Standard disclaimer: The X-Files and all characters appertaining thereto are the exclusive property of Ten-Thirteen Production and Chris Charter. Beauty and the Beast and all characters used therein are the exclusive property of Witt-Thomas and Ron Koslow. Such use as occurs herein is done without permission. (Sue if you like, but I owe my soul in student loans.)
Not-so-standard disclaimer: There is absolutely NO SEX in this story, so if you were looking for another variation on the "What if Mulder and Scully finally did it" theme, look elsewhere, preferably at "Cheers" and "Moonlighting" for examples of what happens after the morning after and ask if it's really worth it.
This is a cross-over that I've been pondering in my spare time and finally got right while attempting to study for the Bar exam. I wondered what would happen if somebody finally decided to investigate all of those bizarre Vincent-attacks in New York City. And wouldn't it be cool if that somebody turned out to be Mulder and Scully?
So, what we have here is a Beauty and the Beast/X-Files cross-over (God help us all).
I've pretty much followed the continuity of B&B, so Catherine is still dead, the tunnel world is still intact, and subway fares have increased accordingly.
A word or two of thanks: Gillian Anderson, Jo Anderson, David Duchovny, Linda Hamilton, and Ron Pearlman--thanks for the fantasy and the fun. Lunchtime and Friday nights would be so boring without you!
Bring on the tar and feathers.....
Rollie had to have one more fix. He'd been clean for months, fighting the sweats, the shakes and the demons that called his name while he tried to find his way back to the person he'd been before he discovered the joys of heroin. All it would take was one more fix and he could find himself again.
Vincent would be disappointed, but he wouldn't turn his back on Rollie. Not after the way Vincent looked after the concert piano, waiting for the day when Rollie would return and play the way he used to. The music didn't come so easily these days. Once, when he was still a kid, the music flowed magically from his fingers and the joke was that he didn't know how to read, let alone read music. Father had changed all that, found him a music teacher--Miss Kendrick, who lovingly called him "Rollie Parrot" and taught him not simply to repeat what he heard someone else play but to play it the way he felt it should be played. They started with the "Moonlight Sonata," something that Miss Kendrick believed was God's favorite piece of music. He believed it himself, for a while, when he still believed in a God. These days, Rollie's god melted in a spoon and shot like fire through his veins.
The prostitutes on Tenth Avenue made way for him, knowing instinctively what kind of lover he sought tonight. Despite the cold night air, Rollie was sweating, and his sweat gave his dark skin a luminous glow under the yellow streetlights. Andy Nichols wasn't your average run-of-the-mill drug dealer. After all, how many drug dealers were NYU grad students majoring in chemistry? His father would die if he knew. His father, Representative Steve Nichols had insisted that Andy go to Yale, follow his political footsteps, get married and have kids. Not Andy. No way. There were far more interesting things for him to do and dealing gave him the cash to do anything he wanted, with or without his father's permission.
Andy saw Rollie staggering up Tenth Avenue and an easy grin crossed his face. "Rollie, man, where ya been?"
Rollie shrugged and muttered something unintelligible, handing Andy a crumpled wad of cash. He was a few moments away from the music that came with his god. Andy slipped him the drug and watched Rollie lean against the side of a building and roll up his sleeve, lips moving wordlessly. Soon, Rollie was smiling, listening to music only he could hear.
And then, the mood changed. Rollie began to convulse as the music became a cacaphony of sound that was killing him. Andy knew it was time to high-tail it. No way he was going to stick around to explain a dead junkie to the cops. He was halfway down the block when the growl of an animal stopped him in his tracks. Pulling his .22, Andy fired wildly into the night. In the semi-darkness, Vincent snarled as the bullet pierced his shoulder. Ignoring the pain, he threw Andy against a steel gate protecting one of the few stores that still did business on Tenth Avenue.
"Got...money," Andy gasped.
Vincent ignored him, claws ripping into the boy whose greed had killed his friend. When Andy ceased struggling, he dropped him like a rag doll and examined Rollie's unmoving body.
The approaching sirens were getting louder. Wherever they took Rollie, perhaps it would be the key to helping him. Rollie needed more than he or Father were capable of giving. Sighing, Vincent retreated into the shadows, wondering what drove the people who lived Above to such despair and greed.
Detective Diana Bennett surveyed the crime scene, her heart sinking. She'd warned Vincent about doing this--it didn't help Rollie. It didn't help anybody. And now she had a dead Congressman's kid and a nearly dead junkie. Luckily, the only witness was a half-stoned hooker.
