Title: Under the Harvest Moon

Author name: Soleil

Author Email: soliel9708@aol.com

Disclaimer: I'm on unemployment. Nuff said.

Summary: Plotless Fluff. Set in the same happy universe as Music Through Open Windows. Don't need to read that to understand this.

Pairings: H/M

Spoilers: Nope. Assumes pre-existing relationship

Rating: Pg

The moon is low and yellow in the sky. Many years ago, when men's footsteps were new and soft on the ground, farmers used the moon's phases to plant and harvest their crops. Tonight, the air is a little crisper, making you think of fall words like apples, cider, and doughnuts. The night sky is losing its summer glow and you can smell the wood smoke in the air. The night begs for mystery. It calls for something primal, bringing back memories of places you have never been, of things that never were. Tonight, things long past will drift like shadows through the trees. Gypsies will dance around campfires, their limbs long and dark against the caravans. Little children will wander into fairy rings and go live with the fairies. The moon makes you believe this is possible.

As the tractor lumbers towards the bonfire on the edge of the woods, you breathe deep. Safe and secure in your circle of light, you inhale the scent of fall. The smell of the earth dying. It should be a frightening smell and it's easy to understand why people used to fear it. Why they thought the dead would walk. But, tonight it's magical.

Someone has brought a violin, another person a guitar. And the music cocoons you, enveloping you and leading you further into the dark. The sounds are soft and distant, the music dances over the stubbled fields and drifts along the trees.

She snuggles closer to him and pulls the baby against her chest. It's Ellie's first hayride and the little girl is more interested in the hay than in the possibility of magic. It's her mother's first hayride, too. She tried to pretend like she wasn't excited but couldn't succeed in cloaking herself nonchalance.

He chuckles at her enthusiasm and she hits him lightly on the shoulder. "Ow," he whines, rubbing the spot on his arm.

"That didn't hurt," she tells him.

"Maybe not you, it wasn't your shoulder," he points out. He looks down at his daughter. "Your daughter is eating hay again."

She pulls the straw from the baby's mouth. "So she's my daughter when she's eating hay?" She raises an eyebrow.

"Well, she certainly didn't get it from my side of the family."

"Well then, when will she be your daughter?" she asks.

He thinks for a minute. "When she's in a cockpit."

She resists the urge to sigh. Instead, she readjusts the baby so she can study her features. "She might not be a pilot, you know."

El grabs her mother's fingers, the diamond on her engagement ring flashing in the lantern's light, and stuffs them in her mouth. He watches the baby chew on his wife's hand. "Well," he says, "one things for certain, she has your appetite."

She tries not to wince. "Could you get her teething ring please?"

He rummages through the ever-present diaper bag and finds the ring. "Here you go, Ma'am," he presents, "one teething ring."

"Thank you." She plucks the ring from his hand and substitutes it for her fingers. Wiping her hand on the leg of her jeans, she cranes her neck to see the bonfire in the distance. They are close enough so that she can see sparks from the logs against the night sky. They glitter orange against the dark. Turning her head, she watches as the children on the ride throw fistfuls of hay at each other.

They are visiting his grandmother. It still feels odd for her to have a family to visit, but she loves seeing the older woman. She reminds her of what she used to think families should be like. She's cinnamon and apples, beeswax and slip-covered furniture. And, most importantly, she adores her great-granddaughter. Tonight, she has shooed them all out of the house and onto the hayride. She assured them that it was a time-honored tradition. The town's bonfire and hayride began when the town used to celebrate the harvest. Celebration slipped quietly into tradition as tractors replaced horses, as generations grew up and moved in or out of the town, but the fire on the edge of the fields remains. A reminder of when things were harder but life was less complex.

She likes it here and she's glad her daughter can experience it. Even if she's too little to remember it later.

"Where did you go?" he asks softly and she turns to study him. His face is washed in light and shadow and she lifts a hand to his cheek.

"I'm right here," she answers. "Harm?" she asks. "Would it really bother you if she didn't join the Navy?"

"You mean if she followed in your footsteps."

Sometimes she thinks he deliberately misunderstands her and she shakes her head no before sighing. "No," she clarifies. "What if she doesn't want to do either?"

"Go her own way?"

She nods and smiles down at Ellie. "I was just thinking." She bounces her knee a little and Ellie chortles.

He reaches out to tickle her belly and Ellie begins to babble. "You were thinking?"

She lets her breath out slowly and stares up at the night sky. "El can do whatever she wants. It's amazing. The possibilities are endless for her."

"It is pretty amazing, isn't it?" he agrees.

"I just.." She breaks off and covers her face with her hand.

"You just?" he asks, pulling her hand away and prompting her. There are nights when he understands every thought in her head. Then, there are nights like this one, nights were she chooses to discuss some of the most serious topics in the oddest places.

"Oh, this sounds so cheesy, and I can't believes I'm going to say this. And you can't make fun of me." She points an accusing finger at him. "Or else I'll get your grandmother to tell me the really embarrassing stories. Stories that the bullpen would just love to hear."

He crosses his heart. "I swear."

"I just want her to be able to dream." She flushes at her statement. "I think we both got short changed as children. I want her to be able to dream instead of worry."

He tucks her under his arm and rests his chin on her head. "You're right," he murmurs into her hair. "That was cheesy."

She laughs and slaps him lightly on the chest before throwing a handful of hay at him. "Jerk."

"You know," he says, "this is spousal abuse. I have witnesses this time." He takes his arm off her shoulder to gesture to the crowd of people on the trailer with them.

She studies them for a minute. The other people are talking and laughing in small groups. "They're pretty crappy witnesses."

"Ellie will testify for me," he assures her and reaches out to take the baby. Lifting her above his head, he blows a soft raspberry on her belly.

She smiles at their antics before realizing she's now defenseless. She can see the glint in his eye that tells her he knows what she's thinking. She watches as his hand grasps at the straw covering the trailer.

"The baby," she says.

"Is sitting on my lap," he finishes.

"Not Ellie," she smiles.

"Then - oh." Pulling her close to him, he kisses her hard on the mouth. "Are you ever going to fight fair?"

"No," she smiles again.

"So much for waiting until Ellie got older."

"Surprise, surprise, our kids have minds of their own." She stares hard at him. "You're not upset," she points out.

"Well, no," he concedes. "I just want to win an argument once in a while." He studies her speculatively. Rubbing his hand on his chin, he says, "Hay never hurt anyone."

She pats him consolingly on the thigh. "But right now you love me too much to throw stuff at me." She grins up at him and he smiles back.

The music is a little louder now, the fire a little bigger. Overhead, the stars are beginning to appear. Orion's belt hangs low in the sky and she can hear families calling out the names of the constellations.

Beyond the fire, the woods are dark and still. Somewhere, far beyond them, there are major highways and shopping centers. But the woods are thick and the distances are large. It's night like these that remind you of when you used to think anything was possible. When the air was full of mystery and ghosts and goblins would chase you beneath your covers. When good fairies haunted the woods and guardian angels hovered by your shoulders. It's night like this when you remember to smile back at the man in the moon.