Title: The Stuff of Which Nightmares Are Made
Author: ocean gazer
Fandom: The X-Files
Season: post-finale, in an alternate universe where Scully never left with Mulder
Spoilers: none that come to mind
Summary: Of course it was a dark and stormy night. It was Halloween.
Category: drama, case file, mild horror
Rating/Warning: older teens and up for language and violence
Archive: Passion & Perfection, Pink Rabbit; all others, please ask first
Disclaimers: You all know by now that I don't own them. That honor belongs to Chris Carter, 1013 Productions, FOX, and a whole host of others whose names I don't remember. I just take them out and play with them from time to time. I write for my own entertainment and have made no money off this story.
Author's Notes: So, I really am not sure where this story came from. I'd had the scene of someone alone in a cabin in the middle of a storm set in my head for a while, but never knew what to do with it. And then, like a lightning bolt, it hit me. The end is a little...er...sappy. What can I say? I wanted a happy ending. As always, feedback is more than welcome, but never required. Hope you enjoy.
It was a dark and stormy night.
Monica Reyes shivered in the chill of the log cabin and pulled the shawl more tightly around her shoulders. She was sitting on the couch, underneath a large picture window, and even with the heavy curtains drawn, she could feel the draft seeping in. She shifted position slightly on the couch, then winced as she moved a little too much and felt the pull on the muscles in her sprained ankle.
Closing her eyes, she leaned back against the arm of the couch, her injured left leg propped up on pillows, and took several deep breaths until the sharp pain she'd woken with her sudden movement subsided back down to a dull ache. It was still painful, but she'd adapted to that over the past few hours. The nurse in the ER had wanted to start her on prescription painkillers, but Monica had refused to take anything except a couple of ibuprofen. There was no way she was going to take anything stronger until Dana and John returned safely to the cabin. It wasn't solely because she was there alone with no one to help if the drugs made her loopy. It was also because with her partners out tracking an unknown serial killer – which was the reason they were staying here in this cabin in the western Virginia woods – she wasn't willing to risk being muddle-headed in case her help was needed – crutches or not.
Normally, the FBI provided slightly better accommodations for its agents while they were on a case. But with recent budget cuts, when the local sheriff had offered the three of them the free use of his hunting cabin while they were investigating the murders, Director Skinner hadn't been able to refuse.
Opening her eyes, Monica looked around the small space. Actually, despite being drafty and somewhat isolated, the cabin really wasn't that bad. One bedroom for her and Dana, another for John, a cozy main room, and a pocket-sized kitchen. She'd certainly stayed in worse motels in the course of her career.
Ruefully, she chuckled to herself. If not for the fact that she was stuck here by herself, bored out of her skull because of her injured ankle, she'd probably find the cabin a lot more charming.
She shivered again and heard the howl of the wind pick up outside the window, then noticed the wet splat of raindrops against the glass. Frowning, she glanced down at her watch. 8:16pm. She hadn't realized it was so late and she suddenly felt a surge of uneasiness about the fact that John and Dana weren't back yet. When they'd dropped her off about five hours ago, they'd planned to go look at the last two sites where the victims were found – Monica having hurt herself at site number four – and then swing by the sheriff's office to pick up copies of the crime scene photos and reports. John had said something about maybe having a heart-to-heart with the sheriff, since his daughter had been the sixth victim and the only one to survive; she was in a coma and clinging to life, but barely. Even taking those things into account, and adding in the half-hour drive from town to the cabin, her partners still should have been back by now.
And of course she couldn't just call them to see what was going on, since she'd shattered her phone in the course of getting caught in the rock slide that sent her to the ER in the first place. If she didn't know better, she'd think there was a mischievous or malevolent spirit at work, given that it was All Hallow's Eve.
No, just run-of-the-mill Murphy's Law.
A loud bang made Monica jump and this time she cried out in pain as the sudden movement made her ankle throb unmercifully. Her heart was beating fast and she clenched her fists as the bang came again, not quite as loud, but still disturbing.
Moving slowly, trying her damnedest not to jar her injured foot, she levered herself up until she was sitting up straight, then reached out slowly and drew back a corner of the curtain. She couldn't see anything except the blackness of night and her own reflection in the glass. She dropped the curtain, letting it fall back into place, and slowly shifted around, hissing in pain, until her good foot was on the ground and she could reach the crutches she'd left on the floor beside the couch. Getting herself up, she found her balance on the crutches, then swung herself over to the light switch by the cabin's door, turning off the overhead light.
