Title: Dragons of The Pale
Yep, it's Halloween... so curl up tight with your favourite person and sit around the fire, folks... and dibs on the rice krispie squares...
"You know, I could get used to this type of diet." Fox Mulder grinned at Dana Scully as he scooped a handful of candies from the bowl beside him into his lap.
"Fox!" Margaret Scully's voice caught him with a chocolate kiss halfway to his mouth. "Leave some for the kids!" Sheepishly he put two of the five back into the bowl; ignoring the snickering woman passing by.
"Serves you right, Mulder." Jackie St. George chuckled. "Trick is..." She quickly popped a peanut butter cup into her mouth. "Notta get cott." Turning with a smirk, the Canadian tossed a candy bar into Marty's lap as he sat on the sofa. "Whoops. Lost one." As she disappeared into the kitchen, the two men watched the Scully women wander back and forth from the constantly open front door to refill the bowls of goodies.
"You do this every year?" Mulder asked as Scully trotted by. She smiled.
"The grandchildren make a special visit every year. And all the neighbourhood kids know that Mom's an easy touch for loot on Halloween. Here." She bent over, handing him a mini bar. "Chocolate mint." With a laugh she went down the hallway with a fresh bowl. Marty looked over at Fox, his eyebrows raised.
"Long story. Ask Jackie." Fox smirked. "Or, for that matter, if you want some ideas..." He winced as St. George passed by, scowling at him. Stretching out his long legs, the man relaxed in the chair. He hadn't been wild about coming to the Scullys tonight; mostly because of the children. It still brought a lump to his throat to see all the youngsters racing back and forth; older brothers holding younger sisters hands... He sighed. Marty caught Jackie's eye, who nodded and poked Dana with an elbow.
"Here, Mulder." He looked up into her face. "Come help shell out." Pulling him to his feet, she pushed an overflowing tray of homemade brownies into his hands. "Earn your keep..."
"If you want to barter..." He grinned. "I'm willing to work it off..." With a feigned sigh of annoyance he took her place at the front door, wincing as the latest horde of rug rats charged up the stairs towards him...
Margaret smiled at Jackie as she balanced a tray on two fingers before passing it to Dana. "Watch it. Anything that falls on the floor is yours."
"Promise?" Marty poked his head around the corner; almost colliding with Dana. Jackie rolled her eyes as Margaret chuckled.
"Is Fox okay?" The elder Scully asked. Marty shrugged.
"Well, he's still standing..." He snickered. "Last time I saw waves of people coming at us like that was in the Gulf War... They do know you're a soft touch..."
"There's no sin in making people happy, Marty." She wagged a finger at him.
"Why don't you get a fire started so we can have some hot cider and relax after this all winds down." He disappeared into the living room.
"Oh, man..." Jackie put the mug to her mouth with a sigh. "I can't remember the last time I felt this tired..." Leaning her head back against Marty's chest, she groaned. "And if I see another piece of chocolate..."
"I think Mulder might just beat you to the bathroom on that one." Dana laughed, looking over at her partner. "I can't believe you ate that much..."
"Hey, they were left over." He protested. "Can't have them go to waste..."
Fox looked up as Margaret entered the room, wiping her hands on a dishtowel.
"Dishes are ready to be dried, you two." She gestured at the men. "And don't give me any of that guff... you both sat around while they worked hard tonight."
With a weary groan Fox got to his feet, staggering towards the kitchen as Marty extracted himself from Jackie's arms. Nodding to the woman, they disappeared into the back room. Dropping into a chair, Margaret sighed.
"Oh, blast it... I forgot to blow the candles out on the pumpkins outside on the porch." She put her hands on the arms of the chair to help her up.
Dana waved her back. "We'll get them, Mom. You just rest for a few minutes."
Jackie followed her through the front hall, grabbing her combat jacket as Dana pulled on her own light coat. "Be back in five."
Stepping onto the windy porch, the redhead reached for the first small pumpkin and deftly puffed at the candle.
"Way to go, Dana." Jackie laughed. "Here, blow this." She held the next small gourd a few feet away from her. Taking a deep breath, Dana exhaled sharply, extinguishing the candle. The Canadian let out a low whistle. "Gee, you're good at this..." One side of her mouth lifted up in a smirk. "Been practising?"
The hard shove sent her tumbling down the side of the porch, flying into a pile of leaves set at the edge of the driveway for effect. Laughing as she got to her feet and brushed herself off, St. George froze as she looked down the path leading to the back of the house and the woods beyond.
"Dana..." She swallowed deeply. "Could you come here for a second?"
With a frown the woman scampered down the steps to stand beside St. George, looking down the laneway. In the distance stood a woman; staring at them.
