Title: The Ghost of Millcreek Inn - Book One: The Haunting
Summary: She felt the familiar, haunting ache of her loss and the renewed stirring of a love stolen from her too soon
At sixteen years of age, Molly Sullivan was a beauty. Strawberry blonde curls tumbled down her back. She was tall and slender with a generous bosom and she viewed the world through crystal blue eyes.
Molly Sullivan was a beauty, but she was poor. The youngest of ten children, she had grown up watching her mother work herself into an early grave as she struggled to keep her family fed and clothed; watched her mother wait hand and foot on her father and older brothers as the family farm fell into ruin around them.
At sixteen years of age, Molly Sullivan watched her older sisters meet the same fate as their mother - each of them married and giving birth to children of their own before they were much more than children themselves. Each of them scratching out a living on a meager plot of land with their husbands. Each of them growing old before their time.
At sixteen years of age, Molly Sullivan was convinced that there was something better awaiting her and she knew that it wouldn't be found in the arms of a poor farm boy from western Pennsylvania. And so she struck out on her own, seeking a glamorous life in Philadelphia.
She was not destined to bear a litter of children and doom them to a life of misery and despair and hunger. No. She would go to Philadelphia and there she would meet the man of her dreams. She would dazzle him with her beauty and grace and he would love her and take care of her. She would live in a world where there were no backbreaking chores - no children whimpering with hunger. She would live in a grand house with a wonderful man who would treat her like a queen. Her clothes would be sumptuous; her skin would be white and unblemished by the harsh weather. Her hands would be dewy and soft. Her children would be well educated and well mannered and she would love them - love him - until the day she died.
At sixteen years of age, Molly Sullivan packed her few belongings in a bag, tucked her meager savings into her bosom and struck out for Philadelphia and her destiny.
She made it as far as Lancaster before her money ran out. Uneducated, she could not find work in any of the respectable businesses in town and no woman wanted a girl of such rare beauty and voluptuous curves to work in her home where she might tempt a husband into straying.
She finally found work and a room of her own at the Millcreek Tavern. For more than a year she had served ale to the tavern's customers and slapped away their groping hands while watching the other barmaids lead eager customers up the stairs to their rooms above the tavern. For more than a year, she had hoarded her paltry earnings, saving for a time when she could once again strike out for the city and her dreams, but it was impossible to save money when there was little money to be had.
At seventeen years of age, Molly Sullivan took the hand of an eager customer and led him up the stairs to her small cell of a room. He was younger than many of the men - yet much older than she - still, he was cleaner than most of the patrons of the tavern...
At seventeen years of age, Molly Sullivan lay on her back on her tiny bed, in her tiny room and closed her eyes, pretending as he grunted and moaned and moved above her that he was handsome and young and her husband. When he was finished, he thanked her and she rolled onto her side and cried until her eyes were swollen.
And when she opened her eyes, her gaze landed on a small stack of coins on the rough-hewn table next to the bed. Gold and silver, they glinted in the light of the fat candle dripping wax onto the tin plate beneath it, mesmerizing her.
At seventeen years of age, Molly Sullivan wiped her eyes and swept the coins into a soiled handkerchief and hid it under a loose floorboard near her bed. She poured cool water in a basin and splashed it over her face, pinched her cheeks to bring color to them, smoothed her hair and pulled her dress back on. She pasted a smile onto her face and returned to the tavern floor below.
At seventeen years of age, Molly Sullivan was a beauty and she would use that beauty to find her way to Philadelphia and a better life.
At twenty-two years of age, William Foxworth was sore of heart. A lieutenant in the Continental Army, his regiment had been moved closer to Reading, Pennsylvania. General Washington had made the painful - and necessary - decision to protect the ammunition supply base in Reading at the expense of protecting Philadelphia and word up and down the lines was that the British army was only days away from capturing the colonial capital; from invading William's beloved city.
He tried to keep his mind on the journey ahead as he and his men rode from Reading to Lancaster. They had come to beg the town for her sons to join the fight; for money and food; for blankets and boots for the colonial army before the harsh Pennsylvania winter swept in. But his thoughts kept turning to home. They had been told that the bell atop the Pennsylvania State House had been secreted out of the city for safekeeping in anticipation of the arrival of British troops. Indeed, patriot citizens and Washington's soldiers had stripped the city of anything that the British could use against them. Most of the bells in the city were removed so that they could not be melted down and made into cannonballs or musket balls. Businesses were shuttered and livestock driven from the city limits. He knew that his parents and siblings had most likely fled the city for the relative safety of their summer home in the countryside.
William's heart was heavy with the thought that the stately brick town home in the city in which he had been raised might only be days away from becoming headquarters for some red-coated officer. He and his men drew their horses to a halt outside of the Millcreek Tavern and hitched the reins to the iron posts driven into the cobblestone street.
Molly Sullivan looked up when the heavy, oaken door of the tavern swung open to admit three young men dressed in the uniforms of the colonial army. The air was heavy with smoke and the smell of fried fish; the room overly warm from the many bodies crowded into the small space. To her left, Rodger Stanton laid a heavy hand on her shoulder in an effort to bring her attention back to him. She shrugged her shoulder and ignored the weight of his gold signet ring as it bit into her tender flesh. The shocked businessman watched through narrow eyes as she moved across the room to greet the newcomers.
William and his men settled at a table and as Molly sauntered toward them, she threw a warning glance over her shoulder to the other barmaids to stand back. She planted one hand on her hip and tossed her curls over her shoulder.
"Welcome," she said in her husky voice as her eyes swept over the three men crowded around the table. She smiled at the well-built blonde man nearest her.
"What'll you have?" she asked flirtatiously. Without a doubt, he was the best-looking man to set foot in this tavern in more than a year, even if he had the big hands of a farmer. Still... he was gorgeous to look at...
She laughed, as the three remained silent. She was used to leaving men tongue-tied. Holding up one finger to indicate that she'd be back, she strolled slowly toward the bar, confident that three pairs of eyes were following her every move.
She returned a few moments later carrying a tray loaded with pitchers of ale and heavy mugs. She leaned forward as she set one pitcher onto the table, knowing full well that the low neckline of her blouse would gape away and allow a tantalizing peek beneath. The balance of the tray shifted under the weight of the remaining pitcher of ale and she almost lost her grip. The pitcher and the mugs slid precariously to the edge of the tray and Molly struggled to regain a solid grip. A strong hand shot out and righted the tray, easing it onto the table. Molly threw a thankful glance toward her rescuer and the smile died on her lips as she stared at him.
Tall and lean with dark hair, he looked to be only a few years older than she. He was not as good looking as the blonde at the other end of the table but his face was compelling. Molly was struck dumb and her heart began to pound in her chest.
William locked his hand around the girl's wrist and pulled her onto the bench beside him. He ignored the rueful glances thrown his way by his men and was only peripherally aware of the other barmaids flocking to the table.
"What's your name?" he asked. Molly heard the question, but she was lost in his eyes. Green with just a bit of gray around the rims, they showed a sharp intelligence and, she thought, as she peered more closely, they were shadowed with a hint of sorrow.
"Molly," she whispered. "I'm Molly Sullivan."
He smiled, showing a row of straight, white teeth and for the first time Molly felt like swooning under the attentions of a man.
"Well, Molly Sullivan. I am William Foxworth and I am very pleased to make your acquaintance." His voice was low - smooth and cultured - and pleasure curled low in Molly's stomach at the sound of it. Reality intruded as the tavern owner bellowed her name. She jumped to her feet and smoothed her skirt over her hips.
"I... I'm..." She looked over her shoulder and saw the tavern owner sharply gesturing for her to get back to work. "I've got to... I need to..." His fingers were still wrapped around her wrist and she tugged, half-heartedly trying to free herself from his grip.
"You'll come back?" he asked, holding her gaze with his own. She nodded mutely and jumped when he trailed his fingers over the back of her hand before releasing her. She clasped her tray over her chest and hurried to the bar and back to work.
For the rest of that night, Molly went about the business of serving food and drinks in a daze. She ignored the sharp looks from her boss and the proprietary hand that Rodger Stanton tried to lay on her every time she drew near. At every opportunity, she would hurry back to William's table to sit beside him where they would converse in low voices until she was pulled away again. And at the end of the evening, when most of the customers had staggered home; when the tavern owner was wiping down the tables and the barmaids were giggling in the laps of the other soldiers, Rodger Stanton watched through a haze of fury as Molly Sullivan led the young lieutenant up the stairs and his fingers curled into fists at the sound of a bedroom door swinging firmly closed.
Molly and William did not make love that night. They lay on her narrow bed. They talked and they talked and all the while they were falling in love.
She told him of her childhood on the farm and of her dreams of escape. Shamefaced, she admitted to the sordid details of the last year of her life and she wept when he smoothed his hand over her hair and didn't judge.
She listened as he talked about what it was like to fight in battle; to see row after row of British soldiers as they swarmed and invaded the land. He spoke of his fears for his family and his city and she held him as he wept over the loss of friends, of men too young to die.
When a rooster crowed and dawn broke over the horizon, he slipped from her bed, pressed his lips to her forehead and promised to be back that evening. As she watched him shrug into his heavy woolen coat and close the door behind him, she vowed that he would be the last man she would take to her bed.
William kept his promise - and so did Molly. He rejoined his men and they took note of the spring in his step and the lightening of the shadows in his eyes. They silently nudged one another and hid grins behind their hands and the three young men mounted their horses and rode toward town, eager to conduct their business and return to the tavern that night. They spoke to the town council and raised funds. They met with the farmers gathered near the feed shop and gained the promise of food. The good ladies of the town cajoled their shopkeeper husbands into donating boots and warm clothing; they gathered blankets and watched with fearful hearts and teary eyes as their little boys became men in an instant when they signed on to volunteer for General Washington's Army.
Triumphant from their successes, the three returned each night to the tavern to celebrate. And waiting for William every night was Molly Sullivan with the glorious strawberry blonde hair and blue eyes that ignored all others.
On the third night, William stripped Molly's clothes from her trembling limbs and followed her down onto the bed. She kept her eyes open when he joined his body with hers. She'd had other men and he knew it. But for both of them, it was the first time they had ever made love. Their young bodies moved slowly, lazily in the flickering glow of the candlelight and they whispered solemn pledges of love and loyalty; of trust and faith as with muted cries they reached for and found fulfillment.
Throughout that magical night, Molly refused to sleep. She wanted the night to last forever - wanted to remember this moment, always. Rising carefully from their rumpled bed, she fetched a sheet of parchment paper and a small piece of charcoal from the hearth. Molly had never learned to read, but she'd known how to draw from a young age. She didn't think anything much of this talent, assuming that everyone could do it... Curling up in the faded armchair across from the bed, wrapped in a tattered shawl - Molly watched her love sleeping. And she drew him, the way he looked to her, so young and handsome as he lay in her bed. William slept and Molly sketched him, pouring her passion for him into a drawing that when finished reflected a timeless love that brought tears to her eyes. Setting aside the completed drawing, Molly removed her shawl and slipped back into bed, curving her body against his warm skin and sighing happily when he murmured her name in his sleep and clutched her tightly.
On the sixth day, they were awakened by the thundering sound of hooves racing toward the tavern. New orders had arrived and William and his men were to report back to their regiment in Reading along with their new recruits.
Molly hurried down to the kitchen to wrap meats and cheese in some cloths and she filled a wineskin with good, strong ale. She pressed her offerings into William's hands and he secured them to his saddlebags. He turned back to her and smiled tenderly at the lovely sight of her standing before him, adoration in her eyes - the same expression he knew must be in his. He didn't want to leave her. It was breaking his heart... He cupped her face in his hands and lowered his mouth to hers and kissed her on her sweet lips. Her fingers curled over his wrists and she stretched up onto her toes to fuse their mouths more tightly together. They kissed passionately, each understanding the gravity of their situation and yet with all of their young and strong optimism knowing they would be together again, when this cruel war was over.
Breaking the kiss, William again bent to Molly, pressing a kiss to first one side of her soft neck, and then the other, the silky skin exposed by the ribbon she'd hastily tied through her hair. As he straightened and regarded her with so much love in his face, she pulled that ribbon free and let her hair tumble down around her shoulders, keeping his farewell kisses safe from the morning air. She tucked the ribbon between the brass buttons of his uniform jacket. It was a tribute, a token to remember her by, as he went into battle. Her eyes were glassy with tears but her expression held nothing but fierce pride.
William held out his arms and Molly threw herself into them. "I will be back soon," he promised as they shared one final embrace, "I'll walk right up to you and kiss you underneath your flaming hair and I'll never leave you again." He inhaled deeply, filling his lungs with her own unique scent - the musk of their lovemaking blended with a delicate hint of the lilac water he had brought back from town one night as a gift for her. She nodded against his shoulder and somehow managed to keep her tears at bay.
"I'll be waiting," she vowed in a hoarse voice. "Godspeed, William." She let her hands fall away from him and stepped back as he swung up into his saddle. He smiled down at her and she offered a brave smile in return. William jerked the reins in his hands and set off down the road with his men in close file behind him. He was perhaps fifty yards away when he suddenly reined the horse in and turned around.
"I love you!" he shouted and even from the distance, he could see the broad grin that wreathed her face.
"I love you too!" she cried. He nodded and returned her smile before digging his heels into the horse's side, spurring him into a light cantor away from his lover and toward duty. He would be back, he knew. And when he came back he was going to marry Molly Sullivan and take her to Philadelphia to meet his family.
October 4, 1777 Germantown Pennsylvania
Lieutenant William Foxworth waved his saber over his head and valiantly tried to rally the men around him. His regiment had left Reading and had met up with the main body of Washington's troops several days earlier. They had marched overnight toward Germantown, a small village several miles outside of the city limits of Philadelphia where General Howe was garrisoned with 9000 British troops.
The Americans divided into four columns and attacked at dawn. Their spirits were bolstered when the British initially scrambled back in retreat. But the men in William's column had lost their bearings as the thick fog and heavy smoke swirled around them, choking them and leaving them hopelessly disoriented; and worse, allowing the British to regroup and surge forward again. William's horse had been wounded earlier in the morning and he was on foot as he urged his men on and shouted orders. Tears streamed down his face from the acrid smoke and his ears were ringing from the relentless sounds of bugle calls and exploding cannon shots and the screams of wounded men.
"Come now, lads!" he shouted. He nodded at one of the young men who had accompanied him from Lancaster and clapped a reassuring hand on his shoulder.
"It's going to be alright," he promised the teary-eyed boy. "It's easy." His smile was a slash of white in his grime-streaked face. "When you see a red coat, you just aim and fire!" He scrambled about, offering similar reassurances to his other men, herding them into some semblance of a formation just in time to see a wall of red-coated soldiers step through the dense fog.
"FIRE!!" William shouted. The world around him exploded in a cacophony of sound and he took a moment's pleasure at the sight of the King's Army faltering under the barrage of rebel fire. And then, suddenly everything went quiet. He looked about and saw men screaming and shouting, but he couldn't hear them. He saw the flashes of fire from the muskets in the hands of his men, but couldn't hear the discharge of the guns as the world seemed to slow down around him.
And then he was falling, spinning as the ground rushed up to meet him. Pain exploded in his chest as a musket ball slammed into him. He heard the boy from Lancaster cry out 'Lieutenant' before he too fell to the ground. The British soldiers swarmed into the field and William could hear the bugle calls sounding retreat as the Americans stumbled and scrambled for safety.
Lying on a blood-soaked field, William Foxworth reached between the buttons of his uniform and drew forth a ribbon. The scrap of satin was the same color as the blue, blue eyes of his true love. A solitary tear trickled down his cheek as he brought the ribbon to his lips. As his life's blood poured onto the ground beneath him, he whispered her name on his dying breath.
October 13, 1777 Lancaster Pennsylvania
Rodger Stanton was tired of waiting. Molly Sullivan had put him off night after night. He knew she fancied herself to be in love with the young officer.
Rodger had never had to force her into bed before. Molly had always willingly taken his coin in exchange for the pleasures of her bed. She had laughed at his jokes and made him feel important but she had never looked at him the way she had looked at Lieutenant Foxworth. And now, she was withholding herself from him; turning her back from him and turning her nose up at the sight of his money.
"No, thank you." Her voice had been polite enough but stiff - all vestiges of the saucy, flirtatious girl now gone replaced by a haughty woman who didn't know her place. Rodger had tried to find his ease with one of the other barmaids, but none of them could hold a candle to Molly's beauty and charms. She had been his long before Foxworth had arrived and by God she'd be his again.
Bolstered by a few drinks, he fancied himself irresistible. But when he put his hands on her, she didn't even try to gently disengage herself as she had on previous occasions. Instead, she slapped at his hands and planted her fists against his chest, shoving him back against the bar.
"I said no!" Molly's blue eyes blazed in indignant fury and she glared at him for a moment before turning her back on him to pick up a tray of drinks. Rodger straightened up and ordered another drink and his eyes followed her about the room for the rest of the night - though he made no move to touch her again.
Molly sighed with relief as the last customer stepped out into the chilly autumn night. She wanted badly to leave the Millcreek Tavern, but William had promised to come back for her and she wanted to be there when he returned. Word had traveled across the state of General Washington's retreat from Germantown. Deaths on the American side had been thankfully light with only one hundred and fifty-two men dead. Molly hurriedly made the sign of the cross and asked God to bless those lost in battle, confident that William was not among them - for he had promised to return to her.
In her little room, Molly found solace in the nightly ritual of readying herself for bed - washing her face at the washstand and brushing her lovely hair. Setting aside the hairbrush, she knelt at the side of her bed and pried up the loose floorboard, where she'd been keeping her saved coins. Since she'd met William and stopped allowing men the ease of her body, the amount of savings had dwindled but Molly didn't mind. At least the money she now earned was honestly-won...
Reaching into the hole she pulled out a rolled-up scroll tied with a scrap of ribbon. She untied it and spread it on the floor, smiling softly as the drawing of her William soothed her and comforted her. For long minutes she stared at it, remembering that night, his gentleness and his passion - his overwhelming love. And she knew this memory would sustain her for as long as William was gone. Pressing a finger to her lips, she then trailed that finger over the sleeping face of her lover, before rolling it up again and tying it securely. She placed it back in its hiding place and replaced the floorboard.
Standing up, Molly pulled off her dress, threw it over the end of the bed and smoothed her hand over her cotton chemise. "Your papa will be back for us soon," she promised the baby she was only just beginning to suspect she was carrying. "And then we can leave this place forever."
A low growl alerted her only a second before a heavy hand slapped her across the face, sending her tumbling to the wooden floor.
"Whore!" She looked up to find Rodger Stanton towering over her. "You stupid slut!" he said. "He's never coming back for you - why would he come back to a whore?"
Molly scrambled back against the wall and pushed herself up on trembling legs.
"You're drunk," she said in a low voice. "Rodger - I want you to get out of my room." She pointed toward the door and spoke with an authority she didn't feel.
Rodger sneered. "I spent six months with you and you think that you can turn your back on me when a younger, prettier face comes along?" His eyes were black with fury and Molly looked wildly around for a route of escape.
Rodger clamped his hands on her arms and crushed her into the wall. "Are you really so stupid that you believe that a rich boy like that would come back for an uneducated whore like you? Pregnant with God only knows whose baby!" His laugh was shrill and mocking.
"This baby is William's" Molly spat. "Until I met William, I made sure that I would never become pregnant with another man's child. I never wanted your child!" she said defiantly. A red haze settled over Rodger's vision and he threw her onto the bed. Molly's head rapped against the iron headboard and her vision blurred as he crashed down onto the bed atop her. She threw out one hand and scrambled for the knife she kept hidden between the bed and the wall as he tore the clothes from her body. His mouth closed over her breast and she sobbed as he bit down on her tender flesh. Her fingers scraped across the rough planks of the floor before they brushed against the smooth handle of the knife. She closed triumphant fingers around the handle and lifted it into the air.
