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Faeries by The Pen & The Brain
Date: Mon, 22 Dec 1997 21:38:53 -0800 From: Subject: Submitting “Faeries”
Title: Faeries Author: The Pen and The Brain
Summary: Mulder and Scully pursue a peculiar case in Cornwall and discover things within each other at the same time.
Disclaimer: Hi again from the Pen and the Brain. This is an absolutely massive story that I am working on getting from an excercise book into the computer. Despite the title this story is firmly rooted in the real world (Well, as real as the X-Files world gets :-).) It has romance, sorry to all non- relationshippers out there. It is rated PG at the moment, it gets… raunchier later:-) Bear with part one, it’s all plot, setting the scene etc, the characters will show soon!
Real Disclaimer: We wish these characters were ours. Alas they are not. The belong to Fox, and CC and 1013 and so on and so forth. Sigh.
Faeries by The Pen & The Brain
Hayle, Cornwall. 1961.
It was the heavy and unnatural blanket of silence that woke Eilian George from her restless sleep. An oppressive, thick silence that hung over the house, stifling sound with it’s lethargic weight. She was jarred awake by a sudden shock of fear that had her trembling so hard that her teeth chattered in the muffled quiet of the bedroom. She shivered under the heavy musty smelling quilt and realised that the bed was as cold as the surrounding air.
“Walter” Her voice was a mere tremor as she reached out to the dark lump beside her in the bed. She found a cool shoulder and shook it gently, but her husband didn’t move. She felt fear start to coil deep in her stomach. “Walter?” More insistently this time, her voice growing stronger and at the same time, more alarmed. Her vision slowly adjusted to the dimness of the room and she saw his chest rising and falling under the blanket. A monotonous, regular rhythm.
Eilian sighed, feeling the relief wash over her and she relaxed back into the pillows. Suddenly a shrill scream broke the extreme silence of the house. Eilian shot upright, flinging off the covers and leaping down from the high old bed, a sharp cry of pain catching in her throat as her ankle twisted under her. The floor was freezing, numbing her toes, but Eilian didn’t notice as she ran for the door. Another scream shattered the air, cutting through her rasping gasps. Dear God! not the baby. The door was stuck. The handle wouldn’t turn, the frame itself shuddering under Eilian’s wrenching onslaught.
“Kate!” she yelled desperately. The cries continued, growing more hoarse and exhausted by the moment. Eilian turned back to the bed, expecting to see Walter rising like a giant from the rumpled bedclothes. Nothing.
Suddenly the realisation hit her and she felt her knees go weak, the breath catching in her throat. Her eyes darted around the room until they lit upon a branch of rowan, languishing in a jar of water beside the bed. Earlier that day she had picked them in the woods near the house to add colour to the room in lieu of flowers. But now the bright foliage and scarlet berries shone in the dark like a safety beacon and with a sob Eilian snatched them from the water, the glass clattered to the floor and spun of the wooden boards without breaking.
The door yielded unwillingly under her hand and she shoved it open, stumbling down the hall, the long night-gown tangling in her legs and hampering every step.
Kate’s broken cries were dimmer now, less frequent, but they were still terrified and they tore at Eilian’s heart. Please, not the baby- With a triumphant shout she forced the nursery door open, slamming it against the wall. But what she saw froze her tongue and the rowan fell from numbed fingers.
A hundred thousand tiny Faerie lights danced around the room, casting an eerie blue-green hue on the walls and causing a whirring breeze to whisper through the open curtains. In the midst of this luminous chaos was Kate, twisting and writhing on a pallet of light, her pale little face contorted into a grimace of angry fear. Her dark eyes reflected the intense green of the Faerie lights, her fine hair matted to her forehead in a damp spiderweb of chestnut curls.
She turned her feverish gaze on Eilian. “Mama?”
And it broke the spell.
“Daoine Sidhe.” The ancient words fell from Eilian’s lips and froze in the biting air.
The lights paused, dimmed and flickered as she took a step forward, arms outstretched to the now silent baby, but just as her fingers reached for Kate the room erupted into furious whirring once more. A blinding flash of iridescent blue shot past her nose and she reeled back, her eyes closed, the intense light burning on her retinas.
When she reopened her eyes they were gone. The only other presence in the room was the leg-kicking, gurgling baby in the crib.
Eilian slapped on the light, provoking and startled squawk from the infant, and she snatched her up from the blankets, sinking to the floor with a sob. “My Kate,” she murmured, lifting the baby’s head to face her.
Then she stopped, the heaviness forming in her heart.
The sweet round face was Kate’s. The matted curls. The waving hands and the scent of warm milk and baby powder were all painfully familiar. But the vacant look in the bright emerald eyes didn’t belong to Kate. And they stared, unrecognising into Eilian’s face with all of the emotion of a marble statue.
J Edgar Hoover Building 12:45pm.
The lights were off in the dim basement office when Special Agent Dana Scully opened the door.
She stepped slowly into the room and frowned, half curious. “Mulder?”
The door closed behind her and she tensed, one hand reaching automatically for her gun, the other for the light- switch.
A strong hand caught her wrist and warm fingers tightened slightly.
“Leave it off, Scully,” came his voice, quite close behind her.
She relaxed, took a step back and nearly collided with him as she shrugged out of her overcoat. His hand on her arm steadied her.
“What’s going on here, Mulder?” she asked, trying to keep the suspicion out of her voice. She heard him chuckle in response, then there was a click, and the familiar white-light of the overhead projector filled the room.
“A slide show,” he replied.
Turning she saw the projector set up in the corner of the room, the screen blank. “Oh goodie.”
Mulder had moved on and was standing by the projector, watching her, waiting with a sardonic smile. The light lit his chiselled features, making him seem gaunt and haunted.
With a click the image of a freckle faced boy appeared. Scully judged him to be about five or six. He had a gappy smile and dark unruly hair that spilled onto the collar of his cubs uniform.
“Cute kid, Mulder,” Scully said without turning to him. “Your secret love child?”
His dark eyes were smiling at her in the shadows and he motioned for her to come stand beside him.
She dropped her briefcase in her chair and moved to join him, picking her way precariously through the heaped paperwork on his side of the office. He wordlessly handed her a case file and she opened it and began to skim read as he gestured with a pen to the screen.
“This… kids name is – was – Henry Baxter,” he said, his voice carefully emotionless. “He vanished from a camping trip his Cub Troupe was holding. He was found two days later-”
“Dead, at the bottom of a small lake in Hayle,” Scully finished for him. “Why are you telling me this?”
“Because his death is our newest case – and our most high- priority one,” replied Mulder with just a hint of a smile in his voice.
Scully thought about that for a moment, a frown marring the pale cream of her brow. “But, it’s considerably out of federal jurisdiction, Mulder. Hayle is in Cornwall-”
“Which is in England, Scully,” he grinned.
“Right. And at any rate it looks like an accidental drowning. Even Scotland Yard doesn’t get involved with that. So since when did they bring in the FBI?”
Mulder pulled a black and white photograph off his desk and gave it to her. “Henry Baxter is Senator James Baxter’s only son. He lived in Cornwall with his mother, Peta Waterhouse, who remarried after the divorce, but he saw his father regularly. Senator Baxter was understandably distraught at his sons death.”
Scully put the photo of the Senator aside and sighed, frustrated with his cryptic answers. “Naturally. But that doesn’t answer my question.” She held the file out towards him, “What are we doing with this case?”
He shook his head, looking a little disappointed and gently took the file from her. “James Baxter is a powerful man.”
She waited. “And?”
“And this is the fifth drowning in as many months of children in Hayle between the ages of four and eight. All with matching M.O’s. Separately they all look like accidental drownings. But five Scully?” He shook his head and shrugged, “Five looks like exhausting the odds.”
She looked at him. He looked tired and drawn, she wondered how he had struggled with this case when it first landed on his desk. It was close, uncomfortably close, to his heart. “But even if it is the work of a serial killer, it’s England Mulder. Why isn’t Scotland Yard investigating?”
He handed her the file again. “Scotland Yard has been involved since the third drowning. They haven’t been able to pull anything up. The official request for our help was put in by Detective Inspector Alec Stephens.”
“But it’s not an X-File.”
“No. I went to school with Taffy,” he grinned. “Inspector Stephens.”
Scully raised her eyebrows doubtfully. “Taffy? Should I ask?”
He patted her arm reassuringly. “It’s a running joke.”
Another click and Henry Baxter’s face was replaced with another child. This time a tousle-haired blonde girl.
“The first – I hesitate to use the phrase victim, but for the want of a better phrase it will have to do. The first victim was Janet Quinlan. She died, or rather, was found June the eighth. That was treated as an accident and her parents buried her without an investigation. Same with the second-” Mulder changed the slides again. “Bethany Ashcroft, age eight. The eldest victim yet. She was found July sixteenth, but had disappeared a week earlier. They didn’t find her until she, um-” he grimaced, a shadow of old pain passing over his face. “Until she floated.”
“Bodies generally surface after two to three days,” supplied Scully.
“Thankyou Scully,” he said wryly.
“So where did she spend the rest of the week? And why wasn’t there a search? I mean, Hayle is a small town-”
“There was a search, Scully,” said Mulder quite gently. An extensive one. They didn’t turn anything up. Bethany Ashcroft wasn’t in Hayle that week.”
“But how can you-”
“I know these places. If Bethany Ashcroft had been near they would have found her,” Mulder said insistently.
She sighed, “Okay. So if it was suspected kidnapping why didn’t they report it? Why wasn’t there an investigation?”
“Extraneous evidence,” muttered Mulder.
Scully looked hard at him. “How extraneous?”
“Bethany Ashcroft’s mother filed for divorce and left the house a day before Bethany disappeared. Everyone assumed she came back and took the daughter.”
Scully closed her eyes for a moment. “But you believe otherwise.” It wasn’t a question.
He looked sharply at her. “She turned up dead, Scully.”
She looked away from his penetrating gaze. “But at least she turned up, right?”
He didn’t reply and after a moment she glanced up again and found him staring intently at her. “After Bethany Ashcroft was Joshua Lomas,” she said, trying to break the tense atmosphere.
He kept his eyes on her for a moment longer then turned back to the projector, processing the slides forward. “He disappeared and was found on the same day, August twenty- third. The locals were beginning to get suspicious about the lake, so they contacted the Yard. Three days after Alec arrived, little Peter Briggs went missing. His body showed up on the second of September. After that was Henry Baxter.” The emotionless tone had fallen from his voice and she saw the raw emotion in his eyes.
Scully frowned, concerned. “Mulder?”
He turned on her. “They’re just children, Scully. Five kids. How could someone kill them?”
She met his gaze and felt his pain. Gently she said, “Mulder we don’t have enough details yet to know for certain that it was murder. I need you to remain impartial on this one. Please.”
He shook his arm out of her grasp and seemed about to argue, but catching her expression his anger faded. “Look, Scully. The plane leaves at ten tomorrow morning. How about I give you the file and send you home to pack?” He tried a crooked smile and she smiled back.
“Am I being dismissed?” she asked him.
“Go home and have an early night. I’ll swing by and pick you up tomorrow,” he instructed her. “Okay?”
She agreed with a shrug and went to pick up her jacket. “I’ll see you in the morning then.”
“I’ll be waiting with bated breath,” he responded. “Just make sure you’re dressed.”
At the door she paused and looked back at him, but he was oblivious, lost in his own painful world as he sat by the projector staring at the young face of four-year-old Peter Briggs.
Mulder arrived at Scully’s apartment at a quarter to eight the following morning. Bakery bag in hand he fumbled for his keys and unlocked the door, then froze when he heard the deep timbre of a man’s voice. Hearing the light tone of Scully’s coveted laughter follow didn’t improve matters any. He opened the door quietly, straining to hear what they were saying. Then he roughly chastised himself for being a fool and quickly strode into the kitchen.
Scully was sitting at the kitchen table with her back to him in her terrycloth robe with her hair drying in tumbled curls, Opposite her a dark haired man was sitting holding a coffee cup. He tensed when Mulder entered and for one bizarre moment Mulder thought that the other man was going to literally leap to Scully’s protection and throw him out of the house. He almost wanted to see him try.
“Um, Dana?” said the guy, motioning to Mulder.
Scully turned, her eyes widening slightly when she saw Mulder.
He held out the paper bag. “Pastries,” he said rather weakly, putting it down on the table. “I thought that we could have breakfast.” He saw her exchange a look with the dark man opposite her and forced down a wave of jealousy.
“You’re early,” she said.
“I let myself in.”
She looked at him for a moment with an expression that he knew well, then she turned to the other man. “Bryan, this is Fox Mulder.”
Bryan stood up to shake Mulder’s hand and Mulder studied him carefully. He was as tall, if not taller than Mulder, with the same long limbed physique and sculpted features. His eyes were a light blue, a striking contrast to his dark, perfectly styled hair. He was smiling. Uneasily Mulder tried to mirror his expression.
“So there is a Mulder,” said Bryan to Scully as he took his seat again. “And here I was, thinking that he was just an excuse not to have dinner with me, Dana.”
Mulder sat in a chair next to Scully and shuffled it closer, picking miserably at the pastry bag.
Scully frowned at him as he began to spread crumbs over her table and standing up moved past him to find a plate. “Would you like some coffee, Mulder?” she said, sliding a plate across the table towards him. He nodded and turned his attention back to Bryan.
“So, Bryan, what do you do?”
The other man grinned disarmingly, exposing perfect white teeth. “I’m a lawyer.”
Mulder raised an eyebrow. “Judging by your appearance I’d say you were a successful one.”
Scully shot Mulder a warning glance, but Bryan just laughed easily.
“I’m the youngest partner in the Walker, Banks and Grey firm,” he said with an affable smirk.
Oh good, thought Mulder.
“But what about you, Mulder – may I call you Mulder? – From what Dana has said, you’re a pretty extraordinary man yourself.”
Was there a barely veiled insult in that comment? wondered Mulder. Catching Scully’s eye he decided not to pursue it.
The coffee was so hot that it burnt his tongue and he looked balefully at Scully, who hid a small smile behind her scroll.
“I live two doors down from Dana,” Bryan was saying. “I don’t spend much time in my apartment though. What with the work-load increasing at the rate that it is.”
Mulder suppressed a yawn by taking another bite from his croissant and brushing the crumbs off his tie – the floating amoeba one today – with the back of his hand.
“I guess you and Dana get to travel a lot,” said Bryan. “Where are you off to today? Cornwall?”
“The case is in Hayle, but we’ll spend the first night in London,” Scully said.
Bryan sighed wistfully, “I love London.” He looked with wistful eyes at the woman on the other side of the table.
Mulder watched him narrowly. “You’ve been to England?”
“I graduated from Cambridge.”
“With honours,” Scully supplied.
They shared a smile.
Mulder decided that he disliked this man intensely. He leaned nonchalantly back in his seat, just far enough to let his jacket slip open to reveal his gun. Bryan eyed it, nervously and Mulder grinned inwardly. “Have you packed yet, Sc- Dana?” he asked, turning his body slightly to exclude the handsome lawyer.
Scully’s fierce eyes did battle with the passive smile on her lips. She was no fool, she could read his aggressive body language quite well thankyou very much and she silently chastised him for his rudeness.
“Yes I have, Mulder,” she replied in a carefully structured tone of voice. “My bag is in the living room by the front door. You probably tripped over it when you let yourself in.”
Uh, oh. Mulder knew that he was in trouble.
Apparently Bryan knew it too. He gave an unsure chuckle and stood up, self consciously brushing off the fronts of his gabardine trousers. “I should probably let you get dressed,” he said to Scully.
“Let me see you out,” she replied with a final look at Mulder.
Mulder followed them out of the kitchen.
“Tell your mother that I said hello,” Scully was saying.
“Oh absolutely,” enthused Bryan. “Look, Dana, when you get back from England drop by my place and I’ll cook you dinner,” he chuckled, “not spaghetti – I promise.”
Dana laughed, recognising his reference to a childhood anecdote she had shared with him.
Alarm bells went off inside Mulder’s head and he stepped closer up behind her, until she could feel the warmth radiating off his body. The laughter caught in her throat.
Bryan glanced from the suddenly breathless Dana up to her partner, looming over her, watching her.
“Agent Mulder,” said Bryan brusquely, holding out his hand – a mere courtesy. “It was a pleasure meeting you.”
Mulder looked up and shook the proffered hand briefly, muttering something that may have passed as “Likewise”. Then, looking into the other man’s gaze, Bryan nearly took a step backward.
The look Mulder was giving him was intense and specifically designed to strike fear into Bryan’s heart. It all too clearly said: Back off. She’s mine. Bryan wondered on how many other men it had been executed successfully.
Hell, he told himself, All’s fair in love and war. Besides, a guy wearing a tie like that doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously.
He leant forward and in one fluid motion kissed Dana goodbye. A soft brush of lips that lingered just a modicum of time too long. “Be seeing you,” he said.
She nodded, smiled and shut the door on his face.
“I don’t like him,” announced Mulder.
Scully sighed and turned around, putting her back to the door. Mulder took another step forward and glared at her. She stepped neatly around him and headed for the kitchen.
“Mulder, what is there not to like? I mean he’s polite, educated, interesting to talk to-”
“Handsome, single, not to mention very well off if his shoes are anything to go by. Just the kind of man every father wants his daughter to marry,” Mulder supplied miserably, trailing after her into the kitchen.
Scully laughed. “Mulder, I stopped doing things expressly to please my parents quite a long time ago. That’s why I’m not living in suburbia, with two point three children and married to the boy next door.” She caught his eye. “Or the man two doors down.”
Mulder hiked himself up onto her bench and started playing with the toaster. “What did he want, anyhow?”
She paused in her activity of cleaning up and looked at him with raised eyebrows. “This morning? Coffee. Other times milk, sugar, a baby-sitter for his niece.” She tilted her head, a little baffled, “Once he wanted to borrow my bonsai.”
Mulder swung down from the bench and crossed the kitchen to her. “He doesn’t want your bonsai, Scully. Anyone could see that. He wants what every red-blooded, testosteronal man wants from a pretty woman-”
“Testosteronal,” observed Scully. “Good word, one of your own?”
“He wants your body, Scully.”
She wanted to laugh and found that she couldn’t. “You’re a red-blooded man, Mulder,” she said instead. “What do you want?” Damn, was that a tremor in her voice?
He stepped close to her, backing her up against the table. “I want you for your mind.”
“I don’t want you to get hurt.”
She sighed softly. “Mulder, Bryan is part of my personal life. You are part of my professional one. The two are separate and never the twain shall meet. Understand?”
He nodded reluctantly.
Personal feelings have no place in a professional relationship. It was a nice theory. Now if only she could convince her heart.
Christina Reeves stepped out of the school doors into the chilly autumn air. Swept along by the throng of school children she was nudged towards the car park where a crowd of anxious parents waited to whisk their sons and daughters to home and safety.
Christina looked for her father’s red mini with little hope. Chrissie, Daddy may be a little late home from work tonight, but I want you to head straight home, no dilly dallying in the woods, do you hear me? I’ll bring something special home for tea.
Daddy always seemed to be late home from work these days.
Christina felt a slim, ungloved hand fall on her shoulder and she looked up into the pale face of Rosemary Lomas. Since the death of her younger son Joshua, Mrs Lomas hadn’t let the elder out of her sight – Andrew Lomas stood behind his mother, his sad, pinched little face hidden in the folds of her woollen overcoat.
Rosemary Lomas looked down at Christina with eyes that always looked like they were on the verge of tears. “Sweetie, is Dad coming to pick you up?” she asked gently. “Do you need a ride home?”
Christina felt the warmth of Mrs Lomas’ hand as it lay against her blue blazer. It was white and long fingered, like that hand of a porcelain doll.
“No thankyou, Mrs Lomas,” she said politely, without offering an excuse.
Rosemary paused for a moment, wondering if she should press the child to let her drive her home. Then Andrew tugged on her coat.
“Mum, I want to go home.”
Rosemary nodded, squeezed Christina’s shoulder briefly and left, acutely aware of the pitying glances she received from the other parents as she moved past them. It was the same look she had given Margaret Quinlan when Janet turned up dead.
As Christina walked home she enjoyed the woods that skirted the edge of town. Before the tragedies that had racked the town, she had played in the dappled shadows with Hannah Winslow and Janet Quinlan. Janet was dead now, and Hannah’s father wouldn’t let her out of the house, even for school. But Christina sometimes saw Hannah’s mother, Kate wandering through the woods, seemingly apart from the rest of the world in that queer way of hers. She was nearly always barefoot, with he shoes swinging loosely from her fingertips.
Generally people steered away from Kate Winslow, but Christina thought that she was wonderful and mysterious. She rarely spoke, but when she did it was in a musical, breathy voice that Christina had once tried to emulate. When Kate Winslow spoke in her husky voice, people listened. When Christina tried it all she received was a visit to Doctor Edward and a serious talk about Hyper – Hyper… Hyper something. Pretending she was sick when she wasn’t.
As she picked her way carefully along the unpaved path that ran alongside the woods Christina thought that she saw a flash of blue between the trees. She stopped.
“Mrs Winslow?” she called hopefully. The only reply was the caw of a solitary bird, high in the boughs of a tree.
Then Christina stepped off the path and into the shadows of the trees.
The bird stopped singing and a heavy blanket of silence fell over the woods, stilling the wind in the trees and dimming the rustle of damp leaves under Christina’s feet.
“Mrs Winslow?” Even her voice seemed distant, like someone else was calling from further into the woods.
Christina took another step into the forest.
The brisk whirring sound that flashed past Christina’s right ear startled her and she spun around catching the flash of blue out of the corner of her eye.
Faerie, thought Christina and grinned. What would Bethany have said? Christina, don’t be such a baby – there’s no such thing as faeries.
I could catch one, thought Christina and pulled the lunch box out of her satchel.
When she straightened, her head spun and darkness clouded the edge of her vision. The whirring sound grew until it was deafening and Christina clapped her hands over her ears. When she opened her eyes the blue light hurt and she stepped back and tripped over a fallen log.
She fell, but didn’t hit the ground.
“I hate long flights,” sighed Scully. She turned in her seat and peered out of the window at the blanket of clouds beneath the plane.
Mulder touched her hand, “Three hours are up-” “There’s only eight to go,” continued Scully. “And I’m too wound up to nap yet.” She turned to face him, a shadow of a smile on her lips.
Mulder squeezed her fingers for a moment, then let go and leaning over his lumpy carry-on bag started rustling around in it.
“Mulder, we’ve already been through the file twice since we boarded. I doubt that we’ll be able to make head nor tail of it until we meet Inspector Stephens.” She dropped her head back against the headrest and sighed again. “When does our flight come in, anyway?”
“One o’clock, A.M. Their time,” replied Mulder absently into his bag.
“Oh, good,” murmured Scully. She paused and looked down at her partner. “Mulder, what are you looking for?”
He didn’t reply, but after a moment more of distracted cursing he let out a muffled cry of triumph and sat up, a paperback novel in his hand. He handed it to her, “I brought you this to read.”
She stared at him, “A book? One of yours?”
He shook his head. “No, for you. I saw some on your bookshelves.”
She held his gaze for a moment longer, before lowering it to the book in her hands. It was an Elizabeth George murder mystery. The newest one. She hadn’t even been aware it had been released yet. Her eyebrows shot up and she looked up into Mulder’s eyes.
“It’s the most recent one,” he said casually.
Scully smiled. “It’s very well thumbed through,” she said pointedly, fingering the crinkled spine.
He grinned lopsidedly. “I found it intriguing. Maybe you can fill me in on Lynley’s persona, later.”
“He’s very damaged, psychologically speaking,” said Scully.
“So are we all,” responded Mulder without a smile, “psychologically speaking.”
Scully patted his arm and opened the book, settling down to read.
Digging his hand through tousled blond curls, Alec Stephens glanced out the window of his car at the green countryside rolling past.
“Another one? Are you sure?” he directed his voice towards the car phone and heard the hollow emotionless tone to it.
“Yes, sir,” came the reply. “Christina Reeves. We dredged the lake this morning and her father identified her body. The town is up in arms about it.”
“Damn,” muttered Stephens.
“I beg your pardon, sir?”
“Nothing. Look, I’m heading off to London to meet an old friend, Fox Mulder from the FBI in America. I’ll bring him and his partner straight back here, if you can keep everyone calm until then…”
“I can try…” the reply was doubtful and Stephens cursed under his breath.
“Angus, look, it’s the best that I can do at this point. All right?” Stephens rang off without waiting for the response and glanced at his watch.
An eleven hour flight from Washington to Heathrow with the time differences and the Jet Lag to deal with was enough. Being forced to drive all the way back to Hayle in the same day without even a night to recuperate was not going to make Fox a happy man.
Stephens could only hope that his partner was more tolerant.
Waking from a monotony induced nap, Mulder found the comfortable weight of Scully’s head resting against his shoulder. At first he thought that she was leaning over, perhaps looking for something, but after a moment he realised that she was asleep, the book hanging loosely from limp fingers.
Gently working his arm around her shoulders he retrieved the book and marked her page before setting it aside. Then he wrapped his discarded jacket around her. Not because it was particularly cold, but because it was one of those inane, intimate gestures he wasn’t allowed to display when she was awake.
