Title: Dazzle
By: Jessica Harris
Rating: Pretty much pg. M/Sk, 1/1
Disclaimer: They're Chris Carter's boys
Notes: This is a slightly fragmentary little piece, but I hope you like it just the same... it is in part a little tribute to Raymond Chandler's 'The Long Goodbye'. Chandler is interesting - in spite of all the macho chest-beating private-eye stuff, there seems to be a lot of unspeaking *tenderness* between men - they look out for each other, take care of each other - in his stories that I find quite moving.
Thanks to Spike for her way with words on this one!
Feedback: craved at lumpj@hotmail.com

By: Jessica Harris

The light hurts his eyes these days. He feels like he's always squinting, shielding his eyes with his hands, cringing and ducking and cowering away from the light like some sort of over-acted silent movie Nosferatu.

The light hurts his eyes and his clothes chafe his skin and wherever he goes it's either too hot or too cold. He can't sit still anymore, can't seem to get comfortable. It's like someone has peeled some kind of invisible layer from him, and it's left him exposed, new and raw and vulnerable.

Tonight a TV commercial had made him cry. That seemed like the final indignity, somehow, to have all the happy-recipient-of-loving-long-distance-phone-call faces irresistibly blur and waver before his eyes while the canned music welled cloyingly in the background. So he'd shut the TV off and thrown on a jacket and stomped out into the night, intent on the 7-11 or somewhere else comfortingly banal and fluorescent.

Only the lights, of course, had hurt his eyes, and he'd ducked out again almost as soon as he'd stepped through the door.

He's ashamed of himself. He's always talked about the truth, but give him a taste of it in his own life and he starts to fall to pieces. He knows where he's going now, though he doesn't recall making the decision. But he knows as well that he won't actually do anything. He'll simply stand outside of Skinner's building, looking up at Skinner's darkened windows, until the doorman gets nervous and tells him to move on. He only hopes it's not the same doorman as last time.

It had been the Gimlets. He'd been in a miserable mood after another endless wire-tapping day, and he'd dropped in at the bar near the Hoover on his way home. Skinner had been there already, a strange misty pale green drink in front of him.

"I'd never have taken you for a girl-drink drunk," Mulder had said, just to get a rise out of him. Skinner had merely scowled and then, to Mulder's surprise, gestured at the stool next to him.

"Sit down, Agent Mulder," he'd said, then waved at the bar-tender and, once the second green drink appeared, set it down squarely in front of Mulder with a gesture that brooked no opposition. "This is no girl drink, it's a gimlet. Philip Marlowe drank them in 'The Long Goodbye', and you can't get much manlier than Marlowe. Try it."

"I don't think 'manlier' is a real word," Mulder had muttered, but he'd tried the drink in any case, and it had been surprisingly good, tart and cool with a ginny, juniper tang.

Surprisingly good, and surprisingly lethal. "I didn't know you were a Chandler fan, Sir," he'd said.

"Actually, I prefer James M. Cain," Skinner had replied, and then somehow several gimlets later they were still talking about books, and when Mulder tried to stand up the room spun around him and he nearly fell.

Skinner had looked contrite. "Didn't mean to get you drunk, Mulder," he'd said. "They creep up on you if you're not used to them. I'd better get you into a cab."

"I think," Mulder had said miserably, "I think you'd better get me to the bathroom first. I think I'm going to be sick."

And he had been. Copiously, wretchedly sick, the lime-juice burning in his throat like acid. Skinner had briskly and unselfconsciously helped him, holding his head and handing him wet paper towels, and then before his head had stopped spinning he'd found himself being whisked out of the bar on Skinner's arm and pushed and prodded into the back of a cab. Skinner had climbed in after him, and given Mulder's own address. Mulder fell asleep sometime during the drive, and woke, embarrassed, to find that he was leaning against the bigger man, head tucked snugly into his neck, and that Skinner was shaking him gently. "We're here, Mulder," he was saying, "this is your place." Then, watching Mulder's unsteady exit, he'd sighed and added, "I think I'd better make sure you get in OK."

Mulder didn't like to think about the rest. About how Skinner had had to prop him up against the door and search Mulder's pockets for his keys. About how his own drunken attempts at cooperation had, finally, made Skinner mutter, "girl-drink drunk yourself," and then laugh, a deep, rumbling chuckle Mulder had never heard before. And about the effect that laugh had had on him, and the way that Skinner's hands searching his front pockets had frozen abruptly at what they discovered.

About what he himself had done. He hadn't ignored it, which Skinner, ever the gentleman, would probably have let him do. He'd tried to excuse himself, to *explain* somehow, and in doing so had heard impossible things coming out of his mouth. "Sorry," he'd slurred, "I just ... so damned stone-faced all the time, sir, I always wondered what you'd look like ... beautiful laugh, and then, then you touch me..."

Beneath the drunkenness panic had blossomed at what he heard himself saying, at the way that the other man, laughter vanished, was watching him. And so, trying to stop his own flood of words, he'd done the final, unforgiveable thing. He'd leaned forward, and kissed Skinner.

He'd thought, for a moment, that Walter had kissed him back. But then the bigger man's hand had found his keys and yanked them roughly from his pocket, and he'd pushed Mulder away and fumbled the key into the lock. Once he'd got the door open, he'd fled without a backwards glance, and Mulder, numb, had staggered inside and welcomed unconsciousness.

And when he woke the next morning, the light had hurt his eyes. Three weeks later, it still does.