Title: She's a Diamond
Summary: Mulder and Scully are asked to investigate the continued disappearance of a scientist named Emilie Vaughnan, so off they go to New York.
Author's Note: I promised myself I wouldn't do this.
How could I even consider it? This file contains probably nothing new, except for another piece of self... promotion? Liberation? Indulgement? Well, anyway, I'm doing this for myself. Suffice to say the premise has been done before, most notably in Merlin Missy's excellent All Through the Night, and also in MaryK's Face Value(which I had to find by going through old Avalon Mists, whaddya know.)
In other words, this is a crossover story that I wish my muse wasn't making me write.
The important stuff: This story is a sequel NOT ONLY to Little Lost Girl, the Gargoyles story, it's also a sequel to Life Sucks, Bite Me and Ruby, the X-Files stories. Basically, this means that either you have to visit a lot of different archives, causing you pain and heartache as you attempt to find my stories buried amongst the multitude of others, or you can visit my page, where everything is laid out in a simple and easy-to-load list format. Let's think this over. The addy is: http://shadowtouched.sandwich.net/writing/
I'd like to thank Pete Abrams of Sluggy Freelance fame again, this time because I almost directly stole one of his lines. If you read http://sluggy.com/d/980301.html and then read this, you'll probably spot it. In fact, you should be reading Sluggy anyway. Shame on you if you're not! Shame! Shaaaaaaaaaaame!
Other than that, I LOVE YOU ALL! Peace! Word up! Read more online comics, they're better than food! ... okay, I guess if you were stranded on a desert island, you'd rather have food than Sluggy books. Let me check my notes.
FBI Headquarters, Washington DC (basement)
Mulder looked up from his collection of slides as the basement door opened. "There you are," he said as his erstwhile partner closed the door. "I thought you weren't going to show."
Scully turned a dark look on him. "I would have been on time, had our esteemed Assistant Director not given me this," she said, holding up a manila folder. "He said that since we'd had some time to recover from our last case, we might want to look up something in New York." After a pause, she continued, "He also said that if you wanted to take some time off to investigate those reports of flying monsters you could do so. On your own time and money."
Mulder grinned. "He knows me too well. What's the case?"
Scully frowned and shrugged, passing him the folder. "Looks pretty mundane to me. Missing persons case. The woman is a Dr. Emilie Vaughnan, a biochemist who was working for a company called Gen-U-Tech when she disappeared."
Mulder opened the file and read a few lines, then looked up again. "Says here this has already been looked into by the local police."
"Yes," Scully said, nodding. "And they dropped it for lack of evidence after a couple of weeks with no leads."
"So why does Skinner want us involved in a case that's already untraceable?" Mulder asked as he flipped to the next page of the report. Then he stared, and whistled.
Scully nodded again, smirking. "That's probably why."
Mulder flipped back a page to Dr. Vaughnan's qualifications, then forward to her picture. "Scully, this woman is unreal. She doesn't exist. She's some adolescent wet dream. No wonder they can't find her."
"That's a good a guess as any."
Mulder stared at the picture for a few moments, then looked up to catch her green eyes with his blue ones. "So what's your theory on all of this?"
"Well, I don't have one as of yet," she said. "I can't discern anything at all from the reports. I'd like to interview the officers who actually worked on the case before coming up with any theories."
"Like alien abduction?" he asked with a grin, eyes sparkling.
Scully smiled indulgently. "Like alien abduction." A sudden frown crossed her brow. "It's weird, though. For some reason, I know one of those names from somewhere..."
"What, Dr. Vaughnan?"
She shook her head. "No. The detectives."
Mulder frowned, then flipped a few pages in the report. "Maza and Bluestone. 23rd Precinct."
Scully concentrated for a second, then shook her head again. "I'll figure it out when we get there. Shall we?"
"Sure. On one condition." Mulder got to his feet and grabbed a jacket. "The alien abduction theory stays until we get evidence to the contrary. Deal?"
Scully sighed. "Deal."
"All right then." Mulder flashed her another grin. "Let's go look for missing scientists and flying monsters."
Matt looked up from his desk and an inordinate amount of paperwork to see a redheaded woman in a suit demanding his attention. One he recognized. He only knew three redheads- one of them was Demona, one was Fox, and...
"Dana Scully? God, it's been... Four years!" Matt stood, reaching out to shake the proffered hand. Scully's eyes widened in shock and recognition, then she laughed.
"No wonder I remembered the name. So this is where you ended up?"
"Yeah, thought it'd be good for me. And it has been, so far." He gave her a wan smile, then turned to the guy hovering behind her. "And this would be..."
"My partner, Fox Mulder," Scully said as the men shook hands.
Matt raised an eyebrow, keeping himself from blurting out 'Spooky?' only through a severe test of will. "Really? That's an unlikely pairing if I ever heard one."
Mulder smirked. "What, you heard of my reputation?"
"Of course. And I know enough about *her*, he pointed at Scully, who rolled her eyes, "to wonder whose idea of a joke it was."
"I've often wondered that myself," Mulder said, grinning at his partner. "What happened?"
"We worked on an assignment together," Scully said.
Matt held up his index finger. "Once. I..." he paused and chuckled. "Oh, dear. I told her some of my theories on the government, the Illuminati, and Iran-Contra. She listened patiently and then proceeded to dice my arguments into little logical pieces." And maybe if he'd have listened, or at least shut up, he'd be on the other side of this desk right now...
"I know the feeling," Mulder said with a wry smile.
Matt shrugged. "Anyway. Enough old business. What are you doing in New York?"
Scully pulled out the manila folder and handed it over. "You were working on a case a couple weeks ago. Missing person- a Dr-"
"Emilie Vaughnan?" Matt took the folder, then hesitantly opened it. The contents hadn't changed much. "Yeah. We couldn't find anything."
Scully looked disappointed, and he didn't blame her. "Well, do you at least have the evidence you collected?"
Matt shrugged uncomfortably. "Well, that's the main problem. There wasn't much. Most of what we found we got when we looked over her apartment."
"And what did you find?"
Matt turned to Mulder, who was regarding him with thoughtful hazel eyes. "Absolutely zilch. She kept the rent up until the end of this month, though, according to the landlord."
"That's ... tomorrow," Mulder noted, glancing at his watch. "Any chance we can make it there tonight?"
"And can we talk to your partner?" Scully said. "She might remember something we can use."
"Sure thing," Matt said. "Except she's been sentenced to foot work. She-"
"They're EVERYWHERE, man! They're taking over the city! Big Brother's flying legions of terror! It's a communist plot!"
Matt rolled his eyes. "She found another one." He grabbed his notebook and headed toward the front desk, catching Mulder and Scully exchanging a glance out of the corner of his eye. He ignored them as they followed him out to where his partner was bringing in a wild-eyed man in handcuffs. They were followed by a disheveled woman in only slightly better shape than the man.
Matt leaned on the counter as Elisa started signing papers. "Did I hear something about flying legions of terror?" he asked, putting pencil to paper.
The man looked at him and started frothing at the mouth again. "Yeah! They're everywhere! They just swooped down from the sky like Batman or something and started kicking my ass!"
"Mmm-hmm," Matt said as he doodled on his notepad. "And what exactly were you doing when these 'legions of terror' started 'kicking your ass'?"
The man blinked and pulled back. "Hey, man, I was just looking for a little fun, you know?"
Elisa snorted. "This is the third time you've been in here this month," she said, handing the man over to the officer on duty. Brushing her hands off, she turned to Matt, then looked past him and raised an eyebrow. "Friends of yours?"
Matt glanced back to see Mulder and Scully both watching him. "Yeah, something like that," he said. "Elisa Maza, Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. They're from the FBI to check out that Vaughnan case we had so much trouble with."
Elisa was a better actor than he'd given her credit for. Her expression didn't change as she shook first Scully, then Mulder's hand. "Pleased to meet you. I have some paperwork with this perp that needs to be taken care of, then if you need any information..."
"We were told that's the big problem," Mulder said. "Is there any chance we can go and check out that apartment tonight?"
Elisa sent Matt a force-ten glare with such speed that if he hadn't known it was coming, he'd have missed it. "Sure. Let me just get this perp taken care of, and we can go bother the management."
"Yeah. And I need to ask a couple questions. Gargoyles task force, you know." Matt followed his partner back, leaving the federal agents standing in the foyer.
"What's going on?" Elisa asked as soon as they got out of earshot.
"I don't know. They showed up and said they got handed the case, and wanted to know if there was anything we dug up that could help them. This whole situation is weird. I haven't seen Dana in years."
"Scully. We worked together once. And Mulder... hell, according to the rumors, he's supposed to be more into alien abduction theories and conspiracy stuff than *I* was when I got kicked out."
"No way. He's just the best criminal profiler in the bureau. They couldn't afford to show him the door like they did me."
Elisa rolled her eyes. "Whatever. We need to get rid of them."
"Yeah. I know." He sighed. "They're going to get real suspicious about those missing diaries, though."
"Can't you just ignore them? As I recall, that's the only thing that led you to finding her..."
Matt shook his head. "No. I'll have to get them back here. Hope Emilie won't be too mad."
Elisa sighed. "Dammit. If they find out what happened... what she was working on..."
