All Through the Night (1/2)
a Gargoyles/X-Files/Batman: TAS/Beauty & the Beast/etc crossover
by Merlin Missy

copyright 1995, 2001

Here for your approval: the first (to my knowledge) crossover among
the "X-Files," "Gargoyles," "Beauty and the Beast" (the series) and
"Batman: The Animated Series." The only excuse I can come up for
this one is that somebody had to do it. Note: it all started with
an observation made by my roommate and myself that Owen is Alfred
on Prozac. You have been warned.

This takes place in the middle of the second season of "Gargoyles"
(most definitely pre-"Revelations"), the third season of the "X-
Files," approximately three years after the last episode of
"Batman: TAS," (ask me how very much "Batman Beyond was
not even a consideration when I wrote this) and almost precisely six
years after the last episode of "Beauty and the Beast."

Disclaimer: The characters of Mulder, Scully, and Skinner belong
to Chris Carter/1013 Productions, the "Gargoyles" belong to Buena
Vista/Disney, "Batman" and his gang belong to DC Comics, and the
characters from "Beauty and the Beast" belong to Ron Koslow/
Republic pictures. No infringement on anyone's copyright is
intended or should be inferred. If by chance there is actually
something in this story not covered by someone else's copyright, it
belongs to my own personal neurosis.

(Notes for the 2001 edition: I went and edited a few things that have been
bothering me since the original publication. I would, however, like to
point out that none of the plot has changed, and that all but one of Owen's
lines were there since the first post on October 30, 1995. Sometimes, you
just get obscenely lucky.)

Whew! Now, on with the show.

VVVVV
Chapter 1: Arrivals

click The slide changed.

"Notice the parallel patterns of the wounds."

"They look like claw marks. Are you certain this wasn't
done by an animal?"

"That was my first thought." click "Then I saw this one."
click "And this one." click click The dates scribbled at
the bottom of the police photographs changed years, then decades.

"How many cases are there?"

"Fifty-three, a few as early as the late 70's. The majority
of the killings have taken place in the past eight years." click
"This is the most recent. It happened last week."

The photograph showed the body in a crisp black and white
starkness that belied the gruesome death. The victim, a Caucasian
man in his mid-twenties, lay staring at a congealed pool of his own
blood. Four parallel wounds lay his face open, more similar
slashes had rid him of half his abdomen.

Scully swallowed twice. She'd seen worse, much worse, but
this was not the sight she wanted first thing after lunch.

Bluestone continued: "The victim was part of a drug ring.
Officially, his death has been filed as another gang-related
incident. He would probably have been forgotten by this point."

"But ... " prodded Mulder.

"But I was on the scene when the yellow tape went up. I saw
the body, and I knew no knife had made those marks. I thought I
remembered something about similar murders from the back files, so
I went digging." He pulled out a thick manila folder. "These are
the reports I've found so far." He set it on the table, just out
of reach. "I've asked private collectors, zoos, anyone I could
think of, to see if something big, hairy, and mean had escaped.
Nothing. Besides, no single escaped lion could have done this for
twenty years and never been seen.

"Someone else has to be involved, someone intelligent."

"Let me guess: you think the Illuminati are in on it."

Scully looked confused. "Illuminati?"

"Think the Freemasons with attitude, and toss in the Mafia for
kicks."

"That's not exactly how I'd describe them," said Bluestone,
"but it's pretty accurate. And no, I don't think they have
anything to do with this particular case."

"Then who?"

Bluestone dropped his eyes and shifted uncomfortably in his
chair. "This may be hard to believe." He looked at Mulder. "But
then again ... " He sighed. "Would you think I was crazy if I
told you there may be gargoyles living in New York?"

Scully glanced at Mulder, who actually seemed to be giving the
idea some consideration. She would let herself follow his lead for
now. After all, Matt Bluestone was his friend. Maybe life as a
cop in the Big Apple had just been too difficult on him.

"Gargoyles? Why would you say that?"

Bluestone's eyes began to light up with an expression Scully
knew all too well. "Strange things have been appearing in the sky
lately. On the night shift, you see a lot of weird people, but
now, some of those people have claws and wings. I've seen them."

"Matt."

"I'm serious. There have been things that I can't explain any
other way, and believe me, I've tried." click The latest slide
showed a large pile of rubble on a sidewalk. "See?"

Now Scully was the one getting uncomfortable. He was showing
them rocks. She'd occasionally suspected her partner of taking one
step too many into the deep end, but this guy owned the diving
board.

"There were dozens of these piles found along one street at
daybreak on November 17. They weren't there the night before.
Some of the piles looked like smashed statues."

"Somebody didn't like street art?"

"Let me finish. The statues that we could partially reconstruct
resemble actual people. People who've been missing since that
night. Finally," he looked directly at Mulder, "no one, no one
in New York City can remember where they were from sunset
to sunrise the night before."

Mulder's eyes lit up like a young boy's on his birthday.
Bluestone smiled like an angler who'd just felt a trout snap at his
line.

"However, I do have several witnesses who say they can remember
what happened, and I have a few on tape. They all corroborate on
three details. First, ninety-nine and a half percent of the
population of New York was turned to stone at sunset on November
18. Second, there were demons in the air. And third, the sky
turned to fire that night.

"So are you interested?"

"And if we are?"

"If you are, I have names and numbers of people to contact."

"Since when did you start working for MCI?"

Bluestone snorted. "Cute. You sound like my partner. She's
the first one you need to talk to; I can't get a thing out of her.
She knows more than she's telling me."

"How do you know?" asked Scully.

"Because the night that I saw them, she called one by name.
I have some of it on tape." He turned on the tv/vcr setup sitting
in the corner. The screen showed several large objects flying by
the camera's sight and away. Bluestone rewound the tape and paused
it on a large, dark blot with wings against the evening sky.

VVVVV

It wasn't until Bluestone had left that Scully realized the
glow hadn't left her partner's eyes. Great. He picked up his
cellular.

"Mulder, you're not seriously considering this."

Mulder began dialing. "If nothing else, the missing persons
aspect warrants some kind of investigation. Couple that with the
mass amnesia, the mutilations, the burning sky, and the gargoyles,
and we have a classic abduction scenario on the biggest scale I've
ever heard of." He paused, then spoke into the phone. "Book two
on the next flight to JFK. Thanks." He hung up.

"Reality check. You're actually considering the idea that
there are gargoyles in New York City?"

"Where else could they walk down the street and not be
noticed? Other than Los Angeles," he added quickly. Scully rolled
her eyes. "The gargoyles may just be a manifestation of someone's
psyche after encountering an extraterrestrial."

"Or a bat. This whole thing feels like a setup. How well can
you trust Bluestone?"

"Enough. We went through the Academy together."

"And then he was drummed out."

"He got obsessed with the Illuminati, and it cost him. He's
clean. Besides," he smiled, "I thought I was the one who was
supposed to see conspiracies behind everything."

"You are. That's what worries me." She returned his smile.
Not all of his friends were crazy; she'd met a pal of his at the
Phoenix Foundation who'd seemed almost normal. Maybe Bluestone
would turn out to be all right, so long as he didn't have a thing
for duct tape. "But if you want to go chasing gargoyles in New
York, you're going to be the one to explain it to Skinner."

VVVVV

"Gargoyles, Mulder?" asked A.D. Skinner, a weary but patient
tone to his voice.

"I know how it sounds."

"Good, because it sounds ridiculous. Aliens, werewolves,
vampires, and now gargoyles. You're up for some vacation time.
I'd really suggest taking it."

"I trust my source on this. He's a good man."

"I don't care if he's Santa Claus. I need a better reason to
let the two of you go off than the word of a man obsessed with
secret societies."

"How about this?" Mulder set down the first file from the
manila envelope Bluestone had lent them. Skinner looked at the
picture, glancing at the accompanying report. "I have fifty more
cases just like it. No witnesses."

Scully held the other files. She'd had a chance to read some
of the reports. She was still convinced that some sort of animal
was responsible, but ...

"Sir," she said. "It's at least worth a look. There's a
serial killer loose in New York that the police haven't even
noticed."

Skinner sighed with the air of someone who had heard all this
far too many times before. "When does your flight leave?"

"In about two hours."

"I want you both back here Monday morning and a report on this
on my desk. Is that understood?"

"Perfectly."

"Good. I also have some reading material for you, concerning
a place you may be interested in: a little town in Nebraska called
There."

Having driven many times through little Pennsylvania towns
named Intercourse, Paradise, and Unamit, Scully just shrugged.
People came up with strange names for towns sometimes.

"What about it?" asked Mulder.

"Read the file. On Monday, you can tell me if the two of you
would be interested in going there."

"To There?"

"Of course."

VVVVV

The plane touched down at precisely 7:35pm. Bluestone met
them at the airport, his own flight having come in an hour
beforehand. They managed to check into the Paramount Hotel on 47th
by 8:30. By nine, the three of them were at the police station.

Bluestone led the way through the crowded building, filled
with the early evening's catch of slime from the city. His partner
was waiting for him when they reached his desk.

"Elisa, I want you to meet an old friend of mine. Fox
Mulder." Mulder held out his hand. After a fraction of a second,
she took it. "His associate, Dana Scully." Again the handshake,
and Scully was almost surprised by the strength of the slim woman's
grip.

"Detective Elisa Maza. So what's the occasion?"

Scully flashed her i.d. "We're here to investigate a murder."

Maza's eyes widened, but all she said was, "Which one? This
is Manhattan."

"We were kind of hoping you could help us with that," said
Mulder. "What do you know about gargoyles?"

A muscle in the other woman's face twitched, then she smiled
sardonically at her partner. "Matt, please say you didn't bring
them here for that." She turned back towards the pair. "Has he
mentioned the secret society in charge of the President yet?"

"The Illuminati?" asked Scully.

"We've heard of them," said Mulder.

Maza looked at Bluestone again and crossed her arms. Within
the space of a few seconds, he dropped his glance to the floor,
then finally to Mulder. "I had to get you here somehow."

Mulder sighed. "Tell me."

