Disclaimer: Not mine; only borrowed, played with, and returned in like-new condition. See? I even taped the box again so you can't tell it was ever opened.

Author's Note: I wrote this years ago and was abruptly reminded of it this morning. Here I go posting with much glee. That said my writing has changed a lot so it might not be very good.

CHAPTER 1

Dana Scully arrived at the office early. She hadn't slept well; the last case still hung heavy in her mind. She knew the feelings of horror would pass; she just had to hold on until then.

She quickly made coffee, a habit so well-rehearsed she didn't know she'd done it until she smelled the strong aroma penetrating her senses, drawing her back from the thoughts which plagued her.

I wish Mulder would get here soon, she thought. I need a distraction, even if it is bizarre theories about aliens invading the federal government. But thinking of her partner only made her smile for a moment. Scully's thoughts slipped over the last few days with Mulder and she began to puzzle over his recent behavior.

It actually began before the last case, so she knew that wasn't at the heart of his actions. In fact, there wasn't anything in particular Scully could put her finger on, just a feeling of separation and distance, even when they were side by side, working together as usual. It felt like Mulder was pulling away, needing her less. Superficially, Scully believed she was relieved by his distance; he was too protective of her. But deeper down she knew she liked it, needed it, missed it. It was important to know she was valued by someone. It was good to be needed.

So what is going on? she asked herself as she settled at her desk with her coffee. Mulder was just pulling away from her. He didn't call as much in the middle of the night. It had been weeks since he stopped by her apartment, with or without a good excuse. Scully realized she missed him. They had so little time to form outside relationships; she had come to depend on Mulder to be her friend. Maybe I need to re-evaluate my feelings and stop needing his company, she thought. If he doesn't need me, I certainly don't need to need him.

Her resolution was interrupted by the arrival of Fox Mulder. He sauntered in, looking entirely too pleased with himself, thought Scully. Then she looked again. No, it's not pleased; he looks thrilled, like a kid on Christmas morning who can't wait for his parents to get up so he can open his presents.

"Morning, Mulder," was all she offered, not wanting to seem interested in his barely-contained excitement.

"Hey, Scully. Why are you here so early?" responded Mulder. "It's Friday. You should be gearing down for the weekend, not approaching it at full speed." His eyes glittered and he grinned to himself, feeling like he'd almost spilled the beans.

Scully pretended not to notice the smile and just replied, "I was awake so I figured I'd come in and get this report finished. Skinner wants it by ten."

Mulder ran his hand through his hair and groaned. "I thought we finished that yesterday. I have some…things I want to take care of today and I was hoping to leave early. Do you think he's gonna keep us long?" he asked.

Picking the paperwork off the desk, Scully flipped through it and pointed to one page. "This is the only thing that needs resolution before it is done. If you'll walk through it with me to explain some ambiguity, I think we can finish in plenty of time for Skinner and whatever it is you are working on," she said.

"Great!" Mulder replied, flashing a grin. "I don't want to waste any time today."

Scully couldn't help but grin back. The kid at Christmas look was there again - simply irresistible. What was he up to?

It quickly became apparent that he had no intention of sharing his secret so, resignedly, Scully settled at the laptop with the report open beside her. "So, what did you mean when you told the sheriff, "If aliens didn't do this then…"

They worked quickly and smoothly together, to finish the report in plenty of time for their meeting with Skinner. Mulder wore a look of anticipation the whole time and didn't offer one shred of argument when Scully refused to include a statement about crop circles being codes for extra-terrestrial visitors. He just grinned and passed over it, the look on his face saying, Whatever you want; I'm getting mine tonight, anyway. Dana began to suspect he had a date.

The day passed relatively uneventfully, the meeting with Skinner being one of the least volatile in a long time. Maybe he was getting tired of yelling at them.

Mulder spent most of the day on his computer, surfing the net and sending long e-mail messages, and then engaging in some rather cryptic, muttered phone calls that she couldn't quite hear. Scully didn't care. Her lack of sleep the previous night was catching up to her. By five o'clock she was ready to go home and crash. The fact that Mulder had left at 3:00 only served to depress her. As she packed her things and left the office she resolved to go home and sleep. Maybe that would help temper the feelings of overwhelming loneliness and self-pity that were threatening to swallow her whole.

