Title: All Through the Night
Summary: Mulder and Scully come to New York. This is never good.
Author's notes: Here for your approval: the first (to my knowledge) crossover among the "X-Files," "Gargoyles," "Beauty and the Beast" (the series) and "Batman: The Animated Series." The only excuse I can come up for this one is that somebody had to do it. Note: it all started with an observation made by my roommate and myself that Owen is Alfred on Prozac. You have been warned.
This takes place in the middle of the second season of "Gargoyles" (most definitely pre-"Revelations"), the third season of the "X- Files," approximately three years after the last episode of "Batman: TAS," (ask me how very much "Batman Beyond was not even a consideration when I wrote this) and almost precisely six years after the last episode of "Beauty and the Beast."
(Notes for the 2001 edition: I went and edited a few things that have been bothering me since the original publication. I would, however, like to point out that none of the plot has changed, and that all but one of Owen's lines were there since the first post on October 30, 1995. Sometimes, you just get obscenely lucky.)
Whew! Now, on with the show.
Chapter 1: Arrivals
click The slide changed.
"Notice the parallel patterns of the wounds."
"They look like claw marks. Are you certain this wasn't done by an animal?"
"That was my first thought." click "Then I saw this one." click "And this one." click click The dates scribbled at the bottom of the police photographs changed years, then decades.
"How many cases are there?"
"Fifty-three, a few as early as the late 70's. The majority of the killings have taken place in the past eight years." click "This is the most recent. It happened last week."
The photograph showed the body in a crisp black and white starkness that belied the gruesome death. The victim, a Caucasian man in his mid-twenties, lay staring at a congealed pool of his own blood. Four parallel wounds lay his face open, more similar slashes had rid him of half his abdomen.
Scully swallowed twice. She'd seen worse, much worse, but this was not the sight she wanted first thing after lunch.
Bluestone continued: "The victim was part of a drug ring. Officially, his death has been filed as another gang-related incident. He would probably have been forgotten by this point."
"But ... " prodded Mulder.
"But I was on the scene when the yellow tape went up. I saw the body, and I knew no knife had made those marks. I thought I remembered something about similar murders from the back files, so I went digging." He pulled out a thick manila folder. "These are the reports I've found so far." He set it on the table, just out of reach. "I've asked private collectors, zoos, anyone I could think of, to see if something big, hairy, and mean had escaped. Nothing. Besides, no single escaped lion could have done this for twenty years and never been seen.
"Someone else has to be involved, someone intelligent."
"Let me guess: you think the Illuminati are in on it."
Scully looked confused. "Illuminati?"
"Think the Freemasons with attitude, and toss in the Mafia for kicks."
"That's not exactly how I'd describe them," said Bluestone, "but it's pretty accurate. And no, I don't think they have anything to do with this particular case."
Bluestone dropped his eyes and shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "This may be hard to believe." He looked at Mulder. "But then again ... " He sighed. "Would you think I was crazy if I told you there may be gargoyles living in New York?"
Scully glanced at Mulder, who actually seemed to be giving the idea some consideration. She would let herself follow his lead for now. After all, Matt Bluestone was his friend. Maybe life as a cop in the Big Apple had just been too difficult on him.
"Gargoyles? Why would you say that?"
Bluestone's eyes began to light up with an expression Scully knew all too well. "Strange things have been appearing in the sky lately. On the night shift, you see a lot of weird people, but now, some of those people have claws and wings. I've seen them."
"I'm serious. There have been things that I can't explain any other way, and believe me, I've tried." click The latest slide showed a large pile of rubble on a sidewalk. "See?"
Now Scully was the one getting uncomfortable. He was showing them rocks. She'd occasionally suspected her partner of taking one step too many into the deep end, but this guy owned the diving board.
"There were dozens of these piles found along one street at daybreak on November 17. They weren't there the night before. Some of the piles looked like smashed statues."
"Somebody didn't like street art?"
"Let me finish. The statues that we could partially reconstruct resemble actual people. People who've been missing since that night. Finally," he looked directly at Mulder, "no one, no one in New York City can remember where they were from sunset to sunrise the night before."
Mulder's eyes lit up like a young boy's on his birthday. Bluestone smiled like an angler who'd just felt a trout snap at his line.
"However, I do have several witnesses who say they can remember what happened, and I have a few on tape. They all corroborate on three details. First, ninety-nine and a half percent of the population of New York was turned to stone at sunset on November 18. Second, there were demons in the air. And third, the sky turned to fire that night.
"So are you interested?"
"And if we are?"
"If you are, I have names and numbers of people to contact."
"Since when did you start working for MCI?"
Bluestone snorted. "Cute. You sound like my partner. She's the first one you need to talk to; I can't get a thing out of her. She knows more than she's telling me."
"How do you know?" asked Scully.
"Because the night that I saw them, she called one by name. I have some of it on tape." He turned on the tv/vcr setup sitting in the corner. The screen showed several large objects flying by the camera's sight and away. Bluestone rewound the tape and paused it on a large, dark blot with wings against the evening sky.
It wasn't until Bluestone had left that Scully realized the glow hadn't left her partner's eyes. Great. He picked up his cellular.
"Mulder, you're not seriously considering this."
Mulder began dialing. "If nothing else, the missing persons aspect warrants some kind of investigation. Couple that with the mass amnesia, the mutilations, the burning sky, and the gargoyles, and we have a classic abduction scenario on the biggest scale I've ever heard of." He paused, then spoke into the phone. "Book two on the next flight to JFK. Thanks." He hung up.
"Reality check. You're actually considering the idea that there are gargoyles in New York City?"
"Where else could they walk down the street and not be noticed? Other than Los Angeles," he added quickly. Scully rolled her eyes. "The gargoyles may just be a manifestation of someone's psyche after encountering an extraterrestrial."
"Or a bat. This whole thing feels like a setup. How well can you trust Bluestone?"
"Enough. We went through the Academy together."
"And then he was drummed out."
"He got obsessed with the Illuminati, and it cost him. He's clean. Besides," he smiled, "I thought I was the one who was supposed to see conspiracies behind everything."
"You are. That's what worries me." She returned his smile. Not all of his friends were crazy; she'd met a pal of his at the Phoenix Foundation who'd seemed almost normal. Maybe Bluestone would turn out to be all right, so long as he didn't have a thing for duct tape. "But if you want to go chasing gargoyles in New York, you're going to be the one to explain it to Skinner."
"Gargoyles, Mulder?" asked A.D. Skinner, a weary but patient tone to his voice.
"I know how it sounds."
"Good, because it sounds ridiculous. Aliens, werewolves, vampires, and now gargoyles. You're up for some vacation time. I'd really suggest taking it."
"I trust my source on this. He's a good man."
"I don't care if he's Santa Claus. I need a better reason to let the two of you go off than the word of a man obsessed with secret societies."
"How about this?" Mulder set down the first file from the manila envelope Bluestone had lent them. Skinner looked at the picture, glancing at the accompanying report. "I have fifty more cases just like it. No witnesses."
Scully held the other files. She'd had a chance to read some of the reports. She was still convinced that some sort of animal was responsible, but ...
"Sir," she said. "It's at least worth a look. There's a serial killer loose in New York that the police haven't even noticed."
Skinner sighed with the air of someone who had heard all this far too many times before. "When does your flight leave?"
"In about two hours."
"I want you both back here Monday morning and a report on this on my desk. Is that understood?"
"Good. I also have some reading material for you, concerning a place you may be interested in: a little town in Nebraska called There."
Having driven many times through little Pennsylvania towns named Intercourse, Paradise, and Unamit, Scully just shrugged. People came up with strange names for towns sometimes.
"What about it?" asked Mulder.
"Read the file. On Monday, you can tell me if the two of you would be interested in going there."
The plane touched down at precisely 7:35pm. Bluestone met them at the airport, his own flight having come in an hour beforehand. They managed to check into the Paramount Hotel on 47th by 8:30. By nine, the three of them were at the police station.
Bluestone led the way through the crowded building, filled with the early evening's catch of slime from the city. His partner was waiting for him when they reached his desk.
"Elisa, I want you to meet an old friend of mine. Fox Mulder." Mulder held out his hand. After a fraction of a second, she took it. "His associate, Dana Scully." Again the handshake, and Scully was almost surprised by the strength of the slim woman's grip.
"Detective Elisa Maza. So what's the occasion?"
Scully flashed her i.d. "We're here to investigate a murder."
Maza's eyes widened, but all she said was, "Which one? This is Manhattan."
"We were kind of hoping you could help us with that," said Mulder. "What do you know about gargoyles?"
A muscle in the other woman's face twitched, then she smiled sardonically at her partner. "Matt, please say you didn't bring them here for that." She turned back towards the pair. "Has he mentioned the secret society in charge of the President yet?"
"The Illuminati?" asked Scully.
"We've heard of them," said Mulder.
Maza looked at Bluestone again and crossed her arms. Within the space of a few seconds, he dropped his glance to the floor, then finally to Mulder. "I had to get you here somehow."
Mulder sighed. "Tell me."
Bluestone became animated again. "I have a lead that several members of the Illuminati are going to be together tomorrow night at a party." He began digging through the piles of photographs on his desk, eventually tugging out one and placing it in Mulder's hands.
"This is David Xanatos, one of the names in that file I gave you. He's one of those self-made billionaire types, who owns at least a quarter of the city. He's hosting a party tomorrow night, officially to announce that he's going to be a father. According to my source, the real reason behind the festivities is an induction of a new member into the Illuminati. But I don't know who or how."
Maza looked over at Scully. "See what I go through every night?"
Scully glanced at her own partner, who was absorbed in Bluestone's explanation. "If it makes you feel better, I can sympathize." She turned to Bluestone. "So the gargoyles were just a ploy to bring us here? What about the murders?"
"No, everything I told you was true. If I'd told you just about the birth announcement, you would have laughed at me."
Scully bit back her 'Probably.' Something about Maza worried her, though. Her stress level had shot up when the conversation had shifted back to the gargoyles. There was nothing obvious, but she could tell that Bluestone had been right on at least one point: the woman was not telling everything.
"Could we have a moment alone, please?" Bluestone indicated a semi-quiet corner, and the agents moved quickly to it. "So what do you think now?" she asked him.
"I'm sorry. I thought he was on the up and up."
"He still thinks he's on the up and up. What do you want to do about it?"
"We have until Monday. It wouldn't hurt to look around for evidence of these 'gargoyles,' whatever they really are."
"For once, I agree with you. I'd like to ask Maza a few questions about it, see if I can get anything out of her."
"That sounds like a plan. I'd like to also look into the Illuminati angle."
"There's a possibility that he's right. Scully, this could be the group that Cancer Man and his pals are trying to protect. The least I can do is take a look."
Scully had an odd feeling in her head, as if she had hit it against a brick wall one too many times. A wall named Mulder. "All right, you look for Illuminati, I'll look for gargoyles." She smiled. "Skinner's just going to love us for this."
"He shouldn't argue: we'll have two X-Files for the price of one."
They moved back towards the detectives. Maza was on the phone, taking something down.
"We'll look into it, Matt," said Mulder. "Now how do you plan to get into a party hosted by a billionaire?"
Bluestone pulled open his desk drawer as Maza hung up the phone. He handed Mulder a piece of embossed stationery, stating that one Matthew Bluestone and guest were officially invited to "A Celebration Announcing the Impending Arrival of the Newest Member of the Xanatos Family."
"Elisa has one, too." He smiled meaningfully at her.
"Forget it, Matt. I'm not going to the party. We are going downtown to 53rd and 4th." She grabbed her jacket.
Bluestone turned to the agents. "Sorry about this. Duty calls. Can you get back to the hotel okay?"
"No problem," said Mulder.
"Good. I'll try to talk Elisa into changing her mind."
"It won't work," said Maza, already on her way out. And they were gone.
Mulder rested against Bluestone's desk. "Interesting pair."
"Mmhm." Scully felt someone behind her just before Mulder's eyes went to her shoulder. She turned quickly to see a large, somewhat Neanderthal-looking man. "Can I help you?"
"Excuse me for listenin' but I think I can help you."
Mulder moved from the desk to beside her, unconsciously adopting a protective stance which Scully registered then ignored.
"Help us how?"
"About these 'gargoyles.' You're barking up the wrong fire hydrant."
"And you would be," prompted Scully.
"Oh. Sorry. Forgot my manners. Detective Harvey Bullock." He held out a meaty hand, which Scully shook as firmly as possible. He didn't offer it to Mulder. "I've been on the force since these kids were in kindergarten. Bluestone will follow any fairy tale you tell him, but he's got this one wrong."
"So we should be reading Snow White instead?" asked Mulder.
"Cute. You've got a sense of humor. I can appreciate that. Have you ever heard of Batman?"
Mulder nodded. "I've heard rumors. The masked vigilante who fights criminals the law can't touch. I've never seen any proof of him." Scully tried not to smile. That particular problem had never actually phased Mulder.
"I don't need proof. I've met him. He's a freak, and he's as crazy as most of those psychos he locked up in Arkham. If you want to know who's been flying around causing trouble, it's him."
"But the Batman is supposed to be on the side of the law. He doesn't kill people. We're looking for a murderer."
The mass of human shrugged. "Maybe he went loony. I wouldn't put it past him. Since Gordon retired last year, he's been awful quiet. I ain't sayin' it's him, but I ain't saying it isn't, either."
Scully shot a glance to Mulder before saying, "Well, thanks for the tip. We'll keep it in mind."
"You think I'm crazy, don't you? Let me tell you something. In my career I've seen a guy dressed up as a clown hold an automatic while his ex-shrink girlfriend was about to blow up the mayor. I've seen a woman who thinks she's a plant turn people into trees, and a guy with a Lewis Carroll kick talk all the rich people in town into giving him a fortune. I'm not crazy. This town makes people crazy. You want to believe in gargoyles? In this city, that's nothing."
He shambled away, muttering about winged freaks.
"Mulder, can we ... "
"Yeah." They left.
Chapter 2: Warnings
Scully was checking her newsgroups when Mulder knocked on the door. She'd just killfiled a moronic crosspost about the sickest jokes on the net, then made a note on the idiot's address. She'd seen this particular name before, passing around dead baby jokes to some of her pregnant friends. The postmaster at Hopkins was going to get a letter about employees wasting university resources. Again.
Mulder sat down without an invitation. "So what do you think about Bullock's story?"
"That's what I was checking. It seems there are quite a few rumors out there about this Batman."
"So I've seen. Do you think that's what Matt's gargoyle really is?"
She sighed. "I don't know for sure. It could be, I suppose. The thing on the tape, assuming it wasn't fixed, could be a man in a cape."
"Okay, assuming for the moment that we're looking for Batman rather than gargoyles, what are we looking for?"
"What do we know about him?"
"He has a large number of technological devices at his beck and call, state of the art stuff. He disappears when the police arrive. He has a partner called Robin who is sometimes with him and sometimes not. He's an expert in martial arts and has been spotted all over the world, but mainly in the Gotham section of New York. And he has a really cool car."
Scully smiled. "Okay, that's a start. To own all these gadgets, he has to be getting money from somewhere. Have you heard anything about suspected theft?"
"There was something about a bribe a few years ago, but nothing came from it. I'd say he has backers with a lot of cash."
"Do you think there could be a Mafia or mob connection?"
"Only in that he keeps thwarting them both."
"In that case, his boss or bosses are either legit or hide it well enough to look it. And they have money to burn." Scully scrolled down the newsgroup list to . and opened it. "Here's a post about the party tomorrow night. Would you be surprised to know that the richest people in the city are all invited?" She looked at him.
"People with money to burn. Give me some names." Mulder took out his notebook.
"Burch, Renard, Vreeland ... " she read off the list given in the post, mentally marking off those she'd heard mention of before. When she'd finished, she quit her newsreader and logged off.
"There are probably more. These are some of the bigger names in this town. I'd say they own ninety percent of it, and that's what they'll admit to." Mulder looked thoughtful for a moment.
"Here's a thought for you: what if the Illuminati are the ones backing the Batman?"
"We don't even know if the Illuminati exist. Or the Batman, for that matter."
"But if they all do, then it would make sense in a way. Think about it. They can control only so much by money. The streets are still dangerous. What better way to keep the crime rate down than to support a super-cop who doesn't have to follow the rules? Either way, we have to find out."
"I don't know if you noticed or not, but we don't have invitations."
"Then you two go have fun. I'll be looking for gargoyles. Or bats. Or something. Good night."
He nodded. "Good night, Scully." He left for the adjoining room.
Neither of them heard the silent rustle of wings outside Scully's window, but if they had, they would have thought it a bird roused from sleep and thought nothing of it anyway. They may even have been correct.
"What is the Eff Bee Eye?" asked Hudson, scratching an itchy place on his left wing.
Lexington cut in, "It's like the police, only bigger. Is that right, Elisa?"
"Basically. They're national instead of local, and they have a lot more power."
"But we've kept ourselves hidden from the police before," said Broadway.
"Really well," said Brooklyn. "That was a great picture of us on the news after Coldstone woke up for the first time. Not to mention Demona's broadcast. I'm sure there have to be at least two or three people left in the city who don't know what we look like."
"That's why you have to stay out of sight. They'll only be snooping around for a few days and then they'll go back to Washington." She looked towards the ledge, where the leader of the group was watching the moonrise silently. "I don't like it either, but if you don't hide, they'll find you."
"Why are they here?" came the deep voice from the ledge.
"They're looking for a killer. Someone with wings and claws who kills people that the law can't or won't touch. Matt thinks it's you guys."
"We have killed no one in a thousand years," said Hudson, "and those deaths were in battle."
Goliath remained looking at the moon. Elisa suddenly knew what he was thinking before he said, "We have not, but we are not the only ones who haunt the night. There is Steel Clan, and the Pack, and the Mutates. And there is Demona."
"Xanatos' gargoyles are too new. Some of these took place in the 70's." Besides, I refuse to believe Derek would be involved in this, she added silently, not touching the pain that had built around thoughts of him. "The same argument applies to the Steel Clan. And it's not the Pack's style." She wouldn't finish.
He finished for her. "But Demona would have no objection to killing humans, especially those she saw as having forfeit their lives." Something in his bearing suggested that he would say more, but that he could not in front of her. Yet.
Then he asked something utterly out of the blue: "Are you going to Xanatos' party?"
"I wasn't planning on it. I really don't want to spend all night dodging questions."
"Could I request a favor of you?"
"Would you please go? I would feel more ... secure if someone were there to watch the people from the F.B.I."
She half-smiled. "You want me to babysit them?"
"Never mind. All right. If it will you make you feel better, I'll go."
"Thank you. It means a great deal to me." He placed a hand on her shoulder, and her stomach felt warm despite the crisp night air.
"Well, since it's you." She smiled up at him, then became aware that the others were behind her and sighed inwardly. Who had it been who'd talked about having world enough and time? "I have to get back to work, guys. Someone's going to wonder why I take my coffee breaks on the roof." She pulled away from his touch and moved towards the stairway. "Promise me that you'll stay out of trouble?"
"We promise," said Lex and Brooklyn in unison. She waved and went down the stairs to her world below.
Diana yawned again. Normally, she didn't mind late nights. In fact, she tended to get her best work done while the rest of the city slept. Things were quiet then, or at least, quiet compared to New York days. She could take her latest case up to the rooftop and try to sort out the mind of someone who'd been driven to the brink by the pressure of the city, and Vincent would sit beside her in silence, reading or listening.
She'd have given much to be sitting there now with him, but this was her job. This was the reason she could stay home to work on cases; most of the time, she came through. This case had been a bear. She'd chosen it because it had looked simple: find out who'd stolen a rare museum piece, a mirror. It would be different from her typical load of murders, rapes, and kidnapings. She needed a break from getting into the minds of deranged people, and she'd thought that this would be it. It hadn't been. She'd found the thieves, but when she did, they were in the middle of a drug transaction. If Vincent hadn't come for her, she would have died. He'd killed the dealer after the man had pulled a gun on her, and they'd escaped into the night. She'd been more careful the next time, and had collared the thieves, minus mirror, a few hours ago. She'd just finished giving her statement, and now she wanted to go home.
