III.
The Best Way to
Generate Body Heat...
God, he was so cold. Not even Alaska had been this cold.
Shedding his outerwear to wrap around Scully had left him with
just a pair of thermal underwear and a fleece suit, now soaked
through. But he wouldn't change it for the world. Because she
was alive. Just as cold as he was, but alive.

They'd made it back to the SnoCat with some difficulty, taking
turns shouldering one another's weight. Now, snuggled together
in the front seat for warmth, they were beginning to create a
bitchin' percussion section with the chattering of their teeth.
No fuel, no way to get back to the base he'd flown into, they
were good and stuck.

"You say they know where you are?" Scully muttered, shivering
under the single blanket they were sharing.

Despite the snow frozen on his cheeks, he couldn't stop smiling.
Or maybe, the smile was frozen on his face. Either way, he
couldn't hide his loopy happiness at having her back.

"Yep. Might take 'em a while, but they'll come for us.
Especially since we left an SOS to beat all." No way could a
rescue aircraft miss that huge crater over the next hill.

What he omitted from his reassuring statement was the fact that
the ship had left in a shower of snow, effectively covering
their vehicle with a layer of ice, obscuring its color. He'd
had to dig their way into the safety of the cab as she shivered
nearby. The rescue had better come quick, or they'd find
themselves entombed forever. It would be nearly impossible for
anyone to find them, covered as they were by the unforgiving,
blinding blanket of white.

Scully nodded, letting her eyes close. He would have none of
that, grabbing her hands under the blanket to give her a shake.
"Wake up."

"Hmm?"

"Wake up, Scully," he repeated. "We can't sleep now. Too
dangerous. Keep talking. We need to keep talking."

Her eyes slipped open, and she grinned. Not a sarcastic, or
even a playful grin. It mirrored his, making her look as if
she'd had one too many glasses of wine. "Okay," she purred.
"So talk."

He couldn't feel anything but a dull sensation in his hands as
they held hers, but he squeezed anyway, trying to hold her
attention. "Hey, Scully?"

Even covered with frozen slimy stuff, she was so beautiful she
took his breath away. Her eyes were bright, and her breath warm
as she answered, "Yeah?"

"This could possibly constitute spontaneity, don'tcha think?"

"What?" For a second, her eyes glazed over as she tried to
comprehend his meaning.

"I mean..." Mulder edged closer to her, his body wracked with
tremors as he fought sleep. "I mean, spontaneous sexual
combustion between us would probably be the result of some kind
of life-threatening scenario."

The conversation was years old, and he pulled it up over them
again like a warm, electric blanket. She responded like she
always had, with biting wit. Though this time, he saw a sparkle
of need behind her reply.

"Good point." Moving closer to him, she drew his hands to her
chest. "However, I think neither of us are in any shape to test
that theory with any physical strength, don't you agree?"

But for the first time, he saw it there. Saw the possibility on
her too-pale face. And it warmed him more than any blanket.

"Yeah, guess you're right," he agreed. "Kinda difficult to have
sex when I can't feel any of my lower extremities." Especially
the one that counted the most.

A short, breathy chuckle hit his face, then she sobered
instantly. "You're kidding, aren't you?"

Groaning inwardly, he knew she'd become the doctor once again.
"My feet are a little numb, that's all."

"Let me see." Already, she was pulling away.

The blast of cold air that hit him when she lifted the blanket
made him suck in a gasping breath. "Jesus, Scully," he said,
trying to avoid her probing. "It's nothing."

But his boots hit the floor with a thud as she quickly ignored
his protests. Her hiss was loud in the cab of the truck as he
closed his eyes, leaning against the door to quake with shivers.

"Where the hell are your socks?" she grumbled, intent on her
task.

On your feet, he wanted to say, but then he'd have to explain
how he took the time to take them off, and listen to... he
hissed at the feel of her icy fingers on his ankle. At least he
could feel that, though it only made him shiver more.

"Mulder, can you feel this?" A slight pressure on the sole of
his foot. Not nearly enough, considering she was probably
digging in with her fingers.

"Sort of."

"Sort of?" Alarm ratcheted up the volume of her terse question.
"What about this?"

He felt a dull pressure on his big toe. "Your fingernails," he
replied gently, bringing his knees up in an effort to avoid her
examination. "It's okay, Scully."

"It's not okay, Mulder." He felt her pull his feet toward her.
"You're flirting with frostbite and I have to warm up your
feet." He heard her shift about on the seat, then she settled
back down.

His eyes flew open; she'd sat on his feet! And God damn it if
he didn't suddenly have a hard-on that defied frostbite. How the
hell had that happened? Not only was he half-frozen, but she
was his partner, for God's sake! All right, so he'd been about
to kiss her before all hell broke loose outside his apartment.
But a kiss was just a kiss, right? An erection was not just an
erection. Not when it came to Scully. It was unwanted and
disrespectful. Swiftly, he closed his eyes once again,
swallowing hard.

