by OKayVal

Title: Wildwash
Author: OKayVal
Author Email: okayval@yahoo.com
Rating: PG
Category: Vignette, Romance
Archive: Honored; just tell me where.
Disclaimer: Not mine, you know the drill Pairings: Mulder/Scully
Spoilers: Closure
Summary: Leaving the past behind...

Written for Haven's "Ride 'Em Cowboy" Challenge (elements at the end). There really is a ghost town called Wildwash that's near Victorville, where the end of "Closure" took place. It does have mine shafts, but the rest of the description is my own.

Thanks to sybil for the challenge and a big "woohoo" to Tali for the beta.

"Tonight I'm gonna shed this skin
And I'll be breathin' free air..."

--Bruce Springsteen, "Trouble River"--

The radio crackled and she was tempted to turn it off. She was tired of looking for a station to tune into, to help cover the heavy silence which hung between them as the car sped down the dusty California highway. Mulder had not said much to her since they left Victorville, and she wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. There did seem to be a calmness surrounding him, and she hoped that he really meant what he said last night, under the stars, when he took her in his arms and declared again that he was free from his demons.

Music suddenly burst from the dashboard speaker and she decided to leave the radio alone for the time being when she saw Mulder's fingers tapping against the steering wheel. She turned her attention to the window, although there had not been much to look at for the past few miles except a panorama of sand and dry brush. The scenery had not changed, but she caught sight of a sign on the side of the road and waited eagerly for the car to pass it so she could read what it said. "Wildwash Mining Town - Next Exit 2 Miles."

"Mulder, can we stop there?"


"That mining town. I'd like to get out and stretch my legs."

"Why there, Scully?"

"Don't tell me you'd turn down the chance to explore a ghost town, Mulder."

He chuckled and nodded, and together they watched for the exit.

The road twisted and grew dustier and they bounced and bumped along it until they reached a sign proclaiming they had arrived in Wildwash. There was one wide street lined with stone buildings and a few mine shafts. Another sign warned that the mines were still in operation, but the street was quiet and there was nobody in sight.

Mulder parked the car and she got out slowly, stretching and rubbing her neck to get the stiffness out. Mulder appeared by her side, his hands gliding along the side of her neck.

"Let me do that." His touch was warm and soothing, and she felt a little burst of pleasure uncurl within her, remembering how his hands had felt last night, when he had touched her in places other than her neck, places that seemed as though they existed only for his touch.

She brought herself back to the moment and stepped away from him. "Thank you. That's much better. Let's take a walk, Mulder." She started down the middle of the street, heedless of the dust clouding around her suit and her shoes. Mulder followed close behind, and they studied the empty buildings and rusty mine shafts. This wasn't like any ghost towns she had visited before; this was a place where people still worked but no longer lived.

"This doesn't feel very ghostly," she told Mulder.

"I thought you didn't believe in ghosts, Scully," he replied, giving her the grin that she was afraid she might never see again, until last night.

"I don't. But I like old west towns. I like Westerns."

"You do? I wouldn't have guessed."

"Charlie loved them. I'd sit and watch them with him sometimes. What about you, Mulder? I thought all boys liked to play cowboys."

"I preferred to play astronauts." The grin grew wider and she returned it with one of her own.

"I'm not surprised. Weren't there any westerns you liked? Charlie's favorite was 'Bonanza'."

They continued walking to the end of the street, stopping in front of a large shed, the wood dried out and worn from the sun. Mulder forced open the heavy door and peered inside, but it was dark and musty, so he shut the door quickly and turned back to her.

"I did like 'Wild Wild West'."

"I don't remember that one."

"You're kidding. Robert Conrad? These two guys worked for the government and traveled around in this fancy train, hunting down the bad guys. It was a Western, but with a twist. They used all kinds of gadgets to get themselves out of trouble, and there was this evil doctor that was always inventing stuff that never existed in the 1800's, and he'd use the inventions to try and take over the world. Robert Conrad stopped him every time. It was pretty offbeat."

"No wonder you liked it."

"Hey. Just for that, I'm going to have to subject you to a 'Wild Wild West' marathon when we get home."

"Does Robert Conrad ride a horse and wear chaps?"

"No chaps, but he did have some pretty tight pants."

"Well, I prefer chaps, but I guess I can live with tight pants."

"Why, Scully, I never knew you had a thing for cowboys."

"Maybe there's just something about a man with a gun."

He laughed and stepped closer to her, drawing her to him. She could still see that calmness in his face, but there was something else in his eyes. A new light. He noticed her scrutiny and stopped laughing.

"What, Scully?

"It's just wonderful to hear you laugh, Mulder. I guess I've been worried about you. And after everything that happened last night, that you might feel differently about it all today."

"I don't, Scully. I told you, I'm free. I really do feel like the weight has been lifted."

"So you don't feel different about...anything?" She couldn't keep the slight quiver out of her voice. His eyes darkened and his arms tightened around her.

"No. Nothing. I meant every word I said to you, Scully. I should have said them a long time ago. That's the only thing I regret."

He took her face between his palms and brought his lips to hers. The kiss was soft and sensuous and her pulse quickened. As much as she wanted him, she knew this really wasn't the place. She gently broke the kiss and ran her fingers across his full lips.

"I think we should go."

"It's a ghost town, Scully. The ghosts don't care."

"No, but the miners might. It's still a working mine, Mulder. And I don't want to miss our flight. I want to go home. With you."

Mulder said nothing aloud, but his eyes glowed with a green-gold light as he took her hand and led her back down the dusty street. Despite the dust and the ghosts, she felt clean and alive.

They returned to their car; Mulder started the engine and they left Wildwash behind. The radio still crackled and hummed but the static no longer bothered her. She stole a glance at him; his eyes were on the road but she could see his brows narrowed in thought. As they reached a stop sign, he turned to her.

"Chaps? Really?"


Challenge elements:
Have one character tell the other about a western they watched as a kid -
real time or reruns. 1000 words.

Feedback welcomed. It's all good!

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