Bluestone became animated again. "I have a lead that several
members of the Illuminati are going to be together tomorrow night
at a party." He began digging through the piles of photographs on
his desk, eventually tugging out one and placing it in Mulder's
hands.

"This is David Xanatos, one of the names in that file I gave
you. He's one of those self-made billionaire types, who owns at
least a quarter of the city. He's hosting a party tomorrow night,
officially to announce that he's going to be a father. According
to my source, the real reason behind the festivities is an
induction of a new member into the Illuminati. But I don't know
who or how."

Maza looked over at Scully. "See what I go through every
night?"

Scully glanced at her own partner, who was absorbed in
Bluestone's explanation. "If it makes you feel better, I can
sympathize." She turned to Bluestone. "So the gargoyles were just
a ploy to bring us here? What about the murders?"

"No, everything I told you was true. If I'd told you just
about the birth announcement, you would have laughed at me."

Scully bit back her 'Probably.' Something about Maza worried
her, though. Her stress level had shot up when the conversation
had shifted back to the gargoyles. There was nothing obvious, but
she could tell that Bluestone had been right on at least one point:
the woman was not telling everything.

"Could we have a moment alone, please?" Bluestone indicated
a semi-quiet corner, and the agents moved quickly to it. "So what
do you think now?" she asked him.

"I'm sorry. I thought he was on the up and up."

"He still thinks he's on the up and up. What do you want to
do about it?"

"We have until Monday. It wouldn't hurt to look around for
evidence of these 'gargoyles,' whatever they really are."

"For once, I agree with you. I'd like to ask Maza a few
questions about it, see if I can get anything out of her."

"That sounds like a plan. I'd like to also look into the
Illuminati angle."

"Mulder."

"There's a possibility that he's right. Scully, this could be
the group that Cancer Man and his pals are trying to protect. The
least I can do is take a look."

Scully had an odd feeling in her head, as if she had hit it
against a brick wall one too many times. A wall named Mulder.
"All right, you look for Illuminati, I'll look for gargoyles." She
smiled. "Skinner's just going to love us for this."

"He shouldn't argue: we'll have two X-Files for the price of
one."

They moved back towards the detectives. Maza was on the
phone, taking something down.

"We'll look into it, Matt," said Mulder. "Now how do you plan
to get into a party hosted by a billionaire?"

Bluestone pulled open his desk drawer as Maza hung up the
phone. He handed Mulder a piece of embossed stationery, stating
that one Matthew Bluestone and guest were officially invited to "A
Celebration Announcing the Impending Arrival of the Newest Member
of the Xanatos Family."

"Elisa has one, too." He smiled meaningfully at her.

"Forget it, Matt. I'm not going to the party. We are going
downtown to 53rd and 4th." She grabbed her jacket.

Bluestone turned to the agents. "Sorry about this. Duty
calls. Can you get back to the hotel okay?"

"No problem," said Mulder.

"Good. I'll try to talk Elisa into changing her mind."

"It won't work," said Maza, already on her way out. And they
were gone.

Mulder rested against Bluestone's desk. "Interesting pair."

"Mmhm." Scully felt someone behind her just before Mulder's
eyes went to her shoulder. She turned quickly to see a large,
somewhat Neanderthal-looking man. "Can I help you?"

"Excuse me for listenin' but I think I can help you."

Mulder moved from the desk to beside her, unconsciously
adopting a protective stance which Scully registered then ignored.

"Help us how?"

"About these 'gargoyles.' You're barking up the wrong fire
hydrant."

"And you would be," prompted Scully.

"Oh. Sorry. Forgot my manners. Detective Harvey Bullock."
He held out a meaty hand, which Scully shook as firmly as possible.
He didn't offer it to Mulder. "I've been on the force since these
kids were in kindergarten. Bluestone will follow any fairy tale
you tell him, but he's got this one wrong."

"So we should be reading Snow White instead?" asked Mulder.

"Cute. You've got a sense of humor. I can appreciate that.
Have you ever heard of Batman?"

Mulder nodded. "I've heard rumors. The masked vigilante who
fights criminals the law can't touch. I've never seen any proof of
him." Scully tried not to smile. That particular problem had
never actually phased Mulder.

"I don't need proof. I've met him. He's a freak, and he's as
crazy as most of those psychos he locked up in Arkham. If you want
to know who's been flying around causing trouble, it's him."

"But the Batman is supposed to be on the side of the law. He
doesn't kill people. We're looking for a murderer."

The mass of human shrugged. "Maybe he went loony. I wouldn't
put it past him. Since Gordon retired last year, he's been awful
quiet. I ain't sayin' it's him, but I ain't saying it isn't,
either."

Scully shot a glance to Mulder before saying, "Well, thanks
for the tip. We'll keep it in mind."

"You think I'm crazy, don't you? Let me tell you something.
In my career I've seen a guy dressed up as a clown hold an
automatic while his ex-shrink girlfriend was about to blow up the
mayor. I've seen a woman who thinks she's a plant turn people into
trees, and a guy with a Lewis Carroll kick talk all the rich people
in town into giving him a fortune. I'm not crazy. This town makes
people crazy. You want to believe in gargoyles? In this city,
that's nothing."

He shambled away, muttering about winged freaks.

"Mulder, can we ... "

"Yeah." They left.

VVVVV
Chapter 2: Warnings

Scully was checking her newsgroups when Mulder knocked on the
door. She'd just killfiled a moronic crosspost about the sickest
jokes on the net, then made a note on the idiot's address. She'd
seen this particular name before, passing around dead baby jokes to
some of her pregnant friends. The postmaster at Hopkins was going
to get a letter about employees wasting university resources.
Again.

Mulder sat down without an invitation. "So what do you think
about Bullock's story?"

"That's what I was checking. It seems there are quite a few
rumors out there about this Batman."

"So I've seen. Do you think that's what Matt's gargoyle
really is?"

She sighed. "I don't know for sure. It could be, I suppose.
The thing on the tape, assuming it wasn't fixed, could be a man in
a cape."

"Okay, assuming for the moment that we're looking for Batman
rather than gargoyles, what are we looking for?"

"What do we know about him?"

"He has a large number of technological devices at his beck
and call, state of the art stuff. He disappears when the police
arrive. He has a partner called Robin who is sometimes with him
and sometimes not. He's an expert in martial arts and has been
spotted all over the world, but mainly in the Gotham section of New
York. And he has a really cool car."

Scully smiled. "Okay, that's a start. To own all these gadgets,
he has to be getting money from somewhere. Have you heard
anything about suspected theft?"

"There was something about a bribe a few years ago, but
nothing came from it. I'd say he has backers with a lot of cash."

"Do you think there could be a Mafia or mob connection?"

"Only in that he keeps thwarting them both."

"In that case, his boss or bosses are either legit or hide it well
enough to look it. And they have money to burn." Scully
scrolled down the newsgroup list to . and
opened it. "Here's a post about the party tomorrow night. Would
you be surprised to know that the richest people in the city are
all invited?" She looked at him.

"People with money to burn. Give me some names." Mulder took
out his notebook.

"Burch, Renard, Vreeland ... " she read off the list given in the
post, mentally marking off those she'd heard mention of before.
When she'd finished, she quit her newsreader and logged off.

"There are probably more. These are some of the bigger names
in this town. I'd say they own ninety percent of it, and that's
what they'll admit to." Mulder looked thoughtful for a moment.

"What?"

"Here's a thought for you: what if the Illuminati are the ones
backing the Batman?"

"We don't even know if the Illuminati exist. Or the Batman,
for that matter."

"But if they all do, then it would make sense in a way. Think
about it. They can control only so much by money. The streets are
still dangerous. What better way to keep the crime rate down than
to support a super-cop who doesn't have to follow the rules?
Either way, we have to find out."

"I don't know if you noticed or not, but we don't have
invitations."

"Matt does."

"Then you two go have fun. I'll be looking for gargoyles. Or
bats. Or something. Good night."

He nodded. "Good night, Scully." He left for the adjoining
room.

Neither of them heard the silent rustle of wings outside Scully's
window, but if they had, they would have thought it a bird roused
from sleep and thought nothing of it anyway. They may even
have been correct.

VVVVV

"What is the Eff Bee Eye?" asked Hudson, scratching an itchy
place on his left wing.

Lexington cut in, "It's like the police, only bigger. Is that
right, Elisa?"

"Basically. They're national instead of local, and they have
a lot more power."

"But we've kept ourselves hidden from the police before," said
Broadway.

"Really well," said Brooklyn. "That was a great picture of us
on the news after Coldstone woke up for the first time. Not to
mention Demona's broadcast. I'm sure there have to be at least two
or three people left in the city who don't know what we look like."

"That's why you have to stay out of sight. They'll only be
snooping around for a few days and then they'll go back to
Washington." She looked towards the ledge, where the leader of the
group was watching the moonrise silently. "I don't like it either,
but if you don't hide, they'll find you."

"Why are they here?" came the deep voice from the ledge.

"They're looking for a killer. Someone with wings and claws
who kills people that the law can't or won't touch. Matt thinks
it's you guys."

"We have killed no one in a thousand years," said Hudson, "and
those deaths were in battle."

Goliath remained looking at the moon. Elisa suddenly knew
what he was thinking before he said, "We have not, but we are not
the only ones who haunt the night. There is Steel Clan, and the
Pack, and the Mutates. And there is Demona."

"Xanatos' gargoyles are too new. Some of these took place in
the 70's." Besides, I refuse to believe Derek would be involved in
this, she added silently, not touching the pain that had built
around thoughts of him. "The same argument applies to the Steel
Clan. And it's not the Pack's style." She wouldn't finish.

He finished for her. "But Demona would have no objection to
killing humans, especially those she saw as having forfeit their
lives." Something in his bearing suggested that he would say more,
but that he could not in front of her. Yet.

Then he asked something utterly out of the blue: "Are you
going to Xanatos' party?"

"I wasn't planning on it. I really don't want to spend all
night dodging questions."

"Could I request a favor of you?"

"Anything."

"Would you please go? I would feel more ... secure if someone
were there to watch the people from the F.B.I."

