Into the Woods
Written by Marti

DISCLAIMER: This story is based on the characters and situations created by Chris Carter and owned by the Fox Network and 1013 Productions. As such, the characters named are the property of those entities and are used without permission, although no copyright infringements are intended.

When he walked in the door of his apartment after work one Wednesday, Tim Bayliss was pleasantly surprised to see Fox Mulder already there, sitting on the couch.

"Hey, you're home early!" As he walked past the couch on the way to drop off his keys and wallet, he stopped to kiss the top of Mulder's head.

"Yeah, we finished all the paperwork we had to do for today, if you can believe that," Mulder answered, leaning back to smile at Tim, then turning his attention back to some papers on his lap.

"So, if that's not paperwork you're doing now, what is it?" asked Tim, coming around to the front of the couch.

"This? Well, it was going to be a surprise, but since you asked...I have an idea for this weekend."

"Really? You mean we're going to go out and *do* something?" He paused. "Wait - what we're doing involves research?"

"Just a few maps." Tim realized that the pamphlets strewn around Mulder on the couch had titles like "Day Hikes in the Shenandoah National Park." Mulder wasn't sure what Tim was going to think of his idea, but rather than resort to persuasive rhetoric, he decided it was better just to get the proposal out there. "I think we should go camping," he said simply.


"Camping. Haven't you ever been before?"

"Well, there isn't exactly a wealth of wilderness in Baltimore...or maybe there is, but not the kind that makes you want to sleep outside surrounded by it."

"Didn't you ever get out of town on a trip? Boy Scouts? Anything?" Tim shook his head. "Well, we used to go in Massachusetts sometimes, in that brief window of opportunity when it's warm in the summer."

"So, not to be difficult, but what makes you want to revisit that now?" Tim was pleased that Mulder was going to be available for a whole weekend, and that he was actually making deliberate arrangements, and yet...camping? "What's the attraction?"

"Other than quality time with you?" Mulder smirked a little, and Tim felt his face flush. "We live just a few hours from one of the most beautiful places on earth, and I think we should see it. The Shenandoah National Park starts just below the Virginia state line: 75 miles of trails, rocks, streams, wildflowers, and wildlife."

"Does that include bears? Gnats? Exposure to the elements?"

Time for the persuasive rhetoric. "Okay, you're *not* taking this in the right spirit. This is you and me with uninterrupted hours together in the beauty of nature, away from work, partners, gunslinging, and cell phones. Or maybe I'll have to take my cell phone along...but I promise to turn the ringer off."

"Is there so much gunslinging on our jobs that we have to get away from it?" Tim teased.

"You know what I mean. 48 hours where you don't hear Pembleton snapping at you, where you aren't faced with a sea of red under your name on the Board, where you are out from behind the desk and the wheel of a Cavalier. You must admit that sounds tempting."

"Well, when you put it like that...but it's not exactly a *sea* of red, you know!" Tim moved out of the armchair to sit next to Mulder on the couch. "So, what do you have in mind?"


During the next two days of work, Tim kept thinking ahead to the weekend. They planned to leave early Saturday morning, spend the day hiking, and then stay overnight at the Lewis Mountain campground in the north half of the park. He was excited and on edge at the same time. It was, after all, two days of togetherness. It was also togetherness in public, more or less; even if there were not any other people for miles around, at least it moved the relationship out of the confines of their two small apartments, where it had had to stay out of necessity, or, more accurately, because of Mulder's reluctance to admit to anyone other than Scully that they were having this relationship at all. Part of the reason they never spent any appreciable time together was due, in truth, to the demands of their jobs, but at least part was due to Mulder's refusal to commit to any short- or long-range plans. So, on that front, Tim was thrilled. This was some kind of move forward, wasn't it?

But he still wondered about the wisdom of a wilderness retreat. Maybe, somewhere in his FBI training, Mulder had some experience with outdoor living. But there was that time he and Scully had to stay overnight in the Florida woods because their guide had been swallowed up by a cavernous hole in the ground, and Scully said Mulder hadn't even been able to get a fire going. And that time they were trapped overnight on a sandbar in a lake in Georgia, because Mulder didn't realize they were only a few feet from shore. This wouldn't turn out like either of *those* times, would it?

