Echoes

Echoes by truthwebothknow1

Rating PG , adult viewers , few bad words.

Keywords MT SA MA X file MSR

Spoiler. Amor Fati trilogy,

Written for the IMTP virtual season 15 and alludes to some aspects of canon in

those fics.

Summary. The Northern Irish coast has some secrets, some say echoes.

Not for profit and The X files belongs to cc and Fox. Auntie Katherine belongs to

me and is probably me in about 40 years LOL.

Dedicated To Joi who has been waiting way too long for me to finish her birthday

fic so you can have this one. It in time for this years birthday. 🙂

Echoes

Belfast airport

15th March 2008

“I got hold of my aunt. She’s picking us up in about an hour.” Scully popped her

cell phone back in her jacket pocket as Mulder retrieved their bags from the

carousel.

“That’s great, Scully. This is your Mom’s aunt right ..so your great Aunt?”

“Katherine Tooley, yes,” Scully smiled widely, “ My namesake. Mom named me

for her but she in turn, was also named for another Katherine from way back,

many years in fact. My great, great great-grandmother Tooley. ”

Mulder grinned at his lover’s enthusiasm for this whole trip. She’d been in a state

of awe and childlike excitement for days and he found it so endearing. “Have you

ever met her before?” They were heading towards customs now, both of them

taking in the St. Patrick’s Day bunting and paraphernalia hanging everywhere.

They really took this holiday seriously here.

“No but I have spoken to her on the phone a few times. She was coming over to

visit Mom in Baltimore a few years ago but her husband Ned, died suddenly. She

has been alone since. Runs her small sheep farm out on the Antrim coast by

herself, does a bit of painting and stuff. Independent feisty lady.”

“Umm like someone else I could name…. who’s not more than a few yards away

from me”. Mulder’s hand gently cupped Scully’s cheek, rubbing a thumb back

and forth. She leaned into his touch as they waited in line to go through the gate

into the main concourse.

“I wonder who you could mean”, she giggled, slipping her arm into his free one

that wasn’t carrying his bags.

Once through arrivals they noticed more trappings of St. Patrick’s Day

celebrations. People bustling by wearing Irish tri- color scarves and sometime

the odd silly green hat. Mulder explained that this usually meant a Rugby Derby

was imminent and people of Irish descent were filing in from all over Europe and

further afield to watch the match. Scully seemed to lap it all up taking in the

sights and foreign smells. They found a luggage cart and dumped their bags into

it.

It was good take a vacation now and then, to get away from the trauma and loss

of the last few months and just chill in a completely different place, somewhere

much quieter, with a relatively slower pace of life. Her aunt’s cliff top home

seemed an ideal place for her and Mulder to recharge their batteries before taking

on the slew of new cases Skinner had mentioned at their last meeting, before he

insisted they took some much needed leave.

Her aunt had been bugging her for months about coming over to spend a few

days and finally meet her. She knew Katharine and Maggie were close, and had

started talking a lot more via phone and email after Billy’s death, Now with her

other brother gone and Dana was the last one, it seemed her aunt was anxious

to meet the only surviving child of Maggie Scully before a cruel twist of fate took

her as well. Surviving family was important to Scully a lot more recently, so who

could refuse Katherine’s kind offer. Her mother had mentioned that she was a bit

eccentric and unusual. Right up Mulder’s street then from the sound of it.

She was so looking forward to this trip and she knew Mulder was as well. A week

enjoying her aunt’s hospitality then a quick jaunt down to Dublin to hook up with

one of Mulder’s old Oxford pals, a professor at one of the museums there seemed

just what the doctor ordered. She hoped he would be okay though as he’d started

sneezing on the plane no sooner than he’d clipped his safety belt in place. Just his

luck to get sick now but he assured her that it was nothing a slug of real Irish

whiskey wouldn’t cure. There was a plan for an excursion to the famous

Bushmills foundry on their schedule among other things, although Mulder

admitted that was partly coerced by Skinner who promised them an extra week

off if he could bring him back a bottle of the world class liquor all the way from

its Irish roots.

“You’ve been to Ireland before haven’t you Mulder?”

“Sure… er only the once. When I was at Oxford.”

“So how come I’ve never heard about this?”“ She teased as he led them both to a

place to eat and drink. All the travel and excitement of exploring a new country

had given them both a raging appetite.”

“Er, I don’t remember much of it,” Mulder admitted as he reached inside his

leather jacket pocket for his tissues.

“A group of us came over for a Thin Lizzy concert at the Point in Dublin. But……”

Scully grinned; she guessed what was coming by the look that passed over his

face. “But…? ”

“A couple of us had a few pre concert whiskies and we er…never made it out of

the bar. Couldn’t find the guy with the tickets either.”

“So what happened?” He smiled as the usual eyebrow manoeuvre came into play;

he wasn’t going to get out of this easily. Was that her usually inuendous partner

blushing. This was going to be good.

“Ended up waking in a part of Dublin called Ferrytown. Some joker thought it

would be a blast to dump us ‘mainlanders’ all down by the dockside. We were all

over from Oxford. I guess the old English -Irish rivalry thing, and I got lumped in

with them seeing as I couldn’t utter two intelligent words being shitfaced at the

time so they pegged me as English too. Guilt by association. Anyway next day,

massive hangovers all round, freezing rain and …..no pants.” Scully tried to keep

a straight face as he pantomimed getting a chill up his spine.

“No pants? You were mugged and they took your pants? Mulder …”

“….And well er… we were duct taped to a lamp post. Hey it was no fun and

fucking freezing…It was like a Stephen King horror version of the ‘Commitments’

only with crappier weather and no music…what?”

Mulder gave her a baleful, ‘ I’ll get you for this’ expression as his partner started

to laugh that silly, open laugh she indulged herself in on the rare occasions that

she felt really happy. Something suddenly dissolved inside him… almost a

flashback, a sense of gestalt and he looked at her stupidly, thoughts going in a

million different directions.

It startled him to realize that that hadn’t happened in a very long time. His eyes

started to well up and he thought with alarm if he didn’t get a hold of his

emotions he might start crying right here in the middle of a bustling airport. He

felt a small warm hand slip into his. “ Mulder?”

He sniffed loudly and feigned a cough before he looked her in the eye again.

Feeling stupid and overwhelmed and not quite grasping all the reasons why, his

hand squeezed hers back and he forced a smile. This vacation would be a good

one for them both, he would make damn sure of it. Whatever she wanted to do,

or go and visit they would do it. This was her time more than his, after all they’d

been through and all she had suffered on a personal level lately, his heart still

bled like an open wound for all that. He felt this need to make it up to her, to be

with her and enjoy just being like any other loving couple for once. The thought

of Aunt Katherine’s remote cottage with a real peat fire and warm nights

snuggled up with his partner under an old eiderdown listening to the sea crashing

wildly on the shore was very appealing. It sounded very old fashioned and

romantic… Something he desperately wanted to give the woman he loved with all

his heart. A chance maybe to redefine and enhance their relationship.

“C’mon, I’m starving, lets try out the local food seeing as we have a bit of time

before your aunt arrives.”

O’Malley’s bar was a cheery place and predictably regaled with St Patrick’s Day

shamrocks, cut out leprechauns and Irish flags. A large plasma screen TV showed

some kind of news show frequently interrupted by rugby scores accompanied by

bouts of cheering enthusiasm, and adverts for Guinness. Scully was mesmerised

by the quaint charm of it all and even more amused when Mulder came back from

the bar with two Irish coffees to go with their shepherd’s pies. Scully tucked in

with gusto, secretly glad he didn’t get her a green Guinness. Mulder had made

several teasing speculative remarks about what odious ingredients or chemicals

went into it to get it that color and it was starting to make her go green, never

mind the brew.

Mulder was enjoying watching her eat. She just seemed to worry less about what

she ate abroad and it was good to see her enjoy real food as opposed to the limp

lettuce bunny diets and fads she usually indulged in back home. He got the

impression from what his partner and Maggie had told him about Katherine that

the old girl liked to cook and look after her guests. It would be just great to watch

Scully getting some more wholesome food inside her and he wasn’t exactly

immune to the joys of home cooked food either. Make a nice change from take

out Chinese or pizza. Blowing his nose he looked around the bar. It was fun and

comforting in atmosphere but he didn’t have the heart to tell Scully that

O’Malley’s was a big international franchise, like an upmarket McDonalds or

Starbucks and there was one of these in almost every airport in Europe.

The real Ireland lay just beyond the airport confines and he made a silent wish

for Katherine to appear very soon so they could go start their vacation and

exploration of this alluring country with all its history and mystical Gaelic charm.

He couldn’t wait to meet Scully’s aunt and see how much of his Scully was in the

older woman. From all accounts they were all made from the same feisty, strong

and wonderful stock he knew and loved; the apples never fell far from the tree no

matter where in the world the woman in his lover’s family hailed from. It was an

x file in itself… okay a small one, he mused.

No sign of her yet, though he knew in his bones he would recognize Katherine the

instant he laid eyes on her. Scully’s sapphire gaze caught him pondering and

damn; she had eaten all her lunch and still looked hungry. He gave her his best

feral grin as he got up from the table.

“They do a great Death by Chocolate in here Scully,”

“I could really do a good Death by Chocolate right now. Bring it on Mulder.”

******

Aunt Katherine didn’t disappoint. She greeted them both warmly and enveloped

them with a gentle hug. Mulder grinned like a fool much to Scully’s chagrin, over

his casual profiling of the kindly white haired woman in glasses, the quintessential

wax jacket and wellingtons. She may have been knocking on 70 but she was a

tough well built woman, with a sharp mind and she had Scully’s eyes. She’d have

been a looker back in the day. Still was.

“Fox, Dana…. So glad you could come visit an old woman. At long last we get to

meet. I’ve heard so much about you from Maggie.”

“Oh Dear…” Mulder chewed on his bottom lip.

“No, no dear, to be sure young man, it’s all good. She always enthuses on how

much you love and look after my niece. Welcome to Northern Ireland. Come…”

“Well Mulder I guess I don’t have to introduce you. “ Scully laughed taking his

hand as they followed her out towards her car.

“ Of Course not, MF. Luder right ?” The old woman threw over her shoulder with

a wicked twinkle in her eye.

“Close your mouth Mulder. “ Scully teased her partner as he stared after her.

They stowed their cases and bags in the back of the rustic old Austin, which

looked like it had one wheel in the scrap heap but Katherine shared none of their

scepticism about its ability to fire up. Which it did. It sounded like a dull roar and

for an awful moment Mulder thought it might take off vertically, but Scully’s aunt

smiled sagely, inviting them to climb in.

Co Antrim coast road near Ballycastle.

Two hours later.

Feeling the effects of jetlag they remained snuggled up together holding hands,

mostly quiet in the back of the car just drinking in the March sun and enjoying

the rich scenery as Katherine drove through winding verdant hills and black

basalt rocky terrain, capped in the distance by the mountains of Mourne which

gave way to a patchwork of fields, steep outcrops and sloping valleys down to the

wild rolling waves of the Atlantic ocean. The sea almost came up to meet them as

they dipped down one hill and then the next until finally, a solitary white

stonewashed farmhouse with a dark slate roof came into view overlooking the

white rollers of the ocean. Mulder felt Scully’s infectious excitement and heard

himself gasp at the natural beauty of the place and wound the windows down a

bit more so they could breathe in the fresh salty air. In the fields behind and

adjacent to the sprawling house, a variety of sheep dotted the green pastures

and slopes painting a tranquil landscape. The wind was mild and the sun

streaked across the wide bay like jewels on white horses. There didn’t seem to be

anything else around for miles.

“There she is, Black Rock Cottage. It’s not really a farm, more of a small holding,

but we get by. I like it here, it’s quiet…. Mostly,” Katherine gave them a lopsided

grin and wink which Mulder tucked away for future reference.