Thankfully, the Commissioner let her pick and choose her cases, due to her amazing success rate with the hopeless, high profile cases. He would let her have this one and she would find a way to bury it quietly, labeling it a murder by another dissatisfied customer. And she would have another long talk with Vincent...
Congressman Steve Nichols slammed a copy of the New York Post on Special Agent Fox Mulder's desk. Nichols was Hollywood handsome, with finely chiseled features, hair that receded slightly but had lost none of its blondness and steely gray eyes that focused on Mulder, who busied himself by looking at the headline.
TERROR ON TENTH AVE.
Rep's dealer son slain by beast-man The article describe Andy Nichols as an honor student at NYU, studying chemistry and apparently, financing his education by selling drugs.
Nichols leaned across Mulder's desk. "The NYPD hasn't got a clue on this one, Agent Mulder. They've given me the usual song and dance about following leads, but we all know they don't have a damned thing. I've heard the buzz about you and I want you to take the case."
Mulder took a deep breath and offered a compassionate look. "Sir, you realize that I can't investigate unless it's a federal crime or my assistance has been requested by the NYPD."
Nichols snorted derisively. "Do you think they have a choice? I'm on the Budget Committee--that means I've got enough control over the mayor and the governor to get anything I want--including you to investigate for me."
It did look interesting, Mulder had to admit, and he had several unsolved X-Files from New York City involving the same type of "beast-man." Nichols was finally going to give him the excuse to dig a little further.
Before he could speak, Nichols spoke again. "I'm sure you're going to find out sooner or later, during your investigation....Andy was, uh, that, is...Well, Andy and I haven't spoken for nearly two years because of his choice of lifestyle. God knows how they love scandals like that in this town. Anyway, I would appreciate you're keeping that quiet."
"Of course." Who care about scandals? He was going to find New York City's very own Bigfoot.
Scully walked into Mulder's office, laden with new case files, which she nearly dropped in surprise. He was leaning over a file cabinet, humming (could it really be?) "New York State of Mind", pulling folders and rapidly flipping through their contents.
Hearing her enter, he straightened up and offered her a lop-sided grin. "Read the paper today?"
"Not yet. Did we win the lottery?"
Mulder handed her the Post, watching her wrinkle her nose in dismay at the headline. She frowned up at him.
"Don't tell me we pulled this case."
"We pulled this case. Congressman Nichols' personal request."
Scully groaned aloud. "Oh come on! Don't tell me you believe this sensationalistic rag? This is the same paper that printed a story about a headless body in a topless bar!"
"But there was a headless body," Mulder said, laying out the case files for her. "And there have been several reported cases of strange maulings in New York City. Besides, you can do your Christmas shopping in the Big Apple."
"I've already done my Christmas shopping," she said, pointedly.
"I haven't and I've got a beast man at the top of my list."
District Attorney Joe Maxwell stared at Mulder and Scully with mild distaste. Maxwell ran a hand through his dark hair and spoke in a voice that contained more than a trace of his Brooklyn roots. "Diana Bennett is a damned good cop. She's been working on this nonstop since last night."
Mulder adopted a conciliatory tone. "Her efforts are very much appreciated, however Congressman Nichols asked---"
"No," Maxwell interrupted. "Nichols didn't ask. He ordered. And I consider that a slap in the face to the NYPD in general, to Diana Bennett personally, and probably to my office as well."
Diana stormed into Maxwells office, nearly hitting Mulder in the back with the door. "Joe, what the hell is going on? First, you pull me off Bender and put me on Nichols, now you're yanking me from that case, too."
Maxwell pointed at Mulder. "The Feds have taken over. Nichol's personal request."
Diana focused her wrath on Mulder, ignoring Scully. "Do you have any idea where to begin in a city this size?"
"I usually start with the witnesses," Mulder replied, calmly.
"There were two."
"One is suffering severe withdrawal and the other is a hooker. I wish you all the best in trying to find her now that the cops know what she looks like." Diana folded her arms across her chest. "By the way, Joe, they found Jackie Bender's body in a dumpster in Queens this morning."
"Dammit, I thought you said he was on a cycle, Diana."
"He's changing that cycle. The mutilations have gotten worse, which means he's really starting to get a feel for it." Diana's expression was grim. "I know Murphy's a good cop, but I think this one is over his head."
"I'll talk to him about letting you have it back," Maxwell promised. He dismissed Mulder and Scully with a wave of his hand. "If you two need anything, let me know."
Diana left first, pushing Mulder out of her way. He followed her into the hallway.
She turned, eyebrow arched curiously. "I'll make sure you get the case file."
