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It was dark, so dark and cold. He couldn’t remember being this desolate, so empty: he felt used up and dead inside. The emptiness clawed away his guts, this nightmare that wouldn’t end. God, please make it end!

He loved her. He had to acknowledge that. That wouldn’t go away. He had to work this all from that place. Her strength; her goddamn strength. It put all other strengths to shame, to pathetic shame.

A wave of agony swept through him and he couldn’t fight the tears that threatened to override his eyes. Through the watery cascade, he blinked away wetness. He let the agony sweep through him and he shuttered with its passing. He couldn’t do this any more. It was just too hard, too impossible. He had to tell her, had to let her know.

Then he could see her eyes staring deeply into his. Calm, focused: unflinching, almost a cold fire, that consumed him, ravaged his senses, tore open his fears and laid waste to his soul. He was transfixed, transformed, alchemied into something not quite human any more. Not worthy, never ever worthy of even a second of her glance: a moment of her time, her most transient of touches. She was so far above him.

He felt his loyalty, too minor a gift to give to her. Through he would follow her through the gates of hell, though he would bleed for her, hurt for her, die for her. God, he’d do anything, be any one, for her…for her…for her.

She.

Was he obsessed? How could he explain these feelings: the deep depression, these overwhelming mountains of dread and hurtful emptiness that gripped him in situations when he knew she walked without his protection?

God help him.

He had to do something. Take some action. He’d burst a seam, run amuck, if he couldn’t be there by her side: to protect her, to save her: though more times than not, it was she who wore the armor, carried the shield.

What could he offer her? She asked for nothing. She walked alone. Her courage, her inner strength, her quiet beauty were almost too much to endure. How could he ever hope to be more a part of her life? How could he live without her?

Without closing his eyes, he summoned her image. Hesitating, he reached to caress the curve of her chin: to touch the untouchable.

“You…I love you, Dana. I know you can never accept me…that you love him…but my heart belongs to you.”

Her image winked out leaving John alone and he shrank back into his personal darkness. The darkness enshrouded him piercing his already damaged heart. He felt himself fading. His existence pulsing away, as his heart chose to fail rather than continue. Each beat weaker, fainter, the darkness pressing its advantage. He felt his soul slowly swallowed completely. He sought release, letting go of reality.

“Agent Doggett?”

The sensuality in that female voice was undeniable. The command presence, the sensuality, the intelligence, they all mingled into a tone that couldn’t be denied. That made you listen, even from your grave.

“Agent Doggett? It’s me, Scully.”

From the depths of oblivion, John rose. From the fires of hell, John clawed his way to the surface. From the ends of the universe, John turned and raced back to its center.

“Agent Doggett? Can you hear me? John?”

The darkness parted, light bled in from above him. His eyes heavy with fatigue opened to see her. How could he not answer, not feel compelled to listen to her siren call.

“Agent Scully?”

“Lie still, I’ve got a call in for help,” She re-arranged the coat beneath his head and pulled the blanket close around him to keep him warm.

“You’re going to be all right. Just hang on.” She gripped his left hand firmly. The look of concern in her eyes was heaven.

“Scully, what…?”

“Everything’s okay, we got the bad guy.” She smiled. He was devastated and delighted by that smile.

He felt himself failing, his concentration going.

“No. No.” She held his face in her warm hands. “You’ve got to stay with me John, no going away, you can’t go away.”

He forced his eyes open to view her loveliness, to bask in her radiance. He shivered with the cold; the shock was killing him. His love for her was killing him.

“John, talk to me. Tell me something.”

“You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever known.” He murmured.

“I could listen to this all night.” She smiled at his levity.

“I’ve loved you since that first day we met. I know you didn’t care for me right away, Scully; but, God, I love you.”

His eyes shown with unrequited love. She knew that this was not the shock, nor was it the wound, or loss of blood or any physical manifestation of his injury. He was speaking his heart.

Finally, she saw him as he truly was. Finally.

“John.” She focused on him completely. She held him tightly. Her anguish was a physical thing.

“It’s okay.” John said capturing her shoulders and squeezing them with his waning strength.

“It’s okay. I know. I’ve always known. Just give me this moment. Let me pretend for a moment that there’s a glimmer of hope.”

She looked at him with pain in her spirit. Then slowly, deliberately, she laid her head upon his chest. Listening to the comforting beat of his heart, she didn’t see the tears in his eyes. When his eyes closed and the tears tracked down the sides of his cheeks, she wasn’t aware that they fell silently to the ground.

“John, oh John.” She whispered. “Stay with me.”

Her warmth flooded him with an imagined hope of love. He trembled from somewhere deep inside. Inhaling a moment of contentment, exhaling slowly, as slowly as he possibly could, clinging to that hope.