"C'mere," she murmured, pulling on his arms as her knees bent
beneath her, effectively trapping his feet in a cocoon of warm,
Scully calves. He resisted briefly and she raised a brow.
"Mulder? Wake up, Mulder."

"I'm awake," he growled. Was he ever.

But she kept pulling him into her embrace and he relented,
sensing she was a moment away from discovering the reason for
his resistance. And that wouldn't do, not at all. "There," she
said, tucking the blanket around them both, her arms winding
around his neck. "Feel better?"

No. Warmer, yes. Better, no.

"Mulder?"

"Yeah, Scully. Thanks." His own arms, having nowhere else to
go, wrapped around her back. If there was one saving grace to
this unwanted situation, it was that his knees stood like a wall
between him and insanity.

Except for one thing - his feet were thawing out. And he could
feel every humid, soft, part of her through her thick suit. No,
no, no... stop squirming, Scully...

"Mulder?"

"What?"

She started at his snappish tone. "Just making sure you were
awake. We need to keep talking."

If she took up where they'd left off moments ago, it was liable
to kill him. "I don't feel like it." So it was childish, but
effective. At least he hoped so.

Scully was silent for a bit, waiting him out. He could feel her
searching gaze inches from his nose, but he refused to open his
eyes. That didn't deter her, however, as she asked in a small
voice, "I need to ask you something."

Cracking open his eyes, he saw her worrying her lower lip. At
the hesitation on her face, all thoughts of ignoring her flew
away. Whatever it was, it was bothering her, and concern made
him tighten his arms, his hands rubbing her back. "What?
What's the matter?"

"This is serious, Mulder." Like she needed to state the
obvious; it was plain on her face the subject she broached
wasn't about their on-again, off-again, facetious speculation
about eventual sex.

"I can see that," he whispered, bringing a hand up from the
warmth to touch her cheek. "Ask me." His arousal ebbed as she
once again became a trusted friend in need.

"Would you have used sex to make me stay?"

Oh, God, it was worse. Ten times worse than when or how they'd
do the deed, if they ever got past the ickiness of it all. Then
again, he should have known better than to think she'd forget
about the minute before she collapsed in his hallway. Still,
his first reaction was anger. Dropping his hand, he grabbed her
waist, giving her a slight shake. "That's insulting, Scully.
To me and to you."

"You didn't answer my question," she shot back, as if knowing
he'd react that way. "And I want the truth."

He should say no. Deny that he'd ever stoop to demeaning
himself and her that way. And surely the aborted kiss was just
that - a gesture involving lips to seal their commitment to the
truth and to one another. But she was way too smart for that
bullshit.

The truth was, while he didn't realize it at the time, that's
exactly what he would have done. Taken her to bed to make her
stay, thereby ruining the best friendship he'd ever had. He
loved her, yes. But he didn't love her that way - did he?

All he knew was, he owed her an honest answer. "All right
then," he snarled, disgusted with himself. "Yeah, I probably
would have."

Instead of becoming angry, or sliding away from him with
disappointment, Scully smiled. A self-satisfied smirk that
brought heat to his cheeks. "I thought so. You're so easy,
Mulder."

"Nothing personal, you understand... I mean, yeah it would have
been person - shit, Scully." Stammering, he sought to explain,
but only ended up making himself look like an idiot. Her
chuckles made his growing ire at his own behavior fade.
Smiling, he ended his blathering with a haughty, "I am not
easy."

"I can read you like a book and you know it," she snorted,
tossing her head back in an effort to shake away the hair
plastered to her cheeks.

Once again, his hand came up to clear her face of the pesky red
mess amidst her murmured thanks. "Oh, yeah? It goes both ways,
you know, Scully." The abraded skin on his temple cringed with
pain as he lifted an eyebrow, but he ignored it.

"Implying what?" she demanded, her laughter dying. "That I'd
have let you seduce me into staying?"

Bingo. With a confidence that mirrored her own of a while ago,
he stated, "I didn't see you running from me like a frightened
virgin."

"I was unconscious, Mulder."

"No, you weren't. Not at first. You wanted it, admit it.
Another ten seconds, and I'd have had you writhing on the
floor."

"Another ten seconds and I was writhing on the floor, Mulder,"
she answered dryly, then his choice of words registered, as she
asked, "Writhing?"

"Okay, so maybe not writhing," he winced. "Moaning, screaming
-"

"Screaming? My, aren't we sure of ourselves."

"You're a screamer, Scully." Grinning wickedly, he pursued the
thought, enjoying their play. "C'mon, admit it."

"I will not," she stated, her feathers ruffled. But the gleam
of challenge belied her typical coolness.

"I bet you bring the house down, don't you?" A small voice in
the back of his mind whispered that his teasing was trouble, but
he couldn't stop.

"You're so sure of yourself, aren't you?"

"And you're avoiding the question."

Instead of arguing, her mouth became firm, with all the
pliability of a schoolmarm spinster. "Oh, Mulder," she clipped
sarcastically. "Give it to me, stud." The twinkle of mirth in
her eyes punctuated the silly words.

"Oh, that's inspiring," he drolled, with disappointment.

