He couldn’t stay away. Consequences be damned, his partner was dying, and Mulder could not just walk away. He waited until the halls were quiet and an easily distracted night nurse was on duty to slip inside her room. He tilted the blinds on the inside window just enough to shield him from from view and silently moved a chair to her bedside. He had sat vigil for her once before when it looked like the end was near, and if there was a way to will her back from the edge not once, but twice, he would do it.
She had been taking off the ventilator, which he wasn’t sure was a good sign or not, considering she had a DNR on file that the hospital was well aware of. He didn’t know how to make sense of her hospital chart. That was her job and he wished he could wake her up to explain it to him. Careful to avoid the IV in her arm, he slipped one hand under her hers and covered it with his other hand. Her fingers moved between his hands, likely a reflex, but her lashes fluttered lightly and her head tipped just a little towards him.
Mulder rubbed the top of Scully’s hand and stroked the line of her thumb with his. Her eyes drifted open and shut in slow intervals, unable to shake sleep so easily. At one point she gave him a dreamy smile, took a deep breath and let out a soft sigh. Eventually, she managed to focus on him, but it was with the glassy gaze of the heavily sedated.
“Hey,” Mulder whispered.
“Mulder,” she murmured, her lips barely moving. Her brow furrowed a little and she a worried expression wrinkled her forehead.
“I had to know you were alright,” he said.
She hummed her response and then took a moment to try to wet her lips and swallowed. “‘mokay,” she said.
“Do you want some water?” Mulder was loathe to let go of her hand, but he reached over to pour some water into a plastic cup from a pitcher on the bedside table, not waiting for an answer. He adjusted the bendable straw in the cup and brought it to her lips.
Scully took a few sips and then turned her head slightly and closed her eyes. Mulder put the cup back on the table and Scully sighed again and licked her chapped lips. He took her hand back into his and waited for her to open her eyes, but it looked like she was drifting back to sleep. He hunched down and laid his head by her hip.
“You shouldn’t be here,” she mumbled.
Mulder lifted his head. Her eyes had slid back open, but barely. “I need to be here,” he whispered back, uncovering her hand so he could press his lips to her knuckles.
“You should…” She trailed off and her eyes closed again.
He was not accustomed to seeing Scully so weak, so frail, so listless. Her skin had an almost translucent quality, so pale and thin. The hospital gown was loose at her neck and the sharpness of her bones scared him. It was hard to imagine her so breakable.
“What should I do, Scully?” he asked.
A silence followed. Mulder watched the tiny blips on the screen of her heart monitor, but they stayed consistent and even. A teardrop formed in the outside corner of Scully’s eye and slowly leaked down the side of her face. He bit his lip, trying not to cry himself, and put his hand on her cheek.
“I don’t want you to remember me like this,” she said.
“Don’t,” he pleaded.
“I don’t know how much longer I can…”
Scully gave a slow, gentle shake of her head.
“If I can make something happen for you,” he said, “something you’ve always wanted, but never got the chance to do, tell me what it is and I’ll make it happen.”
A tiny smile formed on Scully’s lips and she opened her eyes again as she turned her head into Mulder’s hand. She gave a gentle shake again and hooked her thumb around his.
“Skydiving?” Mulder asked. “A hot air balloon ride? Tickets behind home plate at a Yankees Game?”
Scully’s left eyebrow twitched.
“That last one might be mine,” he said, chuckling softly.
Scully’s smile wavered and her chin began to tremble. Another tear formed in the corner of her eye and rolled between the webbing of Mulder’s fingers. Then another, and another. He turned his head and pressed his face to his shoulder to hide his own tears from her.
“Promise you’ll let me go,” she said.
“I can’t do that,” he said into his arm.
“Please don’t spend the rest of your life thinking there was more you could have done. Promise me you’ll go on. You’ll find the truth you’ve always been looking for.”
“I don’t know if I can do it without you.”
“You can. I have faith in you.”
Mulder had to bite his lip very hard not to weep. He wanted to break down, to yell, to command her not to die on him, to run out of the room and put a bullet into that cigarette smoking bastard’s brain, to punch a wall, to crawl into that hospital bed with her and hold onto her. He really didn’t know if he could do it without her, and he definitely didn’t want to.
Scully reached over and put her hand on Mulder’s head. Her fingers glided through his hair and then went still. His palm was wet against her cheek and his eyes were raw, but he didn’t move and neither did she.
“I always thought I would get married one day,” she suddenly said, spoken on a sigh. “Have children.”
Mulder nearly choked on a whimper. Even with all the time in the world, she had no idea that would never happen. He hadn’t told her about her stole ova. Hadn’t told her what the analysis of the vials he’d recovered had found. They would never….but, he could....
“Let’s get married, then,” he said, raising his head and blinking the remnants of tears from his eyes. “I’ll go down to the hospital chapel and have them send up a priest or a rabbi or or a...a justice of the peace.”
“I can do that for you.”
“It’s not what I meant.”
“We can wait until tomorrow. Have your mom here.”
“I may not have a tomorrow.”
Mulder pursed his lips, but he wasn’t sure what to say. Scully looked at his mouth for a long time before she turned her head and passed a kiss over the center of his palm, but then she pulled away from him and closed her eyes. She moved her hand from his and rested both of them in her lap.
“I’m tired,” she said.
“I’m sorry I woke you,” he answered.
“You should go.”
Mulder shakily pushed himself up from the chair he was in and leaned over to kiss Scully’s brow. He stroked her cheek once with his thumb and pressed his forehead to hers for a moment before he bent and kissed the corner of her mouth.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” he whispered.
“Good night, Mulder,” she mumbled.
He reluctantly turned from her and adjusted the blinds back to where they should be. The night nurse had her back to the door, so Mulder quickly slipped out of Scully’s room and down the hall. He dropped down into the first set of chairs he found around the corner and let his head fall into his hands. He didn’t know what he would do with a tomorrow without her.