Title: Grace Series I: Fallen From Grace
Author: XScout
Rating: R
Classification: TA
Spoilers: None
Keywords: None
Summary: Tracking a serial killer may be Mulder and Scully's downfall when the suspect has inside information.

Disclaimer: Don't even ask. Why bother? No, they're not mine. They're CC's, 10-13, and Fox's. Only the sick freak killer is mine, but since I borrowed Mulder and Scully, I'll let CC borrow my guy.

Author's Note: This is a prequel to 'Amazing Grace' which was a *very* short angst piece I came up with one day. So if you read that first, great. If not, then read it after this so you know what'll happen. There'll be a third story in the series to recount the events *after* 'Amazing Grace'. Thanks to everyone for suggesting this and I hope you enjoy it. Feedback is an instrument of communication that should NOT be neglected. XScout@hotmail.com


Fallen From Grace


Prescott's Inn
12:33 a.m.

He studied the plate in front of him with trepidation. The steak was thick and juicy, the edges blackened just the way he liked, the sauce was his favorite. If only the smell didn't make him gag. He picked up the knife and fork with trembling hands, biting his lower lip as he cut into the meat.

Blood. It was suddenly everywhere, welling out from the cut in the steak, gleaming bright on the utensils, slick on his hands. The blackened meat undulated and quivered before his eyes turning a creamy peach shade, the color of skin. He gripped the knife in his hand, watching the glistening blood drip down across the wooden handle and onto his fingers. He dropped the utensil hastily and pushed away from the table, springing from his seat with such force that the chair toppled backwards onto the floor.

Scully's head snapped up at the noise, watching with fear and concern as her partner sprinted for the bathroom, not bothering to close the door behind him. The sounds of retching were amplified by the silence of the room. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath before herself retreating from the table, walking quickly across the room to where he had so abruptly departed.

He was leaning over the toilet, his shoulders quaking as he dry heaved uselessly. She knelt down beside him and placed a small hand at the nape of his neck, offering comfort. The quaking finally stopped and he bent forward, placing his cheek against the cool porcelain. She moved her hand down to rub his back. "Mulder?"

He opened his eyes to blearily gaze at her. "Sorry," he whispered.

Scully shook her head. "No, I'm sorry. I knew you were having trouble, I shouldn't have forced you to eat."

He sighed dejectedly and blinked slowly. "You were only trying to help."

She smiled sadly. "Yes, I was. Do you think you can stand?"

He hesitated for a moment before nodding. She lifted his left arm up and draped it over her shoulders, her right arm going around his waist. Together they managed to get him upright and they staggered over to the bed where he collapsed in a sprawl.

"You should get some sleep."

He snorted. "I don't have time for rest."

"*Yes* you do. You've written the profile and suggested several possible leads. All that needs to be done is narrow down the list of suspects, and Gillis' team is perfectly capable of dealing with that. So you can just forget about working."

He jutted out his lower lip petulantly, looking like he was about to argue. But before he opened his mouth, he realized that she was right and instead only nodded. He tried to summon the strength to undress but he didn't have the energy to move. Scully understood immediately and moved to help. She pulled off his shoes, his pants following in quick order. Next she unbuttoned his dress shirt and gently pulled it off.

Not bothering to make him get under the covers, she went through the open door connecting their rooms and retrieved the blankets from her bed. Carrying them back, she was amused to find that he was already asleep, his breath coming slow and deep. She draped the blankets over her partner's form, making sure that he was warm enough. Brushing a few stray locks from his forehead, she whispered, "Sweet dreams, Mulder."

She glanced at her watch. It was well past midnight but she didn't think she could sleep. So instead, she cleared the remains of their dinner, placing the uneaten food back on the cart that room service had provided. Going back to her own room, she brought back her laptop and autopsy notes. She didn't want to leave Mulder alone, in case he woke up and needed her. And she knew he eventually would.

Plagued by horrifying nightmares, he would wake screaming, terrified and confused, not knowing where he was but certain that he was alone. She had seen it more often than she liked to admit. Because cases like this came along too often.

It had started last Friday when they were called out of their office and flown down to a small town in Kansas, called Plainville. Living up to its name in both culture and population, it was the last place one would suspect a serial killer lurked. The agents from the Kansas City office had requested a profiler, asking for Mulder by name. Apparently the ASAC, James Gillis, had worked with Mulder before, back when he was in the VCS.

Mulder had agreed, owing Gillis a favor for a past deed. So they came, and for once were greeted with open enthusiasm instead of hostility. A few of the other agents grumbled and one or two actually complained out loud about 'Spooky' being called in, but they were in the minority. Before long even those complaints were silenced as Mulder's theories proved right again and again. His uncanny ability to understand the killer's motives was drawing them closer to the suspect, bringing this case closer to being resolved.

