|Primary Characters:||Mulder, Scully, Skinner, Krycek|
|Description:||Mulder takes on a case concerning strange events in Vegas. Scully just wants to celebrate New Year’s Eve with her lover. They end up living through some pretty strange events themselves.|
It was with a sense of relief Scully was able to disentangle herself from her family and return home. She felt a slight pang of guilt at leaving her mother alone for New Year’s. In the past, when her father was still alive, she would always take the time off.
This time, she had found herself thinking of Mulder most of the time. All through her visit, she knew that her brothers and sisters-in-law had been pondering her absentmindedness, but no one had said anything. Maybe it was time to tell everyone about her and Mulder. She wasn’t quite sure why she held back. This was one relationship she believed in without question.
Her mother seemed to suspect something, but Scully wasn’t ready to discuss Mulder just yet. Especially not around Christmas. There would be endless discussions. For some reason, her brothers didn’t like Mulder. She didn’t think they blamed him for Melissa’s death, but somehow, they felt Mulder was dragging her away from her family loyalties. So what? Tough. She was her own person. They hadn’t felt the need to consult her about their relationships or marriages, so why did she need their approval? It was Mulder she loved.
That was why she had this warm feeling of anticipation when she carried her bags up to the apartment. With Mulder living there with her, it was more like a home than any of her other temporary homes had ever been. She expected him to be there waiting for her. After all, she had left a message with his answering service, and sent an email to announce her arrival. Besides, it had been the agreement from the start. She would spend Christmas with her family, then New Year’s with him.
It had felt terrible, leaving him alone like this, his first Christmas without his mother, but he had assured her that he’d be fine. That, if nothing else, told her that the antipathy her brothers felt for her partner was mutual. She had offered to bring him along, but as she was making the offer, she knew that it was only asking for trouble. No matter how strongly she felt about Mulder, she wasn’t quite ready for that fight.
And now – the apartment was empty, quiet, and had that air of neglect, that seems to creep in, whenever you spent a few days away.
She began unpacking, then took a shower, wondering where on earth Mulder could have gone off to. He wasn’t at his own place. At least he wasn’t answering the phone. Which he would have, if he’d been there. For a moment, Scully felt a trace of concern. But she brushed it away. That was nonsense. Nothing would have happened to him. He wasn’t working any case right now. If he had received any important information, he would have contacted her.
It was the day before New Year’s eve and surely he’d want to spend the following night with her? She had made some modest plans. Nothing that would involve leaving the apartment, but still, plans for a holiday weekend for just the two of them. No family, no work, no –
Uh oh. Surely he couldn’t have thought of visiting his three loony friends? He hadn’t said a word about that when she was leaving, but that didn’t mean anything, she suddenly realized. Her slightly less warm feelings towards those three couldn’t have been lost on her lover. Perhaps he’d felt it unnecessary to confide his intentions in her.
And it turned out she was right. Around nine, she heard the key turning in the lock, and seconds later, she heard his voice calling her name.
“In here, Mulder. Where have you been?”
She didn’t like her own tone of voice. Wasn’t it a little too much like the jealous wife who had been staying awake all night, awaiting her husband’s return from a bar or other establishment of low repute?
“I’ll tell you all about it. There you are.”
His kiss felt as sweet as always. Already, she was beginning to forgive him. Forgive? There was nothing to forgive. He could spend time with his friends any time he wanted, without needing her permission.
“Mm. I’ve missed you. How was your Christmas?”
“It was alright. A bit intense, but the kids were great as usual. And mom – But what have you been doing?”
“Frohike called me about ten minutes after you left. Wonderful coincidence.”
Coincidence? Hardly likely. Frohike and his equally charming friends must have been keeping watch over the apartment and known exactly when to strike. Unless… She wouldn’t put it past them to have the place bugged. Come to think of it, they might just as well have placed a camera somewhere utterly unthinkable, like the bathroom or the bedroom. She had to remember to have the techs come and sweep the place after the holidays. But right now, all she could do was await Mulder’s little tale.
“He invited me to this amazing RPG weekend. You have no idea how -“
He was right about that, and she’d like it to stay that way. How could grown men dress up in fantasy dress and play – whatever it was they played? It never ceased to amaze Scully.
“That’s great, darling. Have you eaten?”
“What? Oh, it’s been a while.”
“Good. Then let’s have dinner. Come on. You can tell me all about your Christmas later.”
Much later. In fact, he needn’t bother at all.
She’d bought a bottle of imported wine. By the time they’d finished that bottle, Mulder’s mind was on things far removed from RPG’s. They retired to bed, and celebrated their reunion in a fitting way. Much later, with a contented smile on her lips, Scully drifted off to sleep, possessively clutching her partner, lover and best friend. Life could be good sometimes.
Was that the phone ringing? She wouldn’t pick up. Not on New Year’s eve. What was Mulder doing? He knew she didn’t like him to pick up the phone in her apartment. By now, she was wide awake and a slight sense of irritation had crept in. All her plans for a pleasant New Year seemed to be destined to go astray.
“Yes, sir. Of course. No, I’m sure that’s not a problem. I’ll inform her right away. Alright. I will.”
“What are you doing, Mulder? Not a job, please?”
Mulder was smiling in a way that hinted to Scully that he thought he had a wonderful surprise for her. Since he’d referred to the caller as ‘sir’, she was fairly sure it wasn’t Langly or Frohike, though she couldn’t be absolutely certain. Who knew what those moronic games involved?
“Yes. And not any old job. We’re going to Vegas.”
Vegas? This had to be a bad dream. Had he really accepted a case in Vegas on New Year’s eve? What was he thinking?
“Vegas? What is it now?”
She knew it was no good protesting. FBI agents didn’t have any control over their working hours.
“A mysterious case. I’m going to fill you in on the details on the way. Go on. Aren’t you going to get ready? When was the last time you spent New Year in Vegas?”
“Mulder, I haven’t even been to Vegas before -“
“Great. Why don’t you pack that fantastic dress you wore on the latest -“
Smiling weakly, Scully decided to make the best of things. This was after all, what she had let herself in for when she became an FBI agent, and even more when she accepted the assignment to the X files. Life with Mulder was like this. She could take it or leave it, and she knew that whatever it took, it was worth it.
In the car, Mulder briefly informed Scully of what little he had learned from Skinner about their new case.
“It’s being kept hush-hush, but in the past six weeks, five politicians, or executives of major corporations have been involved in – strange episodes.”
“What sort of episodes?”
With a sigh, Scully wondered if this had any extraterrestrial connection or was merely another weird case, of earthly origins.
“That’s a bit hard to determine. Each of the men – so far no women – have been extremely vague about the details. But I gather they were acting – in ways uncharacteristic of them.”
“And what does that mean?”
“I’m just repeating what Skinner told me. A full report will be faxed to us from the field office. But what I’m guessing is these men were involved in some sexual situations or wild partying.”
