"Chermera" by Mary Ruth Keller Part 42 of 45

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"Chermera" by Mary Ruth Keller Part 42 of 45
E-mail: mrke...@eclipse.net, mrkel...@gmail.com
PG-13 X-File: Myth-arc Disclaimed in Part I
Already sent to Gossamer
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Royal Victoria Infirmary
Great North Trauma and Emergency Center
Newcastle-on-Tyne, UK
Wednesday, July 22, 1998
6:53 am

"Well, at least we have good news to pass on to them." Rosen eyed her former partner as they trotted down the hall, side-by-side. She glanced down at the four small coffees in the paper tray, pleased to see that little of the dark liquid had sloshed out of the slits in the lids.

Nichols held up a brown paper sack. "A treat for breakfast for those two. Scully's had no solid food since she was spirited out of the Embassy, so far as I can tell."

Rosen nodded. "Mulder probably only had just what you got him to eat at the hotel." They exchanged rueful grins, knowing the agents as well as they had both come to over the years.

They turned into the room. Dana Scully was asleep, supine, a carefully-placed blanket swaddling her shoulders, but she was free of IV's and drainage tubes. Her left arm was stretched out along her hip. Her partner had nestled the recliner against the rails of the hospital bed, where he was on his side, his fingers through the slats to rest, open limply, on the extended wrist.

"I hate to wake them, Nic." The brunette astronomer, one hand grasping the pillow by the gauze-wrapped head, was bending over the diminutive agent. "You know they're both exhausted."

Nichols sighed. "Yeah, but, you know them, Ros. They'll want to know as soon as possible." He shook a muscled shoulder gently. "Hey, Chief."

The fingers instinctively tightened around his partner's arm before his eyes opened. He coughed once, then pushed himself upright, where he swayed groggily. "What's going on?" He patted the small fingers. "Doctor, rise and shine. The kids are home from college." He rubbed his face with both palms.

Her eyes still closed, she smiled gently. "Mulder, I was dreaming about scones, and now, I smell them. You promised me you were going to sleep through the night, G-man." She met Rosen's hazel gaze. "You look like you have good news." She turned her head to the left. "Morning, Nichols."

He held up the sack. "We have more than that, so let's get you two settled." He was extracting four paper plates to hand to his former partner.

Rosen lined up the plates in a row on the rolling table, then Nichols placed a scone on each. The coffees were still in the tray, but Rosen tapped the cup closest to the diminutive agent. "Cream only, Scully." She held one out for Mulder. "Lots of sugar, just the way you like it."

Her right arm still taped against her ribs, Scully's left hand hovered over the round blueberry scone before breaking a corner off the triangular lemon pastry. After chewing and swallowing, her eyes slid shut momentarily. "Thank you, both of you. I never thought anything could taste so good."

Mulder settled in the recliner, his eyes dancing as she ate another bite. He had a mouthful of the blueberry, so said nothing, content to watch his partner enjoying herself, her green-blue eyes sparkling, her breaths coming easily. The hours he had spent by her side, listening to machines beeping as she lay motionless, tubes running into and out of her, would continue to harry him in his sleep, he knew.

Rosen chuckled. "We've been walking past these every morning, Agent Scully."

His scone finished, Mulder took several gulps of the coffee, then looked up. "Thanks, both of you. So, you found Rhys-Jones?"

Nichols huffed through his mustache. "Right where Agent Scully thought he would be, Chief. He was unharmed, if a bit dehydrated. There was no sign of Frijdolf."

"I'm sure the Smoker knows right where he is." Scully took a quick sip of the still-hot coffee.

"Probably." The brunette astronomer nodded to the woman on the bed. "Rhys-Jones told ap Gwinn Frijdolf had helped him hide, then ran off himself."

Nichols patted his mustache with a brown paper napkin. "We had to let the Inspectors and the locals take over. Until we can tie these events to something back in the US - "

"We have no jurisdiction." The tall agent let out a huff as he crossed his arms.

"We can't even hold the 'Professor' and the 'Teacher.'" Rosen paused as her index finger rubbed against the side of her thumb. "They claim they *are* local actors, hired to play a part by Krycek, that he made certain they were isolated from any details about Scully's background. They said he just told them it was improv."

