Entree
an M/Sk story
by LynnZo
This is X-Files slash, a m/m relationship, so if that offends you, go have a snack instead of reading on. This was written 3/27/99; has 3,140 words, and not a hint of plot.
Disclaimers: The characters of Walter Skinner and Fox Mulder are, in whole and in part, the property of Chris Carter, Ten-Thirteen Productions, and Fox Television. This story is in no way intended to infringe on their copyrights. And, when it is done, I will return them whole, albeit well-fed, with all their parts in working order.
FanFic Disclaimer: If you like any of this story at all, go read Anne's stuff. Mine would have to be called derivative of hers (if one were feeling kind), or, well, outright plagaristic (if one were feeling a little low on the chocolate quotient and therefore a bit cranky). All I can say in self-defense is that I wrote it to cheer her up, and she gave her permission for me to post it.
Spoilers: Nothing specific, but this story is definitely set around the first two or three episodes of the sixth season.
Rated: PG-13 for UST, a few lustful thoughts. Perhaps one or two unhealthy food choices.
Notes: Once upon a time, there was a genuinely good slash writer. (No, not me. Keep reading.) And, as sometimes happens, she would occasionally get stuck on a plot point, and say to me, "I don't know what should happen next." My considered advice was usually, "have them go to dinner." Food is a critical component of my life. And, as time passed and this genuinely good writer wrote more stories, she'd get stuck on more plot points, and I'd always say, as if for the first time, "Hey! Why don't they go to dinner?" Eventually, she'd look at me in exasperation and say, "and I'm *not* sending them to dinner." But, I still had this intense desire for dinner, so I held my breath and took the plunge. Here, for your delectation, is my very first M/Sk story. And, Anne, they go to dinner.


Entree
By LynnZo

AD Skinner rounded the corner in the Hoover Building that would take him to his next meeting. His next meeting. Just the thought of it tightened the tension between his shoulder blades. If he'd known how most of his time would have been spent as AD, back when he accepted the promotion, well...

And then suddenly the day was looking brighter. Coming out of Kersh's outer office, ahead of him, was Mulder. Alive. Looking reasonably healthy. And *here*. In DC, on a Friday afternoon. Skinner's steps faltered, slowed as he thought of everything he'd wanted to say to Mulder in the last few weeks. Was it time? It was time.

Mulder saw him, stopped of his own accord, a welcoming smile on his face. He'd been smiling at Skinner a lot, lately. The older man couldn't decide if he was genuinely glad to see him, or just glad not to have to *report* to him anymore. Still it made it easy to slow his steps, to stop a few feet from Mulder, to let his grim expression soften involuntarily into a smile.

"In trouble again, Agent Mulder?" He indicated Kersch's office, and Mulder shrugged, his smile slipping.

"Nothing unusual, sir," Mulder sounded defensive, and Skinner watched as his shoulders slumped a little, realizing with dismay that his own teasing comment had surely wrecked the instant of camaraderie they'd had. *Shit.* Not a good beginning.

"He'll settle down a little when he gets to know you. Give it time."

Mulder shrugged again, obviously torn between appreciating the support and suspicious of its intent. He settled for a careful, "thanks," and stepped back, away. He was leaving.

Skinner felt an instant of panic. Without any further attempt at small talk, he blurted, "Have dinner with me."

Mulder stopped. "Dinner?"

"Yes, dinner."

Mulder stepped in closer, close enough that Skinner could feel the heat pouring off his body. Too close for casual conversation. Skinner shifted and cast a careful look around the hallway, realizing as he did so that he was being paranoid. With Mulder's reputation for intensity, no one would pay the slightest attention to them. Unless Mulder took a swing at him, of course. Which was entirely possible, if he figured out too soon what Skinner really wanted. He was saving that revelation for later, in neutral territory. If he could get Mulder there.

"What is it, sir? Is there something you need to tell me?"

This was the tricky part. Skinner met his gaze full on, determined not to let a hint of his insecurity show. "Yes, but it's...personal. Not related to the Bureau."

He followed this up with a glance around the hallway with what he hoped was a reasonably furtive manner, enough to pique Mulder's interest, not enough to seem unhinged. The way he felt now, it was a fine balance.

Mulder's eyes narrowed, Skinner would see the wheels turning behind them. Personal. The profiler in Mulder was working on that, sorting through possibilities, gauging Skinner's motives. Skinner nearly held his breath. He was counting on Mulder's curiosity.

