In Extremis

by Satchie

TITLE:      In Extremis
AUTHOR:      Satchie
CATEGORY:      Vignette, MA
RATING:      PG-13
SPOILERS:      Fleeting references to Millennium,
Closure and Within.
SUMMARY:      While suffering from a serious illness,

Mulder struggles with a difficult decision regarding his future.

FEEDBACK:      Feed the need.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:      Thanks to my muse, Obfusc8er,

for the sage advice and invaluable suggestions, and for "encouraging" my peculiar addiction. DISCLAIMER: Alas, the character of Fox Mulder belongs to Chris Carter, Ten-Thirteen Productions and Fox. I'm merely borrowing him again for my own devious purposes.

AUTHOR'S NOTES: I've often wondered what was going through Mulder's mind when made arrangements for his name to be added to the family tombstone we saw in "Within," and why he never revealed his incurable illness to Scully. This is my humble version of events.

The unrelenting rain is an all too unpleasant reminder of my own gathering storm, an impending doom that shall soon befall me. My bleak mood is as dark as the evening sky, which provides scant light to illuminate my path along the long drive home. Since my mother's death a couple of months ago, I have made several pilgrimages to my family's gravesite in Raleigh. A lump in my throat forms as I consider the three names currently inscribed on the impersonal headstone. Within a few months, one more name will be added to the granite monument: my own.

Alone in my car, I give into my grief, and allow the tears to spill onto my face. I'm nearing the end of a very different kind of journey. Shortly after Thanksgiving, the headaches began, and the incessant cacophony of undecipherable noise returned with a vengeance. I surreptitiously underwent extensive neurological testing, fervently hoping Scully wouldn't discover my covert activities. I hadn't planned to deceive her about my condition indefinitely. My misguided intentions were reasonably honorable. I had merely wanted to spare her any unnecessary worry until I was certain of my fate. Ironically, for someone who has devoted himself to the pursuit of the elusive truth, I have become adept at deceit.

I'm dying, and I can't summon the courage to tell her. My personal crusade has been the source of so much grief in her life, how can I possibly add one more burden? No, I must travel this path in painful solitude. In a peculiar way, I somehow feel this is my penance.

Penance. That's an interesting concept. An act of devotion performed to atone for one's sins. Unlike Scully, I don't believe in an omniscient deity with whom I need to make my peace before my spirit departs my mortal coil. To be honest, I'm not sure what I believe in anymore. I feel as though I've spent my entire life searching for answers, and now I'm not even sure what the questions were.

During the Christmas holidays, I nearly broke down and confessed my grim secret to Scully. But on New Year's Eve, I lost my resolve. As we watched the televised festivities from a hospital waiting room, I impulsively kissed her. For one brief moment, time stretched into a blissful eternity, and I felt incredibly alive. Unfortunately, the tentative act of affection was extraordinarily bittersweet. I knew this was the last time we would celebrate a new year together. I awkwardly averted my gaze, unable to face the person who had become the center of my universe... my one in five billion.

I'm deeply ashamed for concealing my medical status from Scully. Part of me wants to make a full confession of my transgressions and be absolved of my guilt. My imminent death demands that I be reconciled with my soul mate, to obtain her complete and unconditional forgiveness before I make my final exit. But each time I gaze into her beautiful face, my courage fails me. I can't bear to see her pain reflected in her expressive eyes, and know that once again, I am the cause of her anguish.

A deafening peal of thunder startles me, interrupting my morbid reverie. The deluge is seriously compromising visibility, and I wonder how much longer I can manage, in more ways than one. Perhaps I should just pull over and wait for the pounding rain to abate. Perhaps I should pull out my service revolver and put an end to my misery. I am in extremis, nearing the point of death. Does the means of my demise matter? Isn't the end result inevitable? Won't Scully be devastated no matter how I choose to perform the ultimate ditch?

Today's visit to the cemetery was profoundly different, and I'm still reeling from the implications. Wanting to spare Scully this dreadful task, I arranged to have my name engraved on the family grave marker. In an irreverent moment of gallows humor, I recalled an advertisement for a frozen pizza. When asked what I wanted on my tombstone, my inner jackass was tempted to reply, "Pepperoni with mushrooms." Instead, I opted for a nondescript attestation of my pathetic life: Fox Mulder 1961-2000. It's extremely disconcerting knowing my corporeal form will soon rest beneath this silent testament to my existence. Other than Scully, will anyone mourn my passing? Is she destined to be a desolate witness as my lifeless body is lowered into the cold ground? No doubt my adversaries will rejoice in my departure. I can't stand the thought of that black-lunged son-of-bitch dancing on my fresh grave. Despite my passion and perseverance, I'm afraid my quixotic quest will have been in vain.

