End Game: Checkmate

by Neetz

Damn him, God damn him to hell for leaving her behind.

Dana Scully took a deep breath as she leaned against the bed, elbows resting on the hard mattress, lips pressed against her clenched hands and stared at the pale, still form before her.

"You almost died, Mulder," she said aloud. Would have, if it hadn't been for her stubborn tenacity, and a lot of help from an unexpected source. Scully shuddered to think how easily it could have all been different. If Mulder's mysterious contact hadn't responded to the signal, if Skinner hadn't forced him to reveal Mulder's plans (something she sincerely wished she had been there to see) and if he hadn't been able to get her on that flight out of D.C. immediately, she wouldn't have made it. She wouldn't have walked in that door in time to stop the medical personnel from doing exactly the wrong thing and Mulder would be dead.

Dead. The thought of the word in connection with her partner chilled Scully to the bone. She couldn't imagine... couldn't allow herself to imagine what it would be like if Mulder had died. How much he had become a part of her life. Who could have believed it? Who would have imagined it such a short time ago when she first met him? And yet, it was as if she had known him all her life. Or maybe it was just that a whole new life began for her when she met him.

It was so improbable. His approach was the polar opposite of her own: ready to accept any theory, no matter how absurd, open to wild, impossible ideas that defied all conventional wisdom. She could never understand how he could survive without a firm basis in reality. She had always needed that base, that anchor, and science had provided it for her. It had given her a means of explaining her world, a way to see how things happened and why they happened. It gave her rules, order. She had been safe and secure in her belief structure, until she met Fox Mulder.

Where she was order, he was chaos; she fact, he fantasy. She would believe only what could be seen and proven. He embraced the unseen, the insupportable. In the best Holmesian tradition, asserting that when you eliminate all rational, scientifically provable possibilities, whatever is left, no matter how improbable, is the answer. The combination of their two philosophies should have been as impossible as mixing oil and water. And yet...

He had opened her mind to areas she could have never begun to accept before. He had shown her a world beyond the rational. And maybe she had done something for him; provided him with an anchor that kept him steady, kept him from being washed away with the tide. Maybe they had found in each other the things that were missing in themselves. Strengths and weaknesses complimented each other, joined together to forge a strong bond and make them a formidable team.

Sitting here, staring at the man who was her partner, she had come to realize that perhaps they were more than just a working team. He had become so much a part of her life. How could she have ever thought he'd come to mean so much to her? She remembered the moment right after she had burst into the emergency room, as she had been trying to make the doctor in charge understand that what he was doing would kill his patient. Suddenly, Mulder's heart had stopped beating and at that moment, Dana Scully somehow knew that losing him would mean losing herself.

The past few hours had been pure hell. Sitting here, waiting to see if the course of treatment would be successful, knowing that her entire world depended on that success. For so long, they had not known whether he would live or die. All she could do was sit and wait. And pray. And curse this man she cared so much about for leaving her behind. Didn't he realize that being left behind was worse than facing the danger together?

She caught her breath, then slowly released it in one long sigh. Of course he realized it. He had been where she was now, sitting beside her bed, not knowing whether she would live or die. And before that, he had spent weeks not even knowing where she was, whether she was alive or dead. He had faced all the demons she was facing now and more. She had seen it in his face when she awoke from the coma. A look in his eyes that hadn't been there before. He had come to this realization before she had, and he'd paid a higher price to find it.

Ever since her abduction, there had been something missing in him. The edge had been dulled. Not in his remarkable abilities and insights, but in his drive and unquenchable thirst to know. There was a fatalism that hadn't been there before. He had come to realize that the price of the knowledge he sought could be too high to bear. Now Scully had learned that lesson.

But they couldn't turn back. The only direction they could go was forward. The truth was out there, and they had to try and find it, no matter how formidable the opposition. They had been offered only a glimpse, but it was enough that they could never abandon the search. In a way, it was like a game of chess. Move, counter-move, strategy, skill and a bit of luck. Their opponent constantly keeping one move ahead to hold them in check. But with persistence and with the combined abilities they brought to the board, there was still a chance they could succeed, and as long as there was a chance, the game would continue. As long as there was life, there was hope.

And Mulder was alive.

As if to assure herself of that fact, she reached out with both hands and grasped his arm. He made a sound, catching her attention immediately. He made another sound, and began to turn his head toward her. She could hardly contain her joy and an uncharacteristically open smile lit her face.

"Hey," she said still smiling as he focussed on her features. "How you feelin'?"

He swallowed, tried to speak, licked his lips and tried again, managing to get the words out with a dry and cracking voice. "Like I got a bad case of freezer burn. How did I get here?"

"A naval reconnaissance squad found you. They choppered you to Eisenhower Field," she explained.

He nodded.

"Thanks for ditching me," she remarked.

"I'm sorry. I-I couldn't let you risk your life on this," he told her. She understood and accepted his reason, but there was one thing more she needed to know.

"Did you find what you were looking for?" she asked.

He didn't answer at once. There was a long moment of silence as he closed his eyes and considered the question. Then he opened them again and looked at Scully.

"No-no, but I found something I thought I'd lost."

Her expression asked the unspoken question.

"Faith to keep looking."

She smiled, and so the game would continue.

This story is just a little thought piece from the end of the episode "End Game." This is the only X-Files story I've ever written and will probably be the last. I still enjoy the show (occasionally), but it's got way too complicated for me to try and tackle anymore!