Category Archives: St. Patrick’s Day

Leprechaun’s Lair

Leprechauns’ Lair

Author: Starfleetofficer1

Summary: Mulder and Scully spend St. Patrick’s Day in the woods.

Category: MT, X-File

Rating: PG

Two weeks exclusive with VS15.

Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended.

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SOMEWHERE IN THE WOODS

PITTSBURGH, PA

MONDAY, MARCH 17th, 2008

0900

“I can’t believe you dragged me out here, Mulder,” Scully complained as they

trudged through the woods, looking for the car.

“I’m sorry,” he said, clearly discouraged.

“Too little too late,” Scully told him. “And now we’ve got to get out of here and spend

St. Patrick’s Day waiting at the airport.”

“I said I’m sorry,” he told her, but she just kept walking. “The X-file was legitimate.

You even said so yourself. Skinner signed off on it.”

“I’ll agree with you that something’s been stealing valuables and most likely using an

escape route in the woods—”

“Only gold valuables,” Mulder interjected.

“Okay, someone’s been stealing only gold valuables and using an escape route in the

woods, but that doesn’t mean there are leprechauns, and it doesn’t mean that

walking through the woods will do anything to help us catch the man, Mulder,” Scully

said, exasperated. It had, after all, been an overnight stakeout, and they were both

exhausted.

“A thief using an escape route in the woods doesn’t explain the children’s sightings.”

“But the holiday does,” Scully told him firmly. She turned around. “You dragged us

out here in the woods to hunt leprechauns, Mulder, on the lead of a few children—”

“An entire fourth-grade class of children.”

“On some 9-year-olds’ testimonies, who during their St. Patrick’s Day picnic thought

they saw a leprechaun.”

“The teacher substantiated it, too, Scully. You read the reports.”

“I’m not arguing about this, Mulder. I agreed to one night, and we’re done. No

leprechauns showed up in this ‘hot spot’ you dragged us to.”

He frowned. “If this is about missing the parade—”

“It’s not about missing the parade! It’s about missing our day off, which happened

to coincide with a holiday, because you decided to get us assigned to a case! A case

that didn’t hold any merit!”

Mulder’s shoulders drooped slightly, as he repeated, “I said I was sorry.”

She exhaled, and turned around. “It’s alright. Let’s just find the car, and get out of

here.”

They started walking again, when suddenly shots were fired. Mulder dropped to the

ground with an ‘umph’ and Scully got down, drawing her weapon and aiming for the

direction of the noise. Another shot came in her direction and she actually heard the

bullet whiz past her head. She couldn’t see the perp, though, and so she couldn’t

return fire.

The fire stopped, and she slowly edged toward Mulder, but heard behind her, “Drop

the weapon, now. I’ve got a clear shot at his head. Drop the weapon or I’ll kill him.”

Scully had no choice but to comply. And when she did, she heard a bag dropped and

objects jingle inside. She was approached from behind and handcuffed, the gun

kicked away. Mulder wasn’t moving.

The perpetrator showed himself when he walked around Scully and turned Mulder

over. There was very clearly an entrance wound in his back, but no exit wound. He

was out, and Scully said calmly, “I’m a medical doctor. If you’ll let me—”

“Shut up,” the man said. He had dark brown hair, slicked back sloppily, and wore a

gold chain around his neck. “You two are cops?”

“FBI. If you keep me from helping my partner, it’s a federal offense. You’ve already

assaulted a federal officer—don’t make it worse—”

“I said shut up!” He yelled, and raised his weapon to her head. “You don’t have a

clue what you stumbled into, bitch. You and your partner are witnesses, and it don’t

matter what condition he’s in when I put a bullet through his brain.” He cocked the

weapon. “Maybe I’ll start with him and make you watch…”

But before he could get a shot off, there was a deafening bang to Scully’s left and a

neat hole right between the perp’s eyes. He dropped, instantly dead.

Scully looked to her left to assess whether Mulder was in further danger from their

savior, and saw a man with achondroplastic dwarfism, about four feet tall, lower his

shotgun. “Are you alright?” He asked in a slight Irish accent, clearly concerned.

“My partner’s been shot. Come over here, I need your help,” Scully ordered.

“Aye, one moment. Seamus, Kelly, Eileen, over here, now.”

Three small children, all achondroplastic dwarfs, ran out of the woods and toward

who Scully presumed was their father.

“Got a bit more help for ya,” the man said, and squatted near Mulder, next to Scully.

“You’re a doctor—how bad is it?”

Scully raised an eyebrow, but surmised he had heard the conversation between her

and the gold thief. “Keep the kids back. I don’t want them touching him until I say

so.”

“Back two feet,” he ordered his children.

Scully turned Mulder gently, and examined the wound. She had already checked his

breathing, and his pulse. “He’s breathing, his pulse is weak but there…bullet entered

near his kidney.” She looked at the man, and asked, “What’s your name?”

“Patrick Finnegan, me friends call me Fin.”

“Alright, Fin, I need you to take your shirt off. We need to stop this bleeding. Then

you need to send your kids to the roadside with my cell phone and have them dial

911. Can you do that?”

“Aye, I can, but I’ve got a better solution.”

Scully sighed impatiently as she held Mulder’s back. She had turned him on his side,

and was now applying pressure on the wound with her hand. “What?”

“We’ve got a place with real medical supplies not far from here. We’ve also got a

fold-out stretcher in that bag Seamus is carrying.” He nodded to his eldest son.

“He needs hospitalization. He might have organ damage,” Scully argued, trying to

control her voice. Didn’t this man know how serious this was? Mulder could die.

She didn’t have time to argue with him.

He took off his shirt and handed it to her, revealing thick red hair on his chest. “Ya

need to listen to me, Agent. He won’t make it till the ambulance can get this far.

It’s further to the road than it is to my place. Me wife, she’s a doctor. D’ya

understand? The two of ya, you can save him.”

“He needs surgery.”

“We have a sanitary station. It’s an outpost.”

Scully couldn’t help but wonder why they had a ‘sanitary’ surgical station in their

‘outpost’ for a house. But she didn’t have time to argue. “Fine, do you have a

phone?”

“Aye, but ya won’t need it. Come on, Agent, we need to hurry. Seamus,” he barked.

“Take that stretcher out.”

The boy complied, and unfolded it to its full length. Then he stretched it out on the

ground behind Mulder. Scully wrapped Fin’s shirt around Mulder’s wound and then

eased him gently onto the stretcher. She took the back, and Fin took the front.

They lifted him with some difficulty, the stretcher tilted because of the size

difference. The kids automatically helped support the bars from the middle. The

youngest one, Eileen, couldn’t stop staring at Mulder. Scully tried to smile. “It’ll be

alright,” she said, more for herself than for the small child.

Eileen looked at Scully and said in an adorable Irish brogue, “Me mama can fix him

up, Agent, don’t worry.”

“Shannon’s a surgeon,” Fin said. “You and she can extract the bullet, then we’ll call

an ambulance when he’s outta the woods.”

Scully nodded absently. It was only a fifteen minute trek, before they reached the

small clearing with a cottage that looked like it had been built by a professional

craftsman. They carried Mulder up the front steps and a woman, about four feet tall,

opened the front door. “Oh, goodness,” she said, in an Irish accent that matched

her husband’s.

“You’re a surgeon?” Scully asked her.

She nodded. “I specialize in nerve damage, and I’ve got a certification in

anesthesiology. Move him over to that table inside, in the sterile section. I’ve got

running water, and soap, we can sterilize our hands in. You, what’s your name?”

“Scully, Agent Dana Scully.”

“FBI, interesting,” the woman said, but Scully’s perplexed look was instantly replaced

with a concerned one when Mulder moaned, and opened his eyes.

They set him down on the sterile table in the living room and Scully instantly went to

him. The children crowded around, but Fin pushed them back to give Scully space.

“Hey,” she said softly. “Mulder, can you hear me?”

“Mmm,” he said, face contorted in pain. “Where…where are we?”

“A cottage in the woods. You were shot, Mulder. I think the bullet’s in your kidney.

We’re going to do emergency surgery—these people, this woman is a surgeon. We’ll

have to give you anesthetic. Do you understand?”

“Mmm hmm,” he said, and then looked at the people around him. He smiled. “We

found ‘em.”

Scully couldn’t give him a disapproving look for his inappropriate comment, not with

him in this condition. But she was thankful they had no idea what he was talking

about.

“Mr. Mulder, my name is Shannon Finnegan, and I’m here to help you. I’ve got to

give you an IV with some anesthetic in it, and then we’ll turn you on your side to

remove the bullet and close any damage. Do you understand?”

“Yeah,” he said, and then coughed, and grimaced in pain. Scully held his hand.

“You’re going to be fine,” Scully said.

“Me mum’s the best,” Seamus said. “Ya don’t have much ta worry about, Sir.”

He smiled. “We found ‘em,” he stated again before Shannon started the IV, and

showed the liquid to Scully.

“Anesthetic. Satisfied, Agent Scully?”

“Yes, do it,” Scully ordered her, hoping to speed up this process.”

Shannon injected the anesthetic, and then pointed to her sink. “Sanitize yourself,

and grab two aprons. I’ll get my medical kit. We need to move fast. He’s got

internal bleeding and we need to close the wound.”

Fifteen minutes later they were well on their way. Scully couldn’t help but think

repeatedly, I can’t believe I’m doing this. I can’t believe I agreed to this.

But Shannon seemed to know what she was doing. They got the internal bleeding

under control, and for some odd reason, they had a bag of Mulder’s blood type in

their medical supply cabinet.

It took them three hours to close the wound and another two for Mulder to wake up.

And by then, Fin had dialed 911 and had explained to Scully that they would need to

move Mulder by stretcher again. There was no way a car could make it through the

woods, let alone an ambulance.

Scully was exhausted with worry and lack of sleep by the time they got to the

roadside. She thanked Fin profusely when she heard the ambulance siren, and it

was a daze from there. She thought she fell asleep in the ambulance, and when she

woke up, she was in a hospital room with Mulder. He was still asleep. Disoriented,

she glanced for her watch to check the time, got up and stretched. She shook her

head, and rubbed her eyes as she sat back down again. Apparently still tired, she

fell back asleep.

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SEWICKLEY GENERAL HOSPITAL

SEWICKLEY, PA (NEAR PITTSBURGH)

MONDAY, MARCH 17th, 2008

1900

Scully awoke to Mulder clearing his throat. She opened her eyes, disoriented again.

“Hey,” she said, smiling at him. “What’s going on?”

He couldn’t help but give her a puzzled look. “You’re asking me?” He asked, shaking

his head. “All I know is I was shot, you and…the leprechauns!” He suddenly beamed.

“We found them, Scully! What are they doing with the perp?”

Scully looked terribly confused. “What are you talking about?”

“The gold thief. The one who shot me. The leprechauns, Shannon—the woman who

worked with you during the emergency surgery?”

Scully just stared at him. “Do you have a concussion?”

He laughed. “Memory wipes! Oh, this is classic!”

“I’m gonna go get the doctor.”

“No, wait, Scully,” he caught her arm as she stood up. “Wait, I’m not making this up.

Shannon Finnegan, remember? I was barely conscious, but I can remember all their

names—there was Patrick, who likes to be called Fin. There’s the boy, Seamus, and

then their two little ones, Eileen and Kelly. You don’t remember any of this, do

you?”

She just stared at him, blankly. “I don’t know what’s going on, Mulder, but you’re

starting to scare me.”

“They must have put a memory imprint on me, and a memory wipe on you…they

looked like normal people though. Achondroplastic dwarfs, but normal. Normal

clothes, normally furnished cottage in the woods…the kids, they were all clean-cut

and Fin looked like he had a neatly trimmed beard. Don’t you find it odd that they

had a surgical bay in their house? And my blood type?”

“I’m going to go get the doctor, Mulder,” Scully said slowly. “I need to figure out

what’s going on.”

“Read my chart,” he insisted. “At the end of the bed, read it. Tell me what it says.”

She hesitated, but complied. She flipped through his chart, and shook her head.

“Are you sure I wasn’t knocked out, or something?”

“Why? What does it say?”

“It says exploratory surgery discovered a successful, recent, and emergency

procedure that removed a bullet from your kidney and completely sealed the internal

organs, repairing all damage. You received a unit of blood and a standard

anesthetic…Mulder, I don’t remember any of this! But my name’s on the exploratory

surgery consent form, and my statement as to the fact you were shot, it’s right

here.”

“See?” He said with a smile. “Leprechauns.”

“That’s ridiculous. I’m Irish, Mulder, and even I don’t even believe that.”

“Most Irish people view leprechauns as a degrading symbol of Irish culture.”

“That’s beside the point. I have no recollection of any of this!”

“It was a memory wipe. And I couldn’t possibly remember all of that from the state

I was in—I must have had a memory imprint. Call Skinner—you probably already

told him what was going on. And the perp is probably already in the morgue.”

She slowly reached for her cell phone, and walked away from his bed, toward the

window. She completed the call, and Mulder heard a series of ‘yes, Sir’, ‘no, Sir,’ ‘of

course, Sir,’ and ‘I’m not sure, Sir,’ before she hung up the phone, and turned to

him. “That’s incredible. Anthony Giorgio’s body was autopsied and the cause of

death was a single bullet to the head. Not my bullet. But Skinner just said it was in

accordance with my report.”

“Told you,” Mulder said with a grin.

She shook her head. “I refuse to believe that. I’m going to have them run a blood

test on me, make sure I haven’t been exposed to some kind of hallucinogen. Don’t

go anywhere, Mulder.”

He just smiled. “Fine by me,” he said.

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SEWICKLEY GENERAL HOSPITAL

SEWICKLEY, PA (NEAR PITTSBURGH)

MONDAY, MARCH 17th, 2008

2100

Scully returned three hours later, utterly confused. The blood tests had shown

nothing wrong…

She walked over to Mulder’s bed, where he slept, and smiled when she saw a card

there. She didn’t know who it was from, though. She picked it up, and noted the

shamrock on the front.

Opening it, she was shocked to find a picture of a family. All achondroplastic dwarfs,

with a caption on the bottom that said, ‘From left: Patrick ‘Fin’, Shannon, Seamus,

Kelly, and Eileen Finnegan.’ On the card was written, “Ya owe us some Guinness,

Mulder. You’re welcome anytime. Just walk into the woods. We’ll find ya. The

Finnegans.”

At the bottom was written in smaller print, ‘Shannon thanks you for your help in

surgery, Agent Scully. You’re always welcome, too. Just remember to believe.’

Perplexed, Scully placed the card back on the nightstand and sat down in the chair

next to Mulder. She took his hand, thankful that he was going to be alright. Even

though she couldn’t explain what had happened, she wouldn’t stop Mulder from

dragging them into those woods again. She, for one, wanted some answers. And a

funny feeling told her that if she was willing to look, the Finnegans wouldn’t mind

providing some.

1

Leprechauns’ Lair by Starfleetofficer1

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.

Slainte

Slainte

SLANTE’

By Martin Ross & StarfleetOfficer1

Category: Casefile; humor.

Rating: R for language, graphic descriptions

E-mail: rossprag@fgi.net

Three dead mobsters, three impossible crimes, an ex-genie, and a human luck magnet. When Mulder and Scully luck onto the case, they learn to be careful what they wish for.

clip_image002

Ballou’s

Chicago, Illinois

1:23 a.m.

It happened as Terry Fitzcarren was about to turn into Ballou’s for the evening’s final brew.

Initially, Terry thought he’d been blindsided. Stars had blossomed in his head, like they had after that piece of low Irish shit Joe Hannahan kicked him upside the skull with those heavy biker boots he wore to look macho. All because Terry’d been caught putting it to Joe’s little sister, what’s-her-name. But here, Terry had felt no collision of hardened, steel-reinforced leather against his temple, no jaw-slamming jolt as baseball bat or tire iron encountered tissue and bone.

Then there was the blinding light. Terry had heard of folks who’d seen such a light as they hovered between life and death, had listened vaguely to the priests yammer on about the illuminating glory of God. Long before he could legally buy his first pint, Terry had known the Miranda-Escobedo warning far better than The Lord’s Prayer or his Hail Mary’s. He discounted the possibility St. Peter was awaiting him with a Harp’s.

Even if he believed in such things as angels that looked like Roma Downey (like to polish her halo, mused Terry, whose only contact with angels was semi-comatose and out of remote range in front of the Hallmark Channel), Ellen Fitzcarren’s youngest long since had recognized any posthumous trip he was taking was going to be straight to the furnace room.

Terry’s eyes began to clear, and he realized he was standing in the middle of some field, maybe downstate, some freakin’ cornfield or whatever the hell they grew out in Redneckville. They must’ve hit me real good to get me from the edge of the Loop all the way out to the sticks without me coming to, he reflected, surveying the scenery around him. The trees looked funny; the air was strange, made him feel dizzy.

Terry felt something scurry over his soft leather wop loafer, which by the way had been pretty effed-up by the boggy soil on which he’d been standing. He looked down, yelped, and jumped about six times higher than he’d ever managed in that prick Coach Jacobs’ eighth grade P.E. class. The thing that had trespassed on Terry’s shoe scuttled off under a bush that didn’t look like nothing ever grew in the old neighborhood.

“Fuckin’ shit,” Terry breathed, checking all around him for more of the crab-sized cock-a-roaches. They must’ve taken him somewhere like Florida or California or some other primitive hellhole. It was kind of hot, he thought, and just like that, a cool shadow fell over the young man.

He glanced up at the too-blue sky to see if some rain was moving in. That would seriously fuck up his new shoes.

Instead of clouds, however, Terry Fitzcarren saw teeth, lots of them, and the wet, black hole behind them…

“Fuckin’ shit,” Terry reiterated. Considering his blood alcohol count, it was a reasonably eloquent assessment.

Congo Region

Africa

2:12 p.m. the following day

Sir Kenneth Rees-Petrie nearly ran his Rover into the corner anchor of the main research tent, then barely remembered to put the battered vehicle into park. He barked his chin on said stake as he stumbled toward the open flap.

Meadors and the students were huddled around the large worktable at the tent’s center, watching intently as D’Onofrio, one of the Americans hired under the Royal Academy grant, scraped and brushed at the domed object before him.

“This is it?” Rees-Petrie rasped, nudging his way through the group. No one asked how his permit negotiations had gone at the capital, how the turbulent plane trip back to camp had been. For once, the knighted and eccentrically garrulous paleontologist wasn’t center stage, and for once, he didn’t care. “You found this where now?”

“Grid 12-D,” Meadors murmured, as if afraid to disturb the object before him. “Where we uncovered the Megalosaurus jawbone.”

Rees-Petrie reached for the worktable to steady himself. “That can’t conceivably be–”

“But it is,” stated D’Onofrio, who’d never once allowed the scientist to finish a sentence, and who reveled in some “musical” group misspelled Phish. “And there was no sign of geological shift. You carbon date this fucker, I’m betting he’s gonna match the jawbone. And from the dinosaur shit we found in the vicinity and the scratches I’ve found on the temples, he might’ve been killed by the same jawbone.”

Rees-Petrie was too stunned either to chide D’Onofrio for his utterly inexcusable language or his identification of coprolites as “dinosaur shit.” “This is entirely insane. It not only would predate Leakey’s findings by eons, but it defies all known theories of saurian and mammalian evolution.” The scientist stopped dead and leaned in, coming nearly nose-to-occipital with his crew’s find. “Bloody hell. This is Homo sapiens.”

D’Onofrio grinned as Meadors frowned anxiously. “That’s why we didn’t dare give you details over the radio, Kenny. You can even see rudimentary evidence of modern dental work. But this skull undeniably came from the same Jurassic strata as the Megalosaurus remains.”

“Show him the other,” urged D’Onofrio, like some oversized, shaggy five-year-old playing doctor. “You are gonna fucking LOVE this.”

Rees-Petrie finally glared disapproval at his student, but he fell back into a trance as Meadors unwrapped a previously ignored parcel a few inches from the human skull which had rested impossibly for hundreds of centuries under the African topography.

It was a small metal disk, in remarkably good shape and clearly machine-tooled. Rees-Petrie gawped. “No, you didn’t find this…”

“Right by the skull,” D’Onofrio crowed. “It’s a watch – I mean, the back of a watch. I’d say solid gold. Maybe a Rolodex. Get it under the lamp – here, you’ll need a magnifier.”

Rees-Petrie snatched the glass from the impertinent Yank and squinted at the hieroglyphics inscribed on the back of the acid-cleaned disk.

“To Terence Fitzcarren, with, with…” the paleontologist recited, awestruck.

“I think it’s ‘love,’” Meadors ventured. “’With love and best wishes from Uncle Liam.’ Kenneth? Kenneth, you don’t look at all well.”

“He’s fucking stroking out,” D’Onofrio yelled, and the last terrifying sight Rees-Petrie saw before darkness descended was the hairy giant lunging to perform CPR…

The Breath of Cork

Chicago, IL

10:12 a.m. two weeks later

“Shit!”

