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Phantom Pain

by Kristen K2

Subject: [glass_onion] FIC: Phantom Pain, PG, 1/1, XF Date: Sunday, July 21, 2002 10:56 PM

TITLE: Phantom Pain
AUTHOR: Kristen K2
EMAIL: kristenk2@deslea.com
WEBSITE:
http://lzl.dreamhost.com/ExtFamily/Kristen/KristenMain.html DISCLAIMER: The characters herein belong to 1013 and Fox. ARCHIVES: Anywhere, just ask first.
FEEDBACK: Love the stuff.
RATING: PG
KEYWORDS: Jeff Spender, Kim, Skinner
FANDOM: X Files

SUMMARY: "They aren't star-crossed lovers kept apart by a cruel twist of fate; even from the hazy distance of memory, dating Kim was awkward and rushed and full of embarrassing gaffes."

SPOILERS: One Son, William. Set immediately after the scene in William where Scully confronts Jeff in the interrogation room.

THANKS: To Maidenjedi for the Jeff challenge, Ursula for the beta, and to the Harem for indulging my Kimfic cravings. I cheated and went way over 500 words. Think of this as 3 fics in one.

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His ear itches.

He doesn't scratch it, instead letting his mind savor the pinprick of pain where his ear used to be. Phantom pain, Alex called it. Alex enjoyed the sensation, but Jeff never understood the appeal. Now he almost gets it.

It reminds him that he's still alive. That underneath all the scar tissue and synthetic and skin grafts, his heart still pumps red blood. Now that all the anger that's fueled him for so long has dissipated in the wake of his confession, he's oddly glad to have something replace it.

Pain instead of rage; that's a hell of a trade-off. Still, he considers as the door to the interrogation room finally opens, it's better than being dead. Isn't it?

Maybe he should ask his newest visitor. If anyone knows about cheating death, it's Skinner. According to Alex, he's not only escaped his own fate, he was instrumental in bringing Mulder back from the dead.

His former boss seems ill at ease; once inside, he lingers by the doorway.

"I'm not contagious," Jeff offers, but the joke disintegrates somewhere between his mouth and Skinner's ear. The other man steps forward, and Jeff watches from across the table as two large hands grasp the back of the chair.

"I know that. Jeffrey, I'm sorry for what happened. If I had known what..." Fingers squeeze the chair slat so tight Jeff wonders if the wood will moan in protest. "I would have done everything I could to stop it."

For the first time, Jeff looks at Skinner's face. He expects pity, but what he sees is regret. He likes that expression even less. He's not one of Skinner's agents anymore, and he doesn't want to remember when he was. Thinking about what he used to be, when he was whole and stupid and unknowing, is a more futile gesture than scratching his missing ear.

"Am I free to go?"

Skinner nods. "Do you have somewhere to stay? I can arrange--"

"No. I don't want that." The thought of being under the government's 'protection' again is chilling. He's all too aware of the horrors that lurk beneath.

"Jeffrey." Skinner stops his hasty departure with a hand to his elbow. "Go see her before you leave."

It doesn't surprise him that Skinner knows. She always used to talk about her boss in admiring tones, and he knows from seeing Alex's surveillance tapes of Skinner's condo they have become a hell of a lot closer since then. What does surprise him is that Skinner would want to rub that in.

"She's moved on," he says flatly. "Give her my regards, okay?"

"Go see her," Skinner repeats. "She's going to want to see you."

"Not like this, she won't."

The words taste bitter against his tongue. He's willed himself not to care about how people react to him. He knows he's now an object of pity, repulsion, or scientific interest in other people's eyes. Those aren't expressions he could stand to see in hers, even now. If she has any fond feelings for him left, he'd prefer to keep them intact.

"She won't care, Jeffrey." The corner of Skinner's mouth tilts upward. "And she'll kick my ass -- and yours -- if you walk out of here without letting her know you're still alive."

Point taken. He pictures her, hands on her hips and her face flushed in annoyance. It used to fill him with a perverse pleasure whenever he managed to piss her off; he liked knowing she could be as stubborn and ungraceful as he often was.