"Forgive me if I can't summon the energy to be a porn queen at
this moment, Mulder." Off his glare, she added, "Besides, why
is it that men always assume it's the woman who shouts out
during sex? Is that some kind macho thing? A way to prove your
prowess in bed?"

"Sex is the ultimate battle, Scully."

"I see," she said, biting her lip as her gaze lowered
momentarily. "An issue of control."

"Well, that's not all it is," he grumped, fast feeling her gain
the upper hand. "Look, Scully -"

"You think I'm something to be conquered?"

"No!"

"You do." The fuse was lit and the cannon ready to fire.
"Well, I've got news for you, Mulder... I'm stronger than you
are."

That he knew already. Suddenly, he was bone weary. Closing his
eyes, he sighed, "It was an observation, Scully."

"About me."

He could deny it, retreating to his corner of the ring to await
another round. Or he could admit another truth... that he would
give his eye teeth to know if she let go now and then.

"It was just an observation, damn it," he growled, taking the
weenie way out. "I could just as easily have been talking about
a fist fight, or wrestling..."

"An observation about me," she insisted, not letting him off
that easy. Her fingers slid beneath the damp fleece.

Tense all at once, he demanded, "What are you doing?"

"Proving my point."

"What point?" He thought he was the one with a point to prove.

In answer, her fingers glided over the bare skin of his midriff,
leaving little trails of uncomfortable sensation. "That you
wouldn't necessarily be the conqueror." Her legs clamped down
over his feet, trapping them.

His feet were definitely warm now. "Cut it out," he growled,
letting his legs straighten. The cold air hitting his bare skin
made him jump, but he wasn't about to let her swallow his feet
whole. In the next instant, he realized his mistake, as her
hips straddled his thighs, her soft movements becoming more
forceful.

"Oh yeah... that's it!" She was getting into the act now,
scratching at his waist. Even then, he heard her chuckles
through the attack, her chest heaving as she gulped in breath.
"Say uncle!"

Her hands moved to his chest, her tickling merciless, her mouth
wide with laughter. Mulder reacted instantly, his hands
gripping her hips to shove her away. "Jesus, Scully!" She was
delirious, had to be. "Stop it!" Before long, she was going to
come in contact with something she had no business knowing
about, much less feeling between her thighs.

Against his will, he began to laugh as well. He tried to evade
her fingers, with little success. Combined with relief at
having found her, he succumbed like a... well, like a pussy, he
thought. "You - come on -" he choked out, trying to push her
hands away. But she kept on, incited by his struggles and his
bubbling laughter.

"Say it!" She pursued him without compunction.

Nearly light-headed with lack of oxygen, he capitulated. "All
right, damn it - uncle!"

Scully immediately stilled, throwing back her head to shout,
"Oh... God, YES!" The curtain drawn on her little play, she
collapsed against him, still giggling.

It was so like a more intimate moment that he felt a sizzle of
painful lust race up his spine. Though she had no idea,
burrowing against his warmth with all the innocence of a kitten.

"I am not a screamer," she said. "More of a 'yes' man." She
shifted, seeking a more comfortable spot. "No matter what kind
of battle," she added with deliberation.

Her confirmation startled him. So she hadn't really come out
and said the words, but she'd let him know, anyway. In her own
inimitable way. Gasping for breath, Mulder smiled, eyes closed.
Yep. He believed he had his answer. Whether relinquishing
control or grabbing it with both hands, Scully was a vocal
opponent.

"You little -" He meant to admonish her for her behavior, for
tormenting him with tickles.

Until he felt her whole body stiffen above him. Uncertainty
crept into her voice. "Mulder?"

Had she felt it? The roar in his ears was piercing, a portent
of the discussion to come. Willing his erection to melt away,
he sighed, "Yes?" It was no use ignoring it now.

"Hello in there!"

The shout from outside surprised them both and they sat up, each
yelling, "We're here!"

A pair of gloved hands scraped away the ice and snow outside the
passenger door window before swinging it open. "Agent Mulder?"

Mulder recognized the chief scientist from the nearby station
and could have cried with relief. That's why she'd quieted.
Well, it was safer to believe, anyway. "Nice to see you guys,"
he said, noticing the vehicles beyond the guy's shoulder.
"How'd you find us?"

The man, despite his heavy outerwear, seemed to deflate with
mild embarrassment. "I - uh, I heard some shouting. Sound
carries far in this wilderness, you know." He backed away,
shouting for the rest of his crew.

Mulder caught Scully's gaze, feeling his suppressed grin match
hers. If she'd felt the evidence of his arousal - which
thankfully, had wilted the moment he heard the shout - she gave
no sign of it now. She looked like he felt, just tired but
happy.

"I can't take you anywhere," he muttered, donning his boots.

"Take me, stud," she whispered, one last dig, though her voice
trembled with emotion. "Take me home."

Mulder stilled, seeing the calm resolution of safety, of belief
in him, in the misty blue of her eyes. "That I can do," he
replied, stumbling out of the SnoCat to reach for her hand.