Title: Spirit 02 - An Ancient Spirit
Summary: Mulder and Scully go down to Texas, only to meet up with Jessica once more.
Note: This story takes place two months after the events in "A Spirit of Fun" although it is not necessary to have read that story to enjoy this one. But go read it anyway. It's funny.
They found the cavern entrance on the third night. The sun was setting, but their lanterns and flashlights provided enough illumination to enter for a quick look. There was great excitement when Henry stumbled across the skeleton, literally. He pulled himself up off of the dusty floor, silently thanked god that this cave did not house bats and their nasty droppings, and shouted for more light.
The entire skeleton was intact, despite its rough treatment by Henry's feet. The steel helmet and breastplate marketed it as the right time period. The team was ecstatic. Dr. Winger had lead them right to the site with his research and a rare journal he'd picked up at an estate sale, of all places. Picking around further produced more steel-encased human remains.
"Hey, Doc! Over here!" Marty's excitement showed in his voice. He turned carefully, a solid gold statue weighing down his arms. It was old, older than the bones. The others breathed in awe as he brought it into the light.
"Alright, everyone," Dr. Winger quieted their excitement, "back to camp. Tomorrow's another day. Marty, take that to the cage and secure it. We'll come back in the morning and start some serious work." He herded his assistants out, something nagging at the back of his mind.
That evening was one of celebration. Beer and champagne flowed freely. The music was loud and so was the laughter. The next morning the entire crew, some wincing from hangovers, showed up at the crack of dawn. All except for one. Marty was still laying on his cot. He would not be rising that morning, or ever again.
"Buried treasure, Mulder? When did you decide to turn into Indiana Jones?" Scully hummed the main theme under her breath. 'dum da dum dum, dum da da...'
"Not just any old buried treasure, Scully. This is *cursed* buried treasure." He set up his slide projector, and she settled back to watch. Where was a bag of popcorn when you really needed it?
The room was silent save for the whir of the cooling fan. Then he hit the 'advance frame' button. CLICK! The face of an older gentleman, somewhere around 70, filled the screen. If Albert Einstein had a shorter, thinner twin brother, it would be this man. "This is Dr. Richard Winger. He holds doctorates in History, Anthropology and Archeology, and specializes in finding missing Spanish treasures. He and his graduate student researchers... " more pictures flashed across the screen, "believe they have uncovered a little-known spot where the Spanish hid mounds of stolen gold and Aztec art before dying off mysteriously." His eyes held that familiar sparkle. "Supposedly, the Aztec priests cursed the treasure, saying only the dead would ever touch it, and anyone else touching it would soon be dead." He turned off the projector. "Better than an ADT security system."
"And they're sending us because someone has died from this alleged curse?"
"You must be psychic, Scully." He handed her a news clipping with a flourish. At the top was a picture matching one of those from the slide show. A graduate student, dead by no known cause. She squinted in the dim light at the newspaper's header and date. "So we're going to Texas?"
"Yes, ma'am." His drawl was atrocious.
"Oh, Benny... you-who... Bennnniiiiiii... " a soft female voice pulled him away from his computer screen. Bennington Wentworth rubbed the bridge of his nose and turned to the figure sitting in the padded chair on the other side of his desk. She was seventeen, with black hair and beautiful bright green eyes. She looked just like she had when she'd died two months ago. Except for one large detail.
"Jessica, why are you wearing a toga?" Her hair was loose and wild. She held a heavy gold wine goblet in her right hand and absently twirled a lock of hair around the fingers of her left.
"I just got back from the Elysian Fields." She shook her head and smiled. "Those Ancient Greeks sure know how to party." She set the goblet down on his desk, sloshing a bit of the wine onto some of his paperwork. He hastily moved to clean the mess.
"What were you doing there? You were raised Christian. Shouldn't you be blissfully contemplating the face of God or something?" He knew she should indeed be doing just that. He was her 'personal representative for the transition to the state of non-physical being', better known as the Angel of Death. His pastel business suit said it all.
"Can't. I talked to Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates. Those things must have cost a fortune. Anyhow, my place still isn't ready yet. Contract negotiations with the cherubim took a turn for the worse. So I guess I'm just a 'free spirit' for the time being." She grinned at him. "I'm bored, and I want to visit the mortal plain."
