Title: Beautiful
Author: Gauri
Rating: R
Keywords: Romance, Angst
Characters: William Mulder
Spoilers: Seasons 8 and 9

Summary: Post-colonization: What a view. What a drop. William Mulder, at the age of nineteen, must come to terms with his place in the world after the colonization.

Fuck, she was high up.

The penthouse balcony afforded a sight of the city that no other place of such decadence could boast. From here, the entire plan of Washington DC was laid bare, and night had left the entire scene lit up like Venice during Carnival: fountains were colored; the faces of those long dead were silhouetted by lone spotlights. Up here, the breeze was light and cool, and Kate was able to accurately approximate the distance from her place soldered on the iron wrought banister to the center of the busy intersection below. It was about 150 feet.

The balcony was also perfect hideout for someone trying to escape the stifling sensation of loneliness that overtook her in large crowds such as these. Parties allowed Kate to see just how many people she did not know in the world, that she had cut herself off from, and while the separation did not affect her now as horribly as it did upon its onset, it still dug into her side from time to time.

She turned from her downward contemplations back to the French doors that led into the penthouse, sliding her arms out to support her body against the guardrail. The scene inside was the picture of Roman debauchery, decorated with reds, golds, and oranges, replete with chocolate fountains, spreads of fruit and breads, and the ubiquitous champagne flutes that servers spread around the room like disease.

How very ironic.

Two of the infected men stumbled out into the balcony with their flutes in hand. They were shaking with laughter, threatening to spill their drinks across their beautiful suits.

"My God, Dana Scully is a genius," the first one commented, taking his spot by the rail and looking out into the city.

The second one snorted. "She's had a lot of help. God knows that no one thinks of those things by themselves." He paused and took a drag of champagne, then eyed his friend. "Fuck, an antidote to the Black Cancer was known years and years ago, probably before she had even shacked up with Mulder."

"Yeah, but she took that knowledge and did something with it. Saved everyone. Saved your scrawny ass," he cajoled, slapping his friend hard on the shoulder. "No matter how much help she got on that one, you can't take the glory away from her."

"As if she wants glory," the second stated, before taking another swig of his champagne. "My God, late fifties and she still looks like a fox."

"Kate Doggett?"

She turned, her head of curls escaping their loose prison, her caramel dress scraping against the metal. A young captain had addressed her, perhaps twenty five years to her seventeen, and he gave her a warm smile that she assumed was usually only brought out at bars and press conferences. Handsome enough. He held out his hand.

"I don't believe we've met. Captain Fairchild."

She bowed her head and admired his honors and his handshake appropriately. He smiled and bestowed a fitting thanks, and Kate turned from his countenance out to the city. What a view. What a drop. "Actually, I wanted to ask you about the design on the back of your dress," Fairchild stated, handing her a flute of champagne he had taken from a waiter, brushing over her hand too much in the exchange. "It's very interesting."

Among the rich golds and reds inside stirred a trio of older men strutting purposelessly away from sweet Nihls, cloaking a fourth person within them. Her eyes glanced up for a moment and then returned to her companion. "It's, umm, actually a tattoo," she explained with a demure sip of her champagne. "Dress blends with my skin, I guess. Been getting too much sun."

The captain raised his eyebrows, surprised. "In that case, it's very well done," he complimented uncertainly. He paused, as if unsure how to continue, trying to stare as gentlemanly as possible at the blue, four armed being etched into her skin. His mouth hung open for a moment, working out how to respond, before finally settling on a simple "What is it?"

The older men inside finally parted around the fruit canopy to reveal a young man, nineteen years old. Will Mulder was laughing with them, she noticed. All the red was gone from his eyes, and his countenance betrayed nothing to those who worshipped his DNA, his body, and his charming smile.

"Shiva," she said simply to the captain, and with a simpering smile excused herself.

Her parents had broken down and bought a trampoline for her eleventh birthday. They rationalized it by saying what good exercise it was, what fun it would be for her in the backyard when she had friends over. They never once admitted to themselves that they were indulging her just a bit, celebrating her existence after the loss of so many four years before, during the colonization attempt.

The only person that jumped on it besides herself was Will. When he and his parents would come to visit, the four adults came and sat in the dining room and the two children went outside to play one-two-three on the trampoline. One bounce, two bounces, three bounces, and then they would land on their rear ends and see who would bounce the highest. Because Will was thirteen years old and a good twenty pounds heavier than Kate was, she always flew up the highest, and Will would eventually get frustrated with the game that physics had dictated he couldn't win.

