"We've got a new case," Mulder said, leaning against her desk. He radiated his special brand of flat, nervous concern.
If he called her Dana, she would go to lunch and never come back.
"It's in San Diego," he said, quiet and careful.
She killed the instinctive flinch. "When do we leave?"
"Tomorrow," he said, his worry melding into relief.
She couldn't fault him for his caution. If his news had startled her, she wouldn't have allowed him to sympathize, and they both knew it.
She'd known she couldn't have children even before Mulder had told her. Her periods were reluctant and unreliable, as if her body was unwilling to give up any more blood. She'd gone to the doctor, fearing worse things than infertility. She'd left fearing infertility.
It made her wonder what else Mulder knew that she didn't. She was upset, but she understood. No one wanted to tell a woman she would never be a mother.
So she was denied the questionable wonders of menstruation, but in its place she had angry, grabbing dreams. She'd jolt awake in the middle of the night, sweaty and confused, feeling like she'd just missed being caught by the claws of some nightmare beast. Memory of the dreams would linger on into the day, and she often suffered from moments of deja vu, of forgetting what was real and what was dreamed.
Scully woke up in the same hotel room she'd slept in in every state in the union. She had no idea where she was this time, which state held this bed that held her while she dreamed her sister was still alive.
She refused to go back to sleep and turned on the TV. She had Star Trek reruns and the weather channel to choose from, infomercials and the local radio station being funneled through a public access events calendar. The Learning Channel was showing a special on spy satellites. Mulder must watch these things from his couch. Too many documentaries at a late hour would foster paranoia in the most laid-back of citizens. After seven years she was only beginning to understand Mulder.
She fell asleep during a show on submarines.
Mulder knocked on her door and her dream of the U2 shattered like a broken window. He called her name and knocked again.
She rolled over in bed, remembering they were in San Diego. It was a case that had nothing to do with dead children or coffins full of sand, but a memory still came to her: Mulder's face as he stood behind her in the church, the stained glass light breaking him into red and blue pieces while she tried to stay whole.
Scully opened the door to him, remembering a dream where he had knocked on her door, told her he was the father of her child and then presented her with a Pomeranian dressed in a sailor suit.
"What is it?" she asked him.
"We've got a dead body asking for us," Mulder said, and it was strange enough that she didn't understand what he was saying and thought she might still be dreaming in some motel bed in a state she couldn't remember, but he was touching her arm. Mulder never touched her in her dreams.
"We're wanted at a crime scene," he explained.
Scully nodded and took her hand back. "Fifteen minutes."
She had come to believe she had no heart, that in its place resided a sack of ballast, something to weigh her down, to keep her from rising up and disappearing into the atmosphere like a lost bird.
The dead man on the ground was staring at her. Three days ago he'd left work and never made it home. Today he was lying four feet off a bike trail in a public park, shoes missing, face bruised, a dead and festering mystery among the fallen leaves and discarded gum wrappers. Scully watched while Mulder crouched next to him and searched his pockets. She wondered if this man had a heart. If any of them did.
"Jack Yang," Mulder said, finding a credit card receipt. He leaned, still in a crouch, putting one hand out to steady himself. "You're done with the photographs?" he asked someone behind her.
One more picture flashed, capturing Scully's back, Mulder's surprised look, and the dead man between them. "Done now," came the answer.
Scully looked down at Jack Yang and for the first time felt like she should introduce herself to the dead: Hello. I'm the woman who's going to cut you open.
She looked back at Mulder, so familiar to her in his wool overcoat and dusty latex gloves, crouched over a body and rubbing his nose against his shoulder. She knew this man, and was relieved she wouldn't have to introduce herself to him ever again. She didn't know what she'd say.
In this dream, Mulder touched her. She never remembered it while awake, but at night, deep in the electricity of her subconscious, he laid his hand between her breasts and told her he could feel her heart. She wanted him to stay there forever, so that at least one of them could be sure of her humanity. But then his hand slid lower, and she could finally feel her heart beating and so broadened her idea of forever to include this, to include everything.
Jack Yang never even knew her name, but she knew how much his heart weighed. She knew the last thing he'd eaten, his final body weight and length, the size and shape of the white scar on his knee, the exact color of his lungs.
The black Y down his chest reminded her of a dream she'd had, but that was all she remembered. Something about dead people and their stitched up bodies, alone with no Mulder to touch her, to bring his fingers beneath her elbow and whisper her name and tell her she was dreaming.
His face appeared in the square of window set in the morgue's door and she felt she had summoned him there simply by thinking of him. He came to stand next to her and she just felt short instead. Wearing tennis shoes instead of high heels, she barely came up to his shoulder and she hated being near him when he was so tall. He was hard to talk to, and look at, and believe in.
"What killed our friend?" Mulder asked from somewhere above her, like a cartoon giant whose head was perpetually in the clouds.
