Beyond the Truth: 02. High Stakes
Archive: Anyone may link my fics to their pages (an e-mail to let me know where would be appriciated), but please seek permission before uploading.
Rating: PG-13 (violence)
Series: Beyond The Truth, story #2
Originally Posted: October 31st, 2002 to August 10th, 2003
Summary: Crossover between the X-Files and the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter novels. While investigating a series of vampire "deaths", Blake poses as a nanny in Mulder and Scully's household. This is a continuation of the first Beyond The Truth fic "Lost and Found." This story will make a whole lot more sense if you read L&F first and perhaps at least "Guilty Pleasures" (if not up through "Lunatic Cafe")by Laurell Hamilton. I'll do my best to make the story understandable to those who haven't read her books, however.
Time frame: I'm taking a little bit of liberty with the Anita Blake timeline. Since the books don't come out and say when they are, I'm going to pretend that they're this year, despite the first having been written in 1993. (the first six books, written over a span of several years apparently are all placed in the same year's span.) Being that is the case, this story will take place after "Circus of the Damned"(book 3) in her world. Since there's a several weeks gap in between the 3rd and 4th books, this works out rather well, even for someone as anal as I am. The epilogue briefly mentions some events from book 4, also. Spoiler-lightly, though.
As for the X-files gang, this story is still post-season nine, and takes place a few days after Lost and Found ends. (so the first November after "The Truth")
Disclaimer: I own neither the X-files characters, whom are owned by Chris Carter and 1013, nor do I own the Anita Blake characters, whom were created by Laurell Hamilton.
Final note: Because the Anita Blake novels are written in first person point of view, and having several characters necessitates the BtT stories being in third person, the story will alternate between 1st POV and 3rd POV, depending on if it's from Anita's or the X-files characters' perspective. It sounds more complicated than it is =)
I blame Sergeant Dolph Storr for getting me into trouble this time. Apparently one of his friends in the D.C. area was having trouble with vampires, and since the city is behind the times, they don't have a preternatural crime squad. So my name came up, in their talks between one law officer to another. Fantastic.
"Blake, I'm really sorry I didn't think to ask your feelings on the matter before suggesting you could help. I just think so highly of you..." Dolph had attempted to apologize.
I sighed deeply and looked at my hands, willing myself to have patience, which isn't my strong suit. But then I figured, what the hell? I could use a break from my would be suitors anyway, so maybe a little work out of the state might be good for me. It would also piss my boss off, and I loved making Bert angry. It was a sport of sorts. However, I didn't let Dolph know that, since I didn't want to let him off that easily. "I'll consider it," I grudgingly agreed.
"Great. My friend knows of a couple who is looking for a nanny. From what he tells me, they're your sort of people."
"A nanny??? Are you insane??" I ranted, just getting warmed up.
He continued to smile. "Just read this before you flip out entirely."
I grabbed the paper out of his hand, and began reading it aloud. "Nanny wanted: Professional couple with two children, ages 18 months and 8 years, seek a nanny who has an open mind. Knowledge of the occult and weaponry very desirable."
"Is this a joke?" I asked, not bothering to keep the incredulity out of my voice.
"Have you seen the X-Files movie?" Dolph asked.
I wondered why he suddenly was asking about my movie viewing habits. "Yeah. Who hasn't?" I asked, thinking about what a hit the stupid movie starring Tea Leoni and Gilbert Godfry had been three years ago.
"They're them," Dolph replied with a grin.
"They're the people the movie is about?" I asked and he nodded. "But the movie was fiction!" I protested.
"The movie might have been fiction, but the people aren't. There really is a Mulder and Scully, and they really do work for the X-files division of the FBI."
That could be interesting, especially if even a fraction of the movie was the truth. Sh*t. Dolph was talking me into this fool's errand after all. I made a last ditch sally towards getting myself out of this. Perhaps I could foil the plan with logic. "Sure, whatever. I sort of understand why I'd fit into their household, but why would I need to? If I'm only undercover to keep the Vampires from knowing I'm the Executioner, as if my reputation spreads to DC anyway, why would I need to have a job? I could pose as a student, or independently wealthy."
"We need you there so you can find out what these FBI agents know," Dolph said so reasonably that it irritated me.
"Why would they know anything?"
"Oh, did I forget to mention it? They've been assigned to the case," Dolph replied, glibly. At least for him. I wanted to punch him, but balled up my fists and ground them into my sides until the urge passed.
After that my legendary sanguinity prevailed, so there was no yelling. "If there are FBI agents assigned to the case, why would I need to do anything?" I asked ever-so-sweetly. Points for me. Dolph was quite for a longer time than is usual for him, which made me very nervous. Finally he cleared his throat and gave me a weak smile. "My friend has been in contact with the master vampire of DC. If the case isn't solved post haste, the master promises a bloodbath the likes of which we've never seen before."
Great. All I had to do was worm my way into the confidences of a pair of FBI agents, who seemed, at least judging by the movie, to trust people only as far as they could throw them, and find out who had been murdering vampires. No problem. Right.
"Scully, this is hopeless," Mulder moaned, as the sixth potential nanny left their home white-faced. A week into their nanny search, Mulder and Scully were feeling very pessimistic and stressed.
Scully looked grim but determined. "Maybe we'll have better luck with that ad we placed yesterday than this nanny agency," she said, though she'd vehemently protested the wording the day before.
"Well, I certainly hope so. I love your mother for offering to look after them, but I think we've already imposed enough," Mulder said, thinking about all the times Maggie had looked after William for Scully while he was gone.
"She says she doesn't mind, so maybe it wouldn't be so terrible if do have to take her up on it for a little while."
"But the next nanny is going to be the right one," Scully said. "I can feel it."
"You've been spending too much time around Reyes," Mulder teased her.
"Speaking of which, they're supposed to get home from their honeymoon tomorrow," Scully said, ignoring his dig.
"It must be nice to get away to somewhere warm in early November," Mulder said enviously.
"Play your cards right, Mulder, and maybe I'll agree to take the kids to Disney World over Christmas vacation," Scully said.
"Oh, can we go to space mountain? You could hold my hand if you get scared." He flirted, making Scully give him a wry look.
I looked over my resume and groaned.
B.A. in Preternatural biology
1997 to present- Animators' Inc.
Job duties include: raising the dead, putting zombies to rest, and handling cases involving vampires. 2001 to present- Preternatural Expert for preternatural crime division - on retainer to St. Louis Preternatural crime squad. Called in to consult with preternatural crimes involving non-human entities.
2000 to present - Legal Vampire Executioner for the state of Missouri Job duties include: hunting down renegade vampires and staking them after receiving death warrants from the state.
This might have looked good if I was applying to become an animator at another firm, but it simply wouldn't do for a nanny position, even if they did want someone who was familiar with the occult. I was going to have to be creative.
I opened the resume wizard and started a new resume.
Masters in abnormal psychology, minor in early child education
2001 to present- Little People's Center
Job duties include: teaching 3-4 year olds arts and science, report writing, parent-teacher conferences, and playground duty.
I looked it over and nodded to myself. It would do with a bit more fluff, maybe some things thrown in about volunteer work. I'd make sure that I'd use the right names for the couple to call for references, namely Dolph and my friend Ronnie, who would readily lie to protect my under cover status. If I got the position, that was.
I dragged myself to a Mailbox ect. and paid to have my resume and cover letter faxed to a DC number. I suppose I could have mailed it, but preferred to fax it to save myself a few days wait on whether or not they were interested. I liked to know if I should feel relieved or anxious right away.
Doggett wrapped his arm around Reyes' waist as they walked towards the luggage carousel. He was aware that it probably looked possessive, but he thought that was fairly appropriate behavior for a new groom. Reyes smiled at him, so he took it that she didn't mind. He didn't realize though, that she was distracted, because she was thinking about their wedding again. She had an internal debate over which had been more entertaining after the vows: when she threw the bouquet, or when she and Doggett had their cake.
To be sporting, she tossed the bouquet without looking, then had quickly turned around to see who had caught it, finding that no one had. Her blind aim not being true, it had apparently first gotten itself caught up in one of the other floral arrangements, and was only just falling from there when she turned around. She saw it just before it landed on one of the wedding guests' head. The woman, Abigail Brown, Abby to friends, had lived down the hall from Reyes when she'd worked under Brad Folmer. Abby was a good sport about it, and merely plucked the bouquet off her head and gave an obligatory triumphant smile to the other guests. Some of the other unmarried women grumbled good-naturedly, but unlike an episode of Jerry Springer, there were no fist fights.
As for the tradition of the bride and groom feeding each other cake, she'd decided to rein in her sense of mischief, because she didn't think Doggett would appreciate playfulness in front of such a large audience. Which is why it surprised her so much when Doggett smeared frosting all over the tip of her nose. When she saw his broad grin, she couldn't be mad at him, and had just laughed instead.
They heard their names being called as they reached for their bags, and were glad that they wouldn't have wait for Skinner. He and Gibson walked up to them looking happy to see them. It had surprised Doggett that Skinner had offered to let Gibson stay with them while they were gone. He thought Reyes was still being over-protective of the boy, and that he probably could have survived for a week on his own, but it was nice of Skinner to let Gibson stay with him. Apparently the two of them had hit it off the night Doggett proposed.
"There's the newlyweds," Skinner said with a smile.
"Here we are," Reyes replied happily.
"Doggett, I wanted to let you know that the movers did bring all of your things over to Reyes' apartment like you asked," Skinner said, having been asked to check up on that. Doggett decided that it made more sense for him to move to Reyes' apartment, rather than the other way around, because she had two bedrooms and he only had one.
"Great, thanks. I'll swing by to make sure they got everything when I drop off the keys for the landlord."
They walked to Skinner's car, and put the luggage into the trunk. When they were all seated, Skinner turned around in his seat. "There's something I need to discuss with the two of you tonight..." Skinner said, wondering how to tell them that the X-files is going to be re-opened in a week."
I was a little surprised and slightly unnerved that there was a message from Dana Scully on my machine only eighteen hours after I made that fax. I couldn't tell from the tone of her voice if they'd been impressed by my "resume" or if they were merely desperate. Beggars can't be choosers, I thought as I replayed the message at 4:30 am.
I was only hearing it that late, because it had been a long long night. As predicted, Bert had a hissy fit about my needing to take off an unknown amount of time to help the police department. He threatened to fire me, again, and I called his bluff, again. It's becoming quite tiresome. I suppose he would have an even bigger fit if Dolph had not been the first one to broach the subject with him. Dolph claimed that it was the least he could do for me. He was right. In the end Bert went martyr on me and tentatively suggested that with Larry and John Burke now on board at Animator's inc, he could get by without me. As if I don't know full well that Zombie raising isn't terribly unpopular between All Saints Day and Christmas; for some reason rotting corpses don't fill people with holiday cheer. But, being on my best behavior, I let it slide and managed to appear somewhat grateful for the unpaid leave.
After I raised two zombies- one who needed to tell a loved one the location of a safety deposit box key, and the other to hear a guilt ridden confession in front of her family from the DUI convicted person who'd killed her- I took a long enough break to chicken out about telling Richard that I would be gone for a while.
I left a message on his machine. I thought long and hard about it, but the thought of telling him face to face just seemed too much to bear. I shouldn't have felt so guilty, since we'd only been seeing each other for a few weeks, but things had already become complicated.
I supposes he could have used my cowardice to guilt me when I got back, but little things like not getting around to telling me that he was a werewolf until after we started dating didn't leave him a furry leg to stand on, right? Right.
I decided not to share with Ronnie my decision not to Richard, because she'd just look at me with those gray eyes of hers and tell me that I'm just using the assignment as a way to distance myself from my new relationship. And she'd probably have been right. Richard would, without a doubt, be my Mr. Right if he was human. I know it's not his fault, but...It was hard to have rationalized rejecting another suitor for being a monster, then falling for another one.
I obviously didn't make any attempt to contact Jean-Claude, because the less he knows about me and my whereabouts, the happier I am. A lot of people joke about stalkers, but I have a feeling that few of them have the undead in mind when they make their quips. I have to give Jean-Claude credit, though, he's very persistent for a dead guy. Comparing them to him, it almost gives me the warm fuzzies to think about the zombies I raise, at least they never have crushes on me.
That Scully woman gave me the home phone number and assured me that the children's father would be home to talk to all day, so I didn't feel too guilty as I slipped on an over-sized t-shirt and crawled into bed, intending to put off returning the call for several hours.
Mulder handed out mugs of coffee. Skinner took his black, but everyone else took a moment to add cream and or sugar to theirs. Once everyone had settled, Doggett turned to Skinner and said, "Sir, do you have any information on what will be the X-files first case when it reopens?" He and Reyes had readily agreed to return to the X-files the day before, both wanting to escape profiling hell, but they found themselves short on information.
Skinner took of his glasses and polished them. "Since there will be four agents on duty at the same time, for a change. "He glanced pointedly at Mulder. "It was decided by the powers that be that resources can be divided up to allow us to work on two cases at a time." He paused for a moment as his four agents gave each other the same worried glances you see on the faces of high schoolers after their teacher announces that they'll be assigned lab partners. He had the grace not to let his amusement show. "Doggett and Reyes will be investigating a claim that a poltergeist is haunting a dorm-"
"That should be interesting," Doggett said with a smirk, earning a reproachful look from Reyes. Skinner ignored him. "And, given Scully's medical background, she and Mulder have been assigned to investigate a series of strange deaths."
Scully raised an eyebrow. "Strange how, sir?"
"For all intents and purposes, it looks like spontaneous human combustion," Skinner said, pleased that Scully resisted the urge to rant about the stupidity of the idea; he'd overheard an augment she and Mulder had had on the topic. Predictably, Mulder looked excited about the case.
"Everything should be on your desks Monday morning so you can begin familiarizing yourselves with the case. Unfortunately, they're being very adamant about not opening the office until then, so we don't have the opportunity to do so in advance." He half apologized.
"Monday sounds good, Sir," Reyes said with a smile.
Skinner then asked, "Mulder, Scully, how is your nanny search going?"
Mulder covered his face with his hands and groaned.
Scully tried to put on a brave face. "We have a good prospect set up to interview tomorrow," she said, but was thinking about how polite Mulder said the girl had been on the phone when returning their call. She wasn't sure that it was necessarily a good sign. After all, the other applicants had been polite girls as well.
Exactly three days after submitting my resume, I found myself standing in the driveway of a nice two story home in Washington, D.C. I reminded myself that I was a recent recipient of a Masters in a abnormal psychology, which wasn't much of a stretch since I did deal with abnormal people daily, and that I was new to the area. I kept repeating these faux facts, and my new mantra "be polite, dammit," as I rang the doorbell.
The door was opened by a petite redhead who had a toddler on her hip. "You must be Ms. Blake," she said, and I replied that I was. I was surprised at first that she was movie star pretty, since I had expected an FBI agent to be more...dowdy. She smiled at me, and showed me in. The little boy, I observed, looked a lot like her with red-gold curls and big blue eyes, though he definitely didn't have her nose. He was staring at me much more intently that I'd expect of a baby, and for some reason I couldn't put a finger on, it made me nervous.
When we got to the living room, I got my first look at the rest of the family. A handsome dark haired man with a lanky frame was stretched out on the floor next to a pixie-like blond girl. They were playing a video game, and finally glanced up at us when the woman cleared her throat. The man blushed. "Uh, sorry, Scully, we didn't notice you come in." Scully? I thought, maybe Dolph wasn't putting me on after all. Unless they were both in on it, of course.
He got to his feet and offered me his hand, which I shook. "I'm Fox Mulder," he said, "And this is lovely young lady is Emily." He pointed to the girl." The little fellow Scully is holding is our son William."
"They're beautiful," I said, and meant it. While it made the adults smile, the little girl rolled her eyes when her parents weren't looking at her. I hid my smile, she reminded me a bit of myself as a little girl.
The next forty-five minutes passed quickly, as we went through a typical interview. I couldn't help but notice that the woman, Scully, looked nervous. I thought the interviewee was supposed to the nervous one? Maybe she was leaving the baby for the first time. Just in case, I asked "Is there anything else I should know about the children?"
They exchanged a quick look, and I suddenly had the feeling that the interview was about to get a lot more interesting.
Mulder inwardly groaned when he realized that Scully had no intention of being straight-foreword with the girl interviewing for the nanny position. Apparently she'd given up on the "honesty is the best policy" tactic that had failed to work with the other women interviewing for the position. Finally he interrupted. "Scully, do you want to tell her the rest, or should I?"
He noticed the young woman suddenly looked a little bit excited, and he wondered if she'd somehow found out things about them. Scully sighed and told him, "You may as well, Mulder." The look on her face suggested she didn't think it was a good idea, but he didn't think it would be fair to let her take the job blindly.
He steepled his hands and looked Anita in the eye. "I have a feeling that you know more about us than the nanny agency told you," he said evenly. He looked at her for a moment and wondered what they hadn't been told about this girl with the milky skin and dark curls. For a moment the thought that he knew so little about her scared him. He figured he was probably being paranoid again.
"I know you're FBI agents," she confessed. "And that you were the inspiration for that X-Files movie."
