TITLE: "The Road Not Taken 4: Calm"
AUTHOR: deejay
CLASSIFICATION: T, R/A (Adventure, Romance/Angst)
RATING: NC-17, for sexual situations and adult language. If this is a problem for you, or if it's a problem for the state you're living in, save us all some trouble and go somewhere else. Also, if you're under the age of 18, you probably know most of this stuff anyway, but the law says you shouldn't read about it, so go away and come back when you're LEGAL, damnit!:)
KEYWORDS: Slash story, Scully/Other.
SPOILERS: None.
SUMMARY: Yet another chapter in "The Road Not Taken". Having sworn their love for each other, Scully and Max have a weekend of happiness as Scully continues to come to terms with her sexuality.
TIMELINE: Pre-diagnosis Season 4. Takes place the second week of November 1996.
ARCHIVE: Submitted to Gossamer USA, AEA and The Annex. All others, please ask me first, unless I submit it to you. If either case happens, please use only my _penname_.
FEEDBACK: Questions, comments, flames and fanmail to drjohn@wizvax.net. This story is open for discussion on axtc.
Dana Scully (and any Scullys that happen to get mentioned), Fox Mulder, Walter Skinner, and the poster boy for Big Tobacco belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 Productions, and FoxTV. I'm just borrowing these characters, not keeping them, and if I wasn't trying to make money with the previous three stories, then I'm not going to start now. Contrary-wise, Rebecca Maxfield, the Coven, and all other characters in this story belong to Night Tripper Productions and the author, and anyone who tries to take these people away without permission is in for a _very_ long night! Any resemblance to real-life people, living or dead, is a complete surprise to me.
The following music is also being used without permission (Don't bother suing, guys, there's nothing there to win, and you'll only look like corporate soreheads if you do it as an example to the others. Just consider this free publicity and leave it at that. Besides, if I didn't like this music, I wouldn't have used it. Fair enough?):
* Of the many things I admire about the Red Hot Chili Peppers, it's their ability to create chaos and have fun doing it. I needed something chaotic for Scully & Max' first night together, and "Show Me Your Soul" fit the bill nicely. My copy came from the aptly-titled disc _What Hits?_
* Sarah MacLachlan's music has been an inspiration to me throughout the creation of TRNT. Her latest disc, _Surfacing_, is absolutely fabulous, but since this story is set in 1996, I couldn't use any of it. Maybe later. For this story I went back to _Fumbling Towards Ecstacy_ for Meredith Brooks' favorite Sarah song, "Ice Cream".
* It's fashionable to diss Billy Joel because he's a corporate entity now. I find the best way around that is to go back to the beginning, when he was just an aspiring songwriter from Oyster Bay, Long Island. _Piano Man_ has some serious gems on it, most of which have never seen the light of radio. "Travelin' Prayer" is one of them.
This is Episode 4 in the series "The Road Not Taken". If you haven't read the other eps, go back and read them first or you'll miss all the sub-references, not to mention some writing I'm really proud of. You can find various versions of them on Gossamer, Auto-Erotic Asphyxiation (Welcome back, Bobbi!), and the Annex. The Annex version is the most recent, and includes an introduction describing the whole creative process behind the trilogy -- the only trilogy I thought I'd ever write.
Like I said: It wasn't supposed to be this way. When Scully drove off at the end of "Crossroads", I decided that was the end the "official" story, and let the reader decide how things went from there. A nice, neat solution.... except almost every piece of feedback I got said I had a _lot_ more work to do! I placidly kept saying, in effect, "But there _is_ no more, Oliver Twist," but I knew there were more aspects of Scully's relationship with Max (and of her emerging sexual persona) that I could explore. I just didn't have any ideas back then how to do it. I had a few notions, but none of them had enough substance for me to go on. So they got shoved back in the memory hole and I went on with my life.
But the little voice that caused all the trouble started whispering in my ear a couple of months ago, spurred on by recent correspondence with two people I'm proud to call my peers: XF-Stew (who keeps giving us gifts called "Walking The Line") and Saundra Mitchell (whose "Forward Slash" trilogy re-writes the Crossover textbook). They get some of the credit --or the blame -- for what you're about to receive. The rest goes to my Muse, which wouldn't shut up until I grabbed it by the throat and yelled, "ALRIGHT, I'LL WRITE! ALRIGHT, ALREADY!":)
The upshot is that this is the first part of (*Shudder!*) a _new_ trilogy! (I can't build a two-story house; I have to build a skyscraper!<g>) "Calm", which I first discussed last year with Jason Cleaver, is not too extensive (unlike the next two stories), and that's one of the reasons why I put it away -- not enough meat on the bones. But then the Muse hit me in the face with some ideas, and a thin story became (I think) a pretty good transition piece.
You can judge for yourself. I'm only setting the table here. The cooks are just starting to put the main courses together, and they're gonna be a while. In the meantime, kick back, pour yourself a drink, and have a few h'ors d'ouevres...:)
PS Whoever emails me with the best list of songs for the diner scene will be credited in the intro to TRNT5. (Okay, so it's not a brand new car and a trip for two to Puerto Vallarta, but I'm on a limited budget here! Off er expires the minute TRNT5 hits the 'net! Don't delay, write today! <g>)

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

"THE ROAD NOT TAKEN 4: CALM"
by deejay

<<FRIDAY AFTERNOON>>

"ARRRRGH!"

Rose's roar was heartfelt. Navigating Route 9 on a Friday evening was hazardous at best, demanding both hands on the wheel and total focus from the driver. But this was the third time in 15 minutes that Rose's beeper had demanded her attention, and if it went off one more time, she would be hard-pressed not to lower the window and throw the little bastard into the oncoming lane. First a minor client had demanded major changes to an ad campaign ten minutes after the office had closed for the weekend. Then Rose's nanny/housekeeper had to page her because Rose's youngest son Danny would not eat dinner until Mommy herself assured him Auntie Neesie wasn't sneaking off to get married without him, as his older brother Harry insisted was happening. *Sibling rivalry is _so_ much fun!*

She snatched the beeper off the passenger seat, checked the readout, and groaned, "Not _now_, Max!" She immediately gave herself a mental slap on the wrist. True, Max had been close to impossible the last two weeks, and with good reason, but the times Max had played crying-shoulder for Rose --especially during Rose's divorce, which was messy in the extreme -- could not be counted. Besides, Max had added "911" to the end of the phone number, and that prefix was only to be used in major emergencies. Rose dropped the pager on the passenger seat, picked up her cell phone, and pressed the memory button for Max' home number.

Max picked up almost immediately. "It's me!"

*She _sounds_ okay...* "What's the problem?"

"I can't make it to the rehearsal or the dinner. Can you make my apologies?"

*Well, we knew it would happen, didn't we?* "Consider it done. Work, right?"

"Nope," Max said brightly. "I've got to go get an outfit for tomorrow."

Rose couldn't talk for a few seconds, she was so angry. "You sent me a 911 page because you haven't bought a _dress_ yet?!?"

Max was entirely unaffected by Rose's outburst. "The outfit isn't for _me_, Rosie."

"Well, then who the fuc-" Then the lightbulb lit, transporting Rose from snarling outrage to hushed amazement in nothing flat. "She's here?"

"Yes," Max was obviously smiling like a fool.

*Oh shit!* "She's coming?"

"Yehhhhhhhhsss..."

*Oh _shit_!* Rose discovered she was holding her breath. "How is it?"

Somehow Max kept her voice down. "Jackpot," she half-sang.

"YESSSSHIHHHHHT!" Rose slammed on the brakes, barely avoiding disaster.

Max wasn't smiling anymore. "Rose? Rose, are you alright?!"

Rose did her best not to hyperventilate. Her best wasn't good enough. "No biggie," she finally said. "My Saab just tried to mate with a minivan."

"Wow," Max said immediately. "What a mixed marriage!"

Rose roared with laughter, still suffused with the adrenaline rush that comes with avoiding potentially lethal situations. A blonde girl who might be Danny's age smiled out the back window of the minivan and waved at Rose with her fingers. Rose waved back feebly. "Should we expect you at the Prayer Breakfast?"

"That, I _won't_ miss," Max said firmly. Ever since Rose's wedding six years before, the Coven always gathered for breakfast the morning of the ceremony. The location had changed, and all previous marriages had imploded, but the tradition still stood.

"You better bring some details, pal," Rose warned, "Or you're picking up the tab."

"There are _some_ things," Max said haughtily, "that a lady does _not_ talk about!"

"So you _will_ bring details."

"Bye, Rose."

<<FRIDAY EVENING>>

"So what's the verdict?"

Max had decided she'd looked at the same sales displays long enough, so she'd walked into the changing area and called out. There was a pause, then a voice came from the last cubicle on the left. "The jury's still out."

"Well, walk the runway, girl," Max shot back. "Maybe I can break the deadlock."

After a moment the dressingroom door opened. Max caught her breath as Scully walked out, wearing a pearl-grey Jones New York suit with a black top. She walked up to the three-mirror display at the far end of the changing area and looked her reflection up and down, a critical expression on her face.

Walking toward multiple images of Scully made Max dizzy. *She could melt icebergs, she's so hot!* "So what's not to like?"

Scully's expression didn't change. "It fits."

"I can see that," Max laughed. "And this is a problem?"

"You don't understand." Scully turned around, looking over her shoulder for the flaw that _surely_ had to be there. "I don't _ever_ find what I'm looking for in the first few outfits. I usually have the whole store in the dressingroom, I'm in there until closing time, and all the salespeople hate me..."

Max stepped up next to Scully and draped an arm around her shoulders. "Maybe it's just your lucky day."

Scully looked at the two of them in the mirror. Warmth radiated through her body from where Max' hand lay on her hip. "Yeah," she said after a moment, putting her hand in the small of Max' back. "It sure is."