By the time she navigated through rush hour traffic and found a parking space, Scully was exhausted. She made it inside the door where she dumped her briefcase, purse, and jacket, then dragged herself to her bedroom while peeling off her suit and pantyhose.

I'll deal with the wrinkles later, she told herself as she crawled under the blanket on the bed and promptly fell asleep.

Her clock read 8:30 pm when she drifted back to consciousness.

Now what do I do? she thought as she realized sleep was not going to return any time soon. How can I get two complete sleep cycles and then be totally awake again? If I have to be alone on a Friday night, I'd prefer to sleep through it.

With a groan of frustration, Scully rolled out of bed and confronted her suit, which was lying in a crumpled pile on the floor.

Guess I'll hang it in the bathroom and hope the steam from the shower straightens it out, she thought.

The idea of a shower sounded good so she complied, taking her time and soaking in the warmth until she felt comforted and ready to face life again. Well, life within the four walls of her apartment, anyway.

She was pulling on sweats and warm socks when her stomach started rumbling. Scully began to mentally evaluate the content of her kitchen.

"Damn, I need groceries," was the thought that verbalized itself as she searched for something that sounded good. "It looks like popcorn and tea tonight. Mom would yell if she knew this was my dinner!" The thought of her mom reprimanding her for not eating a balanced meal made her smile and lightened her mood as she popped the popcorn, made tea and moved to the living room. "I don't suppose there's anything good on TV on a Friday night."

After flipping through all the channels twice, Scully settled for Xena: Warrior Princess. I know it's corny, but who's here to criticize my choice? she thought as she wrapped an afghan around her shoulders and settled the popcorn in her lap. Besides, I deal with enough reality every day; a little exaggerated mythology can only help my state of mind.

Thinking of work made her think of Mulder, a topic she had avoided concentrating on until now. I wonder if he is on a date tonight, she thought.

Just then, the phone rang. It's probably Mom, Scully thought as she turned off the TV and jumped up to answer it. I haven't talked to her lately. She probably had a motherly vision of me eating only popcorn for dinner!

"Hello?"

"Scully, are you home?" Mulder's voice asked when she picked up the line.

"Of course I am. You dialed my home number, didn't you?" Why would he be calling when he was on a date? Let me guess: she turned out to be a werewolf, he got bit, and now he wants me to find an antidote. I don't need this on my night off!

"Scully, are you there? Is everything okay?" His voice came through strong and concerned, snapping her out of her mental chaos and reminding her why she was holding the phone.

"Of course I'm okay. Why are you calling me? I thought you had big plans tonight." Again she came back to that question. Was he in trouble again?

"I just wanted to see if you were home. Can I stop by? I want to talk to you about something important." His voice was tight, as if he expected her to deny him.

As if I could deny him anything. That thought startled her but she quickly pushed it down and said crisply, "Sure, I'm not too busy tonight. I suppose I can talk for a few minutes."

The relief in his voice was evident when he said, "Great! I'll see you in a little while, then." As the phone clicked off in her hand, a knock sounded at her door.

Would he really have made the call from the hall outside my apartment? she wondered as she turned to answer it, first checking the peep-hole out of habit. What she saw standing on the other side of the door make her reach back for her phone and press the #1 speed-dial button while she reached for her briefcase on the floor, pulled out her gun, and cocked it.

"Mulder," came the strong voice loud and clear on the second ring. There was a funny echo in the background.

"Mulder, how far from my place are you?" she said quickly. "There's someone at my door dressed all in black, wearing a black helmet. How fast can you get here?"

"Scully, look through the peep-hole again," came back Mulder's voice, thick with amusement.

She did as he said and was embarrassed to see it was Mulder outside her door, grinning like a mad-man. Well, that explained the echo, anyway.

