TITLE: Chicago Redeemed
SUMMARY: Skinner is stuck in Chicago for Thanksgiving. A chance meeting with John Carter leads to dinner, conversation, eventually a kiss - and promises of more?
AUTHOR'S NOTES: I got tired of waiting for some good John Carter slash, and there's never enough Skinner fic to suit me.
SPECIAL THANKS: To KiMeriKal and ewade for their wonderful beta reading and friendship.
Walter Skinner hated Chicago. He hadn't always felt that way, but since last year when he'd committed Mulder and almost gotten the man killed, he'd come to really hate the city. He pulled his long, dark coat tighter around him as the cold wind blowing off the lake tunneled through the streets. It was also the coldest fucking city on the planet in the winter. And the hottest in the summer. Basically the place had nothing to recommend it.
To make matters worse, it was the day before Thanksgiving and he was stuck here. Not that he had anything in particular back in D.C. to return to, but at least he could have watched football on his own couch in his own living room drinking a cold beer.
Instead he would spend the night in a hotel, and spend Thanksgiving day alone in the same hotel.
He'd had a four o'clock meeting today and an eight o'clock meeting was scheduled for Friday morning. The SAC in the Chicago office had fucked up, and it was not only ruining his holiday it was ruining Skinner's. Skinner gritted his teeth and pulled open the door to the hotel. He would really have to work hard to not let these facts influence his decision on what to do with SAC Wilson.
The restaurant was packed and the wait for a table more than a hour. Would he like to wait in the bar? No, he fucking wouldn't, Skinner thought, but he didn't have much of a choice.
He walked into the bar and was confronted with another crowded room. Didn't anyone in Chicago stay with their families for the holiday? There was a single seat at the bar. Skinner made a beeline for it, his glare daring anyone to try to take the seat before him.
The bartender seemed a little startled at his look, dropping a napkin on the wood in front of him.
"What can I get you?"
"Single malt, neat," Walter responded.
The man nodded and within seconds a glass of amber liquid appeared in front of him. Walter took a sip and felt the heat of the scotch at the back of his throat. For the first time in hours he almost smiled. He nodded and the bartender retreated quickly.
Walter rolled his head, cracking the vertebrae in his neck, feeling some of the tension of the day recede. A woman's voice invaded his senses and Walter glanced up to see an older woman facing the young man who sat at the bar next to him. She had the regal look of someone born to money and station. Walter had seen versions of this woman hundreds of times in D.C. All he could see of the young man next to him was a nice suit coat over a slender body, shaggy dark hair, and the side of his face half-covered with a beard.
"Are you so poor now you can't afford a razor?" she was saying.
Walter saw the tension stiffen the young man's shoulders. "It's just a beard, Gamma."
"I don't like it."
"You've made that perfectly clear," he replied. He fiddled with his glass and then turned his head slightly back to the woman. "Chase is going to be at your house for Thanksgiving dinner. I'd like to come."
There was a flash of emotion across the woman's face. Walter found himself paying more attention. He couldn't quite read what it was. Pity? Anger? Maybe a mix of both.
"That's not a good idea, John," she said. If there was any pity in her, it wasn't coming through her words. Her voice was cool, controlled.
"I could help with him. He needs help eating. I know how to do that," his voice had an edge to it. He was pleading.
"He has an assistant. We don't need you." The words were final.
Skinner watched as the back of the man became rigid. He was steeling himself. "I'd like to see him."
The woman began to gather her things. "Your grandfather has made it clear, John. He doesn't want you around Chase. His parents will be there, and you know how they feel about you." She stood and laid a bill on the bar next to her unfinished drink. "I don't think I should stay for dinner." Then she was gone, disappearing into the crowd toward the door.
Skinner watched as the man turned away from her seat and faced the bar. Then he sat up straight, and began to search for his wallet. He threw back his left elbow to open his jacket and reach into the inside pocket and nailed Walter's right arm. What was left of the single malt anointed Walter's tie.
"Oh, shit!" The man realized he'd bumped someone and turned to Walter. He grabbed napkins from the bar and began to clumsily blot the liquid from Walter's tie. "I'm sorry. Shit. I didn't realize I was that close to anyone."
Walter looked down at his favorite tie and thought briefly that this was just the fucking capper.
Then he looked at the man. He was young, mid-twenties maybe. The beard had probably been grown to make himself look older. He face was thin, with a long sharp nose and soft brown eyes.
