Sent: Saturday, July 01, 2000

The Rise and Fall of A.P. Skinner

By Peggy

July 1, 2000

Disclaimer: Anyone you recognize does not belong to me.

Rating: PG-13 for the occasional cuss word.

Category: Humor, Skinnertorture and a little bit of Mulder angst ...
sort of.

Spoilers: Hollywood A.D.

Archive: Sure, go ahead.

Feedback: Gleefully received at

Author's Notes: This is for Susan and Kelly, my two favorite
Skinnerholics. Thanks to Donna for incessantly nagging ... uh ... I
mean ... gently encouraging me to finish this story. ;-)

Summary: Skinner learns the hard way that most household (or hotel)
accidents occur in the bathroom. A "what if" fill-in for Hollywood


The Rise and Fall of A.P. Skinner

Walter Skinner sank back into the steaming water and popped another
chocolate into his mouth. "I could get used to this," he thought with
a grin. "And to think I owe it all to that little weasel Federman."
Propping the telephone receiver on one shoulder, he poured himself
another glass of champagne and used his toes to activate the built in
Jacuzzi. "Ooooh, that's goooood," he groaned ecstatically, as the water
pounded his body.

"Uh, Sir? Are you okay?"

Oh shit. Mulder was back.

"Mulder! Yeah, I'm just ... I turned on ... um ... "

"Sir, if this isn't a good time ..."

"No, no, it's fine," he hastened to reply; grateful his subordinate
couldn't see the flush he felt creeping over his cheeks. "Look,
Mulder, the reason I called is to offer you a ride to the airport. You
and Agent Scully are returning to D.C. tomorrow, aren't you?"

"Yes, Sir, we are. We have a 10:00 am flight."

"So do I. And Wayne arranged for me to have a car and driver at my
disposal. One call to the concierge and it's out front in 10 minutes."
Skinner drained his champagne glass and returned it to the edge of the
tub. He contemplated the box of Godiva chocolates. Maybe just one
more. "Oh, fuck!"


"Knocked my box of chocolates on the floor," Skinner explained, as he
stretched over the edge of the tub, straining to reach the fallen
treats. By some miracle, the box had landed right side up. Only a few
of the delicious candies were scattered on the damp tile.

"So, you're sitting in a bubble bath eating chocolates?"

Mulder sounded so incredulous Skinner couldn't help but laugh. "Yes,
Mulder, I am. You should try it sometime." Damn! The overturned box
was just out of reach. Shifting the phone from his left shoulder to
his right, Skinner pushed himself up, swung one foot out of the tub and
leaned precariously over the edge. Almost. Almost. His fingers
brushed the edge of the box. A-ha! "So, shall we meet in the lobby at
8:00? We could have some breakfast and all go to the airport
together?" Slowly, carefully, he teased the box across the floor.

"That sounds fine, Sir. And thank you. I'll let Scully know."

"Okay, it's settled then." Victory was his! He grabbed the box,
lifted it and eased himself backward at the same time. But as he swung
his foot back into the tub, Skinner lost his balance. "Oh, shit!"
Both telephone and chocolates flew as he pin-wheeled his arms, in a
frantic attempt to regain his balance. Both feet went out from under
him and he tipped over backwards, his backside and then his skull
impacting with the edge of the tub.

As he slid limply back into the sandalwood scented foam, he dimly heard
Mulder's frantic voice. "Sir? Sir? What happened? Are you okay?"


Mulder surged up out of the tub, hastily wrapped a towel around his
hips and rushed to the door connecting his and Scully's rooms. Locked.

"Scully!" He bellowed her name and rattled the doorknob. "Scully, open
the door!"

"Mulder?" Her voice seemed farther away than he'd expected. "I'm a
little indisposed right now."

Indisposed? She was packing. How the hell can packing indispose
someone? "Scully! Open the damn door!"

"All right, all right, I'm coming!" came the irritated reply. There
was a splash, a muffled curse, and then rapid footsteps. "This had
better be important!"

The lock clicked, the door swung open and the two agents confronted one
another ... dripping wet, shivering and clad only in Beverly Ernesto
Hotel towels.

Whatever Mulder had been about to say died on his lips and he just
stood and stared.

Scully shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot and tugged her towel up
as far as she could. "What did you want, Mulder?"

"I thought you were packing."

"And I thought you were on the computer."

"I was taking a bubble bath," he admitted, not quite able to meet her

"I can see that." Scully reached out and swiped at the trail of foam
sliding down his chest. "I was too."

"Yeah, I noticed."

"So," Scully tugged at her towel again and tapped a foot impatiently.
"My water is getting cold, Mulder. What's so important?"

"It's Skinner," he finally managed to blurt out, as he tore his eyes
forcibly away from his partner's cleavage. "I was on the phone with
him and I heard him fall. I think he was still in the tub. The phone
line is still open and he's not answering me. I'm afraid he's hurt."

Scully was immediately all business, pulling clothes out of her
suitcase, struggling to hang onto her towel and barking orders all at
the same time. "Get dressed, Mulder. Call the front desk. Find out
what room he's in and tell them to have security meet us there. I'll
be ready in a minute!"

Back in his own room, Mulder snatched up the phone and punched the
button for the front desk. Nothing. He tapped the disconnect button
and held the receiver to his ear again. Still nothing. What the hell?
Then he remembered dropping the bathroom phone without hanging it up.
Sure enough, it lay in a puddle on the bathroom floor. He righted it,
listened one more time, called out to his superior but heard only
silence. When he'd disconnected the call to Skinner, he tried the
front desk again. This time the call went right through and he quickly
identified himself and explained the situation.

Mulder dashed back to the bedroom and pawed through his dresser drawer
for something to wear. "Scully?" He dropped the towel and yanked on
boxers and a tee shirt.

"Yeah?" Her voice was muffled, as if she were pulling a shirt over her

"Room 930. Security is meeting us there."

"Okay. I'm ready. You?"

"Almost." Mulder stepped into a pair of Levi's and yanked them up. He
hadn't taken the time to dry off and the denim clung stubbornly to his
wet legs. Visions of explaining to OPR how he allowed his boss to drown
in a bubble bath flickered through his brain. He yanked harder. No
luck. "Shit!"


"Nothing." Hobbled by the jeans around his knees, he duck-walked to
the abandoned towel and scrubbed at his thighs roughly. Another tug
and the jeans slid into place. Not bothering with socks, Mulder shoved
his feet into a pair of running shoes, jammed wallet, ID and keys into
his pockets and called out "Okay, ready."

"Me too." Scully appeared in the doorway carrying the small medical
bag she'd begun to take with her everywhere soon after they were
partnered. She was as casually dressed as he was but her shirt was
neatly tucked in, every hair was in place, her tennis shoes were tied
in perfect, crisp little bows only a sailor's daughter could tie. She
was even wearing lipstick.

"How the hell do you do that?"

"Do what?"

"That." He gestured at her helplessly.

Scully glanced down at herself, then back at her partner. "Mulder, I
have no idea what you're talking about. And I don't have time to try
and figure it out. We need to get downstairs right now!"


"If you would like to make a call, please hang up and try again."

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.

Wha ... ? Huh? The annoyingly bland voice repeated its message. The
phone. Must have knocked the phone off the hook. Skinner shifted to
his left and fumbled for it. Instead of the smooth, cool walnut of his
nightstand, his fingers encountered icy porcelain and warm water.

Startled, his eyes flew open. And then instantly slammed shut again as
the light assaulted him, sending spikes of pain into his skull. "Oh,
shit," he moaned, covering his face with his hands and waiting for the
pain to ease. When it had, he opened his eyes again, slowly and only
halfway, and looked around. He was sprawled, almost sideways in a
bathtub; his right leg was twisted painfully beneath him, the left
hanging over the tub's edge, his aching head resting against the
unforgiving porcelain.

