"And that says a lot,… a lot, a lot, a lot,… probably more than we should be getting into at this late of an hour...," his sleepy voice seeps through the fissures of my semi-consciousness and mingles there with the bubbling whir of his fish tank. Together, the sounds form a beautiful aria that plays in my head as I begin to drift.

Barely, I sense his hand at my cheek, then his eyes upon me, caressing the contours of my face, the sensation lulling me even more fully to sleep. His hands tuck a blanket around my shoulders, but my dreams have already begun to emerge, and I allow them to wash over me.

...

My eyes are slow to open, but after a moment, I realize I am high above, looking down upon a landscape. I see the two of us, Mulder and myself, floating in the currents of two separate streams. The gentle rhythm of the water is soothing, and we alternately drift and swim, allowing the currents to guide us.

Hovering above, I'm able to look down at the complex landscape of my dreamworld. There are hundreds of waterways, from babbling brooks to flowing streams to one large raging river, intricately entwined and connected. Some break off and dwindle in one direction, while others become tributaries that feed into larger streams in another direction.

I see Mulder from my bird's eye view. He is fast approaching a fork in his little stream and will need to make a decision soon. Which way will he choose? In the middle of the landscape is the largest gushing river, and I can tell that eventually, Mulder's stream will lead him there, if he makes the right choices. I watch him, and grow anxious as I see him come upon the split. He is floundering, fighting against the current, trying to decide. I try calling to him, but no sound emits from my vocal chords. "Mulder, please!" catches in my throat and crumbles to dust instead of reaching him.

Glancing across the landscape, I see myself in another stream, reaching a similar division. Again, only one choice will lead me toward the largest river. Oh God, what if one of us doesn't make the right choice? What if one of us reaches the river and the other chooses a path that dwindles away into nothing? There's no way a single person could manage that river alone- it's far too treacherous. It's far too lonely…

This realization brings me to a panic. My heart pounds as I frantically look back and forth between the two of us down below. Oh, God! We've got to navigate these waters correctly, or we'll never reach each other… We'll be forced into the river alone... God, no! No, I can't do it alone… I can't… Mulder… I need you, Mulder …

...

I wake with a start, Mulder's name upon my lips, escaping in a harsh whisper. I sit up quickly and look around, eventually finding my bearings. The liquid melody of his fish tank trickles into my ears, and I am reminded of something that I can't place. Some watery something just below the surface of my consciousness. The sensation sloshes in my brain for a moment more, then seeps away, out of my awareness as I awake more fully.

Unwrapping myself from the scratchy cocoon of Mulder's blanket, I squint at my watch in the dimness of the room and see that it's well past midnight. I ponder my options as I lie back against the leather of his couch. Driving home is a possibility, but probably not the smartest choice, as tired as I am right now. Which leaves staying here with Mulder as my safest alternative.

He's obviously already gone to the bedroom, even though I know he prefers this well-worn couch on most nights. He probably also prefers this blanket that's currently rumpled in my lap. For reasons I can't quite name, I bring the blanket back up to my shoulders for a moment and snuggle in, basking in the intimate nature of the piece of fabric. I remember our conversation from earlier, about choices and pathways and fate.

What if it's all true? What if there really is only one right choice? Have Mulder and I already come to the end of our journey, or do we have more yet to travel? The complexity of it all swims in my head until I shake it out, almost witnessing the splashes against the wall of every decision I've ever made.

Allowing the blanket to slide to the floor, I resolve that I'm through with making decisions for the night. They leave too much room for error. I just want to be, to exist, to let fate take its course. As if in a dream, I stand and walk numbly towards Mulder's bedroom, not thinking anymore. Reaching the doorway, I stop and look in at his sleeping form on the bed. My breath catches in my throat as a wave of tenderness engulfs me, and I sway against the doorframe for a moment.

I ignore the questions bombarding my brain, and just act.

Seeing Mulder's discarded clothing draped on a chair, I walk toward it and slide out of my own clothing as well. Standing nude in Mulder's bedroom is an exhilarating sensation, and I allow myself to experience the freeness of it. My skin feels alive, and as tired as I am, my brain feels alive right now, too. It feels alive and tingling with effervescence, uninhibited by pressure to make the right choices.

