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.
Before I get anything that resembles a
reasonable answer, her phone, (one of those
regular old touchtones) that's sitting on its
own little shelf in the entertainment center
sounds off. She's in no condition to snag it,
so I rise to the daunting occasion.
"Hello..." This is a perfect time to glower,
and I snap, "No -- this isn't Anatullo's
Pizzeria, man. You've got the wrong number."
My frown threatens to scar me permanently.
"What part of 'you've got the wrong number'
didn't you understand, asshole? NO! This
ain't damn Domino's either!" I wonder what
makes me think Cin would find this
enlightening exchange remotely amusing. The
fact I'm wondering that she might reveals how
shirky I can be at times; unwilling to deal
with emotional crap head on. Hey, so I don't
know how to handle the situation; sue me.
After I've slammed the receiver on its cradle,
I broadcast, "Wrong number," like she's hard
of hearing, or she'd left the room for a
little while. Somebody's hearing's sure off,
and it isn't hers.
"H-Happens a lot," she says through several
rapid sniffles, and then the waterworks resume
again as she really gives into letting go.
Her blithe facade fissuring. Its flimsy
construction, abundantly clear.
Tucking thoughts of several conspiracy
theories I have which revolve around those
so-called 'wrong numbers,' back into the
recesses of my restless mind, I'm at her side,
on the couch, clumsily fitting my arm around
her shivering shoulders. "I'm sorry, baby, I
only wanted to help."
"I know, I know. It's not your fault," she
says all strangely. "It's mine. It's
everything." She garners a few moments to
compose herself. "Now I know you haven't
changed," she reiterates. "Still coming to my
rescue, Richie. Even when I don't deserve to
My tangible disbelief working my face doesn't
erase her worry lines. "You mean like that
time in Mrs. Went's class when Tracy Haynes
told the class you were makin' it with every
guy in twelfth grade, and I jumped up and said
she had with all the freshmen dudes; with the
dudettes too." I wipe away the tears still
clinging to her smooth cheek. I do the 'ski
jump' thing I used to do with her nose, and
that brings her around to a degree. "That
chick was jealous 'cos you were so pretty. Now
you're." I nearly choke on my next breath, but
somehow I squash out, "N-Now you're. You're
totally gorgeous." I press my lips together
until I can't feel them.
"Still true to form..." She drifts away in
thought, getting real quiet, and I imagine
she's re-living several such chivalrous
incidents I'd notched. She'd always been so
nebbish when we were in high school. Somebody
had to stand up for her. Blinking as though
she remembers I'm still here, slowly she says,
"Maybe there's more than coincidence at work
here, bumping into you like this. Like I said,
I've been thinking about you a lot lately.
Especially this week, very intensely." Her
lower lip starts quivering. "Sorry about the
mess." She dabs at her puddle of tears that
have stained my shirt.
"Why this week in particular?" Unsure of
myself, I take her hand.
"I don't know," she says after a moment of
deliberation. "Maybe some premonition of
your showing up in my life, somehow. You may
not choose to believe this but, it was very
hard leaving you behind. I want you to know
that. In the beginning, I nearly drove
myself crazy, missing you." I get a sense of
her getting this off her chest.
"Tell me about it. I did it to myself, trying
to convince myself I was better off without
you." When my mind was 'pickled' on a regular
basis, alcoholism had its uses, or so I had
myself buying it.
"Did you succeed?" she asks sorrowfully.
"Jury's still out on that one." I close my
eyes, and when I open them again, I fess up,
"It was hard, baby. We had something special,
right? Like we were like married, almost."
"Wish we'd never broken up," she confesses,
grasping my hand holding hers, and then
kissing its starkly pale topside. I never
thought I'd ever hear what she says next. "We
should have gotten married, the way you
wanted. I've been a fool. You were the best.
You still are."
I can count on one hand the number of times
I've been told that in my life. My nose
grazes in her soft, warm scalp; the feel of
her leaning heavily into me is balmic. God,
I've missed her. Now it really does feel like
old times. "Only when we were a thing, Cin.
