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How Does She Know

How Does She Know

By Mizhowlinmad (HBF), 2010


Rating: PG

Summary: Response to the ATSB Quick Pick "Remote." Murdock wants to take Kelly to see something spectacular, and he knows just the right spot. 2nd in the "Courtship of Dr. Kelly Stevens" series.

Disclaimer: Murdock and Kelly belong to SJC and Universal. This is just my little way of being on the jazz and under the stars. The title is borrowed from the movie Enchanted.



            "Murdock, where are we going?" she asked him again, less playfully this time.

            "Good things come to those who wait." He leaned towards her, grinned, squeezed her hand.

            He did seem to know where he was going; she'd give him that.  They were more than two hours out of L.A. now, and even Barstow was a faint memory. But the pickup's tires provided a comforting thrum on the asphalt, and Tanya Tucker sang softly on the AM station.

            "Can I at least have a hint?"

            But he just shook his head, still smiling. "Nope. No hints. But you're gonna love it. Promise."

            "Okay." Kelly leaned back as far as the seat would allow. She had to admit the desert was beautiful. Not the high desert, like the one that surrounded her ranch house in Bedford Falls, but the kind that you saw in all those Westerns. Rolling sand dunes turned magically silver under a crescent moon, the distant purple outlines of mountains, Joshua trees looking like lonely aliens stranded on earth by their mothership.

            Neither of them had said much for the last few hours. Maybe it was nerves. He'd come to her door just before sunset, looking sharp in a navy sports coat (along with a t-shirt stamped with the imprint of a tuxedo) and neatly pressed khakis, a radiant smile on his face. She'd debated long and hard what to wear. She still felt self-conscious in her gauzy lilac sundress. When he told her how pretty she looked, she blushed, just like she always did. But he put her at ease, offering her his arm and bringing her to "her chariot," as he'd called it, a nicely restored Ford pickup with plenty of chrome. And he'd brought a basket stuffed to the brim with her favorite French dip sandwiches and au jus, devilled eggs, coleslaw, a whole cherry pie, and, strangely enough, a big thermos of grape Kool-Aid.

            "Can't have wine if I'm gonna be drivin', now," he'd said with a rueful shrug.

            That was just like Murdock, taking a picnic lunch at the hour when everyone else in L.A. was having dinner at fancy French restaurants.

            She liked that about him. He was a square peg in a world full of round-hole guys. Not like cautious, practical, homebody her. Her dad had once told her that opposites attract; there had to be something to that.


            "Yeah, pretty girl?"

            The dim light hid her slight flush. "I feel like I'm in one of those Teddy Krueger movies. What if we get a flat or something out here?"

            He chuckled. "Don't you worry. That big angry mudsucker taught me everything I need to know about fixin' things if they break."

            "Big angry what?" Kelly was aghast.

            "Didn't I ever tell you that's what I call B.A.?"

            "To his face?"

            "Uh-huh." He grinned.

            She shook her head. "I'm sure you mean it in the nicest possible way," she laughed.

            "Of course! Just like when he calls me 'crazy fool,' you know," said Murdock.

            His face just lit up when he smiled. He made her want to smile too. "But you are a crazy fool, Murdock. And I mean that in the nicest possible way." It was the most she'd said that evening, and she meant it.

            "Aw, you shouldn't have," he said after a moment in his best Gary Cooper voice.

            Ol' Bocephus replaced Tanya Tucker on the radio. They'd turned off the two-lane highway onto a dirt road barely visible in the moonlight.

            Kelly wanted to say something, but thought better of it. It wasn't like he was taking her out in the middle of nowhere to cut her up with a chainsaw and feed her to the coyotes. More likely, he'd say 'howdy' to them, then whip out a fiddle, break out some S'mores, and play an old campfire tune so they could howl along in a coyote chorus.

            She fought the persistent little smile on her lips. That was another thing she privately liked so much about him. He was as much a singer as she was tone-deaf.

            And when he sings "And I Love Her…"

            "And here we are."

            Wherever "here" was. The truck's brakes squealed softly. Murdock hurried from the driver's seat to open her door for her. "Milady," he said in the plummy tone of an English valet, bowing deeply.

            "Oh, Murdock, you're too much," she said with a smile, letting him help her down.

            "So, what do you think?"

            "I think…" The breath caught in her throat. They stood atop a low mesa surrounded by an infinite stretch of silvery sand. Somewhere close, a tenacious lone cricket chirped in a 4/4 rhythm. And the stars…so many…she'd never seen them like that.

            "Wow," she finally managed in a low, reverent whisper. "How…did you find this place?"

            He shrugged. "Colonel brings us out here for PT and weapons practice sometimes. Nice and private. All BLM owned. Nothin' but jackrabbits and horned toads and those big ol' tarantulas to bother us."

            "Tarantulas?" Kelly nervously rubbed her forearms, though the desert night was still warm and dry.