Scully had been too nervous to eat anything substantial on the drive up, and Max' appetite had been in the dumper for the better part of two weeks. Fifteen minutes after Scully bought the outfit, they were ordering caesar salads and quesadillas in California Pizza Kitchen. They had ordered the same meal the last time they were in Natick Mall, when Scully had bought a pair of $200 cowboy boots she was sure she'd never wear. That was the night before they turned the tables on a carload of heavy hitters in the employ of Boston uber-boss Tommy Cellini.

It took five minutes of staring and giggling, silence and staring, staring and laughing, before any kind of conversation began. "Penny for your thoughts," Max said.

Scully looked at CPK's open kitchen area. "I'm thinking this has been the most incredible month of my life."

Max laughed. "Considering your work environment, that's saying something. Freaking out?"

Scully shook her head. "You don't know the half of it." She turned back, looking chagrined. "Or maybe you do."

Max smiled warmly. "For weeks after I found out, I'd be doing something... something innocuous -- filling out paperwork, walking down the street, eating at Burger King -- and I'd have a thought about DeeDee, or I'd see a woman on the street I thought was attractive, and... ZANG!" She jumped in her seat, popping her eyes exaggeratedly.

"Mulder calls that a Roger Rabbit Moment," Scully giggled. "Well, at least I've got something to look forward to."

Max' smile never faded, but her laughter did as the waitress came by with their quesadillas. After she left, Max said, "Maybe I don't want to know this... I mean, you're here, and that's so great I can barely speak..." Her eyes flicked away from Scully, but only for a second. "I guess I need to know what brought you here."

Scully examined her iced tea glass. "I decided I had to come to terms with myself. I knew _what_ I felt, _how_ I felt... and no amount of trips up denial was going to change that."

Max nodded. "I know. And I'm glad." She toyed with her bottle of Corona. "I was wondering what process brought you to that decision, that's all."

Scully licked her lips. "I'll be glad to describe it, Max. I'm just not sure you want to hear it."

Max considered, eyes still down, then brought her head up. "Go for it," she said. "I promise not to break into a million pieces."

Scully nodded, took a sip of tea, and gathered her thoughts. "After my accident, they checked me into a hospital in the District. My life wasn't in danger, but I had been knocked around quite a bit." Scully wasn't glossing over the temporary paralysis she had suffered immediately following the accident; she only dimly remembered it, like the vestige of a nightmare, so she had discounted it as such. "My second night there... I knew I had to get out of there. I could not stay in that hospital one more night." She sighed. "The trouble was, Mercy Hospital has a policy that patients with injuries as extensive as mine could only be discharged if they were accompanied by someone else. And that person had to monitor my progress, or lack of same."

Max looked perplexed. "If you were in the hospital on Monday and you're here on Friday, how badly hurt could you have been?"

"Pretty bad," Scully told her. "I'd had a concussion, I was in a neck brace, my ribs were badly bruised, and any fast movement made me very dizzy. If Elliot... he's a- he _was_ a neighbor of mine... if he hadn't come to visit, and agreed to take responsibility for me, I might still be there."

"Jesus," Max murmured, her hand on her cheek. "But I'm still confused. How did you get from that state to this?"

"Elliot..." Scully considered. "I guess he healed me."

Max' hand dropped to the table with a THUNK. "He _healed_... What, your neighbor's Earnest Angry?"

"It wasn't _that_ kind of healing," Scully put in, thinking of Samuel Hartley for a moment. "Elliot said it was some kind of acupressure treatment he learned when he lived in Hong Kong. He didn't explain how it worked, and I didn't care. All I knew was, one minute I could barely move, and the next minute I was was pain-free."

Max' expression was one of amazement. Then it changed as she put it all together. "And you were grateful."

Scully winced. "It wasn't _just_ that, Max. I'll admit I was attracted to him, and had been since I met him." She took a deep breath. "But mostly it was about _me_. I know how I feel about you. But I had to find out about _myself_... and whether everything I'd felt all those years... had been a lie."

Max looked at Scully hard for a count of ten, then looked down at her plate for another count. Scully felt like she had kicked a puppy off a bridge. Finally Max said, "It was harder for you." Beat. "I mean, I _knew_ men and I never worked. You had more years of self-image to get over." Her face didn't change, but her voice got very small. "Are you going to see him again?"

Scully shook her head firmly. "He flew back to England last night for his father's funeral. He's not coming back." Max nodded without comment. Scully desperately wanted to hold her. "I'm sorry I hurt you."

"You didn't hurt me," Max said quickly. She smiled slightly. "Bruised me a little..."

Max' left hand rested lightly on her beer bottle. Scully reached out and touched it with her fingertips. "Well, I promise never to hurt you, or bruise you, again if I can help it."

Max looked at their hands, turning hers over so their fingertips touched. "I'm glad you were honest with me. That's something I really set stock in." She looked up. Her gaze wasn't as hard as before, but it still held some weight. Her voice was low but intense. "But I'll be honest, too: I'm pretty territorial when it comes to my relationships. I don't share real well. So if it's you and me, it's _you and me_. No-one else."

Scully was nodding before Max finished her sentence. "No problem. I'm a firm believer in monogamy."

"And if someone finds out you're bi and you have a girlfriend, and says, 'Y'know, I've always wanted to...'"

Scully cut her off, hurt in her voice. "I would _never_ do that to you."

Max' face softened, her eyes closing. "My turn to apologize. I shouldn't be whipping on you."

"You're not whipping on me. You're setting ground rules. A relationship can't last without them. Like I said, monogamy is very important to me." Beat. "And as for that other matter, you don't have to worry." Her eyes dropped to the table. "Been there, done that."

Max' eyebrows shot up. "I thought you said you'd never..."

Scully's voice came close to a whisper. "It was two _guys_, Max."

Max barely held back an exclamation as the waitress arrived with their salads. She looked at their untouched plates with genuine concern. "Is there something wrong with your quesadillas? I can take them back..."

Scully and Max spoke almost at once. "It's okay," Scully assured her. "They're fine."

"Too much talking, not enough eating," Max said, taking a bite out of a section to mollify her. "We'll clean our plates, we promise."

The waitress laughed, relieved. "Well, you better, or no dessert menus for either of you!"

Scully laughed as the re-assured server went away. Max waited a decent interval before she leaned across the table and whispered, "Two _guys_?"

Scully's face almost matched her hair. "Sad but true."

Max looked concerned again. "I take it things did not go well."

"Depends on how you look at it," Scully muttered, picking at her salad. "It was a lousy situation. Spring Break in Myrtle Beach, rain all five days, mid-terms had been hellacious..." She looked truly embarassed. "The man I'd been seeing told me the day before I left that he and his wife were going to give it another try, for the children's sake..."

"Shit, girl..." Max said gravely.

Scully waved her off. "I know, I know. Not an outstanding choice. In retrospect, what happened that weekend wasn't a great choice, either." Shrug. "I guess I just wanted to turn my mind off for a while."

"Was it _fun_, at least?"

Scully looked out CPK's windows at the throngs of shoppers rushing to throw their money at the mall. She saw the scene in flashes, because that was how the lightning illuminated the darkened motel room. She could barely remember the faces of the two soccer players -- from UVA, yet, which made it an act of treason by the lights of some of her friends at Maryland --but she could still conjure up visions of the two hard bodies she got to know very well (and who knew each other very well, as she found out over the course of the evening), so well that the night came close to an out-of-body experience...

"It was... intense." She picked up her fork and started picking at her salad again.

Max wanted to slap herself. She had obviously dug up something Scully had wanted buried. So Max tried her usual fallback: humor. "Well," she said dramatically. "A woman with a _past_."

Scully gave her the evil eye. "How would you like to be stabbed with a salad fork?"

"Depends," Max deadpanned. "Will you wear leather while you do it?"

Scully's laughter felt so good, to her and Max. Max snatched up her own fork and speared a piece of chicken. Conversation was put on hold for a while as they both dug in. Scully couldn't believe how hungry she was. After a few minutes, Max gave Scully an appraising look. "I still can't believe it."

Scully sighed hard. "Max..."

"No, no, no," Max said quickly. "Not about _that_. I can't believe you bolting from a hospital before you were completely healed up. You're a doctor, Scully. You're not supposed to do dumb shit like that, even if you are afraid of hospitals."

"It wasn't a fear of hospitals that drove me out of there," Scully said quietly.

"Well, then what?"

Scully shook her head. "You'll think I'm crazy."

Max scoffed. "I _know_ you're crazy. That's not the issue. Now, what happened?"

Scully picked at her salad a little more, then dropped her fork and took a long sip of iced tea. She addressed her speech to the middle of the table. "The night before I left, I had a dream." She flicked her eyes up to see any sign of consternation, ridicule, anything. Max was expressionless, her eyes locked on Scully's face. Scully continued, "We were in your apartment. We were going out somewhere. I don't know where." Scully took a deep breath, looking away from Max. "When you opened the door, you were attacked by... that awful little man from the parking garage..."

Max went visibly pale. "Joey?"

Scully nodded. "I tried to stop him, but I was held back by two of his friends from that night." She swallowed, took another deep breath. It was three days down the line, and just thinking about the nightmare still made her nauseous. "You were beaten. Brutalized. He was going to..." *Rape you,* she couldn't say. *Kill you.* She picked up her glass and drained it. Her mouth had gotten so dry. "Max, you have to be careful," she said in a hushed, cracking voice. "If anything happened to you..."

Max reached out and held her hand. "Hey, hey," she said soothingly. "I'm just dealing with your garden-variety murderers, gangbangers and crackheads. You're the one working on the cosmic scale."

Scully shook her head rapidly. "Most of the people we deal with are all too human." She swallowed again. "If anything should happen to you now that we've found..."

