Songs of The South 13: Hanging By A Moment
by Goddess Michele
Title: Songs of The South 13: Hanging By A Moment
Author: Goddess Michele
Feedback to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Date Archived: 05/06/02
Spoilers: SR819, Pilot, Lazarus
Permission to Archive: Anywhere, just leave my name on it.
Series or Sequel/Prequel:
Notes: Thank you very much, Dr. Jackelope for the startling and painful visual, which I've shamelessly borrowed, thanks to everyone else for their patience during this spell of writer's block, and of course, thanks to the Possum-Jedi, who grows more inspiring every day!
Beta: none, but all suggestions are welcome.
Disclaimer: C.C., Fox and 1013 own them, I'm just borrowing them for fun, not profit, and I promise to return them only slightly bruised, but in that good 'thank you sir and may I have another?' way.
Summary: Walter has the flu.ooh.
"It's me. Where are you?"
"I'm at home, Mulder. Why-what is it?"
"I need you to come to Skinner's apartment, Scully. Now."
"Skinner's--? What's going on?"
"I haven't got time to explain, Scully. Just come. Please!"
"Okay, Mulder, give me the address and I'll be there as soon as I can." And as Dana Scully hung up her cell phone and reached for a jacket, she muttered, "this had better be important."
I threw open the door moments after she'd buzzed the front entrance, and saw her coming down the hall.
"Hurry, Scully, please!" I cringed at the whiny-near-tears quality my voice had taken on, but seemed unable to summon up anything butcher at this point.
"Mulder, what is it? Has something happened to Skinner?"
For a moment, her question pole-axed me. I could only stare at her, mute. But then something of the insanity I was feeling must have shown in my eyes, and she laid a gentle hand on my arm, and asked, "Was it the nanocytes?"
"Oh, lord, Scully, I don't know."
"Where is he?"
"Follow me." Without hesitation, I lead her upstairs. I noticed a small frown crease her lips, but in my worried state, it didn't really register. At the top of the stairs we both heard a distinctive groan, and I know I made some sound automatically in response. I grabbed Scully's hand, didn't notice another frown, and hustled her into the bedroom.
Walter was groaning steadily deep in his throat, a low pained sound punctuated only by harsh coughing that racked his frame.
I'd found him on the floor, half dressed and unconscious, and I could still feel a twinge in my back that was going to become far worse once the adrenaline which had coursed through me and enabled me to lift my lover to the bed, undress him and slip him under the covers without pause finally abated.
It wasn't even the cold symptoms, or the unconsciousness that worried me so much. As I watched Scully lean forward and put a hand to Walter's fevered brow, I saw a vein rise in his temple, flash black briefly, then recede. The same thing was happening in his arms, and his neck. They didn't stay raised, but they were there nonetheless, and it was this alarming fact that had sent me screaming for the cell phone, and my best friend, partner, and the best damned doctor I knew.
As Scully continued her exam in silence, I watched those carbon-based whatever-the-fuck they were continue to play hide and seek within my lover. He kept making that hurt noise, and I felt tears in my eyes. I remained on one side of the bed, not moving, scarcely breathing, until one of Walter's arms flailed towards me, fingers outstretched and clutching at air.
I caught his hand, and he gripped my fingers tightly. I gave back as good as I was getting, and watched, even more alarmed, as Scully slipped a pill into Walter's mouth, pressing it deep and then stroking his throat to make him swallow reflexively. She added a shot of something to it, her movements with the needle practiced and professional, and then stood back.
Walter slowly stopped sounding like a dying bear, and his movements ceased. He sighed. He coughed. He coughed again. He didn't wake, and the grip on my hand loosened fractionally, but didn't let up.
Scully looked across the bed at me. I was still holding Walter's hand. I could still feel wet tears on my cheeks.
"Mulder?" Every question she had in the world was in that one clipped word.
I gave her a sidelong glance, and then looked down at Walter again.
"He's fine, Mulder," she said
Another glance, this time focusing on the tiny crucifix at her throat, and I wondered dismally for a moment if I hadn't just destroyed Walter's life in my blind panic. Then I took a deep breath, set Walter's hand gently at his side, and found my partner's confused blue eyes.
"Coffee?" I know I flinched.
"I don't know about you, Mulder, but I could probably use a drink."
Walter muttered something and rolled over onto his side. Dark movement beneath the skin creased his temple momentarily, and then disappeared.
"Wine it is," I declared, leading Scully out of the bedroom
She uncorked the zinfandel I found in the fridge-she's always been better at that sort of thing than I-while I hunted up some glasses. My fingers danced lightly over the black-stemmed flutes that Walter and I had used when.
I settled on two of the less expensive ones, just in case any glass tossing was on the agenda, took a moment to rinse them, then took glasses and the open bottle Scully handed me into the living room.
