TITLE: Early One Morning
Early One Morning
Skinner put his empty cereal bowl on the counter, then made his way through the halls to the main entrance to take a look at the new day.
There had been a heavy dew overnight, and the grass and trees reflected the rising sun in a rainbow of colours.
Looking around, he caught the eye of Agent Peterson, keeping watch from the guard platform at the edge of the trees, who acknowledged him with a lift of the machine gun he was carrying. The AD returned the salute, with a slight nod. He turned around and looked up the slope behind the entrance and frowned as he caught a flicker of movement. He moved slightly to get a better view and caught a glimpse of black jacket and jeans as their owner crested the hill and disappeared from sight.
Skinner frowned, his eyes narrowing. Where the hell was Krycek going at this time of day? He made sure that his gun was seated comfortably in its holster under his jacket, then set off to find out what was going on.
He soon found the dew was both a blessing and a curse. The former because Krycek was unable to avoid leaving him a trail to follow, the latter because his boots and the bottoms of his pants were getting soaked.
Following the circuitous route, which always kept to the best cover, the AD tried hard not to jump to conclusions as to why Krycek would be sneaking around like this.
As the sun rose higher and the ground dried, the trail was more difficult to follow, but Skinner kept going in the same general direction, keeping to cover himself, and found the occasional sign of Krycek's passing.
As he approached the edge of an escarpment where the trees petered out to bushes, Krycek suddenly stepped out to confront him, gun drawn.
Krycek smirked, then placed a finger to his lips and returned his gun to its holster.
Skinner glowered at him which only made the younger man's smile widen. Beckoning him forward, Krycek stepped back around the tree, dropped to the ground and crawled forward to the edge of the small cliff.
Perforce, Skinner crawled with him, but when he looked over the misty meadow below he saw no reason for the cautious approach. Gathering himself to stand, he felt a hand pressing down on his shoulder. Feeling that he had been made of fool of, the AD turned his head and glared angrily.
If anything, the cheeky grin on the other face got impossibly wider. "Wait and watch," the words were mouthed at him, a faint whisper of sound accompanying them.
Krycek removed his hand from the older man's shoulder when he felt the muscles under it relax, then he gestured with it towards the open ground below. "It'll be worth it." Following his own advice, he faced forward again.
The warmth of the rising sun and the buzz of the insects were starting to have a soporific effect when Krycek very slowly pointed across the front of his face to their right.
"Look," he whispered reverently.
Skinner's eyes followed the pointing finger... he smiled. Right at the edge of the trees there was a doe with a young fawn, grazing on the meadow's lush grasses. Within a few minutes, there were many more does and fawns at the meadow's edge. The herd spread out... the fawns frolicking around their mothers' legs... then rabbits appeared... and pheasants....
Suddenly, with a flutter of wings and flickers of white tails, they were all gone.
Skinner looked at Krycek in puzzlement. The younger man just smiled and cocked his head slightly to their left. A vixen stood watching as two cubs played at the entrance to their den.
The two men watched the cubs gambol and playing pounce, until the dog fox came trotting up with dinner grasped in his jaws, and their mother chased them back inside to share the meal.
Once they were gone, Krycek rolled over onto his back and stared up through of the canopy of leaves at the sky. "I like to come here occasionally, especially at this time of the year. It's a reminder that we are not the only creatures on this planet... and if we screw it up for ourselves, we screw it up for them too." He sighed and turned his head towards Skinner with a wry smile. "We'd better go back and put in an appearance before lunch. Questions will be asked if we're missing too long, and I don't particularly want to explain to Mulder where I've been all morning."
Skinner got to his feet and pulled the other man up, laughing as he did so. "Alex Krycek, international man of mystery, gets the warm and fuzzies over fox cubs. You'd never hear the last of it."
Green eyes looked solemnly into brown for a moment, then Krycek slumped back against a tree and started laughing.
Skinner stared at him in amazement. For one thing, he'd never seen the man laugh so uninhibitedly, and for another, he couldn't understand what had set him off. He quirked an eyebrow, "What's so funny?"
"F-f-fox... cubs..." Krycek managed between giggles.
Skinner's mind suddenly made the same connection that Krycek's had and laughed heartily with him.
Eventually, they got their laughter under control and continued back to the retreat. Krycek led the way, taking them by a completely different route which took less than half the time. Just as they came in sight of the main entrance, the AD stopped and said, "Why?"
"Why did you go that way, when the way we came back would have done just as well?"
"If I hadn't gone that way, you wouldn't have seen me."
"You wanted me to follow you?"
Krycek nodded. "You've been looking so careworn. You deserved a rest, so I made sure no-one could pester you this morning."
"But what if there had been an emergency?"
"I told Scully where I was going, and I have my pager set to vibrate; she would have called if there had been a need."
Skinner nodded and walked towards the entrance again. As they passed through the main doors, he spoke again. "Alex."
Krycek turned, surprised to be called by his first name. "Sir?"
"Thanks." Then as Mulder approached them from the offices, he said hurriedly, "Next time you go visiting foxes, call me."
Krycek nodded, then went to find Scully to tell her they were back, already planning his next foray out into the woods with Walter Skinner.