How Do You Sleep At Night?:
A Commonality Thread X-Files Story
By Jeannine Ackerson
Rating: R for language and stuff you'd find tame after reading the Starr report. ; )
Disclaimer: The X-Files, M&S and the rest belong to C.C., FOX & 1013 Prod., etc., and I'm just borrowing them for a while. I promise that they'll be back before curfew Chris. <g>
Spoilers: US5 - "The End" to The X-Files movie. Nothing more.
Relationship: UST - borderline MSR. Lots and LOTS of angst all around.
Summary: With one simple phrase, people begin to question their reasons for being and doing what they have and are and will be doing.
Dedication: To CiCi, Deb, Hindy and Nancy. I will miss you all on the 26th.
Ok, so I'm back. I know, it has been a long while, but I am finally finished with wedding preparations and can sit and think about writing again. Yay! Of course, having the house to oneself helps too.
Anyhow, here's something I came up with after listing to too much C&W. J.
"Does the darkness help when you lie down with the truth?"
How Do You Sleep At Night - sung by Wade Hayes
He'd tossed and turned the entire night. Not like that was new. But the fact that his dreams were more vivid than usual was.
But waking up in a cold sweat remembering loosing his arm had yet to become a pleasant experience. And the fact that it was still as real as it was nearly a year ago made it all the more difficult.
Shifting in the bed, he swung his feet off the side and pulled the sheets around his waist, leaving the cool air to bite at his bare torso. He knew he should sleep with both clothes and his gun, but he couldn't break one of those habits.
With that, he picked up the Glock from the bedside table and walked towards the kitchen, trailing white fabric behind him. He was oblivious of the form of the woman sprawled on the other side of the bed that he left covered only by one of the partially discarded blankets. As he flicked on the bright kitchen light, he shook his head to dispel the thought of her there. . .
And he tried not to think about the reason for his nightmares. It would have been an easy thing to explain away if it hadn't been for her and her presence in his life.
There were times he still didn't understand the attraction. But he did understand that she was starting to question his integrity. His being. What made him the man he was. The question she'd posed earlier that evening made that all too clear.
"*How* do you sleep at night?" she had asked him.
It was an earnest question that was tinged with the slightest amount of disgust. For what he was, what she was and what they both were together.
What should have been simple pillow talk was anything but because of the blonde lying in his bed - Marita Corrubus, assistant to the Special Representative to the Secretary General of the United Nations. And co-conspirator in the dealings of the most secret of government plots and crimes.
They had met unexpectedly due to the circumstances of their work. And struck up an intense relationship.
Now he pondered those words as he brewed a pot of coffee, resolving on not getting back to sleep, that he had silenced earlier with a savage kiss and erased the question all together with a bout of passionate, violent sex.
But the subject was far from dismissed. Or at least it seemed
How did he sleep? Not well, obviously.
The sins of the past and present seemed determined to keep him from happiness or a peaceful night's sleep. He doubted that he would die peacefully either. Not the way his life seemed to be heading.
After a cup of coffee, he paced the floor, pondering his path. He'd had the chance to get out, yet he'd simply changed his status in the game. No longer a pawn. Perhaps a knight. Or a rook. Far from a king though. He knew who played those roles in the chess match he was living.
A man with a cigarette and a grin of menacing that had ushered him down the primrose path he now walked.
But he had to play the hand he'd been dealt. And perhaps in the end, deal them all a surprise.
With that, he found his eyes starting to droop, and decided to head back to bed. At least, he thought as he turned off the light and wandered to the bedroom, the bed would be partially warm.
The call woke Alex at the same time he was about to fall asleep again. The voice on the other end of the phone made it clear that he wasn't going to be able to hang up and turn over again.
Without a word or thought about the woman beside him in the bed, he got up and tossed on his clothes. Sliding his Glock back where it belonged, it wasn't too long until he stood an office filled with smoke and darkness.
He had to admit that he truly hated the smoking bastard that sat in front of him. He was responsible for a lot of the disasters that had befallen him since he got involved in the "Consortium". Then once he'd been double-crossed, he'd been running for his life. Until they brought him back into the fold - to bring the cancerous motherfucker back to the states.
After that, they had deemed that he was of some usefulness to them. So he had been kept around, like a hired hand. A year ago, he would have told them to fuck off and run. But he'd learned a valuable lesson from the man before him. He had learned to keep his enemies closer than his non-existent friends.
"I have a job for you," was the pronouncement accompanied with a puff of rancid smoke.
Instead of verbally acknowledging his 'boss', he simply nodded. If it bothered the man before him, he gave no indication.
With that, a sealed manila envelope was pushed across the table at him. On the cover was the stamped block letters "top secret" in a faded red. For a moment he hesitated, then reached out to retrieve the 'assignment'.