"You're right," Mulder said, surprising Scully. (He never admitted someone else was right.) "I was wondering if I could talk you into helping us. We don't know the city the way you do."
Diana thought it over. Maybe it was the best way to help Vincent. "You've got a deal, Agent....."
"Mulder. That's Agent Scully." God help him. Two redheads on one case.
Diana extended her hand to Scully first. "Diana Bennett."
Bellevue Hospital was still deserving of its horrific reputation. The poor and the hopeless lined its hallways waiting for treatment while an overworked nurse attempted to triage the never-ending stream of incoming patients. One Hispanic woman was in the process of giving birth in the the waiting room. Scully fought the urge to jump in and start treating some of them, following Mulder to the room of the man who had been found at the crime scene.
Dr. Parikh had listened to them carefully and explained the seriousness of the withdrawal symptoms. It was doubtful the man could speak or if he did, that anything he said would be of consequence.
Scully leaned over the bed, watching the black man's agony for a moment before speaking.
"Sir, I'm Dana Scully. I'm with the FBI and I was wondering if you could tell me about last night."
The man's eyes rolled frightfully, but he grabbed her hand and whispered something. Scully leaned closer, frowning in concentration to hear it.
"What did he say," Mulder asked, eagerly.
"Moonlight Sonata." She shrugged. "I don't think our killer is the ghost of a composer."
Mulder raised an eyebrow at Scully, who shrugged again.
Rollie didn't notice them leave. All he could hear were the strains of the music of his past.
Bennett's Greenwich Village loft looked less like an office than Mulder's own apartment even though she legitimately worked out of hers. He peered curiously at a bulletin board filled with pictures of the mutilated bodies of four little girls and newspaper articles describing the carnage.
Bennett was profiling this killer and he wondered if she suffered the same way he did when he profiled. Diana reached past him, draping a curtain over the bulletin board.
"Leave it," she said, more harshly than she intended.
Mulder offered a conciliatory smile. "Sorry. I've already taken one of your cases today..."
Diana smiled in return, which lit up her classically beautiful face.
"You can have them all, Agent Mulder, gift wrapped with little Santas on them."
Scully pointed to a rose bush which was flowering due to the warmth of Diana's apartment. "How did you get it to grow red and white roses?"
"That's from a case I worked on three years ago," Diana explained. "I'm sure you heard of it. An assistant district attorney named Catherine Chandler--"
"She vanished for eight months only to be found dead in her own apartment," Mulder recalled. He had wanted to take the case but had been too busy. Ultimately, it turned out not to be an X-file anyway, but the work of some kind of crime lord. Something about the case nagged at him and he decided to look over the file later and see how Bennett worked.
"Right." Diana sank onto her couch. "This particular case is a little stranger. Did you have a chance to look over the ME's report?"
Scully nodded. "Nichols died of a fractured skull and broken neck.
Bruises around his neck suggest a fairly large attacker and the scratches don't conform with any animal on file. Most of the blood at the scene belonged to Nichols, except for a stain found up the street which has yet to be identified."
Damn, Diana cursed silently. At least Vincent wasn't in a place where he could be easily found.
Mulder was looking through her CDs and pulled out one. "Look, Scully, the Moonlight Sonata."
"What does classical music have to do with any of this," Diana asked.
"It's something the heroin addict mumbled today," Mulder said. "Any idea what it means?"
"Maybe it means he goes to the Met when he's not shooting up," Diana said, quickly. She turned to Scully and abruptly changed the subject."Where are you two staying?"
"Burch Plaza," Scully replied. "It's not exactly the Waldorf-Astoria..."
"Neither is the Waldorf-Astoria these days," Diana grinned. "If you need help getting around, let me know. And Agent Mulder..."
He looked up from the rosebush.
"Stay away from the three-card monte dealers."
Mulder sorted through the case files at the FBI's New York office until he found the one for Catherine Chandler. Now he remembered the case. Chandler had vanished for nearly two weeks one Spring only to simply reappear as the victim of a bizarre slashing, the details of which Chandler could not or would not recall. They never found out who did it, but shortly after her recovery, she joined the D.A.'s office as an investigator, only to disappear again two years later. She was found in her apartment eight months later, dead of a morphine overdose. Chandler had given birth, although the child was never found. A strange case, but one that had been solved by Bennett, who had been kidnapped during the course of her investigation by Chandler's killer, a shadowy underworld figure who called himself Gabriel, among other things.
Mulder nudged Scully excitedly. Five deep scratches were found on Gabriel's face even though he died of a gunshot wound.
Scully looked at the file. "So, are you suggesting that Bennett's the slasher?"