"Shh, shh," Max cooed, holding Scully's hand in both of hers. "It's alright. I'll be careful, I promise. I have to be." She smiled. "I just got a major reason to stick around until I'm a cantankerous old lady cop, and I'm not giving that up." Her expression got serious. "But you have to be careful, too. Remember what I said about being married to another cop? Wondering if that phone ringing is going to be somebody with really bad news? If I got that call about you..." She paused, then shook her head rapidly, like a bee was in her ear. "I don't even want to complete that thought." The beginnings of a smile turned up the corners of her mouth. "So if Sigourney Weaver shows up on your doorstep one night and asks if you want to go on a bug hunt, just say 'No!'"

It was the right thing to say. Scully burst out laughing, the fear and trepidation lifting like a helium balloon. Max laughed too, and they giggled together, the world reduced to two people, until the waitress came by to make sure everything was okay. It was, but she couldn't know the details.

<<FRIDAY NIGHT>>

"Do all the locks."

"The deadbolt's top-notch..."

"Do _all_ the locks."

Max was about to object, but decided against it. She hadn't used the police lock since the landlord installed the deadbolt last February, but she'd held onto the long steel pole she'd previously used to bar the door. *Not that anyone could use it as a concealed weapon. It's almost as tall as I am!*

She wrestled the lock into place and turned around. Scully was standing only a foot away. The garment bag holding her new suit was hanging by its hook on the front of the bathroom door, and a bag with prints they'd bought for each other sat in the chair by the phone. Scully's expression was calm, her gaze steady. *Those eyes...*

Technically, they didn't rush into each other's arms, because there wasn't enough distance between them to build up a classic orchestra-in-the-background, hair-flying-in-the-breeze rush. One moment they were standing in front of each other, the next they were in a passionate embrace, mouths locked, tongues dancing frantically. Max ran her hands through Scully's hair and over her cheeks as she pulled away and feverishly looked at Scully's face, and then they were kissing again, Max standing on tiptoe and Scully holding her hard, their eyes squeezed shut.

Scully got the ball rolling, tugging at the front of Max' tweed jacket. Max dropped her arms long enough for Scully to push the jacket off her shoulders, then her hands shot up and under Scully's low-neck apple-green sweater. A thrill of delight ran through her when she discovered Scully wasn't wearing a bra. Using her arms, Max ran the sweater up over Scully's head; Scully kicked off her flats as Max tossed the sweater aside. Max ran her hands lightly over Scully's breasts, the nipples jutting out like bullets. Scully shuddered as Max' thumbs grazed them.

"Our first night," Max breathed, "You don't know how much I wanted to see you naked... I wanted to unwrap you like a Christmas present, I wanted you bare so bad..."

Scully put a hand behind Max' head and brought her in for another hard, long kiss, reaching down and unbuttoning her jeans as they frenched. Her voice seethed with passion as she broke away and looked in Max' eyes. "See me now."

Max moaned, staring at the flash of white inside Scully's jeans. Scully cried out as Max' mouth sucked in a nipple, her hands pushing Scully's jeans off her hips and down her legs, taking her panties with them. Scully wrapped her arms around Max' neck as she kicked her pants behind her, the hardwood floor cold on her bare feet as she stood with legs apart, Max' mouth leaving a trail of hot wet kisses as she moved off Scully's breast and down her stomach. Scully pushed Max' holster rig off her shoulders, letting her Colt Python fall to the floor with a THUNK. *Good thing the safety was on,* Max thought to herself. Scully grabbed at Max' turtleneck and pulled it up and off, revealing Max' silky white bra. Max paused a moment to take it off, then sent Scully reeling as she sucked Scully's swollen clit into her mouth.

If they hadn't been near the archway that separated the livingroom from the entrance hall, Scully would have fallen over. She grabbed the woodwork above her and held on for dear life, eyes half-closed, mouth wide open, uncaring that the lights were on and the curtains were wide open. Max' neighbor immediately below her was throwing a decent-sized party, and funky chaotic rock music pumped through the floor and up her legs as Max grabbed Scully's ass, trying to drive her tongue deeper inside.

"In a world that can be so insane
 To me it isn't very strange
 For me to be in love with you
 I wanna know more than your brain..."

Scully couldn't stand it anymore. "Honey," she said weakly, "Please let me down."

How they accomplished it, neither of them knew. But somehow Max' mouth never left Scully's mound as they lowered themselves to the floor, Scully straddling Max' chest as they settled on the oriental rug. Max looked up at Scully. "You didn't tell me you could limbo." she giggled.

Scully spoke between breaths. "You learn... something new... every day." Max giggled again and started back to work. Scully stopped her. "No," she breathed, shifting around. "Have to... see you, too..."

Max breathed through her mouth as she watched Scully crawl down her body, every touch of skin-on-skin a slight shock to the system. Max was wearing brown Rockport sneakers, so there wasn't the wrestling, grunting and groaning that went with taking her cowboy boots off. Max was shivering as Scully pulled off her jeans, taking her panties with them, and crawled between Max' legs. Scully looked up at Max, who was looking down at her with an expression that clearly said *Yes, please.*

Scully paused over Max' glistening pussy, gently spreading the lips with her fingers. Their first night together, Scully had wanted to return Max' marvelous oral ministrations, but just couldn't cross that bridge. There was no stopping her this night, though. Her tongue flicked out and licked Max' clit, knocking some of the breath out of her as Scully's hands moved up Max' naked, quaking form.

Behind Max' eyelids there was nothing but red as Scully's tongue slipped on her, in her, out of her, her fingers seemingly everywhere. "Oh sweet Jeeezus, yehhhhhhhhhs..." Max moaned as Scully's tongue developed a sweet little rhythm, fucking her exquisitely. Jimmy Jam in 3C had his stereo working overtime tonight; Max could feel the woofers pumping out every beat, every note, every word:

"Yes, I find you so appealing
 When you show me how you're feeling
 You, my friend, should not be kneeling
 Open up and start revealing
 Trust in me, my heart is sold
 I need to see
 Show me your soul..."

Scully savored every taste of Max as she ate her, sucking on her pulsing clit as she left finger trails up and down her body. It was a hard little body, but the skin was so soft, so sexy, she wanted to wrap herself in it and stay there forever. Max was starting to thrash now, Scully welding her mouth to Max' mound, tongue thrusting deep inside. But Scully was feeling something else, something familiar, something welcome, like a vibration. She thought the guy downstairs had made some kind of adjustment to his speakers, but this vibration had heat and electricity she only experienced in one context. *Oh my God, I'm... But I _can't_ be-* It overtook her before she could finish the thought, and it made her scream into Max' pussy as Max' orgasm tore through her like a tornado, her hands clawing feverishly at the rug.

When it was over, Scully lifted her head, licking the last of Max off her lips, and put her head on Max' still-heaving stomach. Max looked down at her, very glad she didn't have to stand up any time soon. "What was _that_ all about?"

Scully stroked Max' stomach, still recovering herself. "I'm not sure," she said breathlessly.

Max hiked herself up on her elbows. "Girl... did you cum?"

Scully rolled her head so her chin was on Max' stomach, her eyes almost opaque. She kissed Max' stomach once, then said, "Yeah... I guess I did."

Max laughed quietly, her head back. "Well, as I live and breathe..."

Scully shook her head slowly. "You didn't tell me you were telekinetic."

"Power of positive thinking." She put her head and back down on the carpet and held out her arms. "Oh, baby, come here!"

Scully took her time. She was still dizzy, but it also felt so good to be naked with Max, every touch was delicious as she moved up next to her. Eventually Scully was snuggled in Max' side, their kisses slow and soft, Max' arm around Scully's waist while Scully's hand rested on Max' left breast.

"I thought about that all the way up," Scully said, eyes closed.

"Apparently," Max chuckled. "Must have been distracting."

Scully shook her head. "I was too scared to be distracted."

Max hiked herself up on one elbow. "What of?"

Scully rolled onto her back and looked up at the ceiling. Max rolled with her, resting her head on Scully's chest. "That... I'd blown it.... That I was too late... That you wouldn't be here, or if you were, you wouldn't want to see me..."

Max put a hand over Scully's mouth, stopping her. "You could have shown up two _years_ from now, and I still would have let you in." She touched Scully's cheek and smiled. "Mind you, I would have punched you right in the nose," she added off-handedly. "But I would have helped you clean up afterwards."

The spirit was willing, but the flesh was too weak for Scully to put together a quality Mulder Smirk. "Gosh, you're comforting."

Max' smile took on an air of mischief. "I do my level best." She slid her hand down Scully's body and between her legs. Scully hummed with pleasure as Max' fingers touched Scully's wetness. "Damn," she laughed, "you _did_ cum, didn't you?"

Scully's eyes rolled back into her head as Max stroked her. "You bring out the best in me," she managed to say.

"Is that so?"

Max eased two fingers inside Scully. Scully's spine had the tensile strength of Play-Doh. Her left leg bent to give Max more access. *Oh God, her touch...* "Max..." she creaked.

"Did you want something," Max asked innocently, moving her fingers in and out, slow and deep and torturous. Scully was totally lost in the moment, licking her lips as Max fingerfucked her. "Come on, Scully," Max said quietly. "Tell me what you want."

It took a few tries, but it finally came out. "F... f... fuck me," Scully urged. "Please, please fuck me."

Max bit her lip, drinking in the rapture on Scully's face. She reached over with her free hand and took hold of Scully's left wrist. Scully's eyes popped open as her hand was placed on Max' mound. Max' eyes gleamed. "I will if you will."

Scully swallowed twice and rolled onto her right side, kissing Max as she slid her fingers between Max' lips.

The sensation was almost like vertigo -- the familiar feeling of fingers enclosed in the sweet slippery cocoon while fingers worked in and out. It was like touching herself, but so wonderfully different. It took a nod here, an exhortation there, but they developed a rhythm that had both of them writhing and moaning and calling each other's name, reaching down to suckle Scully, Scully on her back seeing stars.

"So... fucking... good..." Max hissed, Scully's nipple between her teeth.

"L-love you s-sohhh much," Scully stammered, tears starting to run down her cheeks.