Why had Mulder been so eager to accept this case? From what he had to tell her, she deduced that the men hadn’t been acting so much uncharacteristically as in a manner unsuited to their station. If they’d been able to quiet the incidents down, she could think of no reason why they would want to be investigated by the FBI.
Maybe that was what made this an X file, but she still found it hard to forgive Mulder’s boyish enthusiasm about Vegas. Vegas? She could hardly think of any place she’d rather not be on this particular night, than right in the middle of the desert.
“Hold it. I know what you’re going to say. A bunch of politicians getting drunk and behaving like college boys isn’t much of an X file. But I have a hunch about this one. Something strange is behind it. I can feel it. Besides, it seemed like an such a fantastic opportunity. It would have been a shame to waste it.”
Finding a smile somewhere, Scully beamed back at her lover. Oh, well, wherever Mulder was, she’d be happy enough.
At the airport in Vegas, Scully realized that she was definitely in the minority. Apparently, thousands of people were heading for the neon lights, the casino tables, the scantily dressed females. If it was up to her, Mulder would stay far away from the scantily dressed females, but as for the rest of what Vegas had to offer, she had a feeling she’d be taken for the grand tour.
Things didn’t pick up once they reached the hotel. Dutifully, following Bureau procedure, Mulder asked for two single rooms, both of which seemed to have been booked for them, courtesy of the field office. Better and better.
“Are you tired?”
“You look a bit tense. If you like, I’ll take a look at the fax from the field office, while you have some rest.”
“No. That’s ok. I’m fine. At least once I get to stretch my legs a bit. We’ll go over that report together.”
“If you’re sure?”
She wasn’t going to leave him alone for a second. A place like this had to be as close to Disneyland as things got for adults. Adult? The glint in Mulder’s eyes was anything but adult. So much for a romantic weekend.
At least the single room Mulder had been given looked spacious enough. If hers wasn’t she’d insist on trading. That was the least he could do, considering – Who did that cell phone belong to? Not hers, surely – No, it was Mulder’s. Well, whatever it was, things couldn’t get any worse, could they?
“Yes, sir. Oh. I see. But what about – Right. Well, ok. See you soon.”
This time, Mulder didn’t look quite as happy. So she’d been wrong. Things could, and apparently had taken a turn for the worse.
“What it is now?”
“Nothing to worry about. It was Skinner. He told me he’ll be on the next plane out here.”
Scully was quite fond of her boss. In fact, she considered him more a friend than anything else, but there were times when three definitely was a crowd. Besides, this was a job, which meant Bureau employees only. Would Skinner be bringing his lover? She had a feeling this holiday was spinning out of control. There was the tiniest twinge of pain in her left temple. No. Not now. A headache, or worse, a migraine would ruin the last chance she had of spending a romantic weekend with her lover.
“I’m sorry. But I could hardly tell him no, could I?”
“Of course not. He’s our superior. But what in the world could have possessed him to join us out here?”
“Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe he thought Vegas would be a great place to spend New Year’s.”
“But what if he’s bringing – you know – Krycek.”
The face Mulder made told her that the same thought had crossed his mind as well, and he didn’t like it any more than she did.
“I hardly think he’d do that. Do you?”
The last word came out more plaintively than he must have intended, because he made a visible effort at rearranging his features.
“No. Of course not. He wouldn’t -“
But lately, her boss – her friend – had seemed to be acting more and more out of character. If she hadn’t trusted him as deeply as she did, she would even have begun to question his loyalty to her and Mulder, to the FBI.
“No. You’re right. I’m being silly. Just one thing -“
This was beginning to get tedious. If any more bad news cropped up, she’d just give up on the romantic weekend lunacy and take the next plane back home. Or to her brother’s place. If the holiday was ruined, it was. And three agents covering this job seemed to be at least one too many.
“He said – Not to bother booking another room. Bureau procedure -“
“Mulder, you don’t need to lecture me on Bureau procedure. It’s just that – In this case -“
No. This couldn’t be some insidious trick on Skinner’s part to get Mulder, could it? Surely not.
“I know. But you know what? This might be our chance. If I sneak out and join you here, Skinner could hardly protest.”
“I see. Devious, Fox. Very sly.”
At first the sound of his given name made him tense up momentarily, then he relaxed and smiled at his lover, reminding himself who she was. It would be ok. They would have a great time and nothing would spoil his plans. Frohike had told him his horoscope promised a couple of very passionate days ahead.
“Why, thank you. I do my best. Look, I’d better leave my stuff in here then.”
“Oh, of course. Mulder -“
“We can get to work now. If we put a move on, we might have most of the case covered by the time Skinner gets here.”
“Exactly what I was thinking.”
For a second, Mulder contemplated kissing his lovely partner, then thought better of it. Tonight they wouldn’t just be FBI agents covering a case. Right now, though, they’d better act professionally.
Mulder returned, bringing the transcripts of the interviews with the men who had been the victims of the supposed crime. The files weren’t particularly extensive. In addition, the hotel had turned over their surveillance tapes. The latter proved to be highly informative, in a manner of speaking. At first, Scully thought they might relieve the boredom of reviewing this case by alternating video tapes with the reading of reports.
However, after watching Mulder’s eyes glaze over, and listening to the way his breathing picked up, she decided to take over the scanning of those interminable video tapes. Dryly, she remarked on her partner’s preoccupation with the scantily clad – working girls, who had been – helping – the senators, CEO’s and other VIP’s make fools of themselves.
No reply. She tried a discreet cough. Nothing. With a sigh, she cleared her throat.
“Hey, Earth to Mulder. Are you trying to determine what caused these men to act this way? Or -“
Guiltily, Mulder turned around and faced his lover – or for the duration of this review of the facts, his partner. His cheeks were flushed and his eyes were still slightly vacant. Oh, please, Scully thought to herself. What was so interesting about those balding old men frolicking with a bunch of bimbos?
“Oh. Uh – yes, of course.”
“And what conclusion did you arrive at?”
Again, his eyes strayed towards the screen, where a very athlectic young woman was exerting herself, no doubt giving the congressman with her his money’s worth. To cut short any more nonsense, Scully grabbed the remote and switched the tape off. Maybe they’d seen enough anyway.
“Uh – sorry – No. I can’t think of anything unusual -“
“Except for the fact that the blonde two tapes ago was really a man, you mean?”
“What? No, surely not. I think I would have been able to -“
“Really? And what about that protruding larynx?”
Something told Scully that the blonde’s larynx hadn’t been what had caught Mulder’s attention.
At last, Mulder was regaining control of himself, and somewhat shamefacedly, he turned his full attention back on his partner.
“What did you conclude?”
“Like you, nothing.”
And that was what she had suspected all along. But what did it matter? If Mulder really wanted to spend the holiday out here, why should she grudge him that simple pleasure? Well, within reason. Those pornographic tapes were going a bit far.
“I think we’ve seen enough. Whatever happened, must have happened without us being able to detect it. Did you get the tapes from the bar and the elevator or the stairs?”
