Title: Until It's Gone
Author: Vesper (Regina)
Category: Crossover. Probe/The Lone Gunmen.
Summary: John Byers collaborates with Austin James. Based on part of Angela W.'s "Access Denied". Thank you, Angela! Austin/Mickey romance.
Disclaimer: "The X-Files" and "The Lone Gunmen" and recognizable characters belong to Chris Carter and 20th Century Fox. "Probe" and recognizable characters belong to Isaac Asimov and Michael Wagner and MCA/Universal Television. No profit is made from this story.
Archival: If you wish to archive, please link to my website. Please keep all my headers intact.
I met him at a convention. It was the most unlikely of places to find him, but he was there. I'd heard of him for years, the wunderkind of the science community, a genius recluse who every now and then made an appearance, mostly to briefly tout the advantages of a new discovery his company had made.
With him was a blonde woman he introduced as his personal assistant. The rapport between them was hard to categorize, what struck me the most was how much trust he seem to have in her. This didn't fit at all with what I'd heard about him.
It was rumored that all his secretaries quit after only a few months of working for him. The reason they gave was based on his personality. If the rumors were true they found him rude, overbearing and in their single word, 'nuts'.
Austin James can sometimes be like that, but in our collaboration I found his good qualities outweighed those descriptions. Michelle Castle, his assistant, described him best, "Don't think of Austin in terms of what he says to you; think of him in terms of what he does." She was right.
Austin is a good man, conscientious, and kind. Like Mulder, he can be obsessive and exhausting in his search for the truth, but unlike Mulder he is not haunted by the past. He almost made a horrible mistake, though, one I could not avoid, and one Mulder barely escaped. Austin almost let the best thing in his life get away.
A buzz sounded through the warehouse.
Mickey looked up from loading the coffee machine.
She spoke into the air. "Who is it?"
A voice was fed through the speakers and Mickey smiled when she heard how tired it sounded.
"It's John, Michelle. Austin changed the code again. Could you let me in?"
"Sure, I'll be right there." She shut the grinds into the top and pressed a button. The machine immediately started perking.
She maneuvered around the counter, past the couch and machines until she reached the door. She pressed the number keys, and turned the knob to open the door, pushing it open.
Byers stood on the other side, rubbing his eyes with his hands, impeccable in the usual suit and tie.
"How long did you guys work last night?"
He stopped rubbing his eyes and stepped inside.
"Too late. We found a bug in the encryption code and the solution eluded us until four am."
"Only five hours of sleep? John." Her voice was gently chiding. "I made some coffee. It should be done by now."
"Oh, God bless you, Michelle."
"How many times have I told you you can call me Mickey?"
He shook his head. "Too familiar, and calling you Ms. Castle is too formal."
She smiled fondly. "John, you already are too formal."
"Hello, John, ready to get started again?"
Mickey and Byers turned to look at Austin.
"Of course. What about breakfast?"
"Oh, Mickey will make it." He smiled at her and asked, "How are you this morning?"
She smiled. "Just great, Austin. What do you want? Oatmeal or eggs?"
"Oatmeal." He put his hand on Byers' shoulder and started to usher him toward the computers across the room.
"What about you, John?"
Byers looked over his shoulder. "Eggs. Sunny--"
Mickey cut him off and finished, "Side up. Gotcha."
Austin and Byers were already halfway across the room when Mickey called, "Is Craig joining you today?"
Austin stopped and Byers walked a few steps ahead before stopping as well. Austin turned around and said, "Maybe later, he said he had some personal business."
He swiveled back around and practically marched the rest of the way. Byers looked at Mickey, shrugged and followed Austin.
I met Craig Turner after a few days of working with Austin. He was young, handsome, charismatic, and incredibly smart. He was appointed to work with us by Graham McKinley and the board of Serendip. Austin, as the president of the company, could have easily said no, but they convinced him to give Craig a chance. Truth is, he helped a lot on the project, but I couldn't help but notice that there was no room for him in the group.
"It's almost ready. Thanks for fielding the issues with the FCC, John."
Byers nodded. "I should be thanking you. It's a chance of a lifetime to be working with you."
"You came highly recommended. I knew you'd be perfect."
A young voice echoed through the warehouse. "Austin!"
Austin closed his eyes and muttered, "Unlike him."
Craig strode into view. "Hey Austin, John. What's on the docket for today?"
"Finishing the code, Craig," Byers said.
"Great. Mickey says your breakfast is ready."
Byers glanced at Austin, who was busy tapping papers into evenness and answered for them both, "We'll be right there."
Craig nodded and went back to the main room.
"If you don't like him so much, Austin, why do you tolerate him?"
"Mickey says it's good for me. To, interact with people. That's why you're here. But you I trust."
"You don't trust him," Byers stated.
"To you it may seem irrational, but the man is hiding something. I just can't prove it, and I can't help but think there's something clouding my judgment."
Austin raised his eyebrows. "That's bit blunt for you, John."
He didn't back down. "Craig has a lot of potential. It's natural to feel threatened by--"
Austin shook his head.
"That's not it, John. Even your skills are better than his. I can't...." He lapsed into silence.
Byers prompted, "What is it?"
Austin cleared his throat. "I can't stand the way he looks at Mickey. There's no respect. And she just takes it." Disbelief colored his tone.
"Hey, guys, breakfast is getting cold!" Mickey's shout startled them and they twitched guiltily.
Austin sighed, and then shouted back, "Coming!"
The men stood and made their way to the larger room. Craig's mouth was already full with food, and he just waved at them.
Mickey had laid the food out on the counter, having cleared away most of the chemistry equipment that had cluttered it. Austin and Byers sat down and began to eat.
Austin avoided Mickey's eyes.
She ate a spoonful of cold cereal and then said, "Craig and I are going on a date tonight, Austin."
