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Sunflower Seeds

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He stepped out of the meeting room, his hands shaking as his anxiety took over him. Blevins had fled the room immediately after he named him and he didn’t want to participate in the quiet, confused and shocked chitchat among all his superiors. He could still see Skinner's shocked eyes in his mind. Know who your friends are. Who you can trust. He leaned against the wall and closed his eyes. He pinched the bridge of his nose and inhaled for four seconds, held it for four seconds and exhaled slowly for eight. His phone ringing startled him, and he jumped slightly. Skinner stepped out of the meeting room with a quiet “Mulder”, but he held up a shaking hand, not trusting his voice as he stared at the name on his screen. Margaret Scully. He closed his eyes and he felt his throat constrict as dread washed over him.

- Hello? – he picked up the call, his voice hoarse and wavering.

- Fox, it’s Maggie. – her voice was shaky with tears and Mulder’s knees buckled. Skinner caught his arm before he collapsed and he only gave him a grateful glance before he concentrated on the phone call. His heart was beating in his chest like a jackhammer and he found it difficult to breathe. – Dana... Dana’s results came back...

- And? – he choked out. The next words made time slow and come to a halt as he heard his blood rushing in his ears.

- She’s getting worse, Fox. – she said and Mulder’s mouth opened in a silent scream, as his face paled enough to make a white wall jealous and he realized he was going to choke if he didn’t take a breath, from the agonized screaming of his lungs. He inhaled sharply, a start of a painful, gut-wrenching sobbing as his eyes filled with tears.

- I’ll, uh... I’ll be there as soon as I can. – he choked out and Maggie said goodbye and hung up the call. Mulder didn’t care that Skinner was standing next to him, he didn’t care that the rest of the panel started swirling out of the room. His brain started buzzing as he gasped for air, his feelings overwhelming him, hurting him in every part of his body. His phone slipped out of his hand and landed on the floor of the hallway with a loud crack and his eyes opened wide, staring transfixed, straight ahead. – She’s going to die. – he whispered, not quite believing his words and he looked up at Skinner, whose face broke slightly from the usual neutral expression he wore and Mulder felt unable to close his mouth as his breaths came out shaky and suddenly very silent. – She’s going to die. – he whispered again.

- I’m sorry, Mulder. – Skinner whispered and he glanced at him again, his mouth still open. The big man started dragging him along the hallway, and his legs moved on their own volition, his mind not keeping up with his body. He was somewhat aware enough of his surroundings to know that he is being pushed into a passenger seat and he absent-mindedly buckled his seatbelt as Skinner got into the driver’s seat. The drive to the hospital was quick and silent as Mulder pieced himself together, braced himself for what was to come. By the time Skinner parked the car, he was aware of his surroundings once more, his pain pushed deep down. He was good at that. Hiding his pain, so others wouldn’t have to suffer with him. He got out of the car and pulling his suit jacket tighter around his body, he walked towards his end, with long strides. He quickly located Scully’s room and came to a halt in front of it. Margaret Scully was sitting in front of the room, a crumpled up tissue in her hands. When she looked up, she smiled, genuinely, but barely and sadly. Bill Jr. was also sitting next to her and when he looked up, his face twisted with disgust and anger. He stood up to face Mulder. He stared back at Scully’s brother without feeling, without expression.

- What the fuck are you doing here? – he asked, with a tight voice through clenched teeth.

- Bill! – Maggie snapped, but Mulder glanced at her.

- It’s okay, Mrs. Scully. – he said quietly, surprised by how strong and sure his voice sounded. – Look, Bill. I know you blame me for what happened to her, Hell, I blame myself too. But if I’ve ever been sure of anything in my sorry excuse of a life is that she wants me here. You can say or do anything to me after... – he let the sentence trail off, not quite ready to say the words out loud. – But dare say one word in front of her at me, dare disturb her when the least she deserves is to go in peace, I will strangle you myself without a blink of an eye. – a flash of fear ran through Bill’s eyes at Mulder’s stern expression. He didn’t wait for an answer. – Excuse me. – he pushed past him and stepped into the room. Scully was lying on the bed, on her side, breathing softly, clutching her cross around her neck in her hand. Her eyes were swollen and red around, a stark difference to her pale skin. She was so small, she looked so fragile and yet, Mulder could only see the takes-no-shit agent that was his partner, the smart and determined Dana Scully, who he was lucky to call his partner. He sat down in the chair next to the bed, gazing at her face. He refused to see her sickness, he refused to see how bad her condition was because it hurt too much. It hurt too much to see her suffer, so he just didn’t. He gently reached out and brushed a stray strand of hair behind her ear. She stirred and her eyes fluttered open. They were bloodshot and tired, the ice blue in her eyes dim, not quite as strong as it used to be. In her eyes he saw the Scully who had cancer. He saw the Scully who was dying. The Scully he soon wouldn’t be able to see alive anymore.

