There is so much blood. Seeping, spreading, fanning out from her delicate ribs. His Scully, his angel, now with crimson wings fluttering across his worn, cold rug. He's always thought of her as divine. He never needed proof.

He moves in slow motion, hovering above her for seconds, minutes, hours; time has no meaning when her life may have just slipped through his fingers. Blood glistens at her throat, wet and fresh and not at all what he imagined tasting the many times he considered his tongue there.

Her gasp sets his heart beating again; the wet blood, when he presses her against his chest, is warm and sticky and exquisitely sweet. He's never felt fingers so desperate, heard sobs so gut-wrenching; he wants nothing more than to consume her, to suck her tears inside his body and erase her pain.

The walls of his apartment will forever be altered, having absorbed her cries. He wonders whether he'll hear them while he's sleeping.

….

Her heart. Her pure, untainted heart. For years, he's thought of it as his. Metaphorically at least. He realizes now how presumptive he's been.

After this long, he would have thought he'd unraveled every last stitch of her. But obviously there are entire rows, entire panels of her afghan that he's never had the pleasure of seeing.

Or that she's never chosen to show him.

Or that he's been too self-consumed to discover on his own.

Padgett knew her. He'd barely met her, but he knew her, well enough to lure her into sipping coffee on his bed. Intimately enough to make love to her, sensually, vividly, within a mound of white pages stacked neatly beside a typewriter.

He'd held his cock in one hand and his gun in the other while he'd read— disgusted, enraged, and so fucking aroused he couldn't see straight. The way Padgett saw her, the way she blossomed across the page in full, vibrant color, made him wonder whether he'd ever actually looked at her at all.

And that scares the shit out of him.

Because she's all he's seen for six years. Her face, her body, her heart— they've filled his field of vision for so long, he doesn't know how to see without her there.

He doesn't know if he wants to.

He wants her burned into his retinas. He wants sole possession of her image, so that no other man can ever look at her again, no other man can see her. No writer can steal her away and worship her and understand her more fully and completely than he'd ever thought possible.

He wants to KNOW her.

The way it seems that Padgett knew her.

….

She's fresh and dewy from the shower, and he'd have no idea how close she'd been to death if he weren't still wearing her blood. It's dried against his chest by now. He likes the tightness of it, likes the physical presence of her attached to his skin.

She's dressed herself in one of his work shirts, the white cotton clinging to spots she failed to dry, and his possessiveness re-emerges with a vengeance. Do you see this, Padgett? MY shirt, MY apartment.

MY Scully.

"I'm sorry, Mulder, but my clothes…," her voice drifts away like the blood still washing down his drain.

"I wish you'd let a doctor look at you, Scully. You lost so much blood…," he immediately regrets his words as her wet eyes find the stain on his rug, the shadowy remains of her so-recent pain.

He'd take the entire carpet to the incinerator right now if she didn't look so lost, so vulnerable, so needy of his grounding. Perhaps the echoes of her sobs are as loud in her own ears as they still are in his.

"He knew, Mulder," she murmurs, sitting on his couch, as far from the pool of blood as possible. He asserts himself directly between, monkey in the middle, flanked on either side by some version of her. Left side death, right side life.

He turns to the right. "Knew what, Scully?"

"Knew ME. Understood things about me. I tried to rationalize it in the beginning, but there was no explanation other than that. He watched me, and he understood me. Simple as that. And it was…," her eyes drop to her lap before glancing to the heating vent and lingering.

"It was what, Scully?"

"It was unnerving," she eyes him briefly before continuing, "But it was also…flattering…, provocative…," her voice is quiet, so quiet he begins to wonder whether he was meant to have heard her at all.

"It disgusts me," she whispers harshly, venom spewing as her fingers clench, "He saw my loneliness, Mulder. He saw it, and he used it. And I allowed it. I was foolish enough to actually be flattered by it. How pathetic is that?" Her venom has dissolved, and he hates the hopelessness that is left in its wake. "He followed me, he stalked me, and I was so desperate for that connection that I barely tried to stop him. I allowed him to delve even deeper, because the sensation of being seen was so alluring. It's been so long, Mulder, since I've really felt seen…"

She's quiet then, and he looks across the couch at her, fingers jumbled in her lap, eyes downturned. He tries not to see the fine china of her thighs against the dark of his couch, the contrast almost too precise and exquisite to bear. "I see you, Scully," he whispers.

"Do you, Mulder? Do you really?" Hope laces her voice, but so does doubt. It hurts that she even needs to ask.

