Fire in the Hole by Rhi
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Author's Notes:
Disclaimers: I own none of them. I'd be a lot richer if I did. No infringement intended; no moneys made. Property of, variously, Gaumont/Rysher: Davis/Panzer, 1013 Productions, or Mutant Enemy. Yes, you read all of those right. It's even in order of appearance in the story. (Oh, and I'm sorry, folks, but I stop watching X-Files after "Je Souhaite." So, Scully wasn't pregnant, Krycek wasn't shot, and Mulder didn't spend a year tortured by aliens and then buried alive. The other shows' canon, however, I follow through the end of the run: "The Chosen" for Buffy, and "Not To Be," for Highlander.) Also, prompt # 52 -- Fire.
Rated: I for insane. I think this one's safe enough to read. Really. Plenty of profanity, though. Beta by Ali, Alyss, Dragon, and Misha, but all mistakes are, of course, mine. Point them out and I'll fix them. Thank you!




Somewhere near Cleveland -- 2004


"I need a vacation, you said." Carl Robinson tugged the pin from the grenade, took a short step forward, and hurled the grenade as fast as he'd ever pitched a baseball through Ken Griffey's strike zone. It went straight down the creature's gullet, momentarily blotting out the flames. Cory stepped forward, raising his appropriated riot shield barely in time to deflect this burst of fire. That was all they needed, however: the dragon exploded in midair.

"It'll be fun, you said." Carl ducked under the shield to avoid the blood and guts pattering down from the smoke-filled sky. "Cory, next time, could you just admit you want help on one of your rescue missions?"

"Oh, come on. You used to run drug dealers out of neighborhoods, Carl. That makes bank robbing look safe." Cory handed him another grenade. "One left. I knew I should have brought that C-4...." The two of them checked their fields of fire, nodded to each other, then ran for the next corner. "You're every bit as bad as I am. If we weren't all immortal, we'd have given Matthew white hair."

"Not a chance. You suppose that man is ever going to get out of law enforcement?" Carl checked the sky again while Cory made sure nothing was in the doorway they meant to hide in. "And I'm much smarter. I never believed anything Amanda said. And what's with signing the telegram 'Big brother?' Who're you kidding, 'big brother?' I'm taller than you are."

Cory grinned at him. "And heavier, but we won't mention that. I'm still older. And who said I believed her?"

A small, red glow streaked across the sky towards them, so Carl cut his reply to, "It would beat the other explanations," and waited to make his next pitch.

*#*#*#*#*


Mulder ducked behind a jumble of bricks and two-by-fours that had been a store yesterday, still wondering where the other law enforcement officers were. Cleveland wasn't as big as NYC or LA, but shouldn't losing a suburb to monsters have brought in the local sheriff's deputies, at least? Or the National Guard?

Fine, only National Inquirer and Weekly World News had reported this, but it had taken Mulder all of five minutes with the local obituaries to realize the stories had more truth than had been reported. His A.D. hadn't agreed, but that was nothing new. A dull 'krump' sound came from the northeast this time, followed by a soft patter of falling liquids. Mulder suspected that of the five dragons he'd seen, at least a couple were dead; that was the fourth explosion he'd heard.

Smart move on someone's part. Granted, the dragons were about the size of koalas, but they weren't cute, those teeth weren't designed for leaves, and they definitely had claws. Not to mention halitosis from hell. That might be literal, too.

Mulder poked his head up over the impromptu barricade and listened for the next explosion. They'd been small-scale: bigger than cherry bombs, but not dynamite or C-4. Another dragon streaked across the sky, dull brown in the moonlight except where its throat was glowing red with fire. It dove towards a building to Mulder's left. This time, rather than an explosion, Mulder distinctly heard a too-cheerful male voice call, "Swing, batta, batta!" A moment later the dragon hurtled backwards, wings flattened against its back by air pressure. It looked to Mulder like the monster had, in fact, caught a baseball bat across the belly.

"Right, come on, 'little' brother!" Two men raced down the street -- large, moving fast, each carrying what looked like a sword, but two different kinds of swords: why? The man on the right had a transparent riot shield, too. Their weapons weren't slowing them down, however. Any football team would have been happy with their hundred yard dash.

