Author's Notes: I wanted something light and funny to counter all the serious works I've got in-progress, and was relieved to think up this one. Thanks to Silke for an early read of a partial story and letting me know it worked, and Stephen for a wonderful beta. As I always say, you can never have too many pairs of eyes!

Spoilers: None. Takes place shortly after Bad Blood but is not related.

For Cory—I miss you and hope this cheers you at least some small bit.


The Great Dane Caper
Rated PG
By Suzanne L. Feld

"Mulder, I need your help."

Now while I do hear that from Scully upon occasion, this wasn't a weekend I'd expected to. I raised my eyebrows and glanced sideways as if I could see through the cell phone pressed to my ear. "Aren't you dog-sitting this weekend? I believe I was not to try and drag you out of town on a case, or even contact you unless it was a real emergency?"

"Yes, but that's not what I need help with. To make a long story short, I have to bake twelve dozen tollhouse cookies tonight and if you're not busy, I could really use your help."

I put down Sports Illustrated; a story about Mike Tyson's latest escapade couldn't hold a candle to this. "I'm not so sure you want me near the kitchen, Scully," I said honestly. "I can heat a can of Campbell's soup and warm up a frozen pizza but that's about it. And what about your friend: Ana, was it? Wasn't she supposed to help you with this?"

"She's afraid of the dog," Scully said. "Please, Mulder?"

I heaved a sigh. "When?"

"Now if you're not busy, or whenever you can get over here," she said, relief clear in her voice.

"Okay, so long as I don't do any actual cooking," I agreed. "Be there in half an hour or so."

"Thanks, Mulder," she replied with a warm, affectionate voice. "I really appreciate it."

"That's what friends are for," I assured her, then hung up. "That's what suckers are for," I added once I was sure she couldn't hear me. But my weekend had cheered up immensely; two weeks ago, when Scully had scheduled a Friday off and warned me that she didn't want to see me for the duration of said Friday and subsequent weekend, it had rather hurt my feelings. Later I had found out that she was dog-sitting a friend's Great Dane for the weekend, which she usually did once or twice a year at their house. However, as they were having it painted while out of town, she had the dog at her apartment.

I also knew this coincided with the annual church bake sale on Sunday afternoon that Scully was involved in, which she and another friend usually did together.

I knew Great Danes were big dogs, but she'd told me that this one was very old, gentle, and friendly, and I was willing to take her word for it. It wasn't that I didn't like dogs; I just didn't care for little yappy dogs that were walking, barking dust bunnies like her last one. When I was a kid we'd had a few dogs over the years, mostly German shepherds, Lab mixes, medium-large types like that. Those I could handle.

I was hanging around in sweats so I changed into jeans and a t-shirt, figuring although it was cold outside it would be warm in Scully's apartment with all the baking going on. I added a pullover sweater, then shrugged into my leather jacket and left.

The minute Scully opened her door I spotted the dog standing behind her and almost choked on my own saliva; I knew Great Danes were big, but this one's back came above her waist. It was, without a doubt, the largest canine I'd ever seen. She shooed the dog back to let me in, then after I'd toed off my wet sneaks and she'd taken my jacket, let the dog come over to investigate me.

"Farrah's twelve years old, a champion ex-show dog who also has her Canine Good Citizen certificate and used to go to hospitals and nursing homes to visit sick children and senior citizens," Scully said as I stood still and let the huge animal sniff me. She sounded as proud of the dog as a mother with a child who'd won a spelling bee. "She's retired now, though; her arthritis is too bad for all that traveling. She's quite elderly for a Great Dane; they only live about ten years."