The room plunged into darkness and she shivered. It had been a long time since she'd been scared of the dark, but being by herself in an unfamiliar place with unexplained noises...yeah, she could admit to herself that she was scared.
She stood still, balanced on one foot and the crutches, waiting for her eyes to adjust, willing herself not to jump at the random bangs. The howl of the wind was growing louder and she could hear what sounded like sleet hitting the metal roof of the cabin.
Finally, she could see well enough to move through the space without fear of tripping, and she swung herself over to the couch, resting her left knee on the arm of the couch, anchoring herself with her right foot and the crutches. Reaching out a trembling hand, she cautiously pulled the curtain back slightly. In the back of her mind, she hadn't forgotten that her partners were missing and there was still a serial killer roaming loose, and after years of watching horror films, she half-expected to see a masked face right outside the window, staring in at her.
When her first glance out the little corner of window she'd exposed met with no scary face – masked or otherwise – she let out the breath she'd been holding and pulled the curtain open a little bit more.
With the lights off inside, she could see outside now. Well, mostly she could just see a lot of darkness, since the moon was hidden by the clouds and the cabin sat in the midst of a grove of thick trees. But as her eyes adjusted further, she could tell that they were trees, not just random, shifting shadows. She could see leaves and branches blowing in the strong wind. She could see the occasional streak of silver that told her that her guess about the sleet was right – or at least that there were a few ice pellets mixed in with the rain she could hear – and see – splattering against the window pane.
Another loud bang nearly made her jump. She looked around wildly, trying to identify what exactly she was hearing. Even though she'd identified all the other sounds and sights as being part of the storm, she couldn't tell what that one was and it was scaring the hell out of her. Deliberately taking a deep breath to try and calm herself, she studied the landscape, looking for a clue. And then she suddenly saw it and nearly burst into hysterical laughter. On the other side of the driveway from the cabin was a shed. The shed door wasn't latched and as she watched, the wind blew the door against the side of the shed, creating the banging sound that had freaked her out so much.
It was all just her imagination running away with her. Thank heavens she hadn't taken any strong painkillers. Who knew what she'd be imagining if she had?
Taking slow breaths to calm her still-racing heart, she stared out the window, watching the storm, immersing herself in the tangible reality of rain and wind and trees and darkness. The night no longer seemed quite as scary.
When she'd finally composed herself, she let the curtain drop and stood there in the dark room for a long minute, trying to decide whether or not to settle on the couch again or go into the kitchen and make herself something to eat. She finally decided on food, but before she got herself moving, she heard a scrape against the cabin's door. She froze for a minute, her fears from earlier rustling restlessly in the back of her mind, but then identified the sound of a key turning in the lock and instantly relaxed. It was about time that John and Dana returned.
She'd managed to get her knee off the arm of the couch and pivot around to face the doorway by the time the door swung inward. She frowned to see only one shadowy figure cross the threshold, and her frown deepened when an unfamiliar voice said, "What the hell?"
The overhead light suddenly blazed into existence and Monica blinked rapidly in a futile attempt to get her eyes to adjust more quickly. Once her vision cleared, she recognized Sheriff Toms, his hand still on the light switch, frowning at her. It didn't take her long to understand the implied question and she shrugged as best she could with crutches tucked firmly under her armpits.
"I kept hearing these bangs and the only way to see what was happening outside was to turn off the lights."
The sheriff grunted, "I see," and Monica suddenly felt ridiculous and embarrassed.
The man turned to take off his coat and hang it on the hook behind the door, and to cover her reaction she swung forward on her crutches, moving towards the kitchen, letting him make himself at home since it was, after all, his cabin. Maybe having something to do with her hands would help. She called over her shoulder, "I was just about to make myself something to eat. Can I get something for you?"
She frowned when his response was, "What about your partners?"
Okay, so surely he could see that their rental car wasn't in the driveway, so clearly they weren't around. But even as the thought occurred to her, she was reminded that something must be wrong, since he'd clearly expected to find one or both of them here with her. She swung herself around on the crutches so she was facing him and forced herself not to flinch away from the unreadable expression on his face.
She tried to keep her voice neutral and not let her ongoing worry about her partners make her sound like a nervous mother hen. "They haven't come back yet. I can't call them because my phone is damaged. Did they tell you they were on their way back here?"
He shook his head. "Nope, they didn't say a thing. I just assumed they'd be here." Then he smiled at her. "But I'm just as happy that they aren't. Makes things easier for me."
