The Sunnydale 3

by Goddess Michele


Title: The Sunnydale 3
Author: Goddess Michele
Date: May 30, 2003
Fandom: X-Files/Buffy the Vampire Slayer Pairing: Mulder/Giles
Spoilers: essentially a `reimagining' of the XF episode 3, so not only is there a ton of spoilers for that ep, but there's hints about Ascension as well, and whole dialogue grabs that seemed to work at the time. If you haven't seen those eps, yikes, get cable! I also play loose and fast with the first three seasons of BtVS Rating: NC17, I suppose, for some sex and violence Beta: More Chad the Handsome Jedi
Boring but necessary disclaimer: C.C., Fox and 1013 own Mulder, Joss Whedon and the continuity kings at Mutant Enemy own Giles and the Scooby Gang. As I've always said, I'm just borrowing them for fun, not profit, and I promise to return them only slightly bruised, but in that good 'thank you sir and may I have another?' way. Feedback: Yes, PLEASE! starshine24mc@yahoo.com Archive: put it wherever you like, including atxf and SM, or even Buffy archives, if you're into that--just leave my name on it Summary: This is what happens when I get all hot and bothered by a new character--Mulder gets to have him L I just thought it might be interesting to see what our very special agent would make of the paranormal goings-on in Sunnydale...

SUNNYDALE, CALIFORNIA
12:41 AM

Joe Fathers stood on the concrete deck, looking out at the pool and sipping a glass of red wine with what he hoped was some type of blas class. A moment later he was dripping wine down the front of his white dress shirt.

"Damn," he muttered, turning with a grimace and entering the house through glass sliding doors.

The house was a disaster, and he knew it. Clothes lay strewn throughout the hallway and into the living room, outnumbered just barely by the pop cans, TV dinner trays and taco chip bags cluttered even more profusely in the room. Joe kicked garbage out of his way as he made his way to the kitchen, thinking he should find some club soda or something. He glanced at the fridge, and felt guilty immediately as he reread the note tacked onto the gleaming white surface by a tacky pineapple fridge magnet:

        BACK SUNDAY
        NO PARTIES
        LOVE MOM AND DAD

Before he could open the refrigerator, he was startled by a noise coming from behind him. With a mixture of wariness and excitement, he turned and made his way back to the pool doors, his wineglass still locked in his hand, but forgotten for the moment.

A naked woman stood silhouetted in the darkened doorway to the backyard. As Joe approached her, he watched raptly as she struck a match, briefly illuminating dark eyes and red lips, lit a candle, and then blew out the match.

When they were barely a breath apart, Joe gave her a look somewhere between guilt and arousal. "I want you to know I ... I don't do this. I mean, I'm not one of those guys that when his folks are on vacation he--he--but when I saw you at the Bronze..." he stammered, feeling awkward and very much the teenager.

The woman put her finger to his lips. "Shh," she breathed. "It'll be worth it. I'll do things with you no one's ever done."

Feeling more and more like Tom Cruise in Risky Business, Joe followed her out to the pool. There, she turned to him, giving him a three hundred and sixty degree look at her nude body, took the wine glass from his suddenly nerveless fingers, and leaned past him to turn on the hot tub. Joe was speechless, which wasn't unusual for him, but the woman didn't seem to mind, which was.

In mere moments, the woman had him locked in a passionate embrace in the hot tub. Joe was feeling almost dizzy, and he didn't know whether to attribute that to the wine, the heated water, or the soft press of the woman's bare breasts against his chest. The woman slipped and slid over his body, very nearly sitting in his lap, and when she reached for his cock under the water, and latched onto his neck with her mouth, he cried out in a combination of pain and pleasure.

The woman lifted her mouth from Joe's neck, and he gasped at the sight of blood in a ring around her lips like garish clown lipstick. She smiled, and he tried to smile back, feeling sick. And then her hand squeezed him firmly, stroked hard several times, and he flopped about in the tub, groaning and nearly incoherent from the intense sensations. His eyes slipped closed, so he never saw the shadow looming over him, and barely registered it when a man yanked him up by the hair and drove a syringe into his neck. The woman was still stroking him, clutching him with her other hand and biting at his chest. He cried out once, a miserable damned scream, and then fell silent as the other two continued to ravage him.

X-FILES OFFICE
6:30 A.M.

Agent Fox Mulder entered his office, dropped the single file folder he was carrying onto a box in the corner and sighed deeply. A quick pained look flashed across his face, making his already weary features look more haggard. And then it was gone, and he was striding across the room and pulling dusty plastic covers off of his desk, the file cabinets, even his chair. He glanced up and saw that whomever had been in charge of closing up his little corner of the Bureau hadn't noticed the pencils stuck into the suspended ceiling, and that made him smile.

He turned to the bulletin board on the far wall, and pulled down the calendar there. Barely giving the half naked girls on each page a glance, he flipped the pages until May became November. This made him sigh again as he replaced the calendar on the wall. Staring a moment, he reached into his shirt pocket, found a pen, and proceeded to draw horns and a moustache on Miss November. Another smile, this one a little sadder than the grin he'd given the pencils.

He found the folder he'd brought in with him, and carried it over to the bank of filing cabinets. Selecting the drawer he wanted, he pawed through it until he came to a space in the files, and then he pulled a marked file out of the folder in his other hand. An X-File.

Mulder gave the name on the file a haunted look, and tried to put the bleakest thoughts out of his mind as he slipped the file marked "Dana Scully 7 3317" into the cabinet. Once he couldn't see her name, it seemed better, but only until he dipped his hand back into the original folder and pulled out more items.

No paperwork this time. Instead, Scully's badge and glasses. Flipping open the badge, he found his vision blurring just enough to put Scully's face into soft focus, but not enough that he couldn't easily grasp the gold necklace with the cross charm dangling from it, and pull it out of the badge holder.

Moving on autopilot now, his heart thumping painfully in his chest, Mulder found a plastic evidence bag, dropped the badge and glasses into it, and placed that along side the X-File in the drawer. As he closed the file drawer, he fingered the fine gold cross gently, almost reverently.

And nearly dropped it when the phone rang. Tucking the cross into his breast pocket, he reached eagerly for the phone, knowing that every step now was a step towards the truth he'd always been seeking, but now that truth included finding his partner. And he would. It would be a long strange journey, but he knew he'd make it, and so would Dana Scully.

SUNNYDALE, CALIFORNIA
4:24 pm

Two detectives stood in front of the large white house. Sun shone brightly down on them, and they both looked hot and uncomfortable in their dark suits and tightly knotted ties. As they stood watching, a uniformed policeman unwound bright yellow crime scene tape and strung it across the front door of the house.

"Let's start upstairs," suggested the first detective

"Sure," replied the second. As they walked back towards the house, he added, "We need to keep the media off this blood on the walls..."

Once inside the house, the two detectives stood and regarded the feature wall in the house silently for a moment, trying to puzzle out the obvious clue. They both startled as a third man entered the room.

Mulder was already pulling out his ID as the detectives hurried to his side to hold him at the door.

Holding up a hand, the first detective said, "This is a restricted crime scene."

"I'm Agent Mulder, with the FBI." Mulder replied, his eyes already scanning the room, seeing a million different things. His mind was just as quickly categorizing the information his eyes were giving him into evidence and not important. When he caught site of the living room wall, he moved towards it, completely ignoring the two detectives, who found themselves simply following the agent.

"Nobody called the Bureau," one of them complained, sounding just a little bitter.

