On a Star Spangled Night

by Gina Rain

Title: On a Star Spangled Night
Author: Gina Rain (ginarain@aol.com)
Category: MSR, casefile-ish
Rating: NC-17 (mild enough but, if you're underage, please read something else)
Spoilers: Post- The Unnatural
Summary: Think the X-files meets Love American Style. Well, not really, but it's a catchy summary for once, dontcha think?
Special thanks: To Ms. Sybil for her lovely beta services. Thank you so much!

XXXX

Scully's apartment
1:45 AM, Sunday

Scully opened the window to let in the cool spring air. It touched her fresh-from-the-shower skin and sent a shiver down her spine. It wasn't the only thing that elicited a shiver this evening, but was something that might help bring back all the memories for a curtain call. What she needed to capture and hold, more than anything else that happened tonight was the feel of his arms as they encircled her body. Being held by him during a moment of non-duress sparked feelings of warmth, security and even a strange kind of vindication. For a few hours, everything that had ever gone wrong in their lives seemed worth all the trouble because nothing could feel more 'right.' Their cares floated away with every ball that joined the stars for a brief dance in the night sky.

What she needed to release, however, was the one crushing moment of disappointment she experienced as they stood by her car door after the dance was done. He looked down at her with an unguarded smile that seemed to light from the deepest regions within; she almost closed her eyes in anticipation of sealing every promise offered by the look in his eyes. Perhaps it was the flicker of her lashes that signaled his guards back to duty. During that brief moment, his smile faded into one given by one coworker to another. He wished her a good night as he turned and headed toward his own vehicle.

It was hard to remember the sweet without concentrating on the bitter taste that followed all too soon.

Kalispell, Montana
4:45 AM, Sunday

Anna knew walking through the woods probably wasn't her wisest course of action. But it was safe. Nothing bad ever happened in Kalispell, Montana. Besides, walking through the woods in order to reach the lake at sunrise, was such an incredible experience, it had become addictive.

There was that delicious pre-dawn chill in the air as she strolled among the ancient trees. She was right on schedule. Just as the sky would begin to lighten, she would reach the clearing where she could watch the warm colors of daybreak celebrate their daily victory over the power of night. She let out a small laugh. She was reading way too much poetry lately. Ah, well. She had a lot of spare time. The library was not exactly overflowing with patrons.

She used her flashlight to guide her through the path that would take her to the final clearing and stopped dead in her tracks. The amount of light she was seeing was much more than the small flashlight could ever provide.

Anna looked up.

There was a spark-a brilliant white dot of light high in a small space amongst the trees. It slowly made its way down until it was about eight feet from the ground and then simply hovered. There was another spark-this one blue-that followed the same routine. And finally, a red spark ignited from nowhere and quietly fell until it was side by side with the other two.

Anna watched in amazement as the three sparks slapped against each other and multiplied, dancing in a whirlwind fashion. They moved faster and faster and instead of following the laws of gravity and descending, they rose higher and higher until they soared above the highest tree and then ... simply disappeared.

US Highway 93
Monday, 4:49 PM

"You're awfully quiet today, Scully," Mulder gave her a quick glance before looking down at the map that lay on the seat between them.

Scully looked blindly at the scenery passing before them as they made their way to meet with their eyewitness to . . . what? She bit her lip, repressing a rude remark about Mulder's search for patriotic alien sightings. They had investigated stranger things, she supposed. It was just the timing that bothered her. The office wasn't busy. But Mulder had to find something to do every single moment of every single day. They could have had a free weekend; he had to go digging through the archives and running off to meet with Arthur Dales. Still, that didn't have to be a bad thing. She thought he might have learned something from the experience. It had seemed to touch him enough that he actually took a few hours to 'stop and smell the horsehide.' She had even allowed herself to hope for more: that the simple, but extremely intimate, physical encounter signaled a shift in their relationship. But she was completely wrong. The thought, apparently, held no allure for Mulder and as soon as this quirky report passed his desk, he lost absolutely no time in booking their flight and having them jet across the country to investigate.

