Complimentary Mints - Part 1
A botched mission. A diverted flight. A Thanksgiving
nightmare detours Agents Mulder and Scully, along with a frazzled Assistant
Director Skinner, to the heart of nowhere, Kansas. Stuck in a dilapidated
motel, tensions simmer between Mulder's relentless curiosity and Skinner's
strained patience. Meanwhile, a seemingly mundane vending room trip throws
Scully into an unexpected predicament Skinner rescues her from, sparking an
undeniable spark that threatens to rewrite the script for their professional
Seated uncomfortably in a plastic
chair, the last available seat in the Salt Lake City airport, FBI agent Fox Mulder
shook his head and smiled ruefully thinking again of the absurd events of the
past six days. It had all been one big fiasco for the ATF and FBI, an
embarrassment for the bureau heads and a study in frustration for the hundreds
of agents involved in the unified field operation.
Solomon Sloan's reportedly
well-armed militia group had held up in their converted summer camp compound
straight through the Thanksgiving holiday. Sloan and his group had kept
hundreds of ATF and FBI personnel away from their families, showing just enough
firepower being managed throughout the compound to lead everyone into believing
the validity of their reported stockpile of extensive weapons.
Perhaps moved by the spirit of the
holiday or some need for warmth after the power was cut, Solomon and his group
surrendered just in time for nearly everyone to miss dinner with the folks.
Shortly after their surrender it
was discovered these were the most ill-prepared fundamentalists the government
had ever dealt with. They had maintained a standoff with seven ammunition-less
guns relayed between coming and going group members who had been eating little
more than condiments from the look of the bare cabinets. It wasn’t going to be a
decent holiday for anyone, except perhaps Scully.
At least she had gotten a flight
out early, Mulder thought while watching the growing number of zombie travelers
mulling around the terminal on the eve of Thanksgiving. She would likely make
it home to D.C. just in time for dinner with her mother and the rest of the
"Boarding for Castle Air
flight 418 to Dulles is now beginning."
Mulder listened to the
announcement, waiting for his seating assignment to be called and watching the
stream of people lining up for boarding. There was no use in standing and
waiting, he didn't feel like it and besides people-watching from a seat was
much easier and entertaining.
Looking around the terminal,
Mulder spotted Assistant Director Skinner among the crowd of dazed looking
holiday travelers. He was mildly surprised and a bit relieved to see a familiar
face. Mulder had been surprised that he hadn’t seen more of the agents that had
been part of the field op in the airport.
Mulder observed his superior,
noting that while everyone around the man seemed flustered and bewildered,
Skinner appeared composed but also looked as tired as Mulder felt.
“No reason to be unfriendly,”
Mulder murmured to himself and got up to go greet Skinner.
"Sir." Mulder drew
Skinner’s attention, seeing a momentary look of surprise pass over his
expression that was replaced by… relief? Was Skinner actually relieved to see
him, Mulder amusedly thought of the irony. “Are you on this flight?"
Skinner nodded, "Four
eighteen, yes. Are you?"
“By the skin of my teeth.”
Skinner nodded scanning the line
of boarding passengers. "I’ll be amazed if the weather holds. Do you know
if Agent Scully got a flight out?”
"Yes, she got an early flight."
Skinner nodded, pensive.
"The weather wasn't too bad
when she left, she probably made it in time. But I’ll be surprised if we make
it to D.C without being diverted," Mulder commented gesturing toward the
flight information monitors where flight updates were changing to canceled by
"Diverted where though?”
"Ladies and Gentlemen, due to
the inclement weather we will be landing in Wichita..."
A muddled round of jeers rolled through
the cabin of the 737. "Connecting flights to your destinations will be
arranged weather permitting..."
Mulder leaned toward the aisle,
glancing in the direction of Skinner's seat. The AD was coming down the aisle,
his jaw set as he met Mulder's inquisitive gaze. "And we have our answer,"
he grumbled as he passed Mulder, heading to the lavatory.
In Wichita, mass mayhem filled the
airport. Luggage and stranded passengers clogged the terminals, restless
screaming children clamored while parents tried to soothe or correct them. Crowded
lines from at the ticket counters and phone banks where everyone received the news
mirrored by the flight status monitors; all flights were canceled. Everything
east of the Mississippi was shut down due to the snowstorm. And to the south
ice had all but completely shut down Dallas and even Austin airports. No one
would be going anywhere for quite some time.
While Skinner tried to locate
rooms for the night, Mulder was on his cell phone to his mother, then Scully.
