SUMMARY: When three lives intersect, a triangle is formed.
PAIRINGS: Scully/Skinner, Mulder/Scully
DISCLAIMER: Not mine.
DATE POSTED: August 1998
WORD COUNT: 1,811 for this part
Skinner sits back in his chair and turns his head to the window, idly watching the lights of the night traffic below. Removing his glasses, he rubs his eyes, exhausted, but unwilling to get up and drive home.
He doesn't want to go home. Not now.
The executive suite is silent on a Saturday evening, almost eerie in its stillness. Just the faint rumbling of the air-conditioning system and the occasional sound of a phone ringing somewhere off in the distance. The ringer on his own desk phone is turned off.
Reaching into his desk drawer, he pulls out a bottle of Glenfiddich he has secreted there. He isn't one to drink at work, but there are times. Yes, there are times when a stiff drink is necessary. He uncaps the bottle and pours a couple of inches into his coffee mug, takes a long sip, the mellow fire of the Scotch filling his mouth in a strangely comforting way.
Just this morning he woke up to sunshine spilling in through her windows. Such a pretty, feminine room, with its golden walls and framed prints of flowers, the air smelling of her vanilla candles. She wasn't lying next to him, but that didn't concern him. An early riser by nature, she was most likely making coffee or taking one of her long, lazy baths, her body draped in fragrant bubbles.
A smile crossed his face as he remembered the night before. He had come over with bags full of groceries and taught her to make a genuine Valencian paella, something he learned a long time ago on his honeymoon. To fit in with the theme she put on a CD of Jessye Norman's Carmen and they spent hours in her little kitchen, companionably chopping and mixing.
Somewhere around 10:00 the paella was finished and they joked that they were now true Spaniards, eating so late at night. They opened a bottle of Rioja and made a picnic on the living room floor, feeding each other bits of shrimp and clam, laughing at the mess of shells and rice they were making.
And her kiss, he remembered the kiss as she leaned across the plates, her mouth tasting of saffron and wine, her tongue thrusting into his mouth. He acted the part of the romantic hero and swept her up in his arms and carried her off to the bedroom.
She made him feel like a gallant knight.
She brought out a streak of fancy in him he never knew existed.
Skinner climbed out of bed and found his jockey shorts strewn on the floor and slipped them on, along with his t-shirt, not yet feeling comfortable enough to march around her apartment in the nude. Out in the living room, bright with sunshine, he could see her sitting on the couch, her back to him. All he could see were her radiant head of red hair and her bathrobe covered shoulders.
Her shoulders were shaking convulsively. For one wild, hopeful moment Skinner thought she was laughing until it came to him that she was crying.
No, he thought.
Coming up behind her, he touched her shoulder. Startled, she swung her head around and he saw her blue eyes were red and brilliant with tears. Her mouth opened, but no sound came out.
He just stood there dumbly, unable to find words.
"I'm sorry," she whispered and a few more tears slid down her cheeks. It was difficult for him to see her cry. She was ordinarily so strong, so in control.
"I can't do this anymore," she said, wiping her face with a balled-up tissue. "It's not enough."
He nodded. This is it, he thought, I knew this day would come.
"It's not you," she sighed and her eyes were full of remorse.
"I know," he said, sitting down next to her and sliding a strand of her satiny hair between his fingers, feeling clumsy and stupid. Why couldn't he have something profound and wonderful to say at this moment?
A long minute passed in silence between them, neither looking at the other. Finally, he gained the courage to ask, "It's him, isn't it?"
Her face was still and she didn't exactly nod, but the slight dip of her pointed chin was enough of an answer.
Reaching out, he placed his large, worn hand over her small, white one. "You love him." It wasn't a question, but a statement of fact.
Again, the merest lowering of her chin in assent.
He stood up heavily, feeling suddenly drained of all energy.
Lowering her face into her hands, she mumbled, "I'm sorry."
Bending down, he kissed the top of her head. If anything, he was going to do his damnedest to be noble about this. "I am, too." He turned and walked into the bedroom to reclaim his clothes.
When he left the bedroom, she was no longer sitting on the couch. He could hear the spray of the shower and her sobs over the running water. It seemed an eternity for him to walk to the front door and even longer for the door to shut behind him with a decisive thud.
