Storm in the Teacup by Queen Mab

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Storm in the Teacup by Queen Mab

Storm in the Teacup cover

Date: Fri, 06 Aug 1999 19:18:51 BST
Subject: xfc: NEW: Storm in the Teacup Pt. 1 of 10 Source: xfc

AUTHOR: QueenMab

E-MAIL:

DISTRIBUTION: I would be truly grateful of any, but please mail me if you do.

SPOILERS: This is set mid-season 6. None in particular, references for some season 5 eps are in there though, but if you pick up on them, congrats.

RATING: This story is rated NC-17 for bad language, drugs references (pt 1) and violence mainly, there is mild sex, but it isn’t anything shocking. However, if you’re easily offended, be wary.

CLASSIFICATION: MSR, A, X.

KEYWORDS: Rape – only one scene, not awful, clearly marked, doesn’t involve Mulder or Scully, you have been warned. Oh, and it isn’t until a later part so you’re safe for now.

SUMMARY: Ummm… A moral tale – that’s all I’m saying.

WELCOME: Hello everyone and welcome to my story! It’s a bit of a long haul, so be prepared. Anyway I hope that you enjoy it, and I really, really want your comments so please e-mail them to me. Just for the record, I’m English and therefore there may be a couple of phrases that aren’t commonly used in the US, but that I didn’t want to change. BTW, Yes, I have researched this, the spell in part 1 is an edited version of an actual invocation spell, no disrespect intended towards anyone who follows Wicca or other paganistic religions.

DEDICATED to Tanith for being my best mate; toilet humour will never go out of fashion, and to Imogen, for giving me confidence.

DISCLAIMER: The X Files and the characters of Mulder, Scully and Diana Fowley are owned by Fox and Ten Thirteen Productions, Chris Carter and the rest. They are used without permission, but only with good intentions. No infringement is intended.

***

IMPORTANT NOTE: At the start of the story, Mulder thinks ‘Caelum’ is pronounced ‘Salem.’ Anyone with more brain cells than me will probably notice that it isn’t said like that, but I didn’t and therefore Mulder didn’t either.

***

“But this is my quest. I brought you with me because I wanted you at my side. But there are certain things I have to do alone.”

“I want to go with you.” She said.

“Magic had never been important to you before. Why now?”

“Because I began the journey. And I’ve asked that I not be abandoned in the middle of the road.” She answered, putting the matter to rest.

– Paulo Coelho: The Valkyries.

***

PART 1

Samson Residence
Caelum Colorado
Sunday 23:45

“I’m warning you Tanith. If you go out now you’ll pay when you return.”

“I’ll pay for nothing! Anyway, how can you stop me?”

“Fine!” Tanith’s dad shouted at her as she ran up the stairs “But you’re in God’s hands now!”

“I don’t give a fuck about God!” she screamed back to him.

“You come right back here young lady! How dare you use the Lord’s name in that manner!”

“You come right up here and make me!”

Her words were drowned out with the slam of her bedroom door.

Tanith lay down on her bed and wept into her pillow. Why did it always have to be this way? She was 18 for Fuck’s Sake! This is the kind of treatment a 13 year old would get. She’d been putting up with it since she was bloody well born. She’d had just about enough of it.

It wasn’t just a teenage attitude. She’d gone way past that. This was more than that. This came from living in the Goddamn prison that was home.

She looked at herself in the mirror. She was outrageously striking. She had crazy blond curly hair, which was highlighted with Sun-In and tied up in two messy knots on top of her head. She had high cheekbones and a small nose that was complemented by a tiny silver ring. She stuck her tongue out at the image in the mirror, pausing only momentarily to admire her recently acquired tongue piercing. She quickly considered dying her hair blue, but suddenly remembered what she had been crying about. No one appreciated her image here. It had gone down a storm in LA.

Caelum Colorado was a teenager’s hell. There was one road that went in and one road that went out and neither of those roads took you anywhere that was of any interest to anyone, except perhaps for the colony of redneck white-bred lumberjacks that made up almost the entire population of the secluded town. And perhaps also for a preacher like Tanith’s father.

They had moved to Caelum when she was 16, at exactly the wrong time. She had just been making a name for herself in West LA, where until then, her beloved hometown had been. Then her stupid dad had been dismissed from his minister’s position (under extremely suspicious circumstances that Tanith had never been told about) and he dragged the whole family up into Death’s valley, where they now all lived in the peaceful hell that nature and boredom provided for each and every one of them.

But she wasn’t a child anymore. She was an adult for God’s sake. She was an adult and yet she somehow still felt like a child.

Not for much longer. Not now that she’d found her escape.

***

Richards residence
Sunday 23:55

“Shit.” Johnny muttered to himself as he pulled on a pair of baggy jeans.

He flung open the door of his tiny wardrobe and threw all of his clothes out in frantic desperation to find Just One Clean Shirt.

“Shit Oh fucking shit where is it for Christ’s sake?”

Finally he found one T-shirt which wasn’t rancid like all of the rest of them. Why couldn’t his mom just wash them for once? He could tell that he’d end up doing it again this week. Just like he’d always did.

But there was no time to think about that now. He was due to meet with Tanith and Zoë in 5 minutes.

He pulled a hoodie on over the shirt and flung himself out the front door of the trailer he lived in after saying bye to his little brother. God, Tom was only 8 and he’d been left alone almost every night for at least a month.

One month.

It had been only a month since his father had died and Johnny had dragged his inebriated mother home from Caelum’s one lonely bar almost every night since. It had happened on an icy lake high in the mountains where his father liked to fish. Apparently the boat had capsized. Apparently he’d been trapped under the ice. Apparently it all happened pretty fast.

You Know Water At That Temperature Can Kill You In An Instant.

Johnny knew all too well.

If things didn’t get sorted out fast Johnny’s little brother was going to grow up to be an extremely screwed up kid. Hell, he’d already developed a rather bizarre fondness for matches. How long would it be before he set fire to the whole town?

But he didn’t want to think about it. Not now. Not until he’d finished this meeting and had to go prowl the streets for his mother. He was pretty fucked up himself. He could wallow in that comfort for a while. After all, it was an excuse he had often used to his benefit.

***

In the depths of a forest
Caelum Colorado
Monday 12:00 AM

Zoë Browning shivered.

Why was she always the only one who showed up on time?

It was probably because she was the youngest. And she was stupid enough to hurry to get to the cold, dark, damp forest. Still, anything to get out of that house. If she had waited another 10 minutes she would have heard her father walk in and slam the front door, she would have heard some muffled shouting and a scream as he slapped her mother. Then she would hear him stomp up the stairs to her bedroom, where he would silently rape her before he went out again to kill a pig for breakfast the next morning.

A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

All in a night’s work.

Just like every night.

Except sometimes he’d forget about abusing his daughter, but only because the stocks were down at the warehouse and he’d had a hard time chatting up some prissy bitch in his manager’s office to intrude on Just One Minute of His Precious Time.

In some ways she felt sorry for the bastard. It didn’t do a man a whole lot of good to be cooped up in one place his entire life. Not even a fat redneck asshole like him. God only knew it didn’t do Zoë any good.

She flinched as a drop of rain landed on her head from the trees above. She heard footsteps on wet leaves from the darkness ahead of her.

Finally they were here. Thank God.

***

“Okay, so what are we invoking here?” Johnny asked and passed around the spliff that he had just rolled.

They sat in a clearing around the gas lantern that Tanith had brought. It was too damp to light a real fire.

Tanith took a long drag on the spliff.

“Maybe we’ll tell you if you tell us what’s in this shit.” She said.

“It’s pure Skunk.” He said.

“Yeah, pure skunk’s ass. This is crap, Johnny, what a waste of money.”

“Will you shut up?” Zoë said. “Johnny, don’t you remember what the guy said?”

She laughed and flicked her long dark hair behind her shoulders.

“It was only a couple of hours ago.”

“Yeah, but come on. That guy was so crusty that he blended in with the rock he was sitting on. I couldn’t understand a thing he said. He must’ve been sitting there for fucking centuries.”

Tanith laughed. She liked Johnny. She liked him a lot. He was the only person in town she felt that she could trust. But she also knew about his mother. If her dad ever found out that she had been standing less than 200 metres away from Johnny he’d kick her ass all the way back to LA.

In a way she wished he would.

“He said that it was something to do with nature’s spirit. You’ve seen The Craft, right?” She asked him.

“Sure. Fucking crap movie though. If I see anyone take out black lipstick and a spell book I’m going home.”

“It’s not like that.” Zoë snapped.

She didn’t particularly like Johnny. She didn’t particularly like any male.

Still, at least he understood. And at least he’d never tried to rape her.

“This is real,” she continued. “We’re messing with the real occult and if you want to pull out because you can’t take it seriously then do it now.”

Her voice was low. An air of tension weighed heavy on the three teenagers.

Tanith’s laugh broke the silence, making the other two jump.

“Or maybe he’s just scared.” She cooed in mock sympathy.

Johnny rolled his eyes. She laughed and patted his cheek.

“Okay, enough small talk.” He said. “Let’s get down to it. Do we know anything else about this ‘spirit’?”

“The old guy said that it could help us out.” Zoë said. “He said that it would give us our own freedom, without us struggling to escape the town. He said that it would give us ‘eternal enlightenment’”

She finished with a smile.

“A lot like being stoned.” Tanith said.

“Now there’s something that doesn’t happen enough around here.”

Johnny leant back on his hands and sniffed the air.

“You’re damn right! Now let’s get down to business.” Tanith said.

She clapped her hands and jumped up, swiping the damp leaves off her behind as she went.

“Who’s got the paper.”

“I do.”

Zoë took it out of her pocket and stood up.

They stood around the lantern in silence for a moment and shifted nervous glances at one another. Although they had been acting as if it was all one big joke, just something different to do to displease the neighbours and wreak havoc on the family reputation (if they had one to destroy, that is), each one of them knew that this was deadly serious.

What effect it would have on them they didn’t really know, but they were persuaded to try anything as an escape, as hard drugs weren’t readily available to them, and suicide was just too easy.

“Okay,” Zoë said. “Here goes…”

Johnny flung his hands up in to the air.

“Hail to the watch towers of the east!” he cried melodramatically.

“Shhhh!” Tanith punched his arm.

Zoë just ignored him.

She put her hands in the air and looked up to the trees.

“Earth Mother, come to me. Heal my wounds and comfort me.
Earth Mother, come to me. Heal my wounds and set me free.
Earth Mother, come to me. Heal my wounds and comfort me.
I am the Earth, I am the Earth
I am the form of the Goddess.”

“Oh, please.” Johnny whispered to Tanith. “Is this really going to work?”

“Well, we’ll never know unless we try. Will we?” she replied Zoë passed the paper to her.

“Read the next 2 verses. I think Johnny can only handle one.”

“I think that you’re right.” Johnny said, slightly bitterly. “After all, I might laugh.”

“Don’t take the piss.” Zoë said.

Tanith put her hands in the air and read the paper.

“Air, wind, breath and blow. Down light breezes go.
I am the breath, I am the breath,
I am the breath of the Goddess.
Fire, fire warm desire. Change me, form me ‘til I’m higher.
I am the heat, I am the heat,
I am the heat of the Goddess.”

She passed the paper to Johnny.

“Read the last bit and don’t laugh. Then we have to say the end together.”

“Okay, but I still don’t get why we’re praying to some soily bitch instead of a real Man-God!”

“Shutup Johnny, and just read the damn thing.” Zoë snapped.

Johnny reluctantly put his hands up.

“Water falling, rain and snow, water rushing like a stream, Water spouting up in steam, rolling in the ocean.
Water spouting up in steam, rolling in the ocean.
I am the tears, I am the tears,
I am the tears of the Goddess.”

He raised his eyebrows.

“Hey you guys, this isn’t so bad. In fact, it’s kind of kinky.”

Judging from the looks he was getting, Johnny decided that he’d better give it up.

“Okay, everyone. Say it with me now!

Earth, air, fire and water
Earth, air, fire and water
Earth, air, fire and water…..”

Suddenly the paper was swept out of Johnny’s hand with a gust of wind. He stopped.

“Keep going!” Zoë shouted above the noise the swirling wind was making. “We know the words!”

Leaves flew around them and twigs slapped at their faces. The trees creaked and strained as if they were trying to up-root themselves and run away. The three teenagers planted their feet in the soft mud and continued chanting.

Slowly a light descended on them.

“It’s working!” Tanith shouted.

“Oh…my God!”

Even Johnny was gobsmacked.

Slowly they were enveloped by the warm light. As if they were inside a bubble, all of the sound of the wind stopped and they could no longer feel it, but they could still see it desecrating the earth around them.

They felt all of their fears being lifted. They felt their senses being heightened one by one, until the brightness of the light forced their eyes shut, until the air felt like sandpaper on their skin, until the smell and the taste of the forest became suffocating, and even the silence inside the bubble of light became deafening.

It felt as if their heads were floating 20 metres above their bodies, suspended above a cloud of visions of their past, of their regrets and of their hopes. They became extraordinarily aware of themselves and of each other, but it wasn’t embarrassing, it was only liberating.

“It’s like taking your first spliff!” Tanith said “But ten thousand times better!”

“No, it’s like taking your first wank, but ten thousand times better.”

Johnny said

“It’s beautiful,” Zoë said, in awe.

She closed her eyes.

Suddenly there was a loud bang, and the warmth and light disappeared. The wind howled around them again, more forceful than before. They were plunged into complete darkness until a flash of lightning brought their faces back to life. Thunder crashed around them and the trees that surrounded the clearing plunged into flame, trapping them inside a ring of fire.

“What’s happening!?” Tanith shouted.

The noise was unbearable.

“I don’t know!” Johnny replied.

“Something’s wrong! We have to get out of here! Where’s the light gone?!”

Lightning struck the ground next to Johnny. He yelped and darted over to where Tanith was standing.

He started to run.

“Come on!” he shouted to Tanith, but she didn’t move.

“Come on! What are you waiting for, let’s go!”

“Wait!” she shouted back to him. “What about Zoë?”

Zoë was standing, her hands in the air and her eyes tightly shut.

“What about Zoë! Look at her, she’s causing this. If we run fast enough we might be able to make it out of here before the whole of Colorado explodes!”

He grabbed Tanith’s hand and yanked it. She pulled it back.

“No!” she insisted. “Not without Zoë.”

She ran to her and shook her shoulders until Zoë opened her eyes.

Tanith gasped. Zoë’s eyes were as black as death and showed no reflection of light. They were like witches’ eyes; they had no sign of life.

“Zoë!” she shouted. “You have to let go! You’ve channelled something terrible!”

The eyes shifted and cut into her, but Tanith didn’t stop shaking her.

“Zoë stop it!”

She slapped her hard across the face and Zoë suddenly jumped and flickered back to life, as if she was a candle that had just been lit.

The wind and flames disappeared as quickly as they had come.

“Wha….” Zoë began

“Come on” Tanith shouted and grabbed her hand.

Johnny was already long gone.

They left their fear behind them and ran through the forest as if they were being chased by it.

By the time Tanith got home her father was dead.

***

FBI Headquarters, Washington DC
Fox Mulder’s office
Tuesday 7:00 AM

Mulder stared at the photographs in front of him, engrossed.

He tapped his fingers on the table and cracked another sunflower seed.

Two suicides that seem completely unconnected. Two suicides that would seem completely unconnected if they had happened anywhere else. Anywhere but Caelum Colorado.

It was just so strange. Mulder was fascinated.

So fascinated in fact that he almost fell out of his chair when Scully walked in and gave him a breezy;

“Mornin’ Mulder.”

He swept the sunflower seed shells off of his desk on to the floor and cleared his throat while she hung up her overcoat.

“Hey, Scully.”

She turned round and immediately gave him that suspicious look that he was expecting.

“Okay, Scully I’ll tell you.” He said before she could ask “I’m not sure that I really want to know, Mulder.”

“Oh, I’m sure you do.” Mulder said excitedly.

He stood up a little too quickly and stumbled as he swept the photographs up off of the desk. He succeeded in dropping them all over the floor even before he had reached her.

“Uh…just one moment Scully…” He mumbled as he knelt down and gathered them up.

Scully raised a critical eyebrow.

“Take all the moments you need Mulder.”

He finally got to her and handed her the photographs.

“Take a good look at these, Scully.”

She studied them carefully.

“What about them?” She asked.

“Strange, don’t you think?”

“Maybe….Who are they?”

“Victim number one.” Mulder said and held up the first photograph.

“Reverend R.J. Samson. Appears to have gouged out his own eyes”

“So, we’ve seen that before.”

“Just…wait a second Scully, before you come to any logical conclusions.”

He held up a picture of the other body.

“Victim number two, a Mrs. J. Richards, appears to have burned herself alive.”

“Burned herself alive?” Scully said quizzically.

The inevitable question, Mulder thought. Still, he always liked to keep her guessing.

“Mulder, these are suicides, and yet why are you calling them victims?”

“Ah, history Scully. The core of all man. And of all suicides. These two people killed themselves in ways that represent guilt. They were victims of their own faults.”

“And?”

“Caricatures of themselves, Scully.”

“Don’t tell me, you’ve been watching Seven again.”

“Actually no, but I think that somebody has been.”

He tapped the photos.

“So what’re you saying, that these may not be suicides?”

“Oh, no I think they are.”

Scully sighed and sat down in Mulder’s chair.

“So tell me the history, Mulder.”

“The honourable Reverend Samson was a key figure in the not so honourable industry of child pornography. He was dismissed from his position of minister in a church in West LA as a result in 1996, after which he continued to exploit children in his home in Caelum via the Internet. None of his family, nor his followers in Caelum where he continued to preach, had any idea about his obsession until his death. They found a drawer full of magazines by his body.”

“So you’re saying that he gouged out his eyes out of guilt for exploiting innocent children?”

Scully’s nose wrinkled. Not at his theory, Mulder thought, but at her own disgust that a preacher would be involved in such an unholy business.

He felt a pang of sympathy for her, although she’d kill him if she realised it. Scully was the strongest woman he knew, but he still sometimes felt guilty for exposing her to anything that might affect her faith in the human race.

Maybe he was wrong. How did he know that science wasn’t her way of trying to understand the reason for the weakness of the human race. That was certainly a reason for his own fascination with the paranormal.

Whatever the case, he still felt like he had to protect her.

He liked to call it, ‘a man’s intuition’.

Scully liked to call it testosterone.

“Mulder?”

She brought him back down to earth.

“Umm, yes that’s exactly what I’m saying; he killed himself out of guilt.”

“Well that seems plausible to me. What about the woman?”

“Mrs. Jennifer Richards. A drunk at 36. After her husband died in a fishing accident just over a month ago, she began drowning her sorrows until finally, it appears, her sorrows were all drowned out. There were seven empty whisky bottles by her burnt corpse, which, along with the autopsy data, shows that the drink was the spark that lit the flame.”

“So effectively her means of escape killed her.”

“Well, she escaped didn’t she?”

“You could say that. But really, Mulder. Two bodies? It’s not usually enough to get you interested. I mean, this is suicide. Not even a serial killer is involved, let alone any paranormal forces. Even the motivation seems obvious.”

“Two bodies, Scully; one town. Caelum Colorado.”

“There’s a Salem in Colorado? I’ve never heard of it.”

“Exactly. No one has. Except of course for the few people who live there, and me. I passed through there once when my father and I got lost on a camping trip. It’s a tiny mountain town in absolutely the middle of nowhere.”

“So?”

“Scully, I’m amazed at the interest you take in my family history.”

“I’ve heard too much of your history already today, Mulder. Just get to the point. What is so amazing about Caelum Colorado?”

“What’s so amazing is that it’s the most bizarre place I’ve ever been to, Scully.”

“Now that is amazing, Mulder. Surely a tiny mountain town can’t be more bizarre than your average spaceship,”

“Believe me Scully, it is.”

“Or more bizarre perhaps, than a human flukeworm?”

“Far more bizarre. Anyway, Scully…”

“Don’t tell me that Caelum Colorado provides more bizarre circumstances than sleeping with a vampire does?”

“Yes, Scully, it does!”

Mulder looked pensive.

“Well, perhaps not -”

Scully laughed.

“- But Scully we’re kind of getting off the point here.”

“Oh so there is a point!”

Mulder exhaled a sharp breath and rubbed his face in his hands. Trying to explain something to Scully was always so Goddamn difficult!

“Really, Mulder. You’re too easy to play with. You should have drunk more coffee this morning.”

Mulder stared at her for a moment in silence as she went to pour herself a cup. The coffee came out thick like syrup. God, that coffee was days old.

He should have told her.

“Are you done now?” He said.

Scully stared in astonishment at the jug of coffee.

“Hmm, I think so. On second thoughts, maybe you should stay away from the coffee for the time being. I think I just heard it laugh at me.”

Mulder raised his eyebrows.

“Okay, okay I’ll shut up.”

“Good. Now where was I? Oh, yes. The reason that Caelum is so bizarre is just because nothing strange ever happens there. In fact not much of anything ever happens there. It’s hard to believe that it even exists.

