Nightowls

by Diana K. Schaffer

Fox Mulder stared at his digital clock, waiting for the numbers to change. He'd been doing that for the last ten minutes. It's coming to this, he thought. I'm being entertained by my clock. This is sad, Mulder, very sad. He'd gone through all of his usual tricks and nothing had worked. He'd watched TV, he'd played quiet music, he'd perused the InterNet for a while, he'd even tried warm milk. Nothing. "Why can't I sleep!" he yelled at his ceiling. "Screw it!" Mulder hopped out of his bed and threw on some cloths. It's too late to sleep now, anyway. I'd just end up sleeping till noon, and then Skinner would have my head." Mulder grabbed his coat and headed out into the night.

"Ah, God. Its cold!" This was turning out to be a weird December. Yesterday it was in the fifties, but tonight Mulder thought he actually saw snow flurries in the air. Sighing, he continued walking up the street. If Scully knew I did this, she'd have my head. He knew walking the streets of DC wasn't the safest thing to be doing at this hour. It was just that when he had insomnia as bad as this, his apartment seemed like another dimension. Sometimes it felt like it was the apartment itself that kept him from sleeping. It turned into this silent tomb that just sucked up everything. Every sound, every breath, every thought... Shut up, Mulder, this isn't helping! Caffeine, I need Caffeine! He turned the corner and saw the light of the all-night diner he escaped to when his nights got as bad as this one. He moved toward it like a drowning man. As he opened the door he was engulfed by warmth, the smell of coffee and... Christmas music. Mulder scowled. He was not ready for the holidays yet.

"I know, I know. You think its too early. Well, tough!" Jeannie, the waitress behind the counter gestured at a young girl sitting by herself at the end of the counter. "Why don't ya join Ebeneezer down there, G-man, and let me have my Christmas spirit."

Mulder held up his hands in surrender and sat a few stools away from the other customer. He glanced over, curious who else would be up at this ungodly hour. He was surprised to note that she didn't look any older than seventeen. Mulder fought a private war with himself. He knew she probably wouldn't let him help her, but his conscience wouldn't let it go. It wasn't safe for a kid to be wandering the streets at this hour. Maybe he could talk her into letting him walk her home. If she had one.

"Hey," Mulder said, "what's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this." Sometimes the corniest lines worked best. He was right he could see her smile even from the side view.

She turned to look at him. She had circles under her eyes and she looked tired, but not troubled. "Getting a transfusion," she grinned, lifting her coffee mug. "How about you?"

"Same thing."

"Here ya go, my little Vampires," Jeannie said, setting a fresh cup of coffee in front of each of them. Jeannie was a round woman in her fifties, who took to mothering her customers, in her own gruff way. "What can I get you to eat?"

"Nothing, thanks," Mulder and the girl said at the same time.

"Bullshit! The two of you look like crap and if you aren't going to sleep you might as well eat!" She looked at them expectantly.

"Uh, you got any soup?" the girl asked.

"Tomato or Clam chowder?"

"Tomato."

"The chowder's got more to it."

"I'm allergic to clams."

Jeannie nodded and turned to Mulder.

"Uh, grilled cheese?" he said.

"That's fine," and with that she walked into the kitchen.

"She's worse than my Mom. In fact I don't think my Mom has ever made me food at five in the morning."

"Speaking of your Mom, does she know you're here?" Mulder was too tired to be subtle.

"Not my exact location, no," the girl grinned at him like she had a secret. "How old do you think I am?"

"You look about seventeen," Mulder said.

The girl fished in her pocket and pulled out a card. She passed it to him down the counter. Mulder picked it up and flipped it over. Diana Schaffer, Penn State University it said.

"Ah, you're in college. You don't look it. Oh, sorry I mean..."

"Don't worry about it. I get it all the time. It doesn't really bother me. There are worse things than looking younger than your age."

Mulder nodded. "What are you doing in Washington?"

"My friends and I are on winter break. Kind of blowing ff some steam from finals."

"Where are your friends?"

"Sleeping, back at the hotel."

"Why aren't you?"

"Wish I knew," she replied.

"Have trouble sleeping often?" Mulder asked. He didn't know why he was having this conversation. Especially now that he knew she was old enough to fend for herself. But what the Hell; what else did he have to do.

"All my life, off and on. My Mom says I haven't slept through the night since I was born. How about you. What are you doing up?"

"He doesn't sleep, either." Jeannie said putting a bowl of soup and a grilled cheese in front of them. "You've both got worries on your minds if you ask me."

"Diana shook her head. "I've been doing this since I was a kid. What could possibly have been worrying me for over twenty years?"

"Have you ever been abducted by aliens?" Jeannie asked.

Diana choked on her soup. "I don't think so."

"Sorry, Mulder," the waitress said and went back to her cleaning.

"Don't ask," Mulder said.

"Diana! There you are!"

Both Mulder and Diana turned to see two young women standing in the doorway. They did not look happy.

"Agent Mulder, this is Kaela Parkhouse and Kathy Glynn. The two friends I was telling you about. They are probably now going to kill me for wandering out into the middle of the night." The two girls nodded confirmation.

"You're not the only one in trouble." Agent Scully walked up behind Kathy and Kaela.

"Scully! What are you doing here?" Mulder asked, surprised.

"And how did you two know where to find me?" Diana asked of her friends. The three standing in the doorway all motioned over to the waitress.

"Jeannie?" Mulder and Diana asked.

"So I called them, so sue me. Its not safe for either one of you to be wandering the streets at night. Besides, like I said, it's worries that keep you two up. And there is no better cure for a case of the worries than a friend."

Mulder and Diana looked at each other and sighed.

"Busted," Diana said.

"We've been turned in to the sleep police."

As Mulder and Diana walked out the door with their friends Jeannie called out to them: "Hey ladies! See if you can't sing these two little vampires some lullabies tonight."

Diana rolled her eyes and Mulder gave her a silent 'ha, ha' as they walked out the door.

"See you tomorrow night," Jeannie whispered to the closed door. Then she resumed cleaning the counter.

The End


Disclaimer: The X-Files(tm) belongs to Fox Broadcasting Company, TenThirteen Productions and Cris Carter. The logo, characters and situations are copyrighted and trademark rights are implicit. No infringement is intended.


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