Jenn glanced up warily almost as the obscenity escaped her lips. She gasped the oath’s twin blasphemy — Cragan O’Mara was grinning at her from his booth under the Guinness mirror. He’d finished his huge Irish breakfast — hard to believe such the old pixie could put away such a feast before noon, harder still to conceive of the octogenarian surviving on a daily diet of Irish bacon, fried eggs, grease-bloated black-and-tan puddings, and plumply lethal sausage links. Actually, Jenn was uncertain eightysomething might not be on the shy side. She wouldn’t have been surprised to find he’d shared a pint or two with the young James Joyce. Or started the Potato Famine his own self with a nod of his liver-spotted brow.

“And what would so dismay such a lovely lass as yourself in the dawning hours of such a fine day?” O’Mara murmured, his Trib limp in his leathery claws. His dialogue was straight out of ‘40s-era Hollywood, too. B’gosh and begorrah and gimme an effing break, Jenn moaned silently.

“Nah, just all the crap in the news today,” she smiled in a valiant attempt at nonchalance. “You know, same old same old.”

To her true dismay, the old “gent” rose and hobbled across the battered planks to the bar. Jenn found herself transfixed: He’d managed somehow to maintain eye contact the entire time, like an ancient mongoose hypnotizing a cobra. Except he was the cobra, too. A cobra hypnotizing a deer in the headlights? Formulating metaphors had never been Jenn’s strongest point. She cursed Kelli, who’d asked Jenn to sub a couple mornings so she could hit Atlantic City with her latest slab of man-beef. Cragan O’Mara was always Ballou’s solitary customer before the 11 a.m. barflies started drifting in.

“And so what is distressing me dear girl this a.m.?” Yellow-nailed fingers turned the folded Sun-Times she’d spread on the bartop. “Ah yes, I saw something about this. I wonder if this fella’s any kin to our poor absent Terry.” O’Mara chuckled, like a crow pondering a fresh strip of rodent carrion. “A curious affair, all right. But I’d scarcely imagine this should be anything to bother your pretty head about, Jenn, me dear.”

Something seemed to pass through his mineral eyes, made them brighter, sharper. Jenn unconsciously backed a step, banging her tailbone against a Harp tap. Then, it all fell into place as she recalled a certain last call a few weeks before.

“Just got me thinking about Terry, is all.” Jenn shrugged, “You know, how he just vanished without a trace. One of the guys said he saw him outside, you know, outside the bar, the night before he went missing.”

“And what would you make of that, dear girl?” O’Mara inquired, eyes dancing. “No doubt ran into one of his crowd. Or, more’s the like, ran afoul. Terence McCarren was always a bad sort, rough piece of work. Fine young gal like yourself shouldn’t concern herself about such a bad penny. Sure, and he’ll show up in some form or another.”

“Sure,” Jenn stammered.

O’Mara squinted for a moment, the grin vanishing. Then he cackled; Jenn jumped. “All right then. Guess I’ll be off with myself. Give Timmy my regards. And may the–”

“Bye, Mr. O’Mara,” Jenn interrupted, blithely. “Take care.”

The elfin Irishman nodded, smiling now in an altogether different manner. “Right. Right. Top of the morning.”

As soon as O’Mara shut the sun and the Tuesday morning traffic back outside, Jenn fumbled her Samsung from her bag under the bar. She nearly dropped the cheap phone in the ice bin before she could punch in the D.C. area code.

J. Edgar Hoover Building

Washington, D.C.

2 p.m.

“You must’ve read about the archeological find a couple weeks back in Africa. The body, the watch?”

Scully nodded cautiously. Terry Fitzcarren had been a low-echelon Chicago hood and enforcer, nephew of Liam Fitzcarren, head of Chicago’s Irish mob. He’d been reported missing the night after he’d been seen celebrating some suspiciously cryptic accomplishment, probably related to his uncle’s organization.

Then he turns up the next day under several layers of dirt and rock, known associates T. Rex and Brachiosaurus. Jurassic Park IV: Married to the Mob. It had been all over the papers, the media alternately alleging a colossal scientific fraud (Scully’s pet theory), gross incompetence (Oops, misplaced my mobster), or a massive criminal conspiracy (Hey pal, how’d you like to be sleeping with the Icthyosaurs).

Scully chased thoughts of mobsters and monsters from her mind. Mulder was sniffing at the edge of a new case just as she was trying to clear the decks for the reunion. Aunt Deborah’d guilted her into this Joycean trek into the Great Midwest to reconnect with a bunch of third-degree relatives Scully recalled dimly at best.

Wait. Chicago. Had Scully not missed her morning Americano Grande because of Mulder’s dallying, the dawn would have come earlier.

“Mulder,” she murmured frostily. “You are not leaving me alone with these people to go chasing sociopathic hoodlums, no matter how tempting.”

“Well, somehow, because this lad was with one of the Chitown outfits, Organized Crime got stuck with the case,” Mulder continued. “Case, ha. Closest thing we’ve got to a suspect is Fitzcarren had a run-in with one of Tony Caprano’s boys a month or so ago. You remember, big player in the western burbs?”

“Doesn’t sound like Caprano’s style, though,” Scully frowned. “Doesn’t sound like anyone’s style. And ‘we’ don’t have a case.”

“Which is what brings us to today’s presentation,” Mulder said hopefully.

“We have a 4:45 flight. And why can’t you learn PowerPoint, like everyone else?”

“When Gates gets the bugs out. See, there’re two things the press doesn’t know. Number one, the archaeological team in the Congo found some gouges in Fitzcarren’s ribs that seem to indicate…”

“Yes?”

“Ah, that Fitzcarren was gnawed to death by something big – bigger than anything walking around either Michigan Avenue or the Congo, except maybe Rosie O’Donnell.”

Scully’s brows rose. “Number two?” she asked slowly.

Mulder chewed at the inside of his cheek. “Well, there may be a couple of related homicides.”

“Related to this?” his partner asked, incredulously. “How?”

“Hold onto your popcorn,” Mulder breathed, fooling with switches.

**

“Richard ‘The Swordfish’ Fraternelli,” Mulder narrated as the first slide displayed a man. Or what had been one, Scully observed, grimacing. Looked more like Richard “The Flounder.” “He was one of Caprano’s collectors, about as low on the totem pole as you can get. He was supposed to meet some of the boys in Flatbush for dinner, wound up falling in the middle of the street in front of the restaurant, punched a three-foot-deep hole in the asphalt. Nothing on the block was more than four stories, and the coroner insists Fraternelli fell from a height of at least 30,000 feet. So we start looking for a helicopter, maybe one of the competing families wants to send a message to Tony, air mail. It was easy to find out – you know how tight they’re watching big-city airspace after 9-11. No chopper, no Cessna, no ultralights, not even any kids flying a kite in the area.”

Mulder clicked the projector remote. Another obviously mobbed-up man appeared onscreen, festooned with too much gold jewelry and wearing an expensive polo shirt and khakis. A tall drink was on the patio table next to the man’s chaise lounge. The man’s face looked like a Texas beef brisket about halfway through the grilling process.

“Jesus,” Scully exhaled. “He looks like he lost three rounds with a Radar Range.”

“Ramon DeColta, runner for one of the Venezuelan cocaine families, runs the Cook County franchise. His brains were cooked inside his skull. Eyeballs were like a couple of Swedish meatballs. And get this. We asked maybe did somebody do a job on him with a blowtorch, maybe one of those gas heat blowers. M.E. says no, this was radiation.”

“Nuclear?”

Mulder smiled sadly and hopelessly. “Solar, Scully. Solar.”

“What the hell—”

“Probably what he said, too,” Mulder empathized.

“Mulder, this is fascinating – I won’t deny your adolescent wonder. However, we are officially on P.T. in roughly three hours. In 24 hours, we will be in the warm bosom of Clan Scully – you no doubt playing World of Warcraft with the kids, me being interrogated about why you and I haven’t enjoyed the sacred sacrament and started churning out mini-Mulders. I won’t candy-coat it: It will be 72 hours of Gaelic-American purgatory, and if we escape with our souls intact, we will be all the stronger for it. But you will stay away from all mobsters – Irish or Italian – and certainly from Venezuelian drug kingpins. My Great-Uncle Francis should be grim and frightening enough for you. Is this registering, Mulder?”

Mulder nodded as he flourished a pink phone slip. “And then there’s this. It came in while you were with Skinner. Remember that case down in Florida? The Great Mouthless Storage Manager, your invisible slacker?”

Scully’s pale Irish skin lightened a shade. “No.”

Mulder grinned, folding his arms and nodding sharply with a blink. “Seems our favorite ex-djinn’s working a tap in Terry Fitzcarren’s former stomping grounds. She thinks she may know what happened to these people. I guess even after you lose the touch, you never lose the Eye.”

“Mulder, please. . .”

“It’s like kismet, fate, Scully. C’mon, lass; come leprechaun-hunting with me.”

O’Hare International Airport

Chicago

11: 10 p.m.

“I don’t want a pickup,” Scully said through her teeth for the fifth time. “I don’t like pickups, I can’t parallel park a pickup, I don’t want to haul some monster truck through Chicago rush hour traffic.”

The girl hadn’t yet broken contact with her computer screen. “You know, you’re really getting a great deal on the Sonora,” the clerk droned in a thick Chicago accent. “Normally, you’d haveta pay an extra $20 a day, but we got this special runnin’…”

“You’re not listening,” Scully growled, glaring at Mulder peering at the parade of bags, totes, and trucks circling the carousels. “I don’t want a Sonora.” She flopped her ID on the counter, as she had at Reagan when the airline tried to bump her. “I was supposed to get a Bureau car, but they’re all booked up, so I need a nice economy sedan, a Fusion, even a Yugo, if you have one. But I don’t want a pickup.”

The clerk’s fingers had been playing her keyboard during his entire discourse. Now she looked up for the first time with a beaming smile. “Jesus, you’re in luck. We gotta Dodge Grand Caravan.”

Scully’s right hand twitched toward her jacket, where her shoulder holster would’ve been if she hadn’t packed it.

“You want the insurance?” the clerk inquired.

Scully shook her head wearily. “I feel lucky.”

**

“Lemme get this straight,” Scully said slowly. “You gave away our room?”

“Nooo,” the impeccably dressed desk clerk responded patiently. “You failed to request a late check-in, and we have four, no, five, major conventions in this borough alone this week.”

Mulder had disappeared seconds after Scully queued up at the registration desk. “I have a confirmation number,” Scully complained. “I’m FBI, you’ve got that on your computer.”

“I sympathize,” the balding young man offered, a sympathetic look momentarily flitting across his pink face. “However, you failed to request a late check-in, and we were forced to offer your room to someone else.”

She pursed her lips momentarily before asking testily, “What else do you have? I just need a place to crash. Anything.”

“Well, we have one VIP suite open, but of course…”

“I’ll take it.”

“But it’s $350 a night.”

“Gimme the key.” Years of chasing other-dimensional entities and shape-shifting aliens and flukemen or man-flukes or whatever had rendered Scully immune to Bureau bean counters. And after said years of mind-bendingly unusual travel expenses, she doubted Skinner would lean too hard on her about Mulder raiding the hotel’s minibar and watching a few naughty nurse movies on Spectravision.

“But, ma’am, we like to keep the VIP suites open for, well, visiting VIPs…”

“How about VAPs?” Scully asked with a dangerous smile.

“What?”

“Very Armed People? Do you have a policy for them?”

“Need any help with your bags?”

“They got lost at the airport,” Scully informed him, slumping against the desk. “Just give me a 5 a.m. wake-up call.”

“Will do.” A phone warbled at the clerk’s elbow. He grabbed the handset. “Yeah? Oh…Oh. Oh, my. Yeah. Do that.” The desk clerk cradled the phone and looked nervously at the disheveled agent. “You have a Dodge Grand Caravan? It seems the attendant had a little accident in the parking garage. You know, those things are terrible for getting around in The Loop.”

“All set?” Mulder chirped as Scully’s trigger finger trembled. “I made a couple calls, and we’re all set for a meeting with the departed Mr. Fitzcarren’s Uncle Liam three hours before we have to be at Scullyfest 2011. Luck of the Irish, huh?”

“Erin go eff yourself,” Scully muttered, reaching for a luggage handle.

Chicago

9:21 a.m.

“Accommodations OK, guys?” Det. First Class Danny von Flanagan asked as they cruised past a seemingly interminable string of row houses, pizzerias, delis, groceries, industrial supply houses, and more row houses.

“Yeah, fantastic,” Mulder beamed. “They screwed up and we scored the Donny Trump suite. Little late night partying going on next door, but Scully straightened ‘em out. You know, after awhile. Right, Stallone?”

“Huh?” Scully grunted, head snapping up. “So what do we know about this McCarren?”

Von Flanagan shook his head. “Liam’s a smart one – hides under a few dozen layers of phony paper, cardboard businesses, straw men, and an Irish brogue so thick he could serve it up hot with some soda bread and green beer. He’s fourth generation Chicagoan, so when he’s alone, he probably sounds more like Elliott Ness than Father Flanagan, but he likes the image of a lovable but dangerous character.

“Nephew Terry settled for dangerous. Five assaults, two with intent, on his sheet, all kicked by his uncle and the family consigliere, a sharp old coot who’s been with the family since Eisenhower. Stupid kid, always wanted to throw gas on the fire. Not surprising he bought it young.”

“Little more surprising he bought it getting mauled by Barney’s tougher cousin,” Mulder suggested.

“Hmm,” von Flanagan murmured.

**

The Breath of Cork, a brick-fronted pub wedged between a women’s boutique and an insurance office, was Liam Fitzcarren’s base of operations. The almost impossibly deep room beyond the solid wood door was dark, comfortable, and permeated not unpleasantly with the smell of yeast, hops, and whiskey. Though it was early in the morning, a couple of guys in street department coveralls hurled darts and traded obscene observations about an unidentified female coworker.

Liam Fitzcarren was ensconced in a rear booth, a steaming cup of black coffee sending plumes to the stamped tin ceiling. On the bench across from him was an ancient man, bushy white hair neatly combed in waves, eyebrows like restless wooly worms, an expensive but vintage three-piece suit draping smoothly over his skeletal shoulders.

“My sympathies on your nephew’s death,” von Flanagan offered with nary a breath of irony, scooting in next to the old man.

Liam nodded, a small smile on his face. “Ah, that’s very kind of you, Detective. What I like about the boy – we may not often see eye to eye, but always a gentleman, he.”

The senior man smiled in kind.

“Mr. Fitzcarren, Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, from D.C. They investigate, um, unusual cases.”

Liam glanced over and extended a clean and exquisitely manicured hand. Mulder pumped it once. “And an unusual case it is, too, eh?”

“That’s an understatement,” Mulder said neutrally. He glanced at the old man. “And you are…?”

The gentleman smiled, the Mona Lisa number. “Cragan O’Mara, sir. A pleasure, I’m certain. I’m what you might call the family retainer, though I’m quite afraid I don’t retain as much as I used to.”

Von Flanagan snorted cheerfully. “Stow the blarney, Cragan. Mr. O’Mara here is either one of the most skilled attorneys in the five boroughs, or one of the luckiest.”

“I’d prefer to believe the former, but my honor forces me to confess to the latter,” O’Mara chuckled.

It was an immodest pass at modesty, but it was the elderly lawyer’s odd tone that brought Scully to attention.

“So,” Fitzcarren interjected, “I’m always happy to help my federal government in time of need, especially if we can find the son-of-a-bitch killed poor Terry.”

“You told Homicide the last you saw your nephew was right here, night he disappeared,” von Flanagan said, happy to be done with the amenities.

“That’s correct. My associates and I were celebrating a legal victory.”

“Any problems? Arguments between your nephew and anybody?”

Fitzcarren shook his head impatiently. “I’m sure you’ve already had a look at Terry’s sheet, and you know the boy has a touch of Irish temper.”

Von Flanagan’s eyebrows rose. “You’re a master of understatement today.”

Fitzcarren’s eyes narrowed, and Scully started to cough, but Cragan O’Mara cackled. “Come now, Liam. You and I both know the boy was no candidate for sainthood or even altar boy. But no, Detective, the evening proceeded without major conflict.”

“Major conflict?” Mulder inquired.

O’Mara’s blue eyes twinkled, and the agent could swear they became clearer. “What a perceptive fellow, this one. All right, Agent, you caught me in a sloppily constructed web of mendacity. The boy had a mouth on him, and little respect for his elders or betters. Liam, unclench that granite chin of yours. Friends, family, and associates alike, we’d come to ignore young Terry’s excesses. He was going a bit heavy on his drink, and one of the boys observed as how his consumption might lead him to an early demise. Terry took personal umbrage at this, but beyond a little bluster and crowing, no physical harm came to either party.”

“And who was the other party?” Scully asked blankly.

“That would be me, as a matter of fact,” O’Mara smiled. “I suppose I should know better than to try to staunch the foolish fervor of the young.”

“You think Cragan here bludgeoned Terry, booked the two of ‘em on a flight to darkest Africa, and put him to sleep with the dinosaurs?” Fitzcarren sneered. “And in case you should, I’ve got a dozen men plus William at the bar will tell you Cragan was with us ‘til the joint closed.”

“Nobody’s accusing anybody,” von Flanagan assured the mobster. “We want what you want, Liam – the guy that killed your nephew. You know of anyone in any of the other families that would have a reason to kill Terry?”

“Those fuck–, pardon my French, Johnny,” Fitzcarren said. “Those Capranos – you know the boy had a run-in with one of those hoodlums a few years back.”

Mulder suppressed a smile at the irony of Fitzcarren’s indictment. “You know Richard Fraternelli? Used to work for the Caprano organization?”

“Guy ripped a hole in the sidewalk in front of that eye-talian restaurant? Yeah, the arrogant smartass actually came in here looking for a job after Tony Caprano let him go. I told him politely to perform an unnatural act upon himself.”

“I was a bit more circumspect,” O’Mara added, unnecessarily. Almost purposefully unnecessarily, Scully thought.

Mulder persisted. “Ramon DeColta?”

Fitzcarren’s eyes flicked to his attorney, who sat smiling and motionless, and shook his head. Must’ve had business dealings, Scully concluded. But how would Fitzcarren jockey DeColta under a giant magnifying glass, like an ant ready for broiling?

“I’m afraid you’ve exhausted my supply of insight,” Fitzcarren said, rising. “Cragan and I have a meeting down at City Hall, a zoning issue, so we’ll say our goodbyes now. You want, William will set you up. My tab, William,” the mobster shouted to the bar as O’Mara slid carefully from the booth. The attorney’s expensive wingtips gleamed in contrast to his vintage suit and the surroundings.

“You mind if we ask William a few questions?” Mulder asked.

Fitzcarren grinned sadly. “Last I knew, William answers questions without authorization from myself or any other man. William, you help these fellows as a favor to Terry, hear? Anything you remember, right?”

The burly bartender nodded once. Fitzcarren nodded with finality, O’Mara with amiable courtesy, and von Flanagan with confusion. Mulder blinked his farewell.

“May you find what you’re looking for, and may it be what you seek, Agent Mulder,” O’Mara murmured. The crime boss and the lawyer took their leave, opening a blinding hole of outdoor light that sealed tight on their heels.

“What was that, Mulder?” von Flanagan demanded. “It was almost like the old man was trying to make a point. To you. And did you have to come on so strong with Fitzcarren? I have to keep my relationships solid in this town.”

“Let’s talk to the barkeep,” Mulder suggested, striding to the long expanse of dark wood. William placed a white towel and a newly polished stein on the bar. He looked to von Flanagan as if he’d been stamped out of that mold all Chicago bartenders used to pop out of before mixing frozen, syrupy cocktails had become the trend. “William…?”

“Healy,” he said. “Wha’ can I help you with?”

“The night Terry Fitzcarren disappeared, was there any trouble?”

“’Bout like Mr. Fitzcarren said,” Healy murmured. He smiled slightly. “Gotta keep your ears open and your mouth shut, kinda heavy clientele we get here. Terry always went through his belligerent drunk stage early in the evening, and if he didn’t get socked, or he didn’t sock somebody, or one a’ Mr. Fitzcarren’s boys didn’t sock somebody for him, Terry’d usually mellow into a whiny mope by ten or so. How his uncle won’t trust him with more of the business, how the chicks today are all lezzies ‘cause he can’t get laid, how the world’s just generally screwin’ him over.”

“Didn’t like him much, huh?” von Flanagan asked.

William shrugged. “You make your own luck, ‘cept Terry never wanted to waste the energy to do it. That night, he’d got all pissed off ‘cause one of the guys was ragging him how he was gonna drink and smoke himself into a early grave. He starts rantin’ and waving his arms, tellin’ everybody how he’s gonna outlive us all. The old man finally shut him up.”

“Cragan?”

“Yeah, he just smiles at Terry, that shit-eatin’ smile he’s got, and says, ‘May you live to be the oldest man in this room.’ He’s always spoutin’ some corny old Irish toast or blessing or some such crap. Well, Terry didn’t have enough brain cells left by that point to come up with anything, so he just staggered out.” William chuckled at the memory.

