Paths That Cross

by Hansome Alvin

Title: Paths That Cross
Author: Hansome Alvin (hansomealvin@my-deja.com) Genre: Slash/Suspense
Rating: NC-17 for sex, language and violence (not nearly as dark as the last one, I promise) Fandom: X-Flies/Millennium/Twin Peaks crossover Spoilers: The X-Files-episode "Millennium"/Millennium-episode "The Time is Now"/Twin Peaks-whole show Summary: Sequel to "Angels in Dark Suits." Dana Scully and Lara Means team up to stop a vicious plot against Audrey Horne and Gersten and Donna Hayward.
Distribution: with permission of the author (hansomealvin@my-deja.com) This story will be archived at my website (http://www.geocities.com/hansomealvin/ThinkMeWicked.html) Disclaimers: Characters from "The X-Files" and "Millennium" are property of Ten-Thirteen Productions. Characters from "Twin Peaks" are property of the Lynch/Frost Company. I imply no ownership of these characters, no do I profit from the use of them in this context. All original characters (including Darla Daley) and the story are copyright 2000 by Hansome Alvin. This is a "slash" story, which means it depicts scenes of a sexual nature between members of the same sex (women, in this case). If this offends you, do not read it.




Paths That Cross
by Hansome Alvin (hansomealvin@my-deja.com)

"Voice of the Swarm
We follow we fall
Some kneel for priests
Some wail at walls
Flag on a match head
God or the law
And they'll all go together
Where duty calls"
--Patti Smith

"It's time to move."
--posted to 27 international message boards on February 10th by user "Archangel"

February, 2000

Vultures of the insect world. Flies. Little black dots floating in the air, their buzzing annoying enough to drive you insane. The noise was almost deafening in this small, claustrophobic concrete box in the middle of the desert. Angela Feathers needed to hear a human voice, which was why she had asked her question a moment ago, but the woman in the stall wouldn't talk. Some people just weren't conversationalists, Angela thought as she washed her hands in the filthy, stain-covered sink of the rest stop.

"I said 'Where 'ya headed?'" she repeated over her shoulder.

The woman in the stall didn't respond. Angela finished washing her hands and turned around, eyeing the woman's shoes under the stall door. The shoes were ragged and worn; the woman was obviously a hitcher.

"What? Are you afraid I'm some kind of serial killer?" Angela asked the woman in the stall. She narrowed her eyebrows. "Is everything all right? You okay in there?"

Angela approached the stall, wanting to see if the woman was all right. She knocked on the stall door and it swung open, slowly, menacingly.

"Sorry to interrupt, it's just--" but that's all she got out before she began to scream. She ran out of the bathroom and into the cold, night air and into her car, driving off down the empty highway to find a phone. One that wasn't close to the rest stop and it's ghoulish inhabitant.

Back in the bathroom stall, the woman sat on the toilet fully clothed. It would have been easy to assume that she was just sitting on the toilet to rest for a few minutes.

If she had a head.

Reese played with a cigarette, twirling it this way and that. It wasn't lit, he was trying to cut down of late. He was a tall, strong man with very light brown hair and eyes that always seemed to be looking for a target. He spun the cigarette a few times and snuck a peek over his shoulder.

The roadside diner was almost empty. From his vantage point at the counter he could see that other than himself, there were only three other people in the shabby, poorly-lit establishment: an overweight, thirtish man with a wild main of brown hair that was haphazardly stuck under a hat, a slightly younger man wearing a business suit, and a twenty-something woman with a dark, deep tan and extremely short, blonde hair. This was who Reese was observing.

She was voluptuous. Not fat, but she had meat on her. Reese thought it made her very attractive. She was sitting alone, drinking a soda. She had just finished a meal, steak, it looked like. A dirty plate was pushed to the opposite side of the table, making her look all the more alone.

I'll take care of her, Reese thought. She won't be alone anymore. She'll have me.

Reese tried to push the thought out of his head, but it wouldn't leave. It never did. He got up from the bar, threw a ten onto it and walked over to her table.

"Cigarette?" he asked, offering the woman his pack.

"Sure," the woman said, looking up. "Thank you."

She pulled one out of the pack, American Made Lights, and held it between her lips. Reese lit it for her. He looked into her dark green eyes as she puffed on the nicotine coffin nail. There were mysteries in her eyes. He was transfixed by this woman.

"Where 'ya headed?" he asked, sitting down across from her and finally lighting his own cigarette.

"Boulder," she said. She hadn't objected to the fact that he had invited himself to the table.

"Kinda far," he said.

The woman nodded and there was silence.

"You hitchin'?" Reese said, a shot in the dark.

The woman nodded again.

"I'm headed for Boulder," he continued, the plan coming together in his head. "You wanna' tag along?"

She took in a lungfull of smoke, blew it out and looked at him, the cigarette dangling like a conductor's baton between her fingers as dawn began to break outside. She nodded, smiling wide.

"I'm John," Reese said.

"Mary," she said.

They were both lying.




Washington, DC

Dana Scully hated Valentine's Day. It was all a vapid, pretentious concoction used to harness naive young people into spending money that they could use elsewhere, as far as she was concerned. She didn't buy it. She had just gotten out of the shower and was drying her hair when the telephone rang.

"Scully," she answered it.

"Happy Valentine's Day," Mulder nearly yelled at her. Dana held the phone away from her ear for a second.

"Same to you, Mulder," she said, returning the receiver to her ear.

Mulder had become increasingly strange since the two of them had kissed on New Year's Eve. He almost seemed to be courting her. Dana didn't put much stock in the kiss, it was just an impulsive move. A sign of affection between friends. She felt more like Mulder's sister than a romantic interest. Didn't he feel the same way?

"So what are your happy heart day plans?" Mulder asked.

"I have the day off."

"Dana Scully, taking the day off? Say it isn't so."

"It's so, Mulder. Contrary to certain rumors, I do, in fact, have a life."

"Of course you do, but it's Monday. You wouldn't be taking the day off just to get a three-day weekend, would you?"

Dana paused before answering.

"Yes, that's exactly what I'm doing." This wasn't strictly true.

"Naughty, naughty. Want me to swing by at lunch, bring you something to eat?"

"No, Mulder, of course not. Is that a joke?"

"Uh...yeah, it's a joke. You know me."

"Yes, I do. What's going on?"

"Actually, nothing. You picked the right day to take off. It's boring as hell around here."

"You're already there, Mulder?"

"Well, I...had some files to work on."

"You've been there all night, haven't you?"

"Yes. Is that wrong?"

"No, of course not. You're very committed to your work, Mulder."

"And I'm to assume that's a compliment?"

"It is, Mulder. Is something bothering you?"

"No. Nothing's bothering me."

Someone knocked on Dana's door.

"Why don't you call me if and when you decide to tell me what's wrong. I have to go."

"All right, bye," Mulder said, reluctantly hanging up.

Dana put the phone down and walked to the door. Who could it be so early in the morning? She opened the door and stood glued to the spot, speechless.

"Is it a bad time," Lara Means said.

"No. No, no, come in."

Dana moved aside and let Lara in. She hadn't changed much in six months.

Still strong, still wearing a crisp, dark suit, still gorgeous. Dana wanted to push her to the ground right there and have her way with her, but she was also angry with the woman. Lara handed Dana a stack of bills and advertisements.

"It's your mail," Lara said, mostly to the floor.

"I can see that," Dana said, depositing the stack of envelopes onto a table beside the door. "What brings you here? And why now?"

Lara brought her right hand from behind her back and in it she held a single red rose. It was wrapped in red paper and was covered in dew. She had obviously just bought it. Dana took the rose and looked at it.

"Valentine's Day, I figured now was as good a time as any," Lara managed.

"I'm not very good at this."

Dana's expression seemed to say, "I can see that," but she didn't say anything. There was an uncomfortable moment of silence between the two woman.

"Six months, Lara," Dana finally said.

"I know."

"Six months."

"The group I was with--"

"Millennium."

Lara looked up, surprised.

"Yes, I know who your 'group' is," Dana said. "They're an interesting organization. What's most interesting about them is that they were dissolved in October of last year. Which means that you should have been safe from them for months now. Why didn't you come earlier?"

"I...there were other members of the group, members not so content to just walk away."

"All right, I accept that. I met a few of them myself. But that still doesn't account for time."

"Dana, please don't push me. I..."

"You what? Huh, you what? Look, I'm a big girl. If you don't want to be with me, you can just tell me. You don't have to make up some story."

"I had an incident."

"An incident? Well, must have been some incident, then."

"It was. I had another nervous breakdown."

Instantly, Dana hated herself. She hated herself for being so hard on this woman. This woman who was strong and smart, but who was not unbreakable.

She was human. Dana hugged her.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Lara. I didn't know. Are you all right?"

"Yes, I'm fine now. It wasn't as severe as the first one."

"When did it happen?"

"New Year's, of course."

"We all had an exciting day on the Millennium, didn't we?"

Lara laughed and Dana squeezed her harder, not wanting to let go, never wanting to let go. Lara caressed the FBI agent's back and sides, causing the robe to ride up on Dana's skin. Dana's breathing became more rapid, betraying her passion. Lara brought her hands from Dana's back to her front, untying the robe and letting it fall open. Dana stepped back, exposing herself to her lover. Lara discarded her jacket, pulled her shirt out of her pants and walked towards Dana, pulling the robe off her shoulders. Dana's body was clean and pink, healthy and alive. Lara reveled in the spots of red on her lover's skin as she blushed with desire.

They kissed, the last six months forgotten as they became one again. Dana was in love with Lara's lips, so full and luscious. They were like pieces of gourmet candy, chocolate covered cherry, perhaps, and Dana melted into them, surrendering.

Lara had succeeded in stripping Dana, the FBI agent was naked, her alluring body pressed against the other woman, still clothed. Dana rectified that, unbuttoning Lara's shirt and pushing it off her body and grasping her breasts, held in a simple, white bra. Lara gasped, it had been so long since she had felt another's touch. Dana was all she was aware of now, her entire world, her universe. Like a black hole, the FBI agent had sucked her in and incorporated her into the celestial body that was Dana Scully.

Lara ran her hands through Dana's damp hair, loving the feel of it. This woman was her life, the only thing that pulled her through her second breakdown. The thought of this woman had saved her from destroying herself mentally. When she had visions of her angel, she hardly paid attention anymore. Dana was her angel. A beautiful, luminous angel in a dark suit that was always there for her.

They made their way, bodies locked together, to Dana's bedroom. Lara sat her lover down on the bed and got down on her knees, kissing Dana's navel and licking the muscles on her stomach. She lapped up the beads of sweat and droplets of water from Dana's shower. Lara made her way lower, lightly tugging at the tuft of red hair between her lover's legs. Dana's eyes closed in anticipation. And then Lara was inside, no longer actually aware of what she was doing. She nearly hurt Dana, she was so ravenous.

Dana's legs gradually parted and she began to lean back onto the bed. Lara continued her exploration as she unbuttoned and slipped off her pants. Lara was now on the bed as well; Dana on her back, head craned back, mouth open; Lara crouched over her on all fours, her head buried between her lover's thighs.

