Title: Standin' at the Crossroads
Author: frogdoggie
Category: XRA
Timespan/Spoiler Warning.: No spoilers, except maybe for the quote at the end. Timespan? I hate to pigeon hole this story. I think maybe it happens in some alternate universe - ha! - the universe of my imagination, I guess. It would be, however after Scully's cancer is in remission as that does effect the plot. Please note also: Stephen King decided to write an episode set in Maine called "Chinga". I began work on this story before that episode was a gleam in his eye, or at least before I heard about it. So, the setting of this story is Maine and I didn't want to change it. I guess this is my version of a Maine X-File. Sorry, Mr. King.
Keywords: x-file romance angst Scully Mulder Skinner NC-17
Disclaimer: Fox Mulder, and Dana Scully and A. D. Skinner belong to Chris Carter, Ten-Thirteen Productions and 20th Century FOX Broadcasting. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit is being made from their use. The lyrics to Cross Road Blues are by Robert Johnson and belong to CBS Records. Inc. The song is on the Robert Johnson, The Complete Recordings, 2 CD set.

Rating: NC-17, and I mean it. THIS STORY CONTAINS GRAPHIC LANGUAGE, SEXUAL SITUATIONS AND VIOLENCE. It also contains references to the occult, the Devil, and conversely, God and faith. IF ANY OF THESE SUBJECTS DISTURB YOU, DO NOT READ THIS STORY. Lastly, there are some magical rituals mentioned which are a combination of different arcane ceremonies. None of them are completely authentic or accurate. So, please folks, as the saying goes, do not try this at home! ONCE AGAIN, THIS IS A VERY ADULT HORROR STORY. Forewarned is forearmed. If you don't care for really graphic, hard core stuff, STOP HERE!

Summary: Mulder, Scully and Skinner travel to Maine on a case that proves to be a very dangerous and then deadly, X-File.

Feedback PLEASE, IF AT ALL POSSIBLE. I AM DOWN ON BENDED KNEES! Comments, suggestions and healthy debate are always welcome. Flames? Flames are for roasting 'weenies'.

Webster's defines "at the crossroads" as "at the point where one must choose between different courses of action."

It was a hot mid-July day and Special Agents Dana Scully and Fox Mulder were, for once, enjoying the air conditioned basement office in the J.

Edgar Hoover building. Each sat absorbed in their separate tasks, and the refreshingly cool air circulated around them.

"Mulder, what are you reading?" Scully asked her partner as he looked up from the open book on his desk. Mulder stared over his glasses at her and then pushed them back up his nose before he replied.

"What?" he asked, somewhat tight lipped.

"I just wondered what you were so engrossed in," Scully asked as she sat across the room, typing into her laptop computer. Mulder seemed tense and an alarm bell went off in Scully's head - the bell that warned of an impending X-File and a possibly unpleasant one at that.

"Oh, this, it's just a little light reading," he answered lifting the book up so that she could see the title.

"The Encyclopedia of Horror and The Supernatural?" Scully observed eyebrow raised. "Your idea of light reading Mulder? I'd call it a little dark if you ask me."

Mulder half smiled but it didn't reach his eyes as he replied, "it may be dark, but it is shedding some light on this letter I received yesterday. Want to take a look?" he added.

"Why do I think I'll regret it if I do?" Scully inquired as she got up and crossed over to stand by his chair.

"Ouch! You wound me to the quick," Mulder retorted half-heartedly as he handed her the neatly folded piece of paper. Scully unfolded it and began to read.

I went to the crossroad fell down on my knees I went to the crossroad fell down on my knees Asked the Lord above "Have mercy save me, if you please." Mmmmmm, standin' at the crossroad I tried to flag a ride Standin' at the crossroad I tried to flag a ride Didn't nobody seem to know me everybody pass me by Mmm, the sun goin' down boy dark gon' catch me here oooo ooee eee boy, dark gon' catch me here I haven't got no lovin' sweet woman that love and feel my care You can run, you can run tell your friend Walter Skinner You can run tell your friend Walter Skinner Lord, that I'm standin' at the crossroad, babe I believe I'm sinkin' down

Come to the Crossroads, Fox, before it's too late.

The letter was hand written in pencil and printed, not written in script. The writing was in a child's neat but stilted style. Scully looked up from reading and said, "I didn't know your fans were into sending you the lyrics to blues songs."

"Ha, very good, Scully, you never cease to amaze me," Mulder replied a weak, half smile still on his face. "An old blues tune as a matter of fact, Robert Johnson, circa 1936 or 1937, I believe." "I looked it up the words are pretty much the same except for the obvious additions..."

Mulder added, his voice trailing off.

"All right, what does this have to do with the X-Files?" Scully asked.

'And what in heaven's name does it have to do with Skinner?' she thought.

Mulder looked at her 'she always asks that,' he thought distantly.

'it's like some kind of catch phrase for her, like magic words,' and Scully continued when he didn't immediately answer.

"I mean, Mulder, it's obviously a crank letter, someone is just trying to push your buttons, that's all. It's some kind of sick prank," she finished placing the letter back down on his desk.

"Yeah, I thought so too, until I got this second letter this morning,"

he answered with real tension in his voice. He pulled a second folded piece of paper from beneath another book, 'The Handbook of Voodoo Ritual' which also sat on his desk. He handed it to Scully without preamble and then sat back rubbing the bridge of his nose beneath his glasses.

Scully unfolded the second letter and read it too, and it chilled her.

There was only one line on the page and a signature.

"Please come, Fox, before it's too late."

Love, Samantha

"Oh, Mulder...." Scully began, her whole face pulling down in an anxious frown.

"Hey, it's all right," Mulder hastened to reply.

"No, it's not all right, this is absolutely sadistic," she fumed, angrily tossing the letter onto his desk for emphasis.

Mulder just stared at her, and then he turned to his suit coat hanging on the back of his chair, and took out an envelope from inside the inner pocket. He opened the envelope and pulled out a third letter. Mulder carefully unfolded the paper and smoothed the page flat next to the first and second letters on his desk.

"If it's a sick joke it's a pretty elaborate and convincing one..." he replied quietly, gesturing for Scully to compare all three pieces of paper spread out on the desktop.

"Uh, I brought this in this morning?" Mulder asked quietly, indicating the third piece of paper.

Scully drew closer and bent over to look at the letters. The last letter was dated from the year before Samantha's disappearance and it was obviously a letter from Mulder's sister to her big brother. The little girl had been writing from a summer camp somewhere and Scully was touched by the love for her big brother that shown through her childish scrawl. A childish scrawl that was absolutely identical to the handwriting in the other two letters - letters that were not dated but must have been written...? Scully wondered just when the other letters had been written.

"What was the postmark on the other two letters?" she asked Mulder.

Mulder pulled the envelopes from under 'The Handbook of Voodoo Ritual'

and showed them both to Scully. The postmarks were only three days old and from Crossroads, Maine. Scully raised an eyebrow at the city's name. Mulder remained mute.

Scully turned them over in her hands and examined the envelopes. They were fresh, like they'd just come out of a newly opened box of business sized envelopes. She touched the first two letters again and the paper was crisp and new as well.

"Mulder, this doesn't make any sense. I mean, these last two letters if they were written by your sister, her writing would have changed by now. She's a woman, not a little girl anymore," Scully said gently.

Mulder reached over and carefully picked up Samantha's summer camp letter. Scully couldn't help but notice the letter's fragility. It was obviously old, and she was touched as Mulder cautiously and tenderly folded it up and placed it back in it's accompanying envelope. 'God, he must have kept that letter all these years,' Scully thought and she suddenly had a very tight feeling in her chest, as Mulder slipped the envelope back inside his jacket pocket.

"Mulder, I..." she began, but he interrupted her.

"I know what you're going to say, but, look, I have to find out about these letters. Christ, if there's any possibility, no matter how remote that Samantha sent them - I have to know," he stated.

Scully sighed. She saw the single mindedness in his face. She knew what it meant. The logical, eidetic brain that Mulder had was shutting down and the irrational, emotional Mulder brain was taking over as it always did in matters involving his sister. She also knew she was going to go along for the roller coaster ride that was most likely coming and she said, "All right, Mulder...but what do all these books have to do with the letters?" she finally asked.

Mulder squared his shoulders and grinned slightly, and Scully knew that her tacit approval had buoyed his spirits, and she felt good about it.

He took his glasses off and put them on his desk.

"Well, I've been doing a little research on the symbology of 'The Crossroads,' he began in way of explanation, "The crossroads or more specifically, a crossroad, is very significant. There are references to crossroads in just about every magical belief system across numerous cultures. The meaning varies all the way from a spot that's magically dangerous and should be avoided at all costs, especially after dark, as in the Robert Johnson song, to a place where it's perfectly acceptable to practice ritual magic. For instance in the voudon religion..."

"Voudon, like Voodoo? As in little dolls with pins?" Scully interrupted skeptically. "And what does this have to do with Skinner?" she belatedly asked.

"Hey, I would have thought you'd be a bit less skeptical where voodoo is concerned, especially after...." Mulder's comment was interrupted by the ringing of the telephone on his desk. He focused on it and then picking up the receiver, placed it to his ear.

"Mulder," he growled into the phone obviously annoyed at the interruption, but his tone quickly became much more formal, "Yes, yes Sir, all right, we're on our way," he said and then he placed the receiver slowly back in it's cradle. He looked at the phone for a second with furrowed brow, and then turned to Scully, a confused look on his face, "That was Skinner, he wants to see us immediately," he told her, "and he sounds pissed," he finished, reaching for his suit coat.

Both Agents gave each other a look that said 'What the hell?' But, they knew better than to keep Assistant Director Walter Skinner waiting, and they both exited the basement office, thoughts of voodoo and the enigmatic letters from Samantha rattling around in their heads.

A.D. Walter Skinner's secretary ushered Mulder and Scully into Skinner's office so quickly that they barely had time to prepare themselves for what was likely to be a chewing out session.

Scully looked at the harried woman and thought, 'Lord, he must really be on the warpath this afternoon!'

Mulder took one look at the woman and thought, 'It looks like it's bend over and assume the position time again,' and he took in a deep breath to prepare himself for Skinner's wrath.

Skinner had his back to them when they entered, and as the secretary announced them, and then beat a hasty retreat, shutting the door behind her, he turned around. His face was tight and his eyes were narrowed to two flinty lines behind his glasses. The Assistant Director was indeed royally pissed, and he was working to control the emotion before it broke free and scorched them all with it's heat.

"Sit down," he hissed indicating the two chairs in front of his desk and both Agents played musical chairs to see which one of them could take a seat faster.

Skinner had a piece of paper in his hand and as soon as they were seated he brandished it at Fox Mulder and spat out between clenched teeth, "Do you have any explanation for this Agent Mulder?"

Mulder gazed back at Skinner, a blank look on his face.

Scully thought, 'Well, it looks like I'm off the hook this afternoon,"

as Mulder replied in his best conciliatory tone.

"An explanation for what, Sir?"

"For this letter!" Skinner almost shouted at the bewildered Agent.

Scully suddenly had a sinking feeling in her stomach, and from the look on Mulder's face something similar must have been going on in his guts as well.

"Letter?" Mulder asked slowly and then he extended his hand towards the fuming Assistant Director. Skinner thrust the letter into Mulder's waiting fingers, and then he stood over the younger man, his hands on his hips.

Mulder read the letter over carefully and then he looked up at Skinner and kept eye contact with him as he slowly passed the letter over to Scully.

Skinner's head swiveled from Mulder to Scully as she plucked the paper from Mulder's hand and read.

It was essentially the same letter Mulder had shown her, but with the Robert Johnson blues song written in an elegant script, a woman's hand.

'In fact, the letter even smells faintly of a woman's perfume,' Scully thought. The only difference in this letter and the one they had left behind on Mulder's desk was that instead of 'tell your friend Walter Skinner' it said, 'tell your friend Fox Mulder.' Scully handed the letter to Skinner and looked at Mulder with a raised eyebrow.

"What the hell is going on?" Skinner demanded angrily looking from one to the other as he took the letter and put it back on his desk.

"Sir," Scully began, "I'm sure Agent Mulder doesn't know anything more then you do about that letter. As a matter of fact, he has a very similar letter on his desk right now."

"Yeah, except instead of Fox Mulder it says 'tell Walter Skinner on mine," Mulder added, rubbing his hand through his hair.

"All right, then can I assume you don't know anything about this letter either?" Skinner asked walking to his desk and grabbing a different piece of paper from it.

Mulder took the second sheet and this time he read it aloud.

"Come to the Crossroads, Walter, for old times sake. Please, before it's too late" Love, Maggie

Skinner snatched it back from Mulder, embarrassment suddenly joining the consternation that was all ready on his face. He threw the paper down next to it's mate and glared at Mulder.

"When did you receive these letters?" Scully asked in an attempt to salvage a potentially explosive situation.

"I've been out of the office for a couple of days, I got them both this morning," Skinner replied tersely.

"Sir, I don't know anything about these letters," Mulder broke in quickly "And if it's any consolation, my second letter said, 'Love, Samantha,' he added looking down at his hands.

Skinner blinked at Mulder for a moment and then the anger seemed to drain out of him all at once. He walked back over to his desk and sat down, heavily, behind it.

"You're telling me you got two nearly identical letters?' he asked.

"Yes," Mulder replied flatly.

"And the letters were seemingly written in Agent Mulder's sister's handwriting," Scully explained, "of course further analysis might prove that assumption untrue, but from just cursory examination, they were either identical or very expert forgeries," she added.

"How did you know that?" Skinner asked quietly.

"We knew it because, uh, I brought in a letter my sister had written to me years ago, and Scully and I compared all three letters. They're identical, Sir?" Mulder asked with conviction.

Scully glanced at Mulder and breathed deeply. Before she could say anything else Skinner was opening the center drawer in his desk and pulling out an old envelope. He placed it carefully on his blotter and opened it up.

"Yeah, well, I had a similar feeling about the handwriting in the letters I received so I sent them over to Bill Burke, for a handwriting analysis," Skinner began, fingering the folded paper he had taken from the envelope.

"Burke really knows his stuff," Mulder interrupted.

"Burke says the first two were written by the same person," Skinner stated.

The two Agents looked at him as he continued, "which means I guess that they are identical to this letter," he sighed, unfolding the paper and facing it towards the two Agents.

Mulder and Scully both got up and stepped over to peer down at the letter.

Scully scanned the contents and as she did her face flushed red, "Oh my God,' she thought, 'it's a *Dear John* letter,' and 'what must it be costing him to show this to us?' followed the first thought, and then, 'why did he keep it?' but she kept reading.

'Shit,' was all Mulder could think.

Dearest Walter, I hope you'll understand. I know it's going to be hard, but I don't know any other way to tell you - I've met someone else. I'm so sorry I had to let you know this way, because I really do care for you. I know I said I would wait, but it's just that, well, I've fallen in love with someone else.

Please forgive me, and don't think it's anything you said or did. It's just me. You're a good man, Walter and I know you'll find someone else to share your life with when you come back. God Bless, and keep you, and bring you back safe.

Love, Maggie

Scully finished reading and she couldn't look up at Skinner, 'no way,'

she thought, so she glanced over at Mulder but he seemed to be reading the letter again. She looked over at the empty envelope on Skinner's desk and she could just make out, reading upside down, the return address - 'Maggie Flynn, Crossroads, Maine.'

Skinner was saying something however, and then Scully had to look up at him. There was a very far away look in his eyes.

"She sent me that letter six months after I'd been *In Country*, Vietnam, I mean," he cleared his throat. "After I was wounded and got my discharge, I half thought about looking her up, but couldn't bring myself to do it. I moved on, I didn't even go back there," he said.

"Back to where, Sir?" Mulder asked quietly having finally finished reading the letter.

"To Crossroads, Maine," Skinner replied, the far away look still on his face, "I'd been working up there on a summer job, on a fishing boat, just before I enlisted. I was only 18 years old - still wet behind the ears - hell, you can guess the rest," he blustered.

"Yes, Sir," Mulder commented neutrally. Scully remained silent. In truth she was slightly awed by the fact that Skinner was telling them any of this, and she was acutely uncomfortable over the fact.

"I heard from her a couple of more times over the years though. She'd tracked me down somehow, and wrote to congratulate me when I graduated from the Academy, and then when I got married. I heard from her for the last time about 7 years ago. She and her husband were running a little bed and breakfast just outside of Crossroads, I guess. She had sounded happy in the letter...." he let his voice trail off as he took off his glasses and checked them for lint.

"Sir, Flynn was her maiden name?" Scully asked gently indicating the envelope on Skinner's desk. Mulder examined it then too as Skinner placed his glasses back on.

"Yes, she married Kevin Boyce, a local guy and settled down in Crossroads, they owned Boyce's Bed and Breakfast. Her maiden name was Flynn. Margaret Flynn."

"And the writing is identical," Mulder agreed as he turned his attention to all three letters laying on top of Skinner's blotter.

"Yes," Skinner retorted sharply, still embarrassed at revealing such a personal memory to them. "Hell, that first letter even smells like.."

"Her perfume?" Scully asked.

"Yes," he sighed the memory of Margaret Flynn obviously still painful to him.

"So..." Skinner had started to talk again, but suddenly Scully's cell phone beeped.

A mystified look on her face, Scully pulled the phone out of her jacket pocket and pressed a button on it's face, "excuse me," she whispered politely, and then "Scully," she said into the receiver end.

Mulder and Skinner watched her as she took the call.

"Who is this?" she gasped slightly into the phone, "How did you get my number?" and then all the color drained from her face and her blue eyes got very wide.

Mulder glanced in alarm at Skinner, and going to her side pressed his ear against the outside part of the cell phone. He could just make out a male voice singing something into Scully's ear. 'It sounds like, it sounds like that Robert Johnson blues tune,' Mulder thought, 'Hell, it's definitely the tune, and it's saying *tell your friends, Dana,* and he looked at Skinner and whispered, "Can we trace this?"

Skinner shook his head - "not with any accuracy on a cell phone," he advised in a low voice as Scully's face began to register more and more horror.

Mulder pressed his ear to the phone once more and he noticed that the cell was shaking because Skully's hand was trembling. He could just make out the voice and it was saying, "Come to the Crossroads, Starbuck, before it's too late," and there was a click as the line went dead, and Scully dropped the cell to the office floor.

Scully stood momentarily paralyzed and then her face contorted with a mixture of anger and fear and her knees seemed to suddenly weaken.

Mulder grasped her arm as she rocked back and fell into the chair she had been sitting in.

"Scully, are you all right?" Mulder asked touching her hair, her shoulder and her back in quick succession. He was seething with anger and worry, and his hand shook slightly.

"Of course, she's not all right," Skinner blurted as he made a hasty exit towards his executive bathroom. He returned quickly, and carried a glass of water. Scully took the glass from him and drained it in one long, steady gulp. Skinner walked over and gingerly picked up the cell phone as if it was hot, setting it on the corner of his desk.

"Agent Scully, who was that on the phone?" he asked his face tight with tension.

Scully couldn't find her voice so Mulder answered for her, "I think it was her father, Sir, Bill Scully. He's the only one I know of that called her Starbuck," he finished. Mulder was surprised at how uneven his voice had become as Skinner blinked back at him in temporary confusion.

"My father's dead, Mulder?" Scully asked flatly, finding her voice at last, "that must have been some sick ba...umm, some misguided person imitating my father's voice," she insisted.

Scully looked Mulder in the face then and he thought, 'she doesn't believe what she just said at all, she thinks it was her father,' and he forced his face into a blandly neutral expression. Scully caught the look though and flared up at him.

"Damn it Mulder, it wasn't my father, my father is dead!" and the last four words were shouted into his face with such vehemence that Mulder took a step back. Scully continued to glare at him, her blue eyes like two argon lasers.

"Agent Scully!" Walter Skinner barked and Scully jumped. He had certainly gotten her attention.

"Can you really deny it was your father?" Skinner probed watching her face carefully.

Scully stared down at the water glass she was still holding and replied almost in a whisper, "My father used to sing me to sleep sometimes when I was very small," she said, "the voice, that voice, it, it sounded so much like him...but I just can't believe it was him, I mean, my father, my father's dead," she finished miserably and then she handed the water glass to Skinner because he was now standing the closest to her.

Mulder frowned deeply and Skinner was doing the same, and both of them stared at the small, still figure of Dana Scully as she sat trembling in the chair.

At last Skinner moved and he seemed to have come to a decision. He strode over to his phone and rang his secretary. "Sharon, I want you to book a flight for me. Yes, three tickets, for me and Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. Right. From Dulles to Bangor, Maine. The first available flight in the morning. Yes, we'll pick the tickets up at the airport. Yes, no, wait, yes, that might be a good idea. Try to get a four wheel drive vehicle, all right. Thank you," and he hung up the phone.

Mulder had resumed his position next to Scully and had placed his hand on her shoulder again. Skinner glanced from Scully to Mulder's hand to Mulder's face. Mulder looked a bit stunned.

"Well, don't you want to investigate this thing?" Skinner asked his voice barely under control. "This is your specialty, isn't it?"

"Yes sir but I didn't think.." Mulder began.

"Look, Fox," Skinner said using the Agents Christian name to add emphasis to his words. "Ever since I got those letters I've felt like I had to check out what was going on. I don't want to say I feel compelled, but, hell, I don't know any other way to describe it. I feel drawn back to Crossroads. Like I have to go there, and it's, well, it's scaring the shit out of me," he finished bitterly.

Mulder considered Skinners words. Skinner watched him closely and then Mulder came to a decision also.

"Sir, I think you're right, and I think I'm feeling the same way - we feel like we have to go, so...." Mulder began, giving voice to his opinion.

"We should go," Scully finished for Mulder, looking up at the two men with determination on her face. "I felt exactly the same way the minute I answered that phone call," she added. "Now, wild horses couldn't keep me from going to Maine."

Skinner's phone beeped. He turned and picked it up. "Yes, excellent.

Thank you Sharon, and Sharon, uh, I don't know what I'd do without you.

No, that's all right, my fault, yes, thanks, ok," and he hung up.