It came back to him in a rush. Wayne Federman. Hollywood. The
decadence of sipping champagne and eating expensive chocolates while
lounging in a bubble bath. He remembered losing his balance, fighting
to stay on his feet and then ... then ... then there was nothing.

"Must have hit my head," he reasoned, probing the back of his skull
with careful fingers. He hissed when he found a lump the size of a
golf ball behind his right ear. Bracing both hands on the bottom of
the tub, Skinner attempted to shift himself into a more comfortable
position. His efforts were rewarded with a bolt of agony low in his
back. VERY low in his back. "Is it possible to break your ass?" he

After taking a moment to catch his breath and allow the pain to
subside, Skinner made another attempt to lever himself out of the tub.
No luck. "Face it, Walt, you're stuck," he muttered to himself, and
slapped at the water in frustration. "Now figure out how the hell to
get help."

The phone was still beeping away down on the bathroom floor but he
couldn't see it, let alone reach it. He supposed he could call for
help but would anyone be able to hear him? Wait a minute! The phone!
He'd been talking to someone, hadn't he? Mulder! Mulder must have
heard him fall. With a little luck, help was already on the way.

Skinner heaved a sigh of relief and allowed his head to fall back
against the rim of the tub. Ouch! Forgot about that bump. Hadn't
there been towels lying around here somewhere? He could use one as a
pillow as he'd done before he fell. He scanned the area around the tub
as best he could. If there had been towels, they must have fallen when
he did because they were nowhere to be seen. The only things within
his reach would do his aching head no good: a bowl of fruit, an
overturned champagne bottle, a couple bars of fancy soap and one of
those weird nylon puffy things women and fancy hotels always seemed to
think were an essential part of a well stocked bathroom.

Someone rapped on the door. Hard. Skinner could hear a voice. He
couldn't make out the words but it was definitely Mulder. The door
creaked open and the voice got clearer.

"Sir? It's Mulder. Are you all right?"

"I'm in here," he called.

"I heard you fall. Are you hurt?" Mulder was right outside the
bathroom door.

"Bumped my head. Strained my back. I could use a hand out of the
tub," Skinner admitted sheepishly.

"You hurt your back?"

Oh shit! It was Scully! Of course Mulder would have called Scully.
Why it hadn't occurred to him sooner, Skinner couldn't fathom. Shit,
shit, shit. He looked around frantically for something to cover
himself with. Nothing.

"Scully, I'm fine. It's nothing. Probably just a pulled muscle. I
just need a hand up."

"You could have a serious back injury, sir. I want you to be as still
as possible until I can examine you." The door opened a crack and
Skinner saw a flash of red hair. Fuck!

"NO!" he yelped in alarm. "No! Scully, that's not necessary. Just
send Mulder in, okay?"

"Sir," her voice was patient but determined. "I'm a doctor. I need to
examine you. There's nothing to be embarrassed about."

The door opened a bit further and Skinner resigned himself to the
inevitable. Grabbing the yellow, nylon bath puff and clutching it to
his groin, he closed his eyes and prayed for a massive coronary.
Anything would be better than the slow death by humiliation he was
about to face. He kept his eyes firmly closed as his rescuers entered
the room, turned off the Jacuzzi and draped a towel over his lap. He
only opened them when he felt a gentle hand on his shoulder.

The first thing he saw was Scully bending over him, her lovely face a
carefully schooled mask of concerned professionalism. Behind her, to
her left, was Mulder. He was trying, and failing, to wear the same
expression. Skinner recognized the slightly bug-eyed look on the
younger man's face as that of someone trying desperately not to laugh.
On Scully's right, positively quivering with embarrassment, was Ted
Kennedy. Ted Kennedy? What the fuck? Oh, wait. No. Not Ted
Kennedy, just a large, florid faced, patrician looking man in a crested
navy blazer and gray flannels. Probably hotel security, he reasoned.

"Sir? Sir?" Scully's voice, gentle but insistent, drew his attention
away from the Kennedy wannabe. "Sir, you say that you hit your head?
Were you unconscious at all?"

"Umm, yeah, I guess I was. Only for a few seconds though."

Scully perched on the edge of the tub and leaned over him, running her
hands over his scalp. "Tell me if anything hurts."

Skinner couldn't contain a small shiver of ... what? Embarrassment?
Arousal? She was beautiful after all and he was naked. "DO NOT go
there, Walt, old boy," he silently lectured himself. As he studiously
avoided meeting Scully's eyes, Skinner noticed that Mulder was doing
his best to appear engrossed in a framed print on the bathroom wall but
was sneaking glances over his shoulder every few seconds; the security
guard had disappeared altogether. Just then, Scully's fingers
encountered the lump on the back of his skull, causing him to gasp in

"Sorry," the agent murmured sympathetically. "Looks like you hit your
head pretty hard. You've got a nice goose egg here." Scully rummaged
in her medical bag and produced a penlight. As she checked his pupils,
she asked, "Do you feel dizzy at all? Nauseated?"

Skinner indicated that he did not, but admitted to a headache and some
mild light sensitivity. "It's nothing a couple of aspirin and an ice
pack won't take care of."

"Why don't you let me be the judge of that?" Scully gave him an
indulgent smile. "Now, what about your back? Where does it hurt?
Between your shoulder blades? Down lower?"

"Lower." Skinner cringed as he felt heat rising in his face. "My

Scully was unfazed by the revelation and by Skinner's discomfort.
Mulder, on the other hand, made an extremely unattractive choking
noise, muttered something about finding something for the A.D. to wear,
and fled the room. As grateful as he was that Mulder had come to his
rescue, Skinner could cheerfully have strangled the other man at that

"Have you tried getting up?"

Skinner turned his attention back to Scully. "Yeah. I wasn't very
successful, as you can see."

"Do you have any pain, numbness or tingling in your legs?"

"My right ankle hurts. I think I twisted it when I fell but I'm okay
otherwise." Skinner tugged at the towel, attempting to wrap it more
tightly around himself. "Look, Scully, can I get out of here? The
water's getting cold and this towel isn't doing a lot for my dignity."

"It's doing more than that puffy, yellow thing was," Mulder observed,
returning to the bathroom with an armload of clothing. "Come on,
Scully, cut the guy a break. He's not dying, except maybe of
embarrassment. Let me hoist him out of there and then you can examine
him to your heart's content."

"I'd really feel more comfortable calling an ambulance."

"No!" Skinner protested forcefully. As forcefully as a naked man in a
bathtub can, anyway. "Agent Scully, I appreciate your concern but I do
not need an ambulance!"

"Come on, Scully. Take a hike." Mulder slipped his free arm around
his partner's shoulders and steered her toward the door.

"Mulder!" She shook him off in irritation. "What are you doing? He
could have a serious back injury. He could have bleeding in his

"And how, exactly, is sitting in a tub of tepid bath water for 20
minutes until an ambulance gets here going to help that," Mulder
reasoned. "Sir? Do you know who you are and where you are?"

"Unfortunately, yes." Skinner replied dryly.

"How many fingers am I holding up?"

"One. And holding up that particular finger could be considered

"Can you wiggle your fingers and toes?"

"Yes, Mulder, I can."


"Well what?"

"Well, don't just sit there: wiggle 'em."

Skinner rolled his eyes toward the heavens but did as Mulder asked.

"See, Scully, he's fine. Now get out of here and let me get him up."

Scully gave in, albeit reluctantly. "I'll be right outside the door if
you need me."


Scully would never know exactly what went on in the bathroom during her
absence. She would only know it involved a great deal of splashing,
thumping and swearing. That, and a rather shrill cry of, "Mulder,
watch your hands!" from her supervisor. When the two men finally
emerged, they were both slightly red-faced and seemed incapable of
looking her or each other in the eye. Skinner was dressed in
mismatched sweats, leaning heavily on Mulder and walking very

"How's your back, Sir?" Scully hurried to grab Skinner's free arm and
help him toward the sofa.

