One More Chance

By Jeannine Ackerson

 

Mar 2,1997

Rating: PG for a few swear words.

Spoiler warning: Fourth season stuff up to "Paper Hearts." But I'm going in a totally different direction as Carter from there, so this can be a different reality.

Disclaimer thing: The X-Files belong to C. Carter and FOX and they don't belong to me.

Relationship: Mulder/Scully Angst & Romance. If after seeing all the documented evidence that they belong together you still don't *believe* . . . don't read this.

Summary: Dealing with a dire situation, Mulder and Scully come to similar conclusions separately.

Hi All! This is it . . . the *last* installment of the Alphabet Files - "O". There's something about M&S that inspires me, part of the reason I can put these things out as often as I do, I guess. Gil even nicknamed me "Writing Machine" after finding out that I've posted 42 stories within 6 months (and I work full time too). But enough of this, let's get to the story . . .

"All I need is one more chance

To prove my love for you

I tried my best to live without you

You hold the power in your hands

You and only you

Can make these broken dreams come true."

John Berry - You And Only You

Fox Mulder absently shut the door of his apartment behind him as he came in. The black mood he'd been in for the last three days was only worsening. And now, coming home again after another fruitless day of looking he knew without a doubt that he was at the end of his rope.

Suddenly some unseen force made him steer away from the couch and drug him over to the bookcase. With practiced ease and a photographic memory, he pulled the book from the shelf. The copy of

"Moby Dick" Scully had given him last year for his birthday. With a thoughtful frown he thumbed the pages, recalling when she'd given it to him.

// He had opened the heavy box, wrapped in UFO hologram paper and pulled away the tissue paper to reveal the cover. Reaching in he withdrew it from the box and looked at it, then at her. He'd smiled at her guiltily and had told her that he already had a copy. But she'd simply flipped open the cover to show him the inscription.

As he'd read it aloud, he had felt his heart tighten in his chest. "To Ahab, The white whale of truth is out there. If you keep searching, I promise to always be at your side. Starbuck."

He'd given her a lopsided grin and thanked her for the gift. She had nodded in understanding. //

In that moment he had realized everything had changed. *Really* changed. That inscription had been an acknowledgment to how much their lives had become joined. Eternally intertwined. It was the first time since the Big Blue fiasco that she'd called him Ahab. The meaning of her words was not lost on him. Somewhere in his heart he'd known that there was more to her message than what was on the surface. Something infinitely deeper than that lake had been. But she'd never let him know what it was.

Now he might not ever find out.

Because Dana Scully was missing again. And had been missing for three days now.

Mulder had searched everywhere, but he'd found nothing. No trace of her, or where she'd been taken. He'd made entreaties and threats to whomever he thought could help or hinder him. Had offered his badge, the X-Files, his honor and the truth for word of her. At one point he'd become so desperate to find her that he'd offered to trade his life for hers, but to no avail.

In the hopelessness of not knowing, he was starting to fear he would never see her again. She'd almost left him before. Almost been taken away from him forever. She had been in the face of great danger and on death's door. And now, as he contemplated loosing her for a final, last time he found that he could recall so many of those instances with crystal clarity.

// Busting into her apartment as Tooms loomed over her; His desperate voice over the phone line, pleading with Jack Willis to get Scully back; Offering up his cloned sister to get her back from the morphing bounty hunter; Racing to her home after receiving the chilling message on his answering machine for help; The ride up the mountain to catch Duane Berry before Scully could be taken that first time; Sitting at Scully's bedside while she was in a coma; Hauling Pfaster off of her in a Wisconsin house; Staring over the barrel of the gun clutched in his hand, pointed at her by "Pusher's" will; Scattering the Dudley, Arkansas townsfolk with a gunshot and racing to her side, unlatching the metal bar holding her head down; Smashing the door and window of Schnauz's trailer once he heard her screams. //

Each of those times she had survived. On occasion he'd saved her. More often than not though she'd returned to him on her own, acting as her own champion in typical Scully style. But the point was that she returned, again and again. She'd returned to *him.*

It was a good thing too. Because she seemed to be the only one who could put him back together. He could recall how she'd stood by him through the tough times. Endured with him the lies and deceit. Like with the Gargoyle case with Paterson. He'd been on a fine edge that time, and she'd been there to steady him, to bring him back from the cliff when he was ready.

