Escape Speed

On earth there is no heaven, but there are pieces of it.
     --Jules Renard

Scully looked over at Mulder sleeping in the passenger seat, his face pressed up against the half-open window. He'd been dozing ever since they hit Pensacola. They were just leaving now, heading west on I-10, and he was sound asleep.

She smiled. He was going to have one heck of a funny line across his cheek when he finally did wake up.

His suit jacket was draped over him like a blanket, and the wind ruffled his hair.

They'd ended up wandering far away from home on their final lead. Florida to be exact. They had a good two hour drive to the airport ahead of them.

Scully turned on the radio for company.

"For a LIMITED time only!"


She turned the sound down.

The wind blew through her hair, turning it into twisted knots, and she knew she was never going to be able to brush it again.

She snatched Mulder's round sunglasses off his nose. He didn't need them where he was going.

She put his sunglasses on and smiled. This one small moment could make up for a lot.

She was soaring. In this sticky old Buick Skylark, she was soaring.

She pressed her loafer to the accelerator. She smacked her lips together. She needed something salty. She looked back over at Mulder. He slept with his mouth partly open.

Keeping one eye on the empty road, she leaned over and stuck her right hand into his jacket pocket. She pulled out the plastic bag of sunflower seeds. Her partner and his addictions -- she shook her head. He was very simple in a very strange way.

She put the bag between her legs and picked out a few seeds, placing them in her mouth.

She noticed that the radio had decided to grace her with a song. She turned it up a bit.

"When there's one day here and the next day gone. Sometimes you bend, sometime you stand. Sometime you turn your back to the wind."

She didn't recognize the song, but she liked the way it made her feel. She spit out the open window, giving caution and a few sunflower seed hulls to the wind.

She chewed on the salty seeds. She could get used to this.

"There's a world outside every darkened door -- where blues won't haunt you anymore -- where the brave are free and lovers soar."

She tapped her fingers against the steering wheel.

"Come ride with me to the distant shore. We won't hesitate. Break down the garden gate. There's not much time left today."

It took this long, but she finally found something that felt right.

This felt right. Being in this car, driving this road with this sleeping man next to her felt right.

"Life is a highway. I want to ride it all night long. If you're going my way, I want to drive it all night long."

Scully suddenly found a grin on her face big enough to rival Mick Jagger's. Her dry and salty lips almost cracked with the stretch.

So this was what it took to be happy?

Precious little, but if only she'd known that earlier.

She turned up the volume. If Mulder woke now, it would be fate --not because the music was too loud.

The car cruised northwest past the sunset. Her hair slapped against her cheeks, sometimes stinging her skin with its intensity.

This was what happy felt like.

It felt like being alive.

"Through all these cities and all these towns, it's in my blood, and it's all around. I love you now like I loved you then. This is the road, and these are the hands."

The urgency of the song raced alongside the hum of the wheels on the pavement, and together they quickened Scully's breath.

She threw a couple more sunflower seeds in her mouth and wished that the bottled water rolling around in the backseat was a little cooler than room temperature.

"From Mozambique to those Memphis nights. The Khyber Pass to Vancouver's lights. Knock me down, get back up again. You're in my blood. I'm not a lonely man."

Mulder stirred a little. He stretched one leg and knocked something loose under the dashboard.

"There's no load I can't hold, road so rough -- this I know. I'll be there when the light comes in. Tell'em we're survivors."

I love this moment, Scully thought.

If I lived this entire life for one thing, it was for this moment.

"Life is a highway. I want to ride it all night long. If you're going my way, I want to drive it all night long."

She wanted to stop at the side of the road and not let go -- pull over onto the shoulder and write a book about being here. She had to capture this somehow.

She wanted to twirl in the gravel and stare up at the sky. She wanted to sit cross-legged on the hood of the car and write bad poetry with a dull pencil on the back of an envelope. She wanted to crawl over into Mulder's seat and share his sweet sleep with him.

She drove.

"Life is a highway. I want to ride it all night long. If you're going my way, I want to drive it all night long."

She wanted to live here forever. She wanted someone to kiss her and tell her that this was what heaven was like.

She would believe them.

Because she could die right here.

She could be Dana Katherine Scully for a million years and nothing would touch this.