Farrah looked up at me with mild brown eyes, then opened her huge slobbery mouth and began panting. Her long red tongue looked larger than a cow's, not that I've seen many of those. She was a soft tan color with a lighter belly and chest, and black face; if not for the teeth I might have mistaken her for a young deer. As it was, she really did look just like a live-action Scooby Doo despite the grey salting her muzzle. I reached out gingerly and stroked her head, causing the long whip-like tail at the other end to wave back and forth. Then she sighed and turned away, going to lay down by the hallway where Scully had set her large dog bed and a small pile of blankets as well as bowls of food and water. "Jeez, that looks more comfortable than my couch," I remarked as I watched the dog circling and pawing at the bed until she finally sank down with her head on outstretched paws. "I'm tempted to join her for a nap."

Scully chuckled and took me by the sleeve. "Oh, no, you don't. I'm putting you to work, partner."

I groaned, but knew I was pretty happy to be in her company no matter what she had planned for me. It certainly beat laying on my couch watching ESPN 4 all day since it was supposed to snow and I hadn't planned on going anywhere. This was the first time I'd ever seen her kitchen so cluttered, the counters covered with bowls and a mixer and other baking implements, the top of the stove with pans, and the table with wire racks covered with cookies. "Can I at least have one before we start?" I asked plaintively.

"Just one," she replied, letting go of my arm and handing me a slightly misshapen cookie. It was still warm and gooey, fresh from the oven, and I popped the whole thing in my mouth. A burst of rich sweet goodness swept through me and then I bit down and got chocolate and walnut added to that.

"Damn, these are great!" I said when I could speak. "Sure I can't have another? What's your secret?"

"It's just the recipe from the back of the chocolate chip bag," she said, swatting at me when I reached for another cookie. "No more, Mulder. My mom's coming to pick them up later this evening, we've still got six dozen to make, and I need to run to the store to get more flour. I could have sworn I had another bag but I can't find it."

"All right, what do you need me to do?"

She pointed to a row of different sized bowls lined up on the counter, each filled with batter. "I already mixed these up. All you have to do is drop the dough in teaspoons on the baking sheets, put two in the oven at a time, and set the timer for twelve minutes," she said, showing me each thing as she explained. "We'll do this one together and you should be able to get at least four dozen more done while I'm gone."

Okay, I could handle this. It wasn't like I had to follow the recipe or anything. We stood together at the counter, the top of Scully's head below the level of my chin since neither of us were wearing shoes. For the first time I noticed what she was wearing: a pair of faded, straight-leg jeans with a long-sleeved denim blouse tucked in, the sleeves rolled back to her elbows. She had her hair pulled back into a high ponytail, a few loose strands hanging down around her face. When she looked up at me I noted that she wasn't wearing much makeup; I now knew exactly what she looked like without it after her cancer battle. I secretly had a thing for that little reddish mole on her upper lip and was tickled to see that it wasn't covered.

"Mulder, are you paying attention to what I'm showing you?"

I came back to the present to see that she was standing with arms akimbo, staring up at me with a slight frown on her lovely face. "Sorry, got lost in thought—it was unfamiliar territory," I cracked. "Start from the top."

This time I paid attention as she had me drop teaspoons of the dough on the baking sheets, three across and four down. "Be sure to press it down a little with the back of the spoon so the dough doesn't slid off when you put it in the oven," she said, showing me. The baking sheets she had were flat with ridges on both ends but nothing on the sides, so I saw what she meant. "When you take them out, wait five minutes then move the cookies to the wire racks on the table with this spatula."

Sounded easy enough. I made up a second pan while she watched and, as she got ready to leave, slid both in the oven and set the timer on the stove like she'd shown me. "You need anything while I'm out—something to drink?" she asked, sliding into her dark navy peacoat. Instead of her usual heels I noted that she was wearing a pair of flat-heeled snowboots, smart in this weather.

"Sure, why don't you get us a six-pack of something to share; I'll even drink that girly white wine you like," I said, flashing her a grin from where I stood at the stove.

"I think Michelob will do us fine," she said dryly, then left.

