DISCLAIMER: Not mine. They belong to C.C. and 1013 Productions. Not copyright infringement intended and no money being made.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Some dialogue taken directly from the show. Although I do a bit of research for my stories, I've never been a cop, doctor, herbalist, psychologist, or theologist. Special thanks to sinadino for the German translations, and to xhuggles and ivy_wang for the Chinese translations. All mistakes are my own. Special thanks to oxfordshoes2 for the beta.
SPOILERS: AU. Starts immediately after S4E23 Demons.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Friday, October 24th, 1997
Logan entered her apartment, leaving her front door open for her partner. By the time Scully joined her, the blonde had shed her suit jacket, plopped down in a chair, and was petting Lyssa who'd jumped up onto her lap. Logan knew what the redhead wanted. She knew this day had been inevitable, and part of her was surprised that it taken four months to happen. She also knew, despite the demand for answers, that her partner was not ready for the whole truth. So, she would tell Dana the truth... just not all of it.
Scully sat on the couch across from the blonde. She didn't say anything, but everything about her yelled 'talk!'
Logan took a slow breath. "You've heard the saying that the eyes are the windows to the soul."
"Well, it's not just a cliché. It's true. When I'm looking into someone's eyes... I see it."
"Their soul. I see their soul and the damage done to it by their own actions, and by others." She closed her eyes as if to block the images that came to mind. "I've seen souls so evil to make me wonder if there's any good in the world. I've seen souls in so much pain it fills me with anger that anyone should suffer so." She opened her eyes. "And I've seen souls that fill me with wonder and hope for humanity because they keep going and survive despite whatever has been thrown at them," she finished quietly.
Scully was almost speechless. She certainly had not expected an answer like that. It was obvious Logan was sincere, but Scully couldn't believe it. "You're actually telling me that you see people's souls?"
"Yes." A simple and truthful answer. Logan stood, went into the kitchen and started the coffeemaker for some tea. She then returned to the chair and sat down again.
"How..." Scully stopped, struggling to find the right words to pose her question. "How does seeing a suspect's soul..." She stopped again. "How did you know about Gerald's father burning him?"
"You're asking if I read his mind?"
"No. It's hard to explain, but it was there in his soul. The soul remembers and knows so much... in some ways more than the mind, but it can also be controlled by the mind. Like I said, it's hard to explain."
Scully pondered that for a several moments before speaking again. "Are you always able to... see someone's soul?"
"No. It's easiest to do in a controlled setting like the interrogation room, or in private with someone close..." The blonde visibly changed the course of her thoughts. "It's easiest in a controlled setting, but as you know, the majority of my time has been in the field. Fortunately, the 'strength' of my senses isn't limited to my... sight."
Both auburn eyebrows climbed into Scully's hairline. "What do you mean by that?"
Logan went to the coffeemaker and fixed a couple of cups of tea. She gave Scully a small smirk as she handed her a cup and sat on the couch next to her. "How many times have I told you I've got a strong sense of smell?"
"So now you're telling me you can smell a person's soul?" Her skepticism was obvious.
"No. But evil has a definite... bouquet."
"So not only do you smell almost nonexistent traces of cigarette smoke and bodies, but you also smell evil."
Scully had come to trust the blonde a lot more than she had ever expected to, especially in such a short time. To say Logan was different was an understatement, but she'd never had a reason to call the blonde a liar or to doubt her sincerity. Logan went out of her way for Scully from the beginning. Her own mother had taken an instant and strong liking to the woman, calling the blonde a gentle soul.
Scully had seen and experienced too much since joining the X-Files to outright dismiss seemingly unexplainable things. But just as she'd told the blonde during that first dinner out together, she was a scientist and she wanted to investigate, test, and define things. She didn't couldn't believe in every wild idea, myth, or legend.
"Have you ever been in the presence of unquestionable evil, Dana?"
Logan's question caused Scully to think back and remember... Donnie Pfaster. Oh, yes, she had definitely been in the presence of evil. "Yes, I have."
"How did you know?"
"I felt it," the redhead replied, feeling a chill run down her spine at the memory of it.
Logan nodded. "And you didn't doubt it, did you?" It wasn't really a question.
"Because you felt it, like a physical sensation, as real as burning your hand on the stove."
"It's the same for me, Dana. I sense it, I feel it, I smell it, as real as smelling your occasional cigarette."
Put in those terms, and relating it to her own experience, it didn't sound so... unbelievable to Scully. "Do you always sense it? I mean, can you always tell if someone is evil?"
The blonde let out a derisive bark. "Ha! Obviously not. For example: Gumby. Or Brian Monroe. Or how about the son of a bitch that blew my cover in Bucharest and got my partner Rishka murdered!" Logan closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths in an effort to calm herself after her outburst. She was still rather raw from the long interrogation of Gerald. She managed to hold back the tears that threatened to spill, but Scully didn't miss the waver in her voice when she spoke.
"I'm sorry." She opened her eyes. "I didn't mean to take that out on you."
Scully gave her partner's shoulder a squeeze. "I know, Nicole. I understand." She stood and took both her cup and Logan's into the kitchen to refill them with more tea. She then came back out and again sat next to her partner. "Do all of them react the way Hitchman did?"
"No. You've seen me interview suspects and witnesses before. I don't have to reach as deep with all of them."
"Just the ones that are evil?"
"Gerald wasn't evil, Dana. He was sick because evil had been done to him. Given the chance, he was remorseful. Others aren't."
"Does that mean they won't repeat when they're released, if they're remorseful?"
Logan shook her head. "It's not that simple, Dana, you know that. Just because I get someone to confess doesn't make them any different from any other perp. The decision to go straight is theirs. I can't make anyone become something they're not. Everyone has free will. Everyone has to choose what path they're going to follow in life. And even if we find and follow the right path, we inevitably stumble along the way since none of us are perfect."
Scully reviewed everything the blonde had told her so far. Something occurred to her. "You said it was easier in a controlled environment or in private with someone close. What did you mean by that?"
Logan let out a slow breath. "I've done it with people close to me. Under the right conditions it's possible to actually share a connection, even send a thought to each other..." she trailed off, already saying more than she'd intended to. "The point is that it can be a shared experience, but I have to have eye contact. With strangers it takes effort to get past their barriers some are harder than others. I try to wait until there's an opening, but when there's not I really have to push to get through." And you've got the thickest walls I've ever encountered, Dana.
"Have you always had the ability to see souls and smell evil?"
"No. My... abilities emerged during adolescence. It sort of runs in the family. My mother didn't have it, but my grandmother did." The blonde took a deep breath and let it out. "Even so, it took time to work to develop and hone. I was fortunate to have my grandmother's guidance and help," she said softly. "Otherwise my choice would have probably destroyed me early on."
"Why do you say that? What choice?"
Suddenly Logan couldn't sit any longer. She got up and unconsciously paced a little before ending up in front of a window looking out, but not really seeing anything. Finally, she spoke in an emotion-laden voice. "I had the choice of developing and using my abilities or ignoring them and letting them atrophy and eventually disappear. In other words, I had to choose what path to follow..." Her voice trailed off so softly Scully had to strain to hear her.
The redhead didn't miss the trembling of her partner's hand as Logan reached out to place her cup on a shelf. Nor did Scully fail to notice the trembling spread to the rest of the blonde's body. Scully got up from the couch and moved next to her partner. She put an arm around Logan's waist. "Come and sit down, Nicole." She guided the blonde back to the couch. "I'm going to get you something to drink," she said once she got the blonde settled.
Having been in each other's apartments enough to know where things were kept, Scully quickly opened the drawer that held the corkscrew. She then grabbed a bottle from the wine rack and a couple of wineglasses. Once she had the cork removed she returned to the living room. She sat down next to her partner again and poured her a glass of wine, which she encouraged Logan to drink. She refilled the blonde's glass before she settled herself next to Logan with her own. Scully had one leg tucked up under her and was turned toward her partner. She kept her hand on top of Logan's shoulder, unconsciously massaging the tightly corded muscles, trying to get Logan to relax.
"You said you had to choose what path to follow," Scully prodded gently.
Logan turned her face partly towards Scully but didn't look at her. She nodded. When she spoke, her voice was low and rough, as if she'd been crying for a while. Even her eyes were red and puffy, but no tears fell. "It's not easy, Dana. My abilities have been called gifts..." she closed her eyes, "but there's a price to be paid," she whispered. She took a deep breath and let it out. She then opened her eyes and took a mouthful of the wine.
Even as Logan turned to look at her, Scully could clearly feel her pull away emotionally.
In a clearer voice Logan spoke, "I'm sorry, Dana. I shouldn't be letting this out on you. It's been a long day. I spent hours with Gerald and I'm worn out. It's the weekend and you should go enjoy yours. I'll be fine. I just need some rest."
"It's okay, Nicole. I want to know. I want to understand. Talk to me, please."
Logan was silent for several moments as they looked at each other. Finally she took another deep breath and let it out. "Alright. But I refuse to go any further until we're more comfortable. Come on, let's get something more comfortable to wear than these suits."
She got up and led the redhead to her bedroom. She pulled out a pair of sweatpants, socks, and a t-shirt for her partner, and a similar outfit for herself. She gave Scully a hanger to hang up her suit. They went back out to the living room. When Logan went into the kitchen to get another bottle of wine she also fixed a quick platter of cheese and crackers and fruit. She brought it out and set it on the coffee table.
"In case you're hungry," she told her partner quietly as she sat down. She poured the last of the wine from the first bottle into her glass. She finished it in only a couple of large gulps. She then filled both her glass and Scully's from the new bottle and settled back on the couch. Logan had her foot up on the edge of the couch with her one knee up against her chest.
In that position, with the weariness in her face and eyes, she looks so... vulnerable. Vulnerable and... afraid. Scully was suddenly overwhelmed with a deep feeling of protectiveness for her partner. She felt the urge to hold her and tell her everything was going to be alright and make sure nothing ever hurt her again. I swear I won't make you regret opening up to me. Please trust me, Nicole.
Scully eased closer to her partner and put her hand over the blonde's hand that was resting on the couch. "Nicole, as I told you, I want to understand. I know I tend to be a bit skeptical about things I can't logically explain," she gave Logan a gentle self-depreciating smile, "but I want you to know that I do believe in you. So if it's too painful for you to talk about this, it's okay." She gave Logan's hand a gentle squeeze.