"All right, Bennett," said Officer Morgan. "We can handle this from here." He offered her a restrained smile.
"Thanks, Morgan. I hope the shift ends soon."
"Not soon enough." She felt his eyes on her until she was well out of the room. She should be used to it. Hell, if their positions were reversed, she'd be the one leery of getting too close to the pet psychic on the squad. Probably. It no longer bothered her as much as it had at the beginning, when she'd simply known the location of suspects, when she'd been able to finger the perps in lineups before the victims could. She'd been teased back then mercilessly. At least they'd stopped the Rod Serling imitations after the MacLeod case. And after the incident with Rupert Thorne, no one had been laughing anymore.
Now they just watched her, wondering.
The sun was rising when she stepped outside. Most of the view was blocked by the tall buildings surrounding them, but she could see enough to make her smile. It had been a long time since she'd been awake for a sunrise. The light touched her, warming her through the chilly December air and she closed her eyes to feel it against her eyelids.
She felt eyes on her again and groaned inwardly. This was why she liked night better: nobody cared if you were different in the dark. She said simply, "Yes?" as she turned around.
The man watching her wasn't familiar to her. He had the same weary look she associated with other cops, but she knew she'd never seen him before.
"Sorry," he said. "For a minute, you looked like someone I knew."
She saw the woman beyond him, who had just noticed that her companion had stopped, and said neutrally, "That's okay. Happens all the time." She turned towards home, planning a quick snack before she hit her bed. Her stomach muttered at her.
Suddenly, she remembered something that she had to do before she got some sleep. "Promises to keep," she muttered, and headed towards the building where the D.A. of Manhattan kept his office. She had to see how formal this thing was going to be tonight.
"Mulder, are you okay?" Scully asked, worried.
"I'm not sure. I think I'm going crazy."
"You're not. She looked like Samantha." She saw the pain flash quickly over his face and vanish again to wherever he kept it. She touched his shoulder. "But she wasn't."
"I know. But I can hope." He gave her a quirky smile and went inside. She followed him in, past the same desks they'd seen the night before. Bluestone and Maza were sitting at their desks, he drinking something from a mug and filling out paperwork, she filling out electronic paperwork sans coffee.
Matt looked up. "We're just about to get out of here for the day. Care for some breakfast?" He shot a glance to his partner. "Maybe you can even convince Elisa to go to the shindig tonight."
Maza rolled her eyes. "All right. I'll go if you stop bugging me about it." Bluestone grinned. "But I still say double-dating is for the birds."
"People used to say that about flying, too."
"You go jumping off any rooftops lately, Bluestone?"
Scully smiled. For perhaps the first time, she wondered if she and Mulder appeared the same way to outsiders. Partners, when they were paired right, shared a special kind of bond that said without words that they trusted one another with their lives every day. In some ways, that kind of partnership was closer than marriage. To the people on the outside, it no doubt looked like a lot of bickering and arguments as to who had to take out the trash this time.
Maza turned off her monitor, while Bluestone tapped his pile of papers together neatly. The rest of the night shift was beginning to clear out in dribs and drabs. When the bustle of the changing of the guard was nearly complete, the two detectives were ready to go.
Maza begged off breakfast, claiming fatigue, and promised to meet them at the hotel around four. The remaining threesome went to Dean and Deluca's for breakfast. Scully stuck with coffee and a croissant.
"So did you find anything out last night?" asked Bluestone as soon at they sat down.
"A little," said Mulder. "What do you know about Batman?"
Bluestone whistled. "Far too much, probably. Why?"
"There's a possibility that he's the one you've been looking for," Scully said.
Bluestone shook his head, saying, "Uh uh. I know what I saw. You've seen the tape."
"What we saw," she replied, "was a quick flash of something with wings. Think about it. If the stories are true, he'd have the means, the motive, and the opportunity for all of them."
"The stories are true. I've seen him." Scully glanced at Mulder. "He used to be very close to the last police chief."
"Gordon. So we've heard."
"You've been talking to Bullock, haven't you?" Mulder nodded. "He's had it in for Batman for years. I never could understand why. Batman was nothing but good for this city."
"I haven't heard anything of him in ages. Some people think one of his enemies finally offed him, but none of the street networks have heard anything about it."
"What do you think?"
"I think maybe he got tired. He wasn't old, but he wasn't young anymore, either. Maybe he wanted to settle down and have a real life like everyone else."
Scully fingered her briefcase. "But you said there was another murder last week."
"That's one of the reasons I don't think he's involved."
"But gargoyles may be."
"I don't know!" he shouted, then lowered his voice to avoid stares from the people around him. "If I knew, I wouldn't have had to bring you here." He took a long slurp from his coffee, then stared at the cup. "I'm beginning to think I should lay off this stuff."
"For now," said Scully, "we're going to assume that we're looking for the Batman. Whoever is sponsoring him has to be wealthy, possibly a group of wealthy people." Matt looked up.
"That's what I was thinking," Mulder said, and gave Scully his best 'See??' look. "That's why we need you to tell us everyone you think will be at this party tonight."
"Considering he's invited half of the city, that may not be as easy as it sounds." Scully handed him the list of names. "This looks fairly complete for the ones I know. You'll want to add Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson and Yibeli Baird to it, though." He handed it back and she took down the names quickly as he dug through his coat pockets for something. "Here are the people I've spoken to about what happened on the nights no one can remember."
"Except these people," said Mulder.
"Right. Here's an interesting bit of information for you: of the people on that list, all but three are visually or hearing- impaired."
"Where were you, Matt?"
"On my way to work. Next thing I knew, it was morning. And it happened again the next night."
"Until there was an explosion in the sky. Got it."
"You still don't believe me." Bluestone looked at Mulder as if betrayed.
"Give me something to believe, and I will. I want to."
"Talk to those people. You will."
The sunlight woke her. She opened her eyes, yawned, and rolled over. The other half of the bed was empty. Damn. Stretching, Fox sat up, letting the sheets spill around her. She appreciated it when David didn't wake her up in the morning, but it could get annoying when she awoke in the mood for more than just breakfast in bed.
Breakfast. The thought set her stomach churning. She placed a careful hand on the small bulge of her abdomen, and whispered, "Stop that." After a few moments, the gurgling settled enough for her to get out of bed. She slipped her robe on and padded in bare feet to David's office. She knocked on the slightly-ajar door.
"Come in," said her husband's voice, and she smiled as she opened the door. She'd fallen for that voice, although she teased him regularly that he sounded like he should be giving orders on the bridge of a ship. "Good morning, Fox."
"Morning. What time did you wake up?"
"Around six. I wanted to get an early start. Everything has to be perfect for tonight." He stood and held out his hand over his desk, and she took it, following his arm around until she was on the same side as he was. He kissed her softly, then bent down to her stomach. "Good morning, kid." He patted the bulge.
"Sometimes I wonder if you love me for my uterus," she said, not completely kidding.
"You know that's not true." He sat back down and tugged her down into the chair with him. He was right, of course. She knew very well that he didn't love her just for having the baby, but ...
"Then why can't we have this party just for us? Why bring the Illuminati into it?"
His eyes went shadowed, and she knew that he would not give her the complete truth. She was used to this. She thought.
"Because this affords me the perfect opportunity to get some of the primary members together without looking suspicious. I would have invited them to the wedding, but for obvious reasons, that wasn't feasible."
"What? Illuminati don't like gargoyles?"
"Time travel gives them nosebleeds."
"Of course. Silly me." She smirked, then kissed him on impulse. He returned it fully, and she began to wonder if the chair would hold the two of them comfortably for a long period of time.
"Pardon me," said a smooth voice from the doorway. Owen. Double damn.
"Yes, Owen?" said David, just enough out of breath to make her feel better at having been interrupted.
"The caterers called. They are going to have difficulties in filling the order in time for the party. Shall I call someone else or merely convince them that ours is the most important in their career?"
"Convince them. If you can't convince them, go there and offer the cooks twice their normal salary to come work for me from now on. Then fire them next week."
"Very good, Mr. Xanatos." He disappeared, and Fox felt a strange relief. She liked Owen in the abstract; he was David's butler, chief aide, occasional alternate personality, and certainly the closest thing he'd ever had to a best friend. However, she was always uncomfortable around him in a way she couldn't explain. If pressed to the issue, she would have to say that she felt less ... real around him, as if he were the only true person in the world, and the rest of them but shadows.
She hugged David closer to her. It was better to not think like that, instead think of the party tonight, and the man in her arms, and the child dancing beneath her heart.
Chapter 3: Inquiries
The meeting seemed to drag for hours. Elliot enjoyed being in the thick of things as far as his business was concerned, but he despised meetings run by pencil-necked paper mongers. He was scheduled to go to the current project site this afternoon, and he couldn't wait. Instead of listening to budgets, he was already imagining the dirt getting beneath his fingernails and the sight of a building's skeleton stretching towards the sky in a shape he'd carefully designed. After a period of time no less than the last Ice Age, the board adjourned. He sighed with relief.
On second thought, maybe he'd go there this morning instead. He nodded to his bodyguards. Just as he had almost escaped, Kirsten, looking far more frazzled than was her usual wont, stopped him.
"I'm sorry, Boss, but she said that she had to speak with you." She motioned towards a woman waiting a few feet away. Cathy! his mind thought immediately, and dropped just as fast. It happened sometimes. He'd see an attractive woman with light hair and he would think for an instant that everything had been just a vacant dream from which he was finally awakening. Funny how things never quite worked out that way.
The woman came forward. "Agent Dana Scully, F.B.I. I need to ask you a few questions." She showed him her credentials, and he inspected them carefully. They appeared to be authentic. If they weren't, well, it wasn't as if he would be completely surprised.
"I'd been planning to visit one of my worksites. Is this important?"
"It could be. If I could just have a few minutes of your time, Mr. Burch?" She didn't sound like she was asking. He nodded, then indicated to his guards to wait outside. He had an odd premonition that he didn't want them eavesdropping.
"In my office, then, Agent ... "
"Yes." He led the way and moved behind his desk, barely conscious of the safety and, yes, power that he felt when facing someone across it. "Please have a seat." She sat down in the chair opposite. "Now may I ask what the F.B.I. wants with me?"
"This may sound odd, Mr. Burch, but have you ever heard of a society called the Illuminati?"
He had made it his business to never show emotion when it could betray him, whether in poker, high-stakes finance, or his marriage. It had saved his career more than once, by not allowing a competitor to see his bluff. Therefore, with a perfectly bland face, he asked her, "Who?" with just enough hint of disbelief to push the doubt back on her.
She looked uncomfortable, but persisted. "I'm currently investigating a lead in a murder case. My partner believes the Illuminati may have something to do with it."
"Then why ask me? I have no idea what you're talking about." He gave her a carefully practiced smile, the same smile that had convinced Joy to marry him, and her sister to trust him with the most precious secret they both shared.
"Because your name is linked with one of the murders. You were arrested for the murder of District Attorney John Moreno six years ago." He went cold.
"I see you've done some background work. However, if you'll go deeper, you will find that the case never went to trial, that the murder was attributed to Moreno's mob connections." His voice barely quavered. He still had nightmares about that horrible night, and the hellish days that followed. Too many times, he'd woken screaming, certain that his skin was on fire again.
"Then those connections have a lot to answer for. I have a file containing over fifty similar murders, all with the same kind of wounds as Moreno's. The latest one occurred last week." She waited, watching him.
His stomach twisted. He'd seen the mention in the paper the morning after, and he'd called to make certain Diana was all right. But how could the F.B.I. know that? Then he realized. They didn't.
"Agent Scully, I've been in this chair for six years." He wheeled out from behind the desk again to give her a better look. "Cyberbiotics' latest model. I get around pretty well with it, but not that well. I'm afraid you have the wrong man."
Scully appeared uncomfortable, and her eyes dropped. "I'm not accusing you of anything, Mr. Burch. I just need some answers."
"Any more answers you'd like you can have, but you'll have to get them from my lawyers. I'm afraid I've run out of time." He moved to the door, giving her no real option but to follow.
"If you should change your mind, this is where I'll be staying. Give me a call. It might save someone's life." He took the piece of paper from her, and pretended to read it as she left. When the door had closed behind her, he went back to his desk and pressed the button for Kirsten.
She came in moments later. "Yes, Boss?"
"Can you take a long lunch break?"
"Sure. Where am I going?"
"Below. Tell Vincent the F.B.I. is asking questions." Her eyes went wide, and he said quickly, "They don't know anything. Yet. Right now, they think Gabriel's pals are behind a few unsolved killings. I intend to keep them thinking that." He was not even aware that he was smiling as he began planning.
"So how much luck have you had?" asked Scully as her partner took a bite of McSomething. He chewed quickly and swallowed.
"Some. I managed to get chats with Vreeland, Clamp and Stark. But I couldn't get anything out of them about the Illuminati."
"You were expecting a full confession?"
"I was hoping for a reaction. Also, they all have perfect alibis for the night of our murder. I looked into some of the witnesses of the missing night, too."
"Not enough." He sighed. "Only two were even home, and neither one saw or heard anything out of the ordinary. I'd say we try again tomorrow; people might be home on a Saturday."
She nodded. "I managed to find one of the witnesses on my list at home, but she didn't notice anything, either. Then again, she has a good excuse," she said, remembering her very brief conversation, "she just had a baby. I couldn't get a meeting with Renard. Burch doesn't have an alibi, but I've checked his background. Almost total paralysis below the waist from an accident six years ago."
"He has one son, Elliot Andrew Junior. Four years old."
Mulder nodded. "I'm pretty sure none of our party guests did the job him or herself."
"Probably not, but I did some checking on the names Bluestone gave us. Bruce Wayne is the head of Wayne Enterprises, and Dick Grayson is his right hand man. Both have perfectly clear records, but I found a reference to Wayne's fiancee, Selena Kyle. Would you believe she used to dress up in a cat suit and rob jewelry stores for fun? And something else: according to rumor, she was the only criminal the Batman wouldn't bring to justice. Some people think they were involved."
"I'd say we need to pay the Waynes a visit."
As they got out of their seats, Scully noticed two men sitting in the booth behind theirs. She'd heard them quietly conversing, and something had been familiar about one voice that she couldn't place and hadn't thought much of till just then. The one facing her was fairly nondescript: balding, with dark hair growing long in the back, a little on the pudgy side but not unpleasantly so, and a shaggy but well-kept moustache. He wore sunglasses. The man with his back to hers wore a blue baseball cap, just showing a whitish fringe of hair beneath it, and a leather jacket. His was the voice she'd recognized, a soft, cultured British accent with rich, resonant undertones.
The other man noticed her scrutiny, and his companion turned. At the sight of his face, familiar to almost every person in America, Scully turned crimson and hurried to follow Mulder. As she left, she caught only a bit of a phrase about three women named Jenny, Ariel and Shana.
They were allowed into the gates with surprisingly little trouble. Scully parked the rental in the spacious driveway behind a Rolls. The master of the house appeared to be home.
They were met at the door by a stiff-looking British butler, who led them in after a careful examination of their i.d. He stopped outside a large door and knocked.
"Yes, Alfred?" came a voice from the other side.
"Master Bruce, a lady and a gentleman from the F.B.I. are here to see you and Miss Selena."
"Show them in, please." Alfred opened the door, but did not enter. Mulder followed Scully into what appeared to be a study. A man in his mid-forties stood behind a desk near one side of the room. Mulder had the weirdest feeling he'd met him before.
"Would you like some tea, sir?"
"That would be wonderful, Alfred. Thank you." He offered his hand to Scully. "Bruce Wayne."
"Agent Dana Scully. My partner, Fox Mulder." Mulder shook hands obediently. This show was Scully's.
"Nice to meet you." He smiled broadly as he sat down, but there was something forced about it. He showed them the chairs. "How may I help you?"
"We're investigating a murder." Immediately, his face went blank.
"Who?" was all the man said. With a sudden insight, Mulder understood the odd familiarity about him. He had the look of someone who had seen too many good people die for no reason.
"The man's name was John Gehrke." Wayne looked confused for a moment.
"I don't recognize the name. Was he one of my employees?"
"No. He was involved in what appears to have been a drug deal gone bad. We think it might have something to do with a society called the Illuminati." Wayne looked relieved, then confused. But like his smile, it was a faked confusion.
Mulder cut in, "We were hoping you might shed some light on the subject."
"Very funny. So what is this society?"
Scully's mouth twitched. Mulder wondered if she were thinking that she was beginning to sound like him. "They may be involved in a number of high-level conspiracies. We believe they may have some link with the Batman." Wayne raised one eyebrow.
"I realize how it sounds. However, your fiancee was rumored to have some dealings with him in the past."
"Was I now?" A woman came in from another door that he hadn't noticed previously. She was tall, slender, blonde, perfect. She walked slowly to Wayne's desk, where he immediately stood.
"Selena, dear, these are Agents Scully and Mulder from the F.B.I."
"A pleasure," she said. "If you know about Batman, you know that he was the one who finally brought me in. It was the best thing he could have done for me. I got the help I needed. What more do you need to know?"
Scully pulled out her file and opened to the police photograph of the dealer's body, then placed another photograph, one of Kyle complete in her Catwoman outfit. "We need to know where you were last Thursday evening." Kyle blanched at the picture, and Wayne quickly covered it. He stood, anger in his eyes.
"I know what you're trying to insinuate. It won't work. Selena and I went out to dinner last Thursday at Tauraso's. We were there until ten-thirty, and then we came home."
"Do you have any other witnesses?"
"My associate, Dick Grayson. You can find him at the office, along with my attorney. I believe Alfred can show you the way out." He looked towards the doorway, where the butler had magically appeared with four cups of tea.
Scully said, "I'm sorry if we upset you, Ms. Kyle. We're only looking for the truth."
Kyle handed her the pictures. "It's not in there. That was an old truth. I promise you that."
The butler led them back to the front door, but before he could politely shoo them out, Mulder had an idea. "May we please have your name, sir?" He got out his pen and paper and waited.
"Alfred Pennyworth." The man was nonplussed; Mulder had been right in thinking that visitors probably ignored his existence.
"Mr. Pennyworth, how long have you been employed by Mr. Wayne?"
"All his life. I was employed by his parents previously."
"So you know him fairly well."
"I would dare to say so. And I know that no matter what you might think he or Miss Selena might have done, they are not involved."
"Thank you, Mr. Pennyworth," said Scully, obviously ready to leave. Mulder wasn't about to go just yet, though.
"One more question, if you would." The man sighed deeply, as if put upon.
"What do you know about David Xanatos?"
"Quite a bit, actually. He's one of the wealthiest men in the country. His wife is expecting their first child sometime in June. His favorite midnight snack is an oatmeal-raisin cookie and milk." He saw the stares from both of them and explained: "His assistant and I are friends. I gave him the cookie recipe in exchange for his secret tea blend." He indicated the cooling cups. "If you have any further questions ... "
"We know," said Mulder, "we can ask your lawyer." Pennyworth inclined his head. They took the hint and went through the door into the thin December sunlight.
"Well, that was productive," he remarked as they pulled out of the driveway.
"Is it just me, or does everyone in this city seem to be hiding something?"
"Careful. You're beginning to sound like me again."
She smiled. "Does that mean you're going to start denying the possibility of gargoyles and batmen in New York?"
"Not likely." He watched the houses out his window as they went by slowly. "Nice neighborhood." A limousine went by on Scully's side. Oddly, the passenger's window was opened, and he caught a brief flash of shocking red hair and a face unlike any he'd ever seen, gone in the space of time it took to draw in a breath. Her eyes, he thought. Her eyes aren't human.
"Sorry. Just watching the scenery." He turned to his window, and watched the limo in the mirror on his side until it turned down a driveway and disappeared.
The rented car dropped her off at the front of the house. The driver offered to help her with her bags, but she waved him off and took them herself, waiting until he was gone before she entered the combination to open the door.
