner recognised the voice if not the face. Dr Zuckerman was Scully’s oncologist. They had indeed spoken on the phone. Several times.

"How did you get here so fast?"

"I persuaded Dana to carry an ‘In Emergency’ card, especially when I couldn’t get her to give up work. I got the call about an hour ago."

Skinner was silent for a moment as he looked into the ICU cubicle, his mind boarded on fatigue but his body continued to run high on restless concern. "How is she?" He asked and pre-guessed the doctor out of frayed and raw nerves. "She’s dying, isn’t she?"

Dr Zuckerman wouldn’t commit. "At the moment she’s comfortable, but she’s lost a lot of blood. With her general condition so run down she went into hypovolemic shock, I’m afraid. Our main concern right now is to get her blood pressure back up and her cardiac output under control. The next few hours will be critical."

Skinner’s expression indicated that he understood the implications.

Dr Zuckerman continued: "As I told you she has a particularly difficult type of cancer, which has metastasised." He turned to look at his patient. "When it reaches this stage it’s almost impossible to treat conventionally." He paused then continued in a low voice. "Statistically everything is against her. The survival rate is minimal, you understand." He turned to Skinner again.

Skinner set his jaw and shook his head slightly. "So I’ve been told, but

doctor -"

Dr Zuckerman pursed his lips. He read a great deal from Skinner’s face and understood. They shared a common concern. Skinner saw that as the doctor turned to Scully, his expression clearly conveyed the fact that he was fond of his patient. "You can be sure that I will do everything I can, Mr Skinner. I don’t intend to give up on her."

Skinner felt somewhat relieved; there was sincerity in the doctor’s voice. He pocketed his hands and turned to look into the cubicle. "Can I stay with her for a while?"

"I don’t see why not. I’ll be in Dr Morgan’s office just down the hall there."

"Thank you."

Dr Zuckerman took his leave and Skinner entered the cubicle. He closed the door noiselessly and stood a moment, just watching, then moved to the bed. Hooked up, wired in and cocooned by medical paraphernalia, Scully lay unmoving, deeply unconscious. Devoid of makeup, dressed simply in a blue hospital gown, there was a ventilation tube taped to the left side of her mouth, and I.V. lines running into both arms. With a start, he flashed back to the moment of her collapse, when her eyes closed and she fell against him. Strangely he remembered the fragrance of her perfume…

Skinner touched her hand tentatively, somehow hoping that perhaps her eyes would open, but she was totally unresponsive. He felt a stab in his heart. He had to face it. She was dying.

The impact of the acceptance hit him like a 20 ton truck and suddenly the lack of sleep caught up with him. He desperately needed to take the weight off his feet. Fortunately a chair stood nearby and he sat himself down with a heavy sigh. Skinner removed his glasses, pinched the bridge of his nose hard and wiped a hand over his eyes. He replaced his glasses and finally looked up.

Everything had gone so terribly wrong; events, if they weren’t already out of his hands, were totally out of his control. The answers were there, Scully could tell him, but would she even if she could?

Their last conversation had been an argument. She had been defiant, even hostile. The incident came back to him now, how she looked - not the weak, helpless woman before him but proud, fiercely loyal yet hurt, her eyes blazing with anger. She clearly hated him. Why? What did she think he had done? Her blatant lies told him who she was protecting, but from whom? Her brave stand only compounded the case against her. He couldn’t convince her of that. He’d worried for her career, but what was that compared to her life? Mulder must have known it. He expected more from her than anyone could possibly give yet she gave it then offered more. Mulder… he was really responsible for this. This time he’d gone too far.

Skinner studied her face; she looked tired and worn out even in unconsciousness. Her breathing was mechanically assisted, even so the rise and fall of her chest was barely noticeable. They were giving her whole blood but what good would that do her now? Surely it would only be contaminated by the cancer that was killing her. Killing her.

She would never know he had tried to put things right. He suddenly put a hand to his brow in an act of self-recrimination - he had to accept he’d been a miserable failure. There were things he should have said, should have done. With a chance… Now it was all too late. He looked around to check that he was alone. Apart from a nurse at the desk outside busy with paperwork, he was. He leaned close to the bed and spoke quietly, hesitantly.

"Scully… I don’t know if you can hear me," he paused, unpractised, clearly out of his depth, uncertain what to say. "I just want you to know that -" This seemed silly - he bit his tongue suddenly and glanced at the ceiling, embarrassed even with no one else around. He felt awkward, hamfisted, emotional. Skinner planted his elbows onto his knees and lowered his face to his hands. "Dear God don’t let this woman die."

Why did he expect any sort of deal would be honoured by the Cancer Man? He’d prostituted himself to that S.O.B, compromised his integrity and principals in the hope of a miracle, the cure for Scully’s cancer, only to be strung along with empty promises, even threats. He felt he had been hung on a meat-hook, and flayed open. He wished to God now that he had shot the bastard when he had the chance, but chance had prevented him. Cancer Man could offer him the cure: he held all the ropes - especially the puppet strings.

His cell phone rang and he hurriedly extracted it to shut the thing off. He put it to his ear. "Skinner."

"Edwards, sir. Mulder’s raising hell in reception."

Skinner almost smiled. "I’ll be right there."

He rammed down the antenna, pocketed the phone and got quickly to his feet. Mulder was in deep trouble and he was going to make him damn well aware of it. He glanced back at Scully before leaving. It didn’t seem right to leave her alone now, to abandon her. The beeps of the ECG were constant but he knew she was at death’s door. What use was hope? Could he dare to hope? He felt so angry. At Mulder, at Cancer Man but mostly at himself. Despite his best efforts there remained unchecked secret agendas, misguided intentions and loyalties offered cheaply. But it was from Scully, the only innocent party in this whole sordid mess, that payment was demanded. They wanted everything, without compassion, without mercy. They insisted she pay dearly. The wanted nothing less than the highest price.

--end of file--

C L Goodwin 1998