“Do you remember the night Richard Fraternelli came in here?” Mulder changed tracks.

William frowned for a second. “Didn’t get his name, but that must’ve been the Italian guy came in. See, we usually don’t get anybody in here from any farther south than Oak Lawn, so he stood out. Plus, he got a little, ah, loud. Seems he blamed some falling out he’d had with his boss on Mr. Fitzcarren.”

Looking for a job, Scully reflected. “Did it get physical?”

“Nah, the guy was a little shit-faced, but he knew not to fuck with Mr. Fitzcarren or the boys. He started talking kinda loud, like you do when you wanna punch somebody but you know better? Well, Mr. Fitzcarren just talked him down quiet-like, and suggested he go home to dry out. Even asked if I’d call the guy a cab, and Cragan sent him on his way with some more genuine Irish folk shit.”

“OK. Ramon DeColta.”

William didn’t seem to lose his composure, but his eyes shut down. “Nah, don’t ring a bell.”

“Doesn’t ring a bell, huh?” Mulder smiled. “I’d have thought DeColta would’ve ‘stood out.’”

“Mighta been off that night,” the bartender suggested. “Yeah, Jen, she was subbing for me.”

“Yeah. Look, William, I’m not going to start talking about bringing in health inspectors and checking to see if your license covers after-hours, ‘cause I’m sure you or Fitzcarren or whoever’s paid off the appropriate municipal officials,” von Flanagan said pleasantly but purposefully. “But if I start looking at this bar, your ownership papers, any illegal activity taking place on these premises, and Mr. Fitzcarren finds out it was you who brought all this federal heat down on him, I don’t think he’s going to bring out the good whiskey for your wake.” He paused. “We’re not looking to burn Fitzcarren,” he added, swallowing a “for now.” “We just want to know why DeColta came in here.”

William paused a beat, and then sighed. “OK, but you gotta keep this confidential. All I’m gonna say is DeColta and Mr. Fitzcarren were discussing a business deal, and Mr. Fitzcarren didn’t like DeColta’s terms. There were a few what-you-call ‘veiled threats’, and DeColta and his guys left. No guns, no problems, OK? That’s it.”

Mulder waited, but William had turned into a Stonehenge lawn ornament. “OK,” the agent said, pushing off the bar. von Flanagan sprinted after him into the sunlight, only to find him standing on the sidewalk, transfixed. Scully exited shortly thereafter.

“Mulder?” she inquired, walking up to him after a quick glance at von Flanagan. “Hey, you all right?”

“Ah, I was just thinking about the ‘killings,’ if that’s what we want to call them.”

Von Flanatan gave him a skeptical look. “Jesus, Mulder, you’ve been acting spooky ever since we left headquarters.”

“I’m fine,” Mulder smiled, half at the old nickname. “Look, the two things the victims have in common is Liam Fitzcarren and this bar. But what could that mean? I mean, Terry was part of the organization, part of the family. And how did a bunch of mobsters pull off three such bizarro murders? I’m sure they’ve got the money, but how do you hire the muscle to stick a giant, seemingly extinct carnivore on one man, drop a second one on the street out of thin air, and fry a third with solar radiation?”

He looked over at von Flanagan, who was staring incredulously at him. “Unless that’s how you Windy City guys roll,” Mulder added with a lazy grin.

Cicero, Illinois

10:17 a.m.

“He did something to him, that mick flauta de hijo,” Rosarita DeColta spat as she set a plate of sugar-dusted pastries before the agents and quickly crossed herself. “I just know it. Those criminals killed my Ramon.”

Standing in an apron in the spacious living room of her son’s luxuriously ill-gotten home, wearing a doubtlessly extravagant diamond necklace and a designer housedress, Ramon DeColta’s mother seemed unaware of the irony of her indictment of the Fitzcarrens. The universal battle cry of the doting mother – “He’s a good boy.”

“How do you think they might’ve done that?” Scully asked patiently.

“How do I know?” the fashionable, gray-haired senora snapped. “Prob’ly one of those satellite laser beams I seen on the TV. Those Fitzcarrens, they got loads of money, the Capranos, too. Everybody’s getting’ all high-tech, with the Internet and the cell phones and the fax machines. Maybe they figure it’s cheaper just to buy some surplus killer satellite than to pay out all that money on hitmen.”

“Uh, we’ll look into that,” Mulder suggested.

Rosarito’s eyes narrowed. “You think I’m muy loco , a little crazy, huh? Well, let me tell you, Mr. Bigshot Federal Cop, you grow up like I did in one of the villages a thousand miles from the nearest indoor bathroom, you’d know there are loco things going on around us every day you can’t even see if you had Superman’s x-ray glasses…”

Mulder started to correct her on the superheroic inaccuracy, but she was on a roll.

“My papa, he saw the chupacabra at our window one night, waiting to snatch my sister from her bed. One time, I saw my dead uncle digging in our garden – just like that boy in the movie.” She crossed herself once more, whether for the dead uncle, herself, or Haley Joel Osment, Mulder didn’t know.

“You, ah, found the body, right?” he ventured.

Rosarita turned gray and back to Maybelline pink. “It was as if they’d barbecued him alive. I could hear his skin crackling, like frying meat. And he just kept screaming, as if the devil himself would take him. I didn’t tell those pinchi policia, those dumb cops, but that’s how I knew it was those criminals who were always bugging my Ramon.”

The report hadn’t mentioned DeColta saying anything before he died. “What did he scream?” Mulder asked.

Despite the horrific circumstances, she had their attention now, and she crossed her fleshy arms with satisfaction. “Omerta.”

**

“Omerta,” Scully murmured as von Flanagan calmly dodged a vintage Lincoln pulling an abrupt three-lane change across the exit from 290 into the business district. Scully grabbed the dash and waited for her heart to return to a normal rhythm. “The mafia code of loyalty. DeColta betrayed somebody in one of the families, or they betrayed him.”

“Yeah, but wait,” Mulder said as the cop screeched to a halt to allow a jaywalking homeless man to pass. The man grinned toothlessly and flipped the agents off. “DeColta was a Venezuelan. Why would he have used an Italian mob term like that?”

Scully shrugged. “Maybe he was trying to say an Italian mobster had killed him. One of Caprano’s guys, perhaps.”

“I don’t buy it. He’s being fried alive, probably going out of his mind. Why would he be that roundabout about who killed him? If it was one of Caprano’s guys, why not yell, ‘Caprano’? I mean, it’s not like the hitter matters; Caprano put out the hit. If it was a hit. And the same for Fitzcarren. I mean, if it was a hit. Oh, crap, I don’t know what I mean.”

The assistant district attorney von Flanagan had recommended Mulder meet was a tall, thin, Lincolnesque man named McCoy, who’d recently left the New York DA’s office to take a post in Cook County. He was now located in one of the high rise buildings off of Chicago Avenue. They parked and entered the lobby, rode the elevator to the fifth floor, and walked into the cubicle land. McCoy was burning the late night oil at his desk, and his serious demeanor gave way to a dry smile as he considered the Fitzcarrens.

“Extraordinarily lucky,” McCoy said. “We’ve had them up on a few local charges, trying to make something stick long enough to put Liam away, but something would always break in his favor. Some juror we had pegged to convict him would choke on a piece of hot dog, a crucial piece of evidence would just vanish from police inventory, the jury would fly against all logic and just cut Liam loose. Incredible luck. The same was true of his father, Seamus, and, I heard, his grandfather, too. Cragan’s been representing the family for nearly 50 years.”

“What about this Cragan guy? The lawyer,” Mulder asked. “He must be really good, huh?”

McCoy started to nod, then frowned. “You know, not really, when I think about it. As I recall, he’s not particularly adept with case law, and his closings are based more on colorful cultural aphorisms and appeals to sentiment than on the facts of the case. Half the time lately, he’ll just stop in the middle of a motion, like he’s lost the thread of what he’s thinking. Of course, he’s somewhere between 80 and 150. It’s amazing he’s had such an impressive win record.”

“Amazing,” Scully moaned unconsciously. She was getting an uneasily familiar feeling…

**

“Agent Scully?” Patel’s low voice crackled over the speaker of Scully’s iPhone. The young man had taken second seat to Scully as the X-Files’ forensic specialist of choice. “It’s me. I had a look at your victims, and I can honestly say I am totally at a loss. I ran the bite marks on Fitzcarren’s body against every animal large enough to have inflicted the injury, and nothing even came close. Except some fossil teeth I examined at Georgetown University.

“Fraternelli’s injuries were more, ah, conventional: He actually appears to have died of cardiac failure, which is common enough in fall victims. But, given the condition of his body, I could find no evidence of him struggling or having been restrained in any way, which I might have expected if he’d been taken on an evening helicopter ride.”

“No helicopters were up anywhere near that part of town,” von Flanagan supplied, swerving smoothly around a cursing Chicago cabbie. “That’s been confirmed – 9/11, the threats to the Sears Tower.”

“As for DeColta, he had suffered injuries that might be consistent with one who’d spent his summer about two planets closer to the sun. I checked to see if the burns might’ve been caused by radioactive exposure, but he exhibited no other physiological symptoms of radiation poisoning. In short, Agent, you are up the creek without benefit of forensic insight.”

“Thanks, anyway,” Scully sighed, clicking off. She glanced at her watch. “Detective, can you drop us off at the station? I have a family, er, thing we need to get to.”

“That reminds me,” Mulder ventured. “I seem to have forgot to pack that 30-year-old whiskey for Great Uncle Francis.”

“Argh,” Scully stated.

**

“Dana!” the old man’s ancient eyes looked even more sunken in his skull because they were shaded from the sun by his enormous eyebrows.

“Uncle Francis,” Scully greeted with a suitably polite smile, trying not to wince as she got close enough to hug the man who smelled like his diaper probably needed changed.

The elderly Scully turned to Mulder and asked with a frown, “And who are you?”

“This is Mulder—you met him before, Uncle Francis,” she replied, hoping she didn’t sound too annoyed.

“What kind of a name is Mulder? And where’s the whiskey?”

“Um—“ Mulder started, but was rescued by Maggie, Tara, Matt, and Claire, who rushed outside the giant suburban home as soon as they realized Mulder and Scully were there.

“Fox! Dana!” Maggie called as if she hadn’t seen them in ages. They lived close to each other—in fact, they were considering inviting Maggie to live next door in the duplex. It was recently vacant and they wanted to make sure she had help when she needed it.

“Why is it you have to travel a few hundred miles to be excited to see someone?” Scully asked rhetorically so only Mulder could hear, but then put on a bright face for her immediate family as they approached.

There was kissing and hugging, and Mulder and Matt high-fived. Then they started back toward the house, and on their way to the porch, Francis backhanded Mulder across his arm and asked, “Who are you again?”

“Dana! And Fox!” Someone yelled, and Mulder wasn’t sure whether he should turn or duck.

A very large woman in her fifties bustled over, nearly knocking down two rowdy red-headed children fighting over a Nintendo DS. She held out her arms and waved her hands at her wrists. Scully wasn’t sure whether she was fake-crying or waving them to hug her, but the agent smiled politely and said, “It’s nice to see you again.”

Mulder glanced at her, questioningly, but she pointedly didn’t look at him. “My God, you look like you’ve lost weight,” she said, but didn’t give Scully a chance to respond as she enveloped her in a hug, and pulled Mulder in too. “So when’s the wedding date?”

Mulder laughed nervously. “There’s not a…”

“We’re not sure,” Scully answered with a half-smile.

“Well, don’t you live together in Bethesda?”

“Georgetown,” Mulder corrected, and promptly received an elbow in his side.

“Oh, you’ll have to give me your address so I can send you baked things. I love to bake,” she said with a grin. “What do you like to eat? You look like a man who can eat.”

“I—“

“He’s watching his weight,” Scully answered, falsely apologetic, and grabbed one of the kids nearby to rescue them from this situation. “Aedan, how’s school?’

“Good, I guess,” the six-year-old answered, and then said with sudden excitement, “You know what I did yesterday? I put a piece of a stick in Jessie’s backpack ‘cause it looked like a turd.” He giggled. “’Cause it looked like a *turd*,” he repeated, making sure they understood why it was hilarious.

“That’s very commendable,” Mulder said kindly, and the child beamed as Scully shot him an angry look.

The woman was now gone, and so her ploy had worked. She had gone on to talk to someone else in the exquisite but crowded house. “Who was that?” Mulder asked her.

She shrugged her shoulders and shook her head. “No idea.”

“Okay. Well, I’m gonna go check out the hors d’ oerves.”

“Mulder, don’t you dare leave me here—“ he was gone too quickly for Scully to catch him. “Dammit,” she whispered, and little Aedan giggled and said, “Ooooooh! Aunt Dana said a bad word!”

Scully rolled her eyes but managed to smile. “Go play with your cousins, Aedan,” she told him kindly and sighed in relief as he ran off. But she was instantly sorry, because when Great Aunt Kathleen saw that she wasn’t talking to anyone, she promptly approached her and offered a hug, and the most popular question of the afternoon. “When’s the wedding date, dear?”

Meanwhile Mulder was telling stories of mothmen and flukemen and man-eating amoebas to a group of previously bored college and high-school-aged Scully’s.

“That’s amazing, man,” a sixteen-year-old hipster with red hair told him.

Mulder nodded his agreement.

“But you ever seen a Prince concert while you’re high?” the young rapper wannabe asked with a smirk. “Now *that* is truly amazing.”

The other kids stared at him and Mulder chuckled. “Can’t say I have, but I have seen an intelligent octopus used as a weapon before. And I wasn’t high.”

“*Sick*” one of the college-aged boys declared.

“What are you folks talking about over here?” an older voice asked, and Mulder turned around to see a middle aged man approach. He didn’t know who he was, but he said, “Just talking about what I do for a living. I’m Mulder—Scully—Dana’s partner.” He fumbled with his title.

“Mulder? That’s a strange name. I’m Don. Jessie’s husband,” he said, and pointed to someone Mulder didn’t know with his unoccupied hand.

Mulder nodded politely and some of the kids dispersed, sensing the ‘cool’ factor drop now that a mature adult had apparently entered the picture.

“So you’re her partner? Are the two of you going to tie the knot?”

It was about an hour later when Maggie brought out cookies and Mulder snagged three that he spotted a familiar face in the crowd. Scully nearly bumped into him from behind. “Mulder! There you are. I’m going to kill you.”

“Scully—look over there.”

“I can’t see over there. People are too tall. What is it?”

“Cragan O’Mara.”

Scully’s face changed from perpetual annoyance to shock. “What’s he doing here?”

“Let’s go find out.”

He stuffed one of the cookies in his mouth and handed the other two back to Scully. He nearly ran into that woman who had originally greeted him. She turned to see who had bumped her, and was now staring Mulder straight in the face. “Watching your weight?” she asked after a moment’s pause.

Mulder’s mouth was full, so Scully simply said, “It’s the high-carb diet,” as she pushed him forward in the sea of Scully’s. But by the time they reached where Mulder had previously seen O’Mara, he was gone. “Excuse me,” Mulder asked, and swallowed the last of the cookie as he tapped the shoulder of some woman he didn’t recognize, “Excuse me. Have you seen the man who was standing right here a moment ago? Old fellow, older suit?”

She smiled and said, “Hi, Dana. Good to see you again. You must be Fox. It’s nice to meet you. And yes, I did see Cragan. He was just here—he’s a delightful man, isn’t he? I’m sure he’ll want to catch you before he goes. He was just leaving.”

“Sally, do you remember how we’re related to him?” Scully asked brightly.

Sally paused, then frowned. “As a matter of fact…I don’t. Isn’t that terrible? I guess with a family this big, though…”

Mulder frowned. “Thanks for your help, Sally. Good to meet you.”

He spotted O’Mara by the door, then, and said, “There! Scully, come on.” He nearly dragged his partner by the wrist, leading her to the front door. But again, he lost sight of O’Mara and then he was gone. “Mulder!” Don from the yard suddenly rescued himself from a conversation with Francis, and clapped Mulder on the shoulder. “Hey, have you seen Cragan around here? You know who I’m talking about?”

“Actually, we were looking for him too,” Scully said.

“We just made a bet and I owe him $10,” Don said. He shook his head. “But he disappeared before I could give it to him. I guess with this many people in the room…”

“Do you remember how your wife is related to him?” Mulder asked.

Don laughed. “I’m lucky if I remember what my wife *looks* like with this many Irish people in the room. Sorry,” he said, and shook his head.

“That’s okay. Thanks,” Scully replied, and turned to Mulder. “Think we should—“her phone interrupted her, and she immediately answered it. “Scully. Oh, no, it’s no problem. No, really. Oh? Okay. Where? Mulder and I will be there in about thirty minutes. Thanks.”

Mulder gave her an inquisitive look.

“That was von Flanagan. Apparently there’s a woman named Jen who says she has important information regarding the case. She wants us to meet her in a coffee shop on Michigan Avenue. We should get on the road if we want to beat rush hour.”

Mulder laughed. “You just want to get out of—“ he received a prompt elbow in the side as Scully’s mother approached from behind.

“Fox, Dana! Come on into the kitchen—Tara wants to know if you’re going to have time to set up some video games for Matt and the other kids.”

Scully gave her an apologetic expression. “Sorry, Mom, but we have to take off. We just got a call.”

Maggie’s face fell, but then she perked up. “You’ll be by later, right?”

“Absolutely,” Mulder said, and gave her a hug. “Try not to suffocate in here.”

She laughed and slapped him on the shoulder playfully, then gave her daughter a hug. “Be careful driving. It’s supposed to snow. But they said it’s going to be a wet snow, so it shouldn’t be too bad until it starts to freeze. Oh! Before I forget—Cragan had to leave, but he asked me to give you this.” She handed them a small folded Post-it note.

Mulder took it and read, “May the roof over your heads be as well thatched as the couple inside is well matched.”

Maggie burst into laughter. “See, even *he* knows you two better than you do.”

“Thanks, Mom,” Scully said with a smile and a jesting eye roll.

When they were on their way in the car, Scully turned to Mulder and said with a nearly crazy smile that really turned him on, “So Mulder, when’s the wedding date?”

___________

“Ah,” Jen smirked. “You brought the little woman. And by little woman—-”

“Wassup?” Mulder interjected, seizing Scully and guiding her into the chair across from the retired djinn. The Michigan Avenue coffee shop was packed as the Chicago nightlife roared outside. Jen had commandeered the window table that afforded her the best seat for the human parade of which she’d never tired. She smiled sweetly at Scully; Scully fired back with an equal serving of strychnine-laced saccharine.

“Serious bad mojo in the workplace.” Jen sipped at her Kono Caramel Macchiato and sighed blissfully. “Haven’t felt this kind of vibe off anyone since Mussolini asked me to make him immortal. For a guy who always made the trains run on time, he sure didn’t see that one coming back to bite his Fascist ass. You know his middle name was Andrea? I always thought maybe he was overcompensating—-”

“You called?” Scully murmured.

“Sure. Fine. Whatever. There’s this old dude, probably a few centuries older than me. . .”

“Cragan O’Mara,” Mulder supplied. “Already had the pleasure.”

Jen raised an eyebrow. “Wow. You have wised up. Anyway, I think he’s cleaning up Chicago’s surplus douchebag population, though I can’t figure out how Liam Fitzcarren’s brain-deficient kid fits in.”

“You think O’Mara’s a leprechaun,” Scully said.

“Oh, please, of course not. There’s no such thing. Said the genie to the first fed ever to autopsy an invisible man.” Gen turned to Mulder. “I was working the stick a few weeks ago when Old Man Fitzcarren told that South American drug dude — DeColta — in no uncertain terms he wasn’t interested in doing business with him. Then DeColta turns to the goon that came in with him and said somethin in Spanish that didn’t sound very complimentary. They grab their coats, and Cragan, who’s been grinning the whole time, says to DeColta, now, lemme see… Yeah. ‘May the sun shine warmly on your face.’ Something like that. Blarney bullshit. Or so I thought.”

“And what did Mr. O’Mara tell Richard the Swordfish when he came in to leverage Liam?” Mulder inquired, clearly exhilarated. “No, wait; lemme guess. ‘May the road rise up to meet you.’”

Jen smiled serenely, embracing her mug with black-nailed fingers. Then the smile dropped away. “William’d told me what Cragan said to Terry the night he went missing, but I didn’t put it together ‘til yesterday morning, when I read about what happened to him. My poker face seems to have disappeared with the mystical powers, and I could tell Cragan could tell I knew. Must be some kind of fraternity between preternatural entities. I thought for a second he was going to toast my continued weight loss or wish me into the cornfield or something, but he just hobbled out. I think he may just be biding his time, though, and I figured you’d be the only guy, well, open enough to the possibility.”

“The possibility one of Chicago’s oldest and worst octogenarian lawyers is a leprechaun?” Scully squeaked. “Listen to yourself.”

“Still an absolute joy, huh?” Jen sighed. Mulder shrugged.

