Author's note: A bit of a departure from "Empty Hearts"… this one is going to be a bit more fun & romantic (I hope, anyway). A story to keep us all warm during this cold ass winter we're having (here in the Midwest anyway!). Enjoy!


Snow can wait
I forgot my mittens
Wipe my nose
Get my new boots on
I get a little warm in my heart
When I think of winter
I put my hand in my father's glove
I run off
Where the drifts get deeper
Sleeping beauty trips me with a frown
I hear a voice
"You must learn to stand up for yourself
Cause I can't always be around"
He says
When you gonna make up your mind
When you gonna love you as much as I do
When you gonna make up your mind
Cause things are gonna change so fast
All the white horses are still in bed
I tell you that I'll always want you near
You say that things change my dear

- "Winter", Tori Amos


Chapter 1

Ah, January in Washington, DC.

It was generally a terrible time most places in the United States, but DC, and the east cost in general, had been slammed by snowstorm after snowstorm this particular winter, leaving record amounts of snowfall. The snow was fun while it lasted, in the pre-holiday bliss that had settled over Scully. Now it was January, the Christmas tree was down, and the dreary grey had settled in. By the looks of it, they weren't going to be seeing the sun again until springtime, which seemed a lifetime away when the wind chill was below zero.

Scully pulled into the parking garage of the Bureau, sighing at the thought of winter and at the fact that she was running a bit late this morning. She was always a half hour early, by habit. She blamed it on growing up in a military family, that mandated the "if you're early, you're on time; if you're on time, you're late," school of thought. This morning she had no excuse besides sleeping through her alarm, which she hadn't done since undergrad. Fortunately, her internal clock kicked in with enough time to put on the professional Dana Scully look, though she was unable to grab her normal morning coffee.

Unsurprisingly, Mulder was waiting on her when she got to the basement office. She had called him on the way over, letting him know she was going to be a little late.

He gave her a wry grin as she sheepishly entered the office, then tossed a file folder on her desk, cocking an eyebrow in the process.

"What is this?" she inquired, hoping it was something legitimate that involved something tangible. Their solve rate was down for the count these days, and they could really use something concrete to close on, to get the higher-ups off their backs for once. Preferably in Florida or southern California if possible.

"Well good morning to you too, sunshine," Mulder quipped.

"Sorry," she returned with a shy smile.

"Scully, how do you feel about cannibalism?"

Her eyebrow hit her hairline in response.

"It gets better, Scully!" he said, gleefully.

"Not sure what could possibly be better than cannibalism in January, Mulder," she retorted, taking the opportunity to pour herself coffee, resisting the urge to groan at the thought of this case. "But try me."

"How does a pattern of cannibalism in South Dakota sound?"

She stared at him incredulously. There was no way in hell Skinner signed off on them to fly to South Dakota, chasing after something that would likely turn up to be the work of some sort of wild animal.

Mulder cheerfully ignored the look on her face.

"I hope it sounds good, because we fly out this afternoon," he grinned. "You, me, and some cannibals in Deadwood, South Dakota."

"Skinner actually signed off on this absurdity?" she asked, still in disbelief.

"Of course. I met with him early this morning, while you were getting your beauty sleep."

Damnit! Of all the days to be late, she had to be late today. She could have sat in on this meeting, with the purpose of reeling Mulder in, to the side of sanity. Assistant Director Skinner was sometimes distracted by other things, and Mulder often capitalized on those times. When that happened, she and Mulder ended up on cases with "monsters" (a term used loosely, of course) like Big Blue and the Jersey Devil.

She sighed audibly at the thought of it. She supposed those cases were better than the ones that got them kidnapped or hurt or somehow illegally breaching the walls of restricted military bases. This was probably the lesser of the two evils. But it was times like these that made her really wonder what they were doing. Or what she was doing. And it was cold. Really fucking cold.

"Okay," she said, finally. "So what do we need to do from now until we fly? I don't even have the proper cold weather gear for this type of trip."

"Well we're going to be smack dab in the middle of a national forest, so we're going to need some basic camping stuff on top of the cold weather gear."

"Mulder, please tell me we are not camping in this forest in Jan-u-ary," she said slowly, biting off each syllable as if he were a child.

He smiled inwardly, taking a bit of pleasure out of her partially irate demeanor. He could tell she was trying to hide it, but he knew her all too well, for far too many years. Mulder knew she was pissed, but Angry Scully was one of his favorites sometimes. She so rarely expressed emotions, remaining his dutiful, stoic partner more often than not. Mulder had many fantasies about his partner, but his most favorite fantasy was ravaging a very angry Dana Scully. Angry Scully was passionate, and she was sexy as hell. And let's face it; it wasn't like Mulder was getting any action anyway.