She half-smiled. "You want me to babysit them?"

"Baby sit?"

"Never mind. All right. If it will you make you feel better,
I'll go."

"Thank you. It means a great deal to me." He placed a hand on
her shoulder, and her stomach felt warm despite the crisp night air.

"Well, since it's you." She smiled up at him, then became aware
that the others were behind her and sighed inwardly. Who had it
been who'd talked about having world enough and time? "I have
to get back to work, guys. Someone's going to wonder why I take
my coffee breaks on the roof." She pulled away from his touch and
moved towards the stairway. "Promise me that you'll stay out of
trouble?"

"We promise," said Lex and Brooklyn in unison. She waved and
went down the stairs to her world below.

VVVVV

Diana yawned again. Normally, she didn't mind late nights. In
fact, she tended to get her best work done while the rest of the
city slept. Things were quiet then, or at least, quiet compared to
New York days. She could take her latest case up to the rooftop
and try to sort out the mind of someone who'd been driven to the
brink by the pressure of the city, and Vincent would sit beside her
in silence, reading or listening.

She'd have given much to be sitting there now with him, but
this was her job. This was the reason she could stay home to
work on cases; most of the time, she came through. This case had
been a bear. She'd chosen it because it had looked simple: find
out who'd stolen a rare museum piece, a mirror. It would be
different from her typical load of murders, rapes, and kidnapings.
She needed a break from getting into the minds of deranged people,
and she'd thought that this would be it. It hadn't been. She'd
found the thieves, but when she did, they were in the middle of a
drug transaction. If Vincent hadn't come for her, she would have
died. He'd killed the dealer after the man had pulled a gun on her,
and they'd escaped into the night. She'd been more careful the
next time, and had collared the thieves, minus mirror, a few hours
ago. She'd just finished giving her statement, and now she wanted
to go home.

"All right, Bennett," said Officer Morgan. "We can handle this
from here." He offered her a restrained smile.

"Thanks, Morgan. I hope the shift ends soon."

"Not soon enough." She felt his eyes on her until she was
well out of the room. She should be used to it. Hell, if their
positions were reversed, she'd be the one leery of getting too
close to the pet psychic on the squad. Probably. It no longer
bothered her as much as it had at the beginning, when she'd simply
known the location of suspects, when she'd been able to finger
the perps in lineups before the victims could. She'd been teased
back then mercilessly. At least they'd stopped the Rod Serling
imitations after the MacLeod case. And after the incident with
Rupert Thorne, no one had been laughing anymore.

Now they just watched her, wondering.

The sun was rising when she stepped outside. Most of the view
was blocked by the tall buildings surrounding them, but she could
see enough to make her smile. It had been a long time since she'd
been awake for a sunrise. The light touched her, warming her
through the chilly December air and she closed her eyes to feel it
against her eyelids.

She felt eyes on her again and groaned inwardly. This was why
she liked night better: nobody cared if you were different in the
dark. She said simply, "Yes?" as she turned around.

The man watching her wasn't familiar to her. He had the same
weary look she associated with other cops, but she knew she'd never
seen him before.

"Sorry," he said. "For a minute, you looked like someone I
knew."

She saw the woman beyond him, who had just noticed that her
companion had stopped, and said neutrally, "That's okay. Happens
all the time." She turned towards home, planning a quick snack
before she hit her bed. Her stomach muttered at her.

Suddenly, she remembered something that she had to do before
she got some sleep. "Promises to keep," she muttered, and headed
towards the building where the D.A. of Manhattan kept his office.
She had to see how formal this thing was going to be tonight.

VVVVV

"Mulder, are you okay?" Scully asked, worried.

"I'm not sure. I think I'm going crazy."

"You're not. She looked like Samantha." She saw the pain
flash quickly over his face and vanish again to wherever he kept
it. She touched his shoulder. "But she wasn't."

"I know. But I can hope." He gave her a quirky smile and went
inside. She followed him in, past the same desks they'd seen the
night before. Bluestone and Maza were sitting at their desks, he
drinking something from a mug and filling out paperwork, she
filling out electronic paperwork sans coffee.

Matt looked up. "We're just about to get out of here for the day.
Care for some breakfast?" He shot a glance to his partner.
"Maybe you can even convince Elisa to go to the shindig tonight."

Maza rolled her eyes. "All right. I'll go if you stop bugging me
about it." Bluestone grinned. "But I still say double-dating is
for the birds."

"People used to say that about flying, too."

"You go jumping off any rooftops lately, Bluestone?"

Scully smiled. For perhaps the first time, she wondered if
she and Mulder appeared the same way to outsiders. Partners, when
they were paired right, shared a special kind of bond that said
without words that they trusted one another with their lives every
day. In some ways, that kind of partnership was closer than
marriage. To the people on the outside, it no doubt looked like a
lot of bickering and arguments as to who had to take out the trash
this time.

Maza turned off her monitor, while Bluestone tapped his pile
of papers together neatly. The rest of the night shift was
beginning to clear out in dribs and drabs. When the bustle of the
changing of the guard was nearly complete, the two detectives were
ready to go.

Maza begged off breakfast, claiming fatigue, and promised to
meet them at the hotel around four. The remaining threesome went
to Dean and Deluca's for breakfast. Scully stuck with coffee and
a croissant.

"So did you find anything out last night?" asked Bluestone as
soon at they sat down.

"A little," said Mulder. "What do you know about Batman?"

Bluestone whistled. "Far too much, probably. Why?"

"There's a possibility that he's the one you've been looking
for," Scully said.

Bluestone shook his head, saying, "Uh uh. I know what I saw.
You've seen the tape."

"What we saw," she replied, "was a quick flash of something
with wings. Think about it. If the stories are true, he'd have
the means, the motive, and the opportunity for all of them."

"The stories are true. I've seen him." Scully glanced at
Mulder. "He used to be very close to the last police chief."

"Gordon. So we've heard."

"You've been talking to Bullock, haven't you?" Mulder nodded.
"He's had it in for Batman for years. I never could understand
why. Batman was nothing but good for this city."

"Was?"

"I haven't heard anything of him in ages. Some people think
one of his enemies finally offed him, but none of the street
networks have heard anything about it."

"What do you think?"

"I think maybe he got tired. He wasn't old, but he wasn't young
anymore, either. Maybe he wanted to settle down and have a
real life like everyone else."

Scully fingered her briefcase. "But you said there was
another murder last week."

"That's one of the reasons I don't think he's involved."

"But gargoyles may be."

"I don't know!" he shouted, then lowered his voice to avoid
stares from the people around him. "If I knew, I wouldn't have had
to bring you here." He took a long slurp from his coffee, then
stared at the cup. "I'm beginning to think I should lay off this
stuff."

"For now," said Scully, "we're going to assume that we're
looking for the Batman. Whoever is sponsoring him has to be
wealthy, possibly a group of wealthy people." Matt looked up.

"The Illuminati."

"That's what I was thinking," Mulder said, and gave Scully his
best 'See??' look. "That's why we need you to tell us everyone you
think will be at this party tonight."

"Considering he's invited half of the city, that may not be as easy as
it sounds." Scully handed him the list of names. "This looks fairly
complete for the ones I know. You'll want to add Bruce Wayne,
Dick Grayson and Yibeli Baird to it, though." He handed it back and
she took down the names quickly as he dug through his coat pockets
for something. "Here are the people I've spoken to about what
happened on the nights no one can remember."

"Except these people," said Mulder.

"Right. Here's an interesting bit of information for you: of
the people on that list, all but three are visually or hearing-
impaired."

"Where were you, Matt?"

"On my way to work. Next thing I knew, it was morning. And
it happened again the next night."

"Until there was an explosion in the sky. Got it."

"You still don't believe me." Bluestone looked at Mulder as
if betrayed.

"Give me something to believe, and I will. I want to."

"Talk to those people. You will."

VVVVV

The sunlight woke her. She opened her eyes, yawned, and
rolled over. The other half of the bed was empty. Damn.
Stretching, Fox sat up, letting the sheets spill around her. She
appreciated it when David didn't wake her up in the morning, but it
could get annoying when she awoke in the mood for more than just
breakfast in bed.

Breakfast. The thought set her stomach churning. She placed
a careful hand on the small bulge of her abdomen, and whispered,
"Stop that." After a few moments, the gurgling settled enough for
her to get out of bed. She slipped her robe on and padded in bare
feet to David's office. She knocked on the slightly-ajar door.

"Come in," said her husband's voice, and she smiled as she
opened the door. She'd fallen for that voice, although she teased
him regularly that he sounded like he should be giving orders on
the bridge of a ship. "Good morning, Fox."

"Morning. What time did you wake up?"

"Around six. I wanted to get an early start. Everything has to be
perfect for tonight." He stood and held out his hand over his
desk, and she took it, following his arm around until she was on
the same side as he was. He kissed her softly, then bent down
to her stomach. "Good morning, kid." He patted the bulge.

"Sometimes I wonder if you love me for my uterus," she said,
not completely kidding.

"You know that's not true." He sat back down and tugged her
down into the chair with him. He was right, of course. She knew
very well that he didn't love her just for having the baby, but ...

"Then why can't we have this party just for us? Why bring the
Illuminati into it?"

His eyes went shadowed, and she knew that he would not give
her the complete truth. She was used to this. She thought.

"Because this affords me the perfect opportunity to get some of
the primary members together without looking suspicious. I
would have invited them to the wedding, but for obvious reasons,
that wasn't feasible."

"What? Illuminati don't like gargoyles?"

"Time travel gives them nosebleeds."

"Of course. Silly me." She smirked, then kissed him on
impulse. He returned it fully, and she began to wonder if the
chair would hold the two of them comfortably for a long period of
time.

"Pardon me," said a smooth voice from the doorway. Owen.
Double damn.

"Yes, Owen?" said David, just enough out of breath to make her
feel better at having been interrupted.

"The caterers called. They are going to have difficulties in
filling the order in time for the party. Shall I call someone else
or merely convince them that ours is the most important in their
career?"