"How can you possibly be bored? This is Heaven, for goodness sake!" He pointed at her clothing. "You've managed to entertain yourself rather well so far."
"All the harp music is getting on my nerves. Please, Benny?" She fluttered her eyelashes at him. "Pretty please?"
He sighed, rubbing his temples. How could he have a headache in Paradise? "What will you do if I say no?" he asked.
She pouted for a moment. "Then I'll just have to find something else to occupy myself." Her pout turned into a devilish grin and her eyes sparkled. "Maybe I could redecorate your office. Pastels from 'Miami Vice' are out, you know." She looked around. "Something in a nice hunter green would work."
He stared at her, dumbfounded. She smiled back at him, all innocent helpfulness. "All right, I give up. You can go."
She leapt out of her seat and came flying around the desk to hop into his lap. Putting her arms around his neck, she kissed his cheek. "You're an angel," she declared.
"So they keep telling me."
"Dr. Winger? I'm Special Agent Mulder." He extended his hand in greeting to the older man.
"Yes, yes," came the distracted answer. "You're here about Marty. Terrible thing to have happen, simply dreadful." He pumped Mulder's hand a few times and smiled sadly. "Ever since the curse on Tut's tomb, the media's had a field day with this sort of thing. Very bad for research and grants. Just terrible." He wandered into one of the tents, ducking slightly as he entered in spite of the fact that his head was in no danger what so ever of striking the top of the door. Mulder followed.
Inside the tent were tables. Long, flat, collapsible tables covered with maps and diagrams. One also had metal objects which he recognized as armor. And there was one gold statue, locked behind steel bars in a small cage that was anchored to the ground.
"Is this it?" Mulder asked, getting down on his knees to take a closer look.
"Yes," Winger answered. "Marty found it on the same night we uncovered the cave." He puttered around with the paper on one table, sifting through until he found the journal. "Now the local authorities want us to *wait* to return to the cave. We are losing precious time, Agent Mulder. Grant money waits for no man. Not that I'm cold hearted, but Marty would have wanted us to continue."
"What about the curse, Dr. Winger?" He moved to stand next to the same table, peering at the piles with curiosity.
"Young man, there is no such thing as a curse. Surely you are well-educated enough to know that." He readjusted his wire rimmed spectacles and carefully opened the leather-bound tome. "The monk who traveled with the Spanish soldiers kept this journal. He wrote of the curse of the Aztec priests." Mulder was presented with two yellowed pages covered in barely readable scrawls.
"I, ah, see." He couldn't make out a single word, no matter how much he squinted at the faded ink.
Winger smiled understandingly, patting Mulder's arm. "Of course you do, my boy. Of course you do. Now then, the curse was cast as soon as the Spanish raiders left the Aztec lands with their booty. They used Aztec slaves to haul the gold and made their way north to this point. Here the last of the slaves, who also happened to be a priest among his own people, died. And cursed the treasure with his dying breath." He shook his head. "Rather melodramatic." He huffed for a moment, then continued. "The raiders had to re-pack the gold in order to move it any further. Not one of them survived the night. Only the monk, who never touched the gold, lived and went on to the nearest mission town. No one ever came back for the gold. Many never even believed his story."
"But you believed it," Mulder said, pressing the man to continue.
"Well, I had other resources to corroborate it. And time to look."
"So you believed in the story, but not the curse."
Dr. Winger's eyes shimmered uncertainly for a moment, then he blinked himself back. "Of course not. There is no such thing as a *curse* and there never was."
Scully snapped the latex gloves off of her hands and freed her hair from the confines of the ponytail she had worn while working over the body. Her lab coat was shed, and she grabbed the micro cassette recorder she'd used during the autopsy. Her powerbook opened and she began to transcribe her notes.
Mulder stuck his head into the room they'd usurped as a private office. "How's the patient, Doc?"
"I'm afraid he didn't make it," she replied, switching off the tape. "I've sent some samples off for testing."
"How'd he die?" He dropped into another chair and propped his feet on the desk. Scully frowned, hesitating, not meeting his gaze. Mulder looked straight at her, his eyebrows dancing questioningly.