Before opening the door, Scully took another long look through the peep-hole. Despite the visual distortions of the looking-glass, her partner looked incredible. Now that she knew who it was, Scully was able to take in the effect of the costume being worn by the man outside her door.

He was wearing black jeans and heavy, black boots. He had on a black T-shirt under a black leather jacket. Under his arm he held a black motorcycle helmet. He looked amazing. Her breath quickened as she took him in, then slowed as she wondered, What is he doing here? Before she could puzzle over it further she put the safety on her gun, dropped it back in the briefcase, and released the locks on the door and pulled it open. The view she got left her staring with her mouth open. Forget what she saw through the peep-hole. He was the sexiest thing she'd ever seen!

Mulder quickly realized that he was the reason his partner looked like she'd just seen Elvis. His face grew red and he pushed his way past Scully, closed and locked the door, and stood in the middle of the living room, looking uncomfortable.

"Hey," he said finally. "Did you forget I do have a life outside the office?"

"Mulder, neither one of us has a life and you know it. Unless you are going to tell me you've been keeping a wife and five kids a secret from me for the last four years!" Scully was trying desperately to pull herself together and slow down her breathing. Gosh, was it hot in here? "What are you doing here and why are you dressed like that? I thought you had a date tonight."

Mulder's face registered surprise and shock. "A date? Why would you think that? I haven't had a date in months."

"Today at work you were so giddy. It seemed like something big was happening after work and a date seemed to be the most logical conclusion." The feeling of relief washing over her was almost embarrassing. "So are you saying you didn't have a date tonight?" It didn't hurt to be certain.

"No, there was no date. I guess I was pretty excited today. Do you want to know why? That's why I came to see you. It wasn't much fun alone and I wanted someone to share it with. Do you want to know?" Mulder's eyes looked into hers, searching for the answer he wanted.

He was such a kid sometimes! It was cute, endearing. How could she resist him? Scully knew she couldn't. That had already been proven too many times to count. "Yes, I want to know what you are doing here. Tell me. And tell me why you are dressed like you stepped from the Terminator movie."

He laughed, his eyes glowing with excitement. "First you have to get dressed in something else. Put on some jeans and a warm sweater and a heavy jacket. Do you have any heavy boots or shoes? You need something that will protect your feet."

"Why? Please don't tell me we are going someplace cold. I finally got warm and comfortable tonight. This had better be worth it." Scully grumbled as she moved to do what he asked. Mulder laughed at her complaints, knowing she was getting curious. His excitement was contagious.

Scully pulled open drawers and her closet, searching for the right clothes. She came back after several moments, dressed in jeans and a heavy turtleneck sweater, carrying boots and a short leather jacket that looked like Mulder's, but more feminine. "Are these boots heavy enough?" she asked, holding them up. "I use them for hiking and outdoor work."

Mulder took in her outfit, grinning in appreciation at the fit of her jeans and nodding his approval of her boots. "They will be fine. I like your jacket. Why don't you ever wear it? I've never seen it before."

"Mulder, can't you just picture this jacket over one of my suit coats? It would make a lovely sight, don't you think? I can just imagine the looks I'd get passing through security at work wearing this with a suit. No, everyone thinks I'm crazy to work with you; the last thing I need is to give the appearance of insanity!" She watched his face to see if her words hurt him and when he grinned, she relaxed her posture. He was in a good mood tonight. "I got the jacket a couple of years ago because I wanted it. I just don't get many chances to wear it. Besides, it weighs a ton. It's not the best thing to wear in the car on a long trip. This isn't going to be a long car trip, is it?"

Mulder smiled in anticipation. "No, it isn't going to be a long car trip. It is going to be a trip, the length of which depends on you. Are you ready to go yet?"

While they bantered back and forth, Scully sat on the sofa, lacing up her boots. She now stood up quickly and slung her arms in her jacket.

"I'm ready. Do I need anything else? Oh, wait. Let me get my gun and badge and some money. I've learned I usually need at least one of those things when I go anywhere with you." Mulder's unusually light mood was affecting her positively.