And it needed to be solved soon. The community of Plainville was outraged at the seeming inactivity of the Bureau, claiming that they weren't working hard enough to catch the UNSUB. Public outcry could be a powerful motivator but the agents had already been doing everything humanly possible to solve this. Seven men slaughtered over a period of a month, the last one after Mulder and Scully had been brought onto the case a week ago. They were strangled with a length of jute and then their bodies mutilated horribly. Eyes and tongue removed, a large knife used to cut open the abdomen from neck to navel. The press had morbidly proclaimed the killer 'The Wrangler' in tribute to his use of rope to strangle the victims.

Leaving no evidence, nothing but the condition of the victims' bodies as a clue, it was easy to see why it was so hard trying to catch this guy. But this was apparently enough for Mulder, enough so that he could write an intimate profile describing everything about the UNSUB, down to the type of car he drove. Though she still didn't understand how he was able to extract this kind of information from the amount of evidence in hand, she never questioned his accuracy. It was his gift. Too bad it was non-returnable.

She had done all she could to make sure Mulder didn't delve too deep into the abyss of the killer's mind, but she also had other responsibilities. Namely performing the autopsy on the last victim and reviewing the results of the first six. Her findings, coupled with the profile Mulder had finished early this morning, had Gillis' team frantically searching through a list of names, shortening it as suspects were eliminated.

Now, seven days after their arrival, they were allowed a respite. She had taken the opportunity to try and get Mulder to eat something, as he had scarcely any nourishment the last few days. She should have known better. Even if there was the slightest chance that he did have an appetite, she should have chosen something easy, like soup or a salad. Anything but meat. Cooked flesh was-

Her train of thought was interrupted by a groan from the direction of the bed. She turned her attention to the man occupying that bed. His features were drawn and pale, his forehead beaded with perspiration, his body twitching slightly in response to an unpleasant dream. It was a sharp contrast to his appearance when she had on occasion seen him in slumber. Usually his face was relaxed, no longer reflecting the sadness that pervaded his life. Thick brown hair tousled slightly, his long lashes resting on high cheekbones. He looked like an angel.

But now he looked like an angel in torment, an angel fallen from grace. Cast down into the hellish realities of death and destruction that swirled from the mind of a murderer. How often she wished she could give him his wings back.

7:56 a.m.

A soft knock preceded his entrance into the room. "You almost ready, Scully?"

She stuck her head out of the bathroom, toothbrush protruding from her mouth. "Jush a mi-it," she said through the foam, disappearing back into the small room.

Mulder wandered over to sit on the edge of her bed. "No hurry, the briefing isn't until eight-thirty." He ran a hand through his hair, still damp from his shower. After returning from his run he had been surprised to find that his partner was still asleep, the blankets pulled up to her chin.

Though not as surprised as he was to wake up in bed with her. But then he had remembered her slipping in to comfort him after he woke from another nightmare. Feeling guilty for depriving her of much needed rest, he had let her sleep a while longer.

Scully, for her part, had been slightly annoyed that she now had to rush to get ready, but was grateful for the extra rest and so had done nothing more than give him a pained expression before scurrying into her room to shower. He might be able to get by on four hours of sleep, but she could not. He had woken up just before three a.m., sobbing and disoriented. She had climbed into the bed with him, desperate to remind him that he wasn't alone. Cradling him in her arms, she had rocked back and forth until he drifted off into a dreamless sleep. Unable to move, lulled by his warm body and rhythmic breathing, she had soon followed.

Appraising herself in the mirror one last time before switching off the light, she was gratified to find that the smudges under her eyes were barely perceptible. "Think we have time for a quick breakfast?" she asked, joining Mulder.

He blanched and she sighed quietly. It was worth a try. "Never mind."

He smiled apologetically, opening the door for her. "Maybe we'll be able to grab brunch later."

She glanced up at him, delighted that he was at least making an effort. Laying her hand on his arm she squeezed gently. He grinned softly, letting her know that he was going to be fine, he just needed a little time. She dropped her hand and they turned as one, heading down the hallway together.

9769 Cambury Drive
1:17 p.m.

"Well, this is the last one. I can't tell if anyone is home. If this doesn't pan out, you want to get a bite to eat? We missed that brunch."

"Sure. I hope the others are having more luck than we are." Scully shook her head dejectedly. The number of suspects had been reduced to 23 possibles, a far cry from half the population of the town. Dividing the list up among the agents assigned to the case, Gillis instructed them to interview the people on their respective lists, bringing in anyone who remotely matched the description of the UNSUB. Due to the absence of one of the team members, Mulder and Scully had been given an extra two people to question. After talking with the first four men on their list and dismissing them as possible suspects, the two had now reached the home of the last man.

