You waited for a long time in the dead host, at the bottom of the sea. These creatures, these bounded things — they need air and saltless water, but the host had none. His flesh grew cold, wanting to decompose. His brain wanted to die. But you wouldn't let it.
You felt me calling.
There were animals in the sea that could have carried you to the surface. You felt the patterns of their warmth as they swam together, and the rapid vibration of their songs. You could have returned to the land, at least, and found another host on the beach. Escaped the stagnancy. But you couldn't touch the water unprotected for more than a few moments and expect to live. The animals of the sea knew better than to come near enough — they felt you too.
It was another human that freed you. They're blind to us somehow, I think. They're the only ones here that you could ever catch. The diver approached. Different warmth, and a slower vibration — that was what tipped you off. His machinery. Impervious to the water, but not to you. There wasn't time to hesitate. You jumped.
One moment of freedom. No boundaries, and cold salt water swirling past and pushing in, trying to divide you. It succeeded, and you lost a little of yourself. Pain, but no time to go back. You were upon him.
Hot. Unbearably hot. The pounding blood of a living host, the friction of his muscles, and after a minute, dropping pressure and the touch of the sun. One moment of insanity: you wanted nothing more than to go back to the cold stasis of the sea. You put the thought firmly aside.
I was still calling.
It was frightening how much control you let these hosts have. You'd had such a savage grip on the dead one that it terrified you to let go, even a little. Tight control wouldn't work; you had to let them use the back parts of their minds. Speaking. Walking. Breathing. Seeing. Those things were beyond the power of your mind alone. The reins needed a light touch.
They chased you. You eluded them. You'd imagined coming straight to me once you'd got past the water, but my voice was strangely directionless. It was with a jolt that you realized it: they'd trapped me too. You needed more information. There were some beacons for you to follow — my knowledge, and their knowledge of me, like burns left on their minds — but it wouldn't be a straight path.
You didn't mind riding in the airplane. The rapid ascent, the changes of pressure, and the false sense of stillness and suspension — they reminded you of how it feels to travel between the stars.
Your host now — he never stopped pushing. Never quite lay still. It was a struggle to hold him. Eventually, he got too tired to fight hard, but before then, you couldn't quite seep all the way in. Couldn't stop him from answering when he was spoken to. You learned the other man's name from hearing it hours before you learned the host's name from sharing his mind.
"Give me the key," Mulder said.
"When we get there," you answered.
You fed the host to keep him walking and breathing. You didn't want to hurt him — you didn't know how long he might be needed.
You put aside your lingering mistrust of the water, and you drank. You felt the water hold you from within, filling all the holes and slimy-slick crevices. It changed its temperature to suit, to blend in. Mirror image of your own existence — the other side. You felt brotherhood with the water, and you were moved.
But even as the water became part of the host, utterly accepting and submissive, it never quite stayed. Never stopped flowing. Slid along the passages, absorbed and filtered, but always made its way out. If you tried to hold the water in, after a while it spoke to you, reminding you to let it out — first gentle, then demanding. Or it meandered along to the surface, the boundary, and took to the air. So easy, as if the transformation were nothing. The air is an existence you will never know.
How sly the water is! I'll carry out your waste for you, it says with its seductive twinge. I'll cool your overheated skin, if you'll just let the air take me up... And it escapes.
You remained. Bounded.
"Krycek." It was Mulder, his voice sharp. "I said I have to make a pit stop. Along here somewhere."
There were no other cars on the road. You pulled over in the weeds. Mulder went down toward the naked trees, by the edge of a lake. You followed him. The sky was gray, and the water was too, reflecting the branches in between. The day was ending, and the mist turned everything blue. Beyond the horizon, you saw the faint orange glow of the city.
On the far side of the water there were animals drinking, sitting on the surface. Their long necks curved sadly, and their calls echoed, short and rough. You looked for their name in the host's memory, even though you didn't need to know it. The host had seen them in the snow, and he'd seen them in the sky, flying in formation. When he was a child, he'd tried to feed one, and it bit his hand. The memory of the serrated ridge in its mouth — the memory of the pain — spilled out unbidden. Canada geese, the animals are called.
You watched Mulder urinate on the base of a tree. The tree accepted it; any water will do. It raised a little cloud of steam — liquid to earth to air without a moment's hesitation. And the rain touched you with light, windblown flecks, making your skin tight and rough.
Truly, this is the water's world, you thought. It walks the whole of the Earth, perfectly mated to every form, every being. And the Earth crumbles beneath its touch: a slow, ages-long swoon.
You took the host and jumped with him into the lake.
And the lake jumped into you, filling eyes and nose and ears and pores. Its touch was endless — no part of you was secret. It held each individual hair on your head.
The lake told you of its existence. A gentle push spoke of geese taking flight from the surface. A ripple spoke of fish, and slower waves of smoothly kicking frogs. The lake warms your foot, speaking of a beaver diving low — a hot visitor from the land. Whatever intrudes, the water always swallows. Infinitely welcoming, yet so forgetful. The water has no memory after the ripple dies.
You came out, and the water collapsed back on itself — you didn't leave a hole. Some of it came with you, clinging. Already, it was making its escape into the air. The cold you felt was its goodbye.
"What the hell's the matter with you," Mulder said.
You didn't answer.
As you stood there, I know you thought about not coming back to me. You had been an individual longer than your host had been alive. Longer than his father had. You'd grown used to the loneliness, to having a blanket of flesh between you and the world. You wondered if you could ever rejoin the whole again, and you were afraid. I know you thought about making your home in that host. I know how you tortured yourself with the thought of betraying me. Betraying yourself.
You got back into the car.
"We're being followed," Mulder said.
You tried to draw back, to give the host enough control to help you escape. The knowledge was there, the muscle memory — it was the only way you could drive the car at all. But he did nothing. He let them run you off the road. He didn't want to save himself.
You walked the rest of the way to the old man's apartment.
The old man looked at you. At you. He didn't see the host. You caught the flash of terrified surprise, instantly smoothed over. He knew you were there.
"Put that down," he breathed. The other one lowered his gun. The old man didn't want to pierce the boundary, to set you loose in the room. He didn't want your host to die. He gave you what you needed.
He was the only one you didn't fool. Not even for a moment.
You came back to me. The only intimacy our kind knows. You followed the tunnel down into the Earth, and this far down, the pressure was not unlike being at the bottom of the sea. This far down, my call was like a scream.
And as the surface tension breaks, there is a moment when we are one, yet still two. I know your story, yet it is not mine. The hinging point. I know your envy of the water.
But that moment passes, and with it the pain of boundedness, the constraint of individuality. The self you'd grown so used to dissipates, never to be reborn. The experience is discarded, but I keep the knowledge — the facts will remain.
Whether or not there is anyone to know it, the water will be there, and it will flow its circles until the end of the Earth.