"Love _you_!" Max came up and planted her mouth on Scully's, Scully holding her tight with her free arm. They were deep in the kiss when they went over the edge, Scully peaking first with shattering force, Max breaking the kiss so she could cum with Scully's breast in her mouth, both of them crying with joy, fingers thrust deep, fears and cares long gone...

<<SATURDAY AFTERNOON>>

"Somebody up there likes Neesie."

"Definitely."

The snowstorm that had blanketed the East Coast -- and stranded Mulder in Cincinnati on his way back from a fake cult kidnapping -- had hit Boston, too, though not as badly as it nailed the District. But by the time Max pulled into the Old Framingham Meeting House parking lot, the weather was pure Indian Summer: Bright sunshine, temps in the low 50's, the Common glistening with the snow that remained.

Scully smiled at the colonial beauty of it all. "I feel weird," she said as they got out of the Beretta.

Max raised an eyebrow. "You mean being my date?"

"I mean going to a wedding without a present. Goes against my upbringing."

Max took a deep cleansing breath. *Jesus, Maxie, chill out!* "Don't worry. Neesie won't mind. Besides, I read somewhere you've got a six-month grace period to send a present." She walked back to the trunk, key in hand. "When Richard and I got married, it took some of his relatives over a year to cough up."

"I know I don't _have_ to have something today," Scully said, shrugging. "It's conditioning. Whenever the family went to a wedding, Mom always stressed about getting the _right_ present, even if we only knew the person slightly. And having it ready _well_ before the wedding day."

Max thought a second, then popped the lid. A large white Crate & Barrel box took up most of the trunk. A large red unsealed envelope was taped to the top of the box. Max carefully pulled the envelope off the box, took the card out of the envelope, got a black Flair pen out of her slacks, and handed card & pen to Scully. "Go for it."

Scully held up both hands. "Max, this is _your_ present..."

Max was undaunted. "So if we ever get K.C. married off, _you_ buy the present."

Scully laughed and took the card. It had been blank inside; Scully preferred blank cards, too, because the mass-produced messages never expressed sentiment the way she wanted. The front was a watercolor of the front door of an elegant-looking house, seen from inside a thickly-landscaped garden path, almost a tunnel of flowers. Inside Max had written, "Home is where the heart is. Welcome home. Love, Max". Scully couldn't think of anything to say -- or, more accurately, couldn't think of any _one_ thing to say -- so she simply added, "& Dana".

Max stood next to her, their shoulders touching. "Looks pretty good."

*Max & Dana. Dana & Max. Oh boy...* "Yeah," Scully said. "It does." She looked over at Max. "How come you never call me Dana?"

Max' smile was dazzling. "I find your last name phenomenally sexy." Scully could always feel herself blush. This time it felt extremely good. Max replaced the card in the envelope, pulled a camera bag out of the trunk and nodded at the box. "Grab an end."

Scully grabbed one handhold and they hauled the box out of the car. It was surprisingly heavy, and it clanked. "What are we giving them," Scully wanted to know. "His-and-Her barbells?"

Max closed the trunk with her elbow. "A fondue set."

"A _fondue set_?"

"Private joke. I'll explain later."

<<STILL SATURDAY AFTERNOON>>

"Friend of the bride or the groom?"

"Yes," Max told the usher.

Most of the guests were already seated on black metal folding chairs when Scully & Max walked into the big hall on the second floor of the meeting house, but there were two seats in the last row, right next to the entrance. The sightlines wouldn't be great for the ceremony itself, but they had a perfect position for the Processional and Recessional, and sitting next to the aisle gave Max room to move around and take pictures. "K.C. wanted to do it," Max had told her. "But Neesie wouldn't let her put a camera in her bouquet."

Scully scanned the room as she shucked out of her trenchcoat. High-ceilinged and hardwood-floored, the white-walled hall was flooded with light from big windows on two sides of the room. Large speakers on the proscenium of a raised curtained stage near the entranceway wafted Vivaldi through the room. The place the ceremony would be held was on the opposite end of the room. The area was sparsely decorated: A podium on the left side, two flags (Stars & Stripes and the Massachusetts state flag) flanking a center window, a black Steinway piano, and several high-backed wooden chairs, one of which was occupied by a rotund little man in a black suit, presumably the Justice of the Peace.

Religion had been a major sticking point in the ceremony -- not for Neesie & Chris, but for their respective families. While Neesie's parents weren't _too_ upset she was marrying outside their faith, they weren't pleased there wasn't going to be at least a Jewish ceremony. On the other hand, Neesie's family had shown up, and in droves; they took up almost the entire ten rows of the left side of the room. Chris' side was made up of college friends, co-workers from Framingham High School, and friends from political campaigns he and Neesie had worked on. His only sister Margaret refused to attend because of a long-standing feud involving his refusal to "re-affirm their faith in Christ" after their parents died in a car accident four years before. She would be missed by no-one, including Chris. He & Neesie had worked on this day for the better part of four months, and they had come up with a piece that fleshed out the civil ceremony, as well as satisfy their mutual love of theatre. Margaret Duncan Carpenter could stay in the mountains of Colorado and hang there.

At the stroke of three, the music changed from Vivaldi to the "Allegro" from Handel's "Water Music". Two sharp-looking men in classic grey morning coats came through the door, moved down the aisle past Max & Scully, and walked up to the center of the ceremony area; The J.P. stood and moved behind and to the right of them. The taller one had exchanged whispered words and a hand squeeze with Max on the way past, so Scully assumed this was Chris Duncan. Scully had never met Neesie's fiance, but from a physical standpoint, Scully could do nothing but approve. Tall, not too thin, and a little younger than Neesie (*Late twenties, 28 maybe,* Scully guessed.), with gold wire rim glasses and skin that had never seen acne, a smile that beamed good will and happiness, and eyes that radiated intelligence. He kept his beard too short and sparse for Scully's taste -- Elliot Gardner had her idea of a "real" beard -- but his black hair was cut short to the scalp, eschewing the tendency men with a widow's peak had of wearing the rest of their hair long. Scully could see they made a good couple, and she was happy Neesie had found someone like this.

She heard Max' shutter firing one shot after the other as the rest of the bridal party came through the door. Two former classmates of Neesie's --one from high school, one from law school -- had joined Rose & K.C. as bridesmaids, while Chris' other best friends from Amherst (His Best Man had been his roommate) acted as ushers. The bridesmaids' dresses were actually attractive: Green silk, mid-length, off-the-shoulder, no sign of meringue-like chiffon. They were more like evening dresses than bridesmaids dresses, and complemented the usher's morning coats. Neesie's wedding dress was twice as beautiful as it had been in the pictures Scully had seen, and Neesie's smile could have lit up a stadium as she walked in the room with Dr. Charles Gottlieb, a tall portly man with curly grey hair that had yet to fall out.

"She _glows_," Scully whispered.

"Doesn't she just," Max agreed, wiping a tear away before setting up another shot.

Neesie & Chris had worked on the ceremony for two months, and had created a piece that satisfied their mutual love of theatre. After the J.P.'s opening remarks, there were three readings: Rose, the Matron of Honor, held back tears during her reading of a poem called "Much Like An Arch This Marriage" ("She found it in a Martha Stewart book," Max whispered to Scully. "I'll never let her live it down." Scully gave Max a light swat on the leg.), Chris' Best Man recited a Shakespeare sonnet without notes, and K.C. surprised Scully by giving an expressive rendition of John Donne's "The Good Morrow". She was surprised again when the other two bridesmaids did a hauntingly beautiful duet from Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Requiem", accompanied on piano by a young man with wild black hair, four earings, and a suit he looked entirely out of place in. From there, Neesie & Chris exchanged vows; Chris had written his on a long scroll -- Scully could see the ornate calligraphy from her seat -- while Neesie used notecards handed to her by Rose, though she rarely referred to them. Both speeches were short, sweet, and from the heart.

For the bulk of the event, Max moved soundlessly around the room, doing her best to stay out of the way of the official photographer. But for the exchange of vows and the ceremony itself, she sat next to Scully, beaming and sniffling, more glad to be alive than she could remember. Scully held her hand, drinking in the moment. Although she had a single woman's dislike of weddings, she was ecstatic about being here. She liked Neesie a lot, despite the short time they'd known each other, and was honored to be invited to this major change in her life. But most of all, she was gloriously happy to be sitting next to Max, the warmth from her hand coursing up Scully's arm like fire. Occasionally they traded glances, holding them for a moment or more, happy for Neesie, happy for themselves. They stayed in one glance so long, Max nearly missed photographing Neesie & Chris' first kiss as man & wife.

On cue, the first movement of Handel's "Fireworks Music" rolled out of the speakers, signalling the beginning of the Recessional. Max jumped to her feet, took three quick shots of Neesie & Chris, and squeezed Scully's shoulder. "Come on," she whispered, moving out the door without waiting. Scully blinked, took a fast look at the happy couple coming up the aisle, and then followed.

She found Max on the first floor in a room next to the stairs that had been set aside as a bar/lounge. A huge pile of presents sat precariously on a not-quite-big-enough folding table (The fondue set box was so big, they had to put it under the table) while two members of the catering crew put the finishing touches on another table lined with punchbowls. A small stereo system had been set up on a chair by the far window. Max was putting a cassette into the player when Scully walked in.

"What are you doing," Scully wanted to know.

"Alternative Recessional," Max said over her shoulder as she pressed the 'Play' button. The room was filled with the brassy opening notes of the French national anthem -- the unmistakeable beginning of "All You Need Is Love". Stroking Scully's arm on the way past, Max walked quickly to the bottom of the stairs, pointed her camera towards the second floor, and shouted, "Pout, baby, pout! Come on, baby! _Work_ with me! _Work_ with me!"

Scully stood behind and to the right of Max as she took shot after shot of Neesie & Chris, who were laughing like hell at Max' display as they came down the stairs. When they reached the bottom of the stairs, Max' slung the camera over one shoulder and gave Neesie a ferocious hug, lifting the taller woman off her feet for a good three seconds.

"You did it," Max laughed/cried. "You fucking did it!"

