The One Loss

By Jeannine Ackerson

4/20/98

Rating: PG.

Disclaimer: The X-Files, M&S and the gang all belong to CC. I promise I'll get them home by midnight.

Spoiler Warning: For 5th season "Travelers" and a possible explanation for the rumors about the movie.

Relationship: Scully angst and a minor dash of UST/MSR.

Summary: Scully deals with some issues that will either strengthen or destroy the X-Files, then after finding out that Scully believes Mulder never trusted her, he tries to explain while they head to Dallas on an assignment.

Hi all! Ok, so sue me: it's a ring story. It's not my fault, really! Actually, its a little more than that, with my 'suggested' reason for what has been rumored as a 'rift' between M&S at the end of the season and the beginning of the movie. But anyhow, this started from a line that I felt fit, and I stuck in here. Now, to the story. . .


As the last word was typed on the screen, Dana Katherine Scully wondered again what was prompting her to write this letter, to make this decision.

Was it the last five years of frustration? The inability for her to grasp what they were doing anymore? She didn't know. All she knew was that she couldn't do 'it' anymore. So with more regret than she'd expected she'd feel, she pressed the print button. She listened as her ticket out of the Bureau was etched in indelible ink on the page being pushed through the laser printer.

Why am I doing this, she questioned herself for the hundredth time since charting this course of action. All she had to do was change her mind, destroy the paper that now rested in her hands. It would be simple. She could go back to the way it was, deal with the situation. But if she left, she wouldn't have to do that. She could just walk away and never say a word. Never have to ask. . .

Why am I taking the easy way out, she angrily asked herself. Why am I running?

After all, hadn't she sworn that she could handle anything that the Bureau could dish out? When she'd gone against her father's wishes and joined the FBI, she'd been certain that she was making the right decision. That she knew what she was doing.

Yet with everything she had gone through, that she had been able to deal with, she had known in her soul that there would come a time when she couldn't handle it anymore.

But of all the things that she'd expected to break her, the truth of the matter was far from what she'd expected. Or anyone would have expected from her as well.

Scully turned back towards her desk, her eyes sweeping over the room with a wistfullness and a pain that reverberated through her soul. It was going to be hard. But harder than staying?

All she knew was that she's hit the wall, and she couldn't do her job like it deserved to be done anymore. The decision had been made. She was leaving. But the why of it still bothered her. More than it should have, considering why she'd decided to go. And especially since so many other things had happened to her, and she'd still found the strength to keep going.

Her sister's death hadn't prompted her to quit when so many, including her boss and her partner thought it would. Somehow she had come to terms with that tragedy. The reasons why and the who, though only slightly answered had satisfied her. Her own abduction hadn't broken her, even though she sometimes thought that it was what the conspirators wanted. Instead she had learned to use the experience to her advantage, it had given her strength that she never had before.

As she walked past the desk that had preceded hers and brushed her fingers along the nameplate sitting on its surface did she admit to herself again what the reason was for her leaving the X-Files. The Bureau. Her *life*.

It had been the loss of her partner that had finished it for her.

She felt the icy cold clutch of fear and sadness attack her chest. The acid sting of tears burned her eyes, and she took in a deep breath and shut her eyes.

He was still alive at least. No casket held his body or tombstone marked his passing. In that she had been lucky. If he'd been dead. . .

But somewhere along the lines, things had gotten blurred. Things had started to slip. . .

Just a little at first. Minor misunderstandings or short tempers that were brushed off with excuses of stress. All viewed as one-time things. Not to be repeated.

Then they let anger seep into their conversations. Or as Mulder would say, "discussions". Yet the discussions were loud, and often she found herself at the end of one wondering what it was that kept her there. What kept them together when it seemed so much easier to be apart?

Some nights she didn't have an answer. There had been a time when she was certain that there was so much more to their relationship. That it was more complex than it seemed. That perhaps even, under the right circumstances that things could change between them.