He put a hand on her shoulder, squeezed. "They won't. Don't worry. If we couldn't find anything... well, there's nothing to find. No leads. She tidied up her apartment, put together a backpack, stole the serum, and vanished."
"All right." Elisa glanced up and down the hallway. "Anyway. I'd better get that perp taken care of before they start wondering."
"Yeah. I'm gonna interview the victim. See if I can get some good press for our winged friends." Matt gave her a grin and friendly cuff on the shoulder as they parted ways.
But as he pulled out his notepad and a pen, Matt couldn't help but get the sinking feeling that everything was going to blow up in his face.
Scully turned to her partner and raised an eyebrow. "Well, what do you think?"
Mulder was staring off into space in the direction the detectives had gone, but he quickly focused his warm brown eyes on her. "Well, something's up," he said unnecessarily. "You knew Bluestone from before. He was in the FBI?"
"Yes, he was. For a short time. They threw him out shortly after that assignment because of overt paranoia and a habit of constantly asking if there was a higher motive behind our orders."
"He didn't come across that way right now," Mulder said, waving an arm at the hallway. "You think he mellowed out? Got over it?"
"Not Bluestone." Scully was shaking her head. "No... I always thought he was crazy that way."
"Like I'm crazy?" Grinning, now. Another one of their jokes. It felt good to have a partnership close enough that they could joke about things like that...
"He and Maza are close partners," she said suddenly. "Did you catch that? If one of them was hiding something, the other would know about it, too."
Mulder narrowed his eyes, and Scully summoned up her own mental picture of Detective Maza. Dark skin, darker eyes and black hair that shone blue in the light. And a slight pause when her partner had mentioned the case...
"Do you think they're hiding something?" Mulder asked mildly.
"Well... I don't think Bluestone would just mellow out, as you put it, without actually finding something. I'm not saying it has anything to do with this case, but he's acting... weird."
"Coincidences don't just happen, Scully," Mulder said softly. That effectively terminated the conversation until the detectives reappeared.
"You guys have some transportation?" Detective Maza asked as she pulled on a red leather jacket and settled her gun underneath it.
"Yeah," Scully said. "We'll follow you."
"Here's the address in case we get lost or something," Matt said, handing her a card. "Shouldn't be too hard to find."
"Or to follow the car," Maza muttered. At Mulder's curious glance, she explained, "It's a Pepto-Bismol-pink Fairlane."
"We'll do our best," Scully said blandly before her partner could reply with the sarcastic comment she *knew* was sparkling behind his green eyes. He kept his mouth shut, but sent her a glance that let her know he'd pay her back.
Bluestone chuckled. "All right. Let's go."
Elisa took a break from staring into traffic to turn to her partner. "Any luck?"
Matt held up a finger, listening to his cellphone. He finally nodded in satisfaction. "Owen? It's Matt. Is Emilie there?"
Elisa turned her concentration back to the car. She wasn't sure she liked the idea of Dr. Vaughnan working for Xanatos. Matt was obviously taken with her, but from a practical point of view, Dr. Vaughnan had nothing going for her in Elisa's book besides the fact that she was seeing Matt.
"Hey, Emilie. Look, something weird just happened. ... Yes, I think it's worth hauling you off the project for. A couple federal agents just came up to re-open your missing persons case. ... Yeah. ... Yeah. Well, we tried." He sighed. "Yeah. Look, I hardly think they'll case my apartment tonight - let's talk this over."
Elisa rolled her eyes. "What's she working on, anyway?"
Matt said goodbye and hung up the phone. "Huh?"
"What does Xanatos have her working on?"
Matt shrugged. "Well, right now she's trying to correlate all the information about the mutagen. When she gets that done, she can work on a cure."
"Or an even better mutagen?"
Her partner rolled his eyes and sighed. "Elisa, she's not the enemy."
"She was still working for Sevarius. Matt, she had no morals at all. You could tell me she's working on a cure for AIDS in her spare time and I'd still keep the same opinion."
"But Elisa, she's..."
"A babe. I know. Does she still have you sleeping on the couch?"
"Whatever. Here we are."
The manager wasn't as enthusiastically happy to see them as last time, but Agent Mulder's FBI ID convinced him to reopen the apartment. "I was looking forward to cleaning this out," he said. "You still haven't been able to find her?"
"No luck," Elisa said as she stepped inside.
"Right. Look, when I clear this out, are you going to want this stuff?"
"Yeah," Matt said before either of the agents could react. "We'll send someone to take it down to the station."
Agent Scully opened her mouth as if to contradict him, then shrugged. "Let's take a look around."
Elisa watched in amusement as Agent Mulder arrowed straight to Vaughnan's bedside reading pile. "Niven and Pournelle?"
"God," Agent Scully muttered under her breath. "Even my apartment's not this clean."
Elisa laughed and followed her into the kitchen. "I know the feeling. Kinda makes you feel insignificant."
The side of Scully's mouth twitched. "Yeah. Just makes me hope she isn't also a good cook."
"Sorry." Elisa pulled down one of the cookbooks and flipped it open to show the notations. "All her books are like this. Even those Clancy novels on her nightstand."
"Hmm." Scully looked around, tapping her fingers on the spotless Corian. "Did she have any journals? Diaries?"
Elisa winced, hoping the agent wouldn't read it off her. "You'd have to ask my partner. I think he confiscated them all when he was trying to get a handle on the case."
"Was there anything helpful in there?" Elisa was suddenly pinned by a pair of professional blue-green eyes, and not happy about it.
"Well, there were a couple of references that my partner found interesting, but nothing that gave us a reason for her disappearance. That, and all the recent entries were coded somehow."
"Mm. Any luck breaking it?"
Scully looked thoughtful, and Elisa cursed silently. Well, they'd get their hands on the stuff sooner or later. The agent headed back to the living area to confer with her partner, and Elisa sagged against the counter.
They wouldn't find Dr. Vaughnan, she was pretty sure about that. There were plenty of places to hide in New York City, and Xanatos' abilities to hide things he didn't want found were legendary. But if they figured out what she had been working on...
... They could find Derek and the others. And that could seriously start riots.
The fact that anyone on the planet had the technology to do what Sevarius had done - it galled her, but it had to be kept secret. If people were scared of the gargoyles, what would they say about genetic manipulation on this scale?
Elisa got her composure back and followed Agent Scully back into the main room. "Yeah, I'll get them down to the station tomorrow, or I can drop them off at your hotel," Matt was saying.
"Great, thanks," Agent Mulder said. "And all this stuff..."
"Well, what little there is we can store at the station. Unless you need it for something."
"No, that should be fine," Scully said. "Like you said... there isn't much here."
"Right." Matt looked at his watch. "Well, our shift's almost up. If there's nothing else..."
"Think the Illuminati Society might have had anything to do with it?" Mulder said blandly.
Matt actually did a doubletake. Then he grinned sheepishly with a look at Scully. "Spreading stories? Naw, I'm over blaming Them for everything. Honest."
"I managed to actually drill some sense into you?" Elisa asked. "That's a miracle."
The agents traded a glance. "Well, it is late, and we should get to the hotel," Scully said. "Thanks for your time, detectives. We'll be in touch."
The pair left, leaving Matt and Elisa standing in the empty apartment. "Well?" Elisa said.
Matt cursed under his breath. "*I* should have come up with that one," he said.
"My question is why you didn't suspect the Illuminati in the first place," she said.
"Because it wouldn't have been necessary," Matt said. "She was working for Sevarius, who was working for Xanatos. They could get the information they wanted from him without needing to kidnap her." He paused. "Besides, either they would have let me know, or they'd have let *Xanatos* know."
"Right." Elisa rolled her eyes. "I forgot. How far up the secret society grapevine are you, anyway?"
"Sore wa... himitsu desu. Let's go."
"He knows something, Scully," Mulder said as they climbed into the car. "He knows, and he's afraid of us finding out."
"He might just have been shocked that you brought the so-called Illuminati Society up," his partner said in that oh-so-reasonable please-Mulder-consider-reality-just-this-once voice. "I mean, we've already *got* one giant undercover conspiracy going on, why do we have to assume two?"
"Maybe they're one and the same," Mulder said, affecting his own this-IS-reasonable-Scully tone of voice. "Maybe they kidnapped Dr. Vaughnan and got to them, too."
"Mulder," Scully replied, but he cut her off.
"Maybe it's got something to do with what she was working on. Maybe she hit too close to the truth. I want to see those diaries."
He could sense Dana rolling her eyes, even though he was concentrating on getting into traffic. "Well, if you're patient, you can see them tomorrow when Bluestone gets them down to the station."
"Why can't we get them tonight?" he asked.
"Mulder, you're talking about invasion of privacy. We can't just march up to his door; it's past midnight." Scully's tone of voice was leaning farther and farther into my-God-he's-doing-it-again territory.
"Why not? We have his address, you know him-"
"I worked with him on one case. That doesn't count as knowing him. I haven't even seen the guy in three years. Besides, it's late, and I don't know about you, but I want some sleep."
Mulder sighed. It was obvious his partner wasn't going to see things his way. But if they really were dealing with the conspiracy he suspected, waiting another day for crucial information might leave them with nothing but what they started with - nothing.
