Subject: To Dance with Death 1/1
Date: Sun, 12 Jul 1998

Title: To Dance with Death
Author: Spooky
Rating: PG
Classification: V, A
Spoilers: Tunguska/Terma
Keywords: Character death
Summary: The events in Tunguska have tragic consequences.

Disclaimer: I'll put them back when I'm done, Ma. Honest!

To Dance with Death
by Spooky

It wasn't supposed to be like this.

It wasn't supposed to be her at his bedside, watching disease claim his
ravaged body. He hadn't
meant for her to see this harbinger of her own death, watching it
enacted on the same bed in which
she would find herself in weeks or months time. Seeing her fate
reflected in his wan visage, his
pain-filled eyes.

Every day for weeks past he had awakened with the horrendous pounding in
his head. Staggered
to the kitchen for water and Tylenol, as much a part of his morning
ritual as brewing the day's first cup of coffee.

The headaches would fade in and out over the course of the day. At times
the pain had been so
intense all he had wanted to do was find a dark corner in which to curl
up, with his eyes shut tight. His suits had hung limp and shapeless as
his appetite fled.

Under normal circumstances he never would have been able to keep such a
deterioration from his
partner. She would have switched into doctor mode and hauled his ass to
the nearest hospital, all
the while lecturing him about taking care of himself. But circumstances
were anything but normal.
She had other matters to occupy her mind. Her own mortality.

She was dying because she had been foolish enough and loyal enough to
follow Spooky Mulder
out of the safe light into the treacherous dark. A world where lies were
the coin that bought souls
and no one could be trusted. A world so far from her own that it had
scarred her psyche as it had
scarred her family. A sister murdered, demons to chase her wailing from
sleep and now her own
death stalking her.

Did she, too, feel her disease gnawing at her, feel the inexorable
shadow of death on her heart?

Over the preceding weeks, he had ignored his own increasing aches and
pains: the numbness that
came and went in his limbs; his increasing nausea; the strange,
momentary, dimming of his sight,
as if he were looking at the world through a pane of smoked glass.
Ignored, too, the feeling that -- something -- was crawling beneath his

All this was insignificant has he had silently charted the ebb and flow
of his partner's illness. Was her step a little lighter, her eyes a
little brighter? Was she a little paler, a little thinner? Was there a
telltale smudge of red beneath her nose? He had charted her highs and
lows in a barometer in his mind.

If she had noticed his own increased trips to the rest-room, the
never-ending supply of aspirin he
had consumed like candy, his own increased pallor and weight loss -- if
she had noticed these at
all, she had thankfully said nothing.

It was no different, Mulder had thought, than what he had gone through
in ISU under Patterson.
Then he had been under a constant barrage of painkillers and muscle
relaxants to get through the
days and sleeping pills to get through the nights. All that had
disappeared once he had left the
stress of profiling and Patterson behind.

So the stress of watching the slow death of his partner, his friend, had
brought back the old

Just stress.

Tunguska had haunted him only in dreams. It had never occurred to him,
except in passing, that he
had been given a reprieve only. That his time was measured in fewer
heartbeats than his partner's.

The pain was deep in his bones, his nerves were singing in torment but
no longer commanding his
muscles. His skin was mute, numb to sensation. Numb to the feel of her
hand laid reassuringly
over his. Like before, the paralysis was overpowering him, but slowly,
so slowly, this time. And
when it reached his heart there would be no more.

"I feel time like a heartbeat," she had written, after learning of her
own cancer. He knew what she
meant now. Never had he been so aware of his heart sounding loudly in
his chest, measuring out
the heartbeats of his life. Louder than the quiet hum of the machines
standing watch over him,
louder than the slight creak as Scully shifted her weight in the
uncomfortable hospital chair.

How often had they been like this, Scully keeping her vigils over his
battered body? Even at the
worst there had been consolation and her smile. Never before had there
been this deep silence
between them, this resignation.

Hope and faith had succumbed long before their bodies.

He had flirted with Death all his life, teased her like a lover. Now
Death beckoned him, her arms
wide. He could see her now, a shadow of dark, a presence at the corner
of his eye. He had asked
her to dance many times, but had never before crossed the room to gather
her in his arms.

He weighed the differences between this time and the time in Tunguska.
Weighed the slow
deterioration, the horrified awareness of death against the sudden,
bright panic and agony of the
first time. Was knowing better? Did it help you prepare? Was it easier
to be able to say goodbye
than to leave with so much unsaid? Did the long pain of anticipation
blunt the sharp blade of
death? Or was it better for the loved ones that the pain was sharp and
deep, but brief?

He still had no answer to that.

His eyes shifted to his dozing partner, her translucent pallor, the
brittleness of her hand on his.... He simultaneously wanted to drink in
the sight of her (as if his eidetic memory couldn't provide him with
thousands of Scully images), and shut his eyes, unable to cope with the
fatigue he had put there. With the guilt for leaving her to face her
death alone. For being unable to save her.

He did close his eyes in the end, and felt her own open at the slight,
silent movement.

"Mulder," she whispered hesitantly. But closing his eyes had been a
signal for his own weariness as
it reached up to engulf him. Her voice receded into a darkness that
roared in his ears until all he
could feel was the slow thump of his heart against his chest. Felt time
slowing with the slowing of
his heart until the heartbeats, like time, were done.

And he took Death into his arms and danced.