“It’s lovely. Have you lived here long? ”

“ Oh a few years to be sure…thanks, just about home now. There we are,” she

took a particularly fast flip over the animal grid at the gate which almost made

Scully loose her lunch and Mulder started to sneeze, then they pulled up outside

the pretty farmhouse with a sort of afterthought lurching splutter from the

engine, It shuddered to a stop making gravel fly in all directions, just missing a

couple of geese and chickens which clucked in panic and dove for cover.

“Here we are then,” Scully’s aunt grinned, seemingly unphazed. “..welcome to

my home, it was our dream home actually…mine and your uncle Ned’s…..”

Katherine looked out across to sea a moment, suddenly somewhere else. Then

she turned and smiled remembering her visitors. Mulder was heading for the back

of the car. “Leave the bags there in the boot dear, we can get them later. Lets

get inside, you must be tired the both you. Need to get the dinner on and some

tea in yous.”

“Boot?” Scully looked to Mulder for guidance.

“She means the trunk.” He whispered back, giving her ass a playful slap as she

walked alongside him.

“Ah okay. Stop that already.” But he just gave her one his best fake puppy dog

wounded looks.

*****

Once inside the house a large fat black Labrador ambled over and tried to taste

them all, pleased to see his mistress but also equally ecstatic about the two

visitors. Mulder crouched down and happily found himself surrounded in slobbery

doggy kisses. What a big kid, Scully thought. She knew Mulder would love getting

a dog of their own and they had toyed with idea a few times but with their

schedule and frequent trips out of town…..

“That’s Merlin. Fat, overfed little bugger isn’t he? Down boy, let’s not lick our

visitors to death. I’ll put the kettle on. Dana your poor man sounds like he needs

something hot inside him. Please make yourselves at home. My house is yours.

Loo is that way to the left,” She gestured wildly out into passageway that led to

what looked like a large conservatory. “Can’t miss it, it’s the one with ‘Oirish

Embassy’ on the door.” Mulder bit his lip to keep from coughing and snickering

at the same time. This was going to interesting.

“I already got something hot,” he leaned over and whispered to Scully who

retaliated by poking him in the ribs and mouthing ‘behave’ at him.

“What’s that?” Katherine asked, giving them a playful look over the rim of her

glasses.

Mulder tried his best to look innocent and suddenly found himself admiring the

old lady’s teapot collection on the dresser which was eclectic to say the least. A

Dragon candle and a little china alien sat next to each other on one shelf. The

alien wore a green trilby and appeared to be smoking a spliff. He almost gave

himself whiplash as he did a double take.

Scully blinked and grinned at her partner, after following where his eyes were

looking, her hand snaked around his back in delight and she gave him a squeeze,

watching as Katherine set three mugs aside and then put the kettle on the

already heated Aga.

“Everyone okay. Dana, Fox… ? Tea or Coffee……? Think I got some camomile or

peppermint somewhere…”

As if on cue Mulder started to cough and splutter and Katherine shooed them

both along the passageway into the bright spacious living room.

“Thank you so much. You have a lovely home. Really cosy,” They both

murmured, looking around at the surprisingly luxurious surroundings. This was a

lot bigger than what Scully imagined. She’d always thought her aunt had a

modest lifestyle but this house was gorgeous and yet kept its country cosiness.

Perhaps she was better off than she’d thought.

Mulder and Scully tired and jetlagged from their flight took full advantage of the

stuffed cottage couch in the oak beamed living room with the massive stone fire

place. The soft cushions seemed to swallow them up like big marshmallows as

they sank back into them with a grateful sigh. Mulder sneezed again and his eyes

started to water. He gave Scully an apologetic look for being ill on their vacation.

She smiled back and kissed his forehead.

She was starting to get worried about her partner as he was growing increasingly

grey looking and exhausted. His eyes were closed as she sat next to him but she

knew he wasn’t asleep.

“Sorry Scully.”

“For what?”

“Getting…” sneeze …. “sick.” Mulder sighed as his lover smoothed the fever damp

hair from his eyes, he knew she was using it as an excuse to feel his forehead

and leaned into her touch. If she kept stroking his head like that he’d drift off to

sleep in no time.

“It’s not your fault Mulder. Although I think from the heat you are giving off right

now this might be flu, not a cold. I could fry an egg on your forehead.”

“Yeah, just my luck. Hey keep stroking won’t you G woman? Feels good.” He

sighed heavily, more relaxed now.

Aunt Katherine breezed in with a tinkering tray of tea and cakes, clearly delighted

to have someone to dote on no matter how many germs they were giving off.

Mulder cocked one eye open and spotted the chocolate cake. Homemade if he

wasn’t mistaken. Rousing himself, he sat up to inspect it further. Every part of

him screamed in protest, especially his back. He felt wiped but didn’t want to

seem rude as to fall asleep just after they arrived.

As he took his mug, he watched curiously as his host poured a clear liquid into

his tea. He looked up into Katherine’s mischievous gaze.

“This will help kill the germs and make all those nasty aches and pains go away.

Bloody airplanes tsk… tin cans full of nasty germs. “

“Umm, maybe but I think I caught this nasty at work. Our boss was lurking

behind a manly sized box of tissues and bottle of Cherry Nyquil all week… What’s

that?”

“Something strong… Irish.”

“ Unless I’m mistaken that’s the wrong color for whisky.”

“No this is better. Poitin. I make it myself. For all that ails ya.”

“You have a still? “ Mulder chuckled with delight as he lifted the mug to his lips,

blowing on it while Scully just looked bemused. The old woman grinned

knowingly but then looked slightly worried as her brain slipped into gear. “ Ahh I

forgot … you work for that FBI. Ooopse..” She pondered, muttering something

that sounded rude and Gaelic. “ Aw you wouldn’t be slapping the cuffs on an old

woman now would ya?”

To Mulder’s chagrin she offered him her wrists in supplication, eyes full of

apprehension. He laughed, and sipped gingerly at his tea, touching her hand

with his own to reassure.

The stuff had a real kick to it and he sipped more of it and felt better as it went

down. It was instant relief on his throat and down into his chest and he felt his

eyes water and nose clear for the first time that day.

“No no.. its okay… , we left our guns and cuffs back at home. Your er secret is

safe with us.” He indicated to the bottle for her to add a touch more and

Katherine tipped a little in. “Though we may have to arrest you if you say there’s

no more of that cake.”

“Would that not be a bribe now agent Mulder?”

Scully’s eyebrows rose but she grinned, thinking how wonderful and endearing

her aunt was in the flesh despite her predilection for illegal hobbies. She looked

forward to discovering more about her in the next few days and she knew; by the

entranced gaze on Mulder’s sleepy face that he adored her already. He even let

her call him ‘Fox’.

“No Tylenol for you Mulder, I don’t want to have to scrape you off the ceiling

later. “ She picked up the bottle of Poitin and sniffed it, recoiling when the potent

liquor stung her nasal passages. “ Well , I think from the strength of this stuff it

will have any bugs running for the hills in short order. Wooh.”

“Try some Scully…when in Ireland..” Mulder urged. For all of two seconds Scully’s

features creased as if see-sawing with some inner conflict.

“Umm, I guess we are far enough from the long fingers of the law. Maybe …” To

Mulder’s surprise and her aunt’s obvious delight she took a swig, then another

just to make sure. Her eyes went a curious shade of blue and widened until her

mouth formed a surprised ‘oh’ as the warmth spread through her. Mulder

watched in awe, shoving a large hunk of cake in his mouth. “..That was great…”

Came the squeak from her throat.

“ Good craic eh, winters are hard up here on the coast,” Katherine explained as

she put the cap back on the bottle. “ It’s a great place, paradise in the summer…

but aye, the winters are something else. You need a pioneer spirit to manage up

here and well…. my bones are not what they used to be. This helps a lot, thaws

out the marrow a treat. More tea? ”

Katherine, cleared away the last of the plates and mugs and vanished into the

kitchen. A moment or two later she returned and went through the ritual that

brought the fire to life, putting on plenty of wood and peat blocks to last the

night. The room upstairs hadn’t been used in a while. Not since…

She lingered a moment to watch the flames flicker over the room, off the many

crystals adorning her mantelpiece and more especially the faces of her sleepy

visitors making her lips turn up in a smile. It was late afternoon but bless, the trip

must have exhausted them, and Dana’s young man not being well either. Only

sound in the room was the grandfather clock’s dull ticking and Fox’s wheezing,

which seemed to be worse now then when they’d first arrived. She vowed to look

through her pantry and see what she could find to ease him.

Dana had mentioned to her in passing when they were in the kitchen that when

poor Fox got a cold now it almost always went to his chest. It bothered her a lot,

although her niece wouldn’t admit it but you could read it in her eyes as clear as

day. Maggie had mentioned the dark haired handsome man frequently in their

chats and in that same caring simpatico that one might their own child. Talked

about how much he loved her daughter and how his job always seemed to render

him injured and hospitalised a lot. Probably kept her niece’s doctoring skills sharp

and true. In just a few hours Katherine could see why he had captured the hearts

of both mother and daughter and was well on his way to snagging hers. Those

dark eyelashes like smudged crescents on his cheeks were to die for…

She sighed and picked up the tray with Merlin at her heels on the way to the

kitchen.

She’d leave them be for now and go make dinner. Something warming and

delicious. No takeout up here in the wilds, she thought with amusement. These

young professional couples today, too busy to eat properly and all that. She’d

soon sort them out with some decent home cooked food.

Scully wasn’t sure what woke her up, whether it was the worsening noises from

Mulder’s chest or that odd dream she had about a crack in the earth opening up

and swallowing her whole. A scream or loud boom seemed to punctuate things at

one point and she jerked forward with a start, her shoeless feet making contact

with soft carpet bringing her back to the present. Where was she? …oh yes.

Ireland, her aunt’s cottage with its many eccentricities and candles. Dream

catchers and crystals catching the sun, making dancing prisms on the stucco

walls. If it had just been a dream why were her ears still ringing? Jetlag her mind

supplied, just jetlag and excitement of the last day, weeks even. Probably the

prolonged flight that she wasn’t used to and that little pocket of worry about her

partner that was never far from the surface, but there he was, safe right beside

her on the sofa.

Oh she knew it was silly to fuss and fret over the fact he had a cold but each

year, now he was getting older and the accumulative effects of more and more

injuries meant that before when he would shrug it all off with just a sniffle and a

funny throat for a day or so, now she had to keep a close eye on him when it

went to his chest, since he’d had that last bout of pneumonia the doctor in her,

and the lover felt on constant tender hooks. She rubbed her stiffened arms and

touched where he’d drooled on her, then peered carefully at his flushed cheeks.

She couldn’t help it when her hand reached out to touch his brow anymore than

she could stop herself breathing. He was burning up, heat radiating out of him

like a pyre into the air. It was when she bent over him to undo his shirt a little

more that she saw it. A little black furry face peered out from under his right arm.

Scully couldn’t help but smile. She’d often told him he had animal magnetism and

this just proved it.

“You’re okay with cats aren’t you Dana? Forgot to ask your Ma. Not allergic or

anything?” Scully turned on hearing her aunt’s voice and smiled, shaking her

head. The old lady put down another tray of steaming tea and best china. Tea

seemed a panacea for everything, just like her Mom used to say but there the

similarity between her and her aunt ended, except for perhaps the eyes.

“I’m fine with cats; I love all animals, so does Mulder. No allergies… we’re fine

thanks.” She got up to help her with the tray and cutting the cake.

“That’s good then. Seamus was always a man’s cat.” She gestured to Mulder’s

sleeping form with fondness as she set the small table with the tray. “Ned found

him in a quarry as a small kitten and brought him home. They were inseparable

….” Scully watched her aunt’s eyes cloud slightly until they resembled the grey

sky outside, but only for a few beats. “I think he misses him. The scent of a man

and the way he would pet him…. Looks like he’s found a new friend there.” Her

aunt’s eyes lingered out at the sea landscape through the windows, momentarily

lost in thought. Eyes fixed on an imaginary spot in her memory only her aunt

could see. Scully turned away and let her have her privacy. Seamus opened one

languid green eye and blinked at her watching her intently, when Mulder started

coughing.