"Well, I guess that makes it a little easier...As you know, we work for a division of the FBI that's concerned with the paranormal." He waited until she nodded. "Unfortunately, it's not the type of job you can always leave at the office." Something about the look in her eye suggested that she might be able to sympathize, though he couldn't imagine why.
"Is...that why you want someone who is familiar with weapons?" Anita asked him hesitantly.
"Yes. To be perfectly honest with you, attempts have been made on all of our lives over the years. Including theirs," he said, pointing to the two children.
Anita looked at him, and hoped that the shock she felt wasn't visible on her face. She found it difficult to believe that someone would try to kill a child. Or someone human, she silently amended to herself, thinking of a recent case with the spook squad: two preschoolers, an infant, and their parents had been murdered by a zombie that had broken free of a rogue animator's control. "Are you worried that someone might try again?" she asked.
"Always," Scully said, finally adding to the conversation. "The man who tried to harm the children has since died, but we feel paranoia is best, because we work with dangerous felons who might seek revenge on us through them. For some reason federal agents aren't terribly popular with criminals."
"Well, I'm a good shot." Anita told them. "If it comes to that," she added. They nodded in approval. "Anything else I should know?"
Mulder reached down and picked up his son. "William here, isn't exactly your typical toddler," he said, ruffling his hair.
"He's atypical how?" Anita asked.
"He...He's telekinetic. And reads minds," Scully said, looking as though she expected Anita to run from the house screaming.
"I don't though," Emily piped up. "I'm boring."
Anita gave them a calm look. "When do you think you'll be making your decision on who you'll hire?"
Scully looked surprised. "If you're still interested, you've got the job as far as I'm concerned," she blurted out.
Since I was supposed to be new to DC, which I technically was if you overlooked the fact that I didn't intend to stay, it was quite easy for me to move in a couple of days later. At first I worried that I would be put in a spare room, or worse yet a made-over study/office/den but they had something unusual- an apartment above their garage. It reminded me of one of the shows I watched back when I actually owned a TV: Growing Pains. The eldest son lived above their garage too.
Thinking of TV reminds me that Dolph unknowingly embarrassed me before I left Saint Louis. He asked me to tell let him know if the "real Mulder" looked like Gary Shandling. Apparently the guy had his own TV show for several years, and only someone as out of touch with TV as I am would confuse him with Gilbert Godfey. It almost made me curious enough about what I'd been missing to buy a TV. Almost.
It turned out that I didn't need to do that, because the garage apartment included one in the furnishing. And it even had cable. I gave it an appraising look as I brought my luggage, with Mulder's help, up to the room, and decided that maybe I might take advantage of it.
I waited until I thanked him and he left the apartment before I opened up the suitcases. It's sort of ironic that for a change I could be free and easy with showing off my guns, but my suitcase hid something my employers must never see. Sigmund. It seemed best for both my employers and I if they never learned my deepest secret- I sleep with a stuffed penguin.
As I covered Sigmund with my comforter, just as a precaution against him being seen if Mulder or Scully came up, I thought that there was at least one good thing about this half of my assignment. At least there will little threat of any blood getting on my favorite penguin. It'd only been a few months since zombies broke into my apartment, intent on killing me. They hadn't succeeded, of course, but one of the zombies had been fresh enough to bleed, so when St. Louis' finest and I took him out, he'd bled all over some of my penguins and had ruined two of them. Well, technically they'd only been completely ruined when I'd tried to clean them by soaking them in the bathtub. I still blame him, though. The event had been traumatic enough to make me leery of taking my favorite with me, but what's the worst that could happen to a stuff penguin here?
Scully looked down at the body with clinical detachment. Mulder stood a few steps back, trying to concentrate on not becoming ill. He couldn't figure out how she dealt with the dead with such an unflappable attitude. He'd only seen her balk once at the sight of death, and afterwards he'd wondered if Melissa might not have been the only Scully girl with a touch of clairvoyance, since the murderer had nearly taken Scully's life as well. Other than that, though, she approached death with a sanguinity that most men could not hope to match.
Scully examined the burnt remains with interest. The body had been burned, no doubt about it, but tox screens of the remaining tissue hadn't revealed any sort of propellant being used to burn the corpse. The only other time she'd seen something like this was when she and Mulder worked on a case at the behest of Phoebe Green. Scully had been somewhat distracted by her extreme dislike of the European woman, so as much as she hated to admit it, the details of the case weren't as sharp in her memory as she'd like. The consensus they came to in that case was that the murder had laced things with rocket fuel, then used a pyrokinetic power to ignite his victims. Scully poked gently at the body before her, who, unlike the victims of that long crime, was not anyone important. From the outdated ID that had been extracted half-melted from his pocket, the police had been able to determine that the deceased had been a young man who'd been reported missing by his family some five years earlier. None of his unburnt effects gave any clues as to what he'd been doing to sustain himself since he'd dropped off the radar.
"Have you discovered anything interesting?" Mulder asked, trying to distract himself from thoughts about how horrible it would be to burn to death. He really hoped that the dead man was not pyrophobic too.
"Depends on what you mean by 'interesting'," Scully said calmly. "I did find something very unusual, though."
"Which is what?" Mulder asked.
"It seems that our victim here was at least partially drained of blood before he died."
"How can you tell that?" Mulder asked, daring to take a step closer to Scully and the deceased.
"Blood will burn, boil off actually, but even so there is usually some deep within the unburned tissue. There's very little blood even in the deepest veins here."
"So you're suggesting someone bled him before setting him on fire?"
"No. There's no immediately apparent evidence of that sort of thing. His throat wasn't slit, and there aren't any discernible puncture wounds at the sites of large veins."
"So you don't think someone bled him then?" Mulder asked, starting to get a headache.
"I'm not going to rule it out, but it doesn't look like it. It'll be harder to find wounds given the degree of burning the body has sustained, but either I, or the coroner, will be careful to look for them. However, there's something else that bothers me about the body," Scully said as she turned to look at him.
Mulder wanted to run out of the room because he knew what she was going to do next. "What's that?" he asked, hoping he was wrong.
"Come here and take a look at the heart," Scully said.
Damn, he thought. He inched his way forward until he had a better view of the man's chest than he would have liked. "What am I looking at?"
"The rule of thumb is that our hearts are about the size of our fist. That's a little simplistic, but look," she said, pointing with a scalpel "His heart is only about half the size you'd expect in a man this big."
Mulder looked again, and decided that it did look small, even to his untrained eye. "So what do you conclude from that?"
Scully shrugged her shoulders. "This man should have been dead a long time ago. There's no way a heart that small would allow him to function normally."
"That's why they call it an X-file, Scully," Mulder told her, smiling despite the greenish cast to his skin.
"Do you feel all right, Mulder? You look a little sick," Scully said with concern.
"Ah. Must have been something I ate," Mulder lied. He glanced at his watch, and saw that it was nearly 2pm. He wondered for a moment if he should suggest calling Ms. Blake to find out how her first day with the kids was going, but he decided that it would just make Scully worry. She was a capable young woman, surely she didn't need to be checked up on.
As three o'clock that first day rolled around, I congratulated myself. Either I was a lot better with kids than I thought, or taking care of them wasn't as hard as it seemed. The kids had behaved like angels the entire day. I didn't know if it was their normal behavior, or if they'd been told by their parents to be nice, but I honestly didn't care. After walking Emily to school, William and I spent a nice day reading books, watching G-rated movies and finger painting. I even surprised myself by producing something for us to eat for lunch without causing a fire. I wouldn't exactly say I'm a bad cook, because you actually have to cook in order to be a bad one. No fires and no food poisoning, so I thought I did all right.
After lunch he napped, which left me time to surf the internet to see what I could find in the local papers about the vampire murders. I'd brought the laptop Dolph lent me over to the house, so there would be no record on anyone else's computer of the sites I'd visited. Until the week before I didn't even know Dolph had a computer, which just goes to show how little you know about even your closest friends. I put the computer away well before anyone would be home, because I still felt a little guilty about using their second phone line to connect.
I woke the baby up at 1:30 so we could go get his sister, and he surprised me by waking up in a bright and cheery mood. My mother died when I was very young, but I still remember her telling me that I'd always woke up on the wrong side of the crib when I was his age. I still don't wake up very easily, so I guess some things never change.
William, on the other hand, seemed delighted to be going to get his sister, because he kept crowing "See Em!" as I put his coat on him and strapped him into his stroller. I was a little surprised that he knew where we were going, but as I understood it, his father had been his primary caretaker while on leave from the FBI, so I chalked it up to a precocious ability to remember daily routines.
Emily ran up to us all smiles, which made me feel better. I wasn't sure how she was going to react to having someone she barely knew get her from school, but it seemed I worried for nothing. I didn't know if it was genetics or environment, but I was pleased to be around a pair of genuinely friendly and happy kids. For a little while on the way home I fantasized about what it would be like to be a mother, which was unusual for me since I've made up my mind not to have kids. The fantasy bubble burst the moment I pictured myself wearing a snuggi while raising a zombie. Zombies and the occasional vampire probably aren't the healthiest beings for a baby to be around.
Like I said, I was congratulating myself by three pm. The parents would be home at 5:30, so I thought that the day was going very well. Emily sat at the table and the baby was in his playpen while I got them a snack. Their mother, Scully, said that it was ok for them to have a couple of cookies, so I brought those to the table and make them some peanut butter crackers, at Emily's request. I figured why not, since they probably wouldn't be eating dinner until after six. I'd been invited to eat dinner with the family, and I was still trying to decide if I would or not. On one hand it would be strange to be part of a family dinner, but on the other I might hear a bit about their case, which was something I was trying to figure out how to access.
After the kids finished their snacks I washed William's hands, which made him giggle. Emily played with her brother for a while, then asked if she could play with paper and glue at the table, mentioning something about wanting to make a Thanksgiving turkey out of construction paper. I said sure, then gave Will some toys to play with, since he was too little to play that with her.
Everything was going fine until Emily asked me for a glass of water. I turned towards the sink and was filling the glass when I heard an "Uh oh" from behind me. When I turned around I saw that William not only had the bottle of Elmer's glue, but he was squirting it all over himself. At first I couldn't figure out why Emily would have given it to him, but soon realized that she hadn't.
"I didn't give it to him, I swear," Emily told me quickly. "Sometimes he gets what he wants all by himself."
I remembered what Mulder and Scully had told me about the boy being telekinetic. Until this point I hadn't actually taken the claim seriously. Since I can raise the dead, I shouldn't have been so dismissive of other people's powers, because if one was real surely others were as well. Maybe things weren't going to be quite as easy as I thought.
William looked up at me with his bright blue eyes, and handed me the bottle without having to be asked. Normally I wouldn't think a baby would know that they'd done something wrong, but he looked a bit ashamed of himself. "Sorry Ne-ta," he said with a downcast look and a sigh.
I took him by one sticky hand and began to lead him up the stairs for a bath and a change of clothes. Emily trailed after us, and grabbed a book from her room. Emily preached on the closed lid of the toilet and read aloud to us while I gave William his bath. I thought she read rather well for an eight-year-old, then laughed at myself because I'd forgotten that she was already in the fourth grade. Of course she read well.
I was just draining the tub when I heard the front door open. A voice floated up "Where is everyone?"
Emily went to the door and called down "Upstairs, Daddy."
Mulder poked his head into the bathroom while I finished wrapping the towel around William. "Was it pudding?"
"Elmer's glue," I admitted sheepishly.
"It's usually pudding," he said, scooping his son up. "Other than William covering himself in something, again, how did your first day go?" he asked, carrying William to his room.
I had to walk quickly to keep up with him. I wondered if Scully struggled with that, too. She was just my height and had short little legs too, but perhaps she was used to it. "They were great. No other problems at all," I said.
"That's good to hear," he said, with relief coloring his voice. It was then that it occurred to me that he was even more nervous about leaving the kids than their mother was. I thought that was kind of sweet. "Would you mind getting this guy dressed? I'd like to help Scully with dinner."
"Oh, no problem," I said, deciding to eat with them after all.
By the time Anita got Will dressed and helped him toddle into the kitchen, Mulder was already pulling a pan out of the oven and putting it on the counter. Emily didn't notice them come in because she was concentrating on setting the table, but Scully did. She relieved Anita of the toddler and whisked him into his high chair.
"Ms. Blake, why don't you have a seat?" Scully suggested. "We'll be eating in a couple of minutes."
"Thank you," Anita said as she sat. "You can call me Anita, though."
Mulder and Scully exchanged an amused look and grinned. The corner of Mulder's lips twitched as he said, "Calling someone by their first name. That'd be novel."
"In our line of work it's customary to call people by their surnames." Scully explains. "It's a hard habit to break." Mulder nodded in agreement.
"But Monica and John call each other by their first names," Emily objected.
"They're our partners at the FBI," Scully said for Anita's benefit.
"Our friends are a bit strange. They did marry after all," Mulder monotone. Anita gave him a puzzled look.
Scully, not liking the direction the conversation would most likely turn, decided to change the subject. Instead of looking at Mulder, which might have encouraged him to elaborate, she turned her gaze towards Anita. She was startled all over again by the contrast the younger woman's dark eyes and long curling black hair made against her nearly ghostly white skin. "How are you liking D.C. so far?"
"It's nice," Anita said, sounding slightly shy and uncertain. Scully gave her an encouraging smile. "It's not much like St. Louis."
"I found D.C. a big change when I first got here too. Just wait a couple of weeks for the holiday decorations to go up, though. It's a sight to behold," Scully gushed. "The shopping is wonderful too. Do you have many people left to shop for?"
The stricken look that flickered across Anita's face made Scully instantly regret her urge to dig for details about the younger woman's life.
I looked up at Scully's face and wondered what I should say. I couldn't very well explain that some of the people on my holiday shopping list aren't human. So I decided to talk about the more painful stuff first. "I lost my mother when, I was eight," I decided to quickly continue my explanations before I let the adults' sympathetic looks get to me. "But I still have my Dad, my step-mom, a younger step-sister and a half-brother. I'm not sure what I'm going to get any of them yet. I still need to buy something for my best friend, and a couple of cops who are friends of the family, too." And I'll probably pick up little some things for Larry, Dead Dave, Willie, Jean-Claude, Irving and Richard before my shopping is completed, too. Three vampires, two werewolves, and an animator trainee in a pear tree.
"Are you going home for the holidays?" Mulder asked me. "We'll be visiting with Scully's mom, so we don't want you to think that we want you to work over the holidays."
I shrugged. "I'm not sure yet. I might spend the holidays in St. Louis."
"So there's a guy in your life," Mulder concluded. Scully shot him a look that made me think that they'd had many discussions about tact. I nearly smiled.
Instead, I blushed. "Sort of. I recently started dating a guy named Richard."
"And he's ok with the idea of a long distance relationship?" Mulder asked next. I was beginning to get the sense of what having an older brother must be like. A very nosy older brother.
"I guess so. It's not as though our relationship is very serious at this point." I was quickly getting tired of his questions, so I decided to attempt to steer the conversation to a more useful direction. "Working for the FBI must be neat. Can you talk about your cases, or are they top secret?" I asked oh-so-innocently.
Scully nearly gave a sigh of relief when Mulder let up with his strange line of questioning. "To tell you the truth we're really not supposed to talk about open cases-"
"-but we do anyway," Mulder interrupted with a grin and a shrug. "Would you like to hear about the case?"
Scully sighed but didn't say anything.
Anita nodded, "I'd love to hear about any of your cases. As I understand it you guys get the 'strange' stuff, unlike the cops I know."
Mulder couldn't quite put his finger on it, but something about the look in her eyes made him think that she was committing the sin of omission. "This case isn't all that interesting, it's just some deaths, probably murders, that have been made to look like spontaneous combustion. Which is something Scully doesn't believe in."
"The human body isn't constructed in way that would allow for this to happen nearly as often as it's reported," Scully said, starting to warm up.
Mulder held up his hands in surrender. "But we have seen a lot of interesting stuff." He thought he caught a flicker of disappointment in the younger woman's eyes. "Like there was this one case in which we went to investigate a house that was supposed to be haunted by the ghosts of a couple who had committed suicide..."
Anita smiled and nodded, but wasn't really paying attention to the recounts of the old cases or the bantering between the couple. For the rest of the meal she felt more like one of the kids than one of the grownups.
When the cell phone chirped I nearly jumped out of my skin. A pager was status quo for me, but Dolph had insisted that it would make more sense for me to have a cell phone on this "case." Something about there being no chance of the Feds getting ahold of the physical bill and seeing who I was calling. It sounded a little paranoid to me, but I'm not a cop, so I know less about this undercover stuff than he does.
After I put my skin back on I fumbled for the cell phone and flipped it open. "Anita." I didn't bother asking who it was since Dolph was the only one with the number.
"Any luck?" he asked, also not bothering to identify himself. It's nice how simple things can be if there's only one person with the number.
I sighed deeply. "Not really. I tried to get them to talk about the case, but the man, Agent Mulder, decided it wasn't as interesting a topic as some of their past cases..."
"So he entertained you with tales of mutant man-eating Franciscan fruit bats?" Dolph guessed. He sounded halfway between amused and annoyed.
