Title: Coach
Author: Gillian Leigh
Feedback:xxilovedavidduchovnyxx@yahoo.com
Distribution: Archive anywhere you'd like, just send me an e-mail and let me know where it's headed. I like to visit my babies.
Rating: PG-13. I used a few bad words.
Categories: AU, SRA
Spoilers: None.
Disclaimer: Well, we all know who Mulder, Scully, and any other recognizable characters belong to, and we all know it's not me.

Summary: A newly divorced Mulder finds himself falling in love with the unlikeliest of people: his children's baseball coach. But there's one thing that can keep them from happiness; the fact that she might live to see another year. Have no fear...MSR will evolve...

Author's Notes: Um, in this one, Mulder's got a whopping six years on Scully. Just like to keep you all on your toes! :o)


Fox Mulder walked across the dry baseball field, his shoes creating clouds of dust with each step. He had one hand in his pants pocket, and the other held onto his suit jacket, which was slung over his shoulder. It had been a bad ending to an even worse work week, and the last thing he wanted to do was deal with his ex-wife. But that's what happens when she paints you in a bad light in divorce court and you only get to see your kids on weekends, he thought. Saturdays and Sundays were his only opportunity to make sure that Diana wasn't brainwashing them. He reached the sidelines, where he was accosted by his eight year-old son, Jake.

"Dad!" he shouted as he ran toward him. Mulder gratefully dropped his black suit jacket in the dirt and knelt down to hug his son.

"Hey Jake," he said, rumpling his son's unruly brown hair. He released the young boy, and stood up again, picking up his jacket. He saw that their five-year-old daughter, Gwen, was being comforted by a young woman, presumably the coach. She had on a baseball cap and he could see a red ponytail sticking out the back of it. He tried to ignore the Look of Death that Diana was giving him.

"It's okay Gwen, you did a great job, and as long as you keep practicing I'm sure that we'll do better next time, okay? Now, no more crying. There's no crying in baseball," he said, looking into the little girl's hazel eyes.

"A League of Their Own," Mulder said. The coach straightened up, and dusted off her knees. She looked at him peculiarly, and he said, "Fox Mulder. Nice to meet you." She extended her hand after wiping it on her jeans.

"Dana Carver."

"Why weren't you at the game today, Fox?" Diana asked, condescendingly.

"Oh you know the reason, Di, I'm preoccupied with my work, right? I don't make time for my kids?" Dana was growing uncomfortable.

"Excuse me," he said, stepping away. She moved to their left and pretended to be attending to the bag of tee balls and gloves, but really she was guilty of eavesdropping.

"What are you doing, Fox, bringing up our personal matters in front of that woman?" Her face burned at the thought of being called 'that woman' by Diana Mulder, who she viewed as a condescending bitch with no compassion for her children.

"I believe that her name is Dana, and I'm sure that you've dragged the matter of our divorce into this more than once. I'm quite sure that you have been more than willing to tell anyone who'll listen that I'm a horrible father, and that I was a terrible husband. Goodbye, Diana," Mulder said, and with that he and the kids walked off toward his car, while Diana stomped off in the other direction.

They were soon in the car on the way to Mulder's apartment in Alexandria. It had one bedroom, a tiny living room, a kitchen and a bathroom. It wasn't Buckingham Palace, but it was all he could manage while his ex-wife screwed him out of all his assets.

"Dad," Jake began. "Did you meet Coach D?"

"Yes, Jake, you were *right there*," he said, rolling his eyes. ' "Do you think she's pretty?" Jake queried.

"Yes," Mulder said. "She's very pretty."

"Do you think she's prettier than Mommy?" Mulder smiled to himself, and keeping what he really thought to himself, he looked at her in the rear view mirror and said, "She's very pretty, Gwen."

"Can she be our Mommy? I don't like our Mommy," the little girl protested, crossing her arms. Instead of saying, 'You're not the only one," he replied, "Now Gwen, that's not nice. Your Mom loves you, she just has a different way of showing it."

"Where's Eve?" Jake asked.

"At my place. I had to pick her up from Annie's house." Eve was the eldest of the three Mulder children at fifteen.

"Is she gonna stay home with us, or go out with her friends like always?" Jake asked.

"She agreed to stay with us this weekend. We're gonna have movie night tonight, and what do you guys think about bowling and dinner at whatever restaurant you want for tomorrow?" There was an excited garble of agreement from the backseat.

Brother and sister argued over which restaurant to choose the entire way up in the elevator. Once they'd reached apartment 42, Mulder unlocked the door, and let the two children in before calling, "Eve?"

"Yeah, Dad?"

"We're all home. You ready to go to Blockbuster?" His tall, lanky daughter appeared in the doorway running a brush through her hair. He shook his head at what she had on. She wore jeans that were strategically torn and patched, and a sleeveless shirt with a long sleeved black fishnet top underneath it, and lime green converse sneakers.

"What happened to the conservative thing you had going?"

"I don't know. I like this better, and it pisses Mom off, which is just an added bonus. I just hope it doesn't go mainstream, 'cause we all know I'd be labeled a poser," he just smiled at her.

"I like this look. It makes you stand out. Go with it," he said, putting his arm around her shoulder. She smiled at him, and he said, "Alright, everyone, let's go to Blockbuster," he opened the door, to find his son's coach on the other side, poised to knock. She startled as the door opened, as did Mulder.

"Oh, hi. Sorry to just show up," she began, still wearing her dusty jeans and fitted black tee-shirt.