Lara's panties and bra were discarded, both women now naked. Lara stopped her exploration and kissed her way back up Dana's body, finally reaching Dana's red lips. They kissed and Lara scissored her legs between Dana's. Both woman began to grind their hips together, enjoying this rather masculine sex act. Their kiss broke, Dana starting to breathe into Lara's neck, Lara licking Dana's. They both climaxed, holding onto each other.

"I love you," Dana said into Lara's right ear. "I love y--"

Lara interrupted her with another kiss. It lasted a few moments before both women collapsed to the comforter, short of breath.

"I love Valentine's Day," Dana muttered.

"What was that?" Lara got out.

"Nothing," Dana said, turning and kissing Lara again.

"What is she doing in there?" Reese thought, sitting behind the wheel of his white, '69 Camaro, tapping his fingers on the dashboard. The Camaro was stolen, of course. Reese found it too nice to leave parked in a rest stop all alone.

That was where the two of them were now, actually. They had stopped at a rest area a little over five minutes ago. It was she who suggested it, Reese didn't need to relieve himself. So he waited in the car. Strange thing, though. When she was walking towards the restroom, Reese had looked up at her. She had passed into some shadows and for a moment, Reese thought she looked different. She looked as if she had long dark hair and her shape was different. Thinner. Then she was the same again. He stopped thinking about it. His mind must have been playing tricks on him.

He thought about her in bathroom.

He would follow her.

He promised himself that he would not follow her.

It wasn't the right time...yet.

Reese went for a cigarette, stopped himself and grabbed a piece of gum out of the glove compartment instead. He popped the gum and leaned back in his seat.

What did women do in the bathroom for so long?

The woman with short blond hair studied herself in the mirror. The guy in the car (John, was it? Yeah, right.) would do just fine. If he was who she thought he was, he would work out nicely. She smiled and checked her make-up as a bleak, harsh light appeared in the mirror. The kind of light that must emanate from a dying sun. At the center of the light was a figure. A figure with wings. The woman was transfixed by the image.

"I know," she said, eyes fixed on the figure. "I know. I'll get them. It's already in motion. They won't know what hit them."

The figure seemed not to notice. It was gone a moment later.

Darla Daley wiped a tear from her eye, checked her extremely altered body once more and left the restroom.




Phoenix, AZ

"What about the bills?" Gale said for the second time. She didn't get a response this time, either. "Audrey?"

"Huh?" Audrey Horne looked up into her secretary's eyes.

"The bills, Audrey. You have to go over them, see if everything is to your specifications before I send them off."

"I trust you, Gale, do whatever." Audrey waved her away.

"I swear," Gale said.

"What?"

Audrey was distracted these days. She was sitting behind her desk, thinking things over when Gale came in and started going over these damn bills. Now what was she on about?

"You don't pay attention to me anymore," Gale said.

Gale was a slim, athletic brunette, her hair hanging around her head as if it just decided to settle there. Audrey had been sleeping with her for a month now. That was only two months after she hired the girl. Audrey got up from behind the desk and hugged Gale.

"I'm sorry, honey, I'm distracted. I'll...why don't we go out for dinner tonight?"

"Okay," Gale said, wiping away tears. "I'll go send these off." She indicated the bills.

"Okay," Audrey said, giving Gale one last squeeze before she was gone.

What am I doing with Gale? she thought when the secretary was out of the office. Why am I even with women at all? Now, that wasn't fair. Even though her relationship with Donna was wrong, the fact that they were both women was not wrong. Donna had made Audrey realize that she was a lesbian, she couldn't deny that. And she couldn't blame her, either. Donna didn't turn her gay. She always was gay, she just didn't know it.

This was all true. But why was she with Gale? Was it because she was there? Because she was the next attractive woman that Audrey got to know well? Could be.

Audrey strode over to Gale's desk, doing nothing in particular, when she saw a book lying open on the heavy wooden piece of furniture. It was a small, lurid paperback. The cover art illustrated a woman with fire-red hair, gun drawn, crouching by a wall. The book was "Sacrament" by Pat Floures, Donna Hayward's pen name. Audrey snorted and picked up the book.

Should have known, she thought and read from the page where Gale had put the book down.

"Joanne swept the room quickly, gun searching for it's target," the book read. "It found nothing. The room was empty.

" 'Clear,' she called out over her shoulder.

"Hilda entered the room, gun hanging at her side. Joanne couldn't help but undress her partner with her eyes. She was so beautiful. Ever since the night they became lovers, Joanne had become more protective of Hilda, and this was just another example. What was she doing making her wait to enter a room? Hilda could take care of herself."

Audrey put the book down, shook her head and smiled weakly.

"Donna, Donna," she said. "Still got it."

Gale re-entered the office, throwing a stack of envelopes down on the desk.

"Mail already came," Gale said. "Couldn't send off the bills."

"What a shame," Audrey said, giving her secretary, her lover, a small kiss on the lips.

"What was that for," Gale asked, an odd look on her face.

"Paying more attention to you. It is Valentine's Day."

Gale shook her head and sat down behind her desk. Audrey idly picked up the first envelope and looked at it. It was marked to her. Not "Horne Detective Agency", like most of the letters read, but "Audrey Horne." Audrey scanned the envelope. There was no return address. She torn it open, pulling the single sheet of paper out. It read:

Dear private dick (without a dick),
Meet me and all your bitch friends at Donna and Gersten Hayward's residence in Boulder, Colorado as soon as possible. This is not exactly a threat, but I don't think you'll want to miss this.

Yours,
Darla Daley

Audrey couldn't breathe. It felt as if she were trying to breath through a straw and not succeeding.

"Audrey?" Gale asked. "Audrey, are you all right?"

The secretary got up and put a hand on her lover's shoulder.

"What is it?"

Audrey still couldn't breathe. She only stared at the terrifying piece of paper and thought.

She knows where Donna lives! she thought. How?

"Audrey?" Gale was saying. She finally took the letter from her lover's hands and read it for herself.

"What does this mean?" she asked when she was finished.

Audrey finally took a breath.

"It means," she said, her voice no louder than a whisper. "It means that me and some people that I care about are in a world of shit."

"Have you found God, John?"

The question came out of nowhere. Reese had been driving, trying not to pay attention to the woman sitting next to him, when out of the blue, this.

"What?" he asked.

"Are you a religious man?"

"Well, I..." he thought for a moment. His parents had beaten their religious beliefs into him ever since he had been born. He had been mad at God, sometimes. Wanted to kill Him sometimes. But not believe in Him? Never. "Yeah. I'm a religious man. A righteous man."

Darla smiled. She'd found her servant.

"I knew you were the one, Reese," she said.

The name floored him. He frantically pulled the car over to the shoulder and turned it off. His door was open and he was out in seconds flat. Darla followed him.

"How do you know my name?" he asked her as she got out of the car.

"He told me," Darla said, walking towards Reese. Every time she took a step forward, Reese would backup one.

"Who? Who fucking told you? God?"

"No, not God. He doesn't speak to us mere mortals."

"Then who told you?"

"A servant of God."

Reese bent over and pulled his six-inch, razor-sharp knife, thin and deadly, from it's sheath.

"You're fuckin nuts, Mary," he said, pointing the blade at her.

"No need for that, Reese," she indicated the knife. "I'm Darla Daley. And you are Eddie Reese. You're the one who's been mutilating those woman, those drifters along the highway."

Reese shook his head, tears welling up in his eyes.

"They were trash. I was doing them a favor. And now I suppose you're here to punish me, right?" He nodded, frantically. "I knew it was coming. I knew the Father would punish me."

He dropped to his knees, exhausted. Tears were now falling freely from his eyes. He brought the knife up his throat, ready to sever the artery. Darla grabbed his hand, stopping him from killing himself.

"No," she said. "No, Reese. God wants you to do as I say. That's why I was brought to you."

The knife dropped to the ground, forgotten. Reese stood up, wiping the tears from his eyes.

"God wants me to help you?"

"Yes."

"That's all?"

"That's all. Then your work will be over."

"That's all I want. I just want it to be over. I don't want to kill anymore."

"Oh, don't say that, Reese. Our mission is going to require many deaths."

"All right, all right. I'll do it. But after it's finished..."

"I'll end it. You won't be in pain anymore." She put a hand on his shoulder. "Now let's go, Reese. Boulder is still a ways off."

Reese picked up his knife. The two of them got into the car. Not a single vehicle had passed them by since they had stopped. The car started up, pulled onto the asphalt and they were gone.

Lara was almost asleep on Dana's wonderfully comfortable bed when she heard her lover's voice from the other room. Dana had gone to get something to drink.

"Goddamnit," Dana said.

Lara got up and walked swiftly into the living room, worried.

"What is it, Dana?" she asked.

Dana turned to her lover, holding a letter up in the air.

"We've got a problem," Dana said.




Boulder, CO

"Donna? Donna, are you there?"

Donna stormed out of the kitchen the moment she heard the voice.

"Gersten!? Where have you been?" she said, approaching Gersten, who had just walked into the house.

"I just went out to get some milk," Gersten said, holding up the carton for her older sister to see. "This house is deprived of milk. Did you realize that?"

"Gersten, I can do that kind of thing. You shouldn't be out."

"Donna, it's been six months. If anything else was going to happen, don't you think it would have already?"

"But...you...it's freezing out, you could get sick."

"Okay, Mom, not only did I take the car, but I also took my coat."

Gersten spread her arms, showing off her brown, wool coat.

"I...I'm just worried, that's all."

"I'll be okay, Donna, you don't have to dote over me. In fact, I should get my own place now."

"Just a couple more months, Gersten, that's all I ask."

Gersten sighed, putting the milk down and taking off her coat.

"What am I going to do with you?" she said, giving her older sister a hug.

Neither of them noticed a dark figure, dressed to the Nth degree in winter layers, watching their cabin from the woods with a pair of binoculars. The figure looked up from the binoculars and regarded the sky for a moment.

Lightening flashed, exploding somewhere close to the Hayward cabin. A dark, winter storm was nigh.

"Shit," Audrey muttered.

"What?" Gale asked.

"The lines are down. I don't believe it, the lines are down. They're in danger and the lines are down. God, I hate Boulder!"

Audrey slammed the receiver into its cradle with an audible ring.

"I still don't understand quite what's going on." Gale was sitting on her desk, trying to get the story out of Audrey.

"All right, all right. About six months ago I helped out an old friend...actually, she's my half-sister. Anyway, I helped her out. Her sister had been kidnapped."

"So, your sister had been kidnapped?"

"No, it was her sister. I'm not related to Gersten."

"Oh."

"Anyway, I helped her. We got her sister back, but the woman who masterminded it got away. It appears that she wants revenge."

"Revenge? For what?"

"We killed her sister."

"You killed her sister?"

"No, I didn't kill her sister. Someone else did. But I was involved."

"So, you saved your sister's sister and had a hand in killing the sister of the woman who kidnapped your sister's sister?"

"And we killed her brother."

"And her brother."

