Title: Hell To Pay
Summary: Mulder and Scully investigate a potential serial murder case and Mulder's beliefs are tested by a delusional killer who may have found a way to the other side.
October 29, 1996
The wind shrieked its message over the hilltop, *go back, Morya*, but he didn't listen. His heavy footsteps cut deep into the sod as he shifted the weight of the claymore off his shoulder. It hit the ground with a soft thud and Morya looked around, satisfied. Two eyes glinted fearfully at him from the makeshift altar. Morya smiled delightedly and approached, kneeling reverently and locking eyes with the drooling, shaking, shuddering figure. Morya reached out a trembling hand and gently caressed the sweaty brow of the terrified man.
He stood, overcome with his success. Morya strode across the hillock with a purpose. He lit the bonfires and stood back as they roared to life. Four of them, centered around the altar. And the sacrifice. Morya howled, his head tilted back, ashes from the fires mixing with his greasy hair. He raised the claymore high, pointed its sharpened tip at the heavens. Mocking them.
"Awaken, Arawn! Hear me!" he bellowed. He stood still for a moment, the only sounds the roaring fires and the quiet whimpering of a man who knew he was going to die. With a mighty movement, Morya flipped the sword and jammed the point into the ground. It TANGed sharply and stood quivering. Morya smiled again, the devil's smile. Morya backed away, watching. The sight of the fires reflecting off the giant sword was awe-inspiring. Morya watched, focus unwavering. And then, as if contacted, he nodded.
Turning to his captive, he withdrew a nasty dagger from his belt and dispassionately began to cut the man. Wrists slit lengthwise, same with the carotid. Morya began to get fevered as the man bled and cried. The blood poured in great rivers off the bench and into the cold ground and Morya celebrated this release; cutting, slashing, reveling in the blood that would bring Morya his prize.
October 30, 1996
Mulder could see the blood from the bottom of the hill. He settled his Raybans firmly on his face and looked at Scully. She had her doctor-face on. Nothing could phase her. I need a doctor-face, thought Mulder. I am, after all, a doctor. Of sorts. The wind really picked up as they approached the top of the hill. Mulder's nose twitched as he caught a whiff of ash mixed with the sharp iron tang of blood. He swallowed. Two of his least favorite smells. Scully was already bent over what looked suspiciously like a hand-hewn altar. The remains of one Douglas Bradley Olcott were completely drained of blood. Mulder gazed around the hilltop. Douglas Bradley Olcott's blood soaked the land. He looked back at Scully. Her doctor-face was slipping a bit. She stepped away from the body and looked at Mulder.
"Ritual sacrifice," she said unemotionally. Mulder raised an eyebrow and took one very small step forward.
"I didn't expect this from you, Scully," he commented. She gave him a wry look.
"It's a little obvious, Mulder. Where we differ is that you will find some cockamamie reason for the sacrifice being valid and I will maintain that our killer is extremely delusional -"
Scully stopped as Mulder examined the body. He wasn't listening to her anymore. Mulder reached out a gloved hand and touched Douglas Olcott's ice-cold body. The wounds on his wrists and his neck gaped open, lifeless. It was the other wounds that Mulder was interested in. Obviously, the killer had made the three sacrificial wounds first. They were precise and clean and the killer knew where and how to cut in order to separate Olcott from his blood. But the killer, perhaps in a fit of frenzy, of blood lust, had stabbed Mr. Douglas Bradley Olcott seven hundred times, until Olcott could barely be described as human. Mulder felt sick. This type of mutilation went above and beyond the call of any sacrifice. Mulder got to his feet and looked at Scully.
"Our killer isn't dispassionate, that's for sure."
Scully joined Mulder as they trekked back down the hill.
"Do you think the fact that we're two days away from Halloween has anything to do with this?" Scully asked, trying to make sense of the impossible murder. Mulder shrugged.
"I find it hard to believe that Halloween would drive anyone to kill, Scully. This is a man with some deep-seated rage and I wouldn't be surprised to discover that this wasn't his first kill," Mulder replied.
"I didn't mean -"
"I know what you're saying, but the odds that he would coincidentally become this delusional because Halloween approaches are pretty high."
Mulder opened the door of the Taurus and stuck the keys in the ignition. Scully buckled her seat-belt and looked at him.
"Do you think we should even be here? Local law enforcement can take it from here, Mulder," she said. Mulder grinned at her and started the car.
"This is a small town and the violence of this murder, not to mention the possibility that they could be dealing with a serial killer, has got these people rightfully scared to death. Hell, aren't you glad that they welcomed us with open arms?"
Scully crossed her arms.
"Quit babying me, Scully. If I get any more rest..."
"I just don't want to see you have a relapse, that's all," Scully interrupted primly. Mulder grimaced.
"A relapse of the flu would just be another case of the flu. Big deal," he said caustically. Scully rolled her eyes.
"I won't even go into how the flu bug can mutate -"
"Well, that's a relief."
Scully shook her head. Mulder was impossible.
October 30, 1996
Mulder and Scully booked two rooms at a quaint B & B at the end of Main Street. Scully took her time unpacking, occasionally looking out the window and marveling at the wonderful fall weather. At home, it was miserable and rainy. Here...it was just lovely. Halloween decorations dotted the windows of the tiny shops and townspeople greeted each other on the street. Scully smiled a little wistfully, then grinned outright. This would drive her nuts in three days. They'd only been here half a day and she was already itching to do some work. Work. Scully turned on her laptop, just getting it ready for the inevitable report she was going to have to write, disclaiming Mulder's own inevitable report. She envied him his ability to write a profile while watching a Knicks game. Maybe envy wasn't a strong enough word...
"Come in," she said in response to the soft knock at the door. Mulder, already changed out of his FBI power suit, poked his head in. He saw her computer.
"Trying to get a head start, huh?"
"It wouldn't matter if I did, Mulder. You'd still finish before me, and your report would be brilliant, intuitive and insightful while mine would be full of that dry scientific data and back-up that you hate so much."
"Zinged me, Scully," Mulder said without emotion. Scully raised an eyebrow at him and shoved him out of her way. They walked through the dining room on their way to the front door, already arguing about the case. Two very sweet-looking old ladies smiled at them. One of the ladies extended a hand to Mulder. Flummoxed, he took it.
"Adeline Alexander. I'm the owner of this establishment," she said, beaming at Mulder. "This is Hattie O'Donnell. We wanted to welcome you and your lovely wife to our town -"
Adeline broke off in sudden surprise as Mulder blanched. Scully stepped forward, resisting the urge to pull her badge as proof.
"Hi, I'm Dana Scully, this is Fox Mulder. We're with the FBI," she said firmly. Adeline looked stunned. Hattie looked distraught, a hand flying instantly to her mouth.
"My, my, the FBI! Really?"
Hattie looked at Adeline and the two women began to carry on a private conversation, excluding Mulder and Scully.
"They would make such a nice young couple, Addy. Oh, the poor young lady isn't married. No ring! Oh..."
Scully practically sprinted out of the door and down the stairs, nearly twisting her ankle in the process. Mulder wasn't too far behind her. They looked at each other, speechless.
"If Thelma and Louise had caved, Scully..." Mulder said. Scully laughed for about ten minutes.
October 30, 1996
The local police were still in shock over the murder. Everyone in town had known Doug Olcott. He was a well-respected local businessman. He was such a wonderful man, the stunned cops kept telling Mulder and Scully. So nice, so gracious. How could anything like this happen? The forensic evidence was practically non-existent and by the end of the day, Mulder was ready to give up and go home. Scully was right, he thought, maybe he should have passed on this case. He was exhausted.
Back in his room, Mulder sat in front of his computer, staring blankly at the screen. He typed "the", then erased it. He typed "the killer", then erased that. He typed "by Fox William Mulder, Esquire", then erased that and got to his feet, stretching. He was getting punchy and he was getting nowhere. Who is this guy, he thought. Mulder went to the window and looked out at the town. Maybe he should see if Scully wanted to get something to eat. They could check out Olcott's business at the same time. Yeah, that was a good idea. Food. A little investigation. Yeah.
