Title: Goblins and Ghosts
Author: Jess
Disclaimer: Not mine. Never were.
Distribution Statement: Anywhere, just let me know.
Spoiler Warning: Tons. Up to Season Six easily.
Rating: PG-13
Content Warning: some kids die (but no more grisly than on the show). They kiss. Mulder talks about his Scully fantasies, but not in great detail, some masturbation references (as if there could be fan fic without them!)
Classification: MSR, S, Sort of an X-File

Summary: Mulder and Scully investigate a series of mysterious deaths affecting a family of kids, which finds Scully pensive and Mulder concerned. No real smut, lots of Mulder angst.


Seven year-old Mathew Holden sat in a chair in his Aunt's hallway, reading a book on Goblins and feeling ghoulish. Outside, the wedding preparations dragged on, a constant procession of chairs and vases and over-dressed adults. Mathew hated family functions, with the cloying attention and the insistence that he behave like a "normal" little boy, whatever that was. From downstairs came shouts and giggles. His horrible cousins were climbing the stairs, looking for him. He could hear their tramping feet, moving over the creaking boards of the old house.

"Mathew! Matty! Where are you hiding, little boy?"

He hated girls. He hated the way they prodded and pinched him, the way they laughed at him and excluded him and included him when he wanted to be left alone. Glowering, he waited.

"There you are!" his cousin Sarah said, cresting the staircase as if she had just set foot in a new land. "We've been looking everywhere for you."

"I was reading."

He had no dignity. They galloped over him, thrusting fingers into his ears, pulling at his clothing, poking him with their sharp elbows and planting unwanted kisses on his cheeks.

"Come look out the window," his cousin Elizabeth called. She was the least offensive of the lot, thin and pretty with red-gold hair and eyes like a china painting. "It looks like a funeral."

The girls gathered around her, staring down from the top floor of the house at the assembling ranks.

"See," she said, pointing. "The chairs look like headstones and the lilies look like the kind they have at funerals."

"Plus there's a priest," his cousin Erica added. "There are priests at funerals too."

The girls stood in a line in the bright light, their heads haloed by the sun. Mathew seethed.

"Go away, I want to read."

Erica, who was the biggest, turned on him, trapping him in his chair like a cat with a toy, pawing at him.

"You're such a baby, Mathew," she said. "You don't deserve to go to the wedding. You're such a pain."

"He's the flower-boy," Elizabeth pointed out logically.

"Of course he is," Sarah taunted. "He looks like a girl. Flower-boy, flower-boy, big fat bower-boy."

Mathew struggled, hitting out at the girls, flailing. They pinned him down, pinned him down and kissed him. Then they bundled him up, complete with his book, and locked him in the closet at the end of the hall.

As the door closed, he could hear them laughing.

"You can come out when you're a good boy," Sarah called through the door.

Mathew kicked it violently, but the girls had wedged his chair against the door and were giggling wildly, like banshees.

"You let me out!" he screamed, enraged. The closet was dark and hot, like being under the covers.

"When you're good," they taunted.

From somewhere in the bowels of the house, Mathew could hear a voice rising.

"Girls," it called. "Come on, girls, you have to get dressed."

"Don't you leave me here!" he shrieked as he heard them move noisily away. "You'll be sorry!"

There was no response.

Mulder pushed the door to the basement office open slowly. Light drifted out around the doorframe into the dusty hallway like smoke. Scully was already there.

She was sitting at his desk -- behind it, actually, reading a file. She looked up when he entered and stepped out to greet him. Amused to catch her there, he smiled warmly, until her realized how grim her face was, how set. "Hey, nice to see you, Partner."

"I'm only twenty?" he glanced at his watch guiltily, "? six minutes late."

She was standing in front of him, not angry exactly. Resigned, he decided. "Why is it, Mulder, that I am always on time when you have a new case to review, but you are invariably late when someone sends a case to me?"

Mulder smiled.

"It's all part of a grand conspiracy to discredit you. Don't you know that's why they sent you to work with me?"

Scully rolled her eyes and handed him a case file identical to her own. As she opened hers, Mulder moved around to stand behind her, peering over her shoulder. He felt her sigh. "You have your own file, Agent Mulder."

He ignored her, and as usual, she gave in. She flipped over a photograph of an enormously serious little boy, obviously taken at school.

"This is Mathew Holden. Three weeks ago he attended a wedding with his three cousins. For some reason now lost to us, they decided to lock little Mathew in a closet. It was an hour before anyone realized he was missing, and by that time he was dead."

Scully set aside the school photo. The picture underneath it caused Mulder to gasp in disgust.

Mathew's body stood upright in the closet, rigid and straight. His tongue protruded from his lips, his hands and feet were purple, his clothes had begun to split.

"When was this taken?" She paused before answering, obviously surprised by how quickly he had come to the correct conclusion.

"Fifteen minutes after the body was discovered."

"What could cause that kind of advanced decomposition that quickly? A pathogen?"

She shrugged and turned the photo over.

"Could've been. Or the heat. It was eighty degrees outside. But it seems less likely when you look at the entire picture."

"Which is?" She turned to the next picture. A young girl's school photo and a name typed on a white label affixed to it.

"That's Sarah, Mathew's cousin. She turned twelve last month. Three days after Mathew Holden died, she complained of flu-like symptoms. Her parents let her take a day off school. The next day she reported hallucinations, numbness in her extremities and a decreasing ability to speak. Within two days, she was dead. The coroner was completely unable to establish a cause of death."