I reach across the chair for a T-shirt of Mulder's, abandoned there at some point, and slip it over my head to wear as nightclothes. As it slides across my face, the smell of him envelops me, and I'm surprised to feel myself become wet between my legs.

Don't think, I remind myself. Just be. You've come thus far with Mulder, and the past few days have done nothing if not remind you that you're happy with that path. So don't think, just close your eyes and keep going.

I close my eyes and take a step toward the bed, feeling as though I've crossed some invisible line, some deep ravine of uncertainty. Then I take another step, and another, until my knees bump the hard edge and I know I've reached my destination. Opening my eyes, I draw back the covers of the unoccupied side and gingerly climb in, lying on my back and holding my breath at this uncharted territory. I lie still, unsure whether I want him to awaken or not.

Listening to the steadiness of our breaths, I begin to relax. His deep, even cadence convinces me of his continued unconsciousness.

I am mistaken however, for after a moment, his gravelly voice tumbles across the pillow toward me.

"Hi," he breathes softly against the silence.

I turn my face toward him. He's lying on his side, looking at me.

I roll so that I'm facing him as well, then whisper, "Hi," back into the night at him.

His eyes travel down my torso. "Nice pajamas," he murmurs with a grin.

"Umm, yeah," I stutter quietly, looking away, "well, um, I didn't bring anything to sleep in, obviously. I hope you don't mind." Why do I feel like I've just been caught with my hand in the cookie jar?

He reaches across and fingers the sleeve of the shirt. "Mind?" he asks, then continues just as softly, "Scully, you can wear my clothing any time you'd like. In fact, I'd encourage it highly."

"I'll keep that in mind…," I whisper back, knowing if I speak any louder, I will somehow break the fragile bubble that surrounds us.

We lie still, breathing evenly and swimming in each other's eyes. In his, I can see my reflection, even in the dim light of the room. His eyes are liquid and wet, and I see myself floating, drifting in a stream inside them. I wonder if he sees the same in mine?

Breaking the silence, he murmurs, "I had a dream. While you were asleep on the couch. I dreamed of the two of us floating in a river together, holding hands while we drifted. It was such a beautiful dream, Scully…"

His words burrow deep inside me, tugging hard at something I feel as though I should be remembering. I can feel my brow furrow as I try to make sense of it. His imagery is lovely, yet I feel the need to ask, "What did we do when the river was too rough, Mulder?"

He reaches out with one hand and takes mine inside. "We held each other tighter. I could never let you go, Scully. Never…" As he speaks, his hand squeezes mine gently, and I feel the sting of tears in my eyes at his words. Then he pulls my hand across to cup his stubbled cheek and closes his eyes, brushing his roughness against my softness before turning and placing a kiss in my palm.

My breath hitches slightly at the unexpected contact, but I quickly recover and allow my hand to drop back to the sheet. We look at each other for a moment longer before he says, "C'mere, Scully…"

And he's pulling me closer and rolling me so that my body is spooned against his, my back pressed fully against his front.

"Mulder!" is my surprised gasp as he drapes himself around me, tucking his knees behind my own and wrapping an arm across my abdomen, his hand nestled between my waist and the sheet. He snuggles even closer still, and nuzzles his nose into the hair at my neck.

I'm having trouble controlling my breathing when he murmurs softly against my ear, "I would hold you so tight, Scully, so tight…"

"I know you would, Mulder…," I whisper shakily.

And then I feel his lips, pressed against my sensitive neck, below my ear. They linger for a moment, then slide another millimeter and press again, and again. And then they're gone, and I'm already aching at their absence as he whispers, "Go to sleep, Scully. I'll be here, holding on…"

Sleep. Can I possibly sleep? When the skin on my neck is buzzing and thirsting for more of his touch? His lips, so soft against me… how can his body be so hard, yet his lips be so soft? How long has it been since I've been surrounded like this by a man? Was Daniel the last?

The thought of Daniel reminds me of what has brought me here tonight. Choices. Decisions. Fate. I've made my choice- I choose Mulder. I think I chose Mulder long ago, but my journey of the last few days has confirmed it for me. And the feel of his body against my own, his breath whispering through my hair, the lingering warmth from his lips upon my neck, all make me believe that Mulder has chosen me as well.

