Title: Life's Little Quirks, part 3
Pairings: M/Sk, M/K, D/Sc
Summary: Something's up...Mulder and Skinner's domestic bliss is about to be disrupted.
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, they own me. Otherwise I might have a life of my own. Not that I'm complaining...
Warnings: M/M slash, mpreg, angst, h/c, relationships, triangles. All the really great stuff. Oh, and schmoop - this chapter's got a great heap of schmoop, but there'll be plenty of angst as well, not to fear.
Author's Notes: I don't live in New England - I live in the Midwest, so if you 'do' live there and find my geography and/or logic screwy...please forgive me. : ) All counties named are real, but unrecognizable to the point of fiction...which this after all.
Mulder woke to an empty bed. Apparently coming home early yesterday had meant Skinner would leave early today. Rubbing his eyes, he slowly sat up and groaned as his morning nausea woke along with the rest of him.
Using the master bathroom, he threw up according to his custom and then luxuriated in a hot shower before dressing for work. He felt an unusual fatigue this morning. Despite their evening together, Mulder had ended up rather restless last night, unable to sleep as he worried about telling Skinner about his 'sickness'. He'd tried to sneak down to the TV in the living room, but hadn't counted on his lover waking up. He still had no idea what he was going to do about the pregnancy...he had to tell Walter and Scully, but he was dreading the confrontations. And he was so tired...
As he walked to his car, which was parked in the guest slot of the parking garage, he felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickle.
He was being watched.
Casually glancing around the garage as he opened his door, he noted several empty cars, but no one nearby. The nagging feeling didn't cease, however, as he pulled slowly out of the garage. He was careful driving to work but no cars seemed to tail him.
And yet the feeling stayed with him all the way to the Hoover building.
"Hey, Mulder...what's the matter, man? You don't look so good." Doggett tossed the folder on his desk and walked over to Mulder's. The man was hunched over the desk and seemed rather tired.
"Thanks. Have you finished that report yet? Kersh's on the warpath again. Looking for an excuse to deny the case I'm trying to open." Mulder avoided his eyes and stared at the papers in front of him.
John shuffled the paper on his desk and handed him a copy of the report. "I talked with the local p.d. again. Still no sign of Davids, but no further disappearances have been reported. It doesn't really match your pattern, Mulder. It's entirely possible the man just left his wife or he was hijacked...any number of explanations."
Mulder barely glanced up at him before returning back to his work, dismissing both Doggett and his comments. Sighing, John returned to his desk and went back to his own paperwork.
The day was uneventful and fairly quiet except for the occasional grunt from Mulder. Each time John looked up, he noticed the other man rubbing his temple or popping an aspirin. He knew better than to say anything, though. It was only when Scully appeared at lunch with takeout that Mulder finally seemed to come to life a bit.
"Hey, Scully. Slumming it?" Mulder joked as he pulled a folding chair out for her. He seemed both pleased and nervous around her.
"Yep. I got you the usual, burger and fries; I give up on you and nutrition. And, John, I got you the same. Is that okay?" Doggett smiled as he found himself included in their ritual. Usually the two disappeared for lunch once a week without a word to him.
"Yeah, thanks." He pushed some more papers out of the way to make room for her lunch on the space on his desk. Mulder's was unusually full.
"...And a salad for me. So any news on the Davids' case?"
Doggett listened with half an ear while Mulder muttered on about UFO sightings in the general area while he watched Scully dig into her salad. She was so unusual - a combination of no-nonsense FBI agent, yet still feminine and soft underneath. Her fingernails, for instance, gleamed and were carefully manicured. Her heels were unusually high and showed off the curve of her leg. And her personality was so striking and intriguing. She was a focused, intelligent woman on the job, but often showed glimpses of an interesting background and belief system.
He often found himself wondering what she was like in her off-hours. What did she like to do? Read, watch movies, go out? When he'd met her she had been so focused on finding Mulder and afterwards...well, losing the baby had been tough on her obviously. She'd switched over to Quantico so fast; Doggett hadn't had as much time to really get to know her.
Not that he had much of a chance anyway. She was utterly devoted to Mulder - anyone could see it. She had worked many years as his partner and her dedication and sheer determination in finding Mulder had led John to believe there was something 'more' to their relationship than mere partnership.
