Chapter Three: Leitmotif
When Scully woke, the sun was not yet up, but the sky outside her window had taken on the pale yellow that usually proceeded a beautiful day. Already she could hear the hum of traffic on the street below. She glanced at the clock on the nightstand. Had she really slept for almost sixteen hours? She rolled out of bed and as her feet sank into the rose-colored carpet, she noticed her surroundings for the first time. Having endured countless dingy motel rooms in her adventures with Mulder, she was unaccustomed to such luxury. Well, relative luxury. The room was cozy and completely covered with roses: sateen rose wall treatments, rose-shaped ornaments on the gilt mirrors, a rose-patterned coverlet, even a small bouquet of real roses on the dark wood table by the window. Across the street from the hotel was Hyde Park, whose verdant majesty stood in stark contrast to the bustling street below.
She opened the window, allowing the night-cooled air to rush into the room. The last of the lingering airplane staleness dissipated quickly, and the smell of damp earth wafted up, not yet obscured by vehicle exhaust. As she stood at the window, a flying shape whizzed past her window: a large owl, probably returning from a night of hunting fat park rabbits. But instead of prey, the owl's talons clutched a box that was neatly wrapped in brown paper and reinforced with twine. Scully's head jerked to follow the owl's flight path, but within seconds the bird and its parcel were impossible to make out against the trees in the dim morning light.
Scully drew back from the window, puzzled. It was probably just a trick of the light. Or her imagination. Or maybe the owl mistook the box for prey. She shook her head at her own thoughts. An owl's vision is far superior to a human's. How could it mistake a stationary box for something edible? Her excuses sounded as unlikely as owls carrying packages. But really, homing owls? More likely just her imagination.
She slipped into the bathroom for a shower. Unsurprisingly, there was rose scented shampoo, lotion, and soap in a small basket on the counter. The water was hot and plentiful, the towels soft and absorbent. When she emerged from the steamy bathroom, she noticed that she'd left the window open. She quickly closed it, physically shutting out the memory of the strange owl. After dressing, she began to rub her hair vigorously with a towel. Just then, a knock came from the door that she assumed connected her room to Mulder's. She crossed to the door, undid the chain lock, and opened the door.
"Good day, sunshine," chirruped Mulder. "Feeling better?"
"Much refreshed, thanks. You?"
"Fresh as a daisy." He peered into her flowery room. "May I ask when you rose this morning?"
Scully groaned at the pun. "Too early for that."
"Shall I leaf you alone?"
"Unless you want me to react violetly. But that's enough of that. Are you ready to get breakfast? I'm starving."
"Don't you need to put some makeup on your tulips before we eat?"
Scully pursed her lips disapprovingly. "That was poor, even for you, Mulder." She ran a brush quickly through her hair. "Shall we go see if English Breakfast Tea can hold a candle to Bureau Brewed Coffee?"
"Yeah, and I'll try to stem the tide of floral puns and root myself in practical conversation."
"Are you going to take a pistil to me, Scully?"
She placed her index finger on his smirking lips and met his gaze sternly. "No more. Not one word until I get some caffeine on board."
He obediently covered his mouth with his hand when she withdrew her finger, and they walked to the elevator in silence. While they waited for the elevator, Mulder spoke.
"Am I allowed to talk yet?"
"Feeling impatiens, Mulder? Perhaps now is the thyme to go with the phloem."
Mulder allowed her words to sink in. "That was horrible, Scully."
She smiled. "Then we're even, and I'm calling a truce. Just to show that there are no hard feelings, I'll even charge breakfast to the expense account."
Mulder batted his eyes as they stepped into the elevator. "My hero."
<*> <*> <*> <*> <*> <*> <*>
An hour and an obscene amount of pork products later, Mulder seemed content return to his room and sleep off breakfast. Scully would have none of it.
"Come on, Mulder, we've got 5 hours to kill before we need to be at the Brisbin Institute. We're in the middle of the West End and we should be taking advantage of it. World-famous museums, dozens of theatres, restaurants..."
"But we're staying in a luxury hotel! Shouldn't we be taking advantage of it? Over thirty premium channels, complementary floral-scented toiletries, room service..."
Scully gave him a look.
"All right, all right. Since you generously took care of breakfast, I'll pick up the price of admission for the British Museum. How does that sound?"
"Gee, I hope that two adult free admissions doesn't put us over our entertainment budget."
"So it's a date?"
"As long as I don't have to elbow you to keep awake."
"An Egyptophile sleeping in the British Museum? Perish the thought!"