At least they would have a tent. They had gone shopping on Wednesday night to stock up on supplies. Mulder had suggested he get some wool socks, since he predicted it would be cold at night, even though the September days were still balmy. He had also recommended a Polartec vest, since it was supposed to "wick" away the sweat produced during the more strenuous hikes. What does "wick" mean, anyway? Tim grumbled to himself. All I know is, my back is going to be killing me after spending a night on the ground. But, at least Mulder will be there when I wake up, right?


They stayed over at Mulder's apartment on Friday night, so they would already be that much closer to Virginia when starting out on Saturday. Tim hadn't slept over there very often, mostly because Mulder didn't have a bed, or a bedroom. He usually stayed up watching TV and fell asleep on his black leather couch, but the few times Tim had tried to share that, he woke up with his neck wrenched and his back out of whack; even for Mulder, it wasn't worth it. This time, Mulder said Tim should have the couch and he would use the new sleeping bag on the floor.

Everything else was packed, so in the morning they just had to roll up the sleeping bag and throw it all into the Jeep. Since Mulder had done all the planning, Tim had offered to drive, to show he was putting some effort into the trip too. He hadn't said anything about his doubts, and thought that it would be better to focus on the parts of the trip he was looking forward to.

It didn't take long to get out of the city and onto the two-lane road that would take them into the park. Once they passed the DC suburbs, the view on either side of them turned to rolling hills decked with occasional trees whose leaves were just starting to turn to their fall colors. They hadn't said much to each other so far, as Mulder was still nursing a cup of coffee and Tim was concentrating on traffic and watching for exit signs, but now Tim spoke.

"Okay, you were right. It is beautiful."

"See? You should listen to me more often." Mulder smiled and reached across to touch the back of Tim's neck, his hand warm from having been curled around his coffee cup. "Seriously, I know you're a little dubious about the whole thing, but it will be fun, I promise."

Tim was startled to realize the other man knew what he was thinking. "It's not that I'm not looking forward to it, I just don't know what to expect. I'm a city boy, remember?"

"Yeah - I still can't believe you never took a field trip or anything! Have you never even been across the state line?"

"We did take a grade-school trip to the battlefield in Manassas once. I remember being so disappointed, getting there and finding out it was just a *field*."

"What were you expecting, blood and guts still strewn around a hundred years later?"

"No, but a statue, some spent bullets, something to show it wasn't just pastureland. Didn't they want to put a theme park or something in there?"

"Yeah, a few years ago. It didn't pan out."

"Good. Not that I am so enthralled by history itself, but that's sacred ground. People died there. There should be some kind of memorial, if anything."

"Of course, people die all over Baltimore, and there aren't memorials on every street corner." Mulder did, in fact, agree with Tim, but something made him play devil's advocate.

"That's not the same kind of war. Dying because of a fight over a pair of tennis shoes isn't exactly like dying for your country."

"Yeah, but the Civil War wasn't based on the most noble of causes, was it?"

Tim glanced over at him, wondering why Mulder was refuting every statement he made. "I don't still seems like there's a little more reason behind the deaths at Bull Run than behind some of the ones I work." He paused. "Hey, aren't I supposed to be getting *away* from work?"

"Sure. But you brought up Manassas, didn't you?"

"Maybe I did and maybe I didn't. Could you just find some music to put on?" He found himself wishing Mulder would be quiet. What was with him?

Mulder picked up a shoebox full of tapes which lay on the floor at his feet and started rummaging through them. "There's an awful lot of Erasure in here, isn't there?"

"What do you mean, an awful lot?"

"Well, four tapes *and* the greatest hits?"

"I like Erasure. What's wrong with Erasure?"

"They're just a little too...synthesized for me."

"Or too queer?" As soon as he said it, Tim knew it was the wrong thing, but there it was, hanging there.

"That's not what I said."

"Right." Tim wasn't trying to prolong the argument, but it came out sounding petulant anyway.

"It's just that guy, the singer, he dresses in drag at their concerts." Mulder felt like he had to defend himself.

"But you can't see that when you're listening to the tape, so forget about it. Don't you like any of their songs?"

"I don't know...they're sort of catchy, I guess."

"I'm not saying you have to put it on. Just pick something else."

