Yes, these eyes are windows, and this body of mine is the house.
The palm is a map, it is an ocean plain of heights and trenches, it is history in creases of skin. She has a little scar the shape of a teardrop on the side of her thumb. He leans forward in the chair and traces her life line over and over, willing it to go on further, out beyond the boundaries of fate and skin into uncharted territory. She sleeps in haunted circles, mourning-black under her eyes, and the watching machines hum on.
He drinks watery hospital coffee in the small hours of the morning, and scrubs his tie in the drinking fountain when he spills it. Nothing is real; he wanders through fluorescent-lit hallways, the night pressing up against the windows like a wolf, and inside is all soft corners and slick plastic chairs. They hide the needle and the scalpel-point under pastel coloured blankets, they dress her in a cotton gown like anyone else and whether you live or die it's the same uncaring print, lines repeating and repeating and repeating. He presses his nose against the heel of her hand as if he can make something new.
Day comes in slow, wrenching red on the horizon, low and bloody warnings, and her hair fans out across the pillow like the dusk. He would put himself between her and a bullet; he wants to crawl under her skin and face the marksman there, too. Death is spinning towards her so slowly. Surely there is time.
Her eyes flicker open and she smiles wryly at him, scuffing her hand through his uncombed hair, drawing lines of longitude and latitude in her wake.
"You look pretty rough, Mulder."
At this point perhaps he's supposed to make some comment on her own rather less than stylish appearance, but he doesn't have the words, so he only shrugs. She pats his head again.
"You should get some rest. I'll be-" she swallows the end of that sentence, and looks away. "You ought to sleep." He takes hold of her hand and runs his thumb over her knuckles; each one is a charm.
There are wet footprints leading away from the motel pool, a little trail of dark impressions that fade into the shadows at the edges of the yellow sodium light. He tracks her into the moon-filled night, heel-to-toe, a faint smell of lemony shampoo and pepperoni pizza. Past a broken part of the fence she is sat on an old crate in a scrubby bit of nothing-land, looking up at the half-clouded sky.
"Hoping to see anything?" he asks, coming up behind her. She tilts her head right back to look at him upside-down.
"I heard Superman was doing a flyover," she says nonchalantly. She's traded in her trim black skirt for an old pair of jeans, the bottoms rolled up to her knees and speckled with damp splashes. Her shirt is open an extra button. He sits down on the ground beside her, wriggling to avoid a thistle.
"So, Scully... Superman versus Batman?"
She pokes him wetly in the calf with her big toe. "So generic, Mulder. Krypton versus Reticula?"
"Krypton was destroyed."
He pretends to study the ground in thought and watches her feet swinging back and forth, the shadows blue in the moonlight. "You know, Scully, reflexologists believe that by stimulating the foot, one can affect the health of anywhere else in the body- that you can increase mental activity by rubbing the right toe, or cure stomach pains by massaging the arch. That the foot is in itself a microcosm of the human body."
He doesn't need to see her face to know she's rolling her eyes. "And none of it has any basis in fact, Mulder, there have been dozens of studies on patients receiving reflexology treatments and none of them demonstrated any significant benefits except to the bank balances of a bunch of new age cranks."
"But it's an interesting concept, don't you think?" He lies back tentatively in the scrubby grass and props one foot up on the other knee. "That everything in us is interlinked. That when we walk, the ground we cross touches us, in a way." He looks up towards her but she's staring up at the drifting sky again, quiet. The moon has caught the tasselled edges of a cloud and it looks like white, silent fire, searing across the inkpool night.
Slowly, something damp and cool presses itself against the sole of his foot, and he brings his gaze back down to earth in surprise. Her foot is resting gently against his, dwarfed by comparison, her toes just beneath his. She's still looking up at the sky, and the moon plays strange and changing shadows across her face.
The airport is bland and faceless, footsteps and tannoy chimes and strange, nasal accents, and her bright, coppery hair is like a banner against the nauseous grey. She is also carrying a cup of coffee, which is almost as good.
"So we're stuck here another three hours?"
He nods and she sighs ruefully, passing him the coffee and twisting off the cap of a bottle of Ocean Spray. He wishes that cranberry juice wasn't the same colour as blood. She still looks fragile and too pale, as if she caught it off the snow.
