Title: Alliance (1/1)
Feedback: Of course <g>
Distribution: Wherever - just let me know.
Spoilers: very slight for Avatar and Exsistence
Disclaimer: Characters owned by Chris Carter, Ten Thirteen Productions and 20th Century Fox.
Summary: A tavern, a conversation and an unlikely friendship.
Author's Note: Mucho thanks to addicted2fanfic for her friendship and beta help, and to FabulousMonster - my writing is palatable because of you.
I can't put my finger on when the 'every other Friday night' thing began. Okay, that's a lie. I *can* put my finger on when it began. It was when she threw me and her mother out of her apartment. I didn't mean to hover like a mother hen, honestly. And I know Maggie is quite capable of any motherly hovering that's needed, but I felt responsible, on a number of levels.
I suppose I should clarify. My relationship with Agent Scully has always been hard to define. In the past, before our present circumstances, I would vacillate between inappropriate attraction and pulling my figurative hair out in a parody of fatherly angst with worry over her and her partner.
In the past months, our relationship had transformed. In the bleak time after Mulder's disappearance, my attraction for Scully suddenly didn't seem so inappropriate or such a fool's errand. I became her confidant in many ways, and we were grew closer. In our 'confidant/maybe-something-more' phase, I used to wonder if I could live with the guilt that I knew I would feel if Scully and I actually ended up being something more. I hoped for it just the same. Mulder's return was both a relief and disappointment. Not that I actually wished the man dead. But it would have been advantageous for me, say, if he had come back and inexplicably found John Doggett irresistible.
I slid into my new 'parental' role almost too easily. I shouldn't have been surprised. It was one that was familiar to me as far as both Agents Mulder and Scully were concerned. Any amorous stirrings on my part were kept firmly tamped down.
Despite my feelings of responsibility, I stayed away from Scully and company while Mulder recovered, the baby was born, and everyone settled in. We were all still on edge concerning the Replicants, and still hadn't made much headway into figuring out why they hadn't snatched Will away the moment he was born. It was only when Mulder accepted a new job that required training that took him away for several months did my protective instincts rise again in full force. I began dropping by Scully's apartment. Scully, being Scully, reminded me that she was 'fine' and that the baby was 'fine' too. I had a legitimate claim to pester her, however, since Mulder had asked me to keep an eye on things in his absence. I didn't mention this to Scully, figuring that this bit of
information would only annoy her.
It was hard not to notice Scully's mother was making frequent visits to the Georgetown apartment also. I wondered if Mulder had spoken to her, too. I didn't mind. I figured the more the merrier, in some respects. Another pair of watchful eyes wasn't going to hurt. I often arrived as she was leaving, or vice versa. It got to the point where I felt like we should slap hands in passing. Apparently, Scully felt like slapping, too. Our heads.
The Friday we were thrown out, with firm advice to not return for a least a week, was unbelievably hot. I had been fighting a cold all week - and it had been a bad week. I was more tired than usual, and was looking forward to spending a couple hours in the sweet cool air of Scully's apartment before dragging my sweat drenched body back to my own home. My air conditioning was currently non-functioning. Ditto for my car.
Think again, jarhead.
Maggie Scully and I stood in the hall outside Scully's door in stunned silence. The expression she wore reminded me of Scully herself, a cross between annoyance and chagrin. Scully would wear it a lot during my reviews of her and Mulder's written case file reports. I was perturbed at having been basically told to bug off, and mumbled something about broken air conditioning and a long drive home. Mrs. Scully nodded absently, shrugged, and started for the stairs. As she passed, I could see strands of silver woven in amongst the dark of her hair. She was no bigger than Scully, and I could look right down at the top of her head.
Maybe it was the loud growl that my stomach emitted, or maybe, it was because misery loves company, but out of the blue, she asked if I wanted to grab a bite to eat.
The tavern was dimly lit, cool, and filled with dark wood. The floors were the same dark hardwood, and the stools along the bar sported alien-goo green cushions. I opted to head for a booth and slid along the well worn, scarred surface of the bench gratefully. Despite the fact that the cold medication I took didn't seem to be kicking in, I was feeling better already. I let the cool air sink into my bones, hoarding it for the drive home and the sticky accommodations that awaited me. If I had a couple drinks, I could use it as an excuse to take a hotel nearby to avoid driving home. This thought cheered me. I could picture myself lying on clean white sheets, remote control in hand, watching ESPN on cable. Ahhh yes. I didn't have cable at home. Never had it connected when I moved to the new apartment. The one I had to take when Sharon dumped my sorry ass. I felt a wave of self-pity forming and shook it off. No use being maudlin. For the moment I had comfortable surroundings, functioning air conditioning, food and drink at my disposal and an agreeable companion. I assumed she was agreeable, anyhow. For the moment, it was enough.