"They should have," Mulder shot back smoothly, his focus still on the room and not on the officers on either side of him. He did manage to notice when one of the officers opened his mouth to protest, and he cut him off smoothly. "I don't have time for rivalry--this isn't a hockey game. I don't care if you two want to jerk off on the reports when this goes down, but in the past year these killers have murdered six people in your state and mine, and by the end of the week, two more people will be dead, and they'll be gone. So just let me do my job."

"Just how in the hell do you know that, Agent Mulder?" one of the men sneered.

"I've studied the files...you do know what files are, right?" Mulder continued, mowing over the bristling of both men. "I've been waiting for them to resurface, and now I've found them."

The second officer seemed less inclined to fight with Mulder, and instead asked the obvious; "How can you be sure these are your killers?"

"The wire reported a body was found drained of blood, bite marks on the exterior jugular and median cubital veins. Every mirror in the house was smashed."

The first, less impressed officer sounded snide and Mulder thought that if he was going to have any problems with anyone in this quaint little city with the innocuous name, it was going to be this fellow. He didn't know how wrong he was.

"Yeah, well, it's what the wire didn't report that distinguishes this scene." The officer sounded like a schoolyard bully, and Mulder ignored the implied `my dad will beat up your dad' tone and simply held his hands out, gesturing to the wall in front of all three of them. He didn't have to state the obvious. Instead, he recited the bloody words written on the wall:

"'He who eats of my flesh and drinks of my blood shall have eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day." They have the same feeble literal grasp of the Bible as all those `higher the hair the closer to God' preachers do."

All three men fell silent for a moment, and then Mulder said, "The victim--Joe Fathers, right?"

"Yeah." The officer sounded sad now. His partner turned as another policeman, this one in uniform, called to them. A moment later he was walking away, and the first man continued. "Only child. The parents have been notified."

As if reciting from a textbook, Mulder stated clearly, if a little woodenly: "In Memphis, they murdered James Ellis, 58, father of Ellis and Sons clothiers. The second victim was a Korean woman--Linda Sun. The third victim was a Jesuit Theologian." He ticked off the victims on his fingers as he described them. "Then, in Washington, three months ago the first victim was a priest. The second victim was the only son of a family of six children. The last victim was the owner of a new age bookshop--The Holy Spirit. I believe that's how they perceive themselves, as a kind of Unholy Trinity. If my profile of the previous cases holds true, they've been living in the city and working near blood products for the past month.

The detective, who had at first felt totally threatened by Mulder's presence, now gave him an impressed look, and immediately apologized for being such an ass. "Sorry," he said, "But in this town, it's really tough to trust anyone. Truth is, I'd be happy to have you work on our investigation. Let me introduce you to--"

Mulder shook his head, and this time it was his turn to look sad. "I'm working alone"

"An FBI Agent without a partner?"

Before the officer could say anything more, a movement in the window caught Mulder's attention. He glanced over and saw a young blonde girl peeking in through the half-open blinds. When she noticed his attention, she disappeared into the bushes as if she'd never been there. Mulder quickly moved to the front door and threw it open, while the officer watched him with concern and confusion.

There was no one there.

Mulder turned back to the officer.

"I don't need a partner," he said, his grim expression almost daring the officer to comment. "I just need one thing from you."

SUNNYDALE BLOOD BANK
8:20 p.m.

Mulder watched the police push the young blonde man into the back of their car none too gently, nothing more on his face than a vague frown. Nothing to suggest that the perp was more than just that. A bad guy, a twisted psychopath with no connection to--

He cut the thought off abruptly, and turned his bland expression on the detective that approached him, deciding silently that he had already seen too much of the man. Of course, so far the local officers had been pretty helpful, including the use of their resources, most of which Mulder had turned down, except for the phone book. It was all he had needed to get here.

"Drinking bagged blood? I've seen a few sickos in my day, but--" The detective shook his head incredulously. "Hell, around here, I've even seen some things like this. Still--"

"He was hungry," Mulder replied with a shrug. As he watched the car, the man turned and looked out the back window at him. Mulder was close enough that he could see the blood still smeared on his lips as he licked them lecherously and smiled nastily.

Turning away from the sight, Mulder told the detective, "John Jackson. They call him `the Son'."

"I can understand how you'd know to find him in a blood bank. I mean, if he's not out killing, and he's into blood--" The detective gulped uneasily, feeling his supper wanting to make a reappearance. "--the way you say he is, this was the likely alternative. But how do you know--"

A rustling sound from behind them, and Mulder and the detective turned in unison, both pulling their weapons.

For the second time in less than twenty-four hours, Mulder watched the blonde girl run off. This time Mulder pursued, calling back to the detective. "Keep the lights off in his cell, and call me if he says anything!"

Then he was off and running, barely keeping the girl in his sights, and wishing briefly that he was in his running gear, and not a pair of tight Armani pants and his second best dress shoes.

A few blocks later and seriously out of breath, Mulder watched the girl run into a large dark building. Pulling out his gun, which he had re-holstered when he'd given chase, Mulder mounted the steps of Sunnydale High School.

He entered cautiously, peering down the gloomy front hallway, wondering about a girl so smitten with education that she would be taking night classes, dismissed the thought as foolish, then decided Scully would have been proud of that.

The frown stayed on his face as he moved towards a light source at the end of the hall.

`The library police must be hell in this town,' he thought as he stopped in front of double doors that announced the entrance to the school library with quiet authority in block letters above them.

Taking a quick calming breath, remembering that discretion was the better part of valour, then tossing that platitude aside, Mulder kicked in the door and announced, "Freeze! FBI!"

The group of people looked up at him with mixed expressions ranging from disbelief to annoyance, and he just had time to realize the girl was not alone, but instead keeping company with two other girls and three men--well, two boys and one man--and then they were all talking at once.

"I swear, I only copied a video that one time, and I felt guilty every time I watched it!" exclaimed a young dark haired man.

"FBI?" the other younger man, his hair an impossible shade of black, and the older man, who looked completely flabbergasted, exclaimed in unison. The older man added, "Good lord," for emphasis, apparently.

"Oh! Am I the only one seeing a gun here?" asked the redhead, seeming to be the most alarmed of the bunch. "A-a-a gun that, I might add, is pointed at us."

The dark haired girl, almost a woman, really, didn't seem put off by his armed-status at all. In fact, her smile was almost welcoming, if a bit vacant, as she murmured, "Hello, Armani!"

"Okay, whoa, this is getting almost too weird for me!" The blonde girl Mulder had chased here now stepped directly in front of him, her expression a mixture of contempt and confusion. "And that's pretty weird, trust me," she added almost confidentially to him. Then she held out her hand. "Give me the gun."

Mulder backed up a step, not sure why. Instead he lowered the gun slowly, although he didn't re-holster it and said again, in a normal tone of voice, "FBI." Quickly he added, "I can show you my ID."

"I think you'd better," said the older man, stepping up to stand next to the girl. The move was almost protective, but Mulder sensed that the petite blonde was actually more of a threat to him than the slightly foppish albeit attractive man beside her.

Moving carefully, his gestures slightly exaggerated, Mulder dipped into his pocket with his empty hand and came up with his leather badge holder, which he held out. The girl peered closely at it, then made a face.

"Fox? You've got to be kidding."

Mulder remained stoic, not betraying any distress at this latest round of `what kind of dumb ass name is that?' and simply said, "And you are--?"

"Cordelia Chase," the brunette said brightly, stepping in front of the other two and giving her hair a toss. Mulder ignored her, she pouted, and the blonde pushed her aside.

"I think I should be asking the questions here, `Fox'," replied the blonde, and the older man glared at her.

"Buffy, I don't think teen insolence or rudeness is in order right now."

"Buffy?" Now it was Mulder's turn to scoff, and he was not unpleased to see a blush stain the pretty girl's cheeks. Before the two of them could exchange any more name mockery, the older man was speaking again.