Eventually, they would both tire and lay on the trampoline, closing their eyes against the sun. They would then, despite their best intentions, somehow always revert back to their favorite game, "This or That". What would you do; this action or that action? Kiss a monkey or chase a cheetah? Sometimes they got Shannon McMahon, Will's self-appointed protector when he was outside of the Compound, to play along, but her choices were always a little too strange, and eventually they would opt to play ball instead of "This or That".

"This or That" turned into "Dogs or Peter Poiter", referring to Will's infamous question to a thirteen-year-old Kate concerning who she would rather have sex with. In its final evolution, "This or That" became "Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n Roll", where the choices could only consist of the subjects of musical bands, drugs, or fellatio.

The subject of sexual intercourse lost its luster after they lost their virginity to each other, and fellatio was dropped off the list.

Eventually, they outgrew the game entirely.

But during a hot August day when Mulder and Scully had come to spend the day at the Doggetts' home, nineteen year old William Mulder leaned across the glass table out on the patio, set his drink aside, and looked mischievously into her eyes. "Let's play a game," he stated, with a smile that would send most women insane with passion.

"Metallica or Jimmi Hendrix?" she countered quickly, arranging her bohemian skirt over her tanned legs, meeting her blue eyes with his hazel and turning up the corners of her mouth slightly.

"Rufus Wainwright."

"Not a choice."

"Better than the two you chose."

"Better than Jimmi Hendrix?" Kate guffawed in mock indignation.

"Besides, you're supposed to suffer with the two you're given. That's the rule."

"Wow, you were born about one hundred seventy years too late. Joseph Smith would have loved you as his right hand man."

She bowed her head, trying to cover up the hurt. Cracked her knuckles. Took a swig of her lemonade. She didn't remember when she had become so sensitive to his gibing.

He stared at her for a moment, then bowed his own head, studying his shoes intently. "Pork or Steak," he said finally, looking up intently at her features.

She shot him an exasperated, warm look, shaking her head. "Whatever happened to being tofu friendly?"

"I thought we were suffering with the choices we were given."

"Within reason."

"Ah..." he drawled, then flashed her that smile again. He snaked his hand under the table to capture her knee in his large hands and caress it softly. She turned the corners of the mouth up to him, lukewarm.

The silence between them was loud.

After a moment of the stupefying quietus, she noted that the television inside was on; Kate could hear the report that was being broadcasted. "...reporting live from the Compound. Over the next few days expect there to be even more traffic around here than usual; it seems that the scientists under the wing of Doctor Dana Scully are prepared to announce the findings of their five year research study on finding a vaccine for the Black Cancer virus. This long awaited media event has brought pilgrims from all over the world, right here, to Washington DC.

"'We thought it was a phenomenal breakthrough when our team of scientists managed to recreate the antidote for those suffering from the virus. Finding that Dana Scully had been inoculating people for years also helped our morale a bit. But, umm, I believe that this finding, a mass vaccine that can be made available to everyone, will be, umm, a great improvement to our standard of living. And of course, we all have William Mulder to thank for it.'

"In other news, ten men and women found teetering atop the Golden Gate Bridge have been identified as Members and have been taken to the Compound for proper psychological..."

Kate turned to look up at Will. His face had gone white, his eyes black, his hand slackened on her knee. She covered his hand with hers and looked directly at his face when she spoke, any animosity between them nearly forgotten.


He turned to look at her and nodded gravely. "Mexico."

Mexico was where they went when the world got to be too much for Will. Somehow, the swirl of bright colors, the exotic trees and buildings, the markets and salsas, were all a way to forget the world that they lived in. The beachside casa where they lived during their visits was offered by the Mexican government as a gift for William for his thirteenth birthday as a small token of appreciation. Dana Scully had protested; of all the properties that the Compound owned around the world, she did not see why the next acquired piece of land needed to belong solely to her son. He simply did not need his own summer home. Will, for the first time in his life, had put his foot down, and his mother had conceded on the condition that the house be used for the mental health of the entire Compound.

From her window seat in their tiny charter flight, Kate could see the city sprawled out below them as they flew in low for landing. There was the city, with the brightly colored buildings and terra cotta shingles, a market place with wildly stained canopies and the carts of oranges and red mangos that she would go to from time to time.