"That's alright," Mulder began, but he was nearly knocked over as his ecstatic five year-old daughter pushed him out of the way, and leapt on Dana, nearly knocking her over.

"Coach D!!" the little girl shouted. "Is Daddy taking you on a date?" Dana flushed at the prospect.

"Umm, no Gwen, I just dropped by to return some stuff you and Jake left at practice." She bent down and picked up a mesh bag which held two baseball gloves, and caps. She looked up at Mulder. "They -um-left them at the field," he took the bag from her, and set it down just inside the doorway.

"Thanks. They're scatterbrained like I am," he replied, grinning at her. She nodded.

"Yeah, I know how that is."

"You've got kids of your own?"

"No, actually, I was thinking of my younger brother, Charlie," she responded with a grin. "Well, I can tell you were on your way somewhere, and I've got to be going, so I'll see you guys at the next practice, I guess." There was a chorus of goodbyes from the interior of the apartment, as she turned away and headed down the hall.


Unlocking her door, Dana felt something wet on her upper lip and found when she raised her hand to it that there was blood on her fingers. She swore under her breath and hurriedly searched for a tissue as she climbed into the driver's seat, and waited for it to stop. The blood stopped in a moment, as it always did. Sighing, Dana shoved the bloody tissues into her pocket, and started her car, driving off in the direction of her apartment.

She reached the high-rise penthouse, and threw her keys down on the table just inside the door. The apartment didn't even feel like hers. Mark's name had been on the lease. The sparsely decorated Apartment felt less like a home and more like an apartment. She came there to sleep between shifts at work, and that was it. She'd inherited it, and three-quarters of Mark's fortune upon his death. The other quarter went to his teenage daughter, Elena, who Dana hadn't seen since her mother had moved her across the country to California.

Dana sighed, and walked toward the bathroom, deciding that a long bath was in order. She undressed and pulled on her bathrobe. Standing in front of the mirror, she took a deep breath and with a tug, she removed her wig. The sight of her bald head brought tears to her eyes. It had been nine months since her diagnosis and the aggressive chemotherapy and radiation that she had endured had caused her hair to fall out, and she was almost fifteen pounds underweight. The sight of her frail body as she dropped her bathrobe made her turn away momentarily. Her jutting hip bones and the fact that she could almost count her ribs made Dana's eyes well with tears. What had she become?

She sank into the full tub, grateful that the abundance of bubbles hid her body from view. Closing her eyes, Dana let her mind wander. Back to the time before cancer, before being widowed and losing the closest thing she had to a daughter. She went back to the day that Mark proposed.

It had been a crisp fall day, four years prior. He'd arrived at the end of the work day, to find Dana sitting at her desk, reading over the newest medical texts that had arrived on her desk. He had watched her silently from the doorway for a few moments, before clearing his throat. She had looked up at him, and he had approached her and handed her a rose.

"Get your coat, we're having a picnic."

They'd been in the park, laughing and talking, and he'd produced two flutes of champagne, and handed her one. They toasted to life and love, and each downed their respective champagne, but it was Dana who had gotten a look of surprise on her face, and opened her lips to reveal a ring clenched between her teeth. Mark had grinned, and removed the ring.

"I wondered where I'd put that..." Her eyes widened at the sight of the diamond in it. "Now...there's a question that went along with this ring... what is it?" he had asked, playfully, and after a moment he said, "Ah yes, I remember. Will you marry me, Dana?"

"Yes!" she'd said, as if there was any other possibility. After he had placed the ring on her finger, she'd enthusiastically kissed him, knocking him over backwards, onto one of the champagne glasses. He'd needed twelve stitches in his shoulder.

Dana sighed, remembering the good times. She climbed out of the claw-footed tub before the water was even lukewarm, and pulled the plug, letting it drain. She wrapped herself in her bathrobe and padded slowly into her bedroom. On the bedside table was a picture of Dana, Mark and Elena, who was then nine. Dana had on her wedding dress, and Elena sat beside her in her bridesmaid's dress, and Mark was on the other side in his tuxedo. They were sitting on the bench swing outside Dana's mother's house, laughing about something. Her heart ached at the memory of the friendship she had created with Elena in the four years that she knew her. She turned the picture face down and closed her eyes.

She twisted her engagement ring, which she still wore, as she laid on the bed. Someone rang the doorbell, and she slowly got out of bed, plucking a handkerchief off her nightstand to cover her head with. She opened the door to find her mother on the other side.

"Hi, Dana," he said, embracing her daughter. Maggie could feel how terribly thin she was. "How do you feel?"

"Today was a good day, but the kids take a lot out of me." She closed the door behind her mother; and Maggie attempted to take a moment to recover. Her daughter usually let no one see her without her make- up and wig on. She didn't want anyone to see how weak she was.

"How much longer are you working before you take sabbatical?"

"Until I physically have to leave. But at least the last game is next weekend, so I don't have to tell the kids..." She was heartbroken. The kids she coached meant so much to her; having to leave them was hurting her. "I don't know if I can do this, Mom. I don't know how much longer I can fight..." Maggie cried with her daughter. Twenty-eight wasn't old enough...


The four Mulders sat around the coffee table, cartons of Chinese food in hand, as they talked and joked. Eventually the conversation settled, as Mulder assumed it would, on Coach D.

"So do you know anything about her, Eve?" he asked, taking a bite out of his egg roll. Eve simply shrugged.

