I don't know where I'm going with this, but I think it's a combination of a dream I had last week (I'll just let you wonder about *that*), and this thread about MLSs. Well, I'm not usually mushy, not overly so, but -- I'm reminded here of Wednesday from *Addams Family Values* -- "I'm not perky...but I want to be." So here it is, a definite mushy PWP, yet another offering from the Crossover Queen, but this time NOT a part of my usual slash universe. Just a diversion, just a pretty scene and a little warm fuzziness.

Into the Beautiful
by Hth AW (hth29@hotmail.com)

A courteous, yet harrowing Grace,
As Guest, that would be gone --
And thus, without a Wing
Or service of a Keel
Our Summer made her light escape
Into the Beautiful.
   --Emily Dickinson

Dana Scully plucked a few fine hairs from her mouth -- haircut. How life did swim along. She had to buy bread on the way home, and pay her cable bill once she got there, and make an appointment for a haircut. Naturally, instinctively, she cataloged and scheduled and listed and organized in her finely-tuned, scientific mind. And wished she could sleep as easily as the woman -- girl -- beside her. The young had such strange split personalities; everything was larger than life, superlative and everlasting, and yet nothing was so important that it kept them awake at night. Certainly not bills and groceries and a trim.

Summer vacations were wasted on the young.

It had been years since *summer* had meant anything to Dana Scully, other than higher electricity bills and tourists clogging the Mall. Shouldn't it have changed somehow, since her own college days? But no. She had returned to summer -- summer writ large, lazy summer, sand-and-sea and concerts in the park and bare feet summer -- like stepping off the plane into a foreign country that had been there all along, waiting for her.

And now, looking at the pale outline of the girl's (Dana's girl's) lovely shoulder in the darkness, longing to kiss it but hating to wake her, it all seemed like such a waste. Four long months, soaked in sun, with no monsters at all, and precious few killers and only the one ghost which hadn't turned out to be anything more than a nuisance, and what had they done? Sampled the manicotti all over D.C., sunbathed on the beach, played tennis, seen every big-budget, fx-laden summer movie in town, mixed their own margaritas, shopped like lunatics up and down the Eastern seaboard. Now, buried cozily in the center of a long August weekend at a Maryland bed-and-breakfast, when she should be feeling nothing but peaceful, Dana found herself -- regretting it all. Just a little.

This couldn't last, after all. It was too peculiar as it stood: the sober doctor with the insanely dangerous career -- the sorority girl fifteen years her junior with the insanely dangerous hobby. If she had been thinking, if she had been half as scientific and responsible as she claimed to be....

If. Dana cupped her hand around that perfect shoulder; heat radiated from her body, just as you'd expect, as luminous as she looked, her fair skin in the darkness. God, too beautiful for words. She made Dana's throat close up, literally seal and steal away her oxygen. She made Dana's eyes burn. She was that radiant. Dana moved slowly, working her arm free from underneath the pillow, and let her fingers circle, making loose, imprecise whorls in all that silver-blonde hair, its texture so hard to distinguish from the satin of the pillows.

If she had been careful, and if she had maintained her snug and lonely purity...when would she have altered the timeline? When would she have put this remarkable little china lioness firmly out of her life? That was the foolish thing, the thing that defied logic and knowledge and, God knew, propriety. She wouldn't have. What the hell was Dana Scully, respected medical doctor and federal investigator, doing naked in bed beside someone who wasn't even old enough to buy a drink in a restaurant?

Only winding down the best summer of her life. Watching it slip, evening by evening, hour by dark hour, past September's event horizon, drawn relentlessly into the dense madness of autumn.