"Still hurts," he replied with a grimace. "And if you think I'm
sitting down, Agent, you are sadly mistaken."

"Can you lie on your side?"


Positioning Skinner so that he lay facing the back of the sofa took a
bit of maneuvering, and much moaning and groaning from the patient, but
they eventually accomplished it. Scully knelt on the floor and
conducted a thorough exam, though Skinner protested vehemently when her
probing hand slipped below his waist.

"I'm a doctor," she reminded him for at least the tenth time in as many

"You're also a federal agent under my direct supervision who is
currently grabbing my ass!"

"Not grabbing," she protested with a barely suppressed smile.
"Examining. And I'm relatively certain you have a fractured coccyx."

"In English please, Agent Scully." Skinner craned his neck to peer at
her over his shoulder.

"You broke your tailbone. We'll need an x-ray to confirm that, of
course. And I'd like you to have a CAT scan of the head as well. We
really need to get you to the hospital. I wish you'd let me call an

"I DO NOT need an ambulance," Skinner snarled through clenched teeth.
"I'll go to the hospital because I know you'll give me no peace until I
do, but no ambulance and that's final! Federman gave me a car and
driver. I can lie across the back seat. Just call the concierge and he
can arrange it."

"All right," Scully conceded, "but we're going right now. We've wasted
too much time already."


"You got a LIMO?" Mulder stared at the enormous black Mercedes waiting
on the curb.

"Yeah," The elevator ride and walk through the lobby had almost done
Skinner in and he was barely managing to stay on his feet. "I got a
limo. Can we get in it now?"

Mulder didn't move, except to turn his head and glare at his boss.
"The fucking movie is based on me, on my work, and I had to take a cab
from the airport! How do you rate a limo?"

"I didn't ask for it," Skinner protested. "It was Wayne's idea, not

"Wayne," Mulder's voice dripped scorn. "That little twerp. Steals my
life, turns it into a celluloid joke, casts Gary Fucking Shandling as
me, and then makes me take a fucking cab from the airport. I don't
believe this!"

"Our lives," Scully spoke up.


"Our lives, Mulder, not just yours. He turned our lives into a
celluloid joke. But now is not the time to discuss that. Let's get
the A.D. into the car and to the hospital."

"Yeah, okay." Mulder conceded to her wishes but continued to mutter
unhappily under his breath.

Getting the A.D. into the car proved easier said than done. He wanted
to lie on his side but couldn't find a way to get himself there. He
tried to sit and couldn't, tried edging in sideways to no avail.
Finally, Skinner was forced to crawl in headfirst. As he knelt on the
seat, ass in the air for the entire world to see, he wondered, not for
the first time, if it were truly possible to die of embarrassment.

"Why don't you try just lowering yourself onto your stomach," Scully
suggested helpfully. "I think the seat is long enough for you to
stretch out comfortably."

"You think?" Skinner glanced over his shoulder and froze. Was it
possible that Scully was checking out his ass? Maybe this wasn't the
end of the world after all. Bracing himself on his forearms and
tightening his gluteus maximus just in case Scully was looking, he
lowered himself carefully to a prone position. Pillowing his head on
his arms, he breathed a sigh of relief. He wasn't exactly comfortable,
but it was a vast improvement over hobbling around in public all but
hanging in the arms of two agents under his command.

Mulder and Scully climbed into the limo after him and they were soon on
their way to the nearest hospital. Scully was the consummate
professional, focusing all her attention on her patient. Mulder spent
the entire 15-minute ride exploring the amenities the limousine had to
offer and becoming more and more disgruntled.

"Did I mention that Federman made us take a taxi from the airport?" he
grumbled, as he perused the very extensive contents of the bar.

"Once or twice," Skinner groaned, burying his face even deeper in his
crossed arms.

"Did I mention that while you were cruising around in splendor drinking
some pretty damn expensive Scotch, Scully and I were in a taxi that
smelled like urine?"

"No, Agent Mulder, you didn't. But thank you for sharing."

"Did I further mention ... "

Mulder's words were cut off by a thump and a whoosh of air. Skinner
knew, without looking up, that Scully had elbowed him sharply in the
ribs. Turning his head toward the seatback, Skinner smiled.


Scully directed the limo driver to pull right up to the emergency room
doors and dispatched Mulder to find a stretcher.

"I'm perfectly capable of walking," the A.D. protested.

"We practically carried you to the car," Scully informed him tartly.
"I hardly call that perfectly capable of walking."

Skinner was about to protest when Mulder returned, a gurney and two
burly orderlies in tow. They whisked him out of the car and onto the
stretcher with practiced ease before he had a chance to mount any sort
of resistance. Next thing he knew, he was in the emergency department
of Cedars Sinai Medical Center being examined by a triage nurse.

The magic words "head injury" and a little subtle badge flashing got
Skinner out of triage and into an exam room fairly quickly. After the
necessary paperwork was completed, a medical history and vital signs
obtained, and the patient forced into a hospital gown, a doctor arrived
to examine him.

"Mr. Skinner? Hi, I'm Susan Barnhurst. I understand you fell in the
bathtub. Can you tell me where your pain is?"

Dr. Barnhurst was a woman, a young, attractive woman. And she was
going to be examining his injured tailbone; he just knew it. She was
going to pull down the paper-thin sheet, open the flaps of the hideous
blue and white gown and put her hands on his ass and there wasn't a
damn thing he could do about it. Skinner let out a resigned sigh,
gave up all hope of surviving the ordeal with even a shred of dignity
intact, and pointed silently to his backside.

"I see." The young doctor's face was impassive but there was a trace
of amusement in her voice. "The triage nurse tells me you hit your
head when you fell. Did you lose consciousness at all?"

"Yeah, I did."

Dr. Barnhurst drew up a stool and perched herself next to Skinner's
bed. "Open your eyes wide for me," she directed, producing a penlight
and beginning her examination. "Do you know how long you were

"Not long. Maybe a few seconds. I'm not really sure." Skinner glanced
past the doctor. Mulder and Scully were standing quietly in the corner
of the room watching the proceedings with interest. "Mulder, can you
hazard a guess?"

The doctor spun round on her stool. "Were you with Mr. Skinner when he

"NO!" The response was immediate, loud and in stereo. The two men
stared at the doctor in horror. Both of them tried, and failed, to
keep the suggested image out of their minds.
Skinner was utterly appalled and Mulder looked mildly queasy.

"I was in the bathtub!" Skinner reminded her indignantly.

"I know that," Dr. Barnhurst replied, with a glint of humor in her
eyes. "But you looked to your friend for confirmation. And I couldn't
help but notice that his t-shirt is damp, as if he dressed quickly and
didn't dry off well and I thought maybe ..."

"Well, you thought wrong!"

"Okay, sorry. My mistake." The doctor glanced at Scully, who stood
with a hand pressed against her lips, and quivered with barely
restrained laughter. "Ma'am, were you present when Mr. Skinner fell?"

Scully shook her head, clearly not trusting herself to speak.

The young woman turned back to her patient. "So, you were alone when
you fell?"


"And your best guess is that you were only unconscious for a few

Skinner nodded.

"Okay, then." The doctor resumed her exam with a smile. When she'd
finished, she moved around to the other side of the bed and lay a hand
on his hip. "I'm going to examine you tailbone now. It'll just take a
minute." She slipped her hand under the sheet and conducted the exam,
taking great care to keep him covered at all times, for which Skinner
was extremely grateful. "Sorry," she murmured when her gentle fingers
hit a particular painful spot, causing him to jerk and hiss in pain.
"Looks like you have a fracture. We'll need to get an x-ray to confirm
that and I want to do a CT scan of your head as well. I'm almost
positive you have only a mild concussion but I want to be sure there's
no sign of bleeding in your brain."

