IMTP VS8 Episode 10:

Ancient Mariner

By Blackwood
Art by
Erin

 


Title: Ancient Mariner
Author: Blackwood
email: entreamis@yahoo.com
Category: X, A, MSR
Rating: R
Notes: Written especially for I Made This Productions
Virtual Season 8 at http://www.i-made-this.com
Summary: M&S investigate a series of kidnappings, 
with overtones of alien abduction.  They travel to Sag 
Harbor on the East End of Long Island and visit the 
latest abductee at the hospital.  Mulder believes there 
is a preternatural connection in spite of the fact that 
some of the facts don't jive with the typical alien 
abduction scenario, like the victims all being found
at the water's edge, nearly drowned. 



Sunday, 9/24
Montauk, Long Island
11:30 p.m.

"Cut it out, Ray!"

"Aw, c'mon, Mal.  It's me."

Mallory slaps the hand away from her knee and looks away
from the boy beside her, down the strip of moonlit sand. 
The lighthouse at the jetty is a long way away; its single
eye casting a steady beam over the waters around it.  The
sky is inky black and a large, honeyed moon sits low on the
liquid horizon, spilling creamy velvet that undulates on
the surface.  Waves tumble headlong, coating the flat, wet
sand with a wash of foam that teases the edge of the frayed
Army blanket the two are sharing only a few yards from the
water's edge.

Ray's hand slides further up her thigh and under the edge
of her cotton sun dress.  Mallory knows she shouldn't
encourage him, but he's cute.  His brown eyes are gleaming
and his buzz cut can't hide the fact that he's a hottie. 
And she does rather like the way his hand feels as it
slides just a little higher up her leg.  It's not like
she's a virgin.  She is 17 after all, and Ray did take her
to a really nice restaurant.  Not just Wendy's or some
crapola place like that.  Still, it isn't like he owns her
or anything.  He isn't even officially her boyfriend.

"Stop it!" she declares at last, deciding she isn't ready
to do this. She pushes Ray's hand away and hears his
disappointed groan.

"Jesus, Mal. What's your problem, babe?"

"I don't have a problem, *babe.*  Except you.  You're a
horn dog."

"You didn't seem to mind last weekend."  The lanky teen
reaches out and fingers the silky, blonde strands that
cascade around the girl's face.  Mallory pouts her
prettiest.

"That was then.  This is now.  And I don't want to fool
around right now."  She leans over her legs and smoothes
the short skirt's fabric down over tanned thighs with two
hands.  Practicing the new stretch her gymnastics coach
taught her, she reaches for the ocean.

The beach is beautiful at night.  Day visitors never see
it this way. They always leave by dusk.  That's when the
locals emerge to reclaim their territory.  Locals and
summer people.  God, Mallory hates the summer people,
especially their kids -- bunch of stuck-up, citified,
private school types who think the East End is designed
just for them.


"Earth to Mallory.  Whadya thinking about?"  Ray's hand
slides up her back and Mallory shrugs it off.

"Quit."

"Are you PMSing or something?  My sister says girls get
nuts when that's going on."

"Your sister is a freak show who wears black 24 and 7 and
dyes her hair pink, Ray."

"Fuck you."  She feels Ray rise to his feet beside her.

"Where ya goin'?"

"I gotta pee."

She watches him make his way down a hundred feet of sand
before disappearing into the scrub pine edging the
beach front.  She sighs with exaggeration and shakes her
head to herself.  High school boys. Always thinking with
their dicks.

A sudden chill raises the hair on the backs of her arms
and her neck. Mallory looks back to the ocean and gasps.  A
tall, slim naked figure of a man is emerging from the waves
in front of her.  Where'd he come from?  She tries to rise
to her feet and discovers, much to her horror, that she's
frozen in place.  Her heartbeat accelerates. The guy
approaching could be innocent, but naked?  No, that isn't
right.  Anxiety rises cold in the pit of her stomach as the
figure makes a slow beeline for the blanket.  She calls
towards the pines, "Ray?  Ray!  You better get out here. 
Fast!"

The naked figure now stands at the edge of the olive drab
wool, looking down at her.  Mallory breathes heavily, blood
coursing through her veins, eyes wide.  Where's Ray?  Who
is this guy?  Why is this happening to her?  Tears well up
in her blue eyes and she starts to cry.  Then she gets
angry.  Didn't Mrs. Dubin always tell them to be ready for
anything?  Shit.  She didn't want to be raped.  Or worse.

She finds a small bit of courage.  "Please, Mister.  Don't
hurt me. My boyfriend has a gun.  Please, mister.  Leave me
alone."

The figure says nothing.  In the moonlight, Mallory can
see his pale eyes blinking in a slow, rhythmic pattern that
capture her attention. His eyes.  They are gray and -- old,
somehow, although the man seems middle-aged.  But his eyes.
Mallory finds herself relaxing as she watches them.  What
is he doing to her?  Her mind battles to stay in touch with
her surroundings, to find Ray, to remember to look for an
escape route.  She can't.  Not with those eyes on her,
calling to her...

"Har'n tu olmed," the figure chants in a monotone.  "Har'n
tu olmed."

Incredible as it seems, she understands the words,
although she knows it isn't anything she's ever heard
before.  'Come to me.'  That's what he's saying.  That's
when the light begins to peel open his chest, casting her
in its brightness.

"Har'n tu olmed," the figure intones again and again.

And she cannot resist.


ACT ONE

Tuesday, 9/26 
J. Edgar Hoover Building 
2:15 p.m.

Tuesday afternoon in the basement.  Peaceful.  Welcome.

Meeting at 9, lunch at noon, paperwork 'til five, then
home.  Most field agents complain about the slow pace of an
office-bound day, the boring rhetoric and stats; but Dana
Scully appreciates days like this.  They are normal,
although she isn't sure she knows what the word means
anymore.

Seven years of tracking aliens, long lost siblings, global
conspirators and assorted and sundry monsters have turned
"normal" into a perverse caricature of itself.  There was a
time when her life was simpler.  That ended the day she
accepted an assignment to work with Fox Mulder.  Though her
role has changed, she often wonders at her own willingness
to continue on this path.

She sighs, pushing an auburn lock behind her left ear
while she sits down at his desk, form in hand.  Long ago,
they agreed she would handle their expense reports.  Mulder
simply has no patience for the mundane details of casework.
It boggles the mind.  The man can profile a criminal on
scant evidence, raise questions no one would think to ask,
answer them himself, then write a monograph of such
precision it's practically erotic to law enforcement types.
Yet, he can't or won't maintain a balance sheet.

At least she's gotten him to start organizing their
fieldwork receipts.  Granted, his version of organized
means that the top center drawer of his desk is crammed
with varied evidence of their travels.  Scully's task is to
make sense of the contents and prepare a credible request
for reimbursement of funds. 

She looks at the blank form waiting to be filled with
legible numbers and precise listings of the whys and
wherefores of every out-of-pocket dime spent while in
service to Uncle Sam.  Her eyes turn to Mulder's drawer and
she pulls it open with a gingery touch, as if paper snakes
might jump out at any moment.

She gathers the charge slips that will show up on the
reviewed agency account.  Further inspection reveals some
scattered hulls and a few untouched sunflower seeds, a
matchbook from 7-11, the paper cover of a straw overwritten
with phone numbers, a half-used Post-it pad, two pencils --
she pauses and looks upwards at three Ticonderogas stuck
into the ceiling tiles above her head before resuming her
inventory -- a news clipping about tsunamis on the Eastern
Seaboard, a program from Camden Yards, a rubber doll whose
eyes bug out when you squeeze it, a computer disk marked


"TRNSCR," a Waterman pen, a day-glo orange Magic Marker,
colored paper clips and a cheap calculator. Great.

Fifteen minutes of sorting the relevant from the
ridiculous and she grabs the Waterman, filling the empty
waiting boxes in a neat script that belies her medical
training.  Calculations are reviewed twice for accuracy. 
This isn't what she imagined life in the FBI would be like
when she signed up so long ago.  She's just about to sign
her name when a covered Starbucks cup appears beneath her
nose.  She pulls back and grabs it without a word, a wry
smile crossing her lips.

Lifting the brew to her mouth, she closes her eyes and
takes in the first hot swirl of fluid through the small
opening in the lid.  The tang of espresso laced with
chocolate and whipped cream slides over her tongue and down
her throat, warming her inside.  She drinks tea as a rule,
and mocha lattes are on her list of delicious-but-dangerous
foods.  Pure indulgence. Still, this is Mulder's usual
recompense for shirking the report.  She sets the cup down
on the desktop and laps the last trace of coffee from her
upper lip with a dab of her tongue.

"Am I forgiven?" a warm baritone purrs into her ear.

"I'm not so sure, Mulder," she replies with affected
coolness.  

She feels his breath beside her cheek and her own hormonal
reaction to his closeness.  He's leaning behind her, his
right forearm braced against the desk, his left somewhere
in back of her, but not touching her.  He knows better than
that, but he's pushing it.  She allows herself the luxury
of this nearness for a few seconds then reaches into the
drawer, grabbing the matchbook before pushing back in the
desk chair.

"Whoa!" he exclaims as she swings around.  She hesitates
for only a moment before fixing her sights on him. 
Charcoal suit, white shirt, dark silk tie, new haircut and
wire-frame glasses.  On anyone else, common.  On Mulder? 
She has to admit she savors the way his good looks register
on her each day.

He's watching her, a chagrined look in his eyes as he
spots what's in her hand.  "I kept that so I'd remember the
Slurpees," he explains as she tears off a match.

"Slurpee, Mulder."  She closes the cover.  "One."  Strikes
the match. "Yours."  She allows the flame to flare for a
moment or two, then blows it out.  She watches the smoke
curl and spiral in the air, then looks to her partner, lips
still pursed.  She has his full attention now.  In an
undertone she asks, "So, that's why there are matches in
your desk?"  

"Whadya mean?" he replies, eyes lifting in a lazy line
from her mouth to her eyes.

"Sure you're not sneaking the occasional drag?"  

A look of mock pain graces his features.  "Scully, I'm
hurt you'd think that.  Oh, I- I still get the urge once in
a while, but my memory of life as a tobacco beetle hatchery
is still quite intact. Anyway, you know how addictions
work."

"I know it's a daily choice."

"Just for you."

"Umm-hmm," she responds, tilting her head at him, a thin
edge of sarcasm coloring the contralto of her voice.

"I do plan on sticking around for a while, so you better
get used to my bad habits."

"Like I have a choice?" she gibes.

"You do, you know," he says with more seriousness than she
expects.

Picking up the expense report, she stands and moves to
where he leans against the file cabinet and hands it to
him.  He takes it and she steps in closer, the pages in his
hand curling between them.  She knows she's standing too
close, the edge of her jacket brushing into his.  Close
enough to smell the soap he used this morning mingled with
the scent of laundered cotton, the afternoon's perspiration
clinging.  Close enough to observe the widening of his
pupils, black ringed with hazel-gold; the flare of his
nostrils as he breathes her in; and his Adam's apple
dipping as he swallows down his response to her proximity.

"Next time, Mulder," she states with some intensity, "a
mocha latte won't cut it."

His brows knit together and his mouth drops open a notch. 

Then, he gives her a slow smile.  His right hand slips
beneath her jacket to rest against her waist, branding her
where his fingers circle.  He drops his voice and his head
to her, murmuring, "Really?  And what *will* it take to
satisfy you?"

The heated memories in their shared gaze have no place
here, yet they arise in vivid, unspoken detail.  That they
should be standing here, flirting in the open while surely
being surveilled, is arousing but risky and unprofessional.
Then again, when had that ever stopped Mulder?

She eases her desire to taste his mouth by inhaling,
straightening her shoulders and replying after releasing
her breath, "A yogurt muffin would be nice."  She steps
past him and hears his soft chuckle at her back.

Managing a professional and personal life with Mulder is
as precarious as it is pleasurable.  They've had to learn
to manage more than cases.  Time is always an issue, and
propriety.  Emotional baggage also plays no small part in
their emerging dynamic.  In the end, however, it's the work
-- always the work -- that structures, defines and balances
them.

Mulder drops a stack of correspondence into the mesh
basket at the corner of the desk and her reverie is
curtailed, the tension in the room diffused.  Grabbing a
letter opener, she begins screening correspondence.  Mulder
logs onto his Bureau e-mail and scans the dozen or so posts
that sit waiting.

"Frohike wants us to stop by," he tells her.  "Says he's
got a new device to show us."

"Boys and their toys..." she mumbles without looking up.

"And my Canadian contact says Sasquatch sightings in the
Toronto outskirts are up 30 percent since last month."

"Uh-huh."

"Hey Scully, did you know that more people believe in Big
Foot than in the Loch Ness Monster?  Oregon State and the
University of Aberdeen hooked up and did a survey--"

"That's nice."

She's only half-listening, her brows furrowed as she takes
in a letter written on expensive paper with fountain ink in
an elegant hand.

"Anything interesting?" he asks.

Scully looks up to find Mulder removing his eyeglasses. 
"Maybe. This is a letter from someone out on Long Island
asking for your help."  He nods, then sits back waiting for
her to read:

"Dear Mr. Mulder,

Over the last two weeks, five women have disappeared and
reappeared off the shores of the Island's East End.  In
each case, the woman vanishes without a trace, only to wash
ashore a day or so later, barely alive.  They have no
memory of their lost time --"

She looks up and spies the glow of anticipation in his eyes.

"-- and all of them speak about a bright light before
blacking out. Our local authorities have no leads, but I
suspect foul play of a non-human nature."

She pauses again and this time she finds Mulder's head
dropped back onto his shoulders, his eyes closed.

"I understand that you follow such things, so I am
imploring your help.

Cordially, Miss Olivia Van Helden Sag Harbor, New York"

Without moving, he says, "Lost time and bright lights,
Scully. Sounds like alien abductions to me."

"More like one too many at a Martha Stuart soiree."

His eyes open and without scoffing says, "So, you've
*been* to the Hamptons."  She laughs softly.

"Mulder, the victims have been recovered.  This isn't an
FBI matter."

"No, but it's an X-File."

"*Might* be an X-File."  Her hesitancy bears the stamp of
fatigue. September has been difficult and she's worried
about him.

He wags a brow at her.  "East End, Long Island, Scully. 
Playground of the rich and famous.  Who knows?  Maybe
you'll see some hot celebrity strolling the sands."

She chuffs at him. "With my luck, it'll be Rodney
Dangerfield in a Speedo.  Thank you very much, but no."

Her attempt at sarcasm fails to faze him.  Instead, he
leans over the desk and catches her eyes. "Come with me,"
he says, his voice sliding over her like molasses.  "I'll
take you for a walk on the beach."

She regards him from under her lashes for five seconds. 
"You know, they have a name for what you're doing, Mulder."

"What's that?"

"Bribery."  Her tone is somber but her eyes are smiling.


Thursday, 9/28 
Sag Harbor, New York 
10:00 a.m.

Detective Nick Guarino leans his burly 6-foot 6-inch frame
over the narrow ledge at the nurse's station and picks up
the chart on Mallory Lowell.  He's no medical expert, but
he knows how to read a chart after 19 years on the force. 
From the indicators regarding the girl's vital signs, it's
a pretty sure bet she'll come through her ordeal intact. 
As for any psychological impact, there's no shortage of
therapists in the area if she needs one, that's certain.

"Hey, Nick."

"Hey, Diane.  How's it going?"  His deep voice rumbles as
his eyes lift to watch the full-figured brunette entering
the nurses' station.

"It's going just fine.  How's DeeDee?"  His eyes return to
the chart.