Her long black hair hung loosely around her shoulders; the grey shawl resting on her shoulders despite the wind blowing around them. The eyes peered out at the two women, blue with a slight touch of grey...
"It's..." Jackie squinted at the image. "I know her..." The Canadian took a step forward. "Mom..." The words whispered out from between her lips. The woman smiled and turned to walk into the woods; away from her.
Jackie broke into a run, charging down the path at full speed. Dana looked back at the house for a second, then followed into the darkness.
"What are they doing, burning them down to the bottom before putting them out?" Fox grumbled as he passed the last dish to Marty. He shrugged.
"Probably just talking out there... passing secrets that we'll both regret later on." He winked. "Or maybe some new tips from Dana..."
"Fox?" Margaret's concerned voice caught his ear. "Can you go see what's keeping them?"
Grabbing his leather jacket, the tall man stepped onto the porch and looked around the empty space. Marty appeared, his thick jacket not hiding his concern.
"So... where are they?" he asked Mulder. The agent looked down the laneway.
"Seems they went for a walk..." He frowned. "Or maybe a run..." Jumping down from the porch, he began to trot down the path. "Let's go see what's keeping them..."
Jackie smashed through the brush; her hands thrashing at the branches as she followed the figure down the small trail deeper into the woods. Behind her, Dana ran full-tilt to keep up with her.
Suddenly St. George burst into a clearing, stopping still as she scanned the empty space in front of her. With a gasp Scully appeared beside her, taking a well needed lungful of air.
"What..." She wheezed for a second. "You think it was your mother?"
Jackie nodded, spinning frantically in circles. "It was her, Dana... it was her..." She froze suddenly; her eyes locked behind her friend. "But this is someone else..."
Dana spun around to come face to face with a man wearing a naval uniform...
His gentle eyes meeting hers with all the warmth and affection she remembered from the last time they had been together... William Scully reached out and offered his hands to his daughter.
Fox pushed the branches aside, following the faint path in the dark. Close behind him, Marty followed. Suddenly they stopped short; their path blocked.
She smiled at the two men, a slight breeze waving through her long hair. Her eyes met Fox's for a second, then shifted to Marty's. Lifting a hand, she adjusted the shawl on her shoulders and gestured down a side path.
"This way." The voice sounded familiar to them both... Silently stepping behind her, they continued down the path.
"Who are you?" Fox asked softly, afraid to reach out and touch her. She chuckled, stopping as they reached the edge of the clearing.
"You should know, of all people. She's talked about me enough." Her blue-grey eyes twinkled. "Elspeth is my name..."
"You're..." Marty swallowed hard. "Elspeth McLeod St. George, aren't you?"
She nodded. Fox's mind spun as he realised the impossibility of what he was seeing and hearing. With a soft laugh she gestured towards the centre of the clearing.
He stretched out a hand to her; solid flesh touching her own. "Dance with me, Starbuck?"
She stepped into his embrace quietly, staring at him as he smiled. "Dad?"
Dana whispered. The balding man nodded.
"I'm afraid I won't get to dance with you at your wedding... so this will have to do..." The softness in his voice tore at her heart, reminding her of his sudden departure from her life.
"But you're..." She felt warm hands holding her; the strength flowing into her from the familiar touch. "But I thought..."
"Dana..." William smiled. "Some nights and some times the veil between our worlds is thinner than most... And wishes become reality." He looked into her eyes. "And time is meaningless..."
Jackie stood off to one side, her hands clenching and unclenching as she tried to figure out what to do... A hand landed on her shoulder from behind; making her spin around.
"Mandy..." The dark-haired man grinned. "What do you say to your Da?"
Fox and Marty stood quietly, seeing him approach her from out of the forest... and watched her punch land cleanly on the man's jaw, sending him flying backwards into a pile of leaves. With a roar she launched herself at him; fists flailing.
The two men started forward - then froze. A soft hand rested on each of their shoulders; rendering them immobile. Turning his head, Fox stared at Elspeth.
"Let them brawl," she said with a sigh. "It's long overdue."
"But..." Marty sputtered. "If she gets cut..."
The woman laughed; the same laugh they had heard so many times before from her daughter. "Not tonight." They looked over at the two fighters; wrestling on the ground.
Michael St. George laughed as he flipped Jackie back against a tree; wiping the blood from his nose as she charged again. The tackle sent them both smashing to the ground again.
Fox couldn't take his eyes off Dana; slowly moving around the forest floor with her father; seemingly oblivious to the fight. His mind reeled at what he was seeing; his memory cataloguing it for the future.