You had a way of bringing the best outta me."
I look into her eyes, not saying anything for
a long time until, outside, footsteps shamble
past the door, and she tenses against me.
Suddenly, it seems she's living on her last
nerve. "You expecting company? Kinda late."
It's so weird; it's like I can feel her heart
in _my_ mouth.
"No... Not if you view bill collectors as
welcomed company. They intrude at all
"No way, not me. They're more like big pains
in the asses. I'm no stranger to both."
"What about..." Her body stiffens further.
"Clients? What kind of clients?"
She gives me a meaningful raise of a
severely-plucked eyebrow, as though trying to
convey, 'now would be the perfect time to get
"Take a guess," she antes. "You always
caught on to things fast." She lowers her
head. "I'm not proud," she leverages, and
indicts, "it's not anything to be proud of."
The dawning on me stinks, as mentally, the
seamy answer mocks many dear memories. It
hurts, and sucks conjointly, realizing she's
giving it up for cash. Nonetheless, I strive
to come across as objectively, and lifelike
as possible. I don't wanna go any farther.
"Hint me with your best shot; fire away."
"The kind who pay for it..." Her ken falls
again. "The kind who make my skin crawl each
time I force myself to go through with it, or
they'll be true hell to pay. I don't wanna,
Richie, I don't, but I have no choice."
Her look isn't wasted on me until no further
sound of footfalls can be heard, and her
breathing steadies. "You're being pressured?"
I gasp, the ire within rising. "Who's makin'
ya?" My tongue scrapes against my incisors.
"Coerced, pressured... I have no one to blame
but myself. Bimbos get the shitty treatment
"Can that crap, okay?" She looks away. "No
bimbos here. The closest thing to is that
kewpie doll over there on that shelf near the
ferns." I draw her near again, and my lips
massage the side of her head near the temple.
"It's killing me hearing you talk like this."
She snuggles into me even more. "Are you
gonna tell me, or will I have to whine it out
of ya? What's with this shit?"
Her eyes float gracefully to mine, and
searchingly we commune on a level that
approaches the non-verbal, the way we used to.
"It's not a pretty picture," she clinches in
"So's life, ninety-nine percent of the time,"
I interpose, managing to sound impassive, with
my feelings in better check. "If you think
I'm gonna lay heavy put-downs on you, no way.
I'm fresh out."
"Since when?" she arches. Real trust begins
budding in her eyes despite her tentative
I kiss her damp forehead, but don't pull away
immediately. Her saltiness trips my tongue.
"Keepin' it real. Who'm I to judge you, Cin?"
I could tell her that I've done time; soft,
that is. Getting busted, spending bumming-out
overnighters in jail for different funky
stuff. Misdemeanors, yeah, but it's still
time. The closest I ever came to a full-
fledged felony was four years ago, but I got
off on a technicality, thanks to the alibi
Byers dropped. The guy's got uses, no doubt.
"I wouldn't blame you if you do. You'd have
"No guilt trip." I do judge, however, that
the time is right, so gently I ask, "What bag
are you in? It might help talking."
She captures my other hand like hers is a
butterfly net. Looking compliant, and about
to spill, she opens her mouth. I squeeze that
hand at the precise moment when a small,
frightened voice plaintively fills the living
room whose walls feel as though they're
"Mommy, Mommy, Mommy."
"It's Jeffy; my son," Cin says, quickly
looking towards the room from where her kid's
voice emanates. Her hands squirm out of mine.
"That'd be my guess too."
"Let me see what he needs."
"You, would be my next guess." I watch her
attentively as she rises and hurriedly moves
off, intent to assuage rife in her agitated
face. My heavy heart goes out to her, along
with my breath hitching.
"Want to meet him?" she lobs at me.