Scully gently set the photo aside to let Mulder see the one beneath. He glanced at it, then looked away. Sarah's death looked to have been agonizing. Her body was arced and stiff, her mouth frozen in a scream.

"Then you have Mathew's cousin Erica Corville, eleven years-old, also dead within four days of Sarah Holden, from the same mysterious ailment. There is no diffinitive cause of death for either of the two victims."

Scully closed the folder gently and set it aside, pushing Mulder slightly further back.

He leaned back against the desk, watching her curiously.

"Why are we looking into this, Scully? This sounds more like it belongs at the CDC."

She frowned. He could tell the case was important to her, but as yet he wasn't sure why.

"I haven't told you everything. Each of the two girls complained before their deaths that they were not, in fact, sick. Each night when they were alone in bed, they said creatures the size of rats attacked them, pulling at their extremities, and with each night, the numbness grew worse. They both believed they would be paralyzed. One of them, Erica, even crawled into bed with her parents the night she died. They don't remember hearing or seeing anything until they woke up and found the body. Of course, no one listened to any of this. It isn't even listed on the medical report."

"Still sounds like CDC, Scully."

"There's one last cousin. Her name is Elizabeth Holden. She's seven. Last night she complained of pain in her extremities. Today she is having trouble speaking." She handed him another photograph.

Mulder looked down at the picture of the child and turned immediately to Scully. She looked back at him, challenging.

The photograph showed seven year-old Elizabeth Holden sitting behind her birthday cake, her face looking up at the camera, her red hair and blue eyes bright in the sunny room.

Mulder gently handed the photograph back to Scully, who tucked it into her file. "Where does she live?" he said.

The plane was crowded with weekend travelers and commuters. Mulder tried to stretch his legs into the aisle, but found he kept getting caught under the drink cart. Scully stared out the window, watching, he imagined, the strange brown and green patches of growth in the plains.

"Spot any crop circles?" he asked.

She turned to him, her face so blank she frightened him.

"No, Mulder, I haven't," she said, and went back to watching.

After a moment, he tried again.

"Do you mind if I turn you into a pillow?"

She shook her head and he hunkered down to rest on her shoulder. She was too short for the position to actually be comfortable, but he didn't care. He craved her immediacy, her smell and the soft movement of her hair against his skin.

The ground below slid by as smoothly as a movie. Without thinking, he took her left hand in his right and rubbed it, trying to comfort her. After a moment, he felt her relax a bit, leaning her head against his. She turned her face to his hair and breathed on him, so intimate a movement that he nearly groaned.

"Could you rub my neck?" she whispered there. "It would feel wonderful right now."

He didn't want to shift, but the invitation to touch her was too tempting. He sat up and gently pushed her hair back. The skin on the back of her neck was soft and a bit too warm, fevered. He rubbed carefully, listening to her reactions to each spot.

He couldn't always allow himself the pleasure of touching her as easily as he once had. Their relationship had changed lately, deepened and widened until he thought the silly little teasing things he had once done would sink into it and disappear. He wanted to be monumental with her now. Sliding one hand beneath the neck of her jacket, he rubbed the top of her shoulders, moving around her bra strap and banishing the sudden knowledge of its color from his mind.

She shrugged slightly, letting him know he had become too close. He removed his hand and let his head rest again on her shoulder. She leant back against him, cradling him for the rest of the ride.

Elizabeth Holden lived with her mother in a normal, middle-class home. The neighborhood was pleasant, with wide streets and tall trees, Fifties' houses and kids on bicycles.

Scully sat beside him in the Taurus, flipping through the case folder, her face tired and uncertain. Mulder drew her attention to a portable basketball hoop, half in someone's driveway, half in the street.

"Guess they don't have those pesky sewer monsters here, huh Scully."

She didn't answer, just smiled at him and looked back at the case file.

Inside they met with Elizabeth's mother, a difficult woman, long-time nurse and single mother.

"Elizabeth is not delusional. She's a very sick little girl, no one can tell me what's wrong with her, we've been in and out of the hospital, and frankly, I'm tired of it. She's better off here with me until they can give me something concrete."

Scully nodded politely, her best FBI Agent face plastered on like a Band-Aid. Mulder poked politely around the hallway, staring at family photos hanging in step formation up the stairway. From the living room he heard Scully's soothing voice, the one she used for frightened children and old people. Elizabeth's mother's voice rose clearly to him.

"How can you say you can help? You don't know what this is, anymore than that woman from CDC did. I don't see how two people famous for investigating aliens," she spat the word as if she were swearing, "could possibly be of any use to my daughter. You don't know what this is like! You can't imagine what it's like to watch your daughter grow sicker and sicker and there's absolutely nothing anyone can do about it but wait?"

By then he had returned to the doorway and stood watching Scully's impassive expression.

"Yes, I can," she said softly.

Mulder felt something in his stomach drop and twist.

Elizabeth's mother stopped pacing and turned back to Scully, running a hand across her forehead.

"I'm sorry," she said.

The two women eyed each other for a moment, oblivious to him, squaring off in a battle of greater pain and anguish. To his sadness, Scully won. Elizabeth's mother sat back down and sighed deeply.