Which was why he'd been surprised that he hadn't seen much more of a personal relationship between the two of them. They were close, yes, but beyond friendship they were strictly professional. They still consulted one another on the job and occasionally went out to lunch together, but that was all as far as Doggett could tell.
Perhaps it was Mulder who kept the relationship from going any further. Maybe Scully had moved on to Quantico to put distance between the two of them because of it... Doggett wondered if it were a case of unrequited love that kept Scully single and so obviously sad at times.
As he considered this, Scully caught his gaze on her and quirked an eyebrow. Doggett quickly added his own thoughts on the case to cover and was somewhat relieved when she turned her focus off of him once more.
Finishing her salad, Scully crumpled her napkin and tossed it into the paper takeout bag. "So, Mulder how are you feeling? Is the nausea any better?"
Doggett quickly glanced over at Mulder who was wincing.
"Uh, yeah...somewhat." He avoided her eyes as he stuffed his wrappers in the trashcan; he glanced up at Doggett and caught his eye. 'Don't contradict me' his eyes clearly said.
Doggett kept his mouth shut and Scully narrowed her eyes, but nodded. "Well, your color seems a little better. You'll tell me if you have any more symptoms, won't you? When was the last time you saw a doctor anyway?"
"I'm looking at one right this minute," he answered with a grin.
Scully rolled her eyes and took her leave.
As the door shut behind her, John leaned back in his chair. "So what's this about being sick? And why are you trying to hide it from everyone?"
Mulder glared at him as he turned back to his computer. "It's just a touch of the flu. I'm fine; I just don't want her on my back about it. She's been fussing after me ever since -" he stopped in mid sentence and abruptly stood with his coffee mug, heading out the door.
Doggett watched him go before finishing the sentence. "Since you 'died.'"
Mulder parked his car in the visitor space with a weary sigh. Finally...it had been a long day. Scully's visit had only served to remind him once more that he really needed to confront his situation with both her and Skinner soon. But he felt a crippling dread whenever he thought about it.
Setting his car alarm, he walked briskly toward the elevator. Skinner had called him that afternoon to invite him to dinner. It happened every evening he was in town and inevitably ended up with him spending the night. Being that it was Friday, Mulder looked forward to a nice long weekend in bed if he could help it. The thought cheered him up and he found himself smiling slightly with anticipation.
As he waited for the elevator car to arrive, he whistled tunelessly. It was only as the doors began to open that he had the 'feeling' again.
Someone was watching.
Turning to scan the parking lot behind him he saw only empty parked cars. One hand on his gun, he took one last look before entering the elevator. Silence. The feeling remained, however, as the doors closed and Mulder found himself tense - all thoughts of sex and relaxation gone.
But the tension slowly eased as the elevator opened on the third floor and he approached his lover's apartment. Not bothering to knock, Mulder used his own key to get into the apartment. He'd been pleasantly surprised when Skinner had tucked it into his jeans one night whispering that he wanted Mulder to feel welcome anytime. Since then he'd used it several times, but each time he pulled it out of his pocket he was reminded of that night and it made him smile no matter how tired or edgy. Tonight was no exception, as he slipped the keys back into his pocket, he felt the usual smile on his face as he set his suitcase down.
"Hey, honey, I'm home," he called out. Sure enough, his lover poked his bald head out of the kitchen with a mock frown.
"Are you ever going to get tired of that joke?"
"Nope," Mulder grinned unrepentantly, "what's that I smell?"
Skinner dropped the fake frown and smiled smugly. "Spaghetti, hungry?"
"Starved." Mulder loosened his tie as he strolled into the kitchen. Apparently Walter had been busy since he'd gotten off of work. The kitchen was a wreck, cutting board full of snippets of onion and green pepper, three opened cans of tomato sauce, various opened herb bottles scattered on the counter...but the biggest mess was the red splotches of spaghetti sauce liberally decorating the stove top. Skinner was humming as he stirred what looked like a large vat of spaghetti sauce.
"Um...what's going on here?" he asked cautiously as he skirted a red stain on the kitchen floor.
"Told you - spaghetti. My grandmother made the best spaghetti sauce in the world and I wanted to make it for you. It's been a while, but I remember the recipe." Skinner turned and held out a large orange-stained wooden spoon out. "Here, try it, it's almost done."