"Everyone, why don't we call it a night for now. Willow, I'll see you here tomorrow for--"

"I know, net research, your favourite flavour," replied the redhead. The black haired boy gave her a smile and nuzzled her hair, murmuring, "You're my favourite flavour."

They left holding hands.

Cordelia, quickly over Mulder's initial rejection, slipped a paper into his coat pocket as she passed him, saying, "Call me--I think Fox is a beautiful name."

Buffy rolled her eyes, and Mulder did the same, and much of the tension in the room eased in their mutual contempt for the other girl.

The other boy had pulled Mulder's ID from the older man's hands, and was inspecting it with a critical eye. Then he gave Mulder the same appraising look and said, "FBI for real? Shouldn't you look, I dunno, more like the Untouchables, less like an Amway salesman?"

"Xander!" the older man admonished and snatched the ID away from him.

"Which video was that again?" Mulder deadpanned.

"Here endeth the lesson," muttered Xander, making a hasty exit.

The older man handed Mulder back his ID. "Terribly sorry about that, Agent Mulder. I'm Giles--Rupert Giles, the--" he paused, recovered and continued, "the librarian." He held his hand out, and Mulder finally re-holstered his gun to shake; Giles grip was surprisingly firm. They gave each other equally measuring looks, and something tugged at the back of Mulder's mind. He had the feeling he should know this man somehow.

They held hands a fraction of a second too long, and Mulder suddenly realized--

"Why were you following me?" Buffy demanded, ending the moment.

"Why were you stalking crime scenes?" Mulder shot back smoothly. "Mall closed early?"

"Well, yeah, but--hey! My town, my interrogation!" Buffy stepped well into Mulder's personal space, and might have violated it even more if Giles hadn't put a restraining hand on her shoulder.

"Remember your training, Buffy," he said quietly.

"Right," she replied, "Overt antagonism is not sexy." She attempted to stomp away coolly and wound up flouncing back to her chair at the large round table in the middle of the room.

"Again, I apologize for Buffy's manners."

Buffy bristled until Giles added, "Although she's not altogether without justification. Perhaps you'd best explain what's going on here."

Again a look passed between the two men, and Mulder felt himself relax fractionally. He didn't know exactly what it was, but something about Giles made him feel suddenly as though he had a partner again. Perhaps it was the skeptical tilt of one brow that he was offering. Or it may have been something more. Unsure of exactly what he was feeling, but knowing that this was no ordinary librarian, Mulder nodded.

"The Unholy Trio," he said. Paused a moment, then added matter-of-factly, "Vampires."

The contemptuous laughter he was expecting never came. Instead, his cell phone rang shrilly, making all three of them jump.

"Mulder," he answered, listened a moment, frowned and said, "I'll be right there." Dropping the phone back into his pocket, he tossed one of his Bureau business cards onto the table and turned without another word.

"Agent Mulder, where are you going?" Giles called out.

"The Emo-shop called him, his new personality is ready," Buffy muttered.

POLICE INTERROGATION ROOM
9:40 p.m.

Mulder glared at the dishevelled blonde man sitting across from him, and the man gave him a fierce look right back. Then, with a dangerous smile, he bit into his own hand hard enough to draw blood and sucked feverishly for a moment, looking even more the ghoul in the semi darkness they were sitting in.

Still smiling, he offered his hand to Mulder, who slapped it away in disgust.

"Aren't you glad I said I'd only talk to you?"

"Lucky me," replied Mulder, clearly feeling anything but lucky. For a moment his cool faade cracked, and he gave the man in front of him an anguished look. But John was intent on his own hand again, watching the bite heal itself with startling rapidity, and he missed it. And he was oblivious to the catch in Mulder's voice as well when he said, "John, what are you?"

As if reciting scripture, John replied in a monotone, "He is the Father, I am the Son, and she is the Unholy Spirit."

"And the three of you killed Joe Fathers." It wasn't a question. "Your fingerprints were found at the crime scene."

While he wasn't expecting a confession, Mulder couldn't hide his surprise, or disgust, when John grinned again, showing a smear of blood on his teeth, and said "Do you wish you'd been there...Fox?"

"Go to hell!" Mulder snapped, losing his composure.

"Never gonna happen, Fox. It's part of the deal. I get to live forever." When Mulder didn't reply, he added, "You envy me."

"Well, not if drawstring pants come back into style." The comment was lame, and Mulder knew it, but he was more shaken to be confronting John than he had expected. Stiffening his shoulders more mentally than physically, he was about to demand the whereabouts of the other two vampires when he noticed a blue stain across the back of John's hand. He clutched at it greedily, and the vampire beamed a smile of heavy lust at him.

Mulder ignored it and read the almost worn ink stamp.

"The Bronze." He was still holding John's hand as he demanded. "What is that? Is it a club?"

"I miss you, Fox," John suddenly looked young and sincere, and Mulder was surprised to find himself drawn into the look. He wondered about the hypnotic power of vampires for just a moment, and then was thrown back in his seat when the door to the room burst open and bright light flooded in. Whatever spell the young killer had been trying to weave was instantly broken, and a detective was peering into the room.

"Agent Mulder, there's been another one."

"But they only work in threes..." Mulder stood and gave John a look that was completely devoid of emotion. "Looks like you've been replaced again...son."

"Fuck you!" John exclaimed, leaping to his feet and lunging at Mulder. Cold hands wrapped themselves around his throat, and he pawed at them, remembering John's strength and dreading it now. The policeman tried to intervene, and one hand came away from his neck to swat the man away like a bug. Mulder found his airway blocked for a moment as the hand returned, and his struggles grew more frantic. A moment later, though, there came a hissing sound, and a smell like burned pork invaded his nostrils as the hands fell away.

Scully's necklace, which he'd put on before coming to this strange little town, felt warm and heavy around his neck, and the cross at the end of it seemed to glow.

John had backed away from him, growling and holding his still smoking hands.

"No," Mulder said to him, his voice rough from the unexpected assault, "You'll never do that again."

PSEUDOSUN TANNING SALON
11:00 pm

"Oh brother," Mulder muttered, rolling his eyes at the literal nature of his foes, and suddenly wondering if he should be checking that phone book again. If there was a `Holy Spirit Laundromat' in there, they were in for a world of trouble.

He brought himself out of his musings as he ducked under police tape again, hating it as much as he did every time. Now his thoughts became darker, more brooding and John-filled, and then his new best friend the detective was at his side, and leading him towards a row of tanning beds. Most of them were closed, but the nearest one was not only open, but obviously occupied.

"The murderers cut off the power supply at some point, and the phone," said the detective. "But they must have been inside when they did it to catch this poor bastard still fake and baking." An older man with a bushy white moustache to match his hair walked up and the detective introduced him as "Dr. McCormick, our forensic dentist." He gave Mulder a puzzled look. "Now, I know I'm no fibbie, but you wanna tell me what we need a dentist for? This guy's not going to have to worry about cavities for, oh, ever."

The three men approached the body in the tanning bed. The man was pale and naked, although some thoughtful officer had draped a towel over his genitals and closed his eyes. A jagged hole was chewed into his throat, and there were several needle marks as well, on arms and legs.

Mulder turned to the dentist and said, "I don't want to bias your report, but I need a preliminary exam--I need to know if you see anything unusual here."

The dentist took a flashlight from the detective and shone it on the wound in the neck. It didn't take him long to announce," Well, the bites are not done by an animal. These are human. And, realize this is a cursory exam, but I'd say they were made by more than one person."

"Possibly three?" asked Mulder eagerly.

