Cracked (2/6)
Author: Sue
Rating: PG-13
Category: Gunfic/Langly/Other
Spoilers: Three of A Kind. Teensie
brush with 'Like Water For Octane.'
Summary: So... What did 'Blondie' get up
to between the time he breezed off with
Jimmy and Timmy, to catch the floor show
that went along with 'the all you can eat
lobster,' before Scully arrived?
Disclaimer: All X-Files characters and
references are property of C. Carter,
Morgan & Wong, 10-13 Productions and FOX.


"Surprised, Richie?"

'Richie'...the nickname floats in the air as
fond memories click firmly into place.

I unhunch my rounded shoulders as though a
remote controls them, and I look away from
red-sequined filigree which could be
loosely-descripted as an article of almost
clothing sprawled astride a high-backed chair.
I swallow hard, for a third time. I'm caught
up in the shock --yes-- it's shock all right
of her, a card-carrying member of this
glittery, bedazzling world. "A little," I
lie, and wonder if she sees right through it
the way she used to. She was murder to fool.

I can't believe she's really here. I've
dreamed about this happening for so long. Now
that it's real, I'm feeling like it's not;
like I'm adrift in a dream I can't wake up

"You're more than a little surprised," she
rolls off her tongue, her gaze never wavers,
measuring off confirmatory looks.

Like they say, 'Some things _never_ change.'

"Okay, you got me. How'd you ever wind up
here?" I say like I've torn the lid off a can
of worms. I try to sound apologetic, but it
comes out sounding lame. "N-Not that here's
so bad. It's. It's just that..." My
shoulders shrug again, and a storm of relief
washes over me. That familiar look in her
greenish blue (more blue than green) eyes
tells me I'm as good as bailed.

"What right does an honor student have
trading in her cap and gown for a peek-a-boo
G-string?" She stops brushing her hair, sets
the round, flex-bristle brush down on the
three-way mirrored vanity, eyeing me

I'm blushing to beat the band. It has been a
long time, and she never looked this sexy.
"Uh...yeah. Something like that." I melt
under her steady, mystical gaze; her woman of
the world aura. How'd she get this beautiful?
Not that she was a 'dog' in high school, but
this; this is a... I lean back, easing the
pressure in an area now obvious. She looks
incredible, like all the 'stars' of Frohike's
tapes rolled into a dreamy, carnal one. of the smartest chicks in high
school from sophomore year straight through
senior. A single heartbeat away from being
class valedictorian. Come to think of it, so
was I for that matter, but that wasn't meant
to be just like our failed romance. We lost
out to Arthur 'The Yick' Tilden, all-'round
class pimply putz by a landslide.

The bulbs framing the three-way wink off
after she flips them. "It's okay, Richie,"
she purrs. I smile warmly. That's the Cin
I'm re-living. The Cin of drive-ins,
all-nighters when we'd feverishly cram every
useless factoid in sight into our overloaded
brains for some 'crucial' exam, which was
always touted as counting for half our grades.

The Cin who visits me when I need her smile,
her sense of humor after receiving the cold
shoulder sometimes from those who say they
care. Only, they don't say it often enough
to a 'throwaway' like me who's plagued with
'attention deficit.'

Her best subject, and favorite, was English,
my worst. My favorite and best was Math (any
kind; you name it, I dug it) her respectable,
but she always strove to be the best, so I
helped her out with it. Trust me, she didn't
really need my help, but I was always happy
to give it for the reward...her fawning all
over me, which she had down to an art form.

If it hadn't been for Cin, I'd still be
repeating eleventh-year remedial English; no
lie. Hey, I know what you're thinking.
Valedictorian? Remedial English? Hey, who
says you've gotta be a genius with the
mother tongue? So long as you're pulling
down solid, consistent A's in the Maths and
Sciences the way I did, it was still possible
to be a shoo-in. If old pimply putz hadn't
spoiled it for me or for Cin.

My Cin who made the annual spring 'Monster
Mash Midnight Dip,' minus the skinny, in Lake
Erie something worth remembering to this day.
I like to remember our chilliest spring dip
was in our junior year, the month before her
father, a chronic smoker, died of lung cancer.
Yeah, it was freezing as all get out, but I
wasn't as cold once she got through warming me
up though.