There was the salsa hall that she and Will had once snuck into, had danced together for the first time, she in a white halter top with a flower behind her ear, arms raised and hips tilting licentiously to the slow sway of a guitar. There was the private beach where she and Will could take strolls, sit under the mangrove trees. She felt him draw a huge sigh, a breath of relief, of release, and she smiled to herself for the first time in months.

The reporters came in a drove immediately after the little charter plane had set down, right as the set of stairs hit the dusty, secluded airstrip. Will stepped out onto the platform with his arm around Kate as their equipment began to click and bulbs began to flash, and she saw in one moment his face darken and his hand wrap tighter around her person. His fingers dug into her tattoo, and she winced at the pain. They plowed through the crowd, at first unyielding and impregnable until Shannon leapt in front of them and brandished her large firearm, spreading the mob quickly to opposite sides of the airstrip.

Kate felt her sage skirt rustle, felt the voices in her ear. So many of them, filling the entire deserted airstrip, shouting in both Spanish and English so that her brain had to flicker from one language to another, like a bulb threatening to fizz and die.

A beautiful woman with an upturned nose and smart suit: "William Mulder! Hannah Mueller, from the Daily Sun! What is it about you that makes you so unique, biologically speaking?"

A harried woman with longer hair and baggy clothes: "William, is it true that you have blood taken from you at least five times a week?

What exactly goes on behind the doors of the Compound?"

A short man who jumped up with his audio recorder as he followed the couple: "William Mulder! What is your position on the induction of Mems and Supersoldiers into the ranks of American citizenship?"

A plump woman with lush lips painted cherry red and a matching suit: "Will, what are you going to be when you grow up?"

And at this question, William looked up from, coming out of is stoic silence, and laughed out loud, throwing his head back to the Spanish sun. His grip tightened even more around Kate, knuckles turning white, striding to their waiting car, lonely black on the desolate dirt road overlooking a green pasture of tall grass.

When it was apparent that Will would not answer any of the questions posed, they turned to Kate. She was prepared; many times before she had had to play the role of his public consort.

"What is it like, being the girlfriend of someone so prominent?"

"Kate Doggett, you've met enough Mems to know what their chances are of recovery, and what the affects of their mental abilities might have on their future offspring..."

"Can you confirm those rumors of your involvement in the new vaccine for the Plague?"

"The man Nihls - can you verify or deny his public story?"

"Are you two planning to marry? Planning for children?"

And at this Kate had to snort, daintily, as was expected. She was seventeen and using both birth control and condoms for her sexual activity.

The noise stopped when they reached their car and slid into the back seat, slipping easily across the leather. They watched in bemused horror the reporters press their faces to the windows, trying to snatch away their privacy with the flash of a bulb, with the steady drone of English and Spanish. Kate turned from the window and saw that Will's face was dark, his eyes black, his jaw set, his hands rigid, as he stared at them through the windows, and she quickly caught his hand in hers, kneading the flesh between his index and thumb.

"Hola senorita," the driver said, interrupting their moment.

He looked in his rear-view mirror at Kate, the only other person in the car that spoke Spanish fluently. She flashed him a small, pained smile.

"Hola, senor," she responded. "Maneje por favor. Nosotros no queremos demorar," she relayed, her voice lilting, her accent precariously drilled by her mother and tweaked by her grandmother, who lived in Mexico City. The car started and the dust began to fly, blocking out the sight of the reporters and the sound of English until they were left with nothing but the Spanish countryside, the Latin salsa on the radio, and Kate's hand, kneading and stroking until the color returned to Will's face.

Kate had known Nihls for as long as she had been in the Compound. The sight of him tonight was strange, dressed in a tuxedo, a flute of champagne balanced clumsily between his fingers. He looked out of place among the golds and the reds, his coarse hands against the elegance of the display of exotic fruits and vegetables and the fine silks that had been draped decoratively over the tables. He was engrossed in a conversation with another two men, finely made up, sneering slightly at his lack of etiquette as they tipped their own flutes with practiced ease. Nihls did not notice their reproach. His story was commandeering all his attentions, because it was not a tale he could afford to tell badly.

Kate had heard the story before, numerous times, had seen Nihls' dark hands gesturing wildly, his eyes roll insanely. When he had first come to the Compound, he knew no English save "hello" and "help", and the first few months his feelings were further repressed by the language barrier that was between him and Fox Mulder. Tonight, his words, though accented and curt, were fluent, but instead of joining the circle to listen to his tale, Kate decided to take up residence beside the chocolate fountain, skewering a strawberry and drowning it under the flow of chocolate as she eavesdropped.