Tonight he can't bring himself to hate her, to be angry with her. God knows, he'd love to. It's blessedly simple to act the part of the injured party. He is too aware that he was the interloper in something that has been building for a long time.
He can't hate the other, either, having a strange affection and respect for Mulder. His tenacity in his quest for the truth is something to be truly admired.
It doesn't make it any easier to know these things, though. Doesn't make it hurt any less.
Later that morning he arrived at his own place and spent a long time sitting at the edge of his unmade bed, one of the pillows still dented in the shape of her head. Glinting golden on the white of the pillowcase lay one of her hairs, and he just could not bear to pluck it off and throw it away. She slept here, he thought, she slept here and I loved her.
Finally, he stood up and went to the bathroom. In the shower he found her bar of almond soap. Taking one last sniff, he inhaled the sweet aroma of the soap and then he took it to the kitchen and unceremoniously dumped it in the trash can.
There is a tentative knock at his office door and he looks up, startled and praying it isn't her. He can't face her just yet, although he knows he will have to during the week. Instead, Mulder walks in, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, carrying a thick file.
"I say your light on and I thought I'd bring the Carrey file in while I had the chance," the younger man says.
"Working late, Mulder?" Skinner's heart is beating rapidly.
Mulder ruefully shrugs. "Don't have much of a social life, sir."
He tries his best to laugh. "Neither do I."
Mulder walks over to the desk and sets down the file. "Well, here it is. I have to be going." He turns around to leave the office.
Putting his glasses back on, Skinner calls out, "Agent Mulder."
"Yes, sir?" Skinner suddenly realizes that Mulder doesn't know, has no idea how lucky he is.
"May I offer you a word of personal advice?" He sits up straighter, going into authoritative mode, finding it gives him the courage he needs to say what he is going to say next.
"Of course." Mulder stands there expectantly.
"Love is a rare thing, Mulder. Use it wisely. Stop wasting time." Skinner can't believe he's saying this to him, but those words needed to be said.
Mulder looks confused for a moment, and then realization dawns on his handsome face. "Thank you for the advice, " he says evenly, the tone unreadable.
Skinner sits back in his chair and raises his hand dissmissively to the younger agent. "That's all."
Mulder flashes him an embarrassed grin. "Good night." And then he is gone.
Use it wisely, Skinner thinks.
It is not like him to be so generous. He's a territorial man, used to defending what is his with a fierce passion. But she never belonged to him, he knows. She wasn't an object to be possessed, but entirely her own entity. A choice eventually had to be made, and she made it.
All along he knew who she'd choose.
It doesn't make him love her any less. He respects her for being honest to the end.
The first time they were together it was a surprise to them both. A freezing cold, drizzly winter night in Little Rock, Arkansas, Mulder and Scully out on a terrible case, tracking a murderer of little boys. Skinner had flown out in the late evening, part of a task force there to investigate possible negligence on the part of the field office there, and arrived to find her alone in her hotel room, looking small and lost in her bathrobe.
Her vulnerable image didn't fool him. He knew exactly what that woman was made of.
Mulder had already gone to sleep in his room down the hall and Skinner got slowly drunk with her on bottles of vodka from the room's mini bar. Feeling suddenly possessed with the mad horrible wanting that had lain dormant in him for years, he took the potentially dangerous leap and kissed her. He was surprised to find her responding with equal fervency.
When their fast, blunt lovemaking was over, she rolled onto her side and lightly touched his face with her warm hand. "I can't promise you anything, Skinner," she said, her face grave and young.
He simply replied, "I know."
But her warning didn't stop him from falling into the abyss, did it? He just could not help himself; it was something akin to a reflex action. I live, I breathe, I love Dana Scully.
He wonders if he'll ever cry over this. When was the last time he shed genuine tears?
Finishing up the last dregs of his medicinal slug of Scotch, he gets out of the chair and stretches out his aching back and shoulders. He feels old tonight.
Enough thinking for one night, it's time to go home.
In the back of his mind he pictures Mulder, driving over to her apartment. She opens the door in her blue and white striped bathrobe, looking wan and tired, but she smiles to see his expectant face. Ushering him inside, she sits with him on the couch and they begin to talk in the strange, coded language only they share. Certain things are decided.
He knows this is what will happen tonight.
Locking the door behind him, he starts the long walk down the hall to the elevator.