The Last Gift (11/14)
By: Morgan (promised64@yahoo.com)

See disclaimers etc. in part 1

~~~~

"I held you there, thinking, I would offer you my pulse if I thought it would be useful.  I would give you my breath."

- Ani Difranco

~~~~

"That same blue. The same color as your eyes."

His words startle me from my semi-trance and I look down, into his face, that face I had thought resting and unconscious.  Not sure of what he said, if I heard him correctly, I indicate confusion with the tilt of my head.

He raises a trembling hand up to my face, weak fingers alighting briefly upon the wisps of hair escaping the scarf and the material of the scarf itself.  "This blue," he explains, indicating the soft fabric shielding my hair, "it's the same as your eyes, the same perfect shade."  He drops his hand, too weak to hold it up much longer.  Still holding my gaze, he speaks in a whisper. "That's why I chose it, why I picked that one.  It reminded me of your eyes."

I continue to look at him, blur of tears blocking clear vision.  Sitting with his head cradled in my lap, by the side of this one-lane highway, waiting for a car to pass, I find myself moved to the point of tears by his simple words.

He continues speaking, oblivious to my emotion.  "I came back once, you know, to see, because I needed to see you."

His words freeze my tears in place.

"I came back because I was so empty, so lost, and I thought that if I could just look at you, just for a moment, some of that space would be filled again."  He stops to drag in a stuttering breath.  "But it wasn't enough, it didn't fill that void completely because I couldn't see your eyes.  I was so far away, and I needed to see your eyes."

He's partially delirious, I know.  The pain and blood loss have seen to that.  But I also know that there's truth in his words, that these events *did* happen.  Even if it's the pain that's loosened his tongue, even if he would not otherwise tell me these things, I know he means them.

"When, Mulder?" I ask, needing to know.  "When did you come to see me?"

His eyes are closed again, lashes lying softly against his too pale cheeks.  His voice, when it emerges, sounds as if it comes from miles away.  "I stood on that hill and tried to see your eyes, but you were too far away.  Even when you looked up at me, you were too far away."

Suddenly, I can remember something, a moment, one day.  Sitting alone at lunch one afternoon when I had sworn I could feel him, known he was near somehow.  I can remember how it had frozen me mid-breath that feeling, how I had searched with frantic eyes for the source of that sensation.  I also remember convincing myself it was nothing, not being able to swallow even one bite of my lunch, not returning to work because all I could manage was going home, sitting in numb silence, staring out the window for hours, fighting back tears.

I can remember this visit he speaks of.

~~~~

She was seated at a table in the far corner of the cafe, alone, quiet, looking up on brief occasion to glance at someone passing by.  The table was set for one - she would not be joined by another.  She was alone and would remain that way.

Hair the summer sunset he remembered - red-gold of flame and fire.  Beautiful, catching the late afternoon sun and rivaling its color.  That light glinted off the glory of her hair when she tilted her head the right way, just slightly to the left with chin up.  Her hair caught fire when she did that.  She looked out into some not-there distance, and the arch of her throat was smooth and white.  Porcelain, he remembered, complimented by that one memory of how it tasted, the salty-sweet tang of her skin - such a brief, fleeting, not supposed to be memory.

He couldn't see her eyes, not from that vantage point, but he could imagine them.  They would be half focused in that way of hers always present when she was only partially there.  Slightly fuzzy, the blue changing a little at the edges, becoming more gray, diluting the color, and he had always known when her thoughts were off distant.  Her eyes would be less brilliantly azure with the clear indication that she was only half-aware, missing a part of her concentration.

Her eyes had always been his windows to her soul.

She had always been so careful with her emotions, almost stingy with them.  But he knew that she wasn't cold.  He knew it wasn't lack of emotion that caused this.  In her eyes he had always been able to see what she so carefully tried to hide.  He could look into those depths and find her sadness, her grief, her anger and rage.  She wasn't cold, not by a long shot.  She felt more than anyone realized, more than most people were capable themselves of feeling.  This was why she held back her emotions; this was why she seemed distant to an unknowing observer.  She *had* to be careful.  She needed control.  Her job and their work demanded it.  She felt things too deeply to let those feelings intrude into her life, to allow herself to be weakened by them.

He would have given anything just to look into her eyes again, even if just for a second.

A waiter came by at that moment, distracting her from whatever preoccupation she had found.  His view of her figure was momentarily obstructed while the waiter stood in the way.  They seemed to talk for a moment.  Then, his view cleared, and he could again see her clearly.

He didn't know why he was torturing himself this way.  It really was cruel, to look on her and know he could not touch her, not speak to her, not even allow her to know he was looking.  It was a torture that he had willingly embraced.  The need had become too strong, the ache too fierce.  His life, so calm, so simple, so hauntingly vacant and barren without her presence, he was risking his life by even entering the same state she occupied.

New Jersey now.  Dr. Dana Scully, resident of New Jersey.  No longer Agent Scully, no longer holding that title.  She was living quietly, a doctor in a small hospital, single, silent, alone, out of danger and away from threat.  Her life was so peaceful without him.

So peaceful, but was she happy?  Had she found that?  What had she become in his absence?  How much of her was as he remembered?

He wanted to believe she still remained the same.  Still that lilting laugh chased out when she let her guard down.  Still that fierce strength supporting herself and all those around her.  Still that simple vulnerability that wasn't vulnerable at all, not really weakness, just emotion, the core of her, something so few could see.  Still intelligence flashing in every word, every action.  Still a bright light amidst so much darkness.

She had been all of those things to him.  She had been so much more.

She still was, even now, even after.  She still was his reason.

Watching her, he could still feel those things, still hear her voice.  For the first time since he had left, almost two years ago, he could feel the pulse of her, the steady rhythm carried in his soul that was her life, her heartbeat, her presence.  Even from the distance at which he stood, those chords of connection hummed quietly, reminding him, paining him, reviving him.  He watched because it was time for him to remember how to feel.

Suddenly, her back stiffened.  She sat up straight in her seat and seemed to sharpen her focus.  Something was wrong; he could tell it by her posture, by the way her glance stole deceptively around the sidewalk.  Something had startled her and she didn't know what it was.  Watching nervously, he saw her turn in her chair, looking behind.  What did she feel?  What was wrong?

Her concentration scanned slowly over the occupants of the cafe, studying with trained eye over each face, every image.  She moved with deliberance and found nothing, it seemed.  Then, her focus stilled, stopped, changed.  She lifted her head and looked up into the line of trees on the hill above, behind the building across the street.

She looked up and stared directly at him, into him, even though there was no way she would be able to see him from where she sat.

Fingers fumbling, he dropped the binoculars with a clatter and crash. They tumbled slightly down the hill before stopping.  She hadn't seen him, but he knew she had felt it, felt something.  How could she not, when even from here he could feel their old bond awakening, pulling his awareness towards her light.

Knowing it was time, that he had lingered long enough, he stooped to pick the binoculars up and did not look through them again.  He walked with slow, resigned steps back to his waiting car.  Tossing the binoculars in back, starting the engine with a twist of key, he tucked those feelings deep inside.  He closed his eyes for one brief moment, freezing the image of her hair glowing gold and her throat upturned and pushed it to the back of his mind.  He gathered carefully the emotions she had stirred, the old feelings she had revived, those feeling dead now for so long, and he placed them with care into a place so deep, so safe and dark, that they would be with him always.  He gathered them until the time would come when desolate and cold he would once again need their warmth, her guiding light.  He pulled away from the curb and was once again silent and alone.

~~~~

He's unconscious again, breath slow and labored.  I reach down and touch his cheek with fingers stained by his blood while he lies unaware and fighting for strength across my legs in the ditch of this highway.  Around my head, the scarf feels soft and warm, blue, the color of my eyes.  I reach my fingers up slowly, touching the material, watching Mulder's peaceful face all the while.

In the distance behind me, I catch the sudden glare of approaching headlights.

It is the first car that has passed in almost an hour.  The first two we spotted didn't even pause as they raced by.  I know with simple dread that if someone does not stop soon, Mulder may be in serious trouble.  As these new headlights approach, I pray that they will take pity on us and stop.

Gently extricating myself from Mulder, I lay his head down to the ground and stand, shaking the dirt from my jeans.  Desperate and afraid, more afraid than I was even when being chased by those consortium thugs, I move to stand almost in the center of the road as the lights move nearer.

A truck.  From the closer distance now, I can see the shape of an eighteen wheeler.  It bears down on me with steady speed while I raise my hands in the air in an effort to flag it down.  I do not move from my spot in the road.  I *need* this truck to stop.

There's the squeal of breaks and that high-pitched hissing sound trucks make as the driver finally spots me and slows down to a stop. Relief rushing out in a heavy sigh, I jog over to the passengers side door in an attempt to plead my case.

As I come to stand at the side of the truck, the door pushes out from within and a rough but somehow friendly voice emerges from the cabin inside.  Illuminated by the dull glare of a light on the dashboard, I see an older face, maybe fifty, with faint, dark beard and light eyes.  He looks down at me with a half-smile of curiosity when he speaks.  "You need a lift somewhere, Ma'am?"