The shaggy hair hung over his forehead as he futilely mopped at Walter's soaked necktie.
Walter reached out and grabbed the man's hand. The eyes immediately looked frightened and Walter realized that his wide hand dwarfed the slender hand that held the napkins.
"It's okay," he said. "You can stop that." The eyes widened a bit. "Please," Walter added as an afterthought.
"Let me buy you another drink."
Walter nodded. The young man signaled the bartender and asked for a second of whatever Walter had just had. The bartender placed a second glass of single malt neat on the bar in front of him.
"I'll pay to clean your tie and your suit if need be," John said.
"It's fine. Don't worry about it," Walter responded.
The man pulled a pen out of his pocket and began to write on a dry napkin. "This is my name and my home number and my work number. Call me and let me know where to send you the money."
He handed the napkin to Walter.
John Carter. Two numbers. The second one noted as being the emergency room of Cook County General. "Doctor?" Walter asked.
"Resident. Second year," John answered.
A voice called from the doorway, "Table for Carter."
"Oh, shit." John rubbed his face. He found a bill in his wallet and laid it on the bar and stood.
Then he turned to Walter. "Were you waiting for a table by any chance?"
Walter nodded. "Yes."
"You can have mine, if you want."
Walter's stomach rumbled in response to the idea of actually getting to eat now. It was almost eight. By the time his table was called it would be close to nine. "You've got a table for two?"
"Oh, I wasn't going to stay. I mean, I just thought if you were waiting...." he stammered to a stop.
"Table for Carter," the voice called out again.
"You've got to eat," Walter said. He took the man's arm in one hand, then raised his other hand toward the young woman calling the table. She acknowledged him. Picking up his glass he pulled John along with him.
John Carter turned out to be good dinner company. He asked very few questions, accepted the answers he was given and talked avidly, almost continuously, about his work in the emergency room. He was slightly less self-absorbed than Mulder, but there was a definite similarity in their ability to speak almost non-stop on the topics that fascinated them. Walter found himself smiling in amusement, and thankful that he had a strong stomach, as the doctor described in detail some of the more interesting cases he'd handled.
"I had a twelve-year-old pull a gun on me once," he said. Then he was silent. "The twelve-year-old he'd shot had just died and he walks into the room holding a handgun. He pointed it at me and asked what was happening with the kid on the table. I told him he'd just died.
Then he backs out of the room and leaves. It was crazy." He was silent again. His eyes were distant.
Walter watched him. "You see a lot of gangbangers where you work?"
John came back to the conversation, looked at Walter and nodded. "Yeah.
Yeah." He went back to his food.
The dinner had been good and Walter was feeling relaxed. He enjoyed the company. Over the years he'd gotten used to eating alone. Having dinner with John Carter was a little like watching television as he ate. He didn't have to respond or be involved, and he got non-stop entertainment.
"God, I've done all the talking," John said suddenly.
Walter shrugged. "That's fine. It's been interesting."
"You said you're in Chicago on business. What do you do?"
Walter signaled their waiter to bring the check. "I'm in law enforcement."
"You're a cop?"
The waiter came to the table and Walter handed him his credit card. John reached for his wallet and Walter motioned for him to stop. "I didn't have to have dinner alone," he said, "And I was regaled with stories of the ER. It's on me."
John shook his head. "I can't let you do that. I ruined your tie."
"Residents don't make that much."
"Neither do cops."
"You can buy me dinner some day when you're making more."
Walter watched as John decided to acquiesce. He put his wallet back in his jacket. "Why don't you come up and have a drink with me?" Walter was almost as surprised as John Carter was when he heard the words come out of his mouth. What the hell, he thought. The kid was nice and it took his mind off the moron in the Chicago office whom he was probably going to have to demote and/or suspend. "You'll be doing me a favor. One drink, I'll be ready to sleep and I won't be tempted to watch informercials and buy useless shit because I'm bored."
John Carter laughed. "Okay. Sure."
The ride up in the elevator had been short and quiet. It might have been because of the other people in the small space. Maybe neither felt the need to talk. Either way they found themselves in Walter's room with the door closed behind them and a silence that was suddenly deafening.
Walter excused himself and went into the bathroom.