"I don't think so, but maybe she knows who he is."
Scully studied another slashing file. This one involved a subway vigilante who rescued a cleaning lady and an elderly man. "Mulder---"
He looked up from the Chandler file, not ready to let go of the case yet. "What did you find?"
"This subway vigilante case, Mulder, the one from your files...Guess who was investigating it for the D.A.'s office?" Scully's eyes gleamed.
There was a connection. There had to be. He flipped rapidly through the other files. Catherine Chandler was investigating nearly two-thirds of them. "Scully, I think it's time to re-open the Chandler case."
Vincent put down the volume of sonnets that he was reading to Jacob, his son. His soulful eyes rested on Diana as she warned him about the FBI agents who were looking for him.
"Is there a danger that they could find me," he asked. Diana shrugged. "I did some checking. Mulder is in charge of a unit called the X-Files. He investigates paranormal activities. The FBI doesn't seem too crazy about him, at least the agents I know."
She grinned slightly. "They call him 'Spooky.'"
Jacob returned the grin, looking more and more like Catherine every day. "Spoooooky."
Vincent embraced his son. "He won't find this place, or me."
"I warned you about going after the dealers," Diana frowned. "It still hasn't helped Rollie and he may be beyond help now. He's barely coherent and the withdrawal symptoms may kill him in his weakened condition."
"I'll never understand that aspect of your world, Diana," Vincent said, sadly. "How a person's despair can drive them to such depths."
Joe Maxwell glared as Mulder pulled nearly every case that Catherine Chandler investigated. Cathy's death was still a sore point with him, as though perhaps he could have saved her if only he had told her how he felt.
"Cathy Chandler has nothing to do with your case, Agent Mulder and I resent your digging around in her life," Joe snapped. "I think there may be a connection," Mulder said, evenly. "If there is, you'll certainly be one of the first to know."
Scully recognized Maxwell's discomfort and she attempted to diffuse the situation. "Our investigation may point to the reason behind her initial kidnapping or her murder."
Maxwell softened slightly. "I know. It's just that Radcliffe---Cathy---was a friend as well as a co-worker. She loved her work, helping people. At first, I didn't think she could handle it, a rich kid from Park Avenue, but she was tougher than any of us thought. Hell, she even took down Elliot Burch."
Mulder looked up. They never found Burch's body... Amazing how so many people were connected to Catherine Chandler. Even three years after her death.
"There is no connection," Diana insisted, angrily. "The Chandler case is closed. I know because I closed it myself."
Mulder tossed the stack of folders in front of her. "Can you explain why so many people Catherine Chandler was investigating ended up dead, with slashes similar to the ones Andy Nichols received?"
Diana exhaled sharply. "Do you think I missed that little piece of information the first time, Agent Mulder? As I figured it, Chandler herself was the victim of a severe attack. Her face was slashed by two men with a razor. It's not unusual for victims of such violent crimes to become violent themselves."
"We both know it wasn't Cathy Chandler," Mulder said, calmly. "What I want to know is who Vincent was. Your case notes mention him several times and then the name disappears. And isn't it funny how the junkie in the hospital said the same name today?"
Diana stood up. "Are you suggesting a cover-up, Agent Mulder?"
"No, I'm suggesting that you know more than you're telling us." His voice took on the edge he used for interrogations. Diana was a cop herself and wasn't fazed in the least. "The Chandler case is closed, Mulder, and it's going to stay that way. I would appreciate it if you didn't slam the door on your way out."
Scully didn't have to look at Mulder to know that he wasn't going to give this one up so easily. She could almost feel the energy and the excitement coming from him as he buttoned his wool overcoat against the stinging cold, New York air.
"Where to now," she asked.
"I want to see Chandler's old apartment," Mulder said, knowing that it probably wouldn't help other than to add to his determination to solve the case.
On the corner, a street performer mournfully blew his saxophone and watched them pass. He nodded to the cabbie across the street, who started his engine and began to follow Mulder and Scully.
The family occupying Catherine Chandler's old penthouse had let them in, somewhat grudgingly. They had known of the murder but had put it out of their minds. After all, it enabled them to get a hell of a deal on this fantastic apartment with its view of Central Park.
Scully opened the balcony doors and stepped outside, looking first at New York's breath-taking skyline and then down at the bare trees in the park. Mulder was at her side, staring down, too. "Almost looks civilized from up here."
Scully smiled at this 'Mulderism'. "I thought you might want to move our base of operations to New York and be where the weirdness is."