Mulder wisely repressed any further comments and obediently opened his mouth. And promptly burned his mouth. "Ow, I mean...yum. I'll just go take a quick shower and freshen up." Mulder tried to rub a burnt bottom lip surreptitiously.
Walter nodded, oblivious to his pain, and turned back to his masterpiece. "Don't be too long, the noodles are nearly ready." As Mulder left the room, he noticed that his lover was humming again. He wondered if it were the same tune he was hearing in his mind, the twilight zone theme.
It turned out that Skinner 'did' indeed cook a good spaghetti dinner. Once sufficiently cooled, the sauce was rather spicy, but sweet. After a second bowl, Mulder proclaimed it the best he'd ever eaten to a very proud Skinner who passed him another piece of garlic toast.
"My grandmother taught me to cook a bit. She was Italian and insisted that tomato sauce from a jar was sacrilege. If I had more time I could have made it from fresh tomatoes and skipped the cans, but I was too hungry for that. Did you really like it?"
Mulder smiled fondly and reached for the other man's hand. "I really liked it. It was even better than Mrs. Scully's and I thought her food was heaven compared to my usual takeout."
Walter sipped his wine and leaned back in his chair, relaxed. "What about your mom? Was she a good cook?"
Mulder stared at his own glass of water; he'd declined the wine saying he was tired. "Oh...she was all right, I guess. But she didn't cook much after Samantha...she kind of let those things go. We ate out sometimes, but mostly I cooked for myself. I make a mean bowl of Wheaties."
"Hey," Skinner said softly.
Mulder looked up from his glass and saw a sad smile on his face. Mulder smiled back, but the mood had been broken. Standing, he began to pile the dishes. "Since you cooked I'll do the dishes." He went into the kitchen before Skinner could respond. It was only once he looked around the kitchen again that he realized that there was a fate worse than talking about his childhood. He groaned and grabbed the 409 and a roll of paper towels.
The kitchen relatively clean and dishes finally in the dishwasher, Mulder put his feet up on the coffee table with a tired sigh. He was so tired...he didn't even have the energy to turn on the TV. He'd rather just sit here on the sofa and snooze...
The couch dipped suddenly and something was pressed into his hands. He opened his eyes to look at the object in his hands, a piece of chocolate cake on a paperplate. Skinner chuckled softly as he flourished his own piece.
"I thought you could use a reward after all that hard work. I bought this on the way home at that bakery across the street. It looked so good I couldn't help myself. And look - a paper plate so you won't have to do anymore dishes...I've got better plans for you anyway..." he said huskily, leaning in for a kiss.
Mulder felt himself slowly relax once more as they enjoyed their dessert together. Skinner rambled on about his childhood and his old neighborhood while Mulder listened quietly. After awhile the rumble of Skinner's voice softly drifted off and Mulder found himself drifting quietly to sleep.
He woke to a tug on his arm. "Come on, Fox. Off to bed with you..." Mulder protested, but finally allowed himself to be shuffled along to the bedroom.
As they passed the bathroom, Mulder's bladder woke him enough to make a detour. He could hear his lover in the other room turning down the bed and undressing. It was such a domestic scene that he smiled to himself in the mirror as he brushed his teeth. It was so comforting...Skinner always took such good care of him lately...making sure he ate and slept in a real bed snuggled against him...for the first time in his life he felt...loved.
That word made him look at himself closer in the mirror. Love. Could he really feel that? Did Walter feel that way? Thinking back on it...neither one of them had actually said it. They teased, they kissed, but neither one had actually said the 'L' word. Mulder hadn't dared approach the word himself until now.
After all...the relationship had been so unexpected, a kind of second chance that was only possible because Walter said he'd regretted breaking it off with him once before. And it hadn't been about love before; Skinner had made that quite clear. So was it something more this time? Would the other man even admit it if it was? He seemed to show it, but from what Mulder could observe, the other man rarely said it. To anyone. Supposedly it was part of the reason Skinner's marriage had failed. His inability to be open up with his wife. Which meant it might be up to Mulder to say...and he didn't have much experience with saying 'I love you.' His parents had never said so. They never gave hugs or kisses beyond perfunctory and stiff greetings during their last years.
