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This Short Life

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"In this short Life that only lasts an hour
How much - how little - is within our power"

– Emily Dickinson

 

The feeling of unease began almost as soon as she woke up to find John holding her hand, Dana at his side, looking at her with wide-eyed amazement. Sleeping. That was how John liked to think of it. Monica wasn't trapped in a hospital bed, already pronounced brain-dead, waiting only for the arrival of her parents from Mexico City for Doctor Death to pull the plug. She had just been asleep and now she was awake and, "You're going to be fine now, Monica."

Having been led to expect the worst, naturally her parents were grateful and amazed to find out that Monica was very much alive. During their visit, she was too busy being doted on while she recuperated, and being scolded for having such a dangerous job once she was well, to think hard about the circumstances which had brought them to Washington. Having Papá and Mamá there had kept her grounded.

Once the crisis was over, Dana retreated to working at Quantico and taking care of William and worrying about Mulder. John went back to the basement office to read up on...what exactly? Was there an X-File called Not Really Dead Just Trapped In A Flying Space Hospital? If Mulder had still been around, they could have asked.

After Monica drove her parents to the airport, she cleaned her apartment from top to bottom. Next she talked to the insurance company, then to the district attorney who was in charge of prosecuting the case against Doctor Death. She looked at new cars with good safety records and plenty of airbags, though that wasn't going to help if there was a homicidal maniac working in the next ER she happened to land in. Dr. Jack Preijers had murdered four people, and that was just during the brief time she was hospitalized. They were going to comb through the medical records of every patient who had died while under Dr. Preijers' care, she'd been assured.

The souls of the four latest victims had now passed on to what Monica assumed was a higher realm. Patient Val Barreiro had shorted out, literally disappearing into thin air, after Dr. Preijers had turned off his ventilator. Steven Murdoch had died in her arms in exactly the same way. Nurse Whitney, who had been there when Monica was brought into the ER, was yet another victim. His final victim was Audrey Pauley, the earth angel whose simplified model of the hospital had somehow protected Monica's spirit—her soul--until she could escape to safety.

But why? Audrey said she knew who had told her to create the model. Her idea of God, Monica supposed. But why had Monica been spared and not the others? After all, hadn't she played God, too, when she selfishly turned off the ventilator for one John Doggett in order to bring another John back to her? Was she really so different from Dr. Preijers? Other-John wasn't brain-dead—he was conscious—he'd been able to communicate his wishes. He didn't want to live in that condition. He convinced her to test her theory.

She'd thought at the time that she'd done the right thing. Now she was beginning to wonder. The problem was she was the only one in this universe who remembered the other John Doggett, the one she'd allowed to die. She wanted to talk to someone about it, but who?

John didn't want to discuss it. "You're fine now, Monica. Let's just let sleeping dogs lie, okay?"

"Fine, John." There was no point in arguing with the man.

Finally, over their weekly girls-night-out dinner, Monica got up the nerve to ask Dana to confirm why her life support hadn't been terminated. After all, Monica had a living will stipulating that it be done under exactly those circumstances.

Dana set down her fork. "It was all John. I was ready to let you go, and your parents would have, too, but John Doggett wouldn't give in. Against all evidence to the contrary, he believed you were still alive and he wouldn't hear otherwise." She looked carefully at Monica. "But you already know this, don't you? You told us that Audrey Pauley was conveying messages between you and John, which only fueled his convictions."

Monica nodded. "Yes. That's right. But why me? She told me there was something wrong with her. She was convinced she couldn't help anyone. How did she manage to help me?"

Dana looked troubled. "How much do you know about my abduction back in 1994?" she said finally.

Shit. "I've read the X-file... I hope that's okay," Monica added quickly.

Dana sighed. "I yelled at John for doing the same thing, but yes, it's fine. There are some things that happened that aren't in the official record."

Monica was worried. "Dana, you don't have to tell me anything. It's personal, and I had no business..."

Dana interrupted her. "It's okay. I want you to know." She pushed her half-finished plate to the side and took a sip of her wine. "You already know the facts of the case. Mulder was in a bad state even before this happened. We'd been separated—I was sent back to Quantico, Mulder was on wiretap duty. He was bored, miserable, and lonely.

"According to... my sources, after I was taken, he went a little bit crazy. He'd searched for me for months without success. Suddenly there I was, in the ER of Memorial Hospital. Long story short, I was in such bad condition that the terms of my living will were executed: at the advice of the attending, and over Mulder's strenuous objections, my mother and sister had my life support discontinued. Mulder and I never discussed it. I know from talking with my sister that he was hiding in his apartment with the lights out when she went to bring him to the hospital. He had his weapon in hand when he opened the door."

This definitely hadn't made it into the official file. "What was he doing there? Why wasn't he with you?"

"I can't be certain, but knowing Mulder, I suspect one of his sources may have helped him set a trap for the men responsible for my abduction. Somehow Melissa got through to him. She made him give up on his revenge scenario and return to my bedside. I don't remember much but I do remember that he talked to me; held my hand." Dana wiped tears from her eyes but she was smiling.

"He convinced you to come back to him." Monica's throat went dry. God. Mulder was probably in love with Dana even back then. "I don't think we have the same bond as you and Mulder." How could we, John's in love with you. "I think it's something different. Of course John cares about me and I care about him, too. We're partners and friends but we've never crossed that line."

Dana's eyebrow went up. "Well then, what's your explanation?"

Monica wasn't sure if she could explain it. "John's lost so many people who were important to him. He's so stubborn, Dana. You worked with John, you know how he gets. He's like a dog worrying a bone when he's got his mind set on something. I think he decided he wasn't going to lose anyone else he cared about—ever again."

"And what about Audrey Pauley? What was her role in all of this?" Dana questioned gently.

"Audrey believed it was part of God's plan, that she was meant to save me." Monica's face crumpled. "I can't see what I've done to deserve that."

Dana looked thoughtful. "Maybe you're missing the point, Monica. She didn't only save your life. When John caught Dr. Preijers red-handed, he stopped a murderer. I mean, who knows how many people that saved." She took Monica's hand and squeezed it.

Maybe that's why my John came back when I let Other-John go. Maybe he was meant to save me. Maybe he was supposed to stop a mass murderer from killing again.

"Thank you, Dana. That helped--a lot." Maybe there was a plan after all.