Title: CHANCE ENCOUNTERS VI
Story in 6 parts
Date: Written July, 1999
Posted October, 1999
Summary: A series of chance encounters can have personal consequences.
Archive: Ratlover, CJK, Basement.
DISCLAIMER: These are the property of CC, Fox and 1013. But, by chance, I too encountered them.
CHANCE ENCOUNTERS: This being the Sixth and Last
Scully pulled up beside Skinner's house. Hers was the only car in the driveway but there was a large double garage at the end of it, so she assumed his car was there.
She needed to discuss something with him. Coming to his house was chancy, but he'd become much more approachable since the fall. And she really needed this discussion to be off the record. She had been surprised at the neighbourhood. Not the apartment complex that she associated with her boss. This was definitely comfortable middle-class. Nicely tended front lawns. Spring flowers all carefully maintained. Two cars in the driveways, one usually a van. Kids of all ages all over the place.
The house was a bit of a surprise as well. Brick on the lower level, wood for the second. Good-sized front yard, and, from what she could see of it, an even bigger back yard.
There was a very large, very old black walnut tree in the front yard of Skinner's house, another equally large in the yard next to the neighbour's house.
There had been speculation, when Skinner's mood had improved, that, to quote Mulder, he was getting laid regularly. The house and its surroundings would certainly point to a man who had settled down.
She hoped he wouldn't mind too much that she had sought him out on his home turf.
She rang the doorbell.
There were footsteps on the other side. The door was opened and a voice said, "I just don't get it with you and hardware stores. Why do you have to buy out the place whenever you go there?"
Scully, disbelieving, drew her weapon and went in.
"What?" Alex Krycek turned, saw the drawn weapon and groaned.
Slowly raised his one arm. "Scully."
"What the hell are you doing here, Krycek? You're supposed to be dead." She kept her weapon aimed at Krycek's heart. At this distance, she couldn't miss.
Krycek grimaced. "What are you doing here, Scully? Why aren't you cutting up some dead body or something?"
Scully ignored him. "Where's AD Skinner? What have you done with him?"
"I haven't done anything with him. He's gone to the hardware store for his usual Saturday fix." He turned his head at some noise coming from the kitchen. Looked back at Scully. "Shit, Scully, if you're going to shoot me, come do it in the kitchen. It'll be easier to clean up. And that pipe is going to drain all over the floor if I don't get to it."
And with that, Krycek lowered his hand, turned and went into the kitchen. "And close the front door. You never know what's going to drop in."
Scully was stunned. Slowly, she lowered her weapon, turned, closed the front door. Followed Krycek into the kitchen.
She didn't see him right away, which made her raise her weapon again. Heard a muttered curse. Saw two long legs sticking out from under the sink.
It took her a few moments to realize that Krycek was just too comfortable, too familiar with the place to be a stranger here. Astounded, and more than just a bit wary, she put her weapon away, pulled out a chair from the table and sat down.
"What are you doing here, Krycek?"
"Removing the garbage disposal. The bloody thing screams like a banshee when you turn it on. Scares Doogie to bits." Scared him too, but he wasn't going to admit it. It sounded too much like one of the alien sounds for his comfort.
Scully suddenly realized what was different about him. "What happened to your arm, Krycek?"
"Got cut off." Then a heart-felt "Shit! At this rate, I'm going to lose the other one, too." He slipped out from under the cupboard, sucking on the knuckles of his hand. "Pass me some of that towelling, will you, Scully."
Scully tore off a couple of squares of towelling from under the cupboard by the stove. Wrapped an impromptu bandage around the knuckles that Krycek held out to her. It had taken her barely a breath to figure out he couldn't easily do that with only the one hand.
"Thanks." He slipped back into the cupboard. Began muttering again. Scully sat back down.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw something move. She turned her head. "Krycek, what is that?"
He poked his head out. "Oh, that's Doogie."
"What exactly is Doogie?"
He went back to the pipe and wrench. "According to the vet, he's a whippet collie mixture. Personally, I think he's just a giant rat."
Personally, Scully agreed with him. Doogie had a long thin nose, seemed to have a longish thin body: it was hard to tell under all the grey, black, brown hair. He looked particularly pathetic, what with the patchy pelt, that cone thing around his neck and the front leg in the cast. His big brown eyes tracked around the room, nervously.