Scully was delighted to get out of her room. It was tastefully decorated, she'd thought at first, but now it just looked like Bell Cottage had exploded and it was giving her a headache. They sprinted for the front door, surprising Adeline and Hattie with their youthful swiftness. Scully smiled crookedly at Mulder as they stood on the porch catching their breaths.
"We should be ashamed," she said. "Scared of two little old ladies."
"They may be LOLs, Scully, but they are single-minded vultures. I spotted what looked like a good diner on the way in. Let's head that way."
Mulder and Scully began walking. Mulder grabbed Scully's arm and pointed.
"Isn't that Olcott's gallery?" he asked in perfect innocence.
"Is it? What a coincidence," Scully said, already onto him.
Mulder ostentatiously offered his arm. Scully pointedly ignored him. Mulder sighed.
"Look, it's still open. Just a tiny peek..."
"Mulder, we agreed to go tomorrow. Can't we just follow our schedules for once?"
"No," Mulder said. "Scully, look...I just have this feeling..."
Scully glared at him.
"Bullshit. But you aren't going to let this go, are you?"
Olcott's gallery was a typical small-town art gallery. Pastoral, tasteful scenic paintings by local artists hung on the walls, conservative sculpture sat on ivory pedestals. Mulder hated art galleries. They brought out the philistine in him. Scully, on the other hand, was always going to those damned art shows and then having to tell him about them at work. He, in turn, would describe in excruciating detail whatever sporting even he happened to remember that day. A young man stood near the back door, watching them warily. Mulder pulled his badge and flipped it open. The young man relaxed.
"Agent Fox Mulder, this is Dana Scully, FBI. I'm sorry about your boss," Mulder said. The young man shrugged.
"I didn't know him. I'm just filling in. You'll wanna talk to Robin. He's the resident art guy around here. ROBIN!" the man shouted towards the back room. A door creaked open and a bulky man, seemingly more suited to construction work than art work, stood in the doorway, staring at Mulder and Scully. He divided his unsettling gaze equally between the two.
"Yeah?" he said roughly.
"These here are FBI agents. They wanna talk to you about Doug."
Robin blinked, then nodded brusquely.
"Come on back," he said. He disappeared into the back room. Mulder glanced at Scully and felt the sudden need to go for his gun. But he refrained and followed Robin into the back room.
The room Robin led them to was a marvel. Half-finished and half-cleaned paintings lined the walls, and bits of sculpture were strewn about the work table. Robin shifted nervously from foot to foot, watching as Mulder and Scully took in their surroundings. Mulder gasped.
"Scully, look at this," he whispered. Scully joined him and her eyes widened. Masks, exquisite masks, hung on the wall. There had to be about thirty of them, all different shapes and sizes. The only thing they all had in common was that they practically sparkled.
"I cleaned those," Robin offered helpfully. Mulder tore his gaze away and looked at Robin.
"You did an incredible job. Where do all of these come from?"
"I don't know too much about them. I don't know a lot about art, just how to clean it."
Mulder's estimation of Robin went up a few notches. He was a true artist, the way he made the masks sparkle and shimmer. Mulder reached out a finger, then hesitated.
"Go ahead," Robin said. Mulder took one of the masks down and examined it. It was heavy, apparently made of iron or some other heavy metal. The decoration was simply exquisite. Scully leaned over his shoulder, looking at the dense foliage pattern that covered the mask.
"Oh, Mulder," she breathed. "That's just gorgeous. Look at the scrolls and the tendrils. Look, it's a fox!"
Mulder looked at her.
"No way," he said. Scully, excited, nodded and pointed.
"Sure, look at the way the foliage conceals and evokes the fox. See it? Right there, in front."
Mulder did see it.
"Christ, it's like those magic eye pictures," he said. Scully didn't respond to his latest wisecrack.
"It's a technique called plastic metamorphosis. It's Celtic, and if my art history serves me correctly, this style came out of the Waldalgesheim Style, which was the introduction of the tendril and foliage motifs."
Mulder stared at Scully.
"Gesundheit," he remarked. He turned the mask over in his hands. It was unbelievable, so intricate that every time he looked at it, he found more to see. Robin stepped forward.
"Hold it up," he suggested. Mulder glanced at him. Robin nodded.
"It looks really cool when you try it on," he said. For a moment, Mulder hesitated. Robin was staring at him again. Scully reached for it.
"Hey, hey," Mulder said. "Me first."
Mulder put the mask to his face and things suddenly appeared...different. Somehow, his sight through the rough-hewn eye holes was distorted. Scully was right in front of him but seemed so far away and Robin...where was Robin? Mulder turned but couldn't see him. And then Scully was taking the mask down and talking to him. Mulder couldn't hear her. What was she saying? He swayed and she took his arm, guided him to a bench, made him sit down and put his head between his knees. Jesus Christ, Mulder thought weakly, wishing for his head to stop swimming. What the hell was that all about? Dimly, Mulder could hear Scully talking and Robin answering. Scully kept her hand on Mulder's arm as he tried to breathe. Fuck this, he thought. He raised his head and tried to focus on Scully. She shimmered in front of him, much like the mask had shimmered...suddenly Mulder needed to throw up. He got to his feet and heard himself asking Robin where the bathroom was. Ignoring Scully's alarm, Mulder made his way unsteadily towards the tiny door at the end of the room. He shut the door, flicked on the light, and leaned on the sink, taking deep breaths. The nausea passed slowly. Mulder raised his head and looked into the mirror. Great, he thought. Here's that fucking relapse. He splashed water on his face and his world slowly swam back into focus. He jerked as Scully knocked on the door.
"I'm okay," he said, in answer to her unasked question. "I'll be out in a sec."
Mulder took a few more deep breaths and smiled at his poor, sad pitiful self. Somehow, the prospect of eating didn't sound as promising as it had an hour ago.
Scully stepped forward, preparing to knock again when the door opened. She took a long look at Mulder and shook her head.
Mulder grinned at her. His face was ghostly pale and he was drenched in sweat. Scully glanced at Robin, who quickly averted his gaze and suddenly decided that he had some pressing business. He turned back to his work.
"Don't say anything, Scully. Please. Give me this," Mulder said.
"Do you need to sit down for a minute?" Scully asked. Mulder hesitated, then shook his head.
"I'm okay. A little shaky..." His voice trailed off and Scully resisted the urge to feel his forehead. He hated her ministrations and she had to parcel them out carefully. It was obvious, at any rate, that he was somewhat feverish. Scully kept a close eye on him as they left the gallery. Mulder turned left, continuing towards the diner. Scully grabbed his arm.
"Whoa, partner. I don't think so."
Mulder looked at her, surprised.
"What?" he asked with that veiled innocence. Scully pressed her lips together, making a miserable attempt to hide her disapproval.
"You need rest. Immediately. I'm sure we can get something from the kitchen," she said. Mulder slumped and allowed Scully to lead him back towards the B & B.
October 30, 1996
Mulder closed his eyes and tried again to slow his breathing. He'd been laying in bed for two hours and was still wide awake. His stomach had still been acting up and he'd refused the onion soup that Scully had brought for him. She had accused him of having the relapse and her doctor-face made him wince. Mulder hadn't told her yet but he was feeling so rotten that he'd decided to give the local cops as much of a profile on the killer as he could muster and then head home. He concentrated on his breathing and let him mind wander over the case. It was so elementary; why couldn't he get a handle on it? Patterson would really be cheesed off at his half-hearted efforts. Mulder sighed as his thoughts became fuzzy and distorted. Sleep. Finally. He drifted off, images flashing dreamily through his mind. Riding his bike down to the beach, Sam chasing madly...grossing out his classmates with that frog-pithing demonstration that he had enjoyed a little too much...his years at Oxford, which were supposed to be an eye-opening experience but still made him cringe...
The hand closed around his throat. Mulder gasped, the air leaving him. He sat up, clutching his throat. Air...he could feel his face turning purple and then there was something pulling at him...pulling at him from the inside...he could feel his heart explode, his lungs pulse as the terror ripped at him from the inside. He flashed on a glint of metal and then it was talking to him...oh God, it was tormenting him...Mulder fell back against the pillow and drew in great gasps of air.