He surreptitiously glanced around to see if anyone was watching them and wondered what they would see if they were. FBI agents on assignment? Probably not. Friends? Maybe. Lovers? The thought caused a curious feeling in the pit of his stomach. Did they look like lovers? Her small form wrapped in his jacket, red head resting against him in total submission and total trust. Him watching her silently, with an expression that he realised was probably part protectiveness as he tightened his arm around her and brought her closer. He realised that they probably did look like lovers, but the thought didn’t amuse him nearly as much as it usually would.
The flight attendant who was approaching was at loath to disturb them, but she had a job to do. She plastered the customary smile on her face and touched the dark man’s shoulder.
Mulder jumped when she spoke and turned his face towards her.
“Would you like to wake your wife, sir? We’re about to serve dinner.”
“I’m awake,” came a muffled face from his shoulder.
The flight attendant leaned a little further over him. “Ma’am, we’re about to serve dinner.”
Scully lifted her head from Mulder’s shoulder. ‘Dinner?” She tilted her head towards him. “How long have I been asleep? What’s the time?” She tugged on her sleeve and glanced at her wristwatch. “It’s three P.M.”
“It’s eight o’clock P.M. in London,” the flight attendant briskly announced with a bright smile.
Scully groaned and struggled with her watch for a moment before leaning once more against Mulder and flinging out her arm. “Fix my clock,” she murmured past a yawn.
He caught her hand and brought it down from his face, randomly pressing buttons until the numbers on the display began to change.
“What’s for dinner?” he asked the flight attendant. “Sandwiches?” he suggested hopefully.
“Roast beef,” replied the flight attendant.
“Sandwiches?” he repeated, more clearly.
“Roast beef,” the flight attendant said adamantly.
“Roast beef sandwiches?”
“Roast beef.” She relented a little, “And three kinds of potatoes.” She gave him a bright smile and left.
Scully saw his deflated look and gave a little chuckle as she ran her fingers through her hair, trying to restore order to the coppery locks.
“I’m just going to freshen up,” she said.
Mulder watched her. Was she flustered?
“Sure,” he said carefully.
She started to move past him, brushing by his knees at a precarious angle, and his hands went automatically to her hips to steady her.
She froze at the contact and risked a glance down at him. He met her gaze with eyes deep enough to drown in and for a moment his fingers tightened around her waist.
Scully found her breath. “Move,” she said briskly. “I can’t get out without falling into your lap.”
He grinned and stepped into the narrow aisle, but his way was blocked by the meals trolley so instead of stepping away he had to press himself awkwardly against the opposite row of chairs and hope that she wouldn’t brush too close to him.
Scully glared half-heartedly at him as he stood there. Then, with a resigned sigh she stepped into the aisle and debated on the best exit route. She sucked in a breath and lifted her arms a little in an unconscious, unsuccessful attempt to make herself flatter.
Muttering impolite and no doubt anatomically unsound suggestions concerning aircraft designers and jumbo jets she favoured Mulder with another black look before decorously dropping her eyes to the floor.
Mulder caught the comment about aisles matching IQ’s and began to laugh. A few startled passengers glanced up at him, but he didn’t notice.
Scully began to squeeze past him in the narrow space and his breath caught in his throat. Standing that close, he couldn’t help but notice the light fragrance of her hair, the softness of her body pressed against his. His hand moved to her waist, halting her progress and she looked up, her arms falling to her sides, trapping his hand.
He saw the slight shadows marring the creamy skin under her endless blue eyes, felt the rise and fall of her breaths against his chest, heard her breath catch as he tightened his grasp on her waist and pulled her impossibly closer. Or did he just imagine that? Her lips parted slightly around a silent question and she lifted an eyebrow quizzically.
“Don’t be long.” He felt like a fool as he released her.
She stared at him for a moment, then gathered her wits and moved away.
“Oh God,” muttered Mulder, he fell back into this seat and closed his eyes. When he opened them again he realised that several pairs of eyes were fastened on him. Curious, amused and knowledgeable eyes.
“Oh God,” he muttered again.
It was going to be a long five hours.
The Heathrow Airport was practically deserted when the flight from Washington came in.
Mulder sat in one of the multitude of vinyl chairs with his head in his hands and his suitcase on the floor under his feet.
He looked up to see Scully approaching and he gave her a tired grin.
“Any sign of Inspector Stephens?” she asked him doubtfully.
He shook his head. “He’ll be here, Scully. He’s probably just stuck in traffic.”
“At one-thirty in the morning,” said Scully with a raised eyebrow..
He sighed. “Did you bring sustenance?” She produced two muesli bars and he stared at them incredulously. “What the hell are those?”
“Where’s the chocolate?”
She smiled. “Sold out. I bought you a carob bar instead – Healthy alternative.” She tossed it into his lap and fell into the seat beside him.
He groaned, “Healthy alternative to chocolate? You trying to kill me?”
“You trying to thank me?” she shot back.
He smiled crookedly at her. “Thankyou.”
She nodded and flopped over, propping her head wearily on her hands and closing her eyes. She felt the touch of his fingers on the back of her neck and barely supressed a shiver.
The warm skin under Mulder’s fingertips was smooth and he let his caress trail gently across her hairline. Tracing his intials lazily on the nape of her neck.
Looking up he saw Alec approaching with a wide, lascivious grin on his face. When he saw them he gave Mulder a pointed look and raised his eyebrows suggestively at Scully’s limp figure.
Mulder let his hand linger on Scully’s neck as Alec came up to them.
“Since when did the FBI subsidise trips for significant others, Fox?” asked Stephens by way of greeting.
Mulder winced, feeling Scully stiffen and straighten. But Stephens continued.
“So, where’s your partner. You ditch him?” He stopped suddenly when he met Scully’s icy blue gaze, momentarily taken aback by the intensity. “Wow.”
Scully stood up abruptly. “Excuse me.” As she left Mulder observed the tautness in her small frame. He grimaced.
“Pretty,” said Alec. “Where’s your partner?”
“That was my partner,” said Mulder, rising. “Agent Dana Scully.”
Alec’s eyes widened. “You never told me she was a woman!” he protested.
“It never occured to me you’d think otherwise,” responded Mulder.
“God, I’m sorry. Will she be alright?” Stephens looked honestly contrite, his pale blue eyes more than a little concerned.
“Yeah, she just needs some time to cool off.”
Stephens looked to the door through which Scully had exited. “What a stunning little red-head though, however did you land her?”
Mulder groaned, “Alec…”
“Are you sleeping with her yet?”
“Jesus, Alec!” Mulder bent down and thrust his suitcase at his friend, grabbing Scully’s himself. “Why are you so late, anyway?”
“Roadworks” he replied disdainfully.
Mulder nodded in understanding and they began to walk to the foyer.
Scully was sitting in one of the chairs and she stood when they went up to her, taking her suitcase from Mulder when he reluctantly relenquished it.
“Agent Scully,” Stephens was all business now.
Scully raised an eyebrow, but was too tired to be properly disdainful.
“I’d like to apologise for my earlier behaviour,” he said. ‘I made a monumental error in judgement, I was presumptous, unproffessional-”
“Chauvanistic,” supplied Scully.
Stephens extended his hand with a charming smile. “How do you do? I’m Detective Inspector Alec Stephens and I’m very pleased to meet you, Agent Scully.”
Scully managed to hide her smile.
“Well, that wasn’t too difficult,” murmured Stephens to Mulder as they made their way to the car.
Mulder looked at him with mild disgust, “Another assumption, Taffy. She hasn’t forgiven you yet. She has you on probabtion.”
“You seem familiar with her routine, Fox. ‘Fess up, Old Chum, are you two hot and heavy?”
Mulder watched Scully walking some distance before them. “Is this in any way relevant to the case, Alec?”
Scully turned to them, immediately alert to her partner’s tone of voice. “Mulder?”
“This is it,” said Alec abruptly as they reached a dark blue car. He took his keys from his pocket and unlocked the boot, swinging Mulder’s suitcase inside.
Mulder looked down at his partner. She looked pale and washed out, she swaying slightly on her feet. He bent down a little. “Are you okay?” he asked her gently.
She looked up at him. “I’m fine, Mulder,” she replied quietly and tried to take a small step away from him. “Oh!”
He reached for her quickly, but she grasped the car door and waved him off.
“I’m fine. Just a little wobbly.”
Mulder opened the car door for her and helped her in. “Do you want me to sit with you?” he asked her, already sliding in next to her.
She shook her head carefully, “I’m just going to lie down.”
He removed his coat and wrapped ti around her.
Alec gave him a questioning look when he fastened his seatbelt.
Mulder glanced back on her, “She’s okay, she just needs to get over Jet Lag.”
“How are you doing?”
“I’m too tired to think,” replied Mulder with a slight smile.
“You should probably sleep in the car, we’ll be in Hayle by half-past seven and I suppose you’ll want to get straight to work.”
“We’ll want to speak to Christina Reeves’ father.”
“He works in London, so you won’t be able to reach him until evening,” said Alec. “I’ve set up an interview with Leslie Mackensie. She’s the school teacher.”
“The teacher, Alec?” asked Mulder.
“No one knows all of the children better,” Stephens defended himself.
“Not exactly proper procedure though, is it, Alec?”
Stephens flashed Mulder a brief grin. “I don’t seem to recall that you were ever conventional, Fox. Don’t start now.”
When they reached Andover Alec stopped at a Little Chef where warm light was spilling through the windows into the practically deserted carpark.
Mulder looked at his wristwatch, 5:05 am. “Just in time for fresh pastries,” he said. “Scully’s gonna love this.”
“Go ahead and wake her up,” said Alec, hopping out of the car. “I’ll go in and order us some breakfast.”
She was curled up in the spacious backseat, snuggled warmly with his jacket pulled up under her chin. Mulder thought that she looked like a child when he leant over her. All flushed cheeks and tousled curls.
He touched her shoulder and then her face. “Scully?”
She shifted. A slight frown passing over her forehead.
He let his hand linger on her cheek as he leant closer, “Dana?”
“Possibly,” came the murmured reply. She didn’t open her eyes, but she did turn her face towards his voice.
Mulder found himself inches from her lips and a wave of pure desire washed over him, almost drowning him, pulling him inexorably closer until he could feel her warm breath on his cheek.
Her eyes suddenly opened, startling him, he jumped back, only just managing not to catch his head on the car roof.
Still lying down, Scully looked at him. “Where are we?”
Mulder looked momentarily confused, prompting her to say, “You do know where we are?”
“Andover,” he said.
“Not quite. Kent.”
She sat up, slowly, holding her head carefully. “Why are we in Kent?”
Mulder grinned at her, and held out a hand to help her out of the car. “Kent has pastries. We’re stopping for breakfast.”
She looked warily at the Little Chef. “Does it have coffee?” she asked him. “I’m not getting out unless it has coffee.”
“I’m sure it has coffee,” he said smiling, I’ll bring you out some.”
“No. No,” she shook her head and immediately regretted it. “I’m coming in.” She stood up carefully, her eyes fastened on the ground with a sort of glazed fascination as she attempted to get her balance.
He reached for her hesitantly, still reeling from his desire a moment ago. “Are you okay?”
She grasped his arm as she left the stability of the car. “I will be.”
She said it so fiercly that Mulder grinned, murmuring. “Or suffer the consequences,” momentarily amused out of his discomfiture.
She smiled sarcastically at him and let go, taking one shaky step. He reached for her again and she waved him away with a “Back off”. Another few steps and her legs began to fold.
Mulder lunged for her and caught her about the waist as she went down. Her eyes closed and she sagged against his chest, her face blanched white. He started to slide his arm under her knees, but she opened her eyes and focused them on his face. “I can walk, Mulder.”
Reluctantly he let go. “Can’t blame a guy for trying,” he said with a soft laugh.
She returned the smile and he felt his breath catch again. Lifting a hand he tugged on one titian curl, “This is very cute,” he said.
She smoothed her hands hastily over her hair, “Quiet, and help me inside.”
Alec was waiting for them indoors, sitting at a chequered table by the wall. Mulder hot Scully seated and went to order for the both of them.
“So,” said Alec, breaking the silence.
Scully looked at him, “So.”
“Are you feeling alright?” his voice was hesitant.
“I’m feling better.”
“Look, Agent Scully. I’m really terribly sorry-”
She dismissed the apology with a smile. “It’s either Scully, or Dana,” she said.
“Dana.” His grinned disarmingly, running a hand through his pale blond hair, “God, I felt like such a fool when Fox told me that you, well-”
She shrugged, her gaze moving back to Mulder.
“So how long have you been working with him??” Alec said, following her line of sight.
“Several years, now,” said Scully.
“That long?” said Alec. “My God, how do you put up with him? He had a nickname at the University. Foxy Loxy.”
Scully choked back a laugh, “Because?”
“‘The sky is falling, the sky is falling!’” grinned Alec. “That, and his prowess with ‘chicks’.” he chicked then stopped abruptly. “Jesus, I’m sorry. I just get less and less tactful, don’t I?”
Scully shook her head. “That’s okay. I’ve seen his attraction in full-force.”
Alec raised his eyebrows, “Really?” maybe he hadn’t been mistaken when he had first seen them. Fox’s caresses hadn’t looked like the touches of a friend and partner.
“Early into a our partnership Phoebe Green paid us a visit,” she said, quickly changing the subject to safer ground. “Do you know her?”
“Oh, yes,” said Alec with a knowing smile. “Phenomenal Phoebe. He fell for her in a big way, poor man. We did warn him – Phoebe was notorious – Anyway, you know what Mulder’s like, once her sets his eye on something, nothing will stop in the way of him getting what he wants. Well, he got Phoebe, for a while. And then he got burnt.”
“What got burnt?” Aked Mulder, coming up to the table, two mugs in hand. He sat down beside Scully and pushed a mug into her hands. “Coffee.”
She sniffed his mug and wrinkled her nose. “What on earth have you got?”
He grinned. “Lapsang Souchong.”
Scully rolled her eyes, “Did you decide that you liked Lapsang before or after you read my book?”
He gave her an enigmatic look and instead of replying, took a sip. With a grimace and a splutter, he set the mug aside. “Helen was right,” he told Scully, “It does taste like dirty socks.”
“Speaking from experience, of course,” said Scully, pushing her mug towards him.
He took a sip and thanked her with his eyes over the rim of the cup. “Of course.”
“You’d be suprised what initiation rituals bored English Schoolboys can come up with,” supplied Alec. “Did Fox tell you how I got my nickname?”
Mulder blanched, “Not over breakfast, Taffy.”
Scully laughed, “Can’t stomache it Foxy Loxy?”
Mulder glared at his friend. “Thankyou, Alec.”
Scully yawned, then reached into her pockets and pulled out a clip, twisting her thick hair into a french roll she pinned it in place and sighed. “I’m never going to get my body clock back to normal.”
Mulder’s eyes fastened on the pale length of her neck, his fingers and lips tingling to – with a frown he forced the thought back into the depths of his subconcious and turned his gaze on Alec. Alec’s eyes were on Scully.
“Are you feeling better?” Mulder’s question was directed to his partner and she turned to him.
“I’m feeling considerably better, but you don’t look so well,” she said. She reached her hand out and touched his brow. “You need some sleep.” She took her mug back from him. “No more coffee, I need you to be able to function later today.”
“How long will you be in England?” queried Alec.
Mulder gave him a warning look. “No sight-seeing, Alec.”
“Not even Gretna Green? Dana shouldn’t miss that.”
As uncharacteristic as it was, Mulder coloured, the blood rushing to his face as Scully stared, astonished, at him.
Alec burst out laughing at Mulder’s expression and annoyed, Scully turned on him.
“What’s in Gretna Green?”
“Shut up, Alec,” Mulder managed to growl.
Alec was still chuckling when they returned to the car.
Scully pushed Mulder into the back and ordered him to lie down, which he did.
He realised that he must have been more tired than he had thought when his eyes closed the moment his head hit his makeshift pillow. He heard Scully say something to Alec, but was too tired to concentrate on what it was. It didn’t take long for him to fall asleep, lulled by the quiet conversation and the movement of the car.
Scully turned in her sea6t and sighed with relief, “He’s asleep.”
Alec looked suprised. “He is?” He glanced in the rear-view mirror. “So he is. You must be a good influence on him, Dana. He never used to sleep at school.”
“He doesn’t sleep at home. Much.”
The look on her face interested Alec. “Nevertheless, you’re good for him. He’s healing.” He waited a tactful moment before continuing. “What exactly is the status of your relationship with him? Obviously you’re close. But how close?”
She closed her eyes and rested her head against the seat. “I trust him with my life. He’s my closest friend.”
“Tell me about the two of you.”
Scully narrowed her eyes and ganced back at Mulder. “I have a better idea. Tell me about this case.”
“What do you want to know?”
“Are there any links between the victims?”
“No. All but Henry Baxter went to the local school, that’s the only link that we have, aside from the manner of death and where they were found.”
“The lake,” said Scully. “Is there any significane in the lake? Local folklore?”
“Local folklore?” repeated Stephens. “Oh yes, I can tell that you’ve been working with Mulder.”
“Mulder has nothing to do with it,” said Scully a little annoyed. “People in small towns are often superstitious, a local legend would be a perfect set up for-”
“All right,” Alec cut in with a smile. “You win. I’ll look into the Local Folklore when we get get in. If Mulder doesn’t beat me to it.”
“What about cause of death?” asked Scully.
“Drowning. No doubt about it,” Alec said. “No drugs or anything. In fact, if I didn’t know better, I’d say they left their houses, walked barefoot through the woods to the lake and kept going until they drowned.”
Scully frowned. “What makes you say that?”
“Even if you could get a boat through the woods, it would have left a trace. We found none. Peter Briggs was found in the middle of the lake.”
“Peter Briggs was seven years old,” Scully reminded him. “He could’ve swam out that far, and was too tired to make the return journey.”
Stephens shook his head. “Not Peter Briggs. He wouldn’t go near water,” seeing her frustrated look he relented. “You’ll understand when you meet his parents.”
Mulder woke up with a start when Alec shook his shoulder, he rubbed his eyes and sat up, looking to Scully who was sitting on a stone step nearby. “Are we here yet?” he asked stupidly, getting out of the car.
Moving forward, Scully took his arm. “Alec and I have already checked in and picked up the keys. Now there’s a warm room and a soft bed for you upstairs.” She began to coax him towards the large wooden double doors. “Your bags are upstairs too. We have a double suite.”
Mulder’s head snapped towards her. “A double suite?” he repeated incredulously.
“Sure,” she said. “Two bedrooms, a main room and a bathroom. I figured it would be more convenient than two singles.” She paused. “Is that a problem?”
“No!” he was quick to say. “I just thought: ‘double suite’…” He left the rest up to her imagination and she laughed as they started up the stairs.
“You should be so lucky.”
He turned around groggily. “Where’s Alec.”
“No,” he shook his head. “His room.”
She pointed to a door across the landing. “There. We’re over here.” She tugged him towards another door and produced two keys. “Here.” She handed him one and opened the door into a room decorated in comfortable warm tones. Scully pointed to the four doors. “Cupboard, your room, bathroom, my room.”
He nodded without taking it in and started to fall into a seat.
Scully pulled him up and nudged him towards the bedrooms. He swerved to the right hand door and she said: “My room.”
He nodded and stumbled through the other door.
He didn’t feel particularly revived when she woke him, three hours later, but at least the ground was behaving itself again and the light outside wasn’t unbearable once he got his sunglasses on.
Scully looked up at him fondly. “You look like you have a hangover,” she told him, outside the doors of the school. “Lose the glasses. You’ll scare the kids.”
“Me?” he grinned, but she was already opening the door into the classroom.
About thirty-five children waiting for them inside, sitting around the feet of pale waif-like woman in a grey skirt and blouse.
She looked up when they entered and and smiled, exposing small white teeth. Standing up she extended a thin, transparent hand. “Children, we have some visitors. Agents Mulder and Scully.”
Thirty-five curious pairs of eyes swiveled and fastened on them.
Mulder shifted uncomfortably. “Hi.”
Thirty-five mouths dropped open.
“You talk strange,” said one boy, clambering up and standing next to Mulder.
It was apparently an unspoken cue of some kind, because once the first child rose the others converged on them as well, touching and prodding. Looking up at him with wide eyes and asking questions with chirpy voices.
“Mister, are you a policeman?” asked one.
“Kind of,” said Mulder.
“Where are you from?”
“Washington,” said Mulder.
“D’you have a gun?”
“Can I see it.”
Scully smiled at him and patted his arm. “I’ll talk to the teacher, if you want to keep them occupied,” she murmured.
He stared at her, appalled. “Don’t leave me alone with them,” he pleaded.
She nodded encouragingly and went to greet the school teacher.
“Do you think you should leave your partner alone with them?” Asked Leslie Mackensie a little worriedly.
“He’ll be fine,” said Scully. “He has a way with kids. A certain charm.”
Mulder managed to make it to one of the miniscule chairs, and there he commited the first cardinal mistake in the book of entertaining young children. He folded his lanky body into it. Immediately there were five and an optomistic half children in his lap and sitting on his feet. They were suddenly silent and Mulder heard Leslie lead Scully to the other side of the room. A quiet conversation began.
“America’s a long, long way away, isn’t it?” a small boy asked Mulder.
“Yes, it is,” replied Mulder.
“Why’re you here?”
Mulder swallowed. “Well, a lot of people in your class have been going missing, and we’re here to stop whoever it is from taking any of you.”
“What’s your name?” This from a curly haired girl squatting by his left knee.
“Agent Mulder,” said Mulder.
The girl laughed. “That’s funny. What’s your real name?”
“That is my real name.”
“No. What’s your real name? Mine’s Lucy.”
“My first name is Fox,” said Mulder a little stiffly.
“Foxy Loxy!” The delighted cries reached Scully and she looked up from her notepad and smiled at him, before turning her attention back to Leslie Mackensie.
“Four of my students,” Leslie was murmuring bewilderedly. “Janet, Joshua, Peter and now Christina. Agent Scully, can you even imagine what I’m going through?”
Scully shook her head mutely.
“I keep thinking was there something I could have done to prevent this? Driven them home? Urged them to be more careful? Who will be next? I’m scared for my pupils, Agent Scully.”
“I’m sorry,” said Scully. Somehow it didn’t feel enough.
“So am I. So is everyone, but it’s not stopping whatever sick person is doing this.”
“Have you seen anyone hanging around the school?”
“Is there any link you can think of between these children?”
“I’m sorry. No.”
“Is that your girlfriend?” Mulder turned to see where the stubby finger was pointing.
“No. That’s my partner.”
A girl with pigtails wrinkled her nose. “My mum says that’s the same thing.”
“She’s pretty. What’s her name?”
“Agent Scully,” said Mulder promptly.
There was a world weary sigh, “No. What’s her real name?”
Of course “Dana.”
Across the room Scully looked up and gave him a questioning look.
I’m fine he mouthed.
“I have parents who have asked to stay with their children during classes, they drive them here, pick them up in the afternoons from my doors. These people only live five minutes walk away. The parents… My God, Agent Scully. You look into their eyes… there’s this emptiness…” Her voice choked as her face crumpled with grief.
Scully reached into her handbag a produced a tissue.
“I’m sorry,” said Leslie.
Scully touched her arm, concern clouding her eyes. “Don’t be, it’s all right. Take as much time as you need.”
Mulder wanted to go to Scully, but the kids were pulling him towards what appeared to be a wet area on the other side of the room. His shoes squeaked on the linoneum as they pulled him to a display wall of juvenile artwork. The usual stuff. Blue skies, yellow sun, disproportionate stick characters in bright crayon colours.
“That’s Mine.” “Mine!” “I did that one!” A forest of excited fingers, round faces turned upwards, half moon smiles. Mulder felt suddenly woozy and turned for Scully, but she wasn’t watching him.
He turned back to the wall and stopped as a picture caught his eye.
Painted in dark hues of purple, green, blue and black, the picture was difficult to distinguish, the colours shifting in the harsh fluroescent light.
Was that a half face hidden in the depths of the picture? wondered Mulder. Wide, luminescent eyes, half parted lips, face framed by masses of inky hair. Or was it a forest scene? A shadowy, veiled figure flitting between the trees.
“Did your teacher do this one?”
“No. Hannah did,” came the reply.
Mulder looked down at them all. “Who’s Hannah?”
They looked at each other. “She’s not allowed to come to school any more.”
“Says who?” asked Mulder.
“Says her mum,” said Lucy. “She’s weird.”
“Mulder?” He heard Scully come up beside him and stand by his elbow.
Across the room Leslie clapped her hands, attracting the children’s attention.
“All right. Break time.”
He watched them leave, excitedly tumbling towards the door and there was a tug on his suit jacket. He looked down at the small pinched face of a boy about five years old.
“Excuse me sir. Are you going to stay here a while?”
Mulder’s brow furrowed. The boy looked familiar. “Sure, Agent Scully and I will be in Hayle for a little while.”
“Good.” The boy’s tone of voice was fierce.
“What is your name?” Scully asked him as he began to leave.
The boy looked back over his shoulder. “Andrew Lomas,” and he was gone.
“Joshua Lomas’ brother,” said Mulder tiredly. He looked down at his feet and founght back the depression that threatened to engulf him.
“You’re very good with kids,” said Scully. “You’re going to make a great dad.”
He looked up at her with a faint smile. “You offering, Scully?”
She almost laughed, but something in his eyes stopped her. Instead she shrugged, feigning mild amusement. “You asking?”
