Summary: Mulder and Scully must kill an ancient evil intent on destroying a small town . . . before it finds them first. (Was that sufficiently dramatic?)
Aside: I realize this is completely out of date by this time. I started writing it not long after I found and read I-Made- This Productions Virtual Season 8, so it made sense at the time. There is romance, but not very much of it, so maybe this will be a nice break from all the MSM that have to be floating around at the moment.
Finally, I would just like to thank Rosemary, who spent some time fixing my 'it's', and generally making it a better story. Thanks again, Rosemary.
Carrington was a peaceful town. Small, quiet, home to only a few thousand citizens. Like most towns of its size, it had its good side of the tracks and its bad side of the tracks, but apart from the occasional aberration, it had never had to deal with the darker side of the human condition, which it kept quietly and for the most part happily suppressed.
On this night, the small town's most notable feature was bathed in the ethereal light of a full moon. Stone colonnades, slate rooftops, clear and coloured glass seemed to absorb the energy flowing from the lights in the clear sky. And the two great stone beasts that stood guarding the entrance to this great edifice, and all that was contained therein, seemed to breathe softly as they continued their long uninterrupted slumber.
As the shadows played with the leaves of the great oaks, and the wind howled at the impassive facade, the last sight one would have expected was that of a small child, a boy, emerging from the darkened street to bow before the great granite dragons at the entrance.
More startling still was to see this same boy rise and pluck from the air a lyre, as from the fantastic stories of medieval court one took so much to the imagination as a child. Watching as he began to play a haunting melody such as had not been heard for a thousand years and would not be again for still more afterward. For this was an instrument of great power and this child was no mere child.
As this unearthly music combined with the soft silver light of the full moon, those who looked with eyes to see might have witnessed the curling tendrils of power envelop the building, its guardians, and the messenger sent to wake them. And as the music swelled then fell softly once again, this phantom light coalesced around the sleeping forms, and was inhaled gently into stone bodies.
Then a deafening roar as from the statues exploded a terrific wave of energy. Everything it touched seemed to leech colour from it, as the trees became more green, the distant streetlights became golden with the touch of this power. And as the newly awakened consciousness of these creatures expanded in an ever-increasing circle, every mind it passed through it perceived it as a coloured point of light.
As the great consciousness touched each soul, that instant was, for each person, an eternity. In each instant, every adult remembered what it meant to be a child, could recall with perfect clarity every moment of perfect happiness in their lives, and in every eternity, each one was given something they thought they would never have again: the conviction in a world of endless possibilities.
Passing through each mind, the consciousness realized it recognized some of the brighter souls, and with these it left some portion of it's vast power. Everywhere it touched it left a greater awareness of life, until it reached the outskirts of the town, and drew its mind back to its original resting- place.
Perhaps now the observer would not have been so disbelieving when he seemed to see the open eyes of the monsters widen, the folded wings flutter, the arched neck ripple, or the long extended claws flex.
But there was none there to see, and none there to believe, but for one small child, who waited in anticipation as the first rumblings abated. Then to his inhuman eyes the monsters started to glow, and to his inhuman ears was directed the message: thank you, radiant one.
Because the little spirit knew that all was not well in this town, but that soon, very soon, one would come to drive the evil from this place, and to do so, they would need all the help he could give them.
And across the town, in the darker, shadier streets, where the glowing radiance could not reach so easily, came a silent howl, as for the first time, the monster that had come to Carrington was denied its sustenance, and the weakened soul of its victim continued to burn as it fled back to the safety of its shadows.
But this creature was strong, and the consciousness knew that it would not be able to save all the lives it threatened. If it could not destroy the creature it would continue to feed, and while it might stand a chance were the evil to come to it face to face, it knew with certainty the creature would do no such foolish thing.
Thus, the mind turned, puzzled, to the little spirit that still stood before it and questioned, 'I cannot. Why call me then?'
Standing there in his shorts, t-shirt and sneakers, looking for all the world like a normal child, the spirit tossed it a joyful, six-year-old grin, regarding it with eyes that were old even beyond the stone casings of the mind before him. He answered in a child's soprano, "Never fear, one is coming. But you must help them to find their strength. If you cannot, then this town that you love will be no more, and the creature will move on to the next." His forehead creased. "But it must be here. One with a soul such as this has not been seen in many a year, and when the monster moves on, you will not be able to follow it. Only here, only now, are all the pieces in place. You must not fail."
As the mind indicated its understanding, the serious expression was replaced by another childish grin. "I will be here when you need me." With this, the boy executed another graceful bow, and stepped back into the gloom from which he had emerged. At that moment, the dawning sun illuminated the street, but even had anyone been there to see, the street was empty, and the boy was gone...
Thursday May 18th
'Carrington - 3 miles', read the sign.
"Almost there," Scully remarked to her partner, who had been sitting silently in the passenger seat ever since they had left the airport. As per usual he had not as yet deigned to give her his thoughts on the case. This time, however, Scully was able to keep her annoyance to the bare minimum, considering she did, in fact, already have all the details. The case was one of medical anomaly, and the A.D. had given it to her himself.
"Mmm," Mulder grunted.
For this he roused himself. "Well, what?" he asked, a slightly perplexed look on his face.
"Oh, come on, surely three miles is enough." Now he was looking truly worried. "You don't usually leave me in the dark past about now. So...spill. Your thoughts?"
Mulder's expression had cleared, and he now wore a slight smirk. Scully's expression remained as impassive as ever, but he knew she was smiling underneath. "I wasn't aware you were counting, Scully. I don't do it deliberately, you know."
"I'm sure you don't, Mulder," she said placidly.
He opened his mouth and then frowned, unsure quite how to take that. He decided on the safest route, and ignored it entirely. "Six people," he announced, as though she wasn't already perfectly aware of the facts, but at least he was talking, "five mysteriously dead and one surviving, a Dr Ulysses Whitmore, 56. All attacks have taken place over the past two weeks, all in the same general area, and, with the exception of their presence in said area at the time of their deaths, all having no obvious connection. None of these people had any reason to be there. They didn't live there, didn't work there, and weren't involved in anything that would warrant their presence there. This, including the lack of a discernable cause of death; as the coroner put it 'their hearts just seemed to have stopped', would suggest to me that they were being led there, probably against their will, by some sort of an entity. From the description of the body, I would suggest something is stealing their souls. Like Wayne Weinsider remember, he just sort of sucked their souls from their bodies," he added.
"Ahhhh," his partner murmured softly after a small hesitation with a knowing nod.
He waited. "Well?"
Was that a smirk he spotted? "Well, what?" Probably just the light.
"Aren't you going to tell me I'm wrong?"
"Well now, why should I think you're wrong?" She paused before elaborating. "I mean, the chances of these people having some sort of connection we have yet to discover doesn't really hold a lot of water. And of course, the fact that the coroner has been unable to determine a cause of death could not possibly point to an intelligent killer, or ineptitude on the part of said coroner. Nope, I'm convinced, it's definitely a friendly suburban demon soul prospector."
She was trying to hide it, but that was, without doubt, a fully-fledged grin. He had to suppress one of his own. "Didn't your mother ever tell you sarcasm was unbecoming in a lady?" he chided. "You could hurt my feelings with talk like that," he mock-pouted.
She glanced over at him, and her face melted into a gentle smile. "Aw, you know I love ya," she said without thinking. Then she looked away quickly, suddenly aware of what she had just said, but not before Mulder was able to recognize the true sentiment behind her eyes.
He'd been in love with her for a while now. When he'd admitted as much to her in a hospital in Bermuda, he hadn't really meant it that way. Granted, he had, on occasion over the past seven years, wondered what it would be like to be with her. He was after all a man, and there was no denying she was a beautiful woman. But he was not a teenager, and had, for the most part, put such things out of his head. But ever since that day, the thought had played on his mind, and he found himself taking the opportunity to look at her as more than his partner and dear friend. Even so, it was not until he finally got to kiss her on the eve of the millennium that he recognized and admitted to himself that he had, indeed, managed to fall in love with his partner. Since then, he had simply been waiting for her to come to the same conclusion about him. This latest statement only served to convince him that she was still dragging the chain, and that he should do something, soon, to move things along.
So he just smiled secretly to himself and said nothing.
Up ahead, he saw a sign: 'Welcome to Carrington. Population 7375.' with a rather good drawing of a brightly coloured dragon swooping over an old stone building. He remembered reading about the two stone dragons that stood guard over the public library in the town, that they had been brought over from Europe a couple of hundred years ago by one of the immigrant citizens.
As they drove past the first houses both Mulder and Scully experienced a brief chill. But neither one noticed the other's slight shiver, and as neither saw fit to mention it, designating it a temporary glitch in the A/C, the moment went unrecorded, and was very quickly put aside for more important matters, like locating their hotel and determining whether or not they should first visit the local police station, not to mention when they would be able to eat.
But somewhere, something stirred, and gently sent out silver tendrils of consciousness. The little spirit had not been wrong. Here were two exceptionally strong souls, one more so than it had seen in a long while. It would be hard to manipulate this soul, to make it come to its physical body. But it did not despair, they would find each other, and it would release the power of that soul. If they did not, it felt, it knew, that it could summon the other soul, and that where that one went, the other would inevitably follow.
Carrington Police Station
They decided to stop by the local police station before finding the motel. While a short rest would certainly have been appreciated by both parties, they also knew there were more important things than comfort to consider at the moment. Thus they arrived at Carrington Police Station to find the office in the middle of lunch. Pizza, by all appearances, which made Mulder instantly jealous, and set his stomach to growling softly. 'You know, it's just not fair,' he thought, before putting it out of his mind.
"No one ever said life was supposed to be fair," murmured Scully, with a slight grin, "but I have to admit, I am kind of hungry, too."
"Read my mind, partner," he smiled back. After seven years, he was becoming used to the two of them coming up with the same notion at the same time. It held an odd kind of comfort, knowing that there was always someone out there that understood him completely. Of course, at other times, it was just fun to freak out the local cops with their little mind reading game.
They walked up to the front desk and bestowed polite smile on the nondescript young man sitting there. "Agents Mulder and Scully, from the FBI," Mulder announced. "We're here to investigate the recent murders."
A slight shadow passed over the man's face, but he replied with a jovial smile as he finished a mouthful of food. "Sergeant Cornelius Forsyth, but you can call me Neil. Cap'n Henderson is over there." He tilted his head towards a large group of people in the middle of the room. They were about to proceed in said direction when the sergeant went on. "I'm guessing you want to talk with her. Although I could just as easily tell you most of what's been happenin'. The business of these murders is all over town. Cap's tryin' to keep it quiet, but once Miss Jane found out - she was in here the other week, she must've heard some folks talking, some people just can't keep quiet about things like this." This was all said completely ingenuously. "- Then she'll have told Mr Poe, and then, well... there's naught the Cap'n could really do then. Not that folk's is really takin' it badly, they know we're doin' all we can. She's the short one, long brown hair, all pulled up tight in a bun, seeing how's it's Thursday." By this time Scully was having hard time keeping the bemused expression off her face.
"Yes, ma'am. You see, it's Elly's birthday today, so the Cap'n said we could all have a sort of a party for her. She's the taller one with the darker brown hair, very pretty, 30 today, works down in the labs, you know, so she's smart, too." He threw a meaningful wink to Mulder, who ignored it. Completely unperturbed, Neil went on. "Most everyone's here, we're at kind of a dead end with these murders, which I'm thinking is why we called you people, and otherwise Carrington is a real peaceful town. ' Cept, o'course, for all the weird kinda stuff that's been goin' on. But none o' that's criminal, so you people don't have to concern yourselves with that. Bud now, he was over-"
"-Neil," Scully eventually had to interrupt, trying desperately not to smile and hoping she didn't appear rude. Neil, however, didn't appear to mind in the slightest.
"Oh, right, ma'am. You'll be wanting some pizza, I'd assume." At this Mulder's face lightened considerably. "You just head right on over. We'll be bringin' out the cake soon. But don't say anything, it's meant to be a surprise," Neil added in an undertone.
He seemed to be drawing breath to regale them with another long and probably very involved tale. However, at this point the agents beat a hasty retreat, throwing their thanks towards Neil, who just grinned happily, and stuffed his now lukewarm pizza back into his mouth.
They managed to get a safe distance from Neil before Scully glanced at Mulder's face. "No wonder this town is so crime-free. That's got to be one of the best deterrents I've ever come across. It's almost enough to make me swear off speaking." The grin playing with his eyes and around the corner of his mouth proved to be too much for her and Scully had to let out the soft laugh that had been building within her. It died away quickly, but the amused smile remained as they came up to the group in the middle of the room.
At the curious glances they were getting, one of the women turned to greet them.
"From the expressions on your face I'm going to assume you just met Neil." She smiled ruefully, and mused, "None are so fond of secrets as those who do not mean to keep them." Then grinned. "Be glad you came during lunch," and gave a mock shudder. "I'm Captain Penthesilea Henderson. Call me Lea."
"Dana Scully and Fox Mulder. Nice to meet you. That's an interesting name. Penthesilea, as in the Queen of the Amazons, slain at Troy?" asked Scully.
"She was killed by Achilles in their very first encounter," added Mulder. "That doesn't exactly bode well, does it?"
"I'm impressed, you two obviously know your history." Behind the light tone lurked a new respect, and something deeper, maybe hope. "Carrington is big on history and stories. You two should visit the library while you're here." She made it as casual as she could, but was unable to keep some of the urgency out of her voice. But she shook it off and shrugged, "As for Achilles, well, I've yet to meet anyone who could classify for that name, so I'll just continue to hope for the best."
Lea was interrupted by the office bursting into an enthusiastic rendition of "Happy Birthday." The serious expression dropped from her face, and she grinned. "It's Elaine's birthday, the big three-oh," she whispered under the noise.
"Yes, Neil told us," Mulder replied, to which Lea raised an amused eyebrow.
As the singing stopped, she said, "Grab something to eat if you're hungry, and we'll take this into my office."
Scully followed the Captain directly, while Mulder detoured past the food. As hungry as she was, she felt it could wait while she gathered the reports.
"Should we wait for your partner Agent Scully?" Lea asked, peering into the main office.
"Um, no, he could be a while by the sounds of it," she answered before realizing she couldn't actually hear any single voices from the room beyond. 'God,' she thought to herself, 'now I can pick his voice out of a crowd.'
Lea looked at her strangely and said, "You're right, Julius found him, he's almost as bad as Neil. I'll just let you look through the copies of the police reports while I go rescue him."
Mulder appeared in the office door a few minutes later with pizza in one hand and cake in the other. Scully's back was to the door, and he took the opportunity to watch her think for a moment. He loved her most when she was like this, he thought, her mind working at twice the speed his own ever achieved. Forming theories, reviewing the evidence, and totally and utterly determined to succeed, to bring evil to justice.
He was still standing, gazing at her, when she said, without turning around, "Mulder, there's been another attack since we got the case. The victim is also dead. He was killed only four days after Ulysses Whitmore was found alive." Mulder started guiltily as she started speaking, but moved into the room as she related this information, his curiosity overcoming his embarrassment almost at once.