“”All three of the vics talked to Liam Fitzcarren shortly before they died, and they weren’t exactly pleasant encounters,” Mulder explained to his partner patiently. “All three encounters were in Fitzcarren’s favorite bar. And this lawyer, Cragan O’Mara, was in the vicinity each time.

“Then we got the murder methods, if you wanna call them that. O’Mara tells the first vic, ‘May the road rise up to meet you,’ and sure enough, it does, so to speak. The second time, it’s another old Irish saying: ‘May the sun shine warmly on your face.’ Next day, the victim gets a sunburn a tanker truck full of No. 400 sunblock wouldn’t have stopped.”

“Mulder…”

“No, Scully, wait. The third guy, Fitzcarren, the one sleeping with the dinosaurs, he gets a little soused, starts mouthing off. This old shyster tells him, ‘May you live to be the oldest man in the room.’ Now, where those scientists found Fitzcarren, wouldn’t that make him the oldest man in existence? Of course, I don’t think the kid’s uncle would’ve had anything to do with his murder, so that means the lawyer’s working on his own. At least in the last murder.”

“Mulder,” Scully said, this time more quietly but firmly. “This is like saying Tinkerbell jolted Fitzcarren with her magic wand, or accusing the Big Bad Wolf of huffing and puffing and, well, you know what I mean. A leprechaun?”

“When DeColta got fried, he kept yelling something,” Mulder persisted. “His mom thought he was screaming, ‘Omerta!’ Probably’d been around mobsters too long. What if he was shouting, ‘O’Mara!’? His mom’s a superstitious old broad: What if DeColta realized Cragan O’Mara had put a curse on him at the bar?”

“I thought those old Irish toasts were supposed to be blessings. A leprechaun?”

Mulder sat up. “This O’Mara, he’s been working for three generations of the Fitzcarren family, for a half-century. He’s not a particularly great lawyer, but he always manages to get Fitzcarren off. And there’s his shoes.”

“His shoes,” Scully finally intoned.

“Bear with me for a minute. I surfed up some stuff about leprechauns on the web. The word came from the Irish ‘leith phroyan,’ which means ‘one shoemaker.’ Quote: ‘Their clothing is never extravagant. Their footwear, however, is a source of pride, and every leprechaun possesses the very finest he can make. O’Mara was wearing this suit that looks like he bought it for Harry Truman’s inauguration, but you should’ve seen his shoes. They were gorgeous, like some kinda work of art or something.”

“Mulder…”

“Look, the British Isles have always been what, kind of mystical, right. OK, now, don’t most folk legends and superstitions have some sort of basis in reality? People started eating kosher because the pork back then was full of worms and the shellfish would rip you up from the inside. Now it’s a religious practice.”

“So much for Shaw’s Crab House tomorrow night,” Scully said. “Mulder, I could understand if their were some sort of scientific rationale for this. But magic, John? Leprechauns?”

“What would a leprechaun be, Monica? I mean, if there was such a thing? Maybe some kind of genetic fluke or something? Maybe from ‘way back or something, some race or culture that’s been breeding true for centuries.”

“You’re saying you think this ‘leprechaun’ is some kind of psychokinetic genetic mutant? What you’re talking about is the ability to move a human being through time, to control the power of the sun.”

“Like he’s so damned special,” Jen muttered.

**

It wasn’t long into their conversation that the phone rang, and von Flanagan informed them that they had another lead. A building in Cicero, used as a law office, had apparently employed all of the Fitzcarren’s at one time or another, and since Terry met his end, it had mysteriously popped up on Google searches as ‘Chicago’s first mobster house, home to Fitzcarren.’ It was too good to refuse, especially considering there was one employee who had left years ago, but whose name was on the building contract: Cragan O’Mara.

Neither Mulder nor Scully took much notice of the man in front of a central pipeline exposed in the wall of the lobby, tinkering with the temperature controls through a remote connection coming from the boiler in the basement.

They instead got on the elevator at the receptionist’s direction and traveled to the top floor, where the storage lockers were kept. They planned to go through lots and lots of files.

The receptionist at the 10th floor was more than happy to show them the files, but told them how to let themselves out and explained that she was leaving for the day. There was no one else left on the floor. The 10th floor was more like a warehouse with a bathroom and a desk. Rows and rows of filing cabinets lined the massive open space.

“Odd…I always thought the 10th floor was reserved for the boss,” Scully commented as they walked to the building’s files to confirm the Google article that identified O’Mara as the original owner.

“In this building, it’s the 9th floor,” Mulder stated. “I read that on the elevator. It’s a penthouse too, so it looks like the current ‘boss’ lives there part of the time. We need to determine if Terry Fitzcarren might have worked here before he died. I’m willing to bet that something here will solve this case.”

Scully raised an eyebrow as she opened the top drawer and extracted a building plan. “Mulder, that’s an enormous leap you’ve made.”

He stopped, and stepped back before opening the building plan he held in his hand. “Scully, don’t you ever get tired of having the same argument? I mean, we tend to repeat ourselves. Why don’t we just jump to the part where I say that’s it’s not so fantastic, and you say—”

“Shhh,” she held up her hand.

He was silent for a moment, and then asked, “What?”

“Do you hear water running?”

He shrugged. “It’s probably the old pipes in this building and the radiators. Everything here is ancient.”

She frowned at that explanation, but opened her building plan. “Now *that’s* interesting. Mulder, this floor was built to be waterproof. The roof is triple reinforced with the same techniques used in nineteenth century cargo ships at the dawn of the industrial age. It’s old technology but it works. No wonder O’Mara keeps his files up here.”

“Lower humidity and watertight environment. There’s probably enough paper trails and fuzzy math in here to make a politician’s head spin,” Mulder quipped, and glanced at the rows and rows of files as he opened his building plan. “But it’s well-shielded fuzzy math.”

“This is amazing,” Scully ignored him as she put her building plan back and extracted another, and then another. “This entire floor is built to be watertight, fireproof, and earthquake resistant. It acts as a lightning rod for the rest of the building. And this was all done in 1896.”

“But nothing to confirm that O’Mara was the builder.”

“O’Mara couldn’t possibly have been alive in 1896,” Scully said in her typical skeptical tone, but Mulder looked away for a moment and began walking toward the sound of the running water.

“So now you definitely hear that too,” Scully stated.

“Yeah, it’s kind of odd…it sounds too loud to be basic building piping and…” he touched the door to the receptionist area, then looked behind him in alarm. “Scully, this door is vibrating.”

He then suddenly looked down, noticing something wrong around his feet. They were getting wet. He realized that the waterproof seal on the door had broken, and that water was now leaking in at an alarming rate. “Uh-oh,” he said, and ran from the door just as the hinges began rocking violently. He pushed Scully to the far end of the room and said, “It looks like we’re about to get wet.”

Scully’s expression was one of alarm, but it changed to utter shock when the door burst open, wood from the frame splintering in a small explosion around the site while water gushed in at the doorknob level. It quickly dissipated to fill up the room to their ankles, and it was rising.

“Let’s get to the stairwell!” Scully exclaimed, and they ran through the thick, clear water to the staircase by the elevators. It was locked down. “Why is this locked?!” She yelled, getting ready to kick it.

Mulder held her back. “That’s not going to help. Come on, we need to find out the root cause and stop this from getting any worse.”

When they began looking, it didn’t take them long. The bathroom was clearly the source, based on the sound and the flow of the water. The toilet and sink pipes were in the process of severely overflowing, gushing water out at gallons per minute. The pressure was threatening to buckle the system and cause an explosion.

“This is too dangerous to work on—we need to find a way out of here,” Scully told him. The water was now rising to their knee level.

“There should be another staircase…” Mulder said, and grabbed Scully’s hand as he waded through the water. The cold liquid that surrounded them splashed up and they were quickly getting soaked. Scully’s teeth begin to chatter.

They ran around the massive floor but found nothing that resembled a way out. The tenth floor had no windows—it was part of the plan to make the place hurricane proof. They looked around desperately, and then Mulder said, “Go try and save some of O’Mara’s personal files.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to try to break out of here the only other way,” he said, and began wading through the water toward the fire ax on the wall. Scully watched him for a moment before rushing away herself, trying to find O’Mara’s personal file cabinet in the rows of endless flooding files.

Meanwhile Mulder grabbed a chair and stood on it, wobbling as it was almost completely under water now, and wielded the axe at the angled roof overhead. It was backbreaking work, swinging an axe upwards and not chopping off one’s foot or leg in the process.

**

While Mulder and Scully’s drama played out inside the building, Henry Weems, a local Chicago handyman, had been called to assist the man working on the main boiler pipes.

He had worked with Mulder and Scully before, on a case involving quite a lot of luck and the fortunate outcome of a mobster dead and a little boy the recipient of his liver. Having now knowledge of their location in the building or their dire situation, though, Henry decided that now was a good time to have a snack as he stood in front of the broken zone valve and assessed the problem.

He pulled out a box of St. Patrick’s Day cookies, sugar cookies in the shape of four-leaf-clovers with green sprinkles on top, and ate one as the original plumber looked on, annoyed. “I think you’ve got a zone valve isolation problem,” Henry assessed as he squatted down and proceeded to finish his cookie. “Yes, actually, that’s precisely what’s going on. This zone valve is reading that it’s disconnected from the rest of the system.” He stood. As he did so, sprinkles fell into the crack between the boiler pipe lead and the boiler below. The sprinkles almost immediately attracted a mouse that the building janitor had been trying to catch for weeks.

The mouse sniffed and then ate the sprinkles, which occupied him for just long enough for him to be in the correct location so that when Henry threw the switch and isolated that zone valve, the pipe he rested on began to retain the heat that would have been dissipated through the rest of the system. The sprinkles were gobbled up as the mouse heated up. He leapt off of the hot pipe and scampered away, but on his way down he fell painfully onto the boiler operating switch, tripping it and causing the boiler to gurgle and then chug to a stop.

Of course, with ingress still occurring, the water was not being pumped out and the pipes began to swell under the pressure. It ruptured, exploding the weak point of the pipe outward and puncturing the pipe next to it. Water began to gush out and into the basement, effectively draining the system.

All of this was unbeknownst to Henry, who finished the last of his St. Patrick’s Day cookies and mock saluted to the plumber, who stared dumbfounded at the system. All lights indicated that floors 1-9 were the correct temperature now, which meant his job was done. He closed up the panel and walked toward the locker area to prepare to go home.

**

“Mulder!” Scully yelled, unable to keep her head above the water anymore. She felt her partner’s arm around her as he dropped the axe into the water in favor of grabbing her. He pulled her close to him and helped her grab onto an I-beam secured in the ceiling.

“I think their roof is as well thatched…as we are appropriately matched,” Mulder quipped, and he blew bubbles as his face went underwater for a moment. Scully’s face hugged the ceiling, her arms quivering from the cold and the task of holding herself up.

She chuckled, and looked over to him. This was a desperate situation—one of the most desperate they had been in. They could not get out, and the water was still rising.

“I’m sorry, Dana,” he said over the sound of the rushing water, and didn’t look at her.

“Oh, please,” Scully shot back at him, and smiled. “You have nothing to be sorry about, partner,” her words were labored, and she knew she wouldn’t be able to hold herself up much longer. But that wasn’t the only reason why Mulder didn’t smile back. There was something about the way she said it…some twinge of regret laced in his voice that he wasn’t about to bring up in what looked like their last moments on planet Earth.

Suddenly, the water stopped rising. Then it began going down. Slowly but surely, the water was draining. Vents in the floor opened up and allowed the water to fall back into the piping system that carried it to the boiler. The basement was flooding, but Mulder and Scully didn’t know that.

“Don’t let go of that rod,” Mulder said.

Scully chuckled. “That’s what she said?” she asked, her arms and voice shaking violently at this point.

He laughed back this time, his voice shaking also from the labor of holding themselves up. There was no guarantee that they wouldn’t be swept into something sharp or deadly, so they had to hang on until they could see where they would land. The water went down far enough that a filing cabinet was visible beneath them, on its side. It was just the right height to assist their drop to the ground. Scully easily dropped on top of it, denting it slightly, and then gingerly stepped off.

Mulder, however, dropped and missed it completely, somehow, landing awkwardly on the soaked carpeting. Scully rushed over, but he held up his hand. “I’m okay. I’m just glad I didn’t fall through the floor.”

Scully sighed. “Now we just have to find a way out of here.”

As suddenly as the water began draining, von Flanagan burst through the stairwell door. “There you two are!” he exclaimed. Three uniformed officers were behind him, weapons drawn just in case. “Been tryin’ to call you for the past hour now.” He stopped, and looked around at the devastated storage floor. “What the hell happened here?”

**

“Ah, so good to see you lovely children again,” Cragan O’Mara exulted as the agents and his favorite barmaid/djinn walked into the den.

“I’m going to kick his lucky charms,” Mulder announced.

Scully waved him back as she closed the pocket doors between them and the assembled Scully clan. “Mr. O’Mara, I think we could make a solid case for attempted murder here — we’ll find the man who tampered with the pipes in your building, and I can’t imagine he or Liam Fitzcarren will be willing to take the heat for you. By now, I have to wonder if Fitzcarren doesn’t have some suspicion you had something to do with his nephew’s death. His man William doesn’t seem altogether trustworthy.”

“Well, dear Liam’ll have to send one of his boys to have done with me,” Cragan grinned. “You see, I am no longer in the Fitzcarrens’ employ.”

“What’s that mean?” Mulder muttered. “Don’t tell me he let you just walk out.”

“Liam knows I still have considerable influence,” Cragan murmured, spurring a chill up Mulder’s spine. “In fact, I wished him all the best. ‘May you be full to burstin’ with good fortune and health,’ I told him.”

“Jesus,” Mulder whispered.

Scully pressed on. “I have to know something, Mr. O’Mara. If what my partner believes about you is true, you could have found a far more creative and untraceable way to kill us.”

“Kill you?” Cragan sounded genuinely wounded. “Dear Dana. I knew fate would intervene well before you and your beloved would perish. I can read luck like a gypsy reads the tea leaves. Kill you? Heaven forefend.”

Scully started to protest, then stopped to consider. “Wait a minute. You wanted us to catch you?”

“And you’ve done so, admirably, my dear. I am now totally and utterly in your debt.”

“Took you long enough to work that one out,” Jen snorted. Cragan favored her with a bemused glint.

“I suspected you were a special girl,” the leprechaun nodded. “Only one with a special imagination would have suspected a feeble old gentleman such as myself could singlehandedly three tough customers like Terry and Mr. Fraternelli and Senor DeColta. But you’re no longer special, are you, Lass?”

“Quit loving the job,” Jen shrugged. “That’s what happened with you, isn’t it?”

Cragan templed his fingers and leaned comfortably back into his buttery leather chair. “More than a century I been doing for the Fitzcarrens and their sorry lot. A deal with the devil to save my kin.

“You’ve no doubt heard of the great troubles, when the blight took the potato crop? Well, one day I come home from a morning of wood-gathering to find this odd sort helpin’ himself to my secret store of Irish whisky. I’m ready to finish him right there, and he asks me, ‘How would you like to find your larder forever filled with potatoes?’”

Mulder turned to Jen. “Jeez — a bagful of turnips, a larder full of spuds? You guys really know how to haggle.”

“Had to be there,” the djinn sighed.

“At any rate, folks was dying all around us — I’d just buried my kid brother Joseph — and in my half-starved desperation, I couldna turn down the odd man’s offer. I think you’ve already guessed the rest. I believe the poor fella was wantin’ out of his contract and saw a willing mark.

Cragan’s eyes grew distant. “Like any foolish young hooligan, I tried to turn my newfound abilities to coin. And I was doing quite well for myself down to the village pub and the taverns roundabout. Until I ran afoul of a fearsome sort named Seamus Fitzcarren. He’d accumulated quite a name for himself with suspect enterprises, and he was headed to the States to expand his holdings, so to speak. Fitzcarren was a cruel man but quite an imaginative one, much like our fine Mr. Mulder here. He knew there was but one way I could transform the meager assortment in my hand into a winning pot, and there he had me. I was compelled into his service — it’s like a natural force, a law of physics for me and my kind.

“New York turned out to be a far more ‘provincial’ environment in which to ply the criminal trades, and Seamus decided my skills might be best employed in the courts. I was sent to Harvard on the Fitzcarrens’ dime, under the threat of what would happen to my people should I decide to strike out on my own. When old Seamus died of some bad rotgut in ’32, the eldest boy Sean inherited my services, followed by his ill-begotten spawn Liam in 1974.”

“That’s an impressive resume,” Mulder smirked. “What finally happened, they take away your health plan?”

Cragan glanced sympathetically at Scully. “He’s quite the flippant one, isn’t he? I think perhaps we can have a more constructive conversation if your mister were to enjoy a plate and a game of Frisbee outside.”

“Hey,” Mulder growled.

“Mulder, a few moments,” Scully requested calmly, regarding Cragan O’Mara curiously.

“Hah?”

“Humor me, OK?”

Mulder muttered a distinctly non-Gaelic oath and shoved the French doors open. The dusty door track blunted the drama of his attempted slam.

“Ah, and could you join Mr. Mulder, as well, dear Jen?” Cragan smiled.

The former djinn planted her stylish boots. “I used to practice the trade, Old Man. She needs some experienced representation to make sure her head doesn’t pop off or she grows a third boob.”

“How fanciful,” O’Mara sighed. “I didn’t lure myself into Dana’s trap just to pull some mischievous leprechaun antics. Go, child. And you needn’t worry about Liam and his lot any more.”

“It’s OK,” Scully assured Jen. “I trust him.”

“Your wake,” Jen breathed, following Mulder into the familial din.

“Now,” Scully said when they were alone. “I have a feeling I know what you’re about to tell me. I have to warn you, though — a pot of gold would be tough to explain to the IRS.”

Cragan cackled. “You’re havin’ me on, Dana. I’m sure you know it doesn’t work that way. I just want you to ponder, for a moment, what fortunes might lie before you.

“Y’see, I’ve trucked with swine for the better part of my misbegotten existence. Watched men like Seamus Fitzcarren and his brood swill the best liquor, bed the finest women, line their pockets with gold mined from the blood of others. I’ve aided, abetted, and stood by mutely, as they’ve widowed wives and orphaned daughters and pumped poison into the veins of unhappy children.

“Heaven knows, I’m no longer a spiritual man — I quit the Holy Communion decades ago. But from time to time, I’m left to wonder how in God’s begotten world men the likes of Liam Fitzcarren and Ramon DeColta are allowed to sip from the gilded cup of Life whilst good, pure souls such as yourself are forced to endure a litany of tragedy and loss even the great Mr. Joyce could never have created.”

Scully was silent, still.

“It’s seemed a hard road, hasn’t it, Dear?” Cragan now murmured, eyes filled with empathy and love. “Every turn a path down blind alleys and graveyards, every answer riddled with thornier questions. Mr. Frost’s road less taken has led you into darkness and despair.”

She could hear herself breathing, feeling the dull thud of her soul-weary heart. “Please,” she rasped.

“But there’s good news, Dana, my precious. I have one last bit of fortune stored up, and I’d as soon see it spent for one such as yourself. A pitiful attempt at penitence, as it were. Take a second, child, and look out there.”

Scully followed Cragan’s withered finger toward the open bay window, where her collected kin laughed and feasted and tumbled and embraced on the expansive lawn. Mulder sulked under a hard maple, staring toward her; Jen was sampling a foam plate of berries.

“What are you saying?” Scully croaked.

“Look,” Cragan repeated, and she turned back to the window. And gasped.

A burly crew-cut man in a Navy sweatshirt had a smaller, meeker version of himself in a headlock. The smaller man broke free and punched the hulk in the shoulder. The pair laughed, and a pretty thirty-something woman peeled off from a nearby cluster to see what the joke was. Tara soon joined Bill, Charlie, and Melissa Scully, distributing freshly grilled Chicago dogs.

A petite redheaded child dashed past the group as Scully reeled back against a wing chair. Wetness stung at Scully’s eyes as her lips twitched in elated disbelief. She glanced at Cragan O’Mara, who nodded benignly, and turned back to the window.

Scully’s eyes widened as a somehow-almost-familiar man — handsome, rough-edged, graying at the temples — scooped her from her sneakered feet, sending her into gales of giggles. Tom Colton whirled the girl about, stopping abruptly as his eyes locked with Scully’s.

And then, in a gesture that nearly stilled Scully’s heart altogether, her old Academy buddy brought two fingers to his lips. He puckered and, as she blinked at the glint of the gold band on his second finger, released a kiss aimed directly at the woman on the other side of the glass. Scully grabbed for the drapes, but her trembling fingers could not will the image away.

“No,” she cried harshly. Tugging at the thick fabric for support, Scully searched the yard for Mulder, for some handhold in reality. He’d vanished — no, he’d just. . .ceased.

“The fork in the road,” Cragan’s voice cooed behind her. “You found it again, girl. You found your way.”

“Where’s Mulder?”

“He’s down the road, attending to his own business. He has no place on this path. But you know that, don’t you, girl?”