There's not much else IN here, Mulder thought to himself, but he thought he should drop the subject. Jeez, was the whole weekend going to be like this? He didn't remember any petty sparring between them before. "How about Bonnie Raitt?"

"Sounds fine." Tim was mad at himself for being so touchy, but he still couldn't keep the irritation out of his voice. Just get over it. Just think about how nice it is that he's *here*, all yours, for the next 36 hours. He exhaled and mustered up a smile. "No, really, it's fine. I'm sorry. I just got up too early, or something." Glancing over to see Mulder's expression, Tim was relieved to find the other man smiling back. He reached over to brush his hand against Mulder's cheek, feeling the slight roughness of early-morning stubble, a sensation which was still new enough to send a little shock running through him.

They arrived in the late morning, when the sun was high and the air had warmed up enough to stop and put the top down on the Jeep. Tim wondered if they should go to the campsite first, since the spaces were first come, first served, but Mulder thought it was probably better not to leave their supplies unaccompanied if they weren't going to stay there all afternoon. He recommended a short hike he had picked out, ending at an overlook called Betty's Rock where they could have a picnic.

"It's supposed to be a 180-degree view of the Shenandoah Valley to the west."

How does he know all this stuff? Tim wondered. "When did you have time to do all this research?"

"Here and there. In the car on the way to cases. In my office while I was waiting for programs to run on my computer."

"How long have you been planning this?"

"Two or three weeks, maybe?"

"No kidding!" Again, Tim was impressed by the effort and commitment this demonstrated; he only wished he'd realized what was going on sooner, since it would have saved him some weeks of worry and restlessness when he thought about the relationship.

They were heading south on Skyline Drive, and pulled over into a parking area on the right. The trail, marked with short logs placed horizontally at intervals, was less than a mile long and not very steep. As they hiked, Tim concentrated on the ground cover, making sure he put his feet in the right place, so he almost ran headlong into Mulder when the other man stopped short at the end of the trail to take in the view. Tim pulled up alongside him and looked out at the vista. Purple-gray mountains rose up on either side of them, with an expanse of green valley in the middle, the landscape dotted here and there with houses and farms. They were standing to the left of a relatively flat rock formation, and Mulder scrambled out on top of it so he could get a better view.

"Pretty spectacular, huh?" Mulder asked.

"Yeah, it really is," Tim replied in a hushed voice. "I'm not used to seeing so much of a view at one's hard to get perspective on anything in the city."

"This isn't even the best one in the Park. We'll try some more after lunch. But this is the kind of thing I wanted you to see."

"I'm glad you did," Tim said simply. He felt a little ashamed at how contrary he had been since Mulder first suggested this. I should have trusted him. This is great, this is beautiful, and there's a lot more of it to come, he thought.

"You hungry?" Mulder asked.

"Yeah, let's eat."

They found a flat place to sit and unpacked their lunch. Tim hadn't paid much attention to what Mulder was packing, except to put in a request for the kind of sandwich he wanted. However, he noticed that there was only one sandwich in the bag. "You're not having one?"

"No, I brought some other stuff."

Tim smiled to himself as Mulder pulled out a bag of sunflower seeds.

They ate in silence, enjoying the stillness of the woods and the sun on their backs. When he had finished eating, Tim packed his trash away and then slid over closer to Mulder so their legs were touching, putting one hand on Mulder's knee. "This is great. Thanks."

"You're very welcome." He turned to smile at Tim, pleased to have him closer by than he had in a while. "You look more relaxed already."

"Yeah? I feel good. All that work-related stress just seeping out into the rocks."

"That's the idea. It's nice to see you out of your suit."

"Hey, you've seen me out of my suit before. You've even helped me out of it a few times."

Mulder smacked him lightly on the thigh. "You know what I mean. I like that cap. You look...cute."

"Really! I don't think you've ever said that to me before."

"Well, you do. But I'm going to have to take it off."


"Because it's going to get in the way when I kiss you."