His mother was disappointed and sympathetic to her son, wishing him a safe trip
and the promise of a postponed Thanksgiving. But all he got from Scully was the
greeting of her answering machine. Figuring she was still with her family he
decided not to disturb her by trying her cell phone and went to find out how
Skinner was doing.
The A.D. had done well, finding
two rooms at a local hotel with an obscure name that promised little more than
a bed and shower. At this point in their never-ending journey, which was all
either of them needed. The prospect of finding a meal would be next on the
Outside, cabs slogged through a
slush of snow at the curb, quickly grabbed by desperate travelers. Skinner and
Mulder hustled among the crowd, waving for the cabs to no avail until they
noticed the one cab sitting at the curb that seemed ignored by or turned away
from by every other person.
Both men approached the vehicle,
hopeful and eager. Mulder opened the door to speak to the driver and was greeted
by a drift of pot smoke and the sound of low based music.
“Where to?” the driver asked, blasé
and blurry eyed.
Mulder glanced back at Skinner who
winced. Did they risk it? Did they deal with it? Mulder knew they were both too
tired to be choosy at this point in the night. “Tanglewood Inn.” Mulder told
“Motor Lodge.” The cabbie said.
“It’s the Tanglewood Motor Lodge.”
Mulder nodded anxiously, “Okay,
“Hop in, fellas, I’ll get you
there liceity split.”
Mulder looked back at Skinner,
both repeating, “liceity split.” How could they turn down such an efficient
During the drive, the driver
introduced himself as Fred, the soul employee of the self-owned Local Motion
cab company of Wichita, Kansas proper. His passengers also learned about his
native American heritage on his father’s side, a range of career changes that
led to self-employment, and his lobbying efforts to legalize marijuana.
Peppered among Fred’s unending
dialogue were the affably curious questions about what brought Skinner and
Mulder to Wichita. Neither of them admitted they were federal agents, but
Skinner did request Fred put out his doobie due to his “asthma.” They wouldn’t
likely get a contact high or get enough in their system to fail a random drug
test, but their clothes were going to smell of the cabby’s odorous recreational
use, not to mention the obvious danger his impairment posed while driving.
Miraculously deposited safely in
front of the Tanglewood Motor Lodge, Mulder gave the rundown exterior a
sweeping glance, remarking, “I don’t know about you, sir, but I have the
Skinner just shook his head,
wordless, and started into the lobby. The man was holding it together, but
Mulder didn’t know just how much more he could handle before he lost his cool. There
was quite a laundry list of scaling annoyances, and some of which Mulder was
nearly certain he wasn’t aware of but was certain were contributing to Skinner’s
lava dome. Mt. Skinner was building toward an eruption.
The lobby presented a shabby
atmosphere, adorned with worn-out, threadbare carpeting and a collection of
mismatched furniture showing signs of age. Mulder, however, couldn't help but
think that it wasn't all bad, as his eyes caught sight of a sign proudly
advertising the availability of pay-per-view movies. Despite having experienced
worse conditions before, that small detail offered hope that the night might be
In the corner, a group of people
had congregated around a television, their expressions concerned as they
watched the weather report. The map displayed on the screen depicted a winter
storm engulfing the mid to eastern two-thirds of the United States.
Meanwhile, those not fixated on
the television were on their phones, engaged in conversations with airlines or,
from snippets of dialogue Mulder caught, calling other hotels and motels in the
Amid the commotion, Skinner and
Mulder made their way toward the front desk. The night manager appeared
overwhelmed by the surge of people seeking to check-in, multitasking with a
phone pressed against his ear and shoulder, desperately informing someone that
the hotel was fully booked.
As the night manager hung up and
turned to greet the agents, Mulder's cell phone rang. Seeing that it was Scully
calling, he motioned to Skinner, and waved his phone briefly, saying, “Scully.”
"You got your turkey stuffed
and now you're calling to gloat?" Mulder immediately teased as he answered
"Actually not," she
announced. "I haven’t made it back. The weather shut everything down and my
plane was diverted."
"Ours?" Scully wondered.
"Yeah, Skinner and I were on
the same flight out of Salt Lake. We're checking into a hotel in Wichita right
"Wichita? I'm in
Mulder grinned. "No
way," he said and laughed. "Have you got a place to stay?"
"Yes, this little rundown place
called the Tangle Inn."
“Tanglewood Motor Lodge,” he
corrected, emphasizing ‘motor lodge’ a laugh.
