Title: Into the Coming Night
Author: Sheena
Disclaimer: The X-Files and characters are the property of Chris Carter, Ten Thirteen Productions, and Twentieth Century Fox.. No infringement on copyright is intended.

Thanks to Kath with out whom this would be incoherent and CindyET who made it make sense! Thanks Guys! I Am Canadian and I spell that way!

I now know more about Ghost Hunting then I really wanted to due to a dozen good webs sites and Adam Woo's book Poltergeist. All mistakes belong to me, my wonderful Beta's fixed them all and

I am sure I messed up a few!

Fox Mulder has an obsession. I realize that this is a ridiculous statement considering that the majority of this man's professional and personal life is built on the foundation of his obsession with the X files. But nevertheless this is a new obsession or at the least a revisited one. He claims that it started when he attended Oxford and it has lain more or less dormant until our brief but intense experience last Christmas.

Mulder's fascination is for haunted houses. Houses that seem haunted, look haunted want to be haunted. Age doesn't seem to matter, although most have been old, scattered around the world, with a surprising number here in the DC area and running the length and the width of the East Coast. It started with a simple file in his cabinet that grew to a folder. It has sprouted like a fledgling plant out of the cabinet and on to a corner of the wall. Photos, newspaper clippings, hand written notes, all seemed to grow daily. Some of the photos are quite exceptional, houses nestled among metal and glass towers and beams, the old and the new juxtaposed in the camera's eye. A disturbing number are empty, really empty, no rundown residences, no last stand business, no desperate squatters. Just empty hollow windows like cold, lifeless eyes that never close.

I stand in front of his chair, the backs of my legs grazing the material of the seat. I am cautious not to step back and find myself losing my balance and landing unceremoniously in his place.

Mentally reviewing the last five months I realize that Mulder has been doing some haunting himself. When we are not involved in a file, when we are filling our days with the meaningless mind numbing work that takes up the time between our real work, he tours older sections of DC. When we are called out of town to follow some dead end he leads us to old houses or buildings.

He has been known to drag me to tiny civic museums. He includes me, enlisting my help, having me scan microfiche, and digging through photo records. And I am happy to help, still unclear on his reasoning other than his claim that it is a hobby to take his mind off bigger problems. And I am like the wife who enters into her husband's hobby as an indication of love only to find herself enraptured by the pastime. I find myself cherishing our investigation for fun. Our newfound undertaking holds none of the staggering implications that our true work holds.

The benefits are numerous: pursuing knowledge, immersing oneself in history and -- the most cherished -- time spent together. I am not compelled to bring science to his part of our hobby. I am merely the historian; I provide the facts and he provides the mystery, the thrill and titillation of the house. This is a shared pastime I would never have expected us to have. I have enjoyed the occasional major league ball game with Mulder and a trip or two to the batting cage but I cannot envision that my enthusiasm would have lasted much longer. Once again the position that I find myself in, with Mulder, is wholly unexpected.

"Morning" he said through a smile as he spotted his partner riveted to a photo of a Tudor style house he had pinned to the bulletin board behind his desk. She didn't turn as he entered, aware that he was there in a peripheral sense. This photo was a new one Mulder had received from a source with whom he had been discussing hauntings on the Internet. The Net had proven a treasure trove of information and people who loved to discuss it. At first it had been like sorting through a monstrous haystack to find its needle. But at long last Mulder had been able to organize the well-meaning but ill-informed, sexually misguided and attention-seekers into one group and the people with genuine knowledge and interest in the paranormal into another. Not that it hadn't been entertaining at times to scan through some of the former group's compulsive musings. Mulder's source had proven fruitful: ten possible houses with considerable background and current data.

"Morning yourself," Scully said as Mulder joined her behind the desk, pushing the chair away and standing close enough to look over her shoulder at the photo.

"Like that one, huh?" Mulder asked while flipping open a file folder. "Sasha sent it two days ago and two more this morning; all three with sightings, all three with activity, all three suspected poltergeist." A small grin spread across his face as he pulled two more photos out of the folder. Three very different houses, one Georgian, one Tudor, and the final one an English estate complete with rolling lawns and pristine sculptured gardens.

"These are abandoned?" Scully asked taking the photos. Her curiosity was peaked, Mulder's obvious excitement spilling over her.

Repositioning his chair, Scully made herself comfortable slipping off one shoe and tucking her foot under herself. Perched on the edge of the desk Mulder watched her scan the photo, her logical mind comparing them to the dozens of others they had poured over.

"This one is in California. There is a caretaker who lives on the grounds but no one physically lives in the house because there's too much paranormal activity. This one is in DC." He indicated the central picture. "According to Sasha, from time to time habitation is possible. But it is pretty transient. The activities come and go, which is atypical of a poltergeist. The duration is more familiar to spectral haunting but in every other way in keeping with a classical poltergeist."

Scully looked up to meet his eyes with curiosity battling amusement on her face. "Just how often are you talking to this Sasha? We both know your track record with people met online as sources."

Mulder learned over and collected the photos from Scully, moving closer to her ear.

"Why Dana Scully, are you suggesting I am carrying on online?" His eyes sparkled as they tried to engage her in some flirtatious fun.

"The last three times that I have called you at home I've had the distinct impression you've been wanting to get back to something."

"How do you know I didn't have company?" Mulder feigned interest in the file in his hands while suppressing a smile.

Scully replaced her shoe and rising to her feet she walked towards her desk. "Mulder, I think I know you well enough to say you never have company." The rich emphasis on the word company made Mulder look up in surprise.

"Only you," he whispered, hoping she hadn't heard what he hadn't intended to say aloud.

"I have an online meeting set with Sasha." Mulder unfolded his body from his chair. He shuffled files from one pile to another and locked the drawer, his version of closing up his desk.

Scully looked up, curious as to the direction he was heading.

"Would you like to come over? We could eat and sort through a bit of this before the meeting?" Mulder seemed hesitant, almost afraid to let Scully know how much time he did spend online and with whom. But he wanted to dispel any idea that he had a distasteful connection to Sasha or anyone else involved with his--no, he corrected himself--their hobby.

Scully quickly sorted through a dozen or so smartass replies that came to mind and decided she would like to meet, if an internet chat could be considered an introduction, the mysterious Sasha. "What shall I bring?" came her reply.

"Just your smile." Mulder closed and locked the door behind them.

7.00pm Mulder's apartment

Take out cartons littered the coffee table; half a bottle of wine sat among napkins and cutlery. The computer hummed online in the background. Scully, in causal clothing, slouched on the couch with an open file in her hand, looking with disbelief at its contents. Mulder watched the expression play across her face.

"They can't actually believe that they are having sex with ghosts!" She all but choked out the last three words. Mulder was unsure if it was the logged chat transcript describing a sexual encounter with a ghost that was making Scully blush or the second glass of wine. He decided it didn't really matter; either way was very appealing. He topped up their glasses.

"Needless to say I don't use anyone in that group as a source of information. Occasional amusement is even dangerous with that bunch; I think association with them kills brain cells."

Mulder checked his watch and moved from the floor to the desk. He had relocated two chairs side by side earlier.

"How did you meet Sasha?"

"Message board, this one..." Mulder pulled up a screen with small icons indicating discussion threads and a surprising array of creative and not so creative puns concerning ghost as nicknames. Scrolling rapidly, he passed thirty or so until he came across the name Borley.

"That’s Sasha's online name. Borley is the site of a rather infamous poltergeist haunting in Britain. There will be a message here as to what time and where to meet."

Scully raised an eyebrow in speculation "A little paranoid?"

"Perhaps, but I've seen the scary folks literally swarm when Sasha's nick appears in a chat room. It is kind of unsettling. They seem attracted to someone who has what they perceive to be status in a community of which they aspire to be part. It took months to start a dialogue due to that phenomenon."

-S check your mail 7:30 ---- the message read.

Mulder pulled up his mail program. The first mail read <Borley 7:45 IM your time>

Mulder open his Instant Message program and quickly found the nickname.

How very typical, Scully thought, for Mulder to pick Spooky as his nick. Scully watched, fascinated, as the two seemed to know what the other was going to type before the first had the chance to finish typing. "Were all chats on the Net like this?" she wondered. Scully used the Internet for research and email but had little exposure to personal chat or chat rooms.

"Mulder," she said softly, touching his arm in a more personal way then she had intended; it became more of a caress than an interruption.

Mulder turned to her, distracted from his conversation. "Sorry Scully, sometimes the talk is so fast I forget what I am doing."

She smiled indulgently.

Borley: What? You fall off your chair again Mulder? Spooky: No just distracted. Borley: LOL It must be Scully on the phone. You have to go? Spooky: She is here - want to meet?

What could only be described as silence followed. Mulder tapped the keyboard rhythmically. Scully started to feel distinctly uncomfortable and considered excusing herself and leaving.

Borley: BRB

"What does that mean?" Scully asked.

"Be right back, something must have happened: doorbell, phone call, distraction," he said with a grin.

"You know maybe this is a bad idea. It seems like she didn't really feel comfortable..."

"She?" Mulder turned his chair "Why did you assume Sasha is a woman?" His tone was light but interested.

Scully paused pondering the assumption. "I am not sure. The name? Something about how you communicate with…" Her explanation petered out.

The IM window reappeared.

Borley: I would love to meet the beautiful Agent Scully. Hand over Mulder.

"The beautiful agent Scully?" she asked. Mulder shrugged.

Spooky: nice to meet you Sasha. Borley: I feel like I know you already. Mulder never stops talking about you. Spooky: I am having a similar experience with you. The three new houses you sent are amazing. Have you been to any of them? Borley: The one in CA but not the others. I would love to see the DC one -- it has a long and quite colourful history as far as I have been able to trace it.

Scully found it difficult at first to think of anything to say. The rapidity of this form of communication and the lack of facial cues or tone of voice made her feel unsettled.

They talked on for ten or so minutes, discussing the photos and the best ways to find background information. Many of Sasha's methods for tracking down facts had not occurred to Scully.

Scully began to understand some of the attraction of online chat or perhaps it was just the friendliness of Sasha. No demands for personal information, just ease. Nothing to lose, no history to work through, just chatting about concepts with no fear of what the other person would do with the information and how it might impact you. No wonder that Mulder liked to talk to Sasha! There was no challenge to his point of view, just the exchange of knowledge and the occasional “lol,” which Scully was amused to learn meant “laughing out loud.” Leave it to the Net to develop its own language within a language.

Borley: Alas I have to go. It has been very good to meet you Scully. I hope we get the chance to talk again. It's nice to have someone who can type at a reasonable speed... yes Mulder you two finger typer you. <big grin>

There was a slight pause and Scully had started to compose her reply when Sasha added.

Borley: If you like Scully, email me any questions that you might have. Mulder has my mail...