“I didn’t think – Why? What did you expect to find there?”
“Well, think. If these men were drugged, whatever it was must have been administered to them somehow. You did say the water has been analysed? And the food in the restaurants?”
“Yes. I have the lab’s findings here somewhere -“
“Ok. So how did it happen? As far as I can remember from the physical examinations of the supposed victims, there were no traces of needle marks on their skin.”
“No. Nothing like that.”
Unless you counted the scratch marks on some of the men’s backs. But Scully didn’t really believe the prostitutes would have had some kind of drug applied to their finger nails. This was getting them nowhere. A dead end. Exasperated, she shook her head.
“What’s wrong? Are you getting a headache?”
“No. But I’m tired and hungry. Can we just order some food up here? I’m sure I’ll be able to think better after short break.”
“Of course. But are you sure you want to stay here? We could go downstairs and check out the -“
“Not tonight. We still haven’t made any progress. If we have to report to Skinner that we haven’t found anything, at least we should be able to tell him we did our best.”
“You’re right. Ok. I’ll call room service. Anything in particular you’d like?”
“Just some salad and mineral water will do. My sister-in-law seemed determined to outdo mom’s cooking. I still feel bloated after Christmas dinner.”
“Oh. You won’t mind if I order something a bit more substantial, will you?”
“Of course not. Do you eat at all at those RPG thing?”
“Not much. You see -“
The last thing in the world Scully wanted was to hear about how Mulder spent close to a week playing – yes, that really was the word – with a bunch of other grown men, so she hurriedly interrupted the narrative before it had begun.
“I thought so. Go ahead. I’ll just change into something more comfortable. Skinner won’t be here for another -“
As if the mention of their boss had caused the phone to ring, she broke off in mid-sentence. Automatically, she reached for her cell phone, but again, it was Mulder’s not hers that had beeped.
“Yes? I see, sir. Not much. Yes, I’ll tell her. We’ll be expecting you.”
“Yes. He must have managed to get here a bit sooner than we expected. It will just be another hour.”
“At least we’ll have time to eat.”
“I’ll make that call now.”
After lunch, they adjourned to Mulder’s room. Well, Skinner’s room, really.
It was just over an hour later that their boss walked in, carrying one small suitcase. Behind him, a member of the hotel staff, entered, carrying a larger suitcase. How long did Skinner intend to stay anyway? And Scully was stunned to notice that their boss was all dressed up. Apparently, Mulder wasn’t the only man who had dreams of casino tables. Perhaps they’d be better off without her. This boys’ club didn’t really have use for a woman. A fully dressed one anyway.
There was something a bit odd about Skinner’s normally so stony features. What was he about to tell them? There seemed to be something he wanted to say, but wasn’t quite sure how to bring it up.
“Alex might be dropping by later.”
Mulder still couldn’t accept the illicit affair between his boss and their arch-enemy. How in the world –
Scully hurriedly broke in, to prevent any unpleasantness. So that was it. She had been right. There was no real need for Skinner to join them out here. Just like Mulder, their boss wanted a romantic weekend with the person he loved. That wasn’t too much to ask, after all. Why shouldn’t they all be allowed to live like ordinary human beings just for a short while?
“I was thinking – You don’t really need two rooms, so I was hoping -“
Unbelievable. For a second, Mulder forgot all about how he himself had been hoping to bend the rules so he could spend the few nights at the hotel, with Scully.
“Say no more. We understand.”
Scully stared pointedly at her lover. At least she did.
A look of relief spread across Skinner’s tight features. For once, there was even a hint of a smile. Awkwardly, he tried to think of a way to change the subject.
“Any progress to report?”
“No, sir. I’m afraid not. Mulder and I have gone over the evidence, and so far nothing stands out.”
“I see. Well, we’ll keep looking. Off the record, a few key members of the government are spending the holiday here, and it would be an added bonus if we could prevent the same type of crime from occurring again. Imagine the scandal if anything like this leaked out to the press.”
“I understand. Well, I’ll leave you to do your unpacking then, sir. Mulder -“
“Yes. We’ll get back to work.”
Skinner nodded absently and turned his attention towards getting settled in. Though normally totally devoted to his work, this time, he was planning a romantic weekend for two. Mulder and Scully could cover the business end of things, and if he knew those two the way he thought he did, they would make sure they had plenty of time for themselves. And if they needed his help, he would be right here. Yes, this was an opportunity too good to be missed.
By now, Scully had had more than enough of surveillance tapes, case files and Vegas. If all she was going to see of it was her hotel room, she might as well have had the relevant facts faxed to her. There was a cramp in her neck and her back felt as if she’d been sleeping on the floor. Mulder looked up and caught her eye. In his opinion there wasn’t any more to be learned from these files.
“How about some food?”
“I thought you’d never ask. Room service?”
At that moment, she could think of nothing more pleasant than curling up on the bed, with some morsel of food, something good to drink and her lover right next to her. Flying back and forth across the continent never used to affect her like this. Was she getting weak in her old age? Nonsense. Unconsciously, she shook her head defiantly. Old? Not her.
“Wouldn’t that be rather a waste? I mean, now that we are in Vegas -“
That puppy dog look always got to her. If Mulder wanted sequins and neon lights, he’d get them. Within reason. Topless dancers weren’t really part of the deal if she had any say in matters.
“Why don’t you get us a table, while I slip into something less comfortable?”
Mulder didn’t pay attention to her choice of words. Automatically turning his back on her, like so many times before when they’d bent the rules, not because they were lovers but because they both so desperately wanted to be. In his mind, they were already cruising between the gambling tables.
Dinner was less painful than she’d anticipated. The wine had helped her unwind a little, and by now, she was viewing the whole escapade in a far more mellow light. When Mulder suggested they adjourn to the bar, she had no objection. A couple of drinks might be just the thing she needed right now.
To her astonishment, they ran into Skinner at the bar. For some reason, Scully hadn’t really expected to find him there. Vegas or not, this was her boss, and she and Mulder had been told to continue work on the case. She was prepared to get up and return to the tedious routine work upstairs, but the smile that greeted them made her forget her original intention.
“Hello. I was thinking we probably won’t get much more work done tonight anyway.”
Was there a slight hint of apology in Skinner’s tone? Perhaps. In any case, he wasn’t going to send them back to the salt mines.
“No. We were about done for the evening and we thought we’d -“
Mulder seemed embarrassed too.
“What are you drinking?”
“What? Oh. A scotch and soda, sir. No ice.”
Skinner’s eyebrows moved, as if he found that particular drink incompatible with this agent, that he’d been working with for so long.
“And you, agent Scully?”
“A White Lady.”
She had no intention of losing control under the watchful eyes of her boss. Not that she couldn’t put it away with the best of them. In med school, a favorite hobby of hers had been drinking men twice her size under the table. She’d make sure Mulder didn’t have too much and ended up making a fool of himself. Vegas or no Vegas.