"Scully?" Damn. He never could leave things alone.

"Yes?"

"Is everything all right?"

"Sure. Fine."

He laughed. "Whatever?"

"What?" She shot him a look.

"Nothing. I'm just remembering another time you seemed pissed off at me for no apparent reason."

"Mulder, I do not have to fill every moment of every day with what would amount to useless noise. I don't have anything to talk about right now, and as far as the case is concerned, I'm reserving judgement on that until we hear the details."

"Oh-kay."

She knew the silence was momentary.

"So, Scully," she couldn't suppress a small smile at the hesitation in his voice, "could you ever live in a place like this?"

"No," she said, without need for much thought.

"No?"

"I like cities, Mulder."

"Hmmm."

"Hmmm . . . what?"

"I just thought the quiet life would hold more appeal to you. You've told me so yourself, many times."

She turned to face him. "Just what-in our six years of partnership, gave you the impression that I was longing for life in the woods? I would like a few quiet moments now and then but complete isolation-no."

He looked at the road straight ahead. "Once in a while, I think I could be happy in a cabin by a lake. Wake up at the crack of dawn, go fishing . . . "

"Was 'On Golden Pond' rerun again last night?"

She smiled at the sound of his soft laughter. "Face it, Mulder. You are physically incapable of complete relaxation. I'm sure when you are lying on your couch at night watching whatever it is you're watchingsomewhere in the back of your mind-you are waiting to get the "relaxation bit' over and done with so you can have enough strength to go running off again."

"Isn't that the goal of relaxation?"

"Not necessarily. Sometimes you do it because it's enjoyable. Life can have enjoyable moments."

"I know. I had fun Saturday. Didn't you?"

"Of course I did. But it was a fluke. An x-file. Probably more of one than the red, white and blue sparks in the sky."

"Scully . . . "

"Forget it, Mulder. I shouldn't have said anything. You are who you are and I'm not trying to change that. I just think you could never really enjoy the type of lifestyle you're dreaming of. I guess you could always prove me wrong someday."

She went back to looking at the scenery knowing that, this time, he would not break the silence. He was a seeker of truth, but sometimes, the truth hurt. He would always be running--searching for some holy grail to the exclusion of everything and everyone in his life.

Sometimes, the truth hurt them both.

Monday, 5:59
Public Library, Kalispell, MT

Anna felt like an idiot. She had to usher them in the back room when they came in before everyone in town would know what she had done. If she knew that the FBI would come flying out the day after, she would never have reported the incident.

As a case study of people, it was rather interesting to watch the two agents they sent. The man was leaning forward, seeming to be interested in every word she had to say. The woman sat back in her chair and could only communicate her skepticism more by crossing her arms over her chest-but she was too well-mannered, or well-trained-to do that.

She didn't blame Agent Scully. She had been pretty skeptical herself. She had spent a good hour after dawn, climbing trees and looking for some sort of electronic equipment that could account for the lights. Unfortunately, she couldn't climb that high due to a bad case of vertigo and found nothing on the lower halves of the trees.

"This vision-was it frightening?" Agent Mulder asked.

"No, not at all. It was more fascinating than frightening. And, well, it was pretty. Like a tornado of color that was just there to kind of amuse you. There was no scary noise. Just little multiplying lights spinning together until they were simply gone."

"In red, white and blue?" Agent Scully asked.

"Yes."

"And you reported this because . . . " She was a tough customer, all right.

"Because I thought I should. I wasn't frightened. I didn't feel threatened. If anything, it seemed like an unexpected treat. But it was out of the ordinary, and even though I looked, I couldn't find a source. So, I thought someone might want to investigate in case there was more to it than met my eye. I had no idea the sheriff would contact the FBI. If I had known, I might have made another choice."

Anna focused her dark brown eyes on the agent's blue pair. She hadn't felt like she was in this much of a staring contest since first grade when Becky Myers bet her a bag of jelly beans that she would blink first. She really liked jelly beans and thoroughly enjoyed the spoils of her victory later.