He did laugh for a moment before putting a hand on her back, steering her towards the door. “Feed me and I might.”
“There’s an Italian Resturauant in the Town,” said Leslie, meeting them at the door.
Scully looked interested. “Good Italian?”
Mulder groaned. “For lunch Scully?”
Leslie smiled. “Good enough – maybe I can treat you to dinner tonight, Agent Mulder.”
Scully narrowed her eyes at the woman and waited for his reply.
“Uh,” he glanced towards Scully as if for support. She just looked at him, eyebrows slightly raised. “I’ll probably just be falling into bed tonight,” he said ruefully.
“Oh,” Leslie glanced at Scully ans stepped back, opening the door for them. “Well, maybe some other time.”
Scully’s lips formed what Mulder had learnt to recognise as her dangerous smile. “We won’t be in Hayle for long. But I’m sure we can make the time.” She took his arm and steered him towards the car.
Mulder gave a little chuckle as he belted himself in.
Scully cocked her head and looked at him.“What?”
“You treated Leslie Mackensie the way I treated Bryan. Look how well I’m taking it.”
She narrowed her eyes and glowered at him, disliking the comparison. “Shut up and drive,” she told him.
“You want to risk the Italian Resturaunt?”
She raised her eyebrows, mocking him. “For lunch, Mulder?”
“There’s a cafe on the main street,” he smiled. “You ever had cornish pasties in Corwall, Scully?”
End of part 8.
With Mulder browsing through the newsagent next door, Scully took a moment to relax in a charming second-hand bookshop. Everything was so…*quaint*. She felt like she had been thrust back in time. The little place in which they had had lunch had sparkling windows, gingham curtains and table-cloths, the hotel was old and delightfully traditional and the bookshop was everything a bookshop should be. Dark, silent, private, smelling the special smell of old books. Scully felt completely at home.
She was tucked into one of the corners of the bookshop, reading a book entitled “Myths and Legends of Cornwall,” when Mulder entered. He greeted the boisterous woman at the counter, and she immediately struck up a conversation.
Scully grinned and stayed where she was, hidden by the tall shelves, enjoying the sound of his voice next the broad Cornish accent.
‘Are you looking for anything in particular?’, the woman asked after a moment of conversation.
Scully heard him laugh.
‘Do you have anything small, pale and redheaded?’, he asked her, humour evident in his voice. Scully could imagine his grin. ‘I’m looking for my partner.’
‘Dana Scully,’ said the woman,‘from Washington D.C. You’re Fox Mulder, her partner…’
‘I see you’ve already debriefed her,’ said Mulder.
‘Excuse me?’ asked the woman.
‘Nothing,’ he hastily said. ‘Umm…’
‘She’s down one of the aisles,’ the woman pointed him towards the back of the shop and Scully heard him approach. She slipped the book she had been reading back into the shelf and picked another at random.
She felt him touch her shoulder and then he leant around her and pulled the book from her fingers.
‘Hmmm,’ he said, reading the cover, ‘“Medieval Husbandry”. Stimulating reading?’
She yanked it from his hand and shoved it back into the shelf, unfortunately directing his attention the where ‘Myths and Legends of Cornwall’ was still half sticking out.
‘Ah ha.’ He plucked it off the shelf. ‘Is that what had you so engrossed that you wouldn’t respond when I came in?’
She flashed him a smile. ‘Deny everything,’ she quipped.
He laughed and handed the book back to her, then began fishing around in his trenchcoat pockets for something.
Scully paged through the book until she found the chapter she had been reading when when he came in. ‘Hey Mulder, listen to this-‘
‘A legend or a myth, Scully?’ he asked distractedly, turning his trouser pockets inside out.
‘A myth,’ she answered stiffly. ‘“There was once a man-”’
‘Oh good, a man,’ Mulder cut in dryly.
‘The man’s name was Willem, and he fell in love with one of the Daina Sidhe. Her name was Felouen and she was a princess in the high court of Elfenhame. Her father forbade her to meet with Willem because he was human-‘
‘Racial injustice and thwarted love,’ cut in Mulder. ‘This story just keeps getting better and better.’
She shot him a look, but continued. ‘They would meet by “the lake of children” at night under the lady moon and her children, the stars shone on the still water-”’
‘Eureka!’ muttered Mulder, pulling a small leather pouch from from his jacket pocket.
Scully looked up from the pages of the book. ‘Mulder, you’re not paying attention,’ she said resentfully.
‘Yeah I am,’ he said, his fingers struggling with the stiff leather thong. ‘Keep going.’
‘One of the stars, having grown jealous of Willem’s love for Felouen, fell to the ground at Elfenhame and told her father of the secret rendezvous.’
‘Victory.’ Mulder finally opened the bag.
‘I’m listening,’ he insisted. ‘Hold still.’
She sighed and turned to the story again. ‘Felouen’s father went to the Lake of the children and burst in on the lovers,’ She felt Mulder take another step closer and reach around her neck. Something silver flashed before her eyes. ‘In a rage he flung Felouen into the lake, sending the stars spinning out of control. When Willem went to save her, Felouen’s father cast a spell on him and changed him into a fox, meaning to kill him. But the fox was fast and sly, and hid in the bushes until Felouen’s father grew tired and left. The Willem haunted the lake of children, evermore waiting for Felouen to rise from the depths and rejoin him.’
‘Which she never did,’ said Mulder softly.
‘Which she never did,’ echoed Scully with a sigh. She put the book down and looked up at Mulder. He was looking down at her chest, fascinated by her breathing. She felt a slight weight around her neck and looking down she saw a small pewter talisman on a dark blue ribbon. She looked sharply up at him, and saw that he watching her hopefully.
‘I like it,’ he said.
‘So do I,’ she said, fingering the metallic charm. ‘What is it?’
‘Protection,’ he grinned.
She chuckled. ‘I’m Catholic, I don’t believe in protection.’
He met her gaze and managed to move closer. ‘Just because you don’t acknowledge it’s existence, doesn’t mean it’s non-existent.’
She felt his lapels brush her. The only thing separating their bodies was her fist, clutching the necklace. She tried to take a step away and backed into the shelves. ‘Protection from what?,’ she challenged breathlessly.
‘From Piskies,’ he said in an intense stage whisper.
‘Pixies,’ she corrected absently, concentrating on his dark eyes.
‘Piskies,’ he said again.
She watched his lips form the word and frowned a little. ‘This is some sort of cute childhood name, right?’
He suddenly stepped away and his voice was harsh when he answered her. ‘What do you think?’ He walked off.
‘Apparently not,’ murmured Scully.
The woman at the counter told Scully he’d left the shop as she counted out the change for the book. Scully nodded and thanked her, taking her brown-papered parcel and stepping back into the street. The late afternoon sun struggled through a heavy cover of cloud. A cold breeze was beginning to pick up and it ruffled Scully’s hair as she looked around for Mulder.
She found him sitting in the car, his head resting in his hands, his shoulders slumped.
‘Hey.’ She slid into the seat beside him and touched his shoulder. ‘You want to go back to the hotel for a while?,’ she asked him, concerned.
He nodded, his eyes thankful, and put the car into gear.
‘I can’t believe she’s gone,’ mumbled John Reeves into his hands. ‘I keep expecting her to open the door and come running in. I see all these children in the streets or on their way home and I’m still looking for her. Waiting for her.’ His voice broke into a stifled sob. Scully shifted awkwardly beside her partner and glanced quickly at him as if for support.
Mulder was watching Reeves with a look wavering between pity and horror. ‘It always takes a while for the shock to pass,’ he said quietly.
Reeves’ head snapped up and he glared at the younger man. ‘What the hell do you know? You come here with your pretty little partner and it’s a company paid honeymoon to England. For you there is no real case.’
Mulder knew he shouldn’t respond. That the man was hurting and didn’t realize what he was saying. But his cutting remark had stung. ‘I don’t know,’ he said, ‘six kids dead. Sounds like a case to me. Scully?’
She was giving him a look that eloquently said, What the hell do you think you’re doing, Mulder?
‘I’ve heard about you two,’ Reeves snarled. ‘Everyone knows about you. Inspector Stephens called you “paranormal investigators” and you expect me to believe you’re in England to find the monster that butchered my child-‘
‘Sir,’ Scully cut in, desperate to calm the man, ‘I understand that-‘
‘Agent Scully, are you a mother?’
She stopped, the question catching her off guard. ‘I beg your pardon?,’ she asked politely.
‘Are you a parent? No? Then how could you possibly understand? How could either of you understand?’
His words stabbed at Mulder’s heart, and he responded quietly. ‘I understand the hopelessness…the guilt…’
‘Mulder-‘ Scully protested, her voice just above a whisper.
‘The only difference was that I was there when my sister was stolen from me.’ He spoke more to Scully than to Reeves.
‘Don’t,’ she pleaded with him. ‘You weren’t responsible.’
‘I am.’ The words were spoken in tandem by the two men. Mulder shot John Reeves a startled look and stood up. ‘Excuse me,’ he said to Scully, and then left.
Once outside he took deep gasping breaths of air, feeling the claustrophobic atmosphere fall from him, leaving him open. Vunerable.
“It’s my fault,” John Reeves had said. “I wasn’t there for her. I can’t believe she’s gone.”
How many times had those words echoed painfully through his head? How many times had he felt the same paralysing hopelessness? Even as he stood silently there, he felt the emotions and memories shift within his mind.
He’d seen something in John Reeves that was familiar, something he’d seen in the mirror a hundred thousand times before. A haunted, pained look. But the guilt that had driven him had been fading of late. Seeping through his pores, as the memory of Sammantha grew dim. He hated himself for it. Hated the way he could laugh, could feel, could go for hours, even days without thinking of her.
The child’s guilt had faded to a dim half-memory. But now, with the recognition of John Reeves, it was replaced by the far stronger guilt of a man. It sank down on Mulder, stifling him, a heavy brick wall of oppressive pain, guilt and grief.
He wanted to cry.
He heard the door behind him swing open and Scully join him on the verandah. Even without looking around he knew it was her. He felt the pull of her gaze as she watched his back. Finally she cleared her throat.
‘Come on. It’s time to go.’
She didn’t ask him if he was alright, but as she came up she linked her arm through his and hugged it briefly. That moment of tight pressure was more comforting than words could ever be. He wanted to savour it, but a bitter part of him made him slip his arm from her grasp and move away.
At the edge of the woods a blue-green light throbbed, throwing a very faint shine on the walls of a nearby house. Out of the group came a group of children. Lithe, long limbed children with translucent skin that glowed an unearthly hue with the reflection of the inconstant.
Their eyes were set wide apart and colored an intense green, slanted like cats eyes, with the same oval pupil. They had prominent cheekbones and pointed noses set above wide, unsmiling mouths. If they had pointed ears, you couldn’t tell. Their heads were covered with masses of burnished copper hair, threaded through with leaves, small twigs and scraps of the same cobwebby material as their tunics. As they left the glow of the womb of the light they moved like insects. Uncommonly fast, in a succession of exaggerated jerky movements, like they were unaccustomed to being on the ground.
They crept up to the window of the house and peered in. Three figures were in the dimly lit room. A woman, dark haired and green-eyed moved gracefully through the room humming to herself. The children ignored her; she was of no consequence, as was the man who sat, slumped over in a seat beside the bed, apparently asleep. They were more interested in the in the bed. Her head on the pillow was turned towards the window and she had the same sharply defined features as they, her hair the same shade of red, but carefully combed and shining in a curtain on the pillow. Around her neck on a ribbon was a string of small bells. They jingled faintly as she breathed.
The children frowned. The bells would be a problem.
‘Kate…,’ one of the children crooned. The woman looked up sharply and glanced to the window, but the children did not worry. She couldn’t see them, nor could she hear them.
‘Kate…come play with us…’
The woman left the room. The children didn’t notice her abscence. Their attention was riveted on the young girl on the bed. They couldn’t fail this time, the queen got angrier every time they brought a wrong child back.
‘Kate, me miss you…your mother misses you, come play with us.”
The girl began to twist restlessly in her bed, causing the bells to sound. The shimmering non-melody disturbed the man, and he shifted in his chair, heavy head rising from its resting place. The children knew they would have to be quick, and they put their little heads up against the glass. ‘Kate,’ they said, their voices more insistent.
And she woke.
Sitting up on her bed the girl looked at the window curiously. ‘Da?’ She turned to shake the man awake, the bells jangling. But before she could touch him the door swung open and a white figure catapulted in.
The children shrank back from the window. The old woman! The one who knew! They slinked back into the shadows. They wouldn’t fetch their bounty tonight.
Eilian darted across the room, her white flannel nightgown flapping around her skinny, bony ankles. Sinking down on to the bed she caught the girl in her arms and held her tightly. ‘Hannah,’ she said into the cascade of red curls.
‘Grandma,’ said the girl, ‘they were here again.’
It took three hours of Mulder’s evasive, non-committal comments and replies before Scully finally snapped.
She did so over dinner, abruptly putting down her knife and fork and moving the plate to the side so that she could lean across the table. ‘Mulder.’ She waited until he looked up, then caught and held his gaze. ‘Talk to me.’
‘John Reeves, Peter Briggs, Bethany Ashcroft, Christina,’ she said. ‘How this case is affecting you. How you are feeling.’ There she thought, I can’t get more blatant than that.
He merely looked at her. ‘I’m fine.’
‘I’m not falling for it.’
He gave her a crooked smile and tried to look away, but she wouldn’t let him.
‘Mulder,’ she said insistently, ‘what happened this afternoon?’
He dropped the act. ‘Nothing. I don’t want to talk about it.’
‘What’s happening to you?’
He shook his head and stood up. ‘Scully, it’s been a long day. Can we discuss this later?’
‘NO!’ She stood up and pursued him out of the dining room. ‘Mulder, talk to me.”
He didn’t stop or turn around, but continued through the bar area to the dim foyer. ‘I know you told me to remain impartial, Scully. But, Jesus, these are kids! You can’t expect me not to feel anything.’
‘I’m not telling you not to feel anything,’ she protested after him as he ascended the stairs. ‘I’m telling you not to associate yourself with it!’
He rounded on her, glaring down on her from the stairs. ‘How could I not associate myself with it, Scully? I can’t just shut myself off-‘
‘Learn!,’ she cried. ‘For God’s sake, Mulder!’
He snarled something unintelligible and spun away on his heel, across the landing and into the suite. When she had caught up with him, he was sitting on his bed with his head in his hands.
‘I’ve lost so much,’ he said quietly.
She stood hesitantly in the doorway, teetering between anger and pity. ‘We both have,’ she reminded him. ‘You seem to forget that.’
He looked up. ‘I haven’t forgotten.’
She sighed shakily, trying to control the treacherous emotions within her. ‘I’m coping with this case.’
His eyes grew hard. “I guess you just don’t feel, then.’
Biting her lip to keep back the retort, Scully turned away from him.
She shook her head mutely, feeling her throat clench. Fighting to keep the tears back she walked to her room and closed the door.
Dana woke with a start at the sound of someone entering her room.
The single window in her room was small and heavily curtained so no light penetrated, the result being that she couldn’t see a thing. She blinked once, twice to ensure her eyes were open, then sat up in bed.
The person hesitated in the doorway when they heard her shift beneath the bedclothes. Dana heard the tremulous, unsteady breaths and knew instantly who it was.
The quiet footsteps resumed as he approached her, moving past furniture with some kind of unerring night vision. Dana said his name again as he sat down on the edge of the bed by her side, the mattress dipping slightly under his weight. He didn’t respond.
She frowned, concerned and began to reach for the bedside light, needing to see his face, his eyes, to read his so frequently hidden emotions. The soft, muffled sob stopped her and she stayed her hand, her eyes widening in the darkness, a shock of pain, more mental than physical, coursing through her.
‘What is it?,’ she asked quietly.
‘Talk to me,’ she pleaded.
Another quickly drawn breath and he began to stand. She reached out for him and encountered the warm skin of his upper arm. He stopped. Still silent, he sat back down again.
‘Talk to me,’ she repeated. ‘What can I do?’ She slid her hand over his bare shoulder to his face, unwilling to let him lose the contact of her touch. Her fingers found the rough texture of his unshaven chin, his full mouth. He began to turn his face away, but she had already touched his cheek, damp with tears.
‘I’m here,’ she whispered, turning him towards her again. ‘I’m here for you.’
She slid her hand around the back of neck and leant closer, until she could feel his warm breath on her mouth.
‘I’m here,’ she murmured, and kissed him.
His lips were tantalizingly soft beneath her own, the intimate contact incredibly comforting. She felt him relax and she drew back a little, her hand holding the gentle pressure at the nape of his neck.
‘Talk to me.’
He didn’t move or speak, and for a moment she wondered if she had gone too far. Then his hands came up and gently cupped her face, and he brought her mouth back to his own. What the hell am I doing? a voice screamed inside her head. What happened to professionalism? To “he’s my partner”? To “I’m not attracted to him anyway”? Dana silenced the voice and swayed into him as he deepened the kiss, her hands tangling in his thick dark hair. He ran one hand down the smooth length of her neck and grasped her shoulder, the other arm curling strongly about her waist, pulling her body closer to his own. She felt the heat of his skin, burning through the cotton night shirt she wore. He wasn’t wearing a shirt, she realised as her hands feathered down the fine muscles of his back. He caught her lower lip gently between his teeth when he felt her fingers run lightly down his spine and released her with a butterfly kiss, before trailing his lips across the delicate structure of her cheekbone to her temple.
Mouth freed, she murmured his name to his hair. ‘Mulder, talk to me’. Her voice sounded light and breathy even to her own ears, so she tried again. ‘Mulder, please.’
He stopped her mouth with a kiss that left her breathless, his hands trailing under her shirt. She gasped at the heat of his palms against the smooth skin of her sides, the rational part of her brain reasserting itself as she began to draw away. He froze the moment he sensed her withdrawal. She felt him stiffen as his hands fell away from her and he began to pull away.
Withdrawal. Even now.
‘No,’ she said out loud.
He hesitated again.
‘Don’t go.’ She reached blindly for his face, traced the full contours of his lips with trembling fingers.
Without a word he came to her again, catching her in a fierce embrace, one hand rising up between her shoulderblades, keeping her tight against his chest as he lowered them down onto the pillows. She shifted beneath his weight, luxuriating in the feel of his body moving above her own. She heard his breathing, rapid and uneven as his mouth made its leisurely way down her throat, her own breath echoing it and she pressed her head back into the pillows, overcome with emotion and sensation. She let her hands roam at will over his body, through the warm silk that was his hair, across the muscled shoulders and down his taut arms until her hands met his. Long, graceful fingers entwined with hers and she felt the touch of his lips on the inside of her wrist briefly.
She wound her arms about his waist as his mouth moved across her collarbone and lower, forging a path that left her gasping in it’s wake. When he reached the cotton barrier of her nightshirt he moved against it in frustration, his puffs of breath warm against her skin as he lifted his head. It took Dana a moment to summon the strength to move and when she did, it was with the heavy, slow motion of one drugged. Her hand bumped his face as she reached for her buttons and she let her caress linger a moment on his cheek before releasing the first button. He stilled her hand and undid the rest himself, his fingers grazing the sensitive skin between her breasts. She kissed his face as the last button
popped free and his hands slipped it off her shoulders and down her slender arms.
Her skin puckered in reaction to the cold air before he settled his body over her. Dimly she wondered how, dressed as he was in only his customary boxers, he could be burning in the frigid room. His body was a dream beneath her roving hands, warm and welcome, the feel of his skin against her own prompting shivers within her that had nothing to do with the temperature. His lips traced the curve of her shoulder, then moved to the slope of one breast. She heard nothing but the sound of their own breaths in the silent room and her own strangled gasp as he took the tarnished pink peak between his lips. She curled her fingers in his hair, biting her bottom lip to keep back her cry.
He shifted between her legs, his body flush against hers. She could feel him pressing against her, the only barrier preventing their final joining the thin layer of presumably black silk.
How far are you willing to go, Dana?asked an unwelcome voice. As far needs be, she replied.
‘Wait.’ She stayed him with a touch, then paused, expecting a verbal response of some kind. When none was forthcoming she went on. ‘Let me get my…purse.’
He touched her cheek, she thought that she detected a tremor in his fingers, but her sat up without speaking and let her lean over the edge of the bed and retrieve her small black handbag. She heard him shift, heard the unmistakable slither of silk, and a soft “whump” when his boxers hit the ground. Her grasping fingers found the small foil package she was fumbling for and she handed it to them, unwilling to trust her own hands to that point. She waited for the inevitable quip about being Catholic and her views, but he said nothing. His complete silence disturbed her and she said his name again, letting her lips graze his cheek. He shivered, spoke not a word and came to her again, sealing their mouths with a fervour that was almost desperation. His hands traced the curve of her waist and settled on her hips, pulling her closer.
Dana let her head fall back against the pillows. ‘Please,’ she said. her voice remarkably steady if barely audible. ‘Say my name.’ She needed to hear the dark tones of his voice, the sound of her name on his lips, husky works obscured by passion. Anything. ‘God. Please, Fox.’ His kiss was gentle, the pressure barely discernible on her swollen mouth and she brought her hands up to cup his face. ‘Mulder.’ She felt him against her, then in one fluid move he was within her, his hands tightening on her hips, urging her closer as he began to move with a smooth, languid motion. With a gasp she arched into him, her arms curving around his neck and her eyes flickering shut with the intensity of the sensation.
His lips traced her features as he rocked her body with his gentle swaying rhythm.
At last, at last, at last! repeated itself within her head, but she only held him tighter, the only steady thing in this world of unsure emotion and spinning sensations. His tempo picked up, his breath at her ear lost all semblance of steadiness, and even as she kissed his shoulder, murmuring his name again, he reached his orgasm, stiffening and gasping with the force of it. He fell against her, his face buried in the crook of her neck while she stroked his hair gently.
‘I love you,’ the words barely a breath against her throat.
Suddenly he rose off her. ‘My God,’ he said, his voice hollow. ‘My God. I’m sorry.’ She heard him stand up, walk to the door, open it. The light in the main room was slightly brighter than the pitch black of Dana’s bedroom and for a moment she saw him hesitate in the doorway, a dark shadow framed by darker walls.
Then he was gone.
She dug herself under the covers and shivered, the fevered heat of passion fading from her limbs, leaving her cold, tired and sore. She wept herself to sleep.
Dana woke a little after eleven, with the weak sunlight piercing the cracks in the drapes and falling across her face and the rumpled covers of the bed in blades of light. She opened heavy eyelids and looked, uncomprehending, at the clock for a moment before the time sank past the thick curtains of sleep that muffled her brain into her consciousness.
‘Damnit,’ she murmured, and slipped out from under the covers, carefully avoiding the fallen clothes strewn by the bed. She wrapped herself in a bathrobe and stumbled into the bathroom, setting the shower to hot so the steam rose from the steady stream of water, obscuring her reflection with the mussed copper hair, half-lidded eyes and the slight pink bruises on her throat and breasts.
She averted her eyes from the mirror, shed the robe and stepped into the shower.
The hot water stung her skin and she concentrated on the mild physical discomfort, rather than the more harrowing mental pain her memory offered her. After showering she dressed, carefully buttoning the high-necked blouse and straightening the navy suit coat. As she fixed her collar something cold bumped between her breasts and she pulled it out. Mulder’s amulet rested on her palm, glinting a little in the light.
She made a move to remove it, her fingers fumbling with the damp satin knot at the nape of her neck before she stopped and let it go. It rested against the silk of her blouse and there she let it stay.
The door to his room was ajar as she went to leave and against her will she looked in. His suitcase was as of yet unpacked, standing open at the base of his bed, one of his shirts half falling out of it. The picture of Sammantha sat on a side table.
His bed was unslept in.
She shut the door gently and left the room.
‘Maggie, I missed my wake-up call this morning, for seven a.m. Could you-‘
At Scully’s voice the portly woman at the reception loked up and smiled. ‘No, I’m sorry dear, your partner came down earlier and said not to wake you.’
Scully stopped short, her eyes first widening then narrowing. ‘Oh?’
‘Didn’t you sleep much last night?,’ Maggie asked kindly.
She felt a flush begin to rise in her cheeks and she quickly looked away. ‘Is he here? Mulder?’
‘Your partner?,’ Maggie asked. ‘No. He left very early dear. He must have had something important to tend to. Inspector Stephens is having breakfast in the dining room, though.’
Scully thanked her and went to meet Alec.
‘Dana! My God, you look entirely done in.’ He rose and seated her, an unconscious gesture that reminded her painfully of Mulder.
‘Have some coffee,’ he raised his hand to beckon over a girl with a pencil and notepad. ‘They brew it so thick here that your spoon can stand in it. Before it disintegrates.’
She smiled weakly. ‘It sounds just like what I need.’
He ordered for her, freshly brewed coffee and a hearty bowl of porridge.To her wrinkled nose he insisted, ‘Go on! It’ll put some hair on your chest,’ with such an affable grin that she relented.
‘Where’s Fox?,’ he asked her when the steaming breakfast had been laid down before her.
She swallowed a mouthful of eye-wateringly bitter coffee and replied as nonchalantly as she could. ‘Maggie said he’d left earlier. I’d hoped you would know where he was.’
Alec watched her closely, then shook his head. ‘No. He said nothing to me.’ A pause. ‘Dana, did something happen to you last night?’