The cat in question, sensing his warm sleeping spot might move at any minute

stretched his claws across his human cushion’s chest, jumped down and

shimmied around Scully’s legs before mewling and bolting off in the direction of

the kitchen where gorgeous smells were emanating.

Mulder stirred and didn’t wake but Scully, the doctor never far from the surface

went to check on him, placing her fingers gently on his wrist, observing how his

pulse jumped about in his throat. Oh Mulder.

“He should be in bed for sure. Looks done in. You look after that man… love like

that is a precious thing. Redwood among sprouts, think I heard the expression

once.”

“Yes, yes he is …” Scully agreed, smiling at the old woman’s expression, but her

touch never leaving Mulder wrist, wondering where she had heard that before

too.

“Aye, I put you in the big room. There’s an open hearth up there too so you will

be nice and warm. Mild for March I know but nights can be glacial.”

“I hope we’re not putting you out of your bed.”

“Eh, No, it’s a big house but since I have to be up at the crack of dawn to tend to

the animals and birds I don’t want to disturb you. I sleep down here mostly. I

also snore enough to wake the dead. I wouldn’t wish that on me worst enemy.

Like sucking porridge through a straw, it is. ” Katharine gave her a knowing wink

on her way back to the kitchen. Scully brushed Mulder’s hand with her own

before standing to follow her.

“Thanks. Oh my manners, can I help, do you need me to do anything in the

kitchen?”

“Eh, no dear. Got it covered.”

Once in the kitchen Scully reached into her pants pocket and took out her cell

phone. “I just looked at the time; I better call my mom and let her know we got

here in once piece. I never meant to sleep that long. All that heat pouring off

Mulder made me doze off. ” She frowned when it came up ‘no signal’. She put it

away again.

“Oh I’m sorry Dana,” Katharine turned to her while she stirred something on the

stove. “ I forgot to mention, you can’t get a cell phone to work for love nor

money up here. The house phone too is a hit or miss if it has a tantrum and won’t

work. One of the joys of living in the sticks. But..” she grinned as she waved her

cooking spoon in the air suddenly, “ We have the internet as you know. A

godsend here and keeps an old woman company when the nights are dark and

lonely. Why not email your Ma and let her know you’ve arrived. I’ll just go fire up

the lappy for ya. I’ll be in the study, you stir? “ She handed her niece the spoon

and wiped her hands down her apron.

“Thanks I will.” Scully took over the cooking duty and startled a little when she

heard someone behind her.

Mulder came yawning into the kitchen as Katherine vanished into another room

somewhere. Arms stretched above his head, he let his back and sore muscles

reach some semblance or normality, his spine noisily clicking into place before

yawning again. Scully thought he looked like hell, all bleary eyed and red nosed.

He grinned goofily at her. She loved him all the more then because he looked so

cute with a tuft of hair sticking up like a Peruvian guinea pig and rucked up socks

working their way off his feet. She pushed aside the urge to wet her fingers and

tamp his hair back down. Instead he slipped two warm arms around her waist as

she continued stirring the soup, rocking against her and nuzzling her neck with

almost day old stubble. She allowed her body to lean back into him, the furnace

like heat he was giving off felt good as it seeped through her skin and felt a pang

of guilt about that. She was worried still but at least he was up and about. The

proverbial walking wounded.

“Hey.”

“Hey, yourself, good sleep? You okay?”

“Aha. Sorta. Whatcha cooking me woman?”

“Mulder….. if you value your testicles…..speaking of which, is that your cell phone

or are you happy to see me?”

“Umm, guess.” Hot fingers sought the edge of her shirt and he found skin,

tickling her midriff just barely. She almost dropped the spoon.

He loved it when she squirmed.

“You’re happy to see me or that’s not your cell phone? ….Which doesn’t work

here by the way. Katherine’s just setting up her laptop so I can email mom and

let her know we got here intact. You know how she worries… especially at the

moment.” Mulder squeezed her shoulder softly and they decided it was time to

check in.

“ Ack….féin truailleathóir ,” Katherine muttered none too quietly while

viewing a website on the current US elections. Shaking her head, she clicked

on a window and Bush’s grinning countenance vanished from the screen to be

replaced by a desktop image that made Mulder’s jaw drop and Scully start to

snicker.

“ What the… Scully, please tell me that’s a figment of my fevered imagination?”

“What?”

“Um…” Mulder pointed at the screen.

“ Ahh …” Scully’s aunt’s turned to them and her face broke out in a grin that

made Mulder think of that song, ‘When Irish eyes are smiling’ . “you mean

Melvin, my E-pal? Such a lovely man, I subscribed to his Lone Gunmen

publication a while back. We got chatting, a few emails back and forth don’t ya

know and then… one things lead to another and….well we… er have a guilty

pleasure.” She intoned like she was divulging a never to be heard secret.

“Oooh,” Mulder’s hand flew to his stomach, making a noise as if in pain while his

partner’s eyes blew up like saucers.

“We play Battleships on msn messenger on Wednesday nights. Keeps a lonely

old gal company he does a treat. Very intelligent, man, so charming and

knowledgeable too. A real gentleman. He also told me about a T2 connection for

faster surfing. Got one installed last winter. Just so when the phones go out in the

gales out we get up here we still have the World Wide Web.” The old woman

enthused.

Did she really sigh at the end of that speech?

Scully stifled a giggle against her partner’s shoulder. It was surely the most goofy

and somewhat sleazy snap she had ever seen of Mulder’s height challenged

buddy, and the notion that he knew her aunt was just too funny on so many

levels. She was willing to bet they even swapped cheese steak recipes or Fro’s

asbestos chilli. She wasn’t sure at this stage whether Mulder would faint with

shock or break out into hysterics. He stood there open mouthed, chest heaving

slightly, eyes watering with the urge not to cough and his expression a curious

mix of stupefaction and mirth.

“Battleships? …..Wednesdays nights?”

Katherine gave him a coy shrug. “Aye.”

“Katherine… I think that as a serving FBI officer, it would be a grave dereliction of

my sworn duties for me not to warn you about the dangers of befriending strange

men on the internet.”

“And they don’t come much stranger than that one”, Scully quipped under her

breath as she stared at the grinning image of Frohike, giving his teeth some fresh

air, and that all too familiar leer. It was just too much. But it was when Mulder

whispered in her ear that his geeky friend was the original poster boy for

‘Leprechaun Life’ and beat Tom Cruise to the punch, that her hand flew to her

face as she suddenly lost all composure.

Katherine gave a curious glance first to Scully who was quite red in the cheeks

and beside herself, then to Mulder’s dead pan expression which threatened to

buckle any moment.

“Oh ya know him then?”

****

After dinner…

“You okay Mulder? “ Scully asked after her partner’s prolonged bout of coughing

after their meal, a big hearty stew with lamb and potatoes.

“Yeah… just tired but if I go to bed now I’ll keep you awake with my snuffling and

tossing and turning and I won’t sleep. Might get some fresh air before I turn in.

Katherine made some more tea and Scully watched her tip some more poitin into

Mulder’s mug leaving the bottle on the table. Anywhere else this would have

seemed so odd, the thought of illegal alcohol so openly displayed but here in this

wild corner of Northern Ireland amidst the warm charm and the company of her

eccentric, very, she corrected herself, relative, it all seemed so relaxed and

natural. She guessed Melissa had to get her new agey-ness from somewhere. She

wondered if her sister had ever met her aunt. She had been a free spirit and

she’d certainly travelled enough. Perhaps she could bring herself to ask…. In

later years when Melissa had been out of touch with family, little snatches of her

were very precious and Scully thought wistfully that it would be wonderful to find

a few tucked away here on the Irish coast she hadn’t yet discovered. Later.

Right now she was too concerned about Mulder; his cough seemed to worsen as

the hours ticked by. He was wheezing most of the time now. Good job she’d

packed her Mulder kit, she figured any hospital was probably some way from here

should the need arise. She’d grabbed some extra supplies at the airport drugstore

when they’d landed…just in case. Looked like it was a good call.

Her sick partner was almost dead on his feet but was currently deep in a study of

Katherine’s huge bookshelf. Literally a whole wall devoted to reading matter;

hardbacks, leather-bound rarities, everything and anything.

Scully could imagine him mentally cataloguing each book as he muttered the

titles to himself in his steel trap profiler mind. She loved watching him like this,

he was mesmerising at times. Like when they made love, every thought, every

facial expression conveyed so much about his soul. A million different nuances

crossed his features, she normally only got to see this intensity when he was

working a crime scene but tonight this was pure joy instead of the deep sorrow

she often saw sifting across his eyes. She sighed, long ago she realised that he

entranced her like no other person on earth. For the first time in a long time he

seemed happy too.

Tolkien, Von Daniken, Hawking, John Mack, Pratchett, MF LUDER, that last one

made his smile reach his eyes. Each new title he fingered or discovery, made

him evaluate and re-evaluate his wonderful host until this enigma that was

Katherine left an indelible mark on his heart. Mulder was always surprised and a

little startled when this happened as it was rare and unexpected, it gave him

hope.

It also made him curious.

What was Katherine doing up here out of the way in such a desolate spot? Scully

had mentioned that her aunt had originally come from Dublin but her uncle was

from the north. Sure it was beautiful but also lonely for an old woman all on her

own. She seemed tied to the place but something he couldn’t quite put his finger

on, like an invisible thread was holding her to this mystic land. If her literary

collection was a clue he felt a kindred spirit. So far, only he’d spotted the Bajoran

earring that dangled from the older lady’s left ear. The Vulcan salute he’d given

her by way of acknowledgement made Katherine beam from ear to ear and hug

him. He could just imagine the eye roll Scully would have made had she not been

in the bathroom at the time.

But what about Ned? His partner hadn’t been able to remember how Ned had

died, no one in her family had ever mentioned any details. It was like some

unspoken mystery, as if he’d vanished off the face of the earth…. like ….like Sam.

No he wasn’t going down that road. …… For once and it shocked even him, which

he was trying to avoid the paranormal….

He was bursting to ask questions but he had to remember this wasn’t one of his X

files investigations, this was Scully’s aunt and he had detected the tell tale signs

of some underlying heartbreak or melancholy about her that went deeper and

further back than the loss of her husband. Something he ultimately identified with

because of his own past. Empathic strands that streaked out into the ether and

latched on to other damaged souls like his as if magnetised. Like a quickening, a

wire in the blood…..

This lady was so motherly, like she lived to care for people…. Like his Scully,

came the little voice in his head.

Did they have kids? There was no mention save for the few mementos dotted

here and there around this house. A couple of things on the mantle in pride of

place that had the look of being crafted by a child’s hand. His mother had done

the same when his sister…at least until she could no longer bear to look at them,

or the things he’d made her.

He came back to the dining table and took a sip of his tea, forcing himself to try

and relax. Letting the warm potent brew ease down his throat and spread warm

fingers into his chest. Closing his eyes for a few seconds he took a deep breath

and looked up to find the object of his ruminations, and his lover gazing at him

with twin looks of concern.

“I’m okay really… the pair of you..,” he let out a small laugh and saluted them

both with his tea mug. Then he doubled over with a sudden attack of coughing

dropping the mug to the floor. Scully was at his side in an instant and guiding him

over to the couch where he slumped back against the cushions. “Okay. Perhaps

…perhaps I’ve overdone things with this cold.” His voice was a painful squeak

over his lips when it tumbled out.

“ Oh you think Mulder? That’s no cold. I want you in bed very soon.”

“Ooh Agent Scully, eager much. Going to undress me as well eh? Wanna kiss my

Blarney stone?” He whispered the last part all hot and breathy against the shell

of her ear.

“Mulder….” Exasperated, Scully flashed a look in her aunt’s direction only to meet

the older woman’s amused wink and dammit if she didn’t raise her eyebrow in

just the same way as his partner. Out gunned and outnumbered, Mulder thought

on the edge of another rib shattering cough.

Katherine chuckled and walked over to the mantle where she lit several long

white candles, an incense stick, and then carefully took a moment to select and

pick something up.

“Here Fox,” Mulder gave her a curious look as she opened her hand and pressed

the crystalline object into his palm. “Amber; good for the breathing. Just hold it

and let its energy warm you.”