"Possibly," the dentist concurred carefully. "although as I say--"

"Thank you, doctor," Mulder shook the man's hand then walked away, the detective trailing behind him.

"I thought you said that fellow in the lockup was one of your perps. If that's true, and your m.o. is right--"

"Then that means they've found another third." Mulder pulled out his cell phone and was halfway through dialling Scully's number when he remembered. He shook off the fatigue that was making him feel sloppy and forgetful, and continued. "And they're only one victim away from getting away again. This is our best shot to find them."

"Listen, Agent Mulder," the detective gave him a worried glance, taking in the agent's worn appearance. "You've been a great help so far, and I'm sure we'll get to the bottom of this. It's not the first wacko crime in this town, believe me. But you look like hell. Why don't you go back to your hotel, grab a shower, maybe get some sleep. I'll be sure to keep in touch if we get any breaks."

Mulder gave him a wholly exhausted and bleak grin. "I didn't check into a hotel--I don't sleep anymore." Then he walked away. The detective watched him go silently, and wondered just who was more spooky, these apparent vampires, or the man trying to stop them.

SUNNYDALE POLICE DEPARTMENT
Dawn

Mulder sat at one of the desks in the bullpen of the police department, swilling the worst coffee in the history of the world and wondering just how bad the headache he was feeling was going to get. As he watched the early crew milling about desks and starting their morning routine, he absently reached between two buttons on his shirt to touch the small gold cross lying quietly on his chest.

Comforted, he drained his Styrofoam cup, thought they might be making the coffee from elephant toenails, and stood up, feeling his spine crackle from neck to ass as he did so, and not in any good way.

Detective Parsons approached him, his face a cloud of bad news.

"The body's gone, isn't it," said Mulder.

"You better start telling me what the hell you think is going on here, Agent Mulder."

While Mulder had been at the latest crime scene, someone, or something, had entered John Jackson's cell and attempted to stab the man to death. No one was quite sure what had happened, and so far only a few rounds of `I thought you were watching him' had been played, but the detective was pissed, and he was going to make sure that this new weirdness found a blame-home with the newest addition to his office.

"Well, seems to me there's one of two options here," Mulder replied, finding his dry academic voice and using it to full advantage. His headache jacked up a notch or two, and he absently rubbed his forehead as he spoke. "Either he escaped, with or without help, completely undetected--" The detective tried to interject but Mulder overrode his protest. "Or, he was staked by someone and, if one of the more popular myths about vampires prevails, he immediately turned to dust."

Detective Parsons looked skeptical at that, although not as unbelieving as Mulder would have expected him to, and sneered, "And which story do you believe, Agent Mulder?"

Mulder gave him a sad half-grin. "The truth," he said. "I believe the truth."

SUNNYDALE HIGH SCHOOL
9:45 AM

Mulder entered the library, aware of the squeak of his shoes on the floor, the quiet hum of air conditioning, and the complete absence of students. As one of the original homework geeks throughout his academic career, Mulder found himself feeling slightly dismayed that there weren't more people here, more students seeking, well, the truth, he supposed. The logic of books. The strength of the well-stocked shelves seemed to loom over him for a moment, and he thought that this must be one of the most comprehensive high school libraries he'd ever seen before he softly laughed off the folly of his thoughts.

"Buffy?" a voice called from the stacks. The owner of the voice followed out of the shelves a moment later. Librarian and special agent regarded one another silently for a moment. Then:

"Not Buffy," said Mulder.

"I see that." Another pause, and this time Giles gave Mulder a more appraising glance. Finally, Mulder broke the silence.

"Rupert."

"Fox."

"What the hell are you doing in Southern California?"

Giles smiled at that. "I might ask you the same thing," he said, moving forward. Without speaking, they both closed in on the large round table in the middle of the room. Giles made a polite motion, and Mulder sat. Giles took a chair across from him and removed his glasses.

"Working," said Mulder.

"Vampires?" Giles raised a skeptical eyebrow. "I didn't know the Federal Bureau of Investigation took much truck with that sort of nonsense."

"You don't believe in vampires?"

Giles found a flawless white handkerchief in his pocket and began polishing the lenses of his glasses furiously. For a moment, Mulder was reminded of another man, another pair of wire rims, and the same sense of power that radiated from both of them. He willed away an unexpected flush of pleasure with an almost physical effort. If Giles noticed his sudden discomfort, he made no comment. Replacing the glasses he gave Mulder a somewhat uncomfortable look of his own.

"I didn't say that." Another moment, another memory falling into place for both men. Giles noticed the cut of Mulder's hair; short, almost painfully so, currently spiking up in directions that suggested the man had no time for such niceties as a comb when danger was afoot. And he remembered a younger man, with longer hair, hair that kept falling into eyes just as sad as the ones before him. He almost expected Mulder to push at an errant lock out of habit.

Mulder could still see the strong rebel hiding under layers of tweed and corduroy. The power barely restrained, both physical and more than physical. The quiet but almost overwhelming aura of the man before him. And a sense of protectiveness that the years seemed to have augmented rather than faded. He expected to see another man walk in any moment now. And was glad when he didn't.

"Of course, there are many theories that could explain the case you're currently working on," said Giles, shaking the memory from himself and concentrating on the matter at hand.

"You mean the one your teenage Charlie's Angel has been lurking around?" Mulder didn't quite understand how a mystical museum curator and all round bad-ass from his past had come to be in the middle of his case on the other side of the globe from Oxford; nor did he fully comprehend how said man had come to be in the company of a group of misfit teens who seemed to be only lacking a large talking dog from their organization. What he did know, though, was that a teen-age girl had no place nosing around a murder investigation, paranormal or otherwise.

"I assure you, Buffy's presence is in no way going to hinder your search for the culprits. In fact, you may even find her helpful--" a thoughtful pause. "Well, not so much helpful as--She--" He shrugged. "What makes you think it's vampires you're looking for?" Giles took on a scholarly posture and suggested, "There is a condition known as Gunther's Disease--congenital erythropoietic porphyria creating cutaneous photosensitivity--"

"I'm familiar with porphyria. It's an affliction that causes lesions and blisters when skin is exposed to sunlight. Sufferers may also have a hema deficiency which can be supplemented by a small ingestion of blood, though not the kind of blood thirst this case suggests."

Giles was not to be out-researched. "It's probably ignorance of porphyria as a disease that led to the creation of vampire myths in Asia in the Middle Ages. Since then, modern science has dismissed the possibility of the actual existence of such creatures as myth."

"Well, myth or no, undead creature or just a few friends looking for a new kink, the fact is we--I've got two dead bodies, and a third on the way, and then these whatever-you-call-them are going to move on." His eyes darkened just long enough for Giles to notice the colour. "And I'm going to stop them."

Giles regarded Mulder silently for another spell. He tried again to reconcile his memories of Fox at Oxford with this weary looking man who's shoulders seemed to be holding more than just the burden of his Armani suit. He knew some of Mulder's history, mostly anecdotes Ethan had chosen to share with him with pointed meanness over Black and Tans in their favourite pub. But there seemed to be more here than just a closeted young man with abandonment issues. Or maybe that's all it was. Without thought, Giles found his gaze sweeping down Mulder's chest, noting the slim strength suggested there under his shirt, and just as he was blushingly making his way back up to the man's face, he found Mulder doing the exact same thing.

Mulder turned away and Giles cleared his throat. When Mulder looked back at him, his expression was neutral again.

"Is there something I--we can do to help you?" Giles asked.

"Tell me what the Bronze is," said Mulder.

