Welcome To The Harem
The Layover by Plausible Denial
Summary: Spender and Fowley deal with the unexpected. PG vignette.
Title: The Layover (1/1)
Author: Plausible Deniability
Keywords: Spender, Fowley
Disclaimer: The characters and situations of the
television program "The X Files" are the creations and
property of Chris Carter, Fox Broadcasting, and Ten-
Thirteen Productions, and have been used without
permission. No copyright infringement is intended.
Summary: Spender and Fowley deal with the unexpected.
Note: This is sort of a riff on a Hemingway story
called "Hills Like White Elephants." I've always hated
the main character in that story. Spender makes a much
THANKS to Becky and to Dasha, the best of betas.
The tarmac outside was gray and drizzly, and the jets
that went past the window seemed blurred around the
edges. The cramped airport cafe smelled of musty
cigarette smoke. The man and the dark-haired woman
with him sat at a little table, watching the travelers
streaming up and down the concourse. It was still
forty minutes until the flight to Dulles boarded.
"Do you want to eat something?" the man asked.
"They'll feed us on the plane," the woman said. Under
the table, she had slipped her feet out of her shoes.
"Just pretzels and Coke."
"I'm not really hungry."
The man turned in his seat. "Can we get a couple of
hot dogs?" he called to the boy working behind the
The boy opened the case where hot dogs rolled on metal
bars and reached inside. "Ketchup and mustard?"
"Yes. That's fine."
The boy put the hot dogs in little cardboard trays. He
set them on the counter and the man got up, paid, and
brought them back to the table. The dark-haired woman
was looking back toward the top of the concourse. The
man followed her gaze to the security gate, where
passengers were unburdening themselves of coats and
carry-ons to shuffle through the metal detectors.
"I wonder if people with nipple and genital piercings
ever set off the alarm," he said.
"I've never heard of that happening."
"I haven't either, but it would be funny, don't you
He picked up his hot dog. The woman looked over at the
bill of fare written in chalk behind the counter. "I'd
really like a beer."
"I don't think we should."
"I never said you had to drink one."
The man sighed, but got up and went to the counter.
The boy looked up.
"We'd like two beers."
The man turned back to the woman. "Is Coors all
"It's okay," she said. "If it's all they have."
"So you want Coors?" asked the boy.
"Yes, two of them."
The man handed his money to the boy and carried the
beers back to the table. "They're warm," he said,
sitting down again.
"That's airport bars for you."
"Great," said the man. "I enjoy paying eight dollars
for warm beer."
"Knock it off about the beer, would you?"
"It was your idea," the man said. "I was happy making
conversation. I was talking about body piercings."
"Well, let's just drop it."
"Fine by me. I wasn't trying to pick a fight."
"Neither was I."
"I just wish you wouldn't drink beer right now. I'm
not trying to tell you what to do, but it bothers me."
"Don't worry so much."
The man looked off in the direction of their gate.
"It will be good to get back to D.C.," he said. "I
think we'll both do better when we're back in the
office. It's hard for me to relax in all these strange
hotels and diners and airports."
"Your beer is getting cold," she said, and wrung a
smile from him.
Another plane went by the wall of glass behind them,
the enormous wings looming up and then sliding
silently past in the drizzle. The man picked up his
beer."At least the hot dog wasn't bad, for a hot dog,"
"It was good."
"You don't have to decide just yet, Diana," the man
said. "You still have time before you have to make up
The woman looked away.
"I know it's up to you but I wish you would just think
it over first. You don't have to rush into anything."
The woman sipped her beer, and did not answer.
"I would never stick you with all the responsibility.
You know me, you know I wouldn't do that."
"So," she said, "you're just ready to hand over the
next eighteen years of your life?"
"You make it sound like a prison sentence."
"You make it sound like one big party."
"Other people have done it. My mother did it. Your
parents did it."
