Title: Over Her Shoulder
Summary: When Mulder thinks Scully's costume party dress is haunted, he simply has to convince her of that fact.
Author's Notes: This began as a silly brainstorming session with my friend Silke, she who originally got me to watch The X-Files. Once we'd fleshed out the story we wanted to write it together, but Silke's busy schedule made it impossible for her to have any time to write. It was such a great idea I didn't want to drop it, so with her permission I finished it. The antique store is a real place, although the actual shop is in Kentucky.
All of my stories can be found here: http://web.mac.com/wildwing1/Wildwing/Fan_Fiction.html Username: guest Password: shipper
Although she'd grown up in the Baltimore/DC/eastern Virginia area during her teens and was aware of all the reenactments that went on during the summer months, Scully had no idea where to find an authentic Civil War-era dress. And Ellen would know if it wasn't period-authentic, being a professor of early Americana and a Civil War buff in her own right. She knew she could have called her friend to find out, but it was a matter of pride in this case that she find it on her own.
As much as she was looking forward to seeing some of her old college friends and sorority sisters, Scully was beginning to dread this party. It was far too late to have a dress made but she hadn't wanted to do that anyway; she'd only wear it this one time and probably sell it at a loss. She was thinking more along the lines of renting a dress or, if she had to, finding somewhere that would buy the dress back from her at a reasonable price when she was done with it. So far she'd checked out five or six costume shops, which is where she'd assumed she'd find one, but the invitation had specified "authentic 1860s wear required" and that was the one thing she hadn't found. After doing a bit of research on the Internet, she decided that a re-enactor's shop might be what she needed, but where to find one?
It was turning out to be such a pain in the ass that she'd ended up putting off her search, and here it was six days before the party. As she sat in the midst of a traffic jam waiting to cross the bridge over the Potomac from DC to Virginia, her mind lingered on the problem. Maybe she could drive to a Civil War battlefield and look for re-enactor's shops? Surely they'd have them there. Ahab and her mother had dragged them to all the local history spots when they'd first moved to the area, so she'd been to Manassas, Antietam, Harper's Ferry and, of course, Gettysburg. She'd never seen a reenactment, but you didn't live in this area without being aware of them.
"This is ridiculous," she muttered to herself, looking around at the press of cars. She was supposed to have run over to Mulder's to pick up a case file he wanted her to check, but a normally twenty minute trip had already stretched to almost forty so far with construction delays. As an exit sign came up, she decided to just get off the freeway and surface-street it to Arlington. It certainly couldn't take any longer than sitting on this freeway-cum-parking lot would!
Fifteen minutes later she was almost to Mulder's apartment building on a road she hadn't taken before when she spotted the sign. It was small and wooden, rather rickety, but freshly painted. "Rosemarie's Antiques - dishes, clothes, toys, furniture - turn left here then 1/2 mile to first traffic light" it read in hand-painted but easy-to-read lettering. "Oh, what the hell," she mumbled to herself, hitting the turn-blinker and moving into the left lane.
The antique shop was as easy to find as the sign promised and she pulled up in the lot out front just a few minutes later. It was a two-story building that looked like it might have once been a wood- sided turn-of-the century house but was now covered with aluminum siding: white on top, grey for the bottom floor. Another hand- painted sign hung on a cast-iron pole near the street proclaimed, "Rosemarie's Antiques - Welcome! - Please Stop By". The molding around the two big picture windows were painted bright red, as was the front door behind a clear glass storm door, and brightly-painted wooden cutouts of butterflies, stars, bells, and other shapes that reminded her of Christmas ornaments decorated the front of the building around the doors and windows. Halloween decorations, fall leaves, pumpkins and dried cornstalks were the focus of the largest display window she could see. Best of all, a row of bright red rocking chairs lined the wall to the left of the door. It gave the place a homey, welcoming atmosphere.
A large electric OPEN sign was lit in one of the front windows, Scully saw as she got out of her car. As she pushed the Camry's door closed, a burring from her jacket pocket startled her, but it was of course her cell phone. And she knew who was on the other end.
"Hey, where are you? It's been almost an hour."
"Sorry, got caught in a traffic jam on sixty-six and had to take surface streets." She didn't want to tell him where she was because she'd never hear the end of it. "I'm almost there."