"I guess I'm just on edge," she said. "This has been so hard for me?"

Mulder turned back to the hallway. On the stairs just above his head, a little girl in a loose white nightgown sat watching him. From her soft red hair to her brilliant deep blue eyes, she could just have easily been Scully's younger self as her daughter. Mulder smiled at her and she smiled back. He sat down just below her.

"You must be Elizabeth," he said.

She nodded.

"I'm Fox."

She giggled.

"Something funny?"

She shook her head, still smiling.

"I hear you haven't been feeling well, Elizabeth."

Looking at him from beneath her eyelashes, she sighed and opened her mouth to speak. Her tongue looked swollen and purple. Mulder tried to avoid grimacing.

"Day come for me at dighd," she said, lisping around the nearly useless tongue.

"Who comes for you?"

"Da goblindz," she whispered.

"Goblins?" Mulder asked, incredulous.

She nodded. "Day pull on my hands and feed and on my dongue."

"What do they look like, Elizabeth?"

She shrugged. "Like liddle people. Or liddle cads. Or somedimes like dogs."

He nodded and touched her cheek. "Stay here, ok? I want to check on something."

When he stood, he found Scully waiting for him in the hallway.

"Where are you going?" she asked, eyeing Elizabeth.

"I want to take a look at something. Where's the file?"

She seemed unable to look away from the child.

"Out in the car."

Outside, he riffled through her briefcase, feeling somewhat dirty in the process. But as would be expected, Scully kept nothing unofficial there. He opened the case file and flipped through to the picture of a dead Mathew Holden. He searched until he saw what he knew was there, tapped the photo in triumph and headed back inside. Scully was sitting in his place on the stairs, talking to Elizabeth. He motioned her over, sensing her reluctance.

"Scully," he whispered. "Elizabeth just told me she was being attacked at night by goblins."

"So?" she whispered back, "She told me the same thing."

"So look at this," he said and handed her the photo of Mathew. She glanced at it and then, as he watched, she saw what he had vaguely registered in the office. A book, sitting at Mathew's dead feet. "Goblins and Ghosts."

"She must have picked it up unconsciously," Scully murmured, holding the picture close to her nose.

"You know you're cute when you're nearsighted?" He couldn't resist. She smiled weakly and handed it back to him. "Wanna hear my theory?"

She sighed and crossed her arms. She was prepared for him. He could have leaned over and kissed her then, like Bugs Bunny, ruined her composure. He resisted.

"I think that Mathew Holden has somehow unleashed a curse on the girls who locked him in that closet. I think he's killing from beyond the grave."

Scully snorted. "Good one, Mulder. I suppose it's a magic book, bound in the skin of the dead."

"Actually, Scully, it's pretty common. I had it when I was a kid."

"And I had the Blue Fairy book and I never saw a single one, no matter how much I wished I would. So what? She saw the book, she registered the word in the back of her mind and now, when she's frightened, it's become prominent."

"Maybe Scully, I'll admit it sounds more likely, but I'm just saying?"

"Mulder," she interrupted. "I'm staying here tonight."

He raised his eyebrows and started to open his mouth, but she cut him off again.

"I know what you're going to say. You think I'm getting too close to this, too involved, that I've made it personal because of what happened to Emily. Well you're right," she whispered fiercely, "I have. I won't let this child die, Mulder. And if staying here can prevent it, than that's what I'm going to do."

"I was just going to ask if you'd need your bag," Mulder said quietly. Her strength, her conviction was filling him. He couldn't have questioned her motives if she were walking into the mouth of hell.

She relented. "No, I'll take a taxi back to the hotel at dawn and catch a few hours' sleep."

"How does her mother feel about this?" he asked.

"She's ambivalent," Scully admitted. "But I've talked her into it. There's no harm involved, is there Mulder?"

"Scully," he said gently, "I think it's a good idea."

She sighed and for a moment, let exhaustion show. "Thank you, Mulder."

He couldn't help himself any longer. He touched her face, drawing his hand along her jaw.

"No problem, Scully."

End part 1/3 Goblins and Ghosts (2/3) by Jess

"No problem, Scully."

But it was. He had not anticipated how lonely he would be, in the hotel. He had traveled on many cases without her, but tonight, knowing how intense her feelings were, he felt far behind her. He wanted to see her, to grip her and not let go.

He rolled over in the hotel bed and cranked up the television. He had hunted down the Playboy channel. Comforting at first, with its sanitized sex and gentle erotica, he now found it cloying.

He no longer allowed himself to fantasize about Dana Scully. In truth, he had only tried it once, reaching downward in the night and finding his mind on her. Unwilling to let her escape him, he had pictured her beneath him, felt the soft length of her nakedness; the way the soles of her feet would feel, grinding into the skin behind his knees. The orgasm had been so intense he had nearly passed out, splitting his body into bits of light and matter, floating him above the bed, the earth. But when he at last descended, he found himself alone in a grotty hotel bedroom, the object of his need asleep in the next room, unknowing. Then he'd actually wept, for what seemed like hours, tossing out every bit of grief he had ever felt in nearly losing her.

Tonight he was drawn to thinking about her, could feel his body grow tense and uncomfortable. He had to get out, to move away from the silence of his own presence.