"Mulder? Are you all right in there?" Walter's voice was muffled through the bathroom door.
Mulder snapped out of his reverie and rinsed his mouth out. He didn't want to end up like his parents...he didn't want to never say the words. Life was too damn short.
Opening up the door suddenly, he took a surprised Skinner in his arms and held him close, looking into warm brown eyes, large and vulnerable without their glasses.
"I love you, Walter." He kissed the startled face before him and felt a swell of relief and happiness when the kiss was returned, arms coming around him to embrace him suddenly. As he leaned back, breaking the kiss, Skinner gave him the most beautiful smile.
"I love you, too, Fox."
Mulder forgot his tiredness for the time being as he tugged Walter with him towards the bed. Later on, as Skinner snored softly behind him, Mulder pulled the large hand draped over him down to his belly. "I hope you take the rest of the news as well," he whispered.
Walter woke to the tickle of hair in his face. Snorting as the hair tickled his nose, he pulled his head back and smiled as Mulder snuggled closer, brown hair tickling his nose once more. Remembering Fox's words the night before, he smiled wider and kissed the top of the head.
"Mmmph," Mulder grunted into his chest.
"Good morning, Mary Sunshine."
That earned him a glare as Mulder rolled away. "You better not start calling me girly names. Fox is bad enough," he muttered into his pillow. Skinner frowned at that, but then grinned as he tickled the armpit as Mulder clutched at his pillow. His lover squealed a bit...a rather girly squeal he noticed, and promptly threw the pillow at him.
"Enough! What is it with you this morning, anyway?" Mulder grumped as he ran a hand through his unruly hair.
Skinner tucked the pillow under his head and grinned. "Just enjoying the view." The sheets were tangled at their feet and Mulder leered right back at him.
"Oh? I'm enjoying it myself. What did you have planned-" but suddenly he paled, clamping a hand to his lips. Mulder jumped out of the bed and raced to the bathroom before he could ask what was wrong.
The horrible retching sound that greeted him in the bathroom made his stomach twinge in sympathy. He grabbed a hand towel, wetting it before kneeling down beside Mulder. The younger man gasped and retched in turn before he finally slumped to the side, clutching the towel Skinner had handed him.
"Sorry," he whispered.
Skinner closed the lid and flushed the toilet. "Don't be silly, are you all right now? Should I call a doctor?"
"Oh, no. I'm fine now. See?" Mulder stood and smiled weakly before turning to rinse his mouth out. "In fact...I'm kind of hungry. How about some toast?"
Walter watched his lover wearily for any further signs of sickness, but the younger man seemed to recover completely from the bout of nausea as he trotted down the stairs towards the kitchen.
They sipped hot coffee and munched on toast while Mulder insisted on watching the cartoons. Skinner watched with amusement as his lover chuckled to an old Marvin the Martian cartoon. Life just wasn't boring with Mulder. As he glanced out the window at a beautiful day he was reminded of other things.
"Hm?" Mulder glanced at him before looking back at the TV.
"You were asking me earlier what I had planned?" Mulder looked up at that and grinned knowingly. "No, not that...or rather, that AND I had hoped we might take a little trip this weekend. To my cabin."
"You have a cabin? Where?"
"It was my parents' place. It's not too far from here, about three hours away. I know it's a bit late to be asking, but if we packed now we could have lunch by the lake. It's really nice this time of year."
Alex watched in his side view mirror as the two men loaded up Skinner's car with bags and large cooler. Mulder looked happy and relaxed in a baseball cap, t-shirt and jeans. Skinner was his usual uptight self in khakis and a polo shirt. What in the hell did Mulder see in the man?
Obviously the two were planning some weekend trip out in the country. Alex watched the car pull out of the parking space and leave. Turning the engine on, he turned the car around and followed.
Doggett muted the game on TV and answered his telephone.
"Agent Doggett? This is Sheriff Collins of the Knox County office. I was told to contact you or an Agent Mulder of the FBI if there were any further disappearances similar to the Davids case..."
The radio was playing loud as Mulder drove down the highway. Skinner had started out driving, but when he'd stopped for gas, Mulder had hopped into the driver's seat. Apparently Mulder had control issues, but it didn't bother Walter much. It gave him the opportunity to watch as Mulder sang loudly (and rather badly) to every song that came up on the Top 20.
