DISCLAIMER: If I owned them, I wouldn't have to work for a living. Ergo, they're not mine. They belong to Chris Carter, FOX, 1013 Productions, and a variety of other creative and talented folks. I'm just grateful they let me play in their sandbox. No one paid me anything for this fic...not even to stop writing it <g>.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I've had a serious case of writer's block the past several months. Even knowing the reasons *why* I'm blocked hasn't helped me find a way to work through it. But because I love writing holiday fic, I pushed myself to come up with something – anything! – for Thanksgiving. This is the result. It's had a rough edit, but nothing in depth. It's almost too fluffy to spend that much time tinkering with <g>. I hope it makes you smile or brings a few moments of "aww" to a season that can be a bit on the stressful side. If you have comments to make, onlist is fine or you can find me at quietoceangazer@yahoo.com.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By ocean gazer


I'm thankful I'm not giving chase to, defending the existence of, being abducted by, or otherwise dealing with aliens.

Dana turned on to her side as that thought rolled around in her head, then pulled the comforter tight and tucked it under her chin. Not that she expected to fall back to sleep or anything, but it was nice to just lie in bed and not have to go anywhere or do anything. Especially since, on her foray to the bathroom half an hour before, she'd glanced out the window and seen a thin glaze of ice on the grass and bushes.

She sighed contentedly and burrowed her head a little more deeply into the pillow. When she'd seen the forecast on the news last night, predicting an ice storm for the day after Thanksgiving, she'd rolled her eyes. The holiday itself had been gloriously sunny, with highs in the 50's and nary a cloud in the sky. The weather had been perfect for the family gathering at her mom's house, with the celebration spilling out into the backyard during the afternoon. The day itself hadn't been perfect, at least not for Dana. Then again, she hadn't expected it to be since it involved her extended family.

Now, listening to the icy sleet pinging against the window, she was glad that she'd stuck to her resolve and not let her mom guilt her into staying for the long weekend.

She'd done her daughterly duty, held her tongue, and fulfilled her familial obligation. She loved her relatives, in a fashion, but she didn't really relate to any of them any more – with the exception of her mom, her brothers, and their families. The others openly disapproved of her career and lifestyle and she had little patience with their materialism and dramas. She'd seen no reason to spend more than one day pretending to be thankful for the presence of her gossipy aunts, grouchy uncles, and gluttonous cousins when in truth she was indifferent.

Besides which, it would have meant being away from Monica.

At that thought, she smiled, recalling her earlier musing about aliens. It was all her lover's fault. Last night, she'd been predictably grumpy and in no mood to give thanks for anything at all. Equally predictably, Monica had studiously ignored both her grumbling and the fact that it was Thanksgiving. In fact, the other woman had made only one reference to the holiday, and Dana had almost missed it entirely. She'd been right on the verge of sleep, lulled by the gentle hands massaging her back, when she'd heard a whispered, "I'm thankful you're here with me, not still off chasing shadows and conspiracies."

As if the words were a prompt, her dreams had been filled with bizarre twists on the life she'd lived for ten of the past twelve and a half years. She'd woken almost literally laughing at the ridiculousness of it all.

She rolled over on to her back, then continued rolling until she was lying on her other side, facing the window and her sleeping lover, rearranging the covers around her as she went. Scooting closer to the other woman, she reached out and draped her arm over the curve of Monica's waist. Dana snaked her hand under the bottom hem of the woman's nightshirt and lightly caressed the smooth planes of her stomach. She could feel the rise and fall as her lover breathed deeply in her sleep, and it made her smile again in the grey, stormy light of the room.

For a moment, she contemplated intensifying the caress, dipping her hand lower and stroking firmly to waken her lover. But the thought flitted away as quickly as it had come. Monica had worked a 12 hour shift yesterday, helping out on a stakeout so that another agent could spend the holiday with his wife and young daughters. And then she'd come home, tidied the house, baked bread, folded laundry, and prepared hot cocoa and a late evening snack in anticipation of Dana's arrival and foul mood. Not to mention giving a lengthy massage. The woman was entitled to her sleep.

