Date: Mon, 01 Jun 1998 17:41:56 GMT
From: Margaret Howell <bookdal@bellsouth.net>
Subject: *NEW* "Checks and Mates" by L. Howell

Title: Checks and Mates
Author: Linda Howell
Disclaimer: Okay. I own everything. You, the world, everything!
(demented laughter) No, really. I do not own Mulder or Scully or
anything. I po'. These characters are the property of Fox, 1013, etc.
Please don't sue...No profit is made on this little adventure. Remember,
I po'.
Spoilers: The End
Classification: VA
Distribution: Anywhere as long as my name and address stay attached.
Feedback: Welcome as always at bookdal@bellsouth.net
Author's notes: I decided to enter the world of "The End" fanfic. Don't
groan, please. Come on, the emotional wallop of this episode begged for
countless numbers of fan fiction stories. Mine does not make mention of
that person Diana. I refuse to acknowledge her existence. She was a mere
blip in the "X-Files" universe. So there. Other than that, I hope you
enjoy my take on the season finale. My thanks go out to all those who
have sent me feedback on my previous stories, and I throw a special
thanks out to my email buddy Linda Philips and my best friend (and
honest reader) Carolyn.
Summary: One night, the game becomes clear to Mulder and leaves him with
a decision he must make...no matter what happens. Told from Mulder's POV
--------------

Checks and Mates
By Linda Howell

        I have seen many things in this sad life of mine. Incredible
things which go unexplained and undefined. Mundane things which I
generally take for granted. Small, innocent things which I cannot recall
or repeat. Yes, I have seen many things, but I have yet to see her.

        Out there among the blinking neon lights and the hopeless
smiles, she walks alone. I know her well enough to know that. She is
thinking of ways to save me, to console me. She believes I am
devastated, and a part of me is rocked by grief. Five years of my life
burned down in one night. But there is something else going on. I know
it. They know it. She is the only one left in the dark.

        The game is in its final round. Both sides have maneuvered their
pieces into place, and my queen is left exposed. She stands alone on the
other side of the charred remains. She makes me vulnerable, and they see
it. Their beady, sweat-lined eyes assess the board with glee; only one
more move to go and I am dead.

        Now, it is my turn. I wish I could leave the game. Over the last
nine months, I have tried my best to bow out, hoping that I couldsalvage
some artifacts of my life without losing everything I care about, but I
cannot escape the truth. The truth, like most things, is wrapped in
layers. There is not one, but many. Early on in the game, they lingered
on their side, every once in a while stealing a minor piece, but playing
it carefully, not drawing too much attention to themselves. Then, the
stakes were raised. Suddenly, my key pieces were taken away. I finally
realized what I was playing. In one moment of epiphany, I looked down at
the board and realized that the queen I had claimed for so long was
actually the pawn they were using to attack me. They knew who my real
queen was long before I did. Ah, there is the crux of the match: all of
the pieces are the same color, so I never know which ones are mine.
 
        Now, they circle the castle. Both enemies and friends push us
into a retreat, and only the two of us remain. We look out across the
carnage and watch as the smoke rises above the battlefield; one more
loss in the secret war. The little boy gone. The blind assassin dead.
The return of the devil. Three events tied inextricably together. We are
the threads of a carefully crafted quilt. What is the design?

        A slight sound awakens me from my thoughts. A  key turns in the
door and she appears as all saviors do: in the moment of greatest need.
The hallway light throws a halo around her body, and for a brief second,
I feel the urge to drop to my knees. Mother, child, sister, lover,
friend...She is them for me. My desire for her breaks all of my
functional boundaries. At times, it is as distorted as it is removed, as
demonic as it is holy. I clench my hands in resistance. To what do I
resist? I protest against the need that shakes my soul, the need which
begs for her touch and her consolation. I renounce the need to crawl to
the arms that always wrap around me when I fall into this hellish abyss.
She is my queen, and I worship her with silence. That is the only gift
this broken Magi can produce.