And it seemed like she was doing it more, especially nowadays. First when his mom had her stroke, then again after the Roche case. And . . . Hell, it seemed like she was always putting him back together.

God, he needed her. He'd never needed her more than he did right now. He wanted her there, by his side to haul him away from the edge. To piece him back together . . . because he was rapidly falling apart. Into little pieces.

He'd already been walking a fine line *long* before this whole thing had happened. Between the grueling cases and personal tragedies, he'd felt like he was on the verge of coming apart at the seams. But she'd stayed by his side through it all. Keeping him sane. Keeping him *alive*.

Yes, he knew that the reason he was still alive was because of her. She'd saved him. She had saved him physically, but more often than not she'd saved him figuratively too. She'd gotten him out of every danger imaginable that he could get himself into. She always got him out. He could never figure out how she did it. But she did. And she'd saved him most often from himself.

The things she'd done for him went beyond loyalty; past partnership and friendship. One did not go to jail or refuse life-giving cures for a friend. You didn't sacrifice a promising career and your personal life for your work partner. Only one woman had ever effected him like this.

He'd realized that long ago. She had become so much a part of his life, his work, and his soul. Sacrificed everything she had for him; honor, career, loyalties, beliefs, life . . .

Only her . . . Dana Katherine Scully.

And now she was gone. Again. And he didn't think he could survive it if she didn't come back. But contemplating life without her just didn't seem like an option. He felt so drained: of life, of emotion, of hope without her there by his side.

It had only been three days and it felt like it had been three months.

The last time had been easier. He could truly see that now. They had only been partners for a year or so before her first abduction. It had taken him three months before he was at the point where he was now. Ready to do anything to get her back. Commit murder to avenge her. To find peace with a bullet and join her if she was dead.

Anything but to go on without her.

Now, this time around their partnership was two years stronger. And his feelings for her were two years deeper. So his mental and emotional state had fallen apart in the span of three days instead of three months.

She *had* to come back. Because if she didn't he would never be able to tell her what he hadn't said. He'd assumed that he would have the time to get up the nerve to tell her, to take the risk. He needed her to know that only one woman held his heart, his soul, and his life in her hands like this. Like she did.

One chance. That's all he was asking for, all he needed. If she could somehow find her way back to him again he would keep this promise. He'd tell her the truth. His truth. Their truth.

He'd tried long and hard to deny it, but the truth was he loved her. She was the only one who could repair the shattered pain of his soul. Fill the void in his heart and life that was growing minute by minute with her absence. His dreams of her, their future could only be realized *if* she returned to him.

Slowly, book still in hand, he sank to his knees on the floor. His eyes rose skyward and the tears he'd held in for three days broke from them, cascading down his cheeks.

God, please bring her back he thought. Please. I just need one more chance . . .

The silence made the confinement arduous. The darkness made it seem eternal. The cold, limited space made it unbearable. But the pain that wracked her body when she breathed deeply made her scared.

Dana Scully didn't think she was getting out of this one. She knew she'd cheated death on numerous occasions. And now it seemed that her luck had run out. There had been no guess work in figuring out *who* had taken her. *They* weren't shy in letting her know that she was there at their whim. Plus the degree of persecution she was subject to made her very aware of who was responsible for her situation.

Her only relief came from the thought that she wasn't a "test" subject this time. No, more specifically she felt like a prisoner of war. The war for the truth. Her body hurt in a dozen places, and she wondered how much more pain she'd have to endure before they finally killed her.

With some morbid curiosity she wondered who would find her body. If they ever *found* a body.

Then with a stab of pain more jarring than anything they could do to her physically, her heart twisted. There was only one person that would search for her until they found her. Who would pursue her disappearance with relentless determination. And he was the one person that would be torn apart by her death.

Mulder.

God, she thought, there were so many things she wanted to tell him. Things that she wished she'd said before, things she'd been too afraid to say then. But if she ever got out of here, if she lived long enough to see him again . . . she'd hold him and never let him go.

It was funny. She'd always expected to find Mulder in a situation like this. He had that habit to rush in and get himself into more trouble than he could handle. And she'd been the one to run to his side, come and pull him out of the fire. She had to admit that she'd gotten pretty good at it.