Three snorts answered her, before Mulder smiled mirthlessly. "Then their performance here was all part of an acting job? BAFTA's all around, I say, if it was. There's more to these two than they're willing to admit. We need to keep after them, somehow. Your 'Professor' has a mental problem I'd like to correct him on." He glowered at the spot where the 'actor' had lain the previous morning. "A problem too many men have, even after all the Curies, the Meirs, and the O'Connors."

Scully huffed in agreement. "So, any word on the 'Matron'?"

The astronomer shook her head. "No. They claim not to know her, but, we had little time to interrogate them before they were taken away. Ap Gwinn was quite insistent we get back to you two."

The diminutive pathologist took a sip of the coffee. "She may actually have been involved in the plot. I'd like to show ap Gwinn and Rhys-Jones her sketch."

Mulder turned to her. "What makes you say that, Scully?"

She straightened, reminding herself to take deep breaths. "Although it was obvious she had never done anything like what was done to me before, it seemed like she knew what was going to happen before it did, part of the time. That's the best way I can describe the sense I had of her. The other two did seem like they had been kept partially in the dark, that they were making it up as they went along, as were the Quaestores."

Rosen's dark eyebrows elevated. "Oh, you mean the men in the grey robes?"

She nodded. "They thought this was an initiation-"

"One you completed, Scully, when you relieved Krycek of his weapon." Mulder was regarding his partner soberly.

The balding Montanan chewed his mustache for a moment. "So, is that good or bad? Are you in the Forty, or not, Scully?"

She drew another deep breath. "We keep coming back to that." Her forehead wrinkled. "No. Being in the Forty would divide my loyalties between the Bureau and them. While there would be benefits, not the least access to their archives, we will have those anyway, if we're diplomatic. We need the alliance, but we have to carefully marshal our resources. Besides, I know where I belong. I'm a pathologist in the FBI, joint section head of X-Files East with this odd-ball Oxford-graduate psychologist and profiler I find sitting in the office adjacent to mine every morning, ready to spout some cockamamie idea right as I walk in the door."

"But I make you hot coffee first," Mulder protested with a delighted wink. "Besides, you're not the only one they want. You didn't have to stroll through a madding crowd in your Dad's robe, Doctor."

She cocked her head at him. "True. Then, this is a decision we need to make together, isn't it?"

"It is, and we have." The dark-haired agent patted his partner's arm.

"That's how good teams work." The balding Montanan grinned at each of them.

The partners exchanged light-hearted glances, before the pathologist turned to the ASAC. "The Forty can come to us, Nichols. Ap Gwinn has already told us they work in opposition to the Shadows, in their own way."

"So, the enemy of my enemy is my friend." The brunette astronomer began rubbing her finger over loose skin by her thumbnail.

"The more the merrier, Ros." Nichols sent his former partner a quick grin. "We need a counterbalance like them on the West Coast. The Japanese groups appear to be more active than the Europeans."

"We don't know that, Nic." After setting the plastic lid on the rolling tray, the triathlete crossed her arms. "Sandra gave us the barest glimpse inside the Osaka operations, but, until we understand more about the Europeans, we can't disentangle their involvements in public affairs."

Scully shifted upright again. "There's no equivalent to the European Union in the Far East, which provides coordinated economic-" She looked over at her partner.

Mulder had emitted his whooping shout. "Guys, even if we finish cataloging all the things we don't know, we will still have a problem with jurisdiction."

Nichols started laughing outright, a loud cough-bark that settled the focus of the three others on him. "Like that's ever stopped you, Chief."

Scully and Rosen eyed Mulder expectantly before the diminutive agent shook her head. "I'm not going to be one of the Forty, and I refuse to play by bureaucratic rules."

The brunette astronomer turned to her former partner. "I think we seen the first successful personality swap, Nic. What say you?"

Nichols stepped out of the room, staggering back with two metal folding chairs. "Time to do this right, Ros." He handed one to her, then the pair settled beside Scully's bed.

The triathlete took several sips from her paper cup, before turning to the tall agent. "Okay, guys, so, seriously, what are we planning on doing with the Europeans?"

Mulder drained the last of his coffee. "When the Doctor gets rested up, that'll be our job, with Pendrell, Phillips, and Stickle. You two need to return to the West Coast."

