Precious Things by Dawn Zemke

TITLE: Precious Things
SPOILERS: Up to and including Requiem
SUMMARY: Skinner's thoughts on the airplane to
DISCLAIMER: Mulder, Scully, and Skinner belong to
Chris Carter and 1013 Productions. No copyright
infringement is intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Okay, we all know now that it was a
zipper, not Scully's cross. CC's lost opportunity is my gain.
FEEDBACK: I'd love to hear from you.

I used to think nothing could surprise me anymore.

I wouldn't say I'm a cynic, simply a realist born of hard experience. I enlisted at the tender age of eighteen, barely able to grow a scraggly beard and cursed with a voice that squeaked when I tried to impress a pretty girl. I was cocky as hell -- so certain of my duty as a marine and so confident of my own immortality. I couldn't wait to go to 'Nam, to have the opportunity to fight for my country. I considered it a privilege, an honor. Right up until the moment a ten-year- old boy walked into our camp, cursing us in Vietnamese and clutching a grenade in his ridiculously small hands.

I had no choice but to open fire.


That tour of duty, culminating in a near-death experience that I still avoid contemplating too closely, rubbed most of the glitter off my worldview. My years with the Bureau have effectively eliminated any sparkle that survived. From the brutal carnage wrought by serial killers and terrorists to political machinations of ass-kissing bureaucrats and the web of treachery and deceit spun by that cigarette smoking bastard, I've seen the gamut of human nature. After a while the jolt of surprise was replaced by resigned acceptance, as those around me continued to fall neatly within the same pre-established molds.

Then I acquired the newly established X-Files division and the unenviable task of supervising Fox Mulder -- profiling genius and one time rising star, now set on a crash and burn course to career suicide. I can remember how my lip curled when the director described Mulder's defection from the VCU to indulge himself with cases any self-respecting agent would leave gathering dust in the basement where they belonged.

I didn't need to meet the man in person to know his type. Son of Bill Mulder, a former bigwig in the State Department, Mulder had a subtle political backing that included Senator Richard Matheson -- the only reason he'd been able to finagle assignment to his own pet project. In my own, hard-won rise through the Bureau ranks I'd come across more than my share of Mulder's kind. Spoiled, arrogant prima donnas, their talent and connections eventually sabotaged by their own egos. I knew what to expect from the Bureau's most famous problem child, and I had no intention of putting up with his shit.

Fox Mulder, however, shattered all my expectations. The legendary arrogance? A smokescreen to conceal deep compassion and empathy. The "Spooky" ability to track a killer? A keen, razor-edged mind capable of assembling seemingly random, disjointed pieces of evidence into a coherent whole. His crazy pursuit of aliens and government conspiracies? A passion for the truth, no matter how implausible, coupled with uncompromising integrity.


Enter Dana Scully. The opposite of Fox Mulder in so many ways. Navy brat, raised on various military bases throughout the country. A doctor and scientist, she possessed an intellect to match Mulder's tempered by two size 6 feet planted firmly on the ground. Logical to the extreme and admittedly looking to distinguish herself, Scully was the perfect tool selected by Mulder's enemies to debunk his work and shut down the X-Files once and for all.


Who could have predicted that, in one of life's little ironies, the plot to destroy Mulder would lead to his salvation? A partnership in the truest sense of the word -- she, the lens to catch his brilliance and focus it to laser beam precision; he, the spark to ignite her imagination and stretch her science beyond established boundaries and limitations. Instead of removing a minor annoyance, my black-lunged nemesis forged the weapon of his own annihilation. And re- awakened within me the heart of a rebel I'd thought long deceased.


That's not to say I haven't spent too much time balanced precariously on the fence. My moments of open defiance toward Spender and support of Mulder and Scully have often been too little, too late. And lately I've found myself trapped in an untenable situation, the fear for my own miserable life forcing me to betray them in ways I refuse to consider. Oddly enough, Mulder--Mr. "Trust No One"-- continues to offer his loyalty despite knowledge of my past duplicity.

Scully is not so forgiving.

The cool reservation in those blue eyes pains me in places best left unexplored. For even as I acknowledge her intelligence and integrity, I can't help but admit that Special Agent Dana Scully is a very beautiful woman. I'm a sucker for the one-two punch of brains paired with beauty, a rare combination. Unlike most of the female agents in the Bureau, Scully manages to survive in a masculine world while remaining wholly feminine. She's invaded my thoughts on many a lonely evening, the only woman since Sharon that I know without a doubt I could love.