Rodger saw the glinting knife rushing toward him from the corner of his eye and he jerked to the side, causing the blade to strike a glancing blow off his shoulder. They grappled for control of the knife and he slammed her wrist into the wall. The knife fell from her numb fingers and he snatched it up into his hand.
"I hate you," she hissed and fury coursed through him leaving him in a towering rage. Molly's eyes widened and a low, shocked cry slipped from her lips as the knife pierced her flesh in a mortal blow.
Rodger stumbled back and watched with horror as a red stain bloomed over the white cotton of Molly's chemise. The knife clattered to the floor as he ran for the door. Molly was distantly aware of the sound of his boots racing down the steps and the clattering of hoof beats into the dark night.
She turned painfully onto her side and drew her knees toward her chest. Her fingers played over her stomach where she imagined her baby was sleeping. The pain was fading and sleep was beckoning her and she went willingly, imagining William's protective arms sliding around her and their child.
"We'll be waiting for you..."
October 2001 Lancaster Pennsylvania
Scully stroked her fingers over the tufts of reddish-brown hair atop her son's head. Will had been fretful for much of the trip. He had cried, straining against the straps securing him into his car seat, his chubby hands extended toward his mother, begging her to hold him.
"Maybe we should have left him with my mom." Scully looked at Mulder in the rearview mirror. Her voice was tight with frustration. They had pulled into several rest stops on the trip from D.C. to Pennsylvania to feed the baby or walk him around and a trip that should have taken a little more than two and a half hours had turned into an epic journey of almost twice that amount of time. Scully had been forced to spend the last ninety minutes of the trip in the backseat, futilely waving a rattle and humming. But Will didn't want to be entertained. He wanted to be held. At least the ride was comfortable. Shortly after Will's birth, Mulder had convinced her that they needed a roomier car. A couple of days later, they were the proud new owners of a dark green Ford Explorer. Stretching her legs, she was grateful now for the extra room.
"We couldn't leave him, Scully." Mulder glanced away from the road to meet her eyes in the rearview mirror. "You're still breastfeeding him and besides... neither one of us really wants to be away from him yet."
Scully smiled ruefully. He was right. Still, this was their first real vacation and she wanted it to be special. She knew that traveling with a five-month-old would have its own challenges, but she prayed that Will's fractiousness could be attributed to being confined to the car seat for so long. Perhaps, unlike his parents, Will simply wasn't a good traveler.
The baby snuffled and rubbed his tear-splotched face against his mother's hand. His tiny mouth opened and closed over her pinky and as he sucked on her little finger, Scully eyes widened. Was that... no. A tooth? At five months? She rubbed an experimental finger over his gums and stopped again when she encountered a tiny bump beneath the skin. Poor baby, she thought. No wonder he's in such a bad mood. Scully sighed and rested her cheek atop the padded side of Will's car seat. The baby was, thankfully, quiet for the moment as he contentedly suckled her finger and she took the opportunity to study the scenery as it sped past the vehicle's windows.
This vacation was a gift from Scully for Mulder's fortieth birthday. She had been surfing the Internet and had stumbled across a vacation- planning guide for Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Covered bridges, quaint shops and... ghosts. She had booked a suite at the Millcreek Inn, a bed and breakfast well known in the area as being haunted. In fact, it seemed that Lancaster County was a hotbed of paranormal activity. She had downloaded information not only on the haunted inn, but also on the nightly ghost tours held in the county. With Halloween only a few short weeks away, she was assured that everything would be appropriately... spooky.
Scully smiled at the sight of a group of Amish children walking along the side of the road on their way home from school. The small red and white plastic Igloo coolers in their hands contrasted with the dark skirts and pants peeking out from beneath equally dark coats. They drove past rolling farmlands dotted with wooden barns that were decorated with brightly colored hex signs. They rolled past shops - the tacky hawking "genuine" Amish souvenirs; the charming offering hand-stitched quilts and sturdy hand-woven baskets.
Mulder consulted the map lying on the passenger seat and flipped on the turn signal before executing a left hand turn off the highway. Scully was pleased to see the corner of his lips curl up in a small smile. Despite Will's crankiness, Mulder seemed to relax with every mile they put between them and D.C. Sunlight spilled through the bright orange, yellow and red leaves of the ancient trees that towered overhead, dappling the winding country road with light. Their SUV climbed a small hill and as it cleared the rise, Scully saw the sign for the inn.
"There it is," she pointed and Mulder steered the Explorer onto the gravel driveway leading to the inn's front door. Parking the car, he climbed out and paused for a moment to indulge in a long, satisfying stretch. Scully unsnapped the safety straps of Will's car seat and eased the harness over the now sleeping baby's head. She slipped her hands under his arms and hauled him gently out of the seat. Crawling back out of the SUV, she protectively covered Will's head with one hand as she eased down onto the ground, carefully shielding him from the frame of the car door.
Mulder reached out and lifted the baby onto his shoulder and moved to the back of the vehicle. He popped open the back door and yanked out the heaviest of the suitcases, leaving the two smaller bags for Scully to carry. The fallen leaves made a satisfying crunch beneath their feet as they crossed the yard and mounted the stairs.
"You must be the Mulders." The screen door squeaked as the innkeeper pushed it open to greet her guests. Mulder and Scully shared a private smile at the innkeeper's presumption of their wedded state. "I'm Doris Knaubler. Welcome to the Millcreek Inn." She took one of the bags from Scully's hands and stroked a gentle finger over Will's chubby cheek. A fire crackled cheerfully in the stone fireplace on one side of the room. A sofa and two armchairs sat in front of the fireplace. The walls were lined with shelves crammed with books and magazines. A table and four ladder-backed chairs invited guests to sit down to a game of checkers or cards.
The small family followed Doris to the check-in counter discreetly tucked beneath the wooden stairs leading to the second and third floors of the inn.
"Your suite is ready," the innkeeper said. Her reading glasses were perched atop her head and she slid them onto her nose and peered at the computer and tapped on the keyboard. Scully signed the registration forms and accepted a set of keys.
"This key is to your room," Doris explained as she pointed to the larger of the two keys on the ring. "And this key is to the front door of the inn. I don't imagine with a little one that you'll be out too late, but I lock the front door after nine o'clock in the evenings and you'll need the key to get in after that." Mulder hitched Will more securely onto his shoulder and adjusted his grip on the heavy suitcase as he followed Scully and Doris up the stairs to the second floor. Doris led them down a hallway and paused in front of one of the doors.
"This is your room," she said as she fit a key from her own ring into the lock. "There's one other room on this floor, but no one is staying there. I have two other couples staying in the rooms on the third floor but if this little guy wakes up crying in the middle of the night, don't worry about it. This inn is almost two hundred and fifty years old and the walls are heavy and solid. You won't disturb anyone."
Doris pushed open the door and stepped aside to allow her guests to enter the room. "If you need anything, just stop by the front desk to let me know." She stepped back into the hallway. "Breakfast is served in the dining room from seven o'clock until nine thirty in the mornings."
Scully smiled her thanks and began to wander about the suite. A queen- sized Shaker-style bed and matching armoire dominated the master bedroom. Scully ran a pleased hand over the quilt hand-stitched in a double wedding ring design that was draped over the bed. White eyelet lace curtains hanging on the windows matched the trim on the pillowcases and the dust ruffle on the bed. Wood was stacked in the hearth and a colorful afghan was draped over the back of the small loveseat that faced the fireplace. The bathroom was small and old- fashioned, complete with a claw-footed bathtub. Thick, fluffy towels were artfully stuffed into a wicker basket on the wide windowsill.
Mulder called to Scully in a low voice and she followed him to a door that led to the connecting room. This bedroom held a twin bed and small dresser and in one corner stood a beautiful antique crib. Mulder stripped Will's jacket from his unresisting body and gently laid the baby into the crib. Scully held her breath when Will rubbed the backs of his hands over his nose and eyes and sighed with relief when he quieted and once again fell into a heavy sleep. She wandered back into the master bedroom to find Mulder sitting on the edge of the bed, flipping through a pile of brochures that had been waiting on the bedside table.
"You know," he said thoughtfully. "This place sure can give a person ideas." Scully wandered across the room and stopped in front of him.
"How so?" she asked curiously and stifled a yawn.
"Well..." He tossed the brochures aside and his hands settled on her hips. "It's the names of the towns," he said. "For instance, there's Blue Ball." His voice took on a plaintive whine as he named one of the local towns and Scully huffed out a laugh. His grip tightened on her hips; he tugged her onto the mattress and loomed over her.
"Bird-in-Hand." He pushed his hips toward her until she obligingly curled her fingers over the button-fly of his jeans.
"Intercourse..." His lips feathered over her cheek in a whisper soft caress. Scully fought down the weariness assailing her limbs. The drive had left her feeling grubby and Will's demands had exhausted her. But this trip was supposed to be about finding time for one another away from the daily routine of their lives. She wrapped her legs around Mulder's waist and pulled him down on top of her.
"Don't forget Paradise," she breathed against his lips.
Their lovemaking was sweet, vital yet comfortable and they quickly found their release with a familiar ease before snuggling together under the quilt for a nap before dinner.
Twilight was settling over the county and the couple lying in the bed shivered in the suddenly cold room and tugged the quilt higher over their naked bodies. The scent of lilacs perfumed the air. The woman's brow furrowed and she curled more tightly against the man, her dark red hair spilling across his shoulder. The man tossed his head from side to side. His hair was sleep-rumpled and one lock fell over his forehead. Tall and lean, his long limbs shifted restlessly beneath the quilt and he moaned softly in his sleep.
Molly was drawn to him.
Unable to resist, she bent down and brushed her lips over his in a gossamer kiss. His features relaxed and a tiny smile flirted with the corners of his full mouth. Her eyes lingered on his handsome face and she found a small measure of contentment stirring in her heart for the first time in many, many years.
A sound from the adjoining room drew her attention away from the man and Molly moved to investigate. The baby stirred beneath his blanket and he rubbed tiny fists over his face. She studied the wisps of reddish-brown hair on his head and fingered her own strawberry blonde curls thoughtfully.
The baby's face screwed up into a pout and his whimpers grew louder. He drew his knees up to his chest and angrily waved his fists in the air. He opened his eyes and for just a moment she was convinced that he was looking directly at her.
"Here I am." Molly had been so consumed by this tiny and fascinating creature that she hadn't heard the movement behind her. She wasn't able to move out of the way quickly enough and the red-haired woman from the bed walked directly through her, warming Molly for just a second. The woman shuddered and stopped in her tracks. Her head turned from side to side as her eyes searched the room for... something. She let out a small laugh and reached into the crib to lift the baby into her arms.
"Brrr," the woman shivered. "It's freezing in here." She sat down on the edge of the twin bed in the room and reached out with her free hand for the soft cotton throw artfully tossed across the foot of the bed. She wrapped the small blanket over her shoulders and tucked the edges around the baby. The woman shifted the child in the cradle of her arm and guided his mouth to her breast. He latched on eagerly and the suckling sounds of his hungry grunts filled the air.
"Slow down, Will," the woman chided. "You're going to make yourself sick."
Molly's hand curved over her stomach and she felt the familiar, haunting ache of her loss and the renewed stirring of a love stolen from her too soon.
October 2001 Lancaster Pennsylvania
The watery sunrise outside their window shone just enough light within the shuttered bedroom to awaken Mulder, who stretched beneath the thick quilt. He opened one eye, glancing at the dim morning and realizing as his stomach began to rumble, that they'd slept right through dinner and the rest of the night although he vaguely remembered Scully climbing out of bed at some point to feed Will. He yawned and stretched again, then snagged his bed-partner around the waist and pulled her sleeping form against him.
In the other room he could hear Will gurgling and cooing. Mulder decided to leave well enough alone for the moment; he'd go for the baby as soon as the gurgles turned into snuffles of hunger. In the meantime he was in bed with Scully and it was warm and early in the morning.
Life was good.
An hour later father and son were wide-awake, Will having made his desires loudly known by screeching his hunger and diaper changing requirements into his personal space. Mulder had collected him in a hurry, whipping off the wet diaper and taping him into a fresh one, while Will blinked up at him with wet blue eyes and gnawed like crazy on his little fist. Mulder carried him into the bedroom and placed him next to Scully, who had somehow managed to sleep through her son's ungodly din.
Will, smelling Mommy and consequently, his breakfast, rooted against her until he found a bare nipple all by himself - and when he latched onto it Scully awoke with a startled snort. Mulder bit back a laugh at her confused, sleepy face and the laugh spilled out of him when she glanced down in shock to see her son chowing down without her apparent knowledge.
She looked up into Mulder's amused smirk. "Mulder, how on earth did he find the nipple? He's too young to be squirming around that much!"
Mulder shrugged and leaned over to press a kiss on Scully's forehead. "He can smell mommy milk a mile away, I suppose. Maybe you were leaking a little. Will knows where to find the food, just like his old man."
Mulder puffed up his chest in an exaggerated show of male superiority, and Scully tossed him a disgusted look as she cradled Will's head while he finished his breakfast. "You're such an idiot, Mulder. How about feeding me? Do you think the dining room is open yet?"
Mulder kissed her again, before hopping out of bed and strolling naked across the room, secure in the knowledge that Scully was ogling his bare ass. He didn't have to look over his shoulder; he just knew. He opened a dresser drawer and pulled out a pair of jeans, sliding them up over his legs and hips without bothering to put on his boxers first. Leaving them unbuttoned, Mulder snagged a shirt and half-buttoned himself into it, then grabbed the inn's brochure off the dresser and brought it back to the bed. Scully held a drowsy Will against her shoulder and worked a burp out of him while they both looked at the breakfast menu listed inside the brochure.
Mulder could feel his mouth watering at the tasty-sounding meals. "God, Scully - ham steaks and Farmer's eggs with gravy and buttermilk biscuits. Apple pancakes with maple syrup. I want it all; I'm starving to death!" He showed her his best 'pathetic boy' face, trying to garner instant sympathy.
Scully laughed and laid the sleeping baby on their pillows, mounding two more around him for protection. She wormed her way in between the salivating Mulder and the menu he still held in his hands. Placing a smacking kiss on his lips, she murmured, "It all sounds great, Mulder - I'm starved too. Why don't I put Will down for a quick nap, and we'll catch a shower - by then the dining room should be open. We can go down and eat and then plan our day. Sound good?"
Mulder gave her a grateful squeeze before bounding off the bed and heading to the bathroom. "I got first shot at the shower head, Scully..." He looked over his shoulder at her and snickered as she shot up, still naked, and scooped Will into her arms, hustling him off to his nap. Over the noise of the water in the tub he could hear her admonishment.
"Don't you dare use up all that hot water!"
In the lovely dining room they stuffed themselves on pancakes and Farmer's eggs, Mulder heaping food on Scully's plate until she protested, "Mulder, God! You want me to explode?"
He laughed at her as he grabbed a fork and began shoveling in his breakfast. "You'd better eat up, Scully - we've got a lot of sightseeing to do!"
Scully broke off a tiny piece of unsalted egg from her plate and mashed it with her fork, then scooped up a bit of the soft yolk and let Will suck it from her finger. The baby waved his arms and smacked his lips, gumming her poor finger almost raw. She could feel the hard ridge of baby tooth, and commented, "I'll bet Will cuts a tooth before too long, Mulder - I can feel it. At least we know why he's been so crabby. We'll have to buy some Anbesol to put on it later."
Mulder drained his juice and nodded as he wiped his mouth with his napkin. Pulling out the brochure from the breast pocket of his shirt he consulted the back page, looking for a listing of the sights. His eyes lit up when he saw the pictures of the 'Woolerton One-Room Schoolhouse'. He hitched his chair closer to Scully and waved the picture under her nose.
"Scully, check this out! An authentic one-room Amish schoolhouse filled with animated Amish kids! We gotta go see it!"
Scully studied the color photo, which depicted the interior of what indeed appeared to be a one-room schoolhouse filled with antique desks and children sitting in those desks in various poses intended to look as if they were all studying earnestly. The children looked like wax figures with bad wigs, even from the flat one-dimensional photo. She shuddered. "Mulder, that looks truly creepy. Can't we just go visit a museum?" She sent him a plaintive look, which he blithely chose to ignore.
"Come on, Scully... it'll be fun. Informative. Educational! We can point fingers and laugh at the kids without hurting their feelings! How can you not want to see it?" His teasing voice and huge smile went a long way toward melting her - as usual - and she finally nodded and shrugged helplessly. She struggled to unfasten Will's safety straps and her grudging acquiescence made Mulder whoop with glee.
"Well... okay. But tomorrow you have to promise to take me to at least one real farm and several museums."
Mulder held Will in one arm and managed to help her on with her jacket with his free hand, then kissed her nose affectionately before herding her toward the door and promising, "You betcha, Baby... tomorrow is all yours."
The drive to Bird-in-Hand was really very nice, with sunshine flooding the cloudless sky and the crisp fall air biting at their cheeks when they stopped along the way to take photos of a picturesque covered bridge. The surrounding landscape was flat with small hills dotting the distance and lovely old farms nestled behind huge crop fields.
Woolerton Schoolhouse was about halfway between Bird-in-Hand and Intercourse; Mulder still couldn't get over the suggestive-sounding names of the towns. They turned off Route 340 and into a large parking lot; the little schoolhouse sat off to the side with several horse- drawn wagons pulled up beside the foliage-edged sidewalk. The lot was only about a third full, but it was only mid-morning.
The schoolhouse was very authentic-looking, right down to the whitewash on the outer walls. Mulder paid the admission to a smiling Amish woman who cooed at Will as she took their money. Slinging Will's diaper bag over his shoulder, Mulder followed Scully along a narrow hallway that emptied out into a roped-off room, cunningly decorated to look like a turn-of-the-century Amish schoolhouse. Little kid-size antique desks were artfully arranged in untidy rows in the middle of the room, and a scarred oaken desk at the front of the room proclaimed a teacher once sat there guiding the class - who were all as still as, well... wax figures. Mulder and Scully stared, wide-eyed, at the eerily realistic and yet surreal scene.
Nothing was moving yet - obviously the show was on a schedule. The children and their teacher remained frozen in whatever position they'd been in when their motors had ground to a halt however many minutes ago, when the last show ended. Little girls with pigtails were bent over desks and one small blonde girl sat in a front desk and stared mournfully, right at Mulder. The teacher squatted next to a little boy, one hand caught in the act of flipping through a thin lesson-book. Two boys sat on the planked floor, their hands raised as if getting ready to throw yet another marble, a pile of which lay upon the floor space between them. There were several older-looking children lounging here and there around the small room, one gazing off into space and the other two huddled close, perhaps whispering to one another. Mulder could only conclude that in the olden Amish world teenagers were universally adolescent. The thought made him grin.
They were still staring out into the display when suddenly a clock chimed, somewhere in the building - and the tableau before them jumped to instant and startling life. Scully jumped right along with the animated bodies, jostling a sleeping Will who immediately woke up and started fussing. She soothed him with a hand and he quieted... until the teacher began to speak. Standing with a disturbingly jerky movement, the figure first appeared to make a pass with its eyes over the room, now alive with the sounds and sights of children busy at all sorts of traditional kid-type things.
The boys on the floor flipped their hands around as if playing marbles. The teenaged girls whispering to each other by the window reached out animated hands and pointed at the teenaged boy who continued to stare off into space, ignoring them. The sound of turning pages in lesson books and little feet shuffling in place filled the air - and the Amish teacher turned toward the roped-off area, its booming male voice echoing in the room.
"Good morning, Students! God be with you and with us all as we begin a blessed day of lessons and the Word of our Lord!"
The voice was creepy. The face was even creepier, Mulder decided, and he leaned in to whisper to Scully, standing in front of him. "I feel like we've just stepped into Stepford, don't you agree?"
Scully nodded slowly, turning a little to whisper a reply. "Oh, yeah. I find this very... disturbing, Mulder..."
No sooner had the words left her mouth, than Will started to scream. Scully turned him in her arms and looked into his little red face, trying to calm him and shush him; the wailing baby was having none of it. Mulder soothed a hand over his son's head, murmuring to him.