My heart starts beating again with those words.  "Yes, anywhere's fine.  The next big town, if you could?"

His smile broadens into a grin I find somewhat charming.  "Sure, just hop on in," he tells me, indicating with a sweep of hand the bench seat stretching out beside him.

I pause.  "Hold on a second, I have someone else with me."  I don't look back up at him as I turn around, going back to the ditch to retrieve Mulder.

"Mulder, come on, we need to go now."  I shake his uninjured arm delicately, raising my voice just a bit.  His eyes flutter open and he looks at me with hazy vision.

"What? Where…" He's confused.

"I found us a ride, Mulder.  We have to go."

He seems to understand, attempting to get up and almost managing the feat before I slide an arm under his shoulders to help him along.  Tottering along with slow steps, I struggle under Mulder's weight back to the open door of the truck.  When I look up into the eyes of the driver, they are wary and no longer smiling.

"I didn't know there was two of ya."  He's being careful, unafraid of taking on a tiny woman, but more guarded in the face of her six-foot tall companion.

I look up with pleading eyes, not afraid to beg.  "Please, he's sick and I need to get him to a doctor.  You're the only person that's stopped in hours."

Maybe it's the desperate tint to my voice, or maybe it's Mulder, so pale and with his breath shallow and pained beside me.  Maybe it's obvious that neither of us could do anyone any harm in this condition.  Whatever the cause, the driver nods his head slowly and gestures again to the empty side of the seat.

Realizing that there is no way I will be able to wrangle Mulder up into the truck, and that he is in no condition to lift himself all the way up, I look towards the driver with tentative eyes.  "Could you help me, I don't think I can lift him by myself?"

The shock in his eyes is momentary but sure.  I know he didn't realize how serious I was about Mulder being ill.  Joining us on the passenger's side, he tells me to climb up first, lifts Mulder with relative ease, and drops him down beside me.  Mulder makes little more than a surprised gasp of pain and is again silent.  I think he is still too absorbed by the void of unconscious to notice who has lifted him.  Looking over Mulder's prone figure at my side, I offer thanks with my eyes and am absurdly grateful that the one person who *did* stop was large enough to lift Mulder up.

With the driver back in the cab of the truck, he roars the engine to life and we start moving with the crunch of gears and the sound of more horsepower than *I* have ever driven rumbling beneath my feet.

I can feel the driver's eyes on me as I settle Mulder with his head leaning against the window.  Glancing down fervently at my hands, I am thankful for the darkness of this truck.  The blood staining my skin remains blissfully invisible in the low light.

Mulder murmurs faintly, his lips forming my name, a sound so quiet I barely hear it.  His eyes are open again, regarding me solemnly with head slightly turned.  He wants to sleep, needs it, but I can see him fighting it with every fiber of his being, struggling to remain here and by my side.

"Just sleep," I say, raising a hand to gently touch his cheek.  "Sleep now."

Another moment passes and I see some comment in his eyes, something he does not say.  He looks at me in quiet consideration for another breath before his eyes close, some strange, sleepy, non-sound escaping his lips before he is swallowed by unconscious.  I watch carefully as his face relaxes in slumber and resist my urge to push the tangles of hair up and off of his forehead.

My contemplation of Mulder's sleeping form is broken by the voice of our driver.

"So," he begins, "what're you two doing all the way out here in the middle of the night?"

Swallowing the lump in my throat, I squeeze out the most obvious reply.  "Our car broke down a while back and I need to get him somewhere quickly, so we decided to try and hitch a ride."  It sounds strained even to my ears.  "That car was pretty much a goner anyway," I add, hoping that this will seem reason enough for abandoning our imaginary ride.

"Hmmm…" Our driver acknowledges me with a soft hum, taking a breath before asking good-naturedly.  "What're your names then?"

I freeze, perhaps for a moment too long, but he says nothing of it.  "I'm Beth, and this is my husband Tim."  Simple enough names, I think.  I don't bother with last names.

"Roy Shaw," our host offers in return.  "Well, actually it's Richard, but I've been Roy to my friends for as long as I can remember.  Not quite sure why, though."  He laughs, a pleasant sound, with his gaze shifting over to glance quickly at Mulder and I.

The smile I manage is, for once, not overtly strained or difficult.

"If you don't mind me asking," Roy says, casting an eye away from the road and in the direction of Mulder's pale face, "what's wrong with your husband?"

I spin momentarily, searching for an answer.  "Food poisoning, I think."  It is the best I can do without raising his suspicions.

"Oh," he speaks knowingly.  "My daughter had that a couple years back. Had a terrible time."  He shakes his head at the memory.  "Had to spend a week in the hospital.  Bout near killed her, and scared the hell out of my wife and I."

Trying to maintain the necessary attention, I force myself to watch our driver as he speaks, tearing my eyes away from Mulder.

"She pulled through it, though," he adds, a lighter tone again finding his voice.  "And I'm sure your husband will, too."

"Thank you," I manage, meaning it, at the same time grateful that Mulder's long sleeved shirt shields his wound enough for us to continue this charade.

Roy is silent again, staring out over the unchanging Texas highway.  I look back at Mulder and do not resist my next urge.  With tentative fingers, I trace the shape of his hand, so pale and still on the vinyl seat.  I trace his long fingers, ridges of bone under warm skin marred by the signs of time, and I link them with my own.  Holding gently, I clasp my hand over Mulder's, weaving our fingers tightly together, trying to infuse his cold flesh with the warmth of my own.  His breath sighs out against the window in a puff of light fog and I am left holding his hand, looking ahead towards the horizon, searching for signs of the next town.

~~~~

Austin, 53 miles.

The sign winks at me brightly in green reflected back by the wash of our headlights.  We are headed for a major city, and the relief rushes through me in sweeping waves.

I hazard a glance in the direction of our courteous driver.  He has vision fixed on the road ahead, eyes tired from driving God knows how many miles, and sits humming quietly to the soft sound of country music seeping gently from the radio.  He has not bothered me much with trivial conversation.  I think he sensed my lack of enthusiasm for small talk.  Instead, our ride has been spent in relative quiet while I concentrate with anxious fear upon each of Mulder's ragged breaths and resist with difficulty the need to check his wound.

Brushing my fingers over Mulder's hand splayed on the seat beside me, I turn to our driver with a tentative question.  "Would it be possible for you to drop us at a motel somewhere.  Anywhere near the city is fine."

Roy looks over at me with an inscrutable expression before answering.  "Yeah, I can do that."

I can tell that he's puzzled by my request.  My most obvious destination would be a hospital.  What I can't tell him is that if I were to bring Mulder to a hospital, I would only be begging for our capture.

Those last 53 miles are spent in more silence before signs promising food, lodging, and gas begin to litter the highway.  For the first time since this journey began, I can see indications of large-scale civilization looming ahead.  Moving down the main highway into Austin, Roy pulls the truck into the parking lot of a small motel just off to the side of the road.

Hissing to a stop with the sound of straining breaks, the red and blue glowing letters of the Stop and Stay Inn are the most welcome sight I have witnessed in ages.

Carefully, I shake Mulder in an attempt to rouse him.

"Are you sure you two are going to be all right?" Roy asks with genuine concern.

"We'll be fine," I return, not looking at him, shaking Mulder's arm gently.

"Come on, it's time to go.  You need to wake up now."  My voice is strained, afraid, fearing that he won't wake up, fearing that he can't.

Roy's tone is stronger the second time.  "Are you sure?  I can get the emergency frequency over the radio if you need it?"

I don't answer this time, instead concentrating on Mulder.  "Please, you have to get up now… " I hesitate, almost saying his name and stopping myself at the last moment.  Bringing a hand up to touch his cheek, I lean forward and whisper into his ear.  "Come on, Mulder, wake up for me."

His eyes shift slightly under closed lids before blinking open with a start.  "Sc…"

"Shhh" I silence him with my hand squeezing his firmly.  "We're here.  We have to get going now."

A weak understanding dawns in his eyes, as I turn back to thank our driver.  "Roy, I can't thank you enough for giving us a ride over here."  My words are quickly delivered but sincere.

His answering smile is small and worried.  "It was no problem.  Just glad I could help."

Reaching over Mulder, I pull the handle on the door and it swings open on a rusty whine.  Somehow, in his half-waking state, he manages to stumble to the ground and remain standing until I can get down beside him. Preparing to close the door, Roy's voice calls out one last time.  "Are you sure you'll be okay?"

I look back up into the truck's cab, my hand poised on the shiny door handle.  "Yes," I pause, weaving an arm under both of Mulder's to support his weight, "we'll be fine."

The door closes with a crunch and Mulder and I are once again left alone in the night.

~~~~
End part 11/14
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Last Gift (12/14)
By: Morgan (promised64@yahoo.com)

See disclaimers etc. in part 1

~~~~

"It's only you that can tell me apart, and it's only you that can turn my wooden heart."

- Portished

~~~~

I've become so emotional lately.  Tears left unsung for so many years spring upon me with unexpected frequency, and I find myself less willing to push them away, no longer afraid of the reality of feeling.  It surprises me.  I allow the graceful glide of one tear over my cheek now, with phone pressed tightly to my ear, hearing a voice familiar to me even after three years of absence.