Tim felt his heart start thumping as Mulder came around in front of him, straddling his lap, then pulled his cap off and set it aside. Mulder ran his hands through the short brown hair, smoothing it back from Tim's face, and leaned in for a kiss. It was gentle at first, but then Tim opened his lips so Mulder could explore more deeply. He leaned back on the sunbaked rocks and pulled Mulder down with him, an opportunity which Mulder took to start attending to other places on Tim's body, first trailing a row of kisses along his jawline, tickling him just a little with his tongue, then sliding down his neck. Tim's shirt was Henley-style with a row of six buttons, half of which were closed, so Mulder kissed him first in the hollow of his throat, where the shirt was open, and then undid the buttons one by one, pressing a kiss into each spot as it became available. Tim couldn't believe how aroused he was by such small, subtle movements; he encouraged Mulder to go on by holding one hand firm on the back of his neck and sliding the other one up his back underneath his own shirt, which was now untucked. He was quite disappointed, therefore, when Mulder stopped short after the last button and laid his head on Tim's chest.

"I'm sorry...believe me, the spirit is willing, but the rest of me is a little uncomfortable." His knees were pressed against the rock on either side of Tim, and the warmth of the stone was turning to extreme heat in the noonday sun.

"Damn," Tim murmured, but he understood. There was a protrusion of some sort pressing into his lower back, though he hadn't noticed until that instant. "Later, then. I wanted to see where you were going with that!"

"This will just give me time to plan something better." Mulder grinned and kissed him once more before getting up.


They repacked the car and headed further south on Skyline Drive. The campsite was about thirteen miles away, and Mulder had picked out some more hikes in between, including one with a breathtaking 270-degree view, and one in an expanse of prairie land where they saw several white-tailed deer who almost let the men come up to them before sprinting off into the woods. After the third hike, however, Tim's enthusiasm started to wane. The sun was dipping closer to the horizon, and his stomach was growling. They had agreed that they would eat dinner at one of the lodges, to avoid the need to pack a lot of food and the risk of curious bears sniffing around their campsite.

(Bears? Tim had asked. Don't worry about it, said Mulder. They almost never attack.)

"So," Tim said, leaning against the Jeep, pausing to take a long swig of water from a bottle. "I can't believe those sunflower seeds could stay by you all this time. Are you hungry?"

"A little, I guess. Maybe we should get the tent set up before we eat."

"But didn't you say we shouldn't leave our stuff unattended? Besides, there are still a couple of hours of daylight. Look." Tim extended his arm toward the west, with his hand in a fist, and squinted as he moved it two notches down toward the horizon.

"What are you doing?"

"The length of your fist from top to bottom, when viewed from the length of your arm, is the distance the sun moves through the sky in an hour. Two fist lengths between the sun and the horizon means two hours until sunset," Tim explained.

"And I thought you weren't an outdoorsman!"

"Astronomy unit, twelfth grade physics."

"Do you know what direction we're heading? Which way the wind is blowing? Whether we're about to be attacked by marauding Indians?"

"I just know I need to sit down and eat something," Tim said, laying a hand on Mulder's shoulder.


After dinner, Mulder tried measuring the sun himself. "Does this work for everybody? What if your arm is longer than mine? What if you have an extra finger that makes your fist larger?"

"I don't know...I think it's pretty universal."

"Well, my fist tells me we have less than an hour until sunset. We better get going unless we want to be fooling around in the dark."

"Is that a bad thing?"

"Fooling around with the tent, yes. With you, no. But the tent has to be in place first, unfortunately."

Tim felt a little thrill. He could never quite believe it when Mulder said things like that to him. He hopped into the Jeep with a little more spring than usual.

When they got to the campground, Mulder said, "See? It's not that primitive. Shower facilities, even a picnic table."

"Yeah, I see...even cabins. Tell me again why we're not staying in one of those?"

"Full. Besides, this will give you the whole camping experience."

"That's what I'm afraid of."

They parked and surveyed the scene. There were only a couple of other tents, on the far side of the cleared area.

"It seems a little underpopulated, doesn't it?" Tim asked. "Who do you call if there's a problem?"

"Rangers have an 800 number. And I did bring my cell phone, although I packed it down deep in my bag so Scully wouldn't bother us."

"Would it even work out here?"

"Don't worry about it, would you? Everything will be fine."

They found a likely spot and started unpacking the gear. The tent was rolled up in a pack, and as Tim pulled it out, he asked, "Are there instructions for this?"