"Yep, that's about the size of it."

"Wow."

"Yeah, wow. Now, I have to go Boulder and see if they're okay."

"Boulder? That's where your sister and her sister live?"

"Yes. Can you watch over things when I'm gone?"

"I suppose." Gale was flustered. She didn't know what else to say. "How long?" she finally got out.

"I don't know. Couple days. A week."

"Okay."

Audrey looked at Gale for a moment. She seemed to be asking something without articulating it.

"Go, it's okay," Gale said.

Audrey smiled, gave Gale a kiss and went into her office to grab what she needed for the trip.

"We have to get moving," Dana said, emerging from her bathroom fully dressed. Lara was just finishing getting into her clothes.

"I know, I know," Lara said. "Should we get backup?"

"Well, Audrey is probably already on her way up. The note wanted us all there, so I assume that Audrey also got one. I'll keep calling periodically on our way."

Dana had discovered what Audrey already knew, the phone lines were down in that area of Boulder. A large storm had moved in during the last couple of hours. Dana wondered briefly if she should call Mulder. No, better not to involve him. Then, something occurred to her.

"Did you pick up your mail recently?" she asked.

"Yes, I checked the P.O. Box this morning."

"You didn't get a letter?"

"No."

"How did Darla know you'd be with me?"

"That's a good question."

"I thought it was. Here's a better one: how did she know you'd be with me on the exact day I recieved the letter? You just came back."

There was a knock at the door. Both women froze. Dana pulled her pistol, while Lara ducked out of sight. Dana approached the door and peeped through the keyhole. She dropped her guard and sighed, shooting a glance at Lara.

She opened the door.

"Happy Valentine's Day," Mulder said, holding up two bags from McDonald's.

"I figured that you wouldn't want to take the time to make food or anything, so I thought..."

He entered the apartment and saw Lara.

"Maybe I should have brought another meal. Detective Shepard?"

He looked quizzically at her.

"What are you doing here?" he asked.

"It's kind of a long story, Mulder," Dana said.

"Well," Mulder said to Lara, "I'm sure Scully would be willing to give up some of her fries. Do you wanna join us for this fabulous Micky-Dees feast?"

"No, thank you," Lara said.

"No, I insist. Rene, isn't it?"

"Actually, it's Lara," Dana said.

"Lara Shepard? That doesn't seem right."

"It's not," Lara said. "I'm Lara Means."

Lara offered her hand. Mulder set the food down and took it.

"Formerly of the Millennium Group," Lara said.

Mulder's eyes seemed to grow in his head.

"You've been keeping things from me, Scully," he said, looking at his partner.

Dana regarded the floor, a wry smile on her face.

"So, where we goin?" Mulder said, seeing they were dressed to leave.

The two women sighed. Mulder was going to be tagging along.

"Darla Daley," Reese said.

Darla looked at him, smiling.

"Darla Daley! I remember you. You're the one who escaped from that massacre at the mental hospital in Phoenix, right?"

Darla nodded.

"You were torturing some girl with your brother and your sister?"

Another nod. "Purifying," she said.

"Wow! I don't believe it." He looked at her. "You've changed. They had a picture of you and your sister in the paper. Gained some weight...I mean that in a good way!" He raised a hand, as if she was going to hit him. She didn't.

"I've been taking some hormone pills. I was very thin before. And, of course, my hair." She gestured to the new, short blond hairstyle.

That must have been why I saw her as a different person when she entered the restroom, he thought. I was remembering her old image. That was a perfectly good reason, except that it wasn't right. He knew this, but chose to ignore it.

"Wow. So, what's the plan?"

"I'll let you know what you need to know. Right now, all you need to know is that we're not alone in our quest."

She smiled at him. He looked at her, a queer look on his face.

"What d'ya mean?" he asked.

"You'll see. You'll most definitely see."

Burton threw the binoculars into the car and got behind the wheel. He didn't start up the vehicle, he just sat there, his hands on his head, thinking. Snow was falling outside and it was cold. He rubbed a hand through his black hair, sheared into a crew cut. It was a nervous tick, something he didn't even realize he did. His relief, Kurtz, had taken over just five minutes ago, and so he was in for a much deserved break. Burton looked down the road and observed the house. The Hayward's house was isolated from other homes by at least a few blocks. They obviously wanted privacy. He looked into the woods and saw Kurtz, dressed just as he had been, standing in an outcropping of trees. He was using his own pair of binoculars, holding them as a military general would, stiff and rigid.

Kurtz was dangerous, Burton knew that.

The whole damn thing was dangerous, actually. Why did he agree to this? He didn't know exactly. Archangel had first got his attention with a posting on a religious message board:

"Tired of the way things are? Do you wish things could be different? Do you want to wipe the heathen scum off the street? I am the sword that will cut the offending, diseased arm off. I am the doorway. Contact Archangel."

The message went on to give Archangel's email address. Burton was impressed with the confidence, so he got ahold of Archangel. That had led to a series of long, electric conversations with Archangel. After a few months, she (Burton was convinced that Archangel was a woman) had converted Burton to her way of thinking. He was given an assignment. He was to be a guard. A guard for the heathens in Boulder. Archangel had told him about the false profits, the liars. They were the first order of business.

So, swept up by Archangel's confidence and rhetoric, Burton had gone to Boulder. There, he met the others. Archangel had assembled a taskforce of like-minded individuals in one or two important centers across the nation.

That was when Burton began to get worried. It was fun to talk with Archangel online. He did agree with her points, but he wasn't as radical as her, he supposed. He didn't know if he belonged in this group of religious zealots.

Burton finally started the car and began to drive back to their center.

So, why did he stay? Why didn't he just get into his car and drive home? Well, there were two reasons for that. The first was Kurtz. Burton got the feeling that the man would kill for the cause. Most of them would. So, what would they do to someone who left the cause? It gave one pause.

The second was Annie.

He turned a corner and parked the car a discreet distance from the base. He would walk the rest of the way. The base was a run down, out-of-the-way, condemned hotel that they had commandeered. Snow was beginning to fall from the sky in clumps. Annie met Burton halfway to the hotel. A dazzling, alluring woman wearing a simple pair of pants and a sweater. Burton looked past her to the entryway to the hotel. He didn't like it. Something about the shadows.

"How did it go?" Annie asked.

"Fine," he whispered. "You need a jacket, it's freezing."

"We're just going to be outside for a few minutes."

Burton nodded.

"Hey," she said, taking him into her arms. "What's the problem?"

Burton looked around before answering.

"I don't know if I can go on with this."

"With what?"

"With...with all this." He gestured wildly.

"It's all a little heavy, isn't it?"

He looked into her eyes. She had the most beautiful, haunting deep green eyes. His eyes drifted to the small, half-circle scar just above her left eyebrow. It occurred to him that he never asked her how she had got that, but he wouldn't ask her. He pushed a long strand of dark blonde hair off her face and kissed her.

"You're not like them, are you?" he asked after the kiss. "You're like me. You can't believe what you've gotten yourself into?"

She nodded, frowning.

"I'm afraid of some of them," she whispered.

"Kurtz."

She nodded again.

"Archangel," she said.

"When is she coming?"

"Soon. She contacted Kurtz. He said that she needed to pick up a 'special' recruit on her way here."

"So, we're sure she's a woman?"

"I think so."

"So do I. I'm scared of her, too."

"Can we get away?"

They had stopped where they met, not approaching the hotel. A car turned the corner and started down the road they were on. They stopped talking and moved out of its way.

"I think Kurtz and the others would kill us," Burton said.

Annie nodded once again.

"Do you think they're going to kill those two women? The ones we've been watching?"

"Yeah, I think they are. They are 'the enemy'. We can't let any harm come to them. Christ, this is not righteous. How did I get swept up in this."

"Maybe we could get away. We could take your car, maybe mine, and--"

"Even if we got away from Kurtz and the others, what if Archangel's got soldiers across the country. We wouldn't know who to trust."

"So, we just stay here and let them kill these two women?"

"No. We'll find a way. We'll stop them."

They embraced, readied themselves, and started towards the hotel. Burton stole a glance at the sky as they did so. The storm was beginning to rage.

Audrey boarded her plane, unaware of anyone around her. She had given Gale a hasty goodbye and drove like a madman to Sky Harbor.

She had called Donna's a few times on the way. No luck, the lines were still down. She assumed that the lines went down often during the winter in Boulder. Of course, she had forgotten that it was winter, since this season had hardly seemed like winter in the Valley of the Sun.

Now, sure they were in trouble, she boarded her plane, meaning to save her sister and Gersten. She didn't notice the onlooker. The person watched her leave and then went to the phones to call the base.

"Here's my thing:," Lara said to Dana, although Mulder was also listening,

"we should take the next flight. We can't do anything from here."

Dana opened her mouth to speak.

"Great idea," Mulder piped up before she could say anything. He went and stood next to Lara. "So, Lara, you're a member of Millennium?"

"Used to be. And you can call me Means."

"Woah, sensitive area there, I guess."

"Yeah, sensitive," Lara said, looking at Dana. Dana raised her eyebrows, as if to say, "Don't look at me."

"Well, it's a great idea," Mulder was saying. "Shall we go?"

They did.

Darla was thinking. She was looking at Reese and pondering something.

"Where are the heads?" she asked.

"What?"

"The heads. All the bodies that are attributed to you are missing their heads."

"You've been following my case," Reese smiled.

"Yes, I have. So, where are they?"

Reese's smile turned into a grin. He looked into the backseat. Darla followed his gaze. On the floor of the backseat were two red ice chests.

"I have another two in the trunk. I can fit two into each chest."

"Filled with ice?"

"Yep."

"You're a sinner," Darla said, her face split in two with her grin. "You're baaaddd." She looked away from him and returned to looking out the window.

It was much colder now as they approached Boulder.

Reese was getting more scared of the woman every minute.

Caleb put his cigarette out, seeing the FBI agent and the other woman.

There was a man with them who also appeared to be an agent. He had been told just to watch them, make sure they matched the description he was given, and then report in.

But that wasn't his style. He didn't come all this way just to be a watchdog.

If they're such a problem, he reasoned, I might as well take them out here.

I'm willing to die for the cause. At least I'll see some action.

He approached the three of them, who were making their way from the parking lot to the terminal.

"Here, here," he said, his voice betraying his heavy British accent. "Give us a donation to the Church of Millennial Consciousness, luv."

Lara Means stopped and turned to look at him. Dana and Mulder also stopped.

"The Millennium's over," Lara said.

"The Church of Millennial Consciousness believes that catastrophic events will be unleashed upon the world on New Year's Eve of this year."

He held his hand out to accept a donation if one was forthcoming.

"I can't believe you people," Lara said. "We all get bent out of shape about the Millennium, even though the mathematicians are telling us that 2000 is not the actual Millennium. Then, when nothing happens, you all start believing the mathematicians. What is it, do you want the world to end?"

"Now, luv, the Church of Millennial Consciousness has always known that New Year's of this year will bring about chaos. We were never involved in any of that bollocks last New Year's. So, what'd ya say?"

