DISCLAIMER: My name isn't Chris Carter and I have no shares in Fox or 1013 Productions … so you know they aren't mine. I just steal these lovely characters for my own demented amusement.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a response to AmberDragon's "Spring fic challenge! (Redux!)" This was supposed to be a completely silly story, but somewhere along the way all these moments of fluffiness snuck in. It's still a little rough around the edges, but for a silly story, it's about as good as it's going to get <g>. Suffice it to say, if you're looking for something kinda light and mindless, this is the story for you. Feedback would be lovely, but it's never a requirement. Oh, and thanks to chaos and Thunder for their help with one of the important little details <vbg>.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Art of Gift Giving
By ocean gazer


Monica Reyes sighed in frustration as she walked out of yet another store empty-handed. She'd been wandering the mall for two hours at that point and had yet to find a single thing that she wanted to get for Dana. She'd seen things – sure – that were lovely and that she knew her partner would like. There were the white gold earrings with the sapphire insets, or the fluffy down comforter, or the five CD set of Baroque classics. She'd even thought about the ubiquitous and oh-so-impersonal gift card to a bookstore or clothes store.

But while she'd seen some nice things, nothing had reached out and grabbed her attention. On a whim, she turned and wandered into a Hallmark. Shuffling her way past the cards, she began looking around for cutesy knick-knacks. Which, not surprisingly, she found. And yes, the little bears and ornaments and assorted gifts were quite cute and all. But not a one of them stood up and screamed "Dana."

Of course, if one of them had, she might start to worry about her own mental state.

She mustered up another sigh as she exited the store, still empty-handed. Looking up, she noted that there was a Starbucks right across from her, and she sighed again – this time in relief. Nothing like a little caffeine to help the brain cells kick into gear. Patiently wading through a sea of mall strollers who were moving about half a mile an hour, she made her way to the coffee shop and up to the counter.

While waiting for her mocha, she glanced around the store at the various mugs, CD's, and coffee beans, any one of which would make a perfectly acceptable gift. But none of them were special, which was what she was really looking for. It was a quest for the perfect present – a quest that seemed utterly fruitless at the moment.

Grabbing her drink from the counter, she found a table and sat down to watch the streams of shoppers drifting by. There were hordes of people, all looking for those elusive items that would somehow make their lives better, or that would make someone else happy. And there were thousands of items in dozens of stores, just waiting for someone to come in and buy them. And yet Monica couldn't find a single thing she really wanted to buy for her lover.

Shaking her head at the melancholy thoughts, she took a generous sip of mocha. The caffeine seemed to buzz straight through to her brain, especially since she hadn't eaten anything for several hours. And then she sat up straight in her chair as her little grey cells kicked into gear.

There are some things money can't buy …

Dana Scully stared down at her handwritten list and smiled in satisfaction. Of the four items listed, she'd already purchased three of them and had only needed to go into two stores. Granted, it hadn't been that difficult an accomplishment, since she'd known before walking into the mall what she wanted to get Monica for their six month anniversary.

It wasn't that the art of the surprise romantic gesture was unknown to her. She'd brought home at least two bouquets of flowers "just because" in the time that she and her partner had been living together. It was just that she was anal enough to not leave important events to chance. As a teenager, Dana had had semi-regular nightmares about wandering the stores at 10pm on Christmas Eve, unable to find a single suitable present for any of her friends or family.

Hence, her current preoccupation with making a list and checking it twice.

She took a pen out of her purse, crossed off three of the four listed items, and then looked around the mall to get her bearings. Ah yes, the last store she needed to visit was off to the left.

… for everything else, there's Mastercard …

"Happy Anniversary, Dana."

Monica couldn't help but grin as she led her lover through a grove of trees and into a clearing. She had one hand in Dana's and the other wrapped around the handle of a wicker basket. While neither she nor Dana was too comfortable with public displays of affection, they were effectively by themselves right now, since there didn't seem to be a soul around for miles.

Once she'd decided on the idea of a picnic, she'd gone scouting around for the perfect spot. And she'd found it in a little state park in Virginia. All right, so it was a twenty-minute hike to get to this particular location from where they'd left the car, but she thought it was well worth the effort. The actual picnic areas were next to the parking lot and the actual hiking trails all branched out on the other side of the park, so it was a pretty secluded place to be.

She glanced back at her partner, happy to see the woman taking in the scenery. The spot she'd found was right next to a pond, with trees on two sides and a gently sloping hill behind them. And with all the spring flowers beginning to blossom, the area was even more appealing.

