DISTRIBUTION: OK for Archive/X and the Socks Shoppe. Elsewhere by permission. Email forwarding OK.
RATING: Slash, PG13
SPOILERS: None
SUMMARY: Skinner/Pendrell. Holiday vignette. Hangovers and Happy New Year.
DISCLAIMER: Skinner, Pendrell, and the X-Files are owned by Chris Carter, 1013, and Fox.
January 1999


Tea And No Tea
by Halrloprillalar <prillalar@yahoo.com>

New Year's Day

Up at nine-thirty, coffee on, shower, shave, dress, sit down with a mug and a couple of Advil. Skinner smiled as he inhaled the dark, twisting fragrance. Ten to. Right on schedule. Good start for the New Year.

As he drank, he took stock. His head felt clear and while a headache prowled the base of his skull, the painkillers would tame it easily. No strong nausea, either, just a hint of...delicacy. A wraithlike hangover, powerless to do anything but haunt him.

Skinner silently thanked whoever had taught him about water-cured hangovers. Lots of water before bed, more water and some Advil when he woke early, then Advil and coffee when he got up for the day. Simplicity was best.

Half the mug gone, he checked his watch. 10:03 -- he'd give Daniel another ten minutes. Maybe his stomach *was* a little queasy after all. No, it was fine. He took a large gulp and nearly burned his tongue. Sighing just a little, he closed his eyes and finished the coffee more cautiously.

He got up and started for the bedroom, but turned back for a glass of water and two, no better make it three, Advil tablets. After all, he was not a cruel man.

Sunlight oozed around the edges of the curtains, like jelly dripping out of one of Pendrell's sandwiches. Briskly, Skinner drew them open, then set down his cargo and approached the bed.

Pendrell slept the sleep of the soon-to-wish-they-were-dead, wearing last night's shirt and a sheet that coiled python-like around him. His mouth hung open as he snored with a peculiar gurgle that Skinner had at one time found endearing.

How best to do this? Call from across the room? Take him by the shoulder? Set the alarm off? Preferably some method that would avoid the halo of halitosis that was sure to surround Pendrell. But the shoulder might be the most humane.

Softly, softly. Skinner padded closer, closer, reached out, and stepped on a beer can. "Shit!" He winced, on behalf of both of them. Pendrell jerked in mid-gurgle to blinking silence. Served him right for leaving beer cans... A memory tickled Skinner's neural pathways, sitting on the bedroom floor, talking, drinking Black and Tan. Oh.

"Sorry," Skinner half-whispered. "I didn't mean to..." Pull yourself together, man. "It's time to get up."

Pendrell's face scowled and twisted into a yawn. "Not yet." He pulled a pillow over his head.

Now the shoulder. Skinner shook him gently. "Time to get up, Daniel. Happy New Year."

"What time is it?" the pillow asked.

"10:17."

"Oh God, why are you doing this?" Pendrell rolled over, turning his back to Skinner.

"Resolutions. Time to make them." Skinner pulled the pillow away. "You're not the only one with family traditions, you know."

"Give me back the pillow. I resolve better in the dark."

Dammit, this was not going well. "Please."

Pendrell sat up, rubbing his face with both hands. "What's in it for me?"

"Coffee."

"If I can keep it down. Okay." Slowly, he set his feet on the floor and stood. "Get up. Very difficult, but you manage it. The room is still spinning. It dips and sways a little."

"What?"

Pendrell pulled his robe from a chair back. "Take gown. Luckily, this is large enough for you to get hold of." Grimacing, he shrugged it on. "Put it on. You are now wearing your gown."

This was weirder than usual. But at least he was up. Skinner handed the water and Advil to Pendrell who sluiced them down.

"Take buffered analgesic. You swallow the tablet. After a few seconds the room begins to calm down and behave in an orderly manner. Your terrible headache goes." Pendrell stared off into the distance for a moment. "No, the terrible headache remains."

"Coffee in the kitchen." Skinner took Pendrell's arm and led him there, pulling out a chair and pouring two mugs.

Eyes closed, Pendrell slumped over the mug without drinking. "Walter, will you do something for me?"

"What do you want?"

"Shoot me. I'm worse than dead." He took a sip and shuddered. "It tastes almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea."

"Did you want tea?"

"No. Yes. Please."

Getting up to put the kettle on, Skinner almost told him to go back to bed. But he veneered over the concern. "Doesn't your mother have a miracle hangover cure?"

"Why don't you call her for the recipe?" Pendrell glared at Skinner over the rim of his cup. "You're probably having an affair with her anyhow."

Not this again. "She's a good ten years older than I am, Daniel."

"And you're a good fifteen years older than I am, Walter."

"That was my last objection. I'll call her after lunch." Skinner rolled his eyes, then laid two fingers on Pendrell's wrist. "Ready for the resolutions?"

"Okay, I resolve that next year I will have a party twice as big, drink twice as much, and not let you get me up before three in the afternoon."

"And just what can you remember about the party anyhow?"

Pendrell's eyes narrowed. "I remember that I'm mad at you about something."

"For not being hung over?"

"You're not hung over?" Pendrell sat upright, then clutched his head. "Weren't you drinking?"