His orders in hand, he turned to leave. Then, as if struck by the need to know, he looked back at the man smoking the cigarette and asked a simple question.
"How do *you* sleep at night?"
Then, without waiting for a reply that he knew would never come, he turned and left.
The man who seemed feared yet always fearful stared at the doorway. He'd never expected Krycek to speak like that to him.
Yet the boy brought up an unusual premise.
How did he sleep these days?
Crushing out his cigarette, he turned to the low light on the end of the table and looked at the violet stamped envelope. Another returned letter from Spender. He ran a tentative finger over the letters "return to sender". When was the boy going to learn that he needed the power he could gain from accepting his parent's identity?
The thought reminded him of simpler times when he was at peace with himself. Able to sleep without regrets or fears.
When was he going to accept that he was never going to get back a son he never acknowledged, he questioned himself. Not any time soon, it seemed. Yet the burning need in some back corner of his soul continued to urge him to write letter after letter to a son who denied him.
And what about the son that wasn't his that he'd tried to shape was never going to work for him?
With that thought he lit another cigarette and took a long drag. This was at least one subject that he could deal with. Could rationalize away, to the point where his actions all made sense. Where his conscience didn't bother him.
Mulder was still a bone of contention with the group, but one that was being borne, if not for sheer necessity, but for pure admiration.
Besides, they always kept him in check.
Clicking off the light, He got up and headed for the door. He had a meeting to create, and not little time. Krycek needed an adversary, and he knew who was best suited for that job.
It wasn't long before he made his way to his destination. It was morning, but still early enough that he didn't need to deal with too many people. Besides, he reminded himself, he was there on 'official' business.
Or at least it was 'his' business.
He walked into Skinner's office with his usual irreverence, rather pleased with himself for causing the look of concern and apprehension that crossed the former Marine's face.
Closing the door, he pulled out a cigarette and his lighter, taking quick puffs as the tobacco caught, and relished the look of contempt that now radiated from the man behind the desk.
"I have an assignment for your agents. Something I thing that they might find particularly interesting."
Skinner stared at the man before him with a deep, sinking feeling. In all the times that this certain devil had come knocking, offering a carrot to his X-Files team, he'd ended up waiting out one or the other's agent's near deaths.
Somehow he guessed that this one wouldn't be different.
"They have other assignments pending. I doubt that they could get to it in a timely manner," Skinner retorted with a subtle intimation. One he didn't expect the man before him to get. Or heed.
He wasn't disappointed.
"But I'm certain that if Agent Mulder has a chance to look at the file, he wouldn't mind having *you* clear his cases for it."
So, that was it, Skinner thought painfully. Cover the plot with an assignment sanctioned by me. Then no matter what happens, I'm damned.
God, he hated himself for putting his balls into this man's hands. All it would take was one phone call and his career would be mired in conspiracy and destruction of evidence among things. It would be easy enough for this man before him to serve him up as a sacrificial lamb for the slaughter. Just like he expected him to do with Mulder.
But, he had to say, the bargain had been struck for a good reason. To save not just one, but two agents he knew were more important than his own career.
For they were the only shot he and everyone else on the God forsaken planet had of realizing the truth.
But for now, he had to follow 'orders'.
Sensing the change in Skinner's attitude, he dropped a duplicate of the manila folder he'd given Krycek onto the A.D.'s desk.
The smoking man wasn't sure exactly if the A.D. was truly a lap dog or just bidding his time, waiting to strike. But it didn't matter. They still had him by the short hairs, and Skinner knew it. So that made him theirs, no matter how much he tried to help his agents. The thought of it almost made him laugh aloud.
With a sneer and a tone of sarcasm, he asked.
"How do you sleep at *night*?"
Staying long enough to watch in satisfaction the look of stricken pain cross Skinner's face, he waited only a moment longer to exhale a plume of toxic smoke and then left Skinner to his fate and his thoughts.
After everything he'd done and seen, how *did* Walter Skinner sleep at night? That was an excellent question.
Since he'd come home from Vietnam, he had been plagued with the memories of what he'd seen and done there. Things he thought he would never get over. But he had, somehow. Now, he seemed to be in a similar pattern, choosing a deal with the devil for nothing but smoke and ashes had turned him into a living spook - conspirator in such an unholy alliance.
But he had little choice in the matter. None of the cards he'd been given could alter his fate. All he had to play was his wild card.
At that thought, he looked up at the clock. It was close to the meeting he'd already had planned with Mulder.
Once he arrived, he'd give him the information. He knew that he'd check it out first. He always did. And he could only hope that the informant or source would wave him off of the path he was going to put him on.