And I'm smart enough to realize she'll never look at me that way.

I'm not sure when I realized the bond between Mulder and Scully transcended the partner relationship. When Scully, the most honest woman I've ever known, lied to protect Mulder during the Tooms case? When I watched Mulder crumble under the weight of his own grief as he desperately searched for her? When he traded the woman he believed to be Samantha for Scully's life? When she breached security at the DOD to rescue Mulder after his unauthorized brain surgery? Any doubts I might have harbored were put to rest the morning after Teena Mulder's suicide when Scully firmly reminded me of her place at Mulder's side.

Signs of a love so all-consuming that the rest of us can only observe from the periphery. And while I may carry a carefully concealed torch for Dana Scully, I can still appreciate her recent propensity toward laughter and his newfound air of contentment. At the risk of betraying my tough guy image, no two people deserve happiness more.

And now they've come full circle, back to Bellefleur Oregon, the place it all started. Except Scully is in D.C. with the Three Stooges and I'm the one occupying the airplane seat beside Mulder. I'd feel a lot better if we weren't acting on information provided by Krycek and Marita, though Mulder seems to have taken it in stride. More than used to odd informants, I guess.

I let my head roll toward the window and stare at the rectangle of sky, seeing only the blue of her eyes. We were alone in the conference room -- Krycek and Marita had slunk back under whatever rock they call home, and Mulder was escorting Moe, Larry, and Curly out to their van. I was gathering up papers, muttering something about having Kim make flight arrangements, only to break off midstream when Scully's hand gripped my arm. It wasn't a light touch designed to gain attention, but the desperate grip of a woman in need of help. I glanced up, startled, then immobilized by her gaze.

"Sir, I have something... I need to ask..."

I barely recognized her voice, so different from the smooth, confident manner with which she normally addresses me. She pressed her lips into a thin, bloodless line and her eyes skittered away to the window.

"What is it, Agent Scully?"

I've been accused of favoritism often enough with these two, so I try to maintain boundaries. Looking back, I can see that my strict adherence to professionalism most likely made it more difficult for her to verbalize such a personal request.

"Sir, I will not be accompanying Agent Mulder to Bellefleur."

I know my eyebrows raised before I could catch myself. Frowning a little, I folded my arms. "I assume there is a reason for your decision."

Fire sparked in her eyes, and I knew immediately that she was less than happy about remaining in D.C. "Actually, it was Agent Mulder's decision, but I've agreed to abide by it. He's...concerned about my safety, considering all those who have disappeared are abductees."

The implication hit me like a truckload of bricks -- I'm amazed I missed the connection. I hid my own discomfiture and merely nodded. "It would seem prudent for you to remain here."

She bobbed her head, a curtain of hair falling forward to conceal her features. "Sir, I don't trust Krycek. And I don't want Mulder going after that ship alone."

I waited, expecting her to continue. She remained mute, and suddenly I understood. "Scully, are you asking..."

"I'm asking you to watch his back, sir. You're the only one I trust to take my place."


Somehow, over the clamoring of incredulous voices in my head, I acknowledged her faith in me and agreed to accompany Mulder. Scully thanked me coolly, but I observed the stiff set of her shoulders ease and a long, shaky exhalation of air. She marched out of the conference room, head held high, oblivious to my own lingering shock.

I glance over at Mulder, who drifted off to sleep as soon as we were airborne. I guess the rumors of his insomnia are unfounded -- at least when it comes to long flights. My eyes drop to the glitter of gold barely visible at the hollow of his throat. Scully's cross. I noticed it when he bent over to pick up his carry-on bag, just before we boarded, and I couldn't seem to help the bittersweet tightening of my throat. That cross is much more than a piece of jewelry, it's a part of the woman who wears it and a talisman against the surrounding darkness. That Scully entrusted it to Mulder is a further testimony of her feelings for him.

I hope one day I'll be the recipient of such a love.

I close my eyes, recalling her face, and abruptly realize Scully has entrusted me with something far more precious than her cross. Something much closer to her heart; irreplaceable. I crack one eye open to consider the sleeping man on my left, and smile.

I won't let her down.