"Carbon monoxide." Her neck was sore from leaning over Jack Yang all evening, so she rolled her head from side to side and then spoke to the floor. "Prior to that he sustained a blow to the back of the head from a blunt object, most likely a frying pan or bookend, something heavy and flat."
It was a simple answer, one she was pleased with because it was simple, but Mulder seemed disappointed. She finally looked up at him, focusing on his far away face but not understanding his expression, its mix of gratitude and speculation.
"Dinner?" he asked.
"I don't know," she said, staring up at him like he truly was a giant, a man too big of heart to last long on her plane of existence, a plane where men were cut open and the weight of their organs written on a chalkboard streaked with old blood.
This was another dream. Inside the dream she kept waking up, but that was always a dream too.
After the autopsy, Scully took a shower and then let Mulder drive them back to the hotel. Sitting on his bed, she watched him order take-out from the San Diego yellow pages. He always folded the page in an accordion while he was on the phone, making a yellow zig-zag out of the newsprint. This was something she knew about him. When the food came, they ate in his room because he didn't mind having to sleep under the greasy miasma of won tons and sesame chicken. It probably reminded him of home.
The TV was on, Jeopardy! and then Wheel of Fortune. Mulder guessed "BITE ME" for one of the puzzles and Scully laughed out loud, one sharp bark of mirth that she simply couldn't contain. Mulder nibbled on his chopsticks and smiled at her and somewhere in Hollywood, Vanna turned over the blinking letters to spell "BILL ME."
Later, Scully cracked open a fortune cookie, tucked the slip of paper into her pocket, and then slowly fell asleep on Mulder's bed.
They pass in a hallway. She can remember a time when she didn't love him, when he was just Mulder, when he was nothing special. He kisses her now, and she holds on to him, thinking how different he is from her, from anyone. This is a dream.
She woke up with him sitting next to her and rubbing her back. There were stories there in the press of his fingers, their entire history and future. She knew she would never be able to leave him.
"Nightmares?" he asked. It was dark in the room, and his voice sounded deep and rare.
She shook her head. His hand still smoothed over her back and she remembered she hadn't put her bra back on after her shower. He was sure to know that in the uninterrupted slide of his hand down her spine.
"No?" he said.
She knew the size of this man's heart, knew its scope and weight, knew its dreams like she knew her own. He was her parity bit, her decoder ring, the only language she understood anymore. His palm was warm on her back and she imagined his touch glowed red against her skin like a Kirlian rainbow in the shape of his hand.
Sighing, she curled herself around him where he sat next to her, creating some mystical symbol formed with the two of them, with her skepticism and his wonder and all the things that were shared in the space between them.
"Scully," he whispered.
"I can't have children."
"I know," he said, and it seemed his heart was breaking in his voice.
"It's okay," she said, because she wanted it to be okay. She was tired of living under its weight, tired of pretending this hadn't happened to her. She wanted it spoken, understood between them so they could put it to rest. She could not have children. She could not have his children.
He touched her cheek. "It's not okay."
"This is my body," she said, unfolding herself and drawing him down to lie beside her. "It will be okay."
He would do anything for her and it was easy to unbutton his shirt, to let him undress her, to invite him in.
The next time she woke up, Mulder was across the room on his cell. She hadn't heard it ring, had no idea what time it was. Mulder was nodding solemnly into the phone, but was watching her.
"The prints match? What about the trauma to the-- Yeah? He did?"
Scully let herself drift, half-waking, half-sleeping. The light bleeding through the curtained window was wavy and unnatural from the parking lot floodlights reflecting off the outdoor pool. She could hear the churn of the ice machine next door and the hum of traffic on the distant freeway. Mulder's hair was in sleepy tufts and he was holding his boxer shorts instead of wearing them.
"That doesn't make any sense," Mulder said to the phone. "Why didn't we know that?"
Scully stretched her arms over her head and yawned.
"Oh," Mulder said. "Huh." He hung up and put his phone on top of the television and his boxers on the table. "Someone claimed our dead guy," he told her.
"Jack," she said, because she'd never managed to introduce herself, but she'd emptied his pockets and cut him open and the least she could do was remember his name.
"Turns out werewolves had nothing to do with his death," Mulder said to her, crawling back into bed. "Just an angry ex-boyfriend."
"I hate to disappoint you," Mulder said. "I know you had your heart set on werewolves."
She had thought Jack Yang had no secrets from her, that she had known him as thoroughly as his killer had. She'd drawn his blood, scraped under his nails, mined his body like she was looking for gold and then turned his insides out onto her scale, but Jack Yang had fooled her. She might know the weight of his heart, but never its contents.
She would never know all of Mulder's secrets, either, but she'd never expected to. He was rash and sensitive, and she knew him well enough.
Careful as an archaeologist, he mapped out the lines of her collarbone, sternum, and ribs, and she drew him down and kissed him. This was not a dream.