"That woman has the patience of Job - working for me she has too,"

Skinner sighed, a tiny grin just lifting the corner of his mouth as he tried to break the tension in the room. Mulder smirked slightly and Scully just stared for a moment, not sure he was serious, and then she smiled at his unexpected self-depreciation.

Skinner rubbed his jaw and shifted his tense shoulders, "Go home and pack your bags," he said, we're flying out tomorrow morning at 7 AM."

Scully left the basement office early, but Mulder had lingered there to pour over his occult books and study the two letters. He wracked his brain over the significance of the song's words. Finally he had underlined Skinner's name and penciled in a question mark next to it.

Then he had drawn an arrow down to the lines that said, 'I haven't got no lovin' sweet woman that love and feel my care' and penciled in Maggie Flynn next to them. Somehow, after Skinner had shown them his *Dear John* letter, Mulder had thought those lyrics were too much of a coincidence to ignore. He still tried to determine, though, how any of the lyrics could possibly relate to his sister. About the only lines that applied at all were "Have mercy save me, if you please," and the thought sickened him. There just weren't any easy answers to be discovered in any of the letters. Mulder looked forward to the trip to Crossroads, Maine with a mixture of dread and anticipation. 'At least I'll have some explanation then,' he thought, 'I hope,' he sighed.

Mulder put the letters into his inside suit coat pocket, slammed the last book he had been reading, *The Book of Ceremonial Magic*, shut and tucking it under his arm, left the building.

Skinner had gone home, packed and then downed a couple of shots of scotch to steady his nerves. Even with the scotch, sleep had come with difficulty but finally at midnight he was able to close his eyes.

Scully had gone home immediately, packed and then tried to go to sleep.

Sleep was a long time coming and only after a warm shower and cup of *Celestial Seasonings Sleepy Time Tea* was she finally able to close her eyes.

Mulder tossed and turned on the couch in his apartment. He dreamed his sister was calling his name, "Fox help me, please, help me," and he woke shouting "Samantha!?" 'God, what had I been dreaming,' he thought, suddenly unable to remember.

Scully tossed in her bed. She dreamed that her father was calling her name, "Starbuck, help me, please, help me," and she woke screaming, "Daddy!?" 'Oh my God, what was I dreaming about?' she thought, suddenly unable to remember.

Skinner tossed in his bed. He dreamed of Maggie Flynn but she wasn't calling for help. Instead she was screaming in ecstasy as he thrust into her and he woke, sweating in the dark. "What the hell?" he thought, suddenly unable to remember.

In Crossroads, Maine, a dark haired woman woke screaming, "Walter, no!"

Dulles airport was busy as usual even for the early morning hour. A taciturn Skinner had picked both Mulder and then Scully up at their apartments and then driven them to the airport. It had been hard to find a spot in long term parking, but Skinner had finally managed to locate one fairly close to the terminal. The trio walked the rest of the way to the departure gate and as Mulder and Skinner strode ahead, Scully struggled to keep up.

'God, why is it that every man I know forgets to take into account the difference in my height,' Scully thought tiredly, just as Skinner glanced back and then slowed down to allow her to catch up. Mulder, in his usual single minded way, strode ahead. Scully just watched his receding back and sighed. Mulder reminded her of a blood hound hot on the scent whenever he got like this, and Scully was usually left in the dust.

"Agent Mulder, where's the fire?" Skinner called after Mulder, and the other man stopped and turned around, squinting into the sun at them. He waited for them to catch up, garment bag slung over one shoulder, and when Scully and Skinner reached him, he walked on into the terminal in silence.

The flight to Bangor was uneventful, Scully sat next to Mulder and Skinner was seated directly across from them in an aisle seat. Skinner had been squirming in his seat for the last 15 minutes or so because next to a him was a very garrulous little old lady. The grandmotherly woman was regaling Skinner with stories of her many grand children and soon, she was calling him Walter, and talking about her latest surgery.

Scully almost laughed at the look on the Assistant Director's face.

Mulder was reading a thick volume, *The Book of Ceremonial Magic*, which he had brought along on the trip. Scully got a look at some of it, when Mulder held the book flat and it was so bizarre that she really didn't want to read any more, so she looked out the window, read the boring in-flight magazine, and then finally dozed off, sagging against Mulder's shoulder.

The gentle pressure of Scully's head and the exhalation of her sleeping breath against his neck, finally caused Mulder to quietly close his book and glance over to study his partner. Her face was unlined and devoid of worry. He was glad that she was getting some rest. She had looked very tired this morning and Mulder had been concerned that she hadn't slept well the night before either. He was sure that all of them were going to need every once of strength they had once they reached Crossroads, Maine. He was worried for Scully's safety. 'OK, shoot me for being overprotective,' he thought. Sometimes he just couldn't help wanting to protect her even though he knew Scully hated it when he did.

Scully shifted slightly and snuggled even closer to him. One of her hands came up to rest lightly on his arm and her hair spilled down over the side of her face. Mulder allowed himself a half smile as he reached over and gently pushed her hair back behind her ear. Impulsively he let his fingers just brush her cheek. Mulder didn't know why he had wanted to touch Scully at precisely that moment. 'Well, that isn't quite true,' he mused ruefully, and then he pushed the feeling into the back of his mind where other similar moments were kept well hidden.

The rest of the flight seemed to pass quickly and the plane landed at Bangor International Airport pretty much on schedule. Skinner's secretary had made arrangements for them to rent a four wheel drive vehicle. The black Ford Explorer was waiting for them when the shuttle dropped them off at the rental car agency.

There was a brief awkward moment as Skinner and Mulder tried to decide who was going to drive. Finally, incredibly, Skinner took Mulder's suggestion and they flipped for it. Skinner won. Mulder offered to let Scully ride shotgun but she told him "no, that's fine, I'll be happy to sit in the back." Somehow the thought of sitting next to Skinner until they reached their destination made her slightly car sick.

So, their seating arrangements decided, Skinner guided the Ford out onto state highway 9 northeast and towards the Maine coast. Mulder soon fell asleep in the front passenger seat and Scully passed the time by looking out the window.

At about the halfway point between Bangor and Crossroads, Skinner pulled off the highway at a service area. 'Thank God,' Scully thought, her legs had fallen asleep at least five miles back. Mulder made a beeline for the restroom. Scully had begun to think that this road trip was turning into one of her childhood family vacations when her father was trying to make time, and pit stops were few and far between. She decided to avail herself of the ladies room as well as long as she had the opportunity. It was anybody's guess when they'd stop again. Scully walked into the service area building and then her shoulders sagged as she spotted the women's restroom. 'It figures,' she sighed, taking a spot at the end of the long line.

Mulder returned from the restroom to see Skinner, foot propped up on the Ford's bumper sipping a soda and holding a half eaten hot dog. There were two more sodas and hot dogs sitting on top of the vehicle's roof.

"I drove off and left something up there once," Mulder commented as he walked up to the Assistant Director, "I take it this is lunch?" he added with amusement.

Skinner indicated the sodas and replied, "Diet Cokes," and "what's the matter, don't you like hot dogs?" as he continued to drink his Coke while scanning the crowd in the parking lot.

Mulder thought Skinner looked like he was on duty, and he guessed in a strange way, he was, but he didn't say anything about it, and picked up one of the Cokes, "Hot dogs are fine, Sir," was all he said instead.

"Straw?" Skinner asked, pulling one from his suit coat pocket.

Mulder took it from him and said, "Thanks." He tapped the end of the straw against the Ford's side, it burst through the paper wrapper and he popped the straw into the cup. He almost threw the wrapper on the ground, looked at Skinner, thought better of it, and walked over and put it in a trash can.

When he returned to the side of the Explorer, Skinner was almost through with his soda and the hot dog was gone. He was staring at Mulder as if he had something to say. Mulder stood waiting and sipping, waiting and sipping, and finally Skinner spoke up.

"Look, Mulder, does this trip make as little sense to you as it does to me?"

"Sir?" Mulder asked puzzled, as he reached for one of the hot dogs.

"It's just that, well, I've never been very good with this type of thing - running off on a whim I mean. I'm not used to following an impulse, acting irrationally, going on intuition, or compulsion or well...Crap.

What I'm trying to say is, this isn't my usual way of operating."

"You mean it's more like my way of operating?" Mulder asked sardonically.

Skinner gave him a scathing look, but Mulder figured he had hit the nail on the head.

"Whatever," Skinner continued, "But, look - Margaret Flynn meant a lot to me Mulder, and if there's even one chance in a million that she wrote those letters, then maybe she does need my help and I can't overlook that possibility. And if she didn't write those letters then whoever did is going to have hell to pay," he added angrily.

"I think I know what you mean," Mulder replied quietly, thinking of his sister.

Skinner glanced at him and replied, "Yes, I suppose you do."

"But it bothers you to feel out of control?" Mulder asked carefully.

"Yes, exactly, out of control," Skinner agreed, "and I don't think I like the feeling," he added, dropping his empty soda cup to the ground and crushing it under his heel.

Mulder sighed. He had lived most of his life since his involvement with the X-Files in a state somewhere between rationality and irrationality and now it seemed fairly normal to him. But, he could understand that this same concept would probably turn Skinner's world upside down. He had no idea what they were going to face in Crossroads, but he did have the idea that all of them would have to deal with the irrational before very much longer.

"Sir, the only advice I can give you is, go with the flow, because if you try to paddle upstream against the current you're going to end up.."

"going crazy," Skinner asked.

Mulder just looked at him, raised an eyebrow and took another sip of his Coke.

"All right," Skinner replied. "I'll consider your advice, Agent Mulder," he added as he took his crushed Coke cup to the trash can.

"I wonder what happened to Scully?" Mulder asked peering off in the general direction of the service building and taking a bite of his hot dog.

"Long line," Skinner replied, "my wife used to complain like hell at rest stops because there was always a long line for the women's restroom," Skinner added.

Mulder nodded and then Skinner said, "you'd better take her soda into the shade or it'll be nothing but brown water by the time she comes back."

Mulder wolfed down the rest of his hot dog and then picked up Scully's cup and hot dog and walked over under one of the trees that bordered the parking lot. He wondered briefly how Skinner could stand out in the sun like that and not burn the hell out of his head. Just as he thought it, Skinner walked over and joined him in the shade.

Presently Scully returned and Mulder handed her the Diet Coke and hot dog.

"Oh, thank-you," she said somewhat surprised and looking at Mulder.

"You're welcome," Skinner replied.

Scully looked from Mulder to Skinner and then thought 'oops, I should have known better,' "Oh, thank you, Sir," she stammered hastily Before she could embarrass herself any further Mulder said, "Shall we hit the road, then?"

"Fine?" Scully asked quickly, heading towards the Ford. She tried to juggle the Coke and the hot dog to open the door, but found it impossible. Skinner reached over and opened it for her. "Thanks," she said as she sought refuge in the back seat.

Skinner continued to drive and they spent the remainder of the trip in relative silence.

By late afternoon they had reached the outskirts of Crossroads, right on the Maine coast and were greeted with a typically quaint New England town. There were quiet shady streets, little interesting shops, and art galleries, antique dealers, old houses lovingly restored, and well maintained newer structures that were built to blend in with the existing architecture. Everything looked completely like small town *historic landmark* Americana, and Scully, Mulder, and Skinner seemed to relax a bit with the normalcy of it.

Scully spotted the tasteful sign that advertised the location of Boyce's Bed and Breakfast, and they followed the directions to it's location on the opposite side of Crossroads proper. Skinner had thought it might be a good idea to call ahead but Mulder suggested they just show up and see what kind of reaction they got from Margaret Flynn and her husband.

Skinner finally agreed that perhaps that was the best course of action and they had driven out unannounced.

Scully was instantly impressed with the classic Victorian architecture of the Bed and Breakfast and the fact that it was actually farther from town than she expected, as well as being perched right on lands end, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The view was breathtaking and as the car pulled up out front she watched the gulls wheel and swoop around the widow's walk on top of the house.

As they exited the Ford, Scully also noticed some scaffolding surrounding one end of the house and several bundles of shingles waiting on the roof.

Skinner walked straight up the walkway towards the front door but Mulder lingered a moment, reading the little sign out front. Scully drew up beside him and read it too. The sign said, Welcome to Boyce's Bed and Breakfast. Your hostess: Margaret Flynn-Boyce. Mulder's brow was furrowed and Scully said, "Why not Kevin and Margaret Boyce?"

"I was just thinking the same thing," Mulder replied but then they both realized that Skinner hadn't looked at the sign, and he was all ready on the porch, and pressing the door bell. Both Mulder and Scully hastened to catch up with him.

He rang the buzzer several times and finally a shadow appeared on the other side of the glass door and the inside door swung open. Mulder and Scully stepped up onto the porch just in time to see a striking woman standing behind the outer screen door.

Skinner was suddenly speechless and he just stood staring as the woman said, "May I help..." and then stopped dead in mid sentence to say, "Walter? Walter Skinner?" with tremendous emotion in her voice.

"Hello, Maggie," was all Skinner could manage to get out.

"My God, Walter, I...My God!" and she opened the screen door and came out onto the porch to get a better look at Skinner.

Mulder took in the scene and had to admit that Skinner had good taste.

Maggie Flynn was beautiful, a classic face and figure that had aged well, with long black (slightly gray in places) hair, tied up behind her head, and arresting blue eyes. She was almost as tall as Skinner and she carried herself, in her light summer dress, with a dancer's grace and poise.

Mulder looked over at Scully to get her reaction and she glanced at him, raising an eyebrow. Scully was thinking, 'either Margaret Flynn is a consummate actress, or she had no idea Skinner was going to show up on her doorstep,' as the woman took Skinner's hand.

"Walter, after all these years. Good lord, I thought I was dreaming, what, what are you doing here?" Maggie asked bewildered but obviously glad to see him nonetheless.

Skinner took the hand that was grasping his between both his hands, and gently squeezed it. "Maggie, it's, it's great to see you," he stammered, "Uh, could we come in, my reason for coming here is a little complicated," he added.

Maggie Flynn looked from Skinner to Mulder, and then Scully, and replied, "Oh, I'm sorry, now rude of me, of course, come in, come in."

Skinner released her hand and introduced the two Agents, "Maggie, this is Fox Mulder and Dana Scully,"

Scully thought it significant that he didn't say Agents Mulder and Scully.

"Oh, well, come in, all of you, please, I just put some fresh lemonade in the fridge, I'll go get it," she replied, opening the screen and ushering them inside, "That's the parlor, go on in and sit down and I'll be right back," and she headed off towards the back of the house after shutting the front door.

Mulder was conscious of the fact that the house looked like an authentic Victorian in both decor and the fact that it lacked central air.

However, there were ceiling fans and with the windows open, the proximity of the sea made for excellent cross ventilation. It was really quite breezy and pleasant inside.

As Skinner prowled the parlor he leaned over and whispered into Scully's ear, "Would you call this decor, early *Martha Stewart* or *The Best of Bob Villa's This Old House*," he quipped. Scully narrowed her eyes at him just as Maggie Flynn returned carrying a tray with the lemonade and four glasses heaped with ice on it. She put the tray down on the coffee table and sat down on the couch. She began to pour the lemonade and each of them took a glass and sat down. Skinner moved to sit next to Maggie on the couch. She looked at him then and from the look in her eyes it was evident to both Mulder and Scully, that Walter Skinner had also meant a lot to Maggie Flynn.

"Walter, what are you doing up here in Maine?" she asked. "You're still with the Bureau, aren't you? Is this a business trip?" she asked real curiosity in her every question, "My Lord, it's so good to see you, It's been, how many years since I last wrote you?" she added breathlessly.

"Seven years," Skinner replied, taking a drink of the lemonade to wet his dry throat.

"That long, my God..." she replied.

"Yes, and Maggie, I am still with the Bureau and this is sort of official business," he added reluctantly.

"Oh?" she replied expectantly, "Official? How can I help?" she added.

"Well, first of all, this is Agent Fox Mulder, and Agent Dana Scully,"

he amended their previous introductions, and then he took out his ID with some chagrin and Mulder and Scully did the same.

Maggie waved them aside with a smile and said, "Walter, please, I'll take your word for it as to who you all are."

Skinner smiled then for the first time, and Scully thought she could see what Maggie Flynn saw in him all those years ago. 'He should smile more often,' she thought as Skinner replied.

"Uh, Maggie, I think it would be a good idea if we could talk to Kevin as well," he began, "is he here?"

Scully winced. From the moment they had come in she had noticed that there was no evidence of a male presence in the house, but the sign out front had been a bigger clue to the fact that Kevin Boyce may not have been in residence any longer. Maggie Flynn's next statement only served to verify Scully's suspicions.

"Oh, Walter, Kevin, Kevin's dead," she began. Skinner put down his lemonade glass with a click, "he died two years ago. It was an accident, Kevin drowned," she finished quietly.

Skinner stared at her for a split second and then replied, "God, Maggie, I'm sorry, I had no idea."

"Well, Walter, how could you have known? It's not like I kept in touch is it?" she sighed. "I'm sorry about that too, I should have stayed in touch, I should have let you know," she added.

Mulder cleared his throat and then with his usual single minded intensity asked, "So you haven't written to Assistant Director Skinner in over seven years?"

Maggie Flynn looked from Mulder to Skinner and replied impressed, "Assistant Director?" and then she added, "No, I haven't, not since, when was it again, Walter?"

"Right after you opened the Bed and Breakfast," Skinner replied never taking his eyes off Maggie Flynn.

"That's right, that would have been 7 years ago," Maggie shook her head in the affirmative.

Skinner blinked, having suddenly gotten Mulder's hint and he reached inside his jacket and pulled out the two letters he had received from Crossroads, Maine.

"Maggie, can I ask you to take a look at these two letters and tell me what you think?" Skinner asked opening both envelopes, removing the letters, and holding them up into the light for her to see.

The raven haired woman bent over, concentration furrowing her brow as she read first one letter, and then the other. Color drained from her face as she finished, and then she looked up into Skinner's face.

"Walter, I, what is this all about?" she asked, concerned.

"Did you write those letters, Maggie?" he asked, falling back into G-Man mode as he watched her face.

"Did I write them? My God, no, Walter, I didn't write them!" she replied.

"But it is your handwriting," Skinner pressed.

She scrutinized the letters again, deep confusion on her face. "Yes, it looks like my handwriting, but I swear to you, I didn't write those letters. It must be some kind of sick joke," she added looking up at both Mulder and Scully.

"You're saying the letters are forgeries?" Scully asked.

"Yes, they have to be!" Maggie insisted her voice rising slightly.

"By whom?" Mulder asked from his chair near the fire place. He was looking, not at Maggie, but at the letters, his eyes squinted as if he was trying to see something that was unclear to him.

"I have absolutely no idea," she replied, rubbing her arms together as if she were suddenly cold. "God, this is so strange," she said in way of explanation.

"I'd have to agree with you there," Skinner replied taking the letters and folding them back up. He put them back in the envelopes and tucked them into his suit coat pocket.

"So, there's nothing wrong up here then, no trouble, no one's been bothering you, no strange letters or threatening phone calls?" Skinner asked carefully, "You, uh, you didn't write these letters to ask for my help?" he added and the last part was very hard for him to say.

"No!" Maggie answered shock and puzzlement still in her voice.

Skinner cleared his throat then and it was evident from the expression on his face and his posture that he believed her, and his words backed up his thoughts, "All right. Well, listen, Maggie, we have to find out who sent these letters. Agent Mulder received some very similar correspondence and Agent Scully, well, she's received uh, a rather threatening phone call. We are here to investigate who may have written the letters, and sent them," Skinner explained.

Scully glanced at Mulder and he shook his head back and forth, in the negative. 'He doesn't believe her?' Scully mused.

"My God, Walter!" Maggie was exclaiming. "How awful," she added looking at both Mulder and zeroing in on Scully. "How terrible."

"Yes, well, we will get to the bottom of it," Skinner interrupted her.

"Is there any way I can help?" Maggie hastened to ask. "You're all welcome to stay here while you continue your investigation, if you'd like. I didn't take any bookings for a couple of weeks, because the roof's being repaired and re-shingled. If you don't mind a little hammering in the morning, you're welcome to stay here, as my guest,"

"That might be a good idea, Sir," Mulder interjected.

Skinner agreed immediately but added, "But not as your guest, Maggie, this one's on the FBI." Maggie smiled radiantly at him then, and Skinner actually smiled broadly back.

Mulder watched Skinner and Maggie Flynn interacting and felt a bit uncomfortable, because it really was becoming evident that Skinner had never gotten over Maggie Flynn. Mulder was worried that perhaps he was losing his impartiality in the investigation. He thought that Skinner had jumped to his conclusion about his old flame a little too quickly.

Mulder kept his own console for the moment, however, because he figured that if they were going to stay at the Bed and Breakfast all of them would have ample opportunity to find out if Maggie Flynn was telling the truth.

Skinner and Maggie continued to stare, slightly awestruck to be seeing each other after all these years, and Scully looked over at Mulder and said, "Uh, Sir, Agent Mulder and I will go out and get the luggage if you'd like."

"Fine," Skinner replied without looking at them.

Mulder looked at her with a wide eyed stare, and Scully tightened her lips and gestured with her head for him to follow her out the door.

As soon as they were out on the porch Mulder asked, "What was that all about?"

"Oh, come on, Mulder don't be so dense."

"Dense?" he asked affronted slightly as he walked down the steps towards the car.

"Well, couldn't you see they wanted to be left alone?" she asked following him.

Mulder just shrugged. Scully pressed the issue.

"Well, what did you think was going on in there?" she asked.

"I think we were seeing Skinner losing his objectivity because of her."

Mulder stated flatly.

"Skinner, lose his objectivity?" Scully replied stopping to look into his eyes with an expression that said, 'You've got to be kidding,' and then she added, "I don't think that's a danger."

"Well, I just don't think it's a good idea to encourage them, we don't know for sure that Maggie Flynn is telling the truth."

"Oh, come on, Mulder, she was either telling the truth in there, or she's the world's greatest actress."

"So, she convinced you, did she?" Mulder asked.


Mulder gave her a sour look as he took out the car keys and unlocked the trunk. He handed Scully her garment bag and then picked up both his own and Skinner's, shutting the hood. Mulder sighed.