They walked up the unkempt path of the untended yard, Mulder's hand resting lightly on the small of Scully's back. They stepped up to the door, the rickety porch groaning in protest under their weight. Scully fingered the wires poking out from the location of the doorbell, her eyebrow raised.

"Think one girl scout too many came knocking at his door?" Mulder quipped.

"Maybe he doesn't like cookies," she returned. She rapped her knuckles on the hard wood of the entrance, listening intently for any movement on the other side.

Scully jerked back when the door was pulled open violently, revealing a large figure, his face set in a scowl. "Raymond Dolby?" Mulder asked.

"Yeah?" His voice was gruff, matching his tattered appearance. Dressed in faded jeans, complete with several holes, and a stained white T-shirt topped with a red flannel, he was the portrait of an unemployed construction worker.

"I'm Agent Mulder and this is Agent Scully, we're from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. We'd like to ask you a few questions sir."

Dolby's eyes widened as Mulder introduced them, then narrowed at the mention of questions. "Sure. C'mon in." He held the door open and let them pass. Shutting it and locking the dead-bolt, he led them to the living room, gesturing to a pair of old armchairs. "Have a seat."

Scully nodded, accepting the offer. Mulder preferred to stand, using his height advantage to put the other man on edge. He had a feeling about Ray Dolby. Dolby ignored Mulder's refusal to sit and lowered himself into the other chair, next to Scully.

"So, what do you want to know?"

Scully caught Mulder's eye, telling her that she should start. "Where were you four days ago?"

"What, all day?" Dolby smirked haughtily.

"In the evening. Around eleven o'clock," she prompted.

"I was out with a couple of my buddies, playing pool at The Black Wolf. We go there every Monday," he answered easily.

"Can we have their names and the name of the bartender?" Scully withdrew a notepad and pen from her coat pocket.

"Sure, Bill Patchet and Randy Wade. The bartender's Tony but I don't know his last name."

"Did you go anywhere after the bar?"

"Yeah. I met up with Trish and we went down to the river to... well, to spend time together if you know what I mean." He leered at Scully.

Mulder tensed, angered by the tone that Dolby was using to address his partner. It was almost obscene. Then something niggled its way through the anger and nudged his mind. "Mr. Dolby, you mentioned Trish, is she your girlfriend?"

He nodded. "Been seeing her for 'bout three weeks now. Sweet little thing, can cook like you wouldn't believe."

"Do you have a picture of her?" Scully glanced sharply at Mulder, confused as to why he would want to know what Dolby's significant other looked like.

"Uh-huh, right here." Dolby reached over to the small table between his and Scully's chairs, pulling open a drawer. Before either agent had a chance to react, he pulled a gun out of the drawer, his left hand grabbing Scully by the arm and wrenching her over to him.

Mulder's weapon was out an instant later and he silently berated himself for allowing such a slip of his defenses. His breath caught in his throat as Scully was pressed up against the larger man, her body shielding him. Dolby put his gun up to her temple, pushing so hard that the skin around the muzzle turned white. A cold knot formed in Mulder's stomach and he had to fight away the panic, taking deep breaths.

"If you don't want to see her brains decorating my upholstery, I suggest you put it down." Dolby ordered.

Never hesitating, Mulder slowly crouched to the floor, placing his gun on the thick carpet. He ignored Scully's eyes, pleading with him not to. But how could he not, with her life at stake?

"Kick it over."

He complied. Dolby reached out with his own foot and caught the careening weapon under his toe. Then he kicked the gun under the couch on his right, effectively eliminating it from being easily acquired. He kept one arm around Scully's neck and pushed her forward a bit, bringing them an inch closer to Mulder.

He reveled in the rage he saw reflected in the agent's eyes. "Clever of you to pick up on that, Agent Mulder. Trish would appreciate the irony. Sadly, she will never have the opportunity. But be comforted by the fact that I gave her the best night of her life before I killed her. Threw her in the river that she loved so much."

"That was a mistake, Dolby. You killed a federal officer, they'll never give up trying to find you now." Mulder held his hands out in front of him in a non-threatening manner.

Scully's eyes widened as she suddenly realized the meaning of what the two men were talking about. Trish. Agent Patricia Cornwall, the absent member of the team. Jesus Christ.

Dolby heard Scully's tiny gasp. "Yeah, I decided I needed an insider to tell me how the investigation was progressing so I started seeing her about a week after my first... stunt. It's pathetic how easy it was, a few compliments, some empty promises, and she was mine. Young and impressionable, that's the way I like them. She was one of those women who liked to talk after sex. And boy, did she talk." He chuckled in remembrance. "All about her job and this terrible case she was working on. How they weren't getting anywhere, how smart the killer was.