There was a certain hesitancy to the words; Mulder who had been looking over her shoulder gave a slight surprised chuckle. "It took me months to get that very secret email addy. Maybe Sasha is a man." Scully shot a well-placed elbow into Mulder's thigh.

The IM conversation ended and Mulder signed off, turning the monitor off and sprawling across the couch with his stocking feet balanced on the edge of the coffee table. "So what do you think? Man, woman, any impressions?" Mulder surveyed Scully's array of expressions. She seemed to be trying to come to a definitive answer and was unable to.

"I did arrive here with the firm conviction that she was a woman who had an Internet infatuation with you, Mulder." She blushed slightly at the implications of her mistake and rushed to cover up the blunder. "But after talking to Sasha, I realize that I have no idea... And what about you, Mulder? Profiler boy genius that you are, you must have worked it out by now." She smiled as she sat next to him on the couch.

"At first I guessed a man. And then something about the way that Sasha expressed ideas and the way emotions seemed to be part of the investigations. I started to suspect that I was wrong--

as unbelievable as that might seem." A smile played across his lips at his self-deprecating comment. "So I did a profile. A little unethical but who was to know." He stopped talking, his head falling on to the back of the couch. He seemed to have no intention of continuing.

"And the results of your brilliant profile?" Scully quipped, turning towards him, watching.

"Highly classified information! I would need to know your security rating and motivation for this knowledge," he answered, with a perfect imitation of Scully's arching eyebrow. Mulder rolled his head until he was only inches from her face. He raised one hand to touch her fingers. "Jealous?"

Flirting had been an ongoing pastime for them but this seemed to be slightly over the line. Scully knew it was her responsibility to redraw that line but she didn't in truth want to. Covering his hand with hers she enjoyed the warmth of his touch a moment longer and then leaned in close and whispered, "In your dreams, Mulder."

The temptation to brush her lips over his was intense but she resisted and, rising to her feet, she headed for the door, slipping on her shoes and coat on the way. "Night."

Hoover Building Two weeks later

"It's that one of Sasha's houses?" Scully asked, sliding the morning newspaper across the desk. A front page photo showed a crime scene complete with yellow tape and body bag.

"Yes, it's the Tudor in DC. Wintermore I think it's called. The plot thickens." Mulder stopped Scully before she could remove her coat and hurried her out the door.

"We don't have jurisdiction," Scully offered as he all but shoved her into the car.

"A mere inconvenience."

"I am sure the Washington Police will agree wholeheartedly."

Skinner’s office Three days later

"Agent Mulder, it seems likely that you are interested in this for reasons that I don't want to know. But nevertheless I have received a request from the State Department that we look into this case as a professional courtesy to Scotland Yard. It seems that one of the Yard’s high-ranking officers has recently become the heir to this house. There is some suggestion that this crime is aimed at the new owner." Skinner looked vaguely annoyed that he had to lend his agents for some political favour.

Mulder, of course, was thrilled. The Washington Police had been monumentally unimpressed with his pushy questions at the crime scene.

Scully stood quietly by, uncomfortable with the prospect of their hobby flowing into their work. "Will we be working with someone from Scotland Yard, sir?"

"Yes." Skinner checked the file in his hands. "I believe that you have worked with Chief Inspector Green in the past."

Of all the people in the world whom Scully had expected to deal with this week, Phoebe Green was the last. Their first meeting six years earlier was still a source of aggravation. Many times in the work that she and Mulder did, she had been shot at, beaten, insulted and harassed, but rarely was she ignored, with the exception of the newly promoted Chief Inspector Green.

And if she admitted it to herself, she was suspicious of Green's intentions. Why had they been landed with this case? Did Phoebe request Mulder's involvement to play her game of hunt and hurt? Had he listened to the tape that Green had left him so many years ago? Had they been in contact since her last visit? Mulder had been to England at least once. Scully realised that she was sounding quite paranoid even to herself. She had no personal hold on Mulder and if he had been in contact with Green professionally she would have known. She wondered if he would have told her if it was personal.

"Enough of this!" she said aloud as she dressed after performing the autopsy on Bill Metcalf, the victim from Wintermore House. The file from Scotland Yard included some basic information about the house and its past owner, Sir Percy Wintermore. Scully was far more interested in why and how this man had died but the autopsy gave her very few answers and many more questions.

Scully's report:

"I am attributing the cause of death to repeated blows to the cranium. I am unable to determine the nature of the weapon. The force of impact was considerable; parts of the bone matter have been embedded in the parietal lobe at the superior parietal convolution. The skull is for all intent and purposes crushed. Prior to death, the victim's hands sustained third degree burns to the palms and digits. Contusions and lacerations consistent with blunt trauma cover 80 percent of the trunk and limbs. I find no fingerprints or traceable DNA under the nails or on skin and clothing. Wood fragments under the nails are consistent with the damage to the wood of the main door of the house, indicating the victim struggled to exit the building. At this time no murder weapon has been discovered and I have no clear direction as to the motive for this killing. Nothing about this crime suggests a premeditated attack except the absence of any evidence of the perpetrator's identity. Two notable observations about the condition of the body: one, the victim's boots and clothing were covered in what appears to be fragments of broken glass.

Upon examination of the glass I have determined that it is from turn-of-the-century bottles, possibly wine. Broken glass was found at the scene but it should be noted that the caretaker does not recall the house having a supply of old bottles. The second point of interest is the easily identifiable smell and residue of sulfur that is permeating the body. Both skin and clothing seem to be dusted in the substance. I still await lab results on blood and tissue samples but I am currently listing this examination as inconclusive."

At some point a simple distraction intended to help me find balance in my life and more importantly to spend some time with Scully has turned into a nightmare. Skinner is exploring my past expense reports to determine if I have been using Bureau money to hunt ghosts. My previously loyal and conversational source is now spending all their computer time with my partner. So much time, in fact, that I am questioning my own profile of Sasha. Perhaps my assertion that Sasha is a woman is incorrect. If Sasha is a man, I wonder about the nature of the connection that they are making.

And as if my life isn't sufficiently chaotic, the biggest sexual mistake I have yet to encounter is walking back into it. Phoebe Green was an education that was not part of the regular curriculum at Oxford. Even though I have never had any illusions about Phoebe's motivations I am helplessly attracted to her despite the certainty that she will chew me up and spit me out. Phoebe's talent lies in her ability to enthrall, disarm and leave. She takes great joy in her gifts. This leads me to wonder if it would be unethical to use Scully as a shield and would it be effective? Is a line of defence even necessary? Scully and I have changed over the years; perhaps Phoebe has as well.

As I muse the complications of my life I lose focus of what should be absorbing my attention: the death of Bill Metcalf at Wintermore House and the possibility that this death relates to the poltergeist activities that have been plaguing the house. With luck and some determination I hope to focus on the task at hand.

Basement office FBI

"Okay, sports fans, timeline time!" Mulder staked the length of the office ending at a large moveable blackboard he had retrieved from the storage room. Scully sat at the desk with the computer on and the instant chat program working. Mulder drew three lines down the board creating three columns. At the top of each column he wrote.

Bill Metcalf Wintermore House Sir Percy

"Let's compile everything we know about our victim." Mulder began scribbling point form notes, elaborating as he went.

-Bill Metcalf cause of death- blows to thee head -Age 43 -Occupation- Architect -Divorced 5 years, one child 10 years old...< -Amicable relationship with X wife regularrr visits and child support -Work record -excellent, redesigning and rrreeconstruction of heritage buildings, well liked by co-workers and staff, good salary -No major issues- clean bill of health, no sexual dysfunction, financially sound, no drug or gambling problems -Goes to Mass on Sundays -Two unpaid parking tickets and a marijuannnaa conviction in the 1970's -Hired by Phoebe Green to plan renovationsss to the Wintermore House "The man is so clean I feel ill," Mulder snapped as he finished scribbling. Scully smiled as she typed into the computer.

Borley: Too bad he's dead, he's perfect for you, Dana.

Scully: Cute Sasha very.

"Wintermore House!" Mulder announced starting the next column.

-Built 1880 by Raymond Harriman -No evidence of poltergeist activity during the first 30 year period. -Sir Percy Wintermore bought the house in 11900 as investment and leased to English

businessmen. -1910 Sir Percy moves into house. -1930 Sir Percy dies the house goes into trust to be inherited by the first male heir. -The house is to be rented to pay for its maintenance but there are frequent and violent poltergeist activities that make it uninhabitable. House is tended by James Swanson a caretaker who lives on the estate -House inherited by Phoebe Green 2000 when the trust fund runs out and Phoebe is only living relative.

"Mulder, stop. I can't type that fast," Scully interrupted the free flow that Mulder often created when pulling scenarios together. Mulder backed away from the board, trying to make some kind of order out of his notes. There was something here and yet he had no clear sense of it. There was something about the house, or perhaps it was about Sir Percy, that danced in the periphery of his vision like flecks of dust dancing in sunlight -- you could see it but when you reached out to touch it, it disappeared.

Glancing at Scully he approached the final column.

Sir Percy Wintermore -Born London England 1870 -Wealthy family titled -Business interest textile and railway -Married Mary Ann Shaw, daughter of a diamond merchant in 1895, had two daughters Helena and Amanda. Two sons died at birth -Travelled to the US in 1899 -Buys house 1900 -Wife dies in 1905 -Moves to US in 1910 -Two girls stay in England in boarding school - Sir Percy dies in 1930 -Trust runs out 2000 Wintermore House. Phoebe Green named heir.

Mulder moved behind the desk and pulled his chair in close to hers to read any comments that Sasha may have.

Borley: The only connection I can see is the She-Devil.

Mulder smiled at the rather bitchy reply and wonder what Sasha and Scully had been discussing in regards to Phoebe. Scully had the good graces to look embarrassed.

"New pet name for Scotland Yard’s finest Scully?" he asked good-naturedly.

Scully: Mulder’s here now. Borley: Oops ... no offence M. Mulder took the keyboard. Scully: I take it you have been discussing Ms Green? Borley: You could say that ;)

Before Mulder could comment Sasha continued.

Borley: You know that historical crime database I was telling you about? Will run it through, see what we get, never know something might match up.

"She's arriving today?" Scully asked after Sasha signed off. There was no need to specify who 'she' was. Their chairs, side by side for the sake of their conversation with Sasha, had not been moved apart to proper office distance. Mulder's long legs stretched out under the desk as he slumped in the chair, their knees meeting, brushing gentle and familiar touches under the desk.

"Some time this morning. You ready for the British Invasion?"

"I have no fear. She did a remarkable job of ignoring me last time. I am hoping for a similar performance." Scully smiled, hiding the loathing she felt at having to spend time in Green's presence.

"Maybe she will be so intrigued with being a homeowner, she will leave us both alone?"

"We live in hope," Scully answered aloud. "Highly unlikely. You may be a little older with a few more scars, but to a woman like Phoebe you will be even more desirable, a mature challenge instead of a youthful indiscretion," Scully thought as she enjoyed the moment of peace and quiet before the storm that was Chief Inspector Green.