"...All right. Dinner. Where do you want to meet?" This time, it was Mulder casting a seemingly casual glance around the corridor. The men and women hurrying by seemed to be paying no attention. Seemed to be.

Skinner knew he was smiling, couldn't help it. Yes, it was only a beginning. But it *was* a beginning, and, right now, that was enough. He strove for a casualness he didn't feel. "It's not an assignation, Mulder, just dinner. This is not an X-File. Or a case. I'll meet you at your place, say about eight?"

Mulder nodded approval, and moved on down the corridor with a friendly wave. The AD in Skinner felt a moment of guilt at the shameless way he'd manipulated his agent into seeing him, then brought himself up short. His agent. Mulder wasn't his agent any more. The thought left him unaccountably cheerful all throughout his next meeting.

***

Skinner looked around as he followed Mulder through the glass doors. The restaurant was full enough to make him glad he'd called ahead for reservations, but somehow quiet, subdued. There were hundreds of these in the DC area. Just the kind of place where two businessmen, still in their suit-and-tie uniforms, carried the business of the day into the evening, eating overpriced food they barely tasted, minds on the job at hand. The job at hand. Now that he'd gotten Mulder here, time for step two. Skinner swallowed convulsively, and wondered if he was going to be able to go through with this.

They seated themselves in the round booth the hostess waved them into. High sides, padded seats, this must be why the restaurant seemed so quiet. Once they sat, they seemed alone in the room. Skinner, stomach clenched with nervousness, suddenly wasn't sure that was such a good idea.

The room was warm, and Mulder was suddenly very close. In desperation, Skinner pulled off his suit coat, folding it neatly and laying it on the seat between the two men. That was better. He flexed his arms, grateful to be released at last from the heavy layers of wool. He caught Mulder's eyes following the stretch and pulled it in abruptly.

"Long day, sir?" Mulder's voice was teasing, but his eyes were kind, and he followed Skinner's example, laying his suit jacket on top of the other one on the seat. He even reached up and loosened his tie.

"Long *week*, Mulder. And you don't have to call me sir. After all, I'm not your boss any more."

Mulder blinked at him in surprise, then nodded uncertainly. There was an awkward silence, mercifully broken by the waitress bringing menus.

They gave her their drink order, but she lingered, reciting a long litany of daily "specials" and by the time Skinner got rid of her, Mulder had pushed the menu aside. He hadn't shown the slightest interest in any of the "specials," and had ordered only iced tea.

Skinner turned to catch him in a sudden yawn, reaching up to dig the heels of both hands into his eyes, rubbing hard. "Okay, so you're not my boss any more. Why do I get the impression you're enjoying that more than you should...uh, Walter?" When he looked up, he was grinning.

"Because I can never count on you to behave yourself in public, Agent Mulder," but Skinner was grinning back at him. "Tired?"

"Yes. Just got back from Kansas City. Have you ever *been* to Kansas City?"

Skinner chuckled, "Can't be that bad."

Mulder gave an exaggerated shudder, "You'd never guess."

Skinner shifted a little, uncomfortable. "Mulder." he started, then had to stop and breathe a second, which only made it worse. Mulder must have cleaned up after work, he smelled of soap, and toothpaste, and. something that was just Mulder. He tried again. "Forget Kansas City. Let's...put the Bureau aside, for now. Just...dinner."

Well, it wasn't his most coherent sentence ever, but Mulder seemed to get it. Bless him. He nodded genially, sipped at his iced tea.

A moment passed, suddenly Mulder looked back up at him with a wicked twinkle, "*Personal*, right?"

Damn him. He couldn't have guessed. Could he? Skinner felt his stomach clench again in either anticipation or dread. Around Mulder, it was sometimes hard to tell which.

***

Skinner spent the next 45 minutes in a daze. They talked, and ate, and he saw himself as from a distance, his entire attention on Mulder, and on trying not to seem like his entire attention was on Mulder. Or something. He realized suddenly that he was losing track of his plan. He had planned to be teasing, slightly seductive, to see how Mulder reacted -- if he might be receptive to the proposition Skinner planned...hoped to make. Later. Instead, he felt he was drowning in Mulder, in the rare pleasure of being relatively alone with the younger man. He was watching Mulder's hands...on his knife, cutting up a fried pork chop that Skinner was just sure exceeded his entire daily requirement for both salt and saturated fat. He watched Mulder load up a baked potato with sour cream and butter, a taste that Skinner had only vague memories of. He looked down at his own grilled chicken and steamed vegetables with regret. A low cholesterol count was all well and good, but little consolation at dinner.