How many times had she come to his rescue she wondered. How many times had she thought him dead, or close to it? The memories of some of those times ran through her mind like movie clips.

// Hurrying to Mulder's side after he'd been shot by a fleeing Lucas Jackson Henry; Rushing into the Army medical bay to find him near death, frozen and ill; Sitting helpless, watching him put a gun to his head at the command of Modell in a Virginia hospital; Staring at him as he burst into his apartment, brandishing his gun at their boss to protect her; Watching him blindly walk into a Massachusetts hospital still smelling slightly of sweat and gasoline; Standing above him, protecting him from a mutant albino. //

The images were disturbing, but comforting somehow. Part of her expected that this would be the only way she'd ever see her partner again. In her memory. Because she had no more illusions that she was going to find an escape from this place. She'd already tried several times, and had been punished for each one. Slowly she'd begun to accept the fact that she was going to die here.

It wouldn't be so hard to accept if she didn't love him so much. She'd known that she loved him, known for quite a while. Even from that first day and his off-handed attempts at driving her off, she had been captivated by him. Yet she'd denied it, choosing to keep things between them professional. Just like she had assumed he wanted.

Except that on the first case when her life had been in danger, she'd seen something in his eyes . . . something akin to what she was beginning to feel in her heart. But still she'd kept silent. She had thought so many times that she would tell him after they found Samantha. Then it became when they found the truth. Time and again she'd put off telling him. It never seemed to be the right time.

God, if she could just have one more chance, she promised to do what she should have done years ago. She'd admit everything. Take the chance.

Suddenly she inclined her head towards a sound. It was like a snake, hissing all around her. Then with her next breath she knew what it was - gas. It was being pumped into the room. And without a smell, she couldn't tell what it was. In all likelihood, they could be finishing her off; gassing her to death.

"Mulder, I'm sorry," she whispered as her body slid from its seated position to lay crumpled on the floor.

As the sound got louder and the gas thicker, she found it harder to stay awake, let alone breathe. One more chance, she mused foggily. The words ran through her mind like a litany as her eyes began to loose their focus. There was one last moment when she heard the sound of the door opening and could see the blurry outline of a figure at the door.

I just want one more chance she thought before she slipped into unconsciousness. One more . . .

Scully woke up laying on the side of the road, safely tucked under a tree in the high grasses. Everything hurt like a truck had hit her. And considering how her arms looked; bruised black and blue, people just might believe her if she told them that. It made a hell of a lot better story than that she'd been abducted by a secret underground organization that ran a post World War II project in human genetics. She had to laugh a little at that, and the chuckles reminded her of the painful reaction her body had to sudden movements.

Slowly stumbling to her feet, she walked gingerly to the side of the road. The pounding in her head had lessened a bit, and she could see a form on the road coming towards her. Not caring, she walked into the truck's path and waved her arms, banking on the driver to stop.

He did. And when she saw the Virginia license plate, she almost breathed a sigh of relief. Now her hope was that he was a local driver, not a long distance freight driver. She walked to the passenger side of the truck and pulled herself up with renewed strength.

"Excuse me, but could you drop me off at the nearest phone? I seem to have gotten a bit lost," she asked through the window with her sweetest voice. She wasn't about to tell the man what *really* happened, in fear he'd think she was crazy.

With a wave of his hand and a growl in the affirmative she climbed in, her one thought: to get to a phone and call Mulder.

It wasn't long until the driver dropped her off at a truck stop. Giving the man a smile in thanks, she quickly scanned the area in her search for a phone. Once she spotted it, up against a diner, she hurried as fast as her tired body would take her. Removing the receiver, she punched the "0" for the operator and as she relayed the information for her call she prayed that he was home.

As the phone rang in Mulder's apartment, he nearly fell flat on his face trying to get up off his knees as he rushed for it. Just before the machine would have picked up he caught the receiver.

"Mulder," he whooshed out, still choked by his tears and lack of oxygen. On the other end of the line, Scully let loose a jagged sigh of thankfulness.

"Will you accept a collect call from a Dana Scully?" the operator asked politely.

In a second his heart was in his throat, and he couldn't say "Yes" fast enough. Then seconds later the most wonderful voice he never thought he'd hear again lilted over the phone line.