"Then what?" Skinner couldn't quite keep the note of anxiety out of his
voice. He's spent all the time in hospitals he cared to. "I don't
have to stay, do I?"

"That depends on the results of the CT scan, but I suspect you'll be
okay to leave. Let's cross that bridge when we come to it, okay?"

"Yeah, okay."

"Good, now I'll go write those orders and we'll get you taken care of."


Skinner had endured several CT scans in his lifetime and knew that they
were relatively painless, so he wasn't overly concerned about having
the procedure done; at least not until the technologist informed him he
had to lie flat on his back for the duration of the test.

"You've got to be kidding me!"

The technologist, Kelly, according to her nametag, planted her hands on
her hips and returned his outraged glare without flinching. "Do I look
like I'm kidding?"

"I can't lay on my back."

"Well, if you want to have this test done, you have to."

"I DON'T want to have this done, as a matter of fact. And I absolutely
can't lay on my back so take me back to the ER and we'll just forget
the whole thing, okay?"

Kelly grinned at that. "You're not getting out of it that easily.
We'll work something out. You know, you're the fourth patient today
who tried to weasel out of their CAT scan. I think I'm beginning to
get offended. The scan doesn't hurt; you get the pleasure of my
company. What's not to love?"

"Well, it's nothing personal," Skinner couldn't help but return her
smile. "But everyone seems to think I broke my tailbone and I
absolutely can't lay on my back."

"This is only going to take 5 minutes," she reassured him, "and I think
I have a solution to your problem."

Before Skinner knew what was happening, he was flat on his back on the
CT table with a pillow under his backside and his head in the scanner.
"She's good," he thought to himself, as the machine whirred to life.

The x-ray of his tailbone didn't go quite so smoothly. No nice, soft
pillow for his aching butt, no pretty young woman smiling at him, just
a surly guy named Tom and his ass firmly and painfully planted on the
freezing cold surface of the x-ray table.


"Your friends went to get some coffee," Dr. Barnhurst informed Skinner
when he was safely back in his little corner of the emergency room.
"They said they'd be back in a few minutes. In the meantime, I have
your test results."

"Good or bad?"

"A little of both." The doctor sat on the stool once again, bringing
herself down closer to Skinner's eye level. "The CT scan was normal.
There were no signs of skull fracture or bleeding in the brain. You've
got a mild concussion but nothing more serious."

"So I can go home? Or back to the hotel, that is?"

"Are you staying alone in your room?"

"Yeah." Skinner stared at the doctor suspiciously, not sure he liked
where the conversation was heading.

"Well, I'd prefer that you not be alone. You do have a concussion and
someone needs to check on you during the night. Do you suppose one of
your friends can sack out in your room?"

Skinner had a sudden, terrible vision of the single king-sized bed in
his hotel room, and of sharing it with Mulder.

"Mr. Skinner, are you all right?" Dr. Barnhurst was on her feet,
leaning over him and shaking his shoulder. "You're awfully pale all of
the sudden."

"I'm fine, Dr. Barnhurst," he reassured her, shaking his head to clear
the disturbing image from his mind. "And is that really necessary?
Having someone in my room, I mean?"

"You can call me Susan. And I'd be much more comfortable discharging
you if I knew you weren't going to be alone. I'm sure your friends
wouldn't mind. They seem very concerned about you."

"Susan it is then," Skinner replied with a smile. She was really a
very nice woman in spite of the fact that she'd insisted on poking and
prodding him and generally making his life difficult. "As for my
friends, well, it's a little awkward because we work together. I'm
their supervisor, actually, and we don't always see eye to eye. It's
already embarrassing enough that they had to haul my sorry ass out of
the bathtub but asking one of them to room with me just seems

"I can understand that," the young doctor looked sympathetic. "But I'm
going to have to insist that you not be alone tonight. If you don't
feel comfortable having one of your coworkers stay with you, we'll keep
you here."

"No, no," Skinner sighed unhappily. "I don't want to stay here. We'll
work something out."

"Good." That earned him an approving smile. "Now, do you want to hear
the bad news?"

"Yeah, go ahead."

"You did, in fact, fracture your coccyx. No big surprise there.
Normally, I'd prescribe a mild painkiller and send you home with
instructions to take things easy for a few weeks and sit on a Tush

"A what?" Skinner sputtered.

"Tush Cush. Yeah, I know, ridiculous name but that's what it's called.
It's a seat cushion with a U-shaped hole in one side. When you sit,
your coccyx is suspended over the opening. Hauling it around with you
everywhere you go will be humiliating, but when you sit down you'll be
glad to have it, believe me. It goes a long way toward alleviating
your pain."

"You sound as if you speak from experience."

"I do," she admitted ruefully. "One of the hazards of childbirth."


"Tell me about it! My son had a head the size of a watermelon. But I

"Yeah, I seem to recall you using the word 'normally'. Makes me
nervous when doctors do that. It usually means my situation is not

"There is a small complication."

Skinner groaned and scrubbed his hands over his face in frustration.

"Your fracture is more displaced than we normally see. I'd like you to
see an orthopedic surgeon."

"A surgeon? As in, someone who does surgery?" Skinner found himself
becoming alarmed.

"Yes, but I don't think you need surgery. You may not need any special
treatment at all. I just want to get a consultation and be sure."

"Sure of what, exactly?"

"The coccyx lies directly behind your rectum."

Skinner felt his face grow hot and knew it must certainly be beet red.
"Get a grip, Walt," he told himself silently. "You're pushing 50. You
can have this conversation without dying of embarrassment." When he
reopened his eyes, he found Dr. Barnhurst waiting patiently, an
understanding smile on her face. "Sorry," he murmured sheepishly. "Go

"If the coccyx is displaced too far forward, it can press on the rectum
and I suppose you can imagine the consequences of that."

"Umm, yeah, I guess I can." Skinner was extraordinarily grateful the
doctor hadn't felt obligated to spell out the consequences. "So, what
do you do to fix it? Or don't I want to know?"

"You probably don't want to know, but I'll tell you anyway. There are
a couple of options, actually. One is to surgically remove the coccyx.
Another is to wire it into place, which also involves surgery. The
third is to reduce it, that is, push it back into place."

"Push? How would you go about doing that?" Then it occurred to him how
the task might be accomplished and Skinner pushed himself upright,
unmindful of the rush of pain. "No! If you're about to say what I
think you're about to say, the answer is no! No way is some guy coming
in here and sticking his finger up my ... No! Just ... no!"

"Now, Mr. Skinner," Dr. Barnhurst's voice was soothing. "Please don't
get upset. Odds are you won't need to have any of these things done.
As I already explained, I'm only ordering the consult as a precaution.
The orthopedist on call will look at your x-rays, examine you, probably
do a brief rectal exam and then advise us how to proceed from there. I
seriously doubt you'll need any special treatment but I just want to be

"Well, cancel the damn consult because I'm getting the hell out of
here. No way am I consenting to this!"

"Sir, please, calm down. This is really not worth getting upset about.
I assume that at your age your doctor insists on a yearly prostate
exam. The orthopedist won't do anything more complicated than that."

"Forget it." Skinner struggled up off the gurney, biting back a groan
as the pain in his tailbone increased tenfold. He made it about two
steps toward his clothes before a small, firm hand closed over his

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" It was Scully and she was
not happy.

"I'm leaving," he growled, as he shook her off and reached for his

"No, you're not." Scully plucked the garment from his hand and took
his arm again. "You're going to get back into bed and stop acting like
a child."

Skinner was outraged. "Agent Scully, I give you orders, not the other
way around!"

"I'm suspended, remember? And I'm here on my own time. You can't order
me to do anything. Now get back in bed."

"No," he snarled. "I'm leaving. Now give me back my pants."