Pulling her hand out of Dana's, she set down the basket, opened it, pulled out a large tablecloth and spread it smoothly over the grass. She plopped herself down on the ground, not too surprised when Dana followed suit. Then she began quickly pulling things out of the basket, mindful of the fact that they hadn't eaten much breakfast.

She looked up to find Dana watching her with a slightly amused expression, and she grinned in response. She knew full well that the contents of the basket were somewhat odd, not the traditional picnic fare of sandwiches, fruit, potato salad, and cookies. But what the heck – neither of the women was exactly traditional in terms of their taste in food.

Turning her attention back to what she was doing, Monica finished setting things up to her satisfaction. Within a few moments, the tableau was complete. A china plate full of food sat in front of each woman, with a cloth napkin and silverware set neatly beside it. On each plate there was a wild green salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing, slices of crusty peasant bread spread with either Camembert or Brie, slices of prosciutto and Genoa salami, and a bunch of grapes. A single pink silk rose sat in a vase between the two plates.

Monica had thought about the logistics of bringing a real rose, but figured either it would wilt too quickly or she'd spill the water out of the vase and ruin the food.

The only things that seemed out of place in relation to the food were the drinks and the dessert. A bottle of root beer sat in front of Dana, while she had a bottle of strawberry soda. It wasn't quite the wine that the meal itself seemed to call for, but she didn't actually like wine and Dana had given up drinking when she was pregnant with William.

As for the dessert, she had a little pastry plate filled with Cadbury Crème Eggs and Andes Mints. The mints were for her; the eggs were for Dana. While she realized that a nice, dark chocolate or a crème filled pastry would have been a better accompaniment to the meal, she also knew what her lover liked.

And heavens, it was their anniversary – it's not like they were being featured in Martha Stewart's Living where everything had to be just so.

"Monica, this is just amazing. What a wonderful idea for a gift."

She felt as though she were glowing with the compliment, or as though her head were swelling. Maybe both. Smiling, she said gently, "I just wanted to do something special to let you know how much you mean to me."

As Dana leaned over the plates of food to kiss her, she felt a deep sense of contentment. Maybe she hadn't found the perfect gift, but they could certainly have the perfect picnic to make up for it. She basked in the sensual delight of her lover's lips against hers, enjoying the moment. When the kiss broke, she almost pouted at the loss of sensation, but then heard a low rumble. Once she figured out that the sound came from Dana's stomach, she laughed softly.

"Bon appetit, my sweet."

She wasn't too surprised when Dana rolled her eyes. It was, after all, a particularly bad rhyme.

But the amateur poetry didn't evoke any verbal rebuke from her lover, which was probably a good thing since Dana's mouth was full of bread and cheese. She smiled at the sight, since she'd been a little uncertain about her choice of foods. Picking up a piece of bread and a slice of salami, she followed the other woman's lead and started eating.

Long minutes later, she leaned back on one hand and sighed in satisfaction. She was pleasantly full, having finished off the entire plate of food, and it didn't surprise her too much that Dana had cleaned her plate as well. She'd tried to pick foods that were tasty and satisfying, but not too heavy. After all, it would be hard to enjoy the rest of the afternoon if they were both sitting around feeling bloated.

Watching Dana wipe her hands on the napkin, she suddenly remembered the one thing she hadn't taken out of the basket. Pushing herself off her hand, she leaned forward, digging around until she found what she wanted. Without a word, she passed the bottle to her partner, savoring the little laugh Dana gave when she realized what she'd been given.

"Hand sanitizer. You really did think of everything, didn't you?"

She felt suddenly shy as she murmured, "I tried." She didn't know why the compliment hit her shy nerve, but there were still times when she was aware of just how awed she was by her lover. Dana was smart, strong, opinionated, loyal, hard-working … and Monica still sometimes felt a sense of wonder that someone like that could ever be remotely interested in her.

"And you did a very good job, Monica. This was a really wonderful idea." She smiled at the soft note in her lover's voice. It was a tone very few people ever got to hear Dana Scully use, and she was lucky enough to be one of them.

She nodded her thanks, and then started cleaning up the plates and napkins – shoving everything back into the basket to deal with when they got back home. Dana joined in and within moments, the only things still out on the tablecloth were the mints, the Cadbury eggs, and the little rose.

She picked up the basket and moved it out of the way, then slid over to sit next to her lover. It surprised her a little when Dana reached out and held her hand, twining their fingers together. Not that she was complaining; it was just that they so rarely could show this kind of affection outside of their home. It felt really nice, to be sitting in the sun with her lover, the calm blue surface of the pond sparkling in the light, with the rustle of wind through leaves the only sound.