"Okay," he said, pulling into the parking lot of the hotel. "You're right. We can just get the stuff tomorrow."
Scully sighed again, unclipped her seat belt, and got out of the car. Mulder waited for the door to close, then hit the lock.
Scully whirled around when she heard the engine start again. "Mulder!"
He shot her an apologetic grin as he pulled the car back. She'd forgive him. Later. When they figured out the truth.
Matt returned home to see Emilie sitting at the table, a glass of water at her elbow and her new diary on the table in front of her. She glanced up as she heard him round the corner, then closed the book. "The FBI is after me?" she asked in a slightly incredulous tone.
"Something like that," Matt said, giving her a wry smile. Dropping his keys on the kitchen counter, he turned and headed back to the couch, where he'd set up a sleeping area after giving Emilie his bed.
Worth it? Easily.
Emilie followed him as far as the door, watching as he loaded blankets and pillows into his arms. "Right. If they come over..."
"I don't doubt they will," Matt said. "Spooky is *weird.* And I doubt he's gotten saner since he got partnered with Dana."
Emilie blinked a couple times as he brushed past her into the bedroom. "Who?" she finally asked.
"Huh?" Stuff the extra stuff back into the closet... "Oh, the FBI agents. Dana Scully and Spooky Mulder. Can't remember the guy's first name. Anyway, from what I've heard, he'll go to any lengths to figure out what happened."
"Greaaaat," Emilie drawled. "So you need to be sleeping in your bed again."
"Just in case this overly nosy FBI agent decides to come over."
"So you're turning me out?" The voice came from very close behind him, and he felt the extra heat of Emilie's body pressed close to his.
Matt turned around, careful not to bruise his shins on the bed. "Well... I don't know if I could continue being a perfect gentleman if I let you stay in this close proximity," he said. His head was suddenly feeling very light.
"Well," Emilie said, reaching up to rest her arms on either side of his neck, "what if you don't need to be a perfect gentleman?"
Very carefully, Matt reached down to support himself, and lowered them both onto the bed. Emilie tilted her head up to kiss him, and he returned it as well as he could while she was stretching his arms over his head-
Wait a minute.
Matt broke off the kiss and craned his head around, then looked back up at Emilie who was sitting on his stomach with an extremely pleased look on her face. He looked up again as he tried to pull his hands down.
His hands were attached to the bedframe with his very own force- issue handcuffs. "Um, Emilie," he said as he tugged on the handcuffs. They clinked against the bedframe with a dull metallic sound.
"Like you said, they probably won't come by tonight," she said as she climbed off of him. "I'm gonna go get some stuff I left at the office. See you later!"
"Emilie... Emilie, this is *not* funny..." Matt gave up as he heard the balcony door slide shut. "Shit."
That's when someone knocked on the door.
"Elisa?" he called, hoping against hope.
"Sorry," came a familiar voice. "It's the FBI. Friendly call."
... the HELL was Agent Mulder doing here? Matt twisted himself around and maneuvered himself so he was sitting on the bed, instead of sprawling on it. "Can it wait?"
"Not really." All right. If he could twist himself around, he might be able to reach into his pocket for his keys. Reach... twist...
His keys were on the counter. This realization came to him at about the same time that a long "Uhhhhhh..." sound escaped his throat.
"This your spare key?" This question was followed almost immediately by the door clicking open. Matt sighed, rolled his eyes, and pulled at the handcuffs again helplessly.
Mulder took three steps into the apartment and stopped, staring. Then he grinned and started chuckling helplessly. Matt would have liked nothing more than to slam his head against the wall a couple times. Mulder's, that is, not his own, though that would be a viable alternative if he had enough dexterity to reach the wall.
"Yeah, yeah," he finally said. "I have a sadistic girlfriend. Now can you close the door? And get my keys, they're on the counter."
The agent agreeably closed the door, then came back and leaned against the wall, still grinning. "Oh, I dunno. I don't think I should ruin your fun."
Matt growled. "I should haul you down to the station right now for trespassing."
"That presents a problem," Mulder said.
Matt stared down at his hands, then back at Mulder. All of a sudden, the sheer craziness of the entire day hit him and he couldn't help but start laughing.
"All right, all right. Let's make a deal." He attempted to point, got forcibly reminded of his limited range of motion, and started chuckling again. "Could you get me the damn keys?"
Mulder picked the keychain off the counter and brought it over, helpfully unlocking one of Matt's hands before giving him the key. Matt rubbed his wrist to get the circulation going again, then unlocked the other cuff. "Thanks. Let me guess, you want those diaries."
"You really are impatient, you know that?" Matt asked, getting to his feet. "A day isn't long to wait."
"Let me be the judge of that," Mulder said, his tone suddenly darkening.
Matt eyed his visitor warily, and would have said something, except the sliding door to the balcony picked that time to slide open. He didn't have time to do more than think, 'Oh, shit! Emilie!' before Mulder whirled around and saw her.
What happened next was a blur of movement. Matt didn't know what Mulder saw, but he was sure that 'interesting' was somewhere in his mental description, and 'detain it' somewhere in his list of preferred actions. He only figured this out after Emilie shrieked.
Then there was the acrid smell of ozone and a sound like twenty fuse boxes blowing at once. The next thing Matt knew, Agent Mulder slammed into him with a velocity like he'd been kicked in the chest. They tumbled back onto the floor, and Emilie took the chance to bolt, jumping off the balcony as fast as she could.
Mulder sat up slowly, coughing, and Matt pulled himself to his feet. Leaving the FBI agent sprawled on the floor, he went to the balcony to see if he could see Emilie anywhere. After a futile few seconds staring at the horizon, he came inside and closed the door.
Mulder looked up at him with hazy blue eyes. After a couple strangled attempts at talking, he said, "What was that?"
His tone held as much accusation as query, and Matt hesitated before answering. "Would you believe me if I said I didn't know?"
"No. Can you get me some water?"
"Sure." Matt headed into the kitchen and had to keep himself from swearing as he saw Emilie's diary on the table. Scooping it up, he set it in the cabinet as he pulled down a glass.
When he got back, Mulder was already struggling to his feet. "Hey, take it easy," he said, handing him the glass. "Whatever that was hit you hard."
Mulder snorted and took a couple swallows. "How do you know?"
"Partly how you slammed into me, partly the scorch marks on your chest."
The FBI agent looked down and blinked in bemused interest at his formerly white shirt. "Uh. That." He looked up, and his hazel- eyed glare was piercing again. "What was that?"
"I don't know."
"I don't believe that."
"Look," Matt said, "you came here for one thing. I'm sorry that you got zapped or whatever, but I'm off-duty, and this isn't official FBI business, so I suggest you take that box of diaries and get back to your hotel." He paused for a moment. "And get those burns looked at."
Mulder eyed him evenly. "I'm just looking for the truth."
Matt hesitated. He *wanted* to like the man, got the feeling that they were alike in a lot of different ways. But he was poking his nose where he didn't belong, and worst of all, he'd hurt Emilie.
He was starting to sound like the higher-ups of the Illuminati. Annoyed at himself, he shot back, "The truth isn't mine to tell."
"Then who can I ask?" was Mulder's immediate reaction.
He almost answered, but caught himself in time. "Here," he said, picking up the box of diaries and handing it over. "The best clues we have are in these."
Mulder took the box in both hands, careful not to scrape it against his chest. "All right," he said, "but I'd still like some answers."
"I don't have any for you," Matt said.
Mulder held his gaze for a long time, but finally turned and left. Matt shut the door with relief, then nearly launched himself at the phone.
Dana looked up as a knock sounded on her door. "Who is it?" she asked.
"Me," came the rather weary reply.
She sighed and pushed herself to her feet to unlock the door. "You know, you usually make an effort to pretend," she said as she opened the door, then paused. And stared.
"Can I come in?" Mulder said, his normally warm and vibrant voice on the edge of a whisper with fatigue. His clear green eyes had darkened, and there was a six-inch wide charred stripe across the front of his shirt. She almost missed the box he was carrying until he handed it to her. Taking it with both hands, she backed up to let him in, then toed the door closed.
"My God, Mulder. What happened?" she asked, setting the box on the table. Mulder had unbuttoned his jacket and crashed into one of the chairs, groaning.
"Well, I got over there, asked a couple questions, and then this ... thing came in through the balcony door." Mulder shook his head a couple times, slowly. "Black. Real black. But blond hair."
Dana watched him carefully, noting the lines stress had made on his face and knowing how much pain he must be in to show it. "How'd that burn happen?"
"That's what I'm getting to." He closed his eyes and placed a hand on his forehead, then pinched the bridge of his nose. "I grabbed her by the shoulders. She looked up at me, then put her hands up and-"
"Her?" She cut him off, puzzled. "You said 'this thing.'"
"Yeah. It was female. Humanoid. She... had wings." He finally looked up to catch her eyes with his, and she saw the familiar sparkle in their brown depths. "Anyway, I didn't get a good look before she zapped me."
Dana blinked a couple times, breaking the spell that the rhythm of his words always seemed to lull her into. "Zapped you?" she asked, getting her mental footing back. "You mean... you grabbed her, and she..."