And even though morning sex would be a lovely way to start a lazy day at home, she had to admit that there was also something incredibly appealing about just cuddling up to her sleeping lover. Her touch on Monica's stomach felt surprisingly intimate. And knowing that her presence didn't disturb the woman's slumber, that she was trusted that implicitly, was powerful enough to bring tears to her eyes when she thought about it too deeply.

She blinked hard and snuggled closer to the other woman. Then she shifted slightly and moved her left arm from its awkward position beneath her. The new position – bent and braced against Monica's back – was still somewhat awkward, but she figured it would be ok for a little while. While being snuggled up in bed with her lover on a cold morning was a rare treat, she knew she'd grow restless before too long and get up.

Closing her eyes, she concentrated on both the sounds of the ice storm outside and the feel of the soft skin under her fingertips. It was peaceful. Calming.

Sleep caught her unaware.

I'm thankful that the power didn't go out until after we got our showers and the coffee was brewed.

Dana carefully turned off the coffee maker before setting the half-full carafe back on to the hot plate. Though it was a bit of a moot point at the moment, she didn't want to forget about it once the electricity came back on. The last thing she felt like doing today was trying to explain how she'd set the kitchen on fire. And speaking of electricity...She took a few steps, reaching out to turn off the overhead lights. Not that she'd needed to turn them on in the first place, not really. After years of working odd hours and running on little sleep, she could almost literally make coffee with her eyes closed.

Shaking her head at her meandering thoughts, she backtracked and picked up the two mugs she'd just filled. Walking carefully so she didn't spill anything, she exited the kitchen space, moving past the breakfast bar to the dining room table. Normally, she and Monica would sit at the bar and sip their morning coffee. But today she didn't want her back to the dining room's picture windows; she wanted the full advantage of the natural light. Setting down the mugs, she moved over to the windows and opened the curtains. There was plenty of light coming in through the gauzy fabric, but she wanted to see the scenery.

Concentrating more than strictly necessary on her task, she started in surprise when she felt a tall, lithe body behind her, arms wrapping around her. "It's beautiful, isn't it?" a voice breathed in her ear.

She leaned back against her lover, looking out at the glistening world. "Yes, it is."

Even knowing the destructiveness that the ice would wreak on everything – tree limbs crashing down, power lines snapped and lying deadly in the streets, traffic fatally snarled – she still thought it was beautiful. It was a paradox she'd pondered before – that nature could be both magnificent and horrible at the same time. Of course, her perspective on natural events usually depended on where she was standing at the time. Were she trapped at her mom's house or struggling to drive home safely, no doubt she'd be cursing her luck and seeing the storm as an inconvenience at best and a deadly hazard at worst. But safe at home, in the arms of the woman she loved, it was serene and lovely. Even with no power or heat.

As if triggered by the mental reminder, she shivered. Monica's arms tightened around her for a minute, then released her, moving away. Dana missed the warmth immediately and turned to follow the woman with her eyes. Where was she going? Unsure if she should be bothered or not by the abrupt departure, she padded over to her chair and sat down, cradling her mug in her hands before taking a healthy sip of the hot brew. When her lover returned moments later, an afghan in her hand, she felt a bit ashamed of her initial confused reaction. She smiled at the other woman as the colorful blanket was draped across her shoulders, and reached up to pull it a little more tightly around her. She watched as Monica slipped around to the other side of the table and into her chair, reaching for her coffee.

Warmed by more than just the negligible weight of the afghan, she picked up her own coffee and took a sip, studying the other woman over the edge of the mug. Monica's hair was slicked back, still wet from the shower, and she wore an oversized blue-plaid flannel shirt that came to mid-thigh over a pair of black leggings. Wool socks completed the outfit. It was distinctly unglamorous, definitely casual, and disarmingly cute. Dana wished, not for the first time, that she was as laid-back and relaxed as her lover. Her own attire was clearly in the business-wear category – tan slacks and a wine-colored paisley blouse – which seemed almost ridiculous on a day when she knew perfectly well she wasn't leaving the house.