He put down his own knife and fork, and went back to watching Mulder.

Those hands. How many times had he seen Mulder communicate with his hands things he couldn't, or wouldn't, say aloud. Skinner flashed unexpectedly on Mulder, sitting in the hard wooden chair in his office, squinting not at all in the bright sunlight, raising a hand to run it impatiently through his hair, wanting to be up, moving, not sitting in a chair explaining himself, justifying budgets, details of the bureaucracy that kept his job going. The gesture always distracted Skinner, even in mid-rant, hitting him straight in the gut with feelings he didn't need, didn't want. It made Mulder seem boyish, a little fragile, and Skinner sometimes came down harder on him as a result. Didn't he realize the risks he took? How easily the wrong move could end it all, before Skinner had a chance to...

Mulder was speaking again, and Skinner started a little, coming out of his reverie. "What?" Oh, that was brilliant. Focus, Marine.

Mulder wrapped his hand around his coffee cup. "I said, what is it? What have you got for me?" Soft voice, this time, confidential voice. The table was cleared, they had a few minutes before the waitress would come back again. Clearly, Mulder was ready to face whatever it was, and Skinner knew with a sinking heart that he had succeeded too well. Mulder was expecting a case, a mystery to solve, something to do with his work. Suddenly, his own motivations for asking Mulder to dinner just seemed too small, too petty.

He couldn't say it. Didn't know how. But, sitting there in the subdued lighting, with all Mulder's intensity, his focus, just a foot away, he couldn't stop either. He wanted this, wanted Mulder, and although it was still a violation of Bureau rules, with Mulder reporting to someone else now, it was possible. Just. If they were careful.

Skinner felt a moment of despair. He'd been waiting so long... "I'm not your boss any more," he tried helplessly, again, feeling as foolish as he knew he must sound. He glanced back down at Mulder's hands, which had pushed the coffee cup aside, and were waiting, with infinite patience, on the table. He had a sudden, blinding vision of those hands on his body. The thought took him, held him captive, and without thought, he reached out and captured one of Mulder's hands with his own.

Mulder didn't move, his placid face still showing nothing more than mild concern. He hunched his shoulders, moving his upper body even closer to Skinner, even scooted a little closer on the bench seat. "What is it? Walter, you can tell me." He still stumbled a bit over the unfamiliar first name, but his sincerity was palpable.

Skinner tightened his hand, knowing the waitress would come, of course she would, any moment she'd come around the corner of the concealing booth and catch him here, holding hands with his agent. No. Not his agent. Not anymore. Maybe not even friend. The thought gave him a sort of gallows courage, and he looked up, met Mulder's eyes with his own. He felt a deep shiver take him from inside, from his guts. Now or never. He teased Mulder's hand over, slid their palms together with a sensuous glide that even Mulder couldn't mistake, closed his thumb warmly around the soft pad of Mulder's palm. He imagined he could feel the younger man's pulse, quiet, steady. He met his eyes, and waited, hoping against hope that Mulder could hear what he didn't have words for, didn't know how to ask.

And Mulder got it. Without a word, with just that slide of skin to skin, he got it. Skinner could see it hit him, hit home. One moment Mulder was all quiet composure, gentle concern, the next he was turned to stone.

A long moment. Skinner stopped breathing, an instant of real panic sending his guts into free-fall, and he felt a little sick.

"*I'm not your boss anymore,*" Mulder said slowly, and there was a glint of amusement, suddenly, in his eyes. He folded his fingers around Skinner's, not caressing, not yet, but holding. Holding. "This is it, isn't it? This is what you've been trying to say?"

Skinner nodded, dumbly, blessing Mulder's analytical skills. Yes.

"*Personal,* you said. And I never saw it coming." Mulder leaned back on the bench, flexed his shoulders. Another puzzle solved, his body language said plainly.

Skinner tightened his hand, encouraged. He hadn't said yes, but then, he hadn't let go. He had to ask, had to know. "Mulder. Have you ever..."

"No." The word was sure, but his manner shifted, suddenly tense. There was something. Skinner's eyes narrowed, he leaned closer without realizing it.

"Ever wanted to?"

Mulder didn't answer immediately, but something flashed in his eyes, something dark and exciting. Skinner thrilled to see it. Yes, there was something. He had to ask, had to know. "Kry---"

"No." Mulder cut him off, almost as though he didn't want that word spoken, didn't want it hanging in the air between them. More quietly, "No." A glance away, he swallowed, and that's when the waitress came around the corner.