The captain followed him into the room. "What is Dr Whitmore's condition? Has he been able to give a description of his assailant, Captain?" Scully questioned.
"Ulysses seems to be fine. The doctors were going to keep him overnight for observation. His blood pressure was high when we found him, but dropped rapidly. The doctors gave him some drugs and told him to rest. Mainly he just seemed to be tired. As for his assailant, when I talked to him the morning after, all he could tell me was that he was wearing black. He didn't get a glimpse of his face. Apparently, he just felt something knock him to the ground, and then pressure applied to his chest, over his heart."
"I take it you're watching the area that the murders have occurred in. Have any of your men seen anything? Did someone see Dr Whitmore before he was found?"
"We have assigned more men to that area, Agent Scully, but it's not as small as you might be thinking, and there are a lot of small, not very well lit, back alleys and such in that area of the town. One of the men patrolling says he saw Dr Whitmore a while before he was found. He said he didn't think he looked suspicious. He seemed to know where he was going, it was one of the busier roads, and there were a few people about, so he didn't see any danger. We found most of the people who were around, and although some of them saw Ulysses, no one saw where he was going, or noticed anyone following him. I was out patrolling that night. I found him 20 minutes later in a back alley. I saw something crouching over him, and I . . ." She hesitated for a moment. The agents noted the pause, but kept their expressions clear. She went on, "Called for help. The assailant fled immediately. Andy came up a moment later and checked on Dr Whitmore while I chased after him." She shook her head in frustration and looked up at them. "He was gone. There was absolutely nothing to suggest any one had even been in the area, apart from Dr Whitmore." She sighed. "Like I said, it's a dark neighborhood." She trailed off, looking less than pleased with herself.
"Do you have any idea what Dr Whitmore was doing there?" Mulder chimed in.
A confused expression crossed Lea's face. "I asked Ulysses that, and he said he didn't know. He told me he just suddenly felt the urge to make his way down there. I know Ulysses, not very well, but he always seemed like such a nice, honest man. I used to see him in the library. I know how unlikely it seems, but I don't think he's lying."
Mulder nodded, and Scully put away her notebook.
At this, the captain said, "What do you think is going on, Agents?"
Scully glanced at Mulder, who answered. "At the moment, any theories would only be speculation. We'll let you know as soon as we come up with something." Scully smirked faintly at this. Mulder was obviously in his Don't Do Anything To Piss Off The Local Constabulary Immediately mode.
Lea sighed her understanding. "I suppose so, but you understand if I'm anxious to get this case solved." The agents nodded. They did indeed understand the sentiment, as any law-enforcement officer would. The captain spoke up again. "Excuse me, would you. I'll be right back." A moment later she walked back in with another woman. "Agent Scully, this is Elly-"
"Who works in the labs, and is thirty today," inserted Mulder. "Happy birthday," he added with a smile.
Elly rolled her eyes and asked rhetorically, "Neil?" Mulder merely inclined his head once, his eyes twinkling.
Lea took over again. "She can take you down to the morgue. We kept the last body, from yesterday, for you. Elly can also assist you if you need it. The coroner was called away a couple of days ago. Family thing, I think."
"Thank you, I should be fine, but I'll keep it in mind."
The captain nodded calmly and said, "Well, I'll let you get to it. Just call if you need anything."
"Oh, Captain," Mulder stopped suddenly. "Neil mentioned some 'weird' occurrences in town recently. Just out of curiosity, what was he talking about?" Scully was not fooled by that innocent tone. He thought he was on to something. She glanced at him, asking with a raised eyebrow what relevance this had to their case. He ignored the look, not that she had expected anything different, and focussed his attention on the captain.
She looked a little confused, but answered, "Just little things. Nothing serious. One of our citizens took it upon himself to paint a replica of the Last Supper on the side of his apartment building. People have been seen holding conversations with their pets, in one case with a tree in their front yard. A couple swears they saw someone jump off a seven-story building and fly down to the ground. Things like that. I don't see that it has anything to do with the case, but if you're interested, I could draw up a list of the reports we've received. Alternatively, I'd suggest you look through the local newspapers for the last couple of days, up at the library."
"Thank you, Captain, I may just do that."
"You going to come help me cut up Mr Longfellow, Mulder?"
"'Cut him up,' Scully?" Mulder sounded amused.
"Well, that's what I do, isn't it?" she retorted defensively.
"As compelling as you make the experience sound, Scully," - she had the rebel desire to stick her tongue out at him, but she settled for a grimace, - "I was thinking I could visit some of the victims families, try to get a feel for the victims."
It wasn't really necessary for her to be there for those interviews. The police had already questioned the families, and she knew Mulder would report his observations to her. The exercise was still an important one. They had found many times in the past that a police report, no matter how thorough the questioning had been, could not replace personal observation. In addition to this, it was nothing more than a professional courtesy to visit the families whose loved ones' deaths they would be investigating.
Scully nodded. "The morgue is right here. I should be done in a few hours. Come round about four, and we'll go question Dr Whitmore."
As soon as Mulder indicated his acquiescence, she nodded at him and turned back to Elaine. "Lead the way," she smiled at her companion.
Mulder stood by his car and watched as his partner strode purposefully down the street. She was quick, but still careful not to outpace the woman walking with her, or to give the impression of impatience, although knowing Scully, she was anxious to get her hands on the evidence. That was one of the things he loved about her. She was always conscious of the feelings of others, and her actions took that into account.
Suddenly, she stopped and turned an inquisitive face back to him. "Was there something else, Mulder?" she called.
"No," he said, confused.
She looked at him, concerned for a moment, seemed about to say something, then shrugged and said, "I'll see you in a couple of hours," and turned back around.
Mulder's confused expression lingered for a moment, then vanished as he dismissed the incident and stepped into his car.
17 Parapet Place
The first woman to die was one Emma Cummings. Mulder drove up to the modest two-story suburban home she and her husband had occupied with their only daughter.
He was greeted at the door by a relatively young man holding a beautiful young girl of three or four. "I'm Agent Mulder, with the FBI. Are you William Cummings?" At the nod of assent he continued. "Mr Cummings, I've been called in to investigate your wife's death, and I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions."
"It's good to meet you, Agent Mulder," the man smiled, "Please, come in." He led them into the sitting room. "Take a seat, I'll just go put Julia in her room. I'll be back in a second."
Mulder took the opportunity to glance around the room. Scattered on a desk he noticed sheets of neatly written script. It appeared to be a story, unfinished, and rather good from what little Mulder was able to read before Mr Cummings re-entered the room.
He noticed Mulder perusing the document and said, "That was Emma's. She was always working on some new story. Ever since she was a kid, she would visit the library and read everything she could get her hands on. I always told her she should become a writer, but she had other plans. Never stopped her writing, or reading, in her spare time though." He smiled fondly and added, "She was working on that one before she died, I'll put it away if I ever get around to tidying." He grinned at Mulder. "The last few days have been kind of hectic."
Mulder was slightly disconcerted at the easy way the man referred to his wife's death. It wasn't that there was no grief, it was more like he had accepted the fact, and understood there was nothing he could do to change it.
As tactfully as he could, Mulder asked, "How are you and your daughter coping?"
The man's face fell slightly, and he said wistfully, "I miss my Emma, and so does Julia, but we're doing alright. Putting our lives on hold won't bring her back. As they say, 'Death joins us to the great majority.' We know that wherever she is, Emma is happy, and she would want us to celebrate her life, not her death."
His words struck deep for Mulder, who nodded slowly, distracted from his purpose. He was reminded again when Mr Cummings pulled himself from his thoughts and said, "So, what did you want to know?"
Mulder pulled himself together and began his questioning. "Mr Cummings, could you tell me what your wife did for a living?"
"Call me Bill. Emma was a biochemist for one of the local manufacturing firms. She loved the thought that she was helping to find the cures for diseases, helping people. She sometimes had to work irregular hours, but she never let it get to her, and she never allowed it to affect her relationship with her daughter or with me."
"What happened on the night she died?"
"Well, like I said, sometimes she worked late. Even so, she's usually home by nine or ten, to say goodnight to Julia. We let her wait up on those nights," he added. "She usually called, but I figured something important might have come up. At about half-past ten, I called her company, and they said she had gone home hours earlier. So of course, I called the police." He broke off. Mulder knew what would have happened after that. The police report said they hadn't found her body until five the next morning.
In a gentle tone, he went on. "Bill, do you have any idea why your wife would have been in that area?"
He shook his head, bemused. "I just don't know. We don't have any friends who live near there. And I mean it's miles away from here, and certainly isn't on the way home from work." He shrugged helplessly. "Maybe she was going to meet someone. Although I know she wasn't having an affair," he added sharply. Mulder raised an eyebrow and Bill's expression softened into an apology. "She loved me, Agent Mulder. I can't prove it to you, but it's the truth. I can only ask you to believe me."
Mulder nodded and smiled at the man. "Just one other thing. Can you think of anyone who might have wanted to hurt Emma for any reason? Anything that might have made her a target?"
"Not really. I mean, I suppose anything is possible, but Emma was a wonderful person. She had an enormous heart. I don't know of anyone who didn't like her. I read about the later murders obviously, and while I think I recognized one of the names, we weren't personally acquainted with any of them."
Mulder thought for a moment, then said, "Thank you, Mr Cummings. I think that's about all. I hope you and your daughter are alright. We'll do everything we can to catch this person."
"A person can't ask for more than that. I appreciate it, Agent Mulder." He got up, and escorted Mulder to the front door. "Thank you again. Goodbye."
Mulder walked to his car, the germ of a theory emerging. He put it aside for the time being. He would need far more information before he could entertain the idea.
As the two women came upon the building housing the morgue, Scully noticed, sitting on the front steps of the building, a small boy of maybe six or seven. His hair was a light brown colour, and he was wearing a garish yellow t- shirt and a pair of denim shorts. Seen from this distance, the child appeared rather hazy, as though he was sting in a particularly bright ray of sunlight.
As they approached, he looked up and smiled at her. "Hello," he said.
Scully found it impossible not to smile back, although this was the case whenever she came across small children. "Hi there," she replied, "what's your name?"
He looked at her for a long moment, as if considering, then said, "You can call me Mike."
She wondered slightly at the pause, but said, "Mike, I'm Dana, and this is Elaine."
"Hi, Mike," said Elaine
"That's a nice colour," the boy said thoughtfully, and seemed to point at Scully's hair.
"Uh, thank you," she replied, somewhat flustered, then gathered herself. "Where are your parents, Mike? Do they know where you are?"
He nodded, then announced, "I've got to go. I'm needed elsewhere. I'll see you around, Dana. Nice to meet you Elaine. Happy birthday." With that he took off, and was around the corner of the building, and out of sight before either of them could react.
"Well, that was . . . interesting," Elaine said.
"Do you know him?" asked Scully.
Still staring at the corner of the building, the woman came back to herself slowly. "What? Oh, no, I don't think so. I can't recall seeing him around. Did you notice his eyes though?" the faraway look returning to her eyes.
Scully had, although she would be hard pressed to say just what was so disconcerting about them. It was almost as though they were old. Far older than they had any business being in a face that young.
They turned back towards the entrance of the building. The boy would be fine. This they were both certain of, although neither of them were willing, or perhaps able to explore the sensation any more closely.
"Did you want me to stay, Agent Scully?" queried Elaine when they arrived at the morgue, in the bowels of the building housing the coroner's offices and the labs used by the police.
"No, I should be fine. Just point me in the direction of the body."
"Ed's just over here. We drew his blood when we brought him in, so the toxicological should be in my office. I can bring it down to you now, or you can come pick it up when you're done."
"Thanks, I'll come pick it up when I'm finished."
"Not a problem. My office is upstairs and around to the left. I'll probably be the only light on by that time, so you shouldn't be able to miss me."
Scully smiled and nodded, and Elaine left her to it.
There were times she really missed this sort of work. The human body was a fascinating and beautiful thing, and she had always relished the challenge of discovering a person's life by examining their death. One did not get into this kind of work unless one had a true appreciation for it. She knew that many people would have found what she did repulsive, to say the very least, and while as a doctor she also appreciated the thrill that saving lives engendered, her own rarefied profession provided thrills of it's own. While it might seem unlikely to some, in many ways she believed that an autopsy could be a far more personal experience than the treatment of a patient. It was an honour, really, to be the last to see each person as they lived and as they died.
She shook herself from her reverie. Such thoughts were not helping her complete this autopsy. She removed Mr Edward Longfellow from his bay and moved him into the middle of the room, cataloging as she did so the various tools that were laid out for her use.
She switched on the recorder, and started speaking. "The time is 2:24pm, the subject's name is Edward Longfellow aged 44, Caucasian male, appears to be in good physical shape. I'll begin with the external examination."
Two hours later, external and internal examinations complete, and most of the organs removed and scrutinized, Scully was busy examining the heart.
Mulder was making his way down to the autopsy bay when he heard what he thought was his partner humming to herself. Now, he was used to hearing her talking to herself while conducting an autopsy, but he was reasonably sure this was a first. She couldn't have heard him yet, so he walked silently up to the doors, and peered through them at his staid and serious partner hunched over a metal tray, containing what looked like a heart, and humming tunelessly to herself, apparently perfectly happy.
"You sure you don't want to give me a hint here, Ed?" she said plaintively. It took him a moment to realize that she was speaking to the corpse.
Mulder was shocked, did Scully do this often, or was the job finally getting to her?
"You know, Mulder." Scully started.
Her voice startled him, so deep he had been in his thoughts. "Jesus, Scully." At this she swung around, and he realized she couldn't have seen him enter the room. "And how did you know it was me, you didn't even turn around." This came out rather more harshly than he had intended and she narrowed her eyes at him.
"Well, it was you, wasn't it? Maybe I recognized your walk," she dismissed. She didn't seem particularly annoyed, more amused than anything else, which he took as a good sign, so he smiled an apology at her. She accepted this with a slight softening around her eyes, and motioned for him to sit down.
"You don't usually converse with your corpses, do you?" he teased her gently.
She coloured slightly, but said in an amused voice, "I like to think I have a close personal relationship with all my corpses, Mulder. Now, granted, the last time one of my patients rose from the dead he didn't actually say anything, and then attempted to kill me, but, as I'm sure as you of all people know, hope springs eternal. I have to say, though, Ed here has been surprisingly uncommunicative."
"So you have been unable to establish a clear cause of death?"
"Nope. There were no external injuries, nothing to suggest he was attacked or injured. I found no evidence of disease in any of the internal organs, and his medical records show he wasn't being treated for anything, was being given no prescribed medication. For a man of his age he was doing incredibly well. I haven't gone to get the tox-screen yet, so that could shed some light, but I'm not holding my breath. The only thing I did find was a slight bruise over his heart. I can tell you that the official cause of death would have to be heart failure," she shrugged.
"But what caused his heart to fail?" Mulder questioned.
