Renaissance I: If A Man Die 1/8 M.C. Christjansen Disclaimer (s): These folks belong to Rysher and Fox; Now that I'm done with them, They're back in the box. Mulder, Scully, Skinner, Cancerman, and Queequeg all belong to Chris Carter and 1013 Productions. Duncan MacLeod belongs to Rysher Entertainment. I've borrowed all of them to play with and now I'm giving them back, more or less the way I found them. Anyone thinking that I'm making money off this is in need of professional help. Although I've been writing varous kinds of fanfic for a while now, this is my first effort at posting anything. Constructive feedback is welcome. Thanks to Susan, Lucy & Pam for their help. Sometimes I can't see the forest for the Mulders. This is the first part of a projected trilogy. Be warned: this is a relationship story. Although the story is set in the present day, there are no spoilers. And, yes, I resurrected Queequeg. I had to. He kept whining all night. MSR A C PG-13 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ RENAISSANCE 1: If A Man Die (1/8) by M.C. Christjansen If a man die, shall he live again? - I Chronicles 14:14 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Florence, Italy April, 2042 "Signore?" He looked up from the spot on the carpet between his shoes that he had been staring at since his arrival thirty minutes before. Wearily, he got to his feet. He hadn't slept in two days because his mind had been racing like the horses in the Palio, replaying memories like a never-ending video loop. "My apologies for the delay, signore," the woman standing before him said. She was a tall, blonde, brown-eyed Florentine in her mid-thirties. "There was a--como se dice--a gleetch in the paperwork." He smiled mirthlessly at her accented English. The smile melted away when he saw what she held in her hands. Eagerly, as though reaching for a lover, he reached for the burnished metal canister. "What sort of glitch?" She shrugged. "A little mistake only. The signora was listed as your wife instead of your mother. I will see that it is corrected." He rubbed his thumb over the engraved name and dates on the container. "There is no mistake," he said softly. "Signore, there must be. This lady, she was --" He knew what she was thinking. With his dark hair and smooth, unlined face, he looked no more than forty himself. He cradled the bronze urn in the crook of his arm like a baby, as he had often held his wife during her last days of life, and left the crematorium. Outside, the brilliant Italian sunshine wrapped itself around him like her love. "Well, Red," he said as he unlocked the small red car they had bought together all those months ago. "Looks like you've finally gotten your revenge for the times I ditched you. But don't worry. I'll catch up with you eventually. But first we have a plane to catch." He got into the car and gently placed the urn in the passenger's seat before starting the engine and beginning the forty-minute drive to the airport. "We're going home, Scully." ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Washington, DC George Washington Parkway Wednesday, July 17, 1996, 11:27 PM "Mulder, pull over! Quick!" Without stopping to question why, Special Agent Fox Mulder obeyed his partner's peremptory command. Dana Scully was not given to flights of fancy. If she was shouting at him to stop the car, she had a good reason. "What is it?" he asked, once he'd brought the car to a standstill on shoulder of the road. Special Agent Scully turned away from the passenger-side window. They were just returning from an X-Files case in Colorado. It was late, and Washington, DC, as usual in the summer, was hot and muggy enough to slice with a knife. Fortunately, traffic at this time of night on the parkway from Washington National Airport was light, requiring less concentration than usual. "It looks like there's some kind of storm going on over by the Lincoln Memorial, Mulder." Mulder shrugged. "It's summer. It storms." "Look at it!" she insisted, indicating a sector of the Washington, DC, skyline with her finger. "This blew up so suddenly. One minute nothing, and then a light show like the Fourth. The weather forecast said we wouldn't have any rain for another two days. And--" She leaned forward, canting her head at an almost impossible angle to peer up through the windshield. "I can see stars. There isn't a cloud in the sky. And it's just in that one place." Mulder leaned across the seat and over her lap to peer out the passenger side window. Over the city a light show to rival any Independence Day display of pyrotechnics was going on. Bolts of blue and red light stabbed through into the night sky, twisting and undulating before grounding and dissipating. He glanced up, confirming her observation concerning clouds and stars. In fact, a crescent moon hung in the darkness like a silver sickle. "Probably some kind of atmospheric anomaly." In a moment or two, the flashes slowed and became fewer in number. Just before they ceased, the lights in that quarter of the city flickered once and went out. An instant later, they flashed back on again. "Or," he added, "maybe Congress is pulling an all-nighter." He reverted to an upright position behind the wheel. "You want to go check this out, or do you want to go home?" "Home," Scully declared, without a moment's consideration. "I'm looking forward to getting a decent night's sleep without having to worry about giant blood-sucking bats making a late-night snack out of me." "They weren't giant blood-sucking bats," Mulder corrected. "They were giant rabid fruit bats." "Same difference. Take me home, Mulder, now, before I turn you into an X-File." ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ J. Edgar Hoover Building Basement Thursday, July 18, 1996, 8:30 AM Mulder was already hard at work the next morning when Scully arrived, carrying Styrofoam cup of coffee. A glance at his computer screen and the open filing cabinet confirmed what she already guessed: Mulder was searching old X-Files for mention of any incidents similar to last night's. She put the cup of coffee on her desk and sat down. After rearranging a few items, she turned to face him. "All right, how many?" Mulder leaned back in his chair and took off his reading glasses. "Three here in Washington alone," he responded. He picked up the file lying open before him. "In the United States--" The phone rang, cutting him off. With a look of annoyance, he picked up the receiver. From what she heard of the one-sided conversation, Scully knew it was Assistant Director Skinner on the line. A moment later, Mulder hung up. "That was Skinner. Someone lost his head last night at Constitution Gardens on the Mall. We're supposed to take a look." "Skinner wants us to check out some poor soul who flipped out?" Mulder grinned. "Is that the medical term, flipped out?" . "You know what I mean." He shook his head. "Not flipped out. Lost his head. Literally." "A murder?" "On federal land." "So he hands it to us?" "Apparently there's a ritualistic aspect to it." "Such as?" She was already on her feet. "There was some kind of antique sword found near the body." Mulder closed the file he was holding and tossed it on top of the rest of the debris littering his desk. "The DC cops transported the body to the Bureau's facility last night for the post mortem. Shall we go conduct our own examination, Dr. Scully?" "Why not?" she answered. "There's nothing I like better after breakfast than trying not to lose it." ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ FBI Laboratory Autopsy Room 8:50 AM The autopsy room was cool and dark, except for the lights directly above the stainless steel table on which the draped body lay. Scully, gowned, gloved and goggled, twitched the sheet away from the body. The severed head lay above the dead man's shoulders, approximating its position in life. The actual autopsy had been performed last night; now the corpse awaited the peculiar attentions of Scully and Mulder. "What was his name again?" asked Scully. Mulder, perched on a stool a few feet away, consulted the preliminary crime report. "Frank Rasher, according to the ID found on the body. DOB 2/13/50. He owned an art gallery Georgetown." "He appears to have been a healthy white middle-aged male. Apart from the decapitation and a few defensive wounds, there are no recent injuries to the body except for a partially healed wound in the upper abdomen, immediately beneath the ribs, about 10 centimeters in length. Looks like a stabbing injury from a low angle thrust." "How deep?" "I can't tell without either the X-rays or the organs, but I'm willing to guess it could have penetrated his heart." "But it didn't kill him?" Scully shook her head. "No. It was healing, but he was still in no condition to be on the street." She picked up a magnifying glass and leaned down to study the stump of neck, using a probe to tease the tissues to a better viewing position. After a moment, she turned her attention to the head. "This is amazing," she muttered, more to herself than her partner. "What's amazing?" asked Mulder. He slid off the stool and came to stand beside her. "I'll have to do a microscopic examination to verify it, but it appears that Mr. Rasher's head was severed from his body by a single blow to the neck from a singularly sharp edged weapon. There's no sign of any of the damage I'd expect to find in a decapitation. Mulder," she said, meeting his eyes, "do you have any idea how sharp a knife or ax would have to be to do that? And the strength it would take? Before the guillotine, it used to take a good executioner at least two blows to do the job on a passive individual." Mulder said, "I didn't need to know that." He looked at the crime report again. "This says the body was found at about 11:45 last night. That's right after that light show we saw." "He wasn't struck by lighting, Mulder." "I wasn't suggesting that he was. It's just an interesting coincidence, don't you think?" "Mulder, are you saying you think there's a link between the two events?" He shrugged. "Could be. I'll have to do some digging. The report does say Mr. Rasher probably went to his final reward between 11 p.m. and 11:45, though." Scully ignored him in favor of the dead man's clothing, personal effects, and the sword, which had been swathed in yards of plastic sheeting. There was nothing to be learned from the shirt, jacket and trousers and after a perfunctory examination, she returned them to their plastic bag. The personal effects, consisting of a wallet, wristwatch, some pocket change, and a small appointment book were put aside to be taken back to the office. Coming to the sword, she unwrapped it and held it up in her gloved hands, admiring the beauty of the intricately designed hilt. Then she frowned. "Has this been tested for blood traces?" "The results will be back tomorrow, along with the metal analysis. That will give us an idea as to the sword's age." Mulder ran a finger lightly along the blade and held it up for Scully to see. A thin line of scarlet welled up. "Well, it's sharp. This could be the murder weapon." "Why wouldn't the killer have taken it away with him?" Mulder shrugged. "How do you keep people from noticing you're carrying around three feet of cold steel? Someone, even that late at night, would have seen the killer. Why draw attention to himself?" "True." "It is beautiful, though," said Mulder. "And deadly," Scully added. End pt. 1/8 See disclaimer in part 1. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ RENAISSANCE 1: If A Man Die (2/8) by M.C. Christjansen If a man die, shall he live again? - I Chronicles 14:14 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ J. Edgar Hoover Bldg. Basement 11:47 AM "Did you know there have been three other mystery beheadings in the DC area in the last two hundred years? Two men and a woman." It was almost noon. Scully had spent most of the morning following up some of the tests that had been run on the late Frank Rasher. There had been some curious anomalies in the blood chemistry results that she had been unable to resolve, and she had ordered new tests. She'd brought the sword back with her and now she dumped it on Mulder's desk and held out a jumbo cup of iced tea to her partner. "Mulder, there's at least one beheading a year--" "That's domestic or drug-related stuff. I mean something that has no rhyme or reason to it." He tore the lid off the tea and gulped down half of it. "The trick is correlating it with the light displays I mentioned earlier this morning." He spun around in his chair to face his computer terminal and typed in a request. "I did that." "Weather service records don't go back two hundred years." "Other sources do. Newspapers, journals, stuff like that. You just have to know what questions to ask and where to ask them. Would you believe three out of three?" "What?" "The three beheadings I mentioned were accompanied by weather anomalies, i.e. electrical storms apparently concentrated in a highly localized area. The first was in 1784. The second, the woman, occurred in 1837, and the third was in 1922. The last is the best documented. " "Could it be coincidence?" "What would you say if I told you that according to NCAVC there've been more than two hundred display-linked killings throughout the United States since 1985? And there were over two dozen in the Seattle area alone in the last three years." "I'd say stay out of Seattle." "I've requested information on beheadings and weather conditions from Interpol, too. This--" He pulled a folder from the chaos of his desk, "--is everything I've managed to pull together about the killings in this country." Scully reached for the folder. The DC beheadings were on top. "December 1922, John Patrick Fowler, industrialist and patron of the arts." She leafed through the printouts of the official reports, unrelated news stories about Fowler and the related weather anomaly, and the obituary, giving the photograph accompanying the latter a quick glance. "April 1837, Anna Janusz, Polish immigrant, printer by trade. Report of death, a mention of 'unusual lightnings.' 1784, Edward Gwinnett, patriot, died of 'misadventure.' What's this, a page from someone's journal?" She held up a photocopy. Mulder nodded. "His wife's. She writes about an unusual storm, lasting only a few moments, occurring the day her husband's headless body was found in an outbuilding on their plantation." Scully returned to the file, scanning the VICAP forms requesting FBI assistance in the investigation of unsolved, random, motiveless deaths. "Mulder, there's no pattern here. Many of these people were drifters, but some of them were married, with a stable home life. None of those appear to have had children. Was Rasher married? "According to his records, he'd been living in Alexandria for the past ten years with his wife. I'm not having a lot of luck tracking this guy by computer. Beyond the basic stuff like credit cards and Social Security, he doesn't seem to exist. Not even any medical records." "That's impossible, Mulder. He's got to be in a medical database somewhere." He shrugged and indicated the file in her hands. "Did you notice that most of the victims were found with swords, or even axes, in close proximity to the bodies?" Mulder got up and headed for the chalkboard tucked into a corner of the office. He wrote, in no particular order: Beheaded/Unsolved. Swords. Light Show. No Kids. No Motive. "This is what all those people have in common. It's the beginning of a pattern." "Mulder, these killings are spread out over two hundred years--" "Eugene Tooms claimed his victims over a period of hundred years." She suppressed a shudder. "--and around the world. Even Tooms couldn't be in two places at the same time." "Not without violating laws of time and space," Mulder agreed. "But a group of killers could. There're precedents: the Hashishim during the Crusades in the Middle East, and the Thuggee cult of Kaili in 19th century India." "Are you postulating the existence of a modern-day organization of murderers who roam the earth randomly beheading people?" "Not at random. There's a reason for it. We just don't know what it is yet." "Like ritual sacrifice." "Or to gain something." "What? And why cut off heads? Why not just shoot them, or stab them?" Mulder shrugged. "To keep the victim's soul from reaching the afterlife. To make sure the victim stays dead. Traditionally, vampires were first staked, and then beheaded, just to be sure." Scully had gone back to the beginning of the file. "It says here that Fowler donated an impressive collection of antique weapons to the Smithsonian just after the First World War." "What sort of weapons?" "Mostly swords and axes." "Edged weapons," said Mulder, tapping the entry on the chalkboard for emphasis. "You're reaching." He stared at the board then dropped the chalk in the tray. "All of these people must have something in common to have died in the same way. If we can figure what that is, we can figure out who is doing it." She dropped the folder on the desk. "Let's check out the crime scene." "I did that while you were at the lab. There's nothing there to tie to Rasher's murder. It's just a big public area with a lot of trees and bushes and litter." She nodded, knowing Mulder wouldn't have missed anything important. "I suppose we should begin with Rasher's wife, then," said Scully. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Alexandria, VA 1:38 PM Frank Rasher had lived in a quietly expensive neighborhood not far from the historical district of Alexandria, Virginia. The house itself was of Revolutionary vintage; most of the trees surrounding it were older than that. Neat flower beds ornamented a green velvet lawn. The woman who answered the door was in her mid to late forties and might have been beautiful once. Now her skin clung tightly to her bones and her face had the waxy pallor of a burnt-out candle, making her reddened eyes and nose stand out sharply. "I'm Special Agent Fox Mulder, FBI, ma'am. This is Special Agent Scully. We'd like to talk to Mrs. Frank Rasher concerning her husband's death." "I have nothing to tell you," the woman said quietly. Mulder and Scully exchanged looks. "Mrs. Rasher," said the latter, "we're sorry your husband died, but we really do need to speak to you. It's possible he was the victim of a multiple killer." "There's nothing I can tell you about Frank," Mrs. Rasher repeated. "He was a gentle man. His reputation was spotless and he didn't have any enemies." "What about his friends?" "My husband had a great many friends in and out of the business." "Mrs. Rasher, did your husband own a sword?" asked Mulder. She look startled, but recovered quickly. "He owned several." "Was he in the habit of carrying one with him when he went out at night?" "Now why would he do that when all the muggers carry guns?" Scully took a Polaroid snapshot out of her pocket. "This sword was found with your husband, Mrs. Rasher. Do you recognize it?" "It was his. I don't want it back. Give it to a museum. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to rest now." She shut the door firmly. "She barely looked at the picture," remarked Scully as they made their way back to the car. A gray Thunderbird rolled to a stop across the street. Both she and Mulder noted it and its driver and filed the information for future reference, if needed. "She's holding something back," Mulder said. He snapped on his seat belt. "I wonder what? And why?" "She's dying," Scully said softly. "Cancer, I think." He nodded. End part 2/8 See disclaimer in part 1. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ RENAISSANCE 1: If A Man Die by M.C. Christjansen If a man die, shall he live again? - I Chronicles 14:14 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ J. Edgar Hoover Building Basement Friday, July 19, 1996, 8:27 AM Mulder was reading a book, his feet propped comfortably on his desk, when Scully came in the next morning. *Workaholic,* she thought fondly. She glanced at the slender volume in her partner's hands and asked, "What's that?" "A biography of John Patrick Fowler." "It's not very substantial." "That's what makes it so interesting." Mulder took his feet off the desk and sat up. "Fowler was a mystery man. Prior to World War One, he was just another factory owner, making farm equipment. When the war broke out, he converted his factories to build munitions, which he sold to the British, and later to the United States, for a modest profit, while he himself joined the American Expeditionary Forces. The war made him a hero and a rich man. He ran for political office in Alexandria and won, easily. Four years later, he was found dead in a field on his own land, victim of an unknown assailant who cut off his head. Fowler had tried to defend himself with a Civil-War era saber." "We seem to be running into one mystery after another on this case." Scully plucked the book from his hands and riffled the pages. A sheaf of photographs bound in the book's center caught her eye and she looked at each one carefully. "What is it?" Mulder asked when she took too long to turn a page. She held out the picture, pointing to a dark-haired man standing beside Fowler and another man. "I've seen this man somewhere just recently." "In the file about the killings?" Mulder pulled it out and withdrew a photocopied newspaper article and its accompanying photograph. The man from the book was in that picture, too, half-turned from the camera. "No," said Scully. "I mean I've seen him physically in the last few days." Mulder squinted at the caption in the book. "Verdun, 1918: John Patrick Fowler, center, with Lt. Richard Sharpe, left, and Crpl. Duncan MacLeod, right." He dropped the book on the desk and spun around in his chair, grabbing the plastic zipseal bag holding Frank Rasher's personal effects from the shelf where it lay. "Mulder, what is it?" "You knew the face, but I know the name." He shook out the appointment book and opened it to the last entry, holding it out to Scully to read. "I paged through this yesterday before you got back from the lab, and found some names to run through the computer." "Duncan MacLeod, midnight, Linc. Mem." She met his eyes. "Mulder, it can't possibly be the same man." "Probably not, but it's a name connected to Rasher and to Fowler." He turned to the keyboard of his computer, accessed a network, and tapped in his request. "First, we'll get Military Archives to send us anything they have on the first MacLeod. While we're waiting for that, let's see what else we can turn up on the one in the appointment book." "I'll see what I can find under his credit records," said Scully, hurrying back to her own desk. Within an hour and a half, after accessing several databases, they had begun to find answers to some of their questions. Lt. MacLeod had died in 1932, during an extensive tour of Asia, where he had been buried. At some point during his travels, he had married and produced a son, also named Duncan, about whom little was known except that he had lived in Scotland when he wasn't traveling. A third Duncan, grandson of the first, had emigrated to the United States in the 1980's settling in Seattle. He had been an antiques dealer for a while, but now operated a dojo. "That's quite a jump from fine arts to martial arts," remarked Mulder. "What have you got, Scully?" "Like Rasher, there's very little to find. He's prompt with his credit card payments, and he travels a lot. Paris mostly." She frowned. "Mulder, I remember where I saw him. It was at Rasher's house yesterday. The driver of the gray T-Bird." "Any activity on his credit card in the last two days?" She typed in the question. "A flight from Seattle to Dulles. He checked into a hotel in Arlington late Wednesday night/Thursday morning." "After midnight, in other words." "Mulder, he didn't have the time to get off a plane from Seattle, somehow get to Constitution Gardens, kill Frank Rasher, and check into a hotel." "No, but I believe he came from Seattle to see Rasher for some reason. Let's go talk to Mr. MacLeod." ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Holiday Inn, Alexandria, VA 9:42 AM Except that he wore his long dark brown hair in a queue, Duncan MacLeod was a dead-ringer for the man in the photographs back at the office. He was as tall as Mulder, but seemed even taller. Lithe, muscular and dark, he reminded Scully of a wary jungle cat. "FBI, Mr. MacLeod," Mulder said when the door opened. "I'm Special Agent Mulder, this is Special Agent Scully. We'd like to talk to you about the death of Frank Rasher last Wednesday night. May we come in?" After staring at Mulder for a moment, MacLeod opened the door wider for them to come in. "I'm not sure I can help you," he said, with a hint of Scots burring warming his baritone voice. "Your name was in Mr. Rasher's appointment book for a midnight meeting at the Lincoln Memorial, Mr. MacLeod," said Scully. "Can you tell us the nature of your meeting?" "It wasn't to kill him, if that's what you're getting at." Mulder paced around the room, discreetly checking it out. "Then why were you meeting him at such an unusual hour?" "Because that's when he wanted to meet." "How did you know Mr. Rasher?" Scully inquired. "We were old friends." "Why were you meeting him?" asked Mulder. He opened the closet and looked in, then glanced at his partner. MacLeod took two long strides and shut the closet's folding doors. "I owed him a favor." "So you came all the way from Seattle to grant him this favor?" "He asked, I came. That's the way it usually works." "Must have been a hell of a big favor he did for you," Mulder observed. When MacLeod didn't rise to the bait, Mulder tried another tack. "How long are you planning to stay in the Washington area, Mr. MacLeod?" "A few days." "Mr. MacLeod," said Scully, "we know you run a martial arts dojo in Seattle. Does the training you offer include swords?" MacLeod smiled. "Sometimes, yes, it does. And yes, I do know how to use one." "Can you think of any reason someone might want to kill Mr. Rasher in so spectacular a manner?" MacLeod shrugged. "Were you aware that there have been a number of similar killings throughout the United States, particularly in Seattle?" "Really?" MacLeod said. Mulder exchanged a speaking glance with his partner. She gave a slight nod. "Thank you for your cooperation, Mr. MacLeod. We'll be back in touch with you." Not until they were alone in the elevator did they speak. "Like Mrs. Rasher, MacLeod knows more than he's willing to tell," said Scully. "I agree." Mulder rubbed the back of his neck with one hand. "He gave you a very strange look, Mulder, when he first opened the door." "I noticed. I thought maybe I had spinach in my teeth. But then I remembered I had a cheeseburger for breakfast." "And then there was the look you gave me." "I can't say for certain, Scully, but I think I saw a sword in MacLeod's closet." She raised an eyebrow. "Let's keep an eye on him for a while and see what happens." XXX Within an hour, MacLeod led them right back to the Rasher home. From a discreet distance, Mulder and Scully watched as he rang the bell and spoke to Mrs. Rasher. Her body language was abrupt, MacLeod's was conciliatory. After a moment, Mrs. Rasher shook her head vigorously, took a step back, and slammed her front door in MacLeod's face. "I wonder what that was all about," said Mulder. "Perhaps she blames him for her husband's death," Scully suggested. Mulder shrugged. "The temperature must be eighty-five degrees and MacLeod is wearing a long, black coat ... I wonder what he's hiding under it." "Could be just about anything from hand grenades to a rocket launcher." "Or a sword." MacLeod drove away; Mulder followed at a discreet distance. "Tell me what else you found out about this guy." "There wasn't much," said Scully. "He's very low-key, lives quietly.' "Married?" "No, but he was involved in a long-term relationship with a French national. She was a sculptor." `"Was?" "She was shot and killed in a mugging in Seattle a year or so ago." Mulder was silent for a few minutes. "MacLeod doesn't feel right to me, Scully." "Is this one of your famous hunches?" "Maybe." He got the cel phone out of his pocket and punched in a sequence of numbers. "Who're you calling?" Scully asked. "The Gunmen," he answered. "Hey, Frohike, it's Mulder. Turn off the tape ... Scully?" He glanced at his partner and grinned. "The last I heard she'd entered a Buddhist convent in Nepal. Listen, can you get me some background information on a Duncan MacLeod from Seattle? And a local by the name of Frank Rasher, too? ... Anything you can dig up ... medical records, taxes, political preferences ... How soon? ... How about the convent's telephone number? ... Thanks." "A *Buddhist* convent?" Scully repeated as her partner disconnected. "You're right. The orange robes would clash with your hair." Shaking her head, she glanced at her wristwatch. "Mulder, let's go back to the office. The analysis on the sword should be back by now." ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ J. Edgar Hoover Bldg. Basement 12:30 PM "Well?" asked Mulder, a little impatiently. Scully looked up from the lab report. "According to this, the sword has got traces of at least half a dozen blood types, but not the present victim's. Some of the traces are very old." "How old is very old?" "More than fifty years." "What about fingerprints?" "Just the victim's own." Mulder picked up the sword in its shroud of plastic. "Did they say anything about the sword itself?" "No. What are you thinking?" "It's a work of art. It should be in a museum, but instead we find it beside a dead man. It's been kept polished and sharpened the way you or I would strip and clean our pistols. This is a working weapon, and I want to know more about it. "So who do we ask?" He gave her question careful consideration. "We'll start over at the Smithsonian. I haven't pissed off anyone there yet." End Part 3/8 See disclaimer in part 1. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ RENAISSANCE 1: If A Man Die (4/8) by M.C. Christjansen If a man die, shall he live again? - I Chronicles 14:14 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Smithsonian Institution 1:10 PM "Toledo steel," said the weapons curator, a man called Daniels. He handled Rasher's sword as though it were a holy relic. "Sixteenth century workmanship, definitely Spanish. It's been beautifully maintained. Where did you get it, Agent Mulder?" "It was found beside a murder victim the night before last." "The death at Constitution Gardens? Was this--?" "No, but we do believe there's a link between it and the death." Daniels nodded. "However beautiful it is, the sole function of such an object is to deal death efficiently." "Is it very valuable?" "Not unless you have some kind of provenance for it. Otherwise it's just another old sword, worth several hundred dollars at most. Uh, may I?" With a glance at Scully, Mulder nodded. The curator backed away a dozen paces, hefting the sword experimentally a few times before slashing the air with it. He nodded to himself and gave back the blade. "This was made by a master craftsman for a man who knew exactly what he wanted in a sword. The balance, the weight, even the design. It's really too bad there's no pedigree." "Thank you for your time, Dr. Daniels," said Scully as Mulder re-wrapped the sword in plastic. "My pleasure." In the parking lot, Mulder locked the sword in the trunk of their car again. Scully dangled a ring of keys as he climbed into the driver's seat. "Rasher's?" he asked. She nodded. "Let's go take a look at his gallery." ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Georgetown Blue Lizard Gallery 2:13 PM The Blue Lizard gallery was located on 29th St. NW in southern Georgetown. The single painting in the window was a nineteenth century English landscape. Mulder nodded approval. "You like that?" Scully asked, not quite believing him. "Sure. Reminds me of my Oxford days." "I had you pegged for Rowlandson, or Hogarth's raunchier stuff." "Scully, I'm hurt. And how does nice girl like you know about Hogarth and Rowlandson?" "I've been around the artistic block a few times, Mulder." She inserted a key into the door and tried to turn it, then tried another. This time the lock clicked. She pushed it open; somewhere a buzzer sounded. Then, unexpectedly, they heard footsteps hurrying toward them. "I'm sorry," a young woman's high, clear voice called, "the gallery's closed." She stepped from behind a screen, a slight figure in a white smock and brown leggings, her curly black hair cropped close to her head. "Didn't you see the notice on the door?" "We're investigating Mr. Rasher's death." said Mulder, producing his badge. "I'm Special Agent Fox Mulder. This is my partner, Special Agent Dana Scully. We'd like to look around." "I'm Chloe Shannon, Frank's assistant." She spread her hands. "I suppose it's okay if you look around. Nobody's given me a clue what to do about this place." "I'd like to look at Mr. Rasher's desk," Mulder said. "Sure. Come on back." Chloe led them around the screen to a brightly lit room divided into three sections by more screens. She pointed to the far corner. "Frank's cell is in the back, in the corner. You can look, but I don't think you should take anything away." Mulder zeroed in on the desk, leaving Scully with Chloe. "What is it that you do here, Miss Shannon?" she asked. "I run the gallery for Frank." "And the gallery specializes in English artists?" Chloe nodded. "Eighteenth and nineteenth century landscape painters mainly. Frank also did conservation and restoration." "Just the two of you work here?" "We're not like Wal-Mart. People like to take their time buying art." "Did Mr. Rasher do his restoration work here?" Scully glanced around the room. She had no idea what restoring and conserving art entailed, but it was a safe bet it required paint and chemicals and brushes, and she couldn't see or smell anything like that in this place. "He's got a studio where he works on those projects. He doesn't--didn't like to be disturbed because he really has to concentrate on what he's doing." At that point, Mulder rejoined them, shaking his head in response to Scully's unspoken question. "Where is this studio?" "It's in a warehouse in Arlington. I suppose you'll want to go and look at it, too." "Do you have the address?" "Sure." Chloe went to her desk, flipped through a Rolodex and wrote down an address and a sequence of numbers on a slip of paper, which she handed to Scully. "There's a key pad ten feet to the left of the door as you go in. You have to punch in those numbers within thirty seconds, or a silent alarm goes off." She glanced away and then back at the two agents, her eyes bright with unshed tears. "Do you really think you'll be able to find the man who killed Frank?" "We're doing our best, Miss Shannon," Mulder replied. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Arlington, VA 3:45 PM The entrance to Frank Rasher's studio was in an alleyway. The door swung open noisily and a faint odor of chemicals and turpentine drifted out. The building was semi-dark, lit by a skylight and a series of long, narrow windows high on the north wall. "This must be the place," remarked Mulder, groping for the light switch and flipping it on. Scully stepped past him to locate the key pad and tap in the numbers Chloe Shannon had given them. The studio occupied a large corner room in the warehouse that had obviously served as an office in the not too distant past. Industrial shelving held tools, brushes, paints and chemicals. A large table, higher than usual occupied the center of the space; on it lay several paintings in various stages of progress. Along an outside wall, a small refrigerator and a microwave oven were lined up on a counter next to a double-bowled stainless steel sink. The cupboard contained snack foods, canned soup and art supplies. A cot occupied one corner. Another door led to the rest of the warehouse. Mulder poked around the room while Scully went through the desk. Coming to a locked cabinet, he called to Scully to throw him Rasher's keys. After three tries, he found the correct key and opened the cabinet to reveal yet more canvases. He sorted through them. "Scully, look," he called after a moment. "What is it, Mulder?" He pulled a painting from the cabinet and displayed it for her. It was a confusing, even surreal, combination of a nude woman doing something to her hair and landscape of sheep in a meadow. "Leave it to you, Mulder, to find a picture of a naked woman." "Hold this," he said, ignoring the jibe. He reached into the cabinet again and brought out another painting. It showed the hindquarters of a horse in a lush pastoral background and a primitive-looking bowl of fruit. "Chloe Shannon said he did restoration and conservation," said Mulder. "That means he was pretty good at taking layers of varnish and paint off of old pictures without harming the original painting underneath." "What are you getting at, Mulder." "Painting over a stolen picture would be one way to move it around the country, or even out of it, without getting caught." Scully nodded. "There's a registry for stolen art, isn't there?" "Yeah, in New York City. Let's take these back to the office and give them a call. Maybe they can come up with something." ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ J. Edgar Hoover Building Basement 7:10 PM The stolen art registry came up with two possible hits within hours: A painting of an eighteenth century Thoroughbred champion by George Stubbs, and one of a woman bathing by Auguste Renoir. Both had been stolen from private collections that spring and had not been recovered. Color photographs of the stolen paintings would arrive the next day by overnight express for comparison. "We'll take everything over to the Smithsonian tomorrow and let them sort it out," Scully said.. "For tonight, the paintings can stay in one of the strong rooms here." She glanced at her wristwatch. "Let's call it a day, Mulder." He turned to his computer terminal. "Let me check my e-mail first and see if the boys have come up with anything." There was a single item awaiting his attention. He keyed into it. "Well?" asked Scully after a moment. "No medical information, no criminal record for either MacLeod or Rasher." "Could these men be part of the Federal Witness Protection Program?" "No, they'd still have to have medical records, even under assumed names." Mulder stared at the screen for a moment. "Scully, did you notice whether Rasher had a smallpox vaccination scar anywhere on his body?" "As a matter of fact," she said, reaching for her autopsy notes to confirm what she thought, "he didn't. But a lot of people don't these days. Smallpox is extinct, except for specimens held in ultra-secure medical labs like the CDC's." "Rasher should have. He was too old not to have one." He began shutting down his computer for the night. "Where d'you want to go for dinner?" ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 3170 W. 53rd Rd., #35 Sunny Heights Apartment Complex Saturday, July 20, 1996, 2:00 AM Scully had been enjoying a pleasant dream when a sudden shrill noise shattered her rest and made her sit up in bed. Automatically, she reached out for the alarm clock. Then she realized that the noise she was hearing was intermittent and not at all like that of the alarm. She reached for the telephone, marveling that Queequeg, sprawled inelegantly on his back with his legs in the air at the foot of the bed, was not at all disturbed by it. "Mulder, this had better be good," she mumbled, falling back on her pillows. "It is. I--" "Where are you?" "Back at the office. I had an idea and I couldn't wait 'til morning to run it through the computer. "Mulder, it is morning. Can't this wait?" She heard him sigh, and when he spoke, the excitement had drained from his voice. "Yeah, I suppose it could. G'night, Scully." "Mulder! Wait!" But it was too late, he'd already hung up. She cradled the receiver and lay back, waiting for sleep to reclaim her. Long minutes passed. She sighed and got out of bed, trying not to disturb the dog. It took her ten minutes to dress and find her car keys. End Part 4/8 See disclaimer in part 1. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ RENAISSANCE 1: If A Man Die (5/8) by M.C. Christjansen If a man die, shall he live again? - I Chronicles 14:14 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ J. Edgar Hoover Building Basement 2:57 AM Mulder was dozing in his chair with his feet up on the desk and his head tilted back at an awkward angle. He clutched a sheaf of paper in his hands; more papers were in his lap and spilled onto the floor. Scully closed the door to their office gently and approached him, intending to pick up a few of the papers and read over them before waking him. She shook her head as she straightened. Although her partner was an insomniac, when he finally did sleep he did so in the most unusual places and at the most unusual times. His favored place of rest was the battered leather couch in his living room, preferably with the television on. Although he had a perfectly good bed, he seldom used it. It was not, he insisted, as comfortable as the couch. The papers were lists of credit card expenditures, mostly from Paris and Seattle, and lists of the unusual weather phenomenon, also from Paris and Seattle, that had first sparked Mulder's interest in this case. "It's MacLeod's plastic for the last three years," Mulder said, without opening his eyes. "There're light shows every time he's in Paris." "Are there any displays when he's not?" "Yes. But there're displays when he's in Seattle, too." "And now he's here in DC, and there's been a display." "I bet I can find a link between Rasher and some of the displays, too." She tossed the pages to his desk and held out her hand. "C'mon, Mulder. It's late. You can crash on my couch instead of driving all the way back to Alexandria." "What're you doing here, anyway?" He took the proffered hand and got to his feet, yawning and stretching mightily. Joints popped. "I'm as much a workaholic as you are." "But not as much of a masochist." He smiled apologetically. "I'm sorry I woke you up, Scully. I sometimes forget not everyone is as enthusiastic about their work as I am." She hit the light switch by the door. "Mulder, sometimes you are like the biggest damn kid on the planet: You get a new toy and you can't wait to show it off." "But they're such interesting toys, Scully!" She shook her head. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Arlington, Virginia 10:13 AM The Smithsonian's art experts were able to confirm that the paintings Mulder and Scully had found in Frank Rasher's studio were indeed the two missing works the stolen art registry believed them to be. "But why take the risk of painting over a valuable canvas?" Scully wondered aloud. They were on their way back to Rasher's studio to look around some more. "Greed," replied Mulder. "You heard what Dr. Richardson said. A skilled technician like Rasher wouldn't have much trouble pulling a layer of new paint off an old layer of varnish. And Richardson said Rasher had an excellent reputation among conservators." "How did you know?" Scully asked. Mulder shrugged. "Just one of my hunches. That and the fact that I read an article about X-raying old paintings recently. Ever read the 'Purloined Letter,' Scully?" "In the eighth grade." "It just made sense. If you're going to hide something, hide it in plain sight. Rasher was painting over stolen paintings. Then the paintings could be sent anywhere, even out of the country, because even if they were X-rayed, who was going to figure out that painting underneath was stolen. Lots of painters recycle their old canvases; they've done it ever since they began painting on canvas." "It's almost the perfect crime, but it still doesn't explain why Rasher was killed," Scully pointed out. "Maybe Rasher and his partner had a falling out." "Constitution Gardens is kind of a public place to have that kind of a 'falling out.'" Mulder guided the car around the corner and onto the street where the alley leading to the studio/warehouse debouched. "Mulder, look!" Scully pointed toward the warehouse. A gray Thunderbird was pulled up near the mouth of the alley leading to the entrance. Its driver was nowhere to be seen. He glanced at his partner. "Curiouser and curiouser. Shall we go see what Mr. MacLeod is up to?" They entered the building cautiously, moving through the half-light like ghosts. A faint noise that might have been footsteps drew their attention to the front of the warehouse. "Take the studio," whispered Mulder, drawing his weapon. "I'll check out the front." Scully nodded as she took out her own weapon and crept toward the studio area, where a light had just come on. The door was ajar and she could just make out a figure moving about within. She moved closer, and saw MacLeod seat himself at the roll-top desk and open it. He was searching for something and not finding it, to judge from his actions. Then, suddenly, his posture changed. His head cocked to one side, as if listening for something. He turned, not toward her, but toward the warehouse, and half-rose from the chair. Scully stepped into the studio and raised her pistol. "Federal Agent, Mr. MacLeod. Put your hands in the air and stand up and away from the desk." MacLeod complied, turning to face her slowly. "Agent Scully, isn't it?" "What are you doing here?" "The same thing you are." She waited for a better explanation; it was forthcoming. "I told you Frank Rasher was a friend of mine. I want to know who was responsible for his death." "That's my job, Mr. MacLeod." "You didn't know Frank, so you wouldn't know what to look for." "Why don't you tell me?" He took a step toward her, his hands still in the air. "Is your partner here, too?" "He's checking out the rest of the building." There was a crash, as something heavy, a wooden crate perhaps, fell and splintered. "He doesn't know what he's getting involved with, said MacLeod. "When Mulder wants help, he'll ask for it." There was another crash, followed by a metallic clang, and then Mulder's voice, almost panicking, "Scully!" "He's asking," said MacLeod. Scully threw him a look, then ran into the darkness of the warehouse. "Mulder?" She heard the sound of gun fire, three shots. "Mulder!" The lights came on, and MacLeod was suddenly beside her. "Stay here," he commanded. He strode forward, his long black coat flapping in the wake of his passage like bat wings. Scully ran after him, gun in hand. "I told you--" "I can take care of myself, Mr. MacLeod." He sighed. "Suit yourself, Agent Scully." They rounded a corner and came upon a tableau that imprinted itself in Scully's mind like a nightmare come true: Mulder lay face down in a pool of his own blood, while a lithe, feral looking woman at least six feet tall, with wild golden hair stood over him. There was a sword in the woman's hand, a long, heavy-bladed weapon that looked like something out of a sword-and-sorcery epic. Under other circumstances, the contrast between the sword and her severe business suit and sensible shoes might have been comical. "Mulder!" MacLeod threw out an arm, blocking her from her instinctive urge to go to her partner's aide. "I'm Duncan MacLeod, of the Clan MacLeod." "Freya Thorvaldsdottir, at your service, Duncan MacLeod." She prodded Mulder with her sword and he moaned. The dreadful sound echoed through the warehouse. "This infant is mine, for all the good he'll do me." MacLeod reached into his coat for something; a gun, Scully hoped. Her hopes were dashed when she saw only an old Japanese sword in his hand. She sensed an undercurrent to the danger Mulder was in, something she did not yet understand. "No, he is not," said MacLeod. "Are you challenging me, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod?" "I am. As you said, he's an infant. I'm not." "MacLeod--" whispered Scully. For the first time Freya Thorvaldsdottir seemed to notice the other woman's presence. "Who's this?" "No one important," said MacLeod. He pushed Scully back out of the way and took a step forward, raising his own sword and holding it over his right shoulder, almost like a baseball bat. "What the *hell* is going on here?" Scully demanded. "My partner