She dropped the packages in the dark hallway, then kicked off her painful shoes. By the time she'd reached the parlour to check her answering machine, her hair was unfettered and moved wildly around her shoulders as it should. No messages. She hadn't been expecting any, but one never knew when opportunity might call. It certainly hadn't knocked lately.
She sat down on the sheet covering what passed for a couch and stretched out. She'd spent all day among the humans, ostensibly looking for a dress. In actuality, she'd been scouting for signs of the others. She was certain that, given a properly methodical search, she could find out where the rest of the clan roosted during the daylight hours. It would just take a little time and a great deal of patience. She wasn't good at patience, but she was learning. Besides, she had to do something during the day.
Of course, the end of this day would be especially satisfying. She'd found herself something appropriate to wear, and had been forming a plan in her mind since the invitation had come. In just a few short hours, she could pay a completely invited visit on Xanatos and toast the impending arrival of his little brat.
A slow smile spread across her face as she picked up the piece of embossed paper, addressed to one Angelica MacAlpin. The fools had never even guessed.
Demona's laugh echoed through the empty house.
Chapter 4: Gatherings
Elisa looked at her reflection in the mirror one last time and grimaced. She'd felt far less silly dressed up as Belle for Halloween. Then again, she'd be keeping much of the same company as she had that night. Minus the boys, she thought, and wasn't sure whether the thought made her happy or sad.
Life had been so complicated since the ill-fated night she'd gone poking around Xanatos' castle. She'd seen more incredible things in the past year than she had dreamed possible. Gargoyles? Fairies?! And Derek, now changed into some genetic nightmare. She bit her lip, wondering how her life would have been different if she had just not been so curious.
Her parents wouldn't be put off forever. Eventually, they would have to find out what had happened to their son, and it would only take a little more for them to learn the why of it. What would they say? What would they think of the strange beings whom Derek held responsible for his metamorphosis? The thought that they might blame the gargoyles, blame a specific gargoyle, made her cold inside. If it came down to her parents and Derek against her friends, she wasn't certain which side she would choose. She could only hope it wouldn't come to that.
She ran a quick hand through her hair. She would just leave it down tonight; no use getting too dressed up to be around people she didn't like.
"Keep an eye on the place, Cagney," she said, giving the cat a healthy scratch behind the ears. "I'll try to be home early." She turned off the light and closed the door.
The Vreelands were the first to arrive. Fox was mildly surprised, considering that Ronnie usually just had to be the fashionably late center of attention. Instead, when she and that annoying brother of hers showed up, she ran in and threw her arms around Fox's neck, squealing about how wonderful the news was.
Fox marked that down in her mental book as another strike against the woman, then forced a smile as Ronnie immediately went into a detailed description of her last trip to Asia. Old money, she thought wearily. They all inbred. Had to be the explanation. Thankfully, the next batch of guests came in a group of six, and she had an excuse to pawn off the woman on them to slip into the kitchen.
Owen was currently occupied greeting people at the front door, so she actually made it through the kitchen and to her bedroom without seeing him. She felt a little silly about having to sneak around her own house, but it didn't stop her from watching her back as she went through the halls each day. She sat down on the edge of the bed.
David came out of the bathroom adjusting his cuffs. "Is there something wrong?"
"Just that Veronica Vreeland was the first to get here." He made a face. "I needed a break."
"Well, it'll only be for a few hours. Besides, if I know Ronnie, she's here early because she has other plans for the evening."
"I certainly hope so." She stood up. "Ready?"
"Ready. I would have been ready earlier if it hadn't been for that last call."
"Anything I'd be interested in hearing?"
"Just business, dear." She added a mark next to David's name in the mental book.
"In that case, let's go greet our guests properly." She took his arm, and they walked sedately through their castle back to the Great Hall. She wondered again what things had been like back when the castle was in Scotland and a princess named Katharine wandered these same halls. She'd seen it in its glory for the brief duration of her mad honeymoon, and since in her dreams, she had walked the ancient passageways again. Sometimes she dreamt that she was Katharine, and occasionally, she would look up as Fox herself was doing now, and see a familiar and beloved face that bore a haunting resemblance to Owen's.
A cold wind blew through her again, but it was no doubt just the drafty castle.
Several more people had arrived by the time they reached the Hall. The television journalist Gleeson was already chatting with Ronnie Vreeland and Tony Stark. Fox silently hoped they'd all accidentally fall off the top of the castle. Another couple arrived, and she recognized them as a pair of newspaper reporters, possibly the two most famous in the city. David always enjoyed a challenge, and the idea of holding a top secret meeting of the Illuminati while Lane and Kent were in the building had been too much to resist. They began mingling with the other guests, no doubt hoping to get a big scoop for the Saturday edition of the "Planet".
With some amusement, she noticed Elisa Maza on the arm of some man she'd never seen before. At least she'd dressed for the occasion, in a slim, sleeveless, forest brown dress. Her date, a tall, thin, vaguely geeky-looking man, wore a nondescript suit that would have been appropriate for a wedding or a funeral. Her partner Bluestone had also accepted the invitation, and had brought with him a lovely blonde woman in an emerald green number. The four of them stood out among the rest of the guests, obviously ill at ease with the show of wealth around them, Maza and Bluestone more so than the other two. The strangers appeared to be looking for something or someone.
David pulled slightly at her arm and led her towards one of the waiters they'd hired for the evening. He plucked a champagne for himself and a sparkling cider for her, and she grimaced as she sipped at it.
"Yummy. Think I can at least toast myself with some of the real stuff?"
"Not on your life. You know what the doctor said." She muttered under her breath about what the doctor could do with the sparkling cider. "Tell her yourself. She was invited, too."
"Is there anyone in New York that Owen didn't put on the guest list?"
"Yes, but only because they didn't leave a forwarding address when they left."
"Fox! David! Congratulations!" She turned to see who it was, putting on her smile for the evening.
The line of limousines nearly made her head spin. At least it was moving quickly. They would be at the front door in a minute or two.
"Don't worry about it," Joy was telling her. "The trick to surviving one of these awful things is to smile and nod in the right places. Kinda like listening to him." She jerked her thumb at her husband and grinned mischievously.
Elliot put on a serious expression. "I'll remember that the next time I try to tell you something."
Joy smiled vacantly and nodded. Joe howled.
The car pulled up to the front of the Eyrie Building. Joy tapped the window to let the driver know they were ready. The automatic door opened as the valets moved away quickly. When the doors stopped moving, Elliot wheeled himself out.
Joe said under his breath, "The Eagle has landed." Diana poked him and got out of the car.
Xanatos' assistant, in formal attire down to the white gloves on his hands, met them at the door. Elliot handed him their invitations.
"Mr. and Mrs. Burch. It's good to see that you could make it." Joe gave him his own invitation. "Mr. Maxwell. Welcome to the party." He nodded politely to Diana. "Madame." He held his arm out, indicating a large door a few feet away. "The gentleman in the elevator will take you to the proper floor."
"Thank you, Owen," said Elliot, and moved towards the elevator. They followed.
The door opened as they arrived, and Diana heard Owen greeting a Mr. Wayne as it shut again behind them. The ride was short, but she could see the large number of floors ticking by. And then, they were there.
Diana's first impression was of space, and irrationally, she thought that she had somehow come outside. Then she realized it was simply one vast room. The top of Xanatos' skyscraper was a castle, supposedly brought stone by stone from Scotland. This must be the main hall, she thought. The walls still held multicolored tapestries from centuries before, but where torches once graced the room with flickering light, more practical if less romantic electric lights glimmered.
She could feel the years surrounding her, as if the people who had once called this place home had left more than footsteps and fingerprints. There was presence here, unlike anything she'd felt in some time. Some great tragedy had taken place long ago. For an instant, she smelled smoke, and knew that there had been fire and death on these stones, but death unlike anything she'd ever before experienced. She could almost hear the crumbling of rock beneath blows, and she wondered why the screams were so quiet.
Joe touched her arm. "You okay?"
Diana pulled herself back to the present, and could not help the smile in her eyes at his concern. District Attorney he might be, but when he was worried, Joe looked like nothing so much as a little boy. "I'm fine."
"You look like you just saw a ghost."
"If I did, it was a thousand years old." She patted his arm. "You worry too much."
Joe was mollified, but Elliot continued watching her until she nodded at him reassuringly. He understood her better than anyone else, or at least anyone Up Top. He knew what her flashes were like and what they cost her. The strange friendship they had developed allowed for that kind of sharing. Joy was her sister, but she would never know precisely what it was that set Diana apart, only that she was. Elliot knew, and as time went on, that knowledge no longer frightened either of them, but gave them a measure of unfamiliar peace.
Joy spotted the hosts, and they went to congratulate them.
Mulder was on his second glass of champagne and beginning to enjoy himself. The social hour was almost finished, and dinner would be starting soon. His stomach made an appropriate noise and he saw the amused look on Scully's face. They'd broken away from their "dates" to mingle among the crowd. It had been surprisingly simple to blend in with the others. Despite the ostensible distinctions of class, he'd noticed that a glass of champagne or two made everyone in the room equal. There had even been one guy walked around offering everyone Jelly Babies until Burnett had led him quietly out of the room. He hadn't been crazy, thought Mulder, just tipsy, like most of the press of life around them. They were all lonely human moths straining towards electric bulbs to die young and beautiful. He could actually picture some of them with wings, gliding into those lights.
He glanced at his glass. Where had that come from? He decided quickly that this would be his last alcoholic drink for the night; the waiters were serving sparkling cider for the sake of the mother-to-be.
Scully tapped his shoulder and pointed out a couple with her eyes. "Those are the Bairds. Shall we mingle?"
"Let's wander close to them. I don't see getting anywhere tonight by asking too many questions. Just keep an eye on people. See if anyone disappears for too long."
"In this place? Who'd notice?" She had a point. The crowd was large and was growing by the minute. Had this guy invited the entire city? Then Scully murmured, "We're being watched."
Mulder glanced casually in the direction she indicated as they moved amiably towards a large knot of people. Xanatos' assistant Burnett had come upstairs to babysit the group while his employers had slipped out for a breath of fresh air. Currently, he was watching the two of them with a carefully concealed fascination.
Suddenly, something took his attention pointedly away from them, and Mulder followed his gaze.
There was a woman walking through the crowd, a redhaired woman with eyes unlike any he'd ever imagined. The woman from the limousine. The one he'd seen in such a quick, burning glimpse. She'd come. And Owen Burnett was not pleased at all with seeing her there.
Scully saw Mulder's eyes widen, and turned to see Burnett staring at a beautiful redhead, who was striding across the room like she owned it. Her eyes were bright with a kind of secret glee, and her perfect mouth was turned as though trying to hide a wide leer. Her outfit was a violent purple affair, covering her arms and torso completely, if tightly, but leaving only a token bit of cloth below her waist. She wore little jewelry, but what she did have on, a heavy gold necklace, matching earrings, and a large intricately designed gold ring, said volumes to even Scully's unpracticed eye. The socialite Vreeland came from old money, but this woman's wealth was old when Vreeland's ancestors were starving peasants.
The woman saw Burnett's concerned look, and let her mouth finish its journey into a sweet, sincere smile.
Scully was suddenly very afraid.
Once his initial shock had abated, Burnett rushed to her side, and said in a fierce whisper that Scully could just barely make out: "How did you get in here?"
The woman laughed, and there was just enough madness in the sound for the people around her to surreptitiously slide further away. "Why, I handed the nice gentleman downstairs my invitation. I'm disappointed in you, Owen; I only had to wait a few minutes before you left your post." He frowned deeply.
Maza, who'd been inspecting the buffet with Bluestone, came behind them and said playfully, "Come on. I know Owen's kinda weird, but ... " She saw the woman with him and went pale. In her peripheral vision, Scully saw her instinctively reach for a weapon that wasn't there tonight. Her hands clasped air, and began curling into fists and releasing.
"Who is she?" asked Mulder.
"Trouble," was all she replied.
Her mind raced. What was Demona doing here, especially so close to sunset? It was quarter till five. The sun would go down in at most ten minutes. She had to be plotting something that would happen soon. Crazy or not, she wasn't mad enough to let a room full of people watch her change into gargoyle form. She hoped.
Elisa scouted the room quickly, and saw Xanatos and Fox enter from the other side. As distasteful as she found the thought, she had to get to them before Demona did. There was no way to tell what she would do when she spotted them. Which happened a second later.
Demona's smile grew wider, and she said in a voice once accustomed to being heard in this same hall: "Xanatos! How good to see you again!"
A number of people turned their heads, and Elisa groaned inside. She was trying to get their attention, and it was working. One Simply Did Not Yell at Gatherings Like This. Fox saw her a split second before her husband did, and in an almost comical way, their faces took on the exact same look of disbelief that quickly turned to disguised panic.
Demona shrugged off Owen's arm as though he'd been a child; Elisa wondered how much it had cost him to not put her into a restraining hold instantly. That was another thing One Did Not Do at Parties, and Demona knew it. She walked through the crowd like it didn't exist. Then again, they were only humans.
She grabbed a glass of champagne from a passing waiter and took a swig. She made a face. "This swill gets worse with every passing year," she stated too loudly. The people around her affected to ignore her, but it was becoming more than obvious that she wasn't about to be ignored.
She stopped three feet away from the parents to be.
"Milord. Milady," she said, voice dripping with sarcasm. "I would like to extend my deepest congratulations on your impending arrival."
"I see Owen forgot to make the final cut on the guest list," said Xanatos, unimpressed.
"I'm hurt," she replied mockingly. "And here I came all this way to bring you a gift for that child of yours."
"Thanks, but you can keep it," said Fox. "You've done enough as it is."
"Now Fox, don't tell me you're still angry about that little incident with ... "
Xanatos interrupted. "Maybe we should take this outside."
"Of course! We can watch the sunset together and reminisce about the old times."
Elisa felt a hand on her shoulder. Mulder's. "Is she an old lover?" Elisa grimaced.
"You have no idea." She spotted Owen moving around the periphery of the room. "Excuse me." She wasn't fond of Xanatos' head flunky, but for this, they were on the same side. She motioned to him. He nodded to her and they circled around Demona from opposite sides.
The human-gargoyle continued in a louder voice, enough to command the attention of everyone in the room: "I'd like to propose a toast! To Fox. May you have the same fortune with your mate that I had with mine." Her eyes glittered like cold diamonds.
Fox smiled back with the same saccharine vindictiveness. "Actually, I was planning on keeping mine." Demona dropped her pretense of a smile.
"You'll pay for that one. Child." She placed her fingers into her glass, and Elisa saw her move her ring to one side. She began murmuring something in bastard Latin, which sounded to Elisa's ears like "Me masticaste, placer este!". Elisa still wasn't certain of what the woman's twisted mind had dreamed up for Fox, but she had to prevent it.
"Stop in the name of the law!" She always felt silly when she said that, but it worked. Demona's head jerked around, and then her smile returned.
"On second thought, perhaps I'll just give my present to you." She pulled her hand out of the champagne and flicked the wetness off towards Elisa, who had just enough presence of mind to drop to the floor. The droplets hit the wall behind her and sparked vermillion before the stone started dissolving. Madly, she was already thinking of ways to explain this particular substance to Forensics.
Elisa rolled, wishing she'd brought her piece and knowing that it was too late, that Demona would already be advancing upon her and that she would do whatever she'd planned before any human could stop her. She glanced up.
Demona had raised her arm again, and her eyes were less human than Goliath's had ever been, even in battle. She thought of him, wondering who would tell him when the sun went down.
A light-haired Fury attacked. Demona fell in a tangle of arms and legs with Owen scrabbling for the glass. It slipped from her fingers and crashed into the floor. Owen and Demona rolled, and then he was on top of her, his left arm pinning her throat, his right grasping her arms together in a dangerously intimate manner. Xanatos pulled Fox off the ground and away from the growing spill, as Demona thrashed under the weight of the man above her.
Elisa got to her feet and ran to Owen's aid. Demona saw her and stopped struggling.
"You're under arrest."
"For what?" Her voice had returned to its former cadence as she went limp. She sounded as if she'd just been told over dinner that a friend had gone to the hospital.
"Attempted murder." For a start.
"Oh really? Since when does sprinkling champagne count as attempted murder?" She looked regretfully at the puddle on the floor. Which appeared to be a perfectly ordinary spill of alcohol. No dissolving carpets. No disappearing floor. Just broken glass and liquid.
Elisa cursed inwardly. It had been magic, of course. Kind of hard to prove murderous intent using a spell in a court of law.
"Besides," Demona's voice had become an almost-seductive purr, "I really don't think you'd want me to go into the police station tonight, would you, Detective? I can assure you that I'd have quite a story to tell them." She saw Owen tighten his grip on her wrists just enough to make her wince. "You didn't want to do that."
Suddenly, she twisted, bringing her knee up sharply. In an instant, she'd flipped a now-suffering Owen off her and sprang in a fluid motion to an upright position. She ran directly towards a wall covered by a large, probably priceless tapestry. Elisa realized what she was doing a second later and ran full-speed after her. Almost. The damned shoes tripped her and she kicked them off, giving Demona a much-needed extra moment to slip behind the tapestry into the secret passage beyond.
Elisa followed her into the darkness, suddenly aware of Mulder and Scully at her heels, and Bluestone not far behind. She had to lose them before sunset, or else there were going to be far too many explanations. But there was no more time. She stumbled in the dark, and felt a hand on her arm steadying her. She wasn't sure who it belonged to, but she was grateful. Demona knew these passages by heart, and she only by word of mouth from someone who'd once wandered them a thousand years before.
There was a light ahead, and she realized that they were headed outside to the courtyard at the top of the castle. In moments, they had reached the top of the stairway and were out into the last dregs of sunlight of the early evening.
A sound came from the left, and Mulder pulled his gun. The elevator door opened, spilling out Xanatos, Fox, Owen, and several others. Mulder dropped his weapon, and Elisa heard fleeing footsteps hurrying around the corner to the right. She ran towards them, knowing too well that the only thing at the other side of the building was a ledge overlooking a sheer drop, and fearing that Demona knew that too.
Diana's training took over as she surveyed the roof. Elisa was running hellbent to a place just out of sight on the other side. After seeing the other woman's performance, Diana wasn't certain if that hadn't been her intent. She followed, long strides quickly bringing her even with Elisa's date.
Elisa slipped around the corner, and she heard a scream dopplering into space.
"Elisa!" shouted Bluestone.
The last piece of sun slipped beneath the skyline, and Diana's stomach fell with it. She'd known Elisa's family for years; her brother Derek had been a good friend, once upon a time.
They sped around the corner, weapons drawn.
Elisa stood at the edge of the building, staring at the dusky horizon, as if looking for something.
"Where is she?" asked Diana, already knowing the answer.
"Gone," said Elisa, not looking away from the pink-tinged clouds. Then she did something quite unexpected: she said a very unladylike word, turned on her heel, and marched away from the ledge.
Bluestone placed a concerned hand on her shoulder. "Are you all right?" Diana had a sudden sense of deja vu.
She nodded. Mr. and Mrs. Xanatos and their aide came around the corner with the guards, saw the five of them, and stopped. Elisa's date, who looked oddly familiar, was staring down the side of the wall, not even acknowledging their arrival.
"What happened?" demanded Xanatos.
Elisa shrugged, and said cryptically, "The sun went down."
Xanatos sighed, and his wife rolled her eyes. Burnett tightened his mouth. Diana felt something pass among the four of them, but couldn't capture it.
Elisa's date looked up from the edge of the wall. "You must be Mr. and Mrs. Xanatos."
"Actually," said Mrs. Xanatos, "it's just Fox."
The man smiled. "Then we have something in common. My name's Fox Mulder. This is my partner, Dana Scully. We're with the F.B.I. Maybe one of you can explain how a woman just jumped off the side of a building and didn't make a pizza on the sidewalk." He looked over the edge again and clarified:
"There's no body."
