Title: Still Waters (snippet)
By: Jessica Harris
Disclaimer: I owe my toys to Chris Carter and co.
Rating: M/B. PG-13. And this one is pretty much sweetness and light.
Notes: Just a quick little snippet. I wrote this last week and originally sent it only to my lovely betas, but after that little dream-blurb at the beginning of last night's ep it seemed sort of appropriate to post it.
Spoilers: Unusual Suspects, and little ones for all the visiting-Mulder-in-the-hospital scenes.
Thanks: Thanks to Spike and her wonderful "John" series, for making me want to write Byers a happy ending.
Feedback: Please! lumpj@hotmail.com

"Byers!" barks Frohike. "You stay here with Mulder, see if you can hack into their files. Langley and I will go with Miss Scully and try to stop the raid before all hell breaks loose."

They disappear, Scully rolling her eyes at me as they swagger out in front of her. I am left alone with Byers, and suddenly there's strange tension in the air.

He's a quiet man, self-effacing, boyish even with the beard and those suits he still insists on wearing, as if one day he'll wake up and find himself back at the FCC, this dim hobbit-hole of an apartment and the jittering mania of Langley and Frohike just a fading nightmare. He tends to get eclipsed in their presence, but I suspect he has more power than he knows, that without his quiet steady presence their centre wouldn't hold.

And now between us this strange sudden nervousness. He shifts uneasily in his seat, keeps staring at the computer screen. We've been through a lot together, when you think about it; he's seen me naked, screaming and hallucinating, seen me tied into those hospital gowns that conceal nothing but your dignity, seen me tired and wounded and afraid and alone and I -

I don't think I've ever really seen him at all. He's always just been there, quiet and still and reliable.

Now I really look at him. He's a handsome man, if you pay attention, elegant ascetic features, big dark eyes, neat little beard. Elegant and sad, a face from a coptic tapestry. I'm sure that this endless quest of ours is not how he would have imagined his life, and I wonder what it's cost him. He never talks about it, his life before Suzanne Modeski. Of all of us, I think that he's the one who could have left, returned to some life of his own. I can see it in my mind - a neat little house, a job where his quiet thorough competence is valued, a sweet, calm wife. His damage is not so evident as the rest of ours. I wonder what keeps him here, with those sad dark eyes.

"Why are you still here?"

The words are our before I can stop them. His forehead wrinkles in puzzlement, he looks at me, a little worried.

"I - Frohike and Langley went with Scully, and I'm trying to - "

"No!" I hear myself say. "Why - Why are you still *here*?" waving my hand at the stacked banks of equipment, the dark and crowded quarters.

He still looks confused. His eyes are darker, sadder than ever, and wary now, something in their depths telling me just how much lies beneath his unassuming surface. I suddenly suspect that there are sides to him the rest of us simply haven't bothered to look for. He rises from his chair and tries to back away, but he's pinned between me and the desk. I realise that I've brought my hands up against the filing cabinet, that I'm holding him there, trapped between them, way too close. But hearing his answer is suddenly the most important thing I can think of.

"*Here*, Byers, with Langley and Frohike and me, and the lies and betrayals and sleepless nights and the fact that I can't even keep a damn fish alive, let alone save the world - "

I don't know when this started being about me, and I push the thought away.

"You could still get out, Byers, you could still go back, you could have more than this - "

I'm babbling now and we're almost nose-to-nose, the outline of his face beginning to blur. I sound like a lunatic, and I wonder what he's thinking, if I'm scaring him, what his beard would feel like if I - "

The thought snaps my head back like a slap, away from whatever I was about to do or say, but I don't even have time to think about it, because he takes a deep breath, reaches out, pulls me back, and kisses me.

Kisses me. His beard is soft and scratchy and his tongue warm and live in my mouth, his thin capable fingers knotting in the hair at the back of my head. "You, Mulder," he says softly against my face, "you're why I'm still here."

And me, I'm kissing him back, and wondering how it took me so long to realise, even while part of me still reels in surprise. He leans the full sweet length of his body against me and my hands are trying to pull him even closer and he's laughing, a sound I don't think I've ever heard before, and then suddenly the door opens. I jump away. It's Langley. I look back at Byers, wonder if I'm as flushed and glassy-eyed and clearly half-gone as he is, and feel myself blushing furiously. Langley looks at him, at me, back at him, something pained and disbelieving flashing through those flat half-crazy eyes of his.

"Langley?" asks Byers questioningly, but Langley wordlessly grabs his satchel and slams out the door. I wonder what other unspoken oaths and devotions tie us all together here, what secret bonds hold us to this almost hopeless quest.

"I'm - I'm sorry." stammers Byers.

"Don't be," I say, and take him in my arms again.