"Go find another sucker," Lara said and began walking.

"But you're my girl, luv," Caleb said. "And Archangel doesn't want you interfering with 'er plans."

Lara was grabbed from behind and yanked backwards. A knife appeared in her field of vision, but she was quick enough to block Caleb's arm with her right hand. Dana and Mulder whirled around, pulling their sidearms. Lara brought her left elbow backwards, slamming it into the Englishman.

"Hughh," he said and dropped the knife.

Lara spun around and kicked him in the chest, sending him into the pavement to smack his head. Dana was at Lara's side, making sure her lover was all right. Mulder had the cuffs on Caleb before he could get up.

"Bloody 'ell," was all the Englishman said.

"I miss you," Gale said.

"I miss you, too," Audrey said, not really paying attention.

She had just gotten off the plane and was off to get a rental. She figured it would be a good time to call Gale, see if anything had transpired. And now Gale wouldn't hang up.

"How long are you going to be gone?" Gale asked.

"Uhh, I...I don't know, a while."

"What do I tell our customers?"

"Fuck our customers!"

There was silence.

"I'm sorry, Gale, I didn't mean to yell," Audrey said after a moment.

"This is obviously very important to you."

"It is."

"More important than me."

"No, no. That's not true."

But it was true. That was the devil of it, it was true. She was more concerned whether her sister was safe than if Gale felt comfortable with the situation.

"I'll call again, soon," Audrey said, hanging up before Gale could get another word in. It took her under ten minutes to get a car.

There were five of them. They were sitting and standing around the control center, the condemned hotel, just relaxing and passing the time waiting for more instructions. Burton and Annie were among the five, separated from the group, off in their own corner, ignoring the rest of them. The two lovers were about to ditch the others and head up to one of the rooms when a small woman with a good tan and short, blond hair walked in the front entrance.

The cold came in with her, swirling and encircling the stale air in the building. The other three men had their guns up in no time at all. The woman smiled and gestured the men to put them down. There were some smirks, but after a moment, they did. Somehow, they knew that this woman was Archangel. Burton looked on, admiration, anxiety and horror overcoming him.

"My children," Darla Daley said, small patches of snow on her shoulders and head.

"Archangel," one of the men, Hadley, said.

"Yes. I have arrived."

"You're early," Burton blurted out.

All eyes turned on him. It was as if he had blasphemed in church. Perhaps that was just the case.

"We made good time," Darla said, looking on Burton with a large, winning smile. "Is there something wrong, Burton?"

Burton had to stifle a scream. She knew him! Where did she get off knowing who he was? She had never seen him before. The others also looked shocked.

"How...how did you know who I was?" Burton asked.

"I know who all of you are."

She walked the room, passing each person. And as she did so, she said their names, "Hadley. Vernon. Nails. Burton. And Annie Wilson."

She had stopped in front of Burton and Annie, staring at them as if trying to read some valuable information in their eyes. Burton looked away.

"Where's Kurtz?" she asked. And when Burton didn't answer, Annie responded.

"He's on point, guarding the heathens," she said.

"Oh, he hides well."

"What?"

"Well, we drove by there."

"Who's we?" Burton asked.

"My special recruit and I, we drove by there. He dropped me off here and went back to check it out for himself."

"He's not--" Burton began.

"No, he's not going to get rid of them yet. I've trained him too well. He's just going to mark them."

"Mark them?" Burton didn't like Archangel. He had a feeling that she just wasn't right. He looked at her, faking a smile. The snow on her shoulders and head had not melted, even though it was fairly warm in the building.

Burton also noticed that her expression had not changed since she had arrived.

"She contacted you online," Mulder said.

"Yeah," Caleb said after a moment. "Yeah she did."

They were sitting in a private room in the airport, around a table. Mulder was sitting down at the table, facing Caleb, while Dana and Lara stood, arms folded, exchanging glances from time to time, waiting for the chance to jump in and hammer on the Englishman. It didn't take long for the three of them to get as much information out of Caleb as they could.

"What was her handle?" Lara broke in.

"Handle?" Caleb asked.

"Her online name."

"Archangel, but I know 'oo she really is."

"Who is she?" Dana asked, knowing the answer. "And how did you find out?"

"She's Darla Daley." A big smile was plastered on Caleb's face.

"And how did you know it was Darla Daley?" Lara asked, enunciating each word, her large, imposing shadow falling over the short Brit.

"Well, I'm really into the porn, right?" A smirk.

"Go figure," Lara said.

"Yeah. So, like, I really got into the Daley sisters story, right? And in one of their films, Darla, I think it was, said something strange. When she was common off, you know, she started whispering, almost chanting."

"What was she saying?" Lara asked.

"She was saying things like 'I am the first and the last, I am the Alpha and the Omega,' stuff like that."

"So?" Mulder asked, trying to reinsert himself into the interrogation.

"Well, Archangel used that same phrase. She was a real talker, she was."

His smarmy grin dominated his face.

"How do you know that Archangel didn't just see the same movie that you did?" Dana asked.

"I don't know. It's a feeling, almost a vision. I have visions, sometimes, you know?"

"Don't we all?" Lara said morosely, turning and leaving the room. Dana followed.

"We have to get moving," Lara said, letting Dana catch up to her. "If what this guy says is true, that crazy bitch has soldiers all over the country.

For all we know, she's already killed the Haywards and is just leading us into a trap. Fucking fanatics!"

Lara punched the wall, eliciting looks from weary travelers going to or coming from their planes.

"Hey," Dana said, "hey, calm down. Sit down, over here." Dana led the woman to a bench sitting along a wall in the huge terminal. "We'll get her. Don't worry."

"We can't kill her," Lara said under her breath.

"What?" Dana said, kneeling down to look into her lover's eyes.

"I...I have a feeling, a sense, something, I don't know. We can't kill her."

"We'll arrest her, or put her in the hospital or kill her, I have no doubt about that."

"I'm not sure. I think she's here to destroy us."

"Us. Who do you mean? Catholics? Normal people?"

"No, us. You and me. She's here to destroy our relationship."

Dana touched Lara's cheek, sending her messages of love and comfort with her palm.

"That will never happen," the FBI agent said.

Lara smiled.

"Hope I'm not interrupting anything," Mulder said, startling both women.

"No, nothing," Dana said, standing up. Lara also stood.

Mulder was holding a piece of paper, which he seemed to be taking great interest in.

"What's up?" Lara asked.

"Got that fax from the OSC in London," Mulder said. "Caleb Carr has multiple arrests for destruction of property, vandalism and assault. He's been a member of several right-wing, extremist religious groups and been a suspect in two murders. He's a loser. I think we've got everything we need out of him."

"All right," Dana said. "Local police can take care of him now. We have get down to Boulder."

"Yeah," Mulder said absently, tapping the fax into one palm.

Kurtz hated waiting.

He considered himself a man of action, someone who was sent in to do the dirty work, the wet work, the clean-up. He was the Ice Man. All this waiting was getting on his nerves. The Haywards hadn't gone anywhere or done anything noticeable since he had gone on point. Now, the sun was beginning to set. How much longer were they going to just watch the heathens? When were they going to strike? He never heard the man come up behind him. He was taken completely off guard when a hand closed around his mouth. He tried to twist around and contain whoever had him, but the man was too strong.

"Shhhhhh," the man whispered. "I'm a friend."

Kurtz stopped resisting.

"Don't scream, now," the man said and slowly removed his hand from Kurtz's mouth.

Kurtz swirled around and looked at the man who had subdued him. He was tall, with light brown hair and piercing eyes. Kurtz had intended to chew him out, possibly kill him, but now he only stared, interested in who he was and why he was here.

"Who the hell are you?" Kurtz asked.

"I'm Reese, the newest member of the team," the man said.

"You're Archangel's special recruit?"

"Archangel?"

"Archangel. The reason we're all here."

"Oh, you mean Darla. Yes, she recruited me."

"Her name is Darla?"

The name didn't seem to gel with the image of Archangel his mind had conjured up.

"Darla Daley," Reese said. "She's a legend."

"A legend?"

"Yeah," Reese was uninterested in this avenue of conversation. "You hide well, little man, but you're no guard."

"What?" Kurtz was beginning to hate this guy.

"Well, you didn't see me."

"Fluke. You snuck up on me."

"You never saw me at the house."

"The house?"

"I checked the whole outside. Wish I could get in there, check it out from the inside."

"You checked the perimeter? You checked out the house?"

"Yep. They're real beauties, aren't they?"

"I haven't really got a look at them."

"Oh, you're missing out. The older one's got long brown hair and these wonderful eyebrows, it's haunting. And the younger one, ohh, my God, the younger one. She's got luminous red hair, gorgeous red hair. I can't wait to do them in."

Kurtz was starting to back away from the madman. This madman was the real deal. Kurtz had never really thought their group would go through with it.

He thought they would end up just scaring the Haywards, and that would be it. But this man was real. He was constructed from Shadows and Nightmares, from The Pit and The Darkness. He was a Skinwalker, a boogyman, a dark dream villain brought to tenebrous life.

Reese laughed.

"Don't be afraid of me, man," he said. "I won't do anything unless Darla tells me to. I'm going to the hotel. Just keep your eye out and do a better job."

The madman patted Kurtz on the back and walked back into the woods, disappearing into the snow and sleet that was beginning to really flow down from the sky. Kurtz breathed a sigh of relief and went back to his job, wondering what the future held for him...and all the others who crossed paths with that shadowy figure.

"The phones are down," Gersten said, emerging from her room and entering the kitchen.

"Oh, no," Donna said. "If there's an emergency, I'll have to use the CB.

God, sometimes I hate the weather here."

"Ah, it's not that bad, at least it's not hot."

Gersten grabbed a box of Ritz crackers out of the pantry, sat down at the table and began eating them.

"Want some?" she asked, offering the box to her sister.

"No, thanks," Donna was looking out the window. It was getting dark out.

"That car has passed three times."

"What?"

"This car, a white car, older model. I just saw it pass again."

"Probably lives around here."

"No, I've never seen that car before."

Donna sat at the table across from Gersten.

"So someone around here bought a new car!"

"I told you, it was an older model."

"So the guy's a collector! Don't worry about it."

Gersten's smirk was friendly, but genuine. She was annoyed. Donna got up and went to a cupboard, getting a bottle of pills. She shook out two and swallowed them dry.

"Donna!" Gersten yelled. "You promised to stop taking those! You don't need them."

"Just for tonight. I don't like the looks of that car, I'm gonna stay up."

"You need sleep. This is not Phoenix, you don't need to watch out for me all the time. You don't have to mother me like--"

"Yes I do!" Donna interrupted, hitting the kitchen counter. "Gersten, you were kidnapped. I had to save you! Now, I'm responsible for you. I have to take care of you."

"No, you don't, I'm an adult."

"Why do you think Mom and Dad were apprehensive about taking you in? Huh?"

"They were just not used to having someone living in their house. They'd been by themselves for a few years."

"No, they were afraid! They didn't want the responsibility of taking care of you. They didn't want to watch you. They're too old and have too many of their own problems to deal with yours!"