Scully ignored his demand, turned her back on him and held a whispered
conversation with the ER doctor. "All right, fine." She turned back
and handed him his sweatpants. "If you can get yourself dressed and
out to the car on your own we won't try to stop you."

"Call the driver and tell him to meet us out front in five minutes."

Five minutes later, Skinner was still trying to get his pants on. He
couldn't bend over; he couldn't stand up straight. He couldn't sit
down or lift his foot more than an inch off the floor without sending
his pain level through the roof. Short of getting back on the gurney,
lying on his side and trying to worm his way into the pants, he wasn't
getting dressed without help. With a disgusted sigh, he glanced at
Mulder, who'd appeared in the doorway soon after Scully and watched the
proceedings with great interest.

"Mulder," he grated out through clenched teeth, "I could use a hand

Mulder actually took two steps forward before he paused and glanced at
Scully. Upon seeing her murderous glare, he retreated hastily to his
former position. "Sorry, Sir, but you're on your own. I've grown
rather fond of my testicles and I'd hate to see them sitting on
Scully's desk in a jar of formaldehyde."

Skinner struggled for another few minutes but pain and frustration
finally took their toll. "Fuck it." He threw the sweats on the floor,
climbed back up on the gurney and resumed his semi-fetal position. "I
can't do it; I'm at your mercy. Do whatever the hell you want."

Dr. Barnhurst was at his side immediately, pulling a sheet over him and
giving him an approving smile. "You're making the right decision, sir.
I'm going to order that consult and, since your CT came back
negative, we can give you something for pain. You just lie here and
rest and I'll have you feeling better in no time."


A shot of Toradol went a long way toward making Skinner feel like a new
man. As he waited for the orthopedic specialist, who was tied up in
surgery, he grew more and more groggy, eventually drifting off to

He didn't know how long he'd slept, but he knew what had awakened him:
a draft blowing on his bare backside. A quick investigation revealed
that yes, indeed, his sheet had slipped, his gown had gaped open and
his posterior was on display. Skinner tugged the wayward flaps of the
gown back together and fumbled for the sheet, pulling it securely up
under his armpits.

"Darn! I was enjoying the view." The voice was amused, unknown to him
and decidedly feminine.

Skinner cast his eyes heavenward and silently implored, "Why me?"

"Don't be embarrassed. It's not like I've never seen a guy's butt
before. And you've got a very nice butt."

"Thanks. I think." Skinner carefully maneuvered himself from his left
side to his right and found himself face to face with a very young,
very beautiful woman.

She was lounging on the room's other gurney, clad in roller blades and
just enough hot pink spandex to satisfy public decency laws. Her hair,
pulled up in a messy ponytail, was some strange combination of red and
blonde with undertones of brown that could not possibly occur in

"Hi there." She flashed him a blindingly white smile and wiggled the
fingers of her right hand at him. Her left hand, he noted, was propped
on a pillow and covered with an ice pack.

"Hi," he croaked, trying hard not to stare at what was quite possibly
the most incredible pair of breasts he'd ever seen. "Sorry about the
little peep show."

"That's okay. I didn't mind a bit." Her smile grew wider. "There's
nothing else to look at in here except that icky poster." She pointed
to a chart depicting the various stages of inner ear infection. "My
name is Desiree, by the way." She paused and giggled. "Hey, I'm a
poet and don't know it. Anyway, I'm Desiree Most. Pleasure to make
your acquaintance."

Desiree Most? His face must have reflected his thoughts because she
giggled again. "I know, it's kind of a funny name. It's my stage
name, actually. I'm an actress, you know.
My real name is Dorothy but how awful is that? Can you see it on the
big screen?" She made a sweeping gesture with her uninjured hand.
"Tom Cruise and Dorothy Most starring in Mission Impossible 3. Desiree
is much better, don't you think?"

"Um, yeah. I guess so." Skinner's drug addled mind was still trying to
process the sight of those 36D breasts straining against the 34C sports

"So, what's your name? And what happened to your butt? It's a really
pretty shade of purple, you know?"

Skinner wondered if his face was a matching hue. He didn't think he'd
ever blushed as intensely or as often as he had on this day. "My
name's Walter Skinner," he finally managed to spit out, forcing himself
to look her in the eye and not the cleavage, "and I fell in the bathtub
and broke my tailbone."

"Ouch!" Desiree ... or Dorothy ... he didn't know how to think of her,
made a moue of sympathy. "I bet that really hurts, huh?"

"Yeah, it does."

"So what are they gonna do to about it? You can't exactly put a cast
on someone's butt, can you?"

"I don't know what they're going to do," Skinner sighed. "I'm waiting
to see some bone specialist and he gets to decide."

"I'm waiting for him too!" Desiree/Dorothy seemed thrilled. "I guess
that's why they put us in here together! I'm sorry you broke your
behind, Wally, but it's nice to have someone to talk to. They don't
have any good magazines in this place and I was bored to tears."

"Walter," he corrected.

"Huh?" She blinked at him in confusion.

"My name. It's Walter."

"I know. You told me. But that's so formal and, well," she batted her
eyes at him a giggled, "I have seen your butt, after all."

"Yeah," Skinner sighed, closing his eyes wearily, "so you keep
reminding me."

Desiree/Dorothy just giggled.


Thirty minutes passed and there was no sign of the orthopedist. Nor
was there any sign that Desiree would ever stop talking. She'd actually
squealed when he told her he worked for the FBI. And he feared for a
moment that she might fall off her gurney when he revealed the reason
for his visit to California.

"You got an associate producer credit? Honest to God? Oh, Wally,
that's so, so, so cool!"

Skinner now knew that she wasn't just an actress; she was an
actress-slash-model who worked at Victoria's Secret while waiting for
her big break. He's had a brief, thrilling vision of her clad in
nothing but a push up bra and matching thong panties but she'd burst
his bubble by informing him that she sold the underwear, not modeled

"I don't have enough modeling experience for a classy catalogue like
Victoria's Secret yet," she informed him gravely. "But I do have a
really great gig as the Lyman's Used Car Girl! I'm in all their
newspaper ads!"

She was 24 years old, originally from Sacramento and had been living in
Hollywood for five years. She had a roommate named Sara Lee .... "Just
like the cake!" ... who borrowed her clothes without asking and dented
the car they shared but wouldn't admit it. Pickle Puss, the stray
tabby cat she'd adopted even though the landlord didn't allow pets,
kept killing rats and leaving them on the doorstep. The last guy she'd
dated had seemed like a "real sweetie" right up until the moment he
told her, over dinner, that she had a great set of knockers and
suggested she appear in a porno movie he was directing.

Skinner, who'd been lying there covertly studying said knockers, had
the grace to feel guilty and return his gaze to her face.
Inexplicably, he found himself becoming less and less annoyed and more
and more charmed by her. She was beyond ditzy but she was open, honest
and incredibly sweet. Whether the blow to the head was to blame or she
had simply worn him down, he just couldn't say.

When Scully poked her head through the doorway to check on him, Skinner
realized he'd been so busy talking to Desiree that he hadn't even
noticed that the two agents were gone.

"Hi, Dana!" Desiree seemed delighted to see the other woman. "Are you
feeling better?"

Skinner pushed himself up on an elbow to get a better look at his
agent. "Scully, are you okay? What's going on?"

"She got dizzy." Desiree piped up before the agent could even open her
mouth. "But don't worry, it's not serious. Just hypo ... hypo ... what
was that Dana?"

"Hypoglycemia," Scully replied tonelessly.

"That's it!" Desiree's smile widened. "That means she had low blood
sugar because she hadn't eaten anything and Fox had to take her to the
cafeteria to get a snack or else she might have fainted! I'm glad
you're feeling okay now, Dana!"