In a few moments, Agent Scully blinked and Anna rejoiced in her non-jelly bean victory. She had convinced Agent Scully she was telling the truth. Whether the other woman found it important or not, she didn't think Anna was a complete crackpot and that was all Anna could ask for.

On the road again
7:45 PM
Monday

Scully watched Mulder as he looked at the signs on the road. She knew he was looking for lodging before he even said a word.

"Why are we staying over, Mulder?"

"Because Anna Winters isn't the only one who has seen these lights. They've been seen several times a week since the original sighting was reported about a month ago. And you saw her. She's a reputable witness. This is not some teenaged prank."

"But what was she doing in the woods at that time of night, Mulder?"

"You heard her, she likes watching the sun come up and this particular stretch of woods leads to the duck pond in Woodland Park, where the sunrise is supposed to be spectacular."

"And you believed her? A grown woman gets up in the middle of the night to trek through the woods to share daybreak with wild fowl."

"Sure, you said so yourself, Scully. It's not the big city. Standards of excitement are different."

"So, we're staying here in the hopes that you can share in a little rural thrill?"

"I take my thrills where I can get them."

He made a sharp turn off the road and Scully watched him park in front of the Glacier Motel.

Thrills. Mulder was a big thrill-junkie, all right. She adjusted her skirt and followed him.

An evening apart was just what they needed. Of course, it wasn't a full evening. They would be meeting around 5 AM to take a little walk in the woods but, for now, it was a nice break. Scully had taken a short trip to get some sandwiches and ate in her room. She took a long, leisurely shower and watched the news on television.

By 11 PM, she kind of missed him.

By 4 AM, she jumped the gun and went to his room. He opened the door and his face registered his surprise. "You're early."

"Well, I figured by the time we found the exact spot . . ."

"Okay. Give me a moment." He grabbed a backpack filled with various essentials and shrugged into a jacket.

They traveled through the countryside in silence and left the car by the edge of the woods. A small hike led them to the spot Anna had told them about. And they waited.

"We could sit," Mulder suggested, as they stood around, shuffling from one foot to the other and looking skywards.

"We could."

They sat.

Mulder pulled out a pair of high-powered binoculars and instructed Scully to flash a beam of light around the woods. Aside from disturbing a few birds' slumber, nothing else could be seen or heard.

Scully watched Mulder as he took out each and every high-tech toy in his backpack and tested them out.

When the sun rose and no light display took place, Mulder spent a couple of hours climbing trees, further up than she expected him to.

Finally, he jumped from a fairly high limb and was by her side once again.

"Nothing?" she asked.

"Nothing.

He put his hand on her shoulder and gave her a small nudge. "Come on."

"Where are we going now?"

"To the duck pond, of course. I could use a rural thrill about now, couldn't you?"

They made their way through the woods to a sudden clearing and walked down a small hill. There it was. The spectacular colors of dawn had disappeared leaving a calm, peaceful body of water surrounded by the cool mist of morning. A few birds were calmly paddling through the water. It was easy to forget about America's vast and varied scenic repertoire when one lived in the city. Even while traveling here, Scully had ignored what was right in front of her eyes. But she was seeing it in all its majesty now. She felt as if the entire world boiled down to one lake, two people and a bunch of ducks. She laughed softly.

"You got a little thrill?" Mulder asked in a fairly good Yiddish accent.

"Yes, I think I did. It's nice."

Mulder dumped the backpack on the ground and stretched his arms out. Scully wasn't sure why. He looked like he was either exercising stiff limbs or embracing the view before them.

"You see, this is the way to start off a day. Remembering that there is real beauty in this world but even this big old lake is just one infinitesimal speck in the universe. And, if it's a speck, what are we? And, yet, we have our place."

Oh, uh. There was that feeling again. Mulder was reminding himself he was only human again, and that was a very dangerous thing since it reminded her that she was, too.