"She put up her hands and something, some sort of energy emission, caught me in the chest." Mulder suddenly grinned. "Wings, Scully! If she was one of those Gargoyles..."
"What did Bluestone say?" she said before he could get started. "I mean, it was his apartment."
"That's the thing. He didn't say anything. But he knows, Scully. He knows what it was I saw, and he's not telling me anything."
Dana took a deep breath, then let it out in a sigh. "Well, whatever you saw, you can worry about it tomorrow. You've done more than enough tonight."
"Mmmm." All the energy suddenly seemed to drain out of Mulder's frame, and he yawned. "Scully, I'm just gonna sit here for a couple minutes, okay?"
"Sure, Mulder," she said, but he'd already fallen asleep. She watched him for a couple moments, then shook her head, smiling, and got ready to sleep herself.
Elisa was taking some well-deserved time off to snuggle into Goliath's arms when Matt's call came through. Grumbling, she detached herself enough to take Owen's cellphone and flip it open. "What?" she muttered, hoping her tone of voice would make Matt realize he faced instant death.
"Elisa, thank God," Matt said, and the sheer shock in his voice made her sit up and take notice. Goliath put his arm around her, as much to comfort her as balance her. "Look... Agent Mulder was just over here. He... ahh... ran into Emilie."
Elisa took the time to draw a deep breath. "What do you mean 'ran into' her, Matt?" she said.
"He... I don't know. I didn't see much. It happened too fast. She zapped him."
"She WHAT?" Elisa yelped, nearly falling off Goliath's leg again. "Tell me he's not dead."
"He's not dead. He couldn't have been too badly hurt, because he walked out of here fine... but Emilie's missing. She got a bad shock, Elisa, can you ask someone to go look for her?"
"Yeah... of course. You want to come over here?"
"Yes. Thank you, Elisa. Wait-" he yelped, and she put the phone back to her ear. "Can you make sure Angela goes to find her? I mean, I think Mulder grabbed her, and I don't know..."
Elisa nodded, then realized how stupid that was. "Sure, Matt. I'll go ask her right now." He mumbled thanks and hung up, and she shut the phone and got to her feet.
"What happened?" Goliath said. She turned to face him as he stood, and put the phone on a nearby bookshelf.
"Emilie and that FBI agent I was telling you about ran into one another at Matt's apartment," she said. "Apparently he tried to grab her, and she zapped him."
Goliath frowned. "This is bad news," he said quietly. "Are they all right?"
"Matt said that Mulder walked out all right, but he's worried about Emilie. She ran off, apparently. He asked if someone would go look for her."
"Of course," Goliath said, slightly surprised. "But why is he worried about Emilie?"
Elisa snorted. "Ask him when he gets here. She's apparently been ... treated badly by a lot of men." She paused. "Angela's probably the best person to go find her."
"I shall ask her, then," Goliath said, offering her his arm. She took it, and they went to find the female gargoyle.
Angela was with Broadway in the kitchen, and they both listened intently as Elisa and Goliath outlined the situation. "Of course I'll go," Angela said when Elisa asked. "I hope she's all right."
"She'll be fine," Elisa said firmly. "I'm more worried about Agent Mulder. Go on, start looking around Matt's place and see if you can find her." She sighed. "Much as I hate to admit it, it's probably better if Angela goes alone. If she was in hysterics..."
"I'll find her," Angela said reassuringly, then left for the ramparts. Broadway looked after her, then shrugged and went back to cooking, slightly more melancholy than before. Goliath wrapped a wing reassuringly around Elisa's shoulders, then they turned and left.
Mulder woke with a searing pain in his chest and a crick in his neck. Moving slowly, he discovered he was sitting up, more or less, and wondered what had happened.
Memory came back quickly enough, and he sighed. That didn't make his chest feel any better. Judging from the clock, he'd gotten an hour and a half of sleep. Scully was asleep, and the moonlight filtering in through the wide window was just enough to see by.
The box of diaries was sitting on the table. Mulder sat up straighter, rubbed his shoulder and then reached to turn on the light. Scully didn't stir, so he picked up a diary out of the box and flipped through it.
Halfway through the entries turned into gibberish, then stopped. Mulder grinned to himself. This must be the code the detectives hadn't been able to break. Only five or six entries were in code, so he flipped to the first one and glanced over it.
Ina snnatcsnnane sncana gasbsnhalnage snasnehpm. Scgescsnschzn monatcsbznsntc hmona zrastcscsnsctena. Scmg scsn iasmovts, Sc cahtena h mgnanaznscgeal Sc iasge'sn hena hheznna snas tcsnhpm. Sc cahtena h hehlivzrhliv iscsnca nageassbalca lihgegenane mgasasna mgasmo h liassbzrznna inanavtc, hgene gapm monagesn sctc zrhscne sbzr mgasmo hgeassncanamo snias gaasgesncatc, tcas Sc liassbznne tcgehv scgesnas gapm hzrhmosnganagesn scmg Sc ihtc nenatczrnamohsnna. Cahtena snas sncascgev hheassbsn znsctescgeal. Sc cahtcna h lihgazrscgeal tcsnactena hgene tcasgana vgeasicaasi. Sc'tena gahnena h znsctcsn asmg zrznhlinatc Sc liassbznne znsctena. Sncanamona hmona nageassbalca nagazrsnpm hesbscznnescgealtc hmoassbgene, hgene Sc'tena neasgena tcasgana tcliassbsnscgeal. Sncana liznasliv snasinamo hheastena sncana zrasznsclina tcsnhsnhasge, mgasmo asgena nandhgazrznna. Cahtena Sc sncaassbalcasn sncasctc sncamoassbalca nageassbalca? Sc neasge'sn vgeasi. Hznzn Sc neas vgeasi sctc Sc'ga tcscliv asmg sncana casbgahge mohlina. Sc tisbtcsn ihgesn snas hena mgmonana asmg scsn. Hheznna snas zrmoassnnalisn aspmtcnaznmg.
Well. That was enlightening.
Mulder picked up a piece of paper and a pen, then read over the entry again. 'H' was probably a, just judging from the letter patterns, but there were altogether too many double letters for the code to be just a simple letter swap. So what would a biochemist use for a code in her personal diary?
Scully's laptop was sitting in a bag by his feet. He pulled it onto the table and booted it up, muting the speakers and the modem as he dialed up. Opening Netscape, he plugged in 'http://www.webelements.com'.
After pulling up the table, he turned his attention back to the diary. If H, or hydrogen, was A, then He should be B and Li C. Following that would make beryllium D and boron E.
Mulder squinted at the entry. There weren't nearly enough 'b's in the entry. E had to be something else, which meant that this wouldn't be easy.
Wait a minute. Sc had to be I. Plugging that in let him figure out a couple more letters, and as he filled in his periodic table, he got an inkling of a pattern.
Base 4. Of course. DNA had four letters, so it made sense. Without spending any more time thinking, Mulder flipped through and translated the first few paragraphs of the entry.
We tested the mutagen today. Initial results are positive. If it works, I have a feeling I won't be able to stay. I have a backpack with enough canned food for a couple weeks, and my rent is paid up for another two months, so I could sneak into my apartment if I was desperate. Have to think about living. I have a camping stove and some knowhow. I've made a list of places I could live. There are enough empty buildings around, and I've done some scouting. The clock tower above the police station, for one example. Have I thought this through enough? I don't know. All I do know is I'm sick of the human race. I just want to be free of it. Able to protect myself.
"The hell is a mutagen?" he asked quietly. Whatever it was, he already had some of his answers. Vaughnan hadn't been kidnapped, she had run off.
He looked over at Scully, then grinned in the darkness. Let her sleep. He'd be able to surprise her in the morning, when-
The moonlight from the window disappeared. Mulder whirled around, wincing at the pain in his chest, and turned his head just in time to catch two grappling, *flying* figures slam headfirst through the window.
The crash probably woke up everyone on the closest three floors, and it certainly woke up Scully, who was on her feet with her gun pointed at the figures in a heartbeat. Mulder struggled to his feet and pulled out his own weapon, then shifted his focus as a third figure joined the other two.
Time seemed to move in slow motion as Mulder assessed the situation. Three figures, all female, all possessing wings. One was the blonde-haired black one he'd seen at Bluestone's apartment. The other two had tails- one was lavender with brown hair, the other blue with red hair. The red-haired one and the blonde were grappling on the floor as the newcomer ran to pull them apart.
'Dear Penthouse,' Mulder thought wildly as he tried to figure out what was going on, 'I never believed those letters, but this will blow your readers out of the water...'
"Mother! Let her go," yelled the lavender one as she finally separated the combatants. They stood, staring at each other and breathing heavily from exertion, apparently oblivious to their surroundings.
"I will never understand why you side with these... abominations," the blue one snarled, her eyes starting to glow red.
"Emilie, run," the purple one said, then raised her chin to confront her mother. "Go back into hiding, mother. I don't know what you're trying to do, but I will have no part in it."
"Really?" Suddenly, she was a blur of movement. The blonde was knocked sprawling, tumbling to fall at the foot of Scully's bed. The brunette girl didn't stand a chance as her mother pounced and maneuvered her into a hold. "You are my *daughter,*" she snarled as the girl struggled, "And you will do what *I* command!"