"Good, good.  Just happy school's back in session keeping
Linda out of trouble."  Guarino sets the chart back in its
place and looks back up.

The nurse's face is full of concern and more than a little
worry. "We got enough of that to go round," she says.

Guarino nods, once.  "Got that right.  How's Mallory doing?"

"Better today.  Breathing on her own and Dr. B thinks
she'll be able to go home tomorrow."

"That's good, real good."

"Was Linda upset?"

"She'll be okay."

"Yeah.  She and Mal will be back at the outlet mall
spending money before you know it."

Guarino chuffs at her and in one fluid motion, smoothes
down his dark moustache and rubs his chin.  "Has she said
anything since she became conscious?"

"Not much, but," Diane leans in and her voice dips in
volume. "Do you really think it's a good idea having her
talk to those FBI people?"

"FBI?"  His eyes squint at her.

"I thought you called them in on this."

Guarino shakes his head.  "Where are they now?" he asks
gruffly.

"In her room--  Nick?" she calls after the figure moving
down the hall with deliberate intent.  The telephone buzzes
and she shrugs before answering, "Floor Two Nurses'
Station."

~~~~~

Guarino stands in the doorway of Room 248, his large frame
filling the space.  Inside, next to the window, Mallory
Lowell is sitting up in bed; her streaked, blonde hair
piled up on her head with a large-toothed, purple clip. 
She looks pale, worn out.  But she's awake and speaking
with two official-looking folks that stand near the bed. 
Guarino takes a quick read: FBI.

The woman has her back to him and is speaking in soft
tones.  She's petite in stature with a head of cropped, red
hair.  Her tailored, black pant suit looks trendy and her
suede high-heeled shoes, new.  A female fed.  Probably
plays by the book.  Her counterpart is tall, lean, what
most women would call good-looking even with that nose. His
suit is pricy, but he slouches against the window frame
watching the woman and Mallory as they chat.  College boy,
too smart for his own good, though his age and his attitude
suggest experience. 

Guarino shifts his weight with a shuffle of his feet and
the man looks over at him.  "I'll be right back," he says. 
His left hand reaches into his jacket as he approaches and
he pulls out what Guarino acknowledges as a legit FBI badge.

"I'm Agent Mulder."  He extends his free hand and Guarino
takes it, surprised at the strength in the slim-fingered
grip that clasps his massive hand.  They release and Mulder
gestures with his head to the woman, who now stands facing
them.  "That's Agent Scully, my partner. We're
investigating the kidnappings that have been going on here
for the last few weeks."

"Well, seems like everybody's been recovered, so I don't
understand why the feds would involve themselves."

Agent Scully joins them.  "We don't mean to interfere with
local police business, Detective..."

"Guarino.  Nick Guarino," he says shaking the woman's hand.

"Of course.  We'd just like to ask Ms. Lowell a few more
questions, if you don't mind.  Her story might help us
prevent this from happening to someone else."

Guarino scratches the back of his head.  "I suppose
there's no harm as long as Mallory is up to it and I stay."
They cross back to the bed with Guarino in the lead.  He
stops at the foot of the bed.  The gruff face softens as he
addresses the girl.  "Hey honey.  How are you today?"

"Hi, Uncle Nick.  Okay, I guess."

"You scared us."

"You?  *I* was scared."

"Well, you're safe now.  Your mom coming today?"

"What else?  She's been a pain-in-the-ass."

"Mind your mouth."

"Sorry, but she's so annoying."

"She loves you.  And she was sick with worry.  Don't give
her a hard time."

"Whatever." The girl rolls her eyes at him.

"Mallory, these agents want to ask you some questions.  Do
you mind?"

Mallory's eyes brighten.  "No, I don't mind.  At least
they don't look at me like I'm crazy or something.  Like
that nurse."

"Nurse Itzkowitz?"

"Yeah, her."

"What have you said?"


"The truth."

Mulder interrupts, approaching the other side of the bed. 
"Which is what I'd like to go over again, if you don't
mind."

"I don't mind.  It's like I told you before.  Ray and I
were on the beach..."

Mulder pulls a pad from his pocket.  "Raymond Weill."

"Yup, that's Ray."  He nods at her reply.  "We were just
chillin' and then we had a fight and he went into the woods
to pee."  Mallory stops and looks at Scully.

"It's okay," Scully says.  "Just tell the detective what
happened next."

"Well, I thought I heard something and when I looked back
at the water, I saw this guy coming up at me.  I tried to
get away, but I felt frozen.  I called for Ray, but he
didn't answer and then..."

"Then..." Mulder prompts.

Mallory looks at him.  "Then it gets weird."

Mulder takes a step closer.  "Weird, how?"

"He was chanting or something.  And I-I just lost track of
everything.  Next thing I know, I'm here."

"Did you recognize what he was chanting?"

"That's another thing.  It was some foreign language I
never heard. But I understood what he was saying."

"Which was what?"  Mulder's eyes have narrowed a bit.

"I know it sounds crazy, but he kept saying 'Come to me,
come to me' over and over."  The agents exchange a look.

Mulder returns his attention to the teenager and asks,
"Mallory, you said earlier that you remember a bright light
and then losing track of time.  Do you remember if any
tests were performed?"

"What are you talking about?" Guarino growls.

"It's okay Uncle Nick.  No, I don't remember anything like
that. Honest.  But-- oh!"

"What is it?" Scully asks.

"I just remembered something."  Mallory's eyes grow wide
with remembered terror and she begins to shake.  Scully
moves to sit beside her on the bed and takes her hand in
her own.

"You're safe with us.  You can't be harmed here."  Mallory
stares at Scully, then looks up at Guarino and last, to
Mulder.

"About the light..." she begins.

Mulder leans forward.  "The light? From the sky?" he asks.

"No," she replies with a slow shake of her head. "Not the
sky."

Guarino interrupts.  "Mallory, what you trying to say,
honey?  Was it a car, a boat on the water?"

Mallory continues to shake her head, her voice soft and
distant, as if she sees the man before her again.  "Not a
car.  Not a boat."

Scully squeezes the girl's hand.  "Can you show me where
the light was?"  Mallory pulls her hand from Scully's and
closes her eyes.  She takes in a deep breath and gives a
shuddered sigh.  Opening her eyes, she lifts a slow hand
towards Scully and points... to the center of her chest.

~~~~~

Guarino exits the tiny hospital at a good clip, keys,
coins and apparatus jingling as he moves.  He feels Mulder
and Scully trailing.  Damned feds.  Always thinking they're
superior to cops. He turns when he reaches the squad car
curbed at the brick sidewalk and confronts Mulder.  

"I was hoping Mallory would verify some of our facts this
morning, but then you started in with your mumbo-jumbo and
blew my chance."

Mulder remains nonplused, but Scully bristles.  Hmmm. 
Mulder's voice refocuses his attention.  "All the women
taken experienced time displacement and talked about a
bright light before losing consciousness.  Those are
classic elements of an alien abduction scenario."

"Hold on, agent," Guarino says in a dead calm voice, his
eyes squinting against the midday sun.  "What kind of dog-
and-pony show do you think you're gonna run here?  Look,
Mallory is my sister's little girl and I'm not about to
have you adding to everyone's distress. I've got enough
problems without you spreading alien abduction crap." 
"Actually, I'm not convinced it *is* alien abduction
crap," Mulder rejoins, which garners an arched brow and a
suppressed smile from Scully.  The lawman reaches in
through the open, passenger-side window of the car to grab
a manila folder off the front seat.

"This is what we've got so far.  You'll see it's solid
police work," he tells Scully as he hands the file to her,
surprised the Bureau would keep a wacko like Mulder on the
payroll.  Must be some VIP's kid.

"Is it possible to talk with the other abductees?" Mulder
asks.

"I could arrange that, although we've done so already. 
What do *you* hope to find?"

"A connection that may have been overlooked."

Guarino is miffed at the agent's presumptive attitude, but
cooperation is key.  "Just let me know what you need."

"Appreciate that.  How'd you account for the bright light?"

Guarino's thumbs hook into his belt loops.  "Searchlight
from a boat is what we figure, given that all the
kidnappings occurred offshore and at night.  Maybe a car."

"But no witnesses," says Scully, her eyes on Mulder.

"Except one," he responds, meeting her gaze.

"Ray."

Mulder nods.

Guarino watches the exchange, knowing that more is being
said than the simple words he's hearing.  Figures.  Most
partners develop an unspoken code, but only after years of
successful experience.  From the way these two watch one
another, it's clear they've worked together for some time. 
What's more, they trust one another's assumptions.  Their
dissimilarities may explain the subtle tension he feels
between them, but it might be something else, too. 
Something more basic to human nature.

Scully's brows furrow as she flips through several pages. 
"There may be someone else, Mulder."

"Who?"

"Oracoff."

Guarino clears his throat and two sets of eyes converge on
him, necessitating response.  He's chagrined he hadn't
mentioned it sooner.  "Dr. Julian Oracoff.  He's the one
who found Mallory." He pauses.  "And several of the others."

"Three out of five," Scully states and looks back to her
partner.

The man swears he can feel unspoken dialogue.  He decides
to trust his instincts on these two, at least until he's
had a chance to check their backgrounds.  He reaches into
the vehicle for the radio.  The static-charged voice of a
dispatcher answers his call.  "Jerryl, this is Nick.  I
want Raymond Weill brought in for requestioning," he barks
into the unit.  "And get me the number for Dr. Julian
Oracoff at Southampton."

"10-4," the dispatcher crackles.

He returns the device and looks back to the agents who
stand waiting. "Okay?"

"Fine," Scully replies.  "I suggest you be up front with
us, Detective, or you may find yourself with another victim
on your hands."

Guarino shifts tactics to reclaim his authority. "Tell me
something, just how *do* you know about the other stories? 
I just gave you the file."

Mulder pulls the letter Scully read to him in D.C. from
his outside pocket.  "One of your townspeople asked for our
help."

Guarino takes the proffered paper from Mulder's hand. 
With lips drawn tight he reads, head wagging from side to
side.  He lifts his eyes and gives a definitive, "Figures,"
with an exasperated sough of air.

"What does?" Scully asks, taking the letter back.

"Olly."

"Excuse me?"

"Olly Van Helden wrote this letter."  Guarino plants his
fists on his hips and lifts his face to the sky.  He
returns his gaze back to Scully.  "Look, I owe you folks an
apology for having come all the way out here from
Washington on no account."

Mulder's face scrunches up, "How's that?"

"Olly.  That's Olivia Van Helden, by the way.  She's...
well... let's just say she's different."

"Sounds like my kind of person," Mulder interjects with a
small smile.

"What do you mean 'different?'" Scully says with a
sidelong glance at Mulder.

"She's is a bit of a local legend.  Comes from old Dutch
money and even older East End family."

"So?" Mulder tosses in.

"She has a rather vivid imagination.  Believes in crystals
and that sort of stuff.  Runs the "Mystic Bookshop" on
Main.  Sure-fire recipe for breeding what I'll kindly call
a kook."

"You have a problem with that?" says Mulder, his surprise
genuine.

"I do when it drags a couple of feds all the way from
Washington to Sag Harbor.  Say, why *did* you come from
D.C.?  We have a local field office in Yaphank."

Scully speaks up at that.  "Ms. Van Helden felt that my
partner's expertise in paranormal phenomena might be useful
in this matter."

Guarino's presuppositions about Scully's stability are
shaken. "Expertise in paranormal phenomena, huh?  As in
aliens and voodoo and that sort of thing?"

"That's right."  Her tone is serious, defensive of her
partner who stands at her side in silence, although the
line of his jaw relaxes at her words.

"Look," Guarino begins, looking to his left and his right
before replying.  "I'll grant you a lo-ong leash as long as
you make progress.  But, I better not hear you've gone back
to badger Mallory or--  Speak of the devil," he mutters,
interrupting himself.  His gaze focuses across the street.

Hurrying down the sidewalk is an older woman of stature. 
She's tall, reedy, wearing a flowery calf length skirt and
a loose blouse, over which is thrown an unbuttoned artist's
smock.  Thick, gray hair cascades around her shoulders and
a large-brimmed rattan hat puts her face in speckled
shadow.  Birkenstocks clap against the soles of her feet as
she makes her way across the street headed towards them
with obvious intent.

"Van Helden?" Mulder queries in a low tone.

"The same," Guarino answers.

The woman's agitation is palpable as she strides towards
the trio. Without acknowledging the detective, she walks up to
Mulder and meets him at eye level.

"You must be Agent Mulder," she says and he nods.  "Thank
goodness you've come.  Now, maybe something will be done to
stop this madness."  Her voice is mid-ranged, crisp and
resonant, though tinged with age.  Her diction is
impeccable and her manner bespeaks an authority that brooks
no argument.

"Now, Olly--" Guarino begins.

"Don't 'now Olly' me, Nicky," she says, shifting her keen
gaze to the lawman.  "You and I both know that something
fishy is going on around here."

"And I doubt you'll find it on the local diner's menu,
either," Mulder quips, a smile tugging at his mouth.

Olly's shoulders ease and she turns back to him, eyes
softening at his open expression.  "What I mean is that
more women are going to be taken if you don't stop him."

"Him?"

Her gaze intensifies as she murmurs, "The Marimorph."

Guarino notes the sudden change in the agent's expression.
His amusement downshifts with lightning speed into
interest, signaling his belief in Olly's absurd suggestion.
Mulder's lips form an unspoken "what," but she's already
answering.

"An ancient humanoid from the depths of the sea, Agent
Mulder.  Come to find his literal soul mate on the surface
before returning to his watery home.  You may have heard of
his homeland."  She pauses for effect before whispering,
"Atlantis."

Mulder exhales and his head pulls back from where it has
leaned towards Olly.  "Atlantis," he repeats before looking
over her shoulder at Scully, who stands listening just
beyond them.  He's about to say something, but is
broadsided by Guarino's voice at his side.

"Okay, that's enough.  These people have come a long way
at your insistence, obviously *and* unnecessarily.  I've
got an investigation to run and maybe we can get to the
bottom of this with some federal muscle behind it.  I
promise you, we'll find the guy.  Don't worry. Just you be
careful and watch yourself."

Olly turns to Guarino and draws herself straighter.  A
look of disdain is in her eyes, but she maintains her
temper.  "If I didn't know you from when I fed you cookies
off my back porch, Nicky, I'd be insulted.  But, I thank
Detective Guarino for his concern over a poor helpless old
woman, such as myself.  I'll be fine, thank you."  She
casts a meaningful glance at Mulder, then moves down the
sidewalk with purposeful strides.

Olly's commanding presence lingers in her wake.  Guarino's
cheeks color at being chastised, his chagrin compounded
when he spies Scully's eyes on him.  He clears his throat
and looks down at his shoes before looking back at them. 
"I'm, uh, sorry about that.  I told you.  She's eccentric. 
I wouldn't set store by anything she says."

"I'd still like to speak with her further, if you don't
mind," Mulder states, his impatience clear as he takes two
steps backwards in Olly's direction.  "I don't think my
mumbo-jumbo can outdo hers, anyway.  Right?"  Mulder holds
out his hands to them and flashes them a winsome and
unexpected smile.  He turns on his heel, takes a few steps,
then turns back.  He calls to Scully, "Why don't you speak
with Dr. Oracoff and call me when you're done?"

Guarino looks at Scully who nods, then watches her partner
until he's out of sight.  The unflappable exterior may fool
some, but she can't disguise the heat in her gaze, which
he's certain could melt his sterling shield.  It's been
some time since he's had a woman's eyes follow him the way
Scully's do her partner, but he remembers how it felt.  Oh,
yeah.

