Prairie Interlude

TITLE:  Prairie Interlude

AUTHOR: J. Millington

EMAIL: varmstro@earthlink.net

ARCHIVE:  Please ask.

DISCLAIMER:  Mulder, Scully and Skinner belong to Chris Carter, 1013 Productions and Fox. No copyright infringement is intended.

FEEDBACK:    Gratefully accepted.

DISCLAIMER:  Mulder, Scully and Skinner belong to Chris Carter, 1013 Productions and Fox. No copyright infringement is intended.

More J. Millington fanfic is available at: http://home.earthlink.net/~varmstro/

***********

Prairie Interlude

by J. Millington

varmstro@earthlink.net

Normally a long drive through the flat Kansas prairie land was too boring for words.

Normally she’d almost be willing to shoot her partner again in order to take the driver’s seat from him.  The only thing more boring than driving through the flatlands was watching it pass by, endless and unchanging, while someone else drove.

Scully glanced over at her partner’s white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel, could almost hear him grind his teeth in concentration over the steady thwack-thwack-thwack of the wipers.  A gust of wind caught them broadside and shoved the car to the shoulder before Mulder could wrestle it back onto the road.  Nope, this was definitely one time when she had no problem with letting the manly man drive.

She switched the radio on again, hoping they were within range of a station now.  Grainy static, then a

clear voice, “Another rainy day here in the heartland.  Look out for a bit of wind from time to time, folks.”

“No shit,” Mulder mumbled.

Scully turned the dial.  A country singer cheerfully sang out, “‘Cause I love a rainy night, Yes I love a rainy night, Ooh I love a rainy night.”

“Eddie Rabbit?  Oh, please,” Mulder said.

She turned the radio off.  “I’m impressed, Mulder.  I didn’t know your appreciation of American music

included county singers.”

He spared her a grin.  “After all these years together, there’s still plenty that you don’t know about me.”

“Such as how you’re going to get us to Wichita in time to make our flight?”

“I’m a man of mystery, Scully, not a miracle worker.  Maybe with this storm front moving through the flight will be delayed.”

“I hope so.”  She shuddered. ” I hate taking off during bad weather.”

“You cover it well, though.  Except for the gouges your nails leave in my arm when you mistake it for your armrest.”

“I do not.”

“Sure you do and I’ve got the scars to prove it.  I’ve just never. . .”  He squinted and leaned forward.  “Is

hat what I think it is?”

She stared through the downpour and caught a glimpse of flashing lights up ahead.

******

Mulder rolled to a stop at the road block but waited to roll down his window until the Kansas state patrolman was at their vehicle.  As soon as he rolled it down the wind picked up and blew straight into the car.  Mulder took the full force of the water, wiping his sleeve across his face in a futile attempt to dry off the worst of it.

“Sorry, folks, but the bridge up ahead is washed out.  You’ll have to turn around..”

Scully leaned in towards the driver’s side window.  “We have to catch a flight out of Wichita in two

hours.  What’s the best way around?”

“Well, the quickest route, and the best road conditions under the circumstances, would be to double back to Highway 183, take that north to 54 and then straight in to Wichita.  But that’s going to add another 55 or 60 miles.  No way you’re going to make your plane.”

“He’s right, Scully.”  Mulder let out a sigh.  “That was the last flight out to D.C. tonight.  Officer, can

you recommend a motel in the area?  Looks like we might as well sit this one out until tomorrow.”

“Glad to hear you say that.  This is no kind of weather for trying to get anywhere in a hurry.  Back just before Coldwater there’s a decent motel.  Kind of old fashioned, but the man who runs it keeps it up pretty well.  Good luck,”

“Thanks,” Mulder said as he rolled up his window, “this just  keeps getting better and better.”

Scully fished through her briefcase for the cell phone and the useless plane ticket.  “Might as well try to switch our flight to tomorrow.”  She punched in the number for airline.  And punched her way through the automated menu, finally getting “the next available representative will be with you” message.  The scratchy strains of “Come Fly with Me” was grating on her nerves when a live voice come on.  Scully tried to explain what she needed as the signal broke up.

Lightning flashed nearby followed by a boom of thunder.  The connection was lost and she flipped the phone closed in frustration.  It would just have to wait until she could call from the motel.

******

The motel was easy to find, it’s orange and pink neon light cutting through the gloom.  The parking lot

looked full but the word ‘vacancy’ was thankfully still lit under the words Great Plains Inn and Cafe.

The lights in the cafe were, unfortunately, dim.  The tiny office was tacked onto a larger building, probably the owner’s living quarters.  The front desk was empty and Mulder gave the bell on the counter a gentle tap.

“Just a minute,” came a voice from behind the office door.  When the door opened an elderly man came out, followed by the echoes of canned laughter and a mouthwatering beefy aroma, stew or pot roast or

something equally delicious.

“You two sure look a sight. Reckon you need a room.”

“Two rooms if you have them,” Mulder said.

“Oh, sorry.  Thought you were a couple.” He gave a nod to Scully.  “Didn’t mean to presume, ma’am.”

“No problem.” Scully said pulling out her identification.  “We’re with the FBI.  On our way back to Wichita we got caught in the storm and now it looks like the bridge up ahead is washed out.”

“Well it looks like your luck is going to get better.  I have two rooms left, directly across from the office.  Normally they rent out last, since they’re closest to the highway, but I don’t believe they’ll be much traffic tonight.”