What excuse do I have for feeling a little
ashamed of her? Who am I to judge her, or
anybody? I'm not exactly a paragon of virtue

"I'm sorry..."

"For what?" she says gently, sounding as
though she's got a pretty plausible idea. If
anybody's eyes are windows of the soul, hers
readily lend themselves hands down.

I go back on my promise. "It's just that
you." I can't. It feels so wrong, but you
know me. How do I put it so it doesn't
sound like I'm laying a heavy judgement
number on her? "Aw, hell, Cinnamon... I'm

"That's the second time you've said that."
Jauntily, she bats the speculation, "Is it
possible you've changed that much? Since
when have you let the cat bury your tongue?"

I've learned how to bury lots of things over
the years. I flick her a weird look;
returning the one she gave me moments ago.
"Radical _you_ bring up change..."

"Don't sweat it," she tells me with just a
hint of self-recrimination in her tone as
she leads me out of the semi-private dressing
room she shares with two other girls, her arm
linked with mine, like old times.

"Where're you taking me?" I ask like it's a

"My place. It's not far." I can't help the
guggled laugh of nervousness. "I'm kinda
rushed for time. Could we get going a little
faster please?" She checks her watch, then
checks me out for my response.

"Hey, we don't have to..." I don't sound all
that convincing.

"I can't lose the feeling you'd like an
explanation. You _do_ want one, don't you?"

"It's not like you should feel you haveta
give me one." Even though I feel I'm owed.

"Well, it so happens I want to. What do you
say? For old times' sake, Richie?"

"That obvious, huh?" I counter.

"That much hasn't changed," she coddles, and
we crack up. She's right, and I tell her so.

The walk to her ride is brisk, like our
conversation. We pile into her silvery gray
mode of getting around, which is parked a
block down and over from her gaudy place of
employment. The color of her ride so fits
Vegas' motif. Glitz.

I tell her a lot of things, but not everything
during the, what I hope will be, short drive
to her digs in her Neon.

"...Unlike your hair," she teases.

I toss my mane for dramatic effect. "I really
got into the hippie scene in college. The
Woodstock-Hard-rocker 'Peace and Love'
gestalt. Don't wanna unplug; ever. Uncool?"

"Of course not. You'll always be cool," she
awards. She lifts a hand off the steering
wheel, tangling a pair of fingers in some of
my frayed growth. "I think your hair's as
long as mine. Wow, it's so soft." I wait for
her to say I don't have as much as I once did.
I wait, but she holds her smile.

"Take yours down," I suggest. "Let it hang.
The way you used to have it." She reels in
her eyes from the residential roadway she'd
cast them back to, and dusts my bemused face
with them again, then does as I've asked,
shaking it out.

She's even more beautiful now, dressed as a
civilian in faded jeans, a jacket the color
of Vegas ochre, of unknown material, and a
turtleneck sweater beneath that. "Yours is
thicker like when we went together. Thicker

She sighs when her hand finds its way to my
cheek. "It's great seeing you, Richie. This
is so freaky, I've been thinking a lot about
you lately. I have missed you. Saying I
wanted to keep in touch but doing it are two
different things. Great promise-keeper I
turned out to be."

Our voices come together as dissonance, and we
share an easy laugh again after saying, "Not."

"Okay, so we're both gutless liars," she

I'm not about to refute, and she knows it.
How does she know? The same way she knows
me all too well, and I her. We were
practically inseparable, once, until she said
we weren't, and I let her go quietly. Didn't
want to make her unhappy. Making her such was
bound to happen sooner or later. I'm the
type who lends disappointment to situations
where, emotionally, there's a lot at stake.

"Yeah, we both suck." She likes that I've
made it official, I see.

I nod along with her, and then ride the
preemptive gust of whim buffeting me in the
direction it decides I should go. "I've
missed you too." That flowed a little too
quickly. Maybe because it's the truth, and
we all know what the truth's supposed to do.
"No lie. I have." And, yeah, I could confess
to her that I hadn't been as eager to cut her
loose as she, me. She so hurt me, but what
would be the point my bawling her out, after
so long?