I glanced around the apartment, noting that the rest of it wasn't as immaculate as usual, either. There were a couple of magazines and sections of a newspaper on the coffee table, a mug on her computer desk, and some clothing thrown over the arm of the couch. My interest piqued, I went over to it and picked up what turned out to be a little bitty Scully t-shirt, and found a pair of her panties and sweatpants beneath it. The collar of the shirt was still slightly damp and the scent of good honest Scullysweat drifted up to me; she had probably worked out earlier. Why these were here on the couch I had no idea, but it was also none of my business. I eyed the panties, but not being a total pervert despite what some people thought I didn't touch them, setting the t-shirt back on top so they were hidden. Didn't want Scully to be embarrassed if she thought I'd seen them.

It was warm in here, I realized, and shucked the sweater. The t-shirt went with it but since I knew she wouldn't be back for a while, left them tangled together on the back of a kitchen chair and went shirtless for the time being. Felt much better, and I'd put something on before she returned.

I wandered back into the kitchen, noting that Farrah was still laying in her corner though she was watching me, the black brows above her eyes moving as they did. The timer said four minutes so I stayed nearby, though it was so quiet that I was considering putting some music on. I wasn't sure how Scully could stand this silence; if nothing else I usually had the TV on just so it wasn't so annoyingly and noticeably noiseless.

The timer finally buzzed and out came the cookies, but I paused while holding the baking sheets in my hand with the oven mitt on. The table was covered with racks that already contained cookies so I had nowhere to put the baking sheets. I set them back in the oven, leaving the door open, and tore through the cabinets until I found a large platter. I piled the cooled cookies on it, set it on a chair, then slid both trays out of the oven and onto the racks.

I should have readied the next batch while this one was baking, I realized, since Scully had four baking sheets. Leaving the first two to cool (five minutes, I reminded myself) I lifted the other two empty ones to the countertop next to the sink and began making neat rows of cookie dough on them like I had the last time.

But when I lifted the first one to slide it into the still-open oven, every one of the dozen dough balls slid from the sheet and plopped to the floor; I had forgotten to flatten them slightly.

"Dammit!" I swore, and a movement out of the corner of my eye cause me to turn. Farrah was now sitting up, gazing at me attentively. Hey, quick and easy cleanup, I realized. Our black Lab Bear had been an eating machine, easy to sneak food to; until he'd gotten hit by a car when I was eleven he'd eaten most of my disliked foods under the table.

"Farrah, c'mere, girl," I called, patting my leg and setting the empty pan back on the counter. The huge dog heaved herself to her feet and ambled over, long tail wagging slightly and ears up. I then tapped the floor by the fallen dough and she needed no more urging to scarf it down, even enthusiastically licking the floor where the cookie dough had been.

"Good girl," I praised her, stroking her soft head between the upright ears, then scratching around them. She grinned up at me while panting, the tail still going slowly. "Okay, all done, you can go back to your nap."

She heaved another heartfelt sigh and gazed at me with soulful brown eyes for a moment more, then turned and sauntered away. I went over to my coat, which Scully had set neatly over the back of a chair, and dug my cell out of the inside pocket.

"Scully."

"Uh, had a small accident and we'll be short a dozen, uh, a dozen cookies, sorry."

She sighed, sounding remarkably like the dog. "No problem, Mulder. I'll pick up a package of easy bake ones so we don't have to mix them all over again. Don't tell me, you forgot to flatten them with the spoon?"

"I take it you did it too," I said, relieved she wasn't mad.

"Uh-huh. How do you think I knew?" she said with amusement clear in her voice. "I'm almost to at? the store, so I'll see you when I get back."

I hung up and turned, nearly falling over the dog, whom I hadn't realized was still in the kitchen. "Look out, girl," I said, then realized that her head was under the table and I could hear chewing noises.

Oh shit!

I grabbed her by the collar and pulled her away, but the damage had been done. The huge platter of cookies I had set on the chair seat was more or less gone. Really, more than less.

I started to scold the dog then realized that it was my fault she'd gotten to them at all; had I not brought her in here to clean up my mess and set the platter on the seat of the chair she never would have noticed them. I grabbed my cell phone and began to clean up the mess with my other hand.