There seemed to be an invisible thread that tied then together. One that had refused to break, even through the toughest of times. A connection that she would have sworn by had anyone challenged their bond.

That was, until yesterday.

Without opening her eyes, she rested one hand on Mulder's desk as the other held the resignation letter tighter, her fingers pressing deeply into the paper, creasing and denting it. In her mind, she could see the scene vividly, as if it was happening right then. . .

There had been a package dropped off at her apartment, it's edge shoved under the doorway, yet unable to fully fit in the slight space. As she had entered her apartment that night, she had picked up the manilla envelope an dropped it on her kitchen table. Once she had slipped into her casual house clothes, she found herself drawn to the package again.

Sitting at the table, she had looked it over, wary that it might be dangerous. After deciding that the thin envelope didn't have enough volume for a bomb, she had carefully opened it, easing the contents out.

The first thing she had seen was Mulder's face.

They were black and white surveillance photos. Taken from a distance. As she examined them, she realized that they had been done by someone who definitely knew their craft; she could see every detail as clear as day, even though she was certain that the person who had taken them couldn't have been less than a hundred feet away, for fear of discovery.

She had flipped through each photo, finding that she felt a little like a voyeur. The pictures were of Mulder, sure, but that hadn't been the issue. Hell, she'd seen him partially undressed more times than she could count. She'd been inside his home, fed his fish, identified his body. . .

Yet she'd never seen him with a woman. Not like *this*.

The photos had showed him kissing her. In bed with her. Marrying her. . .

By the time that last picture dropped from her grasp, she was filled with conflicting emotions. It wasn't her business if he'd been married. If he'd. . .

She had shoved the thought from her mind by replacing it with another. The thing that mattered now was if these photos were real. Then she could decided what she should be feeling.

Moments later she had been reaching for the phone, calling in several favors and bundling up the photos, her badge and her car keys as she'd hung up and headed for the door, headed for the Bureau labs.

Hours later, a dozen tests run and her emotions in a turmoil, the unthinkable had been proven.

The photos were genuine.

She remembered the numbing shock as the announcement was made. How her feet had threatened to slip out from under her, just like the earth seemed to be.

The photos were real, she had repeated in her mind. And, she realized with a pain she couldn't describe, that meant that Mulder hadn't told her everything. That he had kept something from her.

That he had failed to be truthful.

The betrayal she felt at that moment, the loss of the truth between them was the one loss that she knew she could never get back, never make up for. After everything that she'd survived, had lived through, it was only loss she couldn't live with.

The loss of their trust. The loss of the truth. The loss of *them*.

Behind her, she suddenly heard the door open, and she pulled herself back to the here and now, knowing that the moment of truth was here. And she knew that she *would* tell the truth, even if he couldn't. Or wouldn't.

Not like it mattered. The deed was done. The trust lost.

Wasn't it?

"Hey Scully, what's up?" Mulder asked with a grin in his voice that felt like a spear through her chest.

She opened her mouth to answer, but nothing came out. She didn't know what to say, how to say it.

Finally, the stalemate was broken without her realizing she'd said a word.

"Why?"

Mulder's forehead creased as he looked at her in confusion. Then he looked at her closer. There was something *wrong* about her. He noted her hand, pressed flat on the desk, the piece of paper crumpling in her other hand, her defensive stance and the hollowness in her eyes.

And somewhere in the pit of his soul he realized that he didn't want to answer her. Didn't want to know what was going on. For his life hung at this moment by the barest of threads and his own ignorance.

"I thought you trusted me Mulder?" Scully said quietly, her grip easing on the letter, and it slipped from her grasp.

Breaking his gaze from her eyes, he followed the letter's path to the floor, and moved closer, seeing the one word "resignation" jump out at him with the force of a lightning strike.

Oh God. . .

"Scully, I. . ."

She trembled a bit at the sound of his voice as it brushed across her nerve endings. He knew half, now it was just a matter of finishing it. Cutting the thread with a swift slice.

"Just answer me one thing," she said as she caught his gaze again, "were you ever going to tell me?"