She still carried that faint sense that she always had to be ready to rush to work at a moment's notice. It persisted even though she worked at Quantico now, on a set schedule, and with even less involvement in the X-Files than she'd had before her self-chosen exile in the desert. There was still that kernel of insecurity from a lifetime spent proving again and again that she could keep up with the big boys. Not to mention ten years of trying to prove her worth to Mulder – knowing he valued her, but worrying nonetheless that he'd prefer a teammate would could keep up with his mental leaps and didn't serve up a healthy dose of skepticism at most of his theories.

She only realized she was frowning when she caught the other woman's worried look. Opening her mouth to explain, she couldn't find words. But something of her inner thoughts must have been obvious – or else it was the fact that she'd been staring down at her shirt.

"Don't stress yourself. Old habits are hard to break, Dana."

Expecting something more, given their past lengthy conversations on the topic, she was a bit surprised when that was all Monica said. Then again, it got down to the heart of what she was feeling, so there really wasn't a need for anything more. She managed a smile and was glad to see the expression mirrored on her lover's face. She wanted to say something, feeling like she should pick up the conversational ball, but at the same time, she didn't really want to pursue the topic. So she picked up her mug and took another drink, turning her attention to the window as she did so.

Watching the other woman out of the corner of her eye, she was relieved to note that Monica didn't seem at all perturbed by the lack of further conversation. Why that came as a surprise to her, she had no idea. While her lover wasn't precisely an introvert, the woman was more at home with silence than she was. Then again, maybe it was the fact that despite being a couple for nearly two years, there were still layers and depths that they had yet to discover about each other.

For long moments, they sat comfortably at the table, sipping their coffee and looking at the sculptures the ice had created on the trees and plants in their backyard.

Finally, Dana turned her attention back to her mug, draining the last of the liquid. "I suppose we should go pour the rest of the coffee before it gets cold, since heating it up in the microwave isn't an option today."

Not really expecting a response, Monica's laugh startled her. "We don't have to finish it now. There are other ways to heat it up later."

She raised an eyebrow, both as a question and as a challenge, and saw a twinkle in brown eyes. "I can tell you were never a Girl Scout, Dana. Well, actually, I wasn't either, but I've picked up a few useful things over the years."

She couldn't help it; she laughed and her tone was layered with innuendo. "I bet you have."

The eye roll that greeted that statement didn't surprise Dana in the least. Nor did it surprise her that Monica didn't bother to dignify the comment with a response. But when the other woman stood abruptly and walked over to her side of the table, she was taken aback. She'd expected some sort of bantering or mock outrage. This was new. She tensed, ever so slightly, when her lover circled around behind her, then relaxed as strong hands closed over her shoulders and began massaging gently. So not what she'd expected, but she was so not complaining.

She heard the underlying affection in Monica's words. "You're incorrigible." A slight pause, and then the woman continued, "So, what do you want to do today. Or rather, what do you want to do that doesn't require electricity?"

Dana cocked her head slightly to the side, mulling over her options. Not that it took long to decide. "I'd love to curl up with a good book under a nice, thick comforter and read. And you?"

Though she couldn't see her lover's face, she heard the wistful sigh. "That sounds wonderful. We could light some candles and have some hot cocoa and a little brunch – and just read and relax."

Almost of their own volition, her eyebrows crept up her forehead. The candles were easily taken care of, but she couldn't quite figure out how they'd manage the rest of it. Before she could voice her doubts, she heard a hearty chuckle behind her. "Girl Scouts and useful things, remember? All you need to do is change into something more suitable for lounging and curl up on the couch. Leave the rest to me."

She nodded her assent, and felt one last press of long fingers against her shoulders before Monica moved away from her, heading into the living room. Curious as to how the other woman would carry out her plans, but content to leave the details in her capable hands, Dana pushed back from the table. She collected the empty mugs and carried them into the kitchen, setting them on the counter next to the coffee maker. Then she headed back towards the bedroom, more than ready to change out of her I-can-be-at-the-office-in-five-minutes outfit and into something oversized and comfy.