He held it to his chest and unfurled his hand looking at the gold facet, turning it

over and rubbing his thumb down the hard edge. It felt tingly. His mind recalled

the dangling crystal held over Scully’s lifeless body by her older sister Melissa

almost a lifetime ago and felt a frisson of pain in the area of his heart. Still raw

after all these years.

The dog came whimpering into the living room about the same time the house

lights flickered, they settled and then stayed on. Merlin plonked himself down at

Mulder’s feet, a doleful look in his eyes.

“Wind’s picking up again. Going to be a foul night.” Katherine muttered, picking

up the broken mug and patting the Labrador on the head.

After a moment or two, whether it was the effects of the amber nugget spreading

tendrils of earth energy into his lungs or not, he was slowly starting to regain his

breath now and it evened out. Scully looked on, damp around the eyes with

unspoken apology, fingers on the pulse in his wrist with her usual trademark ‘ten

seconds and I call the paramedics’ stalker stance at his side.

Mulder wanted to kiss her stupid because he was ruining their trip but thought his

lungs might rebel again. Seamus suddenly made a surprise appearance and leapt

up on the sofa with a noisy greeting that sounded like a finger dragged down a

balloon, making them all jump. Green eyes blinked giving the human the once

over before camping down in his new male friend’s comfortable lap, purring away

like a motorbike. Mulder moved one empty hand over to stroke him, kneading his

fingers in the soft fur. Unbidden, he thought about stroking Scully…’oopse better

not go down that road either’…..the cats claws were digging in somewhere

delicate…..’um later’ he pondered. “Feeling better now.”

“You sure you’re not allergic to cats Fox?”

“No not at all. I just don’t understand it. Maybe I’m not used to the damp.”

“But it’s damp in DC Mulder.” Scully countered.

“Well maybe Irish damp is different…I dunno… I’ll be okay but we are going to do

all we said we’d do on this trip, Giant’s causeway, Bush mills, Dunluce castle and

our 7th President’s ancestral home…all of that. I’m ok. Really. Scully, life isn’t

about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

“Dancing in the rain will definitely put you in the hospital.” Sometimes he was

infuriating enough to chip her teeth … but then he gave her that puppy dog, doe

eyed look and she just melted. Reaching over she pushed a lock of damp hair out

of his eyes and he pressed a kiss to her fingers as they lay against his cheek.

He wished he had a hand to free to touch her with right then but he was addicted

to the cat’s purring vibration and it was soothing against his chest, as was the

now blood hot crystal. He was so exhausted and sitting very still and chilling

seemed like a good idea.

Scully leaned forward as if she had heard his thoughts and kissed his cheek. “This

could turn into pneumonia if we’re not careful …I don’t like this. The last time…”

“The last time it was different circumstances.. I got better….you’re a doctor, and

I’ll happily let you play doctor on me, you know you really get off on that,” He

quipped with a wicked glint in his eye. “ but I am not going be cooped up indoors

the whole time over the next few weeks either. We came all this way to Ireland

and I want to see it all with you, together. I’ll even wear an extra pair of

bootlaces if it will make you happy.. or borrow one of your aunt’s Arran sweaters

but I am not going be an invalid hanging about like a spare wiener at a bar

mitzvah.”

Katherine cleared her throat, hands on her hips, doing a pretty decent impression

of Maggie Scully. “Men! You silly bugger. Your uncle Ned used to be that mulish

too. Remember that for future reference Dana, a kick up the arse does wonders.”

Scully gave her a kilowatt smile at that notion. “Trouble is he’d like that too

much, especially if I wore my six inch heels.”

“ Oohh, You know me so well G –woman.” He flashed his teeth at her. Just as

Mulder finished talking the lights flickered and went out completely leaving their

faces shimmering in candlelight. Mulder’s eyes shot skyward. Merlin whimpered

by his feet as an odd low rumbling noise from outside could almost be felt

through the floorboards and clattered against the roof tiles which scared the cat.

It suddenly shot off of the warm nest that was Mulder’s lap. “Woah what was

that?” He yelped, nursing his chest where the cat had stabbed him with her

claws as she fled.

“ Ufasach….darn it,” Katherine, swore loudly as they all listened open mouthed to

what sounded like a sonic boom exploding over the house. The old lady got up

and shrugged into her heavy coat. “I’ll have to go get the generator started.”

“Something tells me that may be a few years too late to be Concorde cruising

over.” Mulder hauled himself to his feet, his partner with her arm around his

back as extra support. “I’ll come out with you.”

“No, no, you’ll catch your death, I’ll manage, been doing it for years. You sit

relax, keep warm.”

“Katherine, if you think I’m letting you go by yourself out there after that…..”

Mulder was adamant and he saw the old lady mulling it over for all of ten seconds

before she finally caved.

“Ah, macho pride. I’ll play. This time. Okay, but wrap up well… its freezing and

you’re already sick.”

“Mulder, I’m coming too,” Scully insisted, her eyes flashed him a look he knew

too well. One that brooked no argument. What worried her most then was that

not only was her lover’s spooky radar going off, but her’s had kicked in too.

Mulder was right. No way were they letting her aunt go out there alone.

“Do you have any idea what that was Katherine?” Mulder ventured, donning the

thick blue parka, the older lady handed him in the hall. “..because I don’t know

about you but with some of the stuff I’ve seen.., what Scully’s seen, that scores a

ten on my weird-shitometer.”

“Let’s just say that up here… you have to expect the unexpected. Here…” She

picked up two torches and handed him one. Scully did her coat up and snagged

the other one.

“I thought the house was going to crack in two. Are we on an earthquake fault

here?…. I mean the land formations and stuff by the causeway must have been

forged from tectonic disturbance at some point in history. I know there was an

earthquake in England recently … but wasn’t sure about this area.”

“No seismic activity in Antrim that I know of and I’ve been here a good few years

now, and lived in Derry and Belfast during the troubles long enough to know that

this isn’t a bomb, too well acquainted with those….but this coast,… there have

always been …well,” Katherine’s mind searched for an appropriate phrase as she

opened the back door to the wind swept courtyard. “folklore, odd lights in the

sky, strange cries from the beaches. You know the legend of Fionn mac

Cumhail?” He nodded as her words were almost snatched away as a gust wind

whirled around their heads. The air was electric, it smelled of ozone and

something Mulder couldn’t quite put his finger on. Whatever it was, the almost

fetid damp was seeping down into his chest and he could feel the air being

squeezed tight against his ribs. Was that a scream in his mind or the wind? It

was like it was mocking him, laughing at his expense. It felt…odd, making the

hair stand up on his neck.

They staggered in the buffeting wind as they all hurried across the courtyard to

one of the barns that housed the generator. Mulder sandwiched in between Scully

on one side and her aunt on the other, holding them both for dear life lest they

blow away. There was some light from the full moon but their torchlight raked

the cobbled pathway and when he flicked it up a touch he just made out a faint

green haze above the far cliff top about three miles away up the gully and what

looked like an electrical storm dying out to sea. Weird Lightning? It looked so

eerie and after all that noise he half expected to see aliens or a UFO hovering

over the bay.

“Mulder…you okay,” came his partner’s voice through the gloom.

“Yeah..” Mulder found his breath and shone the torch trying to locate the door

handle. After finding it stuck fast he managed to shoulder it open for them and

they all blustered inside. Momentarily rendered breathless by the blasts of wind

all round them, they stood still for a moment to catch their breath listening to the

wind making an unearthly evil sound like a dying creature circling all around the

barn. Almost like it had stalked them from the house over here. “The legend

about the Giant’s causeway and how it was forged is well documented. I had to

do a paper on it in college. Took a fill in class for mythology.”

“Really? Is that the giant that supposedly created the causeway by hurling rocks

at another giant in Scotland?” Scully asked, somewhat shivering in the cold as

she watched her partner get all manly with the generator.

“Yeah Scully, that’s him.” Mulder worked on the generator as he reached into his

eidetic memory for the story. “As the legend goes an Irish Giant (read alien

bounty hunter) lived on an Antrim headland and one day when going about his

daily business a Scottish Giant named Fingal began to shout insults, hurl abuse

and flip him the bird from across the channel. Quite close to here actually. Angry

Dude Finn lifted a clod of earth and threw it at the giant as a challenge, the earth

landed in the sea.

Fingal pitched a rock thrown back at Finn and shouted that Finn was lucky that he

wasn’t a strong swimmer or he would have made sure he could never fight again

or father future generations.

Well, Finn was kinda pissed off and began lifting huge clumps of earth from the

shore, throwing them so as to make a pathway for the Scottish giant to mosey on

over in person and open up a can of whup ass. However, ….however, by the time

he finished doing an extreme make over coastal edition on the crossing he hadn’t

slept for a week and so instead devised a cunning plan to fool the Scot, and

remembered not to bend down anywhere near Michael Moloney. ”

“What? ……More Mulder more!” Scully waggled the torch at him unable to hide

her laughter. Mulder grabbed it from her and stuck it under his chin making a

creepy caricature of himself. He pulled a silly face and went cross-eyed then took

a deep breath as he turned his attention back to his work and the story.

“I’m getting to that…” he grunted and he tried to force the spanner under the bolt

to free it on the generator side panel but it just wouldn’t budge. He feared it was

rusted up, probably from the perpetually damp air.

“Sooo, Finn disguised himself as Fro… I mean a baby in a cot and when his

adversary came to face him, Finn’s wife told the Giant that Finn was away at the

Consortium karaoke marathon with CGB but showed him his son sleeping in the

cradle with a big green pacifier in its mouth. The Scottish giant became

apprehensive, for if the son was so huge,…. cast that dirty thought from your

mind Scully, ..what size would the father be?

In his haste to escape, Fingal sped back along the causeway Finn had built,

tearing it up and farting as he went. He is said to have fled to a cave on Staffa

which is to this day named ‘Fingal’s Cave’ where he stayed forever , discovered

Ratboy hiding out there…and had great baby back rat rib barbecues and later

moved into a disused warehouse with two ditzy guy pals in Anacostia. Ughhhhh

ow….!”

“ You can be so cruel Mulder… but funny all the same, especially the ‘Michael

Moloney’ part. I swear though, the next time I see the guys … I’m going to get

them to spike your cheese steaks with jalapeños.”

“ Ughh, okay then… think Kersh and Skinman duking out their Mojo either side of

the Potomac with big manly bollards.” He smirked into her flashlight beam,

waggling his eyebrows, despite how tired he was.

“ Somehow that’s worse…..”

“How you doing Fox?” Katherine coughed lightly, enjoying the banter, chuckling

to herself… but feeling awkward that Fox was doing himself in while out here in

the cold when it should be her job. Why it wasn’t working she had no idea. It

normally fired up right away.

“Err it seems to be stuck,” he grunted, trying hard not to cough up a lung. “either

that or the bee pollen Scully made me try the other day robbed me of my Mojo.”

Turning to grin at her while he kicked viciously at the start handle of stubborn

prehistoric contraption.

“Mulder I have better, more inventive ways to make you lose your Mojo. Keep

that up and no Cherry Nyquil max strength night nurse for you.”

“ Oooh, hey ‘Pervy is sexy’ Scully.” This time Katherine laughed loudly and rolled

her eyes.

Another loud crack overhead and the generator shook to life in a hail of sparks

and Mulder who had still been tinkering with it, went flying, and landed in a heap

a few feet away.

“Mulder!”

“Aw Fox…Fox,”

Shocked, Scully and Katherine flew to his side. He wasn’t moving and his eyes

were shut. Scully felt his neck for a pulse. Sure enough it was there fluttering

erratically beneath her fingers and she breathed a sigh of relief, echoed by her

aunt who was rubbing Mulder’s wrist the other side of him.

Scully’s hands were a flurry of activity as she checked him all over. Feeling the

back of his head her fingers touched a knot there. It was then that he groaned

and opened one eye, peering at her. The generator purred away in the

background punctuated by creaking wood as the wind blew against the barn. He

gave her a pained lopsided grin. “Shaken but not stirred agent Scully,” he

quipped groggily.