"We don't need instructions. It's simple. Just need to unfold it and get the poles in the right place."

Tim began to unfold it, and frowned as he realized it was just one big expanse of blue nylon. "And where would the right place be, do you think?"

"I don't know. Aren't there casings of some sort?"

"What's a casing?"

"You know, a long opening, stitched on both sides, that you stick something else into. Like a sausage casing."

"There's nothing here that looks like that."

"Let me see it." The light was dimming, however, and so it was getting harder to discern any details. "Can you get the poles out of the Jeep?"

Tim rummaged around until he found them. One was stuck under the front seat, so he leaned in at an angle to yank it out. "Ow!"


"Nothing...just twisted my back the wrong way." He carried the poles over to Mulder, rubbing the muscle he'd just strained. "Any luck?"

"I found one of them."

"There are six poles here."

"I'm aware of that. You're not helping."

"Sorry." Tim stood silently for a few minutes while Mulder struggled with the nylon sheets, which seemed to have ballooned to near parachute-size.

"Need any help?"


"Need some more light?" The sun had dipped below the trees which surrounded the campsite.

"Maybe. Could you just aim the flashlight in this direction?" Fortunately, Mulder had packed his government-issue Maglite. Tim held it as helpfully as he could, but it didn't illuminate a large enough area. Mulder was sliding his hands along the edge of the nylon, trying to find an opening. "Okay. Here. Hand me one of those poles."

Tim obliged. He noticed that as the sun disappeared, the temperature was dropping. Suddenly the cotton shirt was not warm enough, and he wished he'd buttoned some of those buttons back up. He started toward the Jeep to get his vest, when Mulder stopped him. "Hey - where are you going?"

"Just to get a jacket."

"Well, I need you here right now. Hold that." Mulder handed him the part of the tent into which he had successfully inserted a pole and told him to stand still while he started running his hand across the other length of nylon. By the time he got the other poles inserted, it was totally dark, and when Mulder set the flat bottom of the tent against the ground, the poles immediately tilted to one side and the tent collapsed.

"I don't think that's going to work..." Tim started to say.

"I know, I know. Just let me think for a minute." Mulder paced in a little circle around the tent, staring at the pile of fabric, seemingly hoping it would decide to reveal its secrets to him.

Tim watched him pace. The afternoon had gone so smoothly that he'd begun to think Mulder did know what he was doing, but now he wasn't so sure. He still wanted to go get his vest, as the temperature seemed to be dropping every second, but he thought he would wait a minute to see what Mulder was going to do, or if he was going to snap at him again. Surely he must be cold, too, Tim thought. Is it going to be any warmer inside that flimsy-looking thing? If it ever takes the form of something we can get inside of, that is? What temperature were those sleeping bags supposed to be good to? It's going to be a long walk to the bathroom in the dark...

As the litany of gripes ran through his mind, Tim glanced down to see the ends of two poles lying across each other on top of the nylon. "Mulder?"

"What?" He didn't look up at Tim, but continued staring at the tent.

"Are those poles supposed to be attached to each other?"

"I don't see how they could be."

"Maybe there's some other kind of tool in the bag."

When he looked in the sack the tent had come in, he found three plastic rings which looked like they might hold the poles together. He handed these to Mulder, who took them without a word, and tried sliding them over the ends of the poles. When he pulled the poles upright and let go, the tent stood up.

"Great - can we get in there now?" Tim asked, grabbing his knapsack and ducking inside. Mulder followed with the rest of the gear.

Neither of them spoke as they started unrolling the sleeping bags and arranging the camp. Tim waited until he thought most of the tension had subsided, and then said, "So, I thought Scully told me you were an Indian Guide when you were little."

"That was a long time ago."

Okay, so the tension was still there. Good grief, Tim thought. What's he still so pissed about? It's not that big a deal. Surveying the arrangements, he wondered once again why they had to bring two sleeping bags. He supposed they didn't make any big enough for two people, but that seemed to defeat the purpose of what he thought was intended to be some kind of romantic getaway. He'd looked forward to curling up against Mulder all night, since he rarely got to sleep like that. Again, wouldn't a cabin with a nice double bed be preferable?

"So, which sleeping bag is mine?" Tim inquired.