Her earlier discouragement was gone and she felt a tingle of excitement starting to stir in her gut. This was like an adventure! She felt like she was in college again, getting ready to raid the rival school's gym locker room before a big game.

In a moment she stood in front of him, "I'm ready!"

"Then let's go!" he replied. Mulder draped his arm around her shoulders as they moved out the door, in what he hoped came across as a friendly/buddy gesture. He couldn't help himself. He was just so excited that she agreed to go with him, he had to touch her. Scully allowed, and enjoyed, the contact, happy he was feeling comfortable enough to do so.

They quickly left her apartment building and entered the parking lot.

"Are we taking your car or do you expect me to drive?" Scully asked. She looked around the lot but didn't even see his car. "Did you drive? How did you get here?"

Meanwhile, Mulder was leading her to the far side of the lot, directly toward a motorcycle - a Harley-Davidson motorcycle to be exact. "This is how I got here. This is why I have been so excited today. This is it."

Scully stopped in her tracks. "You have a motorcycle? Somehow, I never pictured you as a biker. Why didn't I know about this?" She was shocked. Suddenly she remembered the helmet he had been holding when she opened the door, and that he had held the whole time he was in her apartment. Some FBI agent she was! She couldn't even see the obvious when it was right in front of her face. Mulder's outfit, or perhaps the body within the outfit, distracted her, she admitted to herself.

"I just got it today. I've been looking all over the place for one of these used, in good condition, at a price I could afford to pay. I bought this from a guy in California. That's why the body is in such good shape. It has been exposed to very little bad weather. It had to be shipped to me and it just came today" Mulder paused to let Scully's thoughts catch up to his words. She was standing next to him with a baffled look on her face.

He asked tentatively, "Will you go for a ride with me? I was out by myself for most of the evening but found out I wasn't having much fun. I guess the experience of the bike is better if you have someone to experience it with."

Scully turned to look at him. Mulder couldn't read her expression and it worried him. Did she hate motorcycles? Was she afraid? Would she refuse to go with him? The worst-case scenarios flooded his mind and made him feel like this was the worst idea he'd ever had.

He said quickly, "You don't have to go if you don't want to."

Scully laughed. It was a laugh filled with pure joy and excitement. "Of course I'll go. Don't you know I love motorcycles? Charlie had one when he was in high school and he took me for rides once in a while. It is the best thing in the world!"

Relief flooded Mulder and a big grin spread across his face. "Great! I really wanted you to come with me. I love riding. The feeling of freedom you get on one of these babies is amazing." The look he gave her was one of pure mischief. He walked to the bike and began touching it as he spoke, the light in his eyes getting brighter with every word. "See, it's a Sportster. I guess that won't mean anything to you. The guy I bought it from threw in the saddlebags for free."

Scully slowly circled the machine, running her fingers over the shiny chrome and soft leather, admiring the sleek lines. Mulder watched her appreciatively. He was pleased to see she felt an attraction to the motorcycle, just as he did. Finally she finished her inspection and turned to him. "Well, what are you waiting for? Let's go! Do you have a helmet for me?"

He nodded and pulled one out of a saddlebag and handed it to her. "Do you need help with the strap?" he asked.

"No, thanks, I have worked one of these before!" She grinned at him. He was so anxious for everything to go well.

After minimal fidgeting and checking, Mulder climbed on the bike and Scully hopped on behind him, her feet finding the foot pegs and gripping them tightly. Next she wrapped her arms around Mulder and gripped him tightly.

Hmm. There could be some major benefits to this mode of transportation, she thought as she pressed her body against his back and clenched her knees into his thighs. He wriggled a little when her arms grabbed his stomach.

"What's the matter? You aren't ticklish, are you?" she asked, squeezing her fingers under the edge of his jacket and digging in lightly.

"Stop that! If you do that when we are going 70 miles per hour on the highway you won't think it is so funny!" Mulder squirmed and grabbed her hands, wrapping them tightly around his waist. "Now leave those there where they won't cause an accident!"