The blonde felt a lump suddenly appear in her throat big enough to prevent her from speaking at first. Tears burned behind her eyes. She turned her hand under Scully's and clasped it as it again closed around hers. "Thank you..." she managed in a shaky whisper. "I believe in you, too, you know."
Logan took a breath and let it out. "I think it's time we talked about it... It just may not be very easy."
The redhead gave her hand another gentle squeeze in answer.
"So, where were we?"
"You said there's a price to be paid."
With a deep breath Logan released Scully's hand and leaned forward to pick up her glass of wine. Scully did the same but as she settled back against the couch she managed to move closer to the blonde, offering support through her nearness.
"Yes, there's a price. When I see someone's soul, and when I smell evil, I... I also feel it... because it's necessary for me to open myself up to do it, to lower my barriers... Believe me, it can be a high price."
Oh, God, no. How does she keep it from destroying her? Scully didn't even realize at the time she no longer questioned Logan's abilities only how they affected her partner.
"If not for my grandmother's help, her guidance..." she shook her head. "I wouldn't have survived. She taught me how to... live with my choice."
Scully waited a few moments before speaking. "Why did you choose to... develop your abilities?" she asked gently.
Logan closed her eyes and took a slow breath. "That's something I've asked myself more than once." She opened her eyes but wasn't looking at anything other than the past. "But ultimately... it was the right choice, the right thing to do." She took a drink from her wine. "Of course no one ever promised the right thing would be the easy thing."
"Do you ever regret your choice?"
"Constantly," she answered softly. She turned her head and looked and the redhead. "But that's only a very small part of the picture. Taken in the whole... no."
"If you stopped using your gifts, would they... go away?"
The blonde slowly shook her head. "The point of no return was many years ago. It's one thing about which I no longer have a choice. The choice that remains is how I deal with the consequences, what path I follow."
Scully leaned forward, poured herself some more wine, and snagged some fruit and cheese. "You speak of choices and paths a lot."
"Sorry. But remember you are talking with a philosophy and theology major."
"And a mystic?" Scully asked lightly and with warmth in her voice.
"Considering the topic of the evening, I guess you could call me a mystic," Logan replied. "And a slightly tipsy one at that," she added with a small smile.
The redhead returned her smile. "You should eat something."
"Probably. But I'm not hungry." She stood up. "I am however, in the mood for some of the good stuff," she said on the way into the kitchen. Logan returned with a slightly dusty bottle of wine and the corkscrew, as well as two clean wineglasses. After setting everything down she took Scully's glass from her hand. "You don't want any more of that. This is what you want."
"What is it?"
"Red Bordeaux. Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Pauillac, 1959. It was one of my grandmother's favorites," she explained as she removed the cork. She poured some in both clean glasses. After handing her partner a glass, the blonde brought her own to her nose and swirled the wine. Her eyes closed and a smile appeared on her lips. "Mmmm..." she hummed in obvious pleasure. "Here's to you, Grandma," she whispered and took a sip.
Scully also swirled her glass when it was handed to her, smelling the bouquet. Though not a wine expert by any means, she enjoyed a good wine and it was her drink of choice. One whiff was enough to tell her that it was a very good wine. She heard the blonde's whispered salute before she took her first sip. The flavor burst in her mouth and lingered after she swallowed.
"Oh, my god." Scully looked at her partner who smiled at her.
"I told you," Logan said with a smile. "My grandmother was a bit of wine connoisseur. She taught me an appreciation for fine wine. I was only able to find three bottles of this here. It's nice to share with someone who appreciates and enjoys it. Thank you, Dana."
"No, thank you. This is amazing." She took another sip. "There's a store not far from my place where I buy wine. They have a pretty wide selection. Maybe you could find it there, or see if they could order it for you."
The blonde smiled. "You don't understand, Dana. The three bottles I purchased were the only three available in the United States of this vintage. I have a few bottles of other vintages but they aren't fully aged yet."
Scully's eyes widened. "I don't want to know how much this cost, do I?"
Logan shrugged. "All that matters is that you enjoy it. Good wine is one of the few indulgences I allow myself. As I said, it's nice to have someone who appreciates it to share it with."
The redhead smiled. "You always have good wine, but this is in a class by itself. Thank you for sharing it."
They were quiet for a couple of minutes as both women savored the wine.
Scully finally broke the silence. "You were close to your grandmother, weren't you?"
The blonde nodded. "Yeah. She was an amazing woman. My mother was a single parent; when she died I went to live with my grandmother. Grandma was the smartest person I've ever known, and had a very dry sense of humor."
Scully couldn't miss the obviously love, respect, and affection in her partner's voice as the blonde spoke of her grandmother. "Do you have a picture of her?"
Logan got up and retrieved a photo from her bedroom. She handed it to the redhead as she sat back down.
"You don't talk about her much."
Logan raised an eyebrow at her partner. She wasn't upset with Scully, just surprised. "You don't talk about your sister much," she replied gently.
Scully took a breath and nodded, accepting the reply as it was intended. "Touché."
As they enjoyed the fine wine Scully took the step, she opened up to her partner... to Nicole, her friend, and spoke about Melissa. She spoke of their differences, and how she thought her partner and her sister were similar and would have liked each other. She spoke of her sister's murder and the guilt she felt.
"Considering how different our childhoods were, it amazes me sometimes how alike you and I really are, Dana. We have the same hang-ups about maintaining our professional personas at work and not letting anyone see our weaknesses. We both feel guilt over the death of a loved one, we've both lost a partner, and we've both seen and experienced things that are hard to explain. And neither of us likes to reveal very much of ourselves."
They continued drinking wine and talking for a long time. Logan explained why she felt guilt over her grandmother's death. Scully talked about her father, how close they were when she was a child, how she always sought his approval, and how he reacted to her choices in life, such as going to medical school and then joining the FBI. They both talked about their reasons for joining the FBI.
"You had your choice of a posting at Quantico as an instructor or in the VCU. Why didn't you take either one of those? They were prime postings especially coming right out of the Academy."
"Because my grandmother's killer was in Europe, and I could search for him on my own time."
"Did you find him?"
"No." She paused for a long moment. "Someone else did."
"Do you know who?"
The blonde shook her head. "Well, I have my suspicions. But I've never asked... Sometimes it's best not to question gifts," she finished softly, thinking about the torn throat of the evil man who had murdered her grandmother.
The two women talked and drank wine long into the night. Ever the scientist, even though Scully didn't doubt what her partner had told her, she inquired further about Logan's abilities.
"Your abilities... how do you explain where they come from? What's the source?"
Logan smiled at her partner's attempt to understand, questioning without questioning her veracity. "The human brain is an incredible thing. Most people use, at most, 10% of its capacity. I imagine it's nothing more than something that allows me to use some part of the 90% that's not used or understood."
"Have you ever had any tests done to check that?"
"No. It wouldn't change anything for me one way or the other. I still have to deal with the consequences of my abilities."
Eventually, after consuming quite a bit of wine, they both drifted to sleep right where they were on the comfortable overstuffed couch.
Saturday, October 25th, 1997
In the morning Scully woke up on the couch alone. Dana opened her eyes and saw a thermal mug on the coffee table with a note taped to it. She slowly sat up and pulled the folded note with her name on it off the side of the mug.
Drink the tea. It'll make you feel better, I promise. There's more in the kitchen. Your toothbrush is in the bathroom, along with clean towels and clothes. Help yourself to a shower or bath. You know where everything is. I'll be back soon.
She immediately smiled. So typical of Nicole thoughtful as always. Scully took the lid off the thermal mug and savored the hot tea. As usual, the tea seemed to have a soothing effect throughout her entire body. "Mmmm..." She drank the whole mug before she got up. She went into the kitchen and refilled it before making her way to the bathroom.
The redhead smiled again when she saw that Logan had deliberately set out her bath oil. Scully had once asked Logan what perfume she was wearing and the blonde had explained she wasn't wearing any what Scully smelled was the bath oil Logan had used. The redhead liked it so much she asked what brand and scent it was so that she could get some for herself. Logan explained it wasn't available for purchase since it was custom made. The blonde had offered it in the past when Scully had stayed the night at Logan's, but the redhead had always opted for a shower, not feeling quite at home enough to take a long, soaking bath in her partner's home.
This time Scully decided to finally accept the offer. She filled the tub, added some of the bath oil and undressed. She eased into the hot water with a moan. She laid back and soaked for a while, letting the heat penetrate her muscles and bones, the scent further soothing her mind and senses. Scully didn't fall asleep, but she did manage to find that place of peace and relaxation that only happened when she was completely at ease and had lowered her guard something that only occurred when she was home alone and felt safe.
As soon as Logan came in from her run she knew Scully was in the bath because she could smell the bath oil. She smiled to herself. The redhead had always taken a shower previously, not feeling comfortable enough to take the liberty of a bath at her place. She started making breakfast.
Logan looked down at Lyssa. "Go let Dana know the food's almost ready."
Lyssa let out a quiet meow in response and trotted off to the bathroom.
The redhead felt a gentle tap on her shoulder. She reached up and pulled the washcloth from her eyes. She smiled at the small white cat sitting on the edge of the tub near her head and resting a furry paw on her shoulder.
"Meow," Lyssa let out softly with little cock of her head.
"What is it, Lyssa?"
She let out another soft meow, leaned forward, and rubbed her cheek against Scully's. She then jumped down and walked to the slightly ajar bathroom door, where she stopped, looked at the redhead over her shoulder, and let out a last meow before slipping out the door.
Scully finished up her bath and got out of the tub. She put on the clean clothes Logan had left for her and brushed her teeth. She came out to a kitchen full of wonderful smelling food.
Logan greeted her with a smile. "Great timing food's hot."
Scully refilled her tea before sitting down at the table. They enjoyed their meal. Besides the food, the redhead was also enjoying the sight of a ruffled Logan who'd obviously gone for a long run in a skin tight tank top and rather skimpy running shorts. Then it dawned on her how unseasonably cold it was supposed to be that morning.
"Nicole, please don't tell me you went for a run in those clothes!" she exclaimed.
The blonde looked up at her and smirked. "Of course I did under my sweats, Dana. No, I wasn't looking to freeze my ass off running through the streets of our nation's capitol."
"Not to mention cause a few accidents," the redhead mumbled.
Logan clearly heard her partner, but gave her an out. "What?"
"Nothing. I can't believe you went for a run in the first place. Especially after all that wine we drank last night," she said with a smile.