"Okay, good. I was thinking, you want to come for a run with me while you're here? A guy I met on the court this morning was telling me about this riverfront park that isn't too far from here, this time of the year it ought to be-"
"I didn't bring my sweats or gym shoes, Mulder," she interrupted him. "You should have told me about this before I left my place."
"I just remembered it," he admitted. "Well, maybe another time, then. When're you going to get here?"
"I have to make one quick stop," she hedged, knowing that if Mulder found out she was at an antique store, for whatever reason, he would tease her mercilessly. "Shouldn't be more than fifteen, twenty minutes at the most."
"Okay, I'll be here. Waiting. Patiently."
She disconnected and put the phone back in her pocket. Didn't he have anything better to do on a beautiful, sunny October afternoon?
But then, did she? What was she doing spending such a gorgeous day going to his apartment to pick up a work file, then probably heading right back home to look over the file then re-organize her closets or something equally thrilling? Maybe she'd have him come back to her place so she could change into her jogging clo-
Lost in thought, she walked towards the front door and then a flash of pale blue in the left window caught her eye. Walking past the door, she got a good look at the display and knew, right then, that she'd found what she was looking for.
The Civil War-era dress was hanging on a t-shaped metal rack, rather than a manikin, and seemed rather shapeless at first glance-but she took a second. Her first impression was that it was a bit fancy for her taste, but on second look it was less over-the-top than she'd first thought. There was no doubt she'd have to have it altered, but she knew a seamstress who sometimes shortened pants and skirts for her, so that wouldn't be a problem. The satin and lace dress was tri-colored, a white bodice with a long ice-blue skirt, snowy white lace ruffles and trim, and dark blue satin bows on the shoulders, bodice, and at the top of the cascading layers of skirt. It wasn't quite an evening gown but not a day dress either, she knew after having done some reading up on Civil War dress styles on the Internet. It was, she thought, just perfect.
Six days later...
Mulder knew something was going on with Scully, and he was about to find out just what it was. For the last few days she'd been very quiet and secretive about her plans for the weekend, and he wondered if it had something to do with his birthday coming up.
In response to his knock on her door, he heard a faint "just a minute" along with what sounded like a lower-toned expletive. Then the door was yanked open in his face and he was staring at an antebellum vision in auburn and white, Scarlett O'Hara come to life but with the face and figure of his petite partner. "Oh, shit, what in the hell are you doing here, Mulder?" she groaned, and turned away from the door leaving it hanging open. "I was hoping I wouldn't see you again until Monday."
"Whoa, Scully, what's the occasion-costume party?" he said, entering the apartment and closing the door behind himself without taking his eyes from her. It was all he could do not to gawk at her chest, since the top of the dress she wore was clearly era-correct in how low it was cut with the tops of her breasts pushing out from it. She had her hair up in some kind of poofy bun on top of her head with tendrils curling around her face, which really added to the illusion. "Actually, yes," she said grudgingly, standing by the table and tugging on a pair of wrist-length white lace gloves. "One of my old college friends is having a Gone With the Wind-themed costume party tonight, and I need to get going."
"Wow, you look amazing," he said, looking her up and down with no pretense. "You look like you could have walked out of a time portal from the eighteen-sixties."
She softened a bit, smiling slightly over at him. "Well, thank you, Mulder. But I really do have to leave."
He watched as she went over to the couch and picked up a small, knitted, pouch-like purse that fit perfectly with her dress and fussed around inside it for a moment before tugging the strings closed. He was studying her, intrigued at how well the dress fit her compact, hourglass figure. He had always assumed that Civil War-era belles wore the big bell-like hoops, but she clearly wasn't; the long pale blue skirt fell smoothly from just below the snug bodice to past her trim hips, hiding her feet beneath a layer of flounces and lace and bows. She had to be wearing heels beneath the floor-length skirt as the top of her head was even with his nose, but what he found even more interesting was that she appeared to be wearing very little makeup, not as much as he was used to seeing on her. It made her seem younger, softer, less professional-less partner-like.
"So, uh, are you in period costume all the way down to the skin?" he inquired in a casual voice as she walked towards him, heading for the door, then stopped a few feet away.
"Mulder! Jesus! Are you here for a reason, or just to harass me?"
"I, uh, no reason. Driving by."
"Right. Be sure to pull my other leg just as hard, they could both use it."