Scully sat demurely with her hands still and obedient and when he was sure she wasn't going to tickle him again, Mulder started the bike. The sound of the engine through her helmet and the vibration of it through her seat made Scully wonder how she could have missed hearing him when he pulled into the parking lot. There was nothing subtle about this machine.

"Are you ready?" he yelled over the sound of the bike. In response, Scully squeezed his waist with her arms and his thighs with her knees. There was no sense in trying to make her be heard over the roaring of the engine. Yes, she was ready. She anticipated this was going to be the ride of her life.

They slowly pulled out of the parking lot and onto the road. "Just lean with me, whatever you do. I'll try to warn you before we take any hard corners." Mulder didn't want anything to go wrong on this ride. He'd nearly destroyed her life already through her association with him and the X-files. The last thing he needed was to kill or maim her in a motorcycle accident.

The night was pleasantly cool. She was glad to have her jacket, but wished she'd thought to bring gloves. Mulder had pulled some on before he started the bike but Scully's fingers were quickly getting chilled. Well, there was one obvious solution. She began to worm her fingers under his jacket again, trying not to tickle him this time. Yes, that was much better. He was nice and warm inside his jacket and her fingers quickly returned to their normal, warm-blooded temperature.

"I thought we'd take the highway to the river. I know a good place to ride on some back roads out there." Mulder tried to make her hear him over the roaring of the machine and the blowing of the wind. She squeezed him again to let him know she got at least some of the message.

God, was he enjoying this. He could feel her little body pressed tight against his, down the full length of his back. Her knees kept their vigil against his thighs and her fingers under his jacket, well, you couldn't get much better than that. Yes, this had to be what heaven was like.

Mulder directed the bike onto the on-ramp and began to accelerate to match the speed of the traffic on the highway. He loved the feeling of raw power beneath him, loved knowing he controlled that power.

He yelled, "Hold on!" and quickly gunned the accelerator, moving them into the passing lane and quickly reaching 70 mph. He would have loved to go faster but didn't want to do anything that might scare Scully. Suddenly she began to whoop and holler in his ear. He couldn't understand what she was saying but he did understand the tone of her message. She was having a blast and wanted to share it with the world. The world and him. Suddenly Mulder felt incredibly lucky to be the one carrying this particular woman on the back of his bike. When did life get so good?

Scully was thrilling to the feel of the wind on her face and the power of the bike beneath her butt. She was also thrilling to the feel of Mulder as she pressed against him, trying to keep the wind from getting between their bodies. How did this happen? Just this morning she was fretting that he seemed to be distancing himself from her. Was she misreading him? Maybe it didn't matter at all. Tonight they weren't FBI agents. Tonight they were just friends. Tonight was all that mattered right now.

Mulder slowed and signaled to pull into the right lane as their exit approached. He pulled onto the off-ramp and began the journey to the river. He had already been here once today, on his first ride after he picked up the bike. But the magic wasn't there then. He couldn't enjoy it by himself. That was when he found himself on his way to Scully's apartment, hoping she would come. He couldn't think of anyone else who belonged there with him.

They spent more than an hour on the road, driving slowly by the river, watching the moon path race beside them on the water, or driving as fast as possible, as though the devil himself were on their tail. It was so much fun! They finally decided to take a break and Mulder drove to a park that overlooked the river - a beautiful place to rest. He pulled into a parking spot and turned off the motor. They just sat for a moment, afraid to move or speak for fear the camaraderie they had been feeling would vanish into the night.

Slowly, Scully began to move away, pulling her fingers from under Mulder's jacket and letting the pressure of her knees fall away. Mulder resisted the strong urge to lean back into her, already missing the feeling of her body against his.

"Oh. Ow!" Scully almost yelled the words as she tried to pull her leg over the bike to get off. "I think I was holding on too tight! My muscles are killing me!"

Mulder leaned forward so she could get her leg past him. When she swung it over to meet the other one and slid down to touch the ground she groaned again. "Yes, I was definitely holding on too tight," she said.

"I didn't think so," Mulder replied, the mischievous look on his face and in his eyes again.

Scully blushed deep red and tried to avoid his eyes. "I was only making sure I didn't fall or get thrown off!" she tried to defend herself. What's the use? A man will think whatever he wants to, anyway.