"What about her coaching abilities?"

"She's great with the kids. I don't know how she has that much patience," he said, reading her fortune silently before shoving it in her pocket.

"What did it say?" her father asked.

"What?"

"The cookie.."

"Oh. It said, 'Lessons are often learned through loss'. Cheery, huh?" Mulder laughed at his daughter, and shook his head. She crumpled the fortune up and unceremoniously dropped it in the center of the table.

"Aren't you worried that that's bad luck or something?" he asked, the lopsided grin that he had passed on to all of his children forming on his lips. His daughter rolled her eyes.

"For some reason, I don't believe that a little piece of paper has any control over my future."

That night, Mulder was awoken from the uncomfortable slumber that came with sleeping on an air mattress on your hardwood floor by the sounds of crying. He scrambled from the floor, and saw that the bathroom light was on as he passed by Gwen and Jake who were asleep on the pull-out couch. He found Eve huddled on the floor, with her head resting on the toilet seat, clutching her side, sobbing.

"What's wrong, Eve?" he asked. She continued to cry and said, "I-it hurts! I-it hurts so ba-ad!"

"Show me where it hurts," he commanded gently, pushing her long hair away from her face. She pointed to a spot on her right side, and when her father prodded it gently, she cried out in pain, and he said, "I'm sorry, sweetheart. We're going to have to go to the hospital. I just have to call Grandma so she can come stay with your brothers and sisters, alright?" She nodded, and he rushed into the living room and picked up the phone, placing a call to his mother.

"Hello?" she answered, sleepily.

"Mom, it's me."

"Fox, w-what time is it?" she asked, the question followed by a shuddering yawn.

"It's nearly two in the morning."

"What's wrong?" she asked, suddenly more alert.

"I need to take Eve to the hospital. She's got really bad abdominal pains. I just need you to watch Jake and Gwen for me."

"I'll be over in five minutes."


It was 2:15 a.m., and Dana had caught her second wind, as she always did around that time of the graveyard shift. She was talking to her colleague, and friend, Dr. Jim Barker, when a tall man burst through the doors of the emergency room, holding a young girl in his arms."I need a doctor!" he yelled, and as Dana jogged over to him, she recognized him to be Fox Mulder.

"Mr. Mulder, what happened?" she asked, studying the limp girl he held, a girl she recognized as his oldest child, Eve. He recognized Dana as well, and said, "I found her in the bathroom, throwing up. She was clutching her right side, and on the way to the hospital, she just passed out."

"Let's get a gurney over here, stat!" she bellowed, and Mulder gently laid his daughter on it. Eve opened her eyes, and looked frightened, searching for her father. He gripped her hand. Dana looked into the girl's eyes as she spoke.

"Hi Eve. You're in the hospital. I'm Dr. Carver..."

"Coach D.," he said, weakly. Dana smiled.

"Yes, that's me. Now Eve, I'm going to press on your abdomen a bit, tell me when it hurts." She applied gentle pressure in a lateral motion across Eve's abdomen, moving from left to right. Once she reached the right side, Eve gasped, and before Dana could even remove her hands, the girl promptly threw up all over her, and Mulder.

"I think we've found the source of the problem," Dana said, acting as if she hadn't just been projectile vomited all over. "Mr. Mulder, Eve has appendicitis. It's best that we get her into the OR as soon as possible. They'll do a more extensive evaluation in Pre-Op, but I'm sure that this is what's causing your daughter's pain. I need to get myself some new scrubs, and then I'll scrub in and perform the surgery myself," he was clearly daunted by what was going on, and could only say, "You're a surgeon?" She gave him a good-natured half-smile and said, "Yes. I have been for two years now," she paused, and turned to Dr. Barker.

"Jim, can you find Mr. Mulder something in the line of a clean pair of scrubs, and talk to Betty in Laundry about cleaning his clothes for him?" Jim nodded, and started to walk away, only to find that Mulder wasn't following him. Dana understood.

"You can have a moment with Eve if you'd like, Mr. Mulder, before we take her up to surgery."


Mulder sat in the waiting room, with his head in his hands, waiting for news of how Eve's surgery went, when he heard someone clear her throat. He looked up to find Dr. Carver standing in front of him.

"Mr. Mulder..."

"Please, just call me Mulder." She nodded, and smiled.

"Eve's surgery went well. Her appendix was close to bursting, so it was good that you got her here as quickly as you did, because if it had ruptured, it would've wreaked havoc on her other organs. She should come out of the anesthesia in two or three hours." Overjoyed and relieved, Mulder didn't take the time to think what he was doing before he quickly wrapped her up in a hug. Dana was startled as he lifted her off the floor, and he said, "Thank you, Dr. Carver." She smiled.

"Dana, please. Or Coach D., whichever you prefer," he set her down, and once he had released her from his embrace, he saw that her nose was bleeding.

"Dana... your nose..." Her hand flew to her upper lip and she pulled a tissue from her pocket, applying pressure in hopes of stopping the bleeding. Mulder looked rather concerned, but Dana simply shook her head.

"It's no big deal. Nothing to be worried about," he said, and removed the tissue, noting that the bleeding had stopped as quickly as it had started. "You may go see Eve if you want, and I'll go talk to your wife." Mulder looked up to find Diana entering through the doors of the hospital with all the force and bluster of a hurricane. He ducked off down the hall, and left Dana to speak with Diana.