Mrs. Scully had followed me to the booth, and slipped into the bench across the table, giving me a half smile. "They have good food here," she commented. "I've been here with Dana several times. When she was pregnant, she couldn't get enough of the steak sandwich they serve here."
This surprised me. I never pictured Scully as much of a steak eater and said so.
"It's the protein and cholesterol. I ate a lot of peanut butter when I was expecting both Dana and Charlie."
A waiter appeared out of nowhere, wanting our order. Mrs. Scully looked at me and raised an eyebrow in a manner that I found uncomfortably familiar. Well, they are mother and daughter after all. We placed our orders and waited.
I could feel the silence prodding at my lips and tickling my tongue, willing me to produce polite sounds. I cleared my throat and made a vague statement about the baby.
I was surprised by the quick smile and warmth of her response. "Yes, he's wonderful, isn't he? You never had children, have you Mr. Skinner?"
"Walter, and no, we never got around to it. We used to talk about starting a family, but the time never seemed right. And now that Sharon and I..." I left the end of this hanging, unsure of how much she knew.
Mrs. Scully nodded. "Dana told me about the divorce. Sorry sounds inadequate. It's always a hard thing, to lose someone you love, or lose the love you had for someone..." her voice trailed off and she shifted on the bench, as if afraid she said too much.
The waiter returned with our drinks, and we occupied ourselves for several minutes consuming what we had ordered.
Conversation was desultory, awkward at first, but after several false starts, we managed to reach a level of compatibility. As the meal progressed, we began to move from talking about the decor to talking like two real people.
"Yes, Bill was in the Vietnam War. He was in the Gulf of Tonkin for most of his tour," she paused, looking down at the half eaten club sandwich on her plate. She prodded a leaf of lettuce with her left forefinger. "It was not a happy time, not for any of us. I missed Bill terribly, and so did the kids. I think it was hardest on Bill Jr. He was old enough to understand, at least in part, what war was, and how many bad things could happen. He used to cry himself to sleep some nights. It broke my heart that, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't chase the terrors away for him. I could barely chase them away for myself."
"I was in-country," I offered, moved by the raw emotion I felt in her voice. and she lifted her eyes to meet mine.
"That couldn't have been any fun, either," Maggie gave me a forlorn half smile.
"No," I said, remembering the heat, the green of the jungle, the smell of decay, and the rains. "I learned a lot, maybe too much, about myself and what people were capable of doing to each other. Looking back, I can see I was too young to absorb everything that happened -- some of it I didn't even process at the time. It came back to me later, though. Ten years ago I would have said it was the worst time of my life."
"But not now? What would you say was the worst time of your life?"
I small, unamused laugh escaped me. "You want that in alphabetical order?" I asked. She waited, saying nothing. Her resemblance to her daughter at that moment was unnerving and I began to speak again, which is what I'm sure she intended to begin with.
"My divorce, that was a bad time. Approximately half the cases your daughter and Mulder worked on are a bad time, too."
"Worse than Vietnam?" To my surprise, she appeared to really want to know.
"Sometimes...sometimes it was. Sometimes it is," I was reluctant to disclose more than that. Knowing Scully, I doubted she had ever filled in the details for her mother as far as her work was concerned.
"You're as tight lipped as Dana," she smiled a bit, her tone rueful, her eyes crinkling in the corners. For the first time I noticed they were brown. Scully defiantly got her coloring from her father.
"Hoping you could pump me for information?" I queried.
"I live in hope, Walter, always in hope," she answered, still smiling. "Since you won't tell me about my daughter, want to tell me about your divorce?"
"Why do you want to know?" my tone was gruff but didn't put her off.
She shrugged. "Prurient interest, I guess. Maybe I'm just nosey. Maybe I would like to know about the man who is partly responsible for my daughter's safety now that she is out of my reach."
If she had wanted to find a nerve to tweak, that was it. I reluctantly felt my mind shift through the debris I let cover that section of my life. I said slowly, "There isn't much to tell. My work at the bureau became more demanding and Sharon responded by getting more involved with her job. I guess we just somehow lost each other. From time to time, we would try to connect again, but it seemed an almost impossible task. If I pushed, she pulled. I don't know, its hard to explain since I don't really understand completely myself," Maggie nodded in understanding. I went on. "At some point, we just gave up."
