Cool story art by Griva.  Click on picture for the full-size image.
 

 

O u t p o s t

by bardsmaid

 


 

A glass of water. A wedge of lemon. A moment's respite from the work of fighting the Occupation.


O U T P O S T

Krycek half-smirks and shakes his head. It's the post-invasion world's version of the Star Wars cantina, he thinks as he glances at the scruffy bunch of people who fill the room around him. But he's not complaining; it's good these days just to be alive. He takes another sip of his beer, an improvised brew, and glances at his watch. He'll wait another twenty minutes before he goes out looking for her. Likely he won't have to, though. She's prompt and efficient and he likes that.

A few minutes later a flash of light glancing off the front door announces a newcomer to the cafe. Krycek looks up to see a small female silhouette that, as it approaches, takes on the color and features of Dana Scully. She slides into the booth on the side opposite him and pauses a moment to take in her surroundings.

"So," he says, waiting a beat and then pushing a glass of water toward her with two fingers. "Did it go okay?"

"Yes." She reaches for the glass, takes the lemon wedge from the rim and squeezes it into the clear liquid, then takes a long drink. Her T-shirt is dusty, a souvenir of the red dirt roads she's driven today. She looks up at him. "Dr. Borin's theory was right. Mulder's theory was r--" She stops mid-word.

He watches her face for nuances, clues. Her features seem to relax.

"He was right," she repeats, more quietly this time, then looks up at him, her blue-gray eyes surprisingly clear and strong.

He finds himself glancing away. To his left, a table is being moved out of the way in the corner of the room. Overlaying the scene, on a thin, transparent memory-layer, he kneels beside a near-dead Mulder, stroking his shoulder and repeating something intended to be soothing, wondering if enough of the man still remains inside the torn body to even hear his pathetic attempt at... what? After all this time he's still not sure what he'd meant to say.

Krycek lets out a half-held breath, brings his attention back to the woman sitting across from him. "You okay?" he asks.

She starts to look away--an instinctive defense--but manages to catch herself. The barest hint of a smile lights her face. "Yes, actually. Actually I think I'm finally starting to come to some sense of... maybe not peace. Resolution, at least." Her mouth sits half-open, as if she has more to say. Finally she closes it. End of story.

"You must be hungry," he says, nodding toward a handwritten menu lying beside the empty napkin dispenser.

"Thank you. I am."

She takes it and starts to study her options. Krycek studies her. Ever since they crossed paths six months after Mulder's death, they've been working together, a couple of free agents tracking down a renegade consortium scientist whose genetically-altered test subjects have been aiding the Invasion. Considering the bad blood flowing through their past, they've ended up doing surprisingly well together. Who would have thought? But both of them are focused, quiet, determined, neither one prone to the kind of emotionalism that pulls people away from the task at hand.

Scully's finger trails down the list. She reaches for her glass, takes a sip, stops abruptly, the glass in mid-air, and scans the other tables. In the far corner, Krycek notices a man with a guitar case unpacking his instrument and setting it on a bar stool. Soon he's joined by a woman with a fiddle and a second man with a set of bongos.

"Krycek--"

He glances back to catch Scully eyeing him skeptically.

"They aren't serving lemon slices with the water here, are they?"

"Uh, no." Heat flushes his face. He nods toward the remainder of the lemon, which he's stashed behind the salt and pepper shakers. "Got it off a dead alien." He shoots her a grin. "Found it in the refrigerator in Pease's office. I know how much you like them."

"Thank you," she says, and goes back to studying the listings on the menu.

There was a point when he wouldn't have believed Scully could ever face him without a truckload of negativity. But maybe they'd both realized their personal feelings would only trip them up, making the work impossible. On some level maybe they'd buried the hatchet for Mulder's sake--after the sacrifice he'd made, to score one last victory for him in overtime after the buzzer had sounded. Whatever. And he's been the perfect gentleman: not baiting Scully, not crowding her. Just keeping things clean and workable and looking out for her from a distance.

"I give up," Scully says, looking up. "What did you have?"

"The pork stew's pretty good. No guarantee it's actually pork"--he shrugs--"but I figure after nearly an hour if my stomach's not sending out any warning signals, it should be safe."

"Sounds good enough for me. I think I'll have it." She waves the waitress over to the table and places her order. Off in the corner the guitar player is tuning up, plucking at strings and tightening pegs.

Scully takes another sip of her water and relaxes against the quilted back of the booth.

"Aren't you going to ask me how my day went?" Krycek drawls, putting on a pseudo-casual air. But there's a huckster's slickness to his delivery that she spots immediately.

"What?" Her eyes widen. "You mean you were able to--?"

He reaches into the pocket of his jacket and pulls out two computer disks. "The good doctor's son was having a crisis of conscience. I'm pretty sure what he's given us here is just a starter, Scully. With a little convincing we should be able to get him to lay out Daddy's whole web of connections."

"My god." Scully's hand flies to her mouth. Hope flickers to life in her eyes. "If we can access his lab data, we'll have a defense against those men. Krycek, we could--" She swallows, as if the alien onslaught has been a physical obstruction in her throat these two long years.

"Bingo."

She smiles in reply, too broadly to hold it back, which makes her color self-consciously. For the first time in longer than he can remember she looks alive. It makes her beautiful.

He turns away.

The guitarist and the bongo player have started in on something with a lively Latin beat and the woman with the fiddle is working at improvising appropriate accents to the music. Likely she's never played with them before but these days winging it is the norm. When he glances back, Scully's watching the musicians, too. The residue of the smile still sits on her face, mixed with a wash of fatigue.