"You're being kind, Dana. Because you and I both know you didn't drink half as much as I did last night." She shrugged. "Just because I over indulged, doesn't mean I can let other things slide. So I got up and ran to the gym, worked out, and ran home."
"You went for a run and a workout?"
She nodded. "I do every Saturday we're not on the road."
Scully sat back in her chair and sipped her tea. "You've definitely got more self-discipline than I do."
"I doubt that very much."
Scully gave her partner a plainly skeptical look.
"Anyone who's accomplished what you have and persevered through the things you have, has not only self-discipline but a strength of will and spirit to make the impossible possible."
Scully was surprised by how deeply her partner's words affected her. Her initial instinct was to discount Logan's words like she always did when someone complimented or flattered her. But Scully had been dismissed too many times in her life and career even by Mulder. Knowing that the blonde didn't say things she didn't mean, and knowing her partner didn't dismiss her, her accomplishments, her thoughts, her ideas, or her feelings in any way, touched her deeply. She couldn't quite find the words, but as she looked into her partner's dark green eyes and gave a small smile and nod of thanks, words weren't necessary she saw clear understanding.
Logan picked up their plates and put them in the sink. "Just give me a couple of minutes to grab a shower and I'll be right out." She gave redhead's shoulder a gentle squeeze as she passed.
It occurred to Scully that the blonde was the only person who touched her on a regular basis, and did so without hesitation. Her own mother was hesitant to touch her without any obvious invitation to do so. And she knew it was her own doing. She knew she had walls that were obvious to any and all to see. Logan had somehow found a way past them. Or just decided to ignore them, she thought with a small smile.
Scully got up and washed the dishes while Logan showered. The house phone rang. Scully wasn't sure if she should answer it or not, but the answering machine picked up right away and saved her from having to decide.
"Hey, Nicole, it's Linda. Call me as soon as you get this. I've got something I really want to show you. I think you'll love it! You know my number call me."
Scully wasn't too sure what to make of the message. For some reason it triggered something disconcerting in her, and she didn't know why. Just what does Linda want to show Logan? And why do I care?
Logan came out dressed and smelling of vanilla and almonds. "Did I hear the phone ring?"
"Yes. Someone left a message for you on your answering machine."
Saturday, October 25th, 1997
Logan went to the machine and played back the message. She smiled, obviously pleased, then picked up her cell phone from the charger and called the woman.
"Hey, Linda, it's Nicole... Really?... Yes! Of course... How soon?" Logan looked at the clock on the wall. "Yeah, I can make it there by then... Alright, see you there." She hung up and looked at her partner. "I've got to run an errand and meet up with Linda real quick"
"Let me just grab my things and I'll be out of your hair," Scully said heading to the bedroom to get her clothes.
Nicole caught her arm. "Whoa, hold up, Dana. I was going to say, why don't you come along?"
"I don't want to get in the way."
"You wouldn't get in the way. And I could use your input. You can tell me what you think."
"You'll see," the blonde replied with a smile. "Come on."
234 Chestnut Street
Scully couldn't help but notice the tall blonde that was standing on the driveway waiting for them as Logan parked the car. When they got out of the car Logan and other woman hugged.
"You're going to love this, Nicole. It's got everything you wanted. And it hasn't even hit the listings yet, so no one else knows about it yet."
"You've definitely got my interest piqued," she replied with a smile. She then turned to Dana. "Linda, this is my partner, Dana Scully. Dana, this is Linda Atkins, my realtor."
The two women said hello and shook hands. Scully couldn't deny she felt a sense of relief at finding out Linda was Nicole's realtor.
"Come on, let's take a look." Linda unlocked the front door and led the women inside.
The realtor knew to let Nicole look around on her own so she waited in the kitchen. Dana walked through the house with her partner. It was a single story, three bedroom, two and a half bath house. The kitchen wasn't large, but was outfitted with new appliances and sufficient cupboard and counter space. After they made the rounds they met up with Linda in the kitchen.
"Basement?" Nicole asked.
Linda smirked. "I wouldn't have called you otherwise." She nodded toward the door in the kitchen that led to the basement.
Nicole smiled and headed down. It was a completely unfinished basement. The basement ran under the entire length of the house. She stood under the bare bulb in the center of the room and looked around picturing how she'd set it up. She smiled.
"What do you think, Dana?"
An auburn eyebrow quirked. "About the basement, or the house?"
"Either, both," she replied with a smile.
"Well, there's not much to say about the basement it's completely unfinished."
Nicole grinned. "Yeah, it's great."
Dana smiled at her partner's reaction. "As for the house, well, it needs some work, but I think it has potential."
Nicole nodded. "I agree." They headed back up to the kitchen. "So what are the options, Linda?"
"They want a one year lease, but they will accept a six month lease you if you're willing to pay a premium."
Nicole nodded. "It's exactly what I was looking for." She reached inside her coat and withdrew her checkbook. She wrote out a check and handed to Linda. "Here's a deposit. Tell them I'll take it, but I want possession by next weekend." She then pulled a business card out of her wallet. She wrote something on the back of it before handing it to Linda. "Call here if they have any questions."
Linda's eyes widened as she took a good look at the check she'd been given and what was on the card. She looked back up at Nicole, opening her mouth to say something but Nicole cut her off.
"I'm sure you can you manage it, Linda. You're pretty good at sweet talking your clients. Thanks again, Linda. You found exactly what I wanted."
As Nicole and Dana drove away, Linda took out her cell phone and called the number on the card Nicole had given her. She was assured that the offer to buy the house was quite serious, that it would be a cash deal, and they could close in as little as two days. She was also assured that the balance of the funds were already in an account that could be verified first thing Monday morning.
Linda then called the owners of the house. To say they were surprised by the offer was an understatement, but they also knew the offer was more than fair since it was more than the house was worth. They took the weekend to think about it and then decided to sell the property rather than their original intent to lease it.
Monday, October 27th, 1997
Nicole received a call first thing Monday morning. She was in the office but Dana hadn't arrived yet.
"Nicole, it's Linda."
"Hey, Linda. Tell me you've good news for me."
"I do. They accepted your offer."
"Great! That is good news. When's closing?"
"Good. I've already drawn up some plans for the renovations."
"You know you're paying more than you should for the house, right?"
Logan smiled. "It's okay, Linda, it's worth it to me."
"Okay, but don't say I didn't warn you."
After hanging up with Linda, Logan placed another call.
"Hey, Nicole. What's up?"
"I just got the word. The closing is Thursday."
"I'll be there."
"Are you sure you want to handle all of this?"
"Why wouldn't I? I set up the place in Bucharest, the one in Hamburg, the one in"
"Alright, alright," she said chuckling. "I'll email you what I've drawn up for the renovations."
"How soon do you want things done?"
"As soon as possible."
"You know, I didn't think you'd be here long enough to need a place."
"This assignment hasn't been anything like I expected."
"I hear you, but you know I'm here for anything you need."
Dana arrived in the office. She hung up her coat and picked up the mug of hot tea Nicole was holding out to her as she continued her phone conversation.
"I know. I've always been able to count on you."
"That's why I'm here."
"I know. I'm glad, too. Talk to you later, hon."
Nicole hung up and smiled at Dana. "Good morning."
"Morning," Dana responded over the rim of her mug. "What's got you so chipper this morning?"
"Just got the news the house is mine."
The redhead smiled. "Congratulations."
234 Chestnut Street
November 22nd, 1997
Thea oversaw the contractors who did the renovations on the house, paying bonuses for expedited but quality work. She made sure everything was done to exact specifications, from the refinishing of the hardwood floors to the new extra large hot water heater. However, she was most attentive when it came to the state of the art security/monitoring system and the basement.
The house was wired with sensors and cameras all tied into the custom security system that Thea had designed. Logan could check any room in her house, and the outside perimeter, on her laptop from anywhere within the house or away from home. Her bedroom, the kitchen, and the office also had monitoring stations. No one could possibly get into her house without her immediately being notified.
Then there was the basement. That was where the most elaborate work was done. The basement was expanded a walk-in vault added extending out from under the house. In it Logan could stash anything that could not be easily explained. It could also function as a safe room since it could be locked from the inside. It even contained a monitor station for the security system.
The rest of the basement was divided into two rooms. The small room, the first room once you came went down the steps, was a wine cellar. Beyond that was a workout room outfitted for fighting practice.
Logan moved in after the end of her six month lease of her apartment.
Friday, December 26th, 1997
During their seven-month partnership Scully and Logan had cleared all but one of the cases they had been assigned. Skinner was very pleased with their work, the Consortium paid them little attention, and Nicole had settled into her new place. Dana and Nicole had dinner together at least once a week that had nothing to do with work, and at least every two weeks the two women had dinner with Dana's mother as well. They had even exchanged Christmas gifts.
While Dana was visiting with her family for Christmas Nicole received a call from Thea. She told Nicole to meet her and her hacker buddy Jerry at the lab he worked at. It was late evening so it would be just the three of them. Nicole rushed over.
Thea met her at the door and let her in. They hugged.
"So what have you got for me?"
"Come on back and let me introduce you to Jerry."
After the introductions were made Jerry Trainer, the molecular biologist and Thea's hacker buddy, explained that he had finally broken down the substance that he'd isolated in Dana's blood. He also showed how it was specifically designed to react only to Dana's DNA. It wouldn't affect anyone else. He'd even been able to replicate some of it in its pure form. What remained to be done was to come up with not only a way to block its effects, but also to reverse the damage it had already done to Dana. Nicole knew if they could block its effects she could repair the physical harm already done.
"Can you devise a way to block the effects of this bugger?" Nicole asked.
Jerry grinned. "I thought you'd never ask. Since it's designed so specifically to react with one person's DNA it's only a matter of altering the original agent. Even a slight change should prevent it from reacting with her DNA."
"That's all well and good, but it doesn't do me a whole lot of good since I don't have access to the source of the agent."
"Then we find a way to alter it once it enters the body."
"Another agent that reacts with it and renders it benign."
Nicole smiled. "How long will it take you?"
"Not nearly as long as it did isolating and replicating it did. It's always easier to destroy than to create. And all we really have to do is throw in a monkey wrench rather than completely destroy it."
She nodded. "I appreciate your best efforts, and your quickest." She paused. "We're running out time," she added softly.
Jerry nodded in understanding. "The lab is basically shut down for the holidays. I can pretty much work on it round the clock till everyone comes back after the New Year."
"Thanks. I appreciate all you've done, Jerry. You'll get a nice bonus when it's done."
"This isn't about money for me. It's about the challenge," Jerry said.