"You're here?" she asked
"Sir," Mulder drew Skinner’s
attention, putting his cell phone away.
"What is it?" he asked,
turning just in time to see agent Scully rounding the corner in the hallway. He
frowned looking at Mulder.
"Her flight was rerouted
here," he explained. “Now it’s a party.”
"Sir," Scully greeted
her superior as she walked up to them, appearing less entertained with the
situation than Mulder.
"Agent Scully," Skinner
said with his customary nod of acknowledgment and sounding jaded.
"Have you gotten your rooms
corrected. "I asked for two to be held on my credit card when I called
from the airport, but apparently there was a misunderstanding." Skinner raised
his voice as he finished to assure the manager heard him. Scully turned to
Mulder grimacing. "A double, right?" he asked the manager firmly.
"Oh, yes," the man
assured him and smiled nervously.
"When did you get in?"
Mulder asked her.
"About two hours ago. I keep
checking on the weather and flights, but it doesn't look like it's going to get
any better before it gets worse. Everything's canceled."
Mulder nodded. "I don't think
we'll be getting out of here anytime soon."
"They've got pay-per-view,
Mulder" Scully said, smiling. "You'll make it."
"All right," Skinner
suddenly said from behind them. With the room key gripped in one hand and his
carry-on clutched in the other he headed off for the room, leaving Mulder and
Scully to trail along in his irritable wake.
Mulder accepted the fact that this
stay with Skinner was probably not going to be a pleasant experience. Not only
had the man been the co-head of a farcical government operation in the bitter
cold of BFE Utah, but he had also now been rerouted into BFE Kansas and was
facing an undetermined stay in a low rent hotel.
At least Scully was there, Mulder
thankfully thought. Her company would be invaluable during this side-tracking
into the ultimate travel nightmare, sharing a room with one’s boss.
Skinner unlocked and opened the
door to room 138, started in then stopped abruptly. Mulder stepped around his
superior, stopping abruptly as well when seeing the room—and more
specifically—very specifically—the bed. The one bed.
Mulder glanced at Skinner who just
stood there with frustration tightening every muscle in his face except for his
mouth, which had gone sort of slack. This would be interesting, Mulder mused
walking the rest of the way in putting his bag down. Was this what sent the man
over the edge?
The AD just stood there, forcing
Scully to step around him. “Is everything all right—” she broke off, looking at
"Which side do you
want?" Mulder asked with forced innocence as he went to inspect the Magic
Fingers machine on the bed stand.
Scully pursed her mouth trying not
to smile or worse, laugh. "I thought this was a double room?" she
managed to say.
"Double bed," Mulder
stated glancing up from the Magic Fingers. "Single room. You know this
says it feels like a thousand little fingers caressing your spine?"
Skinner worked his mouth
soundlessly a couple of times before he went straight for the phone.
As the AD called the office Mulder
picked something up from the pillow. "Complimentary mints," he said
turning to Scully, holding it up for her to see. "Place can't be all that
bad with this kind of service."
"This is Walter Skinner in
room 138," he grumbled into the phone. "I was under the impression
this room was a double...
Scully and Mulder exchanged glances;
Mulder shrugged one shoulder.
"I… I’d offer to switch, but
I only have one bed in my room," she offered, apologetically.
"But we need a double room,
not a double bed..." Skinner scornfully informed the person on the other
end of the phone line.
"I'm, uh, going to go back to
my room now," Scully told them as she backed out the door. "Let you
two get settled."
Mulder nodded, popping the mint in
his mouth. "Have you eaten yet?" he asked around the confection.
Scully shook her head glancing at Skinner with a little grimace.
"You want to grab something
in a while, I saw a place across the road?"
"Uh, sure," she answered
as Skinner audibly hung up the phone.
"This is it," he
announced going to his bag. Opening it he began to rifle through his things.
"There's no other rooms available."
Scully was experiencing the
growing uneasy feeling that she was about to find herself a buffer zone between
these two men. She gave Mulder a cautioning nod of her head before she began to
retreat once more. "I'm going now," she announced, backing out the door,
shutting it quickly behind herself.
She stood there a second,
listening. For what she wasn’t exactly certain, but there was a vague
anticipation of… She shook her head. They were grown men; they could figure
this out on their own. They didn’t need her mediation.
