Fairytale of New York

by Goddess Michele

Title: Fairytale of New York
Author: Goddess Michele
Fandom: X-Files
Pairing: M/Sk
Spoilers: various and sundry, mostly vague... Rating: PG13
Beta: none
Boring but necessary disclaimer: C.C., Fox and 1013 own them, I'm just borrowing them for fun, not profit, and I promise to return them only slightly bruised, but in that good 'thank you sir and may I have another?' way. Feedback: Yes, PLEASE! starshine24mc@yahoo.com Archive: put it wherever you like, including atxf and SM, just leave my name on it Warning: not only is this slash, but it's also M/Sk, and contains schmoop of biblical proportions! Summary: I don't know if this fulfills all the qualifications of the first XOK challenge, or any of them, for that matter, but it begged to be written nevertheless. Eventually something's got to give...

"I could have been someone.
Well, so could anyone..."
-The Pogues, Fairytale of New York

Skinner looked across the table and frowned as he watched Mulder picking at his food, moving it around, organizing it with lackadaisical precision on his plate. At no time did the fork in his hand ever perform its primary function of shuttling food from the plate to Mulder's mouth.

"How was your day?" Skinner wanted to simultaneously hug his lover and hold him down and force feed him. He settled for an innocuous question instead.

"Fine," came the muttered reply. Certainly not the usual rambling answer that Skinner had come to associate with Mulder.

It had been like this since their return from the desert. Nothing had been said, but a year after they had gone on the run, they were back. And now Scully had her baby back, and was almost cherubic in her role as mother, and Skinner's lover had been replaced by this walking zombie, who barely ate, spent more time sleeping on the couch than in their bed, and hardly talked at all.

At first, Skinner had been too overwhelmed with relief to address the changes. Relief at being allowed to live after being ushered into Kersh's office that fateful day, sure he'd been facing death yet again. Relief that he'd been offered the golden handshake instead. Well, perhaps bronze rather than golden, but he was still drawing breath at any rate. And then, when Mulder and Scully had returned, his joy at having his two most special agents back had eclipsed everything.

But now Scully practically ignored them, and Mulder was...was...

Mulder wasn't his agent anymore. Special or otherwise.

Mulder's apartment was long gone, as was the condo in Crystal City. Instead, Skinner had been living in this small house just off the highway into Washington proper. A quiet suburb close enough to all the amenities, but far enough away from prying eyes. It was easy for Skinner to keep his silence here, and his anonymity. And when Mulder had returned, he'd shown up on the doorstep with a hug and a kiss and slipped in like a stray cat, completely unexpected yet totally at home within moments of crossing the doorway.

Everything should have been perfect.

Instead, it was `fine'.

"What did you do today?"

Skinner had picked up some consulting work for a small law firm, and while the added income didn't hurt, he found he enjoyed the work, which was even more satisfactory. An added bonus was that he wasn't faced with daily moral decisions, and even the tough situations were never life threatening.

"I went for a run. Read some. Hopped on the net and nitpicked the inaccuracies of Enterprise." Mulder shrugged, still peering into the depths of his supper plate, perhaps trying to glean more answers to Skinner's questions in the mound of uneaten pasta there.

"Fox, look at me."

Mulder dragged his gaze up unwillingly, and just before a cool mask of indifference settled over his features, Skinner saw on his face a look of desperate unhappiness. A bewildered child's face, full of fear and longing and a million other things. A face he recognized from his stint in that Saigon hospital a lifetime ago. And he knew that he couldn't let this go on. For both their sakes.

"What happened to you?" The question was broad enough, Skinner hoped, to let Mulder answer in any way he chose. He just wanted something. Anything to give him a brief glimpse of the man he'd fallen in love with all those years ago. The man he'd watched over, fought with, mourned for, found again and finally claimed. Anything at all.

"I'm stuffed," Mulder replied brightly, "This was great, but I couldn't eat another bite." He jumped up and moved quickly to the sink, taking his plate with him.


Mulder started the water running in the sink, and scraped his supper into the garbage.

"I'll just get the dishes started. That's the deal, right? You cook, I'll clean. That's fair." Mulder was talking into the sink, his back to Skinner, and the older man could see the tight lines of tension in the muscles under Mulder's t-shirt. He stood up from the table and stepped towards the sink warily. Mulder seemed unaware of him, though Skinner knew that was unlikely.

