He stared ahead blankly, listening to the rain. Sharon had always said that listening to rain falling made her sleepy. Rain only made him more alert. Every sound echoed, every creak of the building and tick of the clock. He wondered what else he would hear tonight. The whirr of black helicopters, the smug laughter of a man with a Palm Pilot and one hell of a vengeance streak?
He sat in the living room, in the dark. It struck him how much he had become like them, his rogue agents who smelled conspiracy in cigarette smoke. His weapon lay on the table in front of him, though he was clad only in boxers. In his coat pocket he carried a stiletto. Over the years, the violent nightmares that had plagued him since the war had been replaced by dark, solemn dreams that left him with a sense of deep foreboding. He didn't know what it was he was facing, and he pitied Fox Mulder, who knew exactly.
He played with the bill of his Orioles cap, which had been lying on the couch. It wasn't like him to be absentminded like this, to brood and think and worry. He preferred action, or at least giving the order for action. The cap took the brunt of a fit of frustration, and he stuffed it into the corner of the couch. He wondered if he shouldn't have tried harder to convince Mulder to leave tonight. Mulder had insisted on waiting until morning. Somewhere tonight, there would be a classic brawl between Mulder and his partner Scully.
Red glow from the clock told him it was late. After one, at least. He stood up and made his way toward the bedroom, dreading the flight west in the morning. He didn't think about the exhilaration he felt at the prospect of adventure.
The knock startled him out of his reverie. Pulling on jeans as he walked to the door, he remembered the Sig Sauer, fifteen feet away and completely useless. Even his feet were bare.
He didn't bother with the fly of his jeans and opened the door slowly. Red hair plastered above a familiar face reassured him, and he opened the door wider, flipping on the lights.
"Agent Scully," he said evenly, fastening his jeans the rest of the way with a remarkable amount of cool, he thought. "Where's Mulder?"
She smiled. It was hard to think of her separately from the entity that was Mulder-and-Scully. Taking in her bedraggled appearance, however, Skinner thought she had never looked more herself.
"I imagine that Mulder's at home right now. He's leaving for Oregon in the morning."
"He is." Skinner had caught the inference; he studied her quizzically, and with typical patience waited for her to continue. She wasn't wearing her customary black suit and heels. Coupled with her rain-wet face, she looked different. Younger.
"I'm not going with him." She said it as though he had no idea, as if he hadn't had a hand in that decision. Maybe she had no idea.
Skinner sighed, and watched as an unfamiliar emotion clouded Scully's face. Was it disappointment? Over not going, letting Mulder go and maybe fight a battle he couldn't win? She looked so fragile for that split second that he couldn't help himself. He asked, "Do you want anything to drink? Go sit down. I'll be over in a minute."
She asked for coffee, and he through the kitchen to throw on a t-shirt. He was a little sorry that he hadn't known she was coming. He would have preferred to meet in public, or even at her place, if she needed to talk. This apartment had yet to feel like home to Skinner. He wondered what she would think of it, squashed the thought, and brewed the coffee in relative peace. He took two mugs out to the living room, finding Scully sitting on the couch and fingering the Orioles cap.
"Thank you," she said simply as she took the mug he offered and sat down.
"So." He sat down on the couch as well, his knee a foot or so away from hers. "Why aren't you going to Oregon with Mulder?"
She took a sip of the coffee and sucked on her lip. She sat with the mug cupped in her hands as if to warm them. "Mulder believes that I might be in danger if I go with him. That they're taking -- previous abductees." She glanced up at Skinner, a questioning look on her face. He met her gaze openly, no longer a stranger to the terror or reality of their situation. She held his gaze and shifted closer to him on the couch, and his entire body tensed. If he held still, he could almost feel her knee touching his own.
"Sir -- I'd like you to go with him. As a favor to me," she added after a beat.