"Yeah, sure," I say enthusiastically, "bring
I do another time check while she's gone,
and start, discovering it's nearly quarter
to one. Knowing Frohike, the gnome who lives
vicariously, he probably thinks I'm getting
lucky. Whet his pointy little horns. The
narc's most likely soaking his head in that
ice bucket again; Modeski heavily saturating
his one-track mind, still. A sure bet. Mata
Hari, man. I'll never understand what he sees
in that hyper chick. Told us we weren't
paranoid enough, then sleeps with the enemy.
Get a load, huh? Now to get Byers to believe
She needs to take notes from Leese who's
laid back down to her spine, and the goddess
has a very slinky spine.
Then my mind bumps smack into the thought that
maybe Cin's son has a 'client' for a father.
Involuntarily, I shudder. Hell, what a
legacy, and I should know. I've lived the
life; live it everyday, not knowing who my
real dad, and mommy not dearest, ditto. I've
run so many conceivable electronic searches,
and I always come up with bupkes; I'm sick and
tired of all the dead ends. I've, for all
intents and purposes given up. Too
depressive. Thirty, and still bugged-out
about being ditched by mystery mom, and 'MIA'
I knew I was no farm boy, when my step-daddy,
'Farmer Brown' told me the day one of the cows
kicked me when he was trying to show me how to
perform a rectal palpation. I was only seven-
and-a-half, for goodness sake. I still got
the damn scar on the side of my outer thigh.
In my genes, I'd always known I was no hayseed.
Man, was I glad when we lost the ol' homestead
in Nebraska, and moved to PA to be near
relatives; 'city folk,' which is what my
stepfamily gradually became too.
Cin returns with her baby, and I close up the
mental trunk of 'blues' so my funk's gone
before she detects I was in one. "Who's this
big man?" I toss at them, sounding chipper,
grinning. Snowing them and myself. "No way
you have a kid his size."
"This is Jeffrey Allen Tanner." She kisses
her sleepy child's wrinkled brow. The blond
little guy's rubbing the vitreous humor out
of his left eye. His 'bootied' left foot
dangles idly against his mother's hip. He's
gonna be tall.
"He'll be three next Tuesday."
I whistle. "Happy, happy," I congratulate.
All of a sudden I get this strong urge, and
before I take measures to stop myself, I'm
reaching my arms up to them. "Can I hold
"Sure," Cin condones. "I don't think he's
wet. He hasn't quite got the hang of toidy
Jeffy's a load for his looking on the lean
side -- well, not that he's exactly skin and
bones, but he's no 'chunka-monka' either, from
where I sit, and am holding. Cin said he'd
been sick a lot lately. With thumb stuck in
his mouth, he gives a wide yawn, and snuggles
into me. Kids are such a trip, man. They're
one of my serious puzzles, behind women, that
is. Women are number one; probably always
will be. Wonder if I'll ever father babies?
At the virginal rate I'm going, nobody should
hold their breath unless anyone's thinkin' in
terms of immaculate conception.
Do I want any?
Cin's standing there looking all maternal. I
wonder what she thinks I look like. A fish
out of water? A guy who's feeling about as
comfortable as a Hawaiian-shirted Tahitian in
an air-conditioned igloo, I bet.
"He likes you."
"What makes you think that?"
"He doesn't warm to strangers this readily,"
she says, watching her son cuddling.
"Maybe he senses my good vibes," I tout. "My
all-around laid backness." Cin tangles her
fingers in my hair the identical way she'd
done in the car where the water under the
bridge's flow began waning, as though wanting
to reverse. "He's cute; just like his Mom."
I'm about to wonder out loud about his pater,
but I gather from what Cin says next, she's
been doing a bit of wondering too, where I'm
On the strength of our revived connection,
she asks, "Is there anyone?" I wink at her,
noting the return of the patter of intuitive
dialogue we once shared. Then, just when I'm
thinking we're totally back in synch, she
says all sure of herself, "You're about to
tell me, 'What do you think? Duh!'"