"Angela!" the black one cried, struggling to her feet.
"Let her go," Mulder said sharply, still having no idea what was happening but not liking the blue woman's attitude one bit.
This caught the attention of everyone in the room. "I don't think so," the redhead said dangerously. Still managing to keep her daughter in a chokehold, she reached into a pouch on her belt and held up a small bronze tablet. Before Mulder could figure out what the hell she was doing, she cried something in Latin...
... and vanished. With the girl.
"Angela," the other woman said mournfully, but thankfully not as loud. Mulder shoved his gun into his belt and crossed over to her.
At his approach, she looked up. Her deep blue eyes went wide in shock, then narrowed in recognition. She turned to the window, but Mulder caught her arm. "A couple answers, first," he said. "Who are you? Who were they? What were they doing here?"
"Let me go," she said tightly.
"Not until I get some answers," he said calmly.
She suddenly pinned him with a glare. "I have," she said slowly, "enough power to electrocute you - again - just like last time. The second shock to your system would kill you. If by some amazing chance you managed to survive, you wouldn't be able to investigate anything for a long time. So I suggest you let go of my arm right now dammit!"
By the end of her speech, her words were coming at him at a hard staccato clip. Startled, he replied, "Can't you just tell me-"
"Dammit, Mulder, let her go," Scully said, coming around the bed to put a hold on his arm. Startled, he released the woman's arm.
She stood there, rubbing her arm for a moment, then turned to Scully. "Tame him," she snapped, then ran to the window and jumped out.
Scully let go of his arm and sighed. "Don't you recognize a rape victim when you see one?" she asked quietly.
Mulder stared at her for a couple seconds. "What?"
She shrugged, a little self-conciously. "When you grabbed her like that. The way she reacted... she was afraid of you."
"Rape victim." Mulder's brain was racing. "Scully... that ... gargoyle called her Emilie."
"What makes you so sure that was a gargoyle?"
"Come on, Scully. Wings? Tail? That was a gargoyle. But I was just reading Dr. Vaughnan's diary, and she writes like a rape victim. That's what was bothering me."
"Mulder," Scully said in her you-are-not-going-to-tell-me-this tone, "You are not going to tell me that you think that was Dr. Emilie Vaughnan."
"Come on, it makes sense! That mutagen she was writing about-"
"In her diary. What if it's something that could change humans into... something like that?"
"Mulder," Scully said, her tone edging closer and closer to time- to-put-Mulder-into-an-institution territory, "That was a giant blonde cat with wings. Not a missing biochemist!"
"Then what was she?"
Scully took a deep breath. "I don't know," she finally said, "But I'm more willing to believe another type of gargoyle than I am something that can turn a human being into-"
"Maybe she got her hands on some alien technology. Maybe that's why the Illuminati wanted to have her silenced, so she used it on herself to get away from them."
"Mulder," Scully said, her voice finally passing exasperation and crash-landing on I-told-you-he-was-crazy, "do you ever think about how outrageous you sound, or do you just play improvisational games of mad libs in your head?"
Mulder grinned at her, then went back to the table. "Just let me get through some more of this," he said, picking up the diary, "and I'll prove it to you."
Matt paced up and down the Castle Wyvern ramparts, ignoring the chill and the wind in his concentration. Elisa was leaning on a wall, watching him, but he paid her no attention. His eyes were fixed on the skyline, intent on picking up any motion against the horizon. So far he'd spotted three traffic helicopters and zero gargoyles or mutates.
"Calm down," Elisa finally said. "It's only been three hours. There are at least two more hours until sunrise."
"I should have stayed at home," Matt said. "She might have turned around and headed there."
"I'm sure Angela will check there, too," she said. Matt could hear her temper fraying, but paid it no mind. She'd calm down when Angela came back. As for himself... he didn't think he'd be able to calm down until Dana and her nosy partner were back in Washington D.C. where they belonged.
There was another speck on the horizon. Matt leaned over the battlements and squinted, and made out a single flying figure. A cold feeling grew in the pit of his stomach, which didn't quite vanish when he saw it was Emilie and not Angela.
Emilie landed in a slight backwash of air, then stared around blankly, as if she wasn't quite sure how she got there. "Emilie..." Matt said hesitantly, reaching out a hand. She turned her head, swallowing him in her deep blue eyes.
Then with an inarticulate cry, she launched herself at him, her arms wrapping around his neck and her face buried in his chest. Awkwardly, he put his arms around her, trying to calm her shivering. "Hey, hey..." he said softly. "What's wrong? You okay?"
"N...no," she said into his shirt. "I... it... oh, Matt..."
"It's okay," he said soothingly. "Just calm down."
"What happened to Angela?" Elisa asked.
Emilie shook her head, then took a deep breath. "I don't know," she said, her voice sounding a good deal more composed. "I... I mean..."
"Just calm down and then tell us what happened," Matt said. "Let's go inside."
"I... we were flying back," Emilie said as they entered the castle proper. Broadway hurried out of the kitchen as he heard Emilie's voice, then blinked in surprise and consternation as he couldn't find Angela. The other gargoyles had similar reactions, but Emilie tuned them out. Matt kept his arm around her shoulders, and she seemed to appreciate it.
"What happened?" Goliath said, concerned.
"We got about halfway back here..." Emilie said, then took a deep breath and seemed to suddenly pull herself together. "We were attacked. By another gargoyle."
"Demona?" Brooklyn asked, alarmed but not, to Matt's hearing, too surprised.
Emilie nodded. "Angela fended her off, but she hit me... we flew through a window. Angela got her off me, but Demona... vanished with her."
"Vanished? How?" Everyone swiveled their heads to catch David Xanatos framed by the doorway. "Sorry. I couldn't help but overhear."
"I'm sure you couldn't," Elisa muttered darkly.
"I didn't see," said Emilie, answering her employer's question. "Demona had just knocked me aside to get at Angela. When I turned back everything was bright, and then they were gone." She shuddered, suddenly, and Matt slid his arm more fully around her shoulders. "Then that goddamn FBI agent grabbed me *again ** "
"Wait a minute," Matt said, bewildered. "You mean, out of every hotel window to crash through in this city, Demona picked *theirs?*"
Emilie nodded. "And... well. His partner's got a brain, though."
"Have to agree." Matt sighed. "We need to find out what happened."
"Perhaps," said Goliath suddenly, "if we compare notes with these... FBI agents, we may come up with a clearer picture of what happened."
Elisa stared at him, and Matt would have done the same but the angle was a little tricky. "Are you kidding? Do you want to have these guys see you?"
"They have already seen 'us,' if what Dr. Vaughnan says is true," Goliath replied. "Would it not be better to give them a good impression while getting the information we need?"
"You're welcome to invite them for a tour of the castle, if you think it's necessary," Xanatos said magnanimously. Matt felt like punching him.
"Coming here?" Emilie said, pulling closer to Matt's side. "You mean..."
"You wouldn't have to meet with them," Elisa said quickly. "In fact, it's better if you didn't. We don't need them knowing about the mutates."
Emilie took a deep breath, then pulled her wings close and sighed. "If you feel it's best. I'll stay in the closet."
"All right," Elisa said, "It's settled. You think they're still awake?"
"Who could sleep after that?" Emilie muttered.
"Wait, you mean..." Broadway said, then swallowed harshly. "Now? I mean..."
"Well, you want to find Angela soon, don't you?" Brooklyn replied.
Matt sighed. "Right. Mulder gave me his cellphone number. If you think we shouldn't wait..."
"We only have a couple hours until sunrise," Goliath said. "If we are to make any progress tonight, we should start soon."
"Right," Matt said, then gestured queryingly with his right hand. "Can I borrow a phone from someone?" Someone pressed a cellphone into his hand, and he flipped it open. "Thanks, Owen."
"You're welcome," came the voice from behind him.
"GAAAH!" Brooklyn yelled, spinning around to face the everpresent butler. "Don't DO that!"
Matt rolled his eyes and dug into his pocket for the piece of paper with the FBI agent's number on it. It had already been a long night, and he had a feeling it was just the beginning.
Dana put down Dr. Vaughnan's first diary and sighed. "All right, so she's a rape victim and a misanthrope who was dealing with a famed geneticist making a 'mutagen.' That does *not* mean she was the flying blonde cat that we just saw!"
"I'm just wondering how she got her hair to change color," Mulder said, using his finger to mark the passage he was decoding. "Maybe she dyed it."
Dana rolled her eyes as Mulder's cellphone picked that moment to go off. He glanced down at it, then shrugged and answered. "Hello?"
She watched as Mulder's muddy green eyes suddenly caught fire. He straightened up in his chair, knocking over the diary, but he didn't seem to notice. "Really?" he finally said, then, "Uh- hunh... yeah. Xanatos building? The one with the castle on top? Sure, I can find it."
Dana raised an eyebrow. Mulder grinned at her, then said into the phone, "Yeah, sure. Just one question now? Yeah. Was that... person at your apartment Dr. Vaughnan?"
Dana rolled her eyes again. Mulder frowned into the phone, then shrugged. "Yeah, okay..." he looked up again and handed her the phone. "Detective Bluestone. Wants to talk with you."