Scully took a moment to look around the room as I poured out and it suddenly dawned on me that she'd never been here before. I don't know why that had never occurred to me before. She lingered over the bookshelf a moment, and I suspected that she recognized some of the titles from my apartment. Or maybe not.
I walked over and offered her a glass, which she took without looking. Her attention was focused on the stylized porcelain fox, glazed red and very Inuit-looking, sitting on the shelf along with my books. She touched it briefly with one finger, and whispered, "He got this for you." It wasn't a question.
"I figured between the bullets, the bodies and the bedlam at my apartment, it would just get broken there." I found myself wanting to babble-I drank instead, gulping my wine noisily.
Scully sipped demurely by contrast, then walked away from the shelf to look out the balcony window.
"I always knew you were gay," she said, not to me, but to the ghost of my reflection in the glass doors.
"Really?" the squeak in my voice couldn't have been worse timed.
She turned to look at me, finally, and her smile was sad.
"You try too hard sometimes, Mulder," she said, making her way over to the couch. I joined her a moment later, and just sitting there next to her, like we'd done a thousand times before, on my couch, or on hers, was the first thing to feel right since I'd discovered my lover doing the fainting goat thing on the kitchen floor.
I didn't know how to respond to her comment-I wasn't sure if I was being complimented or insulted--so I held my tongue, and she continued a moment later.
"All those lines.the videos that weren't yours.even that tacky calendar.but do you remember our first assignment?"
'Where the hell did that come from?' I wondered.
"Sure I do," I replied. 'Of course I do', I thought.
"I remember the marks on those kids, and thinking that I had them too," she continued.
"Mosquito bites," I remembered. Like a flash, I could feel the warmth of the room, the cool damp of the forest, smell the clean scent of Scully's hair.
"You were so awkward," she said, and I bristled a bit, but she held up a placating hand to silence me, and I settled for shooting her a dark glance and muttering into my nearly empty wine glass.
Scully smiled and offered me the bottle, then continued in an amused tone of voice.
"I can imagine if I had doffed my robe for Colton, or Ritter." A pause, a sip. "I thought it was cute."
"Cute? Jesus, Scully-"
"And then, when we were talking after, about your big family secret-I was sure you were going to come out."
I shrugged, didn't know what to say, poured more wine.
"But apparently not," she said. "Just aliens."
"Just aliens," I repeated stupidly.
We looked at each other, and when she giggled, I had to laugh too, and it was better then.
My laughter turned to dust in my mouth at a sound from upstairs, and I jogged my wine glass. Scully caught it before it could fall on the carpet, set it aside, and said, "Go check. Call me if there's been any change."
I made it to the foot of the stairs, turned, and muttered, "Thanks."
I know she could hear something like tears in the thickening of my voice, but she just shrugged dismissively, and I took the stairs two at a time.
Walter was thrashing weakly and had managed to kick off the covers A light sheen of perspiration dotted his brow, while conversely, his body was pebbled with gooseflesh.
First thing was to get him covered up again, which I did, pulling the comforter up over his arms and chest, all the way to his chin. He stopped moving then, and his eyes slitted open, peering at me myopically from his red sweaty face.
I touched his cheek, and couldn't help but wince at the heat. I had some idea that the sweating was a good thing, though. And best of all, I could see none of those nightmarish black veins.
"Hey," I whispered, feeling stupidly relieved.
He took a moment to lick his dry lips and focus, then grated out a "hey" right back. One big hand slipped free of the covers to grip mine, and he pulled me close. His illness didn't seem to have affected his waking strength at all.
"Fox," he whispered, coughed softly, and again," Fox."
'Uh-oh,' I thought, 'First name-this could be serious.'
"Walter, what is it?"
"Fox.I feel like a bucket of fuck." This vehement declaration almost got a smile from me, definitely got a look of shock at the coarseness of it, and simply made him cough again. I touched his chest under the blankets, and the choking sound tapered off. He took a deep breath, then two, and looked as if he might speak again, when-
"Everything okay up there?"
Scully's voice from the bottom of the stairs. Skinner looked startled. I shrugged. He frowned, I grinned humorously. He glared. I gave another helpless shrug. Finally, a curt nod, and I called down to Scully, "We're fine." Then I turned back to my man, who was still glaring.
"I didn't know what to do!" I protested. "I thought you were dying!"
"Feels like it," Skinner grumbled, then coughed. "But Mulder-Scully-what.?"
"I think it's going to be all right, Walter. We're talking."
"Don't worry. Please?" I squeezed his hand in what I hoped was a reassuring manner. "Scully was the only one who might know what was going on." I knew I was rushing my words, but my relief at being able to look him in the eye, talk to him, even though he was still desperately ill, was huge. "She says it's just the flu, Walter. But that something in this particular virus somehow triggered those-those things in your blood. But not on a deadly level. She thinks you're going to be okay. Just a little sick--like the rest of us mere mortals." I gave him a sickly grin, and I knew that he knew just who I was reassuring. I got a squeeze back from him, and then:
"Water?" He sounded tired.