"What the hell happened?" he heard his ex-wife demand loudly, and shook his head, feeling instantaneous pity for Dana. He wouldn't wish the wrath of his ex-wife on anyone.


"Mrs. Mulder," Dana began, her temper beginning to override her cool, clinical doctor's rationale. "If you don't calm down, I'm going to have to ask you to leave."

"I want to know, *Dana* who put you in charge?" Diana asked, sneering.

"Well, *Diana*, it's Dr. Carver to you, first of all, and second of all, I am the physician in charge of this ward, and if you have a problem with the way I am conducting business here, the door is to your left, and my superior's office is to your right. Which direction you go is your decision." Dana began walking away, but Diana forcefully grabbed her by the arm and yanked her back.

"Do not walk away from me, *Doctor* *Carver*. I asked you why I was not *immediately* contacted when my daughter was brought into the emergency room!"

"I'm sorry I didn't just *dash* to the nearest phone and call you, Mrs. Mulder, but I was busy diagnosing your daughter's appendicitis and then preparing her for surgery that very well saved her damn *life*!" Dana shouted, growing red in the face. "Now, Mrs. Mulder, for the sake of all my patients who are trying to get some rest, I ask that you leave immediately. If you don't comply with my wishes, I won't hesitate to have security escort you off the premises."

"I'm not leaving until I see my daughter."

"No one is *allowed* to see your daughter just yet, Mrs. Mulder," Dana said, exasperatedly, knowing that at the moment Mulder was in the room. She would just as soon lie to this woman to avoid the conflict between her and her husband. "Visiting hours are over."

"I'm not leaving," Diana said, emphatically, crossing her arms."You are now," Dana said, and over her shoulder she yelled, "Security!" Two burly- looking guards approached, and she said, "Burt, Joe, please escort Mrs. Mulder to her car."

"You got it, Dr. Carver," Burt said, and he and Joe escorted a red-faced Diana out of the building.


Sitting in her office with her feet up, Dana couldn't help but remember how she had turned down Mulder's many advances in the past month. She'd refused him time and time again for dates, but he persisted, convinced she would crack eventually. The day had been unusually quiet, and just when she felt her eyelids getting heavy with an approaching mid-afternoon nap, her pager beeped and buzzed at her waist, jolting her to full attention.

Hurriedly, she jogged to the ER, and asked of a nearby nurse.

"What am I looking at here?" The nurse frowned.

"I really wouldn't have called you for this one, Dr. Carver, but Dr. Miller had to pick her daughter from a friend's house. We have a thirty-four year-old male, with a concussion, possible further trauma. They should be bringing him in now..." Both women instinctively looked toward the emergency bay doors, to see a gurney being wheeled in. She felt a knot in her stomach when she saw that Mulder was the one with the goose egg on his forehead.

"Mulder..," he said, lowly. He grinned at her.

"Hey.."

"You'll do anything just to get a date, won't you?" she questioned as she sat him up and examined his head. He only smiled again. "Yowch. What'd you do to get
this bump?"

"Let's just say that Jake's b-ball coach taught him well. I never expected that my eight year-old son would be able to hit my famous curve ball."

"Well, we'll have to get a CAT scan to make sure that everything is okay, and then we'll get you some painkillers," he said. "Joan, take Mr. Mulder up to x-ray, please," the nurse nodded, moving Mulder into a wheelchair, and pushing him down the hall.

"Hey, Dana," he called over his shoulder.

"Yes, Mulder?"

"What do you say to dinner when I get out of this joint?" She sighed in mock aggravation, and the smiled.

"If it will keep you from getting hurt so you have an excuse to come back here..."

"It's a date!"


She could feel herself withdrawing; pulling into herself. If she kept the barriers up, she couldn't get hurt; so that was what she intended to do. Mulder broke the silence that had settled over them as they sat in the cozy corner of the restaurant:

"How long has it been?" Dana looked up abruptly, startled at the sudden question.

"Since what?" she asked. Mulder set down his water glass on the table and nodded toward her left hand.

"Since he broke your heart?" Her eyes met his, her expression frightened. She could feel the tears welling up in the corners of her eyes.

"H-how...?"

"You've been withdrawing into your self all night, and you wear that ring, but you still agreed to date me. How long has it been since he left you?" Mulder asked. Dana's face reddened with anger.

"He didn't just leave me," he said, defensively. "He's not a deadbeat who just up and abandoned me, for God's sake. You can't just spend two hours with me and know what my life is about, Mulder!" She rose out of her chair and threw her napkin onto her plate. With that, she stormed out of the restaurant, and collapsed onto the bench just outside the door. Cradling her head in her hands, she cried. Who the hell was he to make assumptions about Mark? About her? But she couldn't help remembering, as she sat on the bench, how she had blamed Mark at one time or another for leaving her. The days just after she lost custody of Elena, when she had taken to blaming everyone; Mark, God, the man who'd gone out to drink himself into a stupor so he could forget that his wife took his kids away, the doctors who couldn't save him... But most of all she blamed herself. If she hadn't asked him to run to the market to get milk... If she had done it herself, she would've been in the car when that driver ran his red light...

It occurred to Dana then that she was freezing, and she realized she'd left her jacket inside the restaurant. She sighed. She couldn't exactly walk back in there after storming out in such a manner.

"Are you in the mood for a jacket and an apology?" She looked up to see Mulder standing before her. With a sigh, she said, "Sit." She slipped on her jacket and said, "Thank you."

