Complimentary Mints 3: All The King's Mints


Stranded by a winter storm, Agents Mulder, Scully, and Skinner embark on a chaotic road trip rife with tension and unspoken desires. Between facing a speeding ticket, battling a relentless ice storm, and enduring Mulder's peculiar food choices, the close quarters amplify a growing attraction between Scully and Skinner. Despite their professional distance, a near-miss accident and a late-night offer leave them both questioning their next steps as they reach Scully's apartment building.


Complimentary Mints Part III:  All the King's Mints

by PR Chung

October 8, 1997

Re-release: June 25, 2023

Skinner/Scully Angst and Humor

 * The X-Files and characters used here are creations of Chris Carter and 1013 Productions, I have only borrowed them for a moment of humor and romance.

*Many thanks to Mr. Elvis Presley for his wonderful voice and lyrics, the inspiration to so many angst-riddled would-be lovers.

Complimentary Mints Part III:  All the King's Mints

by PR Chung

 

Wichita Airport.

Thanksgiving Day Morning.

Ticketing agents found themselves caught in a whirlwind of chaos and frenzy. The relentless havoc wreaked by unpredictable weather caused flights to be both filled to capacity and abruptly canceled, leaving airline patrons on the verge of tears and utter frustration. 

Amidst the pandemonium, the PA system blared with urgent pages and cancellation announcements, drowning out the desperate pleas of passengers trying to secure any available seats on flights heading eastward. Yet, their efforts proved futile. Every airport from the Mississippi River and the region extending southward from the Oklahoma-Texas border was in the midst of a brutal winter ice storm.

"Canceled?" Skinner said and ground his teeth, glaring at the ticketing agent.

The willowy man cowered. "I'm very sorry, sir, but everyone's flight has been canceled. The weather has been very unpredictable."

Skinner moved ever so slightly toward the man. A move that appeared threatening enough to prompt Scully to squeeze herself between her superior and the counter.

"But I talked to an agent this morning, and she said the flights were running again," Scully told the agent. "I checked twice to make sure..."

"I'm really very sorry but there is nothing we can do when it comes to the weather, Miss."

Scully fidgeted and let out a long breath saturated with exasperation that came out as nearly a whimper. “I can’t believe this—"

"Is there anything?" Skinner asked the ticketing agent, placing a hand on Scully's shoulder. "Anything headed southward?"

"To DFW maybe, or Austin?" Scully added. Her voice suddenly filled with new energy that made Skinner feel victorious in his move.

He shook his head. "They are still iced over really bad."

The two federal agents stood silent, their minds tussling over what to do next.

The ticketing agent sighed heavily. "All I can do is have you wait, and we will get you on the first flight available."

Mulder approached, his steps faltering as he briefly saw the proximity between Scully and Skinner. They stood at the counter, so close that only a fraction of an inch separated her back from his chest, his hand casually resting on her shoulder. Mulder let out a slow breath, his thoughts churning.

Are we now moving into the realm of public displays of affection? He wondered and squeezed the rental car agreement gripped in his hand. He shook his head. No, this was the product exhaustion, and a hangover, dehydration— He took a breath, gathered his composure, and walked the rest of the way to greet them.

"I got us a car," he announced drawing Skinner and Scully’s attention from the ticketing agent.

"A car?" Scully questioned.

He nodded, and Skinner huffed, his eyes scanning the airport before they fell on Mulder. "What are you suggesting, we drive to D.C.?"

Mulder looked at them with a hint of amusement in his eyes. "Why not? We're not getting anywhere now. I figure we'll be getting there at the same time we would if we waited around in a hotel another day or two until we could fly there. It shouldn't take any longer than maybe twenty-six hours."

"If the roads are decent to travel," Skinner interjected.

"We can drive in shifts," Scully promoted Mulder's plan and Skinner knew then he was outnumbered on this plan of action, as was the case most of the time with Mulder and Scully.

He wasn't thrilled by the idea of spending twenty-six hours plus in a car, but... He glanced at the flight status monitors, reading the repetitive "canceled" all the way down the monitors. He picked his bag up and squared his shoulders. "Let's go then."

------------------------------------- X -------------------------------------

"What is that noise?" Mulder exclaimed, breaking a silence that had lasted nearly a half hour. "It's that dit-dit-dit-dit-dit noise."