"Convince them. If you can't convince them, go there and offer
the cooks twice their normal salary to come work for me from
now on. Then fire them next week."

"Very good, Mr. Xanatos." He disappeared, and Fox felt a
strange relief. She liked Owen in the abstract; he was David's
butler, chief aide, occasional alternate personality, and certainly
the closest thing he'd ever had to a best friend. However, she was
always uncomfortable around him in a way she couldn't explain. If
pressed to the issue, she would have to say that she felt less ...
real around him, as if he were the only true person in the world,
and the rest of them but shadows.

She hugged David closer to her. It was better to not think
like that, instead think of the party tonight, and the man in her
arms, and the child dancing beneath her heart.

VVVVV
Chapter 3: Inquiries

The meeting seemed to drag for hours. Elliot enjoyed being in
the thick of things as far as his business was concerned, but he
despised meetings run by pencil-necked paper mongers. He was
scheduled to go to the current project site this afternoon, and he
couldn't wait. Instead of listening to budgets, he was already
imagining the dirt getting beneath his fingernails and the sight of
a building's skeleton stretching towards the sky in a shape he'd
carefully designed. After a period of time no less than the last
Ice Age, the board adjourned. He sighed with relief.

On second thought, maybe he'd go there this morning instead.
He nodded to his bodyguards. Just as he had almost escaped,
Kirsten, looking far more frazzled than was her usual wont, stopped
him.

"I'm sorry, Boss, but she said that she had to speak with
you." She motioned towards a woman waiting a few feet away.
Cathy! his mind thought immediately, and dropped just as fast. It
happened sometimes. He'd see an attractive woman with light hair
and he would think for an instant that everything had been just a
vacant dream from which he was finally awakening. Funny how things
never quite worked out that way.

The woman came forward. "Agent Dana Scully, F.B.I. I need to
ask you a few questions." She showed him her credentials, and he
inspected them carefully. They appeared to be authentic. If they
weren't, well, it wasn't as if he would be completely surprised.

"I'd been planning to visit one of my worksites. Is this
important?"

"It could be. If I could just have a few minutes of your
time, Mr. Burch?" She didn't sound like she was asking. He
nodded, then indicated to his guards to wait outside. He had an
odd premonition that he didn't want them eavesdropping.

"In my office, then, Agent ... "

"Scully."

"Yes." He led the way and moved behind his desk, barely
conscious of the safety and, yes, power that he felt when facing
someone across it. "Please have a seat." She sat down in the
chair opposite. "Now may I ask what the F.B.I. wants with me?"

"This may sound odd, Mr. Burch, but have you ever heard of a
society called the Illuminati?"

He had made it his business to never show emotion when it
could betray him, whether in poker, high-stakes finance, or his
marriage. It had saved his career more than once, by not allowing
a competitor to see his bluff. Therefore, with a perfectly bland
face, he asked her, "Who?" with just enough hint of disbelief to
push the doubt back on her.

She looked uncomfortable, but persisted. "I'm currently
investigating a lead in a murder case. My partner believes the
Illuminati may have something to do with it."

"Then why ask me? I have no idea what you're talking about."
He gave her a carefully practiced smile, the same smile that had
convinced Joy to marry him, and her sister to trust him with the
most precious secret they both shared.

"Because your name is linked with one of the murders. You
were arrested for the murder of District Attorney John Moreno six
years ago." He went cold.

"I see you've done some background work. However, if you'll
go deeper, you will find that the case never went to trial, that
the murder was attributed to Moreno's mob connections." His voice
barely quavered. He still had nightmares about that horrible
night, and the hellish days that followed. Too many times, he'd
woken screaming, certain that his skin was on fire again.

"Then those connections have a lot to answer for. I have a
file containing over fifty similar murders, all with the same kind
of wounds as Moreno's. The latest one occurred last week." She
waited, watching him.

His stomach twisted. He'd seen the mention in the paper the
morning after, and he'd called to make certain Diana was all right.
But how could the F.B.I. know that? Then he realized. They
didn't.

"Agent Scully, I've been in this chair for six years." He wheeled
out from behind the desk again to give her a better look.
"Cyberbiotics' latest model. I get around pretty well with it, but
not that well. I'm afraid you have the wrong man."

Scully appeared uncomfortable, and her eyes dropped. "I'm not
accusing you of anything, Mr. Burch. I just need some answers."

"Any more answers you'd like you can have, but you'll have to
get them from my lawyers. I'm afraid I've run out of time." He
moved to the door, giving her no real option but to follow.

"If you should change your mind, this is where I'll be staying.
Give me a call. It might save someone's life." He took the piece
of paper from her, and pretended to read it as she left. When the
door had closed behind her, he went back to his desk and pressed
the button for Kirsten.

She came in moments later. "Yes, Boss?"

"Can you take a long lunch break?"

"Sure. Where am I going?"

"Below. Tell Vincent the F.B.I. is asking questions." Her
eyes went wide, and he said quickly, "They don't know anything.
Yet. Right now, they think Gabriel's pals are behind a few
unsolved killings. I intend to keep them thinking that." He was
not even aware that he was smiling as he began planning.

VVVVV

"So how much luck have you had?" asked Scully as her partner
took a bite of McSomething. He chewed quickly and swallowed.

"Some. I managed to get chats with Vreeland, Clamp and Stark.
But I couldn't get anything out of them about the Illuminati."

"You were expecting a full confession?"

"I was hoping for a reaction. Also, they all have perfect
alibis for the night of our murder. I looked into some of the
witnesses of the missing night, too."

"And?"

"Not enough." He sighed. "Only two were even home, and
neither one saw or heard anything out of the ordinary. I'd say we
try again tomorrow; people might be home on a Saturday."

She nodded. "I managed to find one of the witnesses on my
list at home, but she didn't notice anything, either. Then again,
she has a good excuse," she said, remembering her very brief
conversation, "she just had a baby. I couldn't get a meeting with
Renard. Burch doesn't have an alibi, but I've checked his
background. Almost total paralysis below the waist from an
accident six years ago."

"Almost?"

"He has one son, Elliot Andrew Junior. Four years old."

Mulder nodded. "I'm pretty sure none of our party guests did
the job him or herself."

"Probably not, but I did some checking on the names Bluestone
gave us. Bruce Wayne is the head of Wayne Enterprises, and Dick
Grayson is his right hand man. Both have perfectly clear records,
but I found a reference to Wayne's fiancee, Selena Kyle. Would you
believe she used to dress up in a cat suit and rob jewelry stores
for fun? And something else: according to rumor, she was the only
criminal the Batman wouldn't bring to justice. Some people think
they were involved."

"I'd say we need to pay the Waynes a visit."

As they got out of their seats, Scully noticed two men sitting
in the booth behind theirs. She'd heard them quietly conversing,
and something had been familiar about one voice that she couldn't
place and hadn't thought much of till just then. The one facing
her was fairly nondescript: balding, with dark hair growing long in
the back, a little on the pudgy side but not unpleasantly so, and
a shaggy but well-kept moustache. He wore sunglasses. The man
with his back to hers wore a blue baseball cap, just showing a
whitish fringe of hair beneath it, and a leather jacket. His was
the voice she'd recognized, a soft, cultured British accent with
rich, resonant undertones.

The other man noticed her scrutiny, and his companion turned.
At the sight of his face, familiar to almost every person in
America, Scully turned crimson and hurried to follow Mulder. As
she left, she caught only a bit of a phrase about three women named
Jenny, Ariel and Shana.

VVVVV

They were allowed into the gates with surprisingly little
trouble. Scully parked the rental in the spacious driveway behind
a Rolls. The master of the house appeared to be home.

They were met at the door by a stiff-looking British butler,
who led them in after a careful examination of their i.d. He
stopped outside a large door and knocked.

"Yes, Alfred?" came a voice from the other side.

"Master Bruce, a lady and a gentleman from the F.B.I. are here
to see you and Miss Selena."

"Show them in, please." Alfred opened the door, but did not
enter. Mulder followed Scully into what appeared to be a study.
A man in his mid-forties stood behind a desk near one side of the
room. Mulder had the weirdest feeling he'd met him before.

"Would you like some tea, sir?"

"That would be wonderful, Alfred. Thank you." He offered his
hand to Scully. "Bruce Wayne."

"Agent Dana Scully. My partner, Fox Mulder." Mulder shook
hands obediently. This show was Scully's.

"Nice to meet you." He smiled broadly as he sat down, but
there was something forced about it. He showed them the chairs.
"How may I help you?"

"We're investigating a murder." Immediately, his face went
blank.

"Who?" was all the man said. With a sudden insight, Mulder
understood the odd familiarity about him. He had the look of
someone who had seen too many good people die for no reason.

"The man's name was John Gehrke." Wayne looked confused for
a moment.

"I don't recognize the name. Was he one of my employees?"

"No. He was involved in what appears to have been a drug deal
gone bad. We think it might have something to do with a society
called the Illuminati." Wayne looked relieved, then confused. But
like his smile, it was a faked confusion.

Mulder cut in, "We were hoping you might shed some light on
the subject."

"Very funny. So what is this society?"

Scully's mouth twitched. Mulder wondered if she were thinking
that she was beginning to sound like him. "They may be involved in
a number of high-level conspiracies. We believe they may have some
link with the Batman." Wayne raised one eyebrow.

"Batman?"

"I realize how it sounds. However, your fiancee was rumored
to have some dealings with him in the past."

"Was I now?" A woman came in from another door that he hadn't
noticed previously. She was tall, slender, blonde, perfect. She
walked slowly to Wayne's desk, where he immediately stood.

"Selena, dear, these are Agents Scully and Mulder from the
F.B.I."

"A pleasure," she said. "If you know about Batman, you know
that he was the one who finally brought me in. It was the best
thing he could have done for me. I got the help I needed. What
more do you need to know?"

Scully pulled out her file and opened to the police photograph
of the dealer's body, then placed another photograph, one of Kyle
complete in her Catwoman outfit. "We need to know where you were
last Thursday evening." Kyle blanched at the picture, and Wayne
quickly covered it. He stood, anger in his eyes.