Before heading to the dresser, however, she drew back the curtains covering one bedroom window, and stood staring at the silvery world beyond, enjoying the somewhat rare luxury of being able to stand still and enjoy what was right in front of her. With a pang of longing she hadn't even known existed, she realized just how much she'd missed being out in nature, missed connecting with the beauty around her. Briefly, she wondered if Monica would mind doing more of that with her. Even as the question occurred to her, she shook her head in bemusement. Her lover was just this side of being a nature-based pagan. Of course she'd relish taking hikes and shuffling through autumn leaves and admiring spring flowers.

She wondered how she'd gotten so lucky to find someone who not only complemented her, but balanced her so well. She knew better than to think it was anything but rare.

I'm thankful that one of us has the whole "frontierswoman" thing down pat, even down to the flannel.

Dana looked up from the copy of A Christmas Carol propped against her knees, and watched as Monica added more wood to the fire. She vaguely remembered them getting a load of wood delivered earlier in the year, vaguely recalled that the other woman had spent the better part of a day stacking it in the shed. But once it was out of sight, she'd entirely forgotten about it. Especially since she never had quite learned how to make a fire in the first place; it had always been the province of her father and Bill.

She marked her place in the book and shifted around on the couch, shrugging out from under the comforter and her semi-reclining position. Once she was sitting upright, she swung her feet around to the floor, leaning forward. She placed the book on the coffee table next to the couch and picked up her mug. The cocoa was, by now, lukewarm at best, but she drank the dregs of it in a single swallow anyhow. After all the trouble Monica had gone to – heating water in a bucket over the open flames – not wasting it was the least she could do. She had been too engrossed in her book to pay attention to the niceties, but she knew it must have taken a lot of effort and some planning. Hell, she hadn't even known they'd had an old fire-blackened bucket in the house to begin with. Her lover certainly was full of surprises.

Speaking of surprises...She reached over and snagged a piece of toasted bread, then picked up the container of cream cheese. When the other woman first mentioned brunch, she'd expected nothing more than cold cereal, given that they had an electric stove, rather than a gas one. But Monica had toasted hearty chunks of homemade bread on marshmallow sticks over the fire, then fried up a pan of sausage links and apple slices, drizzling them with maple syrup. The food tasted a lot better than Dana would have expected, though maybe part of that was simply the comfort of having a hot meal on a freezing cold day. Whatever the reason, she was glad for it.

She finished spreading the soft cheese over the bread, then placed it on a napkin. Shifting around again, she settled back against the arm of the couch, her legs stretched over the length of it, and snagged the comforter from where it had fallen to the floor. She smoothed it across her lap, then reached over to the side. First she grabbed her book, settling it in her lap. Then she carefully picked up the napkin and bread, setting them on top of the book. As she squirmed slightly to get comfortable, she caught movement and looked up to see Monica standing next to her. The other woman leaned down and grabbed her mug, then carried it over to the fireplace.

Intrigued, Dana watched as she slid a thick stick under the upright bucket handle and used it to hoist the bucket out of the firebox, where it sat to the back and left of the blazing wood. The bucket was placed carefully on the hearth, presumably to cool for a moment, its contents sending up wisps of steam. She wasn't entirely sure what was in it, unless the other woman had opted to boil more water for cocoa.

If Monica didn't seem so focused on her task, she might have asked the obvious question. Instead, she stared with open amazement as the other woman slid heavy gloves onto both hands, one hand grasping the stick under the handle and carefully lifting the bucket, the other hand picking up a smaller piece of wood and carefully tilting the bucket forwards. Dana held her breath, watching as dark liquid sloshed over the lip of the bucket, spilling down into the empty mugs below. It wasn't a neat operation; she could see the splashes on the hearth from across the room. But still – if she'd tried to do the same, she would have probably flooded the floor and missed the cups by the proverbial mile.

The smell of coffee hit her nose and she suddenly remembered what Monica said earlier about not needing the microwave. She opened her mouth and asked the only thing that seemed relevant. "How...?"

When the other woman jerked slightly, Dana felt a hint of guilt for startling her. Luckily, Monica had already put the bucket back on the hearth so there was no danger of her being scalded. She watched as the woman pulled off the gloves, then turned to her with a wink and a warm smile.

"You already know I didn't plan to be an FBI agent; I was going to be a Forest Ranger. During college, I worked for the Forest Service during the summer. You learn a lot when you're out alone in the woods for several days at a time."