He was still studying her. The dress itself was blue and white, a little bit too feminine and lacy for his taste yet not as outrageously decorated as he imagined some of the dresses at the party would be. That thought made him pause as an idea hit him, and he grinned over at her. "You wouldn't happen to need an escort, would you?"
She stared at him, thunderstruck. "You're not coming within ten miles of that party, Mulder," she stated firmly, crossing her arms beneath her breasts, appearing to almost make them overflow the low neckline, and nearly caused him to choke. He couldn't hide where he was staring and when he looked back up at her face, he was surprised at her expression. Instead of glaring at him, she was smiling rather smugly.
That little witch, he thought with a mix of annoyance and exasperation. He doubted she had planned that, but was quick enough to take advantage of the situation. As he was about to parry that thrust, he noticed something white and wispy curling around her shoulder. "Scully, uh, you're smoking," he said without thinking, reaching for her, thinking that perhaps she'd brushed up against the stove or something.
"Mulder, don't you touch me," she snapped, the amused expression disappearing into a scowl as she raised one arm to ward him off and sidestepped him. "Okay, that's enough-get out of here. I mean it."
"No, no, Scully, I mean it-there's smoke coming from your back!"
She whirled around, the skirt spinning around her legs and showing that she was wearing a pair of high-heeled, old-fashioned blue fabric shoes. As she did so the pale wisp darted around her, circling her like a miniature tornado before disappearing behind her as she came to a stop. It was as if the wind of her movement had caught and moved it, Mulder realized, only more deliberate-more like it was moving with her.
"What in the hell are you talking about?!" she growled, stalking over to the hall mirror and turning around in front of it. "I don't smell anything-and I am not on fire!"
"I-I saw something like a tendril of smoke around you, you didn't see it?" he said, baffled. He wasn't prone to hallucinations, so he had to believe that he'd really seen something.
She glared over at him and then looked back in the mirror, smoothing the skirt with her free hand. "I saw nothing but you trying to make a fool out of me," she said forcefully. "Out, Mulder! 'Out, damned spot! Out, I say!'" As she spoke she marched over to him, heels tapping on the hardwood floors, and shoved him bodily towards and out the door with both hands on his shoulders.
"You know how much it turns me on when you quote the Bard at me, Scully."
While pushing him out she paused to snag her keys from the table behind the couch and now joined him outside the door, closing and locking it before he could react. "I mean it, Mulder. And don't follow me."
It was in the dim light of the hallway that he finally saw it clearly. Hovering over Scully's shoulder was what was clearly a spook, a specter, an apparition... clearly, a ghost. It was a woman dressed like she, from that time period, but in what he thought was some type of long-skirted, frilly nightgown or slip that showed her bare shoulders with only thin straps over them, and floated away ethereally into the air before it reached her feet. Her face was long and sad, her pale hair wisping around her head like it was floating in water. "Stop gawking at me, you're blocking the hallway-move," Scully said forcefully, brushing past him. Then she stopped and turned to face him, skirt swirling around her ankles even as the ghost peered at him over her shoulder. "I don't know what's going on with you tonight, Mulder, but don't you dare follow me. I don't want to see you again until Monday morning!"
He was still staring at the apparition, which gazed back at him with the saddest hound-dog eyes he'd ever seen, as Scully stalked away down the hall, ruffled skirt swaying behind her and ghost in her wake.
Scully had just begun to relax when she heard the commotion outside. Leaving the group of old friends she'd been reminiscing with in the parlor, she headed down the long hallway to the front door to see what was going on. Sure enough, she was unsurprised and, indeed, angered to see Mulder striding up the mansion's front walk, but a beat later she noted how he was dressed and couldn't help her reaction despite her annoyance with him.
Apparently he'd tried to fit in with the idea of the party, but lacking breeches and a frock coat he'd settled on tight jeans, a mock turtleneck, and his worn leather bomber jacket-all black. The heels of his boots clicked up the walk, and just to really seal the deal he was wearing what appeared to be a brown, battered Indiana Jones-style fedora. Though it was certainly the wrong kind of hat, he definitely had the kind of dashing appearance that fit in with the costume party's theme.
A few of the party's belles, some with dates, were out on the front lawn and veranda despite the cool autumn temperature and squealed and twittered in character as he came up the walk to pause near the top of the stairs. Then he spotted her standing in the doorway and after a moment of looking startled, whipped the hat off and bowed to her. Actually bowed, Scully thought dazedly, watching him. "Miss Scully!" he boomed, thankfully not trying to do a Southern accent like some of the others at the party, "I thought I'd find you here!"