At least for several minutes, that was the only sound. Without any warning at all, a group of people burst through the trees, surrounded the women where they sat, and began singing. Well, at least Monica assumed it was supposed to be singing.

She was so taken off-guard that she didn't really care that her hand was still clasped firmly in Dana's.

Glancing around at the group, she noticed each of them was holding a bunny rabbit. Given how many people were there, it looked like an entire herd of bunnies. Bunch of bunnies? Litter of bunnies?

Shaking off the completely irrelevant thoughts about what the technical name was for a group of rabbits, she took note of the people holding the creatures. There were at least twenty of them, all dressed in long, royal blue robes with gold sun and star appliqués. And from what she could see, given the rabbits in their arms, each of them was wearing a dangly, silver pentacle pendant. And now that her ears had grown accustomed to the sound of their … er … song, she recognized it as a folk song about peace, love, and harmony.

It was definitely the strangest thing she'd seen in a while. Given her job, that was saying a lot.

Glancing over at Dana, she wasn't too surprised to find that the woman's mouth was hanging open in sheer disbelief. Gathering her wits, she opened her own mouth to ask just what – in the name of all the gods and goddesses – they thought they were doing. But the members of the group concluded their song and their leader began to speak before she could manage to utter a single word.

"Sisters, we bring to you a gift. An equinox gift. We offer you one of these rabbits as a gift of life, to celebrate the newness of spring."

With that, the leader bent down to hand a grey rabbit to Dana. Monica noted the way her lover pulled back uncertainly. And no wonder. Even if the two of them had wanted a pet, which they didn't, they wouldn't have chosen a rabbit.

Monica reached out and firmly pushed the offered animal back into the leader's arms. "While we appreciate your way of celebrating Ostara, we'd prefer not to participate."

She took note of the blank looks that greeted her use of the word, and had to bite her lip to keep from laughing. The only person who seemed to have a clue what she meant by it was Dana … and that was significant only because the other woman was such a traditionalist. Monica rather doubted that, despite the robes and the pentacles, this group would recognize a real pagan if one walked up and introduced him or herself.

Just as the leader tried once again to offer the rabbit to Dana, the animal squirmed and jumped out of her arms. Monica made a half-hearted effort to grab it, but the little sucker was faster than it looked. And once one bunny had managed to find freedom, all the others decided to try and follow suit. Before she quite realized what was happening, the rabbits had escaped and the people were racing after them.

Cries of "No, come back" and "Follow that rabbit" and "We mean you no harm, our furry friends" drifted on the wind as the group ran off in search of their quarry.

Dumbfounded, Monica turned to Dana, absently noting that their hands were still joined. So much for the perfect, peaceful picnic. Taking one look at her partner's cloudy face, she realized that the mood was irrevocably broken. While the scenery was still nice and they could still stay out here and sit together in the sun, the mere chance of having more people wander in and disturb them meant that they couldn't just relax and enjoy the time together.

"I'm really sorry about this, Dana."

While her partner shrugged off the apology with the obligatory, "It's not your fault," she still felt bad. Not that she could have predicted this turn of events, but still. It had been her idea, after all. She felt Dana's hand slip out of her own and without another word, they set about gathering the last few items from their picnic and putting them in the basket.

Once the tablecloth had been folded and put away, she stepped close to Dana and leaned down to whisper in her ear. "I know this ruined the mood, but I do hope you enjoyed it."

She heard a soft murmur of "very much" and was just about to lean down and press a quick kiss to her lover's lips when she heard the breaking of twigs.

Mentally concluding that this just wasn't her day, she took a step back from her lover and looked up to see two park rangers headed their direction. So much for the feeling of being secluded. She rather thought they'd have more privacy sitting in a downtown Starbucks – at least in the city, people were used to tuning out anything not directly relevant to them. Maybe she'd take Dana out for coffee once they managed to get out of this over-crowded wilderness.

"Sorry to bother you ladies, but have you seen a group of … er … "

Where the first ranger left off, presumably in an effort to be somewhat PC, the other picked up.

"There's a group of seriously misguided, quasi-pagans wandering around, harassing people by trying to give them rabbits." The man snorted bemusedly, turning to look at his partner as he continued. "I'm sure they don't mean any harm, but the equinox was days ago and you don't celebrate it by forcing animals on people who don't want them …"

Monica cut him off in mid-sentence, only vaguely surprised to realize that these two men were actual pagans. "We just saw them. The rabbits all escaped and they were giving chase." She made a vague gesture with her hand, indicating the direction in which the group had gone.