"There is no noise." Skinner evenly said for the second time since he'd taken the wheel.

"There IS a noise... dit-dit-dit-dit-dit-DIT." Mulder insisted from the back seat.

"The only thing I hear is you."

Mulder moped in his seat for a long time before he sat forward, bending over with his head nearly between his knees.

Scully caught sight of the abrupt move and looked fully back at him. "Mulder, are you getting sick?"

"Shhhhh!" he hushed her, listening intently to the noise that had been plaguing him since they'd left Fort Smith. They had all been leery of the roundabout southern route chosen by the rental agency, but the weather had been better than they expected, and everything seemed to be going just fine until the noise started. "Listen to it..." he said quietly.

Scully gave him the benefit of the doubt and listened until her neck started to hurt and forced her back into a normal sitting position in the front seat. She stole a glance at the man behind the wheel. Skinner was gripping the wheel with a vengeance; fingers, shoulders, jaw- all clenched tightly. She could tell he was about to vent at any moment although he was doing a pretty good job of keeping his appearance controlled aside from the tension in his extremities.

He must have felt her gaze, turning to look at her. Scully quickly turned her eyes away to look out her window at the bleak wintry countryside racing past. She'd tried very hard to keep her mind on very pure thoughts for the past few hours, but it was becoming harder to do. The image of shave cream running into that undoubtedly soft chest hair--

Stop it! She mentally shook herself, blinking hard against the overwhelming sensation rushing through her, and reached for the air vents. It was way too hot in this car and although she didn't believe the temperature had anything to do with the heater, she adjusted the vents away from herself.

"Too hot?" Skinner asked and she nearly jumped.

"Uh, just a bit," she answered noticing him reach for the temperature controls. "But I'm fine now. Don't adjust it just for me."

He looked at her for a second, trying hard not to think of the embarrassments over the past twenty-four hours.

"There!" Mulder called triumphantly sitting up in the back seat. "There, you had to hear it that time."

Skinner's fingers clenched tighter on the steering wheel, his knuckles turning white. "Mulder, there is no noise."

"There is a noise."

"Mulder, really, I don't hear it either." Scully announced with the clearest tone of irritation in her voice.

Mulder sat back in his seat, petulant. He stared at the shock of red hair seated in front of him. She was siding with him now, he dejectedly thought. What else was she going to start siding with him about?

"There. Is. A. Noise." He insisted again, arms crossed. "Dit-dit-dit-dit-dit-dit-"

His impression of the noise was cut short by the high-pitched scream of a siren.

Skinner's eyes flicked from side view to rear view mirror as bright red and blue lights filled the interior of the rental car.

Scully turned to look out the back window, joined by Mulder.

"It's the state fuzz," Mulder quipped, deadpanned.

"Great," Skinner grumbled, "now what?"

"How fast were you going, sir?" Scully wondered. Skinner only hissed as he eased the car off the highway and onto the shoulder.

*********************

Seventy-eight miles an hour.

"Well, I don't know 'bout Washington D.C.," the Arkansas State Trooper stated. "But here we got deer and deer can kill."

Skinner's nostrils were flaring, the wraith of his hot breath billowed into the chilly air outside his open window.

"I thought guns killed," Mulder cracked inappropriately from the back seat. Skinner flashed him a hard glare before a pink copy of a violation slip was shoved in the window.

Scully reached across Skinner, taking it. "We'll be more careful next time, officer."

The trooper dipped his head in acknowledgment. "You folks have a safe trip-" Skinner had the window up before the trooper could finish.

"Should I drive now?" Scully asked, watching the trooper walking back to his car.

Skinner was silent, his answer the start of the car.

Scully saw Mulder shaking his head, his expression a dense semblance of disgust.

"We'll change once we're in Memphis." Skinner finally answered her, pulling out onto the highway.

Mulder sat up right in the seat, eyes wide with surprise. "Memphis?"

********************

Slightly shaken, the three of them stood together in the parking lot of the King's Kitchen diner, staring fixedly at a sight none of them had seen or ever wanted to see again. Like some memorial of victory over harrowing circumstances, gray and at least a foot thick with black chunks of road grime throughout, ice encrusted the entire front of the rental car grill.