“I never thought I’d have the courage to tell you what I feel.”

Dana lifted up to look intently into John’s eyes. There was peacefulness there: a calm that quieted her anguished heart.

“I’ve been so blind, John. I’ve always felt closeness, a confidence that you were there for me. I never dreamed that your friendship was only a small part of your full love. I’m sorry that I’ve been so cruel in my apathy.”

She wanted to hang her head in shame, but he wouldn’t let her.

He brushed the hair from her eyes and caressed her cheek as if it was the most precious cheek in the entire world…and it was.

“I’ve never wanted more than for you to understand my love. I don’t want to become a thorn in you side. I could never do that to you Dana. Not to you.”

He could see the turmoil in her face. She was torn. He should never have bought his love to her. It wasn’t a gift; it was a double-edged sword, twisting inside her. Who do you love, Dana? Which man is worthy of your heart, your devotion? He knew the answer. There was no contest, no question about that. She was Agent Scully, the backbone and foundation of the X-Files. He, he was only an add-on. He felt numb.

“I should have never spoken”. He closed his eyes hoping against hope that the darkness would eat him alive.

“Agent Scully?” He began, trying hard to go back in time, to distill the past and destroy the future.

“John,” she said in the most soothing and comforting voice that she could muster. “We can’t go back there.”

“I never meant to upset you. I was a fool to let this all slip.”

“It’s okay, knowing someone loves you isn’t a crime and it’s certainly not a burden.”

Unbuttoning the front of her coat, she pulled it across him; adding her own body warmth to the blanket that covered him. The old building they were stuck in was cold and it would be a while until the EMT’s got there. Her head nestled within the curve of his shoulder.

John could smell the scent of her. Intoxicating. He let his left arm curl around her shoulder to touch her head: to feel the silkiness of her hair with his fingertips.

“I’ve had dreams like this, just being close and comfortable with you.” His voice trailed off. He was drifting. His eyes closed and his breathing became shallow. Touching the pulse point at his wrist, she found his pulse weak but steady.

Yes, she thought, steady, steadfast, loyal, dependable, all the qualities that you looked for in a good man, a good partner.

John was a good man.

Blinded by her affection and affiliations with Mulder, she had let this good man and his love go unattended. She felt bad and resolved not to let the situation continue. What did she do? One man devoted, loyal and true to her; the other totally dependent upon her to be committed to his cause.

How did she reconcile all of this? What did she do to take care of the needs of each of her ‘partners’? She had to smile at that. They were both more than partners. Much more.

What an unusual triangle, but she could work it.

John stopped breathing and Scully snapped her attention back to him.

Adrenaline pumping, Scully brought herself to position, adjusting John’s head, clearing his airway, she began the chest compressions followed by forcefully blowing into John’s mouth…inflating his lungs…she knew the drill and did it almost without thinking.

“Come on John…don’t do this to me….COME ON!” She admonished her partner as she did the chest compressions.

John’s eyes opened suddenly as he drew in his own breath. She felt for a pulse and there was a strong one beneath her fingertips.

“John can you hear me? Do you know who I am?”

“I’m looking into the eyes of the woman who’s saved my bacon…more times than I’d care to admit.” He said with mirth in his voice. The love, the love in his eyes: how could she have not seen it there? So steadfast, so true, a love that surpassed all loves.

As she smiled back at his humor, something inside her changed ever so slightly. She bent back down to kiss his lips tenderly. His lips warm now, when they had been cold and lifeless moments ago. She closed her eyes as their lips met and his kiss was so pure, respectful and gentle beyond words. It ignited a fire within her. She hadn’t felt this way for such a long time, a very long time.

From outside, she heard the cars roll in on the gravel road. Doors slammed and footsteps raced up the stairs.

John put his hand to the curve of Dana’s neck and pulled her down to one more kiss. This one was hot with the promise of love, life-long love. This one lingered and smoldered with desire.

As he released her, he whispered.

“So we never go back again.”

She captured his released hand and held it to her cheek; kissing the inner palm.

“This moment will live forever in my heart.”

“And mine.” He replied.

The EMT’s came rushing in and Dana was pulled away to debrief with the attending officers while the EMT’s saw to John.

She felt her agitation grow. It would be hours before she could join him at the hospital, hours that would crawl by like years.

She watched as they lifted him on to the gurney. He looked directly at her. He mouthed the words; [I love you], as they rolled him away.

Silently, she mouthed the words, [Love you] at him, as he was moved out of the building.

There was moisture in her eyes. The tiny change that had occurred now turned to an avalanche of emotion, the end and beginning of things new and wondrous.