Title: How Does A Real Fairytale End?
Summary: Given Skinner, an apple, a highway of my own choosing, Mulder PTSD, a haunting, April 2003, cognac and fairytale in the title, what else would my response to X-OK's first challenge be but a Skinner to the rescue?
The Mall, Washington DC
The three figures standing quietly at the Lincoln Memorial end of the reflecting pool felt uncomfortably exposed under a DC sky, incredibly bright given the time of night; almost as if they were center stage in a bizarre play. Even though it was cold, they huddled together more for support than warmth.
"I can't remember an April this cold in a long time," Skinner said. "They say we might get snow on Easter."
"The Iraqis get war and we get snow," John Doggett said. "What a year."
"I'm praying it'll be over soon," Monica said, wrapping her arms around herself.
"That and this," Skinner said. "How many times did he appear to you?"
"Just the once," she answered. "But that was more than enough."
Skinner looked at John.
"Twice," John admittedly grudgingly. "I thought it was an April Fool's joke being played on me."
Skinner and Reyes looked at him in disbelief.
"Don't look at me like that. Yesterday was April 1st. Trying to make me think I'm seeing a ghost who's asking me if I believe in ghosts is the perfect April Fool's joke."
"Who but us knows he's dead, John?" Skinner asked.
"You're sure he's dead?" Monica asked.
"I didn't miss," Skinner said simply.
John's eyes scanned the area again and he looked at his watch.
"But why Kossoff?" he asked. "Why would Krycek appear to her?"
"I've brought you here to hear for yourselves -- there she is."
The two agents turned as one and watched the figure of Dr. Karen Kossoff approach. All four shook hands then stood in awkward silence before Skinner spoke.
"I think everyone knows everyone, so let's get down to why we're here," Skinner said.
"I--I feel funny sharing this, but if this isn't an X-File I don't know what is."
"Go on," Skinner said. "Tell them what you told me."
"Back in 1994 Agent Alex Krycek had several mandated sessions with me. It had to do with a shooting incident on a case he was on with Agent Mulder in New York. He mistook a bible for a gun and killed a man named Augustus Cole. Anyway, at the end of our last session he asked me if I believed in ghosts. I said yes. He said he did too. 'That'll be my salvation one day,' he said. I never saw him again until yesterday.
"I came into my office early and thought I was alone. When I sat down, there he was by the door. He asked me if I remembered him. I said I did and asked him how he's been. He said dead, then asked me if I still believed in ghosts. I closed my eyes, not thinking I had heard him correctly. When I opened my eyes again, he was gone. After lunch, he appeared to me again and told me Agent Mulder needed my help."
"What time did you first see him?" John asked.
"It was early. 8 AM maybe."
"Half an hour later I saw him," Monica said.
"Telling me Mulder's in trouble."
"At 9:00 he's in my office," Skinner said.
"Saying Mulder needs Dr. Kossoff's help."
"And by 9:30 the spook is taunting me with the Gallup New Mexico line from the Nat King Cole classic about Route 66," John said.
"Why do you think he appeared to you Dr. Kossoff?"
"He said Mulder needs my new therapy," she answered.
"EMDR. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It's a technique I've been using with patients suffering from post traumatic distress syndrome. Why would Agent Mulder be helped by EMDR?"
An uncomfortable silence fell again as Skinner and John answered that question silently in their minds. Knowing what Theresa Hoese had gone through, neither of them wanted to think about what could have caused the scars on Mulder's face or what kind of coercion he experienced in the military prison before they were able to break him out with Deputy Director Kersh's help. The act had bonded the three men together in an uneasy alliance that secretly all of them had hoped would never have to be acted on.
None of them had spoken about it since.
Didn't want to speak about it. Didn't want to think about it. Their silence was the only security they and probably Mulder and Scully now knew.
"Well, I guess it's safe to say these visitations were no April Fool's joke," John said. "So what happens
"I guess Dr. Kossoff and I are about to get our kicks on Route 66," Skinner said.
Gallup, New Mexico
"I just can't seem to turn them off," Scully cried, pressing her face into Skinner's chest. She cried until she thought she couldn't cry any more, then began crying all over again.
"So don't," Skinner said simply. "Let them flow. Everything's going to be all right."
"I--I actually think I can believe that now, sir."
"Given all we've been through, I think you can dispense with the 'sir', Dana."