"Hey, Buddy... whatsa matter?" Will screamed louder, his eyes fastened on the little blonde robot in the front row - and when Mulder followed the baby's fretful gaze, he understood - for the little girl was whipping her body around in her chair, back and forth faster and faster, pigtails flying out. Obviously a malfunctioning robotic; it was hard to say how long it would take for the operatives of the display to notice. Truly scary, especially for a little baby - between the body flailing about and the absolute dead look in the robot's eyes Mulder felt as though he'd walked into a cut scene from "The Exorcist". He put a hand on Scully's shoulder and pulled at her, indicating that they should leave.
Out in the chilled sunshine, Will calmed somewhat but his eyes were filled with huge tears and his little body hitched in sobs. Scully re- buttoned his fleecy jacket and then handed him over to Mulder so she could slip into her coat. Mulder bounced their son up and down, whispering silly nonsensical things to him until his sobs ceased completely and he slumped wearily in his father's arms. Scully caressed his wet little cheek and her voice was full of mommy-sympathy.
"Poor little Love. Talk about creep-overload! How on earth do you manage to find these kinds of places, even when we're on vacation, Mulder? It never fails." She grinned up at him, and Mulder merely stuck out his tongue and waggled his eyebrows at Will, making the teary baby giggle. He shrugged as he rocked in place, the baby leaning in over his shoulder.
"It's a talent and a gift, Scully. You're just jealous because you weren't blessed with it." A loud snort was his only answer, as Scully slipped a hand around his arm and tugged at him.
"Whatever, Mulder. All that matters is that it's almost lunchtime and you owe me a museum visit. Pay up."
Mulder allowed himself to be pulled away towards the parking lot, grumbling to himself loudly enough for her to overhear. "There'd better be farm animals at this museum..."
During lunch Will continued to snuffle and fuss even after a lengthy nursing in the car and a concentrated effort by both Scully and Mulder to lull him to sleep. They'd driven the picturesque back roads in between Intercourse and Bird-in-Hand, hoping the soothing motion of the drive would calm the fretful baby. Figuring they'd be better off avoiding a restaurant when Will was upset, Mulder had found a place that had take-out and had bought a lunch of Lebanon bologna sandwiches and potato salad; they'd stopped at a small park outside of Intercourse and Scully had nursed Will. The baby accepted the feeding readily enough but he'd pinched Scully's nipple twice with his voracious suckling, confirming once and for all that a tooth was on its way out.
Scully had winced as she switched him to her other breast, commenting, "I can see the writing on the wall - a nursing infant with teeth just can't be a good thing. I have a feeling I'm about to become a chew toy for our son."
Mulder chuckled as he opened her sandwich and plopped extra mustard on the meat, waiting until she'd finished settling Will down in his car seat before handing over her lunch. Scully eyed the thick sandwich. "That had better be Gulden's you just slathered all over my Lebanon bologna, Mulder - none of that nasty yellow junk..."
Her partner snickered and stuck a plastic fork in her potato salad, then pretended to be wounded by her admonishment. "Scully, please - you know I don't do yellow condiments. I got the real stuff for you, promise."
Will dozed a little while they ate, long enough for them to take their time sipping their drinks as they rolled their windows down an inch or so and enjoyed the cool breeze floating over them. The park was lovely with its leaves turning orange and red, little piles of fallen color scattered over the grass and pathways. The sky was still cloudless and everything looked crisp and sharply in focus - almost not quite real. Mulder wiped excess mayonnaise from his mouth and looked around, thinking that here was a day where anything could happen - anything at all...
After lunch they made an attempt to stop at the Amish Farm and House Museum, but by then Will had awoken and was gnawing on his fist like mad, whining with teething pains.
Scully was upset and feeling guilty that she hadn't thought to buy him any teething rings. "It just seems so soon, Mulder! But I should have done it anyway; what was I thinking!" She rubbed a hand over Will's back as he sobbed in Mulder's arms. There didn't seem any way to calm the teething child. Scully's frustration was evident in her weary face.
They stood in the sunshine nearby a pen of cute but smelly pigs. Mulder tried in vain to distract Will from his sore gums, calling to him and pointing at the squealing porkers. William refused to look and continued to cry and gnaw on his hand. Mulder rocked him as they moved from the pigs to a fenced in area that held two plow-horses and a mule. Mulder leaned against the fence and urged, "Willy, look! Horses! Look at the pretty horses!" His son's response bordered on hysteria, as both hands went into his mouth. Mulder groaned.
"Maybe we'd better head to the nearest store and stock up on teething paraphernalia, Scully."
Nodding, Scully led the way back to the parking lot and once again helped get Will settled, this time climbing into the back seat with him. Dipping her fingers into the paper cup of Coke she held, she pulled out a small piece of ice and rubbed it over Will's gums, sighing in relief when the baby quieted and allowed her to soothe his poor little mouth. Mulder drove back into town, searching for a supermarket.
Two hours later they were back in the room, Will snuggled between them on the bed and a cold teething ring clenched in his mouth. Mrs. Knaubler had been kind enough to put the ring into her freezer as soon as they'd gotten back to the inn, and since it was filled with fast- freezing liquid the teething ring had gotten very cold in no time at all. They'd bought three rings in all and the other two were still in the freezer, for later use.
Scully rubbed her son's tummy as he lay on his back gnawing on the ring, his eyes growing drowsy from lack of sleep. Mulder stroked damp baby hair from Will's forehead and pressed tiny kisses on his temple, smiling down at the sleepy-eyed baby. He hummed under his breath and watched his son's eyes slowly droop, and finally close, his mouth going slack around the teething ring, his little body limp. Mulder pulled a soft cotton throw from the foot of the bed and draped it over the sleeping baby while Scully propped a few pillows around him, neither of them wanting to disturb their baby now that he was actually asleep.
Mulder checked his watch, noting how late it had become - sighed and flopped back into the mattress. "Poor little guy. They have no idea what's making them feel bad. Thick cotton diapers between their legs that get wet and chafe their skin - nasty little sharp teeth that pop out and cause them pain they can't understand. It's gotta be hell, being a baby." He turned his head on the pillow and regarded the tempting fullness of the breast nearest his face, and his voice dropped to a husky murmur as he added, "Of course there are hidden benefits..." He leaned in to press a kiss between the soft mounds - and Scully emitted a huge yawn right in his face.
Mulder fell back on his own pillow, pretending to be wounded by her lack of interest, and Scully smiled apologetically at him. "I'm sorry, Mulder - I'm so wiped out. I know it's still fairly early but I need to sleep. Maybe once we get Will back on track I'll actually be able to stay awake long enough... I'm sorry," she apologized again. "This trip isn't turning out anything like I had planned. I imagined spending glorious autumn days with my two favorite men and long, warm nights making love with you..."
She raised her head off the pillow, far enough to press a kiss into Mulder's neck; he slid a hand under her head for support and returned the kiss lovingly, on her mouth. With a whispered, "I'll hold you to it. Sleep tight, baby." Mulder carefully swung himself off the bed and reached for Will, gathering him, the blanket and his teething ring and carrying him into the other room. He laid his son down in the crib and Will never stirred once. Brushing a kiss over his forehead, Mulder left a soft light on in the corner of the room and padded back to Scully, yanking at his tee shirt. It wouldn't hurt him to have an early night as well - and start over again fresh, in the morning. He slipped into bed and snuggled close to Scully, back to front. Sighing into the pillow, face buried in her hair - Mulder dozed off.
October 2001 Lancaster Pennsylvania
Molly drifted into the center of the room; she'd been hovering in the corner, waiting. One lone glow from the bathroom was the only illumination available but truly she didn't even need that much light - for she knew this man. Blindfolded or in the blackest of night, she would know him. His smell. His shape, under the thin blanket and sheet. She knew.
Pausing at his bedside. Looking down at him, filling her eyes and her senses with him. The familiar ache inside her, an ache borne of wishes that never came true and of lives cut off much too soon. She could feel a fluttering within her and pressed one thin pale hand to her breast, easing herself. So long... she had been searching for him for so long. His name filtered out between her lips like an echo on the night air.
Next to him on the bed lay another woman, who had obviously found a way to capture his heart. Enough to have taken him - and their child. Her palm rubbed against a stomach that was never meant to be flat. It had always been intended for the bearing of many children - HIS children.
She drifted closer, examining her rival. This was a pretty woman. Pretty enough to catch the eye of her lover... maybe even pretty enough to house the spirit of the only woman who truly loved him. She sat carefully on the edge of the bed, atop the sleeping woman, the pretty one - and she stretched out, over her - and as the two blended into one, a deep hitching breath was heard in the silent room - a gasp. And another.
Mulder awoke to the feel of heated skin, bare and silky, behind him, and soft determined hands curling themselves over his shoulders and chest. In a semiconscious state he turned toward the heat source and opened an eye - finding himself face-to-face with a very awake and very aroused Scully. In the dim light her eyes glowed, her mouth glistened red and invitingly moist - her hands not only beckoned but they demanded. All of him, pressed up against her. And the feel of her brought him up hard and full and straining, in about three seconds flat. He groaned softly, "Baby, thought you were too tired to mess around..."
She merely responded with a throaty, "Shhh," and pressed him closer.
Mulder groaned again.
Her hands were everywhere and her fingers worked magic along his sensitive ribs and sides. Full lips that tasted like honey teased his mouth open, small white teeth nibbled at his lower lip - a plump wet tongue probed at, and then conquered, his. Mouths fused tightly together, their bodies twined around each other's on tangled sheets. Mulder pulled her willing body beneath his and found himself cradled between silken thighs that clamped around his hips. Her tongue slipped alongside his cheek and trailed fire over his ear, darting inside for a shivery tickle before slicking its way down his throat and against his Adam's apple - and her mouth opened hotly over it and suckled like a baby. Mulder shuddered, hard.
Jesus. Who would have thought an Adam's apple could be erogenous...?
He couldn't believe the way she looked sprawled on their bed.
Eyes fully dilated, blue-black with need, staring up into his. Skin on fire, burning him - fingertips emitting sparks everywhere they touched him. Wild red hair spilling out over the pillow beneath her head - and Mulder was gasping to her, "Beautiful, so gorgeous, baby - God - I've never seen you look so beautiful..." And his words made her mouth curl into a secretive little smile; in the offset bedroom light he could see it. Her arms tightened, her thighs grasped harder - and Mulder suddenly found himself on his back with Scully straddling him and her inner heat melting down over him - melting into him. He inhaled deeply, drawing the heady, floral scent of her perfume into his lungs.
He hissed out a strangled, "Fuck!" - as the desire boiling up out of control threatened to end him before he could even begin. He was dying to be inside her and he knew the moment he got there he'd explode and it would be all over - and even as he fought to keep his head, he heard her chuckle, richly - and her hand reached between their bodies and grasped him, letting him pulse in her hand for a second before raising her hips and then coming down slowly, taking him inside.
Deep. Wet. Narrow clinging hot hot hot...
"Oh, Scully..." He could barely form coherent words. He cupped her rounded cheeks and thrust against her, rising up from the pillow under his head, lips closing hard around the tempting nipple within reach. She gasped, a harsh low sound - and the thick purr of it went straight to his groin. He could feel himself twitching, helpless to stem the buildup, knowing she wasn't ready yet - and before he could help stimulate her with his fingers, she slipped her hand over the base of his penis, and circled him with her thumb and index finger - and squeezed. Immediately, his urgency to climax ebbed...
He hissed out a strangled, "Scully, Christ... what are you doing to me...?" A moaning growl in his ear was his only answer, as she leaned into him and licked the outer shell, then nipped his lobe.
Sitting back a little, Scully loosened her hold on him, and started to move again. Slowly, so slowly. Taking him deep again. It felt incredible. He reached for her hips again but she shook her head, forced his hands over his head, coaxing him to wrap his fingers around the rails of the wooden headboard. Mulder decided he'd do anything she wanted at this point - as long as she never stopped loving him this way... he held on tightly and let her ride. And when he felt it come up again, this time faster, more intensely - she closed her fingers around him again and pressed, stemming him... easing him.
Prolonging him. How had she learned... WHERE had she learned? She'd never done anything like this; felt amazing, he loved it, never wanted it to end, it had to end, he knew it did. He was coming apart beneath her as she moved faster, bucking against him, her legs trembling - and he let go of the headboard and clenched his fingers into her hipbones and slammed her down, hard. Lifted her, and did it again. And the moment she threw back her head and screamed aloud in the throes of her orgasm... he shattered inside her, endlessly, one long rasping shout ringing through him. Sounds he'd never in his life made.
A full minute later he felt her sink down upon him, boneless and limp. Mulder wrapped weakened arms around her and helped her slip from her dominant position, cuddling her close as overwhelming exhaustion swamped him. Damp arms and legs wound up together; trembling muscles and after-shocks rippling through both of them... Mulder threaded a hand in her hair and pulled her face back, tenderly kissing her lips, her cheeks, her neck.
His head came to rest next to hers on the pillow and he whispered an adoring, "You're amazing... I love you more than life, baby... more than my soul..." And as he fell into slumber he thought he heard her echoing his words... but she called him 'William'...
His last thought was that she'd loved him into an oblivion so complete they'd both forgotten each other's names. Strange...
As her lover breathed and dreamed, full of life even in sleep, Molly rose from the bed. Her body ached with delicious satisfaction; she had never felt so alive. It had been such a very long time since she'd felt this vital, alive... loved.
Pushing tangled hair out of her eyes she leaned over his face and brushed one last open-mouthed kiss across his lips... and she moved toward the smaller bedroom. As exhausted as she felt, her arms ached for the welcome weight of her child. William, her son.
Child of her womb and of her lover's strength - her William's seed. She stood in the doorway for a moment, staring at the small bundle of sleeping boy. She reached the crib and bent over, touching his soft little cheek, her eyes filling with tears and her heart overflowing with the love that she'd been holding for him, so very long.
She slipped her arms underneath the baby and lifted him out; he didn't awaken. There was a rocking chair in the room; she sat down with her precious bundle and cradled him in her arms, unable to take her eyes from him. So beautiful... her William was so beautiful. She rocked him gently and watched him sleep.
Scully awoke to the feel the warm autumn sun streaming over the bed. She arched her back when she felt Mulder's fingers trace a path over her spine.
"Good morning." She pulled her shoulder up to her ear when his warm breath washed over her neck, tickling her.
"Good morning," she mumbled into the pillow. She reached back and cupped his jaw with one hand. Mulder twisted his head back and forth, rasping the soft skin of her palm with his stubbled chin. Scully rolled onto her back and opened her eyes, blinking against the sun's rays to find Mulder propped up on one elbow, looming over her.
"Last night was incredible," he whispered. Her brows knit in confusion, but Mulder's eyes were following his hand as he swept it over her arm to cup one full breast in his palm. His thumb brushed over the nipple, causing it to harden in response and Scully glanced down, startled to find that she was naked beneath the blanket. Mulder's hands continued to wander over her body and he pushed the covers aside.
"I'm sorry about this," he murmured before dipping his head to brush his lips over her hip. Scully's head lifted from the pillow to see his lips cruising over bruises in the shapes of his fingers that stood out against her pale flesh. "But you were making me crazy," he admitted as his tongue darted out to lap at the offending marks. He laid his cheek against the soft skin of her stomach and looked up at her.
"I don't think I want to know where you learned to do that," he said cryptically, "but... God!" He slid over her body and buried his lips against her throat.
Scully was torn between the pleasurable feel of his lips moving against her throat and jaw and the confusion caused by his words. Where she learned to do what, she wondered. She didn't remember anything beyond collapsing into bed in complete and utter exhaustion. She didn't remember putting Will into his crib, nor did she remember getting up in the middle of the night to feed him. She didn't even remember changing out of her clothes and she certainly didn't remember making love with Mulder.
And yet... her limbs ached in the familiar way they did after a night of loving Mulder and his whispered words of praise against her throat were convincing.
"So beautiful..." He punctuated the tribute with a kiss. "Wild..." His tongue dipped into the hollow of her throat. "Demanding..." His words vibrated against the tender skin on the underside of her jaw. He raised his head. "Amazing."
"Did you cast a spell over me?" He smiled into her eyes, oblivious to her bewilderment. "I was helpless... and I loved every second of it." Scully smiled weakly and stroked her hand over his bare shoulder. His eyes were alight with remembered pleasure. How could she not remember? How could she tell him that she had no memory of what was seemingly an incredible night?
She opened her mouth, was struggling to find the words when Will made them aware that he was awake and hungry with a loud, demanding wail. His mother hid a sigh of relief and swung her legs over the side of the bed to stand on shaky legs. She threw an apologetic glance toward the man lying in the bed and shrugged into her robe.
Mulder stood and rounded the bed to intercept her on the way to Will's room. His fingers caught the open edges of her robe and he pulled her tightly against him, dropping a kiss onto her lips. He stepped back when the baby's cries escalated and ran a regretful knuckle over the swell of Scully's breast.
"He's hungry," she whispered. Mulder nodded and drew the edges of her robe together. He cinched the belt tightly around her waist and hoped that the old adage of 'out of sight - out of mind' would be enough to help quell the arousal stirring low in his groin.
"Go on," he nudged her toward the baby's room. "He's waiting for you." She pushed open the door to find Will sucking hungrily on his fingers. Scully settled into the rocker and opened her robe. She could hear water thundering through the walls as Mulder turned on the shower. She absently stroked her fingers through her son's downy hair and furiously tried to remember what Mulder and her body were telling her had happened.
She looked into her son's face. He was contentedly nursing but to her concerned eyes his cheeks seemed to be a little swollen and she made a mental note to be sure to pack the infant pain reliever into the diaper bag before they set off for the day. She sighed as she remembered how hard it had been for her to see her little boy in such pain. She had been worn out by day's end. Scully latched onto the thought. It was little wonder that she couldn't remember the events of the past night. Satisfied with this simple explanation, she tucked her worries into the back of her mind, determined that she wouldn't spend the rest of their vacation thinking about something she couldn't control.
"This must be the place." Mulder steered the Explorer into one of the parking spots along the street and stepped out onto the pavement. Scully lifted the safety harness of Will's car seat over his head, careful not to awaken him. The early part of the day had been good. Will's teeth had not bothered him and they had strapped him into his stroller and had spent several hours idly walking along the picturesque roads, stopping at a Pennsylvania Dutch restaurant for a lunch of tender rotisserie chicken, buttered noodles, fresh vegetables and shoofly pie.
Will had awakened from his late afternoon nap, furiously sucking on his fingers and drooling. The teething ring and a small dose of infant pain reliever had helped to settle him down, but he clung to his mother for the rest of the day.
Now she climbed out of the SUV. The air held the bite of an autumn night and she pulled the hood of Will's jacket over his head and tugged the cuffs of his tiny jeans down to be sure that his legs were covered. Mulder reached for the baby and began to slide him into the infant carrier strapped to his shoulders, but Will stirred and began to whimper. Sighing, Scully took Will back into her arms and Mulder shot her an apologetic look.
"Seems like only his mommy will do," he said ruefully. He peeled the infant carrier from his shoulders and took the fussing baby away from her as she adjusted the shoulder straps and fastened the carrier over her chest. Mulder slipped the baby into the carrier and tucked a small blanket around him. Will nestled against Scully's breast and quieted upon hearing the heartbeat familiar to him from the womb. His lips puckered rhythmically around his pacifier and he tumbled back into sleep.
Mulder buttoned up his leather jacket and caught one of Scully's hands in his own. A small group of people was gathered on the street corner. This was one of the highlights of the trip that Scully had planned for Mulder. They were taking a ghost tour.
The tour guide had several lanterns set on the ground beside her. She introduced herself and handed the lanterns out to some of the people in the group. Mulder clutched the metal handle of one lantern in his free hand and flashed a smile at Scully.