"I know," Neesie giggled. "I was there."

Max put her face in Neesie's shoulder, then looked over at Chris and wrapped an arm around his neck. "Welcome to the family, son!"

"Awwwww, thanks, Maw," Chris drawled, displaying a lopsided grin.

"I'll give you a hit in the head, you ungrateful young wretch," she told the man three years' Neesie's junior. Then Rose and K.C. were at the bottom of the stairs, and Chris stepped back to let the Coven have a tearful group hug. Scully moved over to him.

"Ain't family wunnerful," Chris said, still playing out the drawl.

Scully looked at her lover and her lover's best friends, sharing their happiness. "Yeah," she said. "It is." She turned to him. "Congratulations."

Chris shook Scully's hand. "You, too." He said it in his normal voice, and he meant every word.

There was no formal receiving line. The bridal party was rushed into a side room while the guests were herded out into the front of the Meeting House to prepare for a mass photo opportunity. Max & Scully were among the crowd when Neesie & Chris led the bridal party out to tumultuous applause. Neesie bowed down to her skirts while Chris aimed a PalmCorder at the throng. "Smile," he shouted. "You're on GroomCam!"

The official photographer put Neesie & Chris through various poses: By themselves, with the rest of the bridal party, with the bridal party and the J.P., with Neesie's parents, Neesie with her bridesmaids, Chris with his ushers. It seemed like everyone had a camera, the clicking of shutters was almost continuous. Then Neesie called out, "Coven portrait!" Chris chuckled, giving his wife a quick kiss before stepping down to stand with his friends.

Max offered Scully her camera, grinning like a madwoman. "Would you mind?"

"I'd be honored." Their fingers touched as Scully took the camera. Scully took a small breath. So did Max, who winked at Scully before joining her friends on the top step. The photographer had taken one picture and was about to take another when Neesie called out, "Hold your fire," and brought the Coven into a huddle. There was whispering and giggling for a few seconds, and then Neesie broke out of the group and walked toward Scully, motioning for Chris to join her. *Now what,* Scully wondered.

"I've got a tough assignment for you," Neesie said, extremely serious. "You're the only one who can handle it."

"Name it," Scully said, her confusion evident.

Neesie turned to Chris. "Hun, could you switch from moving pictures to still photography for a few moments?"

"I think I can adjust," he said dryly, easing the Nikon out of Scully's hand and offering the PalmCorder to one of his friends.

"Excellent," Neesie said, taking Scully's hand. She nodded toward the Coven; Max' head was in danger of being split in half by her smile. "Come on," Neesie said. "My wedding pictures are incomplete."

*She can't mean...* Scully shook her head. "No, Neesie, come on..."

Neesie held up a finger as she pulled Scully along. "Ah, ah, ah! It's my wedding day. The bride gets anything she wants on her wedding day. It's a rule."

Scully couldn't fight that logic, so she allowed herself to be led over to the group. The photographer took a few seconds to figure out how to pose them. Scully looked at Rose and K.C.. "Are you okay with this," she asked them.

"Shit yeah," K.C. said immediately.

Rose gave Scully's arm a squeeze. "You're one of us now."

Scully would have burst into tears if Max and K.C. hadn't started chanting, "One of us, one of us, you will soon be one of us." Laughing with the rest, she gave each member of the Coven a hug and a "Thank you", Max last but not least. The photographer arranged the newly-augmented Coven around Neesie. She originally wanted Rose and K.C. on either side of the bride, but the woman's respective heights offended her sense of structure. The addition of Scully did help things somewhat, so she put "bridesmaids on the left, friends on the right."

"Does this mean we're not your friends anymore," Rose asked Neesie in a scared-little-girl voice.

Neesie gave her a lost look. "Your name again?" The Coven busted up again, flustering the photographer for a moment.

"Come on, come on," K.C. said gruffly, winking at the photographer. "Let the little lady do her job."

The photographer -- a co-worker at the Herald who was five feet tall in platform sneakers -- stuck her tongue out at K.C., but did smile as she re-focused on the five women, now standing arm-in-arm-in-arm-in-arm. She liked their posed smiles, and took a fast shot, but they didn't look spontaneous enough. "Do you guys use computers?"

Neesie still smiled, though her eyebrows went down. "We all do. Why?"

"Did you hear Microsoft is coming out with a line of cheap, state-of-the-art automobiles?"

Scully felt a Mulder Smirk leap onto her face. He had told her this joke the day before he left for Scotland. "Yeah, but who wants to drive a car that crashes four times a day?"

The subsequent shrieks of laughter provided the effect the photographer was looking for.


<<SATURDAY NIGHT>>

"You meanna tell me you hy-yuhhed a band that don' know _one_ fockin' polka, for shit's sake?!"

Scully howled at Max' dead-on impression of Neesie's Uncle George, a Long Island-nee-Brooklyn dry cleaning magnate who had practically commandeered the whiskey sour punchbowl for the run of the reception. "I thought I was going to die when he said that!"

"I thought _Neesie_ was going to die," Max guffawed. "Did you see the look on her face? Good thing they'd cleared away the silverware, or she would have torn his larynx out with a dessert spoon!"

"Lucky for Uncle George, everybody else at the head table got a kick out of it."

"Everybody else was nearly as ripped as Uncle George," Max pointed out.

"Well," Scully said judiciously, "that may have been a factor."

They were still laughing as Max pulled into the motel parking lot. On the X-Files Tours America scale, Red Roof Inns were considered downright swanky, though Scully believed you were paying for marketing than for quality. *Martin Mull's gotta make a living, too,* Mulder had playfully chided her the one night they'd checked into a Red Roof. The usual fleabags had all come up "No Vacancy". Accounting had made an official inquiry after that trip, insisting Mulder had to have padded his expense account.

Max pulled in next to the white Saturn coupe Scully had borrowed and cut the engine. "Oh, unbelievable! I am _sober_! Somebody call Guinness!"

"The book or the beer," Scully asked wryly as she stepped out of the car.

Max looked disgusted. "The _book_. If I want to drink sludge, I'll go down to the Esplanade and stick a glass in the Charles. Guinness is one part of my heritage I refuse to take up." She locked up the Beretta and activated the security system. *I don't care if it is the suburbs.*

Scully fell in step with her as they walked toward the staircase. Their room was at the far end of the second floor. "Well, I wouldn't go around bragging about sobriety. You had at least as much champagne as I did, and I know _I_ have a buzz on."

Max shook her head gravely. "No tolerance. No tolerance at all..."

Scully gave her an open-handed smack on the shoulder. "Smartass!"

Max giggled, briefly holding up her hands in a cartoon-like "Put up your dukes" stance. They started up the stairs. "Seriously," she said, "I've been to weddings where I made Uncle George look like a temperance advocate." She tossed a vague gesture at the courtyard. "It's one of the reasons I got a room here. When it comes to DUI, this state has _no_ sense of humor."

"Good move," Scully said. "So you don't like weddings, either, huh?"

Max held up a hand. "Not _all_ weddings... though I've been to a few that had the economy-size Catholic Mass..." Scully's prolonged groan made Max laugh. "You can relate."

Scully nodded sadly as they reached the top of the stairs. "Charles had a Catholic Mass at his wedding. California, mid-July, and I thought we were going to die, either from dehydration or boredom. The priest was pushing 80, his sermon took up half the ceremony, and he nearly dropped the Communion wine twice."

Max clapped her hands, laughing wildly. "Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. My eldest brother Jamie's wedding. Our parish priest was _well_ beyond retirement age, and boy, did it show! Ceremony almost hit two hours. We're still giving Jamie shit about it ten years later." She thrust her hands in her pockets, fishing for the room key card. "So it's not the weddings so much... as the _questions_."

Scully groaned again. "'So where's _your_ husband, dear?'"

Max mimicked Scully's nasal tone. "'And what does _your_ husband do?'"

"'Is your husband watching the kids? That's _so_ sweet!'"

"'What? Not even a _boyfriend_?'"

Then they both said, "'Don't worry. You'll find someone.'"

They stopped dead, looking at each other in shock. And then they laughed like hell, the sound echoing around the motel parking lot. It was funny because they'd gone through the same thing, but it was also funny because all those well-meaning matrons were absolutely right: They _did_ find someone. The matrons were just a little off on the particulars.

Max held out a hand. Scully took it and squeezed it, fingers interlocked. They held the pose until Scully realized they were standing in front of their room. She nodded at the door. "Come on."

"No argument." Max stuck the key card in the slot; the latch clicked and they went inside, Scully locking the door behind her.

The room was pretty standard: Light blue walls, dark blue carpeting, thick floor-to-ceiling curtains roughly the same shade as the floor. Black big-screen TV sitting on a long low dresser with a built-in mirror. Unmemorable paintings hung on the walls, a small table with a styleless lamp separating the two double beds. Light came from a fake Tiffany lamp hanging over a small round table. It wasn't much, but it could have been Louis XIV's master bedroom at Versailles for all the attention Scully & Max paid it.

Uncle George notwithstanding, they'd had a wonderful time at the reception. The food was marvelous, the people very friendly. Neesie had seated them near the head table with some of the cooler members of her law firm. She'd also seated all the single men at tables with single women, so Scully & Max hadn't had to fight off any predators. Scully looked on in pride as Max made one of the main toasts, speaking of how she had watched Neesie grow and change, how she was honored to have her as a close friend, and how Chris had made her shine even brighter, "and that's something I'll always love him for... and if he knows what's good for him, he'd better keep it up!"

Scully couldn't remember the last time she'd danced that much. *Certainly not at a wedding, even the ones where Mulder was my escort.* Scully & Max each danced with Chris, with the rest of the Coven, with Rose's kids (who, Scully decided, pinned the needle on the 'Adorable' meter), and with the well-dressed young man who doted on Rose thruought the reception.

("Boytoy," Max had whispered, furtively pointing him out at the ceremony.

"Good for her," Scully murmured, nodding in approval.)