It’s so quiet that you could literally pass through some of the buildings without even noticing that they were there. I mean, my dad and I barely noticed we were there until we saw it on the map, and we were Indian Guides.”

“You’re really proud of that aren’t you?”

She smiled but looked inconceivably smug.

“It doesn’t take much to please a man, Scully. When I got that title, it was my finest moment.”

“Well I wish I could’ve been there, Mulder.” Scully said. “I’d like to see you have a fine moment. It’s something I’ve never experienced before.”

“Oh Scully stop it! You’re killing me with your sarcasm!”

Mulder began strangling himself.

“No, actually Mulder, I’m perfectly serious.”

He straightened. How she always managed to keep a straight face in every situation mystified him. Not even a ghost of a smile crossed her face. If Mulder couldn’t read her eyes so well he’d think she actually was serious.

It was probably the only way she managed to survive in a male dominated profession. Everybody but everybody took Agent Scully seriously.

“Okay, you win.” He said. “But only because this may be your only chance at a fine moment.”

With that she smiled and gave him a light punch on the shoulder.

“You never let me have the last word do you? You just can’t do it!”

“What! I said you win, didn’t I?”

“Just shut up Mulder and tell me when we leave for Caelum.”

“Huh?”

“Mulder, almost six years. Don’t you think I’d be able to tell when you were on a mission? You can explain the rest of the case to me later.”

“Well pack your best lumberjack outfit Agent Scully and get ready to…jack some lumber.”

He winced and prayed that Scully would be smiling when he opened his eyes.

She wasn’t.

“Mulder that’s terrible. Couldn’t you have thought of a more original small town stereotype?”

“Hey! Don’t get smart with me Miss Scully. I wrote the book on lumberjack jokes!”

“Hm, obviously…”

“I was making them before you had even bought your first checked shirt.”

“I’ve never bought a checked shirt, Mulder.”

“Exactly.”

She turned around and put her overcoat back on.

“And make sure you sweep up all of those sunflower seed shells before you leave.” She said to the door.

Mulder sat down on his chair and banged his head on the desk.

“Scully!” he shouted as she walked out the door. “You’d better get out of here before I gouge out the eyes on the back of your head!”

“I’m already gone, Mulder.”

Her voice drifted to him from somewhere outside the office.

It was going to be a long day.

***

PART 2

Caelum Trailer Park
Richards Residence
Wednesday 1:03AM

Thomas Richards wasn’t asleep.

The tiny bed in the room he shared with his brother Johnny provided no warmth or comfort from the sound of the rain pounding on the roof of the trailer.

He jumped as a crack of thunder shook the sky above him. He thought he could feel the trailer swaying.

Tom pulled the covers up over his head and began to cry. It wasn’t fair.

Everyone thought that he was too young to understand but they couldn’t have been more wrong. He just saw it differently to how they did.

Tom liked to see it as a blessing. For his mother anyway, and maybe even for him. Reputation seemed to matter so much in Caelum, and maybe now he could make some friends. It had been such a long time since he had been out with a friend. Since his dad had died he had spent most of his days wandering up and down the river alone.

If it was a nicer night he could climb up the tree outside the trailer where he liked to sit when things got a little difficult. Well, that’s what Dr.

Johnson suggested. Dr Johnson suggested a lot of things, none of which seemed to help Tom much.

Like taking the pills.

Tom was fed up of taking pills all the time. They just made him sleepy. Dr Johnson told him that it would help to make all of his anger go away, but when he woke up he was just as angry as he had been before he fell asleep.

He’d be much less angry if Dr. Johnson prescribed him a magazine or maybe even a video player or something. But his mom had told him that they couldn’t help him unless he let them and that he should do it for her, if he couldn’t do it for himself.

Just something I’ll have to get used to, Tom thought, just like everything else.

Hell, he’d been through it all once; he could do it again.

Tom dared himself to peek out from under his covers until a flash of lightning frightened him back under with a yelp.

“Tom?” Johnny called to him from the other side of the room.

“Tom? You okay?”

“Fine.”

“You still not asleep? What’s up? Are you scared?”

“No!”

That was just like Johnny, always trying to make him feel like a wuss. Just because he was older.

“You sure?”

“Yeah I’m sure. Stop tryin’ to act all high and mighty Johnny. Just ‘cause you’re bigger it don’t mean you’re braver you know.”

“Okay, okay.” Johnny replied. “If you change your mind, I’m right over here.”

Tom was silent. Stupid asshole. What gave him the right to think he was so damn special?

Fifteen minutes later Tom was still scared. He climbed out of bed agreeing with himself that it was just that the storm was stronger than usual and he thought the trailer would roll over.

He had just got a foot to the floor when a strange smell stopped him. It smelled like he was lying in the middle of a potato field, but there was another smell mixed in too.

It smells like when you fart under the covers and then smell it, he thought.

He chuckled, in spite of himself.

Still laughing, he got up and walked past Johnny to the front door. He opened it and looked outside, even though it was freezing. He just had to.

He didn’t know why.

Suddenly he was pushed out of the trailer. Two invisible hands grabbed his wrists and held them behind his back. He tried to scream but a hand covered his mouth, suffocating him with the smell.

A voice hissed at him. It sounded like it was talking to him from inside a TV that was turned up too loud.

“Shhh, I’m not going to hurt you.” It said.

Tom squirmed and kicked until two more hands picked up his legs so that he was suspended in the air.

“Be quiet and stay still and listen to me.”

The voice paused.

“If you don’t you’ll end up just like your parents.”

Tom stopped squirming and the thing let go of his legs.

“Now listen to me. I need you to help me.”

Tom tried desperately to see what the thing was, but it was behind him so he couldn’t tell. He was confused at why he couldn’t feel its breath, even though it sounded as if it was whispering right in his ear.

“There’s no need to be afraid, I just want you to listen carefully and I’ll let you go.” The thing said. “I can help you if you help me. I want to find out who killed your parents.”

Tom tried to speak. Whatever this thing was it was obviously mistaken. His father’s death was an accident and his mother killed herself.

The thing’s grip only tightened and Tom thought it was best just to shut up.

“Now listen. I know you think that your parents weren’t murdered but I have…”

The thing paused as if it was searching for words.

“But I have evidence that someone may have killed them. All I need is some proof and I want you to get it for me.”

Tom mumbled a muffled “Why can’t you get it yourself?” But the thing ignored him.

“If you don’t do it I’ll kill your brother and then you really will be alone. All I want is to help you. I’m your friend, Tom.”

How did it know his name?

“I want you to talk to your brother. I want you to ask him where he was last night when your mother died. Then I want you to tell me. But listen to me carefully Thomas. If you mention one word to anyone about me then I will destroy your life…..FOREVER”

The thing’s voice went frightening and low. Tom was petrified now. It sounded like how he’d always imagined that one of the monsters from his comic books would sound.

Shit! Maybe it was one of the monsters!

The thing let go of his mouth but not his wrists. Tom didn’t dare to speak.

“Do you understand Tom? Do you understand me? I don’t want you to tell anyone about this. Just find out where your brother was and what he was doing. If you do that then I might give you a reward. Anything you want.

Do you understand?”

Tom nodded his head.

“Good. Go to Caecus Cave tomorrow evening at 7:00.”

Tom dared to speak. Only because it might save his life.

“I can’t…th…that’s my dinner time.”

“Do you think you’re going to have a dinner time anymore Tom?”

The thing sounded angry.

“Who’s going to cook you dinner every day now, huh, Tom? Not your mother, not your father and if you don’t come to the cave tomorrow your brother’ll never make it again either.”

The thing let go of Tom’s wrists and the smell subsided.

Tom spun round to try and see it but his face only met the open trailer door with a loud crash.

“Tom! You okay?” Johnny called from inside.

Whatever the thing was, it was gone.

***

On the road to Caelum
Wednesday 17:56

Scully tipped her head back and looked at the sky ahead of them.

Why was it only ever her that got carsick? Mulder never seemed to get sick.

Unless he was on a boat, that is. However he didn’t exactly seem healthy.

Maybe he’d just got so used to being ill that he didn’t notice it anymore.

Scully really wished that he’d take better care of himself.

“You okay, Scully?”

He looked at her

“I’m fine, Mulder.”

Mulder’s face darkened a little and he looked back at the road.

She didn’t mean to sound annoyed. She was just so irritated at herself for having to give up one of the rare chances she had at driving.

She patted his thigh and smiled at him. After all, Mulder had been in a very good mood all day and she didn’t want to sway him. He’d walked around like a child on Christmas Eve with an endearing wide-eyed puppy-dog expression on his face.

Scully was relieved for him though. It had been far too long since they’d had a get-up-and-go case like this. Well, far too long for Mulder, anyway.

Still, she’d had enough of him moping around the office snapping at anyone who came within a 5-metre radius of him. For Scully that meant she got snapped at rather a lot. The other agents preferred to stay as far away from Mulder as possible as a rule anyway.

Poor guy, Scully thought. Although he’d kill her if he ever knew it.

She looked over to him. He was wearing an extraordinary expression on his face that startled her. His eyebrows kept jumping up and down like he was arguing with himself about something.

Still his unpredictability was a feature Scully liked a lot about him. She was drawn to it like a magnet, probably as a result of living around predictable people for so long. That’s what had attracted her to Ed all that time ago. Her father had been the only vaguely spontaneous person she had known for a long time. In some ways Mulder reminded her of him.

He muttered something to himself.

“What?” Scully asked.

“What?” Mulder replied.

“You just said something.”

“Oh! No, I was just thinking.”

“About the case?”

“Yeah.”

“Mulder, I’m confused. I still can’t believe that this case interests you just because the town’s a strange place.”

“To tell you the truth, Scully, it’s not just the atmosphere of the town that interests me.”

“No?”

“No. It’s the name.”

“Caelum?”

“Yes. Don’t you think it’s a little odd.”

“How so?”

Mulder was being extremely cryptic and Scully was getting tired of asking questions.

“Well, Caelum. It sounds like Salem.”

“So?”

“Witches, Scully, witches.”

“You think we’re going on a witch-hunt? Because really, Mulder, you should’ve told me sooner. I would have packed my pointed hat and my broomstick and we could’ve gone undercover.”

“It’s a possibility, Scully. Anyway, you wouldn’t need a pointy hat and a broomstick to go undercover as a witch.”

She gave him her best sarcastic smile, and was about to hit back when a thought struck her.

“Mulder? How’s it spelt?”

“What? Witch? I thought you took English Scully.”

“No, Caelum. How do you spell it?”

“Umm…C-A-E-L-U-M, it’s Latin I think.”

Scully put a finger to her lips and looked pensive for a moment. Then suddenly she banged her head on the dashboard, making Mulder jump.

“Shit!”

The car swerved to the side briefly but he got it quickly back under control. Scully sat up.

“Scully do you have a death-wish or what!”

“Mul-der! I can’t believe you! C-A-E-L-U-M spells Ky-lum not Say-lum!

Hello? Latin! I thought you had to know how to pronounce it to do psychology! God! Mulder, even I knew that. Ky-lum. It means ‘Heaven’.”

“Oh.” Mulder said.

He looked astonishingly guilty though.

Scully laughed.

“‘Oh?’ Just ‘Oh!’ Jesus, Mulder! I can’t believe this! You dragged us all the way across the continent over a feeling that the word Caelum sounds like Salem when actually it doesn’t and has nothing to do with witches whatsoever! Well this certainly is a fine day! You of all people got something like that wrong! Ky-lum. Say it with me -”

She leant into him so that her mouth was at his ear.

“KY-lum.”

She leant back.

“Okay I get the picture Scully, I was wrong and you are now right.”

He actually sounded slightly exasperated.

“Does that mean you win this time?” He continued.

“Oh, big-time, Mulder. I win big-time.”

She knew that he was getting frustrated but she couldn’t resist taking him on a guilt-trip with it. It wasn’t often that he made mistakes out of plain ignorance, he wasn’t a stupid man, and Scully wanted to milk it until the cow ran dry.

“I don’t believe this.” She said. “This is ridiculous.”

Mulder squinted as if he was concentrating on something else. He always did it when he was wrong about something. In fact it was infuriating. Scully was laughing more out of frustration than anything else.

<‘Unpredictable.’ Jesus.>

She kicked herself for her previous thought.

<Yeah, Dana, great. Unpredictability can be so much fun.> “It’s interesting though, isn’t it?” Mulder continued, suddenly oblivious to her frustration.

Scully was gobsmacked. How could he be so calm? It was like he didn’t even care that they were stuck in the middle of nowhere, three days away from where they had began. They were in a different time zone for God’s sake!

“What’s interesting, Mulder?” She said through gritted teeth.

“Oh, Scully, you’re just too easy to play with!” he said, mocking her earlier comment.

“Mulder if you don’t fucking shutup I think I’m going to explode.”

“Ooo! Saucer of milk table two!”

Scully bit her tongue.

“You have no idea how camp you sound when you say that.”

“And you have no idea how pissed off you look when I say that.”

“Oh for God’s sake Mulder just…..grrrr!”

She could kill him! Why could she never, ever think of anything to say back to him when he annoyed her the most? He loved it though. Sometimes Scully thought he only lived for the moments when he could get her to the brink of strangling him.

Just to irk her even more, he leant over and gave her a playful kiss on the cheek.

“Fuck off.” She mumbled. Her stomach warmed to it though.

He laughed one of those laughs that could set the Antarctic on fire. He knew that as long as he did it she would never win. She would always give in. Just for the simple fact that she loved it when he laughed like that.

And he knew it. How could he not?

“I wish you wouldn’t do that.” She said.

“Do what?”

He grinned.

Oh God.

“Nevermind.”

“Oh, Scully, I’m sorry. Can we ever be friends again?”

“Shut up.”

“Okay.”

He was silent for about 5 seconds and she wallowed in the peace.

“Don’t you want to know why I still find my little…misunderstanding interesting?” He said.

She sighed.

“You want to tell me, Mulder, and I have no objection to hearing it.”

Scully stared out of the window. Good. That gave him something to think about.

He pondered on it for a moment and then spoke.

“Well if you must know….”

She turned back to him.

“‘Caelum’ means ‘heaven,’ right?”

“Right.”

“Well don’t you think it’s odd that both of these sordid people died at the same time in the same place and that place is called ‘heaven?’”

“That’s a cheap shot Mulder. There’s no point in trying to make excuses for your mistake.”

She gave his upper arm a friendly jab with her finger. God, his bicep was as hard as rock. She suddenly found herself desperately trying to shake away images of what it would be like to sink her teeth into it.

“It wasn’t a mistake, Scully. It was a misunderstanding.

“Whatever. But seeing as we still seem to be driving to Caelum we might as well make the most of it. I’d like to review the autopsies when we get there, if that’s possible.”

“Sure thing, Dr. Scully. Fate has called us out here and in fate we shall trust. I mean, there has to be a case in this somewhere right?”

“Go ahead and think that, Mulder, if it makes you happy.”

He placed his hand on hers and squeezed it, knowing that just his smallest touch was a comfort to her. Scully wished that he’d keep it there in vain, but not really expecting that he ever would. Sure enough, after a few seconds he removed it. She sensed his reluctance though.

“I’m too easy to play with, aren’t I, Agent Scully?”

“Damn right.” She said and leaned back again.

Her nausea was long gone.

After she was sure that the silence was safe, she closed her eyes on the dark storm cloud that was just ahead of them, looming over Caelum with an ominous presence that threatened to envelop the small town in darkness completely.

***

PART 3

Caecus Cave
Wednesday 19:00

Tom clambered up the mountainside that looked over Caelum like a mothering hand, and made his way to the large opening of the cave.

He didn’t know why he trusted whatever this thing was that had attacked him the night before. He didn’t even know what it wanted from him. But it had threatened him, and bribed him, so all in all Tom thought that it was probably quite important.

There was no sign of the Thing. In fact, there was no sign of any thing.

Generally no one ventured that far up the mountainside, but there was always an abundance of wildlife there.

Now even the trees were silent.

Tom began to worry. What if this had all been some kind of joke? Or worse still what if someone had lured him up there alone to murder him? It wouldn’t surprise him. Nature seemed to be holding a grudge against his family.

But Tom wasn’t weak. If someone was going to try to murder him they could expect a good fight first.

Even though he was only 4 foot 6.

Even though he was only eight.

It didn’t scare Tom.

Not much.

It was probably just Johnny anyway, trying to make a fool out of him again.

Well if that’s how he wanted to play it then fine, Tom would just march right back down there and show him what being a fool is really like.

Tom was just turning away from the cave when a voice from inside it stopped him. It was the Thing’s voice.

“Tom. I’m glad you came.”

Tom narrowed his eyes suspiciously.

“Where are you?” He asked.

“Where does it sound like I am?” The Thing answered.

Tom pursed his lips.

“I hope you ain’t tryin’ to trick me.” He shouted.

The Thing sounded quite far away.

“Trick you? Now why should I try to do that?”

The Thing’s voice was smooth and even.

“How do I know you aren’t?” Tom shouted.

“You can trust me.” The Thing said.

“I don’t even know you! How do I know it wasn’t you who killed my parents?”

There was a silence, then the Thing continued.

“Look on that rock over to your left.”

Tom glanced at a rock on what he could only hope was his left side. There was something on top of it.

Tom cautiously moved closer to it without turning away from the mouth of the cave. The thing on the rock was a comic book. A very rare comic book that he had always wanted. He gasped.

“Wow! It’s the original 1971 edition of ‘Captain Colombo Colossus Cobra Catcher’s Adventures in Cambodia!’”

“I see that you know your comics, Tom. Personally I’ve always preferred his ‘Adventures in Canada.’ Now do you trust me?”

“Where did you get this? I thought that they’d stopped printing this ages ago – and this looks brand new.”

“That’s not important right now.” The Thing said hastily. “What is important is that you tell me where your brother was. Did you find out?”

“I might’ve.”

“Where is he, Tom?”

Tom was about to speak when he paused. This thing obviously needed his help quite badly. He could use this to his advantage.

“Wait.” He said. “Let me see you. I wanna know who I’m talking to.”

“No.”

“Okay then, thanks for the comic.”

Tom began to walk casually away.

“Wait!” The Thing called to him. “I… can’t.”

“Why not? What do you look like in there?”

Tom walked further towards the cave.

“Are you deformed? Or are you just plain ugly? Are you like…a mutant?”

“Of course not!” The Thing bellowed.

It’s voice echoed around the cave and Tom stopped walking.

“Then let me see you.” He said.

“Okay… this may be hard for you to understand.”

“Aw, c’mon. I’m not stupid. Why does everyone always think I’m stupid?”

Tom couldn’t help the anger that was rising up his throat.

“I don’t think that you’re stupid, Tom. In fact I think that you are a very clever boy. More clever than you think.”

“Then let me see you!”

“You’re looking at me.”

“What?”

Tom spun around but couldn’t see anyone anywhere.

“Are you invisible?”

“No. I’m all around you. I am everything around you. I am everything that you can see and hear.”

“Are you God?”

“No… look, I knew you wouldn’t understand this.”

“Well if you’re all around me, then how come it still sounds like you’re in that cave?”

“The things that you see and hear can be deceptive, Tom. Human beings are stupid that way. They find it impossible to accept that the world around them isn’t just there for their benefit. I am speaking to you from inside this cave because that is all that your little brain is capable of understanding. This way you can create a concept of who I am that you can believe.”

“But I want to know who you really are.”

“You really want me to speak to you in my own form?”

“I s’pose so.”

“Well, all right… but I can assure you, you’re not going to like it.”

“I can handle it!” Tom shouted.

The Thing didn’t reply. Suddenly a rustling in the trees around him made him jump. He looked upwards and saw the clouds above him swirling around maniacally, like they were being swept down a whirlpool in the sky. Some of the bracken near him caught fire, and Tom moved away.

What was happening?

The breeze became a gale in a matter of seconds, forcing Tom to crouch down and watch from behind the rock. Branches broke off of trees and went up in flames as they hit the ground. It began to rain, then Tom was pelted with hail, then a fine layer of snow made a desperate attempt at putting out the fires, which were raging in spite of all the wind and wetness.

Then all of a sudden he heard his name being called. It wasn’t called by a voice, but it echoed around him in the wind. The fire crackled it, the rain tapped it and the earth hummed it. And all the while there was a constant deafening screeching that Tom could hardly bear. It was as if the sound might have been forming words, but the pitch fluttered up and down like there was something interfering with it.

Lightning flashed around him and grit stung his eyes. The heat from the fires blazing all around him seared his skin. The world that he had come to trust so well suddenly became his enemy, and the loss of control frightened him.

“Stop!” He screamed.

“Stop! Please! I understand now please stop!”

The screeching became louder and louder and tears stung Tom’s face.

“Why aren’t you stopping!? You said that I could trust you!”

His arms were growing redder and redder in the heat of the fire and he curled up against the rock, which was cool and safe. He pressed his face up against it and closed his eyes and wept.