Oh, to hell with waking her up. This was their vacation together, their special, perfect weekend out of the city, and Dana wasn't missing one more instant of it. "Beauty, Sunshine," she whispered, hovering over her lover's ear. The way she smiled made Dana suspicious that she hadn't been asleep at all, and Dana took her revenge by nibbling behind her ear and mumbling, "Kitten, Kitten, Cherie...." Dana had never been one for pet names, but this relationship was an exception. She had such a silly name; Dana didn't mind saying it in daily conversation, but not in bed, not in moments like this. Mother of God, it made her sound like a poodle. It was a game with them, Dana racking her brain for new names, so that her lover could approve each new one with a smile, or cover her ears and squeal, "Too cheesy! Too cheesy!" By this point, six whole months into the affair, Dana was mostly recycling the best of them, and a few of the most cheesy, just for fun. Once she had called her Angel, but her lover hadn't liked that one at all. Buffy was often pensive, but she almost never frowned, not like that. Dana knew when to back off.

"*Sleepy,*" she insisted, squinting her eyes closed even tighter, drawing up her perky nose in exaggerated displeasure.

Warmly, Dana wrapped her arms around the girl, adjusting them to fit comfortably above and below her breasts. "It's lonely here without you," she said, her voice thrumming low, barely leaving the cradle of her mouth.

She bent her shoulders forward, rounding her smooth back to make it easier for Dana to curve fluidly along her body. "Dana, it's a vacation, not extreme sports. Sleep deprivation is pain, and pain is bad."

Dana bent her head down, inhaled the scent of that blonde hair. It smelled vaguely like sand, just as it had all summer. What a beach bunny she'd hooked up with. Though Dana was from California, too, the ocean to her had always been something beautiful to look at; she did not revel in it, bond with it, soak its scents and tastes into her skin and hair and lips. Dana smiled in the darkness, thinking of how simple it was to lift the weight of the world off this girl's shoulders, how the clouds cleared as soon as she hit the beach or found the perfect pair of retro platform shoes or felt Dana's lips on her forehead. The resilience of youth. Four months of relative privacy and leisure, and now look at her. No one would ever know that this diminutive little doll could turn just as quickly to a stern-eyed warrior, still and small and proud and powerful under the enormous weight of her destiny.

She navigated by the mouth, by the sea-salt in her wet breath, and took it beneath her own, her fingers stroking, stiff but gentle, down the curve of her cheek. "Did you have a good summer?" she asked at last, on one exhale, afraid of the answer. Afraid it would come too quickly, be a simple question, a wonderful summer easily recognizable by its ordinary, nonthreatening wonderfulness. Surely, if it had meant to her what it had meant to Dana, she would stumble over the words. Surely her throat would close and she would be helpless and there would be a quiver in her voice at the thought of this summer, spoken of for the very first time in the past tense.

"It's been so quiet." The quiver was there, striking Dana deep to the center, making her wish so fiercely to protect her that Dana thought it would twist her body physically out of alignment. "I worry when they're quiet this long. It means a big hunt this fall sometime. And I'm taking sixteen hours."

"I'll help you," Dana promised.

Dana could sense her smile in the sudden curve of her cheek. "With the hunt or my homework?"

"Well, I'm no slayer," Dana said, glad for the levity.

"So I'll slay and you can do my biology homework." Her hand came up to hold Dana's forearm, so much stronger than it seemed when it was nestled between Dana's breasts or waving languidly in the air to make her nail polish dry faster. "Is that what you've been so down about? Are you scared?"

All the time, Dana thought. Which by now amounted to never. When fear was your natural state of being, you just tagged a new name onto it and forgot about it. It took seeing it through the lense of something else -- something like love -- to bring it into focus again. "About your slaying," she said, "or your grades?"

"Dana. Don't let it get too big in your mind. I've been slaying for years, and I know how. I'm actually an *amazingly* good slayer, better than most. All the nasty people-eating things say so. I'm actually way more worried about geology."

But it was big, in Dana's mind. It might have gotten easier for Buffy over time, but it just seemed to get bigger for Dana. Every time Buffy dragged in with shapechanger scratches all over her chest and arms, or clothes stiff with dirt and visceral grime, or soot and ash on her soft, perfect face -- well, it was worse than with Mulder. At least Mulder had the decency to get hurt. Every time Dana comforted her lover over a broken nail or put peroxide on a banged-up knee, she could only think, *How long can her luck last?*

"Dana?" Her voice was quiet, a timid little tap at the door, asking permission. Funny that the same girl who tied up Dana's phone line for hours talking long-distance to her high school friends in California and made Dana feel guilty unless she brought cage-free humanitarian eggs at the supermarket instead of the eighty-nine cent kind could now want permission to proceed.