"Scully."

"You're, uh, gonna need to buy some more cookie dough."

"What?!"

"Long story short, Farrah ate all the cookies you had already baked."

"Son of a… okay. Is that all?"

"Uh, for now."

If a person could slam down a cell phone, Scully did it.

I turned around and my jaw literally fell. Without getting up on her hind legs Farrah had cleaned all the dough off both cookie sheets on the counter and was happily licking her chops, giving me that doggie grin, her tail still waving.

Scully was going to kill me.

May as well get it over with.

"Scully."

"Ahhhhh…"

"You've got to be kidding me! How much is left?"

I went over to the counter. "Two of the bowls on the kitchen counter are untouched."

Her reply would have made her father, a career Navy man, blush, I'm sure. "Well, we don't have time to mix it all and bake it, so I'll just load up on the pre-mixed dough," she snapped. "Make sure she doesn't get into that, Mulder, or don't be there when I get back."

"Hey, you asked me to help!" I protested.

"Help, not hinder!"

I set my phone down, unable to blame her much for being upset. Yes, she had asked me to help and all I'd done was screw things up. As I washed my hands I glared over at Farrah, who was now sitting on her nest of blankets, watching me avidly. I readied then put the next two pans of dough in the oven. I'm sure she thought I provided manna from Heaven and I hated to disappoint her any further—but I was going to be careful to do just that.

All went well after that until Scully arrived home. I went over and took the shopping bags from her and put them on the counter, smelling the fresh scent of snow as well as noting the flakes melting on her shoulders and hair. Apparently the threatening snowstorm had started; she had the kitchen blinds closed so I couldn't see outside. I turned around and she was staring at me with wide blue eyes. "Mulder, why are you not wearing a shirt?"

"Oops." I glanced down at my bare chest. "It got warm in here, and when I took off my sweater my t-shirt got all tangled up in it… I'll go put them back on."

But when I went to get my shirts they were missing. "I kid you not, I put them right here on the chair," I said, pointing.

Scully, who was putting her coat in the big cabinet by the door, turned and looked towards the dog. "You'd better check Farrah's bed. She likes to pick up dirty clothes and sleep with them. She doesn't chew them up or anything, but she does roll on them."

Sure enough, both my sweater and t-shirt were crumpled among the blankets in the dog bed, and I got sad eyes from the mutt when I made her move and took them away. Giving them a sniff, I grimaced. "They smell like dog," I complained, holding them away from my body. "I'd really rather not put them on unless you really want me to."

"I don't have anything that'll fit you," Scully said, shaking her head as looked over at me from the kitchen where she was unpacking the bags. "As long as you don't mind going shirtless, I don't care."

That was a relief. "Is that why you have clothes on the arm of the couch?" I asked.

"Exactly. I figure if she wants something to sleep with those will do since they're my workout clothes and already dirty. That way she won't go digging in the hamper and get into my good work clothes. But she's ignored them since she's been here. Uh-oh, Mulder—there she goes."

I turned to see Farrah carrying my black sweater and grey t-shirt, which I had just put back on the chair, back to her nest. "Let her keep them," I said tiredly. "Not like I don't have more at home. Can I help with anything?"

"They didn't have any of the premade dough with walnuts, so we'll have to add them manually," she said as she fussed with things on the counter, glancing back at me. "Touch nothing until I get everything ready."

A little stung, I went and sat on the couch. Moments later Farrah came over and stuck her big tan and black head in my lap, her sad brown eyes gazing soulfully up at me. "Big dumb dog," I muttered, but scratched around her ears the way I already knew she liked. I simply couldn't resent her when everything that had gone wrong had been my fault, even if she was the implement of my destruction.

The rest of the evening was uneventful if busy. Scully had bought bricks of chocolate chip dough, the kind you break apart and place on the cookie sheets and just toss them in the oven. To each one we added a few walnut pieces, pushing them down inside the raw cookies and ignoring how misshapen they came out.