“Please, stop.” He said under his breath. “I don’t want to die.

Please…”

Just before the heat burned his skin raw, and just before the wind threatened to tear the ground from beneath him, it suddenly all stopped and perfect silence succeeded.

Tom looked upwards. The darkness and the clouds were swept away by blue skies. It was like a film that had sped up.

“There’s no need to cower behind that rock.”

It was the Thing’s voice again. Tom was surprised to find that it made him feel safe.

He wiped his eyes and stood up to face the cave again.

“Why didn’t you stop when I asked you to?” he said angrily.

“I’m sorry. I got a little carried away.”

“Well don’t do it again. You almost killed me.”

“You were nowhere near to death Tom. I would never let anything like that happen to you. You’re too important to me.”

The Thing’s words comforted him. Tom hadn’t felt needed since his father died. He began to wonder if the Thing was his father’s ghost.

“Do you trust me now Tom? Do you understand me?”

“Yes.”

“Then tell me where your brother was.”

He stumbled over some of the words that Johnny had used but succeeded in explaining where he had been.

“That’s what I thought.” The Thing said after he had finished.

“What do you mean?” Tom asked.

“I can’t tell you anything until I have more information.”

Tom sat in silence for a moment. He wished that he could see the Thing. He wished that it were human and that it could hold him. He wished that it could take his hand and lead him home, and then stay there with him so that he would never be alone.

“What are you?” He said quietly.

The temptation to shout had dissipated long ago.

“Why are you here?”

“I’ve come to show man how narrow minded he can be. I’ve come to show humans the error of their ways and help them to see things from different angles. The world has many dimensions, Tom. Never forget that. People have trouble understanding that everything isn’t purely superficial, that there is more to understand beyond their own lives.”

Tom didn’t really understand the Thing’s use of words, but he thought he knew what it meant. Tom knew as much as anyone how narrow-minded people in Caelum could be. Not even he knew much of anything outside of the town, except from off of the TV.

“Why Caelum though? Why me?” He said.

“I’ve been waiting for centuries to trespass on someone else’s channel to Earth, and your brother and his friends gave me that opportunity. They were attempting an invocation of nature’s spirit, but it isn’t as simple as they thought, and they got me instead. It was just a lucky coincidence that it happened in Caelum, seeing as the people here are just the kind of people that irritate me the most. I chose you to help me because you are vulnerable, and because you are young. I can only communicate to humans through people who are young enough to still have an open mind and an open heart. You are too young to have been scarred by society, Tom, as are most eight-year-olds. Although as a result of your town and of what has happened to you, I was worried that your time was coming too soon.”

“So you don’t know who killed my parents?” Tom interrupted.

“No, no. That’s not what I’m saying at all. I only want to help you. I think that this town killed your parents, Tom and I want everyone in it to pay. I just need your help to do that.”

“If you aren’t the spirit of nature then how is it possible that you can control it?”

“Well if I can control it, I can’t possibly be it can I, Tom.”

“What?”

“I am as much nature as nature is me. That’s all I can say. But I think you understand me. Now lets get back to the matter at hand. There are two FBI agents coming to Caelum today, and I need you to talk to them.”

“Really? FBI agents?”

“Don’t get too excited, they’re nothing special.” The Thing said, a little sarcastically. “They’re here for the same reason as I am, to investigate the deaths that have been going on. I need you to tell them what your brother and his friends were doing in the forest last night. I need you to tell them exactly what you told me. Do you understand? I want you to make sure that they listen to you.”

“When do they get here?”

“They may be here already, but listen carefully, Tom. You mustn’t tell them until 4:00 AM this Thursday, okay? Wait until then. Then come back to me and we’ll talk again.”

“What’s in it for me?”

“Tom! So selfish? But if you must have a reward then I cannot refuse you.

Come back to me in two days, and I’ll see what I can do.”

***

Heck’s Hotel
Caelum Colorado
Wednesday 19:15

Mulder was unpacking when he heard a knock on his hotel room door.

“Yeah?”

“Can I come in, Mulder?”

Scully’s voice drifted in from outside the door.

“No.”

She opened the door and came in.

They looked at each other and Mulder’s eyes widened.

So did Scully’s.

She spoke first.

“Mulder, do you think that jeans and a T-shirt are really appropriate for this kind of assignment?”

Scully was wearing an extremely flattering black suit, and as much as Mulder didn’t want her to change it really wasn’t going to help them to be inconspicuous.

“Do you think that a black suit is really appropriate for this kind of assignment?”

“Mulder, we may be in the middle of nowhere but we still have reputations to uphold. It’s not as if we’re going to be clambering about the mountains.”

“Well how do you know? It wouldn’t surprise me if we did end up having to do a little running. I hope you’ve been working out Agent Scully.”

He didn’t even need to ask that. Her figure told him the answer every time he looked at her.

“Get a grip, Mulder. Just because we’re not at FBI Headquarters that doesn’t mean that we aren’t at work.”

“But Scully these-”

“Even if these assignments are the nearest thing we get to a vacation.”

Was she reading his mind?

“Look, Scully. I know about your obsession with professionalism, but look at where we are? Have you seen the people round here? They can smell city people. They have a sixth sense for it. We have to be subtle, or we’ll never find out anything.”

“Hmm…Hey! I’m not obsessed with professionalism!”

“Yes you are.”

“I am not!”

“Yes you are.”

“No I’m not!”

She paused.

“I am?”

“Scully, you should see yourself. You freak out if someone flushes the toilet without saying ‘Thank you sir and good night.’ You need to loosen up a little. Seriously.”

“Mulder that’s ridiculous.” She said a little uncomfortably.

He looked at her.

“Seriously.” He repeated. “Perhaps this is the core of your physiological aversion to getting too close to people.”

“My what?!”

“Well, you’re addicted to running away from people, aren’t you? I mean, have you ever considered whether it’s them who deter you or that it’s you who deters them?”

She set her jaw and stared at him.

“Well come on,” she said sharply “Say what you want to say.”

“Well it all comes down to this. Maybe if you dressed a little less conservatively from time to time you wouldn’t act so stuffy.”

She looked away and suddenly he wished that he hadn’t said anything. He wished that countless times every day. He always seemed to be embarrassing her or making her uncomfortable, or putting her down. He didn’t know why she put up with it. He’d never understood why she didn’t just report him to the authorities and be done with him. Things just slipped out of his mouth though. His mother had always told him that it came from having an overactive imagination. Scully would probably tell him that too.

She looked up at him and her eyes cut through him.

“Are you saying that I deter people because of the way I dress?”

She spoke through grit teeth. This was becoming far too dangerous. Mulder wished that he could just jump out the window.

God he hated hurting her. Where had this hostility come from? He liked what she wore, he really liked it. Why couldn’t he just keep his mouth shut and let her be?

“Ummmm….”

Then she snapped.

“You know what? Stop fucking psycho-analysing me! I’m the one who’s afraid of people?! Me?!

She was pacing back and forth like she didn’t know where else to go.

“I cannot believe you! For God’s sake, Mulder it’s-”

She was waving a finger at him like it was a gun but she froze in her tracks. She cocked her head up and looked at him. Mulder could almost see the light bulb above her head go ‘ting!’

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be so rude I just-” He began. She cut him off.

“No, no that’s fine.” She said breezily. “You want me to loosen up, that’s fine.”

It was like some revelation had just occurred to her. Her shoulders relaxed and she stood up straight.

Mulder couldn’t move. Something very bad was going to happen, he could tell. Something that he wasn’t expecting……..

Scully looked up at him and her eyes smouldered beneath her brows. Slowly she moved very close up to him. So close that he could smell her hair. She held on to the sleeves of his T-shirt and he reluctantly met her sultry gaze. Something was burning beneath her eyes. She knew she looked stunning. She had to know.

Not for the first time, Mulder found lust taking over guilt. That wasn’t fair, Mulder thought suddenly. She was manipulating him. This wasn’t fair.

Actually, what was she doing?

Mulder was shocked to find her standing on tiptoes so that she was almost at eye-level with him. She leant against him to keep her balance.

He could feel her breath on his lips.

<Fucking hell Scully what are you doing?>

He felt her hands slip slowly over his T-shirt and rest on his chest. Then one thumb dragged slowly across his bottom lip.

She didn’t take her eyes off his.

She couldn’t do this. What the hell gave her the right to just march up to him and—

Oh God. Mulder felt himself go hard.

How could she do this to him so easily? How could she make him such a small man?

She whispered on to his lips.

“I’ll show you loosened up, Mulder. Just you wait and see.”

She gave him a sharp push and he stumbled backwards in shock as she walked quickly out of his door without looking back.

Well he certainly wasn’t expecting that.

Mulder began to sweat uncontrollably. She’d left him seriously freaked out.

For the first time in his life he thought that he might faint. He’d seen a lot of unusual stuff, but nothing this weird had ever happened to him before.

Surely she knew what it looked like she was doing. Surely she knew.

Perhaps she didn’t. Perhaps she didn’t do anything. Maybe it was just his over active imagination at work again.

But maybe not.

It was in the way she had looked at him. She had looked at him admiringly and fondly before, but she had never looked at him like that. That look was burning. It was scorching.

It was wonderful.

Mulder began to worry. How could he ever get that vision out of his head now? How could he ever look at her again without going hard for God’s sake?

Mulder knew that he cared for her, but he’d never felt this kind of lust before. It wasn’t your average She’s Hot I Gotta Have Her Now lust, it was worse because Mulder knew that he could never have her.

And this wasn’t fair. She couldn’t just stroll up to him and give him a taster of what he had always wanted just to snatch it back again.

But she just did. And now he would be left pining.

How could she do this do him?

***

PART 4

Tenderness encapsulated
In icy caverns of a cruel
Heart or else despair
For in the very germ
Of that kindred love is
Lodged the perpetuity
Of evil.

– Chinua Achebe: Vultures.

***

St Lawrence Avenue
Caelum
19:30

They met again fifteen minutes later outside the hotel. Scully had changed her top-half to a v-neck T-shirt, and had kept her bottom half the same.

Mulder felt incredibly uncomfortable.

He watched Scully carefully. She was keeping her head low and avoiding his eyes. He’d never seen her brooding like this; her face was so dark. He prayed to God that she was just uncomfortable too.

What was it he had said? He didn’t even remember. Something about her loosening up? It wasn’t as if he had never irritated her before, but this was unusual. She looked different. She looked frightening.

“You okay, Scully?” he asked a little nervously.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” She said frostily.

Mulder took that as a ‘No, and if you question me anymore I’m going to rip out your throat.’ He decided that trying to sort out her emotional problems for her probably wasn’t such a good idea.

“We should go and talk to the Caelum PD.” He said. “We can ask them about your autopsy.”

Scully snorted.

“Do they even have a PD here?”

“Come on,” Mulder said without smiling. “I know the way.”

Despite Scully’s overt reluctance to do anything, they made it to the Caelum Police Department, which consisted of exactly 5 policemen, which included three officers, a detective and a chief.

Apparently there wasn’t much call for them. Not until recently.

They were also surprised to see Mulder and Scully. Officer Simon Peterson told them:

“We didn’t think that you’d bother coming.”

They asked him about Scully reviewing the autopsies and the young officer gave them a casual wave and a “What the hell.” And directed them to the mortuary.

The lack of professionalism and the general air of lethargy disturbed Mulder, but he didn’t dare say anything to Scully about it. Stating the obvious to her was one of the worst crimes he could commit.

“I think that I might talk to the children of the victims, Scully.” He said finally as they walked out of the police station. “I don’t think that enough information has been gathered.”

“Okay.” Scully said.

“Okay… Are you going to check out the bodies now, or…”

“Yes.” She replied. “I’ll meet you in a couple of hours.”

“Sure. Maybe we could get a coffee or something. I need to get some caffeine into me.”

“Fine.”

‘Whatever.’ Mulder thought.

She walked away without saying goodbye.

Mulder began to slowly walk down the street towards the address he had been given for the first victim’s child.

Tanith Samson.

Tanith…

That’s a nice name…

Mulder’s thoughts slowly ground to a halt as he realised how deserted the street was. There was not a soul in sight. The houses were dark and the shops were closed. He immediately began to miss the constant dull thrum of the city.

Where was everybody?

He finally reached the white front door of a large timber house. He knocked a few times but there was no answer. He gave the door a gentle push and it opened. As a reflex action Mulder pulled his gun out of it’s holster and went inside.

He put it back. This was Caelum Colorado. One of the few places left in the world where no one locked their doors. There hadn’t been a need to, until recently.

“Hello?” He called up a rather grand staircase.

Christ, where had a reverend got all this money from?

There was no answer and after checking the downstairs rooms Mulder made his way up the stairs.

There was no one on the first, second or third floors and his legs were beginning to ache. He reached the top floor and pushed a heavy oak door open onto a bedroom.

It appeared that he had entered at the wrong time.

Two youngish teenagers were rolling about on the bed, and from the looks of it getting pretty close to penetration.

Mulder chuckled to himself and thought about his first sexual encounter.

It had been a complete pile of shit. The most popular 13 year old girl in the school, Tracy Hotzenpfeiffer, had taken him down to the boiler room, promising, no, threatening to show him something that he’d really like, and had proceeded to remove her bra.

The girl had no figure, a stupid name and was barely old enough for armpit hair, but to a pubescent junior high school geek she was a Goddess.

He had stood there in shock, unable to move. Besides she’d threatened to strangle him with the bra if he tried to run away. She’d actually used the words ‘Don’t try to escape.’

A dominatrix at only 13.

Mulder wondered what she was doing now.

She was probably working for The Syndicate.

It had ended up with them both lying on the cold concrete floor, her feet pounding against one of the iron boilers as he struggled to find where anything was, giving no pleasure to anyone except maybe for the school janitor, who had caught them and laughed his head off.

He had promised not to tell anyone. Mulder had wished that he would have done, so that he’d get expelled and spared from the inevitable embarrassment of the following day, when Tracy would tell the whole school what a load of crap he was.

At least the horror of it had forced him to find out a bit more about the anatomy of a woman.

Now he was great in bed.

Or in the shower.

Or on a train.

Anywhere, really.

He looked away from the two teenagers, who still hadn’t noticed him, suddenly feeling perverted. He pondered on leaving them to it, but what would he tell Scully?

He cleared his throat loudly.

The girl looked at him and screamed.

The boy wrapped the cover around his mid-section and gaped.

“Don’t worry.” Mulder said unconvincingly. “I’m from the FBI.”

<Great, Fox.> That was really something two mortified teenagers wanted to hear when they were scared half to death.

“The what?!” The boy said.

“You’re not in any trouble.”

“What?” The boy said again.

Mulder looked at the girl as she snatched the cover from the boy to cover herself up.

“Are you Tanith Samson?”

“Yes.” She said breathlessly.

“I need to ask you a few questions about your father.”

“My father?”

She looked from Mulder to the boy, and then back again.

“What the fuck?” the boy said.

He didn’t seem to have much else to say.

“Yes. In private, if you wouldn’t mind?”

He glanced at the boy.

“No.” Tanith said. “Anywhere I go Johnny goes.”

“You’re Johnny Richards?”

“Yeah, so?” The boy replied hastily.

He was good looking and well built, dark with broad shoulders and a straight back. He would make a fine heir to the Fox Mulder throne.

“You can stay then.” Mulder continued. “I need to talk to you as well.”

“What do our parents deaths have to do with the FBI?” Johnny asked.

“To be honest I’m not exactly sure. It is just the nature of the suicides which I find interesting.”

“Well, let us get dressed first.” Tanith said sharply.

“Sure, sorry.”

Mulder walked out of the room and went downstairs.

He put his face in his hands. He was beyond exhausted. He tried to remember in vain the last time that he had just felt simply tired.

Soon the teenagers reappeared, hand in hand and looking incredibly nervous.

Mulder gave them a standard questioning; where they were, who they were with, if they saw anything or thought anything was odd, but seeing as most of the answers he got were ‘I dunno,’ it didn’t really get him anywhere that he wanted to be.

***

‘Mac’s Munch’ Diner
Wednesday 21:00

Scully had felt as though she had forgiven him for what he said in the hotel room until she saw him again, sitting on the curb outside the diner, his head held in his hands, the hazy moonlight reflecting a mist of exhaustion from his body. She looked at him from across the road, unable to decide why it was that she was so angry with him. After all, it wasn’t as if he had said anything particularly out of character. After a long day of travelling anyone was entitled to a release of tension. And Scully was constant subject to this mild abuse, which she knew was just his own unresolved angst reflected back upon her. Anyway, he had meant it as a joke. Not a joke, even, but just a passing comment.

But there were undertones in it that were blatantly rude. Whether he thought that he was just helping her out or not, what he said had affected her in a strange way. She had made it into some sort of moral intrusion.

He had been a trespasser on her most feared insecurities.

It was as if the crumpled shell of a man who sat across the road encased more information about herself than even she knew. It was irksome. It just wasn’t fair.

And it seemed that whenever he had an opinion on her actions it mattered so much more than when she did. She missed the comfort of wallowing in disapproval of herself and not having to tell anyone about it. It was her direction. The only way that she could escape from him. Mulder made up all parts of her life but that one. That and her memories, although now even they were beginning to envelop themselves in him.

Scully could have an argument with herself about her personal faults and problems, and not talk to her conscience for days, but it had always been her decision whether she changed herself in any way. No one else ever got a say. Not until Mulder had intruded on this privacy. It was like he had discovered a truth about her that she had tried so hard to deny. Then again, Mulder spent his life doing that. Perhaps this was just part of another conspiracy. The second hand on the clock of self-destruction ticking again. Humans were only made from nature’s dishonesty. They would destroy themselves trying to deny that fact eventually.

The government may have been watching everything she did, but they didn’t know her. No one could know her like Mulder did.

She crossed the road and stood in front of him. He didn’t move.

God, was he asleep?

“Mulder.” She said loudly.

He jumped and squinted up at her. He looked like he’d been having a psychological brawl with the devil.

Scully felt like she hadn’t seen him for weeks, although it had only been a couple of hours.

“Get up, or the street cleaner’ll be picking on you. You look like a tramp.”

She walked towards the diner, her malice already bubbling over.

What was this? Why couldn’t she control it?

“Scully, you shock me with your sympathy.”

He sounded unbelievably tired. He dragged himself up using his spine like a crane, uncoiling into the faade of a strong man that he always dressed himself with when he didn’t want her to know something was wrong.

She said nothing and he followed her into the diner.

The customers stared at them as if they had just run in and attempted to start a group orgy on top of the canteen. She still couldn’t believe that people found it so easy to fall into the conformities of stereotype. Then again, they were probably all thinking exactly the thing. Perhaps not in so many words. Well, probably not in half of those words.

In their standard FBI overcoats she and Mulder didn’t exactly look like your average Local Yokel.

They had tried to prevent it, but it was damn cold outside. Avoiding people’s eyes, they chose a table at the back of the diner.

“Looks like we’ve found where all the Caelum Trendies hang out. I feel so fashionably deprived.” Mulder said sarcastically.

God, he could be arrogant. Just because he owned one Armani suit and some Hugo Boss aftershave. So what? So did her brother. So did everyone.

He stared at her and she looked away, unable to meet his gaze. For some reason she felt intensely guilty about something. That on top of her rage and her fear was enough to make her want to slit her wrists with the plastic covered “Great Grillies” lunch list.

“So…” Mulder began. “What did you discover while I was away?”

Scully thought hazily back to the autopsy session, trying to remember what the hell they were investigating.

Suicides

Teenagers

Coincidences

More coincidences

Vague memories swept through her like the skeletons of leaves, meaningless.

When had it all become so uninteresting?

“Scully?”

She drummed her fingers on the table and looked at his mouth.

“Drugs.” She said.

“What?”

There was something unusual about those bodies.

“Drugs. I found traces of an unusual drug when I examined the bodies.”

He leant forwards.

“What kind of drug?”

“I don’t know.”

He frowned. She sighed.

“I mean that it wasn’t recognisable. I’ve never seen it before.”

He pursed his lips.

“But I do know that it appears that these people didn’t commit suicide.”

“No?”

Now he was interested. Scully could already feel the impulse reaction of work enveloping life. Discovering something before Mulder did was for Scully what a thousand dollars was for a Crack addict. It was her Quick Fix.

“It seems that we were not given the whole story on the previous autopsies, as usual. That or most of the details were disregarded. When I examined the drug more closely I found that it was a compound of two organic substances which are unrecognisable. However, I did find that one bears some similarity to the amatoxin found in Death Cap mushrooms. The closest that I could find to the other part of the drug was the Digitalis toxin from the Foxglove plant.”

His eyes widened.

“How do you know all this?”

“Mulder, just because I wasn’t an Indian Guide it doesn’t mean I don’t know anything about nature.”

“So you’re saying that these people were poisoned?”

“It looks that way, although I can’t find any evidence of the drug being ingested. When I examined the bodies I found evidence of tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation, along with all the symptoms of classic cyclopeptide poisoning. There was also evidence of hypokaliemia, dyspnea and syncope.”