She hesitantly put the phone to her ear. "Hello?"
"Dana?" Matt sounded like he was attempting to keep from laughing or shouting. She wasn't sure which. "I have a question for *you.*"
"Sure, what?" she said, not sure what to expect.
Matt took a deep breath. "How the *HELL* does he do that?!" he exploded.
Scully blinked a couple times in surprise, then remembered to breathe. "You mean... he's right?"
"You'll have to ask him," she said, head spinning.
"Right. See you in a few minutes." The line went dead, and she handed the phone back to her grinning partner.
"I'm right, aren't I?" he said, the little gold flecks twinkling in his hazel eyes.
She shrugged. "Looks like it. All right. Where are we going?"
"Xanatos building. We have a meeting with a couple detectives, for a little information exchange."
Elisa glanced sideways at Dr. Vaughnan, who was standing very straight and managing to hide any sign of outward tension. "Are you sure..." she said.
"No," she said, crossing her arms across her chest, "but what good is half a secret?"
"The last thing we want is the government getting their hands on Sevarius' work," Matt said.
"They won't," Vaughnan replied tightly. "Even I can't make sense of half of his work. Despite what his personal habits were, the man was a genius."
"A sick genius," Goliath rumbled from behind them. Elisa reached back, and Goliath caught her fingers in his hand.
Vaughnan looked back and raised an eyebrow. "You just think that because you've seen the outcome of his work. If you'd seen him in the laboratory, you might share my view."
"How so?" Elisa said bitterly.
"Well, if you'd *seen* him prancing around with an empty Erlenmeyer flask singing 'Sweet Transvestite' at the top of his lungs, you'd know he's a total fruitcake."
Elisa finally closed her mouth and swallowed when she felt her throat drying. "For some reason, I can picture that," she said quietly.
The elevator chose that moment to announce imminent guests, saving anyone else from having to comment. The doors slid open, revealing first Owen, then the two agents. Mulder was carrying Emilie's box of diaries, carefully keeping it away from his chest. The pair took about six steps into the hall, and then stopped in perfect synchronization as they saw Goliath.
Elisa knew she was smirking, and tried to stop it. "Agents Mulder, Scully, this is Goliath. He's the leader of the gargoyle clan here in Manhattan."
"Um," Mulder said after a pause. "Hi." He looked down at the box in his hands, then glanced over the group until he saw Dr. Vaughnan. "I think these belong to you?"
Vaughnan met the agent's eyes for a couple tense seconds, then nodded and reached out her hands. She held onto the much abused cardboard tightly, and Elisa could tell she was barely keeping her hands from shaking.
"Sorry about the whole, uh..." Mulder trailed off.
Vaughnan nodded. "Yeah. I'll bet you are."
"If you're quite satisfied," rang a voice from beside them, "perhaps as your host I can offer a more comfortable room to discuss things?" Everyone turned to see David Xanatos with his hands in his pockets, nearly grinning and quite satisfied with having made his entrance.
"I'm sorry," Agent Mulder said after a pause, "you are?"
"David Xanatos. This is my building." After a significant pause, he added, "Of course, it is their castle."
Mulder glanced back at Goliath, then extended a hand. "I assume," he said, a bit nonplussed when Goliath took his wrist in a warrior's handshake but going with it anyway, "this is about what we saw back at the hotel."
"Indeed." Goliath looked sideways at Xanatos, then shrugged. "I suggest we retire to someplace more appropriate. This will take some time to explain."
Xanatos nodded at the door he'd entered from. "I'll have Owen get some drinks."
They settled into one of the sitting rooms, and Owen wheeled in a drink cart as Goliath started telling the agents their story. Earlier they'd gone over what to include, deciding by mutual consent to leave out any references to Dr. Sevarius and the mutagen.
Scully listened to the story in mute skepticism, watching Goliath with blue-green eyes open wide and taking in every detail. Mulder, on the other hand, leaned forward in active interest, barely keeping a grin off his face as he let the information wash over him.
"That's great," he said as Goliath finished, "But what about this Dr. Sevarius and that mutagen?"
Elisa buried her head in her hands. "Don't ask."
Mulder opened his mouth to comment, but Goliath overruled him. "Please. What happened to my daughter?"
The agents traded a glance. "We're not really sure," Mulder said. "I mean, that other... Demona, she grabbed her, and they vanished. I'm not sure how they managed it, but-"
"Magic," Scully said, cutting him off.
Mulder stopped in the middle of his sentence, blinked a couple times, then swiveled around to stare at his partner. She met his gaze, a determined look on her face. "Scully," he finally said.
"Magic," she repeated.
"Hey," Matt said. "I thought you were the skeptic."
Scully nodded, still keeping her eyes locked on her partner's. Finally Mulder sighed and sank back in his chair, looking slightly uncomfortable. Goliath cleared his throat, then said, "That still doesn't help us find where she is now."
Mulder was about to say something, when Scully pointed at the eastern wall of the room. "That way."
This time, everyone turned to stare at her. The agent drew her arm back self-consciously and shifted in her chair. "Don't ask," she said after a couple seconds.
"If I may note," Owen said from somewhere behind Elisa's chair, "Agent Scully's magical aptitude is rather high for a human. If I didn't know better, I would imagine she'd been training as a full-time apprentice."
"Hardly," Scully said. Elisa snuck a glance out of the corner of her eye at Matt. He was staring at Scully a little dumbfoundedly, sort of an 'I thought *I* was the weird one' look on his face.
"All right," Elisa said when nobody else moved to say something. "Regardless of how you managed to acquire magical powers, it'll help us find out where Angela is."
"And yet, it is almost sunrise," Goliath said bitterly.
Elisa cursed under her breath. "We'll have to wait."
Mulder looked confused for a few moments. "Why?" When he didn't get an answer, he shook his head and laughed at himself softly. "Oh, yeah. Sorry."
Elisa sighed and rubbed her temples. "I don't like this whole situation. It just reeks of something."
At about that time, Owen's cellphone started ringing. He looked at it oddly, then excused himself to answer it. He returned after only a moment, and handed the phone to Goliath.
Goliath frowned and placed the almost absurdly small phone to his ear. "Hello?" he asked, then his visage darkened. "Demona."
Everyone in the room sat up a lot straighter. Goliath continued scowling into the phone, then suddenly his expression changed into one of stupefied shock. "What?" He was silent again, listening, then said, "Why, Demona?"
Finally, in a deep voice that sent shivers of anxiety down Elisa's back, he said, "You will *not* harm our daughter."
"Mother of all custody battles," Mulder muttered.
Goliath closed the phone and handed it back to Owen. "She wants Dr. Vaughnan," he said quietly.
Everyone stared at him. "What?" Vaughnan said, her voice tight with shock.
"Apparently she is in need of the best biochemist available." Goliath shrugged. "She is of the mind that you are still missing, and that we are to find you and turn you over to Nightstone in return for Angela, home safe."
"What'll happen if..." Broadway said from the door, trailing off as everyone turned to look at him. Broadway, Brooklyn, and Lex had all crowded into the doorway, like kids eavesdropping on their elders in the parlor. Elisa motioned for them to come in, and they took a few of the remaining seats, Lex choosing to perch instead on the floor.
Goliath sighed. "She said... Angela will be hers, one way or the other."
Brooklyn scowled. "Demona *would* try and control her with magic."
"What are you going to do?" Vaughnan murmured, her voice barely above a whisper. Elisa looked over and saw that the doctor was almost paralyzed with fear, deep blue eyes open wide and staring at her.
Elisa took a deep breath. "We're going to figure something out," she finally said.
Mulder reached out hesitantly to touch Goliath's stone arm, then pulled his hand back when his fingers encountered nothing but rough granite. "Wow," he said, then "Wow" again, since it seemed to cover it.
Detective Maza smirked at him. "Wait until they wake up."
Mulder filed that statement away for later reference and nodded. "So," he finally said, "What are we going to do?"
Dr. Vaughnan, the real actual Dr. Vaughnan that they'd finally found, lifted her head with a determined look in her eye. "You need Angela back now, before Demona does something to her."
Bluestone stared at her, then said hesitantly, "Emilie, you're not suggesting..."
The scientist met his eyes with equanimity. "She can't do anything to me. She obviously needs me for something."
"She doesn't know that I know you. She doesn't know I'm a mutate. Hell, if she knew what I looked like, she'd already have me instead of Angela."
Bluestone took a deep breath, then let it out in a sigh. Vaughnan nodded, then turned to Mr. Xanatos. "You've got a couple helicopters, I know. If we can force Demona to turn Angela over to us now, I can get out of there tonight."
"And what if you can't?" Maza said sharply. "This is Demona we're talking about. She might chain you down."
"Literally or fitiguratively?" Mulder asked.
Maza gave him a level stare. "Yes."
While Mulder attempted to come to grips - again - with the fact that they really were dealing with a thousand-year-old immortal hellion, Mr. Xanatos replied, "Of course we can helicopter over there. But what makes you think she'll believe that you're you?"
"She's bright enough to figure it out," Dr. Vaughnan replied. "And if that doesn't work... we'll try something else."
"All right," Mulder said. "So when are we leaving?"
This got him the attention of everyone. "Who said *you* were coming?" Vaughnan said bitterly.