Dana saw Jackie out of the corner of her eye, but only looked at her father with a frown. He sighed.
"Remember when you and Bill used to wrestle to see who would get to sit in the front of the car? Same thing..." His eyes met hers. "I've missed you..."
She felt the tears begin to well up in her eyes again. "Daddy... I've made some bad decisions lately..."
A chuckle escaped him as he led her around the clearing. "No, you haven't..."
Pulling her close, he began to hum softly to her.
She tucked her head under his chin; smelling the same aftershave he had worn for as long as she could remember. He had never changed, despite their attempts to drag him into the present with gifts of other brands. Melissa had joked about how he must have bought it by the barrel; they could never find it in the stores.
"I remember when you used to be small enough to crawl up into my lap when you'd been fighting with the boys and lost." His deep chuckle brought a smile to her face. "And I'd rock you and make you tell me what you'd done."
"Then you'd reprimand me for not being ladylike." She giggled.
"Well, I tried." he rumbled. "Then your mother would scold me for telling you old sea dog tales."
"She misses you.." Dana took a shuddering breath. "Can you... could I..."
He smiled. "I'm with her every night - and she knows it." His deep brown eyes met hers. "When you truly love someone, you're never apart... you know that."
She put her face back on his chest; not wanting to think about the words.
Moving slowly around the clearing, he hummed into her hair as they danced.
"Are you finished?" Michael smiled, pinning Jackie's hands above her head as he knelt on her chest. She snarled, spitting out the blood from a cut lip.
"Ah, you're so like your mother..." He released her wrists; getting to his feet. She warily stood up, wiping the blood on her sleeve.
"Damn you..." She roared. "You took Mom and then yourself from me... what you did... how could you do that and then leave me like this?" She panted, wavering where she stood.
Stepping forward, the heavy-set man ripped the revolver from her shoulder holster; grabbing the front of her jacket and pulling her to him - face to face. Jamming the barrel against her left temple, he stared into her eyes.
"Aye, I know what you think... and it was a coward's way out; no argument from me on that..." He yelled. "But you've felt the same way and walked the same paths as I did... so ye ken save your judgment for someone else - I've already paid for my sins... over and over, more than you'll ever know." He paused, dropping his voice to a whisper. "You canna ever do this... you know the pain I left you - what would you leave them?" His eyes flickered to the other people in the clearing. Releasing his grip, he tossed the .38 away from them into the bushes.
"Just tell me..." She panted. "Just tell me why you did it..."
He spread his hands; the fresh blood from his nose and her lip staining them.
"How can you ask that, Mandy? After all you've done, all you've seen... you know the Gift and the Temptation..." He put a hand on her shoulder to steady her. "I never wanted to leave you without the Knowledge... I never meant to..." A deep sigh escaped his lungs. "And now that I've told you that... I dunna know if you can forgive me." He chewed on his bottom lip. "But I have to ask..."
The woman behind the two men sighed as Jackie launched herself at Michael with a strangled roar. The pair tumbled over and over in the dirt; each trying to gain the upper hand and failing. With an annoyed snort Elspeth pushed past Fox and Marty to stand by the wrestling pair.
"Michael St. George! Jaclyn Amanda St. George!" She snapped. "Stop it right now!"
Jackie rolled off first, gasping for breath and wide-eyes as she scrambled to her feet. Her father groaned as he sat up.
"Lord, she's gotten stronger." He rubbed his arms. "Elsie..."
"Elspeth to you, Michael. And what are you doing, tussling with your own daughter like a common street brawler?" Her eyes made him wince. "Now on your feet and keep quiet, both of you!"
"You're marrying HER daughter?" Fox whispered. Marty swallowed nervously.
Wiping her bloody lip again, the Canadian shuffled her feet in the dirt.
"Well... he deserved it."
"You're not old enough that I can't throw you over my knee, Mandy... and you, wasting our time with this!" She pulled the shawl around her shoulders.
"Alright, let's take this one step at a time. You..." A finger pointed at Michael. "Tell her what she wants to know."
He took a deep breath. "I made a mistake. That's all there is to it... no noble speeches, no reasons... I failed in my duty to give you the Knowledge."
Raising his eyes to meet Jackie's, he shook his head. "But I've tried to undo it, you know..."
She nodded. "It's just..." A choked swallow. "It's been so hard without anyone to tell me what to do. And I missed you both so much..." Stretching out a hand. "Da... if you can forgive me for hating you for so long; I forgive you..."
Fox and Marty watched as Michael pulled his daughter into a hug; holding her tight. The woman beside them smiled.
"You were always the stubborn one, you know. More than him." She laughed.