"Then she came home one night, all excited. Said that they finally had some leads. All because of some new agents from Washington. I figured I was still safe, I never left any evidence and you two hotshots would end up like the rest. Helpless and hopeless." His grin disappeared. "But last night she told me they were close. Told me about how an Agent Mulder wrote a profile describing the killer, his motives and his lifestyle. I even convinced her to read her copy of the profile to me, the trusting fool." He gripped the gun more tightly, causing Scully to flinch as the muzzle dug into her temple.

Mulder's hands returned to his sides, balling into fists. He would kill this man with his bare hands if Scully was harmed in any way. Seeing her there, stoically enduring this madman's touch, gave him the strength he needed to not give in to his anger. If he acted without thinking he could endanger Scully, and there was no possible way he would allow that. So he stood firm, taking in Dolby's ranting, waiting for any opportunity to disarm him.

Dolby's voice was growing louder, his words shaking with anger. "You stole my thoughts! It's as if you could tell what I was thinking, could read my mind! You invaded me, defiled the purity of my beliefs, twisted them into something evil and then you called me a monster! *You*, in your high and mighty wisdom had the audacity to call *me* a monster? After *you* raped my mind??"

The pressure on the side of her head vanished and Scully watched in horror, time slowing down to a crawl, as Dolby's arm straightened out, the blast from the gun echoing in her ears. She felt her heart stop as Mulder fell backwards, red blossoming from his chest. "No!!" she screamed, tearing herself from Dolby's grasp and rushing over to her partner's motionless form.

Dolby remained where he was, arm still outstretched. "Is he dead?" Not that it mattered, he just needed to know in order to make his next decision.

Scully moved a trembling hand to Mulder's neck, praying that she would feel the pulsing of his blood beneath her fingers. She held her breath, afraid if she made any noise that her prayer would lose strength. There! Faint and rapid, but it was there. "He's alive," she murmured in relief.

Dolby heard her and licked his lips, a new plan forming in his mind. "Then you're going to move him. I want to put you two in a safe place until your friends have come and gone."

"But moving him might kill him!" Scully protested.

"I don't have any qualms with *you*, but if you don't obey me I could rethink that. Now do it!" Dolby motioned with his gun, reminding her who was in charge.

She swallowed and moved around to Mulder's head, lifting him up and wrapping her arms around his torso from behind. Dolby was waving her in the direction of the back of the house and she followed grimly, struggling to pull her partner's heavy bulk along the floor. Ten minutes later she was gasping for breath, sweat trickling down her face, but they were finally outside. Dolby walked over to a pair of doors lying at an angle in a mound of dirt. A tornado shelter.

He threw open the doors and nodded to Scully. "Leave him there and get in."

She was about to argue when she remembered his threat. She had no doubt that he wasn't bluffing. Gently lowering Mulder to the ground, she moved over to the dark opening of the shelter and flashed Dolby a look of pure hatred before descending into the blackness. At the bottom of the steps she turned around and waited anxiously as Dolby dragged Mulder to the entrance, throwing him down with one gigantic heave.

Mulder's boneless body slid down the stairs and Dolby slammed the doors shut, plunging them into darkness. Scully heard something metal being slid through the handles as she bent down to feel for Mulder. Finding him, she ran her hands over his body, trying to assess whether his trip down the steps had injured him any more. But the darkness kept her from a more thorough exam so she just hoped that nothing had been damaged and tucked her arms under his shoulders. She pulled him over to the nearest wall, sitting with her back against it and his back against her.

They sat like that for what seemed like hours and in reality was mere minutes, Scully taking comfort in the feeling of Mulder's chest moving up and down, pressing against her slightly. He moaned softly and shifted a bit. "Mulder?"

"Where... are we?" he asked, his voice ragged.

"Tornado shelter in Dolby's backyard."

"You okay?"

Leave it to Mulder to be worried about her well-being when it was he who was injured. "I'm fine."

"I'm sorry... about this." Her eyes were becoming accustomed to the darkness and she could see him twisting his shirt between his hands in a guilty gesture.

"It's not your fault, Mulder, how could you have known?" she said, her voice tinged with regret that *she* hadn't known.

"Wonder how long... it will take... Gillis to notice we're missing." He tried to get more comfortable but the movement sent pain lancing down his arms and across his chest. He gasped, freezing immediately and waiting for the pain to abate.

Scully hugged him closer. "I don't know. Try not to move, save your strength."

She could feel him nod. Listening to his labored breathing, she again prayed, that Gillis would notice their absence immediately and that he would find them soon. If not, there was the real possibility that her partner would die in her arms. And so she asked, no, pleaded with God to leave His fallen angel on earth a while longer.


Continued In 'Amazing Grace'