"I understand that, but you should still be compensated for all the hard work you've done."
AD Skinner's Office
Wednesday, January 7th, 1998
Skinner stood as the two women entered his office. "Agent Scully, Agent Logan, please have a seat." He retook his seat as they sat in the two chairs in front of his desk. "I have a case for you." He handed a file to Scully, which she opened and skimmed. "An agent in Miami, Agent Cardoza, has asked for help with a case he's been working."
Scully looked up. "Satanic ritual killings?"
"Perhaps not satanic, but ritual killings, yes. Don't expect to feel particularly welcome at the Miami field office. The SAC has refused to provide any resources or backup in this case."
"Why not?" Logan asked.
"Special Agent Fredericks is old school. And he doesn't have much patience for what he considers nonsense."
"Then how did it come to your attention, sir?" asked Scully.
"Fredericks told the investigating agent that if he could find anyone crazy enough to help him outside of the Miami field office that was fine. I think it's obvious that Fredericks didn't think he'd get anyone to help. You're expected in Miami today," he finished, dismissing the agents.
"Yes, sir," Scully answered for the both of them. They stood to leave the AD's office.
"Agent Logan, would you please stay? It'll only take a minute."
The women exchanged a look and Scully left. The blonde turned back to Skinner.
"She doesn't look like she's doing very well."
"She's not," Logan sighed.
"Is she up to this, or should I pull her from the field."
"No, don't pull her."
"If she's not able to watch your bac"
"She can watch my back just fine."
The AD gave her a skeptical look.
"It's my back and I trust her to have it," she replied a little curtly. Logan took a slow breath. "Look, it's better if she's with me out of town than here alone."
Skinner silently mulled over the blonde's words.
"Trust me, Walter."
He looked into her eyes and finally nodded.
Miami International Airport
Nicole watched her partner sleep on the flight down to Miami. Despite all her efforts to 'treat' the redhead, the cancer was winning. Dana was more and more fatigued with each day that passed. Dana's clothes hung loosely on her and she really couldn't afford to lose any more weight. If Thea's friend didn't come up with something soon, it was going to be too late.
Their flight touched down at 6:12 pm. When they arrived at baggage claim Nicole volunteered to get their bags, so Dana headed to the car rental counter. While she was filling out the paperwork for the rental, a dark complexioned man walked up to the counter.
"Agent Scully? Or Agent Logan?"
Scully turned and looked at the tall man. "Scully," she answered. "Agent Cardoza?"
Javier Cardoza took in the pale appearance of the redhead, thinking she'd be truly beautiful with some color and little more weight on her frame. "Yes. Welcome to Miami," he said with a bright smile. "I meant to meet you at the gate, but there was an accident on the causeway."
"Where's Agent Logan?"
"She's getting our bags," Scully said with a nod toward the baggage carousel for their flight.
"She? I didn't know they were partnering women together."
Scully quirked an eyebrow. "Do you have a problem with it?"
"No, no. Not at all. Well, I'll give Agent Logan a hand while you finish up here." Cardoza walked over to the blonde and tapped her on the shoulder. "Agent Logan?"
When the blonde turned around, Cardoza was almost dumbstruck by the dark green eyes looking at him. He managed to gather himself without being too obvious about his mental stumble. He held her hand out and flashed a big, white smile.
"I'm Agent Javier Cardoza. Welcome to Miami."
"It's nice to meet you, Agent Cardoza." Logan shook his hand and smiled. Then she saw their bags on the carousel. Just as she pulled them off Scully came back from the rental counter.
"Are you ready, Nicole?"
Before the blonde could answer, Cardoza spoke up. "Have you two had dinner?"
"Airplane food? Not on your life," Logan quipped.
"If you're not too tired we could go to dinner... and discuss the case."
Nicole looked to Dana for the answer.
Having slept on the flight down, Scully thought she could handle going out to dinner. "As long as we can check into our hotel first, dinner would be fine," she replied.
They waited until after the waiter delivered their drinks to bring up the case.
"So tell me, Agent Cardoza, what makes you think the case involves satanic ritual kill" Scully started.
He cut her off. "I never said Satanism had anything to do with it, Agent Scully. They are ritual killings, but they don't follow a known religion."
"What do you mean?"
"There are no modern religions that incorporate human sacrifice, not even the Church of Satan," Logan interjected.
"We do occasionally run across sacrifices that have been performed for Santeria, but they're always animals," said Cardoza. "I believe what we're dealing with in this case is a person, or persons, who are deliberately trying to make these killings appear to be part of a satanic ritual based on the popular misconceptions of Satanism portrayed in movies and fiction." He paused for a beat. "Or a mentally ill person."
The three agents ended their discussion of the case when the waiter brought their food.
When they returned to their hotel, Dana and Nicole both changed their clothes. Dana put on her pajamas and settled in to read a book before going to sleep. The blonde changed into jeans and a dark t-shirt. She wanted to see if she could pick up on any whispers about the killings... and the kind of people that might be involved with such things. Before heading out she knocked on the adjoining door between their rooms before opening it.
The redhead was surprised when she saw how her partner was dressed. "What are you up to, Nicole?"
"I just wanted to let you know that I'm headed out for a little while. I have my phone with me though if you need me."
"You're going out?"
"Would you like to join me?" the blonde asked, knowing Dana would say no.
"No. Just don't stay out all night," she said with a sigh.
Nicole smiled gently. "Don't worry, Dana, I'm just going to try to get a feel for things."
Most Recent Crime Scene
Thursday, January 8th, 1998
In the morning Scully and Logan met with Cardoza, who took them to the latest two crime scenes. The two agents from DC went over the scenes and asked questions. It was at the newest crime scene that the blonde seemed a little distracted.
They were in what had once been a beautiful house, but was now a dilapidated, condemned building in a rundown part of the city. The murder had been committed in the kitchen, but Logan wandered into the walk-in pantry. She stood still in the center of the pantry.
Scully walked to the doorway and frowned. She couldn't figure out what her partner was doing. She startled a little when the blonde suddenly started pulling down some shelving. "Nicole! What the hell are you doing?"
Logan placed her gloved palm against the wall where she'd removed the shelves and pressed. There was a snick and then a panel jerkily slid aside, exposing a small room.
Cardoza stood behind Scully, his eyes wide. "How did you know that was there?"
The blonde withdrew a small flashlight from her pocket. "Come and look at this."
The other two both crowded into the pantry and looked at where Logan was focusing the flashlight beam.
"What is that?" Scully asked.
"It's a vévé for a lwa," replied Cardoza.
"You mean voodoo?"
"We have a significant Haitian population with plenty of followers of Vodou."
"This isn't any lwa I've ever heard of, and it's not any form of Vodou. This is something else, something much older... and evil," countered Logan. "We should get some samples," she said as she ducked into the little room.
Nicole pulled out a small paper sample envelope. When she knelt and placed her hand on the floor next to the symbol painted on the floor, the blonde was practically knocked back onto her butt from the force of what she felt. Dana was alarmed by Nicole's expression and the lack of color and in her partner's face it was a cross between imminent sickness and terror. Dana knew something was very wrong. She entered and knelt next to the blonde. She was about to put an arm around her partner when Nicole whispered to her urgently.
"Get him out of here."
"Just get him away from here. I need a few minutes alone. Please!" she pleaded.
The pain in Nicole's eyes tore at Dana, but she did as the blonde requested. She exited the small room. "Agent Cardoza, I'd like to speak with the neighbor that found the body."
He started to gesture toward the pantry but before he could say anything Scully cut him off.
"Agent Logan will handle getting the samples while we talk with the neighbor."
Dana stood on the sidewalk in front of the house with Cardoza, talking to the neighbor, but her thoughts and concern remained with her partner. It was obvious that Nicole had been distressed. Even though they had gotten a little drunk that night a little over two months ago, Dana clearly remembered everything the blonde had told her about how her abilities affected Nicole, how she felt things, and the price she paid. Dana wanted to be with her partner, to help her, and comfort her. Her attention returned somewhat to the conversation at hand.
"... nothing else you need..."
"No. Thank you," Scully replied.
Once Dana got Cardoza away from the kitchen and out of the house, Nicole let out an inarticulate noise. She had not been prepared for what she'd encountered. Evil, with a capital E, permeated the area. It was an old Evil... and angry. It was an amorphous thing, like a vapor that hung in the air. Whoever had performed the sacrifice in that house was trying to resurrect something ancient and terrible. One way or another, Nicole knew she had to stop it.
The blonde had a chance to center herself by the time the others returned. When Scully and Cardoza entered the kitchen the partners exchanged a look that managed to convey Dana's concern and Nicole's assurance that she was alright.
"I've got the samples. If there's nothing else you want to look at, Dana, we can go."
Miami FBI Field Office
While Scully examined and tested the samples in a lab, Logan and Cardoza stood in front of a large map of the city taped up on a whiteboard.
At Logan's request, Cardoza marked the position of each crime scene on the map. He then stood back and silently observed the blonde... the view of her ass was quite pleasant. Logan peered at the marks on the map in silence. Suddenly the blonde moved up to the map and marked a spot on the map and circled her mark.
"That's where the next killing will take place," Nicole announced.
"How do you know?" Dana asked as she entered the room.
"Because it will complete the pattern." The blonde used the marker to draw a symbol on the map, connecting all of the crime scenes and her mark.
Cardoza frowned. "I don't recognize that symbol."
"It's very old. It's a symbol of resurrection. The symbol at the house was the one representing the demon Humbaba."
"Hubba what?" Cardoza was confused.
Logan nodded. "It's Mesopotamian specifically, Akkadian. Humbaba's sole purpose was to be a 'terror to human beings.'" She sighed as she turned away from the map. "Someone is trying to resurrect Humbaba."
"Do you actually believe someone can resurrect this demon?" Dana asked, skeptical.
"It doesn't matter what you or I believe. The point is there's someone out there who does believe it's possible and is sacrificing people to make it happen."
"How do you know all of this," Cardoza asked.
"I have a PhD in Theology. I've studied religion since I was a kid."
"All of them."
The man blinked, clearly not expecting and not really believing her answer.
Dana looked at her partner and held her eyes. She may not believe in demons, but she didn't doubt Nicole knew what she was talking about. After a moment she spoke. "The emblem was painted in blood, which you undoubtedly already surmised. The blood was from the previous victim."