"Mulder," she said breathlessly, from relief and exhaustion.

"Scully! Where are you? Are you all right? Tell me where you are and I'll come get you," he rattled off before she could get a word in edgewise. His exuberance in her safety had completely erased his spiraling emotions.

"The . . . the truck driver who picked me up dropped me off at a truck stop just outside Charlottesville, Virginia. Looks like I got taken a little off the beaten path," she tried to joke, even if she was still too tired to carry it off.

"Stay there! I'm on my way," he breathed, barely taking a moment to hang up his phone.

Quickly he dashed for the door, was out and into his car and onto the Beltway. It would be an hour or more till he got to her, and he could only hope that she would stay in plain sight and safe until he reached her. And while he drove, the speedometer edging up to the highest speed his car would go, he could only think about what he was going to say to her.

He'd gotten his second chance. The one he'd prayed for. Now he had to follow through with his promise. But as scared as he'd been with the thought of her being missing, or being dead, he would swear he was more afraid of what would happen after he told Dana Scully that he loved her.

When he finally pulled into the truck stop, he saw a diner and hurriedly parked his car in front. Without turning off the engine he jumped out and headed inside. There, seated at the counter was the slim figure and auburn hair he'd desperately wanted to see for three days.

"Scully?" he said with a ragged voice, three days of disbelief and sorrow coloring his tone.

Then she swung around on the stool and her blue eyes locked with his hazel ones. And all they could do was stare at each other, neither of them noting the passage of time; forgetting that anyone besides the two of them existed. All they could focus on was the immense feelings that were finally visible in the other's unguarded eyes. It took a superhuman effort for Mulder to pull his eyes from hers and look *at* her.

The clothes were the same ones he'd last seen her in, but the rips and tears in them made her ordeal real. As did the vivid bruising on her wrists and lower arms. For a second his mind wondered what she'd said to these people to explain her appearance, but it quickly was dismissed as his ears an his heart were filled with the sound of her voice.

"Mulder," she said simply, just like she had a thousand times before, but this time her tone was very different.

With a practiced eye she looked him over. His worn appearance told her what he'd been through while she had been gone. There was no doubt that he'd been out of his mind with worry and fear. And she was sure that like she, he'd thought he'd never see her again.

At that thought, she recalled again the promise she'd made to herself and to that God she'd almost given up on to give her this second chance. And now that she had it, she was going to make good on it. Yet as she found his eyes intently staring at her, regarding her with such concern she felt her mouth go dry and her heart catch in her throat.

Tentatively he advanced on her by a single step, his hands stretched out to her, arms slightly open. It was as if after all this time he didn't believe she was real. And that one thought, of him being so discouraged as to loose his faith, his belief sent her into motion.

Carefully she slipped from her seat and approached him. When he was at last directly in front of her, she nearly fell into him with a sudden relief. In a heartbeat she found herself wrapped tightly in his arms. He sighed heavily as he felt her arms go around his waist and hold him possessively.

"I thought," she began, burying her head into his chest.

"I'd never see you again," he finished, hugging her to him with a vice like grip.

There was a moment of silence, intensified by the realization that they'd found one another again. Against all odds. They were together. In body, mind, spirit, soul and heart. And that finally the barriers were going down for good. She pulled back from him to stare directly into his face as she took a deep breath and let her heart speak.

"I love you Fox," she whispered, eyes locked with his again.

"I love you too Dana," he replied with an equally quiet tone.

They both nearly jumped as a truck air horn split the silence, and they remembered where they were. Taking her hand tightly into his, they walked to his car and he eased her into the passenger side seat. For a moment, his eyes again caught hers, and he couldn't stop himself. Leaning down, he kissed her lightly on the lips. A kiss of full of joy, promise and utter love. When he pulled back, a smile spread across her face, and he hurried to get to his side and drive them back to D.C. There they had a lot to talk about: their future, their dreams, their careers and their love. But no matter what happened in the next year, or ten or fifty, they were together now, and would be forever.

Because they'd gotten their one more chance.

-End-

Well all, that's all she (I) wrote. All gone, bye bye. No more Alphabet Files - off to the new series. Plural. <bg> Anyway, thanks to all who've followed the "unofficial" series. I hope it was worth your time to read.

J.

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