            But he just winked at her. "I'm just kiddin', pretty girl. You think I'd bring my date to a place with tarantulas? What kinda guy do you think I am?" He returned from the pickup with the picnic basket, along with a fuzzy checked afghan, a transistor radio, and the Kool-Aid thermos.

            "A crazy one?" She kidded him.

            "Absolutely, certifiably." At her side, he brushed her cheek with the softest of kisses. "Where do you wanna sit?"

            They spread the afghan on a flat patch of sand ten yards from the pickup, placing the generous spread of food atop it. Murdock, after considerable thumbing of the dial, found a soft classical station on the radio.

            "Sorry, no Beatles. Hope you don't mind," he said sheepishly.

            "I don't. This," she indicated the radio, "sounds familiar. What is it?"

            He sat beside her on the blanket, offering a plastic tumbler filled with Kool-Aid. "Invitation to the Dance." His brown eyes twinkled, filled with starlight. "Maybe, after dinner?"

            "Maybe, after dinner," she agreed, raising her glass. "Here's to our…three-month anniversary?"

            "Just when I thought you'd forgotten," said Murdock, clicking his glass to hers. "You know what the traditional gift is for that?"

            Kelly felt her throat tighten. Was he going to give her something? She was still finding tiny feathers here and there from the time he'd "made it snow" in her living room by cutting open a down duvet. "Murdock, I…"

            His lips interrupted her; she was astonished at her lack of resistance as his tongue gently intertwined with hers. That was a first. Sweet, shy Kelly, lucky to get a peck on the cheek from the awkward farm boy who'd been her last-ditch formal date at vet school…and here she was, actually getting a great deal of enjoyment out of a guy with his tongue inside her mouth.

            Stop being so damn…clinical about everything! Relax!

            She did, enjoying his scent, his taste. When she finally pulled away, she giggled.

            "What? Did I do something wrong?" he asked, cupping her chin in one hand.

            "No…it's just…I never knew grape Kool-Aid could taste that good," she admitted.

            "Yeah, it sure hits the spot." He raised his glass again. "And here's to a beautiful girl who agreed to come with a crazy guy to the middle of nowhere for a starlit picnic."

            "Now you're just being silly…"

            He gave her one of those looks. Those I'm-serious looks. "I'd never joke about something like that," he said somberly, but even so, the corners of his mouth tugged upward.

            "You are silly. That's why I l….I mean, that's why I like you so much," she corrected.

            Did I just almost say that?

            "Well, um…" It wasn't common for Murdock to be at a loss for words. He was now.

            "So what were you going to say? Before?" Kelly offered, changing the subject.

            "Oh, that." His momentary embarrassment vanished, and he pointed to his watch. "If this here is correct, and all my calculations are right, we're gonna be in for a treat pretty soon."

            "Is that why you brought me way out here?"

            He fed her a small bite of cherry pie. "Well, that, and the cafeteria back at the VA just doesn't have the same ambience, y'know?"

            She had to admit, the food was delicious. The scenery was austerely beautiful beyond what words could describe. Not to mention the quality of the company.

            "It's not a meteor shower, is it, Murdock? The Perseids and Leonids aren't until later this year, and it can't be an eclipse, because the moon is in the wrong phase, and…"

            A soft kiss interrupted her.

            "That's one thing I adore about you. Not only are you a pretty girl, you're such a smart girl."

            She didn't know quite how to respond. "Murdock, I went through four years undergrad, then vet school. It wasn't a bunch of basket-weaving courses, you know."

            But the look he gave her softened her immediately. "Of course I know. And you're a lot smarter than I'll ever be…hell, I didn't even graduate high school."

            "You can fly anything. You can do all those funny voices. You're a trained commando," Kelly said, seeing him perk up ever so slightly. "I just took a lot of biology and chemistry and, in this case, astronomy classes. There's different kinds of 'smart,' H.M."

            "You're right." It was amazing how much those two words could mean. He quirked his head to the side. "So, know what the surprise is yet?"

            While they'd been talking, a faint shimmer overhead had given way to a pulsating, shimmying curtain in shades of pink and green.

            "The aurora? In California?" Kelly squealed with delight. "Oh, I haven't seen it since we went to Canada when I was little!"

            Murdock looked to the sky, then back at her. "It's rare and beautiful. And you are rare and beautiful." He took a deep breath as if to dive underwater.

            "I love you, Kelly Stevens."

            She felt his hot breath as he planted another kiss on her cheek. His eyes were beseeching, full of warmth.

            Oh, God, what do I say?

            It turned out she didn't have to say anything. She surrendered to his kiss, put her arms around his shoulders, melted.


            "Hmmmm?" He had moved on from her lips to the hollow of her neck.

            "I…I think maybe I could use some more Kool-Aid."

            He kept at it. "Sounds like a great idea."

            Above them, the aurora danced, a coat of many colors sparkling with thousands of tiny diamond stars.




How Does She Know by Mizhowlinmad



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