Skinner stared as his agent through narrowed eyes. Scully
hypoglycemic? Like all field agents she frequently missed meals while
involved in a case. He'd never heard any report of her suffering from
hypoglycemia. He was about to question her when Mulder appeared in the
doorway behind her and Skinner had his answer.

Desiree's squeal of delight was accompanied by an excited bounce; quite
a feat considering she had a rather badly broken wrist. "Fox! I
wondered where you were!"

Mulder's answering grin almost split his face. "Hi, Desiree. How are
you feeling?"

"Much better, now that you're back! Not that Wally hasn't been
wonderful company," she hastened to add.

Mulder caught Skinner's eye and mouthed 'Wally?' with a wicked smile.
Scully just looked disgusted.

Turning to Skinner, Desiree explained, "Fox and I had the nicest talk
when they first brought me in here. He's such a sweetie! He even went
out to the waiting room to see if they had any Glamour magazines for me
to look at. They didn't, but that was okay because he kept me company
so I wouldn't be bored. It's too bad Dana's blood sugar acted up."

"Yeah, that is too bad," Skinner shot Scully a knowing look. She
didn't even flinch, just gazed back at him coolly and he chuckled to
himself, admiring her nerves of steel.

Desiree pointed toward a stool near her bed. "You can come sit by me,
Fox. That way Dana can have the stool over there by Wally's bed."

Mulder didn't even manage half a step before Scully's hand was planted
firmly in the middle of his chest. "We're not staying that long,

"But ... "

"The orthopedist will be coming to see the A.D. soon and we'll have to
leave anyway."

"Yeah, but ... "

"And in the meantime, he needs peace and quiet, not a roomful of people
chattering about whatever it was you were talking about earlier."

"I was telling Fox which beaches around here are topless," Desiree
chimed in helpfully. "I like them the best because then I don't get
that yucky strap mark on my back when I tan."

Skinner swallowed audibly at the mere thought.

"I just spoke with Dr. Barnhurst," Scully continued crisply. "She
explained that the orthopedist on call was delayed in surgery but
expected to be here soon. I just wanted to keep you posted and to see
how you were feeling. Are you still having pain?"

"Yeah, some. But it's not too bad as long as I lay still."

"All right, then. We'll be in the waiting room if you need anything.
Come on, Mulder."

"But, Scully ... "

"Waiting room, Mulder. Now."

Skinner watched in amusement as Mulder squared his shoulders, drawing
himself up to his full height and glaring down at his diminutive

"Now," she snarled.

Mulder slumped in defeat and left the room without another word.

"Bye, Fox," Desiree called forlornly.


"Mr. Skinner? Miss Most? Hi, I'm Steve Wingate, the orthopedic
surgeon on call. Sorry to have kept you waiting so long."

"That's okay." Desiree flashed the new arrival one of her million watt
smiles. "Wally and I have been passing the time getting to know each
other and we're practically best friends now. Aren't we, Wally?"

"Wally" didn't answer. He was too busy staring at the behemoth in the
white lab coat who stood before him. The man must have gone to college
on a football scholarship because he was built like a linebacker; he
was six and a half feet tall, at least 300 pounds, most of it solid
muscle, with no neck to speak of and hands the size of dinner plates.
It was those hands that had captured Skinner's attention. They were
the most enormous hands he'd ever seen and Skinner had no problem
imaging them palming a basketball, tearing a phone book in half,
crushing a brick. What he couldn't imagine them doing was performing
his rectal exam. He bit back a whimper and tugged the sheet up under
his chin.

The doctor approached Desiree first and Skinner didn't know whether to
be grateful for the brief reprieve or not. He watched closely as Dr.
Wingate examined Desiree's broken wrist. Those enormous hands were
exceedingly gentle as they manipulated the delicate bones. Seeing the
care the doctor took made Skinner feel a little better, but not much.

"Well, young lady, you have a pretty nasty fracture here but nothing
that can't be fixed," Wingate announced. "Sit tight," he added as he
headed for the door. "I'm going to get something to numb that wrist.
I'll be right back."

True to his word, the doctor returned a moment later carrying a
syringe. He injected Desiree's wrist in several places. It had to
have hurt but she never made so much as a peep of protest. Skinner
found himself admiring her courage.

"There now," Wingate disposed of the syringe and settled Desiree's arm
back onto the pillow. "It's going to be a few minutes until that
medicine takes effect. In the meantime, I'm going to go examine your
friend over here. Then I'll be back to get you fixed up, okay?"

"Okay," Desiree treated the doctor to another of her dazzling smiles.
"But you be gentle with Wally," she admonished. "His poor butt is
really, really sore."

"I'll treat him with kid gloves," the doctor assured her, flashing
Skinner a grin over his shoulder. "I'm going pull the curtain so us
boys have a little privacy. No peeking, now!"

"Oh, I've already seen it," Desiree giggled.


Skinner clamped his lips together in horror. Had that undeniably girly
yelp actually come out of his mouth? How far had the sound carried?
Desiree had definitely heard it; she was calling out and asking him if
he was okay, but had it carried beyond the confines of the room? If
Mulder heard it, Skinner knew he'd never be able to hold his head up
inside the Hoover building again.

"Try to relax," Dr. Wingate advised, patting Skinner's hip with his
free hand. "That was just a little KY jelly. I know it was cold but
believe me; you'll appreciate it in a minute.
Now, just try to relax and this will be over in no time."

"Easy for you to say," the reluctant patient snarled in reply.

"Yeah, I guess so." The doctor's sympathetic voice held an
undercurrent of amusement.

Skinner had known he was in trouble when he'd seen the size of the
orthopedist, he'd known he was in big trouble when the doctor stuck his
head out of the door and called down the hall to the nurse's station,
"Hey, Marie, where are my gloves? There's nothing in here bigger than
a size large."

It turned out the hospital had to special order size XXL latex gloves
just for Dr. Wingate because the standard sizes didn't even come close
to fitting.

To Skinner's relief, the doctor was every bit as gentle and he'd been
with Desiree. Aside from intense embarrassment, the exam wasn't nearly
as bad as he'd expected.

"Does this hurt?"

"No," Skinner was amazed, but it was the truth.

"How about here?"


"And here?"

"Holy shit!!" Skinner howled and squeezed his eyes shut to hold back
tears of pain. "What the fuck was that?"

"Found your coccyx," the doctor replied, mildly. "Sorry."

Another few minutes of prodding by the doctor and muffled cursing by
the patient and the exam was over. Skinner wasted no time tugging his
gown and sheet back into place.

"That's it," he swore to himself. "That's the last person who's
touching my ass."

After disposing of his gloves and washing his hands, Wingate crouched
down by the side of the gurney and smiled at his now sullen patient.
"Sorry I had to put you through that but I really didn't have any
choice. The good news is you're going to be fine without any further
medical intervention."

"No surgery? No more poking and prodding?"

"Nope. The coccyx is displaced a little further forward than we like
to see but I don't think it's enough worth worrying about. You're from
out of town, right?"

Skinner nodded.

"We'll send a copies of your chart and your x-rays home with you. Go
see your family doctor in a couple weeks and have him get another x-ray
just to make sure it's healing properly. Other than that, just take it
easy and it should heal on its own in about six weeks. I'm going to
write you a scrip for some pain medication and I think Suzy Q already
told you about the special pillow, didn't she?"

"Suzy Q?"

"Oops." Wingate looked embarrassed. "Don't tell Dr. Barnhurst I said
that, would you? I have strict orders not to use pet names when we're
at work. She says it's not professional."

"You and Dr. Barnhurst, huh?"

"Married five years next week. She's a great gal, but if you squeal on
me, I'll be sleeping on the couch tonight so mum's the word."

"I should tell her just to get you back for that rectal exam,"
Skinner's tone was gruff, but he smiled as he said it.