"How did you find here?" she snapped, putting hands on hips. "I know you didn't follow me!"
"Keyword search on the Internet. Some invitations were sent on message boards," he winked, glancing around then looking back at her, eyes clearly going over her shoulder. "This was the only Gone With the Wind party in the D.C. metro area, so I figured this would be where I'd find you."
"Mul-deerrrr...." She sighed, shaking her head slightly. "Can't you leave me alone for just one night?"
She felt rather than saw another person come up behind her then smelled the unmistakable, overwhelmingly cloying scent of the other woman's magnolia perfume. "Dana, darlin', going to introduce me to your handsome suitor, here?"
Oh, God, of course it had to be her of all people, Scully thought dispiritedly. Not only was the she tallest and prettiest at the party, she had also come without a date. "Fox Mulder, my sorority sister Marcia Davis. Marcia, my... friend... Fox Mulder."
"Ooooh, Fox! What an apt name!" the other woman simpered, moving closer to him and the steps. She was wearing a bright cerulean blue satin ball gown cut so low that without its edging of lace her nipples might have been visible, and had a fan of peacock feathers tucked into the upswept 'do that bobbed over her head. She looked more like an eighteen-nineties saloon harlot than a proper Southern belle, but Scully was sure that that was the least of her concerns.
Mulder bowed to her as well, setting the hat back on his head and taking the hand she held out while cutting his eyes to Scully with a clear "is she for real?" look at his partner. But even as he looked away, the blonde lost her balance on the top step and fell towards him, and he could do nothing but catch her and stumble backwards down the low staircase, barely managing not to overbalance and fall. More exclamations sounded at their antics, and when they stopped on the front walk with him holding her tightly against his body, a few envious feminine whispers were heard. Setting the woman aside by her tiny waist, Mulder glanced up into Scully's snapping, furious eyes. "You all right?" he asked, looking back at Marcia with something less than pleasure. "Could have taken a nasty tumble."
"But you saved me," she simpered, moving closer and laying a hand on the lapel of his leather jacket. "Big strong old you."
Scully was afraid she might vomit and turned away, no longer caring why Mulder was there; if he was interested in Marcia Davis then his night was assured to be physically pleasurable, at least. If some of the noises she'd overheard coming from the other woman's room during their college days was any indication, she was quite experienced. "Scul-Dana! Wait!"
Shaking her head, Dana walked back into the house and stopped only when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Then she whirled on her partner, snapping, "Did you come here just to embarrass me and ruin the party for me, Mulder, or was there another reason?"
He was clearly taken aback. "Sorry, Scully, the woman threw herself at me," he said with a glance back to make sure that Marcia hadn't followed them. "What was I supposed to do, let her fall?"
"Yes." She turned and marched away again.
"Oh for Chrissakes..." she heard from behind her, but he didn't stop her again as she marched into the kitchen at the end of the hall and went for the open bar setup along one wall. There were several other people in the room but she turned away from them and got herself another drink, hoping Mulder would get the hint and go away while knowing that he wouldn't.
"Dana, please, just give me a minute," he said to her back. "At least come outside and talk to me where we can have a little privacy."
"I left in such a hurry I forgot my wrap, so it's a little too cold outside for me," she said pointedly, turning back to him with a glass in one hand, deliberately not offering him anything. "Whatever you need to tell me, you can tell me here."
Just then the music that was playing softly in the background changed from something nondescriptly classical to a more upbeat, waltz-type sound. Before either of them got another word out, a man dressed in period clothing stepped around Mulder, giving him a dirty look, and put his hand out to Scully. "Miss Dana, would you care to dance?" he asked with a small bow.
"Why, yes, Larry, I would, thank you," she said, deliberately cutting her eyes away from Mulder and handing him her drink before taking the other man's hand. To her amusement he was left staring after them as her friend's husband led her away, and she winked at his wife as they passed by her on the way to the ballroom. Clearly Rhonda had sent Larry over to rescue her, and a finely timed rescue it was, too, she thought with relish.
Mulder gritted his teeth, then took a swig of Scully's weak rum and coke, grimacing, before setting it back on the bar and followed them down the hall and into another room to the left of the main passage. Any moment he kept expecting to hear someone demanding he leave, but although people looked at him when he entered the crowded ballroom, no one challenged him.