"I don't know," she said helplessly. "When part of the heart muscle sustains massive injury, the rest of the heart can't cope with the body's demands, and it fails. But that only happens when there has been substantial injury to the organ. The heart here is injured, certainly, but not to the extent that should cause instant heart failure. Even with this small bruise, the heart would have been able to function well enough to keep the body alive. It's as though it just lost the will to keep beating."
Mulder looked at her strangely, the very same thought passing through his own mind. "You know, Scully, some say it's the soul that makes the body function, gives it the will to live."
She looked annoyed and said, "Mulder, there is not some creature running around killing people by stealing their souls."
"So how do you explain it, Scully?" he asked calmly.
There was no way to win an argument like this with Mulder, as she had learned the hard way many times in the past. Rather than pursuing the point, as she might once have done, she merely sighed acceptance and said, "Fine, Mulder. We'll keep it in mind. Just don't be too disappointed if it turns out to be a very human serial killer."
He knew he was being humoured. "Oh, I'm sure it won't come to that," he said lightly.
She graced him with a slight smirk and said, "I just have to sew Ed here back up, and we'll go get the tox report. Give me fifteen minutes."
She expected him to wait outside, but to her surprise, he hoisted himself up onto a table and produced a packet of sunflower seeds. She forced herself to look away from the distraction of his mouth and his hands, and focused her concentration on putting Ed back together.
She was startled from her reverie when Mulder suddenly piped up. "You know, Scully, you're very good at that."
She raised her eyebrows slightly at the unexpected compliment, but didn't look up. "I know."
He grinned briefly, then mused, "You taught this at Quantico, didn't you? You must have been, what? Twenty- six when you started? That's pretty impressive, all those students must have really liked having you as their teacher." She never really talked about her academy days, he figured because it had never come up. However, the slight grimace on her face, quickly removed, made him wonder otherwise. "What does that look mean, Scully?" he asked curiously.
She looked slightly uncomfortable. "Nothing."
"No, really, what is it?" he said, concerned now.
She sighed resignedly and answered after a moment, "Mulder, I was liked probably about as much as you were." At his dubious expression she went on. "You're right, Mulder, I was young, very young. I had finished my M.D. in record time, in all of my training classes I excelled, I had an affair with one of my instructors and on top of everything else, I was a woman. I was cold and aloof in the eyes of most of the guys. And I'm not defending myself, I had to be. My reputation carried over into my teaching. I didn't get the crap I had in training, but that time had taught me not to give any leeway, which didn't make me any more popular with most of my students." She paused. "To be honest, it wasn't all bad. And you know me, it gave me a great excuse to kick their asses whenever I felt the urge." She grinned, and the somber mood lifted.
Mulder put on an affronted face. "So what excuse could you possibly come up with for me? I know for a fact that I never give you any crap, and my behavior is impeccable at all times." Her eyes flicked meaningfully over to the various sharp instruments at her side, and he grinned.
Then she looked up and smiled gently at him. "You're right you know. I can't fault your behavior towards me. You have always treated me with such respect. Even when you didn't agree with me. Especially then. I couldn't have asked for a better partner."
Mulder gazed at her. If they weren't in a morgue with a dead body between them, and she wasn't covered with blood, he would have reached out and kissed her. But as usual, circumstances intervened. Even so, he slid off his perch and moved over so he could trace a finger over her cheek.
Scully's eyes smiled at him for a moment longer, before she broke into a grin and shattered the moment. "All of which means, of course, that I get to kick your ass far more infrequently that I sometimes wish."
He leered at her and said, "Well I wouldn't complain at the occasional ass-kicking if that would make you happy, Scully."
She turned her eyes back to her task and murmured, "I'm sure you wouldn't, Mulder," in a voice that made his knees weak. "Well, that's it," she announced as she pulled off her scrubs. "Lets get him back into his hole and find Elly."
36 Bailey Road
Ulysses Whitmore taught history at the small local university. If his home was any indication, he was an exceptionally well-read man. Scattered everywhere were books on every conceivable historical subject. In addition, one wall seemed to be entirely devoted to fiction, both classical and contemporary.
His appearance only added to the image of the absentminded professor. He had long, slightly untidy hair, glasses perched on his forehead, and bright sparkling eyes. There, however, the stereotype ended. He wore a garish Hawaiian shirt, with ratty trousers and old sandals.
He greeted them jovially, and invited them to clear themselves a seat.
Scully began. "Dr Whitmore, how are you feeling?"
"Fine, thank you. And please, call me Ulysses," he answered politely.
"No lasting effects, I take it?" Mulder asked.
"Nope, don't seem to be." He winked suggestively at Mulder. "Although a man could get used to the attention of all these attractive young nurses and FBI agents." Mulder glanced over at Scully, certain she would have taken offence at this. To his complete surprise, her eyes were twinkling, and she was determinedly looking everywhere but him. When he realized just what the good doctor was implying he blushed slightly, but took the compliment with good grace.
To his credit, the doctor didn't pursue the matter, although his eyes continued to twinkle mischievously whenever he looked at Mulder. At which point, Mulder decided to leave the questioning to his partner, who had schooled her face back into its usual FBI persona.
Ulysses couldn't tell them anything they hadn't already learned from the police report, and they were on the way to the door when Mulder remarked with a smile, "You have quite a selection, Doctor." He indicated the piles of books scattered around the room. "My apartment looked much the same when I was at University."
The doctor grinned at him. "God be thanked for books. They are the voices of the distant dead, and make us heirs of the spiritual life of past ages."
Mulder's photographic memory had started flicking through images the moment the doctor had started speaking. "William Ellery Channing, Self-Culture," it provided after a moment.
Ulysses looked impressed. "You, young man, are welcome back whenever you chose. With," he inclined his head in Scully's direction with a courtly smile, "or without," with a much less courtly smile, "your lovely partner."
Mulder was momentarily speechless. This had to be the first time he had been propositioned by a middle-aged, hippie doctor of history. Scully jumped to the rescue. He would have to pay her back for the smile he saw threatening to break her stern control at some other time. "Thank you, Dr Whitmore, I'm sure we'll keep it in mind." Her self-control nearly snapped when she glanced at Mulder's face. "Goodbye," she said hurriedly as she rushed out the door, dragging Mulder after her.
She made it to the car before letting the grin spill over. "I believe we may have found another candidate for president of your fan club, Mulder. And here I thought it was hard being a woman in the FBI," she commented sympathetically.
He started to grin back at her. It was all quite flattering really. Not that he'd ever consider taking up such an offer, but that didn't mean it didn't do wonders for his ego. "Your ego certainly doesn't need any additional stroking, Mulder."
"Oh, Scully, if only you knew how hard it was to be instantly beloved by every man and woman who laid eyes on you." He flashed her a quick smirk. "Now, if we were going for truly corny, I would have to say that you already do. But, as that extremely elegant and ladylike snort just demonstrated, I don't know that you would appreciate the sap. So we'll just leave it with me." He sent her a gentle smile.
She smiled softly back at him, letting him know she understood. "Thank you, Mulder, you have no idea how much I despise sap." Then she looked at her watch. Seeing it was just after six o'clock, she got out the map of the area.
"Calling it a day?" Mulder asked.
She looked at him reproachfully. "No, we are going to the hotel to look over the case and try to come up with something on our killer," she explained slowly.
"No rest for the wicked, hey? Just try not to get us lost."
She was about to reply with indignation, when she saw the smile lurking deep in his eyes. So she just smirked at him and put away the map. He quirked an eyebrow at her. "I wouldn't dream of interfering. After all, didn't you once tell me you were never wrong when it came to driving." Now there was a challenge if ever he'd heard one.
River Lethe Hotel
They finally made it to their hotel, after relatively few mishaps. It was a relatively small one-story affair that backed onto the river running through the center of the town. The view from their rooms was stunning. Mulder could see that the river was girded by a wide strip of grass, with benches scattered in between the willows and flowerbeds that adorned it. Beyond this was a footpath, stretching in both directions towards the distant roads.
As they arrived at the reception area, the sun was just setting over the water.
"This is beautiful," Scully remarked to the elderly woman behind the counter.
Unexpectedly affected by the display the setting sun was putting on he found himself waxing poetic. He recalled a line of verse, probably from his college days as he gazed at the sight in front of him that he couldn't help but feel was accurate. 'If eyes were made for seeing, then beauty is its own excuse for being.' But he was not looking at the sunset by this time.
Scully smirked and turned to him. "I get the impression you're not talking about the sunset Mulder," she challenged him with a smile. "Who knew you could be so sentimental? But thank you. I don't think you've ever said that to me before." She trailed off as she saw the strained expression on his face. "Mulder, what is it? What's wrong?"
"Ah, nothing Scully. I didn't think I'd said that out loud."
"What, you think I'm reading your mind now?" she teased.
"I certainly hope not," he said fervently. Scully laughed, and he grinned back at her, but the calculating expression lingered in his eyes as she turned back to the receptionist.
Fifteen minutes later they were comfortably installed in their rooms, and were in the process of discussing dinner.
"So, what are you in the mood for?" Mulder asked with a suggestive smirk, which, as per usual, Scully had a far more difficult time ignoring than he knew she ought. He felt like something simple, but would leave it up to his partner.
Her eyes wandered to the park by the river, outside their back door. "A picnic," she said impulsively. "We can have something simple. We can get some things from the corner store and you can make us some sandwiches." This last said with a sly grin. As she looked over him, she thought she thought she saw that strange expression flit across his face again. But it was gone so quickly that she put it out of her mind. Maybe it did mean something, but it just as easily could mean nothing at all. With Mulder one just never knew.
"Ok, I'll meet you out there in fifteen." 'There's something I want to talk to you about.' This last he said silently. He wanted to see what her response would be when he got back. While he wasn't certain what was going on, he was reasonably sure that he had not suddenly started letting his mouth run away with him, nor had his movements become significantly louder over the past twelve hours. What he didn't know was how he was going to broach his thoughts to Scully. This gave him pause. "That could actually be the least of my worries," he murmured wryly to himself.
True to his word, he was back fifteen minutes later with bags of bread, cold meats and salad vegetables. He joined her at the picnic table and proceeded to make their dinner, quashing Scully's protests with a raised hand and a mischievous grin. "And," he announced, "you have to eat whatever I put I front of you." His smile widened as she rolled her eyes.
"Dear God, what have I done. If I don't live to see the morning I'm going to seriously hurt you Mulder." She watched him for a moment more, then causally asked, "So, what did you want to talk to me about?"
Mulder's hand stilled immediately, and he took a deep breath before looking up into her eyes. They held no hint of deception. He could tell that if something was happening to her, she wasn't aware of it, yet. He glanced away briefly. When he looked back her forehead was creased with worry. "Mulder? Are you all right? You're not sick, are you?" She reached a hand towards his forehead, but he arrested its movement by grasping it gently with his own.
Making certain she was looking at him, he steeled himself. 'No, Scully, I'm fine', he thought with a small smile.
She frowned and said, "Then what is . . ." she trailed off. His lips hadn't moved.
'Scully, you're reading my mind.'
"Mulder, did you just say something?" She sounded slightly desperate.
"Not with my mouth. I told you, you're reading my mind." When she didn't answer he sighed and said, "Ok then, I'll think of something, and you try to tell me what it is." He deliberately mistook her silence for acceptance. He was prepared to acknowledge that she did indeed know him very well, and under most circumstances could probably guess what he was thinking. So he tried to pick something completely innocuous. 'Onychomancy - the art of divination by the study of a person's fingernails.'
He watched carefully as her brow furrowed. "Onychomancy?" she asked skeptically, then winced as Mulder's face lit up triumphantly and she realized what she must have done.
Scully cleared her throat, then opened her mouth, only to close it and open it again. Slowly, the wild look drained from her eyes. Mulder prepared himself for the inevitable barrage of scientific explanations and disbelief.
"This is impossible, Mulder. People can't read other people's minds." He raised an eyebrow at her and she coloured slightly, as she recalled exactly what had happened to him not even a year before. "Yes, well, okay, but that was different. There is no evidence to suggest that that is happening to me."
"I agree with that, Scully." She looked surprised. "I don't think this is the same as what I went through, but I do think that something is definitely happening to you. You can't maintain after everything that happened to me that telepathy doesn't exist, because let me assure now that it does. You can't deny this, Scully, you've been pre-empting me all day!"
He had started out calm. However, the stubborn expression on her face was having its usual affect on him, and by this point he was nearly yelling at her. He stopped, chagrined at his outburst, and prepared to face Scully's reaction. To his surprise his partner merely nodded, her face thoughtful.
"Then again," she remarked, "I don't seem to be able to hear everything you think, only what is directed towards me. And I can't hear what anyone else is thinking either, so maybe it's you." But she wasn't entirely pleased with this interpretation, for reasons she couldn't fathom.
Mulder, meanwhile, sat dumb, his mouth hanging open. She hadn't really thought how her response would affect her partner. If she had known it was this much fun, she would have done it far more often. She couldn't resist messing with his head a little more. "Well, I'd like to think I can surprise you every now and again." This thought she hadn't plucked from his mind, but honestly, she knew him well enough to make a reasonably accurate guess. "And shut your mouth, Mulder, you're letting in the flies."
This jolted him from his stupor. "S-so . . . you believe that you are reading my mind," he stuttered hesitantly.
She appreciated the importance of this to him, and her face fell back into its usual impassive mask. "It could simply be a product of seven years of close friendship. But I don't know Mulder. I feel it. It may sound incredible, but something is telling me that this is real, and not the product of my overactive imagination," she said gravely. She frowned. "Which in and of itself is completely irrational." But she wasn't denying the possibility outright. Then her face lightened again. "Besides, this could be fun. I've always wondered what goes on in your head."
He hadn't thought of that. Shit. This, she heard, but only because she was listening for it. She grinned, then said placatingly, "Don't worry, Mulder, I promise I won't read your mind any more."
"You can control it?"
Scully nodded. "I think so. There's not really all that much of it anyway."
"You're taking this awfully well, Scully," he remarked casually, a little worried this was all an act for his benefit.
She looked slightly uncomfortable and even squirmed in her seat, he was amused to note. Then she shrugged. "What do you want me to say, Mulder. I know I don't always believe you when you maintain things like this are happening to other people, but regardless of its origin, I can hardly deny that something *is* happening to me. Sure, it may defy any explanation I could try to ascribe to it, but I can't, nor have I ever, dismissed something I could conclusively prove."
Mulder vaguely felt like he should be arguing with all of this, and was distantly amused by the sensation. But at the moment he was more interested in learning what his partner knew about her sudden abilities.
Automatically he picked up a knife and finished making their sandwiches. "Where is this coming from, Scully? It must have something to do with the town. You haven't displayed these abilities before now. Have you?" he added suspiciously.
"No, Mulder, I haven't been secretly plumbing the depths of your mind for the last seven years. I am still here, after all."
He smirked at her, then went off on a tangent. "Scully, have you noticed that all the people who have lost friends or relatives to the recent murders are all taking the loss surprisingly well? In fact this whole town," 'including ourselves since we arrived' he thought, "seems to be inordinately . . . I don't know, content."