But somehow, the White Lady appeared to be a little bit stronger than she remembered it. Or maybe she was more tired than she’d thought. Either way, it wasn’t long until she was giggling like a school girl, and doing her best to embarrass Mulder by squeezing his thigh, all while maintaining a conversation with Skinner. How had she ever thought Vegas dull? This was amazing. Mulder was right. There really was no other place to be on New Year’s.
Mulder was getting decidedly relaxed himself. He was beginning to think of a way of excusing himself from his boss, so he could get his lover upstairs and – have his wicked way with her. That dress she was wearing always affected him like this – or maybe not quite as much. But somehow, tonight she looked hotter than ever. He was just about to ask her to dance, when a shadow fell across the counter between them.
“Well, well. I guess you started the party without me.”
That infuriating voice. Mulder turned abruptly, to vent his anger on the Russian assassin, spy and – Here words failed Mulder and he contented himself with glaring at Krycek.
Skinner almost got up, then checked himself. Not in public. Not in front of his agents. But he wanted to pull Alex into his arms and – Oh, well, time enough later. Until now, he hadn’t dared to believe that his lover would be able to join him.
Something would happen to take him away from him. Something – or at least he would be delayed and they wouldn’t get the chance of celebrating New Year’s together. But after all, here he was. The green eyes touched briefly on Skinner, slid indifferently by Mulder and lingered over the woman with red hair which shone even redder in the bright lights of Vegas.
If Mulder hadn’t been quite as drunk, he might have noticed something odd. Scully was smiling back at Krycek, every bit as warmly as Skinner. And – even more surprisingly perhaps, with even more desire than the uptight older man ever displayed.
“Walter. Fox. Dana.”
The Russian’s voice changed as he got to the last name. Unbelievable. The nerve of that traitorous piece of scum. Mulder was about to tell Krycek to get lost, never mind Skinner’s feelings. But the moment passed and Mulder sent for a new drink. No soda this time.
“May I join you?”
Krycek didn’t bother waiting for the reply. Who did he think he was anyway? James Bond?
Mm. That suit really became Krycek, Scully had to hand it to him. The guy really could wear a suit. Not that Mulder couldn’t – but here there was that touch of something – feral. Whatever it was, it turned her on. And something about the way the Russian was studying her, hinted that maybe, just maybe, his flirting with her had been a little more than just his usual talk.
“What will you have? Vodka?”
“No. I think not. Champagne will suit the occasion better. Wouldn’t you say so, Dana?”
“Oh, absolutely. I’ll have one as well. Come on, Mulder. Don’t sulk. Have one as well.”
Sullenly, Mulder swept down the rest of his whiskey, and found that despite everything, Krycek didn’t bother him so much. Vegas was Vegas, after all. He recognized one or two celebrities, but the members of the government appeared to be absent. Not that he would have recognized them without doing his homework.
He looked up to find his lover vanishing onto the dance floor, accompanied, no, led by the arm by Krycek. Mulder turned to face Skinner to see how his boss was taking all this. Yes, he thought he detected some tension on his boss’ already tight features.
If the drinks and the environment had helped Skinner unwind a little, the sudden appearance of his lover had put him right back where he started this morning. There was nothing else for it, but to drown his sorrows in another drink. And why not listen to the music? This was his type of music. None of that modern crap. As far as Skinner was concerned the birth of rock and roll had spelled the end of real music.
The guests were far too busy enjoying their own New Year’s celebration to pay much attention to others. However, the couple that had just entered the dance floor did provoke some interest. They were a handsome pair, no question about it. More than one man found his eyes straying from his own partner to the petite redhead who was resting comfortably in her partner’s arms. Most ladies were gasping at the sight of the sexy green eyed god who was expertly following the rhythm of the music.
To Mulder’s and Skinner’s dismay, it wasn’t long until the dance turned into something more. This was going a bit far. Under the eyes of the concerned parties’ lovers. On any other night, this type of display might have been checked early on. As it was, everyone was too busy partying, to get worked up about it. So those two were obviously lovers. Big deal.
At one point, Mulder was determined to put a stop to that traitorous bastard’s shenanigans. But somehow, getting to his feet seemed far too much effort. And he was beginning to mellow a bit. Let Krycek have his fun. There was enough fun to go around for everyone.
Skinner seemed to echo Mulder’s sentiments. After a while, though, he made an effort to clear his head. Alex was betraying him. With Scully of all people. She was – the two of them should be taught a lesson of some kind. If only he could think straight. At the back of his head a little voice told him that this was what he got for playing with fire. Icy green fire in the form of – No.
“Listen – I was thinking maybe we ought to pay those two back.”
Mulder, who was getting into the spirit of the season, had been ogling a blonde who seemed to be approaching the bar. Blonde wasn’t really his color, but who cared? Blonde, redhead, brunette? What difference did it make. If Dana wanted to cheat on him, why should he remain faithful? It made perfect sense.
“Good idea. How about that blonde?”
“I was thinking about me.”
Skinner’s words took a while to sink in, while Mulder was doing his best to interpret what he was hearing. Then he nodded happily.
“Alright. You have her. That brunette over there will do just as well.”
However, the brunette in question, was just getting up to run across the table to fling herself into the arms of a likewise young and attractive man.
“No. I was thinking you and me.”
This was getting a bit beyond Mulder. He was pretty sure his boss was adressing him in English. But for a while there, it had begun to sound an awful lot like Greek – or some other European ghibberish.
“What? You mean you and me and that blonde? I don’t think so. I don’t do threesomes.”
“Just you and me was what I had in mind.”
Again, Mulder had to think for a while to process his boss’ statement.
“Ok. But I think I need to have a few peanuts or I’ll fall asleep. Bartender – Now. what did you want to talk about?”
Skinner stared at Mulder, having some difficulty in following his own train of thought. Did Mulder think he was referring to talk? Conversation, instead of sex? Oh, well. It was getting late. If they wanted to toast the new year, they might as well stay where they were.
“Just a minute. I think I’ll have some of those peanuts as well.”
Suddenly, a hush fell across the room. Everyone stopped laughing and chatting and turned their eyes expectantly onto the clock on the wall. This might not be the Millennium night, or rather, the one that everyone had been so worked up about, but a New Year, was a New Year, and it only came around once a year. There. The clocking was striking. One. Two. Three.
Mulder tried to find Scully. Last time he’d looked, she’d been dancing, if that was the word, with Krycek. Now she was nowhere to be seen. Neither was Krycek. That –
“Walter. They’re gone.”
“I know. They left about ten minutes ago. I saw them.”
“Where’s that champagne?”
Ten. Eleven. Twelve. From across the room, there were cries of Happy New Year. Now someone was beginning to sing Auld Lang Syne. The band began to play again and from somewhere outside, they could hear the fireworks begin.
“Happy New Year, s- Walter.”
“Happy New Year, Mulder.”
“Come on. Yes, you, baldie. You and your cute friend come with us. Please.”
