Title: A World Flung Open Wide

Rating: T

Summary: Post-ep for ''All Things''. Enlightenment has a kind of intelligence all its own; things stay the same, but somehow everything is altered.

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Nothing at all.

Author's Note: this is the bestest episode in the world...I love it, I love it, I do...so I had to write about it. Please review...I love you all bunches.

For: the Buddha. Thanks for everything.

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She's dreaming of the desert. Somehow, in her dreams, sleep always carries her back there. To a world of ancient sand, golden in sunlight, endless and lonely. And then she is moved along on the waves of the wind to other places, other times. She sees cities and mountains and streets and memories. She feels a sense of belonging, but then she is torn away from it again.

She awakes, there is a cool darkness in the room. She cannot see anything at first, her eyes have not adjusted to the night that has bled in through the windows and stained the whole place an inky black. She feels the bed supporting her back, feels sheets of cotton tangled around her ankles. There is a strange kind of completeness in her veins and all along her skin. As if a missing piece of her body has been returned. She does not feel like herself for a moment.

And then she realizes that this is her, at last. She was missing it, all this time. She's here, awake and alive and in her natural state. She's thinking of the story of the Buddha, who sat beneath a tree until somehow he found all of the answers he had ever searched for and then returned to the village, changed and yet the same. People saw him and stopped him, because he looked so altered and holy; he seemed to glow. And they watched him as he spoke of all the things he now knew and they asked him, ''Are you god?'' and he said ''No'', and they tried again and asked, ''Are you a saint?'' and he said ''No'' again, and the people said, ''Well, what are you, then?'' and the Wise One responded simply, ''I am awake''.

Nirvana did not take him away, it returned him to his most complete self. She has found her Nirvana, she has been awakened, shaken back into glorious life with a greater awareness of all things. Leaning into the covers, she breathes into the darkness, feeling her lungs expand, feeling the rush of air between her lips. She finds herself reaching next to her, entwining her fingers briefly with those of the person sleeping beside her.

And then she lets his fingers fall away from hers, and she raises her hand to touch his face, trace her fingers along the features that she has memorized so well. Last night he said over and over again that he loved her, like it was a mantra. And she wanted to say it back, but she could not; every time her lips began to form the words, they just dissolved into gasps and sighs. But now she's awake, more so than ever before in this quiet darkness, and some fear that she has been carrying has left her; some restlessness has eased. Her mind and spirit seem to be rearranging some things, she feels a shifting taking place inside her soul. She listens to her blood singing through her veins and though she is a doctor, even, she has never really before listened, never really heard how intensely beautiful it sounds to be alive.

She looks at his face, he looks more calm than she has ever seen him; beautiful man dreaming beautiful dreams.

It's becoming early morning, the sky is turning pale with the encroaching light. It is a ghostly, blurry color and it paints sweet grey-blue shadows all over the room, all over the two of them. Soon there may be questions, soon there will have to be words exchanged and spoken, a kind of rationale offered. But whatever they say will bear no weight, it will simply be the necessary script that always needs to be recited after such a thing happens. But it will be said laughingly, almost as if it were a secret joke. ''This can't ever happen again, you know.'' ''Yes, I know, of course, we're partners, etcetera, professionalism, blah blah.'' But it's tired, old repetition that has no bearing.

That's for a different kind of people. Not like them. This isn't anything new. It isn't different. There's nothing to apologize for, it was bound to happen, and it is amazing that it took this long.

This morning is the same as every other morning that ever was, and ever will be again. The sun rises the same, and casts the same intricate shadow patterns on the wall, but she sees them for the first time, and realizes that she never before noticed how lovely they are.

She never knew the sheets were so soft; how sweet it feels as she kicks them off and slips out of bed, and feels the floor beneath her feet. She never knew the cool clarity of morning could be so sensual and deep.

She slips into the bathroom and looks in the mirror; she is exactly the same but she is startled by the face staring back at her, as if she has never seen that woman, never noticed how her eyes are so blue. She turns on the water and gets in the shower. The water falls around her and touches her, dancing along her skin and slipping through her hair. She hears the sound as it falls against the floor of the shower, she hears herself breathing, she hears the steam rising.

Her body feels different, too. She has the same legs, arms, face, everything, but her skin feels softer and more aware of every single sensation, no matter how small. She is sure that she can feel the earth turning, certain that the universe and all its galaxies are living within her somehow. She's divine; everywhere and everything. It's almost like being drunk, except that it works in reverse somehow; rather than her senses being dulled, they are heightened to an incredible point. She tilts her face up into the spray of the shower and it kisses her face like rain, it runs all over her lips and falls from her eyelashes. She loves water suddenly, she feels like there could be so much more in the world for her to discover...the world has been flung open wide, light is pouring in and making everything shine.

And she's humming a song to herself that she hasn't heard in god knows how long, but it's surfacing from the depths of her mind and it is as new as the first time she ever heard it on the radio twenty years before. She puts on her clothes, she combs her hair. It's the same, but it never felt so new or wonderful before, to just exist, to be. She's heard the Zen saying ''before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water, and after enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.''

Enlightenment is not some flash of light; it works more subtly, more beautifully. Enlightenment has a kind of intelligence. Everything stays the same after, but yet not. All things become new, as if they have never before been seen as being as intricate and amazing as they actually are. And miracles exist all around, in the mirrors, on the sidewalks, on the floors. Everything is as it was meant to be, infinite and remarkable.

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And she's left the apartment, she's walking down the hall, still humming that same old song. She's outside in the early morning, the sun is rising and there is something dancing in the air. Things seem alien yet somehow right. ''This is how it's all supposed to be, always forever beautiful and shining, all things alive and humming'' She does something she's never done before as her feet hit the sidewalk, she pauses and extends her arms like wings and spins in a circle like a child until she's dizzy and happy and laughing. Her arms are catching the world as it flies by in a thousand beautiful colors and sounds and she's smiling stupidly; she doesn't even care what comes after because life has greeted her for the very first time this morning.

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She sees him again the next day; is he changed in her eyes or exactly the same? She has no clue; the difference is that when she sees him, she sees. He walks through the door exactly the same, and the office is the same. The chairs are the same. He is wearing the same clothes, but he wears them better, if that is possible. He looks even nicer; his body seems even more perfect. The eyes she fell in love with seven years before are the same, but they are lighter, not so haunted, and there is a little bit of blue mixed in with the green, if she's not mistaken.

And she feels somehow that this is hers. She feels that he is now, somehow, hers forever, more so than before. And she knows that he must feel the same about her. Because now even when they are not physically close, she feels him all around her, feels his lips on her skin and his hands in her hair. Feels their bodies as one body, even though their souls were that way long before he ever touched her, long before he ever even saw her.

He was always hers, and he knows it. This is it; there could never be anything or anyone else that held him as deeply or as completely as she did. He sees her sitting there, his eyes fall over her and their glances lock. It's as if they're back in bed again, with the night falling all around like a protective cover, everything finally safe and alright in the world. No, there isn't anything wrong, and nothing has changed, even though all things are new.