She averted her gaze from his thoughtful blue eyes, fastened it instead on the bowl of lumpy oatmeal. Sprinkling it liberally with raw sugar. Biding her time as she carefully constructed a reply. ‘No, nothing happened. We went to bed. He left before I woke.’ She cringed inwardly, hearing her own words.
‘You seem rather distressed,’ said Alec. ‘I hope-‘
She cut in. ‘I don’t want to appear rude, Alec, but it really is none of your business.’ Her voice was firm, but she knew he was watching her hands twisting the spoon back and forth between them.
‘It is my business if it begins to affect the case,’ he said, just as firmly. ‘If Mulder is going to make leaving early in the morning a habit-‘
‘He won’t,’ Scully reassured him. ‘I’ll see that he won’t.’
He lowered his eyes from hers. ‘All right, Dana,’ and left it at that. A few minutes later he started as if he had just remembered something. ‘Oh, Christina Reeves’ body is at Penzance Hospital for you.’
She looked up, spoon half-poised. ‘Did you get permission to perform an autopsy from her father?’
‘Last night,’ Alec said. ‘After you and Mulder left. He said to apologise to you two about his behaviour.’ His stare was frankly curious. ‘I told him I’d pass it along.’
Scully refused to reply to the unspoken question, asking instead ‘When shall I go to Penzance?’
‘Any time today,’ Alec replied. ‘They don’t get much call for autopsies down there, so they’ve set up a makeshift bay for you. Not too glamorous, I’m afraid.’
‘I’ve performed in worse conditions, I’m sure,‘she reassured him.
‘Being familiar with Mulder myself, I believe you,’ chuckled Alec.
The smile she wore faltered a little and Alec sobered.
‘I do wish you’d tell me, Dana.’
Mutely she shook her head. ‘It’s between Mulder and myself, Alec.’
‘Very well.’ He took her hand gently, though, ‘I’m here to listen if you want to talk.’
She smiled lightly. ‘And I appreciate that, Alec. Really.’ Looking over his shoulder she suddenly saw Mulder appear and while she pulled her hand hastily from Alec’s grasp she kept her face carefully emotionless. She held his gaze for what seemed like an eternity. Cold blue eyes locked with furious hazel ones. Alec saw the expression and quickly turned.
Mulder transferred his gaze to his schoolfriend. His lip curled, then he spun on his heel and disappeared.
Alec stood up. ‘Excuse me a moment?’
He caught up with Mulder in the hallway, grabbed the other man’s arm to halt his progress and turned him around roughly. The shadows hid Mulder’s face, shrouding his expression in relative darkness, but Alec could still see his eyes burning with anger in the pale set of his face as he wrenched his arm from his friend’s grip.
‘You stay the hell away from my partner, Alec,’ Mulder growled.
‘Excuse me?,’ Alec asked, letting surprise leak into his voice.
‘I know your reputation with women-‘
‘MY reputation?,’ spluttered Alec. ‘May I suggest you look into your own chequered past-‘
‘Just keep your damn hands off her.’ The low warning was spoken just barely above a whisper.
‘What did you see in there?,’ Alec gestured through to the dining room.
‘I saw what I’ve seen you do a hundred thousand times before and I know what the result of your seduction will be.’
‘I will not let you hurt her.’
‘No,’ said Alec coldly, ‘that seems to be your job.’
‘What?’ If anything, Mulder’s voice became more dangerous.
Alec drew away a little. ‘Look, Fox, I don’t know what happened last night-though I do have my own idea-but Dana is hurting, and if you had stuck around long enough-‘
‘What the hell do you know?,’ snarled Mulder. ‘two days ago you thought she was some high-class hooker. She’s my partner. My* friend-‘
‘She’s her own woman Fox. She does not belong exclusively to you.’
‘So she’s fair game to you?’
Alec wet his lips nervously. ‘Of course not.’
‘So back away.’
‘I’m just trying-‘
‘This discussion is over.’ Mulder pushed past him and strode to the dining room.
Where he stopped. Paused.
‘Where is she?’ He rounded on Alec. ‘Damnit Alec, I have to talk to her.’
‘She needs some time, Mulder.’
‘Where the hell is she?’
Alec shook his head. ‘Leave her be. Just for today.’
Penzance Hospital Penzance, Cornwall 12:04 pm
Scully pulled on a pair of rubber gloves, hearing the satisfying snap of the plastic slapping against her wrists. She switched on the voice activated recorder and began by stating the time and place. Then she allowed herself a moment to look at the body.
Christina Reeves had not been a large child, and the pale limbs lying motionless on the metallic surface were frail and almost transparent. Her chest was sunken, skin tight around the rib cage. Her eyes were open, staring unseeing at the roof, their dark depths clouded by death. The faded lips were parted around the crooked teeth of a young child. Scully swallowed. Bit back the emotion that swelled, threatening to engulf her. And began.
‘Subject is female, caucasian, age five. Preliminary investigation suggests drowning. Fluid found in her lungs matches the lake water in which she was found. Upon cursory examination I agree with the hypothesis that the child drowned accidentally, as no bruises or superficial surface wounds can be seen.’ She paged through the police report. ‘Toxicology brought up nothing out of the ordinary, besides the possibility that the child had ingested some form of…herbal potion before her death. Nothing that could possibly be damaging or might induce a state in which she would not be…aware of her surroundings.’ She took a deep breath, plowed on. ‘Underneath fingernails and toenails is no sign of dirt or grit, which is unusual in the event that subject walked to her own drowning. The ground around the lake was extremely marshy and as she was found naked and shoeless, one would expect samples of silt to be turned up in an autopsy. Yet, nothing. Otherwise, all symptoms point to an accidental drowning.’ Scully stopped as she turned the body over, exposing two open wounds. ‘My God.’ The words slipped from her mouth as she saw her gloved fingers probe the gashes. ‘On her shoulderblades, tilted towards the spine, are two…wounds. Identical in shape and size, the slits are about five inches in length, depth of nearly an inch and a half, but nearly entirely healed.’ She turned to the police report again, flicked through the pages until she reached “identifying marks”. ‘These wounds, they must be months, years in age, are not mentioned in the police report, or the missing child form her father filled out.’ She made a note on her report to remind herself to look deeper into the neat slits on Christina Reeves’ back. Curious.
Alec said nothing in the car between the hotel and the Waterhouse residence. Mulder appreciated the silence and sat in the passenger seat staring out of the window at the passing countryside. Finally the house came into sight, a huge sprawling stone monstrosity seated on the rise of a slight hill.
It looked cold and empty.
‘My God,’ Mulder murmured to himself. ‘What an eyesore.’
Alec laughed. ‘It’s Cornwall, Fox. Most of the houses are this pretentious.’
A butler let them in when they rang the echoing bell and showed them into the parlour where a tall red-headed woman sat on a sofa before an electric fire. Mulder’s breath caught when they first came in seeing the woman wrapped in a plaid blanket. The combination of pale skin and coppery hair stabbed and at his quickly drawn breath Alec looked at him.
‘Mrs. Baxter?,’ Mulder asked.
‘Waterhouse,’ the woman replied hollowly.
Mulder looked at Alec, eyebrows raised. ‘I’m sorry?’
‘Mrs. Waterhouse,’ she repeated, turning around slowly. She looked at them both from head to foot, her enigmatic dark eyes meeting Mulder’s before flitting to Alec’s face. ‘Inspector Stephens,’ she said, ‘Who’s your friend?’
Mulder approached her, outstretched hand before him. ‘I’m Agent Mulder, from the F.B.I.’
Peta Waterhouse’s eyebrows shot up. ‘From America?’ She gestured to the sofa. ‘Won’t you sit down?’
Mulder and Alec took a seat on the couch and the woman sat opposite them on a cushy footstool. For a moment there was silence, during which Mulder glanced around the room, feeling uncomfortable. He wished Scully was there.
The heater began to hum, then buzz, the sound raucous in the silence. Mrs. Waterhouse stretched out a slippered foot, kicked it and the cacophony subsided.
‘Tell me about Henry,’ said Mulder suddenly. She looked up, glanced at Alec. ‘I’ve already told Inspector Stephens everything.’ Alec moved forward in his seat. ‘Tell us again, Peta.’
She sighed, clenched the blanket in a fist then relaxed it. ‘Henry left with his cubs troupe on Friday evening. Carol, she’s our maid, saw him off. Andrew and I were at dinner. His troupe leader called off the camp and came to our house on Saturday after he had gone. He said,’ her voice broke and she stopped a moment. ‘I’m sorry.’
‘That’s okay,’ replied Mulder, ‘take your time.’
‘Henry disappeared Friday night, very, very late. The two boys he was sharing with said he left a little before dawn broke. No explanation. He didn’t come back.’
‘What time did they begin a search party?,’ Mulder asked Alec.
‘As soon as it was reported we swept the forest,’ replied Alec. ‘Of course, we didn’t find anything.’
‘Of course not,’ said Peta. ‘Whoever took him-‘
‘Are you sure someone took him?,’ asked Mulder. ‘Totally absolutely sure that he didn’t get lost and-‘
‘No,’ said Peta firmly. Someone took him. Someone drowned him.’
‘There’s no chance that-‘
‘No!,’ snapped Peta.
‘Mulder,’ said Alec in a quiet voice. ‘Henry didn’t swim.’
‘He was found in the middle of the lake. Maybe he was teaching himself.’ Even as he spoke he heard Scully in his voice, his questions.
‘You don’t understand,’ cried Peta furiously. ‘He has a fear of water. It terrifies him, large bodies of water, showers, heavy rain. We have to wash him down with a damp cloth-he has a fit if he is brought anywhere near a bath.
Mulder’s brow furrowed. He looked from Mrs. Waterhouse to Alec and back again. ‘Something must have brought this on.’
Peta nodded. ‘He was christened with a full immersion. The preacher held him under for a little too long, he took in a lungfull of water…’ She began to shake. ‘I think of him, forced to the side of the lake. I think of how afraid he must have been. I lie awake in bed at night and I wonder if he was crying.’ She looked up at Mulder. ‘Was he calling for me? Did he need me and I wasn’t there? Agent Mulder I’m not strong enough to bear this.’ She began to cry, her shoulders shaking violently. ‘I was so afraid for him.’
‘We’ll find him, Mrs. Waterhouse,’ Mulder assured her.
‘I know who it was,’ she spat.
‘Peta,’ said Alec in a warning voice.
‘I know who drowned him.’
‘Peta, leave the investigating to us,’ said Alec.
‘No.’ Mulder held up a hand. ‘I want to hear this.’
‘Eilian George. The old witch,’ snarled Peta. ‘She’d been trying to break Henry’s phobia for years. She considered it “unhealthy”. It stands to reason that-‘
‘What about the other murders?,’ Mulder asked her.
She shrugged. ‘Every theory has it’s flaws, Agent Mulder.’
‘Come on Fox, let’s go,’ said Alec.
‘Who’s Eilian George?,’ Mulder asked.
‘Kate Winslow’s mother.’
‘Who’s Kate Winslow?’
‘The local freak,’ said Mrs. Waterhouse. ‘You ask Eilian about the murders. Better yet, ask Hannah – she was friends with them all.’
‘Hannah?’ A memory stirred in Mulder’s mind. ‘Hannah is Eilian George’s granddaughter? Hannah from the Hayle school?’
‘None other,’ said Peta.
‘Thankyou,’ said Mulder, ‘you’ve been most helpful.’
Penzance Hospital Penzance 2:34 pm
It wasn’t difficult to find Dr. Aaron Carter. Three young, giggling nurses pointed Scully to the “Green Room” and there she found him, sprawled out over a plastic couch with one foot on the coffee table and the other on the arm rest.
When she saw him she looked hopefully around the sparse room again, expecting to see a balding, pot-bellied doctor by the sputtering kettle, or better still a professional, white- coated surgeon seated primly at the wonky table reviewing charts.
But no. There was only this one man, slouched across a sofa with a packet of crisps in his hand, laughing at some trashy soapie on the television.
She sighed. ‘Excuse me?’
He turned at her voice, looked her over thoroughly and grinned. ”Allo.’ Otherwise he made no move.
‘Doctor Carter?,’ she asked him.
‘Aaron.’ He rose now and crossed the room to her. ‘And you would be…?’
She resisted the urge to step away. ‘I’m Agent Dana Scully. >From the F.B.I.’
He nodded. ‘Right, you’re working on the case in Hayle, right? You requested the autopsy bay.’
‘That’s right. I-‘
‘Need me to perform the autopsy,’ he finished. ‘Anything for a pretty lady.’
With an effort she tamped down on her temper. ‘No-I’ve just completed the autopsy.’
His eyes widened. ‘You’re a doctor?’
She hid her smile at his amazement. ‘I’m a federal agent with a medical degree in forensic pathology.’
‘So why do you need me?’
He didn’t move away so she pushed past him and pulled up a chair by the table. ‘You did the cursory examination on the body of Christina Reeves?’
‘Yes?,’ he leant against the door jamb. ‘Complimenting me on my work?’
‘No,’ she said. ‘Will you sit down, please.’
‘O…kay,’ he said and sat down opposite her, pulling his chair close. ‘You know, you have the most lovely blue eyes.’
She gritted he teeth. ‘Dr. Carter-‘
‘Aaron. They’re most astonishingly blue.’
‘I’m known for being perceptive.’ He leant closer. Scully felt his foot brush her ankle and barely restrained herself from kicking him.
‘Under the circumstances I find that very difficult to believe. Unless of course you’re blind as well as being unprofessional.’ She bit her lip, forced herself to remain calm. ‘Dr. Carter. whilst doing the autopsy this afternoon I found something that you failed to report. I was wondering why.’
He sat up in the chair. ‘What something?’
She passed the folder to him wordlessly, sliding it across the formica table top.
He opened it. ‘My God.’
‘Exactly,’ she said, just a hint of triumph in her voice. ‘Now you understand my astonishment that you somehow managed to miss them.’
He ran a hand through his sandy blond hair. ‘I can explain.’
She raised her eyebrows as if to say, “Really? How?” ‘Oh?’
‘I had a group of students sit in on the examination. We run a training program at the hospital. It’s quite distracting, so it’s quite possible I wasn’t as thorough as I might have been.’ He shrugged.
Her expression was disbelieving. ‘They’re very large gashes, Dr. Carter.’
He shrugged again. ‘I was attempting to conduct a class at the time, Dr. Scully. You couldn’t possibly know how-‘
‘I know perfectly well how distracting, or not, a class is. I taught at the F.B.I. acadamey, and if anything, an audience makes you more thorough, not less.’ She waited for his reply.
‘I’m guessing your audience weren’t all in dresses two sizes too small with straining bodices and legs right up to their armpits.’
She forced herself not to react, he was pushing her now. ‘No,’ she readily admitted. ‘Most of my students were men. Anyone following that description would have stuck out.’
‘There you go, then.’
She drew herself up to her full height. ‘Are you suggesting that your libido stood in the way of your completing a relatively easy examination successfully?’ Her voice was cold now, scornful.
He rose also, responding defensively, ‘I’m a good doctor.’
‘Then should I approach your administrator about renovating the nurse’s uniform?’ From all of her five-foot-two-and-a-bit she stared him down and he sat, resigned.
She took one of her cards from her purse, wrote the name and address of the hotel on the back of it. ‘Find me the autopsy reports for all the other children. Go over them with a fine comb and contact me with the results.’ She handed the card to him. ‘Tomorrow.’
As she walked out the door she heard him call after her. ‘So, can I take you out some time?’
Hayle. Cornwall. 6:15 pm.
‘So, Fox. What are you thinking?’
Mulder stirred from his reverie and realized that they were once again outside the grey stone walls of the Hotel. Wearily he unbuckled his seatbelt and opened the car door, letting the brisk evening air wash over him. ‘Huh?’
‘Do we have a lead?’
He looked at Alec, considering his question. ‘I’d like to check out Eilian George.’
Alec sighed as they mounted the stairs. ‘Mulder, you of all people should consider that an entirely unhelpful lead.’
‘Have you looked into the granddaughter?’ Mulder asked him.
Alec looked puzzled. ‘Should I have?’
‘She’s been extracted from school, she was friends with most of the kids killed.’
‘Paranoia, my friend. I’d take my daughter out of the school, too. Hell, I’d take her out of the damn country.’
‘Maybe,’ Mulder acceded. ‘But I’d like you to look into it anyway. It’s the closest thing to a link that we have.’
‘Okay.’ Alec checked his wristwatch. ‘It’s early, do you want to drop in on them now?’
Mulder shook his head. ‘No, I want Scully there.’
At her name Alec stopped, watched him, carefully gauging his reaction. During the course of the day, between Peta Waterhouse’s home, David Lomas’ home and Caroline Walker’s run-down cottage, Mulder had insisted that they intersperse their visits with trips to the hotel. Is she here? Did she come home? Has she rung? To which Maggie’s tired response was always, ‘No, I’m sorry Agent Mulder, she’s not here. She’s not come back yet. No, she hasn’t rung. Yes, I’ll call you when she gets back.’
‘Tomorrow then,’ said Alec.
As they passed the reception Maggie bounded up from behind the counter, pencil in her mouth and papers in her hand. She put down the sheaf of forms, removed the pencil and said, ‘Agent Mulder, she’s in your room.’
Mulder didn’t even wait for Alec’s reaction. He reached the stairs and mounted them two at a time, leaving Alec to thank the flustered manageress.
Scully, sitting at her laptop with her back to the door, heard his key in the lock and steeled herself. The door swung open and he charged in, slamming it behind him. ‘Where the hell have you been?’
She answered him calmly, turning only her face toward him. ‘Penzance Hospital.’ She began to pack up her notes and computer. ‘I performed the autopsy on Christina Reeves.’
He couldn’t read anything from her tone of voice and she was deliberately keeping her expressive blue eyes averted from him, packing up and leaving the room. He followed her as far as the bedroom door, unwilling to intrude on her personal sanctuary again.
She heard him pause in her doorway and was glad for it.
‘Can I come in?’
His voice, so quiet, wrenched at something within her, brought back banished memories of other times he’d used that tone. Do you think I’m spooky? Can he come in? He didn’t need an invitation last night. ‘Uh huh.’
She heard him take slow steps into the room, heard him stop and she looked around at him. He was looking at the bed, the rumpled covers, the clothes on the floor. His expression was unreadable as he transferred his gaze to her.
‘Have you eaten?’ He knew she hadn’t.
She felt the hollowness gnaw at her stomach. ‘No.’ Of course not. ‘I’m not hungry.’ Liar.
He looked at her standing by the bed, barefoot, decked out in pilly tracksuit pants and her old, soft, grey flannel shirt with the buttons coming loose. Her perfectly sculpted face framed by the masses of copper hair pinned away from her eyes with tortoiseshell clips. He wanted to run his fingers through it again, feel the warmth of the silky strands catch on his fingers, the fragrance that stayed on his skin until morning.
She moved slightly, pulling her gaze from his, the movement exposing her neck for the first time. He saw the faint pink marks marring the pale cream of her throat. Remembered his mouth there. Remembered the taste and texture of her skin. She saw him watching her. Saw him take in the obvious marks of last night’s transgression. Passion. And ultimately, betrayal. She looked at him.
‘We have to…,’ he hesitated. ‘Eat.’
Coward. ‘All right.’
He wasn’t going to talk to her. He wasn’t going to discuss…*it* with her. The knowledge pained her more than anything else that had happened. She picked miserably at the salad on her plate, watching her fork mangling a cherry tomato.
He took a deep breath, seemingly to speak, but when she looked up hopefully he subsided into silence again.
Mentally she cursed him, then she made up her mind. ‘When we get back to D.C., I’m requesting a transfer.’ The words were spoken quietly, carefully, without emotion, but the reaction was instant.
He dropped his fork, his eyes widening, his face drained of color. ‘You what?,’ he asked.
She strengthened her resolve. ‘I don’t feel that I can work with…,’ you, ‘the X-files any longer.’
He felt her words hit him with the force of a brick, the air sucked out of his lungs. He could only stare in horror at her bowed head. ‘You…can’t go.’ Damnit! Look at me!
Because it would deal me a death-blow, he thought. Because if you leave there’ll be nothing to stop me from going insane. Because I don’t want you to. ‘Because they won’t let you.’
She didn’t raise her head, but he saw her shoulders trembling.
‘They’d like nothing better than to have us separated, Mulder. That won’t be a problem.’
Her head snapped up and her luminous eyes met his. ‘You never call me that Mulder. Don’t start now.’
‘I’m not going to let you go,’ he said fiercely.
Her chin rose a little, defiantly. ‘You can’t stop me. I’m already gone.’
‘Just like that?,’ he asked her bitterly.
She pulled her eyes from his, from the eyes that were tearing a hole in her soul. ‘Just like that.’
He watched her with a growing feeling of helplessness. She was leaving him. And unlike last time he had no-one to strike out against but himself. His own greed, his own selfishness had driven her away. ‘I need you.’
Her breath caught at the whispered words. She felt her eyes fill with tears, and she fought to stop them spilling onto her cheeks where they would be seen and understood. ‘No, you don’t,’ she said, her voice harsh, forced from unwilling lips. He could only shake his head, the power to speak, to protest stolen from him by her words. You’re wrong, he tried to say. You’re so wrong. I need you more than I’ve ever needed anyone or anything.
For the first time he saw the amulet, the complex twists in the metal strangely simple to the eye. He reached across the table to touch it and she flinched, pulling away from his hand, her face paled slightly.
He drew away quickly, his lips tightening. ‘I’d never hurt you. You know that.’
She ducked her head, twisting the serviette in her hands.
He felt his heart sink low and heavy in his chest. ‘You’ve forgotten what I said to you last night.’
Her reply was quiet but intense, she didn’t look up. ‘You didn’t say much at all, last night.’
‘I said I loved you.’
‘Oh God.’ She pushed her chair away from the table abruptly and dropped her napkin beside her plate. He caught her hand before she managed to walk away.
‘I want you to stay,’ he said, pulling her back to her chair.
‘So you’ve said,’ she replied angrily, wrenching her hand from his, standing again.
‘Stay.’ He blocked her way by standing as well, trying to ignore the physical proximity, the way her eyes shone with pain and rent his heart.
‘It isn’t enough!,’ she exclaimed, falling into her chair.
‘What isn’t?,’ he asked gently.
‘This,’ she said with a gesture. ‘You. Me. Us. This isn’t enough.’
He fought to understand her, sitting down slowly, computing her words in his head.
With his onset of silence she sighed, tears rising to choke her. ‘I just don’t feel that I can continue working with you.’
He was silent, sitting opposite her, watching her, feeling all energy seep from him. He felt the words come to his mouth and tried to hold them back, as if denying their presence would make them go away. Then, quietly, ‘I love you.’
She closed her eyes, lashes dark against her skin.
‘Nothing terrifies me more,’ he finished.
‘Why?,’ she asked him. Her eyes opened, met his. ‘Are you afraid I’ll hurt you?’
He shook his head. ‘No. I’m afraid I’ll hurt you. Again.’
She didn’t respond, so after a moment he went on. ‘You’ve already left me so many times. Nearly been taken away from me. Sometimes it seems the harder I try to hold on to you the more easily you slip away. I don’t know how to deal with it. Every day I have this fear…’ He stopped. ‘It’s not something I have defences against. When…*they*. Whoever. When they took Sam I had someone to rail against. Someone to fight. With you…I don’t know. With you I don’t have anyone to blame. I don’t have the support of hatred I rely on.’ He bit his lip, tried to read her expression. ‘I have so many needs when it comes to you, and that scares me. While I know you can’t possibly satisfy all my needs I still see myself trying to push-‘
‘Stop it!,’ she finally exclaimed. ‘Stop it! My God! Listen to yourself-“I, me, mine”. This isn’t just about you. I’m here! I’m right here!’
Despite himself her heard her words echo themselves on an entirely different context. I’m here. I’m here for you. Speak to me.
‘This is why I have to go,’ she continued. ‘I’m finding it too draining.’
‘It’s me,’ he said miserably.
‘See! There you go again,’ she said, frustrated. ‘I’m a grown woman, Mulder. I’m old enough to make my decisions by myself. The decision to leave has nothing to do with you.’
‘Liar,’ he challenged.
‘Maybe,’ she conceded. ‘The point is I’m giving so much and I’m not receiving anything from you in return. You’ve asked for friendship and I gave you friendship. You asked for trust and I gave you trust. You asked for…comfort and I gave you comfort-‘
‘Now I’m asking for love,’ he said.
She jerked back, almost recoiling from the word. ‘No.’ Her reaction was adamant. ‘Now you’re asking for forgiveness.’
‘Are you capable of giving it?,’ he had to ask.
She shook her head, a warning. ‘Love isn’t the issue here, Mulder.’
‘I think it is, Dana. Answer the question.’
She paused when she heard her name. Then carefully, biding her time, she replied. ‘I’m capable of giving it, yes,’ she said cautiously. ‘Whether I’m willing to or not is another matter.’
He sat back in his chair, satisfied. ‘Now the issue is forgiveness.’
She looked down the table, tried to force the emotion out of her voice, tried to make it clinical and detached. ‘Why did you leave?’
Finally, he thought, finally we’ve reached the crux of the matter. He opened his mouth to make a flippant reply but she stopped him with a slightly raised hand.
‘The truth, please.’
‘The truth.’ He paused, then began.