The guide was good and she led the small group on a tour of many of the local sites and buildings that were purportedly haunted. She wore a long, black cape that fluttered in the breeze and she used her lantern to good effect - the candlelight bathing her face in flickering shadows as she told her tales in a low, smoky and appropriately spooky voice. Mulder and Scully trailed along behind the others and shared private smiles while the other guests shivered and grimaced as they listened to the stories of restless souls that walked the grounds of Lancaster County.
The group rounded a corner and followed the guide into a small cemetery. High clouds drifted overhead, momentarily obscuring the crescent moon. They walked past the large, marble monuments of the wealthy dead of Lancaster and stopped at the far edge of the cemetery. The guide set her lamp down onto the path and leaned against an old oak tree.
"Are any of you staying at the Millcreek Inn?" she wondered aloud. Mulder grinned and raised his hand. The tour guide's eyes widened appreciatively.
"My favorite story to tell is of the ghost of the Millcreek Inn," she confided to the rest of the group. "It's always more fun when someone on the tour is staying there." She grinned and settled more comfortably against the oak tree. "Of course, after you hear this, you may want to find someplace else to stay for the rest of your visit." Mulder raised a challenging brow at the guide as if to say 'bring it on' and Scully rolled her eyes in amusement. She peeked under the blanket to assure herself that Will was still comfortably asleep and ran a hand in rhythmic circles over his tiny back. Mulder's lantern was resting on the ground beside him and he stood behind Scully, his arms locked around her waist and his cheek resting against her hair.
"Molly Sullivan was a beauty," the guide began. "Sixteen years old with crystal blue eyes and strawberry blonde curls..." Her voice was low and hypnotic as she wove the tragic tale of Molly Sullivan and William Foxworth.
Scully relaxed against Mulder's chest and allowed herself to be swept up in the heartbreaking story of lovers who found each other only to be torn apart by the horrors of war and the rage of a spurned man.
"William's body is interred in the Foxworth's family plot in Philadelphia. Word of his death never reached Molly." The guide picked up her lantern and took a couple of steps away from the oak tree.
"This is Molly's grave." The guide fell silent as she swept her arm out and the lantern's light spilled over a small grave marker. The words etched into the stone were faded and worn. A breeze kicked up, sending a shower of oak leaves swirling wildly around the small group of people and causing more than one person to jump at the sudden break in the stillness. A small pile of leaves settled around Molly's tombstone and the guide knelt to brush them clear of the grave.
"No one knows for sure, but it's widely believed that Molly was carrying William's child when she was murdered." Scully's arms tightened reflexively around her son and he grunted in sleepy protest.
"Molly's body may be buried here, but they say that her spirit haunts the Millcreek Inn. For more than two hundred years, people have reported hearing strange noises... a woman sighing sadly or the plaintive whisper of a lullaby. No one has ever actually seen Molly, but her presence is often marked by the scent of lilacs. She wanders the halls, mourning the loss of her child and waiting for her true love to return to her as he had promised."
It was a silent group that followed the guide out of the cemetery and back to the starting point of the tour. By the time they reached their cars, the group was once again chattering, although they were noticeably quieter than they had been throughout most of the tour as they thanked their guide and climbed back into their cars.
October 2001 Lancaster Pennsylvania
Mulder took a sleeping Will from his mother's tired arms and carried him into his room. While he dressed the baby in a clean diaper and pajamas, Scully took the opportunity to go into the bathroom and wash up before getting ready for bed. She came back into the bedroom and Mulder took her place in the bathroom.
She pulled a pair of silky pajamas from the bureau and changed into them before stretching out on top of the bed. She heard the pipes squeak in the bathroom as Mulder turned on the shower. Scully scrubbed her fists over her eyes, determined to stay awake and spend some quiet time with Mulder.
Her lids drooped heavily, despite her best intentions. I'll just close my eyes for a few moments, she thought and stifled a yawn behind her hand. Just until Mulder is finished... She wrapped her arms around herself as a sudden chill swept into the room and a strange lethargy weighted her limbs...
Molly rose from the bed and began to prowl about the room. She poked through the items strewn across the smooth surface of the bureau. She lifted a small bottle of perfume to her nose and took an experimental sniff, grimacing at the slightly spicy scent. She fingered the coins and studied the unfamiliar paper greenbacks curiously. Flipping open a leather wallet, she smiled with pleasure when she saw the image of her beloved staring up at her. So tiny - like a miniature portrait - but with the most amazingly lifelike detail... She squinted at the words next to the picture. Molly had never spent a single day in her too- short life in school and she could only read a few words. During their short time together, she had asked William to teach her to spell his name. Now, the familiar letters leapt up at her. "Fox... William..." Her lips curved into a smile as they formed the words. His face was not exactly the same and his name was slightly different, but she knew. He had promised to come back to her and now she was more convinced than ever that her long wait was over.
Molly looked into the large mirror attached to the bureau and wrinkled her nose in distaste at the site of the strange sleeping garment that she wore. Why did this woman dress like a man? Molly had borne witness to more than two centuries of time and had grown somewhat accustomed to the sight of women wearing trousers, but she couldn't fathom any woman wanting to dress like a man in the bedroom. William called the woman 'Scully'. What kind of name was that for a woman, she sneered? She closely studied the image reflected back at her in the mirror. Certainly, she was a pretty woman... but how did she hold William's interest? With a man's name and unattractive nightclothes? With the tired look in her eyes what Molly suspected was less then exciting lovemaking.
Molly rummaged through the bureau and sighed with satisfaction when she found a pretty nightgown neatly folded in one drawer. She remembered the look of astonished pleasure on William's face when she had awakened him with her caresses. Molly peeled off the offending articles of clothing and clutched the nightgown in her hands. She could feel her strength growing with every moment that she spent in the warmth of this living woman's body. She would enthrall William in the only way she knew how. She would use this body, weave a spell over him... bind him to her with her touch and her kisses until the other woman's ways were but a distant memory. She had found her beloved again; found their child safe and whole with him. She would do whatever it took to keep them.
Mulder came out of the bathroom to find Scully perched on the edge of the bed. She was dressed in a white sleeveless cotton nightgown. The top buttons were unfastened revealing the shapely curve of one breast, and a strap had slipped onto her arm, exposing the creamy skin of her shoulder to his gaze. Her bare feet were propped up on the wooden rail of the bed frame, small toes peeking out from beneath the hem of the nightgown.
Molly kept her head down, projecting an innocent shyness that immediately caught Mulder's attention.
"Scully." He moved to the side of the bed and tilted her head up with gentle fingers beneath her chin. Molly held her breath as his eyes searched her face.
"So beautiful," he breathed softly. His lips roved over her face with an exquisite tenderness that sent a shiver rippling down Molly's spine. His hands cupped her cheeks; his mouth settled over hers, sipping, tasting, nibbling. Molly lifted her hands and wrapped her fingers around his wrists. She tugged lightly and pulled his hands away from her face.
"Mu... Mulder," she stumbled over the unfamiliar name. Molly was convinced that William did not recognize her... indeed, she believed that he did not even realize who he was. It was best to be cautious, lest she drive him away. She pressed their joined hands against her breasts.
"I... I..." Again, she dropped her gaze, projecting a shyness she didn't feel. "Tonight, I want to do whatever you'd like," she whispered in a rush, eyes still locked on their hands.
"I'll do anything you want..." she offered. "Anything..." she said in a breathless promise. She hesitantly nibbled on her lower lip and chanced a glance upward to meet his gaze with her own. His eyes were dark and two spots of color rode high on his cheeks as he shook his head.
"No... Scully," he protested weakly. "I don't... we always do this together." His voice rumbled unconvincingly. Molly guided his hand into the open front of her nightgown until his palm brushed over her rigid nipple.
"Please," she begged prettily. "I want this." She slipped one hand around the back of his neck. "Anything you want," she offered again and stood until their mouths were but a breath apart. "Please."
Mulder curled one arm around her waist and pulled her against his bare chest. He had been semi-erect from the moment he had set eyes on her in her virginal white nightgown sitting demurely on the edge of the bed. Now he felt a jolt of lust that sent a surge of blood to his groin.
Anything he wanted... Scully, offering herself to him... for him. The idea of it rushed through him, headier and more potent than wine.
Molly gasped when she felt his flesh rise beneath the soft flannel pants that rode low on his lean hips. She closed her eyes and offered her mouth to him. Mulder groaned with the knowledge that she was standing before him, ripe for the taking. His lips covered hers, his tongue plunging into her mouth and he reveled in the moan that vibrated beneath his hand where it covered her breast. He tore his mouth away from hers and took a step back, panting.
"O... okay." He cleared his throat and let his hands fall away from her body. Once again her gaze fell to the floor and Mulder fought back a groan, more turned on than he'd like to admit by this suddenly submissive side of his Scully. He could feel himself tightening all over, could sense the moment his desire and need overrode any reservations he might have. When he spoke his voice reflected that desire.
"Undress," he said, commanding her. Her hands rose swiftly to the buttons of her nightgown. "Slowly," he cautioned. Molly peeked up at him through her lashes. His arms were folded over his chest and his features were tightly drawn. Her fingers trailed over the skin exposed by the half-open front of her nightgown before she slipped a button free of its mooring. She fought back a knowing smile when she saw his chest rise and fall on a quick breath. Slowly, she unfastened each button. Her fingers trembled with repressed excitement as they tugged on the satin ribbon and pulled the ends from the loose bow between her breasts.
With the nightgown unbuttoned, she let her hands fall to her side to await further instructions. He reached out and pushed a strap from her shoulder so that both straps drooped over her arms. The sheer material clung tenaciously to her full breasts, hiding most of the milky white skin from his view.
"Pull your arms out," he ordered hoarsely. Molly shrugged her shoulders and slid her arms from the straps. The filmy nightgown slipped down and clung to her hips for a moment before slithering to the floor to pool around her feet.
"Touch your breasts." His voice was strained and he began to breathe rapidly. Molly ran the backs of her knuckles over her breast, mimicking the way she had seen him touch her that morning. She tucked her hand under her breast and lifted it slightly as though offering it to him. Mulder moaned and leaned down, taking the rosy tip of her breast between his lips. Molly's knees buckled and Mulder caught her with one strong arm wound low around her hips. He released her breast and pressed his lips to her ear. His heart was pounding - he was beginning to sweat - he was incredibly aroused.
"God, Scully." His whisper was harsh in her ear. "Now, undress me."
Molly tangled her fingers into the flannel waist of his pants and slowly tugged them over his hips. She paused, carefully easing the material over his straining erection and pushed them down his legs as far as she could reach. She felt his fingers curl over her shoulder as he coaxed her to the floor. There was a tremble in those fingers; the telltale reaction made her smile. His hoarse command confirmed it.
Molly sank obediently to her knees and impulsively rested her face against his strong thigh. His flesh bobbed in eager anticipation and she nuzzled her cheek against the velvety soft head.
"I want to be in your mouth," Mulder growled. His face was flushed and sweat gleamed lightly on his chest and arms. Molly nodded and her tongue darted out to skim over the length of him. Mulder drew in a harsh breath when her mouth closed over the tip of his penis, her lips suckling his swollen flesh. He threaded his fingers into her auburn hair and lightly thrust his hips forward.
"More." The words were a groan and a command and a plea all wrapped up into one vital word. And when she nodded again her mouth slipped over him several more inches. Mulder closed his eyes and let his head fall back onto his shoulders.
Jesus... he'd never felt anything like it. Her mouth... So hot. So greedy for him, for his flesh. He couldn't remember a time when Scully had this level of greed, for him. His head raised and he looked down at her in awe. That slender, sweet throat... she'd taken him very deep. Inside her mouth, slick and hot, burning him. Then, sliding him deeper, further...
Into that slender throat. Oh, Christ... Nothing like this had ever happened to him before. Mulder twined his hands into the fiery silk of her hair and held tight, standing on rubbery legs in the center of their dimly-lit bedroom.
At first he fought the need to move and thrust into her mouth, just relishing the feel of her tongue and the sharp edge of her teeth. She slipped down over him; then pulled back with a swirl of her tongue, over the head of his engorged penis. And again... and again. Over and over; slowly, languidly. As if she had all the time in the world to make this amazing love to him. Her hands moved from his hips and curled over the backs of his thighs, slid over his buttocks... applied a little pressure, causing his legs to part a bit more. Through half- closed eyes glazed with an overload of passion, Mulder watched her work his flesh, felt her kneading his cheeks...
When she released him from her throat and eased his length from her mouth his eyes opened in surprise and he stared down at her in a confused haze. "Scully... what are you... oh, Jesus..."
For she had locked passion-darkened eyes with his, as she brought a hand to her mouth, and closed her lips over her index finger, wetting it completely. Her tongue licked along the length of that finger, until it was dripping with her saliva... his breathing hitched in his chest... then stopped in shock when she curved that same hand behind him again, wet finger slipping in between his cheeks, probing delicately... searching for his most sensitive place, and finding it easily...
Pushing inside. When her mouth took him over, deeply, again... Mulder's eyes rolled back in his head and his raw gasp filled the quiet bedroom. Her throat engulfed him, her finger pushed and stroked inside him - her other hand cupped and squeezed at his balls. A triple whammy, three moves calculated to make him come apart, to dissolve in her mouth, burning from the inside out.
He couldn't last three more seconds.
He felt he could fly this way forever.
He was dying to reciprocate.
He selfishly wanted to explode in her amazing mouth.
He wanted to worship at her feet, kiss her little toes in grateful supplication.
He wanted to shout to the world at large that this woman was his, his alone - his to command. His to persuade, seduce, ensnare...
His to adore.
The groan that erupted from him shot out like a bullet, his body shook, fingers now digging into her hair, inadvertently pulling at the soft strands... and his eyes snapped open when her head jerked against his hands and away from him, from his throbbing erection. He looked down at the exact moment Scully looked up at him, her mouth still open, rounded and wet and glistening, eyes also rounded - with utter shock.
For Scully, it was like swimming from the depths of the ocean floor. Sounds came through in a muffled roar and when she tried to open her eyes, everything was dark and mysterious. She fought against invisible bonds that held her captive in the murky darkness - like tentacles of seaweed wrapped around her limbs. Something was snarled in her hair, tugging, pulling... hurting. Her heart beat madly beneath her breast and she had trouble breathing. There, in the distance - a glimmer of light and she struggled toward it. She burst to the surface and opened her eyes, fighting for breath.
And she stared up, at the dark and hard length of him poised right above her face - she took shocked note of the way she knelt at his feet, with her hand buried in the heat of his groin and a finger pressing inside him. Stared at the blazing eyes and wide, gasping mouth of a lover she suddenly didn't seem to know very well... somehow a stranger.
His image was blurred - Mulder, and yet not Mulder. Eyes that were, for a split second, more green than hazel; his features were younger, his hair longer. His fingers were still knotted in her hair and his chest was heaving. She drew in a deep breath and her senses were swamped by his familiar scent mingled with the muted fragrance of lilacs. She blinked and his face came into focus. He whispered her name and his hips pulsed toward her pleadingly.
Scully was frightened. She remembered stretching out on top of the bed while waiting for Mulder to finish in the bathroom. Now, in her mind's eye, she caught fleeting glimpses of them. Images came to her as though through a gauzy veil. She - stripping the nightgown from her body, eyes downcast in submission. His expression - at once shocked and filled with lust. She - stroking her fingers in a movement both wanton and innocent over her breasts; cupping and offering her flesh as a gift to the man towering over her. He - pushing her to her knees, his voice demanding, commanding as he tangled his fingers in her hair. She - taking him deep, deep into her mouth and throat... licking her finger and curling her hand around his flank...
Scully squeezed her eyes shut against the images. Fragments of memories... of which she had no recollection. And yet, between her legs she felt a familiar stickiness; could smell her own arousal. A light coating of perspiration was drying on her skin and she shivered once and let her hands fall away from his body.
Mulder sank to his knees in front of her and cupped her face between his hands. "Scully," he murmured. He whispered her name over and over as he peppered her face with kisses. His arms curled around her, but instead of growing warmer, her limbs felt weighted with an icy coldness. The air around her seemed to shimmer with rage, pulling at her, threatening to drag her back into the murky darkness. She coiled her arms around Mulder's neck and held on tightly. The windows flew open with a bang, lace curtains streaming in the cool, autumn wind. From the top of the bureau, the small bottle of perfume fell onto its side and the loose change tumbled to the floor with a clatter.
For Mulder, the flung-open windows and flapping curtains, spilled bottles and coins should have warned him that something unnatural was happening in this historic room. But he was too far gone, too deeply into his own unfulfilled needs and desires, to focus on anything other than the way every pore of his body screamed for release, for his climax. He'd never felt anything like it, this insane build-up of pure lust. And somewhere in the back of his mind he knew the selfishness he was exhibiting was very unlike him - yet he couldn't seem to stop. He did manage to ease the demand of his hands on her body, suddenly mindful of the possibility of bruising her soft and shivering skin. It took every ounce of his resolve, but he managed...
The trembling of Scully's muscles eased under the familiarity of Mulder's gentling caresses. His erection had not subsided in the least and was prodding her hip insistently. She lifted her head from his shoulder and stared into his eyes. Gone was the stranger and in his place was the man she adored. Determined to forget about her fears and worries and instead to focus on Mulder, she slid her fingers into his damp hair and shifted, rubbing the soft skin of her stomach against his aching flesh.
Scully kept her gaze locked on his and her fingers pressed on his neck as she reclined on the soft carpeting beneath her. She pulled him toward her and Mulder propped himself on one elbow. Scully trailed one hand over his shoulder. Her palm grazed his chest and she stroked her palm over one pectoral muscle, amazed - as always - when her touch elicited a soft groan from him. She never tired of the loving look in his eyes when they touched; never grew accustomed to the fact that he wanted her. She loved to watch the slow fluttering of his lashes when she slipped one hand between their bodies to wrap her fingers around his hot flesh. This man... this man she knew. Partner. Best friend. Lover. Father of her child.
She parted her legs and drew him into the cradle of her thighs. She linked her fingers with his and drew their arms over her head, stretching, lengthening her torso and pressing her breasts into his chest. She twined her legs around his hips and brushed her mouth over his jaw.
Filled with an inexplicable need to see his eyes and for him to see her face, she whispered to him as he sank into her body. When he was deep inside of her, she smiled. Scully arched her back, lifting her hips from the floor to meet him. He moaned her name with each thrust of their hips. As they moved together, they were oblivious to everything but each other; unmindful of the cold, unaware of the shimmering rage of a woman, long dead, watching her beloved prepare to spill himself into the body of another woman.
Mulder hadn't understood the sudden change in Scully's demeanor from innocent seductress to the shivering woman in his arms, earlier in the night when she seemed to be making frenzied love to him one minute and then almost cowering from him in the next. His own body had been quivering with unfulfilled desire and he couldn't have fought the desperate urge to bury himself in her, much longer. The relief he felt when she began to respond to him again was so much like the easing of an agonizing ache that he'd actually groaned aloud as if in pain.
The wet silken feel of her surrounding him was sublime as always - the loving way she curled her arms and legs around him, arched herself against him, a familiar and wonderful thing... yet in the back of his mind Mulder couldn't help but compare the woman who now clung to him so sweetly to the temptress with the wild red hair who just minutes ago made his body strum and vibrate as never before. And yet, they were both the woman he adored. As he plunged his hands into her damp hair, feeling her nails drag up his back and press into his spine, as he thrust and shivered and groaned and came, hard and deep inside her... Mulder told himself that she'd suddenly for no apparent reason gone shy on him - and he found it rather endearing. He buried his lips against her neck and rasped out one shuddering, "Scully...!"
And as she convulsed and cried out beneath him, clenching him deep within her... Mulder could swear he detected the fragrance of lilacs.
She had stolen this woman's release, and she reveled in the warm life now coursing through her senses. Wet and hot and familiar and oh, she'd missed it so badly... that explosion of blood and heat and life, within her lonely soul.