"OK, look. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt, for now, at least until I have more information," Mulder said, lowering his voice, "I'm not blind you know, Scully, I saw what was going on in there. I'll cut Skinner some slack. I guess the guy deserves to have a little happiness come his way for a change."

Scully looked down at her shoes and replied, "Mulder I didn't mean to imply that you were dense, or blind...I'm sorry."

Mulder looked at her and then waved the garment bag in a dismissive gesture smiling slightly, "Oh, forget it, Scully, I'm just tired I guess, we've all been under a lot of strain, it's ok, let's go back inside."

Both Agents headed back towards the house. As they approached the porch Mulder gazed off into the distance, into the large and very over grown field that bordered the neatly landscaped area of the Bed and Breakfast.

His attention had been caught by something and he dropped the two garment bags he was carrying onto the sidewalk.

"Mulder, what is it?" Scully asked as he started to walk away.

"Scully, come here, will you?" Mulder asked, and she followed him as he trotted over to the lawn's border.

"What does that look like over there," he asked her pointing out into the field at some far off point.

"A large maple tree?" she guessed.

"No, off to the right," Mulder insisted.

"A bunch of rocks," she replied.

"Rocks, yeah, but not just a bunch of rocks," and he took off across the field, at a dead run. Scully dropped her bag and took off in pursuit.

Some of the weeds were nearly up to Scully's shoulders but she ran after him and finally caught up to him just as he was reaching the first of a series of upright stones.

Mulder walked around the stone grouping and then turning to Scully said, "Do they still look like just a bunch of rocks?"

"No, of course not," she started to say.

"These are standing stones, Scully," Mulder interrupted, his excitement barely contained.

"Standing stones as in Stonehedge?" Scully asked retracing the path Mulder had taken around the circle. "God, I think you're right, Mulder," she added as the scaled-down lay-out became clear to her through the weeds.

"But standing stones, on the coast of Maine?" she asked. Even now she could hear the crashing of the surf. The ocean was very close she thought, possibly right over the rise.

Mulder walked off, his head bent in thought and he disappeared from view over the small rise in the hill. Scully followed him once again. The ocean stretched out immediately in front of them and Mulder stood on the edge of a shear cliff overlooking it.

"Oh, Mulder, it's beautiful," Scully breathed before she could even stop herself. As the wind off the ocean whipped her hair around her head she watched Mulder look down at the abrupt drop off. She walked forward to find out what had captured his attention. Mulder turned towards her then, and his hair was blowing across his forehead, and his eyes were reflecting back the dark blue of the water, and she thought, 'God, he's beautiful,' and then she almost slipped, and he reached out and caught her awkwardly in his arms pulling her back from the edge.

"Watch out there, Scully," he whispered holding her close for a moment.

Scully's heart raced, and she wasn't at all sure it was only from the near fall. Mulder released her, and they silently walked back from the cliff's edge to stand amongst the stones.

"Standing stones have great magical significance, Scully," ...... said turning around in a circle.

"I know that Mulder," Scully replied, "But what bearing do they have on this, this trip or quest, or whatever it is, we're on," she added.

"I'm not sure yet, Scully, but I think I'd like to ask Maggie Flynn what she knows about this stone circle," Mulder replied heading back off across the field.

Once they were back on the walkway leading up to the house, Mulder picked up the garment bags he had been carrying and walked up onto the porch. Both of them could hear Skinner and Maggie talking inside as they opened the screen door and walked in. Maggie was laughing and smiling at something Skinner had said and Mulder and Scully both felt like intruders as they stood in the parlor's door.

Maggie was getting up then and so did Skinner. "Let me show you all to your rooms," she was saying. "I hate to put you under the roof repairs, so if you don't mind being split up, I can put two of you upstairs and one of you down here. There's a nice room at the back of the house and the two upstairs rooms are right across from each other and away from the scaffolding."

"Well, we can take the upstairs rooms, If that's all right with you, Sir," Mulder suggested looking at Skinner.

"Sure, that would be fine," Skinner answered taking his garment bag from Mulder.

"All right, I can take you two upstairs then, and Walter, I'll be right back to show you your room,"

"Thanks, Maggie," Skinner replied, and she turned and smiled at him again as she headed up the stairs.

Mulder and Scully followed her up one flight of stairs, and then up another to their rooms on the top floor. "To tell you the truth, besides not wanting to subject you all to the noise from the repairs, these are the only two rooms I've had time to make up. I'm just letting everything air out so that when the guests start showing up the rooms will be nice and fresh." Maggie explained as he unlocked the door to the first room.

"We appreciate your hospitality, Maggie," Scully answered.

"Well, Boyce's Bed and Breakfast has always prided itself on hospitality," she smiled opening the door wide. Both Agents followed her in. The windows on the wall opposite the door showed a spectacular view of the ocean and Scully stood transfixed again at the scene.

"I guess this will be her room," Mulder smiled gently, and turned around to go across the hall. Mulder's view was less spectacular, but infinitely more interesting, because from a side window he could clearly see the standing stones in the distance.

"Uh, Mrs. Boyce?" Mulder began.

"Please call me, Maggie, Fox," she smiled at him.

"Maggie," he continued without missing a beat, 'aren't standing stones rather unusual on the coast of Maine?" he asked.

"Oh, so you've seen the stones?" Maggie asked brightly. "Yes, they are very rare. Kevin did some research on them before we bought the house.

He had the idea that they would make a nice attraction for the B&B, and they did. He kept that whole area cleared out. It wasn't like it is now, all choked up with weeds. I, I haven't been able to bring myself to go out there and weed, not since, well, not since Kevin died," she finished quietly.

"I'm sorry, Maggie, I didn't mean to bring up a painful memory," Mulder said.

"Oh, it's all right," Maggie answered.

"Just out of curiosity, what did Kevin find out about the stones?"

Mulder pressed her.

"Well, not anything earth shattering really, just that they are very old, dating back God knows how long. But they're mentioned in the earliest records of the area. They're supposed to be in some kind of arrangement for gauging the seasons or significant astronomical events, like the full moon or an eclipse."

"Interesting," Mulder commented. Scully came in the door just as Maggie was finishing up her explanation.

"I'll just let you two freshen up then. Both rooms have a private bath, as you can see, and if you'd like any more towels, help yourself, the linen closet is down the hall,"

"Thank you," Scully replied.

Just as Maggie exited the room however, she turned back and looked at Mulder, "if you're really interested in the standing stones, there's a whole exhibit on them in the little museum downtown next to the town hall. It's quite comprehensive. Kevin helped create it," she added as she walked towards the stairs.

Scully came into the room and shut the door behind her.

"I think we'd better check out that museum, Scully," ...... said looking out the window towards the standing stones. He ran his hand across his mouth, pulling at his lower lip, and Scully said, "All right, Mulder what are you thinking?"

"Look, Scully I need to tell you something, and I know what you're going to say, but just let me get it out before you jump all over the idea, all right."

Scully sat down on the edge of the bed and spread her hands out, palms up, "Fine, I'm all ears,"

Mulder sighed and began, "When I first got those letters, I was willing to believe they might have been from my sister. I knew her writing should have changed, but the feeling was so strong that I was willing to overlook that fact. I almost took off for Crossroads without even telling you I was going."

"Mulder, I hate when you ditch me, you know that..." Scully interrupted.

"Yes, I know, so I didn't do it this time. But the compulsion was so strong I almost did. Skinner said the same thing in his office - I feel like I have to go to Crossroads. And then you..."

"Said the same thing after the phone call," Scully looked at him.

"Right," Mulder replied.

"And?" she prompted.

"And what if those letters were actually causing us to come here, compelling us through..."

"Through magic?" Scully asked quietly, "Oh, Mulder, I don't know, I have real trouble believing in that possibility. And besides, I didn't get any letters."

"You didn't get one, but you had your hands all over mine and Skinner's copies. Maybe the phone call was just a reinforcement for you. Maybe whatever is summoning us knows you're really the most logical of the three of us, and that you'd need a little extra push to bring you up here."

Scully just stared at him, "Mulder there are other explanations."

"Like what?" he asked.

"Well, certain types of psychoactive drugs can induce that type of compulsive behavior. Maybe someone coated the paper with a drug that we absorbed through our skin when we touched them. Maybe the phone call was just a form of subliminal suggestion or...."

"That sounds more far-fetched then my idea, Scully."

"All right, Mulder, what is your idea," Scully finally said, giving in.

Mulder continued, "All right, listen to this. According to *The Book of Ceremonial Magic*, a practitioner of the black arts, can harm a person by passing him magical runes written on a piece of paper. Sometimes these runes are used to kill an enemy, because once they've been passed to the intended victim, a demon appears and kills the person. Sort of like a demonic hit man. But in another instance, and this is more rare, the runes can be used to summon a person to be used in a magical rite, as a sacrifice to a bring a demon into this plane and then bind it to..."

"Mulder!" Scully stopped him, "Do you know how that sounds? I didn't see any runes on those letters, no magical symbols of any kind," she added, impatience in her voice.

"All right then, how do you explain the compulsion to come up here? And how do you explain away the fact that the thought of your dead father calling you on the phone upset you so much you could barely stop shaking?" Mulder asked angrily.

Scully's mouth closed and she looked down at her hands. "I guess I don't have a good explanation for that, Mulder," she replied in a near whisper. "But I don't want to rule out some type of drug. We should have had the paper analyzed before we left DC, God, Skinner should have had the paper analyzed."

"But he didn't, did he?" Mulder replied suggestively.

Scully looked at him without comment, and Mulder continued, "Scully, after I found those standing stones, it only reinforced my idea. Maggie was right when she said that stones like those were used to plan the planting season, and harvests, as well as to chart other significant astronomical events. But there's also some research out there that supports the idea that stone circles can be used by practitioners of black magic for any number of magical rituals.

Scully began to rub her temples, fatigue showing in her entire body's posture. "And you're going to tell me that Maggie Flynn is some type of witch, or sorceress and she's luring Skinner here for some kind of sacrifice?"

Mulder crossed over and sat next to her on the bed, "All I'm trying to say, Scully, is I'm not sure our coming here has a rational explanation.

Maybe my idea is cracked and I'm just guilty of seeing too many B-horror movies, but I want to show you something else now, and then I want you to tell me what you think," he finished, and he reached into his suit coat pocket and drew out the two letters he had received.

He held them up into a shaft of bright light that was coming through the window, "Scully, look up trough both pages, ok?" he asked her and she tilted her head up to look. She could just make out the outline of Celtic style runes running diagonally across each of the sheets of paper.

"Mulder.." she whispered.

"Yeah," he nodded at her.

"My God, when did you notice those?" she asked.

"Actually I didn't notice the runes on these two sheets at all. I noticed them on Skinner's when he held them up downstairs for Maggie. I just took a chance that mine might have the same symbols on them."

Mulder explained, "The letters seem to be woven directly into the paper," he added tucking the pages back into his pocket.

Scully looked at him and shook her head, "Mulder this is almost too incredible to believe..."

"Well, we'd better start believing it, because I don't have a better explanation right now and I'm afraid that if we don't believe it we're going to be in deep shit," Mulder answered matter-of-factly.

Scully struggled to comprehend Mulder's idea. 'This is always the sticking point between us,' she thought. He believes almost blindly and I just can't seem to agree.' She had seen the notations he had made next to the song's lyrics. He had really been trying to piece the puzzle together. She looked into his face, and besides the will to convince her he was right, she also thought she saw concern for her there as well, so she finally said, "All right, Mulder, I'll try to agree with you, now where do we go from here?"

Mulder straightened a bit and replied, "Well, I think the first thing we should do is go downstairs and tell Skinner what we've found. That line in the song, where it says, *I haven't got no lovin' sweet woman that love and feel my care* strikes me as too much of a coincidence for Skinner to ignore."

"Are you serious about suspecting Maggie?" Scully asked.

"Well, I don't want to think of her as a suspect," Mulder sighed, "but..." he let his voice trail off.

"I still can't think she wrote those letters. She seems so sincere,"

Scully replied.

"I still think we should at least mention what we just found to Skinner, don't you?" Mulder asked.

"OK, you're right, but I'd tread lightly there if I were you," Scully advised.

"Fine," Mulder replied, "but if Maggie Flynn doesn't have anything to do with the letters or those stones then we'd better formulate a plan to find out just who is *Casting the Runes,*" he added.

Mulder and Scully left his room and headed downstairs, Mulder went off into the parlor thinking Skinner and Maggie may have been in there.

Scully walked down a side hallway towards the back of the house in the general direction she thought Maggie had indicated Skinner's room was going to be. As she turned the corner at the end of the hallway she could see the Assistant Director standing in the doorway to one of the rooms, his garment bag in one hand and his other hand touching Maggie Flynn's cheek, and she stopped dead in her tracks. She backed up as quietly as possible and bumped right into Mulder who had been coming up from behind her.

"What's up?" he asked and she shushed him, and pushed him, farther back up the hall. "Don't go down there," she whispered, go back to the parlor, I'll explain there." Mulder turned around and headed back up the hall as quietly as he could. Once in the parlor Scully said, "He was down there at the end of the hallway with her," and she started to blush slightly, "and, well.."

"Well, what?" Mulder asked.

"Well, it looked like he'd probably like another second alone with her,"

she finished looking down at the floor."

"What?," Mulder shot back causing Scully to jerk her head up in astonishment. She gazed in amazement at him as he bulled his way past her, and headed towards Skinner's room.

"Mulder!?" she called after him in surprise. But it was too late, he was all ready at the end of the hallway and going around the corner out of sight.

Scully dashed after him and as she rounded the bend she sighed with relief, because Maggie Flynn was nowhere to be seen, and Skinner was talking to Mulder in the door way to his room.

"Agent Mulder, that's none of your business," Skinner was hissing angrily at him.

"It is my business, Sir, if it jeopardizes our lives," Mulder was arguing heatedly.

Skinner looked up at Scully as she approached "Mulder, would you please keep your voice down?" he asked the younger man and then he said to Scully, "do you know what the hell he means by *I should think about staying away from that woman?*

"Uh, Sir...," Scully hesitated.

"Oh come on Scully, who do you think is the most likely candidate for having cast those runes?" Mulder glared at her.

"What *runes* Mulder, what in the devil are you talking about?" Skinner asked color rising into his face.

"What the *DEVIL* am I talking about..." Mulder began to bluster.

"Maybe we'd better go inside your room and let him explain," Scully interrupted and all three of them stepped out of the hall and Skinner shut the door.

"All right, Mulder, you have about one minute to explain yourself before I punch your lights out," Skinner spat out viciously. Scully stared at him in shock, and watched as Mulder struggled to control himself. He took a deep breath and began to tell Skinner what he had just got done telling Scully about the runes, and the standing stones, and his suspicions regarding Maggie Flynn. He finished by making Skinner take out his letters and look at them through the sun streaming in his window.

When he was done looking at the letters, Skinner turned and asked reluctantly, "And you seriously think Maggie had something to do with these letters, and the runes?"

"Yes sir, I think she's the most likely candidate to have passed them to us, and if not the one who did it, she may know who did," he finished as reasonably as he could.

Skinner gazed at him and for a moment, Scully thought he was going to hit Mulder, but then he sat down on the bed slowly and rubbed the back of his neck with one large hand.

"All right, listen, Mulder. Your idea sounds, God, it sounds insane. I can hardly believe that, that woman, that Maggie..., I mean sacrifices, come on Mulder? For Christ's sake!" Skinner replied desperately. There was a look very close to anguish on his face.

Mulder just stared at him, his eyes boring a hole right through Skinner's skepticism. Scully shook her head sadly. It was obvious that Skinner was having his feelings for Maggie Flynn rekindled and the idea that she was hiding something from him was extremely upsetting.

Finally he ran a hand over his mouth, and still looking at Mulder said, "All right, look. I'm going to take a piece of your advice here, Mulder, against my better judgment. I'm going to try to go with the flow for a change. I'll consider your hypothesis to be a possible theory, all right. But, look, let me talk to Maggie, please. She may tell me things she would never reveal to either of you, and if she isn't involved I'd like to find that out for myself.

"And if she is involved?" Mulder asked.

"Well, then I guess I'd like to be the first to know about that too."

Skinner replied.

Mulder exhaled slowly. Obviously he had thought that Skinner might have belted him as well. "Ok, I can respect that," he replied.

"Fine, now why don't the two of you go into town before it gets too late and see what else you can dig up regarding your *theory*. And see if you can check into the records at city hall regarding Kevin Boyce's death. I'd just like to make sure about the cause as well," Skinner advised, taking the keys to the Ford out of his pocket and handing them to Mulder.

"All right, sir," Scully replied.

As the two left Skinner's room and were near the front door, Maggie Flynn came out from the direction of the kitchen, "Are you two going back out?" she asked.

"Yes, we just thought we'd take a look around town," Scully replied, trying her best to smile.

"Oh, well, I'm going to serve dinner at around 7 PM, so I hope you can make it back by then.." she let her voice trail off.

"Wouldn't miss it," Mulder replied, a smile struggling to appear on his face, as well.

"Wonderful," she answered, "I'll see you both then," and she walked away into the parlor.

Unfortunately, by the time Mulder and Scully had driven into town and found a parking place it was after 5 PM and Crossroads was rolling up the sidewalks. Everything was shut down, despite the fact that there was plenty of summer light left.

"What do we do now?" Scully asked as they walked up to the town hall and saw the *CLOSED* sign posted on the door. The little museum next door was shut up tighter than a drum as well.

"Well, we could go back to the B&B," Mulder replied.

"No, Mulder, let's give Skinner a little time with Maggie. He might be able to get some information out of her. And if there's still a possibility that she isn't involved with those runes, then maybe Skinner might just want to spend a little time with her," Scully added quietly.

Mulder looked at her out of the corner of his eye and then he began to whistle the tune *Matchmaker, Matchmaker,* from *Fiddler on the Roof*.

"Oh, shut up," she laughed unable to stop herself.

Mulder laughed a bit too then and said, "He really has it bad for her doesn't he?"

"Do you even have to ask?" Scully replied.

"Yeah, I guess you're right. I thought he was going to hit me back there," Mulder replied shaking his head.

"So did I," Scully agreed.

"Uh, look, Scully, we have almost two hours to kill, would you, I mean, would you like to take a walk down on the beach? It's probably cooler down there. I could use the sea air to clear my head." Mulder suggested.

"All right, that sounds like a good idea," Scully answered and the two of them walked the two blocks it took them to reach a stairway that lead down to the shore. The air was indeed cooler there and the sand was white and looked like it stretched for miles. Mulder rolled up his slacks and took off his shoes and socks. Scully did the same, tucking her knee hi panty hose into her tailored suit coat pocket. Then both of them, carrying their shoes in one hand stepped out onto the sand, and began to walk, side by side along the water's edge.

Scully glanced over at Mulder and allowed herself to admire his profile as he looked out over the water. She sighed and thought to herself that at times she was attracted to Mulder with an intensity that she found almost unbearable. In peaceful, quiet moments like these, when she was alone with him, she let herself imagine what it might be like to have him be more than just a friend and partner. She'd sometimes fantasized about how it would feel to have him kiss her and tell her he loved her.

But, the whole idea was just that, a fantasy and after logical consideration she would dismiss her thoughts for what they were - the musings of a workaholic who barely had time to eat regular meals much less maintain any type of relationship or social life. Still, at times she thought, just maybe...."

"Scully?" Mulder interrupted her train of thought.

"Yes?" she replied.

"You dropped one of your shoes," Mulder replied indicating the beach in back of them.

"Oh, hell," she frowned.

"Don't worry, I'll get it," he replied gallantly, and then ran back up the beach to fetch the shoe.

"Thank you kind sir," she smiled putting the shoe back with it's mate in her right hand.

Impulsively, Mulder reached out and took her left hand in his. Scully looked down at their intertwined fingers and then up into his face.

Mulder didn't say anything, he just started walking again, holding her hand comfortably in his and she decided it felt very nice, and she walked on beside him.

After a time they reached a little stairway that led back up to the houses above, and Mulder asked her if she'd like to sit a while, and she said that would be just fine. They sat down next to each other and looked out over the waves, in companionable silence, and the gulls were flying, and the sand pipers scuttled along the waterline.

After a time, Mulder looked at his watch, "Hey, we'd better get back, it's 6:30," and they headed up the stairway and over to the parked Ford Explorer.

They were able to return to the B&B shortly after 7 PM and once inside the front door they were met by the sight of Assistant Director Walter Skinner wearing a chefs apron, and helping to set the large table in the dining room. Mulder almost burst out laughing but luckily he was able to hold in most of it.

"What's so funny, Agent Mulder?" Skinner asked dangerously.

"Not a thing, Sir, if you'll excuse me, I'd like to go, uh, wash my feet," he winced. Neither he nor Scully had been able to get all the beach grit off their feet so they had come back barefoot.

"Me too, Sir," Scully hastened to add, making a quick exit.

"All right, but make it fast, dinner's about to be served," he called after them.

When the two Agents came back down, the table was completely set, the lights had been turned down low, and candles illuminated the room.

The scene was almost idyllic. Scully hoped that the room looked like that because Skinner had found out that Maggie Flynn had nothing whatsoever to do with runes or standing stones.

Skinner came out of the kitchen, sans apron, but wearing khaki dockers and a fresh white polo shirt. Mulder and Scully were glad they had both taken the time to change into jeans, t-shirts and sneakers. Mulder made his way directly over to Skinner and without preamble asked, "What did you find out, Sir?"

"I might ask you the same thing

shook his head in the negative, "We got into town too late, Sir, everything was closed till morning."

"I was afraid of that," Skinner said. "This town hasn't changed much since I was here last in that respect," he added. "You'll just have to try again tomorrow. We'll get an early start in the morning."

"And you, Sir, what did you find out from Maggie?" Mulder pressed.

"I'm sure she didn't write the letters, Mulder. I'm almost sure she doesn't know who did either, but I'm still working on that end of the problem," he whispered and then he stopped talking because Maggie was coming out of the kitchen. She was carrying a large platter with steamed crabs piled high on it. Skinner hurried to help her, "Here, let me take that, Maggie," Skinner said, and he took the platter from her and placed it on the table with the other dishes.