The first ranger tipped his hat to them. "Thanks, ma'am. We just need to get them to stop bothering folks who are just out to enjoy a little peace and quiet. Besides which, folks like that give all of us who practice the Craft a bad name."

Monica couldn't help but agree with that assessment. And then she offered a sly smile. "You might also educate them about the law of return." At Dana's curious look, she explained, "That's the threefold law I was telling you about."

She wasn't too surprised to hear her lover laugh at that. "Given how quickly rabbits reproduce …"

The rangers began laughing as well, wishing them a good day as they began to walk off. As they disappeared into the trees, Monica heard the polite one say, "Well, let's go see if we can find these people who think that wearing robes off of a Hollywood set makes them real magickians."

She chuckled at that, as did Dana, and then they both heard the other ranger shoot back, "Well, at least they didn't decide to do skyclad."

Wicker basket for picnic: $20.00. Food for picnic: $22.00. Look on her partner's face at that comment: priceless.

"Happy Anniversary, Monica."

Dana set the gaily-wrapped packages on the coffee table and then leaned down to kiss her lover. Mindful of the fact that the other woman still had a nearly full cup of coffee in her hand, she didn't let the kiss last too long, though the feel of soft lips against hers was truly heavenly. When she pulled away, vaguely surprised to find that her hand was tangled in her partner's dark locks, she saw the surprise in Monica's eyes.

She couldn't help but smile at that reaction. In a perverse way, she was proud of the fact that she could still manage to catch the other woman off guard from time to time. The last Monica had known, she'd been in the kitchen, washing the dishes. After their bizarrely interrupted picnic, they'd gone out for coffee, browsed a local bookstore, and then brought Thai food home for dinner. She'd offered to clean up, figuring that it was Monica's turn to just relax and enjoy her anniversary gifts.

Dana settled herself on the couch next to her lover, not terribly surprised when she found herself wrapped in an embrace and feeling soft lips seeking out her own. After all, Monica had had the time to put down her coffee cup.

She leaned into the kiss, still no little amazed at how comfortable she was being with the other woman. As guarded and conservative as she was, it still surprised her just how thoroughly Monica had made her walls crumble. In all manners of speaking.

Smiling as the kiss broke, she caught a glimpse of the excitement shining in her partner's eyes. Monica looked almost childlike (in the good way) as she asked, "Are those all for me?"

If she lived to be 100, she didn't think she'd ever get tired of seeing that delighted, hopeful, expectant look in her lover's eyes. It was just too damned cute. And one of Scully's deep, dark secrets was that she had a weakness for cute. Not exactly what people would expect of the ultra-logical and professional FBI agent.

That was why she kept it a deep, dark secret.

In a rare lapse into sarcasm, Dana offered dryly, "No … two of the gifts are for the invisible person sitting beside you." She mock-winced when a fat pillow hit her arm, trying to project an air of injured innocence. Unfortunately, since she knew she deserved the response, she couldn't keep up the act. Softening her tone in an apology, she said, "Yes, dear, those are all yours. It's not as much as you deserve for being the wonderful person you are … but … well … I hope you like them."

Given Monica's default mode of being comforting and reassuring, she wasn't too surprised to hear "I'm sure I'll love them."

She smiled as she watched her lover pick up the packages in turn, debating about which one to open first. Leaning forward so she could reach the coffee table, she ended the debate by placing Monica's hand on one of them. True to her logical nature, Dana wanted the gifts opened in a certain order, going from the "silly" to the "serious". She heard the distinct sound of ripping wrapping paper, and smiled when she then heard a distinct chuckle.

"Oh, these are just too cute."

She watched as Monica held up the rainbow-striped socks. While neither woman was the banner-waving, put-a-rainbow-sticker-on-the-car-to-show-I'm-gay type, the socks were an innocent enough symbol. Not that they matched any of the woman's clothes … but then again, they were mostly just for lounging around the house anyhow. And she'd learned quite well that while Monica could be quite fashionable when out and about, the woman couldn't be bothered to coordinate her wardrobe when hanging out at home. It was just one of her many endearing qualities.

She smiled in response to the "thank you" she got from the other woman, and then guided Monica's hand to the next present in line to be opened. And then she smiled even more when she noticed how her lover didn't just rip into this package, instead using her fingernail to gently slice through the tape and then easing the paper open. This was a nice piece of wrapping paper, one that could be recycled and reused.


