Complimentary Mints 2: Brief Encounters (1997 Repost)
Complimentary Mints Part II: Brief Encounters
by PR Chung
“Scully… they want your toast.”
“What?” She didn’t understand why Mulder was telling her that. She’d eaten the toast. She looked at her plate, and clearly all the toast was gone. And who was it who wanted the toast in the first place?
“Bullseyes.” She looked at Skinner, and he handed her a set of darts. “Loser buys the beer,” he said and smiled.
That was odd, she thought.
“Do it!” Her friends at the high top were shouting, cheering her on. She loved that they could all come. She hadn’t seen them all since she’d graduated.
“My money’s on you.” Mulder joined in. “Kick his ass, Scully!” he shouted, his voice crackling with adolescent glee.
She looked at Skinner and laughed, “you’re on.”
“Don’t cause no trouble in here, missy!” the waitress walked up to Scully and shook a giant tablet at her.
“Kick her ass too!” Mulder shouted.
The woman narrowed her eyes and leaned closer to Scully. “You better eat that rice. You asked for it.”
“But I did—” Once again at the table, she looked at her empty plate, confused. Looking up, she saw herself across the dining room, throwing darts with Skinner in the bar – and wearing only his T-shirt. “Oh no, not again.”
Dana opened her eyes, abruptly snapping out of the dream. She looked around the unfamiliar hotel room, taking a moment to remember where she was. Propping herself up, she thought about the remnants of the odd dream, focusing sleepily until— All at once the events of last night rushed back, engulfing her in a wave of embarrassment.
She plopped back on the bed and threw her arm over her eyes, mortified. “Oh no, no, no.” She whimpered. “No.”
-------------- X --------------
"Get your bag... don't forget your wooby..."
"... I don't know where you put it..."
“Shhhhh!” Someone shushed quite loudly.
Eyes shut and brows creased, Walter Skinner lay listening to the people in the hall making an incredibly loud and obnoxious exit from the hotel, complete with the repeated slamming and banging of their s room door. He wanted them to go away so he could go back to sleep, just for a moment, a brief and peaceful moment. But it was not to be.
Skinner reluctantly allowed full consciousness to creep into his exhausted mind. He knew he should muster the strength to rise and start the epic battle of making his way back home. The mere thought of confronting canceled flights and enduring the haughty ramblings of travelers who believed their ticket purchase granted them executive privileges in the airline industry made him cringe. It had been enough that he had been forced to contend with hotel managers who couldn't differentiate between a double room and a double bed. And, to top it all off, having a subordinate gallivanting around in nothing more than her coat and socks was just the icing on the cake.
Wait… he paused, frowning at that last thought. What was that again? A subordinate gallivanting around in nothing but her coat and socks…?
The memory of the previous evening's escapades with Agent Scully in the hotel hallway sashayed across his mind with a brazen seductiveness. Skinner couldn't help but feel both wary and bothered by the completely uninvited sensations this memory aroused. It was just an unintentional glimpse—completely and undeniably accidental.
But Walter, are there truly any real accidents?
Shut up! He scolded the delinquent internal voice, restlessly repositioning himself in the bed, refocusing on how uncomfortable the damned thing was, deliberately distracting himself from the internal taunting and suspicions about possible ulterior motivations. He reasoned that being human sometimes led to clichéd inclinations, but directing those inclinations towards a subordinate? Well, that was a hazard of grand proportions.
There was one last slam of the door across the hall as the raucous Loud family finally left, letting tranquility descend once again. Skinner seized the opportunity to compose himself, both mentally and physically, longing for a few stolen moments of uninterrupted sleep before the alarm clock launched its assault. But the only thing getting in the way of that was the mattress and its blatant discomfort. The sensation of being on the verge of rolling downhill could not be ignored. Nor could he shake the eerie feeling that he was being… watched.
Skinner froze with sudden panic-laced thoughts. No, he contemplated, I came back to this room by myself – I came back to my room, not Scully’s room. She is not here—She is not hear in this bed lying next to me, watching me… It was preposterous, a figment of some twilight half-awareness--
But are you sure, Walter?
Skinner braced himself, cursing the internal voice, forcing himself to open his eyes. The room was pitched in darkness, offering no more than a muted gloom, revealing elusive shapes, hazy silhouettes, and shadows, thanks to the heavy blackout curtains covering the window. Gradually, his vision adjusted, revealing a pair of eyes closely staring back at him.