He stood in front of the sink and looked at himself in the mirror. He felt nervous. The kind of nervous that goes with being sixteen and having a first date on the other side of the door. Where the hell had that come from? He was going to have a drink with a young doctor. A very young doctor his mind reminded him. A very young, very attractive young doctor who had that quality of openness and naivety that he found so appealing in people. Particularly people he had a sexual interest in, but those people had tended, in his life, to be of the female persuasion. Almost exclusively. Almost.
Walter shook his head. There had been a very confused period of his life when he'd experimented with everything. He smiled remembering how he'd told Mulder part of the story. Yeah, he'd inhaled. But his experimentation hadn't been limited to drugs. After all, it was the seventies. A time when everyone was fucking everyone. A time when not being willing to experiment labeled you as being uptight. God knows, Walter Skinner had not been uptight when he'd returned stateside. His first year back, in college, trying to fit in and figure out what he still believed in had been a time of sex, drugs and rock n' roll. John Carter with his shaggy hair, beard and idealism reminded him of being young.
Walter flushed the toilet, washed his hands and walked back out into the room.
John stood at the windows looking out over the night-bound city. He turned around when he heard Walter return. "You can see the lake from up here."
"It's a nice view." Walter opened the mini-bar and found a small bottle of scotch. "What's your pleasure, John?"
"How 'bout a beer?"
Walter found a Heineken in the refrigerator and held it up. John nodded. Walter opened the beer and handed it to him, then poured the scotch into one of the glasses on the dresser.
"Nothing like a six dollar glass of scotch," Walter said chuckling.
"Six? That's cheap for these places. I've seen them charge that much for a bottle of Bud."
They both laughed.
Walter took a sip of the scotch and let it burn its way down to his dinner.
John sat down in one of the chairs and Walter dropped onto the end of the bed. "You never said exactly what kind of cop you are," John said.
Walter reached over and pulled his ID out of his coat which lay across the bed. He tossed it to John.
John opened the leather bifold and his eyes grew large with surprise.
"Assistant Director. Shit. You're an assistant director at the FBI."
"You carry a gun?"
Walter reached under his suit coat and pulled his gun out of the holster at his waist. He laid it on the bed next to him.
"Are you here on a case? Or whatever the hell you call them."
Walter shook his head. "No. Administrative matter. I'm straightening out a problem in the Chicago office. I don't go into the field much any more. I mostly push paper."
"But you did. You were an agent."
"Have you ever killed anyone?"
Walter nodded. He hoped this wasn't going to degenerate into one of those, tell me about killing someone kinds of talks. He had those with women he'd dated and it bored him to fucking tears.
"So have I."
Walter's eyes widened with shock. That was definitely not what he'd expected to hear.
"I fucked up with a patient. Well, actually I've done it twice. They both died. It was my fault. I killed them."
Walter watched John closely. He took a deep breath and sighed. "Of course, I didn't mean to kill the people I killed. Did you mean to kill?"
Walter rolled the glass between his hands. It felt cool against his skin.
There was a long silence in the room. Walter drank the last of the scotch in his glass and set it on the floor. John hadn't moved. He still held the ID in his hands, leaning forward in the chair, his elbows resting on top of his knees.
John closed the ID and set it on the table next to him. He stood up and started for the door.
"I'm sorry. I overheard your conversation earlier."
John stopped at the door. He didn't turn around but he answered quietly. "He's my cousin. He had a drug problem. He asked me to help him kick it. I did. Couple of days later he went out and got high again. The stuff was almost pure. They brought him in to the ER and I revived him but...." John stopped. He was silent for what seemed like to Walter several minutes. "He has brain damage. He can't talk, can't walk, can't do anything for himself."
"And they blame you."
John didn't respond. He turned around and looked at Walter. He shrugged.
"They think you should have told them, not detoxed him by yourself."
The nod was barely there.
"You were protecting him."
"Yeah. Did a bang-up job, didn't I?"
"It's not your fault that he wasn't really ready to stop. You helped him get clean. You did what you could."
"But if he'd been in a center, a hospital somewhere, he wouldn't have gotten his hands on that particular batch of heroin."
"So he'd have done it later. Somewhere else with a different drug. And you wouldn't have been there to revive him."
"I should have let him die."
The words hung in the air between them. Walter almost thought he could see them. John's face behind the words seemed much older. There were lines around his eyes, perhaps from holding back tears. Walter couldn't tell from where he was sitting.
He stood and walked to the man and put his arms around him. He pulled him close to his chest and whispered into his ear. "You loved him. You did everything you could. He wanted to live because he came back for you. That he is suffering now is not your fault. It is his. It is only his.