"I'm on it." I rushed to the bathroom, drew a glass from the sink, brought it back, and helped him drink it. He finished the whole glass, then fell back on the pillows with a sigh.
"Fox." he said, eyes closing.
"Right here," I said.
"You can't let her tell. It would be too-too damaging for you."
"Walt, you know my reputation is shit." I tried to joke.
"Make her promise."
"Shh. I will. Sleep, kay?"
He grunted something unintelligible and rolled over onto his side. I kissed the side of his face and slipped quietly towards the door. Quiet words from the bed stopped me.
"Your reputation is not shit, Mulder."
"Go to sleep."
A sigh, then silence, and I went back down the stairs, oddly warmed by his words.
Scully was refilling our glasses and I sat down next to her and answered her quizzical look with a reassuring one.
"S'okay. Bad dream, I guess."
She nodded, contemplated the wine for about thirty seconds, and then blurted out, "Mulder, he's our supervisor! If OPR were to get even a whiff of this-"
"We're careful!" I replied.
"Mulder, you need to be more than careful!"
I winced at the vehemence in her tone, and spoke the first words that came in to my head.
"Two words, Scully: Jack Willis."
She had the good grace to blush, but then so did I, realizing how harsh that was, and regretting the attack almost immediately.
"Aw, shit, Scully, I'm sorry. That was low-even for me."
"Yes, it was," she agreed. Then-glory-a timid smile. "Tells me just how important this is to you."
"You've got no idea," I agreed, feeling the first waves of tentative understanding rolling off of her.
"But Mulder," she wasn't about to let me off the hook that easily. "All your work-our work. Your career.your life." The last was said so quietly that I almost didn't hear it.
"I've thought about those things, Scully," I replied.
Truth be told, in the first heady rush of the relationship, it had been Walter who had practiced restraint, while I had been damned near oblivious to anything beyond the truth that was lying in the arms of Walter Sergei Skinner.
"Mulder," Scully interrupted my musings, "I know how thorough you can be. When it comes to everything from DNA testing to ice core sampling, from foreign languages to fingerprints. But when it's a matter of the heart, Mulder, you hare off like a greyhound on a track, just blindly moving forward. But this time, Mulder. You have to be thorough. You have to be sure. You can't afford any slip-ups. Neither can he."
"Thank you, mom. You think I don't know that? You think I'm a complete idiot?" I didn't even know where that came from, but the minute the words were out of my mouth, I realized I'd done it again. Scully recoiled a little, and I felt like shit.
"Dammit." I ran a hand through my hair, and contemplated asking her to shoot me now and get it over with. Or at least tell me to go to hell.
I think I half expected her to.
She tipped my head up so my eyes were locked with hers.
"Mulder. It's okay. You're just worried. I understand."
I damned near lost it then. And that's when I realized she was right. Here I was, trying to have what was one of the most important conversations with my best friend, EVER, and all I could think about, worry about, was my lover lying upstairs; I was so worried about him that I barely even knew my own name, let alone how to respond to the situation with Scully.
"I'm sure he's going to be okay, Mulder. There doesn't seem to be any lasting nanocyte activity. He's just got the flu. And once the fever breaks, I'm sure all he'll need is a good dose of chicken soup and rest. Won't be long before he'll be back to reaming you out like always."
My mouth dropped open. She clapped a small hand over her own. She was talking about work, of course. She knew it; I knew it.
Neither one of us had anything resembling an office lecture in our minds at that moment.
I grinned, and the giggles spilled over her hand, and then we were both laughing, nearly hysterically so, and when she fell into my arms, I hugged her tightly, waves of laughter rolling out of me. I didn't know about my partner, but every time I'd start to calm down, I'd get this visual of Scully sitting all prim and proper in Walter's office, while he-while he and I-I held her even tighter, and realized we were both in tears.
Took some time for me to let her go, or maybe it was the other way around, but after her giggles tapered off enough that I wasn't snorting every time she made a sound, we smiled at one another, and it was okay.
Scully straightened out her blouse, pushed back an errant lock of red hair, and smiled her "kind to folks she's background checking" smile at me. It was meant to convey compassion, yet strength, and it worked on me as well as it had worked on any of those dumb sugar-beet farmers. She took a moment to wipe her streaming eyes, and then said quietly, "It's just going to take some getting used to."
A great yoke of tension fell from my shoulders and I swear there was an audible "thud".
"I should have-we should have told you sooner."
"Listen, Mulder what's done is done; and we'll have plenty of time to talk more about it, I'm sure. But for now, just know that I'm not going to say anything. To anyone."