"We'd have to take on more partners to investigate all of the paranormal activity in this town." Sighing, he led Scully from the apartment into the hall, where they nearly collided with a middle-aged woman carrying groceries into the apartment across the way.
She glanced at the badges still on their coats and frowned at them. "Too many weird goings-on in this building. You'd think it was the Dakota or something."
"How's that," Mulder asked her, curiously, thinking simultaneously of John Lennon and 'Rosemary's Baby.'
"That Chandler woman, for instance. And there was that boy who disappeared in the basement looking for monsters. Of course, Chandler seemed to have a fixation with the basement, too. Used to see her going down there at all sorts of hours. She also wasn't afraid to wander into Central Park at night. I think she was looking for somebody to kill her."
Mulder thanked her for her help and dragged Scully into the elevator, pressing "B" for basement.
"You don't really think we'll find something in the basement, do you," Scully asked.
"Basements in buildings like this are full of all kinds of secrets." The elevator stopped and he led Scully through the basement, using his flashlight to get a better look.
One portion of a wall had been smashed away, only to be cemented over.
Mulder pointed to it. "Where do you suppose this goes?"
The beam of another flashlight focused on Mulder. Franklin, the security guard let out the breath he didn't realize he was holding. "Jesus, you scared me."
Mulder pointed again. "Do you know anything about this?"
Franklin nodded. "Some stupid kid had a fight with his father and wandered around in there for nearly eight hours looking for dragons or whatever it is kids look for. They had to call in the city planning commission to figure out where the tunnel went."
"Yeah," Franklin coughed. The flu was making its rounds early this year. "City's filled with tunnels to nowhere. Old subways from the turn of the century, subways that never got finished, and, of course, the ones in Chinatown that they use to hide all the illegal immigrants. Not that you guys in Washington give a damn about them sneaking in here, carrying all sorts of diseases like tuberculosis and God only knows what else."
Scully stole a look at Mulder, inwardly dreading a trip to the city planner's office. She didn't enjoy looking through dusty tomes or dealing with overworked, cranky city employees--especially New Yorkers. Unfortunately, she knew that Mulder was on the scent and it would take more than Skinner himself to pull him off now.
Mulder dug through the plans, wishing Scully hadn't decided to pick now to sort through the coroner's report on Cathy Chandler. Now this was interesting, there were a whole bunch of tunnels that ran parallel to Chandler's building from Central Park. Apparently, there were dozens of tunnels below Central Park, as well. He'd heard stories of these tunnels, about lost subways, alligators--everything, including the lost city of Atlantis was fabled to be buried down there. Who knows, maybe he would find Elvis down there. Wait til he told Scully.
Diana winced when the cabbie told about Mulder's visit to the planning commission. He was getting too close and if he was as persistent as she had been told, he was going to find the safe haven below. On the other hand, maybe he should find it.... She needed to talk to Vincent. And Father.
Scully shook her head in protest. "Mulder, no! Not a trip through the sewers of New York! We'll never feel clean again!"
"Those tunnels are the key to this case," he insisted, taking a bite from the sandwich room service had delivered.
Scully knew that didn't make sense, which meant it made perfect sense to Mulder. Before she could protest any further, there was a knock at the door to Mulder's room.
Diana Bennett offered Mulder an apologetic smile. "Make any progress?"
"What do you know about the tunnel connecting Catherine Chandler's apartment building to Central Park?" Mulder's hazel eyes focused on Diana's intently.
Her worst fears had been confirmed and now she knew this was the only way. "I know everything about it, including why it was sealed."
Scully's jaw dropped as she looked at Mulder to see what he would say next.
Mulder put the sandwich down. "I don't suppose you'd care to tell me."
"No." Diana held out a hand. "I'd prefer to show you. Both of you."
She led them to the drainage tunnel in Central Park, the entrance that Catherine had used almost exclusively for two years. Despite the 15 degree temperature, Mulder had kept the pace, as excited as a child. He knew Bennett could try to kill them, leave their bodies in a sewage tunnel, but he didn't think she was the type to kill in cold blood.
Scully was less positive, feeling comforted by the weight of her shoulder holster.
Diana reached into the bars that blocked their way and tripped the hidden switch. She'd chosen the scenic route to Vincent's world and hoped that her efforts would be rewarded with Mulder's silence. They followed her into the tunnels, expecting darkness but finding lights had been installed along the way. The pipes clattered endlessly and Scully looked at them in annoyance.
"Steam," she asked.
"No, that's how the people that live down here communicate with each other." Diana paused. "This is a secret place, a safe place where people help each other. Catherine Chandler was nursed back to health here when she disappeared for the first time. She later became what we refer to as a Helper, someone who lives above but who keeps the secret."