At the slightly awed tone in the woman's voice, Dana decided she'd done a good job of shopping. She'd been looking for a blouse for Monica, knowing that in their line of work, they went through clothes like some people go through Kleenex. It was truly frightening how much of a toll chasing aliens and dealing with the paranormal took on a person's wardrobe. She'd actually managed to find a deep purple blouse in the women's clothing section that didn't have any flowers or ruffles or other frilly touches. And she thought it suited her lover perfectly – it was soft, and yet not overly girly. Just like Monica.

Instead of a verbal thank you, she got a kiss from Monica. In Dana's opinion, that was a far better expression of appreciation.

When their lips parted, she looked up to see a questioning look in dark eyes. Understanding the question, she reached over and picked up the third present, handing it to Monica. She wasn't surprised when the woman tore into the gift without further ado (or any ado, for that matter). Watching Monica open gifts was something that Dana always enjoyed. Not just because she liked giving her lover presents, but because of the sheer joy the woman took in receiving them. Too many adults had lost that ability somewhere in the process of growing up.

"Oh wow. Dana, you shouldn't have."

Well, ok, so Monica hadn't quite escaped the adult tendency to worry about whether a gift was too expensive or not. Dana knew there was only one response that would really be effective, and she delivered it along with a gentle hair ruffle. "You're worth it, you know."

It was, Dana decided, a rather inane line to apply to a gift of a digital camera phone, complete with a headset, car charger, and protective case. Then again, how many people other than Monica Reyes would think that sort of gift to be extravagant?

She wasn't too surprised when there was another long kiss in lieu of a thank you. Monica had wanted one of those for months now, but had been loath to spend that much money on herself. Dana smiled through the kiss at the thought. She definitely enjoyed being able to spoil her lover. Of course it helped that the woman had such simple taste in things.

This time, it was Dana who broke the kiss, unable to stand the suspense of the last, unopened gift any longer. Not the suspense of not knowing what it was, but the suspense of seeing how Monica reacted to it. This gift wasn't wrapped. Instead, Dana had placed it in one of those decorated gift bags. She handed it to Monica, watching the way the woman's brows raised as she tried to figure out what the present was.

She held her breath as the woman reached inside. When she saw a broad smile cross Monica's face as the contents of the bag were revealed, she exhaled slowly. Not that she'd been worried or anything … well … yes, she had. They hadn't been together long enough as a couple for her to be completely confident about buying sexy presents for Monica. She knew what she liked and she had a good idea what the other woman liked … but it still took time to really be confident about things like this.

Dana felt the last of her worry evaporate when she saw the impish spark in her lover's eyes. In fact, she felt a shiver work its way down her spine at that look. Was it really possible to be that aroused by an expression? Apparently so.

Breathlessly, she watched as Monica rose from the couch, and then shivered again as the woman leaned down and pressed a kiss to her forehead.

"I'd better go try these on … make sure they fit."

She sat motionless on the couch, an anticipatory smile curling her lips. In what seemed like no time at all, she heard the soft pad of footsteps, and she looked over to see Monica walking back into the living room. Though she knew what to expect, the actual sight still took her breath away.

The dark haired woman was clad in an oversized, white poet's shirt. The hem hit her upper thighs, leaving her long legs elegantly exposed. The sleeves were rolled up slightly, so that Monica's hands weren't covered in fabric. Dana couldn't see through the shirt, but knew that the other woman was wearing a pair of simple cotton thong underwear. Not her usual style, but one that Dana had no doubt would be sexy on her.

The mere thought left her dry mouthed.

She felt her heart beating faster as Monica walked over towards her. It was amazing how the oversized shirt seemed to make the woman seem sexier than if she'd been wandering around naked. There was something to be said for subtlety … mystery … old-fashioned romance.

She looked up as the woman stood in front of her, awed by the woman's beauty. "You, Dana Scully, are amazing." Gentle fingers traced the line of her cheek and she leaned into the simple, affectionate caress. "This is a wonderful present … I love it."

And then she shivered again when Monica continued in a low, sultry tone, "But I think I need you to help me adjust the laces. They're a little too … restrictive."

She reached up, her fingers lightly skimming the swell of Monica's breasts in a promise of pleasures to come, and began fumbling with the laces on the front of the shirt, undoing them to expose the tanned skin underneath.

White cotton thong: $12.99. Poet's shirt: $49.95. An intimate evening with her lover: priceless.

The End

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