"Listen...Dana, I'm really sorry. I guess it's just the psychologist in me. I meet someone and make it a point to psychoanalyze them; I've gotten good at it over the years, and I assumed I knew what was going on with you. But I guess I assumed wrong," he said, calmly and evenly.

"There are things I haven't talked to you about. Things you should really know," he said, her gaze meeting his. "Mark and I were married for four years. He had a daughter, Elena, from his first marriage. We were so happy together. The only thing we ever argued about was kids..." Dana smiled. "He wanted six, and I only wanted four. We settled on five; Elena would be the sixth.." Her expression darkened. "We were out of milk, the day before Thanksgiving. I sent him to the market for a gallon of milk so I could make a cake. He was pulling through an intersection when some guy who had had far too much to drink ran a red light and hit him going sixty. By the time I got to the hospital, he was gone." Mulder was speechless, and embarrassed.

"I'm sorry I suggested..," he began. She shook her head.

"You're not the first. And you most certainly will not be the last." Sighing deeply, she rose off the bench. She looked up at the stars before speaking. "Though Mark left me custody of Elena in his will, his ex-wife contested it, and won. I haven't seen her in a year. I miss them both every day... and I always think, that if I had gone to the market, if I had been the one to get behind the wheel of the Jeep...." Mulder shook his head.

"No, you can't say that...."

"No you can't say anything, Mulder. Do you know what it's like to live with the guilt? I mean, I might not have been the guy behind the wheel of that other car, but it was close enough. I blame myself for his death." Mulder had risen to his feet as well.

"And I've been distant because, I can't let myself get close to anyone, because I'm scared that they'll all leave me too..."

Something happened in that moment; Dana let down the walls she'd built around her heart, and as her tears fell, she found herself collapsing into Mulder.

"When you love," Mulder began, "you put your heart on the line. You make yourself vulnerable. Maybe things don't always turn out the best, but everyone you let yourself get close to isn't going to leave you. I can tell you from experience, you never lose everyone you love."


Mulder mused over how his relationship with Dana had changed in the past few months. They spent more and more time together...including nights. He couldn't believe how head-over-heels in love he had fallen with Dana. She was great with his kids; she always made them all feel special. His plan was to visit her at work and surprise her with lunch. He whistled happily as he carried the bouquet of pink roses in his left hand, feeling all around the contents of his jacket pocket with his right. He stopped at the receptionist's desk, and queried, "Hey Rose. Do you know where I can find Dr. Carver?"

"She's down in Room 307," the absent- looking receptionist replied.

"Thanks," Mulder said, heading down the hallway. The door to Room 307 was slightly ajar, and Mulder knocked briefly before sticking his head in. He was surprised to find that he didn't see Dana, only a patient, sitting a chair beside her window, her bald head uncovered.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I was looking for Dr. Carver. Could you tell me where she is?" The woman offered no response, and slowly rose out of the chair, turning to face him. The bouquet of flowers fell soundlessly to the floor.

"Dana?" he asked, horrified at the sight before him. The vivacious redhead he loved was not the same woman wearing an ill- fitting hospital bathrobe in Room 307 of the Oncology ward at Northeast Georgetown. He must be mistaken.

"Mulder," he said, quietly, laying a hand on his arm. "I didn't want you to find out this way."

"Find what out this way?" he asked, dumbly.

"I have cancer."


Scully led Mulder to a chair beside her hospital bed, and he sank into it. She climbed onto the bed and covered herself with a blanket.

"My cancer has been more or less in remission since we started dating, but I passed out at work this morning, and when they ran some tests on me, they found that it's relapsed."

His only question was, "Why?"

"Why?" she asked, confused.

"Why didn't you tell me? Why did you keep this from me? I thought we were supposed to be in *love*, Dana. You can't just not tell me these things," he said, clearly angry.

"I didn't want to hurt you, or the kids," he said, defensively.

"And you thought that keeping this from me until you died would make things easier?!" he shouted.

"Mulder, please. Keep your voice down," she pleaded in a half-whisper. "It wasn't affecting my life, and I didn't want it to affect yours."

"You should've told me."

"I didn't expect to live long enough to get to know you..." He looked at her furiously.

"And that justifies not telling anyone?!?!"

"I have an inoperable brain tumor, *Fox *. A nasal pharyngeal mass, that once it gets larger, will push into my brain and kill me. There, I've said it. Are you happy now?! They've given me three to six months to live, alright?! I kept it from you because I tried not to let you get too attached. It'll be bad enough to die knowing I'm leaving friends behind. I don't want to have to deal with the guilt of leaving a lover behind too," she spat, tears streaming down her face.

"Maybe I don't know you at all."

"Maybe you don't," he said, crossing her arms."Maybe it's best that way!" he yelled.

"Yeah, maybe it is!" she yelled back. He walked over to where he'd dropped the bouquet of roses and picked them up, throwing them on her bed.

"I bought these for someone I thought I knew, but I suppose you can have them just as well. She doesn't mean all that much to me anymore. It's over, Dana," he said, walking towards the door.

"You didn't have to tell me. I figured it out for myself, thanks," she spat, throwing the roses on the floor. He stormed out of the room, closing the heavy door as loudly as humanly possible. Dana cradled her head in her hands and cried.

"So much for not losing everyone you love..."


After the news that her cancer had relapsed, Dana was forced to take a sabbatical leave. She was approaching the entrance to her apartment building a full month after she and Mulder had called it quits, only to be confronted by the security guards dragging a girl, literally kicking and screaming from the building.