"What happened to him?"
"Someone dumped him on the Freeway. He got side-swiped by a car. Walt rescued him. Took him to the vet. And now we've got a dog." Krycek sounded rather put off with the whole thing.
Except that the dog, nervously keeping an eye on Scully, made his way, belly to the floor, to lie next to the man. His long, thin tail flopped onto Krycek's thigh as if for contact.
"It's okay, Doogie, she won't shoot *you*."
Scully sat looking around the room, registering that it looked like any kitchen that she had ever seen. Why did it feel so surreal?
"Scully? Make yourself useful, will you? Turn on the tap. I need to see if this thing's tight."
Scully got up, went to the other side of those legs so as not to disturb the dog, and turned on the cold water.
"Stop!" Muttering. "Okay, try it again. Now both of them. Okay!" Krycek came out, patted the dog gently on the head. "There, you're safe from the big bad boogie man, Doogie."
He stood up. Rested a hip against the counter. Wiped his hand against his jeans. "Thanks for the help. Want some coffee?"
Scully wondered at the casualness of the offer. She wouldn't be surprised if the dog spoke next.
"Sure." Then, because she wasn't certain just how able Krycek was, "Want me to make it?"
He quirked an eyebrow at her. "No. I can do that. Why don't you see if Walt left any of the cheesecake that's in the fridge."
Which is how Dana Scully found herself drinking coffee and eating triple sin chocolate cheesecake on a Saturday afternoon with Alex Krycek.
Which is how Walter Skinner found them.
He'd come home to find a Bureau car in the driveway, made his way carefully around to the back of the house, waiting to be out of sight of the neighbours before drawing his own weapon.
He had quietly entered through the door of the mud room, come up to the kitchen to find Alex, feet propped up on a chair, sharing cheesecake with Doogie and Dana Scully.
"So did you leave anything for those other hardware store junkies?" Alex took a sip of coffee.
Walter looked over the situation, saw a relaxed Alex, a wary but happy dog, and a Scully who looked unsure as to her reception.
He put away his weapon, patted the dog gently on the rump. "That," he grouched, "is my cheesecake you're eating."
"We left you a slice." Alex seemed unconcerned with the grouching. "Coffee's fresh."
Walter passed his hand possessively over Alex's shoulder, eyes watching for Scully's reaction. Poured himself some coffee, took the last piece of dessert, joined them at the table.
He choose the chair Alex had his feet on, lifted them, sat and placed them on his lap before picking up his coffee.
Scully was no dummy: she got the message loud and clear.
"What can I do for you, Agent Scully?" Walter had his AD Skinner voice on.
Alex grinned, poked him in the ribs with a foot. "She came to speak to you, but she's not going to want to if that's the tone you take. Be nice, Walter. She could have shot me, but she didn't. And she bandaged me." He held out his towelled knuckles. "Why don't you two go into your office and talk there."
Walter shook his head. "No. Whatever she came here to say, she can say it in front of you. I'll only tell you about it anyway. Because this is off the record, isn't it, Agent Scully?"
Scully looked at the two men. "Yes, sir. It is." Her eyes dropped to examine the coffee cup in her hands. "Agent Mulder will be handing in his resignation on Monday." Realized that Skinner wasn't surprised by the announcement. "He's told you, sir."
"No. But it's been obvious that he wants out. What with those offers he's getting from publishers and the speaking circuit. Besides, what's he going to do in the Bureau for an encore? He's proven that his theories weren't. He'd either have to work in a team or take one of those promotions they've been offering him. Personally, I can't see Fox Mulder doing either of those. Can you?"
Scully shook her head. "No, sir, I can't. The problem then becomes me."
"Well, I doubt if, after seven years with Agent Mulder, I can work with another partner."
"You'd be bored silly," agreed Alex. "Well, she would be," he answered Walter's raised eyebrows. "Imagine her with some idiot like Jeff Spender."
Scully winced. "It seems to me that I have two other options. One of which is to hand in my resignation as well."
"And do what, Scully?" Walter had dropped the Skinner voice.
"Go into regular medicine. Then there's a chance at an ME's position in Philadelphia."