You gave him every chance and he fucked up. Just as you accept responsibility for the patients you killed, he must accept responsibility for destroying his life. But you don't take that on. It's not your fault."
John's body was rigid against him. Walter laid one large hand against the back of his head, tangling his fingers in the soft hair. "You can't save people who don't want to be saved, John Carter."
John's arms encircled Walter's chest gently. The young doctor's body relaxed and his head rested against Walter's shoulder. They stood holding each other for a long time. When John finally began to pull away, Walter immediately missed the warmth of the slender body.
They stood, Walter's hands on John's shoulders, their faces inches apart. Walter leaned forward and kissed John's forehead. A rosy flush rose up John's neck and face. Walter stepped away.
"I didn't mean to embarrass you," he said softly.
John pulled his overcoat closed over his body. He shifted uncomfortably.
"Are you all right?" Walter asked.
John nodded, his head bobbing in short quick moves. He started for the door, then stopped and turned around. "Could I use your bathroom?"
Walter gestured toward it. "Of course."
John stood for a moment and then took a step, then stopped. Walter took a step toward him.
The flush in John's face now became a full-fledged blush. He was rapidly become the color of cherries. Cherry, thought Walter, his mind flitting through a series of images that had nothing to do with the fruit and everything to do with his attraction to the man standing in front of him.
Then he realized that John was clutching his overcoat tightly in front. The original blush hadn't been from embarrassment.
"It's okay," Walter said softly.
John looked like a deer caught in the headlights.
"This has never happened to you before?"
John cleared his throat. In a moment he whispered. "Not with...." He nodded toward Walter.
Walter smiled. "It's the alcohol, the talk. You're feeling vulnerable. Your family turned you away and an authority figure was nice to you. It doesn't mean anything."
John nodded. Then he shook his head. "No, I don't think that's right. I mean...." He stopped again. He looked at Walter. "I've had authority figures be nice and I've never had this reaction."
Walter started to laugh, loudly, which only increased the distress of John Carter. He was shifting now from foot to foot, but otherwise not moving. Both hands keeping a tight grip on the front of his coat right at crotch level.
"Then we'll put it down to my special charm," Walter said.
"I'm really sorry about this," John said.
"Don't be." Walter sat back down on the bed. John continued to stand between the door and the bathroom. "I'm flattered," Walter said.
John looked at him. "Have you...do you....shit."
"Yes, I have. Not recently. I was married to a woman," Walter said. He watched as this information sank in.
"Are you....I mean, is this completely weird?" John asked.
John processed that answer for a moment. Then he took a deep breath.
"Could I ask you a question?"
"Are you attracted to me like that?"
Some of the color seemed to drain from John's face. Then the blush came back with a vengeance. John was so deeply red that Walter began to worry about his health, or at least his ability to remain conscious. When he finally spoke his voice was so soft Walter had to lean forward to hear him. "Would you kiss me?"
Walter nodded. He got up and walked to where John stood. He took the doctor's face between his hands and held it gently. Then he leaned forward and pressed his mouth against John's. The doctor's lips were very soft. He opened his mouth and Walter tasted him. John remained passive, letting Walter take the lead. His only participation really being the parting of his lips so that Walter had access to the flavors inside. Walter pulled away. John's eyes were closed and he seemed to be concentrating very hard on the feel of everything. "Do you want me to stop?"
Walter reached down and eased his hand inside the coat past John's death grip. When he touched the hardness beneath the dress pants, John pulled away. Walter kept his hand against John's erection, not rubbing or stroking, but keeping the contact firmly made.
"I won't do anything you don't want to do," Walter said.
"Isn't that one of those sayings like the check's in the mail or...." John gasped as Walter ran his fingers up the length of his erection, making the barest contact with the fabric that covered it.
"No," Walter said. "It's not."
Walter kissed him again and this time John kissed back, tentatively but still a participation in the act.
"I don't work until Friday," Walter said.
John was breathing noisily. "Same," he whispered.
"Would you like to spend Thanksgiving here? With me?"
There was a barely perceptible nod. Walter felt John's beard against his cheek. He nuzzled the side of the doctor's face, enjoying the softness. He traced the shape of John's ear with his tongue and felt the man's body shiver in his arms.
"Good." It appeared that Chicago was about to redeem itself.