"It should only take a few days, and then you can just head over to the post office and pick the stuff up."  His voice is solid and warm in my ear.

"It'll be in a post office box?" I ask again to be sure.

Byers' voice over the line of this payphone is slightly tinged with static when he answers.  "Box number 2341, combination N-O, C-D.  There should be two passports, some more money, and the medication you asked for."  He pauses, and the silence is sad and familiar.  "You want any particular names on those passports?"

"No," I answer, humor finding my tone somehow.  "Surprise me."

"Okay."  He pauses again, this time with the feeling that there is something else he wants to say.  Eventually, his voice comes over the line, tainted with affection.  "It's good to hear your voice again."

I allow my silence to answer his comment.

He continues after a beat.  "He needs you, you know?  He always has."

I smile with this knowledge.  "Yes, I know."  We need each other.

"Keep him safe."

"I will."

One more long pause and then I hear the click of the connection closing, and neither of us says good-bye.

~~~~

Mulder is sleeping.  He spends most of his time this way these days.  Recovery from a trauma is a slow experience, even for one as strong and healthy as Mulder.  I sit on the edge of the bed and study the soft rise and fall of his chest, the angry red puckering of flesh adorning his arm that looks better now than it has in days.  A new scar to accompany the one just several inches above and to the right, memento from another dark time.  My fingers rise and place a new set of bandages carefully over the wound, more certain now that infection will not arrive, clean white gauze covering again after making sure to disinfect and tend to his injury.

My worry now is less about infection and more about possible nerve damage.  The antibiotics I received from the Gunmen this afternoon are now working carefully in his blood stream, assuaging my fears and bringing him back to me with greater speed.

I smooth the last piece of tape in place and raise my eyes to find Mulder's staring back at me with familiarly silent intensity.  A steady burn, restraining other things, a look he has reserved only for me during our years together.  It pins me in place with heat and memory.

"So what's the prognosis, Doc?"  His voice is raspy and low.  I allow myself the small thrill of his eyes that centers along my spine.

I smile, touching his arm briefly.  "You'll live."

His face remains unreadable during the momentary silence until he reaches over with his good arm and clasps his hand around mine, keeping my fingers against his skin.  "That's good to know."

His skin is warm and slightly damp.  The overhead fan stirs the air and draws the faintest breeze across my cheeks.  I wonder if they are as flushed as they feel.

Old habits, barriers we never overcame, still have their power over me.  Distance an obstacle we never fully vanquished.  I yield to it again now, as I break free from his grasp and rise from the bed.  "You should be feeling much better now that you've got that medicine helping you along."  I speak with my back to him, putting away the iodine and gauze.

"So what's my new name?"  His question slips us back into safe waters.

Sometimes, I wonder why we were foolish enough to continue this facade of distance through all of those years.  Sometimes, I hate these habits we have embraced.

Picking up the small leather folders, I turn and with outstretched hand deliver to Mulder his new identity.

"George Pierce?"  He sound disgusted by the name.  "That's so," he stops, searching for a description, "boring."

A small laugh escapes my throat.  "Boring's good, Mulder," I remind him.

"So what did you get?"

I hesitate, knowing what his response will be.  Mumbling, I say the words under my breath.

"What?" He asks, knowing that he heard me, wanting me to say it louder.

"Kitty, all right?  Kitty Pierce."

The heartfelt laughter I receive from Mulder is reason enough to forgive Frohike his little joke.  There was always humor between Mulder and I.  We always allowed ourselves at least that luxury - throaty laughter and veiled innuendo becoming the mask for greater things and taking on a more poignant significance because of that fact.

My voice is stronger with Mulder's laughter.  "Frohike even managed to meow at me when I spoke to him this afternoon."

From the bed, I hear a small answering cat call.  Looking up, I find Mulder's smile warm and inviting.  I return it and wonder at feeling so alive from such a simple thing.

Our eyes remain locked for a beat or two before he breaks the connection with a question.  "So when do we get out of here?"

Moving back to the bed, I sit on the edge and stare at my hands folded in my lap.  "This evening.  When I went out this morning to pick up the passports, I stopped and got us two bus tickets."

When he answers, I look up at him.  "Where are we gonna end up?"

For some strange reason, I find that ever since Mulder was injured I've had this need to watch him.  Stealing little glances, maintaining eye contact for long spans of time, standing vigil over his sleep.  I've just needed that connection, the same one I've just so recently found again and almost lost in the same span of time.  I'm doing it again right now.  As we speak, I cannot break my eyes from his face.  "The bus will take us all the way into Mexico, crossing at Eagle Pass, and stopping finally in Piedras Negras."

"Ooh a bus trip, I love those!  Twenty hours in a cramped seat with a baby screaming behind you and a bathroom that's impossible to use because every time you try, the bus goes over a bump and you end up aiming at the wall."

Still easy after years of neglect, I give him the patented 'Mulder, that's gross, and I'm not even going to comment' smile.  The answering warmth in his eyes is easy, too.  I allow that easy heat a chance to glow before sobering for a moment to voice my worries.  "Are you sure you're going to be up to this - traveling, I mean?"

"We don't have a choice anymore, do we?"

He's right, of course.  I know it and so does he.  We've stayed here far too long as it is.  In the two days that it took for the Gunmen's package to reach us, our enemies could be that much closer to finding us.  We need to leave, and the sooner the better.

I don't answer.  There isn't really any question.

His hand finds mine and clasps around it in my lap, squeezing firmly for reassurance.  Slipping away from him with reluctance, I stand up with one last lock of our eyes and prepare to leave.

Old habits may die hard, but in this new life I have so unwillingly chanced upon, this life I am now determined to fight for, what time we may have left together, I am determined to finally prove that adage false.  There has been enough distance between Mulder and I, enough distance to fill both of our lifetimes tenfold.

~~~~

Slumped against my shoulder, asleep again, I marvel at how quickly this ease of touching him is returning to me.  Once, long ago, it was my singular comfort.  I had been stripped of so many of my other comforts.  Long before Mulder's "death" I had become distanced from my family.  It seemed that I couldn't be near my mother without some sorrow between us, without her tears falling like guilty reminders.  My brothers couldn't understand my decisions and therefore didn't want to.  Missy and my father were long past lost.  All I had was Mulder.  Other friendships had drifted years before his departure.  He was my singular human connection, and I treasured the rare warmth of his hand holding mine, his arms around me gently.

I find myself treasuring it again but now with newly sharpened gratitude.  Over and over again, I find myself saying, 'I had lost this.  For so long, I had lost this.  How did I survive losing this?'  But I know how I survived.  I didn't.  Survival is too strong a word.  I pushed forward on dead emotions with blind eyes and left my soul buried with him in his imagined grave.

Yet, only a few days ago, I came close to losing it again, this time for real, this time with him lying bleeding in my arms in the lonely desert night.  A little more to the right, aim just a bit sharper, and that bullet could have pierced an artery.  He could have died in my arms, and then it would have been completely lost.  It would have been lost, and I would have allowed myself to remain in that spot until the companions of those thugs had shown up to finish the job.

Either that or I would have checked to make sure there was a bullet left in my gun for me.  It would have been the more appealing choice - that compared to capture and experimentation.

Only, it hasn't come to that.  Mulder didn't die.  We weren't captured.  Instead, we found our way to a hole in the wall motel in Austin, Texas and watched with calm acceptance as the last of the bricks constructing the wall between us toppled with determined destruction and placed us back within the peace of each other.  How we found this again is nothing short of a miracle.  I only pray now that we are given the time needed to finish the repairs between us.

The bus is quiet.  It is, after all, the middle of the night.  A couple of over-head reading lights glow faintly and illuminate the darkened cabin, but other than that, we remain bathed in dark quiet.  Contrary to Mulder's fear, there is no screaming baby behind us. There is only his body against mine, breath sighing out across my neck, and the simple, peaceful rhythm of his continued sleep.

I dozed for a while, surrendering to the void after one too many sleepless nights.  After boarding the bus, collapsing with weary sighs and a shared look of relief, I watched Mulder lean back and close his eyes and soon followed him into slumber.  Some time later, I woke slowly, allowing fuzzy sounds and the rhythm of motion to be my first awareness, coming eventually to find light seeping in beneath my eyelids and the warm pillow of Mulder's shoulder beneath my cheek smelling of comfort and home.

He sighed, the sound wonderfully content, and almost *snuggled* into my arm when I began to move away.  I looked down at him, at the tumble of dark hair falling across his forehead, at the stubble darkening his cheeks, the slight smile twisting his full lips, erasing lines and years from his beautiful face.  His hand was resting with lightly curled fingers around the top of my knee.  I looked down at him and the wonder of our strange connection found me again with a force not known since before he was gone.

We are titanium, Mulder and I - rare, elemental, and strong.  So strange, so mythical, this thing we are together that I never knew was possible, that no one ever told me could exist.  Are we above even death now, I wonder?  Does not even that force hold the power to sever this tie?