"I told you to drink water, but you were too drunk to listen." Skinner struggled, then gave in to the smugness. "So no, I'm not hung over. What are you mad about?"

"You...where were you? I looked for you once and I didn't see you."

"Talking. I'm surprised you even thought to look once."

"Talking to who? Where?"

Skinner took a long drink of coffee before answering. "I think her name was Odessa. She came with your friend Asok. We talked about how we hated parties and didn't understand what anyone else there was talking about. We were in the bedroom because it was the only quiet place."

"In the bedroom. In my own house. Now I know how Robin felt about Catwoman." Pendrell sucked down more coffee and made a face.

"We were just sitting on the floor. You should be glad I even came to the party, let alone found someone to talk to." The kettle whistled and Pendrell plugged his ears. Skinner got up to make the tea, talking over his shoulder. "I *did* turn down a request from some woman to go out to her car and see if I could tell her why the engine sounded funny."

"Azie." Pendrell grinned suddenly. "I wonder who she dragged home with her. So, Walter, what's your resolution?"

Skinner sat down. "I resolve not to go to your party next year."

"Then I resolve to make you go."

"Make a real resolution, Daniel. I'll write them down."

"You mean like not being so irritated by some people's anal tendencies?"

"Something like that." Skinner readied pen and paper. "Go ahead."

"Okay, okay." Propping his face on one hand, Pendrell furrowed his brow. Lucy sidled into the kitchen and twisted through the maze of legs--chair, table, and human--before leaping into Pendrell's lap. He stroked her as she rubbed her head under his chin. "I resolve to eat more green vegetables."

Skinner jotted that down on Pendrell's side of the paper, then wrote his own. "I resolve to read the Aeneid through."

"You mean you haven't?"

"No." Skinner frowned. "I keep trying, but I always get sidetracked."

"It's boring. Trust me. Read some Niven and Pournelle instead."

"Next resolution, Professor."

Pendrell made big eyes at Skinner, then blinked painfully. "Is the tea ready?"

"It must be." Skinner went to pour out. "How do you take it?"

"Milk." Pendrell took the proffered cup. "No tea: dropped."

More weirdness. Probably a good sign. "Next?"

Smiling through the rising steam, Pendrell took another moment to think. "I resolve to throw out my pens when they run out of ink."

"Thank God. This is the third one I tried."

"Poor baby. Now you resolve to harass me less."

Skinner's eyebrows went up. "Me harass you? You're delusional. You should resolve to drink less."

"I hardly ever drink, Mr Beer Guzzler." He took a swallow. "You make good tea, I'll give you that."

"OK, I resolve to beat you at Scrabble at least once this year."

"Don't make resolutions you know you're incapable of keeping, Skipper." Pendrell blew Lucy's tail out of his face. "Better resolve to be a better loser instead."

"I am an excellent loser. And I still think you make up half those words."

Lucy stretched to the floor and Pendrell moved closer to the table. "Don't challenge unless you're absolutely sure." He smirked. "Next. I resolve to clean my gun more often."

"How often do you clean it?"

"Well, I don't really know if I'm doing it right, so..."

Unthinkable. "I'll show you. You really need to make sure it's in good order."

"Like I'm ever going to use it." Pendrell held his mug to his cheek. "I'm a lab geek, remember? It's stupid that I have to carry it."

"Where is it now? We'll do that this afternoon." How could Daniel be so cavalier about this?

"Not today, Walter, I have a headache. Come over on Saturday. We'll have a cozy little session where you can teach me the proper techniques of gun cleaning. You'll clean mine and I'll clean yours and you'll get all hot and bothered and take advantage of me."

Skinner laughed. "Just doing my duty. I resolve to not to work on weekends unless its an emergency."

Pendrell put his hand on Skinner's arm. "Good. Spend more of them here. Make tea. Take advantage." They spent a moment just smiling at one another. Then Pendrell frowned. "I'm still mad at you for getting me up."

"You'll get over it. You'll be grateful for something to hold over my head."

"You know me too well. Any more tea?"

"A bit." Skinner smoothed down Pendrell's bedhead before getting the teapot. "What do you want to do after lunch? The first Scrabble game of the New Year?"

"No lunch for me. I'm dying, remember?" Pendrell drank his tea greedily. "And no Scrabble."

"Then how about a massage?" Moving to stand behind him, Skinner rubbed Pendrell's shoulders and neck.

"Mmm...yes, but later, k?" Carefully, Pendrell stood. He picked a bit of fluff off of Skinner's sweater, looked at it, and stuck it in the pocket of his robe. "I'm going to go play on the computer." Clutching his tea mug and his head, he left the room.

Skinner resolved to concentrate more on finding out what the hell Pendrell was talking about half the time, then thought better of it. He stuck the list to the fridge door with a Mr Spock magnet, then looked inside for some lunch. He thought better of that too.

One more cup of coffee, looking out the kitchen window at the bright cold sun. Maybe a walk through the park. Maybe a book. Not the Aeneid today. Then back to Pendrell.

I resolve, he thought, to take advantage as much as possible during the coming year. Skinner smiled, finished his coffee, and headed out into the sunshine.

F I N I S

What did you resolve? I can keep a secret. prillalar@yahoo.com