exclusive ballooning

Forbidden spaces

The middle of the road; the personal space of others; back rooms; spaces beneath floorboards; shipwrecks; depots at night; nuclear reactor cores; caves that have no entrances; vaults; self-storage lockers; glowing windows seen from the train at night; the centres of roundabouts; boarded-up factories; those staircases heading downwards on large boats; the space under the lid of the piano; inside the hot-air balloon; exclusive clubs; under the ranks of chairs; the tunnels of smugglers; those hillsides to which there are no paths; locked attics; disused allotments; airless places; those ruled by the tyranny of gravity; between the supermarket shelves; those building-fronts that disguise underground vents; tombs; secret archives.

If Cows Could Fly

My entry for this week’s @txf-prompt-box challenge. It’s nothing but fluff and I’m not even sorry. Set sometime after “Rain King”. 

A Hot Air Balloon Ride!

bonus: The balloon isn’t of a regular shape.

“Mulder explain to me again why we’re in a hot air balloon?” They’re about 3000 feet in the air, rising steadily and Scully, instead of enjoying it, glances at him expectantly. She can’t let go. Look around, he wants to tell her cause she’s not believing his story anyway. He’s tried. Twice.

“Like I already told you Scully, Skinner gave these tickets to us.”

“Mulder…” Even the third time is no charm. Scully, his ever skeptic partner, refuses to believe his story. True, it’s a bit of there. But for once, it’s the truth.

“Scully, I’m telling you. Don’t you remember that e-mail they sent around a few weeks ago? The FBI wants to commemorate their best, most successful agents. Congrats, partner. That’s us.”

“But with a hot air balloon ride?”

“They’re not going to send us on some all-inclusive vacation in the Poconos.” Mulder shrugs. For him it’s a dream come true. Albeit a dream he didn’t know he had, but he’s not going to question this, or analyze this. He, for one, is happy. All alone in the air with Scully where no one can see them or hurt them. It’s perfect.  

“They could have sprung for a nice dinner.” Scully mumbles while buttoning up her coat. The higher up they go, the colder it gets despite the warmth the balloon spews at them. Mulder has to stop himself from smirking. He’ll gladly help her get warm. His lewd thought is interrupted by a change in her expression; is softens, brightens up. Mulder follows her look and sighs. Under them, everything looks tiny and peaceful. Like a miniature version of the real world.

“The world can be rather beautiful, huh?” Mulder isn’t sure she even heard him. The swish of the air around them is loud, yet calming. He steps closer to her and she doesn’t move away. They’re almost touching and Mulder can no longer tell if the heat he’s feeling comes from her or the balloon.

“I’m not saying this isn’t nice, Mulder, and I’m still not sure about your story, but…”

“But what?”

“Why are we in balloon that looks like a cow? With wings no less. Mulder, cows don’t have wings.”

“Hey, you can’t know that. Only the cows we know have never sprouted wings.” Her raised eyebrow lets him know that she’s not amused. He, however, can’t hold back his grin. He could have picked one of the other balloons. But he kept imaging himself up here with Scully and he didn’t want them to be in a pig. A flying pig? No, thank you. Or Goofy. Of course the FBI signed them up for a company that exclusively owned silly balloons. When Skinner handed him the tickets, the blush visible even on his bald, shiny head, he mumbled the name “Fun Riders” like it was the name of a shady strip club. Mulder briefly wonders how Scully would have reacted to a trip to the strip club. Paid in full by their employer.

“Why did you pick the cow?”

“Remember Holman Hardt? That case in Kroner, Kansas?”

“I think so, yes. You thought his unrequited love for his high school crush was influencing the weather. Where are you going with this?” Mulder rolls his eyes at her obvious denial; they both know that Holman’s feelings did have an impact on the weather. He decides to let it go this time.

“That one night he made a cow fly right through the roof of my motel room.” Mulder reminds her instead.

“I don’t remember that.”

“You don’t? We had to share a room.” That’s something he can’t forget. They’d shared rooms before, of course. And he is used to being around a sleeping Scully because she can fall asleep anywhere, any time. That was the first, and so far only time, they had to share a bed though.        

“That I do remember.”

“I uhm, wanted to pay tribute to, well…”

“The cow?”

“Not the cow.”

“Then what, Mulder?”

“Nothing. It was a stupid idea, forget it.”

“I can’t forget it, Mulder. We’re up in the air. We’ve got,” she checks her watch, “about another hour and a half ahead of us. As nice as this is, I don’t want us to say nothing to each other.”