"Oh, you shouldn't have gone to all this trouble, Maggie," Scully said.

"I didn't go to much trouble at all, Walter fixed the crabs, he certainly hasn't lost his touch in that department," she laughed.

Skinner actually reddened at her comment, and then he said, "Well, sit down... they aren't going to stay hot forever.." and all four of them took their places at the table.

The meal was delightful, Scully had to admit. Even Mulder seemed to relax. All of them enjoyed cracking the crabs after Maggie and Skinner had given a hilarious demonstration on how not to do it, and then exactly how it was done. There was ice cold beer to wash the meal down with, and hot towels to clean up with afterwards.

They all sat around the table after the meal and talked, and Scully found herself believing again that in no way could Maggie Flynn have written the letters and if she did know anything about them, the runes, or sacrifices, or demons at all, it would have been a big surprise to her.

Mulder seemed to be looking at her with less suspicion and his mood was upbeat.

During the meal it became obvious that the Assistant Director was indeed, as the old saying went, smitten, with Maggie Flynn. It was as if the intervening years had simply slipped away, and he was 18 years old again, and in love. For her part, Maggie was equally as interested in him, but there was a hint of wistfullness about her. Scully thought that she was probably thinking of her late husband, and her sudden resurgence of feelings for Skinner might have been making her feel guilty under the circumstances.

Finally when it became obvious that Skinner and Maggie Flynn would probably like to be alone together again, Scully looked over at Mulder and tried to get his attention. He was a bit more quick on the uptake this time and said, "Maggie, that was one of the finest meals, I've ever had, but I'm so full I think I'd better go out and stretch my legs before I burst."

"Does that mean I can't interest you in coffee and desert, Fox?" she asked laughter in her voice.

"Not unless you want to have to call 911," Mulder quipped.

"All right, I'll excuse you this time," Maggie smiled, but tomorrow night you'll have to have a piece of my apple pie,"

"That's a deal," Mulder replied. "Hey, Scully, would you like to join me?" Mulder asked.

"All right," Scully replied quickly and both of them exited the dining room and headed out onto the front porch.

"Now what?" Mulder asked.

"Well, let's take a walk, I am nearly ready to burst," Scully groaned a bit, "God, I haven't eaten that much in eons."

"It was good though, wasn't it?" Mulder grinned.

"No, I hated it all, especially that fourth crab I gagged down," Scully joked back giving him a little poke in the ribs.

"Hey, watch it, I just might explode on you," Mulder smirked, and then he walked down off the porch and onto the lawn.

They walked down the road that lead up to the B&B and then turned back towards the house. The only sounds were the crickets, and the gravel crunching beneath their feet. They walked into the back yard and there was a little screened in gazebo at the edge of the lawn.

"Mulder, let's go sit in there, the bugs will stay off us that way,"

Scully suggested as she swatted at the first of the mosquitoes that found her arm.

"Yeah, I don't feel like donating any blood right now myself," Mulder agreed and they both entered the little structure and closed the door behind them.

Mulder looked back towards the house as Scully sat down on one of the wooden benches.

"Mulder, relax, you don't have to chaperone them, they're big people."

Scully told his back.

He turned around and walked over to her, "Yeah, I guess you're right,"

and he sat down next to her.

"Do you really still think she had anything to do with those letters?"

Scully asked.

"God, I hope not," Mulder breathed, "for Skinners sake," he added and Scully looked at him, a very soft expression on her face.

"Scully," Mulder continued, "I don't think I want to believe that Maggie Flynn had anything to do with any of those letters, or the runes or well, any part of my theory about her."

"I hope she doesn't. I'm starting to like her too much," Scully replied.

"Yeah, me too," Mulder sighed, interrupting her, and then he turned and looked at Scully. There was a strand of hair falling across her eyes and he gently reached over and moved it back behind her ear. His hand lingered at her cheek and Scully sat very still. Mulder searched her face, looking for something, and Scully instantly wished, 'Please, let him do it..' but the kiss didn't come. Instead he lowered his hand.

"Look, Scully let's go into town early tomorrow like Skinner suggested and really pound the pavement. Let's try to clear Maggie once and for all, and then take this case from there, what do you say?" Mulder suggested.

"I think that's an excellent idea," Scully agreed, letting her breath out very slowly.

They both left the gazebo and headed back around the side of the house.

Both of them tried to make as much noise as possible as they walked up onto the porch and through the front door.

Once inside they saw Skinner and Maggie clearing up the last of the plates from the dining room table.

"We're going to turn in, Sir, I think we should get an early start in the morning," ...... said.

"All right, Mulder, Scully, that's a good idea. I'll see you in the morning then," and he turned around and followed Maggie into the kitchen. Both Agents went upstairs then, and to their separate rooms.

Scully took a shower and putting on her pajamas, walked over and sat in a chair facing the ocean to admire the view.

Mulder took a shower as well, and hung his suit pants over the shower bar afterwards so the cuffs that had gotten wet at the beach could dry.

He but a clean pair of boxers on and stretched out on the bed to read *The Book of Ceremonial Magic*. The breeze from the open window in his room felt very refreshing on his naked legs.

Downstairs, Skinner was helping Maggie to load the last of the dishes into the dishwasher, and laughing with her over the fact that there were some things that you didn't want to do without even for the sake of Victorian authenticity, and a dishwasher was one of them. Skinner was vaguely aware that he was falling head over heels in love with Maggie Flynn again. He didn't want to question the feeling, even though a nagging voice told him he should, and that things were moving way to fast. He tried to ignore the voice, because he felt like he had so many years ago, like he was 18 again, and it was summer, and he'd never been to Vietnam, and Maggie was his first love.

They were standing very close in front of the dishwasher and Maggie looked into his eyes. The room spun a bit, and Skinner thought, 'God, she's so beautiful,' and he wanted to kiss her, but instead he turned away and clearing his throat, said, "Uh, Maggie, I'd better turn in too, we have a lot of ground to cover tomorrow, I'd like to get an early start."

"All right, Walter," she replied quietly. "I'll just finish up here."

and she started to wipe the counter top with some wet paper towels.

Skinner walked away but before he left the kitchen he turned and said, "Maggie, thanks, it was, it was a great meal, and I really liked talking over old times."

"It was my pleasure too, Walter," she smiled as he went out the kitchen door. As soon as Skinner was gone, Maggie Flynn clutched at her head and moaned, "No, please, no," and sagged against the dishwasher, utter despair written on her face.

The next morning Skinner and Maggie were all ready up when Mulder and Scully came downstairs. Both Agents had taken extra time to don their official FBI attire of tailored business suits in preparation for a day of investigation in town.

Skinner was seated, his suit coat thrown over the back of his chair, and a plate full of bacon and eggs with toast and coffee in front of him.

Maggie was seated across from him pouring another cup of coffee from the pot that sat between them. They were joking about something again, and she was laughing her musical laugh. There were two other table settings laid out, but Mulder and Scully both hesitated almost simultaneously to enter the room. Finally, Mulder waved Scully past him and she went to sit down next to Maggie Flynn at the table. Mulder went over and took the chair next to Skinner.

"Oh, let me get you two some breakfast," ...... said brightly, rising to go back into the kitchen.

"Maggie, let me help you," ...... said and the two women exited the dining room.

Skinner looked over at Mulder and Mulder noticed that the usual stern and taciturn expression that Skinner wore was absent from his face. In it's place was a serenity that Mulder had never seen before. Mulder became suddenly envious of him because he recognized what that expression on his face meant, and Mulder wished that he could feel what Skinner was feeling just once in his miserable life.

"So, are you two going into town this morning?" Skinner asked.

"Uh, yes, sir," Mulder replied looking away from him. He devoutly hoped that whatever they found out in town about the runes, the stones and Maggie Flynn wouldn't be something that would wipe that expression of perfect peace from Walter Skinner's face.

"Good, well, I think I'll stay here and see what else I can find out from Maggie," he stated taking a sip of his coffee.

"That would be a good idea," Mulder agreed. "We'll do our best, Sir, to get to the bottom of this," he added hopefully.

"I appreciate that, Agent Mulder," Skinner replied sincerely.

They stopped their conversation because they could hear Maggie Flynn laughing again in the kitchen and saying, "He didn't do that did he, really?" and Scully said something that Mulder couldn't quite hear, and then they both were laughing. For some reason Mulder felt like his ears were burning as Scully and Maggie came back out.

Scully was carrying two plates with bacon and eggs on them and she somewhat shyly placed one in front of Mulder, and then resumed her seat across from him. Mulder looked over at her, slightly stunned as Maggie put a coffee cup in front of him, and then walked over to put the other cup near Scully's hand.

"So, are you two going into town to investigate things this morning?"

Maggie asked, interested.

"Well, yes, partly," Mulder replied, "I'd like to stop by that museum though, you're description of the standing stones exhibit sort of interested me," Mulder answered.

"Oh, I think the museum is closed on Wednesdays, she said, "The caretaker, Henry Merritt, teaches a class over at Little Hook community college on Wednesday's I think," ...... said.

"Oh, well, I can always check that out tomorrow," Mulder replied, disappointment in his voice.

"Yes, Henry will be down there tomorrow," Maggie answered.

"Well, I'm sure we can take a look around town anyway," Scully replied.

And suddenly it occurred to her that there wasn't any hammering and she thought of the scaffolding and shingles on the roof.

"Maggie, aren't the roofers working today?" Scully asked really curious.

"Oh, you're in luck there, Dana, no noise for a while. They had an emergency job, and when they called to ask if I'd mind waiting for mine to be finished I said no. All that's left to be done is that shingling, anyway."

"Well, we certainly won't miss the hammering!" Scully laughed.

"I didn't think so," Maggie replied.

Mulder and Scully drove the Ford Explorer into Crossroads at 8:30 AM.

They found practically the last parking spot right in front of the Town Hall. They intended to start there by taking a look at Kevin Boyce's death certificate. The sign on the door of the Town Hall said it would be open at 9 AM, so Mulder and Scully went back to the Ford to wait.

Mulder looked at his watch and said, "It's almost 9 AM and just as he said it a woman in a business suit opened the Town Hall door from the inside, flipped the sign around to read OPEN, and shut the door again.

"We're on, Scully," ...... said and they left the car and headed up the walk way to the Town Hall door.

In the Town Hall, Mulder and Scully had flashed their FBI identification and gotten instant cooperation. Now they were studying the death certificate for Kevin Boyce, identical frowns pulling down their mouths.

The certificate said death by misadventure, an accident, but nothing about drowning. Kevin had died two years ago though and had been 42 years old at the time. There wasn't much else to be gleaned from the bare bones certificate, and Scully decided that it might be a good idea to visit the local police station to see if they had kept any records regarding Boyce's accidental death. They returned the certificate to the clerk at the front desk, got directions from him to the police station, and exited the building.

At the police station a very grumpy desk sergeant looked at their ID twice, and told them that he'd have to have someone hunt the file down.

After all, it was a two year old case, and the file was buried somewhere in the basement file room. If they could come back tomorrow, however, he was sure he could have it ready for them. But, he added if he located it sooner he'd call them. Mulder gave him the number of the bed and breakfast so that he could reach them.

Back at the bed and breakfast, Walter Skinner had gone to his room to change out of his business suit and into something more casual since he had decided to stay with Maggie this morning. He sat down on the bed to take off his shoes, and suddenly he became inexplicably tired, so he curled up on the bed and fell fast asleep.

In the bedroom next door to Skinner's, Maggie Flynn sat in a chair. She faced the direction of the standing stones and behind her a desk top stereo system was playing music. The volume was down low but a black man was singing along to a plaintive blues guitar riff and the thing that rode in Maggie Flynn's body stroked her mind and said, "Ah, Maggie, that music is just wonderful. I imagine Robert Johnson had no idea he was writing it for me, did he?" it asked, and Maggie groaned through her moist lips. The thing inside her made her move her hands to touch and rub her breasts until her nipples were hard and erect, and then it forced her hands down further until they went between her thighs and began to stroke her there, "I imagine he had no idea until I made my presence known that is," the thing hissed and then, "until I rode him Maggie, just like I'm riding you," and tears fell down Maggie's cheeks as she rocked against her hands. "Now Maggie, I want you to concentrate real hard, I have something else I want you to do..." the voice droned on, and on, and Maggie Flynn did exactly as she was told.

Dana Scully stood on the sidewalk outside the police station and shook her head.

"Well, that certainly was a dead end," she fumed.

"No kidding," Mulder complained as well, "I really wanted to find something out today. I don't relish telling Skinner we came up empty again. Maybe I should just go back in there and make that cop show us to the file room. We could dig through the records ourselves for the rest of the afternoon," he added, squinting to look back towards the police station.

Scully looked at her partner, and she was suddenly overcome with the most overwhelming rush of lust that she had ever had in her life.

'God,' she thought desperately, 'What, what brought this on,' she gasped, as she became instantly wet. Her mind fought to hold the sensations at bay, but it was pretty much a hopeless battle, and she turned away from Mulder, because she knew what her face must look like, and she didn't want him to see the look of naked desire on it.

The heat in her built and built, rising to her face and she was burning hot. 'Oh my God,' she thought, 'I can't, how can I be feeling this way,' she thought with shame and guilt, this was Mulder, her friend, her trusted partner her, her..lover, the word sprung into her mind unbidden and then the images started to come, and Scully shut her eyes tight as if that would make them stop. Mulder naked, his hands and mouth roving over her naked body, their coupling in every conceivable position imaginable, and then some that she could never imagine would be possible, howling in animal pleasure, writhing...and she gasped involuntarily and clutched her stomach.

"Scully, are you all right?" Mulder was asking, concern in his voice, and she fought to clear her head and steady her voice to answer him.

"Mulder, I, I don't think so. My stomach, uh, I think the rich meals over the last couple of days are getting to me. I feel sick," she gasped out. She doubled over, not in pain however, but in almost unbearable pleasure, as her whole body shook with an earth shattering orgasm.

"Oh, God," she cried out, gritting her teeth to keep quiet.

"Jesus, Scully, it might be food poisoning," ...... said as he caught her arm.

"Mulder, please, don't touch me," she hissed, panicked.

"But I want to help you," ...... said, tight-lipped. "I want to get you back to the car, you should see a doctor."

"Mulder, I am a doctor, I'll be fine, all right, help me back to the car, but just drive me back to the Bed and Breakfast, please." Scully gasped her eyes shut tight.

"Ok, all right," Mulder dithered slightly, as he grasped her arm carefully and lead her over to the passenger side of the Ford. He got her in somehow and buckled her seat belt.

'God, she looks really white,' Mulder thought dismally as he started the engine and pulled out into the town's traffic.

Scully sat in the seat next to him, her head leaning back against the backrest, eyes closed, breathing heavily. She was beyond pleasure now, the sensations wracking her body were painful, and in silent desperation she grabbed the crucifix that hung around her neck, and began to pray for the feelings and images to stop.

In her room in the Bed and Breakfast, Maggie Flynn cried with a mixture of pleasure and pain as she came again, and again, and the parasitic thing that held her in it's thrall howled in an ecstasy of growing power. Suddenly however, all feelings coming through Maggie to it were shut off like someone turned off a faucet, and the thing reared up inside her mind and wailed in rage.

Mulder and Scully had only driven to just beyond the outskirts of Crossroads before Scully begged Mulder to pull the car over to the side of the road. As soon as they came to a stop she flung the passenger side door open and vomited copiously onto the ground. She heaved up everything she had eaten that morning.

Suddenly she was aware of Mulder, holding her shoulders and supporting her head as she retched and she was mortally embarrassed again, as some of her vomit hit his shoe.

Once the spasms in her stomach calmed down she was able to straighten up and Mulder gently held her head against his side. Thankfully she noticed that with the vomiting, all traces of her sexual heat had dissipated and she leaned weakly against Mulder.

"Oh, Mulder, I'm so sorry," she whispered.

"What's to be sorry about, you obviously ate something that disagreed with you," Mulder replied quietly, stroking her hair, "Are you feeling better now?" he asked.

She wanted to shrink away from his touch, afraid that the overwhelming sensations would return, but they didn't. The only sensations she felt were ones of warmth, and caring, and comfort and she sighed with relief.

"Yes, I feel a lot better," she replied straightening up. She reached forward and pulled open the glove compartment and taking out some napkins Skinner had put there at the rest stop, handed them to Mulder.

"You, you'd better wipe off your shoe," she smiled at him weakly, as she used some of the napkins to wipe her mouth.

Mulder released her shoulders and walked back behind the rear bumper to clean himself up. He tossed the napkins onto the ground and came back over to squat in front of Scully. Scully didn't want to look at him because he was straddling what was left of her breakfast on the gravel of the roads shoulder.

"Are you really ok, Scully?" he asked looking up under the shaft of golden-red hair that fell obscuring her face.

"Yes, I'm fine, let's go back," she lied. She may have been better physically but mentally she was anything but. She couldn't think what had gotten into her, and she certainly couldn't explain to Mulder what had happened to her, at least not here at the side of the road. 'Maybe after we get back to the B&B I can try to tell him,' she thought.

Mulder smiled at her and said, "Good, ok, get in and buckle your seat belt."

They drove the rest of the way back to the Bed and Breakfast in silence.

Walter Skinner woke, totally refreshed. He hadn't recalled wanting to take a nap, but it had certainly felt good to do so. He got up and changed his clothes and then he went to find Maggie Flynn. Maggie was in the kitchen and she had a picnic basket on the counter. Skinner thought she looked a little tired, but still exquisite.

"Oh, there you are, sleepy head." She smiled. "I thought you'd like some lunch," she added.

"Yeah, I can't believe I'm hungry again," he said, "you're going to cause me to blow my whole diet regimen, Maggie," he teased.

"Oh, you can make up for it later," she laughed, "when you get back to DC."

"A picnic?" he asked taking the blanket that was lying next to the basket on the counter.

"Yes, I thought it might be nice to just, you know, go out in the back yard for lunch," she answered, "It's a gorgeous day out."

"That would be great, Maggie," Skinner answered smiling tenderly at her. He knew there was something he was supposed to be talking to her about, but for the life of him he couldn't remember the questions.

"All right," she was saying, "Can you just get a couple of beers out of the fridge?"

Mulder and Scully pulled up in front of the B&B at around 1 PM. Scully got out of the passenger side of the car very gingerly. Her stomach was sore from heaving earlier. Mulder stood and waited for her, and they both went up to the front door and walked inside. No one was in the parlor, or dining room. Mulder walked down the hallway and looked around the corner towards Skinner's room. His door was open but there was no noise coming from that direction. Scully was heading into the dining room and then straight through into the kitchen, so he followed her.

Scully continued to walk through the kitchen and out onto the screened in porch that surrounded the back of the house. Mulder bumped into her as she stopped dead. He looked directly over her head to see what had made her stop, and he saw Skinner and Maggie out on the lawn. A picnic lunch was spread out on a blanket on the grass, but they weren't eating.

Skinner held Maggie close, in his arms, and he was gently kissing her as Maggie's hands were entwined behind his neck.

"Oh shit," Mulder whispered and he turned on his heel and walked back into the kitchen.

Scully stood and watched. She couldn't help herself. After what had just happened to her, it was very easy for her to imagine that the couple on the lawn were her and Mulder. She touched her own lips as Skinner continued to explore Maggie Flynn's mouth. Then she shook herself violently and turned to follow Mulder back into the kitchen.

Mulder was still walking, and as he passed the fridge he opened it, took out a beer and twisted off the cap, taking a pull from the bottle before he even reached the dining room. He sat down heavily at the table and Scully came in and sat across from him.

"Now what?" he said to her, his eyes downcast.

"Well, I think we have to assume that, well, that he talked to her and he's obviously sure she's innocent of any wrong-doing," Scully replied quietly.

"Christ, I hope so," Mulder replied sadly.

"Well, we have to try to trust Skinner's judgment I guess," Scully added hopefully.

"All right, but that still doesn't help tell us who wrote these," Mulder answered, taking his letters from his inner suitcoat pocket.

Scully stared at the letters as if they were a huge snake that Mulder had just thrown down in front of her, "Have you had those with you all this time?" she asked, eyes wide.

"Yes, why?" Mulder replied.

Scully just shook her head, and said, "Nothing, I just, look, Mulder, I want to go lie down, I still feel a little sick." She also wanted to rinse the taste of vomit from her mouth.

Mulder's face took on such a sympathetic expression that Scully's insides started to melt. She had to get some rest but while she recuperated she would definitely have to think about how she was going to tell her partner what had happened to her outside the Crossroad's cop shop.

"Hey, that's all right Scully, go lie down, I'll talk to Skinner when, when he gets done with lunch," he grinned sheepishly and Scully smiled at him as she got up and walked towards the stairs.

Mulder had almost finished his beer by the time he heard Skinner and Maggie coming back into the kitchen. He heard them distantly and he could tell they were making lover's talk, and he sighed over the beer bottle. He thought of Scully and his barely concealed secret feelings for her, and this time instead of envy for Skinner, he felt happiness for him. 'Well, someone deserves to be happy around here,' he thought as Skinner walked out of the kitchen into the dining room.

"Mulder, I didn't expect to see you back this early," he said blandly.

"Well, we didn't intend to return this early either, but, Scully got kind of sick in town so I brought her back here," Mulder replied, "She's upstairs resting," he added.

"Sick, is it anything serious?" Maggie Flynn asked as she followed Skinner from the kitchen.

"No, I don't think so, she threw up on the way back here. She said her stomach was upset. I thought it might have been the heat." Mulder replied, worry changing his voice slightly.

"Oh, that's awful, I have some Pepto Bismol, maybe I should go up and see if she wants some," Maggie replied kindly.

"Well, that might be a good idea, Maggie, thanks," Mulder told her as she hurried off towards the stairs.

Skinner came and sat down at the head of the table and looked at Mulder closely. "If you're hungry, Mulder, there's a couple of sandwiches left in the kitchen."

"No, sir, I'm not very hungry," he replied.

"Suit yourself," Skinner replied. Mulder was waiting for him to ask if they had found anything out in town, and when he didn't, Mulder spoke up.