"Scully," I interrupted gently. "That doesn't even have to be said. You know I trust you." But I suspected she could see the relief in my eyes. Not so much for me; regardless of what Walter had said, I know there were worse rumours circulating around the Bureau about me, and one more wouldn't make a difference. I just didn't want Walter's name slipping through the same mud.
"I know I don't need to say it, but I think you needed to hear it. Am I wrong?"
"Are you ever?"
We shared another laugh, this one less hysterical, and she got to her feet, found her kit, and made her way to the door. I followed close on her heels, and she turned to give me another hug in the doorway.
"If there's any change, Mulder, you call me. Else, just rest easy. Make sure he does too. And we'll talk more when he feels better." She leaned in close and whispered in my ear. "This changes nothing."
I felt tears in my eyes again.
"Thank you, Scully. So much.'
She disengaged herself, and said again. "Call me."
A last pat, and a smile, and she was out the door. I watched her to the elevator, waved at her as she waved from the open car, and watched the doors close.
After Scully left, I pretended not to worry by fixing tea, cleaning up the wine glasses and bottle, and managed to convince myself for almost five whole minutes. As soon as the tea was poured out, though, I was carrying two mugs of oolong, lightly sweetened with honey, up the stairs.
An open worried gaze from a fever-flushed face greeted me as I entered the bedroom. I could see the unasked questions dancing in his dark eyes, tracking me restlessly as I set the mugs down, helped him sit up, fluffed pillows, tucked blankets.
"Quit fussing," he growled, and I know I flinched. It didn't stop me, but I don't like that tone, never have.
"So," he said, when I didn't reply, simply handed him a steaming mug. "Are we out now? Should I be writing up my resignation?"
He sipped briefly, closed his eyes, inhaled steam. I watched, fascinated, as a small trickle of perspiration wound itself down his neck and across his chest, where it was absorbed by the blanket.
"How do you feel?" I asked softly.
"Like all the blood in my veins was replaced with club soda.and someone shook the shit outta me. Where's Scully?"
I touched his arm gently. "Did you want anything else? We've got Motrin. Or aspirin?"
"Scully, Fox." He pierced me with a look.
"She's playing 'don't ask don't tell', Walter."
"We can't-she can't let them-we-"
He didn't seem to know how to say it, but I understood completely. And at this point, I was just so relieved to have my lover simply out with a common flu bug, that I really didn't care if the whole of the FBI traipsed through our bedroom right at that moment. But I also knew Scully. And trusted her. And knew that our secret was still safe. And that worrying about it right now wasn't going to do either one of us any good.
I gave Walter a lop-sided smile (which he claims is 'adorable' and don't even get me started on how much I hate that term), set my tea down, and started shucking my jeans and t-shirt.
I got a quizzical look from my lover, and then a worried one, which flashed into something like alarm when I slipped into the bed next to him, took his mug from him, and wrapped my arms around his warm body instead.
"Hey, get off!" he exclaimed. "Do you want to get sick too?"
"I'm willing to risk it," I replied, even as he was pushing me away. He tried to put more space between us, and I found a passable A.D. imitation growl to use on him.
"Get your fevered ass over here, Walter. Maybe you don't need a little mindless cuddling at this point, but I do!"
"Huh." He slid close enough for my arms to go round him again. "Last time. Scully, Mulder.how are you going to be?"
"We'll be fine, Walter. I don't know why we didn't tell her sooner."
"Well, it's a pretty big thing; not so easy to talk about as you'd think."
"Speaking of big." I let my hands roam down his body, wondering briefly just how sick he was.
"Quit it." He brushed my hands away. I replaced them.
"Walter, did you know that in all cases of human sexual arousal ever reliably documented, it's been recorded that in every instance of orgasm, the following three physiological responses manifest themselves-"
"Quit it." His voice was a little more hoarse as he lifted my hand from his cock, which was just starting to respond. I immediately replaced it, and leaned in close, my lips scant inches from his ear.
"The toes curl, Walter, the nipples immediately contract and harden, and the sinuses clear."
He sniffled, as if to illustrate my point
"Did you hear me? The sinuses clear."
I was pretty sure he'd heard me. And if he hadn't, his cock certainly had. He made no more move to displace me, just sighed.
"Every time." I stroked a little harder, felt my own erection stirring just at the proximity, and smiled when his hands reached back for me.
"Guaranteed?" he persisted.
"Or your money cheerfully refunded," I assured him, did something to his balls that made him gasp, and he turned in my arms so we were face to face. I could feel more heat coming off him, but not with the deathly intensity of before. His mouth touched mine quickly, and then he broke into a wide grin.
"All right then, Mulder.let's see you clear some sinuses!"
I laughed and gave him another stroke, this one groan inducing, and as I claimed his mouth with mine, pushed my tongue in deep, and felt his hands running over my ass, I had one last thought of Scully. And the power of love. The power of trust.
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