----------- X ----------
Battling the miserable weather,
Mulder and Scully trudged through heavy snow and across the slushy pavement,
their clothes, and shoes ill-suited for the conditions. Their travel plans had
not included dealing with any of this mess. Their destination, Risky's, a steak
and roadhouse establishment, seemed fittingly named after their treacherous
journey across the highway. Despite the unfavorable weather and it being the
eve of Thanksgiving, the pair were just grateful the place was open.
The place wasn’t exactly packed,
but busy and lively enough to create a moderate level of noise. The crack of
billiard balls colliding and the friendly banter from a dart game blended with
the twang of a country song playing on the jukebox in one corner.
Taking their seats in the center
of the dining area, which doubled as the bar, Mulder and Scully paid little
attention to the curious gazes they received upon entering the establishment.
As they glanced around, both recognized faces from the inn, fellow stranded
travelers who seemed cautious, fatigued, and guarded.
A woman in an apron came over from
the bar, greeting them as she handed out menus. "Eve’nin'," she said,
"how you doin’?"
"Fine, thank you,"
Scully answered noticing Mulder's gaze fluxing between the menu and a woman
seated at the bar.
"Can I get you something to
drink?" the waitress asked and pulled a note pad from her apron pocket as
if expecting a huge order. Scully found it amusing considering there were only
the two of them.
"I'll have a beer,"
Mulder said, surprising Scully.
"Well, what kind, hon,"
the waitress asked. "We've got lots of it and all different kinds."
"Are you sure?" The
waitress asked him.
Mulder chuckled. “Pretty sure. Do
people send their beer back often around here?”
“You’d be surprised what people do
around here.” She said sounding tired and disgusted as she turned to Scully. "What
"I'll have a root beer."
The waitress shook her head.
"Nope, no root beer. It’s either coke or Dr. Pepper."
Scully hesitated, taken aback,
then, "Uh’ll have coke then," she decided.
"You two know what you want
Mulder also hesitated, looking at
Scully, concerned for what kind of response ordering food would bring from the
woman. "What's the special?" he asked.
"We've got a six-once steak
with two side orders of either confetti rice, corn, mash potatoes, country
fries or okra." Mulder grimaced at the last side item which did not go
unnoticed by the woman. She paused looking at him scornfully, finishing with, "and
He looked at her with deliberate
seriousness. "Texas toast. We're not in Kansas anymore?" The waitress
stared back at him with a barely contained tolerance that reminded him of… “Are
you married or dating – and the reason I ask is not based on my interest, but
that I think you would get along with a friend of ours.” Mulder told the woman
with a brief nod to Scully. “In fact, he’ll be joining us shortly—”
Scully jutted her jaw, looking at
him urgently, and mouthing, “stop.”
“I’m married, thank you.” She interrupted
him, unamused, and looked at Scully. “Rice?”
"Yes, please." Scully
The woman scribbled on her pad,
then shot Mulder a daring glare, "and how ‘bout you, Toto?"
As the waitress turned and marched
away from the table Scully leaned forward, addressing Mulder. “You know, if our
food isn’t tainted after the way you irritated her, I will be amazed.”
“I am not taking responsibility
for the food here being tainted.”
“Mulder,” Scully began, almost pleading, “don’t
start pushing buttons when Skinner gets here.”
“What?” He laughed in disbelief.
“You know what I mean.” she
declared. “I’m tired—we’re all tired, and… you know what I mean.”
“But then may I ask, what is the
purpose of buttons if not to push them, Scully?” he questioned. “Testing human
nature— the essential boundaries of the psychological predisposition and
acceptance of humor in its purest form – mockery and chiding-- that exposes a level
of intellect and comprehension upon which comrade is established and solidifies
a quintessential depth of understanding.”
Scully looked back at him, she was
too tired for this. “Are you stoned?”
He laughed. “That,” he answered
with a defined nod, “is not outside the realm of possibilities.”
“What?” Scully confusedly began to
question him and was distracted by Skinner walking up to the table.
"Have you ordered yet?"
he wondered taking his coat off.
questioned the statement as he sat down. "Is there a problem?"
"You'll see," Mulder
said seeing the waitress heading back with their drinks.
Noticing a third person now at the
table the waitress hesitated an instant before continuing over to them, looking
troubled. "One more, huh?" she grumbled, sitting the drinks down hard
and pulling out her pad again. "Would you like something to drink?"
She asked Skinner.
Anticipating the worst, Scully
began toying with the straw in her drink while Mulder just put his forehead in
his hand. She knew Skinner wasn’t going to be in any mood for antics, and she
anticipated the worst out of Mulder who seemed to be in one of his own moods. Everyone
was in a mood.