"I don't care who you are! You aren't allowed to just wander around the building. I don't know how you got in, but you are most certainly leaving now," one said to the girl.

"No, I came here to see Dana, and I'm not leaving until I do!" Perplexed, Dana increased her pace to get closer to the building. Upon reaching where the guards struggled with the girl, she saw that they were struggling with Mulder's daughter, Eve.

"It's alright," he said to the guards. "You can let her go. I'll take care of her." The guards released Eve.

"We would appreciate it, Ms. Carver, if next time you plan on having *this one* come over, you have her wait for you," the taller of the two guards said.

"Fine," Dana said, walking past the two guards, bag of groceries in hand, as she used her key to enter the building. They rode in the elevator, and Eve was unable to meet her eyes.

"Eve, what are you doing here?" Dana asked. "You know your father and I aren't seeing one another anymore."

"That's why I'm here. You two need each other," the girl pleaded, a strand of hair hanging in her face. Sighing with aggravation, Dana tucked the strand of hair behind Eve's ear, and said, "Your father has never needed me. He didn't then, and he doesn't now. From what I hear he's doing just fine with your mother again." Eve slammed the door.

"God damn it! You just don't get it, do you?!" she shouted. "He's miserable! He's so deeply in love with you that he went back to *her* to get his mind off of you!"

"I'm dying, Eve, surely you know that. No one needs to be burdened with that," Dana said, quietly, setting her bag of groceries on the counter. Frustrated, Eve paced the floor of the kitchen, tugging on the ends of her hair.

"You're in denial about this too! My God, Dana, he was going to ask you to *marry him*."

"And then he found out I was dying and wanted nothing to do with me!" she shouted, angrily slamming the cabinet she'd just put a box in.

"No, Dana, he's angry because you lied to him! He's got major trust issues, and the fact that you kept from him that you have cancer doesn't help matter much. He thinks that you can't trust him enough to tell him things, and he's worried that you don't love him. I'm tired of seeing the two of you fuck up the best thing you've ever had! When you figure out what the hell you want in your life, give him a call. It'll take a lot to fix it, but if he means as much to you as you do to him, I don't see why the two of you don't just give it a shot." And with that she walked out of Dana's Apartment, slamming the door behind her.

Dana knocked at Mulder's apartment door, and held her breath as she listened to his approaching footsteps. She nervously tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. She'd become so accustomed to wearing her wig that she sometimes forgot it wasn't actually her hair.

"Dana?" Mulder questioned, snapping her out of her reverie. "What're you doing here?" he asked, quietly.

"Your daughter is quite the speaker," he said, just as quietly.

"Did she come to your Apartment? God, I told her not to do that!" he said, angrily. Dana rested her hand on his arm.

"No, she was right to come. I can't let things end like this. I can't leave things between us in such terrible shape." Mulder noticed that for the first time since he'd met her, she looked small, and very ill.

"Come inside and sit down, Dana. You don't look well." She sank gratefully into the couch, and smiled briefly before saying, "I feel like such an ass." Mulder sank into the couch beside her, and she looked him in the eye before continuing. "I should've told you about my cancer when we first started dating. I justified lying to you by omission by telling myself that I was in remission, and that it wasn't affecting my life, so it shouldn't be a burden in yours. I was wrong, and I'm sorry."

"You should've told me sooner, but the way I reacted in the hospital didn't help matters at all either. We were both wrong."

"I'm not expecting things to go back to being the way they were before, at least not immediately, but I hoped we could at least be friends..."

"...with benefits?" he asked, raising his eyebrows suggestively. She laughed heartily, and he laughed too, and kissed her on the forehead. "We can be what we were before, Day. I'm willing to give it a shot. But under one condition..." She raised her eyebrows as he took her hand in his. "No more secrets." She smiled.

"Agreed," he surprised her by kissing her, when she was running out of breath, she pulled back and before Mulder's lips could reach hers again, she said, "Are you putting the moves on me Agent Mulder? What makes you think I'm that kind of girl?" He simply smiled and pulled her into him again, kissing her forcefully. Mulder smiled, it was going to be a good day after all.


"I hope Coach D. gets better, Daddy," Gwen said, looking up at her father from where she sat in his lap. Mulder kissed the top of her head, and his somber expression remained. Beside him, Eve squeezed his hand, offering a sad smile.

"Are you going to be alright, Dad?" she asked, quietly. He shook his head.

"I'll be okay if she's okay," he avoided his daughter's worried eyes, and uttered another silent prayer. He heard someone running down the hall, and raised his eyes to see his ex-wife coming down the hall in a steady jog. He sat Gwen in Eve's lap and rose to his feet.

"Listen, Di. I know I was supposed to send them back to you four hours ago, but I need them here now... Dana's going to need them too." Diana shook her head.

"No, Fox. Listen, I didn't come here to give you a hard time. When I went by your apartment to pick up the kids, your friends, Byers, Langly, and Frohike were there. They told me that something happened to Dana and that you and the kids were at the hospital. Is everything alright?" she asked, genuine concern in her voice and expression. Mulder was shocked by his ex-wife's sudden compassion for a woman she admitted to him that she had despised. He was going to question her intentions, but thought better of it, wanting to avoid an argument.

"We took the kids to the park this morning, and when we were playing baseball with them, she felt really woozy, and she just...hit the ground," he said, quietly. "The doctors think that her tumor might be pushing into her brain."