He reached out one hand tentatively, held it just above Mulder's shoulder, and then touched him softly just as Mulder plunged his hands into the sinkful of soapy water.

"Aw, hell!" Mulder jerked hard enough to throw Skinner back a step. Suds and water splashed up suddenly, and from behind Mulder, Skinner saw a flash of silver and then a bright gout of red. He just had time to realize that Mulder must have cut himself on a knife, and then his lover turned around and pierced him with an angry glare.

"Christ, Walter, don't sneak up on me like that!" His hand was dripping blood onto the floor, but he didn't seem to notice.

"Fox, your hand--" Skinner reached out, and Mulder slapped his hand away. More blood sprayed.

"It's nothing--I'm fine!"

"Come on, Mulder, knock it off!" Skinner realized that pussyfooting around like he'd been doing ever since Mulder had come back into his life wasn't going to work. In fact, it hadn't been working at all. It wasn't his style, and it obviously wasn't Mulder's either. His lover was falling apart before his eyes, and he'd been offering nothing more than hugs and puppies. Mulder had opined frequently on his "beacon in the night", and Skinner realized that he had to show Mulder that he could still be that for him.

He wrapped his hand around Mulder's wrist.


Ignoring the yelp of pain, Skinner dragged Mulder away from the sink, paused only briefly to snatch up a towel hanging off the refrigerator door, and hauled Mulder bodily into the living room.

Forcing him down on the couch, Skinner quickly wrapped Mulder's bleeding hand with the towel, placed his other hand on his wrist to hold it and gave him a sharp glare.

"Don't move," he growled. For a moment, Skinner saw something hot and angry snapping in Mulder's hazel eyes, making them flash almost green. And then Mulder turned his head, his mouth turning down in a trembling frown.

Skinner left him there, glancing back just once, but Mulder didn't move.

end part one

Fairytale of New York part 2

See part one for disclaimers and notes.

Mulder sighed deeply and squeezed the towel around his hand tighter. He stared stupidly at it for a moment, feeling his pulse beating painfully in his hand and in his heart. The towel was a pale green with a fruit pattern on it, mostly apples, with a smattering of pears and oranges. As he stared, he saw blood starting to soak through the makeshift bandage, blooming like red berries on the material. He sighed again and felt a little sick.

This was supposed to be the end. The end of his quest, the end of his long nightmare. He was here, with Skinner, after what was, he supposed, one of the longest and most subtle courtships in the history of gay dating. Walter Skinner, his `beacon in the night', his discreet champion, the man who had come between him and disaster too many times to count, and had spent as much time restraining him as cheering him on. The man who had taken him into his heart, waited for him, and found him in the end.

Everything was supposed to be perfect.

Instead, it was...it was...

He finally dragged his eyes away from the towel, and wasn't surprised to find Melvin Frohike staring fiercely at him. Moments later, two more men materialized to either side of the diminutive Gunman, and Mulder gave them a sour look.

"Oh, look, it's Casper and company. I thought you guys were done with me once Scully and I...once we..." He didn't know how to finish the sentence, so he just shrugged. If they were such great ghosts, maybe they could read his mind.

"Of course we can," said Byers.

"Yeah, but who needs that shit," remarked Langly.

Frohike didn't comment, just continued to glare at him.

"Okay, guys, what is it? Come on already. Impart your otherworldly wisdom, and then get the fuck outta here. Walter's coming back any second now, and he already thinks I've gone round the bend. I start pulling a Haley Joel Osment on him, he's gonna call the men in white."

"Nah, for you, Mulder, it'd be men in black," Langly snickered.

"Shut up, Langly," said Byers.

Frohike moved forward, through the coffee table.

"Nice parlor trick,"

They all turned at the sound of Skinner's voice from the kitchen.

"Mulder? Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, dammit," Mulder muttered, knowing Skinner couldn't hear him.

"Liar," said Byers.

"Bullshit," agreed Langly.

"Listen to me, buddy," Frohike finally spoke, and Mulder found himself unable to look away from the vision of his friend, frowning at him from the center of the table. "You had better start being honest with him. No more of this `fine' crap. It's all great to be able to read your mind, let me tell ya--way cheaper than renting porn--but only the dead can do it. And the big guy there--he's not dead."