"What's on tap?" Skinner
asked casually, as if he hadn't heard the woman's tone at all.
"Coors Light, Bud, Bud
"Coors," he answered
before she finished.
"I said Coors Light is what
we have, do you want a bottle?"
Mulder coughed, lamely disguising
Skinner was silent for a second or
two as he studied the sour expression on the woman's face, then said firmly,
"No. I'll have the light."
"Anything to eat, our
special's a six-once steak with the choice of two side orders of either
confetti rice, corn, mash potatoes, country fries, or okra," she paused,
looking at Mulder. "And Texas toast."
"What's the chance of getting
a baked potato?"
"Bad," she flatly
Mulder and Scully looked at each
other, wide eyed.
Skinner took a breath. Mulder and
Scully held their breath.
Then, "All right, " Skinner
told the waitress, repositioning himself in the chair. "The steak with
just the toast."
"Just the toast?"
"Just the toast."
"Just the toast it is,"
she agreed and turned to walk away.
Silence settled over the table, filled
by the sound of the juke box playing and the folks carrying on in the bar. Each
of them internally processing
the day, the week, and the present. Grateful that they had found a place that
was open late on Thanksgiving Eve, but the unspoken question still stood as for
where in the days to come they would be.
Mulder gave thought to an
insightful commentary their current situation but decided to take a draw on his
hard-won beer instead and check out the woman at the bar once again. Scully stirred
the ice around in her drink, praying for peace and tranquility in the
unforeseeable future, be it the next few minutes, hours, or days. As for
Skinner, his equanimity was at premium.
meals were, after the problematic interaction with the waitress, served hot and
consumable. Although, Scully did give her food a modicum of extra attention
before digging in after Mulder’s taunting of the underserving waitress. When
all was said and done, they shared companionable moments of small talk about
the weather and their chances of getting a flight back to D.C., and eventually,
it was agreed that their meals
weren't, as Skinner had appropriately stated, "anything to write home about.”
Scully agreed, but Mulder had
wolfed his food down too quickly to have noticed the lackluster quality of the
cuisine, besides, he'd been preoccupied by the glances the young woman at the
bar had started throwing his way. She couldn't have been alone, he had thought.
Not the way she looked. She wasn't stunning, but she wasn't plain either.
Dressed casually in sweater and slacks, with dark short hair and huge brown
eyes cradled in generous lashes, she had a striking air about her.
Mulder had surveyed the bar and
saw no one who seemed to be with her. She was seated next to two trucker types,
but they were apparently too deeply involved in their own conversation to have
noticed the lovely lady seated near them.
"I think I'd like another
soda," Scully commented glancing around for the testy waitress. "If
she ever comes back around..."
Mulder heard opportunity knocking
and jumped for it. "I'll take care of it," he said standing.
"Would you like another beer, sir?" he asked Skinner.
Skinner started to say no, he
wanted to go back to the room and just forget the whole day- the last six of
them. But then thinking of the last six days... "Yes," he answered,
then changed his mind, "no, a bourbon."
Mulder headed to the bar as the
jukebox began choking out another country song.
*"There was a time, I could drink my fears away,
drown out all the heartaches that hurt me night and
Silence fell over the table.
Scully toyed with the straw in her empty glass, glancing at the AD who seemed
to be studying the place in a discriminating fashion, his gaze returning to the
"Do you play?" Scully
He looked at her, as if taken off
guard by her observing him. "I used to," he said and looked toward
the bar. Mulder had saddled up there next to the young woman he'd been watching
through dinner. So much for those drinks, he thought off handily.
"I threw darts a few times in
college," Scully offered conversationally. "I think almost anyone
who's stepped inside a typical college bar has."
*"They knew my name at every bar in town,
and they knew all of the reasons why I was coming
“That sounds about right,"
Skinner responded to Scully, sounding distracted.
She turned to see what he was
looking at, finding Mulder talking to the young woman he'd been surreptitiously
ogling all through dinner. So much for the drinks, she thought and started to
turn back and inadvertently locked gazes with a grizzled looking man at the end
of the bar, who grinned dumbly back at her. She closed her eyes, turning the
rest of the way back to the table before opening them again to see their
waitress had returned.
"You folks want another
round?" she asked, the smell of cigarette smoke clinging to her, which
likely accounted for her sounding more pleasant than she had the entire night.
"Uh," both said in
unison glancing toward the bar.
