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Where is Michael Caine When You Need Him?

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The FBI wanted Mulder back, at least temporarily, and Skinner was supposed to ask Dana Scully to contact him. Skinner chafed a bit at the idea of needing Scully to intercede. Mulder was his friend too, he wanted to find his wayward ex-agent on his own. Dusting off his investigative skills, plus a little well-placed favor calling, Skinner tracked Mulder to a small house in the boonies about 100 miles west of DC.

The next Saturday Skinner set off early driving west, and arrived, making the turnoff to Mulder’s long drive an hour and a half later, about 9:00am. At the end of the drive sat a small, dingy white clapboard house flanked by tall oak trees. Now that he was finally here, Skinner felt anxious about how Mulder would react to him showing up unasked and unannounced. He checked his thoughts before they could wind him into turning back, gave himself an internal “Man up Marine!”, and got out of the car. Striding resolutely up the steps, he gave a sharp rap on the front door.

Skinner heard the bark of a dog, and a slightly faint, “Just a minute!” and before he knew it, Mulder, jeans and Henley-clad, was opening the door, Mulder’s eyebrows shot up in surprise and then back down again in puzzlement.

“Sir, what are you doing here?”

Skinner swallowed. “Ag- um, Mulder, I need to speak with you, may I come in?”

Mulder took a step back, holding the door open with a sweeping “Come in.” gesture.

Once inside, Skinner shot a quick glance around, taking in furnishings as utilitarian as in Mulder’s Alexandria apartment, the only homey touches being a plaid wool throw on the back of the sofa and of course, a tank full of fish. Skinner turned to find Mulder regarding him, a rising defensiveness evident in his crossed arms and cocked head.

“How did you even find me?” Mulder asked, almost accusingly

Skinner shot him a “Really?” look and said simply “F. B. I. “

Before things could escalate, the source of the earlier bark entered the room, an elderly-looking English bulldog, male, Skinner noted, waddled up to Skinner and sniffed his shoe.

“You never struck me as a dog person.” Skinner observed.

“Not long after I moved here somebody just dumped the poor old guy off on the side of the road about a quarter of a mile from my turnoff.” Mulder said, outrage clear. Skinner sensed that the dog's abandonment had struck a nerve with "The FBI's Most Unwanted".

Skinner bent down and scratched the bulldog behind the ear, eliciting an almost orgasmic noise from the old dog. Skinner smiled and said “Good boy.”

“I named him Alfie.” Mulder said.

“Because he’s English?”

“No,” Mulder said, deadpan, “because when I took him in I spent a lot of time asking him what it was all about.”

Skinner, smiling, continued to pet Alfie.

Mulder cocked half a grin and said “His tribal name is “Farts in His Sleep”.

Skinner choked back a laugh, and straightened, his expression sobering and said “Well now that the introductions are out of the way, there are some things I need to discuss with you, Mulder.”

“Such as?” Mulder asked.

“Maybe we should take a seat," Skinner suggested.

Mulder leveled an appraising look Skinner’s way and said “All right, come into the kitchen, I’ll put on another pot of coffee.

And with that, a new chapter in the history of The X Files division was begun.