As for the case, it won't hurt to use Uncle Sam's money to
fund his investigation, at least until they grow weary of
Olly's game, whatever it is.  The feds might be useful
after all

~~~~~

Sheriff's Office 
2:00 p.m.

Mulder strides through the doorway of the sheriff's
station.  The blast of air conditioning that hits his face
is welcome.  The Mystic was closed when he'd gotten there
and he realized, irritated with himself, that he didn't
know Van Helden's home address.

He shows his badge to the dispatcher.  "Guarino?"

She points to a corridor.  "Downstairs."

The odor of urinals, dried sweat and institutional food
greets him at the bottom of the stairwell.  He's been in
jails of varying types and this one, at least, is clean and
bright.  It's still a jailhouse. Why anyone would ever risk
losing their liberty is not a mystery to him.  He knows the
threat of incarceration is not a deterrent in the mind of
the hardened criminal.

The narrow, fluorescent-lit hallway diverges at the base. 
The left wing houses three holding cells.  He turns right
and walks through an open arch into a narrow corridor along
whose length runs a plate of one-way glass.  Inside, he
sees Guarino sitting at a table with a scared-looking
teenager.  He thumbs "Open" on the intercom beside the
closed door.  The kid is talking.

"I told you.  I don't know what happened to her.  I went
into the woods and then Mallory was ... just ... gone." 
So, this is Raymond Weill.  Mulder taps on the door and
watches Guarino cross to open. He disengages the intercom
and waits until he's admitted without a word.  He
approaches the boy and sits down opposite.  Ray takes a
swig from the soda can on the narrow wooden table and sets
it down, his eyes on Mulder.

"Raymond?  I'm Agent Mulder with the FBI. I'm hoping you
can help us figure out what *did* happen to Mallory."

Mulder meets the boy's eyes dead on.  He doesn't detect
malice there, only false bravado and a trace of fear.  He
shifts into observatory mode, senses realigning to pick up
all the subtle nuances.  He notes the clothing: khaki-
trousers and golf polo, scuffed topsiders.  Work clothes,
most likely.  His buzzed hair is typical of his generation
and he sports a gold stud in his right ear.  Peer-driven.
Heterosexual.  Just your average kid.  Ray's right foot is
tapping toe-to-heel-and-back in an endless rhythm beneath
the table.

"Listen, I didn't do anything wrong," the boy says.  "We
were just talking and fooling around a little bit."

Mulder's certain 'foolin' around' these days is very
different from his own adolescent experiences, but he's
listening not just to Ray's text, but to the emotion
lurking below.  In this case, he hears nothing more than
male hormones speaking.

"And Mallory wasn't being especially friendly, was she?" 
Mulder gives the boy a conspiratorial look, which seems to
settle him.

"No.  She wasn't.  But I figure, what the heck?  Girls
expect you to try something."

"Did you?"

"Yeah," he admits grudgingly.  "Look, I was ticked when
she said no, but I wouldn't hurt her.  Ever.  You gotta
believe me."  Mulder does, but he's certain something else
isn't being said.

"Tell me, Ray.  What happened next?  After Mallory said no."

The boy's eyes shift away, then back.  "Nothin'.  I went
into the woods.  To take a leak."

"And you didn't see or hear anything unusual?"  Mulder
hears a stifled sigh behind him.  Guarino's patience is
limited.

"I- I don't know what you mean."

The metal slides on the bottom of Mulder's chair scrape
hard against the linoleum as he pushes back and stands. 
Hands on hips, he turns from the table and walks towards
the mirrored glass.  He observes Ray's reflection shift in
his seat.  For a moment, it seems as if the boy is about to
say something, then reconsiders before taking another swig
of soda.  

Mulder casts a sidelong glance at Guarino, leaning against
the closed door beside him.  The man's eyes meet his and
his cheek muscle gives a twitch.  Mulder suspects what the
boy is hiding, but needs Ray to say it for Guarino's sake. 
He watches the image of the detective as he steps forward and
in a quiet voice says, "Ray, Mallory has already told us
what happened.  We just want to hear *your* version of
things."

"She told you--" he stops mid-sentence.

"Son, if there's something you're not saying, I suggest
you tell us now."  He tilts his head towards Mulder, who
turns in place and walks back towards the table, his face a
cool mask.  "The federal government doesn't take kindly to
aiding and abetting criminals."

"I told you, I don't know--"

The boy recoils and gasps as Mulder's hand slams the
aluminum can against the wall, where it clatters into a
corner, foam spraying gray cinderblock as brown liquid
puddles on the floor.  The agent's hands press flat against
the table and he leans across its width, staring down at
the adolescent. "Cut the crap, Ray," he snarls.  "You know
exactly what happened to Mallory, don't you?"  His voice
rises with each statement.  "Maybe you were part of it. 
Maybe you helped set it up, huh?" 

"No, I- I swear," Ray sputters.  "I'm telling you the
truth.  I didn't hurt her."

"I figure you for 17 or 18, right?"  Mulder focuses on the
boy's eyes as he bites off his words. "You'll be charged as
an adult.  Trust me, Ossining is *not* a nice place,
although a pretty boy like you shouldn't have any trouble
finding a 'protector.' Should he?"  He pushes off the table
and walks towards the door, as if to leave.

"Wait a minute," Ray calls, his voice laced with panic. 
Mulder halts.  "I did see something."  Mulder turns, and he
and Guarino move closer.  Sitting back down opposite the
boy, Mulder smoothes his tie and gives Ray his best
official G-man glower.

The boy sighs then says, "There was a guy.  He came outta
nowhere, I swear.  I heard Mallory calling me.  She sounded
scared, so I went back to the beach and he was just
standin' there, next to the blanket."

Guarino pipes up.  "Why didn't you say something about
this before, Raymond?"

"I dunno.  I was scared."

"You were scared," Guarino parrots, voice rising in
disgust.  "We've been going crazy trying to nail this guy
and you know what he looks like?  Jesus."

"I don't remember, exactly."  Ray's eyes plead with the
detective's. Mulder watches agitation override timidity as
the real story gets told.  "The guy was naked and I thought
he was going to attack her. I wanted to help, but I
couldn't move.  I couldn't."  Ray drops his eyes and looks
away from both men.  "I messed up.  Mallory could've died."

Mulder's tone softens, "Help us now, Ray.  What did he
look like?"

The boy looks back to the agent and leans in.  "Tall, thin
white guy. It was dark but he must've been carrying a
flashlight or something cause I could see Mallory's face. 
She was really scared."

"Then what happened?"

Ray waits a few seconds, then says, "He was strange.  I
mean he looked normal, you know, but then..." he pauses.

Guarino presses, "What then, Raymond?"

"There was this light.  A mad weird light.  I thought it
was a flashlight or something like that," he repeats.

"But it wasn't," Mulder adds.

"I couldn't tell for sure, but it looked like it was
spillin' right out from this guy's chest.  I don't remember
anything after that, I swear.  I woke up right there in the
woods the next morning and went straight to school.  My mom
thinks I stayed at a friend's house. Then I heard Mallory
was missing and Detective Guarino came to find me and I got
nervous.  I was just happy when they found her.  I figured
everybody would forget the whole thing."

Mulder sits back in the chair and sighs, running a hand
over his mouth.  He stands abruptly and turns to Guarino. 
"You can verify his whereabouts for the other abductions?"

"Yeah."

"Send him home."

Mulder exits the room, with Guarino on his heels.  In the
outer corridor, Guarino says low, "You believe him, don't
you?  That crap about the light?"

"Yeah, I do.  I also believe, as Ms. Van Helden said
earlier, that something fishy is going on around here.  I
need her home address."

Guarino cocks his head at Mulder, eyes narrowing.  "I'm
yanking you in, Agent Mulder.  You're on a short leash now.
A *real* short leash," he says.

~~~~~

Darden Hall Southampton University 4:15 p.m.

In the warmth of a late summer afternoon, Scully wanders
academic corridors, searching for Room 401.  Labs peek out
from open doors beckoning to her with the lure of a siren's
call.  She pauses at the doorway to the small office
labeled "Julian Oracoff, Ph.D.," then enters.  Muted
strains of Debussy filter from hidden speakers. Travel
posters touting the names of exotic locales and extreme
sports cover one wall.  Photographs dot another, images
reflecting a tall, slim man with blond hair and an
enigmatic smile posing with different official-looking
types. One photo shows him in a tuxedo holding a plaque. 
He's handsome. Another wall displays credentials, real and
honorary, from European and American universities.

His bookshelves, however, are what attract her most. The
first is filled with volumes of scientific texts from many
specialties, along with a sampling of philosophy, ancient
art, anthropology and music. The other holds a dazzlement
of shells, brilliant in color, amazing in diversity. 
Scully picks up a gigantic hinged oyster, its mottled cover
covered with spikes, reminding her of the San Diego beaches
of her childhood.  Another looks like a miniature conch,
striated with brown and cream and gold, its interior awash
in palest blue.  She turns it around and around in her
fingers.

"Lovely, isn't it?" a voice sounds far behind her.

She spins around, shell in hand, startled at having been
caught touching someone's personal belongings.  She's even
more startled to find the man attached to the voice
standing just behind her.  Her perceptions must be off.  "I
apo- apologize," she sputters, taking a step back.

"No, I'm glad you like them.  She recognizes Oracoff from
the photos, but his physical presence impacts with greater
force.  Her composure slips for only a moment before her
professional demeanor snaps back into place and she pulls
her ID from her jacket.

"I'm Dana Scully from the Federal Bureau of Investigation,
Dr. Oracoff.  We have an appointment."

"Yes, my G.A. told me about it."  He picks up a fan-like
shell, bands of amber, purple and gold spanning the
delicate carapace.  "This is *my* favorite," he says, his
voice wistful as he holds the translucent piece up to the
window, setting it aglow with inner fire. "Its commonly
known as the Northern scallop, but its true name is
'Sirrimantu,' the ancient symbol of nobility.  When the
Atlanteans set sail in their ships of gold, these adorned
their hulls."  His voice is raw silk, soothing yet
provocative, with a quality she can't define.  Without
warning, the hairs on the back of Scully's neck tingle and
she gives a slight shiver.

"Are you cold?" Oracoff asks, moving to the window with
casual grace.  "Blasted a/c.  I hate it.  He unlocks and
angles out a window, letting in fresher, warmer air.  He
gestures with his hand, "Please, have a seat, Agent
Scully." 

He sits behind his desk and all at once, he is all-
business, his eyes assessing her even as she does the same.
"This is about the women I found, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is.  You discovered three of the five abductees. 
That's a rather significant coincidence."

"I know.  It's awfully suspicious, isn't it?"  He chortles
and drops his head for a moment before reclaiming her gaze.
His eyes are intense, grey shot through with darker flecks
and long lashes that curl at the edges. "But, I'm a
naturalist, after all.  My research is conducted on these
shores and that's where the women were found. I've taken
lie detector tests that prove my innocence.  I hope I don't
have to prove it again.  Not to you."  The way he says the
last sentence is warmer than required and Scully finds
herself distracted by his focused attention, even as she
relegates him to the category of Suspect and Not-Mulder.

"How long have you been teaching at Southampton?" she
queries.

"Only since the beginning of the Millennium," he says. 
His response is odd, but no more so than any number of
things she's heard her partner say.  "I came to the campus
on a research grant for the year."

"And your research topic?"

"The effects of global warming on the preservation of
antediluvian artifacts on the Atlantic Barrier Shelf."

Scully cocks her head.  "Thesis work can be a challenge."

"What was your dissertation on, Dr. Scully?"

So, he'd done some digging prior to her arrival. 
Suspicion mounts, but the questions in her mind dissipate
as quickly as they rise, a disconcerting fact she cannot
explain.  "My degree is in medicine, but my senior thesis
covered some of Einstein's ideas."

"Albert was one of our finest minds."

"Albert?"

"I met him once.  He was beyond brilliant.  He offered the
world the secrets of time -- immortality revealed -- but
they still don't understand."

"Immortality?"

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Dana Scully,
than are dreamt of in your philosophy.'"

"I believe that."

"You sound surprised about it."

"Yes, well," and she pauses, recalling her experience at
the Buddhist temple and how it has expanded her vision of
the world.  "I've always thought of myself as a scientist
first.  I set stock in its hard factual approach to any
problem.  But, I've had certain... experiences... that have
challenged my adherence to its principles."

"It is only when we realize what we do not know, Doctor,
that we begin to gain wisdom."

Their eyes meet and once again, the strange tingling at
the back of her neck reaches cool tendrils down her back.

"Dr. Oracoff, I was wondering..." she starts.

"I'd love to join you for dinner," he finishes.

She arches a brow at him.  That wasn't what she was going
to ask, but she finds her mind becoming clouded, unable to
remember the pointed questions she had planned.  Instead,
she says, "Isn't that a bit presumptuous?"

"Only if you don't like the idea.  Please."

She considers him, then adds,  "Fine.  I'll call my
partner and have him join us."

His disappointment is obvious.  Scully keeps her
expression neutral, but she's flattered by his response. 
"You'll like Mulder, I think. He's interesting.  Like you."

Julian leans forward over his crossed arms resting on the
desktop. "My dear Doctor, Agent, Dana Scully, if Mulder is
anything like me, he'll hate me on sight."



ACT TWO

Van Helden Residence 6:00 p.m.

Mulder's walk from the lockup takes him past quaint shops
and a long, wide thoroughfare that leads to the wharf. 
Turning right onto a winding street, he scans the numbers
of the large vintage houses until he finds it: 212
Waterbury Lane.

He stands at the picket gate, eyeing the three-story,
white clapboard colonial tucked behind an English garden
lush with roses, foxglove, dahlias and other flowers.  His
mom had been a gardener.  Odd, how she crept into his
thoughts.  He's caught unawares by a sudden flash of
planting seeds and pulling weeds, Samantha tugging at the
hem of his mother's dress.  They are images consoling and
chilling.

Swinging open the gate, he passes under an ivied trellis,
over flagstones leading to a street-level entry.  He pulls
the cord on the door-side ship's bell that announces his
arrival and the tone lofts in the air, along with the drone
of insects, the scree of gulls and the muffled sounds of a
harbor town doing business.

The heavy door opens to reveal a young woman with dark
hair and large, darker eyes.  Mulder asks for Ms. Van
Helden and is ushered inside.  He follows the girl through
silent rooms until they reach the back of the house. 
Stepping through what looks to be a rear exterior door,
Mulder finds himself in a sizeable conservatory, sunlight
seeping through algae-filmed glass.  Copious plant life
overflows the space and he's surprised to see butterflies
fluttering among the greenery. The room is humid and he
loosens his tie, attempting to ease the stiffness in his
back by shifting his head from side to side.

Olly arrives and when their eyes meet, she smiles at him. 
"I'm glad you came."  She gestures to one of a pair of deep-
cushioned rattan club chairs that grace the small slate
patio at the center of the greenhouse.  "You must be tired.
Please, sit down.  I'll have Mariana bring something cool
to drink."

Mulder sighs.  He *is* tired.  And curious.  "Thank you,"
he replies and sinks into the deep cushions.  Olly gives
instructions to the serving girl, then comes to stand
beside the empty, matching chair opposite Mulder's. "This
is an interesting house," he tells her.

"Yes.  It is.  Built in 1862, just before the War of the
States.  Sag Harbor was abolitionist in nature, but it was
also a Tory stronghold during the Revolution.  It's a
colorful history."

"And you know a lot about it."

"I know a good deal about a great many things, Agent
Mulder."

Mulder sits forward, leaning his forearms on his thighs. 
"Like who's abducting these women?"

Olly looks away and closes her eyes.  She sighs to herself
then opens them, returning her gaze to Mulder.  "What do
you know about the Lost Continent of Atlantis?"  Her
question is serious, disarming him with tolerance.