‘“The night was a failure But why not-? On the darkness with the pale dawn seething at the window through the black frame I could not be free, Not free myself from the past- and our love was a confusion, there was a horror, you recoiled away from me.”’
She looked away from his eyes. ‘D.H. Lawrence, First Morning. Well quoted.’
He bit his lip. ‘You’re quite correct, well cited. The truth is I went in to find comfort. I just needed to hear your voice. To know that you were there. And then…that happened and I wanted you so badly…’
She could see he was struggling with the words, stumbling over clumsy sentences as the fierce rage of emotions fought their way out.
‘And afterwards I couldn’t bear the thought of what I’d just done. To you. To our partnership…I felt like I’d destroyed everything that mattered to me, and I couldn’t bear that thought. So I left.’
She bit her lip. ‘Mulder…’ She saw the pain in his face when she looked up. ‘Nothing would have happened if I hadn’t…wanted it to. It wasn’t your fault.’
‘I hurt you,’ he said hollowly.
‘When you left, yes,’ she replied. ‘When I woke up and I couldn’t find you. You weren’t there and nothing has hurt more.’
‘But I understand why you had to leave.’
He saw her pain now, saw the monumental error in judgement he had made in leaving her. He hadn’t been running to protect her, he had been running to protect himself. But it all came back to her. He always came back to her and she understood. She understood and she took him back and she loved him. Every glance, every gesture, every painful word spoke of it. He wanted to hold her again. He cleared his throat and spoke instead. ‘Thankyou.’
‘Don’t leave me again.’
The tone of her words was light, but he saw the underlying warning in her eyes. Never, he thought. My God, Dana. Never. ‘It’s late,’ he said.
They left the main light off when they got upstairs. The light flooding in through the uncurtained windows off the bay below provided adequate illumination.
In the cool blue shadows he saw her turn. ‘Goodnight.’
He reached out a little and caught her hand. It was small and cold in her own. He drew her towards him, gently but firmly, and she came, her eyes never leaving his until they closed when he kissed her softly on the mouth.
‘Goodnight.’ He released her and she slipped into her room, closing the door. A moment later he heard the lock engage, a quiet stabbing click.
He shut his eyes on the tears that threatened to fall.
The Winslow family home sat at the edge of the forest, a large two- storey structure with ivy climbing the walls and thick glazed windows. A tall, bone-thin woman answered the door when Mulder and Scully knocked. She was dressed in a dark skirt and blouse, accentuating the extreme paleness of her skin and the wispy white strands of hair flying loose from her bun. She looked at them with suspicion when she opened the door, her clear blue eyes flitting from Mulder, then fastening hard on Scully. ‘You can’t come in unless I’ve invited you,’ she said roughly.
Judging from her age, her heavy accent and her strange behaviour Mulder decided that she must be Eilian-the grandmother.
He realised that Scully must have reached the same conclusion, for after a moment she stirred by his elbow. ‘Mrs. George?’
The woman sagged visibly. ‘You’re from the states,’ she said, obviously relieved.
‘Yes,’ replied Scully, more than a little bemused. ‘I’m Agent Scully, this is agent Mulder. We’re here to-‘
‘Come in,’ said Eilian briskly. ‘You’re letting all the warm out standing in the doorway like that.’
She bustled them in and took their overcoats, hanging them in an oak hall cupboard. While she was turned away Mulder took the opportunity to examine the room. One or two woven rugs lay on a polished wood floor, the furniture was all mismatched and comfortable looking. A fireplace burned in a corner of the room. All around the house were vases full of green leaves, red berries sprinkled liberally throughout them. He touched Scully’s shoulder and silently pointed them out to her. ‘Rowan,’ he said to her. ‘Protection.’
‘Old wive’s tale,’ she replied.
‘Maybe,’ said Eilian, coming up behind them, ‘but it seems to work. You’ll have to excuse the way I greeted you. I thought that you were someone else. One of hers.’ ‘Who’s?,’ asked Mulder curiously.
Eilian leant in to whisper conspiratorialy. ‘D.A.N.A.’
Puzzled, Mulder shot Scully a glance. ‘Dana?’
She gave a tiny shrug in response.
‘Not Dana,’ said Eilian, lowering her voice further. ‘Thanu. It’s a bad omen speaking her name aloud. She is mother Goddess. The queen of the fairies. The first of the Tuatha de Danaan. The last of the Daoine Sidhe.’ She grinned at Mulder. ‘That’s why your girlfriend gave me such a start. It’s the colouring, she looks just like one ought.’
‘Oh,’ said Mulder, amused. He turned to Scully. ‘Is there something you haven’t told me about yourself, Dana?’
She quirked an eyebrow. ‘Many things. Does that bother you?’
He chuckled. ‘You have to admit it’s weird.’
‘Spooky,’ she agreed with a smile. ‘But that’s why they called you, right?’
He smiled in response, then hailed down Eilian. ‘You know that’s why we’re here, don’t you Mrs. George?’
Eilian bit her lip and looked away from them. ‘You’re here about the children.’
Scully shot Mulder a look. ‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Did you know them?’
Eilian sighed. ‘I knew every last one of them, Agent Scully. All but the last were friends of my granddaughter.’
‘Hannah,’ said Mulder.
Eilian looked shocked, then she descended on Mulder with suspicion burning in her eyes. ‘How would you know?’
Mulder took a slow step back. ‘I’m sorry, Mrs. George…’
‘You are one of them! Out! Out!’ She thrust a bony finger at Scully, and Mulder stepped protectively between them.
‘No,’ he said. ‘We’ve been to the school. The kids told me that Hannah hadn’t been at school…’
Eilian seemed to lose her energy and fell back into a seat. ‘Can you blame me? Someone-some*thing* is after her.’
Mulder shook his head and responded gently. ‘Mrs. George, there’s no reason to suspect that Hannah will be a victim.’
‘Then why is she being followed?’
‘Who said that she is?,’ Mulder asked carefully.
‘Hannah,’ said the old woman. ‘She’s a perceptive child, Agent Mulder. She senses things.’
Mulder looked at Scully, then back to Eilian. ‘Can we meet her?’
Eilian looked uneasily at the two of them. ‘I don’t know…’
Scully tried to reassure her. ‘Please, Mrs. George. Hannah may be the only link in the case.’
Finally Eilian nodded.
She led them up the stairs and along the narrow hallway until they reached a door at the end. “Hannah’s Room,” a sign taped to the wood panels declared. The script was uneven and childlike, marked out in bright coloured crayon. Eilian twisted the knob a little. ‘Hannah?,’ she said quietly. ‘There’s someone here to see you.’ With that she fully opened the door and admitted them.
The first thing that struck Mulder about the room was the innocence of it. The large windows and high roof combined to accentuate the light atmosphere. A large collection of plush soft toys piled up on an old high bed. The carpet was littered with books and cloths. The walls were painted with Cicely May Baker murals: Tiny fairies, watercolour flowers, a veritable woodland in a child’s fantasy world. Hannah herself was lying in this melee on her front, tartan pinafore rucked up over her knees, stockinged legs waving in the air. She was clutching a purple pencil with which she was putting the finishing touches on a sketch of a bluebell.
Beside him Scully cleared her throat. ‘Hello, Hannah.’
Hannah smiled back. ‘Hello.’
‘I’m Dana Scully and this is Fox Mulder. We’re from the F.B.I. in America,’ said Scully.
‘Oh,’ said Hannah. She put down her pencil and sat up, crossing her legs and pulling her skirt down over her knees. ‘You want to talk to me about them, don’t you?’
‘Who?,’ Mulder asked her.
She bit her bottom lip. ‘Nanna says I shouldn’t say their names aloud.’
‘Why not?,’ Scully queried.
‘It’s bad. I’ll write it for you.’ She turned her drawing over and drew the letters “T-H-E-E-N-A S-H-E-E”. She passed the sheet of paper over to them. ‘It’s not how you really spell it- but it’s how it sounds.’
Scully furrowed her brow. ‘Daoine S-‘ she began, but was stopped when Mulder clapped a hand over her mouth.
‘Bad,’ he murmured into her ear. ‘Call them “them”.’
Scully just looked at him.
‘Your grandmother said you thought someone was following you.’
‘I don’t think someone’s following me, mister,’ said Hannah. ‘I know someone is.’
‘Do you have any idea who it is?,’ Scully asked her.
‘It’s lots of them. I don’t know their names. They’re all the same.’
‘Puck, peaseblossom and mustard seed,’ murmured Scully in a barely audible voice.
Suddenly Mulder pitched backwards as something wove between his legs. Scully steadied him, and he looked down at a massive white cat curling around his ankles.
‘Jesus,’ he muttered under his breath.
‘Tinkerbell!,’ exclaimed Hannah.
‘Tinkerbell?,’ he heard his own incredulous voice say. He saw Scully’s shoulders begin to shake and had the nasty suspicion that she was fighting to keep the laughter back.
‘What a gorgeous, uh…cat,’ he said to Hannah and knelt down to pat it. It ignored him entirely and slunk over to Scully where, putting it’s front paws on her leg it stretched luxuriously.
Hannah grinned. ‘Tinkerbell likes you.’
Mulder leaned forward to murmur, ‘Tinkerbell has good taste.’
She leant down to run her hand along the spine of the cat and Tinkerbell arched ecstatically into her hand. Mulder watched her for a moment, rubbing her fingers under the cat’s chin, then he turned his attention back to Hannah. ‘Do you know why these, …er, people have been following you?’
‘They want me to play with them,’ whispered Hannah. ‘But I won’t. I know what happens to people who play with them. I don’t want to play with them. I don’t want to get drowned in the Lake of Children, like Chrissie and Beth did.’
‘I’m not going to let that happen,’ said Agent Mulder gently. ‘Agent Scully and I are here to find these people and stop them.’
‘Hannah, where do you think they may be at the moment?,’ Scully asked, rising to her feet.
Hannah shrugged. ‘The forest?’
‘You’re not sure?,’ Mulder asked.
Hannah shook her head.
Mulder sighed. ‘Okay, well, Agent Scully and myself will probably be in Hayle for a while, so maybe we’ll come visit you again.’
They turned away, but before they could leave Hannah pulled on Scully’s sleeve and motioned for her to bend down. When she did Hannah reached a small plump hand into the collar of her blouse and produced the pewter amulet.
‘You should really wear it on the outside,’ she said. ‘That way it won’t need to be protection. It will be warning enough.’ She traced the interwoven knot with her finger. ‘I like it. It reminds me of him.’
‘Who?,’ asked Scully.
Hannah smiled. An expression too old for her passed through her eyes. ‘The one in your mind and your heart,’ she replied.
Mulder was waiting for her downstairs, sitting at a scarred kitchen table. She came down, hesitating in the doorway. He looked up from a heavy leather-bound book and motioned her to a chair opposite him.
Eilian smiled at her as she slid into the seat. “Would you like something to drink?”
“Coffee, if you have some?,” she replied.
“No,” said Eilian, the smile still playing at the corners of her lips. “I have something just as good.” She pushed a chipped mug across the table. “Birch and cinnamon tea.”
Scully raised her eyebrows and glanced to her partner.
“Delicious,” he said by way of reply.
She took a tentative sip and found the tea was thick and sweet, caramel coloured with cream swirls of milk that disappeared under her teaspoon. She inclined her head towards the book in front of Mulder. “What’s that?”
“Book of spells,” he replied cryptically.
Eilian cuffed him gently across the back of his head. “Hush, you’ll scare her. Recipies, Dana. Most of them.”
“The rest are spells,” Mulder said.
Scully just glared at him, then hid her smile behind the mug of tea. “What sort of spells?”
“Assorted,” he said in a distracted tone of voice.
Eilian peered over his shoulder, glanced up at Scully and laughed. “‘Twon’t work if she’s already in love with you, Fox.”
Scully rose halfway off her chair. “What?”
He snapped the book shut, feigning innocence. “Nothing,” he said with false nonchalance. She narrowed her eyes at him, but let it slide.
He looked up at Eilian. “Mrs George, may we speak to Hannah’s mother?”
The older woman looked uncomfortable, shifting from foot to foot before sitting down at the table. “She’s…different, Fox. She doesn’t speak much.”
“We won’t ask many questions.”
“I really don’t think it would be a good idea,” Eilian insisted. “I’m sure she wouldn’t be able to help anyway.”
“Why?,” asked Scully curiously.
Eilian tapped her head. “She’s not all there sometoimes. Most of the time.”
Both Mulder and Scully jumped at the sound of the voice, quiet and husky, but echoing strangely around the room.
Scully stood up from her chair. “Mrs Winslow?”
The woman transferred her gaze to the diminutive agent, her green eyes luminous. “Yes?”
Mulder stood also. “I’m Agent Mulder, this is my partner, Dana Scully.”
“Dana?,” the woman asked in a bemused way.
“Kate-,” said Eilian over Scully’s reply.
“We would like to talk to you about Hannah?,” Mulder asked carefully.
Kate looked even more confused and pushed a dark lock of hair back from her eyes.
“Your daughter,” Scully prompted her, shooting Mulder a puzzled look.
“Hannah,” said Kate.
“Kate-,” Eilian protested again.
“Is Hannah-,” Kate began to shake. “Is Hannah-”
Alarmed, Scully reached for her. “Mrs. Winslow?”
Kate’s knees folded and she sank to the floor murmuring to herself. Eilian was at her side in a moment, kneeling with Scully on the wooden floor.
“Mrs George, is she having a seizure?,” Scully asked frantically.
“Of sorts,” Eilian replied.
Scully felt her anger rise with the noncommittal reply. She shook her head to clear it. “Is she epileptic?”
“No,” Eilian said, “Nothing like that. Her soul is uncomfortable in it’s current vessel. Frankly I’m surprised she’s survived as long as she has.”
Scully glanced at the older woman. “Has she had any seizures before?”
“Oh yes. It will pass.”
No sooner had Eilian spoken these words than Scully felt Kate sag, her head lolling back against Scully’s supporting arm, face blanched white. She opened her eyes and the brilliance was dimmed by pain and clouded by tears.
“Kate?” Scully kept her voice gentle, leaning over the woman. “Do you know where you are?”
Kate’s eyes swivelled to Eilian. “I’m going to be ill,” she said in a surprisingly clear voice.
Scully helped her upright and got her to the sink, keeping a comforting hand on the clammy nape of her neck.
“Mrs George, will you get Kate a warm shirt, please?” Scully looked to Eilian, fighting to keep the grimace off her face. “Mulder, from the bathroom, a facewasher or something.” She pulled the soiled blouse from Kate’s shoulders, wadding it up into a ball and leaving it on the sink. Then she froze.
On Kate’s hunched back were two gashes, identical to the gashes on Christina’s, but entirely healed into thick white scars.
She heard Mulder come up behind her and he sucked in a breath as he saw the wounds.
She turned towards him. “These-”
Eilian appeared in the doorway with a knitted cardigan which she draped around her daughter’s shoulders.
“Mrs George,” Scully began, “How did Kate get these gashes?”
“I think you’d better go now,” said Eilian, wrapping the trembling body in her arms.
“Kate-,” Mulder began, but Eilian cut him off sharply.
Mulder looked puzzled, but nevertheless he motioned Scully to the hallway. “We’ll see ourselves out. Thankyou for agreeing to see us. Tell Hannah we’ll speak to her again.”
He grabbed their coats from the hall cupboard as they left, throwing them into the back seat of the rental car.
“Mulder, did you see those wounds?”
“I saw them,” he said grimly.
“They were identical to the gashes I found on Christina’s back, only totally healed.”
“Do you understand what this means?” She turned in her seat and watched him. “The severe mental instability, the petit mal seizure, the scars-”
“Peta Winslow may be right. That family…”
he began to fossick around in his pockets until he found a folded sheet of paper.
“What’s this?,” she asked curiously, taking it.
“You tell me,” he replied, his eyes still on the road.
She unfolded it, smoothing the creases with her fingers as she stared uncomprehendingly at it. A list of assorted herbs and plants, a small number of directions. Then it struck her. “The herbal concoction toxicology pulled up.”
He nodded, his jaw set. “Your “potion”.”
She looked at the spidery writing. “Where did you get this?”
“Eilian George’s recipie book,” he replied.
“Love potion?,” she asked lightly.
He chuckled. “I tore it out when Kate had her seizure.”
She folded the sheet up again, tucking it in her jacket for safekeeping. “It all adds up, Mulder. Kate Winslow. She’s obviously, uh-”
“Not all there,” he supplied.
She nodded. “Something has triggered something in her head. Someone, maybe. Her mother. She takes the kids to the forest, reenacts whatever happened to her when she got those scars and then drowns them.”
He shook his head. “Scully, do you honestly believe that woman, Kate Winslow, could do that?”
“MPD, Mulder. Multiple personalities. It would explain the seizure. The erratic behaviour.”
“No.” He cut her off. “That woman is a physical and emotional wreck.”
“That only promotes my point,” she moved her hands emphatically. “She’s right next to the forest, her behaviour is strange to say the very least, she has access to Eilian’s spell book-”
“It’s not her.”
“The coincidence with Hannah is too much. There was no struggle, whoever killed these kids knew them.”
He shook his head again, firmer this time. “By your reasoning it could very well be Eilian herself.”
“What about the gashes on Kate’s back?,” she asked him.
He shrugged. “Old wounds, Scully. You said so yourself. She might not even know she has them.”
She laughed incredulously. “They’re on her own back, Mulder. A person knows their own body.”
He looked at her, a smile tugging at the corners of his lips. “I don’t know about my own, but I know every line and curve of yours.”
She glanced at him, then looked quickly away.
“Do you have a theory?,” she finally asked.
He grinned lopsidedly. “You won’t like it.”
“Do I ever?,” she shot back.
“Faeries.” He waited for her reaction.
Scully pondered this for a moment. “Tell me you didn’t just say “faeries”.”
He was silent.
She sighed, let her head rest against the seat for a moment. “I think the fresh country air has gone to your head.”
“Something has,” he suggested softly.
She let his words warm her for only a moment. “Can we keep our minds on the case, please?”
he chuckled and pulled into the Hotel carpark. “We’re meeting for lunch, can you wait until then?”
She stopped him on the stairs leading up to the hotel. “Mulder, wait.”
He turned towards her.
“About last night.”
He felt his heart stop, but he fought to keep the pain from registering on his face. “Last night?,” he asked carefully.
She swallowed, looked away, then met his eyes again. “I’d like us to start again.”
For a moment he could say nothing, just stood studying her face, the perfect, pale features, the burnished copper hair, the eyes that looked past the barriers into his soul. “I love you.”
He found the expression exquisitely breathtaking and he took another step closer. She ducked her head, but he caught her chin in his hand and brought her face to his own…
She jerked back in surprise and Mulder groaned, softly murmuring in her ear, “I’m going to have to kill him.”
“You’ll have to beat me to it.”
“Faeries?” Alec repeated the word with a grin.
Mulder just nodded.
Alec turned the grin on Scully. “He thinks faeries have been killing children?”
One corner of her mouth twitched up in a brief smile, otherwise she made no response.
Alec shook his head, his grin fading. “Mulder, there are no such things as faeries.”
“How do you know?,” he asked calmly.
Alec frowned. “I’ve never seen one.”
“Have you seen the Pope?”
Mulder shrugged. “So, how do you know he’s real?”
Alec gave a short bark of laughter. “Other people have seen him. No- one’s ever seen a faery.”
Mulder smiled. “You haven’t been speaking to Eilian George.”
Alec let his head fall back again and he stared at the ceiling for a moment, before looking to Scully again. “You can’t believe him, Doctor Scully.”
“It’s a theory,” she replied after small pause.
Alec stared at her incredulously, then turned to Mulder. “Jesus, you’ve got her well-trained, don’t you?”
Mulder glared at him, one hand automatically to touch her arm. She was stiff with indignation, her jaw set, her eyes furious. “Listen, Alec-”
“Alright, sorry. Point taken.” He lifted his hands to placate them. “I just find it incredible that you, Dana, a doctor would let your personal feelings prejudice your opinions on this matter.”
Scully’s eyes narrowed. “What are you suggesting?”
“You have a scientific mind, Agent Scully. You know that what he believes is ridiculous.”
Her expression grew more dangerous. “What he believes?”
“Faeries, Dana? The little people. Tuatha De Danaan. Daonie Sidhe.”
“The legends had to come from somewhere, Alec,” Mulder finally spoke up.
Alec didn’t respond, but sat silently, watching the two of them closely. After a long pause he sighed and stood up. “All right. Well, I can only hope that this…theory doesn’t lead to more deaths, Mulder.” With that he left.
Silence fell over the small table, Scully calmly buttering a slice of bread, Mulder staring at his own fingers plucking at the chequered material of the table. Finally he looked up.
“So, did you buy that Myths and Legends book?”
Scully looked puzzled and frowned slightly at him. “It’s upstairs in my suitcase. Why?”
He folded his napkin up and placed it on the table beside his plate. “I want to find some basis for my theory,” he replied with a half grin.
She raised her eyebrow and pursed her lips. “In a book of myths?”
His grin grew wider. “Bear with me here, Dana. If we find an old legend that concurs with the current happenings, it proves-”
“It proves we have a suspect taking advantage of local history.”
His smile didn’t falter. “Do you have a better idea?”
Her lips curved up in a dangerous expression, her eyes alight with suggestiveness. “Perhaps.”
He tried to mask a chuckle. “Can we keep our minds on the case, please?”
“Maybe we should have a look around the forest,” she suggested.
He grimaced. “Maybe.”
She raised an eyebrow, waiting. “But?”
Shrugging, he stood up. “Alec and his team have been through the forest with a fine tooth comb. They didn’t bring anything up.”
“Maybe they weren’t looking for the right thing,” she replied as she also stood.
He looked down at her, astonishment in his eyes. “Are you implying that my theory is correct, Scully?”
She just looked at him, a gentle smile playing at the corners of her lips.
“Silly question,” he relented. “The book was in your suitcase, you said?”
Dusk was at the window, turning the sea black and covering the bay with shadows. Scully uncurled herself from the couch, stretched and pulled the blinds down on the frosted panes. Mulder muttered something incoherent and she flicked on the overhead light. He was sprawled across an easy chair, “Myths and Legends of Cornwall” less than an inch from his nose.
She stood behind him and, taking his head in her hands, tipped his face back to her. “You’ll ruin your eyesight.”
He turned his head, kissed the centre of her palm and put the book down on his lap. “Is Alec meeting us for dinner?”
She shook her head and returned to the couch, packing the papers strewn on the floor into a manilla folder. “He’s got two men keeping surveillance on the lake.”
Mulder sat upright. “Another one’s gone missing?”
She shook her head again. “It’s better to be safe than sorry,” she said by way of reply.
He grinned as he came up behind her. “That’s always been Alec’s credo.” He took her armful of papers and trailed after her into her room. She closed the blind in there as well, shivering as she felt the cold radiating off the panes. She switched on the bedside lights to banish the shadows and the filtered light gave the room a cosy feel.
Mulder had flopped down on the bed and was resting his head on his hands, her files forgotten beside him on the covers. She smiled slightly at the sight of him and moved to kneel beside him, her hands on his shoulders kneading away the tension.
He sighed and leant back against her. “I’m not making any sense out of the case,” he said drowsily. His eyelids fluttered as her strong fingers hit an especially sore spot. “I’m stumped.”
He heard her chuckle. “I never thought I’d see the day…”
he let himself relax further into her touch. “I’ve had a mental block.”
She brushed his forehead with her lips. “At least no-one’s gone missing since we’ve been here.”
“That’s something,” he agreed. “We haven’t got much time left, though.”
He felt her nod her head as she sat down.
“It’s been three days,” he continued, “and we’re still no closer to solving the case than we were back in Washington.”
“Don’t get discouraged,” she said.
“I’m not getting discouraged,” he replied. “I’m getting frustrated.”
“Don’t get frustrated either,” she said, letting her lips graze his cheek.
He opened his eyes and met her gaze. “You’re trying to distract me.”
“Damn right.” She leant forward again, kissed his temple.
A rough chuckle escaped his lips. “It’s working.” The words were barely out before he sealed their mouths.
She shifted to increase the pressure of her lips, letting one hand rest on his jaw, the other on his knee. She felt one arm go about her waist, pulling her closer, until she could feel the rapid rise and fall of his chest.
His hand was creeping up under her shirt when there came a loud knocking on the door.
She began to laugh, smothering the sound in the crook of his shoulder.
“Was that the door?,” Mulder growled.
The second round of knocking precluded her reply, followed closely by a male voice calling, “Doctor Scully?”
Scully pulled out of her partner’s arms. “It’s Aaron.”
“Aaron?,” Mulder repeated incredulously.
“Doctor Aaron Carter,” she replied, “from Penzance Hospital.”
Another muffled cry outside the door. “Dana!”
Mulder sat up straighter. “He calls you Dana?”
“I gave him my name-”
“You let him call you Dana?”
“Let me just get the door, Mulder.”
She let a smile pass briefly over her lips. “Fox. It won’t take long.”
“Shouldn’t I meet him?”
“I don’t think your existence is a blow he can handle right now,” she responded. “I’ll only be a moment.”
“I’ll be here,” he replied, only a glitter of humour in his eyes lightening the tone of his voice.
Scully smoothed her hair, gave herself a moment to recover her equilibrium and opened the door.