is bleeding to death and you two want to play some stupid game?" "Be quiet!" MacLeod snapped. He turned back to the woman with the sword. "Well?" "I accept your challenge. But not in front of her." She glanced down at Mulder, silent and motionless at her feet. "I'll claim this one later." She stepped back into the shadows of the warehouse. MacLeod followed her. Scully darted forward, holstering her pistol, and fell to her knees in the crimson pool surrounding Mulder. Carefully, she rolled him over onto his back. The sight of the single wound, a gaping cut in the center of his body just beneath his ribs, brought a gasp of disbelief to her lips. His once pristine white shirt was drenched with blood, his coat and trousers were slick and black with the stuff. But he breathed. Without thinking, she pressed her hands to the wound to try to stanch the life still flooding so freely from him. MacLeod returned, alone, his sword hidden away once more. "Call 911!" snapped Scully. "There's a cell phone in my pocket." When MacLeod did not move, she glanced up. "Do it!" "He doesn't need an ambulance," MacLeod said gently. "Look at him." Scully was looking, and what she was seeing turned her own blood to ice water. Mulder's face was as white as bleached bone, the result of massive trauma, shock, loss of blood. Her medical training confirmed MacLeod's blunt remark: Mulder was going to die within a few minutes, no matter what. Another part of her shrieked that something, anything must be done to give her partner a chance, because if Fox Mulder died, a part of her would, too. "Mulder ... " Incredibly, he opened his eyes. "I know, Scully. It's okay. It doesn't hurt." "It's not okay!" He groped for one of her hands and clasped it with surprising strength. "I'm sorry ... " "Mulder, I swear, if you don't come back to haunt me, I'll--I'll--" Words failed her. He managed a smile. "... knew I could make a ... believer ... out of you, Dana. I'm sorry I never told ... " The grip on her fingers went slack. Under her hands, Scully felt the rise and fall of his chest cease. Mulder was still smiling, but his eyes were glassy in death. "Please, Mulder ... " she whispered, but there was no response. "Fox?" She took her hands away from the wound and wiped them on her skirt before reaching up to shut his eyes. She brushed a lock of dark hair aside and leaned down to kiss his forehead. After a moment, she kissed his mouth as well. Then she looked up at MacLeod, who crouched opposite her. "Go now. I'll take care of him." Scully shook her head, determined not to weep in front of the stranger. "I'll stay with him until ... " "It's really better that you go." "I'm not leaving him before I have to!" She sat down in the dust and the blood and lifted her partner's head into her lap. MacLeod studied her a moment before asking, "How close were the two of you?" "We were partners." "Lovers?" "N-no."
"But he trusted you?" "I'm the only person he trusted." She sandwiched Mulder's hands between her two to keep them from going cold too soon. MacLeod retreated a short distance, giving her some privacy. Five minutes passed, then ten. He walked back and squatted next to Scully, putting a sympathetic hand on her shoulder. "I don't hear any sirens yet. Did you call the police?" she whispered. "No, I didn't." She looked at him, puzzled. "Agent Scully, can you keep his secrets?" He nodded toward the shell that had been Fox Mulder. She thought about the things Mulder had told her about himself and nodded. "Yes." "Good." His comment seemed cryptic and she was about to ask what he meant by it when she felt her fingers being squeezed. She looked down to see that Mulder's hand had tightened around them. Post-mortem reaction, she told herself. Muscles twitched, limbs jerked, occasionally the heart and lungs continued to function for some time after clinical death had occurred. But all the medical literature she'd read hadn't prepared her for what happened next. Mulder's body convulsed, arcing like a bow. His mouth opened and he gasped raggedly, painfully, sucking in air like a drowning man. "What is it? What's happening to him?" she cried to MacLeod. Mulder's grip grew painfully tight on Scully's hand; she freed herself and stared in astonishment as the dead man's eyes opened so wide she could see the whites all around the irises. Intelligence flooded back into them, driving out the lifelessness. thought Scully. "Take it easy," MacLeod was saying, not to her, but to Mulder. "You'll be all right in a minute. The first time is always the worst." Terrified by the implications of what she was witnessing, Scully pushed his head off her lap and scrabbled backwards, away from her partner. her brain repeated over and over again. Mulder, still panting for air, looked up at them both, clearly just as puzzled as Scully was. "Wh-what happened? The last--last I remember, I was dying." MacLeod helped him to sit up. "You 'died,' Agent Mulder. And you'll probably 'die' many more times before it happens for real. Take it easy, you're still weak from the blood loss." "Mulder?" It was Scully. After the initial shock, her natural curiosity was beginning to reassert itself. She crept back. "Is it really you?" "Near as I can tell." He rubbed his face in his hands. "But I saw you die! There's no way you could've survived ..." She reached for his shirt and ripped it the rest of the way open to expose an angry red welt on his upper abdomen. Overwhelmed, Scully began to cry softly. Mulder hesitated a moment before pulling her into his arms and holding her tightly. "Jesus, Dana, I don't know what's going on either, but I'm glad to be back." "You're an Immortal," said MacLeod. "I'm what?" "An Immortal." "How do you know that?" "Because I am, too. Welcome to the Game."" A highly confused Mulder blinked and asked, "I'm not going to develop an insatiable need to party all night, sleep all day, and drink human blood, am I?" MacLeod grinned briefly before answering, "No. But you are going to have to learn how to use one of these." The katana appeared in his hand from beneath his coat. "Because the only way one of us can die is if someone takes his head." Mulder sagged against his partner. "Great. I changed to an electric shaver because I always nick myself when I use a razor." MacLeod looked around. "Let's get out of here. We need to get you on holy ground until we can get you cleaned up and I can begin teach you what you need to know." He leaned down and pulled Scully to her feet, before assisting Mulder. "Lesson One: Holy ground, anyone's holy ground, is the only place where we're safe from one another. Right now, you're extremely vulnerable." "And why should he trust you?" asked Scully. She was clutching Mulder's arm, but it was unclear who was supporting whom. "Because he's my responsibility. Come on, we've got a lot do." "Mulder ...?" "It's really me, Scully. But I don't understand what's happened." She nodded and wrapped her arms around his waist. "Lean on me, Mulder." "Always have." He glanced down at his partner. Her suit was stain and crumpled; there were red streaks on her face where she had wiped away her tears with bloody fingers. She gazed back at him, and he saw in the sea-blue depths of her eyes something he had never dared to put a name to. Shaken, he said, "You look like hell, Scully." She managed a weak smile. "You don't look so wonderful yourself, Mulder." End Part 5/8\ See disclaimer in part 1. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ RENAISSANCE 1: If A Man Die (6/8) by M.C. Christjansen If a man die, shall he live again? - I Chronicles 14:14 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Church of All Saints 11:21 AM MacLeod left them sitting in a back pew in a nearby Catholic church. "I'll be back in 20 minutes with clean clothes," he assured them. "You'll be safe here while I'm gone. If anyone comes in, go into one of the confessionals." He took off his coat and gave it to Mulder to conceal his torn, bloody clothing. "Stay here, no matter what." Alone, Mulder and Scully did nothing more than look at one another for a few moments. Then, finally, she took his hand and asked, "How do you feel?" "Like death warmed over," Mulder replied. He gripped her fingers more tightly. "Scully, was I really ... ?" "I would've signed the death certificate." Her voice broke a little as she spoke. "Then how is it I'm back from ... wherever?" "I haven't got a clue, Mulder. All I know is you're back, thank God." He put an arm around her; Scully leaned in until her head rested on his shoulder. "I hope MacLeod has a good explanation for this." "What if he doesn't?" Scully shrugged. "At this point, I'm more than willing to entertain extreme possibilities. Mulder, what do you remember?" He thought for a moment. "A crate fell a few feet in front of me. And then this--this Valkyrie appeared waving a sword. I got off three rounds as she lunged at me. I know I hit her. I saw the wounds. And then ..." he hesitated, "and then, she came at me again, and connected, and I hared out. Scully, she killed me. I shouldn't b-be here. I--" His voice broke and he paused to compose himself, forcing back the tears that threatened to spill over at the memory of his own death. Scully clung to him. She could think of no words to comfort a man who had been brutally murdered less than thirty minutes ago and was now alive again. All she could do for her partner was provide the comfort of her presence. Within the span of half an hour she had lost her partner forever, only to regain him; it was nothing short of miraculous. She reached up to touch his throat, felt the pulse there throbbing strong and regular, like the ticking of a clock. His body was warm against hers. Mulder was alive, despite what she had witnessed. She cast a glance toward the altar and its crucifix. As for Mulder, his thoughts were confused and incoherent, running in circles like a dog chasing its tail. He was grateful to be alive again, to have a second chance, but the cynic in him wondered what sort of payment would be extracted for his resurrection. If it meant losing Scully, he much preferred to be dead. But if he were dead, he would be unable to hold her like this and be held by her. Someone, or something, deserved his gratitude for what had happened. He just wasn't sure who or what. He let his mind go blank and closed his eyes. A faint, irritating buzz manifested itself inside his head, steadily growing to a painful intensity. He let go of Scully and pressed both hands to his head, trying to silence the noise, but it only grew stronger and more painful, until he couldn't bear it any longer and he cried out with the pain of it. "Mulder? What is it? What's wrong?" He opened his eyes and saw Scully's frightened face swimming in his field of vision. "My head!" he gasped. "It's full of bumble bees!" Then he heard MacLeod's voice saying, "I'm sorry. I should've warned you about that." He opened his eyes and met the man's gaze. And then, as suddenly as though someone had switched it off, the buzzing went away. "Warned him about what?" demanded Scully. She took Mulder's head in her hands and stared into his eyes, trying to read symptoms that were not there. "What he just experienced. It's a warning that there's another Immortal nearby. Once you've actually seen one another, it stops." "Does it always hurt like that?" "In the beginning, but after a while it won't bother you any more than someone dragging their fingernails across a blackboard." MacLeod held out three plastic carriers. "I had to guess at the sizes." Scully took one of the bags and looked inside. "Sweatsuits and disposable baby wipes," she informed Mulder. "Use the confessionals to change in," suggested MacLeod. "Then we'll go somewhere and talk." ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Apt. 42, Address Unknown Alexandria, Virginia 12:54 PM "You're going to live forever," said MacLeod, "or at least until someone stronger, smarter and more skilled than you takes your head. You're going to lose everyone and everything you love. You're going to become a wanderer, adept at lying about your past and faking the death of every identity you assume. You'll never have children. You can still get sick, drunk or addicted to drugs. You will feel physical pain every time you are hurt. You're going to be alone, Agent Mulder, more alone than you've ever been before in your life. And there's nothing you could have done to prevent all this happening, because this is the way you were born. It would have happened no matter what, as long as you suffered a violent death. But now is as good a time as any to become Immortal. You're in your prime, neither too young nor too old to be conspicuous." Both Mulder and Scully were silent as they digested what MacLeod had just told them. They were at Mulder's apartment, where the two agents had showered and were now seated side by side on the worn leather couch. Scully, wearing one of Mulder's T-shirts and a pair of his sweatpants, resembled a little girl playing dress-up in her big brother's clothes, while Mulder had wrapped himself in a thick blue terrycloth bathrobe. "You were lucky, this time," MacLeod went on. "Only Agent Scully knows you died. If there had been more witnesses, your life here would have been over." "Over?" echoed Scully faintly. "Mulder would have had to move on, establish a new identity for himself somewhere else." "Does this happen very often?" "As often as it needs to. Eventually, he'll have to move on anyway. He's never going to look any older than he is now." "But not right away?" "Not if he's careful." Scully let out the breath she had been holding. "Mulder? Careful?" she asked, striving for a lightness she was far from feeling. "Hey, I'm careful!" her partner protested. "I'm just not much of a fighter." "You will be," MacLeod promised, "by the time I'm through with you." "You're serious about the swords, aren't you?" "Remember your Kipling, Agent Mulder: 'If you can keep your head ...' " "I get the picture." Mulder looked down at his hands, then back at MacLeod. "I'm going to get dressed. Immortal or not, we've still got a case to solve." He vanished into the bedroom of his apartment, leaving Scully alone with their strange new ally. "Mr. MacLeod--" "Duncan." "--can you really teach him enough to keep him from getting killed for real?" "I can if he's willing to learn." "I wish it had been me instead of Mulder." She looked up to meet MacLeod's inquiring eyes. "Mulder's already alone. He's the loneliest man I've ever known, and being Immortal is going to isolate him even more. I fear for him and not just because people with more experience are going to be trying to cut off his head." "Some of us do go mad, Agent Scully. It can't be helped." "But he's the last person who should be afflicted with immortality!" He said, gently, "I don't believe it's something most of us would choose for ourselves." "Before, when he first woke up, you said 'Welcome to the Game.' What did you mean by that?" "According to legend, there is a Prize for the last surviving Immortal. No one is sure what it is, or if it even really exists. All we know for certain is that at the end, there can be only one." "But if he refuses to play this Game of yours ... " "That won't keep others from trying to kill him and take whatever power he has." "What power is that?" He shrugged. "Call it qi, or prana, or the Force, if you like. When one Immortal kills another, it's absorbed by the survivor in what's called a Quickening. The more Quickenings an Immortal takes, the more powerful he or she becomes." She used an old Naval expression she'd once heard her father use. "Agent Scully, the only way he can be safe is if he never leaves holy ground, and somehow your friend doesn't strike me as the monastic type." "Would he really be safe if he became a priest?" MacLeod nodded. "I knew an Immortal who survived almost two thousand years that way." "Knew?" "Darius was murdered in his own church by mortals who discovered what he was." "Is two thousand old for one of what you are?" "I've met older Immortals." "And Mulder could conceivably survive as long as that?" "With luck. And skill, and guile." "How old are you, Duncan?" "Just over four hundred." She turned away from MacLeod. The thought of Mulder living so long, so alone, consumed her with sorrow. She pushed open his bedroom door without knocking and went in. Mulder was standing in the middle of the room wearing a fresh white shirt over black silk boxer shorts. He scratched his ribs absently. "What is it, Scully?" Shaking her head, she put her arms around his waist and held him tightly. Aloud, she said, "I'm afraid for you, Mulder." He stroked her back lightly. "Well, I'm terrified, Scully. Jesus, I don't want to live forever, especially if ... " "What?" "Never mind." She sank down on the disused bed. "Can I stay here while you dress?" Mulder gave her an odd look, but nodded. It wouldn't be the first time he'd gotten dressed in front of her; he hoped it wouldn't be the last. End Part 6/8 See disclaimer in part 1. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ RENAISSANCE 1: If A Man Die (7/8) by M.C. Christjansen If a man die, shall he live again? - I Chronicles 14:14 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 3170 W. 53rd Rd., #35 Annapolis, MD 1:45 PM "I'm supposed to be fighting for this Prize, and no one even knows what it is?" demanded an incredulous Mulder. "Sorry, I'm not interested." "You're going to have to learn to use a sword anyway, Mulder, just to stay alive. You do want to stay alive, don't you?" They were now at Scully's apartment, and while she changed out of her borrowed clothes into a fresh suit, MacLeod was telling Mulder more about Immortals and their place in the general scheme of things. "Of course I want to stay alive, but not forever!" Although still shaky from blood loss, he paced the length of Scully's living room over and again. At the door to her bedroom, he paused a moment before turning back to MacLeod. "Are there any benefits to this at all? Can I--Can I pass it along?" "No," said the other man. "You're either born with it or you're not. As for benefits ... " He sent a meaningful glance toward Scully's door, "you don't have to worry about birth control." Mulder stalked out to the kitchen and yanked open the refrigerator. There was a bottle of mineral water in the door; he helped himself, gulping down half of it before pausing for breath. < What am I going to do about Scully? > he wondered. < I can't just disappear one day without ... > He went back out into the living room, where MacLeod sat in an easy chair with Queequeg draped over one knee, idly scratching the Pomeranian's ears. "I don't want to live forever. I don't want to play this stupid Game of yours. I want to find my sister, I want to find the truth the government's been trying to hide for the last fifty years, and I--I want Sc--" He caught himself up, refusing to betray himself completely to the man before him. If they had been at his apartment, Mulder would have broken something, or punched a hole in a wall. He contemplated swinging at the man in Scully's easy chair. Fortunately, his partner emerged from her room at that moment, adjusting an earring as she came. Mulder forced a smile to his lips. The cool, professional Dana Scully was back, wearing a navy blue suit and a soft white-on-white striped blouse. "Mulder, have you had anything to eat?" she asked. "No, why?" "I think it might be wise. You lost a lot of blood, and it has to be replaced somehow." "I'll grab something later." He took another pull at the mineral water. "Right now, we've got a murder to solve. Let's get back to the office." "The murder is solved," said MacLeod, getting to his feet. "We need to find Freya Thorvaldsdottir." "She's probably covered her tracks thoroughly," said Scully. "Finding her will take some time." "Not necessarily," MacLeod said. "May I use your telephone, Dana? It's long distance, but I'll put the charges on my account." While he was occupied, Mulder took Scully aside. "Do you trust him? He's an Immortal, after all. Maybe he wants my head." "Don't be so paranoid, Mulder. We can trust him. You have to trust him, because he's going to show you how to stay alive. And he's the only link we've got to the murder." She turned away and walked back into her bedroom to fetch something she'd forgotten. Mulder followed her. "Dana?" The hair on her arms tingled. He only called her that when something was really wrong. She turned to look at her partner, who looked very much as he always did, except for a slight pallor. "I'm sorry." She knew exactly what he meant. "It'll be okay, Mulder. You'll see." he thought. And looking at her looking at him, he knew without a doubt that she was thinking the same thing. XXX MacLeod's contact, a man he called "Joe," called back forty minutes later with the information they needed. Freya Thorvaldsdottir operated a small import/export company, Northern Lights, based just outside of Washington. She was originally from Iceland, and had been born in 1407. Her record reported that she had a history as a thief and an extortionist. "Wait a minute," said Mulder. "We can't arrest her on your say-so, MacLeod, no matter how tempting the idea is." "I wasn't planning to let her be arrested," the other man replied. "Well, you just can't lop off her head because you believe she killed Frank Rasher." "Mulder, the rules are different for us. And we both know she killed Frank." "Do we?" "He told me she had threatened to murder his wife if he didn't continue working for her." "So why kill Rasher?" Scully asked. "Because her threat to kill his wife lost its validity. Beth Rasher was diagnosed with inoperable cancer six months ago. She's got a year left, at most, and Frank wanted to devote all his time to her. He called me and asked for help in disappearing. Somehow, Thorvaldsdottir found out what he was planning and followed Frank to Constitution Gardens, where I was supposed to meet him the other night, and took his head. Some of us enjoy killing for pleasure, and since Frank was no longer useful to her, she took his head." "Mulder, what is it?" Mulder had suddenly collapsed onto Scully's blue and white striped sofa. "My legs feel rubbery." "You need something to eat." She disappeared into the kitchen and returned a few minutes later with a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich on a saucer, which she handed to Mulder. "I realize this isn't exactly the kind of haute cuisine you're used to, Mulder, but it's the best I can do at the moment." He glanced up at her, gratitude in his eyes, as he took the sandwich and bit into it. "Best I ever had," he assured her after the first bite. He switched his attention back to MacLeod. "Did your friend have an address on this Freya Thorvaldsdottir?" "Yeah, but--" "Then let's go," said Mulder around a mouthful of sandwich. "You don't seem to understand something," said the other man. "She can't be tried and sent to prison without exposing us. Our survival depends on secrecy." "Scully knows about Immortals." "Once in a while, you find someone you can trust with your secrets. Most of the time ..." He shook his head. "You're a very lucky man." "I don't call becoming Immortal lucky," Mulder griped as he got up from the couch. "I bet draw-string pants really will come back into fashion." "Mulder, we've got something more important than draw-string pants to worry about right now," said Scully. "MacLeod is right. That woman cannot be sent to prison without jeopardizing you." "We can't stand by and let him kill her, either. We've got to go by the book on this." He stopped and shook his head once, as though clearing it. "Did I just say what I think I said?" "There's something else to think about, Mulder," MacLeod said. "She still wants your head." "Murder, attempted murder, theft, fraud, smuggling ... When does she find time to run her business?" "More importantly, what was she doing at Rasher's studio?" asked Scully. "That's easy." Mulder paused in the act of consuming the last bite of his sandwich. "She was looking for something that could connect her to Rasher somehow. We've got to go back there and see if we can find what she was looking for." "We don't know what she was looking for," pointed out MacLeod. "Not yet," said Mulder, "but we will." ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Arlington, VA 3:15 PM A search of Rasher's studio was not to be. By the time Mulder, Scully and MacLeod returned to the warehouse, they found the approach blocked by fire trucks, ambulances and police cars. Leaving the car, they made their way closer on foot, using FBI identification to get beyond the police barricades. As they watched, the roof caved in with a crash, sending sparks and smoke curling into the afternoon sky. Flame roared and licked greedily at everything combustible; an occasional "Whoomph!" could be heard as containers of varnish and turpentine ignited and exploded. Mulder, with his lifelong dread of fire, suppressed a shudder and turned his back on the conflagration. A passing fireman caught his attention. "Hey!" he called, holding out his ID folder. "I want to talk to you." But the man had little to tell them, beyond saying that the chief would answer any questions he could after the fire had been struck. There was talk, though, that someone had been seen running from the building perhaps ten minutes before the fire was noticed by a passerby. "--Which probably means she didn't find what she was looking for," he said when he rejoined Scully. "Where's MacLeod?" She glanced around . "We've been ditched. He must feel awfully confident about finding that woman before she or any other Immortal can get to you." "Let's get out of here." Back at the car, Mulder pulled out his cell-phone. "Didn't MacLeod say Thorvaldsdottir operated Northern Lights Import/Export?" he asked as he punched in seven numbers. Scully nodded. "Are you calling information?" "Got it in one, G-woman." A moment later he was dashing down an address. "Mulder, let me drive," Scully said as he reached for the door handle. "We have to make a stop before we go anywhere." "Where?" "I'm not sure. I'll know when I see it." He acquiesced, holding the door for her and shutting it carefully once she was behind the wheel. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Georgetown 4:03 PM Scully emerged from Callan's, a dealer in antique weapons, carrying a long, slender parcel carefully in two hands. Seeing her, Mulder got out of the car where he had been waiting. "What have you done, Scully?" he asked, even though he had a fair idea. She smiled and offered him the parcel. "I maxed out my plastic for you. Consider it an early birthday present." Pulling aside the wrapping, he found a katana similar to MacLeod's within: Three feet of shining Japanese steel, the leather-wrapped hilt ornamented with a stylized fox's head on the pommel. "I don't know the first thing about swords," admitted Scully. "But I can remember as little girl hearing my father's older Navy friends talking about the war in the Pacific and the quality of the swords they collected as souvenirs. MacLeod's sword is Japanese. So I just went in and asked for the strongest, sharpest sword in the shop. When the man showed me this one, I knew it was meant for you." Mulder ran his thumb over the blade, testing its edge, and a thread of crimson welled up. Wiping the blood away, he examined the cut, watching with almost scientific detachment as the edges knit themselves back together. Within seconds, there was no sign of an injury, save for a little rapidly drying blood . "I don't know what to say," he said to his partner. "Except thank you." "Say you'll be damned careful, Mulder," Scully whispered, digging her fingers into his upper arm. "I don't want to lose you again." He nodded, for once unable to formulate a glib reply, and covered her hand with his. End Part 7/8 See disclaimer in part 1. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ RENAISSANCE 1: If A Man Die (8/8) by M.C. Christjansen If a man die, shall he live again? - I Chronicles 14:14 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Falls Church 4:40 PM The offices and warehouse for Northern Lights Imports/Exports were located in a sparsely occupied industrial park on the outskirts of Falls Church. There were fewer than half a dozen cars parked in the vicinity. There was no sign of MacLeod. "Could we have beaten him here?" Scully wondered aloud. "It's possible." Mulder allowed their vehicle to roll to a stop, taking up two spaces diagonally, and opened his door. "Mulder, take the sword." He glanced into the back seat, where the katana lay. "I haven't got a clue how to use it yet, and I have no intention of getting close enough to her to have to." "But--" "We'll use conventional methods, and if Thorvaldsdottir resists, we'll go to plan B." Scully lofted a skeptical eyebrow. "Which is what? We keep shooting until she drops, and cuff her before she resurrects?" He reached beneath his jacket for his pistol. "Got a better one?" "That's some plan, Mulder." But she brought out her own weapon just the same. The door was locked, but quickly yielded to Mulder's electronic picklock. The front office was empty, as were the two private offices beyond it. A single door at the end of the hallway beckoned. "Is she here? Do you feel anything?" whispered Scully, remembering that Immortals could sense one another's presence. He shook his head and reached out with one hand to push the door open. Its hinges had been kept well oiled and it moved silently under his touch. Scully stepped forward, bearing left and keeping low. Mulder went high and to the right. It was a storage area filled with crates and packing materials and a small delivery van was parked next to the roll-up garage door. "May as well take a look around as long as we're here," Mulder said. "I'll take the right side." They were at opposite ends of the building from one another when he felt It. He froze, pressing his palms to his ears to shut out the hideous buzzing that threatened to churn his insides to jelly. "Scully!" "What is it?" Scully called. "One of them's here," he shouted back. He dropped to his knees, doubling over. "I ... can't ... !" She started to run across the space separating them, scanning the shadows with wary eyes. "I don't see anyone yet!" There was a click; the garage door began to rise. Freya Thorvaldsdottir stood just outside, sword at the ready. "It's nothing personal, you understand," she said to Mulder as he looked up at her. "But one of us is going to die today. Since I have a sword and you don't, I'm afraid it has to be you. Too bad you're so new to the Game to be of any real use to me." She sighed, managing to sound put-upon. "Oh well, you'll be one less to deal with later." Scully skidded to a halt at Mulder's side and brought up her weapon, leveling it at the other woman. "Drop the sword and step back. Now!" Thorvaldsdottir gazed down at her with all the arrogance of her nearly six hundred years. "Drop the sword and get back!" repeated Scully. The Immortal shifted her weight to her other foot and began to lower her sword, but within the blink of an eye she had reversed herself, and swung her weapon at Scully. The flat of the heavy steel blade caught the smaller woman in the shoulder, the force of the blow pitching her to one side. Her pistol fell from suddenly nerveless fingers as she tumbled to the ground. Thorvaldsdottir raised her sword, her intent plain. "No!" Mulder hurled himself toward his partner from where he knelt, lashing out with his long legs as he fell on top of her. Thorvaldsdottir jumped backward to avoid being knocked down, simultaneously hacking at him with the edge of her weapon. Mulder bellowed with pain as the flesh of his lower thigh split open, exposing raw white bone, but his intervention gave Scully enough time to recover her weapon. And then, unexpectedly, it flew from her hand again, knocked away by a shining arc of steel that seemed to descend from heaven. Expecting the worst, she held on to Mulder and waited for the inevitable, only to hear Duncan MacLeod say, "I'll deal with her." "Get out of my way," panted Thorvaldsdottir. "We have a two for one special today," MacLeod said. "Mulder's yours, but you have to kill me first." She glared at him for a moment before stepping back and taking a firmer grip on her sword. "Have it your way, MacLeod. It makes no difference to me." Scully sat up, sparing only a glance for the combatants as she tried to stop the flow of blood from Mulder's leg. He was sitting up now, too, nursing his latest injury, eyes squeezed shut against the pain. "I'm all right," he muttered. "It hurts like hell, but I'm all right. I can feel it healing." Freya Thorvaldsdottir attempted to circle around MacLeod but he blocked her way, forcing her out of the warehouse with a series of quick feints. They paused on the cement apron, partners in a macabre ballet. MacLeod's katana, held upright before him as he took an opening stance, glistened in the late afternoon sun as he waited for the woman before him to make the first move. When she finally attacked, it was with the sudden swiftness of lighting. Steel clashed sweetly on steel. Mulder, his eyes still closed, asked, "What's happening?" Scully looked up from her efforts at first aid. "Duncan's going after her." It was horrible to see two people slashing at one another with swords, knowing that only one of them would survive, but at the same time the lethal beauty of it fascinated her. "Mulder, you should be watching this." He opened his eyes, but his attention was caught and held not by the action in front of him, but by the sight of his own healing. He spread the rip in his trousers with careful fingers in order to better see what was happening. "I think you should be watching this instead," he murmured, fascinated by the process taking place before his eyes. She shifted her gaze back to his wound. What she observed there defied all rational explanation, for it appeared to be healing itself from the inside out. Coruscations of energy, like miniature lightnings, danced among the tissues as blood vessels, ligaments and muscles wove themselves back into their original configurations layer by layer. Scully blinked and stared, believing, yet disbelieving, what she witnessed. "It tingles," whispered Mulder. A cry of outrage drew their attention back to the fight. MacLeod had maneuvered his opponent so that the sun shone into her eyes, half-blinding her. Thorvaldsdottir ducked and swerved, attempting to put things on an even footing again; MacLeod was like her shadow, mirroring her every move and cutting her off. She began to retreat toward the trees that outlined the rear of the area, but again he cut her off. She screamed once more, a sound more animal than human, and seemed to explode with fury as she swung her sword like a scythe, recovered, and swung again. The tip of her heavy European blade caught a fold in MacLeod's shirt and tore it, grazing the skin beneath. He glided backwards with a dancer's grace, then darted forward. The smaller, lighter katana traced ribbons of light in the air. It teased the woman, daring her to respond to it. She thrust; MacLeod parried the blow easily and inflicted a deep wound just above her waist. Thorvaldsdottir thrust again, and this time, instead of evading it, he stepped into the blow, letting the edge graze his ribs as he used the pommel of the katana to deliver a single, heavy blow to her elbow, simultaneously hooking one foot behind her ankle and pulling. The sword dropped from Thorvaldsdottir's hand as she fell. MacLeod pivoted on one foot, spinning clockwise, out of harm's way. His right arm swept the katana out in a back-handed blow that connected with the woman's neck, passed through it, and stopped. There was a moment's silence. Freya Thorvaldsdottir's face took on a surprised, even a puzzled expression. Her eyes went wide and although her lips moved, no sound emerged. A fine red line, like a thread, appeared on her neck, thickened, and began to ooze ruby beads. She seemed to suddenly go limp: her body toppled in one direction, while her head fell in another. Overhead, the sky began to darken; clouds roiled like boiling