"Sir, we didn't have time to find out much in town. Boyce's death certificate says accidental death or rather, death by misadventure. The police file on the case won't be available until tomorrow, and the museum was closed, just like Maggie said. I'm sorry we don't have more answers for you," and he sat back and waited for Skinner to blow up at him.

"Oh, well, that's all right, Fox," he said smiling at him, "You can try again tomorrow. I've talked to Maggie and, well, she didn't have anything to do with the letters, and she doesn't know who could have sent them either. So, I think whatever you find out isn't going to amount to much anyway. It was probably someone's idea of a sick joke after all," he said, "Want another beer?"

Mulder looked at him, his mouth hanging open in shock. A little voice told him that Skinner's words were not a good sign, but instead of saying that to the Assistant Director he replied, "Sure, I'd love another beer." Skinner got up immediately and walked back into the kitchen.

All sorts of things raced through Mulder's mind as he heard someone coming down the stairs. It was Maggie.

"She's fine, Fox, don't worry, I gave her some Pepto Bismol she should be feeling a lot better by dinner." She smiled.

Skinner came back in with another beer and handed it to Mulder. "Here you go, Mulder." His face looked a bit more normal because there was now a slight frown creasing his forehead, "What were we talking about?" he asked.

"Oh, nothing important, Sir," Mulder replied, taking a swig of the second beer, "Uh, if you two will excuse me, I'd like to check on Scully," he said. He went to take the empty beer bottle, into the kitchen, the mostly full bottle left forgotten on the table.

Maggie said, "that's ok, Fox, I'll take care of the bottles, go on up to her."

"And Mulder, if you're looking for us, Maggie and I are going to drive into town for more groceries. We should be back in an hour or so."

Skinner said as Maggie went to get her purse.

"Yes, Sir," Mulder said as he went to the stairs. As soon as he was out of their sight he took the stairs two at a time up to the third floor.

Upstairs, Scully was lying on her bed trying to come up with a plan to tell Mulder about the incident in Crossroads. She had just about decided to go back downstairs and explain, when there was a tentative knock at the door.

"Scully, are you awake?" Mulder called softly through the door.

"Yes, come on in," she called and he opened the door. "Come in, Mulder, it's all right, I'm feeling a lot better."

Mulder walked over to the chair by the window and, straddling it, took a seat.

"So, did the Pepto Bismol help?" he asked.

"Yes, that was so considerate of Maggie. I wouldn't have thought to ask for anything," Scully answered,

"Oh, ok, well, you are feeling better, right?"

"Yes, Mulder I'm fine," she answered, "Is that all you came in here for, to ask if I was all right?"

"No, not exactly," I wanted to tell you that I talked to Skinner and he said we should try to check the files and the museum tomorrow."

"Fine," Scully said.

"But, he also said that he didn't think we were going to find anything important because he had talked to Maggie, and she was completely innocent of either sending the letters or knowing who did. He's come to the conclusion that the whole thing was some kind of sick joke and now we should just have a beer, sit back and relax, and watch while he humps the hostess,"

"Mulder!" Scully exclaimed, real shock in her voice.

Mulder rubbed his hand over his mouth and looked down at the floor, "Shit, I'm sorry Scully, that was out of line. I guess I shouldn't be drinking a beer in this heat on an empty stomach, maybe it went to my head. But you should have seen him down there, he was, well he wasn't himself."

"Of course, he wasn't himself, Mulder, he's in love," Scully said quietly.

"Oh, shit, maybe you're right," he groaned, rubbing his temples. "I guess I just find it kind of hard to imagine Skinner running around behind her like some overgrown.."

"Puppy?" Scully asked smiling.

"No I was thinking more like gorilla,"


"All right, all right, sorry," he sighed.

"But look, I think we should still go back into town tomorrow and check out those files, and the museum. We still have to get to the bottom of those letters."

"Yes, I agree," Scully replied, "I still have to admit that the compulsion to come up here was so strong - it just didn't seem natural.

Whether it was chemically or, uh, magically induced - I still don't know, but we should continue to try and find out. I'm beginning to think I'd like to try to have the paper the letters were written on analyzed too. Maybe there's someone locally who could handle the job."

"Good idea, Scully," Mulder agreed shaking his head in the affirmative.

"Umm, and Mulder, uh, I think I have something else odd to tell you about what happened in town today," she ventured suddenly.

"What?" he asked, concern on his face at her abrupt change of topic, "don't tell me you think you were poisoned..."

"No, no, nothing like that," she hedged.

"So, what is it?" Mulder asked, all ears.

"Well.." and she just couldn't do it. She couldn't look Mulder in the face and tell him she had wanted to strip naked on the sidewalk in front of the Crossroads, Maine Police Station and ball his brains out.

Strange compulsion or not, she would rather die than tell him what had gone through her mind.

The silence was heavy between them.

"Well, what?" Mulder prompted again. Scully absent-mindedly fingered the crucifix on it's chain around her neck. A small voice inside her said, 'Dana, you'd better tell him, it's important. Don't be embarrassed, he'll understand, he trusts you and besides the knowledge might save your lives," so she let the whole thing come out in a rush.

"Mulder, I wasn't sick to my stomach outside the police station today.

I was, something was making me sexually aroused and, God, the images were so, so intense and real, and I, I started to orgasm. And, then I couldn't stop and pretty soon it didn't feel good anymore, it hurt like hell, and finally I held onto my cross and prayed that it would stop, and then I threw up, and it was all right again," she finally stopped in her recitation to look over at him, mortification and humiliation on her face.

Mulder was looking at her and his face was so blandly neutral that she wanted to rush over and slap the look off it.

"You're telling me that something forced you to orgasm in front of the police station?" Mulder asked carefully.

"Well, I didn't think the location mattered much, Mulder.." she replied miserably.

"No, I suppose not," he answered musing.

"Well, don't you think that sounds a little strange!?" she asked shrilly.

"Wait here a second, Scully, ok, I have to get something I want to show you," he said abruptly getting up and walking to the door, "just hold that thought, all right, I'll be right back," and he opened the door and walked out. She could hear him cross the hall to his room and then he returned carrying *The Book of Ceremonial Magic*.

"Scully look at this all right? I've marked the pertinent passages."

Scully started to read the text. The first part described something called *The Mysteries of the Goetic Theurgy*, and there was page after page of arcane names, all of which were supposed to be names of demons, and what they looked like, and what they did. There was one that Mulder had underlined, Saleos, and he was some kind of great demon duke that promoted lust between the sexes and gained strength and power from a couples union.

"Mulder, this is really strange stuff," Scully said quietly, looking up from the book.

"I know, but keep reading, please," Mulder asked.

Scully read on. The text mentioned the rituals for summoning the demons, and the special symbols that signified each demon, and how to bind the demons to your will. There were even copies of grotesque medieval woodcuts depicting each demon. The text also mentioned circles of standing stones being used as a setting for conjuration, and runic symbols used to attract worthy human sacrifices.

"God, Mulder," Scully whispered.

"Listen, Scully , I read in another book before we came up here, that some of these demons inspire such lust in people that they can't help but..well, they fuck themselves to hell, so to speak," he breathed out raggedly. "I mean once they're summoned by the runes the sacrifice is easy because they're so besotted with lust that they don't know what's about to happen."

"Good Lord," Scully whispered.

"So, let's suppose I'm right and someone used the runes to summon Skinner, and then me, and then you too. Sort of a buy one, get two for free, sale?" Mulder asked, "God, I wish I had more to go on though, I'm basing a lot of my ideas on just gut hunches here, I really need to go back to town and try to find some concrete answers."

"And you think whoever is doing this magic...that they forced me to have those, those carnal thoughts about you..." she said it before she even realized she had, and her face felt hot under Mulder's gaze.

"About me?" he whispered gently, "Oh, Scully, I, I don't, oh..." he whispered.

"You mean you had no idea?" she asked looking up into his face.

"Well, I..I.." he stammered and then he sat down heavily on the bed next to her.

"Yeah, I had more than an idea, I guess," he confessed looking at his hands.

"Oh, Mulder," she whispered, putting the book down and touching his arm.

"When I was forced to have those thoughts it was so horrible partly because, well, partly because I have imagined what it might be like for us to make love. And what those images were showing me, it wasn't making love, it was like two beasts, animals, fucking. It was nothing like what I'd, what I'd like us to experience together. It made me sick," she said in a very small voice.

"Scully..," Mulder replied his voice sad.

"And, Mulder, that's why I prayed, I prayed to make it stop because I didn't want to have to think of us..."

Mulder put his arm around her shoulders, "Scully, it's ok, I understand, I know, don't worry," he said as he rubbed her arm, "I've imagined what it would be like to make love to you too, and more times then I can count. Scully, I've wanted you for so long, but I want it to be the right time, a special moment between us, not under some kind of threat of losing our souls, or under some kind of chemically induced compulsive hallucination. I want it to be us, and I want it to be real, because...well, because I love you."

She was shaking slightly and he put his hand under her chin and pulled her face up to his. He bent forward and gently pressed a kiss to her lips. It was so light, and tender that Scully hardly realized he was kissing her. Mulder left her lips and pulled her close. Her head rested easily under his chin and they sat together like that for quite some time.

"Mulder?" Scully asked.

"Hmmm," he answered breathing against her hair.

"I love you too," she said, barely audibly, and if, if you'd ever want to make love to me, I wouldn't dream of saying no," Scully whispered.

Mulder pulled her a bit closer, but he didn't move, and he didn't say another word.

Presently Scully sighed and said, "I still hope Maggie isn't involved in any of this."

"Me too. I really do want Skinner to be happy, Scully, he may be a royal pain in the ass, but the guy has guts, and I think he goes to bat for us more then we might realize," Mulder replied. "I hope when we go into town tomorrow we find out she's the last person in the world that could be conjuring demons or sending chemically treated letters for that matter."

"Mulder?" Scully asked.


"I think I hear a car," and they went downstairs to meet Skinner and Maggie Flynn.

Dinner that night was even more wonderful then the night before if that was possible. All traces of Scully's upset stomach seemed to have disappeared and she was very grateful because now she was hungry and the food looked delicious.

The table was set again, the lights were out, and candles were burning everywhere. Maggie had steamed oysters for them all, and Skinner had made the salad. It was excellent, and Skinner finally admitted to a hidden talent that neither Mulder nor Scully knew he possessed - he loved to cook, and he was really quite good in the kitchen. There was fresh French bread, and a fragrant and fruity local wine that Maggie thought they'd all like to try.

Throughout the meal Maggie and Skinner were so caught up in each other that it was almost painful to watch. But gradually, maybe due to the wine, or the pleasant sea breeze that circulated about, or the candles or maybe what they had said to each other that afternoon, Mulder and Scully began to feel some of the joy that Skinner and Maggie were experiencing.

Scully watched Mulder almost continuously, and when he looked her way she was usually smiling. Mulder came out of himself more then she had ever seen him do, and he was really very funny, so she couldn't help but laugh at his jokes.

By the end of the meal all of them were tired from laughing and almost full to the brim.

"Why don't you all go out on the front porch and I'll bring out some coffee," Maggie said as they sat back in their chairs.

"I should help, Maggie," Scully said as Maggie got up to go into the kitchen. "Thanks, Dana, we can carry everything out a lot faster that way," and as the two women made their exit, Mulder and Skinner walked out of the dining room and through the house to the front porch.

It was a crystal clear night and Skinner leaned up against the porch railing and looked up at the stars. Mulder stood by the railing, a little farther down than Skinner, and leaned over to look up under the over hang at the sky as well.

"Mulder?" Skinner said.

"Yes, Sir?" Mulder replied.

"Have you ever thought about what it would be like to live your life over again?" Skinner asked.

Mulder decided to be honest, "Uh, Yes Sir, probably at least once a day."

Skinner looked over at him but in the shadows it was hard to read the expression on his face.

"Well, Mulder, I think I might be getting a chance to do that now,"

Skinner replied quietly.

"Now, here?" Mulder asked.

"Yes, here with Maggie," Skinner replied turning to look at Mulder.

"Mulder, listen, when you and Scully get done with the investigation here, I want the two of you to go back to DC without me, all right. I'm, uh, I'm going to stay here for a while," Skinner replied.

Mulder could tell he was completely serious, and even though part of his mind told him something might have been wrong with Skinner's decision he couldn't bring himself to criticize him.

"All right, Sir, and for what it's worth, I wish the two of you the best, I really mean it," Mulder replied.

Skinner cleared his throat and looking at Mulder replied, "Thanks, Fox."

"Coffee anyone?" Maggie was saying as she and Scully came out onto the porch. She put the tray with the pot and cups down on one of the small tables that lined the porch. Scully was right behind her carrying the cream and sugar bowls as well as a fist full of spoons.

"Here, let me take those," Mulder offered as Scully tried to juggle the spoons onto the tray. As he took the spoons their hands touched and Mulder maintained the contact for a moment longer then was necessary.

Scully actually flushed and they did an awkward little dance as Mulder finally got the spoons away from her and onto the tray.

Out of the corner of his eye, Mulder thought he saw Skinner staring at them with more than average interest.

"All right, you guys, pour some coffee, we're making another trip for pie," Maggie laughed as both Skinner and Mulder groaned loudly.

"Now, no complaints, especially from you, Fox, you agreed to try my apple pie, after all," Maggie teased.

"I surrender, you've convinced me," Mulder answered, hands raised in mock surrender.

As soon as the women had left the porch again, Skinner crossed his arms and smiled at Mulder.

"What?" Mulder asked, noticing Skinner's *cat that ate the canary look*.

"Agent Mulder, I'm going to give you a piece of your own advice, all right?" Skinner began.

"Sir?" Mulder asked confused.

"Go with the flow, Mulder," he finished.

Mulder repeated the phrase in his mind as if Skinner had spoken in a foreign language. Then it dawned on Mulder what he meant, and Mulder felt his ears get hot.

"Ah, Sir, it's not what you think..." Mulder started, and then he told himself, 'Of course it's what he thinks you nitwit.'

"Oh, come on Mulder, I saw the way you looked at her, not to mention the way she looked at you..." Skinner let his voice trail off.

Mulder was suddenly in the unique position of feeling like Assistant Director Walter Skinner was the older brother he had never had, and he was advising him on how to handle his first girlfriend. It was an awkward and uncomfortable feeling.

"Well, uh," he stammered. This was getting worse by the minute. Now he sounded like his voice was changing, "Sir, we both know it's against FBI policy for two agents, partners I mean, to fraternize because..."

Skinner burst out laughing. "Jesus, Mulder, you poor son of a bitch, you sound just like me."

Mulder looked over at him and just stared as he continued, "or at least just like I used to sound," he finished more subdued.

"Thank you," Mulder replied grimly.

"Listen, Mulder, and don't take offense all right, but if I were you, I'd take Scully out for a walk tonight, just get her alone somehow, and tell her how you feel about her. It'll do you a both a world of good.

And as for the regulations, fuck 'em. We're not in DC now, and I don't give a shit about the rules, understand?"

Mulder understood. But what he understood was that something was fundamentally wrong with this entire conversation and yeah, he sure as hell wanted to get Scully alone, because they needed to discuss this little turn of events right away.

Maggie and Scully came back out onto the porch at that point, so Skinner was forced to stop giving Mulder his brotherly advice. Mulder sat bewildered, and bemused, as Scully placed a huge piece of pie in front of him.

"God, I can't eat all that!" Mulder exclaimed, and everyone burst out laughing, and then he did too, as he saw that Maggie had cut the large piece as a joke. She was holding his much smaller piece on a plate behind her back.

The pie was delicious and Mulder did manage to eat his entire slice.

After his cup of coffee, he put down the cup, and looked over at Skinner. Skinner gestured towards Scully with his head, and Mulder turned away and sighed. It was obvious Skinner expected him to take the bull by the horns, so he decided now was as good a time as any to talk to Scully anyway.

"Say, uh, Scully, I think I'm going to stretch my legs a little before I go to bed, would you like to come along?"

"All right, Mulder," Scully replied and the two of them left the porch and walked off across the lawn.

"Mulder, where are we going to walk too?" Scully asked, "There's really no place to go, except down the road again."

"Well, it'll have to do, I need to talk to you about Skinner, so come on and walk close to me, all right," Mulder replied.

Scully drew up beside him and said, "What's going on?"

"Scully, Skinner isn't going back with us after we're through here, he's going to stay here with Maggie," Mulder said.

"Oh, I sort of expected something like that after what Maggie said in the kitchen," Scully answered.

"What did she say?" Mulder asked.

"She told me she thought she was falling in love with Skinner, and she asked me if I thought it was wrong," Scully answered quietly.

"Wrong?" Mulder asked, confused.

"Well, she's only been widowed for 2 years. She just thought it was disloyal to her late husband mostly. Especially since she knew Skinner before and he was her first..."

"He was her first love?" Mulder asked.

"So I gathered," Scully replied, "And I don't know if it's important but she told me she was the first for him too."

"God," Mulder said.

"Listen, Scully, I'm beginning to get a little worried. I mean, this thing with Maggie and Skinner, it's really nice and all, and I want to be happy for Skinner, like I said before, but, well he said something to me while you were getting the pie, that was so atypical it really spooked me?" Mulder asked, "oh, sorry, no pun intended," he added seriously.

"What did he say?" Scully asked stopping to stare up at Mulder.

"He told me that I should go with the flow, stop denying my feelings for you, get you alone and then...well, he didn't say I should jump your bones, he just implied that we'd both be a lot better off if we admitted how we felt."

"Skinner said that?" she asked amazed.

"Yeah, and not only that, when I quoted the regulations on fraternization he told me "fuck 'em, we're not in DC anymore, and he didn't give a shit about the rules." Mulder finished.

"That is a little *un-Skinner-like*, I have to admit," Scully replied glancing back up to the porch. She could just make out Skinner and Maggie sitting together on the porch swing and although they were talking, she thought she saw them looking their way briefly several times.

"Mulder, I think they're watching us," Scully whispered moving close to Mulder.

"You're kidding?" Mulder raised an eyebrow.

"No, I'm sure they're watching," Scully replied and then she squeaked, "Mulder what are you doing?" as he took her into his arms.

"I'm giving them a good show," Mulder smiled down at her and then he kissed her with his warm, full, pouting lips. Scully instantly molded herself against him and opened her mouth to admit his questing tongue.

'Oh my God,' she thought, he feels so warm,' and she ran her hands up the front of his body and then around his neck. This kiss wasn't like the first, it was much longer, hot and eager, and finally Scully had to pull back because the heat was getting to be too much. She staggered against him and said, "Mulder, I have to stop," she gasped, "I..."

Mulder's breath was coming in ragged puffs, "Whoa, I'm sorry, I know, that got away from me a little bit too. Are they still watching?" he asked.

"No, they're going inside," Scully replied.

Despite the fact that the show was over, Mulder didn't let Scully go.

She was trembling with the intensity of her passion, and he just wanted to feel her body against his for a few moments longer.

"Scully, I meant the kiss," he said, "I wasn't just acting for them," he said quietly.

"Neither was I, Mulder," she answered. "But look, we both know this isn't the right time for this. We have to get some rest, and then we have to go into town tomorrow and settle this case, one way or the other."

"Yeah, I know, you're right, we'd better get some sleep, come on, let's go back." Mulder agreed and they both walked back up towards the porch.

Inside the house Scully went upstairs immediately, telling Mulder to give her respects to both Maggie and Skinner. Mulder went into the dining room to find Skinner clearing away the dishes from the dinner table. Skinner put down a plate he was holding, and actually came over and slapped Mulder on the back. 'Jesus, this is just too much,' Mulder thought. But he did his best to smile, and he was grateful when Skinner didn't say anything to him.

"Uh, Scully told me to say goodnight to you and Maggie, and thanks for the great meal. She went up to bed. I'm going to turn in now too, I guess. We're going to try to go into town as early as possible in the morning." Mulder stated.

"Fine, Mulder, enjoy yourself," Skinner said, and he turned around and went into the kitchen.

Mulder shrugged, 'Ok, so now he thinks I'm going to go upstairs and really show Scully how I feel about her, I guess,' he thought. And God, he really wanted to. But the phrase "they fucked themselves to hell,"

flew instantly into his mind and he shuddered and turned to go up the stairs.

The clock on the mantle in the parlor chimed 2 AM. Mulder slept and he dreamed, and the dreams were sweet. He was with Scully, and they were walking happily, hand in hand on the beach as the sun set, and the gulls flew over the surf.

Dana Scully slept and she dreamed, and the dreams were sweet. She was with Mulder and they were walking happily, hand in hand on the beach as the sun set, and the gulls flew over the surf.

Two stories below in her room, in her bed, Maggie Flynn writhed and moaned, "Please, don't, no, I really am trying, please" she pleaded. A guttural, liguid-evil voice resounded loudly in her head, "You'd better try harder, bitch, or there's going to be hell to pay," and it laughed and laughed. Tonight it felt stronger, better than it had before when that red headed bitch had cut off it's pleasure. The beast had decided to leave the redhead and her tall, lanky man alone. He'd have them both soon enough. They could dream their own dreams for a change. No, tonight it had decided to gather real power, to take the next step with this woman, his host, and the man she desired, the one tossing and turning in the next room, *The Skinner*, the sacrifice. Now!, Maggie, it said, NOW! and Maggie cried out as the thing inside her head reached to touch Skinner's mind.

Walter Skinner was in the jungle. He was walking through the Vietnam jungle. He was walking point, and suddenly the air was rent with tracer fire and there were VC everywhere. He was firing his rifle and yelling for everyone to take cover but there were too many Viet Cong - it was an ambush.

He saw his best friend, John Rand go down next to him, the bullet going in between his eyes and then out the back of his head, taking most of his skull and brains along with it as it exited. He screamed again and again, firing everywhere, and his helmet was knocked off by another of his platoon, as the man died grabbing for Skinner's shoulders. Then hot shrapnel splattered, and hit his head, and blood poured from multiple tiny wounds, and the blood blinded him, and he couldn't see to use his weapon. Skinner wailed incoherently as the rounds tore into his groin and he fell to his knees and Walter Skinner woke and he was screaming.