He drove the car with purpose, hunting her, feeling it as he drew closer to the house. Parking just outside the door, he saw a string of lighted rooms go dark as someone moved through them, shutting the house down for the night. He thought he knew the bedroom she must be sitting in from the soft glow of a nightlight. Cracking sunflower seeds between his teeth, just for the sound of the shell splitting, he waited.

When his need for her threatened to overtake him, he played a little game with himself, ever-competing. He allowed himself five minutes of wonderful memories of her. The way his favorite suit, the blue one she had bought for the hearing in Dallas, flowed over her hips and down to her calves like a thirties fashion plate. The color of her lipstick - not coral, not pink, somehow like rose petals and candy canes. The moment when he stepped out of the shower in the decontamination unit and saw her there, their nakedness like a gauntlet thrown down between them. He saw her, standing in his hallway, her eyes swollen from crying, her nose running, and yet when he bent his face toward hers, he felt her breath escape from open lips. And then, when the remembered sound of her voice made him ache, he ended his slow traverse of their time and began his punishment.

He saw her, trapped in the trunk of a car, gagged. Her face, rigid and blank in thick green liquid. The slow rise and fall of her chest with the ventilator breathing for her. Wreathed in shadows and lines, her face when she told him she had cancer. Just a few weeks ago, now, a new image. Blood-spattered around her neck and chest, lying deathly-still on his living room floor. And then, when it hurt so badly he could hardly stand to be in his own guilty body, he topped it off with one night.

On the surface of it, the night had not been particularly unpleasant. She had not yet become Scully to him, but was still Dana Scully: mole, spy, possible traitor, possible one night stand. She lay on his hotel bed in her bathrobe, leaning on one arm, watching him with an intensity he would come to be completely familiar with. She had just come to him, trembling with terror, and revealed her near-nude body to him in an act of trust so amazing it still made him catch his breath. But that was not what he thought of now. He thought of the woman who lay on that bed, who listened to the story about Samantha, who never laughed or shifted nervously. That woman had trusted him, instinctively, the way a child trusts another. She had, in that moment, filled every empty space that had ever expanded from a moment of pain or slight. Leaning over, he had told her the only thing that mattered to him, that would ever matter to him, was his quest for his sister. Even then, he'd known he was lying. The only reason he had told her was to warn her away, to send her running because he felt himself become absorbed with her, by her. And she had watched him, in her quiet way, with a face full not of pity but of sadness and companionship. He was not sure then what she had lost, but now he knew. In the moment she stepped into that hotel room, Dana Scully had lost the part of herself that trusted others implicitly. Even now, after six years together, they battled each other for trust. He moaned and let his head rest against the backs of his hands.

This was the Dana Scully he had mourned the night she lay dying and her sister had come to him to save him. This was the woman he missed when she stepped away from his side. This was the Scully he had lately come to realize was gone from him forever. He didn't need to think of her with that horrible straight brown hair and the terrible innocence of plaid hunting jackets for long without a consuming grief. He knew why she had come to the bitter, staid place she slept in now.

Outside, the last lights were out and the house was silent. Mulder was used to his self-pity and misery. He felt comfortable there. Closing his eyes, he was at last allowed to sleep.

He dreamt of being in a darkened room. Duane Barry was there, standing with Scully thrown over his shoulder, fireman-style. Mulder tried to scream, tried to move, tried to get to her, but his body was as weighty as lead. Duane turned from him, began to leave, and Mulder saw Scully wake from her stupor, saw her eyes fill with fear. She opened her mouth, to call to him, but instead of her voice, he heard the high-pitched incoherent cry of a child.

With a shock, he opened his eyes. He knew he had heard it. Then it came again, a wailing from the house. Lights were snapping on as he broke down the door and sprinted up the stairs toward the bedroom. It was only when he emerged onto the landing, gun drawn, that he realized Duane Barry was not there.

Scully stood in a corner of the bedroom with Elizabeth wrapped around her body like a limpet. The two were wild-eyed with fear, the child still screamed, wordlessly. He could see in Scully's face that she had not yet registered the comfortable room with its pink wallpaper. Wherever she was, neither she nor Elizabeth were safe. Elizabeth's mother stood a few feet away, screaming not with fear, but with rage.

"Give me my daughter, damn it!"

Mulder stepped forward, pushing his gun back into the holster. He stood beside his partner as she backed further into the corner, her arms so tightly wrapped around the child he could see the muscles shaking.

"Scully," he whispered. "Scully, it's me. Give me Elizabeth, Scully."

She turned to look at him and at once he knew she saw him, because her arms sagged and he had to physically catch the little girl. Handing her to her mother, he took Scully's face in his hands and caught her eyes with his. "It's all right now."

She nodded. "I know, Mulder." Her voice shook, but she was steady.

"Get out," the mother hissed. "I let you in here to protect my daughter and all you can do is scare her nearly to death. There is nothing wrong here but a sick child and two very foolish adults. Get out of my house and don't come back."

Scully opened her mouth to protest, but Mulder saw the woman's determination and the pain on the girl's face. He guided Scully gently down the stairs and strapped her carefully into the Taurus.

He waited until they were moving.

"What happened up there?"

Resting her head against the window, at first she didn't answer.

Then, when she spoke, it was so softly, he had to strain to hear her above the sound of the wheels on the road.

"Elizabeth was frightened. I crawled into bed with her. I was just going to stroke her hair until she fell asleep, that was all, but I couldn't stay awake. I don't know why, I just couldn't. When I woke up, Mulder? oh God, they were everywhere. She was just lying there as if she were dead and they were perched all over her, like little people, or little rats, I don't know?"