- Hi. – she rasped, her voice rough and pained.

- Hey. – he said softly.

- How did it go? – she asked and Mulder sighed, but knew better than to try and argue.

- I named Blevins. He fled the room straight after. I don’t know what’s going to happen now. Skinner brought me here. I couldn’t drive. – she didn’t answer. – How are you feeling? – he asked, his voice softening, barely above a whisper.

- I’m scared, Mulder. – the words drove a dagger through his heart. He saw her hurt, he saw her traumatized, but not once did she admit she was afraid. He felt a ball forming in his throat and he found it hard to swallow. – I’m scared for you.

- For me? – he didn’t mean it to come out that sarcastic, but it did and he shook his head.

- I’m afraid of what’s gonna happen once I’m gone.

- Scully... – he choked out, but couldn’t get himself to glance away. Nothing, Scully. Nothing is going to happen. My world will end.

- Mulder you have to promise. – she said, her voice quiet and weak as she fought falling asleep. – You have to promise to keep fighting.

- Scully, I can’t... – his voice cracked. – I can’t promise that.

- You have to find the men who did this to me. You have to bring them to justice. You have to keep going.

- I can’t... Scully, without you, I can’t... – his voice became heavy as the tears returned to his eyes.

- Yes, you can. Find the Truth, Mulder. For me. You can’t give up, not now.

- Scully, please... – he breathed, his hands starting to shake again.

- Mulder, please. I’m not sure I’m going to wake up tomorrow and I need you to promise. – she said softly. I’m not sure I’m going to wake up tomorrow. The words swirled in his head, cutting off any and all connection to coherent thoughts.

- There must be something we can do, some way to...

- Mulder, stop. – and the exhaustion in her voice did stop him. – Just promise me you won’t kill yourself.

- I... – his voice choked as he slumped back in the chair, defeated. – Okay. I promise. – he said, crossing his fingers out of sight for Scully.

- Now, without crossing your fingers. – she said, her voice barely above a whisper. He snorted and uncrossing his fingers, promised again. He wasn’t sure how he was going to do it. How he was going to go on without her, but he had to. He promised. He pulled the chair closer to the bed, and reached for Scully’s hand. He clutched it like his life depended on it, and in a way, it did. Just when he thought and feared that she fell asleep, she spoke in hushed tones. – Mulder, I don’t blame you. – the sentence brought tears into his eyes again and he dropped his head, lifting her hand to his forehead. – It’s not your fault.

- Of course it is, Scully, I... – he whimpered.

- Mulder, look at me. – she rasped and he did, his eyes glimmering with tears. – It’s not your fault. – his breath hitched as he inhaled and he nodded. She closed her eyes again and Mulder felt his heart shatter as he clutched her hand. He watched her sleep for a long time, thinking of everything they’ve been through, everything she’s been through. He thought about that first case in Oregon, when they were laughing in the rain, he remembered pointing a gun at her because of Modell and he remembered her pointing a gun at him because of the signals coming from those televisions. He thought about all their small bickerings, all their little jokes, his sexual innuendos that he never meant seriously. He respected her, as an agent, as a scientist and as a human being. He fell asleep next to her bed that night, jolting awake in the next morning after a nightmare. He held his breath as he assessed her sleeping form. God, please, tell me I didn’t miss saying goodbye. The heart monitor beeped slowly, but somewhat steadily and he exhaled the breath he was holding with a shaky sigh. Her eyes fluttered open again, but they were not fully focused and she didn’t smile when she saw him. He saw it, he felt it, he hated it. His chest constricted like somebody fastened a belt onto it and he inhaled sharply, his whole body shivering, as his muscles contracted with the pain of grief.

He waited outside for Scully’s morning visit, cracking the joints in his fingers as he paced. She’s going to die. She’s going to die. She’s going to die. And I’m going to die with her. When the doctor came out, he knew it, he felt it and it hurt. It hurt everywhere and it hurt unbearably. His muscles ached, his heart hurt, and he felt every beat, painfully, as he felt like it was supposed to be Scully’s heart that beats and his that stops. It’s all your fault. It’s all because of you. She’s going to die.

- I’m so sorry, she’s probably not going to make it to tomorrow. You should say your goodbyes. – he said quietly and Maggie sobbed into Bill’s shirt, who shot Mulder another dirty look, but he didn’t pay attention to it. She’s not going to make it to tomorrow. His heart felt heavy, his mind reeling, his breaths in a constant state of hyperventilation.