Monica just gaped at him. What the hell? She heard the words and understood the words, but they didn't make a damn bit of sense. Was he trying to make a pass at her?
Then, he brought his hand out from behind his back and she saw the glint of the knife blade and knew. Not a pass then. He was planning to kill her. He was the serial killer. All the victims, including his own daughter, were tall and slim and dark-haired.
She suddenly replayed their interactions in her mind – the way he'd hovered over her while they were at the crime scenes, the way she'd caught him alternately glaring at her and fawning over her as she offered up observations and theories, the way he'd shown up at the hospital to make sure she was being released even though he knew it was just a minor injury. She still didn't have a clue as to his motivation, but now that she knew what she was looking at, she could see the signs of obsession in him, the signs that she hadn't understood earlier.
Heart racing, she involuntarily shuffled back a step as he moved forward determinedly. There might still be a way out. "Sheriff," she said, willing her voice not to crack, "I know it's Halloween and everything, but the prank you're pulling right now with the knife is scaring me."
To her horror, he laughed, an ugly sound. "I know you know," he said conversationally. "I see it in your eyes."
Quickly, Monica weighed her options. She wasn't armed – they'd taken her gun and Swiss Army knife from her in the ER and she'd left them both in her bag since she'd known she wouldn't be going back out into the field today. She couldn't run, and even if she could, there was nowhere to go. In the storm, she'd be running blind, and the sheriff knew these woods like the back of his hand.
Accepting her lack of options, Monica resorted to the only tactic she could think of – words. "I do know," she said in as calm a tone as she could manage with her heart trying to beat its way out of her chest. "I know you killed those women, that you tried to kill your own daughter." She thought she saw him flinch then, but couldn't be sure. She continued, "What I don't know is why."
He stopped his advance, staring at her like he suspected a trick of some kind. "What makes you think there's a reason? Maybe I just like to kill people."
Monica inched back slightly, leaning against the kitchen counter to take a bit of the weight off her good foot. She watched him warily, watched him watch her warily, and kept her voice low, so as not to spook him. "If you were just going after random people – random women – your victims wouldn't all share hair color and body type." A definite flinch then. Unexpectedly, she felt a surge of empathy. "Who hurt you so badly?" she whispered.
She wasn't sure what kind of response she was expecting, but him rushing her, knife raised, screaming, "You fucking bitch!" wasn't anywhere on the list.
Acting solely on instinct, she braced herself on the counter with her left hand and grabbed the crutch in her right hand, bringing it up and swinging it. The crutch hit his arm, knocking the knife out of his grasp, but didn't stop his advance. He body-slammed her, pressing her hard into the counter against the small of her back, then kicked her remaining crutch out from under her arm. Knocked off balance, her left foot hit the ground, jarring her ankle and causing her to cry out in pain. She heard him laugh, felt a booted foot kick her abused ankle, and saw stars as she fell to the ground in agony.
She blanked out for just a moment, then shook her head to try and clear it. She found herself on hands and knees, breathing hard, gritting her teeth against the pain. The sheriff was a few feet away, busy retrieving the knife she'd knocked to the side. He'd kicked the crutches well out of her reach while she was incapacitated and she watched helplessly as he stalked over to stand in front of her.
"So you think someone hurt me and that's why I kill fucking bitches that look like you," the sheriff said. Gone was the rage from just moments ago and Monica blinked hard, trying to make sense of what was going on. He continued, "Maybe no one hurt me. Maybe I just hate people with dark hair and dark eyes." A truly grotesque smile crossed his face. "And maybe you'll never know because I'm going to kill you now."
He moved forward, slowly and deliberately, and Monica tensed her arms, shifting more of her weight to her knees. She'd only have one chance to try and disarm him, and she had to let him get closer.
One step, then another; she could see the knife getting closer from the corner of her eye; then BANG!
She barely had time to process what had just happened before he collapsed on top of her, the knife clattering harmlessly off to the side. Once again, agony engulfed her as his sudden weight on her sent fire lancing through her ankle.
The next thing she knew, the sheriff's weight was gone and she managed to look up to see John gripping the dead man's arms, tossing him off to the side like a piece of trash. Then she felt gentle hands on her and looked over to see Dana kneeling next to her, love and worry and fear written across her lover's face.
