"Mulder, I need you." There was no fear in the statement, no shock that she had said such a thing aloud. There was only her need, and its hunger overpowered any pride she had left to save from him.
As a child, when she had woken sick in the middle of the night, she had never called out for her parents. Never climbed out of bed and scratched at their door. She had stayed, crying silently, wishing someone would find her and see how she trembled with fever.
Mulder called. It was two in the morning, and she shivered in her bed, her toes and fingers cold and the valley between her breasts so hot she tucked her hands under her shirt. The phone rang and she picked up the receiver to stop its needle-like yell.
His voice broke on her ears like smooth blankets and one fitless moment of sleep. If she could just crawl into his voice, she wouldn't shiver like this, wouldn't feel as if her belly might melt away under its own heat.
She laughed. It wasn't funny. She didn't know the answer to his question. She couldn't remember what he would like to hear, what she had to tell him, how to hide her feelings, not give away a thing in the meantime. She laughed.
"Up for a visit to Hogback Mountain, Scully? The bureau's springing for the car. Our choice of Tauruses. I'm rooting for the model where the radio turns on and off at random, though I know you enjoy it when the power windows get stuck and the door locks jam. Mysterious lights in the sky, they say."
His voice lost its comfort and took on all the elements of her thought base. Words thrown together, cycling endlessly, Lass uns doch, a loop of medical terminology, Latin, German, English, a line from an overplayed pop song, Nike's latest ad campaign. Her mind was too busy, she wanted peace.
She didn't like how she moaned. The phone was too cold against her ear, and her hair was tangling, rubbing against her skin like raw silk, steel wool, rope. It would scratch her bloody.
"Scully, are you okay?"
His voice was back. She wanted to hold it, have it calm her hair, warm her toes, cool her stomach.
She needed more blankets. To be weighed down with blankets so she couldn't move, a deep-sea diver kept in place by the sea. One of her socks was twisted around upside-down, and she rubbed it against the blankets so it would come off and let her be. There was a crease in her sheets, it scraped against her bare foot like a log.
"Scully, do you want me to come over?"
It made her cry, the tears hurting as if they were being wrenched from her abdomen and pulled through her throat by a rusty hook. She wasn't supposed to need him, or wasn't supposed to want him. Wasn't supposed to ask for him.
"I'll be right there, Scully. Do you need anything?"
Your voice. The cliff in her sheets abraded the overly sensitive skin of her foot. Her sweatpants spun around her legs. She kicked at them helplessly, her anger mixing with her tears, her frustration making her moan.
"Oh, Mulder, I need you."
But it was true, and she couldn't hold on to the phone any longer. She pressed it away from her, pulled her legs to her chest, and stared at the wall, the minutes passing in idle dementia while she waited for Mulder to arrive and save her from this hot death of a fever that made her every muscle shake and her own hair feel like hell itself. He would save her and perhaps whisper in her ear with his voice that was soothing and always the right temperature.
She knocked her pillow to the floor and found a cool spot under it, like the dirt under a rock. She pressed her cheek there and waited until she heard Mulder's footsteps as he hurried into the room and placed a hand against her forehead, touched the skin of her neck, picked up her pillow from the floor.
"Scully? Open your eyes, Scully. I need you to look at me."
The lamp was on, but the light didn't make the sick go away. It gave it an orange color like a washed-out fruit or a spilled soda. Her eyes squinted, and she bit at her lips. She wanted the lamp off. It made the room too big. Mulder was there. He was stroking her hair away from her face, and with him doing that it didn't hurt anymore.
"Scully, I know you're sick, but you're going to have to talk with me for a moment."
He tucked the pillow back under her head, found one of her hands and gave it a small squeeze.
"Is this just the flu, Scully? You don't need to go to the hospital?"
He kept saying her name, and it dragged her away from whatever rabbit hole she'd fallen through. He crouched beside the bed and straightened her covers.
"No, just the flu." She was whispering. If she spoke too loud, he would go away like the dream he was. "I'm glad you're here, Mulder." His hand was so perfect.
"You scared me, Scully."
She smiled. His voice was doing all the wonderful things it had promised her. She could sleep now instead of tossing her head on the pillow and hopelessly wiggling her feet between the sheets.
"Just sick, Mulder. Turn the light out. Stay with me."
"Just sick?" Mulder teased, pulling a chair up next to the bed, only letting go of her hand for a moment. The light blinked off. His hand returned to hers. "You seemed almost insane. Thought I'd finally sent you off the deep end."
"Just a little insane," she said, feeling the callus on his thumb. His hand held her to reality. She needed him there so she wouldn't get trapped in a fever that demanded the impossible. Mulder always had the impossible to give. He'd even her out.
"Who?" he asked. "You or me?"
"Both of us, I think. A little insane." She was suddenly very tired. Mulder's hand anchored her, stopped the desperation that had been clawing at her like a lost cause.
"Go to sleep, Scully. It's okay. I'm here." He smoothed her hair back again.
Mulder had found her.