Title: Day In The Life
Author: Goddess Michele
Date: February 28.3, 2004
Spoilers: various and sundry from everywhere, mostly vague, and since we all know how it ends, I don't think anyone's gonna be surprised.
Rating: PG-13, for men loving men, though not in any graphic way.
Beta: I am my own worst beta!
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.
Feedback: Yes, please! firstname.lastname@example.org
Archive: put it wherever you like, including atxf and SM, just leave my name on it.
Author's Note: Better late than pregnant, right? Special nod to big brother for his inspiration.
Summary: Warning: not only is this slash, but it's also M/Sk, and contains schmoop of biblical proportions! I don't know if this fulfills all the qualifications of the latest XOK challenge, or any of them, for that matter, but I think I got most of them right...and if anyone wants to know, the song Byers finally settles on is Billie Holiday's Pennies from Heaven...
i. That Morning:
Without acknowledging the existence of his lover, Fox Mulder steered his still mostly sleeping self unerringly in the direction of coffee. Hazel eyes barely open made out the contours of his favorite coffee mug sitting quietly next to the coffee maker, which burbled happily at him. As he poured out strong Gunsmoke blend and said a silent prayer of gratitude to the god of special agents for giving him an assistant director who knew how to make his own coffee, he ran a hand through hopelessly sleep-mussed hair, straightening it not at all. He let his mind slip back into neutral, closed his eyes and picked up the mug with both hands, liking the way the warmth seeped into his fingers.
Half of the cup's contents were gone before he opened his eyes again. Spotting a solitary orange amongst the apples, pears and bananas in a large plastic bowl next to the coffee maker, he plucked the fruit from its home and carried it away to the table, where Walter Skinner was sitting, chewing on a pencil and scowling darkly at a newspaper. The white terry robe he wore was a match to Mulder's, but where Skinner had his neatly crossed at his chest and tied with a crisp knot at the waist, Mulder's lay open, revealing black silk boxer shorts and a body that, while no longer a teenage fantasy, was still sleekly muscled from a strict exercise routine.
Mulder foolishly tried to say good morning before he'd finished that first cup of coffee.
"Hey," came out of his mouth.
Skinner looked up at him, almost smiled, and returned the loving morning greeting with a lavish one of his own:
"Soap mummy--nine letters--starts with `A'"
Mulder didn't even look down at the crossword looking up at Skinner.
"Adipocere," he said without hesitation.
The scratch of Skinner's pencil making letters was loud in the kitchen, and the sun was bright throughout the room; combined, they made Mulder feel vaguely content and almost twelve for a moment.
"How do you always know shit like that?" Skinner growled, ending the moment. "It's almost spooky, you know."
Mulder smiled into his coffee cup. "Do you remember that case Scully and I investigated--the burial vault clearance in Tisdale County?"
Skinner adjusted his glasses and muttered at the paper, "I don't remember authorizing anything like that."
"Uh, yeah.... I think we might have forgotten to file that 302..." Mulder debated getting up for a refill, and then tried to levitate the coffee pot to the table. When he remembered that he didn't have telekinesis, he settled for peeling his orange instead.
More pencil scratching, and again Mulder was tossed gently back to childhood. For a fraction of a second it was his father sitting at the table with him, struggling through the daily crossword and stubbornly ignoring the hopeful glances from the boy beside him.
Mulder glanced over at the swinging door between the kitchen and the dining room, could have sworn he heard the high tinkling laughter of his sister, and he almost expected to see her come barreling through the door the way she always had, eyes sparkling, a huge gap toothed grin on her face, braids bouncing as she tore through life the way she had torn through his heart...
Then he shook off the memory, and stomped over to the coffee maker for a fresh cup of hot, strong reality.
When he returned to the table, Skinner was reaching for one of his orange slices while still so absorbed in the paper that he startled when Mulder slapped his hand away from the fruit.
Skinner gave him an almost embarrassed smile and a shrug, and just the flex of collarbone and muscle that Mulder could ascertain from the open collar of the man's robe was enough to send a warm jolt of arousal through his body, from scalp to toes with a suitable pause between his legs.
Mulder returned the smile with a quirky one of his own, and offered the orange slice to Skinner himself, holding it just so between thumb and index finger and relishing the warm soft lips that gently grazed over his skin as the fruit was plucked nimbly from his grasp.
Skinner fed the second section to Mulder in just the same way, and Mulder was pleased to hear his lover's quick intake of breath when he nibbled on the man's thumb for just a little longer than he had to.
In this way, back and forth, they consumed the fruit together, and then Mulder went back to his coffee and memories, and Skinner resumed his contemplation of the crossword.
The room grew dim for a moment, just long enough for both men to notice, and something not quite threatening enough to be thunder rumbled outside.
"I don't remember hearing anything about rain," said Skinner.
