There was a man sitting in the hallway. The nurses knew the look on his face. It was nearly a uniform in the oncology ward. It was the blindness of someone who finally, when faced with the odds, is questioning the wisdom of hope.
Mulder sat in a chair across from Penny Northern's hospital room. He could feel the tightness in the air that comes from waiting. It numbed him to think that one day it might be Scully's room and his waiting.
He pulled one tired hand down his face.
Feel something dammit.
But his body, his mind, refused.
He rested his head in his left hand. His right was in his jacket pocket, fingering the vial that was hidden there. He almost believed he could read the writing on the label with his fingertips. He brushed them against the paper.
It was evidence.
Evidence she was missing more than time.
People walked by him in the corridor. It was four in the morning, but the hospital was still busy. Death had no respect for the clock.
He was ignored. Nothing new about him. Just a man sitting in a chair. Go up a floor, down a floor, around a corner. More men sitting in different chairs for different reasons.
He had to tell her. It was evidence. Horrible evidence. He couldn't tell her. She might be acting as an FBI agent, but she was feeling like--
He couldn't tell her.
Finding her name there, on those trays, next to Betsy Hagopian, and Penny Northern...it was that same frantic dash as in a mine under the West Virginia hills years ago.
To find a drawer with her name on it.
A folder with her name on it.
The same sort of cold dread that had visited him in the darkness of those tunnels exploded within him there in the muted light of the hospital hallway.
Evidence of more than missing time. Evidence of a missing child.
His fingers brushed the glass tube. They were suddenly blind. Scully's name had disappeared. No, no, it was there.
He gently ran the side of this thumb against the vial's label. The words were back. He could feel them. The names. Her name. Why hadn't he looked? It was nearly 25 years later. She'd be Scully's age...missing....
He should have checked for her name. It had rung in his ears for so long. Too long? Was he now deaf to her call?
He should have checked, perhaps then he'd have two vials in his pocket. Two instead of one.
His fingers read the black letters like Braille.
The hospital was serene in its hushed tragedy. A man sat in a chair, eyes closed. A nurse squeaked by, her white shoes flashing on the grey tile. The clock ticked off one more minute.