"You know, I always used to want to visit Australia," she says, arranging herself neatly in the cookie-cutter airport chair, brushing a stray lock of hair back into its appointed place. He could take out a ruler and measure the precise four inches minimum of space she keeps around herself.
"I don't know that this really counts as a visit. We haven't even seen any kangaroos- though I guess some of those nurses were kind of funny looking."
He glances over at her but she doesn't even seem to have heard him, staring off into the middle distance and gripping her drink with both hands. He watches an elderly couple go past, a bald man in a wheelchair. Her head tips forwards, shielding herself in fox-red shadows.
"Scully?" He reaches out to touch her shoulder. She flinches then tries to pretend she didn't, rubbing at her arm and looking at him with a set smile.
"I'm fine, fine, just... thinking."
"Okay." He takes a sip of the still-scalding coffee, and watches out of the corner of his eye as she studies her fingernails intently. He is definitely not thinking about the dim lights of his hallway and her upturned face and his fingers tangled in the fire of her hair, things he should never have said, that he can't take back.
All he's seen of Sydney is the inside of taxis and hospital corridors, waving his badge in peoples' faces and hoping that he didn't have to try and explain to anyone exactly what happened to his partner. He spent three days hovering like a moth at her bedside until she fixed him with something like her finest baleful glare and told him to take a damn shower. They have next to no luggage; he bought his sweater without checking the size and the hem is two inches above his belt. He is never buying honey ever, ever again. It's the only manner of revenge he can think of right now.
She sighs, low and soft, and his hands feel awkward and heavy in his lap, as if they've lost their purpose. She flickers at the edge of his vision. His coffee is getting cold.
Ice is blue; so is the sky and the sea and the tiny, fragile eggshell he found in the park on his morning run, but it's ice he's thinking of. Her focus is absolute, straight and steel-clad as the gleaming barrel of her Sig as she empties another clip into the printed chest of the target. Her hair is twisted awkwardly under the ear defenders.
He touches her shoulder gently as she lowers the gun and she turns, the reflected light across her goggles obscuring her eyes for a moment. He tugs them off with a finger, and maybe it's a blue that isn't anything else, just her.
"Workin' out your hit list, G-Woman?"
She shrugs, pulling the ear defenders right off and taking out the clip. Her gaze flickers down to her abdomen. "I don't like getting shot."
"Neither does that guy," he says, jerking his head towards the little paper target that's skimming towards them. The upper torso is practically shredded, a wide hole pulled over the heart, and he touches the punctured left shoulder sympathetically. "I feel your pain, man."
Her eyes meet his with a cool, patented eyebrow raise. He passes the goggles back and forth between his hands. "So you want to go get some lunch?"
"It's only eleven thirty," she says, hanging the ear defenders back on their little peg. She takes the goggles from him and holds them back up to her face for a moment, peeping owl-like up at him. "Kersh won't be happy if we just leave all the paperwork-"
"Kersh is never happy, Scully, he's like the Grinch That Stole Everything." He makes a face that's clearly a decent impression of their AD because she snorts and looks away. "C'mon, I'll pay, and then we can go drink lemonade and heckle the skaters in Freedom Plaza."
"I don't know about you Mulder, but I actually did graduate junior high." Her eyes are still a cipher, but he's a quick study. He squeezes her shoulder and slides his hand down to the small of her back, leading her out of the firing range.
"I'll buy you some curly fries."
"With sweet chilli sauce?"
Her eyes meet his again and the smile there is a thaw, an equinox. "I guess the paperwork can wait."
"I think you'd better drive."
Her mouth quirks into a smile as she looks him up and down, lingering over his arm in its sling. "Damn, Mulder, that hadn't occurred to me." He attempts a shrug, winces at the pain, and she swats at him half-heartedly. "Oh just get in the car."
Over the rooftops of the city fireworks are blooming in celestial colours against the starry night. A pair of college students lurch drunkenly past on a bicycle, the skinny boy perched on the handlebars waving madly at them, mouthing 'Happy New Year'. He turns his head to watch them pass, but his eyes seem to get stuck on her. She's smiling distractedly at the road ahead, and as he watches her tongue runs quickly around the corner of her mouth. The painkillers are making him lightheaded.