By nine o'clock we pulled the last sheets from the oven and with a sigh of relief Scully shut it off. It seemed like there were cookies everywhere though we'd already packed a few dozen in Tupperware lined with foil. "Mulder, you can head on out if you want," Scully said, leaning back against the counter and removing the oven mitts she'd used to take out the baking sheets with. "I can finish up from here, and I don't want to keep you any longer."

"I'll help you finish packing them up first," I said, glancing over at Farrah. The old dog appeared to be asleep but she didn't fool me. I knew that if so much as a chocolate chip hit the floor she'd be up like a shot. Well, perhaps not that fast, but she'd been in here after it regardless and I needed no more of her 'help'.

We had barely finished when Scully's phone rang and we exchanged a knowing look. "Yeah, mom, they're all ready whenever you want to come pick them up… okay, fifteen minutes," she said, then hung up. She heaved a deep sigh. "Thanks again, Mulder. Despite all the craziness… I really do appreciate your help."

"You're welcome, and sorry about the mess," I said, thinking it was pretty lame but the best I could do. I really was sorry I'd screwed things up and relieved that she wasn't too angry at me, though on the other hand I had volunteered my time. Hell, either way I'd been able to spend some of the afternoon and most of the evening with Scully in her apartment, so I called it a win and let it go from there.

I dug my shirts out of Farrah's bed again but they smelled even worse. When I turned with them in my hands Scully was standing right behind me and we both jumped; I stepped on Farrah's tail and she yelped. Once I was done apologizing to the dog and soothing her, I found Scully standing in the foyer holding my shirts, her workout clothes that had been on the arm of the couch, and a bottle of Tide. "Planning on doing some laundry?" I asked as I stood from where I'd been crouched beside the dog bed. "Or do you have some kind of strange fetish I'd rather not know about?"

"Actually, yes to the former. I was going to run downstairs and throw these in the wash; you can't wear these shirts home, Mulder; they smell terrible. Heaven only knows the last time Farrah had a bath or her blankets were washed. It won't take long; I doubt anyone else in the building is doing wash this time of night on a Saturday."

"Fine by me," I agreed. "Thanks for thinking of it, Scully."

She shrugged and turned away, stuffing her feet into a pair of old mocs that I knew she used as house shoes, but not before I saw a flush of color on her cheeks. "No problem. Be right back."

After she left I went to the fridge to get a glass of ice water or tea or whatever she had, and found a six-pack of Michelob in there. I knew it had to be for me since she only drank beer when I did and that was my brand, so I took two out. There was a knock at the door as I was about to sit on the couch so I set one bottle on the coffee table and went to answer, wondering why Scully would be knocking at her own door.

But it wasn't her, of course. It was her mother.

"Well, Fox, it's not every day I get greeted in my daughter's apartment by a bare-chested man holding a beer," she said, clearly taken aback but recovering quickly as I stepped back to let her in. She was wearing a stocking cap, curls of thick, dark, graying hair sticking out the back and sides with flakes of snow melting on top as well as on the shoulders of her forest green coat. "Hi, Farrah," she said to the Great Dane as the big dog wandered up, patting her on the head, but Margaret's eyes were on me. "Should I even ask?"

I sighed. "It's a long story and Scul—Dana should be back shortly to help explain."

Shaking her head, she wiped her booted feet on the mat and looked into the kitchen. Scully and I had bagged all the containers of cookies in brown paper bags that she normally used to recycle her newspapers, and four of them were lined up like patiently waiting soldiers on the table. The rest of the kitchen was trashed with bowls and pans everywhere, and I immediately moved over there to begin cleanup… definitely in the 'least I can do' category once I realized it.

