Debra Fran Baker
"Dear God, you're beautiful."
I've heard those words many times in my life, ever since I was too young to protest, but never with such reverence, and never with that voice.
I had to be dreaming, which went along with the other odd feelings I was having...safety, security, warmth. The hand gently stroking my hair, my neck, my shoulder, my...I wasn't dreaming. In my dreams, I have two arms.
I opened my eyes. There was sunlight pouring into the tawdry little motel room, the one I'd barely registered the night before. It barely registered now. My senses were overwhelmed with *him*, lying in bed next to me, smiling at me. I don't think I'd ever seen Walter Skinner smile at me before.
"Sorcerer's eyes. Good morning, Alex." No, this wasn't a dream. I'd never dared to dream of this. Not that I dared to dream of much at all. Dreams slow you down. Make you long for two arms.
So did reality. I was lying on my right side, facing him, which meant I was lying on my arm. Helpless. He stroked my stump with curiosity, but no revulsion. I'd been getting a lot of revulsion lately.
"That's not so beautiful." I tried to move away from him, away from his touch, but he wouldn't let me. He found my arm with his other hand and held it as he continued to caress me.
"Ah, Alyosha...someone has been lying to you."
"Alyosha?" For a moment, I was a child again. That was the last time I'd heard that name; the last time I'd felt...the way I did right then.
"It fits you." I knew he had a Russian middle name; Russian maternal grandparents, too. Still...
"You don't know Russian."
Skinner shrugged. "I know that much. And you're still beautiful, and someone has been lying to you about that."
And his touch still reached to the soul I'd just discovered. I wanted to relax into it, into him.
"Why are you doing this? What about Mulder?"
"I want to. And he knows. We...talked." He moved closer to me, holding my hand and stroking my back. I shivered and then jumped.
"When? Where is he? When did that happen?"
He sighed. "An hour ago. Maybe more. You slept soundly."
"That's not possible. I never sleep that deeply. I'd be dead if I did." Panic pierced me like a knife. Skinner immediately wrapped me in his arms. I shook.
"It's all right, Alyosha. We were here watching for you. You were safe here. You will always be safe here, where we are."
"No. I have to leave. I can't stay." I tried to wrestle out of his arms, but they held me too firmly. "Where's Mulder? He'll understand? Where is Mulder?"
"Shh, shh. You don't have to go anywhere. Mulder's out running. He'll be back soon, and I know he wants you to stay, too."
I've been spying on people and governments for years. I know things I wish I didn't, and things other people wish I didn't. I've accepted things that most rational people would consider insane, that even Mulder has to fight to believe.
His last sentence made no sense at all. It bounced around my head until it was reduced to mere sounds, and it still made no sense. I let myself be crushed to him as I latched onto the only words that had meaning, a meaning that gave me a different sort of terror.
"Mulder is out running? You let him out by himself?"
Skinner chuckled. It was a warm, comforting sound, as beautiful as his