As they sat in companionable silence, neither noticed the door open until Scotland Yard's finest was standing in their threshold.

Nine o'clock on a sunny Wednesday morning is hardly the time one expects to get the hell scared out of them but that is just what happened. The investigation of this case has been fraught with unexpected turns. This house is a childhood dream to explore but sinister in its beauty. It is like a nightmare, seductive until it unfolds and spreads its terror. Phoebe was enchanted upon arrival. She explained to Scully and me that she had seen photos of the house but was thrilled to see it in person. I am afraid her first experience in her dream home was not what she had foreseen.

"I'm not a great believer in ghosties and spookies, Mulder," Phoebe teased as she linked arms with him and they ambled along the garden pathways.

The house was an impressive Tudor, with three stories, granite stonework, gleaming white stucco and dark wood edging. It was encircled by lush gardens of mature chestnut and maple trees heavy with opulent growth. Terraced gardens teaming with ruby rhododendrons, Pagoda dogwood and azaleas, mature beds of bearded iris crowded granite garden walls and the rolling lawns were tended with obvious care. To the left of the driveway was a carriage house of similar Tudor design. It seemed full of life but the main house was vacant, cold even, and from a distance it appeared empty. Windows were dressed and cleaned, window boxes and vines were pruned and tended, there was evidence of recent painting of the exterior and yet something ominous radiated from the amber and red of the stained glass windows.

Scully's step slowed as they reached the stone stairwell that led to the glass and wood front door. An expression of her grandmother's--someone just walked over my grave--flashed in her mind and was quickly dismissed as nonsense when the door was opened by a middle-aged, heavy-set man dressed in gardening clothing. Hat in hand, he ushered them into the entrance hall.

"James Swanson?" Phoebe asked, offering her hand to the man who moved aside to allowing them to enter. The entrance hall of the house opened into a wide corridor and further on to several rooms that all appeared devoid of furniture. The floor was littered with broken glass, police tape, and fingerprint dust spread across surfaces. The typical mess that an investigation left in its wake.

"I am Phoebe Green. We spoke on the phone last month."

Swanson merely looked around the room in distaste.

"When can I clean up this mess? The house doesn’t like to be disordered." His voice was sharp, nervous, the pitch set too high, out of keeping with his appearance.

"Just give us a few hours, Mr. Swanson, and you can clear the area. Sorry for the disruption of your schedule. I have a few questions about the murder. Is there somewhere we can talk?"

Mulder asked, flashing his identification.

The look of disbelief on Phoebe’s face at the gardener’s slight was enough to allow a small smile to creep across Scully's. She watched Mulder hone in with his unwilling subject interview

trick. They had met many people like James Swanson over the years. Mulder was able to cull vital information out of people who were shocked into aberrant behaviour and Swanson was demonstrating pretty classic symptoms.

Swanson looked from Mulder's face to that of the two women and back into the house as if he was listening to someone speak from another room. He looked back at Mulder again and finally answered, "We should go outside. We aren't wanted in here today." His voice was now flat, there was no affect. He moved to the main door and walked out with no ceremony.

"Have a look around, Scully, I'll talk to our friend here," Mulder said, striding away, ignoring Phoebe in the process.

When it was over, Scully was unable to pinpoint the moment when she first became afraid. It could have been when the wind blew a door closed somewhere in the house. It is possible that the sound of birds taking to wing unsettled her. It may have even been the icy chill that engulfed the house as she and Phoebe wandered the rooms of the main floor. But without a doubt, the scream that filled the library pushed Scully from apprehensive to scared. Phoebe was terrified.

Despite Scully's dislike for this woman, her scream of terror propelled the FBI agent from the dinning room into the library. She found it empty save for Phoebe standing in the centre of the room, her face chalky white, her eyes wide and her hands on her throat.

"What happened?"

Phoebe was unable to answer. Taking the other woman's hands, Scully led her from the room and back into the entrance hall.

"It is a strange old house, Phoebe." Scully tried to keep her words calmer then she felt. "Any of number of things could be at work here."

Phoebe stood stock-still but her eyes franticly scanned the hallway as she tried to control her breathing.

"Of course, all this talk of ghost and murder. Power of suggestion and all that." Straightening her jacket and gathering herself, Phoebe moved away from Scully and started to examine the

gouged marks on the back of the main door. "I thought I saw someone in that room...walking behind the curtains. Must have been the wind."

The hair on the back of Scully's neck stood on end. There was something in this house that rationalization wasn't going to make go away. The work of taking samples was enough to keep her mind off what Phoebe may have seen in the library but it wasn't enough to make her want to spend one moment more than necessary in this house. Touching the cross at her neck she moved into the lounge to look for an explanation for the burns on the victim's hands and a source for the glass and the sulfur.

The room was devoid of furnishings; the large fireplace seemed oddly out of place with no life to be warmed by it. The sun outside did nothing to warm this room despite the wall of stained glass and leaded panes. The cold seemed to seep into her bones and the smell of sulfur was strong in the room but she could find no sources. When Mulder's hand touched her shoulder she almost jumped out of her skin.

"Do you have any idea how quickly I could draw my gun on you, Mulder?" she said when she had regained her composure.

"You two are a little jumpy," he said with a smile, running his hand along the small of her back. She didn't move away, instead leaned slightly in to him, comforted by his warmth in the cold room.

"It is freezing in here. Is Phoebe okay? Some wind in the curtains surprised her a few minutes ago and she was a bit shaken up."

"She went outside; something about wanting to talk to Swanson."

Mulder started to pace the room looking in corners, tapping walls, staring upwards at the plasterwork of the ceiling designs.

"Looking for hidden rooms and secret passages, Mulder?" Scully tossed over her shoulder as she scooped up some dark coloured ash along the windowsill and, turning to look at him, sealed the plastic evidence bag.

"Actually...yes I am," he answered in all seriousness. "It wouldn't be uncommon for an older house to have hidden rooms for the storage of valuables or even for passageways so that servants could travel throughout the house without disturbing the family and their guests." He pushed at the mantel in several places before crossing the room and looking carefully at a slightly irregular section of wainscoting opposite the fireplace. With considerable force, Mulder managed to turn the section and a narrow panel swung open. The smell of sulfur overwhelmed the room.

"After you?" Mulder offered.

"Not in this life time," Scully muttered and followed him in to the passageway.

The passageway led from the lounge to the dining room and then on to the kitchen and finally to the library. Darkness, spiders, and dust filled the passageway and in places it was littered with broken glass and tatters of old new papers. Otherwise it offered very little insight into to the mystery of the victim. There were no footprints on the floors and in many places the spider webs were spun across passages in a manner that would have taken years to amass. No one had walked these corridors in a very, very long time.

Mulder knelt on the floor inside the library passageway, his nose crinkled against the dust, and steadied his flashlight on a spot halfway up the wall. This section of the passageway, like the others, was constructed of red brick but somehow this one was different. The grain of the brick was finer and the colour was deeper in tone, as if this section was newer.

"Scully look at this." He rose to his feet and aside so that she could squeeze into the small space. "Does that look different to you than this section?" He flashed the light down the passageway, letting it pause for a few moments, and then returned it to its original position.

"Looking for an excuse to pin me up against a wall, Mulder?" she asked with a small laugh as she ran a hand along the wall.

"Always." A broad grin crossed his face as he looked down at his dust-covered partner. "But aside from that?"

Scully moved along to the other section and repeated the motion. "They do look and feel different. I might be imagining this but this section is colder and look down here." She slid a hand

along the floor about a half-inch between the floor and the wall. Scully followed along the edge until she reached an inset and an all but invisible handle. As her hands touched it, a deafening roar reverberated down the passageway and flung Scully against the wall. Mulder lost his balance and tumbled back into the library and the panel slammed closed with Scully still inside.

It took only seconds for Mulder get to his feet and fling himself against the panel, screaming his partner’s name. "Think, think!" he yelled to himself, looking frantically around the room for a tool to tear the panel away when he saw a light.

Moving away from the intersection of two walls of bookcases was a haze of blue light that shimmered mid air. It hovered in front of the closed panel and then dissolved into the thick silk of curtains that lined the windows on the east side of the room. The temperature in the room shot up so that it was no longer frigid.

Immobilized by the image of the light and the temperature change in the room, Mulder stood perfectly still for a moment as if he had forgotten what he was doing and where he was. The fear that had coursed through him only a moment ago was absent. A sense of well being hung in the air just as the light had. His attention was heaved into the moment when the panel slid open and Scully fell on to the floor in a crumbled heap with her hands at her throat.

Finding himself in a hospital was not an uncommon situation for Fox Mulder, but having to fight with his partner to get her there was somehow something different. Upon returning to the car Scully claimed that she was fine, that when she had hit the wall it was more about losing her balance than anything else. When he insisted that she allow him to look at her back and neck, she finally acquiesced and tried to discreetly remove her jacket and raise her shirt so that Mulder could examine her shoulders in their parked vehicle.

"Mulder, it doesn't hurt at all. Actually I’m kind of numb from the cold in there," she said, trying to distract him from his intense examination.

His warm hands moved gently up and down her spine, avoiding the bra strap as he went. From the rearview mirror she could see his face, grim and worried. She glanced up and towards the house. Phoebe was standing in the garden with her back to Scully and her arms wrapped tightly across her chest. Phoebe had asked what was wrong when Mulder had all but carried Scully out of the house but was happy to accept Mulder's hasty mumbling about a twisted ankle. Scully was glad that her incident had not attracted the other woman's attention.

Mulder reached past Scully's face and turned the rearview mirror downward to show Scully the reflection of her own neck. A set of very distinct handprints could be seen bruised into the tender flesh. Wordlessly Mulder started the car and motioned for Phoebe to join them.

Sitting on the bed in her apartment Scully felt foolish for her reluctance to go to the hospital earlier and confused about what had happened to her in the passageway of the house. All she remembered was the feeling of the floor moving under her feet and then falling onto the floor of the library. Mulder's description of the peaceful blue light and the temperature change had no resonance for her. The bruises on her neck were fading already but the ache of the muscles in her shoulders and back continued. It had taken a very long shower to wash away the smell of sulfur from her hair and even longer to kick Mulder out of the apartment so she could get some sleep. Sleep, however, was not impending. Thinking about the corridor made her skin crawl. She had the distinct feeling of something cold and clammy at her throat whenever she thought of the library.

What she needed was a distraction, she reasoned as she made her way to the computer terminal. Going online, she checked her email and then turned on the IM to find Sasha and Mulder online as well. She didn't have to guess as to the subject of their conversation.

Scully waited for a moment before she joined Mulder and Sasha in the IM chat room established by Sasha. She wasn't sure if she wanted to discuss her day once more.