"I've heard the myths, the legends.  Atlantis was an
island kingdom destroyed by a cataclysm that submerged it
beneath the Atlantic.  Its existence has been debated since
Plato, who described it as a utopian civilization.  The
Nazis laid claim to the legend during World War Two,
claiming it as the source of its genetic superiority. 
Other researchers have attempted to prove its existence
without success, the most notable being Edgar Cayce, who
gave psychic readings while in a trance state.  He produced
hundreds of pages of information regarding Atlantean
culture."

Olly nods.  "And what do you know about its people?"

"What should I know?"

She moves to the entry, taking an ornate tray from the
girl he saw earlier.  "Thank you, Mariana," Olly says
gently.  "You may go for the day."  Mariana disappears. 
Olly is quiet as she sets the tray down on a small wrought-
iron table and pours mint tea into a frosted glass.  She
hands it to Mulder, then straightens.  He is again struck
by her demeanor, her grace, and the intelligence that
surrounds her. She is a beautiful woman, still.  She
reminds him of another woman he admires--his partner.

"The Atlanteans *were* a noble race," says Olly.  "They
lived and worked at all manner of trade, just as we do. 
Their technology was as sophisticated as ours.  Some say
more so.  They traded with the ancient Egyptians, providing
blueprints for the pyramids in exchange for the secrets of
immortality.  They were thinkers, artisans, engineers,
scientists.  They were also hermaphroditic."

Mulder's eyes widen, his curiosity bumping up a notch.

"Yes," Olly continues, noting his interest.  "All life as
we know it, in its earliest stages of formation, are.  Some
say they were also extraterrestrial in origin.  I don't
know about that."

Mulder swallows down a mouthful of tea, assessing the
woman standing before him.  Well-read and well educated,
comfortable with money and its privilege, nurturing,
imaginative.  Her likelihood as a suspect is minimal. 
"You're saying the Marimorph is hermaphroditic?"

"No."  Olly sits, holding one hand within the other on her
lap.  "The Marimorph is only the masculine entity of the
creature.  In their original incarnation, the Atlanteans
possessed specific masculine and feminine entities co-
existing within a single humanoid morphology. When the
Great Cataclysm sundered the continent, it submerged, as
you say.  Those unable to reach the sheltering protection
of its self-contained cities were, themselves, torn asunder
by a force that split them apart physically, mentally and
spiritually.  The surviving creatures, confounded and
helpless, dispersed throughout the landforms of the earth."

"That means the entities..."  He tilts his head at her.

"Disjoined, becoming separate male and female creatures,
yet each only half of the whole."

"Can they recognize one another?"

"In part. The feminine entity is called a Perimorph, a
woman of subtle beauty and creativity, with no memory of
her origin. Possessing humanoid anatomy, she lives out
lifetime after lifetime coupling with human males to
produce rare, hybrid progeny of great intellect.  History
books are rife with their names."

"Such as?"

"Some suggest Tutankhamun, Confucius and Edison as just a
few Atlantean-human hybrids.  The masculine entity is the
Marimorph.  He is also humanoid in anatomy, brilliant,
cunning and seductive.  He, unlike his counterpart,
remembers every lifetime as well his origins. He is driven
by nature to seek his literal soul mate."

"Dates a lot, does he?  I'm sorry, I don't mean to be glib."

"You're an interesting man, Agent Mulder.  You listen as
if you believe me, yet I sense hesitation."

He quirks his head to one side.  "I'm just thinking about
what my partner would say of all this."

"A skeptic?"

"You could say that."

"The auburn-haired woman with the piercing blue eyes?  The
one I saw with you?"

"Yeah, that's Scully."

"A woman who keeps her counsel.  She's of help to you."

"Yes.  Yes, she is."  He pauses before adding, "though I
don't always see it that way."  He gives Olly a self-
effacing smile.

"It can be difficult to recognize what's best for
ourselves, what links us to one another, how lines of fate
and time cross paths in their mobius-like movements."

Mulder nods, contemplating her words.  His cell phone
chirps, interrupting his internal discourse.  "Excuse
me," he says, reaching inside his jacket for the unit. 
"Mulder."

"It's me," Scully says.  "Where are you?"

"Olly's house.  Where are you?"

"On a one-lane road, stuck behind a truck full of ducks."

"Ducks?"

"Quack-quack, Mulder.  I'm turning onto Preston now."

He smiles at the vexation and tease in her voice.  He
stands, holding up a finger to Olly and walking a short
distance away.  "Did you speak with Oracoff?"

"Yes, I did.  We're meeting him in town for dinner."

"When?"

"Eight o'clock.  Some place called The American Hotel."

"The American Hotel," he repeats.  "Should I check us in?"

"Can we afford it?"

"Let me find out.  Only the best for you, you know."

"Right.  Where are you?  I've got a map."

"212 Waterbury Lane.  Meet me here."

"I'm there."  He hears the phone line go dead.  He returns
to Olly who stands, an odd expression on her face.  "My
partner's meeting me here.  I have to go."

"You'll do no such thing," she tells him.  "I'm sorry to
have eavesdropped, but I couldn't help but overhear.  You
need accommodations and The American is booked.  I have six
bedrooms. Please, allow me to offer you a place to stay."

Mulder shakes his head.  "No, thank you.  I...  We
couldn't... impose."

"Nonsense.  It's no trouble and I like having guests. 
Besides, it will mean less paperwork when you get back to
Washington, won't it?"

Mulder remembers Scully's attitude earlier in the week. 
He also harbors a nagging suspicion that Olly isn't telling
him everything she knows.  "All right," he agrees.

"Good."

The clang of the ship's bell announces a visitor.

Olly excuses herself and Mulder hears Scully's muffled
voice. Unintelligible dialogue ensues.  At last, the two
women emerge.

"It's arranged," states Olly.  "You'll both stay here. 
Care to see the rest of the house?"  Scully looks at him, a
mixture of question and amusement in her eyes.  He gives a
small shrug in return.

"Certainly," Scully replies.

~~~~~

Olly takes them on the short tour, pointing out items of
historical and architectural value.  The women fall into
easy conversation and Mulder hangs back, enjoying his view
of Scully relaxing under the kind attentions of the older
woman.  The house is fascinating, filled with history and
items reflecting the nautical nature of the town. An
antique sextant, an impressive collection of scrimshaw that
reminds him of his dad's collection, dozens of sand dollars
heaped into a heavy basket, and pieces of driftwood are
scattered amidst the eclectic furnishings.  And everywhere,
there are crystals of varied sizes, shapes and colors. 
It's a queer, but cozy environment.

Olly leads them up a wide staircase at the entry.  Midway
between the second and third floors, Scully says, "This is
amazing."   Mulder has preceded them, but she and Olly
pause to look at an enormous window at whose center sits a
stained-glass image of a bay surrounded by trees.  "Is
this...?"  She looks at Olly in question.

"Yes. Louis Comfort Tiffany made that.  It's a replica of
his piece, 'Oyster Bay.'  He crafted it for the previous
owners of this house with the stipulation that it always
remain intact and in place.  Do you appreciate art, Agent
Scully?"

"I do.  You have some interesting pieces."

"I do, indeed.  And guests," she adds.  

The women join Mulder, who waits on the landing.  Olly
stands facing the agents and says, "I have two singles and
a double on this floor. Will you be sharing?"

Her assumption causes Mulder to look away and to stifle a
smile. Scully keeps her composure and replies, "The singles
are fine, thank you."

"I hope I haven't offended.  I pick up on vibes.  It's the
crystals, you know.  A shared room seemed right for you,
but--"

"The singles will be fine," Mulder repeats, his eyes on
Scully, who refuses to meet his gaze.

"Fine."  Olly face grows anxious.  "You have an
appointment at The American, yes?"

"Yeah," Mulder says, noting the change of expression.

"I overheard that, too, I'm afraid.  I also heard the name
'Oracoff.'"

"Do you know him?" Scully asks.

"Julian Oracoff?"  Scully nods.  "Yes.  I know Julian.  Is
he in trouble?"

"Not if he's telling the truth," Scully replies.

~~~~~

The American Hotel 8:15 p.m.

Julian Oracoff glances at his wristwatch and sits back in
his chair. The agents he's meeting are late and he's miffed
at being kept waiting.  He picks up the crystal goblet
resting beside his hand and holds it aloft.  The jewel-
toned liquid captures the candlelight, its rubied glow
refracting in the wine.  He brings the glass to his lips
and sips the vintage with reverence before replacing it on
the table.

He looks forward to seeing the woman who visited him
earlier today. Her choice of occupation makes no sense, in
his mind.  Law enforcement types are a notoriously
practical lot.  But Dr. Scully seems discerning.  She's
intelligent and perceptive, and with her vivid coloring,
quite attractive.

He casts his gaze around the room, observing the few
occupants dining in the post-season quiet.  The room's
appointments are tasteful and he likes the service:
attentive, but discreet.  He's accustomed to urban living
and prefers the academic climate of the Ivies, but location
is everything and his research demands his presence in this
locale, far from city lights.

He notices Scully as soon as she enters the room.  She's
changed her clothing.  The somber pant suit has given way to
a sleeveless, dark blue sheath with a scooped neckline and
a fitted bodice that enhances her petite form.  She sees
him and follows the maitre'd to the table. Julian rises at
her approach.

"Hello again, Dr. Scully.  You look lovely."

"Thank you," she replies before taking the chair beside his.

"I thought your partner was joining us."

"He's making a phone call.  He'll be here shortly."

"Too soon, I'm afraid," Julian states.

She smiles, a bit self-conscious, and he realizes she's
unaccustomed to being flattered.  It's refreshing.  He
imagines she must keep her femininity under close wraps
working as a federal agent.  Pity. Women are such
interesting creatures.

"I've taken the liberty of ordering wine for us.  May I
pour you a glass?"

"I'm sorry, no," she replies.  "Agent Mulder and I are
still, technically, on duty.  But, please don't hesitate on
our account, Dr. Oracoff."

"Please call me Julian and I'm hoping I may call you
Dana."  She nods once and he tops off the glass he's been
nursing.  "This is a Pinot Noir from Pindar.  It's a local
label, but quite good.  The North Fork is fast becoming the
Bordeaux of New York."

"Do you know this area well?"

"Well enough for my purposes."

A voice intercepts asking, "Which would be what, exactly?"

Julian hears the suspicion in the voice and turns to look
up into a pair of intelligent hazel eyes.  He already knows
that this is Fox Mulder, Dr. Scully's partner.  As
suspected, he hates the man on sight.  He'd been hoping for
someone much older, paunchier and cruder than the slender,
handsome agent that stands beside the table.  He stands to
meet the man's eyes, level with his own and extends his
hand.

"You must be Agent Mulder.  I'm Julian Oracoff."

Mulder shakes his hand and he sits across from Scully,
Julian between them.  "My work, agent, is to teach marine
biology and do research into the life forms found in the
shoals off the Atlantic barrier reef."

"How do you do that while on land?"

"I have use of a small submersible the university provides."

Mulder glances across the table at Scully.

"Does anyone ever go with you on these underwater junkets?"

"They're called research expeditions and yes, occasionally
students go with me."

"Where is it now?"

"At the University's launch, near the public dock."

"And its usage is always tracked?"

Julian smiles, unperturbed by the subtle grilling. 
"Always.  There's a ship's log, as well.  You will find all
in order, Mr. Mulder."

The two men watch each other, their reactive chemistry
palpable. Just then, the waiter approaches with menus in
hand.  They peruse the placards for a minute.  Julian notes
Mulder's well-concealed discomfiture with the four-star
prices and French descriptions.  Their expense allowance is
probably a pittance, Julian thinks, but he wants to impress
the lady and isn't afraid of Uncle Sam's wrath.  He holds
up a hand and says, "Do you like seafood?  If I may
suggest..."

"By all means," Mulder says, his tone polite, but his
mouth set.

Julian orders oysters and foie gras, endive salad and
grilled salmon; all in impeccable French.  Mulder meets
Scully's eyes over the vivid African daisies that adorn the
centerpiece.  Their shared expression suggests a well-honed
routine.  Julian's guard goes up as Mulder turns his
attention to him.  Scully maintains a serene expression.

"Scully tells me you're only here until January," Mulder
states.

"Yes, although my research could call me away from
teaching at any time."

"Your research."

"Yes. My thesis on antediluvian artifacts."

"I meant to ask you earlier," Scully says.  "Antediluvian,
as in Noah's Ark?"

"Actually, I'm interested in a much earlier catastrophe. 
One that redefined the face of the Western Hemisphere and
took from us a golden civilization."

"Sounds like something I heard earlier today," Mulder
mumbles.

"Sounds like a story I heard once in a lullaby," Scully
quips in a dry tone.

Mulder smiles at her.  Julian chuckles, "Did I say over
the rainbow?"

"Then where?" she asks.

"Under the sea."

Mulder adds, "Yeah, Scully, with the Little Mermaid."

Julian stiffens.  "The ignorant often ridicule that which
they do not understand."

"So, enlighten me."  Mulder's tone is edged with sarcasm.

The waiter interrupts with appetizers.  Conversation
ceases for a brief time as delicacies are consumed.  Julian
leans towards Scully and says sotto voce, "Did you know
oysters are an aphrodisiac, Dana?"

"Many foods are considered to be conducive to the
production of hormones and endorphins within the body, yes."

Julian's eyes twinkle as they meet hers, "Such as?"

"Such as...asparagus, walnuts, pine nuts, grapes."  Her
eyes flick to the glass of wine before him and back to his
attentive gaze.

"Really?" he says, leaning his chin on his hand as he
listens, enjoying the spark in her eyes and the shape of
her mouth as she speaks.

"Yes.  And spices like ginger, nutmeg, vanilla and of
course," she pauses and smiles, "chocolate."

"Ahh.  So that's why gentleman bring chocolates to
beautiful women?"

"Well, the scientific explanation is that it releases
endorphins that create the same sensation as being in love."

"Imagine that."

"Don't forget green M&Ms." That was Mulder.  Scully looks
across the small table to her partner with raised brows and
a look of incomprehension.  He's sitting back in his chair
with only his right hand resting at the table's edge,
fingers drumming the white linen.

"Excuse me?"

"Green M&Ms, Scully.  The latest substance to induce a
frenzy of wild passion."  His tone is light, but his
fingers betray his insecurity.

"Green M&Ms."

"An ad hoc university study in Texas verifies that people
are using green M&Ms as sexual stimulants.  Every one knows
you have to eat those first when you open the package."

"Mulder..."

"But," he says leaning forward into the table with both
hands pressed flat against the surface.  "Getting back to
our *original* discussion..." he says with soft, but
deliberate intent.

Julian is pleased he's disturbed the agent with his
attentions to the woman.  He's quite certain that
testosterone is goading Mulder to this petty sniping and
equally certain that what Mulder really wants to do is
exhibit typical human male territoriality by shoving him
against the wall and saying, "Back off, pal."  Still,
Mulder refrains and Julian admires his restraint.

The agents eye one another for a few, silent moments and
then Scully asks of her partner, "You said you heard
something earlier today. From whom?"

"Olivia Van Helden."  Julian's chin and interest lift
despite himself, a fact not unnoticed.

"Do you know her?"  Scully asks the professor.

"She owns a bookstore.  I buy books."  She nods and drops
the topic, much to Mulder's surprise.

"So then," Mulder begins while casting a pointed look at
his partner and back to Julian, "You don't really know each
other."

"No.  What did she tell you?"

"She has a theory that sounds a lot like yours about an
island that was submerged in the ocean after a great
cataclysm."

"Atlantis," Julian offers.