And they'd danced with each other, enjoying the other's every move. But they hadn't slow-danced, even though they wanted to. And though they'd held hands during the ceremony, and under the table during dinner, they hadn't hugged -- _really_ hugged -- until the motel room door was closed and locked.

They didn't kiss, which surprised both of them. But the need for contact, the need for the feel of the other, was all that seemed to matter. They stood in the dimly-lit room, Max' head on Scully's shoulder, for over a minute.

When Max finally spoke, she shifted her head so they were forehead-to-forehead. "You know what my plan for tonight was," she asked in a small, sad voice. "Up until yesterday afternoon?"

Scully stroked Max hair. "Tell me."

Max laughed quietly. Scully could hear the mischief in her voice, though it was very far away. "I was going to get spectacularly drunk, find the most eligible bachelor in the place, bring him back here, and ruin his life forever."

Scully ran a hand down Max' cheek, cupped her chin in her hand, and lifted Max' head until they were eye-to-eye. "_We_ have forever."

"God, I hope so," Max whispered. Then they kissed, and it felt so fine, so good, so right.

Eventually Scully broke the kiss and led Max to the nearest bed, shucking off her jacket as they went. Max reached for Scully's blouse, but Scully took hold of her hands, brought them to her lips, and kissed both of them twice. "Hold still," she said softly. "I'll do everything." Max bit her lip as Scully stepped in and eased the suit jacket off her shoulders.

Max had always been self-concious about her body; she had been fat as a child, only losing the weight when she discovered her love of sports, and worked out religiously to keep the calories from gaining another foothold. But even in her best shape, she had no illusions she was an undiscovered Playboy model. One of the crueler kids in high school had described her body as "two raisins on an ironing board", and even though Max had cried, she knew it wasn't slander if it was true. She'd never considered herself pretty -- DeeDee was the first person to ever call her "beautiful", and Richard never went beyond a generic "great", though he was never great with any kind of flattery -- so whenever Max undressed for someone (or was undressed by someone), her breath always caught in her throat, the long-held fear of rejection hanging in the air.

But then she looked at Scully's face and saw the love, the attraction, the anticipation as more of Max was revealed, and Max couldn't feel anything but beautiful.

Scully was on her knees behind Max when she eased Max' panties down her legs, leaving her naked. Scully had taken her slow, sweet, agonizing time, removing Max' shoes and stockings, her watch, even her small gold earrings, the only jewelry Scully had ever seen her wear. Every nerve ending in Max' body was on full alert. She was already wet and Scully had barely touched her. Then Scully put her hands on Max' hips and slowly turned her around.

The hiss from the traffic on the Mass Pike sounded like surf as Max faced Scully, arms at her sides, legs apart. Scully gasped at the sight. A month before, she couldn't have even conceived of this scene, let alone being as turned on by it as she was now; now she ran her gaze up and down Max' body -- the bud-like breasts, the erect nipples, the flat stomach, the dew-like drops of juice on her sparse pubic hair -- and knew this was all she wanted in the world.

Max called out incoherently when Scully's mouth dove onto her engorged clit, grabbing Scully's head as her legs nearly gave out and the fire turned into an inferno. Scully's hands needed to be everywhere at once, kneading Max' ass and back and breasts and running up and down the torso as Scully nipped and sucked and slid her tongue inside. "God, God, good, good," Max chanted quietly, he head thrown back in ecstacy. Her inner ear was only working sporadically, and she had to step back to keep her balance. Scully shifted with her, driven by hunger and need.

Max felt the edge of the bed on the back of her thigh. She literally couldn't stand up under Scully's assault, so she fell back, bouncing twice as she hit the mattress. Scully's mouth only lost contact for a moment, her fingers laying napalm trails on Max' skin.

"Come up here," Max pleaded.

Scully felt herself smile. "I'm just getting started." *I'm going to stain this suit if I'm not careful...* "Turn over."

Max moaned, eyes closed, as she rolled onto her stomach. The position wasn't comfortable with her legs hanging off, so she climbed up onto the bed.

"Hold that pose," Scully said hurriedly, pulling off her clothes as quickly as she could.

Max put her head down on the mattress. It was a queen-size bed, so the width was just about her present length. She arched her back and spread her legs, showing herself. She was shivering like she was freezing, but she couldn't have been hotter. Max moaned again as Scully ran a hand up her leg and over her mound (*Why one hand,* Max thought dimly), only vaguely aware of a familiar sound, not even trying to place it until Scully ran the vibrator over Max' lips.

"WHAHH," Max blurted, nearly rocketing off the bed.

Scully's breathing was as ragged as her voice. "Your friend wanted to come along this weekend," she heard herself say. Her nipples hurt, they were so hard.

Max' laugh came out like a three-stage groan. "You sneaky..."

She would have said a lot more, but Scully ran the vibrator over Max' clit, cutting off any further remarks. "You were saying...?"

Max' head rolled to the side, her eyes far back in her head. "Sculleeeeeee...."

"What, Max?" Scully was on her knees, her face an inch away from Max' pussy as she moved the long white dildo over Max' mound. She couldn't believe how powerful she felt. "Tell me what you want."

Detective First Grade Rebecca Maxfield didn't know whether to laugh or cry, go or stay, shit or go blind, and she couldn't have cared less. "Oh God, Scully," she breathed. "Fuck me, please! I want you so bahAHHHHHH..." The last word went long and loud as Scully shifted the vibrator and pushed it inside her lover.

Max came in seconds, head thrashing left and right, hands tearing at the sheets. Scully held her close with her free arm, raining kisses on Max' back and buttocks, her other hand fucking the dildo in and out of Max, not letting up the pace. She jammed her tongue in Max' ass, making her cry out with joy. Max' whole body was thrashing now, ready to fly off the peak, so Scully held her and fucked her and felt her and rimmed her and fought the dizziness as Max' second orgasm burst like a bomb, her knees giving out, her body drenched in sweat, her voice barely muffled by the bedspread as she screamed Scully's name.

Scully eased the pace as Max came down, reminding herslef how good it felt when a man took his time to finish. Finally she let the vibrator stay deep inside for a few moments, then pulled it out as slowly as she could, making Max quake as it came out with an almost-audible 'pop', slick with Max' juices. Scully examined the dildo and the sweetness that coated it. She turned it off, closed her eyes, and slid it into her mouth, licking and sucking as she moved it in and out. Scully's other hand found its way down to her slit, fingerfucking herself in time to the slow pistoning motion she was making with the dildo.

Somewhat recovered, Max looked over her shoulder with glassy eyes. Her jaw dropped at the sight of Scully, eyes closed, nipples at attention, frigging herself while she sucked on the dildo. Max had tasted herself on it many a time, but she had only given it a cursory suck; although she had given the occasional blowjob, Max had never liked it all that much (*_Big_ surprise.*), and couldn't understand why some women did. But watching Scully loving the vibrator with her mouth... *Talk about giving me a second wind!* "If you don't get up here this minute," Max murmured, "I am going to hold a _serious_ grudge!"

Scully didn't need to be told twice. She dropped the dildo on the carpet and crawled up Max' body, Max rolling over as she did. They both moaned loudly as their mouths locked, their tongues danced, and their nipples pressed together. Scully shifted up and down slightly, making the nipples graze each other, making both their heads spin. Max' hands ran down Scully's back and grabbed her ass, sticking her tongue in Scully's ear. "I need you in my mouth," she hissed.

Scully kissed Max' nose and eyes before she moved up, pausing to offer Max her breasts, sucking air through her teeth as Max greedily attacked them, taking as much in her mouth as she could. Scully could have stayed like that all night, but she wanted Max' mouth on her and in her, everywhere it could go. She could swear her pussy literally got hot as she moved up Max' chest, shifted her knees, and sat on Max' face.

Max went down on Scully without any preliminaries, nearly making her fall backwards. Max' hands shot up Scully's back, supporting her until she regained some balance. Scully felt like she was sailing on a stormy sea, waves buffeting her at every turn. She reached back and kneaded Max' breasts as her lover's tongue darted from hole to hole, her roaming hands making Scully shake like a leaf.

"Oh God, yes, please, pleeeeese," she babbled. "Feel me, taste me, take meeee... Love it... Love it... Love you... Oh! Yes! Keep going... Please... keep... gohhhhihhhhnnng..." Scully looked down as Max looked up. The fire in Max' eyes touched Scully to her soul; Scully in rapture filled Max with joy. She brought her hands up to Scully's breasts, and Scully squeezed her hands hard as she went off like the 4th of July, laughing and crying and screaming and drenching Max' face with her juice as the strength left her body and she fell back on the bed, both of them holding each other like they would drown if they let go...

<<SUNDAY MORNING>>

"This can_not_ be real."

"Believe me, girl, this is as real as it gets."

Sitting on top of a rise between Natick and Framingham, Eat At Joe's was right out of _American Graffitti_, from the waitresses in short-sleeved starched white shirts to the vintage rock & roll pumping out of the CD jukebox -- one of the few indications the shiny chrome-like diner was living in the 90's. Signs along the back of the counter advertised breakfast and lunch specials, while display cases filled with divine-looking pastries radiated temptation. Despite the hour, the place was chock-full, but Scully didn't have to wait long before she was led to a just-cleaned booth. Max stayed behind, looking over the musical selections. She had been here the day before, attending the Prayer Breakfast, but they'd put in a few new Motown collections in the last month, and Max was still unfamiliar with all the possible selections.

"Coffee," asked a middle-aged waitress with a nametag that said 'Grace'.

"Two cups, please," Scully told her. The waitress nodded and moved off at a healthy trot, scribbling as she went.

Scully opened the menu and started reviewing breakfast items as a brassy big band started pumping happy, jumping music out of the speakers --"Twisting The Night Away", Sam Cooke. Scully looked over the menu at Max, punching buttons on the jukebox and flipping through the CDs with fierce concentration. *At least she didn't play 'You Send Me'.* It wasn't that Scully would have been embarassed, or that the selection would have been too 'obvious'; the problem was that Scully would have walked over to Max and asked her to dance.