"I doubt they'd be Franciscan."
There was a moment of dead air. "What?"
"The fruit bats. I doubt they'd be allowed into a religious order like that."
After a moment he realized that I was playing with him and emitted a short burst of laugher before sobering. "Do you think you'll be able to get anything useful out of them?"
I toyed with the lining of the quilt on the bed. "I don't know," I confessed at last. "I hope so, but I have this feeling that Mulder suspects something. That might make him less likely to share."
"Are you saying your cover is blown?" Dolph asked sharply.
"Oh no. But he's given me suspicious looks now and again."
"Since he's reputed to be one of the most paranoid people in the FBI I don't think that's unexpected."
"I guess you're right..." But I wasn't convinced that he wasn't on to me. I don't think there was any way that this Mulder could have figured out who I really am, but I knew he thought he knew something. That bothered me. I was going to have to be very careful around him.
Dolph either didn't hear the doubt in my voice, or chose to ignore it. "So, how would you like to meet the Master of DC?"
I blinked at the sudden change of topic. "On a scale of one to ten?"
"Anita," he told me to be serious with a single word. He's that good.
"Nothing good ever comes from my meeting Master vampires, so can you blame me for not wanting to meet another? And why do people ask if you want to do something when there's no choice to decline. "I admit it, I was whining.
Dolph wisely decided not to point out my childishness. Points for him. "The master expects to meet with you on Friday night at 10pm."
"What's his name?"
"Lancaster." That's Dolph for you, an economy of words.
"Where am I supposed to meet this Lancaster?" I asked. Dolph gave me the address and hung up on me. I guess the conversation was over.
Another day, another body. Mulder sighed impatiently as Scully swatted to examine another burnt corpse, this one on the roof of a bar called High Stakes. Apparently the place had once been owned by a man who thought that the anti-casino laws didn't apply to him, and the successive owners kept the name but not the illegal gambling.
Scully gently prodded the curled up fist of the corpse as the bar's current owner looked on, green and worried. The man tore his eyes away from the dead and anxiously spoke to Mulder instead. "How long so you think it will be before you take...it away?"
"Probably not long."
The owner relaxed a little. "This isn't going to keep me from opening tonight, is it?"
"Nah, as long as you lock up the roof to keep people from coming up here. You'll probably have a record crowd. Nothing brings out the ghouls like the chance to be near a murder scene. A cop will probably be stationed here, though, to make sure that no one gets too curious. It's not that we don't trust you..."
The man smiled. "It's just that you don't trust the crowds. To tell you the truth, I'm not really going to mind someone with the weight of the law behind them being here."
Scully's sharp call confused Mulder for a moment, and he wondered if he'd said something she didn't like. Glancing over, however, he saw instead that she was looking quite intensely at the body's hand, and probably had been completely oblivious to their conversation. Once he got closer he asked her what was so interesting.
"He's holding something in his hand."
"And I think it might be a clue of some sort," Scully said impatiently.
"Can you tell what he's holding, then?"
"It's slightly melted, but it seems to be a cross. The shape of appears to be burned into his palm," she told him, moving the cross a fraction of an inch so Mulder could see the imprint scorched into the palm. Mulder's feelings on burnt bodies had become slightly less apprehensive, but he'd still rather not have been crouching by one.
"Any theories on the significance?" he asked.
Scully pulled off her gloves, and reached back to rub her calves, which ached from her prolonged crouch. She stood up and stretched before offering her opinion. "The way I see it, there are three possibilities. The first is that someone who is religious had a grudge against him, and burned the cross into his palm as a perverse sort of calling card. The second is that the victim was the one who was religious, and pulled the cross out for comfort during the attack." Scully paused.
"And the third?" Mulder prompted.
Scully sighed deeply. "The third theory is that it doesn't mean anything at all."
Mulder was afraid to ask which theory she was leaning towards. Instead he gave her shoulder a reassuring squeeze. "We will figure this out. We always do."
Scully didn't say anything.
It's sort of funny how life can sometimes seem to sense that you're spending too much energy worrying about one thing, so it sends something else to upset you. I had thought that my biggest worry for the week would involve vampires, but life threw me another care before I even met Lancaster.
It was all because of holidays. Will and I had spent an afternoon quietly other than his frequent requests "Ne-ta cookie pwese" which I denied after the first time as not to set up Mulder and Scully for a guest appearance on the Maury Show with their 60 pound toddler. He didn't enjoy my considerations for his health, and was beginning to get pouty when we went to get Emily.
Emily, through a magic all her own, always managed to put a smile on her brother's face, no matter how cranky he was. I bet her parents thought she was a godsend, because I knew I did. As soon as she came out of the school she showed us a construction paper turkey that she'd made in art class. Will found it entrancing and demanded "Will make too" so I promised that we'd make another once we got home.
It was fun, I have to admit. I used the scissors, and made sure to hold them very tightly in case William got any ideas about taking them away, and Emily helped him glue on paper feathers. It didn't look as nice as hers, but that didn't stop him from happy crowing that it was his.
It was as we were cleaning up during William's nap that our conversations turned to more exciting holidays. "I can't wait for Christmas," Emily told me. "This is the first Christmas that I get to spend with my family."
That confused me a little. Why would it be an eight-year-old's first Christmas with her family? "Why didn't you spend all the other Christmases with your family?"
"Oh. The first few Christmases I spent with my other Mommy and Daddy, who died. Then, after I died, I spent Christmases with Dr. Calderon."
"You died?" I repeated dumbly, sure I'd misunderstood.
"Yes," she said, nodding as though it made perfect sense.
I took a step back and looked at her. Could she be...a vampire? She was awfully fair, but I'd seen her outside. Although, I'd heard rumors that there were some vampires that could withstand light. And I had meet child vampires before, one was the master of a city, in fact. I knew I was thinking crazy, she was just a little girl, wasn't she? I reached into my shirt and pulled out my cross. "Emily, you ever see one of these before?" I asked, holding it up for her to see.
"Oh, yes. Mommy gave me hers, a gold one, right before I died. Daddy said they got it back at the funeral. She said she was surprised I remember that, since I was only three. I think she might get me one for my next birthday, since she says that's when her mom gave her hers."
Vampires definitely don't age and grow. Still... "You want to try it on?" I asked, slipping it over my head, and feeling like a heel. But I told myself that either it would do nothing to her, and I'd just feel a bit stupid, or it would do something to her, and prove she was a terrible monster. The latter would be hard to explain to her family, but I'd manage to make them see the bright side.
She reached out and I held my breath. "Thanks," she said, putting it over her head. There were no flames or screaming, so I allowed myself a small sigh of relief when she handed it back. I was going to have to have a chat with Mulder and Scully.
"It's up there," a white faced freshman said as she pointed to the stairs that lead to the dorm's third floor. Reyes couldn't tell if the girl was pale because she was scared, or due to a liberal application of Goth makeup. She didn't have time to study the girl to figure it out, because Doggett had already headed up the stairs. She tried to look dignified as she attempted to quickly catch up with him.
The third floor had a desolate and abandoned look to it that suggested that few people ever ventured up there. The hall director, an artificially cheerful woman in her mid-twenties, assured the agents that the lack of occupants on that particular floor was due to nothing more sinister than a decline in campus enrollment. Reyes and Doggett had their doubts about the truthfulness of that as they examined the floor.
Half of the ceiling light fixtures had been disconnected, presumably to save on the costs of electricity, so there were spots of uneven lighting all through the floor. Some of the fixtures flickered unreliably, as if the lights were demonstrating their hope to be reincarnated as strobes. The lighting was just effective enough to show that the agents' footprints were displacing a fine layer of dust that coated the entire length of the long hallway.
The walls along either side of the corridor were regularly interrupted by doorways into the unused dorm rooms. The closed doors themselves, however, whispered of residents past: many of the doors were marred by the scrapped up remnants of now fuzzy adhesive squares that marked where white boards had once been hung. A couple of doors still had construction paper nametags curling away from the doors' surfaces, as if they were trying to escape but finding it difficult.
The only thing to break up the monotony of the sea of doors was a set of windows through one wall that looked into the common room. As Doggett peered in through one such window, he wondered if the room is where the dorm's shabby furniture was sent to die. All of the room's furniture was old, and looked as though it had been old for a very long time. A herd of loveseats tiredly flanked the walls, their sagging cushions bearing indentations that suggested generous human bottoms; a bookshelf with a peeling finish that pretended to be wood grain gave shelter to a collection of tattered paperbacks; a pool table with a couple of cigarette marks scorched into the frame listed to one side in a manner that suggested that if you played a game balls would tend to gravitate to that side. And an ancient television set sprouting rabbit ears looked blankly at the loveseats.
Doggett accidentally startled Reyes when he spoke. "I guess the only ones who'd want to be up here would have to be ghosts."
"But poltergeists aren't ghosts, John, even if they are the cause of a haunting." She informed him in a tone she hoped didn't sound condescending.
Doggett wasn't offended, just curious. "Then what are they?"
"Parapsychologists believe that they're the result of the unrestrained mental energy of an agitated person, usually a teenager, acting upon the environment the person inhabits," she explained.
"So you're saying one of the kids living downstairs is responsible for what they claim has been going on up here?"
"Well yes, but it's not deliberate, and whoever it is probably doesn't have a clue that they're doing anything."
Doggett just nodded, not looking at her. His eyes were fixed on a book that was busily prying itself out of the bookcase.
I waited until Mulder got home and the kids were occupied by a video before I approached him. Apparently Scully wouldn't be home for a while, so I was only going to have the one parent to talk to. "I think we need to talk about Emily," I told him in as gentle a tone as I could manage.
"Sure, is there something wrong?" he asked, looking over at the kids.
"She...told me some strange stuff today, and I thought I ought to let you know about it." Shit, his face just went pale, so there must be something he thinks she said.
"Ok, what did she say, exactly?" he asked in a calm tone. Brownie points for him.
"Well...she told me that this was the first Christmas she'd be spending with you folks, that she had other parents who died, and that she herself died at one point," I said sounding embarrassed even to my own ears. To my surprise he just nodded as I laid out the list. That was not a good sign.
"Anita, why don't you sit down? There are some things Scully and I neglected to tell you since we didn't think they'd come up, but now they obviously have."
"Ok, "I said, as we took seats as far from the little ears in the room as possible.
"The first thing you should know is that Emily isn't exactly my daughter."
"She isn't?" I asked, feeling confused. There wasn't a strong family resemblance there, but there was definitely some.
"No, while she calls me Dad, she's my niece," Mulder said so quietly only I could hear him.
For a second I almost recoiled from my chair in horror, because I certainly hadn't signed up for a 'flowers in the attic' sort of family. Then, for once my brain raced past my mouth, and I realized that there was a more obvious possibility than the horrific one my mind pounced on first. In my defense, all I can say is that I've seen a lot of twisted things.
"Emily is the product of a genetic experiment that was done without the knowledge or consent of either of her natural parents, one of whom is Scully, and the other of whom is my younger half-brother Jeffrey. I won't go into the gory details, because it's suffices to say that after their genetic material was obtained by illegal means, someone created her in a lab and had her carried to term by a surrogate mother. "
"And Scully and your brother didn't even know?" I asked softly, horrified that such a thing could happen.
"No. Scully had been told that she'd been made barren by an experiment done on her by people who had kidnapped her and left her for dead, but she didn't know that anything had been done with her stolen eggs. Until she got involved in the murder investigation involving Emily's adoptive mother. Once she saw Emily she became convinced that the fact that Emily looked nearly identical to Scully's dead sister must have been because she was Melissa's daughter. Eventually tests proved that Emily was in fact Scully's daughter."
I had to interrupt. "But Emily said she died too," I repeated, hoping to impress upon him the bizarreness of her claim.
He just nodded again, which was beginning to freak me out a little. "She did. Or so we were lead to believe. She was very sick as a small child, and became deathly ill, eventually slipping into a coma a few days after Scully found out who she was. We were told she died, but we discovered at her funeral that her casket only contained sand...and the cross Scully had given her. We thought that her body had been taken by the people who had experimented on her, and in a way, we were right."
"How did you find out she was still alive?"
Mulder looked away from me, so I instantly knew he was going to feed me a half-truth. "We were tipped off that there was a death threat on her former doctor, who was seen in the company of three children who had been the products of that experiment. We got there too late to save the doctor, but we were able to recover Emily and the two boys, both of whom are now back with their adoptive families."
"Wow." Was all I could say. "I can't imagine having missed so much of one of your children's lives," I said, thinking of how hard it must have been on Scully.
He looked very sad for a moment. "Both children," he told me softly.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"The people who arranged the hit on Emily's doctor also were threatening William's life, so Scully gave him up for adoption. He lived with other people for four months. I was away on a case that required that I stay out of contact with loved ones, so she had no idea if I was dead or alive, and she had to make a difficult decision about our son by herself. She concluded that he'd be safer in the care of strangers than with her. "
"But he wasn't." I suddenly realized.
"No. Not long after she and I were reunited, his adoptive parents were murdered by someone had been scared off before finding him. I went to court and asked for custody of him. Since he'd been put up for adoption without my consent, it was granted."
I looked at him, speechless. No wonder they'd been very concerned about finding someone who could handle themselves to care for their children. What sort of monsters try to harm babies and grade school children?
The pages of books flapped like wings as Doggett threw his arm over Reyes back and forced her to the floor with him. They'd ducked under the doubtful protection of their coats a moment earlier when the first book shattered one of the three windows looking into the lounge. Other books were now threatening to take out the remaining windows, so with the coats obstructing their vision, they didn't have a clear view of what was going on.
They could hear as the T.V. switched itself on. Elmer Fudd chanted maniacally at them, assuring them that he would indeed "kill the wabbit," which was a thought that gave them no comfort considering their leporine cowering. As if aware the still falling books were claiming more of their attention, and jealous of that, the volume edged itself upwards.
Doggett's eyes widened when he heard an inhuman groan emanate from the lounge.
"John, what's that?" Reyes hissed.
"I'm not sure but it sounded like- " He popped his head up and peered in through the jagged shards of window that still clung to the frame. "It's one of the loveseats," he whispered back as the lumbering piece of furniture strained away from the far wall. "Why are we whispering?"
Reyes grinned despite her worry about the situation. "It just seemed like the proper thing to do," she told him in her normal tone of voice.
"I guess that-" Doggett's voice trailed off in mid-sentence. His eye had been caught by one of the books that had flung itself at them. Specifically he looked at the spine. "I guess that we've been had." He concludes in a stronger voice.
Reyes' wide brown eyes filled with confusion, and she cringed as the scraping sounds in the lounge became more energetic. "Wha-t-t-t? "she stammered, wondering how Doggett could remain so calm.
Doggett dipped his hand to the floor, and a book was suddenly dangling in mid-air. For a second Reyes was dumbfounded, then she realized the same thing her husband already had: each book has a clear string attached to it.
"Some ghost," Doggett grumpily surmised the situation.
"Why would anyone go to the trouble to set something like this up?"
"For the same reason anyone plays a prank. Attention."
Forty-five minutes later they were on their way out after having addressed all 93 of the dorm's residents. They'd admonished the students that if they the wrongdoer did not come forward on his or her own, they would be turning the case over to the local PD who would begin investigating criminal mischief charges; most likely beginning the investigation with looking for fingerprints on the objects used in the prank. A smile tugged at the corners of Reyes' mouth on the way out when she caught site of a pair of shame-faced kids hesitantly approaching the hall director.
I woke up when my alarm went off, which was three am. I sat up and threw my legs over the side of the bed, already awake. It surprised me that I was clear-headed instead of groggy, since it was yet another disruption to my normal sleep pattern in such a short time. Eagerness chased tiredness away.
I threw on a pair of well-worn jeans, and a navy blue cable-knit sweater. Once I'd picked up the firestar and stuffed it in the holster that didn't show beneath the generous sweater, I was ready to slip out the door. I had trouble shaking the feeling that I was doing something wrong as I made my quiet way through the yard. The FBI agents were neither my parents nor my jailers, yet... I was a couple of streets away before I felt better.
It was cold enough to see my breath, and I half regretted leaving my coat behind, but I was walking fast enough to keep myself almost warm. A couple of drivers passing by gave me disapproving glances, the sort girls walking alone at night attract, but of course they didn't know I was armed.
When I got to a more populated area I began to sense them. There weren't as many vampires as I'd run into in a similarly sized crowd in St. Louis, but there were enough to make me glad that the firestar was loaded with silver bullets. Silver bullets won't usually kill a vampire, but they might slow them down enough to get away, and that makes them valuable enough. I didn't think it would come to that, though, since none of them gave me so much as a second glance. I was anonymous. I was just a typical woman to them, not the big bad Executioner who struck fear in the hearts of good little vampires everywhere. It was sort of nice to wander the night without a kick-me sign.
I quickly looked over the place where I would be meeting Lancaster the next night, counting doors. When dealing with strange vampires the more exits you know about in advance, the more likely you'd like to exit one of them. I was "home"before it was light enough for anyone to have noticed my absence.