"Yes. Then you *have* chatted."

"We've discussed that topic, among others."

"You know about the Marimorph."

Julian's posture doesn't shift, but he takes in a deep,
quiet breath and releases it.  "Yes, I know about
Marimorphs and Perimorphs and the Great Cataclysm.  Are you
suggesting such creatures actually exist?  Or that such a
creature is responsible for the women that have been taken?"

Mulder prepares to say something, but is cut off by Scully
saying, "I think what my partner is suggesting is that
someone may *believe* he is such a creature and is
perpetrating these crimes in a delusional state."

Mulder's eyes narrow. "Tell me something, Dr. Oracoff. 
Ms. Van Helden tells me that the creature is *driven* to
abduct these women, hoping to discover his soul mate and
return to the sea with her."

"That would fit the mythology.  Atlantis is believed to
still exist deep beneath the surface of the sea, it's
portals opening but once a year for a brief span of days
during the passage of the autumnal equinox.  Only then can
its long-lost nomads re-enter and rejoin with their
kindred. Some even suggest that the storms that plague the
Atlantic at this time of year are a direct result of those
portals opening."

"So the portals are closed again?"

"By the end-turn of the Romans' seventh month."

"And you believe that the creature seeks its soul mate?"

"The idea of a soul mate has long existed."

"As a fanciful notion," Scully enjoins. "Physical
scientists attribute it to biochemistry, anthropologists to
mating rituals and psychologists to deep-seated mother
separation issues."

"Ahh, but for the Marimorph, dear Dana, the soul mate is
its sundered self seeking reunion."

Mulder grumbles, "I'd say his version of a one-night stand
is a bit severe."

Julian eyes the man with an icy stare.  "I believe--" he
begins, but never finishes because Detective Guarino is
striding towards their table.

"We got us another victim," he tells them.

Mulder looks at Julian, whose face remains impassive and
unaffected by the news.  He meets Scully's eyes and they
rise in tandem.

"I'm afraid we have to go," Scully tells Julian.

"I'll take care of the bill," Julian says.

"Thanks," Mulder says with some satisfaction before he
follows Guarino and Scully from the dining room, his hand
at the small of her back.

Julian notes the possessiveness of the gesture.  There's
subtext here.  Mulder's jealousy is transparent.  He
believes the woman belongs to him.

Foolish human.

~~~~~

Onboard Police Cutter 678 9:00 p.m.

Spray off the dark water kicks up into Mulder's face as
the police cutter makes its way across Peconic Bay.  The
moon is concealed by clouds, incongruous in the night sky,
backlit by silvered light. Mulder leans into the prow,
breathing in the tang of salt air.  The feel of moving
water beneath his feet triggers memories of days long gone.
No one who grows up on a sea island ever takes the ocean
for granted or leaves it behind.  You are always,
essentially, separate from the mainland, shaped by the
brine that surrounds you.

They are heading towards Southold, on the opposite side of
the immense bay that spans the distance between eastern
Long Island's fish tails.  Scully comes from behind to
stand beside him.  

"Allison Jorge," she begins, her voice raised a notch to
be heard over the hum of the engine and the steady,
rhythmic splash of the cutter as it rebounds off the water.
"Age 34, teacher and mother of three.  Husband called the
police after she didn't come home last night and failed to
show up at school this morning.  No known issues of marital
discord or enemies.  She was found by a woman walking her
dog on the beach.  Southold P.D. says she's barely hanging
on, so they've choppered her to Stony Brook Medical Center."

Mulder purses his lips and nods without looking at her. 
"He's stepping up the pace, Scully."  He turns towards her.
Her trench is buttoned tight, collar turned up against the
mist.  Gusts off the water whip her hair across her face. 
He finds himself wanting to brush the stray strands off her
cheek, but pushes the thought aside. "And I think I know
why," he says.

She waits.  He knows she's prepared for either a
legitimate profile of a kidnapper or the esoteric
meanderings of his mind.  Her willingness to hear him is
something he never fully understands, but needs as much as
the air that dampens his skin.

"He's on a time-limited schedule," Mulder begins.

"What do you mean?"

"Oracoff said the equinox is a critical date for the
creature," he says.

"The Marimorph?"  He gives her a half-smile and nods.

"You said it yourself.  Whether this creature is real or
imagined, we're likely to see another abduction before the
weekend."

"The end-turn of the Romans' seventh month."

"That's just double-talk for September."  She nods. "I
suggest we keep an eye on Dr. Oracoff's movements."

"You suspect Julian?"

"Scully, that guy was shoveling so much shit he could have
fertilized Kansas."

"Mulder..." she chides, her annoyance surfacing.

"College professors don't make the kind of salary Julian
seems accustomed to spending."

"People have other sources of income besides their jobs. 
And the man has taste.  That doesn't make him a criminal."

"No, just fascinating.  Or so it would seem."  Mulder
leans closer to her ear.  "What's with you?  You seemed a
million miles away tonight."

"That's unfair."

"But accurate."

The boat shifts as it curves towards the lights that wink
from shore. Scully loses her footing and pitches forward,
clutching at the lapels of Mulder's trenchcoat.  He places
one foot forward to maintain their balance and a steadying
hand under her elbow.  She looks up at him.  "What do you
expect from me?  I'm here, aren't I? I'm doing my share of
the work."

"How?  By exchanging precocious remarks with the good
professor?  I know what he wants."  She glares at him.  He
knows he's being peevish, but he can't help himself.

"Mulder, I'll agree that he's seductive, but I'm not a
schoolgirl. I'll buy that his non-reaction to Guarino's
announcement was odd, but that doesn't prove anything. 
I'll even accept that he seems to have more information
that the average person about the habits of mythological
sea creatures, present company excepted.  But, don't stand
there and tell me that Julian Oracoff is a merman looking
for love."

"In all the wrong places, Scully."

"You think he's searching for his soul mate, whatever that
means?"

The hand that grasps her arm tightens in increments. 
"Don't you believe people can be meant for one another?" 
His attempt at depersonalization can't disguise his true
question.  She drops her head, then lifts her face to his
again.

"Maybe I thought so, once.  Real life has proven me wrong
time and again."  He sees the pain of past mistakes in her
eyes, hears the regret in her voice.

"No, I... I don't suppose either of us has made the best
choices in that regard."

She cocks her head at him, eyes narrowing.  "Whatever it
is that brings people together, Mulder, it's hard work that
keeps them together, not some mystical force."

"That's all I'm expecting, Scully."  Scully drops her
hands and shrugging off his, she turns on her heel and
heads to the enclosed bridge where Guarino navigates the
boat.  He knows he's said the wrong thing at the wrong
time, exactly the wrong way.

~~~~~

Southhold Police Precinct

A Suffolk cop meets them at the police launch and drives
them to the station house.  Guarino leads the way through
the bullpen to a desk where a young black detective sits
typing a form.

"Niebler?"

The cop looks up, pinch-faced in the fluorescent lighting.
"Guarino! What brings you to visit us 'simple folk' on
the North Fork?  I thought you preferred the paparazzi 
crowd."

"You're handling the Jorge case."

"Yeah.  These the feds?" he asks, standing.

Guarino points to them in succession.  "Agents Mulder and
Scully are up from Washington."

Niebler shakes their hands, then sits on the corner of his
desk.

"D.C. feds.  This must be bigger than I thought.  Of
course, considering everything that passes through this end
of the island, anything is possible."

"What do you mean?" Mulder inquires.

Niebler crosses his arms over his chest.  "Most people
think Long Island is homogenized white bread. Truth is,
it's a hodgepodge.  And crime doesn't know city from
sticks.  Sure, we got petty stuff like any other town, but
the DEA sits on our doorstep on a regular basis looking for
offshore shit trying to enter the 495 crack line to the
Apple.  All right under the noses of quiet suburbia."

"You going somewhere with this?" Guarino interrupts.

"Shop talk, Nick.  What's your problem?  Besides, we got a
possible ID on the kidnapper and an APB on the wire."

"Who gave the ID?" Scully asks.

"Hispanic girl.  Lives in Bungtown.  Says she saw a guy
drag Allison Jorge out of the water."  He leans in and
drops his voice, causing them all to step closer.  "Funny
thing, though.  She says she didn't see a boat and the guy
had no suit and no gear."

"We'll want to speak with both women," Mulder states.

"The victim is in critical care at Stony Brook.  I don't
know how much you'll be able to get from her.  As for the
witness, she was pretty upset and it was late, so I took a
statement and told her to come back in the morning.  My
sketcher will be here, too."

"Sure," Mulder concedes.

"You could have told us this over the phone," Guarino
complains.

"Bite me, Guarino."

~~~~~

Friday, 9/29
Van Helden Residence 
1:00 a.m.

The hallway is shrouded in shadow, muted light filtering
through the stained glass panel between floors, casting
luminous shades of blue-green, crimson and dark gold onto
the burnished oak floor. Scully leans against the open door
frame and allows the colors to infiltrate her mind.  Blue
is cool, calming.  Red is warm, seductive. And gold?  Gold
is the divine calling to her.  She closes her eyes.

Fieldwork leaves her weary now.  What once was stimulating
and worthwhile, now feels rote and unappreciated.  Long
days and longer nights are spent on the road, living out of
a suitcase, prying into the private lives of others,
peeking under the rocks of humanity to shed light on the
dregs.  Her well-worn role as skeptic and scientist is
becoming more difficult to fill as she embraces extreme
possibilities for herself.  She has seen too much, heard
too much, done too much to deny it.  The accumulated weight
of loss, deception and impending doom grinds into her
bones.  Science still provides parameters that keep her
sane, but it cannot fill the spaces that grow emptier
inside her with each case they pursue.

The double bind is stifling.  She no longer wants a
"normal" life. She'd be content, for a time, then bored. 
She knows this.  Besides, the only man she can see herself
with is still as likely as ever to run off on a moment's
notice to chase God-knows-what because he's afraid he'll
"miss something."  Mulder.  Yes, she loves him.  And his
devotion has been obvious to her for a long time.

Time and the extreme events since her trip to Africa have
altered their partnership in ways she could not have
predicted.  And while she has always been attracted to her
partner, she has never allowed herself to acknowledge the
depth of that wanting.  Until now. Perhaps, it is Spender's
observation about her willingness to die for Mulder, but
not to love him that pushes her towards a consummation she
craves and fears.

"Planning to sleepwalk tonight?"  She keeps her eyes
closed, allowing Mulder's voice to slip around her
shoulders like softest pashmina. She feels him move past
her and when she opens her eyes, he's there, leaning
against the opposite side of the doorjamb.  Like bookends,
they flank and fill the wider-than-normal doorway.

He's bare-chested and the legs of his flannel pajamas drag
around his bare feet just a tad, brushing her foot.  The
fabric is a dark, subtle plaid.  Why she notes this makes
no sense to her, except that it distracts her from the
elastic waist that dips around his narrow hips.  She
wonders about the anatomy beneath the cloth.  Wonders and
wants.  She reminds herself to not react, just breathe,
breathe, breathe.

His big toe comes to rest beside hers as he crosses his
legs and his arms, getting comfortable against the frame. 
He rubs his back against the wood, like a cat.

When she speaks again, her voice is calm, much to her own
surprise. "Is there something you needed to talk to me
about?"

"Not really.  I was going to get a glass of water.  Am I
interrupting something?  A meditation, a prayer?"

She sighs.  "No, I was just watching the colors in the
glass."  She gestures to the windowpane with her chin and
he twists his upper body to see it.  "It's beautiful, isn't
it?"  She watches the shadows that flicker and dance
through the multi-hued panes, spilling onto the floor.

"To risk sounding cliché, you are."  The words may be
cliché, but the attitude behind them is genuine.

Her eyes dart to his and she discovers he's turned back
and is watching her.  "Is this your apology?"  She knows
she's being difficult, but his words on the cutter still
sting.

"Can't a guy just appreciate a beautiful woman when he
sees one?"

"What do you want, Mulder?"

"You."  The word is simple, straightforward, without any
trace of innuendo, as if he had said "a sandwich" or "new
running shoes." That stops her, cold.  She takes a breath
and tries to find a witty response to his simple
confession.  Words fail in the rush of blood into her veins
and the flush that overtakes her. 

Her silence must make him uncomfortable because he's
talking again. "I promised you I'd be more up front with
you, so I'm trying, Scully. I know I behaved badly tonight
and yeah, I do apologize.  I suppose I can't blame you for
enjoying a little flattery.  It's just that, ummm, I want
to be the one distracting you."

His unexpected honesty robs her of reason.  His toe slips
over the instep of her foot, sliding up and around her
ankle as it blazes a slow trail up and under the satiny
cuff of her pajamas.

"Mulder..." she says, gentle rebuke in her voice.  The
foot stops at once, replanting itself beside hers.  She
thinks she can breathe again, until he moves, pushing
himself away from the frame and leans in, towards her.

She doesn't look at him.  She can't.  She wets her lips
and concentrates on the expanse of his chest -- muscle and
hair and skin filling her direct range of sight as he
stands so close.  He's showered and his clean scent invades
her olfactory senses.  She pushes backwards against the
jamb, her hands at her sides, but he moves closer.

"Look at me," he says, his voice soft against her hair. 
She shakes her head.  She doesn't know where his hands are.

"No."  Her pulse is racing and she battles her need to be
touched and to touch him.

"Look at me, Scully," he pleads.  "Please."

She lifts her face, the back of her head bumping against
the jamb. She steels herself against the hunger in his
eyes.  She's aroused, but still angry.  Focus.  Yes, that's
it.  She's always focused on the work.  That's what counts.
They should talk about it.  Later.

His head dips down, down.  His mouth nears hers at a slow,
slow, slow rate.  Then stops, his lips bare millimeters
away from hers.  "Seems we have a choice here," he says,
the movement of his mouth as he speaks casting puffs of air
against her mouth.

"What's that?" she manages to say.  Meanwhile, the ache
between her thighs grows impatient, insistent.

"I could go back to my room, alone.  You can go back to
your room, alone.  Or..."

"Or?"

"We can share a bed in your room.  Or vice versa.  I'm
easy that way."  He's sniffing her, now; breathing her in. 
Sniffing her!  And damned if she doesn't find it erotic as
hell.

"Mulder..."

"Scully."

"We're working."  It's a feeble excuse, but it's the only
one she can think of at the moment.

"No.  This is more what I'd call playing.  You remember
how to play, don't you?  Share toys, make nice."

"I think I remember that," she murmurs.

"Never doubted you for a minute," he says, the tip of his
nose rubbing against hers.

She wants to kiss him.  But this.  This is... nice, too.

"Very nice," he whispers back.  She's said that aloud.

"Mulder," she barely manages to say.

"What?"

"I need you--" she begins.

"I need you, too, Scully."  His lips press dry and warm
against her temple and every nerve ending in her body goes
on alert.

"No," she hears herself say.  "I need you to listen."

"Mmm-hmm," he murmurs, his kisses moving across her
eyelids and the bridge of her nose.  Resistance becomes
more difficult with each contact and if he puts his hands
on her, she'll be undone.

"Mulder, please stop."  His face pulls back from hers,
desire and hurt confusion in his eyes.  Her head lolls to
one side and she drops her eyes.  "You can't say things
like you did tonight and then do this to me."

Without a word, he steps away.  She drops her head and
looks at her feet, which never moved the entire time.  She
hears the snick of his bedroom door.  She looks back up at
the stained glass panel.

"Damn you," she whispers in the dark.

~~~~~

Van Helden Residence 6:00 a.m.