"What were?" he prompted, feeling her cynical side turn on as if someone had started an engine.

"Goblins," she whispered. "I swear to God, Mulder, that's what I saw. They were grabbing at her with their fingers, with claws and teeth and? they had her tongue, Mulder, pulled right out of her mouth. I started to pull them off. I grabbed the one sitting on her chest holding her tongue and I threw it. I heard it hit the wall. I was grabbing at them, she was screaming, it was horrible. Then her mother ran in and turned on the light and they?"

"Weren't there," he finished for her.

"Yes," she sighed. "They were gone, vanished. The mother was hysterical, Elizabeth was screaming in pain and fear and Mulder, I swear to you I saw them. They were real. I wasn't dreaming."

"I believe you, Scully."

They rode in silence for a moment. He could feel her winding down, the adrenaline draining from her body and dissipating into the air between them.

"Mulder?" she said suddenly. "How the hell did you get there so fast?"

"Scully, have I ever told you about Joey Pearson?"

"Don't change the subject, Mulder."

"I'm not, Scully," he told her gently. She sighed and rolled her eyes, but she was listening. "Joey was my best friend in grade school. He's the reason I became a behavioral psychologist, Scully, I swear. The kid was a walking psychosis. He had? I don't know, he must have had a hundred phobias. Some normal ones, some really weird ones. He used to avoid walking over sewer grates because he thought things lived in them that would just reach up and suck him down someday. No kidding."

"Like giant flukeworms, Mulder? Where is this going?"

"Patience, Scully. One of his particular phobias involved his belly button. No one, not even Joey, could touch it."

"Why?"

He could feel her softening.

"Because he swore to me, Scully, that if someone touched his belly button, he would implode."

"Really, Mulder."

"Really, Scully. Sometimes, when I know you're out there on a case and I'm not near you? I know exactly how he felt."

She closed her mouth then, swallowed once and then looked at him with a strange, unreadable expression.

"Mulder," she murmured. "Sometimes you astound me."

"I'll take that as a compliment, Scully."

"It was meant as one," she said.

The hotel slid up before them. Mulder guided Scully to the door of her room, one hand in the small of her back.

"Try and get some sleep, Scully. It's nearly three."

She smiled wearily at him.

"Oh, you too, Agent Mulder."

For a moment they stood in the dim entry to her room, hesitating. At last, Scully turned and slipped into the room, closing the door gently behind her. Mulder hovered outside his own door for a moment, some vague hope forming in the back of his mind. Her door remained closed.

At noon he heard her turn on her shower. He knew she hadn't slept. It wasn't that he could hear any sound from the other room, any indication of restlessness. He just knew.

Climbing under the stream of warm water soothed him. Today would be better, he told himself. They were going home today. Back at the office, the stirring memories of Emily would fade and Scully would return to him, whole.

He gave her thirty minutes, then opened the connecting door between their rooms. She was standing by the bed, folding her pajamas. From behind, he thought she looked rested. He took comfort in the neat way her hair fell around her ears, in the creaseless back of her jacket.

It was only when she turned to look at him that he realized what a terrible night it must have been. No amount of concealer could hide the shadows around her eyes.

Seeing her standing there, he was suddenly overwhelmed with tenderness for her. He crossed to her with the intent of wrapping her in his arms, but he saw her stiffen as he drew close. Stifling his disappointment, he contented himself with cradling her face between his hands.

"Are you ok?"

She shrugged, her eyes tearing up. For a moment he thought he saw her begin to crumble, but just as quickly she was shored-up again.

"I'm fine, Mulder."

For once, he answered her directly.

"Yeah, right, Scully. Cut the crap."

She smiled and, taking his hands in hers, she squeezed them affectionately.

"I really am, Mulder. It's not easy, but I am fine."

"Ok." He squeezed back.

They stayed like that for a moment, holding hands in her hotel room. Mulder was struck, once again, by how easy it would be to just lean down and kiss her. He was fairly sure she would accept him, but something always interfered, be it the physical sting of a bee or the mental weight of their decision. The moment passed and she moved for her bag.

"I called ahead to the coroner's office. You and I are going to go take a look at Sarah Holden's body."

"Gee, Scully, I'm not sure I'm dressed for the occasion."

She ignored him, shouldering her briefcase and heading toward the door.

"You sure you need me to be there?" he asked, always squeamish when it came to autopsies.

She paused at the door and turned to look at him.

"I'm sure," was all she said. He swallowed and followed her out to the car.

The coroner's office was a good hour away from Elizabeth Holden's home. Mulder found himself looking forward to the drive. Scully rode beside him quietly, staring out the window at the passing trees. When she finally spoke, her voice made him jump.

"Mulder, how can something exist and not exist? Help me understand."

He looked over at her and saw that she was genuinely puzzled.

"I don't know, Scully. But if I've learned anything in the years that we've worked on the X-Files, it's that no single set of arbitrary rules controls the things we sense through sight or sound or touch. Just because you can see it, just because you can touch it, doesn't mean it will leave footprints in the snow, if you know what I mean."

She nodded, then pursed her lips. "I do, Mulder, but that hasn't been the case for us, really. If I had asked you if those creatures in the woods in Florida could have corporal bodies, could leave behind evidence, you might have said no. But there one was, once I shot it. Just as dead as any animal."

