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home far away

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They go to bed with the window cracked, the sweet night air chilling their noses above the soft, thick quilt. It isn’t every day that work brings them to places like this, to secluded cabins nestled in the embrace of the Appalachian mountains where midnight smells like fallen leaves and woodsmoke and the woman he loves.

“Scully.” He speaks to her temple, his lips buried in her messy hair.

“Mm.” She tucks herself in closer. Beneath the blankets, she is bare and slick. She grounds him with one slender thigh slung over his hips.

They fly back tomorrow. The case is closed, no reason to stay. No reason at all, except for the way she looked tonight, rumpled in his sweatshirt and socks, watching the sunset from the porch. No reason, except for how she sang in the shower this morning for maybe the first time ever, soft and warm and out of key.

It’ll be a nice trip to the forest, he promised her. It only took him seven years to deliver. If he’d known how sweet she tasted in the mountain air, he would have found them a fluff case years ago.

Strange sightings in West Virginia. Disoriented hikers. Lights in the sky. Nothing more than electrical storms and faulty compasses, but it took them four days to be sure. Four days of Scully in flannel and denim, those little brown hiking boots. Dirt smears on her cheeks, rust-colored hair by the fire at night.

She nuzzles the center of his chest and he aches. Aches to keep her here, in this chunk of the world that feels theirs and theirs alone. There is no conspiracy here, no danger. No lung cancered men lurking in shadows. There is only her and her marshmallow kisses, the moonshine tang of her sticky thighs.

“Someday soon,” he whispers, low, just for her, “I’m going to buy you a house. One like this. With trees and a porch and a big bathtub.”

She doesn’t respond. Her breath puffs against his skin, slow and even. Asleep. He pulls the quilt higher and presses a kiss to her forehead. Imagines her in a little farmhouse watching the sunset, singing in the shower, sleeping naked beneath quilts, between his arms.

Someday soon. Someday soon, they’re going to get out of the car. He can smell it on the breeze. He kisses her head again and holds her tight, a hand woven into her hair.

“I promise.”