Borley: Look Mulder! It is the beautiful Agent Scully. Spooky: I thought you were sleeping? Wasn't that why you kicked me out of your apartment?

Scully could not tell if he was teasing or hurt.

Scully: I just came on to pick up my email from my online lover.

She smiled at her own boldness; she had no idea why she had said that. She knew that Mulder had concerns about the time that she and Sasha were spending together.

Borley: You have an online lover? And you didn't tell me and here I thought we had become confidants! Hell of an empath I am - can’t even read when online. : ) Scully: Really, I see the psychic friends can do it on the phone, why not online?

Scully was kidding but she was curious as to the limitations of Sasha's abilities. They had talked many times about the empathic ability to read someone else's emotions and how it was possible to focus on one person but how in a group it was overwhelming -- like everyone speaking at once and Sasha could hear all simultaneously but understand no one. Sasha had even admitted to avoiding groups of more then a few people at a time due to the weight of the emotional assault. Scully had been relieved and fascinated at the simple defense against having one's emotions read. A properly trained empath should ask permission first. And Sasha promised that a responsible empath would not be able to violate that prohibition. It seemed so elementary and yet so reasonable.

Borley: Even my amazing powers have limitations LOL. I would love to read that house though. Sounds like you guys could use some help?

A chill ran the length of Scully's spine. The idea that Sasha could make contact with an object and "see" what had occurred there made her uncomfortable. A dozen times she and Mulder had been through the impossibility of Sasha's "talent." She had accepted that it might be possible to read people's emotions based on a combination of body language and intuition. But Scully was not readily willing to accept that Sasha could look into the past of an object and see, like a film, what had happened to it -- or in the case of a building see visions of the events that had occurred there.

This skepticism regarding Sasha's abilities made the prospect of a meeting uncomfortable. They had formed a strong connection online and Scully didn't want to wreck that relationship with a real life encounter.

The sound of her phone ringing startled Scully, making her jump in the chair. It was Mulder.

Scully: BRB phone.

"Is Sasha a man or a woman, Scully?" His voice was upset.

"Sasha is a woman, Mulder," she said, gently trying to ease his discomfort. She had worried him with her joke.

"How do you know?" His voice was panicky.

"I asked."

Sasha Mickleson made every attempt to be invisible and was reasonably successful in her efforts. She was five foot six with black hair, and dressed in expensive but not notable woman's business attire. With a laptop, overnight bag, and standard DC issue black trench coat she looked like 50 percent of the women passing through the commuter train station. She was unremarkable -- no one would remember her; no one would keep her entrance or departure in their short-term memory. No one would approach her unless they had due cause and if they did, thought Fox Mulder, they would receive a stare so icy that they would quickly turn away being rebuffed clearly and calmly. For all the times Scully had been called Ice Queen in the Bureau’s halls, Sasha Mickleson could blow her out of the water with one glance from her quietly unsettling and odd dark green eyes.

Mulder watched her approach the exit gate and knew it was her only by a process of elimination. Of the twenty passengers passing through the gate, fifteen were men, two of the women were past middle age, and of the final three, only one was dressed head to toe in black, as Sasha had told him she would be. Sasha handed Mulder the address to Serendipity House, a place she described as a psyche safe house. On the way, he remained uncharacteristically quiet.

Wintermore House

Sasha walked slowly towards the house, concentration lining her face. Her breathing was purposeful, slow, and she repeated a calming chant with her lips moving almost ritualistically as her feet followed the pathway. She could hear the sound of distant birds in branches brushed by wind. Farther yet, there was the noise of road traffic, and a train whistle blowing faint in the distance. She focused next on her feet. Her shoes crunched in the gravel path, her feet felt the leather, moving to the flex of her calf muscles, the cartilage of her knee, the ball and joint of her hips, the sway of her back, and the click of vertebrae in her neck. She felt her heart beating, the blood coursing through her veins, the division of her cells. Her mediation was complete.

If anyone had approached her, every emotion they expressed would have washed over her, engulfed her, overwhelmed her till she would have been unable to tell where she ended and the other person began. It was always dangerous to leave oneself this open.

From childhood, she learned how to block her empathic abilities. In the process she had learned of another talent: the ability to reach out and touch a building, a house, a man made object, link to it, into its past, and see the world as it was at any time in the object's history. She was literally a fly on the wall.

She saw only images and emotions; she heard no words or sounds. But with years of practice, Sasha had learned to interpret what she was seeing. She could build a storyline, investigate and put together the mystery. From missing papers to lost family heirlooms, from accidental deaths to missing children, she had found answers.

But most often her skill helped rid places, homes, of poltergeist and other spectral phenomena. The process of discovering the story behind the haunting frequently helped release the spirit, reducing the attraction of the place. Often after she made a viewing, the paranormal activity would slow and finally cease altogether within a few days. Sometimes it would take the removal of an object or the repayment of some meaningless debt. The reasons for the haunting tended to be quite mundane even if the experience for the living was terrifying.

This was why she was here, to rid this place of a poltergeist. But the death of the architect had changed the venture and added a level of complication that she had never before attempted. There was something different about this place, this resplendent but unsettlingly vacuous mansion, something ominous and faintly terrifying.

Pushing away the fear, she refocused on the meditation. She stepped over the doorway and into the house, with Mulder, Scully and the outside world disappearing, and only the vibration of the inner life of the house remained.

Sasha ran her hand tentatively along a mahogany doorframe looking for a connecting point. When she made contact, a shock rocked her body and the house around her became electric. The room she entered changed from dusty and unused to rich with light and life. Flashes of images flew by: the house skeleton-like, walls half-finished, workmen, stone masons, carpenters, creating and animating the house. A family gathering around the fireplace, women serving meals, smiling faces, grieving faces, babies being born, weddings, young men going off to war. Lives buzzed past like a film on fast forward. Sasha was astonished at the speed and the depth of the house's history.

Then it stopped without warning. Sasha's stomach heaved as the room tilted under her feet as if it had been turned on its side. Losing contact with the doorframe she moved further into the house and searched for a place to reconnect.

Sasha discovered a large empty room beyond the doorway. This must be the library that Scully had described. Abandoned bookshelves stretched to the ceilings, a huge fireplace in the centre, but the room was cold and dark.

Sasha reached up to touch the dark mahogany mantel, her hand brushing away inches of dust to connect with the grain of the wood. Her fingers and palm tingled, her arm grew warm, then suddenly the room was full of hundreds of leather and cloth bound books, pristine from floor to ceiling. A deep red Oriental rug faced the fireplace, which was bright with fire. The room was resplendent with highly polished glass and wood.

A woman entered soundlessly, unable to see Sasha, of course, because she wasn't really there, she was merely peeking into this time and place. Sasha placed her around 1910. Dressed in an elaborate, rich sapphire blue evening gown, the woman’s hair, makeup and jewels were immaculate. But something about her hands, the set of her head, the light in her eyes was coarse and unschooled, lacking the sophistication that her attire suggested. The woman seemed upset or agitated as if struggling to make a choice.

A doorway opened and the woman's face turned from upset to ridged with panic. She backed into a corner of bookcases as though willing herself to become invisible. A man entered. He was dressed equally well, but on him it seemed more natural. He wore expensive clothing, his hands were soft-hands that had never known hard labour, with nails perfectly manicured--his hair cut to perfection; he had a confidence in his stance. Sasha would not have called him handsome but he was striking. He was tall, over six feet, and powerfully built, with dark hair and cutting blue eyes. But his mouth had a cruel twist to it. Even as he smiled at the woman, he seemed to mock her.

A pulse of energy overcame Sasha; she considered pulling her hand from the mantel to break the contact. The fear, verging on terror, of the woman was flowing through Sasha and she battled to control it, to keep it at bay. As she considered moving her hand, she looked directly at the man. For an instant he seemed to loom over the room. Something physically changed, as he seemed to grow momentarily, obtaining the size of a giant and literally filling the doorway he had entered. Sasha pulled back leaving only her fingers still touching the wood.

With an animated expression, the man stepped into the room, unheard words tumbling from his mouth. His face was intense but Sasha couldn't feel him. Confused, she flattened her hand to reconnect with the mantel. When his presence rolled over her, she had the disquieting feeling that he looked right at her and that he could see her. His emotions were riotous: fury, intense anger, hatred even, and all directed at this tormented woman. She had lost her footing, her dress a crumbled heap as she cowed on the floor. Her arms and legs pulled to her sides to make herself smaller and inconspicuous. Her fear was as cold as ice; it was familiar, as though she had been in this situation before.

The second aspect, and one more disturbing, that Sasha sensed from this monstrous man was titillation, or an intense sexual arousal. It was as if the woman's rising terror fed his desire and his lust rose in equal measure to his fury. Stepping forward, he placed a huge hand on the woman's face, with the other hauling her from by the arm and all but tearing it from the shoulder.

The combination of emotions proved to be too much for Sasha. The potential for what she was about to see was too horrifying. She pulled her hand from the mantel. As she did she felt something brush past her like a cat rubbing its fur unseen and unexpected along the back of one's legs.

Something stroked her whole body and left her hair standing on end and her skin tainted and unsettled as if something vaguely oily had dirtied her. A rush of scent, sulfur and black tar assaulted her nose and the room lurched under her feet once more. Tears flowed down her face, her ears buzzed and her stomach sickened as she stumbled out of the house and collapsed on the white gravel of the pathway. Everything went black around her. "She's going into shock!" Scully said, as Mulder struggled to turn Sasha.

Due to Sasha's almost paranoid aversion to being in crowded and or public places, Scully treated her as best she could at Wintermore and then moved her back to the Serendipity house. A conventional hospital seemed to be out of the question -- Sasha would be overwhelmed there. Serendipity seemed the safest place to take her now. The woman who greeted them was concerned at Sasha's state, but not startled.

"I have seen this before -- she is in psychic shock. I'll bring help."

Within an hour Sasha's condition had stabilized. Her heart rate and pulse were normal and she was breathing deeply, but she was still unconscious.

"It is almost as if she is asleep. Mulder, I am starting to get nervous. I think we should take her to the hospital. There is no reason that she should still be unconscious."

"Five more minutes, okay? Let's see what happens. The people here seem to have an understanding that we don't."

Mulder walked around the room where Sasha had stayed and looked at the artifacts that were displayed on tabletops and in glass cases. New age crystals stood cheek to cheek with North American Native talking sticks and ceremony bowls. Goddesses from at least three African Tribal societies gathered on a rosewood table with Ozarks charms and Buddhist prayer beads.

The door to the room opened and an elderly woman entered. Scully could not keep her eyes off of her. She seemed as old as the world. Her hair was like blown glass, her hands were deep brown leather aged by time. Her brown eyes seemed liquid, floating in the wrinkled surface of her face. It would appear that a strong hand could have snapped her in half with a single blow but Scully sensed the strength there was considerable. This old woman was far stronger than anyone could imagine. Her tiny frame would bend long before it would break. She approached Sasha, saying no words to Mulder but fixing Scully with concentrated stare. She reached out a horned old hand and touched Scully softly on the forehead and smiled. Mulder watched, mystified at the exchange and at Scully's lack of concern with being touched by this stranger.