Molly hadn't been able to bear the thought of this red-haired woman with the manly name, taking her man's seed - not when it was becoming easier and easier to slip inside her, take her over, bask in her emotions and in her utter life force. And so when the woman had begun to shudder, to gasp and to clutch at her beloved... Molly had glided over - and had taken over. She'd made him come, for her - within her.
Pure bliss... William, my love...
He sank down over her and Molly welcomed the heavy and sated body covering hers. She couldn't breathe very well but she didn't care; after all, she'd been bereft of inhaling air for hundreds of years. For the feel of him in her arms, Molly would forego oxygen forever, if necessary. His head came to rest on the carpet under her shoulder and he stared deeply into her blue eyes. And his gaze was loving and worshipful; in that moment he looked exactly the way William had when last he'd gazed upon her, their final night together. He smiled sleepily at her and Molly smiled back, adoring him as never before.
Her beloved William...
She could have stayed there all night, awake and holding him in her arms, watching him sleep - but a soft snuffle and a whimper from the small room adjoining the bedroom drew her attention, and Molly raised herself on her elbows, carefully dislodging the slumbering man beside her. The baby... her baby. William the Second, her other beloved. Coming awake in the middle of the night, wanting his mother.
Wanting her. Molly rose eagerly, unaware as she gained her feet and walked to the door that the slumbering man sprawled on the floor had awoken and was watching the sway of her hips in confusion, was actually sniffing the air as if detecting a fragrance that wasn't supposed to be cloying and intrusive...
There he was. Her beautiful baby. Will lay on his back, sleepy yet awake, one plump hand sucking hard at his fingers. Molly's hungry eyes soaked him up, committing him to memory, hands reaching out for him. She couldn't wait to hold him, suckle him - her breasts ached with the need to nourish him...
When her hands touched his pajama-clad body, Will blinked up at her, one fist still crammed in his mouth. Molly scooped him into her arms, snuggling him near, crooning to him all the words she'd held inside her for so very long... and as she gazed down into his sweet face with rapturous eyes, Will opened his little rosebud mouth -
And screamed bloody murder.
The shock of his howling distress stunned Molly so much that she almost dropped him. His little body twisted and stiffened in her arms; tears pouring from his huge blue eyes - and Molly hurriedly sat down in a nearby chair and brought him to her bare breast, deciding the poor love must be starving for mother's milk. With sniffles and hitching whimpers Will rooted for her nipple, latching on fiercely... only to pull away in distaste and sob anew, harder than before.
Molly stared down at him in confusion and worry; her darling boy had to be famished. Why else would he take on so? She cupped a hand under her breast and brought the nipple close to his mouth again, pressing the hard nub to his mouth, trying to coax his lips to open and take his feeding -
When suddenly a sharp pain tore through her breast, and with eyes glazed in tears Molly looked down to see blood on her nipple. William had bitten her! With the new tooth he'd been cutting somehow he'd managed to bite down and draw blood... Molly could feel the pain of it, the shock of it... but the pain seemed to be fading, as the room suddenly faded, right along with the feel of the sobbing baby in her arms... her arms. They were fading, too...
Molly managed to cry out a despairing, "NOOOO... William!..."
October 2001 Lancaster Pennsylvania
What the fuck was going on?
Mulder had watched Scully leave the room, and it was his lover and yet not. Her hips moved in a way he'd never seen before; she seemed to glide instead of walk... and that smell again, of lilacs. Scully never wore lilac perfume...
Mulder raised himself on an elbow, now awake enough to register the sound of his son crying, loudly. Well, that was nothing new, at least lately with the discomfort of teething pains. Yet this cry had a panicked note to it he'd never heard before - and he found himself pushing to his feet and following the form of a lover he suddenly wasn't sure he knew.
He paused in the doorway, hidden in the night's deep shadows, and watched as she lifted Will from the crib; watched with a mouth hanging open as his son not only pitched one hell of a fit when she tried to hold him - but actually bit the nipple she tried to put into his mouth.
Bit her. Bit his mother...
And Mulder stared anew in complete confusion and escalating worry, when the blood welled on Scully's pale breast and he saw her take a huge shuddering breath, her entire body trembling as if icy-cold; she stared down at the baby as if she'd never seen him before.
Then that despairing cry of hers - "NOOOO... William!..."
When Mulder made a sound of distress, there in the doorway, her gaze swung to him and he gaped at the blank look of her, so unlike Scully. For a few seconds they stared at each other in mute disbelief, eyes locking together... and their son broke the odd spell by gurgling in satisfaction as his persistent rooting gained him the reward of his mother's uninjured breast and he caught the nipple between determined little lips and began suckling like mad. The other nipple still seeped blood... Mulder suddenly found his voice.
"Scully - what the hell's going on?"
She didn't seem to hear him, her eyes still focused in on her son and then glancing down at her injured nipple. Finally she raised tear- filled eyes to Mulder and her voice sounded so lost, when she spoke.
"Mulder... how did I get out here? Why am I bleeding?"
Scully's head ached when she awoke the next morning, her pulse pounding in her temples. She pushed the tangle of hair away from her face and blinked, slowly bringing the room into focus. Mulder was sitting up in bed beside her with Will propped against his upraised knees. Mulder's brow was furrowed and his eyes were dark with concern as he studied her in the pale morning light. Will's tiny face crinkled in a welcoming smile when he saw that his mother was awake and he reached out with one hand, cheerfully babbling a good morning to her.
Scully groggily pushed herself into a sitting position and reached out for Will who lunged eagerly into her arms. She unbuttoned the front of the white cotton nightgown that she vaguely remembered Mulder helping her into before she collapsed into bed. Opening the last of the buttons, she bared her breasts for Will's breakfast. The sight of the small bandage covering the nipple of her left breast brought back a hazy memory of Will screaming in her arms, intensifying the pounding in her temples. She guided the baby's mouth to her right breast and lifted tired eyes to Mulder.
"How are you?" he asked, softly running a finger around the edge of the small bandage. Scully shook her head and rubbed the fingers of one hand through her son's downy hair. His eyes were closed contentedly, a marked contrast to the distraught child of only a few hours earlier, and his little hand flexed open and closed against the upper swell of her breast.
"What happened, Mulder?" Scully leaned her aching head against Mulder's shoulder and felt his arms come around her in an almost protective embrace. He leaned his cheek on her head and she heard the sound of his whiskers rasping against the fine silk of her hair when he shook his head.
"I... Do you remember the story we heard on the tour last night?"
Scully adjusted Will more comfortably in her arms. She tilted her head back and frowned up at Mulder.
"What are you..." She was confused. Mulder was watching her so intently, but his question made absolutely no sense to her. "What about the ghost tour?" she asked, trying to gather her scattered wits.
"The tour guide talked about the ghost that has haunted this inn for the last two hundred and some years," he said softly.
Scully nodded and closed her eyes tiredly. "Molly Sullivan."
"Right." Will had finished nursing and Mulder raised his arm from Scully's shoulders to lift the baby. He slipped both hands under the baby's arms but Will turned his head back against his mother's breast with an irritated little grunt.
"Leave him." Scully shifted the baby onto her shoulder and rubbed his back with the flat of her hand. "What about Molly Sullivan?" she prompted impatiently. Her left breast was engorged with milk and was beginning to ache. She couldn't allow Will to suckle there. The wound was small but it was painful and still covered with the anti-biotic ointment that Mulder had spread over it before covering it with the bandage. The soreness in her breast was fast becoming a distraction and she tried to ignore the pain and focus on Mulder's words instead.
Mulder curved his arm around her shoulders again and began to speak. "The tour guide said Molly wanders the halls of this inn, mourning the loss of her baby and waiting for her lover to return," he reminded her. After he had tended to the wound Will had left on Scully's breast, he had lain awake all night, watching her sleep; his mind had whirled with a thousand crazy ideas. But his thoughts kept returning to the same place and now he tried to put his theory into words for the first time.
"Scully, you don't wear floral perfumes, do you?" She blinked at the confusing change in the direction of his conversation and struggled to keep up with him.
"No," she said. "I don't care for flowery scents." She bit back an impatient sigh. Mulder knew exactly what kind of fragrance she preferred.
"Every night since we arrived at this inn... when I'm in your arms..." Mulder fell silent for a moment before continuing. "The perfume you're wearing reminds me of the huge lilac bush that grew in the yard of our house on the Vineyard."
'Her presence is often marked by the scent of lilacs.' The tour guide's words rang clearly in Scully's mind and her gaze shot up to Mulder's. She started shaking her head and her arms tightened around Will until he gave a breathless grunt. She eased her grip slightly but continued to clutch him close.
"Nonono..." Scully shook her head rapidly and pulled away from Mulder. He scrambled to his knees before her and placed his hands on her legs, holding her in place.
"Just hear me out." His fingers clutched her through the sheets covering her legs. "Scully... what do you remember about last night?"
She pressed her mouth against the reddish-brown curls on Will's head and closed her eyes. She tried to block him out, but Mulder's voice was insistent.
"Scully, one minute you were a... a seductress," he told her. "The last two nights..." He licked his lips and struggled to find a way to put his thoughts into words. "You've been... different. Aggressive. Wanton and inventive... wild."
She watched his eyes close and his teeth sink into his lower lip as he recalled the last two nights spent in her passionate embrace and a faint memory of the words he had spoken tickled her brain. 'Beautiful, so gorgeous... I've never seen you look so beautiful...' Scully swallowed hard and her gaze fell to the sleepy baby in her arms when Mulder opened his eyes again.
"I didn't realize it at the time," he continued in a soft voice, "but now I know." His thumbs traced circles over her knees. "When you woke up yesterday morning... you had no memory of the previous night, did you?" Scully rubbed her finger over Will's diaper-clad bottom and stubbornly refused to meet Mulder's gaze.
"And last night..." His voice faltered for a second and he cleared his throat before continuing. "One minute you were driving me out of my mind... swallowing me whole..." Her face flamed at his words and she began to pull away from him. "Then suddenly... I don't know." His voice held all of the confusion he had been feeling the previous night. "You were looking at me with such shock and... fear." His words were rough with suppressed emotion. "God, Scully... you were looking at me as if I was a stranger - like you didn't know who I was."
Scully opened her mouth to speak but the words were stuck in her throat. To admit that she had no memory of how she came to be kneeling on the floor before him... doing things to him - with him - that she had never done before... would give credence to Mulder's crazy theory. She gulped in much-needed air, burying the admission deep in her heart before speaking.
"Mulder, this has got to be one of the craziest things you've ever said to me."
"No! I know that you'll believe just about every paranormal story that comes down the pike but, Mulder! Even for you - this is extreme."
Mulder dug the heels of his palms into his eyes, growling at the too familiar sensation of arguing with Scully and her refusal to accept extreme possibilities. He listened, as her voice grew more strident with every word.
"I am NOT being possessed by the ghost of a Revolutionary-War era prostitute, Mulder!" Will whimpered and stirred in her arms as her voice lifted into a near-shout. Scully stroked a hand over the baby's head and immediately lowered her voice.
"I booked this inn because I thought you would enjoy the history and supposed hauntings but, Mulder you are taking it too far. I know that things haven't worked out the way we had planned and I'm sorry that I've been so worn out and..."
Mulder reached out and grabbed her by the shoulders, giving her a tiny shake. "Jesus, Scully! The other night, you called me William! That was his name - the name of Molly's lover." His voice pleaded with her to make the connection and he bit back a curse at the stubborn set of her jaw. "Even our five-month-old son knows that something is going on. He bit you last night!" His gaze dropped to the bandage covering her left breast. "Maybe he's only got one small nubby tooth so far but he was frightened enough of the woman who held him, to draw blood and leave behind a wound, Scully. He would have had to bite down very hard and that means he had to be so scared. When you walked into that room and picked him up last night... he knew that something was wrong... he knew that the woman holding him was not his mother!"
Scully's arms tightened around the baby again and she rubbed her cheek against his hair, trying not only to comfort the child, but herself as well. The headache raged unabated and her vision blurred - whether from tears or from the pain - she wasn't sure. Her heart was hammering in an out-of-control rhythm between her breasts. She didn't want to talk about this any longer. She didn't want... she couldn't... God, please make him stop!
"Mulder!" Her voice was a harsh whisper. She lifted pleading eyes to his. "Please... I'm so tired. I can't do this right now." She slumped back against the pillows and Mulder relented in the face of her obvious exhaustion.
He reached out and lifted the baby from her arms. Will stirred briefly before settling more comfortably against his father's chest.
"Why don't you get some rest," Mulder said softly. "Will and I are going to get dressed and go out for a little while. I'll tell Mrs. Knaubler that you're sleeping and ask her not to disturb you." He stood and watched as Scully nodded wearily and tugged the blankets up to her chin. Her eyes slowly closed and he knew that she was pretending to sleep as he moved about the room, dressing himself and the baby.
From her corner near the window, Molly watched with satisfaction as he stepped into the hallway and pulled the door closed behind him. He recognized her, she thought joyfully! For the first time in more than two hundred years, someone had finally seen her... If she'd had any doubts before that this man called Mulder was her beloved William come back for her, those doubts had vanished. He was back, just as he had promised.
Her happiness was so complete that she could even forgive him his stubbornness in refusing to acknowledge her as baby William's true mother. No doubt he felt some residual loyalty to the woman who bore the earthly body that encased the spirit of her beautiful baby boy. Well, she could afford to be generous... up to a point. Soon enough, he'd understand everything, and she'd reap the benefits of that understanding. Until then... Molly smiled, straightening her spine, smoothing her fiery hair. Now, it was up to her. This time, she would let nothing tear her family apart.
She drifted across the room and stopped beside the bed to stare into the wan face of the woman sleeping fitfully beneath the colorful quilt. She threw a glance over her shoulder toward the closed door.
"When you come home, William... I'll be waiting for you."
It wasn't until he'd strapped the gurgling Will into his car seat and revved up the engine that Mulder knew where he wanted to go.
Back at the Millcreek Inn, Mulder had sought out Mrs. Knaubler to let her know Scully wasn't to be disturbed. He'd found her in the warm and bright kitchen, baking banana bread. She'd greeted him cheerfully and made him sit down at the scrubbed oak table, serving him a piece of warm bread dripping with melted butter, and a cold glass of apple juice. Mulder had known better than to protest, so he ate the delicious snack while Mrs. Knaubler bounced Will on her hip and tickled his little tummy, making him giggle.
Brushing the remaining crumbs from his lips, Mulder smiled at the innkeeper and thanked her for the treat. She waved his thanks away with a merry, "Oh, it's nothing at all, Mr. Mulder! I love to cook and this time of year the number of guests I enjoy dwindles off into nothing. When I have a few, I like to fatten them up!" She gave his lean frame the once over and chuckled aloud at the pink cheeks her perusal brought on.
Managing to get his embarrassment under control, Mulder stood up to leave, a wriggling Will deposited back into his arms after one last tickle from Mrs. Knaubler. Settling the baby on his hip, Mulder inquired, "If I wanted to find the library, how would I get there?"
Mrs. Knaubler obligingly fetched a paper and pencil and drew him a map, explaining, "Just follow the 'City Center' signs until you get to Brook Street..." A few more lines and the map was complete. As she handed it to Mulder she asked, "Are you wanting to do some research?"
Mulder shrugged. "Well, not really... I confess to some curiosity about the legend of Molly Sullivan and the man she still waits for, this William Foxworth. I thought I'd see what I could dig up at the library..." His words faded off at the decisive shake of her head.
"Well, I can save you a trip, I think. You won't find much of anything at the public library. William Foxworth was from a well-to-do family and any historical reference on his life and death would be in his home town, Philadelphia. In fact, his identity as Molly's lover wasn't known until after both their deaths." She poured another glass of apple juice and slid it across the table to Mulder, who sank back down into his chair with a now-dozing Will curled in his arm. Mrs. Knaubler took the chair across from him and resumed her tale.
"You see, Molly died in the tavern of this very inn, as the legend states. A few days after her death, the innkeeper went up to her room to clear out her few possessions. It was said he liked Molly quite a bit and was very saddened by her murder.
"Well, he was in her room, packing up her clothes - and his foot caught on a loose floorboard. When he pulled at it the board came up and he saw there was a hole in the floor. There was a little bundle in the hole, and a rolled-up parchment. He picked up the items and was surprised to see a substantial amount of coins tied into a handkerchief.
"Then he unrolled the parchment - and saw a wonderfully-detailed drawing of a young man, very handsome - and sleeping in what appeared to be Molly's bed. And he recognized the man in the drawing as the soldier William Foxworth, who'd frequented the inn and had made Molly so happy for so brief a time. He could only imagine she'd drawn it, for no one else had ever come to her room once William became her true love.
"Well, the innkeeper refused to send it to William's family, preferring to have it framed and to keep it as a memento of the young woman who'd died so young. And he used her saved coins to assure her a proper burial with a headstone marker, instead of having her placed in a common grave, which was often the fate of poor people in that day and age. That's why Molly Sullivan has a nice marker and a private gravesite." Mrs. Knaubler sat back in her seat and regarded Mulder with a sad smile, no doubt thinking of the tragic fate of the two lovers.
Mulder returned her smile, rocking Will as he slept in his arms. "I would have liked to have seen that drawing."
Mrs. Knaubler clapped her hands excitedly. "Well then, Mr. Mulder... you're in luck! Because this inn has remained basically the same since Molly's and William's day - including the paintings on the wall. And William's drawing... it's in the evening dining room. Would you like to see it?"
Mulder was on his feet in a second, suddenly wanting more than anything to see that drawing. At his earnest, "Yes, I would," the smiling innkeeper got to her feet as well and led the way into the dim and quiet dining room.
In a corner of the room, framed in gilded oak and matted with faded blue velvet, William Foxworth reclined on a rumpled bed, fast asleep. Sheets were twisted around his hips but his muscled chest was bare; he lay on his side with a tousled dark head pressed against a pillow and one hand tucked under his cheek. The detail in the drawing was impressive; Mulder could see the man's beard stubble, the well-defined, full lips and one elegantly-strong hand as it lay on his chest. And beside him, Mrs. Knaubler sucked in a humming breath of surprise.
"You know, Mr. Mulder... when you and your missus first came here I thought there was something familiar about you but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. But now I know... why, you're the spitting image of our William Foxworth!"
Mulder turned to her and stared at her, mouth hanging open... then he faced the drawing, and gaped at it.
October 2001 Lancaster Pennsylvania
After leaving the inn - trying not to show on his face the reaction to William Foxworth's drawing - Mulder had walked slowly in the bright fall sunshine, Will propped in limp slumber over a shoulder - and thought about the astonishing resemblance. The longer he'd looked at the drawing the more he could see it. True, William's eyes had been closed - but otherwise it was like looking at his twin.
Mulder was trying like hell to fight his own thoughts, as he eased out of the inn's parking lot and onto the deserted country road. Unsuccessful at holding them at bay, he drove slowly, on automatic pilot - and let them run wild.
William Foxworth could be his brother - and the ghost of Molly Sullivan thought her lover had returned to her. It all made sense - true, a horrifying sort of sense... but nonetheless a sense he had to face.
Mulder drove and thought about Molly Sullivan and her passion for her William. A love like that transcended years, centuries - it had kept her spirit bound to the Millcreek Inn, her promise to a dead lover held fast and true. It had dropped her into the path of a living man in whom she saw her beloved William - had persuaded her to find a way to lay claim to a child she believed was theirs.
Because of that belief Mulder knew that he and Scully - and Will - were in serious trouble, whether or not he accepted the idea that he was some reincarnation of William Foxworth.
In addition, he was having a difficult time reconciling the intense pleasure Scully had given him last night... when she really wasn't Scully at all. It felt like cheating, though there wasn't a way in Hell he'd cheated. He'd been loved by his lover - loved with sensual purpose, and in a way she'd never done before. And he couldn't forget it, didn't want to let it go - because as wonderful as loving Scully always was, there seemed to be a tiny part of him that missed a few, special acts of love... and that just wasn't fair of him, not at all.