"Have you ever made love outdoors, Scully?" he asked.

"What?" Surely, her hearing just went haywire.

"I'm not propositioning you. I'm just curious."

"Um. No. Not outside."

"Translation: you did it in a car. Technically, not outside but not in a warm bed, either."

"What about you?"

"Yes. With Phoebe mostly. She was a bit of a daredevil-exhibitionist-whatever."

"And you take your thrills where you can."

"Something like that."

Mulder was far away, probably with Phoebe, reliving past glories. If Scully were a different woman, she would do something to drag him back to the present. But she wasn't. They were on duty. It was as simple as that. And even if they weren't, there were consequences to impulsive behavior.

She sighed and he turned to look at her. "Let's go back. We'll stay here another day or so and then, if we don't clear up this red, white and blue mystery, we'll leave it as an open x-file and leave, all right?"

"Okay."

Glacier Motel
Mulder's Room Tuesday, 10:27 AM

They met up in his room an hour later. It gave them both enough time to shower, change and for Mulder to do a bagel and coffee run. Breakfast was fairly quiet. Even though it was mid-morning, the hush that had surrounded them all night long stayed with them.

"I didn't like it outdoors much," Mulder said suddenly, sipping his coffee thoughtfully.

"You didn't like what?"

"Making love. Having sex, really."

She gave him a quick glance over her own coffee cup. "Really?" she said, in a noncommittal manner, hoping he'd drop this bizarre subject.

"Well, the sex was quick and dangerous and I was young so that was all good, but it was just something to talk about later. Kind of like skydiving or any other extreme sport. Something to tell your grandkids."

"You will be a very strange grandfather if you tell the kids about that."

He laughed. "I think that would be a given, even without the sex stories. I just meant, you don't remember the feelings or even the woman all that much. You're too busy concentrating on whether someone is whipping around the corner at that moment and will see your ass in the air."

Scully nodded with her lips pursed tightly. The subject matter was not making her comfortable but she wanted him to feel free to talk to her about anything. This definitely qualified.

"Did you feel comfortable in a car?"

"I'm not exactly comfortable now. I don't want to talk about weird sexual encounters. I mean, what's the point?"

"There is no point. It's just conversation."

She stood up and tossed the remnants of her breakfast in his trashcan. "Well, maybe we'll continue this conversation at a later date. Right now, I think I'd like to catch up on some sleep."

She went over to the door, reached for the knob and felt his hand come down over hers.

"No."

"No?"

"Don't go," he said, wrapping his arms around her again. It was different than the batting practice the other day, when his arms were confident and secure. She could feel his uncertainty in the ginger way he was holding her, in the way he was barely breathing.

"Mulder, this is . . ."

"This is what? It's you and me completely alone. As we always are, in some ways. But it's also different. It's quiet and relaxed and I just can't do this anymore, Scully. I can't go back into the back into the battle-pretending that one man and one woman can make a difference when half the time, the biggest battle is with myself--keeping my feelings for you in check. It's a battle I no longer want to win."

His arms tightened around her a bit and he dipped his head to her shoulder. He placed a small, tentative kiss on the top of her sweater and then nuzzled closer to the neckline. He placed another extremely gentle kiss on her neck. She felt herself shiver all the way down to her toes.

"This is what I wanted to do on Saturday," he whispered, kissing her again, a little more boldly.

"Why didn't you?" she heard herself say over the sound of the beating of her heart.

"It seemed too big a step to take. I didn't want you to run off."

"I wouldn't have. Maybe I would. I don't know."

"You would have." He was right. Mulder took her by surprise that evening and all the hopes for more were written into the scenario after the moment had passed. If he had made his move then, she would have run for the hills because it wouldn't have been in keeping with the person she expected him to be.

"Are you running now?" he asked her, grazing his face against the shoulder of her sweater.

It was put up or shut up time. If she really wanted him to change their relationship, she had to show she was willing. She took her hand off the door and used it to guide Mulder's head closer to her neck. This time, he abandoned his hesitation and applied a full, open-mouthed kiss to her skin. He let out a low moan that almost made her knees buckle.

