by Sandrine Shaw

"Stop bleeding on my carpet," she says; and it's not the first time he realizes how much she looks like her brother. She even sounds like Fox Mulder.

He can't quite keep the biting sarcasm out of his voice when he replies; but then again, he's not really trying either.

"I'm sorry, Mulder. Next time someone tries to shoot me, I tell them to stop because you don't know how to get the stains out of your carpet," he says, knowing that he's giving her the perfect opening to tell him 'The next time, don't let them shoot you.' That's not what she says, though.

He has learned to expect the unexpected early on. He didn't think there was anything that could shock him, still. Her words, however, make him freeze.

"How about you just don't come to me, the next time." Her voice has an icy edge that seems unfamiliar, and so very unfitting. She's supposed to be the sympathetic one, the one he can always fall back upon. She's his last resort. Maybe that's why the words are hurting so much. She seems to notice the sudden stiffness of his attire, or maybe it's the glimpse of hurt in his eyes he doesn't cover quickly enough. When she speaks again, her voice is softer, though the bitterness isn't gone. "I'm tired of having to patch you up time and time again. I'm tired of being your nursemaid when they got to you one more time. Don't you see that this isn't worth it."

Familiar territory, at last. They've been here before, a million times. The same discussion, over and over again. His reply is always the same. "If this isn't worth risking my life for, nothing is"

When there is no reaction he softly adds: "We all have to die one day, Sam. It's just a matter of when and how, and what for. I'd like to imagine we have a choice in that."

"No, we don't." She smiles grimly. "Only if it's suicide. But then, that's what you're doing, isn't it?"

There's no talking afterwards; and he's once more reminded that she's nothing like her brother. Sometimes, he's glad for that.