"I want to wait for the lab results before I draw my final conclusions," she admitted.
She looked up, then. "He had no heart, Mulder."
"Now, Scully," he scolded, "ours is not the right to judge our fellow man."
She shook her head. "No, you don't understand. His heart was gone. Not a trace of cardiac muscle in the entire body cavity, or anywhere else. His ribcage and breastbone were intact, and there was no sign of incisions on his skin. There was nothing but..." her voice trailed off.
"But what?" It was beginning to be like pulling teeth to get information out of her.
"Dust. Where his heart should have been there was a blood-soaked lump of dust. And nothing else."
Wentworth tapped at his keyboard. "You won't just be gallivanting around this time, Jessica."
She looked suitably disappointed. "I won't?"
"No," he continued. "I assume you want to see your FBI friends."
Jessica smiled softly. She missed messing around with Mulder and Scully. The week she'd spent haunting them after her death had been both entertaining and educational. There was nothing quite as amusing as watching the two agents figure out that ghosts did, in fact, exist. And learning about the existence of the X-files and the 'deny everything' attitude of the government had opened whole worlds of questions and answers. "Yes, I do."
"Fine. Then you can do a little retrieval job for me at the same time." He handed her an electronic gizmo about the size and look of the scientific calculator she'd used in school.
"What's this? It looks like a 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' or something." She turned it over, looking at it from several angles.
"Actually, that's not a bad analogy. It's an 'Angel's Guide to Creation'. You'll have access to all the necessary information for your assignment."
She stared at him, then punched a few buttons experimentally. "Why didn't I get one of these before? My haunting manual was paperback, for Pete's sake!" The information she could access was phenomenal. She punched in a question about Cancer Man, a faint snarl on her face as she recalled his gloating sneers at Mulder.
"What gives?" she asked, turning the flashing LED screen to Wentworth. "How much access do I have?"
"Well, you've heard of the Army of Angels?"
"You're at the junior ROTC level." He smiled tightly.
Jessica sighed, turning the little machine off. "Wonderful." She dropped into the chair that she was beginning to think of as hers. "What's the assignment?"
"Well, your agents are investigating some cursed treasure that's been laying around. The curse was placed by a dying Aztec priest on the Spaniards who stole the treasure and enslaved his people. The priest anchored himself to the treasure and has been killing anyone who touches it. Now, this was not a problem as the only ones to die were the men who had murdered his people ---"
Jessica interrupted. "Wait a sec. Are you saying murder's okay if the victim is also a killer?"
He waved his hand in dismissal. "Morality is subjective and changes with time and culture. As I was saying, he had only killed those who killed his own people. But now an archeologist has stumbled across it, and a member of his team was killed because modern people do not believe in curses." He looked at her, eyes penetrating. "You are going to collect the priest's spirit before he does any more damage."
"Why hasn't anyone gone after him before?"
He closed his eyes, massaging his forehead. "We're a little behind. Collecting the odd soul that slips through the system is low priority."
"But an Aztec priest drug up to the continental US? That was..." her voice trailed off as she checked her 'Guide' for the information. "Almost 475 years ago?" She stared at Wentworth. "How far behind *are* you people?" He smiled at her and shrugged, a faint blush tingeing his cheeks. She stood up and headed for the door, the toga transmuting into jeans and a sweatshirt. "Absolutely unbelievable."
"Jessica," Wentworth's tone stopped her. "No funny business this time. No manifesting, no ghoulish pranks, no tricks. You're on Heaven's payroll, now. Not just killing time."
"Benny, you sure can take all the fun out of being dead." She wrinkled her nose at him and left the office.
"Pretty impressive, isn't it?" he asked, glancing around with boyish glee.
"It's a *cave* and it's dusty, not impressive," she responded.
Mulder began unpacking electronic equipment from various protective, foam-lined steel cases. Seismic and sonic sensors were attached to numerous parts of the cave walls and floor. Special cameras, photo and video, were placed strategically about the cavern. Other sensors, which Scully could not easily identify, soon followed. "What is that?" she asked, curiosity getting the better of her.