Used to Mulder's frequent non-sequiturs, her mind had little trouble changing tracks. "Are you accusing these people of something, Mulder? I'll grant you they seem to be remarkably well adjusted, but this is a very close town, and if people are brought up with the right outlook, with the support of friends and relatives, the death of a loved one can be much less traumatic than those of our experience."
Although the subject matter should probably have put him on edge, Mulder found himself relaxing into the normal currents of their relationship. Scully may have discovered some new power within herself, but she was still the same partner he loved.
"Not at all, I just think that coupled with the rash of extraordinary behavior among these good citizens, and the unexplained nature of the deaths, it bears thinking about."
"What exactly do you think is happening?"
"I think there's something here, Scully."
"Your demon soul prospector," she commented dubiously.
"Well, yes, I'm even more convinced of that now. But there's something else. Something is influencing the people of this town. From what you say you feel, I'd say it's likely it is trying to protect them."
"And what is this 'something'?"
Mulder looked frustrated. "I don't know. A ghost, an angel, God? You tell me."
"How should I know?" she demanded. "Besides, it could all be nothing more than our overactive imaginations."
Now he was starting to get angry. This was just typical of his partner. To admit to a possibility in one breath, then decide she couldn't cope with the consequences, and blithely change her mind.
"I can't 'cope' with the consequences!? How dare you tell me that I can't cope! I have coped with far more in my life than most people ever have to," Scully ranted. It was only when she realized Mulder had fallen silent and was gazing solemnly at her that she realized what she had done. "Shit," she murmured, looking at him accusingly. "Don't you dare try to make a project of me, Mulder. Maybe I can read your mind, but that doesn't mean you get to scrutinize me." One corner of her mouth lifted grudgingly. "Believe me, I'll make damn sure it's more trouble than its worth."
He lifted his arms placatingly and smiled softly at her. "Wouldn't dream of it, Scully. You know I respect you more than that." She offered him a small smile. "But," the smile quickly transformed into a warning glare, "alright, okay. I was just hoping we could figure out where it came from."
"Like you said, it probably has something to do with the town. Thus, when we leave, it should no longer be an issue." Mulder didn't look very happy with this but accepted it for the time being. Seeing her partner's disgruntled expression, Scully relented slightly and said, "It seems likely it has something to do with the case, so you should be able to learn something about it. If it turns out that it doesn't, *and* we have time, we can look into it *after* we solve the murders."
Mulder smiled at this small concession and nodded his thanks.
Scully cleared her throat slightly and said, "The light is nearly gone. If you've finished eating, we should probably move this conversation inside."
As she got up, she glanced over the river to the opposite bank. There she saw, standing the very last ray of sunlight, the small boy they had encountered outside the morgue earlier. He was still dressed in the same outfit, and was now also carrying some sort of instrument. 'He must be freezing,' she thought. The boy's face seemed to light up, and she felt a wave of gentle amusement wash over her.
At that moment, Mulder also looked up and followed the direction of her gaze. The child looked over to Mulder and lifted his hand to wave at him. Mulder smiled and waved back. The boy then turned back to Scully and gave her a radiant smile. As always, she was helpless not to smile back, and had opened her mouth to call to him when she lifted her gaze to the rooftops behind him, silhouetted in the faint glow still coming from the west. She froze as there, on one of the rooftops, she saw a flowing black outline, poised on the edge, ready to jump to the ground below.
As her gaze pinned it, its head slowly swiveled around, until she felt as though its eyes were fixed upon her very soul. One part of her mind stated calmly that it was impossible for anything to discern her from this distance, that there was no way she could perceive its eyes from where she stood. But another knew with cold certainty that whatever that creature was, it knew exactly where she was, and would be capable of finding her, from now on, wherever she went. And she knew, she felt, that it *would* find her, that it had tasted her soul and would now do everything in its power to hunt her down and destroy her.
She watched, spellbound, as time and distance seemed to slow, to merge, and the black shape became the focus of a reality that was becoming gradually smaller and smaller. She could hear, distantly, the sound of someone shouting her name, and tried to hold onto this slim lifeline. While her world did indeed seem to curtail its contraction, she knew she would need more than that to hold on to. Much more, she thought as her mind was slowly enveloped in an empty black cloud.
Beside her, Mulder was frantic. He had been looking at the child across the river, when the boy's expression changed from joyful, to alarmed. He saw the boy look over his shoulder to the rooftops behind him, and following his gaze, saw the black shape in the distance. He had turned to Scully to point the man out to her, when he saw that she had gone completely still, staring at the form. He watched in growing alarm as fear settled across her face, and her stance became limp. When saying her name garnered no response, he placed his hands over her shoulders and shook her, all the while shouting her name.
He glanced around in frustration, and his eyes settled on the young boy. He was momentarily stilled as he took in the determination that now graced the boy's face, and the instrument he held ready to play in his arms. As his hands dropped from his partner's shoulders, the boy looked up in alarm, and he heard the command echo painfully through his mind, 'Do not let her go!'
He stood unmoving for a moment, stunned by the force in his head. The boy looked up angrily again, but his face softened somewhat as he took in Mulder's expression. 'Hold her, call to her. She will need us both.'
Putting the entire incredible incident to one side of his brain for the time being, he turned and grabbed his partner's face between his hands.
As he repeated her name, he heard, welling up from all around him, the gentle strain of music. In the corner of his mind that was not entirely focused on Scully's face, he marveled at the silver bands of light that seemed to be drawn down from the stars themselves. He felt them enter his body, transferred through his hands into his partner.
The light was flowing into her fast, but was still being overwhelmed by a terrible blackness. He could feel the power building up in him, but could see that the outlet wasn't enough. Without another thought he yanked her towards him and placed his lips squarely on hers, pressing, as he did, every part of his body into hers that he could.
The power exploded outwards into the woman in his arms, and her form stiffened and spasmed as the blackness was thrown screaming from her body. Still Mulder did not let her go, although a tiny voice in the back of his mind was mocking his stubborn refusal to examine his motivations.
Slowly, Scully relaxed and put her arms around him, her eyes closed, and her lips still pressed lightly to his own. While Mulder was loath to put an end to this embrace, Scully didn't seem aware of her actions, and he knew it was the gentlemanly thing to do. As he made this decision, however, Scully's lips started to move against his own, and as she pressed herself more firmly against him all rational thought left his mind.
A moment later, Scully gently pulled backward and stepped out of his arms. He opened his eyes to find her smiling slyly at him. "Thank you, Mulder."
"Well now, I'm glad you liked it." He deliberately mistook her words. She shook her head and laughed softly at him. Mulder cleared his throat and asked, "So does this mean you're okay, or should I take you to a hospital?"
She sobered quickly and reassured him, "No, I'm fine, really. I'm a little exhausted, but otherwise I don't appear to have sustained any physical damage."
"And non-physical damage?" he asked quietly, peering intently into her eyes.
She reached out a hand to touch his cheek and he shivered. She pulled back instantly and he immediately missed the warmth. But her gaze locked with his and could read the honesty, the gratitude, and most of all the affection in her eyes as she said, "It didn't get me, Mulder. It was a close thing, but as always you were there. You saved me. Thank you."
He felt his eyes fill with tears, and pulled her into a rough embrace. "Nothing is going to take you away from me, Scully, ever. I promise," he whispered.
He could feel her smile against his chest and heard her muffled, "I know."
He held her a moment longer before she pulled away determinedly and stated with a grin, "Come on, inside, it's getting cold out here."
Mulder thought about disagreeing, but decided he should probably keep that to himself. Now that he had a moment to think about it, it hit him full force that he had finally, truly kissed Dana Scully. He knew her motivations were not yet what he would have liked them to be, but it was certainly a step in the right direction. As he recalled the feel of her lips against his own, of her body pressed to his, he sent up a silent prayer of thanks to whatever deity had given him this chance. And as he followed his partner up to their rooms, he heard the words, 'My pleasure,' accompanied by a glowing warmth, filling his consciousness. Then, 'From me to you, the secret of success is constancy of purpose,' it said sagely. This was followed by a soft childish laughter that reverberated in his mind and lingered softly. His face was transformed with a grin of its own as his eyes fixed intently on his partner's back and his mind was consumed with thoughts of the future.
Meanwhile, in another part of town, not too far away, two stone statues glowed softly with residual light, and a young boy stepped out of the shadows and into their presence. The consciousness held within the stone spoke. "I did not believe it would find her so quickly. Without her power, she is unable to defend herself. It must be soon. With the blessing of the new day I will bring her here. The creature will not tarry. We must protect her tonight, but by tomorrow, she must be ready." It paused a moment, then added in a gentle voice, "Thank you, little spirit, for calling me. You have done well this evening."
The irrepressible smile appeared on his face, although his tone remained grave. "The town will be safe for this night. I will remain by her side. Penthesilea will guard her people as always. She will call you if she needs you." His face fell, and the sadness of the ages was reflected in his eyes. "I wish it had not come to this. I can still remember the laughter in his eyes, you know."
The great mind reached out and wrapped him in a soft glow. The boy offered it a small smile. "You must not grieve for this thing, little one. The one you loved died a long time ago. This is a great evil now, and it must be stopped."
The child sighed, and answered, "I know, it's just that I miss him."
The consciousness sent him a wave of affection. "Then remember him, little one. But remember him as he was, and do not let yourself falter. That is what he would have wanted."
He stood, lost in his memories for a moment, and then straightened his small shoulders determinedly. "You're right. This has gone on long enough. This time there will be an end to it, and there will be no chance of this ever happening again."
The mind withdrew, and said softly, "I'm proud of you, little one. And now to it, for none of this will come to pass if the great soul is taken."
The child wiped the melancholy expression off his face and threw the consciousness one last smile, before stepping backward with a flourish and vanishing into the darkness.
Back at the motel, Mulder had taken Scully to his room. She was sitting on the only bed, leaning up against the headboard, while he had turned the deep comfortable armchair towards her, shrugged off his coat and blazer, and had gratefully sunk into it. Currently, he was in the process of trying to convince her to get into bed and take the rest of the night off.
While seriously tempted by the offer, she remained adamant that they still had work to do, and that she could certainly manage another hour or so.
After several minutes of arguing, Mulder gave in with a resigned shrug, and said, "Well, don't blame me if you can't get out of bed tomorrow morning."
Scully smirked and said, "Oh, Mulder, I always blame you for that."
He shot her an amused grimace but dropped the subject. "All right, so you want to know what I found out at the interviews with the families, I suppose."
"By all means, regale me."
"You were right, you know, I think all the victims did have something in common. It wasn't anything to do with their jobs, at least directly, it seems to have more to do with their personalities, and their past."
"Someone is killing people because they don't like their personalities?" Scully asked, confused, not entirely sure where this was going.
"Think about their jobs, Scully. Emma Cummings, the first victim, was a biochemist. Her husband told me she loved her work so much because she was helping others, finding cures for diseases. Then we have Branwen Moore, a social worker, Christopher Roberts was a nurse, Ulysses Whitmore is a teacher."
"That's only four victims, Mulder. I can see where you're going with this, but the others don't fit quite so neatly into your theory," Scully reasoned.
Mulder took no offence, yet, he relied on her to argue with his theories. Yes, it got annoying sometimes, but he wouldn't have it any other way. He shook his head eagerly. "But they do, Scully. Henry Knight owned his own stationary shop, but on the weekends he coached the local softball team, and according to his wife was constantly giving away products to those who needed them, or could not afford them. And finally Catherine Adams, a housewife, mother of three, grandmother of five. According to her family, all her life she had been active in the community, helping with church fetes, homeless shelters, and so on."
He paused, to gauge Scully's reaction. She was nodding slowly. "I'll grant you, that could certainly be construed as a connection, but it still doesn't explain why these people in particular were killed. There have to be hundreds of people in the town who have similar jobs, or who are just as philanthropic as these." She glanced over to her partner and saw the knowing smile gracing his face. There was a look she was intimately familiar with. She grimaced playfully and said, "There's something else, isn't there?"
The smile transformed into a momentary grin. He nodded. "All of the victims have lived in the town all of their lives, and all of them, since they were children, have frequented the local library. They were all extremely interested in history or fiction as children, and that interest continued, in some form or another, as they grew up."
Scully shot him an amused look. "How the hell did you manage to find that out, Mulder?"
He ignored that. "Don't you see, Scully, it's a combination of factors. It's no wonder the police didn't find the connection."
"Yah," Scully murmured.
He ignored that too, although his mouth twitched up slightly at the corners. "It'll be hard, but we should be able to come up with a list of possible victims. Maybe by talking to those people we can figure out who or what is targeting them, before it gets to anyone else."
"Looks like we get to go to the library after all, hey Mulder? I am suitably impressed," she said with a smile, taking the sting out of the words. "You should call it into the station tonight. Get them working on that list right away. We have no real way of knowing when the killer will strike again."
Mulder nodded and retrieved his phone from the jacket he had casually tossed over the foot of the bed and turned away to make the call. Fifteen minutes, and one conversation with Neil later, he turned back to the bed to find Scully asleep on his pillow.
The sight rendered him motionless. He gazed down at her for a long moment, his mind as still as his body, consumed by this image. He felt like he was seeing her for the first time. She was lying on her back, her head turned to one side, her hands folded lightly over her stomach. Her hair spilled over the white of the pillow in a red wave, and had fallen across her face, obscuring his view. Almost against his will, Mulder moved silently to her side, his eyes fixed on that fall of hair, his heart crying out for the sight of her face.
He sat down on the bed, careful not to jolt her. But he didn't reach out a hand to her face, didn't give into the urge to brush the strands away from her mouth and replace them with something infinitely softer.
Instead he reached out his heart. He gathered everything he felt for her and, for possibly the first time in her presence, allowed it to fill the very forefront of his mind, his soul, and directed it towards her with all the strength he possessed. He let the sensation last for only a moment before he took his feelings and, with an ease born of long practice, locked them once again into his subconscious. His eyes filled with tears, and he shut them slowly. He didn't know if she had felt it, in truth he didn't know if he wanted her to. But he had so wanted to tell her in that moment, wanted her to know everything, to give her his heart. He had been given a chance this evening. Even if she didn't say anything, if nothing changed for them when she woke up, he was comforted by the knowledge that somewhere, deep in her heart, his partner knew how he felt about her, and that someday she would discover it, and he would finally have his answer.
He gazed at her for a moment longer, before putting his professional face back on, tempering it with a smile. "Hey, Scully." He shook her shoulder. Her eyes shot open and gazed uncomprehendingly up at his face for a moment.
"Mulder," she said as her expression cleared, "I'm sorry, were you saying something?" She stopped and looked at him oddly, like she was trying to remember something. Whatever it was eluded her, and she dismissed it.
He looked at her with a mixture of disappointment and relief. But under this was a feeling of peace she had never seen in him before. She couldn't help but wonder what had been going on while she slept. Whatever it was, it was obviously momentous.
"Is something wrong?" she asked, concerned.
"No, Scully. I told you to go to bed." He smiled, "Every now and then you should take my advice. I'm not always wrong."
She shrugged unrepentantly. "Sorry." She got up and raised her hands over her head in a long stretch. Mulder watched with a smirk as she rolled her head around, eliciting a loud crack from her neck. She groaned tiredly and murmured, "Maybe you're right. Was there anything else we had to talk about before I turned in?"