Though he couldn't see the ghost all the time, it was clearly visible when she moved through shadows or out of direct lighting. Obviously no one else could see it, and while he wondered why he was the only one who could, he was also too busy to dwell on it.
In the ballroom his eyes zoomed directly to the petite form of his partner, her rich auburn hair a beacon in the otherwise-pastel room. The other women were dressed in a selection of pale colors and patterns, their hair and hats and dresses covered in bows, feathers, flowers and other ornaments. Of course the main thing that set Scully apart was the creepy sad ghost hanging over her shoulder, not quite touching her yet following her slender body through every step of the waltz as if attached. Even in the ballroom's bright light he could make out the pale wisp hovering just behind her.
How in Heaven's name was he going to convince her that she suddenly, unexplainably had an apparition following her around like Yoda riding on Luke's back during his aborted Jedi training on Dagobah?
There was his first clue, Mulder thought as he leaned back against the wall by the doors leading into the ballroom. Why did Scully suddenly have a ghost shadowing her? The dress, he realized. It had to be the dress. When he'd first seen it Mulder had thought that it looked real from that time period, and perhaps it was-not a recreation but a true Civil War-era dress once worn by the woman whose spirit was trailing Scully. He had to tell her, he realized, but how? How could he get her to believe him?
Just then there was a flash that momentarily lit up the room and he turned to see a man with a Polaroid camera turning away, waving the photo it had just ejected. That got his mind going and he went over to him, quickly explaining that he wanted to take a picture of his girlfriend in her costume, yada yada, keeping it up until the annoyed partygoer handed the camera over with an admonishment to not leave his sight and bring it right back.
Without further hesitation Mulder turned and walked onto the dance floor, hunting out Scully by her hair again among the dozens on the floor. He waited until she and her partner were on the outskirts of the dancing crowd and then pounced, calling, "Hey Scully!" so that she looked towards him as he pressed the button.
"Thanks for blinding us, Mulder!" he heard her snap as he took the ejecting photo out of the camera. But he was only paying so much attention as he took the Polaroid back to its antsy owner, and then carried the photo over to show Scully, certain it would show the ghostly form. But the damn thing was taking forever to develop, he noted impatiently as the music ended. Looking up, he saw Scully and her partner separate, both clapping politely, then head for the edge of the dance floor as the music changed to a different, but still waltzable, song.
He looked back down at the photo, seeing something hazily white next to Scully's slowly appearing face, then back up at the couple that were getting close. Without thinking about it, he stuffed the Polaroid into the inside pocket of his jacket, shucked the leather and tossed it over a nearby chair with his hat, then caught Scully's gloved hand as she went by and whirled her back onto the dance floor. "Mulder, dammit, you're like a leech today!"
Grinning down leisurely into her face, he nodded as he swung her into the proper dance form for the music with one hand resting lightly on her waist just above the swell of her hips. "Like a terrier with a bone, as you once called me," he agreed easily. "So you may as well just listen and have done with it."
He swore he could hear her teeth grinding together, but she put her other lace-covered hand on his black-clad shoulder as they moved deeper onto the dance floor. "Okay, fine, what is it?"
"You promise to hear me out and not just assume I'm nuts or trying to yank your chain?"
"I'm barely holding my temper now, so I'm not promising anything."
The glare she threw up at him would have quelled a weaker or less- determined man, Mulder thought, or split them in half from the sheer force of it, but he wasn't deterred. Looking down into her stern face he couldn't help but think how lovely she looked like this, with tendrils of her flame-colored hair falling around her classically beautiful face, the tiny gold cross hanging around her throat resting at the beginning swell of her breasts. "Okay, then, brace yourself. You have a ghost following you around, I think it's after your dress, it's why I thought you were on fire, and I have a picture of it in my jacket."
She stared up at him, not missing a beat of the dance but with her soft red mouth falling open briefly before she recovered. "Well, is that it?" she asked in a deadpan voice, raising one finely shaped auburn brow briefly. "I thought it was something minor like a UFO had landed on the roof of your apartment building and you wanted me to run away with you and your new friends."
"I'm serious, Scully. I'm not making this up or hallucinating or anything," he said, trying to project as much sincerity in his tone and eyes as he could although the feel of her skirts brushing against his legs was beginning to be distracting. "It's got to be after your dress. It's a young woman, younger than you, but with a miserable, hangdog face that's the saddest thing I've ever seen."