Aaron Carter lounged casually in the doorway, a dogeared pile of papers under one arm, the other hugging a bottle of some description to his chest. Scully sighed inwardly.
“You didn’t call, so I thought I’d drop by,” he purred, unabashedly looking her over, taking in the crumpled slacks and the blouse, loose at the neck and pulled from her waistband. “The woman at the desk said that you were up here. Obviously you weren’t expecting tonight.”
“No,” she replied, motioning a hand at his attire, a well-pressed suit and dress suit. “I left my cocktail dress at home.”
He gave her a lascivious grin. “And where’s home for you, Dana?”
“Elsewhere,” she said curtly. “Are those my reports?”
“I thought we could go through them over dinner,” he suggested with a leer.
“Dinner,” she repeated flatly.
Uninvited, he brushed past her into the main room and took a seat on the couch. “For two. Do you have any candles?”
She sighed and swung the door shut, realising that she wasn’t going to get rid of him as easily as she had hoped to. “Dr. Carter-”
“Please,” he interrupted her,” Call me Aaron.”
“On a professional basis I’d prefer not to,” she replied.
He stood up again, leaving the files and the bottle on the coffee table and crossed the room towards her. “Who says I’m here on a strictly professional basis, Dana?”
She swallowed, disliking his invasion on her personal space.
“Dana?” His face loomed closer and with a jerk she pulled back, her hand automatically going to her hip to reach for her gun, which was, of course, not there.
“Back off,” she warned him.
Instead he moved closer. “You’ve been sending out signals. Don”t pretend you haven’t.”
He was a tall man, bulky if not muscular. She didn’t she’d be able to push him away. She could strike him, but she thought he’d react like a wounded bear and she didn’t like her chances if he started a brawl. Where the hell was Mulder?
Behind Aaron came a polite throat clearing. The doctor turned and saw Mulder standing in the centre of the room, hands on his hips.
Aaron stood back from Dana. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realise you had company.”
“Apparently,” said Mulder in his monotone voice.
Dana crossed the room to her partner, and picked up the files from the coffee table. Mulder gently touched her arm, murmuring “Are you O.K.?” When she nodded he turned his attention back to the other man, letting the anger and possessiveness flare in his eyes.
The blond man met his glare and sneered.
Mulder smiled pleasantly. “I’m Agent Mulder. Dana’s…partner.”
Aaron barely acknowledged the careful pause and he didn’t take his eyes off Scully, now sitting on the couch paging through the files. Aaron looked increasingly frustrated. “What exactly are you looking for?”
She didn’t react to the petty tone of his voice. “A link, Dr. Carter.”
“Aaron,” he muttered, shooting Mulder a wary look. “What sort of link?”
With a sigh Scully put the files down. “I don’t know. That’s why I asked you for the reports.” She dropped them on the coffee table. “These are not complete.”
Aaron frowned. “Yes they are.”
“No,” Scully said. “They’re not. I asked for full blood work, toxicology, any surface wounds. Everything.”
Aaron gestured pathetically at the papers. “This is everything.”
“For three of the murders, Doctor. I need more. Where are the others?”
Aaron shifted uncomfortably, his gaze flicking from Dana to her partner. “They’re in my car.”
Scully glanced quickly at Mulder who had choked back something that sounded suspiciously like a laugh. “Why don’t you get them?,” she suggested sweetly. “Mulder and I will meet you downstairs in the bar.”
Reluctantly Aaron nodded and left the room. Mulder heard him cursing quietly to himself as he stomped down the stairs. Dana’s shoulders started to shake, he face hidden. It took him a moment to realise she was trying to suppress her laughter. He extended his hand to help her up. “Can you believe that guy? Is he really a doctor?”
She grinned in response. “I’m wondering the very same thing.”
He picked up the sheaf of papers. “Is there anything in here?”
She shook her head. “No. These are the autopsies for Janet, Henry and Christina. The first murder, for which there was no thorough autopsy. And the last two-”
“Both of which you already know off by heart,” he completed.
“No gashes,” she said. “Except for Christina.”
Mulder sighed. “Okay…well, let’s work around the only link we have.”
“Exactly.” He walked to the door, then back to the couch again and perched on the armrest. “What if Hannah’s the one?”
“The one what?”
“The one the murderer wants,” said Mulder. “What if the others have been accidents. Wrong place at the wrong time. Or they’re mistaken for Hannah.”
Scully frowned a little. “Assuming this is correct, most of the victims look nothing like Hannah, save Bethany who had red hair. Two of them were boys, Mulder. Unless the murderer is blind…”
He nodded, accepting her point. “Well, what if the murderer is a hired assassin? Given very vague directions as to which child to kill-”
She cut him off. “Who would have an assassin to kill little Hannah Winslow?”
He shrugged. “It’s just a theory.”
“And where do the gashes come in?”
He shrugged again. “I don’t know. We don’t even know if the gashes are a common factor.”
She just watched him for a moment, then, with a shake of her head she said, “I think you’re reaching.” She stood up and walked to the door, where she paused. “At least you’ve given up your ‘faery’ theory.”
“Anything to please you,” he replied with a secret smile.
The remaining files provided Scully no further enlightenment. Obscure comments like “deep scratches” and “unidentifiable wounds” meant that she had no real way of telling whether or not the other children bore Christina’s gashes. Scully had no doubt Dr. Call-me-Aaron Carter had performed the autopsies, but she had no great desire to talk to him again, anyway. Two hours over dinner with the man and Mulder had been near homicidal. Besides, she reasoned, it was a lousy lead anyway. The wounds on Christina’s back were nearly healed-she had incurred them, almost certainly, a very great time before she disappeared.
Mulder had gone to bed early, professing the onset of a nasty headache, but Scully was still awake, sitting up on the hotel bed with her back to the wall and her legs stretched out before her. Wearily she glanced at her wrist watch. 2 AM. All noise had ceased from Mulder’s room over an hour ago and she knew if she didn’t follow suit she’d be useless in the morning. Useless and crabby and nasty.
At this point in time she didn’t much care. Still, with another sigh she flipped the light off and sank into the mattress of the bed, willing her mind to shut down long enough to afford her at least four hours of sleep. Unbidden thoughts of Melissa came to her head, as they often did at times like this. She had never been particularly close to her sister. They’d been too different to see eye to eye, the bond that held them as children growing weaker when as adults they’d gone their very seperate ways. Yet in the months between Dana’s mysterious disappearance and her sister’s death, they’d found each other again. And learnt to respect the other’s differences.
People do not have to be identical to be close to each other, Dana realised. Mulder and I are living testament to that. “You and Fox have hold of two different ends of the same stick,” her mother had once told her. Melissa had made the same comment a few weeks later, adding, “The result is the magnetism you both feel, Dana. The electricity.”
Scully had laughed, regarding it as a light-hearted joke, but now she had to question her own response. Being close to her partner. A look. A touch. The smallest smile could leave her breathless. But she realised the response was not so much a physical reaction as a mental one. She knew that he was an attractive man. Saw the effect his intense looks and sculpted physique had on other women. Saw too often the longing gazes or forward passes they’d made at him. But she’d always tried to look further. Beyond the shell into the soul. And somehow-before Mulder-she’d never been satisfied. Mulder’s intelligence shone from his eyes, his devotion and his dedication evident. He was strong and stubborn and often frighteningly intense. His emotions he hid carefully behind a barrier, a wall which had only crumbled once or twice before her. “He’s right on the edge,” Melissa had once said. “And you find that wildly exciting.” Do I? Dana wondered. Is this…attraction I feel merely a psychological rebelling against the more in control man? The more safe man? Bryan, for instance.
“Go with it,” Mulder would have said. “Trust your heart.” Dana sighed again, rolling over onto her side and staring at the glowing digital clock. Two-forty-five A.M. She really needed to get to sleep.
“I looked into the Winslow family, like you asked me to, Fox,” Alec was saying.
Mulder looked up from his lunch, a thick vegetable soup, laced with what he was pretty sure was an illegal amount of parsley as a garnish. With a grimace he pulled yet another green stalk from between his lips and added it to the increasing damp pile on his side plate.
“I said-” Alec began.
“I heard,” Mulder cut in impatiently. “Did you pull anything up?”
Alec looked smug. “I did.” With a self-satisfied grin he deposited a thin, yellowing folder on the table. Mulder just looked at it until Alec’s enthusiasm overcame him. As usual it didn’t take long.
“Eilian George’s husband-Walter George-was the head of police in this neck of the woods.”
Mulder’s eyebrow barely twitched. “And…?”
“And in this report he declared his daughter was kidnapped.”
Scully looked to Mulder, then back at Alec. “Kate’s sister?”
“Kate,” said Alec.
Mulder shrugged. “So she was returned. What does this have to do with this case?”
“No,” said Alec, “apparently she wasn’t returned.”
Scully looked startled. “But we just saw-”
“Apparently, she was “exchanged”.”
The pieces fell into place with Mulder and he sat upright from his slouch.
Scully looked even more confused. “I don’t understand.”
“The Kate Winslow you met yesterday is not the Kate Winslow Eilian George gave birth to.”
“A changeling,” said Mulder.
“That’s ridiculous,” said Scully, glaring at Mulder for a moment.
Alec shook his head quickly. “No, Dana, there are marked differences. Change of eye colour, temperament-”
“The sudden inexplicable appearance of two gashes on the child’s back.”
That brought her up short. “Inexplicable?”
“They were fresh wounds. But they didn’t bleed.”
“How could that be?”
Alec shrugged, a shadow of a smile still on his lips. “No-one knows. Eilian George reported a light-”
Mulder’s eyes widened. “She was there? She saw it happen?”
Scully shook her head. “You’ll have to disregard her account, Mulder. You saw the woman, she’s a mess.”
“You would have been too if your daughter had been kidnapped right before your eyes,” he retorted.
“She wasn’t kidnapped,” Scully insisted. “We know this. We met the woman yesterday.”
She sighed. “So what exactly are you suggesting happened that night? Faeries came through the window of Kate Winslow’s bedroom, spirited her away and left a faery baby, a changeling, in her place?”
“It would explain the scars,” he replied.
“Think about it, Scully.”
She did for a moment, then stared incredulously at her partner. “Removal of faery wings?!”
“You said it.”
She shook her head vehemently. “No.”
“It’s a reasonable scenario.”
Her eyes widened, then narrowed at him. “I have a more reasonable scenario. Eilian George- for whatever reason- hurts the baby. Fearing permanent damage she slices the infant’s back and makes up this ridiculous story about a faery raid.”
Mulder flicked open the file and jabbed at the report. “‘Marked Differences.’”
She didn’t look at the folder, responding only, “Physical trauma.’
‘Why make up a faery story, Dana?,” he asked. “Why something so implausible if it wasn’t untrue?”
“You know how superstitious these little towns are. She was preying on-”
“Excuse me,” Alec cut in.
Scully and Mulder both looked at him, surprised, almost as if they had forgotten his prescence.
“Eilian George wouldn’t make light of the legends, Dana.”
She said nothing, realising that she was right.
“What we have to do is find the connection between Kate’s abduction and these murders.”
Mulder thought for a moment, tapping the handle of his spoon on the table. “They want their changeling back.”
“The Daoine Sidhe.”
Scully bit her lip. “So why are they going after the children? Why not Kate?”
“They’re going after Hannah. We ascertained that yesterday,” Mulder said.
She shrugged. “Well, why go after Hannah, then?”
“I should think that the “little people” would have a poor sense of time, so they’re trying to take the young child instead of the adult.”
Scully suddenly smiled, amusement sparkling in her blue eyes.
Mulder stopped. “What?”
“I can’t believe I’m listening to this,” she said. “I can’t believe it’s making sense.”
He grinned back at her. “Maybe the fresh country air has gone to your head.”
Alec looked from one to the other, a bemused expression on his face, seemed about to comment, then changed his mind.
Suddenly a young man entered the room where they were
eating lunch, He was wearing a navy jacket and his dark hair was damp and mussed. Mulder recognised him as one of the policemen Alec had commissioned.
“Sir…s” he said as he reached them. Then stopped and added a stammering “Ma’am.”
Alec sighed. “What is it, Jonas?”
“Another one’s gone missing.”
Alec looked shocked. “Another child? How? We had such extreme precautions!”
“When did this happen?,” Scully asked the young policeman.
Jonas looked even more flustered. “Several hours ago, ma’am.”
Alec flushed with anger. “And you’re only just reporting to us now?”
Shuffling for a moment before he answered, Jonas shot Mulder the look of a small animal caught in a trap. “Umm, the grandmother reported it to us when her daughter came back, but we thought, kids being kids-”
“You thought she’d just run off to play,” Mulder supplied.
Scully touched his hand under the table and he glanced at her gratefully. She transferred her gaze to the officer. “It was Hannah Winslow.”
“Yes,” he said, obviously surprised.
Alec’s eyebrows shot up. “How did you-?”
“Have you searched the town?,” asked Mulder.
“I’ve had five men scouring the town since Eilian George came to us. Nothing.”
Scully heard Mulder heave a sigh, his fingers tightened around hers for a moment.
“What about Kate, the mother? If they left the house together…”
Jonas shook his head. “She won’t speak.”
Scully frowned, puzzled. “Won’t? I don’t think I understand. Doesn’t she want to find her daughter?”
“Mrs. George said that she just fell through the door-alone- and hasn’t reacted since.”
“Have you seen her?,” Scully asked.
“We went to speak to her first thing. She wasn’t there.”
Mulder cocked his head. “How do you mean, “not there”?”
“She just sat,” the young policeman replied. “Her eyes were all glazed and she just sat and stared out the window. I don’t think she even knew we were there.”
“Sounds like shock,” Scully said quietly to Mulder.
“From what?” he murmured back.
She shrugged in response, her eyes worried.
Mulder shook his head, standing up from the table and extending a hand to Scully to help her do likewise. “Alec, keep an eye out on the lake. Scully and I will go speak to Eilian George.”
“Again,” Scully added without a smile.
Alec shook his head. “No. This time I’m coming with you. This is my investigation.”
Mulder shrugged. “Suit yourself.” He took Scully’s arm and led her out to the car while Alec paid for the meal. He let his hand drift from her elbow to her shoulder, her throat, tracing a line across her jaw. “This sort of thing should never happen,” he replied.
She turned her face into the gentle caress, her eyes seeking his. “Are you okay?”
He nodded slightly, his thumb tracing her lower lip. “I’m coping. It’s just…hard”
“I know,” she replied, her breath warm on his fingers.
“All right,” said Alec from behind them, his voice forced and overly loud. “Let’s get this show on the road, eh?”
Mulder grimaced, recognising his friend’s phenomenal lack of tact. He let his hand drop from Scully’s face, fingers catching on the ribbon around her neck as if by accident, the teasing glide of his fingers against her softness as arousing as it was brief. Her breath caught imperceptibly, her eyes turning a shade darker and she hurried to hide the passion from Alec by ducking into the car, pulling her coat after her and shutting the door.
“Let me get this straight,” Alec was saying as he slid into the driver’s seat. “When you spoke to Kate Winslow she was lucid.”
“Barely,” Mulder replied.
“What was the daughter like?”
“Down-to-earth. Very mature. Unusual,” Mulder said. “The whole family is unusual.”
“Eilian vaccilated between the two extremes possible for a personality. Kate drifted in and out of our conversation, then had a fit and threw up and Hannah started quoting prophesies,” Scully said.
Mulder’s eyes met hers in the rear vision mirror. “Prophesies?”
She met his gaze in the mirror and felt the blood rise to her face, remembering the young girl’s words. He’s in your heart and mind. She transferred her gaze to Alec, then back to her partner. His mouth opened in a silent “Oh.” She grinned her reply then looked down quickly as Alec looked over his shoulder at her.
“She knew she was the next victim?,” Alec asked her.
Mulder answered for her. “She thought someone was following her.”
Scully shook her head. “Mulder, that was Eilian speaking. She’s been fed those legends from birth.”
“Faeries?,” Alec repeated. “Fox, you’re not suggesting faeries again?”
Mulder stiffened. “I’m just repeating what the girl told us.”
Scully sat forward in her seat, letting her chin rest near Mulder’s shoulder, hoping her prescense would help to calm his agitation.
Alec let the silence sit in the car for a moment while he ruminated, then, “Had she seen these..faeries?”
“I got the impression that she hadn’t,” Scully replied.
“Eilian told us what to look for, though,” Mulder added.
Alec raised his eyebrows. “Oh?”
Mulder hid his quick grin. “Small in stature, red hair, pale skin.”
Alec smothered a chuckle. “Well it seems we need look no further, our murder suspect is closer than we thought.”
Scully responded with a light-hearted glare.
“I don’t know,” Mulder murmured. “She said nothing about the most beautiful blue eyes on the planet.”
She couldn’t repress a slight smile and she reached up, touched the back of his neck, a feathery caress.
He released an almost imperceptible gasp and broke eye contact, fastening his gaze on the rutted road.
She quickly his her groin and sat back in her seat again.
“Here we are,” said Mulder in a strangled voice.
Alec looked at him curiously. “Are you all right?”
Mulder nodded, using the excuse of unfaltering his seat belt to avert his eyes from his friend’s.
Alec glanced back at Scully, puzzled, and she shrugged.
Eilian let them in without a word this time, just stood silently as Mulder introduced Alec, then let them into the kitchen. The rowan was even more prevalent in the old house as it had been the last time, the red berries studding every corner, every surface, the scent of the leaves heavy and cloying. Alec shot Mulder a curious look, but Mulder’s attention was elsewhere.
In the midst of the chaos of vegetation a man was sitting at the kitchen table, his head in his hands. He had looked up when the agents entered the room, his brown eyes bloodshot.
Alec ducked his head for a moment as if in deference to the man’s grief. “I’m sorry, James.”
The man nodded, bit his lip and rubbed a fist across his eyes, trying to erase the last remnants of tears. Scully felt immediately sorry for the man.
Taking a deep albeit tremulous breath breath Alec introduced Mulder and Scully to the man, James Winslow. Hannah’s father.
“Is there any news?,” he finally asked. Mulder noticed how carefully neutral the man’s voice was. He wasn’t allowing himself to hope, unsure of whether he could deal with disappointment.
“I’m sorry, sir,” said Scully gently. “We’ve heard nothing. We have full surveillance on the lake and officers sweeping the town-”
“There’s still a chance she’s just wandered off,” Mulder said.
“Hannah doesn’t wander,” James said. “Especially not now.”
“Well, we’re doing all we can,” Alec said in a comforting voice. “We all want to see Hannah returned.”
“The real Hannah,” said Eilian ominously from the doorway.
James sprang up from his chair, anger replacing the misery in his eyes. “Don’t start that with me again Eilian!,” he snarled, furious. “Don’t you dare! Not with Kate. Not with Hannah.”
Stunned by the force of his rage, Scully took an involuntary step back. She felt Mulder’s steadying hand on her shoulder and realised that even there, in Eilian George’s kitchen, his touch could cause tingles of sensation in the depths of her stomach.
Eilian remained unmoved. “Denying it will not make it unhappen, James.”
He flung himself back into his chair. “Jesus.”
“They’ve taken her into the forest,” Eilian said. “You won’t find her in town.”
“I agree,” said Mulder calmly.
James looked shocked. “You don’t! You can’t. There’s nothing in the forest.”
“Maybe,” said Mulder, doubtfully.
James smacked his hand against the table, making Alec jump. “Goddamnit! How am I expected to find my daughter if everyone thinks she’s been taken by faeries?”
Scully cleared her throat. “Mr. Winslow I agree, to the point that the best place to look for Hannah would be the forest. Our men have scoured the town and experience tells us that the children are not being held in the town. The forest would provide cover for whoever has been taking the children.”
Scully’s words seemed to calm the man and he looked helplessly up at her. “Please, Ms. Scully. I love my daughter.”
“We’ll get her back,” Scully reassured him.
Mulder just watched her.
In the other room Kate just rocked in her chair, staring out the window with unseeing eyes. James looked at her for a moment then wrenched his eyes away. “I want my wife back as well.”
Alec nodded in understanding. “Can we speak to her? Just for a moment?”
James looked distraught. “You can try, but I don’t know if she’ll respond. She hasn’t spoken since she got back.” He gestured to her as he stood. “We tried to get her to show us where Hannah was taken, but she wouldn’t budge.”
“She doesn’t think she can reach Hannah on this plain of existence,” suggested Mulder.
James looked even more downcast. “I think Kate is on a plain of existence all of her own…”
Scully patted the man’s arm as she moved past him and he looked to her gratefully, tears shining in his eyes again.
“Kate?,” Alec asked the woman gently.
She didn’t respond, not even a flicker of reaction in her deep, glazed green eyes.
“I’m Inspector Alec Stephens. I’m here to find your daughter.”
Scully looked from Alec, his handsome face gentle and relaxed, to Kate, rigid, rocking slightly in her seat. “I’d like to get her to a hospital,” she said quietly.
“No,” James said vehemently. “No hospitals.”
Scully turned to him. “Sir, your wife is not well. She’s bordering on catatonic. She’s suffering from shock, which can very easily slide into clinical depression or post-traumatic stress syndrome. We need to get her into an environment where we can watch her.”
“No,” he repeated insistently.
She tried again. “I don’t think you understand how serious your wife’s condition is, Mr. Winslow-”
“I said no!”
She sighed and Mulder touched her arm. “Kate would probably be more comfortable in familiar surroundings,” he said.
“Well at least let me request a home-stay nurse…”
“No nurses,” James Winslow said. “I’ll watch her. I don’t need any strangers by her bed.”
Scully started to protest but Mulder stopped her with a look, remembering his own days in the hospital by her side. Distrusting every nurse, every doctor in the room. He saw her eyes soften, realised she had, once again, understood him.
“Well, at least let me check on her,” she said finally, tearing her gaze away from his.
James looked warily from the red-haired agent to his wife, still silent, rocking in her chair. “Check on her…make sure she doesn’t hurt herself. Make her better.”
“I’ll try,” she replied, grateful for at least this small allowance.
“We’d better go,” said Alec from his place by Kate’s side. He straightened and automatically smoothed his jacket into place. “I’ll meet you at the car.”
Mulder nodded and Scully began leaving instructions for James. “Try to coax Kate into performing her usual everyday routines. Eating, sleeping, getting dressed, etcetera. Make sure she stays warm, try not to let her go outside without someone to watch her.”
James just nodded mechanically, processing the information.
“Here’s my card, call me if you have any problems, or if there’s any change. Any change,” she repeated more firmly. “If she speaks, if she reacts at all, I want to know about it.” She was sure that James would follow her instructions to the letter, but she was still thankful for Mulder’s steadying hand in the small of her back as she guided her into the lobby.
She was pulling her coat on, fastening the buttons with her fingers that refused to stop trembling when he spoke up behind her.
She started to turn around, but his arms came around her shoulders, fastening the buttons for her. She closed her eyes and let herself lean back into him, a shaky sigh escaping from her lips. He finished the buttons, but let her stand there, his arms still around her.
“You did the right thing, Scully, no matter what you think.” His voice at her ear was little more than a husky whisper.
“I know that,” she replied, just as quietly. “So why do I feel I’ve just let them down? She should be in a hospital, Mulder…”
She felt him shake his head, felt his arms tighten around her for a moment, then he released her and pushed her gently forward out the door.
Kate could feel Hannah at the edge of her conciousness. A bright spark that flickered and faded spasmodically as it fought to hold sway over the powers wrangling for control.
The shield that seperated her from her daughter – from her world – was like a sheer curtain, showing enough of the other side to make her ache, but not enough to center on the location. She couldn’t let go of her daughter. If she surfaced, even for a moment, she would lose her in the dim shadows of memory. So she held the tenuous contact and trusted James and her own “mother” to watch her corporeal body.
Hannah cried out again, in fear, not pain and Kate tried to send love and calm to the child, the same way she had during the trauma of birth. She was rapidly losing contact with her daughter. Unless she managed to get closer to the transference point she would lose all bond.
She felt James fussing around her physical self, gentle hands smoothing her hair, guiding her up the stairs to her bedroom, his quiet voice murmuring words which held no meaning for her. Dimly she felt the hard wood of the hallway turn to the plush softness of the carpet, then the cold, crisp sheets of the bed.
Silence. Then the muffled sobs as James began to cry. She felt the tendrils of agony crawling around the room, staining the wallpaper with pain. She felt sting of sorrow burrow into her heart like a thorn, but her concern for him was overshadowed by her longing for her daughter. Hannah would be so scared.
and the colours were too bright and the sounds were too loud and mama mama and the pain was with her diminished because of the distance. daddy. da. i’m so scared. and the hands were touching and they moved through her flesh like liquid and she could sense christina here. and joshua here and she was screaming as the air swallowed her like water.
James was woken by the scream of his wife. He sat bolt upright and reached for across the fathomless distance of the bed and snatched at her hand. It was slippery with fear, so wet that it slid from his grasp as she lunged out of the bed, the nightdress plastered to her body. Her face sheened with perspiration was as white as bone and her eyes burned dark holes into the blank mask of her expression. The bed was damp as he clambered over her side to catch her before she reached the door. Too late she was gone and as he tried to follow her the door handle stuck in his hand, refusing to turn, refusing to budge.
“Kate!” he yelled desperately the name burning at the back of his throat and the sound of his voice wrapped in cotton wool. And the door was jammed, the metal burning with cold in his hand.