milk. A stiff breeze sprang up. MacLeod lowered his blade and braced himself for what was coming. Already the first faint tendrils of the dead woman's Quickening were emerging from her ruined neck. Scully sensed something in the air, like static almost, and yet not, that made her skin crawl. "Mulder, look!" she cried, pointing at the thick fingers of pale gray mist floating almost lazily from the corpse to swirl about MacLeod's legs before spiraling heavenward with an unnatural swiftness. Mulder looked, and was nearly blinded by a spear of lightning that stabbed its way through the fog from Thorvaldsdottir's headless body to MacLeod, joining them momentarily. The mist swirled higher, enveloping MacLeod, crackling with energy, an electrical storm in miniature. The breeze turned into a minor gale, blowing leaves and litter everywhere; nearby window panes shattered and the closest of the sodium vapor security lights lining the industrial park's perimeter exploded like cherry bombs. Successive forks of lightning sought out the Highlander, grounding on him, in him, through him. He flung out his left arm and with his right raised the katana above his head; it shimmered blue-white with the energy it captured, pounding him to his knees. His face contorted with the force of what he was absorbing, and a hoarse scream was torn from his throat. "Hey, Scully," Mulder said. "Look at that." One of the energy tendrils was picking its way toward them. "Mulder, get out of its way." "But--" "Get out of its way, dammit!" She pushed him over; the tendril changed course and followed Mulder. Determinedly, she interposed herself between it and her partner. "Scully, it's okay." He reached around her and held out his hand to whatever it was, confident that MacLeod would explain everything later. For now, all his instincts told him that this wraith-like bit of haze was benign, although he did experience a mild jolt as it coiled itself around his wrist like a bracelet. Within moments, it was as though nothing had happened. The sun reappeared as the clouds dissipated and the breeze died. MacLeod reversed the katana, driving its point into the earth, and sank onto his heels for an instant, then staggered to his feet to join Mulder and Scully after first picking up the dead Immortal's sword. Only a blood-soaked rip in his trousers and a rapidly fading line of pink marked the place on Mulder's thigh where Freya Thorvaldsdottir's sword had sliced through his flesh. "You all right, Mulder?" asked MacLeod as he stowed his katana inside his long black coat. "I'm fine. How about you?" The Highlander nodded wearily, watching as the two agents gained their feet. "We need to get away from here fast." "What was that?" Mulder asked. "That was a Quickening. It's what happens when one Immortal fights another: all the power and essence of the dead Immortal transfers itself to the victor. Legend says the last Immortal standing will have absolute power, whatever that means." "What do you think?" "I just want to stay alive." "So do I," said Mulder. He looked at Scully, then at MacLeod. "What do I need to do?" "You need to come to Seattle for a couple of weeks for some intensive training. Now let's get out of here. I'll meet you both back at Agent Scully's apartment." He walked away, presumably in the direction of his rental car. As they hurried to their own vehicle, Scully said, "Mulder, very shortly we're going to have a second headless corpse to account for. How much can we put into our reports without giving anything away?" "We'll think of something," he assured her. "We always do." She took a deep breath. "And we need to talk about what happened today." He nodded. "Tonight. After MacLeod goes back to his hotel." He glanced at her, just catching the worry in her face before she could mask it it from him. "It'll be all right, Scully. Trust me." ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 3170 W. 53rd Rd., #35 Sunny Heights Apartment Complex 8 PM "It's a good sword." MacLeod handed back the katana Scully had bought for Mulder and helped himself to another slice of pizza from the box on the coffee table. "Not old, but well-made, and as strong and sharp as any Immortal could wish for. Do you know the symbolism of the ornament on the pommel?" "It's a fox," said Scully. "It was one of the reasons I bought it for Mulder." He nodded. "If his name wasn't Fox, I'd tell you to get rid of it." "Why?" Mulder wanted to know. He laid the weapon on the floor beside the couch where he and his partner were sitting. "You just said it was a good sword." "It is, but in Japanese mythology, there's a type of shape-shifting demon called a fox spirit. They like to take on human form to torment people." "That could be Mulder, if you listen to our boss," Scully murmured. Mulder shot her a mocking, sidelong look as he reached into the pizza box. "The older a fox spirit gets," MacLeod continued, "the better it becomes at disguising itself, although you can always spot one if it stands beside a pool of water: it's reflection is that of a fox. After a thousand years on earth, a fox spirit becomes sinless. Its coat turns white and it sprouts nine magnificent tails before ascending to heaven, where even its worst enemy can no longer harm it." "What sort of enemies can a shape-shifting demon have?" wondered Mulder. "Just dragons," replied MacLeod. Mulder darted a quizzical glance at his partner. "Do Japanese dragons by any chance breathe smoke?" "Yes." "Well," said Scully, reaching for her glass of root beer. "My gift is even more appropriate than I thought." MacLeod's eyebrows lifted, signaling his curiosity, but when neither of Scully nor Mulder were forthcoming, he merely said, "We need to make some plans, Mulder, because until you get some training, you're as helpless as a baby." "I've been thinking about it. I can probably get some of my accrued vacation time in order to go to Seattle, but it won't be more than a couple of weeks. Will that be enough?" "It's a beginning. I'll set up an intensive training plan for you, but we're going to have to find you a good teacher here in Washington for a couple of years. Not necessarily another Immortal, just someone who can teach you advanced swordsmanship and martial arts." Mulder nodded. "Kung Fu Mulder: The Legend Continues." "This isn't something you should be taking lightly, Mulder," MacLeod said. "Your continued existence depends on what you learn and how well you learn it." He sighed and rubbed his nose. "Believe me, I am taking it seriously. It's not every day I get killed and wake up to find out I'm Immortal. It's just a little ... overwhelming, that's all." "Duncan," said Scully. "What was it like for you, in the beginning?" XXX Not too much later, MacLeod went back to his hotel, leaving behind two thoroughly bemused federal investigators. An awkward silence descended between the pair as they dealt with glasses and paper napkins and the empty pizza box. Queequeg, who had been dozing in the bedroom, trotted into the kitchen expectantly. "Hello, hairball," Mulder said, squatting to scratch the little dog's ears. "He needs to be walked," remarked Scully. He looked up and met her eyes. "And we still need to talk." "Let me get the leash." Concealed by the early evening darkness, it seemed only natural for them to walk hand in hand while Queequeg wandered ahead on his retractable leash, investigating the scents of his rivals on the block and overlaying them with his own. "You first," Mulder said eventually. She hesitated before saying, "You're going to live forever. And I'm concerned for you, how this is going to change you. Change us." "I won't change, Scully. And no one lives forever. "You're going to Seattle to learn how to use an antique weapon to kill a specific class of people in a very specific, very spectacular way. That's got to be a transforming experience." "But the essential Mulder will be the same." "Will he?" He thought about it for a moment. "Yeah. At least I hope so. God, I hope so." She glanced up at him. "And you're going to have to be careful. Sometimes ... sometimes you act before you think. That can get you killed." "I don't think we have to worry about that any more." "We do if it happens in front of witnesses. Mulder, I don't want you to have to go away any sooner than you have to." He fell silent, knowing that if he were forced to go, they both would be left feeling as though essential portions of themselves had been ripped away. It was a disturbing thought, and for a fraction of an instant, he regretted allowing Dana Katherine Scully so far within the walls he had built up over the last twenty-four years to protect himself. "What about you?" Mulder asked. "How is my being Immortal going to change you?" "Well," replied Scully. "I can finally stop hanging out in hospital emergency rooms." "I mean," he said patiently, "you're not afraid of me or anything, are you, Scully?" "No." She smiled into the darkness. "I could never be afraid of you. I know you too well." "But?" he pressed, sensing there was more on her mind. "What happens when we're no longer partners? When you have to go? Because one way or another, you will leave me one day, Mulder." "Yeah, but not for a long time, I hope." He squeezed her hand. "I'm sorry. I don't want to be Immortal." "It's not your fault. Like you said to me when Melissa died, it's fate. Besides, there must be a positive side to this." "What could that be?" "You'll have time enough to find Samantha. And maybe one day, if you live long enough, you'll meet a genuine EBE. Or even travel to the stars." "I hadn't considered that." "You should." A silence grew between them, lasting until he said, "Don't take this the wrong way, Scully, but I think we need to be apart for a little while. I need to think things over, get used to what's happened." "So do I. Mulder?" "Mmm?" "I always hoped that one day--I mean, well ..." "I know, Dana. I had hopes, too." Somewhere ahead of them Queequeg barked at a night creature. A few feet of leash paid out as he half-heartedly gave chase, then retracted as he pranced back to the humans, who had paused beneath a street light. "It could still happen," Scully said. "It could," he agreed. "In the meantime, we're still friends, still partners. And maybe someday we'll be able to take this relationship to it's natural conclusion." "Mulder," she said, taking refuge in humor as he so often did, "we're the 'spooky patrol.'" "Right. Make that 'unnatural conclusion.'" He let go of her hand and slid his arm around her shoulders, pulling her close to his side. "I'm about to say something incredibly trite." "Go ahead, as long as I get say it, too." "I love you, Red. Always have. Always will." "I love you back, G-man." She turned to him, wrapping her arms around his waist, leaning into his embrace. They stood like that for a long time, until Queequeg, sitting at their feet, whined impatiently. "We should take him home," murmured Scully, although she made no effort to separate herself from Mulder. "In a minute." She felt his right hand glide over her cheek and past her left ear, entangling itself in her hair until at last it came to rest against the back of her head, cradling it gently. Knowing what was coming, Scully turned her face up to meet him, her lips slightly parted, her eyes open wide. Mulder's eyes, too, were open as he lowered his head. His kiss was gentle, intimate without being invasive. She molded her mouth to his and let herself be lost in the depths of his gaze, and discovered eternity in the space of a heartbeat. All too soon, they parted. "Fox--" she started to say. He silenced her by laying a finger across her lips. "Me, too, Dana." Queequeg whined again. Mulder looked down at the dog, then back into Scully's face. Satisfied by what he saw there, he let his arms drop to his sides. "Let's take the pooch home." "I've got more iced tea in the fridge," she said softly, allowing her own arms to fall. "It *is* love," Mulder declared. He held out his hand for her to take. Scully entwined her fingers with his and they started back through the darkness. End Part 8/8