Ah right. She recalled a previous discussion about that summer job, but they'd never gotten into much depth about the survival portion of the program. They'd veered more into the "So how did you go from that to criminal justice?" conversation. Once again, she was struck by the sense of how much more she and her lover had to discover about each other. The thought actually warmed her. She mused that most people would probably have the opposite reaction – would be disturbed to realize how many big things the two of them didn't know about each other. But to her, it seemed anything but a negative.

They definitely hadn't rushed into their lives together, hadn't tried to share a lifetime's worth of individual experiences in the space of a few months. They'd taken their time. They'd talked about those issues which were crucial to each of them – what values they needed a partner to respect, what activities they needed a partner to share, what rhythms they expected from a life together. They'd made certain that they were in synch on those "make or break" things before they moved from being occasional lovers to live-in partners. But they still had those moments of epiphany and wonder as they revealed more of themselves to each other. She couldn't quite find the right words, even to explain it to herself, but it was reassuring to know there were still unexplored depths, more reasons for long conversations.

Shaking her head slightly to move past her wandering thoughts, she refocused in time to take the mug Monica handed her. "Thanks. It smells wonderful."

She was graced with a beatific smile before her lover turned back to the fire and busied herself cleaning up the slight mess on the hearth. Dana leaned over, setting the mug of hot, hot coffee down on the table, then turned her attention back to her book and her bread. Vaguely, she was aware of Monica traipsing around, presumably carrying things back to the kitchen, but she tuned out the familiar actions, only noticing when the other woman settled herself on the other end of the couch, taking Dana's feet into her lap and settling in with her own book.

Before long, they were lost in near silence – the only sounds the crackling of the wood on the fire and the creaking of the ice thawing outside the window.

I'm thankful that I have food to eat, a home for shelter, and the freedom to spend time on things I enjoy.

Dana hummed under her breath as she washed the dishes from earlier in the day. It was nearly 8pm and they'd gotten the electricity back on not quite two hours before. Since Monica had done all the work to build and tend the fire and make both lunch and dinner, she'd volunteered to clean up. Though the power was on, she was working by candlelight, not quite ready to embrace the artificial lights, not quite willing to relinquish the sense of peace that the quiet, gentle cadence of the day had given her.

Carefully, she rinsed the silverware she'd just washed, setting the pieces in the basket of the dish drainer. Still humming, she plunged her hands back into the dishwater, reaching for the frying pan soaking in the bottom of the sink. She couldn't remember the last time she'd felt so serene, so relaxed. That was probably a bit of an exaggeration, she knew, since she and Monica had spent many pleasant, quiet evenings together, sipping wine by candlelight or lying on the grass in the backyard, staring at the stars. But in recent months, those moments had been few and far between, both of them stressed by on-going work crises and long, long hours. A few years ago, that wouldn't have bothered her at all; she would, in fact, have found this quiet day annoying because it prevented her from working away from the office.

She considered it a good sign that she'd been anything but annoyed by it today.

She heard a soft noise behind her, giving her just enough warning that she didn't jump when Monica stood behind her and slid her hands around her waist. A soft voice murmured, "Penny for your thoughts?"

Without hesitation, she said, "I was just thinking that we've been letting work get in the way again. Today was really nice and I'd love to have more 'alone together' time."

She trusted her lover to understand that as an observation, not an accusation.

The smile she heard in Monica's voice told her the trust was not misplaced. "Funny…I was thinking the same thing."

Smiling, she finished scrubbing the pan and rinsing off the soap. Balancing it on top of the neatly stacked plates and cups in the dish drainer, she fished around in the bottom of the sink and loosened the stopper in the bottom to drain the water. Catching up the dishtowel, she dried her hands, dropped the towel back on the countertop, and then leaned back against her lover, relaxing into the embrace of the woman's arms around her.