"No, not for me,"
Skinner finally said, and was handing the woman a credit card. “Everything at
the table goes on this,” he instructed, carefully adding, “but not the bar.”
"How about you, hon?"
the waitress asked Scully.
She hesitated, looking between
Mulder and the grizzled man still smiling at her from the bar, then at Skinner
who was pulling his wallet out. She wanted to go also, and although she felt
uncomfortable about leaving Mulder here, she knew she could take care of
himself. Plus, she'd just be a hindrance to his current endeavor at the bar if
she did stay. "No, thank you," she decided.
While they waited, plans were put
in order. “We’ll let Mulder know we’re leaving,” Skinner said.
a silent face, glancing toward the bar that Skinner noticed. He considered the
reaction a second, glancing at Mulder chatting and laughing with the woman at
the bar. “On second thought,” he said, “I’ll let him know now, you wait on the
check and my credit card.”
Scully almost too quickly agreed to this decision. “I’ll… I’ll wait for the
made his way into the bar, approaching Mulder from behind, seeing the young
woman lightly laughing and patted his arm. Skinner stepped up to them catching
Mulder’s attention. He nodded to the woman in brief apology before he addressed
Mulder, “We’re headed out. Dinner is on the bureau card.”
you. Are your sure you and Scully won’t join me and…” he looked at the young
woman, “ah, Wendy, right?” She nodded and smiled. “Yeah, okay, Wendy this is
Walter Skinner – excuse me, Assistant Director Walter Skinner.”
“Oh wow, so
nice to meet you, Walter.” Wendy said, reaching out to shake his hand. “Fox
told me about everything you all have been through trying to travel in this
weather, and I’m so sorry. You should join us and try to relax some.”
no, it has been a long day. I will be relaxing at the hotel.”
paying attention to his superior and Wendy, and instead was looking around the
bar and then toward the restaurant, asking Skinner, “where is Scully?”
waiting for the check.” Skinner informed him.
all right.” Mulder murmured, seeing her across the room talking with the
waitress at the table.
Skinner caught his attention again, “don’t stay too long, could be an early day
----------- X ----------
Scully awoke to the sound of a
television playing somewhere nearby. Groggily she glanced toward the television
set in her room seeing it wasn't on, then was confused she could see it, and
realized the lights were still on. She had to think for an instant about where
she was. Sitting up she felt thirsty, and cold. The heat was on but in her
state of undress it wasn't making much of a difference in the drafty room. Even
if she'd been willing to wear her overly worn pajamas to bed, she didn't think
they would have made much of a difference. Looking at the garments lying beside
her travel bag she considered wearing them despite having worn them for the
past six days without the opportunity to wash them once.
Still opposed to the idea, she got
out of bed and went to the bathroom where she drank three glasses of water
before she realized plain old water just wasn't going to do the trick.
There was a vending room just on
the other side of the lobby, she remembered while looking at herself in the
mirror. Leaving her room just for a drink didn't seem worth the trouble of
dressing and undressing. She glanced at the reflection of her coat hanging in
the closet alcove and she thought how easy it would be to just throw it on,
hurry there and back. But how lazy could a person get...?
To hell with it, she decided and
took the robe off. It was late and she was tired and thirsty, she justified
pulling the coat on, the sheer lining chilling her bare skin.
Getting the stubborn room door
open she hurried for the vending room. Coming down the hallway toward the lobby
she noticed a man in a t-shirt and sweats asleep on the tacky vinyl sofa, his
feet propped up on the imitation wood grain coffee table. Reaching the lobby,
she realized it was AD Skinner.
She hesitated, wondering why he
was here and not in the room. Judging by the magazine open across his lap he'd
fallen asleep reading, but still why out here? This was undoubtedly to do with
sharing the room with Mulder. Had he been pestering Skinner like she'd
suspected he might? She wondered then began wrestling with whether to wake him.
He couldn't be very comfortable or warm out here in this drafty lobby, she knew
she wasn't. Every little chilly draft kept finding its way up under her coat.
"Sir," she gently said,
sitting on the edge of the coffee table, taking the magazine from his lap. The
motion of the magazine seemed to rouse him more than her words, startling him.
He looked at her, then around the lobby a bit confused. "Sorry, I didn't
mean to startle you," she said quietly.
He straightened up on the sofa,
"what time is it?"