He almost choked and coughed spastically until he took a drink.
Craig smiled. He waited until Austin swallowed and said, "If you don't mind, that is."
Austin's face was clean, too clean of emotion, when he said, "Why should I? You too are young. Have fun."
He looked down at his oatmeal and pushed it away. He stood and said, "I'll be working if anyone needs me."
Byers watched him go.
I can't speak for Michelle, but I know how Austin felt. Alone, rejected, despairing, and completely powerless to verbalize his feelings. They say men are the stronger sex, but when it comes to women, they have the power to leave us completely insecure.There is no telling what their reaction will be, and so we find ourselves erring on the side of silence. In theory, 'faint heart never won fair lady'; in fact, fair lady says no. And when we fail to try, fate sometimes has a way of taking over.
Byers punched in the code and stepped inside the warehouse. He walked past the equipment piled on the floor, almost tripping over something. The familiar dimness seemed less comforting this morning. Something was missing. Some sound....
Austin was coming down the stairs from his bedroom.
"Austin, where's Mickey?"
Surprise made his features blank. "She's not here?"
Austin reached the foot of the stairs.
"That's not like her."
"No, it's not."
"I'm calling her mother."
A few minutes later, Austin said goodbye to Mickey's mother.
"She didn't come home last night, John."
The conclusion was inescapable.
Austin turned his back on Byers and sat down on the couch. He closed his eyes and covered his face with his hands. Every muscle in his body was tense and Byers watched him helplessly.
Finally a tortured whisper came from out Austin's fingers.
"I love her."
Byers said nothing, but if Austin had opened his eyes he wouldhave seen sympathy.
The telephone's jangle echoed off the walls.
"I'll get it," Byers quickly said.
He picked up the handset and said, "Hello?"
"Hey, John, where's Austin?" Craig's cheerful voice was horribly grating.
Byers turned his back on Austin and spoke lowly into the phone, "This is not a good time."
"Let me guess, you've realized Mickey is missing."
Craig's voice suddenly turned hard. "Put me on speaker, Byers, I have something to say to Austin."
Austin had been listening. He asked, "Is that Craig?"
Byers nodded and said, "He wants to talk to you."
He put the phone on speaker and Craig said, "Austin. I have Mickey with me. The only way you'll get her back is if you give me the encryption code. She isn't harmed and she won't be as long as I'm with her. I could have just stolen it, but you would have proved it didn't belong to me. This is more than you just giving me the code. I want the rights to it too. You have an hour. Meet me at the Serendip parking lot. Just give me the disk with the code, and you'll get Mickey back. Would you like to say hello to her?"
Austin hissed through his teeth, "What do you think?"
There was a shuffle of sound and then Mickey's trembling voice spoke.
"Austin, please get me out of here."
"I will, don't worry." Austin's voice was comforting.
Craig spoke again, "Until later, Austin." He hung up.
Byers asked, "What are you going to do?"
Austin's face was set grimly. "What he asks."
They were inconspicuous in the parking lot, simply a group of people meeting.
Craig had a loose hand on Mickey's elbow, and as they walked to meet Austin, he said, "I'm sorry, Mickey."
She glared at him and jerked her elbow away, but he grabbed it again, forcefully and she cried out.
They were a few feet away from Austin and his lips tightened. Byers stepped forward, but Austin held him back.
"Don't make it worse, John."
Craig said, "Give me the disk."
Austin handed it over and held out his hand to Mickey. She didn't look at Austin, and she seemed very small.
They walked back to the car in silence, and Austin handed the car keys to Byers.
Byers silently got in the car and started it. He glanced in the rearview mirror to see Austin and Mickey get in the back seat.
Austin gathered Mickey onto his lap and gently lifted her chin, so she was looking at him straight. Her lips trembled and there were tears in her eyes.
Byers felt like a voyeur but he couldn't look away.
Mickey's whisper fell into the deep silence.
"I was so scared."
Austin swallowed. "I know. I was too."
She placed her arms around his neck and rested her head on his shoulder.
Byers looked down at the steering wheel, unable to watch any longer. He heard Mickey say, "I want to go home" and Austin's response, "To your mother's?"
"No, with you."
Byers looked into the mirror again, to see Austin looking at him. Austin nodded and Byers drove them to the warehouse.
When they got out of the car, Austin said, "Thank you, John."
Byers nodded and watched them go into the building. Austin had his arm around Mickey's shoulder and she was clinging to him.
Byers got into his car and left.
Mickey and Austin sat side by side on the couch.
She hadn't looked at him, excepting when he'd made her. Her shoulders were bowed and her voice was timid when she said, "You can yell at me now."
Tears came to his eyes.
"Mickey, look at me."
"I'm not going to say the things you think you deserve to hear. You don't need them. I'm not going to say anything at all."
He reached up with a trembling hand and touched her cheek. Her eyes grew wide and then drifted shut, as he caressed her face tenderly.
He whispered, almost as if to himself, "I might never have been able to do this." He leaned forward and gently touched his lips to hers. She jerked slightly then relaxed as he deepened the pressure. Her lips were soft and accepting and Austin felt his breath catch. He broke away and opened his eyes.
Her eyes were closed. "Austin..." she breathed.
"Oh, Mickey, I love you so much." She opened her eyes to see his cheeks wet.
She smiled crookedly and wiped the tears away.
"I love you, too."
I suppose I'll never know what happened between Austin and Michelle that day, but it's not for me to speculate. All I need to know is that they're happy, and I was privileged to see it happen. A few months later I received a wedding invitation from them. I went and I almost felt envious at the love they shared. I couldn't avoid it, as much as I tried. Mickey asked if I'd found anyone yet. She was sympathetic when I told her about Susanne. One day, one day I'll have what they do.