Scully swallowed air and, gathering herself, tore the curtains shut. She turned to the ancient man in the antique suit and fine shoes. “No,” she said, her voice regaining timbre.

Cragan nodded once, the wrinkles at his eyes deepening in, what, pleasure. “So be it. Your choice, dear. Sorry I couldn’t be of service to you.”

Scully swiped at her eyes, laughed weakly. “I think perhaps you have been. And I suspect you know that.”

“Silly girl. So, what, are we to clamp on the irons now?”

Scully frowned as she peered down at the homicidal elf. “I have to ask. Why? I mean, why now? What made you turn against your mast– against Fitzcarren?”

Cragan grinned bleakly. “The Fitzcarrens had a powerful hold over me these many years — the life of those I held most dear. But the blessing and curse of immortality is that time cures all. Last month, I received a letter notifying me that Ned O’Mara had been struck dead by a taxicab in the streets of Ulster. And thus ended the O’Mara bloodline. And any lasting obligation to Liam Fitzcarren. Well, shall we go now?”

Scully shook her head. “I don’t even know how we’d make a case against you. I’m not even sure we could hold on to you.”

“It’s a dilemma.”

Scully nodded sternly. “I hate to belabor a cliché, but don’t leave town.” She turned and started for the door, then paused. Scully considered and turned back to Cragan O’Mara with a sad, final smile and a parting sentiment.

The old man stared at the agent for a second, then broke into a broad, peaceful grin. His gray-green eyes glistened.

“God bless you, dear girl,” Cragan whispered. “God bless you.”

**

“I said, no souvenirs,” Scully chided as Mulder unsuccessfully attempted an end move behind her.

Her partner grinned guiltily and brought the object of his guilt from behind his back.

“Tell me that isn’t the whiskey Don and Jessie gave Uncle Francis,” Scully sighed. She shrugged and smiled with a bit of her “cousin” Cragan’s mischief. “Put the hotel towel back, though – wrap it in the Trib.”

Mulder nodded happily and located the Sports section. “So you ever going to tell me what happened with you and the old bastard? The tickets still say we’re flying coach, so apparently, the pot of gold was off the table.”

Before Scully could respond, Mulder’s Droid sounded, tuned for the occasion to the Dexy’s Midnight Runners rendition of “C’Mon, Irene.” He punched up the speaker.

“Know you two are headed to O’Hare,” von Flanagan grunted without prelude, “but we got an interesting little development thought you’d want to know about. Liam Fitzcarren blew up.”

Mulder dropped the mummified booze on the bedspread. “Car bomb.”

“You weren’t listening. Liam Fitzcarren blew up. Beat cop found his Towne Car parked in front of Cragan O’Mara’s place about three hours ago. Two of Fitzcarren’s crew inside with what was left of their boss. One had Fitzcarren’s index finger driven into his forehead. The other, well, I can’t even do it justice. Fitzcarren hisself is a permanent part of the upholstery, the dashboard, the roof liner. M.E. hopes to ID him with the teeth he left embedded in the windshield.”

“Imaginative interpretation,” Mulder murmured respectfully.

“Figure William the Barkeep ratted out O’Mara, and Liam and the boys decided to do a little elder abuse. Punchline was on them. When we went up to grill old Cragan, we found him in his bed, laid out like Finnegan at his wake, a shit-eatin’ grin on his wrinkled old puss. He beat ‘em to the punch, M.E. says by at least an hour or two.”

Mulder glanced warily at Scully, who was somewhere else.

“Anyway, not your worry, but I thought you’d like to know what you’d be missing.” von Flanagan breathed. “Say hey to Barack for me.”

“Yeah,” Mulder mumbled as he ended the call. After a beat, or ten, he turned to Scully. “I thought this was supposed to be your wish.”

“Your friend taught me long ago the importance of being careful about what I wished for,” she smiled, faintly. “I have what I want, even if I don’t always know what that is. I simply gave an old man what he couldn’t do for himself. He is family, after all. I think. Maybe.”

“Scully, what did you tell him, my ear to God’s?”

Scully took a deep breath and folded a sweater for the trip home. “‘May you be in Heaven,’” she recited, “‘an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.’ My new Donna Karan suit arrives in D.C. soaked in whiskey and you may meet a similar fate.”

*end

Finnigan’s Snake

Finnigan’s Snake

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J. EDGAR HOOVER BUILDING

WASHINGTON, DC

OFFICE OF THE X-FILES

NOVEMBER 17

Special Agent Dana Scully was by now used to the frequent slide shows complete with Mulder’s narration. She often thought some of her partner’s droll monotone would put her to sleep if it went on past ten minutes, but then she always recalled some of the most boring lectures from medical school. Today, she felt as though she was watching an episode of Biography.*

“Doyle Finnegan is a bartender extraordinaire. His repertoire of recipes exceeds that required of any American bartender’s school or regulatory agency. He had learned the fine art at a community college bartending course and managed to be

as creative as any expert in the art, and just as chefs are required to create a signature dish before leaving, going off to the best of restaurants, he managed to think of a cocktail no one had seen the likes of. He was educated in Dublin,

Ireland, and emigrated to America at the age of 25. The dark brown haired man, with eerily blue eyes, was quite the enterprising young man.

“By the time he was 35, in 1995, he had managed to invest much of his hard earned money into a bar of his own in Framingham, Massechussettes: Doyle’s.

“While most people have an interest in dogs, cats or fish as pets, Doyle prefers the company of a snake. A king cobra. Together, they run Doyle’s. The cobra is quite a show piece.

“And there ya have it.” Fox Mulder ended his slide show and biography of Doyle Finnegan.

“Yeah, those eyes really are ‘eerie’, Mulder. So these people died how? You didn’t say how they died, Mulder.”

“Neither did the Framingham PD. The autopsies were inconclusive. All three died at home after a night out at Doyle’s.”

“What about the cobra, Mulder? If the autopsy results are a dead end, how does it fit into the case?” Strangulation had occurred to Scully, but there would have been marks on the bodies. “The toxicology report shows nothing remarkable, other than a slightly higher than acceptable level of blood alcohol.”

“That’s why we were called in, Scully. Remember, all the tips I get in this depart-ment put food on your table.”

“Did I even say a word this time about off-beat sources, contacts from crazy informants or a call from someone who worked with you years ago?”

“Now this is why I don’t have to tell you anything like this anymore, Scully. You know me very well now. We have a flight in two hours. Got your overnight bag re-stocked?”

“When don’t I these days?” They had been out in the field a lot lately, and things showed no sign of slowing down.

“Just for the sake of curiosity, how did you hear about this one?”

“One of my off-beat sources.” He knew that would cue the eye roll. Yes, right on time.

“I should have known. Well, let’s get a move on.”

***

FRAMINGHAM, MASS.

2:13 PM

Doyle’s was a friendly, warm, neighborhood tavern. For all intents and purposes, people could bring their families there for a meal and feel at home. As this was a weekday, most people were at work and school.

Frank Batista ordered another Scotch at the bar. “Hey, Doyle!” he slurred. “Another one!”

“Easy does it,” Doyle said with patience and care. “You can’t be spending all your unemployment on drinkin’. I know you put a couple under yer belt before you came here. None of you ever learn.”

“Well, I don’t care. I ain’t got no dependents, so it’s my life, the customer’s always r-r-r-right, and get me my damn drink!”

“My God,” Finnegan muttered as he reached for the bottle,

“Crazy bastard ought to be put out of his misery.” As he poured the whiskey, he reached into his pocket and retrieved a vial of a clear liquid substance, and added a few drops into the glass. *Finnegan’s signature drink*, he whispered to himself. “All right, there ya go. But after this, you’re cut off. And just for you, I’ve made me signature drink.”

“Yeah, right,” Batista sneered. “Cut off when the money runs out. Say, why don’t ya bring out that flute and have that snake do a dance for me?”

“Sure.” Doyle bent down and pulled up a basket that housed his cobra. “Entertainment’s on the house.”

To the strangely sad music in a minor key, the cobra rose from the basket as Batista sipped his Scotch. The size of the reptile was massive, and it slowly swayed to the song. After a moment, Batista only saw it as a blur, and within two minutes he had lost consciousness.

Doyle placed his flute on the bar, and the cobra slithered back down into the basket. “Well, Amber, another customer lost. Mind you, the ambiance should return. Can’t afford someone like him ruining business with his behavior now, can we?”

A young man saw Batista with his head on the bar and went to assess the situation. “Hey, what’s happened to him? He only had two drinks.”

“Two that I know of, Ralph. Just go back to your seat. I’ll let him dry out in me back room. Go on.”

Frank Batista was not going to go home that day. Doyle summoned his assistant to handle business while he disposed of Batista.

FRAMINGHAM POLICE DEPARTMENT

FRAMINGHAM, MASS.

4:21 PM

Mulder and Scully had gone straight to the police station to question detectives on the three reported murders.

“All were patrons of Doyle’s,” Mulder repeated. “Detective Burns, we have no definitive cause of death, and these men were found in three separate areas of town. Now, you tell us there are no fingerprints, the forensics experts gave no clue as to whether a weapon was used, yet Doyle Finnegan’s name keeps coming up. He has no criminal record. He’s now an American citizen, but that’s not a crime, so I don’t see how the man fits into any investigation. Well, other than the fact that he is, as you put it, ‘Just about the best bartender in the West’, I really don’t see much of a case yet.”

“That’s just it,” Burns, a balding man in his forties replied.

“We do know that they were all last seen at Doyle’s. There’s something missing here, and I can’t put my finger on it. We do have several accounts of Doyle Finnegan getting out of sorts with the victims, but they were under the influence and getting a bit demanding.”

Scully placed a file on Burns’ desk. “There were no toxins other than alcohol in their blood work, no marks on the bodies and no evidence of any trauma by weapon or otherwise.

We can’t just arrest someone without probable cause or concrete evidence.”

“I know, and that’s what is so damn frustrating about this case.” His thoughts were interrupted with the ringing of his phone. “Excuse me. Burns. Where? All right. I’m on my way. Another frequent patron of Doyle’s was found in a dumpster outside a dry cleaner’s by two high school kids.”

“A dumpster? That’s quite a departure from the first three locations. Had he been at Doyle’s?” Mulder asked.

“Yeah. Scotch on his breath, and a young accountant reported having seen the man at the bar. Swears the victim had consumed only two Scotch’s, and Doyle took him into his back room to sleep it off.”

“I think we should have a look,” Scully announced.

“Then let’s go,” said Burns.

***

ALLEY BEHIND RUTHERFORD CLEANERS

4:37 PM

Cruisers were still on the scene and officers were speaking to the two teen-aged boys who had found the body of Frank Batista. The area had been cordoned off with crime scene tape and the medical examiner was placing the victim in a body bag.

“What’ve we got?” Burns asked.

“Frank Batista, 31, unemployed. No wife or kids, parents live in Springfield, and Zack and Russ here found the body.”

Mulder flashed his badge, as did Scully. “Special Agents Mulder and Scully, FBI. We’d like to ask you a few questions.”

Scully ventured over to get the information from the police.

“Sure,” the tall sixteen-year-old known as Zack offered, all the while looking Mulder straight in the eye and making a grab for his wallet, while Russ linged at Mulder, pushing him into the side of a dumpster.

Mulder wheeled around and grabbed Zack by the collar as a police officer restrained Russ.

“Look, we can either do this the easy way or with charges added”, Mulder warned the one teen. “Now, how did you find the body?”

“Dumpster-hopping,” the shorter boy of the same age answered.

“Zack and me look for broken radios, stereos, things like that and fix them. Then we sell them. Need a motherboard fixed? I can do that.”

Mulder smiled. “I’ll remember that.” Mulder waived the police officer away. “No charges. Yet. You were saying?”

“He was lying pretty far down,” said Russ. “Today they emptied the dumpsters here, so there was hardly anything there but rotten food and a few old rags.”

“I see,” Mulder finished his notes. “So, I know you’re under age, but I think you might know the answer to this one: Where is Doyle’s?”

“Three blocks that way,” Russ answered, pointing west. “Can’t miss it. He has a sign with a cobra over the front.”

“I see. Thanks.” He walked away from the boys and met Scully midway between their car and the cruisers, rubbing his rather sore left ribcage.

“You okay, Mulder?”

“Just a bit winded. Good thing I have you around to keep me in shape. What have you got?”

“Well, the medical examiner is stumped. He’s going to look at the body in more detail tonight. What did you find out?”

“Well, Doyle’s is three blocks west of here, and I think we should find out where the other three bodies were found in relation to the bar. Did you know that these kids are techno wizards?”

“No, Mulder. But do you know how many people die form alcohol poisoning in this country every year?”

“No.”

“Then how could I know they were techno wizards?”

“Point taken. Why don’t we get the locations the bodies were dumped, find out if there’s a pattern, and if there’s another relationship to Doyle’s nobody’s thought of.”

***

FRAMINGHAM POLICE STATION

5:15 PM

Burns, Mulder and Scully studied a Framingham street map taped to the wall of an office. “Now,” Burns said as he pointed a pen to several push pins in the map, “These places are all about a five minute’s walk to or from Doyle’s. The dumpster is quite a bit closer to the bar this time. There’s another difference, even though the man had last been seen at Doyle’s in daylight, the first three murders took place at night, and

the victims succumbed at their own homes.”

“The autopsy reports showed no indication he doctored the drinks, there was no weapon used, no strangulation or suffocation… but it does seem like Doyle was in a hurry to get this guy out of the way. He was likely dragged to a car and thrown into the trash,” Scully surmised.

“Still,” Mulder said, “This count’s on Doyle’s scorecard, so it’s about him in some way. I wonder what Batista and the others did to tick him off?”

“We asked already. Witnesses to the first case reported Doyle was rather agitated that Todd Stranges, 40, had been drinking before he went into Doyle’s. The remark was something to the effect of, “You’re all alike,” or something like it. And he was

said to have been rather disturbed with the second and third victims for their, uh, state when they arrived.”

“But it’s not legal for him to serve people who seem impaired,” Scully reminded the detective.

“Well, a lot still do serve drunk people until they get caught.

They usually refuse them service instead of killing them,” Burns replied. “Doyle’s past is a mystery to us.”

“Maybe not to the Bureau, Interpol or Dublin Police,” Mulder suggested.

“Computer’s right there on the desk. Knock yourselves out. I’m off duty until noon tomorrow, but my home number is at the desk.

‘Night all. Not that I’m in any hurry for the Wednesday night meatloaf.” Detective Burns closed the door to the little room.

Mulder sat at the desk and began to type, then turned to Scully.

“I guess we should get something to eat. C’mon. I can do the same search on my laptop over take-out.”

“Yes, considering we didn’t have lunch, that’s a wise idea.”

“Say, maybe after that we can go out for a drink some place nice and friendly… ”

“With a dancing cobra as entertainment,” Scully finished.

“Yeah. Great idea, Scully!”

Scully avoided his face, choosing to look at the map. “I’m sorry I didn’t think of it myself,” she said lowly. “But let me remind you about that little rule regarding the ingestion of alcoholic beverages while on duty.”

“Not if we go as working stiffs Fox and Dana instead of Special Agents Mulder and Scully, and beer often goes with certain foods quite nicely, Dana. You know: pretzels.”

She smiled and smacked his arm. “It’s Scully to you.”

***

E-Z-REST MOTEL

6:37 PM

Scully sat on the bed going over the autopsy reports regarding the three previous victims, while Mulder sat at the desk looking for any criminal reports about Doyle Finnegan.

“Hey Scully. This guy’s life seems to have begun the moment he left Ireland. His resume outlines his education, but there’s no record of him ever having attended the bartending classes at Trinity College. Guinness and Bushmills Distillery do not have him on record as having been employed, yet his resume says he was at Guinness for two years as a quality control worker, and Bushmills for three. There are no birth records regarding a Doyle Finnegan his age and appearance, and no medical records.

Records here say he was employed at a couple of Boston area establishments in the ten years before he opened Doyle’s. By the way, he currently resides at 462 Nash Street. Other than that, he has no doctor, dentist or podiatrist for that matter.”

“So you’re saying he doesn’t exist before age 25, but that he’s in perfect health and hates dentists? Mulder, everyone is born and lives somewhere. What about aliases?”

“I already ran his picture down at the PD when you were on the phone as we were leaving. His face is memorable, but he doesn’t show up in any database. Not even a school picture.”

“Next of kin?”

Mulder turned to look her straight in the face with a blank expression.

“I didn’t think so.” Scully stuck her fork into a container of fried rice.

“What about the autopsies?”

“I’ve gone over them at least three times and there is absolutely nothing to indicate a cause of death that we can link to Doyle Finnegan or his cobra. It’s possible the second victim died of a stroke, but… ”

“But?”

“But they cremated him two days after his death. Their religious beliefs dictated he couldn’t be buried on the Sunday. The first and third victims were in their early thirties and in excellent health. Cause of death: Unknown.”

“I think it’s time we met the man. Casual attire, Mulder. And one beer. One.”

Mulder closed his laptop. “No problem. Who wants to see double when you’re looking at a cobra?”

DOYLE’S TAVERN

7:14 PM

Mulder and Scully entered Doyle’s Tavern just in time to see Amber the cobra swinging and swaying to the mournful tune Finnegan played.

“That’s something you don’t see everyday,” Mulder remarked. He had chosen a blue tee shirt and jeans for the occasion.

Scully, in jeans and an over-sized white shirt looked at the reptile in both amazement and fear. “Those things are poisonous. I wonder how he manages to control it.”

Mulder looked on in fascination as people applauded and cheered.

The tune came to an end and the cobra found her way back into her basket.

A middle-aged woman sat at the bar with her husband and seemed quite impressed. “Ah, Doyle. For my birthday! That’s sweet.”

“Well, thank you, Edna darlin’. Bill here requested it just for you. He wanted somethin’ special for your birthday.”

Edna kissed her husband and finished her lager. “Bill thinks of everything.”

Bill stood and grabbed Edna’s coat. “Well, c’mon, dear. That movie’s about to begin. Thanks, Doyle.”

“Any time!”

As the couple left, Scully watched Doyle very carefully. “For someone who doesn’t exist, he’s quite the charmer.”

“Who ever heard of an Irish swami? Waiter, two beers!”

Of course, Doyle Finnegan noticed the pair weren’t regulars. He decided to join Mulder and Scully. It was his habit to assess the clientele, and Scully’s fascination with the snake, as well as Doyle’s ‘eerie’ eyes, hadn’t gone unnoticed by the man.

Mulder gave the ‘careful’ look to Scully and she nodded.

“Well, new here?” Doyle pulled up a chair. “I always like to personally welcome new patrons.”

“Yes,” Mulder replied. “My name’s Fox and this is Dana.” He shook Doyle’s hand.

“Odd name for a man, Fox. Dana, well that’s an intriguing name. You’re married, I take it.”

“No,” Scully answered. “We’re co-workers, it’s been a long day, and we decided to stop in for a beer. So, that was quite a remarkable performance.”

“Oh, you mean the flute and Amber,” Doyle said, smiling. “It’s very popular here. Mind you, it’ll never make it to Vegas.” He laughed, Mulder offered a slight chuckle, and Scully checked the man’s hand for a wedding ring.

“So, it looks like you’ve been quite successful,” Mulder remarked.

“Yes, business is good. Framingham’s been good to me. I should get back to work. It was nice meeting you, Fox and Dana. Drop in any time. Come see how amazing Amber can be.”

When the man had left them, Mulder popped a pretzel into his mouth.

“Not married,” Scully informed him.

“And he was sizing us up as much as we were checking him out.”

By about 10:30, there had been a few more performances by Doyle and his snake, but nothing really out of the ordinary other than the cobra’s dance had happened. So, Mulder and Scully decided to leave and retire for the night, Doyle Finnegan

eying them suspiciously until the door closed behind them.

“He doesn’t seem like the type to lose his temper and murder,” Scully said as they walked to the rental car.

“A lot of them don’t seem that way,” Mulder replied. “You know, with all the information we didn’t find on him, I’d think this was an X-File.”

Scully stopped at the car. “Is that just a feeling on your part, or do you have a file on anyone like him?”

Mulder unlocked the car. “No files. Just call it a hunch. And remember, cases like this are why we get assigned to such interesting guys. Don’t tell me you weren’t a bit taken by the man.”

“Well, no, Mulder. It’s just I haven’t seen that shade of blue in anybody’s eyes before. He does seem kind of overflowing with charm.” Scully fastened her seat belt as Mulder started the car.

“That’s just the type to be suspicious of, Scully. It’s late. May as well turn in and get an early start tomorrow.”

DOYLE FINNEGAN’S APARTMENT

462 NASH STREET

FRAMINGHAM, MASS.

1:52 AM

Finnegan carried the cobra and basket into his apartment and locked the door. “Another successful night, Amber. I love me work.” He placed the basket on the carpet in front of the couch, and crossed the room to get to a small desk. As he opened the top drawer, he told the snake, “No sense getting behind on me supply.” He removed a clear vial, syringe and tiny bottle and took them over to the couch.

