Faith and Superstition
Scully made the cry instinctively even though there was no one to hear her. They had come here alone on a weak lead. Unfortunately it had proven to be hot. The rapid gun fire seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere all at once in the hollow echoing warehouse. Before they could even think of taking cover Mulder fell backwards to the cold floor with a short exclamation of pain. The mysterious gunman had then fled.
Kneeling down next to her fallen partner Scully pulled Mulder’s hands away from his stomach, which he was clutching in obvious pain. His white shirt revealed a small hole outlined in burnt cloth. She gently rolled him on his side to get a look at his back. The damage was worse than Scully had feared. Dark red blood that bordered on black seeped out of the exit wound. The bullet had perforated all the way through and had smashed through his liver on the way. The blood-rich organ was probably hemorrhaging even worse inside his abdomen. The injury was beyond Scully’s skill.
“Help! Someone, please!” Scully pleaded to the empty room. “Anyone!”
It was useless to call for assistance and Scully quickly came to realize this. If she didn’t do something drastic Mulder was going to die on the concrete floor like a slaughtered lamb. Scully drew a deep breath and closed her eyes which caused hot tears to spill. She placed her hands gently on Mulder’s stomach.
“I’m sorry, Mulder, I can’t protect you anymore. Good bye.”
The voice was familiar, but Mulder was having trouble placing it. Mulder opened his eyes and found himself staring up at the ceiling of a dank warehouse. A fan high above lazily tried to stir the stagnant air.
With a gasp Mulder recalled what had happened. He instinctually grabbed at his side, but there was nothing there. No blood, no pain, nothing but his unmarked shirt. Mulder struggled to get to his feet and was instantly aided by a strong hand.
“Agent Mulder? Are you okay?”
“That’s right. Can you stand on your own?”
“What are you doing here?” Mulder turned to face the Assistant Director.
“I could ask you the same thing. If you hadn’t left this address on your desk we might never have found you. What happened?”
“What do you mean?” Mulder was still very disoriented.
“Don’t you remember?” Skinner looked at Mulder with concern. “Agent Mulder, you and Agent Scully have been missing for two days.”
“Missing?” Mulder slowly started to remember. “I... I got shot,” he said slowly rubbing his side “and then..., no, that couldn’t have happened. Scully..., she..., she.” Mulder looked around with slightly unfocused eyes. “Where is she? Where’s Scully?”
“I don’t know. You’re the only one here. Are you sure you’re all right?”
Mulder didn’t answer he was already running to the back door. He stepped out into an alleyway. The dirty street was deserted of life beyond a few pigeons. Mulder looked down the alley, not entirely sure what he was expecting to find. A stray breeze caught a large feather and pushed it up against Mulder’s leg. He absent mindedly picked it up and started at its blinding white color. The tip of the quill end was bloody. Mulder looked up again but nothing had changed. He was alone.
“Scully?” Mulder asked the empty alley.
Something was scratching at Mulder’s throat. He reached up and found something thin wrapped around his neck. With a quick jerk he broke it. A delicate gold necklace with a tiny cross dangled from his hand.
A week later Mulder sat at his desk fiddling with the feather he’d found in the alleyway. He didn’t even know why he’d kept it. After being found Mulder had spend three days in a hospital under psychiatric care while the unsuccessful hunt for his partner continued. He still couldn’t piece together what had happened in the warehouse. However, he did manage to somehow convince the hospital that they could release him.
As for Scully she had simply vanished into extremely thin air. The only evidence of a struggle were shell casings from when the gunman had shot at them. At least that collaborated Mulder’s story somewhat. Other than that: nothing. This was maddening. The last time Scully had disappeared she had been forcibly taken and he’d known that. This time she seemed to have simply walked away.
Mulder was getting frustrated and more desperate. He had to help her, he felt instinctually that she was in trouble. She wouldn’t have just left him. Even if she did have a reason to do so. He was sure of this. The problem was he didn’t have any idea where to start. There was a quick knock at the door. Mulder looked up expectantly.
“Hello, Agent Mulder.”
It was only Dr. Samuels.
“Hello, Dr. Samuels. Thanks for coming down here.”
“No problem. What can I do for you?”
“I hear you have a great interest in birds.”