As if in response to his words the ghost peering over her shoulder looked down at the floor, then back up at him sadly.
"Please tell me you're not serious," Scully sighed, then leaned forward and rested her forehead on his collarbone in apparent defeat. He took the opportunity to slide his arm around her waist and pull her in a little closer, feeling her breasts brush against his chest even as her skirts nearly tangled around his legs and tripped him, but he didn't move her away again. No matter what the situation, he thought, they had to do this more often. Scully was a wonderful dancer and fit in his arms like she was made for them.
"No can do," he said in a low tone, bending over her head to speak softly into her ear. He felt her shiver and hoped it was from his voice and not the ghost tickling her or something. "We need to figure out what to do about it."
She raised her head so suddenly that he had to jerk back or risk having his nose broken by her skull. "I know exactly what I'm going to do. After this dance I'm going to thank you politely and escort you to the door, which you will then pass through and leave me in peace to enjoy the rest of this party. Tomorrow afternoon you can come by with a pizza and your crazy theories and we'll talk, but until then I would really prefer to go chat with some friends I haven't seen in ten years or more."
Understanding hit him at that. "Oh, shit, Scully, I'm sorry," he said down to her, swerving them to avoid another couple who weren't paying attention to where they were going, but still holding her lightly against his body. "I got so carried away by seeing this ghost following you around... do you believe me?"
She hesitated, looking up into his eyes. "I don't disbelieve you if that helps any, Mulder. I'm sure you see something, but whether it's a ghost or a loose piece of lace remains to be seen."
He smiled down at her. "Fair enough, Madam Skeptic. Shall we enjoy the rest of this dance?"
Three dances later she finally begged off, finding herself enjoying being in her partner's arms far too much; the man knew how to dance, she had to give him that. She had noted several of her friends eyeballing him from the sidelines and wanted to get him out of there as soon as possible, but the minute they began to leave the dance floor she saw Marcia heading for them. She was about to say something when he swerved, grabbing her gloved hand and tugging her the opposite way. "There's gotta be another way out of here," he sighed, looking around through the dancers as the music began again.
"Come on, this way," she said, turning and leading him towards the back of the ballroom by the hand. "When Ellen showed us around after we got here, I remember there being some French doors over this way somewhere."
"Is this your friend's house?" Mulder asked, sounding impressed, as they threaded their way through the crowd.
She noted that they were still holding hands and, not wanting to cause a scene, didn't remark or pull her hand away.
"No, she rented it for the party, it belongs to a private company," she said, finally spotting the French doors and heading for them with her partner in tow. "Now, will you please leave?"
"If my only other choice is staying around and being hunted by that blue banshee? Sure," he said agreeably as they went through and closed the glass doors behind them, ending up on a wide flagstone patio with a small stone path leading away into the darkness. "Noon tomorrow, pizza, and ghost picture-oh shit!"
He stopped, yanking her to a standstill as well.
"I left my jacket in there!"
They turned and looked back through the doors together as they let go of each other self-consciously. Both could clearly see those unmistakable peacock feathers waving above the crowd on the dance floor as the woman searched for them. "I'll get it, Mulder, you can pick it up at my place tomorrow," she said. "It's not so cold that you can't live without it for a night."
"And the hat. That's Frohike's."
"I won't forget the hat, don't worry."
"Deal. Hope I didn't totally ruin the party for you, Scully."
She looked up at him, unable to help how her heart lurched at the expression on his handsome face in the light from the glass doors nearby. "No, no, it's all right, Mulder," she finally said, glancing away. Then she was startled as his hand rested briefly on her shoulder, and he leaned down to kiss her cheek lightly with warm, soft lips, saying "See you tomorrow," huskily into her ear, and then he was gone. Scully was up with the dawn the next morning, having spent a mostly restless night. Much of it was, she knew, because of the dances she'd shared with Mulder and the innocent yet unforgettable kiss at the end, and the thorough grilling her girlfriends had put her through after he'd left. She didn't want them to know that he was her work partner and so they assumed he was her boyfriend, and no matter that she told them repeatedly that he was just a friend, they went on and on about what a great couple the two of them made. Everyone was sure that they'd had a fight and he'd followed her to the party, where they'd made up. It got so bad that she'd left long before she'd planned to, although at least she had reconnected with a few friends she'd lost touch with. Had one more person come to her and asked who that "tall dark and handsome" guy was, she would have begun taking hostages, she thought.
