Spring Fever
by rac / March 2000
Ratings: PG-13 for m/m interaction.
Pairing: M/Sk
Disclaimer: CC and FOX own the characters, but they've been languishing in a closet for far too long.
Spoilers: teensy weensy mention of "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose".
Author's Notes: Yes, JiM, it's that time of year, and damn hard to concentrate! For the denizens of Requited, who love M/Sk, no matter how outrageous I (and M & Sk) may get. Muchas gracias to Diana DeShaun for her nifty swifty beta help.
Archiving: Yes to Basement; others: yes, just let me know, please. Constructive feedback or blatant brown-nosing always cheerfully accepted at rac@enook.net


***

Spring Fever
by rac

"Springtime in the country. Gotta love it." Mulder ignored the rumbling emanating from the driver's seat and rolled down the rear right window. "Smell that--the smell of newly cut grass and freshly turned earth."

"Mulder, roll up that damn window," Skinner barked.

Scully turned to face Mulder with a wrinkled nose. "Try newly laid manure and chemical fertilizers."

"Well, yes," Mulder relented as he pressed the window up button, "those are a part of the whole picture, but not all."

"No, Agent Mulder, the rest of the picture includes endless combines, tractors and other assorted farm equipment moving along two-lane back roads and taking up both lanes at a whopping 25 miles an hour." Skinner scowled at the huge tractor pulling an extremely wide tilling device lumbering along in front of them--making it impossible for Skinner to pass.

"But, sir, I offered to drive," Mulder grinned insolently. "You insisted that you preferred to be behind the wheel."

"Thank you for reminding me of that fact, Agent Mulder. I'd quite forgotten in the excitement," Skinner enunciated with terrible exactness, boding his frame of mind.

Scully threw him an 'any other words of wisdom?' look, daring him to open his mouth further.

Mulder smiled angelically at her. "You just need to have patience." A growl came from the driver's seat. Mulder ignored it. "These equipment drivers usually pull over at the first widening of the road to let people pass. They're pretty good about it, I've found."

"And from where did this wisdom accumulate, Agent Mulder?"

Watching Skinner's jaw twitch fascinated Mulder. He wanted to stand in front of a mirror and see if he could accomplish getting that same muscle to jump along his cheekbone. "Working for Kersh entailed an extensive amount of field work in the...country."

"Ah," Skinner nodded. "The shit detail. You know, Agent Mulder, you seem to have an aptitude for it, with this newly acquired sense of patience you evince, and your highly developed appreciation for the beauties of the countryside. I can always arrange to loan you out to the Counterterrorism Division again for more...fieldwork. After all, with all the crap being spread around, this *is* their busy season."

Blue daggers pierced him before Scully turned her back on him, abandoning him to his fate alone.

Mulder bristled. "I don't think that will be necessary. I'm sure they're quite well-staffed, and our caseload *is* rather full at the moment."

"I'm sure Scully can handle it alone for a while, if the lure of nature calls to you so strongly."

Mulder could see one brown eye as Skinner glanced at him through the rear-view mirror. It looked....smug.

"Thanks," Mulder murmured, "but I think I can manage to get through the season without further assignments like that one."

"That remains to be seen, doesn't it, Agent Mulder?"

The tractor squeezed off on the widening side of the road right at that moment, and Skinner gunned the car and pulled around the huge, lethal-looking steel tillers. They drove the rest of the way to Omaha at a sedate 55 mph, with no further conversation. And with the windows rolled up.

***

"For God's sake, shut up!" Mulder hissed, peering out into the night lit by pole lights along the hotel's property. Nearly 3 a.m., and the damn cats sounded like they were having an orgy somewhere off in the wooded field across the parking lot.

"Still enthralled with the wonders of springtime and nature, Agent Mulder?"

Mulder started; he hadn't seen Skinner leaning against his own doorway. "If I were a cat I'd be ecstatic. But as it is..." Mulder shrugged and stretched. "They interrupted some of the best sleep I've gotten in over a week."

Skinner shifted in the doorway, and Mulder saw he was wearing shoes and sweatpants.

"I was going for a run. Probably be quiet by the time I get back." Skinner looked over toward the invisible howlers.

"You think? I don't know...sounds like they're gonna go strong all night." Mulder frowned.

Skinner unfolded his arms and straightened. "Get shoes and some clothes on, Mulder. I'll wait." He disappeared back into his room.

Mulder stared at the empty doorway, the inelegant invitation echoing in his ears along with the springtime ecstasy of some lucky felines.

Running sounded good.