"I know what you're trying to insinuate. It won't work. Selena and
I went out to dinner last Thursday at Tauraso's. We were there until
ten-thirty, and then we came home."

"Do you have any other witnesses?"

"My associate, Dick Grayson. You can find him at the office,
along with my attorney. I believe Alfred can show you the way
out." He looked towards the doorway, where the butler had
magically appeared with four cups of tea.

Scully said, "I'm sorry if we upset you, Ms. Kyle. We're only
looking for the truth."

Kyle handed her the pictures. "It's not in there. That was
an old truth. I promise you that."

The butler led them back to the front door, but before he could
politely shoo them out, Mulder had an idea. "May we please
have your name, sir?" He got out his pen and paper and waited.

"Alfred Pennyworth." The man was nonplussed; Mulder had been
right in thinking that visitors probably ignored his existence.

"Mr. Pennyworth, how long have you been employed by Mr.
Wayne?"

"All his life. I was employed by his parents previously."

"So you know him fairly well."

"I would dare to say so. And I know that no matter what you
might think he or Miss Selena might have done, they are not
involved."

"Thank you, Mr. Pennyworth," said Scully, obviously ready to
leave. Mulder wasn't about to go just yet, though.

"One more question, if you would." The man sighed deeply, as
if put upon.

"Yes?"

"What do you know about David Xanatos?"

"Quite a bit, actually. He's one of the wealthiest men in the
country. His wife is expecting their first child sometime in
June. His favorite midnight snack is an oatmeal-raisin cookie
and milk." He saw the stares from both of them and explained: "His
assistant and I are friends. I gave him the cookie recipe in
exchange for his secret tea blend." He indicated the cooling cups.
"If you have any further questions ... "

"We know," said Mulder, "we can ask your lawyer." Pennyworth
inclined his head. They took the hint and went through the door
into the thin December sunlight.

"Well, that was productive," he remarked as they pulled out of
the driveway.

"Is it just me, or does everyone in this city seem to be
hiding something?"

"Careful. You're beginning to sound like me again."

She smiled. "Does that mean you're going to start denying the
possibility of gargoyles and batmen in New York?"

"Not likely." He watched the houses out his window as they
went by slowly. "Nice neighborhood." A limousine went by on
Scully's side. Oddly, the passenger's window was opened, and he
caught a brief flash of shocking red hair and a face unlike any
he'd ever seen, gone in the space of time it took to draw in a
breath. Her eyes, he thought. Her eyes aren't human.

"Mulder?"

"Sorry. Just watching the scenery." He turned to his window,
and watched the limo in the mirror on his side until it turned down
a driveway and disappeared.

VVVVV

The rented car dropped her off at the front of the house. The
driver offered to help her with her bags, but she waved him off and
took them herself, waiting until he was gone before she entered the
combination to open the door.

She dropped the packages in the dark hallway, then kicked off
her painful shoes. By the time she'd reached the parlour to check
her answering machine, her hair was unfettered and moved wildly
around her shoulders as it should. No messages. She hadn't
been expecting any, but one never knew when opportunity might
call. It certainly hadn't knocked lately.

She sat down on the sheet covering what passed for a couch and
stretched out. She'd spent all day among the humans, ostensibly
looking for a dress. In actuality, she'd been scouting for signs
of the others. She was certain that, given a properly methodical
search, she could find out where the rest of the clan roosted
during the daylight hours. It would just take a little time and a
great deal of patience. She wasn't good at patience, but she was
learning. Besides, she had to do something during the day.

Of course, the end of this day would be especially satisfying.
She'd found herself something appropriate to wear, and had been
forming a plan in her mind since the invitation had come. In just
a few short hours, she could pay a completely invited visit on
Xanatos and toast the impending arrival of his little brat.

A slow smile spread across her face as she picked up the piece
of embossed paper, addressed to one Angelica MacAlpin. The fools
had never even guessed.

Demona's laugh echoed through the empty house.

VVVVV
Chapter 4: Gatherings

Elisa looked at her reflection in the mirror one last time and
grimaced. She'd felt far less silly dressed up as Belle for
Halloween. Then again, she'd be keeping much of the same company
as she had that night. Minus the boys, she thought, and wasn't
sure whether the thought made her happy or sad.

Life had been so complicated since the ill-fated night she'd
gone poking around Xanatos' castle. She'd seen more incredible
things in the past year than she had dreamed possible. Gargoyles?
Fairies?! And Derek, now changed into some genetic nightmare. She
bit her lip, wondering how her life would have been different if
she had just not been so curious.

Her parents wouldn't be put off forever. Eventually, they would have
to find out what had happened to their son, and it would only take a
little more for them to learn the why of it. What would they say?
What would they think of the strange beings whom Derek held
responsible for his metamorphosis? The thought that they might
blame the gargoyles, blame a specific gargoyle, made her cold
inside. If it came down to her parents and Derek against her friends,
she wasn't certain which side she would choose. She could only
hope it wouldn't come to that.

She ran a quick hand through her hair. She would just leave
it down tonight; no use getting too dressed up to be around people
she didn't like.

"Keep an eye on the place, Cagney," she said, giving the cat
a healthy scratch behind the ears. "I'll try to be home early."
She turned off the light and closed the door.

VVVVV

The Vreelands were the first to arrive. Fox was mildly
surprised, considering that Ronnie usually just had to be the
fashionably late center of attention. Instead, when she and that
annoying brother of hers showed up, she ran in and threw her arms
around Fox's neck, squealing about how wonderful the news was.

Fox marked that down in her mental book as another strike
against the woman, then forced a smile as Ronnie immediately went
into a detailed description of her last trip to Asia. Old money,
she thought wearily. They all inbred. Had to be the explanation.
Thankfully, the next batch of guests came in a group of six, and
she had an excuse to pawn off the woman on them to slip into the
kitchen.

Owen was currently occupied greeting people at the front door,
so she actually made it through the kitchen and to her bedroom
without seeing him. She felt a little silly about having to sneak
around her own house, but it didn't stop her from watching her back
as she went through the halls each day. She sat down on the edge
of the bed.

David came out of the bathroom adjusting his cuffs. "Is there
something wrong?"

"Just that Veronica Vreeland was the first to get here." He
made a face. "I needed a break."

"Well, it'll only be for a few hours. Besides, if I know
Ronnie, she's here early because she has other plans for the
evening."

"I certainly hope so." She stood up. "Ready?"

"Ready. I would have been ready earlier if it hadn't been for
that last call."

"Anything I'd be interested in hearing?"

"Just business, dear." She added a mark next to David's name
in the mental book.

"In that case, let's go greet our guests properly." She took his arm,
and they walked sedately through their castle back to the Great Hall.
She wondered again what things had been like back when the castle
was in Scotland and a princess named Katharine wandered these
same halls. She'd seen it in its glory for the brief duration of her
mad honeymoon, and since in her dreams, she had walked the
ancient passageways again. Sometimes she dreamt that she was
Katharine, and occasionally, she would look up as Fox herself was
doing now, and see a familiar and beloved face that bore a haunting
resemblance to Owen's.

A cold wind blew through her again, but it was no doubt just
the drafty castle.

Several more people had arrived by the time they reached the
Hall. The television journalist Gleeson was already chatting with
Ronnie Vreeland and Tony Stark. Fox silently hoped they'd all
accidentally fall off the top of the castle. Another couple
arrived, and she recognized them as a pair of newspaper reporters,
possibly the two most famous in the city. David always enjoyed a
challenge, and the idea of holding a top secret meeting of the
Illuminati while Lane and Kent were in the building had been too
much to resist. They began mingling with the other guests, no
doubt hoping to get a big scoop for the Saturday edition of the
"Planet".

With some amusement, she noticed Elisa Maza on the arm of some
man she'd never seen before. At least she'd dressed for the
occasion, in a slim, sleeveless, forest brown dress. Her date, a
tall, thin, vaguely geeky-looking man, wore a nondescript suit that
would have been appropriate for a wedding or a funeral. Her
partner Bluestone had also accepted the invitation, and had brought
with him a lovely blonde woman in an emerald green number. The
four of them stood out among the rest of the guests, obviously ill
at ease with the show of wealth around them, Maza and Bluestone
more so than the other two. The strangers appeared to be looking
for something or someone.

David pulled slightly at her arm and led her towards one of
the waiters they'd hired for the evening. He plucked a champagne
for himself and a sparkling cider for her, and she grimaced as she
sipped at it.

"Yummy. Think I can at least toast myself with some of the
real stuff?"

"Not on your life. You know what the doctor said." She
muttered under her breath about what the doctor could do with the
sparkling cider. "Tell her yourself. She was invited, too."

"Is there anyone in New York that Owen didn't put on the guest
list?"

"Yes, but only because they didn't leave a forwarding address
when they left."

"Gotcha."

"Fox! David! Congratulations!" She turned to see who it
was, putting on her smile for the evening.

VVVVV

The line of limousines nearly made her head spin. At least it
was moving quickly. They would be at the front door in a minute or
two.

"Don't worry about it," Joy was telling her. "The trick to
surviving one of these awful things is to smile and nod in the
right places. Kinda like listening to him." She jerked her thumb
at her husband and grinned mischievously.

Elliot put on a serious expression. "I'll remember that the
next time I try to tell you something."

Joy smiled vacantly and nodded. Joe howled.

The car pulled up to the front of the Eyrie Building. Joy tapped
the window to let the driver know they were ready. The automatic
door opened as the valets moved away quickly. When the doors
stopped moving, Elliot wheeled himself out.

Joe said under his breath, "The Eagle has landed." Diana
poked him and got out of the car.

Xanatos' assistant, in formal attire down to the white gloves
on his hands, met them at the door. Elliot handed him their
invitations.

"Mr. and Mrs. Burch. It's good to see that you could make it."
Joe gave him his own invitation. "Mr. Maxwell. Welcome to
the party." He nodded politely to Diana. "Madame." He held his
arm out, indicating a large door a few feet away. "The gentleman
in the elevator will take you to the proper floor."