If Scully held any doubts about her feelings, about Max and about herself, they had been stomped flat in the last 36 hours. Scully tried to find one word to describe the experience, but no one word sufficed. "Wild", "Torrid", "Magical", "Passionate", "Uninhibited", "Unbelievable"... It had been all that, and more. "Orgasms without end, amen," Max had panted at one point in the festivities. Just like Friday night, they had made love until they could barely move. During one hiatus, Max had misjudged how much room she had behind her and rolled off the bed, eliciting gales of laughter from both of them. Scully crawled down to see if Max was alright, and when she was sufficiently "convinced" Max was in perfect working order, they climbed up on the other bed and began again. They would have done it on the floor, but the rug had a lot less padding than it looked, and the nap was very uncomfortable.

The waitress materialized, placing two cups down with only slight spillage, and disappeared again. Scully poured cream in her coffee out of a small pitcher the waitress had brought (*None of those lousy little plastic thimbles that spill on you when you open them...*) and took a grateful sip. She'd gotten maybe four hours of sleep, five at the most -- deep sleep, good sleep, but not nearly enough to recuperate. Scully had wanted to leave early that morning (*No, not _wanted_. _Needed_. If _want_ had had anything to do with it, Max would have had to change the check-out time!*), but she had made the "mistake" of agreeing with Max that showering together would save time. It didn't, of course, and if the shower hadn't had a handrail, there might have been fatalities. Instead there was only sore knees, rubber legs, hair that was still slightly damp, and a hell of a sense of satisfaction.

Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell had replaced Sam Cooke by the time Max plopped down on the other side of the booth. "Well," she said brightly, picking up the menu. "Having done _that_..."

"How much money did you put in," Scully asked.

"Five bucks," Max said off-handedly, perusing her choices. She usually had a California Omelette when she came to Eat At Joe's, but today she wanted something different.

*Jesus, she's worse than Mulder!* "How many songs do you get," Scully laughed.

Max smiled, still looking at the menu. "A _lot_."

"You don't think anyone else in here picked out any songs?"

Max looked over her menu. "They wouldn't be _my_ songs."

Scully just smiled indulgently and shook her head. *For someone who doesn't like rock and roll, I've sure surrounded myself with a fine cast of rockers!*

The waitress appeared again, practically demanding their orders. Scully gave Max a few moments to decide while she ordered an omelette special that was three times the size of her usual breakfast fare. Max decided on Huevos Rancheros with a side of wheat toast and "the largest glass of orange juice you can airlift in here." Scully immediately ordered a glass of her own. The waitress took down the addition without comment, snatched up the menus and bustled off to the kitchen.

"I'm going to get fat if I keep coming up here," Scully observed, putting her napkin in her lap.

Elbows on the table, Max linked her fingers and put her chin on top of her hands. "I'm sure we can find some way to maintain your muscletone. Jogging, volleyball..." Her smile turned devilish. "Aerobic dancing..."

Scully's face could have doubled as a stoplight. "You are too much," she said affectionately.

"Gosh, I hope not," Max returned promptly, winking at the love of her life. *I am so happy, I could backflip into the next booth!* She poured a packet of Equal into her cup and took a sip, nodding in approval. "Mmmm! Coffee that tastes like _coffee_!" She held up her cup, as if to propose a toast.

Scully clinked her cup with Max'. "As opposed to coffee that tastes like battery acid."

Max snapped her fingers exaggeratedly. "Oh, yeah! You've been in my squadroom!"

"Don't feel special. Mulder and I have been in half the states in the Union, and if we ever drank good coffee, it wasn't in a police station or a field office." She told Max Mulder's theory about all law enforcement agencies subscribing to the same food service.

"I think it's a conspiracy," Max said, without a hint of sarcasm. "The brass makes sure the coffee sucks because they want us to be as mean & nasty as the perps we're trying to catch."

Scully brought her cup to her lips. "That's one of the more plausible conspiracy theories I've heard."

"You hear a lot of them, I take it."

Scully nodded as she swallowed. "Work with Mulder for a few years, you'll hear theories for everything under the sun."

"Ooooooooh," Max cooed, putting down her cup. "Anything really juicy?"

Scully seemed to consider, then just said, "You'll have to hear them from him. He does it better than I do, and he knows where all the smoking guns are buried."

Max slapped the table. "Well, now I _have_ to meet this man! For years, I've had this theory about why baseball still has the Designated Hitter, and the Bear doesn't want to hear it anymore."

Scully smiled, secretly relieved Max hadn't pushed the issue. The last thing Scully wanted was to darken this best-of-all-possible-weekends with tales of government cover-ups and chain-smoking mandarins who run covert errands for elusive star chambers.

Their food came quickly, something Scully hadn't expected with the packed house. She'd barely taken a bite of very crisp bacon when the waitress returned to freshen up their coffee. Scully's omelette was almost daunting, it was so big, even allowing for multiple ingredients, and Max' breakfast came on a plate the size of the hubcap for a '57 Chevy, and needed every inch. Ordinarily, Scully would have eaten a quarter of what she had in front of her, but it was all she could do not not to wolf down her food. It didn't take superior powers of observation to see Max was as hungry as she was. Scully tried to nurse her breakfast along, alternating between juice, omelette, and unbuttered rye toast while the music went from the Beatles to Aretha to Chuck Berry to the Beach Boys to the Loving Spoonful to a string of songs Scully barely remembered, but fit the ambience to a fare-thee-well. "This is sohhhhh good," Scully said at one point.

Max nodded assent around a mouthful of home fries. "They also make the best meatloaf you'll ever clog your arteries with. Neesie and Chris found the place one night after they banged on doors for Bill Weld, and fell flat in love with it. Chris has got a thing about diners. He's got this huge print in his office of a diner in New York City, and he's got at least two coffee-table books on them."

Scully polished off her juice. "You know, until Mulder and I were partnered together, I hadn't eaten in a diner since my family played Hopscotch."

Max looked confused. "Your whole family played Hopscotch?"

Scully shook her head while she cut off another slab of omelette. "Figure of speech. When I was growing up, we moved to a different naval base every time my father got promoted. Melissa used to call it Hopscotch. Lots and lots and lots of highway driving. Sometimes the only place you could find to eat was a greasy spoon on the side of the road."

Max spread strawberry preserves on a piece of wheat toast. "Must have been a drag, moving around all the time," she said, trying to catch the waitress' eye so she could get a refill.

"Believe it or not, it wasn't. There were four of us, so there was always somebody to play with until we made new friends. And Mom was great. She kept us all happy and occupied, so we were never bored." The thought of her childhood made Scully smile. "It was like we were _all_ in the Navy, the way Dad presented it. It wasn't that _he_ was getting promoted, it was that _we_ were getting promoted. So it was an adventure."

Max did a pretty good Mulder Smirk. "Not just a job?"

"Ha ha," Scully said, still smiling. Then the smile faded and she looked off. "Can I ask you a question?"

Max took note of her expression. "Okay," she said carefully.

Scully inspected what was left of her omelette; she'd taken a pretty big chunk out of it. She cut off another piece, but did not eat it. "When you found out about yourself," she said, her voice a little softer, "how did your family handle it?"

A master of timing, the waitress took that opportunity to come over and refill their cups, giving Max a few seconds to collect her thoughts. *The Big Question.* Max didn't know everything about Scully's family, but she knew enough to know Scully must be dreading the moment when she would break the news. *God knows _my_ heart was in my throat when I sat Mom and Dad down...*

When the waitress went away, Max reached for another packet of Equal. "Overall, I guess I did okay," she said, dumping the packets' contents in her cup. "My brothers and sisters were really supportive. None of us held onto that wonderful Catholic guilt the nuns tried to beat into us all through school. Or maybe we just worked through it better than most, whatever." She took a sip of coffee, her gaze over Scully's left shoulder. "I was convinced Mom would go ballistic. She's the career Catholic, on the Vestry board and everything." She shook her head, smiling at the memory. "She took me in her arms, kissed me on the forehead, and told me she was happy for me." Shrug. "We'd always talked, and she knew how bad things were with Richard... with my other relationships... I guess that was more important to her than what her Bible said."

"I'm glad," Scully said, unconsciously fingering the cross around her neck. She swallowed. "And your father?" Max took another sip, then just stared into her cup without speaking. She was expressionless, and her eyes were dry, but she didn't look happy. "If you don't want to talk about it..."

Max shook her head rapidly. "No. No. I want to help you all I can with this." She was holding the cup in both hands now. Finally she said, "I think maybe it would have been better... if he had been pissed? If he'd blown his stack, screamed at me..." She flinched. "Even hit me? Then I could have screamed back, told him to go fuck himself, and gotten on with the rest of my life." She was talking to the table. "He said the stuff you'd expect -- I was just divorced, and that was why I didn't like guys. That I just hadn't met the _right_ guy yet, and that takes time, it even takes a marriage or two. That it was Richard's fault for divorcing me. That it was DeeDee's fault for taking advantage of me when I was vulnerable..." She sighed. "Then Mom hugged me and told me she was happy for me... and that kind of took the wind out of his sails." Beat. "And we never talked about it again." She took a log sip, blinked twice, and her rasp increased. "But it was the first time I ever really disappointed him." Beat. "And I never got the chance to put that right."

It was the second time in three days Scully wished there wasn't a table between them. Their third night together, they had lain in bed together talking about their fathers, crying for their losses. Max had told Scully what it was like to have Jack Maxfield as a father, and all of it had been happy: Going to the MFA. Playing catch in the driveway. Cheering on the Red Sox in the bleachers at Fenway. Cheering Max on in softball, in volleyball, in soccer. Bear-hugging Max when she graduated fourth in her class at the Police Academy. Max hadn't talked about her coming out, and Scully hadn't asked, mostly because she'd had so many questions about herself she wasn't nearly ready to ask. Now Scully wished she had asked, because they would have been alone and each other's arms, not in public separated by a hunter-green diner table. Scully reached out and touched Max' right hand. "I am so sorry," she whispered.