And he saw It. The figure shimmered in front of him but impossibly, Mulder could still feel it inside him, wriggling, both a terrifying experience and a sensual one. The figure reached out its hands, long tendrils caressed Mulder's hot skin. Mulder moaned, repulsed at his body for its response. He shifted, trying to get out from underneath it but that seemed to excite it and it writhed in pleasure, sending a shower of sparks through Mulder' brain. The figure hovered over him and Mulder felt the ice-blue sensation of fog on his skin. The hot tendrils...more fog...it was inside him, out of him, driving him, pulsing through him and with each pulse Mulder shivered, needing to vomit. He gasped as it pulled him roughly upwards, yanking at him, trying to be free.
The pleasure turned immediately to pain and Mulder could only whimper as it manipulated him. It twisted and turned, using all of its might. It screamed and cursed, beseeching Mulder to help but his limbs were unresponsive and he let it play with him, twisting him to suit its own purpose. Just as quickly, it was gone. Mulder slumped down, shaking. The bile rose in his throat and his vision blurred. He stumbled out of bed and blinked through sweat-drenched eyelashes as he made his way towards the bathroom. Off...get it off...he was scrubbing at his skin as he turned on the shower. Hot...just hot water...scalding...can't stand it anymore...oh God...Mulder gasped as the hot water hissed through his T-shirt, against his skin. He scrubbed frantically, sobbing in an attempt to rid his body of the tingling feelings, the feelings of pleasure, the feelings of rape...Mulder didn't want to think about it. He was in a rage. He sank down to a crouch as he dry-heaved repeatedly, weakening himself so much so that he finally sank into blissful unconsciousness.
October 31, 1996
Scully awoke to bright fingers of winter sunlight. She smiled drowsily, then frowned as she heard the shower. She turned her head and looked at the clock. 7:00. Late for Mulder, she thought, hoping that he was feeling more like himself today. She stretched languidly and got out of bed, shivering a bit as the brisk chill bit through her. Yawning, Scully padded into the bathroom.
Scully treated herself to a long shower and took her time getting ready. She frowned as the phone rang. Dammit. Still drying her damp hair, she picked up the receiver. It was the sheriff, and he was terrified.
"We got us another murder, Agent Scully. This one...this one's bad...worse than the other..."
"Take it easy, Sheriff. We'll be there as soon as we can."
Scully hung up and quickly dressed, then knocked on the door between her room and Mulder's. That's odd...the shower was still running.
"Mulder?" she called. Nothing. She knocked louder. Shit. What had Mulder been doing in the shower for over an hour? Scully remembered the way he had looked last night and began to get that familiar feeling of dread. She bit her lip and looked at the door, debated. Should she walk in on him? She tried calling his room but the phone rang unanswered. Squaring her shoulders and readying herself for Mulder's wrath, she opened the door and walked into his room.
The place was a mess. The bedclothes were strewn everywhere and Scully could see the bathroom door standing open. The shower hissed but Scully didn't hear Mulder. Gritting her teeth, she stepped close to the bathroom and rapped on the door.
Nothing. Shit. Scully peered around the corner and gasped. Mulder was crouched against the wall in the shower, shivering. His head was down and his T-shirt and sweats were drenched. The water was ice-cold.
"Mulder!" Scully said sharply. He didn't respond. Her heart pounding, Scully turned off the water and pulled blankets off the bedroom floor. She knelt down next to the shower and felt for a pulse. Thready, but there. He was shivering violently, his teeth chattering. Scully lifted his chin. His head lolled. He had a terrible scratch on one cheek that was still leaking blood. Scully filed that away and slapped him gently.
"Mulder, come on," she muttered. He groaned and mumbled and Scully slapped him again, a little harder. His eyes jerked open and he panicked, trying desperately to crawl through the wall. Scully grabbed his wrists.
"Mulder, it's me, it's Scully...Mulder, please, calm down. It's all right. It's okay," she said in a clear, distinct voice. Suddenly, his eyes cleared. He looked down at his hands and she let go. He wrapped his arms around himself, still shivering.
"Come out of there, Mulder," she said softly. Mulder tried to get up but his knees buckled. Scully helped him, wrapped the blankets around him and guided him towards the bed. He held an arm protectively around his stomach. Scully made sure he could sit by himself before rummaging through his bag for a clean, dry change of clothes. She handed the clothing to him.
"Do you need help?" she asked. He looked at her for a long moment, then shook his head, spraying the room with water crystals. Mulder fumbled into his sweats, his hands shaking, and pulled the T-shirt over his head. Scully tucked the blankets around him again and put a hand to his forehead. He was freezing, but the glazed look in his eye told her that the fever was not far behind. Scully regarded him thoughtfully. He was quiet, too quiet. Shock? Why?
"Mulder, what happened?"
The standard opening line. Mulder's face clouded over and he wriggled a hand free of the blankets and ran it through his wet hair. Scully bent forward to look at the gash on his cheek and Mulder jerked away. Scully sat back, considered him.
"It's okay, Mulder," she said evenly. She leaned forward slowly, dabbing at the gash with a Kleenex. It wasn't deep but it was jagged, like sharp fingernails had been raked across his skin. Mulder shifted, wincing, his other arm still wrapped around his stomach.
"Let me see," Scully said gently. Mulder's eyes were dark pools as he looked at her. He hadn't said a word. Scully put a soft hand on his wrist and drew the blanket open. She slowly lifted his T-shirt up. A fist-sized bruise, garishly purple, greeted her. Mulder looked down and seemed surprised. Scully probed gently, wincing as Mulder hissed in pain. Scully let out a breath and looked at Mulder again, drawing the blankets back around him.
"It's just a bruise. How did it happen?" Scully asked. Mulder shivered again, then turned away from her and lay down on his side, drawing his knees up protectively. Scully licked her lips. She had to go to the police station, talk to the sheriff about this latest murder. By rights, Mulder needed to see the crime scene but he was obviously in no shape to go. He was quiet, though, and seemed lucid. He understood her questions, knew who she was and where he was. He just didn't want to answer. Scully got to her feet, went into her room and stripped the blankets off the bed. She retraced her steps and picked up her First Aid bag. One of these days, she wouldn't have to restock it after a case.
Mulder was still huddled on the bed, shivering. Scully piled the other blankets on top of him and gently tilted his face so she could clean his wound. He watched her, eerily still, his eyes locked on her every movement. Scully smiled with more warmth than she felt. She considered drugging him, then dismissed that. Something had traumatized him and she didn't want him to face unreality again. He needed to be allowed to come back to Earth. She hated leaving him, though. Dreaded it, in fact. But she had no choice.
"Mulder, I have to go out for awhile. I'll be back in a few hours."
Scully set Mulder's phone on the night-stand.
"If you need me, call me. Okay?"
No response. Scully drew in a sharp breath, let it out.
"Mulder, will you call me if you need me?"
She fixed him with a severe gaze, demanding an answer. Slowly he nodded, the shadow of bristles on his face rubbing rough against the percale pillow-case. Scully smiled at him and brushed the damp hair out of his eyes. She stood up.
"I'm going to have some tea sent up to you and I want you to drink it. Understand?"
Again, the slight nod. Scully hesitated as she began to leave the room. She shivered. It was cold in here...she glanced back at Mulder's huddled form. He hadn't moved.
October 31, 1996
Scully's stomach roiled, threatened to disgorge her breakfast. This young man was even more hacked to bits. The police tape which had surrounded the crime scene after the Olcott murder was dotted with Jeffrey Hammond's blood. The tape swayed eerily in the wind and Sheriff Coombs averted his eyes. He focused on Scully.
"Same M.O., everything. Except...we got something kind of odd."
Scully didn't need to hear what the sheriff had to say. She could see the enormous sword, broken off below the haft, sticking out of the altar and out of Jeffrey Hammond's chest. The sheriff looked at Scully and she could see the fear in his eyes, through his Polarized sunglasses, emanating from his soul. She swallowed and looked down. She reached out a tentative hand and grasped the top of the jagged edge, trying to pull it out. It didn't move. At all. She looked at the sheriff, astonished. He nodded.
"The tip of a broadsword or something. Sheared right off."
The sheriff shook his head with a jerking motion.
"I have no idea," he said softly. Scully grasped the blade again and rocked it, ignoring the jerking motions made by Hammond's body. The tip of the giant sword was firmly embedded in the earth underneath the altar.