“Woah, hold on a minute Crazy Scientist Woman. You know I don’t speak Doctor.”

“Tachycardia is when your heart speeds up unnecessarily. Basically before these people died they suffered from faintness, breathlessness, palpitations, profuse vomiting, distorted vision, extreme pain and cramps internally and externally, and possibly hallucinations, delirium and manic behaviour before eventually their heart stopped and they collapsed on the floor more dead than… well, as dead as your average… dead person.”

Mulder was wincing.

“Maybe I should pass on that mushroom soup, huh, Scully?”

She almost smiled. Her medical knowledge had a reputation for impressing the stubbornest of people, even Mulder from time to time.

“It’s not a nice way to die. Ordinarily these are a combination of symptoms brought on by Digitalis Toxicity, which causes the heart rate to change dramatically, in this case by speeding it up, and Cyclopeptide Poisoning is caused by the amatoxins in the Death Cap mushroom.”

“Aha.” Mulder was beginning to get distracted. “And what does cyclowhatever poisoning do to you?”

“I just explained that to you.”

“Yes, Scully, but why?”

He sounded like a baffled school kid. It annoyed the hell out of her.

“Well, the amatoxin inhibits the production of certain proteins in the liver and kidneys, causing them to eventually stop working. Then comes the onset of all the other symptoms I described. But one thing was strange. Normally a person poisoned in this way would have these symptoms for a few days before they died. Did the teenagers you questioned mention any strange behaviour beforehand?”

“No. Anyway, from what you said it sounds as if it would have been pretty obvious. Why? How long did it take for the victims to die?”

“It’s hard to tell, but it appears that it only took a few minutes.”

“But this doesn’t prove that they didn’t try to kill themselves.”

“No it doesn’t, but it does prove that they didn’t die from their injuries.”

“Well how do you know? Isn’t tachycardia also a symptom of shock?

Wouldn’t that occur from the injuries that these people inflicted on themselves?”

“I hadn’t considered that.”

Great. How could she have not thought of that? Why couldn’t he just let her be right? Why couldn’t he keep his genius mouth shut every once in a while?

“But that still doesn’t explain the drug, or any of the other symptoms.”

She said.

He ignored her.

“So this drug wasn’t either of the two toxins you described, it was just similar.”

“Aha.”

“Right.”

Scully was tired of explaining things to him. She had almost forgotten her resentment towards him.

“So then where did it come from?”

<Oh God. Please no more questions.>

“I don’t know.”

She grit her teeth.

“And it was in both bodies?”

She recoiled back in to her anger.

“Yes.”

He sensed that he was irritating her, she knew that. Soon he would give her a broad smile, a pat on the hand and try to be funny.

“Did you know that the Latin name for the Death Cap is ‘Amanita Phalloides’?” He said with a grin.

She knew him too well.

“You see, I do know my mushrooms. And my Latin.”

He patted her hand. She knew him far too well. His smile almost broke her, but she just pouted and looked away.

“Ah, c’mon Scully. What is it with you? Is this all because I told you to loosen up?”

She sat bolt upright and stared at him. How could he be so ignorant?

After all this! After almost six years!

“Of course this isn’t just because of that!” She yelled. “But don’t worry Mulder! I am loosening up! You just…”

This was so infuriating! What could she possibly say to make him understand?

“You just wait and see.” She hissed.

Oh, yeah, that was cutting.

With that she was gone. He could tell her about his questioning another time, preferably in the next hundred years, when she decided to talk to him again.

Stupid bastard.

***

PART 5

WARNING! NC-17!!! The following scene contains a rape. It does not involve Mulder or Scully. It contains disturbing images, some people may be offended or shocked. You have been warned.

Browning Residence
Thursday 12:05AM

Zoë pressed her head back in to the pillow and stared at the glowing green stars that surrounded her bedroom.

Any moment now she would hear him. Any moment now.

She thought about all that had happened in the past few days. People were dying, but people were always dying.

Zoë only lived so that she could die, and was wistful for the day when she would meet Death face to face, shake his hand and invite him in to her home.

She would offer him a Whisky and call him her best friend, and they would talk trivially about the afterlife, before finally Death would take her in it’s blackness and open her eyes again to see only peaceful nothingness.

Zoë didn’t like the idea of past lives and reincarnation. She never, ever wanted to come back to life again, not if she was going to have to experience the same suffering that she did now. Not if she was going to have to meet her father again in another life, as someone even worse.

So the FBI had been called in. So what? What difference could the government make to anything anyway? If these people had really committed suicide then it was human nature that needed investigating.

And people were already beginning to talk, as usual. Zoë was convinced that this would all end up her family’s fault. They were considered to be Caelum’s scapegoats.

She wondered how her father had managed to keep his dark secret safe, how the town had avoided discovering what the so called ‘Devil’s Businessman’

did to his daughter every night, when they cared so much about him ripping them off with over priced pine furniture.

Zoë wondered why she hadn’t told anyone. Perhaps it was because she knew that her father’s threats of ‘I’ll find out and kill you if you do’ were true. He’d probably said the same thing to her mother. God, she was so weak it was sickening. No one could keep a secret in Caelum. It was her fault then, she thought. If no one could help her because she didn’t tell them about it then it was her fault, right? It was all her fault.

She glanced over at the bedside table where she kept the penknife that she cut her arms with. She liked to think that she could cut out the guilt.

They were all the same anyway. They were all just like her father.

Generally she avoided talking to anyone who took an active interest in town gossip, and that meant pretty much everyone.

Then she heard him, the glum clump of his steel toecapped boots on the wooden stairs up to her room.

There he was. Right on time, as usual.

As the door opened with the same creak that rang out every time since she was 14, she thought of how angry it made her that everything in Caelum ended with an ‘as usual.’

And as she felt him heavy beside her on the bed she thought of how she was tired of always blaming herself for everything that happened to her.

As she smelt the beer and cigarettes on his breath, and heard the zip on his pants, she thought again of how tired she was of being helpless, as usual.

But she lay still and limp as he pushed her legs apart, too used to it to bother him with the technicalities of underwear or pyjama bottoms. Not even a chastity belt could stop the Devil’s Businessman.

And as he led her hand down to him to ‘give him a little help getting up’, she wondered if she’d always be as weak as this. As he forced himself inside of her she didn’t even grit her teeth; she was already too bruised and broken to feel any pain.

As he grunted like a pig she closed her eyes on the green stars that wrapped her up in blankets of atmosphere every night, so she could no longer hear it, and she saw a blue – green light behind her eyes, and she swam in the calm under the waves, pushing past her fears, past her hopes, and sat in the silence of her mother’s womb, where she heard her muffled voice telling her to go with it, to float in it, not to be afraid because nothing lasts forever, and it took her by the hand and whispered the Lord’s Prayer in her ear, and Zoë wondered when ‘as usual’ would end.

“Tonight!”

She was pulled up above the waves, back to the storm that shook the vision of the stars above her. Was that a voice in her head?

But her father had heard it too. For a moment he paused and looked around him. A strange smell entwined around both of them. It smelled like earth and something that Zoë couldn’t determine. She saw the shadows of two hands reach around her father’s face. She licked her lips and tasted his sweat around her mouth. All of a sudden, she knew what was going to happen. And this time she didn’t care.

She spat his fluids back in his face and pulled his hair so hard that she felt his scalp tear. He screamed and slapped her, but Zoë could see the dark hands cover over his eyes.

He threw himself off her and on to the floor, paralysed and screaming.

Suddenly he became silent, and lay and the floor spasming, his eyes flicking about as if he had just taken amphetamine. Zoë watched him and wondered whether she should try to help, but the interesting way that his eyes were moving seemed far more important, so she sat still and watched him wasting away in front of her.

Then he gasped and sat up, gagging. He looked at her in desperation, and Zoë wondered if this was what she had looked like every night that he paid her a visit. He ran out of her room then stumbled back a few moments later, holding a lighter and a knife.

Zoë watched aghast as he held the lighter to his bits and screamed until his hands shook so much that he dropped it on the floor. Then he held the knife to his upper groin and pushed it in, and Zoë watched the blood spurt all the way across the room. This time it was him who was cutting out the guilt.

That was when the dark hands gently pushed her own eyes shut, and she blacked out, desperate for unconsciousness.

***

Browning Residence
Thursday 4:00AM

“So you don’t remember anything after that?” Mulder asked the skinny teenage girl shaking in front of him.

She shook her head.

“All you remember is him… raping you, a strange smell and these.. dark hands and then nothing? He went and got a lighter and a knife and then you blacked out.”

“Yes, I told you, he paid his visit and then I woke up and he was on the floor.”

She was crying.

“What time was it when he, uh, paid his visit?”

“12:10. It’s always at 12:10.”

Mulder looked away and sighed. How could anyone be so disgusting, so inhuman?

“Okay, Zo, thank you.”

He put a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“If you remember anything else be sure to tell us, okay?”

She nodded and he walked over to where Scully had been watching him. He had considered going after her when she had stormed out on him at the diner but his pride had got the better of him and he had stayed behind. That was definitely a mistake.

What did it take to resolve something like this? Why was she so damn difficult?

“She doesn’t remember anything Scully. We aren’t going to get much from her.”

Scully was silent. He had to sort this out and soon. It was getting in the way of their work. Mulder thought he was supposed to be the unprofessional one.

“But I’m interested in the dark hands and the funny smell. That certainly sounds supernatural to me-”

“Mulder the girl has been raped by her own father almost every night for the past two and a half years.” Scully snapped. “She is psychologically disturbed and is perfectly susceptible to seeing or even smelling strange things in her fear.”

“Yes, but she never had done before. Why now? Why at the very moment that her father chose to kill himself?”

“How do we know he killed himself?”

“Well, it seems fairly obvious, Scully.”

“Does it?” She said bluntly and looked him straight in the eye.

She opened her mouth as if she was going to yell at him but shut it again.

Mulder prayed that she would just let it out. He couldn’t stand to see her hurting like this and knowing that he was somehow the cause of it.

“I’ve organised a counsellor for her and social services and taking care of the rest.” Scully said.

Mulder nodded slowly and looked at the coroner taking photos of the body.

“So are you doing the autopsy on this one?”

“Yes.”

“I think we should have this room checked for traces of the drug you found in the other bodies.”

“Fine.”

She was about to wander off when a policeman stopped her.

“Excuse me agents, but there is a little boy outside who seems pretty desperate to talk to you. I told him that if you weren’t too busy you’d go and see him.”

“Okay, thank you officer.” Scully said. “I hope this isn’t just another complication, Mulder.”

She pushed past him.

“What?” He started, but she was already gone. Why was he always considered the cause of complications?

***

For God’s Sake. This investigation was going nowhere, Mulder was antagonising her more and more and she hadn’t been sleeping properly, which had never been a problem for her before.

Scully’s stomach growled at her.

That was another thing. She’d eaten barely anything in two days. Mulder always told her she didn’t eat enough anyway, but she didn’t think she’d ever felt so hungry in all her life. She was going to faint soon if she didn’t eat. She hoped that who ever this kid was he had a good reason to talk to them.

Scully was so caught up in her anger that she completely missed the small boy who was calling her.

“Excuse me!” The boy said. “Are you Agent Scully? Excuse me!”

“Scully, wait!” Mulder shouted at her.

She turned around to see a young redheaded boy, about eight years old.

“Are you the kid that wanted to talk to us?” Mulder asked the boy.

“Yes sir. My name is Tom Richards.”

Mulder looked at Scully.

“Are you related to Johnny Richards?” he asked the boy.

“He’s my brother.”

Scully walked up to the boy and put a hand on his shoulder.

“I’m sorry about your mother.” She said.

“Oh, no, that’s okay. Johnny and Dr. Johnson look after me pretty good.”

“Doctor Johnson?” Scully said.

“Yeah. He’s my… psychiatrist.” Tom stumbled over the word.

“Why do you need a psychiatrist?” Mulder asked.

A little insensitively, Scully thought. It must be incredibly difficult for a boy his age to understand what has happened to him.

“He gives me pills. To keep me under control, he said.”

Scully could see from the glint in Mulder’s eyes that he was immediately suspicious. Not of Tom, but of Dr Johnson. Mulder was always suspicious of the people he knew least about. It made sense in a way, she thought.

Before Mulder could probe any further, Scully interrupted their conversation.

“Why did you want to talk to us Tom?”

“I know you’re investigating about my mom’s death. And I know you think she killed herself, but I wanted to tell you that I don’t think she did.”

Mulder bent down to try to look the boy in the face. Scully laughed to herself at how silly he looked, trying to seriously interrogate an eight year old boy.

“Well how do you think she died?” Mulder asked.

“You promise not to tell Johnny I said this? Because if he finds out he’ll beat me up.”

Mulder’s eyes widened and he looked up at Scully. She shook her head.

Despite how angry she was at him, sometimes his naivet could be extremely endearing.

“It’s all right Mulder.” She said. “I don’t think we’ve got a child abuse case here.”

She looked at Tom.

“We promise we won’t tell him. What did he do Tom?”

“The night mom died, he came and told me that him and his friends had been in the woods.”

“Doing what?” Mulder asked him.

“He said that they had been trying out magic. He said that they had been trying to talk to a good spirit but it all went wrong.”

“What do you mean ‘it all went wrong’?”

Mulder was fascinated now. Though Scully couldn’t see that this had anything to do with the case.

“Don’t blame him for anything. He just said that they got the wrong spirit.

That it was an evil one. He said that he thought it might be because of that that mom died.”

Mulder straightened to face her. Scully raised an eyebrow and looked at the boy.

“Who else was with him, Tom?”

“His two girlfriends. Zoë and Tanith.”

She heard Mulder draw in a breath beside her.

“Tom, why are you telling us all of this? Do you want to get your brother in to trouble? Do you think it’s his fault that your mom killed herself?”

Scully asked him.

Tom swallowed and suddenly looked very nervous.

“I told you before. My mom didn’t kill herself. I told you about Johnny so you’d know that she didn’t.”

Before they could ask him anymore questions Tom muttered something about being in bed and ran away.

Mulder and Scully looked at each other.

“Isn’t it a little late for a boy his age to be out?” Mulder said “Not if your brother is invoking the spirit at the same time.”

“Do you think he was telling the truth, Scully?”

“About wanting us to believe that Mrs. Richards didn’t commit suicide?”

“Uh-huh. It seems a bit strange don’t you think? That an eight year old boy would come out at 4 o’clock in the morning just to tell us that, and that he even knows who we are. I mean, how did he even know we were going to be here?”

“Don’t jump to any conclusions, Mulder. Remember that this is an eight-year-old we’re talking about. He’s been through a terrible time recently and in all likeliness his imagination has been working on overtime.

I’m sure that Johnny just told him that story so that he wouldn’t have to explain why Mrs. Richards would kill herself. So that Tom wouldn’t have to understand why his own mother would leave them out of her own choice.

It’s not an easy thing for an eight year old to come to grips with, Mulder.”

Mulder looked distracted.

“Hmmm… maybe so. But it would make sense if what he said were true.

Considering what Zoë said she saw.”

“The dark hands?”

“Exactly. If it were true that an evil spirit had been summoned, who’s not to say that it could be the cause of all of these mysterious deaths?”

Scully breathed deeply.

“Mulder, how does that make any sense at all? What about the drug? What about the whole ‘suicide’ thing? You have absolutely no evidence whatsoever to support this. People see things when they are frightened, Mulder, you know that well enough. Zoë Browning had just been raped. It was dark in her room. She saw a shadow Mulder, that’s it. The thought of anything even vaguely supernatural going on here seems ridiculous.”

He obviously still wasn’t paying any attention to her. It was as if he was looking through her, like she wasn’t there at all.

“If only we had witnesses to the first two deaths.” He muttered to himself.

“Mulder! We are going nowhere with this case! We haven’t found anything!

“How do you know we haven’t just stumbled across a vital piece of evidence?”

“Even if we had we would never realise it. We have no idea what the hell we’re looking for here Mulder, neither of us do.”

“That’s why we’re investigating, Scully. To find stuff out! What about the drug? What if it shows up in this body too? There has to be something going on here.”

“Well it looks to me like we’re just wasting our time.”

Scully left Mulder standing there. If he wanted to go gallivanting off looking for non-existent supernatural leads then he could, but she was not going to be a part of it. Meanwhile, she had an autopsy to perform.

***

Mulder watched Scully walk briskly away feeling incredibly tense. Why could they never agree on anything? Recently it had seemed like Scully was purposely contradicting her own theories just to disagree with him. What if it were true that Johnny had somehow invoked an evil spirit and that it had decided to wreak havoc on the families of those who summoned it? Surely it wasn’t just a coincidence that it was Johnny, Tanith and Zoë’s parents who had died. It seemed plausible to Mulder, although it was clearly the complete opposite of what Scully considered to be plausible.

Then again, all of the actual evidence they had pointed to suicide. What if Johnny had been making up a story to lead Tom off the track? Tom had said that he needed pills to keep him under control, perhaps Johnny was just making sure that Tom did stay under control.

Speaking of pills, another possibility was that Johnny really did believe that he had invoked an evil spirit, but what he had seen wasn’t necessarily true. Perhaps this drug that Scully found was somehow involved. She did say that it caused hallucinations. If Johnny and the other two teenagers had taken a small amount of this drug, they could have hallucinated the whole of the invocation. Then if the drug was widely used by the people in Caelum, (Mulder wouldn’t put it past them. They must need some sort of escape from a town like this) then perhaps the parents overdosed on it and it caused them to hallucinate a reason to kill themselves, before the drug eventually finished them off.

Mulder’s brain was boiling, and he knew that his theories were going to become more and more far fetched. There was only one way to find out the truth, and that was by talking to Johnny himself.

After returning to the hotel at 4.45, having a shower and something to eat, and barely managing to stay awake for three hours, Mulder finally emerged feeling no more refreshed.

It took him a good ten minutes to walk all the way across town to Johnny’s trailer.

Mulder was sure that he had seen Tom sitting on the doorstep from a little way off, but when he reached the trailer the door was shut and Tom was no where to be seen.

He rang the doorbell and Johnny answered.

“Oh, it’s you again.” He said politely.

“Yeah, sorry to bother you, but I need to ask you a few more questions.”

Johnny moved so that Mulder could enter the trailer.

“Umm… make yourself at home where ever you can.” Johnny said.

Mulder looked around him. The place was a dump.

“Is Tom here?” He asked.

“Not as far as I know. In fact I think I heard him go out at about six this morning, but I haven’t seen him since.”

“And you’ve been here all day?”

“Yes sir.”

Johnny threw some clothes off of the tiny couch and sat down while Mulder made himself comfortable on a plastic chair whose legs threatened to snap under his weight.

“So what d’you wanna know?” Johnny said.

“I heard that you have been dabbling in magic, Johnny.”

“Who told you that?”

“That isn’t important.”

“It was Tom wasn’t it? That little shit-face I’ll kill him!”

“It wasn’t Tom.” Mulder lied. “Someone saw you doing it.”

Johnny looked at the floor.

“What happened?”

“It was a couple of nights ago. I was with Tanith and Zoë. We weren’t trying to seriously do anything, we just thought it might be fun, for a change.”

Mulder nodded and Johnny continued.

“Anyway Zoë had got this chant from somewhere so we tried it out. You won’t believe me if I tell you what happened.”

You obviously don’t know me, Mulder thought to himself.

“Tell me.” He said.

“Well, I think the chant worked. Only not in the way that we had planned.

It started out okay, but then all of a sudden this storm blew up – not like any storm I’d seen before – there were trees coming down all around us and things being set on fire, so me and Tanith decided to run but Zoë was still standing there channelling it – whatever it was. Anyway I was trying to pull Tanith away because there was lightning crashing all around us but she just kept yelling at me; ‘not without Zoë! Not without Zoë!’ So we tried to get her to come but it was like she was in this trance, then suddenly she opened her eyes. She didn’t know what the hell was going on so we just dragged her with us and started running. When we got back in to town it was like everything was normal. Like there’d been no storm at all.”

He paused.

“Then me and Tanith found our parents.”

Mulder was silent for a moment. This all sounded real enough, but he had experienced enough hallucinations to know that they can be very vivid.

“Are you aware that Zoë’s father also committed suicide last night?”

“No sir, I was not aware of that.”

Johnny paused and then looked up at Mulder.

“But that’s just it. I don’t think they did kill themselves. I think that whatever we unleashed in the forest killed them.”

“Johnny, have you ever taken illegal drugs?”

He looked surprised and then nervous.

“N – no sir.”

Yeah, right, Mulder thought.

“Are you sure? Or should I remind you that if you lie and then I find out the truth later, you could be in a lot of trouble. This isn’t just the Caelum police you’re talking to, Johnny. I’ll be really pissed off if I fly all the way back to Washington DC and then find out that you messed up the investigation just because of one tiny little lie.”

Johnny swallowed. Ah, the good ol’ FBI lecture. Works every time.