St. Philomena Church
The three agents ended their working day before noon since they were going to be on stakeout that night. Feeling fatigued, Dana had no trouble falling asleep as soon as she lay down. Nicole, on the other hand, had important errands to run. She needed to prepare for what might have to be done.
Cardoza decided to forgo an afternoon nap and discreetly followed the intriguing blonde agent. He was surprised to follow Logan into a one of the roughest neighborhoods of the city. He watched as Logan entered a shop that catered to the practitioners of alternative religions. It was definitely not a touristy kind of place either.
Several minutes after Logan entered the shop she exited with bag in hand, presumably containing whatever she had purchased. She then got into her car and drove to a church close to the visiting agents' hotel. Cardoza parked his own car and entered the church. He observed the blonde near the altar speaking with the priest. He couldn't hear them so he eased his way closer along the side wall, hiding behind a pillar, taking care not to bring any attention to himself.
"... hasta consagrar ella." [... to consecrate it.]
Father Raul nodded somberly. "Claro." [Of course.] He held out his hand and Logan withdrew a large ceremonial dagger from the bag and handed it to him. He placed the dagger on the altar, donned his vestments, and lit the candles on the altar. He began to pray in Latin.
When the priest finished, Logan nodded her thanks and then bowed her head for a moment, looked up toward the ceiling, and began her own prayer... in a language not of man. Father Raul thought he recognized the most ancient of languages, though he didn't understand a single word of it. Then he got a good look at the blonde's eyes. He let out a gasp.
"Virtud!" [Virtue!] he exclaimed softly.
When Logan finished her own prayer, her own appeal for divine blessing, she looked at the priest. "Gracias, Padre." [Thank you, Father.] She picked up the dagger from the altar and turned to leave. "Did you want something, Agent Cardoza?" she asked without looking over at the pillar the man was hiding behind.
He cringed; he thought he'd been successful in avoiding detection. Cardoza stepped out from behind the pillar. He wasn't sure what to say so he just shrugged.
Thursday, January 8th, 1998
The waitress poured Cardoza's coffee after delivering Logan's hot tea. He thanked the waitress and then she walked away.
After taking a sip of the tea, Logan put her cup down and met the man's dark eyes. "Go ahead and ask, Agent Cardoza," she said evenly.
"What's with the dagger? And why did you have it consecrated by a Catholic priest?"
The blonde's eyes fell to the shopping bag laying on the table. "I had the priest consecrate the dagger because the huongan asogwe was not available at the shop where I bought it."
"Huongan asogwe the Vodou high priest."
"Insurance... just in case the perp is successful in his efforts."
"You mean in resurrecting the demon Humbaba? You're telling me you actually believe in demons?"
"I know there's good and evil and that both manifest in a variety of forms, human or... otherwise."
The two agents sipped their drinks in silence for a few minutes.
"So, what's the plan for tonight, Agent Logan?"
"The plan is to stop whoever has been making the sacrifices before he claims another victim."
"And if we're too late?"
"Then I intend to use that dagger," she nodded toward the bag, "and take out Humbaba."
"Just like that? You're going to face down a demon and simply 'take him out'?"
"I never said it was going to be simple. If it actually comes to taking on Humbaba I expect things to be most difficult." She paused for a beat. "And, I'd greatly appreciate it if you'd ensure Agent Scully is safe... regardless of what happens."
The man shook his head. He couldn't believe he was having a conversation with a beautiful and obviously intelligent FBI agent about fighting an ancient Mesopotamian demon. While he held a healthy respect for other religions such as Santeria and Vodou, he certainly didn't believe in actual demons.
When Dana woke up it was almost 4:00 pm and she was hungry, so she ordered takeout enough for her and Nicole to be delivered. She changed while waiting for the food to be delivered. Once the food arrived she tapped on the unlocked adjoining door and pushed it open. She found her partner sitting on the bed dressed in sweats and a tank top and clearly in a state of meditation. She wasn't quite sure what to do, or say, if anything. Nicole's voice startled her when she spoke.
"It's alright, Dana. Come on in." The blonde opened her eyes and unfolded herself. "Smells good."
"I got your favorite," Dana said taking the Chinese food out of the bag and placing the boxes on the bed between them.
Dana decided to voice her doubts as they started their meal. "Nicole, the killer can't really resurrect a demon, can he?"
"We've discussed the reality of evil before. Demon is just one label. But I can tell you this, what I felt in that room was as evil as anything I've come across."
Dana heard the strain in the blonde's voice and remembered how Nicole reacted when she laid her hand on the floor next to the emblem. "You did have a rough time in the room," the redhead said gently.
Dana reached out and put her hand on her partner's leg, giving it a light squeeze. "Hey, you okay?"
"Yeah," she replied with a sigh. "I just need to prepare myself for tonight; make sure that Humbaba can't get past my barriers. He's not going to go without a fight."
"Is there anything I can do to help?"
Nicole shook her head. "No. Nothing other than to prepare yourself."
"Humbaba was let loose 'as a terror to human beings.' Do you have any idea how he was described?" she asked rhetorically. "'When he looks at someone, it is the look of death.' 'Humbaba's roar is a flood, his mouth is death and his breath is fire!'" She paused. "You can be sure that if he is resurrected, he will use your own worst fear against you. You'll need to lock it down, hide it away so that he can't use it against you."
"Don't worry, I've gotten quite good at burying things," Dana responded with a rueful look.
The blonde nodded.
When they finished eating, Dana decided to lie down until it was time to go. Nicole silently closed their adjoining door. She then stripped and released her wings. She anointed herself with aromatic oil and lit a candle. She then began her prayer, asking for the strength to face Humbaba and to protect those around her while she did.
12387 SW 101st Street
Dana took a sip of her tea before setting the cup down. "Are you ever going to get me a cup of coffee instead of tea?" she asked as her partner stared out the window.
"That tea is much better for you."
She let out a small sound of amusement and shook her head. I never thought I'd prefer her tea to coffee... not that I'd give her the satisfaction by admitting it, she thought with a small smile. She eyed the bag sitting on the dashboard. "Are you going to tell me what's in the bag?"
"What do you mean?"
"Something I hope we won't need."
Not satisfied with the blonde's answer Dana reached for the bag. She didn't know what she expected, but she definitely didn't expect what she found. "A dagger?!"
"It's been consecrated."
Dana could think of absolutely nothing to say.
Friday, January 9th, 1998
Nicole was getting antsy and actually startled when the radio crackled to life. It was Cardoza checking in from his viewpoint of the back of the house.
"I haven't seen any movement at all. Are you sure we're in the right place?" His tone made his own opinion quite clear.
The blonde picked up the radio. "This is the only place that fits." She paused as she looked at the clock on the dash board 2:23 am. "But if he doesn't show up soon it'll be too late for the ritual to be performed tonight," she finished with a sigh then set the radio down again.
"We've been sitting here waiting for the killer to show up."
"But what if..."
"What if what?" Nicole prompted when the redhead didn't finish.
"What if he's already here? What if he's always been here?"
The blonde's head whipped around to look at her partner, eyes widening as realization and dread filled her. After only a moment Nicole grabbed the dagger, quickly got out of the car, and all but ran to the front door of the house. Dana scrambled to grab the radio, let Cardoza know they were going in, and then tried to catch up to her partner. She saw Nicole throw her shoulder into the obviously thick wooden door. Dana was surprised it gave way so easily. With gun drawn she followed her partner into the house.
It was dark inside, no light coming from the streetlights through the covered windows. Nicole was able to move in the darkness effortlessly, but Dana needed to get her flashlight out.
Dana followed her partner's voice up the stairs to the second floor. She heard Cardoza come in the back door and follow her.
Nicole aimed her weapon at the naked, blood-covered man kneeling on the floor. He was surrounded by lit candles and the body of his latest victim lay directly in front of him. He had cut her open and removed her heart he was holding it in his hand. Nicole felt Dana enter the room then saw her move to the side wall from the corner of her eye. Cardoza entered and started to gag at the butchery.
The man glared at Nicole. "You're too late. Humbaba rises tonight." He suddenly brought the heart to his mouth and took a bite.
"NOOO!" Nicole shot him in the shoulder, knocking him back... but it was too late. The ritual was complete.
Before Dana or Cardoza could even think about moving, a thick column of pitch black smoke shot up from the center of the symbol drawn on the floor. All three of the agents were blown back against the walls by some invisible force.
Dana was knocked out.
Javier Cardoza was on the floor crying out and writhing in pain. Having watched his father crippled with a degenerative and debilitating neurological disease, his greatest fear was to suffer the same painful fate.
Nicole recovered the quickest. She pulled the dagger from where she'd tucked it in her belt. "Everyone stay down!" Her words were almost drowned out by an unearthly roar. She took a breath and then threw herself into the pillar of smoke, disappearing.
The suspect was yelling for Humbaba to empower him when Nicole came flying out of the smoke pillar and slammed against a wall, crumpling to the floor like a rag doll. A deafening roar sounded and a nebulous, roiling, head-shaped protuberance of black smoke extended towards the suspect. It loomed over the suspect for a moment before a mouth formed and opened. Flames shot out of the mouth and immolated the man. He died screaming.
The head moved and started to bear down on Dana where she was beginning to move. She opened her eyes but what she saw was the image of the crazed Duane Barry who had abducted her. She had no memories of the weeks she was missing, but nightmares were a different story. She was frozen, unable to move as her nightmares were given life and an icy hand of terror constricted around her heart and stole her breath.
Having caught her breath and cleared her head, Nicole launched herself into the pillar of smoke again. The 'head' pulled back into the smoke column. The column of black smoke turned into a writhing, coiling, bucking thing with Nicole hanging on for dear life while trying to stab it with her dagger. It slammed the blonde against the ceiling, the walls, and the floor as it fought to dislodge her.
Finally, Nicole must have struck something vital, because the demon let out another deafening roar and belched fire, setting the ceiling and one wall on fire. An indescribably ugly face formed and lunged at Cardoza, who had finally stopped moaning and writhing in pain. He let out a scream of terror and scrambled to get out of the room. The demon then gave a final lunge at Dana, spending the last of its energy trying to permanently lock her inside her nightmare.
And then it was gone.
Nicole landed on the floor with a thud, knocking the wind out of her. It wasn't until a hot ember landed on her arm that she moved. Coughing as she drew in heated smoke, she crawled over to where her partner lay on the floor.
"Dana! We have to get out of here!"
The redhead didn't respond to Nicole. Dana's eyes were open but she was locked inside her own worst nightmare. The blonde was going to have to carry Dana out of the burning room. She slipped her arms under Dana's body, noting how little she weighed, even in the urgency of their situation.