But in what capacity?

Of this I am still unsure. Unsure of Mulder's intentions, and unsure of my own as well.

As I lie with him, the steady, rhythmic wave of our combined breaths begins to work its magic. Much as I believed I was too stimulated to actually sleep, I find myself lulled by the enveloping sensation of his body against mine, and I once again surrender to my dreams.

...

The water soothes me as I float. I somehow sense there is a path I should be following within this tangled web of waterways, and every time I'm forced to choose a direction, I fear that I'm choosing wrongly.

But right now, somehow I feel comforted, as if the water that swirls around me is assuring me of my choices. I relax and bask in the gentle rhythm of the current. In and out, around and around, under and over, I bob with the water. I feel safe and nurtured and unworried.

Ahead though, I sense another fork in the stream, as I can feel the water begin churning beneath my body. Knowing that I will soon be forced to make another decision, I look and see that my small stream is soon going to merge with a giant, rushing river to the left. And to the right, it follows another path, meeting again with another smaller stream.

Before I can begin to think, I hear something. Someone. Calling my name.

"Scullaaay! Scullaay!" The voice grips my heart and squeezes. Mulder!

I look to the left and see him in the river, frantically waving for me. "Mulder!" I cry out to him.

"Scully! Veer left, Scully!" I can barely hear him over the rushing wet sound of the river. "I'll hold you, Scully! I'll hold you! I'll never let you go…!"

Oh God, what should I do? I struggle against the water. It wants to pull me with it, out into the river, but I'm not sure….

"Mulder, I don't know…! I…I just don't know…!" I cry, helplessly.

"Please, Scully….please!" he pleads with me, "I can't do this alone! I need you with me!" My heart bleeds at the desperation in his voice.

My God, which is the right choice? A turbulent, raging river with Mulder holding me tight? Or a safe, gentle stream alone? I don't know! God, I don't know! What if I don't make the right decision?

Don't think, I remind my dream self. Just be. Just close your eyes and keep going.

And so I close my eyes and stop struggling. I let the water take me. It tosses me and turns me as the current grows stronger, pulling me with it. Pulling me with wet, slippery fingers out into the river. I throw my arms wide and let them drag through the water, and don't open my eyes again until I feel Mulder's fingers clasp tightly around my own.

...

I wake to the feeling of the river running through my hair, soothing and sensual. It slides over my scalp again and again, a carnal caress stirring me into awareness. I smile at the sensation, wanting it to last and last.

Warm moisture on my neck tickles me further awake, and I open my eyes, momentarily confused to see not the river, but Mulder's dim bedroom surrounding me. My breath catches as I realize that Mulder's fingers are stroking through my hair, not the river water, and Mulder's lips are on my neck, kissing and sliding along my sensitive skin, as they were before I fell asleep.

This time is different though. I can sense his fervor, his passion. It seeps through my skin and feeds me, travels through my veins and settles at my core. He is a furnace pressed against my back, warm and hard and buzzing.

His hand pushes my hair aside to expose my nape, and I first feel his lips there, then his tongue, hot and slithering, running along my hairline. I swallow the moan that tries to escape, not wanting him to realize I've awoken. Why? Because he might stop… Because I might be forced to tell him to stop, to make that decision, make that choice…

My ruminations cease as his hand starts to move. Trickling from my hair to my neck to my shoulder, down my arm and along the side of my torso, over my hip and to my thigh, then back up, pushing aside the Tshirt to settle underneath. Lithe and pliable, conforming to the skin on my hip and burning me with its heat. Oh God, his touch upon my bare skin… I've never imagined it could be so divine.

His mouth has insinuated itself beneath the neckline of the shirt and is now feasting on my clavicle, his lips and tongue and teeth collaborating to make me dizzy. Much as I want my awareness to remain hidden, I can't control the arch of my neck or the whimper that chokes from my lips. I want this.., I want this so much.

"God….Scully…," he gasps, "I'm sorry …, but I just couldn't…, I couldn't lie here with you and not touch you…, please…, God…, I want you so much, Scully…"

Knowing I'm awake, he's kissing me frantically now, along my neck, under my jawline, at my temples, anywhere he can reach from his difficult angle. And it feels…my God… it feels unbelievable.