It only took a minute to register.  When they were done Mulder cast a longing glance in the direction of the darkened cafe.  “Looks like the cafe is closed for the evening.  Is there somewhere else we could get something to eat?”

“Well, there’s the Belleflower Restaurant in Coldwater, but I think they would be closed by the time you got there.  And the convenience store on the higway has some premade sandwiches.”  He shook his head.  “Listen, the kids have been on their own for fifteen years but Myra still cooks like she’s got a houseful of teenagers to feed.  If you don’t mind beef stew, I can bring you a bowl when it’s done.  Should only be a half hour or so.”

“Are you sure?” Scully asked.  “We wouldn’t want to put you out.”

“You’d be doing me a favor, to tell the truth. Saving me from leftovers.”  The man smiled and handed them their keys

******

The room wasn’t bad.  The old motel was one of those ancient motor courts, a u-shaped arrangement of tiny cabins with carports between where guests could park their cars.  This one had a well-maintained vintage quality, from the sturdy maple furniture to the quilt on the bed, it felt cozy.  Almost like a bed-and-breakfast.

The bathroom was pink and green ceramic tile, straight out of the forties but clean and well lit.  Good. She needed to call the airline.  She needed to call her dentist and reschedule an appointment.  And one of them really needed to call work and let them know they would be delayed in getting back to the office.

But all that could wait.  The first thing on Scully’s agenda was a nice, long bath.  Hopefully the hot water

heater was as wonderful as the rest of the accommodations.

For much of her life it seemed like she needed to be in tight control.  Her father had certainly demanded discipline.  Her work in forensic science demanded exacting attention to detail.   And playing counterpoint to Mulder’s sometimes wild leaps of intuition required a kind of balance that could take

its toll.

That’s why she savored baths.  Complete privacy and gallon upon gallon of warm and soothing water.  In the bathtub the only thing she was required to do was close her eyes and soak. Preferably in scented

bubbles.

When she finally emerged from the steamy room she felt more relaxed than she had in days.  So what if the drive had been hell.  So what if they’d missed their flight.  Right here and now she was warm and clean and comfortable.  She was just pulling on her robe when there was a knock on the door.  Peering through the peephole she saw Mulder carrying a covered tray.

When she let him in he leaned in close and sniffed her hair.  “You smell really nice.  I see your time was  well spent.”  She suspected he was curious about her indulgence in baths.  “All you had to do was ask and I would have been glad to scrub your back.”

“Mulder, sometimes a women just needs a little ‘me’ time.  Speaking of smelling good. . .”  She breathed

deeply.

He set the tray down on the table.  “Mr. Greene delivered this a few minutes ago.”

“Mr. Greene?  Husband of Myra?”

“Yeah, and lucky beneficiary of her culinary skills.”   He took off the cover and grinned.  “I may be wrong, but I think these biscuits are homemade.”

She inhaled deeply.  Not only were the biscuits homemade, but the stew smelled better than her Mom’s

best.  And was that apple pie?  Hell with the diet, if she was forced to take this tiny, out-of-the-way vacation, she was determined to enjoy it.

While they ate the conversation drifted; Scully’s mom’s apple pie, plans for the upcoming weekend, an outrageous movie that Mulder wanted her to see.  Anything but work.  As she watched him laugh she realized that she hadn’t seen Mulder this relaxed in a very long time.

Finally she sat back and sighed deeply.  Reaching for the remote, she switched on the television, while

Mulder opened the door to put the tray out for the Greenes to collect.

“Hey, Scully.  You’ve got to come and look at this.”

She pulled her robe tighter around her body against the draft.  “Mulder, close the door.”

Instead he picked up her coat and handed it to her.  “Hurry.  Trust me, it’ll be worth it.”

She draped her coat over her shoulders and peaked around the door.  “Oh, Mulder,” she gasped.  In the

distance balls of light skipped and danced across the horizon.  “Is that. . . .?”

“No,” he laughed.  “Ball lightning.  Concentrated collections of plasma that slowly dissipate in the atmosphere.  Often associated with thunderstorms.”

They watched the show for several minutes until a bolt of lightning streaked through the middle of the

glowing spheres.  They vanished and the thunderclap was almost deafening.

“Wow.”

Mulder laughed.  “Wow?  For a woman with a distinguished undergraduate degree in physics, I didn’t think nature would be able to amaze you with such a simple trick.”

She put her arm around Mulder and leaned into his warm embrace.  “The simple tricks of nature are often beautiful enough to rate a ‘wow’.  Besides, after all these years of chasing lights in the sky with old Spooky, maybe I’ve learned to appreciate the simple things a little bit more.”

He gave her a squeeze and pulled her back inside.  Sitting side-by-side on the bed, they watched the local weather report.

“More rain.  What a surprise.”  Scully didn’t really sound too upset.  “I guess we really should see about

getting a flight out tomorrow.”

“I know,” Mulder sighed.  “But right now I can’t think of anyplace I’d rather be.”

“Who would have thought that Coldwater, Kansas was the perfect vacation spot.”

“Vacation?”  He laughed.  “I don’t know if I’d go that far.  But this interlude is just what I needed.”

Thunder rattled the small building.  Mulder got up and opened the window, letting in the clean, fresh air.

“I know what you mean, Mulder,” Scully said, joining him by the window.  “Sometimes it’s good to just stop and take a step back.”

He held her close.  “You’re right about that.  Sometimes you need to take time to stop and smell the ozone.”

The end

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