Trying to put his mind off his treachery and his own question of his complicity, he reached for the first report on his desk and began to read.
Tapping the sidebar on his glasses as he reread the same line of the report in his hand for the fifth time, he was startled by the knock at the door. After calling out, the door swung open, revealing the rumpled GQ form of the man who was so much in question earlier.
"Come in Mulder. I have a new assignment for you."
Skinner waited until he sat and got comfortable. Or at least as comfortable as Mulder ever got in the straight backed chairs that sat before his desk.
Once he had Mulder's full attention, Skinner offered up the top-secret envelope. Inside he could only speculate would be documents of a somewhat authentic nature. Enough to put him on the trail of what he would believe to be another promise of vindication. A chance to uncover the truth.
Of course, what he actually found would be another thing. Something that would probably only bury the truth even more. And add to Mulder's crumbling career and status within the Bureau.
He didn't open it right away, but when he did, his eyes took on a glassy, excited look. One that Skinner had seen too many times to ignore. It was the look of hope.
Sighing to himself, Skinner could only sit there with his rigid frame giving him some semblance of authority, which he didn't feel he had anymore.
Finally, Mulder nodded his head slightly and prepared to get up, his hands gripping the arms of the chair. Waving a dismissive gesture in his direction, Skinner let his attention drift from Mulder to the visit from the Cancerman earlier. And the question he'd posed him.
The issue seemed pertinent now. He knew that for as much as he was stuck in the position he'd been given, Mulder must feel the same way at times. What with his connection to his partner and the guilt he suffered from his sister's disappearance, he knew that of anyone, his agent could understand. And if so, he wondered how Mulder dealt with it all.
"Mulder, I just wanted to ask you one thing before you leave."
At that, Mulder stopped and turned, looking at his boss. The air in the room seemed stuffy, electric almost. And had a faint after taste of stale smoke. Something that at times surprised him, and at others made more sense than anything else in his life.
"How *do* you sleep at night?"
Once the words were out of his mouth, Skinner broke the eye contact with the agent. The silence loomed in the air as the shocked look on Mulder's face disappeared and he took in the full weight of the words his boss had uttered. Looking at the posture of the man before him, usually so powerful, now seemed disturbingly diminished. By something, or perhaps someone.
Whatever it was, he didn't know what to say, how to answer. So he just didn't.
And as Mulder left, his mind swirled around the question he had avoided in some form or another for years. Because dealing with it would only mean more pain and guilt.
As Mulder walked towards the office, the details of the unofficial assignment seemed to conflict with the simple statement he'd gotten from Skinner as he'd left.
He didn't know how or why he felt the need to answer that question. If not for Skinner's prompting, he wouldn't have thought of putting it that way.
Yet the fact that he had a hard time sleeping in the first place didn't make things any easier.
Even though he knew that that wasn't what Skinner really meant. It was all about how Mulder could live with everything he'd been through, all the losses and so few wins. The things he could never make up for. The pain his dogged search for the truth had caused. To his friends, to innocent bystanders... and especially to Scully.
At that thought, he sighed heavily as he walked in to the office space he and Scully were sharing since the fire in the basement. It was their space at least, but it wasn't the basement. And it wasn't the X-Files "proper".
As it was, this file that Skinner had given him was probably more rope for him to hang himself with. No, he reminded himself, enough rope to hang you AND Scully.
Once he came through the door, she looked up from the files she was sorting through in their new cabinets and tried to appraise his mood. Watching her trying to figure him out always made him wonder what she was thinking about him.
These days, it made him wish they had finished that kiss in the hallway before the whole bee thing had happened. At least he would have known what he was only still just puzzling over in his head.
What they were to each other and where their hearts lay.
Breaking the silence with a wave of the file, Mulder announced his strategy for the day.
"Cigarette Smoking man agenda if I ever smelled it Scully," he said in a slightly bitter tone as he dropped the file before her.
She picked it up and pulled out the photos and memo. They looked real enough, but the location and the information seemed too convenient. Ten miles away from their foray into the mountains back in Oregon on their first assignment all those years ago.
Mulder sat in the chair in front of her, watching her read the report and saw the thoughts flickering behind her eyes.
If she had only left after that first assignment. If she had only not come to his room, scared of mosquito bites. If only she had never been sent to debunk his work. If only. . .
But she had and she hadn't. They were together on this path to find the truth and expose the lies. And he had to say that even for all the pain it caused him to know she'd been hurt because of her choice to stay with him, he wouldn't ever want to be without her.
"You're right Mulder. It does look like it. But you did get it from Skinner. . ." she began tentatively. Even though she didn't believe one word of what was on the paper before her, she knew that he needed to talk it out.