"What is it, sweet?"

"I can take care of us both."

It floored her. It surprised her the way nothing had -- not one thing from the day of Buffy's shy-brazen seduction on the night of the Delta Chi Delta winter formal to this, all vampires and dark sorcery included. Not just the promise, the boast, but the fact that it was not spoken at all like a boast. It was just, in Buffy's eyes, so true. That's how she was. Free of doubt, wiser and more faithful than anyone, any so-called adult Dana had ever known. She was Buffy Summers, she was the Slayer, and people stayed safe under her aegis. That must be what came of being born to heroism, rather than repeatedly abducted by it. "Do you know that I would...do anything for you? Do you know that?"

"I know. I love you, Dana."

She could not hold Buffy tightly enough, could not breach those final barriers of skin and fate. Most of all, could not be anything other than the Slayer's healer, Buffy's finely-tuned and scientific love. Not tonight, and not any other deep August night ever again. "What if I promised to take care of you, too?"

Buffy smiled; Dana loved that dimple in her chin, loved it madly and without escape. "Would you do that?"

As helpless as she was to deny her beach-and-summer love anything at all, the promise stalled in Dana's throat. Who was she to promise that? When had she ever proved that she had the same boundless, inexhaustible power that Buffy had, the heart to live and live and hand out life to everyone around her like Christmas presents? "I would...there's nothing...I would do *anything.* Anything."

"You're so great, Dana. You craze me. Now be a goddess and go back to sleep, please?"

She kissed her younger lover's cheek lightly, then tried to settle into sleep. The best angle for her head on the pillow brought Dana's lips into contact with the clasp of the gold chain behind Buffy's neck. Dana had on many occasions found herself toying with Buffy's cross before, noticing its little flares of engraving radiating out from the center, the roundness to the ends of its arms. Different from Dana's. But then, it was for a different purpose. Dana's cross was there to remind her of God-the-watcher, for those times when she began to doubt that anyone knew her innermost heart, or that there was any being in all the world who wanted no explanations from her, no reasons. It was a solace to Dana in her loneliness. Not that she had been lonely for some time.

She didn't know what God meant to Buffy, exactly. She did know that the cross was not just an ornament, but a weapon, an extention of the slayer's strength. Where Dana longed for spirit to come and find her, Buffy carried it boldly into the world. Dana hadn't had an idol since the pretty librarian at Sacred Heart Elementary School. She had one now. "Love?"


"Wear my cross?" Buffy turned her head, one brown eye looking for Dana in the darkness. "Trade with me," Dana said, a little less querulously this time. "Wear mine, and let me have yours." *Come and find me...*

"Sure. Now?"

So easy. For Buffy, falling in love was easy, a natural part of getting older, becoming a woman. Somewhere along the line, Dana had missed that, decided that solitude was the norm and welling joy like this an interlude, a summer vacation, destined to melt away. Seasons turned and friends passed. Classes began again, and the time came to turn away from what was the most beautiful, in order to keep your appointments and fulfill your committments and advance steadily, solidly into the future. She faced the turn of time with a sense of ever-present loss, schooling herself to wait for it and adjust to it. Not at all like Buffy, for whom time was always now, who gave away her protection, her blessings, hand-over-fist, believing that it would all come back to her, now or soon or someday or whenever. Dana intended to see that it all did. "In the morning. Sleep now."

Buffy curved her shoulders forward, rounding her back so that Dana could curl more easily along her. The sun found them that way in the morning, slayer and healer, at the threshold of an August day just a little shorter than the last. Silent and at peace, a warm array of ivory and silver-blonde and copper and gold twined up on the sheets, daughters of the summer sunlight no more afraid than the sun itself to cross over into autumn.