"..so our 'poltergeist' turned out to be a vandalism case. We turned it over to the local PD since even Kresh wouldn't try to convince us that that sort of mundanity is under our jurisdiction," Doggett told Mulder and Scully over dessert - a decadent chocolate cake Reyes had bought at her favorite bakery- that night. Since the agents were working on more than one case at a time they'd rarely met in the office, which is where they'd normally discuss cases.
"I bet you're disappointed that it turned out to be people," Mulder remarked to Reyes, half teasing, half commiserating.
"A little," she replied with a smile. Her attention throughout dinner was captivated by Emily and Will's nanny. It wasn't the girl's looks that drew her, though Reyes was secure enough about her own to admit her admiration of others', but something emanated from the younger woman like a faint breeze. In a way she found it similar to what she could feel from Gibson and Will if she concentrated, but different enough to make her sure that she was special in a way they weren't. Reyes gave a slight shake of her head; she was sensitive enough to realize that there was something out of the ordinary about Anita, but not sensitive enough to even hazard a guess as to what. She half wished that Gibson had come to dinner with them, but she supposed having a mind reader expose secrets wouldn't be sporting. She idly wondered if Mulder or Scully had any inkling that their nanny was unusual.
Anita lingered a couple of minutes after dinner and watched Reyes play with William. "You seem to enjoy being around kids."
"Oh I do." Reyes looked up with a friendly look. "Scully's kind enough to lend me this fellow time to time, while John and I discuss having one of our own."
"Isn't that dangerous? Given your line of work."
Reyes shrugged. "There are always dangers. You can't let fear rule your decisions." Something in Anita's look made Reyes wish for Gibson's interpreting powers again. She didn't think her reply made the girl think of children.
I hope you don't mind if I skip over Thanksgiving day, because I found it pretty boring. Mulder and Scully invited me to have dinner with them, since they were having over a mix of family and friends, but I took the day off. The other FBI agents seemed nice enough, but something the dark haired woman said unsettled me. That bit about not letting fear rule your decisions...it felt like a judgment, which was silly, since I'd only just met her. So why did it feel like she knew me, and was talking about my reluctance to love Richard, and not about children? It was dumb, yet... I begged off claiming that I had a friend in DC to see.
Thanksgiving. I kicked around DC for the day, taking in what sights weren't closed, grabbed a turkey sub at one of the few open sandwich shops, then braced myself to meet a master vampire. I found it slightly perverse that the dead don't even take off national holidays. For some reason he'd canceled the meeting planned for the previous Friday night, and insisted me had to meet Thanksgiving. Of course, since he didn't have my number, I had to learn all this through a note pinned to the door of the meeting place. Something about the spidery handwriting unnerved me, even days later while I got ready for the meeting.
Dressing for a hot date is child's play compared to picking out an outfit appropriate for meeting an unfamiliar member of the vampire hierarchy. The considerations are less "Do I look appealing in this?" than "Does this outfit give me easy access to weaponry?" In both cases, however, there's the matter of concealing my scars. Although I've pretty much accepted that they're part of me, there are cases in which I don't feel comfortable showing them off. In front of the kids, a potential love interest, the type of creature who gave them to me...there's more than one way to give a wrong idea.
For this little foray I decided to go casual. Blue Jeans, a red tunic style sweater that's conceal a holster gun... I might be obligated to meet with this Lancaster, but I didn't have to dress in a way that'd suggest that I thought it was an important event. Never give more respect to a situation than absolutely necessary.
I waited until 9:45, then approached the building. The streets were completely deserted. Since it's never nice to feel like the only human on the block, I brushed against the gun through my sweater for comfort. I prayed I wouldn't need it.
Doggett had been watching a tape of the football game- he'd been the only one interested in it earlier in the day, so it hadn't stayed on long over at Mulder and Scully's- when he heard a distressing sound coming from the bathroom near the bedrooms.
The bathroom light was on, but it didn't really tell him who was in it. At first he wondered if it was Gibson, since as was traditional the teenager had stuffed himself at dinner, but the boy's door was shut and he could hear the sounds of music and typing, so he assumed he was still working on a paper. If it wasn't Gibson, it had to be Reyes.
She'd gone to bed an hour earlier, claiming that the turkey she'd eaten had made her tired. Doggett had suspected that she'd just been trying to find a diplomatic way to avoid watching the game with him, but when looked in the bedroom the tangled blankets suggested that she had indeed been sleeping. When the sound of retching stopped he knocked softly on the door, "Monica, are you all right?"
There was the sound of running water for a few seconds before the door opened. Other than being a little pale, she looked no worse for wear. "I'm ok, John."
"Was it something you ate?" he asked in concern, thinking of the heavy meal that they'd eaten earlier in the day.
She shook her head. "I don't think so. It probably would have hit me sooner if it was, since, to tell you the truth, Dana, Maggie and I sampled the food as we cooked. Only Mulder was able to resist, but then, he was cooking veggies, so... I think we could be more certain about what this is if you'd be willing to go to the 24-hour drugstore at this time of night."
He almost asked her what he could buy at the drugstore that would confirm or rule out food poisoning, but he figured it out on his own before opening his mouth. Instead he grabbed his coat.
When I knocked on the door, I didn't know what to expect when the door opened. Frequently the vampire sent to the door would have an appearance calculated to scare or intimidate a visitor- so they would look like a bouncer, or worse yet, a fright out of a horror movie. Which is why I was surprised that the vampire doing door duty had the appearance of a fresh-faced eighteen-year-old girl. The appearance was deceiving, since I could sense that she was 200 if she was a day, but it was a nice touch.
"Good evening, Ms. Blake," she greeted me politely. "Lancaster asked me to bid you welcome to our home."
"Thank you," I replied just as politely. However nice a reception I got, it was still hard to let my guard down, because doing that sort of thing at an inopportune moment could get a girl killed.
While the outside of the building was probably bringing down the neighborhood's property values, the inside was quite nice. It brought caskets to mind for some perverse reason. I'll say this for Lancaster, no matter what his faults might be, he has great taste in art. We entered a long hallway, and the walls of it were decorated with copies that were rendered so perfectly that, had I not known that the originals were hanging in museums, I would have been fooled. Landscapes by Parrish, Surrealism by Dali, even a touch of whimsy in the form of a painting by Bedard.
The man seated on a throne-like chair in the large room we entered was no less a masterpiece himself. He looked up and cheerfully said, "Ms. Blake, so glad you could make it."
Mulder glanced into William's room. The toddler was sleeping on his back, his bow lips slightly parted. In a dusty corner of his mind, one that he never visited except in his nightmares, lurked a fear: that, on one of his nightly rounds, he'd open the boy's room and find him huddled in terror at one end of his crib, or even worse, gone. His conscious mind could mostly lock down those sorts of thoughts, but they were what motivated him to check on the boy each and every night. After he was satisfied that all was well in the nursery, he gently closed the door so he wouldn't wake his son, and walked to the next one.
Emily slept as soundly as her brother, thought for the life of him, Mulder couldn't fathom how that could be possible. Most of her bed was taken up by a hoard of stuffed animals that looked back at him with impassive plastic eyes. If he'd asked Maggie, she could've told him that it was the nature of small girls, and she herself had spent many a night marveling that there had been room among the fuzzy armies for her little redheads. As it was he had become adapt at locating the sandy blond head on the pillow each night before he closed the door.
He sighed to himself as he thought about the children. His children. Emily was his by the bonds of love and care, but Jeffrey's by blood and chance. Though he realized that was as much a choiceless victim in Emily's making as Scully was, he couldn't help but slightly resent the facts of biology. His brother never asked for this visceral connection to Scully, never asked for a child, while on the other hand Mulder would have been thrilled if he discovered that his beloved's older child was his. He tried to shake the wistful thought from his head as he went back downstairs.
Scully was frowning as he rejoined her at the table. She barely glanced up at him before refocusing her attention on the papers and lurid photos spread before her.
"Scully, it's late. It's Thanksgiving. Give yourself the night off and get some sleep. You'll be fresh in the morning." Mulder gently massaged her shoulders as he spoke to her in a coaxing tone.
Scully leaned back into his touch and sighed. "I will. Soon. There's just something I'm missing. There has to be some sort of clue we've over looked." She made a frustrated noise.
"We'll get it soon. I'm sure of it," he declared with a true believer's conviction. She gave him a half-hearted smile, but was much less sure.
The jovial-seeming man on the throne was very old. My gift of detecting vampiric ages told me that he'd breathed his last over half a millennia ago. "You look very well for someone who has been dead for over 500 years," I said, mixing faint flattery with a display of that power.
It was an easy compliment to give, though, since he was indeed good looking. Shortish curls as black as my own adorned his head in startling contrast to his sky-blue eyes. The rest of his features were classically handsome. The only thing that marred his appearance was a ridiculous beaten gold crown perched precariously on the right side of his head. I didn't like the look of it; it made me doubt his mental stability, which, as it was, was suspect by the virtue of most powerful vampires being insane. At least in my estimation.
"Six hundred and six on my next birthday." He casually corrected me, then gave me an expectant look. There was some clue in that look I'd missed, since he soon looked disappointed instead. "The fact that I was born in 1396 means nothing to you, then."
"I'm sorry," I said nervously, wondering why it upset him.
He waved off my apology half-heartedly. "Yes, well, I keep forgetting that you Americans learn little of our history."
It was only then that I became conscious of his faint accent. British. "I'm afraid you're right. Besides the wars, we don't learn a great deal about England."
For a second he looked faintly pleased that I'd guessed his country of birth, but the pleasant look was quickly chased away by another one. "But I suppose you learned all about my brother," he said bitterly.
Perhaps. But who was his brother?
Doggett frowned deeply as he stood in an isle of the 24-hour Wal-greens. There were many more choices than he'd been anticipating. He nearly had a heart-attack when he read the price flag under one box and read $39.99. His heart began to beat again when he realized that the box was touting a spiel about thermometers, which made it a different sort of kit than the one he was there to buy. Once he made that revelation he was able to rule out half of the products on the shelf.
Which, unfortunately, left the other half for him to contend with. Reyes hadn't stipulated a preference, saying only that she'd never used one before. That, of course, turned his thoughts towards her using effective birth control, with other men, on he'd instantly said he'd figure it out and left before one of them made the mistake of bringing Folmer up.
So, as he stood there, he tried to remember the commercials that he complained about whenever she took over the TV to watch Lifetime, which he jokingly referred to as "The women in peril network." Right then and there, though, he couldn't remember if the one that claimed to be the fasted one was also one with the handy plus and minus, or it had colors, or dots.
He finally gave up and grabbed all the ones that had familiar names: EPT, Clear Blue Easy, First Response. His reasoning was that he'd let her pick, and odds were they might need to use another test at some point, anyway.
The cashier smiled at him as she rung up his purchase, and Doggett could have all he could do not to succumb to the urge to offer an explanation. It wasn't for a girlfriend, or worse yet a teenage daughter, it was for him and his wife, and...but the cashier didn't say a word about it.
"Your brother?" I asked timidly. I was afraid of setting him off unnecessarily.
"Yes. My brother Henry." I gave him a blank look. A first name doesn't narrow it down much. "Even Americans like you know about him. They named a detestable beer after his idiot friend Falstaff. That nancy boy Shakespeare wrote a play..."
"Your brother was Henry the 4th?" I asked, stunned.
Lancaster clapped sardonically. "Yes, yes, my famous half-brother, 30 years older, and born on the right side of the blanket. I never even knew him except from afar, but I was never allowed to forget whose blood I shared, no matter how much I wished otherwise."
"It's terrible to grow up in another's shadow," I said sincerely. My step-sister, Andrea, two years younger than me, has always been my step-mother's measure of young female normalcy. Judith has never hesitated to point out how different from, and therefore wrong for it, I am from Andrea. The normal one, with normal boyfriends, and no skills for raising the dead.
"That tone...do I detect empathy in your voice? Surely not. Could the Executioner have lived in someone's shadow, too?"
I was less concerned by his half-mocking tone than by his use of the "e" word. I was surprised to hear that my reputation had followed me half-way across the country. You kill a few vampires for the state and you become the vampire equivalent of the boogie-man. For a moment I had the unkind urge to causally mention my colleague Edward, and see if Death was famous on the East coast as well. For once, I reconsidered the wisdom of something before blurting it out. "You'd be surprised." Is all I said in the end.
"If you can understand that, I can skip all the self-pitying dreck about low self-esteem and depression prompting me to seek out my own death...It all sounds too much like an Anne Rice novel," he said with a faint smile. "Now that we've made our introductions, why don't you take a seat? The blue one is quite comfy."
"Thank you. "
"Now, let's talk about how you're going to catch whoever it is that's been killing my people."
I swallowed involuntarily.
The seconds ticked by like hours as Reyes waited in the bathroom for the results. Tired of pacing, she was sitting on the closed lid of the toilet. She idly wondered what Doggett was doing, thankful that he'd taken her insistence that be alone in the bathroom gracefully. She couldn't quite explain her need to be alone, but he'd understood without demanding the reasons for it.
When the kitchen timer she'd set finally went off, she was torn between the desire to rush over and look, and the fear that the results wouldn't be the one she wanted. She and Doggett had agreed before they got married that they would let nature take its course, something that would have pleased her Catholic parents greatly if they knew. It was more sudden than she anticipated, and she was in dread that she'd be disappointed, because she wanted very badly for the test to come out positive.
She hadn't always wanted a baby this badly. It wasn't until she and Doggett begun to get closer after she got out of the hospital that she even started thinking about it more than on rare occasions. Something about being around a guy who'd make a good dad finally set her biological clock ticking. However, it was only after she failed to talk Scully out of giving William up that her mind, and her heart, became set on the issue.
Maybe part of it was her not-quite-subconscious desire to prove to herself- and to Scully- that people like them could have a child, and keep it safe. The rest of it, however, was that the boy's adoption brought her own issues from childhood to the surface. While she loved her adoptive parents fiercely, the fact that she had no idea who her parents had been haunted her. She'd hired someone to search for them while she was in college, but nothing ever came of it. If she couldn't find a blood relative, maybe she could create one. With help.
Eventually she got up her courage, and looked at the test results.
"All right...I don't know a whole lot beyond what my friend Dolph told me, and even his knowledge is second hand, do maybe you could tell me everything from the beginning?"
He gave me a charming smile. "Anything to please a pretty young lady." I had to try very hard to keep myself from rolling my eyes. If I discounted the lack of detestable nicknames, it was a lot like talking to Jean-Claude. Except that it was a little scarier, since as annoying as Jean-Claude could be, he'd never threatened a city-wide blood bath.
"About two months ago, my favorite fledgling, Krya, left here to go to her home. It was far too close to dawn to suit me, but she insisted she'd be home in plenty of time. She'd been mopey and moody for days, so I let her go rather than starting another fight. It was the worst mistake I could have made."
"I'm sorry to hear that," I said, it was the only thing that seemed appropriate.
Apparently he didn't agree. "Do not patronize me," he continued before I could protest that it wasn't my intention." As I was saying, it was the worst mistake I could have made. She didn't make it home safely, and was waylaid by...I don't know what, a person, another vampire, something unkind. Some stupid humans discovered her afterwards, much too late. She was..." His voice caught and he looked so miserable that I almost felt bad for the ridiculous blood-sucker. After a few seconds he got himself together and went on. "...burned. Hideously burned. If it wasn't for a few unsinged locks of her crimson hair, I might not have... I'll never see those catty-green eyes again." This time he covered his face with his hands. He looked angry when his eyes returned to my face. "They found her during the day, so the only way I knew for sure that something had happened to her was to get the crime scene photos. Otherwise she would have seemed to have just disappeared."
I knew I didn't want to know how he got the photos. "And there have been more...deaths." I only hesitated over using the "d" word for vampires for a second, but I think he noticed.
Mulder brushed a stray lock of Scully's hair from her face. He was lying on his back, while she lay on her side, cuddled up against him. "You're still awake."
"So are you," she pointed out reasonably.
"Ah, but it's not abnormal for me to have trouble sleeping, something my old couch could attest to, assuming it could speak. But you...you've fallen asleep on me during enough cases for me to have know for years that you do not share my peculiar insomnia," he said as he trailed fingers down her bare back, making her shiver and squirm closer. "Besides, I thought I just finished tiring you out." He added with a naughty smirk.
Scully smiled and kissed his neck. "Body tired, yes, but I can't seem to shut down my mind."
"You would be the type who would have difficulty making their mind go blank." His tone was half complaint, half compliment. "There's one effective trick I learned during my years of insomnia." He hinted.
"Oh, what's that?"
"The best way to fall asleep when you're desperate is not counting sheep, no matter what the books advise. All that wool gets confusing, so you could count enough to fill 100 Serta commercials and still be awake. No, the thing you have to do is to imagine speaking to someone you really dislike, so your brain shuts down in self-defense."
"You mean I should imagine conversations with Diana?" she teased him.
"Sure, it always works for me," he told her dryly enough to make her laugh.
Eventually her mood sobered. "Why don't you suffer insomnia anymore?"
"Because I have you," he said, making her melt. After nearly a decade's worth of conversations, he still had the power to charm her socks off. Not that she was wearing any then.
"How many more?"