"I hate rain," said Mulder.
"I know," replied Skinner.
"It better not rain. Supper's at six, and every time there's so much as a drizzle around here, the Gunmen lose their power for a week. I don't relish the thought of eating cold, raw cheese steaks."
"Melvin's food is intimidating at the best of times," Skinner agreed. "But that's what they get for trying to hack around the power company." His inner civil servant couldn't help bristling a little, and Mulder felt that undercurrent of desire again, hearing the accusatory growl in his lover's voice.
"I wonder what the occasion is," Mulder said. "It's not like the Gunmen to put on a party--at least, not a party where cutlery is the rule, rather than the exception."
"Speaking of, will you pick up a bottle of wine on your way back from the gym? We should take something."
Skinner was always thinking of things like that; from flowers for Scully's mom on her birthday to a leather-jacketed, long-haired, punk-singing-telegram belting out the Ramones' version of Happy Birthday on Langly's, with all manner of perfect Christmas gifts for Scully and impeccably timed surprises for Mulder in between, Skinner always seemed to know just what was needed, and when. For an incurable hard-ass, he was one of the most thoughtful men it had ever been Mulder privilege to know.
He glanced over to the window above the sink when more thunder grumbled in the distance, then looked back at Skinner, and saw his own feelings reflected in eyes the colour of melted dark chocolate.
Mulder collected his orange peels, and took away Skinner's coffee cup to refill it.
"I can't believe you do these in ink," Skinner complained, erasing a word he had just finished printing.
`I love you, too,' thought Mulder.
"Okay, how about this one," said Skinner. "Seven letters, starts with L; `teaching plans'"
Mulder grinned and rejoined his lover at the table, reaching into the pocket of his robe and retrieving his own glasses. Slipping them on, he pressed a brief kiss to Skinner's scruffy jaw and said, "Let me see..."
ii. That Afternoon
Scully pushed her glasses further up on the bridge of her nose, gave the menu one more critical glance and turned to the waiter. "Chef salad, bleu cheese dressing on the side, extra onions, please." She handed the young man her menu after he'd taken far too long to write `salad' on his order pad, and added "Green tea as well."
The waiter gave her choices a quick sniff and she immediately halved his tip.
Having already noted Mulder's cheese omelet and coffee on his pad, the waiter moved off, and Mulder leaned into the table and whispered in a falsetto voice "ooh, he's hot..."
"Mulder, shut up!"
Mulder gave her a cheeky grin, then turned serious and said quietly, "What's going on, Scully?"
Her eyes widened in innocent protest. "What do you mean, Mulder?"
"I mean this." He gestured absently at her, their table, a napkin, himself; "Lunch. Today. Your treat?"
The waiter returned with Scully's tea, and a coffee for Mulder, and Scully watched her former partner's expression turn grim while he waited for the help to be out of earshot. In less than a minute he was leaning forward over the table and demanding in a quiet voice, "Are you all right?"
He was thinking of her cancer, of course. Something like that, no matter the length of remission, or the number of doctors reassurances, ever left one's mind, once it had been a part of life. He was always going to worry.
And she was always going to let him.
But she wouldn't encourage the behavior. "I'm fine, Mulder." Seeing him about to protest, she held up a warning hand. "No, really, I mean it."
He was still giving her a skeptical look, which she responded to with the widest, healthiest smile she could muster, toothy and full of foolish cheer. "Clean bill of health less than a month ago, right from the doctor. I couldn't be better." She gave his hand a quick pat. "Besides, isn't that supposed to be my line? How are you doing, Mulder?"
"I'm fine," he told her, wondering suddenly if Skinner had been telling tales out of school. "I might even be doing some work soon."
"That's wonderful, Mulder," Scully replied, turning part of her attention to her tea, which had steeped enough to be drinkable. "Consulting?"
"Yeah. Seems despite everything, the boys in the Bureau miss Ol' Spooky. They might have some things they'd like my opinion on." He failed to mention the spectacular fight he and Walter had had about his returning to the FBI after they had condemned him so thoroughly when he brought out the truth behind the conspiracy he'd spent a lifetime trying to prove. He kept the equally spectacular make-up sex afterwards to himself as well. Scully was no prude, but some days she had a little problem listening to the basic pitcher/catcher routine he and Walter were infamous (at least in their own home) for. He liked to save those visuals for her on days when she needed to vent a little, knowing that even the briefest tales of the X-rated variety always distracted her, and sometimes let her rant a bit; usually whatever was happening with her was bound to come out along with the 'I don't need to know this' lecture.
"Well, I think that's just terrific. And I'm sure Skinner will be pleased as well." Her tone of voice suggested she knew exactly how `pleased' Skinner had been.