On top of that, she'd worn his jacket home since it'd been chilly by the time she'd left the party and the familiar, comforting smell of her partner surrounding her had done things to her heart and imagination that she'd rather not dwell on. It was two minutes after noon when the expected knock came on her door and she went over to open it without even looking; she could sense him out there. The smell of pepperoni and mushroom wafted into her apartment as he greeted her with, "Did you look at the picture yet, Scully?"
"Picture? What picture? On the dining room table, Mulder, we're not watching TV," she interjected when he began to carry the pizza towards the living room. "So, is this ghost still peering over my shoulder?"
He set the pizza down on the kitchen counter, and then walked around her thoughtfully. "Nope, you're just your usual smokin' self."
In jeans and a sweatshirt, right, Scully thought as swatted at him and then she went to the table, where she already had two plates and napkins set out on placemats. When she turned back to see where he'd gone to, she found him setting the hat aside and picking up his jacket from where she'd left it draped over one arm of the couch last night, extracting a Polaroid photo from the inside pocket. Curious, she went over to join him and peered at the photo as he tilted it so she could see it.
He'd managed to cut her dance partner out of the shot, getting mostly her and a pair of disembodied arms and the crowded ballroom behind her. She squinted at the photo, reaching out and tugging it a little closer, and did have to admit that there was something filmy white right behind her head, but that easily could have been a flaw in the film or...
"Come on, let me have it," Mulder said in a resigned tone, letting go of the photo so that she could bring it to her face. "What else can it be besides what I think it is?"
"Hang on a sec," she said, carrying the photo over to her desk by the windows to get her glasses, which she put on and then turned on the lamp that sat next to her computer, holding the photo under it. "Mulder, there is something here... and it's not smoke because there's no smoking allowed in that house. It's a national historical landmark."
She looked up in time to see his face brighten as he came towards her. "Really? You see the ghost?"
"I said I see something," she reiterated, not about to let him push her. "Flaw in the film or someone moved, perhaps."
"Aw, Scully... you're no fun," he half-grinned down at her, taking the photo back as she shut off the light and took her glasses off. "I would like to try something, though. Why don't you go put the dress on and we'll see if the ghost reappears."
She looked up at him with brows raised. "Can we at least eat first?"
Half an hour later she walked out of the bedroom in the white and blue dress, holding the skirt up since she didn't want to put the shoes back on as they'd pinched the hell out of her feet last night. "Ghost?"
"It's hard to see in the light; let's close the blinds," he suggested.
"Just come in the bedroom with me; it's dimmer in there since the window faces another building," she said, leading the way. He shut the door behind them as she went over and closed the blinds, instantly enveloping them in twilight.
"Yep, there she is," he said, staring just above her left shoulder in the dimness, looking startled but not surprised-the same look she'd seen on his face when he'd spotted her at the party last night. "Saddest looking damn thing I've seen in my life."
Humoring him, she said, "Why don't you ask her what she wants, why she's haunting me?"
Totally straight-faced, he did just that. Standing a few feet away he stared into the air over her shoulder and said, "Okay, Madam Mystery Ghost, why are you following my partner around? What do you want?" His brows rose. "She's pointing at you. Uh, now she's moved away a little and she's pointing at your chest. She's not very well, uh, endowed, at that."
"Okay, okay. I think she's trying to point at the dress; I bet it's like I hypothesized, that was her dress and she wants it back."
"There's no way material this new could be from the Civil War," Scully declared, having had about enough of this. "Okay, Mulder, that's it. Turn the light on. Joke's over."
"For Chrissakes, Scully, would you make up your mind?" he said crossly, doing as asked and shading his eyes until they got used to the bright overhead. "Do you believe me or not?"
She heaved a sigh, letting go of the skirt and putting hands on hips as the white lace and blue satin folds fell gracefully to pool on the floor around her feet. "It's hard for me to believe in a ghost only you can see, Mulder. It does seem likely you're messing with my head."
"Why would I do that?" he said, and his honest bafflement did get to her.
"Hell if I know. Because you're bored? Okay, get out of here so I can change."
"Hey, I have an idea. Why don't we go talk to the people where you bought the dress?"