"No, just go to bed, Scully."
She collected her jacket and made her way to the door, where Mulder was waiting. She paused momentarily when she reached him, regarding him with the same odd expression she had had when she had woken up. This time, however, she seemed to find whatever it was she was looking for in his eyes. She reached up and lightly pressed her lips to his own, then was gone before he could do more than widen his eyes in surprise. Mulder opened his mouth, wanting to say something - wanting more that she would come back and he could show her how it was meant to be done. Then he smiled and raised a hand to his lips, still tingling from the contact. This meant more to him than any kiss they had shared in the past. She knew, somewhere inside, how he felt, and rather than ignoring it, she had embraced the sensation. He loved her so much in that instant, as for the first time he dared to hope that someday soon, he would tell her directly and the answer he got would be the one he so desperately wanted.
River Lethe Hotel
Mulder was sleeping soundly when he was jolted awake with the sudden certainty that he needed to be somewhere. Without questioning it, he got out of bed, dressed, then went to wake Scully.
She opened her door after he had knocked loudly for a few minutes, with a wary expression and a loaded weapon. He ignored both as he said, "Scully, we have to go. Get dressed."
The wariness evaporated into just plain annoyance, as she took in Mulder's appearance and his opening statement. "Go, Mulder? Where? It's almost dawn for god's sake, can't it wait?"
He regarded her impatiently. "No, Scully, we have to go now. *I* have to go now. You can come or not, but choose quickly."
She noted the serious expression on his face. She wasn't going to be able to talk him out of this, and she sure as hell wasn't going to let him go anywhere on his own. She sighed in resignation. "Fine, Mulder, give me five minutes."
Five minutes later she followed Mulder to the path by the river. "We're walking?" she asked, surprised.
"Yep," he answered laconically.
"Can you at least tell me where we're going, Mulder?" she asked hopelessly, not really expecting an answer.
"I'll be sure to tell you when we get there," he answered cheerfully.
"I figured as much," she grumbled. "You know, you were the one who wanted me to sleep, Mulder. Getting up at five in the morning isn't making me feel very rested." He just grinned at her. "The things I do for you, Mulder." She linked her arm through his and contented herself with just being with her partner for the time being.
Mulder stopped outside the library just as the sun crested the horizon. "This seems to be the place," he stated. His partner didn't answer, and he turned to look at her curiously.
She was staring fixedly at the statues that graced either side of the path leading to the still closed front doors. Following her gaze, he was caught once again by the strange desire that had led him this far. Stepping away from Scully, he reached one hand out towards each of the creatures.
"Mulder," Scully called out sharply, "what are you doing?" She was concerned. Since laying eyes on the strange statues, a deep hum had been building inside her head, and with it, she could feel a growing compulsion. She was fighting it, not because she was certain it was evil, but because she didn't understand it. But the force was growing stronger, and as it called to her, it lulled her, tried to tell her there was nothing for her to worry about. She could feel herself starting to believe it, starting to give in. She took a single step forward, and with a supreme effort of will, stopped again.
She watched with a distant sense of fear, as her partner hesitated at her words, then continued to reach out towards the stone.
Although he couldn't see her, Mulder knew Scully was afraid. It occurred to him that this was what she had been experiencing since they had arrived. But the notion was fleeting, as his mind was once again overshadowed, and without another thought his hands connected with the cold stone.
The world exploded around him. He felt like he encompassed the entire universe, that with a thought he could be anywhere, anything, at any time. For an instant, he was certain that he could reach out his hand and pluck the stars from the sky. And without thinking he reached out with his mind and held onto that moment. He gazed about himself with new eyes that saw the coloured points of light that spilled out of every rock, every blade of grass. The world was awash in a beautiful pale radiance. And as he turned his eyes towards the mighty stone beasts at his side, he saw that they shone with an intensity that far outstripped even the combined glory of the world around him. They were the colour of the stars, the combined brilliance of all those thousands of suns, shining in their distant systems. At that moment he knew what had saved his partner last night, could feel the power that emanated from the vast consciousness before him.
Even so, he was startled at the voice that rumbled through his mind. 'Greetings, great soul, I have been waiting for you.' When he failed to respond, it sent a gentle wave of amusement. 'Do not be afraid, great soul, I would not hurt you. We need your aid, which is why I have awakened you. I am sorry if you were startled.'
"What . . .? Who . . .?" Mulder stuttered. He grabbed onto the one piece of information that had actually penetrated the confused haze. "You need my help?" he questioned dazedly.
'Yes,' it answered gravely, 'you and the woman with you. You both have great power in your souls.'
He was startled by another voice. Sitting on the back of the dragon on the right was the boy he had seen last night. By this time, Mulder took in the fact of his presence with almost no surprise. Including the fact that he was partially transparent. The light that streamed from all around them seemed to be reflected back by him. His inner radiance was made up of all the colours of the world. He did not drain the light from his surroundings, but seemed rather to be defined by it, given purpose of sorts by the life that surrounded him.
"Power," he said earnestly, the childish voice incongruous with the tone of his voice, and the deep pools of brilliant gold that were his eyes. "It is something that every mortal is born with, to some extent. It is not something that is active in most people. Nevertheless, those with powerful souls will always have a more profound effect on the world around them. Your family all had much power in their souls. Your mother was a bright light for a long time before she lost hope and faith. But even then, the power of her soul allowed her to keep her faith. The death of your sister restored much to her."
Mulder frowned at this, how could his mother have known of his sister's death, and why would it have helped her. The boy smiled at him sadly. "Your sister was a beautiful soul. If she had lived, she would have grown even as powerful as Dana. With her death, her soul was released. Instead of leaving, she gave half of her power each to you and your mother. You have always carried her with you. Your mother never knew this, but she could feel her. *You* can feel her."
"What are you talking about?" Mulder whispered incredulously.
"Look inside yourself, you will find her."
Without knowing exactly how he did it, Mulder reached deep inside himself. He descended to the very center of his being, a place he had always feared to uncover. There, where he had always suspected would lie the withered husk of a human being, burned a bright golden light. This was him, he realized. All round this central point of light swirled myriad colours, interspersed with thick black tendrils. As he drew back he realized that none of these black waves truly touched his core. Surrounding it was a translucent barrier of pale white light. As he reached out with his mind to touch it, a shock of recognition passed through him, followed by a warm wave of affection. Tears filled his eyes. All these years. All these years, and all he had to do was look inside himself. It was the one place it had never occurred to him to search.
"Sam?" he called out. He received no answer, but felt her essence wrap itself around him. "How is this possible?" he demanded softly.
"Love," the voice echoed in his head. "For the past twenty- two years she has guarded your soul. Without her you would have been consumed by the darkness. Now you have Dana, also, to defend your heart." As he said it, Mulder became aware of the flashes of red lightning that coloured what he perceived as his soul. This, he knew, was Scully, always giving everything she had to keep him safe.
He drew back to himself and the voice continued, "Your father at one time was also a very bright light. The power of the soul grows with life. He did not allow his soul to grow."
Mulder knew the truth of this. Everything his father had become, all the evil he had perpetuated was of his own doing. How could anything be expected to thrive on such hatred, such despair. "How do you know all this?" Mulder questioned, deeply affected by these revelations.
The being before him was transformed into a child once again with the smile that appeared on his face. "People like you and Dana are like stars in the night sky. The spirit world is drawn to you, like moths to a flame. So we watch you, we don't usually interfere, but sometimes, like now, it becomes necessary. Then, it does well for us to know where to find you. Unfortunately, the strongest souls are often the most difficult to manipulate, which is why we have awoken so few over time. It is lucky that you two were here at the right time."
The consciousness, which had been silent during this exchange, rumbled. 'Now I must wake the woman. I warn you now,' it said to Mulder, 'it will be far more difficult for her than it was for you.'
"What? Why?" he asked, alarmed, as he turned to his partner. He stopped as he looked at her. She was surrounded in a beautiful red nimbus. It was no where near as bright as the light he had seen when looking into himself, or that around the boy or the statues, but was magnificent in it's own right. Then he looked closer. She was taking a step forward, but moving so slowly as to be almost standing still. "Scully?" he called out, frightened now. A childish ripple of laughter came from behind him.
"Fear not. You are doing this. Let go of this moment. She will not realize what has happened." Stunned, Mulder looked around. A few feet away, a butterfly was flapping its wings once every few seconds. More amazing still was that just beyond that; the world seemed to carry on at its normal speed. "Your power is strong to be able to influence the outside world in such a way, but not strong enough to influence it more than a few feet. Now, let it go. You can explore it later." He spoke as if to a child, with an amused tone.
Now that he was aware of it, Mulder could feel what he was doing, and without another thought, released his hold on time. The world snapped back into place seamlessly.
All of a sudden, Mulder was facing her. Scully stopped, confused. But Mulder held out his hand and said, "It's all right, Scully, there's nothing to be afraid of." Instantly put off by the condescending manner, but aware that he meant no offence, she narrowed her eyes slightly, and moved towards him.
"What happened, Mulder? What did you do?" she demanded.
"I . . ." he opened his mouth to try and explain, but there were no words for what he had experienced. He shook his head. "It's incredible, Scully. Maybe I can show you." Mulder took his hand in hers, and her eyes widened as she looked at herself from Mulder's perspective. The world was so bright, she could hear the wind moving among the blades of grass, feel the life pulsing from the various tiny creatures the surrounded them. "This is what I see, Scully. Now it's your turn."
And just like that, she was back in her own form. Almost unconsciously, her arms stretched out and, her gaze never leaving Mulder's face, came into contact with the beasts at her sides.
The world erupted around her as it had done with Mulder. She was blinded by the life pouring from every surface. Mulder himself glowed a brilliant blue, with sparks of black and red and white. And for an instant, she was merely stunned by the beauty that surrounded her. But unlike Mulder, her world continued to expand. She was pulled into the furthest reaches of space above her, the depths of the earth below her. She could feel the power humming among the stars, in the moving flows deep beneath her feet. And she knew with a terrible certainty, that such forces would rip her to shreds if she ever dared call upon them. Then with a gut-wrenching snap, the power flooded back into her and she threw out her arms as she allowed it to flow in one enormous wave outwards, into the town and beyond. Then she fell screaming to her knees as a wave of pure sound slapped into her mind. From everywhere she could her the murmuring of people. Talking, shouting, singing, whispering, dreaming. She felt like was in a stadium, crowded with screaming fans, each of whom was holding a microphone, and she was wearing the headset.
It was more than she could bear. She clawed at her ears, but came up short when she realized Mulder was holding onto her shoulders, shaking her. She thought he was shouting at her. She could see his lips move, but was deafened by the cacophony in her head.
Then, to her surprise, one deep voice made itself heard. It was almost as though it had snuck in under the noise, and was speaking directly to her heart. She was in too much pain to reply, but had no choice but to listen as is said, 'Great soul, the power is yours, it is everything you are. It is yours to use, to control in whatever way you wish. I know what you are thinking of, but that was not the same. That power was not his. It was forced upon him and he had no control over what it did to him. You have always had this, and you always will. If you wish to stop this pain, all you have to do is take control of it.'
"How?" she whimpered.
'Draw your power back to yourself.' Scully gasped as the knowledge suddenly flooded her mind. She realized she knew exactly what to do. She could feel her soul stretching out all around her, and with almost no effort whatsoever, found that she could call it back. As she did so, the pain faded, and she was left only with an enormous sense of potential. 'It will do only what you let it. If you do not wish to hear the thoughts of others, you do not have to. Anything is possible, great one, if only you believe it.'
Mulder had stopped calling his partner's name. A moment after she had touched the statues, the red nimbus that had surrounded her had abruptly vanished, and she had fallen to her knees. When she had started streaming, he had fallen to his knees in front of her, alternately shouting her name, and desperately pleading with the two great spirits beside him to help her.
He reached out with his mind, but discovered there was nothing within her to touch. Moments after she had stopped screaming, however, he noticed that she was beginning to glow a pale red. He stepped back rapidly as the light poured into her. Long after it had reached the intensity it had been before she touched the statues, then the intensity of his own aura, it continued, until it was like looking at a small sun. Then, the intake slowed, and she relaxed from the tight ball she had been curled in and got to her feet.
Scully looked at him, her eyes the same brilliant blue they had always been. "Mulder," she said, her voice strangely resonant.
"Scully," he whispered, awed, "you're beautiful." She snorted in a decidedly unladylike manner, and completely destroyed the moment. He shrugged apologetically, but smiled slightly. "You think you could turn down the lights a little, though." He squinted at her. She sighed at the incompetence of men, but obligingly dimmed her aura.
"You know, Mulder, all you have to do is alter your own sight." He hadn't, but took the information in stride and gave it a go. Instantly, the world around him faded back to its normal hues, which, after what he had just seen, seemed inordinately drab and colourless.
"Well, what do you know," he remarked. "This is going to be fun." He turned towards the statues. "So, what can I do? More importantly, what did you want us to do?"
The stone beasts were dimming slightly in the morning sunlight. 'I will let the radiant one explain,' it rumbled. 'I have lost some of my strength with your awakenings. I must rest, or I will be unable to help you when you need me.' With that the light faded from the stones entirely, and the consciousness fell silent.
The spirit piped up. "Not to worry, he's just taking a nap, you can talk to him later if you want to." He turned towards Scully. "He gave you the knowledge of your powers, I take it?" At her nod, the boy grinned. "Well then, we're all set," he exclaimed cheerfully. "You two could probably use some breakfast, then we need to go see Penthesilea."
He led them to an early morning bakery, and the agents perked up considerably at the aroma of freshly baked bread wafting from the open door. The child said he would be back in a moment, so they ordered their food, and took a seat at one of the tables outside.
Both Mulder and Scully found they were walking around in a slight daze. The world had never seemed so full, so vibrant. Scully in particular was having a hard time not being distracted. Unlike Mulder, she was fully aware of what she was capable of doing, and had to resist the temptation to listen to the conversations rustling between the trees, reaching out to the minds she could dimly feel all around her. She even had the childish urge to make herself invisible and see what Mulder's reaction would be, or transport herself to their motel room so she could take a shower. Her strongest urge, however, was to reach out to Mulder's mind. She had not been lying earlier when she said she had always wondered what he thought about. She refused to admit to herself that her greatest curiosity was what he thought of her. But it was not in her nature to invade someone's privacy so callously. Thus, she placed a shield around her own mind so Mulder could not, inadvertently she was sure, wander in. Then she placed those rebel thoughts under strict lock and key, determined that, even if he should offer, she would not give into the urge.
Meanwhile, Mulder was having enormous fun exploring his new powers. Recalling what the captain had said about the curious instances around town, the first thing he did was open his mind up to the small lives around him. Along the side of the footpath, his mind found a pair of rodents, and he listened in amazement as he found he could understand the gist of their conversation. Then he moved his consciousness to the trees, and was suddenly aware of the hidden music in their quiet rustlings, the life and the strength flowing through their massive frames. They were seated when he recalled that one of the reports had been of someone flying from the roof of a seven-story building.