"Are you ready for bed already?" Mulder asked incredulously. "It's only 8:00!"

"Well, I am tired, but I was asking more for future reference."

Mulder realized that Tim was looking at him impatiently, with his jaw set. He seemed to be challenging him to come back with another smart retort, but instead of responding immediately, Mulder felt his irritation melt away. Looking directly into Tim's eyes, which he'd been avoiding for the last hour or so, he simply thought: okay. We're here. This is what I was trying to accomplish.

In a softer voice than Tim had anticipated, Mulder finally replied, "Actually, I have a little trick to show you -- to conserve body heat." Mulder unzipped both sleeping bags and started re-zipping the two together.

"Did they teach you that in the Indian Guides?" Tim said, delighted.

"Oh, no - this is something I figured out just for this trip," Mulder teased, glad to be back to their easy camaraderie. He wasn't going to ruin this by berating himself when everything didn't go as he'd planned.

After they had set up the pallet and stashed the knapsacks in the corners of the tent, they stretched out on top of the sleeping bags. They'd brought some reading material and a deck of cards (Tim had thought earlier that he might challenge Mulder to a game of Hearts), but at this moment neither felt up to doing anything. After all the physical exertion, it felt good just to lay still. A few minutes later, though, Tim remembered he was still wearing his hiking boots, and decided he would be more comfortable with them off and his new wool socks on. But when he sat back up, he felt a sharp twinge in his lower back. "Ow."

"What's wrong?"

"Oh, I just wrenched my back again. Damn." He leaned forward to rummage around in his knapsack. "I hope I remembered to pack some Bengay."

"Tim, you sound like an old man." Mulder said, reaching up to caress the back of Tim's head. "I remembered to pack it."

"Good." Tim was secretly pleased that this had occurred to Mulder. "The only way you could be more thoughtful would be if you put some on my back -- please?" Tim handed him the tube, lay back down on his stomach on the sleeping bag, and lifted his shirt and vest. The now-cold air was a shock, stinging against his bare skin. Then he felt the exquisite sensation of the air combined with Mulder's warm hand and the cooling balm against his skin. Mulder spent a few minutes rubbing the muscles in Tim's lower back, working in the medicine and working out the kinks, and then slid up to whisper in Tim's ear.

"Hey, is this stuff men-tho-lated?" He drew the word out in a low voice, his lips against Tim's cheek. "It tingles a little, doesn't it?"

"Mm-hmm..." Tim murmured back. "And never quite like *that* before." He smiled peacefully, his face still pressed against the sleeping bag and his eyes closed. "You're certainly better at that than Munch!"

"What?" Mulder, who had been expecting to hear anything but that, sat back on his heels.

"Oh...just once, in the squad room, I had to ask Munch to put some burn salve on my back. There I am, hunched over a desk with my shirttail hiked up, in a very vulnerable position, and he's just looking at me like I'm crazy."

"Well...he doesn't know what he's missing."

Bending back down to his earlier position, Mulder started by pressing a kiss against the small of Tim's back. He took his time exploring the area of bare skin, running his fingers along the edge of Tim's waistband and then following them with his lips. Then he turned his attention to the hollow in the middle of Tim's back, running the tip of his tongue up through it until he reached the edge of the pushed-up shirt. Hearing Tim moan softly, and feeling the vibration of the sound under his lips, he looked up to see that the other man's hands were curled into fists, balling up the fabric of the sleeping bag.

"So, I guess that felt good?" Mulder asked, sliding a warm hand into the waistband of Tim's boxer shorts.

" it some more." Tim's breath was shallow.

"Gladly, but these clothes are getting in the way."

Tim let go of the sleeping bag and rolled over onto his back. "Let's get them off, then. But you have to come inside here with me."


In the middle of the night, Tim had had to scrounge around for his shirt and put it back on, but he found it was surprisingly warm inside the sleeping bag, arms and legs entwined with Mulder's. He didn't wake up until the sun was already well above the horizon. He wasn't sure if Mulder had any specific plans for the morning, but he didn't think there was any hurry to get up. His head pressed against Mulder's chest, he listened a moment to the deep breathing which told him Mulder still hadn't stirred. He pulled the other man in a little closer and inhaled his spicy scent. Gently, using only the very tips of his fingers, he began caressing Mulder's chest and the muscles in his abdomen, working his hand down until it brushed the inside of Mulder's thigh and he could feel the other man start to respond.