"Tell me about it." Marty muttered, ignoring Fox's knowing grin. Elspeth turned to look at Fox, nodding her head towards Dana and her father.
"Go to them. We don't have much time left."
Releasing Jackie, Michael stepped back as Marty approached the trio. Spitting a mouthful of blood to one side, she sheepishly smiled as Marty moved to stand by her.
"You're... all right, Jackie?" He stared at the cut lip.
"I don't know why, or how." She stumbled over the words. "But tonight is anything considered strange?" Her eyes rested on the woman beside her.
"Jaclyn Amanda St. George. Jackie." Elspeth St. George shook her head once, then hugged her daughter. "But you're still Mandy to me."
"Only to you..." she whispered into the grey shawl. "Only to you two..."
"Well..." Marty took a deep breath. "Since I thought I'd never get the chance..." He cleared his throat. "I intend to marry your daughter, Mr. and Mrs. St. George... and I'd like your blessing on this." He held his breath, uncertain of how he could defend against one Dragon and an angry mother...
A roar came up from the elder St. George. "If you can tame her, then you can have her!" A strong hand grabbed Marty's; shaking it hard. Elspeth smiled at Jackie.
"Does he make you happy?" Sniffling, Jackie nodded. "Then I bestow the blessing of my family and of the Clan McLeod, of whom I am first from." She stared at her husband. "Mike..."
"Ah, yes." Rising to his full height, he grinned. "And in the name of our ancestors; in the name of all the St. George's of the past, present and future, I give you leave to marry Mand..." He chuckled. "Jackie St. George... Lord help us all!"
Slapping him lightly on the arm, Elspeth sighed. "Men..." Resting a hand on her daughter's cheek, she smiled. "Time to go, love... we've tarried enough for one night." Taking his arm, she led Michael St. George to the edge of the clearing.
"Da!" Jackie took a step forward, the tears streaming down her face. "The Knowledge... give me the Knowledge... and take the Dream away..."
They paused, turning to face her. Elspeth laughed as she put an arm around her husband. "Tell her..."
The pair turned transparent as Michael smiled. "You already have it... They are the one and the same... and all that I was, you are and more than any of us have ever been... but your enemies are greater and the battles worse - but you'll do us proud, I think..." The couple shimmered for a second, then disappeared in the night mist. Jackie slumped to the ground, cradled in Marty's arms as she closed her eyes.
Fox stumbled across the clearing, not wanting to intrude on the two Scullys.
He smiled; seeing the happiness in Dana's face and hearing the joy in her voice as she spoke quietly to her father. Throwing her head back with a short laugh, he rejoiced with her as the red mane shimmered in the moonlight.
"Dad..." Dana bit her lip. "Is... is Missy here with you?"
"Oh, yes." William smiled. "She demanded it, actually... set up the entire thing from start to finish; which shouldn't surprise you."
"I need to tell her..." Her voice faltered. "It was all my fault." A choked whisper escaped her. "It should have been me; should have been me in that hospital bed, on that operating table..." She looked down, afraid to meet his eyes.
"Starbuck..." He pushed her chin up with a finger. "Don't you ever say that again. Everything is for a purpose and at the right time. I know it's hard to understand now... I can't even tell you why; but it is what it is..." He pulled her close in a tight hug. "Dana, you've never given me any cause to be ashamed of you. I love you for what and who you are... no matter what I might have said or not said... and Missy knows this as well." Releasing her, he stepped away and smiled. "But you can hear that from her..."
Fox drew a sharp breath as Melissa Scully walked out of the forest; dressed in the black dress that she had worn at the hospital - at Dana's side when they thought she was going to be the first to die... The small crystal hung down around her neck as she smiled at her little sister; a warm, forgiving smile.
"Oh, Dana..." She sighed. "Ever the skeptic..."
Taking three faltering steps towards her, Dana stopped. "Melissa..." She closed her eyes, feeling the guilt and the pain wash over her in wave after wave. Suddenly she felt the warm arms around her; the sisterly hug she remembered from childhood.
"I know. And it was never meant to be you." The softness in her voice soothed Dana's soul. "It was my time... not to get too metaphysical, but some things are predestined and can't be changed..." Her eyes met Dana's as they stared at each other. "Believe me, it took a lot of fast talking to pull this one off tonight."
Choking back a nervous laugh, Dana smiled. "But why tonight?"
"Because this is when the doorways are open and the veils are thinnest." She waved a hand around the clearing. "When the worlds intersect and crossing isn't so hard for any of us..." With a heartfelt sigh she released Dana and stepped back. "But it's not for long..."
William moved forward, putting an arm around Dana's waist. "I think it's time for us to go."