He turned away, and then turned back. "And neither are you."

Skinner strode into the room, and the Lone Gunmen vanished like evidence of an alien conspiracy. Without a word, the older man set a steaming mug down in front of Mulder, then moved off to the bathroom down the hall.

In far less time, he was back, carrying gauze, tape, scissors and disinfectant. He sat down next to Mulder on the couch and when Mulder didn't respond, he turned the man to face him.

"Let me see your hand," he said.

"It's nothing," Mulder muttered.

"I'll be the judge of that." Skinner growled back. With an agility his big hands shouldn't have been capable of, Skinner peeled back the towel, and they both frowned at the two deep cuts revealed, one across the pad of his thumb, the other just where said thumb was attached to his hand. Neither one was life threatening, but both still oozed blood, and Mulder felt his stomach doing another slow roll.

He just had time to be thankful he hadn't eaten anything more than he had, and then he gasped as Skinner wiped away the blood and poured some of the disinfectant over the cuts. He tried to jerk his hand away, but Skinner held him firmly. He shuddered as the amber liquid diluted the blood into thin watery streams that Skinner caught with the towel, and the stinging cleanser worked its way into the cuts.

"Shh..." Skinner didn't look at him as he mouthed the words. "It's okay. We've got it licked. Just hang on..."

Mulder thought Skinner might have been talking to someone else, but when he looked into his lover's eyes, the man glanced up at him, and the depth of emotion Mulder read in those dark eyes, for him, made him swallow painfully, and he had to look away.

Minutes later, his thumb and most of his hand were encased in clean white gauze, and the pain was muted to nothing more than a dull throb.

Skinner shoved the bandages and supplies aside, and handed Mulder the cup, which was no longer steaming, but still warm to the touch.

Mulder sniffed at it, sipped tentatively, and found it to be tea, warm, sweet and definitely laced with something.

"Cognac?" he inquired.

"Scotch," Skinner corrected.

"Thanks." Mulder sipped again, then sat back on the couch with a shuddery sigh, put his bandaged hand over his eyes and held the cup resting loosely on his thigh. A moment later he felt Skinner's big strong hand on his other leg. He didn't respond until Skinner stroked his fingers up and down his thigh, and then he sighed appreciatively.

"Do you remember me telling you about Saigon?" Skinner asked conversationally.

Mulder wondered where that had come from, but simply grunted an agreement, feeling suddenly too tired to argue, or even talk.

"You remind me of the men in that hospital."

At that, Mulder raised his arm and gave Skinner a piercing look, wondering if he was being made fun of, or--

"What are you talking about?"

"Those guys, all of them. Young, brave, righteous...and when they came out of that jungle, they were messed up. Something happened to them there. Something that changed them. Something that ate them up from the inside out..."

Mulder continued to stare, and he realized that Skinner was on the verge of something like tears. He felt his own eyes watering in response, and bit down on his lower lip, fighting it.

"Many of those men ate their own guns, Fox." With a visible shudder, Skinner pulled himself out of the painful memory and gave his lover a hard look. "I don't want that to happen to you." He squeezed his thigh, almost painfully, "But you've got to talk to me."

For a long time after that, neither man spoke. Mulder sipped his tea and kept his silence, and Skinner stopped stroking his leg and opted instead to gradually pull him into his arms.

Mulder relished the warm bulk of Skinner's chest at his back, finished his tea, wondered if he was going to cry, or scream, or what, and then said,

"Do you know what today is?"

When no reply was forthcoming, he continued. "It's Good Friday."

Skinner dropped a kiss onto his hair and slipped an arm further around him to rest on his stomach.

"And I think one martyr is all they allow today."

With a groan, Mulder sat up and faced Skinner.

"Do you remember when you and Scully first came to see me in that--" he licked his lips, shuddered, paused. The memories came flooding back. The names they'd called him, the beatings, that club...Skinner didn't push. "When I was there, I--they--"

Skinner took his uninjured hand and Mulder squeezed it tight.

"There's a lot I have to tell you."

Mulder didn't know what the future was going to hold, or even if they were going to have a future, but it had to start somewhere, and the look on Skinner's face told him that this was his safest bet.

The end?

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