Mulder wakes in pre-dawn darkness, his arms thrown around
the pillow beside him.  In his dreams, the pillow has
warmth, soft skin and auburn hair.  In reality, it's only a
pillow.  He pushes it away in disappointment and sitting
up, throws his legs over the side of the bed.  His hand
slips beneath the waist band of his pajamas, trying to
remember her dream image.  It's pathetic.  He's nearly 39
years old and fantasizing about a woman who desires him,
but won't let him make love to her.  Nature wins over logic
and brings relief of sorts.

He rises, body stiff with sleep that has provided little
rest.  He stretches, appreciating the sweet ache in his
muscles.  The air is chilled but welcome. Crossing to one
of the large, mullioned windows, he extends an arm against
the window molding, the other hand pushing aside heavy
Irish lace to look out over the rooftop of the conservatory
and the neighboring houses.  He spies ocean front only a few
blocks away.

Throwing on a pair of sweats and running shoes, he jogs
down to the beach.  Narrow-slat redwood fences are already
in place, erected to protect the salt marsh habitats and
sand dunes that lay in wait for the annual storms that
pummel the area in autumn.  Green surf pounds a flat silver
shoreline, its foam-crested waves flecked with emerald
kale, broken bits of shell and the desiccated husks of
horseshoe crabs.

Pink sky and weak sun peek through cloud layer for a brief
time before the drab day lightens the taupe sand and gray-
blue ocean. He's seen the Pacific, San Diego style--deep
blue stretching to eternity, sun-bleached beaches dotted
with starfish and conch and the hulks of black rock jutting
from the sea like ancient teeth.  Not so the Atlantic,
especially as cool weather approaches.  It pleases him, his
preference determined by youthful memory and a penchant for
the melancholy.

He runs.  Thoughts rise as the steady pumping of his legs
forces oxygen into his sleep-muddled brain to make sense of
things.  Make sense of last night.  He knows he's pissed
Scully off with his behavior at dinner and his comments
about Julian.  But, more to the point, it was probably his
comments about the work that upset her most.  He isn't
exactly sure how he hurt her, but he regrets his hasty
words nonetheless.

He is certain of only one thing.  She wanted him.  He
knows it from the very way she denied him.  Yet, she still
keeps distance in her mind, even when their bodies are so
close.  He wants her body, of course.  But even more so, he
wants her mind, her soul, her heart. He wants it all.  When
hasn't he?

~~~~~

Southold Precinct

The Taurus snakes through morning traffic heading into
Southold. Scully told him at breakfast that Guarino was
accompanying her to Stony Brook to see what Allison Jorge
might tell them.  Their conversation had been terse,
limited to the case, with no mention of their 'almost'
assignation.  He dislikes the brooding silence between them.

The car radio sputters and Mulder scans through several
stations before stopping at the voice of a newscaster,
"...weather advisory from the National Weather Service is
being issued for Eastern Long Island and Southern
Connecticut."  A cutaway sound byte tells him about
Tropical Storm Giselle scouring up the Jersey shore.

Mulder peers up at the sky through the windshield at
increasing cloud cover.  A single raindrop slaps the glass
and he grimaces.  He hates rain.  He especially hates
working in the rain.  But, what he hates most of all is
working in the rain without Scully.

At the Southold precinct, he finds Detective Niebler
enjoying his morning bagel and coffee.  Mulder catches his
eye over the folder he's reading.  Niebler looks up.  "How
ya doin'?" the man asks with a good-natured smile. "Coffee?"

Mulder holds up a hand and remains standing.  "I'm good.
Where's the sketcher?"

"Upstairs.  Where's your partner?"

"On her way to see Allison Jorge with Nick Guarino."

"Ha."  Niebler shakes his head.  "Man, that guy needs a
vacation." He chuckles to himself.

Mulder likes the easy-going cop.  "Maybe I'll join him,"
he commiserates, flopping into the hard chair opposite
Niebler's desk.

"Rough week?"

"Rough night."

"Ahh," Niebler replies with a knowing smile.  "She's
pissed at you."

"Who?"

"Your partner."

"Scully?"

"Look, it's none of my business, but I've been there. 
Hey, I married my partner and now she works out of
Mattituck.  I miss working together."

"It's not what you think."

"The hell it ain't."

Mulder likes Niebler, but his personal life is just that. 
He keeps his face neutral and leans forward to grabs the
manila folder on the desk marked "Jorge, Allison - 92800." 
Mulder scans a page or two, then lifts his eyes.  "So, what
do *you* think is going on here?"

Niebler runs a hand over his mouth and walks to a wall map
of the East End.  The twin forks jut their fin tails far
from the main island.  Long Island Sound lies north, the
Atlantic Ocean south and east.  Peconic Bay fills the space
between the forks with Southold and Sag Harbor watching
each other across the water, while Shelter Island and its
ferries span the gap.

"Looking at the history, the victims *do* all live on the
bay."   His finger blazes a trail around the inner
perimeter as he rattles off, "Sag Harbor, Noyack, North
Sea, Jamesport, New Suffolk, Southold."

Mulder's eyes narrow as he follows.  "And the abductions
began on..." He checks the folder.  "September 15th, after
Labor Day and a week before the equinox."

"So?  What's the equinox got to do with it?"

"It's a significant date to the UNSUB.  I'm thinking he's
given himself a two-week time frame to carry out his plan. 
I'm just wondering if there isn't some shared event that
triggered the series."

"It's possible.  Labor Day around these parts is a big
deal.  Lots of end o'season barbecues and parties."

Mulder puts down the folder and approaches the map.  He
taps at a spot.  "Sag Harbor a popular place?"

"Sure. It's touristy, especially on a holiday."

Mulder nods.  "I think it's time we see how our witness is
faring."

"Let's go," Niebler replies.

They climb to the third floor and walk to a small room
where a woman sits with a sketchpad shading in the face of
the suspected kidnapper. The girl that sits beside her is
small, dark-skinned, with a single heavy braid down her
back.  Mulder recognizes her from the day before.  It's
Mariana.

He rounds the table and his eyes widen when he takes a
look at the emerging sketch.  He's about to speak, when the
girl sees him.  "I see him," she says in a hushed tone. 
"Is dark, but he look familiar."

"This man?"  Niebler points to the sketch.  "You've seen
him before?" Mariana nods and looks back at Mulder.

"With Miss Olly," she says.  "He come to the house a few
times.  She very worried.  I very worried for *her.*  Then
last night, I am walking Cuco on the beach and I see him
again."

Niebler asks Mulder, "You know her?"

They exchange glances and Mulder nods.  "You could say
that," he replies before turning back to the girl. 
"Mariana," he says in a soft tone.  "Tell me what you saw."

She points to the sketch, her voice more confident.  "I
see *this* man coming from the ocean, carrying a woman.  I
think she is dead.  I think he will see me, pero, he don't.
He put the woman on the beach and goes back to the ocean. 
Then he is gone."

Niebler interjects, "You said that last night, too.  What
do you mean, gone?  He swam away?"

She looks at Niebler.  "No.  I tell you, pero, you don't
listen.  He is gone.  *He disappear.*  I don't see him
again.  E vero.  He must be dead, too."

"Whadya think?" Niebler asks.

The agent holds up the portrait and says, "I think I'm
finally getting lucky."

"Huh?  You recognize him?"  Mulder nods.  "Who is it?"

"A Southampton college professor."

"Not my jurisdiction, but Southampton is cool with us."

"Don't bother.  This one's mine."  Mulder hands back the
sketch and turns, heading towards the door.

"Where ya going?" Niebler calls after him.

Mulder doesn't turn when he rejoins, "Fishin'."

~~~~~

Conservatory, Van Helden Residence 9:30 a.m.

"There now, that's better, isn't it?"  Olivia Van Helden
lifts the clay pot from the planter's bench and places it
on the shelf sitting at eye level.  She grabs a second pot
and proceeds to examine the small, bright orange blooms for
signs of parasite or blight. Satisfied with the visual
inspection, she pours cool rice water over the semi-exposed
roots.  Barber's "Adagio for Strings" drifts through the
moisture-laden space and Olly stops for a moment as a
poignant passage tugs at her.  She closes her eyes and
listens, the music's emotional character affecting her.

"I thought you preferred the Romantics."

Olly starts and spins in place to find Julian Oracoff
standing not three feet away, an inscrutable look on his
face.  She sighs.

"You startled me."

"I apologize.  Where's your housegirl?  I'd like some tea."

"She called in sick today."  Julian nods and steps forward
to scrutinize the orchids in Olly's hands.

"Laelia cinnabarina.  A lovely specimen, Olivia, although
I prefer the softer coloration of the Ghillanyi."

"Julian..."

"Of course, the Cinnabarina has a vivid character that
appeals to some."

"Julian, stop."  He looks her in the eye.

"Do we have a problem?"

"Yes, *we* have a problem."

He sighs and moves away from her, pushing through the
overgrown ferns that flank the walkway to the seating area.
He lowers himself into the cushions of the club chair and
extends his legs, allowing his head to drop back onto his
shoulders.

Olly follows, uncertain how to begin.  Julian's eyes are
closed and he looks elegant, reclined in the chair.  His
pale linen blazer offsets darker gabardine trousers and
hand-sewn calfskin loafers. Olly recognizes the attitude of
wealth.  The Van Heldens date back to the earliest Dutch
settlements in the area, but she's never allowed either
lineage or good fortune to distance her from those around
her who were less fortunate. 

She stands over him and says with some authority, "We need
to talk." Julian's eyes are slits as they regard her.  He
waits a few moments, then pulls himself upright.

She pulls the matching chair over to his and sits
opposite, nearly knee-to-knee.  "Julian, you must stop
now."  He's silent.  "Someone is going to die and I won't
be party to that."

He studies his manicured nails.  "Olivia, you worry too
much."

"Do I?  And what should I say to the FBI who are staying
in this very house?  I'm not a deceitful person."

Julian looks at her, gray eyes made lighter by the soft
illumination that infuses the space.  "What have you told
them?"

"Nothing that implicates you.  But I cannot, I will not,
protect you forever."

He leans forward and takes her hands into his.  Looking
into her worried eyes, he says, "Olivia, you know you're
the only one who understands.  I can't help myself."

"You *must* try," she tells him in a plaintive tone. 
"When will it end?"

"When I find her," he states.  He pushes back his chair
and, dropping Olly's hands, rises.  He walks across the
patio and turns.  His words are deliberate.  "There is... a
presence in this area.  I can't pinpoint it, but *she* is
here.  I feel it.  I will find her, Olivia, and we will
reunite in the sacred waters as we must."

Olly stands and approaches him.  "I'm sorry, Julian.  I
simply can't be a part of this any longer."  She moves past
him, heading towards the entry to the house.

"Who will believe you?" he calls after her, causing her to
stop and face him again.  He takes a few steps towards her.
"Yes, who?  That fool Guarino?  The government's watchdogs?
No one will listen."

"I wouldn't be so sure about that."

His eyes narrow.  "Besides, you'd be considered an
accomplice for not coming forward sooner."

"I've thought about that, but I don't care."

"But you *should* care, Olivia."  Julian's voice drops in
timbre and pitch.  "You *should* care because you must
realize that I cannot allow anything or anyone to interfere
with my quest."  His hand moves slowly to the unbuttoned
collar of his shirt.  Olly tries to discern his purpose,
but finds her eyes locked on his.

"Your quest is becoming a dangerous mission," she tells
him.  "When I first found you, dazed and shivering in here
after that first time, I helped you because I felt sorry
for you.  And then, later, because I believed you.  You
*are* driven to these acts, but I never expected it to go
this far or affect so many.  I will tell, Julian.  I will
tell Nick Guarino and agents Mulder and Scully what I know
about you."

His voice is soft, hypnotic, slow when he whispers,
"You'll tell no one."  Her eyes drop from his to where his
shirt lay unbuttoned, bright whiteness filling her range of
sight.  Then darkness.



ACT THREE

En Route 11:45 a.m.

The ground is sodden with rain when Mulder leaves the
precinct, cloud cover thick overhead.  It's nearly noon,
but the darkening sky fails to reflect it.  Yesterday's
warmth is gone.  A cold, sudden gust presses his leather
jacket against his back.  He watches the wind whip through
a birch, twisting perfect yellow leaves from their moorings
into a mini-vortex on the sidewalk.  He pulls the door of
the car closed with a solid thud and points the Taurus east
towards the Shelter Island ferries.

His cell phone rings.  "Mulder."

"I have good news and bad news, Mulder," Scully says
without any trace of humor.  "Which do you want first?"

"To quote a nice, Long Island girl, Scully: 'hit me with
your best shot.'"  He keeps his tone light, hoping to ease
the tension that hums through the unit.

"Allison Jorge is still unconscious and her doctors don't
know when that will change."

"What's the good news?"

"That is the good news.  The bad news is there's a major
storm moving into the area."

"I heard that on the radio.  How is Allison Jorge being
unconscious good news?"

"Because we got back to town early and I had a chance to
do a little more digging.  Allison Jorge is married to
Wilson Jorge, a free-lance journalist for the Sag Harbor
Times.  I spoke to Mr. Jorge and he wanted to know if I
thought it was coincidental that all the women abducted had
been in Sag Harbor on Labor Day."  

Mulder perks up.  "Were they?"

"Yes, they were.  All in attendance at a lecture hosted at
the Mystic Bookshop, Mulder.  Guess who the speaker was."

"The Naughty Professor?"  He swears he can feel her
grudging smile.

"I'm reading you the promo advertisement.  'Science and
myth merge at our next Mystic roundtable when Dr. Julian
Oracoff, professor of marine biology and environmental
science at Southampton University reveals the mysteries of
Atlantis.'"

"That puts him in direct contact with every victim prior
to the abductions, Scully.  And I just saw what looks like
a portrait of Julian from our eyewitness on Jorge."

"I'm heading to the campus right now to arrest him."

"I have his address.  I'm going there for further evidence."

"We don't have a search warrant."

"But we have probable cause.  Put Oracoff in the tank and
meet me there with the papers."  Silence ensues for
several, long seconds. Then come Scully's words.

"You were right, Mulder."

"Hey, it was your catch that tied it together."

"Guess that means you're not working alone."