"No, they--"

"Yes, Gersten, yes. They gave the responsibility to me," Donna tapped her chest. "To me! I can take care of you."

"I'm an adult. I survived the kidnapping. There's nothing to be afraid of--"

"She survived!" Donna screamed. "That crazy bitch is still alive, Gersten.

And she'll be back. She'll come to get us. I don't know when. But she will.

And I don't care if I become addicted to these Goddamn things if it means that you're safe." Donna threw the bottle of NoDoze pills onto the floor, taking deep breaths to calm herself down. "It's a small price to pay."

There was a long, unhealthy silence. Gersten looked at Donna, Donna looked at the floor. The younger sister finally got up from the table and walked back to her room.

"Gersten, wait," Donna called after her, but she was too late. Gersten's door had slammed shut and her piano was audible. A harsh, angry piece of music. Wagner, perhaps? Donna didn't know and began to sob silently. She sat down at the table and ate a few Ritz crackers.

Lara seemed incapable of sitting still. If she wasn't asking the flight attendant for another drink, she was flipping through magazines that she had skimmed more than once before. Dana hated to see her like this, so nervous and seemingly out-of-control. Mulder, of course, was already sleeping soundlessly, as he always did. They were on their way to Boulder.

Dana put her hand on Lara's, looking at her.

"What's wrong?" she asked.

There was a long moment before Lara answered.

"I'm scared again," she said finally.

"What do you mean?"

"When I first started seeing my angel, he scared me. For a long time, that's how it was. His presence should have been comforting, but I was always scared. But, after I recovered from my last breakdown, I started seeing him less. And when I did see him, he didn't scare me anymore. No, it was before then. Now that I think about it, when I met you, that was the beginning. He wasn't frightening anymore. But, Dana..."

"It's okay," Dana said, caressing a strand of Lara's hair.

"I saw him again when we boarded the plane."

"You did?"

"Yes. I'm afraid of him. He's trying to tell me something. He's trying to warn me...he's trying to warn us. And I'm scared."

Dana leaned into the strong, beautiful woman, taking in her scent. Her scent was a mixture of sweat and Dana's shampoo, which she had used this morning. Dana kissed Lara's neck, trying to calm and soothe her lover.

"Not here, Dana," Lara said, smiling.

"Okay," Dana said, still kissing that luscious neck. "Get up and go into the restroom, leave it unlocked. I'll follow you a minute later."

"What?"

"You heard me."

"But, those things are so small, they--"

"You need this. I need this. We need this."

Dana had stopped kissing Lara and was now looking into her eyes. Lara looked back for a few moments, then got up and headed towards the rear of the plane. Dana cupped Lara's right buttock as the brunette got up. Lara shot her a mock look of outrage then continued on her way. Dana sighed to herself as she watched her lover's round, luscious ass as she walked down the aisle.

She waited almost a full minute, got up and found the bathroom. She pushed it open and froze, her insides melting as she gazed upon her lover. Lara's arms were spread, her hands resting on either side of the mirror against one wall. She was posed, as if for a photo shoot, her behind stuck out, the lovely curve accentuated. She was still fully clothed, but that hardly mattered. Dana entered, rubbing up against the other woman's body, closing and locking the door behind her. The bathroom was so small, it was impossible for them not to touch, so they were all over each other, kissing and caressing, loving. Dana unbuttoned Lara's pants and slid one hand inside, under her lover's panties to the soft, downy hair between her legs and inside her. Lara leaned against Dana, her head buried into the FBI agent's shoulder, whispering slurred accolade's of love in her ear. Dana pushed her fingers in and out, wanting Lara to return the favor, but not pushing the issue. Lara was d! istressed, nervous, this act was about her, not Dana. But...it would be nice.

As if reading the FBI agent's mind, Lara undid Dana's pants and slipped her hands inside them. She didn't enter by way of the front, however, but from behind, cupping Dana's ass and tracing her fingertips down the cleft and finding her lips, entering, loving. Dana gently bit Lara's ear, flicking it with her tongue. Lara was bringing her lover close to orgasm even though she had just entered her. Dana was confused. Wasn't this about Lara's comfort? Wasn't it? If so, why was she already so close? Lara pulled one hand out of Dana's pants and brought it to the FBI agent's mouth, replacing her ear. Dana sucked eagerly on her lover's fingers, greedily lapping up her own taste.

Watching this wonderful, gorgeous act, Lara began to climax, gritting her teeth so as not to scream out in pleasure. One of Dana's hands was busy in her lover's crotch, the other fondling her left breast through her white dress shirt. She pinched Lara's nipple as she came, making small, crying noises, clenched teeth or not. Watching Lara orgasm, her mouth full of her fingers, Dana also climaxed, having to remind herself not to bite down on her lover's fingers.

They collapsed against into one of the corners of the stall, kissing and breathing heavily. They cleaned themselves up, looking into the mirror.

Lara ran her fingers through her luscious light brown hair while Dana pushed a strand of her luminous red hair out of her eyes. They kissed once more, then left the stall, each looking and feeling much more relaxed and satisfied than before. Neither of them noticed Mulder watching them as they returned.

The doors burst open, snow and cold, freezing air blowing in. Darla, Burton, Annie and all the rest of the recruits turned to see who it was. A grinning madman entered, carrying a bundle of long sticks under his arms.

He stopped dead center of the lobby, eyeing all the faces present.

"So," he said, "this must be the rest of the crew. Already met one of ya', down at the cabin."

Reese threw the sticks onto the ground. There were ten of them, each very tall, each end carved into a fine, sharp point.

"Reese!" Darla said, running to him and throwing her arms around him.

The madman jumped back slightly, not expecting the move. He's afraid of her, Burton thought, terrified, but not surprised. This madman is afraid of this small, blonde woman.

Reese reluctantly encircled his arms around the woman. For a moment, he considered taking her head in his hands and snapping her neck, severing her spinal cord and her strange pull over him. He decided against it. What distressed him was this: What if she didn't die? What would she do to him then? He kept on hugging her, putting on his smile once more.

They broke the embrace, smiling at their audience.

"What are those for?" Burton asked, finally breaking the silence.

"Hmm?" Reese asked.

Burton indicated the long wooden stakes.

"Oh," Reese said. "Those...are a surprise."

"For the Haywards?" Burton asked. "Or for us?"

"Wouldn't you like to know," Reese's smile was a corpse's grin.

Burton looked at the two of them. Their smiles were similar, both seeming to regard him from the Abyss, from the Pit. They made a good couple, he thought.

"Uh," Burton said, "do we have any information on the FBI agent?"

"I haven't heard from Caleb," Darla said. "Which probably means they nailed him. He was a little flaky, if you ask me."

"What about the private detective?" one of the others, Nails, asked.

"Oh, I know exactly where she is. I made some calls, via pay phone, on the way here. We'll have her."

Mulder had been looking at them funny ever since they got off the plane and insisted on driving, thereby splitting up Dana and Lara, since it would be inpolite for both of them to sit in the backseat. So, Dana sat in the passenger seat, eyeing Mulder, trying to read him. They were on their way to the police station, since the phone lines were down. The storm was raging full on by this time and visibility was getting steadily worse.

"So," Mulder said, not exactly looking at either of them, "what were you two doing on the plane?"

"What do you mean?" Dana said after a moment.

"You were acting rather friendly."

"Well, we are friends, Mulder," Lara said, acid in her voice.

"Sure, sure, I can tell. Nothing else going on?"

"Well--" Dana began.

"That's none of your business," Lara broke in.

Mulder turned his head and looked into the backseat at her.

"Okay," he said, turning his attention to Dana. "If that's how it's gonna be."

His eyes returned to the road.

Dana looked at Lara, communicating without words. She seemed to be saying,

"Be gentle, he is my partner."

Lara shrugged and looked out the window.

Audrey had to ask a lot of people around Boulder before she was able to obtain Donna's address. Driving down the snow-covered roads in the middle of this storm was like trying to walk through thick gauze and by this time, it was dark. She nearly crashed three times. And after looking around for a while, she thought she'd finally found the house.

"I think I see the street," Audrey said into her phone.

"You found it?" Gale asked, on the other end.

"Yes, I'm going to have to call you back, Gale."

"But--"

But Audrey had already hung up the phone and turned down the street. She had driven almost two blocks when she saw the house in the distance, perhaps another block away. She didn't know why she thought it was the house, she just knew. Returning her eyes to the road, she jammed on the brakes. A car stretched across both lanes. Where the hell did it come from? Audrey's vehicle came to a halt almost on top of the other car, a white '69 Camaro in good condition. The private detective opened her door and got out of the car, furious.

"What the fuck are you doing?!" she demanded, approaching the Camaro. She could see through the windshield now. It was empty.

"The hell?" she muttered, spinning around just in time to catch a fist in her left eye. She dropped to the ground, a pained scream emitting from her lips, her eyelid swelling shut, her hand grasping for her pistol. She grabbed it, raising her arm. Her hand filled with pain as the gun was kicked from her hand. She managed to look up. A tall, strong man with light brown hair stared down at her. His piercing eyes marked her, seemed to brand her. She opened her mouth to speak to him, demand to know what was going on, but before she could begin, the tall man with the eyes delivered a swift, deadly kick to her face, knocking her unconscious.

Donna opened her door and looked into the night. She thought she had heard a scream. She saw nothing. Well, not exactly. A strange object was left at the door. It was a small stick lodged up into the air from one of the cracks in the concrete. Impaled on the stick was a snowball, marked with two small black stones to signify eyes. Donna looked around once more, again saw nothing and kicked the small object, destroying it. She slammed the door, locking it in a panic. What did it mean? Was there someone stalking the two of them? One thing was for sure: she wasn't letting anyone in tonight. She double-checked all the doors and windows in the house, thinking about the CB she kept in the basement next to her computer.

Mulder almost got the three of them killed when rolling around a bend in the road, the snow coming down in sheets, the wind deafening, even inside the car. There was a loud cracking noise and suddenly a tree was blocking there way. "Shit," Mulder said, still holding onto his calm and cool exterior, and spun the wheel, letting his foot off the gas. Lara bolted up in the backseat, where she had been sleeping. She was thrown against the right windshield, her shoulder whimpering in pain where the gunshot wound had never fully healed. The car finally came to a halt and Mulder said,

"Goddamnit."

Dana took a long look at the fallen tree that was blocking there way.

"There's no way we can get around that," she said.

"We're wasting time," Lara said.

"What do you propose we do?" Mulder asked. "We have to get to the police station. We'll turn around and get off at that off ramp just back there."

"Sounds like a plan, but here's my thing: We've wasted enough time already.

Let's get off that ramp and go straight to the Hayward house. No way of telling if anything's happened to them."

"If we don't get the authorities," Mulder said, "we won't stand a chance.

Not if what Carr said was true."

"Yeah," Lara countered, "and if we don't get to them now, they won't stand a chance. I can feel it."

Mulder looked away, frustrated.

"She's right," Dana said.

"What?" Mulder said, shocked.