“Good morning. Have good dreams?”
For an instant – a nanosecond – Skinner felt relief seeing Agent Mulder smirking back at him in the bed, only to react quickly to their absurd proximity. Skinner jerked back, staggered, and promptly fell off the edge of the bed, hitting the floor with a humiliating thud.
There were definable moments in a man’s life, moments of truth, shame, and even regret. Skinner lay on the floor, suspended in one such moment right then and there, exactly which one was uncertain, but he knew this was an event that was going to take a while to live down if not publicly but very intimately and personally. Therapy might even be a consideration at some point.
Above him, appearing slowly over the side of the bed, Mulder peered down. “Sir?” he quietly said.
“Yes, Mulder, what is it?” Skinner evenly asked from the floor.
“Did you know that your nose whistles while you sleep?”
“No,” he sighed. “I wasn’t aware of that.”
“You may have a deviated septum.”
“Thank you for that observation, Agent Mulder.”
A moment passed in odd silence.
"How did I get in bed with you?"
Skinner considered that, recalling the encounter with an inebriated Mulder in the hallway, finding both him and Scully in a most unflattering and suggestive state outside her hotel room door. When he came back to the room, Mulder was asleep in a chair, phone in his hand, the sultry voice of a woman on the other end of the line seducing a man passed out asleep.
Skinner heaved a resigned breath, determined not to allow the agent to get to him. "You were in the chair over there when I went to bed,” he explained and began to get up off the floor.
"Oh...yeah," Mulder said looking around in the dim light for said chair.
Skinner stood and felt for the light on the bed stand, flipping the switch without result.
“That one doesn’t work.” Mulder told him, scooting himself backwards off the bed, going to the window. “Hang on, I’ll open the curtains.”
Skinner blew his breath out slowly, beginning to feel around for his glasses like seeking a sacred totem. If he had his glasses, he was going to somehow make it through this.
With a swoosh, the room was washed in an abrupt light that both men winced and turned from.
Mulder shivered, his T-shirt and shorts offering little barrier against the cold seeping through the window. He squinted against the grey light, seeing the parking lot dusted in snow, the highway light with traffic, and the fields beyond dotted with cattle and pigs roaming among more snow.
Skinner squinted around, trying to find glasses that he needed glasses to find. “My glasses, do you see them?” he asked.
Mulder glanced around, grimacing. “No… Have you thought about getting that surgery—”
“I can’t.” Skinner interrupted him, moving around the room, squinting here and there.
“No, I have astigmatism.” Skinner grumbled passing him to check the other bedside stand.
“I’ve heard of that, what is it?” Mulder asked, peering at the phone sitting on the floor next to the chair by the window.
“My right eye, the surface has a curve over it. I don’t know. Agent Scully could explain it better, I’m sure.” Skinner distractedly explained as he began to pull the bedding back to look for his glasses.
“Yeah…I bet she could,” Mulder now sounded distracted as he picked up the phone and placed it on the table next to the window. “Did you, um, did you put this room on your bureau credit card?”
“Yes, why—?” Skinner broke off, having taken a step only to have his foot crunch down on something hard and sharp. "Damn it!" he barked, hopping onto one foot to inspect what he’d stepped on.
Mulder squinted at the floor seeing sunflower shells scattered like tiny pieces of shrapnel, mouthing a silent, “oh shit,” as the phone began to someone started to pound on their room door.
“I am too hung over for all of this,” Mulder muttered, reaching for the phone, hearing a heavily accented voice calling through the door, "housekeeping."
"Not now- later," Mulder called toward the door.
“What the hell time is it,” Skinner asked, annoyed and looking around for the clock. “Why is housekeeping here so early?”
“Ambition?” Mulder ventured with a shrug and picked up the phone.
“Housekeeping.” The woman called again through the door.
“Not now,” Mulder shouted.
"Mulder?" Scully voice drifted over the line.
" Si ahora, si?" The maid called back from the hall.
"No Mo—Ah, mo…” Mulder struggled for Spanish he’d learned from menus and door hangers, and junior high school lessons long past.
Skinner brushed the sunflower shells from his sole, shouting, “No molesta, vala!"
“Mulder, who is that?” Scully asked from the other end of the line.
“Uh, that would be your superior, Senior Skinner, evidently,” he replied, impressed by the man’s bilingual skills, taking the phone with him to grab a sweatshirt from his travel bag that was splayed out across the floor near the television.