"I'm okay. He didn't hurt me; I just re-injured my ankle," Monica managed, feeling shaky now that the immediate danger had passed. And her earlier worry about her missing partners flared back to life with a vengeance. "He didn't hurt you, did he?" she asked Dana, eyes frantically scanning the redhead. "You were gone so long and I didn't know what was going on and--"
"Shhh," Dana interrupted her. "He didn't hurt us. We're both fine."
Monica let out the breath she'd been holding, lightheaded with relief. Dana's words were soft, reassuring. "We were at the hospital. His daughter came out of her coma and would only talk to the FBI. It took a little while to interview her, but once she told us who'd tried to kill her and why, we raced back here as fast as we could. If not for the storm, we'd have been here sooner. I'm just glad we made it in time..."
Monica heard the quaver in her lover's voice on those last words, and reached up to caress Dana's face. It had been a close call, way too close for her liking. She said a silent prayer of thanks that they had made it in time. She caught movement off to the side as John knelt down beside them. Just past his shoulder, she could see the dead man, as well as the slowly spreading pool of blood from the gunshot wound that had killed him. She shuddered. "Why?"
In contrast to Dana's gentle hands on her, John's voice was gruff. "Long story short: his mother was a real piece of work. Terrorized him and his younger siblings; the whole town basically rejoiced when she died in a house fire when he was ten. No one ever looked too hard at the cause. The older his daughter got, the more she looked like her grandmother, and it sent him around the bend. Like he didn't realize that his mother was dead, so he kept trying to kill her – or women who looked like her."
Monica shivered and her gaze strayed back to the dead man. Dana's voice sounded far away. "Monica, are you sure you're alright?"
She blinked hard. "Yes, it's just that I'm going to pass out now." The world went dark.
"You scared me, you know, when you fainted like that."
Dana's words were soft, but heartfelt, and Monica snuggled deeper into her lover's embrace. "I'm sorry," she replied simply. "I didn't mean to, it's just that everything had been so intense and then the adrenaline wore off..."
She fell silent as Dana kissed her temple and whispered, "I know."
They were nestled in a king-sized bed at a B&B in the next town over. Neither of them had been able to face spending the night at the cabin after what had happened, so Dana had decided to pay for the accommodations herself and "the hell with what Director Skinner thinks of that." John had opted to stick around and finish up the reports on what had happened, and the hospital had offered him guest quarters for the night.
The room they were in was warm and cozy – the walls were a neutral beige, but dark wood trim pieces and forest green curtains and carpet gave a homey feel. The storm continued to rage outside, but the fat radiators lining the walls gave off ample heat, and there were acres of blankets on the bed.
Monica shifted position slightly and then froze, waiting for her ankle to start throbbing in protest. Oh right, when they'd checked her out at the hospital after the shooting, the nurse had once again insisted on heavy-duty painkillers and this time she'd given in. She carefully moved her foot, settling it back on its little throne of pillows, and leaned against her lover, cuddled safe and sound in Dana's arms. She yawned.
It didn't really surprise her when Dana followed suit. It had been a long, long day, and she had no doubt her lover was as exhausted as she was. Turning her head, she stretched her neck up and kissed Dana's cheek. "Thank you for insisting we come stay here. It's much nicer than the motel in that town and...I feel like there won't be any ghosts here."
She felt Dana's arms tighten around her and dropped her head back down to nestle against her lover's neck. She wasn't sure if she should explain what she meant, but trusted Dana to figure it out. The redhead's words were soft. "No ghosts, sweetheart. Just you and me, safe and secure."
Monica yawned again and closed her eyes, tugging the blankets up under her chin. Snuggled in her lover's arms, her aches and pains chased away by the drugs, she felt herself starting to drift off to sleep. Reaching up to where one of Dana's arms was wrapped around her, she grabbed hold of her lover's hand, twining their fingers together. "Good night, Dana," she whispered.
She felt the squeeze of slender fingers against her own, then felt a soft kiss against her temple. "Good night. Sleep well. I'll be here if you need me."
Monica swallowed the sudden lump in her throat, touched by both the implicit understanding that she might well have nightmares and the offer to be there to help chase the demons away. She'd spent her life being the one others turned to for comfort and soothing; words couldn't quite describe how it felt to be on the receiving end of it. It was a gift she didn't take for granted.
Squeezing Dana's fingers again, she whispered, "Thank you. I'm so grateful to have you in my life. I love you, Dana."
The last thing she heard as sleep claimed her was "I don't say it often enough, but I'm grateful for you too. I love you, Monica."