        Moments pass in peace. My eyes strain to see her face, but the
shadow obscures my view. After countless seconds, she closes the door
behind her. In the artificial light of my apartment I can see the
red-rimmed eyes and the mouth pouted in sadness. She lost tonight as
well.

        "Mulder?" The hitch in her voice garbles my name, making it
sound like `mer.' I know she hurts. The pain is for the mysteries we
will never solve, the prospect of being separated, hell...the pain is
for everything this cursed night has begot.

        "Come here." It is all I can say. Silently, she sits beside me.
Her hands play with the tiny straps of her purse, making disfigured
eights from her absent thoughts. She is tense with some unknown secret.
I can tell by the way she keeps looking back and forth between me and
the floor.

        "What is it, Scully?"

        Startled, she looks up. Emotions run across her face: sorrow,
relief, hopelessness, they are all there. "I promised him," she
hesitates, "I promised him I would not let them take him....I lied,
Mulder...I lied, and I didn't even know I was lying, but maybe I did? We
can't stop them...They just take and take, and we are left with nothing
but the ravaged remains....Why, Mulder?"

        I am devastated. I have done this, all of it. I was born, and
from that moment on, I became the beacon for disaster. What can I say to
her? The only thing I hear is the approach of the enemy; they have
started the assault on the castle. I reach out to touch her shoulder,
"Scully, you didn't lie. You couldn't stop them.....You couldn't have
known that." They are small words, but they are all I own.

        Her head falls forward, resting lightly on the wooden table top.
I stroke the dark red hair, gently massaging the tension away. She
mumbles her "thanks." We stay like this for a long time when suddenly
she whispers, "Mulder, why do you think they like torturing me?"

        I don't answer her. Slowly, she lifts her head so that our eyes
meet. "They are torturing me, you know? First, the abduction, my
sister's death, my cancer, and now they taunt me with children I can
never have nor save. I want so much to believe that these are the
consequences of my life, but more and more I see them as the results of
my career. What is going on here Mulder?"

        I feel my hand slip down, away from her. The game is not over.
"Scully, they have put me in check. Beyond that Dana, I don't know. I
don't think they want me dead. They had too many opportunities to kill
me before....They want to destroy me, you, and everything we are, but
I...no, WE won't let them, I promise." But promises, like truths, are
multilayered. Both of us realize how similar lies and oaths appear, but
they are the only weapons I possess.

        Leaving her to contemplate my words, I get up to stretch my
tired limbs. I reach towards the ceiling, maybe even the sky. I am
exhausted...spent. Somehow, my life has infiltrated all those around me,
pulling them onto the game board where I play warrior and protector.
 
        I turn to look at her. She has moved from the sofa to stand in
front of me. Her clear blue eyes pin me down, paralyzing me with their
intensity. "What happens now?" She asks. A voice inside my head tells me
to grab her and kiss her. It urges me to apologize for the future I
stole from her, the past I contaminated, and the present I have created.
Above all else, it wants recompense for not having realized her
importance before tonight. This is the voice of the dedicated liege.

        The rational part of me simply shrugs, "We wait for the opponent
to make his next move." She nods her head in agreement. Like me, she
recognizes the inherent danger of our journey now. With knowledge, we
gain power, but power leaves us open to more loss. We are all we have
left. The next move will be personal.

        I start to head toward the kitchen when I feel her hand on my
arm. My eyes glance at her and remain. There is something new inside her
soul. I want to call it desire. It seems like desire, but it is colored
with other emotions that I have seen but have never known. Like love and
acceptance. No, Scully. You can't do this. Not now when I must prepare
for the worst.

        She refuses to read my mind. She sees my struggle, but she just
walks past it. "Let me stay with you tonight." A simple request loaded
with complicated repercussions. My mind says no. My eyes and my voice
say, "Yes." Meanwhile, the detached and reasonable corner of my mind
catalogs this moment, so when I reflect upon it years from now, I will
have a reference for the conflicting sensations which war within me. I
want to remember every detail.