Lancaster sighed, eyes downcast. "Four. Four more of my little ones gone."
I raised an eyebrow. I didn't think he meant height. "Little ones? They were young?"
"Yes, yes, very. None had been with us for even as long as ten years."
To me, a person in her mid-twenties, ten years sounded like a fairly long time, but I guess the perception of time is different when you're 600 years old. "I'm sorry to hear that."
"Pretty words, but what are you going to do about it?" There was a sudden hardness to his voice that nearly made me shiver.
"Before I can figure that out, I need to know what it is you expect me to do- find the killer or avenge the deaths?" I was afraid to hear the answer.
Lancaster hesitated. "As much appeal as revenge has, I know not even you would willingly shirk the law...at least not to aide a vampire." His eyes challenged me, but I knew he was probing, not reading my mind. My secrets were safe enough. "Find the killer, I just want this to stop."
So did I, but if the feds thought it was spontaneous combustion, how was I going to get anything done?
Doggett noticed that his hands were trembling as he poured glasses of white grape juice. When he'd solicitously asked if he could get Reyes anything, after insisting she sit down, she'd said she was thirsty. It was then he realized that his throat was terribly parched. He almost felt like he'd been sucking on a salt lick like the one his rabbit had had when he was a boy.
Which made wonder if they should have a pet. A cat, no a dog, definitely a dog, might be nice. Gibson would love it, and a pet taught responsibility, not that he wasn't already, especially for a teenager. But a dog would be good to protect the house, especially with the baby coming...his hands were still shaky as he mopped up the juice with a napkin.
He couldn't believe that the human mind held the capacity for being filled simultaneously with joy and terror. Like his was. He counted his blessings that of all the females who could have thrown their lot in with his, he found one with the rare insight to know why he could be scared and trilled both. I have eight months more months to learn to believe in happily ever after, he thought, picking up the glasses of juice.
Five hundred and eighty odd years older than me or not, Lancaster had not attained any semblance of maturity during all his years side-stepping the mortal coil. Dealing with him had an eerily familiar feeling to it...it was not altogether unlike dealing with my younger half-brother - when he was eight. The petulant vampire may not have enjoyed all the privilege that his brother had, but he'd been royally spoiled anyway. I had a sneaking suspicion that this might have been the first time in centuries that he'd not been able to get his way by throwing a tantrum.
I got through the rest of the meeting without losing any of my blood, or being thrown into anything hard, so I considered it a roaring success. Your idea might differ wildly from mine, but that can't be helped. I promised to begin looking in earnest for the "killer," and left the quasi-art museum. Lancaster was wallowing so wantonly in his misery that he scarcely seemed to notice my departure.
There were only a few hundred yards left on my walk home when I heard rapid footfalls behind me. I spun around, expecting trouble, and finding it. What looked like a stocky boy in his late teens, but was actually a vampire, was running at me at full tilt. Unaccustomed to such bullish behavior from a vampire, even while wearing red sweaters, I did the first thing that came to mind- I held out my foot to trip him.
Apparently vampires, or at least this one, can't stop on a dime. He looked undignified, and a bit dazed, as he sprawled out flat on his back. Wasting no time, I fished my cross out and held it in front of me. It instantly flared to life with a phosphorous glow. Even dazed, the vampire had the presence of mind to lift his arms to shade his face from its sight. Many older vampires are impervious to a cross's affect, but this one was still wet behind the ears, metaphorically speaking, so the cross was enough to keep him at bay.
To my surprise, he began emitting a high pitch keening from deep in his throat. "Are you...whimpering?" I asked in disgust. I'd never met such a wimp of a vampire, even Robert had more dignity than this.
"I'm sorry, ok? When I picked you I had no idea you were the Executioner, " he whined.
"So if I were anyone else, you would have eaten me??"
"No! It's not like that. We're only supposed to scare a human tonight, not hurt them," he said, which made no sense. Even if he were one of those rare vampires that didn't feed on people, why would he be out pestering them? "It's part of the initiation," he whimpered, still shielding his face. "Please don't kill me!"
Great, a vampire fraternity, just what the world needs. I sighed deeply. I didn't have a warrant of execution on me for him, and he hadn't actually done anything to hurt me, so it would be hard to claim self-defense. Your honor, I thought he was going to annoy me to death... "Go. Now," I said sternly.
I backed away so he could get up, since I had no intention of putting the cross away. You never knew when someone, human or monster, was playing innocent.
"Thank you for your mercy," he simpered, scrambling to his feet while trying to bow in a servile manner. He was so bear-like in shape that he didn't pull it off with anything resembling even human grace. I guess there's a clumsy few even amongst the vampires, then.
"Don't let the fact that I let you go get around," I growled in my most menacing tone.
"Oh, I won't!" he called back over one shoulder as he bolted. I stood there a moment and shook my head. Vampire kids these days.
I made it back to the apartment with no further mishaps. Sinking into bed I rejoiced that I'd have no further vampire encounters. At least for the night.
Mulder yawned and stretched as he and Scully got ready for work. While it was technically a day off, the bureau was a bit worried about terrorist attacks, and thought that completely empty buildings would be too tempting a target, so they'd offered over-time to anyone willing to come in for a few hours. Scully talked him into going in until noon, so they could puzzle through the case without any distractions.
Scratching his belly, he watched idly as Scully checked under the bed for one of her black pumps.
"Couldn't you wear the brown ones?" he asked, buttoning his shirt.
"I could, but I don't want to," came her muffled reply.
Mulder shook his head, there was no reasoning with her when it came to footwear. "So...I think I got a preview of Emily and Will's teen years," he commented in a dry voice.
"How so?" Scully asked emerging from under the bed victoriously, a black pump clutched in one hand.
"Oh, I woke up a few hours ago, and looking out the window, saw Anita sneaking back in the yard. It was considerate of her to be quiet, but it almost made me expect to see her looking around furtively for spotlights and vicious dogs."
"I'm sure you're exaggerating, Mulder."
"Me?" Mulder tried to sound innocent. "She's hiding something, I'm sure of it."
"Aren't we all," Scully muttered. "You worry too much."
"I'm not worried. I'm intrigued."
"I find it oddly comforting that you are still paranoid of everyone." She remarked.
"Right, because I'm always wrong about my suspicions." He smirked. "And after all, there are tons of books and movies about nannies with shady, hidden, lives."
"Mulder..." Scully sighed, too tired to put her heart into a proper protest.
A loudly buzzing mosquito the side of a poodle was pursuing me from room to room, and no amount of arm-flapping or cursing would persuade it to let me be. It had just landed on my shoulder and was about to spear me when I woke up. The buzzing continued, which confused me at first.
I nearly fell out of bed trying to reach for the cell phone. I planned to kill Dolph. The bedside clock read 7am, and it had been my intention to sleep in. The kids' grandmother had, rather insanely in my opinion, picked them up at the crack of dawn to do some serious Black Friday shopping. I was very put out at having been woken up, nightmare or no.
Flipping the phone open, I growled into it, "This better be good, Dolph."
"Anita?" an uncertain voice, not Dolph's, asked. "It'd Willie MacCoy." Ironically, I'd traded one blood sucker for another in the matter of two minutes.
"How did you get this number? Dolph said neither of us should give anyone else this number, and I certainly didn't." I held the phone away from my mouth as I yawned loudly.
"Jean-Claude tracked Dolph down, though that kid you work with- Larry. I guess Larry told Dolph that Jean-Claude isn't on your good list, so Dolph wouldn't give him the number to reach you."
I shook my head to clear it; even knowing everyone he mentioned, it was still difficult to follow that soon after waking up. I quickly puzzled it out: from what I gathered, Jean-Claude had decided that Larry, the intern at Animators inc., whom I was training, would either know where I was, which he didn't, or would know who did, which was obviously the case. Oh to have been a fly on the wall during Dolph and Jean-Claude's conversation. "How did you get the number, then?" I asked tiredly.
"When Dolph refused to give him the number, he threatened to go looking for you. Dolph didn't like the sound of that, so he asked Larry if there was a vampire you trusted, and he recommended me."
That was true, insofar as I trusted any vampire. "Dolph trusted you not to give your master this number if he demanded it of you?"
Willie's laugh came over the line. It was a nice, normal laugh, with no powers behind it, which made it different than Jean-Claude's. No. This Dolph of yours is clever. He dialed the number, in another room, before handing me the phone. I can't tell what I don't know."
Sunlight was streaming into my room, I noticed as I looked towards the windows. "Wait, you're at the police station? Shouldn't you be tucked into your coffin, fast asleep? It's light out."
"Not here it isn't." Right, the time zone change.
"Willie, I'm tired. Let's cut to the chase. What did Jean-Claude want you to tell me?"
There was silence for a minute, leading me to wonder if the connection had been lost. "Well...he'd kill me if he knew I told you this, but there isn't a specific message he wanted me to pass along. I think he just wants to be able to hold it over Richard's head that he'd been in touch with you, and Richard hadn't."
It figured. Why didn't a vampire-werewolf pissing contest surprise me? "If he asks, I'll tell him that you asked how I was, that he sent his 'love', and that your request for my location was summarily denied."
"Yeah..." He sighed. "Thanks. You're sure you won't say where you are?" he wheedled.
"I'm sure," I said firmly. I gave it some thought, and added, "And tell him if he tries to track me down, I won't have anything further to do with him for the invasion of my privacy." Although he was a tremendous pain in the rear, he also considered himself the soul of gentlemanly behavior, so the suggestion that he'd be deliberately inconsiderate might sting enough to do the trick. Maybe.
"Will do, Anita." Something in his tone suggested he'd accurately read between the lines.
"Good-bye Willie." I hung up, hoping to get at least another hour of sleep.
It was cool and cloudy, the weather threatening one last November rain. The light that bravely attempted to filter through the lone window was thinner than usual, giving the basement office a greater than usual sense of desolation. The hush of the relatively further added to the sense of isolation from the rest of the world.
At a table, Mulder studied all five sets of crime scene photos, rearranging them repeatedly, as though they were pieces of a puzzle, and the correct order would present a clear picture. Sitting at Mulder's desk, Scully poured over the reports, hoping that a clue would leap out at her.
The clue leapt at Mulder instead. "Scully, do we have the dental records for the victims?"
She gave him a hopeful look. "Sure, what are you looking for?"
"Oh god," she muttered under her breath. "I'm not going to ask you if you think the victims were vampires, because you'll say yes, and I'll have to hit you."
"It's not as though previous cases haven't set a president," he reminded her.
"Ronnie's pointed teeth were a bizarre affectation, one that nearly got us arrested if you'll recall, not natural. So I hardly think that dental records are going to show us anything useful."
"As I told you then," he started arrogantly, ignoring her eye-rolling. "There are many different types of vampire, of which Ronnie was only one. The vampires in the other x-file most certainly had sharp teeth."
"What other x-file?" she asked, looking puzzled.
"It was a case I worked on while you were..." He let his voice catch. "Missing." He hoped a show of emotion would be enough to dismiss the conversation before it got to the woman who'd been at the center of it.
"Oh. I don't think I ever got around to reading that file," she said sheepishly.
"Don't worry, I won't rat you out to Skinner."
"Gee, thanks," she replied dryly.
"Now, where are those X-rays?"
It's funny how worrying about blowing your cover can make you nearly blow it. It was later that same day, not long after Mrs. Scully had brought the kids back. I'd actually gotten a couple of hours of sleep, so I was thrilled by the short day. Mulder and Scully came home in the early afternoon, and I was just finished telling Mulder about William's newest word, "dump-truck," pronounced correctly by some kiss of fortune. I was on my way out the door when I heard something that stopped me in my tracks.
Walking by Emily, I heard her telling Scully, "You should have seen it, Mom! The vampire didn't stand a chance because she was too smart for it-" My mind started racing. How could Emily have known? I surely was too far from the house for her to see what happened, and William was the one with the mental powers, not her. It didn't really matter how she knew, just that she did, and her parents would have questions, "-she kicked him a few times, then pulled out a wooden stake, and jabbed him in the heart. Poof! He turned into dust."
Wait, what, wooden stake? Dust? I didn't even have a stake with me, and I certainly hadn't killed the moron. "What are you talking about, if you don't mind me asking?" I hoped that I didn't sound as nervous as I felt.
"Buffy the vampire slayer," Emily said happily.
Who the what what?? I gave them a genuinely confused look. "What?
"Oh, it's this TV show Emily has been trying to convince me to let her watch. I think it's too violent for an eight-year-old to watch."
"But Mom! Brian's mom lets him watch it, and he's only a little older than me. And the commercials look so cool!"
"Has this show been on long?" I asked.
"For practically my whole life," Emily said, pouting.
See? You don't own a TV and you completely miss the fact that there's a whole TV show based on your profession. I nearly asked Scully how she felt about that silly movie, but I thought it might sound suspicious, so I held my tongue. Instead I made a mental note to watch it.
"When is it on?" I asked casually.
"6 and 7 on FX!" Emily replied quickly, earning a suspicious look from her mother. I got the distinct impression that she'd seen more than a commercial at Brian's house. I didn't have to be a mind reader to know Scully was thinking the same thing.
I turned off the TV at eight o'clock and tried to sort out what I'd just seen. This Buffy chick seemed to live in a world where vampires had no respectability or rights; I was surprised that Humans First didn't recommend it in their recruitment literature. Or, maybe they did, I'd never actually read the brochures.
She didn't seem to have a steady day job, and there was zero mention raising the dead, so I got the impression that raising the dead wasn't amongst her talents. I didn't know which one us that made luckier.
I was a little jealous, though, I have to admit. Her vampires dissolved when she staked them- how quaint- leaving no messy inanimate bodies to deal with. And she could fight! I really wouldn't mind having super human strength. I work out, and being an animator gives me a slight boost, but nothing like that girl's. Except for the brief and unpleasant time I was under Jean-Claude's marks, I regularly got my ass handed to me on a platter any time I got into a fight with a vampire.
And the guy thing! There was this nice normal guy, who apparently had recently broken up with a demon, right there, but no, she goes for the vampire. Sure, he was cute, even if his hair is too short for my liking, but a vampire...It made my stomach turn just thinking about it.
Watching the show made me wonder if maybe a TV might not be such a bad thing to buy once I got back home. Whenever that was.
Doggett was looking forward to Mulder and Scully's arrival at the office the Monday morning after Thanksgiving. It was the first time that they'd be seeing their friends since the holiday. Reyes said that Scully had mentioned anticipating a busy weekend, so they hadn't call them. Now, after a few days to get used to the idea, he'd been able to push most of his worry aside, and was eager to share their news.
Thus far they'd only told Gibson, mainly so he wouldn't feel awkward about knowing before it was discussed with him. He'd explained the concept of "loud thoughts" to them once, too, and they were sure that the thoughts about the baby must register as shouts.
He and Reyes were at a research stage of their new case, which involved cult-like crime, so they'd been in the office all morning. Mulder called to let them know that they would be in around lunch-time, after they'd examined the latest victim.
"Hard to work up an appetite after that," Doggett had foolishly remarked.
"At least it's not a skinning death," Mulder monotoned. Doggett had only shuddered.
Once he hung up, he turned to Reyes and asked, "So, are you looking forward to telling them our good news?"
She gave him a half-hearted smile. "I wish I could say yes, since you obviously are, but... I don't think we should tell them yet." Doggett gave her a concerned look, wondering if there was something wrong. Reading him, she continued. "Nothing's wrong, so don't worry about anything like that. It's just..."
"Just what?" he prompted.
"This will probably sound silly to you, but they both care very deeply about children. And I don't just mean theirs and Gibson, either. Part of the way they care is to worry... This is the first Christmas that they'll have both kids, and it feels a little selfish to tell them before then. Is it wrong to want to let them enjoy the holiday before giving them something new to worry about?"
Doggett kissed her cheek. "Not wrong at all. I'll just have to contain myself for another month."
"You'll manage." She grinned at him. "I'm sure I can make it worth your-"
Mulder and Scully came in just then, so with a shared look they agreed to continue the conversation at home.
I was getting nowhere. Nowhere at all. I poked around in the middle of the night, talking to what vampires who would dare talk to the Executioner, but they didn't know anything. Never did. I'd found a bar a lot like the one Dead Dave ran, but without the helpful bartender who would willingly act as a go-between for humans and vamps. This fellow was a vampire with closed lips. Very pale lips.
All I was getting out of my attempts at investigating was tired. I'd settled into a terrible little pattern: watch Will and Emily from 7 to 4, try to stay awake until 8 or so, numbing my brain with the TV- which I was suddenly watching way too much of- then crash so I'd have gotten at least a little sleep before playing interviewer to hostile, uncooperative vampires. I swear, if I'd grabbed the average vampire in DC's hand, they'd have gnawed it off like an animal to get away from me. You would think, that if Lancaster wanted me to get anywhere, he might have put out a warning to the locals that they should play ball with me. It seemed rather grating to be trying to save their flamable *sses if they weren't even going to help me do it.
I was thoroughly sick of DC and it's vampires by the end of the first week of December.
"Mulder, we're getting nowhere!" Scully moaned as they sat down to watch a movie. Scully had finally given up for the night after the kids when to bed, so Mulder was able to get her to reluctantly agree to pay him a little attention outside the bedroom for a change.