A thick silence filled the room, and Mulder finally realized just what she was referring to. His blood turned to ice in his veins as he understood just what was going on. What she had found. What his silence had caused. . .

In the end, all he could do was avert his eyes, the intensity of her own too much for him.

Scully took in a shuddery breath and bent to pick up the letter. She still had to sign it and take it to Skinner's office. As her hand touched the paper, his hand was there, wrapping lightly around her wrist. The warmth of his skin seemed to set her on fire, and she couldn't help feeling the loss again. What could have been. . .

"I'm sorry," he whispered, his breath brushing over her hair. "Please, can we talk about this before. . ."

They both began to stand up, their need to see each other's eyes as they chose their final path unbearably strong. Face to face, their eyes locked, and the secrets that she had been denied access to the last five years seemed to be right there.

Then the piercing sound of the phone shattered the moment. Torn, Mulder broke away and answered it, his eyes still locked on Scully.

"Mulder."

There was a long pause, and Scully wondered just what was going on. And whether or not she should care.

"We'll be right there."

Hanging up the phone, Mulder realized that if she said no, that would be the end of it. No second chances to fix things. No future because of his past.

"That was Skinner. We've been assigned to a case in Dallas."

She seemed to consider the consequences of what he was saying. If she went, there was the possibility that he would tell her the truth about why he had stayed silent all this time. But, if she went, she would be telling him that she was willing to stay, even in the face of this loss of trust.

But trust could be regained, couldn't it?

"Please Scully. If you still want to go after this, if you still don't trust me when we finish, I won't stop you."

Closing her eyes, Dana Scully knew that this was the defining moment. Not when she'd met Mulder, or when she'd seen the photos. Now, when she knew the flaws and had been confronted with leaving or staying, knowing what she was giving up and giving up on.

And after a minute of agonizing silence, she decided.

"Alright."


She said alright.

For the first time since he'd walked in the door and seen the look on Scully's face, Mulder's heart began beating again. He was sure of the fact, mostly because he could hear it pounding in his ears and feel it thudding in his chest.

Of course, if she hadn't agreed to go, he was sure that he would have felt it break and splinter instead.

That was the reason for this question of betrayal now, he sighed silently to himself. He had been protecting himself from this since day one. But had it been for her sake as well as his? Or had he unconsciously decided that he never wanted to remember his past the moment she walked in the door?

It didn't matter now though. Either way, the end result was the same. His partner and his future now rested on his ability to explain why he'd failed to be honest with her. Why he'd left out this important piece of his past, only to have it rear its ugly head out of nowhere and cause this loss of trust.

He just had to keep her with him long enough to explain, and then he could convince her to stay.

"Scully, can I. . . " he began to ask, reaching for her hand, and the letter still clutched there.

She stared at him, trying to figure out just what he was thinking. After all this time, five years, she was now feeling like she had to second guess herself with him. Mostly because she didn't trust what she saw anymore. What she felt. If he could lie to her, neglect to trust her, which was the same thing in her book, then he could lie to her now.

Right now though, she knew all he was asking for was time. And by taking the letter and removing its influence, he was buying himself that time. What he did with it, she still couldn't even begin to imagine. She didn't know what he could say that could fix everything, repair the damage.

But she had to make that decision: to either let him take it and give him a chance, or refuse him and refuse any possibility of changing her decision.

And when she thought hard about it, it really wasn't as hard a choice as she had expected it to be.

"For now," she answered, reaching forward and letting the paper drop into his unprepared hands.

Then she was reaching for her coat and heading for the door. Mulder quickly wadded up the letter and tossed it in the trash as he raced to follow her. They made their way from the basement to their boss' office in silence.

As they entered Skinner's office, the tension was thick enough for their boss to feel it himself. Realizing that there was little he could do about it then, he simply waited for the agents to sit and be briefed.