"Walter, Walter, it's all right, please, it's me," Maggie Flynn cried as she sat on the edge of the bed and tried to stop his arms and legs from thrashing.

"Maggie, Maggie, what the hell are you doing in here?" Skinner asked totally confused, and not sure if he was still dreaming or not. He stopped struggling, but he was shaking terribly, and Maggie held onto his shoulders.

"Walter, my God, my rooms right next door. I heard you screaming at the top of your lungs in here. I didn't know what was wrong, so I got my pass key..." she let her voice trail off as Skinner buried his head in her breast and whispered, "God, Maggie, I haven't had a dream like that in years. I was back in Vietnam and oh, God..." and that was all he could say.

"Oh, Walter, oh babe," Maggie Flynn replied, rubbing his shoulders, and back.

"Maggie, I..." Skinner started to say, but she put her finger to his lips, and told him to be quiet, it was all right. He kissed her fingers and then he sat up and touched her hair, "Maggie, you've let your hair down," and he ran his hand through her raven tresses. Maggie brought her hand up and pressed his to her cheek, and then Skinner smiled and took her into his arms.

A low snake-like voice hissed in Maggie Flynn's head, and it said, "Ahhhhh, Maggie, that's a good girl, that's so much better, yesssss, so much better," as Skinner's mouth began to explore her body.

Dana Scully sat at the dining room table the next morning alone with her coffee cup. She had come downstairs as early as she could, and found the lower floor deserted so she had gone into the kitchen and started a pot in one of the automatic coffee makers. Now she sat at the dining room table with a mug of coffee just the way she liked it in front of her and content to wait for someone else to join her.

Mulder came down the stairs, yawning and stretching his back, "Morning,"

he said cheerfully, walking up behind her and touching her hair gently.

"Is that coffee?" he asked looking into her cup.

"Yes it is," she smiled up at him. He was dressed in the same rumpled t-shirt he had worn the night before, and his pair of faded jeans, and his hair was tousled from sleep and Scully thought he looked incredibly handsome.

"Ah, you're a saint, Scully," Mulder replied, and he went into the kitchen to help himself to a cup.

The first question out of his mouth when he came back in was, "Where's Skinner?"

Scully shrugged her shoulders. "I haven't seen anyone this morning, I guess Skinner and Maggie aren't up yet," she said stifling a yawn herself.

Mulder put his coffee cup down and started to head towards the hallway that would take him to Skinner's room.

"Mulder, where are you going?" Scully asked even though she knew the answer.

"I'm going to play alarm clock," he answered, walking down the hall.

Mulder strode up to Skinner's door and knocked once softly. There was no answer so he knocked a little more forcefully. The louder knock brought low sounds from inside. "Who is it?" Skinner's muffled voice came from the other side of the door.

"Sir, it's 6 o'clock," Mulder called through the wood, "I thought you might like to know what Scully and I plan to do in town this morning."

He heard Skinner fumbling around and then his heavy steps as he came to the door and unlocked it. He opened it just a crack to peer out at Mulder.

"Agent Mulder, it's 6 o'clock," he whispered, bleary eyed behind his glasses. He was bare-chested and only had on his briefs.

"Yes, sir, I just said that," Mulder replied quietly, "but I thought you might have some additional suggestions for our trip into...." Mulder was interrupted by a feminine voice coming from somewhere behind Skinner.

"Walter, is everything all right?" the voice sighed, barely audible with sleep.

Skinner turned his head around and said gently, "Yes, everything's fine, go back to sleep," and then he slipped outside the door, shutting it.

He stood toe to toe with Mulder.

Mulder was speechless as Skinner half smiled at him.

"Well, Mulder," he said running a hand over his head, "I guess I don't have any special instructions. I'll stay here and talk to Maggie a bit more, but like I said, I don't think there's much more for her to tell,"

he added.

"So, you'll be ah, you'll be interrogating Maggie then?" Mulder replied carefully.

"That's right," Skinner replied, a dreamy smile playing on his lips.

"Fine, Sir, Scully and I will let you know what we discover."

"All right then, you're dismissed," Skinner finished. Mulder turned and went back up the hallway. He didn't look back as he heard the bedroom door click shut behind him.

Scully was still sitting at the dining room table and about to pour herself another cup of coffee.

"Well?" she asked as Mulder sat down and reached for the coffee pot.

"Skinner's going to stay here and interrogate Maggie Flynn," he replied a distracted look on his face.

"Interrogate her, were those his exact words?" Scully asked.

"No, that's what I called it," Mulder replied, "I'm sure that's not what he'd call it..." he let the thought trail off.

Scully looked at Mulder, and then what he was getting at sunk in.

"Oh, Mulder," she replied. "I don't know if I should be happy or sad for him."

"Well, I guess we should go into town and try to determine which is the correct way to feel," Mulder replied.

Mulder and Scully pulled up in front of the little museum in downtown Crossroads and it was still too early for them to go in, so they waited in the Ford again.

"Maybe we should have stopped for a donut," Mulder smiled slightly as Scully's stomach made a growling noise.

"I cannot believe I am hungry again after the meal we had last night."

Scully said shaking her head. "I'm going to have to go on a diet when we get back."

"I know what you mean," Mulder said puffing his cheeks out like a chipmunk with a mouth full of seed.

Scully smiled at him.

"Scully, let's try to kill two birds with one stone here. Why don't you go over to the police station and take a look at that file and I'll wait here for Henry Merritt to show up." Mulder suggested.

"That sounds like a good idea," Scully replied, "And I should ask at the police station about getting the paper analyzed as well. All right, if I get done before you, I'll meet you back here."

"And if not, I'll meet you at the police station," Mulder replied.

Scully, all business now, pulled open the passenger side door and left for the Crossroads cop shop.

Presently, Mulder saw an elderly man walk up to the museum door, unlock it and go in. He gave himself 5 more minutes and then he left the car and headed over to the museum, a look of concentration on his face.

The glass case with the standing stone exhibit was to the right of the museum door. Mulder stood in front of it, reading all the material that was posted on the wall plaques above the case. It seemed well researched, and told a concise history of the circle, and the fact that it had been there when the first settlers had colonized the area, and was thought to pre-date them by centuries. The information went on to describe the likely uses for the circle as being determination of the planting and harvesting schedules as well as pinpointing certain astronomical events which may have had religious or agricultural significance to early men in the area. 'That's all fairly run of the mill stuff,' Mulder thought. There was no mention of runes or demons or human sacrifice at all. 'Well, I guess there wouldn't be - it might hurt the tourist trade,' he mused wryly.

The model of the stone circle was very detailed and showed a talent for modeling that impressed Mulder. The tiny sign on the outside of the case said *model by Kevin Boyce*. As he was kneeling down to get a ground level view of the model, he noticed a pair of khaki clad legs suddenly standing next to him. He stood up and looked into the face of the thin elderly man who had opened the door, and he was staring at Mulder through thick wire rimmed glasses.

"So, I see you're interested in our local mystery," the man said smiling broadly, "Henry Merritt," he added extending his hand.

"Fox Mulder," Mulder replied. This was the point where he usually pulled out his FBI identification but something caused him to hesitate to do so.

"Nice to meet you, Fox, I'm the curator of this little tourist attraction," Merritt replied, sweeping the room with his hand, "Can I answer any questions you might have about the exhibit?"

"Well, actually, uh, you could, Mr. Merritt," Mulder replied.

"Hey, Henry will do, son, everyone calls me that around here."

"Well, Henry, I do have some questions regarding the standing stones, do you have some time?" Mulder asked, smiling.

Merritt looked around the room and said, "Well, I don't think there's much of a crowd in here to keep me busy," and then he laughed.

Mulder chuckled along with him.

"Listen, do you like jelly donuts?" Merritt asked.

"Strawberry filled?" Mulder asked.

"Yup," Merritt asked.

"Love them," Mulder answered

"Well, I was just about to have a jelly donut and some coffee in my office, if you'd care to join me I can probably answer just about any question you'd have regarding those stones," Merritt offered.

Mulder munched on a fresh jelly donut as Merritt fished a clean cup out of his desk drawer, and poured coffee into it from the automatic coffee pot that sat on a small book case.

"Henry, this donut is excellent," Mulder said, chewing.

"Isn't it? The bakery in town makes them fresh every day. I can't resist them myself, I don't know what I'd do if I had a weight, problem," he replied patting his flat stomach. He handed Mulder the cup of coffee.

"Now about those stones," Mulder said. "I was wondering if they had ever been carbon dated?"

"Nope, the town wanted to do it, but Kevin Boyce wasn't interested in having it done. The stones are on his property after all, so the town had to respect his wishes." Merritt replied.

"That's kind of strange, don't you think, for a man that seemed to take such an interest in them?" Mulder asked.

"Well, yes, but I figured maybe he didn't want a lot of university types traipsing all over his land. Kevin liked his privacy. He had to give a lot of it up running that little B&B outside of town, so I guess he hoarded what little he had left." Merritt replied.

"You're talking about him in the past tense, did he move away?" Mulder asked playing dumb.

"No, unfortunately, Kevin died about two years ago, fell off that friggin' cliff in back of his house. God, I was so sorry for his poor wife," Henry answered quietly.

Mulder hid his surprise rather well he thought, and he took a sip of his coffee and asked, "What about the use for the stones? Was there ever anything else that they may have been used for besides what's written on those plaques?"

"You mean the info about the planting and harvesting?" Merritt asked.

"Yes," Mulder answered.

Henry Merritt sat back in his chair and it creaked under him. He looked at Mulder for a moment and then he said, "Are you a superstitious man, Fox?"

"Superstitious, no, but I do have an open mind," he replied.

"Well, an open mind will do nicely," Merritt replied, and then he reached around and pulled a very old book from the glass fronted case behind him. "I've been getting these books ready for display," he added, "But, you might want to take a look at this one."

"What's written out there in the exhibit is the official politically correct information for the tourist trade," Merritt began, opening the thin, old volume and placing it on his desk, "ah, here's the passage I'm looking for," he said quietly and he slid the book over to Fox Mulder.

Dana Scully was sitting at a desk in the police station pouring over the case file for Kevin Boyce's accidental death. Kevin may have drowned, would have probably drowned, if he had survived the fall from the cliff near the standing stones.

The inquest had decided that he had slipped and fallen into the sea, and either died from the fall, or drowned afterwards. His body had washed up far down shore several days later. Scully sucked in her breath in dismay. Maggie Flynn had said he had drowned. She hadn't exactly lied outright, but she certainly had left out a lot of information regarding his death.

There were photos of the body in the file and there were large diagonal tears across Kevin's chest. They could have been caused by the fall or the time the body had been under water. But Scully couldn't be sure because the marks looked almost like claw marks, and also there was such an expression of terror on the dead face of Kevin Boyce that Scully shut the file, forgot about analyzing any paper, and got up quickly to go meet Mulder.

Mulder was reading the page in the book that Henry Merritt had given him. It was very old, in fact it was a diary of one of the first settler's from the area. The passage described the standing stones and how they were a place to avoid, 'let no man drive his cows over the spot, or they will cease to give milk, and whither and die,' the diary said, and later, 'if a man finds hisself near the spot and darkness falls, said man should fall upon his knees and beg the Lord, Our God for the salvation of his soul. Let all ye who settle here be warned, that the circle of stones is cursed and let all men know that it be called The Devil's Crossroad.'

Mulder looked up at Henry Merritt and said, "Well, I can see why this wasn't put in the exhibit."

Henry snorted loudly.

"Do you believe this, Henry?" Mulder asked no trace of sarcasm in his voice.

"Believe it?" Henry repeated, "Well, Fox, I've heard the stories about the stones for years. My Dad and my GrandDad used to tell them to me when I was young. They certainly believed them, and I know my father wouldn't pass by there at night for all the money in the world."

"The Devil's Crossroad?" Mulder mused aloud.

"Yup, that's what the old timers call it. Kevin Boyce was a local lad, I can't figure out to this day why he took such an interest in that spot. After he and his wife bought that house and made it into the B&B he was really hepped up to turn those stones into a tourist attraction."

"Did he succeed?"

"Oh yes, it worked at least until he died. His wife hasn't kept up the land around the stones at all though, so I expect she doesn't have as much interest in them, or she's taken the stories to heart and abandoned the damn place," Merritt replied.

"Henry, you seem to have done a lot of research on the stones," Mulder stated.

"Yes, well, maybe that's because I have a degree in philosophy and comparative religion. I teach a course on it over at the community college in Red Hook. Fox, I've been interested in the occult for years, black magic and demonology, and I've also always thought it's good to understand your enemy," Henry answered.

"So, you believe in the devil then?" Mulder asked quietly.

"Son, if you believe in God, then the devil is just a foregone conclusion," Merritt answered.

And there may have been the crux of the problem for Mulder. He wasn't sure he believed in God, and therefore, even though he had managed to convince himself that something demonic was going on in Crossroads, he couldn't quite bring himself to believe it. In truth, despite his espousing of his theories to Scully, he was actually much closer to her usual reaction in this type of situation. He was skeptical. And the thought bothered him because he was beginning to think that a belief in God might be the thing that was necessary to get them out of this situation alive, sane, and with their souls still their own.

"Henry," Mulder began, "Let's suppose those standing stones are some type of nexus for evil, *The Devils Crossroad* if you will. Would someone be able to conjure up the devil there somehow?"

"They could probably try to conjure something up out there, if they knew the right rituals. But, well, the devil or as he's also known Lucifer, the Prince of Darkness, or the Lord of the Flies - he isn't the one most practitioners of black magic would want to conjure up. The cost is too high to bring a big gun like him over to this plane. He'd be too hard to bind. No, if I was going to conjure something up, I'd probably try for some lesser demon. There are so many of them, and they can do so many things for the summoner. You'd have a veritable smorgasbord to choose from."

"Would one of those lesser demons be Saleos?" Mulder asked carefully.

"The duke of lust?" Merritt asked, "I see you've been doing a bit of research on the subject, Fox."

"Yes, well, I'm sort of a student of the bizarre and unusual myself,"

Mulder nodded grinning slightly.

Henry looked at him then and it was obvious the old fellow didn't get to talk about his favorite subject with too many people, and the fact that Mulder seemed to be a kindred spirit made the old man warm to him even more.

"Well, Saleos is a particularly popular lesser demon. A sorcerer might conjure him up to inflame lust in his partner if he was worried the other person was straying away from him, or wasn't quite completely enamored of him. If the ritual were done correctly, the magician's partner would never want to leave, and their sex life would certainly be rather spectacular - at a price.

"What price?" Mulder asked.

"Well, Saleos demands human sacrifices, human souls, just like most of the other members of the infernal legions. The magician would have to supply them or else..."

"Or else what?" Mulder asked.

"Or else the demon would take the magician, and then because no one was binding him anymore, he could pretty much run rampant, gaining strength from the fornication of anyone he could influence," Henry replied.

"Gaining in strength, for what?" Mulder asked, the hairs suddenly standing up on the back of his neck.

"Until he was strong enough to use someone to open the gates of hell and let his infernal brothers loose to wreck havoc on earth," Merritt answered.

"Whoa!" Mulder exclaimed softly.

"Pretty gruesome hey?" Merritt replied, "Look, Fox, you don't think someone is using the stone circle to perform magical rites do you?"

"Henry, I hope not," Mulder answered seriously.

"Son, I've never seen any evidence of it, and I've been up there hundreds of times since I was a boy. Of course I always went with protection when I got older."

"Protection?" Mulder asked.

"Yes, with this," Merritt replied taking a crucifix and chain out from under his shirt.

"Oh," Mulder replied, "Listen, Henry besides the cross, is there anything else that you can use to combat one of these demons."

"Well, Fox the big thing that combats them is faith in God, and symbols, of that faith, like this cross. Also admitting they exists helps, because the devil operates best when people don't believe in him. Also, you can protect yourself by taking refuge in a protective magic circle, or by using a base metal such as iron to ground the demon and send him back to hell."

"Iron?" Mulder asked.

"Yes, but the iron works best when it's used by someone with faith."

Henry's speech was interrupted by a bell tinkling at the front of the museum.

"Oh, it looks like we have some tourist company coming in," Henry smiled as he got up.

"Fox, it's been a real pleasure to talk to you. I guess you can tell I don't get much of a chance to discuss this type of thing around here.

My students at the college aren't too interested in listening to an old man talk about God and the Devil."

"It's been my pleasure too, Henry," Mulder said shaking his hand.

"Oh, and Fox, if there is something strange going on up there at the standing stones, be careful all right? And if I can help, let me know."

"All right, Henry, thanks," Mulder replied following him out into the museum proper. The bell at the door had been Scully coming in, and Mulder straightened instantly when he saw her, and smiled. Henry Merritt looked from Mulder to Scully and smiled too.

"Your wife?" he asked.

"No, uh, at least not yet," Mulder replied. He was surprised he had said it, but it wasn't something that sounded wrong to him at that moment.

Merritt chuckled and replied, "Well, good luck, son, I hope she says yes," and he patted him on the shoulder and turned back towards his office.

Mulder ran his hands through his hair and walked to meet Scully.

"Scully, we have to talk," he said,

"You must have read my mind, Mulder," Scully replied grimly, as Mulder ushered her through the museum door.

Back at the Bed and Breakfast, a black man's blues guitar was playing somewhere nearby, and the man was singing "Didn't nobody seem to know me everybody pass me by. Lord, I'm standing at the crossroads, babe, I believe I'm sinkin' down", as Skinner and Maggie Flynn were locked in each other's embrace. Skinner was thrusting into her again, and again, and she was telling him to do it harder, and to never stop. In the back of his mind, Skinner realized it was impossible for him to have become erect again this quickly, and to stay hard for so long. And he knew that after they had used the second of the two condoms Maggie had found in her medicine cabinet, it was probably a bad idea to have unprotected sex. But the part of his brain that formulated those thoughts was rapidly shutting down under the endorphin rush that flooded his cerebral cortex. All that mattered at the moment was the fact that he could keep it up, and that she was loving it, and he moaned with pleasure as Maggie writhed beneath him. The black man wailed, "Mmmm, the sun goin' down, boy, dark gon' catch me here."

Mulder wanted to take Scully down to the beach and walk with her while he told her what Henry Merritt had told him, and what he feared was happening. But, he knew the beach would be crowded with tourists, so instead he walked with her back to the Explorer.

"I can't think of anywhere else where we can talk privately, I'm sorry,"

he told her as they got in. His only concession was to leave the windows open a bit, so they could catch the breeze.

"Mulder, you go first, all right," Scully said. "I just need to hear what you have to say first," she said.

So, Mulder told her everything Henry Merritt had said, and Scully's eyes got larger as he told her. When he was finished she replied.

"Mulder, the police report said Kevin Boyce fell from that cliff next to the standing stones, no one seemed to know if he was dead when he hit the water, so he may have drowned, but..."

"But what?" Mulder asked.

"But there were these huge slashes on his chest, Mulder. They could have been caused by the fall but, well, I wasn't so sure. Mulder they looked like claw marks," Scully said.

"Claws.." Mulder let the words trail away.

"And Mulder, his face! Normally in death people's faces are slack, expressionless, almost featureless..." Scully began.

"Yeah, I know, so..." Mulder prompted.

"Well, Kevin Boyce's face was frozen in some kind of rictus of horror, Mulder. He looked like he had been terrified by something and that look had never left his face." Scully finished quietly.

Mulder looked at her and all his fears and suspicions coalesced at once into an ugly, black thought and he sighed deeply and looked out the windshield into space.

"Mulder?" Scully asked tentatively.

"Scully, I want to tell you what I think is going on now, and just let me ramble, all right? I'm half thinking it through as I tell you, and if you interrupt I might leave out something critical," Mulder said.

"All right, go ahead," Scully replied and shifted to look at his profile.

Mulder continued to stare through the front window, but he began to talk.

"Scully, let's imagine that seven years ago, when Kevin and Maggie Boyce bought the B&B, that something was lurking in those standing stones.

Maybe some formless evil, biding it's time, waiting for just the right person to come along and give it a leg up into this world. Let's suppose this evil was weak. But after this person, Kevin Boyce, came along and started to tend to the stones, and make them a tourist attraction, spending a lot of time, alone up there - the thing touched his mind somehow and started to influence him, to control him.

Scully didn't interrupt and she stared fascinated despite her horror.

"Ok, so let's say this evil being, a demon, influences Kevin to think that his loving wife, Maggie is seeing another man, or maybe that she still harbors love for a past old flame, and never really loved him in the first place, or who knows, maybe they'd been having marital problems anyway, and the thing just fed on that situation. I can't be sure. At any rate, the old flame was Walter Skinner." Mulder continued glancing at Scully. She remained mute so he plunged on.

"So the thing makes Kevin get interested in black magic and shows him the way to summon it. Kevin succeeds in bringing it into this plane, but also in binding it, which didn't make it very happy. The thing grants his wish though, because by this time Kevin is desperate to have Maggie love him and stay with him, and this being the demon of lust, it was only too happy to have the two of them around for endless sexual amusement."

"So, over the years the thing feasts on them and their emotions, it plays them like a piano, but one day it tells Kevin that he has to pay the price for his wish and the price is a human sacrifice. He says anyone will do, but Kevin can't bring himself to do it so..."

"So, the demon killed him and threw him off the cliff to make it look like an accident?" Scully asked quietly.

"Yeah, that's what I think," Mulder replied.

"But what about Maggie?" Scully asked, so afraid to hear his answer.

"Scully," Mulder said painfully, looking at her full on for the first time during his recitation, and taking one of her hands.

"That's where the hard part comes in," he said.

"Oh, no, Mulder," Scully whispered.

"I think this demon, the demon Saleos, was set free after it killed Kevin. But, you saw the picture of it in the book, you know what it looks like. I think it knew it couldn't walk safely among us in it's real form, it's probably still weakened form, weak from escaping the binding, and killing Kevin. So, it took Maggie Flynn, possessed her, and used her to house it until it was strong enough..."

"Oh my God, Mulder," Scully said, and at first Mulder thought she was going to disagree with him. But then she said, "Mulder, Maggie told me Kevin used to beat her, that they had been having marital trouble for quite some time because he had caught her sending letters to Skinner."