"Because maybe they know something about it. Where did you get the dress?"
She hesitated for a moment, and then had to admit that she was intrigued. "An antique store not far from your place," she admitted. "I found it last week when I hit that bad traffic jam and detoured off sixty-six."
"Then let's go talk to them," he said, opening the bedroom door and stepping out. "C'mon, Scully, could be fun."
"Fun, right," she sighed, reaching for the back of the dress over her shoulders as he closed the door behind himself. Although she hated to admit it, spending the afternoon in Mulder's company without talk of aliens or conspiracies or shadowy government cartels was actually appealing. So he thought he saw a ghost.... could be worse, she thought with a small smile as she changed back into her jeans and a light sweater. Could have been a fluke-man or liver-eating mutant, at that.
"So this is it?" Scully said, wrapping her arms around herself against the cold wind, the large plastic bag she held fluttering and rippling against the gusts. Though both she and Mulder wore coats against the October chill, they stood on a graveyard on the side of a Virginia hill that was wide open to the elements. The old Civil War cemetery was empty and rather creepy in the late afternoon sunlight, yet the fresh air and even cold wind felt good, invigorating even.
"Yep. The grave of Abigail Inga Verlander," Mulder said, hunkering down in front of the crumbled old stone. "Poor girl. Imagine being left at the alter in that dress."
"I, uh, find it very interesting that just a recreation of her wedding dress would be enough to bring her ghost back."
He glanced up at her. "Interesting that the antique shop owner knew exactly why we were there, and asked if anything odd had happened because of the dress."
"Yeah, well, what do we do now?" Scully said, turning away slightly so that the wind blew on her back instead of her side. Mulder stood, blocking some of the cold breeze from her. Shrugging, he said, "Put the dress on the grave and see what happens?"
"Mulder! I paid... I paid a lot for that dress, and even more to have it altered to fit me. I don't want to add a dry-cleaning bill to it as well."
"I'll pay if it comes to that, come on, let's see what happens," he said, taking the bag from her cold hands. "I'll even buy you a latte on the way home to warm you up."
Shaking her head, she held the bag as he extracted the dress, which they had carried with them to the antique shop as well as up on this cold, bare hill. It fluttered wildly in the wind for a few moments, the ice-blue satin gleaming in the late afternoon sunlight, but then it drifted lightly down to the ground against the wind. Both of them watched as he set it on the grave and, with wide eyes, noted that it did not fly away when he let go of it. Instead it appeared to stick to the earth, then there was a soft, barely audible sigh and it slowly disappeared, sinking into the scraggly grass over the grave until it was completely gone without a trace.
They looked at each other wide-eyed, Scully still holding the plastic bag that snapped and rippled in the unrelenting wind. "Please tell me that it blew away," she said quietly. Feeling justified and magnanimous, Mulder shrugged. "If that's what you want to believe, Scully. I saw it sink into the ground and disappear. I think Abigail took it back, and now she's happy. Or at least content."
She shook her head, then raised her free hand and brushed thick strands of auburn hair out of her eyes. "Well, regardless, it looks like I don't have to worry about your ghost following me around anymore."
"My ghost? It was your ghost but I think you're right. C'mon, Scully, let's get out of here, that wind is bitter." Wrapping a companionable arm around her shoulders, Mulder led them down the row of ancient graves and back to her car, which was parked not far away on a dirt road that wound through the cemetery.
As soon as they left the hillside the wind abated, and the autumn evening was pleasantly cool and mild. "So, want to go have coffee?"
"How about instead we go for a run in that park your friend told you about," she said as he opened the door for her and then sliding into the driver's seat. "This time I came prepared and have my jogging clothes with me."
He got into the other side and frowned quizzically over at her, trying to figure out what she was referring to. "What?"
"The day I found that dress you asked me to go running with you but I didn't have my sweats or gym shoes with me; this time I do," she patiently explained as she started the car. "So let's head to your place and change, then go for a run to warm up and have coffee after."
"Sounds like a plan," he agreed easily. They drove for a while in silence and just as they turned onto the highway he said, "Scully, do you think if we had a seamstress make you another dress-"
"Don't push your luck, Mulder."
"You're no fun."
"That's not what you were saying last night."
A beat of silence, then, "Are you coming on to me, Scully?"
"In your dreams, Mulder. Better be nice or I'll sic my ghost on you."