Not fair... Because William was five and a half months old - and before Scully became pregnant the number of times she and Mulder had made love could be counted on half a hand. And all the time he was gone, he'd missed out on the wonder of being intimately joined with the woman he adored, while she carried life within her body...
After he returned and after Will's birth it was difficult to find the time to be together in any sort of intimacy; new babies had a way of draining the energy of both parents. Plus Scully had needed extra time to heal; Will was not a small newborn.
Their intimacy had at first of necessity been very careful, very gentle. They'd had to wait for two months due to an unexpected infection brought on by Scully tearing during delivery. Their first few times were painful for her even though Mulder had been so careful... He remembered the very first try; after several thrust attempts that brought tears to Scully's eyes, Mulder had withdrawn from her and had instead used his fingers to bring her to orgasm. It had been a less-than-satisfactory way to go - but it had killed Mulder to see her crying. And he remembered that he'd been aching to be inside her, but the last thing he'd wanted to do was upset her further.
Yet he remembered, God how could he not? He remembered the feel of her mouth upon him, both as herself and as this formless ghostly presence. Dana Scully had taken him into her mouth perhaps twice in their intimate history - and it had been warm and wet and wonderful. She'd been a little shy, a bit hesitant - but Lord, he'd loved it.
And last night... Jesus. Mulder gave up trying to drive and think at the same time, and pulled over onto the road's shoulder, letting the engine idle. Last night the term "Blow-Job" had taken on all sorts of new connotations; Mulder had never experienced anything like it. He was selfish enough to admit to himself that he wanted it again, just like that... and the guilt that filled him was all too real. It was his woman... and yet it wasn't. Sooner or later Scully would realize this, accept it - find herself deeply hurt by it. And then they'd have find a way to deal with what it meant to them, but for now there was a threat to their relationship and a danger to Scully and their son -
Mulder rubbed at his tired eyes, then started up the Explorer and nosed back onto the highway. Ten minutes later he stood in front of a plain, simple headstone - in the poorer section of Lancaster's only cemetery - reading the words, 'Molly Sullivan' on the worn and weathered marker.
In his stroller Will dozed fitfully, gnawing on one of his hands. The wind whipped up a bit and blew dead leaves around the wheels of the stroller, same as a few nights before when they first took the ghost tour. Mulder stared at the stone marker and told himself a dead young woman was laid to rest here, fighting against the remembered feel of the lover who drove him just about insane last night. Reminded himself of the senseless tragedy of a life cut short much too soon, the sheltered embryo within her body snuffed out as well - and strained to forget the sound of his child sobbing in the arms of a mother he didn't recognize and a soul he wouldn't accept.
Mulder stood in the rising wind of a desolate section of a very old cemetery and tried not to think of one reason the ghost of Molly Sullivan could have for imagining he was her William, come back to her. But he only served to convince himself that once she made up her mind this was so... that she'd find a way to inhabit Scully's body, forever.
And in doing so, end his world as he knew it.
By the time Mulder and Will returned to Millcreek Inn, the day had lengthened quite a bit and the beginnings of a storm had settled in.
He parked the SUV and got out, opening up the rear and covering Will's head with his blanket before hauling him out and making a dash for the front doors. Will gurgled and babbled underneath the blanket, finally emerging from its folds once they were safely inside the lobby. He smiled a huge gappy grin at his father, who promptly buried his cold nose in the child's neck, making him shriek with laughter. Together they headed up to their suite - and the woman waiting for them both...
The bedroom door was ajar; dim lighting and a flickering fireplace created a cozy and warm atmosphere. Without stopping by the master bedroom Mulder carried Will to the smaller bedroom and laid him down, quickly and efficiently whipping off his soiled diaper and getting him into his fleecy sleeper. While Will played with his fingers and cooed, Mulder got a fresh blanket and scooped up his son, carrying him into his mother -
Who was reclining on the bed in the glow of a fireplace and several strategically-placed candles... naked but for a pair of pale blue thong panties. Mulder stopped dead in his tracks, and gawked at her. When she raised her eyes and smiled sensually at him he knew beyond a doubt that Molly had once more intruded upon their lives.
Mulder closed his eyes and swallowed down the flare of anger and fear - and reluctant desire - that her presence caused. The anger and fear was workable; it was a normal reaction to the threat she posed against his family. The damn desire was another layer he didn't need, not now or ever...
God, she looked incredible. Mulder stood locked in position in the doorway of the seductively-lit room, his son in his arms, and fought the urge to fall to his knees in front of her.
Her skin gleamed pale rose in the dim light, a pile of pillows behind her back giving a provocative thrust to her lovely breasts. From this angle the bandage covering part of her injured breast was barely visible. The tiny thong hid nothing and revealed only the perfection of her rounded hips and slender thighs. Red silky hair spilled out around her head and over one shoulder, her lips glistened moistly as if she'd just finished licking at them. And the blue fire of her gaze just about ate him alive. Her focus was so tight on him that she at first didn't seem to notice the baby in Mulder's arms, adorably dressed for bed and looking like a little angel. And if nothing else brought it home to Mulder that this exquisite creature wasn't his Scully... that little detail certainly did.
Well, that and the fact that when she finally did switch her attention to Will, and smile sweetly at him... the child promptly began whimpering unhappily and hiding his face against his father's shoulder.
Mulder rubbed Will's back soothingly as he continued to stare silently at the stranger in his bed, who chose to ignore the baby's distress and instead concentrate on a situation she perhaps felt she could better control - Mulder. Her arms stretching toward him in invitation, she whispered a throaty, "William... I've missed you so..."
The voice coming out of her mouth was soft and husky with emotion - and it just about killed him to hear it because it wasn't Scully. And Mulder could have faced down the most horrendous nightmarish enemy from their past, gladly - rather than face the irrefutable proof that for this moment his lover and the mother of his child had in effect vanished from her own body.
As a result the response she got from the unsmiling man standing in the doorway wasn't the one she was expecting. "The name's Fox Mulder, and I want you to release my partner. NOW."
When in a low, hurt voice she begged, "Don't you know me? You must! I've waited for you, for so long. I knew you'd return to me someday, and bring me our son. I knew it. Please... don't tease me. Come to me, my love - let me hold you, and our son."
He shook his head and his eyes were hard as they stared at her. "I don't know you, Lady. Believe it. I'm not who you think I am."
Mulder watched those familiar blue eyes narrow in displeasure at his words and their tone, before they softened again and took on a pleading light. She raised herself to her knees and Mulder had to mentally remind himself this was not the woman he knew and loved. He took one tiny step backwards and hitched Will closer to him; the hungry baby was now gnawing like mad on his fist and snuffling in distress. It was only a matter of minutes before the snuffles became cries and then screams of outrage, not to mention pain, for his teething woes had intensified over the course of the day. Will needed to be fed - immediately - and he needed medication applied to his raw gums and a caring and gentle hand to pat his back as he was rocked to sleep.
Will needed his mommy - Mulder took a deep breath and planned a strategy, to reason with the sultry creature on her knees before him. Even from across the room he could see how engorged with milk her breasts had become. It had to be causing her some sort of major discomfort.
As if reading his thoughts she cupped the underside of both breasts with her hands and one caressed her uninjured nipple while the other splayed gentle fingers over the bandage, hiding it from view. Her eyes never left Mulder's. If this had been Scully rubbing at her body and on her knees in the middle of a room designed for seduction... Mulder would have been all over her. Instead he steeled himself and prepared to fight.
"Molly. You have to help Will. He's hungry and his mouth is sore from his baby teeth cutting through. Please... let Scully come forward, and feed him."
When she slowly shook her head Mulder smothered an urge to curse aloud. He had to stay calm... He tried again. "M... Molly," he stumbled over the incongruity of calling Scully by a ghost's name, "Please... Will needs his mother. Please..."
Again, Molly shook her head - reluctant to give up control of the body she now inhabited. The baby's cries were becoming louder and her heart clenched with love and pity. She reached out, intent on gathering the tiny creature to her breast and to relieve his suffering, but when she touched him, the baby shrieked and buried his face against his father's chest. Molly gasped and her hands flew to her forehead, kneading away the sudden ache that contorted her features into a pained grimace...
With a low, snarling cry, Scully flung herself against the barrier that Molly had erected to keep her submerged and she used every ounce of her strength and determination to batter her way to the surface. She felt the other woman's surprise and she used that waver in Molly's concentration to tear herself free of the ghost's control.
"Will!" Wild-eyed, she reached out a trembling hand to touch her child. The baby's shrieks quieted to a hiccupping sniffle under the familiar feel of his mother's fingers threading through his hair and he stared at her with tear-drenched eyes from the safety of his father's arms.
Scully lifted the now willing baby into her arms and he immediately latched onto her breast. Her arms tightened protectively around him and she raised her head from her study of the small boy to look up into his father's frightened and confused eyes.
"Scu... Scully?" Mulder lifted a tentative hand toward her and she nodded, nestling her face tiredly against his warm palm. Her skull ached horribly. She could hear Molly's shrieks of frustrated anger in her head; could feel her clawing her way back to the surface with every beat of her heart.
"God... Mulder," she breathed. "She's so strong." Scully's voice was a hoarse whisper. Her attention was divided between the man who was kneeling on the floor before her, the child suckling at her breast and her struggle to fend off Molly's attempts to regain control.
"You can feel her?" Mulder asked. Scully nodded. Her body was covered with a fine film of sweat and her breath escaped her in short, sharp bursts. Her heart was pounding with the effort of holding the other woman at bay. Despite her exertion, her limbs were trembling and her teeth were chattering with a coldness coming from deep within her body.
Mulder stripped out of his denim shirt and wrapped the warm, heavy cotton around her shoulders. "You've got to stay with me now, Scully," he pleaded. Scully shook her head and lowered her eyes back to the baby in her arms. He was still nursing hungrily; his tiny fists were kneading the plump flesh of her breast and her milk trickled over his chin and pudgy cheeks as he greedily drew on her nipple.
Her poor baby. He was so hungry... she had to hold on long enough to finish feeding him.
"I don't know how long I can hold her off," Scully told Mulder. She leaned against him in quiet exhaustion, trying to draw strength from the warmth of his arms and the brush of his lips against her hair. "She's... Mulder, she's convinced that you are her William come back for her. And she thinks that Will is their baby." Scully sighed and rested her cheek against his chest. She closed her eyes tiredly, losing herself in his familiar scent and her concentration wavered for a moment as sleep beckoned.
Mulder's breath caught in his throat when he felt Scully's hand creep between their bodies to fondle him through the heavy material of his jeans. His body stirred under her caressing fingers and he pulled his head back to look down into her face. Scully's eyes were open and dilated and there was an oddly dreamy look in them. Will whimpered. His lips were still suctioned around her nipple, but his mouth had stopped its rhythmic pulling on her breast.
Scully felt Mulder's hands tighten on her shoulders and she blinked and shook her head to clear it, surprised to find her hand cupping his surging flesh. She gathered all of her energy and sent one silent shrieking 'no' into the space between her soul and Molly's - once again succeeding in pushing the ghost away. She could feel the other woman scratching and clawing at her consciousness, scrabbling for an entry point.
Dazedly she looked around the dimly-lit room. "Mulder, what time is it?" Mulder drew in a shuddering breath and willed himself to ignore the reluctant arousal coaxed by her wandering hands. He glanced at the watch strapped to his wrist.
"It's a little after four o'clock," he told her and shot a look towards the windows. "There's a storm brewing outside, so it seems later." As if he had carefully arranged it, the sky lit up with a jagged bolt of lightning and a few seconds later a low peal of thunder rolled through the countryside.
"You were gone a long time," she murmured. "No wonder he's so hungry." She took a deep breath. "Mulder... she's been so sad. All of these years she's been waiting here for him." Scully shook her head and knuckled away a stray tear as the devastation of Molly's enforced loneliness washed over her.
"Can you hear her?" Mulder's sharp question startled Scully out of her sad reverie. She closed her eyes and 'listened'. A tiny crease formed between her brows and when her lashes fluttered open, Mulder was heartened to see the familiar light of discovery and curiosity in her blue eyes. He cocked his head to the side and looked at her questioningly.
She bit her lip and squeezed her eyes closed again. "No," she said finally. "It's not... I can't hear her the way I hear you, but I can feel her... sense her. I know what she wants." Scully opened her eyes and stared across the room at her reflection in the mirror. She felt Mulder shift so that he was sitting behind her and she watched his arms wind around her and Will to cradle them protectively in his embrace.
"She wants you. She wants you both."
Mulder cast his eyes about the room, desperately searching for something... anything that would help them. He dropped his chin onto her shoulder and nuzzled her neck, inhaling the familiar, clean fragrance that was Scully. Will's belly was finally full and he was no longer nursing with the same ferocious concentration as before. Ready to play, he craned his neck against Scully's arm and offered his father a gummy grin before flinging his head back to latch onto his mother's breast and lazily suckle once or twice. He caught the toes of one foot with his fingers and gurgled cheerfully as he pulled them toward his head, obviously intent on having a toe or two in his mouth. Scully's eyes were fixated on her son's antics. She cooed and murmured to the little boy and was rewarded with a giggling baby laugh. Her lips curved up in response to Will's giggles but Mulder could see the exhaustion that sapped her posture of its natural grace.
Scully watched in confusion as Mulder slipped away from her and quickly walked across the room to the bureau. He yanked open one of the drawers and began to pull out her clothes and stack them on top of the bureau.
The muscles under the bare skin of his back were drawn tight with tension. He continued emptying the drawers and she called him again, her voice soft and pleading.
He turned and she saw the barely leashed fury in his eyes and in his movements as he clutched a bundle of her clothing against his chest. He looked around and gave a satisfied grunt when he spotted her suitcase on a luggage rack in one corner of the room.
"Mulder! What are you doing?" He shoved the garments violently into the suitcase and stalked back to the bureau for another armful.
"We're leaving." Grim determination shaded his voice.
Mulder's head snapped up in disbelief. He narrowed his eyes and studiously ignored her as he made a return journey to stuff more clothes into the suitcase.
"Mulder." Scully slid from the bed and walked over to where he stood. She laid her palm against his back, enjoying the warm, silken skin beneath her fingers. "We can't leave."
Mulder whirled and grabbed her by the upper arm. "Yes! We can. We are." His grip tightened painfully around her arm. "We're leaving, now... and we're never coming back here."
"Mulder... please, you're hurting me." Instantly, his grip eased and his fingers danced apologetically over her arm. She cupped his cheek in her hand and forced him to look at her.
"We can't leave. Don't you know? She's inside of me." Her eyes searched his for understanding. "I don't know why she's still there... and I don't know how she's holding on... What I do know is that if we leave, she'll come with us."
Mulder hissed in frustrated confusion. "Maybe if we put some distance between us and this place, her grip will weaken. You said yourself that she's been waiting here all of this time for William to return. Maybe... don't you think that she would refuse to leave this place? The place where William will come looking for her? If we leave... if we just get into the car and drive away, doesn't it make sense that she would let go of you so that she could stay and be here when he returns?"
Scully smiled sadly into his hopeful face. "Mulder, you said it yourself, just this morning... to Molly, you ARE William. She'll follow you wherever you go."
Mulder stifled a scream of rage and vented his fury on the suitcase, shoving it from the luggage rack to the floor and stomping it with a booted foot. Will watched wide-eyed as his father mauled the suitcase and Scully smoothed her hand soothingly over the baby's head as she waited for the storm to pass. Her patience was rewarded a moment later as Mulder quieted, his shoulders slumping in defeat.
"Mulder, look at me." She curled her fingers over his hand where it hung fisted at his side. "I need your help... we need to figure a way out of this." Mulder nodded and led her back to the bed, once again kneeling on the floor near her feet.
"Did you eat anything today?" He worried that a lack of appetite and sleep would deplete her ability to keep fending off Molly. Scully shrugged and Mulder began to climb to his feet, intent on raiding the kitchen.
"No!" Her nails dug into his jeans and he obediently sank back to his knees before her. "Don't leave."
Mulder's arms slipped about her and he burrowed his face into the loose folds of the shirt she was wearing to nuzzle the downy skin of her stomach. His lips caressed the tiny swell below her navel that was a lasting legacy of her pregnancy and, he had to admit, one of his favorite places on her body to explore.
Scully juggled Will in her arms and propped him on one of her thighs. The baby promptly tangled his fingers in Mulder's hair and he gave a hearty tug, earning a yelping cry and an exaggerated pout from his father. The baby giggled and tugged again. Mulder gingerly pried Will's hand from his hair and as he pressed a kiss to the baby's chubby thigh, he felt Scully's fingers sift comfortingly through his hair.
"What I can't figure out is why... after more than two hundred years, Molly has fixated on you," Scully said quietly. "At first, I thought it was because of Will... but surely there have been other couples with young children who have stayed in the inn over the years."
Mulder shifted until he was seated on the floor between Scully's legs and curled a hand around Scully's ankle. His thumb dipped into the hollow behind the knot of her anklebone and his fingers feathered over the network of veins that ran across her instep. In a halting voice, he told her of the charcoal portrait Molly had sketched of William Foxworth.
"It... he looks just like I did when I was in my twenties," Mulder admitted. "We could be twins." Left unspoken was the niggling question of whether or not Molly could be right; that he could possibly be a descendent of William - or worse, Foxworth reincarnated... Mulder left the thought unvoiced because he refused to give it credence. As easy as it would be to accept that his physical responses to Molly were due to a repressed memory of a former life, the truth was that in this life, he belonged with Scully. Belonged with her and to her. She owned him, heart, mind, body and soul and he had willingly and joyfully given himself to her. He scooted closer to her and inhaled deeply; once again filling his lungs with Scully's fresh, clean scent. He compared her scent - so familiar and arousing - to the fragrance of lilacs that marked Molly's presence. Mulder knew that memories were closely linked with the sense of smell and he took comfort in the knowledge that the fragrance of lilacs stirred no long hidden memories of a time when he had loved another woman.
He looked up into Scully's beloved face and returned the quiet smile she directed toward him. "Okay. Let's go through this from the beginning. How do you think that Molly is able to po... possess you?" He stumbled over the word and its ugly connotations.
Scully pressed her lips to the top of Will's head and leaned down so that her face was close to Mulder's. She lowered her voice, as if trying to keep Molly from hearing her words.
"I don't know, Mulder. I can't remember, because I think I've always been asleep..." Her voice trailed off and her mouth opened on a startled gasp.
Mulder's eyes widened. "That's it!" His fingers tightened around her ankle. "Scully!" He rose up and pressed a smacking kiss on her lips. "That's it exactly!" His mind feverishly raced over the moments he now recognized as being the times when Molly had invaded Scully's body.
Will yawned loudly and sagged in Scully's embrace. Mulder reached out and lifted the baby from her arms. He rose to his feet, intent on carrying him into the other room, but Scully laid a staying hand on his arm.
"I want to keep him nearby." Her eyes were fixed on her child and Mulder nodded at the possessive look in her eyes. He recognized her need to keep the baby close and set Will in the center of the bed, mounding pillows around him to keep him from rolling off. Once the baby was settled, he drew Scully to her feet and led her across the room. He sat on the loveseat near the fireplace and pulled her onto his lap.
"I think you're right." He voice was pitched low so as not to disturb the sleeping baby. "I think you've been asleep every time." She nodded and leaned her head on his shoulder, listening to the low rumble of his voice. "But you're awake now, so..."
"So, why isn't Molly gone?" Scully finished his thought. He nodded. She tipped her head back against his shoulder and looked up at him. "I don't know, Mulder. I just know that she's still there." And she was. Even now, Scully could sense Molly scrambling for a foothold; looking for a way to regain control.
"Well," Mulder sighed. "It's simple. You just can't ever go to sleep."
Scully chuffed softly. "No problem." But it was, and they both knew it. She pressed her hands against his shoulders, pushing away from the warm comfort of his arms.
"Mulder... what are we going to do?" Her worried eyes met his. "You're absolutely right... I can't fall asleep. I... I think she's just getting stronger and stronger. I was never aware of her before, but now, even though I'm awake, I can feel her. If she gets back in control, I don't know... I'm afraid I won't be able..."