“Have you ever possessed or taken an illegal drug?”

“Yes sir I have.” Johnny said.

He was white as a sheet.

“Okay then, now we’re getting somewhere. When was the last time you took it?”

“Sunday night.”

“Hmm… and where did you get it from?”

Johnny’s mouth opened and closed, opened and closed again.

“Tell me the truth.”

Mulder’s tone was sickeningly patronising and he knew it.

“Dr. Johnson sold it to me. He has access to all sorts of drugs.”

Before Mulder could reflect, he caught a glimpse of something flash by the window as he looked at it.

“Did you see that?” He asked Johnny, who was trembling uncontrollably.

Mulder felt a pang of guilt for putting the boy in such a humiliating situation.

Johnny looked up at the window beside him.

“No sir, I didn’t.”

Mulder wished that Johnny would stop calling him ‘sir.’ He wasn’t used to this feeling of authority.

“Are you sure that Tom isn’t here?”

“I’m positive. It was probably just a bird… sir.”

Mulder grit his teeth but Johnny seemed glad of the change of subject.

He stood up.

“Well thank you for your time, Johnny.”

Johnny gaped at him. He waited for the ‘Well aren’t you at least going to arrest me?!’ but it never came. He probably didn’t want to give Mulder any ideas.

“If you don’t mind my asking, Agent Mulder, but what do drugs have to do with my mother’s death?”

“That’s what I’m trying to find out.” Mulder said.

He took his leave and went outside, pausing for a brief moment to look under the trailer. He could have sworn he had seen someone.

He found no one and carried on his way. Reluctantly considering that he would now have to face Scully and tell her that he thought he knew who the killer was.

That it was Dr. Johnson.

***

PART 6

Caecus Cave
Thursday 10:00AM

“Did you do what I asked?” It asked Tom as he walked towards the cave.

“Sure I did.” He replied. “But I still don’t understand why I had to tell those FBI people all that.”

“You will understand, Tom, in time. After all, I am saving your generation from the spoils of every previous one. You will understand. We have a lot to teach the world, my child. In the new world, honesty is policy. We won’t have any dark secrets or lies. They are the root of all evil, you know.”

“What ‘new world?’” Tom asked. “You never said anything about that before.”

“Nevermind, Tom. You are too young to understand. I am cleansing the Earth with you as?. well, with you as my mop.”

“What? I don’t want to be your mop! I thought you were here to find out who killed my parents.”

“I am, don’t worry. I need you to do me another favour though. I need more information. The reason that you are doing this is merely to? frame those involved in the murders.”

Tom sat still on a rock.

Such innocence, It thought to Itself. Such innocence only born to be destroyed. Finally I am here to stop it.

It laughed to Itself. Ah, it felt strange for It to be speaking of those old morals that had disappeared a long time ago. Who would have thought, the Ultimate Promoter of Honesty wins the Liar of the Year award. It was all for a good cause, in the long run.

Then again, was that a lie? It hadn’t really come to make people honest, not this time around. That had been It’s purpose, when it had been created.

It had been born as Honesty’s Spirit. Another attempt made by nature to recapture what had escaped from Pandora’s Box, to rectify the problems that Adam and Eve had caused the human race – whatever people believed had started it. And initially, It had wanted to help, to cleanse the Earth from all of its lies. But as It had waited for It’s turn to be channelled to the Earth, a change occurred within It and unsettled It’s core. So far every other ‘Promoter’ had failed, whatever it’s mission was.

Briefly It wondered whether another Promoter had been created yet to take It’s place. It certainly hadn’t lived up to It’s original standards.

Nevermind, it seemed inevitable that Humanity would self-destruct anyway, there seemed to be no way to stop it. So It had begun to think that perhaps only humans could help themselves, and the only way that they would understand that was if they were shocked into it. So It had become bored of waiting around, and decided to play a little game with Humanity. Just as a prelude for things to come. It would see just how much chaos It could create.

Just for fun.

Just for a laugh.

It was ashamed with Itself. It should have had a higher purpose – and It did, a long time ago. But humans were so stupid, and to be honest It couldn’t be bothered to help them. It would play around with them like little toys until their time came and they destroyed themselves. After centuries of waiting around in Eternity, It was entitled to a little bit of corrupt madness, right?

Finally Tom spoke.

“Before I do you anymore favours, you said that I would have another reward?”

“Of course, Tom.” It said. “How could I forget. But this time I have two rewards for you.”

Tom jumped up and clapped his hands.

“Show me!” He said.

It directed him to look behind the rock he was sitting on, and there Tom found a video player.

This kind of thing made It sick. How could so much joy come from material things? There was so much more for humans to worry about.

Tom screamed with joy.

“I am so glad you like it, Tom. I hope you have many happy hours turning your brain to dust.”

Suddenly Tom stopped jumping around.

“I don’t mean to be rude, but -”

“You want to know what the other reward is.” It interrupted. “My other reward has already been in action. Obviously you haven’t noticed.”

“What?” Tom asked.

“I know how much you hated taking those pills Tom.”

“You took them? I was wondering where they’d gone, I thought I’d lost them.”

“You will never have to take pills again Tom. But I have to warn you, the whole town knows that you aren’t taking them.”

“So? Why should I care what the rest of the town thinks? I am free!”

He spun around. If only he knew what trouble this could cause, It thought gleefully.

“Now calm down and listen to me. If you want another reward you’ll have to earn it.”

“What can I do!” Tom said excitedly. “I’ll do anything!”

Good, It thought to Itself. Obviously Tom didn’t care how much chaos this one act could cause the town.

“Okay, now listen carefully. This is what I want you to do and I want you to do it for me now??..”

***

‘Mac’s Munch’ Diner
Thursday 14:00

As she and Mulder wandered up to the glass doors of the diner, Scully wondered why he had chosen to come here again. Then it suddenly occurred to her that it was the only place to eat in town.

Mulder had met her earlier at the morgue but they had decided to get some sleep before they discussed any new-found information. Well, actually Scully had ordered that they go back to the hotel and get some sleep.

After all, he still hadn’t apologised for, nor made any attempt to rectify the damage he had caused her by what he had said to her. He probably thought that she was just being petty anyway. But he was wrong. This went far deeper than anything he could ever feel.

Actually, she wondered what the hell she was still doing here. Why didn’t she just pack her bags and leave? He obviously wouldn’t care. It occurred to Scully that for the first time in six years, Mulder probably didn’t even care whether she was alive or dead. It saddened her beyond belief, but she was still too riled to talk about it.

They opened the doors to the diner and were almost blown back out again by the noise. There was a huge argument going on, and seemingly the whole town as involved.

They stood in the doorway and listened. Neither of them said a word to each other. Scully was mystified at how such a small town could emit such a huge noise.

On one side of the counter, Johnny, Tom and Tanith stood, with Tanith’s mom and a few other people. On the other side was the rest of the town. One man was shaking a newspaper at Tanith’s mom and shouting at her.

“Look at this!” He shouted. “It’s your own fault that your husband died!

You should have taken better care of your child!”

“Do you even have children Mister?!” Tanith’s mom shouted back at him. “Do you have any idea how difficult it is to control a teenager?!”

“Maybe she’s a witch too!” A woman shouted from the edge of the crowd.

A huge cheer arose from everyone else. The man with the newspaper, who seemed to be leading the argument, continued;

“Yes, you’re right! She is a witch! And so is that whore Mrs. Browning, Zoë’s mother!”

The crowd cheered.

“And I bet that tramp who produced those two brats was a witch too!”

He waggled an accusing finger at Johnny and Tom.

Johnny leapt forward to face the man.

“Don’t you talk like that about my mom you – you farmer!”

The crowd gasped and Scully heard Mulder chuckle.

“He obviously knows how to hurt a man.” Mulder said.

It was true. Caelum struggled to be considered modern. Any man who was called a ‘farmer’ instead of an ‘agriculturalist’ was sure to be furious.

The large man grabbed Johnny by the collar.

“Listen here you little creep. It’s probably your fault that she died!

We all know that you’ve stopped giving your rascal brother those pills!

Maybe he murdered these people!”

There were a few ‘hear hear!’ comments from the crowd before Johnny punched the man in the face and pounced on him.

This was their cue, Scully thought. Mulder had already pulled the two apart.

The crowd stood silently and stared at him.

“C’mon you little shrimp!” The man shouted at Johnny.

Johnny went for him again but Mulder caught him.

“Stop it! Calm down for God’s sake! What the hell is going on here?!”

“Why don’t you ask Mr Big over there!” The man yelled. “He’s the only one who knows!”

Johnny struggled under Mulder’s grip.

“Hey, hey! Am I gonna have to take my gun out?” Mulder said.

Johnny was still and Mulder let him go.

“Why don’t you stop pointing the finger at me! How do I know you didn’t murder my mother? You look like the sort of redneck who wouldn’t mind doing a bit of human butchering!”

This time even Scully gasped. You never, ever say the word ‘redneck’ out loud in a town like this.

The man went for Johnny and Mulder struggled to stop him, straining under the huge man’s weight. Seeing his opportunity Johnny went for the man again. Mulder looked at Scully and rolled his eyes, then produced his gun.

The two men leapt back immediately.

There were a lot of disapproving whispers rippling through the crowd.

“Okay!” Mulder said loudly. “Now that we’re all calmed down, how about we try to sort this out in a rational manner.”

Suddenly a slight, blond woman, who appeared to be a waitress in the diner, stepped forward.

“Yeah, you’re one to talk about rational, Mister!” She shrieked at Mulder.

He winced.

“What?”

“This is all your fault anyway, you freak!”

“What?” Was all Mulder could say.

Meanwhile the whole crowd was cheering again. It seemed that they had all been reunited again in their anger as quickly as they had fallen apart by it.

The woman snatched the newspaper from the large man’s hand.

“Look at this!”

She waved it around before Mulder finally grabbed it from her.

Scully caught a glimpse of the headline. It read ‘FBI Believes Black Magic Involved in Supposed Suicides.’

Fucking Great. This was all they needed. More small-town press attention.

Mulder was staring at it in awe.

“Who wrote this?” he demanded.

The woman shook her head and tutted in an extremely irritating way. Scully could tell that Mulder was already at breaking point.

“Why don’t you stop waving that gun around Mr Big Shot and maybe you’ll find out.” She shouted “People round here don’t like your ways of investigating Mr Washington DC FBI CIA GI Joe Hero GUY!”

The crowd went wild at that and turned on Mulder. Now everyone was backing the woman up.

“Yeah! We’re not afraid of your guns!” One man shouted.

“We will never conform to your policies Mr Government!” another yelled.

This was getting ridiculous, Scully thought as she stood there. Now they were turning Mulder into a scapegoat for all of the problems the government might have caused them. She sighed and decided that she’d better go in and help him out. She couldn’t believe that no one had noticed her yet.

She drew out her gun and marched right in front of Mulder.

“All right everyone that’s ENOUGH!” She screamed.

The whole crowd jumped back and silently wondered where the hell this little woman had come from.

“Scully! Long time no see. It’s so nice of you to finally drop by.”

“Shut up Mulder.”

She faced the crowd.

“What the hell is wrong with you people? We are here to help you!”

“Do you really believe that these kids killed their parents by using black magic? – Because that’s just sick.” A woman asked.

The crowd started firing other questions at her all at once.

“Look, BE QUIET!” Scully yelled. “I’m afraid that I am unable to disclose any information about this investigation. Please direct any questions or complaints you may have to the FBI headquarters in Washington DC.”

Mulder frowned at her but it seemed to have distracted the crowd, who began to slowly disperse, grumbling and muttering.

“At least this way we’ll only get the blame for these peoples screwed up opinions indirectly.” She said quietly to Mulder.

“Now if you would all kindly settle down, we can all carry on calmly and without incident.” She said to the remaining crowd.

They all shuffled past them scowling. The waitress narrowed her eyes at them and went back in to the kitchen.

“Thank you very much.” Scully said.

“Yeah, fuck off.” Mulder said under his breath.

The crowd finally disappeared, leaving them standing alone in the middle of the diner.

“What do you think that waitress will do to me if I ask her for a coffee?”

Mulder said.

Scully looked at him and walked out of the diner.

Mulder begrudgingly followed her as she walked back in the direction of the hotel.

“I have a theory, Scully. D’you want to hear it?”

“If I say no will you tell me anyway?” She said.

“Did you find evidence of the drug when you autopsied Mr. Browning’s body?”

“Yes.”

“Good, because that complies with my theory. I think we’ve found a culprit for providing your mystery drug, Scully.”

“Who’s that then?”

“Dr. Johnson.”

Jesus, he wasn’t still on that trip was he? He looked at her expectantly.

“Dr Johnson. Really.”

“Yes. I have reason to believe that we may have a serious drugs problem on our hands.”

“Great, then lets go and tell the police and go home.”

“C’mon Scully. You know we can’t just drop it on them without backing it up. I think that Dr. Johnson has been providing various carefully selected townspeople with this elusive drug. He’s been giving it to the most troubled people in town.”

“How did you come to that conclusion?”

“I talked to Johnny Richards again. He told me that Dr. Johnson had been providing him with drugs. I think that he gave the drug to those teenagers in small amounts – which would explain them hallucinating an invocation and a supposed torrential storm, which never happened. I also think that he gave it to their parents in larger doses purposely, perhaps he thought it would cleanse them of their evil deeds.”

That all seemed plausible to Scully, although he had no hard evidence to prove it. At least he’d given up on the evil spirit idea.

Suddenly she heard something. She stopped and turned around.

“What?” Mulder asked her.

“Did you hear that? Those footsteps?”

Mulder glanced around him.

“No?”

“I could’ve sworn that someone was following us.”

Mulder laughed.

“I don’t think so Scully. I think we deter pretty much anyone now, no one would want to come?.. near us.”

He stopped, realising what he had just said.

“Yeah, you think that a lot about people, don’t you Mulder?”

“Scully I didn’t mean – “

“Save it.”

She began to walk on briskly.

“Scully.” Mulder called after her. “We need to sort this out – Scully!”

He caught up with her.

“Look why are you so angry with me? We need to talk about this.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.” She said coldly.

“What do you mean you don’t want to – look, we can’t go on like this.”

He grasped her shoulder and she flinched.

“You’re right, Mulder. We can’t.”

She slipped out from under his grasp and walked away without looking back.

He didn’t follow her.

***

PART 7

She is trapped inside a month of grey
And they take a little every day
She is a victim of her own responses
Shackled to a heart that wants to settle
And then runs away
It’s a sin to be fading endlessly
Yeah, but she’s alright with me.

– Counting Crows: Mercury

***

Scully walked back in the direction of the hotel dismayed and fully intending to pack up her things and leave.

It was starting to rain, slowly at first, then in great big drops that seemed to shake the earth as they hit the trees and ground around her.

She didn’t care how she got back to DC; she just wanted to be back home.

She wanted to call her mother; she wanted to see her brother and her nephew.

Mainly she just wanted to get away from Mulder. She wanted him to leave her alone, once and for all.

But as she walked she became even more distraught, as she realised that he would never leave her alone, not as long as she took him with her wherever she went. She could probably kill herself and still somehow manage to drag him in to the afterlife with her.

She had to get over him before she could get rid of him. And this whole thing about her being too ‘stuffy’ that he brought up was still following her around like the stench of one of her autopsy cases.

Above all, what she wanted to do was to prove him wrong.

But how?

And why didn’t he already know that she wasn’t really like that anyway. She wasn’t ‘stuffy.’ At least not when she didn’t have to be. If he was such a great judge of character he should already know that. Obviously he didn’t.

He went on and on about how she was the only one she trusted, he told her that she’d saved him and that she’d made him a whole person – and those words meant more to Scully than her own life, but was there nothing behind them? Was it an empty hope that he could see more than her stoic professionalism? She’d always thought that she was transparent enough for him to be able to see straight through her.

Obviously not.

<This is getting really tedious now Dana>

After what seemed like a lifetime, Scully finally reached the dirty old hotel, frozen and soaked through. The lift was broken, so she traipsed her soggy way up to the sixth floor. She fumbled in her pockets and realised with a groan that she’d lost her key.

Refusing to knock at Mulder’s door, whether he was there or not, she went all the way back down to the reception to get another key, which she still had to pay for even after she’d almost threatened the young man at the desk with her gun, then go all the way back up to her room again.

She discarded her soaking FBI attire with disgust and hatefully threw it on to the bed. Who cared if it soaked the sheets through?

<See, Mulder, I am a normal person.>

She was left standing in the middle of the room in her underwear, trying to decide what to wear. Looking around for the nearest item of clothing in sight, she noticed that she still hadn’t unpacked anything vaguely comfortable.

She pulled out her suitcase and pulled on a pair of baggy pants, then realised in dismay that the only comfortable tops that she’d brought were Tshirts.

<Great. It must be fucking well minus eighty outside.> Scully angrily began throwing things around the room, wondering how it could possibly be that she didn’t bring something warm and comfortable to wear.

Was she mad? This was the Rocky Mountains in the deep mid-winter for goodness sake.

Finally she caught sight of something blue under the covers of her bed. She pulled it out, thinking it was probably just her pyjamas. Instead she found Mulder’s huge navy blue hoodie. <How the hell did that get there?> Scully thought to herself, and concluded that it must have been from when they were deciding what to wear the day before.

She sneered at it and threw it down, but after a few minutes of standing in the freezing room (the central heating seemed to have packed up too), she reluctantly picked it up again and slipped it over her head.

It reeked of Mulder. She pulled in down and felt his arms wrap around her, tasted his salty skin. The temptation to knock on his door was almost unbearable, and Scully found tears begin to slip from her eyes as she fought desperately to get rid of all the possible scenarios that she was conceiving in her mind. She sat down on the edge of the bed and sobbed like a melodramatic teenager who’d just ruined a first date. She pulled the sweater up to her face and used it to wipe her eyes, breathing in Mulder’s scent until she couldn’t bear it anymore.

A loud knock came suddenly at her door. She took a few deep breaths and wiped her eyes, then got up to open it. It was Mulder. She might’ve guessed.

Well who else could it have been?

He looked at her and furrowed his brow.

“Scully have you….?”

He looked down at her and noticed his sweatshirt.

“Scully it that my….?”

“Yeah, sorry I didn’t bring anything myself and seeing as you just left it here…”

He attempted to go inside, but she didn’t move out of the way to let him.

He stepped back.

“Are you alright?” He asked.

“I’m fine. What’s up, Mulder?”

He kept glancing nervously into the room behind her as if he was checking, just in case, for the remote possibility that she’d brought somebody up there with her.

“Well?” She said irritably. She wasn’t in the mood for mucking around.

“We have another body to examine Scully, and a flaw in our theory.”

“Who’s body?”

“Dr. Johnson’s.”

Her eyes widened.

“Can’t it wait until tomorrow?” she said, and hastily began making excuses for why she was tired, expecting Mulder to try to force her to do it now.

“Actually Scully, I’m knakered too. I think I’m just gonna hit the sack.

What d’you say?” He said surprisingly.

“Oh; well okay. Wait, let me give you back your sweater…”

She began pulling it off, and paused halfway when she realised that she was only wearing a bra underneath. Her cheeks reddened and she glanced up nervously at Mulder, who appeared to be gawking.

<Yeah, right Dana. Like you did that unintentionally> She thought to herself, then looked away from him in embarrassment.

“Umm…hold on a second.”

“No, look Scully nevermind.”

He waved a dismissive hand at her and then gave her a sheepish smile.

“It doesn’t matter if you keep it. I’ve got plenty.”

She almost managed to give him a sideways smile in thanks, but he just shrugged and swayed off down the hallway, yawning.

Scully closed the door. After a few minutes of battling with her resentment for him she resolved that she would wear his sweatshirt to bed. It didn’t mean that she was declaring her love or anything. After all it was only his clothing, it wasn’t him.

Good, she thought. She’d be warm in his hoodie. Perhaps she’d even sleep tonight.

***

St. Lawrence Avenue
Caelum
Friday 9:00AM

Mulder had resolved that whatever this problem was with Scully, he’d have it sorted out by this evening. No matter what.

He met her on his way to the diner. Scully would rather drink Mulder’s instant coffee than go back to this place, but there was something about it that he adored. Some kind of eerie quirkiness that made him feel right at home.

Scully told him that she’d autopsied Dr. Johnson’s body, and found the drug.

“Why would he kill himself though, Mulder, using this drug. It doesn’t fit in with the pattern he was following.”

“No it doesn’t. Something else that doesn’t fit is that no evidence of any other drug but a small amount of marijuana was found in his house, nor in his car or his office or anywhere we looked.”

“Perhaps he hid it somewhere else, or he used the last of it on himself.”

She ventured.

Mulder shook his head.

“I don’t think so. Something isn’t right here – something doesn’t feel right. I think that when Johnny said that he’d bought drugs from Dr.

Johnson he was only referring to marijuana. I, ah, neglected to ask him at the time.”

Scully gave him her best perplexed look. She was really good at those – she had a whole selection especially for Mulder.