The door opened again and Scully walked in. "Oh, hi, Mom, you made it over here fast," she remarked, closing the front door behind her and leaning down to peck her mother's cheek. Then she spotted me, still shirtless, standing at the kitchen counter gathering up spoons and pans, and flushed that dull red again, though she turned away from Margaret and I was pretty sure her mother didn't see it. "I was, uh, throwing Mulder's shirts in the wash; Farrah decided to use them for her bed," she explained, going to the table and lifting one of the paper bags. "I'll help you carry these out to your car."

"No, I'll get them," I said, lifting my leather jacket from the back of the chair. "This'll be fine for me to wear out there and back."

Both women stacked my arms with bags and Mrs. Scully held the doors, leading the way to her car which was parked in a loading zone out front. To my surprise the snow was really coming down; a good two-three inches had fallen since I'd arrived earlier in the afternoon. "You'd better get going soon, Fox, or you might not make it home tonight," Mrs. Scully told me with a pat on the shoulder and total lack of guile before sliding in behind the wheel of her Lincoln. "Drive safe when you do leave."

"You too," I assured her, then watched her car slowly move off in the thick mushy snow. She drove a rolling Detroit land barge and it would probably get her wherever she was going safely, but the same could not be said for my old Taurus, which had all the traction of bowling shoes on a freshly waxed lane.

I went back in the building shivering; it was cold inside my leather jacket with nothing between me and the nylon lining. In the apartment I found that Scully had made us cups of coffee, the beer bottles nowhere in sight. When I took the jacket off I was shaking from the cold, though I tried to hide it as I went to help Scully in the kitchen.

"God, Mulder, you're shivering," she said, turning away from the stove. "Hang on a second; sit down and have some coffee until I get back."

I sat down at the cleared kitchen table and cupped my hands around a hot mug of coffee, not sure which one was mine but the warmth was welcome. Then something soft and warm dropped around my shoulders and I let out an unintentional groan of appreciation, looking down to see that it was one of Scully's thick beige bath towels. "It's warm," I said with surprise, letting go of the coffee cup and pulling the ends around my shoulders to cover as much of my chest as I could and leaning forward to let the back of it fall down between me and the chair. "This feels like a little slice of heaven. The dog could eat my clothes right now and I wouldn't care."

"There's a heat vent right behind the toilet so I store some towels on the shelves above it, and they're warm like this when I get out of the tub," she said from behind me, then began to rub the outside of my arms vigorously. "Don't want you to get sick after you've been such a help today."

"Help?!" I said derisively, making myself pretend to continue to shiver so she'd keep rubbing even though I was now nicely warmed up from the heated towel. "I screwed things up almost beyond belief. You'd have done a lot better by yourself."

"Bullshit," she said briskly, her rubbing slowing to something more like a caress. Now that felt really good. "Things didn't go perfectly, Mulder, but when do they ever, with us? The point is we got it done and that's what counts." She finally let go of me, to my dismay, and went around to the side of the table, pulling out the chair there and sinking down into it with one leg folded beneath her. Cupping her hands around the coffee mug sitting there, she smiled over at me. It was just a little close-mouthed smile, but it was the sun in January to me.

I grinned back, still holding the rapidly cooling towel around my shoulders. "I'm glad I didn't totally screw things up."

"Drink your coffee, it'll help warm you up," she said, nodding at the cup in front of me. "Shouldn't take that long for our clothes to be done; the washer only takes about fifteen minutes and the dryer maybe half an hour. So you can be back home and curled up on your couch before eleven."

I didn't remark on the likelihood of that, though I knew at this point that it was unlikely that I could safely drive home now even if no further snow had fallen. Instead we ended up discussing our last case until, during a lull in the conversation, I heard a faint buzzing sound.

"That's the washer; the laundry room is right below my apartment." Scully stood, then put her hands on her hips and arched back, stretching. At the risk of getting an eyebrow or even smacked I stared outright as her chest was outlined in soft denim, but luckily she didn't see me as Farrah chose that moment to stand up and amble over, tail waving like a lost rudder behind her. She looked up at Scully, then walked to the door and paused, looking back. "Well, girl, you'll have to wait until I get back for a walk," she told the dog, patting her as she went by.