***

Downtown Omaha at 3 a.m. wasn't D.C., but it was interesting. Spring was truly in the air, and anyone still up at that hour seemed to be out and about. They were stopped at one point by a local PD car, and Skinner fished his badge from a zipper pocket in his sweatpants.

"Can't fault them for being on the ball," Mulder murmured as the policemen gave them a nod and a wave then moved on. Skinner grunted.

When a few less savory vehicles slowed down while their passengers checked out the view, Mulder sighed. "Why don't you try flashing your badge again?" Skinner raised his eyebrows without replying. "Well, it works for me," Mulder muttered, following Skinner as they crossed the street to jog in the other direction.

"Are you saying you get cruised often when you're out jogging?" Skinner's voice was without inflection.

"Well, yeah. Pretty frequently. When they get really annoying, I'll whip out my badge *and* my gun. Puts the fear of God into them every time."

"You jog with your gun all the time?"

"Yeah. Ankle holster." Mulder frowned. "It's not the pick-ups that worry me...it's the people I *do* know."

Skinner frowned also but didn't reply.

By the time they arrived back at their rooms, it was quiet again.

"Ah, blessed silence." Mulder began chuckling as he stopped to do stretches.

"What, Agent Mulder?"

"I just remembered something a very unforgettable man once said to Scully and me during an investigation." Skinner gave him an inquiring look. "'Sometimes it seems like everybody's having sex but me.'"

Skinner grunted in acknowledgement, and they finished up their stretches quickly, exhaustion setting in again as they headed for their rooms. Skinner paused as he pulled out his key card, avoiding Mulder's eyes and keeping his gaze further south. "Not everybody, Mulder," he said out of the blue and shoved his card in and out of the lock, then disappeared into his room.

Mulder keyed his lock more slowly, pushing open his door on the green flashing light and shutting it softly behind him. He was distracted, turning Skinner's last line over and over in his mind as he mechanically stripped off his tee and shorts and socks, ran the shower 'till it steamed and stood under it without moving for the next ten minutes.

Possibly the hot water fried his brain, or maybe it dislodged previously frozen synapses. Mulder burst into action, soaping down in a frenzy of suds until the entire bathroom reeked of Bath & Body Works' Juniper Breeze shower gel and shampoo--pricey toiletries, one perk of being on the road with the AD and staying in upscale Suite hotels.

Upscale suite hotels with connecting doors. Doors connecting to his boss' suite.

Mulder walked past the connecting door on the far wall, checking that the bolt was thrown firmly into place, and stood before the single door off his living room area on the opposite side.

Water dripped off the short ends of his damp hair, sliding down his torso to be absorbed in the towel slung haphazardly around his hips. His toes curled into the plush rug, dampening the soft nap (no familiar orange shag rug in this place) as he pulled back his thin door. He hesitated briefly before rapping knuckles on the closed door of the other side. A thump echoed through the doorway while Mulder waited a full 30 seconds, then the sound of the bolt sliding back and the door swung open.

Skinner stood there similarly clad in the large, thick terry towel, sans glasses and the rivulets of water running from non-existent hair.

"That's a nice perk," Mulder eyed his boss' naked pate. "No bed head in the morning, no wet hair dripping all over clean clothes, nothing to dry."

Skinner's brows rose and he leaned against the doorknob, eyeing Mulder silently.

Mulder swallowed. "The cats and Mr. Bruckman's plaintive comment got me to thinking...and then you..."

Skinner sighed. "Spit it out, Mulder. It's 4:00 in the morning. And the cats have finally shut up."

"Yeah." Mulder's eyes slid down from Skinner's unadorned brown orbs, wandering over his naked chest, furry and glistening with trapped water drops. "Were you really checking out my ass outside our rooms just now? Sir?" The honorific trailed the question he'd spit out like a nervous afterthought, incongruous and bizarre.

Skinner's jaw twitched, his mouth quirked, and Mulder couldn't tell if he was amused or trying to hold back a bellow and a round-house right to his subordinate's jaw.

"Why do you ask?" Even, steady. Emotionless.

Mulder contemplated that: a calm question instead of a punch. He took a step forward into Skinner's room, into his space; close enough to smell the Juniper Breeze emanating from Skinner's freshly washed skin. "It'd be nice to prove Mr. Bruckman's observation about himself correct."

Skinner's serious, intent gaze fixed on the incongruent light in Mulder's, both shy and wild all at once. Shifting his weight off the knob without moving his eyes, Skinner gently closed the door, shutting them both in his suite.

***

The fleshy bones of information Skinner threw to the media the next morning appeased the wild beasts. His mass media interview was aired on all the mid-day network news programs, along with selected sound bites edited into Headlines News' lead-off stories all day long. The adult-napping case had been at the top of the news stories for a couple of weeks now; five pregnant women gone missing from their homes or cars with scant traces.