"Vela," she said introducing herself. Then she opened the door with the clear intent of ushering them out the room. "I will call you when you are needed."

Scully and Mulder found themselves on the other side of the old oak door almost without realizing it.

Mulder's apartment 8.00 p.m.

"Does life just keep getting weirder and weirder or is it just me?" Mulder asked as he stripped off his suit jacket and tossed it out of view in the bedroom. They had stayed at Serendipity for two more hours before Sasha convinced them she would be fine and just needed some rest. She was going to go online later and pick up her mail. If they needed her they were to call or leave her an e-mail. Otherwise she would talk to them in the morning. She wanted to bring in some research people she knew and would need some time to track them down.

"Oh, I don't know. Why you would say that? We are using an Internet source to help us find the solution to a modern day murder in a house that is haunted by a poltergeist who thinks it might be a full ghost but can't make up its mind." She looked at him with an amused grin. "Actually seems kind of tame for us."

Scully dropped into the chair across from the couch and closed her eyes. She knew she should head home and let Mulder meet with Phoebe alone, but she had no intention of doing so. The meeting had been arranged for several hours earlier and at the office, but with Sasha's crisis, things had been juggled.

Mulder passed behind her chair, reached down gently to brush her hair from her face. She opened her eyes to watch him.

"You're tired. You’d better go home and get some rest." There was no conviction in his voice. He knew he should send her home but prayed that she would stay.

"And miss out on spending some quality time with the charming and beautiful Chief Inspector Green? Never. Just let me close my eyes for a few minutes and I will be up and at 'em." Her eyes slipped closed and her breathing slowed. She was not asleep but deeply relaxed in the knowledge that the Inspector would not be able to play her game with Mulder tonight.

When Mulder heard the knock at his door he assumed it was the food he had ordered and was surprised to find Phoebe in the hallway with a deli order bag in her hand. "I intercepted the delivery fellow. Amazing what a flash of leg and a sexy smile can get a girl," she said pushing past him into the apartment.

She spotted Scully curled up in the chair and a hint of a frown crossed her lips. Her grand plan for this evening was complicated by the presence of Mulder's little partner, but not by much. The relationship between these two was rife with sexual frustration, with no real hope of resolution. She had seen many partnerships like this one. The woman so busy trying to be professional and refusing to use her femininity to get ahead that she was a virtual Ice Queen. And the man so absorbed in his work that he couldn't see past the end of his nose.

She smiled smugly to herself. Mulder had been like that at Oxford, enthralled with his work. That had been part of the challenge and it had only taken her a few weeks of focused attention to get him just where she wanted him: in her bed. Perhaps Scully was an Ice Queen in reality if she had taken six years and she still had not attracted him. That thought returned the smile to Phoebe's face.

Scully heard the lilt of Phoebe's accent even before the woman entered the room. 'Terrific,' she thought sarcastically, 'She's early.'

She opened her eyes as Mulder leaned down and whispered in her ear, "Please defend my virtue?" A strangled laugh escaped Scully and Mulder beamed at her as he leant her a hand to rise from the chair.

"Sorry to disturb you, Agent Scully. I am sure Mulder and I can handle this." Phoebe's tone was genuine but her intention of ridding herself of Scully's presence was clear.

"Oh not to worry, Chief Inspector Green. We were just up a little late last night. I'll catch up later on." Scully smiled at Mulder as she slid past him and into the washroom, making slightly more physical contact with than need be.

"Well," Phoebe mused to herself as she helped Mulder unpack the take out food. "Perhaps our little Ice Queen dislikes competition. All the more fun."

As the evening progressed Scully felt no need to inject more innuendo. The room was positively ripe with Phoebe's hormones or at least that was how it appeared. In fact, Scully had to admit that Chief Inspector Green was very good at her job. She had a brilliant and sharp mind that processed information quickly and was open to thinking outside of customary logic. She was a very good complement to Mulder's thinking and she didn't hesitate to tell him that he was full of shit.

In other circumstances Scully would have admired this woman but she could not respect the fact that Green had used her feminine wiles to get to where she was. In fact, if what she understood from Mulder was accurate, it was more than her wiles that were used on her last trip to the States. Phoebe Green was an amazing woman with very little conscience when it came to using sex and relationships as power and grease for the wheel of her career. And that was a disservice to every woman trying to make a legitimate achievement in the world of men.

And she wanted Mulder. Scully had no intention of letting her have him, on principle of course.

"Is there a description of Sir Percy in that file?" Scully asked after Mulder had suggested that the evidence from the autopsy report supported Metcalf's death being paranormal in appearance. Phoebe had argued that old broken bottles and a smell of sulfur at a crime scene were hardly proof of death by ghost. Mulder snapped his eyes towards Scully. They had agreed not to share Sasha's influence on the case with Phoebe until they were closer to an answer.

"Yes, there is a photo of a painting that was done before he left London. Why do you ask?" Phoebe queried, her curiosity peaked at Scully's question. Nevertheless she flipped open the file and slid the photo across the tabletop.

"I am just a history buff from way back," Scully answered, examining the photo. Sir Percy was indeed impressive, tall, almost handsome, with deep dark blue eyes and the cruel smile that Sasha had described. A chill ran up Scully's spine. She disguised her reaction with a yawn that quickly became a real one.

Scully glanced at the clock; it was well after 1:00 a.m. and the prospect of driving home was an onerous one. Phoebe of course was as fresh as the new fallen snow and had moved closer to a rather overwhelmed Mulder. Scully wasn't sure if it was exhaustion or lust that lined his face but she had had enough of the sexual tension in the room. Hoping that she wasn't about to write a cheque that her body wasn't willing to cash, she stood up.

"I am beat," she said, stretching out and rolling her head on her shoulders. She smiled at Mulder’s panicky expression. "I am going to get some sleep." She leaned down, brushing her lips across his cheek, and whispered in Mulder's ear, certain to be loud enough so that Phoebe could hear. "Don't be too long."

And then she walked into Mulder’s bedroom and closed the door.

Scully stood with her back to the door and scanned Mulder's bedroom, not quite believing what she'd just done. A blush crept up her face, followed quickly by a full grin. The look on Phoebe's face was invaluable: astonishment, fury, and disbelief in rapid succession. Scully replayed each expression and savoured the thrill of power she had over the annoying woman.

This was all secondary only to her enjoyment of Mulder's reaction. His expression was fleeting surprise, followed by amusement and ending with the soft-eyed look of adoration that he reserved for moments when she was unaware of his observations. She was rarely unaware of Fox Mulder.

Voices on the other side of the door reminded her where she was and the particularly awkward position she had placed herself and Mulder in. She had slept at Mulder's in the past. Then it had been on the couch and under far less questionable circumstances, but all that couldn't be helped. Ever practical and very tired, she pulled off her clothing and retrieved a T-shirt and sweatpants from Mulder's bureau. The clothes were ridiculously oversized and as far from sexually suggestive as possible. Scully lay down on the bed atop the quilt and pulled a blanket over her body, fully ready to retreat to the couch on Phoebe's exit. The warm comfort of the room, the gentle lilt of Mulder's voice in the other room, and the satisfaction of beating Phoebe at her own game lulled Scully to sleep.

There is often dissension within popular culture as to what constitutes the extremely erotic, the truly intimate. The sight of Dana Scully wrapped in a blanket, draped in my clothing, nestled in the centre of my bed is the very epitome of the sensual. In the last six years I have seen this woman in a thousand different ways, a million different expressions, and this one is new to me. This one I adore more than all the rest combined.

After Phoebe's annoyed exit, Mulder changed into sweats, briefly considered going for a run, but instead knelt cautiously by the edge of his bed. He didn't want to wake Scully from her rest but he was desperate to touch her sleeping form. He needed to physically remind himself that she wasn't a hallucination of his overcharged mind. He touched her hair, spread over his pillow, stroking it with cautious fingertips. She moved restlessly as his weight altered the surface of the mattresses but settled easily as he smoothed the hair from her brow. Unable to resist the temptation of her skin, Mulder traced her forehead to her cheek, smoothing away the lines of the day. His voice caressed her so softly it was hardly recognizable as words, chanting her back to deeper more restful sleep. He knew the risk of waking her, but his need to comfort her overpowered his worry about her reaction to his touch.

With his head supported on his hand, he was now content to watch. Mulder smiled. She never seemed small to him; she never saw herself that way and by extension neither did he. Her sense of confidence in what she knew to be right, in her principles, made her size irrelevant to him. But at this moment in time she seemed tiny, vulnerable only in sleep. Her eyes moved as REM sleep captured her. He took his chance, knowing it was foolish, but he moved closer yet.

"Stay asleep, Scully," he whispered, kissing her forehead gently. She sighed deeply, the REM sleep ending and she turned onto her back.

Mulder could not have stopped himself had she put a gun to his head. He repositioned himself at her side, then licked his lips and kissed her gently, not chastely, but a quiet touch. Her sigh became a low moan as one of her hands moved across the back of his neck and the other slipped beneath his shirt.

She returned the kiss. The confusion of where she was didn't colour her enjoyment of the touch of his lips, the laziness of his tongue, or the caress of his fingertips on her jaw, her collarbone.

As the kiss broke she could feel the turn of his lips, an unfamiliar smile. Turning on her side to face him, she opened her eyes. The awkwardness was fleeting. Mulder leaned in, kissing her again, playfully this time.

"Just wanted to say thank you for chasing away the She Devil. I have never seen anything so totally priceless as the look on her face."

"Pleased to be of help, Mulder. Anytime, day or night." A satisfied smile crossed her lips. She started to move away, pulling the blanket off. Mulder's disappointment was obvious. "Don't go." Mulder's voice was tender. "Best behaviour."

Tired, comfortable, and thrilled, Scully opened the blanket as an invitation for him to join her, silently given and silently accepted. As she slid back into sleep, she wondered if this was a dream and fervently hoped that it wasn't.

"That’s my researcher," Sasha said and indicated a very tall, white blond man to the agents as they walked towards the main gate leading to Wintermore House. Simon Remen stood almost motionless at the drive, looking at the house with intense interest. His light blue eyes were all that moved as he scanned first left then right, cataloguing every plane and corner of the house. He looked skyward and then down, following the line of the driveway and paths as if looking for some obscure enigma. Simon glanced over at Sasha and, as if in slow motion, he made eye contact with first Mulder and then Scully. He reached out a large and weathered hand to shake.