Scully shot Mulder one of her looks.
"Why tell us?" he asked the question for Scully.
"Because you were close enough to finding it on your own," Diana said.
"But I wanted you to see it as it is, and to see what Vincent means to all of us."
She continued to lead them past rooms that had been carved into the rock by hand. Scully stopped dead and looked questioningly at Mulder.
"Do you hear it?"
It was the sound of children singing Christmas carols.
Diana led them to the source of the sound. A large group of children, all ages and all races were singing "Silent Night."
A young girl, maybe 12 years old, with light brown hair and hazel eyes noticed them and ran up to Diana. "Are these them?"
"Yes, Samantha," Diana said, with the patience of a woman who had answered this child's never-ending stream of questions before.
She looked up at Mulder excitedly. "Are you really an FBI agent, mister?"
God, she reminded him of his sister, despite the strange clothing she wore. He bent down so he could get a better look at her. "Yes."
"You're not gonna tell anybody about Vincent, are you? Vincent protects us and we protect him."
She was more worried about this Vincent than she was about him revealing where she lived. For some reason, this touched him. "We'll see."
Samantha cocked her head at him. "Is he going to stay here with us, Diana?"
"No, Samantha, he lives above and he protects the people who live there--"
"Just like Vincent," Samantha exclaimed, happily, throwing her arms around Mulder's neck. "I knew I liked you."
Diana had hoped for something like this. Now, if he could just melt a little more and she could appeal to Scully.... Mulder lifted the girl up. "Are you going to show me around?"
"Can I," Samantha asked, excitedly. "Can I show him the reflecting pool and the Great Hall and the ---"
Diana looked at Scully. "I can show you the rest, Agent Scully, if you'd like. You can see the nursery and the classrooms and meet some more of the people who live here."
"What about Vincent," Mulder asked, still holding the girl in his arms.
"You get to meet him later," Samantha told him with a shy giggle, as he set her down. She tugged at his sleeve. "C'mon!!!"
Mulder gave Scully a reassuring glance and let the girl lead him through the maze of tunnels.
Scully sighed as she watched them disappear. "It's hard to tell which of them is the child."
A young boy watched Scully intently from a distance and she noticed him from the corner of her eye. He had flaxen hair and thick glasses, along with an intelligent expression on his face. She went to him.
"Hi, I'm Dana. What's your name?"
"Eric." He studied her dispassionately. "Did you know Catherine?"
"No," Scully replied.
"She brought me and Ellie--that was my sister here, when nobody else wanted us." Eric took Scully's hand and led her into the circle of children, telling her about the way Catherine Chandler had rescued his sister from a modern day Fagin and him from a brutal orphanage, where he had been locked away by himself.
Diana smiled to herself, watching Scully listen and learn. It was working perfectly, Samantha fairly raced down the corridors, tugging Mulder's sleeve and admonishing him to keep up. He would never be able to find his way back by himself....
Suddenly she stopped and looked up at him. "You never told me your name, mister."
Samantha's look was skeptical. "Your whole name."
"Fox Mulder." She definitely reminded him of his sister.
"Fox," she repeated, solemnly. "It fits you perfectly."
Mulder knelt beside her. "Really? How come?"
"Foxes are supposed to be pretty smart and I have the feeling you are, too." She tugged his sleeve. "C'mon, Fox, get up. There's a whole world down here I want to show you."
For a moment, he debated telling her to call him Mulder, but he was so taken with her, he decided against it. "Will we see Vincent?"
"Later," she said, scolding him lightly. "Father said you get to see Vincent after your tour of our world."
"Your father lives here, too?"
Samantha shook her head. Adults! They never listened. "No, silly Fox, Father isn't my father. I don't know who my father is. Father is like....kind of like your president. We all just call him 'Father' because that's how much we all love him."
A man who called himself Father. Okay. He straightened up, dusted off his suit and held out his hand. "Lead the way, Sam."
Samantha led him down a corridor to a chamber (as she called it) filled with all sorts of electronic equipment. "Mouse?"
A young man wearing protective goggles peeked out from behind a curtain. "Not now. Busy."
"Mouse, this is Fox--one of Diana's friends. Don't be so rude."
Samantha tapped her foot impatiently.
Mouse put the goggles down and looked at Mulder's suit with unabashed curiousity. "Busy. Working on new lighting system."
The boy seemed almost mildly retarded, especially considering the way he spoke, but the various inventions around the room proved that impression false. "You want to know about Catherine."
Mulder nodded. "Did you know her?"