The hint of a head shrug. "Can't cry about stuff you can't change." She gave Scully's fingers a squeeze, gave her eyes a quick wipe with her other hand, and put on a smile. "Come on. Ask me something else."

"We don't have to-"

"Sure we do." Max let go of Scully's hand and folded her arms on the table. "Go for it."

Scully was out of coffee and juice, so she took a sip of water. "What about work? How'd you handle that?"

"I told the Bear, though it took almost a month to get up the courage. I think I was more scared to tell him than I was to tell tell my parents." She speared the last piece of sausage on her plate and swallowed it. "He didn't pretend to understand it -- still doesn't, I don't think. But he's cool about it. He says it's my life and that's nobody's business but mine." She giggled, the mischief back. "The only thing he was pissed about was _who_ I was with. I told you DeeDee roasted him on the stand one time, didn't I?"

Scully smiled and nodded. "How about your boss?"

Max shook her head. "Loot tells everyone who joins his squad that all that matters is the job, and what happens outside should stay outside." She made an equivocal gesture with her right hand. "He knows Outside can get in the way sometimes, but it shouldn't _keep_ getting in the way. _Then_ he'll take an interest." She laughed darkly. "And you _don't_ want him to take an interest."

*Weeks and Skinner would get along famously.* "Anyone else?"

Max made a face. "They don't _need_ to know."

Scully looked past Max again. "I'm not trying to start a fight, but... You don't think that's living a lie?"

Max didn't hesitate. "'Living a lie' is going out with 'safe' guys and making a show of it. 'Living a lie' is Richard Gere and Cindy Crawford at the Oscars, holding hands and looking beautifully hetero." Scully laughed once, drawing a brief smile out of Max. "You're a Republican, right?" Scully nodded, confused at the turn of the conversation. "Okay," Max continued. "I am, too. Test question: What are Republicans supposed to stand for?"

Scully snorted softly. "Well, if you listen to Newt Gingrich..."

Max cut her off. "Fuck Gingrich. He's a pompous twit who ought to listen to his sister a little more. I meant what the party was supposed to be about before the Fundamentalist Jihad took over." Scully thought she had an answer, but gestured for Max to go on. Max leaned forward. "The rights of the individual. And that includes the right of the individual to be left _alone_." Max was as serious as Scully had ever seen her. She paused while the waitress slapped the check on the table on the way past. She didn't even slow down. Max gave her retreating back a look. *You're not gonna win Miss Congeniality that way, Gracie.* She turned back to Scully. "Look, at the risk of sounding pompous myself, I believe everyone has their own comfort zone. Family, friends, co-workers. If your comfort zone lets you tell everyone, great. If it doesn't, that's okay, too." She stabbed a finger at Scully. "And no-one has the right to tell you different. We may be one in ten -- some people don't like that statistic, but I think it's accurate -- but that still leaves nine other people..." She sighed hard. "Some of whom are not disposed to the notion that the whole world isn't a 3D rendition of 'Ozzie & Harriet.'"

Max wasn't about to tell Scully about the case that came through the squadroom last April (*Thank God I didn't catch it. I would have kneecapped the sonofabitch.*) where a Dorchester garage mechanic broke into his 24 year-old son's apartment, beat his son's lover to death with a tire iron, then shot his son when he came home two hours later. It was his son's birthday. The father was unrepentant and said he'd do it again. The man's attorney brought in two psychiatrists who justified his actions. The judge sent the jury back twice before she conceded their deadlock was unbreakable. The DA had yet to re-file the case.

Max shook herself, trying to block it all out. "Have you told anyone yet?"

"I told Mulder the night before I came up here."

Max smiled. "Partner."

"And best friend," Scully added.

"I told Rose before anyone else, including my family. Anyone else?"

*Be honest.* "I did talk with Elliot."

Max' smile dimmed a little. "Before or after?"

"After," Scully admitted. "Sleeping with him brought up more questions than it solved."

Max picked up the check and tried to read it. "And what had he to say?"

"Something about most people only lose their virginity once, and I should consider myself blessed. He wished me well."

"Damn decent of him," Max muttered. *Will you quit? You've beaten on her once, already!* "And Mulder?"

Scully's smile was wide and bright. "He's happy for me. He said he's never seen me like this."

Max looked up, her head cocked. "And that is...?"

Scully looked her right in the eye. "Head over heels."

Max pressed her fingers hard into the table. It was the only way she could stop herself from taking Scully's head in her hands and planting a deep soul kiss on her. Instead she reached out and squeezed Scully's hand again. *Thank you, Goddess. I won't forget this one.* She re-focused on the bill. "Do you factor personality into your tips?"

Scully looked round the diner. Business hadn't slacked off one bit. "Yes. I also throw in circumstances."

Max looked around herself and nodded. *The food _did_ get here fast, and she didn't screw up the orders...* "Dutch?"

Scully reached for her wallet. "I'll get the check, you get the tip." Max started to object. Scully cut her off, sporting a textbook Mulder Smirk as she plucked the check out of Max' hand. "You paid for the room," she said softly. "It's the least I can do."

Max gave her a Smirk of her own. "Yeah. It is." But she dropped two dollars on the table without further argument and started up.

Scully was gathering up her coat when she said, "Hey, you were going to tell me about the fondue set."

Max blinked in confusion, then said, "Oh yeah! Right!" She sat down again. "A little while after we all moved in together, we had a Girls Night In. You know, have a beer, shoot the shit, have another beer..." She smiled. "Smoke some shit..."

Scully raised an eyebrow. "Really?"

Max shrugged. "It was college, what can I say? Anyway, we were talking and drinking, drinking and talking, and somehow we get on the subject of what marriage means. Neesie immediately says, 'Fondue'." Max looks around, feigning dibelief, making Scully giggle. "Well, we look at her like she's having a conversation with someone else. Which she could have been, for all we know. She was pretty wasted, as I remember. Anyway. We ask her what she meant, and Neesie said the way she saw marriage was, you have a house and some kids and some friends and some in-laws, and every so often your friends and your in-laws come over, and you all drink wine and have fondue." She shrugged again. "She's grew up on Long Island. She's a product of her environment."

Scully grabbed her coat and got up. "Oh, come on. I think it's sweet."

"Maybe, but if _my_ parents had ever tried to serve fondue at one of our family get-togethers, they would have needed tear gas to break up the riot."

The wind was blowing up as they walked to Scully's car. They couldn't park next to each other, but a family in a Mercury Mountaineer across from Scully had pulled out just in time, and Max had snatched up the spot. Scully turned to Max, who came as close as she could to Scully without actually touching her.

"Now, repeat after me," Max intoned. "'I promise to call as soon as I get through the front door.'"

"'I promise to call as soon as I get through the front door,'" Scully said obediently.

"Louder and funnier."

Scully pulled her in for a soft, warm hug. She wasn't loud at all. "I promise to call as soon as I get through the front door."

Max' eyes were shut tight, her forehead on Scully's shoulder. "God, I wish I could kiss you."

Before they'd left the hotel room, they kissed in front of the door for almost two minutes. It took some stern words from Scully -- to Max and to herself -- to stop them from tearing off each other's clothes and jumping back in bed. Scully squeezed Max' back. "That'll make it better."

Max looked up, confused. "That'll make what better?"

Scully grinned down at her. "The next time we _can_ kiss."

Max put her forehead on Scully's and they stayed that way for a moment, eyes closed. Then they pulled back. Max reached out a hand and Scully squeezed it. "Safety first," Max said firmly. "Yes?"

"Yes." *Please, please be safe. You have to be.* "I love you."

Max squeezed Scully's hand so hard, Scully had to squeeze back in self-defense. "I love you, too," Max whispered.

They held the tableau, eyes misting, until Max dropped Scully's hand and turned toward her car. Scully watched her go, visualizing the wondrous body beneath the formal overcoat. Words came to her, first heard as she fell asleep in Max' arms on the night Scully's life changed forever:

"Your love
  Is better than ice cream
  Better than anything else
  That I've tried..."

Max led the way up Route 9 to the Mass Pike entrance just past the reservoir. Scully was going to head west, catching I-84 near Sturbridge. It would take a little longer, but Scully wanted to avoid New York City, which took I-95 out of the equation. At the entrance they were able to use adjoining tollbooths, so they pulled out together, slower than most people do, as the eastbound on-ramp came up quickly. Max grinned over at Scully, kissed the tips of her index and middle finger, and flashed the 'Peace' sign; Scully pointed at Max and mouthed the word "You."

Max' grin stretched to jack-o-lantern proportions as she stepped on the gas and disappeared down the ramp. She tried to see Scully get on the opposite side, but both exits were landscaped around outcroppings of rock, making it impossible. Max sighed happily, the smile stuck on her face for the duration, and turned up the radio. She was listening to a college station that specialized in jazz and folk, but played all manner of music on the weekends. The show playing now focused on never-played cuts from classic albums. The deejay had segued Jonathan Edwards' "Athens County" into something soft but driving, drums and bass creating a beat like a horse riding across the prairie. She recognized the song but couldn't place it until she remembered the summer Jamie played the same Billy Joel album over and over and over, nearly driving their parents mad. Max tapped her fingers on the steering wheel in time to the music, looking at the clouds gathering in front of her and telling them they could dump rain or snow or locusts or mutated cats, and it still couldn't ruin this day:

"Hey Lord, will you look out for her tonight
  Cause it gets rough along the way
  Somehow this song seems strange
  It's only cause I don't know how to pray
  Will you give her peace of mind
  And if you ever find the time
  Please tell her I miss her every day..."

<<PAUSE>>

Dana Scully will return in...

"THE ROAD NOT TAKEN 5: STORM".

Be there. Aloha.

Questions, comments, flames and fanmail to drjohn@wizvax.net.