The tapping of her foot distracted him, thankfully. Sometimes his mind wandering about the enigmatic Dana Scully got him into trouble. The thoughts were more frequent these days. He couldn't get her off his mind.

"Of course not, Scully," he said. "I've got us booked at the only place they've got in the area to stay, government rate of course, but we'll be doing a lot of footwork in the forest… so the camping stuff is precautionary, of course. Don't worry, I'll take care of it before we head out."

"And is this place a no-tell, motel, or is it at least legitimate?"

"Hampton Inn," he returned, expecting that question. "But it get's better Scully, there's a casino there apparently, you know, if you feel like getting lucky."

He playfully elbowed her ribs at the innuendo, as she instinctually rolled her eyes.

"Okay, so we should probably get going then, I have some stuff I need to take care of if we're heading out tonight. What time do we fly?" she asked.

Grabbing his coat and the case file, he thumbed through looking for their itinerary. " We fly out at three-thirty this evening, and we get in at a reasonable hour with the time change, but we've got a three and a half hour drive to Deadwood."

Lovely, she thought to herself.

Making no expression, she nodded her head in agreement. "Pick me up at two?"

"It's a date, Scully," he said with a smile, making his way to the door. "Oh and Scully, one more thing."

She looked up at him quizzically. "What?"

"I think you'll look sexy in a snowsuit."

And with that, Fox Mulder was gone.

A grin tugged at the corners of Scully's lips. She hated how he could take her misery and turn it completely around like that. She would die before she would ever admit it, but she lived for those innuendos, for the banter. Sometimes it really made her feel like she was attractive and wanted in a non-professional kind of way. And it was nice. Especially since it was Mulder. She hated to admit to herself that the possibility of being snowed in, in the middle of fucking nowhere, with Mulder, really sounded too good to be true.

And of course it was too good to be true, because Mulder never actually thought of her in that manner. Their friendships knew no bounds, except for sexual bounds and relationship bounds. And those limitations were blatantly obvious sometimes. Mulder was a flirtatious person by nature, and could easily have any woman he wanted – at the Bureau, or elsewhere. The thought of it made Scully's stomach churn. Yes, there was sexual tension between them, but Scully didn't measure up to the leggy, busty brunettes Mulder generally went for.

Banishing further thoughts of that topic from her head, it was time to head out and take care of everything.

Her first stop was to pick up cold weather gear. Scully was not pleased about the chunk of change she was about to spend on this expedition to stay warm, and she swore to herself that the Bureau was going to reimburse her – at least partially – for all of this.

Perusing the aisle for snowsuits, she found that the only one left in her size was a ridiculously expensive North Face snowsuit, in an extra-hideous royal purple. Pressed for time, she didn't have the luxury of being picky.

"Fucking perfect," she muttered, tossing it in her cart, along with a coat, boots, and other warm items.

While in the checkout line, she spied those shakable hand warmers. A cold body by nature, she took the whole box and tossed it in her cart.

After she paid for her items, she ran a few more errands before running home to pack and wait on Mulder to come get her. This was about to be a trip to remember, for sure. Chasing cannibals in the snow of South Dakota with a cheerful Mulder. She wondered why he was so goddamned cheerful.

Her immediate explanation was that he was obviously seeing someone and sexually satisfied. But she put that idea to rest when she remembered that the sexual tension between the two of them was like electrical currents with no outlet. It was a static thing between them – it never changed, it was always there, hanging over their heads like a bad habit. Mulder tossed the innuendos and she brushed them off. After awhile they fought over something insignificant, that had nothing to do with the real issue, then they made up, and the cycle continued.

She wondered if the cycle would ever changed, or if it would continue to be this unbroken continuum that haunted her every move. Of course she wanted him. And of course she loved him – in that way. But they continued to do a two-step around the obvious.

Scully knew she was not especially forthcoming, emotionally. It was her biggest downfall and yet her biggest shield against getting hurt. She knew there was something there – she wasn't stupid. But did he feel the same was as her? Surely not. Mulder was more outgoing; he actively sought after the things he wanted. If something was in the crosshairs, he did not stop until it was his. Obviously the feeling wasn't mutual – on that level, anyway.

It was probably (read: definitely) an unfair assumption, but it was the easier explanation as to why their relationship was what it was. And sometimes the easier answer was the better answer, at least for the time being. Who knows what the snow might blow in, in fabulous South Dakota? Surely not cannibals.

A firm rapping at the door jolted her out of her thoughts. Shit. Was it two already? Checking her watch as she strode to the door, she smiled. 1:45. Mulder, too, was a creature of habit – habitually early, just like her. It was the one thing they could at least agree on these days. She opened the door and was greeted by Mulder's lanky frame in the doorway, donning a lazy smile.

It was time to pay the piper in Deadwood, South Dakota… and maybe catch a cannibal while they were at it.