Nicole managed to carry her partner down to the first floor and out to the front yard where she found Agent Cardoza slowly regaining his wits. She set Dana down on the grass.
"Call the fire department," Nicole ordered Cardoza.
She then turned her attention to her partner. "Dana, can you hear me?... Dana!"
The redhead didn't couldn't respond. She was locked inside her own mind, her own greatest terror.
Nicole had to reach Dana or lose her forever. The blonde knelt and took Dana's face between her hands and locked eyes with her. "Look at me, Dana. Focus on me. It's not real!" She reached out mentally, seeking to connect with Dana's soul. None of the redhead's usual walls were in place, but her mind and soul were captive to her terror. Nicole had to get through the fear to reach her partner. She pushed, confronting Dana's terror... taking it into herself.
Shattered images... Duane Barry... pain... faceless beings... fear... surgery... isolation... desperation... loneliness... unknown voices... monsters...
It's not real, Dana! Fight it! Don't you dare die on me, Dana! I can't lose you! Come back, Dana!
Watery blue eyes slowly swam into focus, eventually seeing the dark green eyes of her partner her friend calming her, anchoring her in the real world rather than that of her nightmares. "Nicole?"
The blonde nodded. Knowing Dana was alright, Nicole let go of her and slumped down onto the grass and lay back. Every single bone and muscle was sore and she was exhausted. She didn't even move when the sirens announced the arrival of the fire department.
After making sure Agent Cardoza was alright, Nicole took Dana back to their hotel. There was a strained silence between them. Dana was embarrassed about succumbing to Humbaba's power and letting her fear show. Nicole was trying to settle herself after coming so close to losing Dana... and feeling the redhead's deep-seated fear directly. She was drained, sore, and desperately needed to re-center herself. However, she wasn't about to leave her partner alone after what had happened.
They both changed clothes as soon as they got to the hotel. Nicole knocked on the adjoining door.
"How are you?"
"I'm fine, Nicole."
The blonde gave her a look that was not judgmental, but clearly let her partner know she didn't believe her. There was also pain in Nicole's eyes, which didn't escape Dana's attention. Nicole sat on the side of the bed.
"I'm sorry, Dana."
Those certainly weren't the words the redhead expected. "What for?" she asked, surprised.
"When Humbaba attacked you... when I helped you..."
"Thank you for that."
Nicole shook her head. "You don't understand, Dana."
"I... I invaded your privacy," she said quietly. "I didn't know how else to reach you, how else to pull you out of his grip..."
"What are you talking about?" Dana asked, not understanding.
"I had to use my... abilities. I saw into your fear, Dana... I was there with you. I had to be, to help you, but I did it without your permission."
Dana finally understood what her partner was getting at. "It's alright, Nicole. You only did what you had to," she said sincerely.
"So we're okay?"
"Of course we are."
Nicole gave a small nod. "Good." She paused. "Agent Cardoza talked about his experience, but you haven't said a word. Do you remember it?"
"I don't want to talk about it." Tears suddenly glistened in Dana's eyes.
"I think you should." When Dana said nothing, Nicole continued. "You were alone and terrified."
She closed her eyes, unable to face Nicole, afraid she would see pity in the blonde's eyes. "It was when Duane Barry abducted me. He kept me locked in a room for a few days. I don't remember anything after that, but a microchip was implanted in the back of my neck, and there's reason to believe... it's responsible for my cancer," she said softly. "I was missing for several weeks and have no memory of that time." She took a shaky breath. "It's always been my biggest fear that I'll die alone and powerless... and afraid... so the thought of something like that happening again has been..."
Nicole said nothing, sensing the redhead's need to keep talking.
"During the last few years... there hasn't been much opportunity to meet anyone especially someone who could understand the job and the commitment it requires."
Nicole understood all too well Dana's loneliness. "I know what you mean," she agreed softly. "Are you okay?"
Dana nodded. "Yeah. I just need to unwind and relax for a while."
"Okay. I think I'll go for a run."
Nicole had left on her run and Dana had decided to take a long, hot bath. During her bath she was able to relax the knots in her muscles and her stomach. She had been twisted up inside by her encounter and experience with Humbaba.
Part of her did not want to acknowledge what had happened as real that she had been in the grips of an ancient demon. Nor did she want to acknowledge that her partner had somehow fought and defeated said demon. On the other hand, she could not deny what she had seen, heard, felt, and experienced firsthand. It had all been too real.
Dana got out of the tub, dried off, washed her face, and put on her pajamas even though it was early afternoon. She turned on the TV just to have some background noise and then opened her laptop.
She tried to sort her thoughts from her feelings so she could complete her case notes. Once she was done with the facts of the case, Dana closed out her case file and opened her journal. She needed to sort her feelings out. Her journal didn't often dwell on feelings, but when she did need to deal with them, it was the only outlet she usually allowed herself.
It was while she was putting her feelings into words that it suddenly hit her, the magnitude of what her partner had done and what it had cost the blonde. To save her, Nicole had had to lower her barriers and experience Dana's terror with her. She had to leave herself completely vulnerable to Humbaba's evil. It hadn't been all that long ago that they had discussed what such actions did to Nicole what kind of price she paid.
Oh, my god, Nicole, what did you do? You made sure Agent Cardoza was okay, and you made sure I was okay, but who's making sure you're okay? After everything you did to protect yourself from the demon you went and dropped all your barriers, leaving yourself completely open and vulnerable to it, completely unprotected... to save me. What has it cost you?
It was dark when Nicole got back to the hotel. Her run had lasted literally for hours. She'd managed to hold her tears back until she made it to quiet beach. After giving in to her need to cry she ran until her tears stopped; then she ran until her muscles hurt more than her heart and soul; then she ran until both her body and mind were numb. Even so, she knew the nightmares would still come. But at least she would have a few hours of relative peace.
She came in, her clothes and hair dripping with sweat. As soon as Dana heard the blonde's door close she came through the adjoining door, almost running.
Nicole turned at looked at her wearily.
"Are you okay? You've been gone for hours," Dana said with concern.
"Yeah. But I need a shower," she replied flatly.
With that Nicole went into her bathroom and closed the door. Dana heard the shower start only a couple of seconds later. She was still waiting when her partner came out of the bathroom, after Nicole's 45-minute shower, wrapped in the thread bare hotel towel.
"Is there something I can do for you, Dana?" the blonde asked as she dropped the towel and slipped on a pair of sweats and a tank top. She turned around to look at her partner.
Dana was concerned by the dullness in the blonde's eyes. "I was hoping there was something I could do for you," she said gently. She continued when Nicole didn't respond. "Nicole, it wasn't very long ago you told me how much of a price you paid when you lowered your barriers to evil."
Nicole simply lowered her eyes and took a deep breath.
"I know you had to lower your barriers to help me the way you did this morning. So I know you must be hurting. You spoke to Agent Cardoza and made sure he was okay; and you listened to me, made sure I was okay. Now I'm here, for you... to make sure you're alright."
Nicole sat down and let out a sigh. "I won't say it was a picnic, but... I'm okay. I've been through worse, Dana, much worse."
"But that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt... does it?"
"No, no it doesn't," she replied quietly.
"How do you deal with it?"
"I work out; I go for runs... stuff like that."
"You went on a pretty long run today."
Nicole nodded. "Yeah. It took me a while to get... settled."
"I'm sorry, Nicole."
"It's my fault."
The blonde gave Dana a confused look. "How do you figure that?"
"If I'd been strong enough and not given in to my fear, you wouldn't have had to lower your barriers and expose yourself to Humbaba."
"It wasn't your fault, Dana."
"But I wasn't strong enough. You were. You didn't give in to your fear like Cardoza and I did."
"But I did," Nicole replied in an almost inaudible whisper. "Humbaba found my fear just easily as he did yours or Cardoza's."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
Nicole gave a small shake of her head. "No... I worked through it during my run."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah." She took a deep breath and let it out. "Look, I need to take care of something this weekend out of town. Will you be alright going back to DC without me?" she asked changing the topic.
"Sure. Today's Friday anyway. I'll drop off our reports, check the IN box to see if there's anything pressing and then call it a day. You'll be back Monday, right?"
"Definitely. I might be a little jetlagged, but I'll be there Monday morning."
Sunday, January 11th, 1998
It had been a long weekend for Nicole. She'd spent over 22 hours in the air, not including a couple of layovers. In fact she'd only been in Rome for five hours between flights barely enough time to meet with the Council for her debriefing about her encounter with Humbaba.
She was exhausted when she landed back in DC on Sunday afternoon. She caught a cab back to her house and headed to bed for a nap. She had just fallen asleep when her house phone rang. She reached out and snagged the handset from the nightstand.
"Logan," she mumbled tiredly.
"Agent Logan! Where the hell have you been? I've been trying to contact you since yesterday afternoon," barked Skinner.
"I had to go out of town. I just got back. Is something wrong, Walter?"
"Yes. I'm afraid it's Scully."
"What about her?"
"She's in the hospital."
"What?!" Nicole sat up quickly.
"She went into hypovolemic shock. They say she's... not doing well."
"What hospital is she in?"
"I'll be there shortly."
George Washington University Hospital
Nicole dressed in record time and headed out to the hospital. She put a charged battery in her cell phone and started to listen to the several messages left on her voicemail as she drove. There were indeed a number of messages from Skinner. When she arrived at the hospital she had to turn off her cell phone when she went inside. She found Dana's mother outside one of the ICU rooms.
They hugged. "How is she?"
"Not good I'm afraid. She's been fighting this for so long."
"I know, Maggie, I know. Can I see her?"
"Yes, go on in, dear."
Nicole went in and moved to Dana's bedside. She took hold of the unconscious woman's hand, gently tracing her thumb over the back of Dana's hand. "Hey, Dana, I'm here. I'm sorry it took me so long to get here." She had to swallow around the lump that had formed in her throat. "I know you've been fighting for a long time and that you're tired, but I need you to keep fighting. Keep fighting, Dana; give me some time to find the way to help you. Don't give up on me yet, okay?" She wiped away some tears threatening to spill. "You once told me that you believed in me, well I believe in you as well. So I know you can fight this at least as long as you need to."
A nurse entered to check Dana's vitals and indicated it was time for Nicole to leave.
"Well, I have to go for now. Hang in there, Dana. I'll be back." Nicole joined Maggie in the waiting area. "Would you like something to eat or drink?"