"If that's the sword in the stone, you ain't Arthur."
Scully jumped and whirled. Mulder stood behind her, his silhouette calm and reassuring. But Scully was furious.
"What the hell are you doing here, Mulder?" she asked viciously. Mulder glanced at Coombs, who was trying not to listen. Mulder took Scully's elbow and led her out of earshot. Scully could feel the heat in his skin and she positioned herself so that Mulder was no longer silhouetted against the bleak sunlight and she could get a good, clinical look at him. Mulder was sheet-white and beads of sweat dotted his face. For some perverse reason, Scully was glad he had his sunglasses on. She didn't want to see the dark smudges or the fevered glaze in his eyes.
"You've been gone two hours. Did you just want me to lay there until you got back?" he asked, his voice thick and raspy. Scully jerked away from him.
"Yes I did," she hissed. "Mulder, you are sick. You need to rest. Hell, you need to go home -"
"Can't now, Scully," he said, glancing at the police tape which danced in the breeze. "We got us a serial."
"This isn't an X-File -"
"Not precisely, but can you think of anyone who has more experience with serial killers and the occult?"
Scully flinched as Mulder threw that phrase at her. From unresponsive to combative...that's her Mulder.
"Look, Scully, last night..."
He broke off, looked away. No doubt trying to figure out if he can tell me, Scully thought.
"I slept for an hour or so, and yes, Mom, I drank the tea. I even had toast. I'm much better now. I feel fine. I took some Tylenol and I feel fine."
"You've got a fever, Mulder, and you were practically dissociative this morning," Scully said weakly, knowing that once again she would lose the battle.
"I wasn't dissociative. You wouldn't have left me alone if I were. As for last night...I did have a fever, I took a shower, I fell asleep. I felt like shit yesterday. I'm fine, Scully. Really."
Scully looked at him, hard. She tried to see into him, tried to assess the patient. But Mulder was too skilled at precisely this practice to allow Scully the opportunity. She had to take him at his word. She sighed.
"The minute you start fading, I'm packing you off to D.C. Got it?"
Mulder nodded. Scully shook her head, then turned towards the altar, squaring her shoulders. May as well get this over with.
"Scully, the name you were looking for is claymore," Mulder called. Scully turned to look at him.
"The sword. The broadsword. It's a claymore, a Highland weapon. Impossible to snap," he replied. Scully felt the cool dread of the unknown once more.
October 31, 1996
Mulder could feel the acid welling up in his stomach. He took a few deep breaths as he stared at the mutilated corpse of Jeffrey Hammond. The dead man had been the manager of the local grocery store. And now...Mulder examined him carefully, putting himself in the killer's mind, trying to figure out how the horrendous wounds would have been caused. Why did he do it? Again, the wrists and the carotid. And then the killing frenzy as the blood soaked into the hillside...Mulder quickly got to his feet, damning himself for it as his head swam. He hadn't lied to Scully, not really. He had slept for an hour or so and then when he had woken up he'd felt refreshed, vital. He was still dizzy and his skin itched with the fever, but his mind was clear for the first time since they'd arrived in this Godforsaken town. He hadn't told Scully about last night because he was fairly certain that it HAD just been a fever-dream. Hadn't it?
Mulder let his mind drift back to the murder. The blood-letting was sacrificial in nature. The method indicated a certain personal distance. The killer didn't see Hammond or Olcott as human, not initially. They were tools, his way to ease whatever pain he was feeling. His tools; the sword, for example, was a symbol. It had been prominently displayed. It meant something in the ritual. But then the frenzy...that did not indicate any disconnection with the victims. He was angry, he hurt. He hurt. He mutilated and he killed. The murder victims were supplicated before him, bound face-up on the altar. He felt no remorse for the killings but reveled in them. Wait a minute. He celebrated death. No...he celebrated life. That's what sacrifice was, after all. Renewal. The blood was anathema to him, helping him get whatever it was he needed or thought he needed. Life?
A celebration...the bonfires...this was not an act of frenzy but an act of overwhelming joy. He felt joy in these killings, in the blood-curdling screams of those he destroyed. He wasn't angry. He was joyful. Lift up your voices to God...lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. Was he the lamb, then? Mulder sighed. He could feel it niggling in that dark corner of his brain but he couldn't get to it yet. The victims were random. It was the psychosis that must be identified. Mulder looked towards the still-smoldering fires. He turned in a circle, taking them in. Four of them. North, South, East, West. Shit. Mulder then took two wide steps around and held an imaginary shaft over the blade. Plunged into the blood of earth. Mulder closed his eyes and reached out, touching the blade. He heard the snap-hiss of electricity before he felt the jolt, which threw him backwards. He hit the ground hard, the breath going out of him and sparks dancing before his eyes. He could hear Scully's shout. Mulder opened his eyes and tried to get air. He forced himself to breath very slowly and by the time Scully arrived he was fine. She threw herself down next to him and wrenched his head around.
"Mulder," she said breathlessly, "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine. That damned sword gave me a shock."
Scully, eyes wide, looked at the sword, then back at Mulder. She reached out a hand.
"Don't, Scully," he warned. Still looking at him, she touched the sword. Nothing. He shrugged.
"Maybe I was dragging my feet," he said caustically. Scully helped him to stand up.
"Have you seen enough here?" she asked, the implication in her voice being that he'd damned well seen enough. Mulder nodded.
"I'm almost done. I just want to make one more circuit. Meet you at the car?"
Scully narrowed her eyes. Mulder gave her the school-boy look and she acquiesced, turning around several times to look at him as she walked down the hill.
Mulder stood before the altar. The blood squelched under his feet. He took a step forward. Squish. He frowned. He hadn't noticed this before. The blood should have soaked completely into the ground. It had soaked completely into the ground, tinting it a muddy, threatning grey/brown. Sepia, Mulder had thought at first. Raw umber...he moved backwards, away from the altar. Splash. With a slowly-growing sense of terror, Mulder looked down. He was standing in a pool of blood. Oh God...Mulder looked around him. The hillside was drenched in blood and it was running in rivulets down the hill, running over his shoes, gushing out in great gouts from beneath the altar, almost like a spring. It was hissing and gurgling..spitting, almost like a serpent.
The sky turned dark and forbidding and red, the red wind whistled around him as he fought to keep his balance. The metallic stench of blood became unbearable and he gagged, hands to his knees in an attempt to control himself. He could hear it now, swirling in eddies around him, pooling in his shoes. He could feel its stark coldness as it streamed past his ankles. The sky called to him, demanding him and he finally retched, emptying his stomach of the toast and tea. He gagged and spat, eyes screwed closed. He wished he could stop hearing it...smelling it...his own terrified sweat mixed with the blood and vomit and he felt his mouth water in rebellion...stop it...stop....
"STOP!" he heard his voice say, his breathing punctuated by ragged sounds from his throat. He lost his balance and fell backwards, arms flailing helplessly as the blood swept him off his feet, engulfed him, covered him, coated his clothing and his skin, filling his nose, mouth and ears. Every breath he took was a mouthful, a lungful of blood. Mulder's scream was cut to a gag by the blood filling his mouth. He flopped onto his stomach, buried his head in his hands and choked.
Scully. Shouting. Worried. Mulder couldn't lift his head. His fingers were knotted in his hair, clenched so tight he couldn't move them. Scully, he wanted to say, help me. He felt her feather-light touch on his shoulder, then she was trying to pry his hands away.
"Relax, Mulder," she whispered. Relax...drift away...he made a conscious effort to release his hands and finally they let go. The pain exploded as his bunched shoulder muscles responded and he groaned. Scully put an arm around him and helped him sit up slowly. She took his face in her hands and stared at him.
"Mulder...can you hear me?" she asked softly. He slowly opened his eyes, expecting to blink away blood but all he saw were the worried blue eyes of his partner. He took a deep, shuddering breath and pulled away from her, moving his neck painfully from side to side.
"Mulder. Are you okay?"
He took another breath and looked around. The hilltop was dark but the blood no longer ran. The sky was a wintery blue and the soft wind caressed his face. He looked back at Scully.
"I'm okay. I got dizzy," he rasped. Scully put a hand to his forehead, his cheek. She felt for his pulse then nodded.
"You're a little warm. And you haven't eaten much today."