Mulder looked dazed and Scully felt sick to her stomach. She couldn't imagine what Skinner must have felt like, having been behind the wheel the entire time of the storm. She watched him remove an unsteady hand from his coat pocket to take off his glasses and rub his eyes with his wrist. His eyes must have ached from the strain of trying to see through the relentless ice that had threatened to obscure his view completely during the entire ordeal.

Eighteen miles outside Memphis ice had begun pelting the car windshield unyieldingly and continued all the way to the Mississippi River. The morgue-like silence that had fallen over the three agents as they pushed through the ice storm was finally broken with a group release of held breath when they reached the Memphis city limits.

Like a dreamer awakened, Mulder lifted his chin glancing from the nightmarish sheath covering the car grill toward the diner. Neon bolstered King's Kitchen and the fact that it was open 24 hours a day, while comic style script scrolled around the top of the one-story building announcing the unique variety of foods offered.

"Home of the hunka'peanut butter, bacon and banana loaf sandwich..." Mulder read quietly drawing Scully and Skinner's attention back to the building.

"Nothing like home cooking." The Assistant Director's uncharacteristically humorous comment took Mulder and Scully off guard. Before either could form a response, he replaced his glasses, turning his eyes upward as a light sprinkle of sleet began falling. "Let's get out of this for a while. I've had about all the weather I can take for a day."

"Me too," Scully agreed taking the lead toward the diner. Mulder lingered behind a moment, watching his partner going inside followed closely by Skinner. There was a definite change in their demeanor, he could see it in the way they responded to one another's movements and tones. They were...

* "... You're always there to lend a hand in everything I do... that's the wonder, the wonder of you..." *

Mulder's ears perked at the sound of music that drifted out the door of the diner into the cold. Forget it, I'm being paranoid...

What's new? His suspicions were put on immediate hold as he headed for the siren call of the King.

***********************

One of the first things to strike Skinner's attention was a framed photograph of President Richard Nixon deputizing Elvis Presley. He cocked a brow at the irony of it catching sight of a waitress approaching.

"Evening folks," she greeted Scully and Skinner, cheerfully plucking two, then three menus from behind the counter when she saw Mulder join them. "Looks like y'wall could use a rest. Did that storm rattle you a bit?"

"A bit," Scully said with a small smile. "How did you...?"

"We've had a lot of folks coming in from it, looking just as frazzled as y'wall," the woman explained flashing a big smile, a chunk of green gum just visible between her cinched teeth. "We'll take good care of you, com'on and follow me."

She led the "frazzled" trio to a booth near the back of the diner. "I'm Judy," she introduced herself as they got seated. "And I'll bring y'wall some water while you take a look at the menu... I guess you won't be wanting ice in it will you?"

In unison the three of them paused before sitting, taken by the comment. Judy let out a bawdy laugh. "I'm so sorry, now that wasn't nice of me after all you must have been through. Just trying to break the ice you know- oops! I did it again. I'll just leave you three be for a few minutes."

Judy left the table, her laugh drifting with her as she went, and Skinner took his seat suppressing the comment teetering on the tip of his tongue. He refused to voice his belief that it was her laugh that could shatter the ice encasing the front of the rental car. His calm facade, maintained even through the mightiest of ice storms he had seen was still well intact... an unreadable expression that was all but shattered within a few brief seconds of contact.

* "It's now or never, come hold me tight, kiss me my darling, be mine tonight..." *

As if on cue, prompted by unseen conspirators trying to break his dwindling threads of self-control, the song had begun at the instant Scully's leg brushed his as she slid into the booth seat opposite him. Their gazes locked, their eyes communicating the shared surge of excitement that had gripped them.

Her head dipped after a long moment, averting her eyes. "Excuse me," her voice was low, her eyes glinting with guilt as she glanced at Mulder who was oblivious to all but the gaudy decor of the establishment.

He had barely touched the seat before he got up and left the table, his eyes trained on pictures filling the walls. Opening her menu Scully cursed him leaving her in the booth alone with Skinner, then cursed her fidgeting hands that found and began to rearrange the flatware at her place setting. She kept her eyes down but wasn't reading much of the menu. She was concentrating on not looking up at Skinner. Despite his momentary loss of grace when she had brushed his leg, when his eyes had glinted with passionate intentions, she knew his face was now, once again, the ever-present unreadable mask of self-composure while she was a tattered wreck of desire. She only glanced at his hands resting on the table, fingers laced together calmly over his open menu. Cool as a cucumber... and probably just as-

She fumbled the knife, dropping it to the table with a startling noise that made both her and Skinner jump.