"Oh my God," he said, quietly. "Fox, I'm so sorry. I know how much she means to you, and to the kids. She's all they talk about at home. It's always about Coach D. and Daddy, and how much fun they have..." Mulder smiled slightly at the prospect.

Behind them he heard a door open, and turning around, he saw Dana's doctor standing behind them. Diana laid a hand on his arm.

"I'll sit with the kids so you can go talk to her doctor," he didn't know what her reason was for being so kind, but he wasn't about to question it at the moment.

He stepped up to the doctor, and nervously questioned, "How is she?" The doctor pulled him into a separate room, away from the eager faces of his children, Skinner, and Maggie and Bill Scully.

"We really can't be sure what caused her episode today, but it would appear that the tumor has enlarged slightly, though it isn't yet pushing into her brain." Mulder was devastated.

"And I'm afraid," the doctor continued. "That if it continues to grow as it has that she won't make it another six months."

"Doctor," he croaked, his voice breaking. "I can't lose her. There's got to be something you can do. I can't lose Dana."

"Mr. Mulder, we've explored all avenues here. Chemotherapy and radiation aren't working; they're only causing her agony. Surgery is out of the question because of where the tumor is located, and anything experimental hasn't been proven to have enough positive results on brain cancer patients," the doctor said, his calm clinical exterior remaining.

"So what you're saying," Mulder began, angrily. "Is that I'm supposed to sit around and wait for her to die? Are you telling me that I should go into that room and tell Dana to give up?"

"Ms. Carter knows her options. She's deciding what's best in her own medical opinion. It's her choice, not ours. If she wants to quit fighting, I can't say that I would blame her."

"Fine," Mulder said, opening the door. "Then you go out there and explain to my children that you're just going to let their B-ball coach die. You go out there and explain to her family that you, her *doctor*, have given up hope of her ever living to see the age of twenty-eight. And you can take this to the jeweler and explain to him that you're returning it because you told me that the woman I love doesn't have a chance in Hell of surviving her cancer and she wouldn't live to see her own wedding," he concluded, shoving a small velvet box into the doctor's hand before storming out and down the hall.

He walked hesitantly to the front of the dimly lit chapel. He lit a candle, and paused, glancing up at the statue of Christ on the wall before him. A shudder went through his body, and he felt overly humbled, and very out of place. The entire chapel was empty, and Mulder sank into the first pew.

"I don't really know what I'm doing here," he began. "Well, I know why I'm here... I mean... I came to pray for Dana. But I feel like some sort of traitor. You see, I've never been to church before. As a child, my mom and dad took me to Synagogue, but we...we lost faith after Sam disappeared. And now, sitting here in a strange chapel, twenty years after the fact, begging for Divine Intervention, I feel like a bit of a hypocrite," he clasped his hands together, and rested his elbows on his knees. "I'm desperate. I don't know what to do for her, but I don't want to lose her. I can't. I know she'd make a fine specimen of an Angel up there, Sir, but I need her down here. She's the driving force that's kept me sane, lately. She keeps me honest, and she keeps me strong. If you could please just do whatever you can to help her get better...I'll..," he paused, feeling stupid for "bargaining" with God. "Oh I don't know what I'll do. I'd do anything. I just... I love her so much. Please save her," he concluded, hot tears dripping down his cheeks.

"If we don't get a miracle after that speech, I don't know that we will." Mulder whipped around, and found that Maggie Scully was sliding into the pew behind him.

"How much did you hear?" he asked, his ears reddening.

"All of it. I didn't want to interrupt you, and I'm sorry if you think I was eavesdropping. I wasn't; prayer is a very private thing," Maggie replied. Mulder shook his head.

"No, Mrs. Scully. I didn't think that you were eavesdropping. It's my fault for praying aloud," he paused. "I'm just so lost. I hate that there's nothing I can do for Dana. I refuse to sit back and let this cancer beat her." Maggie put her hand on his shoulder.

"I know it's difficult. But if I know Dana, and I like to think that I do, she won't give up without a fight."

"But she's been fighting for so long..."

"I don't think she'll give up, Fox. She's got far too much to live for," Maggie said, and paused, looking up at the images of Christ. "More than she knows if this little black box means what I think it does." She handed the velvet box back to Mulder, who opened it and looked with longing at the ring inside.

"I've wanted for so long to ask Dana to marry me. I had planned to do it the day her cancer relapsed, and then we had a big blow- out and I've thought ever since that if I asked her to marry me, everyone would think that I was some sort of jerk. I'm afraid that everyone will think that I'm taking the easy way out by asking Dana to marry me, because she wouldn't live to see the wedding. I've been carrying that ring around now, and every day I worry that I won't ever get to see it on her finger."

"No one would ever think that, Fox. The fact that you love her enough to stand by her side while she wages this war is a testament to your love for her. If you want to give her that ring, Fox, do it. No one will judge you badly for it. We all know what she means to you and what you mean to her."

"So then you're giving me your blessing?" he asked nervously. Maggie laughed and hugged him.

"Of course, sweetheart, and Bill feels the same way."

"Thank you," he said quietly, rising off the pew. "I need to go see Dana." Maggie smiled as she watched him go, and looking Heavenward she said, "Keep an eye on this one, Father. We want him to stick around for a while."


Even in the normally harsh fluorescent hospital lighting, the ring was beautiful. Dana went from gaping at the ring, to gaping at Mulder, who was still waiting for an answer to his question.