"Thank you, Owen," said Elliot, and moved towards the
elevator. They followed.

The door opened as they arrived, and Diana heard Owen greeting
a Mr. Wayne as it shut again behind them. The ride was short, but
she could see the large number of floors ticking by. And then,
they were there.

Diana's first impression was of space, and irrationally, she
thought that she had somehow come outside. Then she realized it
was simply one vast room. The top of Xanatos' skyscraper was a
castle, supposedly brought stone by stone from Scotland. This must
be the main hall, she thought. The walls still held multicolored
tapestries from centuries before, but where torches once graced the
room with flickering light, more practical if less romantic
electric lights glimmered.

She could feel the years surrounding her, as if the people who
had once called this place home had left more than footsteps and
fingerprints. There was presence here, unlike anything she'd felt
in some time. Some great tragedy had taken place long ago. For an
instant, she smelled smoke, and knew that there had been fire and
death on these stones, but death unlike anything she'd ever before
experienced. She could almost hear the crumbling of rock beneath
blows, and she wondered why the screams were so quiet.

Joe touched her arm. "You okay?"

Diana pulled herself back to the present, and could not help
the smile in her eyes at his concern. District Attorney he might
be, but when he was worried, Joe looked like nothing so much as a
little boy. "I'm fine."

"You look like you just saw a ghost."

"If I did, it was a thousand years old." She patted his arm.
"You worry too much."

Joe was mollified, but Elliot continued watching her until she
nodded at him reassuringly. He understood her better than anyone
else, or at least anyone Up Top. He knew what her flashes were
like and what they cost her. The strange friendship they had
developed allowed for that kind of sharing. Joy was her sister,
but she would never know precisely what it was that set Diana
apart, only that she was. Elliot knew, and as time went on, that
knowledge no longer frightened either of them, but gave them a
measure of unfamiliar peace.

Joy spotted the hosts, and they went to congratulate them.

VVVVV

Mulder was on his second glass of champagne and beginning to
enjoy himself. The social hour was almost finished, and dinner
would be starting soon. His stomach made an appropriate noise and
he saw the amused look on Scully's face. They'd broken away from
their "dates" to mingle among the crowd. It had been surprisingly
simple to blend in with the others. Despite the ostensible
distinctions of class, he'd noticed that a glass of champagne or
two made everyone in the room equal. There had even been one guy
walked around offering everyone Jelly Babies until Burnett had led
him quietly out of the room. He hadn't been crazy, thought Mulder,
just tipsy, like most of the press of life around them. They were
all lonely human moths straining towards electric bulbs to die
young and beautiful. He could actually picture some of them with
wings, gliding into those lights.

He glanced at his glass. Where had that come from? He
decided quickly that this would be his last alcoholic drink for the
night; the waiters were serving sparkling cider for the sake of the
mother-to-be.

Scully tapped his shoulder and pointed out a couple with her
eyes. "Those are the Bairds. Shall we mingle?"

"Let's wander close to them. I don't see getting anywhere
tonight by asking too many questions. Just keep an eye on people.
See if anyone disappears for too long."

"In this place? Who'd notice?" She had a point. The crowd
was large and was growing by the minute. Had this guy invited the
entire city? Then Scully murmured, "We're being watched."

Mulder glanced casually in the direction she indicated as they
moved amiably towards a large knot of people. Xanatos' assistant
Burnett had come upstairs to babysit the group while his employers
had slipped out for a breath of fresh air. Currently, he was
watching the two of them with a carefully concealed fascination.

Suddenly, something took his attention pointedly away from
them, and Mulder followed his gaze.

There was a woman walking through the crowd, a redhaired woman
with eyes unlike any he'd ever imagined. The woman from the
limousine. The one he'd seen in such a quick, burning glimpse.
She'd come. And Owen Burnett was not pleased at all with seeing
her there.

VVVVV

Scully saw Mulder's eyes widen, and turned to see Burnett
staring at a beautiful redhead, who was striding across the room
like she owned it. Her eyes were bright with a kind of secret
glee, and her perfect mouth was turned as though trying to hide a
wide leer. Her outfit was a violent purple affair, covering her
arms and torso completely, if tightly, but leaving only a token bit
of cloth below her waist. She wore little jewelry, but what she
did have on, a heavy gold necklace, matching earrings, and a large
intricately designed gold ring, said volumes to even Scully's
unpracticed eye. The socialite Vreeland came from old money, but
this woman's wealth was old when Vreeland's ancestors were starving
peasants.

The woman saw Burnett's concerned look, and let her mouth
finish its journey into a sweet, sincere smile.

Scully was suddenly very afraid.

Once his initial shock had abated, Burnett rushed to her side,
and said in a fierce whisper that Scully could just barely make
out: "How did you get in here?"

The woman laughed, and there was just enough madness in the
sound for the people around her to surreptitiously slide further
away. "Why, I handed the nice gentleman downstairs my invitation.
I'm disappointed in you, Owen; I only had to wait a few minutes
before you left your post." He frowned deeply.

Maza, who'd been inspecting the buffet with Bluestone, came
behind them and said playfully, "Come on. I know Owen's kinda
weird, but ... " She saw the woman with him and went pale. In her
peripheral vision, Scully saw her instinctively reach for a weapon
that wasn't there tonight. Her hands clasped air, and began
curling into fists and releasing.

"Who is she?" asked Mulder.

"Trouble," was all she replied.

VVVVV

Her mind raced. What was Demona doing here, especially so
close to sunset? It was quarter till five. The sun would go down
in at most ten minutes. She had to be plotting something that
would happen soon. Crazy or not, she wasn't mad enough to let a
room full of people watch her change into gargoyle form. She
hoped.

Elisa scouted the room quickly, and saw Xanatos and Fox enter
from the other side. As distasteful as she found the thought, she
had to get to them before Demona did. There was no way to tell
what she would do when she spotted them. Which happened a second
later.

Demona's smile grew wider, and she said in a voice once
accustomed to being heard in this same hall: "Xanatos! How good to
see you again!"

A number of people turned their heads, and Elisa groaned
inside. She was trying to get their attention, and it was working.
One Simply Did Not Yell at Gatherings Like This. Fox saw her a
split second before her husband did, and in an almost comical way,
their faces took on the exact same look of disbelief that quickly
turned to disguised panic.

Demona shrugged off Owen's arm as though he'd been a child;
Elisa wondered how much it had cost him to not put her into a
restraining hold instantly. That was another thing One Did Not Do
at Parties, and Demona knew it. She walked through the crowd like
it didn't exist. Then again, they were only humans.

She grabbed a glass of champagne from a passing waiter and
took a swig. She made a face. "This swill gets worse with every
passing year," she stated too loudly. The people around her
affected to ignore her, but it was becoming more than obvious that
she wasn't about to be ignored.

She stopped three feet away from the parents to be.

"Milord. Milady," she said, voice dripping with sarcasm. "I
would like to extend my deepest congratulations on your impending
arrival."

"I see Owen forgot to make the final cut on the guest list,"
said Xanatos, unimpressed.

"I'm hurt," she replied mockingly. "And here I came all this
way to bring you a gift for that child of yours."

"Thanks, but you can keep it," said Fox. "You've done enough
as it is."

"Now Fox, don't tell me you're still angry about that little
incident with ... "

Xanatos interrupted. "Maybe we should take this outside."

"Of course! We can watch the sunset together and reminisce
about the old times."

Elisa felt a hand on her shoulder. Mulder's. "Is she an old
lover?" Elisa grimaced.

"You have no idea." She spotted Owen moving around the
periphery of the room. "Excuse me." She wasn't fond of
Xanatos' head flunky, but for this, they were on the same side.
She motioned to him. He nodded to her and they circled around
Demona from opposite sides.

The human-gargoyle continued in a louder voice, enough to
command the attention of everyone in the room: "I'd like to propose
a toast! To Fox. May you have the same fortune with your mate
that I had with mine." Her eyes glittered like cold diamonds.

Fox smiled back with the same saccharine vindictiveness.
"Actually, I was planning on keeping mine." Demona dropped her
pretense of a smile.

"You'll pay for that one. Child." She placed her fingers into her glass,
and Elisa saw her move her ring to one side. She began murmuring
something in bastard Latin, which sounded to Elisa's ears like "Me
masticaste, placer este!". Elisa still wasn't certain of what the woman's
twisted mind had dreamed up for Fox, but she had to prevent it.

"Stop in the name of the law!" She always felt silly when she
said that, but it worked. Demona's head jerked around, and then
her smile returned.

"On second thought, perhaps I'll just give my present to you."
She pulled her hand out of the champagne and flicked the wetness
off towards Elisa, who had just enough presence of mind to drop
to the floor. The droplets hit the wall behind her and sparked
vermillion before the stone started dissolving. Madly, she was
already thinking of ways to explain this particular substance to
Forensics.

Elisa rolled, wishing she'd brought her piece and knowing that it
was too late, that Demona would already be advancing upon her and
that she would do whatever she'd planned before any human could
stop her. She glanced up.

Demona had raised her arm again, and her eyes were less human
than Goliath's had ever been, even in battle. She thought of him,
wondering who would tell him when the sun went down.

A light-haired Fury attacked. Demona fell in a tangle of arms
and legs with Owen scrabbling for the glass. It slipped from her
fingers and crashed into the floor. Owen and Demona rolled, and
then he was on top of her, his left arm pinning her throat, his
right grasping her arms together in a dangerously intimate manner.
Xanatos pulled Fox off the ground and away from the growing spill,
as Demona thrashed under the weight of the man above her.

Elisa got to her feet and ran to Owen's aid. Demona saw her
and stopped struggling.

"You're under arrest."

"For what?" Her voice had returned to its former cadence as
she went limp. She sounded as if she'd just been told over dinner
that a friend had gone to the hospital.

"Attempted murder." For a start.

"Oh really? Since when does sprinkling champagne count as
attempted murder?" She looked regretfully at the puddle on the
floor. Which appeared to be a perfectly ordinary spill of alcohol.
No dissolving carpets. No disappearing floor. Just broken glass
and liquid.