They hopped on a bus and went upstairs, which was much fuller than the lower level. The cool morning had warmed into a beautiful day, and all of London seemed to be out taking advantage of it. There were dozens of people out jogging in the parks, and everyone seemed to be in a good mood. A man in a bowler hat chivalrously held the door to a shop open for a girl with heavily tattooed arms. She had smiled and thanked him. Several blocks down, a lady waiting at a red light had enthusiastically serenaded passers by with "Good Day Sunshine." The other passengers seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as she. Some were chatting animatedly with their seatmates; others were basking, trying to absorb as much warmth as possible. Scully slipped her feet out of her heels and contentedly wiggled her stocking toes in the sun. The combination of heavy breakfast and warm sun had put Mulder to sleep, and he was snuffling softly. Her gaze drifted away from him to the young man seated across the aisle from her. He seemed to be studiously ignoring everything around him, though she caught him glancing at her. His hair was as red as hers, and like her, he was pale instead of freckled, as if he too had spent too long cooped up in a government basement. She smiled at him, but he looked away, and began rifling through his briefcase, which was filled with neatly labeled manila folders. Selecting a thin stack of papers, he pushed his glasses higher on his nose and began to read.
Scully shook her head. The young man wasn't dressed for work, in fact his clothes were more suitable for hanging around in a pub. After a moment, the young man removed his glasses and massaged the bridge of his nose. He looked like he was developing a headache.
Scully pulled a small packet out of her pocket and held it out to him. "Acetaminophen? It cures all ills."
The young man looked slightly startled but quickly composed himself. "No thank you, I'm fine." He abruptly returned to his reading, albeit halfheartedly.
"You know," ventured Scully, "my brother Charlie always says that whoever is not in possession of leisure can hardly be said to possess independence."
The young man snorted. "Well, MY brother Charlie always says 'Never tickle a sleeping dragon,' or a reading dragon in my case. If you'd excuse me." He turned away more forcefully.
"If you insist. My other brother Bill always talks about the better part of valor, and all that."
He looked at her with a softer expression. "My brother Bill used to say that, too."
Scully laughed delightedly. "Are your Bill and Charlie redheads, too?"
The man grimaced slightly. "All of my siblings are. Seven of us altogether."
"Seven? And I thought four redheaded children were a lot for one family!"
"And two of our seven are identical twins."
"Your mother must have the patience of a saint."
The man smiled conspiratorially. "No, just the temper of a rhinoceros." He turned to face her. "So what brings you to London?"
"Work, unfortunately. However, I still have a few hours of freedom left to wander around, that is if I can rouse my partner from his sausage-induced coma."
"What line of work are you in?"
"Oh, a paper-filled government job."
He brightened at this. "What area of government?"
"Law enforcement." She laughed. "And all this time I thought Brits found Americans uncouth for asking 'what do you do?' right off the bat. So, what do you do?"
"The same! Well, I started out in international affairs, which I liked at first, but I tired of it soon after my mentor passed." Scully made a sympathetic noise. "From there I went to patents, then to PR, which I hated, and now I'm trying my hand at law enforcement."
"My, you bounced around! Are you doing field work?"
"Yes, but I'm completely new at it, and I'd hate to screw up. There's so much more at stake than when you hang around an office all day."
Scully nodded. "Don't I know it. What's your area of expertise?"
He paused. "I guess you could say I keep track of illegal aliens."
"That must be interesting. I do something similar, though it's more to do with crimes committed by or associated with illegal aliens."
"While I try to keep the crimes from happening."
Out of the corner of her eye, Scully noticed flashing blue and white lights. She stood to get a better look. At her movement, Mulder awoke with a groan.
"Hey sleepyhead, looks like we may have to find a different plan for this morning."
"What is it?"
Scully pointed: down the street in front of the British Museum was a huge crowd, mostly made up of people milling about. But a dozen police vehicles were parked on the sidewalk in front of the museum, and a line of officers were preventing anyone from entering.
Scully turned to the redheaded man and smiled. "It's been a pleasure talking with you, but this is our stop."
The young man held out his hand. "Percy."
She shook it. "Dana. See you around." She and Mulder exited the bus and joined the crowd.
Percy saw her partner elbow Dana knowingly. "So Scully, been chatting up the locals while I was asleep?"
"It's more fun than watching you drool on yourself." The partner's reply was lost to Percy as his bus drove off.
Percy got off the bus a block later, and stepped into a pay toilet. Having inserted 50p and locking the door, he withdrew a small book from his briefcase and scribbled a few notes. Then he withdrew a wand from a holster around his ankle and murmured a few words. A few moments later, a stocky, brown-haired man in a rugby shirt exited the toilet. He walked briskly up the block and began scanning for red hair. He disappeared into the crowd.
