Deslea R. Judd
DISCLAIMER: Characters not mine. Interpretation mine.
ARCHIVE: Sure, just keep my name and headers.
SPOILERS/TIMEFRAME: Post-series, post-col, DeadAlive/Existence tie-in.
CATEGORY/KEYWORDS: Skinner, Marita, shades of Krycek/Marita.
SUMMARY: Skinner, serving time, has a visitor.
DEDICATION: For KristenK2. Happy birthday! *smooch*
MORE FIC: http://fiction.deslea.com
FEEDBACK: Love the stuff. firstname.lastname@example.org
AWARDS/ELIGIBILITY: Spooky Awards 2003 eligible.
Walter Skinner is a meticulous man.
It is not a trait that has stood him well in prison. It has made him a target of sorts. Still, he guards it as something that sets him apart from the other inmates. A statement that he is not like them.
It helps that he can hold his own in a fight. He was in pretty good shape for a man in his fifties even before the war, and the war and its aftermath brought him back up to peak form. He hasn't been this fit in years.
But the war is over, and the trials are in full swing. The machine that is the Nine Day War Tribunal has kicked into high gear, and no one is above enquiry. Practically everyone he knows is serving time for something or other. He may be a convict, but he is, at least, in esteemed company.
Before colonisation, he suspects their transgressions and omissions would have been ignored. After all, they were the good guys, not war criminals. Even the prosecutors admitted that. But the populace has a horror of the coverups that allowed the war to happen in the first place, and backroom dealing has been all but eradicated - at least for now. Skinner has no doubt that it will emerge once again in the fullness of time. Human nature is predictable that way.
He gets to his feet. Stretches a little. Precise. Cat-like. Funny how he was never aware of how he carried himself until he came here. But now, he contrasts himself with his fellow inmates, and he likes what he sees. He likes knowing that he isn't like them.
Not that his visitor shares that view, he supposes. He has not forgotten their last meeting. It was ugly. But she sounded calm, if a little strained on the telephone. He tells himself to give her the benefit of the doubt. Not to borrow trouble before it arrives.
He turns. Ignores the guard completely, and greets the woman standing in the doorway. She's older now, and her fine blonde hair is fading, but she's still beautiful.
She motions with her head to the door. Says without preamble, "The guards said we could walk outside if you like. Do you mind?"
She hasn't been out of prison that long herself, he remembers. "Not at all."
He follows her out into an enclosed courtyard. Out past the fence, he can see the other yard. Inmates mingling. Roughing each other up. Trading cigarettes. The usual.
She shuffles her feet on the sandy ground, then drops down onto the wooden bench in silence.
"I heard you served time," he says at last. "How long?"
A nerve flickers in her cheek. "Just a year. Virginia State Penitentiary, class of 2014."
"What did they get you for?"
"Criminal negligence. They tried to get me on war profiteering, but that fell through. They decided that for the purposes of war crimes, it didn't start until El Rico, and I was off the payroll by then."
He nods. "How's Alexandra?"
"She's good. She's cut her hair off and dyed it brown. She looks like Alex now. I keep thinking I'm going to hear his voice coming out of her mouth."
He winces. "Marita-"
"Smoke?" she says, pulling out a crumpled packet of them.
He sighs. "Sure." Drops down beside her and takes one. Fucking menthols. He takes the lighter she offers and lights up.
"She didn't want me to come and see you," she says. "She's still angry."
She shrugs. "It would have happened anyway. Alex was going to keep on fighting until it was over or until he died. And he wasn't going to make it. You could see it. He was losing hold. Losing hope." That nerve in her cheek flickers again, and she takes a long drag on her cigarette.
"That's not the tune you were singing at the trial."
"I'd only just found out. Only just seen the tape. What do you expect?"
He thinks on this. "Why are you here then?"
"I felt bad about how we left things at the sentencing. I wasn't kind to you."
"That's one way of putting it, yeah."
"You deserved it. My daughter doesn't have a father, and you pulled the trigger." She pitches her cigarette out onto the brown, withered grass. "But I wanted you to know I understand why you did it."
"No, you don't."
"Yeah, I do. I really do." She holds his gaze. "You knew that if he wanted you to kill Mulder, he had good reason. Or thought he did. And you were tempted. You hated yourself for it, but you thought about it, even though Mulder was your friend, because deep down you were scared he was right. You were afraid he'd talk you into it."
He stares at her. She got it. And somehow, the horror of it, the shame he's held onto all these years, doesn't seem so bad in the light of day.
"How do you know that?"
"I know what it is to know what has to be done, and not be able to do it."
"Alexandra?" he says. Thinks of a long-ago command to kill an infant. Thinks about Krycek and Mulder and what it must be like to know your own child could bring about the destruction of the world.
She ignores the question. "Alex died in the name of friendship," she says. "Not of revenge. That makes it easier. Not much, but a little."
"It was a waste," he says abruptly. "It doesn't take much to make a man turn bad, you know." He nods towards the inmates across the yard for emphasis. "All it takes is the right set of levers. It could have been different for all of us."
She gives a sour laugh. "You've mellowed, Walter."
"It's easy from a distance. Not so easy up close."
"Yeah." She gets to her feet. "I should go. Alexandra's waiting in the car."
"Tell her I'm sorry when she's ready to hear it, okay?"
"I will." He picks up her cigarettes and hands them towards her, but she shakes her head. "Smoke them, or trade them. I should quit, anyway."
"All right." He gets to his feet. "Thanks for coming. And for the smokes." He holds out his hand.
That nerve in her cheek jumps, and for a long moment, he doesn't think she'll shake with him, but she does. "Goodbye, Walter."
"Bye." He listens to the fading sound of her tapping heels.
He stands there until the guard pokes his head out and asks if he's gonna stand there all day.
"Can I have a smoke before I go back?" he says, holding up the packet.
The guy takes two and pockets them, and says sure. Skinner isn't surprised. Human nature is predictable that way.
He sits there smoking, watching the inmates across the yard, and thinks maybe he's not all that different after all.