The woman appeared to have sprung out of nowhere. She had a friend so much alike her they might have been twins. They weren’t really Mulder’s type, let alone Skinner’s but why not? Whatever it was they were offering, it must be better than sitting around whining and telling each other how much they appreciated each other’s friendship.
“Alright. What do you say, Walter? Since our – excuse me – dates have stood us up, why not?”
“Great. Hurry. It’s in the next room. This way.”
In the next room, which was smaller, a slightly less numerous crowd had gathered. It appeared to have the looks of a more or less private party. From then on, things got a little disjointed. Mulder was separated from his boss early on, and dragged away to the window, to admire the fireworks.
Skinner ended up sitting close to a large screen, displaying the lyrics of some song. He didn’t know that one, and no one was singing, though the music was playing. Then he noticed that the words now belonged to a song he knew. Suddenly, he was seized by an urge to get up on the floor and sing.
That song seemed to express exactly what he was feeling. How was it possible that the songwriter had known exactly what was going to be going on in his mind, forty, no fifty years or so later? That was nothing short of an X file. He’d have Mulder and Scully look into it after the holidays.
At first no one paid any attention to the man who had grabbed the mic and was beginning to sing to the plaintive music. It was a while until Mulder thought he recognized that baritone. By then, he was sufficienty intoxicated to find his boss’ excursion into show business perfectly natural. Very nice. But he couldn’t help thinking he had somewhere more important to be.
Skinner continued through all the verses, gathering one or two admiring gazes from women across the room. But women wasn’t what was on Skinner’s mind that night, and besides, he didn’t notice a thing. He was too focused on his own misery, to feel much of anything, including misery.
Then it struck Mulder. Scully. Krycek. He needed to get up there and – and – woo her back. Yes, that was it. His original plan of beating Krycek to within an inch of his life faded. He would show Scully that he was the man she needed. Not that – greeneyed – spy.
Skinner didn’t notice Mulder leave. When the song was over, he found that he knew the next one as well. No one else was standing in line to take his place, so he struck up the first notes of the song.
When Krycek felt Scully’s lithe body wrap itself around him, he experienced sensations that were totally new to him. It occurred to him that this must be what all those people he had had sex with over the years must have been feeling. So that was it. No wonder they were so keen on doing it. For a while, after arriving in America, he’d pursued all women in sight, as trophies. As proof of his own masculinity. But he’d never felt anything even close to this. Soon, though, his mind took a break, and let his body take over. Why question this?
And Alex Krycek was never hard to get. So he let his hands wander up and down her body, discreetly. Not that the other guests were paying much attention. He lowered his head so he could reach into her ear with his tongue. She rewarded him by shuddering. He pressed even closer.
Not very surprisingly, she followed suit, rubbing her body against his in a very skillful way. Lucky Fox. While his mouth was in position, he whispered a suggestion. She replied by moving her face, then letting her tongue slip across his lips. Whoa. That was – fantastic. Krycek’s mind filled with Russian words and phrases expressing his appreciation of this lucky encounter. Skinner was all but forgotten. So was Fox.
And before he had time to adjust, Scully grabbed his hand, and set off in the direction of the lobby. It didn’t take her more than thirty seconds to maneuver him into the elevator. Since most of the other guests must have been eagerly expecting midnight, they had the small enclosed space to themselves.
Scully didn’t waste any time taking advantage of this fact. Though never reluctant to play along, the quick movement took him by surprise. Her hands found the waistband of his pants, and finding no resistance there, she went on to pull them down. The grin on her face told Krycek that he hadn’t disappointed her.
“Wow, Alex. You weren’t kidding. I guess you really were telling the truth when you told me you wanted me. Shame on me for not believing you.”
“Uh – I forgive you.”
For once, Krycek was lost for words. Why waste his breath, when he could tell he would need all of it for the upcoming exertion? Though he had hoped they would have to reach the privacy of someone’s room first. That seemed to be less and less likely, judging by the way he was feeling.
But so what? He wasn’t shy, and if some guest or member of staff chose to enter the elevator it was just too bad. Turning his full attention onto his partner, Krycek gave up all attempts at coherent thought.
As it turned out, the little exercise didn’t take quite as long as he’d expected. He was surprised to find that enthusiasm might equal brief, in terms of time spent. That didn’t bother him much. There was always her room. Or his. He wasn’t that spent.
“Your room or mine?”
“You’ve got a room?”
“Well, actually, I think it was Mulder’s. Now it’s – Never mind. Well?”
“Which is closer? I’m not done with you yet, Alex Krycek.”
“I was hoping you’d say that. This way.”
Though her mind was not quite up to its usual brilliance, Scully noted that Krycek appeared to have no difficulty at all finding his way about the anonymous hotel corridor. She should have known this guy always knew his way about any place. In fact, from what she could tell, he knew his way about just about anything as well.
The bed was comfortable. They had time to fully appreciate that fact, before Mulder showed up. At first, Krycek thought he might have to fight him, but Mulder showed no signs of hostility. If anything, he appeared hardly to pay any attention to his rival.
“Dana. I missed you.”
She giggled, then almost hiccuped.
“Sorry. Had to go. Urgent Bureau business. I had to – interrogate this – shpy, I mean spy.”
“Yes. I know. You told me.”
Warily eyeing Mulder out of the corner of his eye, Krycek sidled by him, on his way to the bathroom. Just in time, he managed to snatch up his shirt, to cover himself. Again, he might as well not have been there. All Mulder’s attention was on Scully.
“I went to your room but you weren’t there.”
“I know. You know why?”
“Because I was here.”
Mulder nodded agreement. That was plain to see. Though the sheet partially covered his partner’s nude form, there was still quite enough to see.
“So what did you want?”
He paused to consider her question. Yes, there was something he wanted, but though he was sure he’d thought out the entire speech ahead of time, his mind was now a blank.
Then suddenly struck by what seemed to him a brilliant idea, he began to slowly, but sensuously take off his clothes. The fact that there was no music available, didn’t bother him at all. He’d seen enough strippers- women, of course, but what difference did it make? – to know the whole routine.
At first, Scully’s eyes turned very round, as she stared at her partner in silence. Whatever she’d expected it sure wasn’t this. But soon, she was hooked. That body – Yummy. Krycek hadn’t tired her out a bit. There was still plenty of energy left for – She opened her mouth to invite Mulder into her bed, but thought better of it. Why waste a perfectly good striptease? He might as well earn her appreciation.
When he opened the bathroom door, Krycek noticed what was going on, and though the sight of Mulder stripping was mildly amusing, he was a bit tired. Without any comment, he got into the other bed, and pulling the covers up to his face, he decided to take a nap. Like a cat, he curled up comfortably and within seconds, he had dozed off.
By now, all Mulder was wearing was his silk boxer shorts, and Scully had had about as much waiting as she could take.
“Ok. Ok. Come here.”
A goofy grin spread across Mulder’s features, and he wasted no time joining his lovely partner.