"What about the Brazilian psychic surgeon, Scully? He existed only in the minds of his creator and his victims. But when he touched you, when he attempted to hurt you, he was a real killer. Maybe something like that applies here. Could these animals have been conjured up merely from the fear and loathing of Mathew Holden's mind, then transferred to that same fear resonating from his victims?"

"Maybe, but at the same time, something must be known, must be realized to be feared. Sarah Holden couldn't possibly have known her cousin was willing this fear into reality, and yet she saw these things, she knew they were real and she died because of them."

"I really don't know, Scully. Is that what you hope to find today, evidence that these creatures exist in the corporal world?"

Smiling, she turned back to the window. "I suppose, Mulder. Mostly I'm just hoping to find a way to save Elizabeth Holden's life."

Mulder debated for only a split second before being honest.

"You may not be able to do that."

"I know," she said.

Mulder had always been a bit intimidated by Dr. Scully, the forensic pathologist. He couldn't understand how such a tiny, delicate person could chose such a gruesome career. Recalling his own original path, the years of clinical research, safe and sanitary in its reliance on books, he thought it was odd that their decisions could fit them so poorly, yet had led to this place, where they fit like pegs in a hole.

Scully moved around the girl's body carefully, keeping the twisted, screaming face beneath a clean white sheet as she examined the hands and feet. He had never seen her take such infinite care with a victim, even the child they had thought might be his sister. It made him nervous and sad, and fuelled a desire to leave.

"I'm going to wait outside," he told her.

She barely looked up.

In the hallway, he tossed balls of paper into wastebaskets, outlining free throws, two- and three-pointers in his mind. He paced and crouched and annoyed the receptionist at the front desk until she gave him a newspaper to keep him quiet. Stomach grumbling, he poked his head back into the autopsy bay to find Scully intent on the girl's fingernails.

"I'm going to get lunch. You want anything?"

She shrugged. He took it as a yes.

By the time he returned with the hamburgers and fries, she was swishing something unmentionable around in a little vial of red liquid. He fed her fries, unwilling to ask her to stop and eat.

At last, nearly four hours after they had arrived, she emerged from the room, cleaned and pressed as ever.

"Find anything?" he asked.

She shook her head. "Nothing you wouldn't expect to find on the body of a twelve year-old girl."

They moved in unison to the car. He remembered something he had read once in an E.M. Forster novel, about the coincidences of movement between two people, and how much it meant.

End Part Duex. Part Three to follow...

Goblins and Ghosts (3/3) by Jess

On the road again, she sighed deeply enough to cause him to slow down.

"What's wrong?"

"Mulder," she said, "I'm not going to win this one. Elizabeth Holden is going to die and there is nothing I can do about it."

"You don't know that, Scully."

She shifted enough to nearly look at him head-on. "No, I do know that, Mulder. I can't fight this, whatever it is, without ammunition. For me, the battles have always been won with science, with logic, with evidence. Maybe for you there are leaps beyond those realms, but I don't have that in me. Without my arsenal, I'm lost, I'm impotent."

"Scully?" he began.

"And you," she continued, not really hearing him, "you don't feel this case the way I do. It's not your fault, but you can't infuse it with meaning it just doesn't hold for you. I can accept that some things are unsolvable, that some deaths are inevitable. I can even accept that this death, pointless and malevolent as it is, must happen. But I can't go back to Washington tonight and sit in my apartment and listen to classical music and eat Chinese takeout and report to AD Skinner bright and early tomorrow morning if there is even the smallest chance that in doing those things I inadvertently missed the one clue that could save this child's life. I can't do it, Mulder. I have to keep working, even if it means just sitting in the hotel room and waiting for the phone to ring."

He wanted to tell her how much he admired her in that moment, but instead he offered her what she was really asking for: permission to make her own path.

"Scully," he said. "How would you feel about a little stake-out action tonight?"

The corners of her mouth turned up slightly, not quite a smile.

"Mulder, Skinner would have us publicly flogged."

"Ooo, Scully, would you have to be naked?"

"What if someone sees us? Really, Mulder, that would be so far outside our protocol?"

"We'll jump into the backseat and disguise ourselves as necking teenagers."

She laughed then, actually laughed. It was stilled quickly, though, without ripples.

"Alright, alright. If you, as my superior, are willing to take the fall, Mulder, I'm more than willing to push us both over the edge."

"I'm way ahead of you, Scully. I'm waiting in the gulch already."

She smiled at him and wiggled back against the seat. "You're not in the gulch, Mulder. But you might very well be standing in the gutter."

Outside the Holden house, they parked and waited in the lowering darkness. Scully seemed restless, shifting constantly, fiddling with the gear shift or the windows.

"Mulder?" she said suddenly.

"Scully?"

"Mulder, I just wanted to thank you."

He smiled at her, puzzled. What on earth could she possibly have to thank him for? He did everything as a payment to her and he was still playing catch-up.

"For what?"

She hesitated, looked up at the house.

"For not pulling a bunch of departmental procedure bullshit about this."

He laughed.

"Scully, I wouldn't know departmental procedure if it walked up and bit me on the ass."

"Oh, come on," she poked his arm. "you probably have the entire rule book memorized."

"Only half of it."