His throat aches and his eyes soften.  "Don't even suggest
it," he murmurs.  He thumbs the phone off and opens the map
of Eastern Suffolk on the seat beside him.  The mist on the
windshield consolidates into droplets and he switches on
the headlights and the wipers just as the skies open again.

~~~~~

The required ferry crossings and drive through Shelter
Island and its southern companion would be pretty if the
sun were shining or if he cared.  One or the other.  As it
is, he's restless as he always is just before a bust.  The
roads are slick, traffic reduced to a crawl through the
small towns that flank Route 114.  The swi-ka-slap, ski-ka-
slap of the wipers keeps time in his head, a slow
counterpoint to the fireflash of neurons sparking in his
cerebrum.

Julian's cryptic remark about the Roman's seventh month
still nags at him.  The creature has abducted one woman
every three days since the fifteenth.  September is the
seventh month in the early Roman calendar and 'end-turn'
suggests the thirtieth as the final day the Atlantean
portal will be open.  Mulder hypothesizes that Oracoff will
abduct another woman on that day in a last ditch attempt at
communion.  But calendars have changed over the centuries.

He finds himself on autopilot while he drives, his inner
eye searching personal databanks of information remarkably
accessible to his eidetic memory.  Images of ancient
calendars: Mayan, Chinese, Egyptian and Gregorian rise in
Technicolor glory, each fading into the next until the
Roman calendar appears.  He holds the image of that
particular calendar while snippets of text play like
subliminal audio tapes: kalendae, lunar, 10/355 and an
obscure mnemonic phrase, "Fifty Mules May Jostle the
Ostler," which reminds him that except for February, March,
May, July and October, all the remaining months have twenty-
nine days.  Twenty-nine.

Today is the 29th of September.

Apprehension tingles like spray over his skin as Mulder
realizes another abduction will occur before midnight. 
Scully is on her way to arrest him.  Good.  Or maybe not. 
The professor's undue attention to her may be nothing more
than fascination, but Mulder isn't convinced it's not more
devious than that.  He reflects on his partner's safety and
nearly turns west towards Southampton when he hits Route
27, then cans the idea.  He's just escaped the doghouse for
not granting her credence.  Besides, she's with Guarino and
will have plenty of backup.  She can take care of herself.

He turns eastward toward Montauk with Scully on his mind. 
The houses thin and the rain eases.  Sand dunes mark his
left and the vast stretch of the sea, his right.  Mulder
switches on the radio, searching for something besides
weather updates.  Giselle  promises to be noteworthy based
on the damage being reported from southern latitudes.  The
gloom of the day and the news depresses him and he pauses
as the dark acoustics of a guitar capture his ear...

...shouldn't be so complicated...

But it always is.  Mothmen, mermen, madmen.  What
difference does it make?  In a world of universal
invariants, they are just random elements, with Scully as
the ultimate, unstable isotope.  She withholds and gives
herself with equanimity, a tantalizing paradox of belief
and denial, virtue and sin. 

...started out clean but I'm jaded...

With no hope of a reprieve and no desire for one, either. 
Fucking Sir Galahad he's not.  He's just a man trying to be
strong but sensitive, close but unstifling, carnal but
pure.  Jesus, Scully. He's not *him* either.

...can you help me, I'm bent...I'm so scared...this is how
we will end...

He snaps off the sound and takes the appropriate turnoff
onto a private road.  Topography changes and he's riding
atop a rising crest that drops off to his right.  He finds
the mailbox for No. 4416 standing as sentinel at the top of
weathered wood steps that disappear down the side of the
cliff.  Pulling the Taurus into dense overgrowth on the
opposite side of the road, he leaves the car and heads down
the stairs.

The bungalow is small, nondescript and in need of a fresh
coat of paint.  Considering Julian's expensive taste and
fancy manners, Mulder is surprised, but only for a moment. 
The house is shielded from view by the rising cliff and
dunes surrounding it, making it a perfect refuge for
someone with something to hide.

Mulder's sneakers sink into the sand as he rounds the back
of the cottage.  He sidles along one wall until he stands
poised by the corner at the front of the house.  He checks
for evidence of an occupant, then steps out onto a small
deck.

The front door is flung wide, open to the sea and the
sand.  What draws his attention, however, is a figure at
the water's edge some 30 yards beyond.  Julian Oracoff
stands naked, his back to Mulder, his feet in the surf.  He
spreads his arms wide, palms turned upward.  A few, still
moments pass and they return to his side.  He wades into
the surf grown rough with the impending storm.  All at
once, he dives without warning.  Mulder watches for a head
to emerge just beyond the foamy waves that pelt the shore. 
He waits... and waits... and waits. Finally, a small splash
alerts him to a spot far beyond the breakers, beyond any
place where a human being should be.

Mulder is a strong swimmer but as he assesses the odds of
anyone being capable of swimming that far, that fast, a
small thrill ripples through him.  He pulls himself away
from watching the distant figure to enter the house.  A
single large room with a small kitchen and bath set to one
side comprise the entire living space.

He searches for evidence, coming up empty until he reaches
a heavy pine table nestled into a rear corner, beneath
plate glass windows overlooking the side and back of the
house.  The surface is covered with books, papers, rolls of
what look to be sea maps, a spyglass and other assorted
items indicating research and study into maritime pursuits.

Mulder pulls latex gloves from his jeans pocket and dons
them before shuffling through the pages.  He unrolls a map
and discovers one marked with odd handwritten runes beside
what appear to be longitude and latitude indicators and
sextant markings.  A glint of gold catches his eye and he
pulls a gold nameplate from between the sheets, holding it
up before his eyes.  It reads "Mallory."

He bags the necklace and continues to explore, his
interest diverted by the unusual assortment.  He thumbs
through several books, pausing here and there to take in a
passage about Egyptian hieroglyphics or a few words from an
Aramaic-English dictionary.  His cursory perusal stops upon
finding a slim sheaf of paper hand-bound on one side with
grassy twine, strange runes embossed on the fragile cover. 
He recognizes the material as papyrus.  Between the
bindings are sheets filled with strange marks and drawings
of machines that seem familiar somehow, despite their alien
appearance.

So engrossed is he that he fails to notice the figure that
enters the house on silent footsteps.  The creature
approaches and at last, a sixth sense tells Mulder he is
not alone.  He turns to meet the eyes of Julian Oracoff,
hair slicked back, body beaded with seawater, a faraway
look in his eyes.

Mulder moves to grab his weapon, then takes a step
backwards in mute silence, stunned as his eyes drop along
the man's form to find in the center of Julian's chest a
third eye, open and blinking.

"Gar'n far vinesh.  Sindu orrishma v'tosh," Julian intones.

"Oracoff, listen to me," Mulder says, his gaze returning
to look into the creature's human eyes.  "You don't have to
do this.  I can help you."

"V'tosh," is the creature's response, shaking his head. 
"V'tosh." He advances towards Mulder, central eye blazing.

~~~~~

Sag Harbor, Sheriff's Office 5:50 p.m.

News of Giselle fills the radio waves.  The rain and wind
that precede her grand passage across the East End swell
and abate at uneven intervals.  The streets are filled with
residents scurrying to prepare for power outages often
triggered by such weather.

Cover breaks for a few minutes and a tangerine sky peeks
through smoke-blue clouds, their undersides stained with
sunset's glory. Scully pulls into a vacant spot in front of
the neo-Georgian façade of the station house and exits the
car.  Her mouth is set in a tight line, her focus and
concern evident.  She climbs the stone steps with purpose
in search of Detective Guarino.

"Agent Scully?" a familiar voice calls from behind. 
Scully turns at the top of the stairs to see Olly climbing
to meet her.  The older woman approaches and stops several
steps below the petite agent, to better meet her eyes. 
"Have you heard from Agent Mulder?"

"No, not for hours."

"I'm very worried for him.  Do you know where he's gone?"

"Julian's."  She heads off Olly's reply.  "We know about
his connection to the book shop and the abductees, Olly. 
I'm not sure what your part in this is, but I think it's
time you told me."

Olly's gray eyes grow troubled and she places a hand on
Scully's arm. "He can't help himself.  He doesn't mean
harm, but the Marimorph is driven by a biological
imperative and I'm afraid he'll stop at nothing."

"You're saying Julian is the Marimorph."  Scully's
skepticism colors her words.

"Yes."

Scully's eyes narrow as she takes in the fact that Olly
believes this story.  "Do you know where he is?"

"Not at the moment, no."  Scully can see the conflicted
emotions in the woman's eyes and while she doesn't
understand her reasons for protecting him, she understands
the feeling behind the action.  "He... came to see me this
morning.  I told him I'd tell you about his complicity in
the abductions.  He overpowered me."

Concern for the older woman flashes across Scully's face. 
"Did he hurt you?"

"Not physically.  I'm not sure what happened, to tell you
the truth. I can't seem to remember."

The truth resonates deep within Scully.  Of course.  How
could she not have seen it before?  All at once, the
concept of lost time begins to make sense, as do her own
befuddled thinking and uncharacteristic passivity in
Julian's presence.

"He wasn't at the university," she tells the older woman. 
"I was there today and they told me he didn't have classes."

"No, he wouldn't be there today.  It's the 29th -- the
last day."

Julian's words about the time frame for the portals spring
to mind. Scully leads Olly up the remaining steps, guiding
them towards the illuminated entry.  "I need your help."

"I'll do whatever I can."

"Find Nick Guarino.  Tell him we have evidence tying
Julian to at least one abduction.  Tell him I have a search
warrant for his house and I'm heading there now."

"The Marimorph is a clever creature, Agent Scully.  He'll
escape you any way he can.  Probably by water."

"Tell Guarino that."  Olly hesitates for only a moment,
then grabs Scully by the shoulders.

"I will.  You find Mulder.  He's in danger."

Scully remains calm, her inner anxiety contained only
through years of practiced experience.

"I know," she says.

~~~~~

Hampton Beachfront

Several unsuccessful attempts at reaching Mulder's cell
have Scully's radar on full-sweep.  She's accustomed to
being out of touch for long stretches of time, but Olly's
words disturb her. Headlights flash on the 4416 carved into
the wooden mailbox post 20 feet ahead, and she pulls the
rental off to the shoulder.

She kills the engine and checks her weapon before leaving
the vehicle.  The private road is nothing more than a
narrow strip of asphalt cut into the side of a high cliff. 
Without street lights, the crescent moon that peeps from
behind swift-moving clouds provides scant lighting.  It's
colder than when she started out and the thin jacket and
linen trousers she's wearing do little to warm her in the
wind that blusters around her small form.

Descending the steep stairs, she knuckles the side entry
with a heavy hand.  Through the window beside the door, she
observes Julian's approach.  She's nervous, concerned for
Mulder's safety.  She must ascertain his whereabouts before
slapping the cuffs on Julian.

Julian's expression upon seeing her is one of surprised
pleasure. "My dear Dana," he begins.  "How wonderful of you
to visit me, although I suspect from your expression that
you're not here on a social call."

"Where's Mulder?" she asks in a low, steady voice.

"Your partner?  I really don't know."  His words seem
genuine, but she doesn't trust them.  He steps aside and
gestures for Scully to enter.  She does so in silence,
turning when she reaches the center of the room.

"Have you been unable to reach him?" Julian inquires. 
Scully doesn't answer, but steps towards the kitchen and
looks there and through the open bathroom doorway.  Julian
doesn't object, which heightens her mistrust.

"You know, Dana, I'm very glad you're here tonight.  I
couldn't have planned it better.  The weather is
regrettable, but not unexpected. Storms often accompany the
aperture's closing.  It's a warning of sorts."  He goes on,
his voice a soothing riff in her head, its mesmerizing
quality distracting her.

Why is she here?  Mulder, she reminds herself and pushes
herself to speak.  "Mulder was meeting me here."

"Really?  Well, I'm sorry to inform you that he won't be
able to make that appointment."  Julian smiles.  And from
that, Scully understands that Mulder's life is in jeopardy.

If he's even alive.

~~~~~

Mulder wakes with a pounding headache and a stiff back. 
He's gagged and bound, his wrists and ankles secured by
thick rope.  He's sitting on a damp cement floor, his cheek
resting against a rough wooden wall.  Pulling himself into
an upright position, he looks around. The scent of wet sand
and ocean and metal assails his nostrils.  He's in a shed
of some kind.

Grimy moonlight filters through a small, four-paned window
above his head.  He looks at the assortment of tools that
fills the small space, looking for something that can slice
his bindings.  Then he spies it: a scythe poised on a rusty
nail.

With controlled exertion, he inches his body to where the
tool hangs. It's in a precarious position, just above him. 
He has to maneuver himself into a kneeling position to gain
leverage and the effort is exhausting.  His mind keeps
fighting him, telling him to sleep, to sleep, v'tosh.

That's what Oracoff kept saying, Mulder realizes, although
he has no idea how he recognizes the word.  Sleep, however,
is not an option. Raising his wrists above his head,
against the serrated edge, he rocks them with tentative
strokes against the blade. The cutter teeters on its iron
perch, threatening to drop its curved, honed edge atop the
fettered agent.  He must have patience but all he can think
is, "Scully will be here soon."  The soft buzz of the blade
and the faint odor of burnt fiber waft in the dark.

~~~~~

Oracoff Residence

"Stop right there."  Scully fixes her weapon on Julian,
who remains in place.  His eyes betray not fear, but
amusement.

"Really, Dana.  Is this necessary?"

"Just be quiet."  Her external demeanor is calm, even as
she feels her mind growing clouded.  What is wrong with
her?  Julian is speaking again and she focuses on his voice.

"I realize you have tender feelings towards your partner
out of loyalty or camaraderie or even sexual attraction. 
But we're beyond that at this point.  You have a greater
purpose and tonight you will fulfill your destiny."

"What do you mean, destiny?"  She must stay alert.

"Your rightful place in Atlantis."

His continued serenity in the face of her authority and
her weapon are congruent with grandiose delusional
thinking, making him a dangerous wild card.  Yet, even as
her mind grapples with Julian's insanity and her need to
find Mulder, she's lulled by the timbre and cadence of his
words.

"My place," she repeats with a shake of her head, hoping
to clear the fogginess that escalates without reason.

"Yes.  United with me in the sacred waters, we will
transfigure, our separate identities coalescing into a
single form -- our true form --that will enable us to
travel to the depths of the ocean where we will find haven


again."  Julian steps forward, but Scully reasserts her
grip on her SIG, which had dipped as she listened to his
fantastic theory.

"Stop right there," she warns, a frantic edge in her voice.

Julian sighs and looks at her as if she were a stubborn
child. "There's no point in this."

His superior attitude and the growing helplessness she
feels irks her.  Anger cuts a fiery swath through the
miasma in her brain and she battles for clarity.  "Is this
what you told the others?" she challenges.  "This fairy
tale?"

"You mean the women I honored? They've all been returned,
alive, relatively unharmed."

"Allison Jorge is in critical care.  If she doesn't make
it, you'll be facing murder charges as well as kidnapping,
to say nothing of threatening a federal agent."

"Federal--  you're referring to Mulder?"  She cocks her
brows at him. "He isn't dead, you know, just disabled."

"What do you mean?"

"He's unharmed, if that's your concern, but he won't be
interfering."

Her anxiety edges down only a notch.  Her thoughts shift
from Mulder to Olly.  Has she reached Guarino?  Her
thoughts shift again to Julian and his motives.  She feels
distracted and cannot focus.  She slips her hand into her
pocket, reaching for her cuffs.

"Why these women?" she asks.

"I sensed something in the book shop, the day I met them."

"I wasn't there.  Explain *that.*"

"My intuition isn't foolproof.  But you are connected to
them somehow, and the sea.  It's a part of you."

"The human body is 95 percent water.  It's a part of all
of us."

"No," he says, eyes squinting.  "It's more than that.  You
resonate, much like someone else I know..." His attention
lapses and Scully seizes the chance to step forward.

Focus returns with a vengeance and he grabs the cuffs from
her fingers and tosses them aside.  She gasps and backs off
only inches, but it's enough distraction for Julian to
snatch her weapon as well. He points the gun at her and
backs her towards the table until her hips press the edge.

She curses herself for carelessness.  Agents are taught
early on to watch hands.  She tries to remember basic
defensive arts but cannot, and her lack of focus alarms and
dismays her.  She watches Julian's hands now for signs of
intent.

"It's time to go," he informs her, gun still in his right
hand while his left unbuttons the denim shirt he wears and
the light envelops them.

~~~~~

Once the first cord is severed, Mulder loosens the
remaining bindings.  He undoes his gag, taking in a deep
breath, then spits out the taste of cotton and copper.  The
rope burns on his wrists sting, his knees ache and his head
hurts.  "Gettin' too old for this shit," he mutters to
himself.  He glances at his watch -- 8 p.m.

He stands, groaning from the stiffness, sensation restored
to his limbs in a painful blood rush.  He pulls at the
door's rusting iron handle.  It doesn't budge.  A second,
fruitless attempt and he slams his left hand against the
weathered door frame.  The splintered surface stings his
palm as he peers out the window to see the back of
Oracoff's house twenty feet away.  The lights are on and
questions swirl in his mind.  Is Scully there?  Is she
safe?  Does she have back-up?  Is Oracoff in custody?  Or,
knowing the creature's intentions and his tranquilizing
effect on his victims, is *she* the one in danger?