Mulder started after them but had to duck back behind a downed billboard still advertising last fall's big Hollywood extravaganza. Something was coming towards him, moving with a slither of scales, a rattle of dislodged bricks, and a hiss that should have come from the outsized snake in the Harry Potter movie. It wasn't big enough to be that noisy, but it did have friends. Translucent, glowing hounds ran in the air above it, baying in odd, echoing cries as they nosed into alleys and doorways, galloped up to second and third story windows to look for prey, and then chased everything -- owl, bat, cat, luckless FBI agent -- towards whatever was slithering.

Mulder pulled his pistol and found himself wishing again for a shotgun, since he didn't have backup. Failing either of those, he was trying to remember what chased off the Wild Hunt. He was pretty sure, however, that the answer came out to 'Nothing I've got.'

*#*#*#*#*


The sound of shots behind them tugged Carl's head up; he and Cory turned to look simultaneously. "Ah, shit."

Cory looked up at the moon for a moment, exasperated. "Amateurs." They traded glances, then ran back faster than they'd come. Cory, the showoff, was singing some mad battle song in a version of French that Carl hadn't picked up down in the Caribbean. Whatever he was singing sounded more aggressive than the Marseillaise.

Carl took some consolation from the fact that the guy they were rescuing could shoot. Shot after paced, calculated shot thudded into flesh; whatever he was shooting was in shadows, but some kind of lizard tail was lashing in a patch of moonlight. Not all that big, but shit, that was the fifth shot they'd heard, and the damn thing was still moving?

The hounds were howling furiously, circling the shooter, and for transparent creatures running on air, they had some fangs on them. The shooter was bleeding from gashes along his arms and back, but he was still up, still shooting, and he wasn't panicking. Good enough, but damn, who brought owl and cat statues to a haunted suburb? And since when did witch wanna-be's carry guns they could use?

Their approach or Cory's song -- Carl knew which one he'd blame later, when they were hashing out the post-mortem -- drew snarling yaps from the biggest dog, a gorgeous white mastiff with bright red eyes and ear-tips. Carl growled right back at it, equally white teeth in a much darker face, but he wasn't any too damn happy to realize the thing was leaving smoky paw-prints in the air.

Well, I think I'm fighting evil. Time to listen to the Good Book.... Carl lifted up his voice in song as Reverend Bell would put it, although the only thing he could remember just then was "Amazing Grace." Could have been worse, he was sure.

The shooter was backing towards a wall, counting aloud as he did. "Four." A shot. "Three." Another shot.

A damn big brown wolf came sailing over Cory's right shoulder, tail brushing Carl's face as it did and paws barely clearing the riot shield. It hit the ground, front paws first, back paws tucking between and nearly in front of them, and immediately leapt again. Two of the ghost hounds howled in pain when the wolf's fangs and claws tore into them; they might be intangible to some things, but that wolf wasn't on the list. The wolf used the second dog as a launch point, pivoting off one paw in the dog's ribs, tail lashing for balance as it spun. The largest hound met it in midair, and they rolled over and over, clawing, biting, and yipping.

"Two," barely audible over the dog-fight. Another shot into the shadows, more easily heard, followed the number.

The wolf, and gravity, tugged the hound down every time it was on the bottom of their fight; the hound used its weightlessness to balance in the air, trying to bring hind claws up to rip the wolf's belly out. Blood and fur flew, and Carl was too damn busy against the other hounds to watch the rest.

Cory had switched songs mid-word and come in on the chorus of "Amazing Grace" as if he'd been a good church-going Christian all his life. Maybe he had, but Carl really doubted it. They managed to flank the civilian just as he said, "One," fired a last time at whatever was in the shadow, and pulled a fresh gun clip from a pocket on his left. The full clip went between the last fingers of his gun hand; the empty dropped into his off hand. He grabbed the full one back out of his gun hand, slapped it into place, and released the slide before shoving the empty into a different pocket. Reloaded and ready to fire again in seven seconds at most; the guy was a professional.

Carl cut through a hound and staggered, his sword trailing wisps of smoke behind as it went, damn near unbalancing him. Beside him, Cory snapped, "Hold this!" Carl stepped forward a pace and caught the riot shield by the edge with his free hand. Since he was there anyway, he jabbed at another hound's face. His blade wasn't drawing blood, but the dogs sure as hell didn't like having it go through them. For that matter, they'd had their ears tight against their heads since he'd started singing.