“Mulder, thank God, you gave me such a fright.”

Coughing he tried to sit up, gingerly reaching behind his head.

“It worked, hey, I surprise myself sometimes. Woah.. that was some rush.”

“You hit your head, steady now. Take it slowly love.” Scully helped him to sit

upright, shaking a little with shock or he was just cold, she wasn’t sure which but

she knew either wasn’t good. He needed to rest and that was long overdue. “I

think this is enough fun for one night Mulder. Let’s get you back to the house.”

“So you can have your way with me?”

“You wish.”

Katherine who was looking sadly at the state of her niece’s poor partner tried to

shake off her deepening guilt and gave Fox a hand to get him up on his feet.

Every muscle in Mulder’s body shrieked in protest so much he thought he might

throw up any second. It was a slow cold journey back to the house, poor Mulder

could hardly move.

******

The Aga in the kitchen gave a welcome blast of hot air as they trouped in, Scully

and her aunt flanked the still shaken Mulder.

“Off to bed with ya young man, you earned your rest. Mind how you go now. I’ll

make you some special cocoa,” she winked. He managed a small smile but was

floundering and half asleep. His head and chest felt like hell.

“Believe me Katherine, the way I’m feeling right now you’ll get no argument from

me. Good night.”

“Goodnight Fox. I hope you sleep well.”

Mulder walked slowly up the stairs to their bedroom, wet cold and coughing up a

storm. He was a bit wobbly from his tribulations and being blasted across the

barn but he made it to the top with a grunt, Scully behind him, her hand

supporting his back as he went.

“You okay Mulder? That was a nasty crack on the head. Maybe you need to go to

the hospital.” Scully eased her partner down onto the bed and fluffed up the

pillows for him. He sank back into them carefully with a sigh.

“Scully we are a little too far out here for that to be practical. I’ll be fine as long

as I get some sleep and some of that Cherry flu crap you’re hiding in your case.

You checked my eyes and they’re okay. You can check them again later if you

like. I’m just gonna lay on this obscenely comfortable bed and crash.” With that

he sighed and closed his eyes. Little coughs making his chest rise as he

attempted to get into a more comfortable position.

“You’re not going to get out of those damp clothes first?” Scully had fished the

Cherry Nyquil out of her luggage and placed it on the bedside table.

Mulder opened one eye and peered at her. “You wanna undress me, Agent

Scully?” He leered ,which she returned with a seductive look of her own.

Back in the kitchen

“He’s asleep finally.” Scully sipped at her mug of steaming cocoa as she stood

warming herself by the Aga. Her aunt sat at the big oak kitchen table, glasses

atop her nose, leafing through a few paranormal magazines. “I’m really worried

about his cough though, his chest sounds awful. I’m scared the chilling and the

shock he got in the barn tonight will make it worse. At least he doesn’t have a

concussion.” Katherine put down her reading glasses and peered up at her niece.

“We’ll keep a close eye on him. Anything serious they might have to airlift him

from here. Couple of small Casualty…sorry ER depts to you, in Ballycastle, but

between the pair of us and that mini drug store you brought with you we should

manage. Nice shower?” Scully nodded and sat opposite her aunt at the table

wrapped in a fluffy dressing gown and hair damp from the shower.

“He fell on his feet when you came into his life, Dana…that’s for sure. You really

look after that lovely man. I sense some dark unhappy vibes about him though,

it’s in his eyes. Such sadness behind all the laughter, a visionary, a seeker of

truth, never gives up on miracles. And you love him with everything you have

too… am I right?”

“Oh Yes, with all my heart, he’s my soul mate, everything I ever wanted in

life…and he’s such a caring passionate man. A guy that literally gone to the ends

of the earth for me. Mulder is everything I could ever want. I couldn’t live without

him. He’s been through some rough times…. unhappy childhood and the loss of

his sister, Samantha…” She stopped there, unsure how much to tell her

Katherine about Mulder’s unhappy past and all the hell they had gone through

these last few years especially. But when she looked into her aunt’s eyes she saw

only deep understanding as if she had read through her thoughts. ‘She’s a wise

old duck’… her mother’s own words came back to her.

“And I bet he couldn’t last a day without you either, Dana. I see that in his eyes

and heart, which he wears on his sleeve when he gazes at you, if you hadn’t

noticed it. He’s a catch that’s for certain. My Ned was like that, everything to me.

He’s been gone a while now….” The old woman looked off sadly into space again

for a few seconds before turning back her younger companion, a small smile

nestling at the edge of her lips. “We won the Irish lotto one year ya know. Back in

the nineties.”

“You did? Wow. That’s great. A lot?…. Oh sorry I shouldn’t ask.” Scully

admonished herself.

Katharine laughed and popped her glasses back on. “No its okay, you can ask, I

don’t mind saying. Six hundred thousand pounds. Five numbers and a bonus

ball.” Scully whistled.

“You moved here about then, did you buy this place?”

“Aye, it was about twelve years ago now, Ned was working in Derry… or

Londonderry to you. I was a nurse in Belfast but I would travel back to Derry at

night. The height of the troubles at the time and we were sick of it, sick of the

religiousness of the city that caused all the troubles…bombs, checkpoints, afraid

of being shot at in a crossfire…and tired of patching up young people maimed and

desecrated by a pointless civil war…for that’s what it boiled down to. Whole

generations wasted because of this stupid feud and kids orphaned or growing up

without their fathers. Divided streets, families….just went on and on.” She

pulled a face and looked away, when she turned back to Scully she had the

beginnings of tears in her eyes…”Aye well…we had this windfall and got away

from it all, a golden opportunity to move up here, so we jumped at the chance

and brought this place for a new start. We’d always liked it here. The area calls to

us…..” Scully placed her hand over her aunt’s listening intently but at the same

time keeping an ear out for Mulder upstairs if he needed her.

“Ned and I are.. how shall I say? A tad unconventional. Most people think we

were married but we never got around to it. Surprised you too eh?” She laughed

at Scully’s raised eyebrow.

“I didn’t know.”

“Aye well. Folks on both side for the family were disapproving, we were from

different sides of fighting tracks if ya get ma drift. A wedding would have meant a

punch up somewhere down the line.. Soo, instead of trying to deal with all that

we came up here to Antrim. It’s always been a dream come true and here,” she

gestured towards the dark landscape outside the big kitchen window. “We were

free to be ourselves. Live off the land, indulge in a few pastimes that would have

raised eyebrows back home. Oh nothing mucky Dana,” she laughed at her niece’s

inscrutable expression. “If you have noticed the kind of literature collection I

have and the fact that I subscribe to the LGM’s Silver Bullet. Well that should give

you some idea of the kind of interests we have. Paranormal vigils around this

headland and anything unusual. A bit like your young man upstairs. Quite a

revelation meeting the famous and handsome Fox, Spooky Mulder and realising

he was the young man you were seeing. The one Maggie was always raving

about.” She winked.

“I think it’s safe to say Mulder noticed.“ Scully laughed getting up to grab some

more cake. “This place doesn’t disappoint either, what was that going on

tonight? If it’s not an earthquake what was it? I have never seen anything like

that. Fionn Macuill?” she ventured.

Katherine shook her head and stood up, looking out the window towards the sea.

“I don’t know and that’s the truth of it. Ned and I looked into it a great deal,

some people from Dublin University Paranormal dept came up here to investigate

with us but it turned up nothing. People have their pet theories. Old Fionn and

his Scottish giant foe, tectonic disruption and a new fault forming…even Guia’s

rebellion against global warming but its an all year round phenomena, They say

some days after the lights and the noises, that the shore looks different some

how….not just because the tide is out but its a markedly different landscape… like

a crack in the earth has somehow moved the geography around as if two giants

have been throwing rocks…yes I know. It’s not just confined to St. Patrick’s day

as some of the tourists think though. Its bums on seats in pubs round here and

sells tickets for the local attractions and general tourism, but on the other hand

its scared people off too. During the troubles there was gun running up in the hills

around here and the IRA would hide their munitions in the caves. Don’t know

what happened but something scared them away and that’s saying something.

Tough angry men and boys.”

“Go on.”

“Ned listened into a Ham radio channel one night and picked up some

transmissions. The signal was fractured at times but all he heard about was the

bodies on the beach. Grown men crying and talking about bodies, parts of bodies

and the rocks. They asked for help which was unusual because they were hiding

there, not supposed to be there, most were wanted men…but then things got

weird, there were lights in the sky, like the northern lights ya know, vibrations

and what felt like aftershocks. Winds that howled like a banshee. Yet when the

police and British military went down there a few hours later here was nothing.

No bodies, the caves had vanished and there was something else…” Katherine

eyes relived alone what she had seen all those years ago and then suddenly she

was back.

“That’s incredible.”

“The sea was red….just red…..and then sea had gone. It was gone two days and

then it returned. The sands were glowing but when we got close….there were just

millions of fish, sea creatures, just gasping for air. Strange….makes the blood

chill just thinking about it.”

Scully sat and gaped as her aunt went on with her story, watching the old

woman shiver in remembrance.

“The rocks…the Causeway… all looked….I dunno…different somehow. Like a giant

hand came down and scooped up a big part of the coast and then kicked it all

over the place like it had a tantrum or something. What happened next was even

stranger….”

“What?…what was it?”

“About a week after all that an’ the storms that followed, odd clouds and so

on…well it all came back, like it had somehow snapped back how it was.”

Scully felt the shiver right down to her marrow as she recalled another time when

something similar had occurred. The Ivory coast of Africa..while poor Mulder lay

dying back on a DC hospital as she thought of a way to try and find a cure for his

brain affliction caused by an alien artefact. … the ship. She did the math in her

head….could it have been around the same time? She didn’t say anything else but

planned to talk to Mulder about it later.

“Well Dana, perhaps if Mulder feels up to it the two of you could take a walk with

me to the beach tomorrow. Take a look at the Causeway, natural wonder of the

world ya know.”

Scully nodded…” We’d like that…as long as he’s ok. Speaking of Mulder, I better

go check on him. I’ll take him up some cocoa.”

“Eh, dear you do that and oh, I have something here that might help him feel

better. My own concoction. Another thing I like to do is wild crafting.” She

grinned going to her refrigerator. “Here,” She handed Scully a dish of something

that looked creamy, pale and thick, it gave off a neutral odour. “That should see

him right.” Scully looked at curiously.

“Oh thanks, um, do you have any bread I could put this in? I’ll take him a

sandwich up with his cocoa.” Katherine gave her sideways look and peered at

her over the rim of her glasses with an amused expression.

“What?”

The old lady shook her head and chuckled a bit before regaining her composure,

patting her niece on the shoulder at the expression on the confused young

woman’s face.

“Oh Dana… It’s not for going in bread… his chest dear, its goose grease; you

spread it on his chest.”

***

Not surprisingly Mulder was awake when she shouldered her way into the room

with tray with cocoa and dish of goose grease, which looked like sickly congealed

lard. ‘Ewe’, she thought. Scully didn’t think she had the heart to hurt her aunt’s

feelings but she just couldn’t see Mulder agreeing to submit to such a bizarre old

fashioned remedy. Then again..

“Mulder,” She called quietly, putting the tray down. She heard the dog bounding

up the stairs and into the room behind her, he jumped on the bed and looked

profoundly comfortable, if not pleased with himself.

Her lover had his back to her, dressed just in boxers, staring out of the window.

Every so often he would cough, a deep rattle shaking his whole back as he

hunched over slightly with pain hugging his arms around his ribs. It was obvious

he hadn’t heard her come in as he didn’t turn around. Mulder’s skin was like ice

when she touched him and he let out a strangled cry of shock and wobbled

slightly as he became less disorientated. She noticed his pupils were huge. What

had he been staring at? After the gale it was relatively calm outside.

“Sorry Mulder. Didn’t mean to make you jump. What are you looking at out

there? You’re freezing, get back into bed.”

“Hi,” he turned and kissed her, then pulled her to him, slipping his arms around

her. She felt the chill of his skin through her sweater even, he was so cold. “its

okay Scully… sorry, miles away. I saw some lights down by the beach, some

noises and I had a weird dream. Then I noticed you weren’t here.”