"Mulder…," my voice is a cross between a whisper and a whimper, but it's all I can manage at the moment. Whether it's dissent or assent, I'm still unsure, but at the very least, it's acknowledgement.

"Scully, tell me to stop…. please…, tell me to stop if you don't want this…," he pleads with me, sounding as desperate as I feel. His hand has begun gripping my hip, squeezing and massaging, and I'm breathless and wet at the thought of where it may go next.

I don't want him to stop. I don't. I don't know if this is the right choice or not, but God, I don't want him to stop.

"Touch me, Mulder…," I whisper, closing my eyes in both fear and anticipation.

His groan comes from deep inside the well of his abdomen as he stretches to find my lips. He wastes no time in capturing them and possessing them wholly, and I moan as well, in disbelief that I can finally taste him for more than just a few seconds. His tongue plunders my mouth, and I savor the sweetness of it as I suck him in.

Under the shirt, his hand slides across my hip to my belly, and my muscles twitch in response to his feather-light touch. His fingers stroke my quivering skin again and again as I sigh into his mouth. The sensation is so foreign, yet also so familiar. Mulder doesn't touch me like this- he doesn't caress me so intimately, nor does he coax gasps and moans from my mouth. Yet at the same time, we are already so entangled that none of this seems new.

"You're so soft, Scully….," he murmurs against my mouth, "God,…so soft…, softer than I'd ever imagined…."

And even in my uncertainty, I'm beginning to feel a frenzy wash over me. Seven years of dipping my toes in the water has made me yearn for the deep, cool sensation of slipping beneath the surface. I can't control myself as I whimper and shift my body beneath his hands. He's pure liquid, sluicing over my skin and seeping in until he is completely absorbed within me.

His fingers travel further, until they've reached the underside of my left breast. They linger for a moment, brushing against the soft curve. Tentative, yet confident, as if they belong there. And they do, they've belonged there for seven aching years. God, I want his touch so badly.

At last, he gently cups my flesh, kneading and caressing as I groan and arch into his hand, not being able to hide my ecstasy at his touch. I've waited so long, so long for him to touch me…

My own hands cannot remain idle any longer, and I roll to my back beneath him so that I can slide them into his hair and clutch his lips against my own. We explore each other fully, allowing our lips and tongues to say what our vocal chords cannot.

His fingers are still probing, pressed between our bodies beneath the shirt, and at last they find my nipple, and gently roll and pinch it into a hard nub. "Jesus… Mulder…," I breathe, as I bite my lower lip and writhe beneath him. My God, but he has reduced me to a needy, quivering mess.

Soon, his mouth leaves my own and travels a wet path down my neck, down my chest to my belly, where the shirt has bunched around my waist. Using both hands to slowly slide it up, he bares my abdomen inch by inch. His busy lips following the path of his hands, my skin ignites as he kisses his way back up my body.

Worshipped, I feel absolutely worshipped as his mouth flows over me like molasses, slow and sticky and sweet. I watch him, holding my breath and trembling, for I know that my breasts will be next in his slow reveal, and the thought of his mouth upon my breasts is more than I can comprehend in this moment.

Looking up, his eyes capture mine, and I am mesmerized by the intensity I see within him. The way he looks at me, as though I am the sole axis around which his entire world revolves, is almost too much to grasp. But, while a bit disconcerting, it's also quite exhilarating being the object of such passion.

He sits up and pulls at the shirt, sliding it over my head, his eyes never leaving mine. Our breaths come in shallow pants, and I feel us both spinning, revolving around the other, until he finally breaks eye contact to look down upon me. He reaches lower to push aside the bedding that hid my lower body, then kneels still beside me.

His eyes caress my skin. I can literally feel their weight upon my flesh, and it's unlike anything I've ever felt before. God, it is intoxicating, seeing him look at me. My body tingles and swells, aching to feel him against it. He tickles his fingers up my thigh and across my belly, making me shift and catch my breath.

"Mulder…," I whisper, desperate.