"We have to get to Donna and Gersten," Dana said, calmly.

They started off. It was now full dark.

"Wake."

The voice was demanding, but still soft.

"Wake up!"

No longer soft, all disquieting pity had left the voice. It was now cold and angry. Audrey stirred, eyes trying to open. She had an idea that her eyes were having trouble responding because they were seriously bruised.

Pain surged through her head, through her whole body. She wanted to cry out, but she wouldn't give her captor the satisfaction. She managed to get her eyes half open despite the mind-numbing pain.

Who she saw standing over her, the owner of the cold, angry voice, was Gale.

Audrey flinched. She was actually sinking deeper into the uncomfortable, wood chair that she was tied to.

"How...?" Audrey asked through a mouth that, to her mind, seemed to be stuffed with cotton balls.

"You should have looked over the phone bill more carefully," Gale said, producing a cell phone. "Then you would have seen that all incoming calls to the office are routed through my cellular."

Gale smiled.

"Good thing you kept in contact with me, huh?" she said.

"You know," Gale continued, "for a private detective, you're pretty stupid.

You didn't even check to see if you were being follow from the office. I watched you get on the plane, Audrey! More stupidity. Didn't you think it was, oh, I don't know...odd that I just happen to show up looking for a job and, 'Say!', I look a little a like Donna Hayward! Long, dark hair, pale, thin as a rail, you know the type. Archangel knew that you couldn't resist me."

"Archangel?" Audrey asked, confused.

"Darla Daley," Gale said. "Stupidity showing again. Before you go rushing off to save your sister--Oh, excuse me--half sister, you have to stop and check the facts. If you had, maybe you would have discovered that an online community with ideas and causes a lot like Darla Daley's was massing together. Planning something. Real detectives check on those kinds of things. I bet the two FBI agents and that mysterious woman are already aware of this. You know why?"

Audrey just stared at Gale.

"Because they're REAL detectives," Gale said. She paced back and forth in front of Audrey.

"God!" she continued. "I mean, didn't you think it was a little strange that the letter from Darla didn't even have a post mark? That's because I put it there. You probably didn't even notice. I left hints for you the entire time I worked for you and you were too stupid to even notice them."

"Why?" Audrey managed.

"Why am I doing this?" Gale asked. "Is that what you're asking? It's simple. I want to be part of the action. My whole life has been one boring phase after another. I'm an 'extra' in the movie of life. All right, maybe I had a few lines, maybe I was the hero's useless girlfriend who nags after him, or her, the whole movie. But that wasn't good enough. I wanted a starring role. Even if it meant being a villain. And why not? Huh? Why not? Villains are always more fun, anyway, right? Darla offered me that role."

Darla Daley stepped out of the shadows. Audrey was taken aback. Darla had more weight on her and her hair was blond and short.

"Gale fit the role well," Darla continued. "She's the surprise. Every story needs a surprise. What do you think about her?"

Audrey's head rolled over to look at them. Blood trickled from her nose, her eyes almost completely shut from bruises.

"Amateur," she finally said.

Gale countered with a right hook that put the private detective out again.

"So, now what?" Gale asked.

"I have plans for her," Darla said. "Don't worry about that. Meanwhile, it's time to move."

Donna finally decided to use the CB. She had a feeling. Now was one of the times to use the hated machine, it seemed. The phones were out and she was still stewing over the little ball of snow stuck on that piece of wood outside the door. She sat down at the little table that held the machine, glancing briefly at the computer which stood on a desk right next to the CB. She hadn't been able to write in quite some time, not since

"Sacrament". She shrugged it off and turned on the CB.

"Station 54," she said into the radio, "station 54, this is Donna Hayward, come back."

Static for a moment before a voice spoke from somewhere far.

"This is station 54, Donna, over," the voice said.

"Carl?" Donna asked.

"Yeah, that's what they tell me. You in trouble out there, Donna? Over."

"Well..." Donna didn't know where to begin. Or continue for that matter.

"I...think we might be in danger, Carl, over."

"Danger? What kind of danger, Donna? Over."

"Uuuh. I think we were given a warning tonight. Over."

"Warning? Over."

"A message or something. You see, someone left a...strange object on our doorstep. Over."

"Object? What was it? Over."

"It was a...a kind of snowball. It was impaled on a stick...over."

"And you think this was a threat? Over."

"Yes. Over."

There was a long sigh on the other end of the radio.

"Donna," Carl said, "do know how many times you've called us thinking you and your sister were in trouble? Over."

"No. Over."

"Nineteen times. I've kept track. Are you sure you're in danger this time? Over."

"The phones aren't working, Carl. If anything happens, this radio is the only way I can get any help! And I don't like to be patronized when I'm just looking out for my sister. Over!"

"And yourself. Looking out for yourself. Right? Over."

"Yeah...myself. Over."

Another long sigh from Carl.

"All right," he said. "I'll send a patrol car out there. But you gotten understand that it's pretty heavy out there. The storm's raging. It may take the car a while to get out there. Over."

"Understood, just send somebody. Over."

"Will do. Over and out."

"Over and out."

Donna leaned back in her chair. The desk with the radio was down in the basement, which was small and dark. Donna only descended these stairs when she needed to use the hated communication device.

She shook two more NoDoze pills out of the obscene little medicine bottle and dry-swallowed them.

"You didn't bother them again, did you?" Gersten asked from the stairs.

Donna jumped, surprised and caught.

"Jesus! You scared the shit outta me."

"Well, did you call them? No, don't answer. I know you did. God, why can't we have a normal life, Donna?"

Donna was furious and concerned with her sister at the same time. She turned her head, resisting the urge to scream at the girl, to tell her that she, her sister, was doing all this for her own good, so shut up. It was a powerful urge, but Donna managed.

"Something's happening tonight, Gersten, but don't worry," she said. "I'm taking care of it."

"Oh, I'm sorry," Gersten said, bitterly sarcastic. "I'll just go back to bed because big, strong Donna is 'taking care of it.' How stupid of me. And how typical, right? Typical of my nave, childish ass. Right? Say! You have any downers to go with those fucking little pink pills? I might need some.

You know, just to help sleep come easier? Fuck you, Donna. Fuck. You. Do you think this is 'helping' me? Do you really fucking think this is fucking helping me?"

Tears by this point. Then she was gone, up the stairs, heading to her room once again.

"Well," Donna said to herself, "really fucked that one up, didn't I?"

"We have to do something," Annie whispered to Burton.

"What can we do?" Burton whispered back.

"We have to help her."

Darla and Reese had just come back from dealing with Audrey, the new arrival, Gale, close behind them, occasionally chuckling to herself.

"It's barbaric," Annie said. "What they did to her. Where they...put her."

"I know," Burton said. "I know."

"Time to move!" Darla shouted to her minions. "Get everything together, people!"

People began to move in every direction, grabbing their knives and weapons.

"Hey," one of the men, Nails, yelled at Burton and Annie. "Go out back and get your car. We'll need it."

The two of them got moving.

"All right," Annie said. "Now's the perfect time. I'll go get my car, you get her...out." Annie could barely manage the last word, she was still reeling from the horrendous thing Darla had done to the private detective.

"Okay," Burton said. "See you in a few minutes." He began to move, but Annie stopped him. She kissed him one last time.

"Make that a promise," she said.

"I promise," Burton said. Then he was off.

The air was heavy.

Audrey coughed loud and deep as she regained consciousness. She opened her eyes slowly. She couldn't see. Was she blind? She didn't know. She was on her back, lying helpless. She outstretched her arms and felt her surroundings. There were wooden walls on all sides, wooden walls that were cold and damp. She was in some kind of box. A very small box by the feel of it. She began to pry at one of the planks of wood directly above her head.

After a few minutes of hard pulling, in which she broke two fingernails completely off, she managed to work one of the planks somewhat loose.

Cold earth fell out of the crack in the wood and onto her face. She shrieked in surprise. What the hell? She thought for a moment or two, then began screaming in terror as she realized the truth.

She had been buried alive.

Mulder wasn't quite sure when he lost control of the car. His attention had begun to waver. He knew about the two of them. Just knew. The way they looked at each other, the way they disappeared together. The way they they were almost never apart. The way--And the car began to slide to the left.

Dana was the first to react.

"Mulder--" she managed and the car was spinning, knocking her against the windshield. In the backseat, Lara, seatbelt undone, flew across the seat and caught herself against her right window. Mulder couldn't control the wheel and the car began to flip. Suddenly, the world was turned upside down, then abruptly right side up again. Mulder's head was slammed into the roof and he was out. Dana was jerked around, but remained conscious. Lara was flung about the car, finally resting on the roof as the car came to a rest. It must have flipped about a half-dozen times and was now upside down. Dana looked around. Mulder and Lara looked unconscious. She went to unbuckle her belt and readied herself for the fall, but the catch wouldn't budge.

"Shit," she muttered and tried again.

Still nothing. Think. She had to think. All of the blood in her body was rushing to her head, it wouldn't be long before she passed out. She looked at Mulder. He would probably be in the same predicament as she if he were conscious. She craned her neck and found Lara. She was out, but didn't look hurt, thank God.

"Lara," she shouted. "Lara!"

Lara began to stir.

"Hon, wake up!" Dana prodded.

Lara raised her head, coming back to reality.

"You have to get me free, Lara," Dana said.

Lara touched her head, shook it and sat up. She began to look around.

"Check Mulder," Dana said. "He probably has a Swiss Army Knife in his pocket."

Lara, still disoriented, slowly crawled towards Mulder. She managed, fiddling through the agent's pockets. Mulder's keys jingled as they fell out. Change, his wallet, receipts for various purchases (for porn videos, Dana's mind insisted, incoherently) followed the keys down.

"Got it," Lara said, brandishing the life-saving red-plastic and metal item.

"All right," Dana said, her head spinning, on the edge of passing out, "cut us down."

Lara opened the largest blade in the Swiss Army Knife and went to work on Dana's seatbelt.

Dana braced herself for the fall and came down rather gently. Both women went to work on Mulder a second later.

After freeing him, they crawled through one of the broken windows and dragged Mulder out with them. Dana started to shake her partner, but he wouldn't wake up. Beginning to get frustrated, Dana smacked the man across his left cheek. Mulder's head lolled from side to side, but he didn't wake.

A second smack brought him around.

"The hell happened?" he said, groggily, sitting up.

"You wrecked the car," Lara said, resisting the urge to add, "moron."

"Get up, Mulder," Dana said, grabbing her partner's hands and pulling him up. "We have to get moving."

Lara was surveying the damage.

"Trashed," she said. "Looks like we're on foot, boys."

Dana and Mulder looked at her. She was right. A second later, they were on their way.

Reese was watching her, watching the way she walked, the way she moved.

Darla moved like a predator, like a hunting animal. She glided across the room, back and forth, back and forth. Reese had come to tell her that everything was in place, the cars were ready, the troops were ready, the only thing they were waiting for was her signal. But, now he waited, wanting to watch her unobserved. She walked into darkness and when he could see her again, she wasn't herself.