I am watching him, miles of dry highway unreeling as tires spin beneath my feet, and I think that I can almost *see* those ties now, those chords binding us together.  With the weak light of early morning just a faint glow on the horizon, I study the small space between us and can see the shimmer of diamond threads tying his heart to mine, unspooling from his fingertips and twisting up and around my own, weaving out from his lungs with each indrawn breath and finding their way into my every exhale.  Dense network stretched thin and weakened with distance but now growing heavy and lush again with renewed vitality.

It should frighten me, this bewildering necessity for each other that we share, this strange symbiosis.  It should frighten me and maybe once, long ago, it did.  Maybe once, in ignorance of what I would become in its absence, I allowed myself the fear and question of what we were.  There is no more luxury now for foolishness.  Now there is only the knowledge that those threads will continue to grow, weaving us forever together into a more complete whole, and the fear that there will never be enough time - in this life or the next - for me to discover the full spectrum of what he is to me.

The light on the horizon grows brighter, and our acceleration slows as we prepare to stop.

Beside me, Mulder stirs in semi-waking while through the dirty windshield ahead I can see the lights of a building slicing through the clinging darkness.

The breaks squeal in angry protest, the unmistakable sound of gravel and rocks scattering beneath the tires.  Around us, other passengers stir quietly and become more alert.  Pulling to a final stop, the bus does not park or pull off of the road.  Instead, it pauses at the side of the small building and remains stationary in the middle of the road.

Our escape interrupted, the anxiety I have come to accept as familiar filters slowly along my nerves and centers dully in the tips of my fingers and the back of my throat.  No one else on the bus moves to stand.  I am unsure of where we are.

"Scully?"  His voice is scratchy and sleep-fogged with the wariness of questioning what is going on.

"We're stopped, Mulder."

He studies me, trying to decipher my hesitance before speaking.  "Where?"

Eyes still glued on the round, white lights of the building now positioned to our right, I answer him with careful control evident in my voice.  "I don't know, and I'm not really sure why."

His gaze is hot on the side of my face, and I turn into his line of vision.  Without explanation, I am struck by the desire to lift that stubborn fall of dark hair up and away from his brow, to tuck my fingers into those soft strands and feel the smoothness of his skin under the tips of my fingers.

I don't get the chance.

The doors of the bus open with a hiss and a squeal.  Holding my breath, I watch our driver rise from his seat, the sound of footsteps soon following.  Heavy footfalls, boots, clatter up the steps of the bus.  From our position near the back of the vehicle, it is hard to see what is going on.

Soon, one dark head, and then another, can be seen in the dim lights of the bus.  There are murmurs of hushed conversation, gesturing on the part of the dark-haired men, and then our driver bends over towards the steering wheel.  With a preliminary flicker, the cabin of the bus is illuminated by softly glowing rows of lights lining the sides of the aisle.  More conversation ensues before what I had feared transpires.  The two men begin moving towards the back of the bus.

Unconsciously, my eyes dart towards Mulder. It is a look we have shared before, that common acknowledgement of danger or fear.  It passes between us within the space between heartbeats.  Directing my vision forward again, I see that they have stopped at the row of the first passenger.  They are questioning her.  A few indiscernible words pass back and forth before their trip towards the back resumes again.

The bus is not crowded.  There are only two more passengers standing between these men and the place where Mulder and I are seated.

Another couple of rows back and they stop again, this time next to our last remaining obstacles.  Again words are exchanged.  I strain to hear what is being said.  Broken fragments, not enough to be words, drift back while the man who is seated leans over to his companion and then hands something to the two standing men.

At the back of my mind, I calculate our slim chances for escape.  If this is what I fear, if these men are looking for us, they are most likely armed.  Mulder and I both carry our guns concealed at our backs, but the risk of a gun battle in the confines of a bus with civilians on board makes resistance of that nature out of the question.  We have no place to run.  The fire exit is several rows ahead of us, within just three rows of the advancing men.  Even if we could make it out of the bus somehow, I have no doubt that there are more of these men out at that building.

There really is no way for us to escape.

Beside me, Mulder shifts.  Looking down, I see that he has tucked himself into the window, away from prying eyes, feigning sleep.  Only I would be able to see the tenseness of the muscles in his neck, the edge of readiness he conceals so easily.   Playing the game, I pull the scarf more tightly around my head, pushing back loose strands with shaking fingers, and wait.

The men turn away from the couple ahead of us and face our direction.  They are both Hispanic, dark.  One with a faint beard and impressive height, the other slightly short with thickly muscled arms and legs.  Both wear uniforms of a sort, khaki drab, still unrecognizable in the weak light of the bus.  They stop in the aisle beside me, and I look up with carefully expectant eyes.

Heavily accented English meets my questioning glance.  "Passports please, Senora."

Nodding, I reach into the pocket of my jacket and pull out the small folders.  The eyes of the man who takes them are densely guarded.  He stares down at the false identification, opening one passport and then the other, considering them both carefully.  I freeze my muscles in place, not allowing my nervousness to betray me with fidgeting or anxious gestures.  I freeze and send up a silent prayer to God that the Gunmen's skills have not faded with time.

The first man hands the passports back to his companion before looking at me again.  His voice is flat, emotionless.  "Is this your husband?" he asks, indicating with the tilt of his head Mulder's silent form near the window.

"Yes."  I answer quietly, as if afraid to wake my sleeping spouse.

His gaze is focused on Mulder when he speaks again.  "Where are you going?"

I stumble for a moment, unsure.  I know little of the tourist towns in this part of Mexico.  "We just decided to head south for a little while, try to get away and relax for the weekend."

His expression is strange, strained, holding back somehow, but it is difficult to tell the reason, if there is a specific thing he needs to know.  His words are slowly spoken and carefully chosen.  "Just a vacation?"

I tilt my head slightly in the affirmative.  "Yes."

I feel as though he is reading every emotion on my face, as if all of our secrets are written there.  Pinning me in place with sharp eyes and an inescapable glare, I am trapped by the contact.

Finally, as I am about to yield and break the connection between our eyes, he nods stiffly and glances back towards his partner who looks up from our identification.  The second man, still holding our papers, looks up at me and smiles gently.  There is something in his eyes, a surprising softness hiding at the edges.  He reaches out and hands the passports back to me before speaking.

"Bonita."  His smile broadens with that word.

My feeble high school Spanish registers the compliment after a beat, and I am actually able to manage a small returning smile.  Looking down into my lap, the passports are again safe in my hands as I hear the two men begin to move away, further down the aisle.  I close my eyes, an unavoidable rush of air leaving my lungs, as I sink back into the seat.

From the darkness of my relief, I feel Mulder's hand slip over my own, still clenched in my lap.  He squeezes softly, offering reassurance, but does not move from his position of false slumber.  Behind us, I hear the edges of an argument beginning.  Jumbled Spanish, far too fast for me to make sense of, rises with increasing volume.  Suddenly, there is the sound of a struggle, as from the back of the bus the two uniformed men return to the front, this time dragging along with them another man, loudly protesting in what must be very colorful Spanish.

There are more words exchanged with the driver, the captive man struggling all the while, and then the trio disembarks, leaving the bus again bathed in quiet.  Glancing back at his small group of passengers, the bus driver turns quickly back to the wheel and shuts the doors.  In another couple of seconds, the engine rumbles to life and we are back in motion without a word being said.

Warm against my thigh, I feel the strength of Mulder's fingers entwined with my own.

I open my eyes, turning my head in his direction.  He looks back at me, and there is the sealing of some unnamed union in that glance.  The moment shimmers for a brief time before he breaks away, turning back to the window, content in what we have both just seen pass between us.  His concentration settles on the flat landscape unrolling beyond the window.  It is dark and barren and dry.  I can almost taste the dust and heat on my tongue.  It is empty and devoid of life, but as Mulder and I stare out the window, our hands still linked solidly together, I recognize the reality of where we are.  The bus moves slowly and with steady motion, as we leave the United States behind and head out into what has become our future.

~~~~
End part 12/14
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Last Gift (13/14)
By: Morgan (promised64@yahoo.com)

See disclaimers etc. in part 1

You'll have to excuse the non-accented Spanish words.  Unfortunately, accents don’t translate well through e-mail; they turn into weird little characters. Oh well.

~~~~

“She tells her love while half asleep,
   In the dark hours,
     With half words whispered low:
As the Earth stirs in her winter sleep,
   And puts out grass and flowers
     Despite the snow,
     Despite the falling snow.”