"I'm with you every day, Scully. You're my partner, my friend. Of course I see you," he knows this isn't the right answer, but somewhere along the way, he's lost his guidebook. The path to her heart is not an easy one to navigate.

"Forget it, Mulder," she shakes her head and stands, ready to brush it off until his hand at her wrist stops her.

"Tell me, Scully, tell me how to see you..." He doesn't mean to push, but he senses this chance is fleeting, that his window of opportunity will close all too quickly if he allows her to flee.

Her movements cease, and she allows him to pull her down, allows herself to break, even if just a little. "I need more than that," she utters, glancing at him before looking away, "I need to be seen as more than just a partner, a cohort. I'm more than that, Mulder. I know I'm not forthcoming with my feelings, but they do exist. Behind my hardened shell, they exist…"

Her words begin flooding, faster than she can contain them, "I feel things, Mulder, do you know that? Pain and sorrow and passion and fear. Desperation. Loneliness." He finds himself caught in her surge. She flows through his apartment, rolling across his floor like the tides.

Maybe it will be enough to wash away the blood, he thinks.

"Some days though, I wonder whether my feelings are even valid, when there's nobody there to recognize them, nobody there to nurture them."

The swell subsides, calms, begins to recede.

"I'm a woman, Mulder, a flesh-and-blood woman, and I need someone to see me that way, because even I… even I…," suddenly she's dwindling, turning inside herself like blouse tumbled too long in the dryer. She blinks to keep the tears from flowing, looking to the ceiling, the floor, anywhere but to his face.

"Scully…," he pleads.

She finds his soul, crushing it involuntarily between her fingers, even through held-back tears, "Padgett saw me that way, Mulder. He saw me as a woman, with needs, with desires, with feelings. And as fucked up as it was, that meant something to me. To know someone can actually still see me that way. After everything I've lost, after all I've been through… He called me beautiful, and as trite as that sounds, do you know how good that felt? My God, Mulder, it's been so long, so long since someone has told me that, so long since anyone has looked at me that way…"

It shocks him. That she's crumbled her walls enough to say these things. That she doesn't realize how incredibly, unbelievably wrong she is. How can she think Padgett sees her? How can she think he understands her? When, for six years, he has tucked her inside his heart and coveted her, catalogued her, consumed every fiber of her being while he waits, waits for her to see him, too.

"You're wrong, Scully. You're so wrong," he can't keep the tortured tone from bleeding into his voice, seeping into the air, "I see you as a woman, Scully. I see you so much as a goddamn woman, it devastates me. You take my fucking breath away, Scully. I HAVE to compartmentalize my view of you, I have to pull back and look at you as my partner, my friend, because if I didn't, it would completely overwhelm me, it would absolutely ruin me every damn time I'm in the same room as you."

Her brow is furrowed and her lips parted, and it both saddens and arouses him to see her reaction. She is so fucking beautiful, it slays him.

"Mulder…," even her whisper can make his cock twitch.

"I see you so intensely, I'm blinded by you, Scully," he is a landslide, sliding down her mountain, piling in her valley, begging at her feet. "You're the ONLY thing I see, the only thing I've seen for such a long time, the only WOMAN I'll ever see again," his breaths are confession-ragged. "I see you so deeply, Scully, I ache with it…"

Her tongue wets her lips as she absorbs this, and he barely suppresses a moan. She hasn't looked at him, but there's pink across her cheeks, across her chest, and the desire to touch her is quickly overwhelming him.

"Everything about you reminds me that you're a woman, Scully," he speaks softly, afraid to frighten her away, but desperate to keep going. Now that the floodgates have opened, he's not sure they can be stopped. "Your hands. Do you have any idea how beautiful I find your hands, Scully? They save lives, take down suspects, but they're so delicate, so feminine. They calm me, heal me, comfort me. I adore your hands, Scully…"

Her eyes lift to his, and he sees desire there, sees her breaths coming quick and fast. "Your lips—they're soft, full. Sometimes you bite the lower one, just there in the corner, and it's… well, it's tempting, Scully. You lick them when you're thinking, when you're overwhelmed, when you're intrigued. I don't know whether you realize it or not, but your tongue is a terrible tease, Scully… Padgett may have written beautiful prose about your lips, Scully, but I've spent years observing them."

The air whistles as it sucks through her teeth, and her eyes flutter closed. Her tongue plays in the corners of her mouth, trying it's hardest not to snake out and prove him right. He thinks he can see her trembling.

Heat emanates from her body. As he slides closer, he can feel it, can feel the flicker of her inferno. He thinks of the flames in the incinerator, engulfing the pages of another man's desire for her, and he smiles. Padgett will never be burned by her skin the way he hopes to be.

