IV.
"Why, hello, Mr. Dreamsicle,
it's a pleasure to meet you."

"You know, this smacks of Mulder premeditation." Scully
gave him a sidelong glance as she savored the sweet stuff
dripping over her fingers. "Of course, I can't be sure.
Unless there's a guy movie waiting for us at your place."

Mulder mimicked her enjoyment of the imitation frozen
dessert, licking the melting sweetness with much sloppier
panache. "Don't forget the beer."

She shifted on the picnic table, watching the stars
shimmer in the night sky. "Ah, yes. The beer. You
realize beer and non-fat Tofutti rice dreamsicles don't
mix, don't you?"

"Says who?" His glance dared her to disagree. "If
birthdays and baseball get along, so should beer and non-
fat To - whatever the hell they are."

She laughed, her arms pleasantly a-tingle from the swings
in the batter's box. "Spoken like a real man."

"I am what I am, Scully."

They sat in companionable silence while they finished the
last of her birthday treats. She'd had a great time, she
admitted to herself. Of course, standing for a good half
hour in Mulder's arms hadn't hurt any. It was flirting
with disaster to allow herself to feel it, but the
overwhelming physical presence of her partner wrapped
around her had stirred definitely more sexual feelings
than one should have for a friend.

Not that she was ready to dive into the sack with him.
But lately, she thought more and more about him as a
physical being. He was very attractive, for one thing.
And despite his unceasing fervor for the job, he could
turn on the charm with the best of them. But nah... it
would be like...

"Mulder?" She tossed the licked-clean stick into a nearby
garbage receptacle, his nod of approval at her technique
accepted with a grin.

He did the same, smiling as his stick hit nothing but the
bottom of the can. "Yeah?"

"Beer and non-fat Tofutti rice dreamsicles really don't
mix, do they?"

His hands dropped to his knees. In profile, she watched
his Adam's apple bob as he swallowed. When he answered,
his voice was low and precise.

"I dunno. I've never tried. Have you?"

She turned, picking at her jacket with shaky fingers,
unable to believe where she was taking the conversation.
But she forged ahead, uncaring if it led to something she
didn't really want to hear. "I've mixed Tofutti with
frozen yogurt," she said, her voice calmer than her
insides. Jack was definitely of a like mind with
herself. A bit rough around the edges, but as no-
nonsense and logical as they come.

"And I've mixed beer and pretzels," he pointed out.
"With disastrous results."

"Really?" Picturing him with Diana Fowley, she was
surprised at his admission. They were alike in many
ways, and though she thought the woman devious, she could
see how they got along. Almost like they were made for
one another, their beliefs similar in nature. Never a
harsh word between them, adult interaction complete with
unspoken confidence in each other's abilities. "That
surprises me."

"Why?"

"Because you two - I mean - beer and pretzels are meant
to be together. They compliment each other."

"And beer and Tofutti don't?" Before she could answer,
he added, "Look... in this case, it didn't really help
that the beer and pretzels were of the same basic food
group."

"That being?"

"You know... the paranormal vegetables. Stuff you eat
and drink while watching the Big Foot videotape for the
687th time."

Turning her head again, she caught him looking at her.
She could see he'd picked up her train of thought, the
look in his eyes that of a man concentrating on every
word being spoken, despite his frivolity in description.

"Sometimes, the best concoctions arise from the worst
possible ingredients," he continued. His eyes lingered
on her mouth before coming back up. "I mean, it's the
end result that counts, am I right?"

God, how she wanted to agree. At that moment, she wanted
nothing more than to stir up the simmering pot and risk
burning her tongue on the forbidden taste. But their
vague dancing around the issue - something they'd done
for years, but never with the intensity of tonight's
banter - told her that neither one of them were quite
ready to chance the possible upset stomach such a mixture
had the potential to cause.

A fact she didn't hesitate to point out. "But what about
the headache? The queasiness? The awful, gut-wrenching
wish that you'd left well enough alone?"

Mulder stood, hands on hips, his sigh carried on the wind
to places unknown. "Geez, Scully. It's just baseball
and birthdays."

At the gleam of conciliatory retreat in his gaze, she let
out all her nervousness in a rush of breath. "It is,
isn't it?"

"But it's still a good combination." He held out a hand,
his posture a replay of his come-hither look when she'd
first arrived. "C'mon. It's late and we have to work
tomorrow."

It wasn't fair that she had this gorgeous - yes, gorgeous
- man as her partner. Most of all, it was downright
criminal that they couldn't seem to move beyond the
confines of partnership. One day, she thought, as she
took his hand. One day...

His fingers were sticky, but their warmth covered hers
and she knew at that moment that they were a perfect
match. Because hers were sticky, too.

They passed two water fountains and two restrooms on
their way out of the park. But not once did she let go
of his hand to wash away the sweet feel of the night.