He sank first to his knees, his dry palms dragging down the wooden door. Then to his stomach, his head hitting the frame and the slow ooze of blood from his temple soothing the terror. And as the world turned first grey then black he heard the latch click in the door and it swung slightly open stopping against his hip.
“What’s the time?”
Mulder turned to his partner, “Just after nine,” he said quietly, noting the dark shadows under her eyes. She hadn’t slept last night. “We don’t have to be here.” He touched her hand under the table, felt her fingers tangle with his as she returned the gesture. “This is Alec’s case.”
“We have to stay.”
“Surveillance details, Scully. I’m sure Alec wouldn’t mind if we caught an early night.”
She shook her head minutely, keeping her eyes ahead.
Alec had called his men into a meeting at eight to run through surveillance, they had dragged themselves back looking exhausted and depressed. The search through the town had been – as Eilian had predicted – useless. As was the scouring of the surrounding woods.
The narrow fluorescent lit room made everyone look grey and sapped of energy. Even Mulder slouched next to Scully in a wooden chair, his fingernails scoring the scarred table top.
Another of the officers – Danny, she thought – was saying: “Tommy’s still out by the lake, I’m relieving him at midnight”…
Mulder leant closer again. “We could be doing something so much more… productive.”
She shot him a look and he ventured a smile, a barely veilled challenge. She felt her breath quicken and she steadied it with an effort, suddenly aware of the silence that had descended on the table. She wrenched her gaze away from his hypnotising dark eyes and fastened them instead on the blank notepad placed on the table before her.
Alec was watching them curiously. “Fox, would you care to share?”
Mulder looked up at his friend, “How many officers did you say you wanted stationed around the lake?” he asked.
Alec looked slightly puzzled. “I didn’t, but now that you bring it up, I want six men on surveillance.”
Mulder shook his head decisively. “Scully and I were just debating the wisdom of putting so many people out.”
Alec raised his eyebrows. “Do you want to catch this guy?”
He shrugged in reply. “Do you want to scare him into finding a new place to drop the bodies?”
Sighing, Alec sat back in his chair and dropped his pen on the table. “So what are you suggesting?”
“I’m suggesting that we abort this meeting, send out general surveillance – two men. And start out fresh in the morning.”
Alec quirked an eyebrow. “Are you pushing for an early night, Fox?”
Mulder flashed a grin. “The sooner we get to bed, the better,” he replied with a wry twist of his lips.
A ragged cheer went up.
Alec ran a hand through his hair, defeated. “All right. Ummm. We’re all exhausted, so let’s call it a day and meet again tomorrow at eight-thirty.”
Most of the officers were standing even before he finished speaking, and they filed out of the room to conglomerate in the dusty foyer.
Scully looked at Mulder as the last officer left. His eyes were dark, burning. His gaze made the blood rise in her cheeks. She stood to exit and he grabbed her wrist, his fingers easily circling the fragile bones. She was ready for him as he pulled her towards him covering her lips with his own, his hands a rough caress down her back and around her waist, pulling her hips against his until she fit snugly against him.
She pulled back, glanced to the half-closed door, then back to Mulder, laughter in her eyes. “Feeling better?”
He looked disgruntled. “No.”
She touched his cheek and disengaged, stepping around the door into the foyer.
He watched her through a haze of arousal, took a moment to compose himself and followed her.
She was standing beside Alec, in animated conversation with one of the other officers. He came up behind her and adjusted her collar, his fingers brushing her neck, then went to wait for her outside in the cool air.
The room was in disarray when they opened the door, files spread over the coffee table, half-empty cups and side plates littering what few uncluttered surfaces that were available.
Scully sighed as she perused the destruction. “And I usually keep such a tidy house.”
Mulder shed his coat and slung it over the back of the couch, dislodging a pile of photographs. Christina’s dead, drowned eyes stared accusingly up at him.
Exhausted he shut his eyes, suddenly aware of – and overwhelmed by – the sheer enormity of the task they had been set.
He felt Scully come up to stand behind him, then a whisper of cloth as she lifted her hand, perhaps to touch his cheek, smooth the hair on his brow.
She hesitated, then drew her hand away without contact. “The funeral is tomorrow,” she said. “Do you want to go?”
“No,” he replied quickly, keeping his eyes tightly shut against Christina’s betrayed face.
“I don’t want to waste another moment we could spend searching for Hannah.”
He thought he heard a tiny moan escape the back of her throat and when she spoke her voice was quiet.
“Mulder…She could be dead.”
“She could be alive,” he responded fiercely.
She was silent, then she moved, her hand brushing his shoulder.
That was all it took.
Mulder turned to her, catching her in his embrace, arms tight around her, his mouth seeking hers in a flurry of emotion, tearing a rough gasp from her. He pushed himself up against her. Hard. Dragged her jacket off her shoulders and let it fall to the ground. She was wearing a silk blouse and his hands were warm through the thin material.
“Mulder-“. She flattened her hands against his chest and felt his ragged breaths rising and falling against her palms.
His fingers were on her buttons, then against her skin and she was burning, dissolving, his touch creating a fire that consumed her. She let her head fall back as he moved to investigate her throat, his lips open against her skin, his hands burrowing into her hair.
She felt the quickening in her body and reluctantly she pushed him away.
He looked confused, a flash of pain coursing through his features.
“Not yet,” she said gently.
His lips tightened, his eyes dark. “I’m sorry. I’m moving too-”
“No.” She stopped him quickly before he sank into the mire of self-castigation. “I just think that we should get some sleep tonight.”
“You didn’t sleep last night.” It wasn’t a question.
She shook her head.
“My insomnia must be catching.” He traced the shadows under her eyes with his thumbs, his touch feather-light.
“I was just too wound up to sleep.”
“You should let me wear you out,” he said with a suggestive leer.
She stifled her answering smile. “How?”
“Or we could jog.”
Her smile faded after a moment. “Mulder, about this case-”
Her turned from her quickly, busying himself tidying files. “It’s nothing.”
“It’s not nothing.” She grasped his arm and pulled him around to face her. “I understand how difficult this case must be for you-”
He stared into her intense gaze. “Scully-”
“No.” She cut him off. “If there’s anything – anything, I want you to talk to me.”
He tipped his head back and looked at the ceiling.
Her voice was gentle. “Let me be here for you.”
He looked quickly down at her, tears welling, threatening to drown him. “What did I do to deserve you, Scully?”
Her nose crinkled at the sentimental phrase. “You mean, ‘Who did you tick off?’”
He acceded with a nod, then looked at her with raised eyebrows. “You’re sure you just want to sleep tonight?”
“Positive,” she replied.
“All right,” he agreed, reluctantly. “If you change your mind during the night my offer still stands.”
“To wear me out?”
“Don’t forget your trainers.”
She shoved him playfully towards the door. “Go to bed, Mulder. You’ll be impossible in the morning.”
He was still awake at 2:39, reclining on his bed in the blue light reflecting off the water into his room. He fidgeted restlessly under the covers and stared at the play of light and shadows against the wall. There was no way he was sleeping tonight.
He kicked off the covers and swung his legs over the side of the bed. Despite the rooms heating the floor was cold as he walked towards the door. Suddenly the handle turned and Scully stood in the entrance, her eyes shadowed and her face half hidden in the night. She met him halfway, turning her face up to recieve his kiss, her arms coiling around his neck.
He cradled her face in his hands and watched her watching him. She was saying something, her eyes dark with worry, not passion.
“I knew you’d come.” He tried to tug her towards the bed, but she resisted.
“I’ve had a call from James Winslow. Kate’s gone missing.”
“What?” He was already reaching for his clothes.
“She ran out a few hours ago.”
“And he didn’t follow? Why has he only rung now?”
She bit her lip. “He hit his head.”
“Fortuitous,” he muttered.
“We need to get round there, I’ll call Alec and tell him to meet us at the Winslow’s home.”
He grabbed her arm as she made to leave. “We have to try the forest.”
She looked incredulous. “Mulder-”
“No! Listen to me. Whatever you believe, she thinks Hannah’s been taken by faeries, and that’s who she’s gone to find.”
“Mulder, you’re still working on the basis that she’s intellectually coherent,” she said, frustrated. “She might not be! The shock of this whole thing pushed her into extreme shock. She was near catatonic, in all probability not thinking logically.”
He snatched up his gun and dipped the holster on. “We don’t have enough time to argue this, Scully. Are you ready?”
She nodded, pulling her cell-phone out of her pocket as she followed him into the hall. “Alec? It’s Scully..”
The lights were off and Mulder nearly fell down the stairs in his haste. He waited impatiently for the night-doorman to unlock the front door.
“He’s on his way,’ said Scully.
Mulder looked at her, harried. “He’s left his surveillance at the lake?”
“Constable Peter Allen is still there.”
“Jesus,” muttered Mulder. “Keys.”
She handed them to him and got in the car. “Where are we going?”
“The forest,” he replied, unflinchingly.
The mist was heavy on the ground, obscuring the dangerous branches and holes scattered on the forest floor. It was a crisp quiet night, and the moon lent the trees an unearthly light.
Guns drawn the two agents picked their way carefully through the undergrowth, silent. Everything seemed highly defined, every sound excruciatingly sharp, every detail exact.
Scully glanced at Mulder’s profile, saw the puffs of white his shallow breaths made in the air. And then, suddenly, she saw movement in the trees just beyond him.
“There!” She took off, almost without thinking.
Mulder snatched for her and dragged her back to his side, wrenching her coat off her shoulders.
“What are you doing?,” she hissed.
He succeeded in pulling her coat off and swiftly turned it inside out, then forced it back into her hands. “A backwards coat will prevent you from being led astray by piskies,” he said. “Humour me.”
She shoved her arms back into the sleeves and began to pursue again. There was a light ahead, blue and flickering between the trees. She could hear Mulder say, “Spread out,” and then she came upon a clearing, almost false in its perfection. The trees were straight and of an even height, running the circular patch of clover in an identically spaced pattern. And in the centre of it was a wild man.
He was tall and achingly slender, with long limbs and a narrow, sharp face.
She lowered her gun.
He was naked and pale, but not shivering in the damp cold of the forest. He was watching her warily with eyes that reminded her somewhat of Kate. She took another step towards him and he flinched, seemingly poised for flight.
“Stay where you are,” she ordered.
He snarled at her, a long string of vowels that made no sense to her, “Ceiran a luatha ne sidhe!,” and started towards her.
Her gun rose again. “I said: stay where you are.”
She heard Mulder call her and for one brief instant she looked behind her. Nothing.
“I/We want my/our daughter back, little sistermind.”
Her head whipped around again and the wild man was beside her, his hand around the muzzle of the gun, pointing it down and away.
She felt the first bite of fear. “Step away, sir.” Mercifully her voice was unfaltering. She felt herself strengthening.
He looked at her in the eyes, green clashing with blue, his face so close that she could smell the earthy scent of his skin.
His mouth opened an inch from hers and he spoke: “Tiedra.”
She only had time to register that he hadn’t breathed the words, rather that they had emenated from the figure, before the air spun around her, pierced with blue light, and she was gone.
Mulder saw the light through the trees, and in the unusual precision of the night Scully’s gasp caught at the edge of his awareness. He had been picking his way carefully through the undergrowth, trying not to make a sound, but when he heard her breath he began to run, caught in the grip of some terrible apprehension.
He yelled her name again and burst into the clearing. He stopped abruptly when he saw the faery crouched over her prone body.
The creature was amazingly graceful as it moved, lifting Scully with itself. It had a strength that belied the frailty of it’s limbs. It hadn’t seen him, it’s attention directed towards the red-haired woman it held gingerly in it’s arms. When it turned to depart the clearing Mulder saw a pair of diaphanous wings hanging limply, unfurled against the faery’s spine.
Then he came to his senses and drew his gun. “Hey!”
The creature spun, startled, to face him.
“Put her down.’ Mulder gestured to make the action clearer.
The creature didn’t move.
“Put her down!” He felt his anger rise and he tightened his grip on his gun.
“You are on the brink of the crossing, othermind. You had better go back.”
Mulder sensed the voice had come from the faery, but it hadn’t opened it’s mouth, nor was the warning spoken in the true sense of the word, but conveyed in a means other than vocally. He advanced on the creature with a sure, steady walk.
“You will breach the crossing if you don’t withdraw.”
The creature’s eyes were wide and flitted from Mulder’s face to his surroundings and back again. It fidgeted, nervous.
“I won’t withdraw without her,” Mulder said firmly.
“She’s one of ours.”
“She’s mine.” Desperate, Mulder tried to will the creature into obeying. Surprisingly, it did, gently sitting Scully down on her feet.
“Now walk away.”
It moved aside and Mulder followed it with his gun, watching Scully out of the corner of his eye. “Scully, are you okay?” She didn’t reply, but she was upright. “Scully?” He turned to the faery. “What did you do to her?”
Scully made a sound like a sigh and he whirled around to find her going down. He reached for her instinctively and she folded against him as if all life had spilled from her body.
Furious, he turned back to the faery – and found it gone.
His anger quickly faded to concern and he lowered Scully to the forest floor, smoothing her hair from her white face and checking her slender wrist for a pulse. It was faint, but steady and he felt her breath warm on his cheek when he leant over her.
“Scully.” He shook her shoulder, trying to rouse her. Then again, harder. “Scully!” Her eyes opened then, and suddenly, terrifyingly, he knew that she wasn’t there. He felt fear well in his stomach and he just barely saved himself from retching. She was alive. She was breathing.
There must be something someone could do. He picked her up and tucked her coat around her while her copper head lolled against his shoulder, her blank eyes staring past his worried face into the dark abyss.
Alec paced the Winslow kitchen, livid. Despite all his own concerns, despite all his misgivings, he had followed Mulder’s demands that Kate be left in the care of her husband, and now she was gone. And to top things off after dragging him off surveillance, leaving only Petey to hold down the fort – God help us – the two agents hadn’t even bothered to show.
He turned back to James Winslow and noted with grim satisfaction that the nasty lump that had been rising on his forehead had finally seemed to stop swelling. “James, you can’t remember anything that may have prompted this attack.”
“I said nothing to her, Mr. Stephens.” Eilian’s voice was sharp and she stood ramrod straight in the corner of the kitchen. “I had nothing to say to her. She is a mother who has abandoned her child.”
James stood up and furiously kicked his chair at the cabinets. “Stop it! Stop it you hideous woman! You talk about abandoning children? You’ve never loved Katie! Never!”
Eilian was standing over him in a heartbeat. “I always loved Kate. She was my flesh and blood!”
“She is! She still is!”
“Not of my flesh! Not of my blood!” She was yelling now, her face purple with anger. “I have cared for and clothed and fed a stranger, a stranger who couldn’t even do the same for her own daughter!”
“That is a lie! That is some imbecilic lie that you have constructed to shield yourself with! And it’s taken over your life, Eilian. Walter knew it! Right down to the last breath he loved his daughter and you broke his heart with your lies and your deception and a hatred of your own creation!”
Eilian threw her arm out and swept a pile of dishes onto the floor. “Kate wasn’t even meant to live!”
The room went silent.
Eilian’s face blanched white and she sank into a chair, resting her head in her hands.
James watched her with contempt. “And there’s the rub, eh, Eilian? Kate was meant to die like the others.”
“What others?,” asked Alec.
“Kate wasn’t her first child. The first died in a serious miscarriage, and the second of cot death.”
“Jack was enchanted by the faeries, just as Kate was stolen by them,” Eilian muttered.
“The faeries are in your mind. They do not exist.” James was adamant.
Eilian lifted her eyes to meet her son-in-law’s. “Then who is your daughter?”
Before he could make a reply there was a loud knocking at the door.
Alec tensed. “I’ll answer it.”
He opened it to a desperate Mulder.
“Where have you been?” Then he saw Mulder’s limp armful, and his mouth fell open. “Jesus! What happened to her?”
“We ran into a stranger in the woods.”
Mulder shuddered. “God, I hope not.”
Alec shut the door after them. “Will she be okay?”
“I don’t know,” replied Mulder. “Where’s Eilian?”
“She and James had a head-on in the kitchen-” Mulder was already hustling that way. “Wait! Fox, I don’t think it’s a good idea that-”
“Can you help her?” Mulder pushed into the kitchen and presented Scully to Eilian.
The older woman swept Scully’s hair out of her eyes and peered at her. “How long has she been like this?”
“12 minutes,” replied Mulder. “I got here as soon as I could.”
“Good,” approved Eilian briskly. “Lay her down on the lounge. I’ll be with you in a moment.”
James watched Mulder distrustfully from his shadowed corner. Scully’s blank expression was too familiar. He turned his face away.
Mulder didn’t pause to switch the light on, but arranged Scully comfortably on the couch and sat with her until Eilian arrived with a steaming towel, a bucket and a bottle of viscous green liquid.
“What are you doing?”
“We have to purge the spell from her body. It won’t be pleasant for her. Have you got a weak stomach?”
Mulder winced. “No.”
“Good. Hold her head upright.”
Eilian forced the liquid down Scully’s throat and lay her hand against her forehead.
Mulder looked at the bottle. “What was that?”
“Hemlock,’ Eilian replied distractedly.
He stared at her in disbelief. “What?”
“A very diluted form.”
“You’ll make her sick!”
“That, agent Mulder, is the aim.”
Before he could react Scully began to retch weakly.
Eilian bent her over the bucket and pulled the copper hair off her face. Mulder squeezed his eyes shut and tightened his grip on her hand. He was surprised and relieved when she returned the pressure. It was not long before the heaving convulsions that wracked her body ceased and she was still, panting.
She threw her head back, and he saw her throat working as she attempted to speak. Finally she turned her watering eyes towards him.
“Oh my God.” She clutched at the hot towel Eilian had given her. “Mulder, what happened? There was a man…”
“He hit you on the head, or something.”
“What did you give me?”
“Hemlock,” said Eilian.
“Hemlock?,” repeated Scully incredulously. She turned to Mulder. “You let her give me hemlock?”
He shrugged helplessly and stood up. “I have to go back to the forest.”
Scully struggled to sit upright. “Oh no you don’t,” she said firmly. “Not without me.”
“Without you,” he said, just as stubbornly.
“Yes. Scully, look what just happened.”
“Getting clonked on the head has never stopped me before, Mulder. I’m coming with you.”
Mulder knew the tone of voice well, and he hid his smile. She was okay. Stroppy, but okay.
Eilian turned a gentle but determined glare on her. “You need to rest.”
Mulder made a sound of approval and exchanged a look with Eilian.
Scully fought to control her temper. “Mrs. George, may I have a word with agent Mulder?”
Eilian hitched herself up, rather reluctantly. “Mind what I said, girl. You’ve had a very traumatic experience.”
Mulder waited until she’d left. “She’s right, Scully. I don’t think it’s a good idea to go back to the forest.”
“Why not?,” she asked, stonily. “You are.”
“Scully, I didn’t-”
“Don’t coddle me, Mulder,” she cut in. “Not now. I think we’ve moved past that point in our relationship.”
“I’m just trying to look after you,” he said planitively.
“And I appreciate it, but I’m not going to let you go into that forest on your own.” Her expression said case closed.
“What do you think it was?,” he asked after a pause.
“What? the man in the forest?”
She considered. “I don’t know. A gypsy, maybe. Maybe even another wild man, like that woman in Jersey. You think he was a faerie.”
“I’m willing to accept it as an option.”
She shook her head as if trying to supress her smile, then gave up and flashed him a grin.
There was a hesitant knock at the door, and Alec poked his head around the corner. “I’m sorry if I’m interrupting, Fox, but we really have to go. Pete Allen has reported something unusual in the forest.”
“What do you mean?” asked Scully.
“He says he’s seen lights and voices, but he can’t find their source. I’m going to contact the other men and meet you at the lake.”
Scully stood up and gritted her teeth against the sudden throb of pain in her head.
Alec watched her worriedly. “Dana, I’m glad you’re alright, but-”
“I’m fine,” she said sharply.
Alec managed a light smile and looked at Mulder. “You did warn me about this,” he said ruefully.
Mulder nodded in patient understanding and held the door open for Scully as she moved past him.
Alec watched them go, then turned to his friend. “I guess I’ll see you at the forest, no?”
Mulder nodded again and started to leave, but Alec grasped his arm.
“Fox, be careful out there, okay?,” he said worriedly. “I don’t know what’s out there, but don’t go rushing in and getting yourself killed.”
Mulder looked concerned. Alec was worried, really worried. “Alec, have you heard anything-”
“No,” he was quick to dismiss it. “I just don’t want Dana going home in a box.” He tried to laugh it off as he left, leaving Mulder looking after him in consternation.
The forest was cold, damp and miserable. It had started to drizzle and the rain plastered Kate’s nightdress to her body, hindering her movement and limiting her speed.
She was close now, so close that she felt she could just reach out and touch her daughter, stroke the peach-down cheeks and smooth her hair away from her tear-stained eyes. Hannah had stopped crying and had succumbed into silence – a silence that scared Kate. But she could still feel her heart beating strongly within her breast, steady against against her own pulse.
She couldn’t keep this state up for long without withdrawing permanently from her physical body – she looked down and saw the blood on her legs, her cut and bleeding feet. She felt no pain – and this, more than anything, caused her to increase her speed. She didn’t have much time left.
It had clouded over quickly and the forest was so dark that Mulder and Scully could barely see a thing outside the beams of light their torches threw forward.
The silence was impenetrable and Mulder found himself holding his breath, not wanting to disturb the perfection of quiet.
They moved slowly, cautiously, frequently catching the other’s eye : This way? Let me go first.
Mulder stumbled and Scully caught his arm.
“I’m okay,” he murmured.
She let go. “And you don’t even have to do it in heels.”
He chuckled, glad of the reprieve from silence.
“You’re sure we’re going the right way?”
He squinted at her in the darkness. “Fairly.”
“Ninety-eight percent. Why?”
She looked reluctant. “I just thought that we should have been there by now.”
He looked at her. Her face was bone white and her eyes looked huge and dark, staring back at him. “You feeling alright?”
She shrugged. “I’ll live.”
“You want to go back?”
Her vehemence startled him and she continued more quietly.
“I want to see this through.”
He understood completely. A case like this, as personal as this this, hit close to the hear. To leave it before completion was unthinkable and would leave a terrible blank space in both mind and memory.
He wanted to show her that he understood and he reached out to touch her, but a scream precluded his move.
Scully started violently, she hadn’t been ready for the noise that cut through the air like a laser through soft butter. The cocoon of silence broke around them. Burst into the sound of leaves and small animals, and Mulder fancied he could even hear his own heart, or hers for that matter, pounding hard with shock.
Scully pulled out her gun and looked at Mulder. He had already his drawn, but it was shaking with the trembling of his ungloved fingers. She started to speak, but once again the scream blotted her voice out.
It was distinctly male, low, rough with terror.
It was frighteningly human.
Scully started to run towards the sound, but Mulder snatched at her desperately and motioned that they should move slowly, silently. Whatever the man had found he had confronted already. It would do neither of them any good if they went charging in without thought and ended up sharing his fate.
He began to move in the direction of the screams, Scully’s hand brushing his own as she walked beside him.
As they crept towards the lake the woods became gradually lighter until it was bright enough to switch off the torches. Mulder could see Scully searching confusedly for the source of the light. It came from neither above them, nor ahead of them. Rather it seemed to radiate from the very leaves, the bracken underfoot. Even the shadows seemed to glow.
The rain shimmered in the light. It appeared stationary, like diamonds hanging in the air. Mulder had the feeling that time had ceased, that they had stepped off the narrow path of reality into…what? He felt dizzy, woozy, like his head had been wrapped in cotton wool and that pressure was building between his ears.
Scully had stopped moving and was standing against a tree, eyes closed, short, sharp breaths causing the shuddering rise and fall of her chest. Alarmed, he spoke her name and mercifully her eyes opened.
She shook her head wearily. He crossed to her and thrust his hands in her pockets. She wouldn’t have thrown it away. She couldn’t have. His fingers fumbled against the dense metal and he pulled it out.
The satin ribbon was tangled in his palm and he cursed as his numb fingers struggled to pull it into a loop. Finally, with a sob of relief, he dragged it over Scully’s head.
There was a roaring sound as his ears popped and his eyes smarted at the sudden sting of pain.
Beside him Scully gulped in great breaths of air as she sagged against the tree.
He was angry, furious, thankful. “You should have worn it,” he growled at her. “Why weren’t you wearing it?”
She was clutching at it now, white-knuckled in her fist. “It was burning,” she said, simply. “Back in the clearing it was burning with cold and it was hurting.”
She looked around as she straightened up from the tree. “What happened?”
He shook his head, then something the faerie had said triggered his memory – “We’ve breached the crossing,” he said.
Her eyes were puzzled, but he didn’t pause to explain and instead pulled her inexorably closer towards the white light.
The first thing he saw was the ripples of light reflecting off the waters of the Lake of Children. He heard Scully’s gasp and knew that she hadn’t expected to stumble across it so suddenly, without warning.
He scanned the lake first, but the only movement came from the rain falling on it’s surface, water meeting water.
“Mulder, look.” Scully moved towards the prone figure on the ground in the shallows of the lake. He was on his front, his face in the water, but still she could tell that it was Alec’s constable. She sighed and moved to the body, rolling it over without any hope.
Mulder had come up behind her. She nodded, tiredly.
“We’ll have to wait until a post-mortem is conducted.”