Chapter 5: Conversations
Fox tried to remain utterly blank at the news. It wasn't as difficult as she'd imagined. Okay. Demona, looking amazingly human, shows up at the party. Demona tries to cast a spell on her and possibly her baby. Demona is thwarted by the unusual teamwork of Elisa Maza and Owen. Demona runs through a passageway known heretofore only to herself, David, and Owen. Demona jumps off the roof. F.B.I. agent wants to know why there's no body. And it's just past sunset. Acting blank was no problem at all under the circumstances. In fact, she tried to imagine any other state than one of blankness.
It was getting dark quickly.
David's arms were around her, holding her as she sank to the much more comfortable ground, and his voice was the heartbeat in her ears, calling her name. She wondered idly if the spell had worked after all, and decided that she was suddenly very very sleepy. She heard from far away the female agent's voice, saying that she was a doctor, and Fox had just enough consciousness left to think, "But that only happens on t.v."
She opened her eyes and found herself in her own bedroom, with David holding her hand. "What happened?"
"You fainted at a very opportune moment." He stroked her hair.
She pulled herself up. "Don't be ridiculous. I don't faint!"
"Well, you did this time." She turned her head and saw her doctor. "But you're none the worse for wear."
"How long was I out?" she asked her husband.
"About five minutes. I was getting worried."
"Where are our guests?"
"Still in the Great Hall. The two from the F.B.I. are having a field day looking for you know who."
"They won't find her."
"I don't care if they find her or not. It's what else they might find that worries me." He sighed. "So much for our meeting."
"Well, maybe you'll have better luck with our next kid."
"Maybe." He kissed her on the forehead. "Ready to go back out?"
She fell back among the pillows. "David!" Uninvited, the doctor placed her hand on her stomach, and followed it with a somewhat cold stethoscope, the one that David had bought the day she'd told him.
"We have most of the people who run this city in our living room, and the commissioner won't let any of them leave until she finds out who stole our angelic friend's corpse. We have to at least put in another appearance."
She sighed. She could get her way with him on a number of things, but this wasn't going to be one of them. "Doc?"
"You're both fine." The woman smiled. "Besides, the only alternative is to prescribe bed rest." Fox frowned. "I didn't think so."
"Okay okay. I suppose someone has to go talk to those agents. Whose idea was it to invite Elisa and Bluestone in the first place?"
"Right." He helped her up.
"It's good to see you again." Barbara smiled blandly as Lane walked away to find another likely candidate for information. Well that had been unproductive. She scanned the crowd for Dick, and spotted him near the F.B.I. agents, who were currently talking with some guy in a wheelchair who looked familiar. Then she placed him: Elliot Burch. She'd met him a few times out at social occasions with her father, but that had been shortly before his accident. Afterwards, she'd felt awkward around him. She knew it was silly, that he was the same man as he had been, but at the same time, she was afraid that she would say something to embarrass both of them, so she'd stayed away. She wondered suddenly how he'd been.
She slid next to Dick and he placed his arm around her, still eavesdropping. She bent to his ear, a gesture they had done in public many times before. She breathed softly. "Either Lane doesn't know what's going on, or she's not talking."
He murmured back. "Burch is trying not to tell these two something. I'm beginning to think there might be bats in his belfry. Literally."
She brushed her lips against his ear. "You think he might be sponsoring another Bat?"
"I'm beginning to wonder. I've been seeing some odd sights on patrol. Some have wings."
She nodded; she'd seen the same things. She looked behind him. Bruce and Selena were heading for them. "The chaperons are back." They pulled away from their half-embrace to meet the wide grins.
"I take it you two kids are enjoying the party?" asked Bruce.
"You could. Bruce, can I talk to you a minute?" Dick asked. The older man nodded, and they moved aside.
Selena rolled her eyes. "You know, one of these days, they're going to realize that standing away from us won't help."
"But not anytime soon. Have you heard from your friend Kit lately?" Or in other words, had she found anything out?
Selena nodded. "And she has some interesting news. Did you know that our gracious host had in his employ until September a geneticist by the name of Anton Sevarius who had a thing for bats?"
"Why no. Do tell."
Elisa nibbled half-heartedly at the broccoli spears. They weren't bad with the dip. She had a sudden mental image of Owen meticulously arranging the raw veggies on the platter and nearly choked. She took a sip of cider and tried to breathe normally. Once the Chief realized there was no body to be found, they would be free to go, but for now, there was enough food to provide for a small African nation, and it was going to waste.
At least Mulder had finally left her alone. His first action upon getting back to the Great Hall had been to get a few samples of Demona's happy juice while Scully had checked for any other secret passages near where they'd last seen her. Then the questions had started. He'd demanded to know what she'd seen, and she had done what any good, law-abiding citizen would do under the circumstances. She'd lied through her teeth.
As far as he knew, the mysterious woman had been gone as Elisa had turned the corner, and that was all he was going to get from her. She smiled evilly to herself. If he really pressed her, she'd tell him the truth: the woman had jumped, turned blue, grown wings, and flown off into the sunset to look for her seven-foot- tall ex who happened to turn into a pigeon roost during the day. In fact, she considered doing it just to see the look on his face.
"Something funny?" She looked up.
"Diana!" The other woman smiled. "How've you been? I haven't seen you around the station much."
"I don't hang around the station much. Do you know our hosts?"
She frowned. "Far too well. I helped put them both in prison. I think they invited me to gloat."
Diana sat down beside her. "If you don't like them, why did you protect Fox from that woman?"
She was wondering about that herself. "At the time, it seemed like the only thing I could do. All part of the job."
"What do you think happened up there?"
"I'm not entirely sure." It wasn't a lie. "You were there. What do you think?"
"Do you honestly want to know?" Her voice was light, but her eyes said volumes. Elisa suddenly remembered a story she'd heard about Bennett. She'd been given a murder case, and she'd named the perp after only seeing the crime scene for a few minutes. She'd nabbed him an hour later. The guys gave her a wide berth because sometimes she just knew things about people, and not just the suspects. In New York, everyone had a secret. Elisa was certainly no exception to that rule. But she wanted to know. She nodded.
"I think she knows you, and she doesn't like you personally for some reason. Joy thought she was Xanatos' ex-lover, but that's not right. That's a different story from the one she's living out. In her story, someone has hurt her very deeply, and she's trying to give the hurt back to anyone close enough to touch. She thinks that she wants you dead."
"I'd say that's pretty obvious."
"She doesn't, though. She just wants you to hurt like she does. I think she planned what happened much more completely than she let on. Now she has you as a possible suspect for murder."
"What?" This wasn't making any sense, and then, it was. "Someone might think I pushed her." Diana nodded.
"I wouldn't worry about it too much. Since there's no body, it would be next to impossible to prove the case." She had a point. "I also think you saw exactly what happened to her."
"I already told you ... "
"You saw," she said quietly, leaving no room for argument, "and whatever happened, it has to do with your secret, the one you're protecting with your life. Him."
Her heart stopped. Damn! She shouldn't have asked. Playing with fire again, eh Maza? Good job. Now you have the pet psychic on the staff reading your mind. Why don't you just tell Mulder about the guys? He'd certainly be interested. Hell, it's after dark, you should invite Goliath to the party. He'd be a hit.
Diana touched her hand, and she nearly jumped. "It's all right," she whispered. "I understand." Her wide blue eyes looked into Elisa's own, and she knew somewhere deep within that she wasn't just making small talk. She understood, because ... Elisa had a feeling of vertigo as she watched Diana. In her gaze, she saw Goliath as he had been the night she'd met him, but instead of being in the air, they'd been in a warm, enclosed space that spoke to her senses as far underground. Instinctively, she knew Diana was seeing something both similar and vastly different in her own eyes.
For an endless moment, the two of them sat in perfect comprehension of one another, broken finally by the sound of laughter from another guest.
Diana pulled her hand away. "I think we should both start mingling so that no one suspects a conspiracy."
The last of the quick spell vanished from her mind like dust after a summer storm, and she remarked, "The only ones suspecting a conspiracy around here are my partner and my date."
Diana looked behind her and grimaced. "I think Elliot has talked your date's ear off enough. I'd better go rescue him." She stood up. "It's been nice chatting with you, Maza."
"Likewise, Bennett." She paused. "You do understand, don't you?" Diana nodded. "Do you ... do you ever stop seeing ... " She couldn't finish; the words weren't right.
"No," she said quietly. "But you learn how to see everything else, too." She touched her shoulder, and was gone.
Diana walked to Elliot's side casually, trying to calm the mad beating of her heart. She had touched something deep when she'd spoken to the other woman, powerful like the motion of the sea. In her eyes, she'd seen Vincent holding Jake as a baby, but instead of being in the warm closeness of the Tunnels, they had been standing on top of an airy place with the wind surrounding them. She'd known without asking that Elisa had also seen something, and it frightened her.
Before she had met Vincent, her life had been complicated enough, balancing her job and Mark and the things she simply couldn't say to her sisters anymore. Then Joe had come to her loft begging her to take on a murder case, and her life had not been the same since.
She made a point of never regretting the past; regrets were impractical, and got in the way of moving on with life. She would not regret having met Vincent, having found Jake, having killed the man who murdered the baby's mother. These were a part of the past. Yet, she wondered sometimes, when he was forced to kill someone for her sake, or when the fragile secret of the Tunnels seemed to be compromised, if she would have been happier not knowing, if she could have just married Mark and settled down and raised a couple of rugrats.
At those times, the secret was heavy inside her.
Of course, when she was feeling the lowest, when she was trapped, confused, wondering where this impossible relationship would take her, something else would happen. Vincent would appear tapping at her window with a passage from an ancient book to share with her, or Jake would out of the blue grace her with that sweet grin of his, and she would wonder again how she'd manage to live without knowing them.
Before tonight, she'd never dreamed that anyone could have the same kind of pressing weight of a promise that must be kept, and the new knowledge shook her.
She smiled politely at the F.B.I. agents as she went to Elliot's side. "Excuse me." The male agent's eyes widened. In a flash, she recognized him. "You're the man from the station this morning." That was why he'd looked familiar on the rooftop. He nodded.
"And you are?"
"My sister-in-law," said Elliot. "Diana, meet Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. Madam, Sir, Detective Diana Bennett, N.Y.P.D."
"Nice to meet you," he said.
"Likewise. So has Elliot bored you to tears yet?"
"Diana! I'm hurt. You don't like my witty conversation?"
"How do you want your answer: honest or polite?"
"How about sunny side up?" The years had brought an ease to her relationship with him, something she appreciated as it now calmed away her anxieties, leaving her mind clear and focused. "The agents are attempting to discover what become of our premenstrual friend."
"You were there," said Scully. "Did you see anything at all?"
Diana shook her head. "I got there the same time you did."
Mulder said, "There've been other instances of people disappearing in cases like this, although they usually aren't jumping off buildings when it happens."
"Maybe she grew wings," said Elliot. He looked askance at his chair. "I can't say I'd mind a pair myself." Diana suddenly felt a cold flash run through her. Beings large and glorious filled her mind, with wings to buffet the air or glide through it like knife blades. The stones of the castle had known the brush of such wings upon them, and yearned like a flower towards the sun for the return of that beauty. She placed her hand on the back of Elliot's chair to steady herself.
Scully's eyes grew worried. "Detective?"
"Just a little dizzy for a second. Sorry." She smiled, hoping to disarm any more questions.
"That seems to be going around."
"Don't worry. I'm not pregnant." Probably, she added silently, and wondered how well that particular possibility would go over if she mentioned it to Elliot.
He muttered quietly, "I knew they could make people disappear, but this is ridiculous."
"Who?" asked Scully.
Elliot looked up, as if unaware that he'd been talking out loud. For a moment, he looked as though he'd been caught, then glanced around as if making sure no one would overhear him. He wiggled his finger, and the agents bent close. He reached out as if to bring them closer still, then touched their ears. He pulled his hands back towards himself, holding a quarter in each. "Magicians, of course!" he said.
Diana groaned, then looked apologetically at the agents. "He does that to me, too." She shot him a look. "Constantly."
"Admit it. You enjoy it."
"Only sometimes. Now if you're finished bothering these two, maybe we can let them get back to their investigation."
"Oh, all right. But I finally had someone who hasn't heard all my jokes yet."
Scully looked at her partner, and smiled.
He took a small step backwards. "Forget it. You're not trading me in."
"Come on," said Diana. "Joy's going to think we're having an affair."
"You mean we're not?" She slapped him lightly on the head. "But what will we tell the children?"
She sighed again, and said to the agents, "If you change your mind about that trade-in ... "
Scully covered a laugh as they moved into a secluded corner, no doubt to compare notes.
She placed her hand on Elliot's shoulder as they looked around for Joe and Joy. "Nice job," she whispered.
"Thanks. I hope they take the bait."
"He knows," said Mulder, barely concealing his anticipation.
"About the Illuminati. About the meeting tonight. Matt was right! Notice how he immediately changed the subject?"
"I told him about the Illuminati this morning. He didn't want to talk then."
"Maybe he didn't trust his secretary. He was more than talkative tonight."
"He's setting us up. Don't you see that?"
"He's giving us information that he can't any other way."
She stopped the urge to sigh heavily. Why couldn't he see? It was just like with Manicure Man; Mulder was being told what he wanted to hear and he refused to consider that it was all a fabrication.
"Besides, what good would it do to tell us about a society that doesn't exist?"
She tried to think. Something about Burch had bothered her from the start. He was very intelligent, and his sister-in-law was his equal. He wouldn't have said anything he was worried she might decipher, so whatever was going on, she was in on it.
"What if he had something or someone to protect? Someone so close to him that he would risk putting us on a wild goose chase, so that we'd stay away from the real target."
"Do you think Burch is behind the Batman?"
"If he exists, I think it's a real possibility, and I think Bennett knows about it."
"All right. We'll check out Bennett and Burch. But first, I want to ask our hosts about our mystery woman. They seem to be the only ones who even know her name."
They attempted to do just that. It wasn't as easy as it looked. The couple were surrounded by bodyguards, presumably on high alert after the incident, and with well-wishers. There was no way to get them alone without making a scene. Heaven forbid we make a scene, she thought sourly.
Mulder tapped her shoulder, and nodded towards the buffet, where Xanatos' aide was checking the mostly-ignored food. Okay, if they couldn't get the hosts, they would get the butler.
"Mr. Burnett?" The man turned. "We have a few questions we'd like to ask you."
"I'm afraid you will have to consult with Mr. Xanatos' attorneys." Scully mentally banged her head against another wall as Burnett turned to leave.
"I'm afraid they won't be of much help to us," said Mulder. "We're looking for the perfect cup of tea."
Burnett stared at them. "Excuse me?"
"We've heard from an associate of yours that you have a secret blend of tea that is supposed to be something special. We'd like to know what it is."
"That's a family secret, I'm afraid."
"Then how about you just tell us the name of the woman who tried to kill your boss, and we'll call it even."
"If I knew what name she's hiding under, I'd be more than willing to tell you. However, I'm not entirely certain how she got in myself. Mr. Xanatos is most displeased." He frowned deeper, seemingly more concerned about Xanatos' wrath than the woman.
"I'm having a little trouble placing your accent. Where are you from?"
"I've moved around a great deal. Now if you'll excuse me." He scooted off into the crowd before they could ask him anything else.
"This is getting old," said Scully.
Mulder agreed. "This city is reminding me more and more of a place one of my friends was sent on extended assignment. You ever meet Cooper?"
She nodded. "Once or twice. Before I met you, I thought he was strange."
"Cute, Scully. Real cute."
(to be continued)
Chapter 6: Divergences
The Chief finally let the guests leave at ten. Selena overheard Veronica Vreeland muttering about being beyond fashionably late and allowed herself an evil grin. She had never liked Vreeland, not from the first time she'd met her. She was a flake, and Selena had no patience whatsoever with flakes.
Funny, she thought, as Alfred pulled the car up. She'd believed the same thing of Bruce once. She'd thought him as dim and shallow as Ronnie, just another jet-setter out to turn a profit and pretend that he had some kind of depth to him. Over time, she'd learned better, and discovered the dark, hidden places inside of him that matched her own. Together, they had slowly opened those bitter spots to the sunlight, and like nightmare mists, they had burned away leaving room only for each other.
Alfred, ever the proper gentleman, opened the door for her graciously. His eyes moved past her, and she glanced back. Burnett was at the doorway, a rare half-smile on his face that chilled her more than any scowl ever could. She hurried into the car and stared out the opposite window. She knew that Alfred had formed an odd friendship with the man, but he worried her in a way she couldn't define. Maybe he's a dog person, she thought.
Then a stray image struck her. Their hostess's name was Fox. So was the F.B.I. agent's. So they'd had three bats, two foxes, and a cat at the party, never mind what the woman had been. Forget baby shower, they'd had a bloody zoo! She smiled, and the pale man no longer frightened her half so much.
Bruce sat beside her and the kids across. Alfred shut the door, opened his own, and got in. "Home, sir?"
Barbara shook her head. "Do you think you could drop me off first?"
"Of course, Miss Barbara." He pulled the car smoothly out of the driveway. As they left the grounds, Selena caught sight of Burnett again, but he was far away now and Bruce was beside her and warm.
She slipped off her shoes. "Oh, that feels much better." She closed her eyes for a few seconds.
Dick asked, "Did you guys find anything else out?"
"Not enough," said Bruce, sounding tired. She placed her hand on his. Barbara touched the back of her own seat, and a panel came open, showing one of the many terminals of the Bat computers. She typed something in quickly.
"This is what we have on Sevarius. He got his Ph.D. from MIT in '79, Genetics. He worked for the government for ten years, then was fired for performing unauthorized experiments. He spent some time at Cyberbiotics, but he was working for Gen-U-Tech Systems when he was killed in an 'industrial accident' in September. This is interesting: Gen-U-Tech is owned by David Xanatos."
"Go back to the unauthorized experiments part."
Barbara typed a few more words. "His research was based on some weird ideas. He wanted to combine human DNA with that of various animals, including bats."
"Great," said Dick. "It's the Manbat all over again."
"Not quite. He had bigger ideas than that. He wanted to have major crossovers, putting cats, bats, even eels into the mix. He was fired after performing some preliminary tests on human subjects."
"And Xanatos hired him." Bruce's eyes grew sad. The abuse of wealth and power had always bothered him. She'd seen him chase down petty criminals every night, then come home disillusioned because he couldn't bring the big money backing them to justice. She felt the same way.
Dick said, "If he continued his experiments while working for Xanatos, then it's possible some of his creations got loose and are responsible for the murders."
"The F.B.I. Agents think that we're responsible somehow," said Selena.
"Then it's up to us to find the killer. Or killers." Bruce's jaw was set in a determination she hadn't seen in years. As they began mapping out a strategy, she wondered if this were a good thing.
Elisa held the stupid shoes in her hand as she climbed the stairs to the clock tower. It had been a long night, longer even than the nights she worked, for some reason. Seeing Demona, hell, almost being killed by Demona, then having that strange encounter with Diana, had put an unease in her heart. She'd picked up her car at the hotel where Mulder and Scully were staying, but instead of driving home, she'd come here, not really knowing why.
She heard Hudson's voice as she reached the top, and the feeling slipped away to be replaced by the warm joy she'd grown accustomed to more and more when she thought of the guys.
"'May this day be ... bless sed above all ... others the day when you ... ceased to forget my ... exis ... exist ... '"
"'Existence,'" came Lexington's gentle prompting.
"'Existence and came here to tell me ... to tell me ... Roxanne who has ... taken off her mask ... ' Bloody hell."
Elisa felt her face pull into a grin. She took the last few steps up into the lighted room. "I didn't think that was in the play." Hudson and Lexington looked up from their books.
"Hi Elisa," said Broadway, holding his own copy.
"Where are Goliath and Brooklyn?"
"Out on patrol," said Hudson. "We're breaking it into shifts so that there aren't so many of us in the sky at once."
"Good idea. Fox and Dana will be going back to Washington on Sunday. After that, there shouldn't be a problem."
Broadway looked confused. "Why is Fox going to Washington?"