My throbbing headache continues to intensify, and I blindly fumble for the amber plastic vial hidden in the inside pocket of my trench coat draped across the passenger seat. Grasping the bottle with my shaking hands, I pour two tablets into my palm. As I swallow the medication, I wonder how much longer I'll be able to continue this betrayal.

Seeking a diversion, I aimlessly search for a decent radio station, a daunting task in the middle of nowhere. After several unsuccessful attempts, a static-distorted voice of Elvis drifts over the airwaves and I inwardly cringe. Shit. I did not need to hear this song. "And now, the near is near; and so I face the final curtain..." No kidding. Fate can be so cruel, kicking a man while he's down. I massage my aching temples and groan in frustration. "Regrets, I've had a few; but then again, too few to mention..."

Regrets. Sure, I have plenty of those. I regret I wasn't able to save the world from an alien invasion, or from a shadowy organization that threatens our very existence. I regret that my cause has placed so many innocent people in harm's way. I regret that damned burrito I ate for lunch, especially when it made a dramatic reappearance at the mortuary. Most of all, I regret leaving Scully behind. I never thought I'd be able to trust anyone so implicitly, but over the past seven years, she has earned my undying loyalty and devotion. Undying. Okay, that was a bad choice of words. I have a bizarre terminal disease, and there's not a damned thing anyone can do about it. I want to shake my fists at the heavens and vehemently proclaim the injustice of my plight.

The worst part of my decline is having to face my trials alone. So many times I've debated whether or not to tell Scully about my illness, but I can't seem to arrive at a decision. For crying out loud, she's a doctor. Sooner or later she's bound to notice the subtle clues of my deterioration. Do I honestly believe I can keep this from her until the bitter end? No matter how I check out, she's going to be heartbroken. I'm damned if I do, and damned if I don't.

If I reveal what I have been trying so desperately to hide, she will undoubtedly offer me her unfailing support, and for some reason, that bothers me. Not that I mind having Scully fuss over me, but I don't feel I deserve her dedication and tender ministrations. I'm responsible for so much suffering that she has endured. Dare I inflict more misery upon her? What gives me that right? On the other hand, what gives me the right to deny her a chance to say goodbye? Her big brother Bill had me pegged perfectly. I am one sorry son-of-a-bitch, a spineless selfish bastard.

I don't want to suffer alone, and Scully wouldn't want me to. Yet, I'm hesitant to jeopardize our unusual relationship. After all this time, I sense it's moving in a new direction, one that I'm willing to explore. However, I'm afraid if I disclose my terrible secret, she will see me as a patient, and not as a man. That prospect frightens me. Would she be honest with me if I were honest with her? Would she embrace me for who I really am, or only out of a sense of obligation or pity? I'm not sure I could keep my suspicions under control.

Sometimes I wished I shared her beliefs in the afterlife. Maybe it would ease the sting of my approaching death and bring both of us comfort in knowing that someday we would be reunited for eternity. For her, I would be willing to entertain extreme possibilities.

I can't quell the rising panic that this decision may be taken out of my hands, that one day my symptoms will become glaringly obvious, or that she may accidentally stumble upon the truth. Would Scully understand my convoluted reasoning and readily forgive me? Or would she, in righteous indignation, abandon me in my hour of need? That would certainly be Hell on earth, constantly being in her presence while being deprived of the emotional intimacy we've developed over the years. Surely that would be the cruelest torment of all, one I'm not sure my fragile heart could withstand. She's never given me any reason to believe she'd forsake me, but I'm afraid of the uncertainty that devours me. Ultimately, my anxiety compels me to seek a solution that seems relatively safe.

The rain is finally letting up, and for the first time this evening, my path has become clear. For now, I shall be content to persist in my delusion of normalcy as our newly defined relationship evolves. Am I essentially selling my soul in order to enjoy the remainder of my days with Scully? Possibly, but it's a risk I'm willing to take. I need to feel some degree of control over my destiny right now, no matter how foolish my actions may appear. In my own determined style, I want to face that final curtain my way.


Lyrics from "My Way" by Jacque Reuaux and Claude Francois

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