A knife blade, moving fast, caught and shattered moonlight, then the super soaker dropped off Cory's back into his hands. Cory always could make his voice carry; people in the next county might have heard him yell, "Down, boy!" He didn't give the wolf much time, though, before he sprayed holy water across the hounds.

The hounds yelped and ran, bloody welts rising along their fur, limping as they ran. Three of them were fading to mist, Carl realized, and the wolf was snarling as the others ran. It didn't chase after them, however. It trotted over to the three men instead, tail waving jauntily and ears perked up despite the forepaw it wasn't touching to the ground and the blood lying red-black on its coat in the moonlight.

Cory shook his head and said seriously, "Sorry, boy, I have to." He sprayed holy water across the wolf from shoulder to flank. The wolf just shook itself -- himself, Carl noticed -- flinging water and blood over all three of them, then bared teeth and tongue in a lupine grin.

A hiss from the shadows was followed by the sound of scales moving over stone, and the guy with the gun yelled, "Basilisk!"

*#*#*#*#*


Possibly the weirdest part of Mulder's night so far -- and it said a lot about the whole thing -- lay in the wolf being the one that tried to get out of his way to let him shoot the basilisk again.

The guy to his right, however, moved forward and farther right: out of Mulder's field of fire, but not out of the basilisk's. A purple serpent's head with a white stripe above the eyes emerged from the shadows, drawn to his motion. When it opened its mouth, a grey mist poured outward, expanding to defy gravity as casually as those hounds had. Does Herne know someone borrowed his hounds?

Mulder managed to shoot at the basilisk's head once more before the bulkier man on his left lunged forward, yelling, "God damn it, Cory!" His sword swept down, severing the basilisk's head before it could turn towards them.

"Fuck!" Mulder got his hand off the trigger barely in time to keep from shooting his rescuer and didn't know if he was more worried that he'd nearly shot the guy or because he didn't know if the basilisk's head was still deadly, detached or not. He tracked the head's departing arc, already trying to remember if a severed head could still turn people to stone. It also let Mulder turn in time to see Cory's face turn to stone. The motionless features looked far too much like Alex Krycek, but the left hand, wrapped tightly around the super soaker, had been too mobile to be a prosthetic....

Another statue stood there, caught in slow motion forever as the cat and the owl had been. Mulder couldn't think of a single word strong enough, so he didn't say anything.

The wolf looked at the stone man who'd sprayed down the Wild Hunt hounds, at the writhing body of the serpent -- That thing's blood is melting the asphalt, Mulder realized, fascinated by the hiss of the bubbling acid -- and then it whirled in a quarter turn, putting its left forepaw down before picking it back up with a soft yelp. It kept staring at a top corner of the mostly-intact bar across the street; cold music had started up, slow and dragging, like a fading heartbeat.

It took Mulder a moment to realize that the gargoyle on the bar's roof was moving.

"Damn it." He didn't raise his pistol yet; the gargoyle was out of range and he might only get one chance. Short of making it back to his car, he had thirteen shots left in this clip and one more clip in his pocket. Twenty-nine more shots might not be enough.

The big black man had dropped the riot shield and placed the fingers of his freed hand on the statue's throat, testing gingerly for a pulse. "Come on, Cory, shake it off. Don't make me call Matthew to tell him this. Shit, you can sign your telegrams 'Big brother' for the rest of our lives, okay, just shake this off!"

Finally, finally, Mulder realized where he'd heard that voice before, where he'd seen that distinctive sprint before, and his eyes widened. It wasn't every night that a major league pitcher came back from the dead to... Throw grenades? Carl Robinson would have the arm for it, but what the hell is going on here?

The wolf tilted its head back and howled, echoing Mulder's own feelings about the evening. Still, Mulder jumped and snapped, unreasonably, "Warn me next time!" The wolf flattened its ears and howled even louder. The part that concerned Mulder -- even more than a wolf that knew what 'basilisk' meant -- was his suspicion that the wolf was howling a melody. One he couldn't quite place.

He looked back up to see how close the gargoyle was getting and realized there were three of them now, scuttling slowly along the rooftop. No sense of tactics, and they'd never heard of being 'skylined.' Mulder would take stupid opponents and be grateful; the gashes the hounds had left him were starting to really hurt in a delayed, biting way that portended stitches.

A flash of light drew his eye and Mulder decided, again, that he was never going to be able to write this up for the X-Files. No one was going to believe in St. Elmo's fire from a statue, but there it was, darting from the man's hands, his hair, the tip of his nose -- sparks dancing, darting, burning, spinning webs and cat's cradle patterns.