THE BRONZE
That night

The dance club was loud, but less smoky than Mulder had expected. Even with the strict no-smoking codes in California, places like this still tended to overlook the rules when it came to cigarettes. He knew too many fellow agents who were stuck with smoking detail in other cities, busting clubs for no other reason than their patrons addiction to nicotine, and for a moment he was utterly grateful to the man who had re-opened the X-Files for him and saved his sorry ass from that sort of drudgery.

He'd spent most of the day simply moving through the town on autopilot. In theory, of course, he'd been checking out leads, finding out more about this strange little town and the people in it. He hadn't expected to simply find the killers out having a latte at one of the sidewalk coffee shops, although he made a point of buying strong coffee in most of them. He didn't need to know more about the teenagers who were apparently also investigating his case, but he did charm the school secretary into giving him their names and, in the case of one Willow Rosenberg, a ringing endorsement on her academic achievements. And most of all, he didn't need to be bringing old and painful memories to the case with him, but he found himself thinking more and more about John, and about Ethan, as he walked past Rupert Giles home several times.

And now, just as the sun had been going down, he'd come to this place. To a typical club, albeit an all ages one, in a typical town. Looking for vampires.

Feeling self-conscious in his wrinkled suit, and briefly wishing he'd thought to pack something more casual in his kit, Mulder started wading through the throng, casing the place with what appeared to be a casual eye. But the same intuitive senses that had nailed him with the nickname "Spooky" were working overtime, and his eyes, tired though they may be, missed nothing.

He saw boys and girls, men and women, all ages, all moving about, singly or in groups. All carried the blue stamp he'd last seen on John's hand. Some of the more obvious underage ones had their other hands stamped in a green that glowed in the black light, and Mulder understood how the Bronze could get away with having high-schoolers rubbing shoulders (among other things) with older folks.

A rail thin woman with vacant eyes and too much eyeliner gave him an appraising glance as he passed her, dark gaze travelling over his body with enough heat to make him shiver. A moment later, though, she was looking at herself in a compact and reapplying blood red lipstick. As he passed, Mulder noticed that the compact held no mirror. He made a note to keep an eye on the woman and kept moving.

At the bar, he held up a hand to get the bartender's attention, and then turned on the person next to him as his hand was yanked down.

"Two red wine," said the woman Mulder had noticed earlier.

Mulder had no taste for red wine, and certainly hadn't been planning on ordering alcohol at all, but he let the woman order anyway. There was something...not normal about her. He was an Oxford educated psychologist, and not one prone to making generalized statements about people without thorough research.

He thought the woman was whacko.

The wine came, and she handed a glass to Mulder. He peered into the dark red depths and his stomach did a slow roll. It looked a little too bodily-fluidish for his liking. He was reminded of the bible verse that the killers he was seeking used as a mantra. "He who drinks my blood..."

He didn't realize he'd spoken aloud until the woman finished the verse for him; "...shall have eternal life." Her tittering laugh was sweet like bells and simultaneously made Mulder think of nails on a chalkboard. He suddenly felt like he'd been chewing tin foil, and he lifted the wine to his lips to clear away the metallic taste.

"Come, pet, sit with me." She led him to her table, moving his tall chair closer to her own just before he put his weight on it, thereby not only throwing him just a little off balance, but also bringing his body close to hers.

"Who are you?" his voice was rough, like he hadn't spoken in years.

"My name's Dru. That's a pretty name, don't you think?"

"It's unique," Mulder set his glass of wine aside.

"We're all unique," Dru replied with another tinkle of dark laughter. Her eyes seemed to grow larger, and Mulder found himself held in her gaze. "You seem very...unique," she seemed to purr over the word. "This is not your home. Not your normal setting, is it?"

Mulder found himself wanting to drink more of the wine, and curbed it with an effort, realizing he didn't need alcohol to cloud his judgement--he seemed to be doing just fine on his own. "How do you define normal?" he asked conversationally, his dry tone in contrast with his hands, which were twining about themselves nervously. For the first time in years, he wanted a cigarette.

Dru pressed herself to Mulder' side and whispered in his ear, "I don't. How do you?"

Mulder looked up the definition of normal in his mind's dictionary, and found a picture of him and Scully, standing on the driveway of a handsome house in the suburbs, he in Dockers, she in Donna Karen; a mini van parked behind them, and a basketball hoop hung over the garage door. He shook his head, got a brief but intense vision of someone else considerably less `normal', not to mention less female, in a far less suburban but infinitely more seductive pose, then shook that off too and said, "I don't. All I know is, uh...normal is not what I feel."

Dru tittered at that and Mulder lost his war with the wine. He took a large mouthful, then almost spit it out when Dru ran a sharp-nailed hand through his hair. He reared back instinctively, but almost at once found himself leaning back into her touch as she tugged at hair already in disarray, then let her hand stray down the side of his face, the sound of her nails rasping across days old stubble sounding loud in his ears.

"Oh, pet," she exclaimed with a gasp. "I can see your `normal'. It's a sad `normal'. A little thing. All alone." Her eyes were closed but she was smiling--Mulder caught a glimpse of sharp white teeth hidden just behind the blood red lips. "You've lost someone. Not a lover, a friend." Her voice took on a singsong tone. "Ascending...ascending to the stars..."

Mulder gasped at her words, Dru opened her eyes and they sparkled with cruel good humour, and then both glasses of wine tipped over as another person broke the spell between them.

"Hey, Amway!"

It was Xander, the boy from the library. Cordelia and Willow were standing just behind him.

Mulder looked around in a daze and realized that Dru had disappeared. Red wine was pooling on the table and dripping slowly into his lap. Mulder mopped at the mess ineffectually with a small cocktail napkin, realized he wasn't making anything better, and briefly wished there was some sort of mess he could make right. Even just a tiny one. He sighed in resignation and the teens joined him at his table without asking.

"Who was that woman?" Cordelia asked him, sipping at a soft drink, making sure she made the most of her straw-time while he watched. It might have been an impressive display if he'd been the least bit interested, but any desire he might have had for her--for Dru--for anyone at this point, seemed to have been abducted along with Scully, his appetite and his ability to sleep.

"A friend," he muttered, remembering Dru's last words and shuddering.

"Intense," Willow muttered. She looked out somewhere past Mulder's shoulder, and he turned in his seat to follow her gaze. He saw immediately that the boy she'd been with in the library was on stage with the band, playing guitar with a bored expression on his face. Muttered words and a giggle turned him back to the table, where Xander was whispering something to Cordelia. She gave him an appraising glance and giggled again.

`I don't need this,' he thought, suddenly feeling very young and very put upon. He stood with a frown.

"Oh, leaving?" Cordelia pouted briefly.

"Well, you know," Xander answered her for him, "the group home just has one suit for all the patients, and `Drooling Ted' wants to wear it to the big colouring contest tomorrow."

Only with the greatest effort did Mulder bite back the scalding retort that sprang to his lips. He wasn't about to get into a chest-beating contest with some smart-ass teenager. Immediately the scholar in him suggested that Xander was trying to cover personal insecurities with his wit, and he almost felt sorry for him, but mostly recognized his own defense mechanisms hard at work within the boy. So he settled for a shrug and turned to go.

"Hey!" exclaimed Willow and he turned back to her with a curious expression. At his look she immediately seemed to shrink into herself a bit, sipped at her own soda, then muttered, "you probably shouldn't be out walking at night...alone...you know, by yourself."

"Thanks for the tip--Willow, isn't it?" Mulder knew her name, but the recognition still made her smile, and he'd planned that. "But I'm pretty sure I'll be fine." He tipped open his jacket just enough for her to see his gun snug in its holster. "And I promise not to talk to strangers." `Just old friends' he added to himself.

