Right on time, she heard the elevator doors open in her outer office. Footsteps followed and her ten o'clock entered.
"So how are we feeling today, Walter?"
The psychiatrist was more than a little surprised when her most repressed patient anointed her with a smile. A smile that seemed to light up his entire face, to almost completely obliterate the terminally dour expression that shrouded the big man. She noted that he wasn't wearing his jacket and his usually immaculate tie was undone, along with the top button of his pristine white shirt.
She rose from behind her expensive cherry wood desk and came around to their usual chair-and-sofa arrangement. She straightened her expensive pearls as she sat down. She watched him settle on the expensive leather sofa.
"I'm feeling better, doctor," he said sunnily. "In fact, I think this might be my last session."
Taken aback, the psychiatrist was suddenly displaying more interest than her usual clinical dispatch.
"Have you had some sort of - breakthrough?"
The smile widened into a grin. A grin!
"No, more of an epiphany."
"Uh huh." He leaned forward, elbows on knees, his face animated and earnest. "It's not being a control freak, or survivor guilt, or ambivalent loyalties, or political warfare, or alien invasions du jour, or compromising ethics, or an aversion to cigarette smoke, or desiring sex with underlings and assassins."
The psychiatrist had to stop herself from physically backing up against the torrent. "It's not?"
"No." said Skinner.
There was a pause. Ten seconds of Walter Skinner, Assistant Director of the FBI, sitting there grinning inanely at her was more than she could stand.
The psychiatrist blinked. "Elevators?"
Skinner nodded, his tone completely serious. "I work on the Fourth Floor. I live on the seventeenth. My agents live in buildings that have elevators. My problem is elevators." He linked his fingers together thoughtfully. "I just have to make my peace with them."
At about this point, the psychiatrist was beginning to clue in that her patient's pathology might have taken a sharp right on a dirt road. She decided to tread carefully.
"We all have elevators in our lives, Walter. Why are they so prominent in yours?"
"Because life-altering events happen to me in elevators." Reasonably. Logically.
The psychiatrist leaned back in her expensive designer chair and crossed her expensively stockinged legs. "You have not a few life-altering events around hospitals as well, Walter. In your line of work, you can't avoid hospitals."
He shook his head vehemently. "No, with hospitals, it's stairwells. Apparently, when I'm not in my office, I'm always in hospitals or hallways of hospitals. Or parking garages." He seemed to be turning something over in his mind. "A lot goes down in parking garages as well. But, see, I have to get to the garage by riding the elevator."
The psychiatrist strongly resisted the urge to point out the Twilight Zone flavor of the direction of the conversation. Walter S. Skinner had always been the epitome of courteous controlled formality, like a country gentleman from another age. She knew that his work took him to some very improbable places, in dangerous situations. His distressing need to protect those that worked for him caused the man to place himself time and again at risk and physical harm. But she was suddenly fascinated by the direction of this morning's conversation. Against her better professional judgment, she followed the unusual conversational path.
"All right, Walter. Tell me about life-altering events in elevators."
Skinner regarded her for a moment, as if deciding whether or not she were mocking him. She kept her face neutral, kept the burning curiosity behind the professional mask.
"Elevators have doors," he said, unnecessarily. "When they open, you never know who's going to be behind any given one. Doesn't matter whether you're inside or outside. Although it's better if you're the one who knows. At least, you have the element of surprise," he met the psychiatrist's curious gaze. "You know, enough to get in a head butt and a couple of punches."
"Ah - of course."
"He pulled a gun on me, but I still managed to give Scully the arctic co-ordinates."
"Yes." The psychiatrist had long since stopped pressing for more details, because, in her experience with Skinner, the situation was never made any clearer by their addition. "You seem to get hurt a lot in elevators?"
"Krycek seems to like them."
"This would be the former agent, now one-armed assassin? The man who killed you"
"That would be him." She was surprised to see Skinner shrug; there was a noticeable lack of the anger associated with said assassin. "And the palm pilot he rode in on."
"These are the nanocytes? In your bloodstream."
"Apparently, closed elevator doors don't interrupt wireless signals," said Skinner. "They're not much good at stopping the forearms of replicants, either."
Skinner nodded, "Billy Miles, former deputy sheriff of Bellefleur, Oregon."
"He was one of your - ah - supersoldiers?"
"No - that was Knowle Rohrer. My issue with Knowle Rohrer has to do with parking garages."
Mind skidding from yet another sharp right turn, the psychiatrist took a moment and tried to bring the subject back to where she remembered the last time she glimpsed logic and normality.
"So - elevators don't seem to be much good at closing enemies out, Walter?"
Skinner paused. He gazed at his hands for a moment, and when he looked up, his expression was a touch sheepish. "Well, not all bad things happen in elevators."