Robinson laughed, but it was relief and adrenaline-madness if Mulder had ever heard either. "That's it. Come on, Cory, come on." Sparks flew out to him, bounced off, and spun brief lines of light in the air on their way back to the statue. Robinson looked down at his hands, at the sparks, and nodded once, sharply, before laying his arm open to the bone with his sword.

"Fuck!" Mulder jerked forward, trying to put pressure on the wound, then froze as more sparks erupted under his fingers. Not enough to numb his hands, but noticeable. At least he bleeds red. Not a hybrid or a grey, and zombies don't bleed at all, the last time I checked.

"Mister? Back up." Warning and threat in three sharp words.

Mulder withdrew, interested by how well a major league pitcher used to bottom of the inning pressure was coping with a running firefight. Speaking of that…. "Three gargoyles coming."

The wolf whined impatiently, tail twitching and teeth bared at the gargoyles. It had fallen silent at some point; Mulder wasn't sure when. Blue light kept flashing in his peripheral vision, then he heard the first, soft 'tink' of stone hitting asphalt. Then another. Two more at once. A larger piece, breaking as it hit the road.

"So keep an eye on 'em and yell when they move into range." The non-zombie turned back to Cory-not-Krycek, his jaw tight and a single tendon twitching under the skin in ways no zombie ever revived smoothly enough to manage.

"I'm Mulder. You?" The gargoyles were definitely getting closer. Mulder shifted his gun to his left hand, shook blood off his right arm while trying to ignore the way the gashes hurt, and then settled back into position, left hand cupping his right as he waited to shoot.

An indrawn hiss of breath and a brief flash of reflected light made Mulder think the guy had cut himself again. "Carl."

It is Carl Robinson. And here I thought the night couldn't get stranger.... A blue flare split the night with a short burst of thunder, rocking Carl back a step. Shards flew everywhere. When Mulder could see again, Cory was on his knees, sagging over himself and Carl was kneeling next to him, bleeding from a hundred cuts clearly visible through the shreds of his clothes.

Mulder wiped blood off his check with the back of his left hand, ran fingers across his throat and decided the skin wasn't broken. He wanted to stare, but he turned to check on the gargoyles instead. Five misshapen figures crowded the rooftop now, wings mantled in fright, but they weren't moving. Carl was muttering about, "Come on, Cory, hold on to me. Damn it, we may have to run."

The wolf nosed the riot shield over to Mulder, then whined and licked a couple new cuts on its -- his -- flank. Carl said absently, "Yeah, well, he didn't do it on purpose, fuzz-face, but believe me, I'm gonna yell at him for all of us later."

The wolf huffed something that had to be a laugh and went back to licking his wounds clean. Mulder considered him carefully and decided not to mention the silver chain around his neck. Instead, he propped the shield up with a broken two-by-four in case the wolf wanted to duck behind it later. The gargoyles were still hovering. "Can't they make up their minds?" Mulder muttered.

"They've got rock for brains?" Cory sounded tired but still cheerful and not much at all like Krycek, fortunately. Mulder didn't want to deal with the complications that swirled around Krycek…. Mulder glanced over, then back, in time to see Carl pull Cory upright. He swayed, but seemed to be mostly vertical. He might even stay that way. "Next time, I am definitely bringing the C-4."

A smile quirked Mulder's mouth when Carl only nodded, checking the contents of his vest pockets. Apparently satisfied, he said, "Good thing you were out of grenades. I don't think turning to stone and back would be good for them. Next time, Cory? We share the wealth."

Grenades? C-4? Maybe Krycek would be simpler after all.... Mulder didn't believe for a moment that they had authorization to have C-4 or military grenades; they probably couldn’t manage permits for dynamite. On the other hand, he couldn't argue with how and where they'd been using said explosives, so he'd take it up with his conscience later. How was he going to report a corpse to the ATF, after all?

Cory asked curiously, "What, more planning and more grenades, or bring Matthew? You just want someone else to argue with." He forced himself more upright, managing to bring his head up to Carl's chin, but he shivered as he said, "That was different. Hey. What happened to your clothes?"

"You did. And don't think we're not going to talk about that later. Do you know how hard it is to find good tennis shoes when you're my size?" Despite the sarcasm, Carl's hand was gentle under Cory's arm.

