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OTM sheildOUT OF THE MAINSTREAM

22-ROP

SCULLY'S CASE FILES

ROPE OF SAND.

TRINITY EMERGENCY MEDICAL CENTRE

MID AFTERNOON

The orderlies eased Scully back onto the bed with practised skill. Between the three of them they had already formed a relaxed kind of friendship. As it was, shunted back and forth for endless tests and treatments she saw them quite frequently. Steve and Greg were clean-cut, good-looking college types who spoke about baseball all the time. She didnít mind. Mulder favoured the Yankees; she guessed she did, too. She knew about baseball.

The boys flirted a little; she didnít mind that either. Scully hungered for any kind of normality in her shattered life. They called her their ĎFed Fataleí which was sweet, and they were always ready with good-natured ribbing and jokes to keep her mind occupied and her spirits up. Everyone at the hospital was trying hard, but only she knew the truth.

Scully was beyond tired now; her energy levels were virtually

non-existent, but she wasnít in any pain. For that she was thankful. As the boys kidded their way through their farewells she allowed herself to succumb to the fatigue, yet even simple sleep wasnít easy to come by these days.

Dr Zuckerman entered the room quietly. His patient was resting. At first he thought she was asleep, but the click of the doorlatch closing caused her to turn towards him. He did not smile, instead he adopted a neutral and pleasant expression as he carefully checked the flow of the IV drip and that there was no infection around the insertion sight. Scully knew he was hedging, and it wasnít necessary. Dr Zuckerman noticed her questioning eyes following him, so he drew the chair in close beside the bed and sat down, resting his elbows on his knees. Scully could read the signals for herself. This wasnít exactly business, it was "letís break the news gently", so she made the first move.

"What is it?" she asked.

Dr Zuckerman looked her steadily in the eye. "Weíve got the results back, Dana."

"It hasnít worked, has it?" she asked, an edge to her voice. Why should she expect anything different? He confirmed her suspicions.

"The P.E.T. scan indicates thereís been no improvement," he told her gently and saw her eyes widen for a moment and glisten, but she took the news as bravely as she could.

"That was the last throw of the dice, wasnít it?" Her voice betrayed her weary acceptance.

Dr Zuckerman, tried to reassure her. "No. I wonít give up that easily. Neither should you."

There was a long pause and he could see her wrestle with a thousand thoughts. "What about the implant?" She finally asked.

He shrugged, himself affected by the disappointment she exhibited. "What can I tell you? Itís an unknown quantity. Your guess would be as good as mine. If I knew more about itÖ" he left the rest unsaid.

"Oh, it was always a long shot," she confessed. She closed her eyes and turned her face away.

He touched her arm. "One worth taking. There is always hope."

Scully turned back to him. "And miracles?" They were back to that. He suspected it was a throw-away line; nevertheless he latched onto it. "Maybe. Some people swear by the power of prayer."

She looked him directly in the eye. "What about you?"

He pursed his lips. "Iím a doctor, Dana, like you. I believe in the might of science, but that doesnít mean that there arenít other powers at work. A good doctor utilises every possibility, explores every avenue. You know that."

She nodded slowly but she didnít look convinced. "Iím a forensic pathologist," she told him evenly. "I know about deathÖ " she broke off, clearly upset, and he waited sympathetically as she fought to regain her composure. "I guess it was always a matter of time. Weíve all got to die; itís just a question of when."

Dr Zuckerman pursed his lips and frowned. He knew she needed to be secured and anchored to a solid foundation. She desperately needed to be reassured. "Yes, weíve all got to die, Dana" he said sincerely, "but that doesnít mean we throw our lives away cheaply. I assure you I havenít finished yet. Thereís an answer here somewhere. You and I have to find it. Weíll do we whatever is necessary, wonít we, Dana? I need your help. I need you to be clinical, and I need you to be detached. Okay?"

She considered, and tried to fire her tired mind. She rubbed a hand across her forehead. "About the implant. Thereís some data you can access. Itís incomplete. A colleague of mine-" she paused a moment thinking of Pendrall - "made an examination of a similar device several months ago. It might help."

He looked a little surprised but nodded and she borrowed his notebook to write down the information for him. He scanned the page. "Good. Iíll get onto it right away." Glad that he now had something to work with he got up to leave.

"Dr Zuckerman?"

"Yes?"

"Whatever happens, I want you know I appreciate everything youíve done for me."

His eyes drilled into hers. "Itís not over yet,"

A hint of a smile and she raised her eyebrows in a way that he had learnt to read was agreement. "Would you ask my mother to come in? She said sheíd be in the cafeteria."

He nodded and smiled. "Of course."

"Thank you."

As he left she turned on her side to try and rest. Her eyes didnít stay closed for long as she became aware of the uncomfortable thumping of her heart; it seemed to be actually banging against her sternum. She could feel the carotid pulse in her neck throb in time with her heart and she recognised the fear. She was doing everything she could to prevent the inevitable but it was like trying to grasp a rope made of sand, and however desperately she tried to grab a hold, it kept slipping through her fingers.

Scully took a steadying breath, but there came the familiar tightening of her throat. The trees and parkland outside her window became a blur through a tear-streaked curtain. She let the tears flow. It didnít matter. No one could hear her. As always, she was alone.

--end of file--

C L Goodwin 1998

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