"Not that Fox. Fox Mulder. One of the F.B.I. agents. He and Matt have known each other forever."
"Oh. Okay." He went back to the book, trying to find his place.
"What are you reading?"
"'Cyrano de Bergerac,'" said Hudson. "Goliath found it in the library a few weeks ago."
"Are you reading or performing it?"
"A little of both," Lex said. "We're reading the parts out of order." He looked up at her as if seeing her for the first time. "You wanna read Roxanne's part?"
She stretched. She hadn't done drama since that play in the second grade where the mice had to put a bell on the cat. She, of course, had played the cat. "Sure. Could be fun. Where are you?"
Lex handed her the book. "Right here." He pointed.
She looked at the page, then read out loud: "'First let me thank you for humbling that arrogant fop with your sword yesterday, because he's the man whom a certain great lord ... '"
The two of them continued the scene, hindered only by Hudson's occasional slips. In minutes, she slipped into the part, seeing in her mind's eye the old gargoyle as a brilliant Gascon soldier with an unfortunately large nose. The words played with them, and she could half believe that they were the characters, and that the man before her was waiting for her to say the one thing that could make his world fill with light. Yet, she knew this particular play, knew that Rostand had made a tragic comedy, and that Roxanne would never know of Cyrano's love until he lay dying.
"'Tell him to write!'" she said. "'A hundred men! You'll tell me about it some other time; I can't stay now. A hundred men! What courage!'"
He bowed, on cue from the stage directions. "'Oh I've done better since then.'"
Applause came from behind them, and Elisa turned her head. Goliath and Brooklyn had returned from patrol, and were watching from a short distance. Lexington was clapping and whistling and Broadway had a large smile on his face. She turned back to Hudson.
"We're a hit. Maybe we should take it on the road."
"I don't think I could face all that reading." But he had on his cheeks a color that in a younger gargoyle would have been called a blush.
"I could," said Broadway, a dreamy look on his face.
"Good," she responded. She handed him Lex's book and patted him on the shoulder. "Next time, you play Roxanne."
"Bravo to both of you," said Goliath.
"Yeah," said Hudson, turned an even deeper shade. He thumbed open to the last page of the book. "'But what the ... devil was he ... doing there. Filo ... filoso ... '"
"Philosopher," Goliath provided.
"'Philosopher ... scien tist ... poet ... suwards man ... musician ... airiell trav ell er ... ' No wonder you like this play; this lad sounds like you!"
Later, she would have sworn that Goliath glanced at her for the briefest moment before Brooklyn said, "You kidding? With that nose, he probably looked more like me." He patted his own long beak.
Lexington added, "Okay, so you play Cyrano to Broadway's Roxanne."
Elisa smiled. "I can see that." It felt good to be around them, to listen to them. Mulder and Scully couldn't possibly understand the guys; they'd probably want to lock them away like Xanatos did. Then her face fell as she remembered the night's events. "I don't suppose either of you spotted Demona on the prowl tonight?"
"No," said Goliath, obviously disturbed. "Why?"
"She showed up to the party."
"What?!" She had their undivided attention now.
"I think she wanted to do something to Fox and the baby. I'm not sure what, but the potion she used dissolved solid rock." And almost dissolved me, she thought. No use getting them more worried.
"Was she in human form?" Goliath sounded almost fearful.
"Yeah. Unfortunately, she left at sunset. Via the roof."
"Did anyone see her transform?"
"Just me. The others were too far behind, and she was gone before they saw anything. Now we have a missing body. They think she may have gone through one of the secret passageways, and I hope they keep thinking that."
Goliath looked skyward, as if perhaps to see her gliding above them. His gaze fixed on a distant star. "If she's ever seen in gargoyle form, they won't stop looking for us." She wondered what he was feeling. Every night, it seemed more obvious to the rest of them that only Demona's death would bring them safety, but that was the one option Goliath refused to even contemplate. The pain of her betrayal was the one ache that would not heal with the rising of the sun, yet he had not the strength to kill the woman to whom he'd sworn eternal love once upon a time.
Elisa wished again that his hurt would go away, as she said, "They're only going to be here two more days. After that, we don't have to worry anymore."
"About them. What about other humans who want to find us?"
"There won't be any others. Matt doesn't even really believe in you, and he's seen you. Even Fox and Dana think they're looking for Batman."
"Fox Mulder," said Broadway helpfully. "Not Fox Xanatos."
"Then perhaps we should convince them that this 'Batman' really exists. What do you know about him?"
"Come in." Scully opened the door carefully, then realized the light was on.
"You couldn't sleep, either?"
"Every time I close my eyes, I keep seeing the woman running around the corner with Elisa right after her. I can't see where she goes next."
"I know," she said, parking herself in the chair by the bed.
"It's like she was transported out of midair."
"That's 'Star Trek,' Mulder. This is real life."
"Is it?" he asked darkly. "What about this life makes you think it's any more real than what you see on t.v.?"
"Well, we're experiencing it, for one thing. I trust my eyes and my ears and my reason."
"My eyes saw them both around the corner before my ears heard her scream. My reason can't make heads or tails of it."
"Neither can mine," she admitted after a pause.
"Sunset. It all happened at sunset." He sat up. "How did you do in your self-defense classes?"
"Because we need to go for a walk. This city has a night life, and we're missing it."
"I'm not really in the mood to go looking for a club."
"How about a bat?" He began putting on his shoes.
Diana had been waiting for only a few minutes before she heard his almost silent tread from the other side of the wall. One set of footsteps. She whispered, "Is Jake asleep?"
"Yes," he whispered back. The walls of the culvert took their words and reflected them into calm murmurs. "Do you have time to come Below?"
"Yes." She heard a click, and the gate slid open on well-oiled runners. He stood just beyond the opening, waiting for her with the serene majesty of some ancient and awful demigod.
She stepped through and let him shut the gate again before embracing him. Contentment crept into her slowly. She'd missed him tonight. Joe was a wonderful man, sweet, funny, and very handsome in his way, but being near him had never brought the warmth that Vincent's presence could. The sound of his voice drove away the cold for her, even in the depths of winter. After a long time, they moved apart, only their hands remaining in light contact as they headed down the familiar trail towards the Tunnels proper. "Did you get the note from Elliot about the people from the F.B.I.?"
He nodded. "Kirsten hand delivered it."
"As it turns out, we spent most of the evening with them."
"They went to the party, too. I don't think they were invited; they came with two cops I know." She remembered her brief talk with Elisa. "Do you know of a Helper named Elisa Maza?"
He closed his eyes, searching his memory. "The name isn't familiar, but I could ask Father. Her family might be one of the older ones."
She shook her head. "Don't bother him with it. If she were, you'd know it."
"Who is she?"
"She's a detective in my precinct. She brought the male agent. She may also be the only witness to ... something."
He squeezed her hand comfortingly. "What happened?"
She sighed, wondering where to start. She explained the basics quickly. When she got to the part about the disappearing body, his eyes grew wide.
"It sounds like magic."
"Or science fiction. That's what bugs me. I have the feeling that so much depends on Elisa and this woman, but I don't know what. If Elisa's not a Helper, then she's protecting someone else the same way a Helper does. And this woman, whoever she is, can destroy that. But she won't."
"As certain as I am on anything. There is something very evil about her, but there's also a great deal of pain. If I had to say anything about her, I'd say she lost something and that she'd give almost anything to have it back. She mentioned something to Fox Xanatos about having as much luck with her mate as she had."
Something caught her. She hadn't said "husband;" she'd said "mate." That was important for some reason.
"He's not dead," she whispered. "He's not dead, because she's not grieving for him. She's grieving for herself, for losing him." She was very far away now, barely feeling his arms settle on hers. "And she hates Elisa. Why does she hate Elisa? Because she thinks Elisa took him away from her. So Elisa knows who he is and where." She met his eyes. "He's the one's she's protecting. That has to be it. But why go after Fox Xanatos?"
"She could have just been a ruse to go after Elisa."
"With champagne? It doesn't make sense." She sighed. She had seen it in her mind's eye for a brief clear moment, but it fled her.
"Narcissa casts spells with water. If she believed that what she did would work, and she could make the others believe that it would work, then she could have used anything."
"A spell?" She managed a chuckle. "I can believe in a lot of things. Magic isn't one of them. Next you'll be telling me that fairies ride the subway."
"Why not? It's an excellent way to travel." She saw his mouth turn to his best approximation of a smile. She'd ridden the top of a subway car with him a total of one time. She'd held tight to him as he'd latched on, and she'd seen little but his mane flying in the wind and the moths that batted them in the face. The next time the subject had come up, she'd chosen to ride inside.
"Maybe," she said. Her mind drifted, and thoughts of the evening were placed on a mental shelf to be dealt with later.
"Would you care for some tea before you go back home?" His smile had remained, and spoke of more than just a cup of something hot and sweet. Jake would be sound asleep by this point, after all.
"You read my mind."
Demona landed on top of the Empire State Building and folded her wings around her against the cold evening air. Normally, which was to say before Puck had cast his damned spell on her, the cold didn't phase her in the least. Lately, though, she'd been aware of being cold or hot or soaked, even at night. It bothered her; she wondered, when she dared to allow herself even consider it, if she were becoming more human. The thought disgusted her, but the possibility was there, nonetheless.
Idly, she raked her claws on the stone, leaving gashes to mystify anyone who came looking. She didn't care much. Let them look. Let them see the gashes and wonder, like the people at Xanatos' little soiree were wondering: what being was it that walked among us and was gone?
She rather hoped that they thought she was dead now. That human might even be put into prison for it. She smiled bitterly. Let the clan visit her there.
She removed the heavy ring from her finger and inspected it critically. The design had been popular centuries ago as a means to rid oneself of one's adversaries. A little powder in the right glass could work wonders. She doubted somehow that the original owner of the ring had ever considered using it to cast a spell, albeit a simple one. She could have done better with the Grimorum on hand, but this one would have worked just as well. Assuming Elisa hadn't been there, that is. She glowered.
At least it hadn't been a total loss. She was fairly certain that a few drops of the potion had landed on the human. There would be no way to tell at first, of course. This spell took a great deal of that patience she was developing. It would have been interesting to see work on Fox, she had to admit, but perhaps Elisa would provide an even more satisfying subject.
It wasn't a difficult spell, really. Nor was the potion involved harmful unless the words were chanted as it was thrown. It would have been perfect, for who could trace a stillborn child to a few drops of spilled champagne?
She wondered idly from whence the spell had first come. It wasn't out of the Grimorum; she'd learned it from the healing-women of the mountains, the ones who'd used earth magic to care for their charges. She'd spared the life of one in exchange for such spells. She had waited three centuries to use this particular one; she could wait a little longer to see if it worked.
Fox lay staring into space. The party was finished; most everything had been cleared away or put into a place it could stay for the night. They had seen the guests out and away, had checked the silver to see if anything was missing, had ordered all the servants home. Even Owen, whose sleeping patterns (or lack thereof) were legendary, had retired to his room, claiming fatigue.
David was snoring softly next to her, in a content slumber brought by a long day. Not to mention a delightful session of lovemaking, she thought cozily. By all rights, she should be asleep too. So why couldn't she?
It was Demona, of course. Somehow, she'd found a way into their home, plotting no one knew what. She didn't need to dream to have visions of the enchanted potion striking her, causing her to miscarry or worse. She knew there was worse, had seen it happen once to a friend. She could see her own child being born at full term, than carefully placed in her arms. She could see the horrible, twisted limbs, the asymmetric face with a plaintive little mouth opening and closing in mute agony, and she heard Demona laughing in her ears.
She got out of bed. There was no way she could sleep with thoughts like these. She slipped her robe on and crept out the door as quietly as she could so as to not disturb David. She wandered down the hallway, thinking of Katharine again, wondering how well she had known the gargoyles, if she'd liked them, if she'd feared them. She knew very little of the woman herself, merely a few names and dates. She wasn't even certain if she'd had any children. All she had were strange dreams of her, and of the man who stood beside her calling her "My lady" in a gentle voice.
"Did you?" she asked the silent walls. "Did you find someone to cherish? Or did Uncle Kenneth marry you off to some overweight landowner who loved your money more than you? Did you even protest? Did you run away from him to be your own woman for once, to find the man you really loved? Or did you get locked up inside some tower to do needlework? I need to know, Katharine."
Her thoughts turned briefly to her own father. He hadn't shown, of course. She hadn't expected him to, but still, his absence hurt a tiny bit more than she had thought it would. So what if he didn't approve of David? The least he could do was come for the announcement of his own future grand-something.
She found herself in the kitchen, now filled with the leftovers from the party. She poked around in the fridge and dug out a gallon of milk. She poured herself a generous glass, then put it back. She needed more than milk, though. She nibbled at a piece of cheese from one of the innumerable platters, then spotted a plate of cookies. Owen left them in a strategic place for David to find during midnight raids. He wouldn't mind if she took a few. She grabbed three, perched on a stool at one of the counters, and ate her snack in a pool of moonlight.
Scully strolled arm in arm with her partner along Times Square. They were keeping an eye out for anything suspicious, which was a harder task than they'd first imagined. Everything looked questionable, from the man across the street who was looking furtively at his watch then at the sky over and again, to the two women walking similarly arm in arm with a guide dog leading the way.
A young woman of perhaps eighteen or so passed them. She actually made eye contact, which surprised her, and she noticed that her eyes were the darkest she'd ever seen. The young woman turned her head and spotted the man across the street. Her face brightened, and she dashed across to hug the man. Then they both stared at his watch.
Strange things happened at two o'clock in the morning, she decided.
"The video was shot here," Mulder said, stopping and looking around. He seemed disappointed.
"You were expecting gargoyles to be walking along the street with us?"
"Not really. I was just hoping that maybe we could find a reason for whoever it was to be here. Matt said there was some kind of monster over by that fire hydrant, and then another one came to stop it."
"Sounds like the Batman to me."
He didn't say anything, instead looking closer at the hydrant. "Nothing unusual."
Scully looked around. It was just another city late at night, she decided. Except for the number of XXX-rated movies available, which she'd noticed Mulder eyeing, they could be in D.C.
"Care for a walk in the park?" he asked suddenly.
"Only if you have your gun on you."
"Done." They ambled towards the direction of Central Park, Scully feeling more than vaguely ridiculous. She's heard about Central Park after dark. It was rumored to be crawling with muggers and various other lowlifes.
Then again, what better place could they have to find a serial killer dressed up in a bat costume?
They walked as casually as possible into the park, keeping careful watch for anything at all, including homicidal maniacs and the like. It was amazingly quiet, and she realized that even muggers probably needed sleep. They watched the sky, the trees, the bushes, everywhere, as the stars kept watch and a lone cricket chirped discontentedly in the cold darkness.
They were in the middle of the park when she felt a sharp tug on her arm. Mulder pulled her around behind a tree and pressed his hand over her mouth. "Shhh," he whispered. He leaned around the tree, and once he removed his hand, she followed suit. He was carefully watching a drainage culvert.
Oh boy, she thought. He's lost it. Then she saw movement. Two figures stepped out of the culvert and into the moonlight. One was tall, well over six feet, and shrouded in a dark cloak. The other was much smaller, feminine in aspect, holding his hand. She contained a gasp as she recognized her. It was the woman they had seen first thing in the morning, now years ago, the same woman they had met again at the party, teasing one of the wealthiest men in the city, all the while looking so strongly of Mulder's sister to make them both afraid. Diana Bennett, she thought.
The larger figure bowed to Diana and a cloud covered the moon. When her eyes had adjusted to the light level, both were gone.
"What the hell was that?" she asked, wondering as she said it if she really wanted the answer.
"I'm not sure, but I'd be willing to bet we just found our Batman."
Chapter 7: Suspicions
Bruce adjusted his suit one final time. It had been nearly a year since he'd last worn it, and it felt odd on his frame. Maybe he'd been hitting the cookies too hard lately. Maybe he was just getting too old for this. Then it modified itself slightly as he moved, and fitted smoothly to his body as it always had.
"Bruce?" Selena was behind him. He turned. She was in her pajamas, and looked frightened. She'd probably woken up minutes before. "I thought I'd find you here." On second thought, she had the look of someone who'd tried to sleep for hours but had failed.
He stopped himself from putting his arms around her to reassure her, and instead fiddled with his utility belt. "I have to go out on patrol tonight. I have to find out who's committing these murders. Otherwise, they'll come with more questions."
"Then let me come with you." She was almost pleading.
"You can't. You know why."
"What will a little harmless dressing up do? You know I can stay out of trouble when I try." She placed her palms against his shoulders. He took her hands as tenderly as he could and held them against his chest.
"Please just stay here for now. I'd feel safer."
"I wouldn't. You haven't been out Batting in ages. A lot of the mythos has worn off in your absence."
"And a lot more has developed. I just need to find out what's going on. I'll be home soon."
"Will you?" she asked. "Or will he?" She turned and walked out of the cave before he could ask her what she meant.
With a curious mix of sadness and almost-forgotten joy, he leapt into the Batmobile and started the engine. Like a restless lion, it purred beneath his touch. This was what he had lost when he'd chosen to give up his double life: this power, this freedom.
Just one more night, he thought as he pulled out. Just one more night of living by my wits, of guarding my city, of being at one with the night. Just let me have it this once, and I'll give it up forever for her. I swear.
Mulder cursed. There was nothing in the culvert but, well, culvert. There was nothing to indicate that anything more ordinary than drainage had ever taken place there.
"Maybe they just came here to make out," Scully suggested.
"It's now three a.m. and we're in a drain pipe in the middle of Central Park. Would you come here to make out?"
"Not if I had a choice, no. But if I were also dating the District Attorney of Manhattan, I'd probably want to cover my tracks pretty well."
"I don't get it. Why come here to have an affair, unless it's with someone she can't trust with anyone else?" He slammed his fist against the wall. "Nothing about this case makes any sense!"
She yawned. "It's late. Why don't we go back to the hotel and come at this fresh in the morning? Maybe by then we'll have had a brilliant insight."
"Maybe," he said, but he allowed her to take his arm and lead him out of the park. The walk back to the hotel was silent. It was not until he was in his own room that he allowed himself to think about what had transpired through the night and try to see a pattern. So far, the only pattern he could discern was that beautiful redheads in New York were trouble. Of course, that didn't include his date for the evening, who was also trouble if in a different way. His mind returned to the image he'd had earlier in the evening, of the human moths with giant wings, hurtling themselves towards self-immolation and immortality, whether it be against the giant neon Coke sign in Times Square, or just a bare windowpane.
After forever, he slept.
Someone was knocking.
"Yes?" she said, blearily. The knocking came again, and Scully woke up enough to realize it wasn't coming from her door but her window. She sat up. There was a large shadow at her window. She reached to her nightstand, where her gun was safely stored. She grabbed it, then carefully approached the window.
There was a man dressed up as a bat staring at her.
She thought briefly that she might still be dreaming, then dismissed the idea; her dreams were never this weird. She undid the lock and held her gun trained on his as he opened the pane enough to let himself inside.
"You won't need that. I won't hurt you."
"I've heard that one before. Are you Batman?"
He nodded. "I need to talk with you, Agent Scully."
"How do you know my name?"
"I know a lot of things. I'll share them with you if you'll put the gun down."
"Suit yourself." He took a seat in her chair. He didn't look half so menacing sitting down. In fact, he looked weary, as though it had taken him great effort to get there.
"What do you want?"
"First and foremost, I want you to believe that neither I nor Catwoman had anything to do with the murders you're investigating."
"I'm supposed to tale your word on this?"
"It's the only one I have."
"Do you know who is responsible?"
"No, but I have some theories I'm working on. I'll let you know if I come up with anything."
"Why can't you tell me now?"
"It would seem far-fetched."
"You obviously haven't met my partner. Try me."
"Let's just say that sometimes genetic experiments work out in unforseen ways."
"No!" He looked horrified by the idea. "I'm checking some leads right now. That's all I can say."
"Are you involved with the Illuminati?" she asked.
