"Skinner's mouth moved. His chest rose, fell, slow ripple of muscle. His throat worked and dredged up words in a voice as soft and drained as his eyes, repeated, 'Are you okay?'

Mulder nodded again, finding finally, after hours and hours, moisture in his mouth. But no words to go with it. He shook his head, managing to add an exhausted smile, conveying, *No, I'm not okay. Yes, I am okay,* at the same time.

Skinner seemed to understand, nodding without turning his unblinking gaze away. His chest still rising and falling noticeably."



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