She was now a woman with long, dark hair, older, wiser. This wasn't Darla, not now, nor the way she was before, this was someone else. This woman couldn't have been more than forty years old, but her eyes told a different story. They said that she had seen millennia, that she had seen it all, that she knew all. Eyes.

She was looking at him. She knew he was watching her.

She passed into darkness again and when she returned, she was Darla once more. And she wasn't looking at him. She didn't know he was there.

"Darla," Reese said.

Darla turned to him, saying nothing.

"Everything's in place," Reese continued. "We're just waiting for you."

"There's a problem," Darla said.

"Oh, yeah?"

"Yes. Those softies, Burton and Annie, are helping the private detective bitch."

"Can't have that."

"No. Take care of it. I'll wait for you. The others can continue on without us. Tell them to head to the location, but wait for us before they do anything. But, most importantly, get rid of this Burton and Annie situation."

"No problem."

He left the room, thinking more about what he had observed than the task before him.

Shovel in the dirt, metal gouging brown flesh. Burton dug with a fury that was impressive. He had already dug three feet and could hear Audrey screaming. She wasn't going to be able to talk for a while after this, he thought. Finally, wood. His shovel hit wood and dropped to his knees, wiping dirt away from the wooden crate they had buried her in. Thank God they had buried her shallow, he thought.

There was a small crack in the crate and he now clearly hear her and thought he could make out her eye peeking through.

"Hold on, Audrey!" he screamed.

He used to his shovel to pry at the rickety wood planks that made up the crate. Soon he had one off and used his hands on the rest. Audrey had stopped screaming and was helping him, pushing on the planks as Burton pulled them off. When enough were cleared, Audrey crawled out, bruised, disheveled, dirty and ready for battle.

"Thank you," she said.

"It was inhuman," Burton said. "What they did to you."

"I need to get to Donna's house."

"My car's parked just down the road," Burton said, handing Audrey his keys.

"Take it. Save them."

"Come with me," Audrey said.

"No. I have to get to Annie. She's in her car, waiting for me."

"All right. I can't thank you enough."

"If the Haywards live, that'll be enough. Now get moving."

Audrey left without another word and Burton went in the opposite direction, heading for the rendezvous with Annie.

"We're lost," Mulder said.

Although she didn't want to admit it, Dana suspected he was right. All the roads and all the woods looked the same.

Lara wasn't saying anything. She was looking off into the woods. A bright light was emanating from that direction. And suddenly, in the middle of the light, she saw her angel, beckoning. She was not frightened, like she usually was, she knew he was here to help her. This was a change. Her whole life, she was terrified of him. But now she knew that his appearance was a positive thing.

"It's this way," she said.

"What?" Mulder asked.

"The house is this way."

"How do you know?" Mulder asked suspiciously.

Dana was looking at her.

"She just does," she said.

Dana and Lara started off in that direction, followed a second later by Mulder.

Annie had had enough of waiting. She was growing more scared and nervous by the second. Burton had yet to show up. Where was he? She was just about to start the car and go looking for him when she saw him. Saw him emerging out of an outcropping of trees and onto the shoulder of the road, where she was parked. She got out of the car and walked towards him.

He was not running, but he wasn't strolling either. He was smiling as he approached her, knowing they were only seconds away from freedom.

Annie smiled wide as she neared him. Then, from behind Burton, a shadow. A spectre. A thing of darkness.

"Behind you!" Annie screamed.

Burton turned and caught the thin, keen blade of Reese's knife in his chest, just below his ribs. A wounded, surprised sound escaped his lips.

For a second there was no blood, the knife was just sticking in his chest.

Then Reese wrenched the blade from Burton's chest and the dark red liquid began to flow from the hole. Unable to do anything else, Burton turned back towards Annie. He looked at her, his mouth open.

So close, he thought. So close.

The knife pierced his back to the left of his spine. Burton lurched forward a half step. Reese pulled the knife out, grabbed Burton's forehead from behind and stuck the blade in the base of Burton's neck. The blade jutted upwards from the back of his head, entering Burton's skull and brain.

Burton saw Annie's horrified, yet still beautiful, green eyes, her dark blonde hair and the little, half-circle scar just above her left eyebrow.

These were the last things he ever saw.

Burton's body fell to the ground, face forward. Reese looked at the body for a few moments, then turned his attention to Annie.

Annie couldn't move, fear had paralyzed her. She looked at Reese, pure horror on her face. Suddenly, the paralyses broke and she turned, running towards the car.

Reese started after her.

A loud, urgent rapping on the door brought Donna out of the kitchen. She approached the door slowly, expecting anything.

"Who's there?" she called out.

"Donna! Thank God, open the door," a voice that she recognized said.

Donna reached the door and opened it.

Standing in the doorway were Dana Scully, Lara Means and a man Donna didn't know.

"Dana, Lara," Donna said. "What are you doing here?"

"Darla Daley's back," Dana said, coming into the house. "She's got a few followers and she wants to kill you and your sister."

"I knew it," Donna said, closing the door behind the three of them.

"Strange things have been happening all night."

"Do you have a CB radio?" Lara asked.

"Yes. I've already called the police. They said they'd send a car out here."

"Good luck," Mulder said.

"What's going on?" Gersten asked, entering the living room. She had sleep in her eyes and was wearing her night clothes.

"We're in trouble, Gersten," Donna said, walking over to her sister and taking her under her arm.

"I'll get on the CB," Dana said. "I'm sure I can get them down here much faster."

"Who's this?" Donna asked.

"Oh, I'm sorry," Dana said. "This is my partner--"

"Fox Mulder," Mulder said, extending his hand to Donna, which she took.

"It's a pleasure to meet you."

"Yeah," Donna said.

"Better get on that radio," Lara said to Dana.

"Right," Dana said.

"Uh, down in the basement," Donna said, pointing.

Dana headed in that direction.

Audrey drove the car a little too fast for these roads, but she managed to keep it under control. She saw another car ahead and sped up to it, maneuvering along side it on the left. She looked over and saw that the car was driven by Gale. Sitting in the passenger seat and in the back were two other disciples. Audrey tried to control her rage, but she just couldn't.

Checking her seatbelt, she jammed the wheel to the right.

"What the fuck," Hadly, sitting in the passenger seat, said.

Gale looked over just in time to see Audrey slam her car into theirs.

Hadley's head smashed into the side window, glass and blood flying everywhere.

Gale regained control of the car and swerved it left, smashing into Audrey.

"Two can play at that, bitch!" she screamed at Audrey, although her window was rolled up.

Audrey kept her ground, staying with Gale's vehicle. The two cars were so close they could have been lovers. Sparks flew from the friction of the two.

"I'll take care of her," Vernon, sitting in the back, said.

He rolled down his window and pointed his gun out. He shot a few rounds into Audrey's car, which wasn't hard, considering it was right there.

Audrey ducked her head, hearing the shots. None of the rounds hit her, but they came close. She looked over her shoulder, saw Vernon's gun hand sticking out the back window and braked. Gale's car kept going forward while Audrey's seemed to be going the other way. Vernon's wrist snapped when Audrey's car rushed past. He began to scream, seeing a shard of bone sticking out of his wrist. His gun had dropped out of the car, forgotten with the pain.

"Shit," Gale said, looking over her shoulder at Vernon.

Audrey accelerated, catching up to Gale. A bridge loomed up ahead and Audrey made her move. Her slowed down until her front bumper was near Gale's rear bumper. Then she swerved the wheel right and pushed the petal down as far as it would go. Gale's car began to spin out of control. Audrey saw Vernon fly from the car out of his open window. He smashed into the concrete ahead of her and Audrey smiled, feeling the bump as she ran him down.

Gale's car hit the bridge, the back end going over the side. The car slid most of the way over the edge, holding on only by the front bumper catching on the railing. Audrey parked her car on the shoulder of the road just before the bridge. She got out and walked over to the precariously balanced car.

She reached it. The driver's side window was broken. Hadley was either unconscious or dead in the passenger seat, blood running down his face from a severe head wound. Gale looked up at Audrey from inside the car. Her nose was broken, it had obviously hit the steering wheel. Blood ran down her face from the pitiful misshapen mess that had been her nose.

"I only wanted to be a part of something," Gale said. Her voice had that nasal quality that everyone who's been hit in the nose has.

"This is not the answer, Gale," Audrey said.

Gale managed a smile.

"Easy for you to say. You're a good person."

"There's no reason why you can't be."

"Yes there is. I'm boring. I'm uninteresting. And I think I'm dead."

A horrible grinding noise accompanied the car as it dropped off the bridge.

Audrey reached out desperately for Gale, but she wasn't quick enough. Gale didn't scream. That was perhaps the worst part. The car smashed into the rocks on the river's edge roof first. Hadley's body snapped in half as it came out of the passenger side window and Gale came crashing out of the front windshield, crushed by the car and the rocks. Audrey looked away from the horrible sight of Gale's twisted, mangled body on the rocks, half-covered by the car.

Audrey stood on the bridge for a few moments, then headed back to her car, got in and drove quickly towards Donna's.

"The police will be here as soon as they can," Dana said, coming up out of the basement. "But I think we should get out of here now."

"Yes," Lara said.

"We'll take your car," Dana said to Donna.

"Of course," Donna said.

They all headed to the front door, Mulder in the lead. He reached it and opened it. A macabre display waited for them just outside the door.

Impaled on a tall wooden spike which had been driven into the ground was a woman's head.

Gersten screamed.

The woman's mouth was open in horror. She had dark blonde hair, luminous green eyes and there was a little half-circle scar just above her left eyebrow. Mulder slammed the door closed and turned to the rest of them.

"I think they're already here," he said.

The picture window at the head of the living room burst open. A man came flying through it and hit the ground. Dana brought up her pistol, but realized before she fired that the man was dead. He was a young man with black hair cut into a crew cut. He had been stabbed in the chest just below the ribs and it looked as if he had also been stabbed in the back of the neck.

Gersten wouldn't stop screaming. Lara walked over to the girl and slapped her.

"Stay calm," she said.

Gersten stopped screaming as Donna looked at Lara, she was not pleased.

"Is there a back way out of this place?" Dana asked.

"Yes," Donna said.

"Let's go," Lara said.

Kurtz and Nails looked on as Reese threw Burton's body through the picture window.

"Jesus," Nails said.

Kurtz said nothing. This was it, they were going through with it. Well, okay. If that was the way it had to be, okay. He started to move towards the house. Nails grabbed him.

"The fuck are you doing?" Nails demanded.

"Goin' in," Kurtz said.

"Are you nuts? There's no way this will work. There's only four of us.

Gale, Hadley and Vernon never showed up. They're dead."

"We have him with us," Kurtz said, indicating Reese. "And her."

Nails let go of the other man.

"Comin?" Kurtz asked.

"No," Nails said, sitting down in the snow. He put his head in his hands.

Kurtz nodded and went for the house. He met up with Reese at the picture window. Reese gestured his hands at the picture window. His meaning was obvious: "Go ahead."

Kurtz went in through the window, watching for shards of glass. Reese did not go in behind him. He started around to the back of the house.