- Robert Graves

~~~~

I started the car, and for the first time, there was no sense of dread or sorrow hanging in the air.  I opened the windows wide, for a moment frightened that it would wake Mulder asleep beside me, and the cool night wind rushed in with abandon.  It teased through my hair, raising little tendrils, dancing them about my face.  It was loud and fast and freeing, drowning out the sound of the ancient engine at my command and carrying us like birds in flight out into open expanses of the unknown.

For the first time, there was no sharp awareness of the mangled car in which we traveled.  Instead, there was strange freedom in that rusting bucket of mismatched parts, singing in the hum of miles flying past on that narrow highway.  There was no apprehension in the darkness hanging on the horizon, only places left undiscovered and unseen, places I would see now, places *we* would see, together.

It was strange, that sense of liberation.  Maybe it was too many months and years of feeling nothing but sorrow and loss, nothing but nothing.  Maybe it was my newly awakened stirring of hope that was breathtaking simply because it had been absent for so long.  Maybe it was the night air and the desert wind, the promise of warm sun and ocean breeze hanging just over the next rise in the landscape.  Maybe it was all of these things.  Maybe it was everything.

Mulder woke eventually, long after that small town with its tiny lot of used cars and dirty bus depot had become a distant memory.  He sensed it, I think - the blood singing in my veins.  I was humming quietly, some nameless song finding its way out without intention or concentration, slipping free as if I had known the tune all of my life, when I felt his eyes on me.  I didn't look over immediately, just continued my soft singing, until I felt him shift his gaze out onto the road ahead, and then the silence was simple and pure, the empty road ahead and my voice just a murmur filling the air.

There was an unaccustomed serenity in that - the act of gently humming, him quiet beside me, as if in some way I was singing to him, for him.  It was light years from my nervously hesitant voice piercing off key into the Florida night.  Out on the unknown roads of Mexico, my voice came easy and low, and even though I didn't look, I knew that beside me he was smiling.

Eventually, my voice tapered off and silence reigned.  Some time later, one of us - I can't quite remember who - flicked on the radio and there was the sound of guitars and Latin lovers, lyrical phrases that made no sense but were fitting somehow to our new surroundings.  We pushed forward down endless miles until the sun was a brilliant promise on the horizon, until it broke free with abandon, spilling gold over barren plains, accompanying the sound of a mariachi's song slightly tinged with static through the speakers of our car.

We never really spoke.

What words were there left between us that weren't already understood?  Pain, suffering, loss, and grief had all been expressed, in either action or voice.  Our need for each other was as basic as it had always been.  Our relief at our reunion was translated with every touch and each meeting of our eyes, made more poignant by our recent near disaster.  We'd said all the words, in a thousand different ways.

There was nothing left to be said.  Not really.

That night in the motel, I lay awake for hours, not wanting to sleep.  It was as if there was magic during that night, as if some enchantment had found us along those roads.  I was loath to break the spell, fearsome of the threat of closing my eyes and erasing the dream.

< " Pero tu y yo, amor mio, estamos juntos, juntos desde la ropa a las raices…" >

In my heart's core I will forever carry this memory - his voice rising softly, eidetic memory supplying the words, no less beautiful for that fact.  Tentative whispers at first, mumblings, not really singing, growing gently until the words were clear and soft from the pillow to my right.

< "juntos de otono, de agua, de caderas, hasta ser solo tu, solo yo juntos." >

You and I, together.  Only us.

My Spanish may have been rusty, but those words I understood.

< Solo yo juntos >

Only us.

There was only us that night - no threat of danger, no great escape.  There was the night and the breeze and sweet sounds of crickets chirping somewhere off distant.  The sheets made sounds of movement and change as I shifted across them, daring to move.  Enough distance between us; there would be no more.

His skin was bare in the tropical heat, warm, soft.  I rested my cheek against his shoulder and could hear the scratch and soothe of his voice wrapping around simple Spanish phrases.  Then there was only Mulder and I and the night.
 
< amor mio. >

The last emotion to find us, the one that never left.  Always that central tie - inexplicable connection - strange love we share.

< my love >

Sitting here now, watching him sleep, remembering that night, those words are a truth we have always shared and never truly spoken.  I saw it sparkling between us on that night and every night since.  We have journeyed across a foreign country, through deserts and hills, small towns and vacant highways.  We have found our way here, to this distant place so far from home.  He heals more with every day that passes, grows more strong, and the glimmer of those unspoken words grows with parallel speed and rival strength.

I move to stand, picking up discarded bandages remaining from his changed dressing and turn towards the bathroom door.  Suddenly, there is the warm weight of his fingers wrapped lightly around my wrist, pulling down firmly.  I wasn't even aware that he had been awake.

Sitting again, turning back to face him, the sunlight streaming through the window paints him in clear and brilliant light.  His eyes are gentle, regarding me – gentle and filled with what I had once searched for and found absent on a night three long years ago – that night so dark and threatening compared to the simple light now bathing us both.

The question must be on my face, in my eyes.  I don't actually ask why he detains me, but I know he reads it nonetheless.

“Thank you,” he says, and they’re somewhat less than words, more like shapes his lips form without much by way of accompanying sound.

“It’s not…” I want to say that it's not necessary, his thanks, that he owes me none, but I don’t finish.  His hand squeezes my wrist more firmly and he raises his other hand, stopping a breath away from my face, the movement of his hand silencing my protests.

“Yes, it is.”  The shapes have more sound this time.

We remain like that, frozen in place, his hand around my wrist, our eyes locked without words.  I don't know what to say.  He's thanking me for saving his life, for taking care of him, but it's *my* life that's been saved in these past few weeks.  He has saved me, even if he never intended to.

His hand tightens further and then pulls forward, collapsing me against him.  Without conscious effort, I am pulled into the warm snare of his arms and find my own arms wrapped easily around his middle.

I am reminded of the last time he held me, quaking in the aftershocks of an emotional breakdown.  How devastated I was then, how lost.  It all seemed so dark during that embrace.  His arms were around me, but they were phantoms at my waist, the arms of a dead man.  I could see nothing in my future but a large, black void, terrifying with the threat that we could never again find what we'd once had.  He'd held me, but I was rigid in his arms and the sensation was distant and vague.

This time is so different.

He is warm and soft beneath me.  Alive.  Smooth skin, scattering of coarse hair on his bare chest, smelling of faint sweat, Mulder, and life.  I shift, burying my face in the curve of his neck, feeling the pulse of his heart throbbing just under the skin.  Edges of his hair, now longer than I have ever seen it, tease against my closed eyelids when I tilt my head up slightly.  Sliding one hand around to the front, I press my palm against the firm strength of his chest and revel in the solid rhythm of his heart.

It beats for me.

How long have I known that?  Weeks?  Years?  The latter, I suspect.  I suppose I've always known this fact.  Mulder would die for me, kill for me, sell his soul to the highest bidder for the chance of my salvation.  I own him in that regard, numbingly terrible revelation though that may be.  He loves me enough to risk even my hatred for the promise of my safety.

Which doesn't make it right, what he's done.

Not even remotely.

But it makes me see the truth of us more clearly - that his heart beats for me, and mine for him, and that this is something we have never been able to escape, will never escape, and should treasure while we still can.

Crushing.  He is crushing me, drawing me in through his pores, into his muscle and bone, pulling me under with an embrace so tight I wonder that it can still feel this good.  He has one hand brought up to tangle in my hair, running absent fingers through the strands.  The other wraps firmly around my waist.  It may be painful to separate.  I press back just as hard, not wanting either of us to ever feel that pain again.

"I missed you so much.  God, so much."  Whispers against the top of my head, his lips moving in my hair.  They are desperate, naked, furious words.  "I missed you so much, Scully."

I missed you, too, Mulder.  So much.  For so long.

The skin of his neck is the salt of sweat and the tang of something else entirely when I press my lips to its surface, trying to say those words with some action rather than the sounds my lips are unable to form.  Tiny, baby kisses, parting my lips just slightly so that I can taste him, needing to taste him.  I want him there in every one of my senses.  I need him there, in the taste on my tongue, the scent in the air I breath, the sight of his body to my starving eyes, the feel of strong muscle, warm skin under my fingers, and the sound of his voice, his heartbeat, his life filling my ears.  Everywhere.

Warmth of his hand smoothing up along my spine while he continues whispering, letting out three years of loss in unintelligible fragments.  Then his hands still.  The one on my back relaxes while the one in my hair releases and moves towards my face.

He speaks.

"You save me, time and again."  His fingers trace strange patterns over my jaw, cheek, lips.

"No matter how far, how dark, or how barren, there is always you…" My eyebrows receive kisses from his fingertips.

"My saving grace…"

I think of hope and how sometimes, something so intangible can become a living, breathing thing.

"My light…"

He was as lost and empty as I.

"My Scully."

I will never be empty again.

Once upon a time, long ago, my dreams at night were haunted by the elusive touch of Mulder's lips.  So real in my imaginings - so lifelike.  I would wake and could almost see the tender bruising of those lips along my neck, my face.  Staring glassy eyed into the mirror on those mornings, it took a long, hot shower and several cups of coffee before the sensations would dim and I could rationalize it all back into submission again.

Once upon a time, he came to me in the dead of night, dying himself.  He came to me with empty arms and an aching heart looking to at last settle that doubt, the question of what we might be.  I knew the taste of his lips then, their texture.  My lonely dreams became an even lonelier reality, and even though it was his flesh and blood that held me that night, somehow those dreams had held more warmth.