Mulder didn't reply, just kept giving her the same level look and sipping at his coffee. Scully refused to acknowledge his unasked questions until a few minutes later, after their meals had arrived.
Mulder prodded his cheese and eggs with a fork to make sure it was dead, which it had been for several days in fact, then made a face at Scully as she carefully ladled a small portion of dressing over the large mound of red onions and other items on her plate.
"What's the point of the dressing, Scully? You're going to wind up tasting like onions no matter how much bleu cheese you put on that thing."
"Well then," she replied archly, forking a large number of the sweet onion rings into her mouth, "it's a good thing you're not kissing me, isn't it?"
"I hope Walter's not having onions for lunch," Mulder deadpanned, and Scully gave a tiny lady-like snort of laughter. Sobering a moment later, she washed salad down with tea and smiled at Mulder.
"I miss seeing you every day, Mulder," she confessed unexpectedly. He gave her a curious look, his eyes bidding her to continue. She ate a little more first, while he mostly played with his food, a habit she recognized from a hundred different meals on a hundred different cases. Finally she added, "It's been good. This time. For myself. For you. But I do miss you."
"We see each other," he protested, and she knew at once that he was taking on her words, feeling guilty when that hadn't been her intention at all. She suspected he would work it out on his own, and that pressing the issue would only make it worse, so instead she changed the topic. "I hope the rain lets up soon. I know I wasn't expecting it, and I know that--" She paused, and Mulder gave her a curious look. "It was unexpected," she finished lamely.
"I hate rain," he told her, like he was saying it for the first time, not the thousandth since they'd first met.
"Are you and Walter going to be at the Gunmen's tonight?" she asked, switching subjects yet again.
"Oh, sure. Walter likes to bitch about my geek friends, but once he and Frohike get into war talk, I swear, it's like I don't even exist." He leaned in close and whispered, "I think one of these days, I'm going to do him right there in front of Frohike--both of them would forget Vietnam ever happened."
"Mulder!" Scully could feel her cheeks and even her ears turning pink as the visual came into her mind of Mulder and Skinner, naked and writhing through her imagination.
"Oh! Was that my out-loud voice?" Mulder inquired with mock innocence.
"You're awful! Do you have any idea how hard it's going to be to look Skinner in the eye tonight?"
"Ah, then my work here is done. Check please!"
They laughed together then, and whatever worries they might be feeling about each other were set aside then, and they fell into comfortable conversation, about old cases, new interests and the upcoming soiree. Mulder thought Scully was still hiding something, but as her careful evasion of any pointed questions continued, along with increased onion breath, Mulder let it alone. Still, he resolved to himself that he would try to spend more time with his friend, and make sure she knew just how much she meant to him.
He was never going to miss saying the things in his heart until too late, ever again.
iii. That Night
Mulder was more than a little surprised when John Doggett opened the door to the Lone Gunmen's office/home. So much so, in fact, that he backed up a step, just enough to fall out of the coverage range of the umbrella that Skinner was holding over the two of them, and cold rain splashed his neck just above the collar of his coat.
Skinner instinctively put a steadying hand on his back, and Mulder recovered a moment later. Doggett smiled at them and held the door open for them to enter.
"Walter. Fox. Good to see you again. Come on in."
The two men entered the office foyer, which was shelf lined and dark, with just emergency halogens set high in the ceiling to cast any light whatsoever.
"No power?" asked Skinner.
"No power." Doggett confirmed. "But we've got an emergency generator running, so no worries."
Skinner shook water from his umbrella and closed it up, ignoring Mulder as he muttered softly about bad luck, and then handed both umbrella and a paper wrapped bottle to Doggett.
"We weren't sure that this would go with cheese steaks," he told Doggett as the man took their coats as well, "but we both refuse to buy Langly's favorite. Wine should never come from a box."
Doggett laughed as he led them past rows of computer monitors and assorted electronics. Warm light was spilling from another room past the office, and Mulder grinned as he recognized the bridge from Joey Ramone's version of What A Wonderful World playing just softly enough that he could make out the voices of his friends as well, though the specifics of what they were saying did not become clear until they entered the living space.
John Byers was adjusting the volume on the stereo and complaining that Joey Ramone was not dinner music. Langly was pressing buttons on a microwave oven and overriding the other man's protests with a stirring speech about what a hero Joey Ramone was because he never gave in, never quit, never--
"Never shut up!" added Frohike, from the table almost too large for the room. Assorted mismatched plates set around the large round table matched the assorted mismatched chairs. A large grease spotted bag looked like it might fall off the edge of the table at any minute now, and from it Frohike was pulling white cartons emblazoned with arterial red Chinese lettering. He looked up as Skinner, Mulder and Doggett walked into the room.
"Guys! Fantastic! Come on in!"
Byers gave them a wave from the audio system, played with another button, and Joey Ramone was replaced with some song full of piano and mullet-wearing lament.