<*> <*> <*> <*> <*> <*> <*>
"Excuse me, miss?" Mulder tapped a short woman on the shoulder. "Do you know what's going on up there?"
"Something got stolen last night. I heard it was the Mona Lisa!"
Mulder raised an eyebrow significantly at his partner. "First the Smithsonian. Now the British Museum."
"There are thousands of attempted museum robbers every year, Mulder. Besides, the Mona Lisa is at the Louvre, not the British Museum."
"But how often are the attempts successful?"
"That's not the point. Just because two of the attempts are within a couple of weeks of one another doesn't prove anything conclusive."
"It takes two points to make a line, Scully."
"A line is not a pattern. Besides, we don't even know if it was a robbery. The fire alarms might have accidentally gone off."
"Well, then let's find out." Together they wove through the crowd, asking people along the way. Some people had heard King Tut had been stolen. Others thought it was jewels, and one man swore that he'd heard a policeman talking about a stolen stuffed moose.
"So much for that," said Scully, shrugging. "I guess we'll have to wait for this evening's Times to find out what happened, like everyone else." She paused. "Mulder? I wish you wouldn't do that."
Mulder was peering keenly over Scully's head. "Scully, don't look now, but we've got company."
"About 15 feet away, maroon and gold rugby shirt. He's been following us through the crowd."
"Well, we're not going to get anything useful from this crowd, let's go." Scully stole a peek over her shoulder. Sure enough, the man trailed behind them.
Mulder whispered in her ear. "Halfway down this block is a bookstore. We'll stop to look in the window, then we'll pull a Markinson on him."
Scully replied sotto voce, "Good. I'll take care of him if there's trouble."
Mulder looked at her in disbelief. "Is this the same Dana Scully who's been taken hostage 7 times since joining the Bureau?"
She narrowed her eyes at him, as if daring him to bring it up again. "That was before I started taking self-defense classes. Now let's go."
They took off down the street at a brisk pace, and the man followed. At the bookstore, Scully exclaimed loudly at the window. "Look, the latest in V.C.Andrews' Calcite series is in paperback!"
Mulder struggled to keep a straight face. "He's coming. On my signal. Go."
They turned simultaneously and looked at the man, who had closed the distance between them. Scully broke into a friendly grin. "Markinson!" she called. "It's been ages, I'm so happy to see you!"
"Hey Marky old friend," Mulder approached the man and gave him a huge hug. The man's eyes widened and he began to stammer. "So are you still with that Marlene girl?" The man was still gaping like a catfish. "So, you two are history, huh? Sorry man. But I met this great girl the other day, and I think she'd be perfect for you!"
The man finally seemed to find his voice. "You must have me mistaken for someone else."
Scully pinched his cheek playfully. "Oh, Markinson, you always were a kidder! Let's find someplace quiet and catch up!"
The man panicked. He took off running. Mulder and Scully exchanged glances and began to run after him. "Markinson! Come back!"
"Marky! I'm sorry I didn't return your call, there's no need to run away!"
Markinson turned sharply down an alley. Mulder and Scully followed, but stopped short at the alley's entrance.
There was no sign of "Markinson." He had completely vanished.
Mulder let out a low whistle. "Well, he was unarmed, unscented, carried no wallet and was the least inexperienced tail I've ever seen. But I must say, he managed to disappear effectively. Your observations?"
"No makeup; we saw his real face and real hair color. Also, there wasn't a brand name on him."
"No brand names or logos, not even on his jeans or sneakers."
"So he's a self-aware thug?"
Scully smiled. "Guess so." She bent to examine the wet footprints where Markinson had run through a puddle. "Weird. They just stop."
"So he really did vanish into thin air?"
Scully pursed her lips, but thought of the homing owl and replied, "Stranger things have happened."
<*> <*> <*> <*> <*> <*> <*>
Percy appeared in his own flat with a pop. His quickly dispelled his disguise and began hitting his head against the wall.
"Stupid stupid stupid stupid!"
With a cry of frustration he flung himself on the couch, and his glasses fell to the floor. He did not bother to pick them up. Stupid ministry assigning him to field work. Stupid him for seeing it as a challenge. Stupid idiots in the American Board of Sorcerers. Stupid everything. They'd blown his cover. Into fucking smithereens. He'd failed. Though it rankled him to fail at anything, he was especially irritated to have found out so much more being himself than when he'd tried to follow her. He removed his shrunken briefcase from his pocket and restored. His ire faded as the analytical part of his mind took over and began dissecting the details of his observations and interactions. There were definite lessons to be gleaned from this morning's activities. He took his quill and began to write.
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