He has no illusions about the kind of relationship he had with her. They aren't star-crossed lovers kept apart by a cruel twist of fate; even from the hazy distance of memory, dating Kim was awkward and rushed and full of embarrassing gaffes. He remembers the first time he kissed her, in the storage room next to the basement office. He'd gone in there to investigate the source of the loud crash and found her sprawled on the floor surrounded by fallen files. When he helped her back to her feet, the top of her head had smashed into his chin and sent him tripping backward into the shelving unit. And somewhere between stuttered apologies and muffled giggles, his mouth had found hers.

Romeo and Juliet they weren't, but it had worked for a while. Right up until the day his father shot him point-blank in the face.

He gestures with his head toward the door, and Skinner releases his elbow. "Still on the fourth floor?"

The other man seems relieved. "Yes. I'll ride up with you."

When the elevator stops to pick up passengers on the second floor, he notices that Skinner shifts his weight in front of him, blocking the incoming stares. Jeff wants to tap him on the shoulder and tell him not to bother, but the truth is he's grateful for the concern. Since Alex's disappearance last year, he hasn't had anyone who gave a damn about him. Not that Alex was Florence Nightingale, but he'd taught Jeff how to cope with his mutilated body, and somehow they'd forged the closest thing to a friendship that he suspected either of them had had in years. He wonders if Skinner knows what happened to Alex, but he knows better than to ask. His days of naivete are long over.

He follows Skinner down the hallway, nearly stepping on his heels when the other man stops short of the door. He glances over Skinner's shoulder to see her empty desk.

"She's in my office," Skinner says quietly. "Go on in. I'll make sure you're not disturbed."

Memories he's long suppressed rise to the surface as his Converses squeak across the linoleum. He used to love sneaking up on her in the kitchen as she waited for the coffee to finish brewing. After her initial shiver of surprise, she would melt back against him, her body still warm and lax from sleep. He doubts sneaking up on her now will evoke the same reaction.

She's standing behind Skinner's desk, hunched over the blotter as she scribbles a note. Her hair is flopped forward and shielding her face, and it strikes him that maybe cameras do lie. She looks much thinner and faded than she did on the grainy black-and-white tape.

He raps his knuckles on the door to get her attention, and she jerks upright.

"I'm sorry, I didn't hear you come in," she says as she closes the open folder on the desk and starts to walk toward him. The weariness he just glimpsed is quickly covered over by her professional sheen. He likes her better the other way. "Are you here to see A.D. Skinner?"

"No, I..." He hesitates, not sure what to say. Should he introduce himself? He wishes he'd asked Skinner for some time to prepare. He's never been any good at impromptu moments.

Her walk stops mid-step as their gazes catch, and the polite smile freezes on her face.

"Oh my God," she whispers. "Jeff?"

Oh God. She recognizes him. He didn't expect that. Even Scully had been fooled into thinking he might be Mulder.

"Hi, Kim," he says lamely, wishing he could look away as her eyes fill with tears. He did a lot of crappy things to her, but he never made her cry.

Then her arms are tight around his neck, her fingers digging into his shoulders, and he doesn't have the heart to tell her it hurts to be held like this. His hands reach around her waist and she presses herself harder against him...and then it isn't phantom pain. It's real, and he welcomes it.

She shifts, and her mouth is soft and wet against his. He knows this is wrong. He's in Skinner's office, kissing Skinner's assistant. Skinner's lover.

But once upon a time, she was his. Once upon a time, he was a man who could have loved her. He's not that man anymore, and he can't love her any more now than he could then, but it doesn't matter.

What matters is she reminds him that he's alive. She always has. And when they break apart and go their separate ways --as he knows they will -- this is the sensation that will penetrate his scar tissue. The feel of her hands on him, the kindness of her lips parting against his, the ripple of her breath on his scars. The soft acceptance of Kim that burrowed under his defenses right from that first awkward clutch in the storage room.

She will be his phantom pain.

THE END

Feedback to: kristenk2@deslea.com or k2_fanfic@yahoo.com


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