Once I'd stumbled upon her whereabouts, after
Fro' and I hooked up with Byers, I closed
the gaps, keeping sporadic ether tabs on her
while she resided on the East coast. One
night, when I'd caved to temptation, and
gotten stinkingly soused, I thrashed more
files and link-ups than I should have,
(stupid, stupid, stupid) and destroyed any fix
I'd had on her. Irretrieveable does happen
sometimes. So much for always being in

But I keep this sizeable secret to myself as
out the corner of my left ear I hear her
asking what I do for a living, what brings me
to Vegas.

More secrets...unearthing 'em, garnering 'em.
Exposing 'em when the time proves ripe. My
real stock and trade.

I tell her I'm a frazzled programmer, slash
'mobius delecti' software designer when I'm
not exhaling exotic code, here for a little
'r an' r.' Not a stretch; it's what we
Def-Conners call it. The get-together
affords many sterling opportunities for us
hacker-crackers to come out and 'play.' Get
our feet 'wet,' so to speak; who's willing to
get into a game of tag. See what the other
'boys and girls' have been up to. Thus far,
Byers, Frohike and I are coming up with
bupkes, and it's over the top frustrating.

I'm doing most of the talking, so I gather
she wants to save her 'things' for later,
once we get to her place. No reason why
she should spill her guts, I tell myself,
while the 'it's none of my business; we were
over and done long ago' mantra funnels its
way into my consciousness. She owes me
squat; we were history the moment we kissed
goodbye at the bus station, and she loaded
herself on that bus bound for NYU in 'the
Big Rotten Apple,' she moving on because
she'd wanted to get out of our hicky little
corner of Pennsylvania in the worst way.

I'd been glad to put Erie County behind me
too, M.I.T.-bound, my biggest regret being
the separation did a killer number on our
long distance relationship.

What the hell happened to her? The question
nags like it's got a mouth all its own.

Damned if I know why feelings I'd thought had
long died out are nudging me in the groin.
Guess I'm not as oblivious as I make myself
out to be.

We must go a total of four miles before
arriving at what she calls, 'home sweet home,'
in a part of town that gets me thinking that
maybe it's not all bright lights, big, flashy
Gamblers' Paradise with her afterall. The
cruddy rundown complex reminds me of a sleazy
motel, just not as nice. When was the last
time there was trash removal around here?

Uh huh...that was no cat that just made a
skittered dash for the gutter. That rat was
bigger than any cat I've ever seen. Do I
sound like I'm forgetting where I live?

We climb the wrought iron flight of stairs
to the building's second story which
overlooks the glimmerless pool in the
shadowy courtyard, adjacent to vending
machines. Seems as though the pool guy is
among the missing along with the sanitation

Man, Cin, I know dumps. I've lived in quite
a few of them myself. What do Vegas showgirls
make anyway? I always figured it'd have to
be a lot better than this. Guess I figured
wrong; totally. I hide my dismay well,
despite my concern.

When we get to number 35, she lets me know
we've arrived. I get a little impatient,
waiting for her to stick her key into the
lock, which she doesn't do. I go to say
something, just as she raps a 'shave and a
haircut' on the graffitied barrier, but leaves
off the 'two bits' finish.

There's a pause which lasts all of five
seconds, and then the door is cracked by a
girl in her teens; fifteen, sixteen, maybe.

"Hey, Ruthie."

"Hi, Miz Tanner."

The three of us step into the miniscule
foyer which is a ring toss from the tiny
kitchenette which looks impeccable.

"How'd it go? Hope he didn't give you too
much trouble..."

"Jeffy? Trouble? Nope, not the little
chunka-monka. Not a lick. Never does."
She starts collecting her school books
and zaps them into her backpack, sluice-
style. "Once I feed him his dinner, and
we play his favorite him his
favorite bedtime stories. He's ready to

"So he dropped right off."