The group trekked through the woods behind Donna's house, Mulder in the lead once again, Lara heading up the back. They were making their way towards the back road, where they could double back and grab Donna's car.

As passed a little group of big, dense trees, a figure, female, pounced out of the darkness and grabbed Gersten.

Darla backed off from the group, holding a large knife to Gersten's throat.

"Look familiar, cunts?" Darla asked, grinning.

Nails didn't see anyone in the house, so he headed out the backdoor, hoping to catch up with their small group.

"Huh?" Darla continued. "Look fucking familiar?"

Dana, Lara and Mulder all had their guns trained on her.

"Drop the knife!" Mulder screamed.

Darla looked at Lara, unbelief on her face.

"He doesn't get it, does he?" she asked.

"Let the girl go," Mulder said.

"Yeah, that'll work on me."

Lara heard something behind her and she whirled around, catching Kurtz just as he was raising his pistol at the group. She kicked the gun out of his hand, a round going off, and grabbed him. She held her pistol to his head.

"Now, let her go," Lara commanded.

Darla laughed.

"Show her how we deal with these kind of problems, Reese," she said.

"No!" Kurtz screamed.

Lara looked to her left and saw a tall man with light brown hair standing there, a man of darkness and fear. He held a small revolver, which he fired in Lara's direction.

Kurtz' head blew apart, covering Lara in his remains.

"See how you like to be covered in blood and brains," Darla said. "Told you guns are fun, didn't I, Reese?"

Reese nodded.

"I got a spike for each and every one of you," he said.

Darla smiled.

"Hey, bitch!" a voice cried.

Darla whirled and caught the butt of Audrey Horne's revolver in the forehead.

Mulder chose this moment to make his move. He jumped in front of Lara and went for Reese. Reese fired again and took Mulder in the shoulder, making the man fall into the snow. Reese trained on Lara, preparing to fire. Lara pushed Kurtz' body onto Reese, knocking him over.

Darla's grip faltered and Gersten slipped from her grasp, the edge of the knife slicing open her chin. She fell into Audrey's arms. Audrey, now holding Gersten, couldn't get her gun up. Darla began to run into the woods.

"Come on, Reese!" she screamed.

Dana began firing at Darla, just missing her as the evil woman disappeared into the woods.

Lara, momentarily distracted by this action, turned her attention back to Reese on the ground. Except he wasn't on the ground. He was gone.

Dana dropped to the ground at Mulder's side.

"Mulder," she said. "Mulder, are you okay?"

Mulder opened his eyes.

"I think so," he said.

Audrey brought Gersten to her sister, Donna taking the girl into her arms, pulling out a handkerchief and putting pressure on the girl's wound. Dana joined them.

"Audrey," she said. "Take care of Mulder and the Haywards here, we'll catch up to Darla and her crony."

Audrey nodded.

Dana and Lara had been running after the murderous pair for perhaps a minute when they came around a patch of trees and there was Reese, revolver ready. He fired the moment he saw them. Dana was hit square in the chest and flew back, hitting a tree. Lara fired back at Reese and hit twice, center mass. Reese flinched, dropping his gun and, amazingly, started running away. Lara was stunned for a second, then began to fire after him.

He disappeared into the trees.

Lara immediately went to Dana, ripping open her suit jacket. The round was imbedded in her bulletproof vest.

"Thank God you remembered to wear your vest," Lara said.

Dana, coming back to reality, touched Lara's chest.

"So did you," she said.

Lara smiled.

"Go get 'em," Dana said.

Lara kissed her briefly before heading in the direction they went.

Darla slowed down a little, letting Reese catch up. She saw his condition.

He was holding his stomach, where a massive amount of blood was flowing.

"You shit," she said. "You can't give up yet. It's not your time."

"It's time," Reese said, stopping.

Darla approached him, putting her hand on his shoulder. She didn't see him pull out his thin-bladed knife and plunge it into her stomach. Darla looked at him in total shock, the pain beginning to spread.

"You're an abomination," Reese said, not looking at her, head down. "You can't continue living." He looked up at her.

And she wasn't herself. She was the long-dark-haired woman he had seen in the shadows not long ago. That woman with the timeless eyes.

Then there was another face. This face was a monster, a demonic, primal beast which must have hunted man from time out of mind. The beast twitched and turned it's head to the side.

"God, help me," Reese pleaded, all of his nightmares coming true.

Darla was herself again.

"You wanna die?!" she screamed. "Huh?! You want oblivion??"

She took hold of his head, scratching long strands of flesh out of his face. She was in a frenzy, she couldn't be stopped.

"You want your existence rubbed out?!"

She plunged her thumbs into his eye sockets. His eyeballs flowed out of his head and fell into the snow below him.

"You want the eternal blackness?!"

She thrust her hand into his mouth and tore his tongue from it's rightful place.

"You want Death?!"

And she tore his jaw out of his head, throwing it over her shoulder. Reese dropped to his knees, the life seeping out of his body. Darla kicked him over into the snow, where he was immediately buried, only his legs and arms still visible.

Darla pulled the knife from her stomach, pain blanketing her. She exhaled roughly as it finally came out. She clutched her wound with her left hand and held the knife in the other. She continued on her way.

Audrey heard the sirens and saw red and blue flashing light off behind the trees, back towards the house.

"Here!" she screamed. "Over here!"

Flashlights and spotlights turned in her direction and she heard many officers heading her way.

"Thank God," Donna said, holding Gersten tighter.

"Where's my angel?"

Lara heard Darla say this the moment she found her. A few minutes back, she had discovered the mutilated remains of Darla's crony in the snow. Now, she saw Darla sitting at the base of a tree, facing away from her. Lara walked around her, gun trained. She wasn't going to take any chances.

Darla didn't notice her presence at first. The murderess was a mess. She was sitting Indian-style in the snow, her back resting against the tree, her whole bottom half covered in blood from a nasty stomach wound and she looked frozen. The edges of her hair were covered in frost and her face was blue. She was slowly, rhythmically stabbing her right leg with a thin, sharp knife, making small, shallow wounds in her flesh.

She finally noticed Lara and looked up.

"You're here," she said. "Finally here. My angel has gone. Can you see yours?"

Lara said nothing, still pointing her gun at Darla.

"You can't kill me," Darla said, looking at the gun.

"Why not?" Lara asked. "I'm not a cop."

"You can't kill me," Darla persisted.

"You're evil."

"You can't kill me."

"You don't deserve to live."

"You can't kill me."

"You can't exist on this planet any longer."

"You can't kill me!" Darla screamed. "You can't kill me because I made a deal--"

Three shots, loud and hot in the cold air. All three shots took Darla in the chest and she fell to the left, an expression of profound surprise on her face.

Smoke trailed from Lara's gun. She stood in that position, pointing the pistol at Darla, for almost a full minute. She didn't know why. Perhaps she was expecting Darla to get up and attack her. She didn't.

Lara dropped the gun to her side but didn't holster it. She stood there in the cold, biting night waiting for the police to arrive.

The police had a hell of a clean-up on their hands. There were bodies everywhere, strewing the house and the woods behind it. Their first action was to arrest Bernard Nails, who was waiting for them, hands raised in the air, in front of the house. He told them about Archangel and her plan. They got the rest of the story from FBI agent Dana Scully.

Dana came and sat down next to Lara, who was sitting in the doorway of the Hayward residence. The head had been removed from the premises earlier.

"Mulder and Gersten went to the hospital," Dana said. "Donna and Audrey went with them. They're doing fine."

"How are you?" Lara asked.

"Fine," Dana said. "No broken ribs or anything. I'll be sore for a while, but other than that..."

Lara just nodded.

"You did the right thing," Dana said, putting her arm around Lara.

"I didn't have the right to execute her," Lara said.

"She just would have gone on killing."

"No, I could have held her there until the police showed up. They were right behind us."

"Lara, she would have gotten out of their custody. If not for legal reasons, let's face it, she was legally insane, then she would have fought her way out. Either way, she would have eventually been back out on the streets."

Lara nodded.

"You okay?" Dana asked.

"Yeah," Lara said.

Two police officers walked by, talking to each other.

"Yeah," the first was saying, "they found eight heads in ice chests. They were in this car back at their headquarters. One of these bodies' must be that freeway killer we been looking for."

"Oh, yeah?" the other said.

Then the two passed out of earshot.

"The police provided us with a car," Dana said. "I'll go get and bring it up here. Then we'll find a hotel in town. They'll want to question us tomorrow. Hotel sound good to you?"

"Sure," Lara said.

Dana kissed her before getting up and going to get the car. Lara continued sitting. After a few moments, a tear rolled down her cheek.

"Where's my angel?" she asked no one.

"Oww," Gersten said as the doctor made another stitch in her chin wound.

Audrey and Donna waited just outside the office that Gersten was being worked on.

"You came back," Donna said.

"Yeah," Audrey said.

"You care about us."

"Yeah."

"I didn't know if you'd want to see us ever again."

"Well, I do," Audrey said, looking at her intently.

"I'm glad."

"What we did last time was wrong."

"Yes."

"Not that the act itself was wrong, just...us."

"Yes."

"And you should have told me," Audrey said.

"Yes," Donna said.

"I'm no longer mad at you."

A few tears escaped Donna's eyes.

"And I want to be your sister," Audrey said.

Donna nodded, hugging Audrey. Audrey hugged back, a single tear running down her cheek.

Gersten came out of the office, her stitches done. Donna broke from Audrey and smiled at her sister.

"Gersten," she said. "You remember Audrey Horne."

"Of course," Gersten said.

"She's my sister, Gersten," Donna said. "So, that means she's our sister."

Gersten just smiled and hugged Audrey, holding her tight.

"Would you like to stay for a few days?" Donna asked Audrey. "As a sister?"

"That would be great," Audrey said, no longer holding back the tears.

Gersten still held onto Audrey as they started down the hallway.

There was a lone policeman at the old hotel which had held Darla's headquarters, which was now a crime scene. O'Bannion was the cop's name and he didn't like the place. It smelled, it was dark and there was something else about it. Something he couldn't quite put his finger on.

O'Bannion had finished wrapping the yellow tape around the premises and was heading towards his squad car. He took a peek over his shoulder at the hotel. Standing in the doorway was a woman. She had long, dark hair, a pale face and eyes which had witnessed millennia. Her stare was constant, unbroken and more unsettling than anything O'Bannion had ever seen. This woman, he understood, represented the Base Sum of All Evil. She would be there always, staring, waiting. Living in the shadows, biding her time. She had existed long before O'Bannion had been born and she would exist long after he was in the ground. She was there on the edge of forever, beckoning him to come to her, tempting him to come into her dark embrace. She knew all.

Then she was gone.

O'Bannion looked on for a few seconds, then sprinted to his car, got in and drove away, much faster then he probably should have.

The entryway was vacant now, but wouldn't always be.

Like all shadow places.

Everywhere.

"If you believe all your hope is gone
Down the drain of your humankind.

The time has arrived
You be waiting here as I was
In a snow white shroud.

Waiting underground."

--Patti Smith

The End.




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