"Simon Remen, Fox Mulder, Dana Scully," Sasha explained. "Simon is a parapsychologist; he and his team are the researchers I told you about. For the last ten years they have been trying to tell me I am full of shit!" An amused grin captured her face. Simon returned the smile. His face transformed from brooding to jolly and his almost pink skin blushed darker with her joke. "Shit, you full of shit? Never. I can think of a few other expletives but shit would never be among them." His laugh was solid. In fact, Simon Remen was very solid, well over six-feet and 230 pounds; he seemed like a good ol’ boy. Dressed in jeans, an old Northern Carolina football team jersey and work boots, he could have been nursing a beer in any sports bar in town.

Instead he was lugging infrared cameras, a Geiger counter, strain gauges and biosensor computer equipment halfway across the continent anytime someone thought a rat infestation was a wayward spirit. "That bunch of weird looking guys over there are my crew. They're going to need about two hours to get set up and we will do a real basic. If we find enough to spark our interest we'll do a Scheidler/Maher and The Demon D. Nice to meet you," he said as an afterthought and started walking towards four young men and a woman standing beside a white panelled truck.

"Scheidler/Maher is a test for spotting hot or cold spots and vibrations within the house," Sasha explained. "They will walk one or two local psychics through the house. Then they map the house denoting the places where they make contacts, if any, and ask for descriptions of the feelings or images that are encountered. Then he will give the map, without the spots marked and the comments, to non-psychics who are open to the possibility of encounters, and finally to total skeptics. Both groups will be asked to identify any cold spots or impressions they feel in the house. And to describe the presence of anything they encounter even if it is their own feelings of hostility or anxiousness or meekness. Then it is all lined up and they compare notes to see if there is any crossover." They watched Simon's crew pull crates out of the truck and into the house.

"The Demon Test. I have heard of the random number generators. They have equipment to create large batches of complex numbers but if the variation is over a set deviation they suggest that paranormal activity is interfering with the equipment, right?" Mulder asked. Scully could see that he was itching to get himself over to the equipment and see what wonderful toys the others had.

"That's the one they'll do that if they feel the need. For now they are going to set up infrared motion detector and cameras, and Geiger counters to gauge radioactivity. And if I know Simon, he has checked with the local authorities to see if there is any ground water issues or earthquake records. He will be looking for pressure shifts, excess rainfall, or natural occurring hydraulic pressure." Sasha was obviously thrilled to have Simon on the job.

"Sasha, you seem pretty happy to see these guys. Don't you work in direct opposition? You try to prove that there are paranormal activities and they try to disprove them." Scully was confused by Sasha’s enthusiasm for Simon's work.

"Oh no, Dana. It's not like that. We work together. Simon actually is a great believer in the paranormal. He is a scientist so it is hard for him not to apply the rules to the job. Over 70 percent of the requests for help that I get are not paranormal and I need help from people like Simon to figure out what the hell it is and how to get rid of it."

As Mulder gave in to his impulse and walked across the garden to examine the unloading and set up of the equipment, Scully turned to the younger woman. "I don't have your empathic insight

but I have never seen anyone so relieved and disappointed at the same time."

"You may have more abilities than you suspect." Sasha walked to a stonewall and pulled herself up on it. Scully sat beside her.

"I have worked with Simon for years; he is very good at his job. In fact, other than Jake O'Keefe, he is the best in the world." There was a long silence as Sasha organized the information she wanted to share.

"Jake was Simon's prize pupil. Simon lectures at Northern Carolina in physiology. Only one semester a year but it keeps him connected with the "professional" side of his work. But Simon is busy as his work takes him far and wide, so he started sending Jake to work with me and the others at Serendipity. Before long, I worked with Jake only. It was a partnership not unlike yours and Mulders." Sasha smiled. Mulder was doing a fine job of getting underfoot with the setting up of the equipment.

"But?" Scully asked, awaiting the other shoe to drop.

"I am an empath, remember. Even when I tried not to read Jake something still leaked through. He was pretty clear he knew what he wanted. I knew what he was feeling and it scared the shit out of me. So I ignored it and shut him out. And we started fighting, trying to provoke each other. The structure of our work is simple - Serendipity sends situations out to people like me and, when possible, I help, but I can't do it alone and a balance is needed. Jake was my balance point. He believes in what I can do but he shifts away the bullshit and keeps me honest."

Scully marvelled at how similar it Sasha’s situation was to her relationship with Mulder, balancing the work and the personal.

"Then one day it just exploded like a firecracker and we haven't seen each other since. Every call I get sent out on is aided by Simon. Neither one of us has the guts to call the other. Hell, he still has a pile of his stuff at my place and I am sure he has tossed out the stash that I left at his. Makes me wonder what we were thinking. A five year partnership...if we had just faced it right up front got IT over with and moved on we might still be working together. If I hadn't been such a coward..." Sasha didn't have to finish the sentence.

Scully was unsure what she anticipated Jake O'Keefe to look like but the man at the entrance hall was unexpected. Tall, taller than Mulder, fair haired, blue eyed and athletic, dressed in jeans and brown leather jacket, he looked like a cop. Not what she would have guessed to be Sasha's type.

Scully showed Jake into the small room that Vela had provided for a workspace, complete with the tools needed to analyze data that was pouring in from Simon's team. Mulder had been recreating his notes that he had established at the office and was busy working up timelines as more information appeared. Simon's psychic sensitivity maps were on one wall. One of the two computers was attached to the demon D machine, detailing the variations of the numbers.

Sasha bent over Mulder's shoulder at the computer screen. Scully watched the cascade of emotions that affected Jake when Mulder made a quip and Sasha laughed.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Sasha whispered; her words should have been angry but instead were more hopeless.

"I heard it was out of control. Simon called and I was nearby ..." Jake's words were totally inadequate and felt oddly limp as they issued from his mouth.

Nonverbal communication sparked across the room. Scully had never seen it so concrete; it had texture, volume, taste. She had felt some of this with Mulder from time to time. Seen words that should have been spoken and needed to be shared, just hanging in the air, like gossamer strands unable to release themselves. For an instant she thought she felt Mulder's eyes on hers, as if he was caressing her. He saw their relationship reflected in the painful interplay between Sasha and Jake. They could so easily become this couple, separate and miserable in that reality.

Jake O'Keefe hated to feel a fool and that was just what he had made of himself when it concerned Sasha. He had been a fool when he wore his heart on his sleeve and a fool when he chased her away after she didn't climb into his bed. A fool to bait her like an angry bull every time they saw each other. A perfect working relationship hadn't been enough for him and his childish reaction to her gentle refusal ended all of it. All this led to this moment. It was a promising investigation. He'd heard the very real concern in Simon's voice when he spoke about the spectral encounter and Sasha's brush with psychic shock.

"I have the information from Brian at the historical crime database." He put his hand into his pocket and pulled out a CD. Mulder stood aside to allow Jake space at the computer. "They took three different runs at this. Three times through the database before they started to make any connections. Whoever this guy was, he was able to cover his tracks pretty well."

Jake loaded the disc and waited for the program to open. Brian Morgan had been developing this database for ten years. Every year it grew and became more complete and useful. Jake and Sasha had used it from time to time with some success.

"From 1904 until 1909 there were five murders in a slightly upscale brothel neighbourhood in London. One murder a year and each one in a different privately leased apartment several blocks from the brothels where each woman worked. The apartments were leased by mail. The agents never met the man and were paid a full year's rent in advance by bank draft. No neighbours ever saw the man, only the women coming and going. There is a note from two of the files that the neighbours complained of noise in the months before the murders."

"Noise?" Scully asked.

"Doesn't specify, but all five women were reported to have healing fractures and other injuries at the time of death." Jake scanned farther down the screen.

"What was the cause of death?" Mulder perched on the end of a desk. He stared at his feet and tried to organize the new information into his expanding view.

"Fractured cranium; the bones were pulverized." Jake grimaced as he read the words. "All five were found in sexually compromising positions," he finished his face growing paler still. He

was a psychic researcher and unaccustomed to this type of investigation.

"He made love to them, then beat them to death?" Sasha's voice was horrified.

"This had nothing to do with love. But I don't understand. How does any of this lead to Wintermore?" Scully asked

"That’s the really amazing thing about the work that Brian does. He ran this thing three times before anything started to fit. First he found that Lord Percy Wintermore went on holiday

abroad five years in a row the day after each murder. The second piece of the puzzle is that three of the agents gave the police the original correspondence; they were in the file. Brian

had the samples tested and all were written by the same hand. "

"That only proves that three of the victims were supported by the same man. It doesn't mean he killed them and it doesn't indicate that it was Sir Percy," Scully challenged.

"When the final murder occurred, the police actually followed up on more of the leads and found out that the money had been drawn from a bank where the account belonged to James Elliot and

his residence was listed as Highbury Park London. When they followed through, there was no such person at that address."

Scully raised an eyebrow trying to find the common factor.

"The address was Sir Percy Wintermore father-in-law's mistress's house. The names James and Elliot were the names of Wintermore's sons who died at birth."

"Wintermore was a serial killer!" Mulder flung himself to his feet.

Scully looked at him skeptically. "That seems quite a leap, Mulder. This evidence is fairly inconclusive. The records from Scotland Yard would be sketchy at best. It is pretty hard to build

a case like this with first hand information, let alone incomplete and potentially corrupt data. And look at the time interval of the killings. That is out of keeping with most serial

killers, isn't it? He knew his victims for a year before he kills them? "

Mulder began to pace. "Serial killers operate on very specific time tables, sometimes down to the hour calculated between kills and sometimes when the situation presents itself. The

motivation for detail can sometimes be incomprehensible. They like to play the game, play tricks, leave clever little clues. Sexual predators crave the attention but they have a huge fear

of being caught and have their paranoia about having their identity revealed. There will be something in the room or something ritualistic about the presentation of the victim."

Jake pushed away from the computer, unable to force himself to look at the sickness that was presenting itself on the screen. Scully took Jake's place and rapidly sorted through the

remaining text.

"Each victim was dressed in a blue silk dress," Scully said solemnly.

Sasha looked from Mulder to Scully and back again; she was unsure why this had yet to reveal itself. "Just like the woman in my viewing."

Sasha had excused herself as Mulder and Scully started to dissect the remaining information in the crime database document. The combination of memory and information was proving to be too much for her to bear. It was not unlike trying to relive her viewing.

She escaped to the sanctuary of her room. Vela had prepared it with Sasha's needs in mind. In a very quiet part of the house, far from the business at hand. The light and colour of the room were serene and restful, a place where Sasha could be alone with her emotions.

A gentle knock at the door invaded the peace, but she wasn't surprised to find Jake on the other side. He stood in the doorway, his tall frame blocking anyone in the hallway.

"I need to talk," he said, stepping through the door and back into her life.

He seemed out of place in this spiritual room, in this place of non-science, in this place of belief.

"Sasha, until this is over and this is one more footnote in Serendipity's long history, let's go back to where we were. Forget that I was an asshole, forget the savage things that I said because I was ignoring what you were trying to tell me."