Mulder was rummaging around in the saddlebags. "Here, hold this," he said, handing Scully a blanket, then a bag of sunflower seeds, two bottles of iced tea, a bag of peanut M & M's, and a bag of carrots. "I didn't know if you would want sweet or healthy," he said, looking at the snacks she was holding. "I hope you want at least one of them. I know I will never eat the carrots. Give me some of that stuff and let's find a good place to sit and relax."

"When did you get these things?" Scully asked as they walked toward the river. "It looks like you showed up at my place awfully prepared for…this. I thought it was a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing."

"When I realized I wasn't having fun, I decided to take a chance and see if you would come with me. On my way I had to stop for gas so I just got some stuff while I was at the convenience mart." He stopped at a likely spot, scanned the area for anything better, and then moved to spread the blanket. "I put the blanket in before I even took it for the first ride. I guess I had a premonition I might need it."

He dropped to the ground and took the things Scully was holding, motioning for her to sit next to him. She suddenly felt self-conscious. This was starting to feel like a date, a romantic date. In fact, the last time she sat on a blanket next to a body of water under the moonlight, she was on a date. That it had happened over ten years ago was irrelevant. It still was a date. She began to wonder if this was a date, too.

"Are you going to stand there all night?" His voice broke through her thoughts and she shook her head and lowered herself to the blanket. It couldn't be a date. This was Mulder, her partner. She knew he cared about her but not in the way that would lead him to take her on a date. She was just being paranoid. Get a grip, Dana. It's Mulder. Enjoy yourself, even if you don't understand it.

Mulder passed her the M & M's, the carrots, and a tea. He ripped open the sunflower seeds and began his ritual, enjoying his snack. Scully studied the candy and the carrots, then put the carrots down.

"I think I'll start with the M & M's. So, Mulder, tell me how you got this bike. Why did you get a bike? Have you ridden much before?" Suddenly she wanted to know it all, to understand why he enjoyed it so much and why she had never heard about it before.

So Mulder shared his story, explained his passion for riding, and finally got Scully to tell about her experience with motorcycles.

Time eventually found them both lying on their backs looking at the sky. Once the questions about motorcycles had stopped flying, Scully noticed the stars. It was such a perfect night. The knoll they sat on was far enough from the city that light pollution was barely a factor. The astronomy lessons from her undergraduate days trickled into her mind and she was delighted to find she actually remembered the names of many of the constellations she was seeing.

When silence reigned for several minutes, Mulder began to fear that Scully had fallen asleep. He got up on one elbow and leaned over to see her face. Her eyes were opened and moving quickly, scanning the sky.

"What are you doing?" he asked. She looked so peaceful and contented lying there.

"I was remembering my astronomy. Did you see how clear the sky is tonight? I wish we had an observatory around here open to the public. It is so beautiful. Lay down, Mulder. You are blocking my view of Orion and Canis Major."

"I know Orion," said Mulder, as he lay back down. He turned his body so his head was touching Scully's, trying to get her perspective on the sky. "There he is!" he said, pointing. "What is Canis Major?"

Scully grabbed his still-pointing arm and directed it to the stars that made the body of the Big Dog. "The Little Dog, Canis Minor, is just those two little stars to the left of Orion, by his head. Canis Minor is the dog of Gemini, the twins. That is them, standing back to back, above Orion." She used his arm again to trace out Gemini until he could see what she was showing him. "Look at Orion's belt. Just below it on the left, can you see that sparkly bunch of stars? That is his sword. It is called the Orion Nebula. That is the place where stars are being born, even as we speak."

Her voice glowed with excitement as she told the stories of the constellations in the sky. Mulder was amazed at the depth of her knowledge.

When he expressed his surprise she laughed, "You should meet my professor. He was the nerdiest looking guy I'd ever seen. But when he started teaching you could tell he knew it all and he wanted us to love it like he did. I loved that class. At the end of the semester I felt like I was walking away with knowledge I could hold in my hand and pull out and show to people. I never got that feeling in psychology or history. I am amazed at how much I remember. Dr. B must have pounded it in harder than I realized!"