"Scully, my God…," his voice is husky and rough, "I've wanted this for so long…,"as he speaks, he takes my hand and kisses it, holding it against his lips and continuing, "I've imagined you for so long…. I just never fathomed… God,Scully,… how the hell can you be so beautiful…?"

I feel the tears welling in my eyes at his words, as he leans over and presses his mouth in the valley between my breasts, sliding his lips across my skin. He takes a breast in each hand and kisses their inner curves so lovingly. "You are just absolutely breathtaking…," he murmurs against them.

And then his lips find my nipple, and I am gone, utterly and absolutely. "Oh my God!" I exhale, as my eyes close in pleasure and I arch eagerly against his mouth. I can't help but grip his head to me as his tongue works, sucking and licking and driving me mad. His fingers splay against my left breast, and are just as successful with their fondling as his mouth is on the right.

Oh God, oh God, oh God… How long have I wanted this? Would it be unthinkable to say I've wanted it forever? Mulder…, his hands, his mouth, his…everything…, God, what this man does to me…. And yet… and yet, why am I still so unsure? Why are there still questions in my mind? Why….

But my questions are forgotten quickly, as I suddenly feel Mulder's hand in the place I want it most. I'd been so focused on my thoughts that I hadn't felt his hand drifting, drifting down the river of my body to the restless, aching rapids of my core. His fingers slide through my damp curls, and I hear myself gasp in anticipation.

Then slowly, ever so slowly, his middle finger pressed against me, they slip further. Further still, until the pressure of that middle finger brushes barely against my throbbing clit, and I buck against him, sobbing his name. Jesus, just this first touch of his could bring me to orgasm if I were to let it. His hand cups me and presses against the wet clay of my sex, molding and shaping me as I writhe and toss beneath him.

At my cry, he moans as well, a beautiful, rumbling sound vibrating against my breast. He grinds his hips against my thigh, and for the first time, I feel the hard evidence of his arousal through his thin boxers. God, I want him so much. I react with a flood of wetness, flowing against his hand.

"Scully…, God…," he rasps, "You're so wet… my God, Scully…"

I pull at his head, pulling him up to my mouth so that I too can express my desire for him, with lips and tongues and suction and saliva. With my hands, I grip at his shoulders- God, the feel of his bare skin filling my hands- then slide them down slowly against his back, trying to memorize the hills and valleys of his muscles. When I reach that lowest valley, the dip at the base of his spine, I continue further, underneath his boxers until I feel the smooth, hot silk of his ass. And then I thrust myself against him, drawing our bodies together in the most intimate way.

And we both groan, our sounds of passion joining and colliding inside the shared cavern of our mouths. Of all the words and sounds that have been uttered between us through the years, none have undone me the way these tonight have. I'm desperate, absolutely desperate for him right now.

He obviously feels the same, for he reaches between us and frantically pulls away the cloth barrier of his boxers. He hovers above me, his graveled voice pleading, "I need you, Scully…., please…, please, Scully…, please let me fuck you, Scully…"

So many thoughts are swimming in my head, I can barely focus. But the one rising fastest to the surface is how desperately I want him right now. Right or wrong choice be damned, Jesus, I just want him so badly right now, so badly it hurts.

I try to say it, "I want… I want….," gasps from my mouth. But the feel of him, hard and nudging against my wet flesh, is overtaking me so completely that I cannot complete my thought.

But it doesn't matter, for he knows and has already begun to push his way in. My hands and his collide as we both reach between us to better guide him, and then he is there, inside. Inside my body, inside my life, inside my soul.

"Muuuulderrrrr," escapes in a drawn-out moan from deep within me, as I feel every inch of him slowly bump and slide against my inner walls. He groans as well, a primal sound enveloping the room with his need.

When I am completely full, fuller than I've ever known was possible, he leans down, resting his forehead against my shoulder, his breath coming in short pants. "Scully, my God….," he whispers, "Never…. I never thought…. I never thought it could feel this good…."

I turn my head to press my lips against his temple, then murmur, "It's divine...you're divine…."

And I engulf his back with my arms, and enfold his pelvis with my legs, and I clutch him as closely to me as I'm able. And it still doesn't feel close enough. But it feels sublime. And he moves. And moves again. And it feels more than sublime. And I suddenly can't recall our reasons for waiting this long to do something so marvelous.