"Can we move away from the door?" he asked and she nodded in response.

He unwrapped his arms and stepped away from her. She could run, if she wanted to. She was still facing the door and she would never have to see his face. If there was a mark on her skin, she could cover it up and they'd never discuss it or the momentary insanity that caused it. That much she knew about both of them. But he was right. You choose your battles and this one was over a long time ago. Perhaps it was one that never should have been undertaken to begin with.

She turned to him and he smiled.

He took her hand in his and lifted it to his lips, turning it palm side up before placing a kiss in the center. Who was she kidding? A new battle had just begun. One with herself to keep from quivering to death while she held her emotions in check long enough for him to actually do something that merited actual quivering. It had just been such a long, long wait that her body was jumping the gun a bit.

"Say something, Scully."

"What else did you want to do on Saturday?"

He put his hands on her shoulders and drew her into his arms. He bent his knees a bit and she met him more than halfway by standing on her toes. Their lips touched in a soft, sweet caress. Then another, and then there was nothing gentle about their kissing. Scully was straining all her muscles to reach as much of him as she possibly could while realizing all that stooping couldn't possibly be good for his back.

She pushed him a little and he walked backwards until he hit his bed and then toppled them both over on it. Scully adjusted herself over him so she wouldn't be elbowing or kneeing him in painful areas and then resumed kissing his sweet mouth. This time, she pushed aside the quivers and ignored the rapid and audible breathing. She just wanted more.

And so did he. They touched and then tugged off clothing in a fairly sloppy manner and weren't even fully undressed when he reversed their positions and pushed her on her back. They both had their underwear on and Mulder was wearing one sock. He held both her hands out by the sides of her head and kissed her slowly and deeply.

"We were going too fast," he murmured against her ear.

"I didn't think you minded."

"I didn't. I don't. But we should slow down a bit."

She ran her hands through his hair. He closed his eyes as she slid her fingers through the soft strands. She then trailed her hands down his neck, across his back and to his behind. She slipped her fingers under the waistband of his boxers and started to slide them off, gliding her hands across his buttocks as the material made its way down. He lifted himself up a bit and let her guide them to his thighs, then he reached down and pulled them off-laughing as he found the single sock and removed that as well. He lay down beside her and she reached over and touched him. She used one finger to gently outline the length and then used her entire hand to give him a tentative stroke or two before he stopped her.

He pulled her up to a sitting position and unfastened her bra. As the material fell away, he didn't let her flesh cool in the air of the motel room. He ran his mouth over her soft skin and gave each nipple a kiss, followed by a small tug, followed by another kiss. She put her arms around his head and lifted his face up to hers.

"Mulder, I can't. I just can't," she hurried when she saw the look of crushing disappointment on his face. "No, not that. I just can't wait anymore. Please, we can take it slow later but now-I just want to-please."

He nodded, quickly slipped off her panties and positioned himself over her. He looked into her eyes once more and she closed them as he slowly slid just an inch of himself into her. He was waiting, she had no idea why. It wouldn't be supremely comfortable this first time simply because it had been so long since she made love to anyone. But Mulder was Mulder. He could push her to do the near superhuman in a work situation but he obviously thought she'd break in two in a romantic one. Well, that was not true. Mulder was not Mulder. He had been full of surprises lately. Maybe all he needed was a little encouragement.

She put her hands on his backside and pushed him down further. It felt like too much and not enough all at once. She took a deep breath and pushed him as far as he would go. She whimpered a bit as her body gave a small, painful protest. He pulled up immediately and sank in slowly, and then did it again and again until her body fully accommodated his and their movements became more fluid and sure. She felt the shift in their positions when his movements became quicker and stronger. He was close and trying so hard not to come before he satisfied her. She opened her eyes and watched him, his eyes boring into hers, his forehead and chest glistening in perspiration. He reached out one hand and grabbed onto the bedpost, thrusting himself deeper into her and then began pumping much more quickly. There was that pleasure-pain sensation again but the pleasure was definitely winning out. He sensed it and slowed down one last time, thrusting as deeply as he possibly could. It was enough. She rode out her orgasm while clutching at his back and shoulders. In a few seconds, she helped him ride out his by clutching at his backside. He'd carry those scratches proudly for days.