Scully stared as he jumped from his seat. "Mulder, what are you doing?" she asked curiously. He had climbed up on the table, and seemed to be measuring the distance to the ground.
He grinned at her. "I want to see if I can fly, Scully." At any other time, a declaration such as this would have had her rushing him to the hospital to check for serious head trauma. Now, however, she merely quirked one corner of her mouth in amusement and waved one hand for him to continue. At this sign of permission, he screwed his eyes shut in concentration and stepped off the table.
So deeply was he focussing, that he did not initially notice that he hadn't actually fallen the short distance to the ground and twisted his ankle, as he had been half sure he was going to. Rather, as he opened his eyes, he saw that he was floating gently about three feet from the ground. He gave a delighted laugh. "This is so cool, Scully."
"Yes, just think how many government security fences you could illegally float over without me," she muttered to herself sarcastically. She hadn't meant Mulder to hear, but with his improved hearing he picked up on the words. His eyes lit up, and she was immediately galvanized into action. "Oh, no, Mulder. We are not going to be breaking into any government facilities. That isn't what this power was meant for and you know it."
If he was going to be honest with himself he did, but that didn't mean he couldn't think about it. "But, Scully, just think what we could accomplish! We-"
She cut him off. "-would attract far more attention than we could rationally explain. If, *if* we use our power after we leave this town, we will do so discreetly, and we will do our goddamn best not to attract any attention to ourselves."
He was still floating over the table, and her neck was starting to hurt looking up at him. Mulder's eyes widened almost imperceptibly as she got up out of her seat, and with a small amount of power, lifted herself up so she was looking him in the face. She softened her voice. "We both know what out enemies are capable of and we have both been at their mercy before. I don't want that to happen again," she said vehemently. He looked into her eyes for a long moment, then drew her into his arms. She placed her own arms around his neck.
"I'll be good, scout's honour," he assured her. His tone was playful, but she could tell he meant it. His arms loosened slightly, and he said, "I like this new height thing you've got going, Scully. Maybe you could float around a foot off the ground all the time." She gave him a mental slap to the back of the head and pulled back, grinning at him. He comically rubbed the back of his head and grinned back at her.
"I can see this is most definitely going to be useful around the office. Maybe now I can get you to stop incessantly pissing off Skinner when we meet with him," she smirked at him, as she lowered them both to the ground.
'Oh really, Scully, where's your imagination? I'm sure I can think of many much more interesting things we could use it for than that,' he said silently, with an accompanying mental leer.
She seriously thought about responding to this, but decided the best course of action would be the enigmatic smile she knew so intrigued her partner. Indeed, at this gesture, he fell silent, as usual unable to decipher her expression. He thought about it for a moment, then decided to take it as a good sign. Why not, after all? It certainly couldn't hurt.
At this point the child popped back into sight with his customary grin on his face. "Having fun, are we?" he inquired. Without waiting for a response he went on. "You're probably wondering what's going on. We need you to help us destroy the person committing these murders. 'Destroy' probably sounds like a strong word, but I assure you, it's completely accurate. What we've got here is a kind of demon. It's been around for hundreds of years. Around two hundred years ago, I helped to imprison it. We trapped its essence into a stone carving, much like the Great Spirit you just met. But he was bound, unable to escape or influence the world around him. It was our very good fortune that when the statue was broken it happened to be in Carrington."
"Good fortune?" Mulder questioned.
The child nodded. "Mmm, you see, I wouldn't have been able to awaken you by myself. The dragons have lived outside libraries and other places of knowledge and power for as long as they have existed. They were first fashioned by the spirit world for just this purpose. Over the years, they have absorbed some of the power of every great soul that passed between then, and now they are one of the most powerful sentient spirit forces on earth. But they are confined. They can't go anywhere unless someone moves them, and cannot leave the immediate vicinity of their physical bodies. So we bring you to them, and they awaken your souls to their true potential."
Scully found this whole thing extremely unlikely, but couldn't argue with the results. "So what, exactly, do you want us to do?"
The child gave her a lopsided smile. "Exactly? I can't really say. We do know that if at all possible, it has to be totally destroyed this time. With the two of you, me, and the dragons, we should be able to accomplish this. Last time, we didn't have nearly so much accumulated power. I can also tell you that its one real weakness is the light: moonlight, starlight, and especially sunlight, although you probably won't be able to get it into the sunlight. It knows its weaknesses just as much as we do. Other than that, I guess we'll just have to play it by ear."
"Just how powerful is this thing?" Mulder questioned calmly.
The spirit grimaced slightly. "Pretty damn powerful. It's had a long time to grow, and has been resting for a good while now. It's going to be hard. I will understand if you don't want to go up against it, but you should know that even without you, the people of this town are going to make a stand, no matter how many of then may get killed in the process." He looked him directly in the eye and said earnestly, "We will never have a better chance of succeeding. We will eventually be able to draw another soul here, but we probably won't get two, and we probably won't get anyone as powerful as Dana. Every day that we wait another person is in danger of being killed. Please, it's now or never."
"Mike," Scully said softly. He turned his head towards her, and lost some of the desperation marring his beautiful face. She smiled at him. "We will destroy it. This is what we do. We protect the innocent, and bring the guilty to justice, even if that means at the expense of our lives. Both of us," she added, not having to look at Mulder to know that he was just as determined as she. But there was something else she wanted to know, something she was sure the spirit was keeping from them. She spoke silently, allowing Mulder to hear her. 'What else is there, Mike?' she demanded. The boy didn't reply, but looking into his eyes she saw the years and the pain reflected back at her. He looked away just as she saw the tears forming. Scully gentled her tone, but didn't relent. She had to resist the urge to pull this sweet, sad boy into her arms and hold him like the child he appeared to be.
He pulled himself together and turned to face her, the tears still threatening to fall. But when he spoke, there was a solid determination in his voice. "He was my brother." Mulder and Scully's eyes widened, but they said nothing as they waited for him to go on. "We were like you once, great souls, whose power had been made active. When we die, we join the spirit world. However, if our power is active at the time, we retain it, and become gods, ghosts, angels, whatever you want to call it. My brother and I died around two thousand years ago. His name was Thyestes. He had always been more open to the darker side of human nature. He wasn't evil, but neither was he ever particularly angelic." He smiled wistfully and shrugged. "I was his brother; I never thought anything of it. I never thought anything would ever happen to him. About a thousand years later I discovered he had been seduced by evil. All it takes is one misstep, and they had him. I know in my heart he never wanted this. He may have been a bit wild, but there was never any true malice in his soul. We had drifted apart. I can't help but feel that if I had been there for him that I might have prevented it. I don't want to see him die, but I know that the brother I loved has been gone a long time now. The great spirit is right, we have to set him free, once and for all."
Scully reached out and clasped his hand. "I'm so sorry, we both know how hard it is to watch the people you love die."
They sat in silence for a moment, not quite sure where to take it from there. Feeling slightly bad for the pall he had cast over the morning, and unable to bear the grim expressions on the faces of the two before him any longer, Mike found his face breaking once again into its customary grin. "Well, now that I've thoroughly destroyed the mood, does anyone have any more questions?" he laughed.
This brought the agents out of their reverie. Mulder smiled as he looked at his and asked playfully, "Did you say you were a god? Because I've studied comparative mythology, and I'm sure I'd remember a god named 'Mike.'"
The boy grinned and answered innocently. "You don't like 'Mike'? I've had lots of names, but most of them don't exactly fit into today's society. My name when I was alive was Atreus. I'd also like to say here and now, that those playwrights didn't know what they were talking about when they wrote those stories about Atreus and Thyestes. As for Mike, one of my favorite names has always been Mercury, just rolls off the tongue, don't you think? But even Mercury doesn't really sound inconspicuous, so I shortened it to Mike."
Mulder's mouth was hanging open. "You were Atreus, as in the house of Atreus, killed your brother's sons and fed them to him?" He sounded appalled.
Mike grimaced. "Of course not. I told you, Thyestes and I were close, those things were written hundreds of years later, and hardly mattered by that time."
Scully interrupted with a small smile. "Don't we have things to be doing?" she prompted gently.
Mike jumped up. "Right! We have to go see Lea, she can get together all the people we're going to need for tonight, and we should probably explain things to her." He looked up at the sun and frowned. "It's getting late. Dana, would you mind?"
"Are you sure it's okay, out in the open like this? The streets are filling up."
"Oh yes, it's fine," Mike answered airily. "The dragons have made sure that anything anyone sees won't leave the town. When it's all over, we can just make sure they don't remember anything they could report to the papers."
Scully nodded once and threw a thoroughly mischievous grin towards an increasingly bemused Mulder. "You ready?" She couldn't keep the laughter out of her tone. She couldn't wait to see his face when they got there. She didn't give him the chance to voice the 'For what?' that was forming in his mind before she summoned the image of Carrington police station, Captain Penthesilea's office, and wrapped her power around the three of them.
Mulder staggered momentarily as the bright flash of light faded, and reached out a hand to steady himself on the small table they had been standing beside. To his immense surprise there was nothing there. Only then did he look up at his surroundings.
He stopped. His eyes widened, and his mouth fell open. This was the police station. He turned slightly and found Scully grinning at him. He shut his mouth with a snap. 'How the hell did you do that!' he exclaimed silently, still slightly shaken.
Scully spoke out loud. "Anything is possible," she grinned mysteriously. Then she sobered slightly. 'Come here Mulder, I should have given you this before, but it slipped my mind, for obvious reasons.'
'Given me what?' he asked curiously as he approached her. When he stood before her, she reached up and touched his face with one hand. Puzzled, he was about to say something, when a bolt of energy passed from Scully into him. With it came the knowledge that the dragons had given her hours earlier. Suddenly he knew how his power worked, and what he was capable of doing. It wasn't so much a list of abilities, as it was a simple feeling. It was like he had always known. The same way you are always aware of your name, although you rarely consciously think of it. He was also aware of the limitations of his power. He did have the power to do what Scully had just done, in transporting them to the office, but he wouldn't have had the power to move more than one person, or with such ease. This he knew instinctively, although he could not say how.
He was tempted, for an instant, to feel jealous of his partner's superior abilities, but as he focused his eyes and found himself looking into her face, he could not bring himself to do so. He loved her more than anything on this earth, and if she had greater power to keep herself safe from the evil they were daily confronted with, then he could be nothing but grateful and love her all the more for it.
He was interrupted from his thoughts as the door banged open and the captain strode into her office. She choked slightly on the coffee she had been drinking as she saw them standing there. Her eyes flickered over to the boy, who had taken a seat on the desk, and was now humming musically to himself. At this sight she calmed considerably. "Mike," she acknowledged him. He grinned at her and waved. She turned back to the agents, her eyes widening once again. "He said you we powerful, but shit," she muttered as she took in their auras.
The space around the woman glowed a light orange to the sight of the agents before her. It was much brighter than the souls they could see populating the office behind her. Several things dropped into place. This was why she had been out patrolling that night, unusual for a high-ranking officer. It also indicated that she could speak to the consciousness, that she had called it as the child had done when Scully was attacked last night. Upon closer inspection, Scully also noticed that her aura contained traces of starlight. The dragons had been protecting her, waiting for this very moment.
"It would seem you're the one to help us," Scully said.
Lea nodded dazedly. "Uh, yeah, so I understand. So, have you got any suggestions?"
"Well, first things first. You need to know exactly what it is you're up against here." As Lea's mouth dropped gradually lower and lower, Scully quickly and succinctly explained the nature of the evil that had invaded the town.
Mulder took over, knowing what needed to be done without having to discuss it with his partner. "We need you to find some people for us. Scully and I can give you the power you'll need for this. There are going to be a few people in town with power like yours. Probably not very many. We need you to find them for us, and have them gather here a couple of hours before sunset." He waited for her to nod.
"Alright then, are you ready for this?" Scully asked gently. "Things will look a little different for a while. You should only have the power for a couple of hours. That should give you enough time to identify the people we need and determine their location."
Lea cleared her throat nervously, but schooled her features into calmness. "Go ahead then."
Without waiting for anything further, Mulder and Scully each reached out a hand and touched the captain's face. Then they willed into her the power she would need to accomplish her task. As they removed their hands her eyes flew open, then quickly closed again as she looked at them. "Shit!" she exclaimed.
Scully and Mulder shared an embarrassed glance. They should have dimmed their auras before giving her the power. They did so now. "Lea, it's alright, you can look at us now," Scully said softly.
Her eyes cracked open tentatively, then fully as she realized she could look at them again. "Is that what you see?" she asked curiously. Before they could answer, she remembered herself. "What do you want me to do?"
Mulder answered. "You can see people's auras much more clearly now. In addition, you can cast your mind out to search for them. That's what we want you to do. Go over this town with a fine tooth comb. We need anyone with sufficient power. It should be pretty easy to identify them; they'll stick out like a sore thumb. Look for them first, write down names and locations, then take it from there."
Scully added, "The power you're using isn't yours, so this is all you can do with it, I'm afraid. We've tried to make sure it will stay with you for at least two hours, but you'll have to work fast. Mulder and I are going to need some rest before this evening, to make sure we're at our best. After that, we want to take a look at the crime scenes and the areas the creature has focussed on. We'll meet you back here at five o'clock."
At any other time, Penthesilea might have had more to say. Already, however, she was bending her mind to her task. She looked up briefly as the agents finished and spared then a tight nod. "Five o'clock. We'll be here."
As her eyes defocused once again, Scully said silently to Mulder, 'I'll get us back to the hotel,' and once again exerted her power to move them halfway across the town and into her motel room.
She sat down on the bed tiredly. Mulder looked at her. He was still psyched about his new powers, but realized they would, indeed, have to be as ready as they could be for their encounter that night. He knelt down in front of his partner, who raised tired and frightened eyes to meet his. His soul melted slightly at the trust she illustrated by showing him her vulnerability. He couldn't resist pulling her into a tight hug. She placed her own arms around his shoulders as he whispered, "We're going to win, Scully, and I'm not going to let anything happen to either of us."
She laughed lightly. "I thought I was the one with all the power," she teased.
"Well naturally. That's why I'm not going to leave your side. I'm not stupid."
She snorted her laughter again, feeling much better. She sent him a silent thank you and said, "Go to bed, Mulder."
She watched as he got up silently and walked to the door. Rather than bothering to open it, he turned around, winked at her, and walked straight through it. She rolled her eyes and grinned. 'Typical' was her final thought as she drifted away.
Outside, Mulder smiled gently as he felt his partner roll her eyes and heard her comment. As he let himself into his room, he considered what they would be facing in a few short hours. A part of him desperately wanted to turn around and run for his life, taking Scully with him. But she would never go. If there was one thing he had learned about his partner, it was that her need to save lives was always greater than any sacrifice she might have to make to do so. At one time, he would have said the same about himself, but that was before he had fallen in love with his partner. She was the most important thing in this life, and if he didn't know for a fact that she would never forgive him, he would have insisted she leave immediately. But the truth was, as much as he loved her, his respect for her was older, and stronger. He would simply have to do everything in his now considerable power to ensure it didn't come down to a choice between Scully and anyone else.