"I got my hand held in one, once - although I was on a gurney, gut shot." Skinner grimaced a little at the memory, but then came the rare smile. "I get kissed in them, too."
"That's certainly an improvement," said the psychiatrist. "When did this happen?"
"I got Scully some vital co-ordinates as to Mulder's disappearance in the Bermuda Triangle. She kissed me." Skinner frowned a little. "Come to think of it, elevators seem to have quite a lot to do with finding Mulder. But a kiss is better than the muzzle of a gun. Or nanocytes and palm pilots."
"Ah, we're back to the troublesome Alex Krycek." The psychiatrist sat back, clinging to the familiar name for the moment. "He's been lurking in them again?"
"Not just in elevators. He lurks in stairwells, hospital rooms ... oh, and he likes parking garages, too."
"Yes, you said."
"And I have the solution to the problem."
"An addendum to my epiphany, yes." Skinner paused. He looked up to see the psychiatrist all but drumming her fingers with impatience. "Since it appears that Krycek and elevators are inextricably linked to bad news for me, I decided to separate one from the other."
Sharp right turn on top of a roller coaster drop.
"I made my peace with the elevator. And caught the rat bastard coming up to pay me a visit one night." Skinner said, with a great deal of satisfaction.
She made the decision to ignore the first part of his statement. "Did you arrest him?"
Skinner stared at her disbelievingly for a long moment, before bursting out into a short harsh laugh. "What good would that do anyone?"
The roller coaster was picking up speed. "Isn't that the point of your job?"
Again, the bark of laughter. She'd never heard him laugh before, and now she was getting a plethora of unusual behavior.
He waved his hand at her, as if to say that the point of his job was now beyond the realm of reasonable explanation. "He won't be bothering anyone now."
The psychiatrist became serious. "Walter, if a crime has been committed - "
Skinner looked as if he'd suddenly had to choke off another laugh. "Oh, Alex is fine, let me assure you, doctor."
She waited. She watched as her normally stoic patient seemed to be trying to hold back an enormous backlog of laughter.
Finally -- "You only need one handcuff with him, and he's quite comfortable on my bed."
It took a long moment for the image unfurl itself like a towel on a beach. The psychiatrist had to clear her throat before speaking.
"Walter, you have Alex Krycek handcuffed to your bed?"
"Um hmm. Naked. Since - " Skinner glanced at the date window on his watch. "Tuesday."
The image sunning itself in her mind made a radical shift to a nude beach and reached for the sunscreen. "You've had him there for almost a week?"
"No," his smile was a leer. "For almost two."
There was a pregnant pause. Very carefully, she proceeded. "I take it you intend to keep him?"
"And - you haven't caused him bodily harm?"
Skinner's smile became almost feral. "He's screamed quite a bit - but I don't hear any complaints." He rubbed his hands on his thighs with satisfaction. "If he keeps behaving, I might be moved to release him soon. But he's still not going anywhere."
She re-crossed her expensive stockinged legs as a stray thought occurred to her. "I thought you said this didn't have anything to do with desiring sex with underlings and assassins."
Skinner grinned and shrugged. "If I desire sex now, I know where to get it. The problem in the elevator is now safely cuffed to my bed. So - elevator phobia and sexual frustration eliminated in one fell swoop. One one-armed assassin decommissioned, and serving a far more useful function, in my estimation. Life is good."
He stood. He came over to her and extended a hand. She responded automatically, noting the warmth of his smile and the light in his eyes that made him seem years younger. He held her hand for longer than necessary.
"I don't think I need to remind you about doctor-patient privilege," he said smoothly, the smile belying the veiled threat. He leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek; the country gentleman was back. "I want to thank you for all the time and effort, doctor. But my therapy has taken on a very different but delightful turn, and I'm finding myself becoming more creative about it everyday."
He smiled winningly at her once more before turning to go. She watched, stunned, as the elevator door in her outer office opened for him before he reached it, and he never broke his stride. As it closed smoothly behind him, she couldn't suppress a shudder. She didn't know whether to feel sorry for one Alex Krycek, or to be envious of him.
Sirius Cybernetics Corporation Elevators operate on the unlikely principal of defocused temporal perception; a curious system which enables the elevator to be on the right floor before you knew you wanted it, thus eliminating all the tedious chatting, relaxing and making friends that people were previously forced to do, whilst waiting for elevators.
Not unnaturally, many elevators imbued with intelligence and precognition became terribly frustrated with the mindless business of going up or down, experimented briefly with the notion of going sideways, as a sort of existential protest, demanded participation in the decision-making process and finally took to sulking in basements.
- The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Life, The Universe and Everything
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