"And your smell, Scully…," he mutters, invading her space so that his words tickle against her ear, so that she feels them as much as she hears them, "Your smell reminds me that you're a woman most of all. I could live off of your smell, Scully. Your soap, your perfume, whatever it is that makes me want to CONSUME you. And sometimes, Scully, sometimes I can smell beyond the artificial scents. I can smell YOU." His lips brush the shell of her ear, his hand presses into the couch against her bare thigh as he whispers, "And it's enough to make my fucking knees buckle."

He draws her face to look him in the eye, and he murmurs, "I see you as a woman, Scully. Padgett barely scratched the surface. He's never seen you this devastatingly beautiful. He's never seen you the way I see you."

"My God…, Mulder," she chokes, eyes drowsy with desire as she blinks slowly, deliberately, her gaze travelling across his face to land on his lips. She is stunning.

But then the connection is broken, as harshly as a door being slammed in his face, as she turns her cheek from his grip and mumbles, "I should go. I just…I just need to get home." And she's already on her feet, pulling away.

He's momentarily stunned. Then wounded. Anger begins to boil in the dark cavity of his chest.

He's up and blocking her, "Excuse me, Scully? You need to go home?" he tries to control the rage in his voice, but can't help feeling this is turning into yet another gash in the fabric of their relationship— never mended, never acknowledged, just left to drag behind them like the rest of their scraps. "You told me that you needed more. That you needed me to see you as more than just a partner, more than a friend, that you needed someone to see you as a woman. And I just fucking did that! I just proved to you that Padgett isn't the only one who sees you that way! And you're going to turn away from that and leave?"

Eyes closed against his piercing glaze, she turns her face away. "Mulder, I can't do this right now. I don't need your pity, your coddling. I'm a big girl. I was just….emotional because of what's happened here today. I need to go home, Mulder. Please…"

He doesn't allow himself to be pulled under by her pleading voice, doesn't allow himself to be distracted by the enticing shadow between her breasts or the length of smooth, pale legs stretching from beneath his shirt. He only reminds himself that he's done this too many times before. Bared his soul into an empty void, into a box which will be shut the second she walks out that door.

"Do you know something, Scully? Do you know what I think?" He's accusatory, but he wants to be. He wants her to feel accused, guilty, as he towers over her, because he's tired of playing these fucking games. "I think the reason you feel nobody sees you as a whole woman is because you don't WANT them to. You don't want ME to see you as a woman. You don't want to know that I see you that way because it scares the hell out of you. Doesn't it, Scully?"

Her hair is darker while it's damp, and the white cotton drapes gracefully over her shoulders, still clinging against her skin near the edge of her neck. She's turned away from him, but he doesn't care. "It scares you that maybe if you opened yourself up and allowed me to show you how I really see you, you'll feel too stripped down, too raw. But I have news for you, Scully. That's how life fucking works. You expose yourself, and in doing so, yes, you may get hurt, yes, you may be vulnerable, but you also have the potential of making a connection that is infinitely more powerful than just typewritten words on a fucking piece of paper!"

His harsh breaths echo in the stillness of the room, and for a moment, he hears the remnants of her cries from earlier today. But they're not strong enough to drown out the beating of his heart or the thrumming inside his head.

"Mulder, I can't…," she says to the wall. It hurts that she can't even try, that he gave her so much, and she won't even try.

"Forget it, Scully," he scrubs his hands down his face, "Forget it. I'm going to take a shower. I'm still covered in blood. If you want to find some pants to drive home in, I've got sweats in my bottom drawer." And he walks away, stepping over her blood on his floor.

Beneath the doorframe of his bedroom, he has a final thought and turns, "You know, Scully, Padgett said you were already in love. Whether that's right or not, I can't say. But if there's any truth to it, you might want to consider actually letting the guy treat you like a woman, SEE you as a woman. You may find that things work out a little better that way."

There's a click of a lock and the sound of water running as she's left standing, trembling, in the middle of his living room.

….

The water comes close to scalding him as it beats against his shoulders. But he wants it hot, painful. He needs something to focus on besides her body lying on his floor, blood spilled beneath her. He needs the sting to keep his mind away from the irreparable damage he may have just brought upon their relationship.

At least Padgett only made her bleed. What he just did may have gone much deeper than blood.

And yet, he also feels somewhat liberated. His shoulders, though stinging, feel lighter. The words that tumbled from his lips moments ago have been clogged in his throat for months, years, and he finally can breathe. It's a freeing sensation not having anything left to hold inside.

Padgett may have tried to steal her heart, but he's the one washing her blood from his chest.