Elisa cursed inwardly. It had been magic, of course. Kind of
hard to prove murderous intent using a spell in a court of law.

"Besides," Demona's voice had become an almost-seductive purr,
"I really don't think you'd want me to go into the police station
tonight, would you, Detective? I can assure you that I'd have
quite a story to tell them." She saw Owen tighten his grip on her
wrists just enough to make her wince. "You didn't want to do
that."

Suddenly, she twisted, bringing her knee up sharply. In an
instant, she'd flipped a now-suffering Owen off her and sprang in
a fluid motion to an upright position. She ran directly towards a
wall covered by a large, probably priceless tapestry. Elisa
realized what she was doing a second later and ran full-speed after
her. Almost. The damned shoes tripped her and she kicked them
off, giving Demona a much-needed extra moment to slip behind the
tapestry into the secret passage beyond.

Elisa followed her into the darkness, suddenly aware of Mulder
and Scully at her heels, and Bluestone not far behind. She had to
lose them before sunset, or else there were going to be far too
many explanations. But there was no more time. She stumbled in
the dark, and felt a hand on her arm steadying her. She wasn't
sure who it belonged to, but she was grateful. Demona knew these
passages by heart, and she only by word of mouth from someone who'd
once wandered them a thousand years before.

There was a light ahead, and she realized that they were headed
outside to the courtyard at the top of the castle. In moments, they
had reached the top of the stairway and were out into the last dregs
of sunlight of the early evening.

A sound came from the left, and Mulder pulled his gun. The
elevator door opened, spilling out Xanatos, Fox, Owen, and several
others. Mulder dropped his weapon, and Elisa heard fleeing
footsteps hurrying around the corner to the right. She ran towards
them, knowing too well that the only thing at the other side of the
building was a ledge overlooking a sheer drop, and fearing that
Demona knew that too.

Diana's training took over as she surveyed the roof. Elisa
was running hellbent to a place just out of sight on the other
side. After seeing the other woman's performance, Diana wasn't
certain if that hadn't been her intent. She followed, long strides
quickly bringing her even with Elisa's date.

Elisa slipped around the corner, and she heard a scream
dopplering into space.

"Elisa!" shouted Bluestone.

The last piece of sun slipped beneath the skyline, and Diana's
stomach fell with it. She'd known Elisa's family for years; her
brother Derek had been a good friend, once upon a time.

They sped around the corner, weapons drawn.

Elisa stood at the edge of the building, staring at the dusky
horizon, as if looking for something.

"Where is she?" asked Diana, already knowing the answer.

"Gone," said Elisa, not looking away from the pink-tinged
clouds. Then she did something quite unexpected: she said a very
unladylike word, turned on her heel, and marched away from the
ledge.

Bluestone placed a concerned hand on her shoulder. "Are you
all right?" Diana had a sudden sense of deja vu.

She nodded. Mr. and Mrs. Xanatos and their aide came around
the corner with the guards, saw the five of them, and stopped.
Elisa's date, who looked oddly familiar, was staring down the side
of the wall, not even acknowledging their arrival.

"What happened?" demanded Xanatos.

Elisa shrugged, and said cryptically, "The sun went down."

Xanatos sighed, and his wife rolled her eyes. Burnett tightened
his mouth. Diana felt something pass among the four of them, but
couldn't capture it.

Elisa's date looked up from the edge of the wall. "You must
be Mr. and Mrs. Xanatos."

"Actually," said Mrs. Xanatos, "it's just Fox."

The man smiled. "Then we have something in common. My name's
Fox Mulder. This is my partner, Dana Scully. We're with the
F.B.I. Maybe one of you can explain how a woman just jumped off
the side of a building and didn't make a pizza on the sidewalk."
He looked over the edge again and clarified:

"There's no body."

VVVVV
Chapter 5: Conversations

Fox tried to remain utterly blank at the news. It wasn't as
difficult as she'd imagined. Okay. Demona, looking amazingly
human, shows up at the party. Demona tries to cast a spell on her
and possibly her baby. Demona is thwarted by the unusual teamwork
of Elisa Maza and Owen. Demona runs through a passageway known
heretofore only to herself, David, and Owen. Demona jumps off the
roof. F.B.I. agent wants to know why there's no body. And it's
just past sunset. Acting blank was no problem at all under the
circumstances. In fact, she tried to imagine any other state than
one of blankness.

It was getting dark quickly.

David's arms were around her, holding her as she sank to the
much more comfortable ground, and his voice was the heartbeat in
her ears, calling her name. She wondered idly if the spell had
worked after all, and decided that she was suddenly very very
sleepy. She heard from far away the female agent's voice, saying
that she was a doctor, and Fox had just enough consciousness left
to think, "But that only happens on t.v."

She opened her eyes and found herself in her own bedroom, with
David holding her hand. "What happened?"

"You fainted at a very opportune moment." He stroked her
hair.

She pulled herself up. "Don't be ridiculous. I don't faint!"

"Well, you did this time." She turned her head and saw her
doctor. "But you're none the worse for wear."

"How long was I out?" she asked her husband.

"About five minutes. I was getting worried."

"Where are our guests?"

"Still in the Great Hall. The two from the F.B.I. are having
a field day looking for you know who."

"They won't find her."

"I don't care if they find her or not. It's what else they
might find that worries me." He sighed. "So much for our
meeting."

"Well, maybe you'll have better luck with our next kid."

"Maybe." He kissed her on the forehead. "Ready to go back
out?"

She fell back among the pillows. "David!" Uninvited, the
doctor placed her hand on her stomach, and followed it with a
somewhat cold stethoscope, the one that David had bought the day
she'd told him.

"We have most of the people who run this city in our living
room, and the commissioner won't let any of them leave until she
finds out who stole our angelic friend's corpse. We have to at
least put in another appearance."

She sighed. She could get her way with him on a number of
things, but this wasn't going to be one of them. "Doc?"

"You're both fine." The woman smiled. "Besides, the only
alternative is to prescribe bed rest." Fox frowned. "I didn't
think so."

"Okay okay. I suppose someone has to go talk to those agents.
Whose idea was it to invite Elisa and Bluestone in the first
place?"

"Yours."

"Right." He helped her up.

VVVVV

"It's good to see you again." Barbara smiled blandly as Lane
walked away to find another likely candidate for information. Well
that had been unproductive. She scanned the crowd for Dick, and
spotted him near the F.B.I. agents, who were currently talking with
some guy in a wheelchair who looked familiar. Then she placed him:
Elliot Burch. She'd met him a few times out at social occasions
with her father, but that had been shortly before his accident.
Afterwards, she'd felt awkward around him. She knew it was silly,
that he was the same man as he had been, but at the same time, she
was afraid that she would say something to embarrass both of them,
so she'd stayed away. She wondered suddenly how he'd been.

She slid next to Dick and he placed his arm around her, still
eavesdropping. She bent to his ear, a gesture they had done in
public many times before. She breathed softly. "Either Lane
doesn't know what's going on, or she's not talking."

He murmured back. "Burch is trying not to tell these two
something. I'm beginning to think there might be bats in his
belfry. Literally."

She brushed her lips against his ear. "You think he might be
sponsoring another Bat?"

"I'm beginning to wonder. I've been seeing some odd sights on
patrol. Some have wings."

She nodded; she'd seen the same things. She looked behind
him. Bruce and Selena were heading for them. "The chaperons are
back." They pulled away from their half-embrace to meet the wide
grins.

"I take it you two kids are enjoying the party?" asked Bruce.

"You could. Bruce, can I talk to you a minute?" Dick asked.
The older man nodded, and they moved aside.

Selena rolled her eyes. "You know, one of these days, they're
going to realize that standing away from us won't help."

"But not anytime soon. Have you heard from your friend Kit
lately?" Or in other words, had she found anything out?

Selena nodded. "And she has some interesting news. Did you
know that our gracious host had in his employ until September a
geneticist by the name of Anton Sevarius who had a thing for bats?"

"Why no. Do tell."

VVVVV

Elisa nibbled half-heartedly at the broccoli spears. They
weren't bad with the dip. She had a sudden mental image of Owen
meticulously arranging the raw veggies on the platter and nearly
choked. She took a sip of cider and tried to breathe normally.
Once the Chief realized there was no body to be found, they would
be free to go, but for now, there was enough food to provide for a
small African nation, and it was going to waste.

At least Mulder had finally left her alone. His first action upon
getting back to the Great Hall had been to get a few samples of
Demona's happy juice while Scully had checked for any other
secret passages near where they'd last seen her. Then the questions
had started. He'd demanded to know what she'd seen, and she had
done what any good, law-abiding citizen would do under the
circumstances. She'd lied through her teeth.

As far as he knew, the mysterious woman had been gone as Elisa
had turned the corner, and that was all he was going to get from
her. She smiled evilly to herself. If he really pressed her,
she'd tell him the truth: the woman had jumped, turned blue, grown
wings, and flown off into the sunset to look for her seven-foot-
tall ex who happened to turn into a pigeon roost during the day.
In fact, she considered doing it just to see the look on his face.

"Something funny?" She looked up.

"Diana!" The other woman smiled. "How've you been? I
haven't seen you around the station much."

"I don't hang around the station much. Do you know our
hosts?"

She frowned. "Far too well. I helped put them both in
prison. I think they invited me to gloat."

Diana sat down beside her. "If you don't like them, why did
you protect Fox from that woman?"

She was wondering about that herself. "At the time, it seemed
like the only thing I could do. All part of the job."

"What do you think happened up there?"

"I'm not entirely sure." It wasn't a lie. "You were there. What do
you think?"

"Do you honestly want to know?" Her voice was light, but her
eyes said volumes. Elisa suddenly remembered a story she'd heard
about Bennett. She'd been given a murder case, and she'd named the
perp after only seeing the crime scene for a few minutes. She'd
nabbed him an hour later. The guys gave her a wide berth because
sometimes she just knew things about people, and not just the
suspects. In New York, everyone had a secret. Elisa was certainly
no exception to that rule. But she wanted to know. She nodded.