"After midnight," she
answered, hesitating before she ventured where he wouldn't, "why are you
He looked at her. "I felt
like taking a walk," he answered vaguely, sounding aggravated by the question,
or more so having to answer such a question. "Why are you out here?"
"I was going to get a
soda," she said glancing in the direction of the vending room.
Skinner stood and stretched a bit.
"I'll go with you."
“Oh,” Scully reacted, not
expecting that. “All... right.” She agreed, gathering her coat a bit tighter.
The pair headed to the vending
room, where Scully quickly made her selection, finally getting the root beer
she’d been craving, and followed Skinner out of the drafty room. She
impatiently popped the top on the can just as the heavy door nearly hit her as
it swung shut behind her. She was just about to take a sip from the can when
she was suddenly pulled awkwardly backward. Looking back, she realized she was
caught, the door was shut on the tail of her coat.
She turned as best she could, trying
to pull free, then to open the door that was quite solidly jammed. She looked
around seeing that Skinner had already started down the hall without her. She
pulled on the coat, and tried the door again, and the all the while a certain
undefined level of horror was beginning to build within her about this
situation. Did she call him back to help, did she let him go, and hope that he
totally forgot about her, and some stranger would thankfully come along to hel—
“Agent Scully?” She nearly jumped
at the sound of his voice at her side. “Is there a problem?”
"Uh," she laughed,
embarrassed, "my coat's caught in the door."
“I’m stuck,” she explained.
Reaching around her he tried the
door with increasing amounts of force, finding it jammed as well. "Take it
off and I can get in here better."
Scully froze, mortified by his
"I, uh, I- I can't,
sir," she faltered.
“All my clothes are dirty, and…”
She dropped her head in disgrace. “Just understand that I can’t.”
He looked inquisitively at her a
moment before understanding washed over his ridged features.
Scully sipped at her root beer,
thoroughly humiliated. She heard him exhale and didn’t know what to expect. How
could she explain herself? What must he think of her?
“Stay… still,” he said, and uncomfortably
maneuvered around her as best as he could, pushing the door a couple more times
but couldn't get any leverage from the position he was working from. “It’s not
budging.” He declared and stepped back. He looked around the hall and toward
the lobby, thinking.
He could get the night manager,
but he wouldn't be able to do much more than he could which wasn't much with
Scully in the way. And he didn't need to see the man's face when Scully said
for the second time, she wouldn't be able to take the coat off... But she was
going to have to take the damned thing off, the thought harassed him.
Resigned to the awkward fact of
the situation Skinner exhaled hard. "Here," he said taking his
glasses off and handing them to her, "hold these."
Scully did as he said, taking his
glasses from him, taken off guard and not knowing what the man had in mind
until she looked around saw him take a step back and began pulling his tee
shirt off. This isn’t happening, Scully thought, speechless. Why is
Skinner handed the shirt to her,
taking his glasses back. "Get out of the coat and put this on," he
told her brusquely, turning his back to her.
A whole new sensation of chagrin
swept through her as she put her drink on the floor and unbuttoned the coat.
All she wanted was a soda, not much to ask for. Neither was a clean change of
sleep ware either, she agonized stepping out the coat into the chilly air.
Keeping an eye on the hall and
awkwardly searching for something to preoccupy his attention, Skinner
inadvertently caught sight of their reflection in the glass of the fire hose
case on the wall.
Struck, he found himself respecting
dominant curves and swells cast in the glass that proclaimed the statement
"for emergency use only." A disturbing sense of exuberance promptly
struck him, followed sluggishly by a more rational awareness of station that
made him look away from the... illuminating reflection. He looked away, taking
a deep settling breath to recenter his thoughts.
"Okay," Scully said as
she checked the length of the tee shirt. With the sleeves nearly to her elbows
and the tail falling just above her knees she was nearly lost in the black
shirt that had been almost too tight on him.
Hesitantly, he turned back to the
door and agent Scully. After a couple of hardy shoves, he got the vending room
door open, and her coat fell to the floor.
"You don't mind if I wait to
give you this back until I get in my room?" she asked, referring to the
shirt and already knowing the answer.
He nodded wearily and they started
toward Scully's room, hearing spectral voices and televisions through the hall
and feeling a draft biting at them along the short distance. He really didn't
care if he got the t-shirt back if he just got out of this suggestive state of
appearance. Strolling around a hotel bare chested with a subordinate who as
well was barely covered wasn't something he wanted to make a habit of doing.