"Besides, Will, you know Buffy's patrolling," said Xander. "Out keeping the streets safe for children, small pets and wayward G-men."

"Buffy, huh? Well, I feel infinitely safer already." Not giving any of them a chance to retort, Mulder steered himself away from the table and began working his way towards the exit.

Passing the stairway to the catwalk above the dance floor, Mulder noticed Dru wrapped in the embrace of a young blonde man. The man's long coat was draped over her shoulders, and her hands were digging into his back, pulling his dark red shirt askew. As Mulder watched, confused and feeling something like jealousy, Dru offered a finger to the blonde man. In the chancy strobing lights of the club, he couldn't be sure, but he thought it might be bleeding. The man sucked at it willingly, and Mulder found himself more aroused by the sucking than by the woman. Dru looked up and seemed to catch Mulder's eye, giving him an evil grin.

A moment later they were gone, lost in a swirl of bodies as the music changed and people left the dance floor.

Mulder sighed. He looked back at the table for his new--friends? Associates? Children? Whatever he called them, it seemed that they too were mostly gone. He thought he spotted Xander by the pool table, but couldn't be sure through the crowd. He didn't feel like finding out. Instead, he turned with another sigh and a frown, and walked out of the club. He told himself he was going to check into some crappy motel and try and get some sleep. He also told himself that there was nothing more he could do tonight. And he told himself to quit thinking the `not-so-normal' thoughts that were invading his brain like worms, squirming in and out of his mind's eye too fast for him to catch and kill.

He was so wrapped up in what he was doing and why he shouldn't be doing it, that he didn't see the three figures trailing silently through the dark behind him.

12:15 AM

Giles came down the steps to his door and stopped short. There, next to the dead potted plant, was Mulder, sitting in front of the door. His tie was gone, his shirt partially unbuttoned, and he looked exhausted.

"What are you doing here, Fox?"

"You're all believers," Mulder said, not looking at Giles. "But you--you're the one they'll come after. Your spirit--"

"Come inside." Giles glanced around warily, but whether he feared for his life from the demons that walked the night in Sunnydale, or his reputation upon finding a handsome young man on his doorstep and taking him into his house, he couldn't have said. He did know that he didn't feel up to the task of analyzing at that moment, although he suspected that it might be a little of both.

Mulder shrugged complacently and took the hand that Giles held out to him. Pulling himself to his feet with a groan he was unable to completely smother, he followed the older man into the house. Immediately he was thrown into another pool of memory as everything about the place screamed England to him. From the furnishings and fixtures to the barely discernable scent of Summer Pudding tea, he felt himself nearly transported back to his years at Oxford.

He wondered how long it had been since he'd slept.

Glancing around the room while Giles took off his coat and dropped files and books onto the desk, Mulder stopped at the bookshelf and gave the many tomes and volumes there a critical eye.

"So how long have you been playing den mother to Sunnydale High?" he asked, letting one hand trail with gentle reverence over the spines of the old texts.

"Sometimes it seems all my life. Other times, not nearly long enough." Briefly, Giles wondered what Mulder must be thinking of the situation here, of himself, and Buffy...and then he wondered about Mulder himself. "Have you slept?"

"I don't--I can't--" Mulder paced around the room in an oddly mechanical manner, almost seeming unaware of the other man's presence. He'd put one hand to his chest as he walked, fingering something lying just under the material of his shirt. Giles watched him cautiously, growing transfixed by the movement of Mulder's lean fingers as they rubbed and clutched and...

Mulder stopped and gave Giles a helpless look. "Do you have anything to drink?"

The parent (or the Watcher? Sometimes the two felt indistinguishable to him) in Giles thought that alcohol was probably the last thing Mulder needed. But rather than indulge in a matronly lecture (which Ethan would have no doubt called `nancy' and which his own actions suggested would be hypocritical), he instead gave Mulder a wicked smile. Something in his dark eyes sparked so devilishly but with such good humour that, exhausted as he was, Mulder found himself unable to resist grinning back.

Giles went into the kitchen, made some cupboard-rummaging noises, then appeared in the pass-through, still smiling and holding up a teabag. "Something uncivilized?" he asked. Then holding up a dark blue tin of loose tea in the other hand, he offered another choice, "or something darker...fuller...the hard stuff?"

Mulder's smile faltered for a moment as a memory of bruises and magicks forced its way into his mind, then resumed its tired brilliance as that memory was replaced with thoughts of tea times past, all bone china pots and chocolate wafer biscuits.

"Bring it on," he murmured, nodding his head at the tin.

Giles poured out while Mulder lounged on the couch. Taking one of the delicate mint-coloured cups in his hands and giving it to Mulder, he reached for the other one, took a small sip, and said, "Tell me about John."

For a long while Mulder simply contemplated the dark steaming contents of his cup, and Giles wondered if he'd pushed the tired young man too far. When the words finally came, they were slow and halting, quite unlike Mulder's usual speech patterns. Giles remained patient, and let him speak his piece, not interrupting even when he paused to gulp down tea and painful memories.

"When I was a little boy, my father beat me," said Mulder. "Abused" is too kind a word for it. He showed both his love and his disappointment for me by beating me. One night, he hit me so hard he knocked out two teeth, then locked me in my room. The blood poured from my mouth and I could taste it...and it was--it was the only way I knew I was alive." The longest pause came then. Mulder set his cup on the table and put a hand over his eyes. Giles just had time to wonder if he'd fallen asleep when he resumed speaking. "You know how it was with Ethan and I. I was in awe of him--of the both of you really--" Giles looked embarrassed, but Mulder didn't seem to notice. "But Ethan, well, suffice to say I'd found a father figure--and not in that good way. You know the story. I never knew if he liked the blood more than the bruises, or..." Another quiet minute. Giles watched Mulder's throat work briefly, and wondered if he could have done something different in that other life that might have taken some of the sadness from the man before him. And knew he couldn't have.

"I didn't think you'd make it through first year, let alone graduate with honours," he said. Mulder gave him a sharp look, then a smile.

"Someone's been doing his homework."

Giles shrugged, acknowledging the unspoken compliment. Mulder's shrug was less graceful, more resigned.

"I was inspired," he said.

"To excel?"

"To get the hell out of England."

Giles studied his teacup in embarrassment through an awkward silence. Finally he broke it "You loved him." It wasn't a question.

"Whatever it was, I couldn't have left him without the job as an excuse." Mulder shook his head, not to negate his words, but to ward off the thoughts that accompanied them.

"I met John in Washington." Mulder finally continued, picking up his cup again and draining the contents quickly, hissing when the still hot liquid burned his mouth. ""The Son."" He laughed harshly at that. "He also beat me. I took the classes--I know that's the way it works sometimes. He hit me once and cut open my lip. The only time I can remember fighting back. I jumped on him and I bit him. He tasted my blood. And I tasted his."

Giles listened, horrified.

"After that, we were into blood sports. But... I never... I lost him. One night he came home with two others and what he wanted--he--I left him and he wound up here. And now he's gone, and I don't know what to believe. About him. About myself."

"You poor thing," Giles muttered, almost to himself. But Mulder heard the words, and he bristled.

"I didn't come here for your pity."

"Then tell me why you came here." As he spoke, Giles stood up from his chair, took the empty cup from Mulder's hand and set it aside on the coffee table as he sat down close beside the other man on the couch. "To what purpose? Revenge against past lovers? Or is this some kind of therapy for you?"

"I think they might come here. The Three. John's gone now, and they've picked up another. And I think they'll come for you."

"Mulder," Giles paused, took off his glasses. "About John..."

"Is he dead?"

"Yes."