I used to think often of what our fates had denied us, back when such dwellings were not as painful, back when I could handle the pain.  How he would kiss me each morning just after waking, tenderly, with the reverence of starting another day at my side.  How there would be kisses while out walking, not afraid of observation, just the quiet display of our love without shame.  Kissing him each night, just before slumber, sometimes after making love, sometimes not.  His kiss in the heat of passion, beautiful, life affirming kisses, as we sealed our union with the giving of ourselves.

All of those kisses we would never share.

His lips open beneath me now, drawing me in, seeking me out, and it is a kiss no less pure or reverent than those ghostly might-have-beens.  It is a different fate, a harsher destiny, but as I fill myself with the taste of him, gasp lightly at the scrape and soothe of his tongue and teeth, I see clearly the gift that fate has indeed given us.

He rolls suddenly, taking me with him, pushing me down and under.  His breath washes out across my lips when we part, separated by the merest fragment of space.  I am focused on the gentle glistening of his lips from our kisses while he looks down at me.  There is a part of him that still needs permission, I know, still doubts.  It is his nature, those insecurities so deeply ingrained.  I smile up at him, breaking my view of his mouth, and give my consent with reflected words.

"We save each other, Mulder."

To truly know Mulder, you need to learn to study his eyes.  They tell everything about him.  Swirling depths of morphing color that are more like prisms of light than the eyes of a man.  Right now, they swim with a heady mixture of awe, love, grief, and arousal.  Part of him will always mourn what we have lost, what has been taken.  How could he not?  But I am unconcerned right now with grief.  What I want, what I need, is to see nothing but our love in those eyes, nothing but fire and lust to burn all of the poison away.

Rising up swiftly, I capture his lips with my own and turn the kiss more forceful.

No more mourning, Mulder.  I won't be your widow anymore.

Shifting again, I am above him.  Every day of pain, every sensation of loss is translated in his kiss.  It is desperate, passionate, brutal, and sweet.  His hands slide up and under the shirt I wear to grip the damp canvas of my back.  We rise slowly, his hands painting deep circles of heat over my skin, and I am straddling him as we kiss.

I gasp, breaking the kiss, sucking in humid tropical air to fill my straining lungs.  I think I had forgotten that I needed to breathe.  The room seems to spin, sparkle somehow.  Looking down at him, his eyes are wild and smiling.  My breath washes both of our lips as I breathe, and I know the wonder of this is written across my face.

He smiles, a small, delightful thing I would easily trade my breath for, and then he is pulling the hem of my shirt up carefully, raising it with slow enough speed that I could stop him if I so desired.

I don't stop him.

Instead, I raise my arms obligingly, pointing my hands towards the ceiling.  His smile broadens at this gesture, and the cotton is cool and soft sliding over my face as the T-shirt is discarded.  It disappears over the side of the bed - out of sight, out of mind - and I stare into his eyes while I lower my still raised arms and bring my hands to rest atop his broad shoulders.

Holding him like that, steadying myself, I feel his fingers slide around to my back again, fumbling for the clasp of my bra.  I close my eyes, knowing what will come.

Currents of damp air and ocean scent drift languidly over my skin as he reveals me.  The windows are left open, air conditioning a rare luxury here, and it is from behind shuttered lids and with an ocean breeze on my face that I first feel his hands upon me.  They are reverent, not rough - gentle despite the strength I know they can contain.  He traces the swell of each breast with just the backs of his long fingers, and my hands on his shoulders clench at the sensation.

Descending, there is the light of growing fire even in my self-imposed darkness.  His lips on my tingling skin pierce the darkness with need, throwing my head back, parting my lips on a moan.  I feel the warm glide of his mouth, sweep of tongue, sure and sweet surrounding of his teeth and lips over the peak of my breast.

Beautiful curse I surrender to.

My eyes open, looking down, and I push my fingers through the tangles of his hair, attempting to coax his face back up to me.  I move my hands down and over the strength of his arms, massaging warm muscle.  Back up again, in, and down, over the territory of his chest, weaving over his skin with my seeking fingers, teasing him as he has teased me.

His mouth moves in deliberate torture over the length of my collarbone when I feel his hands lower and begin to fumble with the clasp on my jeans.

Just that slight drift of his fingers over the flesh of my stomach, and I feel it begin in earnest.  My breath comes in more labored pants, gasping, the hairs of my neck seem to stand on end.  I am drowning, and I know that this will not last, cannot last, because we are rising too swiftly and are soon to be swept away.

He lowers the zipper, mouth hovering above my neck, and there is a tensing deep in my belly, heaviness and swollen need.

I am swiftly becoming unhinged.

Control left by the wayside, I break away from his dangerous mouth and roving hands.  His face is the portrait of confused frustration as his arms slip free entirely and I push off to stand beside the bed.

Wriggling just a little, my jeans are shed easily, sweeping panties down along with them.  I stand before him without guard or protection, knowing that there is nothing hidden between us anymore, that no emotion has been left concealed, that we are stripped literally bare of defenses more crucial than clothing.

I think I will have forever the look of wonder upon his face that he wears as he watches me.  Words may have always been difficult between us, but there is more love in his gaze than any simple syllables could convey, more trust.  I don't need his words, don't want them.  There is more honesty in his naked eyes than in any spoken declaration.

I love you, Mulder, and you love me.  This is our curse *and* our salvation, forever twisting circle.

He smiles again, wide and joyful, moving to shed his boxers, the only clothing he wears.

Hand extended, fingers outstretched, I take his offered link and he pulls me to the bed.  The press of his skin to mine has been in my dreams and my nightmares, at day and at night.  We roll together in unison, feeling the tide rise, and he is positioned above me, my soul mirrored in his eyes.  Reaching down, I guide him to me, holding my breath, waiting for destiny…

Then there is nothing.  My focus narrows and shifts - changing - becoming something new and foreign, simple and destined.  There is nothing but gold.  His eyes above me looking down, all fire and sunlight.  Life.  Gold all around us, blocking out the world.  Gold bathing us, swallowing us, claiming us.  The intensity of life frozen in one moment and I can see nothing except his eyes, nothing except his face – nothing – the light everywhere and the world evaporates with a rustle and a moan as we are both completely, utterly still.

Our rapid breath becomes the only sound, and I can feel each and every expansion of his lungs, each heartbeat, each pulse of warm blood through his veins.  Fire around us a sheltering halo, as we are shocked into stillness, unable to move, reveling now in this first union.

He is the first to move, staring down at me, reflecting in his eyes everything I am, I was, I will be, everything he is, we are, we can only be when together.  He moves, a fraction of an inch, and the light is that of a thousand stars being born and dying around us.

Suddenly, before it has even begun, he slows above me – stilling – and the torrent of sensation dims to a dull roar.  Slow and languid like honey pouring over the spoon’s edge, my focus returns and finds his, seeing something I had not expected.

Previous smile gone, he has tears in his eyes.

Reaching a single fingertip up, I coax a fat, wet drop onto its pad and smooth that dampness out and over his cheek.  I don’t speak.

Finally, with parched throat and body now completely silent, his lips move and difficult words emerge.  “I thought we would never know this.  I was sure of it.”   His eyes are wide with a strange combination of wonder and grief that only I would ever be able to understand.  “I was so sure that I even gave up the dream of it, the fantasy.  I refused myself even the imagination.”

I know this already.  How can I not?

"I allowed that hope to die, Scully."

So did I.

"I've loved you forever, and yet, even in my dreams, I no longer believed that could be enough."

He is still within me, above me, studying my eyes, seeking forgiveness, understanding.  I bring him back with my body and words, lifting my hips up to meet him as I speak.  "No more fantasy, Mulder.  Not a dream anymore."

He closes his eyes, two more tears escaping to find purchase over his skin.

"We won't live in abandoned dreams any longer."

Any other words are lost and forgotten.  He swoops down with a beautiful rush, seizing me, claiming me.  His mouth fuses to mine and I urge him with fingers flexing lightly on his back, translating encouragement.  < It’s me.  It’s us.  It always has been, always will be.  This future we embrace now, this love, has always been.  We’re here together, finding ourselves, where we’ve been waiting for three long years, nine long years, two long lifetimes.  We’ve always been here, in this place.  It will remain.  It is not fragile.  Together now, this is our hope, our peace, this is how we claim our souls back from loss.  Moving forward now, into the light.  We will remain. >

Momentum gaining, his eyes never flicker from mine and I hear him mirror my thoughts.

“I know…” Breath washing my skin.  “I know now.”

Black pools of his pupils fixed on mine, we climb towards the stars together.  His flesh is sweet beneath my madly gripping fingers.  Long planes of muscle, smooth and damp and flexing with each thrust.  He is life above me and I am radiant in his arms.

The pillows smell of lemon detergent.  His skin, the salt of the sea.  He surrounds and invades me in a current of unbreakable motion.  Matching with tempo, I meet and assist him, pushing us forward, towards the brink.

Focus swimming again, I knew it would take no time, that the lights would be this bright.  Those stars coalesce, condensing, expanding, encompassing.  He fills me again as the light shifts, swallowing, and I am lost within the pulsing of sunlight, the stars shattering with bliss.  I fall through the star shower and can feel fragments of shimmer dusting my skin, igniting every nerve, covering from my hands to my toes and everywhere in-between.

Rolling.  Cataclysm.  Undertow.  Dragging me down.  Lifting me up.

The descent is peaceful and slow.  I ride gently dying waves until I feel him break within me, the warmth of our union flooding my body.  We are silent and still here, complete.  His forehead rests lightly against my own.  I open my eyes, looking up into his, and I am watching the delicate rebirth of dreams as sweat cools upon our skin and the fantasy is broken.