Tim shifted until he was on top of Mulder, chest to chest, then touched his lover's full lower lip, first with a fingertip and then with his own lips. The kiss was long, slow, exploratory, and Tim didn't let go until he felt Mulder's hands on his backside, pressing him in as close as he could. Tim could not have put into words how thrilled he was to realize that it was *his* lips and hands causing Mulder to react like that. He could never believe that this man he yearned for in fact yearned for him back. It made him lean back into the kiss with increasing ardor, to start nudging Mulder's lips apart with his tongue.

Just then, a twig snapped outside the tent as someone walked by. A car door opened, then shut, and an engine started rumbling. Almost as suddenly, Mulder rolled over onto his side and pushed Tim off of him.

What the hell? "Was I wrong to think you were enjoying that?" Tim said, a little bitterly.

"The noise startled me."

"That?" He had barely registered it. "They're outside, and we're in here. They're *driving away*, in fact. We're more alone than we were five minutes ago." Tim suddenly felt colder and sat up to find his socks again.

"I know. I'm just..."

"Just what? Just skittish? Yesterday you were kissing me in broad daylight and now you don't want to be near me because there might possibly be one other person around, out of sight and out of earshot?"

"Sorry. C'mere. I want you next to me."

"Well, at this point, I don't feel like it." Tim was aware he was probably blowing this all out of proportion, but he was starting to realize how things like this happened more often than he cared to admit. The time they were on the pier in Fells Point, and he'd reached for Mulder's hand, only to have him move away. The time he had called Mulder's cell phone while he was out on a case, and been told that probably wasn't such a good idea.

"What were you thinking about, up on the rocks yesterday?" Tim asked, yanking on his socks. "You know why I was so turned on? Because *you* started it, because we weren't in the dark, under the covers, because I could feel the sun on my skin and the breeze blowing and you touching me. It - felt - great." He punctuated each word. "So that's the last time that's gonna happen, huh? Until we go out of town again?"

"No...yes...wait. I don't know." Mulder felt helpless, not sure anything he could say truthfully would appease Tim at all. "I wanted to touch you. I *want* to touch you. I planned this whole trip so I could be with you."

"But you brought us out here, miles from anything resembling civilization. Why? So no one you knew would see you?"

"OK, that's not fair." In exasperation, Mulder flung his head back down onto the pillow. "Besides, it's not like this is that far from civilization, some idyllic paradise where you can do whatever you want. A couple of years ago, two women were killed here while they were backcountry camping, and people suspect it's either because they were lesbians or because the murderer thought they were."

"What?" Tim felt a chill run through him, though this was certainly not that much different than crimes he encountered every day of his life. "Why are you telling me that?"

In fact, Mulder wasn't sure why he'd brought it up at that moment, and he could see by the wideness of Tim's eyes that he had underestimated the effect it would have. "Well, apparently I'm telling you to make you feel much worse than I already have." One side of his mouth curved up in a self-effacing smile.

"Mulder..." Tim exhaled sharply. "What's going on here? Have you had that in the back of your mind the whole time, just waiting for some bogeyman to come and get you?"

"No, I didn't even think about it until I said it. I..." He sat back up. "I'm sorry if I don't feel as comfortable as you do with all this. But I *want* to. I got us up here thinking...I don't know, thinking, of course, that we'd be away from it all, but not like that, I said, away from ringing phones and all that."

"But part of that is getting to feel more comfortable with me, right? To see what I'm like 24 hours a day, not just two or three? Isn't part of feeling comfortable letting me touch you when I want to? How comfortable do you feel now?"

"Very. I mean...yesterday, I wanted to kiss you and so I did."

"Great! That's all I'm asking for. And it would be nice if it happened occasionally once we got back to the city." Tim finally faced him again, and Mulder returned his gaze, taking in his rumpled hair, the imploring hazel eyes.

Grinning, he responded, "I don't know about later, but right now I'd certainly like to kiss you."

"Aren't we going to eat breakfast?" Tim wasn't really hungry, but thought he should at least give the impression of resistance.

"Later," Mulder said.