“Uno momento.” Skinner called out and turned to go to the door and stop this nonsense. On the way, he shot an annoyed look at Mulder. “How do you even survive without any Spanish? You need to sign up for lessons when we get back to D.C.” Skinner lectured Mulder as he stamped past him.
Mulder rocked his head, moving his mouth wordlessly, mocking Skinner to his back, noticing more sunflower shells stuck to the man’s black T-shirt. Mulder looked at the shirt, frowning at a vague memory it conjured. He dismissed it with a shake of his head.
"What is going on?" Scully asked.
"Nothing, it's just the maid." Mulder chuckled, “What’s up—” he broke off seeing Skinner stumble forward, tripping over the phone cord. “Oh—" The phone yanked free of his hand. “--shit!” Mulder hissed losing his balance trying to snatch the handset back from the air, missed and saw it sail straight into Skinner’s head before they both fell together in a heap on the floor.
The phone base slung into the wall with a loud clang. Scully called over the line louder, "Oh my God, Mulder, what is happening?"
"Uh..." Mulder hesitated, trying to get up, seeing that he and Skinner were not in the most flattering of positions on the floor. Skinner wasn't looking very happy about the situation either. "Mulder, get off me," nor did he sound very happy about it.
"Are you fighting?" Mulder heard Scully’s voice calling from the handset.
“No,” he explained, dragging the handset to him by the cord, “no, Skinner tripped, and I fell—"
Tumblers in the door lock were turning now...
"No molest!" Agent and A.D. yelled in unison at the door, but it was too late. The door swung open; light spilled into the room from the hallway around the frozen silhouette of the maid. The woman stood staring at the two men tangled on the floor, wide eyed. "¿Qué es esto?" she exclaimed clutching a stack of sheets.
"Mulder? Mulder?" Scully called over the phone. “Are you two fighting?”
"Damn it," Skinner cursed another embarrassing situation and struggled to free his legs from under Mulder impatiently. What did I do to deserve this amount of aggravation in such a short amount of time...? He questioned himself not for the first time in the last several days.
Trying to get up, Mulder awkwardly waved at the maid, "not now, no service- no servicio."
"Maria," she called to someone down the hall as she backed out of the doorway, "hombres haciendo el amor..."
Skinner looked up wide eyed hearing the woman. "No! No—Oh great!" Skinner hissed, dragging himself out from under Mulder.
“What did she say?” Mulder asked, getting to his knees.
“Don’t—” Skinner barked and stopped himself. Getting to his feet he closed his eyes and took a breath. “Don’t. Don’t ask.” He replied, teeth clinched. “Just don’t.” He ground out the words and hobbled angrily into the bathroom, slamming the door shut.
"Mulder, what’s happened, were you two fighting?" Scully insisted.
“Not yet,” Mulder sighed, brushing away sunflower seed shells that were stuck to his knees, these things were everywhere. "I must have missed the trash," he ventured aloud.
"Nothing-- Scully, really, really long story. What did you call about?" he asked, dragging the phone base across the floor with him as he went to close the door the maid left open. Before closing it, he glanced out into the hall, seeing the maids at the end, huddled together, gossiping and giggling. He smiled and waved as one of them looked back in his direction.
She looked a little surprised seeing him, then raised her eyes brows and grinned, saying something he couldn’t hear, but whatever it was drew the attention of other the maids who began laughing.
Their reaction made Mulder check himself, seeing nothing apparently wrong or exposed on his person. What the hell? He wondered and drew back inside the room.
"Mulder, I have us on a flight out at nine-thirty. The shuttle is coming to get us in about forty-five minutes."
The moment she said that Mulder heard the shower turn on. He hung his head. “Crap.”
-------------- X --------------
He reeked of booze, his head felt thick as a brick and Walter Skinner had commandeered the shower in their room for the second time in less than 24 hours. How clean did one man need to be, Mulder questioned himself as the water in Scully's shower pelted his skin.
Using the shower in her room was the only way he was going to be in decent shape to make it to the shuttle on time. Not only did Skinner take ridiculously long showers, but Mulder vaguely recalled seeing, from the porcelain worshipping position he'd taken after returning to the room last night, a single washcloth and a sliver of soap left in the bathroom. That was about the last thing he recalled... he certainly didn't remember falling into bed next to Skinner.
