in the woods
he sets a steaming mug on the coffee-table beside her, the scent of hot chocolate curling her lips up. last night, he made them rib-eyes with spinach and mashed potatoes, used that ridiculously expensive grass-fed butter and everything; she picks up the mug, takes a creamy sip, and decides that she can summarize this weekend with the word rich. though they only have two space-heaters in this little cabin, the room feels cozy nonetheless. she lounges on the couch, the secret history on her pajamaed lap, her legs up on the cushions while he sits down at her feet, lifts her toes up onto his lap. she sets the mug back down, returns to her words while he takes one of her wool socks into his hands and rubs his thumb along her arch. yes, she thinks; rich is the correct term.
though she’s unsure as to whose cabin this is, she knows it belongs to an old friend of mulder’s, some guy whose wife or daughter or other relative had been abducted, and due to mulder’s brash heroism - she stopped listening as soon as he began the story, for she figured it wouldn’t be true or that the true version would be far less exhilarating than mulder’s rendition - and she doesn’t want to question the ownership, not when it’s ever-so-softly snowing outside and not while their little space of the adirondacks is so blissfully, wonderfully quiet. according to the true locals, this is off-season, and they’re in a portion of the state that’s been owned by a specific family for years; the lake water, apparently, is safe to drink though she made sure mulder boiled it anyway. nonetheless, it’s just them and the neighboring cabin’s occupants out here for the weekend, the nearest paved road being thirty miles away, the closest gas station probably thirty-five.
“are we staying in today?” he asks as he rubs her feet, still tired from their past week of nonstop paperwork. to skinner on friday, mulder claimed that he would have a twenty-four hour virus starting on that coming monday, a lie that skinner grinned and bore; as for her excuse to spend the weekend away, she was registered to attend a conference in alexandria that she’d intended to attend though mulder’s mentioned it hundreds of times that, technically speaking, they’re both playing hooky. yesterday, they spent the morning snowshoeing the property and hiking the short path down to the frozen-over lake, but today, life sounds best when her book, a blanket, and mulder are involved.
glancing out the window, she watches as an evergreen folds heavily beneath the falling snow; outside, the world is silent but full of change, the gravity shifting as it does with every storm. to herself, she wonders if they might end up snowed in and finds she doesn’t mind that prospect.
“i’d like to,” she says as he switches to her other foot.
of course, she’d been resistant at his first mention of a weekend like this, one planned out and researched and intended for - she nearly cringes at the word - romance.
“just wait for a holiday weekend instead,” she insisted as they sat together in the basement office, as she flicked through some new file, as she remained friendly but indifferent toward him in the way she’d mastered at work over the years. though their relationship had changed drastically - in a good way, in the best of ways - since he kissed her on the first, she still needed to be professional. “i’d rather not take time off.”
“but it is a holiday weekend,” he gave softly, his eyes puppying and his gaze silently hurt.
“mulder, martin luther king day is in january, not february.”
“yeah, i know that.”
“then what holiday are you talking about?”
and though she knew that their territory since he kissed her on the first was uncharted, and though she knew that her priorities didn’t tend toward hallmark holidays, and though she knew better than to think he would overlook such a thing, she stared incredulously at him, couldn’t remember any february holiday other than her birthday though even that one was hardly worth celebrating.
“that’s the weekend of valentine’s day,” he explained, his eyes downcast, his ribs still as he waited for the inevitable rejection. “the fourteenth’s that monday.”
and now, she’s playing hooky for the first time in her career, and she’s wearing his thermal shirt, and he made her belgian waffles for breakfast, the world beyond them is a mess of bright white, and work is the last thing on her mind.
“i think there’s a scrabble board on the bookshelf,” he says, glancing back at the dusty, faded stack of almanacs; this place, all gas-powered and wooden, looks exactly the way a cabin should look, the decor straight out of the 1960s, the mugs in the cabinet all fading shades of green and yellow, all of the furniture holding the scent of pine. if there’s a box of scrabble in here, it’ll be an old version, the rulebook fading and three or four of the pieces missing. looking to him, she smiles softly, figures that everything’s more alluring when it has a quirk or two.
“yeah,” she offers, folding her pages over her bookmark, setting the novel down on the coffee-table. then, she shimmies down against the couch, her knees falling over his lap, and motions for him to come closer. though the word of the weekend is rich, she figures contact would also suffice.
“we’re not going to fit,” he warns but leans down alongside her anyway; with his folded legs draping across her hips and his arm steadying himself around her stomach, she exhales, her mind blanking meditatively, her heartbeat slow and soft.
“i’m sorry that there’s not much to do around here,” he whispers against her skin, his lips ghosting against her collarbone. “i should’ve planned something else. though i know you like quiet places, this might be a little too quiet.”
“no, no,” she says, shaking her head as she twines his fingers through his hair. then, she quirks a lip, says, “a calm, quiet weekend with you is a rare treat.”
“we could’ve gone to san jose,” he muses; though she’s not entirely sure, she thinks he’s joking. “i heard that there have been sightings there. we could’ve stayed up until four in the morning, looked for flying saucers, and eaten junk food all weekend.”
“how romantic,” she deadpans.
“this hasn’t been romantic at all,” he grumbles, the statement self-deprecating, his words intended for himself only.
on the drive from some tiny rural airport in vermont to this cabin, he brought out his blues brothers cd to keep them entertained while the radio stations went in and out; he imitated the guys on npr for a certain stretch of miles, each quip being met with a smile from her. though they arrived too late on friday night to see much of the property, he offered her a ski mask and sat on the cabin’s porch with her, pointed out the seven sisters constellation and labeled it the smudge in the sky. that night, she took his sleep-shirt out of his duffel, put it on before he could, and the incredulous but deeply satisfied look he gave her for that - and the mild-mannered but insistent way he managed to get it back, or at least to let it reside on the bedroom’s floor for the remainder of the evening - was worth any backroad boredom they could’ve had. though she always knew he was loving, could discern his intelligent passion from the moment she first met him, she’s still shocked with every extraneous touch, with every unnecessary caress, with the way he’ll stop stirring risotto just so he can bring her into his arms, and she’s far more shocked with how at ease she feels with him. when he makes her dinner, when he borrows her chapstick though she insists that he shouldn’t, when he spoons up against her in bed as though he could read her mind and sense that she felt cold, she feels her mind soften, her muscles relax; simultaneously, they’re honeymooners and best friends, and as she turns her head, kisses his forehead, she whispers, “it’s been romantic.”
“but has it been a valentine’s day kind of romantic?” he asks.
“of course it has,” she laughs.
“you’re asking someone who forgot about the holiday altogether.”
“so i should’ve made this year so memorable that you would never forget it.”
she closes her eyes, breathes him in, thinks of how many hours they have to themselves, just the two of them in the middle of nowhere on a snowy day, books and scrabble keeping them company, this cabin making them feel as though they’re the only people left on earth.
“i’ll never forget it,” she whispers to him. “i promise.”