The Jukebox at Fall Arrow Inn

Mulder and Scully sat in a lonely roadside diner in Washington. It was a simple Monday night, and their only companion was the jukebox in the corner, humming as it flipped through its records. It had been searching ever since they had arrived and was obviously dissatisfied with what it was finding. It clicked and whirred deliberately.

The diner was on the way to the middle of nowhere but was placed conveniently on the highway. If you followed the road as it curled around mountains and over rivers, if you followed it past the dams and the falling rocks -- you ended up here.

Tonight, Mulder and Scully were the only ones that had bothered. Their diligence was rewarded by the Fall Arrow Inn.

The diner was surrounded by asphalt and trees. A familiar combination to those who lived in the Pacific Northwest. To those who lived anywhere else it might be disturbing -- too much nature in your freeway...too much freeway in your nature.

From the parking lot of the Fall Arrow, the sideways smile of the moon could be seen peeking over the tops of evergreens. Its white grin was thin and stretched -- its light no match for the diner's brightly lit facade.

The neon arrow on the diner's sign flickered off and on at spastic intervals. Its orange and pink light swam through the drops of rain that rested on the windshield of a Ford Explorer -- the only car in the lot. The light skimmed over the white paint and reflected off the chrome.

A raccoon slunk across the parking lot in an awkward lope, one paw drawn to its chest. It skirted the puddles that lay in the low spots of the asphalt and paused to look behind it. It wobbled to the edge of the lot then ducked under a bush and disappeared.

It was raining in that leisurely way that suggested it might stop at any moment. It had been raining like that for hours. Raining like it only could if you were on your way to the middle of nowhere.

The rain had made Mulder pleasantly sleepy, and Scully had suggested that they pull over and get some coffee before he drove them into the great beyond.

Mulder and Scully sat across from each other in a booth by the window. Their trench coats hung on the coat tree by the door.

They were the only ones inside the diner. A waitress had manifested herself once to take their orders and then again to bring Scully's food and Mulder's coffee. They hadn't seen her since.

Mulder watched Scully as she gnawed at a fat French fry. She was going over the file for their new case, making notes with one hand and eating with the other.

As he watched, Scully pushed a page toward him, pointing at a section with the tip of her fountain pen. He skimmed over the words, committing them to memory before even understanding what they meant.

He was far more interested in her.

Mulder abandoned the paper and instead contemplated the angular black smudges of ink on the tip of her index finger. Scully the scientist and skeptic wrote with a fountain pen. Highly illogical and very messy.

It had to do with touch. There was nothing like the scrape of a fountain pen across a page -- the ink running through the fibers of the paper. Scully reveled in the connection.

At is happened, so did Mulder.

Scully's hand reached out for the paper blindly. She made a slight clawing motion, eager to have the page returned.

Mulder nodded even though he knew she was not watching him and pushed the information back toward her. They would have to look into that when they got where they were going. But for right now, they were still on their way there.

Scully took back the paper wordlessly and picked up another French fry.

Mulder got up to pour himself more coffee. He debated picking the orange-necked pot over the black-necked pot, but decided against it; they still had a while to drive. It wouldn't do to wrap a tree around the car.

Mulder carried the pot back to the booth and poured himself more coffee, sloshing some onto the table.

Scully nudged a few napkins his way without even taking her eyes from the report.

Mulder mopped up the spilled coffee and then headed back to the counter to put the pot back on the warmer. He tossed the stained paper napkins into the trash.

Mulder looked around the diner, experiencing how it felt to be behind the counter, seeing what it would be like to be on the other side. It was isolated, sectioned off. It was us against them. Except there was no us, nor a them. There was only Mulder and Scully.

The glowing jukebox caught his attention, and he wandered over to where it crouched against the wall. The machine paused in its shuffling, flashed its lights and then resumed its muttering.

Mulder bent down to read the menu, but it was blank. The jukebox clacked. Mulder pressed a random combination of numbers and letters and waited.

The jukebox stopped again as if insulted. It sat quiet.

Mulder walked away in defeat. The jukebox clanked and then started flipping through its music once again.

He returned to the booth, but instead of taking his seat across from his partner, Mulder slid in next to her, hovering at her left side.

Scully sat with her elbows propped on the table top, leaning forward to read her file. In her left hand she held half a French fry near her mouth.

In one smooth motion, Mulder leaned into her and next to her ear whispered, "Can I have a French fry?" Whispering in her ear was his favorite thing to do, and he did it well.

Scully didn't even flinch. Not reacting was what she did best.

In answer, she swiveled her left hand a bit. Bringing it closer to her shoulder and his mouth, she offered him her half-eaten French fry to deter any further begging.

It didn't work.

Mulder leaned forward and took the potato between his teeth. Careful not to touch his lips to her fingers, he tugged the fry out of her grip.

Scully flexed her fingers, testing this new feeling. It didn't have to mean anything.

She could hear Mulder next to her, chewing. She constantly underestimated him. It was getting to be dangerous.

Somehow he managed to scoot closer to her. She had been certain there was no space left between them.

Scully picked up another French fry. Mulder's head came down to rest on her shoulder. He nestled in closer, wrapping his right arm around her waist.

Scully dared to look at him. His eyelids drooped. After having three cups of coffee, Mulder was still ready to fall asleep.

She should have known he was abnormal. That much caffeine would have her scaling walls and talking like an auctioneer.

Scully went back to her French fries and her report.

"Scully," Mulder whispered from her shoulder like an overgrown conscience.

"What is it, Mulder?" she asked.

"I like it here. It's easy."

Scully picked up another French fry and bit into it. She made some notes in the margins of her notes.

"Do you like it here, Scully?" Mulder whispered, slouched so close to her that his lips almost touched the collar of her blouse.

Scully answered before she could censor herself. "Yes, it's uncomplicated," she said, betraying her needs.

She sighed and leaned back against the booth. Mulder moved with her, his head not even lifting from her shoulder.

Scully looked out the window. The rain sparkled in the light of the neon sign like shards of falling glass. If only life were as uncomplicated as the rain.

"I don't ever want to leave," Mulder said sleepily, his eyes fixed on the French fry in Scully's left hand. "Are you going to finish that fry?"

Scully pushed the French fry in his mouth. Mulder licked her thumb briefly.

"We can't stay, Mulder. You know we have work to do." She wiped her wet thumb on his shirt.

"But maybe we could come back?" Mulder asked, a slight note of pleading invading his voice.

"Maybe," Scully said, humoring him, knowing how unlikely it was that they would ever be in this same place again.

"Maybe on our way back, when we're done with our work?" Mulder suggested, growing hopeful.

"Maybe," Scully said again, putting her pen down and touching her ink-stained hand to his left cheek. "Maybe on our way back."

"Maybe," Mulder repeated, taking that small word from her. It was a small word, but it held a lot.

As Mulder and Scully left the diner, the door swinging shut behind them, the jukebox ceased its shuffling. The arm came out and snatched an album, setting it on the tiny turntable. The needle lowered down to rest on the vinyl, and a strong female voice filled the diner. Apparently the jukebox had finally found what it was looking for.

Outside, Mulder and Scully ran to their car while the rain took its time in falling. Inside, Etta James sang to herself:

"At love has come lonely days are over, and life is like a song. Oh yeah yeah, at last...the skies above are blue. My heart was wrapped up in clover...the night I looked at you....

"I found a dream...that I could speak to...a dream that I...can call my own. I found a press my cheek to...a thrill that I...have never known. And oh yeah smiled, you smiled, oh and then, the spell was cast. And here we heaven, for you are last...."