He stands beneath the spray until it runs cold. He tries not to think of her, driving, hurting, wearing his shirt. He wonders whether it smells of her, if there's any way he can ask her not to wash it before she returns it.

Towel slung around his hips, hands sliding through his hair, he unlocks the door and walks into his bedroom, ready to put this day behind him. He hopes he still has a chance for a tomorrow with her.

….

One, two, three steps in, and his breath is sucked directly from his lungs.

She sits on his bed, glowing, illuminated by the evening sun streaming through the blinds behind her. She is edged in fire, a marble sculpture guilded in the finest, richest gold. While his eyes adjust, he sees only her silhouette, lovely in its own right, until it gives way to soft, pale skin. His shirt fluttering at her sides, buttons undone to reveal breathtaking, glorious Scully.

He breathes her name.

She rises from the bed, moving so slowly, he wonders whether she's even real. In the space between the edges of his shirt, she is supple, pink flesh; she is dark, inviting shadows; she is soft, auburn hair. She is mesmerizing.

Her fingers reach to her neck, tucking beneath the cotton to slide it down, down, down her shoulders, her arms. It whispers as it falls in a soft, billowy cloud at her feet.

"Mulder," she says, "Show me."

He doesn't know what to say. He doesn't know how to speak. He's not sure he even remembers how to breathe. Her body is the most exquisite thing he's ever seen, and she's laying it before him in offering

"Wh…," is the most his strangled throat can manage.

"Show me, Mulder. Show me that you see me as a woman. Touch me like you'd touch a woman." She takes a step forward, and the light catches the perfect curves of her breasts, the soft angles of her hips. He thinks he may die.

There is an uncertainty in her eyes. But there is also passion, desire, and it stuns him. "Scully… Are you sure?" he whispers as she takes the final step, breaking through his bubble, entering his atmosphere.

"Make me sure…," she murmurs.

She rests her hands lightly on the towel at his hips and trails her eyes across his chest before lifting to catch his own.

Her cheeks are soft against his thumbs, her hair smooth as his fingers tunnel through. "Hell yes, Scully," he whispers before capturing her lips with his own. And God, that first kiss is electric. It burns, it sparks, as they open their mouths to each other, as they FEED off one another. He'd never have thought she contained so much heat within her.

Her hands make him ache as they warm across his chest. He'd told her he adored her hands. That was before he understood how they'd feel against his naked flesh. As they work their way into the hair at the base of his skull, his low moan is involuntary.

He can't help pulling her in, pressing against her body, hungry for the sensation of her skin alongside his own. And when her breasts meet his chest, his hips buck roughly into the swell of her belly.

He sucks at her ear, catching strands of her hair between his lips, then mutters, "Do you need more, Scully? Do you need more proof that I see you as a woman?"

"I…I don't know…mmmm…yes….yes," her voice is more a series of gasps than an actual voice, and he delights in the way her neck arches for him, the ways her fingers clutch at the muscles of his back.

Her hand is small and trembling when he encases it within his own. It is hot as fire when he pulls it between their bodies to cup it against his crotch, pressing her fingers into his throbbing cock through the towel. She groans, harshly, unexpectedly, then squeezes as he thrusts into her hold.

"THIS is how I see you, Scully. Not as just a partner, not as just a friend. I see you like THIS."

He doesn't remember her face when she pulled away his towel, or her strident breaths when he pushed her toward the bed, but he does remember the taste of her skin. Like rich, dark chocolate sliding down his throat. Her nipples sweet raspberries, her hipbones sharp, brittle toffee, and her cunt, holy shit, the finest Bavarian cream. He's never consumed a delicacy sweeter than Dana Scully.

His hair is clutched in her fists while her hips undulate, knees draped across his shoulders, ass gripped between his hungry fingers. He wishes his mouth weren't so busy. He wants to seal his lips to hers and swallow her every noise, every curse, every husky moan slipping from her throat.

But not yet, not yet, not until he can witness her losing herself, not until he can feel her burn against his tongue. He has never wanted to make a woman come like this. He is desperate for it.

Her juices run hot and wet down his jaw, collecting in the hollow of his neck. His cock is so hard, it's painful. She trembles, thighs beginning to quake, and arches herself impossibly hard against him. "Mul…Mu…ohhhh…godddddd," her hoarse voice cries, and he grinds his tongue furiously against her.

She bucks once more, deep into his mouth, then stills, her head falling to the side as her mouth opens in a silent, decadent 'O'. He laps at her then, until he has collected all of her sweetness, until she falls limp into the cradle of his hands.

"Padgett sure didn't write that in his book, did he?" he grins, crawling slowly up her body and enveloping her.