"What?" Walter waited for the explanation.
"Get real. Scully, if you go into regular medicine, you're going to have to deal with sick people. And though you're used to dead people, when did you last spend any amount of time with sick people? Don't you remember how whiny they get?"
Walter quickly changed his laugh into a cough under Alex's glare.
"And as for the ME's job, well, that might be okay, but in Philadelphia?"
"What's the other option, Scully?" Walter had to admit Alex had some valid points.
"There's the possibility that there will shortly be an opening for a Department Head of Forensic Investigation at Quantico. But for that, I'll need your recommendation. And even then, " she took a deep breath, "nothing is guaranteed. The posting will be filled on competition."
"Who else could be in the running?"
"Sobol from VCU. Jeffries from New York."
"Sobol's an alcoholic. Jeffries is hated by everyone who's ever worked for or under him. Seems to me that you have more than better chance at getting that position. If you want it."
A phone rang in the distance. Neither man moved to answer it. Scully noticed that they were listening. After three, the ringing stopped.
Alex took his feet off Walter's lap, stood up. "I'm off." He smiled at Scully. "Good luck with the decision. Come on, Doogie."
The phone began ringing again. Alex hurried down a side hall, dog at his heels. Scully heard a door close.
She waited a minute. "Sir. I'm sorry I dropped in this way. I didn't know."
Skinner smiled. "It's no great secret, Scully. Everyone in the neighbourhood knows. I would just rather that it not be a subject of discussion at Headquarters. There are no charges pending against him, but there are some people we would rather not know he was around."
"Yes, sir. Am I one of those people?" She met Skinner's eyes in a forthright manner.
"Are you?" he threw back at her.
She thought before she answered. "No."
Skinner walked Scully to her car, held the door open for her.
"Thank you, sir."
But before she could slip into the car, Skinner placed his hand on her elbow. "Don't move," he whispered.
Scully looked carefully around. She and Skinner were both slightly protected by the open door. Slowly she went for her weapon. Skinner stopped her with a warning squeeze. "Hood," he spoke in her ear.
Scully looked to the hood of her car, expecting a bomb at least.
Instead she saw two sets of eyes peering up over the front of the hood. One with glasses and shaggy banks. The other, pigtails.
She waited, breath held, wondering just what was going on.
The two little girls slowly stood up. Scully realized that she was quickly examined and dismissed by those eyes. They were far more involved with Skinner, who, when Scully looked over her shoulder, was wearing that stone face of his.
The girls glanced at each other, took deep breaths. Very seriously, very warily, they moved from the front of the car.
Glasses was carrying a platter of cookies, the chocolate chip type made with Smarties. Pigtails had a large dog bone in her hands.
"Special Agent Scully, may I present two of our neighbours, Bailey," the cookies gave a little nod, "and Sarah." Another very little nod.
Scully returned both nods straight-faced. Whatever was going on here, it was heavy.
Bailey offered up the cookies to Skinner, as though it were some sacrifice being offered to a deity. "Would you like one of the cookies, Mr. Skinner? We made them ourselves."
"They're very good," put in Sarah.
Scully waited, but Skinner didn't move. The platter wobbled a bit. Two sets of eyes got very wet.
"Please. We didn't mean anything." Sarah.
"Mom explained that it was an invasion of your privacy. We didn't know that." Bailey.
"Mom said it would serve us right if you never had anything to do with us again." Sarah, even more teary-eyed.
"Please, Mr. Skinner, we won't do it again. We promise." Bailey's lower lip was trembling.
"Cross our hearts." Sarah's chin was getting into the act.
Scully was horrified: what had these two children done for Skinner to be treating them this way?
But Skinner figured he had made his point. He reached over and took one of the cookies. Ate it.
Scully watched as chins, lips, eyes switched off to relief and smiles.
"They're good, aren't they?" Bailey gave a little bob with her head.
"Yes," conceded Skinner. "You might want to offer the lady some."
The platter was presented to Scully. She took one, nodded her thanks, took a bite. "That's very good."
The two girls shared a look. Skinner sighed. He knew where they were going.
"How tall are you?" Bailey asked Scully.
Scully blinked. "Five, three."
"Are you going to visit often?" asked Sarah.