"I was just about to ask if you wanted some coffee, honey," Judy was suddenly back at the table, smiling broadly as she placed three glasses of water on the table, sans the ice. "But it seems like your last nerve might not take to well to it this evening."

"Uh, no, I wouldn't mind some coffee, actually."

"I'll have a cup also," Skinner told the woman.

Judy threw a glance over her shoulder at Mulder. "You want anything to drink, hon?"

He turned from his study of the memorabilia on the wall, he seemed perplexed for an instant before he returned to the booth. "Grape NE-hi."

"All righty, two coffees and a... Grape Ne-hi... You know what you'd like to eat yet?"

Skinner glanced at Scully in anticipation of her response. God knew he hadn't decided on anything in the time his eyes had skimmed the menu, his mind had been everywhere but on the menu items.

"I'll have," she paused for an instant, then oddly enough realized she was craving, "I'll have the chicken nugget platter, please." Scully answered refusing to make eye contact with Skinner. "Mulder?"

He had flipped open his menu and was skimming it quickly, holding one finger up to indicate his need of a moment more.

Damn, Scully thought, now she could only look at Skinner. It would be obvious if she didn't. Obvious she was deliberately avoiding his gaze.

"Sir?" she said resolutely, looking directly into his eyes.

The firmness of her chin, the strength in her voice and the intensity of her eyes boring into him was overwhelming. He was losing it, his imagination counterproductive projects such as manufacturing wholly unique images from those already blazoned in his memory. Carefully placed caresses in forbidden places followed with keens of pleasure and raw sensations of pure-

* "... Wise men say only fools rush in... but I can't help falling- " *

Skinner cleared his throat turning his eyes to the menu once more. "The, uh," he scanned the menu quickly, then, "I'd like the love me tender loin pot roast stew with creamed corn and black-eyed peas."

Judy turned to Mulder, "You need some more time?"

He screwed his face up, his brow furrowed and his mouth moving intently on some notion. "I see you have the hunk'a peanut butter and banana here, and there's the peanut butter, jelly and bacon," he began, pensively, "but can I get a hunk'a peanut butter and banana with the bacon and the jelly on the side?"

Skinner and Scully looked at him, appalled and dismayed by the sound of his request. It was apparent he had given the menu more attention than either one of them had, neither recalled seeing such a concoction. Then again, perhaps their subconscious had purposely passed by it.

"You can have the hunk'a anyway you want it, just like the King." Judy told him, grinning as she jotted down his request. She looked up, sweeping them with a broad gaze, "is that it for you?"

Leaning back, one arm stretched out over the back of his booth seat, Skinner gave her a wave and Scully nodded. Mulder on the other hand lifted his hand to catch her attention, "is the pound cake served in slices or in one loaf?" Scully looked at Skinner, her eyes wide. Skinner only rolled his eyes, his mouth curling ever so slightly into a smirk.

"Either, hon, just depends on how much you can eat," Judy told him.

"Mulder, we have a long drive ahead of us," Scully reminded him. "You might want to take it easy on the food you put away."

He shifted a mischievous sidelong glance from the menu to her. "You're right, Scully..." he turned back to their waitress, finishing with, "just a thick slice, not the whole loaf."

The sleet had stopped falling by the time they had finished their meals and Judy brought the check. But Mulder wasn't looking so well already.

"Are you alright?" Scully asked him, catching the waitress' attention.

He nodded weakly, looking drowsy. "Yeah, I'm fine."

"He's just full, hon," Judy assured her, dropping a handful of complimentary mints on top of the check. "Y'wall have a safe trip." Skinner gave Mulder an appraising glance as he scooped up the check, mints and all and went to pay as Scully coaxed Mulder from the booth. He wasn't too confident in Judy's diagnosis of the agent's condition. Actually, he was certain they were going to be making quite a few stops after Mulder's meal from hell...