They barely said anything to each other for hours afterwards. And yet they were awake a good deal of the time. Either one or the other would drift off, only to be awakened to touches of discovery or long, wet kisses. Mostly, they stared at each other and smiled gently. To know someone thoroughly for years and find a new, undiscovered side to them was somewhat of an adventure and, most definitely, a thrill.

The day drifted toward evening and Scully was in the middle of a catnap when she felt Mulder turn away from her for the first time in hours. He was trying to leave and she had a bad feeling about it. Soon, it would be time for them to go back into the woods and resume their search for the source of the lights. Work and duty would rear their heads once again and remind them both they had no time or business doing what they did this evening.

She reached out and put a hand on his bare hip. She leaned forward and kissed his shoulder. "Just one more minute, Mulder."

"I have to go, Scully."

"No, it's all right. I'll leave. It's your room. I just, I'm glad about tonight. And it won't get in the way. We'll be fine. Just the way we always have. I just need a minute." A minute to soak up the feelings; to feel bare skin against bare skin; to remember exactly how he felt in her arms. One minute to potentially last a lifetime. She slid her hand up to his waist and he shivered in response.

Or was it just a shiver? No. It was a laugh. What the hell was so funny?

"Scully, I have to go to the bathroom. I'm not leaving or giving you some sort of kiss-off. I just didn't want to shake the bed since we both had very little sleep and now-I've got to go."

He got up and dragged his naked body over to the bathroom. Scully could feel the flush on her face but told herself to get over it. Perhaps she wasn't quite the Mulder-expert she thought she was.

"Scully?" he said, poking his head back out of the bathroom. "One other thing-for the record, we're going to be more than fine. We'll finally be battling with the right people." He winked at her and went inside.

Kalispell, Montana
Wednesday, 4:30 AM

They were sore, showered, dressed and fed when they reached the place where they sat the night before.

"You really think we'll see something?" Scully asked, unsuccessfully holding back a yawn.

"I'm pretty sure we will. As a matter of fact, while you slept, I almost guaranteed it."

"You what?"

"You'll see in a few minutes."

"You have powers you didn't tell me about, Mulder."

"Ah, Scully. You don't even know the half of it yet," he said, giving her a swift kiss on the top of her head.

"So, you found the source, huh?"

"Maybe. Maybe not."

"Mulder ... I think you might have to tell me everything now. Total disclosure. I think those are the rules."

"You think?"

"It's been awhile and it's not like my relationships were much more solid than yours."

"Well, if you were expecting total disclosure, I can see why." He pointed at the night sky. "Look!"

She watched as a single white spark flared and then started falling. About midway down, it stopped, only to be joined by a blue spark, then a red. When all three were lined up, they bounced, multiplied and spun around in a frenzy of color. Scully looked up in wonder. It was beautiful. In the quiet of the night sky, in the sanctity of this forest with a clear sky above and wide-open spaces just a short distance away, it was a strange reminder of the magic that existed in this world. It took something that was naturally beautiful and added something weird and wonderful that pushed it into a realm somehow above and beyond the one they were in.

And then-it was gone. But no sadness remained. The excitement lingered.

"Wow," Scully said and Mulder laughed at her uncharacteristic use of the word.

"Now, do you want to know or do you just want to . . . believe."

She sighed. There was always a catch, wasn't there? She wanted both and had to choose.

"Tell me."

"Ambrose-come on down."

A short, squat man came down from the tree in record time.

"You were up there all along and no one spotted you?" Scully asked after a brief introduction to Ambrose M. Johannsen, master hologramist.