"And we both know that he's given us wild goose chases before Scully. What makes this any different?"
She simply shrugged. She had already planned to call the Gunmen and ask what they knew, to verify the validity of the memo, but she didn't want Mulder knowing she was doing it.
In the lull of the conversation, Mulder looked across the desk at Scully, her eyes obscured by a veil of red hair. The question that Skinner had poised to him had been tormenting him, and now it seemed the most important thing for him to know about Scully. Because the answer would tell him more than he could ever get her to admit to.
"Scully," he began, then broke off.
Her gaze immediately came up to meet his. Blue and gray locked together, and the need for the truth pushed the words past his lips.
"How do you *sleep* at night?"
She looked at him blankly for a minute as the depth of the question sank in.
Insomnia wasn't the reason he was asking. She was sure of that. But whatever had caused him to ask her was important enough to make him break what seemed to be a cardinal rule with them - don't open up feelings that could lead somewhere they couldn't go.
But that wasn't the question. Or was it?
Of all the horrors that Mulder had seen, she had come to learn that watching her suffer was the worst one of all of them. And the idea of every close call, every near death experience could keep her awake at night probably terrified him.
It was part of the relationship that they had that was the same. Before the near kiss in the hallway and after. But now, she had to acknowledge the deeper part of the question.
Would she sleep better if she wasn't working with Mulder? Would she have a normal life apart from the work. Could she be happy without him?
And those questions, she knew, were ones that she couldn't answer and he probably couldn't take hearing. Even if they were all no's.
Which she knew in her heart that they were.
But the question he'd posed still was difficult to dismiss.
How did she sleep at night? If the nightmares about Duane Barry and Donnie Pfaster and Gerry Schnauz didn't keep her awake, then memories of the experiments she'd undergone did.
Still, she slept better than Mulder did, she offered her subconscious.
As she let her thoughts slowly come back to Mulder again, she found him looking at her still. The silence between them was comfortable and disconcerting at the same time. If only. . .
The sound of her cel phone ringing startled her, and broke the connection between the agents. Scrambling for the phone in her jacket pocket, she pressed the button and spoke.
There was silence again as Mulder listened to her listen to the person on the other end. He watched as the furrow in her brow creased her features with something akin to fear.
"I'll be there tonight."
With that, she hung up the phone and looked across at Mulder's worried face. A face that she would rather have seen happy. But it never seemed that way.
"Just my mom. She asked if I was going to come by her place tonight for dinner."
Mulder watched her as she spoke what he knew was a lie. Yet somewhere in his heart he knew she was trying to protect him from something she didn't want to tell him. But it was something she would tell him - later. Until then, he knew his only path was to go along with the lie.
"Anyhow, let's just hold off on anything with this case until tomorrow," Scully offered. "It's just about lunch time. How about I treat you to a healthy meal."
At that, the subject of the file was put aside, Mulder seemed to be more his pleasant self, and escorted her out the door, and off to a routine that they were familiar and comfortable with.
For now, at least.
It had taken everything she had not to tell Mulder the truth about where she was going, but she simply reminded herself again and again why she was doing this.
To keep him and them safe.
So she was standing in the dark near Columbus Fountain at 10 p.m. waiting for the female informant who had called her earlier. It wasn't Scully's idea of a fun evening, but the woman was one that she trusted just enough to meet.
As she walked around the fountain, she came face to face with the blonde informant whom she had never met, and she had to wonder why she had felt compelled to ask her out here, instead of Mulder.
"Here's the truth about your assignment Agent Scully. After you view the files, I'm sure you'll take the necessary steps. Now you'll forgive me if I don't stay any longer. I'm putting myself in jeopardy for even meeting with you. If they knew I was helping you, they'd kill me."
With that, she gave Scully a CDRom disk in a green case. It looked surprisingly insignificant for all this trouble. Yet Scully knew that there was probably more to the disk than met the eye. She'd call Mulder once the woman left and have him meet her at the Gunmen's.
The information in hand, Scully began to turn to leave. But something she couldn't describe stopped her. It bothered her that this woman claimed she risked everything, yet she and Mulder would be the real victims. The scapegoats and errand boys for this woman and her agenda. Just like they seemed to be to everyone around them.
With a low growl, Scully turned back and stared her in the face, and asked her the one thing she could think of.
"*How* do you sleep at night?"
Marita stood there watching as Agent Scully walked away, hearing her own words ring in her ears. Her question of her lover coming back to haunt her, as it had since she'd chosen the path that she was on.
And at that moment she realized that they all slept as well as their roles would allow them to.
That's it! Many thanks to everyone who took the time to read to the end, and remember, e-mail is appreciated and encouraged! J.
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