As silence took over again, Mulder checked his watch. He was shocked to see that it was 2:00 am. How could it have gotten to be so late? He couldn't remember ever having such a good, relaxed time with someone.

Hating to break the mood but feeling a sense of responsibility to his partner he said, "Scully, it's two in the morning. Do you want me to take you home? I'm sorry; I didn't realize so much time had passed."

Scully laughed at the sound of guilt in his voice. "Mulder, it is not your fault that time passes. If you ever found the way to stop it you'd be the richest man in the world. No, I don't think I need to go home yet, unless you want to. I'm not doing anything tomorrow that I need to be awake for. I do, however, need to pee like crazy. I don't suppose this park you picked has any bathrooms, does it?"

Mulder tried to look sympathetic but couldn't hide a smile when he responded, "No, Scully, no bathrooms. It looks like you had better pick a nice tree to get friendly with."

"Do you at least have a tissue or a napkin I could use?" she said. "Sometimes I hate being a girl. If a park ranger comes along just as I drop my pants, I'm blaming you for the whole thing!"

Mulder ran back to the bike and rummaged around until he found a small, slightly crumpled napkin that looked like it had spent the majority of its life in the saddlebag. He passed it to her sheepishly, saying, "This is all there is. You'd better get it all out now so you won't have to go again later!"

Scully was ready to slug him for that last crack but when she stood up she suddenly realized she really had to go. Grabbing the napkin she broke into a run toward the small stand of trees near where they had been sitting.

"Don't you look at me, now! I shot you once and wouldn't have any qualms about doing it again," she yelled over her shoulder as she took refuge in the security of the trees.

At least she was wearing dark clothes, not that it would matter one iota once she pulled down her jeans and exposed her white butt to the world. Why had God granted men the luxury of peeing standing up while cursing women with the squat? She hated peeing outdoors. But when you have to go, what can you do?

The deed done, Scully ran back to the blanket and threw herself on it, scaring Mulder who had used her absence to fall asleep.

"Are you sure you don't want to take me home? You seem awfully tired," she said. Mulder growled low in his throat and moved to make room for her. Once she got herself settled, he moved and laid his head on her stomach.

"Is this okay?" he asked.

"Yeah, um, sure," she replied. This was interesting. "Am I to assume the growl meant you don't want to go home yet, or are you turning into the Wolfman? I'd like to know ahead of time if I need to defend myself."

His laughter made his head bounce on her stomach. Good thing she'd just emptied her bladder or that would have caused a BIG problem!

"I am just enjoying this night too much to let it end now. Do you mind if we stay for a while longer?" The soft tone he spoke in made her heart melt. What was the power this man held over her? He was starting to get under her skin. He was starting to get into her heart.

Wait a minute, what was that last thought? Scully's heart jumped and her mind froze. Who said he was getting into her heart? Denial rushed to aid the distress and she chided herself for being silly.

Fortunately, Mulder's voice broke into her thoughts and distracted her. "This reminds me of when I was ten. It was a warm summer night. I'd gotten a one-man tent for my birthday but because that was October, I'd never had a chance to use it. After I begged for almost a week, I finally was given permission to sleep in the backyard. I remember crawling in and getting into my sleeping bag. I was so excited. It was so hot in that tent. I got hotter and hotter. Finally I couldn't take it any more. I had to get out. But I wouldn't relinquish the rights of my own tent so I compromised. I slept with my legs in and my head out. I remember seeing the sky like it is now. What a fun night. I didn't get any sleep. What kid can go to sleep the first time they sleep outside?"

Mulder turned his head to look at Scully's face, to see what she was thinking. What he got was an eyeful. He forgot where his head was and when he turned, he discovered he was looking straight at her breasts. For a moment he just held his breath. All night he tried to remind himself that this was his friend, his partner. For some reason the evening started feeling like a date and he wanted to remember it was nothing of the sort. They were just friends, out for a motorcycle ride and a stop at the river. He was doing okay until now. But what can you do when you are looking at someone's chest and they know it?