Scully disentangled herself from her lover, none-too-gently. Where were they? It took her a while to get her bearings. Then she remembered where they were. Or more importantly, in whose room. Though her head felt strangely heavy, she did feel it might be a bad idea to meet her boss, like this, at a slight disadvantage. She scanned the room for her clothes, and finding them, she picked them up. Briefly, she considered taking time to shower, but thought better of it.
Incoherent noises was all the reply she had. The sound of peaceful breathing from the other bed made her start. Surely Skinner couldn’t be back already? This was at the very least a bit of an inconvenience. Something told her that although at the moment, she was oddly careless of the consequences of her actions, she might not want to face her boss looking like this.
Hurriedly, she put her dress back on, then her shoes. She crammed her bra and pantyhose into her purse, but struggled to get her panties on. Somehow, she didn’t fancy running around the corridor without them. That thought reminded her of who was really sleeping in the other bed. She smiled as she recalled the skill that had gone into removing that particular garment. Not at all like Mulder’s clumsy fumbling.
“Mulder. Come on. We have to get going.”
She reached over and grabbed his shoulder, shaking it lightly.
“Mom, please, I just want to sleep a little longer.”
“Mulder. It’s me. Wake up.”
Not a movement. She was torn between wanting to take a shower, and the need to get her partner out of Skinner’s room. Again, she shook his shoulder, but by now she was giving up. Men. How the slightest amount of alcohol would knock them out completely.
She swore silently over her dilemma. One thing was sure, she couldn’t carry Mulder. And she didn’t fancy waking Krycek up to help out, though he might just humor her if she asked. She seemed to recall promises along the lines of there’s nothing in the world, I wouldn’t do for you.
With her hand on the doorknob, she looked back across her shoulder. Should she try again? Or- the sound of someone outside the door helped her make up here mind. Unless this was room service – and she didn’t recall ordering anything – this could only be Skinner.
Thinking quickly, she decided to lead their host, as it were, away from where her lover was sleeping. Unfortunately, someone else whom she had had intimate relations with was also in there, and though her mind wasn’t quite what it used to, she had an idea Skinner might not take kindly to finding that his lover had found another lover.
He appeared surprised to find her there. Good. If he didn’t make the connection, she certainly wouldn’t fill in the blanks.
“Walter. I was thinking -“
“Uh – the case. Yes, the case. I wanted to discuss something about the case with you, sir – I mean, Walter.”
He paused to consider her statement, a puzzled frown on his face. Bad idea. She definitely didn’t want him to start putting two and two together. But any hope she had of deceiving her boss vanished at his next words.
“Alex. Where’s Alex? You – He – Did you -“
“He’s in there. Asleep.”
To her relief, the reaction didn’t appear to be anger. Instead, she realized that Skinner’s eyes looked suspiciously misty.
“Can we talk in my room? I need to – uh – put on something more comfortable.”
This was a very odd feeling. She was frantically trying to think of some plan. But nothing came to mind.
Once inside her room, Skinner forgot all about Bureau procedure, and even common courtesy. He merely dropped down on her bed, burying his face in his hands.
“He’s not happy with me. I should have known I couldn’t make him happy.”
“That’s not true, sir. I think he’s happier with you than he’s ever been.”
Skinner looked up, an incredulous look spreading across his normally so stern features.
“You think so?”
“Yes. I do.”
“But then why -“
“Sorry. I don’t know what got into me – us.”
“No, that’s alright. You don’t need to explain. After all, what could be more natural? You’re a young, beautiful woman and -“
Again, it looked as if Skinner might start to cry. Feeling more than usually sentimental, Scully desperately thought of a way to comfort her boss.
“Hey, Walter. Don’t be sad. I’m sorry.”
Heedless of Bureau procedure, she dropped down on the bed beside him, trying her best to offer what consolation she could.
Skinner tensed up, and for a moment, Scully feared that she had gone too far. This was her boss. How could she have forgotten about something like that?
Their eyes met, and suddenly, something clicked. She felt herself being drawn into Skinner’s strong arms. His lips sought out hers, and they shared a kiss, at once more passionate, and more intimate than she could ever have guessed.
Someone had been talking to him, trying to get him to wake up. Mulder had a vague idea of something urgently needing his attention. Though he felt as if he could sleep for about a week, he forced himself to open his eyes. If he focused so hard his eyes were squinting, he remembered a little.
Scully. And they had to go somewhere. He looked around and found Alex Krycek sitting on the side of the other bed, looking as if he too, had just woken up. So it hadn’t been a dream. Scully had been there only a minute or so ago. And she’d wanted him to come along.
“Hello. So you’re awake too.”
It occurred to Krycek that there was something he ought to apologize to Mulder about. He just couldn’t think what it was. So he thought some more, and remembered a whole lot he needed to be forgiven for. Not just things he’d done to Mulder or Scully or – He’d been a bad boy all his life. Hurt people. Killed people. Spied on them too. Now the past hour or so returned to him and he realized that he’d slept with Mulder’s lover. Betrayed him. Well, again.
For once, Mulder didn’t feel like throttling the life out the Russian for using his first name.
After a brief reflective pause, he asked the question that had popped up in his mind.
“For sleeping with Dana.”
“Oh. Ok. I slept with her too. Hey, that’s one thing we have in common. Yeah. You and me. Both slept with Dana.”
To Mulder this appeared to be a splendid joke. He laughed about it for quite some time, but Krycek wasn’t paying attention.
“That’s not all. I’ve hurt people. Lied. Stolen important documents. Killed. You know?”
Mulder took a moment to consider this complicated question, then nodded happily.
“Yes. I know. I’ve read your file. I’ve killed people too. But that’s ok. I had to do it.”
“Yes, you had to do it. You’re an FBI agent. I’m not. I’m a bad person, Fox.”
While going into his guilt in detail, Krycek had moved over to the bed, where Mulder was putting on his clothes, totally oblivious to the Russian’s distress. He looked up to find Krycek sitting on the side of the bed. Mulder smiled at him and sat down too, prepared to continue the conversation. Scully could wait a while. It probably wasn’t anything too urgent. Everything was quiet outside. Yes, she’d be fine.
“What were you saying? I didn’t hear it all. Sorry. Had to get dressed. Can’t run around in my birthday suit, can I?”
Again, Mulder broke down in helpless laughter, after visualizing himself walking down the corridor wearing nothing. Now he was more or less fully dressed. His tie seemed to be gone, as well as one of his socks, but all in all, he felt much more proper this way.
“I’m a bad person. I’m a killer. And I slept with your girlfriend. If you hate me, I can’t blame you.”
“Oh, no, Alex. I don’t hate you. You’re just doing your job too, aren’t you? A spy has to spy on someone. Makes sense, doesn’t it? And a -“
“Yes, a killer has to kill someone. I’m sure you didn’t enjoy it.”
“No. I didn’t. It was horrible. Sometimes they scream and it takes them a long time to die. And there’s that horrid little sound a neck makes as it breaks -“
“You see? You’re not such a bad person.”