But the five women were now back home with their husbands and families, unharmed save for whatever psychological after-effects their uneventful captivity had left with them. Ronald Doutch, 31, a former farmer whose land had been sold to pay for back debts, was in federal custody, awaiting trial for his crimes. Nobody had been harmed in his capture; everything had gone down like smooth clockwork.

Mulder, Scully and Skinner sat in SAC Preddy's conference room in Omaha watching the media results as they tied up loose ends and Skinner talked on the phone with Washington. Freeh was very pleased with the case's outcome and subsequent Bureau publicity. After some of the bad press they'd been garnering, the Bureau had needed something positive in the public's eye.

Skinner rubbed weary eyes and finished off his umpteenth cup of coffee. The drone of the television quietly chattered away in the corner, contrasting with the steady crack-crunch of Mulder's sunflower seeds and the click of Scully's fingers flying over her laptop.

"You're the heroes of the day, Agents. I've been ordered to tell you that the cherry blossoms are predicted to reach their peak this coming week, and you're to take three days' leave as comp time for the work you've put in on this case. Go, sit and smell the flowers."

"D.C.'s flora will smell particularly welcome...no manure!" Scully slipped a floppy into the laptop to save her file.

Mulder rocked back in his chair. "Maybe that's what triggered Doutch. You know, spring fever. A compulsive need to be surrounded by growing life, something he was missing since his land was sold."

Scully snapped her laptop shut and began packing it away in preparation for leaving for their late-afternoon flight back to National. "If so, Mulder, we should be very thankful he wasn't infected by a subconscious urge for spring mating. That would have changed the tenor of the whole case and made it much more difficult for us. Not to mention for the victims."

"Uh," Mulder couldn't help glancing toward Skinner, whose eyes met his as he packed up his own briefcase. "That's true, Scully. Those unconscious spring mating urges can wreck havoc."

Skinner swept his briefcase off the desk and strode to the door. "Let's go. We've got enough time to return the rental and make the plane."

They shook hands with SAC Preddy and drove the short distance to Omaha's Eppley Airfield. In short order, they'd returned the car and were awaiting the 4:15 p.m. flight to National.

Scully stood quietly by the window, impatiently watching the refueling of their Boeing 737. "I will be very glad to get back to the pollution and urban chaos of Washington. Springtime in Nebraska's midwestern pollen introduces too many foreign bodies into mine own; I can't remember when I've had such difficulty breathing." Scully sniffed to prove her point.

"Yeah, introduction of a foreign body into your own can really play havoc with catching your breath." Mulder heard the abrupt rattle of the newspaper next to him and held back a smile as he hopped up. "Be right back, they're going to call our flight soon." He headed off to the men's room across the hallway.

Old paranoia had him choosing the end stall next to the wall. He made short work of his need and zipped back up, the sound of the toilet flushing loud as he unlocked the door. Immediately, the door pushed in, shoving him backward, and the bulk of Skinner's frame crowded into the small stall with him. The door squeaked shut behind his boss.

They stood looking at one another. Skinner spoke first. "Lost your breath, Mulder?" His voice was low and barely audible. Mulder nodded. "Has your...spring mating urge...been assuaged yet?" Mulder shook his head. Skinner nodded. "Good. We'll see if the springtime aromas and sounds in D.C. have the same...aphrodisical qualities as howling cats and the smell of fertilizer."

Skinner looked some more, then turned to leave the stall, but Mulder slammed his hand against the door. When Skinner turned around, frowning, Mulder shoved him against the door and attacked, pushing himself against Skinner's bulk and devouring his mouth with unmistakable passion.

When they pulled apart, Mulder gave him a faint smile. "I can pretty much guarantee the aphrodisical qualities of the moment have nothing to do with copulating animals and farming. Or even spring." Mulder leaned in for another thorough kiss. "But just to make sure, we can keep experimenting all summer, fall and winter. Just to be thorough. I know how much you appreciate an exhaustive effort from those under you," Mulder smirked.

Skinner's jaw jumped in that fascinating way right before he shoved Mulder over against the blue tiled wall.

***

"They called the flight five minutes ago. Everyone's boarded. I was ready to send someone in after both of you." Scully gathered her laptop and wheeled toward the gate as the two tall men followed behind.

Mulder pulled out his ticket and handed it to the airline agent, running to catch up with his briskly striding partner in the jetway. "Sorry, Scully." He could hear Skinner's long step right behind him, and the corners of his mouth curled up. "Must have been something we...ate."

==the end==

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