The woman took her airline tickets from the side
pocket of her purse, and shuffled the boarding pass to
"You think we'd both just go on," she said after a
moment, "with our lives heading in the same direction
"Of course we would, if that's what you wanted. I'd
help in every way I could. Most people with careers
have children. Louis Freeh has six kids, for god's
sake, and he's the Director of the FBI."
"I don't remember ever seeing Louis Freeh waddling the
halls looking like a beached whale. Or doing field
work that way, either."
"Well," the man said, "I'm not trying to pressure you.
It's your decision and I know that. But I would be
there right beside you if you decided to keep it."
"And that's what you want, to keep it?"
"I'd like that. But I know it's your decision."
"And if I kept it you'd be changing diapers and
rocking it and staying home with it when it was sick?"
"And getting up in the middle of the night and
breastfeeding it, too."
"Diana, I'd do everything I could."
"But you couldn't do everything. You see that, don't
"Of course I see that."
"Because people who make these ideological objections
never seem to realize that there's a lot more involved
than just lofty principles."
"It's not an ideological objection," he said. "It's a
-- a different objection. It's mine, too, you know."
"I thought you just said this was my decision."
"It is, but -- I mean, I just don't want you to do
anything that you'll regret."
"You're three and a half weeks too late for that," she
He got up and walked to the window. In the distance, a
747 was landing, the mist streaming off the wings in
great white trails. The sky was gray and leaden.
Closer in, just beneath the window, luggage trucks and
meal service carts went back and forth, their drivers
cloaked in plastic ponchos."It's just hard, you know,"
he said. "It's hard not to think about it, about what
it would look like and how it might grow up."
"You think too much."
"Is that possible -- to think too much?"
"Of course it is. If you considered every angle of
every move you ever made, you'd go insane."
"But this is so important," he said. "Doesn't it feel
important to you?"
"Not really," she said. "It just feels odd, and I want
it to be over with."
"I wish you wouldn't say it in that tone of voice.
Maybe it wouldn't be so hard if you didn't sound so
"You're making it hard," she said. "It's really not
"Then why rush into it?"
"It's my decision, remember?"
"I know, but you just don't understand -- "
"I understand," the woman said. "Can we please talk
about something else?"
He bit his lip, and sat down again. The man looked at
his watch. "Twenty-five minutes until boarding time,"
"Next time maybe we can get a non-stop."
"You just don't understand," he said, "that even if it
wasn't planned it isn't necessarily something that's
totally unwelcome. Maybe some things in life are just
meant to be. Maybe it's fate's way of settling the
question for us."
"It has nothing to do with fate, it has to do with
both of us having too much to drink and your saying,
'Come on, how risky can just one time this way really
"If it's all my fault, then admit that I have a stake
in this, too."
"I know you have a stake in it. You have fifteen
minutes' worth of stake, and I have nine months. My
stake outweighs yours by a factor of" -- she did a
quick mental calculation -- "four hundred and three
thousand, two hundred times."
"I took high school biology, and I don't remember
human genetics working quite that way."
"I thought you said it was my decision."
"Then let me make it, would you?"
He stared at the empty hot dog trays, at the ketchup
staining the white
cardboard. His beer was standing almost untouched,
although she had long since finished hers.
"But it should be my decision, too," he said. "At
"Is this the only thing you know how to talk about any
"Yes," he said. "Yes, it is."
She sighed. "So what do you want, Jeff, to put it to a
"Something like that."
She picked up the cardboard and the beer bottles, and
turned in her seat to toss them in the trash can by
the wall. "Well, my vote outnumbers yours."
They sat in silence for a while.
He checked his watch. "Maybe we can go sit at the
"If you want," she said. She reached for the handle of
He walked with her out of the caf?, out into the busy
concourse. Ahead a beeping golf cart ferried the
infirm to a distant jetway. Despite the rain, very few
of the flights listed on the overhead monitors had
been delayed. Other passengers bustled past them.
Everything seemed normal and efficient. He wanted to
scream.Instead he asked, "Is that suitcase heavy?"
"No," she said. "Just take care of your own, Jeff. I
can manage mine myself."