“Yes, I am. Everyone hates me. You hated me too. Before.”
For a moment a look of confusion passed across Mulder’s amiable features, then his eyes too, filled with tears.
“Yes, you’re right. I used to hate you. That’s very mean. You’re not such a bad person and I’ve been hating you and envying you and -“
“Envying me? What for?”
“Don’t you know? Didn’t Scully tell you?”
“No. What is it?”
“You’re such a hottie.”
“Did she tell you that?”
Krycek looked mildly pleased at that.
“No. But I know she thinks so. Skinner does too. And his secretary. She told me so. Everyone thinks you’re really sexy.”
“But that doesn’t make it ok. She’s your girlfriend and that means you get to sleep with her. Not me. I’m a really bad guy.”
“No. Everyone’s got some good in them. My mom told me that. Didn’t yours?”
Now Krycek began to cry in earnest.
“I don’t have a mom. Never had, I think. Or maybe Jelena was my mom. But she’s dead. No one ever loved me.”
“My mom’s dead too.”
At the sight of the tears flowing freely down Krycek’s cheeks, Mulder too, began to cry.
“Hey, don’t cry.”
But in fact, Mulder’s clumsy attempts at comforting Krycek only make things worse, and in the end, both men were patting each other’s backs, and doing their best to offer whatever consolation they could.
Over in Scully’s room, Scully was beginning to think that maybe, just maybe she’d end up in bed with Skinner too. For some reason, she found this thought highly amusing. First Alex, then Fox, and now Walter. Not bad for one night. She asked herself if she really wanted this, and the answer she came up with was ‘yes’.
Why not? It wasn’t anything she’d ever considered up until now, but there really was no reason why she shouldn’t. He wasn’t her usual type, and he was her boss. But then again, why not? On the other hand, maybe she ought to give Walter a chance to reconsider. He might not be willing to go into all the possible ramifications of a one night stand with an agent under his command.
It occurred to her that it had been a while since Skinner had made any sort of move. She pulled back slightly and found that Skinner was now about to slide down onto the bed. He was asleep. So much for a one night stand. Men really didn’t know how to drink.
Again, she was faced with a dilemma. Should she wake Skinner up and risk having him discover Mulder in his bed? Or – should she leave Skinner sleeping in her bed, and risk Mulder finding him there? The effort of trying to weigh the pros and cons was wearing on her. All she really wanted right now was to get some sleep. A shower and some sleep.
In the end she decided to run over to Skinner’s room to check if by any chance Mulder had come to and would be willing to come back to her room. Together they might be able to wake Skinner up and get him back where he belonged.
To her surprised, she found her lover – well, strictly speaking both her lovers – on the bed – doing – what exactly? Hugging? Crying? Oh, please. Another thing about men that she found hard to take. All those drunken confidences exchanged. And the bonding.
“Mulder, what’s wrong? Are you feeling sick or something? I can probably do something about that, if you like.”
Her lover looked up and cast a teary-eyed glance at her.
“Dana. We’ve been so mean to Alex. Remember all the mean things I’ve said about him?”
“What is this? Alex?”
“I’m such a horrible person. I’m a killer. I’m a spy. And I tried to take you away from Fox. You should hate me too. Everyone should hate me.”
“Don’t be silly. I don’t hate you. Get a grip on yourself. I thought Russians could handle their liquor better than this. And you, Mulder. Pull yourself together. There’s nothing wrong. You just need to get some sleep. In my room. Alex, Walter fell asleep in my room. Would you -“
Before she had time to finish her request, the door behind her swung open, and the topic of her discussion was standing behind her. Excellent. Now maybe they could get to the end of this interminable night.
“Walter. I’m glad you decided to join us. Alex is feeling a little sad. Maybe you could take care of it? Great.”
She was hoping that her cool, no-nonsense tone of voice might act as a kind of wake-up call for all three men. If Skinner should get back into his maudlin mood from earlier, the situation would once again disintegrate into chaos.
“But we need to talk about this – I – I mean, do you remember what we just -“
“What we were talking about earlier, you mean, sir?”
She was placing quite a lot of emphasis on the word talking, in a vain hope that Skinner wouldn’t feel it necessary to go into any unnecessary details, such as mentioning the kiss they’d shared. But she ought to have known this was a night for confidences.
“Alex. I kissed Dana.”
There was a trace of astonishment in Krycek’s voice.
“Ok. So did I. No problem. She’s a very sexy lady.”
He raised his eyebrows suggestively at Scully, hoping she’d interpret this as a tacit comment on what they’d just shared. However, Skinner caught his look and fired quite a pleasant smile at him. Oh, well. All wasn’t lost, apparently.
But Scully had caught the gesture and the meaning and Krycek could see her little pink tongue flicker across her lips, momentarily.
That gesture reached Mulder’s avid gaze, and he shot Dana a suggestive smile. Just as well, maybe. No use dwelling on what couldn’t be. What never should have been.
“Anyway, Walter, Alex. Mulder and I should just get going. It’s been an – interesting evening. We’ll talk more in the morning. I need to take a shower and -“
“You can use our bathroom. Can’t she, Alex? It’s no problem at all. Remember that this suite has a jacuzzi. Yours doesn’t. I wouldn’t dream of making you go back to your own room. Please.”
A jacuzzi? Had Mulder been holding out on her? Why hadn’t she been given that room? Or had Skinner fixed the reservations, in the hopes of enjoying the jacuzzi himself? Either way, nothing in the world would keep her from using it.
“Alright. Thanks. I think I will. If no one minds?”
“Not at all, Dana.”
There was a smile playing on Krycek’s lips that almost made Scully wish they could have made up some excuse to share the jacuzzi. But she couldn’t imagine what kind of ruse would make Mulder and Skinner accept that. At least she had the memory of those hands playing across her skin. Actually, she only wished she remembered more. Her mind felt vacant, fuzzy somehow. Could this really be the effects of the alcohol?
A few minutes of awkward silence filled the room, after Scully had made her exit. Mulder tried unsuccessfully to think of anything to say. In the end he gave up.
“Listen, I think, maybe, if you don’t mind, I’ll just join Scully in there. I’d really like to try out the jacuzzi, and this way it will save some time.”
“Of course. Go ahead. I think Alex and I need to talk.”
Here it came. But whatever Walter said, it had been worth it. He’d always wondered what it would be like. Now he knew. The question was, would he ever be able to accept his life without the hope of ever experiencing the same bliss again?
“Walter, I’m sorry. I don’t know what got into me. Please forgive me. I never meant to hurt you.”
“No, Alex. There’s nothing to forgive. I just – I need you so much. Have I lost you now?”
“Of course you haven’t. I’m right here.”
Krycek took a few steps towards Skinner, closing the distance between them. He lowered his eyelids slightly, and gave Skinner a veiled look, while putting his hand on Skinner’s chest. A little closer still. That was it. Krycek tried not to wince as Skinner’s strong arms enclosed him in a tight embrace.