He shrugged. "Well, we have to go, because Scully's the only one who knows where they went."
"That doesn't mean you need to tag along. Get those burns looked at."
Mulder shrugged, trying to conceal how much the scrape of fabric across his chest irritated the wound. "I'm fine."
Vaughnan glared at him, then walked closer and with one fluid motion backhanded him across the chest.
Pain exploded in waves that somehow managed to make a gunshot feel like a walk in the park. Small whimpering sounds escaped his throat as he tried valiantly not to fall down.
Scully grabbed him by the arm. "Mulder," she said worriedly, "How badly *were* you hurt?"
"Bad... enough..." he said through gritted teeth, "that I didn't want you mothering me. I'll be fine."
"Like hell!" she exploded, "You shouldn't have been walking."
"It's not my legs that hurt," he said reasonably.
Dana sighed. Mulder leaned back against the parapet, and she kept her hand on his arm to steady him. Already the pain was fading... fading... leaving him with a tingling feeling and a lightness in his head. Blinking, he tried to focus on what was happening only to have Scully suddenly stagger and lean on him for support.
"Woah," he said, then, "What just happened?"
"I would suggest, Agent Scully," said a bland voice from one side, "that you do not attempt anything of that sort again until you have the training for it."
"Uh?" Dana said foggily. She was shaking her head as if to clear it, her blue-green eyes muddy and uncertain.
Detective Bluestone was shaking his head. "I really used to think I was weird," he said, as if it was a mantra.
"Healing magic is not something to be toyed with lightly," Owen continued, voice stern. "You are essentially trading your own life for his."
Mulder looked past Dana's head to stare at Owen. "What?"
Owen shrugged. "In this case it was relatively minor, of course. "
"We can go over all the ins and outs of magic *later,*" Detective Maza said. "In the meantime, let's get Angela back."
"Should we call first?" Xanatos asked blandly.
Maza stared at him. "Why does it matter? She'll be there anyway."
The multibillionaire smirked. "I want to know how much body armor to bring."
Mulder traded a glance with his partner, then shrugged.
A few minutes later, they piled into one of Xanatos' helicopters. Mrs. Xanatos was at the main controls, and she'd managed to completely screw up Scully's sense of reality by asking everyone to call her Fox. Mulder smirked and replied, "As long as nobody calls *me* Fox, we'll both be happy."
Scully and Mr. Xanatos were up in the cockpit, copiloting and navigating, respectively. This left Mulder sitting in the back with the two detectives, and Dr. Emilie Vaughnan.
After the whirr-thump of the rotors had been the only sound for half an hour, Mulder cleared his throat. "I guess you won't forgive me if I apologize again?" he asked, tilting his head at Dr. Vaughnan.
Bluestone glared at him, while Maza rolled her eyes. Vaughnan just studied him with eyes that suddenly held a tired gaze. "Oh, I guess I could," she said. "You're a symptom, not a cause."
He had to laugh. "A symptom?"
"Of society." She shrugged. "But then, we all are."
He thought it over for a few moments, then shrugged. "Okay. Can I ask you a question?"
She tilted her head to the left to study him. "I suppose."
"Why'd you cuff Bluestone to his bed?"
Maza looked up, startled. "She did *WHAT?*"
The detective in question shot Mulder a glare of utter death and dismemberment. "You're dead, Spooky."
"None of your business," Vaughnan replied evenly.
"She handcuffed you to the bed?" Maza asked her partner again.
"Leave it, Elisa."
"Keep it down, kids," Fox Xanatos said over the speakers. "We're almost there."
The back of the helicopter lapsed into silence again until they touched down, the craft rocking slightly as the landing struts dug into the ground. The back door opened, and Mulder stepped out only to jump back inside as a bright red energy beam seared through the air scant inches from his head. "What the hell was that?" he said when he got his breath back.
In answer, a tall redheaded woman wearing nothing but a loincloth and halter top and carrying a huge gleaming weapon stepped into the frame of the doorway. "I didn't think you would be *this* stupid," she said as she looked over the two detectives, both of whom had their guns out and pointed at her. She gestured at Dr. Vaughnan with the barrel of the gun. "Who is this?"
"We've come to make a trade, Demona," Xanatos said, stepping out of the cockpit. "You offered one gargoyle for one scientist. Here's your scientist."
Demona stared at Dr. Vaughnan, who spread her hands. "I hear you have a job opening for a biochemist."
"What are you doing with *them?*" Demona snarled.
Vaughnan met her gaze evenly. "They *found* me. Then they said they needed to get someone back."
"What were you doing with Angela when-"
"She found me first and was trying to figure out who I was. Then you decided to break in." The doctor tilted her head to the side and let a smile play around the edges of her mouth. "I have to say, though, that you wouldn't be the most insane person I've ever worked for."
Demona considered for a few moments, then pointed the gun away from the rest of the group. "All right," she said. "Come with me. Now."
"What about Angela?" Maza said.
Demona glared at her, and for a moment Mulder thought he saw her eyes gleam red. "She will never be yours, *human,*" she spat.
"Nor yours," the detective replied darkly. "Where is she?"
The gargoyle growled at her, then grabbed Dr. Vaughnan's arm and hauled her out of the helicopter. Mulder winced, anticipating a reaction similar to the one he'd met with at Bluestone's apartment, but Vaughnan merely quickened her pace to keep from getting her arm hauled off.
The detectives ran into the sunlight, and Mulder hesitantly followed them onto the rooftop. Angela was perched a few feet away, and they got her statue loaded without too much trouble. Demona and Dr. Vaughnan had disappeared into the building.
As the helicopter took off, they were jostled as the craft swerved to dodge fire. "What gives?" Mulder shouted.
"Well, at least she's abiding by the agreement," Xanatos called back. "She's shooting to miss."
Matt lay on his back on his bed, staring at the ceiling. The apartment felt empty, and so did ... well, the place you'd call a soul, he guessed. He felt hollowed out, like Emilie had taken a piece of him with her when she left.
Emilie. Dammit, everything had been going well. He'd managed to convince her that he respected her, *her* the person, not her- the-object. Managed to convince her that knowing every detail of her background did not make him a stalker. Managed to convince her that he wanted her to show him how and what she thought, not just have him extrapolate it from a page.
And he'd almost managed to get her to trust him with her body, which he knew was a major step. And he didn't know what annoyed him more - the fact that she hadn't been able to, or that he was annoyed at not being able to.
And none of this was getting her back, or getting him any rest. He closed his eyes against the sunlight and tried, once again, to fall asleep.
The next thing he knew, his phone was ringing. Blinking awake, he reached over and picked it up. "Yeah?"
"Dr. Vaughnan called," came his partner's voice over the line. "She's been pretty much incarcerated there, like we thought. We've got the night off, so Xanatos offered to fly us in to get her back."
"Damn Demona," he said, sitting up.
"My feelings exactly. Get ready, I'm going to pick you up in five minutes."
"Thanks, Elisa," he said, but she'd already hung up. Shaking himself awake, he put the receiver back and went to get dressed.
The trip to the castle passed in a meaningless blur. They stepped into the helicopter, and Matt stopped in his tracks as he saw the two FBI agents. "What are you doing here?"
Mulder shrugged. "Union contract."
Dana gave him a quick look. "We stuck around after you left. Owen taught me how to find people, since I did it before."
Matt took a deep breath, then sighed and shook his head. "I used to be the weird one," he muttered, stepping inside and taking a seat.
"You'll find body armor in the bins beneath your seats, next to the emergency flotation devices," David Xanatos' voice came over the speakers. "I suggest putting at least some of it on."
Matt snuck a look outside to see Xanatos locking the final plates onto his customized steel clan body armor, next to the gargoyles who were looking disdainfully at the metal. Shrugging, Matt reached down under the seat and pulled out a bin containing a couple pieces of armor covered in a reflective coating. He pulled on a vest, adjusting his gun so he could reach it easily.
The helicopter lifted off the stone and arrowed toward the horizon. Scully stood and headed into the cockpit, and Matt could swear the hair on his arms stood up as she passed.
"Whatever happened to the good old days," he lamented, "When I was looking for the weirdness in the world instead of having it actively seek me out?"
"I was going to ask you about that," Mulder said. "You said you used to have some theories. You've dropped the Illuminatus one, but did you ever come up with anything to explain alien abductions?"
Elisa groaned and rolled her eyes. Mulder eyed her, then grinned. "Skeptic? Her?"
"Look," Elisa said before Matt could reply, "I'm only going to say this once. There is exactly *one* alien on this planet, his name's Nokkar, he lives on Easter Island, and his job is to keep all the other aliens from bothering this planet. Okay?"
Mulder stared at her openmouthed for a few seconds. "How do you know that?"
Elisa glared back. "I talked with him."
"You ... talked with an alien? An actual extraterrestrial?"
She sighed and shook her head. "I guess I shouldn't have brought it up."
"I can't believe it," Mulder said in a quiet voice. "Dammit, I *knew* you two were hiding something."
"Hey, you've already met a bunch of nonhumans," Elisa said, "Isn't that enough?"
"No," he said flatly, which ended the conversation.
"Hang onto your seats back there," Fox said over the speakers. "We're getting in range of the anti-air defenses."