"...like de sky had opened, and der, der de were! Tiny men, very tiny, with big eyes and tiny lips, and dey wanted me to come wit dem, to their castle in the sky. I was a-scared, you see, very a-scared, but dey took me, and when I come back, I don't remember one thing about it. Den dey come back in my sleep-thoughts, in my head, and I 'member a little, but not much, not much to make me very a-scared again."

Here Nihls took a giant swig of champagne, spilling and nearly drenching one of the men in front of him. The gentleman recoiled slightly, his face contorted, then returned to his original spot hesitantly. "Den, you know what happened. How everybody's got sick.

How Will Mulder and his mama saved 'em all wit the enzyme in his blood. Well, we's all very happy wit dat, where I come from, and we all danced and sang for two weeks straight. No bad aliens come to take us away! But den, den..."

He paused again and began to stare at the drink in his hand, his eyes large. After a moment, he looked up to his audience, smiling clumsily, embarrassed that they had seen him fade out, as if it were something to be ashamed of. "Den I started having dem. De visions. De feelings. I was 'sposed to be somewhere, do someting, but I didn't know what. Drove me bonkers. Dey got more real, more special, and I could see the tiny men in my head, showing me how to do stuff, how to make things of theirs, where I needed to go. So, I go. I go to dat place, but the tiny men..." he shuddered, biting his lip, "de tiny men don't come. I cried a lot, 'cause I got so much stuff in my head from dem that I couldn't tell nobody or even say out loud 'cause it was so...hard to 'splain. Den I got de notion to toss myself into de river, in de jungle." He breathed heavily, brushing a tear out of his eye that Kate knew he did not want to shed. "Well, anyways, after dat's where Fox Mulder and me met up. I come to the Compound, and he works wit me, helpin' me to 'member, to understand the stuff that's goin' through my brain. After a while, I stop getting de notion to toss myself into the water, 'cause I can explain my brain and my feelins. Turns out I had a tiny chip in my neck, dat de aliens were usin' to get me to go to dat place. But since dey all left after de invasion, dey didn't come when dey called, leavin' me and all de others who 'member to go stir crazy wit de stuff in der head."

A woman with lush lips and a black dress cut clear to her navel sidled up to the chocolate fountain, dunking a cracker to the top of the cascade. "Nihls is the first Member," she explained haughtily.

"The first loco cabasa, if you ask me. All the Mems are a bit loopy."

Kate bit delicately into her strawberry, chocolate sliding down the sides of her mouth, turning her lips a hazel color. The woman eyed her, disgust in her eyes, but Kate simply smiled and wiped off the chocolate demurely. "Well, we're all a bit crazy," she commented lightly before skewering a mango and drenching it. When she took it away, it was dripping glistening drops of auburn onto her napkin.

"Not as crazy as they are," the woman countered, leaving the chocolate cracker on the tiny plate that she had picked up. "They claim that they know things that the aliens know. The aliens. I mean, it's one thing for aliens to try and invade, take us out, but for them to pass on information? To people that don't understand, that are so confused that they throw themselves off of buildings? I wouldn't trust those Mem fuckers as far as I could throw them."

Kate stared at the woman, feeling utter shock, before giving her a small smile, daintily setting the mango onto her tongue. She had seen Mems on bridges, on boats, with knives glistening red with their own blood. She had seen Fox Mulder talk to them, trying to help them articulate what they couldn't understand, had seen them repeat the same stories about the dimensions to a space ship, the formulas for creating a supercoolant hovercraft. She had seen them go into fits of insanity where they would only speak to Mulder, where he would give them paint and they would cover the walls of a small cell with star constellations and bright bands of light, where they had to be kept away from all razors and knives lest they slit their own wrists in their frustration.

She knew that one had to have absolute faith in his feelings to sacrifice himself to them. With that in mind, there had never been a question as to the validity of their stories.

The woman had found a less reticent companion further along the table, and Kate turned her attention back to Nihls, who had drowned his champagne and was now gesticulating wildly to a group of elegantly dressed women who didn't believe a word he was saying.