“Sorry, I was taking a shower, then went to grab a hot drink. What did you

dream about?” She asked as she pressed her cheek to his, relishing his embrace.

“I’m not sure… something about the rocks…the causeway.. a crack in the earth

and screaming… something in the sea…what?”

She couldn’t quite disguise the shudder she felt then.

“You had a fair amount of Katherine’s Irish moonshine. I’m not surprised you are

having odd dreams. With the jetlag and all your body clock is thrown out.”

He studied her face for a long time, then he smiled and his eyes shone in the

firelight of the room. If she wasn’t mistaken he looked even more disorientated

like his attention was elsewhere and he was being pulled in another direction.

Somewhere beyond that headland a few miles away. She couldn’t suppress the

shudder, that inexplicable fear that passed through her. “I brought you a hot

drink, help you sleep.”

“Ahh this is why I love you Scully,” he started to cough again, making his chest

hitch. “What’s that you got there?” he asked as he proceeded to poke a finger in

the whitish goo in the bowl on the tray and stick it in his mouth. “Ughhh…what

the…”

“Katherine’s secret recipe for a cold and flu compress.”

“What the hell is it? Mashed Flukie? ” Her partner asked, pulling a face.

“Its goose grease…you’re meant to spread it on your chest.”

“Please tell me your joking Scully.”

“Apparently it’s meant to be very effective as a poultice. I knew you’d balk but I

didn’t want to upset her, she meant well. Hey….”

Mulder pulled a face and hopped back over onto the bed, propping himself up

against the pillows. “It smells ..like… rancid feathers. Tastes even worse. Kinda

like Langly’s cooking. C’mere Scully, I can think of something much better I want

spread on all over me right now.” Before Scully could say a word he’d grabbed

hold of both her hands and pulled her over on top of him, nose to nose, which he

then kissed, then looked up at her, smoothing her hair from her face as it

dangled on his chest, grinning at her like a fool.

“Feeling better?”

“Now I am.”

“What you grinning like that for G-man? Something’s tickled you. Spill.”

“Just imagining Frohike’s face when he realises he’s having an internet romance

with your aunt of all people.” Scully tickled his chest with her fingers, and then

raised a finger to his lips. Predictably he sucked the digit into his mouth, his face

quite playful. His fever was breaking it seemed. Maybe they could enjoy some

sightseeing after all.

“Oh I dunno if I’d call it that. I think Katherine is still pining for Ned. Think Melvin

is just her gaming buddy. Though…come to think of it… I did notice the autograph

on the desktop photo. ‘Here’s looking at you sweet lady, Love Melvin’… umm you

may be onto something there Mulder. Now if you don’t stop doing that to my

finger…..”

“No intention of stopping agent Scully. Its St. Patrick’s day and I’m making a

wish.”

“You’re not even Irish,”

“No,” his fingers came up to stroke her face and let them trail over the shell of

her ear, “But you are.”

Early hours of the morning.

Mulder startled awake coughing and found sometime in the night he’d been

unceremoniously dumped on the floor. Wow the earth really had moved; pity it

wasn’t because of their lovemaking. A coy grin spread over his face as he

remembered that well enough along with sore muscles.

It took a moment to figure out where he was in the almost dark. As he got his

bearings, he happened to glance at the glow from the window and watched in

awe as a volley of multicoloured lights flew like geese across the glass. What the

hell is that? It went on for a few moments. Mulder picked himself up and checked

on Scully. She was sound asleep, face beautiful and serene in the glow from the

open fire in the room. Merlin lifted his head for all of a second from where he’d

obviously been relegated to the floor, to look at his new friend, whimpering a bit

as the lights shifted patterns across the room. The dog seemed nervous.

Mulder needed to take a leak and get a drink or something. His chest felt tight

after all that late night exercise and he was beginning to feel like crap again. Just

a quick trek downstairs and he could come back and resume snuggling up with

his nice warm lover. Just holding her made him feel better. Hopefully the Aga was

still warm and there was hot water in the ever preset kettle there, maybe get

some coffee. He might take a look outside, just a breather, he told himself.

Wasn’t going to ditch her or anything… Scully would kill him, but maybe he would

just go out the back and get some fresh air, blow some of his fuzzy headedness

away and check out those lights, whatever they were, and come back in. The

wind looked like it had dropped now and it was dry outside. Just some cloud

cover over the moon and a little mist down near the bay. It looked and felt

magical. Exhilarating even.

Dressed again in warmer clothing, he slipped quietly out of the bedroom door,

avoiding the creaky floorboard he’d discovered earlier. The dog’s head went up

when Mulder crept out of the room, he whimpered a little and crept out after his

new friend.

Mulder swallowed the last dregs of his coffee and washed up the mug in the sink,

placing it on the draining board. It was so peaceful, no one around, just the odd

slither of wind whipping across the courtyard outside. Funny, where was

Katherine? No one in the living room on the sofa, he’d checked, just a pile of

blankets still in a pile like she hadn’t slept there at all. Perhaps she’d gone to

check on the generator… but the power was on ok, he’d just used the kitchen

light.

The black lab was by the door sitting expectantly panting with his tongue out.

“Here Merlin…” he bent to stroke the dog, scratching his neck and whispering to

him about what a good boy he was, or what he thought the dog wanted to hear.

It seemed to have the desired effect as the dog went all goofy on him, licking his

hands and jumping up his legs. “Shhh.. now… wanna come for a walk with me, go

find your mom?”

Mulder threw his thick green parka on and went outside, careful to quietly close

the heavy back door. Immediately, the dog bounded off over the courtyard and

the darkness swallowed him up, although he could hear the occasional distant

bark. What a difference a few hours made. There was barely any wind at all now,

but still it was a biting cold with the fog making Mulder pull his parka hood up

over his head to keep warm. Despite the warm clothing he still felt the freezing

chill right down to the bone.

Where could his host have gone? This wasn’t a good time for an old lady to be

wandering about in this weather…it must have been the early hours of the

morning now, but then he had to backtrack; she lived here and looked after this

farm, this was probably a regular necessity to come out if the need arose, come

rain or shine. Checking on and feeding animals, or maybe the light show had

startled her and she’d got curious about it like he had. Mulder smiled as he gazed

upwards to the stars twinkling like frozen eyes in the deep indigo vista of dawn.

She was a little like him in that respect, both recognised that questing need to

investigate the curious and unexpected.

Merlin suddenly came back to his side, wagging his tail, startling him a little.

“Hey boy…you can’t find her either huh?”

He checked the shed and other outhouses, the barn…where he discovered the

still; chuckling to himself over that. Moving out towards the edge of the farm,

shivering and one hand on the dog beside him, his eyes scanned the fields ahead

and up the hill. Where there weren’t ribbons of mist he could make out some of

it in the full moon. Worried now because he couldn’t see any sign of Katherine,

he tried to get the dog to go off and find her again but it got a little more than a

yard ahead before it turned tail and ran back to him. Tell tale signs of a cough

bubbled up into Mulder’s chest, hurting his ribs and his hand flew to his mouth,

while his arms braced his ribs. For a few seconds he rode out the wave of

breathlessness which bent him almost double. It was then that he heard it. At

first he thought it was just the wind. Like a faraway song, a small childlike voice

calling even, gaining in strength and then snatched away by the wind that was

picking up now. Every sense was alive inside him as he stood up again, gasping,

feeling the ethereal song go around in his head, trickling the inside of his skull so

badly that he wanted to scratch at it. It was coming from the beach and he had

to get there. Some obsessive need took over and kept him running despite the

frantic protest of his lungs, the dog still faithfully at his heels.

Mulder headed across the fields, dodging big basalt rocks in the grass and moss

terrain so black that he could barely see them. He’d almost tripped a few times so

he slowed down, breathing heavily looking around him. The higher he climbed up

the gully that led down to the sea. Soon he wanted to tear at the sound, to snub

out that burning irritation in his mind, his ears, the dull throbbing behind his eyes

starting to affect his sight now and he was almost crawling over the rocks one

excruciating step at a time, cutting hands and knees, possessed by the high

pitched wailing banshee cry like every fibre of his being was being propelled

against his will.

Slipping against the rocks, the gully seemed to even out, flanked on either side

by huge cliffs and pendulous clumps of mist clinging to his body like icy fingers

but Mulder was now wading through a stream of near frozen water fed from the

hills behind him. Going down a few times, his left knee hit an unforgiving boulder

that made white hot explosions of pain shoot through his leg and almost made his

throw up. Saturated with sea spray, numb with cold and half mad from the

noise, he staggered dizzy and unseeing until he could go no further….

The voices wrapped around him, mocking him, twisting him in their grasp,

thundering in his head until he stumbled with a hoarse yell, plummeting over the

edge of the outcrop that plunged onto the dark causeway into nothingness, just

an unimaginable vibrating and cracking noise broke over his head as he fell,

enveloped in light, barely breathing as Scully’s face punched through the chaos

fighting for supremacy in his mind. ‘So sorry …Scully’.

A lone silhouette of a dog sat on top of the outcrop, whimpering at the crashing

sea on the rocks beyond, his distress carried away on the wind and sheeting rain.

Paws over his ears and occasionally barking at the lights that whizzed past his

line of sight.

Black rock cottage 7.13am.

Scully sat bolt upright, paralysing dread gripping her heart. Something was very

wrong she just knew it. No sleepy awakening wrapped in the warm cocoon of her

partner’s arms and his gentle languid kisses that always greeted her. She could

still smell him, his aftershave, the way his skin felt but he was physically gone

from the bed. Jolted from a dream back into cold reality, she shuffled off the bed

and threw on her clothes without bothering to change them.

Taking the stairs two at a time she was shaken when she almost knocked her

aunt flying coming in the back door as she was trying to out, an equally shocked

look plastered on her face…not just shock, Scully’s mind supplied.

Horror.

Working on the X files over the years she felt her stomach flip, she knew that

look all too well.

“Dana…” Katherine had been crying, but was now out of breath, shaking a little,

a sight that almost paralysed her.

Mulder.

Causeway cliffs

It took them a while to reach the shore but both of them had a determined

mission and pressed on through treacherous rocks and driving rain dragging a

huge medical kit, tools and Ned’s old climbing equipment along with them. The

first morning light was just a few streaks of orangey pink edging up over the

horizon. It was freezing cold. When they spotted the dog sitting dutifully in place

on the cliff top they knew they had reached the right place. He turned and

roused a little when he saw his mistress and her companion, whimpered and then

barked, as to mark where his friend had gone over the cliff so they could help

him.

“Good boy Merlin, that’s a good laddy eh.” The old Labrador looked at her

mournfully.

Katharine didn’t say much, she seemed unable somehow as if something had

pierced her heart and her soul had bled out through it. She looked utterly bereft,

this had to be bad. She had been on the shore watching the waves as she said

she often did. Scully thought she must have had a reason but didn’t press her.

Then she mentioned all her sheep were dead where they had been perfectly fine

the night before. She mentioned a disturbance, another loud sonic boom and

what looked like arching over the causeway. She’d made her way down over the

honeycombed shaped basalt structures to see if she could find the cause. Wind

and rain had driven her for shelter in a cave and thats where she had heard his

cry.

About twelve foot up an open crevice, Mulder was somehow trapped in the rocks,

moaning quietly and calling for help.

She hadn’t known it was him at first but she was in shock when she saw him

hanging upside-down, blooding dripping from somewhere on him turning the sand

and the rocks red in a slippery pool by her feet. His legs seemed to be trapped

but his arms hung free, his eyes closed.

Horrified, she ran back the house, that’s when she had noticed the sheep for the

first time, all lying on their backs, like white unmoving rocks in the grass. No time

to waste, she needed to find Dana. There was a storm coming and where Mulder

was trapped the tide was coming in. He would surely drown if they couldn’t free

him soon and his injuries looked severe. The thought that he’d been looking out

for her when this happened didn’t even bear thinking about. She was beyond

bereft, if he died…

“He was alive when I left here to fetch you Dana, alive but trapped and I think

maybe unconcious. I couldn’t reach him, there was no way. He was too far up. I

called to tell him I was coming to get you and to hang on but I don’t know if he

heard me, the tide is coming in and the surf breaking up over the rocks. I dunno

if he heard me.” She repeated, her words all spilling out in panic.