She pulls up in front of his building and gives him her best I-am-a-medical-doctor once-over. "I'll walk you up; they gave you some pretty powerful stuff at the hospital, I don't want you collapsing in the hallway." That's her job. She touches her lips with a fingertip as she turns off the engine, almost unconsciously.
The ground just outside the car door is wobbling a little, but she slips an arm around his waist and he rests his good one around her shoulders, and they make it up to the door. In the hallway someone has drizzled silly string all over the mailboxes, and there's sounds of whooping and thumping, rhythmic music coming from one of the ground floor apartments. She nudges her head against his shoulder.
"And you thought chasing zombies was fun."
She's still smiling, her eyes skipping almost wistfully across his face, and he thinks that there were things that were much more fun than the zombies. The quiet of the elevator curls around them. She's already got her keys out of her purse when they reach his apartment and she opens the door without hesitation. He feels a little bit ashamed of the lone, dirty sock that set up house on the kitchen counter last week, and the congealing pizza on the coffee table. She walks him into the bedroom and they sit down on the edge of the unmade bed. He touches her cheek with his good hand, and she moves her head slightly so his thumb brushes the edge of her lips.
"Thank you Scully. For saving my ass yet again."
"Everyone needs a hobby." She tilts her head to one side, contemplating. He really ought to stop looking at her mouth. He doesn't want to. Her tongue slips out again, only for a moment, and she looks away from him as she stands. "I'll come by tomorrow morning to change your bandages. Try not to fall over or anything."
Then suddenly her hand is at the back of his head and she's kissing him again, her mouth all fierce warmth, and he leans in to her, his hand grasping at her shoulder, her side. They break apart and he makes a small sound against her lips. Their foreheads are pressed together, noses touching.
He thinks there's probably something terribly suave and seductive that he could say right now, the right way to ask her to stay, but he's bone tired and his arm is throbbing and his head is spinning from the painkillers, amongst other things. She brushes her lips against his cheek like a promise as she lets him go.
"I'll see you tomorrow Mulder."
It is not so much, he thinks, that you hear another person's heart beating as you feel it. Her shoulder is sticky with sweat but he's not sure he has the energy to move anywhere else, or the inclination to for that matter. Her pulse is throbbing against his cheek, and he echoes the rhythm against the flat of her stomach with his hand.
She makes a small contented sound in the back of her throat and murmurs, "But soft, what light through yonder window breaks."
The only light currently breaking through his bedroom window is the dull orange of the streetlamps, nudging at the edges of the blinds, and he dutifully reports this back to her. She laughs. "Iambic pentameter, Mulder. It's the same rhythm as a heart beating."
"Yes," he agrees, vaguely remembering a stoned conversation with a Theology student who had lived on the same staircase his first year at Oxford. He's not sure that John Donne really was tapping into the great divine music of the universe, but maybe there's something in it. He yawns. "So is this regular pillow talk for you Scully?"
Her fingers are making a careful survey of the nape of his neck. "What?"
"Shakespeare. Poetry. Long words." He doesn't feel particularly capable of the latter himself.
"Do you like it?" There's a note of caution in her voice, her fingers fluttering behind the curve of his ear. They have created a strange thing, delicate and many-chambered. He nods against her shoulder.
"Mmm. You have a sexy brain."
"Just my brain?"
"It's well accompanied." He presses an appreciative kiss to her clavicle. She strokes his hair the wrong way, pulling it into haphazard spikes.
"I like your brain too." Sometimes it feels like they're both talking about something that's not quite the same thing that they are talking about, but he's not sure he can decipher it right now. Her skin smells like a warm afternoon in Fall.
"Plus it's quieter than before. I bet the neighbours are thinking 'who the hell uses last names when they're-'"
"Mulder!" He lifts his eyes to her face and she's laughing, and he feels warmth blossom in his chest, something unfolding in the sunlight. Her heartbeat is an ocean in his ear, rising and falling, as inexorable as the tides. He splays his fingers across her stomach like a delta.