Before I acknowledge the latest VIP (vitally
involved person) in my life, I weigh the
words carefully. Yeah, I hate repeating
myself, but I will. Cin and I were over and
done way before that damn bus edged out of
sight, but these feelings she's tweaked in
me again can't be denied. There's no cause
for being callous, and I know callous. Let
Frohike give you a blow-by-blow. I can see
Cin's more than just mildly curious about
my entanglement status.
"There's someone funky I'm checking out.
She, me." Maybe that was kinda blunt, so I
buffer. What manner of insensitive geek do
you take me for? (If you know what's good
for you, you'll let that last remark lie
flatter than a steamrolled rug.) "Not as
funky as you, though; never was or will be
anyone who fits that description the way
"Who are you, and what have you done with the
_real_ Richie?" she says, sounding comically
"I don't know what you're talking about," I
feed her as equally suspicious-sounding.
Her kid squirms a bit, just as she finishes
testing out a little chuckle. Before I know
what I'm supposed to do, he quiets down,
sucking his thumb like it's his sole source
of nourishment. I think she's got a good boy
on her hands, who's currently getting way
comfy in mine.
"What's up with you and the other half who
made this whole?" I inquire on a more serious
note. "I don't get the feeling he's a
constant in this equation."
Her eyes do a repeat performance of looking
real sad. Another look like that one, and
my heart, in a desperate leap with my mind,
are stone goners. She's getting teary all
over again. Damn.
Yeah, she dumped me, don't blame her anymore
now, and I suffered. So much so that it's
taken me this long to get brave with someone
else. The bitter pill was swallowed and
assimilated ages ago. I healed somehow.
The good we once had, and the compassion I
feel for her now are in the driver's seat.
Empathy's doing a great job of backseat
driving. Whatever else's along for the ride.
"Hey --I didn't mean--"
"No, it's all right," she prevails through
the veil of tears threatening to be shed.
"Jeffy's father's a snake. The snake I work
for; one of the most powerful heels in this
phony town." Doing a great imitation of
being a sack filled with lead weights, she
dumps herself down next to me. "He either
owns, outright, or extends a controlling hand
into the biggest, and not as big clubs. Like
the dive I..." She huffs forlornly. "Like
the tacky dive I currently shake my tail
feathers in." She wags her head and casts
her eyes to the floor as though they were
dice. "I've run out of options."
I stare at her, not liking the cold, brittle
quality usurping control of her voice.
"He owns me..."
"Ain't no way," I growl, allowing some of
that cold brittleness to gain a foothold
in my voice. "Nobody gets to own anybody,"
I naively squeak.
Cin gives me a patient, pitiable look, as
though I was born yesterday. Her voice
descends to new depths. "A man without a
soul, like him does. He has me right where
he wants me. I'll never be free."
"To hell with that shit," I curse and get
into it with a foaming at the mouth
vehemence until she needles me with her eyes
which implore, 'please, not in front of my
"Sorry," I whisper, and squeeze the little
"I'm the one. Sorry for being so stupid.
So easily manipulated." She eyes me sharply
then. "Jeffy was _no_ mistake, if that's
what you might be thinking. I love my son
even if his father wishes he'd never been
born." She gathers herself following a windy
sigh. "I'm lucky my baby's so young. Too
young to know he has a joke for a mother. A
cheap piece of tail, trapped here . . . in
She didn't say what I think I just heard.
Could she? "White slavery?"
Bitterness oozes from her pores, so much so
that I feel its contagion. "I hate my life.
I hate what I've become. I'm so screwed."
She's molding the biceps in my right arm
into a different shape, the way she's
squeezing the muscle. "It it weren't for
"How'd this happen?" I bluster; whining,
"You really want to know?"
"Would I be asking if I didn't?" I badger,
while I'm still staring at her in naked
turmoil. I wanna know all of it, I quirk,
but surround my supplication in silence.
She looks stressed-out enough.
"The lure of making fast bucks instead of
finishing my education, back in New York.
I got lazy and real dumb."
Vividly, then, in that moment, her x-rated
virtuals are recalled to mind. How could
I have forgotten? It was three years ago,
and it really was her, though I'd teetered
between denial and 'no way in hell it is.'