Skinner answered for her. "Probably."
The girls exchanged grins, said "Red Riding Hood" together.
Skinner reached over to the cookies. "I'm taking my share now, or I'll never get any."
The girls giggled.
"He's in his office. Knock before you go in."
Scully realized that whatever the transgression, it had been forgiven. The girls turned to go.
Bailey hesitated. "Papa Bear, we really are sorry. We won't do it again."
"Okay." Skinner smiled ruefully. Yeah, right. Until the next time.
"What was that all about?" Scully accepted another of the cookies. And what was this "Papa Bear" stuff?
Skinner leaned back against the car, rested an elbow on the roof.
"When you were a kid, Dana, did you ever read a book called 'Harriet the Spy'?"
"Sure. But what... Oh, you've got a couple of spies living next door." She grinned. Tried to swallow it as Skinner didn't seem too happy about it. That explained the "Papa Bear". She couldn't resist, "Do they call Krycek 'Mama Bear'?"
Skinner sighed loudly. "No. He's 'Spymaster'. He's the one who organized the kids into this thing." Answered Scully's raised eyebrows, "He's surprisingly good with kids."
He ate the last cookie. "Bailey and Sarah were involved... somewhat... in our getting back together. It fit right into this spy stuff they were into. Alex thought it was a hoot when they told him. So he's organized the kids into two cells with Bailey in charge of one and Sarah the other. They're Red Rose and Snow White. The girls are also into fairy tales."
Scully understood. "Which is why I'm Red Riding Hood?"
Skinner nodded. "There are lots of advantages to this thing. There's no way a stranger can spend any time in the area without being sized up. Any thief stupid enough to try a break-in around here will be described down to his underwear. The kids look out for each other, just in case some enemy spy might want to capture them for questioning. They make Neighbourhood Watch obsolete."
"But?" Scully was beginning to have the glimmer of an idea.
"But there are disadvantages. Especially with Bailey living next door. And Sarah might just as well."
"Such as?" Scully bit her lip, couldn't stop the gleam in her eyes.
"Such as," Skinner winced, " since the other night, we have to check that the bedroom curtains are drawn."
Scully looked to the large tree in Bailey's yard, realized its proximity to the upstairs windows.
She tried hard to control the giggles. Really, she did. Couldn't. They grew louder, became laughter. Very loud laughter.
Scully rested an arm on the roof of the car, dropped her head onto the arm. She couldn't take the disgruntled look on Skinner's face. She tried hard to get her laughter under control. Nearly did. Made the mistake of peeking up at Skinner.
Skinner watched Scully sink down to her seat, folded over with laughter. Alex had found it funny, too, once he'd gotten over the initial shock. Even Bailey's mother had snickered when she'd recommended that maybe they should draw their curtains or check out the tree before engaging in "conjugal activity".
Skinner was finding it just a bit harder to see a funny side to the whole thing. Maybe it had something to do with his age.
He waited, casually studying the neighbourhood while Scully got a grip on it. He'd bought the house because something about it had appealed to him. The fact that the street was curved, that the big trees were still around had, he now guessed, given him a sense of privacy.
The house had been too large for one man, but he had thought that two, especially two with differing needs, might fill it out nicely. And they had.
The fact that he had never considered his neighbours might have turned out to be a problem. Except, once Alex had arrived, once he had felt alive again, his neighbours had proven to be a bonus. No one that he knew of had openly disapproved of their lifestyle. Or had ostracized them, in spite of his behaviour at the beginning.
And even Bailey and Sarah could be fun.
Scully was sitting behind the wheel, pretty much under control. She'd had to wipe her eyes, but the laughter had become just the occasional snicker and she should be able to drive without causing an accident.
He shut her door.
"Dana, go for Quantico. You'll be good at it. You'll get it." Even if he had to call in some markers. "Then come for supper. Spymaster makes an incredible marinera sauce."
Scully giggled. "What, no borscht?"
Skinner grinned. "Alex hates Russian food."
They could hear the dog barking, excitedly, in the house.
Skinner growled "Oh, God! What's he teaching them this time!"
Scully watched "Papa Bear" stalk, grouching, into the house.
She was laughing again as she pulled out of the driveway.