"So tell me how you and Bill ended up *not* divorced," I asked, determined to shift the topic from me. "I know a lot of military families who eventually split up. It isn't easy to stay together when one of you is away from home so much.. How did you manage to have a storybook marriage? I could use a few pointers...for the future."
"It wasn't storybook. Far from it."
"Oh?" this was news to me. "Scully always gave me the impression that your marriage was ideal."
Maggie actually snorted. "Dana is a child," she said sharply. "Well, she was a child. You can't expect children to understand the complexities of an adult relationship. Even one as quick as Dana. Besides, they shouldn't *have* to understand."
She started to speak again, then stopped short, once again poking at the unfinished sandwich on her plate. She picked up her drink, leaving a wet ring on the polished wood of the table, and swirled the brown liquid. She was on her second drink. I was on my fourth. Since I out weighed her by at least a hundred pounds, I figured we were fairly even. Somewhere along the way, the evening had slipped into a surreal concoction of whisky and confidences. Occasionally, I had to pause and remind myself who I was. I had begun to feel like someone else. Someone who remembered how to behave in the company on non-bureau personnel. Someone, who was enjoying himself.
Wrapped in my surreal cocoon, I waited for her to continue. When she didn't, I prodded. I poked. Poking and prodding were absolutely essential AD skills, and I had a lot of practice using them on Scully. I worked under the assumption that what worked for the goose would work for the goose's mother. I felt no guilt at her discomfort, I was in AD mode, and for some reason, I really wanted to know what she had to say. Besides, I figured she owed me. After all, I had talked about Sharon. She finally caved in.
"Marriage is not always easy. You know that," she frowned at the plate in front of her. "In some ways, Bill and I together couldn't have been better, in others, we could barely stretch to make a connection. My family was worlds apart from his, in many ways. My parents never were happy with my choice of a husband. They wanted me to marry someone of 'our own kind'."
"Your own kind?" I prompted.
"Bill's family was plain Irish working class, new to the country. We weren't." She didn't explain further, but I got the picture. "At fist my parents were thrilled that I had taken up with Bill. He wasn't like most of the boys I knew in those days. He was stable, smart, looked good in a suit." She smiled when she said this, absently pushing her hair back from her forehead. "That lasted until they found out he had nothing in the way of money, or prospects to get some. They really hit the roof when he joined the Navy," She actually grinned when she said that. "Still, you would have thought they would've been grateful to him for dragging me in off the streets."
"What?" she asked.
"Dragging you in off the streets? I thought you were old money. That isn't where they hang out. So I'm told, anyhow."
"Oh." I could see I had flustered her. She moved her napkin around on the table, smoothing it out, then crinkling it up. "I had the tendency to be, I don't know, a bit wild, I guess."
"Want to expound on that?"
Maggie drummed her fingers, sighed, and leaned back so that her head was resting on the top of the booth and she was looking up at the beamed ceiling. It was an efficient way to avoid looking at me. I told her to quit stalling and she shot me an annoyed look.
Finally, she let out a short huff of laughter and offered: "I knew a lot of young men in those days."
Yes. Well. If she had told me that she used to walk the tightrope in the circus, I couldn't have been more surprised. "A nice conservative Catholic girl like you?"
"I am Catholic, yes, and I *was* a girl. My politics are not up for discussion."
"Stop confusing the issue. You know what I mean," I said somewhat testily, frowning. The night has taken another unexpected turn and it was unbalancing my equilibrium. Who would have ever thought I would be talking to Maggie Scully about her pre-marital sex life? At least, that's what I thought we were talking about. I wasn't quite as on top of the game as I should be. Between my head cold and the few drinks I had, I felt as if my brain had gone on sabbatical. I was getting that not-quite-of-this-world feeling that often I got when talking to Agent Mulder. Excuse me, Ex-Agent Mulder.
Maggie looked at me sternly and leaned forward slightly, her dark eyes catching me and holding my attention. "You will *not* mention any of this to Dana," she said firmly.
No Ma'am, I would definitely not mention this to Scully. I did not need that kind of grief, and I did not need to be told twice. Besides, I could think of no conceivable situation in which the occasion to remark on the subject would arise.
She changed the subject abruptly. We never did get to the storybook part.