"I'm sorry sir," she said as an embarrassed laugh mixed in with her sobs. "But oddly enough it makes me feel safer somehow to call you 'sir'."
Her laughter gave way to a new flood of tears. The feel of Skinner's broad muscles beneath her cheek was balm in Gilead to her sin sick soul. The sound of his voice more soothing than any lullaby.
"Here. Drink this."
Skinner handed her a glass of cognac. Her body shuddered as the liquor burned its way down her throat.
"Wow! That's strong."
"Strong is what the doctor ordered, doctor."
Scully sighed, resting more comfortably in Skinner's arms as the warmth of the liquor ignited something in her spirit that felt like hope. Her fingers played hopscotch across the black and red checks of Skinner's flannel shirt before resting on the two days growth of stubble on his face.
"I thought I was seeing things when I opened the door," she sighed. "I honestly didn't recognize you."
"What? Not recognize me? And here after that kiss in the elevator I thought I was the apple of your eye."
His smile was so broad and the twinkle behind the familiar wirerims so playful, Scully couldn't help but laugh.
"It feels good to laugh," she said, her eyes stealing reluctantly to the bedroom door and to the suffering man beyond. Skinner tracked her gaze and gave her a reassuring squeeze.
"Well, you haven't had much to laugh about lately. Have you?"
"Why should I be any different than the rest of the world?" she asked sadly, shaking her head no as the tears began to form again.
Skinner stretched his legs out fully in front of him, allowing Scully to snuggle more comfortably against him.
"Take another drink," he said.
She shook her head no, frightened by the dizziness that had followed the first glass.
"Think of it as fortification."
"Your presence is all the fortification I need, sir," she said, willing herself into his warmth. "How were you able to get here undetected?"
"A bit of misdirection on the Deputy Director's part. He books me into a five day law enforcement conference in Chicago. By day three my watchdogs have let their guard down, I don flannel and Carhartts, rent a truck and drive here along the old Route 66, picking Dr. Kossoff up in Barstow."
"But how did you know where to come? How did you know we needed your help?"
Skinner just smiled and pulled Scully closer.
"An old 'friend'" he answered.
"Alex Krycek. He appeared to me, Monica, John and Dr. Kossoff saying Mulder needed help."
"This is incredible sir," Scully said, putting her hand to her mouth.
"I think you've seen stranger things in your time, Dana."
"No. I mean Mulder has been seeing Krycek too." She sat up and looked at the bedroom door. "He first appeared to him when he infiltrated the Mount Weather complex and then again when Mulder was incarcerated. He told me so. He said Krycek was helping him."
"Looks like he still is."
"Someone has to," Scully said, her lip beginning to tremble again. "I haven't been able to."
She looked sadly back at Skinner.
"All my science, all my medical knowledge, all my love. None of it has been able to help me reach him. I thought I had done everything possible to ease the trauma of this last two years. He talked easily to me about not having William, about the prison and the trial."
She shuddered as she remembered Mulder's recounting of beatings and the sleep deprivation.
"But he wouldn't talk about the year he was abducted. Anytime I brought it up he just changed the subject. The closer we came to going to war, the moodier he got. Within the last two months he's moved us five times, stayed inside, started drinking that." She nodded her head toward the bottle of cognac.
"Then the war started and the nightmares began and--and. . . " She stopped and wrapped her arms around herself.
"I hate being like this," she cried. "All weepy and dependent."
Skinner stood up and let Scully come into his arms again. He lifted her chin gently towards him. Again an embarrassed laugh passed her lips.
"I honestly thought we were going to live happily ever after. That's the way fairytales in the storybooks end, right?"
Just then the bedroom door opened and Dr. Kossoff emerged. Scully's mouth opened in amazement.
"He--he's not screaming anymore," she whispered. "This EMDR-- it helped?"
Dr. Kossoff took Scully by the hand and gave it a squeeze.
"Go see for yourself. He's asking for you."
"Oh thank you," Scully said with a sob. She gave Kossoff a grateful hug and hurried to the bedroom door. She stopped and looked at Skinner. "Is it too soon to hope for that happily ever after?"
A sad smile crossed Skinner's face and he shook his head no. They watched the door close behind her and listened to the sound of crying, heartfelt and relieved.
"Sometimes a real fairytale can end that way too," he said quietly.