"There's going to be a raid on a business in downtown Dallas. The company has connections to the militia group that you found Krycek with in South Dakota. I'm sending the two of you along, since you have experience with them. And in case you can find someone who knows more about where Krycek is and how he can be located," Skinner explained as he handed Mulder a copy of the case folder and two tickets for the afternoon flight. "Any questions?"

Both agents shook their heads as Skinner gave them the case files. They knew the drill, and were prepared to follow whatever orders they got from the ASAC on site in Dallas. That, and they were both a little too preoccupied to pay that much attention to their briefing right then.

"Fine then. You're dismissed."

At that, Scully was again leaving Mulder struggling to catch up as she jumped out of her seat and headed for the door.

When they finally got into the elevator, they found themselves enclosed alone again. This time the issue was already on the table, with no resolution yet. Scully waited until they were underway to say her first words since leaving their office.

"It had to be both of us?"

Her words confused him, as did her sudden willingness to talk.

"I don't. . . "

"Mulder, was it Skinner that wanted both of us to go, or *you*? Did you decide that we both had to go to delay my decision? To keep me from resigning?" she stated with clear, masterful reasoning.

There, it was out there, she thought. She'd asked the question point blank. He was going to have to say something.

"I. . . I wanted to make you change your mind about the resignation. I wanted the chance to explain," he started to say, reaching over and laying his hand on her shoulder.

The movement pulled their eyes into contact again. It was there that the deep feelings and pain that they had seen earlier were found again.

And it was too much for her to deal with at the moment, even though she wanted to hear him say why he'd failed to be truthful with her. Why he'd lied by saying nothing at all.

So she stopped him from going any further.

"Later Mulder. After we get to Dallas," Scully said, as the door opened and she stepped out of the elevator to make her way to her car. Alone.


Mulder knocked on the door of Scully's motel room. He'd honored her request, and they had traveled to Dallas in silence. But now that they had arrived and were entrenched in their rooms, simply waiting for the dawn, he knew he had to finish what she had started.

Inside, he heard the sound of the chain being pulled away, then the dead bolt being released. He stood there for a long moment before the door swung open onto a blue darkness. Inside, he could make out the curtains punctuated by the fading white light shining through them and the silhouettes of some of the furniture.

But there was no sign of Scully in front of him.

With a sudden understanding, he realized that she was simply extending a courtesy to him; letting him in her room, not inviting him into her life or herself like she usually did. The thought that he'd let them grow this distant tore at him like nothing ever had. Even the years of relentlessly pursuing the conspiracy and his sister had never pained him like Scully's apathy was now.

Slowly he entered the room, walking towards the shadowed bed and the window. His eyes glanced around, taking in the shelves barely visible near the window and her bags next to the bathroom door.

"So, are you going to tell me what you think I want to hear? Or the truth?" she said from behind him, her voice a whisper of its normal force.

He turned towards the sound of Scully's voice and saw the door shut. There, hidden in the darkness in the corner he finally saw her, and even now that he knew she was there, she was only partially visible to him.

Somehow he knew that the dimness made her feel better. That it felt safer than doing this in the light of day. If he said something that she couldn't bear to hear, she would be protected by the veil of night, secreted from his view.

The thought that he had brought them to this only served to strengthen his determination to set things right between them. To give her the truth that she so richly deserved.

"I'd never just tell you what I thought you wanted to hear Scully. I respect you too much for that."

"But you'd neglect to tell me you had a wife until I get the hard evidence of it dropped off on my doorstep?" she questioned, almost harshly. "Why is it that you could trust me enough to tell me about Samantha, but not about your wife?"

With a sigh, Mulder realized that the moment was upon him. He was going to have to explain his actions.

"It was a mistake," he began, settling into a spot with his back to the covered window. "On all counts perhaps."

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he understood just what telling her was going to entail. How what had happened had effected him and indirectly them. How if he hadn't met her, he would never have known Scully.

"I'd been working in the Behavioral Sciences Unit, making a reputation for myself. As it was, I had started to burn out. I was looking for something else. Something that I was supposed to be doing, looking for the right direction. It was about then that I met her."