He pushes aside the trepidation licking his heels and
grabs a shovel that leans in a corner.  Turning his face
away, he bashes through the glass with the flat spade. 
Climbing out is awkward and he tumbles to the ground head
first.  He rises and stumbles as he makes his way towards
the house.  The side door is unlocked and he enters an
empty room, the front door still flung wide.  His breathing
is quick and his brow furrowed with worry.  A quick perusal
confirms his darker suspicions.  On the table lie Scully's
cell phone and her gun.  He picks up the weapon and shoves
it into the waist band of his jeans. He turns and steps
towards the front door, stopping when he spies her jacket
and shoes in a small heap beside the entry.  

Dread flows like a river as he steps onto the tiny porch. 
That's when he feels a warm wetness on his outer left
thigh.  He looks down and sees the dark stain of blood
seeping through the ripped denim. He slips his thumb
through the jagged tear to assess the wound and presses
into a gash of some depth.  He winces as he gauges its
length at five inches.  Damn.

There's no time to dwell on it.  Giselle is beginning her
pass over the Forks.  The wind whistles in his ears and the
heavens are nearly opaque with flat clouds, except for a
sliver of sky at the horizon where a pale sickle moon
hovers above black water.  An impending, early moonset adds
to his distress.

Peering out over the water, he notices something else. 
Two figures are knee-deep in the surf, heading out to sea
on foot.  He recognizes the tall, slender form as Oracoff. 
The smaller, feminine form being tugged along is his
partner.  Anxiety transforms to anger.

He races towards the ocean, stripping off jacket and tee
shirt as he goes.  At the water's edge, he yanks off his
sneakers and socks and strides into the wild surf.
"Scully!" he calls to the pair that is at least fifty yards
beyond him, but the wind swallows his cry.  Cold bites
through the heavy denim and his feet sink into the sandy
floor. He strides through the breakers that tumble and
pitch around him, a fierce undertow sucking at his legs.

Low tide.  The ocean floor descends in a slow-gradient as
he trails the receding figures that have, somehow,
increased their lead on him. They must be nearing the
barrier shelf, where the land drops off into the abyss. 
Once past the raucous waves, Mulder dives into waist-high
water and begins to stroke towards the pair.  His body
temperature adjusts to the chill Atlantic waters and he
pours his energy into reaching Julian and Scully.  After
several minutes of steady pulling, he stops, his feet just
able to touch bottom as the water surges above his
shoulders.

"Scully!" he calls again to the man and woman now within
earshot. His voice carries and they pause.  Oracoff turns,
holding Scully against him as he keeps her head above
water.  She is listless in his grasp, face turned downward.
Mulder navigates until he is only a few yards from them. 
"Scully," he calls again and her head lifts towards the
sound of his voice.  Oracoff turns back towards open water,
dragging Scully with him.

"Oracoff! Stop, you bastard, or I will shoot you."

He complies and turns to reface Mulder, who stands with
the water at his chin, weapon held above the surface. 
Julian holds Scully before him like a shield, her face
level with his as they both watch Mulder. 

"Scully?" Mulder queries, watching her eyes and taking
hope from the spark of lucidity he sees emerging there. 
Darkness falls as the moon sets and the rain begins to fall.

"Do you really think you can stop me?" Oracoff inquires in
an affected manner.  "Aside from your useless weapon,
you're human --with inadequate biology, an inferior mind
and a complete lack of appreciation for this woman and her
potential."

Mulder's fear for Scully's safety is magnified tenfold as
the water swirls around them and the rain escalates.  He'd
attempt a shot if he could get a clear line of sight. 
Meanwhile, his soul wrestles with the creature's words.

"Getting a little personal, aren't we?" he tosses off with
as much glibness as he can muster.

"Mulder!" Scully calls, her voice faint but assured. 
Mulder still maintains his bead on Oracoff in spite of the
night, the weather and the prospect that the weapon may not
fire after submersion.

"Are you okay?" he asks her.

"Yes."

"She's perfectly fine, Mr. Mulder.  Just like the others. 
Only she isn't going to be returned."

"What are you talking about?"

"Dana is going home tonight.  To her rightful home."

"To Atlantis.  Is that what you're telling me?"  Mulder's
sarcasm is tinged with curiosity.  "You think she's your
soul mate?"


"Mulder, he's insane," Scully says in a quiet voice.

"I know what he is, Scully, and he isn't going anywhere."

Oracoff interjects, "I suggest you head back now, before
the storm worsens.  The undertow is shifting.  I wouldn't
want to be held responsible--"

At that moment, Scully pushes against him, hard,
attempting to escape his clutches.  Her timing and
unexpected behavior gains her freedom, except for the
vise-like grip Oracoff keeps on her wrist. The sound of an
approaching boat can be heard above the wind and rain.

"Guarino," Scully calls to Mulder.

"What?" Oracoff snarls and pulls her back towards him. She
thrashes against him and he wails in anguish, "You would
betray me?"  His hands grasp her shoulders and he plunges
her beneath the surface.

Mulder ditches the gun and dives forward.  Coming up from
underneath, he forces himself between the two.  Oracoff
releases Scully as they break the surface and she pushes
free, choking and gasping for breath.  Mulder tries to pin
the creature's arms behind him, but his hands slip along
slick skin.  He feels a sharp tug on his legs and has but a
moment to grab a lungful of air before being yanked beneath
the dark water.

He struggles with Oracoff who holds his torso, face down,
in the vise-like grip of his legs below the surface, his
hands pinned behind his back.  Mulder twists and turns, but
cannot gain leverage.  His lungs ache, his eyes burn and
his head pounds.  The first trickle of cold seawater fills
his mouth and the faces of Scully, Samantha and his mother
flash through his mind as the dark edge of unconsciousness
slips forward.

All at once, the pressure around his waist is gone, as is
Julian. Instinct kicks him to the surface and he's gasping
for air, surrounded by a circle of white light.  A
motorboat chutters close by and he squints into the
brightness.

"Mulder?" Guarino shouts from deck. "Scully!"

Mulder scans the choppy surface around him, panting and
coughing. Rain pelts the water, sending spray back up into
his face even as the rain batters him from above.  He spies
a flash of movement and the sound of moving water to his
left.  He gulps and pivots in place, his footing gone.  He
expects Oracoff.  Instead, Scully swims past.  She stops
and turns back to him.  "Come on," she says in a breathless
rush and he follows.

They are still ten yards out from the side of the boat,
when he feels the current shift.  It isn't natural.  And
it's very strong. "Scully!" Mulder cries and she stops
again, treading water.  He feels the upsurge of cold
current wrapping around his legs, pulling him away from the
boat, away from the light, away from Scully.

"Mulder!" Scully yells, but her voice is distant in his
ears as he is sucked into a slow-turning liquid vortex. 
"Mulder!" he hears again, closer.  And then she's there
with him, holding on to him, keeping his head above water.

They battle the current, their strength ebbing in a steady
stream as they keep one another surfaced.  He feels
Scully's grasp on him weakening and his left leg is
throbbing.  He's lost all sense of direction, knowing only
that he must keep awake, keep kicking to the surface.  They
must stay alive.

The life preserver that splashes to his right is a welcome
sight. Mulder reaches out and seizes it, holding onto
Scully with his left arm.  He draws her forward and she
grabs onto the large orange ring. The water still drags at
them, but inch by inch, they feel the tug of the rescue
line bringing them closer to the vessel, until they are
alongside the drop ladder with Guarino and Olly helping
them up and onto the foredeck.

The rain stops and streaks of starlit indigo emerge
between the thinning clouds.  They collapse, side by side,
onto a hard-molded bench that juts from the inside wall of
the boat.  Guarino approaches, blankets in hand.  His grave
expression reveals how awful they look.  Mulder wraps one
around Scully's trembling frame.  He drops to one knee to
tuck the second around her legs.  He looks up into her eyes
and says, "We gotta get you dry."

"Y-you," she stammers back in a whisper, tremors wracking
her body.

He'd been warm in the water, adrenaline pumping, but the
cooler air following the storm front nips at his clammy
skin and the wound in his leg burns.  A tight shiver
overtakes him. 
"Here," Guarino says, removing his squall jacket and
handing it to Mulder, who doffs and zippers it with a
grateful nod.  "Oracoff?"

"I dunno," Mulder replies, looking up at the detective.  "I
lost him."

From the opposite end of the boat, Mulder hears Olly
calling for Oracoff, over and over.  He peers through the
gloom to see her clutching the sides of the skiff, leaning
forward, over the water. She's removed her storm jacket and
the dark turtleneck and jeans she's wearing cling to her
narrow figure.  Her dark gray tresses curl black around her
shoulders and in the half-lit space, she seems much younger
than the seventy-odd years she's spent on terra firma.

Guarino turns towards her with a shake of his head.  "I
don't see how he could have survived."

"I wouldn't be so sure."

Guarino turns to question Mulder's cryptic response, when
a sudden splash causes both men to turn portside with a
start.

"Olivia," says Guarino meeting Mulder's eyes.  They rush
to the side. The detective casts the spotlight in a wide
sweep across the ever-moving surface.  They spot Olly,
making steady headway towards the vortex that continues to
spiral in a slow turn just beyond the reach of the boat.

"Olly!" Mulder yells.  "Come back!  You'll never find
him," he shouts.  He looks back at Guarino, who is removing
his gun holster. 

"I'm going after her," Guarino says, heading back to the
drop ladder. Mulder grabs the spotlight, focusing its beam
on the elderly woman who strokes away from them with
unusual agility and vigor.  He grapples for balance as the
boat is captured in the outermost edge of the maelstrom and
he's pitched against the side of the boat.

Regaining his balance, he looks at Guarino who stands
poised to dive, but seems frozen in place.  His expression
is one of disbelief as he stares at the water.  Mulder
shifts his gaze to where he remembers Olly being and
exhales his breath in a rush.

The sea is growing lighter.

In an ever-widening circle around the boat, dark water is 
shifting tone. Black turns greenish-gray, then deep emerald. 
Mulder grips the side of the boat and calls out, "Scully, 
you gotta see this."  He glances back at her, but she is 
huddled beneath her cocoon of blankets.  He turns back, 
unable to resist the lure of the spectacle unfolding before 
him.

The verdant waters continue to transmute, green morphing
suddenly into aquamarine and turquoise combined.  And 
then he sees it -- a glowing form rising from beneath. Olly
sees it too, he surmises, because she stops swimming and
simply waits.

The luminous being rises, refracting light through the
water in arcing ripples of gold that scatter as they
disperse into the surrounding brine.  It breaks the surface
without sound or effort close to where Olly treads water. 
She reaches a tentative hand out to it and a luminescent
limb mirrors her action.  Fingers, or what Mulder assumes
are fingers, touch her hand.  He is mesmerized, unable to
look away.

The image turns vaporous and he squints, then blinks
several times before he realizes he's staring through a
thick haze that rises and settles all around them with
eerie swiftness.  He strains to see the watery pair, but
they are cloaked in a mantle of mist.  The lights off the
boat reflect back only impenetrable whiteness as fog
billows over the deck.

Mulder closes his eyes and drops his head onto his arms in
weariness. He knows they will never see Julian or Olivia
again.

~~~~~

EPILOGUE

Saturday, 9/30 
Sag Harbor Marina 
11:00 a.m.

The azure sky is cloudless and sunlight skitters on the
surface of the bay, fracturing into brilliant shards
wherever it alights. Sailboats point their canvas wings
into the wind like so much oragami on the harbor, enjoying
the brisk winds that trail in Giselle's wake. The
occasional motorboat putters out from the marina.

Scully stands at the edge of the dock, taking in the
tranquil scene that belies the prior evening's chaos.  She
remembers confronting Julian, then losing consciousness
until she heard Mulder's voice calling her name.  Then she
was in the sea, being held against her will and battling
for her life, and his.  Their rescue is a blur. She was
diagnosed with minor hypothermia and held for observation
overnight.  Her blood chemistry was unaffected and her
heart betrayed no irregularities.  Even so, it will be some
time before she feels truly warm again.

She wraps her arms around herself, fingers plying the
softness of the alpaca ruana that drapes around her in fawn-
colored folds.  Mulder's extravagant and unexpected gift
gives her pause.  He can irritate her to insensibility with
his arrogance, his propensity to embrace myth over fact and
his subtle manipulations.  He can also dazzle her with
random acts of kindness, leaps of intuition, and the more
overt expressions of his feelings for her.  He'd needed
sutures for a nasty gash on his thigh, but she'd yet to
hear him complain about it.  She senses his presence behind
her without seeing him.

"Coast Guard still hasn't found any trace of them," he
says in a straightforward manner.

"They're gone, Mulder.  And we're done here."

"I gave Guarino my report, our report."  She nods as she
follows the swoop and cry of terns and gulls that beset an
incoming trawler.  "At least they're together."

"In death?" she says, considering how easily they might
have ended up like Olivia, like Julian, like the cargo
heading into harbor.  Her tone must betray her cynicism.

"In life, Scully," he refutes.  "I know what I saw and
yeah, I think they realized their destiny together.  I know
you don't believe in the idea of a soul mate, but there
*are* animals that mate for life, you know.  The wolf, the
gorilla, even swans and geese."

"That's instinct, not choice."  Deepening intimacy with
Mulder is proving as difficult a task as she always
imagined it would be, wounded psyches held captive behind
protective walls.  The glimpses into what might be,
however, keep her on course towards a future she cannot
imagine without him.  "Still," she adds, her voice
softening, "I *do* think we're where we're supposed to be,
to learn what we're supposed to learn."

"That's pretty Zen for a scientist."  She can see his
amused smile in her mind's eye.

"Did you know the word science comes from the Latin word
'scire,' to know?  That's all science is.  A way to know
something--a method."

"And what does science say about the possibility of
soulmates?"

"It says nothing, Mulder, because there's no way to prove
it. 

But..." she adds as an afterthought, then pauses.

"But?"  His tone is laced with curiosity.

"I suppose that assuming everything can even be explained
by science is a presupposition that begs further inquiry."

"Are you saying the idea of soulmates is a possibility?"

She hesitates a moment, then says, "As a choice, Mulder. 
Not instinct."

She feels him step closer behind her, the weight of his
hands on either side of her shoulders.  They stand just so
for several seconds and then she turns to face him.  He
drops his hands and she looks up. His eyes are serious,
greener than usual with the refracted blue of the water and
sky around them.

"You promised me a walk on the beach," she reminds him in
a soft voice.

"So I did.  Still interested?"

She grabs his hand.  "Always.  I just need another minute."

"I'll be waiting," he says, then turns towards the car.

She allows the loss of his presence to impact and watches
him retreat.  She considers their words.  The idea of a
soul mate is romantic, but highly unlikely, in her mind. 
Whatever it is that draws two people together has more to
do with common interests, shared goals and plain old
chemistry than some mindless karma.  She thinks of Mulder. 
Soulmate?  She shakes her head and chuffs at the thought. 
Then she turns and looks seaward once more.

She's in love with him.  He knows this.  Has known for
some time. Still, he doesn't press her for more than she is
ready to give and she's grateful for his abiding patience. 
Whether destiny has fated them to be together, she cannot
say.  What she does know is that this case is over and
there's a seven-hour drive back to D.C. ahead of them. 
Maybe she'll offer to make him dinner when they get home
and maybe he'll say yes.  After that, is anyone's guess.

She looks back over the water and wonders if Atlanteans
are happy.

END

by Blackwood



===== 

"Writing is a socially acceptable form of
schizophrenia."    -- E.L. Doctorow           
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