Spoons [X-Files/The Lone Gunmen]

Jimmy, to his eternal credit, was quiet the whole way home. He didn't turn on the radio to the nearest obnoxious '80s station or try to strike up some conversation about football. Even when the car made an unusually sharp turn and Byers actually came out of the fog of his own thoughts long enough to notice that they'd inadvertantly wound up somewhere in the middle of nowhere, Jimmy didn't even offer up an apology.

This was why he didn't like it when Langley and Frohicke ragged on the boy. Dumb as a post though he could be at times, James 'Jimmy' Bond was actually a lot smarter than most people gave him credit for being.

John Fitzgerald Byers, on the other hand, was a complete idiot. At least, that's how he felt, sitting there in the passenger seat of Jimmy's car, one cheek still warm from being slapped, the other pressed against the window of the passenger door, just a thin pane of glass away from the rain. His hair had mostly dried by now, especially his beard -- he'd always felt there was very little in the world less comfortable than a wet beard -- but his clothes still clung to him, damp, and he shivered. Without comment, Jimmy reached for the temperature controls and turned up the heater. Like Byers said, smarter than most people give him credit for being.

The office was quiet when they got back, when the LED clock over the main workstation told him it was a little after 1:30. Frohicke wasn't much of a night owl, but the muted tapping and soft blue glow from behind Langley's door was hardly a surprise; only the gods of heavy sedation could convince Langley to bed before 3:00 AM, and even that was a stretch. Byers slid shut the door to the partition walls that kept their living quarters divided and began to unfasten his tie.

He was tired, bone-tired, even more so than after the first time he'd arrived home after being driven away from the prison. It seemed an effort almost unworth making to undo the knots in the silk enough that he could pull it from his neck, and the only thing that kept him from walking over and falling asleep in his clothes was how miserable the dampness made him feel. Dry clothes, then sleep, he told himself. Both would make him feel better in the morning. Maybe not a lot better, but a little, and that was enough of a goal for now.

He was, of course, accustomed to failure. More than that, he'd grown to expect it, after working so long trying to dig up secrets that so badly didn't want to be uncovered. In this business, a 5% success rate was evidence of a string of unnaturally good luck. You won some, you lost some, and you lost way more than you won, so there was no use crying over that. If he were a betting man, he wouldn't bet on himself.

That didn't mean it an old lady's hand didn't sting.

He didn't even bother to hang his clothes or to throw them in the hamper, just left them where they fell on the floor, then stood naked for a moment before his dresser, fighting the exhaustion that made this entire decision-making process too difficult. Finally, he mustered his brain in gear enough to remember which drawer held his pajamas, and rummaged through to the bottom until he uncovered a grey flannel pair he'd had since he was in college, at least. They were threadbare and stained unidentifiably in most places, and had seen better days in the way most houses slated for demolition had, but they were comfortable and familiar, and almost as soon as he pulled them on he stopped shivering.

He'd gotten into his bed and pulled the covers around him before he noticed that he'd left the overhead light on. On any other night, no matter how near sleep, he would have forced himself the five feet to the lightswitch; tonight, though, he couldn't even summon the effort. Instead, he turned on his side toward the wall, away from the light, and shut his eyes. His tongue worried a small ridge inside his lower lip, where Lowry's fist had mashed soft, wet skin against teeth hard enough to cut. He figured the scar was permanent, though it hardly mattered. It wasn't like anyone else spent time inside his mouth anyway.

As a child, he'd had a particularly nervous disposition, something his mother had fretted over but his father had assured her was a fine trait for a budding career bureaucrat. Regardless of how fit it made him for civil service, he could still remember long nights spent staring at the backs of his eyelids, willing the wheels of his mind to grind slower long enough to let him go to sleep. Curled on his side, knees tucked in toward his stomach, he felt eight years old again, like the time he'd spent half the night worrying about what would happen if a volcano suddenly appeared from out of nowhere and buried their town like Vesuvius buried Pompeii, or the time he'd stayed up all night pondering the mechanics of surviving a bout of nuclear annihilation that killed off everyone else in the world, or the time he'd actually had to go get up and bother his sleeping parents to ask if he appeared to die in his sleep, what measures would be taken to make sure that he wasn't buried alive. It was the little things.

He nearly jumped out of his skin when the partition door slid open and the light clicked off. He turned and saw a broad silhouette against the soft light from the kitchen, leaning against his doorway. "Hey," said Jimmy, soft enough barely to carry. "I didn't ... I mean ... I couldn't either."

Byers said, "Oh," because he couldn't think of what else to say.

It turned out it didn't matter, though, because Jimmy stepped into the room and shut the door behind him. In the dark, Byers could hear him as he padded over, then felt the mattress sag as Jimmy sat on the edge. Without further discussion, Jimmy slipped his legs under the covers, then turned himself on his side like Byers, facing the wall, taking up most of the twin bed. He drew close enough to Byers that his forehead touched the back of Byers' head, then dropped an arm over Byers' waist, warm and heavy. Byers could feel Jimmy's deep, heavy heartbeat. Little spoon, big spoon.

There were a thousand reasons to protest this situation, running the gamut from questions of supervisor-intern propriety to considerations of the genders of participants to the basic truth of I can't remember the last time anything even remotely like this happened to me. But Jimmy's breathing was a slow, steady rhythm against Byers' back, and if there were any real protests, very shortly Byers was too asleep to make them.

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