He watched Scully in the shadows and half light, looking for a reaction. What he needed to know, she skillfully kept to herself: whether or not what he was saying was reaching her.

Determined, he continued.

"As the fair haired boy, I was expected to attend the Bureau functions to further my career. I showed up at this dinner and there she was. A colleague in the sense that she knew my work, but she was a field agent for white collar crimes. She approached me and struck up a conversation, flattering me with things I'd heard, but in a way I hadn't heard them before."

Scully looked skeptically at him, thinking that she had never known the Mulder that he was describing. The man she knew had been to closed off, driven, distrustful. Now, perhaps she was going to understand how he got that way.

"She got herself transferred to BSU to work with me. After that, it didn't take long before we got married, though officially, we kept it secret. Then she mentioned to me the X-Files. In 'passing'. It intrigued me. And to this day I wonder if she knew that it would. If she was supposed to tell me," he commented, pausing briefly as the implications made themselves known to him again, and he wondered if Scully understood. "So, I started to find out exactly what the X-Files were and how I could use them to my advantage, and then I requested my assignment to them. It was a couple of months into them that she left me. She said that she wasn't 'needed' anymore. That the path I'd chosen didn't include her. And I couldn't disagree with her, so. . . "

"So you divorced?" Scully asked, her thoughts in a turmoil. He nodded in reply, the shadows on his face keeping his eyes hidden from her. "But you loved her, didn't you?"

At that remark, Mulder felt himself flung into old emotions and memories. But the truth of the matter was that things were different now. He knew what love was supposed to be, what passion and lust was. Looking back on what he'd felt, how he'd acted during the 'marriage', he knew how to answer Scully.

"No. Not like I should have. Not like I. . . "

"Don't!" Scully said forcefully, cutting him off. "Don't make this into something else, something it isn't. This is about you being able to trust. And I need to know that you're willing to trust me again. That you won't lie to protect me from what you feel I don't need to know. If we're supposed to be partners, I need to trust that you'll be honest with me. No more excluding and no more lying, or I will turn in my resignation right now, and head back for D.C. on the next flight."

The metal in her voice as she threatened to leave for good terrified him. He had to make her see how important she was. How much his success depended on her. How if she left, she would take with her his best weapon in his fight for the truth.

"Please Scully. I really need you on this one," Mulder said sincerely, moving closer to her. "I need you with me. Please, don't leave over this, because I couldn't bear to bring up the misjudgments of my past for fear of tainting our future. . . relationship. I never wanted to make you doubt me."

"But you did Mulder. You shut me out and made it so hard to believe in the work, in our working together, in each other."

He whetted his lips and hung his head. For a seeker of the truth, he'd found that it was bitter when he was confronted with it. Yet, he still needed to pursue it. With Scully.

"I know. And I'm sorry."

"Can you promise me that you won't do it to me again?" she asked, almost urgently, desperately. "That you won't keep things from me that I need to know? That you'll trust me with everything?"

He paused then, weighing the import of her words, and what *everything* could require. Yet his course of action was already determined for him. He couldn't lose her, even to salvage his own secrets. No matter what those secrets were.

"Alright."

At that she nodded, and stepped out of the shadows, moving towards him. For the first time, he could see the emotions in her eyes clearly. The relief and the belief in his word. That she trusted him to live up to his promise. And it humbled him more than he could've imagined.

He was certain now, more than ever that he didn't deserve Dana Scully in his life.

"Ok *partner*. I'll see you in the morning," she said as she stood before him, lightly brushing her hand over his shoulder.

He nodded slightly, and with difficulty pulled away to proceed to the door. He twisted the knob and pulled it open, sending a stream of light into the room. Turning back, he saw her satisfied face lit by the hall light, and knew that they had a second chance now. That all they needed to do was take it.

Then with a slight smile, he exited, pulling the door closed behind him.

-End-

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"Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for the love of it, then you do it for a few friends, and finally you do it for the money" - French playwright Moliere.

"But not necessarily in that order" - J.

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