~~~~

Making love, such a simple phrase.  But love is not made purely, or even mainly, in the physical.  Love is made in seconds and minutes, weeks and years.  Love is made with slow continuance of time as bricks are added one by one to the whole that comes to make up two.  It is a construction in constant motion and necessary change, made by time and effort, circumstance and fate.  We have not *just* made love, our love is made with each breath we take, each slow tick of his watch on the bedside table.  Our love was building from the moment of our first meeting, even if it was not yet love for several years to come.

I am not prone to flights of fancy or romanticism.  Always the realist, it is a role I cannot abandon.  I will not wax poetical and say that I fell in love with Mulder at first sight.  Lightning bolts did not streak from the heavens and ignite me where I stood as I first glimpsed his haunted form.  The heavens didn’t sing.  The earth didn’t shake.  Instead, there was the tiny, imperceptible current of destiny shifting, changing, taking on the chance of a possibility, the formation of something that *might* be if allowed to thrive.  With every decision made, every brick laid carefully onto a building foundation, the motions of time solidified that destiny more concretely, made the cord more difficult to sever, pushed us further down the path of a possibility until there was no way we could ever return.

Do I love Mulder?  Yes - with all that I am and all I can ever hope to be.  Can I name with clarity the moment I came to realization of that bond?  No.  I could say that it was one of the many times he has saved my life, one of the several times I have faced his loss, one of the numerous times we have fought down death together.  I could say this and still not have it completely right.  I knew it at all of those times, and yet didn’t know it at all.  It grew with impossibly slow steadiness until the knowledge of it was complete, something I had always known, something not puzzled over at all.  It just *was,* and there was no question of when it had begun.

He lies now with arms wrapped around me loosely, hand curled possessively over the gentle swell of my stomach.  His soft breath teases the skin below my ear, face resting there in the crook of my neck.  I can feel his chest move with each in-drawn breath, can feel the warmth of that breath as it is expelled.  His skin is smooth and warm and damp from our love, golden compared to mine, delicately woven over contradicting strength of firm muscle and elegance of long, thin bone.  I see all of that in the perfection of his fingers tensing minutely in dreams, pressing down into the flesh of my belly.

We have not made love here in this place so foreign to us, we have continued it, found it again, rescued it from a place where it was almost lost.  We’ve brought it further than it had ever been, to a place where it always had the possibility of going but never the certainty.  This is our triumph, our victory over all we’ve fought.

I feel the curl of a smile grow across my lips and the radiance of joy lights that smile.

“Scully…” My reverie is broken and I can barely hear my name as it is murmured from his dreams.

Through death and loss, bitterness and betrayal, we have this now.

Turning in the warm circle of his arms, I know my smile will follow me even into sleep.  I shut my eyes and whisper soundlessly into the broad expanse of his chest.  “We won, Mulder.  We won.”

~~~~
End Part 13/14

Note to those who are interested, this is the translation of the song Mulder sings -

(Taken from a Pablo Neruda poem)

But you and I, love, we are together
from our clothes down to our roots:
together in the autumn, in water, in hips, until
we can be alone together -- only you, only me.
 
 
 

The Last Gift (14/14)
By: Morgan (promised64@yahoo.com)

See disclaimers etc. in part 1

~~~~

“ ‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops at all.

- Emily Dickinson

~~~~

Mom,

     There was this one time, I couldn't have been much older than six or seven, when we had stood, you and I, looking out over the sea together.  Dad had just left on some assignment or another.  I can remember that the air was crisp and cold, you had bundled me up in that purple scarf that made my chin itch so badly.  I hated that scarf.  Melissa and the boys were back inside the house together, playing a game I was "too young" to understand, and so you had taken my hand and walked out onto the porch at the back of our house.
     Of all the myriad houses in which I spent my childhood, I think that one was my favorite.  Even though I was young when we left it, I can remember that the sea stretched out forever from its back, that the beach was rough, more rocks than sand, and I will always remember what you said to me that day on the porch, watching the graphite colored tumbling of the sea.
     I had always been too young before, every time dad had left, too young to really understand.  He had always gone, and eventually returned, bringing with him new stories and always some gift or trinket from places with exotic names that blurred together as a solid jumble in my mind.  The time between departure and return passed easily for me with the preoccupations of squabbling siblings and swing-sets and scrapped knees.  But as I stood with you that day on the porch, I remember wondering for the first time why it was that daddy had to keep leaving us, why we were always forced to endure his absence.
     I asked you, though I can't remember exactly how, but your words ring clear in my head to this day, that one moment sealed in crystal clarity.  You looked out over the water, the boundless sea that stole him from you every time, and you said with a faint smile on your lips, "because he loves us, you and me and your brothers and sister.  He loves us enough to leave us, because he is doing what's right, what he believes in."  Then you looked down at me, placed a hand on my shoulder.  "Your father's love is so big, so strong for us that it can stretch all the way across the sea, back to us, and we have to be strong for him in return, so he can feel our love even when he's far away."
     That's the single most important gift you gave to me as a child.  The gift of love, sure and strong and enduring.  The art of strength and tenacity in love, that those we love are worth fighting for, worth our sacrifice.  It was a foundation that shaped my spirit, guides me to this day.  I will forever be the woman molded from a little girl who learned the security of love and trust in the sheltering arms of her family.
     Now, with this letter, I ask of you some things I know you may find hard to accept.  I ask you to trust that the men from whom you received this are friends, trusted friends, some of the greatest friends I could have ever hoped to know.  I ask you to trust that I am safe, that I write this to assure you of that fact.  For reasons I think you may partially understand, I cannot tell you where I am or why I've left.  Whatever you may hear, whatever they may tell you, I need you to believe that I left of my own free will, that by leaving I saved myself and that, in the process, I've regained my soul.
     There was something else someone once told me, a man we both know.  Many years ago, sick, with deep circles etched in pallid skin, he spoke to me of the renewal of hope.  He had endured a frozen hell, fought for his own life, returned with nothing, and when I asked him what he'd found after all that hardship, his voice was raspy when he told me "something that I thought I'd lost."  His faith, his hope, he'd found it again that day, and even through the pallor of his skin, I could see the gentle light of that flame burning anew.
     You've watched me for three years now, struggling with the loss of my hope, my spark slowly dying.  I called it strength, lying even to myself, and you stood beside me unsure of what to do.  I've found something I thought I'd lost, Mom.  I've found it again after thinking it gone forever.   Hope, I now know, can be embodied in flesh and bone, and pain is sometimes necessary to thaw ice that no other heat can melt.
     I feel pain now, and loss, and grief.  Happiness, love, and hope.  The ice thaws more with every day's passing, and I again find myself smiling into the sunrise.  I am not alone, this also I promise you, though I think you may already suspect it.  I now realize that I never was, never could be, never will.  Love is a tie even death doesn't sever, and hope is a gift no sorrow ever truly smothers.
     Finally, I ask you to accept my absence.  This is the hardest request of all.  I do not know for sure where my journey takes me now, or when I will return.  All I can promise is that I will try, with all my strength, to make it back to you and our family, that I will never stop trying.  This journey pulls me forward and away from you now, but you are always with me, tucked deep within my heart - the memory of your smile and the smell of the sea.

Please tell the rest of the family that I love them, that I miss them.  Tell them that I am safe and will be thinking of them always.

My love forever,
Dana

~~~~

I'd almost forgotten the full intensity, the majesty of the sea.

He is walking ahead of me, eyes downcast, troubled somehow.  His feet shuffle along through the sand in an awkward gait, preoccupied.  I can almost see the whirlwind of thoughts swirling around his silent body.

The ocean is mostly quiet, tranquil.  Occasionally, a wave breaks roughly against the sand to spray a fine mist of salt and water up along my bare arms.  My jeans are rolled up and away from my ankles.  Skirting along the edge, I walk just within the reach of those waves, allowing warm, tropical waters to wash up and over my toes sinking into wet sand.

I've never been much for living in the moment, always too realistic, too pragmatic to allow for an uncertain future.  Always planning ahead.  Worrying too much - plagued by doubts of what might be.  His eyes are the color of these waves, gray and blue, dark and light and all the hues in-between.  Shifting, restless motion with the same power to drag me away and under as those tides.  He looks out over the water, scanning the horizon in absent-minded reverie, and I absorb the memory of his eyes, the way his hair lifts and falls with the rising wind, scattering across his brow, falling before his eyes.

Live in the moment, and the moment may be all we have now, Mulder and I.

"I don't know where we go from here, Scully."

His voice breaks my concentration, forces me back to a world of sound and sensation.

"We just keep moving."  My simple reply, but it's all I know how to say.

"Where?  For how long?  Forever?"  His tone is resigned, frustrated, sad.  "I don't want to run forever, Scully"

Mulder is having doubts, the first clear doubts I have seen him exhibit on this journey of ours.  Up until now, he had been the one pushing *me* forward, blindly maybe, out of desperation and a desire to avoid the future by not dwelling on it, but pushing nonetheless.  He needs my strength now.  Now that the most obvious threat is over, he looks to the future and is swallowed by the darkness.