********************************

The groaning from the back seat had at last subsided. Aware of the sudden silence, Scully glanced into the rearview mirror, squinting against headlights trailing behind their car, trying to see into the back seat. She and Skinner exchanged weary glances before he turned in the passenger seat to look back.

Lying across the back seat, among a littering of plastic bags and a half-empty bottle of pink stuff Mulder rocked peacefully to the rhythm of the road, asleep.

"Is he?" she asked.

Skinner released a long sigh repositioning himself in the seat. "Yes, he's asleep... thank God."

Scully gave him a quick disapproving look. "He felt horrible..."

"He ate like a horse," Skinner countered her defense of the non-stop groaning and moaning that had permeated the interior of the car between numerous stops at roadside service stations and diners for the use of the facilities.

"It was the atmosphere of the place," she responded, stifling a yawn Skinner looked at her. "Atmosphere? He ate an entire loaf of bread hollowed out and stuffed with peanut butter, bacon, bananas, and jelly. Plus, a three-inch-thick piece of pound cake."

She didn't say anything for a moment, only blinked against the sleep tugging at her eyelids. Then giving him a sly sidelong glance, a smirk on her mouth she reminded him, "you didn't seem to have any trouble putting away that pound cake, sir."

Looking out the window into the darkness he shifted in the seat, feeling his belt slightly cutting into him. "I'll be paying for it for a while, too."

Scully thought about the reference to weight gain from the desert. She didn't think the man had much to worry about considering the shape he was in- superb. Her mind flashed back to his trim waist and firm stomach... What had gone through his mind as they stood there in the hotel room staring at one another? She had been a complete blank, her mind reeling in silent astonishment. The sight of the man had shot such jolts of electricity through her she had been afraid to move or speak for fear of what could have happened. She only knew she had to get out of there before she did something she would undoubtedly regret, only to have lingered longer to tell him about the flight.

She had wanted that instance to have happened. She knew how much she wanted him to cross the room, touch his hands to her as he had in the airport. It had only been the slightest of touches, like so many other times that he had guided her from the foyer of his office or into an elevator. But this once it had been different, filled with excitement and ineffable promise.

She had stood at the bathroom door, her heart pounding, and the blood raging in her ears, fearing he would open the door when she spoke- and if he did... she knew she had hoped for him to take her in his arms and taste her mouth with his-

"Scully," Skinner snapped at her suddenly, his hands grabbing the wheel. The car lurched to the right as headlights shot past with the blaring sound of a horn in tow.

She took the wheel more firmly, shaking herself awake. "I'm sorry, sir," she apologized, jittery.

"Sorry, my ass, pull over, Scully, I'm driving."

She looked over the seat to see the sudden movement of the car had woken Mulder. He was still asleep.

Turning back, she dodged Skinner's potent glare. "I'm fine, sir," she told him.

"You're not fine, you were half asleep."

Scully gripped the steering wheel, sitting forward as though to protect her God given right to operate a vehicle. "I am fine," she insisted.

"Pull over, now," he ordered. "I'm driving." She looked at him, his mouth a grim slash.

"Now, Scully," he repeated.

************************

It had been nearly two a.m. when Skinner pulled up at Mulder's apartment. He managed to wake the young man and get him out of the car quietly enough so not to have waken Scully. Her denial of needing sleep had fallen flat when she dozed off almost immediately after he had gotten behind the wheel.

He would have been a liar to say he had been in any better shape sleep-wise, but stopping again was out of the question. If he had to stay in another motel or hotel room, he was going to pull his- He wasn't going to enjoy it very much, he amended the thought, feeling slightly punchy as he pulled away from the curb leaving Mulder to wobble up the walk to his apartment.

Now, only a few miles from Scully's apartment, Skinner found himself watching her out of the corner of his eye. He tried to concentrate on the road, but his eyes kept turning back to her the entire drive. The scrupulous expression customarily etched across her face had softened, leaving her to be very disarming. The car was quiet, and he was aware of her breathing, even and deep. Then there was the scent of her hair and clothes, perhaps the slightest measure of perfume.

Leaning back into the seat he took one hand from the steering wheel, resting it lightly on the seat between himself and her. Her hand was mere inches away, and he had to fight the impulse to take it- to caress her wrist and feel the gentle thump of her pulse beneath the silky skin. Oh, stop it, will you! He told himself. Pay attention to the road, it's only a little way to her apartment, get her there in one piece.