"Hey, just doing my job. And it's not much fun being on this side of
the exam either, ya know?" Pushing himself to his feet, the doctor
grabbed Skinner's chart and scribbled a few notes on it. "Okay, we're
done. The hospital has a medical supply store that is open for another
hour or so. You can get the cushion you need there. Get it and use
it. Take it with you everywhere you go, no matter how ridiculous you
feel carrying it around, okay? If you don't, you'll regret it. Susan
will be in with your final discharge instructions in a few minutes and
then you are out of here."

"Great. And, uh, thanks. I guess."

"You're welcome." With that the gigantic doctor was gone, breezing
through the curtain and calling out to Desiree, "Okay, young lady,
let's get that wrist taken care of. Do you want a plain white cast or
do you want a colored one?"

"Do you have pink?"

"I think we do."

"Oh, good! Then I'll have pink! It'll match my outfit!"


"Mulder, what the hell are you watching?"


"May I ask why?"

Mulder turned to his partner with a quizzical expression. "What do you
mean why? I like cricket. I played cricket at Oxford. And I was
pretty damn good at, I'll have you know." He turned back to the game.

Next thing he knew, Scully was firmly planted between him and the
waiting room TV. Her hands were on her hips, she was tapping her foot
and she did not look pleased.

"What?" His tone was defensive, even though he didn't have a clue what
he'd done wrong.

"Mulder, why are you sitting here watching cricket when you're supposed
to be in the medical supply store buying A.D. Skinner's pillow? He's
signing his final discharge papers even as we speak. We're ready to
go, Mulder. And I want to go. I want to go back to the hotel, put on
my pajamas, order some room service and relax. But we can't leave
until you go get the damn pillow."

Mulder shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "I ... uh ... Scully, can't
you go get it?"

"Mulder, we discussed all this when Dr. Barnhurst came and told us
Skinner was being discharged. I was going to go to the pharmacy and
get his prescription filled and call the hotel and have them move you
and Skinner into a suite so you could keep an eye on him tonight. You
were supposed to help the A.D. get dressed and go get the pillow. Have
you done anything but sit here and watch cricket?"

"Hey, you were just in there with him! He's dressed, isn't he?"

"Yes, he is. Although you didn't tie his shoes, Mulder, and the last
thing he needs is to trip on a shoelace."

"He wouldn't let me tie them," Mulder protested. "He said, and I
quote: I'm 47 years old and I can tie my own goddamn shoes."

"Well, he couldn't and you should have known that. I had to do it.
And then I got stuck helping Miss Most," Scully's voice dripped
contempt as she said the name, "out of her roller blades and into a
pair of hospital slippers."

"Why didn't you come get me? I'd have helped her?"

"Mulder," Scully grabbed the front of his t-shirt and dragged him
forcibly from his chair. "Shut up and go get the damn pillow!"

"Okay, okay, I'm going." Mulder pried her fingers from his shirt.
"Leave me some chest hair, would you? God!"

What Scully didn't know was that he'd already been to the medical
supply store in search of the ridiculous pillow. They'd had exactly
one and it was mounted on a wall, clearly for display purposes only.
Mulder had quickly deduced that he'd have to ask for one and there was
no way on God's green earth he was approaching the motherly looking
woman behind the counter and requesting a Tush Cush. Sometimes, a
man's got to take a stand, and Mulder had concluded that this was one
of those times. If Skinner wanted his damn Tush Cush, he was going to
have to drag his sorry ass down the hall and buy it himself.

And yet, a mere twenty minutes later, Mulder found himself minus a few
chest hairs and making the long walk down the hall to buy the damn
thing. "You are so whipped," he muttered to himself as he rubbed his
chest. He stopped in the doorway and surveyed the small room. Okay.
Not bad. Only one other customer and she was on the far side of the
room. He could get in, get the damn pillow and get back out with a
minimum of embarrassment. He caught the eye of the woman behind the
counter and gave her a weak smile.

"Can I help you, young man?"

He shuffled up the counter, feeling for all the world like he was 17
years old and buying his first package of condoms at Doyle's Pharmacy
in Chilmark. "Uh, yeah, I need one of those." He gestured toward the
wall display.

The woman, who bore a shocking resemblance to his Great Aunt Sophie,
blue tinted hair and all, peered up at the wall. "You want a toilet
seat booster?"

"No!" Mulder felt a headache coming on. He grimaced and pinched the
bridge of his nose. "I want the other thing. The pillow."

"Oh, the Tush Cush!" Aunt Sophie, or whoever she was, beamed at him.
"Why didn't you just say so? I saw you skulking about in here earlier,
you know." She made a tsking noise at him. "You men! So embarrassed
over such silly things."

Mulder decided that if she pinched his cheek he'd pull out his Glock
and shoot her. Oh wait, he hadn't brought it. Damn. "Yeah, well ...
uh ... can you get one for me?"

"Of course I can. I just have to run back to the storeroom. Do you
want navy or black?"

Mulder stared at her blankly. Navy or black? How the hell was he
supposed to know? And why the hell did they even make it in more than
one color? Nobody was even going to see the damn thing because
Skinner's ass was going to be planted on it. But Aunt Sophie was
staring at him patiently and God forbid he should come back
empty-handed again. "Um, navy, I guess."

"What color is your chair?" the woman asked.

"My what?"

"Do you work at a desk?"

Mulder found himself growing more and more confused by the moment.
"Yeah, but what ..."

"What color is your desk chair? Most of them are black or gray so the
black Tush Cush might go better."

"No, um, you don't understand ... "

"Oh, nonsense. Of course I understand." She was beaming at him again.
"I've been working here for 20 years, honey. I've seen it all.
There's no need to be embarrassed. You had hemorrhoid surgery and you
need a special pillow for a few weeks. It happens to dozens of people
every day. There's no need to be embarrassed."

"Hemorrhoids?" Mulder silently cursed Skinner for putting him in this
position. "No, ma'am, really, this isn't for me," he protested.

But Aunt Sophie had already bustled off to the storeroom calling, "I'll
bring one of each color and you can decide!"

Mulder felt his burgeoning headache ratchet up another notch. He just
knew he was going to have a full-blown migraine before all was said and
done. Damn Skinner and his fucking bubble bath anyway!

Another patron entered the store. Oh great. Mulder glanced at his
watch and wondered what was keeping Aunt Sophie. The storeroom
couldn't be that big. Maybe she went back there and had a heart
attack. She had to have been 70; it wasn't inconceivable. Maybe he
should go check on her. Yet another person entered the store. Maybe
he should just say to hell with it and leave. But that would mean
having to face Scully. No. Better just wait it out. Mulder stuffed
his hands in his pockets and rocked back on his heels, craning his neck
to get a better look at the pillow that had become the bane of his
existence. "Forty-five bucks? Jesus!"

"It's worth every penny," a cheerful voice confided.

Mulder spun around to find one of the other customers, a pleasant
looking middle-aged woman, standing behind him. "What?"

"I overheard you commenting on the price," she explained. "I was just
saying that that pillow is worth every penny. I don't know what I'd
have done without it after my hemorrhoid surgery."

"I didn't ... "

"Here we are!" Aunt Sophie was back, waving a pillow in each hand.
"Now, let's take a look at this and see which one you like best!"

Mulder closed his eyes, took a deep breath and pictured his boss face
down in a tub full of Mr. Bubble, a box of chocolates clutched in his
cold, dead hand. "I'll take the black one," he ground out through
clenched teeth.


"I guess this is good-bye." Desiree pouted charmingly as she
approached Skinner's gurney. "Unless you want me to wait with you?"

"No, I'll be fine. And I'll probably be leaving myself in just a
minute. You need to get home and get that wrist propped up like the
doctor told you." Skinner reached out and grabbed her good right hand.
"It's been nice meeting you, Desiree." Much to his amazement, he
meant it. She'd proven to be endlessly entertaining and he was in awe
of the way she'd endured the setting and casting of her broken wrist
without batting an eye.