"When did she tell you that?" Mulder asked.

"When we were in the kitchen alone together those few times. She told me about the beatings just before she told me she was falling in love with Skinner."

"Shit," Mulder said.

"And Mulder, that night we were getting the coffee and pie, the night you kissed me again, I told Maggie I thought it was beautiful that she was in love with Skinner, and I told her that I was, that I was in love with you," Scully whispered, turning white, "So now that thing knows about us," she added, afraid.

"Well, Scully, I'm sure it would have found out eventually, because I think Skinner would have told Maggie anyway," Mulder comforted her.

"God, Mulder this, this is so irrational," Scully said.

"Scully, I know, but I think this demon lured Skinner here because Maggie knew him. And like I said before I think we were just the desert on the menu. I think it's going to sacrifice Skinner, and then us, so it's infernal buddies can take over mankind?" Mulder asked.

"Mulder, I can't imagine that woman, I mean Maggie is so, so sweet and considerate and.."

"Scully, I think we've been allowed to see the real Maggie Flynn on occasion. I think the demon lets her out so that people won't catch on that it's inside her. Henry said that the devil operates best when people don't believe in him, or don't know he's there," Mulder explained.

"Oh, God, how horrible," Scully put a hand over Mulder's hand, "What can we do?" Scully asked.

"Well, I have a plan, but I have to ask you something first Scully,"

Mulder said.

"What?" Scully asked.

Mulder reached forward and took the crucifix that was hanging at Scully's neck into his fingers, "Scully, do you really believe?" he asked looking her in the eyes."

Scully blinked at him and then she replied, "Mulder, until recently, no.

But after my illness, after the cancer went into remission. Mulder, I, I believe now. I lacked faith before, but I've found it again," she said simply.

Mulder sighed, "Scully I told you once that I thought you had the strength of your beliefs, and it's going to be very critical that you do now, because I don't think I have enough faith, or belief in a higher power to get us through this mess?" he asked matter-of-factly.

"Oh, Mulder," Scully whispered touching his cheek.

"The only one I have faith in, the only one I'm certain I trust, is you, Scully," Mulder told her.

Scully stroked his cheek with the back of her hand and then took the hand that was holding her cross and kissed it.

"Mulder, what do you want me to do?" Scully asked.

"All right," Mulder replied setting his jaw. "First I think we need to try to get Skinner away from Maggie somehow. Maybe if I can get him alone, I can influence him somehow to leave Crossroads or.. I don't know, something, I just hope he isn't too far gone by now to talk too."

"I hope not too," Scully replied.

"But before we can try to rescue him I think we need to construct a protective magic circle. *The Book of Ceremonial Magic* gives detailed instruction on how to do it. We can get supplies at the local sporting good, and grocery stores."

"Some shopping list," Scully said, and Mulder smiled a bit.

"And then we have to ground the demon, and send it back to hell,"

Mulder finished.

"How do we do that?" Scully asked, fear tingeing her voice.

"Well, Henry said that a person with faith using a holy symbol could ward off or fight the demon, and then they could use something iron to ground the demon, bind it to the earth, and send it back to hell. I guess that's where you come in, Scully," Mulder said. "Someone with true faith has to ground the demon, and that's got to be you, because I don't think it can be me."

"And where do you come in, Mulder?" Scully asked.

"I'm the bait," Mulder replied.

Mulder and Scully went to a sporting goods store and Mulder bought a hunting knife. Then they went to the grocery store and bought 2 dozen containers of Morton's salt, and three boxes of Crayola crayons (the stores entire supply), and a box of large kitchen matches. Mulder tried to find some long, tapered dinner candles but he couldn't find any in the grocery store.

"I guess we'll have to hope Maggie keeps a supply of candles at the house," Mulder said. But as they were returning to the car Mulder saw a little candle shop and went in to purchase eight tall white candles.

"We'll only need four, the others are for insurance," he told Scully.

By this time it was late afternoon and Mulder and Scully were finally driving back to the B&B, determination in both their faces but fear in their hearts.

When they reached the end of the long driveway that led up to the B&B, Mulder stopped the car and pulled it over to the side.

"Scully, let's get out and walk the rest of the way, I don't want them to know we're coming," and they both exited the vehicle burdened with their supplies, and walked as quietly as they could up to the steps of the B&B.

Inside, in his room, Skinner lay on his back in bed, Maggie Flynn above him, riding him, and he was dimly aware that he was in pain. They had been coupling for hours, and he had come over, and over, and ejaculated into her so many times, he didn't think there was anything left to shoot. His genitals were on fire, but he was still able to get it up, and just as he thought the pain would be too much, the pleasure would come again, and the images would enter his mind, and Maggie would be groaning how good he was, and he never wanted the ride to end.

Mulder and Scully entered the house and placed the bags with the supplies just inside the front door. Mulder instantly had his weapon out of his holster. Scully drew hers as well and both held them in front with both hands and swept the hallway. No one was there. Mulder drew close to Scully and said, "Go upstairs to your room and wait, I'm going to use your room to construct the circle in - it's bigger than mine, and there's no view of the stones from there."

"What are you going to do, Mulder, I don't want to leave you alone,"

Scully whispered back.

"I'm just going to take a quick look around and try to find out where Skinner and Maggie are, all right, then I'm going to come up and draw the circle," Mulder answered.

"All right, but, Mulder what about the iron?" Scully asked.

"Shit," Mulder exclaimed, "how could I be so stupid," he hit himself in the head, because he had forgotten probably the most important tool they would need.

Scully glanced around and off to the left into the parlor. "Mulder will that do?" she asked, pointing towards the fireplace.

"Yeah, excellent," Mulder replied, touching her on the back! "See, I knew there was a reason I love you, you've got the brains, sweetheart,"

he added in his best Bogart imitation.

Scully smiled weakly as Mulder snuck into the parlor and removed the sharp cast iron poker from it's hanger by the fireplace, handed it to Scully, and gave her a little nudge towards the stairs.

"I'll bring the rest of the stuff with me," he whispered indicating the bags by the door.

"All right, I'm going," she whispered, "But Mulder, be careful," she added as she turned and crept up to the third floor.

Mulder checked the dining room, kitchen, and back porch, and then he walked down the hallway towards Skinner's room. Mulder had all ready had a pretty good idea where Skinner and Maggie were, and that's why he had sent Scully upstairs.

He took off his shoes at the bend in the hallway, and then his socks as well so that he wouldn't slip on the wood floor, and he flattened himself against the wall on the same side as Skinner's door and slid down it, his weapon at the ready.

As soon as he was just at the other side of Skinner's door he heard the sounds, and there was no doubt that they were in there, and what they were doing.

'Oh, God,' Mulder thought, 'maybe we're too late all ready,' and he backed off down the hallway on his way to join Scully upstairs.

He approached Scully's room, carrying the grocery bags, and since the door was open he walked in. Scully was seated straddling the chair as far back from the door as possible, her gun in her hands propped against the chair's back.

Mulder tried to raise his arms and she lowered her weapon, and he turned and fumbled the door shut.

"Did you find Skinner?" Scully asked in a more normal voice.

"I found them both," Mulder answered, putting the grocery bags down on the bed.

"Mulder?" Scully asked, pressing him.

"They were in Skinner's room, Scully, he's in there banging her brains out," Mulder replied bluntly, "and from the sound of things, they've been at it a long time."

"Oh, no," Scully replied.

"Well, we'd better get going because I think we need this circle constructed and then we need to try to get him out of there," Mulder advised.

They had to move some of the furniture around, but not much, luckily, because it was hard to do it quietly. Mulder began to pour the Morton's salt in a large circle on the wood floor of the room. He made a big outer circle and then a smaller inner circle, leaving a space between the outer and inner one. There were four squares attached around the circle corresponding to the points of the compass. Next, Mulder melted some wax from the candles into the squares and then he stuck a candle in each pool of wax so that they stood upright. He lit the candles. He took the boxes of Crayola crayons and took out all the red crayons, and started to write arcane symbols around the perimeter between the edges of the circle, and then in each of the four squares below each candle.

During all these preparations Scully kept watch, standing, facing the door, her gun drawn. Finally Mulder stepped back and said, "Almost done, Scully."

She turned and looked at him, "What's left?" she asked.

"The blood," he replied.

"Blood, what blood?" she asked in alarm.

Mulder took the hunting knife out of this suit coat pocket and replied, "My blood," and he drew the blade across his left palm with one swift stroke.

"Mulder!" Scully almost screamed in shock, only clamping her own hand over her mouth stopped her from giving them away.

The blood gushed from Mulder's palm and he quickly swung his hand around the perimeter of the outer circle, so that blood dripped into the salt around it's entire circumference.

"I'm sorry I had to do it that way, Scully, without warning you, because, well, I was afraid you'd try to stop me," he said, strain on his face as he squeezed his hand to keep the blood flowing.

"And you would have been right, Mulder," Scully said angrily, but she softened quickly as she saw the pain on his face, "Here, let me rip off part of a pillow case so I can bind that up," she said.

Once Mulder's hand was bandaged there was no more waiting. "Scully, I want you to give me your weapon," he said. Scully complied without hesitation. He popped out the clip, and seated on the bed, removed the bullets from it. Then he took the hunting knife and marked the nose of each bullet with a tiny cross. He repeated the process with his ammo clip and then he loaded both weapons again, and handed them to Scully, "For insurance," he said looking her in the eyes.

"But Mulder, you'll be unarmed," Scully said sitting down next to him on the bed.

"Yeah, well, I don't want to take a chance that I might use the gun against you, and I plan to be running back up here anyway," he smiled at her gently, "Now Scully, I want you to take the guns and the poker and get into the middle of that circle. Don't step on the lines or knock any of the candles down, though. That's really important, don't even so much as smudge any of the lines, no matter what happens."

"Got it," she replied, all business.

"I'm going to go downstairs and try to lure Maggie up here and I hope I can. I'll be coming at a dead run, and hopefully ahead of her. When I get back up here I'm going to jump into the circle with you. And look, Scully, ah, you're going to have to shoot her," Mulder said quietly.

"Oh, no, Mulder, I can't," Scully argued.

"You'll have too, aim for some non-vital areas if you can, but shoot her, and incapacitate her. The bullets should have enough trace iron to start the binding process, and I'm hoping the little crosses will help.

Once she looks subdued, and not until that point, I want you to come out of the circle and take the poker and.."

"What?" Scully asked, beyond thinking.

"You have to drive it through her somewhere and pin her to the floorboards. Do you think you're strong enough to do that Scully?

You're a doctor, I figured you might be able to do it without actually killing her."

Scully just looked at him blankly, as if she wasn't there anymore, and Mulder, in fear, shook her by the shoulders violently, "Scully are you strong enough to do that?" he hissed at her through clenched teeth.

She came back to herself instantly, and a look of calm determination came into her face, "Yes, Mulder, I'm strong enough," she said with conviction. And Mulder let go of his breath.

"All right," he replied, "Now look, if anyone comes up here besides me, or even if I come back up here alone and you're not sure, well, you're not sure I'm really me, shoot first and ask questions later, ok?" he told her.

"Not yourself?" Scully asked.

"Yeah, I'm thinking old Saleos may try to do some body hopping if he knows things are getting tough. So stay sharp," he finished.

"Don't worry about that, Mulder," she replied, stiff lipped. "Just make sure you run like you're going for Olympic Gold - leave the rest up to me," Scully added.

"Yes, ma'am Agent Scully," he replied with a smile. "Now, go get in the circle."

Before Scully got up, she leaned over and kissed him on the lips. "For luck," she said and then she got up and gingerly stepping over the circle's blood and salt rim, sat down in the middle with her weapons and poker ready.

Mulder moved to leave and Scully watched his back, straight and set with purpose. He turned just before he reached the door and said, "And Scully..."

"Yes, Mulder?"

"Pray," he advised her as opened the door and left the room.

As Mulder stood in the hallway he crossed his fingers in front of him and thought, 'I hope that book was right and that all this stuff works.

I don't much like thinking that I'll have to assume the position in hell instead of Skinner's office from now on," and he headed for the stairs.

Downstairs, while Mulder was constructing the magic circle, Skinner was staring up at Maggie Flynn as he pumped into her, and he knew for sure that something was drastically wrong. "Maggie, please, babe, I, I can't keep this up any longer, Maggie it hurts," he cried dismally through his pain and exhaustion. Maggie opened her eyes and looking down at Skinner replied in a guttural, rasping, evil voice, "It hurts? Walter, you ain't seen nothing yet," and the Maggie-thing stopped meeting his thrusts, and Skinner looked up into her face, horror taking possession of him, as he looked into her eyes, her bile yellow and snake pupiled eyes, and as he opened his mouth to scream, her forked tongue flicked out and she said, "Rides over, Walter," And Skinner opened his mouth and wailed in mortal terror.

Mulder was at the top of the landing to the bottom floor, when he heard Skinner scream. It was an animal sound of terror, and it chilled him to the bone. He yelled back up the stairs to Scully, "Scully, no matter what happens, stay in the circle!" and then he ran down the stairs and down the hall towards Skinner's room. He slowed as he reached the bend in the hallway and then he slid sideways along the wall again until he was near Skinner's door.

A voice greeted him and the sound of it sent a cold pain right into his bowels. "So nice of you to join us, Foxxxx," it hissed and the door swung open on it's hinges.

Mulder stepped around the open door and looked into the room. What he saw there was something he would have given his right arm never to have seen, and his other arm never to see again.

Skinner was kneeling in front of his naked lover, back to the door, and he was also naked, and bleeding from scores of scratches on his back.

The blood ran in rivulets and dripped onto the floor. Maggie had a livid bruise that ran from her left eye, a bile yellow eye with a snake pupil, down her cheek. Skinner was sobbing and he said, "Please, please don't make me do that to her again. I don't want to hurt her," and Mulder was enraged to see him begging like that, on his knees, after he had been made to hurt the woman he loved.

"Maggie is in here, Fox..." the thing said as if it read his mind, and it flicked it's forked tongue, and suddenly it's eyes were blue and pain filled, and it was Maggie Flynn.

"Oh God, help Walter, please, Fox..." was all she had time to say before the eyes changed again and the beast was back.

"You bastard," Mulder spat out at the thing, and it laughed. Skinner was making a mewling noise in his throat, and the creature bent forward and slapped him hard in the forehead. Skinner's whole head rocked back.

"Walter, shut the fuck up, you're distracting me," the creature said.

Skinner was instantly silent and he bent over farther into a tight ball.

"Now, Fox, I want you to see just what being a bastard really means,"

the thing said, and suddenly Mulder felt the tendrils of another's mind, another's will, touching his own and he gasped in pain, but then in pleasure. It was the most intense sexual pleasure he had ever felt and he knew he would become erect, and then the images started to come. A small portion of his mind had expected to see Scully then, but she wasn't there. Instead he was in his parent's house, in Chilmark, in the living room and his sister, his sister Samantha was there and she, and he was..." Mulder yelled with fear and revulsion at what the demon was making him see and feel and..

Upstairs, Scully heard him scream, and she knew it was Mulder, and she clutched her cross, and she prayed...

And the demon thing shrieked in fright, and released the cringing Mulder who did not hesitate to turn on his heels and run.

He ran, and the Maggie thing recovered, and leaving Skinner to curl up into a fetal position on the wooden floor below, ran after Mulder up the flights of stairs as he sought Scully's room, and the safety of the circle.

Mulder was far enough ahead that he reached the room first, ran through the door and vaulted into the circle in a perfect leap to land next to Scully. "Get ready," he had just enough time to say, before they heard Maggie's footsteps in the hall outside.

As Scully raised the first gun, the steps stopped just outside the door.

"Knock, knock.." the demon voice said.

Mulder looked at Scully, and she shrugged her shoulders, and swung the gun up and aimed it at the center of the door.

"Look, I have a proposition for both of you," the demon said, "I wouldn't shoot if I were you Dana, because if you do, I'm going to kill Walter Skinner faster than you can say, FB fucking I, all right?"

Scully pulled her weapon up and Mulder said, "No, Scully!"

Maggie poked just her head around the door's edge and said, "Mulder, your partner's a hell of a lot brighter than you, so why don't you listen up for a minute while I tell you my idea?"

Maggie's eyes widened at seeing the circle, "Welly, welly, well," it said. "Maybe you're brighter than I thought, G-man. I know, you know, that I can't touch or influence either one of you while you're in there, so why don't you hear me out?" the Maggie thing asked.

Mulder looked at her with his eyes narrowed. He was afraid to agree, but if it would save Skinner's life, he guessed he could take a chance at listening to the thing's proposition.

"All right, come in, but not any farther then the bed. Sit down there and tell us what you have to say." Mulder sneered.

"Fine," Maggie replied, and she came in, docile, and sat on the bed.

The thing's tongue flicked in and out a couple of times, and it's snake eye's nicitating membranes blinked and Scully moved closer to Mulder as she got a first glimpse of what was riding shotgun in Maggie Flynn's body.

"Here's the deal, Fox," she began, "I have to admit you two have been very good opponents. It's been a long time since I've had two such worthy adversaries. I really hate for the game to end - in a way,"

"Yeah, well, fuck you," Mulder spat out viciously.

"All in good time, Fox," the thing giggled, "but in the meantime, I'd like to offer you a deal."

"Go on," Mulder said.

"I'd like to leave you and your lady friend alone in your safe little nest here for the couple of hours of light that are left outside.

You'll be perfectly safe and you can rest and martial your strength."

Maggie said.

"And..." Mulder prompted.

"And, because I'm not a complete asshole, I'm going to give you a sporting chance to get Walter back," it said.

"How?" Scully asked.

"Well, let's just say, Dana, that Fox knows there's something else that can be done with your little circle to make it, and you, even more powerful. And Dana, once it's done I want you both to come up to the standing stones and we'll all go at it, mano a mano so to speak."

"Oh, sure.." Mulder started.

"I'm serious," the demon said, affronted. "Look, we lie a lot of the time, Fox, but we also get really bored. The two of you are the most fun I've had in years, so I've decided to tell you the truth, and cut you a break, ok?"

"Thanks a lot..," Scully said.

"You should thank me, Dana, it's not everyone that gets this opportunity. Kevin didn't, and Maggie didn't, and neither did Walter.

And, goodness, neither did old Robert Johnson, and the thing began to whistle the blues tune, the lyrics to which were all too familiar to them.

"Nice touch, hey?," the demon said, "Personally, I thought it was rather poetic. Well, anyway, the lyrics and the runes, and oh my, that phone call, they all certainly worked to get you up here, didn't they?"

the thing chuckled thickly.

"So we're supposed to make the circle and ourselves more powerful, wait until dark and then go up to those standing stones and duke it out with you?" Mulder asked.

"Right, Fox, that's about the long and the short of it. But, you know what, I'm betting that you won't be able to do it, and so I'll win anyway. I'll have Skinner, and you, and the lovely Ms. Dana Scully to do with as I please," the Maggie thing smiled, showing two rows of very sharp teeth. And with those parting words Maggie got up and walked towards the door.

"Well, maybe Walter and I will see you two later," the thing said, "but right now I have to go down and play with him some more. I think we're going to *Play Doctor* next," it said, and then Maggie headed off down the hallway.

Both Mulder and Scully slumped against each other. Scully put her gun down on the floor next to it's twin, and the poker.

"Mulder, if we both hadn't seen that thing, I would think I was going insane," Scully whispered running a hand across her forehead. She had found a rubber band somewhere, Mulder noticed, and had tied her hair back in a pony tail.

Mulder looked at her and reached his hand out to touch her face. It was the bandaged hand, and the sudden movement caused it to hurt, and he winced.

"Mulder, let me see that," Scully said, all Doctor, as she took his hand and examined the dressing.

"What did that thing mean when it said we could do something else to make the circle stronger? Why wouldn't you want to do it, Mulder?

What's left to make us stronger so we can get that thing?" she asked as she re-wrapped his hand.

"Scully," we have to consecrate the circle," he answered stiffly.

"Consecrate, what do you mean?" she asked looking up at him.

"We have to have sex in it," he said flatly.

"What?" she breathed out at him.

"We have to..."

"Ok, I heard you the first time," she said.

"Scully, I, oh for crying out loud. I didn't even want to think about that. I wanted our first time together to be something special, not something like this," he replied miserably gesturing to encompass the room. "This is awful," he added not looking at her.

"But is that thing right by saying that if we do have sex we'll be more powerful and maybe have a chance against it?" Scully asked.

"Oh, yeah, it's not lying about that point, Scully. It's just playing the odds though. It must think it knows me fairly well by now," Mulder replied quietly.

"Mulder, look at me," Scully said. He did. "I want you to make love to me," she stated flatly.

"Scully," Mulder replied awkwardly, "please, I, I don't know if I can."

"Oh..." Scully answered in a small voice.

"Yeah, well, contrary to popular belief, a man isn't always ready to spring to attention at a moments notice, you know, and certainly not under less than ideal conditions," he sighed, embarrassed.

Scully was sitting very close to him and she put her head on his shoulder. "Mulder, that's all right. I'm sorry. This is really terrible. I know what you mean. I had a totally different idea of what it would be like for us the first time too. Would you like me to tell you about it?" she asked, her blue eyes wide and guileless."

"Oh, uh, sure," Mulder replied. Scully pulled even closer and she began to whisper in his ear, and the things she said were very romantic, and then they were extremely erotic and then...

Mulder felt a familiar sensation flooding his genitals and he said, "Scully, I, I think I'm getting the idea."

She stopped whispering and then she started to lick his ear and nibble at his ear lobe. Mulder smiled and turned to her, "Now I definitely have the idea," he said, and he met her mouth with his.

They only stripped from the waist down, because they didn't want to waste any more time, and they didn't know where to pile all the clothing anyway. Mulder unbuttoned Scully's tailored suit coat and blouse because, well, he just had to see her, and touch her warm flesh, and Scully's hands shook as she loosened his tie, and unbuttoned his coat and shirt. There was some foreplay, not as much as they would have liked, but enough, and Scully was very wet and ready, and Mulder pulled her into his lap, his erection bobbing between them.