It was 11:40 on the balcony of the Mexican casa that overlooked the ocean, and at this time Kate excused herself from Will and the two other Mems with whom she had been lunching. Her wrought iron chair scraped too loudly on the tile for her liking, her knife clattered on the glass of the table. Her heels clicked through the tall French doors, onto the wood of the studio that comprised the entire third level of the house. With too much noise she went down the wooden stairwell, painted white, through the breezeway with the red and orange birds-of-paradise, to the burgundy wallpapered anteroom, piqued with golden mirrors and wooden furniture, and finally closed the door to the bathroom.

There was a polished wooden toilet, a porcelain sink, a portrait mirror. The walls were cracked, one or two dark lines blemishing the off white. Kate set her bottled water on the sink and then began to root through her purse until she found the wheel with the blue and green pills. They were tiny, like rice that had been soaked too long in water. Tiny enough that if she dropped one, the servant, Mira, would have swept it up without a thought. Tiny enough that she could have taken it at the table without any of her companions, including Will, lifting their eyes from their food. But she had always opted to take it in the bathroom, faithfully, every day, at this exact time and completely alone.

Her parents had had mixed reactions to her desire to go on birth control. Her father, the good cop, the linear thinker, had seethed, had yelled. She was too young. Too young to be having sex and taking on the responsibilities that went along with it. Especially if she was having sex with William Mulder. Her mother, with her boundless open mind, had bowed her head, disappointed. It's good that you are willing to take responsibility for your actions, that you are willing to be safe, she had told her finally. And later on that night, her father had come to sit with her on the porch of their home, on the top step, watching the stars. "I'm glad you're bein' careful," he had said after a while, and she kissed him on the cheek and had gone back inside to the house.

There were more doctors than just a gynecologist that had to be consulted for this step in Will's and her relationship. Dr. Stevens at the Compound had looked at her, shaking his head. "You're going to have to be more than careful," he had began, tutting his tongue.

"Will's biology is different; you of all people know that. You shouldn't even be exchanging bodily fluids with him, because we just aren't sure of what his body is capable of just yet. And there is no way that you can get pregnant. If you are on birth control, you are still going to need to use a condom. There can be no mistakes. I really hope you know what you're getting into." She had left that room feeling dirty and embarrassed, scandalized, as if the contents of her private life were spilled open for anyone to peruse at their leisure. Will had smiled widely at her when she told him about those feelings. "Ah, so that's what that's like," he had teased sarcastically.

She fumbled with the blue pill, palming it in her hand, and then unscrewed the cap to her water. Sometime during this process she glanced up at the mirror and paused. Her hair hung, curled at the ends, parted to one side, with an azalea pinned behind her ear. Her white halter top dress did not seem to fit quite right, and her feet ached. Dark circles were under her eyes. She could see licks of blue curling around from her back, and she frowned, trying to move so she could only see her own caramel skin in her reflection. She narrowed her eyes, trying to think of the last time she had thought herself beautiful, that Will had called her beautiful, and found that she couldn't remember.

It was ticking past 11:40, and her birth control had to be taken on time in order to be completely effective. A missed dose meant careful sex for the rest of the week, diaphragms and spermicide. She bit her lip, rolling the pill between her fingers thoughtfully. Then, after a moment, she threw it in the toilet and flushed it down on her way out.

That night, the ocean poured onto the shore and the sky exploded into hues of red and gold and orange, dripping into the water. Will and Kate had hung over the balcony, watching as the sun went down, trying to spot the green light that would sometimes flash just as the tip of the sun disappeared into the ocean.

Will smiled into the sky and then turned to Kate, snaking his hand around her back. He leaned in to kiss her lips, slowly, as if he didn't know what they tasted like. She melted under his touch, mesmerized, as she always was when she fell into his arms, no matter how old, no matter what she was doing. So entranced was she that she that she allowed him to lead her into her room, over his strewn cloths, past the wrought iron end board, past the paintings of Spanish women dancing a flamenco, their arms raised, their red skirts billowed. She allowed him to draw her onto the quilted bed, allowed his hands to wander up her white pajama shirt and over her breasts before she pulled away. His lusty eyes caught her off guard, set her off to what she had to do.

"Will," she whispered huskily, "I didn't take my pill today."

He grinned lightly and touched his lips to her neck. "So?" he mumbled lightly, his breath floating over her skin. "We can still use a condom."

At this she pushed him away, lightly, looking reproachfully into his eyes. Are you listening? "No, Will. I didn't take my pill today. As in I flushed it down the toilet."

He examined her face, his brow furrowing. "Why?" he asked softly, running his thumbs along her cheekbones. For this she had no answer, and he continued. "Well, we still can..."