Mulder lifted Scully from his lap and stood, tugging her into his embrace. Hugging her close, he rocked her from side to side. "Then we'll just have to keep you awake until we come up with a solution."
Scully's eyes burned with fatigue. Her nerves were jangling from the four cups of coffee that Mulder had poured down her throat. As they formulated and rejected one plan after another, Mulder had led her around and around the room. With each passing hour, she was leaning more and more heavily on him, relying on him to keep her on her feet as she stumbled along beside him.
To make matters worse, Will was awake - grinding his tiny fists against his raw gums and whimpering pitifully. Scully's hands shook as she dug through the diaper bag for the Anbesol. Mulder took the tube of medicine from her and she sank down onto the loveseat they had abandoned several hours earlier. Tired. She was so tired. Will's cries were becoming softer and she was sinking... drifting...
"Scully!" Mulder. She could hear his voice calling her name but it was fuzzy and distant. She wanted to sleep. Just a few moments of blessed sleep...
A strong arm curled around her waist and hauled her out of the chair. "Scully!" His voice was commanding and reluctantly, she concentrated on dragging her eyes open.
"Come on, Scully. Don't give up on me now." Mulder tamped down on the panic rising in his throat and he shook the woman in his arms. "Damnit, Scully!" He smiled when he saw the blue of her eyes peering at him from beneath heavy lashes. "That's it, baby. Open your eyes, now. Please."
Dark shadows bruised the delicate skin under her eyes and her hair was a wild tangle around her face. They were losing this fight. Every time Scully blinked her eyes, he could feel Molly closing in, winning the battle for control. Desperate, Mulder lifted Will from the bed and shoved him into his mother's arms, counting on Scully not to relinquish control of her body to the other woman, while holding her son.
"We're getting out of here, Scully!" Her head felt so heavy, but she forced herself to look up at him as he grabbed a pair of her jeans out of the half-packed suitcase. She shook her head in confusion as he knelt before her to guide her legs into the pants and slip a pair of sneakers onto her feet. She held the baby as Mulder zipped Will into his little jacket and tugged a T-shirt over his own head before shoving his arms into his leather coat and checked for his car keys. Grabbing the quilt from the bed, he wrapped it around Scully and took Will from her. He coiled his free arm firmly around her waist and led his family from the inn.
Outside, Scully leaned against the SUV as Mulder secured Will into his car seat. The cold night air helped to revive her a bit. Mulder straightened and turned to find her clear-eyed for the first time in hours.
"Where are we going?" Scully's eyes searched his for answers. He cupped her face between his palms and she stretched up on her toes to meet his descending mouth. Mulder's lips brushed over hers once, twice. When he answered her, his voice was grim.
"We're going to Philadelphia."
Chapter Seven Route 30 Pennsylvania
The roads were damned slick, Mulder thought, as he eased his foot from the gas pedal yet again. He was fighting the urge to speed, knowing a traffic ticket was the last thing he needed. But at least the storm had abated some and the pouring rain had lessened to a light sprinkle.
They'd been driving about forty-five minutes and were ten miles from Coatesville and the exit for Route 202. For this time of night traffic was fairly heavy and several times he'd had to slow down to less than fifty miles an hour on Route 30, which would take them into Coatesville.
Beside him Scully alternated between staring out the window and keeping a worried eye on their son, who dozed in the back seat with three fingers in his mouth. So far, Will's teething troubles seemed to be submerged under his more pressing need for sleep - but Mulder knew he'd have to be nursed, soon. He didn't want to pull over, didn't want to stop for anything. The rising panic within him had calmed very little since leaving the Millcreek Inn and he just wanted to get to Philadelphia and hopefully, some answers.
He'd been desperate to keep Scully awake and aware enough to stymie Molly's ceaseless attempts to gain control. Knowing his woman thoroughly also meant knowing what the motion of a vehicle would do to her when she was exhausted; she'd be out like a light regardless of the amount of caffeine she'd consumed earlier. And so, Mulder had kept up a running conversation that forced her to reciprocate... because he persisted in reminiscing about past case files and what he remembered was consistently 'sexual' in nature...
"Hey, Scully... tell me the truth. That nasty green gunk you slathered all over your face in 'Suburbia' was just a ruse, wasn't it? The thought of us snuggled in a three-bedroom two bath scared the shit outta you."
"No, Mulder - what scared the shit out of me was that whole baby kittens thing..."
He grinned in the darkness. "You never wanted to make like a baby kitten, and push up against my ass? Jeez, Scully - that was always a fond dream of mine..."
A tired snort, "THAT was a fond dream of yours? I have to say that I always thought your... dreams would be a little more complex than spooning in bed. I know mine were..."
That perked him up. "Well, there's dreams, baby - and then there's fantasy. I dreamed of spooning, but I fantasized about stripping those cute little Laura Pee-Tree duds off your body and licking every inch of it, back to front - with or without green face-gunk. I kept wondering if the gunk tasted like kiwi..."
"Mulder! Well - you should have tried harder. I've got a little secret for you... I wasn't wearing anything under Laura's robe."
Even from the distance across the interior of the SUV, he swore he could feel the heat that had to be flushing her cheeks. He moaned, "Oh, Christ... now you tell me. You have any idea how hard it was for me to get off that bed, and walk out the door - that night? Everything I wanted was in that room. Soft lights and a comfortable bed, a sweet- smelling woman wearing a huge old fluffy bathrobe with her hair pulled back off her face, in this large white... thing. Green glop covering every kissable inch of that exposed face... man. I wanted nothing better than to dive right in and come up with a mouthful of green. I tossed and turned all night, imagining the possibilities, extreme though they were..."
She sighed. "All you had to do was ask... nicely."
"Well, I'll remember that, next time you come to bed all gunked up. And another thing, baby... you never thanked me for setting you up on that blind date with Sheriff Fartwell..."
That earned him another snort. "Sheriff HART-well, Mulder."
A surprised exclamation, "You know, he said the same thing! When I talked to him that night - he corrected my pronunciation. But as I told him - regretfully, I might add - that night... he'll always be Fart-Well to me." Her reluctant participation in his goofy banter was such a relief...
Her next words made him even happier. "Thank you, Mulder - for setting me up on a lovely blind date with a blood-sucking vampire."
"Why, you're welcome, Scully. I knew I was doing you a real favor - after all, I'd always suspected you had a very sensitive... neck... and I figured with my small, perfect teeth I wouldn't be able to do much for you. But, Fartwell and his large buckys... well, shiver me timbers, y'know?" He waited for a snappy comeback.
Her voice was sleepy - too sleepy. "I'm so tired. I don't want to do this anymore. I just... I just want to close my eyes... just for a second..."
He panicked. "NO! Scully, come on! This is fun, don't you think? When was the last time we had a chance to talk over old times, huh?" Mulder gripped the wheel so hard the ridges cut into his palms. He blurted, "Come on, play with me. Tell you what: ask me anything, about any of our past cases. Anything at all. I'll tell you something about my thoughts, an observation I never thought to share with you at the time. Okay?"
She sighed with such exhaustion that for one moment he thought she would refuse, but she straightened in her seat, and he released a huge breath of thankful relief when she murmured, "Oookay... remember that trip to Florida for the team building seminar?"
Thank you, God - she's willing to hang on... "Well, of course! A man always remembers the first time his woman sings to him."
This time she gave him an actual snicker. "Shut up, Mulder..."
He loved her so much in that instant - she was fighting, his Scully was not a quitter - "Ooo, I sense frustration. Come on, get past it, Scully - you brought up that trip for a reason. What do you want to know? You can ask me anything, remember?"
She swallowed hard. "When... when I came into your motel room with a platter of wine and cheese... you knew I was trying to put the moves on you, didn't you?"
Oh, Scully... "Well... I think I was hoping. But I don't recall thinking 'moves' so much as your natural inclination to make me feel at home in a motel room, baby. You have a real talent for it."
"So, then... why did you run out of the room? I'm not angry... actually, in hindsight, I'm glad that our first time wasn't in some dumpy motel room. Still, I've always wondered if maybe I wasn't sending out the right signal..."
He groaned. "God, baby... any right-er a signal and I would have flung that tray of Bacchus into a corner of the room and pinned you down underneath me so fast your signals would have spun! But, if you want the truth... I was scared shitless in that moment. Not of you. Well, maybe a little... mostly I was afraid of me. Of how needy I was."
She reached over and clasped at the hand closest to her, resting on the wheel. "I was afraid too. S'okay, Mulder... I just... I always wanted.... mmmm, it's warm in here. Isn't it, warm? To-asty warrrmmm. Mmmmm..."
SHIT...! "I'll open a window, I'm opening your window, baby - NO! Don't close it, leave it open, doesn't that feel good on your face, hmmm? Leave it, Scully - Will's fine, he won't get cold. Listen to me, listen - I'm glad you were scared too, Scully - I'm glad we didn't do it then. You wanna know another time I was glad we didn't do it? That Christmas Eve, you remember? The Christmas we played in the haunted house -"
"Stop snapping your fingers in my face, Mulder! And I wouldn't call it 'playing'!!"
He reclaimed her hand, squeezing it gently. "Sure it was, just playing. You mean you thought for a second that we were in any real danger, other than from each other? No way, Scully. Maybe we were creeped out from having to deal with Maurice and Lyda, the Ghost-ests With The Most-ests... but I never for a moment believed we'd ever really hurt each other. Besides, there was this gift with your name on it... and I sure didn't want one of my fish to have to open it!"
Another yawning snicker. "This gift you mention... was it the one so *expertly* wrapped in that festive paper... or was it wrapped in a white T-shirt, jeans and boots?"
He could have bawled in sheer relief. "Baby, what do YOU think? Given a choice between some inanimate thing wrapped in holiday cheer... and a very warm, VERY animate animal wrapped in special holiday 'cheer'... which would YOU have unwrapped?"
Scully shrugged helplessly. "I don't know, Mulder... you just finished saying that you were glad we didn't, I believe the expression you used was -'do it' that night... and at the time I didn't realize that the gift you were giving me was a tube of day-of-the-week underwear so, I probably would have gone for the long, tube-shaped gift."
Her mild sarcasm had him grinning like a fool. "Man, am I glad you said that! Because there has always been a HUGE gap between what I wanted to do with you... and what we ended up doing, for real. Just knowing you wanted to, that far back... makes me feel warm - all over - guess it's a good thing I opened our windows, right?"
"Scully... I said, 'right'?" A worried glance in her direction revealed the worst; her head was reclined against the seat. He almost shouted at her, "Baby, don't close your eyes! Tell me what an idiot I am, call me a moron! Come on, I know you want to... Scully?"
"I'm awake, Jesus, Mulder! You don't have to yell! And yes, you're a moron. But I adore you anyway." Scully sat up and softened her sharp words by leaning in and brushing a kiss on his right shoulder. Smiling affectionately at him, she resumed her seat and raised her arms above her head, stretching.
Mulder's silliness went a long way toward making her feel better; at least she was more alert. Yet she knew it was only a temporary reprieve. She was stronger but she could still sense her adversary just under the surface, waiting for a way out, watching for an opening...
'Adversary' didn't begin to cover the resentment and anger Molly Sullivan was experiencing, as she simmered within this living woman who had the sort of hold on her beloved William that she could barely comprehend. There was a connection between him and the woman - a thread of personal knowledge that went far beyond just the reading of his needs and desires. And Molly didn't like it, not one bit.
She'd lived her short amount of years on earth as a woman whose only professional position had been to provide the ease of a man's lust and a receptacle for his seed. She'd done what she had to, found a way to survive, had performed her duties for the sole purpose of saving every penny and finding for herself a better life. But she'd stopped her enforced profession the night she fell in love with William Foxworth, and she'd sacrificed her life attempting to honor her new way of life. She would do it again in a heartbeat... would never have let another man touch her, after William pressed that final passionate kiss upon her lips and had ridden off, his shouts proclaiming his love for her proudly, for all to hear.
Maybe she'd never had the advantage of a fancy education or the love of a family, as she was sure this woman had enjoyed... maybe she hadn't lived long enough in the world to understand all the ways of making a man happy. But what little she'd learned, Molly had absorbed very well - and if she could just get control again, just gain the upper hand... William could be hers. He would not be able to resist her - or deny her. Molly redoubled her efforts to wrest away the blockage in her path, using her jealousy and fury to fuel her strength...
Scully could feel the wave flowing through her, that same numbing effect from the other night, same overwhelming fear of losing herself. And she was losing; there was no doubt in her mind. Suddenly all her newfound strength seemed to ebb right out of her in a rush, leaving her shaken. She whispered brokenly, "Mulder, I'm so tired. I can't think anymore; my brain is fried. Can't we just travel in silence for a bit?"
The exhaustion in her voice tore at him but he couldn't let her slip, not the tiniest bit. He glanced at her and his heart sank - for even in the dark of the car he could see the slump of her shoulders.
Reaching out a hand he tugged hard on her arm, startling her out of her almost catatonic state. "Scully! Come on. Don't you dare fall asleep, not now. Talk to me. Anything. Whatever the subject, it doesn't matter. Just talk. You've got to stay awake and I can't take my eyes off this road; we're getting close to the exit for 202 and I have to concentrate. Please, baby - don't let her get hold of you..."
Beside him Scully shook her head hard, raked the hair out of her eyes, actually slapped at her own cheeks. She sat up straighter in the seat and after turning around once to assure herself that Will was still asleep, she propped her back against the passenger door and fixed her attention on Mulder. So tired... and yet reinvested - determined. This spirit was not going to take control again...
"Mulder, did I ever tell you about the very first time I had to defend you against the wrath of Bill?"
Mulder shot her a surprised sideways glance but shook his head, a smile playing about the corners of his mouth as he digested her query. "No, Scully - I don't believe you ever did. Why don't you tell me all about it."
With a weary yet optimistic chuckle Scully tucked a foot underneath her and her soft voice filled the darkened cab. "Well, it was before he visited me in the hospital, that first time - I think Mom had maybe said something to him over the phone one day, out of the blue. I think she always knew right from the start I'd follow you anywhere..."
Her soft voice sifted over him like a balm and he smiled and nodded and let himself banter with her, as the story unfolded.
An hour later they hit Philadelphia proper and were maneuvering through more heavy traffic. Their time had been spent talking almost non-stop, with both of them taking turns contributing to a verbal potpourri of confidences, confessions and assorted tale telling. It had served to take Mulder's mind off the seriousness of their predicament and it had done an admirable job in keeping Scully awake and in control.
But as they'd gotten closer to the city their conversation had waned, each knowing the reality of their danger couldn't be put off any longer. This was not a crazed serial killer or an unexplainable monster that'd popped up from God knows where, to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting world. They knew how to handle those sorts of menaces...
This was the ghost of a young woman who had lost so much it was just about impossible to fathom. Who had gone through generations and hundreds of years in total spiritual upheaval and unrest. Neither of them could pretend to understand something that ethereal, that otherworldly.
And she was growing stronger; at one point in a conversational lull Mulder had stretched out his free hand and pressed it warmly over Scully's knee, and as she'd twined her fingers through his he'd asked her, "Can you... do you still..." He took a deep breath. "Is she still there, Scully?" His eyes met hers and even in the dark she could see the worry in them.
She nodded. "She's there, Mulder. It's so hard... I'm beyond tired..."
Mulder expelled a frustrated huff; they were stuck at an intersection with malfunctioning traffic lights and three lanes of cars on each side were trying to take turns zipping through it. There were at least four cars in front of them. He was more in a hurry than ever; underneath his hand her knee was tense and hard with anxiety, with trying to hold herself tightly together. Her voice was thin with weariness and tinged with the sort of despair he never dreamed he'd ever hear from her.
He couldn't stand it. He WOULDN'T stand it... Mulder gripped her leg, hard, forcing a gasp from her as he grated out, "You're NOT going to give it up, Scully. Do you understand? I won't lose you to some senseless eighteenth century crime! I feel sympathy for Molly; I do. It's a terrible thing that her life was snuffed out at so young an age." The red taillights of the car ahead of them shone into the windshield, giving Mulder's face an eerie glow as he added, "But she's gone. She's been gone for hundreds of years. And if by some miracle she lived in this age I'd still belong to you - I wouldn't be available to be with her. So you goddamn FIGHT her, Scully! I don't care about anything but you and Will, please baby... fight her."
Scully nodded, eyes filled with tears of exhaustion, as she clasped Mulder's hand, still cupped over her knee. And beneath the surface of her consciousness there was an angry scrabbling, a fury... she could feel it.
Ten minutes later they finally got through the jammed intersection, with Mulder sighing in relief as he drove through the less-populated streets toward Germantown. Next to him Scully gripped his hand and stared out the window; behind them Will snuffled in his sleep. And somewhere deep inside the quiet and weary red-haired woman who sat in the passenger seat, a furiously jealous Molly Sullivan was feeding her anger on the words she'd managed to sense, coming from her beloved William... knowing as surely as anything that his feelings had to be colored by the woman who held him captive. It wasn't his fault... it was hers.
Molly tried harder than ever, to regain control.
Scully's eyes were screwed shut tightly, squeezing the tears out from beneath wet lashes as she sent a silent shriek of her own down into that black hole within her, a shriek to go away and stay away... She drew in a deep breath, preparing to take a final stand against Molly. This was it. Scully had to fight her off now - right now - or risk the chance of losing to her forever.
<Go away! Get out. No one wants you here. They're mine!> she thought fiercely. <My lover. My baby. Now go!> She gathered up all of her fear and anger and flung it toward Molly with every remaining ounce of her strength. All of her thoughts were turned inward as she struggled in this last skirmish to fend off Molly. Silently, she and Molly fought and grappled for control...
They were just turning from Johnson Street, within a few miles of Germantown Avenue, when Mulder realized the woman sitting next to him wasn't Scully.
He'd been quietly confident that she'd been holding her own. Stupidly confidant, no doubt - sure in the belief that only if Scully fell asleep Molly could gain a foothold. Jesus, he should have known better -
For the last ten miles Scully had been half-turned in her seat, staring at him. Relaxed, occasionally looking all around, at the dashboard lights and out the front and side windows - but mostly her attention was trained on him. A first he found it sweet and he'd sent her a delighted smile from time to time, eliciting an answering grin from her.
When after miles of driving her focus remained on him, only an occasional murmur from her throat in answer to his remarks - and she never once checked the back seat and Will, who was beginning to awaken and fuss, obviously hungry and perhaps in pain from teething... Mulder found himself slowing down more than he needed to, as he took the corner into Cliveden Street. Found himself turning to look at her as his ears caught the sound of Will's increasing distress - consequently not watching the street and the traffic -
As Molly purred out a longing-filled, "William... my beloved," and her hand reached into his lap and clutched the crotch of his jeans. The shock of it startled Mulder just enough - in reaction his hands left the wheel as he grasped at her hand, trying to dislodge her fingers, that move allowing the steering column to slip, just enough - and his foot reacted to the hard pump her fingers managed to accomplish, the sole of his boot pushing down on the gas pedal, just enough.
The SUV careened sideways, spinning on the slick, rain-wet street. In a second of complete loss of control, it leapt the curb and bridged the driveway of a large estate, coming to a shuddering stop up against the cast-iron fence surrounding the property.
Inside the cab Mulder had been flung into the steering column, and Scully, who in turn had suffered a stunning blow to her right temple, had slumped against the passenger window. In the back seat Will had been held securely in his car seat but was screaming in terror. Dazedly Mulder registered the utter fright of his child and after one quick glance at Scully to assure she could hold her own for a few minutes, he wrenched open the door and dragged himself out. He yanked at the back door, desperate to get to Will.
He managed to unbuckle the safety straps, thanking God they'd bought the highest-rated car seat they could find. Will's chubby face was soaked with tears and he was hysterical, hiccupping with the force of his distress. Mulder lifted him out and cradled him tightly, rocking him from side to side and trying to soothe him with soft sounds issued from a raw throat. Will buried his face in his father's neck and sobbed.