Because this feels so, so right, so absolutely perfect. It's been so long since I've had a man in my bed, I'd forgotten what this was like. The slippery sensation of heated skin, the musky odor of a man's neck against my nose, the wet slap of bodies coming together again and again and again…

And experiencing these things with Mulder intensifies them all tenfold. Jesus, every brush, every thrust, every caress is magnified with him. And the sounds he makes...

He's gorging himself on my skin, suckling my neck, licking my jaw, sampling my earlobe as he breathes my name, "Scully, Scully, Scully," with every rock of his body. My God, the way he says my name… As prayer, as worship, as benediction. I am unworthy of his adoration, yet I drink it in liberally.

My hands will never gain their fill of his flesh. With every swipe across his shoulder or palmful of his ass, they grow hungrier and hungrier to touch and feel every square inch of him.

My entire body is vibrating with longing for him. I realize my moans are filling the room, but I cannot stop. I am so turned on by him that I cannot even control the noises coming from my own body.

I'm awed by how in sync we are, even from the very beginning. With every thrust of his hips, my own rock back against him with glorious precision until we are ensconced in a pulsing cocoon that is throbbing and undulating with our passion.

"Mulder…, my God…, so… good…," I groan into the humid air of his neck between thrusts.

Closer, closer, I want him as close as possible. Can he ever be close enough? Even as our bodies heave in counterpoint, I grip him to me, craving the connection of his skin against my own, needing it, requiring it.

"Scully," he sobs, "God, I adore you….,you're everything…., everything…," and he pounds into me at a pace that I cannot match, so desperately that I fall limp and sag and just allow him to take me.

And then it begins. I am floating, drifting. The roaring sound of the river muffles behind my ears, and the water bubbles beneath me, sucking Mulder's body further, further within my own. I hear him fiercely call my name, and my eyes close as all my sensation focuses keenly on the churning torrent at my core. Oh God, oh God, oh God, I can feel the rapids increasing; I am rising and falling, pulsing and trembling. I'm about to lose control…

In my frenzy, I hear Mulder's voice, seeping through the cracks, "Let go, Scully…, come for me, baby…, I'm holding you… I'll never let you go…"

And I release my hold. I release it all and I fall, tumbling over the edge of a waterfall, rolling and plunging through the turbulent waters, breaking apart, then coming back together, held fast in Mulder's arms through it all, until I wash up on the rocky shore, gasping with heaving breaths as he strokes the wet hair from my face and completes me with his kisses.

...

My eyes open slowly, unfocused and blurry, then clear as I lie surrounded in Mulder's arms while he nuzzles and snuggles against me. My breathing has slowed from gasps back down to its calm, steady norm, and I try to take it all in, to savor the life-shattering connection that has just occurred between us. But unfortunately, my mind takes no comfort in the physical satisfaction I've experienced, and has already begun to swirl. Panic, terror, and anxiety all begin flooding in, in spite of the dams I am frantically trying to erect to hold them back.

I lie stiff and still, despite Mulder's caresses, unsure of how my body should move at a time like this, a time of such complete and utter perplexity at what we've just done. Before long, things become awkward as Mulder notices my lack of participation in our post-coital embrace, and he turns my face gently toward him.

His eyes search out my own, but I twist away before they can be found. I can't explain my need to hide in this moment, just that the need is there, undeniably. While moments ago, he couldn't be close enough, suddenly he is too close. His lips paint across my face, but he is smothering me, torturing me, and I have to move away.

"Wha… Scully, what's wrong?" his confused voice questions. His hand strokes through my hair as he rises slightly behind me.

"Nothing, Mulder…., I'm fine," I evade, not ready to expose him to my turmoil just yet. I try to sound convincing, though I know he'll see through my lies.

I inwardly cringe at the desperation in his voice as he pleads with me, "Scully…, please…."

It pains me to know that I'm hurting him with my sudden withdrawal, so I do my best to muster some strength to appease him. Turning back to face him, I cup his rough cheek in my hand.

"I just… I just need some time to process all this, Mulder. Don't worry…," I try to sound reassuring for him, though the words do nothing to calm my own apprehension. But the concern on his face eases, so at least I've been able to convince one of us.