Jake schooled his features to express himself without overwhelming her. He knew she wouldn't read him because he knew how strongly she lived her convictions. He hoped that if he was professional enough, he could recreate at least that part of their connection. He had learned in the last thirteen months how miserable he was without their work, without each other. He convinced himself that a working partnership was better than nothing.

Sasha watched Jake carefully and knew his struggle to hide what he felt. The physical space between them seemed vast. Jake stood just inside the door and Sasha sat on the edge of her bed.

The emotional space was greater.

"Can I read you, please?" Sasha asked. It was the first time she had ever made that request.

"I don't know if that is a good idea, Sash. I want this to work, if only for this investigation. You might not..." He struggled to name the conflicting emotions.

Sasha closed her eyes and brushed her hair from her face. Jake's features softened at the familiar gesture.

"I have been lying to you and myself for a long time." Sasha's voice was small and her eyes still closed. "I didn't intend to but I was afraid." She opened her eyes and covered her mouth with one of her hands. Jake sat beside her on the bed, slipping his hand into hers. Feeling the trembling of her body, without conscious thought he moved to wrap his body around hers. They had been here before in a place where one or the other needed the stability of physical touch for comfort. His face rested on the top of her head. Sasha moved her hands to his chest.

"I don't understand?"

"Please, Jake, tell me it's okay?" A tear ran down her face.

"Yes, it's okay," he said pressing a kiss into her hair.

Sasha was awash in images. Most often when she read people's emotions it was only sharing the sensations. She might suddenly find herself inexplicably sad or angry when she encountered someone in crisis or mourning, she had no sense of why they felt the emotions, no clear reasons. But this time, she could see flashes seen the way she did in a viewing, with moments accompanied by instant emotional reposes. There was anger, sadness, regret, and longing. She had expected all of this, but the strongest images were of moments she had forgotten.

A flash of a night they had spent monitoring an old abandoned house in Boston. The two of them wrapped in a sleeping bag as the only defense against unseasonably cold weather. She saw herself through his eyes and she was beautiful. Another moment, Jake's birthday, a stolen moment outside when they had both had too much to drink and they pressed bodies and lips together, fumbling at first, then passionate. They'd been interrupted by the press of a friend searching for them. Visions of herself asleep and a fleeting glimpse of herself unclothed.

"You are my passion, Sasha." Jake's words were thick, believing them unrequited.

She ran her fingers though his hair following the line of his jaw with the tips of her fingers, memorizing his face.

"I love you," she whispered, afraid that by saying the words this spell would break. "I have for a very long time but I was afraid to tell you."

Jake's face was a picture of astonishment.

"A fine pair we are," he said, his lips brushing hers, hands pulling her positively. "No more denials, agreed?"


"I absolutely refuse to believe any of this, Mulder. This whole thing is insane!" Phoebe stormed around the office, red-faced with rage. "I have no idea what elaborate plan you and your little partner are up to but I have had quite enough."

"What we are up to, Chief Inspector Green, is the investigation of a murder." His voice was glacial. His eyes fixed on the woman across from him. "It was you who requested us."

"No, actually I requested you." Phoebe returned his stare before slamming the door behind her.

Simon Reman had worked with people from Serendipity for many years and had heard of them and the work for far longer. But this was the first time he had been in the inner sanctum of this complex and far reaching organization. Despite his curiosity, he asked no questions, sought no secrets as to who controlled and created Serendipity and more importantly why. He looking around the meeting room at every face: dark, eyes panicked -- the fear in the room was palatable. A puzzling group, this, with the two FBI agents, Sasha, Jake, the woman who owned the house -- Phoebe Green, Simon thought was her name. And, of course, the grand old woman of Serendipity, or that is how Simon thought of her. When he had first been contacted by the group, Vela had been an old woman. That was twenty years ago and Vela had not changed.

Simon was shaken, which was a very unusual state for him. Logical, rational thinking and a healthy dose of skepticism accompanied his desire to believe. He was divided. He knew that the supernatural world existed -- in his mind this was a fact. However the demonstration of that fact as rare in his considerable experience as a paranormal researcher. He had run the Schmeidler/Maher test a thousand times and had never had all three groups identify so clearly or so strongly on almost every hit. Psychic's, non-psychics, total non-believers...hell, even his own team had identified almost every single spot. The house was ripe with something and it was terrifying in its power.

"I can't stress how unusual these findings are. I have never had so much data that supports the presence of something in a house. And I have serious concerns about anyone..." -- Simon trained a hard eye on Sasha -- "...*anyone* going back in. Whatever the hell is in there is very, very upset and I think one dead body should be more than enough warning." Simon sat down rather unceremoniously into one of the room’s many chairs. The circle of comfortable chairs and couches was not what he had expected, nor was the house itself. This place had more in common with Wintermore House than it did with a base for psychic research. A well maintained mansion that seemed to be a home away from home for a wide and varied group of mediums, clairvoyants, psychics and even a psychic criminologist. Some Simon had met and worked with, others he had no idea of the nature of their work. He glanced from Sasha to Jake and hoped that neither one of them would be tempted to keep going. The best option in his mind was to torch the place and call it a day.

Mulder watched the faces around him with interest. He was listening to the words but they seemed to be secondary. How odd to be in room full with people with so called special abilities and have no idea who was in charge, who gave direction to this eclectic mix of personalities. There was a peace in this house that he rarely felt in his life but there was also an undercurrent of fear that surrounded them all.

The elderly woman who had tended to Sasha after she had her encounter in the house was sitting silently among the group. Her large eyes followed the conversation and returned time and again first to Sasha and then to Scully. She never once in the time that Mulder observed her looked at Phoebe who had sat all but open-mouthed during the presentation of Simon Reman's findings.

She looked towards Jake once and smiled a secret sort of smile as if she knew something about him that he may not even know. And once she focused her eyes on him, Fox Mulder wondered if she could read his mind. He had been thinking about Scully when she fixed her gaze on him. She smiled a small knowing smile like every Grandmother had in her repertory and he found himself grinning back at her.

"There is more here that what appears." Vela's voice was both whiskey rich and smoky smooth in texture. When she spoke all eyes turned to her and all fell silent. "In this house I see evil, a man who was evil in his life and now in his death is confused. He thinks he is still alive and can't cross over. He is protecting something, some sort of secret. If the information that Mr. O'Keefe has brought us is correct, we may have more than one entity in the house."

"What did you sense, girl?" Vela's words were phrased as a question but they were in fact a command.

"There is someone else with him. They battle in life; he was the master and she the slave but now they are well balanced. They hold each other until he flies into a rage. She knows she is dead, I think, but I don't know. He doesn't know and he is hiding something."

"In your viewing, child, did he kill her?"

"I think so."

Vela moved back to her seat, her hands spinning a small glass marble along the tips of long fingers. She sat with concentration on her face, her eyes glazed slightly as if she might be listening to someone speak from far away. The room seemed to hold its collective breath waiting her decision.

"I think there is only one way to rid the house of his spirit." She looked at Sasha and Scully so intensely that Mulder wanted to wrap Scully in his arms and take her from the room. "Sasha will need to go back in and find the woman's bones. They are somewhere in the house, that is why she is still there. She is trapped with him." Jake jumped to his feet with anger and Simon wasn't far behind him. Both were about to shout their opposition to the idea. Vela raised her hand and locked her view on Scully.

"She will need your help. Agent Scully, you have an ability that you have yet to accept. Together you can face him." She glanced at Jake, Simon, and Mulder. "And with sufficient distraction, you will defeat him."

Late afternoon sun cast a purple light across the fading sky as Dana Scully found herself outside of Serendipity, walking in a garden heady with rosemary, mint and thyme. The medicinal garden was located far enough from the house that she let go of the pressure to embrace that of which she was doubtful. Her faith, her logical mind, her professional detachment were all being questioned, challenged.

Inside the house Mulder had remained silent through out. His energy to embrace and believe seemed subdued. In other circumstances, she would have thought him brooding and envious, but his warm hand on her shoulder was more physical and familiar than it had been in the past six years and simply told her he was there. He was just helping her, just supporting whatever her choice. He recognized that this situation and this choice wasn't about him or them; it was about Scully's fear of the things she could not control or understand.

As the day faded, inside the house lights flickered to life like fireflies. Scully found herself a sun-warmed stone bench and settled her tired body onto its warmth. She closed her eyes and sank back against the tree behind her. The garden was fragrant, but with her eyes closed she could smell and hear far more then she had with eyes open and searching. The smell of the herbs mixed with the rich loamy soil, bitter richness of yellow roses and the cool sweet smell of rhododendrons. Somewhere a night bird triggered a quiet chorus joined by distant noise of frogs and farther yet still, the sound of voices, perhaps from the house as plates and cutlery were placed and a meal established.

There was something magical about this place, deep in a city, surrounded by roads and buildings and people, that offered this step aside into the world of senses. A world always with us, but rarely noticed or embraced, and what was Sasha's talent more than just ability to see and feel and interrupt the vibration of the unnoticed. Scully allowed her hands to trail along the faded bruises of her neck and remember the cool fear she felt and refused to accept in the passageway of the house.

The sounds of footfalls integrated itself into the waterfall of impressions that eased Scully's soul. Familiar comforting foot falls. Eyes still closed, she tried to sort through the pattern of smells to find his, not really believing she could distinguish him and when she did she was shocked and thrilled at the sensation it produced in her.

"Mulder?" she whispered.

He folded his long body down beside her, touching her in a way he would have only dreamt about a week before. Gathering her in his arms, he pulled her back to his chest and crossed his arms on her abdomen. He rested his chin on her shoulder, his forehead burrowed in her hair and his lips brushed her ear.

"I'm afraid, Mulder."

"Let's go home and make love and forget about Lord Percy and Wintermore House." Mulder's words played down her spine. Since the night that Scully had shocked Phoebe Green, him, and even herself by walking into his bedroom, things had been different. Mulder had stopped delivering innuendo. He touched her more, embraced her when the opportunity presented itself, had even kissed her, but since that night they spent wrapped in a blanket and exhausted on his bed , he never pushed her to make love with him, never even suggested it.

"Why now, Mulder?" she asked, looking back over her shoulder at his profile.

His answer was simple. "Because we need each other. And because you need to remove yourself from all of this. So you can make the decision that is right for you and not what everyone else wants you to do."

"What would you do?" she asked.

"You know the answer to that already, Scully." She could see the smile on his face. Of course, he would have jumped at the opportunity and savoured it. "But what I would do is irrelevant."

Scully closed her eyes and breathed in the garden, Mulder, her own fear and came to a decision. Turning in his arms, she trailed her fingertips along the muscles and bone of his shoulder, up his neck, along his chin, on to his lips.

"Let's go home," she said, smiling seductively. "There is time for all of this tomorrow."