"What?" Nichols was on his feet. "Chief, I understand we need to be going after Osaka, especially with what they did, but Scully's not in any shape to travel, and-"

"I can be mobile and ready for work in a few days, Nichols." She tried to sit up, but Mulder's long hand was on her shoulder, keeping her still.

Rosen was shaking her head vehemently. "Scully, you took a bullet to the chest, and you just had your second trip to the operating table yesterday. You have to rest and get better. You also need someone on the outside to do the legwork. That's non-negotiable. We're staying." After exchanging a glance with her former partner, each crossed their arms for emphasis.

"They're right, Scully." The tall agent smirked at the memory. "No haring off on motorbikes to rummage around in sunken boxcars, not for a good long time." The fingers wrapped around the back of her neck. "You need to recuperate. But, we're not alone here. All you need to do is speak with ap Gwinn - " He stopped, since she was shaking her gauze-wrapped head.

"No, Mulder, we need to keep them out of Bureau affairs as long as possible. They may be our allies, but how much can we afford to let them know?"

He rested his crossed arms on the bed rail. "We let them have copies of my Father's documents, in exchange for Rhys-Jones's data on the Shadows."

"That's an eminently sensible agreement, Atrebates." Ap Gwinn was standing in the doorway. He crossed into the room, exchanging nods with the astronomer and the ASAC. "You are all welcome to remain. When the Riata is able to travel-" He held up both hands to forestall the objections he knew his choice of title would provoke. "-you can all come to Llangollen and House Derwbryn. I have opened the grounds to visitors from all over the world, or else I would not be able to maintain my family home. I have internet access throughout, and an organic garden and small restaurant. I have a wing that could be all of yours in privacy, with a hospital bed if you still need one, Riata. I have something else." He reached into his jacket pocket, extracting a digital tape to place on the rolling table. "I assume you both know what this is?"

Mulder and Scully exchanged a glance at the phrase, last spoken during a fraught exchange in Apartment 42, before she leaned forward. "Krycek left that with you?"

The Cymru nodded. "It would have been placed in Suebi's archives, but he had brought it to the Suola and stored it in the Ekklesia safe, with a paper transcription, as it turns out, for the best. I have drives that can read it or I can just bring along the transcript next time."

Mulder held the tape, turning it over to rub the metal base with his thumb. "Not all of this will still be meaningful, but, we can check Albert's memories."

Scully extended her palm, enclosing her fingers around his when he placed the cassette in her supine hand. "We'll need to bring Albert out for a week or so, if he can still travel, or locate another code talker to work with, to check the transcript against the tape contents."

Rosen found her feet, then bent over the mattress. "Guys, I've been trying to find a spare moment to tell you this, but, the Gunmen called us. They've worked out a tracking system to break the Japanese communications, but they want to give you two the details in person." She smirked at Scully. "Frohike was explicit about the 'in person' part."

Nichols chuckled. "Mister ap Gwinn, I think you'll discover you've opened the door a little too wide for your own sanity."

The red-haired man waved a hand. "I've perused their newspaper." His gaze landed on Scully's bruised face. "All a part of checking up on you, Riata. Their methods may be odd, but their motives are impeccably noble. The house can easily accommodate two dozen for an extended stay, and it's just been myself and the staff rattling around the corridors for far too long."

The ASAC stood beside the Cymru. "You wouldn't happen to have a ghost or two about the place, would you?"

Ap Gwinn smiled broadly. "Only some distant relatives from the wars with England's fourth Henry. But none of you are of British descent, so they'll just pass through now and again."

Mulder bent over his partner. "See, Scully, not such a bad plan, is it?"

Her forehead wrinkled, but she said nothing.