Carrington Police Station
As promised, Captain Henderson had gathered all the powerful souls, and they were now somewhat anxiously awaiting the agents' arrival in the police station. All of them had enough power to know that there was something wrong in the town, and so had not objected when they were brought in by the police.
Mulder and Scully had spent the afternoon visiting the crime scenes, looking for anything that might help them that night. Mostly, however, they had spent he time familiarizing themselves with the layout of the town, regaining their strength, and trying to become used to their powers.
They showed up at just past the hour, transporting themselves directly into the captain's office, as they had done that morning, to the shock of the people waiting therein.
The captain had explained the situation to each person as they were brought in, so that was one formality they could dispense with. This sudden appearance of theirs, coupled with the bright light they allowed their audience to see served to dispel any lingering doubts.
Mulder took the lead. "Thank you for coming. I'm Fox Mulder, and this is Dana Scully. I understand Lea has already explained to you why you're here. In case any of you have any doubts as to our sincerity, let me attempt to allay them."
At this cue, Scully sent them the essence of what she had experienced when the creature had attacked her the night before. For a moment each of them was paralyzed with fear, overcome by the blackness they were being shown. Scully withdrew and Mulder went on.
"That is what we are up against. It is indeed very strong. I believe that we are capable defeating it, with your help. You can see our power. Let me assure you, we know how to use it." This was a slight lie. While they had indeed been practicing all afternoon, there was no way they could try everything, nor was there any way they could match the proficiency that came from hundreds of years of use. But it was necessary to reassure them. "We are also have Mike." At this, Mike appeared in the translucent form Mulder had seen him in that morning atop the dragons, radiating and reflecting the light emanating from the people and things around him. There were gasps from the people before him, and someone crossed himself. Seemingly oblivious to the stir he was causing, the little spirit grinned at his audience and waved cheerfully. Mulder spared him a small smile. "And of course you are all aware of the great consciousness that resides in the stone dragons outside your library."
Scully stepped forward with a grim look on her face. "This may seem like a lot. And indeed we're confident we will be enough. But there are still dangers. This is your town. If you don't help us now, it is certain you will be killed one by one until the creature is stopped. We will understand if you chose not to aid us, but you should know that we will need all the help we can get. Think about it, but if you wish to leave, you should do so now."
She paused to give them time to think. The bemused expressions that had graced most of the faces had faded into determination. She cast her mind out to those in front of her and read the fear and hesitation in most of those before her. But deeper, she could feel their acceptance of the danger and a solid determination from all those before her to help in any way they could to rid the town they loved of the evil that was threatening it.
Rather than pre-empting their answer, she allowed each of them to voice their acceptance before smiling slightly. "Thank you," she said.
Mulder nodded and relaxed slightly. "We've shown you what it looks like. What we're going to need you to do is walk the streets when it gets dark. The creature is going to be attracted to souls like yours. Essentially we want to try and lure it out."
"You're using us as bait?" one incredulous voice sang out.
Mulder flinched slightly, but didn't back down. "Nothing so dangerous, we hope. In essence, Dana and I will be with each and every one of you. We will both be able to hear any thoughts you direct towards us. You saw the way we came in. We will be by your side in seconds. *If* anyone finds the creature you have to call us immediately. We will then tell everyone else where we are, so the rest of you can hurry to that place, on foot, by car, however you can. Then . . . well then, we take it from there."
"This thing will probably attack just after sunset, or just before sunrise. We think probably the latter, as we'll be more tired from a night on watch, but we need to be alert all the time." Scully nodded towards the captain. "We've worked out where we want you to walk. Above all, please be careful, and call us the moment anything happens. Again, thank you for doing this."
A man standing by the door spoke up. "This is our home Miss Scully," he said quietly. "If you hadn't agreed to help us, we would have acted on our own, and we would have died. It is we who need to thank you." There were soft mutters of agreement.
Ulysses spoke up. "What you are doing is above and beyond the call of duty, and you have no idea what it means to us."
The agents stood silently for a moment, awed by the gratitude flowing from the minds around them. Ever one to shatter the mood, Mike broke in with a laugh, astounded once again by ability of these people to take themselves so damn seriously. "Many hands make light work," he said gaily. "Come on, the sooner we get to it, the sooner it will all be over, and we can relax."
The streets of Carrington
Scully looked at her watch. It was still a few hours 'til dawn. The demon had eluded them most of the night. All over the city, she could detect the faint bright sparks that were the team they had gotten together to patrol the town. At the slightest warning she and Mulder would join whoever found him first. She glanced at the man walking beside her. The two of them had completely drawn in their power, not wanting to scare the creature off, so that even with her enhanced vision he was just another shadow in the night.
Rather than disturb the silence around them, she reached out with her mind. 'Why can't we find it, Mulder? It should stick out like a sore thumb.'
'You're assuming it's less powerful than we are, Scully. You know that it's not. Not only has it had thousands of years to hone its power, but it was at least as strong as we were to begin with. All of which means it's perfectly capable of hiding itself.'
He was interrupted by a terrified mental shout. It was Jocelyn, a member of their search party. 'Dana, help me!' he called.
The two of them shot to attention immediately. This was it. There was no going back. The creature had been as intelligent as they had anticipated. The hours before dawn, and just after sunset were when it was at it's least vulnerable. The stars were faint, but there was still no sun.
There was nothing to talk about. The two of them knew what to do immediately. Mulder focussed in on the mind of Jocelyn, and using this, Scully threw her power into transporting them to the location immediately. At the same time, Mulder sent out the call to the rest of their search party, slamming the location into their minds. They would not be able to reach the spot as quickly as he and Scully. Scully was the only one with enough power to even attempt something like that. Mulder may have been able to do it, but Scully had had to expend almost none of her reserves to accomplish the transport. They would have to hold the fort on their own until reinforcements arrived the old-fashioned way.
They appeared at the other end of the street to see the black creature stooping over the prostrate form of Jocelyn Gates. They let go of the power they had been holding inside, and their bodies lit the street in a blaze of light.
The creature jerked up from the almost lifeless form at its feet and moved away from them with lightning speed. Mulder and Scully acted as one being in a way their normal selves had often imitated, but had never fully achieved. From the other end of the street, he slammed a barrier of thick air around the demon, while she gently picked up Jocelyn and floated him up, over their heads, to settle him gently on the ground behind them.
But this creature was strong, as Mulder had pointed out. The barrier held him for only a few moments, just enough to get Jocelyn to safety, before he exploded from it in a fury of wind and empty shadows. It did not resume its retreat, but expanded until it filled the entire alley, growing until towered up above them. From this form whispered a voice from children's deepest nightmares. It creaked like the imagined monster in the night, sighed like the wind through a desolate graveyard, and filled one with the real dread of an evil not imagined, the certainty that there was no escape from the clutches of hell and all it's minions.
'You dare to challenge me?' The whisper seamed to fill the air, become the very wind, until it was as though they were breathing it in.
Mulder panicked for a second as he felt the evil permeate his lungs, drawn into his body. He choked, gasping for air. Then Scully was there, and a luminous red barrier went up between them and the monster. He recovered quickly, and set up his own protection from this attack. Without having to tell her so, Scully withdrew as soon as he had himself under control. 'Sorry, that took me by surprise,' he murmured. She nodded once, her focus entirely on the monster before them. Mulder had a moment to notice that Scully's aura was not as bright as he remembered it being, and wondered if the transportation had affected her more than he had thought.
Behind them, they could feel souls gathering, having rushed from all over the town to this position. Above them, the creature was drawing clouds across the sky, ominous black masses that covered the moon and the stars in a silent impenetrable barrier. In the same thought, Mulder and Scully reached up into the clouds and pushed them together. There was a great crack of thunder, and the wind picked up as lighting forked the sky. Mulder would not have the power to manipulate winds of this force on his own. But behind him, he could feel the accumulated force of a score of bright souls. Without a thought, he tapped into these minds, and made their power his to control. As he took command of the winds shrieking overhead, he forced them into a vortex, which surrounded the demon before them. As it whirled faster and faster, the black shape seemed to diminish, become defined, solid, by the force.
Meanwhile, Scully had lifted a single hand to the heavens, and with an enormous effort of will, called to her fingertips the power of the lightning forking in the clouds overhead. She felt the electricity pour harmlessly into her body as it formed a crackling nimbus around her hand. As the others brought the beast down to the ground, she extended her hand in one violent motion and hurled the energy into the maelstrom before her.
It exploded into the solid form of the creature, which went flying into a thousand pieces, and rained in solid black chunks around the shield they still held over themselves.
For a moment there was silence as the vortex died down, and the storm dissipated. The group continued to warily watch the ground in front of them for a moment, dumbfounded that they had actually managed to destroy the creature.
Scully had only a moment to comprehend the warning that resounded through her head before the shadows started to coalesce before them. Everywhere they looked, the darkness seemed to hold nightmares of the deepest imagination. And from this hellish scene was emerging the black void that was the demon they had been sent to vanquish. It was no longer confined by the physical form they had given it, and now billowed amorphously as it continued to draw power from the dark shadows that surrounded them.
Its laugh seemed to slither inside their heads, creeping down their spines like long, sinuous snakes. 'You have freed me,' it whispered delightedly into their minds. 'I exist in the shadows, how can you hope to destroy me? I am everywhere,' it sighed. As it did so, the partners heard a terrible scream from behind them, and whirled to find that at least ten of their party had been sucked dry by the creeping shadows. Scully immediately erected a shield around the rest of the party, and those on the ground.
'Light!' Mulder yelled into her mind. She nodded once, understanding immediately, and let go the shield. Mulder had already picked it up, and held it in place, with the assistance of the remaining members of the party, while Scully sent her mind flying towards the consciousness still standing guard outside the library.
She did not bother to explain, merely gave it the knowledge of what she meant to do, then took all the power that was offered to her. For a moment she felt the balance teeter, as the combined power threatened to swamp her, to burn her up and leave nothing but a dry husk remaining. Then she righted herself, and set to her task.
Transferring herself to a nearby rooftop with less than a thought, she sent her mind questing towards the sky. She kept her eyes open, and fixed on the air above her, as she used her power to sweep away the clouds that had massed at the behest of the demon. Then, before it had a chance to react, she stretched herself still further, reaching for the light of the stars themselves.
She held up one open hand and watched as the lights seemed to fall in great rivulets from the sky and amass in her waiting palm. Still she continued to pour her power into the sky, until at last, as she reached the limit of their combined strength, she closed off the link, and turned back to the creature below her.
She saw the shadows massing in the street, straining against the wall around Mulder and the others. She watched as he continued to send bolts of stored power towards it, far beyond the point where he should have been lying, drained, on the ground. But still he did not falter, finding within himself reserves of power he would never have thought he could have possessed, straining to give Scully enough time to accomplish what she needed to do.
Then time seemed to slow, and she watched in appalled fascination as the demon turned its mind towards her. It had coalesced into a single entity again, as if to mock her efforts. Without turning away from the empty visage before her she lifted her glowing hand, and with a single motion, set the street below her awash with light. It seemed to stiffen slightly under the onslaught, but to her horror it just transported itself away from the light. And as she fell to her knees, she heard the papery whisper of a laugh, and looked on in despair as a black shape slithered out into the open once again. 'If starlight won't kill it, what else is there for me to use?!' she screamed desperately.
'Scully,' she heard Mulder murmur. She was beside him again in a heartbeat, although the effort left her gasping for breath. He looked down at her sadly.
'I don't think we'll make it,' she said softly. 'It's still an hour 'til sunrise. These people are almost done for, you don't have much strength left, and I don't know how long I can hold out.'
But Mulder was no longer looking at her. His gaze was fixed on the black creature still circling them gleefully, preparing to direct its next attack. 'Look, Scully.'
She turned her head tiredly. 'What, Mulder?'
'Look at the way it's moving. It's still keeping to the shadows, but you can see it within them.'
She looked more closely. 'It has form again,' she whispered incredulously. Then she shook her head. 'But how does that help us, Mulder? We still know we can't hold it until dawn.' She stopped suddenly, a faraway look in her eyes, as she processed this new idea.
Mulder's eyes widened as he heard what she was thinking. 'But maybe we won't have to,' he murmured excitedly. But he sobered quickly when he realized there was no way they possessed the strength necessary to do this, and keep the demon occupied at the same time.
'We have to try, Mulder,' Scully said softly. What he did not hear, what she shielded from him was just what she would have to do to accomplish this.
Suddenly a small voice spoke up. "Mulder, Dana," the little spirit said. "I can't give you my power, but I can occupy your enemy for you while you do what you must. Hurry now." He looked at Dana for a long moment, a terrible sadness in his eyes. 'Great soul, thank you.' He directed the thought solely to her. 'I know what it is you do. Do not make the same mistakes I did. Love is a terrible thing to waste.'
'I'll be fine. Mulder won't let anything happen to me.' She smiled softly.
The spirit turned to Mulder and couldn't repress a grin, in spite of the situation. "Now you just remember what I told you," he said mock-sternly, then without another word stepped out in front of the creature.
Mulder took Scully's hand, and their minds once again meshed. Mulder would control this feat, having done it already once before, but he would need Scully to channel all the power she could summon to him.
Scully essentially split herself in two. One half she kept linked to Mulder, aware of his every thought, as he was aware of hers. The other part of herself she separated from him. What she was about to do she couldn't reveal to him. The danger was great, and she knew he would never allow her to go through with it if he knew. But the evil was too immense. She was confident that with time he would understand this, but at the moment, time was a luxury they could ill afford.
So with a silent apology to her partner, she once again reached for the stars. This time, however, she did not merely reach for their light, but for their power, wrapping herself with the bands that ran among them. At the same time, she sent her soul questing deep beneath her feet, and anchored herself among the great waves of power that surged deep underground. Then, when she could no longer shield herself from the forces raging around her, she opened her soul and let the power rush in. Without a thought, she directed everything she was holding towards Mulder.
Mulder had only a moment to watch the exchange between the two brothers, before the power started flowing into him. He had a moment to amaze at the amount of power Scully was giving him, before his attention to the task took over. He had not anticipated this volume of power and was momentarily at a loss. But then he felt Scully with him, and together, through sheer force of will, they directed the combined power of the earth and the stars towards the slowly spinning globe they themselves were standing on. Then, for the merest fraction of a second, they stopped time in the small and otherwise insignificant town of Carrington
Then they let the power go, and returned the place to normal.
Mulder sagged, exhausted from the effort, as the power stopped flowing into him. His head shot up as an inhuman scream ripped through the air. Before him, the creature was writhing in agony as the pure light of a new day beat down upon his shadowy form. He watched in horrified fascination as the strengthening beams of light acted like knives on the solid black form before him. And as he stood there, the shadows seemed to become less black, less solid, until there was nothing but a single slim, almost humanlike shadow still standing before them. To his amazement, the creature reached out one slight hesitant hand to the spirit waiting, silent, before it. The spirit reached out his own hand, but stopped before touching it. "I am sorry, brother," he heard the child say sadly. "I will never forget you." At this the form started to dim still further, then the darkness fell away altogether, and there was nothing remaining but a small dark smudge on the pavement.