"It was nice getting to know you too, Wally. You take care of
yourself." She leaned over the bedrail and planted a kiss on the top
of his head. Hoisting her roller blades in her uninjured hand she left
the room, pausing in the doorway to blow him a kiss.

Skinner sank back onto the bed with a sigh. Was it possible he was
actually going to miss her? Yeah, he was, he decided with a smile.

"Got your pillow." Mulder appeared in the doorway, the infamous Tush
Cush in his hand and a frown on his face. "What do you look so happy

"I just said good-bye to Desiree. Sweet girl."

"A sweet girl who wears a lot of lipstick." Mulder pointed at the
A.D.'s head.

Skinner swiped a hand across his scalp and his fingers came back
smeared with pink. "Oh, yeah, she kissed me good-bye."

"I kind of figured," Mulder said dryly. "Scully just called for the
car. You ready to go?"

"More than ready. Let's get the hell out of here."


"Whoever invented this thing was a genius!" Skinner shifted his butt
carefully, settling deeper into the Tush Cush, and heaved a sigh of

It had been a slow and arduous journey out of the ER and into the limo,
but with Mulder's assistance, he'd made it and they were finally on
their way back to the hotel.

"Glad you like it." Mulder sat opposite him, wearing an expression
that could only be described as petulant. "You owe me $45, by the

"I don't have any money with me, Mulder. Remind me when we get back to
the hotel."

Mulder nodded, less than graciously, leaned his head against the
seatback and closed his eyes.

Skinner raised a questioning eyebrow at Scully.

"Don't mind him, sir. He's just out of sorts because everyone in the
medical supply shop thought he was buying it for his hemorrhoids. One
of the other customers gave him all sorts of helpful tips about ice
packs and sitz baths."

Mulder groaned, without opening his eyes, and curled himself into a
corner of the seat facing away from the others. "Can we PLEASE not
talk about hemorrhoids for the rest of the night?"

They fell into an uncomfortable silence, broken only by the hum of the
tires and the sound of the chauffeur's radio, faintly audible through
the dividing glass. Mulder nearly jumped out of his skin when Skinner
suddenly sat bolt upright and bellowed, "Stop the car!"

"What? Sir, what is it?" Scully was all over Skinner in an instant.
"Are you sick? What's wrong?"

"Nothing," he snapped impatiently. "I'm fine. Just stop the car!"

Mulder fumbled with the phone that allowed them to contact the driver
and a moment later the big car slid to a stop at the curb. They'd
barely stopped moving before Skinner threw open his door and shouted,
"Desiree!" at the top of his lungs.

Mulder perked up immediately, sitting up and straining to see past his
partner. Scully, on the other hand, slumped back in her seat with a
disgusted sigh.

Skinner leaned out the door as far as his aching backside would allow,
waved his arm and called out again. "Desiree! Over here!"

Her squeal of "Wally!" carried easily over the traffic noise and a
moment later she was there, leaning into the vehicle and flashing them
a brilliant smile. "Wow! Cool car!"

"What are you doing walking around out there?" Skinner's voice was
gruff and concerned.

"Walking to the bus stop," Desiree replied, her nose wrinkling adorably
in confusion. "I missed the bus that stops right in front of the
hospital and I figured it would be quicker just to walk to the next

"You've got no business walking around out there after dark."

"But I don't have enough money with me for a cab," she protested. "And
I have to get home. I walk at night all the time. It's fine. I have
my pepper spray. See?" She dangled the canister, which hung from her
key chain, in front of his face.

"Pepper spray." Skinner rolled his eyes toward the heavens. "She's
got her pepper spray." He reached out, grabbed her uninjured wrist and
gave a tug. "Get in here," he growled.

"No, Wally, I'm fine. Really. The bus stop is only a block away and I
live in the opposite direction. I don't want to be a bother."

"GET. IN. HERE." It was his best "I'm an ex-marine and I'm in charge
of 18,000 FBI agents and you will damn well listen to me" voice.

Desiree obeyed, clambering over legs, almost falling in Scully's lap
and finally settling herself next to Skinner with a happy little
bounce. "Wow! This is really cool! I've never been in a limo before!
Hi, Fox. Hi, Dana. Thanks for picking me up! Hey, is that a TV?!"


The car coasted to a stop in front of a small, slightly dingy apartment
building. "This is it! Thanks so much you guys!" Desiree reached for
the door handle and jumped, startled, as it swung open seemingly on
it's own. She giggled and blushed when the driver bent down and
offered her his hand. "Wow, thanks! Just a minute, okay?"

The drive nodded and moved back a step.

"You guys have been so nice to me!" Desiree looked like she might
actually burst into tears. "Thank you so much, all of you!"

"You're very welcome," Mulder hastened to reply. "And if you ever get
to D.C. ..." He broke off with a squeak as Scully's elbow made contact
with his solar plexus.

"Oh, sorry, Mulder." She favored him with a sweet smile. "I as just
trying to get some gum out of my pocket."

Mulder, struggling to suck in air, could only glare at her and clutch
his stomach.

"Anyway, I don't want to hold you up, so thanks again." Desiree slid
across the seat and planted a smacking kiss on Skinner's cheek. "I'm
going to miss you, Wally. If you ever come to L.A. again, you call me,

"I'll do that," he promised. "But I don't have your number."

"Oh! No you don't! And I don't have a pen, darn it!" Desiree was
positively bereft. "Does anyone have a pen?"

Scully was the first to locate one, tucked in one of the car's many
consoles. She handed it over silently and responded to Desiree's
gushing thanks with a tight-lipped smile.

Uncapping the pen with her teeth, Desiree leaned over and carefully
printed the numbers in the palm of Skinner's left hand. "There! Now
don't lose that!" With one last round of effusive thanks, Desiree
allowed the driver to assist her out of the car and bounced up the walk
to her apartment

Skinner craned around to watch out the back window as they drove away.
Desiree stood on her doorstep and waved until the limo rounded a
corner. When he turned back and carefully settled himself into his
seat cushion, he noticed both X-Files agents staring at him. Scully's
expression was a mixture of amusement and disapproval. Mulder's
expression was harder to read. He wasn't staring at Skinner's face,
but at his left hand.

Skinner curled the hand into a loose fist and leaned back with a
self-satisfied smile on his face.


16 Months Later:

Walter Skinner sank back into the steaming water and popped another
chocolate into his mouth. "I could get used to this," he said with a

"Me too," Desiree purred, drawing circles in the bubbles that laced
across his chest. "Thanks for inviting me to the premiere. And thanks
for my beautiful dress."

"You're welcome. And thanks for going with me. More champagne?"

"Yes, please."

Skinner groped for the bottle and found it empty. Damn. Thank God
he'd thought to order a second bottle. "Be right back." He dropped a
kiss onto the tip of Desiree's nose and pushed himself up and out of
the tub.

"Be careful," Desiree admonished, watching his progress across the room
with undisguised admiration. "You know what happened last time."

"Yeah, I know." Grabbing the bottle of Cristal from the ice bucket,
Skinner made his way back into the bathroom, dodging their discarded
clothing as he went. "But if I hadn't fallen in the tub and fractured
my coccyx, we never would have met."

"I know. But I have plans for your butt tonight so be careful."

"I'm an old man, Des. I think you might have worn me out earlier."
Skinner grinned at her as he wrestled with the cork. "A-Ha!" The cork
flew and the champagne foamed out, covering his hands and dripping onto
his bare feet.

"Hurray!" Desiree returned his grin and clapped enthusiastically.

Skinner, fascinated by the way the motion made her breasts quiver,
forgot that he was standing in a puddle of champagne. Bottle in hand,
he slung one leg over the edge of the tub and ... "Oh, shit!"

"Oh, Wally! Are you okay, sweetie? Don't move! I'll call 911!"

The End