"Mulder, breathe." Her words were like a slap in the face.

He quickly drew in a breath and turned his head the other way. No, wait, I don't think I should be looking there, either, his brain said and he quickly closed his eyes and turned his head so he was once again looking at the sky.

"Sorry." The word came out sharp and regretful. He was sorry he made her feel uncomfortable, but somehow he couldn't make himself be sorry he looked. What kind of a friend was he, anyway?

Scully struggled to keep from laughing. The look on his face when he realized what he was staring at was priceless. She could almost hear the cogs in his brain come to a screeching halt as he was confronted by the objects which make most men stop thinking with their brains and start thinking with, well, other parts of their anatomy. She'd suspected it before but now she knew for sure; Mulder was a breast man.

Trying to keep the amusement out of her voice she said, "Mulder, it's okay. I've seen you check them out before. I'm sure you'll check them out again. At least it wasn't intentional this time. You didn't hurt me. You treated me with respect. There was no harm done. Get past it. Don't let something as silly at this ruin the evening."

Mulder turned his head, careful to make eye contact with Scully, and not other parts of her. She was smiling. Actually, she seemed really amused. She thought this was funny? What could be funny?

Despite himself, Mulder began to relax. Well, if Scully could laugh about it, maybe it was funny. He tried a tentative smile and that was all it took. Scully burst out in uproarious laughter, making his head bounce all around her stomach. That made Mulder laugh and made Scully laugh even harder. The two of them lay on the ground laughing until they had to hold their stomachs from the pain. Yeah, he guessed it was funny.

Once the laughter subsided and they regained their breath, both Scully and Mulder just lay there in a companionable silence. What a great evening it was. Suddenly a cold wind started to blow. It quickly made them both chilled, despite their warm clothes.

"Well, Scully, it looks like we have two options: I can take you home now so we can get out of this wind or we will have to roll up and snuggle together in this blanket. What's it going to be?" Mulder held his breath, waiting to see what she would say. He really liked the idea of snuggling but he wasn't sure if that was appropriate, acceptable behavior.

"I don't know, Mulder. I'm afraid that if I keep laying here I'm going to fall asleep. And while it can be fun to go to sleep outside under the stars, I know for a fact that it is very little fun to wake up after sleeping on the hard ground all night." Scully hated to end their time together but her practical side knew it probably was time to go home. "How about we go for another spin on the bike and then you take me home. It really is too cold to be out here much longer."

Mulder sighed. Yeah, he knew she was right. But if he took her home now, would they ever be able to regain this level of friendship, of comfort with each other? He wanted to hold on to it for as long as he could. Good times came few and far-between in his life; he didn't want to risk losing this.

"Okay, we'll go. But first you have to promise me something." He paused, wondering if he really had the nerve to say it. Maybe he did. "Can we do this again sometime? Sometime soon?"

Scully sat still on the blanket. Was he asking her out? So what if he was? It was no crime to get together and have fun.

Out of defiance to her own hesitations she firmly stuck out her chin and said, "Yes, I will do this again with you. I've had loads of fun tonight and I can't wait until we can go out again." There, she said it. Sometimes it is so hard to just say what you are feeling. But it was important. She wanted him to know how she felt. Now it was up to him.

His face broke out in a huge smile. She had fun with him! And she wanted to do it again! He guessed he could give in and take her home, now that he had the promise of another good time to come. "Great! I'll have my people talk to your people and we'll work something out. Should we get going, then?"

They stood and picked up the remains of their snacks, then shook out the blanket and folded it. As they moved back to the bike they walked very close. Their skin wasn't touching but their essence was. Something had happened tonight that changed their relationship. It was a good thing.

Author's Second Note: Okay, I know I wrote this a while ago but, honestly, Xena: Warrior Princess? That's what I had Scully watching on TV? I cringe but resist the urge to change it, along with the overwhelming volume of internal monologue. If you stuck with it long enough to get to this note, I thank you. You must have incredibly low standards for reading material!