"No, but I know about them. They've been around a long time. You and your partner won't bring them down. I've tried. I don't suppose it matters much now."
Scully sat in mute disbelief. If this man could be trusted, one of Mulder's most cherished theories might actually be proven correct. If not, well, she had trusted worse people. At one point, she'd even trusted Krycek. She lowered her gun.
Dozens of questions raced through her mind. She should get Mulder. He had a doctorate in psychology; he'd know what to ask this obviously disturbed man. Or perhaps he wasn't so disturbed anymore.
"Why did you quit? Everyone we've asked had nothing but praise for you."
"Except for Bullock." They shared a smile.
He said, "I'm getting old. I can't jump as high or run as fast as I used to. About a year ago, I realized there was more to life than just catching criminals. This suit doesn't go with a family."
She nodded slowly. She could understand that all too well.
"I stopped because I wanted a normal life. Is that too much to ask? All I want is to be left alone."
She saw his point, but there was a hole in it. "Then why are you helping us?"
He raised his head. "Because despite what I want, I'm still needed here. Someone is murdering people in my city, and I intend to find out who."
"All right," she said, deciding quickly. "Let me get my partner. He'll want to be in on this." She made towards the door, but found her path blocked.
"We don't have the time for a chat. We need to find out who's been killing these people before anyone else dies."
"You said you had information for me."
"Some. Look into the background of a Dr. Anton Sevarius. Then look up his last boss."
She nodded, and turned to the desk to write down the name. "How do you spell that?"
No response. She turned back to him, but there was no one there. The curtains moved in the slight breeze of the night air, and when she went to the window, all she could see was the moon keeping a lonely vigil.
Elliot set the phone carefully back into its cradle. There was no answer at Diana's loft, which could mean that she'd gone Below, or that she was on her roof where she couldn't hear the phone, or that she'd been murdered in her sleep. Any of the options were possible, and it worried him.
He'd tried to sleep for a while, but soon realized that his restlessness would only disturb Joy all night. He'd been puttering around with blueprints for the last few hours, fixing the slant of this sub-roof, doing some calculations for the room spacing of that floor. The work usually filled him with peace. He was doing what he loved, what he did best. He was forming a dream-shape from his mind and giving it a concrete and steel birth. If only he could concentrate.
Instead of visualizing the building to be, he was caught in a half-memory. He hadn't seen the woman's fall from the rooftop, but Diana had described it to him in detail. The whole idea made him uneasy. She'd been backed against a wall, and she'd just jumped. No questions, no bargaining, merely silence before a scream.
And the rush of wings.
He'd never been the kind to believe in fairy tales. Reality was more than weird enough for his tastes. When things had started falling apart six years before, he hadn't imagined that it had been on the scale it was. It had taken Cleon Manning to point out to him pointedly that there were forces bigger than they could fight working against him. And then those forces had killed Manning. To make a point.
The ache touched him again. He'd lost Cathy, then Cleon, then very nearly his own life. The last had been his own fault. He'd betrayed Vincent's faith in him, when he'd known that he was the man's only hope. He had realized that almost too late. He could recall those moments as if they had been seared for all time across his eyes to mock him: Vincent's simple words of trust, his own sudden realization of what the truth was, the sound of a gun's safety being clicked off, and the split second when he knew that there was someone whose life meant more than his own.
He moved his chair to the window. The sun was slowly edging its way over the bit of horizon he could see. He'd watched the sunrise that first morning in a cloud of agony, certain he was going to die. The bullet had gone through his chest and down, shattering his spinal column. He'd been told that weeks later, long after everything was over. At first, he'd wished that he had died, that he could have had a noble end instead of being bound as he was.
Then Diana had introduced him to her sister, who was a nurse. She'd been a miracle named Joy, and she'd reminded him of what it was to be alive. It had been at sunrise over a year later, the morning she'd told him they were going to be parents, that he had finally thanked whatever power had taken his legs and given him back his soul.
If such people as Joy and E.J. and Diana and Vincent could exist in this odd world, then he could believe in angels falling from the sky, only to catch themselves on bruised wings one more time.
He just wished he knew what Diana was doing at the moment. He'd been trying to call her half the night. They needed to plant a few more seeds of the Illuminati in the minds of the F.B.I. agents, but that wasn't the reason he was calling her now. He hadn't been able to sleep for thoughts of her. She had become in many ways the closest thing he'd ever had to a sister, and more than that, a friend. He'd had none of the former, and far too few of the latter. Lately, though, his mind whispered to him that something was going to happen to her, that she was going to go away like Cathy had and never come back. When he had those waking dreams, he needed to hear her voice. He couldn't afford to lose any more friends.
"Thank you again for your time," said Mulder as the door closed. He checked Robbins' name off his list. It was truly amazing; in Matt's supposedly sterling list of witnesses to arguably the most important night in the city's history, only three had actually seen or heard anything out of the normal weirdness of daily life.
This latest witness had heard something strange on the television early in the day, but had thought nothing of it. Of the other two, one had seen the same program Robbins had described, and the other had recalled a brilliant flash in the sky just before the city had come back to life.
Other than the apparition on the television, which the other witness had assumed was merely a new science fiction show of some sort, no one had seen anything resembling a demon or an alien. All the other descriptions of the evening's events were just barely outside of the normal sphere of events that even Mulder felt compelled to disregard them as just more evidence that putting a large number of people in a small enough space could make them do bizarre things.
Like dress up as a bat, he thought. Scully had wakened him at three-thirty that morning to tell him the Batman had visited her room. They'd spent the rest of the night calling up everything they could discover about Anton Sevarius, and they had found enough.
Genetic experiments. Unauthorized tests. Even the government had fired the creep. Officially, he'd gone to work for a company called Gen-U-Tech. Unofficially, Mulder was willing to bet he still worked for the government, only in a much quieter capacity. Or at least, that he had worked for them before that unfortunate "accident."
Mulder had not been in the least surprised by the discovery that Gen-U-Tech was owned by David Xanatos. It was simply one of those days.
He thought back to the party for the thousandth time, trying to think how it was all connected. Over fifty murders of a similar pattern, all on people who for various reasons, couldn't be arrested. A secret society with links all over the world. A geneticist with a thing for experimenting on humans with cat DNA. A woman jumps to her death, leaving no body. A man dressed like a bat to protect the city from crime. And hazy photographs of things that could be gargoyles. All related to Xanatos' party.
But Sevarius had also experimented on bats. What if his experiments had succeeded? A woman who could fly would have no fear of falling, and might be mistaken for a gargoyle. She might also hold a big grudge against the man who supposedly funded the project, not realizing that the Illuminati had pulled the strings all along. And she'd still be alive.
Alive. Oh damn. On the rooftop, there had been four people unsurprised by the lack of a cadaver. Burnett had said that he would've given them the name "that she's hiding under." Present tense. Why? Because he knew she hadn't been killed at all.
That was it! If he could find her, he would have the killer, the project, and the Illuminati all in one. The only problem was figuring out where she'd be.
He hoped Scully was having better luck.
Scully looked around the empty lab and hoped that Mulder was having better luck than she was. Whatever evidence she might have found in Sevarius' lab had long ago been examined by the police or destroyed by the company. The lab itself was still being used for basic genetic research; a tiger lounged behind an unbreakable glass wall, while some almost harmless-looking fish swam mindlessly to and fro in a tank on one wall. However, all traces of Sevarius' particular research had been eradicated from the room.
She berated herself. What had she been expecting? Giant winged monsters, perhaps, with cat heads and human souls? She attempted to conjure up a proper mental image, but could only see again the fuzzy shapes in Matt's video clip. Besides, it wasn't as if they would have let her in if there had actually been anything left to find.
Her inquiries that morning had been almost as useless. Matt's list had simply not panned out the way he'd claimed. She supposed she should have expected it; working with Mulder had inured her to getting leads that were no more than pipe dreams.
She noticed a smaller cage in one corner of the room, and out of curiosity, checked to see what was inside. A part of her was still perversely hoping for some genetic creation of a dream or nightmare.
Instead of a monstrous mutation from the pits of hell, she saw two very ordinary white lab mice. One was long and thin, the other squat with an oversized head. She smiled at them, trying to brush off the feeling that they were staring at her. Mice didn't stare.
She sighed. There was nothing here. If she was going to discover anything, she was going to have to speak with Xanatos himself. She turned off the light and closed the door behind her.
A sound very much like "Narf" could have been heard from the corner, had anyone been there to listen.
Diana leaned over the edge of her roof gazing down to the street below. From her vantage point, the people scurrying along were barely the size of large insects. She held a pebble in her hand, testing its weight with her touch. 32.1 feet per second squared, she thought, assuming no drag. She'd gone through her old college physics book to make certain of the acceleration, and she'd looked up the equation relating distance to acceleration to time. A pebble dropped from the top of her own building would take a little over two seconds to impact with the ground. That same pebble dropped from the top of Xanatos' tower would take quite a bit more time, certainly not a full minute, but enough time for something to happen.
Something, she thought wearily. The attempt to determine that elusive something had kept her up the rest of the night after leaving Vincent. The woman had had several seconds of drop time to do something and she'd known it. She'd planned on it. Why?
Why would someone crash a party to throw her drink on her hostess and jump off a skyscraper? It was a horribly melodramatic ploy for attention, something she'd expect out of a soap opera, or a gothic novel. Of the partygoers she'd overheard, most were speculating that she'd had a thing with Xanatos at one point and that he'd dropped her. A few had mentioned in much quieter whispers that Elisa Maza had been seen a great deal around the castle in the past year, and that maybe she had been the one for whom the woman had been dumped, and not Fox. If the rumor grew, it might even turn into a proper scandal in the upper echelons of New York society.
Diana felt the pebble's slight weight. If she dropped it to the rooftop, it would barely make a click as it touched down. If she dropped it off her building, she might hurt someone. If she dropped it from the Eyrie Building, she'd kill the person below. She closed her palm.
That's what she had intended, at least in part. She wanted to start a scandal to hit Xanatos where it might actually touch him, make him feel the hurt. By implicating Elisa, she could bring down the detective with him. She might even start hints of a murder and a coverup by the two of them, and that would serve her purposes just fine.
Diana dropped the stone, then caught it just before it hit the roof. She would have found a way to not have fallen. She would have wanted to see her handiwork, and death would prevent that, for obvious reasons. The woman was still alive and gloating.
In her mind, she was again in the airy place she'd seen the night before in Elisa's eyes. Flight, she thought. They can fly. That's the secret. She dropped the pebble without even noticing it. That's why she knew that she could jump and would be safe, because she's one of them, whatever they are. Elisa knows it.
Her thoughts raced to the moment frozen in time when she'd stood at the top of the castle, looking down. Elisa hadn't said that she'd died. She'd said, "She's gone," and that the sun had set. Three other people on the castle roof had understood precisely what she had meant.
Selena sat back from the terminal and yawned. She'd been there since Bruce had left, and she'd found a number of things both interesting and disturbing. Yes, Gen-U-Tech was owned by Xanatos. Yes, he had been present at the accident that had killed Sevarius. No, the body was not available, as it had been cremated as per the wishes of the deceased. Yes, Gen-U-Tech had been investigated recently for reported mistreatment of animals. That last part had made her blood boil.
Dick had stayed home from the office to help with the search, and between them, they'd managed to get at some of the less secure files from the corporation. What they had discovered had been appalling. There were expenditures in the tens of thousands for guards and weapons. It was as if Sevarius had been funding his own private army, but to protect what they could not even speculate. Unless ...
His ultimate goal had been to create the perfect mixture of human intelligence and the finest qualities he saw in animals, including flight and feline grace and instinct. He'd need an army to stop one of his creations, were it to get loose.
She shuddered involuntarily. Once, she'd been transformed to a madman's idea of perfection. She hadn't been given wings, but she'd been turned into a humanoid cat. If Sevarius had even thought of doing that to someone else ...
The pain in her palms convinced her to release her fists, and she noted the bloodstains on her nails. 'Not all the perfumes of Arabia can sweeten this little hand,' she thought, and grimaced.
A purring sound and pressure at her feet brought her attention level down to the floor. Isis was politely demanding attention. She reached down and pulled the cat into her lap, then smoothed the silky black fur as her legs were kneaded for comfort. Then the weight settled on her and batted idly at her hand as if to remind her about the petting.
"Get tired of chasing mice that aren't there, sweetheart?" She ran her nails down the cat's back and was rewarded with a delighted stiffening of tail. Truth be told, Isis would probably run from a mouse if she saw one now. Alfred had taken to giving her scraps of meat every day in addition to her regular food. It wasn't good for her, but she had a way of asking that he simply couldn't resist. Selena felt her ribs, noticing how much padding had been added since they'd moved into Wayne Manor. Isis was growing soft, and a little lazy.
She took a sip of the tea Alfred had brought her. It was no longer hot, but it was still sweet, just as she liked it. She'd also grown contented beneath his and Bruce's care, until the cat inside had supposedly curled up and gone to sleep. It was fortunate for her, since she was forbidden to wear her cat suit; she'd be put into prison, and she'd lose Bruce's trust forever.
But these were animals being hurt, and people as well, and she couldn't allow that to continue when she knew exactly where to find the man responsible, if not for the project, at least the funding behind it. David Xanatos.
This was going to be ridiculously easy, thought Elisa, as she sat down on her bed. She laughed, then felt mean for having laughed. A few questions here, an old newspaper article there, and they had the keys for making a very lifelike Batman appear in front of Fox and Dana. Finding the floodlight in the storage room had been a wild piece of luck. Everyone knew that the Batman would appear when summoned by the sign he'd given Commissioner Gordon. And if he didn't appear, well, there were five Gargoyles who were prepared to make certain the F.B.I. agents think that he had.
The hard part, for her, had been raiding Derek's closets looking for dark clothing to work the illusion. Of course she had the key to his place, just as he did for hers, but she'd never thought that she'd have to use it to take his clothes.
Not that he'd ever wear them again.
With a firm effort, she stopped herself from crying. Tears wouldn't do either of them any good. She couldn't save him from what he had become, but maybe if she could protect her other friends a little while longer, they could find a way to help him come home. If that involved getting thousand-year-old stone statues to dress up in her brother's dark sweaters and go flying around town in ski masks, then that was what she was going to do.
She needed to get some sleep; tonight was going to be very busy. She changed quickly, pulled the shades down tight to block the sun, and slipped into her awaiting covers.
She closed her eyes and let herself dream.
Something in her shoulderblades itched, and no matter how she twisted, turned or slid, Fox couldn't get rid of the feeling. There were spiders under her skin, crawling around searching for something. She'd never considered herself particularly prone to psychic flashes, but there were rare times when she just knew things that she shouldn't. Now was one of those times.
Something big was coming, and quickly. She didn't know who or what; merely that something touching her life was about to change, perhaps dramatically. Something she cherished was in danger.
She placed a protective hand over her abdomen. Demona's attempted spell hadn't touched her, but there were a thousand things that could go wrong before the kid was even born. Magic was just one more complication.
No, she decided. For the time being, the baby was safe. It was something else, close to her but far enough to be concealed.
She hated feelings like this.
She hit the punching bag one more time for good measure, letting the impact soothe her nerves. Yes, that was it. She just hadn't gotten enough of a workout these past few days and it was building up as nervous energy. All she needed were a few rounds with an Evil Ninja or five and she'd be back in form and ready for action.
The thought brought a grin to her face, as she considered trying to kick Evil Ninja butt in her ninth month. She probably would be able to do it, too. She twisted and gave the bag a side kick, knocking it off the ceiling. She frowned. A year ago, she could have kicked it into the next room.
Getting soft, she thought. The itchy feeling was still there, but she could ignore it now and concentrate on getting her kicks right. Almost.
There was a flash out of the corner of her eye. Demona!
She spun, already in a fighting stance. And saw nothing. She relaxed minutely. Her mind was playing tricks on her, dirty ones. Again. When she'd finally fallen asleep after almost two hours of reading, she'd dreamt of the party. In her dream, Elisa had been a step too slow, and Owen too far away to help. The potion had landed on her face, and she'd felt the skin peeling away as her baby wailed from inside her. She'd woken up crying and it had taken David nearly an hour to convince her that it was only a nightmare.
Whatever she'd just seen was merely a product of too little sleep and her overworked imagination, she reasoned with herself. No one was here but she.
She sighed and turned back around. There was someone standing in the doorway, and her body went into attack mode, which stopped milliseconds later when she realized it was only Owen. Of course it was Owen. Why wouldn't it have been Owen? Yet, when she'd seen him, her mind had provided another name first.
"How long have you been there?"
"Five seconds." Yep. It was Owen. "Agent Scully is here to see you." Her mind went blank. Scully? "From the F.B.I. She was at the party last night." She ran through a list of faces until she came up with one. Oh yes. She'd been on the roof when Demona had taken her swan dive.
"Thanks. I'll be there in a minute." He nodded and went out. She grabbed a towel and dried the sweat she had worked up from her, leaving her skin clammy. That was the one thing she disliked about living in a castle; she was rarely warm enough. Yet another thing they'd have to work on before the baby arrived, she thought as she left the gym/dojo. That and a name.
A shadow against the far wall moved briefly and was still again, but she didn't see it.
Chapter 8: Disclosures
Selena let a long breath out. She was certain Fox had spotted her. Getting caught right now would be the worst thing she could imagine happening. She'd lose everything she held dear. Almost. She'd have finally regained that piece of herself that she'd been denying since her arrest. She hoped it would be worth it.
She slipped through the shadows, out the door, and into a crossways --- where to go? She chose the less lighted passage, reasoning that there was less of a chance to run into anyone before she found what she needed.
She wasn't quite sure what that was, though.
Barbara had located a reference to the castle from an architectural magazine the year before, and it had included a very basic layout of the whole thing. She'd brought a copy, but it only told her what sized rooms she would find, not for what they were used. It wasn't as if the doors would be labeled "Master Bathroom" and "Top Secret Genetics Laboratory" anyway.
She heard voices and went flat against the wall. Wherever she was, it was the wrong place.
"I'm afraid I don't know her name," Fox was saying to someone. "Everything happened so fast."
"But you recognized her," said another female voice. Selena couldn't place it. "When she wished you the same luck with your husband that she had, you insinuated that she'd lost hers."
"I was guessing. What was I supposed to say?"
"She also talked about going over old times."
"Then she jumped off the roof. I don't know why she did that, either."
"The woman tried to kill you. I'd think you would at least want us to find her."
"Then go scrape the sidewalk. She's not in here. I can guarantee you that."
"One more question: if you don't know her, and your husband either didn't know her or if he did, he obviously didn't want her there, how did she get in with all the security?"
There was a pause, and Selena imagined Fox glancing significantly at Burnett as she said, "I'm wondering about that myself."
Selena sighed. Fox wasn't going to tell anything; she had no reason to listen. She moved back down the hallway and took a different turn. This part of the castle had been refurbished recently, she noticed. She passed an open doorway and peered in, only to find what appeared to be the Master Bedroom. Bingo.
She went first to the bed, as it defined the room: large, four postered, done in red crepe. Gorgeous, she thought, but overdone. However, she wasn't here to admire the decor. She looked over the nightstands critically, then went to the one closer to the window. There was a book with the dust jacket marking a page, and she carefully turned it over: "The Kings of Scotland." She opened to the marked page, which was the end of a chapter. The next chapter was on King Duncan, but the reader hadn't gotten that far yet. She closed the book.
Next, she opened the top drawer of the stand. There were a few more books, most on philosophy, a notebook, and a small black velvet bag tucked discretely in the corner. In it, she found a tiny antique gold charm in the shape of a fairy. The notebook looked new. She opened to a page and read a few cryptic notes: "11-9-95. K again w/ Him, bth in N. twr, reading. 11-10-95. Home. Running up the hill to house. Fire everywhere. Mom." This was either bad poetry or a dream notebook. She placed it back where it belonged.
The bottom drawer slid open easily, and Selena needed only a glance to realize there were a lot of things about this particular couple she would be just as happy not knowing. Nutella??? She risked another peek, wondering if Bruce would ... She closed the drawer quickly. Anyway ...