"I think she knows you, and she doesn't like you personally for some
reason. Joy thought she was Xanatos' ex-lover, but that's not right.
That's a different story from the one she's living out. In her story,
someone has hurt her very deeply, and she's trying to give the hurt
back to anyone close enough to touch. She thinks that she wants you
dead."

"I'd say that's pretty obvious."

"She doesn't, though. She just wants you to hurt like she does. I think
she planned what happened much more completely than she let on.
Now she has you as a possible suspect for murder."

"What?" This wasn't making any sense, and then, it was.
"Someone might think I pushed her." Diana nodded.

"I wouldn't worry about it too much. Since there's no body,
it would be next to impossible to prove the case." She had a
point. "I also think you saw exactly what happened to her."

"I already told you ... "

"You saw," she said quietly, leaving no room for argument,
"and whatever happened, it has to do with your secret, the one
you're protecting with your life. Him."

Her heart stopped. Damn! She shouldn't have asked. Playing
with fire again, eh Maza? Good job. Now you have the pet psychic
on the staff reading your mind. Why don't you just tell Mulder
about the guys? He'd certainly be interested. Hell, it's after
dark, you should invite Goliath to the party. He'd be a hit.

Diana touched her hand, and she nearly jumped. "It's all
right," she whispered. "I understand." Her wide blue eyes looked
into Elisa's own, and she knew somewhere deep within that she
wasn't just making small talk. She understood, because ... Elisa
had a feeling of vertigo as she watched Diana. In her gaze, she
saw Goliath as he had been the night she'd met him, but instead of
being in the air, they'd been in a warm, enclosed space that spoke
to her senses as far underground. Instinctively, she knew Diana
was seeing something both similar and vastly different in her own
eyes.

For an endless moment, the two of them sat in perfect
comprehension of one another, broken finally by the sound of
laughter from another guest.

Diana pulled her hand away. "I think we should both start
mingling so that no one suspects a conspiracy."

The last of the quick spell vanished from her mind like dust
after a summer storm, and she remarked, "The only ones suspecting
a conspiracy around here are my partner and my date."

Diana looked behind her and grimaced. "I think Elliot has
talked your date's ear off enough. I'd better go rescue him." She
stood up. "It's been nice chatting with you, Maza."

"Likewise, Bennett." She paused. "You do understand, don't
you?" Diana nodded. "Do you ... do you ever stop seeing ... "
She couldn't finish; the words weren't right.

"No," she said quietly. "But you learn how to see everything
else, too." She touched her shoulder, and was gone.

VVVVV

Diana walked to Elliot's side casually, trying to calm the mad
beating of her heart. She had touched something deep when she'd
spoken to the other woman, powerful like the motion of the sea. In
her eyes, she'd seen Vincent holding Jake as a baby, but instead of
being in the warm closeness of the Tunnels, they had been standing
on top of an airy place with the wind surrounding them. She'd
known without asking that Elisa had also seen something, and it
frightened her.

Before she had met Vincent, her life had been complicated
enough, balancing her job and Mark and the things she simply
couldn't say to her sisters anymore. Then Joe had come to her loft
begging her to take on a murder case, and her life had not been the
same since.

She made a point of never regretting the past; regrets were
impractical, and got in the way of moving on with life. She would
not regret having met Vincent, having found Jake, having killed the
man who murdered the baby's mother. These were a part of the past.
Yet, she wondered sometimes, when he was forced to kill someone for
her sake, or when the fragile secret of the Tunnels seemed to be
compromised, if she would have been happier not knowing, if she
could have just married Mark and settled down and raised a couple
of rugrats.

At those times, the secret was heavy inside her.

Of course, when she was feeling the lowest, when she was
trapped, confused, wondering where this impossible relationship
would take her, something else would happen. Vincent would appear
tapping at her window with a passage from an ancient book to share
with her, or Jake would out of the blue grace her with that sweet
grin of his, and she would wonder again how she'd manage to live
without knowing them.

Before tonight, she'd never dreamed that anyone could have the
same kind of pressing weight of a promise that must be kept, and
the new knowledge shook her.

She smiled politely at the F.B.I. agents as she went to Elliot's side.
"Excuse me." The male agent's eyes widened. In a flash, she
recognized him. "You're the man from the station this morning."
That was why he'd looked familiar on the rooftop. He nodded.

"And you are?"

"My sister-in-law," said Elliot. "Diana, meet Agents Fox
Mulder and Dana Scully. Madam, Sir, Detective Diana Bennett,
N.Y.P.D."

"Nice to meet you," he said.

"Likewise. So has Elliot bored you to tears yet?"

"Diana! I'm hurt. You don't like my witty conversation?"

"How do you want your answer: honest or polite?"

"How about sunny side up?" The years had brought an ease to
her relationship with him, something she appreciated as it now
calmed away her anxieties, leaving her mind clear and focused.
"The agents are attempting to discover what become of our
premenstrual friend."

"You were there," said Scully. "Did you see anything at all?"

Diana shook her head. "I got there the same time you did."

Mulder said, "There've been other instances of people
disappearing in cases like this, although they usually aren't
jumping off buildings when it happens."

"Maybe she grew wings," said Elliot. He looked askance at his
chair. "I can't say I'd mind a pair myself." Diana suddenly felt
a cold flash run through her. Beings large and glorious filled her
mind, with wings to buffet the air or glide through it like knife
blades. The stones of the castle had known the brush of such wings
upon them, and yearned like a flower towards the sun for the return
of that beauty. She placed her hand on the back of Elliot's chair
to steady herself.

Scully's eyes grew worried. "Detective?"

"Just a little dizzy for a second. Sorry." She smiled,
hoping to disarm any more questions.

"That seems to be going around."

"Don't worry. I'm not pregnant." Probably, she added silently,
and wondered how well that particular possibility would go over if
she mentioned it to Elliot.

He muttered quietly, "I knew they could make people disappear,
but this is ridiculous."

"Who?" asked Scully.

Elliot looked up, as if unaware that he'd been talking out loud. For
a moment, he looked as though he'd been caught, then glanced
around as if making sure no one would overhear him. He wiggled
his finger, and the agents bent close. He reached out as if to bring
them closer still, then touched their ears. He pulled his hands back
towards himself, holding a quarter in each. "Magicians, of course!"
he said.

Diana groaned, then looked apologetically at the agents. "He
does that to me, too." She shot him a look. "Constantly."

"Admit it. You enjoy it."

"Only sometimes. Now if you're finished bothering these two,
maybe we can let them get back to their investigation."

"Oh, all right. But I finally had someone who hasn't heard
all my jokes yet."

Scully looked at her partner, and smiled.

He took a small step backwards. "Forget it. You're not
trading me in."

"Come on," said Diana. "Joy's going to think we're having an
affair."

"You mean we're not?" She slapped him lightly on the head.
"But what will we tell the children?"

She sighed again, and said to the agents, "If you change your
mind about that trade-in ... "

Scully covered a laugh as they moved into a secluded corner,
no doubt to compare notes.

She placed her hand on Elliot's shoulder as they looked around
for Joe and Joy. "Nice job," she whispered.

"Thanks. I hope they take the bait."

VVVVV

"He knows," said Mulder, barely concealing his anticipation.

"Knows what?"

"About the Illuminati. About the meeting tonight. Matt was
right! Notice how he immediately changed the subject?"

"I told him about the Illuminati this morning. He didn't
want to talk then."

"Maybe he didn't trust his secretary. He was more than
talkative tonight."

"He's setting us up. Don't you see that?"

"He's giving us information that he can't any other way."

She stopped the urge to sigh heavily. Why couldn't he see? It was
just like with Manicure Man; Mulder was being told what he wanted
to hear and he refused to consider that it was all a fabrication.

"Besides, what good would it do to tell us about a society
that doesn't exist?"

She tried to think. Something about Burch had bothered her
from the start. He was very intelligent, and his sister-in-law was
his equal. He wouldn't have said anything he was worried she might
decipher, so whatever was going on, she was in on it.

"What if he had something or someone to protect? Someone so
close to him that he would risk putting us on a wild goose chase,
so that we'd stay away from the real target."

"Do you think Burch is behind the Batman?"

"If he exists, I think it's a real possibility, and I think Bennett knows about it."

"All right. We'll check out Bennett and Burch. But first, I want to ask
our hosts about our mystery woman. They seem to be the only ones
who even know her name."

They attempted to do just that. It wasn't as easy as it looked. The couple
were surrounded by bodyguards, presumably on high alert after the
incident, and with well-wishers. There was no way to get them alone
without making a scene. Heaven forbid we make a scene, she thought sourly.

Mulder tapped her shoulder, and nodded towards the buffet,
where Xanatos' aide was checking the mostly-ignored food. Okay, if
they couldn't get the hosts, they would get the butler.

"Mr. Burnett?" The man turned. "We have a few questions we'd
like to ask you."

"I'm afraid you will have to consult with Mr. Xanatos' attorneys."
Scully mentally banged her head against another wall as Burnett
turned to leave.

"I'm afraid they won't be of much help to us," said Mulder.
"We're looking for the perfect cup of tea."

Burnett stared at them. "Excuse me?"

"We've heard from an associate of yours that you have a secret
blend of tea that is supposed to be something special. We'd like
to know what it is."

"That's a family secret, I'm afraid."

"Then how about you just tell us the name of the woman who
tried to kill your boss, and we'll call it even."

"If I knew what name she's hiding under, I'd be more than
willing to tell you. However, I'm not entirely certain how she got
in myself. Mr. Xanatos is most displeased." He frowned deeper,
seemingly more concerned about Xanatos' wrath than the woman.

"I'm having a little trouble placing your accent. Where are
you from?"

"I've moved around a great deal. Now if you'll excuse me." He
scooted off into the crowd before they could ask him anything else.

"This is getting old," said Scully.

Mulder agreed. "This city is reminding me more and more of a
place one of my friends was sent on extended assignment. You ever
meet Cooper?"

She nodded. "Once or twice. Before I met you, I thought he
was strange."

"Cute, Scully. Real cute."

(to be continued)