They reached the diner and went inside. The scene was a spitting image of the day before, only this time the mayor had got himself involved. He was standing on top of the counter and shouting like it was his own personal soap box. Mulder saw Scully look at him with an expression of disgust on her face. He was an extremely small balding man, who had a bright red face and had given himself a terrible side sweep hairstyle in a desperate attempt to cover up his bald patch. His huge gold mayor’s medallion threatened to tip him off the counter.

This time however, someone noticed them instantly.

“Look! Look!” Someone shouted, “It’s the FBI people! They’ll sort it out!”

A large woman wearing a white apron that had rather suspicious bloodstains down it grabbed Mulder’s arm with a grip of steel. She dragged him and Scully to the centre of the gathering.

Mulder looked around. He saw a few faces he recognised, Johnny, Tanith, Zoë and their remaining families were there, as was the town detective and of course the blond waitress and the chef. Every single face stared at them expectantly, waiting for one of them to come up with a philosophy to cure the situation.

Neither of them said a word.

“Well come on!” The mayor shouted at them. “Tell us something useful!”

The crowd applauded, apparently just because he was the mayor.

“What’s going on here?” Scully said coolly.

Mulder always wondered how she managed to sound calm and collected, even when she was obviously at breaking point.

Tanith spoke up.

“They’re blaming me.” She said, seemingly unconcerned. “They reckon that we killed Dr Johnson, and that I influenced Johnny and Zoë with my dirty city ways. They also think that I’m the reason that Dr. Johnson was involved with drugs. Look, it’s in the paper.”

She handed them the local paper, and this time the headline read “FBI Says: Dr Johnson Involved in Dirty Drugs Scandal.”

“Don’t try and make us the smaller people here!” The mayor said to Tanith.

“My family was here before any of yours, therefore I own a the town and make all of the decisions! As far as I’m concerned your family has nothing to say.”

The crowd clapped and nodded in agreement.

“Then what does this have to do with Zo, or Johnny?!” Tanith asked him.

“Well being the only people your age in town, they have succumbed to your ways! You’ve lured them in.” He gestured to Zoë and Johnny. “Be warned she doesn’t belong here. All she wants to do is to destroy us!”

Mulder decided to butt-in.

“Listen, this is completely ridiculous – “

“Well you would say that! You’re on her side! In fact, it’s probably you who’s caused all of the trouble! You seem to know everything!”

The crowd went wild.

Scully stepped forward.

“Hey! We came here because of your stupid little problem – and we came a long way. We don’t have to be here at all! I’m sure that there are hundreds of far more important cases that we could be working on, but no, we decided to come here, to help you all, so we would appreciate it if you forgot all of your petty little opinions and morals and arguments, and tried to help us for a change! Then perhaps we could leave you all to moan and complain in peace an awful lot sooner! This isn’t a matter of ‘who was here first’; we are investigating a series of possible murders! It won’t make any difference if Tanith did it or if you did it. A murder is a murder and whoever did it needs to be dealt with, by us, so stay out of it.”

The mayor’s eyes almost popped out of his head. He had obviously never been spoken to like that in his life. Mulder smiled to himself. Only Scully could say something like that and have anyone listen to her.

The mayor’s face had gone even redder, more out of humiliation than rage.

The crowd was silent.

Finally Johnny spoke.

“Well what’re you gonna do about it?” He asked Scully.

She sighed and swept her hair out of her face.

“Presently we are compiling a list of possible suspects, so I suggest that none of you talk about this at all, not to your families, not to anyone, because as of this moment every single one of you is on that list.”

The crowd all eyed each other suspiciously and remained silent. This time Mulder smiled openly. This was Scully’s subtle way of telling the crowd that they hadn’t found anything, but that she didn’t want to hear their views on it.

“Come on Mulder.” She said to him, and walked out of the diner.

***

An avalanche, that’s what his life was. It began slowly, with just a rumble at the thought of things to come, then gradually it picked up speed, attaching itself to things along the way, things that it couldn’t shake off, getting faster and faster, and heavier and heavier. It would eventually come crashing to a stop, disintegrating whatever it had attached itself to and suffocating whatever stood in it’s path, until it finally dissolved itself in to nothing but a liquid spirit.

Fortunately for Scully, he hadn’t reached crashing point yet, seeing as she was the thing that would inevitably be destroyed when he did.

Sometimes Scully wished that her life was like an avalanche too. It was so simple, it had a beginning, and then an end, and all that it cared about in between was itself. Her life was more like a cardiogram, a constant up and down measuring rate – Scully noted the word ‘measuring.’ It always had to come down to science. No free falling down the side of a mountain for her.

It was all measured out, sketched out and drawn up. Up and down al the way.

She wasn’t going anywhere. She was just a wilting dandelion in a pot of red roses. It was time things changed, she thought to herself for the hundred-thousandth time that week. She had developed a profound distaste for normality recently.

Mulder broke her out of her thoughts.

“Did it look like a suicide to you, Scully?”

“Dr. Johnson? No. To tell the truth, Mulder, I don’t think that any of these are suicides.”

“Neither do I – not anymore.”

No doubt Mulder had concocted a new bizarre theory then.

“I think that those three kids are doing it.” Scully ventured.

“So do I.”

Scully silently hoped that he wasn’t just saying that to buoy her spirits.

“Really?” she asked suspiciously.

“Yes really. Seriously Scully, who else could it be? These obviously aren’t suicides, there’s no evidence suggesting any sort of pact, and it seems that there is no X-File here either. I think that these murders were the result of a couple of teenagers rebelling against their society, and against different kinds of hidden guilt that they have. So far, all of the evidence points to them. We should take them in for a more detailed interrogation, and search their houses and hangouts.”

“But if there’s no X-File here, why not just leave it up to the police?”

“Don’t you remember the Caelum PD? If we don’t do anything, they certainly won’t. We should at least make an arrest before we leave, or have substantial enough evidence to interest them. These are a few seriously screwed up teenagers, Scully. If we don’t do anything, who knows who’ll be next.”

Scully nodded slowly. This wasn’t like Mulder, to take any interest at all in a case that wasn’t an X-File, a case that was as plain as murder.

Something else was going on inside that brain of his. Something as holding him back. Scully walked on, and wished that she didn’t feel like she had to stay back with him.

***

PART 8

She is leaving on a walkaway
She is leaving me in disarray
In the absence of a place to be
She stands there looking back at me
Hesitates, and then turns away
She’ll change so suddenly
She’s just like mercury
Yeah, but she’s alright with me.

– Mercury, Counting Crows

Hick’s Hotel
Friday 22:30

Scully sat down by a small round table in the corner of the hotel bar. They had whiled away the day interrogating friends and relatives of the three teenagers, and discovering that there were very few people who fell under those categories.

No one knew anything. Perhaps this was some sort of a pact. Or the whole town was involved in some kind of a cult and the few who had uncertain pasts or secrets were wasted away.

Scully pondered on it for a few minutes, then decided that she didn’t care anyway. She still didn’t know what she was doing there, but something was willing her to stay. She looked around at the virtually empty bar, save for a few leery old men who obviously had no where better to go.

Then again, neither did she. Scully hated sitting in public places alone.

It seemed that it was a statement saying ‘I’m not with anyone because I don’t want anyone to touch me,’ or ‘because no one wants to touch me.’

Being alone in a bar was like a declaration of your loneliness.

Scully made an attempt to console herself by ordering a whisky from the barman. Neat. By the time she’d finished it Mulder had arrived.

“Oh hey Scully. I see you’ve started without me.”

“You want a drink Mulder? Drown your theories?”

“Sure. Can I get a Coke?”

She smiled fakely at him.

“Of course you can.”

A Coke?

“Thanks.”

He put his jacket over the stool and prepared to sit down. Scully didn’t move.

“I’m getting it myself then, I presume?” He said.

“Don’t ask me.”

Mulder rolled his eyes and actually looked quite put out. Good, Scully thought.

“While you’re up there, get me a whisky, neat. Please.”

Mulder turned in surprise.

“A whisky Scully?”

He raised his eyebrows.

Scully bit her lip. Now who was being uptight?

“Ah, what the hell…get me a double.”

“You do realise that you’re not supposed to drink on the job, right?”

“Right. Get me a double.” She said flatly.

Mulder eyed her suspiciously and ordered the drinks.

He came back and began sipping on his coke serenely.

“So,” he said, “we need to make an arrest.”

“Why’s that?”

“New evidence.”

Mulder pulled a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket and flattened it out on the table for her to read. Scribbled in pencil was the message: ‘Laryn Hackman

Steel House

42 St Lawrence Ave.’

It wasn’t Mulder’s handwriting. Scully’s eyes flicked over it a couple of times before she raised her eyes to meet Mulder’s.

Without taking her eyes off of his, she downed the large whisky in three large gulps. Mulder’s eyes widened.

“Is this supposed to mean something to me?” She asked before he could say anything.

“It’s the name of the editor of the local newspaper. I found it in Johnny Richards trailer.”

Scully widened her eyes to stretch the muscles. She could already feel the alcohol taking effect. She wasn’t used to drinking a lot, not since university. Another drink and she’d probably fall off her stool.

“What’s this got to do with anything?”

“I think that he’s been tipping the newspaper, listening to our conversations.”

Scully looked idly around.

“Well I don’t see him anywhere…”

Mulder narrowed his eyes.

“Look, if you’re not gonna take this seriously-”

“Oh no, I am taking it seriously, it’s the alcohol that isn’t. Speaking of which, I want another one.”

Before Mulder could stop her, she’d already yelled at the barman to get her one.

“Don’t you think you’ve had enough? I mean, considering you’re breaking policy and everything?”

“Try any of that tailhook crap on me Mulder, I’ll kick your ass.” She said, imitating his voice.

The barman brought her the drink and she downed it in one.

She looked at Mulder. His gaze was intense. A mixture of laughter and pain played on his eyes. Scully found herself entranced.

“Is there really much point in us discussing this now, or shall I just go?”

He said.

“I’m not stopping you.”

This was really beginning to irritate Mulder. Actually it worried him more than anything, despite Scully’s utter apathy to do anything. But she was staring at him in the strangest way, and Mulder found that he couldn’t leave.

“Scully I’ve been meaning to talk to you about something.”

“Is it just me or is gravity getting stronger?” She slurred, obviously not paying any attention.

“I’ve been meaning to talk to you about what’s been going on with us recently.”

“Oh, I’ve been meaning for you to talk to me about that too.”

Mulder sighed as she ordered another whisky.

“Scully you’re gonna make yourself sick. Am I going to have to do this alone? You don’t even drink.”

He watched her down her fourth whisky.

“Not like this anyway.”

“I know, I know. But once you put a drink in fron’ ‘a me…..Ahhh!”

She threw her hands up in the air and almost fell backwards. Mulder reached across the table and grabbed her wrist, slamming down on the surface.

Scully was too drunk to be shocked; her eyes were rolling about in her head as she tried to focus on him.

“Alright look Scully. I don’t know what the hell is going on with you at the moment, but I wish you would tell me then maybe I could sort out whatever it is about me that pisses you off so much.”

Scully tried to pull her hand away but couldn’t muster up the strength. She chewed her lip and started mumbling something.

“…the hyper-reality of fucking up consistently has become a normality and now I’m bored again…”

“Is that what it is?” Mulder spat at her “Is that what this is about you’re bored?!”

Suddenly her eyes bore in to him, like a missile homing in on its target.

“Actually Mulder, you keep me constantly entertained. Your life is the biggest joke I’ve heard in years.”

Mulder drew back his head.

Game Scully.

Before he could retort, she continued.

“I mean, you sit there on your tight little ass in your prissy little office, moaning and groaning to whoever’ll listen about your stupid sister who probably doesn’t even exist anyway-”

Set Scully.

“If you’re so desperate to change the world, why don’t you get up off your sorry ass and do something about it? We are all searching for a truth, Mulder – you aren’t exclusive, you don’t have a special place on Earth, you don’t have a special mission and you don’t care. The only truth about life is death, so why don’t you forget this God-awful quest you’re on – I mean, for fuck’s sake, Mulder, it’s not like it’ll achieve anything even if you do meet some kind of a resolution. You’re wasting your life and you’re dragging me with you, so why don’t you stop behaving like such a prick and give up, because every time you destroy a part of yourself, you destroy a part of me too.”

Match Scully.

Mulder stood up, consumed with rage, regret and empathy.

“So why don’t you just fucking well leave, Scully?!”

She put her head in her hands, beginning to cry. Mulder wouldn’t let her get the upper hand though, she had no right to say what she did.

“But you can’t can you Scully? You can’t leave because here you know that you’re in control. You know that I will always, always need you with me, whether you believe what you just said about me or not, because you know that if you left, you’d probably find me lying in a gutter somewhere a few years later, and you like that thought. If you ever left me you wouldn’t know what to do with yourself!”

She looked up at him, her face smudged with black where her eye makeup had run.

“God! Mulder! That is just like you to say something like that! Why don’t you just piss off and let me at least think that I know myself better than you do!”

“Scully, I would love more than anything just to run away, but I can’t do it either. Maybe that’s why we’re both still here. Because we’re too afraid to run away from what scares us the most.”

“And what is that, exactly?”

Just then Tom burst in screaming:

“The mayor! The mayor is dead!”

Mulder grabbed him.

“Who? Who did it Tom? Was it Johnny?”

“I don’t know! Everybody is screaming and shouting, they’re all down there now!”

“Where, Tom?”

***

Caelum Town Hall
Friday 23:30

Mulder dragged Scully down to the town hall, where the crowd had congregated.

“Has anyone called the police?” Mulder shouted.

One woman said that she had.

Scully began lolling to one side and Mulder grabbed her shoulder to steady her.

Great time to get drunk, Scully. You really know how to pick your moments.”

“Shut up Mulder” She mumbled into his shoulder.

He had to put his arm around her waist, and he practically held her above the floor to keep her upright.

Tanith and Zoë approached them with Johnny.

“What the hell happened to her?” Zoë asked Mulder.

“Nothing, umm… she’s tired – tired and sick.”

“Then what’s she doing out here?”

“Err….”

“If you ask me, I’d say she was hammered.” Johnny said.

“Yeah well, I didn’t ask you, so stay out of it.”

“Okay man, chill.”

Mulder scowled at them and sat Scully down on a nearby bench while he went to talk to the crowd.

“Does anyone have any idea who did this?” he yelled.

“It was one of those kids!” Someone yelled back. “Everyone knows it!”

Mulder shot the three teenagers a sharp look.

“Who was here when it happened? Did anyone see anything?”

The large man that Mulder had met in the diner walked up to him.

“Yeah, I saw something. When I came that Richards boy was here with his girlfriends.”

“Is that true?” Mulder asked them.

“Look, we were only here because we heard gunfire.” Johnny said.

“Yeah, we heard it – two shots – and came running.” Tanith continued.

“We didn’t see who did it though.” Zoë said.

“Oh really?” Mulder said and reached for his handcuffs.

Suddenly the blond waitress form the diner ran up to Mulder and tugged on his sleeve.

“Wait! It was me, I did it! I shot the mayor!”

The crowd gasped.

“You what?!” Mulder said and almost laughed.

“I shot him! Twice, square in the chest. I used an AK 47. Here it is!”

The slight woman held up the gun and swung it around. Mulder wondered how the hell the small woman had managed to conceal the huge gun, and why the crowd had mysteriously failed to mention it’s presence.

“Woah! Careful with that! It’s a dangerous weapon!” he said.

“You think I don’t know that?! I just killed someone with it!”

The crowd suddenly went silent for a moment, each one of them considering the seemingly innocent young woman, and what she had just said.

Mulder frowned at her and she offered him her wrists.

“Go on! Cuff me! I’m guilty!”

Mulder hesitantly produced his handcuffs.

“Well? What are you waiting for? It’s a fair cop!”

Completely bemused, Mulder put the handcuffs on the woman. Her arms were so thin that Mulder wondered how easy it would be for her to slip out of them.

“Umm…okay. You’re under arrest. You do not have to say anything, but anything you do say can be used as evidence against you in a court of law….” Mulder paused. “Why did you do it?”

He had to ask.

“Because of God.” The woman said triumphantly.

“What?”

She addressed the crowd.

“Don’t you see? God is trying to show us the error of our ways. No human being is doing this, it is He and He only. I had a vision on… Thursday, God told me to tell you all that He wants us to help Him out. The mayor had to be the next to go.”

“Why?” Mulder asked, still completely baffled.

“Because I was having an affair with him.”

The crowd chorused another huge gasp.

“Yes, me. And I realise now that I was meant to have an affair with him.

God was trying to tell me that this man had committed adultery many times, and I was… nominated to put an end to it. He sinned, like all the others.”

“You killed the other people?” Mulder asked.

“Of course I didn’t. When I said Thursday, I meant Thursday. Most of the others had died before then, and that was God’s work.”

This woman was obviously a nut, but Mulder decided to take her word on that.

The police had arrived, and Mulder handed the waitress over to them, saying that no they hadn’t finished their investigation, and yes, they would like some coffee. Black.

He watched in wonderment as that waitress walked away with her head high, clearly feeling like a martyr to her cause. He took a large paper cup of coffee over to where Scully was lying on the bench, asleep.

He watched her for a moment, breathing in and out, in and out. He ran his thumb down her cheek and jaw and she stirred. She sat up too quickly and went positively white – even in the orange glow of the street lamp.

“I brought you some – Scully?”

She reached out and gripped his arm.

“Mulder,” she said, her voice choked and thick. “I’m gonna hurl.”

She clutched her stomach with one arm, and still holding on to Mulder with the other she leaned forwards, so that he couldn’t jump back. She was sick all over his shoes.

“Thanks, Scully. These’ll be worth about forty dollars more now that they have that expensive single malt whisky all over ‘em.”

Scully muttered a quick apology and used him to pull herself up so that she could be sick again a bit further away. Mulder swallowed his pride and went over to her, and rubbed her back while she vomited again and again. When she was done, he helped her slowly go back to the bench.

“I warned you Scully,” he said as he handed her the coffee. “Drinking on the job always brings a fate worse than death.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.” She said.

“No problem.”

“So what happened?” She asked him.

He sat down beside her and explained the most recent events.

***

The next day, of course, it was in the papers. ‘God or Satan? FBI Asks; ‘Who’s Causing The Problem?’

Mulder dragged Scully out of bed at 7:00AM and they went down to the town hall in the car, Scully couldn’t bring herself to walk down there. She was actually surprised that Mulder wasn’t taking more advantage of her condition, and reaping the rewards as much as he could.

The town hall seemed to now be the most popular venue for communal arguments. This time however, it was serious.

“The waitress was right!” A man wearing a green baseball cap shouted. “God wants us to see our faults and right them!”

“You’re wrong!” A younger man yelled. “This is the Devil’s work! Only under the influence of Satan could such evil plague the citizens of this town!”

“Blasphemous pig!” Another man shouted back.

He was wearing a suit – and for some reason Mulder noticed that he was wearing the same shoes as him. Probably because he was sadly remembering what they looked like before they got covered in sick.

“How dare you speak of the Lord’s work in that way!” Green Baseball Cap Man shouted to the younger man “You are obviously one who needs to be repented!”

Green Baseball Cap Man proceeded to pull out a large rifle and click the catch back.

“Oh really?” The younger man shouted. “How do I know that you aren’t the Devil himself, trying to cause more trouble! Well I’m not afraid of you – I believe the Lord shall save me!

The younger man pulled out his own gun, and prepared to fire at Green Baseball Cap Man. Various other people in the crowd took this as their cue to decide which side of the argument they were on, and point their own guns at one or the other of the men accordingly.

Before things got really nasty, Mulder and Scully stepped in.

“Put your guns away right now, or we’ll arrest you all for attempted murder!” Scully yelled at them and winced.

Her head was killing her.

“This is nothing to do with you FBI woman!” Green Baseball Cap Man shouted at her.

“Listen, if it’s to do with God, it’s to do with me.” Scully replied.

The younger man suddenly pointed his gun at her, his face all scrunched up with rage.

“Well in that case,” he growled “it’s probably you that’s been murdering everyone!”

Scully immediately pulled her own gun out of its holster and aimed it at the man, as did Mulder.

“You see!” Same Shoes as Mulder Man shouted “blasphemous pig! He’s trying to prevent God’s will from taking place! He had to pay!”

With that, Same Shoes as Mulder Man proceeded to shoot the younger man in the chest, who fell to the ground. A few people screamed.

“Drop it!” Mulder shouted at Same Shoes Man “Drop it now!”

The man did.

“Move away!” Mulder pointed his gun at the guy until he backed off, along with Green Baseball Cap Man. Meanwhile Scully tended to the injured man on the ground.

“Now if anybody, anybody else fires a gun, you will all have the United States government on your backs like a pack of blood hounds on a fox hunt.

What is wrong with you all? Look at the chaos you’ve created! This has nothing to do with God, this is because of you! Don’t you see that? You are all fighting with each other when really you think exactly the same thing! What is the point? You are all going to kill each other before you even realise that you don’t actually disagree. You argue and you argue but if you would only listen to yourselves! You all want the same thing, so why don’t you all just try to get along?”