"You're obsessing again," he helpfully reminded her.
"I. Know. That. The question is, why aren't you? The sanguinity is getting a little old, and it makes you seem like you know something that the rest of us don't," she gripped.
"I know that we'll get to the bottom of this soon," he replied, patting her on the head.
She pulled away from him, annoyed. "How? How do you know that?"
"Because we always figure things out," he said with a smile.
"Oh, thank you Mr. Zen," she said, her voice dripping sarcasm.
A sudden wail drifted down to them. "Moooommmmyyyy!"
Scully sighed and was about to stand up when she heard Emily's voice as well. "Go to sleep, Will. Mommy and Daddy are busy. We're supposed to be in bed."
"No! Want Mommy!" he insisted.
Scully shook her head, and walked to the foot of the stairs. "Emily, bring your brother downstairs please."
Emily appeared a couple of minutes later, carrying her brother in a precarious grip because he was squirming vigorously. "Are we in trouble?" she asked quietly as she set Will on his feet. He immediately ran to Scully.
This of course made Scully feel guilty. "No, Honey, you're not. It was thoughtful of you to try to get Will to go back to bed. You've been very good while we've been working on this case. I'm sorry that we get stuck on thinking about work, but, unfortunately, that's how grown-ups are some times. I was thinking, though... The Nutcracker is going to be playing all this week, and I know someone who is trying to sell their tickets for Thursday night. Do you think maybe we should ask Gramma if she'd like to go with us and see it?"
"That would be so cool!" Emily exclaimed.
"No! Will cool!" her brother corrected her, making her laugh.
"Do I have to go too?" Mulder whined.
"Yes!" everyone said, even William
William and I were enjoying our lunch, or rather, I was enjoying mine, and he was tearing apart his grilled cheese, when the phone rang.
"Mrs. Scully?" a woman with a curt voice asked.
"No, I'm sorry, she's at work. I'm the nanny. Would you like to leave a message?"
"I'm with Emily's elementary school, and I'm calling parents to let them know that the school is closing early due to the snow storm. Besides Emily, another pupil, George, has left this number in case of emergencies. We can't reach his parents at work."
"Oh..." I didn't relish the idea of bringing Will out in the storm, and bringing home two small children, but what were the alternatives? "I'll come get them right away."
"Yes, well, we're not closing until 12:30," she said in a clipped manner, as if she suspected I'd drag them out of class.
"Thanks for the heads up." I hung up and shook my head.
"Mean lady," William commented.
"Right you are," I agreed. "Ready to get your sister?"
William mashed his already mangled sandwich into the tray of his highchair. "Em come home!"
I took that as assent, and gathered up our coats and hats. His hat was rather cute, and looked like the type a jester would wear. I'd seen a picture from when he was smaller, and wore a bunny ear hat. I thought this one was even cuter.
It took twenty minutes to get to the school because the wheels of Will's carriage kept getting mired in the snow that already covered the sidewalk. Unlike me, William seemed to enjoy the sensation of having snow blown into his face, because he smiled even as the cold reddened his cheeks.
I don't think I was ever so glad to be back at the house as I was that afternoon, extra kid to look after or no.
Doggett cast the store window a worried look. He'd promised Reyes that he'd meet her at home after just one little stop before going home, but he was beginning to worry that he had lingered in the store too long.
It was a toy store, so it wasn't the type of place he'd been to in the past several years. He had bought William something that first Christmas, when he knew it would be just Scully and the baby, pining for Mulder, but he'd ordered it on line. He'd actually already ordered Christmas gifts for Will, Emily and Gibson, but this was different.
He knew, from past experience, that as soon as they announced the impending birth, the gifts would begin to pour in by people charmed by the thought of a newborn. Luke's first present had come from his maternal grandmother, and Doggett always felt that it shouldn't have. So this time he was determined to buy the very first gift for his new son or daughter.
At first he'd gravitated towards stuffed animals, but he knew that it would be something that would only gather dust for a couple of years before the baby was big enough to drag it by an ear or a limb. He wanted something immediate. Something the baby would notice first thing.
Which was why he was standing in the isle that sold mobiles. After a shudder at seeing one that was the duplicate of William's, he began to look through the others. It wasn't as though William's wasn't cute, it just seemed like it would be tempting fate if he bought the new baby one that had such strange memories attached to it. It didn't take long to find another he liked just as well.
Ten minutes later he was leaving the store with a box under one arm and a smile on his face.
Monica made hot-coco and brought a mug of it to Gibson. He looked up to thank her, but something pinched in his expression bothered her. "So what's wrong?"
"Nothing," Gibson said quickly.
"Uh uh, you're not going to throw me off that easily. I might not be a mind reader, but I know there's something bothering you." Gibson sighed deeply. "Spill it," she commanded.
"Is there going to be enough room for me after your baby is born?"
Reyes gave him a puzzled look. "You don't mean you're jealous, do you?" She wondered if she was going to have to give a we-have-enough-love-for-everyone speech, which surprised her considering his age.
"No. I mean room, literally. Space. I'm thankful that you've taken me in, but if my living here will be a problem, I can probably get into college early. I'm already a junior, and I bet with my grades I could get them to let me skip my senior year-"
"Oh no, Gibson, don't think like that. Our living in this apartment was only supposed to be temporary anyway. We're planning to look for a house this winter, and rest assured, we're not looking at anything with less than three bedrooms. There will always be room for you," she said with a warm smile.
Relief flooded his face. "I didn't want to be a burden," he muttered.
"You aren't," she declared firmly. "I think we'll need to re-heat our coco, though."
"Let me give you a hand with that," Gibson said. As they entered the kitchen he was in time to get the door for Doggett, who was finally coming in from the cold.
The storm was picking up momentum, and it kept waking me up. Even Sigmund's fuzzy presence wasn't enough to let me rest comfortably. He tried his best though, or so I inferred from the look in his shiny plastic eyes. Every time I woke up I thought about how silly it was to be upset by a storm. I'd already weathered a great many storms in my life, but the fact that it was the first one in that strange place made me nervous. At least at home I knew where the candles and matches were.
Just as a huge gust howled past, there was a knock against the door. It was only as it repeated that I realized that it wasn't the wind. Reluctant to leave the warmth of my bed, I eventually gave in and padded to the door. I realized that the knocking wasn't likely to stop otherwise if the knocker was determined enough to see me to brave the weather.
When I turned on a light and opened the door, I was greeted by a snow-speckled Scully. The wind's sounds had apparently been even more smothering than I had initially thought, since I hadn't heard her come up through the garage. She had a hurricane lantern in one hand, and there was a vinyl zipper-bag under one arm. It looked like a tiny body-bag, I caught myself morbidly thinking. "Sorry to wake you, Anita," she said.
She looked so apologetic that I found myself saying, "No need to apologize, I was already awake."
"Well, it's still late...They think that the storm is going to get much worse, so I'm worried that the power might go out tonight. I brought over a hurricane lantern and a couple of extra blankets just in case."
"Thanks, that was very thoughtful of you," I said. She didn't say anything or move to hand me the items. I realized after a second that she wasn't paying attention, because she was staring at me. It hit me, I'd chosen to wear a favorite t-shirt to bed. "The scars still look pretty shocking, huh?"
Her checks turned as red as her hair. "I'm sorry."
"It's ok. Most people stare the first time they see them." I wondered if I should assure her that I'd never worn anything around the kids that would have allowed them to notice the scars.
She shook her head, hard. "Mulder's younger brother was scarred horribly, over his entire body. I thought of that, I'm afraid to say. Yours aren't nearly as bad, of course," she added anxiously, apparently worried about offending me. She hadn't.
"Was scarred? Did he...die?" I asked, hoping I wasn't opening old wounds, so to speak.
"No no. He had several very good reconstructive surgeries. He looks very much like he did before, besides the synthetic hair," she explained. "Do you mind a personal question?"
I figured that she was going to ask me why I hadn't done the same. I quickly prepped myself for giving an explanation about how they were, by that point, an integral part of who I was. "Ask away."
"Jeffery came about his scars when he was kidnapped and tortured...how did you get those?"
I looked down at the thick, shiny scar tissue on my arm. I couldn't see the scars at my collarbone, but I knew they were there, and having them looked at so intensely seemed to make them itch. I wouldn't allow my fingers to raise up to scratch, though. I hesitated. All that worrying for so long about being found out... "I was attacked."
A sympathetic look. "A stranger?" she asked. The look in her eyes hinted that she hadn't been spared the wrath of strangers herself.
"Not exactly." I hesitated again. A voice in my mind said it was time. I was just treading water by keeping my secret, and I suddenly realized that there was no way that anything would be resolved if I kept my secrets. "I was attacked at work one night, when a vampire fought back."
She looked deeply puzzled. "You dealt with vampires while working at the preschool?" She finally blurted out.
I didn't have any idea what she was talking about until I remembered the salient details on my fake resume. That was sticky, but at least she hadn't lectured me on the non-existence of vampires.
"I'm sorry," I said.
"About what?" She looked even more puzzled, though that scarcely seemed possible.
"I lied to you," I said, walking over to the small apartment's living room. She trailed after me.
I wrung my hands, worried about her potential reaction. It'd be hard to find a hotel room that time of night. "Since before I even met you."
She sat down reflexively, picking the nearest chair. I sat on the couch, kitty-corner from her. It probably should have been a sit-down conversation from the start, was my belated realization. "I don't understand." Her voice was quiet. I didn't know what that meant.
It was incredibly hard to look her in the eyes. I sighed. "My name really is Anita Blake, and I'm actually from St. Louis. Beyond that... Under normal circumstances, I work for a company called Animator's Inc." I decided to gloss over that, since she didn't seem the type to approve of zombie raising. "I'm also a legal vampire executioner for a tri-state area, and on rare occasions that a rogue vampire needs to be put down, I'm called in after the warrant is received. A more time consuming side-line is that I'm on retainer to St. Louis Preternatural crime squad. Far too frequently to suit my boss, they call me in to consult with preternatural crimes involving non-human perpetrators and victims. A lot of time that means vampires," I explained.
"Like the one that bit you," she said slowly. I was impressed by the lack of screaming. "If all this is true, what are you doing here in DC, in our home? It doesn't sound as though you need another job," she added with a wan smile.
"Vampires have a sort of hierarchy. Those who develop the most strength and powers are called 'masters,' and usually, though not always, a master vampire over-sees a region and looks after the weaker, younger, vampires within it. Dolph, the leader of that preternatural squad I mentioned, got a phone call from the police here. The master of this area threatened a blood bath if he didn't supply some help with a problem the vampires are having. After the police failed to remedy the issue, Dolph suggested that I might be the best help they could get."
"But what does that have to do with us??" She was starting to get upset. Understandably, I thought.
"The problem that the vamps have been having is that someone, either another vampire or a human, presumably, has been murdering the youngest vampires in this area. Five so far have been found after having been forced into daylight."
Scully gave me a blank look at first, then understanding blossomed in her eyes. "Our case," she breathed.
I nodded in agreement. "Indeed. Dolph had hoped that being planted here would help me to learn more about what you and Agent Mulder were doing on the case. Unfortunately, while I've enjoyed caring for your children, this clandestine arrangement hasn't helped either of us get any closer to figuring this out. If we're going to save the city from the threatened blood-bath, we'll have to work together." I waited nervously for her reaction.
Finally, she cocked her head to the side and asked, "Of course we'll work with you. This case needs to be solved, but... will you still be able to look after Will and Emily during the day?"
I couldn't help but grin.
Mulder awoke to Scully standing over him. He gave her a lazy smile. "When did you get up? That usually wakes me."
"About an hour ago. Mulder, we need to talk."
He immediately sat up with a panicky look on his face. "Is Emily sick again?" he asked, his memories of her recent illness and doubt over the finality of the cure filling his mind.
Scully sat on the bed and gave his leg a reassuring pat. "Em and Will are both fine. I just checked on them."
"Then what is it then?"
"As much as it pains me to admit it, you were right. Anita isn't what we thought she is. Or isn't only, rather."
"Oh? Is she a member of a wacky cult? Or an alien shape-shifter?" he asked eagerly.
Scully shook her head ruefully. She should have known that the revelation of a secret background would be more interesting than worrisome to him. He seemed to trust the girl despite his suspicions, and his earlier comment about being intrigued by the possibility of the girl having secrets should have predicted his response. "No...She...She's on retainer for a police force that deals with preternatural crime, sort of like us, actually. Her superior sent her here on an under-cover assignment because they know that our case involves...vampires," she finished with a frown, knowing what his reaction would be.
"I knew it!" Mulder crowed. "And you threatened to hit me for even suggesting that the victims were vampires," he finished with a reproachful look.
"Oh please," she muttered. "So does this mean that you're willing to work with her to solve this case?"
"Well, yeah," he drawled. "Seeing as we're struggling on our own. Anita Blake Vampire Slayer. I like the sound of that." His grin was dopey and he completely missed the suspicious look Scully gave him. She was wondering if Brian's mom hadn't been the only one letting Emily watch Buffy. She dimly recalled that it was on early in the morning as well as the evening...
"I don't think so. We're not trying to add to the body count, so she shouldn't be slaying anything," Scully objected.
"Hunter, then. Hunting can mean finding, not just killing," Mulder reasoned.
"Yes, our nanny, Anita Blake Vampire Hunter..." Mulder waxed on in a monotone until he noticed that Scully was on the verge of throwing pillows at him.
I put it off as long as I could, but eventually I had to face the music, so I called Dolph. No, I wasn't afraid that he'd rant and scream at me, because he wouldn't. Heavy silences were more his style. It wasn't a call I was looking forward to.
Someone reasonably cheerful for the time of day- around five pm there- answered the phone in dispatch. "Sergeant Dolph Storr, please." I didn't know who it was, but there were several people in dispatch, and I'd only made an effort to get to know a couple of them.
"Who might I say is calling?" the chipper male voice asked.
"Oh yes, Sergeant Storr said to send any calls from you through immediately."
I didn't like the sound of that. It made me think that Dolph had been sitting by the phone, waiting for news. That sort of thing can almost make a person feel guilty. "Thanks."
A moment later, there was a click on the line. "Dolph."
"It's Anita, Dolph."
"Just checking in, or do you have some news to report?" he asked.
"Well..." I twisted the phone cord in my fingers. "I broke my cover," I said in a rush. There, it was out.
There was nothing but silence on the other end of the line. Finally, he said something. "I see."
As it was calculated to do, the non-accusing comment made me what to explain myself. "The case was going nowhere, and then the woman, Scully, saw my vampire scars, and I simply couldn't continue to lie to her...but it's ok, they're going to work with me so we get this all wrapped up. Which, frankly, I'm looking forward to, since I don't want to still be here over the holidays..." He let me babble on like an idiot. I'm sure it amused him.
"Well," he said slowly. "If you've worked it out with the FBI agents, I guess there's no harm in them knowing who you are. Keep me informed on how you progress."
"Will do," I said. Before I could say good-bye he'd hung up. I wonder if anyone had ever gotten anything but a dial tone from him when he ended a conversation.
Mulder twisted in his seat, and tried not to yawn. Emily, on the other hand, was wide-eyed and paying rapt attention. Mulder glanced enviously at his lap, where Will was quietly dosing. Scully had made good on her threat, and bought them tickets to the Nutcracker.
He glanced over, and saw that Scully and her mother were paying as close attention as Emily. Sighing inaudibly, Mulder began to make a mental list of people whom he was, at that very moment, envious of: Skinner, who was probably at home watching a hockey game; Anita, who he'd noticed as they left returning from the video store with a bag full of movies; Doggett and Reyes, who were probably doing something as a couple that didn't involve uncomfortable seats; Gibson, who was probably doing something more interesting, like calculus homework.
The ballet was just at the scene when the nutcracker was being harassed by giant rodents, when something in the audience caught his attention. At first he wondered if the young man was a member of the cast who'd snuck out for a break, but eventually he realized that no one on stage was paying him any attention because they didn't know him. It was this realization that made his crown seem like a more peculiar affectation. Mulder found himself wondering if there was now en vogue to dress up at ballets like one would at an airing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Glancing around he saw that no one was in costume, so he shrugged.
The man must have sensed that he'd captured Mulder's attention, because he turned in his seat just then, and awarded Mulder with a sardonic little wave. Mulder shivered and became very interested in the remainder of the ballet.
I'm not sure if it fell under my job description or not, but I found myself out shopping with Emily and William for parental Christmas gifts. I'd thought that Mrs. Scully might have done it while she had them a while back, but apparently Emily convinced her than I would be a much better co-shopper. Me? The only thing I bought on a regular basis was flowers for Ronnie and Edward when it was them who ended up in the hospital for a change. They didn't wake up in stark white rooms as often as I did, but they took their breaks and bruises too.
Be that as it may, I did succumb to the inevitable, and helped them pick out gifts. Or rather, I followed Emily around while she picked out gifts, since Will didn't seem to care much about buying things. Emily would ask my opinion on each thing that caught her eye, which reminded me of all the times Ronnie played fashion consultant for me. She's always had great taste in clothes. We eventually picked out suitable gifts for Mulder, Scully, Mrs. Scully, and various other people on the kids' list, although William's list was far shorter, since he didn't know as many people. Fortunately, the gifts' costs didn't exceed the amount of cash Mulder designated for the shopping trip.