They stood there for several moments, before Dana turned and wrapped her arms around Monica. Pushing up on her toes, she pressed a gentle kiss to the other woman's lips. She felt the arms around her tighten and deepened the kiss, relishing the silky texture against her lips, and the heat of her lover's mouth, opening to her. Reaching up with one hand, she cupped the back of Monica's neck and pulled the woman's head down, her lips and tongue exploring, tasting. When the kiss broke, she found herself breathing heavily, unaccountably pleased to hear the other woman's slight panting.

"Meet me in the living room?" she murmured.

Her lover didn't respond in words, simply released her hold and nodded. She watched Monica pad away before turning back around to finish up her task. Turning the faucet on, she rinsed out the sink, chasing the lingering suds down the drain. Catching up the towel again, she dried her hands thoroughly this time, before folding it neatly and hanging it on the towel rod. Then, she turned her attention to the candles on the shelf above the sink, blowing them out carefully to avoid spraying hot wax on the tile wall behind them. That done, she headed out of the kitchen to rejoin the other woman.

Walking into the living room, she saw that Monica had blown out the candles there as well, but had stoked up the fire so that there was light flickering throughout the room, sending shadows dancing on the walls. The woman had moved the coffee table away from the couch and there was a thick comforter spread across the carpeted floor in front of it. As Dana watched, the other woman finished closing the curtains, though not before she caught a glimpse of a light grey snow sky. She took a moment to be thankful that most of the ice had melted; she didn't even want to imagine the mess of snow falling on top of ice. She took another moment to be thankful that she didn't have to go anywhere tomorrow.

Moving over to the cleared space, she lowered herself to the floor. After a moment of positioning, she was sitting with her back against the couch, legs stretched out with the comforter covering them. She smiled in invitation when Monica walked over from the window to join her. The other woman dropped gracefully to the floor, sliding easily under the comforter.

For several minutes, they simply sat next to each other, arms and legs touching, eyes focused on the fire burning merrily. Then Dana shifted slightly, maneuvering her legs into her lover's lap so that she could turn and face her. The angle was a bit awkward, but she reached out anyhow to run her fingers along the planes of Monica's cheek, caressing softly. It was a gesture that could be interpreted a variety of ways. She'd done that deliberately. Her body was still humming from the kiss in the kitchen, but she didn't want to push the other woman in that direction if she wasn't in the mood to go. Especially since she'd be equally happy just cuddling in front of the fire with the woman she loved.

Scant seconds later, the implied question in the caress was answered for her. The other woman leaned in close and she felt strong arms wrap around her and soft lips press against hers. The kiss was sweet, close-mouthed, tender. Dana reveled in the feel of it, in the overwhelming love she had for this other person. Monica's hands were around her waist, fingers kneading softly against the small of her back. She let her own hands wander down her lover's back, then slid one between their bodies to firmly caress the woman's breast. Through the kiss, she heard the soft groan, felt the nipple harden under her fingers.

Pulling back from the kiss, Dana looked up, and saw intense longing on the face so close to her own. She pulled her legs out of the woman's lap, then shifted slightly so she could rise up onto her knees. In a quick motion, she swung around, straddling her lover, sitting in her lap so they were face to face. Seeing the heat in chocolate eyes, she leaned forward, her mouth claiming Monica's.

Dana smiled when her lover's lips parted, allowing her access. With lips and tongue, she explored the wet warmth, occasionally pulling back just enough to lightly nip the woman's lower lip between her teeth. She felt strong hands slide down from her waist to her ass, the soft caresses sparking the heat building within her. It never ceased to amaze her that the woman's gentle touches aroused her to new heights, just as she was still amazed that her lover responded so thoroughly to her rough and demanding strokes.

Yin and yang. Balance.

Deepening the kiss, achingly aware of the hands caressing her, she busied herself with unbuttoning Monica's shirt. Within moments, she managed the trick and slid her hands across bare breasts, grateful that the woman hadn't worn a bra. She teased one nipple to a hard point, then pinched it hard, drinking in the way her lover gasped into the kiss. Repeating the move with the other nipple earned another gasp, and she nipped sharply at the woman's lower lip, reveling in the soft sounds her lover was making.

Dana managed one last coherent thought before her entire focus narrowed to the sensations of their lovemaking.

I'm thankful for the life I have and I'm thankful I have someone special to share it with.

The End

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