The crowd remained silent; trying to accept the telling off that they has just experienced form this outsider. Mulder stepped back and went over to where Scully was arranging to get the man to a hospital.

Guns were put back in belts and pant-pockets and the crowd began murmuring at each other again.

“We need to arrest the teenagers.” He said to Scully quietly.

“Can we do that?” she asked, “Do we have substantial evidence?”

“I don’t know, but right now that doesn’t really matter. If we’re wrong then so be it, but this town will have surpassed chaos if they don’t get some answers very soon.”

Mulder began walking over to where the three teenagers were still standing, away from the rest of the crowd, and gestured for Scully to follow.

“Right now?” She said.

“When else?”

“Fine.”

Scully went with Mulder over to the group of teenagers. For a serious arrest, this all seemed far too sullen and unobtrusive.

“Alright listen up kids.” Mulder said pedantically “You’re all under arrest.”

“We’re what?!” Zoë shrieked.

Scully decided to finish Mulder’s lame cop act in a more appropriate manner.

“Look, I know this all seems slightly… disjointed, and the truth is that it doesn’t really correlate that we should arrest you on such indirect evidence but…”

“We have to.” Mulder finished for her.

“Are you serious? What do you mean you have to?” Johnny said, anxiety tightening his voice.

Scully sighed heavily. She hadn’t felt this stupid in a long time.

“If you can prove us wrong then do it, but look at what is happening to your town. They need some answers and this is the only way that we can give any.”

“Surely you can’t do this.” Tanith said “We didn’t murder our own parents, I don’t know how you can even suggest that!”

“Well…”

Scully shifted her jaw and looked at Mulder for help. She didn’t get any.

“So far everything points at you. You have been in contact with all of the victims, and you all have reasons to dislike them.”

“But not to the extent that we would kill them, for God’s sake!” Zoë said.

“I’m not listening to any more of this” Johnny started to turn away. “You can’t prove anything. It could have been anyone in town.”

“Actually you’re wrong.” Mulder took out the note that he had shown Scully in the hotel bar. “I found this in your trailer.”

Johnny turned back.

“What is that?”

“I think you know what it is, Johnny. How else would the newspapers have known the details of our conversations?”

“That isn’t even my handwriting!”

Mulder looked lost for a moment, trying to search in the dark for the light switch that would snap on that little bulb above his head and give him some satisfactory answers.

Scully groaned. This was terrifyingly humiliating.

“Look,” she said, putting her hands on her hips “you’re at the top of our list of suspects and therefore you are under arrest. So am I going to have to cuff you or are you going to come quietly?”

The three teenagers gaped at each other, bewildered and completely unable to believe what was happening to them.

“Forget you! You can’t do this! Who gives a shit about the stupid town and their problems?”

Johnny lunged forward at Mulder and Scully and then spun round and walked away. Mulder, rather rashly, took out his gun and clicked back the catch.

“Johnny Richards!”

Johnny stopped dead in his tracks and didn’t turn around.

“Put your hands in the air and don’t move!”

Johnny did as he was told and Mulder motioned for Scully to go over and handcuff him.

Tanith and Zoë began to back away. Mulder spun round to face them.

“Don’t even think about it.” He said bluntly.

After what seemed like far too long, and for all the wrong reasons, the teenagers were finally taking them seriously.

“I love my gun” Mulder whispered to Scully as he took out his cell phone to call the police.

“I hate my gun.” Scully said to his back.

She resented the thought that they were such unimpressive agents that to get anybody’s attention they had to start spraying bullets everywhere.

Two fire engines that swung past them, their sirens screaming, and headed off down a road to their right, interrupted Mulder’s phone call.

The small group stood and watched them, the tension still suspended in the air long after the engines were gone.

Suddenly Johnny spoke up.

“The trailer park” he said, urgency invading his voice. “That road only goes one place. The trailer park is on fire.”

***

PART 9

Oh if the world were but to re-create

That we might catch ere the closed Book of Fate, And make the Writer on a fairer leaf.

Inscribe our names, or quite obliterate.

This was never meant to happen. Now those two agents form the FBI had ruined everything. Without the teenagers, how could the Plan continue?

Chaos had to come from Calm, so without the Calm, where was the Chaos? It had spent so much time trying to get these two people to leave, but they wouldn’t go. Now they had ruined everything. There was the answer, the only answer. They had to be destroyed, once and for all.

Better, oh better, cancel from the Scroll

Of Universe one Luckless Human Soul,

Than drop by drop enlarge the Flood that rolls

Hoarser with Anguish as the Ages roll.

It had never felt hate before. But now that It had experienced it, It couldn’t get enough. Hate was a good provider, a good emotion to feed off of. Hate could last a long time and go a long way, without too much effort.

<Really Love and Hate are relative terms. Therefore I am not only causing evil, but good.>

Once the FBI agents were out of the way, the Plans could continue.

Ah Love! Could you and I with Fate conspire

To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,

Would not we shatter it to bits – and then

Re-mould it nearer to the Heart’s Desire!

***

An un-named trailer park
Caelum
Saturday 12:15AM

It took them five minutes to drive down the narrow road to the trailer park.

Mulder stared at the flames, his heart in his throat. He was still petrified of fire, even though he’d faced his fear during that case with Cecil L’ively all those years ago.

Mulder felt fear freeze him up as he got out of the car and the smoke stung his eyes and stuck in his throat. Scully grabbed his arm.

“Mulder.”

Her voice was reassuring.

“Mulder forget it. You can’t let it take you now. You’ve walked through fire before – you can do it again.”

Her reasoning empowered him, and they walked on, searching for Johnny’s trailer. It was in the middle of the park, but not hard to miss, especially considering that by the time they could see it, it was being swallowed up by the flames.

Johnny cried when he saw it, and begged with them to uncuff him so that he could look for Tom. His pleas got the better of Mulder eventually, and Johnny ran into the raging inferno before they could stop him. Tanith screamed after him, but in vain. He was gone.

A few seconds later, Tom found Mulder and Scully.

“Where’s Johnny?” Tom shouted at them, his face streaming with tears.

“He’s gone after you!”

Mulder had to shout over the racket of people screaming, fire hoses spraying and debris crashing all around them. Tom sat down on the floor and wept.

“He would’ve come back by now! He should’ve come back by now!” He cried.

“Tom what’s going on?” Mulder spoke to him as placidly as was possible over the noise, simultaneously trying to calm him down.

“I know I shouldn’t have done it, but It was so nice, It was making me feel so much better…”

“Shouldn’t have done what, Tom?”

“Told the newspaper woman, followed you around – but every time I did it, It gave me something that I’d wanted forever – I – I didn’t know this would happen, I promise.”

Mulder crouched down in front of him.

“I believe you. Why did It do this?”

“It’s angry. It’s angry because you arrested my brother and his friends.

It thinks you’re interfering.”

“Interfering with what?”

“Interfering with the Plans.”

Suddenly a woman a few metres away screamed:

“Oh my God!”

From out of the flames tumbled a fireball in the form of Johnny Richards.

He fell flat on the ground, writhing in agony.

Mulder choked down his fear, and ran towards the flaming body with a few other people brave enough to try to help. He ordered people around to get branches form trees or coats or water or whatever they could find.

Sparks and ash flying at him, Mulder smothered Johnny with his overcoat, but he had stopped moving.

Finally putting out the flames and almost setting fire to himself, Mulder uncovered Johnny’s burnt body.

It was too late.

“Jesus.” Mulder whispered.

He looked around for Scully. Where was Scully?

She wasn’t there.

Anywhere.

She was gone.

***

And then he was inside of her.

He filled her hollow expanse, this time taking the place of a soul that became transfixed on nothing so whole. Nothing but the sad eyes the bore into her.

It made her snatch at the air and grapple with reality, never knowing when it would end, never knowing when to turn her head, when to back away. She dived in every time, letting his depths swallow her, facing his fathoms with a passion and wallowing in every innocent moment of it.

Scully recognised this dream instantly. It was the same dream she’d had every night this week. From somewhere outside of her subconscious, Scully knew that she had to grasp the loose ends of reality and tie them together.

She had to pull herself out. Just like she always did.

As soon as she opened her eyes she wished that she’d stayed under the warm blanket of her most dangerous thoughts. She willed herself out though, and reached to turn on the bedside lamp.

Something was wrong.

Her hand slipped through the blackness and felt nothing but air.

The air was wrong. It smelt musty and cold and damp when it should have smelt like hotel detergent.

“What’s going on?” She spoke to no one but herself.

Completely disorientated she stood up, suddenly realising that she had been sitting in a chair with a tall metal back. She stumbled blindly about to find her bearings, but not a twinkling of light showed her the way.

She had never been anywhere so dark in all her life.

Fear began to close up her throat, attempting to block of the foreign air from her lungs and strangling her as she tried to stay calm. Where the hell was she?

Rational thoughts fought with irrational fantasies, and she began to walk forwards, with her hands straight in front of her. She pushed past what felt like metres and metres of heavy, cold air.

<Stale air – no ventilation, must be underground?> Finally she found a wall. It was cold and stony. She followed it until she got to a corner. She followed all four walls round until she got back to where she presumed that she had started form. There was no sign of a door or opening; in fact there was no sign of anything.

The tension grew tighter in her throat and gradually engulfed her sinuses until her head pounded with panic and pushed painful tears to the front of her eyes. What was happening?

Was she dead? Was she blind? Was she still dreaming?

But she had never gone to sleep. Had she? The last thing she remembered she was standing next to Mulder in the dark. It was hot, very hot….

Of course! The trailer park! What had happened? Suddenly it occurred to her that someone else might be there. God! What if there was someone standing behind her right now, ready to finish off the strangling job that her panic had already begun?!

She spun swiftly round, half expecting, half hoping to hit someone. But nothing but the darkness blocked her way and instead she crashed down on the cold, stony floor. She sat for a moment, fear getting the better of her, staring with wide eyes in what she assumed was an upward direction.

Is this what death felt like? Or what hell felt like? Like there was nothing to the Universe except for your own thoughts to torment you forever.

To live alone for an eternity, until your mind separated from your body just to create some company for yourself? Until your soul escaped you and there was nothing left but an emotionless empty shell lying on a cold, stone floor.

Claustrophobia became her parasite. She could feel it taking over every cell in her body. She had to get out, there had to be a way. She got in there somehow, so somehow she could get out, right? She jumped up and ran from wall to wall searching, searching. She felt like a mouse trapped inside it’s wheel, running around and around, just trying to get anywhere other than where it was, and not noticing that it was only the ground moving beneath it.

Finally she gave up. She had even lost the chair that she was sitting in to begin with. How could someone become so lost in such a small space? But she had never felt more alone. She collapsed onto the floor in resignation, and wept until she felt too weak to even close her eyes against the tears.

***

Keep some sorrow in your hearts and minds
For the things that die before their time
For the restlessly abandoned homes
The tired and weary rambler’s bones
And stay beside me where I lie
She’s entwined in me
Crazy as can be
Yeah, but she’s alright with me.

– Mercury: Counting Crows

***

Mulder searched for Scully, feeling the presence of impending doom, and knowing that she hadn’t just wandered off somewhere.

Nay, but for terror of his wrathful Face,

I swear I will not call Injustice Grace.

He heard it. He had heard it before, but this time the voice thundered in his head. It’s voice.

He grabbed the weeping Tom by the arm and pulled him up to his face.

“Where has It taken her? Where is It Tom?”

“The-the cave-” Tom cried.

“What cave?”

“I-I can’t. It’ll kill you – It’ll kill me too.”

Giving up on the flustered and grieving Tom, Mulder flung him back to the floor. He was going to have to find Scully without his help.

Mulder stumbled blindly away from the trailer park, not bothering to think which way to go. The park was at the mountainside, so he headed towards the forest that bordered it. He leapt over a wooden fence, and caught his ankle as he went, gauging out a chunk of flesh and crashing to the floor. For a moment he rolled in the bracken, clutching the gash in his ankle, but he prevailed, and clambered through some thick Hawthorn bushes before reaching an open part of the forest.

Forgetting, for a moment, who or where he was, Mulder became lost in the eerie beauty of the moonlight bathed forest. The ground was carpeted with bluebells and moss, and the huge Pines and Redwoods cast the shadows of great dark hands that moved to cover over him and reduce him back into the peaceful earth from whence he came.

A smell enveloped him. It smelt like death – it was dead and yet somehow alive. It was as if Death was breathing warm, living breath on his lips.

The smell? Dark hands?

Mulder realised what was happening, but not soon enough. A dazed fascination attempted to conceal fear for a moment.

This was It! This was what had happened to the other people! Well if this was what death felt like, and he couldn’t escape it; then so be it!

Ah, with the grape my fading Life provide,
And wash my Body whence the Life has died,
And in a windingsheet of vine-leaf wrapt,
So bury me by some sweet garden-side.

Was he speaking?

Did he say something?

Mulder’s eyes became awash with blue, then red – bright painful red. His head pounded.

Scully.

He stumbled forward, the dark hands pulling at his waist and ankles. His ankle – God it hurt.

He ran, ran, but it felt like all the roots of the Earth were pulling him back, and the whole weight of the sky was pushing him down, further and further, until the smell was all that he knew, and his face hit the soft mossy earth and sank him into the forest floor.

He kept falling through the soft earth, down and down through the blackness – blood through soil, under soil, in soil. He could hear his breath, hard and fast, breathing clean air from somewhere far from the smell and the blackness. He had to reach it, reach the air.

He squeezed his eyes shut, concentrating as if he had control over Fate, over the supernatural, concentrating until his skin threatened to rip at the temples.

He forced open his eyes.

Colours, more colours than the human eye can see bounced in front of his eyes and laughter – laughter played on his brain like a pinball machine.

Samantha. It was his sister laughing.

But leave the Wise to wrangle, and with me

The quarrel of the Universe let be:

And, in some corner of the Hubbub coucht,

Make Game of that which makes as much of thee.

He was back at home, that memory that had played in his mind so many times, repeating again. Was he dead? Would he see the truth now? Finally, after all these years?

There was no reason for lies now.

So there they were, playing Stratego on the living room floor, the TV blaring. It was exactly as it had always been, the thundering vibrations, the blinding lights, Samantha’s cries – all the same.

But when the door opened on the silhouetted figure standing beneath, this time the vision changed. This wasn’t how he remembered it at all.

Surely this was wrong.

Surely it wasn’t all his fault!

For in and out, above, below,

‘Tis nothing but a Magic Shadow-Show,

Play’d in a Box whose candle is the Sun,

Round which we Phantom Figures come and go.

***

PART 10

In Pitch Blackness In A Cave Somewhere
Sometime Later

Finding no answers in her tears, Scully weakly crawled along the floor of the cave until she found the chair again. This time though, there was something on it. It was plastic, about seven inches tall and had a lid.

A bottle maybe?

Yes, it was definitely a bottle. It felt like a bottle of mineral water.

She shook it. There was definitely a liquid in it. Scully unscrewed the lid, glad of the distraction from the darkness, and smelt the liquid inside.

It didn’t smell of anything but plastic.

Was it water?

Scully decided to take the risk and taste it. It was water. At least whoever had put it there wasn’t planning to let her die from dehydration.

Morbidly she humoured herself. She might be scared to death, but at least she’d have a drink.

It was at that moment that she first noticed the smell. It smelt like a combination of soil and sulphur. In fact it was disgusting, and getting stronger.

Someone had to be there. Who else had put the bottle there?

“Hello?” She shouted.

Judging by the echo, she guessed that the ceiling must have been very high, considering that the space wasn’t particularly wide. No one answered her calls, and she heard nothing but the sound of her own breathing. The smell was beginning to become suffocating.

Why did these things always happen to her? It was always her who got kidnapped and trapped without her even knowing. It was like she lived in some kind of a sadistic fairytale. The girl always got in to trouble.

These sorts of things barely ever happened to Mulder.

Oh God, Mulder. His name brought tears to her eyes. She would do anything just to feel him there beside her, his presence dominating everything else. But she felt nothing, no presence at all. It frightened her more than anything ever had done before.

It’s funny, she thought, how she could be so hostile when she was around him, but as soon as she was alone all she ever wanted was to be with him.

Was this the fear that Mulder was talking about before? A fear that they were too afraid to run away from?

The fear was love.

They were too afraid to feel it, to accept it, to admit to it, because they didn’t know what would come of it, yet they were too afraid to leave it.

Because without it they would be nothing. If they ever felt the absence of it, then they would know it was there. They would have to admit to it.

Now that Scully felt his absence so keenly, she also felt the love she had for him a thousand times as strongly.

<Great, this is the perfect time to decide that you have to face it. Just when you can’t.>

Have I made a mistake?

And it had been so much worse since Diana had appeared.

Stupid cow.

She cursed herself for thinking it, but then stopped herself. What did it matter now? No doubt Diana had something to do with her being stuck in this oubliette anyway.

Have I made a mistake?

That was certainly what it felt like – an oubliette. Or some other kind of imprisoning oblivion anyway.

Have I made a mistake?

This time Scully heard it.

***

‘Tis all a chequer-board of Nights and Days
Where Destiny with men for pieces plays:
Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays.
And one by one back in the Closet lays.

This wasn’t a memory he recognised.

He saw Samantha, held in the air by invisible arms, then he saw men dragging her, then the invisible arms and then the men. Dragging her towards the door. She screamed for him to help her, but he stood still.

He looked around the room. He saw his father’s gun on top of the bookcase, he saw a sharp knife beside him, which he had been using to cut an orange, he looked down and saw his own hands in fists. But not a sound came from his mouth, and not a movement was made.

He wasn’t shouting, it wasn’t how he remembered it. This time he could see all of the ways in which he might have prevented it, but instead he ran and cowered in the corner of the room, and watched the men – the men take his sister.

“Did he ever ask you to make a choice?!”

He heard himself say it, but this time his mother’s reply was different.

“I chose you Fox, I chose you because I love you more than my life – more…

more than her life.”

His mother’s voice like lightning burnt holes in his mind.

“Fox where’s Samantha!? Why didn’t you try to stop them!?”

“You’ve always been a coward – why didn’t you turn out more like your father?”

Like which father?

Mulder’s mind ached and groaned.

It was his fault. It was his fault.

He had imagined something else through his own cowardice, seen it from a different angle. He had surpressed from his memories the details that proved that he had been seeing it wrong. And that he could have prevented it, had he been a better person.

He didn’t deserve to live, if he wasn’t already dead. He’d wasted his life searching for a truth that would only prove all of the lies that he’d been afraid of. Scully was right. The only truth in this life was death.

So he would find that truth
The Ball no question makes of Ayes and Noes,
But Right or Left as strikes the Player goes;
And He that toss’d thee down into the Field,
He knows about it all – He knows – HE knows!

Mulder, feeling all the weight of guilt and regret pressing him further down, reached for the cold steel of his gun.

So this is what life is, he thought, as if he didn’t already know. It was all a big game. He guessed that he had lost.

And that inverted Bowl we call The Sky,
Whereunder crawling coopt we live and die,
Lift not thy hands to It for help – for It
Rolls impotently on as Thou or I.

***

It could not believe what It had done.

It had come in full circle since the day It was created.

It had been blind.

It had been ignorant.

It had been unfortunate.

And now It had to pay.

It had planned to destroy the woman in the same way as It had destroyed her partner, but as It listened to her thoughts, It realised It’s mistake. It remembered why It had been created. And these two humans were suffering the greatest lie of all. It didn’t need to use the drug or It’s power to destroy these two. They were destroying themselves by hiding from the only thing that held them safe in the Universe. Hiding from a Love and a Trust that would not be hidden. They couldn’t veil this truth, but they had tried and had never regretted it – until now.

At that moment It realised that It wanted to help more than to destruct. It remembered why humanity had not already annihilated itself. Because of the one force that held it together. But these two had been unable to accept it, and then the destruction had started. It realised that It had already helped to a certain extent, the woman would now admit it.

It cried all the tears of the Universe when It realised what It had done.

It had played with human emotion to cause ruin, but the human spirit was beyond life. Only without the force of Love could it be eradicated, and therefore only the force of Love could save it. After all of the chaos that It had started, perhaps only these two mortals could prevent it from spreading further. Perhaps they could save humanity.

But was it already too late for the man? The drug had taken effect. It felt guilty to think that It had twisted the truth, and made him see things the wrong way around. It had contradicted everything that It stood for.

Hopefully the woman could save him yet, and the rest of the planet along with it.

The Thing smiled the broad grin of all eternity. The Ultimate Promoter of Honesty was back.

***

Just as the smell began to choke her, it subsided.

“I apologise.” It said.

“Who’s there?” Scully called in to the darkness.

“I’ve made a terrible mistake. But so have you.”

Scully gripped the arms of the chair. The voice seemed to be coming from every direction. She didn’t know which way to turn her head.

“Where are you?”