"Scully, he breathed against her ear, I, we have to do it this way, because I'm afraid of smudging the circle, all right, is this ok?" he asked her.

She clung to him, and shifted closer, "It's wonderful, Mulder, you're wonderful," she said.

"Scully, just...I'll hold you," Mulder was whispering, and she reached between them and guided his cock between her legs.

Scully had to shift up slightly and then he was in her, and she pressed herself as close to him as she could, and her legs straddled his hips.

He thrust into her slowly, and gently, and she rocked in his lap and the sensations were exquisite. Their bodies moved together, skin against skin. Scully's nipples rubbed against the buttons of her blouse, and the buttons of his dress shirt, and the gentle tickling made her moan.

She held tightly to his waist, and then moved her hands up his back.

Mulder reached around and supported her ass as he picked up the speed of his thrusts. She met his rhythm and she reached down with one hand to rub and stroke herself until emotion overtook her and she couldn't keep it up. She groaned, "God, Mulder, you feel so good," and she had to hold on to him again. Mulder moved a hand between their legs and took over stroking her, and Scully bit his lower lip lightly and moaned into his mouth.

When she started to come it was long, and slow and it built and built, and Mulder thrust into her hard, and fast, and she exploded in ecstasy, calling his name, and her love for him over, and over. He felt her tighten around him and he almost lost all thought as he pumped into her, all his concentration focused on the last inches of his cock as he exploded into her, filling her, as well as spilling his seed onto the floor, in the circle, and the consecration was complete.

Mulder sagged against her, "OhMyGodILoveYouOh,Scully..Dana...you're so beautiful," he gasped against her hair. "I swear, I'll make this up to you, I'm so sorry," he whispered, still inside her. Scully moved against him, and even though he wasn't hard anymore, the feeling was so sensual, and loving that he gasped again, and she smiled.

"Mulder, you have nothing to apologize for," she said gently, "Making love with you was beautiful, and having you inside me, connected to me, it was, well, nothing else matters, all right," she sighed.

Mulder looked into her face and touched her lips with a finger and then he bent forward and kissed her again. He didn't want to let her go, didn't want to separate from her, but he could look past her out the window, towards the sea, and he saw that the sun was setting.

Scully looked into his eyes, and then she reached down and ran her hand between their thighs, and she brought her fingers up and tasted him, tasted his semen. Her eyes closed and Mulder felt tiny electric shocks move from inside her, up his penis and into his entire body. It was power, the raw power of their love, and the magic circle, and for the first time, Mulder believed, and he had hope that they would be able to stand against the darkness.

Finally, it was Scully that reluctantly broke their connection. She pulled away from him and, picking up their guns, and the fire place poker, she stood up and moved towards the edge of the circle.

"Scully, remember, don't break the line," Mulder said.

"Right," she answered stepping gingerly over the salt and blood. She left her tailored pants, and underwear in the circle and instead walked over and pulled out her jeans, and a clean pair of underwear from her garment bag. She hesitated a moment, the underwear in her hands, looking down at her thighs at the remnants of Mulder that glistened there, and she smiled, and pulled the underwear on, and then her jeans.

As Scully sat on the bed putting on her socks and sneakers, Mulder quietly stepped out of the circle and went across the hall. He still felt the snapping of electricity in his body, and he didn't feel tired from his union with Scully at all. In fact, he felt invigorated, and he quickly got his jeans and underwear, and pulled them on, and threw his suit coat onto the bed. 'Car keys', he thought and he grabbed them from his suit coat pocket. He stuffed them into his side jeans pocket and then got his ID and put that into his back pocket as well. He carried his socks and sneakers back into Scully's room and sat down on the bed to don them as well.

Scully was just throwing off her tailored jacket, placing her ID in her jeans and then jamming both guns into the jeans waistband behind her back.

"How fast can you draw those things, pardner?" Mulder asked.

"Fast enough, slim," she said and then she picked up the poker, "Can you carry this for now, I want to keep my hands free."

"Good idea," Mulder replied, "Are you ready?" he asked.

"As ready as I'll ever be to go head to head with a soul sucking spawn from hell, I guess," Scully quipped.

"My kind of woman," Mulder answered and they headed out the door to meet their fate.

A quick check of Skinner's room told them both that no one was home. The room was a shambles, with blood spattered on the floor and bed sheets.

"Good Lord," Scully said.

"Does it look like he's lost too much blood?" Mulder asked.

"Not if it's from two people," Scully whispered.

"Come on, let's go," Mulder said, urgency in his voice. They left Skinner's room and went back up the hall through the dining room and into the kitchen. Scully looked sadly back at the dining room table, scene of two happy meals when they had all thought that Maggie Flynn was a charming hostess, and Skinner had been paying court to her. The thought steeled her nerve and she followed Mulder out onto the back porch and into the backyard.

In the distance, in the dark, where they knew the stones lay, there was an eldritch glow.

"Well, I guess we won't have trouble finding them in the dark," Mulder said.

"Oh, Mulder, wait, Scully said, and she ran back inside, into the kitchen, and returned with a large industrial style flashlight.

"We'd better take this, Mulder, there's a lot of ground to cover between here and those lights?" she asked.

"Are you sure you haven't seen a few B-Horror movies?" Mulder asked.

"Not many, why?" Scully asked.

"Because they always forget to bring a flashlight along in them," Mulder replied, walking into the weeds at the edge of the lawn.

Scully gave Mulder the flashlight, and he lit the way as they walked through the waist high weeds not bothering to hide that they were coming. There was really no advantage to surprise. The demon probably sensed they were coming after they left the magic circle.

When they reached the first of the standing stones Mulder realized they didn't need the flashlight any longer because the glow in the area illuminated everything. He put it down and walked forward. The ground had been cleaned flat and no weeds surrounded the immediate area of the stones. Mulder and Scully walked out of the grass and into the flat area and stood, waiting to see what would happen next.

A low, hissing voice spoke, "By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes," and then it laughed it's guttural, inhuman laugh and said, "Greetings!" and they saw Maggie then. She was sitting cross legged, and still naked, on the top of one of the smaller stones.

Skinner was at her feet below, on the ground kneeling face forward this time and Scully's breath caught in her throat. He was covered with bruises and scratches, some of which were still bleeding. He was naked, and his eyes were blank and staring, and Scully thought absurdly of the old expression, 'the light's on, but nobody's home.'

She hung back, her hand behind her on the butt of one of her guns.

Mulder walked forward. On the ground in front of him, between them and Skinner was a smaller magic circle. Mulder looked down at it and he knew immediately that it wasn't a circle of protection. It was a circle for summoning. Maggie had been busy while he and Scully had been up in Scully's room, and now the final act of her labors was about to begin.

"So, I see you got it up for her," Maggie said, "Well, a minor problem really," she added, jumping down from the top of the stone and landing next to Skinner with a thump. It was obvious from her appearance that some of the blood in the room at the B&B belonged to Maggie Flynn as well. Skinner showed absolutely no awareness of her maneuver, or her presence, or even his own position. He just stared blankly and breathed in and out in ragged gasps, as Maggie touched his head and rubbed her hand across his scalp. Blood trickled down in the trail left by her fingers.

"Stop that," Mulder shouted at her, swinging the fireplace poker back and forth, and the demon looked up through Maggie's eyes and said, "Make me, bone bag."

"Mulder, no, she's just trying to goad you into making a mistake,"

Scully said, and Mulder listened, and stood his ground.

"A point for Ms. Scully," the demon said, and then she turned quickly and bent down to look into Skinner's blank face. Suddenly, the thing was Maggie Flynn again and it said plaintively, "Walter, babe, please, help me, it was Mulder, Fox, did this to me. He beat me and then he raped me!" she cried real tears, "Walter, please, hurt him back," she pleaded and with those words, Skinner came instantly awake, and with an animal scream of rage and pain, launched himself across the smaller magic circle at Mulder, tackling the younger man to the ground. The fireplace poker flew through the air and landed a few feet away.

"NO!" Scully had just enough time to yell, and then she grabbed the first gun, and planting her feet wide apart, she took aim to fire. But she didn't have a clear shot, because Mulder and Skinner were rolling around on the ground next to the magic circle in a crude parody of a lover's embrace.

Mulder was yelling at Scully, "Shoot her, shoot Maggie," but Skinner had him around the neck, and he cut off Mulder's words. Skinner was going to strangle him, Scully knew it, and as Mulder started to turn blue and go limp, she fired, hitting Skinner in the shoulder and the Assistant Director bellowed like a wounded beast and fell forward on top of Mulder.

The demon that was Maggie Flynn ran forward and jumped over the circle.

She slapped Scully's gun hand so hard, that the weapon flew through the air and off into the weeds. Then she hit Scully in the jaw and she went down with an oomph of air rushing out of her lungs.

Mulder was coming around then, and he crawled out from under the unconscious Skinner to crawl towards the fire poker. "Scully, shoot her, shoot her," he kept yelling. But the demon had Scully by the blouse front and was pulling her up from the ground. Scully's arms flailed about, and she managed to bring one around to her neck to grab the crucifix on it's chain. She dragged it sideways and brought it into contact with Maggie's wrist. The demon howled in pain, dropped Scully and fell to it's knees. Scully was by it's side, instantly, the second service automatic out and jammed against the side of Maggie's head. And then she hesitated.

"Scully, pull the trigger," Mulder yelled as he reached, and grabbed the poker. But Scully couldn't do it. She looked down into Maggie's face and all of a sudden, it was Maggie, and her crystal clear blue eyes were looking up into Scully's. "Dana, I don't have much time," she said through cracked lips, "You have to believe - it, it will be all right for me, please, pull the trigger," she begged in a choked voice.

"Maggie, I can't," Scully cried.

"Dana, you have no choice, and besides, I'm dead all ready," Maggie replied and then she said, "Good bye, Walter, I love you," and she reached over, and grabbing Scully's hand, forced her to fire the gun.

The shot was loud, and the bullet entered the left side of Maggie Flynn's head and blew her brains out in a shower of blood. She fell sideways, and Scully heard Mulder say, "Scully, catch!" and she turned just in time to catch the poker that he had thrown through the air."

Incredibly, Maggie was still trying to move because even though her mind was gone, the demon was still trying to animate her body.

Scully screamed incoherently, with grief, and disgust, and lifting the iron poker high over her head, plunged it downwards through Maggie Flynn's stomach, missing her backbone, as the poker drove into the ground beneath.

The demon wailed, and his voice was many legions strong, and there was a huge rush of displaced air, and Scully fell backwards as arcs of electricity shot up out of Maggie's body, through the air everywhere.

Mulder ran over and dragged Scully away from Maggie's prostrate form over to where Skinner was lying. The electric fire continued to rise and Maggie's body was completely incinerated in it's heat. Some of the arcing bolts traveled all the way across the field to land on the roof of the Bed and Breakfast, igniting the paper wrapped shingles that still remained there. The fire spread and soon the house was engulfed and Mulder and Scully knelt beside the wounded Walter Skinner as the house burned.

"Scully, Scully," Mulder shouted into her face as he shook her.

"Skinner needs our help, do you have your cell phone?" he asked.

She looked at him bewildered, "No, Mulder I forgot mine,"

He felt his pockets desperately, no cell phone and then he thought, 'Shit the one thing we forgot' as he looked back towards the flaming house.

"Dana, Skinner needs your help now, he's going to die if he doesn't get medical attention, Dana!" Mulder shouted and she came back to herself.

"All right, move out of the way, Mulder," and she bent down and expertly began to examine the extent of his injuries.

"Scully, I'm going to get the car," Mulder said and just as he was getting up, and preparing to run for the Ford, headlights appeared coming across the weed choked field, and he stood up to flag down the Land Rover that was approaching. The car braked to a halt and out jumped Henry Merritt, as spry as a 21 year old, and he came running over.

"Fox, God, what happened? I had this horrible dream, and someone told me to wake up and drive over to the B&B as fast as I could because his daughter was in danger," he said out of breath.

"Who told you?" Mulder asked.

"I don't know, some Naval officer. At least he had on Navy dress whites," Henry said, his eyes bugging out at Scully, as she tended to the wounded Skinner. Mulder looked over at Scully to see if she had heard Henry's remark but she hadn't looked up from tending to Skinner.

"Fox, what the devil happened out here?" Henry asked again.

"The devil is probably the operable word, Henry," Mulder replied and Henry set his mouth in a determined line and said, "Say no more Fox, it can wait till later, let's get that man to the hospital," and once Scully had the bleeding from the bullet wound under control, the three of them managed to get Skinner into the Land Rover and transported to the Crossroads Municipal Hospital.

In the hospital, Mulder, Scully and Henry Merritt sat in the waiting room while Skinner was in surgery. Mulder told Henry some of what had happened over the last few days, and he also told him that he and Scully, and Skinner worked for the FBI, and a little about the X-Files.

But Mulder looked so exhausted, and shell shocked that Henry told him to explain the rest after he felt better.

Scully curled up next to Mulder on the couch in the waiting room, with her head in his lap and fell asleep. Henry looked at them together and told Mulder to put his head back and go to sleep as well. Henry would keep an eye out for the doctor. Mulder did, and soon he was snoring as Henry poured another cup of coffee from the complimentary dispenser on one of the waiting room tables.

The next thing Mulder knew, Henry was shaking him, and he and Scully both woke up.

"The doctor's coming down the hall," Henry said, and then he sat back down a little bit away from them, so that they could have some privacy when the doctor came in.

"Agent Mulder?" the doctor asked.

"Yes" Mulder replied.

"I'm Don Black, Agent Mulder, I'm the one that pulled the bullet out of Assistant Director Skinner,' he said extending his hand. "First of all, let me tell you right away that he's going to be all right, he's in recovery now and he's awake, and his vitals are good.'

Scully heaved a sigh of relief and Mulder took her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze.

"And Agent Mulder, he's asking to see you," Dr. Black said.

"See me?" Mulder asked.

"Yes, he created a bit of fuss over the request as well, so I told him you could have a couple of minutes with him provided he calmed down and behaved himself," the doctor smiled slightly.

"That sounds like the old Skinner," Scully remarked, hope in her voice.

"Well, if you want to follow me, Agent Mulder, I'll show you to ICU. And Agent Scully, if you don't mind, I have some paperwork here that I would really appreciate having help in filling out."

Scully sighed and said, "The story of my life," but she gave Mulder a little push and said, "Go on, go see Skinner," and Mulder headed off after the doctor towards ICU.

Skinner was in a cubicle hooked up to a dozen machines with tubes running everywhere. Pretty much a familiar site as far as Mulder was concerned. Mulder walked over and pulled up a chair to sit close to the bed. "Sir, it's Mulder, I'm here," he said and then impulsively he took Skinner's hand in his and held it.

Skinner opened his eyes groggily and saw Mulder. He didn't say anything put there was a slight pressure as he pressed Mulder's hand. Then he struggled to speak.

"Mulder," he croaked out, I... Maggie?" he asked.

"Sir, don't talk now, all right, try to conserve your strength, you're going to be ok, you just have to rest," Mulder said. He had hoped that Skinner wouldn't remember what had happened, but it was obvious he remembered something otherwise he wouldn't be trying to ask about Maggie.

"Mulder, is she ok, did Maggie, did she come back?" he asked and Mulder's heart fell down to his shoes. Mulder knew then with horrible clarity that all the time he and Scully had thought Skinner was staring blankly, out of his head, that he had been aware of most of what was going on, but under the demon's control. The thought turned Mulder's stomach, and he looked down because he couldn't meet Skinner's face to answer his question.

A low groan came from the bed and Mulder knew that looking down had been a mistake because it had only served to allow Skinner to guess correctly about the fate of Maggie Flynn. When Mulder looked up, Skinner was crying weakly and Mulder, sad beyond measure, took the older man into his embrace, and held him while he sobbed for his lost love.

Later, Mulder went back out into the waiting room and told Scully that Skinner was going to be ok. He didn't want to tell her immediately about the scene with Skinner in the ICU. He figured that could wait until they were rested and less emotionally drained. It occurred to both of them simultaneously that neither of them had any fresh clothing or anywhere to go at that point, except for the Ford Explorer, and Mulder didn't relish the idea of sleeping in the car. They also had to figure out a way to deal with the local authorities, and call the bureau to report what had happened in Crossroads, Maine, or at least the PC version of events.

Henry Merritt came up with the perfect solution. They could all go to his place. Mulder and Scully were welcome to spend the rest of the night, and sleep late in the morning if they liked. Henry even promised to supply some of the delicious jelly donuts at breakfast in exchange for Mulder telling him more about the X-Files. The whole subject intrigued him immensely, and Mulder sensed that the X-Files may have found an ally there in Maine.

So, the three of them drove over to Henry Merritt's quaint Cape Cod style house. There had been a Mrs. Merritt they discovered, and her photo was lovingly displayed on the mantle piece. Henry showed Mulder and Scully to the guest room with it's private bath, and then retired to his own bedroom upstairs. The house was cool and quiet, being installed with central air, and the first thing both Mulder and Scully did was take a long, hot shower.

Afterwards they gratefully climbed into the bed and pulled the sheets up around themselves. Mulder lay on his back and Scully snuggled close and he wrapped an arm protectively around her shoulders. Then, even though they were extremely weary, they began to touch each other, seeking to gain that intimate connection once again.

They made love in a slow and languid fashion. There was time to enjoy each other, and Mulder wanted to give Scully all the pleasure he felt had been denied her in that other house in Crossroads. He lingered over her body using his mouth and hands to tell her that she was the most wonderful woman in this world and any other, a Goddess, and the only women he would ever love. He didn't care about his own wants or needs, all that mattered in that moment was Scully's desire and his ability to bring her ecstasy. His pleasure was in the exploration of her body, the texture of her skin, her scent and her heat as she moaned and writhed beneath him. He worked her up to a fever pitch, and she held back, letting him bring her to the brink, but not over the edge, until she was almost beyond thought and reason. At last she was crying, begging him to enter her, to fill her again, to complete her and it was something he wanted more then anything in the universe as well, and he thrust into her, finding the comfort and loving protection of her inner self around him. They climaxed together, and even though it wasn't for the first time, it was a special moment for them, in it's affirmation that they were safe, and alive, and in love.

The next morning, Henry Merritt came downstairs early so that he could rustle up a hearty breakfast for his two guests. He had even pulled some old jeans and shirts out of his closet thinking they might look funny but they'd do until the two young people could find something better.

As he was passing the guest bedroom he noticed the door was open again, 'Darn that thing,' he thought, 'I really have to fix those hinges,' and he quietly approached and put his hand on the door handle to close the door. He couldn't help looking inside the room, and he saw Mulder and Scully, spooned together, side by side under the covers, and he could tell that Mulder's arm was wrapped protectively around Scully's middle, holding her close. Henry smiled and shut the door, 'What a nice couple they make,' he thought and then, 'now where did I put those jelly donuts?'


Skinner was released from the Crossroads hospital and transferred to DC to convalesce. The Bureau had him take a medical leave of absence through the rest of the summer and into early fall with mandatory counseling thrown in for good measure. He completed the counseling to his therapist's satisfaction despite the fact that Skinner avoided telling him anything about demons, or runes, or what had really happened in Crossroads, Maine. Eventually he was released to do whatever he wanted for the rest of his medical leave.

Fox Mulder, basketball in hand, was getting ready to leave his apartment for one of his infrequent pick up games at a local gym with a bunch of the violent crimes section guys. He would have liked to have spent the Saturday with Scully, but she was off with her mother having a pleasant mother-daughter day of visiting some art galleries, and shopping. So Mulder had decided on the game as his second choice to occupy his time.

Just as he was getting ready to leave there was a knock at the door. He walked over and looked through the peep hole to see who was outside. To his amazement, Skinner stood in the hall way, in sweat pants and a sweatshirt. He looked rested, tanned and healthy. Mulder opened the door.

"Oh, Mulder, you are home," Skinner said, blinking at him through his new glasses. Where he had managed to get identical spectacles to the one's he'd lost in Maine, Mulder didn't know.

"Yes, sir, come on in," Mulder said.

Skinner entered the apartment, "Sorry to just drop in like this, but I wanted to talk to you. Do you have a couple of minutes?"

"Sure, I was going to play basketball, but I have plenty of time before I have to be there, is something wrong?" he asked concern in his voice.

"Oh, no, nothings wrong, Mulder," he said, "I just wanted to talk that's all."

"Well, go on in and have a seat, would you like a soda?" Mulder had almost said beer, but that memory was a painful one even for him, so he decided it wouldn't be wise to ask Skinner if he wanted one.

"No, that's ok, I'm not thirsty," he replied but he did walk into the other room and sat down on the couch. Mulder went over and sat down in the chair across from him, putting the basketball down on the floor between his feet.

"Mulder, I just, I just came by to thank you," Skinner said clearing his throat. "I wanted to thank you for saving my life and for well, for trying to save Maggie's," he said quietly.

"Sir, I..." Mulder started.

"Mulder, I remember a lot of what happened, not all of it, there are still some gaps that the therapist said I have a 50-50 chance of filling in someday, probably with more therapy. But I just wanted you to know that I thought it took real guts to do what you did up there, and I am grateful."

"Thank you Sir," Mulder said simply.

"And, I'd like you to thank Agent Scully for me too," Skinner said looking at him closely for the first time.

Mulder looked away and stared over at his fish tank.

"Mulder, I remember what went on between you and Scully up there. I know you love her, and I know she loves you. Fox, don't ever stop loving her, all right. Take what you have and use it to it's best advantage.

I think you'll find you'll be a hell of a lot more powerful together than you ever were apart. And as for regulations, like I said, fuck 'em," he coughed and said, "well, that's all I wanted to say," and he stood up to leave.

"Sir?" Mulder asked as Skinner turned to go.

"Do you play basketball?"

"Does a bear shit in the woods?" Skinner asked with a smile playing around his mouth, "Oh yeah, I play basketball."

"All right, let's see if you can put your money where your mouth is,"

Mulder grinned, and the two of them walked out the door together into the bright fall sunshine.



"Did you really think that you could call up the Devil and ask him to behave?"

- Fox Mulder, 'Die Hand Die Verletzt'


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