Not Krycek. Walter felt the relief lighten the strain across his shoulders, and he looked up at the waitress with a genuine smile that only faltered when he felt Mulder's hand slip, as unobtrusively as possible, away from his to wrap once again around his coffee cup.

No, they didn't want any more coffee, yes, she could bring the check. The little courtesies of dinner in a restaurant were second nature to Skinner, which was good, since all of his attention was still on Mulder. She had barely turned away when he was moving again, wanting to reclaim Mulder's hand beneath his, already missing the living warmth of it. "Tell me."

He'd slipped, that had had a tone of command he'd tried hard to leave in the office. He cursed himself, and it took all his will to remain quiet, to give Mulder time to answer.

Mulder's hand did not reach back, did not budge from his coffee cup. His shoulders were hunched, and he stared into his cooling coffee as if it was the most fascinating substance in the world. The word came reluctantly, as if he had to force the confession: "You."

That genuinely took Skinner by surprise. Heated his insides. Something closed up in his throat, and when he spoke, his voice was merely gruff, a little pleading. "Tell me." It came out nearly a whisper, and Mulder whispered his reply.

"That first time. Outside your office. When I belted you, and you held me." His voice trailed away, was that a touch of embarrassment?

Skinner couldn't help grinning at him in helpless delight. Suddenly he felt young, light, clean and clear in a way he hadn't felt in years. "When I had to put you in a headlock? Mulder, you're sick."

Mulder grinned back at him, "Yeah. Most of my friends think so."

They sat there, grinning at each other for a few moments, and then the inevitable happened. The waitress came back with their check. She came bounding around the corner of the booth with that satisfied waitress smirk that tells you she's already checked you off mentally as "Done. No further service required." Mulder jerked suddenly, tearing his eyes from Skinner with a visible effort. He glanced up at the waitress, who caught the tail end of that luminous grin, stopped dead in her tracks, and dropped the check. Skinner watched with amusement and some sympathy as she flushed and bent to retrieve it. He knew that feeling, knew it well, a Mulder smile at full wattage was a formidable thing. He felt it himself. He leaned quickly into Mulder just a bit, "Next time, we do this at home. Fewer interruptions." Mulder glanced at him in brief surprise, then, with a convulsive movement, grabbed suddenly at their suit coats, lying forgotten on the seat between them.

Thinking they'd slipped, Skinner reflexively grabbed also. Mulder was waiting, palm up, and when Skinner's hand grabbed for the coats, Mulder grabbed on to him and held him, hard. "Next time?" he whispered.

Skinner raised a wry eyebrow, "Smooth move, Mulder," but Mulder was grinning again, waitress forgotten, and they just sat there, holding hands under the concealing edge of the table, as she dropped the check on the table with an embarrassed apology and fled.

Mulder's grin widened as she disappeared, "I think she's on to us." He didn't seem overly concerned by this, his eyes held the older man's steadily and his grip on Skinner's hand never wavered. Then, quietly, "Have you?"

Classic interrogation technique. Say something simple, establish camaraderie with the subject, then hit them with the payoff question. Skinner blinked...distracted by Mulder's patented blindness to the effect he had on women; he'd completely missed the neat change of topic.

It took him a moment to catch up. When he did, he was as honest as he could be. "No. Nothing beyond...a little adolescent fumbling." He didn't say more, didn't think more, did not even let an image into his head. Years of practice, of discipline, came into play, and he held Mulder's eyes resolutely. Mulder didn't want the word Krycek between them tonight. He didn't want the word Vietnam. Fair enough. This was the present, and it was difficult enough.

"But you've wanted to. With me." Still grinning, and Skinner realized suddenly that the younger man wasn't shocked, didn't seem offended, and...hadn't actually said yes. Yet. A little piqued, he pulled his hand away, checked the total on the slightly crumpled dinner check, and paid cash. He'd seen enough of that waitress, and frankly didn't particularly want Mulder smiling at her any more. A twinge of jealousy that immediately restored his good humor. His lips twitched in a rueful smile, and, impulsively, he turned back to Mulder to share.

But Mulder was still grinning at him, his eyes shining in real amusement, and something else. Excitement. Suddenly there was only one thing left to say, and, helpless to stop himself, Skinner said it. "Come home with me."

Mulder lifted his hand at last, holding out their suit coats, and the time for talk was over. "Time to go home," Mulder said quietly. And it was.

end

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