--o-0-o--

House Derwbryn
Llangollen, Denbighshire, Wales
Friday, July 24, 1998
9:27 am

Dafydd ap Morgan ap Gwinn settled on Dana Scully's right at the breakfast table. He was just out of the light from the tall windows that fell onto the embroidered linens and the crimson lilies in planters behind the mahogany chairs, each back carved with three nodding ostrich feathers. The four agents had arrived the previous night, once the slight woman beside him had deemed herself fit to travel. Rosen and Nichols had finished their meals an hour ago, then stepped out for a walk, the astronomer's restless energy needing an outlet, the ASAC enjoying having a little free time on his hands. Now, perhaps, the Cymru could work on convincing the FBI agent beside him to take her rightful place in the Suola. He slid a tomato and onion omelet onto a plate, long red dragons curled around the lip of the white china. The bright yellow from the yolks of eggs he had collected this morning partially obscured the green ring marking the perimeter of the well. "Were you comfortable last night, Riata?" He ignored the scowl of the tall agent on her left at his use of her rightfully-earned appellation, but smiled as the protective lean toward her shoulder. The dark-haired man, never far from the diminutive pathologist's side, was earning *his* title with every hour they spent inside his walls.

She sent her partner a tip of her chin before turning to offer ap Gwinn a slight smile. "Yes, I am. It's always good to check out of a hospital and sleep in a normal bed." She was cutting her eggs carefully with the fork in her left hand. "You mentioned last night when we arrived that this is the third house to be called Derwbryn?"

The red curls waved. "That we have records for. Any documents prior to the first were destroyed by the fire during Henry the Fourth of England's siege."

After chewing and swallowing, she tapped the plate with her fork. "Are there any medieval foundations still visible?"

Ap Gwinn shook his head. "No, each house was larger than the last. There's an interior wall in the basement that may be original at the footer, but, this rebuild in the Nineteenth Century, then my Father's modernization in the Fifties, removed much that was historical, sadly. The carriage house has stones, with graffiti and inscriptions, from the Medieval structure throughout, so that's what we show the tourists." He lifted a round of a bakestone from between the upright ribs of the white Portmeirion server, a currant falling to the tablecloth before he could transfer the pic to his plate. "What can we do to make you and your people more comfortable while you wait for your friends from America to arrive to work with you?"

Now, she favored him with a full-wattage smile. "We'd like to take over your study, if that would be alright. We have some documents we need to work our way through and we know you have much to look to, with this being the height of tourist season. In a few days, when I have my stamina back, I'd love a tour of your grounds. It's so green, and the view from my window is amazing."

The tall agent reached for her wrist. "Scully, you need to take it easy, too. You're just three days past your last surgery."

She gently grasped, then released, his outstretched fingers. "You're right, Sam, as always."

The partners exchanged a glance, knowing she was just as bad a patient as he when they had a case to pursue. They had downloaded a scanned copy of Marshal Tapping's document the previous evening that they were both eager to start reviewing. Further, there was an uncomfortable, but necessary, duty waiting, in that he would need to take a deposition from her about the events of her Initiation for the case against Krycek. Then, they would be working their way through the emotional damage the course her kidnapping had taken would inevitably expose in both of them. But, not all in one afternoon. The slump of her shoulders told him as much. He leaned close to her face. "Yes, Master Frodo."

--o-0-o--

House Derwbryn
Llangollen, Denbighshire, Wales
Friday, 2:21 pm

"Mulder, would you pass me my notebook, please?"

He checked around the cluttered worktable, shifting documents and sheaves of paper, before pointing to the spiral-bound pages closest to him. "This?"

She held out her left hand. "Thanks." Scully flipped over a couple of pages, then began painfully scribbling numbers off the screen of her laptop.

Her partner crossed his arms on the printed copy of Marshal Tapping's document. "What do you think you have, Scully?"

She stifled a yawn. "The MJ documents don't give many locations, but there are comments here about specimens being lost due to mold." After a few clicks, she brought up a digital version of Tapping's foldout map. "I'd say it might have been any of the sites in the Pacific Northwest, but there are three on Lake Chelan. One is just outside Stehekin, set on a long pier out on the water. That sounds like a - " She rubbed her face, then propped her cheek on her fist. "Oh."

The tall agent circled the oak surface to drop a long hand on her left shoulder. "Scully, it's okay. We can knock off if you need a break."

She shook her head. "No, I need to - "

His fingers were rubbing gentle circles in the back of her neck, just below the gauze wrapping her scalp. "Rest. Scully, you need to rest. Rosen and Nichols have kicked themselves free for a bit. We can, too, for as long as you need."

She stared blearily at the chaise lounge under the windows, its ivory padding setting off the turned walnut rails and feet. "That looks comfortable. It's even left-handed, so I could keep the weight off my right shoulder." She pushed herself to her feet. "Maybe I can close my eyes for a few minutes, then get back to work." She canted her face hesitantly up at his downward softening gaze. "That wouldn't hold us up too long, would it, Mulder?"