"No, ma'am. I just set up my equipment. It's very tiny. Revolutionary, really. The lasers are about the size of a credit card and I camouflaged them under some leaves-and then set them on timers. Pretty much in the same two hours time frame-going off either every night, or every other night."

"But, why?"

"Because it's pretty. I mean, hell, what was I going to do? I originally invented it as an alternative to Fourth of July fireworks-kind of super-sparks without the noise but-really, folks like the noise. It's part of the total Independence Day experience. Then, I thought, why not remind people of the red, white and blue kind of unexpectedly-in a different time and setting than the normal one. You'd be surprised at the number of people who actually take nature hikes in this part of the country. I did it myself when I was inventing this thing. People like this place. It's quiet and safe and beautiful. Lets them think. I'm just giving them a little reward. I didn't mean any harm."

"I explained that to the authorities," Mulder said. "And you can actually continue. Word will be spread about what you have set up and if folks want to come here and look-it's all right. Just don't charge admission!" Mulder told him.

"No sir. I just want to give folks a little thrill, you know?"

Mulder smiled in Scully's direction. "Yes, I know."

On the road, 7:45 AM

"So-how did you find out about Ambrose's?" Scully asked.

"Well, from Anna's description-I thought it was probably a hologram. I did some research on how many people worked on them in Kalispell, Montana and, I know this will shock you, Scully, but Ambrose is it. He's a science teacher who actually has invented new and innovative hologram technology."

"And when did you find this out?"

"Before we left DC. I did the research after reading the police report Anna filed. I just wanted us to get away. There was always an off chance I could be wrong and we'd have a real case but I was hoping we wouldn't. Not this time. I guess I just wanted us to experience the 'magic' ourselves. We did it on Saturday and I wanted more. Much more, obviously. Anyway, when you conked out on me after I went to the bathroom, I went into your room and called him and he was very easy to 'break.' I think he was ready to sing when I introduced myself as an FBI agent. Then I did a little background check to make sure he's legit. He is. He's just a nice guy-born on the Fourth of July, by the way, hence his predisposition toward red, white and blue-who wants to add a little spark to the life of this town."

"It's nice that they are letting him continue," she said, leaning her head back against the headrest and closing her eyes.

"It might add a little to the tourist industry. Or maybe not. But it's a little bit of fun for the people here. That can't be bad. And, who knows, maybe Ambrose will branch out and do more seasonal holograms. I'd fly back up here for a dancing shamrock. Wouldn't you?"

"Mulder?"

"Hmmm?"

"Was this a one-time only thing?"

"As I recall, it's already been more than one time."

"You know what I mean."

"No," he said, getting serious. "I always thought it would be . . . when I pictured us together. Just sort of falling into bed due to some extreme stress we were under and kind of getting it out of the way, almost. But, reality isn't like that at all. The fact is-I've wanted you forever and I'm not sure that's ever going to change just because we've . . . done the deed."

She smiled.

"Scully?"

"Hmmm?"

"Do you have any thoughts on the subject? I've known you for years and all of a sudden, you pick these few days to clam up on me. Your timing sucks."

"I agree with you completely. How's that?"

"Ooh. Good start. Keep going."

"You are all wise and wonderful . . . "

"Uh, huh."

"And that's all you're getting out of me. Let me sleep a little, Mulder. Maybe we can get in some batting practice, or something, later."

"I'm definitely retiring here," Mulder said and pointed the car back toward the motel.

Kalispell, Montana
8:05 AM

Ambrose climbed the tree to readjust the timer. It should be set more or less for the same time every night. Now that people were going to know what to expect when they came out here, he'd hate for them to be disappointed. He had spent a long time creating his little patriotic display and was happy it was going to be seen and, hopefully, appreciate by others.

He reached the equipment and frowned. The timer was off.

Theoretically, it shouldn't have worked at all tonight.

He wondered if he should maybe stop those FBI agents and tell them.

Nah. He'd just fix the timer and leave things be.

They probably had better things to do.

The End


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