“I do tend to pride myself in that. Why?”
“I’m sure it’s nothing, but I found this feather.” Mulder handed the radiant feather over to the doctor. “I was hoping you could tell me what it is from.”
“Where did you find this?”
“In an alley way.”
“It’s spectacular! I’ve never seen anything like it. It is too large to be anything that would be living here in Washington.” He turned the feather over in his hand. “I’ve never seen a feather so white, it is almost Mother of Pearl. Beautiful.”
“Do you have any idea what it could have come from?”
“No, I’m sorry, I don’t. But I sure would love to see whoever this came from.” Dr. Samuels handed the feather back to Mulder.
“Okay, thank you anyway.”
After the doctor left Mulder prepared to leave as well. He couldn’t just sit here. The feather was still in his hand and he debated taking it with him. Mulder shook his head and dropped the feather into the wastebasket. Except it never made it. Mulder stared at the avian object in disbelief.
The feather was hanging stationary in mid air like a magician’s trick.
It took a few minutes for Mulder to even move. He was having trouble thinking straight lately, mainly because he hadn’t slept or eaten much since his release from the hospital. Now he was standing here with yet another phenomenon that he could even begin to explain. Mulder did not call Samuels back. He wasn’t even sure he was seeing what he was seeing. Slowly the feather finally started to fall.
Mulder reached out and snatched it from the air before it could land in the wastebasket. He held it gently by the quill and tried to fan it through the air. The feather stuck to the air like it was a solid for a moment before sluggishly moving. Mulder felt that if he had two of them he might actually be able to get himself off the ground.
The seemingly magical feather managed to distract Mulder momentarily from the problem at hand. Then he fought with the idea that the feather might be somehow connect to Scully’s disappearance. However, even Mulder’s over active imagination couldn’t find a link.
He sighed and pocketed the feather once more.
Mulder stepped out of FBI headquarters into a driving rain. It didn’t bother him as he walked calmly past the people scurrying around trying to seek shelter. Mulder kept walking with no true destination in mind. An hour later the rain hadn’t relented and he was drenched to the skin. Finally noticing the cold Mulder looked around for a place to dry off. In front of him were the soaring hights of St. Mary’s Church of Mercy. Mulder felt a bit of a chill that was not due to the rain. He had ended up on the steps of the church Scully frequented.
Walking up the red velvet carpeted isle Mulder didn’t even notice the trail of water he was leaving. The mahogany pews had ornately carved roses at their ends and a deep beautiful finish. The rain caused the stain glass windows to look like they were slowly melting. The sermon altar was in the shape of a giant eagle who’s outspread wings held an enormous leather bound copy of the Bible. Behind this was a statue of St. Mary gently holding the baby Jesus. Mulder stood before this, lost in a world without thought.
“You look lost, my son.”
Mulder spun around only to find an elderly priest with a towel behind him. The priest held out the towel which Mulder gladly accepted.
“Thank you, Sir.”
“Please, no ‘Sirs’” The priest smiled. “I’m Father Jonah. Can I help you, child.”
“Um, I..., I’m not a man of faith.” Mulder said apologetically. “I guess you could even say I’m more of a man of superstition.”
“Ah, Faith and Superstition, they go hand in hand you know.”
“In that case I’ve lost my Faith. And I can’t seem to find her.”
The priest smiled at this, although he did not truly understand.
“Stay here for a while, my son, maybe you’ll find it again. I will be in the back if you need me.”
The kindly priest left Mulder standing in front of the statue. He stood there staring at the stone face that somehow looked warm. Then he did something that he hadn’t done in more years that he could count. Mulder took out Scully’s necklace got down on his knees and said a silent prayer.
When Mulder looked up the statue of Mary had dark red blood running down its face. Mulder jerked in surprise and fell back. The statue looked like it was crying tears of blood! Stepping over the brass bar that kept people from getting too close Mulder reached out and touched the liquid. It was sticky and warm to the touch. A hot drop of blood fell on Mulder’s face mimicking the statue’s tears. Looking up Mulder found that the blood was coming from a dripping stain in the ceiling.
“Father Jonah!” Mulder cried.
A few minutes later the old priest came to Mulder’s call. “Yes, my child, can I help you now?”
“Look!” Mulder pointed at the bloody statue.