"You'd think that anti-air defenses would create some notice in downtown Manhattan," Elisa grumbled. "But nooooooo..."
Several grinding noises and swift tilts made everyone shut up and hang on for dear life. Finally, after a couple of bumps and a long scrape, Fox ran out of the cockpit in her own body armor and opened the door. The Four of them followed, guns drawn.
They piled out onto the same rooftop they'd landed on that morning, spreading out to meet the gargoyles and Xanatos. Lex was nursing a cut from where a bullet had grazed him, but otherwise they seemed unhurt. Xanatos, replete in his inhuman armor, nodded at the stairway down.
"Find the laboratories," he said. "She'll probably be in there."
Matt nodded, and they moved forward. The stairway itself was harmless, but the first floor they came onto was packed with security guards.
Matt, Elisa, and the agents hung back while the Gargoyles and Xanatos cleared out the corridor. The rooms were all offices or basic storage, so they moved down.
For Matt, it started to seem like a never-ending game of Doom. Brooklyn got scored badly by a laser across his left side, and had to head back upstairs to the helicopter. Fox and Hudson went with him, to provide covering fire in case of emergency. And then there were six, as both Lex and Broadway got caught in a hail of shrapnel and left with Angela to treat their wings.
Finally, they made it to an unmarked corridor, and Scully pointed straight at the last door on the left. "There. She's in there."
Matt stepped forward, and Demona stepped out of the indicated doorway. Her eyes narrowed and she stepped forward, raising a hand. "Fulminos-"
Matt shot her in the forehead. She blinked a couple times, then collapsed. Mulder and Scully stared at him. "She'll get up again in a few minutes," he warned. "Shoot her again- it'll keep her down for a while."
Goliath stayed back to watch Demona's body. The rest of them moved into the lab, prepared for anything.
It was a wide, well-lit room. There were three tables, each covered with flasks, pipettes, beakers, burners, balances, and other lab equipment. At the center table stood Emilie, back to the door, with a couple burettes set up on the table in front of her. She was scowling and swirling an Erlenmeyer flask that was a quarter full of a light blue liquid.
Matt paused, then headed forward to stand beside her. She paid him no notice, concentrating entirely on the flask. "Emilie?" he asked softly.
"Five minutes," she replied as the liquid faded to clear. She frowned, then held the flask under one of the burettes and carefully added another drop.
"Emilie, please," he said, a cold feeling of undefinable fear settling into the pit of his stomach. "We need to go."
The liquid turned blue again as Emilie held the flask up to the light and swirled it around. "I need to finish this. It's important."
"For what?" Blue, fading, fading... clear. Another drop into the flask. "Emilie... please. Come back. Demona-"
"Has a project for me." Her gaze flickered to him momentarily, the blue in her eyes no longer the blue of a clear summer sky, but a harder blue. Ice blue. "I need to complete this. Test the hypothesis."
She held the flask up, and it was the same blue, a cold blue, a killing blue. "If this is what I think it is-"
"And if it is? Please, you can do this later. Come back. We have to go now." She ignored him, watching the blue. Blue eyes watching blue chemical, he could see them reflected in each other. "Emilie..." Blue on blue... "Please..." on blue on blue on blue on blue on blue on blue on-
The flask shattered, spraying chemical all over the next table. Emilie stared in shock at the broken neck of the flask as the sound of a gunshot echoed in the room.
Agent Mulder holstered his gun and gestured at the door. "We need to go."
Emilie swallowed harshly, then lay down the remains of the broken flask. "Yes," she said, sounding disconnected. Hazy. Unreal. "We need to go."
"So," Dana said later that evening, "Think she'll forgive him?"
Matt shrugged and took another sip of coffee. They were lounging around the castle before heading home, and taking advantage of the superior coffee before heading back to normal department fare. Though from Matt's comments, Dana gathered she had the better end of the bargain there. "I think so. Eventually. She has her lab notebook and her hypotheses, so she can start again if she's so inclined."
"Yeah." She suddenly chuckled. "Well, looks like we'll have to present another case with no closure."
"Well, Mulder gets his flying monsters," Matt said. "And because of my partner, he'll probably try to drag you off to Easter Island."
"Or Avalon," she grumbled, then smiled despite herself. Yes, Mulder would drag her off somewhere else. And then somewhere else. Always in search of the truth.
"Well," Matt said, finally, "I'd better get home. It's getting close to the time I'd rather be unconscious."
"Owen wanted me to stick around for a couple minutes," she said. "It's been nice seeing you again, though."
"Yeah, now that by comparison I'm not crazy," he replied, grinning to take any sting out of his words. She smiled and shook his hand, then watched him leave.
"Agent Scully?" came a quiet voice from behind her.
Dana had to stop herself from jumping. "Owen," she said. "You wanted to talk with me?"
The butler nodded. "You have been granted a gift," he said, "but one that has the potential to harm you instead of help you. The worst thing you can do right now is ignore it. With the power you possess, you could inadvertently do someone else - or yourself - a great deal of harm."
She took a deep breath, then released it. She'd never wanted this. She'd believed that everything had gone back to normal and she'd be able to live her life as a normal person under abnormal circumstances. Apparently, that wasn't going to hold.
"What... what are you saying?" she finally asked.
"It would be best," he said, "if you were to get training. However, I don't suppose that is feasible in your area."
"Not unless you know someone," she replied blandly.
"I would offer to teach you myself, but my time for that is... limited in ways I cannot control. The last option is that you teach yourself."
"Teach... myself?" She suddenly had the feeling of standing at the edge of a deep crevasse, staring down with an ever-growing feeling of vertigo. "Magic?"
There. She'd said it. Magic.
"It is not unheard of. You need to put your mind under your control. Perform magic only when you want to." He stared at her over his wire-rims. "For example. Can you create light?"
"Owen, look," she protested. "I haven't done any... magic... until I came here. It was an accident."
Owen nodded slowly. "I see." He paused, then said, "Find some books on meditation and ritual. In the absence of any other possibility, this is all I can recommend." Giving her a final nod, he turned and disappeared through a door.
Dana looked down at her hands and sighed. Magic. It was all so... foreign.
"Fiat lux," she whispered.
And just for an instant, there was light.
Elisa stood with Goliath's wing wrapped around her shoulders, staring up at the sky. The air was hazy, the city lights turning the sky into an endless dome of gold-blue-pink pressing down on them. "I just wish they hadn't even seen Dr. Vaughnan," she said, leaning into Goliath's side.
He drew his wing and his arm closer around her. "What is done is done," he said. "They seemed impressed with the clan, at least."
"Yeah, they really liked you guys." She sighed. "I can't say I'm sorry they're leaving, though. Maybe now things will calm down to normal."
Mulder looked up from his luggage as the door opened, and was surprised to see Dr. Vaughnan step into the room. "How'd you get here?" he asked as she closed the door.
"They still haven't managed to fix that window," she said evenly. "Your partner lent me her key to your room. I wanted to talk with you."
"Sure, come on in," he said amiably. "That reminds me. I wanted to ask you some things."
She shrugged. "You first, then."
"Well.. how'd your hair change to blonde?"
"No idea." Vaughnan grinned, showing off felinely sharp teeth. "It just happened."
"Heh." He shook his head, then checked over his luggage again. Yeah, looked like everything important was there. "Okay. What exactly did Sevarius create? Did he actually manage to change people on a genetic level?"
Emilie hesitated, then said, "Agent Mulder... I am human. Completely. If I have any children, they will be human. Completely. All this... is cosmetic."
"But you wish it wasn't?" he asked quietly.
She shook herself, suddenly, and pulled something out from behind her back. "I want you to have this," she said, holding out a hardcover book.
He took it from her and glanced at the cover. "_Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance?_ I've read it."
Vaughnan shook her head. "This is my copy."
Mulder frowned at it, then flipped it open. The margins were covered in neat cursive scrawls, words were underlined, and page numbers were occasionally circled or starred. "Thanks," he said. "I mean, this is..."
"Don't worry about it."
"Here, can I get you something to drink?" He moved over to the fridge and opened it up. Not much inside but a couple bottles of iced tea. "I have some Snapple..."
"Let me see." She crossed the room to stand next to him, and he was suddenly very conscious of the way she moved. The fur transformed every gesture into a fluid statement, and even looking as nonhuman as she did she was still very... very...
She looked up into his eyes, and he was trapped. She smiled slightly, then took his hand. "I guess I should be flattered by the attention," she said, "But..."
Mulder looked down as rings of cold pressure encircled his wrists. He found himself with his own handcuffs attaching him to the refrigerator door. Looking back up, he caught Vaughnan's smirk and almost pitying look.
"You," she said, "need to mellow out." Reaching over, she picked up the copy of _Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance_ and pressed it into his hands. "I'm sure Agent Scully will come over and check on you sometime. In the meantime," she said, dropping his keys on top of the TV, "Enjoy the book. Oh, yeah, and have a nice flight back to DC when you go."
Mulder stared down at the book in his hands, up at the door, and back down again. "Well," he said to nobody in particular, "At least I can now say I've been handcuffed by a ravishing blue-eyed blonde."
Then he sat down, leaned against the fridge door, and started reading.