In his position of authority at the Bureau, he was a man forced to make detrimental decisions each and every day with no room for second guessing one's ability to do so. Yet the only thing he was, in the smallest of ways, confidant of was the fact that what he was about to do was against all better judgment.

He moved his hand pitifully close to Scully's, his heart racing foolishly. His fingertips just barely brushed her skin when the car was jolted so badly his teeth rattled and Scully jerked awake, sucking in a great, startled breath.

Skinner gripped the wheel with both hands, shocked and searching for what he had run over or into for that matter. Checking the review mirror, he saw the flickering orange of road barricades set up along a strip of curb behind them, announcing an uneven section of road undoubtedly. One he had been completely oblivious to.

"What did we hit?" Scully questioned, rubbing at the side of her head. Had she hit it? He wondered, panic struck, and guilt ridden. "Did you hit your head?"

"No," she answered, looking at him incredulously. His eyes were wide, a light film of perspiration across his forehead. "Are you alright?"

"Yes," he lied. "I'm fine."

She sat up in the seat, looking around at the familiar streets and landmarks. "Mmm, almost home." she sighed rocking her head back and forth to get the kinks out of her neck.

"Almost home," he said so quietly that his voice nearly didn't register with her.

Little was said the rest of the way to her apartment. Small talk, her questions about Mulder's condition when he left the car, but little more. Reaching her building Skinner pulled up and parked in front, and Scully started to open the door when he shut off the motor.

"I'll walk you up," he said and got out so quickly she never had the opportunity to protest, yet protest was last on her mind, foremost being surprised.

In a serenely odd silence, they walked to the front of the building, their footfalls crunching in the light dusting of fresh snow, the wraith of their breath mingling in the crisp air. He opened the entrance door for her, following her in with her bag, watching her confidant stride and the alluring bounce of her hair.

Unlocking the door, Scully turned back before opening it. Looking at him closely, she feared her own judgment, her self-control. In the last seventy-two hours she had become so attracted to a man she had never... How could she have never considered him? She asked herself and then, "thank you for doing so much of the driving. Will you be all right going..."

Before she could finish verbalizing her concerns, he nodded. They both stood there in the hallway for a moment, then, finally, he nodded to her once again. "Good night, Scully."

"Wait," she said, sounding, to her surprise, a little anxious. He turned back, eyes narrowed. "Would you like to come in for coffee?"

He hesitated for only an instant, then pocketed his hands, squaring his shoulders as he glanced toward the exit. "No, thank you. I'll be fine." The hall was silent.

Neither knew what to say, and then, "good night, sir."

Scully opened her door, and he nodded, walking away.

"Sir," she called back, and he turned on his heel.

"Yes, Scully?" His voice was husky, impassioned.

She shuddered, scared suddenly of consequence.

"Drive careful." she finally said and walked inside, shutting the door.

Behind the closed door of her apartment, she listened to his footfalls reaching the exit and their pause. Was he standing there, she wondered with condemned hope, changing his mind to leave, and come back for the coffee- for her. No, they couldn't pursue this... Put it out of your mind... But will he come back? Is he going to?

Walter Skinner walked out into a wintry night, down the steps and paused on the walk. His thoughts desperately returned to the notion of going back to her. What then? He questioned, what then indeed. Feeling a frustrating tug somewhere deep inside as he reached into his pant pocket for the car keys, resuming his walk to the car.

With the keys he withdrew from his pocket one of the complimentary mints the waitress had left with their check. He looked at it for a moment in the blue glow of the streetlight, his eyes returning to the apartment building once again.

Unwrapping the confection he turned to the car, a resonant humming that grew into a low song escaping his lips as he went…

* "Well, bless my soul, what's wrong with me, I'm itching like a man in a fuzzy tree... My friends all say I'm acting wild as bug. I'm in- " *

The few lyrics were broken with the mint popping into his mouth as he shut the car door and drove far away from Agent Dana Scully.

                              ------------------------------------- X -------------------------------------

Feedback is always welcome, mostly the gushing complimentary type of course.

Contact me at prchung18@gmail.com

This series has been continued with Conversation Mints in three parts.

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