"Want some crackers while you're waiting?" he asks, raising his voice slightly to be heard over the music. The woman doesn't eat enough to keep a bird alive, and who knows what she's had today; food isn't as easy to come by as it was back in the day. He places a bulging napkin on the table. "Swiped 'em from a basket on the counter."

She nods and reaches for them. It's almost as if she's swaying slightly in time with the music. The rhythm reminds him of the kind of thing he'd hear drifting into the streets of Cali back when he was playing courier, picking up batches of Marita's secret vaccine a couple of lifetimes ago.

Two women make their way toward a little clearing in front of the musicians and start to dance. Across from him, Scully's head bobs to the rhythm.

He watches her, amused. "You could go out there, too," he says finally, nodding toward the dancers.

Her eyes widen and her sense of... whatever it is--the choke collar that never lets her stray far from being Little Miss Completely Serious--takes over. He can see it coming: the 'I can't; I shouldn't'. It would do her good to cut loose, to crawl out from under the low ceiling she's been living under. For a little while, at least.

"Lighten up for a few minutes, Scully. The weight of the world will still be waiting for you when you get back."

She glances at the dancers, at the waitress leaning against the kitchen door--obviously not expecting any of her orders to come out soon--and back to the revelers. Now five bodies are moving to the beat of the music.

"Maybe I will," she says, and stands.

He's surprised that she doesn't put up more of an argument. He watches as she slips out of the booth and saunters toward the musicians. Marita was tall enough not to seem awkward next to him, but Scully's such a tiny thing. It hadn't seemed so pronounced in his Bureau days, or when they'd crossed paths later, but now... Maybe it has something to do with the shoes; she always wore heels then. Now it's running shoes--that or the pair of cowboy boots she traded for a month back.

Or maybe it's her lack of official authority, the leveled-out playing field that makes her not loom quite as large as before.

He closes his eyes and leans back into the corner of the booth. Mulder would be stoked to know that his theory was right. Better yet, that it's likely to pay off big-time in lives saved.

If luck deals them any kind of passable hand.

Would have been nice if Mulder'd been around to see it.

Krycek rubs at the gritty dryness behind his eyelids and blinks in an attempt at lubrication. He's surprised, when he opens his eyes, to see Scully standing at the edge of the table.

"Back already?"

"It's gotten crowded." She shrugs noncommittally, glancing toward the movement in the corner, but disappointment tints her face.

It's true; the crowd has grown. And now most of the dancers have paired off.

"And you might get trampled?" He cocks his head slightly. "Or hit on?"

"I really have no desire to deal with that now."

"Well, then you shouldn't have to," he says, standing. "Come on, I'll be your bodyguard."

She gives him a look, but her reserve is soon overcome by her obvious desire to give herself over to the music and she turns, leading the way toward the swaying bodies.

Within moments, the music ends. Several men set to work lifting tables out of the way and Krycek and Scully dodge the moving obstacles. Krycek is glad for the momentary reprieve. He isn't sure what made him offer to do this; he's not really prepared. When was the last time he did any dancing? Before he hit twenty, when he was working the Moscow embassies for Petrovich?

The music begins again, the tempo much slower this time. All around them couples come together, arms on shoulders, arms or hands around waists. He looks at Scully and shrugs; she takes a step toward him, one arm half-up, a question mark in the air.

Then she's jostled closer. Krycek reaches out instinctively to keep the closest bodies away. She's so damn short. "You could--"

Hell.

"You could... stand on my feet." He pushes out the crazy-sounding words. Practically speaking, though, it's the easiest way to avoid the crush.

The eyebrow of skepticism rises immediately, and almost as immediately is joined by its mate. "Krycek--"

He leans toward her, voice intimate. "What, too undignified for a dedicated agent of the Resistance? Come on, Scully, you don't have to prove your seriousness to me." He straightens up and nods toward the crowd around them. "They don't give a damn, either. Anyway, you could use the height."

Another jostle from behind and she's nearly shoved against him. Quickly she takes his offered hand, takes a tentative step up onto his right boot and after a moment's pause places her other foot on the left one. She seems as far below him as ever, but what the hell.

He takes a step with one foot, then shifts to the other, trying to work into the rhythm, attempting not to think about how he must look.

"What's the matter, Krycek?" Scully asks. She looks faintly amused. "Too undignified for a secret double agent working against occupation?"

He's about to sputter out a retort when Scully leans forward. Her forehead pauses briefly against his chest.

He swallows.

"This is... this is crazy, Krycek," her words rise from between them. But when she looks up, there's a smile spread across her face, not the pain or fear or the sheer grim determination he's used to seeing there.

"Well, maybe"--he gives a slight shrug--"maybe that's a good thing."

She pauses a moment, pondering, and he takes the opportunity to whirl her in a half-circle, then leans forward, tilting her away from him. Her grip on his shoulder tightens and suddenly the smile returns, widens and morphs into laughter.

"What's so funny?"

"This. Us. Everything."

Her cheeks are flushed, her expression warm and relaxed; it lights the shadowed corner of the room like a quiet fire spied through a frosty window.

He shakes his head, spins her again. This time she leans back, hair falling away, laughter spilling out freely as if celebrating its release from rusty shackles.

He feels a smile pulling at the corners of his own mouth. "Ready?" he says, and whirls her away through the crowd.

(end)


Author: bardsmaid
Archive: Yes, but please keep my headers attached and let me know where it is
Spoilers: none
Rating: worksafe
Classification:  Vignette, post-col
Summary: A dusty outpost in the post-col world.  A glass of water; a wedge of lemon.  A moment's respite from the work of fighting the Occupation.
Disclaimer: The X-Files characters are the creations of Chris Carter and 1013 Productions; no infringement is intended.

 

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