He carefully reached into the basket, removed the cobra, and injected a sedating substance into his pet. When Amber was sufficiently docile, Doyle Finnegan proceeded to extract venom from her fangs, humming one of his haunting, minor key tunes.

On his coffee table was a notice from his landlord. Finnegan read the paper and crumpled it up, throwing it across the room in a fury. “So he knows what I’m doing, does he? Doesn’t want any exotic pets? Well, I’ll be dealing with him, Amber! Now, just rest for the night and we’ll be safe and sound. Good night, pet.”

FRAMINGHAM PD

8:30 AM

The agents decided to confer with Detective Burns, who they had called bright and early.

“Like he doesn’t exist?” The man showed mock surprise. “Everybody is born, grows up and leaves some sort of history, information or whatever.”

“Well, this man doesn’t.” Mulder set down several pages of the research he had done on Doyle Finnegan. “He begins in America and ends up at his own downtown tavern, it would seem. Ireland doesn’t even have any information on this man.”

“His license is up to date, and there’s been no real trouble at Doyle’s Tavern,” Scully added.

“However,” Mulder interjected, “We’re working on a theory and we’re going to stick around. Maybe it’s about time we checked his apartment.”

“On what grounds?” Burns asked. “We really don’t have enough evidence to implicate him in the murders, and we can’t get a warrant without it.”

“Well, that’s a shame. But, uh… ”

“No you don’t,” Scully warned her partner. “Don’t even think about it.”

“Think about what? I wasn’t going to say a thing. I was just going to tell Detective Burns here we were available in case anything is found — in order to get a warrant.”

“Sure,” Burns chuckled. “Haven’t we all ‘not’ thought about getting into places without a warrant?”

“Hey, I was only doing my job,” Scully said sternly.

“Well, while you’re here anyway, who am I to interfere with the Bureau? I’m not even on duty here until noon,” Burns said.

“Okay,” Mulder sighed. “It wouldn’t hurt to talk to whoever covers for Finnegan when he’s not in. Surely he has another bartender. Scully?”

“Coming.”

“Good luck, Agents. The man you want to talk to is Avery Perkins. He generally opens the place at around 10.”

“We may as well go for a coffee, then,” Mulder suggested.

“I could use one. Thanks, Detective Burns,” Scully replied.

As they were leaving the station, Scully grabbed Mulder’s arm.

“Just what are you trying to do?” she whispered.

“I know you don’t want me picking the lock, Scully. And I won’t. At least not yet.”

His partner shrugged and followed him out of the building.

***

KRISPY DREAMS COFFEE SHOP

9:16 AM

Mulder and Scully were biding their time over coffee and donuts when Mulder’s cell phone went off.

“Mulder. Where? Yes. We’ll be right there.”

“Burns?”

“Yes. There’s been another death. This time, it’s a lot closer to Doyle’s home.”

462 NASH STREET

FRAMINGHAM, MASS.

9:31 AM

Paramedics were working on an elderly man when Mulder and Scully reached the building Finnegan lived in. They hoisted him onto a gurney and into the back of the ambulance.

Burns had already arrived. “Well, now this is interesting. Our latest victim right outside Finnegan’s home.”

Scully hopped into the ambulance. “I’m going with them. If he dies, I’ll do the autopsy.”

“You were saying, Detective Burns?”

“Don’t tell me your partner’s a pathologist.”

“Actually, she’s a doctor. She kind of grew into the work as far as forensics goes. What happened here?”

“Male, age 62. Landlord. Perry Duncan. Wandered out into traffic, collapsed on the road, and the woman over there talking to my men thought she had hit him. As it turns out, she hadn’t.”

Mulder went up the stairs to the century old house and entered the building, pulling his gun in the process. He reached Doyle Finnegan’s third floor apartment and knocked on the door.

“Mr. Finnegan! Federal Agent! Open up!” When there was no reply, He kicked the door open. There was no sign of the bartender or his snake.

***

DOYLE’S TAVERN

10:05 AM

Avery Perkins had just opened Doyle’s for the late breakfast customers when Finnegan Doyle entered through the back door with the cobra. He was unshaven and appeared secretive.

“Didn’t expect to see you until three, Boss. Can I have Bess make you something?”

“No. I’ll be in me office doin’ the books, and I don’t want to be disturbed.”

“But Boss… What the heck. Anybody here want more coffee?”

A woman waved Perkins over to her table and he poured her and her friend a refill, topping up a third woman’s cup.

“What’s with him?” the first woman asked.

“He’s just… in one of those moods. Enjoy, ladies.”

Mulder and Detective Burns entered the tavern and showed their identification to Perkins.

“He doesn’t want to be disturbed. Something about doing the books. When he gets into that mood of his… ”

“Well, he’s not going to be in a better mood any time soon,” Mulder informed the man.

Doyle had opened his door a crack and was listening. He softly closed the door. He opened the lid to Amber’s basket. “I knew this day would come, but not this soon,” he whispered to the cobra. “We’ll meet again.”

Mulder’s cell phone rang as he was about to go into the back of the tavern. “Mulder. What? Look, Scully. Get a toxicology report for me. We’re taking Finnegan in, then I’ll meet you at the hospital.” Mulder turned to Burns. “The Landlord died. There was an injection site found.”

The two men went straight to Finnegan’s office with guns drawn and knocked. “Open up! We know you’re in there!” Burns shouted.

“It’s unlocked,” Finnegan calmly said.

Mulder opened the door, and there sat Doyle Finnegan, calmly closing his ledger.

“Doyle Finnegan,” Burns began, “You are under arrest for the murder of… ”

As Mulder reached for his handcuffs, the blue-eyed, dark haired young Irishman disappeared before both men’s eyes.

“What the — ?” Burns asked, blinking.

“Yeah. What the — ? is right. Talk about a speedy get away.”

“Well what the hell do we do next? Wait for him to show up again?”

“I guess. But I think it’ll be an awfully long wait,” Mulder answered. “I haven’t dealt with anything like this before, and believe me, I have had some very weird cases.”

“So I heard.” Burns placed his gun into his holster. “What do I tell my superiors?”

“He just disappeared. Personally, I prefer to write up exactly what happened, and leave the file open. I’d better call my partner.” Mulder eyed the snake’s basket. “Umm… I DO suggest you call the animal shelter.”

***

E-Z-REST MOTEL

2:15 PM

Scully walked into Mulder’s room as he was typing up his latest information on the Doyle Finnegan case. “All packed, Mulder. Ready to go?”

“The flight’s in two hours, Scully. A new X-File. How about that?”

“Yeah. How about that. I got a call from the hospital lab. No evidence of drugs, toxins or anything else that shouldn’t have been in the man’s body, despite that injection site. Apparently, Burns tells me Mr. Duncan had served Finnegan an eviction notice for breaking the rule stating ‘no exotic pets’. I don’t know if I

believe he just ‘disappeared’, Mulder.”

“Well, we hadn’t been heavily drinking and no, he didn’t have his cobra dance for us or drug us. You saw the look on Burns’ face when we told you.”

“What are you going to say in your report?”

“Case remains unsolved. You should get the autopsy report so we can head for the airport.”

“Gladly. By the way, what happened to the cobra?”

“Oh, that’s right,” Mulder smiled as he teasingly answered his partner. “You were quite taken by Finnegan’s snake.”

“Well, Mulder, she was a charmer.”

“Well, so was Finnegan, and look where that got him. Don’t worry. I’m sure she’s better off without him. Besides, you beat her hands down in any contest. She was taken to the animal shelter.”

“I don’t know whether I should be flattered or insulted, Mulder.” Scully gave Mulder that look of hers that told him to quit while he was ahead.

“What? All I said was… ”

“Don’t. Now, just slither out of that chair and let’s go.”

As Mulder opened his mouth to speak, he thought better of it.

***

TWO DAYS LATER

An article from the Boston Herald arrived on Mulder’s desk, courtesy of Mr. Avery Perkins, Finnegan’s assistant. The article read that Amber the king cobra, who had been residing contentedly in an enclosure at the Framingham animal shelter pending

transfer to an as yet unnamed zoo, had mysteriously vanished. As the shelter had taken precautions to prevent her escape, and there had been no indications of intrusion, Framingham police had no explanation for the disappearance of the cobra.

PRESENT DAY

Mr. Perkins took over the bar and renamed it “Avery’s”. To this day, he has not heard from Doyle Finnegan, and now owns the deed to the tavern property pending payment of a modest mortgage.

Michael Doherty makes quite the cocktail at his tavern in Paloma, Spain. A king cobra by the name of Amber is a popular attraction as Doherty plays mournful tunes on his flute…

END

It Was Only Luck

It Was Only Luck

Author: Kathy Foote

Summary: There are two kinds of luck; good and bad

Category: Humor, light ST

Disclaimer: Unfortunately, these characters are the property of Chris Carter, 1013

Productions, and Twentieth Century Fox. I wish they were mine, but they aren’t.

Archive: Two weeks exclusive with VS12, then anywhere is fine by me

Authors’ note: This story was written for IMTP Virtual Season 12, St. Patrick’s Day

Special

Thanks: To Emmy for her encouragement, my Mom for all her wonderful help, and to

Vickie Moseley, my phenomenal beta.

It Was Only Luck

Starbuck’s

March 17th – 8:00am

“I cannot believe you wore that tie today. What’s Skinner going to say?”

“What?” he asks, as he looks down at the bright yellow tie covered in small green four- leaf clovers. “What’s wrong with it? It’s perfect for today.”

“Mulder, it’s hideous.”

“That’ll be $9.87,” said the girl behind the counter at Starbuck’s. “I like your tie.”

He smiled as he handed the girl a ten-dollar bill and then turned to Scully. “See, _some_ people have taste.” He got his change, took the bag of goodies, and turned toward the front door.

Scully walked behind him mumbling under her breath, “Yeah, _bad_ taste.”

He held the door open for her and then followed her out onto the sidewalk. He stood there a moment, looking up into the sky. It was shaping up to be a beautiful day. The sun was shining; the temperature was only slightly cool; spring was definitely around the corner.

“Come on, Mulder, we better get to the office.”

He stopped his appraisal of the sun lit sky and noticed a small man dressed in a green suit, holding a bucket. The man couldn’t be more than three feet tall. He thought it was strange that he hadn’t noticed the little guy when they entered the coffee shop. He must have just arrived. He was staring at him, when the little man looked up and they made eye contact. He winked at Mulder and beckoned him forward with a wave of his hand.

Mulder was drawn by the twinkle in the man’s eyes and walked over to him.

“Good morning, good sir. Timothy Fagan, at your service,” he said in a heavy Irish brogue and bowed at the waist.

“Good morning, Mr. Fagan. What…”

“Tim, please,” he interrupted shaking his finger.

“Very well, _Tim_, what’s in the bucket?”

He looked from side to side and then gestured Mulder to lean down for a private conversation. “They’re lucky shamrocks and _you_ need to buy one. In fact, you need to buy two.”

“Two?” he asked warily, suddenly having the feeling that he was being taken.

“One for you and one for the lassie.”

At the mention of Scully, he looked around and found her standing fifteen feet away. She had a look on her face that, coupled with her hands on her hips, said he had better hurry up. He held up his hand and gave her a ‘wait just a second’ gesture. Of course, she wouldn’t wait there and began to walk back toward him.

He turned back the Tim. “How much are they?”

“Five dollars a piece. A bargain, I dare say.”

Scully arrived back at his side just in time to hear the price. “Five dollars! That’s outrageous. Come on, Mulder. We need to get going.” She grabbed his arm and pulled him away.

“Wait a minute, Scully. I could use some extra good luck…so could you. Besides it’s Saint Patrick’s Day.” He dug a ten-dollar bill out of his wallet. He turned back to Tim and handed him the bill. “I’ll take two.”

“Ah, very good sir. You won’t regret this. I guarantee it.”

Mulder ran to catch up with Scully and showed her what he had bought. He slid one of the 4-leaf clovers into his lapel and handed the other one to her.

“I don’t want that.”

“Oh, come on, Scully. The little fellow said they were lucky. In fact, he guaranteed it.”

She just stood there with her arms crossed across her chest, making no move to take it from him. “Mulder, you’re a sucker. The man saw you coming from a mile away.”

“Fine,” he said as he slid the second 4-leaf clover into his lapel. “I don’t know I just have a feeling about this.” He turned to look back at the place where he had confronted the little man and he was gone…vanished. “Hey, Scully, the little guy is gone.”

“He probably ran off before we arrested him for fraud.” She again began walking toward the Hoover building. He stared at the empty spot another few seconds, then turned to walk with her.

As they walked, Scully stepped onto a grate in the sidewalk and the heel of her left shoe got stuck in it. Mulder was walking and talking with Scully, when all of a sudden he realized she was not there anymore. He turned to see her trying to wiggle her heel out of the grate. Finally, she stepped out of the shoe to retrieve it, but being a gentleman, Mulder reached down and freed the shoe from its snare. As he was bent over, he noticed a ten-dollar bill lying on the ground next to the grate and he snatched it up.

“Hey, Scully, look what I found.” He held up the bill for her to see. “Ten bucks! How lucky is that. It must be the 4-leaf clovers; the _free_ 4-leaf clovers now.”

She just rolled her eyes and held out her hand for her shoe, which he gave her. She examined the shoe and found a large cut in the leather on the heel. “Great! These were brand new.” She slipped the shoe onto her foot.

“I don’t know why you wear shoes like that anyway.” He knew he had nothing to do with it, but he felt he should apologize anyway. “Sorry about your shoes. You know if you were wearing your shamrock that might not have happened. You want it now?”

She glared at him for a moment, then spun on her heels and headed for the Hoover building. He walked with her in silence.

When they got back to their basement office, Mulder removed the items from the sack and placed them on Scully’s desk. He pulled the lid off the first cup and inhaled the aroma. “Smells like heaven.” He looked into the first wrapper and spotted his favorite cheese Danish. He grabbed his items and went to his own desk. He took a big bite out of his Danish and a sip of his cappuccino. “Mmmmm. White Chocolate Mocha and Cheese Danish. Breakfast of Champions.”

She almost choked on his last statement. “Breakfast? That looks more like dessert.”

“Jealous?” he mumbled as he took another bite.

“Not in the least,” she said smiling, as she pulled the lid off the remaining cup. Instead of her typical low-fat latte, she was in possession of another White Chocolate Mocha Cappuccino. Her smile quickly vanished. Opening the wrapper expecting to find her banana nut muffin, she spied another Cheese Danish. Her former smile had now been replaced with a frown. They had doubled Mulder’s order.

He noticed her sitting there wearing a frown. “What’s wrong?”

“Mulder, they left my stuff out and doubled _your_ order. I can’t drink this. You want another White Chocolate Mocha Cappuccino?”

“Really?” he said with a big grin forming on his face. He jumped up and practically skipped over to her desk. “Man, I am so lucky today. First, I find ten dollars and now I get a free cappuccino. Must be the shamrock.”

“Give it a rest, Mulder,” she threw back over her shoulder as she went to fire up their coffee maker. She stood there disgusted, watching the coffee brew, thinking how good that latte would have tasted. Now she would be stuck with regular coffee. It just wasn’t fair.

Armed with a fresh cup of coffee, she returned to her desk to finally eat her breakfast.

She removed the sticky Danish and took a big bite. She had to admit it was good. She looked around her desk for napkin, but Mulder must have taken them all. She pulled open her lower drawer to get one from her stash and rammed the desk drawer into her shin. “Oww!” she yelped.

“What’s happened?”

“I hit my leg with the desk drawer.” She leaned over to examine the spot and noticed a run in her hose. “Dammit!” she exclaimed.

“What’s wrong now?” he asked sounding a bit exasperated.

“It’s nothing. I just got a run in my hose.”

“Gee, Scully, you sure are having a run of bad luck. Perhaps you should reconsider taking this 4-leaf clover.” He held out the shamrock toward her. She gave him a smirk and made no move to accept his offer. “Fine,” he said as he put it back in his lapel.

They spent an uneventful hour reading through files when suddenly he broke the silence.

“We’ve got a meeting with Skinner in fifteen minutes. What do you say we gather our reports together and head on up?” He put on his jacket, picked up the folder that contained his report, and headed for the door.

He was at the door; ready to leave, when he noticed Scully wasn’t with him. He saw her searching for something at her desk. “What’re you looking for?”

“My report!” she said a little too loudly. “Sorry. I can’t find my report. I could’ve sworn I put it in my briefcase this morning, but now it’s not there. Do you have it?”

“No. You must’ve left it at home. Look, there’s nothing we can do about it now. You can explain it to Skinner and tell him you’ll bring it in tomorrow.”

“I guess you’re right. Damn. I hate going up there without my report.”

“We better get a move on. He’ll be even madder if we’re late.”

Ten minutes later, they were directed into Skinner’s office and Scully took her usual seat.

Mulder placed his report on Skinner’s desk and then sat down. Skinner looked at the report and then at Scully. “Did you forget something, Agent Scully?”

“Yes, sir, I’m sorry, but I seem to have left my report at home. I didn’t have time to go back home to get it before the meeting.”

He actually looked shocked by her statement. She had never been unprepared for a meeting…ever, but he couldn’t let it slide. “I expect to see you…and your report…in my office…tomorrow morning…at 7:00am sharp.”

7:00am? She usually didn’t even get to work until 8:00 or 8:30. She figured this was punishment for being late with her report. “Yes, sir.”

“Agent Mulder, thank you for the timely submission of your report.” Scully flushed with embarrassment at his statement. They sat in silence as Skinner reviewed the report.

Finally, he closed the folder and leaned back in his chair. “This is an excellent report, Agent. Your conclusions are sound and well thought out. Your corroborating evidence is properly catalogued and attached. This is one of your best reports; I’m very pleased.”

Mulder simply looked at him for a second. He was not accustomed to such praise.

“Why…Thank you, sir.”

“By the way, Mulder, I _love_ that tie. It’s perfect for today. Where’d you get it?”

Mulder looked at him as if he had grown a second head. He was shocked that he liked his tie. He had actually expected Skinner to hate it. “I…I actually got it at Spencer’s, sir.”

“Well, I love it!” he said with a chuckle; an honest to goodness chuckle. “And the shamrocks, Mulder…where’d you get them? Are they really 4-leaf clovers?”

“Yes, sir, they are. I bought them this morning from a man in front of the coffee shop. He said they were lucky.”

“I wish I’d seen him. One can always use some extra luck.” Mulder gave Scully a side- wards glance at his last comment. She did not return his look. “I guess that’s about it, Agents. You’re dismissed.” They were at the door when he added, “And Agent Scully…

I look forward to seeing your report first thing tomorrow morning.” She gave him a nod and rushed out the door ahead of Mulder.

Mulder was practically glowing all the way back to the basement and Scully was fuming.

She punched the button to call the elevator and they waited. When the elevator didn’t arrive, she punched the button again.

“Here, let me try,” Mulder said. As soon as he punched the button, the doors opened. He gave her a sheepish grin and got in the car. “I guess I just got lu…”

“_Don’t_ say lucky!” she yelled as she turned to take the stairs instead.

He stepped out of the elevator car and followed her into the stairwell. “Come on, Scully, don’t be mad at me.”

She didn’t acknowledge him and continued down the stairs. Half way down the last flight of stairs, the heel on her shoe broke and she tumbled down the remaining steps. The hose were now a total loss, as were the heels. She had a large bruise forming on her shin.

Mulder rushed to her side, a look of concern on his face. “Scully! Scully, are you all right? Do you think you broke anything?”

“I’m fine, Mulder,” she said sharply. Seeing the hurt look on his face, she tried again.

“Nothing is broken, except for my heels. Nothing is hurt, except for my pride.” She placed her hand on his cheek and said in gentle tone, “I’m okay. Really. How about helping me up?” He smiled and gave her a hand up.

As soon as they entered the office, he whirled on her. “This is ridiculous, Scully! If you would just take the damn shamrock, this would all end.”

“I will _not_ give credence to your ludicrous theory about lucky shamrocks by wearing that stupid thing. Just.Drop.It.”

“_Fine_,” he said. “I won’t mention it again.”

The second half of the day was about the same as the first half. Bad things kept happening to Scully and Mulder seemed to be having remarkably good luck. By the end of the day, she had a huge coffee stain on her skirt, ink on her new blouse, and had lost two buttons on her jacket. Mulder had retrieved her overnight bag from the car, so she could change shoes, but refused to change clothes, because she couldn’t afford to ruin anymore. She had to change shoes, since she couldn’t walk around in her bare feet. He hadn’t brought up the subject of the shamrocks again, even though it was eating him up inside not to do so.

Finally, the day from hell was over. Mulder suggested they go straight home and order in Chinese food. She agreed that that was a good idea and further suggested that they stop and pick up a nice bottle of wine on the way. She could sure use a drink after this day.

They stopped at a liquor store not far from their place. As soon as they walked in, they immediately realized they were in trouble. There was a young couple cowering in the corner by the refrigerated cases amidst a bunch of broken bottles and spilt liquids. There was a man pointing an automatic rifle at the terrified couple.