She stood up then, glaring at him angrily, fighting not to raise her voice. "You can be so selfish sometimes. A completely spoiled brat.

You will do what you want, others be damned."

"Me?" he shot back quickly. "You are the one that threw away your pill! Isn't that a bit selfish of you? And now you won't even try it." He paused slightly, his face black. "You know, that's just like you."

"What are you saying?"

"Everything with you has to be exactly the way it is supposed to be."

His statement hung in the air, in the space between them. He sat up in the bed. "You follow the rules, down to the letter. Take your pills at the exact same time every day. Play games exactly as they are supposed to be played. Have sex with all the prescribed precautions. You've never tried anything that's remotely outside of the box. Always follow the rules, no matter who you hurt." His lips pursed. "That's selfish," he finally spat.

Kate opened her mouth, appalled. "So I should act like you, and do exactly as I please, make up my own rules. Isn't that selfish?" Her voice grew in treble, her lip shaking as she shouted. "Thinking that my way is the best way? You always do what you want, and get what you want, and if things don't work out, you run away to Mexico. I mean, what if I was to just deny you right now? What would you do?"

"Is that what you're doing?" he asked her softly from the bed.

"Denying me?"

She caught her breath and thought for a minute. "Yes," she stated finally. The word echoed off the walls, off of the quilt, off of Will.

He stared at her for a full minute without blinking before standing up. "Alright," he said quietly, and without another word, left the room. After he left, Kate sat down on the bed, her mind completely blank, her throat buzzing from overuse,.

Once, Will tried to shoot up heroin, but the veins in his arm were so decimated from blood tests and IVs that he couldn't get a good stick and ended up throwing away the syringe. He also tried to smoke pot, but his mother found out through one of his blood analyses and forbid him from touching it again. Alcohol was now the only drug he could get away with, and so he drank copiously when he was in Mexico or alone in his room. Kate would not drink with him. Rather, she was there to help him when he couldn't get himself to bed, when he was crying so profusely that she was afraid he would dehydrate.

Neither Dana Scully nor Fox Mulder, in any way, had forced their son to be the savior of mankind. The destructive affects of his blood on the Black Cancer was first discovered as the result of serendipity, but after, whenever Scully thought she would need a sample, she was always sure to ask her son if he was alright if she pinched him a little bit. One time he told her no, and there was uproar among the scientists of the Compound. Grown men, including Dr. Stevens, dropped to their knees to beg the little boy to concede, to beg his mother to force him. Both were obstinate, shaking their heads. But the other scientists continued to prod. Finally, their sight became so pitiful and so frightening that Fox Mulder scooped his child up and threw him over his shoulder, taking him away from the mob of scientists and their needles and turning a deaf ear to all of their pleas. That night Will walked quietly down the hall of the Compound to his parents' compartment and told his mother it was OK if she took a little bit of his blood, that if everyone wanted it so badly, they could have it; he had more. She had given him a warm smile, stuck him with the tiniest needle she had, and given him a Spiderman band-aid and ice cream for being such a big boy.

After, he found it impossible to say no to the doctors. Their demands became more serious as he grew older. First blood, then bone marrow, then tissue samples, trying to study exactly how his body produced the enzyme that killed the Black Cancer. After a few years, they had re-created the original antidote, and his body had gotten to rest, to rejuvenate, while his enzyme saved the world. With the new push to create a vaccine that could be easily distributed to all people, however, the doctors came back with their needles and their X-Rays, so much so that his own mother had threatened to keep them away from her son before Will calmed her and told her he was willing.

Once, in Mexico, while he was drinking, he sliced his palm on one of the wrought iron bedposts on his four poster bed. He had looked at his hand, held it up to Kate, silhouetted in the dark, and laughed.

"Want some? Everyone's doin' it." She had bandaged his hand, his blood dripping stubbornly on the azalea she had pinned behind her ear.

He wasn't in his bed when she went to him after their fight. Nor was he in the kitchen, the anteroom, the pool, the lower patio. Kate padded up the stairs softly in her rubber sandals to the third floor, the studio, and out to the French doors that led out to the tiled balcony with the thick, wooden railing. She leaned against the frame of the door, at first not going out to the patio. He was sitting naked upon the railing, his clothes left behind him, leaning over just slightly to look at the pool below, and then out to the ocean beyond. The stars reflected off the water like a spilled bowl of diamonds, illuminating Will's skin as he sat.