It was then that he noticed her hand had not left his arm. He was curious about this, but unwilling to explore it just yet.

"Mulder, I'm serious now. I really am grateful. I don't know if I've ever told you this, but one of the main reasons I trust you, one of the reasons I'm still sitting here in this car, on this case, with you? is that you care more about the answers than you do about the bullshit."

Mulder took a deep breath.

"Jesus, Scully, I think that may be the sweetest thing you've ever said to me."

She blushed and Mulder felt a heat rising up his body in waves. Had they been in a room, somewhere he could have moved closer to her then, he knew he would have attacked her madly.

"Mulder," she whispered. "Are you hungry?"

The question seemed so ludicrous to him at that moment, so obvious, that he started to laugh before he could help himself.

"Yeah, Scully. I am."

"I saw a grocery store on the way here, just a few blocks away. We could get something from the deli."

He couldn't believe it was happening again. The moment was there, between them, and he'd let it slide right by like the view from a train.

Reaching for the car keys, he felt her hand on his.

"I need some fresh air, Mulder. I'll just walk it."

He shook his head.

"Scully, it's getting dark."

Then she did something so tempting, so extraordinary, if he hadn't been surprised he would have melted into the gas peddles.

She leaned all the way over the console until her lips were inches from his ear.

"Mulder," she teased, barely above a whisper, "I'm packing."

He laughed as she stepped out of the car onto the street, flashing him a brief view of her gun in its holster. As she walked away, he felt sublimely happy. If the house stayed quiet, if the mood didn't sour over some petty loss or tiresome remark, he knew he would find a way to touch her tonight. There, in the car, even if it meant curling up in the backseat and humping like kids. He honestly no longer cared about protocol and decorum. He wanted nothing more than to sink into her and dissolve like sugar into water.

Every inch of his body was alive with sensation. He rubbed the stiff fabric of his trousers against the skin of his legs, digging his palms in until he felt rubbed raw. The pain wasn't unpleasant. Right then he wanted to feel everything.

The doubts were still there, however, skittering around the edges of his lust like insects. What if she didn't want it? What if all those missed opportunities had nothing to do with his lack of action, but with her lack of interest? He knew it was ridiculous. He could still feel her face between his hands, her breath as she parted her lips to receive his kiss. But the feelings of inadequacy stayed. He had heard the writer's words to them as they let him go: "Agent Scully already loves someone else" and he had wanted to grab the skinny little freak by the lapels and shake him violently. Who does she love, he wanted to shout, me? Does she love me? And how is it that the writer was privy to this information and he, who'd known her so long it seemed as if she'd melded to him, how is it that he didn't know, wasn't sure?

From the edge of the street, he could just make out her figure as she approached, swinging two white grocery bags like accompanying spirits. She seemed so domestic in that moment, so normal. How could this little woman be so mysterious? Wasn't she the same as every other woman he'd known? But then, he reminded himself as she stepped up to the door of the car, he had never known another woman this well.

When she slid in beside him, the thick scent of fried chicken filled the car. Stupidly, he turned to her and asked what she had bought.

"Liverwurst sandwiches," she replied. "Your favorite."

He grinned at her, heady with food and her presence. As soon as she returned to him, he was sure again. So sure, he knew, that he would be paralyzed. It was only when he felt he had nothing left to lose that he could draw her to him.

Opening the first bag, he pulled out a greasy package of chicken and a white plastic container that looked like coleslaw.

"Good choice, Scully," he told her. "Now, if there's an iced tea in that bag?"

She reached into the other sack and fished out a bottle.

"Must be love," she said, leaving him to open the tea quickly and down half of it in three enormous gulps.

"Save some for dinner, Mulder, geeze."

He ravaged the chicken, tearing into the flesh and delighting in the feel of the hot grease against the roof of his mouth. Looking over, he found Scully picking off a tiny sliver of skin and laying it on her tongue like a lozenge.

"Scully, you eat chicken like a girl."

She giggled, slightly.

"I am a girl, Mulder."

What was he to say to that? Yo ho, baby, you sure are? He sighed.

"Scully, did I ever tell you about that Nazi ship in the Bermuda Triangle?"

She looked up, surprised at the change of topic.

"Not really, but I then I never brought it up."

"It's an interesting story, Scully."

"Bet you didn't know I kissed Skinner that day."

It was his turn to be surprised. He was sure his jaw was actually hanging open.

"You what? Not with tongue, Scully?"

Smiling, she shook her head.

"When he found your location for me, I got a little over-excited. I actually grabbed his face and kissed him."

"Scully, I'm shocked." He put one hand against his chest, wounded.

"I bet there are a lot of things I could say to shock you, Mulder."

He was intrigued, but she just raised her eyebrows at the chicken.

"What did you want to tell me, Mulder? I interrupted what was no doubt a fascinating tale of skullduggery on the high seas."

"You were there, Scully. I'm surprised you don't remember."

"Mulder, I thought we'd already established that it was a hallucination brought on by the ingestion of too much seawat?"

"I kissed you," he interrupted.

She stopped mid-word, her mouth slightly open, her eyes huge. She said nothing.

"We stood on the deck and I kissed you, just before I went overboard."

Raising just one brow, still staring at the chicken, she said, slowly: "How very James Cameron of you. What did I do?"

"You kissed me back. And then you slugged me, right across the jaw. I could feel it for days."