They squabbled like brothers, Mulder decided, grinning despite the situation. Listening to them harass each other reminded him of quibbling with Scully over food choices, hotel accommodations, and baseball as a religion at a hundred other crime scenes. He kept quiet to hear what else they might say, still watching the gargoyles as intently as the wolf was watching the sky.

Carl turned, still propping Cory up, and scanned the darkness behind them. "Nothing new yet.... Some vacation, Cory. Can you tie that water gun back on?"

Red and yellow light stained the street around them and Mulder groaned, "Great, just what we need, there's a fire." He looked up and saw multicolored phosphorescence painting the sky above them, a rippling sheet of aurora borealis that had no business appearing there so quickly. Mulder glanced at it quickly, then away again, and drew a deep breath to loosen up for the next round in this bizarre fight. To his surprise, the gargoyles didn't jump them while they were distracted by the light show. Instead, they rasped broken noises like mill wheels grinding themselves to sand... and shattered.

Mulder looked at the wrecked buildings, at the acid-eaten street, at the bits of stone Cory had somehow shed -- his skin was pink in the moonlight, sunburnt or raw -- and at the gargoyle remnants. "This would be the right place to leave some stones unturned." He winced a little. "Either of you have a mirror?"

The wolf cocked its head to give Mulder an incredulous look, then sniffed at the air and trotted off with a jaunty wag of its tail. Cory asked curiously, "Anyone else think he probably has two legs most of the month?"

"Nah, it's just you." Carl glanced at Mulder. "No mirror. Best I have is some very good polarized sunglasses. What do you need 'em for?"

"Hopefully not a winged snake?" The question came from the alleyway, and the speaker was male, British, and tired.

Mulder turned to cover him, half-expecting tweed and a pipe, or maybe a deerstalker, just from the voice. The man in the lead was wearing dark clothes: wool sweater, thick pants, some kind of boots. Moonlight glinted off his glasses and the bald head of the man next to him, a slim, easy-moving black man carrying an axe on one shoulder as if he were used to the weight. On their left was a tall, gangly Native American girl who was looking around curiously, a crossbow in one hand and a stake in the other. The wolf was trotting along between the men.

Mulder just raised an eyebrow. "Purple snake, white stripe along the head, just better than vestigial wings?"

Behind him, Cory said, "Those were wings before you shot it? Really?"

"Its head is around here somewhere." Mulder added over his shoulder, "Hey, I didn't want it flying, too. Did you?"

"Good point," Carl agreed. "You guys with fuzz-face there?" The wolf's tongue lolled conveniently and Mulder could hear Carl's grin in his voice. "Yeah, well, you're entitled to laugh it up, buddy. We owe you a steak sometime, or a steak dinner. Good work on those hounds."

"Hounds." The Brit sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose; staving off a headache, Mulder suspected. He'd scheduled his own headache for sometime after the adrenaline wore off and the hot water in his motel room ran out…. "They're next, I suppose, but first -- do you know where the basilisk's head is?" The Brit looked and sounded as if he expected the answer to be less than helpful.

Mulder grinned and disappointed him. "It flew that way," and he pointed at a small pile of rubble. "It's probably under those rocks, but I wasn't going to go look for it without a mirror, or sunglasses." He glanced up. "And the lights are fading. Oh, well."

Cory snorted. "Be sensible."

"Oh, that'll be a change," Carl said.

"I'm the one who can plan, remember, little brother. I've still got holy water. Douse the head and we'll bring that building down over the street. No one's going to reclaim this city for a century at least, I don't care how fast the US population is expanding."

The wolf moved forward as they bickered, eyes closed and nose to the ground, sniffing carefully. A quarter of the way around the remains of a concrete streetlight and a post office box, he whined and backed up again, bad paw rubbing over his nose.

The black man followed the wolf, pulling a leather bag off his belt. "This is the US; oh, yeah, they would. Amazing levels of 'stupid' around a hellmouth. You should see what it does to high school students." He leaned his axe against the heap and reached in with a gauntleted hand, bag held next to the hole. "Giles, tell me this thing can't bite after it's dead."

Giles said patiently, "Only if you run your hand onto the fangs, Robin," but he was looking around the battleground rather than at his compatriot. "Hounds, you said, gentlemen?"