Food. Mulder tested out the word. For some reason, whatever was tormenting him was going to allow him to eat.
"Are you hungry?" Scully asked. Mulder nodded slowly, let Scully help him up. God, he was weak!
"I could eat," he said. Scully's relief was palpable as she helped him down the hillside towards the car. He twisted around once more to look at the murder scene. It looked anything but serene. It looked...desolate. Stark. A good place to kill.
October 31, 1996
"I'm starving," he said around a mouthful of sandwich. Scully nodded slowly and took a small bite of her salad.
"I can tell."
Mulder leaned back against the red-vinyl booth and gazed at her.
"What?" Scully asked. Mulder fiddled with his napkin.
"There's going to be another murder tonight," he said quietly. Scully froze. Pinpricks ran up and down her spine. She put her fork down and took a steadying sip of coffee, then looked Mulder in the eye. He had that "deep into the heart of darkness" look in his eye that she used to find disconcerting. Now she was used to it.
"Tell me," she said. Mulder leaned forward, elbows on the table, shoving his plate out of the way.
"Today is Halloween."
"The festival of Samhain, which is the last harvest of the year. The veil between the worlds is at its thinnest and the living are supposed to be able to communicate with the dead. The purpose of the festival is to honor the descending sun god, which is done by lighting fires, celebrate the harvest and prepare for the winter months by culling the animals that won't do for breeding in the spring. These harvests are turning points, magical times. The living perform rituals to bring the dead through the veil."
"Isn't this primarily a Celtic festival?" Scully asked. Mulder grinned at her.
"You tell me, Dana Scully," he replied. She grinned back.
"Celtic, Mulder, not Catholic."
"Well, yes, it is, primarily. Faeries are actually quite active on Samhain. After Christianity was introduced faeries were thought to be angels who didn't take sides and were condemned to walk the Earth."
"Like Kane in Kung Fu."
Mulder almost blew coffee out of his nose. He looked at Scully in admiration.
"Touche, Scully," he said. He set his coffee cup down. "It always seemed to me that Samhain could be considered a battle between good and evil."
"Chaos reigns on Samhain because the veil between worlds is pliable. The night belongs to neither good nor evil. Don't you think that would be a perfect time for evil to rise up and try to reclaim what it has lost?"
"You're creeping me out, Mulder. Can we skip the philosophical discussion and talk about the killer?"
"And that won't creep you out? Geez, and they call ME Spooky. Let me give you the evidence. You can make the call. Okay?"
"Two murders, time of death for both was approximately midnight. The turning point from one day to the next. Both victims were sacrifices, as proven by the bleeding of the victims and the way they were tied down to an altar on a hilltop. The killer lit four bonfires, one facing East, one West, one North and one South. The killings were done in joyous celebration, believe it or not. The killer reveled in his crimes. He soaked the hill in blood two nights in a row and tonight, if the legends are to be believed, is the night that the gods of death are on the prowl. Tonight, Scully, they will take notice of our killer and perhaps he will be able to trap one, keep a spirit from the dark side."
Scully could only stare at him. She took a deep breath, wondering how in the hell Mulder could come up with this crap and then wondering why it didn't seem to bother him.
"So you're saying he's killing because he wants to open the gates to the underworld?"
"The gates are going to open anyway. He just wants to be noticed."
"I'm not saying I believe in this stuff, Scully, but the killer does. And that's what my profile will say. He will kill tonight, Scully, and then he'll be gone. This is our last chance to catch him."
Scully ran a hand through her hair. Their last chance.
"Will he kill on the hilltop again?"
"To tell the truth, I don't know. It's obvious that he's a local..."
Mulder's voice trailed off. Scully waited until he came back.
"Scully...did you detect any abnormalities in Olcott or Hammond?"
"What kind of abnormalities?"
Mulder hunched over, biting his lower lip, thinking.
"Anything medical. Health problems...anything like that."
"I didn't really check, Mulder. Do you need to know?"
Mulder stared at his coffee cup, lost in thought.
"Yeah...yeah, I think I do," he said softly. Scully nodded.
"Why don't we go to the hospital and pull medical records then," she said, hoping Mulder would just agree. She didn't want to think about him running around town by himself. Mulder nodded, met her eyes.
October 31, 1996
Morya scuttled down the sidewalk, head bent low, avoiding even casual acquaintances. He couldn't quell the excitement that rose within him. Tonight...tonight, Arawn would come. All his hard work would come to pass and Morya would have more power than he'd ever dreamed. The door of the diner chimed and Morya almost crashed into the tall man who exited the diner. Startled, Morya looked up. Into his soul. Morya gasped, staggered backwards. The man frowned and reached out a hand.
"Are you all right?" he asked. Morya force himself to nod. My God...what had he done? The man's female companion gave him an odd look but Morya smiled and they turned and walked down the street. My God...
October 31, 1996
"What have you done?" he growled. Robin stammered, at sea.
"I don't know what you -"
"The masks!" Morya shouted. "What have you done?"
"I - I didn't see any harm...you said you would need to find a subject...I didn't see any harm..."
Furious, Morya turned away. Robin didn't understand, couldn't understand. He knew nothing about this person, nothing at all. Granted, it wasn't as important to find a viable subject for the final sacrifice, but this was Morya's work, his passion, his life, and he'd be damned to let his brother fuck that up. Morya turned back to Robin, trying to calm himself. It would be fine...everything would be fine...
"Which mask, Robin?" he asked calmly. Robin stammered, his small eyes shifting back and forth between Morya and the wall. Which mask? Which? Robin didn't know, couldn't remember...Morya lost his temper. He grabbed Robin by the throat, lifting him. Morya's strength sang to him. The blood had made him strong but he needed...
"I NEED TO KNOW WHICH MASK!!" he thundered. Robin clutched at Morya's forearms with his ineffectual hands.
"I - don't - know -" he choked. There were thirty masks on the wall. Performing the ritual for each would take too long. Morya was already certain that the FBI agents would be waiting for him tonight. One of them would, anyway...disgusted, Morya dropped Robin and wiped his hands on his shirt. It would have to be here, he decided. The hilltop wouldn't work; he could set up the cauldron in the center of the room...he looked up, grateful for the skylight. He could scrye in this room. The fires...the smoke would still dance. But he would be found out. The blood would be everywhere. But would it matter in the morning? Would anyone be able to overcome Morya's power?
October 31, 1996
Mulder waited impatiently as Scully checked through medical records. He was convinced that doctors took a class showing them how to flip through files at the speed of light. Scully closed the file and looked at Mulder.
"Olcott had kidney disease and Hammond had a congenital heart condition. How did you know?" she asked. Mulder smiled slightly.
"He's culling the herd, Scully," he said softly. Scully went white. She looked down at the now-offensive documents.
"Jesus," she whispered.
"Hey, do you think he'll take me?"
Scully looked at Mulder.
"Why would he take you?"
"Mitral valve prolapse," Mulder said cheerfully. Scully resisted the urge to sock him.
"What now?" she asked. Mulder shrugged.
"I'm thinking our killer has an in at the hospital. These aren't apparent defects, are they?"
"No," Scully said slowly, "they're not. I'll run a check on the staff."
Mulder pushed himself away from the counter.
"Okay. I'm going -"
"Back to your room to rest?" Scully asked sweetly. Mulder glared at her.
"Mulder, you've been at it all day. If we have to stake out the hilltop tonight, I'd feel a lot better knowing you weren't going to pass out on me."
Mulder couldn't argue that logic.
"All right," he said reluctantly. "Call me if you get anything."
Scully turned back to the files and Mulder sighed, then turned on his heel and strode out of the hospital.
October 31, 1996
As Mulder walked back to the B & B, he realized that he WAS tired. It had been a long day, he still felt like crap (even though he'd managed to hide it from Scully) and he was still trying to figure out what in the hell had happened to him on the hill. Some kind of weird hallucination? It felt too real for that. His skin prickled and he stopped. What the hell? The street was nearly deserted, a few businessmen and women heading home, closing up early on Halloween. There was something...Mulder remembered this feeling on the hill. His nostrils flared. God, not again. Please. Mulder looked around frantically. He needed to get...somewhere. Anywhere. It didn't matter. He stumbled down the sidewalk, trying to focus, to concentrate. Jesus Christ...please...He could see the B & B in the distance. So safe...so comfortable...Mulder wiped the sweat from his eyes. This felt a lot like a panic attack. Christ, he was probably doing all of this to himself. He reached the steps. His sweaty hand slipped off the doorknob. He concentrated and with an effort, managed to get the door open.