Kate walked out onto the balcony and began to remove her own pajamas.

She set them in a neat pile next to his and then let her hair free, tossing the tendrils carelessly. Carefully, she slung herself over the guardrail and sat next to him, her nipples tightening from the breeze. He did not look up at her bare body, not at first. Did not admire the way the ocean breeze grazed her curls, how the starlight glistened between her legs. His eyes remained on the ocean. Tears were staining his face.

She looked over at him, the wind whipping through her most intimate parts, tangling her hair, waiting for him. He breathed, long and deep, as if he were trying to dispel something in his chest. Cracked his knuckles. Drank the air. Only then did he glance over at her, his eyes staring into hers.

"Let's play a game," he whispered. He stood, precariously, on the wide guardrail, looking down at Kate, his eyes serious, balancing with one foot in front of the other, toes gripping mercilessly. "Jump or sit?" he asked, looking down at her.

Kate stared at him for a moment, her eyes gazing at his body, ignoring the spots on his hands where the veins had been destroyed and the endless scars. She then stood, covered the black and blue skin at the crooks of his arms with her hands, and kissed him chastely.

When she pulled away, he was crying. She kissed him again, this time more intensely, and tasted strawberries and tangerines, salsa and dirt, as if Mexico itself had all sprung from the folds of his mouth.

This time when she pulled away, he stepped off the ledge, one, two, three steps, and back onto the balcony, holding her hand as she did the same. They walked back into the casa, leaving their clothes.

Their lovemaking was bold but slow. They took their time with the fellatio they had put away so many months ago. He took his time getting inside of her. Both took their time to come to a climax, and it came as an explosion like the sunset off the beach, with more colors than they could properly describe in English, more sensations than they could acknowledge, so much that it nearly hurt them to experience the entire world in only a part of a minute.

"Fantastico," she had breathed when she had felt it.

After, Kate lay on her back and Will traced the outline of Nataraja dancing the dance of life along her spine. "Why Shiva?" he asked softly, bending down to kiss her head. "You aren't Hindu."

She smiled into her pillow, and then turned to look at him.

"Sometimes, what something represents is more important than the symbol."

"Like you throwing away your pill?" he queried.

"Yeah, a little."

After a silence, she continued. "Did you ever think that this whole thing could have been avoided if the aliens had just stayed? If they hadn't been driven off by the vaccine? There would be no Mems, no Plague..."

"Yeah, but then everyone would have died. I'm not seeing how this is an equal trade off."

"It's not. Not really, anyway."

When Kate was fifteen, physics taught her why she had always won the game of one- two- three on the trampoline. Complicated equations modeled it precisely, but what it really boiled down to was this; being lighter, she had always hit the trampoline after he did, and in so doing, he had bounced her, high into the sky.

After Will had fallen asleep, and the morning was threatening to peak over the horizon with strips of gold, Kate found herself on the third story balcony again, wrapped in her bath towel, seated on the railing and staring into the dark ocean below.

On her back, Shiva danced. She remembered being small and being held Author:her mother as she told her stories from her old college mythology textbooks, huddled together in an armchair with a silken blanket and an overstuffed animal. Shiva was the destroyer, her mother had said, the determiner of the rhythm of the worlds, he who danced the world into existence, who now was dancing his eternal dance of transcendence on her back in the center of a ring of fire.

The view was spectacular, and the adrenaline still pulsing through her from her carnal congress seemed to make the colors brighter, more real, like Will himself had pulled the world out of greys and blacks and into full Technicolor. What a view. What a drop. She wondered, if she removed her clothes and stood on the railing, if Will would come to find her. If he would take her hand and take her back to their bed. She let the wind whip over her bare legs, exposed by the towel, over the open cuts behind her knees that skirts always covered, and realized that he would still be asleep.

It didn't matter. In an hour, she lowered herself off of the railing and went back to bed. William moved over to make room for her, seeming to know she would come back.

William Mulder found Kate Doggett on the balcony, once again away from the party, away from Nihls, away from Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, Mr. and Mrs. Doggett, and away from Mexico, looking down onto the traffic.

"I forgot to tell you," he whispered as his arm laced around her thin waist and his mouth came close enough to graze her neck, "I think you look beautiful."

"I know you do," she answered softly. She turned and kissed him full in the mouth, and he gave her that smile that would make most women insane with passion. He produced a red azalea he had stolen from the flower arrangements and placed it behind her ear with careful ease.

The End

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