“How bad was he?” Scully had forced herself into doctor mode to offset the shock

and despair she felt right then, the immovable fist of pain in her chest. Keeping

herself together was the only way she could get him out of this.

“I don’t know dear. I swear it’s my fault, I think he must have been looking for

me. …I …should have said I go on these dawn walks… makes me feel closer to

Ned… but now look what I’ve done..” And she dissolved into tears but Scully

pulled her into a tight hug.

“Oh Katherine…it’s not your fault …it’s just what Mulder sometimes does…more

times than I care to count. Believe me, that man is so inquisitive. Something

must have drawn him outside. Something weird was going on all last night.

Cracks and bangs, lightning I think. I could only half hear it because I was so

tired and worried about him being sick on this trip. I fell asleep and Mulder must

have got up for something. We’ll get him out eh? You and me. C’mon …its okay.”

“Thank you dear.” She seemed far away for a moment before speaking again.

“Check the ropes bag; I think there are some long ones in there. Some

crampons. They were Ned’s. Don’t forget the tool belt either. You might need

that.”

Scully peered gingerly over the edge of the cliff but couldn’t see anything.

Couldn’t see her partner or any sign of him, just angry waves crashing and dark

foreboding rock that went straight down in hexagonal pillars, some hollow that

led right through to the sea like a funnel. Where was he?

“Mulder…” No answer. Only the waves and wind answered back like a mournful

cry. Like a voice… death song…. No she mustn’t think that way.

The drenched agent dumped the bag of medical equipment on the grass and went

for the other bag of ropes and stuff her aunt had brought along. Pulling out a long

one she began to loop it and doubled tie it round her waist, pulling the knots

tight. Then she clipped on the tool pouch, not caring about the sheeting rain

hitting her face or the cold, just focused on a one track mission getting to Mulder

and getting him safely out of danger.

“You’re going to be okay going down there…if you want me to…” Katherine

looked terrified, she was trying to get the dog away from the edge but Merlin

steadfastly refused to budge. His miserable whimper bit right through Scully’s

soul.

Scully looked pointedly at her. “I have to go Katherine, I’m not ageist but I think

abseiling down there in this weather, well it could be a problem for you with

arthritis. Its okay, I’ve done this before. I’ll be fine. Going to have to be, there’s

no choice. Mulder needs us. Just loop the rope and crampons over there around

that big rock and then the second rope I’m going to tie around him. I’ll tug on the

ropes and yell when I’m ready okay?” She pointed up the bank about three

meters behind them. “That looks a good a place as any and gives us leverage.”

Katherine complied; securing the rope Scully was attached to and the second one

for Mulder. She watched her niece from afar by the rock as she checked the

tautness of them both and then with increasing fear her eyes were glued to her

rain soaked, niece’s head as she vanished below the edge of the cliff. This was

no weather to be even up here in, let alone climbing down steep stacks. She

clung onto the dog for company and warmth, imploring the goddess earth to keep

her sweet niece, Dana and her lovely man alive and safe.

A few meters down Scully reached her partner at last. It was a long laborious

decent and she was out of breath and frozen to the bone but she didn’t care. She

thought she would never make it but looking at his limp hanging body now she

realized why she couldn’t see him before. Mulder was half wedged firmly, almost

impossibility between a cleft in the precipice by both legs, while the rest of his

body was hanging in mid air. It was weird, almost like his legs had been fused

into the narrow rock cleft itself, like the rocks were trying to devour him. There

was no rational way he could’ve have slipped down and ended up that way. It

defied all reasoning. Had the rocks moved? No, that was impossible. She

cantilevered the rope which lowered her down a bit more past the rest of his body

so she could reach his head. Feeling for and finding a pulse in his neck she

almost cheered, but then felt her heart sink wondering how the hell she could

release his legs. If he couldn’t be freed he would die. No doubt about that.

Alive he was but his pulse was thready, his breathing very shallow. Clothing torn

to shreds and a big gash on the back of his head was steadily dripping blood feet

below to merge with the raging sea swirl. With each crash of the waves against

the rocks it deepened her chill and her resolve, tying a second rope around his

middle as a raft of white water shot up the gap and soaked them with spray. It

was as though they were reaching up to claim them, drag them into the swirling

angry sea to their death. Looking up she noticed the storm clouds blustering

fiercely across the sky far above, heavy pendulous omens of doom from her

perspective.

“Hi Scully. ..When did …you drop in,” Mulder’s voice was weak, barely a whisper

and she felt the effort it cost him as his chest heaved against her as she held

onto him for dear life. Bless him though, she felt like crying, his sense of humor

was still intact even if his bones weren’t. There appeared no way to get his legs

loose. She swallowed, both tibia were probably broken or crushed and he must be

in incredible pain.

“Mulder…. Take it easy love, going to get you of here.”

“Good luck Scully,” he coughed a little before continuing and she worried to hear

the worsening congestion in his lungs. “ It’s a nice idea…. but I seem to be stuck

in …rocks like the meat in a …sandwich.”

“How the hell did you end up like this?”

“I don’t know,” he tried to laugh, “ But I …now know what fish bait feels like…and

its killing my back. Ahhh.”

“And your legs I bet.” She grimaced at the sight of his squashed limbs trapped in

the dark rock.

“I ..er..can’t feel my legs….. May just be because I’m fucking cold and just

hanging around. Scully, what you doing?”

His partner was pulling something out of the big pouch she had clipped to her belt

with one hand, while she hung onto him with other.

“Hammer. Going to try and break the rock and ease your legs out.” Mulder looked

sceptical for once but Scully was undeterred and started attacking the rock

around his legs. One leg was trapped up to his thigh. She had to get him out soon

before he went into shock. He was already shivering and his teeth were

constantly chattering.

Mulder stared miserably down at the ocean swirling around the bottom of the

stack, hoping like hell if by some divine intervention she did get him free he was

securely tied, trying to ignore the pain, the cold and the feeling like he had finally

used up all his nine lives. Very slowly, he tried to move his arm to latch onto

Scully’s but it was too numb with cold. Gritting his teeth he tried to tune

everything out, he was fading fast and each time Scully diligently chipped away

at the rock he felt excruciating pain lance through his lower body. There was

nothing he wanted more than to let go let everything fade to black, his breathing

was becoming more difficult with every breath but he owed to his partner to stay

awake, there was no way she could haul him up to the top if she did manage to

free him.

After several fruitless minutes Scully stopped hammering. It was no good, the

little she’d chipped away wasn’t enough to allow her to loosen his legs or even

get her fingers around and she was exhausted. She felt the first sting of tears in

her eyes as she realised it was impossible to move him.

“Scully.”

“What..?” She turned her face to the rock; she didn’t want him to see her tears or

the defeat on her face.

“Soo, no rational… theory how I did the impossible and got stuck in the rocks

Agent Scully?”

“No … It can’t happen but it has,” she sniffed. “Right now I don’t care, I just want

to get you out. My aunt is up top, she’s fine, going to help us get out and then

she’ll go for the paramedics. The power is out again at the farmhouse so we

couldn’t get through. Internet is down too this time. Whatever that was …it fritzed

everything. But right now I need to get you out of here…by any means

necessary. ”

“I know, its okay. You tried.” Mulder’s words chattered through his teeth, every

part of him trying not to look at the hacksaw she was holding in one hand. Where

had that come from? He bit his lip, afraid and proud of his strong partner that

never ceased to amaze him, when the chips were down that courage just roared,

just where she pulled it from such a small beautiful frame he could only wonder.

Right then she was a giant in his eyes.

Her eyes were full of apology as she looked at him, tears slipping down her face.

“I’m not giving up.. dammit!” Not able to nod he blinked his eyes at her, hardly

able to see for the driving rain now cascading down the funnel stack.

Mulder wished he could touch her then but he was almost spent. The wind

buffeted them both as they hung there in the ropes facing each other sadly. What

else could she do? It was impossible. Something beyond comprehension had put

him here; he still remembered that sound like a siren song scrapping against his

skull. Whatever it was had been his death knell. He didn’t want it to be Scully’s as

well. He wanted her to go back up to the top, to be safe. They were both going to

get killed if the rocks shifted again. Dangling there he had tried to work out what

happened and as weird and inexplicable as it seemed, that was the only answer

he’d come up with. This coast was steeped in lore and legend and maybe there

was something in the wrath of the two giants that shaped the Causeway on this

coast, maybe a sense memory that re-enacted every now and then and he’d been

unfortunate enough to get caught it its deadly thrall. Maybe he could open an X

file on it, if by some slim chance he could get out alive.

He turned his head slowly towards his partner only meet the despair and fear in

her eyes as she contemplated perhaps the only way she could free him alive.

Okay so be it, he thought, knowing she wouldn’t leave him down here. The

thunderclouds above were grumbling angrily across the coast, not to mention the

almost subsonic buzz he was feeling in his legs where they were jammed into the

rocks. Something was building up to happen again and he wanted like crazy to

grab at his skull as the eerie cacophony started up again. He needed her to do

whatever and get up the top again to safety.

His heart started to race and she started to cry again.

“I…I can’t do this Mulder..”

“Yes…yes you can… go for it.”

“I…. don’t know if I can..”

“Yes you must we don’t have a choice…It’s okay…I’ll be alive…I can deal with the

rest…” he gulped down his own tears and the sickening dread that gripped his

heart. “..later… Scully please.”

His partner leaned down and kissed him, awkward and strange because he was

upside down facing her. He felt her warm lips against the wet chilled skin of his

throat and he was buoyed by her courage when she whispered “Okay,” in his

ear, no more than a quiet breath.

“I love you Mulder,” her fingers smoothed the clumps of drenched hair out of his

eyes, then travelled down his cheek and wiped moisture and blood from his lips

where he must have bitten them. There was a roaring in his ears now, like bees

on the warpath and his head was the hive. An unrelenting noise that twisted into

an almost faraway lilting voice, transporting him into the abyss, pulling him down

further as he watched her eyes bled water all over him as she faded from view.

“I love …you too…” Scully made sure his body was secure in the ropes, anything

but look at his huge scared puppy eyes which slipped closed when he suddenly

went limp.

“Mulder.. no…” she cried in alarm. Panicked she hauled her self up a touch to feel

his pulse. It was still there but weakening and his lips were blue. Fumbling with

the saw, she picked a spot about an inch from where his legs were trapped, cut

away his pants there, pulled some twine from her pouch and tied it tight around

the area she planned to cut and took a deep breath, telling herself this was the

only way. It was better to have her lover alive even if disabled, as opposed to

letting him die here. He’d still be Mulder and she would care for him whatever it

took. The lesser of the two evils. He’d given her permission… that wonderful

brave love of her life….

As she placed the saw to his bruised and battered flesh a huge lightning bolt

struck the rock above startling her, and another…and another until it sounded like

an air raid going on overheard, making her drop the saw…

“No…!!!!” she shrieked at the top of her lungs as she watched it clatter off the

rocks into the swirling eddies of water below, greedily swallowing her only means

of freeing her partner from certain death. “Katherine…help…”, She yanked on the

rope as hard as she could muster to try and alert her aunt; she had other tools

up there… if only…

But she never finished that thought. A blinding flash enveloped her as she clung

fast to her partner suspended in the tangle of ropes like helpless marionettes as a

maelstrom of sounds, a thousand sirens and the deep rumbling roar and cracking

of age old rock, like the earth was furious at the gods, splitting them into a

million shards, exploding all around them and then darkness.

***

Undetermined time later.

Sand dunes near the Giants Causeway. NI.

Damp and cold to the bone Katherine sat dazed in a sandy dune. Ears still

deafened she remained there for a while, unable to think or feel, or see anything.

Her head hurt and for a few moments it was hard to remember who she was.

