DISCLAIMER: Chris Carter... yadda, yadda, yadda ... 1013 ... blah, blah, blah. Bottom line: not mine.

FEEDBACK: Yup. Love it. Keep it all. Respond to all of it too.

NOTES: was not really around when I wrote Files fic, so this (like all my files fic) was posted to various lists and sites. Now that is so big, I'm posting my older fics/fandoms here. These stories were all written more or less in "real time," i.e. as the show aired. Please keep that in mind as you read as it may mean some details of the story won't match up with what happened later.

FARTHER THAN A LIFETIME

I have lived a life more or less ordinary. Or rather, I had lived that sort of life until about four years ago. Now I sit in a darkened apartment, staring out a window, spirit torn, trying to hide from the obvious, trying to run from the fate that seems determined to overtake me. Nothing in my life is ordinary any longer.

For as long as we know the sun has risen each morning in the east, setting each evening in the west. It breaks each dawn, gently, softly, shedding light casually over a slightly stirring world.

It sinks each night in a glorious burst of color, blazing its dying rays across the earth, promising another display of the same tomorrow. In the space of hours between dawn and sunset that same sun hangs above our heads, sliding slowly across the sky. It lights our world, warms our days; for reasons not quite clear, it cheers us and makes us happy.

The last fourteen hundred days, more or less, slowly telescope for me. All the hours and minutes, the seconds that have counted my heartbeats, become as fleeting as that moment the sun first clears the eastern edge of the horizon. I feel my life gathering momentum, sinking toward that western boundary. For me there are no promises of a new tomorrow; there is only today, the life I've lived.

Nosebleeds and visions remind me of the fact I cannot escape. Mirrors insist on telling me these things; girls with their throats cut; a harmless, middle-aged man fallen down dead in a street. I don't want to see these things. Not for their gruesome aspect, but because I am afraid of their portents.

Though I do not want to believe in ghosts, in the world of restless spirits, Mulder's words haunt me.

Since this diagnosis I have fought the inevitable, held back the tide that will someday sweep me away. Now I fear it looms closer, gains an unstoppable strength that will efface me. Each beat of my heart is one beat fewer left to me, more or less. Each breath I draw is one more breath I can never recapture.

And I find myself gripped by Mulder's repetition of some arcane theory. The dying are closer than the living to the spirits of the recently departed.

Would Mulder have said it if he had known what I'd seen? Would he have challenged me to believe?

I wanted Mulder with me tonight, at last, almost at the end. I wanted to tell him what I'd witnessed, to watch his face, to read his thoughts. Instead I sit in the dark, with only my fear to keep me company, only the knowledge of what awaits me for stark comfort.

A knock pulls me from my contemplation. I glance at the clock. It's too late to be anyone but Mulder. I smile, in spite of my melancholy thoughts. After a cursory check that proves my instincts right, I open the door to Mulder. He is leaning against the door frame, looking at me apologetically. His shoulders are slumped and he has thrust his hands deep into the pockets of his jeans.

We exchange the inevitable pleasantries and apologies for the lateness of the hour, on his part, before finding ourselves seated side by side on my couch. He has declined the offer of a drink or late night snack.

Sitting next to him, silence burdensome between us, I think back, see myself standing in that hallway, telling Mulder I was going home. I see in my posture the waiting, the mute pleading, needing him to understand, to accept the invitation implicit in that single sentence. I hear in my voice the exhaustion, the bitterness, the loneliness that has come to define my life. I feel again the sting, not of rejection exactly, but of 'unrecognition', as he had accepted my leaving, had not offered to accompany me.

Defeat stirs in me, memory of how earlier I had pushed him away, declined the very comfort I longed to have him offer tonight.

I want Mulder to understand. I want him to look inside me, inside my soul, but I am afraid. I know he will see the light that is there, dying, no longer by months or weeks, but now by hours and minutes. I know he will gather me to him, will collect within him this failing illumination, to horde and cherish once

I myself am only darkness, but I am not certain I can bear the one single moment, the one in which he will not be able to conceal his horror, his ache at this loss that is now so close, so undeniable.

When he had offered, I had been unready, and rebuffed once, when I, with veiled hints and carefully chosen words, offered, he had chosen not to notice.

He takes my hand in his. His touch is light, respectful. He holds me to nothing. I can pull away if that is what I need to do. I know the chance he has taken coming here now. I fear if I push him away again, his own courage will fail him and he won't again try to breach the walls of my heart. I leave my hand in his.

"Scully?" He says my name softly, his tongue caressing the two syllables he has made his own. "What did you see?"

I look up at him. His eyes are staring into mine, pleading, challenging, wanting. I whisper, "I saw her ... the girl." I pause and look down at our hands. His grasp has tightened and his touch is more firm now, more real. "And Harold."

He says nothing. I don't think he believed I would tell him. He had been waiting for my denial that I had seen anything. His jaw is clenched and I watch him swallow convulsively.

"Mulder?" I whisper again. He rubs my hand. "I'm scared."

He obliterates the distance between us, pulling me into his embrace and holding me as though his life depended on it. His hands brush through my hair and he kisses my forehead.

I squeeze my eyes shut and tell myself I will not cry; I will maintain some control. I inhale, a shaky breath that betrays my emotional state. One wave of grief, I decide to allow myself. The promise is broken nearly as soon as it is made and I'm sobbing in his arms.

He does not tell me to stop, does not comfort me with useless words. It will not be all right and we both know that. He does not tell me we'll find a way to fight this. He murmurs my name over and over; tonight he does not ask, in any way, that I be strong. He offers up his strength to me and for once, I give over to him my burdens.

When I am exhausted, when the well of grief and pain has been plumbed and found to be dry at last, for now anyway, I settle against him. My head rests on his shoulder and he keeps his arms around me. My hands he holds, his fingers laced with mine. "This isn't how it was supposed to end," I tell him.

"I know, " he answers softly. Tacitly, we agree to save the myth of a miraculous cure for another day, another battle. This isn't about fighting this thing inside me.

"Mulder?" I ask, voice still sodden with tears. "Can I ask you to do something?"

"Anything, Scully. If it weren't for me, you wouldn't be here," he says.

I give him a bitter laugh. "Don't blame yourself, Mulder. That's what I wanted you to do. I wouldn't trade these last four years, not for eighty more if it meant I'd never known you." I pause, nestle my head deeper into his shoulder. "I think that's the hardest part. In the last four years, I've been more alive than at any other time in my life. That wouldn't have happened without you, Mulder."

He snorts softly. "Don't thank me for getting you killed, Scully."

"You didn't do this. They did."

"Because of me," he protests.

"I knew the risks," I remind him.

"No, you didn't! Not as well as I did."

"Yes," I say, tilting my head back to look at him. "I did." He meets my eyes, sees the seriousness there and gives in. "Mulder, I need you to do one other thing for me, OK?"

"What is it?" He asks.

"Remember me." Tears trickle down my face again. I hear him sigh, softly, a long pent-up breath. It is hot against my neck. He rests his chin on my shoulder, hunching himself around me, shrouding me from the world. I can see tears glistening on his cheeks as well.

"Scully, I couldn't forget you if I tried. The idea of a world without you ... it isn't real."

Very softly, I say, "It is real, Mulder. And it's getting closer."

"I will never forget you. I will carry your memory farther than a lifetime, Scully. I promise you that."

"Thank you," I whisper.

END