She inspected the other bedside stand. Other than an alarm clock and a lamp, the surface was bare. She opened the top drawer, and found a short stack of papers. Account forms. She flipped through them, only to find routine expenses. Mostly. One sheet mentioned a large statue, dated just a few weeks before. But she couldn't get a man arrested for having a statue carved.
She checked the bottom drawer, not really expecting anything. She found another notebook, much like the other one, and sighed. Idly, she opened it to the last page written on. There was a half- finished letter, dated the day before, and intended for one or the other's father. Selena read it over quickly, and her eyes grew wide at the last part written: "You do remember the Maid of Honor, I believe. It seems she now has a human side to her. She showed up and almost ruined the whole thing."
There was no more to it thus far, but now she had a lead. She put the notebook back carefully and set everything to look as it had when she'd come in.
She heard footsteps and instinctively dove under the bed. She watched a woman's bare feet come into view and tried not to breathe too loudly. It had to be Fox. She saw the feet move closer, then stop. The bed lowered, and Selena crouched beneath the weight. Fox shifted around on it, then got up. Selena peeked out just enough to see the feet go back out the door. After a minute, she got out from under the bed and glanced at the nightstands. The book on Scottish kings was gone.
Her luck was going to run out soon, she realized. She checked the window to see if it opened. It did. She slipped out and closed it behind her, then began the laborious process of climbing down.
"Psst." She nearly lost her handhold. She looked up to see a face in a mask above her.
"Please don't do that when I'm on the side of a building."
Barbara smiled. "I thought you were prepared for anything."
"You thought wrong. Did you get it?"
Barbara slid down the cable to an even level, then patted a pocket of her cape. "One guest list on film. What did you find out?"
"Only that Bachelorette Number One was the Maid of Honor at their wedding."
"Fascinating. Maybe that'll help the cross-referencing."
Together, they crept down the castle wall.
In odd parallel to the night before, Burnett met her in the lobby, where she waited in less than perfect patience beside the front desk Diana showed him her badge.
"Detective Bennett, N.Y.P.D. I need to speak with Mr. and Mrs. Xanatos."
"I'm afraid now is not a good time. Mr. Xanatos is unavailable, and Mrs. Xanatos is feeling under the weather." His mouth turned, and Diana had the strangest impression that the man considered the impending arrival a personal affront of some sort.
"I don't care if it's not a good time. I'm investigating a homicide."
"If you are referring to the events last evening, Agents Scully and Mulder of the F.B.I. have already interviewed Mr. and Mrs. Xanatos."
Damn. There went her cover story. She looked past him for a moment, trying to think. Then her other sense went haywire.
She'd been among a large crowd the evening before, and the sensations she'd picked up on had been more from the castle itself. However, the castle was far above them, and he was the only person around, and she was suddenly drowning.
Everything about him was wrong, from the way he blinked his eyes to the tilt of his head to the half-accent of his voice. He reminded her suddenly and strongly of someone, but she couldn't say why or even who, only that she was getting very strange feelings from him. He was more and less than human, and the otherness scared her deeply.
"Thank you," she mumbled, and turned blindly towards the glass doors, her mind on fire. He returned to the elevator without a word and she was alone with her imagination. Alone, her mind whispered, he is totally, utterly alone. That's what you're sensing. He is more alone than anyone you've ever met, save perhaps one, alone and terrible in what he believes himself to be. Her mind reeled with implications, and she felt the world spinning.
She leaned against the wall of the building, wondering what was happening to her.
Scully watched Bennett from a short distance, wondering. She had seen the other woman through the glass front of the building, speaking with Burnett for a minute. She had stumbled out, then wandered down the block a few paces, looking distinctly ill. What had Burnett told her?
Bennett was involved with this, whatever it was. She was certain of it. She'd seen her talking with Maza at the party, and now she was showing up at Xanatos' doorstep. Add to that a very tall boyfriend in a cloak that could be taken for wings, and one might go in some intriguing ways.
There was no way Sevarius' project could have worked. Genius or not, the technology simply wasn't available to create human- animal hybrids on the level suspected by Mulder and Batman. The hybrids weren't necessarily the murderers, anyway. The first killing had taken place in the 70's.
What if the Illuminati were involved? She allowed herself to speculate for a moment. Assuming the society existed, they could have funded all the killings by a single hitman, and made it look like an animal. But suppose their hitman got tired, as Batman was growing tired? What if he'd met Bennett and realized that he wanted more from life than killing? They'd need a new hired gun, someone to perpetuate the myth. They might even be secretly backing Xanatos to pay for Sevarius' work. If the strange woman had been the wife of the hitman, she could blame Xanatos as part of the reason her husband had left her. The mysterious night that no one could remember might even be from an experiment gone awry.
She shook her head. This was nonsense. There were no secret societies or gargoyle-creatures. Sevarius was dead, and a woman was missing, and Bennett was just seeing someone behind Maxwell's back. And a man in a bat costume was having a midlife crisis.
"I hate this city," she muttered under her breath.
She crossed the street back to where Bennett was leaning against the wall. "Are you feeling all right?"
"No, but thanks." She smiled up at her. "Agent Scully, right?"
She nodded. "Detective Bennett, I presume?" A return nod. "We keep running into each other."
"In this case, it's a good thing." She pulled herself upright. "I'm investigating what happened last night. Burnett said that you've already talked to Mr. and Mrs. X."
"Just with her. He wasn't available."
"Did she tell you anything useful?"
Scully shook her head. "She claims that she doesn't know who the woman was, or why she said what she did or even why she jumped off the building."
"She's lying." Scully shot her a patented I-Knew-That-I'm-Not-An- Idiot look. She watched the other woman's face carefully. The only thing she read was weariness. She hadn't slept the night before either, it appeared.
"What do you think happened?" asked Scully, suddenly curious.
"I don't know." She shrugged. "Sometimes I get impressions of what might be going on, but for now, nothing." Now you're the one who's lying, thought Scully.
"Do you want to get a cab together? You look awfully pale."
She smiled. "That actually sounds like a very good idea." Maybe she could get something out of her on the ride back to the hotel. It never hurt to try.
He watched them carefully from a third story window. He couldn't make out the words, of course, and that only made him more concerned. Events were closing in around him too quickly, and he hated that. He didn't have time to plan things out properly, merely to act on instinct, which had gotten him into this mess in the first place.
If only Demona hadn't shown up the night before, things would have been so much simpler. The F.B.I. agents would have looked around, made notes, found nothing, and gone back to Washington with no more real information than whenthey'd come. Oh, they would have heard carefully-planted stories about the Batman, seen a few traces of the gargoyles here and there, even suspected the existence of the Illuminati, but they'd have nothing more than clouds to chase.
Then that she-devil had come, with her jealousy and her spells and her millennium-old hatred, and nearly ruined everything. What had she been thinking with her little stunt at sunset? Had she wanted to be discovered? It had been insane, and therefore perhaps perfectly keeping in character for her, but he'd thought her more intelligent than that. Then again, perhaps she was. The whole thing reflected badly on them all, and could lead to some socially inconvenient speculations. It had also opened up the agents to the possibility of the other gargoyles, which could result in their capture. That would go distinctly against the plans he had for them.
The worst part was how the event had brought everyone in such close proximity. The party itself would have only made for more confusion on the parts of the agents, but now it appeared that it had also allowed them to make powerful friends. Agent Scully might as well have said that she knew about Sevarius, though probably not nearly as much as she thought. He'd listened to her from another room, utilizing the video hookup. Fox probably wouldn't be pleased to know that, but then again, he had no intention of telling her.
Now it appeared that Agent Scully was becoming friendly with Detective Bennett, another loose thread really needing tying. Or snipping. Detective Maza wouldn't be a problem; she had her own secrets to keep, which for once, coincided with theirs. Bennett had similar secrets, and would be as loathe to part with them, but what she might let slip on things she only guessed about bothered him. She knew a large number of things she shouldn't, but he hadn't wanted her killed yet. She was far too useful to him alive and unknowingly working on one of his projects.
The question was, of the projects, which one could he afford to sacrifice?
Mulder looked at the stylized "M" on the gate and sighed. This was crazy. He'd only barely seen where the car had turned the day before. She could be in any of these houses. But she wasn't. This was the place the limo had turned, carrying a woman with eyes that could never be mistaken for human. If she were alive, she'd be here, or she'd have left some clue here as to where she'd gone. Breaking and entering would look terrible on his record, but he needed in that house.
Batman's nocturnal visit had raised too many questions for him. Why did he feel the need to do what he did every night, and why had he stopped? Mulder would have given his teeth to have been there. He'd spoken of growing older, of wanting a family. Now, someone could be framing him for murder, possibly even his former employer, whoever that was.
David Xanatos could have funded Batman. Diana Bennett appeared to be dating Batman. If abovesaid Batman had broken up with Catwoman aka Selena Kyle, he might also have dumped another girlfriend who didn't have a billionaire boyfriend to help her pick up the pieces. In fact, the Batman could be the mate of whom the woman had spoken. It was as plausible a theory as any he'd heard thus far, and only had one problem: where did Elisa fit in?
He wasn't sure he wanted to know the answer to the last question. Everything was so close to making sense, and he knew that it would come together if he could get into this mansion.
The gate was tightly locked, but there had to be a way in, or the woman would not have had a way out. He checked for an electronic release, and found one. Great. Now he just needed to find the code, which could be one of a billion, and he'd be inside. This wasn't working well.
At least the street was empty. Rich people didn't seem to take many walks on Saturdays, at least in their own neighborhoods. He made a mental bet with himself that he could climb the fence before anyone even noticed he was there.
One. Two. Three! He boosted himself up, scrabbling for a hold and belatedly hoping there wouldn't be an electric current flowing through the bars at the top of the wall. Slowly, somewhat painfully, he hoisted himself over the edge and dropped to the ground.
Okay, so now he was officially breaking the law. He could deal with that. He made his way quickly to the house. The limousine was nowhere to be seen, which was good. The front door had another electronic lock on it. He checked a window, wondering if there would be an alarm. Nothing! This woman lived in New York City in a near-fortress and didn't have bars on the windows or an alarm system? Was she crazy?
He thought again to her jump, and scratched that question. He jimmied open the window and slipped inside. He found himself in a dim hallway. The surrounding evergreens blocked most of the light from the outside, leaving the house tomblike in its still darkness.
He found what appeared to be a parlour. The couch was covered in a dusty white sheet, and a box made for an interesting coffee table. For someone rich enough to own this place, the woman had lousy taste in decorating. A small pile of mail was set on the box, and he poked through it. Most was addressed to Resident, but one wasn't. It was an electric bill, very ordinary in form. It had been opened, and the papers shoved back into it, so that the name was no longer in the window. He picked up the envelope.
"Isn't reading someone else's mail illegal?" came a voice from behind him. He set it down again and turned deliberately to face a dead woman.
She'd been catching a quick nap when she'd heard the intruder. In the instant she'd spent between waking and dreaming, she was certain that somehow, Hakon had found her where she'd hidden from the barbarians and was about to smash her to rubble. Then she'd opened her eyes and realized that Hakon had been dead a thousand years and that she could never be turned to stone again.
She'd slipped out of her sleeping nook and crept behind this stranger in her house, almost amused now that she was fully awake and alert. A presumptuous human had invaded her castle, and he would pay for it with his life. However, like a cat with a mouse in her paws' reach, she wanted to play with him first.
"Agent Fox Mulder of the F.B.I." He flashed her a piece of plastic that he obviously thought was important. She knew what the F.B.I. was. She simply didn't care.
"Thank you. Now I know what name to give to the police when they arrest you for breaking into my home."
"I don't think you want to contact the police, he countered. "Last night, you were ready to spill everything rather than go."
She peered at him carefully. So this was one of the twits Xanatos had invited to his party. All the better. She had difficulty imagining Xanatos hobnobbing with Federal Agents, though.
"What do you want?" She might as well at least hear what the imbecile had to say.
"I want to ask you some questions. For starters, how did you survive jumping off a hundred-story building?"
"How do you think? I grew wings and flew." She smirked. Ask a stupid question ...
"I believe you." That was unusual. "I want to know how."
She stood motionless, shocked. He wasn't supposed to believe her. He was supposed to grow angry with her so that he would foolishly try to attack, and then she could kill him. Hmm ... This could prove interesting. She wondered how far his belief would go.
"Actually," she started, "it's a very long story." She tensed herself, preparing to strike.
"Does it have anything to do with the Illuminati?"
She looked at him askance. "Who?" His face fell, and she leapt at him.
He ducked only partially out of the way before she was atop him. She smiled maliciously. She knew how easily humans died, and killing this one would brighten up her mood considerably. She felt him reaching for his gun and shifted her weight to pin his hand.
She was slightly off-balance now and he used it to push her away and get to a half-crouched position. She kicked out at him, sending him sprawling again before he could stand, then grabbed a heavy silver candelabra from the mantle, meaning to spread his grey matter on the floor.
A singing sound filled her ears, and a tongue of fire licked at her wrist. She dropped the candle holder and spun. A woman in a cat outfit held her arm with a whip, while another woman, this one dressed as a bat, held a vicious-looking weapon at her.
"I'd really suggest you quit fighting," said the Batgirl. She glanced at Mulder. "Are you okay?"
He nodded and got to his feet.
"Then maybe you can explain what's going on," said Catwoman. Demona readied herself for one more attack; if she couldn't escape, she was going to take these humans with her.
She grabbed the whip with her bound hand and tugged with all her strength, pulling it free from Catwoman and into her own waiting hand. She managed to spin halfway around before she felt the blast from Batgirl's weapon. She faltered, then pulled herself upright again.
"You'll have to do better than that, girl." The blast came again, and her eyes went unfocused. She hated sleep. It was one of those things that this new body needed in daily doses, and it annoyed her to no end. She resisted the heavy weight on her eyelids, knowing that there was no resistance, that she was falling again, as too many many times before ...
Chapter 9: Accusations
She sat quietly in the corner of the jail cell rereading the graffiti on the wall. For some reason, her eyes kept going back to one name: Cool "Disco" Dan. She wasn't sure why. She wondered what he'd been like, how long ago he'd been there, why he'd been put in the lockup. It was better than considering other things.
Sometimes, her life had seemed as though it were a story, and that at the end of it, if she persevered, she'd find her "happily ever after" waiting for her. Instead, she'd found graffiti on the wall and unsympathetic eyes around her.
A few of her cellmates whispered and pointed at her. She idly clawed her fingers at them, and they moved away. Being known as the Catwoman had some advantages, she thought tiredly. Being in here wasn't one of them.
It had all seemed so clear. They had checked the guest list, checking off everyone they already knew. Between them, they could eliminate ninety-five percent of the guests, and a few educated guesses later, they had come knocking at Angelica MacAlpin's door, hoping for answers.
Barbara had left them shortly before they'd reached the police station, which had seemed like a good idea at the time. Selena had been arrested within a minute of having set foot inside, on charges of violating her parole, assault, etcetera etcetera. Things hadn't improved when MacAlpin woke up from her laser-induced nap and informed the officers that Selena and Mulder and another woman had broken into her home and shot her. She could offer no reason why they would bring her there.
They did. Selena, now sans mask, claimed with Agent Mulder that MacAlpin had attempted to murder Fox Xanatos the night before in front of hundreds of witnesses, including Captain Chavez. Chavez agreed that she'd been there, but the evidence they had collected, namely the champagne, had already been determined to be nothing more than ordinary alcohol. Then David and Fox Xanatos had been contacted, and through their assistant Mr. Burnett, had declined to press charges. In a last effort, they had attempted to contact Elisa Maza, who had also been attacked at the party. She hadn't been home.
Selena sighed. MacAlpin had been equally magnanimous, considering the circumstances. She'd also declined to press charges on her two assailants. Both she and Mulder had been let go an hour before. Selena wasn't so fortunate. She'd tried hard to gain some kind of trust with the police, had shown up for every meeting with her parole officer promptly, had been properly contrite for her crimes, had done enough community service to be nominated for beatification. It hadn't mattered. She had broken one of the basic rules for her parole for no good reason that they could see. If she was lucky, she'd be sent to Arkham. She had the feeling she wasn't going to be lucky ever again.
There was a figure standing quietly outside the cell, watching her. She turned her face away from him.
"I've paid the bail. It's time to go home."
She nodded, unable to speak. The door opened, and the bailiff led her out. She still couldn't meet Bruce's eyes, so she looked back to Cool "Disco" Dan again.
He said nothing to her until they were safely past the reporters and in the Rolls. Alfred pulled them away from the curb, as Selena turned towards the darkened glass.
"Why?" His voice was soft, almost childlike in its question, and that hurt her more than if he'd slapped her across the face.
"Have you seen the Bengal tiger in the Gotham zoo? He's the most beautiful creature I've ever seen. He was born in captivity, and he's spent his entire life in a cage. One day, one of his keepers slipped and fell, leaving the door open. The tiger walked out of his cage, but everything outside was so new and different that he went back inside and stayed there till the other keepers arrived and locked the door." She felt the tears slid warmly down her cold face as she looked into his eyes. "I didn't want to become like that. I can't live in a cage," she touched his face, "no matter how lovely it might be."
"Is that what I am to you?"
She lowered her head. "In a way. And in another way, you're caught in it, too. Last night, when you left, there was a look on your face I haven't seen in ages. You didn't want to go, but part of you needed to go out again, to become the bat haunting the shadows in the alleyways. I need the same thing, and I'm legally forbidden to do it!" She pounded her fist against the door, wanting the pain, hoping that it would stop her from feeling pain everywhere else.
He placed his hands on her shoulders, and she felt herself falling into his embrace as she began to sob with all her heart for everything they could never be.
Scully waited a few minutes after she heard him come in to knock at his door. He was sitting on the edge of his bed, feet dangling down, staring at his shoes. His clothes were rumpled, and he looked like hell.
"Hi," she said. "What did you find out?"
He laughed with a short bark, very un-Mulderlike. "I found out that our mystery lady is alive, well, and living a few blocks away from Bruce Wayne. Her name is Angelica MacAlpin, and she was kind enough not to press charges."
Scully let out a deep breath. "Press charges on what?"
"The usual: breaking, entering, assault."
"Mulder ... "
"I thought I would find everything out if I just had her. I thought she'd lead me to the killer, maybe even to the Illuminati."
"But I was wrong. What do you want me to say?" He looked lost. He'd been so close to finding the truth, maybe even reaching the people who'd murdered his father.
She sat down beside him. "If it makes you feel any better, I think I've found out something."
"If it has to do with gargoyles or the Illuminati, don't tell me, because I really don't want to know."
"It might. I had a chance to talk with Diana Bennett. She's hiding something big."
"I'd say about 6'6"."
"Him, too. But there's more. She went to see Xanatos today. She didn't get in, but we spent some time comparing notes. You know how much I hate conspiracy theories, but if you want someone involved with the Illuminati, she's the one. I'd almost bet on it."
"You?" He looked skeptical, and he had a right. She had to admit, it sounded bizarre even to her own ears, but it had the ring of truth that had been lacking in so much of this case.
She nodded. "I think we should tail her tonight to see where she goes. Some of those questions might finally be answered."
His face moved into a smile.
Broadway adjusted the spotlight into position while Lexington found the nearest outlet. Elisa had spent the late part of the afternoon painting it, while they had been sleeping. She watched them carefully, hoping they didn't smudge the still-drying paint.
She felt more than saw Goliath approach her, and she tried very hard to stifle the laugh that threatened. He wore one of Derek's old black turtlenecks, suitably modified with a few snips from scissors to accommodate his wings, and a pair of oversized black sweat pants. Lose the wings and the lavender skin, and he could be any guy she knew.
"Are you certain this is how it was done?" asked Hudson, looking critically at the bat shape painted on the lamp.
She nodded. "The bat-signal is famous in police lore. Every cop knows that if you shine the light, Batman will come."
"And if he really does come?" asked Goliath.