The pain hit him as he moved up the stairs. It was crippling pain, intense pain, horrific pain. He gasped and his feet went out from under him. Please, somebody...He lay on the stairs. He could feel the rough carpeting beneath his cheek. The pain was everywhere, not localized at all. It coursed through him. He jerked as he felt a rough hand on his cheek. Help? Please? The hand pulled his head around and Mulder could see the blurry face of a man. The man was talking to him. Telling him not to worry? Suddenly, the man grabbed Mulder and hauled him to his feet. The pain exploded and Mulder screamed, thrashed and tried to get away. The man ignored him and pulled him out the door. The walk down the street was pure agony. Mulder's throat was raw from screaming. Why didn't anyone hear him? He could hardly see through the pain and the impossibly strong man kept his grip firm as he propelled Mulder along. He stopped suddenly, sending new rivers of pain through Mulder's body. Mulder heard the familiar ding of the gallery door. Oh God oh no...Mulder saw it, saw the crime and the killer through his sweat-soaked terror. Mulder remembered the mask, remembered how he'd felt when he'd put it on. The mask.
The man let go of Mulder's arm and he fell against the wall, cracking his head sharply. Thankfully, the pain eased somewhat and if Mulder was very still, it eased even more. He was able to catch his breath and he was very careful not to move. Mulder looked around. He was in the back room, facing the wall with the masks. The squat man stood in front of the wall, arms clasped behind his back, contemplating the masks. Wondering which one I tried, Mulder though dazedly. The man turned towards him, took a step forward and Mulder screamed as the pain intensified.
"Please...stay away..." he gasped. The man smiled, crooked white teeth glinting maniacally in the stark light of the overhead bulb. The man stepped back. Mulder breathed. Warily, the man moved all the way to the door and sat in a rickety chair. Mulder was able to move, to sit up and regard his captor.
"What do you want?" he asked with effort.
"You were not supposed to be involved," he said gruffly. "You were wrong to touch the mask."
"I didn't know," he said mildly. The man nodded soberly.
"What happens now?" Mulder asked. The man looked at his watch, then back at Mulder.
"I prepare, and we wait."
"Wait for what?"
"The opening of the gates," the man answered. Mulder shivered.
"What do you need me for?" he asked, dreading the answer. The man leaned forward.
"The spirit needs a vessel. You are that vessel. Arawn will move through you and I will control him," the man said. Great.
"And what happens to me?" Mulder asked. The man shrugged.
"At the instant of Arawn's arrival, you will be sacrificed to bind him to me."
Mulder felt sick. Sacrificed...he glanced at his own watch. Five o'clock. Seven hours and his blood would run in rivers.
October 31, 1996
Scully wanted to hurl the file folders against the wall. Dammit! There was nothing here. With a groan, she picked up the last stack. Employees who no longer worked for the hospital. That was probably more likely, she told herself sourly, wishing she would have started with this bunch to begin with. She hit the jackpot on the third and fifth folder. Well, jackpot in the sense that two ex-employees still lived in town. It was certainly a place to start, since the regular staff all checked out and Mulder was convinced the killer was local. Scully tucked the folders into her bag and stretched. She glanced at her watch and automatically reached for her phone. She knew she'd probably wake Mulder, but having him out of her sight for more than an hour started to worry her. If he knew what was good for him, he'd better answer.
He didn't. Scully stared blankly at her phone. Shit. She tried his cellular. No answer. Scully tried to squelch the fear rising in her throat. Mulder was a big boy. Maybe he'd gotten hungry, gone down to the dining room. Did Scully trust him enough to believe that? No fucking way. She called the B & B, tapping her pen anxiously on the desk.
"Hi, this is Dana Scully. I'm trying to reach my partner, Fox Mulder, and he's not answering his phone. You haven't seen him by any chance, have you?"
Scully died a thousand deaths as the voice on the other end answered.
"I saw him come in earlier, Miss Scully. A few hours ago. He wasn't feeling too well. I assumed he went up to his room..."
"I'll be right there," Scully said instantly, not caring if she sounded like a mother hen.
October 31, 1996
Scully stood in the middle of Mulder's room. He hadn't even made it up here. She turned on her heel and strode downstairs, catching up with Adeline.
"Adeline, Agent Mulder isn't in his room. Are you sure you saw him?" she asked, breathless and afraid. Adeline looked at her curiously for a moment, not understanding the urgency. Scully didn't have time to explain four years to Adeline. Not if Mulder was in trouble.
"Fairly sure, Miss Scully. You two stick out in this town. He came in just as I was going into the kitchen. Looked ill, but he was making it up the stairs okay. And..."
Something dawned on Adeline and she smiled.
"Oh, and then I heard the door open. I didn't think anything of it. He probably went out again."
"But you said he was sick," Scully coaxed gently.
"Tired might be a better word. He was moving slowly. Maybe he'd walked too much. Wasn't he ill last night?" she asked innocently. Scully resisted the urge to scream. She clenched her jaw and nodded.
"I'm going out to look for him. Will you please call me if you see him, or have him call me?"
Adeline looked perplexed, but accepted Scully's card. Scully turned and left the B & B, silently berating the cheerful sound of the door chime. She was not in a down-home cutesy mood right now. Where in the hell would Mulder go? Maybe he went to Jeffrey Hammond's market. As Scully started off down the street, a shout made her stop. Sheriff Coombs jogged towards her.
"Howdy, Agent Scully. We're setting that stakeout at the hill. I actually found a few who weren't scared off. Eleven okay?"
Scully considered. She really wanted to do a sweep of the town before heading up to the hill and she needed all the deputies she could get.
"That sounds fine. I'll want a team to take a look around, make sure everything's as it should be."
The sheriff looked puzzled but nodded. A good cop, Scully thought. The sheriff started away, then turned back.
"Where's that partner of yours? He showing up to this?"
God, I hope so, Scully thought reverently.
"He's off following up a lead, Sheriff. He'll be there."
The sheriff grinned at her and moved down the street. Scully watched him go. Something was niggling at her. Something...
October 31, 1996
Morya approached the FBI man slowly. The man watched him with an exhausted gaze and the defeated slump of his shoulders told Morya that he was ill, tired. Morya paused while a few feet in front of him. It didn't appear to be causing the man any pain. Inside, Morya's black heart sang. The vessel and the receiver were becoming closer. Not such an antagonistic relationship now. From his pocket, Morya produced a pair of heavy iron handcuffs. He could still handle them; they didn't hurt him yet. But the vessel...Morya didn't want to hear anymore screams but he was inured to them now and knew they were a necessary by-product of the work. He caught the man's thin wrists easily, felt the fever coursing through his veins. Morya frowned, hoping the tinge of illness wouldn't displease Arawn. He clasped the cuffs around the man's wrists and set himself.
The man screamed as the iron bit into his wrists. He writhed and thrashed but Morya held him, lifted him with his impossible strength and slung the chain over a hook in the wall. The man didn't seem to notice. He kicked out viciously, catching Morya in the shin. Angered, Morya slugged him, then regretted it as precious blood spurted forth from the man's nose. Morya calmed himself. It wouldn't do to lose his temper now. The man struggled but his strength was being sapped. The light left his eyes and he hung there, limp, small sounds escaping parched lips. Morya winced at the bubbling burns that appeared on the vessel's wrists, but there was nothing he could do about that. The man's arms were strung taut above his head. His blood would run out slowly. Arawn would be pleased at the feast before him.
October 31, 1996
Scully was worried out of her head. Mulder had disappeared, vanished into thin air, and Scully had to run this stake-out. All she wanted to do was curl up into a tight little ball and sleep for days. Worry and stress was exhausting her. She gave her orders to the deputies and the niggling feeling she'd had for hours hit her such that she stopped cold. Frantically, she dug through her bag, pulling out the hospital personnel folders. The deputies glanced at the strange FBI woman and then went on their way, eager and a little frightened at the prospect of catching this heinous murderer in the act.