Scully got the key from her coat
pocket and put it in the lock, and he thought he was free. As soon as she got
that door open, he was going back to the room, maybe he’d even get lucky, and
Mulder wouldn't be there yet. The bothersome agent hadn't come back yet by the
time Skinner could stand the confines of the room no longer and had to stretch
his legs. He was surprised he'd fallen asleep so easily, he'd only sat down for
a moment and then he was awakened by...
The sight of Scully shoving the
door with a demure amount of force and working with the key cut off his
thought. Now what, he wondered hearing the muffled sound of a television in the
"This door," she declared,
annoyed. "What is it with doors tonight?"
"Let me see," he said
stepping up to try it just as someone rounded the corner in the hall, the
person stopped abruptly drawing his attention.
Scully saw Skinner look and turned
to see Mulder in the hall. He was gawking at the two of them, his expression
shifting between awestruck abashment and total amusement.
"Mulder?" Scully said,
startled and sounding randomly guilty.
The muffled sound of group
laughter wafted into the hall from the unseen television.
An insipid grin formed on Mulder's
lips finally as he started walking toward his scantily clad partner and
superior. "I thought I was having all the fun across the road..." he
said with the slightest of slurs. "Weird weather we're having?"
"Mulder, we- I, my
coat," Scully tried to get an explanation out, breaking off the stammering
as Mulder raised his hand dismissing the scene.
"Don't mind me," he said
staggering a bit past them, "I'm just passing through... or maybe out...
Wake me when we get to DC."
"Mulder?" Scully called
to him, aggravated by his insinuation.
He kept going, shaking his head to
himself as he said, "Cause I know this is the weirdest dream I've ever
had…” he laughed, and drifted into half-hearted singing, “Mama told me not to
Behind her, Skinner let out an
intolerant breath that grazed her neck. This was an assumption of the worst kind,
and this was one of those times that nothing was going to sound truthful or let
"Forget it, Scully," he
told her, shoving the obstinate door open with more force than warranted. The
door swung wide open and slammed against the wall with a loud sound that made
Scully flinch. "Sorry," Skinner apologized, but his voice lacked
sincerity as he gestured for her to go in and followed. He tossed her coat
across a chair back as he shut the door and checked the wall for damage.
Scully went straight into the
bathroom. Shutting the door, she double-checked to make sure her robe was there
before pulling off the T-shirt, she didn't need to find herself in another
situation. It was enough that they'd been caught by, of all the people, Mulder
in the hallway.
But caught, she thought pulling the shirt over her
head. Caught doing what? Nothing in the least was going on to dictate
the slightest bit of guilt or embarrassment. So why did she feel both in
varying degrees of intensity? She wondered about it, catching the slight scent
of a discreet cologne on the garment, and paused.
Unsteadily, she was suddenly aware
of the fact that she was wearing a man’s T-shirt and now enjoying the heady
hint of cologne on it. But this wasn't just any man and therein lied an
unsettling concern for her sudden twinge of... exhilaration.
Pulling the shirt off quickly and
putting her robe on, she dismissed the base thoughts, recognizing their reasons
for surfacing. She was only human and a definite lack of intimacy in her life
as of late couldn't help but create certain notions toward even...
"Sir," Scully said
coming out of the bathroom, appearing to extend the shirt from herself as far
as possible when handing it to him. "Thank you," she told him feeling
secretly guilty and uncomfortable at the same instance.
Taking the shirt, he just looked
at it for an instant. Scully could have sworn she saw a hint of a smile on his
lips before he took his glasses off and pulled the shirt back on.
"Next time you go to the
vending room, agent Scully," Skinner began, moving to the door, putting
his glasses on, "try to dress more appropriately."
She started to apologize but
enough was said and done, and it was better left alone.
"Good night, sir,"
Scully hastily said, nearly leaping at the door to let him out.
Jerking on the stubborn door she
noticed him eyeing her incredulously and knew how frantic to open the door she
must have appeared. She stopped, laughing at herself. "What is it with the
doors tonight?" she asked herself.
"Must be the weather,"
he offered with a hint of astute awareness in his tone and opened the door with
less zeal than she had employed.
Stepping into the hall he
hesitated before closing the door, looking at her reflectively. "Good
night, Dana," he at last said quietly and shut the door.
----------- X ----------
Continued in Part 2: Brief Encounters
* No infringement is intended. The characters Dana Scully, Walter Skinner, Fox Mulder and the Lone Gunmen as well as all other characters established previous to this story and used here are the creation of Chris Carter and are retained by 1013 Productions and Fox Television.