"Hide." He nodded, and she caught a smile touch his mouth. He really did have a nice smile, she thought. She wished that he would show it more often.
Brooklyn pulled his own dark shirt on, then looked at the ski mask. "This is not going to work well."
Lexington grabbed the mask and slid it over Brooklyn's eyes. "Close enough." The others donned their masks, and Elisa found herself surrounded by strangers. Winged, beaked strangers, but strangers nonetheless.
"Okay, concentrate on the upper 40's. That's where their hotel is. I'll call them to get them coming in this direction. Remember to spend a lot of time on the buildings themselves. And good luck."
"To you as well." Goliath jumped to the ledge and spread his wings. In a moment, they were all aloft.
Elisa watched them go, wondering if they were about to sign their own death warrants, and knowing it was too late to worry about it any further. She flipped the switch to the light, and the shadow of a bat struck the far clouds.
Scully tapped his shoulder and pointed to the sky. He followed her gaze to see an outline of a bat in stark silhouette to the evening clouds.
"It looks like Batman's pager has gone off. Want to investigate?"
"I'm not sure. I still think we should follow Diana. She's on to something. You could go investigate the signal, see where it's coming from while I watch her."
"You kidding? She goes into Central Park alone at night."
She tapped her weapon inside her coat. "I'm a big kid. I can take care of myself."
"All right, but be careful." She smiled confidently and headed in the direction of Bennett's apartment. He watched her go, worry turning his stomach. He knew she could protect herself, but he couldn't help being a little concerned. She was his best friend, and if anything happened to her, he'd just go nuts.
He looked skyward again and judged the signal to be coming from the direction of the police station. He headed there.
Bruce noticed the signal as they stepped out of the car. It shocked him deeply; no one had used that since Jim Gordon's retirement. He'd almost forgotten the adrenaline rush when he saw the light in the sky, and the feeling deep within of being needed, and wanting to be needed.
Selena's eyes followed his, then closed. "They're calling for you."
"Then go. Go to them, save the ones who need saving. Go and don't look back into the cage." Her eyes were red for having cried so much, but he'd never seen her more beautiful.
"I'm not leaving you, Selena." He turned towards the house, ready to have a quiet dinner with her, then perhaps sit with her by the fireplace and watch the flames for the rest of the night. And knew it would never be so.
"Then I'll make you leave. You want to believe that the darkness isn't in you anymore, but it is you. I know, because it's me, too. I think that's why I fell in love with you. Both of you."
He took her hand, brought it to her cheek, held it there. They stood still for a moment sharing the darkness together, until he finally pulled away from her and went towards the house, knowing too well the path to the Batcave.
"Bruce?" He stopped. "I'll be here waiting when you come home." He nodded, but did not look back.
Elisa hung up the phone after ten rings. Bloody hell. If they weren't in, where were they? She climbed the stairs to the roof, where Bronx was pacing nervously. She held out her hand and he nuzzled at her palm till she petted him.
"It'll be okay, boy," she whispered. She glanced over the ledge to the city lights below. Everything was so peaceful from up here. She could almost believe that they were in the castle of old times, high above their subjects. She'd be a high-born lady, mistress of the castle, destined to wear long, flowing gowns and do needlework.
She'd be bored to tears in minutes. She breathed in the pollution of her city's air.
There was movement above her. Brooklyn was executing an inverse half- spin nose dive with a twist. She muttered, "Showoff," but smiled all the same.
"Come on, Bronx," she called. "We need to become scarce." The watchdog followed her down the stairs to the storage room, where he'd be spending the night, and possibly the next day. He wouldn't enjoy it, but it was better than being discovered.
Mulder felt the secure weight of his gun in his hand as he crept up the stairs. He wasn't taking any chances this time. He came off the top step into the innards of the clock on the top of the police station. Something was wrong, his senses told him. It wasn't supposed to be this clean up here. There was nothing really out of the ordinary that he could see; it looked like an extra storage space if anything, with boxes, an old t.v., junked furniture, and a bat-signal shining into space.
Someone was behind him. Leaving no room for thought, he spun and pointed his weapon. "Freeze!" There was no one there to freeze. Warily, he lowered the gun. His mind was just playing tricks on him.
"Better be careful with that," came a deep voice. He turned again, and saw an apparition in black before him.
"You're Batman." He wasn't asking; he knew.
The man shook his head in the affirmative. "And you're Agent Mulder of the F.B.I. Why did you call me here?"
"I didn't call you. The light was on when I got here. No one's home." The man's shoulders slumped, just a little. "Did you find anything else on Sevarius?"
His mouth turned as if he were in pain. "Some. His lab was practically destroyed when he died. So were most of his notes. According to my sources, though, only one of his experiments even partially worked. He attempted to give a chimpanzee wings by grafting. It died the next day."
Mulder fought down nausea as his mind provided him with an image of the pitiable creature. Then he thought of something else.
"One picture. It would have taken one picture in a tabloid to get people thinking about gargoyles. If that story somehow got mixed up with yours ... "
"People would be seeing gargoyles everywhere. In this city, it only takes a day for a story like that to spread."
"But that still doesn't explain the murders."
"I know. I can't explain those yet, but I will. If it takes me the rest of my life, I'll find out." He turned away, and faced the night and the beckoning moon.
"Don't go yet. There's so much I need to ask you. Why did you quit?"
"I told your friend that already. I retired."
"But you're here now. What changed your mind?"
He look perplexed for a minute, then shrugged. "I like being needed." A siren wailed from a few blocks away, and he turned towards it as if towards the song of its namesake, calling him to his duty.
Mulder nodded, granting permission that had not been asked, and the man was gone like a breath of warm wind. Mulder stayed on the dark rooftop, looking down on the city for several minutes before going back down the stairs into the light of the police station.
Central Park again. Well isn't this just smeggy, thought Scully. Diana hadn't seen her yet, which was good. She'd followed her at a discrete distance since the other woman had left her apartment a few minutes before. In the short walk from the apartment to the park, Scully had seen the light in the sky go out. She hoped Mulder was okay.
Not surprisingly, their path led directly to the same drainage culvert as the night before. Scully ducked behind the tree as Diana went in, then quickly made her way to the mouth of the entrance when she was out of sight. She heard a subdued scraping noise, like stone over oiled steel, and risked a peek inside.
Diana was gone.
She stepped in, gun at the ready, trying to figure out how the woman had disappeared. There was simply no other way out of the tunnel, but she wasn't in it. This was the second time this had happened to her in as many days, and it was getting old fast.
Scully shone her flashlight on what might have been an opening once, but it was walled over with ancient concrete. Nothing interesting. She moved the light around, and saw a knob in the wall that looked out of place. Maybe the way wasn't blocked, but merely guarded. The scraping sound had to come from somewhere.
She touched the knob.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," said a quiet voice from behind her. She turned her head, and saw a man with a gun pointed directly at her. A man she'd seen just a few hours before. Owen Burnett.
"Put down your gun, Agent Scully." His tone left no room for argument. Carefully, she set it on the cold ground. "Now kick it here." She did so. "Thank you."
"What do you have to do with this?"
"More than you have any need to know." He picked up her gun and checked it. "You really should be more careful when you follow someone to make sure that you are not also being followed."
"I'll keep that in mind." What was he doing here? Why hadn't he killed her?
"Why were you following Detective Bennett?"
"I thought she might lead me to the murderer. I know she's seeing someone here, and we're running out of suspects."
"It's not what you think," he said softly, surprising her.
"Then what is it? I'm tired of half-answers and disappearing people and monsters that aren't there!" Her anger surprised her. Maybe she should think about getting more sleep.
"He doesn't mean to kill them. When people he loves are threatened, he reacts out of instinct."
Like the changing of a slide, something clicked. "He's one of Sevarius' creations, isn't he?"
Burnett looked blank for a moment, then his mouth turned. It took her a moment to realize he was smiling. "If that is what you would like to believe, please feel free. It would make my job much easier."
"Then what is he?"
"Something wonderful." His eyes were lit with an odd fire. Mad fire. She began surreptitiously looking for a way out of the culvert. "I only wish we'd located him earlier. We might have trained him better and avoided all this."
She had to keep him talking. "You and who else?"
"You don't honestly think I'd tell you, do you?"
"I guess not."
He sighed, and she remembered the weight of the years on Batman's face. "Our ways are not your ways." Oh yeah. He was way gone.
"What do you do in all this?"
"More than you can possibly imagine. I have been involved with this particular project for many years."
"So Xanatos is behind it." This was one revelation that didn't surprise her.
"Mr. Xanatos was not my first employer, Agent Scully." The way he said it bothered her. Was he working for someone else, aside from Xanatos? An image of the moon brushed against her mind and for no reason the tunnel grew colder. "I grow tired of this. Leave this place and do not return."
"I have to bring a murderer to justice."
"Believe me when I say he would have no justice Above. Let him go; we will deal with him in our own time and fashion."
"I can't do that."
He sighed again, deeper this time. "I was afraid you were going to say that." Slowly, deliberately, he walked towards her with the gun. She prepared herself to move, to strike, to go down causing as much damage as possible.
But his eyes ... She could not escape his impossibly blue eyes ...
He reached out his hand and whispered, "Forget."
The world went dark.
Chapter 10: Beginnings
Vincent closed the book and leaned back. She nestled her head in the crook of his arm companionably. She was never so peaceful as when she was in his arms down here, listening to the timbre of his voice recite words of lovers lost long before either of them were born. Jake was asleep on his father's lap, having conked out an hour before. His breathing was very soft, almost inaudible, but his eyes were alight with REM sleep beneath his lids.
"That was lovely," she whispered.
"I love the story, but for some reason, I always sympathize with Erik more than Raoul."
She pulled away to look at his face. The fine leonine shape had scared her the night they'd met. She'd held a gun to him over the course of the next day or so, terrified he would kill her in his pain-filled stupor. She found that difficult to even imagine now. He wasn't a monster, but a changeling, some mysterious fairy-child brought into her life to make it whole when she hadn't even known it had been broken. Luminous beings are we, had spoken the wise puppet, and he more brilliant than all others to her. She stroked Jake's sleeping head. Speaking of fairy- children ...
The final piece slid into focus, and she gasped with the realization. Burnett. Jake was the one he reminded her of, or at least, of what the boy could be like in thirty years. They had the same thin mouth, the piercing eyes, and the depth of personality surrounding them like a deep woolen cloak. His was the loneliness of being different, as the boy would always be from those around him. But she knew that Jake would not be alone.
"Are you all right?" asked Vincent, concern in his voice.
"I've never been better," she whispered. She settled back down against him, feeling his heartbeat against her cheek. "I've just been thinking."
"Life. The Universe. Everything. You know."
"And what have you determined?"
"Not much, really. Only that I'd prefer to spend the rest of all three here with you."
He tensed against her. "You don't know what you're asking. There are dark places inside of me you cannot imagine."
"There are dark places inside everyone. They don't make you evil. They make you human. I've seen the shadows you keep inside, and I still love you." She pulled his eyes to meet hers. She breathed, "And I know what I'm asking. I'm asking you to marry me, in whatever way we can."
He paused, then nodded and pulled her close. Jake shifted, but didn't wake up from his slumber. She snuggled into his arms, and whispered, "I'll make the arrangements. By Winterfest, I can be down here for good, and then the four of us can finally be a family."
He made a sound that sounded to her like a purr. Thirty seconds later, the purring stopped.
"What do you mean 'four?'"
Elisa climbed the stairs for the last time that night. The guys would be returning soon to roost for the day, and she'd be going home to sleep. The spotlight had been off for hours; it hadn't been necessary after all. There had been reports all night of sightings of Batman from across the city. The guys had done good.
Captain Chavez was already making noises about getting back some of the glory of the older days, maybe even talking Batman into working with her on a few thus-unsolved cases. Matt was positively glowing with the thought, while Bullock merely muttered about winged freaks taking over the department.
The guys weren't home yet, but she decided it was safe to let Bronx out. He bounded out of the storage room and knocked her over with slobbering kisses. She laughed, and then carefully pushed him away from her face. Okay, so he was a thousand years old, green, and turned to stone at dawn. He still had doggy breath.
She heard the whisper of wings, and knew that the others had returned home for the day. Five ancient gargoyles wearing the remnants of her brother's night-colored clothing swooped down from the sky, all outlined in the last shreds of moonlight before the break of day. She tried to imagine anything more beautiful to her at that moment, but failed.
"You did good," she told them. "There've been reports of Batman sightings everywhere. If Fox and Dana ask, that's what they'll hear."
"Good," said Hudson, slipping off his shirt. "I'd hate to think we'd have to do that again tomorrow night."
"I dunno," said Brooklyn. "It was kind of fun." He ducked as Lex threw his own shirt at him.
Goliath was silent as he removed Derek's turtleneck carefully. It was ruined, of course, but that didn't stop him from trying to keep it neat. His face was troubled, and she asked him what was on his mind.
"I thought that I saw something or someone, not one of us," he said. "I'm wondering if it could be the real Batman, and if we have perhaps caused him trouble."
"Don't worry about it," she said, and placed a comforting hand on his arm. "Batman is just a myth for comic books and cartoons."
"You're probably right," he said.
"Hey!" called Broadway, already in the kitchen, "Anyone want a snack before bedtime?"
"Me!" shouted Lex, and Brooklyn followed. Hudson shrugged and went in behind them.
Suddenly, the two of them were alone on the rooftop. The sky lightened around them as the moon grew paler, and she realized that her hand was still on his arm, but that he hadn't objected.
"'The moon, yes, that will be my home,'" he whispered, more to himself than to her, "'and there shall I find all the souls I have loved.'"
She thought he was going to say something more, but he closed his lips again before he could. Instead, they stood in hushed awe together looking over the awakening city as the stars winked out one by one above them.
Selena sat in her favorite chair in the study, listening to the house as it settled. The sun was rising over the horizon, a few brief sparkles coming through the large eastern window to melt the frost formed at the corner of the pane. She had stayed up all night waiting, wondering, fearing. She'd turned the radio on, and heard how Batman had helped nab a thief just leaving a jewelry store downtown. The announcer had been surprised to hear anything about the Caped Crusader, having heard rumors that he'd died.
Not yet, she thought tiredly. He hadn't died quite yet.
There was a chance that she wouldn't have to go to prison again. It was slim, but she clung to the hope like a life preserver in the midst of a storm at sea. She desperately wanted to believe that they could work through this, that they still could find that dream together. Maybe this time the dream could include bats and cats, and all the parts of them, not just the sides they showed to the public. When they'd fallen in love, it had been as two wounded souls forced by circumstance to lead double lives. Those lives had entwined, and perhaps would become two of one.
The door opened and closed. In the dim light, she saw a hooded figure approach her with measured steps. When he reached her chair, he knelt before her, and placed his forehead on her knees in the position of a supplicant.
He had returned from his night to her, but it had changed him forever. He would return to his city like a mistress he could not abandon, even for her. Perhaps there would come a time when she could join him in the fight, when she could wear another mask and be unafraid, instead causing fear in the hearts of those who would harm their citizens, their children. Instead of becoming the sun to each other, they could become the moon and stars beneath those same guardians of the night, and that perhaps would be a large enough cage to hold them both.
She took his chin in her palm and raised his eyes to hers. Slowly, his gloved arms came around her waist as she pulled his face up to meet her lips. She murmured softly, "My dark knight," and then there were no more words.
Scully opened her eyes slowly, disoriented. She was in a strange bed. She came fully awake. Oh yes. The Paramount. In New York. Her room. Now why didn't she feel as though she should be there?
She glanced at the clock on the nightstand, and nearly bolted out of bed. It was noon. Their plane left at two. She got up, ran to the bathroom, and started getting ready, wondering why Mulder hadn't woken her up earlier.
Something nagged at the back of her mind about last night, but she couldn't recall just what. She'd been following Diana Bennett into the drainage culvert, and she'd disappeared. She hadn't found anything interesting, and had come back to her room and called it a night. At least, she was fairly certain that was what had happened.
But hadn't a woman's disappearance qualified as something interesting? And why hadn't she followed up her lead on the huge boyfriend? Yet, it had seemed to make so much sense to her last night to come back here and catch up on her sleep, that the case was just another one that would never be completely explained and that questioning it wouldn't do any good.
By the time she finished her shower, she'd forgotten her uncertainty completely.
Minutes later, dressed and ready, she knocked at Mulder's door. He met her there. "Good afternoon, sleeping beauty."
"Stuff it, Mulder," she said as pleasantly as possible.
"I met your friend Batman last night."
"What did he have to say?"
"That he liked being needed."
She nodded. That also felt right. "I followed Bennett to the culvert."
"Did you see her boyfriend?"
"No, but I don't think that he's the one we're looking for." She tried to figure out why she would think that, but came up with nothing more than a very strange image, that of Xanatos' butler holding a plate of oatmeal raisin cookies. She shook her head to clear out the image.
"I'm okay. I had the weirdest dream last night."
"Was I in it?"
"Actually, I think you were." He grinned.
"What was it about?"
She tried to recall. She knew that she had dreamed about the party again, only this time there had been more people there. Some of them hadn't looked human at all; there had been giant winged creatures and at least one person looking more like a lion than a man, but she hadn't been frightened. She'd merely watched as they joined everyone else in the Great Hall, mingling and talking and laughing, and occasionally dancing. Mulder had been there, too, and they'd shared a dance to a high, lilting song that put her in mind of a Ren Faire. It had seemed the most natural thing in the world.
"Magic," she said, and went back to her own room to pack.
Fox closed the book and yawned. She had learned more than she had wanted to know about clans and kinsmen and ancient wars. She'd even found the Macbeth of legend, from whom their odd associate no doubt took his name. But there was almost no mention anywhere of what had become of the last lady of Castle Wyvern.
There were other books to be read, other things to be researched and cross-checked. She'd made a list as she'd gone, but she knew that most of her sources would turn up dry. But she would find out what little there was available. She had to know, and the knowledge would rouse her from sleep over the next several months, telling her to find another ancient manuscript, another book of legends. It would be so much easier to just ask the gargoyles, but that was out of the question, for now.
She patted her abdomen, and said in a low voice, "Don't worry, kid. We'll find her."
She noticed Owen watching her silently from a corner of the room. Then he did something she had never imagined him capable of doing. He sneezed. Then he went to the bookshelf, pulled out a book seemingly at random, and placed it before her.
"You may find this one of use," he said in that odd way of his. She met his eyes, and again remembered her dreams. She had walked along the halls of the castle, and had looked into eyes such as these, and she hadn't been afraid of anything, neither the barbarians at the gate nor the gargoyles guarding their home. When she had those eyes beside her, she was stronger than the night itself.
"Thank you, Owen," she said in a half-whisper as he moved away from her desk.
"You're welcome, my lady," he replied from the doorway, and disappeared into the darkness beyond.
His eyes were closed. Tentatively, he opened them, unsure of what to expect. Beside him was a shoulder. He glanced up to see that the shoulder was attached to a neck, which itself was holding the head of a fairly ordinary-looking man. This was a good start.
There was a noise around him, and he realized he was in a moving vehicle of some kind. He turned his head experimentally the other way, and saw a cloud bank below them rushing by. Okay, so they were in an airplane. He wasn't sure where they were going or why, but they were in an airplane and he didn't seem to be restrained by anything other than the seatbelt.
He looked down and moaned inwardly. Not again!
He unbuckled his safety belt, tapped on the man's shoulder, and said quietly, "Excuse me."
The man smiled and moved his legs out of the way.
He nodded thanks and squeezed by. The restroom was in the back of the cabin, and thankfully, there was no line. He slipped inside, locked the door, and rested his head against it for a moment, trying to gather his thoughts into some kind of order.
Then he looked into the mirror.
He had shoulder-length hair, midway between honey and strawberry- blonde in coloring. His face was round, his eyes wide and blue, and his bra size considerably larger than a few minutes before. Just as he'd figured.
"Oh boy," said Sam.
And life went on.
"Sleep my child and peace attend thee
- Welsh Traditional