The small group who approached the house was deceptively normal in appearance. There were three men and four women walking with considerable determination towards Wintermore House. Simon shouldered a heavy pack on his right shoulder and Vela walked supported on his left along the white gravel pathway. Jake and Sasha joined hands, their fingers intertwined, marvelling in the intimacy, yet fearful of what was to come.

Scully and Mulder followed behind. They were dressed in causal jeans and boots but maintained their professional composure. And bringing up the rear was Phoebe Green, her disapproval obvious on her face.

The plan was simple. As a distraction, Mulder, Simon, and Jake, armed with pry bars and hammers, would recreate the inspection that Bill Metcalf had been doing when he met his unfortunate end. If Vela's impression was correct, the concealed doorway that Scully had found in the passageway would provide a clue to the location of the body.

Vela reasoned that the distraction Simon, Mulder and Jake provided would give ample time for Sasha and Scully to search for the remains. Scully's function was to insulate Sasha. The fear with a seer empath was the inability to pull away from what they "see.” Vela was convinced that Scully's psychic sensitivity would protect them both. She taught Scully a simple meditation to allow her connection to what Sasha could sense.

As Scully walked towards the house, she replayed the way Vela had taught her the meditation. In her mind's eye she recalled watching Sasha whisper a chant and then stretch her hand to touch a small wooden box that Vela had produced. Scully had felt Sasha's other hand in hers she knew she had been awake and yet she had been dreaming.

In the dream Vela, as a much younger woman, was being handed the same box from the hands of an ancient woman. Vela smiled with pride but her eyes were deep with sadness as the woman before her slipped away to final sleep. The images were flimsy, transparent, not the crisp film-like images that Sasha described. Scully felt none of the emotions that lined Sasha's face. But when the box was put away, Sasha embraced Vela, knowing what had occurred in the vision. Scully had moved aside to give them privacy.

Across the room Scully had made eye contact with Mulder. The way he watched her was unwavering; he had come to her drawing her to him, wrapping his arms protectively around her. His chest to her back and his face lost in the softness of her hair. She felt like she could touch his mind and for an instant had seen herself through his eyes.

"Residual," Vela had said "Your talents while untrained may link to Sasha and enhance the raw gift. When you part physically you may be left with a fleeting connection to some of Sasha's abilities. It is best to be very careful as it intensifies intimacy." Vela's eyes had twinkled as Scully blushed and Mulder grinned seductively his hands stoked Scully's arms.

Scully reverie ended with the sound of Phoebe's angry voice challenging Mulder once more.

"This is ridiculous!" Her voice cracked with fear.

"You disbelieve what we have told you? Fine, then go back into the house and prove me wrong." Mulder looked deceptively calm but all the signs were clear to read: eyes darkened, brow furrowed, jaw clenched. The unnecessary nature of Phoebe's objections made him angry. Wordlessly Phoebe walked to the carriage house, content to observe.

Sasha and Scully stood on the stone steps of the house, hands joined. Sasha ran her ritualized meditation chant and coached Scully in hers. Then they heard Jake, Mulder and Simon's first assault on the house.

Doorway, entrance hall, temperature drop. Scully shivered watching as their breath appeared before them. Their footsteps were followed by the sounds of doors being unhinged and dropped to the floor, wall panels pried away and floorboards pulled up. Jake's voice called to Mulder and Simon as the smash of bottles could be heard. This was their cue to move. Scully turned the moulding and the panel slid open. The light from Scully's flashlight led the way. Quickly pulling open the hidden doorway, both women were assaulted by the array of smells; sulfur overwhelmed them, then dust and rot.

The room was small, merely fifteen feet square, with a low ceiling and pine floor but in the corner was a shrine. A nesting place of treasures that reminded Scully of every serial killer she had the displeasure of being exposed to. A table against a stone wall covered in shards of disintegrating cloth held together with dust and spider webs housed a perfume bottle, a hair clip, a silver bracelet, a gold fountain pen, a silver necklace and an tiny emerald broach. Trophies.

On the wall were photos, yellowed, crisp with age, decaying in the fresh air that entered when they opened the door. All were of young women posing in the attire of a brothel, confidant, sexual, fearless. But the second set of photos on the other wall spoke of something else. The same women now dressed in elaborate silk dresses of the early 1900's. The black and white of the photos denying the colour, but the faces were no longer fearless and confidant. Sexuality was lost and there was only fear.

Scully wondered which trophies belonged to which women. Pulling herself away from this horrible tribute she swept the room with the light until it rested on a small lounging couch. A sob escaped Sasha as it became clear what was huddled there.

Scully had born witness to decimated corpses more times than she could count; it was a fact of the job. This tiny woman was shrivelled and shrunken by time; the dress from the photos hanging on her bones and a silver bracelet glinting in the flash light beam.

"Elizabeth Monroe," Sasha whispered, reading the imprint in the silver. "I can't touch her, Scully, if I do I will see what he did to her and I just can't face that."

Scully wrapped an arm around her friend. "I'll do it," she said. Turning away she took a large evidence bag from her jacket and started to put the crumbling bones into it.

"We have to get out of here," Sasha said quietly, her voice like sandpaper, panic raising.

Task complete, they were moving towards the door when Sasha felt it. The sickeningly familiar feeling of something oily and dirty brushing against her. This time it wasn't light, it was heavy, rough like hands grasping at her arms, reaching for her breasts.

"We have to get out!" Her voice was a strangled scream.

Scully grabbed her arm, pulling her along the passageway, the light bouncing off of the ceiling. A knocking sound started; it was like a stick being dragged across a picket fence. It ran the length of the passageway, its rattling increasing in tempo as it became crushingly loud. Sasha clung to Scully, immobilized as they tumbled into the library. This was not the empty room they left a few minutes ago. Somehow they had slipped back to the past, to the lifetime of Lord Percy and Elizabeth Monroe.

There wasn't time for disbelief as the tall, cruel man from the photo Phoebe had shown Scully stood before them. His face was contorted with rage.

"You're dead!" Sasha's was voice unrecognizable.

"What did you say, girl?" Percy bellowed. His size was now monstrous.

"I said" -- Sasha pulled herself to her full height -- "you are dead. You've been dead, bbrroken and alone for 68 years."

Sasha's confidence propelled him beyond rage into raving madness.

"You lie!" he screamed and the room began shaking.

"No, she does not!" The voice emanated from a blue light that slowly floated into the room. It congealed into a solid form between Sasha and Lord Percy.

Scully would always remember the profound sense of peace she felt when Elizabeth Monroe looked towards her and smiled a small grateful smile before turning back to the seething form of Lord Percy Wintermore.

"I am not your dirty little secret anymore, Percy. I'm free from you and your sick twisted mind. I am going to a beautiful place."

Percy's laugh was evilly oily, bending his face into an ugly mask "You’re a whore just like all the ones who went before you. Just like these two and you'll burn in hell."

"No Percy, I have spent my time in hell and now I get to leave. They have my bones. I am gone and now it is time for you to accept where you will be going."

Scully and Sasha huddled on the floor. As flashes of light streaked across the room, red and orange light like wild ball lighting bounced across the ceiling. Blue and purple shards rained down and then the sound began. It started like a low hum and then grew, waves of sound, deep and heavy, rolling over the room as if the sound had somehow become a liquid. It filled their ears but also their mouths and eyes. Neither woman could see or even feel their own bodies as the room became blue with the noise of dozens of voices, all women's, all singing.

Then it was over and the whole room was deathly still. The blue woman's pale body floated just above the floor with a look of peace on her face. Lord Percy's angry black form was a frozen captive. Scully and Sasha rose to their feet, both silent witnesses to the force that had invaded the room. Scully slipped her hand into Sasha's and looked towards the doorway. She wanted to leave, was desperate to get out of this house as the realization that it wasn't over began to dawn on her.

They were still both there, Percy and Elizabeth Monroe locked together with the battle a draw. There was only one way to tip the balance. Reaching down Scully grabbed the evidence bag that contained Elizabeth's remains and pulled the almost catatonic Sasha behind her.

"Doorway!" she told herself. "Doorway, Sasha. Sasha, Jake needs you; he can't do this without you," she said pulling Sasha along. She could feel the other woman banging heavily into the doorframe of the library.

As they left the library the floor began to roll like an earthquake rippling the ground under their feet. Floorboards buckled, wall mouldings shook loose, leaded light fixtures crashed to the floor. The house felt like it was being pulled apart at the seams. Scully watched in horror as the main door to the house that had been removed from its hinges slammed shut.

Improvising, she skated across the hallway into the lounge. She could see the others outside, through the windows, hear their voices as if they were miles away, yelling and screaming, prying at the door and trying to get into the house. She saw Phoebe Green watching in astonished silence. And among them she spotted Vela with a calm, small smile on her face looking directly at Scully as if she were a foot away from her instead of a hundred yards. And then Scully knew what to do.

"Sasha," she whispered into the other woman's ear. "We have to get out of the house right now! Do you understand?"

Sasha nodded her understanding. Her green eyes were huge.

"Think about Jake. Think about the most wonderful moment between you. Think about what you are going to say to him when we get out of here." Scully knew that Sasha was stuck, she was caught in Lord Percy's web, the web of Percy's sick and twisted passion and Sasha couldn't look away and they couldn't get out of this house until she broke the contact.

"Okay!" Sasha said, her face grey. She closed her eyes, willing the vision of Jake's face into her mind.

The room around them began to smoke. It started in the fireplace, backing up into the room like fog over water. Scully knew that soon they would be forced out and back into the library.

They would die in the library; she could feel it in her bones.

From the outside of the house, it seemed to happen so quickly they would never know the amazing steps that propelled Scully and Sasha from the library and into the lounge. They would never understand the battle to keep their footing or the strength that it took for Scully to push herself and Sasha from the house, the canvas bag grasped between them as they crashed through the exquisite stained glass window and into the garden below. The window seemed to explode before them. The wind-whipped curtains bursts into flames as the glass settled to the ground and hands pulled them away from the house and towards the relative safely of the carriage house.

There was no report of a earthquake in Washington DC on that strangely sunny Friday morning, but the house at 3456 Willington Avenue, Wintermore House, experienced a phenomena that has never been explained to anyone's satisfaction. The half dozen or so people who were there could tell you very clearly that the house imploded, collapsing in on itself from the weight of the evil that had been hidden there for so many years.

Scully couldn't say she felt sorry for Lord Percy Wintermore. He was too close to evil to be given that emotion, but she did not wish his fate on anyone. To wander alone on earth, not knowing that he was dead, in constant fear that he would be discovered and undone for the perversion that he lived in his life. He had lived in hell already and there was indeed more to come for him. As for Elizabeth Monroe, the blue woman and his last victim, there was relief, peace and escape.

For this moment, this short time in her world, Scully felt some of that peace as she watched the sun set. The fragrance of the gardens of Serendipity surrounded her as she settled into the arms of her partner, her lover, under a Rowan tree, into the coming night.

The End

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