“Yes, the church has had that for many decades, it is a beautiful work. I often come to look upon the face of Mary.”
“No, Father, the blood!”
“You can’t see it?” Mulder gazed wild-eyed at the red running down the stone.
“Are you all right, child?”
“Is there an upstairs above here?”
“There is an attic. But no one’s been up there in years. We’ve lost the key to the door.”
“I have to get up there.”
“Like I said we’ve lost the key.”
“Then we’ll use my shoulder.” Mulder noticed the priest hesitant look. He drew out his badge. “It’s okay, I’m Special Agent Fox Mulder, FBI. The government will pay for any damages. Please.”
“This way, Agent.”
It only took three tries for Mulder to break down the old wooden door. When he did a small dusty spiral stairwell was revealed. As he started up it he turned back.
“No one is to come up here, unless I give the word. Understood?”
“Yes, yes of course.”
As Mulder climbed the stairs his pulse quickened way beyond what was need for the exercise. It didn’t look as if anyone had been there in decades other than the spiders and church mice. Around the second bend Mulder came to a familiar sight: a lone white feather. He picked up the feather and found that it had the same qualities as the one he’d found in the alley. Pocketing the new treasure he made his way to the top of the stairs. An ornate wooden door bared his way, but he found that this one was not locked. He stepped inside the surprisingly spacious attic.
In front of him lay a sight that stole Mulder’s breath and once again brought him to his knees.
Mulder couldn’t seem to take in what he was witnessing in the old church attic. A shadowy figure knelt before a large dusty cross. The shadows cast by the rain through the cracked window played tricks on the profile of the individual’s face, hiding the stream of tears. However, what had caught Mulder’s breath was the staggering set of radiant white wings that cloaked the stranger’s back in a cascade of iridescence.
Suddenly aware that he had been holding his breath Mulder drew in some much needed air. The noise startled the winged one, who turned to face the abrupt company. A cold wind from an unseen open window blew a small blizzard of feathers around the attic. The unnatural snow storm went unnoticed by the attics only occupants. Of all the things he’d been through nothing could have ever prepared Mulder for the scene that had just unfolded before him.
“You shouldn’t have come, Mulder.” Scully said calmly. “You’re just making things harder for me.”
“What are you talking about? What happened?”
Keeping one hand firmly on her side Scully rose from the floor. She spread her tattered wings to catch her balance. More feathers fell to the shabby floor like leaves falling off a tree in autumn. She was still wearing what Mulder had seen her in last. The black suite with the white blouse and short skirt look pitifully out of place on the Angle before him.
When Mulder approached her Scully stood her ground with seemingly no emotion on her face other than the tear stains. Mulder was looking past the wings at the moment. His suddenly resurrected partner looked ill, deathly ill. He placed his hands on her shoulders for support causing a few more feathers to shake loose.
“Are you all right, Scully?”
Scully managed a brief ironic laugh. “That’s just like you, Mulder. You instantly believe everything your eyes see.”
“My eyes have being seeing a lot of things lately, that doesn’t mean I believe them. I’m just learning to accept them.”
“And these” Scully thrust open he abused wings “do you see them?”
“And do you believe them?”
“I don’t know. Scully...”
“Her name isn’t ‘Scully’.” A voice from behind interrupted. “It is Acacia, and I was foolish to give her a second chance.”
“Father Jonah, this isn’t...” Mulder tried to explain but found that he didn’t know what was going on.
“I’m sorry, Father, I... I..” Acacia stuttered.
“I know what happened!” The suddenly vigorous old man snapped. “You deserve your fate!”
“What is going on?” Mulder asked desperately, he was seriously beginning to doubt his sanity. “Scully, please?”
“You might as well explain it to this mortal for whom you’ve become an outcast. You are now twice a traitor! Then you had the audacity to hide here!”
Acacia flinched at the harsh words. She avoided Mulder’s confused eyes as she explained in a low tone. “I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that I’m not what I’ve seemed. I’m, or was, a Guardian, a Guardian of Humanity. Several decades ago I... I saved a child, I saved a child against orders. That child grew up to bring war and slaughtered millions. I was given a second chance. I was given one mortal life time to make up for the crime that I committed against the world. As a Mortal Guardian it was my duty to save as many lives as I had doomed. So I became a doctor, thinking it would be best. Soon I found that I couldn’t do enough. So I entered the FBI to protect a larger flock.
