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Subaqueous

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"Mulder," she says. "Mulder, I've got to ask you something."

*

Fox Mulder is not asleep; he's just watching the wind through closed eyes. You see it better that way, he says, and the Scully in his head quirks an eyebrow the way she does when he's amused her but not enough to merit a full eyebrow-raise. No, really, he insists, and he shows her how if she closes her eyes the right way, she can see the starry air swirling in the blades of the rackety fan that's set like a dreamcatcher in his window.

*

Scully's skin smells like rain and new leaves. The wind smells like that, too, but also like earth, marble, and moss; like all the things it's blown past tonight, pale monuments and green lawns and maybe somewhere a smiling golden God with wide-open eyes.

*

He puts his arms around her to show her how she can hold the air in her cupped hands like river water. He cups his hands beneath hers to illustrate, bending his head down farther than he has to as he explains so that he can rest his cheek on the top of her head and feel the vibration of her laughter through his ribcage and his enveloping arms. It feels like he's breathing when she
inhales. It feels like it always does, when he's next to Scully.

*

In the tiny kitchen, the faucet drips and the mugs sit neatly upended in the drying rack; the air still smells faintly of mint and vanilla from the tea. There's a fan in the window here, too, clickety blurry blades. They catch the wind; they spin it round; they toss it out.

*

"Mulder," she says urgently, "you've got to be awake for this. I can't ask you unless you're awake."

*

There's no light except the dim glow of the fish tank from the other room. In the dark, her eyes could be any color. But he knows their true, subaqueous blue: he knows looking into them is like opening your eyes underwater and discovering the world all bluegreen and streaked with sun.

*

"I'm awake," he tells her, struggling up on his elbow, peering down at her as she kneels by his bed. "Really." He wonders if she can see him better than he can see her. Maybe the light hits him more clearly; maybe blue eyes see better in the dark. Does eye pigmentation affect night vision? He should ask her; she'll know.

"Mulder," she says, with some exasperation; she can always tell when he's drifting.

"Really," he promises. He tucks a strand of hair behind her ear,
and forgets, somehow, to take his hand away.

*

She takes a deep breath, and then she rises up on her knees and takes his face in her cool hands and kisses him.

*

Soft. Soft as their New Year's kiss. The tremble of her eyelashes against his skin. The curve of her cheek against his palm. Her tongue coaxing his lips open (her skin still burns so soft) and then he is breathing her in he is devouring her he is being swallowed whole his muscles have gone so tight he's shaking but inside he's melted to liquid bright as gold. Is this the question? he thinks dizzily. Say you don't like the answer. Ask me again.

*

Then he opens his eyes. He opens his eyes and falls, falls, falls, all the way under, all the way in.

*

"I'm awake," he breathes, and he pulls her up onto the bed; "I'm awake," and he tries to kiss the hollow below her jaw as softly and tenderly as she kissed him, but he wants her so fiercely and her hands have slipped down to his forearms and she's gripping him hard too, maybe it's okay to hold on now, maybe she's not going to fight him away; "I'm awake," and she's kissing him hot and wet and dark and as shot with light as any dream he's ever had, and he forgets how to think but he says anyway, blindly, "I'm awake," and he slips his hands underneath her shirt and brushes his fingers over her rib cage, has he ever touched her there? the hand to the small of her back, the fingers to her pulse, the embraces that wrapped her whole body around (because she is so small and she was dying or she was dead or she was risen like a miracle he could never deserve but miracles aren't about deserving, Mulder, she'd tell him, miracles are about love; and he'd grasp his miracle with careful hands and think: Yes. Yes, they are), but has he ever laid his hand flat on her rib cage and belly and felt her breath rise and fall under his trembling palm; "I'm awake," as they fumble off his T-shirt and her jacket and her blouse, she's laughing under her breath ("Don't rush, it's tangled, oh, that tickles--"), and "I'm awake," he murmurs into every inch of her skin, a prayer to the smiling god, Please let me be awake, and the god answers against his mouth, her hands tangled in his hair:

"Shhhh. I'm awake, too."

*