“We could play I spy, Scully.” She shakes her head gently, a smile sneaking up on her.

“Mulder, if you could control the weather,” she says and his ears perk up, “what would it be like now?”

“I thought you didn’t believe in that sort of thing, Scully. Maybe the air up here is too thin for you to think clearly.” She shoots him a look, a very obvious don’t be an idiot look, Mulder that he secretly loves.

“Come on, Mulder. What would your weather be like?” Before answering, Mulder looks around him. It’s a sunny day in September, neither too warm nor too cold. The wind caresses the few spots of skin that are not covered by his clothes. It causes Scully’s hair to flap against her cheeks softly, framing her face perfectly.

“I think Scully… this weather right here is what I’d pick.” She smiles at him, desperately trying to catch that one loose strand of hair that keeps escaping her. He watches for a moment mesmerized but then his hand reaches out, comes into brief contact with hers, and he tucks the strand of hair away safely.

“There.” He whispers unnecessarily.

“Thank you.” She blushes but doesn’t move away from him. Not that there’s much space to do so anyway. Mulder doubts that Skinner wanted something like this to happen up here in the air; Mulder and Scully unable to flee the scene and consequently, their feelings. Up here they’re stuck together with every unspoken sentiment they’ve ever had.

“If you could, you know, control the weather, Scully… what would you do?”

“I’d pick this one, too, Mulder. But that’s not how it works, is it? Holman Hardt didn’t pick the weather. It was merely a reflection of his unspoken feelings.” He loves this woman. He knew it before of course, even told Scully, and she pretended not to believe him, but right now the feeling washes over him in a steady wave, almost knocking him down.

“Well, does it reflect your feelings?” He asks carefully. His feelings are brewing up a storm. It all depends on Scully what kind of storm it will be. He is thinking sunshine and explosions of rainbows. One word from her and she can turn it into a violent thunderstorm with rain for days, though.

“You know what I really thought when you told me about this hot air balloon ride? I thought you were… asking me out. On a date.”

“Oh.”

“Yes, ‘oh’. But you kept insisting on the story that Skinner gave you the tickets. That this is nothing more than an obligatory thing.” He can show her the receipts because of course Skinner made him fill out a form. She can ask Skinner and he’ll confirm his story. But looking at her he feels like that’s not what she wants to hear right now. Lately, they had been moving into this direction. A date. Or something resembling one at least. If only he’d seen that she was ready for it, too.  

“Scully, you asked me why I picked the cow, right?” She nods.

“I only told you about the whole thing once I’d picked out the balloon myself. I wanted that cow because… I never told you this, but… that night when the cow came flying through the roof? My first thought after it happened was you. I thought of you. Not any specific thought, not the typical what will Scully think of this train of thought I tend to have. No, I just thought of your name. Of you. Because to me, you are… well, everything. I realized it that moment. Maybe not that exact moment but in all the immediate moments that came after.”

“They never did check you for a head injury, did they?” Her voice is soft, crumbling. Tears swim in her eyes that, he is sure of it, she would deny if he brought it up. Just the wind, she’d say. He knows it and it makes him grin, cause she, too, is smiling up at him.

“They didn’t have to. Nothing wrong with my head.” Another raised eyebrow. “At least not like that and definitely not caused by a flying cow. It was not my idea to go on a hot air balloon ride, no. I swear Skinner gave me the tickets, but… I wanted it to be something special. I’m not saying it’s a date, because that would be presumptuous of me, and I didn’t exactly ask you. But would it be the worst thing… for a first date?”

“No, Mulder,” she is so close to him, he feels like they’re becoming one person. Her face, too, seems to come closer. So very, very close to his, “It’s definitely not bad for a first date.” Then her lips are there. They meet his as the balloon hisses and sizzles. Or maybe it’s just them. Their lips move together as if they’ve never done anything else, as if they’ve long been acquainted with each other.

“You know what Scully?” Mulder asks when they break the kiss. “It’s like Skinner arranged our first date.”

“Let’s not tell him about that, all right?” He nods against her, his nose nuzzling her neck. He wonders if anyone has ever attempted sex on a hot air balloon and if it would qualify them for the mile high club. Maybe another time, he thinks.

“And you better not wait for Skinner to arrange a second one.” He definitely won’t, Mulder thinks, as he captures her lips again.

“ERNIE” THE BALLOON MAN

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ERNIE D'AMATO
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