"There was a distance between you and I. A misunderstanding once, but now, we look it in the eye."

It really had nothing to do with the music and all to do with the wind. It was the sun. It was the way her cheeks were tight with the faint blush of a sunburn. But it was the music too.

It was the way Mulder was sleeping next to her. He trusted her that much.

"There's no load I can't hold, road so rough -- this I know. I'll be there when the light comes in. Tell'em we're survivors."

Survivors. Scully laughed out loud. Yes, tell them we're survivors.

She spit splintered shells out the window again.

The harmonica in the chorus filled that hole in her belly, and she knew what content was.

"Life is a highway. I want to ride it all night long. If you're going my way, I want to drive it all night long."

This time Mulder woke up. He rubbed the heel of his palm across his forehead and lurched into a sitting position.

Without watching where her hand would land, Scully reached out to touch Mulder's face. She ran the back of her knuckles down the side of his cheek.

What she really wanted to do was jump into his lap and tickle the hell out of him.

"Life is a highway. I want to ride it all night long. If you're going my way, I want to drive it all night long."

"Mulder!" she screamed.

"Scully," he mumbled, confused.

She glanced over at him. He had a dent running from the bridge of his nose to his jawline from sleeping against the window.

"I love you, Mulder!" she yelled, and she meant it.

"Huh?" Mulder said, pinching his cheek, trying to regain feeling in that side of his face.

"Seeds?" she replied, offering him his bag.

Mulder only shook his head.

"You were right, Mulder -- about the case. You're a fucking genius," she conceded graciously.

"Scully?" Mulder wavered.

Tom Cochrane sang, "Life is a highway. I want to ride it all night long. If you're going my way, I want to drive it all night long."

Scully decided he must have been here once too. Everyone deserved to be here at least once.

"Dance with me, Mulder," Scully demanded.

"Sculleee." Now Mulder was whining. She'd scared him.

"Don't be such a baby," she teased, smiling at him from behind his sunglasses.

Scully's song drifted away, and she turned off the radio before it could say something wrong.

Now the wind was the loudest thing in the to Scully herself.

"Do you love me, Mulder?" Scully asked.

Mulder was a little more awake at this point and could almost appreciate her mood.

"Life is a highway, Mulder. Do you love me?" To his great amusement she chose this moment to spit out the window.

"Scully, I--"

"Love me or leave me, Mulder." Scully decided 75 degree water was better than none at all and reached behind Mulder's seat to grab it.

Only because she was so close to him did she hear his reply.

"Never," he said.

She snagged the water bottle and returned her attention to the road.

"What's that you say, Mulder?" she said, yelling and hoping he'd get the point.

"I'd never leave you, Scully," he shouted back.

"So where's that leave you, Mulder?" She loved being able to shout. She loved the way his name sounded. It sounded different when it was loud -- more free -- less like basements and more like open roads.

"Guess that means I love you."

"What's that?" she said, playing dumb. She wanted no doubt in his voice.

"I love you!" he yelled.

"Pretty wild, huh?" Scully screamed, smiling.

Mulder smiled back, fully awake and energized by her unmitigated happiness.

Scully saw that one of his teeth was chipped, and that was it for her. Mulder was real now. Before he had been a legend, now he was a man.

Now she really did want to crawl in his lap.

"Forget planes. Let's drive back to DC," Scully said.

"Scully, you're crazy!" Mulder said, like she had once said to him.

"But you still love me, right?" she asked, testing her new game.

"That's more than a day's drive, Scully."

"Love me or leave me, Mulder."

"We don't even have a map."

"Who needs maps? We've got each other."

"We don't have air-conditioning."

"We've made it this far."

Mulder ran out of excuses.

Scully ran out of patience. She leaned over, and at 75 miles an hour she kissed her partner with her salty lips.

"Love me or leave me, Mulder," she repeated, returning to her side of the automobile. She'd always wanted a catch phrase.

"Scully, you're--"

She interrupted him, "Crazy, I know."

"Beautiful," he shouted.

"Mulder, you beast, how'd you chip that tooth?" she asked, not really changing the subject.


"So, are you in?"

"I'm in." He waited a moment then added, "In what?"

"Does it matter?"

"No," he said forcefully, finally figuring out how it felt to be happy and never wanting to go back.