I keep silent, guarding how one night, I'd
stumbled across the cache of her skin vids
circulating hither and yon, no thanks to the
wasted use of borderline 21st century
technology, via the Net...
I'd hit the bottle pretty hard after making
that sordid discovery for several 'lost'
weeks; nearly drove Frohike and Byers crazy,
since I wouldn't tell them why I was acting
like such a 'repeat offender,' even with
their threatening to kick my ass out not
serving as a deterrent. AA to the dubious
rescue once again, after nearly a month's
Cin's laugh's haunting, sardonic to the hilt.
"Ironic, huh? For someone who was going to
take the dramatic world by storm? Some sick
detour, huh? I live in a state of constant
brokeness, not even having the luxury of
living from paycheck to paycheck. It's more
like butt to mouth. The little I earn goes
for so-called hidden expenses accrued to
overhead of employment so he can claim I'm a
salaried employee, which is such a lie. I'm
worse than a slave. Marcus, Marcus
Ballantyne, Jeffy's father...the snake I
just told you about, he's punishing me for
having Jeffy. He wanted me to get rid of
"Screw that, dammit." Her son twitches in his
dozy condition. "Just get the hell outta this
town, then. Vamoose. I don't see the noose."
"Get out? Just split?" More violent head
"Why can't you?" I retaliate emphatically.
"I've got to do what he says, work where he
says, sell myself to whomever when he says
or..." It's as though she can't bring herself
to say the rest.
"Or what?" I gently coach, softening my tone,
although I'm feeling far from docile.
"He'll kidnap Jeffy, and I'll never see him
again," she exhales, going very limp, as
though her spark has been extinguished. "He
can't have Jeffy -- I'll never let that
happen, even if I have to sleep with every
prick in Vegas!" she vows through clenched
What am I missing here? "How's he gonna
rip-off your flesh and blood if you're long
"You...you don't understand," she bleats,
"he, he could. He's, he's a very powerful
man. He'd hire people to find us. He's
done similar things like that in the past.
I know he has."
A lightning bolt would be hard put, doing
a neater job of renting me in two. Like,
duh... What am I using for brains right
now? The guys and I do it all the time
for 'M and S'. All of this must be really
getting to me.
But, it's true what they say, I see. Kids
have the enviable ability of falling asleep
through practically anything. I gaze down
at her kid who is presently snoring softly
away in my arms. Regardless of the pig he
has for a father, I like this kid. If Cin
and I were to have any, they'd probably come
out looking a lot like this little guy. The
coloring, anyhow. More or less. The little
dude's pretty pale, like me, so, more, I
guess. I start feeling way sorry for her
boy, and the girl I once viewed as mine
"How do you feel about me now?" Cin
challenges through veiled eyes. "Go ahead.
Tell me to my face," she says moistly.
"Tell me what a loser I am. How nowhere I
ended up, when I had so much going for me.
I'm nothing but a dirty tramp...a filthy
I'm hugging both of them, making sure I've
got a firm grip on her son, and an even
firmer grip on his mother. "Cut it out.
This is _me_ you're talking to, and you'll
always be a star as far as I'm concerned."
Cin starts weeping, but more softly this
time. "Nobody gets away with treating my
girl like crap," I spoon-feed into her ear,
"whether he's stone Syndicate, or the
flesh-peddler skulkin' and scopin' in the
streets, on the make for fine young things."
I hug her harder. "That was the edited
version," I hand her, with attitude dripping
all over the place; I'm reeking it, and she
manages a weak smile. Her plight has made me
as scrappy as hell. Even more contemptuously
then, I vow, "See if I let the asshole of a
scumbag get away with this shit..."
Her son is disturbed momentarily before he
burrows his head into my chest to really get
comfortable, as if he's taking the first
steps to bond. Makes something burn within
my heart. Looks like someone, who doesn't
really know who he is yet, needs a little
fatherly interaction. The kind I'm a stranger
End Part 3