"I'll walk her before I leave if you want," I said, not liking the mental picture of Scully being dragged through waist-high snowdrifts by the huge dog.

"She'll have to go long before that; she's good about letting you know when she wants out but you need to get her outside fairly soon or there's a large puddle of dog urine in your future," Scully said, going to the door and nudging Farrah aside before slipping through it.

I considered taking her out while Scully was gone, but several things made me less than enthusiastic. For one thing I couldn't find her leash, and another was that the towel around my shoulders was much better than the cold leather jacket. Instead I sat at the table and drank coffee until Scully returned a few minutes later, shaking her head as she again slipped past the dog waiting to go out.

"Mulder, I'm afraid you're stuck here tonight, and in fact I'm going to have a hard time getting Farrah out," she said. "Have you looked outside lately?"

"Not since I took the bags out for your mom, and there was two or three inches on the ground then but it wasn't insurmountable," I said, getting up and going over to the window by her desk, leaning over beside her computer to look out. "Oh, shit!"

The three inches had tripled. The snow was pelting down so thick I could barely see to the street even with the streetlight outside the window.

"Yeah, we're in the middle of what looks to be one hell of a nor'easter," Scully said, going over and turning on the TV, then no need for 'then' flipping to The Weather Channel. "Good thing I picked up some food while I was at the grocery store."

Farrah whined and we both looked at her. Heaving a sigh, I pulled the towel off my shoulders and went over to hand it to Scully, saying, "If you'll be kind enough to get that warm again, we'll be back shortly."

When we got back, both thoroughly covered in snow from stem to stern and, for me, with it down my collar and in my shoes, Scully was waiting with warm towels for us both as well as my clean dry shirts. She then made me take off my wet socks and go hang them in the bathroom. "How bad is it?" she asked as we sat at the kitchen table with mugs of tea this time. I was now barefoot, but the warm towel over my t-shirt and sweater went a long way to counter that.

"Bad enough that I'm glad you don't mind me spending the night," I said. "I only took Farrah to the corner and back and you see how long we were gone."

The poor old dog was panting like she'd run a marathon though I had done all the trail-breaking. Of course she was now laying on her big messy bed with two thick towels laid over her, about as warm and comfy as a mammal could get.

"Did she do her business?" Scully asked.

"Yeah, and once she did she all but dragged me back, old or not," I admitted. "I doubt she'll be going out again tonight."

"Nor will you," Scully said firmly, pointing to the couch. The TV was still on, muted, and a small pile of blankets and sheets topped by a white-cased pillow were at one end. "I think we could all use a good long winter night's sleep."

To my surprise, I suddenly yawned bone-crackingly. "God, I guess so."

Grinning, Scully got up from the table. "I can take a hint. Just turn off all the lights and the TV when you go to sleep, Mulder. Good night."

"Night," I replied, watching her put our mugs in the sink with the neatly stacked baking implements from earlier; she must have put some in the dishwasher but one side of the sink was still almost full. The counters were wiped clean, as was the stove and table, and I noted that the coffee table had also been cleaned off. I didn't clean my apartment this much in a year, never mind twenty minutes. "See you in the morning, Scully."

She waved as she disappeared into her bedroom, closing the door most of the way but leaving it cracked just a little. I stood in the middle of the kitchen for a moment then noticed that Farrah had pulled the towels off her back and was snuggled in among them, though the stack of bedding that Scully had put out for me was untouched. Still, it gave me an idea and I wouldn't resist calling out, "Hey, Scully, Farrah stole all my blankets. I don't supposed I could come in there and get warm…?"

"Right. You said earlier you wanted to sleep with the dog, Mulder. Here's your chance."

Grinning, I plopped down on the couch and reached for the pillow. Better luck next time, I guessed. For now, I was warm, dry, and closeted with my best friend… it really didn't get any better than this.

finis