"They detect high concentrations of energy," he answered. "Like when a ghost manifests."
"The Bureau owns ghost detecting equipment?" She shook her head. "I don't believe it."
Mulder couldn't help teasing her. "You never do, Scully. Not until I prove it to you." He ducked as her fist headed toward him. "Actually, Frohike got it for me."
"And what did this little favor cost you?" Scully was getting suspicious.
"I thought I was the paranoid partner in this duo, Scully." He smiled innocently at her.
"Mulder..." Uh-oh. There was that tone, complete with the 'don't mess with me' Look.
"Nothing. Honest. Just copies of any photos I take." He decided not to mention certain 'special requests' that Frohike had included in their bargain. He didn't think she'd mind. It wasn't like he was asking her to pose. Just some candid shots when she wasn't paying attention. Nothing outrageous, really. Or so he told his conscience. And that little part of him that didn't want anyone looking at her like that, which he quietly ignored. Maybe he'd ask for some copies as well... for his files, of course.
"Mulder. Hey, Mulder. Earth to Mulder, come in..." She was waving her hand in front of his face.
He snapped back to reality. "What?"
"You were about a million miles away. What were you thinking?"
"Ah... I was trying to figure out where you got that hat." She was wearing a beat-up brown felt men's fedora atop her auburn hair. Harrison Ford never looked as good. "I thought I was supposed to be Indy."
She touched the brim of the hat lightly. "It seemed appropriate to the case."
"Where's the whip?" he asked, his eyes waiting for her long-suffering sigh.
Instead she smiled seductively at him and patted his cheek. "Oh, I only use that on *special* occasions." Then she turned on her heel and headed out into the afternoon sun, leaving a slack-jawed Mulder to stare after her retreating form.
Jessica looked with interest at the cavern, and the equipment Mulder had set up. She didn't know if it would detect her or not, since she was not technically a ghost anymore. "Junior ROTC, indeed," she muttered. Looking up, she shook a fist at the ceiling. "I will *not* be drafted." She sat on a convenient rock and pulled out her electronic guide. Scrolling through a large amount of text, she decided that it wasn't like the 'Hitchhiker's Guide' after all. It was more like the 'Encyclopedia Galactica' with loads of information which had absolutely no practical value. She grinned and chucked softly. "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy sells rather better than the Encyclopedia Galactica," she quoted, then sighed. "Now I understand why."
Mulder and Scully remained in the camp. He returned to the cave periodically to check the machinery while she interviewed the other members of the crew and awaited the lab results from her work earlier that morning.
He soon grew bored, waiting for something, *anything* to happen. And as always, he sought to relieve that boredom by occupying himself in one of his favorite ways. He began poking around in things better left undisturbed.
He started by looking around at some remains still left in the front of the cave. But old bones and armor paled when compared to the potential of gold and lost artifacts, especially when they were cursed. So with a flashlight in one hand he headed deeper into the cavern.
Jessica followed in his footsteps, shaking her head in resignation. <This one will never learn.> She was impressed by the colors of the cave walls. It was a nice place for a little spelunking. The light Mulder carried reflected beautifully off of the faceted sandstone walls, the shafts of exposed quartz, the piles of gold...
She felt her mouth gape as she stopped, standing next to an equally amazed Mulder. Fort Knox couldn't hold a candle to the trove before them. He stepped forward and picked up a handful of nuggets, letting them slide through his fingers like marbles. Jessica drew invisible circles on statues and jewelry, marveling at the artistry and beauty. Neither agent nor angel noticed the shadows shifting malevolently around them.
"Dr. Winger is not happy with you, Mulder," Scully scolded him easily over dinner. "You had no business going deeper into the cave."
"Did the lab results get back?" he asked, trying to change the subject.
He looked up expectantly from his 'blue plate' special. Greasy diner food could distract from Scully's lectures but not from her work. "Well?"
"It was dirt. Plain old you-can-find-it-anywhere dirt. There was nothing in his blood-work except for an elevated blood alcohol level, easily covered by the drinking that went on at the celebration that night." She looked down at the half-finished sandwich on her plate, suddenly losing her appetite. "Anything like this in the files?"
His eyes slid half-shut as he mentally 'flipped' through the information in his mind. "Not really."