Getting up she thought she should be somewhere… The storm …yes the

storm…Dana, Mulder.. “Oh god… No!”

She ran, despite her gammy legs she ran, not really knowing where she was or

going but she had this voice in her head familiar and compelling so she followed

where it sent her. The air was electric like the storm had charged everything

around her heightening her energy and purpose to find them. The waves and the

wind still mocked her but she ignored them. It seemed like hours since she had

been running but her breath carried her on, wind at her heels and sloshing of wet

sand soaking her stocking clad legs. When she could go no further her steps

faltered and she stopped, gasping. There was something moving up ahead… but

sometime during …whatever this was she had lost her glasses and her vision was

blurred. It looked like… No it couldn’t be…?

“Merlin.” The dog saw her and came bounding over to her, he was wet and sandy

and wouldn’t keep still as he licked her all over, practically shaking with euphoria

at finding his mistress.

She bent down and ruffled the dog’s wet fur hugging him to her while tears

streamed down her face. Her poor niece and her man were probably dead, there

was no way they could have survived all that, it was happening again, it had

taken them too….just like Ned…just like… Corwen… and the tears flowed anew at

the thought of them..

Her only Son.

Lost here so many years ago… claimed by this coast’s wrath… She only sought to

understand… and now they had robbed her of her Dana and Mulder too. How

could she ever tell Maggie, that her only surviving child had lost her life trying to

save the man she loved…just as she had all those years ago?

Merlin started to bark, pulling away from her before she could stop him, leaving

her arms empty just holding fresh air. Katherine climbed unsteadily onto feet

made weak with grief and followed him, he was going like lighting up the beach

towards what looked like the area of the causeway… But the landscape was

different somehow; chunks of rock strewn out across the beach like discarded toy

blocks thrown by an angry child. Deep fissures in the sand opened up like greedy

mouths swallowing smaller rocks and drifting sand kicked up by the wind.

Hexagonal clusters of basalt indigenous to the famous causeway lay scattered

and tilted in the sand but when she rounded the edge of the long beach where

the cliffs had been there was nothing there….a large gaping maw of cliff had

vanished and the pillars of rock that once stood like organ pipes so tall and

impressive had gone… like something had tunnelled through it and blown it apart

on impact.

She bowed her head, tasting fresh tears, wishing it had blown her apart as well,

the guilt and grief threatened to overwhelm her but then she felt something soft

and wet against her hand. Merlin barked again and tried to pull her coat sleeve…

“No, not now boy… I’m sorry, can’t play with you now…please..” But the dog was

insistent and kept tugging before finally breaking away again, seeing that he had

his owner’s attention and scampered off up the beach a few feet ahead towards

an outcrop of rocks sticking up from the sand… no they weren’t rocks…

“Oh my ….”

The dog jumped around in excited abandon finally able to show his mistress his

find, circling and barking. Something was moving. Despite advancing age and

fatigue, Katherine ran the rest of the way.

“One, one thousand, two one thousand…three..” A breathless, Dana Scully had

been so intent performing heart massage on her partner’s lifeless body that she

never heard her aunt approach until she felt a warm hand on her back. Looking

up startled, she saw the unspoken question in the old lady’s eyes and nodded

acquiescence. Wordlessly they slipped into sync working on the badly injured

agent. Katherine doing chest compressions and her niece with her mouth fused to

her partner’s blue lips forcing life giving breath into his lungs. Swirling sand and

wind whipping around the trio as they worked with a single purpose to do the

seemingly impossible.

When he coughed finally, his body physically lurching off the sand in his, lovers

arms they both cried, Scully hugging her partner to her tightly and pressing her

lips against his forehead. “It’s okay Mulder, it’s alright…your going to be fine…we

can work out what happened later…but for now…..”

“ A chuisle mo chroí,” Katherine whispered, touching Mulder’s face as he

opened two sand crusted eyes to meet her beautiful smile and his Scully’s.

In the distance a helicopter circled and banked towards them, moving ever

closer.

Ballycastle Hospital

22nd March.

Mulder was lucky, after being rushed to hospital by an Irish navy rescue

helicopter and surgery to set both his broken legs and treatment for bronchitis,

concussion and exposure, he only spent three days in intensive care with

breathing problems and an erratic heartbeat. Scully was unhurt but shocked and

spent a night sleeping on a put you up bed near Mulder’s room, lovingly watched

over by Katherine who refused to leave the hospital until they were awake and

looking healthier. She divided her time between them.

No one knew how the emergency services were called. The generator had gone

down at the farm at the time and there was no way anyone could have known…

unless…

Scully had her own theories as to where the helicopter came from. She’d inquired

to thank those responsible for airlifting them from the beach only to find there

was no record of such a helicopter being sent out and the Irish navy couldn’t

even trace the registration code. It didn’t belong to them. All they could tell her is

that a man who wouldn’t identify himself had emailed them. Right then she could

have cared less, she had no idea what happened out there on that cold vicious

day but what she was thankful for was the fact that Mulder was alive in once

piece and that she had her aunt’s caring company.

One thing though was that when Mulder was examined in hospital it was found

that he had sea water in his lungs, and in his unconsciousness kept muttering

about mermaids. When awake he’d claimed they’d dragged him from the sea to

save him from drowning. Katherine had grinned indulgently at that, saying that

they may never know and that something mysteries were best kept that way.

Scully feared Mulder would want to go explore that beach again soon, maybe

open a new X file when he was better. Perhaps…

Black Rock Cottage 24th March.

A few days later, after Mulder had been released they returned to Katherine’s

farmhouse, the old lady making a bed up for Mulder in the conservatory that

looked the fields down to the sea.. Mulder wasn’t going to be able to travel yet for

a few weeks and in truth the old lady was only too happy to have their company

a bit longer. It seemed that Seamus and Merlin thought so too as they were both

curled up either side of Mulder as he tried to scratch at the tops of this plaster

casts.

“Damn it I wish I had a knitting needle or something. It itches.” Mulder

complained as Scully brought him a mug of hot milk. Heavy meds meant he

couldn’t have caffeine yet so tea was out. However, it didn’t stop Katherine

spiking his milk with odd drop of Poitin when her niece’s back was turned. She

winked conspiratorially at Mulder, a gesture that disturbingly reminded him of

Frohike, and handed him a plate with some more upside-down apple cake which

he was fast getting addicted to.

“Aye if ya had that you might stab yourself in your leg. I have something in my

pantry better for making you forget the itch.”

“I’ll make you forget all about the itch Mulder, if you promise to behave and quit

scratching.” Scully purred in his ear and she shifted the cat to sit beside him on

the floor by the sofa, her hand squeezing his.

“Ah you know Scully this is a bummer, me being laid up like this. We never got to

do much sightseeing. What about Skinman’s Bushmills. He’ll kill me.”

“Probably for the paperwork on your medical leave and desk duty when we get

back too.” Scully piped in to remind him.

Her aunt looked thoughtful. “Well you know if I have to be honest,” the old lady

shuffled off to the kitchen for a moment. She returned shortly with a big dark

brown bottle bearing a James’s label. “James’s is better by far a whisky, but

everyone and his chum head over to Bushmills when they come to here because

it’s well known. You tell that boss of yours that this is a much better brew. I’m

telling ya true.”

“Thanks we will but Katherine, you didn’t have to go out of your way to get that

for me.”

“Oh I didn’t… it’s an old bottle and I filled it up with a drop of hard stuff.”

Scully and Mulder exchanged amused glances. His partner swatting his hand as it

went to scratch at his casts again.

“You mean you filled it up with Poitin.”

Mulder started to laugh at Katherine’s knowing wink.

“And when he runs out he is welcome to come visit me to pick up a fresh supply.”

The old lady laughed.

Just then something came through the letter box in the hall and Scully went to

retrieve it. She came back in holding a newspaper.

“That’s odd Dana; I don’t normally get a delivery out here.”

“Really?”

“No, lets give that a once over.” She popped on her new specs and scanned the

print on the first few pages. She looked up a few moments later, a shocked

expression on her face. “Dana, you and your man might want to see this.”

Dana took the paper from her and stared at the news article from a few days ago,

sat down next to Mulder and shared it with him. It made no mention of their

lucky escape as she had expected, but instead reported that that causeway area

had suffered a disturbance, a small earthquake…the epicentre a few miles out to

sea. The photo of the beach area and the Giant’s Causeway though was very

intriguing. It had been taken the day before by the British geological society, but

…was strangely intact, none of the destruction that they had been embroiled in. It

was like it had never happened.

Mulder looked worriedly at Scully, she could see him mulling this over already,

forming a hypothesis…. Knowing he’d be itching to take a look for himself if he

thought he could get away with it. She gave him her patent stern eyebrow and he

chewed on his lip and scratched at his neck.

“It’s as though it’s rebuilt itself …that’s astonishing.”

“Aw it is that. And it’s taken its secrets inside it again. …but for how long?”

Suddenly the penny dropped. And Mulder gasped his eyes full of compassion he

looked at the old lady and watched her eyes cloud over.

“Katherine? Is this what happened to Ned?” The old Lady got up and came over

to the big window that overlooked the landscape down to the bay.

“Aye….it is. And someone you didn’t know. My only son, Corwen. A number of

years before we moved here, Corwen went on a camping trip with his school

friends. He was sixteen, old enough to be going on a weekend away with friends.

Sensible lad, good grades, loved us both like a son should.” Turning to look at

the rolling sea beyond the window, “Well … I think you can guess what happened.

We came up here, bought this place to be near him somehow…after he was lost.

It helped a lot until Ned. This coast took him too, swallowed him up in the rocks.

Gone. They never found his body but he’d been in that area walking when it all

kicked off. Went out one day and never returned. He used to look for him down

on the beach. He never did get over his death. Some say he went and drowned

because he missed his son so much but I think they suffered twin fates.”

Scully was almost in tears. “I’m sorry I never knew.”

Katherine smiled. “No one did really. Your mother was the only I one was in touch

with, having burned our bridges with our local family here, was only in the last

ten or so years since we got the internet that I came across your mother and our

family in the States. Did one of those families reunite things? But anyway, I don’t

know if I ever mentioned our boy to her. He’d been gone so long and it was too

painful. I didn’t want any pity.”

“Sorry, so sorry we never realised.” Scully replied, tucking a blanket around

Mulder as he lay down. The meds were making him sleepy again.

Katherine crossed the room to the mantelpiece and took two small objects from

the top and brought them over to him and Dana. Mulder recognised them as

something he’d perused when they’d first arrived. She handed them one each and

smiled sadly.

“I want you both to have these. Corwen loved this place; he always talked of

mermaids…. Singing to him when he was on the beaches here as a child.”

“Oh Katherine we couldn’t.” Mulder felt tears prickle at his eyes but his partner’s

were already spilling down her face. She’d been to hell and back in the last few

days, wondering if he would recover…the whole trauma and unanswered

questions. To think that her aunt had gone through this twice now.

“Thank you, so much we will treasure them always.” Mulder’s childlike wonder

and whispered reply reminded her so much of Ned. And he would have liked

Mulder. Katherine’s lips curled up in a smile.

“I’d like to think there are mermaids Fox. That they spared you from two warring

giants. When you were delirious you were saying they pulled you from the water

you know. They owed me this time. ” She pursed her lips.

Mulder shook his head, unable to pull that from his eidetic memory, but just a

fleeting flash of something tickled him in places he thought he’d forgotten. An

angelic face, a never ending song that swept over him like a feather touch and

too soon it was gone. When he came back to himself Scully was rubbing his hand.

She leaned over and kissed his and she turned his mermaid over in his hand with

such reverence, like it was speaking to him and only he could hear it. Katherine

handed them a small glass of Poitin each and took one for herself. They toasted

to the loved ones they had all lost and stared at the flames leaping up the back of

the fire and just for a moment, Mulder thought he heard that ethereal melody

again.

“I’d like to believe that this time they saved both of you.” Katherine took his

other hand, still bearing the bruising of his ordeal and held it gently.

Mulder looked at her with great affection as he started to doze off again. “I want

to believe that too.”

The end.

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