She set the chicken down gently in the bag at her feet and turned a bit toward him, without looking at him.

"It was wonderful," he said. "I just wanted you to know that."

"Mulder," her voice had grown so quiet he could hardly hear her, even in the ever-deepening silence of the car. "Why are you telling me this now?"

"I don't know, Scully." He turned to look up at the darkened house, so filled with disappointment he could hardly breathe.

"Mulder?"

He ignored her, staring at the house, willing himself to disappear. He felt her touch the side of his face, the tips of her fingers like ice.

"Mulder, look at me."

Turning back, he found her sitting close, her face just a foot away from his own. She was smiling at him tenderly.

This is it, something in his mind said, this is finally it. He could see that she was waiting for him, her breaths soft puffs of warmth in the cold car. This is it, he nearly whispered and leaned in to touch his lips to hers.

Much to his surprise, there was no discharge of electricity, no lightening cracking open the sky. Just the light brush of Scully's lips, soft and normal against his.

He heard the scream before he'd even had a chance to taste her.

By the time he opened his eyes, she was already out the door and halfway around the front of the car, running with her gun drawn.

This time, he was immediately aware that the sounds coming from the house were not from the child, but the mother. Scully waited for him at the front door, franticly pounding herself against it. As he had done the day before, he slammed his shoulder into the door and popped it open. She charged ahead, sprinting up the steps two at a time.

In the bedroom, they found Elizabeth Holden's body, clearly dead. Her head rolled back, her mouth open, her eyes wide and staring. She looked exactly like her cousin Sarah, twisted in pain. Screaming hysterically, her mother stood against one wall, shaking and white-faced.

To his surprise, Scully merely glanced at the child's body, then moved to the mother, comforting her by wrapping her arms around the woman's shoulders. Mulder moved the sheet over Elizabeth's head and called 911.

It was only when they left the hospital together that Scully began to shout. In the parking lot, next to their rented Taurus, she let out one long, piercing shriek of anger, stomping her feet and punching blindly at the side of the car. Her fists bounced off with small pops, like hail. He waited until she sank to her knees on the concrete before going to her. Kneeling beside her, he brushed her hair back from her face.

"I'm sorry, Scully."

She nodded, straightening up slowly.

"So am I, Mulder," was all she said.

He drove her back to the hotel, suddenly deeply unsure about what to do with her. He knew that they had crossed some strange threshold, but he wasn't sure where they had entered.

At her doorway, he paused.

"Scully?" he asked.

She shook her head.

"I'm fine, Mulder. I just want to get some sleep."

He nodded, not buying it, but not feeling the privilege of lover to call her on her lies.

"I'm right here if you need me."

"I need some time alone," she said and he sucked in his anger before he'd said a thing.

Alone in his room, he listened to the rolling laughter of the sitcom he wasn't watching. He knew she was next door, not asleep. It took holding every muscle in his body to keep from opening the connecting door between their rooms and leaping into her bed.

They were so close. He had actually touched her mouth this time, though for barely a second. Next time, he thought grimly, maybe he could actually apply some pressure. Kissing by degrees. At this rate, he would be a very old man before he finally made love to her.

The glaring sound of the television finally overwhelmed his senses and he reached over for the remote to switch it off. In the sudden silence of the room, he heard the soft sound of Scully weeping.

Jesus, he thought, what the hell was he doing there, on his bed? He bounded to the door between their rooms and threw it open as if expecting her to be standing there, waiting for him.

"Scully?"

She lay on her bed in total darkness. The light from his room revealed her, still wearing her suit, curled into a ball. When he moved toward her, she rolled over, keeping her face from him.

He sat at the edge of the bed.

"Scully, I'm here."

She moaned unhappily.

"Go away, Mulder."

"Oh for God's sake, Scully, it's me."

At that she turned over onto her back and looked at him, her face swollen and pink.

"I thought," she whispered, not entirely to him, "that when Emily died, that was the worst possible pain I could feel. That from then on, things would be easier. I was wrong, you know? The pain doesn't last as long, but it's just as terrible right now as the day she died."

Mulder said nothing, didn't touch her yet, let her talk.

"You wonder why I stay, sometimes, don't you? You think it's for revenge, that maybe someday we'll bring the men who did that to her to justice. I think they've met their maker already, in that warehouse, waiting for their saviors to come. I never cared about that anyway. I stay, Mulder, partly because I love you. I know you know that. But that isn't everything. I stay because if I didn't, if I tried to go back to living the life I thought I would have, with a husband and a family and a little house in the suburbs, I would be so overcome by this pain I would not be able to survive. As long as it's just you and me alone in this little insular world we exist in, I can bear anything. But without you, Mulder, there would be no one who understood why I can't return."

It was then that he curled up beside her, pulling her into the warmth of his body and cradling her like a baby. If he could have absorbed her, folded her into him like ingredients into a cake, he would have. She rested there comfortably, her head under his chin.

He remembered a movie he had seen once, where the hero and heroine finally make love in a rented hotel room. As they turned to each other, the camera panned up and away from the bed, revealing nothing but darkness around them, their bodies at that moment the only thing that remained in the world. Mulder brought Scully's hand to his lips and kissed it. This is it, he thought, though he knew he would go no further tonight. This is finally it.

The End


and that is it, ladies and gents. email me. i love it. i am unable to type with capital letters. ha ha!

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