Before they could do anything, they were face to face with a second armed man. This one was armed with a 9mm handgun.

“For God’s sake, could this day get any worse,” Scully said, clearly tired of her string of bad luck today.

“Shut up!” he demanded and pointed his gun directly in her face. “Don’t you try anything.”

“Calm down…it’s okay,” soothed Mulder, as he and Scully slowly raised their hands in submission.

“Dammit! I thought I told you to lock that door!” he screamed at the trembling manager.

“Get over and lock it. NOW!” He turned back to his two new hostages. “You two, get over there with the others.” He motioned toward the other couple with his gun. “Jake! You watch these two.”

Jake turned as he heard his name and pointed his rifle at Mulder and Scully, as they slowly made their way across the store.

“Hurry up!” urged Jake, “I ain’t got all night.”

They took a position next to the other couple. Mulder quickly assessed the situation.

Two men, both armed with automatic weapons, obviously not professionals, which made them even more dangerous. Jake, the one armed with the rifle, looked ready to explode.

The other man, his name unknown, had returned to badgering the storeowner into opening his safe, which the owner seemed to be having trouble with.

The two men seemed unstable and were clearly agitated. Mulder had a very bad feeling about the whole situation. He couldn’t go for his own weapon, while Jake had his rifle pointed at them. The gun wouldn’t even clear the holster before he would be shot. He realized that this might not end well and considering Scully’s luck today, it might go worse for her.

“Psst…Scully…take the shamrock,” he whispered.

She turned to him and gave him a look that clearly said she thought he was crazy.

“What? I can’t believe you thinking about that at a time like this.” she whispered back.

“Take the shamrock, please!”

“Hey! You two shut up!” Jake yelled at them.

“Scully, please.”

“Mulder,” she whispered low and menacingly, “you’re going to get us shot.”

“Please…I’m begging you.”

“Fine…give it to me,” she agreed, just to shut him up. He was obviously not going to drop it.

He removed one of the four-leaf clovers from his lapel and held it out to Scully, who snatched it from his hand.

The first gunman noticed the exchange. “Hey! What’re you two doing?” he yelled as he rushed toward them with his gun aimed in their direction. Jake turned his rifle on them also.

Mulder debated with himself whether or not to pull his gun; this might be their last chance. Before he could decide, the first gunman hit the spilt liquid, lost his footing, fell onto his back, hit his head on the hard floor, and was out cold. As he hit the ground, his finger tightened on the trigger, firing the gun. The bullet hit his partner in the chest and he too went down, his weapon falling from his slack arms.

Mulder, Scully, and the other couple were completely stunned. They couldn’t believe what had just happened. They finally broke from their stupor. Mulder pulled out his cell phone to call 911 while he secured the weapons. Scully checked out the condition of the two gunmen. The one seemed to be unconscious, while the other was dead from a gunshot to the chest. She cuffed the unconscious prisoner and then they all waited for the police to arrive.

Later, Mulder and Scully were standing on the sidewalk in the front of the liquor store.

They had already given their statements and were waiting to be released.

“I’m so glad you finally decided to take that shamrock, Scully,” he said, “It probably saved your life.”

“Oh, please! I only took it to shut you up, Mulder, before you got us both shot. It was just a coincidence that that man slipped and shot his partner.”

Mulder snorted and stared at her unbelievingly. “I cannot believe you said that. That little man this morning sold me those shamrocks on purpose.”

Now it was her turn to stare at him in disbelief. “I cannot believe _you_ said that. There is no way that man could have known we would walk into that robbery…it was just luck, Mulder.”

Mulder rolled his eyes and turned away. He couldn’t understand why Scully always found it impossible to believe. He looked up the street and spied the little man from this morning standing on the corner not thirty feet away. Mulder and Tim made eye contact and stared at one another for several moments. The little fellow smiled, gave Mulder a wink, and then disappeared. Mulder continued to stare at the empty space, once occupied by Timothy Fagan and then finally turned back to Scully.

“You know, Scully, you’re right…it was only luck.”

The End

An Dullahan

An Dullahan

Author: Skinfull

Rated: PG 13

Categorization: M/S RST Spoilers: None.

Summary: An Irish castle has been transported to Chicago where the haunting still continues.

Feedback: skinfull@undergroundtales.com Love all feedback. Thanks in

Advance!

Authors Notes: An Dullahan is an old Irish folklore, messenger of death.

http://www.dullahan.com/ (Can you believe he has his own site! LOL)

Irish Ghosts and Castles: http://www.nzghosts.co.nz/

irish_ghosts.htm

Irish Names I used:

Eoghan Darby – Owen Darby

Aodh Ó Duibhdíorma – Ay (Meaning Fire) Darby

Óisin Ó Cearbhaill – Oisin (Meaning Deer) O Carroll

Eabha Ní Tuama – Eva Toomy

Thanks Lisa for all your help. (Dr Lisa Comma Transplant Specialist.)

An Dullahan

O’Hare International Airport

Wednesday March 16th

10.15AM

“Just because it’s folklore doesn’t mean it isn’t true.” Mulder hefted both of their cases off the luggage rack and followed her through the bustling airport crowd to the car rental desk. Her silence was beginning to rattle him and he knew she was storing a big

reply, waiting till they were alone before she would offload on him completely.

Scully signed for the car and took the keys with a smile. She still offered no reply and simply preceded him out to the carpark and quickly found the car. As she sat into the passenger seat, Mulder placed the cases into the trunk and finally claimed the seat

next to her. The keys jangled off his knee as he reached for his seatbelt, but he didnt turn the ignition yet.

“Say it. Please just say it now, you’re driving me crazy with the anticipation!” he muttered between gritted teeth after too much silence, and turned to face her after slipping his belt lock in.

“Mulder, this is a legitimate case, three murders last year, including one federal officer. What do you want me to say?” She opened the brown manila folder that rested on her lap and flicked through the pages.

“But…” he urged her to continue.

“But nothing.”

“Tomorrow is St Patrick’s Day Scully…aren’t you even a little bit excited?” he gunned the engine and slowly made his way through the traffic.

“Is there going to be a parade?” she joked and he smiled in return.

“Don’t you believe in the stories Scully?” he asked lightly as he pulled out into the traffic and accelerated with it.

“Mulder, do I ever believe in these stories?”

“This could be a first Scully. There are numerous eye witnesses corroborating the”stories” this time,” he smirked, making air quotes to humor her.

“Eye Witnesses?” she scoffed flicking through the file to the back page where the witness accounts were. “Michael Reilly, Groundskeeper. And Eileen Murphy, hotel receptionist.”

“Who better to see the haunting?”

“Never the less,” she continued. “There are three unexplained murders, three unsolved crimes.”

“They were all found dead at midnight on St Patrick’s Day. So we have…” he checked his watch. “Just under 38 hours?”

***

Leap Castle

Wednesday March 16th

12.20 PM

Mulder pulled off the main road and was immediately gratified by the sounds of crunching gravel under the wheels of the car. Slowly he drove up towards the main entrance and pulled the car up outside the sweeping steps that led to the front door.

Stepping out into the cool spring sun, they looked up at the formidable building before them.

A soft wind blew in from the north rustling the ivy that clung to the castle walls, adding its foreboding ambience. The bricks were grey and showed signs of battle damage in parts beneath the old cannon slots at the top of the castle turrets.

“Hello, and welcome to Leap Castle.” Mulder and Scully turned to the stairs where a small man was approaching them eagerly, his smile wide with pride as he noticed their eyes traverse the walls of his castle in awe.

“Mr Eoghan Darby?” Scully extended her hand and he shook it vigorously.

“Yes, yes, that’s me!” he turned to Mulder and shook his hand with just as much gusto before ushering them up towards the castle door. “Come now, you are just in time for lunch!”

“Our bags-” Scully protested but Eoghan shuffled on, a hand pressed to each of their backs.

“Never mind them! Patrick will collect them and bring them to your rooms.”

They entered the castle door and moved through the brightly lit hall. Scully was surprised to feel the heat, expecting it to be cold or draughty, not brightly painted and carpeted with a wide screen TV and several couches lining the walls.

“It’s for the guests,” Darby explained as he spotted her looking at the television. “I’d prefer to keep it draughty, with stone floors, tapestries and huge open fireplaces but my paying guests do expect the comforts of home during these Irish winters.”

“Irish winters?” Mulder queried, exchanging a quick glance with Scully.

“We like to think that when we brought this castle over we imported a small piece of Ireland with us.”

“The castle was brought over from Ireland?” Scully looked around at the walls with new ardor. “Not just the materials?”

“No not at all. We brought the complete castle over eight years ago, lock, stock and barrel; every single brick and even a lot of the surrounding land. The Peat Bog and Turf were part and parcel of this restoration. It took four years to get it restored here in Chicago and we’ve been open for business ever since.”

“Until the murders?” Mulder said as they were led into a large banquet hall.

“The murders seemed to have heightened our guest list.” He pulled out two chairs near the end of the large table that was laden down with food and urged them to sit.

“As you will see when they join us for lunch.”

Their host grabbed a plate of turkey and helped himself to a few slices before passing it to Scully. She placed a small piece on her plate and passed it on to Mulder.

Suddenly the double doors at the end of the room opened to let in a small group of people that greeted Eoghan cheerfully. They pulled up seats at the table and soon plates were being filled and wine was being poured.

“No thanks,” Scully said covering her glass before it could be filled.

“Sure you’ll have a drop,” the stranger persisted with the large bottle of white wine.

“No, I’m fine thanks.” With relief she watched the server pass on to the next glass and pour out more wine and she turned to Eoghan. “How did you manage to acquire the castle Mr Darby?”

“Call me Eoghan, please.” He dropped his hand onto hers and patted it gently. “My great grandfather, Aodh Ó Duibhdíorma, grew up here. He married on these very grounds to the love of his life, Eabha Ní Tuama.” He paused to take a sip of his wine and Scully suddenly had the feeling she was speaking to a true storyteller.

Eoghan looked around the table and glanced at all his guests who slowly took notice of the story they were about to hear.

“But it wasn’t to be happy ever after. Shortly after the wedding he found his bride murdered on the doorsteps, the very doorsteps outside right now. She had been stabbed through the heart by a scorned lover.” The rapt audience stopped eating as the story curled around them and Scully had to admit he was good at this. “The killer

was a man named Óisin Ó Cearnhaill. When Aodh found this out he went mad and plotted to get revenge.”

Pausing again for affect, Eoghan smiled enigmatically and Scully glanced around the table at the guests hanging on his every word. Even Mulder seemed more then a little interested.

“Every night Óisin used to ride through the forest on his black steed to tend the livestock. One night Aodh waited for him. As Óisin rode past Aodh took a mighty swing of his axe,” Eoghan slammed his fist down unexpectedly onto the table making several diners jump. As a trickle of nervous laughter circled the room and Eoghan waited for silence before he continued.

“He took his head clean off and burned on a spike it in the centre of town as symbol of his lost love. The fire burned for seven days and seven nights. No water could extinguish the flame until eventually a local butcher emptied a bucket of blood over it.”

Scully couldn’t help the smile on her face and she nodded slowly at him as a job well done. The story had it’s desired effect as the conversations around the table started again with vigour.

“Good story Mr Darby,” she said but he shook his head with a smile.

“Not a word of a lie Agent Scully.” He sipped his wine again. “Needless to say my uncle was incarcerated for his crimes and the castle was lost to the family. A series of unfortunate and extreme accidents made sure the occupants didn’t stay for long.”

“It’s haunted?” Her eyebrow arched quizzically and Mulder sat forward with his elbows on the table.

“By the murdered bride?” he guessed.

“No. By Óisin.” Eoghan let his words linger and turned back to his lunch.

The rest of the meal finished without a mention of the story. Gentle conversation about the festivities that would be on for St Patrick’s Day circled the room. After all the food had been eaten and the bottles of wine drank the crowd dispersed in different directions, leaving only Mulder and Scully standing in the main foyer.

“What do you make of that?” Mulder asked, nodding his head over his shoulder towards the lunch table.

“The story? It was a good one. And he has the routine down pat. But I’ve heard better from my father.”

“You father was partial to the ghost stories?”

“Yes. Loved to scare us with them.”

“The story I wasn’t too interested in, but the details. The bucket of blood, the horse.”

“The headless horseman?”

“At the second murder, the amount of blood on the victim didn’t correspond to the blood loss. There was nearly seven litres of blood in the surrounding area.

Depressions from horse shoes were found in the soil surrounding the body.”

“What about fairy rings? Pots of gold?” She crossed her arms and sighed. “C’mon Mulder.”

“Well as usual we’ll have to agree to disagree, but lets take a look at the facts-” he began, angry at her blatant dismissal but before he could count off his points Eoghan arrived from a door beneath the staircase.

“Agents, let me show you to your rooms.”

They followed him up the wide curved staircase and through the darkened halls that were lined with maple wood panelling and old oil paintings of various figures. One painting caught Scully’s eye; a beautiful lady dressed in a white dress. A blue shawl

barely covered her shoulders and deep red locks of hair partially covered her face. Her eyes were a piercing green colour that drew Scully in, even though the painting was old and faded.

“Beautiful isn’t she?” The voice of Eoghan right behind her startled her out of her reverie.

“Yes.”

“That’s her, that’s Eabha.”

Scully stared at the picture for a moment longer then slowly took a step back and waited for Eoghan to show them to their rooms. With large ornate keys he turned each of the locks and pushed open each of the oak doors.

“Dinner will be served at 7pm. I understand you are just here for the investigation and will not be partaking in the activities we do have planned, but please feel free to join us.”

“We will need to speak to you about the murders and the crime scenes,” Mulder mentioned before Eoghan could walk away.

“Of course. I will be downstairs in my office when ever you need to speak to me.”

“Thank you.”

Once he had left them, they entered their separate rooms and found their bags had been left on the beds awaiting their attention. Mulder walked around the large poster bed and patted the soft mattress. The open fireplace held logs ready to be lit, and the old style votive candles on the lockers added to the atmosphere.

He pulled loose his tie and slipped out of his jacket. Dropping it on the chair beside the dressing table, Mulder located the adjoining door and pushed it open to find Scully staring out the window at the lawns below. He took a moment to notice her room was almost a mirror opposite of his own

“Scully?”

“It’s amazing what people can do nowadays,” she muttered without turning around.

“To take each brick from Ireland and bring it over to Chicago of all places and rebuild it.”

“They did it with the statue of liberty in 1885.”

“The statue of liberty was designed to be dismantled and shipped across the Atlantic Ocean. I don’t think this castle was.” She turned in time to see Mulder lifting one of the paintings off the wall. “What are you doing?”

“Old castle, old paintings, moving eyes…”

“It’s not a “Scooby Doo” movie Mulder!” she exclaimed indulgently smiling as he replaced the picture.

“Okay, I’m off to get showered and freshened up.”

“I’ll meet you down stairs in 20 minutes.”

***

Leap Castle

Wednesday March 16th

7.30 PM

Dana Scully released an audible sigh and sank back into the soft cushions of the chair.

Mulder looked up from his end of the desk and smiled. Her red hair was hanging loosely around her face and her cheeks were reddened from the heat in the room.

“Scully the longer we stay in this castle the more your Irish heritage comes to the forefront.”

“Irish heritage?” She pulled off her glasses and raked her fingers through her hair, causing the locks to bounce onto her shoulders.

“Red hair, the cute freckles, the rosy cheeks!” he joked dropping his pen onto the table and leaning back into his own chair.

“Shut up Mulder!” she laughed touching her warm cheek with the back of her fingers.

Looking down at the list of notes they had made she couldn’t help but sigh again.

“This is getting us nowhere.”

“The trail is cold,” he admitted with a sigh as he stood up from the table and walked over to the window. A light rain had started to fall against the glass and he rested his palm against it, enjoying the cold sensation on his skin. “Lets go over it once more.”

“Mulder it’s the same as it was last time and the time before that. It’s not going to change…” she said even as she was shuffling through her notes to the first victim.

“Indulge me.”

“Shawn Pearson. Found dead in his bed, decapitated, with a hot blade; a single blow and with both his eyes missing.” Scully scanned through the rest of the page but flipped it over instead of reading more.

“Witness report said that a horse could be heard racing across the grounds that night but there was no sighting,” Mulder added.

“Margaret Gorman was discovered in the bath, decapitated in the same manor with her eyes missing.”

“Again horses were heard the night of the murder.”

“Why the horses Mulder?”

“The horse prints found at the site of the third murder have a significance. There are no horses kept at this hotel or near it’s grounds. In fact the closest stable lodgings are 120 miles away.”

“Ok so the murderer is arriving on horseback, with a sword of some sort, then chopping the heads off?” even as she said it aloud she was shaking her head from side to side, realising all of a sudden where he was going with it.

“Headless Horseman,” Mulder said in a low comically sinister voice as he walked slowly around the room towards the back of her chair and rested his hands on her shoulders. “Seeking revenge on any who dare to stand before him.”

“An Dullahan!”

They both spun to the doorway face the where Eoghan was standing with a tray of drinks. He set down the drinks onto the table between them and smiled broadly at them.

“Dullahan?” Scully asked.

“It’s an Irish word. There is no direct translation but it means the without a head.”

“Headless horseman,” Mulder completed with a gratified smile in Scully’s direction.

“His head has a large mouth and huge eyes that dart around like flies. He holds his head firmly tucked beneath his arm. The head of the black horse has flaming eyes and short-cropped ears. The horse’s head is longer than the body by six yards or more.”

“Sounds like a poem,” Scully said her lips curving slightly, until she noted the serious look on Eoghan’s face.

“In fear of the headless rider;” Eoghan continued as if she hadn’t spoken, “men alone in the fields at night cower behind the bushes because of his reputation with a whip.

With his whip he can accurately remove the eyes of all mortals foolish enough to spy on his ventures.”

“Sounds like our guy Scully.” She rolled her eyes at him in response.

“Don’t be fooled by his existence in folklore.” Eoghan said as he walked away from the table and towards the heavy oak door, “Clichés and stories have to begin somewhere.”

Leap Castle

Thursday March 17th

3.20 AM

Mulder leapt out of his bed and charged towards the adjoining door where Scully’s insistent banging was emanating from. In his haste his feet tangled in his bed sheet and he fell to the floor with a loud crunching thud, trapping his arm across his ribs and knocking his head on the corner of his suitcase.

“Mulder!” he heard her yelling. “Mulder! Hurry!”

With a groan and a dizzy spell he manage to scramble to his feet and grab the door handle. Unsure of why it had been locked he fumbled with the old style circular lock, his head still smarting from the encounter with the case.

“Mulder!”

“Scully!” He yelled back, his ears ringing in pain and his eyes wide with the shock of his rude awakening. Eventually he heard the lock click and he pushed the door open.

Scully stood at the end of her bed, her hands covering her ears as if there were speakers blaring out music next to her head.

“Scully?” he croaked out, rushing over to her and grabbing her arms. But she wrapped them steadfastly around her ears, her eyes screwed tightly shut and her teeth clenched together. “Scully!” Shaking her a little, she managed to open her eyes to slits and he saw the pain behind the bloodshot organs.

Then as if she were waking from a dream her features relaxed and he felt the muscles in her arms go limp. She blinked a few times and looked at him wonderingly.

“Mulder? What are you doing in my room?” she queried with a crooked smile as she noticed he was wearing only a pair of flimsy boxer shorts.

“What am I doing here?” he replied, frustratedly. “You were yelling out my name, banging on the door.”

“Was I?”

“Yeah, I fell out of the bed, bashed my head off my case then couldn’t get the door unlocked,” he grumbled, rubbing his head where it had connected with the metal corner of his case.

“I don’t remember…” she looked around the room confused for a moment before taking a closer look at his injury. “Does it hurt?”

“Yes it bloody hurts!” he moaned as her fingers pressed on the small bump that was already forming behind his hairline.

“I don’t know what happened…maybe I was sleepwalking,” she muttered.

“What’s the last thing you remember?” he asked.

“Horses…loads of horses…” Her voice was low and she closed her eyes as the remains of her thoughts faded beneath her scrutiny. “They were charging all around me, circling me…”

“Scully,” Mulder said softly touching her arm to take her back to the room and out of her head.

“It was the strangest dream.”

“Dream?” he queried. “That dream had you banging on that door, and yelling out my name like a banshee. That dream had you standing in the middle of this room holding your head like it was about to explode.”

“Powerful stuff eh!” she said lightly but he caught the quiver behind her voice and pulled her into a tight embrace. But she wouldn’t let him hold her for very long. After a few shaky breaths she extracted herself from his arms and backed away.

He let her move without protest and watched as she walked to the bathroom to splash some cold water over her face. When she returned to the bedroom she was looking fresher and her questioning frown was back in place.

“Why did you lock the adjoining door?” she asked suddenly.

“I didnt, I thought you did.”

As Scully shook her head Mulder went immediately to the adjoining door and examined the lock.

“Has it been tampered with?”

“No…But there is something else.” He stood away form the door to let her have a better look.

“What?”

“There is no lock. It’s just a simple door knob.”