It was fully dark by the time we got outside. Since I didn't have a car, Mulder had also given me money to hire a cab for there and back. It was easier than walking, that's for sure. We brought a stroller along anyway, though, since William was too little to walk around the mall for hours, and I didn't relish the idea of carrying him. It proved useful to fill with bags while I let him toddle holding our hands on the way out, too.
I was trying to hail a cab when it happened. A stocky figure in a college sweater rushed up to us. I cringed, and held on tighter to the little hands. The last thing I needed while with the kids was run-in with the fratpire. If I'd been by myself, I could have dealt with him, but since I didn't want to put the little ones at risk, I was prepared to scream bloody murder to get the attention of other leaving shoppers. It turned out that it wouldn't be necessary.
"You're Anita Blake, right?" he asked, his voice sounded So Cal, which was odd given it was DC. I nodded. "Cute kids."
"Yeah, thanks. What did you want?"
"Ok, so Lancaster said we ought to tell you if we like knew anything about those guys dying. I don't know anything for one hundred percent sure, but I think I heard something important."
I kept waiting for him to say "Dude!" "What was it that you think you heard?"
"I um, heard a couple, three people talking. Vampires. They were saying how that someone they knew was gonna kick off on December 15th. They didn't sound too sad about it, come to think about it. Anyways, they were gonna meet at 4am at that High Stakes place. I thought you should know or something."
"Um. Thanks. I'll tell Lancaster that you were very helpful...what was your name?"
"Chip," he said with a smile.
Chip the vampire. How unmenacing sounding can you get? At least we had a lead. I think.
Anita told Mulder and Scully about the tip-off as soon as Scully sent Emily up to get ready for dinner. "I'm not sure what they understood about what was going on," Anita told them, referring to the kids. "But he did mention the 'v' word, and death, so Emily might have questions for you. I thought it would be best to let you handle it, since she didn't ask me any direct questions about it."
They thanked her, and said they'd deal with that hurtle when and if it came to that. Anita declined the invite to stay for dinner, saying she had some phone calls to make. Dinner went off without any mention of the subject, so they began to feel a false sense of security. It didn't last.
Mulder was sitting on the couch reading a sci-fi novel when Emily scrambled up and scooted next to him. She didn't say anything, but instead gave him appealing looks. Finally, he put his book aside and smiled at her. "What's up?"
"Dad...I think Anita has a secret," she confided. Mulder immediately began to feel wary. They hadn't told the kids anything about Anita's true identity yet, hoping it wouldn't come up.
As casually as he could, he asked, "What sort of secret?"
"Well, a while back, she said she had no idea who Buffy was, right? I think she was pretending. I think she knows a lot about vampires."
"You do?" Mulder asked, hoping his nervousness didn't show. He began to wish that he'd offered to put Will down for the night.
"Yeah, I think...I think she might be one of the writers for Buffy!" Emily exclaimed.
"What?" Mulder's mind had gone a total blank.
"They keep showing these things on TV about Buffy, and lots of them are with people who write the show. There are a bunch of different writers. A guy talked to Anita today, and it sounded just like one of the thingies on TV with the writers talking to each other. I think they were setting up a meeting to write the show. Do you think she could be one of them?"
"I suppose it's possible..." Mulder agreed faintly. His head began to ache.
Emily bounced on the couch. "Cool! Can I ask her about the episode?"
"Um...You know that there was a movie based on what Mommy and I do at work, right?" Mulder asked, and she nodded vigorously. "Well, we had to talk with a writer, and he pretended to work with us, so he could write things accurately."Yeah right, he thought. "And a lot of people wanted to know about what was going to happen, but he couldn't talk about it until the movie was made."
"How come?" Emily asked, looking disappointed.
"The writers have to sign a contract saying that they won't talk about things, because there are people who might steal the ideas if they overhear them. The people making the movie or show might not be able to finish it if that happens."
"Oh...I won't ask her then. I'll even pretend she doesn't have anything to do with the show."
"That's a good idea," Mulder agreed. Scully is either going to find this funny, or kill me, he thought. "Pretend that she's just your nanny."
"I will. You and Mom like her, right?" Emily asked.
"Sure. We might even go out some place with her before Christmas."
"Like with John and Monica, right? Grownups go out with friends."
"Yup, just like that," Mulder said, wondering for the first time what was going to happen when Anita had to leave. The thought of finding a new nanny gave his head ache new strength.
"I'm going to ask Mom if we can watch Buffy," Emily said, slipping off the couch with a grin.
"Do you have any homework?" Mulder called, but she giggled and ran up the stairs instead of answering.
The reason I gave for declining the dinner invite was legitimate rather than invented. I sat cross-legged on the middle of the bed while talking on the phone. I'd gotten the overwhelming desire to get in touch with people from home after the latest vampire run-in, so I'd picked the person I could talk the most freely with. Someone without raging testosterone that would cloud their view of what was going on, and someone with no reason to feel that they had to color the truth in order to make anyone else look good, or else.
That of course immediately ruled out all the vampires and werecreatures that I knew. So I called Ronnie. I suppose I could have called Edward, but while we were something like friends, he wasn't the type of buddy you just called up for a friendly chat. He was the type of friend you called to get back up.
Ronnie seemed thrilled to hear from me, which is nice. It feels good to know you're missed. "Anita! I didn't know if I'd hear from you before you got back."
"I wasn't going to call anyone, but I've been feeling a little homesick," I told her. "How is everything going around there?" I knew she would know, she's a PI, it's her job to keep tabs on things.
"By everything you're asking about vampires and things that grow fur by moonlight?" she shrewdly guessed.
"Well...yeah..." I admitted. "Of course I want to know about you first," I hastily added.
"I'm fine. Everything over at Animator's Inc is doing fine, but Bert was complaining to me the last time I was in the office that you've been gone too long." Ronnie is on retainer at Animator's Inc, much like my own connection to Dolph's team. Bert calls her in to handle cases of a more investigative nature than most of us handle on a day to day basis. "Although I'm not sure what he's complaining about, there's very little raising of the dead going on right now, so far as I can tell. "
"That's good to hear. Larry's still in one piece, right?" I asked. The only qualm I'd had about taking the leave of absence was that Bert would request too much of our intern. The kid was a good animator, but not as in control of his power yet as I'd like. Not to mention he kept getting into scrapes with vampires, although that was more my fault than his. He was only four years younger than me, but I felt so much older.
"Larry's fine," she assured me. "The vampires don't seem that interested in him without you around. And as far as I can tell, he's been bright enough not to seek them out on his own."
It was nice to know he'd listened to me. For once. "Speaking of vampires... Have Jean-Claude and Richard been behaving themselves?"
"Publicly, at least. Louie told me that they haven't been so much as in the same room together since you left," Ronnie said.
Louie? Why was she talking to Richard's best friend? I shrugged it off, it wasn't my business if she didn't care to tell me. "That's good to hear." Even I could hear the relief in my own voice.
"So... when are you coming home?" she asked.
I shrugged, then remembered that people on the phone can't see you. "I don't know. I'm hoping that it will be before Christmas. We've finally gotten a lead, so maybe it'll be cleared up soon."
"I blew my cover. Dolph knows. The FBI agents were pretty cool about it, considering. So now we're working together on solving this, since none of us were getting anywhere by ourselves. The kids don't know who I am, though. At least they don't as far as I know, but the parents might clue in the older kid. I think she could handle it," I explained.
"Ah. So have you been miserable playing nanny? I know you're not the kids type," Ronnie said, probably thinking of the many conversations in which I'd firmly declared my intentions to be child-free forever.
"Actually, I'm not. They're nice little kids. The little girl, Emily, is so bright they put her ahead a couple of grades. I overheard her talking to one of her little friends recently, and I think she was really sick not long ago and spent a lot of time in the hospital," I told her, thinking about the afternoon Georgie was over until his parents could get him. That was strange. Mulder had mentioned that she'd almost died when she was three, but could she still get that sick? "They never talk about it, and she seems healthy, so I'm not going to bring it up."
"There's a baby too, right?" she asked me.
"Oh yes. William. He's an adorable little kid, but he's a handful. He's um...telekinetic." I wasn't sure how she'd respond. She believed in a lot of the supernatural since she'd seen it, but moving objects with one's mind wasn't a human talent we'd ever discussed.
"That sound like a fun kid to clean up after." She laughed.
"Yeah...I didn't believe his parents until he got ahold of something off the table he could never have reached and doused himself with it. Do you know how hard it is to get glue out of a toddler's hair? He's supposed to be telepathic, too, but it's sort of hard to tell since he doesn't talk a whole lot yet."
"Sounds like you're having a fun time, vampires notwithstanding," Ronnie commented.
"Is it going to be hard to leave them behind when the problem with vampires is cleared up?"
"I haven't known them long, so probably not," I said, but I wasn't so sure.
December 13th, 2002
Scully hung up the phone. There was a frustrated look on her face, so Mulder asked, "What's wrong? "
"Mulder, that was Mom. She's calling from a doctor's office in Atlanta. A friend of hers needed to see a specialist, and was afraid of making the trip alone, so my mother offered to go with her. They were supposed to catch a flight home an hour ago, but the specialist ordered a whole new battery of tests- for tomorrow. The woman is frightened, so Mom can't just leave her there-"
"Of course she can't!" Mulder exclaimed. He knew that Maggie was too kind to abandon anyone in need.
"But it means that she's not going to be able to watch the kids for us," Scully said unhappily. They'd arranged for Maggie to keep an eye on Will and Emily so the adults could stake-out the place Chip said the next vampire death was going to take place at.
Mulder thought for a moment, before his face brightened. "Please give me the phone, I've got an idea." Scully handed it to him without a word. Mulder dialed a number quickly, and from memory. As soon as it connected he cheerfully said, "Hi Doggett, it's Mulder. Can I ask you a favor?"
Doggett glanced at the clock. It was eight at night. Favors asked for that late were seldom little ones. "What do you need?" he asked warily.
"Well...I know you said earlier that you were in for a boring night since Reyes was taking Gibson on a shopping excursion to NY, and they aren't going to be home until tomorrow. I was wondering if you'd like some company- in the form of two little angels."
Instead of answering in words, Doggett groaned.
Mulder was not deterred. "We finally got a lead on our case, and were planning to stake out the place from two until probably sunrise. I think vampires head in at sunrise, anyway. Maggie was going to take the kids tonight, but she is stuck in Atlanta with a sick friend, so she had to cancel. You're our only hope."
Doggett dragged a hand over his face. He decided not to even ask what Mulder meant by vampires. "Couldn't you get the nanny to spend the night with them? Pay her time and a half or something."
"No. She's going with us," Mulder told him.
"You're taking the nanny with you on a stake out?!" Doggett yelped in surprise.
"Uh...we'll explain her connection to everything when the case is over," Mulder said nervously.
"Oh, what the hell. Bring them over in a couple of hours. They can sleep in Gibson's room, but you better bring a playpen or something for Will. I don't want him to fall out of Gibson's bed."
"Thanks! They'll be no problem, I swear," Mulder said excitedly.
"Just bring them over before I change my mind," Doggett said.
"Don't call me pal," Doggett said sourly. So much for a night watching NASCAR, accompanied by a couple of cold ones.
We got there at 1:57 am. The owner of High Stakes nearly fell over himself in his efforts to oblige us. Mulder explained to me that the rooftop of the man's business had already been a crime scene, which explained his 100% willingness to help the FBI. The poor bastard was probably worried that he'd be a suspect if he showed any resistance.
Though Mulder and Scully had been there, I hadn't seen the place before, so it was interesting to learn that the door opened right in the middle. In fact the door rose up in a shed-like structure, that was perfect for three adults to crouch behind. Assuming that they'd be coming from the road. As soon as I had that thought, I began to fret.
I think it was noticeable, because Mulder gave me a reassuring grin. "Stake outs are a little nerve-wracking, huh?"
I nodded. I kept thinking about the night I spent helping Dolph and the rest of RPIT team look for the killer zombie that'd broken free from the animator that had raised it. I haven't looked at trash-cans the same way since. We weren't in that sort of danger, but the same thing was at stake- innocent lives. Or afterlives, depending on how you view vampiric existence.
My worries about being seen were soon put to rest as I watched Mulder and Scully move around some wooden packing crates that were on the roof. They didn't seem as excited about the door, since they weren't going anywhere near it. I soon got the idea that they intended to surround us with the boxes, reducing are chances of being seen. "These boxes being here is convenient," I noted.
"Convenient nothing," Scully said as I helped her to haul one into place. "We had them delivered this afternoon. You don't do a stakeout in December without having something to help keep out the elements."
"Usually, we do stakeouts in a car, but you can see why that wouldn't work in this case, so we had to improvise. It's sort of like a duck blind, don't you think?" Mulder asked as we finished stacking up the boxes near the center of the roof. There were several tiny window-like openings that we could view most of the rooftop from. "Except I guess this would be a vampire blind." He chuckled. From the outside it really did look like a collection of randomly piled boxes.
"Very clever, Mulder," Scully said dryly. We all filed in, dragged a few more boxes into place to block the "doorway," then threw a few large pieces of cardboard over the top of the structure.
Mulder leaned towards me. "She's probably unhappy because she can't sleep while we're crammed in like this. Scully normally takes naps if we're in the car," he said in a conspiratorial tone.
"I do not," Scully said irritably.
"Oh yeah? What about when we were looking for Pusher?" Mulder complained. "You drooled on me!"
"You told me I didn't really," Scully insisted.
"I was just trying to be polite."
I realized that it was going to be a very long two-hour wait, so I hunkered down in front of one of the openings and looked out at the clear cold night. It was fortunate that the three of us produced a lot of heat in the little area, so we were in no danger of freezing. Of course the vampires wouldn't be bothered by the cold, but I was hoping it would bother whatever it was that was hunting them. I was also betting on it being too cold for them to smell us, but I supposed there was a risk that they could detect us, since I didn't actually know if the sense of smell was affected by cold, or when vampires said they could smell humans if they meant it literally. What's a stakeout without a little risk, though, right? Since Mulder and Scully didn't actually ask me if vampires could smell people, I didn't mention it. Mulder seemed like the obsessive type, so why worry him about a vague possibility?
I decided to try to distract them from their squabbling since it seemed not to be ending on its own. "These holes are nice. I'll be able to video tape what goes on through them." Besides a cell phone and the laptop, Dolph had insisted I borrow the camera as well. I half suspected that he was hoping I'd bring back some video of Lancaster. He was hoping for something like America's Wackiest Vampires, I guess.
"Why video?" Scully asked immediately.
"You haven't meet Lancaster. He's petty and immature, and I know there's no way he'll ever believe the explanation of what is happening to his vampires unless he sees it," I told her.
"Vampires show up on film?" Mulder asked with interest. "I thought that they wouldn't, like mirrors."
I shook my head. "Vampires show up on film. If you watched the news where I'm from, you'd see them talking to spokesvampires on occasion. I even think that they show the masses for The Church of Eternal Life on the public access channel."
"Good to know," Mulder said drolly. I didn't bother to ask why it was good to know. It'd probably have led to more bickering. Instead we talked about the game plan: observe until it looked like the vampire would die without our interference. I wasn't sure I liked that, but it was the way it was going to have to be.
As they hunkered down in the blind, Mulder let his thoughts roam free. It was easy to come up with an explanation if you didn't discount anything, anything at all, out of hand. He was thinking about the message that the frat-boy vampire had given Anita. He didn't see anything new out of the openings, so he turned to Anita and whispered. "Anita, what exactly did that vampire say to you? Exactly."
She was quiet for a minute, obviously thinking. Scully looked at Mulder with interest, wondering what he'd come up with. "Does it have to be exactly what he said?" Anita asked plaintively.
"Exactly," Mulder said with a firm nod.
Anita imitated the vampire's So Cal accent. "I um, heard a couple, three people talking. Vampires. They were saying how that someone they knew was gonna kick off on December 15th. They didn't sound too sad about it, come to think about it. Anyways, they were gonna meet at 4am at that High Stakes place. I thought you should know or something."
Mulder snapped his fingers. "It's just what I thought."
"And that is what?" Scully asked sharply, hoping to keep him on track.
"The other vampires, the ones he heard talking, must be involved in this. Or how else would they know that the other vampire was going to die?"
"They heard a rumor?" Scully suggested.
"Not likely," Anita said. "The sort of thing that would kill a vampire wouldn't casually mention it to someone, it'd sooner have as an additional victim."
"Then at least we know that the killer is a vampire," Mulder said confidently.
"I wouldn't be sure of that," Anita objected. "That's jumping too much to conclusion at this point. We'll know more when the potential victim shows up."
Unused to anyone but Scully and their fellow agents correcting him, Mulder sank into a sulky silence.
A few minutes before four a.m., we heard voices. Scully pointed towards the opening nearest her, indicating that she could see them. I looked out the opening near my shoulder, and was relieved to see that I had a decent view as well. As quietly as I could, I put the lens of the camera into the opening.