As they finally pulled up to the cabin, he was happy to see how delighted Mulder seemed with the place. He watched as Mulder walked around the outside of the cabin, taking in the porch, roof and windows before finally entering. Every room and closet was investigated thoroughly: the kitchen, the living room and both bedrooms. He leered at Skinner as he bounced lightly on the mattress in the master bedroom, but had agreed to eat lunch first.
It was then that Walter was able to show him the best part of the land, the lake only twenty feet from their back door. He'd already carried the small boat down to the small private dock and it bobbed merrily beside it. Mulder enjoyed the view and regretted not having his swim trunks.
"Well...we could always skinny dip at night" Walter suggested with a grin. "But, I thought you might like a boat ride. Or to go fishing tomorrow morning."
Mulder gave him an uneasy look and glanced over at the boat. "Oh...uhhh...I don't think so. I tend to get seasick. I don't like boats much."
"You swim like a fish, but you don't like boats?"
Mulder shrugged and stared out at the lake without answering. It was a quiet lunch, but warm sun and fresh air was pleasant. Walter would have been perfectly content if he didn't suspect Mulder of keeping quite a few secrets about his past. Would the man ever come to trust him enough to share that part of him? What else did Mulder hide?
Doggett swore as he dialed the Scully's phone number on his cell phone. He'd been trying to get in contact with Mulder for the past four hours and the man wasn't answering his home or cell phone number. He'd even called the office, but Mulder hadn't been working weekends lately. What was going on with the man, anyway? He used to be fanatical about the X-Files and his work.
"Agent Scully, this John Doggett. I'm sorry to disturb you on a weekend, but I was wondering if you knew where I could find Agent Mulder."
There was a pause and John wondered for a moment if she was looking at Mulder that very minute. Sitting in bed...smirking over the phone at being caught...
But the jealous little bubble popped when Scully answered with some concern. "There's no answer on his cell?"
"No, nor his home or at the office. I have some important information on a case he was interested in, but I can't contact him."
Scully let out a frustrated sigh on the other end. "Well, it's nothing new, really. Mulder's been known to take off on his own whenever he gets a tip or a theory. He might already be investigating that case on his own. There's not much you can do. Will you let me know when you do hear from him?"
John agreed and hung up, wishing he hadn't alarmed the woman on her day off. It was just like Mulder to go off on his own on this case. The man was probably already at the scene of the latest abductions. There was nothing to do but go up to Knox on his own for now.
Mulder had been fast asleep when Walter had left, apparently because the bed was cold on the other side when he woke. Whatever had possessed the man to get up before dawn to catch fish? As for himself, Mulder was quite content to lie in a warm bed with his big comfy pillow without a care in the world.
For once his morning sickness didn't appear as soon as he woke. He allowed himself to wonder...was the nausea finally going away? It would be wonderful if the headaches did, too. They had begun to frighten him lately with their frequency and intensity. They hadn't been like this since...since his illness before his abduction.
His train of thought was beginning to depress him so he decided to get up and go for a walk. The lake was quiet, but he could just make out the boat with Skinner in it at a distance. He thought about how lucky he was Walter hadn't pushed him to go. The rocking of the boat...the feeling of being trapped out there in the small boat...it made him shudder and quickly turn away, heading off into the forest.
He walked quickly through the forest, trying to lose himself in the peaceful sights and sounds of the forest. He knelt down to retie his shoelaces and suddenly froze.
Someone was watching.
A dull pain in his head blossomed as he felt his own mind stretching out...searching for the source. The pain increased, but there was a murmur...a whisper of thought.
//..he's stopped...why?...movement...from the edge of the woods...ALIEN - STOP!! - MULDER!!//
Mulder leapt to his feet and whirled around. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a dark figure in black leap out from behind a tree.
Alex Krycek was reaching out, running towards him. Mulder automatically reached for his weapon, but he had left it in the cabin. He looked again at the man racing towards him, but Krycek's hand seemed empty.
He was pointing behind Mulder. At that moment he realized the threat was not the man before him, but a being behind him. As he turned to face it - the world suddenly went black.
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