The woman at the bar in Risky's could put it away and he had matched her drink for drink. Lynn? Gwen? He tried recalling her name. He was having a hard time remembering a lot about the prior night. “Wow,” he said to himself. He was surprised he got back across the highway alive. Did he get a ride? He thought he remembered that cab driver, Fred, but wasn’t certain if that was a false memory mixing with the ride from the airport to the hotel.
He shook his head. Wanda? He tried again. “Who's tripping down the streets of the city Smilin' at everybody she… meets.. mmm… mmm,” he hummed the missing lyrics stuck in his head to a song that he didn’t’ particularly like but was coming to him unbidden. “And everybody knows that it’s Windy— Wendy!”
“You okay in there?” Scully called through the door.
“Yeah,” he called back. “Yeah, fine.”
“You need to hurry up, you got about twenty minutes.”
“Got it. Almost out. Oh, and hey, can you get my shave stuff out of my suite case and toss it in here on the counter?”
“Hang on…” a moment went by before she was at the door again. “Where is it?”
“In my travel bag.”
“No,” she called and opened the bathroom door a few inches. “Your travel bag? I don’t see it.”
“You… you don’t see it?”
“No, and I don’t recall you coming in with it.”
His clothes, his stuff... everything he'd been living with for the last six days. "Ah, man..."
"You left it in your room, didn't you?"
He scrunched his face, defeated. “Yeah.” At least he could remember that.
“I’ll go get it and I’ll make sure Skinner is ready, too.”
“Right, make sure Skinner’s… ready.” Mulder paused. “Wait…what?” A flash memory of Scully and Skinner in the hallway. Had that… Had he really seen the two of them, Skinner freaking shirtless and Scully wearing just— a black T-shirt!
“Be right back.” He heard Scully call into the bathroom.
"No! Wait," he called back to her, shutting the water off. “Scully? Wait, I’ll go get it.”
He listened and heard no reply. She was already gone… Headed to Skinner’s room.
Mulder wrapped himself in a towel and came out to stand alone in the middle of her room. He fixed his gaze on the bed, a blur of doubt and anxiety clouding his mind. The memory of that unexpected encounter in the hallway played over and over in his head, causing him to fidget uncomfortably. Skinner hadn't uttered a single word about it this morning, and Scully remained silent as well. “Huh,” he murmured in thought. He couldn't shake off the surreal experience, no matter how hard he tried.
Slowly, he plopped down on the edge of the bed, allowing his thoughts to wander and the full picture to materialize before him, forming a scenario that was both ludicrous and astounding.
Mulder covered his mouth, stunned. There’s no way, he thought. Absolutely no way either of them would… He dropped his hand and let out a disbelieving chuckle, the absurdity of it all too much.
"There is no way!" he exclaimed to the empty room.
-------------- X --------------
In the shower, Skinner pondered over a couple of things. First, Mulder hadn't mentioned anything about what occurred the previous night, the incident in the hallway that he stumbled upon. This thought brought Skinner some relief, as it seemed Mulder had no recollection of it. However, another question arose: why had Mulder been drunkenly heading towards Scully's room? This second consideration made Skinner hesitate. He briefly entertained the notion that he was being suspicious, perhaps even jealous, although such thoughts were entirely irrational.
Skinner managed to push aside his concerns, suspicions, and adolescent envy, at least until he came out of the bathroom to discover Mulder was gone. New concerns flooded his mind. Did Mulder remember he had left to go ask Scully about it? And if he did, what would she say? Surely, she would recount what happened, which, in all honesty and truth, was absolutely nothing.
More irrational thinking and obsessing. What was wrong with him this morning? Skinner thought and refocused. His entire regimen was thrown out of whack. His belongings were scattered everywhere, clothes strewn here and there, some hanging in the closet alcove. The contents of his carryon bag were spread across the dresser, and he had spent an excessive amount of time searching for his right shoe after discovering the left tucked just under the bed. At least he’d found his glasses.
Hotel stays never disrupted his regular routine like this. Perhaps there was another reason behind it, he pondered, and picked his T-shirt up, brushing away sunflower shells. He stopped, noticing the strand of long hair clinging to the fabric, a long copper hair.
He stared at it far too long for his comfort before he pulled the hair off and tossed it way aside. He wasn’t going to obsess over this, he told himself and headed back into the bathroom to shave. But the vision just kept creeping back into his thoughts despite trying to bury it; Scully... Agent Dana Scully, arms stretched over her head as she hauled his shirt over herself—
“Pull yourself to together,” he muttered, annoyed. He wasn't going to be able to face her if he didn't stop thinking like this. What was wrong with him, he questioned running the water and gathering shave foam into the palm of his hand.