There were four vampires, and, to my astonishment, they looked completely at ease. All of them. My first thought was that this must be because the victim didn't know what was going to happen. But which one was the victim?
There were four vampires, two men, two women. They were all very young. I could sense that in terms of power, they were mere babies. I don't think any of them had been a vampire for more than five or six years. I glanced at Mulder and Scully, and I knew that they wanted to know if all four were vampires. I nodded. You couldn't tell from out-ward appearances, since they were dressed like neo-hippy concert goers. Bright colors, not black, their skin looking healthy instead of deadly pale. I knew of course that could only be because they'd recently feed, but I began to feel less of an urge to talk to Mulder and Scully. For some inexplicable reason, the vampires were setting up candles and gathering around them.
When I listened hard, I realized that I could hear what the four cheery vampires were saying. One of the males, the one with long honey blond hair, said in a ringing voice, "I now call this meeting to order."
Mulder gave me another questioning look, but all I could do was shrug. I'd never heard of any rooftop meetings of vampire clubs.
The meeting wasn't very illuminating about their purpose or goals. All they did was stand there, and stand there and...
Mulder felt himself getting sleepy as he watched the vampires. Scully, despite his prediction, proved not to be too cold to fall asleep. She leaned heavily against him, and he sort of envied Anita the additional room to move that she had. He thought about waking Scully a few times, but decided against it. The last thing they needed was their cover broken because she made a noise or thrashed around when startled awake. Eventually she came around on her own, so there was no need to wake her before the action started.
Not that there was a lot of action. The vampires stood around their candles and looked at the sky. Mulder wondered if there was some sort of vampire equivalent to Santa Claus, because this gathering was beginning to remind him strongly of Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin.
Finally, as the sky began to lighten slightly, the vampires moved. One of the males took off his coat, which Anita suspected he'd worn just to blend in with humans as they made their way there, and sat down on the roof, giving the sky an expectant look. Both the female vampires bent down and kissed him on the cheek, murmuring something no one in the blind could hear.
The other male vampire pulled out a long flat box and smiled at the sitting vampire. He bent and handed him the box. "Here is your salvation," he said in a loud voice, and the others nodded.
Anita tensed, expecting that there was some sort of trick in the box designed to kill the vampire. But the vampire seemed to know what it was. "My salvation," he agreed. When he took the top off the box, there was a flare of blinding white light, but none of the vampires seemed bothered by it. Anita knew instantly that it was a cross.
My mind went blank at the sight of that cross. I knew that there were some vampires that don't fear crosses, but I'd never heard of one deliberately handling one. At least not without intending to inflict torture on a less powerful vampire. This didn't seem to be the case, since none of the other vampires looked the least bit nervous.
"With this, and the cleansing light, you will be free, Chris," the first male said.
"Free." The females echoed.
"Free from this half life," Chris agreed eagerly. "Free from a damning contract."
"We envy you. But we will join you eventually," the first male told him as he and the females turned from him.
I stared at Mulder, my eyes wide. I didn't know if he knew what 'the cleansing light' was, but I was pretty sure I did. I was about to whisper to him when two things happened: the three other vampires kicked the door on the roof open and hurried away, and the sun broke free of the clouds in a beautiful sunrise.
"We have to move. Now!" I shouted, using my shoulder to topple part of our blind. While it was solid enough to keep in heat, it was unfortunately, also solid enough to withstand my initial assaults on it. I now regretted our artful stacking of multiple layers of boxes. For a moment Mulder and Scully just stood there, giving me bewildered looks; I suspected that they were confused, having assumed that the danger was gone when the other vampires left, but eventually they caught on, and helped me create an opening to get out of the blind.
We were too late to do much. Oh, I picked up Chris's coat and beat at the flames, but it was really too late. I half suspected that he'd poured some sort of accelerant on himself, but I'd seen other vampires go up quickly, too. I think that the tears helped keep the smoke out of my eyes. I wasn't crying out of sadness over a dead vampire that I didn't know, but because we'd failed.
Lancaster's eyes were dark when Anita hit the "stop" button on the VCR that night. Mulder and Scully kept giving the vampire nervous looks, but Anita seemed perfectly calm. The fact that Mulder recognized him as the vampire he'd seen at the Nutcracker only made him more apprehensive. Anita had tried to explain to him that vampires can read minds, which is probably how Lancaster had known he was connected to her, but all Mulder could picture was Gibson dressed as Dracula.
No one spoke for several moments. Eventually Lancaster broke the silence. "I can't deny the truth of the matter," he said heavily. "Not when the evidence is right before me." Anita was glad that the video camera only taped up to the point when there were the first wisps of smoke started to come from the dead vampire: the camera had been lost and nearly forgotten after that in the scramble to get out of the blind.
"I'm sorry," Anita told him sincerely. Scully thought she could appreciate that. Despite the fact that the man before them was a vampire, the dead one had once been someone, or perhaps thing, that he'd cared about.
He paced, the foolish crown bobbing with every tread of his foot. "A vampire suicide club. Who ever heard of such a thing?" He stopped and faced the three of them. "I want to thank you."
Anita blinked at him in surprise. "Why? We weren't able to save him. He died, and there was nothing we could do about it."
Lancaster gave her a grim smile. "I'm thanking you for delving out the truth. Now that I know that there is nothing harming my young ones, besides themselves, we can all rest more easily. There's no fear of someone stealing away our lives."
Mulder had to force himself not to react to the word "lives." He gave the vampire a sad smile. "I wish there was more that we could have done..." he trailed off awkwardly.
"You've done more than I'd expect from humans. We'll deal with those who are intending to sacrifice themselves to the sun. They need some help and understanding... to see the light," Lancaster said, his face giving away no indication that he was aware of the ghastly pun he'd just made.
"Good luck with that," Scully murmured.
A few minutes later, they left the morose vampire and went home.
I called Dolph the next day, and explained that the case had been broken, although not terribly successfully. After that I began to pack up my things. I couldn't believe that it was finally over, and I was going to be able to go home.
Mulder and Scully didn't seem too broken up about my leaving. They said they'd miss me, and that they would have trouble replacing me as their nanny. I was equally stoic. I don't think any of us were prepared to admit how much we liked each other, not when my leaving was inevitable.
The children, however, were none so inhibited as the adults. I thought it would be easier to tell William, if only because he was less likely than his sister to understand my explanation. I, however, underestimated the comprehension skills a nineteen-month-old might have. Or this particular one, anyway.
I sat him on my lap, remembering at the last minute to sweep my long hair away from his chubby little fingers, and tried talk to him. "William," I started. His bright blue eyes were riveted to my face, as if he knew I had something important to say. "It's been a lot of fun looking after you and your sister- "
"Em," he corrected me.
"Right, Emily." I hesitated a moment, my train of thought broken. "I like you kids a lot, but I need to go home now. Back to where I live. I'm going to miss you."
He gave a startled blink. "Ne-ta go bye-bye?" he asked. I was surprised that he understood so easily. "Not come back?"
"Yes. I need to go," I said gently.
"Noooooooooo!" he howled. He punched me in the nose before he burst into tears and ran off. I couldn't tell if the punch had been deliberate or not.
I really hadn't expected that. I heard Mulder catch him in the next room, and try to comfort him. During all this, Emily came in, apparently wondering what the noise was about. I rubbed my sore nose.
"What's wrong with Will?" she asked, giving me a wary look.
"I said something that upset him."
"What?" she asked, getting right to the point.
I sighed and gave her a sad look. "I had to explain to him that I'm not going to be able to continue to be your nanny. I'm needed back home."
"At home?" She gave me a blank look. "Your home is someplace else? Where?"
"That sounds really far away," she said in a small voice.
"So you're not going to be able to visit." I was afraid she was going to cry too. Me too.
"Maybe some times. There are airplanes, you know."
Emily threw her arms around my neck, throwing me off balance. "I'll miss you."
I hugged her. "I'll miss you too."
The coffee steamed merrily as Maggie Scully sat at the kitchen table with Mulder. She gave him a kind look. "I really don't mind, Mulder," she repeated for at least the third time since she'd gotten there. This did nothing to erase the guilty look from his face.
"It's too much to ask-" he began, but she cut him off.
"Of course it's not. They're my grandchildren. How could helping to care for them fall into the realm of above and beyond? Many grandparents raise their grandchildren without complaint, so looking after them for a few hours a day is nothing in comparison," Maggie said with a bright smile.
Mulder had to resist a shudder when she mentioned people raising their grandchildren. That sort of statement seemed too much like tempting fate for his comfort. "We'll be getting another nanny soon, of course," he hastened to assure her.
"I'm sure you will," Maggie said, patting his hand. "It's a shame that you lost that lovely young woman, though. She seemed so nice."
Mulder smiled to himself. The girl had turned out to a tough as nails vampire hunter, how does that stack up against nice? He didn't think Maggie would understand that. "The kids miss her already," he said instead. "We all wish she wasn't needed back home."
"True, but the willingness to honor one's commitments is admirable, even if it disrupts one's plans," Maggie said with conviction. Scully had told her that Anita had to go home to care for a sick parent, so Maggie was slightly mislead about what commitments it was that the girl was honoring.
"You have a point,." Mulder told her. "I can't thank you enough-"
"Now, now... I'll be by to care for William in the morning. Perhaps he can help me come up with fun ways to spend Emily's vacation," Maggie said in a tone that suggested that there would be no further question about her caring for the kids while they were at work. Not up to arguing any longer against such a formidable opponent, Mulder could only nod.
I slipped back into my old life like I'd never left it. My homecoming was rather subdued, since I forbade everyone from making a big deal about it. I honestly didn't want to dwell on leaving the strange existence I'd grown to like over the past several weeks. I thought the best way to keep myself from feeling sad was to pretend that I didn't feel anything at all. I was moderately successful at this attempt.
Though it was a few days before Christmas, I found myself on another task almost immediately. A man whose wife had gone missing had approached our firm, finally explaining that he was wary of going to the police because his wife was a werewolf and he was afraid that she would be outed if they knew. I couldn't really blame him, not too many people were wont to let the world know that they were werewolves, since there was so much common bigotry against them. Against my better judgment, I agreed to think about taking the case on. It wasn't as though I was doing much zombie-raising then, anyway.
I didn't end up agreeing to help after all. Perhaps reconsidering my rash acceptance of this case, I tried to convince the man to give to Ronnie instead. This was more her specialty anyway. After a period of arguing in Ronnie's favor, I finally convinced the man that she could be trusted to keep her mouth shut. Lord knows she kept enough of my secrets.
Once the man left my office, I began to wonder if my reluctance to deal with a werewolf case had something to do with Richard. I'd seen him the night I'd gotten back, and nearly every day since then. He, at least, didn't take my admonishments that I didn't want a big deal made very seriously. I was immediately sure that he'd missed me quite a lot, and by more ways than his instant agreement to the suggestion that he accompany me to a musical right before Christmas.
December 25th, 2002
The entire living room was strewn with wrapping paper. Scully didn't complain to any of them about it; she confined herself to shaking her head disapprovingly at the mess. Mulder kept grinning at her, because he knew that the mess must be driving her insane. She couldn't tell if the grin was meant to convey his opinion that she was being a good trooper, or if it was merely gloating. It didn't seem worth the effort to try and figure out.
William seemed to be enjoying himself thoroughly. He didn't seem to find the gifts that Mulder had painstakingly picked out nearly as much as the boxes they had come in, though. Scully was prepared to tell Mulder, who would inevitably be disappointed, that it was normal behavior for a toddler, but Mulder was far too engrossed in setting up the baby-safe train-set to even notice. "Look, Will! It has a bell and everything!" he exclaimed excitedly. Since he didn't look away from the train as he spoke to William, he didn't notice that his son was climbing into a large box, rather than listening to anything to with the train.
Emily, on the other hand, was completely fascinated by the gift Scully had insisted at the last minute that they buy. The doll house was elaborate, and nearly as tall as its new owner. There was siding on it, perfectly to scale, and it even had working lights. The furniture looked real, and the family meant to people it was exquisite, detailed in every way. The little girl had another doll house, one made of plastic, but she'd wistfully confided that she wished that she had one that was more realistic, hastening to assure them that she was careful enough to own a far more delicate possession.
Scully believed her, but she'd found a model with a removable front that could be hinged into place to keep it from being tampered with by tiny hands. Remembering her own childhood, she wisely sought ways to cut off potential sibling rivalry at the past.
Emily looked up from her examination of a tiny sofa and asked Scully, "Mom, what should we do with the other doll house? It's a good house, someone should play with it."
Scully shrugged. "Maybe we can put it in the attic. I'm sure you'll meet someone you'd like to give it to someday."
Emily's eyes lit up. "That sounds like a good idea!" She hesitated for a minute. "Mom...do you think we could call Anita and wish her a merry Christmas?"
Scully nodded with a smile.
Apparently contrite about his bad behavior right after I returned, Jean-Claude showed up at my house Christmas night, bearing an elaborately wrapped package. I let him reluctantly, not really welcoming his company. He was on his best behavior, though, and her was very persuasive.
He seemed to be very eager for me to open the gift, so I did so almost immediately, knowing he would pester me until I did. It was a glass sculpture, one of penguins on an ice flow. It was very nice. But for some reason, I had trouble expressing that to him. I think I would have liked it better if it had come from anyone else. I doubt he noticed.
After I praised the gift thoroughly, and gave him the gift I bought him before leaving Washington, he gave me an expectant smile. I wasn't sure why, but I knew I didn't like it.
"Spit it out," I commanded.
"I know that we haven't had much of a chance to speak since you returned, mon petite- "
"Because of how you and Richard have been acting," I interrupted him.
He had the good grace to look somewhat embarrassed. "Yes...I was wondering where you were for so long."
Thus far I hadn't gotten around to explaining that. "Oh, I met a guy," I said lightly.
As I expected, a jealous look lit up his eyes. "Did you, now?"
"Oh yes. Quite charming. Young, beautiful reddish gold curls, bright blue eyes. Didn't say much, but he was very affectionate," I told him, enjoying myself.
"I see," he said evenly.
"There was a girl too, though." His eyes widened in surprise. "A pretty little blond. Very personable. You would have liked her."
"And you spent several weeks, with these...these people?" he asked abruptly.
I threw one of the sofa pillows at him, and he looked shocked. "Don't be such a pill. They were little kids, I was taking care of them."
He didn't do a very good job hiding his relief. "I knew that you were teasing me," he said in a very dignified voice.
"Fear not," I continued to tease him. "You have no other rival for my affections than Richard."
But as I said it, I thought of the call I'd gotten earlier in the day. Emily had called to say that they missed me, and I'll admit it, I miss them too.
December 26th, 2002
Unlike Thanksgiving, Christmas was a more personal family holiday, so the agents had agreed to spend the holiday quietly at their respective homes, then get together the next day. The kids, even Gibson, seemed more than willing to have the gift-giving extend another day. He spent a couple hours in the morning playing chess with Mulder. Mulder held his own.
"How do you do that?" Scully asked with interest as the former chess champion struggled to find a way to take Mulder's queen.
Mulder laughed. "I'm thinking about plan 9 from Outer-space. I know all the lines, you know."
"Given the number of times you've seen it, you should." Scully smiled.
Reyes, who hadn't know Gibson back during his tournament days, looked confused. "How does that help?"
"Gibson won by reading people's thoughts. It's harder to figure out what I'm going to do next if my brain is filled with unrelated chatter," Mulder explained.
Gibson sighed. "He's right. It was more fun to play him when he didn't realize that I could only pick out his moves if he was concentrating on them...I kept getting the oddest idea that he's going to put his knight on a space craft."
"Knowing Mulder he might," Scully said dryly.
After the kids had opened presents, and gone upstairs to play, dragging poor Gibson with them, the four adults gathered in the living room to talk. Mulder opened a bottle of wine, and shrugged it off when Reyes asked if she could have ginger-ale instead.
"So, did you have a good Christmas?" Reyes asked them.
"Must be nice to have had both the kids together for the first time," Doggett said lightly. Mulder and Scully both nodded happily. Doggett looked a bit nervous. "Monica and I... we. We have something to tell you."
"Oh?" Scully asked, giving them expectant looks.
Reyes smiled brightly at her and Mulder. "It's just...well, by next Christmas..." She glanced over at Doggett, who nodded. "There will be another person in our family too."
Mulder looked slightly confused, but Scully gave a most uncharacteristic squeal, and threw her arms around Reyes. "You're having a baby?!" she asked eagerly.
"Sometime in July," Reyes said happily.
Mulder gave Doggett a disgusted look. "Why do women hint around? Can't they just say 'I'm pregnant' so everyone is on the same page?" he asked plaintively. Doggett just laughed at him.
"Do you want a boy or a girl?" Scully asked eagerly, they just shrugged.
"Doesn't matter, as long as it's healthy," Doggett repeated the old standard reply.
Mulder gave them a look, having just mentally done the math. "Didn't waste any time, did you?" he asked with a foolish grin.
"Well, some of us don't have years to waste, you know," Doggett teased.
The happy talk about Reyes and Doggett's coming baby took up most of the evening.