Mulder waved a hand, much more intent on watching sidelong to be sure the basilisk's head didn't roll free. He'd already marked which piles of rubble he was diving behind if it did. Judging by the way Carl was watching Robin work, so had he. "Someone stole some hounds from Herne, but the werewolf killed three and the rest ran."

The Native American girl first looked startled, then disbelieving. Not in the hounds, it turned out. "Could you please not say names like that? Think about it: If they are his hounds, do you want to be here when he hears his name and comes for them?"

"When you put it like that--"

"No." Cory's flat answer cut over Mulder's voice. He limped forward slowly. "We don't want the Horned God to come. There's no chance of us outrunning Him here. Did you three kill the sorcerer behind this?"

"When you say 'behind this,' could you be more specific as to which 'this' you mean?" Giles asked, then got a closer look at Cory as the moonlight fell on him. "Dear Lord, your clothes... are you all right?"

Cory waved it off. "I'll be fine. Right. When I say 'this' I mean several small, brown-gold dragons with just enough flame to be great arsonists, one basilisk, eight ghouls--"

"Ghouls?" Mulder asked, professional curiosity piqued. "Are you sure they weren't zombies? They can be a little hard to tell apart--"

"I knew I smelled ghouls," the Indian girl told Giles, bounding easily up a pile of rubble that Mulder had decided not to scale earlier.

"They're history," Carl said less than patiently. He was spinning his heavy sword in his free hand like a baseball bat. "So are the dragons, five gargoyles, and three of the hounds, but seven hounds ran, which is fine with me. Fuzz-face there kicked the alpha's ass and holy water scared the rest, but swords and bullets were useless. So who or what called them and is he, she, or it dead?"

Robin looked more closely at him, then asked carefully, "Aren't you supposed to be...?"

Carl rolled his eyes and snorted derisively. "Not this again. No, I'm not supposed to be dead."

"Huh." Robin just cocked his head and watched Carl while he tied the leather bag closed, clearly unconvinced.

Giles looked at Carl more closely, then frowned and considered Cory, too. "Ah. I begin to see. Yes, gentlemen, the sorcerer behind this one is dead. Cleveland being a hellmouth, I'm sure another would-be dark lord will be along any day, but we might get to catch our breath until new moon before one does."

Cory stared at him, then looked more intently at the teenager who was prowling among the fallen bits of gargoyle. His mouth twitched into something that might have been a smile if he hadn't been trying to keep it under control. "Oh, you're one of the voyeurs." He grinned at the repressive frown that garnered. "No problem. Nice to hear someone's keeping an eye on this mess."

"What are you doing here?" Robin asked, swinging his axe up to rest on his shoulder again. "You didn't just walk into this on purpose, did you?"

"We're just getting some exercise," Carl answered lazily. "Now the Feebie here -- who knows?"

Mulder stared at him. "How the hell did you know that?"

"Who dresses you, Hoover's ghost? You boys would stand out at a stock exchange." Carl sheathed his sword and rolled his head to the accompaniment of enough pops and cracks to make a chiropractor see dollar signs. "Feds. Come on, big brother. We're down to the 'let God sort it out' part, and I already said thanks to the Big Guy."

Cory nodded. "Sounds good." He glanced back. "By the way? The dragons seem convinced standard grenades are eggs."

Robin raised a skeptical eyebrow, then smiled. "Well, well. Thanks."

A raised hand waved it off. "No problem."

Mulder considered the way Carl had freed a hand where he could catch Cory. "I've got a car about half a mile... that way," he said, lining himself up from Polaris. "Need a ride?"

Carl shook his head. "Nah, we're maybe a quarter mile further, over to the west of you. Cory hasn't put on that much weight...."

"Less than you have, 'little' brother." Cory didn't look like he was up to a sprint, but he was walking on his own next to Carl, the two of them harassing each other constantly with friendly quibbling that never seemed to finish more than two or three sentences in one voice.

Giles, already conferring with Robin on how to handle the hounds if they came back or, possibly worse, if they didn't, waved the girl over to them. One quick series of hand gestures and she detoured to Mulder, nodding to him and slipping the crossbow to hang on her shoulder from its lanyard.

"I'm Magda. Giles wants me to make sure you get to your car okay, although if you already made it through the gargoyles and the hounds, I can't see why." She looked at him more closely, absently pushing her short leather-wrapped braid back over shoulder as she did. "Hey, you're still bleeding. Right. We've got a med-kit if you don't?"