"Are you serious?" she queried, her voice barely above a whisper. Mulder had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.

"Of course I am. I love you," he said, taking her hand in his.

"Mulder, I'm...dying. I wouldn't live to see our wedding..," he cupped her cheek in his hand.

"Dana, I've wanted to ask you to marry me for so long, but I didn't want to rush things because you lost your husband not too long ago. When I found out you had cancer, it made me realize that I shouldn't have waited," he paused, and removed his hand from her cheek. She took it in her free hand and intertwined their fingers. "I wouldn't feel any different if you were healthy as a horse and guaranteed to outlive me as most women outlive men. I love you and I want everyone to know how much you mean to me." She smiled at him, the first genuine smile he'd seen her wear all day.

"The answer is yes," he said, her eyes locking with his. "As long as you're sure that this is what you want," he nodded profusely.

"This is *exactly* what I want; what I've always wanted."

"Then yes, I accept your ring, and I would be honored to be your wife."


The ringing phone jolted Mulder awake. Glancing at his alarm clock, he saw that it was nearly noon. He reached over to pick it up, when he heard his mother's voice in the kitchen.

"Hello?" He pushed the blankets off of his body and wandered into his living room, leaning on the door frame. "Oh. Oh, I see. Yes, I'll tell him. Thank you, doctor," he heard her press the "End" button and he watched as she returned to the living room to place the cordless phone in its cradle. His throat was suddenly very dry.

"Who was it?" She avoided his eyes as she cleared her throat.

"Dr. Milton. Something happened with Dana. He wouldn't tell me what..." Mulder found himself in a frenzy, and he ran into his bedroom and searched for clean clothes.

"I never should've left the hospital. I could've slept on the couch in the nurse's station like they offered," he said, running his hands through his hair.

"Fox, you haven't slept in a week. You needed to come home for one night..." his mother said, standing back as he moved about like a whirlwind, getting dressed.

"Yeah, and while I was gone, something happened. I'm going," he said, walking out the door, keys in hand.

As he drove, the icy sensation in the pit of Mulder's stomach continued to grow, encompassing his entire body. He ran his right hand over his face while steering with his left, and felt ill as he thought of what might've happened to Dana. All he could think was that either her cancer was progressing more rapidly than they thought, or it had killed her.

"Sir? Sir?" He looked at the receptionist he was standing before. He had no recollection of reaching the hospital, or of parking his car.

"I'm here to see Dana Carver."

"She's in room number..." the receptionist began.

"I know which room she's in," he said, cutting her off.

"Then you may go and see her," he said, looking slightly angered that he cut her off. He hurried down the hall to Room 307.

The sight of the empty bed made his heart race. He skidded back out into the hallway, and looked around wildly. He pounced on the nearest nurse.

"Where's Dana Carver? Her bed is empty. I got a call this morning, that something happened; that I needed to be here. Where is she?" Flustered, the nurse was attempting to tell him that she had no idea where Dana Carver was, when he heard a familiar voice behind him.

"Fox. Fox, calm down," he turned around to find Maggie Scully with her hand on his arm.

"Maggie?! Where's Dana? Is she okay?"

"Fox, darling, Dana's been moved to a different room. She wants to see you." Holding fast to her hand, Mulder followed Maggie down the hall toward Room 317. Once inside, he saw Dana standing at the window. "Danes?" he queried, she turned to face him, and smiled. "Hi, sweetheart," he said, hugging him, and kissing him rather suddenly. Because he was a little dazed, it took him a moment or two before he started kissing her back. A minute or so later, when they finally pulled apart, she smiled at him.

"When the doctor called, I thought that something was wrong..."

"No, no. Nothing's wrong. I had the doctor call you because I have some wonderful news..." Mulder raised his eyebrows, and felt his breath catch in his throat.

"What is it?"

"They ran some tests, and did a CT scan and an MRI. My cancer's gone into remission, Mulder. Looks like I'll live to see our wedding after all," he said, unable to stop smiling.

"Oh my God," Mulder said, staring at her. "You're alright?" She nodded emphatically.

"Yeah. I'm going to be just fine, husband-to-be," he said, wrapping her arms around his neck. Mulder smiled as tears glistened in his eyes, and glanced Heavenward, mouthing the words, "Thank you."


Epilogue:

The sun was hot on the dry baseball field, and fifteen eager faces looked out across the field. The anticipation hung heavier than the 94% humidity, and the parents could tell that their children were getting antsy. Charles Scully checked his watch.

"I wonder where Dana is. She's the freaking Queen of Punctuality, and now she's ten minutes late," he said, turning to his wife. Ellen shrugged her shoulders.

"She's got Mulder with her..."

"Ah, maybe that's why."

He saw her first, as she walked slowly across the dusty baseball field, wearing a blue tank top and jeans. Mulder followed closely behind her, wearing a black tee shirt and jeans. Charlie waited, and waited as the children all slowly looked up. Realizing who was approaching them, a little boy, Adam, rose to his feet and shouted, "Look everybody, Coach D's back!" And with that, all fifteen children rose to their feet and began running off toward their coach. Charlie crossed his arms and shook his head. "She leaves me in charge for almost an entire season, and the moment she comes back, they flock to her like I wasn't ever here," he muttered to his wife. He then grinned broadly at the sight of his sister, who was followed by Mulder. Charlie laughed aloud as Mulder's eyes widened at the sight of fifteen small children stampeding in his direction, and said, "Welcome back, Coach D."

The End


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