Nothing. That was the problem, all the hormones and organs functioning properly, perhaps a little too properly at the moment... But again, he fell back on the cliché... he was human.
He labeled his excitement last night for what it was, what he believed it to be; nothing more than the normal, yet fleeting, appreciation of an attractive, intelligent, charming woman. He found that completely acceptable and settled to focus on the facts. She was an intelligent...attractive young woman.
“But, Walter, isn’t smart sexy?” He flinched at the unbidden voice. No, it was just her charm, simply. Her smile, her gait, mannerisms...
Razor in hand, he stared into space, beyond the mirror where copper tresses and azure eyes stared back at him. This wasn't just anyone he was lusting over—He paused. Was he lusting? "Damn it," he cursed himself aloud.
A distant muffled sound drew his attention. Turning the water off he listened for a moment, hearing a knock at the room door. It wasn’t Mulder knocking unless he forgot his key – “Damn it,” he grunted. It has to be the maid again.
Razor still in hand he jerked open the bathroom door, charging out shouting, "No molest--!"
-------------- X --------------
Scully knocked at the room door. Once, then twice, and when there was no answer, she considered Skinner might still be in the shower and couldn’t hear her. She glanced at Mulder’s room key she’d thought to grab on her way, hesitant to use it.
She didn’t need any more embarrassing situations. Walking in and startingly your naked superior fell into that category.
She took a long, deep breath, bringing the key up to the lock, telling herself she would just go in and grab Mulder's bag, and walk straight back out. If he's in the shower he's not going to know if anyone came in or not...
“I got this,” she sighed, and unlocked the door. “I got this,” she said again as she hurried in, already scanning for Mulder bag. She heard water running—and then, she didn’t.
Before she could spy Mulder's bag, she heard Skinner's baritone voice booming from behind the bathroom door. The door jerked open and out he charged, gripping a razor and clad only in briefs and shave cream.
Scully froze and he came to an abrupt halt, looking startled back at her. It seemed like an eternity before either spoke and when they did it was at once.
"Uh," they both stammered, undeniably surprised.
"I-I," Scully started to say, looking around, struggling to look anywhere but at the man before her and the shave cream tricking down his chest.
"Excuse me," Skinner finally said backing up and back into the bathroom, sounding and looking decidedly awkward. "I thought you were the maid..." he continued and cleared his throat.
"No, excuse me, " Scully said, “I...I came for Mulder's bag..."
"Oh," she could have sworn Skinner almost sounded disappointed. "Fine. That's fine… Agent… Scully." He said and put the bathroom door between himself and Scully.
He leaned his head against the door and closed his eyes, gutted again. He winced at the instant replay of the last few seconds which seemed to have gone on much, much longer. He was certain it was like how people described earthquakes that only lasted a few seconds but seemed to go on for a horrific amount of time... But in that instant, that immensely short moment, his cool and severe exterior was shattered by the alarming appearance of the one person he did not need to see right then and there – while wearing nothing but his briefs.
"Sir." The sound of her voice just on the other side of the door made him jump.
"Yes?" His voice was hoarse.
"Sir?" her voice went up a questioning octave.
He cleared his throat again and repeated himself louder. "Yes, Agent Scully?"
"You do you know I have us on a flight out at nine thirty, right?" She had noticed the disarray of his belongings and wondered if Mulder had even mentioned it to him. She didn't think he'd be this disorganized prior to leaving for a flight so soon, nor at all for that matter. She had always pictured him as something of an anal retentive; neat, organized- rigidly disciplined. Can't tell a book by its well-fitting cover, she thought glancing around the room. "Did Mulder tell you?" she added after a second. He blinked at the door.
"No." He answered flatly, going to look at his watch on the bathroom counter. It was nearly eight fifteen. How would they be getting to the airport, he wondered. If they were taking one of the local taxis, they might as well forget making the flight at all.
"The shuttle will be here in about fifteen minutes, sir." She answered his unvoiced question.
“Shit.” he cursed under his breath. "I'll be ready."
------------------------------------- X -------------------------------------
The End of Complimentary Mints part 2 "Brief Encounters"
Part III All the King’s Mints to follow.
Note: this was originally posted in two parts but was simply too long. So, it was split into three.