"Everybody knows Catherine. Catherine knows everybody." Mouse shrugged.
"She always listened to Mouse, just like Vincent. Even when they said obody could talk to Mouse, she listened."
"Oh come on, Mouse," Samantha snorted. "You got punished for stealing from above. It was only for a month and you still haven't learned your lesson."
"Mouse doesn't steal. Nobody uses. Mouse takes. Builds things. Lights. Dams. Wonderful new inventions." Mouse shook a finger at Samantha. "You use everything Mouse builds."
"Yeah, but we're not supposed to take stuff without permission," Samantha said, explaining it for Mulder's benefit. "We can take whatever they don't want but we never, ever, steal. Including you, Mouse."
"Okay good. Okay fine. Go away now. Mouse is busy." He put the goggles and went back to work, ignoring them.
Samantha led Mulder out of Mouse's chamber with a giggle. "Vincent found Mouse hiding in some of the other tunnels when Mouse was still little.
Mouse couldn't talk or anything, but Vincent taught him. He still doesn't talk perfect---"
"Samantha!" An older woman approached, cutting the child off midsentence. "You must be Agent Mulder. I'm Mary. I take care of the children."
Mulder draped a protective arm around the girl's shoulders. "Sam's been showing me around."
"Good. Samantha is our equivalent of the elephant's child," Mary teased, referring to the Kipling story. "I wouldn't be surprised one day if she showed up with the trunk of an elephant."
Mary ruffled the girl's hair. "Where are you taking your new friend?"
"The reflecting pool and the classrooms and then the Great Hall."
"Just stay out of the more dangerous passageways. And for heaven's sake, don't take him on the old footbridge. I don't think it would hold his weight."
"But it holds Vincent!"
"But Vincent isn't our guest, is he?"
"Yes ma'am." Samantha looked up at Mulder. "Ready, Fox?"
"Nice meeting you, Mary." He grinned as he was led down another corridor by the sweet little girl who reminded him of his lost sister.
Scully listened to the stories the children told about Catherine Chandler and how much she meant to all of them. It was a shame she would never know the woman and yet, she felt like she already did. Diana smiled and hugged Scully like a sister.
"Do you feel at home yet?"
"I feel like I've lived here my whole life," Scully admitted. "I know the feeling."
The children resumed their Christmas carols and the two women, suddently filled with the spirit of the season, joined in.
Mulder had never seen anything like it. The reflecting pool was everything Samantha had promised and more. It had to be located in the middle of Central Park, yet obscured from view. How else could you explain the reflection of the stars in water so far underground?
An attractive blond woman filled a pitcher with water and watched him, amusement on her lips. "What do you think of it?"
"I can't believe it's real."
"Neither could I when I first came here." She extended her hand. "Hi, I'm Laina."
Mulder took her hand. "Fox Mulder."
"I first came here two Christmases ago," Laina said. "Catherine Chandler brought me here and gave us a fresh start. My baby and me, I mean. I was pregnant with little Catherine when I first came here. I don't know who her father is--I was a prostitute up there. All I kept thinking was that my baby was going to grow up to be exactly like me and there was absolutely no hope for either of us. Catherine brought me here and suddenly, it's like anything is possible."
Laina grabbed the pitcher. "I've gotta go. My baby is waiting for me. So's my husband."
Mulder shook his head in disbelief. It was as though he had entered another dimension. These people cared about each other. Truly cared.
And Catherine Chandler had been a driving force in their life. Samantha tugged his sleeve again. "It's time to go."
"Where to now?"
"It's a surprise."
She led him to a pair of giant double doors through a very windy tunnel.
He opened the doors to find Scully, Diana, the children and a room full of adults, including Laina and Mary.
An older man made a gesture of greeting. "Welcome to our Great Hall, Agent Mulder. I trust Samantha has taken good care of you?"
Mulder held the girl's hand, unwilling to relinquish her just yet. "She's an excellent tour guide."
"I'm Jacob Wells," the man said, moving closer, leaning on his cane.
"The people who live here call me Father."
Scully sidled up to Mulder. "I can't believe this place, Mulder."
"We brought you here so that you would understand what our world means to us, "Father continued. "And so that you would understand what Vincent means to our world."
"Vincent killed a man, "Mulder said. "It's my job to bring him in."
"Your jails would kill Vincent, if indeed your government allowed him to go to a jail."
A tall figure in a cloak came up behind Father and spoke in hushed, soothing tones. "I am Vincent. Please do not let my appearance frighten you."
He removed his hood, revealing his noble face, rather like a lion's, with soulful, kind eyes. There was nothing beastly about him.