"I've got one at the car." Mulder asked curiously, "Sorry to be sexist, but how did you get this job?"

Magda grinned, suddenly much less insecure and somehow older. "Natural talent. Are you really a fed?"

"It's a living, but I'm off duty. Good thing; it means I don't have to fill out any weapon discharge reports." He shook his head, drew a deep breath, sighed it out, and said, "What else do you think we might run into?"

She shrugged. "Well, the sorcerer's dead, but you never know around a hellmouth: devils, demons, ghouls, vampires.... A stake is a girl's best friend."

"Followed by a crossbow, huh?" Mulder checked his pocket. "A bag of sunflower seeds doesn't hurt either. Some vampires will chase and count the seeds." They strolled through the rubble, chaperoned by the wolf, and Mulder tried to imagine how he'd phrase this one if he reported it. A basilisk and some gargoyles came out of a bar? No. My A.D. would kill me. But he's never going to read this one, if I have my way. Mulder probably wouldn't, but that was a problem for another day. After he got to his car, bandaged his wounds, and got a few more details out of Magda.

A 'hellmouth' outside Cleveland, and more trouble at the new moon? What the hell. Personnel had been bitching about his accumulated vacation again....


~ ~ ~ finis ~ ~ ~

Notes, Comments, & Commentary:


Cory Raines and Carl Robinson are from Highlander, the episodes "Money No Object," and "Run For Your Life" & "Manhunt" respectively. Cory robs banks; Carl used to be a vigilante, then he was a professional league baseball pitcher, and then he was very publicly dead. Matthew is Special Agent Matthew McCormick, also from "Manhunt," who trained each of them in very different centuries, and led the shootout that 'killed' Carl. He and Duncan did smuggle Carl back out of the morgue later, however.

Fox Mulder, of course, is from the X-Files. He wanders into weirder things on purpose -- why not a hellmouth? However, as "The Unnatural" made very clear, Mulder also loves baseball. Poor Carl. Waste of a good cover death, there.

Giles and Robin Woods are from Buffy: the Vampire Slayer. Robin was the principal in season seven whose mother had been a Slayer. Magda is one of the new Slayers empowered by Willow's spell; I thought we were overdue for a Native American Slayer. Giles mentions a hellmouth outside Cleveland at the end of "The Chosen." The werewolf is Oz, of course, but he seemed happy to stay a wolf all story and who was I to argue?

Other notes. If you've never heard the Marseillaise, go rent Casablanca. The song in the bar that the band is playing, and the Germans are trying to out-sing, is the Marseillaise. No, I don't know what Cory was singing, but I think it was an old drinking song. Also they killed the ghouls on their way into the suburb; Cory claimed it was a warm-up.

The ghost hounds are from Herne's or Cernunnos' or Annwn's Wild Hunt. They shouldn't have been there, and really? The sorcerer is lucky he's dead now. The gargoyles seemed a good idea and I just liked the idea of a cluster of small (mid-sized dog) dragons with an attitude and not quite the power of the traditional 'Dragon!' The basilisk drove me nuts, but the early descriptions described a purple snake with a white line like a crown whose very presence could kill. Around a hellmouth, well, that could easily go to turning people to stone, as the later legends suggest.

If you still have questions, please feel free to ask.

Lyrics provided by Joyce are listed below: lines used in full or in part are marked with an asterisk. The whole story, however, came from the line about 'A dragon with matches loose on the town.' It just rolled downhill, getting stranger as I went, from that.

"Fire On the Mountain" (Grateful Dead)

Long distance runner what you standing there for?
Get up, get off, get out of the door
You're playing cold music on the bar room floor, *
drowned in your laughter and dead to the core
There's a dragon with matches loose on the town
Take a whole pail of water just to cool him down
Fire - Fire On the Mountain
Fire - Fire on the mountain
Almost aflame still you don't feel the heat
Takes all you got just to stay on the beat
You say it's a living, we all gotta eat *
but you're here alone there's no one to compete
If mercy's in business I wish it for you
More than just ashes when your dreams come true
Fire - Fire on the mountain
Fire - Fire on the mountain
Long distance runner what you holdin out for?
Caught in slow motion in your dash to the door *
The flame from your stage has now spread to the floor
You gave all you got, why you wanta give more?
The more that you give, why, the more it will take
to the thin line beyond which you really cannot fake
There's a fire *
Fire on the mountain