He didn’t mind. Not really. In fact, much about this relationship appealed to him. But that tight strong hold made him feel trapped. He had to force himself to place a light kiss on Skinner’s lips. Apparently, that was enough. After reassuring himself of the younger man’s renewed trust, Skinner let go.
“Alex, I -“
“Never mind. We’ll get past this.”
“That’s very generous of you. Well, I guess I should get some sleep. I think it would be best if I was gone tomorrow, when you and – your agents wake up.”
“Can’t you stay a while?”
The smile playing on Krycek’s lips gave Skinner hope.
“Maybe. There’s a thing or two left for me to do.”
“What? You want to visit the casino?”
“I’ll tell you later.”
A look of dismay flew across Scully’s features, as she heard the door open and close. Who was intruding on her at a moment like this? Her features relaxed into a smile, when she realized that it was Mulder.
“Hey. What’s up?”
“I was thinking maybe I could join you in there. That thing looks huge. And you look kind of lonely in there.”
“Oh, alright. I guess it’s ok. Come on. Your head looks quite a mess.”
“Look who’s talking. Your hair looks like a real bird’s nest.”
Soon the sound of happy giggles filled the bathroom. In fact, their playing, laughing and splashing about reached Skinner’s ears. He had let go of Alex, and was trying to decide if he could go to bed, or if it would be impolite to go to sleep while he still had guests. For some reason, he couldn’t resist opening the door and looking inside.
“Everything ok in here?”
“Yes, we’re fine. We won’t be much longer. In case you want to use the jacuzzi.”
“Yes, I think I would. That looks like fun.”
By now, he’d walked over to the tub, and was standing over them, looking down on the pair, who were still happily splashing water all over each other.
“Looks like a lot of fun.”
There was a wistful note in his voice, and Scully felt a twinge of guilt. And then she had a sudden inspiration.
“Why don’t you join us, sir? There’s plenty of room. Come on in.”
“Are you serious?”
“Why not? Mulder?”
“Oh. Yes, why not? Go on. You’re right. It’s a lot of fun.”
Thirty seconds later, their boss had climbed into the tub, and was joining in the fun. Who would have thought Skinner was a man who liked to splash water?
“You know, when I was a boy, I had a submarine to play with. A plastic submarine.”
“Not a duck?”
“No. A submarine. What did you play with, Mulder?”
“I – I think I had a duck. What about you, Dana?”
“Yes, a duck. And a turtle.”
Krycek was wondering what was going on in there, so after a while, he too, walked in. The scene he witnessed struck him as at once ludicrous and touching.
Skinner sounded so pleased to see him, Krycek felt a twinge of guilt about his infidelity. He felt bad about not loving Skinner as much as Skinner loved him.
“Would you like to join us too? Mulder and Scully won’t mind. Would you?”
“No. Not at all. The more the merrier. Come on.”
“No, thanks. It looks a little too crowded in there. You go ahead. I think I’ll just use the shower.”
“What did you have to play with as a child? A duck?”
“Or a submarine?”
“Play with? Are you kidding? I had some old comic books. That was about it.”
“No toys at all?”
“I was lucky if Jelena could find us enough to eat. If she couldn’t, I’d check out the stores. But it was hard to find anything to steal. Most of the time, people were just standing in line, waiting for some merchandise to come in. Women mostly. I’d go to the marketplace, but the sellers knew me and the other kids like me and they’d hit us or set their dogs on us. So I’d mostly just eat from a dumpster out back. Sometimes someone hadn’t quite finished their meal. Or I’d find some banana peels. Toys? You have no idea.”
“Yeah, well. A little too late for that. I’m a big boy now. A nice suit and a fast car will do for me. If you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll have that shower now.”
Somehow, Krycek’s chilling childhood memory had changed the mood. Skinner excused himself, grabbed a towel and left to give the other two some privacy.
By the time Krycek had finished his shower, Mulder and Scully were gone, and Skinner was lying on the bed, awake, but seemingly not in a talkative mood. That suited Krycek fine. He hadn’t intended to tell them anything about his childhood. The words had just slipped out. But he didn’t want their sympathy or their pity. With any luck, though, by morning they’d all have forgotten most of the night’s events.
When Skinner woke up the following morning, he had a feeling it was very late. He had difficulty opening his eyes, and his tongue stuck to his palate in a very unpleasant way. The headache that was pounding in his temples made him reach for the phone. He called room service and asked for two aspirins and some black coffee. The thought of any other type of breakfast made him feel queasy.
Something about the room struck him as different, and he looked towards the other bed. Just as he had already suspected, Krycek was gone. There was a burning sense of loss. He could never hold Krycek. Sooner or later, he’d be gone. But maybe it was for the best.
What in the world had he been thinking? Work and pleasure should never mix. What had he been up to anyway? Drinking, it seemed. But surely nothing more had occurred. He tried to remember, but failed to come up with anything. His mind was a blank. That wasn’t too unusual. If he began to drink, this sort of thing invariably happened.
He decided to put the matter out of his mind and get on with the day. They were here on a case. Mulder and Scully had a report to write, and he – might as well check in on them and receive the report personally.
Outside Scully’s – and no doubt – Mulder’s room, Skinner paused. There was a trace of memory that was trying to surface. He’d been here, hadn’t he? Last night. But what had he been doing outside agent Scully’s room? He shook his head. Nonsense. He still wasn’t thinking straight. With no further delay, he knocked on the door. Just a moment later, Mulder opened the door and the confusion was gone.
“Sir. Scully’s just finishing up the report right now. I’m afraid we didn’t find anything.”
“I see. Well, that happens sometimes. It was worth a try.”
“There’s just one thing -“
Was Mulder going to comment on whatever had been going on last night? Skinner caught himself hoping that wasn’t the case. He felt slightly uneasy, though he couldn’t think of a reason for this feeling.
“I went downstairs to get last night’s surveillance tapes -“
“They were gone. The security officer was totally astonished. Embarrassed too, I think. I suspect he’d been partying last night, just like everyone else. But the tapes are gone. Someone must have taken them.”
“Or the officer might have forgotten to put them in, in the first place.”
“Yes, sir. That might be it.”
“Any reports of – uh – any unusual behavior last night?”
Was it Skinner’s imagination or did Mulder have a slightly sheepish look on his face? Though it wouldn’t be surprising if Mulder and Scully had been up to some partying of their own. Hadn’t he even encouraged them to take the night off? He had a vague memory he might have.
“No, sir. Nothing unusual.”
“And the VIP’s?”
“They seem to have come to no harm.”
“Excellent. That’s what counts. Good. Well, I suppose we might as well head back to Washington. No need to waste the taxpayers’ money. We’ll go over the case again if there are some new developments. Perhaps this wasn’t an X file, after all.”
“No, sir. I suspect not.”
Skinner returned to his room to pack his things. Before leaving, he went into the bathroom and stared down at the jacuzzi. What a shame he never had the chance to enjoy that. Oh, well. Some other time.