With the distraught child in his arms Mulder moved quickly around the back of the SUV, reaching the passenger side, pulling hard at the door. It opened and Scully slid sideways and spilled out of the front seat, barely conscious and limp. Mulder caught her with his free arm and eased them to the wet ground, keeping them in his embrace.
Will continued to cry loudly as Mulder begged, "Scully, come on, baby - open your eyes. I need you to wake up now, please, baby, please..."
He almost sobbed in relief himself when Scully raised her head a little and one weak hand fluttered to her head, gingerly touching the bruised know on her temple, fingers coming away smeared with blood. Her dazed eyes stared at the stained fingers, then swung to Mulder's worried face. Her lips parted and in a shaky, thin voice she rasped, "Mulder, what happened? Will? Is he hurt?"
Chapter 8 Cliveden - Site of the Battle of Germantown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Scully gathered a shrieking Will from Mulder's arms and cuddled him close. He was still hiccupping with every breath that shuddered out of his sturdy, little body and he was burrowing against the heavy denim shirt she wore. Scully unbuttoned the first three buttons of the shirt and Will quieted against her breast as he sought comfort more than nourishment.
Her thumb stroked over the baby's blotchy cheek. She shivered and pressed herself tightly against Mulder's side. The blanket she had been wrapped in when they left Lancaster was strewn over the passenger seat of the Explorer. Mulder wrapped his arms tightly around her and he willed his pounding heart to slow to a more normal beat.
"Where are we?" Scully squinted through the darkness at the mansion rising up in the middle of the property - a sentinel of gray stone and white shutters.
"This is Cliveden," Mulder whispered. "This is where the Battle of Germantown was fought." Scully's brow furrowed in obvious confusion.
"This is where William died," Mulder explained. Scully stared unseeingly at the house. He saw her lips moving, but he couldn't make out what she was saying. Mulder jumped in shock when a low, guttural shriek was torn from Scully's throat.
"Liar!" She scrambled to her feet, nearly dislodging a now-sleeping Will from her breast. "YOU are William! Why are you lying to me?"
Mulder hung his head in despair for a moment and then stood. He cautiously reached out and lifted the baby from her unresisting arms. Turning to the Explorer, he eased Will back into his car seat and secured the safety harness over his tiny chest. The baby whimpered once or twice but settled under the soothing caress of his father's hand.
Once he was sure that Will was drifting off to sleep, Mulder turned his attention back to the woman who was staring at him with tear-drenched, accusing, blue eyes. He had no idea what had pushed him to make the long drive from Lancaster to Philadelphia; had no idea what he was hoping to find now that they had arrived... he simply knew that he had to do something. Anything.
Here, on the site where two armies had converged in a bitter battle between domination and liberty, another smaller war would be waged. He realized that he had brought them to this place in the hopes that he could prove - finally prove to Molly that he was not the lover lost to her so long ago. Hoping to find a marker or a record that would confirm the fact that more than two hundred years earlier, the man she loved had fallen on these fields. Praying that if he managed to convince her... she would set Scully free.
"Molly, listen to me." He held out a pleading hand. "I'm not William." Molly stepped closer, curling her fingers around the back of his neck and pressing her breasts against the white cotton covering his hard chest.
She looked up at him through the veil of her lashes. "How can you say that? Do you think I wouldn't know you?" she murmured. Her lips feathered over his and she brushed her hips against the erection swelling beneath his jeans. She lowered her face to hide the triumphant smile that curved her lips.
"See... you DO remember me," she whispered. Mulder clasped his fingers around her wrist and pulled her hand from his neck. He wrenched his body from hers and pushed her firmly away.
"Molly..." It was difficult to concentrate when his body was throbbing for release; his mind saturated with guilt from his unwilling response to the woman standing before him. She looked at him with wide, uncomprehending eyes... tear-drenched eyes so familiar to him. He was nearly overwhelmed by his need to pull her into his arms and comfort her.
"Molly, if I truly was William... don't you think I'd want to be with you? Why would I lie?" Bewilderment registered in Scully's eyes... no, in Molly's eyes. Mulder wiped his hands over his face in anguish. She was his beautiful Scully... and yet she wasn't. The woman he loved was locked inside, fighting desperately to find her way out. He would fight equally hard to get her back.
Molly looked at him through narrowed eyes. "You might lie," she said slowly. "This woman," she swept a hand over the body she inhabited, "this woman has bewitched you."
Mulder cast his eyes helplessly around him. With the cessation of the rain, a low fog was rolling over the grounds surrounding the eighteenth century mansion. In the distance he could hear a church's bell tolling the hour.
As the last chime pealed in the still, night air, Mulder's tired brain tried to make sense of what he was seeing. He rubbed the heels of his hands against his eyes and blinked.
Emerging from the trees at the edges of the estate, they began to appear. British and American... men who had died in mortal combat at one another's hands, now they wandered through the mist that hugged the rain-drenched grass - bound for eternity to this place where they had fallen; bound for eternity to each other.
"Oh my God," he breathed. "Scully... are you seeing this?" Spellbound by the ethereal images slipping out of their hiding places, Mulder automatically reached for her hand. Excitement and a niggling of fear warred for supremacy inside of him. Stunned amazement had him forgetting, for the most brief of moments, the dire circumstances that had led them to this place. Suppressed exhilaration made him want to share this discovery with his partner.
Until a tiny gasp came from the woman standing beside him. She tugged sharply until her hand slipped free of his.
"William," she whispered. She took several halting, stumbling steps towards the mansion. Mulder chased after her and locked his fingers around her wrist, manacling her to his side. He had to stay close to the car where William slept, peacefully unaware of the drama unfolding all around him. Neither would Mulder allow Molly to take Scully out of his reach.
Molly slapped at the hands imprisoning her, twisting and struggling to gain her freedom.
"It's William," she panted. Mulder locked his arms around her waist and held on tightly. "WILLIAM!" she screamed frantically. "WILLIAM!" Her breasts heaved with the harsh sobs tearing from her chest and she continued to beat and claw at Mulder's restraining arms, but he stood firm.
Exhausted, she stopped fighting and slumped forward, gasping for breath. Her eyes were locked on the ghosts converging on the lawns surrounding the mansion and she whispered his name again.
Mulder watched as one ghostly warrior separated himself from the other men. The man wore the scarlet-lined blue coat and tan breeches of a Continental soldier. As he drew closer, Mulder could see that his uniform was covered with soot and dirt and the white vest worn under the coat was marred with the scarlet bloom of his life's blood. Mulder felt the shudder that went through the woman in his arms and heard her quiet, disbelieving moan.
"Oh, no... not my poor William."
The man stopped when he was less than five feet from where they stood frozen in place and Mulder knew that an identical look of shock and disbelief was mirrored in his own eyes as he stared at the ghostly, younger image of himself.
"Who are you?" The man's hand clenched around the hilt of the ornate saber that hung at his side. His voice held both suspicion and curiosity. His eyes never left Mulder's face and he showed no recognition of the red-haired woman, straining against the arms that held her fast.
"William, don't you know me?" William's eyes darted away from the man who bore his own image to gaze at the woman who was reaching out to him beseechingly.
"It's me," she whispered. Tears clogged her throat. "I'm Molly."
William reeled backward and tears filled his eyes at the sound of his beloved's name crossing this stranger's lips. His saber being drawn from its sheath was a metallic whoosh of sound - loud and deadly in the stillness of the brisk, autumn evening.
"You play me false, madam." His eyes flashed with green fire. "I beg you not to speak her name again. I have never seen you before. I do not know you." He took another step back, wanting to leave, yet strangely unable to walk away from her.
Mulder leaned forward and whispered into Molly's ear. "He can't see you, Molly." Dumbfounded, Molly stared into Mulder's face. In her frenzy upon seeing William - truly seeing him for the first time since the day he had ridden away from her - she had forgotten that she inhabited another's body. Molly relaxed in Mulder's arms, closed her eyes and willed her spirit to leave Scully's body.
Startled, she tried again. And again, she was unable to escape. Panicked, she whirled around to look up at Mulder.
"I cannot get out!" She sensed William's confusion and saw the rising anxiety in Mulder's eyes. "I cannot get out," she repeated, her voice a stunned whisper.
"What are you talking about?" Mulder's voice was low and tinged with fear. "You've done it before, just... just leave!"
She closed her eyes and bit her lip, concentrating. Struggling to free herself of the body she was trapped in. And groaned in despair, "She's gone," she gasped. "Your Scully... I cannot find her."
Mulder shook his head in denial and hauled her up against his chest. "What do you mean, you can't find her?" He clamped his hands around her upper arms and shook her. "You're blocking her. Preventing her from regaining control. Just let her go!" He shook her harder and auburn curls tumbled over her face.
William took a threatening step forward, angered to see any woman being roughly handled. He stopped when he heard her whisper.
"No... you don't understand. Always before, I could feel her, hear her. But now... now I don't feel anything. I'm trapped. I do not think I can free myself when there is nothing here to take my place."
"NO!!" Frenzied, Mulder threaded his fingers through her hair. "Scully!" He bent close and pressed his lips to hers. "Scully," he sobbed. "Oh God!" He pulled her tightly into his arms and ran his hands over her back, frantically calling her name.
"Scully, please. Baby! Wake up! SCULLLY!!!"
His face blanched at the sudden realization... Oh, Jesus. Oh, God... the accident. She had hit her head...
No! No, he wouldn't believe it. She wouldn't leave him. Had never left him.
"Scully." He pressed his lips to her ear and whispered her name over and over. Pleading. Demanding. Cajoling. Frantically, he looked into her eyes and saw Molly's equally frantic gaze looking back. She shook her head and slumped against him in defeat. She threw a mournful glance filled with tears, over her shoulder toward the place where William stood, his face awash in bewilderment.
Chapter Nine Cliveden - Site of the Battle of Germantown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Molly was startled out of her sad reverie when Mulder began to drag her across the grass. He stopped near the door of the Explorer and looked at her with fierce eyes.
"Stay here," he warned in a low, threatening voice. She nodded dumbly, once again turning toward her beloved William. She held out her hand and William took two steps closer, inexplicably drawn to this woman whose face he had never seen before, but in her eyes... oh, in her eyes... there seemed something so familiar, in those blue eyes -
Molly and William tore their gazes away from each other at the sudden, loud sobbing coming from behind them. Mulder had reached into the car and hauled the baby out of his car seat. The abrupt movements woke the little boy and his sobs were loud and piteous - just as his father had intended. And Mulder sent out a prayer of forgiveness for frightening his precious child, but the soul of his mother was at stake.
He cradled the baby to his chest and wrapped his free arm around Scully's waist. "Scully." He called to her again. "Will needs you." He bent his knees and peered into her face, looking beyond Molly for the woman trapped within. "Come on, Scully. Wake up and take care of your son!"
Sensing Molly and unable to find his mother, Will's shrieks grew louder and more frantic. Mulder fought down the guilt that swamped him as he listened to the terrified cries coming from his son; felt the trembling of his tiny limbs; saw the tear-streaked face... Will was their only hope, for if anything could bring Scully to the forefront it was the love she had for their son.
"Come on, come on, come on," he chanted under his breath. But nothing happened; Molly remained in place. Somehow sensing this, Will arched his back and flung himself against his father's chest in baby-misery; Mulder released Scully's waist in bitter defeat. He curled his arms protectively around the baby and turned away, crying openly.
"It's okay, sweetheart," he murmured against Will's head. "Daddy's here. It's okay." His voice broke on the word 'Daddy' and he pressed his wet face into Will's neck as he walked to the other side of the Explorer. Sinking down onto the grass, he leaned against the side of the vehicle, using the car as a shield, blocking Will's view of Molly as well as her view of them. He whispered reassurances into his son's ear, rocking the distraught child there on the ground.
The baby's sobs turned to snuffling, shuddering sighs. Mulder's tears dampened the reddish-brown curls atop Will's head as his own terror consumed him.
Then from the other side of the car there was a low moan.
A muffled thud and the sound of William Foxworth's low curse had Mulder scrambling to his feet. He peered over the wide hood of the Explorer and saw Scully, crumpled on the wet grass. Standing next to her was Molly.
Thank you, God...
Tall and slender with strawberry blonde curls tumbling down her back, she glowed in the moonlight. At a less desperate time in his life Mulder might have gaped at her in wonder, but right now all he cared about was getting to Scully. He stumbled around the car and fell to his knees beside her unconscious form.
"Scully." He laid his hand against her throat, frantically checking for a pulse. Beneath his fingers, he was rewarded with the faint, but steady throbbing of her heartbeat.
"Oh, God!" His soft exclamation was both plea and prayer as he held Will tightly in one arm and scooped Scully up to cradle her with his other arm. She moaned softly and turned her face against his chest and Mulder felt the gripping terror ease. A movement from the corner of his eye caught his attention and he looked up.
William had eyes only for Molly and he moved toward her slowly. She stood quietly, afraid to move... afraid to break the spell. William stopped when he was but a few inches away from her and reached out with one trembling hand to touch the blood that stained the white cotton of her chemise.
In the swirling mist, two lovers who had not laid eyes on each other in over two hundred and twenty six years stood and stared hungrily, at beloved features so achingly familiar to them both.
William Foxworth traced a path up Molly Sullivan's bare shoulder, and fingered a lock of her pale red hair. The errant curl clung to his hand when he released it, and he managed a shaken smile as he remembered the way those silky strands would wind about him in the night when they had slept wrapped together in bare skin and rumpled bedclothes. He spoke his thoughts aloud and watched silent tears well up in his Molly's eyes; saw them streak down her face. And he shook his head, held out his hands for her, closed his arms around her when she flung herself against him and sobbed on his bloodstained coat.
For a long minute they embraced, both in tears, afraid to break the magical spell with words. Finally Molly raised her head and slid one hand up to cradle the curve of his jaw, eyes still swimming in tears.
So many things she wanted to say to him! So many... and she had waited so many years to say them. She'd wandered the halls of Millcreek, lonely beyond imagining, aching in her never-ending silence to whisper his name once more - to tell him she would never have forgotten him, would have died all over again - for him. To tell him and then show him how many times she'd dreamed of touching him, holding him, kissing him... making love with him.
When she rose on the tips of her toes, hands curving around his neck, William groaned softly and snatched her up tight against his chest, until she faced him eye to eye - and their lips met in a kiss that had been in the waiting for two hundred and twenty six years.
All of the loneliness and the longing, all of the despair and pain and unending ache of separation was poured into that one kiss. Lips starved for the other's caress locked together with such tenderness and passion that anyone watching would have felt their heart breaking at the sight of it. Their tears mingled together on their wet cheeks and their sighs and moans could be heard above the rustling of dead leaves still attached to the trees dotted over the Cliveden estate. Neither dared to close their eyes; they had to see each other, had to absorb each other, completely.
William's hands slipped up from her slender waist and cupped her face as he kissed his beloved Molly; kissed her with adoring lips and questing tongue, with all the stored-up passion of hundreds of years. He'd walked these damned bloody grounds for an eternity, pining for her; afraid he'd remain in this purgatory forever, denied his Molly. To have her in his arms again, to feel her against him, holding him... it would be enough to sustain him, for another three hundred years, he thought. And although he had no certainty of where they would go from here, although he had believed in Heaven and Hell because he'd surely been somewhere in between since the day his life had drained from his battle-weary body... William Foxworth knew without a doubt he was now standing in Heaven.
The kiss ended, the lovers drew apart, slowly - and twin smiles of adoration lit up the already-glowing faces of Molly Sullivan and William Foxworth. Without taking her eyes from his, Molly whispered hoarsely, "I would have waited forever for you..."
He nodded, swallowing hard, and replied in a rough and broken voice, "I would have spent eternity trying to get back to you."
Reaching into his pocket he withdrew a scrap of ribbon, tattered from residing in a war-torn article of clothing. William smiled gently at his beloved as he carefully tied it through Molly's thick, curling locks, binding her hair up and away from her face, baring her neck to the worshipful kiss he placed first on the left and then the right side. The reverse of what he'd done, oh so many years ago when he'd left her standing in front of the Millcreek Tavern with a fervent vow between them and her lovely hair covering the kisses he'd given her...
Mulder was peripherally aware of the reunion playing out so near, but the center of his attention was the precious cargo he held. Will and Scully - his entire life - safe in his arms. He pressed a kiss first against Will's temple and then to Scully's. His mouth lingered there as he reveled in the steady thrum of her pulse against his lips. Scully roused and the smile she gave him was both sleepy and confused.
"I'll be right back," he whispered as he eased his arm from around her. Scully nodded tiredly and watched him carry Will to the car. He was back a moment later, kneeling before her and cupping her face in his hands.
"Ready?" Mulder slid his arms around Scully's waist and drew her to her feet to lead her to the Explorer. He held her securely with one arm and yanked open the passenger door, tenderly guiding her into the front seat while Will watched wide-eyed from the safety of his car seat. Exhausted, Mulder walked around the car and pulled himself into the driver's seat. Praying that the car would start, he turned the key in the ignition and breathed a sigh of relief when the engine roared to life. He put the transmission into gear and looked up.
"Scully..." he breathed. "Open your eyes - you have to see this." Drawn by the urgent tone of his voice, Scully lifted sleep-heavy lids and followed Mulder's pointing finger.
They stood there, two ghostly figures, glowing and beautiful. William pressed another kiss to Molly's upturned mouth, then taking her hand he began to lead her away, toward the open grounds of Cliveden Mansion and into the dark and damp night mist. They had only taken a few steps, when Molly stopped and turned back.
Her eyes met Scully's and she smiled tremulously; Scully didn't know why but that smile caused her to roll down the passenger side window. When she heard Molly's soft voice, Scully allowed her heart to listen.
"I am so sorry," Molly offered in a humble whisper. "I never meant to hurt you. I only wanted... I just thought..." She glanced toward Mulder and then up at William who stood protectively by her side before returning her gaze to Scully. "I didn't know..."
Long seconds passed as the two women studied each other silently. Scully knew what it was to love someone beyond all reason; knew what it was to have a love that spanned eternity. She nodded, solemnly accepting Molly's apology.
William leaned down and spoke softly in Molly's ear and the smile she directed toward the small family waiting in the car was radiant.
"Thank you," she said fervently before raising her eyes once again to meet William's expectant look. They moved as one, and as they glided away on feet that didn't quite touch the ground, their clothes were no longer bloodstained. Restored to the way they'd looked, that fateful October in 1777, Molly Sullivan and William Foxworth had found each other - and they would remain together, on another spiritual plane.
As it was meant to be... as it should have always been.
End of Book One
Tess: Way back, when Jacquie and I were writing Deliverance From Evil - the vast majority of which was set in Jacquie's Alaska - we talked about the possibility of writing a story set in my home state of Pennsylvania. We quickly came up with the idea of a ghost story set in Lancaster County and then did absolutely nothing with it for over a year. I had the fun job of making the trip to Lancaster under the guise of performing research. I ate the yummy food, poked through the quaint shops and went on the ghost tour. Great fun and I wrote it all off on my expense account <g>
I heartily recommend that if you're ever in the general area, that you stop off for a day or two and enjoy the area. It's really quite beautiful.
Check out their website at: www.padutchcountry.com
Okay, now that I'm done plugging the natural beauties of Pennsylvania, it's time for the litany of thanks.
First and foremost - my thanks to Jacquie for her friendship and for sharing her talent with me. We really do have a wonderful time writing together.
Jacquie Speaks (<g>): Lancaster, PA is on my 'To-Do' list, especially after getting this wonderful Tess-eye view of it from the absolute best writing partner and friend I have ever had. I am going back to visit Tess next year, and when I do - she's taking me on a ghost tour! As always I adore writing Mulder to Tess's fab Scully, and I am so glad we got this one done!
Thanks also to Rafferty for her beta skills and cheerleading. To Aly, for maintaining a website for Tess' stories, for her beautiful collages and hard work and for loving this story when we snuck her a preview.