Skinner leaned toward the coffee table abruptly, setting down the mug on its glass surface. "Of course I'll go with him," he said immediately. He paused and looked away, running a hand over his forehead, rubbing his eyes and realizing he wasn't wearing his glasses. She didn't know. Mulder hadn't told her. Someone should let her know the whole truth. "But--"
"Sir, I trust you," she said quietly. "Please." She looked at him, eyes full of the same kind of trust she gave Mulder. That startled Skinner, and he almost didn't look above her knees.
Taking a breath, he looked back at her and their eyes locked. "All right, Dana."
She broke the gaze first, and Skinner wondered what exactly he and Mulder were doing to this woman. She had not been well. Mulder had told him as much earlier that day, about the fainting spells in Oregon. If the smoking man was the threat Krycek and his cohort had described, anything was possible. Skinner had an unsettling flashback of Scully in a hospital bed, cancer destroying her and Mulder having to watch it happen. He recalled her abduction, those terrible months when Mulder had been ready to sell his soul. He recalled selling his own. Was it all going to happen again? What kind of danger were they really facing?
Her hand was shaking, and she leaned forward to put the mug down; Skinner put a hand on her shoulder. It was reflexive, but he felt a swell of sorrow and admiration for her. She tensed, but then he felt her relax as he pulled her closer, obeying instincts that had been dormant for too long. She burrowed shyly, seeking warmth, and he let her. He breathed her in and for a moment was unsure who was comforting whom. Or if it was really comfort at all.
But after a moment he pulled away, leaving a hand on her shoulder. He couldn't really do this, not like that. He smiled. "I'll take care of him for you." "Thank you." A ghost of a smile traced her lips and before he knew what was happening, she had put a hand behind his neck and pulled him to those lips for a kiss. He was taken aback and almost pulled away. Instead he followed instinct again, and kissed her back; he kissed gently, not wanting to push, not wanting to startle her. She was soft and urgent and tasted a little like rain, just as she had when he allowed himself to imagine it. She leaned back on the couch and he followed, shifting his body to accommodate her as she sank down in the soft cushions.
"Dana," he said, unsure. This was...he didn't know what this was. But as she pulled him down for another kiss, he let his weight shift over her, closer now, and he found himself unwilling to give it up. She kissed him with a hungry fervor, like a woman who knew what she wanted, and he relished it. The kiss broke and she ran her hand up his back, underneath his t-shirt; he made a sound and she opened her eyes. He kept his eyes closed, preferring to pretend it was a fantasy for his own sake. He bowed his head, not knowing if he would be able to stop.
Her voice tickled his ear as she whispered, "Please." He yielded, as he knew, perhaps, that he would. He hadn't touched a woman like this in so long; he wasn't interested in worshipping or admiring her now, or even keeping her safe. He wanted her to feel, to come alive with every movement of his hands, his lips. His hand slid down her stomach, tracing the line of her hipbones and then lower, fingers moving with sure confidence to slide under the waist of her pants and into her, stroking until her breath came faster and the lights and shapes around her were nothing but a disjointed blur. She shifted on the couch to give him better access, pulled down his other hand to kiss his palm, the line of his wrist. She bit it gently as she came: silent but for the catch in her breath and the sound of Skinner's hand rubbing against her skin. She smiled up at him as he withdrew his hand. Skinner was smiling at her as well, a faint smile---a little protective, strangely vulnerable, and when she opened her eyes it was clear that she recognized that. He felt he was seeing her now, seeing a Dana Scully he both knew and wanted to know better, a different woman grafted to the familiar. She pulled him down to her and kissed him once, gently, on the lips.
Skinner reached over to pull a blanket down from the back of the couch. He spread it over her carefully, arranging it over her partially revealed breasts and stomach. He leaned down once to kiss the curve of one breast, the tip of flesh above the low-cut bra. Then he covered her up. She touched his hand, held onto his fingers for a moment then released him as he stood up and disappeared from the side of the couch. He sank onto his bed and for once, the sound of rain didn't stop him from falling into a deep and satisfied sleep.