"Was he...?" Now that the truth was staring him right in the face, it seemed unbelievable. He turned to face Giles, and his right hand found a resting place on the other man's thigh. Neither of them seemed to notice. "Was he something other than alive?" There was a catch in Mulder's voice that seemed to have nothing to do with his words.

Giles took a moment to process the feel of Mulder's hand on his leg. To notice the long, loose fingers, the press of warm skin that he could feel through the material of his pants.

"He was a demon. A vampire. And he was killed by a vampire slayer." Knowing even as he said it just how it would sound, he added quietly, "By Buffy the vampire slayer." He put his hand over Mulder's and squeezed it firmly.

Mulder gave him a sharp look, but didn't pull his hand away. His voice was colder though, when he said, "I didn't come here to be made fun of."

"I know."

Mulder looked down at their clasped hands. "And I didn't come here for this, either."

Giles let go of Mulder's hand, slipped out from under the press of his palm, and stood abruptly. Mulder followed him up jerkily, feeling like a puppet being pulled by invisible strings attached to the older man.

"You came here alone to protect me? You believe I'm in danger for my life, and yet here you are. No police." As he spoke, Giles was moving slowly away from the couch, and Mulder was stepping forward with each step that Giles took back. "No, as they say on those dreadful New York crime shows, backup."

"Well, I could have brought your pep squad with me. They seem to be working this case more than the police."

Giles ignored his sarcastic tone, recognizing it for the defense mechanism that it was, and wondered if he was making a mistake. He thought he knew why Mulder was here. And a part of him he'd thought was left back in England was glad of it. He stepped forward again, and slowly circled Mulder, leading the younger man in a dance older than the Hellmouth. If he was wrong, he'd know soon enough.

"If you're certain that these vampires are going to choose me as their next victim, then perhaps you should take me into protective custody."

Mulder could hear something sly, almost seductive in the other man's tone. He wondered what Giles would do if he simply agreed with him and took him downtown to the police station. And in that moment he knew that the man was right. He wasn't here just to play good cop.

"I could," he said. "Or--"

"Fox," Giles said, now sliding closer to the young man. "I never knew you as well as I might have liked back then. But what I saw then was a young man who wasn't afraid of much. A young man with an open mind who was always looking for more than what was simply in front of his eyes."

Mulder watched Giles take his hand. Strong calloused fingers stroked over the back of his hand, circled his wrist, traced patterns on his palm. His sigh was a forlorn admission.

Giles kept talking. "I think you're here alone because you're not afraid. I think you're here because you need to know. You need to know what they are. If they are what you believe them to be."

"What you know them to be."

"But I think there's something else you want to know. That you need to believe in." He squeezed Mulder's hand tighter, leaned forward.

Mulder closed his eyes and felt the warmth of the other man's lips on his own. Opening his own mouth and deepening the kiss was as close to admitting that Giles was right as he could come. In a moment, all thoughts of vampires, teenagers, even his own life, confusing as it was, were lost to a more basic need. He let Giles in--into his mouth, into his body, into himself.

When he felt the other man's hands roaming up his chest, he groaned into the space their mouths were sharing. And when those rough fingers he'd been admiring just a moment before snagged on something under his shirt, he pulled away with another soft needy sound. He opened his eyes and saw Giles reaching into his shirt, fingering Scully's cross and looking amused.

"Well, you seem to have the warding off bit down pat," he said.

"That's from someone I lost," Mulder confessed unexpectedly.

Giles returned the serious tone. "Well, I hope you find him."

"Her."

"Her." He let the gold chain slip through his fingers and traced a vein up Mulder's throat, making them both shiver. Mulder caught his hand and held it tight.

"Maybe I should take you to the police station," he said, but the words sounded forced, even to himself. He could feel the heat radiating off the other man, and it felt good. It felt safe. It felt like truth.

"I'm quite sure anyone who attempts any sort of foul play around here will find my home more than amply secure...I won't go."

"Then I won't go." And Mulder knew he was staying for more than just safety's sake. Or at least, more than just police work.

Giles smiled easily and gave Mulder an appraising glance, one that held more kindness and concern than lust.

"You need to get cleaned up."

Mulder sighed and gave him a sheepish grin.

Shirtless, Mulder splashed cold water on his face, leaning over the sink and relishing the feel of the liquid seeping into his pores. He felt like a desert receiving its annual rains. He sluiced more water over his skin, and then groped blindly for a towel.

He encountered warm flesh, then soft, thick terrycloth as Giles held a towel out to him. Mopping water off his face, he tried to ignore the fact that his shirt was hanging on the bathroom door. He was successful only because the other man's shirt was currently out of the equation as well.

The chest before him was broad and well defined, though not chiselled; furred, but not overly so; wide shoulders tapered softly to the waist. Again, he noticed there was no spare fat on the man; simply a well cared for, well-nourished body.

A desirable body.

Mulder rubbed his face briskly with the towel to hide the blush and wondered dully what his problem was. It wasn't like he had never tricked before. Maybe it had been a while, but it should have been like riding a bicycle.

Instead, he felt like someone had just dropped him into the cockpit of a jet with no instructions and no parachute.

Giles took the towel from him and moved to hang it back up on the hook by the sink. Rather than reaching around Mulder, he insinuated himself between the younger man and the sink. Their chests brushed briefly and Mulder glanced down.

He let one hand wander across the small space between them and touched the simple milky-rose stone wrapped in silver that hung neatly from a leather thong over Giles' breastbone. A quizzical look from him received a dark flash of pain over the other man's face. Then his expression settled back into something more or less neutral, although Mulder couldn't ignore the spark of desire burning in those dark eyes.

"From someone I lost," said Giles.

Rather than reply, Mulder closed the space between the two of them, fitting his body neatly to the older man's and putting one arm around Giles' neck. He touched a cheekbone almost reverently, with the other hand, and then reached further up and carefully removed Giles' glasses.

Like their first kiss, this one started out tentatively, each man taking the measure of the other, tasting carefully, moving lips over lips, tongues over teeth, nuzzling and licking and nipping. Each step was greeted by a quickening of breaths; a speeding up of heartbeats; a groan of desire; a moan of abandon. As the kiss deepened, Giles let his hands slip through Mulder's short hair, enjoying the way the soft spikes were just long enough to get trapped in-between his fingers, teasing them with their silky texture.

Meanwhile, Mulder's hands settled on the older man's waist, stroked their way around to his back to play a scale up and down his spine, then came forward again to work at zipper and buttons.

Giles pulled his mouth off of Mulder's with a gasp. Holding Mulder's face close to his, he smiled crookedly and tried to ignore the desire ripping through his body, making his breathing ragged, making his pants feel tight.

"You don't have to prove anything to me," he said.

Mulder thought he was more likely trying to prove something to himself than to Giles. Or, if not prove something, maybe discover something. Something lost, like Scully. Or maybe just not found yet, like--like--"

He reclaimed Giles' mouth with more intensity, managed to gasp out the word "bedroom", and then let his body do the rest of the speaking.

Even if they'd been at the kitchen door rather than the bedroom door, it's doubtful that either man would have noticed the scratching sounds coming from outside.

5:47 AM

The vampire loomed over Mulder, all fangs and yellow eyes, its breath the stench of corpses, its smile a mockery of good humour.

"Kill him," the demon growled, its voice a mixture of lust and hatred. "Kill him and we'll be together. You've got to drink the blood of his spirit."

"But--but he's not--" Mulder struggled as the vampire wrapped cold arms around him.

"He is. As you are. A spirit is one who believes."

Mulder felt the first hot prick of John's teeth on his neck.

"A spirit is one who believes," he groaned as he felt thick blood run hot and painfully down his neck. "I want to believe..."