However, I failed again. I got caught up in saving one life. And when that one life was about to be taken I acted against the Code once again.”
Acacia removed her hand from her side revealing a small hole in the fabric of her jacket. Mulder touched his own side in memory. Without seeking permission he opened the dark jacket and violently ripped open the intruding blouse. With horror Mulder gaped at the wound that marred otherwise flawless skin. He forced her around to see the back. The bullet had done far more damage on the way out. Dark red blood oozed out of the devastating injury even after a week.
When Mulder was done Acacia buttoned her jacket closed. Mulder looked back and forth between the pair in search of an answer.
“I became so attached to that one life that when it was being taken I traded in my mortal life for his. Yours. I traded it for your life, Mulder. In doing so I doomed all those whom I could still have helped. No longer a mortal and not fit to be a Guardian I’m stuck in this form until the flesh of it finally fails, then I shall roam as a specter.”
“Scully, no, I’m not worth...” Tears of realization split from Mulder’s green eyes.
“I’d do it again.” This was said defiantly to Father Jonah.
Acacia could no longer support herself. As she started to fall Mulder caught her and helped her to the floor. Mulder held her as best he could with her wing in the way. He didn’t know what to do. Mulder frantically ran a shaky hand through her crimson hair. She opened her eyes and smiled sadly.
“I tried, Mulder,” Acacia whispered weakly “I tried so hard not to love you.”
Mulder simply couldn’t answer in words. He leaned closer and kissed her salty, tear bathed lips. Acacia flashed a smiled which quickly faded as the pain from her side racked her frame.
“Please! Father, help her!”
“The Court has decided. There is only one way I can help her now.” The priest drew a sword with a blade of pure flame from the air. “Her soul has become forfeit. She is only flesh now and she will suffer for eternity on Earth, neither living nor dead, if you do not let me destroy her.”
“Out of the way mortal, this is none of your affair. I only let you see her one last time out of mercy. Now stand back.”
“Never.” Mulder growled protecting the prone Guardian.
“Then you’ll lose your soul as well, the Flame vanquishes all. Her sacrifice will have been in vain.”
“I will give you my soul, just please, save her, give her another chance!”
“You would be willing to give up your immortal soul for this creature?”
“So be it.”
Father Jonah raised the flaming sword above his head and brought it down hard.
“I think he’s coming to. Mulder? Can you hear me?”
Mulder opened his eyes and quickly shut them against the harsh white light. His head was swimming like he’d drunk a keg of vodka. There was a beeping sound that was rapping a tattoo on his eardrums with annoying persistence. A light touch fell on his arm.
“Mulder?” A feminine voice asked quietly.
“No, no, Mulder, it’s me. It’s Scully.”
“Yes. And Assistant Skinner is here too.”
“Didn’t think you were going to pull out of this one, Agent Mulder.”
Mulder snapped his eyes back open. At first all he could see was a tiled ceiling that held evil bright florescent lights. Turning his head he saw Scully standing next to him with her face full of concern.
“Scully!” Mulder tried to sit up and was rewarded with a stabbing pain.
“No, Mulder, stay down. You’ll burst your stitches.”
“I’ll leave you two. Good to see you awake and fighting, Agent Mulder. I expect to see you two both back at work soon.” Skinner smiled benevolently and ducked out of the room.
“Scully, thank God. I didn’t think you were going to make it.”
“Me?” Scully raised an eyebrow. “I’m not the one who got a .9 mm through the liver. You gave me quite a scare. Luckily the bullet only grazed your hepatic vien. Otherwise, well, never mind about the otherwise. As it is you’ve been asleep for a week. Someone heard my call for help and we were able to get you out of there.”
“Scully, I don’t think I’ve ever told you this, but you are my Guardian Angle.”
Scully smiled shyly. She bent down and kissed Mulder’s brow. “Get some more rest, Mulder, I can see in your eyes that you’re not all here yet.” Scully started to walk out. She stopped when she remembered something. “By the way, we did catch the shooter. Oddly enough it was a woman.”
“Yes, Angie. Angie Acacia.”