***

Leap Castle

Thursday March 17th

9.45 AM

“Sure we thought you had died up there!” Eoghan roared at them delightedly as they sauntered into the dinning room where breakfast was being served. Mulder and Scully exchanged a glance before sitting down to the large banquet table. “Help yourself to whatever it is you want.”

Mulder piled his plate with each of the choices the table had to offer but Scully settle for a bowl of flavoured porridge and half a grapefruit. Eoghan who was sitting across from them sipped on his cup of tea and basked in the morning sun that was streaming through the wide windows.

“How did you sleep last night?” he asked stretching his legs out before him and crossing them at his ankles.

“Not too bad. Woke up at around 4 though,” Scully ventured carefully, watching his face for a reaction. “I heard a noise and it must have woken me.”

“What did you hear?” Scully looked over to the man who was sitting a few seats away from her. His eyes were bleary and tired as if he too had trouble sleeping.

“Horses,” she replied bluntly.

Mulder noticed as Eoghan’s tea seemed to go down the wrong way and he coughed to regain control of his airways.

“I heard them too.”

“You heard the horses outside?” Mulder asked leaning forward to get a better view of the man.

“Well,” he scoffed. “They sounded like they were in my room. I woke up my wife with all the trashing I did…the weird thing is…she didnt hear a thing.”

12.10 PM

“Okay guys, I see it, now how can it be activated?”

Scully walked into her bedroom and dropped her notepad onto the desk. She spotted Mulder crouching by the adjoining door and was about to speak to him when she noticed he was on the phone. Instead she slipped out of her shoes and sat on the bed.

“Yeah, I see that…yeah…yeah…where?” He stood up and pinned the phone to his shoulder with his ear as he twisted the screwdriver on the handle to loosen it from the wood.

“Mulder, you can’t do that!” She protested when he dismantled the doorknob.

“Okay I have it out, now what.” He listened to the voice at the other end as he spread out the bits of the door onto the floor. “Yes there it is…thanks Frohike.”

Mulder switched the phone off and dropped it to the floor before rummaging through the small bits to pick up the black piece.

“What is that?” Scully asked

“An RF receiver.”

“And what does it do?”

“Receives RF signals!” He said smartly smiling broadly at her frown.

“Okay…what did Frohike think it was doing in the door lock?”

“When you were off talking to the other guests I had a closer look at the door, and noticed the lock was a bit heavier than normal and longer too.” He picked up the piece he meant and showed it to her. “I called Frohike and explained about the door last night and he said it may have been locked remotely. So he asked me to look for a

receiver in the lock.”

“So someone locked this door on purpose last night?”

“The same someone who was transmitting the horse sounds into your room last night.”

“Sounds? The horses?” Confused she looked around the room, half expecting to see a large concert speaker in the corner. “Why didn’t you hear them though?”

“I don’t know Scully. Everyone has his or her own bandwidth. Maybe the sound was transmitting on a frequency that I couldn’t register.”

“Oh c’mon Mulder. Like a dog whistle?”

“Exactly like that.”

“You can’t turn this case from one unexplainable paranormal theory to another at the drop of a hat.”

“There is nothing paranormal about this door Scully. These electronics were placed by

someone in this hotel.”

“In every room?” She reached for the pad and flipped through the pages to find what she was looking for. “I interviewed 8 of the guests and only two of them heard noises last night. Two of them recognised them as horses and the third couldn’t pin it down to a specific recognisable sound. And they all admit to having quite a bit to drink the night before.”

“You weren’t drinking last night.”

“No but I was dreaming, and after all the talk of the headless horseman is it inconceivable that I would have a nightmare involving horses?” she argued walking away and pouring a glass of water from the decanter.

“No not inconceivable. But we didn’t mention the horseman to the other guests and it’s highly unlikely you all just happened to have nightmares involving horses.”

“Maybe there were horses outside last night!”

“I checked the grounds after breakfast and there is no evidence of that.” He dropped all the bits to the door lock onto the table and walked over to her. “Admit it Scully, you were spooked last night.”

“Of course I was spooked Mulder, but that’s not the point. Just because I was, doesn’t make it real.”

Mulder opened his mouth to argue when a spine-chilling scream rattled through the halls. Without hesitation they grabbed their weapons and raced through the corridor to the source of the sound.

Mulder held his gun rigidly by his side as he turned the corner and spotted the slightly open door. He gestured for Scully to take the other side and waited till she was ready before pushing the door carefully open.

Crouching low Mulder aimed his gun out before him and walked into the room slowly. Behind him Scully followed but they both stopped short at the body that lay before them. The remains were splayed out as if dropped from a height, the limbs bent and twisted unnaturally and the head was missing. Mulder pulled a face.

As Scully stepped closer she recognised the clothes belonged to one of the guests she had spoken to earlier about the horses.

“I spoke to him earlier.” She said softly crouching down to examine the body closer as she slipped her gun back into its holster.

“About the noises last night?”

“Yeah. He said he heard them too.” She stood abruptly away from the body and crossed her arms over her chest. “I need examine him closer.”

“Scully?”

“I’ll call the hospital and arrange a lab.” She was bustling out of the room but he quickly followed her and stopped her march by grabbing her elbow and forcing her to turn back to him.

“Scully…three murders…three victims…three witnesses to the sounds last night.”

“Oh Mulder please. Don’t start with the wild conjecture yet,” she blurted tersely.

“Sometimes a coincidence is just a coincidence?” he said, stealing the words from her mouth.

“Coincidence, Mulder, is just a layman’s term for conspiracy.”

Shaking her arm loose she turned on her heel and walked briskly through the hall without waiting for him to follow.

6.40 PM

Tired, frustrated and still with no clues Scully pulled the car up outside Leap castle and killed the engine. The outside lights were casting eerie shadows on the old stonewalls and she knew if she were here under different circumstances she would be enjoying the atmosphere, but not tonight, she admitted with a wry smile.

After spending the whole day at the morgue examining the body, the cauterised wound across the head and neck where they had been severed, the gaping and bloody sockets where his eyes had been, she wasn’t sure she could appreciate any of the scenery surrounding her. Or dinner tonight.

She basked in the silence that surrounded her for a moment before she could face the party that she knew was happening in the castle. St Patrick’s Day at an authentic old Irish Castle. She smiled at the idea and was reaching for the handle when she heard it.

At first it was faint, as if it was far away but it was definitely getting closer. Horses, running, galloping or sprinting towards her. She twisted and turned in her seat as she checked outside all the car windows but there was nothing to see.

The noises were getting louder, the horses nearer. She pushed the door open and pulled her gun from the holster that nestled at the small of her back. Crouching low by the front wheel she held her breath in an effort to hear better but there was no need.

The noises were so loud that she was sure there would be a team of horses passing by on the front lawn any second. Peering over the top of the hood she saw only the other parked cars, the trees blowing in the cool night air and the cold unwelcoming darkness. The sounds exploded into the night before the silence was restored.

Baffled even more Scully slowly stood up and backed away from the car towards the castle door. Stumbling over the steps she hurried up and barged through the door, eager to find Mulder.

Everyone turned to see her panting in the doorway, her eyes wide, her breaths shallow and her mouth slightly open.

“Scully?”

Her head whipped around to see Mulder walking towards her, his arm outstretched to grasp her shoulder, a worried look across his face. She closed her mouth with a pop and took a steadying breath as she turned to him.

“Are you okay?” Mulder asked, his hand on her shoulder as he turned her away from the on looking crowd.

“Yeah. Yes, I’m fine.”

“You look a little shaken,” he noticed, stepping back a bit from her frosty response. What had gotten into her this trip?

“I just…” she shrugged and reached up to tuck her hair behind her ears. “I just thought I heard something outside.” She looked away from his inquiring face and only then noticed the decorations in the room, the food laid out on the buffet table near the fire and the traditional Irish music that was playing in the background.

“What did you hear?”

“Horses, I heard horses as I was walking in.” She caught his eye and saw no derision in them. With relief she let out a sigh and stepped closer when suddenly the door burst open and one of the guests came barging in. She stumbled over a floor rug and fell to the ground. As she rolled over onto her back everyone saw clearly the blood covered

clothes and the look of horror on her face.

“Oh my god!” Scully exclaimed as she rushed over and began checking the guest for injury.

“Is she okay?” Mulder asked stooping by the head.

“I can’t find anything…I can’t find any injuries…”

“It’s not mine!” the lady on the floor screamed fighting away from Scully’s touch, but the agent held her down by pinning her shoulders to the ground. “It’s not my blood. It’s Ronan’s! It’s Ronan’s blood!”

“Ronan?” Mulder queried.

“Her husband.” Eoghan was standing in the kitchen doorway. His face was deathly pale and a film of sweat marred his brow. Shakily he walked forward and left the tray of drinks on the table. The glasses clattered against each other as his hands trembled and he shoved them into his pockets to keep them steady.

“Eoghan?” Mulder asked stepped forward and touching the smaller mans elbow. “Are you alright?”

“I thought they were just stories…I thought…it couldn’t be true…could it?”

“What? What did you hear?” Mulder persisted ignoring the glare of blue eyes he could feel burning into his head.

“When we bought the castle back into the family there were so many rumors.” He wiped his brow with the hankie he pulled from his shirt pocket. “The previous owners came to an untimely demise…and it seems they weren’t the only ones. But I didn’t think anything of it.”

With a shaky hand he reached out to the back of the chair and lowered himself into it.

“When we decided to bring the castle over to Chicago, I thought the rumours would die, the haunting stories could only enhance my business.” He scoffed a little, wiping his brow again. “And they did. Better than I could have imagined.”

“Until the murder,” Scully said softly.

“When the police could find no forced entry, no clues, nothing except for the reports of the noise of horses rampaging, I thought the worst but even then I didn’t really believe it.”

“We don’t know what happened here yet Mr Darby,” Scully began as she turned her attention back to the lady who was weeping on the rug beside her.

“It’s him! You heard them yourself!” Eoghan yelled angrily his fear swiftly turning into rage.

“What I heard and what is happening to these people may not have anything in common.”

“Oh c’mon!” Eoghan stepped towards her, “You know it does!”

“Calm down!” Mulder said holding Eoghan back and pushing him into a chair. “I’m going to call the coroner again and get some back up out here.”

“Mulder, Can I have a word?” Scully said softly before he could make the call. She grabbed a cushion off the chair behind her and placed it beneath the lady’s head and draped a blanket over her. After asking one of the other guests to sit with her she followed Mulder into the hallway.

“What?” he said after a moment of silence where she just looked at him deploringly.

“Why do you insist on encouraging him?”

“Encouraging him to admit the truth.”

“Listen Mulder I did hear horses outside, I heard them getting nearer and nearer and I thought…” she hesitate, ducking beneath his gaze and leaning back against the wall. “I thought…for a moment…I thought they were coming for me.”

Sensing the fear in her voice he waited for her to continue. Waited for her to regain control of her breathing and face him fully again.

“It was terrifying.”

“Last year there were three murders. Then this morning Jack Smith was found dead in his room, the very man who heard the horses last night.”

“I know where you are going with this Mulder,” she said trying to interrupt him but he wasn’t going to let his train of thought be dispersed.

“Right now we have another body, to look for.” He paused and watched her eyes close over slowly. “He was the other person who heard them last night wasn’t he?”

She simply nodded, her eyes still closed.

“So that leaves…”

“Me.” She completed his sentence when he couldn’t.

“I’m calling for back up.”

11.30PM

The ambulance arrived shortly after Mulder’s call and hot in its wake was the back up from the nearest FBI Field office. Several swat members had scouted various locations throughout the castle to offer the maximum protection and the remaining agents were camped out at the front reception hallway.

After Ronan’s body had been located and transported to the morgue, Sarah, his wife who had stumbled bloodied and shocked through the door earlier, was taken to the hospital for shock treatment. Mulder spoke to the remaining guests about what had happened and Scully was glad he refrained from explaining the full extent of his theory. He asked if everyone would mind staying in the lobby for the rest of the night and offered them transportation to a different hotel if they preferred, after they had all given statements and alibis.

Much to his surprise they all declined the offer of transportation and rallied together to get the fire lit. Through the entire organisation, Eoghan Darby sat still in his seat by the kitchen door, where Mulder had placed him earlier. His eyes glazed over and his mouth was agape as the bustling moved around him.

Scully claimed a seat by the fire and still felt a chill. She was about to reach for a blanket when a thick woollen one was draped over her shoulders. Looking up she saw Mulder standing over her and she scooted up to let him sit down.

“You looked like you needed it.”

“Thanks.”

“You okay?”

“Spooked.”

“Nothing is going to happen to you Scully,” he said as he pulled her closer and kissed her temple. “I won’t let it.”

“Do you believe it Mulder?” she asked faintly and he felt her body tense against his as she waited for his reply.

“You know me Scully. I believe in everything,” he said flippantly.

“Seriously Mulder.”

“Whatever is out there, who ever is doing this, it was a man who put that electronic lock on the bedroom door last night. I checked the other doors today and found the same locks on two other rooms too.”

“Whose rooms?” she asked but he didnt need to voice it, she already knew.

“Tá sé ag teacht! Thogh sé tusa!” Eoghan jumped up out of his chair and stared at Scully. In his hand he was holding a knife, the blade short but sharp, held out in front of him as he pointed across the room at her.

The agents behind the door heard the screaming and barged in, their weapons trained on the threat immediately.

“Put down the knife.”

“Get on the floor.”

“Hold up your hands!” They shouted commands at him but he was staring fixedly at Scully and heard none of it.

“Níl me bheith fiáin gan rud ar bith,” he yelled taking a step closer and wielding the knife higher.

“Eoghan…we can’t understand a word you are saying.” Mulder said back as calmly as he could but the foreign words were instilling more fear then any English rambling ever did.

“He said…he said “he is coming and he has selected you” The man standing near the fire translated for them, pointing at Scully. “he said he isn’t prepared to die for no reason.”

“No one is going to die Eoghan.” Mulder said and looked to the stranger for help.

“Níl aon duine chun bás Eoghan.”

“Calm down.”

“Ciúnaigh!”

“Mulder!” Scully said suddenly gripping his arm tighter and looking towards the front door.

“What is it?” he immediately turned his attention back to his partner. “Scully?”

“Can’t you hear it?” In the tense silence of the room her voice boomed out. But as he knees started to buckle and he hands instinctively reached for her ears she crouched as low as her body would let her and tried to block out the sounds of the hooves pounding over her head. “The noise? The horses?” she shouted over the sound only

she could hear.

Mulder looked up at Eoghan who was staring at her his concentration focused so completely that he was unaware of his surroundings. His eyes had closed to mere slits as he took another step closer.

“Stop him!” Mulder yelled bending down to Scully and trying to pull her arms away from her ears. “Scully, listen to my voice…Scully.”

The agents stormed over to where Eoghan was standing and brought him down to the ground. They were trying to cuff him when all of a sudden the doors of the castle shook with an almighty bang that nearly took the door off its hinges. Scully jumped up and stared at the door.

“Tell me you can hear that!”

“I heard that alright.” Mulder turned to see Eoghan still staring at Scully. He was lying on his chest with Agent Denny holding him in place with a knee in his back.

“Stop him!” Mulder yelled.

But before the agents could react Eoghan rolled over knocking the agent off balance and managing to scramble to his feet. The knife was still in his hand as he charged across the room towards them with murderous intent. The banging on the door became louder and more persistent.

Mulder held up his arm to protect himself as his other hand fumbled to get his gun out of his holster. Scully cowered beneath him the unbearably loud sound of the hooves trampled across her mind leaving her bounded in pain.

The sharp sting of the blade cutting his skin wasn’t enough to deter Mulder as he pushed Eoghan away and managed to get his gun out. He held it in place and aimed at Eoghan as he found his footing.

“Agent Stringer, get Scully, take her out of here!” Mulder yelled over the ruckus at the door, and never took his eyes off Eoghan who was still staring menacingly at Scully. As Agent Stringer walked around Mulder to help Scully off the floor, Eoghan yelled out as if in pain and lurched towards them.

The banging on the door was constant now, mixed with Eoghan’s feral scream as he raced across the room. Then the crack of Mulders gun was followed by silence, broken only by the sound of Eoghan’s body hitting the floor.

Everyone in the room seemed to hold their breath waiting for the door to be broken in. Slowly Scully sat up, her eyes red rimmed and sore. It was then she noticed the blood running down her partner’s arm.

She uttered as if coming to from a trance. “Mulder, you’re bleeding!”

“Oh, don’t worry, its nothing. I’m worried about you.” He lifted her chin up so he could smile at her and then swiped at the bloody mark his fingers made against her pale cheek. She smiled back and let him pull her into his arms. He bent to kiss her. Whatever odd mood she had been in all this weekend seemed to have vanished with

death of the castle owner. Like she had been under a weird influence.

“This place…it’s really gotton under my skin,” she admitted looking up to him and seeing him as if for the first time all weekend.

He held her tighter. “It’s okay Scully, but just let me say this. I never want to so spend a night without you again, even on a case. deal?”

“Deal! ” She pulled him close for a long kiss. ” Do you think this was a hoax Mulder, that man seemed…possessed? He had been drinking but…”

“He may have been, How knows. I think he used the stories from this castle to help business. Placing those devices to scare his guests, perpetrating the story further, lending further credence to the tales.”

Mulder glanced over to where Eoghan’s body lay motionless. “Maybe he gave it power by believing in it, by telling the stories and creating the fear. Whatever secret he had or reason for doing this, be it his complicity and exposure in or something paranormals was at work died with him.” He stood up and stretched a hand out to help

her up and pull her against his chest. “I think it will just come under another tale of St. Patrick’s Day lore and remain…. unsolved.”

“Here’s something for the shock.”

They both turned to see one of the other guests passing them pints of gren Guinness.

“Guinness?” Scully said sceptically.

“What else on St Patrick’s Day!” Mulder smiled as he took his pint and tasted a mouthful.

They finished their drinks and Scully took the glasses and left them onto the small table beside the fire. Already the room was emptying as people filled out and went to their rooms.

“C’mon Mulder, time to start making up lost time.” Taking his hand she led him towards the stairs.

“Really Scully?”

“Oh yeah. In the spirit of my ancestor’s saint’s day, I brought something skimpy and green and I would like to see if you approve. You know what they say…Guinness Give you strength. What do you say we grab a few bottles and escape upstairs?”

“Ohhh I’d love to agent Scully,” he said snatching the bottles from an ice bucket as they passed. “I feel lucky already and I have no need of a shamrock.”

The end.

Skinfull

A Kiss for Luck

A Kiss For Luck

Author: Erin M. Blair

FEEDBACK: Yes, please.

DISTRIBUTION: This story belongs to Virtual Season 12 for two weeks. After that, it will be OK for archival at Gossamer, Ephemeral, and the like.

RATING: PG.

CATEGORIES: SR — Story, Romance.

KEYWORDS: Mulder/Scully Romance.

SPOILERS: Up to Je Souhaite. There’s a spoiler for VS11x23, “Displacement.”

DISCLAIMER: Mulder and Scully belong to Chris Carter, 1013 Productions, and the FOX network. “PG” is trademarked by the MPAA. I’m not making any money from using the above.

SUMMARY: Mulder and Scully discover that they are truly lucky to be together.

NOTES: I would like to thank Devin and Lisa for their lightning fast beta while my regular beta was busy thoughout this week. I would like to thank them as well as Jen for their support of my writing.

A Kiss For Luck

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + +

There was not a cloud in sight on this gorgeous summer-like day during the third week of March. After the recent rains, the ground was finally beginning to dry out, leaving the grass looking greener than usual.

Scully was outside, breathing in the fragrance of the blooming flowers in the planter. She looked over at the man, who returned her love a thousandth fold, was sitting on the plastic, white chair. “Mulder, I didn’t know you were out here.”

“I’m just enjoying this shamrock that I found today.”

She smiled. “It’s convenient that you found it just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.”

“I discovered it when I was walking home from running the track this morning,” he said smiling.

“You’re lucky, Mulder.”

“No, Scully, I think you have it wrong.”

“I do?”

He nodded. “We’re both lucky.”

“And how do you figure that, G-Man?” she asked teasingly.

She gave him an adoring smile and looked deeply into his eyes.

“When I came close to losing you, I felt as though I was going to lose the half of my soul,” he said as he was gazing into her eyes. “You have always completed me whether or not you knew it at the time.”

Her eyes became misty as his words sunk into her soul. She leaned down towards him and she kissed him. This time, she didn’t let him be the one to initiate this special moment.

She wanted to show him just how much his words meant to her. She murmured into his hair, “Mulder, I’ve always known. I remember what you said to me in the hallway before the bee stung me. You told me that I keep you honest, that I made you a whole person. What I didn’t tell you at the time was that you completed me in more ways than one. We’re connected like two sides of the same coin. I know I never believed in soul mates before, but you’re mine.”

His face brightened up with his smile. His lips tenderly grazed hers for a few seconds, and then he finally returned a more passionate kiss. “We believe the same thing.”

~~~ The End ~~~