The bed they put me in was too hard. Not comfortable at all. The pillow was wrong, too, and the mattress was much too small. I was chilled, and tried to get closer to the warmth I felt coming from nearby. I attempted to wrap my arms around the warmth -- by turns Sharon, Scully, then a dark haired woman I couldn't recognize --but found I was unable to move my arms properly. All at once, the bed began to move, and I feared I was at sea. Miles away, I heard a siren urging me to get up, but I knew better than to listen to a siren. It grew more insistent, however, and seemed to draw closer.
"Come on, sailor, time to get up," the voice said.
"No, not sailor," I mumbled. "Leatherneck."
My head was resting on my arms, which were resting on a heavy wooden table. My fingers tingled and my neck was stiff. I wondered vaguely if someone had cold cocked me. I wouldn't have been the first time.
I dragged one eyelid open.
My vision was blurred, but I could just make out a dark haired figure to my left leaning toward me slightly. I fumbled for my glasses, finding them resting not far from my hand. I drew them up to my face. Maggie Scully. Right. Bar. Food.
I must have fallen asleep. Crap.
I pushed up from the table, grimacing. My head hurt. Must be the fault of the too hard tabletop.
"Ready?" she asked.
"Sure... for what?"
"I got you a cab," she was slightly exasperated, I could hear it in her voice. I congratulated myself on being perceptive, which was difficult with the small explosions going off in my brain. She laid a small, warm hand on my forehead and knitted her brows. "I think you may have a fever. No wonder you're tired."
I made an inarticulate sound and slowly slid to the end of the booth's bench.
"Come on," she said, and held out her hand to me. I took it, allowing her to tug me out of the booth, feeling foolish.
"Sorry," I mumbled. The best I could figure is that I drifted off when she left to call the cab. I had a vague recollection of noticing the lateness of the hour, and a sudden lassitude that draped itself over my body like a shroud.
"That's okay," she responded steering me to the front of the tavern. "I've had plenty of experience dragging military men home from bars."
"Is this something I shouldn't tell Scully either?" the words slid my stiff lips before I could stop them.
"I meant Bill," there was that exasperated voice again -- "And his buddies."
"Bill drank a lot?" I wouldn't win any awards for tact tonight, that was certain; but I should get points for valiantly making conversation while most of my brain was still asleep.
I ventured a glance at my companion. We had reached the door. It was dark outside, and a light rain had peppered the glass of the door with spots of water. She stared out the window a moment, then turned to consider me.
"Bill didn't drink a lot, no," she said.
We waited for the cab out on the sidewalk. I could smell the wet concrete, the musty scent of the city at night. The rain had decreased to a light drizzle. Maggie and I huddled under the tavern's awning which was torn slightly in one corner. I leaned heavily against the rough brick of the building, wondering where the hell the cab was.
"I thought you said it would be right here," I grumbled. It was still hot, even though it was late and raining. I wanted to either go back in the bar, or be on my way. I couldn't figure out why we were waiting outside.
"They said fifteen minutes. We'll give them a few more."
Sighing, I pushed away from the side of the tavern. The wall seemed to be purposely pulling my too-heavy bones back to the bricks.
"I'm waiting inside," I moved back to the pool of light that spilled out the window from the door, away from the bone-sucking brick wall. Maggie didn't move. "Coming?"
"No, I'm staying here. I need some air," I looked at her and she gave me a half shrug. "I'm a bit claustrophobic. I'll be fine here."
Right. Crap again. Now I had to stay out here too, because as an officer and a gentleman, it was the right thing to do. At least, I thought I was a gentleman. My brain still running the hurdles with one leg hobbled I couldn't be too sure of anything.
"It's been a half an hour, your not feeling well. Why don't I just drop
you off?" Maggie moved over to where my body had flattened itself against the incredible man-sucking wall again. I grunted and forced myself to stand upright. A more difficult task than one would have thought.
I swayed slightly and I glanced at my companion. The rain had coated her hair with a light sheen that picked up the orange neon of the tavern's sign, once again bringing Scully to my mind. But when she laid a hand on my arm and spoke, the words and actions were all her own. "Come on, Walter, you can lean on me, I won't let you fall."
So began our 'every other Friday' tradition. Scully hasn't said a damn thing about it one way or another. Just gives me an occasional narrow-eyed look, as if she wants to pry my brain open for her personal perusal with one of her sharp, shiny autopsy tools. For my part, in a world where truth is at a premium, I've found a trustworthy ally in Maggie Scully. And for the moment, it's enough.
thanks for reading
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