"What are you," Scully asked, still skeptical but in awe.
"I am a man. I was born. I survived. Beyond that, I do not know much more. I have ideas, of course." He moved closer, letting them satisfy their curiosity. "Diana has told me why you have sought me. The things I have done in your world were done to protect Catherine, not out of the hatred or malice which flourish above."
"You? And Catherine Chandler?" Mulder, the believer, found it hard to believe.
"I would like to tell you a story of two lovers, whose love was not meant to be. Catherine and I lived in different worlds, worlds that kept us apart and yet kept us together..."
Vincent's tale unfolded slowly. He spoke of the night he found Catherine Chandler in Central Park, face viciously slashed and how he brought her to his world to saver her life. Of the bond that grew between the two ill-fated lovers that transcended everything. Of the dangers Catherine faced and of her great courage. Vincent's voice choked with emotion when he told of how Catherine was taken from him and how he searched relentlessly to find her. When he finally found her, she died in his arms, telling him that he had a child and that a man was responsible for taking everything from him. His search led him to Gabriel and to Diana Bennett who risked her career and her life for him, shooting Gabriel with Catherine Chandler's gun while Vincent took his son home to the tunnels below.
When Vincent finally stopped, Scully felt an uncharacteristic lump in her throat. How could they think of taking such a gentle creature as this up there? "You must miss her terribly."
"Death has no dominion."
"Is that a poem?" Mulder vaguely recalled a literature class in college.
"Though lovers be lost/Love shall not/Death shall have no dominion."
Vincent intoned each word, emotion giving his voice power. "This is Catherine's child, Jacob."
Mulder felt as though he had indeed fallen down the rabbit hole. He looked at Scully and wondered if it was worth it to bring Vincent to their version of justice.
"The man I killed sold his poison to my friend, Rollie, who grew up in these tunnels, "Vincent explained. "It does not excuse what I have done."
Diana took Mulder's arm and pulled him aside. "You can bring him up there and see if he makes it to trial or you can let him stay down here where he belongs. It's your choice, but please realize that if you expose him, you'll expose everyone who lives here with him or who knows about him, including me."
Mulder felt like he could belong in this place if only he stayed. "I'll keep your secret."
Diana hugged him, as though he were her oldest, dearest friend. "And now you're one of us, Fox Mulder. You'll always have a place here if you need it."
Samantha tugged at Mulder's sleeve again. "Are you going to stay with us now?"
"I can't stay, but I'll come back as soon as I can. I'll write to you through Diana," he promised. He kissed the girl on the cheek. "And maybe, we can arrange for you to come visit me."
"Really, Fox? Can I go on an investigation with you?"
Scully grinned, knowing full well who the girl reminded him of and why he didn't object to her use of his dreaded first name. Mulder winked back at Scully as he answered.
"You've already been on an investigation with me."
"Oh, but that doesn't count, "Samantha pouted. "There weren't any evil terrorists to catch or even a crummy bank robber---"
"Samantha," Father warned, as he watched his family increase by two. Catherine Chandler had saved Vincent again.
From the shadows, Vincent watched and could almost feel Catherine's presence. It comforted him and made him accept these two strangers as family.
Mulder played with the smooth rock that Samantha had given him for Christmas.
"It's a paperweight, silly Fox," she had giggled at his confused expression when he unwrapped it. "Something to help you rememberour world when you do all of that paperwork they make you fill out."
Scully had been watching him turning the rock over in his hand for nearly five minutes. "Earth to Mulder. Come in Mulder."
He set the rock down atop a stack of papers, noting that it did indeed make a pretty good paperweight. Also a good weapon if Krycek ever showed up in his office again. "What is it, Scully?"
"What are we going to to Representative Nichols?"
Mulder reached into his desk and pulled out an oft-used rubber stamp.
He opened the case file and flipped it around so Scully could watch him stamp the case, "Unsolved."
"Skinner won't like it," Scully warned.
"Well, we have a secret, safe place to hide if he gets out of control."
Mulder smiled at the idea. The tunnels beneath New York City felt more like home than his apartment or his parent's house ever did.
"It's almost like the whole place was just a dream," Scully mused, returning the smile.
Mulder picked up the rock, running his finger over the 'S' carved into it by a little girl with brown hair and hazel eyes. "No, Scully. Not a dream. An X-file."
(So? Did you like it? Do you want to see more of Vincent? Samantha? Diana Bennett? Or do you want to hit me over the head with a rock? Drop me a line and don't spare the whip --just like in Mulder's favorite movies).