He shook his head, then, his arm curled around her waist, guided her over to it. "It won't hold us up at all, Scully." The hazel was regarding her gently.

She sank gratefully onto the velvet, then heeled off her black walking shoes. "This is so lovely." Her left hand stroked the fabric. "Dafydd takes such good care of this amazing place." She shifted the bolster off to the end table, then reclined against the angled side. "I should be sleeping upright." The words were verbal thought, not speech. "The rib hurts less like this." Suddenly aware of her partner's presence, she blinked up at him. "Mulder? You look tired. I'll be okay here, if you'd like to turn in yourself." Her eyes were drifting shut.

His face darkened and cleared, her quiet statements leaving him somber, yet comforted. She was healing, but relying on his help, as they both knew she still needed the time. He bent over her. "You cold in here?"

Her fingers extended toward his chin, but fell away without making contact, then, she muttered something he couldn't quite understand as she stretched her legs out on the deep cushion.

He straightened. "I'll take that as a yes." He stroked the length of her arm lying straight on the velvet, from shoulder to fingertips. "I'll be back in a few." As he pushed the oak door open, he stopped short. Dafydd ap Gwinn had his hand up to knock, so the agent coughed once to cover his surprise. "Hey. Sorry. I didn't know you were there."

The red-haired man caught a glimpse of Scully on the chaise. "Is the Riata alright? Do you need anything? I can have the nurse-"

Mulder held up his palm. "She's fine. She just wore out." He checked behind him, then closed the door, holding the knob turned so he could engage the latch silently. "I knew she would, considering all she's been through." He began moving toward his room. "I'm just going to get her a blanket so she can sleep for a few hours, that and some water for her antibiotics." He bit his lip momentarily. "I may be able to get her to take a couple of painkillers." He looked over at their host. "She tries to minimize her use of them, but, as she likes to remind me when I'm on the receiving end, ribs are a special case. Especially with her lung." He shook his head.

Ap Gwinn fell in step beside him. "You do your office honor, Atrebates."

"Atre... No." The dark-haired man released a snort. "We're just FBI agents, Sir. My partner took a bullet in the line of duty." He staggered to a halt. "She."

The Cymru stepped in front of him. "Perhaps you need to rest as well."

Mulder punched his fist against his open palm. "It should have been me. She had done enough. She-" He met the green eyes. "It should have been me. Had I gone for the gun, not Krycek, it would have been me. She's been through enough. I would gladly-"

Now, ap Gwinn grasped his muscled shoulder. "I asked you, back in Washington, to think of her, not yourself. You should stop. You've both been through enough, Atre-"

The dark-haired agent glared. "No. We are who we are." He straightened. "I'm going to get my partner a blanket so she can sleep, and a pitcher of water for when she wakes up." He spun on his heel, then pulled himself up short. "Oh, excuse me, Sir." An older man, dressed in high-waisted plaid trousers, a morning coat over a cravat tucked into a vest, was leaning on a cane with a dragon's head as he stood in front of the agent. Mulder wondered, for a moment, if this was a costumed, role-playing tourist, or even a hired guide to House Derwbryn, until he noted the sun with forty wavy rays clipping the cravat in place. The gentleman continued to block their path. His grey head nodded to ap Gwinn, then a gloved hand mounted a pair of Oxford spectacles on a slender nose. The lenses began bobbing as the dark-haired agent was favored with a broad smile.

Ap Gwinn chuckled. "So, you can see Ieuan?"

Mulder was swaying on his feet. "Ieuan?"

"My ancestor. The first member of the Forty from our family. He only shows up when there are other Brothers or Sisters in the house."

The dark-haired agent rubbed his eyes. "Oh?" The figure that seemed so real was now gone. "I'm more tired than I thought. Maybe two blankets."

The Cymru patted his shoulder again. "I suspect he's gone to check in on the Riata. You go get those blankets, and I'll bring the water. We'll see what she makes of him, hum?"

Genuinely amused, Mulder nodded. "My partner doesn't believe in ghosts, Sir. This should be fun."

--o-0-o--

End – Chermera – Part 42 of 45
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