She spun, wrapping her arms around his waist tightly. "No, not yet... There's so much I want to ask you; to talk about... both of you..."
He rocked her slowly for a long minute; clutching his daughter to him. "I know the battles you've fought... that you've yet to fight." His jaw tensed.
"But I know you'll do your best. Like you always have." Lifting her teary face to his, he smiled. "Scullys do not give up. Never have, never will." He looked over his shoulder at Melissa, who placed a hand on the shaking woman's shoulder.
"We will always be with you, Dana... We will never leave you," she said softly before turning to walk to the edge of the clearing.
Dana buried her face in his shoulder; sobbing uncontrollably. Lifting a hand, the man waved Fox forward. He stared at Mulder for a long, searching moment, then nodded.
"The bridge is not open for long, Fox Mulder... I know about your father." He said gently. "He couldn't come... but he wanted you to know that he hopes one day to earn your forgiveness." Fox nodded silently. "You've taken care of her before... I know you'll do so again." Disentangling the woman from his arms,
William Scully kissed her tenderly on the forehad. "I'll always be with you, Starbuck." Turning her towards Fox, he gently put her into the outstretched arms of her partner.
Fox wrapped his arms around Dana protectively; feeling the wetness on her cheeks soak into his shirt. Resting his face on the top of her head, he looked up at the man watching them approvingly.
"I'll do that, sir," he said quietly. The elder Scully nodded.
"I know you will." Taking a step away toward the oncoming mist, he joined Melissa. "Goodbye..."
"Dad... Missy..." Dana lifted her face from Fox's chest. "Don't go..."
"Time for us to shove off." He softly smiled. "Tell your mother I'll always love her..."
"Dana..." Mel's voice drifted across to her as they grew transparent. "Time is relative... We are always together..." The pair disappeared into the thick white mist covering the forest floor.
She clutched at Fox's arms, steadying herself in his firm grip. Slowly he lowered her to the ground to sit with her for a minute, feeling the lightness in his own mind.
The two couples sat quietly for a long while; each lost in thought. Finally Dana tried to get to her feet; falling against Fox as he supported her. Her eyes met his; heavy and hazy with exhaustion and shock. Sweeping her up in his arms, Fox ignored her weak protests and started to head towards the trail.
Crawling the few feet to retrieve the revolver, Jackie staggered to stand beside Marty, leaning heavily on him. He put a hand around her waist to steady her as they followed behind. Lifting a hand to her swollen lip, she flinched at the touch. "Oh, man... I'm so tired." She slumped against her partner. "Wanna sleep..."
Margaret stood on the porch; watching them approach. Her worried face scanned her daughter as Fox stepped up to the door, holding her close to his chest.
"Mom..." Dana said softly. "I... we saw..."
"Shush." She put a hand to Dana's lips. "It's late. Time to rest." She looked at Fox. "You know where her room is." He nodded, carrying her through the front door. "And you two..." Her attention turned to Jackie and Marty. "The guest bedroom is all made up next to Dana's. In the morning we can talk."
Fox pulled the comforter halfway down the bed; sitting Dana upright on the mattress. Kneeling down, he flipped off her shoes and gently laid her back on the pillows. Her eyes closed as he tucked the thick blanket around her shoulders; hearing her breathing slow and settle into a calm rhythm. Turning to go, he heard a soft sigh.
"Mulder..," she said quietly, her eyes still closed. "Can you stay for a few minutes and tell me what you saw?"
He smiled, pulling his own shoes off to climb up atop the covers to rest beside her. "What do you think you saw?" Fox whispered into her hair as he put his head down behind hers on the pillow.
"I don't know..." The sleepy response came. "I want to believe..."
Margaret climbed the stairs slowly; feeling the weight of her years settling on her shoulders for once. Putting a hand on the bedroom door, she pushed it open a fraction of an inch; enough to see Jackie curled up into Marty's chest as they lay fully-clothed on the bed covers. St. George whimpered once; prompting him to pull her closer.
Taking a few steps to Dana's room, she peered inside. Fox lay sleeping atop the blankets; his hand curled around her daughter's waist as she murmured and pulled the comforter up under her chin.
Closing the door, she walked to her own bedroom; changing into her nightgown and climbing into the large empty bed. Turning the light out, Margaret Scully put her head down on the pillow, facing the vacant side of the bed. A gentle smile touched her lips as she smelt the familiar scent of his aftershave...
"Good night, Bill..." Margaret whispered. "Thank you..."
"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who no longer pauses to wonder and stand in rapt awe, is as good as dead."
For the real Elspeth McLeod, who left her greatgrandaughter a temper that still makes her punch holes in walls when angry...