"Yep," the short-cropped teenager whose
hair is giving off a purplish glow says
as though presenting documentation. Their
two-way dialogue gives me an out to run a
visual check on Cin's place. The word haven
flashes into mind; bright curtains at the
sashed windows, an inviting looking sofa and
matching love seat...a sweetly-crafted piece
of home entertainment furniture against the
far wall. A tastefully decorated slice of
House Beautiful, scaled down for apartment
dwelling in this dilapidated section of Vegas.

But decidedly, very low end of the high tech

Maybe she doesn't score the big bucks, but
from the looks of it, she makes the most of
the ones she does.

"Uh, hmmmm, Miz Tanner..." Ruthie's making
sounding tentative a language all its own.

Cin looks as though she knows what's coming.
I inject my interest back into the flow of
strained conversation, and away from the
obsoleted Magnavox VCR; a late eighties

"I... Well, you know I hate to keep brining
it up, but you owe me for a month."

Cindy nods as she adjusts her babysitter's
straps of the backpack. "It's not that I've
forgotten, hon, it's just that, that." My
former high school sweetheart's pretty face
contorts into a solid knot of apology. "I'm
sorry, sweetie, things are tight, and getting
tighter all the time. My take home pay's a 
bad joke... I'm five bucks shy of being flat
broke till payday. Jeffy's been sick a lot
lately, so that's where the money's gone.
There's no health coverage with my job,"
she says, barbing the last word uttered.
Gently, she pats her 'sitter's shoulder.
"But that's not your problem, honey. It's
mine, and you've been very considerate.
Aside from being the greatest babysitter

"Hey, no prob, Miz Tanner... We're cool; it's
all good." Ruthie looks at her quartzy watch.
There's an air of, 'I said what had to be
said; can't stay for the verdict' about her.
It was a dab past eleven last time I checked.
"It's just that there's this class trip coming
up to Hoover Dam and the Lake Mead Lost City
of the Anasazi pueblo I need money for. We
might get to squeeze Red Rock Canyon in if
there's time. I sure hope we get to go.
Bonnie Springs is supposed to be fantastic;
they stage old west gunfights and hangings
for visitors. Cool stuff like that, ya

I fish the fingers of my right hand into my
back pocket to palm my wallet. "How much's
she into you for, kid?"

Cin's eyebrows spring to attention. A
translation is superfluous. "Rich--" She's
shaking her head violently. "Ie --no--"
She's shaking it at Ruthie, now me. "I can't

"Yes you can," I correct, already extracting
three ten's. "This cover it?" Ruthie's a
little slow on the uptake. "This?" Another
ten has joined its brethern in numeric

Before taking what I'm offering, Ruthie's
eyes search into Cin's to make sure it's
all right. Cindy errs over the line of
contriteness. "Richie, I can't let you. I
wish you wouldn't," she whispers loud enough
for the folks next door to hear. "Please?"
You'd think she was asking me not to hire a
hit man. "Please don't."

"Since when do I grant wishes?" I thrust
the money into Ruthie's outstretched hand.
"It's enough, right?"

"More than, dude. Hey, thanks. Thanks, Miz
Tanner, and later!" Her blurr whisks to the
door, but before shutting it, she calls out,
"See ya tomorrow."

"I have the day off tomorrow, sweetie, so
I can spend it with my precious sweetie. I'll
call ya, honey, for next time."

"You got it, Miz Tanner... 'Ciao!'" For all
the promise of force, Ruthie shuts the door

'Is the kid safe going it alone in this
neighborhood?' I ask myself, and begin

There's something weird about the silence.
Is there such a thing as its being stilted?
Cin's acting like she doesn't know me; like
she's never known me. She's just staring,
not at me exactly, I notice with an edge,
but into space, and it's making me one
seriously uncomfortable dude. It's like
she's here, but she's not. She's lookin'
creepy, in an 'Invasion of The Body
Snatchers' sort of way. I can never watch
that flick alone. I get Byers to stick it
out with me. Of course, I've gotta bribe
him so he will.

Before I get the 'full monty' of any
repercussions, she collapses on the sofa,
burying her face in her hands and dissolves
into tears. I should have seen it coming.
Her sobs rake me over brimstone.

What the hell did I do?

She's wailing now; crying so hard, her
breathing is uncontrollable spurts.

All I know is I was only trying to help...


End of  Part 2