"Mulder, I don't think THAT could have been written anywhere," she sighs, still gasping, "That was….my God, that was beyond words. That was indescribable." There is a sheen of sweat glowing across her brow.

"I told you I saw you as a woman, Scully," he murmurs into her neck, kissing, nibbling along her jawline, pressing his tongue against her still-racing pulse. His face hovering above hers, he slides his fingers through her now-dry hair and allows himself to get lost in her wide, wet eyes. "…a fucking incredible woman."

They drown in each other's depths, eyes meeting, souls converging. He's never allowed himself the luxury of falling so deeply inside her. She is boundless. He could lose himself in the pull of her gravity.

Her fingers trace ten delicate lines down his back, then close around the globes of his ass. She thrusts against his readied body and whispers, "Fuck me, Mulder. Please. Fuck me the way he wishes he could have." Her soft thigh feels delicious as he grinds himself against it. "With pleasure," he smiles, then slides himself from her body to stand beside the bed. Her momentarily confused expression is replaced with a startled squeak as he grabs her calves and pulls her harshly to the edge, her rear flush with the angles of his hips, his hard cock bobbing above her curls.

"God…Mulder...," she gasps.

He sets her ankles on his shoulders, then takes himself in hand. She is pink and glistening for him, and he moans at the sight. When he rubs the head of his dick through her folds, her eyes flutter closed and a quiet squeak slips from her throat. Holy shit.

He presses slowly, slowly, agonizingly slowly inside of her. It is utter bliss. Her hands clench in the bedsheets, and the faces she's making are driving him mad—sweet pleasure dipped in bits of pain. He'd be worried he was hurting her if she weren't humming so encouragingly.

Finally he is sheathed completely within her. And it feels fucking amazing. For a moment, he fears actually moving, squeezing his eyes shut in restraint. But then her voice seeps through his haze, her whimper, "My God, Mulder….mooooove…."

He grips her thighs to his chest and he moves. Slowly, in and out. And oh, it is ecstasy feeling her hot flesh surrounding him, gripping him, drawing him back inside like a come-hither crook of a finger. Her hips begin working against him, urging him to speed up, and there's no way he can deny them.

Soon he is slamming into her, crashing his waves against her rocks, fucking her so hard, he sees stars. And she is moaning, gasping, arching her hips to meet him. Her hands are in her hair, her head rocking against the sheets, her breasts quivering with each thrust of his hips. He thinks he can see shockwaves undulating through her body.

And though he knows close to nothing about Padgett, he knows this. There is no fucking way Padgett could ever have felt this way about Scully. About HIS Scully. He couldn't have written words that came even close to describing the amazing feel of her body, the other-worldly sound of her voice, the absolute bottomless depth of his love for her. What Scully and he have is so beyond Padgett's words, there's no comparison. What they share is etched into their souls, and no words on a fucking piece of paper could ever compete with that.

He is so close, he can taste it. And the keening pitch of her moans assures him she is right there on the edge beside him. Slipping his thumb into his mouth, he wets it, then grinds it roughly against her swollen clit. Her back arches completely off the bed and a startled cry bursts from her mouth, and then she is coming, coming, clenching around him, and he can't hold back any longer.

One final thrust, and he joins her, spilling his seed into her body as quickly as her blood spilled across his floor. Warm, sticky life. Padgett took it away from her. He's giving it back.

He falls down onto the bed beside her, knees hanging over the edge, then pulls her to drape on top of him. She is the warmest, sexiest blanket he's ever used. As they lie there, skin sticking, breaths heaving, he traces the outlines of her face, eyebrows, nose, lips, then trails his finger down to her heart.

"My God, Scully, he tried to take your heart. He held it in his fucking hands. Your beautiful, passionate, fiery heart…. I don't think I could have survived without it," he says quietly, kissing her at her temple.

She looks into his eyes, searching him out, then says definitively, "Mulder, you're the only one who holds my heart. You're the only one who's held it for six years. The ONLY one. Padgett may have tried to rip it away, but do you know something?" Her eyes are so determined, so intense; he couldn't look away if he tried, "Mulder, you OWN it." She leans down and presses her lips to his, invades his mouth with her tongue, and shows him just how fiercely he owns her heart.

Later, he'll clean up her blood, he'll wash away the mess, he'll take the rug to the incinerator and burn it. They'll put Padgett and his beautiful, horrendous words behind them.

And they'll show each other just how beyond partners, beyond friends, they can be.

Beyond elegant prose, beyond poetic words, beyond the strokes of a typewriter.

Reality.

He can hardly wait.