"No thank you, dear. I just had something to eat."
"Alright. I have to make a couple of phone calls, but I'll be right back."
Nicole went outside and turned her cell phone back on. She then listened to the rest of her voicemails. That's when she heard the one left by Thea. She quickly called Thea back.
"Thea, it's Nicole. I got your message. Tell me you have good news."
"I have good news. Jerry has come up with a reaction agent to interact with the agent he analyzed for you."
"He's sure. Says it'll bind with the agent and totally negate its effects, even if Dana continues to intake more of the agent."
"Thank God, and none too soon."
They made arrangements to meet so Nicole could get the 'cure' from Thea. Then Nicole placed another call.
"Ian, it's me, Nicole."
"Well hello, luv. It's been a while."
"Yes it has been. Listen, I need your help, Ian. It's important."
"You can count on me, whatever it is."
"I know, and I appreciate it, more than you know."
"So what can I do for you?"
She told him what she needed from him, and he agreed to help.
George Washington University Hospital
Sunday, January 11th, 1998
After Nicole met up with Thea and received the reagent Jerry had come up with, she went back inside the hospital. She went into a bathroom, locked the door, and released her wings. Once she plucked a couple of feathers she broke open the quills and added the sap to the substance she'd received from Thea.
Nicole brought a cup of fresh coffee for Maggie when she returned to the ICU. "Here you go, Maggie."
"Oh, thank you, Nicole."
"You're welcome." She then knelt in front of Maggie, taking the woman's free hand in her own. "I need to talk you, Maggie about Dana."
"What is it?"
"I don't know how much she's told you, but I'm sure you know that the years she's worked on the X-Files have not only been dangerous, but have made enemies for her as well."
"Yes, I know. I also know there's a lot she hasn't told me." She paused. "These enemies... they made her sick, didn't they? I know it sounds crazy to say someone gave my daughter cancer, but..."
Nicole gently squeezed her hand. "I realize how it sounds, too, but you're not wrong." She could see the anger flare in Maggie's eyes. "Good, get angry, that's what I'm going to need you to do."
"What do you mean?"
Nicole held her gaze, making a connection with her. "I've found a way to help her."
"Really? How?! You have to tell the doctors!"
"No, Maggie, I can't. What I have to do is take Dana away from here. I have to take her somewhere else somewhere no one can find her, where I can keep her safe while she recovers." She paused. "Do you understand?"
Maggie nodded. "She's still in danger, even if you help her."
"Tell me what I can do?"
"You can get angry and upset when it's discovered Dana is missing from her room. You can't let on to anyone that you know what's happened or that I'm involved in any way. Not even your family. Can you do that for me for Dana?"
"Yes, I can. Just promise me one thing."
"You do whatever you have to, to keep yourself safe from these people who hurt my daughter even if you can't help her. Don't let them win." There was no mistaking the steel in her voice or behind her eyes.
"I won't let them win I promise. And I will help Dana, trust me."
Maggie reached out and tenderly cupped the young woman's cheek. "I do. I'm entrusting my daughter's life to you."
Nicole nodded. She then moved to sit next to Maggie and embraced her. "It'll be alright, Maggie, I promise. Dana and I will have to be gone for a while and you won't hear from us while we're gone, but it will be alright. I'll take care of her and protect her, with my life if necessary, I promise." Nicole saw Skinner approaching down the corridor. She released Maggie.
"Mrs. Scully, Agent Logan."
"Any news?" he asked.
Maggie shook her head. "The same."
"Sir, could I have a word?"
The blonde and Skinner walked a little ways down the hallway.
"What did you want to talk about?" he asked.
"I have a case of bad timing."
"What do you mean?"
Nicole let out a sigh. "Well, it seems I have a bit of a problem a previous case."
"I don't understand."
"You're going to receive notification that I'm being temporarily pulled to work on one of my previous cases undercover today."
"Today?! What about Scully?"
She dropped her eyes to the floor. "As much as I wish things were different for Agent Scully, there's not really anything I can do for her."
"Can't you do something for her the way you did for me?" he asked hopefully.
"Your situation was completely different, Walter; Dana has a disease. Besides, if I could do something for her, don't you think I would have before now? You think I like watching the cancer eat away at her day by day, month by month? I don't. She's my partner and my friend." She paused and took a breath. "I've got to go. I don't know how long I'll be gone, but I'll see you when I get back." With that she walked to the elevator and left.
Skinner received a call from the Director not 30 minutes later about Agent Logan's temporary reassignment.
Monday, January 12th, 1998
It was after midnight when Nicole flew to the roof of the hospital. She then carefully made her way to Dana's room, keeping to the shadows and avoiding any personnel moving around.
Fortunately, Maggie was resting in the waiting room. She realized that for Nicole to take Dana from the hospital she would need an opportunity to do so without any witnesses. So despite her desire to stay by her daughter's side, Maggie forced herself to rest on the couch in the waiting room... and prayed Nicole was successful in helping her daughter.
Nicole silently slipped into Dana's room and found her still unconscious. She laid a hand on Dana's forehead and concentrated. She was able to nudge her partner awake. Dana slowly blinked her eyes open to see her partner looking down at her.
Dana's eyes were dull and flat. "Hey," she croaked through a dry throat and mouth.
The blonde poured a glass of water and, using a bendable straw, let Dana have a couple of sips. "How do you feel?"
"Nose bleed... wouldn't stop."
Nicole sat on the side of the bed and she gently brushed some hair back from Dana's forehead. It was clearly evident that the redhead's illness had taken a very heavy toll on her she was deathly pale, underweight, and weak.
"Dana, I know you feel tired and worn out, but you need to keep fighting. Can you do that?"
She let out a heavy but quiet sigh. "I'm dying, Nicole. I have been for some time now. This is just fate catching up to me."
Nicole shook her head. "No, it's not. It's not your destiny to die yet, Dana."
"I don't want to die, but there's nothing that can be done. I've gone through all the treatments my oncologist ordered and nothing's worked. I'm lucky to have lived this long with the cancer."
The blonde took a deep breath and let it out as she took Dana's hand in her own. "You once asked me how I was able to help people. I told you that they have to want it, that they have to make a choice free will. I'm asking you, Dana, to make that choice for yourself now."
The redhead didn't miss the earnestness, or tears, in her partner's voice. She felt Nicole's hand squeeze hers. Dana closed her eyes as she considered her choices give up the fight and give in to the fatigue, just let go, or continue the fight despite the weariness and futility. She opened her eyes and looked up at the blonde again. Her eyes locked with her partner's and held. She felt like she was falling into verdant pools of warmth and comfort and security. In those green eyes she caught a glimpse of a second chance at life.
"What do I have to do?" she croaked quietly.
Nicole helped her partner take a couple more sips of water before answering the redhead's question. After setting the glass of water back down on the bed table she again took Dana's hand in one of her own. "Trust me," she answered solemnly.
While still holding their gaze Dana gave a small nod and squeezed Nicole's hand in return. Though her answer wasn't verbal it was nonetheless clear and unmistakable. She did indeed trust her partner even more than she'd ever trusted Mulder.
Nicole nodded. She then retrieved the prepared syringe from the inside pocket of her leather duster. She pulled the cap off the needle with her teeth and then injected the contents of the syringe into Dana's IV line. She put the used syringe back in her pocket.
"It will help you feel better. There's also some sedative so you can rest while I get you out of here." She cupped Dana's cheek, tenderly caressing it with her thumb. "You've made the choice to live and you will. Just relax and trust me to help you through this."
Dana brought her hand up and covered the blonde's hand on her cheek, then entwined her fingers with Nicole's. Her blue eyes never left her partner's green ones. For the few moments it took for the sedative to knock her out they held each other's eyes and Dana felt a strong connection with Nicole... a deep connection that was more than a partnership deeper than friendship. She felt it in her heart... and soul. Sleep claimed her while she was still gazing into the beautiful eyes of her partner.
Nicole turned off the alarms to the monitors the redhead was hooked up to, disconnected the leads attached to her, and carefully wrapped her up in the sheet and blanket from the bed to keep her warm. She then picked Dana up in her arms, settling her head against her shoulder. "You're going to be alright, Dana, I promise," she whispered before dropping a kiss on Dana's forehead.
The blonde carefully and silently made her way back up to the roof of the hospital. From there she flew up into the night sky.
Eastern Shore, Maryland
Nicole flew under the light of the full moon until she reached a safe house southeast of Washington on the Eastern Shore in an area populated by summer homes and few year round residents. She landed a few feet in front of the safe house. When she stepped up on the porch the door opened from the inside before she could even adjust her hold on her precious cargo to reach for the door knob.
"Well it's about bloody time you showed up. I was beginning to wonder if you were playing some kind of joke on me, even though you did have me get provisions."
"That's great, Ian, but do you mind letting me in? I need to get her settled," she said.
The man with hair dyed bright blue stepped aside and Nicole entered the house. She took Dana into the bedroom and got her settled. She sat on the side of the bed and caressed the redhead's cheek gently. "You're going to be alright, Dana, I promise," she whispered.
"She looks totally knackered. She a natural redhead?" Ian asked from the doorway.
Nicole shot him a harsh look of warning. He threw his hands up in surrender and backed out of the room, knowing he'd crossed a line. The blonde closed the bedroom door for privacy. Then she closed her eyes and concentrated. She reached out with her mind and soul, beckoning a very special presence. When she opened her eyes a form was coalescing a few feet away.
Soon the form solidified into the shape of a beautiful brunette who retained an ethereal luminescence about her. The woman smiled benevolently at Nicole. "Nicole, as always, it's good to see you."
The blonde stood and embraced the other woman. "It warms my heart and soul to see you, Ariel." They kissed each other's cheek as they moved apart.
"Now, what can I do for you?" Ariel asked with a smile, having already sensed a need in Nicole.
"I need your help, Ariel. She needs your help," she said with nod to Dana in the bed.
Ariel frowned slightly. "You know I can't, Nicole. I'm not her Guardian Angel. And as much as I'd like to be, I'm not your Guardian Angel either." She let out a sigh. "Even if I was I'm not allowed to interfere in the natural order of things. You know that."
"Yes, I do. But Dana's condition has nothing to do with the natural order of things. I'm not asking you to cure her I'm already handling that, but it's going to take a while. I can handle the requisite IVs, but she's going to need a catheter."
"I see. So why not hire a private doctor? It's not like you don't have the resources."