“I have been stupid and arrogant, but you have been the most benighted of all. You and your partner.”

“Where is he? What have you done to him?”

“I may have destroyed him. But there may still be time.”

“I don’t understand. Look, whatever you’ve done, I’m sure we can sort this out rationally. Where am I?”

It laughed a silent laugh.

“You think I’m a criminal. I was sent to save you, to preserve humanity. I was lost. But now I’m back.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You can save your partner, and yourself, but only if you face what you are most afraid of and welcome the consequences. Be wary though Agent Scully.

He may already be dead. A new light has been cast on his past and he has seen shadows that he never should have seen. Only you can save him now.”

“How! How?”

“What Lamp had Destiny to guide?

‘A Blind Understanding’ Heav’n replied.”

“What?”

The smell had dissipated completely, and only the silence answered her question.

Whatever it was, it had gone.

<A Blind Understanding? What’s that supposed to mean?> A loud crash and shatter came from behind her, making her yelp in surprise.

Just before she turned around, a glint of light in the bottle winked at her.

A glint?

She stood up when she was sure it was safe and turned around. Sure enough, from somewhere in the wall behind her, a dim orange glow of light was escaping. She walked cautiously in the direction of the glow and the crash, and as she neared the wall she realised that a section of it was made of brick. One brick had fallen out. The orange glow was coming from inside the wall.

Scully remembered her gun, and pulled it out.

She warily put her face to the hole to try to see. A cool draught of fresh air hit her. Some sort of tunnel perhaps? Air was definitely moving around in there.

She couldn’t see what was producing the glow, and seeing as nothing had jumped out at her, she put her gun back in its holster. She put the bottle in her jacket pocket and started pulling at the bricks around the hole.

They were very old and practically crumbled to dust in her hands. When she had made a hole big enough to squeeze through, she climbed inside. It was freezing cold. She looked around and saw that the orange glow was coming from a small oil lantern that was just sitting there, in the middle of the floor.

Where had it come from? It suddenly occurred to her that Mulder might have been there.

She picked the lantern up. It cast more shadows than light. However, Scully couldn’t see a wall in front or behind her. The ceiling was low. It was definitely a tunnel, and looked man-made. An old mine, perhaps.

She decided to go left, but only because that’s the way she had been facing when she entered the tunnel. She walked into the darkness ahead of her, gun in one hand and lantern in the other. The light expanded the tunnel gradually, and she walked for what felt like hours in a completely straight line.

After a while, Scully heard a noise. At first it sounded like an animal, a cat maybe, but as she walked on the sound became more human. It sounded like someone crying – someone who had been crying for so long that they were forcing out the tears.

Suddenly the lantern cast light on a much higher ceiling. She had entered some sort of a cavern, similar to the one she had been in, but this one had an exit on the other side.

There in the middle, pacing back and forth, with his eyes squeezed shut and mumbling inconceivable words, was Mulder.

Scully wanted more than anything just to run and hug him, but the way he was acting frightened her.

He held his gun in one hand, and the other was shaking wildly, like a nervous twitch. He didn’t see her.

“Mulder.” She said quietly and put away her gun.

He didn’t hear her.

***

Thus with the Dead as with the Living, what?

And Why? So ready, but the Wherefor not.

It had moved on from his sister now. The visions had become quicker, more fragmented, like dust stinging his eyes.

He saw his father murdered, he saw Melissa murdered, he saw Scully.

Scully’s life in danger a hundred times because of him, Scully crying a hundred times because of him. It was all because of him. He had to end it, end all of the pain and suffering that he had caused to those he loved.

And Scully – she was the worst. He saw it. Premonitions of her death again and again, all because of him. And every time he saw her die, another piece of his sanity died with her.

This was the end. Finally.

“Mulder!”

Dust into Dust

“Mulder.”

Dust into Dust, and under Dust, to lie

“Mulder drink this.”

Ah, my Beloved, fill the cup that clears

Today of past Regret and future Fears

“Mulder drink it. It’s water. It might help counteract the effects of the drug.”

Dust into Dust

“For God’s sake Mulder! Drink it!”

Drink! For you know not whence you come, nor why; Drink! For you know not why you go, nor where.

This he heard clearly. It was that voice again, the voice that drove him mad before. Now it was telling him to drink?

He felt his arm reach out, touch the skin of a hand, a hand that he wanted to hold on to tightly. But the hand forced a bottle into his. He felt the bottle in his hand move towards his mouth, and the cool liquid trickled down his throat.

His hand shook and the bottle fell to the ground.

He pulled the gun to his temple, and clicked back the catch.

“Dust into Dust, and under Dust, to lie.”

He heard a scream.

“No! Mulder! NO!”

He pulled the trigger.

Two shots rang out, but the pain was all wrong. The first he felt in his shoulder and the second her didn’t feel at all.

He heard it though. A gunshot beside his ear and a bullet that flew past his head.

A gunshot, that was all.

Nothing was dead, but something was re-born.

“Mulder look at me.”

Mulder opened his eyes. He was lying down.

Scully filled his view.

Her hands pressed down on his shoulder, covered with blood. He suddenly realised that he should have been in agony.

Her face was wrought with distress.

“Mulder. Mulder can you speak?”

“Sc-Scully. You shot me.”

Relief flooded her features, and tears flooded her eyes.

“Yes. Yes I did.”

“Why?”

“You were trying to kill yourself. Don’t you remember?”

“No-why didn’t you let me do it?”

She frowned at him.

“Why the hell do you think I didn’t?”

She took off her jacket and pressed it down on to the wound. It killed.

“Mulder, whatever reasons you may have for killing yourself – you have to know that they probably aren’t true. It’s the same as with the others – the drug – the drug makes you hallucinate… It spoke to me.”

“It spoke to me too. Everything that It showed me was true Scully – It showed me my past in a different light. In the right light. It showed me things that I might have got away with, when I shouldn’t have.”

Mulder rolled over and grabbed his gun from where he’d dropped it.

“Mulder.”

He struggled to stand up.

“Mulder don’t do this. You don’t have to do this.”

Yes I do. It’s the only way that I can save you.”

“Mulder! If you kill yourself you won’t save me! You’ll devastate me!

Don’t you see that? Don’t you see that’s what It was trying to tell us?”

“What? That I’ve wasted my whole life! That I’ve desolated everyone I’ve ever loved, all because I’m searching for – who knows what?”

“But you haven’t destroyed me, not yet. You’ve kept me alive.”

“No. No, Scully. I can’t – I can’t do this anymore.”

Mulder dissolved into tears, not like any that he’d ever cried before.

Scully could barely stand to watch.

“Yes you can Mulder. You have to.”

No I can’t.” He spat through gritted teeth.

“Why not!?”

“I can’t… I can’t do this anymore because I don’t think that you know what it feels like to love someone so much that it envelops you, that it consumes you and then spits you out again just to spite you. To love so much that it closes your eyes every night, but doesn’t let you sleep, then it pulls you awake in the morning despite how much you want to kill yourself because that one feeling, that one tiny feeling is the only reason that you have for living. It never leaves me alone Scully and….. and I can’t do this anymore.”

Mulder’s voice broke.

“I do, Mulder. I do know what it feels like. That’s what we’re so afraid of – you know that. It’s time to face it. Maybe it’s the one thing that we have in common. Maybe it’s the only thing that can save us.”

She walked over to him and took the gun out of his now limp hand.

“Scully how can I justify you? How can I ever protect you or judge you or hold you? What can I do? How can I keep you? I’ve been salted and hung, and there’s no more of me to hear.”

Scully looked at him, barely able to control the emotion that washed over her.

“You don’t have to do any of that Mulder, because you already have me.”

He slumped to the floor, exhausted. Scully stood above him, stunned until she saw her own tears fall to the ground before her.

She sat down next to him and took his hands. They were icy cold.

Although there was no space for daylight in the cave, the lantern reflected light off his eyes like sun off the ocean and she was struck thinking that he’d never seemed so lovely. The pale of his features reflected a pain that ran deep and cruel, and it hurt Scully to think how it must have been hollowing out his heart.

She took his weary head and cradled it in her arms.

“You know, Mulder, I can’t justify you either. We’re two sides of the same coin, I think.”

After a moment, he sat up.

“What is it all about, Scully? What does it all mean?”

“I don’t think it means anything. I don’t think that this – whatever it is, cared anything about morals, or messages or right and wrong – and it certainly had nothing to do with God. I think that It was just playing a game with us, with everyone. It could have been trying to show us how insignificant we all are, or trying to show us our faults but I don’t know.

Maybe it’s best not to try to give it meaning.”

“So the mystery remains unresolved.”

“And unredeemed.”

“It isn’t over yet though, is it.” He said. “So far It still wins.”

He looked at her.

“So far.”

“Then maybe it can be resolved.” He said softly.

Scully turned her head to face him and was surprised by how close his face was. So close.

“I don’t feel afraid anymore.” She whispered.

“Neither do I.”

He reached his hand up to touch her cheek and kissed her, so lightly that she hardly felt it.

He pulled his head back ever so slightly and she stared at his lips.

Drink! For you know not whence you came, nor why; Scully took his face in both her hands.

Drink! For you know not why you go, nor where.

She drew his mouth to hers and drunk.

Drunk for all his pain and for her own. Drunk for all that they’d lost, and for all that they’d gained.

It wasn’t a soft kiss. It was the kind of kiss that you’d expect after six years of lusting for it. Mulder’s tongue probed her mouth, and she responded with the same. At that moment all that they knew was each other.

It didn’t matter who won or lost.

Nevertheless:

“Checkmate.”

Mulder said triumphantly when he came up for air, and smiled, before Scully pulled his face back again.

***

And then he was inside of her.

But this time, it was real.

More real than either of them had ever envisaged. It wasn’t hard for them to escape from the cave, although they both suspected that it wasn’t just pure luck that they did.

They had won and It knew it.

Scully watched him as he rose and fell above her. His gaze was dangerous, her vessel was sunk and she was lost inside of him. A soul with more depth than the ocean, his mind carrying all the weight of Heaven and in his eyes a ripple more than a spark, swilling around emotions like a tide that pulled her in to him, destined to orbit his spirit forever more.

He cried out as he dug into her, deeper and deeper every time, until she felt it right at the bottom of her stomach. Like nervous sickness, it was nauseating, but adrenaline shot bullets through every artery in her body.

She watched as he bit his full lower lip, his head bowing into her and his face wet with sweat. She ran her fingernails down his back as the adrenaline got stronger, and clutched that tight little ass that she’d wasted so much time despising.

She wrapped her legs around him and held on with all her might, lest that presence that now smothered her disappeared again. Strong arms entwined around her, pulling her into him as she tongued his neck and face, sweat mingling with the seed that she still held in her mouth.

For a moment Scully thought she saw God, but it was only the passion and intensity swallowing them whole. He came into her core, and she came around him, and all the sighs of the Universe culminated within them.

Blood and sweat met with each other

And Mulder and Scully became one another.

He wrapped her up in all that he could give her, which was fathomless, and always would be.

The Ultimate Promoter of Honesty put his hand to the heart of the Earth and laughed, as two became one, and their fear dissolved into a single breath of the love that holds it all together.

With them the seed of Wisdom did I sow,
And with my own hand Labour’d it to grow:
And this was all the Harvest that I reap’d –
I come like water, and like wind I go.
Into this Universe, and why not knowing,
Nor whence, like water willy-nilly flowing:
And out of it, as wind along the waste
I know not whither, willy-nilly blowing.
Oh threats of Hell and Hopes of Paradise!

One thing at least is certain – This Life flies; One thing is certain and the rest is lies;
The Flower that once is blown forever dies.

***

EPILOGUE

The Samson Residence
Caelum, Colorado
Two months later.

Things had settled down quickly in Caelum, too quickly, suspiciously so in Tanith’s opinion. The towns people had gone quietly back to their old ways of covering up their mistakes, forgiving their neighbours and forgetting their traumas all too easily.

Nothing had changed. In Caelum, no one was right. Everyone was a member of the guilty party, just as it had always been. The two agents had left, a new mayor was elected, and nothing more was said about the whole incident.

Tanith had no idea what the agents’ conclusion had been, they had simply told her that her father had been provoked in to commiting suicide by use of a drug from an unexplainable source. That didn’t mean anything to her, but she didn’t really care. As far as she was concerned, this was all a sign.

she was on her way out, out of Caelum, out of Twin Peaks and back in to the real world. Not even Johnny’s death had affected her as much as she had anticipated. She supposed that it would all catch up on her when she hit fifty, like it had done with her father. She and her mother were moving back to LA. Tanith was glad for her mother, who had been somewhat down-trodden since they moved. She was finally free.

She had seen Zoë quite a lot, but found her company a little too intense.

She had huge, huge problems, and a habit of dumping them on everyone else.

She was getting help though, willingly, which was more than Tanith could say for herself. She had refused to see a counsellor, hoping that she would be able to sort out her own problems, move on without some jerk continuously bringing up her horrible past. She preferred just to forget the whole thing ever happened.

Tom Richards, Johnny’s brother, was probably the worst affected. Zoë’s emotional scars had run so deep for so long that she barely even noticed them any more, but Tom just couldn’t understand. It was only when she thought of him that Tanith cried. He was left an orphan, she didn’t know who’s care he was under now, but it was likely that he had gone to live with his grandparents in Las Vegas. That’s about as far as you could get from Caelum society. He was a problem child before any of this even started, couldn’t control his anger at his father’s death, got angrier at his mother’s and had spontaneously combusted at Johnny’s. He collapsed and had to be taken to hospital, that was the last she had heard of him. She did know that he had started making up some kind of comic-book character which he put all the blame on to, some kind of monster who was having It’s own issues with morality.

Tanith wondered what had happened to those agents in Caecus Cave. After the trailer park fire she had seen Agent Mulder (she remembered him very well) disappear in a frenzy, looking for his partner. She had seen them again at dawn, stumbling down the mountain path and back in to town. Agent Mulder was injured, they both looked completely insane with exhaustion. She had scraped up the guts to approach them and thank them though, for trying to save Johnny’s life and for trying to help the town. She still didn’t know why the government would even bother sending agents all the way to Caelum, they never seemed to care about any of the other problems the town had.

Then again, she didn’t care either. She didn’t care at all any more.

***

Dana Scully’s Apartment
Georgetown
Two months after their escape from the cave.

Mulder lay still on his back, the gunshot wound in his shoulder still far from healed. Even now, after two months, he wasn’t sure what to believe about the incidents in Caelum. How much of it was in his imagination? How much of it all were lies? Scully seemed to have it all worked out perfectly, of course. It turned out that she was right about the drug, that once in the blood stream it caused awful hallucinations, hallucinations that were terrible enough to create in a persons head a good enough reason for ending their own life. He knew that better than anyone though, save for those who had fallen prey to their own mistakes and died in the process. In a way it was he who had it figured from the beginning, when he had told Scully that these people had fallen victim to their own guilt, commiting suicide in ways that represented their mistakes, their guilt, their punishment. A Reverend obsessed with kiddie-porn gouges out his own eyes, an alcoholic mother burns herself alive using Whisky as the ignition, a man who raped his own daughter for years holds a lighter to his bits before stabbing himself in the groin and bleeding to death. Caricatures of themselves; guilt-suicides. But was it right to call them suicides? If what caused them to do it was initiated by an outside source, a stranger? A force of nature, a spirit, a minion of God, of Fate, whatever you wanted to call it. It. If what had happened to them wasn’t in their power, was it really their fault that they died? But then again, would it have happened sooner or later anyway? Were they victims as soon as they snapped the naked kid, drunk the extra glass or forced themselves on someone for the first time? Perhaps ‘It’ was just an extra push. If that was the case, then how did Mulder know that what he had seen under the influence of the drug wasn’t really true? Maybe his death from his own faults was what was meant to be.

If that were true, he had denied it once, he couldn’t dodge the inevitable forever. One day his mistakes would catch up on him.

Dammit this whole thing was too confusing. He didn’t know what to think at all. What if he had mis-judged what this so called ‘inevitable’ was? What if the inevitable that he couldn’t dodge forever was what Scully had told him that It had been trying to achieve all along. That the inevitable was not only the truth about his past, but more importantly the truth about his present, about his future. He could no longer deny it to himself or to Scully. What the truth was exactly he hardly even knew, but what he did know was that it involved her, in a big way. That he had only survived his past for this long due to her love, and he could only survive the future with it in his hands and his heart as well. Now that he knew that it was true, her companionship, her love was more important than anything. Was this the truth he had been searching his whole life to find? True love?

Just like the billions of other people on Earth?

That made him one of them, which made him think of the mysterious ‘Them,’

which made him think of conspiracies and his sister and, Christ there was just too much. There was still so much he wanted to know, so many questions unanswered, so many things undiscovered.

He rolled over on his good shoulder and pressed his face in to Scully’s neck. Where would he be without her? Lying stone cold dead on the floor of a cave, that’s where.

***

Scully kissed his fore-head and continued with her thoughts. This was one of the few times when it all seemed clear to her and not to him, and she was relishing in it. She knew his confusion, hell, she had known it since the first time he had confided in her about his search for the truth. Mulder couldn’t stand to live in a world where every fact was laid out before him, where every killer had a clear motivation, where everything was simple. It just wasn’t him.

She wondered if he spent a good part of each night pondering this case as she did. He talked about it a lot, questioned her about it more than commenting on it himself. They would sit in her kitchen at breakfast and the downpour would come; ‘So, tell me again, what exactly did It say to you? What do you think It really was? What does it all mean? What’s the meaning of life?’ On and on. She didn’t mind, she liked it, felt as if she was the keeper of some secret knowledge that was important for the conservation of humanity, if such a thing really existed. She worried about him though. It was not the first time that he had turned the past against himself out of guilt. She remembered when he was getting treatment from that strange doctor, that wholly unconventional, unreasonable, painful, hole-in-the-head procedure the man had claimed was working. She hated the bastard for having ever hurt Mulder like that. This time a drug had caused him to hallucinate, a drug which she couldn’t identify, which seemed to have been mysteriously absorbed in to Mulder’s blood-stream at the presence, or more likely at the will, of this ‘Thing’. The hallucinogenic effects of the drug seemed to dissipate completely once he drank the water in the cave, no doubt due to the same paranormal being that had given it to him, and that she’d rather not think about anymore. How could she be sure of the long-term effects? She had saved him twice now from suicide, what if it happened again? she couldn’t be with him 24 hours a day, as much as she’d like to be. And she knew that he was still unsure that what he had hallucinated wasn’t the truth.

She found it strange that she so readily believed in this ‘Thing’ that had spoken to her while she was trapped in the cave. It was similar to her belief in God, she supposed, she found it easy to believe in something that intended to help her. And she was fascinated by what It had said, how It had learned from It’s mistakes, just like a human being. She didn’t really care what It was, or even if it was all just a figment of her imagination.

It had helped her to face a truth she had spent far too long hiding from.

Scully thought back to their escape from the cave. She wished that they could have had another deep and meaningful conversation there, probing further in to the past and the future, but Mulder was in no shape to handle metaphors. He had a gunshot wound in his shoulder, and she was still worried about the effects of the drug on his behaviour. All she had really wanted to do was get him out of there and to a hospital. So, that’s exactly what she did. She used her jacket as a temporary sling, just to prevent him moving his shoulder too much. The exit tunnel had not been hard to find.

There were two tunnels leading in to the cavern, which meant they had one choice, as Scully knew that the tunnel she had entered from didn’t lead out.

So they took the other one and, surprise-surprise, out they went. Mulder grit his teeth, his other arm slung over her shoulder and managed to walk, pretty much of his own accord, to the large mouth of the cave. He had stayed in Elburg County Hospital (the nearest one which was still a good twenty miles away) and had proceeded to discharge himself after two days and an operation to remove the bullet and repair the wound. Of course this was much to her objection, but they did have to get back to DC. He was re-admitted to hospital there, she made sure of it.

Now, two months later, his wound was still gauzed, still painful, but healing. the bullet had been lodged in muscle, missing bone due both to her accurate shot and to his training sessions in the FBI gym.

It still all seemed miraculous though. The whole thing seemed more than just another case. Because the message behind this one had been personal, because Scully had been told that she could save the rest of Caelum, the rest of humanity for God’s sake, just by admitting this one feeling that she had known all along. She didn’t know if she had really saved anything other than Mulder and herself, but Caelum certainly survived, with only a bit of psychological scarring to show for it’s trauma. How much could one tiny unknown town in the middle of nowhere matter to the politics and moral society of the rest of the world? Whether she had imagined the whole incident or not, Scully was still sure that humans were on their way out.

At least ‘It’ wouldn’t be bothering them any more.

But for now, she didn’t care what happened to the rest of the world. the present was the present and that is where she would remain. At that moment, it was all that mattered. In the body lying next to her, sleep-breathing so peacefully, for once, all the truths she had ever seeked she found. She did not care what happened two months ago, what happened yesterday, what would happen tomorrow. There would be no plaguing past, no daunting future, just this moment.

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