        Delicately, as if I were a child, she places her hands upon my
face. The softness of her palms combined with the gentle fragrance of
her perfume conjures up memories of velvet rose petals. I stare at her.
I am emotionally naked with her. She could pluck my heart from me and I
would let her. My gaze shifts to her lips. Red with life and full of
promise, I feel myself move closer to them. A breath  of time stands
between us. It is a moment of suspended space. At last, we meet. Our
mouths caress hesitantly. The kiss is not the sloppy, unrealistic kind
found in unexceptionable movies. Rather, it is pure, devoid of doubt and
confusion. It is right.

        My fingers slip into her hair. I draw her closer and closer in
passion. Our muted sighs mingle with each other, filling the room with a
background melody. Behind my closed eyes, I see her five years ago with
long reddish brown hair. I watch as she appears and disappears from my
shadowy life. I stare at the emaciated face of my best friend; I hear
the intelligent voice of my partner. Behind my eyes, I make love to her
a million times in a million different places, a million different ways.
I draw her even closer, wanting to exhaust my pleasure in a single act.
 
        Finally, our lips part. I open my eyes. She stands before me,
and I realize that if we were two other people, we would be in bed now.
However, we are not anybody else. We are Mulder and Scully, and we know
this is all we can have. It is a way to bandage a deepening wound. It is
a stolen kiss on a cursed night in the middle of a wargame.

        Too many things are going on for us to selfishly expect more.
This is enough. Our tears and self-recriminations will soften the
importance of this emotional slip, abandoning the moment to remain where
all of the other emotions live: in the past. We have to lay it to rest.
If not, our enemies will use everything against us, and now that I know
what (or rather who) they want to annihilate, I can play the game. And
the first rule of war is to never give your opponent the means by which
they can destroy you. For them, the weapon is Dana Scully.

        Ironically, my solemn thoughts are accompanied by the sound of
Scully working in the kitchen. She is making coffee and trying to find
something for us to eat. She is reconstructing the normal pace of our
lives and our partnership while my mind surveys the pieces on the
board-I am certain that two are mine-the rest are open to
interpretation. What is our strategy? I can see that they are positioned
for the final attack....Scully. But what can I do?

        They will not take her. I know I will stop them. There are many
things I regret in this life, many things I've done that have resulted
in the loss of my loved ones. Sacrifices litter the road I follow in my
quest for the truth. Too many. But not her. Never her.

        A cup is set before me. I glance up at Scully, and I know what
must be done. My next move decided, I grab her hand and smile up into
her eyes. She has no idea what I am willing to do, nor will I tell her.
She smiles back. Another moment to catalog in my mind, possibly the last
one.

        "We'll be okay, Mulder." I nod my head. At least, *you* will be
okay Scully. I promise you come what may, you will survive me and my
life. Perhaps sensing the severity of my thoughts as she so often does,
she slips her arms around me. We sit this way for hours until she falls
asleep. Her head rests on my lap. I stroke her cheeks gently, praying
that my hands can store memory as well as my brain can. A few tears slip
past my eyes, but I wipe them away quickly. This is how I will remember
her: at peace in my arms.

        I continue to contemplate my life as the dawn creeps through the
windows. The sunlight falls across her face, illuminating her with an
ethereal glow. I place a soft kiss on her forehead before I depart. She
stirs but does not fully awaken. Her sleepy voice whispers, "Mulder?"
 
        I lean down, letting my tear-streaked cheek lay against her
smooth one. I breath in her scent and whisper back, "I'm here Scully."
She sighs and falls back into a deep sleep.

         I glance at her one last time as I shut the door. Yes, I have
seen many things in this sad life of mine, and now I can say I finally
see her. The door clicks noiselessly. I walk down the hall, knowing that
the time draws near....the board is revealed and both sides must confess
to the truth of their crimes.

        But the truth, like most things, is ambiguous. There are only
two realities I know for certain now:

        Scully will survive this game.

        And I will die on a field surrounded by enemies and
compatriots....By checks and mates.....But I will do so armed with honor
and love. No matter what, I win.

 
The End

Author's notes: Good? Bad? Average? Could be better? Could be worse?
Should I ever write again?