The first folder was for Daniel Cullen. He had been an orderly. Scully memorized the address and practically raced to his house, trying to ignore her little Correct Police Procedure voice. Daniel Cullen blinked at her from his porch.
"I'm sorry, I don't know what this is all about..." he said slowly. Scully collected herself.
I'm in charge of a murder investigation, Mr. Cullen, and I need to establish your whereabouts for last night and the night before."
Scully's heart hammered in her chest. Cullen regarded her for a moment, then went back into the house, closing the screen door with a bang. He returned a moment later and thrust an envelope in her hands.
"I just got back this morning," he said. "My wife and I are moving to Atlanta. I got a better job there."
Scully's heart sank as she saw Cullen's plane ticket. She forced a smile of thanks and backed off Cullen's porch. Taking a deep breath, Scully opened the last folder. Morya Karbelnikoff. Morya? Scully shrugged and set off towards the Karbelnikoff residence.
October 31, 1996
The sting of the cuffs no longer hurt. Mulder couldn't feel his hands anymore. His shoulders burned, however. They tingled with the lack of blood and his muscles protested. He watched the man, who called himself Morya, prepare. Mulder blanched as Morya approached, stacking cordwood in front of him. Cordwood. A fire.
"You need a fire?" Mulder asked hoarsely. Morya jerked his head up, nodded. He licked his lips.
"Yes, I do. For the sacrifice."
Mulder shifted, grunted at the moving pain in his arms.
"What are you trying to do?" Mulder asked. Morya considered him for a moment and Mulder got the impression that Morya found him a nuisance, a necessity, inhuman.
"I told you...I need to know something from you," he said in a wheedling tone that Mulder found despicable.
"Which mask did you use?" Morya asked, trying to bleed the eagerness from his voice. Ah, Mulder thought. No fucking way. Mulder made a big show of glancing over at the wall. He pursed his lips, frowned, shook his head as much as he could.
"I'm not real good with art. I don't remember," he said easily. Morya looked deeply into his eyes and for one moment Mulder was afraid that Morya could see into his soul. Morya sighed.
"It will hurt you more if you don't remember," he said softly. Mulder tried to look faintly surprised. The killer stood before him now and even though he appeared to have the upper hand, Mulder had his number. This was a sad, sorry little man whose only hope for redemption lay in the release of a demon. Tough life, Morya, thought Mulder. Morya moved closer to him, touched him. Mulder's stomach clenched and he gritted his teeth. The pain of before hadn't resurfaced but Morya's closeness made Mulder queasy.
"I will put the masks on you and your face will boil and bubble and peel off if the mask is not correct," Morya said nastily. Sure, Mulder thought.
"Then why haven't you done that yet? It's already after eleven. Isn't this shindig supposed to happen at midnight?"
Morya's broad face was mottled with anger. He clenched his fists, staring at Mulder. He turned away.
"You force me to prepare sooner than I had hoped. I cannot do the Preparing without the mask. Arawn will not recognize me without the mask -" Morya paused, glanced at Mulder. Mulder caught his mistake.
"You need the mask for you, right? I'm just a sacrifice," Mulder said scornfully. Morya drew a deep breath. The vessel should not be talking this way to him.
"In order for Arawn to arrive and fulfill his glory through me, he must pass through the gate and through the vessel."
Morya got the desired response. Shit, thought Mulder bleakly, not that again. God, not that. Morya inched forward.
"You do not like this idea, do you? Perhaps the God of the dead has already tried to pass through you...last night, maybe, as the lamb lay on the altar, his blood running over me. Your taking of the mask activated my warding. I felt Arawn last night. He was strong. He is very hungry and you will feed him."
Mulder closed his eyes. He was losing control. Morya's words burned into his memory, through his heart and into that private place in his soul where he kept his dark secrets and fears. And then there was another...the familiar presence, seducing him. Mulder tried to push it away but it was raping him again, twisting around inside him. Arawn was hungry and it would take sex or flesh as food. It probed him like an old lover and Mulder heaved, retching. Heat suddenly assaulted him and Mulder opened his eyes. Morya had lit the wood in front of Mulder and stood on the other side, his face dancing through the flames. Mulder stared in fascination at the fire as it jerked and moved, swayed...only a few feet away from him. And Mulder had to get away. Mulder screamed, keening at a startled Morya and twisted in the air, leaping and falling back to the ground again, wrenching his shoulders and feeling the cuffs bite even deeper into his ruined wrists. Got to get away...get away...Mulder's feet went out from under him and he came down hard, his teeth cracking with the impact. The pain in his shoulders exploded again but Mulder didn't care. Good God get it away get it away...then Morya was beside him, yelling at him, but Mulder didn't hear him. All he could see was the fire coming closer, the dance of death...the flames taunting him again...and then Mulder was on his knees and Morya clutched the chain between the handcuffs and pulled Mulder around the corner, away from the flames. Mulder leaned against the wall, sucking in great gasps of air. Morya grabbed the chain again and this time his skin sizzled. Morya jerked back, stared at Mulder. Looked into his eyes.
"Ack, Arawn," he breathed. He wrapped a towel around the chain and hauled Mulder to his feet, back in front of the blazing fire.
"No, please," Mulder whispered through ruined lips. "Please..."
"You are the sacrifice. Your blood will run when Arawn takes possession, and then he will come into me and we will become so spiritual, we will be one...we will be powerful...and then we will salute the God of the dead and all the dead with a feast..."
A terrified Mulder followed Morya's gaze to the fire. Dread seeped into him from every pore and his fucking eidetic memory remembered that the Greeks and the Babylonians used to burn their food as an offering to the gods. And this FUCKING crackpot, Mulder thought hysterically, couldn't even stick to one myth. He had to mix them. Whatever he was doing, it was working. Mulder had no fight left in him. Morya strung him up again and Mulder just closed his eyes and turned his face away from the flames, his death.
October 31, 1996
Morya Karbelnikoff wasn't home. Scully bit her lip. This had been a complete dead end. She stepped off the porch and sighed. Might as well join the stake-out. She could get up to the hill...she started as the porch light went on next door. An elderly man stared at her.
"You looking for Morya?" he asked gruffly. Scully stepped closer to him.
"Yes, I am. Do you know where he is?"
"Weirdest guy," the man said. "Something weird going on in his house. Always chanting and cursing. I heard him today, yelling at his brother. Something horrible. Robin's not the brightest thing in the world -"
"Excuse me. Robin?" Scully asked, almost holding her breath.
"Yeah. Morya's brother -"
Scully turned and ran. The man stared after her.
October 31, 1996
Mulder's eyes fluttered open. He coughed as he inhaled smoke. He could feel Arawn pouring into him. Mulder groaned. Arawn would have no place to go. Arawn would take up residence in Mulder and punish him for his stubbornness. Morya glanced at him, looking up from his scrying. He smiled slowly.
"I will find the mask," he said.
"Not before midnight," Mulder replied, his voice sounding oddly disembodied. Morya's eyes glinted with evil as he looked back into the bowl. He hummed to himself then stopped, hypnotized. He looked quickly at Mulder and got to his feet. Mulder squirmed, trying to get out of Morya's way but Morya grabbed him around the waist and pulled his I.D. out of his pocket. He flipped it open and cackled in triumph.
"A fox!" he crowed. "How clever!"
Mulder could feel coughs wracking his body and once more he could feel the patient Arawn, waiting for the Calling. Morya pulled the fox mask off the wall and held it up to his face. He laughed.