He touched her shoulder. “What do you think?”
“I think so, yes.” She stood up and stared acros the lake at the dark trees on the other shoreline. “Damnit, Mulder. He was here.” She was full of anger , of disappointment. “He’s dumped Hannah and we’ve missed him.”
He wanted to comfort her, to pull her into the circle of her arms and force the pain out of her eyes and her voice. “Dana-”
“Goddamnit. God*damn*it!” She pushed him off and glared at him. “it’s going to happen again, isn’t it Mulder? It’s just going to keep killing the children, one by one by one! Hasn’t it done enough damage? Come out!” She hurled her words across the lake where they were lost in the rain. “Come out, you bastard!”
He did snatch her into his arms now. Pinning her from behind to his body until her taut anger had softened into quiet breaths. She bent her head forward, defeated and he watched the graceful arch of her neck.
Over her sigh he heard a humming sound that gradually grew louder. Scully stiffened and he released her to pull her further from the waters edge.
A moment later the lake burst into flame and he reeled back. Scully screamed his name and when he looked up he saw the fire reflected in her eyes.
The water hissed and fizzled, but the flames leapt higher and burned brighter, without smoke or steam.
The humming grew louder until the trees seemed to shudder with the sound. Mulder could feel the vibrations shimmer through his body from the soles of his feet up his spine into his teeth and the roof of his mouth.
“Mulder, what is it?”
He could barely hear her voice over the cacophony of sound.
He held up his hand to silence her and gestured to the woods beyond the dancing flames.
A haze of light was rising from the leaves, sparkling, shining, humming.
He looked at her. Her eyes were full of blue light and her mouth had fallen slightly open.
He wanted to kiss her.
He wanted to devour her.
Then the wonder in her eyes turned to fear.
He whirled around to stare past the fire and saw what she had seen.
A figure was on the far bank. It had long, dark hair and wore a white shroud.
From the distance it looked like a child and the name “Hannah” was on Mulder’s lips, before he realised that the figure was a grown woman.
Scully’s shout was lost in the wind and the fire, but she set off along the bank before he could stop her. He followed her quickly along the edge of the lake, but as he did he saw Kate step into the lapping water. Or on to it, to be more correct.
He stumbled to a halt as she took another step.
Her lips were moving, but he couldn’t make out the words. Her eyes were raised to the canopy of light that hung above her. She took another step, then another. The water dipped under her weight, but she remained afloat as she progressed towards the middle of the lake.
Mulder saw the flames part like living curtains then close behind her, throwing sparks into her hair and against her clothes, where they glowed like stars before they went out.
Scully was staring, awed, at the other woman. Mulder could see her struggling for an explanation.
“There must be a…a bank or something,” she said. “Under the water. She’s walking along it…maybe a submerged pier – it would explain where Henry Baxter was found.”
“Scully, think about it,” he admonished her gently, his eyes never leaving Kate.
“Well, what then?,” she demanded crossly.
He shook his head. “We have to stop her.”
“What is she-?”
“A transference,” he said. “Scully, she’s bargaining with her ancestors!”
Now that they were closer, Mulder could hear the words she flung into they sky.
“Mia e de liamore! Fiorde fiedre! I want my daughter back! I want my Hannah!” Tears mingled with perspiration that streamed down her face. Her eyes were wild. “L thwaite, io e simprate! Mama! Mama io e simprate!”
The noise and the flames rose to a crescendo and the lights swung down and obliterated the fire.
The darkness was sudden and complete.
Gradually the light from the stars and the moon returned, and then the sound of splashing surfaced over the silence.
“Help! Help me! Help! Please, someone, help!”
Scully reacted first, flinging off her coat and diving into the lake.
“Hannah, hold on!,” she yelled as she swam strongly towards the thrashing figure.
The girl went down once, then again, and Mulder shouted in alarm.
Scully looked up, and then the water swallowed her whole.
“No!” The cry was torn from his lips. He was about to follow her into the water when she resurfaced – gasping, but triumphant, with a limp body in tow.
She staggered on to the bank and gently laid Hannah down. The girl was pale, very pale, and as Mulder hurried over Scully turned her onto her side. Oh god, please be okay.
“Scully-“, he reached for her.
He stared at her.
“She’s okay. She’s breathing.”
He saw that she was right. Hannah’s chest rose and fell steadily, and after a moment her eyes opened. Huge, brown eyes. Deep and young and innocent. Above all else, innocent. Somewhere along the line she had lost the ancient knowledge, the curse of her ancestry, so that when Scully wrapped her in his woollen coat all Mulder saw was a frightened child.
Penzance Hospital 9:31am
“Shock, mainly. A little water in her lungs- but not enough to cause alarm.” Scully shook her head. “No signs of exposure, no malnutrition. Wherever she was, she was remarkably well looked after.”
James seemed reluctant to ask the next question. “Did she…? Rather I mean, were there any-?”
“There were no gashes, Mr Winslow. No surface wounds.” Scully smoothed her hand through her hair and looked around the room. It was just a small conference room, but Doctor Carter must have pulled some strings; somewhere he had found her a dry change of clothes, and both she and James Winslow had been plied with cups of coffee. Half-decent cups of coffee, she admitted to herself somewhat reluctantly.
Mulder had been sent back to Hayle to retrieve Alec.
“No surface wounds,” said James. “Does that mean that Hannah may have something wrong inside?”
She sighed. “No, I’m sorry, I phrased that incorrectly. What I meant to say was that while Hannah exhibits no physical signs of her abduction, she may experience some psychological trauma.” Abduction, she thought, God help me, I’m even starting to sound like Mulder.
“You mean how she’s unable to remember anything?,” James asked.
Scully nodded. “Hopefully her amnesia will only be temporary.” She somewhat doubted it. “Also, she may experience some nightmares, sleeplessness. Dizzy spells are not uncommon, but don’t hesitate to take her to a doctor if you have any concerns.”
James nodded and ducked his head, as if searching for answers in his cup. Finally, he looked up. “And Kate?”
Scully sighed. “Nothing, I’m afraid. The police are still searching.”
“Will thet charge her?”
“They’ve a warrant out for her arrest,” she replied carefully.
“You’re avoiding the question, Agent Scully.”
“Maybe. We’ll see.”
It seemed to be all the answer he needed. “She was just trying to protect her daughter,” he said sadly.
“From what, James?”
He couldn’t answer.
“You saw exactly what I saw, Scully,” insisted Mulder, stabbing the air with his fork.
“Yes, I did,” she agreed calmly.
“A woman walking on burning water.”
“A woman who appeared to be walking on burning water,” she corrected him.
Mulder spluttered into his glass of wine. “Appeared to be? Appeared to be?” he scoffed.
“It could have been an irregularity on the lake floor. Or-” she spoke over his incredulous laugh, “or, maybe, your eyes were deceiving you. it wouldn’t be the first time.”
“Do I sense some tension?” Alec cut in goodnaturedly.
Scully looked up and smiled at him as he took a seat at the dining table and scanned the resturant idly.
“Alec,” said Mulder.
“Has our food arrived yet?”
He looked at Mulder. “Yes?”
“What was the phonecall about?”
Alec paused in his action of spreading his napkin across his lap. “It’s strange,” he said, brow furrowed.
“Strange?” Mulder prompted, curious.
Scully shot him a look.
“Odd. It appears the lake is disappearing.”
“Drying up?” asked Scully.
“The water level is not going down so much as the ground is going up. There’s only a foot or so of water left in most places. But it’s still level.”
Scully looked triumphant. “Shallow water,” she said to Mulder.
“It wasn’t so shallow when you dived in after Hannah,” he retorted.
“You two,” said Alec insistently. “It’s a mystery for the agricultural scientists, not the police.”
“Is there any sign of Kate?” asked Scully, swiftly changing the subject.
“Nothing,” said Alec. “It’s early days yet. We have men combing the forest, but I doubt they’ll ever find anything.”
“And Hannah?” asked Mulder.
Scully found his hand under the table and gave it a gentle squeeze.
“She understands that her mother is gone,” said Alec. “She still doesn’t remember anything of the time that she was missing. James is making plans for them to move to Scotland to live with his parents for a while.”
Mulder looked shocked. “What about Eilian? Are they leaving her alone?”
Alec looked depressed. “Mulder, you have to put yourself in Jame’s shoes-”
“She’s an old woman, Alec.”
“They’re looking into homes.”
“Oh God.” Mulder dropped his head and bit down on his bottom lip.
“It’s the best thing for her, really,” said Alec, somewhat desperately.
Scully tore her gaze from Mulder and looked at Alec. “Keep an eye on her, won’t you?”
Alec nodded, looking miserable.
Fortunately, the food arrived and they were spared any more conversation.
“When does your flight leave?” asked Alec over coffee.
“Tomorrow morning,” said Mulder.
“I’d like to see you off,” said Alec. “Since I’m here in London anyway-”
“It’ll be very early,” said Mulder warily.
Alec’s smile faltered a little. “Fox…”
“Just remembering what you were like at school,” said Mulder.
“Hey,” protested Alec,” I was an early riser!”
“Only if you hadn’t gone to bed that night.”
Alec chuckled and a smile spread over Mulder’s dark features. “The plane leaves at 4:15,” he said. “In the morning.”
“Oh God!” said Alec. “Can’t you put it off?”
“I don’t know. Scully?”
She looked up. “‘Scully’ what?”
“Do you want to miss the flight? It would give us time for some sightseeing.” He sounded like an eager child.
“Sightseeing?” asked Scully. “Gretna Green?”
“Stonehenge,” said Mulder. “Call it a pilgramage, if you will.”
“I’ll call it an ice cubes chance in hell, Mulder,” she replied.
He grinned-he hadn’t expected any differently. “Spoilsport.”
“Lunatic,” she retorted.
“God, you two behave like an old married couple, sometimes,” exclaimed Alec. He shot Mulder a sly glance, then stood and offered Scully a hand. “May I have this dance, Mrs. Mulder?”
“Oooh,” said Mulder, “that’ll get you in trouble.”
Scully shot him a withering look and, standing, led Alec to the dance floor.
The flight home was long and uneventful but, as usual, Mulder found it easier to adapt back into U.S. time than the other way around.
Still, Scully didn’t trust him to drive and opted for flagging down a taxi outside the airport rather than taking his car out of long-term storage. Mulder protested feebly, but eventually gave in. The quiet swish of tires on tarmac and the sound of the rain on the car roof nearly put him to sleep. He could see that Scully was also being lulled into drowsiness by the strangely comforting movement of the cab.
The streetlights caused an intermittent stripe of light across her features and that, partnered with his own tiredness lent her an almost unreal, ephemeral quality. He reached towards her across the back and caught his eye with a slight smile that barely tilted the corners of her mouth. He felt it like a warmth in his soul.
The taxi slowed to a halt outside Scully’s apartment, and the driver got out to help with the bags. He gestured to Mulder’s, and spoke with a heavy accent. “These too?”
Scully looked at Mulder. “I’d like you to come in,” she said. I can run you home later.”
“Yes,” said Mulder.
The taxi driver nodded, satisfied, and deposited the bags on the sidewalk. It was quite late at night, so few lights were on. Though Brian’s-or where Mulder shrewdly assumed Brian’s were-shone like a beacon through closed curtains.
“Two doors down, Scully,” he said to her with a dismissive gesture to the telltale window. “Looks like someone’s waiting up for you.”
“Looks like,” she agreed calmly as they entered the building. She checked her mailbox, but it was empty. “Brian must have taken it in for me.”
Mulder took a moment to digest this. “He has a key to you mailbox?,” he asked her.
“He has a key to my flat,” she replied. He stared at her, amused, until he realised she was serious.
“And I thought I was special.”
“Oh, I give keys out to all prospective men,” she replied lightly. “It’s all part of my overall plan for Getting A Life.”
“I’m serious, Scully,” Mulder said. “When did you give him a key? Why?”
She looked up from her handbag where she was fossicking around for her own keys, and saw that he was quite concerned. “Don’t be so paranoid,” she said gently. “He used to feed Queequeg. I just haven’t got around to asking for them back yet.”
“Promise me you will,” he said. “Next time. Promise me.”
“He’s not one of Them, Mulder,” she said with certainty.
“Nevertheless,” insisted Mulder, “it makes me uneasy knowing someone can get access to you that easily. We have to take extra precautions. Especially now.”
“By ‘especially now’ you mean post-relationship as opposed to pre-, I assume?”
“Post-relationship?,” he asked. “Post?”
“You know what I mean,” she said, trying to slow the inevitable rise of her temper.
“Don’t put words in my mouth, Dana,” he said. We’re tired he told himself. We wouldn’t be this volatile if we weren’t. “By ‘especially now’ I simply meant it’s going to be even more damn easy for Them to break me once they get wind of this – and make no mistake, They will – and since there’s no way in hell I’m giving you up I’d like us to be as careful as we can.”
“Within reasonable bounds,” she said.
He looked down at her. Her eyes were liquid and her cheeks pale.
“We won’t treat this like it’s a criminal activity. I don’t want to have to meet you in seedy hotels that rent rooms by the hour. I don’t want mysterious notes slipped under my door, unless-” she tried a small smile, “-unless they’re accompanied by mysterious roses. I want to able to tell my Mom.”
He eyes widened. “My Mom, Mulder!”
He nudged her gently. “Do I have to tell mine?”
Try as she might, she couldn’t prevent the grin that dawned across her face at his little-boy-lost query, so she put her arms around him and hid it in the crook of his neck. She felt a silent chuckle run through his body.
“Not a great way to keep this thing under wraps,” he murmured into her hair.
She tipped her face up to his. “You’re afraid someone’s watching?,” she said, with her breath against his lips like the lightest of kisses.
He was having a hard time concentrating. “What?”
Her hands crept lower down his back and settled on his hips. “Skinner, perhaps?”
He moaned against her mouth. “God, Skinner is not an image I want in my head right now, Dana.”
The word “quiet” buzzed against her lips, then his arms tightened her and stole what was left of her breath. He made a lazy exploration of her face with his mouth, trailing kisses along her cheekbone, on her eyelids, the tip of her nose. Her breathing was slow and steady as she dissolved into him, relaxing, letting him hold her up and support her. Her handbag fell to the ground and spilt its contents onto the hallway floor, but she didn’t care.
The noise did bring someone to his door, though.
Mulder opened his eyes to see Bryan appear two doors down, the wide and welcoming grin fading first into bewilderment, then irritation.
“Hello, Bryan,” said Mulder.
Bryan glared at him. “Fox.”
Oh good, thought Mulder, more powerplay.
Scully had disentangled herself by this point and as she turned to face Bryan Mulder noted – with some satisfaction – that she looked flushed, woozy and thoroughly kissed.
A sunny smile quickly replaced the lawyer’s scowl. “I trust you had a good time in England, Dana?” he asked her, the double edged question tempered with a saccharine tone of voice.
She bent to retrieve her handbag. “It was business, Bryan.”
Mulder stooped to help her, letting his hands brush over hers as she swept the contents of her purse back into her handbag and shoved her key into the front door lock.
“I-er, watered your bonsai,” Bryan tried again.
“I’ll bet you did,” muttered Mulder.
“Thankyou,” Scully said.
Bryan evidently took this as a sign of progress and sent a veiled look of triumph Mulder’s way. “Would you like to come in for a cup of coffee?”
Scully flashed a glance at Mulder and saw his countenance rapidly darkening. “Now?,” she asked.
Bryan’s grin didn’t quite make it to his eyes. “If you didn’t have anything else planned.” This with a split-second glance at Mulder.
Alright, Scully said to herself, enough with the games, boys. “I think Mulder and I will just go to bed,” she said, her voice and demeanour almost ‘detached politeness’ personified.
Bryan deflated and Scully could almost feel the testosterone surge from Mulder’s corner as he turned his back on the other man with a smug grin.
“But thankyou for the offer, she said to soften the blow. Bryan accepted the defeat gracefully and turned to depart.
Keys, Mulder mouthed to her.
“Goodnight Bryan.” She turned the handle and slipped into the darkened apartment. Mulder struggled in a moment later with both their suitcases, then stood with his hands on his hips as watching as she went around switching on lights, checking window latches and house plants in her usual routine.
Finally she whirled on him. “If you’re that paranoid I’ll change the locks!,” she exclaimed.
He stepped out of the shadows into a pool of light and she saw the laughter in his eyes. “I just don’t want him to surprise you in the shower.”
“You’re the one letting yourself in, Mulder,” she said, approaching slowly.
“That’s different. I have only the best intentions.”
She raised a single incredulous eyebrow. “Somehow I doubt that.”
He reached out a hand for her. “Come here.”
She grasped his hand and stepped into the circle of his arms.
“Thankyou,” he said.
She looked up at him. “For what?”
“For Hayle. For putting up with me.”
She kissed his chin. “Don’t be an idiot.”
“I mean it,” he protested. “I know it was a hard case for you too.”
“I did what I would have done in any other situation.”
He smiled into her hair. “Not quite.”
“Anyway, it’s over now.”
“For us.” He pulled away slightly, so that he could see her face. “I wonder if Hannah will ever remember. And I wonder if Kate will ever return to reclaim her daughter. And-”
Scully reached up and put her hand over his mouth. “That kind of thinking will drive you mad.”
He kissed her palm. “I’m flattered you don’t think it has already.”
She laughed quietly, the sound bubbling up from within and escaping her lips.
Mulder looked at her, marvelling at this woman who had faced so many demons, whose nightmares rivalled his own – and yet could still laugh.
She was so brave and strong.
He envied her and admired her and loved her more than he had thought would ever be possible.
Reaching down he took her hand and watched her fingers entwine with his. They were strong, slender fingers, dexterous and infinitely gentle. He knew the touch of those fingers in his hair, on his face, flattened against his chest.
He raised his gaze to hers and found her watching him, her solemn blue eyes deep and haunted.
“I don’t know how I’d live without you,” he said suddenly, tightening his grip on her hand.
She looked uneasy. “You’d survive,” she said.
“Would I?” He heard the tone of his own voice and wondered. “I want to believe that.”
“You have to believe that,” she said. He saw a flash of anger coupled with fear engulf the tiredness in her gaze. “You can’t give up. Please promise me you won’t give up.”
“Scully.” He spoke her name sharply, then more gently: “Dana.”
She seemed sapped of all energy, close to fainting. When he pulled her into his arms again she was shivering.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“Don’t take this on yourself.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“This isn’t your cross to bear, Mulder.”
“I love you.”
She lifted her mouth to his and silenced him with a kiss.
He thought he tasted the salt water of her tears on her mouth, but when she pulled away her eyes were dry. He took her chin in his hand. “Do you still want me to stay?,” he asked her.
“More than ever,” she replied with just a shadow of a smile.
He slid the palm of his hand down her throat and felt her pulse beating beneath the milky skin. His breath shuddered in his body as he realised how fragile she really was, how easily the breath could be stilled in her body.
“Don’t.” She caught his hand.
“I can’t,” he replied.
“Don’t,” she repeated and drew his hand to her breast.
“Dana,” her name escaped his lips and hung in the air.
“I want you.”
Three simple words that had the power to knock the breath from his body and weaken his knees.
She tugged his overcoat off his shoulders and he left it pooled on the floor. His jacket followed suit, and his tie – a complicated knot that tightened under his fumbling fingers – was dispensed of by her with three short, sharp jerks.
“Do you know what you do to me?,” he murmured.
She slid her hand up the length of his neck and stroked his cheek, rough with the days stubble. He mirrored the gesture, smoothing his thumb over the sweep of her cheekbone. She turned her face into his caress and kissed the palm of his hand, then tangled her fingers in his hair and drew him down to recieve her kiss.
There was a fire in his belly that leapt when she touched him and for a moment he felt every soft curve and gentle slope of her imprinted on his body. He realised as his hands rediscovered her slight figure that he had already committed the feel of her to memory, where it lingered like the scent of her had lingered on his skin after…after before. He could describe with his hands the exact angle of her waist and the precise weight of her breasts. He dragged his mouth from hers and bent to taste her throat.
Scully rocked back under his searing kiss, and even as she lost her footing she felt his arm tighten around her waist as he supported her.
“Sorry,” he muttered into the crook of her neck, sounding anything but.
“No problem,” she replied breathlessly, regaining her balance and drawing far enough away to have a go at his shirt buttons.
He took the initiative and slid the material of her top up her sides until she had to relinquish her ongoing struggle with his buttons so he could pull it over her arms and off.
Her skin gleamed white in the warm light shed by the lamps. Mulder drew further away, held her at arms length so that he could consume her with his gaze. Suddenly ridiculously self-conscious under that penetrating stare, Scully began to cross her arms over her body.
“Don’t,” he said, pulling her to him, his arms reaching around her back to her bra clasp.
“Shall we do this some place else?,” she asked.
“Are you uncomfortable?,” he replied back. A challenge.
“Yes. No,” she said hastily. “I’m just…Bryan has a key to this apartment.”
“Do you want me to get it off him?” He abruptly made a beeline for the door and Scully had a sudden vision of him flushed, rumpled, half- unclothed, knocking at Bryan’s door and grouchily demanding her key back.
She was half-tempted to let him, but he did a quick U-turn and was back in her arms a heartbeat later.
“Or we could move this to your bedroom,” he grinned affably. “Either way. I’m easy.”
“Ominous words,” she said, mocking him with a raised eyebrow.
He took her hand again and led her down the corridor to her room. “How many times have I longed to do this?,” he asked, shooting her a sidelong glance.
She shrugged back. “You tell me?”
“It seems like forever.” He kicked off his shoes and socks.
She stepped out of her heels and into his waiting embrace, feeling the warmth of his skin against hers with a surge of joy difficult to disguise. “You should have said something.”
“I did,” he said, brushing tiny kisses across her cheek. “Every day I told you.”
“Then I should have paid more attention.”
She tucked her fingers into his waistband and pressed her hips against his. He felt his body leap in response and he stifled a moan against her mouth.
Her lips curved in a smile under his and she unbuckled his trousers, sliding them over his slim hips and rocking up against him again. He gasped and nipped her bottom lip with his teeth, then soothed it with his tongue.
She slid her hands up the smoothly muscled plain of his torso. Her eyes fell closed as she concentrated on the texture of his skin. She moaned again when her fingers circled his flat nipples, but kept still, letting her explore him in her own time, at her own rate.
She continued her blind exploration, her hands feathering over his broad shoulders. “Mulder?”
He didn’t have to be asked twice. He spanned her waist with his hands and slid her trousers over her hips. She looked tiny, fragile without her suit as armour, but her intensity filled the room and Mulder had to catch his breath when he looked at her. She was luminous in the shadows of the room. Cream and gold with her eyes huge and dark with a desire that he knew was mirrored in his own countenance.
He slid his hand up from her waist and cupped her breast. Her eyes fluttered shut again, then opened, wider, darker than before. He caught her gaze, held it and stroked her thumb over the slight peak of her nipple. She gasped his name and arched against his hand, her knees suddenly giving way.
He drew her down to sit on the bed and knelt in front of her, unclasping her bra and drawing the straps down her arms. He traced his fingers back up inside her arm and brushed the curve of her breast. She dropped her head into the crook of his neck and tasted his skin.
“Dana.” He spoke her name like a prayer, his voice rough under the strain of his passion.
She slid her hands into his hair, pulling him closer, wanting the completeness she felt when she was near him.
He bent his head and his lips brushed her breast. Feather-light.
She quivered, desire coursing through her veins, making every inch of her body alive to his touch. His mouth was searingly hot against her flesh and she cried out when his lips moved to her nipple, teasing, tasting, his hands coaxing her backwards on to the bed, moving lower.
Her spine arched in a poignant mix of agony and ecstasy, her throat tight, her teeth gritted. Then her mouth opened in a wordless, cry passionate cry. She fell, sweating, sobbing on the land, marvelling at the body that had betrayed her, her fragile fingers and spindly limbs. There was a new weight against her back, comforting and warm. With joy she turned and saw for a fleeting second a lacy shawl of silver, shot with rainbow colours and an elegant tracery of veins, that swung back around her and nestled against her shoulderblades.
She felt the emptiness of her womb like a hollow pain, but the little mind stirred at the edge of her consciousness. Content. The little voice was unafraid as she nestled into her mother’s thoughts and against her father’s arms.
Author’s Notes: Over the last couple of parts I’ve been terribly weak and cowardly and leaving the intro and disclaimer to my hero Geoff (all hail the mighty Geoff!) who has been just the most …incredible partner-in-crime. He has taken my hastily written, scrunched, torn, travelworn notebooks and transcribed them onto the computer. Geoff – you are the greatest. I can’t thank you enough.
And to everyone who has stuck by me from day 1 and to everyone who is reading the whole thing from scratch, and to everyone who is reading this intro and thinking “Whoa, this is waaay too soggy!”-thankyou.
One of my absolutest favouritest authors told me something I’ll never forget: “Do not post an unfinished long story”. Karen, I hold that dear to my heart and will never do it again. (Pen forgot rule 2: don’t do this AND move overseas halfway through- Imp).
To everyone, class – as per mentioned above, “Day 1” was nearly half a year ago – which makes you all very patient. I hope I haven’t let you down.
Thankyou again to Geoff, to Steph for reading my obsession, to everyone who prodded me into finishing and finally to my own personal source of sanity and inspiration: The Brain. You truly are a most purple african violet.
Thanks for reading, everybody!
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