You need to live in the moment, Mulder.  The dark isn't as cold as I had thought, and not nearly as frightening.

"Not forever," I finally say.  "For now, for a while, for as long as it takes."

"As long as it takes?"

"As long as it takes to find safety again, as long as it takes until we can stop and be still."

He is turned away from me, not meeting my eyes.  "What if it takes forever, Scully?  What if we can't ever stop?"

I pour newfound strength and assurance into my words.  "Then it takes forever, but at least it's a forever by your side, at least it's a forever where we are no longer alone."  My last thought is spoken quietly.  "That's a forever I can face."

Storms brew and dissipate across the landscape of his features.  "That was never the future I wanted for you.  That dangerous unknown was something I had always wanted you to be spared."

Hands balled into fists at his sides, his fingers are clenched tight and strong as I pry them apart with my own.  Insinuating myself into the warm clasp of his hand, I squeeze his fingers gently, thrilling to the way they seem to melt under my attention.  "I want that future, Mulder," I assure him.  "I need it.  We have this now, we have each other."  Lifting my other hand to his face, I nudge gently with just the tips of my fingers until he faces me, looking down, our other hands still clasped together.  "Even if it ends tomorrow, next week, next month, it will have been enough for me.  It could end right now, and I still wouldn't regret it, still would treasure every moment of peace we've stolen for ourselves out of all this madness."

His eyes soften, turning more gray than green, more light than dark.  Rough and raw, sounding scratched from the depths of disbelief, his voice finds me.  "Are you sure?"

Low and reverent.  "I love you, Mulder."  It's the first time I've ever really said it, the first time the intangible has been given form and substance.  The words are sacred and pure slipping from my tongue, they feel like the simplest truth, easy and sure and beautiful.

Tears build slowly in his eyes.  He needed those words, to hear them, as much as I needed to say them.  I blink, and there is a warm splash upon the swell of my cheek.  Dampness I didn't notice, tears I hadn't anticipated.

"Our battle, our quest?"  The question I knew he would still have - the uncertainty of what we've fought for.  He had abandoned it for three years, content to let it lie unfulfilled.  Beside me again, I know he feels the need to continue.  Reunited, there is an inescapable sense of purpose between us.  It is our destiny, after all.  Together, the promise of what we could accomplish is heavy and tempting, necessary and strong.

"Is not forgotten," I affirm.  "We will continue, Mulder.  I want that, too.  But right now, until then, until that's possible again, the fact that I can concentrate on this…" I rise up softly on my toes to place a chaste kiss upon his lips, "is enough for me."

His eyes light up with a small fire as I lower back down onto solid ground and smile up at him.

"You just have to let it be enough, Mulder."

Slowly, tentatively, the hand I don't hold comes to steal around my waist, resting with almost invisible pressure in the curve of my back.  He smiles, a thing shy and wondering at the newness of this, the indulgence and luxury, and then pulls more firmly, drawing me forward and into his embrace.

The kiss is pure and unhurried, just the gentle brushing together of our lips at first.  Growing out of love and comfort rather than passion.  Fusing, perfect softness of his lips.  It is an exploration, a lazy, drifting warmth.  Somewhere, one of my hands steals up and around his neck, the other clutched between our bodies, fingers still entwined.  He holds me possessive and strong, as I drown willingly in his taste, his smell, this thing of beauty we create between us.

Breaking apart a fraction, he murmurs against my lips and I can feel each letter as it is pronounced, "It's enough for me, Scully.  It's more than enough."

He kisses me again, and I smile into the action.  He can feel it and returns the gesture.  We are smiling as we kiss.  Eyes closed, his teeth scrape and soothe, his lips translate unspoken things, and a wave crashes roughly against my legs, soaking my jeans to the knees.

Once we are still again, I rest my head in the crook of his neck, feeling his pulse against my cheek, my new favorite place to rest.  I can feel the exact moment thoughts begin to crystallize in his head.  Waiting, I anticipate the wistful tone of his voice when it meets my ears.

"I just can't help wishing, dreaming…"

I dream, too.  For the first time in too long.  I wish.

"It's not sorrow or fear…"

No, Mulder, no more fear now between us.

"I just want, I wish…"

It's too much to put into words.

He struggles for a moment, fumbling, searching for a description of dreams and desires. "It's foolish I know," an unnecessary apology, "But I can't help wishing we could just let it go, leave it all behind, find some little house on a beach somewhere and just *be.*”

I don’t interrupt him, don’t squash his lovely dreams.  What point is there?  We both know the future has never held calm domesticity for either of us.  There is no little cottage sitting on a pristine shore waiting in our future.

Not the near future anyway.

But I allow him his dreams because they are such a gift to us now.  Such a blessing, such a wonder, this ability to dream.  Such a small, brilliant, amazing thing, such an intrinsic component of who we are as human beings – the most necessary of common graces.  I allow Mulder his dreams, his fantasies, his future ramblings.  Standing at his side, feeling the shift and swirl of sand around my feet, I allow him to grasp onto something I had once feared lost to us forever.

I allow us both to glide along on the fragile wings of hope.

I want to see it…

I do…

< I’m sitting, staring out at the sea.  Storm clouds gather on the horizon.  Huge, dark, ominous clouds reaching for the heavens.  They loom large and threatening on the edges of the sea – but I am not afraid.

Around me, the calm wraps as a blanket.  Sitting there, feet tucked under, head resting against the chair at my back, I watch the first drops of rain slip slide over the roof’s edge and form baby puddles on the steps leading up to the porch.  The old, rusty whine of the screen door sings in accompaniment to the growing wind and I can feel you at my side.

“It’s going to be a bad one,” you say.

I don’t answer, closing my eyes, embracing the kiss of damp wind on my cheeks.

“You should come inside.”  I smile at your words.

Looking up, you’re standing there above me, offering your hand.  My smile is mirrored in you and I delight in the wrinkles it etches around your mouth, the sparkle of it in your eyes.  It is in that moment that I can see beyond the gray hair now turning white, beyond the fissures of years and experience worn so clearly on your skin.  You take my hand in yours and it is not old and lined with wrinkles and time.  I do not cringe or ache as I rise to meet you.  Our lifetime together has not weathered these hands.

Warm and sure, the hand of a woman well past her golden years lies in your steady and loving grasp made young and smooth again…

And we watch the storm roll in together. >

~~~~
End.

Notes and thanks from me –
 
What a long, (long, long, long… ) strange trip it’s been…
     This story started off of such a basic idea.  I had just read JC Sun's beautiful "Envelope."  (If you haven't read this, go do it now!  It's gorgeous!)  I was struck by her interpretation of how Scully would react to Mulder's death.  She described Scully appearing to move forward despite the loss, living on because that would be the best and brightest way to honor his memory.  This rang true for me.  Very along the lines of Scully's character.  However, I wondered if this wouldn't just be a facade, if deep down she wouldn't be falling apart.  Mulder is the center and foundation of Scully's world.  It may not be like her to weep uncontrollably and have a nervous breakdown, but wouldn't burying that grief have an even more devastating impact?  What would happen after years of pushing forward and trying so stubbornly to be strong?  How could anyone ever recover from that loss of emotion?  These questions, and a little too much Edith Hamilton's mythology, sparked the first chapter which was written without much idea of where it would go.
     Shortly after starting this, I drew up a tentative outline.  I had six, short chapters set up which I planned out with the intent to have the story finished before the end of my last semester of school.  That was a little over two months time allowance.  It didn’t quite work out the way I had planned. <g>  So here we are, seven months later, and it's finally finished, but not solely by my efforts alone.
     Extreme praise, utmost gratitude, hugs, kisses, and general fanfare belong to the following people without whom this story would never have been finished.
     - Deb, who's been hanging around since the beginning, doesn't nag, doesn't push, and always amazes me at the tiny details she's able to catch.  An eagle eye and a trusted opinion.  Thank you so much for the patience, it's meant more than I can ever say.
     - Lena.  My muse thanks you.  She's been saving up all of that virtual wine and those Godiva truffles and is now in a state of utter post-fanfic-posting inebriation.  It's nice to laugh when reading through editing stuff once and a while.  Don't worry, I know you'll be hearing from me again soon.  (too bad for you <bg>)
     - Jeanine.  Who believes honesty is always the best policy and never fails to tell me when it's a bunch of crap - though she probably wouldn't use those exact words (I think).  I cannot say how much I treasure the phrase "don't you think you've gone a little overboard here?"  I need that sometimes.
     - Chris.  Who has been adding a little voice now and again for constant encouragement.  Not a beta-reader, but just a friend.  One more person I count myself fortunate to have met during this little endeavor.
     - All those nice people who followed this thing while it was going up on my web page.  Your patience and the occasional nagging letter were what got this thing going and kept me from abandoning it.  Stick around, there's more to come. ;)

     Thus begins the general feedback plea – this has been fun, but I would love to hear what others have thought.  Write me at: promised64@yahoo.com.  I *do* make a point to respond to all letters.

Thanks for reading –
Morgan : )
(now maybe I can move on to those three half-stories stuck on my hard drive)