- Thank you, Doctor. – Maggie said, through her tears and Bill and her went in the room. Mulder heard them crying, and he felt his own tears burning their way down his face. He sat down and waited, with his heart still heavy and breaking more by the minute, his stomach in a knot, his throat constricted. Skinner came to visit an hour later, telling him that the Smoking Man is dead, that he was shot through his window and his heart broke further, as he lost his last connection to Scully’s cancer, his last chance to bring the man or men who did this to her to justice. His last chance at avenging her death, at putting her soul at peace. Her death will have been for nothing. He cried then, clinging to Skinner’s suit like a lost child and he hugged him, rubbing lazy circles on his back, trying to shush him, to calm him down. His stomach was playing all sorts of games, one of which, that was his favorite, was „Will you vomit or will you not?”. You should say your goodbyes. He calmed down after a good half hour and he let go of Skinner, who gazed at him with concerned eyes. He wiped his face and when Mrs. Scully and Bill Jr. stepped out of the room, Maggie looked at him, her face turned into a pained frown. He stood up, and she stepped to him, pulling him into a hug that nearly made him cry again. The hug was gentle, but firm and he knew she was trying to comfort him, even though he also knew he didn't deserve it. – Thank you for everything, Fox. You were a wonderful partner to her. – she whispered and Mulder shivered, closing his eyes tightly. It’s all your fault. You killed her.

- I’m so sorry. – he breathed into her shoulder and she rubbed his back.

- Go say goodbye.

- But what about you? – he pulled away, wiping his face. – Didn’t you want to be there...

- Dana doesn’t want us to be there, Fox. – she said softly. – She’s always been like this. She wants you to be in there with her when she goes.

- I... – he choked out and glanced towards the ceiling to keep his tears at bay.

- Take care of yourself, Fox. – she whispered, gently rubbing his upper arm, and then Bill threw his arm over her shoulder protectively and they walked away. Mulder waited until Skinner said his goodbyes as well, coming out with slightly glassy eyes, and then he nodded for Mulder to go in. He shook in his whole body, from the strain of keeping himself from breaking down, and he stepped into the room, his eyes immediately locating Scully. She was lying on her side again, her face pale, her eyes closed, shivering slightly.

- Hey. – he whispered as he sat down and Scully’s eyes fluttered open and filled with tears upon seeing him.

- Mulder, I’m scared. – she closed her eyes and the tears rolled down her face, and he found it unbearably difficult to breathe.

- It’s gonna be okay, Scully. – he said softly. – I’m sure God is waiting for you with open arms. – Scully blinked up at him with surprise in her eyes and he smiled, apologetically. – I respect that you believe in him, even if I don’t.

- Thank you. – she said softly and with much difficulty, scooted over and patted the bed next to herself. Mulder moved involuntarily, and she cuddled up to his side. He realized that she was much smaller than he saw under the heap of blankets to keep her warm and she looked sick and she was shaking.

- Oh, Scully... – he murmured, tears filling his eyes again. – Please don’t go.

- I can’t go on anymore, Mulder. You’re gonna be alright.

- No, no, I’m not, Scully, nothing is ever going to be alright again. – he cried into her red locks, shaking with her. She buried her face in his shirt and inhaled slowly.

- I’m going to miss you.

- I’m going to miss you too. – he said, his eyes shut tightly as his tears streamed down his face without stopping, falling into her hair. They stayed there, on the bed, in each others arms, for a long time and he could almost imagine that they were sitting on his couch, watching a movie late at night, cuddled up under a heap of blankets, arguing over the latest case. He could almost imagine she was alright, that she wasn’t skin and bones, that she wasn’t sick, that she wasn’t dying. He could almost imagine that everything would be alright. Almost. But life is cruel, and her breath hitched and he let out another sob.

- It’s time, Mulder. – she said, barely a whisper and with a trembling hand, reached into the pocket of her night gown and lifted out something. Mulder’s eyes were shut tightly, as a couple little somethings were placed in his palm and his fingers were closed around it.

- Scully, please... – he cried, opening his eyes to be able to look at her one last time, as her eyes bore into his soul. – Please don’t leave me.

- I love you, Mulder. – she whispered and his heart broke all over again as a wave of pain took over his body.

- I love you, Scully. – he whispered back, tears streaming down his face and she melted into his arms. – See you on the other side. – he whispered, and he felt her smile against his shirt. He turned off the monitors, and watched her chest rise and fall, rise and fall until it fell one last time and didn’t rise any more. He hugged her tighter then and his mouth opened in a silent scream once more, as he clutched her, angry at smoking man, at Bill Scully Jr, at Blevins, at the world and he sobbed his heart out onto her hair because he didn’t need it anymore anyway. He cried until he thought he had no tears anymore. That’s when the little somethings she placed into his hands started pushing into his palm as he subconsciously clutched them and he opened his fingers. The small, black and white striped seeds brought a fresh wave of tears over him as he dropped a kiss on top of the red locks. He looked down at his hand and he knew that he could never look at sunflower seeds the same way he did before.