Mulder gasped and sat up abruptly, torn from the nightmare with a brutal jerk. He just had time to notice Giles sleeping beside him, one arm thrown possessively over his stomach, and then there was a crash from downstairs. He jerked and Giles woke up.

For a moment the two of them stared owlishly at one another. Then another furniture-breaking sound drifted up the stairs, and Mulder reached for his pants where they were laying on the floor, and Giles was pawing at the nightstand for his glasses.

"It's them," Mulder declared, scrambling into his pants, searching for his shirt. Only after he'd thrust his arms through sleeves and done up one button did he realize it wasn't his white dress shirt that he'd found. But it didn't seem to matter.

"You have to go." Giles had found pants and a t-shirt, and he clutched Mulder's arm, jerking him upright from where he had bent to slip on his shoes. There was no sign of socks, and he felt no urge to hunt for them. Instead he gave Giles a confused frown.

"What are you talking about?"

They both heard the slam of what could only be the heavy front door, and Mulder flinched, pulling out of Giles' grip and heading for the doorway. Giles caught him easily and pulled him kissing close. His expression was fierce but with an underlying compassion that gave Mulder pause.

"We're going down those stairs, and you're going right out that front door. I'll keep them away from you long enough to--"

"No." Mulder shook his head. "I'm here to--"

"There's nothing more for you to do."

"Giles!" It was Buffy's voice, calling shrilly from somewhere below them. Another crash followed the sound. Giles squeezed his arm in a death grip.

"Listen to me. The playground down the street, around the corner--do you know the one I mean?"

Mulder nodded mutely. A savage grunt and a howl from downstairs and he groaned as Giles tightened his hold even more.

"I'll come as quick as I can. But you've got to let this go. I won't have you put yourself in unnecessary danger." A pause, a hard look. "Fox, you've got to trust me."

The hell of it was, he wanted to trust Giles. Wanted it desperately. But how could he? Just how many times was he going to let the big trust-rug be pulled out from under him? Trust no one--he'd pounded that one fact into Scully's head over and over when they were partners. Not that it had done either of them any good, really. And now--

"I'll be fine, Fox. Just go." And then Giles was pushing him towards the door. He braced himself and turned to face the other man, halting their progress momentarily. He searched for the words to reveal everything he was feeling, about what had happened between them, about what was happening now, about what he believed.

"This sucks," he complained, gripping the other man's arm.

"Yes, well, it's not the only thing in Sunnydale that's ever done that." Giles suddenly pulled Mulder close and delivered a hot hungry kiss to his open mouth.

When Giles pulled away he tried to protest again. "I--"

Something crashed in the living room, sounding suspiciously like a coffee table trying to mate with a bookshelf. Then Giles shoved him so hard he stumbled and nearly fell. Their eyes locked, and in the far distance outside, Mulder could hear sirens.

"All right, then, that's done it," said Giles. "Let's go. And don't stop for anything."

Mulder turned and they ran for the stairs.

It was a close thing. At first, Mulder found himself slowing on the bottom stair, eyes growing wide at the tableaux presented before him.

Buffy was just completing a high kick that caught one of the vampires on the chin, knocking him into the wall just under the pass-through to the kitchen. He slid down to the floor, revealing a large dent in the wall behind him. In a flash he was back on his feet again, charging Buffy as she readied herself in a traditional fighter's stance.

Mulder's first reaction was to rush to her, to protect her. Only one step in her direction later, he was thrown roughly towards the door by another vampire, and he just had time to recognize the female demon as Dru from the club, and then Giles was between him and her as he staggered to his feet.

Giles held a large wooden cross in front of him, and Dru, her features distorted and evil, hissed violently and turned away.

"GO!" Giles yelled.

Mulder gave him an anguished look, then as Buffy grappled with her own foe and Dru tried to come at him from around Giles, he leapt for the front door.

He fled.

When he came to the playground, he was almost lurching, holding his hand to a stitch in his side and panting raggedly.

"That's it," he muttered to himself, "no more steak fries at Phil's...workouts twice a day..."

He slowed his pace and moved through the kiddie rides, lit now only by moonlight and a single frosted streetlamp. The slide loomed up in front of him and he stumbled around it, passed the empty seesaws that seemed to be anticipating children's laughter, and found the swing set at the far side of the well-groomed park.

His grown-up's ass was nearly too wide for the wooden swing, but he sat anyway, a sigh of relief issuing from his mouth. He took several deep breaths and thought he might still be hearing the police sirens. It might have been his imagination, though.

Gently rocking himself back and forth, scarcely aware of the movement, he let his mind wander back to Giles. He saw again the look of hate and hunger on Dru's face, and was almost ready to go back to the house, guns blazing, when a rustling sound from the bushes to his left made him yelp.

"Oh, that was butch. The FBI teaching `girly-scream 101' now?" Buffy emerged from the trees, looking a bit dishevelled, but unharmed.

"Where's Giles?" Mulder demanded. Buffy rolled her eyes and sat in the swing next to him.

"Why yes, I did save your ass back there, thanks for your overwhelming gratitude."

Mulder looked properly abashed.

"I don't think I quite know what happened there, but, yes, you were quite the-uh-force to be reckoned with."

"I know. It's what I do." She paused and pulled something out of the pocket of her leather jacket. "Here." She thrust the something at him and he flinched. Her force, her--the power that he had seen her demonstrating back at the house, was radiating off of her with such intensity that he could almost feel it like a physical thing--it was like standing pressed against a hot oven. He couldn't imagine having that power against him. Or in him. And for one brief moment he was simultaneously afraid of her, and for her. She felt dangerous.

"Giles is talking to the police," she said. "And here's your lovely parting gift."

"He's not coming?" If he hadn't known that he sounded like a crushing teenage girl, Buffy's exasperated look would have easily confirmed it.

"Is he all right?" Mulder took the item without seeing it. "He's okay, isn't he?"

"Uh, hello! Actually-the-one-in-danger Girl here!" Buffy replied impatiently, and Mulder had the good grace to blush, although here in the dark he doubted that she'd noticed.

"Deal's this," she continued. "I do the slaying, Giles does the `splaining."

"Good deal," Mulder muttered. He looked into his hand and saw the glimmer of silver and just a hint of rose in the moonlight--Giles' rose quartz...

"Well, he is my Watcher," Buffy said, sounding less irritated now, more sincere.

"Watcher?"

"Yeah, you know." When it became apparent that Mulder didn't know, Buffy tried to explain. "Your Watcher is like--I mean--well, imagine if a Girl Guide Den Mother and a Football Coach had a baby, made it watch every episode of Coronation Street, and then taught it kung fu."

Mulder laughed softly.

"Sounds good," he murmured. Buffy smiled.

"Yeah, everyone should have one." Her expression was kind, but something in her tone suggested that while everyone should have a Watcher, no one else but her should have Giles. Mulder stood up from the picnic table and slipped the necklace she'd given him into his pocket.

"It's probably safe to go back now," said Buffy. Another smile, this one knowing enough to make Mulder blush. "I suspect Sunnydale's finest have had enough of Giles' bemused librarian act."

Mulder's first thought was that he could probably use a little more bemused librarian in his life. It was a passing thought though, not so much sad as resigned. He knew what he had to do now, and it wasn't going to be another round of hide the scone with Giles. He suddenly reached out and shook Buffy's hand, startling her. At her confused smile, he grinned back. Thoughts of Scully and what she might have made of all this quickly turned to thoughts of a certain department-opening, back-watching, growling Assistant Director, and he said to Buffy. "I need to go. I have to get back to my Watcher.

As he walked away into the darkness, he touched the cross around his neck.

The End
 

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