"So clever!" he said once more. Mulder felt his entire being snap towards the mask. Every nerve ending quivered. He became the mask. Arawn hungered. Morya stepped towards him, one hand holding the mask and the other a sharp dagger, still encrusted with blood and gristle from his other kills. Somewhere in the back of his being, Mulder heard the soft 'bong' of a clock. One. Morya was right before him. Two. Morya stood on his toes, reaching for Mulder's wrist. Three. Mulder thrashed, tried to thrash, and Arawn held him still. Four. Morya brought the mask down, set it gently on the floor. Five. Mulder sighed heavily as Arawn had no focus. Morya grasped Mulder's wrist and brought the blade up, the tip quivering as it touched the soft skin of Mulder's wrist. Six. Mulder hardly felt the prick of the knife as it slid into his vein. Seven. Mulder and Morya stared at each other, the only sound the crackling roar of the fire. Mulder felt his hot blood slide down his wrist, drip onto his shoulder and run down his neck. Eight. Morya smiled, a tight, bitter smile, and stepped towards Mulder's other side. Nine. Mulder kicked out as viciously as he could and then used a disoriented Morya as a step-ladder, shoving himself upwards and unhooking the damnable handcuffs from their hook. Ten. Mulder hit the ground awkwardly and saw Morya scramble for the mask. Mulder lunged but he was too late. Morya put the mask up to his face and scuttled backwards. Eleven. Mulder was frozen in time. He managed to press his hand to the wound at his wrist. Twelve. Everything that Mulder was surged forward and for one brief instant, he felt the power that Morya so desperately craved to possess. Mulder's breath was swept out of him and he was pushed-pulled, dragged along the floor alongside the fire, towards Morya. Mulder saw the entity, felt as it moved through him towards its destination. Mulder gasped at the sensation, felt light-headed. The mask glared at him as it accepted Arawn and something inside Mulder was telling him to lunge forward but he couldn't move, could only stare as Morya drew himself up to an impossible height and raised the dagger...
November 1, 1996
Scully kicked the back door of the gallery to bits and was almost thrown backwards by the intense heat from a huge bonfire in the center of the room. She locked her jaw and raced inside the room, gun up and aimed as she saw Morya, that once-beautiful mask seemingly glued to his face, raising a dagger over Mulder, who lay at his feet.
"FBI!" Scully hollered. Morya turned, almost in slow motion, and opened his arms to Scully.
"FREEZE!" Scully yelled, but Morya just stood there. Suddenly, he arced back towards Mulder with the dagger and Scully fired. Morya staggered but incredibly, didn't fall. Scully fired again and he took a step backwards. Jesus H. fucking Christ, Scully thought as she advanced. A flash of movement caught her eye.
Mulder had leaped at Morya. Arms in front of him he threw himself on top of Morya, threw his arms over Morya's head and wrapped the iron chain around his neck. Morya gurgled and spat. And exploded. Bone and gristle and blood and flesh dappled the walls. Mulder was thrown backwards, hitting the wall with a resounding thud and as Scully watched, something was sucked out of Morya and moved towards Mulder at blinding speed.
"The mask," Mulder managed to gasp. Scully knelt down and pried the mask off of whatever was left of Morya. Not knowing exactly why, she threw it into the fire and turned to look at Mulder. The being was consuming him, tormenting him. He gasped and groaned and jerked as it moved through him, trying to find its home.
Mulder screamed, a high wail, and Scully crawled towards him, trying to see him through the smoke which was engulfing the room. She sat back hard as the thing turned inside of Mulder, turned its face towards her and snarled angrily at her, knowing it was doomed. As Scully watched, it exploded into a million lights and colors and she covered her head as it rained down on her. Slowly, Scully uncovered her head and looked at Mulder. He was covered in soot and blood. His right wrist was leaking blood but somehow, the wound had been partially cauterized. Scully crawled forward and her trembling hand felt for a pulse. Weak, but there. Scully sighed with relief and carefully examined his wrist. She pulled off her sweater and wrapped it as tightly as she could around the cut. Mulder groaned, coughed. Scully touched his face.
"Mulder?" her voice quavered. She felt him take a shuddering breath and then he opened his eyes. She saw the fear flicker through them and got to her feet, helping him up.
"Come on, we'll get out of here. Okay?"
He didn't say anything, just leaned on her as she helped him out of the gallery.
November 1, 1996
Scully hung up her phone and turned to Mulder. He was propped up against the wall of the gallery, staring sightlessly into the street. Scully quietly sat down next to him and he jumped anyway. His startle responses were so exaggerated now that he flinched at a soft breeze. Scully made a big show out of bringing her hand up, then she lightly touched his arm. God, he was hot. And he had terrible burns on his wrists, burns that Scully could not make heads or tails of. Fortunately the cut on his wrist HAD been cauterized to some extent or else he could have bled to death.
"The ambulance is on its way," she said softly. "Just relax, okay?"
Mulder's eyes flicked towards her and she thought she saw him nod. He coughed again, big hacking coughs that Scully hoped didn't indicate a severe case of smoke inhalation. Scully desperately wanted to ask him what had happened but even the most basic tactile sensations were sending him into near-panic attacks. She just sat with him, watching the quiet street in front of the gallery. Scully looked down as she felt a light touch at her elbow. Mulder's soot-covered fingers were plucking at her shirt. She looked at him and he looked back. She smiled slowly and carefully took his hand as they waited for the ambulance.
November 1, 1996
Scully downed her sixth (or was it seventh?) cup of coffee. It had taken a lot of time for Scully to calm Mulder down once the ambulance had arrived. The stimulus was painful to him and it tore Scully's heart out to hear him moan as they loaded him into the ambulance. Scully blinked at the clock, then looked at her partner. His wrists were bandaged and he breathed noisily through the oxygen mask. Fortunately, he had been asleep since his arrival. Scully was a good deal more concerned about his mental condition than his medical one. He would heal in time. He had a slight case of smoke inhalation. Nothing to worry about, not really. But Scully dreaded consciousness. She dreaded...her head drooped and she drifted off.
November 1, 1996
Scully jerked awake, blinking. Mulder was looking at her. Here we go, Scully thought, taking a deep breath. She leaned forward.
"Mulder?" she asked softly. He drew in a breath but started coughing.
"Take it easy," she said. "Take your time."
The coughing subsided and Scully waited, but Mulder closed his eyes and went back to sleep. Scully stared at him, dumbfounded.
November 2, 1996
Mulder could hear voices and this time they made sense. A nurse was talking...or was it a doctor? And he could hear Scully. She hadn't gotten much sleep. She sounded edgy. Mulder willed his eyes to open and suddenly he was looking at Scully. He thought it was Scully. His vision was blurry. Her face slowly swam into focus and then she saw him, bent down very slowly and smiled.
"Mulder?" she asked tentatively. Mulder drew in a shallow breath and smiled at her. He could feel her relief. How long had he been out?
"Since yesterday," she said, reading his mind. He nodded, then winced and wished he hadn't.
"Morya?" he rasped, his throat hurting. Scully quickly handed him a glass of water, helped him drink it.
"Dead," she said as if she were really reluctant to discuss it. He nodded again, only less so.
"Mulder...are you okay?"
Her careful question made Mulder cast his mind back. Was he?
"Scully, I don't remember...it's all hazy, I remember a few things but that...thing...that was inside me...kind of took over. I -" He stopped. He just couldn't, wouldn't. And Scully understood. She patted one of the few spots on his arm that wasn't bandaged.
"I have something for you," she said. Mulder looked at her. Scully reached down and pulled a video-tape out of a bag. She handed it to him with a flourish. He looked at the title, then back at Scully.
"NBA Bloopers?" he asked. She nodded.
"You're going to be laid up for awhile and it seemed appropriate," she said cheerfully. Mulder looked back at the tape, then at Scully. He grinned at her.
"You're a peach, Scully," he said.
"And don't forget it."
"Hey, Scully...do you think you could sneak a pizza in here?"
Scully fairly glowed with good humor.
"Don't overdo it, Mulder, or I'll tell Skinner that this was the mother of all relapses and you'll be flat on your back anytime your temperature even hovers above normal."
Scully held up a hand.
"No wisecracks. You get some rest, I'll be back later."
Scully grinned at him and left the room, the door creaking shut behind her. Mulder dropped his head back to the pillow. Scully needed to know what happened, intellectually he knew that, but emotionally...he didn't even want to think about it anymore. Not now. Mulder shuddered, remembering the evil touch of Arawn on his very soul. Scully was right. He'd been so sick for a week...that damned flu had really taken hold of him. Had he seen the things he'd seen? When one found the absolute truth, did one just assume that it couldn't possibly be, because the truth one seeks cannot ever be absolute? Mulder's truth wasn't, at any rate. And he had been sick...he damned himself again for being so stubborn in his search for the truth. Was it worth it? That question echoed in Fox Mulder's brain as he drifted off to a dreamless sleep.