To Touch

      Fox Mulder sat on the bench outside Dana Scully's hospital room.  He
was beautiful.  Agent Mulder was always beautiful.  Now, etched by
exhaustion and emotions, he was exquisite.  Skinner wasn't used to
thinking about men that way.  Men were for a quick release in the dark,
some place where his now ex-wife and his superiors would not find him,
would not find out.  He needed the men, but he needed his life and his
career more, so he tried to keep it hidden and fast.

      Skinner sat down beside his agent, carefully keeping his distance. 
Mulder looked at him with those sleepy, ancient eyes.  Skinner knew
those eyes.  They'd seen too much too quickly, like the eyes of the
children in Viet Nam, the eyes of the children who lived there and the
eyes of the children who came to fight.

      The two men said words out loud.  The words were important.  Their
world had been overturned.  Enemies had been killed, or believed killed. 
A good woman was going to live.  Skinner's heart leaped for relief and
joy when he heard that Dana Scully's cancer had gone away.  And then,
for an all-too-brief moment, Mulder smiled.  There were no words to
describe that smile.  

      They spoke silently to one another beneath the words.  It was too
public here for anything else, but they no longer dared meet in private.
Even Mulder's office was dangerous for them now.  It had begun in Mulder's

                                  * * *

      Skinner stood in the doorway to the basement office.  It was as
cluttered as always with Mulder's papers, posters and photographs.  He
searched for signs of Agent Scully.  There was a pretty coffee mug on a
shelf and a small pastel folding umbrella under the shelf, but otherwise
it was as if she'd never been there at all.  Soon, if what Mulder had
told him the other night were true, those would be the only things
remaining.  He could see Mulder huddling under the too-small umbrella,
or gulping bad coffee from the mug - until one or both were broken and
Mulder could add more guilt to his load.

      Mulder himself was oblivious to Skinner's presence.  He was hunched
over his computer screen, lost in cyberspace.  He had his glasses on, and
they reflected the white screen, hiding his eyes.  That made it easier. 

      "Agent Mulder?"  Mulder jerked, startled.  He moved as if to erase
what was on the screen, but seemed to think better of it.


      "May I come in?  We need to talk."  Mulder nodded, and hastened to
clear off the other chair.  He did so by picking up the entire heap of
files and books and depositing it on his already full desk.  He then
patted the mess as if to say "Stay there."  Of course, it immediately
tumbled to the ground. 

      "I'm sorry, sir.  Scully usually keeps things under control. 
Please, sit down."

      "She's your partner, Agent Mulder.  Not your mother.  Or your
wife."  Skinner gingerly took his seat.  

      "I know.  No wife would put up with this for long."  Mulder took
off his glasses.  "What did you want to talk about, sir?"

      Skinner took a deep breath.  This was a mistake.  Mulder was too
close and there was no one else around.

      "This is very difficult, Agent Mulder.  This talk will never have
happened."  Mulder's eyes widened.  "If anyone asks, I came down here to
discuss Agent Scully's health."

      "You haven't come here to discuss Agent Scully's health?"

      "No.  I've come here to discuss ... us."

      "Us, sir?  Us as director and agent?  Or something else?"  Mulder
batted his eyes.  The man was infuriating.  He was also beautiful an