He slides back down to lie next to me, draping his arm across my waist as he settles in. "Sure, Scully," he murmurs sleepily into my hair, "Take some time, take all the time that you need…" And his fingers trace a languid, sleepy pattern on my belly as I sternly admonish myself not to tense under his touch. Slowly, his body relaxes against me, his muscles softening and his breaths evening out into the gentle, balanced cadence of sleep.

And I lie beside him, wide awake, my mind awash with reasons why we cannot do this.

My God, what have I done? I knew the possibilities, the potential consequences of undressing and climbing into Mulder's bed. While my intentions weren't overt, I certainly knew where things could lead. And lead they did. Jesus, that was the most intense, most amazing sex I've ever had. I've never lost myself so completely like that with a man.

Which is precisely why I'm so terrified. I can't. I just can't. I can't allow myself to surrender like that. I can already feel myself suffocating under the weight of the intimacy. I need control over my life, control over myself. Mulder already has such dominance in my life, I can't relinquish any more. As pleasurable as it would be, I'm just not ready for him yet. Maybe in the future, but not now. Not now.

Ours is a consummation that's been seven years in the making. Seven years of treading water, of swimming just beyond reach of one another, of allowing toes and fingers to brush lightly beneath the surface, but of never allowing the current to pull us completely together. And maybe trying to delay it was foolish. Water and currents are powerful forces to divert. But there were reasons why we hesitated, why I hesitated.

An hour ago, I'd lost sight of those reasons, so sure of my epiphany, uninhibited by choices and decisions, just giving myself over to fate. And I have to admit it felt good. It felt delicious and unfettered and freeing. I was fooling myself though. I got caught up in the romance and emotion, allowing myself to lose touch with who I really am.

I am methodical, practical, unemotional. These are traits that are imbedded in my makeup, for better or for worse. I'm inadequate dealing with the sticky, chaotic, all-encompassing confusion that a relationship would bring upon me. Most especially a relationship with Mulder, who specializes in all-encompassing intensity.

I'm sorry, Mulder. I'm so sorry. I'm sorry for my fears, I'm sorry for my inadequacies. And I'm sorry for the pain I know this will cause you.

I look over at him, sleeping peacefully, and smooth my fingers through the hair at his temple. "I'm sorry, Mulder," I whisper.

And then, carefully, I slip out from under his arm and slide off the bed. He shifts, then settles back into his slumber as I cross the room to collect my clothing. I fight against the current as I swim away, swim far away from my anxiety, far away from my fears. Then I step into the bathroom and quietly close the door behind me.

...

We lie on the rocky bank of the river, the rushing thunder of the waterfall still roaring in our ears. Exhausted from our turbulent journey through the rapids and down the falls, we drift in and out of consciousness. Mulder still grips me in his arms, holding onto me just as he'd promised. But even with the reassurance of his strong arms, his ever-present devotion, I'm still afraid. The waters were rough, they were perilous, they were overwhelming. They were too much for me to bear. I can't handle their unpredictability, their chaos, their unfiltered emotion.

I look in the distance, and not too far ahead, a small stream meanders away from the raging river. I feel its pull, its whisper of simplicity, its assurance of calm. And I go. I allow the stream to romance me with its promises, and I go. And I float easily away, pretending to myself that I never wanted the excitement of the river in the first place.

...

We never speak of that night. Sometimes I can even convince myself that it never happened. But then Mulder touches me, or whispers against my ear, or allows his eyes to linger a little too long in the depths of my own, and I am reminded, transported back to his bed and to those forbidden sensations, and back to that rolling, impassioned river. And the swirling water beckons me, enticing me to come back and play.

But I resist. I am strong, and I resist. I resist until I lie in a hospital bed after another fateful trip to Oregon. I lie in shock at the news I have just learned, and at last, I can resist no longer. I give in. I welcome back the river, the chaos, the emotions. The messiness and the uncertainty. I welcome them back with open arms, begging them to stay and surround me.

Only now it is too late. The river is gone. It's dry and dusty and empty. And with it, Mulder is gone as well. And even as I long for him to hold me while we navigate through the churning, wild waters, the opportunity no longer exists.

He is gone.