"That's even worse, Byers!" Frohike complained. "It sounds like something you'd play at a funeral."
"I don't know if I'll be able to remember to have Michael Bolton playing at your funeral, dude," Langly said as the microwave beeped twice and starting emitting acceptable levels of radiation. "You better put it in your last will and testament, so we get it right."
Doggett handed Frohike the bottle of wine. He pulled it from the bag, muttering "You better work on your will, smart-ass," and then whistled admiringly as he read the label on the bottle. He turned to the blonde gunman and showed him the bottle. "See. Grownups drink wine out of bottles like this. No more oversized juice boxes, junior." He smiled at Skinner.
Skinner just rolled his eyes and didn't comment on being called Walt. "Mulder picked it out," he said, reaching out to squeeze Mulder's hand briefly.
Byers found some twenties-type jazz to play, and then went in search of stemware for the wine. He mentally counted heads, did a quick algorithm and some subtracting, and decided Langly and Mulder wouldn't mind using those Lord of the Rings glasses they'd gotten at Burger King last fall.
Frohike set the wine on the table and continued to open cartons and place serving spoons in them.
"Sorry bout the cheese steaks, dude," he said to Mulder. "We weren't expecting to get thrown off the switches tonight. Damned rain."
"I hate rain," Mulder replied. He looked around the room, identified everyone, and then used his fabled investigative skills to come to an unsatisfying deduction. "Where's Scully?" he demanded. He didn't miss the look between Frohike and Doggett, who had just come back from stowing their coats.
"What?" Internal alarms suddenly started going off in him, and his lover's warm hand on his back barely dampened them. "What's going on?" He didn't want to be suspicious, but it was his nature, and since he was still `akick and living', as Langly liked to say, he thought his nature had served him pretty well.
"Mulder?" Scully was coming down the hall that led off to various bathrooms and bedrooms, holding something small and squirming and blanketed in her arms. A tiny sound from the blanket offered aural confirmation of what Mulder's eyes had already told his disbelieving mind, but somehow he couldn't find words, and just kept staring as Scully came closer to him. He turned to Skinner, only to find his own confusion mirrored on the other man's face.
"Scully?" he asked helplessly.
Her smile was something that hadn't been captured since the days of the Old Masters.
"Mulder," she replied. The blanket made another noise that sounded nothing like his name. "I told you I missed you. We hadn't had a chance to talk for a while, and truthfully, I didn't want to say anything until I knew for sure--"
"Scully, talk to me here. Is this--are you--how--?" Not his most eloquent interrogation, but then, he had been out of the Bureau for a while now. The hand on his back moved in soothing circles and he let it work, casting a quick and grateful smile at Skinner, and then sweeping a suspicious glance over the other four men in the room before letting his eyes rest on Scully again.
"John helped me find her," Scully told him, "and the guys here helped push the paperwork through." Langly approached her with the bottle of formula that had been heating in the microwave.
"Fox," Scully continued, ignoring the startled look he gave her at the use of his first name, "meet Samantha." She took the bottle from Langly. "Would you like to feed her?"
Skinner fought the urge to kiss the dumbfounded expression off his lover's face.
"Sam..." His voice trailed off as a hundred different emotions warred within him. Like that slice of memory pie he'd had at breakfast, time seemed to fold back on himself, and he found himself caught up in a visual of his mother with the same serene look on her face, cradling another little girl in another lifetime...
"Mine," Scully confirmed. Then immediately corrected herself, "Ours. Lucky girl's going to have six godfathers.... if you two will do the honors with us."
Mulder found himself holding his arms out almost against his will, and when Scully helped him cradle the infant close to his body, nobody spoke. He looked down at wide dark eyes looking up at him with a mixture of complete trust and annoyance, and the baby made a yappy complaining noise. Scully held the bottle to her mouth, and then there was a more content sound as she started to suck. Her gaze never wavered from Mulder's face.
"Samantha..." he murmured. He'd fought a million wars within himself over that name, that person. His sister, his holy grail, his constant battle for the truth. But this time, the truth came to him with perfect clarity, and there was no room for discussion, no need for further proof. The fact was, this was the closest he was ever going to come to having Samantha Mulder alive in the present time...
...and it felt just fine.
The baby pulled her mouth away from the bottle and uttered a contented burp as her eyes closed. The resulting giggle from Mulder's mouth was something he knew he was going to get teased about for months, but he didn't care.
Carefully handing Sam back to Scully, Mulder found her replaced by a Legolas-etched glass of wine, and he raised it with a smile.
"Par-tay!" he announced.
And it was.
Lisby's list of challenge elements:
Samantha Mulder found alive in present time Walter Skinner's glasses
Frohike's Last Will and Testament
an unexpected rain
a new baby
a burial vault clearance
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