Scully had watched as the sun suddenly appeared overhead, but had been unable to concentrate on anything but the power that was still collecting in her small body. She was unable to sever herself from the bonds she had made with the stars and the earth, and could feel the power ripping her soul slowly to shreds, just as she had known would happen.
Mulder turned from the spectacle to his partner, only to find her kneeling on the ground, her face a mask of solid pain. "Shit," he said frantically. "Scully, what's wrong, what did you do?"
"Mulder," she whispered once, regretfully, smiling up at him. She gave him the knowledge of what she had done.
"Fuck that, Scully," he said angrily, desperately. "I told you I'm not going to lose you and I damn well meant it." He threw himself recklessly into her soul, and this time she was unable to keep any of it from him. If she was going to die, he was going to make goddamn sure it wasn't without a fight.
Unlike the other times he had touched her soul, this time he fully merged with her. He could hear not only her thoughts, but could feel everything she felt, could see her memories, her knowledge. The light around them expanded, becoming a wide purple sphere. Mulder raced along the connections that held her captive to the powers of the universe, and changed them, took over them. When he controlled them totally, he poured every emotion, all his anger, his desperation, his fear, and most of all his love, uncaring that his partner would feel it, that he was as much as telling her face to face what she meant to him, into wrenching her away from these powerful forces and bringing her back to earth, to him.
Scully felt her soul changing, sensed what Mulder did for her. For a moment she could hardly comprehend the force of his emotions. But in truth, she knew what he felt for her. She felt like the knowledge had always resided somewhere deep inside of her. And if she were to be honest with herself, she was already falling in love with him herself, although she was not entirely certain that she wanted to. The fact that he was waiting for her only served, in this moment, to make her love him more. But then she felt the terrible forces flowing into her stop, as Mulder reached out and held her tightly to him, with his heart, his body and his soul.
'Don't you ever do that again,' she heard him whisper. 'I don't want to be without you.'
She drew her essence away from him, assuring him, as she did so, that she was not running away, and she felt the two of them become separate once again. Even so, she could feel the traces of blue and purple that still permeated her soul. 'I knew you'd save me,' she murmured back with a smile.
He was an inextricable part of her now, just as she was of him. It was an odd state of affairs. She had never really given much thought to being able to know Mulder's heart, to sharing everything with her partner.
But at this specific moment in time, she couldn't find anything in particular she wanted to complain about.
Monday, May 22nd
The funerals had been arranged for that afternoon. Both Mulder and Scully had wanted to be there, for the families and for themselves. They could not help but feel accountable for those people they had been unable to save that night, although the families and the town refused to hold them responsible. With their sight, they were able to recognize that each and every person meant what they were saying, but they felt that was small comfort to the dead.
They had booked themselves on the redeye back to D.C., and had stopped in at the Library before commencing the two-hour drive out to the airport. To their astonishment, they found what seemed like most of the town waiting for them.
The murmur of voices died down as they pulled up, and Mike popped into existence on the bonnet of their car.
'Well, that explains this,' Mulder said silently to Scully with a smile.
"I heard that!" Mike called out playfully. "They wanted to say goodbye." He bounced to the ground and opened Scully's door.
"We said goodbye this afternoon, Mike. At the funeral, remember?" Scully said patiently.
Mike grimaced. "But that was so depressing. We wanted to throw you a party!"
Unable to resist this display of youthful enthusiasm, Scully grinned ruefully and flicked her eyes over to Mulder, who had an accompanying smile. With a twinkle in her eye and a stern expression, Scully turned back to Mike. As he took in her expression his face fell. Then his mouth dropped open as the agents disappeared from in front of him. He spun around as Mulder spoke up from behind him. "We don't have a lot of time, Mike. We do have a flight to catch, you know."
"Why don't you just transport yourselves to the airport?" Mike asked with a confused expression.
Scully smirked. "Not even I can get us, our baggage, *and* the car all that way, Mike. Besides, we can't let this affect the way we live our lives. There are too many people watching us who would jump on an opportunity like this. In private, perhaps, but we just couldn't explain it if anyone saw something incriminating."
He supposed that was fair enough, although it would have been easy enough to make sure no one saw anything. Then he forgot about it as he remembered why they were here.
Mulder and Scully turned to the smiling crowd arrayed outside the library. Penthesilea stepped forward and grinned at them. "Thank you for everything. You know we don't hold you responsible for the deaths that night. Think of all the lives we did save. We all knew the risks, and their families will all tell you that it was a sacrifice they were willing to make."
A young woman they had met that afternoon stepped forward. "Uncle Ulysses wanted me to thank you." She turned to Mulder and smiled. "He also wanted me to give you his collection of books. When he visited me, after he died, he told me to tell you; 'they are the voices of the distant dead,' something to remember him by." She stopped, tears in her eyes, though the smile never wavered. "He would have liked to get to know you, but he didn't regret his decision."
Mulder's own eyes started to fill up and he opened his mouth to protest. But he was stopped by Scully, who softly directed him to look into the woman's soul. Imprinted there was the essence of Ulysses Whitmore. As he touched it, he felt the humour that had characterized the man, and the sincere desire to give something back, something that would be truly appreciated. The young woman didn't mind. If her uncle had not suggested it, he felt she would have done so herself.
He nodded his understanding. It was only a small thing, but it was important, to ease the pain, and to hold onto for the future.
Unable to contain his enthusiasm any longer, Mike stepped forward with an enormous smile. "I haven't got anything to give you, but we thought you might enjoy this." With that, he appeared on top of one of the dragons. At his touch, they began to glow with a starlit luminescence, and the consciousness rumbled quietly as it was awoken once again.
They could feel its smile wrap around them. 'The little spirit has talked me into this.'
With that, the light blazed out, as the consciousness sent itself questing towards the stars. At the same moment, the spirit, and the townspeople held up their hands towards the setting sun and drew it lights towards them. As they watched, a bright canopy of gold and silver light formed overhead. When it was complete, Mike reached out two hands, and into each poured a small stream of gold and silver light. He closed his fists after a moment and shot them an expectant grin. Then he closed his eyes and concentrated, as his closed hands flashed with a sudden, blinding intensity.
When they were able to open their eyes again, Mulder and Scully looked up to see Mike holding out an open palm to each of them. In his hands rested to softly glowing rings of metal.
In wonder, Scully picked up the one offered her, then nearly dropped it again, as it surged with power. As she inspected it, she saw it was made of two strands of metal, one gold coloured, the other silver. In the evening light, both strands were glowing softly, in the faint light of the sun, and the stars.
Mike grinned at then proudly. "Sunlight and starlight. One strand will glow during the day, the other at night."
The dragons spoke up. 'They will focus your power. You cannot lose them. Even if your power is not awake, they are tied to your soul. Each will lose it's light only when your soul has departed. If you do not want them to shine, you need only ask them.'
Mulder and Scully looked down at Mike, then around at the people of the town. "Thank you. They're beautiful," he said.
Scully merely nodded. Overcome by a sudden urge, she knelt down and drew Mike into a quick embrace, and stood up again. He smiled that ancient smile at her. 'If only I weren't dead' he grinned.
'Or a child,' she retorted.
He tsk'ed at her, and suddenly, she was face to face with a very attractive young man, who grinned at her with Mike's joyful smile.
"Ah," she choked. 'Well then, it's a good thing you're dead, isn't it?'
He grinned, then sobered slightly. 'He loves you, Dana, you know that now. At least promise me you'll give him a chance.'
She smiled at him reprovingly. 'Of course I will, I just need to give it some time.'
He looked over at Mulder, who had been talking with some of the townsfolk. 'Don't make him wait forever, Dana. He deserves better than that.' Then he glanced back at her. 'I think you know what happens next, don't you.'
She sighed uncomfortably and said. 'Yes, we both understand what you have to do, although I think Mulder was hoping to get out of it.'
He nodded and stepped back. Scully walked over to Mulder and took his hand. Her eyes told him all he needed to know. While he was tempted to get himself out of there now, he knew it would be pointless.
"Friends," a now young again Mike called from the top of one dragon. Talking ceased and all eyes turned to him. "Our guardians here have to go back to sleep. With all your help we have vanquished an evil that had haunted mankind for far too long. While we regret your losses, we thank you for your courage and your sacrifice."
The dragons spoke up so all the people could hear it. 'I will always be here, and I will always remember all of you. Do not forget me.' With these final words, the silver nimbus that surrounded the statues expanded until once again it covered the entire town. And once again, it touched the minds of each and every person, leaving intact the sense of peace it had given, but taking back the power that had activated the souls in the town and soothing any sense of loss these souls may have felt.
The town would fall back into its usual patterns, and in time, perhaps some of them would start to forget. But they would never lose their happiness, or the contentment that had come with feeling truly alive.
Mulder and Scully felt it as the doors closed on their power. It was not as bad as Mulder had anticipated. In preparation for this moment, they had closed off most of their extra senses earlier, so it was merely as though that enormous sense of potential had been removed. He had expected to be irrevocably changed by the experience, and so he was in some ways. But he found it surprisingly easy to remember what it had been like before. He felt he could get used to it again.
As the light faded away, it took with it the last rays of sunshine. People began to melt away into the night with final farewells to the agents. Then the grounds were clear, and all that remained was one small boy standing under the light of a street lamp. "Call me," he said. With a final wave, and a slightly melancholy grin he stepped back out of the light, and he too was gone.
Ashton Park, Georgetown
Scully sighed heavily as she looked up at the sky. The clouds were massing overhead. She would have to make her way back to her apartment soon.
They had been back in DC for a couple of weeks now. She wasn't exactly sure what she had expected, but she had been somewhat surprised when life went on much as it had always done. Despite all the momentous discoveries, both regarding herself and Mulder, they had carried on, taken cases, solved a few mysteries, with no one the wiser.
They had not really talked about it. What, after all, was there to be said? She knew that Mulder had spent the first few days trying to make his power work for him again. After he had discovered he could not, he had spent the next couple oscillating between anger and depression, before finally seeming to come to some sort of decision, and putting it behind him.
As for herself, she had been unable to do any such thing. For the past two weeks, she had been trying desperately to deny it. She had come to this park a couple of blocks from her building today to try to come to some sort of decision.
Scully glanced back up at the sky again. Mulder was looking for her. She could feel him at the edge of her consciousness. This was one thing that had changed. While their seven years had brought them closer than most people could understand, ever since the night Mulder had joined his soul to hers and saved it from the raging powers of the universe, they had been able to sense each other's presence, and at times their thoughts. It was more than just intimate knowledge and educated guess work; this was a bond that went deeper than she was completely sure she was comfortable with.
She turned her mind towards her partner again. It was only a matter of time before he found her, and she had yet to come to any sort of decision. Once again, she found herself thinking how easy it would be to simply move herself to him, or given her mood at the moment, block herself from him so he would be unable to find her until she wanted him to.
For this was the problem. Just before it had locked their powers away again, the consciousness had given her the key to unlocking them again, for both her and her partner. She understood why it had chosen her. If it had been up to Mulder, they would have their powers back, and would have been heroically saving the world weeks ago. But it would not have ended there. There were just too many complications. While she couldn't help but think of all the good they could do, she also understood that power like that could go to your head. She was afraid they would not be able to control themselves once they got a taste of how easy it would be to order the world to their way of thinking.
She was so deep in her thoughts that she didn't really hear Mulder until he tapped her on the shoulder. "Hey, Scully, what're you doing?" he smiled down at her.
She gave him her own rather weak smile and replied, "Thinking, Mulder."
He sat down beside her and said contemplatively, "You've been doing a lot of that the last couple of weeks. I realize that it was a lot to take in, but I get the feeling something else is wrong." He looked into her eyes seriously. "Do you miss having all that power, is that what it is?"
"No," she said, although he did not miss the slight flicker in her eyes.
"Is it what you felt from me?" he asked quietly, looking away.
She had not expected this. She had thought he understood. She ran a hand over his cheek and said earnestly, "Mulder, no. I love you for taking that risk for letting me know, but you just have to give me some time to get used to it. Whatever else we may be, I am still your friend, and I wouldn't let anything change that."
He had known that, but it helped to hear it. He cocked his head at her and smiled slyly. "Just so you know, I'm not going to stop working on you. Constancy of purpose, and all that."
She laughed softly and gave him an enigmatic smile. "I look forward to it."
They were silent for a time, and Scully's mind started to wander back to its original musings. She looked sideways at the man at her side. She desperately wanted to ask his opinion, but wasn't sure she wanted him to know she could reawaken their souls.
After a moment, she asked, "Mulder, if you could have all that power back, would you take it?"
He looked at her curiously. "Why?"
She shrugged slightly uncomfortably. "I was just wondering."
Mulder looked away again. "If you had asked me two weeks ago, even one week ago, I would have said yes without a second thought. We could bring down the consortium, root out all the corruption in the government, find cures for diseases, hunger, bring peace to the world." He smiled wryly, then frowned. "Then I started thinking how I could influence Skinner so he accepted our reports without question, the other agents on a case, suspects, witnesses, even you. It didn't seem like all that much at first, but it eventually occurred to me that all I would be doing was making the world a better place for *me*, by taking away the free will of others." He looked over at her seriously. "That isn't something I want to be. Controlling people for my own benefit. That makes me just as bad as those we want to stop."
Scully reached over and took his hand. He looked startled, but grasped it with his own, giving her a questioning look. She shook her head. "Mulder, I'm sorry."
"For what?" he asked, confused.
"I don't think I believed you would understand that."
He shrugged unconcernedly. "Don't worry about it. Like I said, it took me a while to come around." He paused. "To be honest, though, I kind of wish I could have only a portion of that power." He grinned at her. "You know, just enough for a mental lockpick, rather than a tank to blast through the front door."
She glanced at him with something approaching shock. This was why they worked so well together. There was always another angle. If one of them didn't pick it up the other was bound to. She had been looking at the problem all wrong. She had only seen the black and the white. There was no power, or there was untold power. Suddenly, the huge solid door in her mind that kept the power of her soul locked safely away, until she should choose to open it, developed what looked suspiciously like a mail slot. She was a fool not to have realized it before. The power was hers. She could do with it whatever she chose. And if she chose to let only the smallest amounts leak out as she needed them, then that was something she was perfectly capable of doing.
Mulder watched as the emotions played across her face. Whatever it was he had said, it certainly seemed to have helped. The amazement changed into what looked suspiciously like hope, before he was treated to one if the brightest smiles he had ever had the pleasure of witnessing.
He couldn't help but grin back as she jumped up off the bench, his hand still firmly encased in hers. He laughed. "What did I say?"
She winked at him and replied. "I just figured out what I'm going to get you for your birthday."
His eyes lit up mischievously. "Ooo, really? What?"
The laughter didn't leave her face as she gazed up into his eyes. Just as he had talked himself into bending down to kiss her, she drew herself up, and pressed her lips lingeringly against his own. As she pulled away with that enigmatic smile, the words resounded in his head: 'A lockpick.'