"Because I can't take the chance of anyone finding out our location. Protecting Dana is a large part of my assignment."
Ariel's eyebrow arched up in a way so like Dana's it made Nicole smile. "And here I thought you were a Virtue rather than a Guardian Angel," she responded with mirth.
"I'm no Guardian Angel but I'm doing the best I can to fulfill my assignment." She paused and moved her gaze from Ariel to Dana. "Please, help me."
"Alright," the Guardian Angel responded. "Do you have the supplies?"
"Yes." Nicole showed her the medical supplies and then left the room to give them privacy.
"If you don't mind, luv, I'm going to head down to the cellar the sun is starting to come up."
"No problem, Ian. Go on and get some rest. And thanks again for your help."
As soon as Ian went to the storm cellar Ariel emerged from the bedroom.
"How is she?" Nicole asked.
"The same. Her vitals appear to be steady. I checked the chart you had on her, so I went ahead and hung a unit of blood for her in addition to starting the IV."
"Thank you," Nicole replied as they both sat down on the couch.
"Now, do you want to explain to me how a malignant nasopharyngeal tumor is not a natural happening?" Ariel demanded.
"Someone designed an agent to react specifically with Dana's DNA to give her cancer. In anyone else it wouldn't work."
Ariel's eyes went wide. "My god. Bioengineered cancer?!"
"Yeah," she replied with a sigh.
"You said you were curing her? I didn't think that was within your capabilities."
"It isn't. A friend took care of identifying the agent and coming up with a reagent to react with it and neutralize its effects. From there I can handle the healing, though it's going to take me some time. She probably would have died before now if I hadn't been spiking her tea for so long."
"Whoever came up with this bioengineered cancer is an evil son of a bitch."
"I know. They're the other part of my assignment."
"You know who they are?"
"Yes. And trust me, they're going to pay."
Ariel gave her an affectionate smirk. "Now that sounds like the Malakim I know and love."
Nicole smiled at her very affectionately. "I miss you, you know."
The angel put her arm around Nicole and pulled her close. "I know."
The blonde's eyes welled with unshed tears. "I was too selfish. I wasn't willing to stay with you in Atlanta."
"Oh, sweetie, don't be so hard on yourself. It was just as much me as it was you. I wasn't willing to leave the CDC and join you in Europe."
"You had your daughter to think about. It made sense to stay for her sake."
"And it made no sense for you to stray from your path, Nicole. You've done so much good, sweetie, and there's so much more you're going to do." She tenderly cupped and caressed the blonde's cheek.
"I just wish we could have had more time... that you could have had more time."
"Both would have been nice, but it was my destiny to go when I did. And I get to help people now that I never would have had the chance to before."
"You were an angel in life, it only makes sense you became one after life," Nicole said smiling. "But it still doesn't mean I don't miss you."
They shared a look that conveyed affection and respect.
"I don't suppose you can stay a while."
Ariel smiled. "As much as I would love to, I can't."
Nicole changed the subject after a pregnant pause. "So, how is Elizabeth?"
"Doing quite well the last time I took a peek. Unfortunately, as her mother, that's all I'm allowed."
"That's got to be hard."
"It really pissed me off at first, but I eventually understood why it was one of the rules. As her mother there's nothing I wouldn't do for her. If I wasn't an angel, I could watch over her night and day... but I'd be powerless to do anything to help her. However, since I am an angel, there's too much I can do. And that wouldn't exactly be the best thing for her in the long run."
"I can understand the urge though. I don't know how well I'd deal with a choice like that. It was difficult enough dealing my decision to accept my..."
"... heritage. At least as a Malakim I can look after and protect those around me."
"That is if you stay in one place long enough to do so."
Nicole smirked. "True, but that's the nature of the work. As a hunter I go where the prey is."
The angel tenderly brushed some hair back from Nicole's face. "Maybe you'll stick around a little longer this time."
"What do you mean?"
Ariel smiled gently. "I know you; I can tell Dana means more to you than just an assignment. I see it in your eyes, and I feel it in your heart." She lightly placed her fingers on Nicole's lips cutting off her objection. "Don't. There's no reason to deny it, and certainly no reason to apologize for it. There's nothing wrong with caring about those around you." She removed her fingers from Nicole's lips.
"You're welcome. Well, I have to go. Take care, and when you need more medical assistance, or even if you don't, don't hesitate to contact me."
"Alright. Thanks again for your help."
"Anytime." With that Ariel, former doctor, and now Guardian Angel, faded into the ether.
Nicole went back into the bedroom. She sat on the side of the bed looking down at the wan features of her partner. "Partner... Ariel's right you know. Partner doesn't cover what you are to me, what I feel for you. Friend doesn't cover it either. You've become more than that. I don't know what to call what you are to me. You're more than a partner or friend, but we're not lovers." She let out a sigh and gently caressed Dana's cheek.
"You confuse me, Dana. I'm not used to this. I'm not used to feeling this way; I'm not used to getting this close of letting someone get this close to me. Don't get me wrong, I have friends, some very special friends that I would do anything for and would do anything for me. But we've already established you're more than just a friend. So... what am I going to do with you?"
The blonde sat just watching Dana sleep for several hours until she heard a knock on the front door. She closed the bedroom door behind herself and went to the front door.
They hugged. "Come on in. Did you have any trouble finding the place?"
"Not with the directions you gave me."
"Good. Want something to eat, drink?"
"Nothing to eat, but some water would be fine."
"Alright. Have a seat; make yourself comfortable." Nicole got a couple of cold bottles of water from the refrigerator and joined Thea on the couch. "Here you go."
"So how is your partner doing?"
"She's in bad shape. Your friend's solution came just in the nick of time."
"Will you be able to heal to her?" she asked with concern.
"Yes, but it's going to take some time more time than I'd like. Which means I'll have to move her to somewhere more secure, where the Consortium and the government can't track us."
"Do you have a place in mind?"
"Out of the country. If it wasn't winter I'd head up to Canada, but her compromised system can't handle the cold up there."
"So you need to go somewhere warm."
"Yes. I have to be very careful of Dana's health and of making sure no one can trace us."
Thea nodded in agreement. "Then use Great Thatch. I can have my company jet brought to a nearby airport in only a couple of hours."
"That would be great. If Dana's still stable we can leave tonight after the sun goes down."
"Why after sundown?"
Nicole smirked. "I don't think Ian would like to run the risk getting a sunburn."
"Ian?" Thea's expression went from confusion to shock. "You have Ian helping you?! How could you?!"
"Calm down, Thea," Nicole responded with a clear tone of authority in her voice which succeeded in snapping Thea out her rant.
"Sorry. But I just don't understand. I could understand if it was Hans he's good. But Ian... he-he's... not good."
"Ian is always welcome in my home no matter where I go. I trust him. In fact I trust him a hell of lot more than I ever will Hans."
Thea's jaw dropped in shock. "What? How... why?!"
"Hans never chose to be good. He was magically converted against his will. In fact, he was very adamant about his preference to remain as he was. Ian, on the other hand, chose to become good. So in all honesty, who should be trusted more? Someone who would choose evil if they had their free will to do so, or someone who chooses to become good of their own free will even though they were evil?"
Thea sighed. "I guess I see your point."
"You don't have to like Ian, but I trust him."
After sunset Nicole gently carried her partner out to the SUV Thea had rented for them. She settled Dana in the back where she'd made a fairly comfortable bed with blankets and pillows. She then crawled in the back with the redhead, making sure her IV was okay. She settled Dana's head on her lap as Thea closed the tailgate.
Ian and Thea both got in the front and Ian drove them to the small local airport. Once they arrived at the airport they boarded Thea's Lear jet. Nicole again made sure Dana was safely and comfortably settled with her head on her lap. They were in the air and headed to the British Virgin Islands in no time.
Thanks to Thea's witchcraft skills, their small jet was invisible to the eye and radar. No one would see or know about any aircraft going to or from Great Thatch Island.
Great Thatch Island, BVI
About five and half hours after they took off they landed at their destination Great Thatch Island. Nicole carried Dana off the plane and Ian, carrying their supplies, followed. Thea returned to the States with the jet.
"So, where exactly are we?" Ian asked.
"Great Thatch Island, reportedly an uninhabited island of the British Virgin Islands allegedly owned by the government."
"Reportedly? Allegedly? What the skinny here, luv?"
"Arrangements were made to purchase it from the Crown. Some improvements have been made but the island has been left pristine for the most part."
"You mean we're actually alone here? That we're the only people here?"
"Yep. But don't worry, Ian, you won't starve. There's blood on hand, although it is frozen."
He grinned. "So you were expecting me?" he asked with cockiness.
"Don't get so cocky, you're not the only friendly vampire around, you know," she replied chuckling. "It's stocked in case anyone may need it. Frozen blood is better than any fresh whatever that might be found on the island."
"You do have a point. And as one of said vampires, I thank you."
Nicole once again got Dana settled. She put her in the master bedroom. She was able to set Ian up in the guest room since the house had metal louvers on the windows to protect them during hurricanes.
The blonde had just finished hanging a new IV and giving Dana another syringe full of quill sap when she looked up and saw Ian leaning against the doorjamb.
"She doesn't look good, luv."
"I know. But she's going to get better. She has to. I'll make sure she does."
"Get some sleep, pet. I'll watch over her."
"Wake me if she wakes up."
Nicole grabbed a blanket and pillow and went out to the living room where she lay down on the couch. She fell into a restless sleep.
It was only a few hours later when Nicole woke up, or rather, gave up trying to get any restful sleep. She went into the kitchen to make herself some tea. While she waited for it to steep she released her wings and plucked a couple of feathers.
"You know I'll never get used to seeing that," came Ian's voice from the doorway.
"It doesn't hurt."
"I'm not talking about you plucking a couple of feathers," he replied. "I'm talking about the bloody wings, luv."
She gave him a smirk before turning back to prepare Dana's next syringe of quill sap. "Sounds a little like jealousy to me." She retracted her wings and poured herself some tea. "Do you want some tea?"
"The blood is in the freezer, you probably ought to put some in the refrigerator to thaw," she told him as she poured him some tea.
"Right." Ian went to the freezer and pulled out a couple of pints, moving them to the refrigerator. He then took the mug of tea Nicole held out to him.
He followed the blonde back into the bedroom where her partner was still asleep. Nicole set her tea down, clasped the IV line and injected the newly prepared syringe contents into it. She dropped the used syringe into the trash then picked up her mug and took a seat on the chest at the end of the bed.
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