Scully fell asleep quickly, her eyes sliding shut as soon as her head hit the pillow. Mulder threw himself onto his own bed, turning on the television and keeping the volume low so as not to let the noise blare through the open door connecting their two rooms. After a while his eyes also slid shut.
Jessica sat on the bed next to him, alternating her attention between her sleeping anchor and the late late show interview on the screen. When he jerkily entered his nightmare, she slid her fingers over his neck and back, quieting him. <I'm not actually manifesting, so it's not *really* breaking any of the rules.> Her gaze slid to the ceiling, her mind still insisting that Heaven was up, even though she knew better. <So you can stuff it, Benny. I won't let him suffer if I can help it.> He rolled over, more at ease, mumbling in his sleep. Jessica bent lower, listening carefully, and smirked when she made out the words.
It was just a few hours later when he awoke. He restlessly repositioned himself and considered going for a run. Then the room temperature dropped and a red-eyed shadow stepped away from the wall. Mulder rolled off of the bed, backing away. The climate change might have been lost on a half-drunk graduate student sleeping in a tent, but he knew better. "Scully," he called, backing up further as the apparition approached. "Scully!"
She stumbled through the door, wide awake at her partner's call. Her eyes widened as she spotted the smoky shadow that stood between her and Mulder. She raised her gun. "What is it?"
"The curse, Scully. I touched the gold!" Mulder had his back against the wall. He was quite effectively trapped. The shadow billowed closer, red rage-filled eyes peering out of black fog. It drew slowly nearer, a tendril reaching out toward his chest, brushing over him, pushing into his body, wrapping around his heart. Mulder's mouth opened in a gurgling half-scream.
Jessica leapt into the billowing form of the dead priest. Scully, unthinking, jumped toward her partner. They met somewhere in the middle.
Scully was suddenly in front of him. The ghost backed away, rage bubbling into confusion. Mulder collapsed into Scully's arms, sliding down the wall as his legs gave out. He looked up, slightly dazed, into her green eyes. He blinked. Scully's eyes were blue, not green. He shook his head. She checked him over quickly, cradling him and glancing apprehensively at the ghost.
Jessica stepped out of Scully, slightly dazed. It had been a strange experience, seeing out of her eyes, hearing as she did, being *alive* again. She placed herself between the Aztec priest and the agents. "I am here for you," she said, extending her hand to him.
Mulder and Scully watched as the living shadow faded, leaving as strangely as it entered. "I wonder what stopped it," he panted.
Scully decided now was not the time to discuss her theories. For a moment she'd felt someone else with her, in her mind. Equally confused, she pulled him to his feet and dumped him on the nearest bed, hiding her distress in the quick movements of a check-over of Mulder.
Jessica smiled at the priest. They'd stuck around for awhile. He had been very pleased when Dr. Winger assured the two agents that much of the artwork would be returned to Mexico and the hands of the Aztec's descendants. After that, the still-learning angel led the lost soul to Heaven.
The sight of their basement office was more welcome than either agent wanted to admit. Scully settled into her chair with a sigh, quite ready to bury herself in some calm paperwork. Mulder had been looking at her strangely ever since the night of the curse's end, as he insisted on calling it. He was doing it at that moment, in fact. "What is it?" she asked.
"I was just, uh, thinking," he began. "I think you stopped the curse."
She looked surprised. "Me? How?"
"By getting between it and me. The monk's journal said that the curse did not touch him because he never touched the gold. You were also innocent of the transgression. The curse couldn't touch you, so it couldn't get to me." He paused thoughtfully. "It's the best explanation I can come up with."
An interoffice courier interrupted them by dropping off a package. Mulder ripped it open to find a stack of color photos, one with a note from Frohike paper-clipped to it. Scully came to stand behind him, looking over his shoulder. 'Who's the new chick?' it read. He looked at her, puzzled, then pulled away the note.
Jessica Miller sat on a boulder, smiling at the camera. "Well..." he began. Scully's hand clamped over his mouth, stopping the thought.
"Don't say it, Mulder," she warned. His eyes sparkled and his lips smiled under her palm. "I *really* don't want to hear it." **