Title: The Curse
Authors: Jessica Zyvarek Taylor & eponine119
Written: December 1998

Summary: Mulder house-sits for a family friend.


"Housesitting, Mulder?"

He could hear the grin over the phone line. "Yeah. It's an old friend of my mom's. She's my mother, what was I supposed to say?"

"How about no?" Scully used the remote to turn off the TV, trying to get the ridiculous smile off her face. "Seriously, Mulder, who in their right mind would let you take care of their house?"

"You wound me, Scully." A pregnant pause filled the air between them, making Scully hold her breath for whatever he was about to say. "Actually, my mom thought it might be nice if I brought my, uh, friend along."

She stifled a giggle. "You don't have any friends, Mulder." She knew he was talking about her. And was sure the word his mother had used was girlfriend.

"She wants to marry me off, Scully. You know, that whole preserve the Mulder line thing."

Scully made her way to the kitchen and stirred the soup simmering on the stove. "Yes, Mulder, I'm familiar with that speech. I heard it quite a few times."

"Come on, Scully, it'll be fun. You, me, six bedrooms."

"Six?" Unlike Mulder who came from the land of old money and giant houses, Scully'd spent her life in two bedroom and a finished attic houses. She'd never even been in a house with six bedrooms.

"Come on. It'll only be a week. And until they rebuild our office we have nothing better to do."

"A week trapped in a house with you. What fun." She turned off the stove and stirred the soup mindlessly, her head full of ideas of gigantic staircases, ornate woodwork, and wide sweeping views of acres of green grass and rolling hills. "When do we leave?"

"My bag's in the trunk. I'll be there in about three minutes."

"Mulder!" She pushed the button, ending the call. Of course Mulder would have already made the decision for her. And now she had three minutes to pack for a week. She could do it, but dinner would have to wait. She walked back into her bedroom, picking up her prepacked three day bag, opening her closet to add four more days. She tossed two suits onto her bed and then thought about what she was doing. A week long vacation with Mulder on the Massachusetts coast. In June. Suits were out. So were the sensible pumps and nylons. She dumped the bag out onto the floor and repacked, grabbing jeans and shorts and relaxed looking clothing. She heard the elevator in her hallway and contemplated the drawer in front of her. Not much time to decide about the tank tops and bathing suit and vacation clothes drawer contents. She could heard Mulder's footsteps approaching.

"What the hell?" She tossed the thin cotton shirts and a bathing suit into her suitcase. If she tried to wear business clothes or even pants the whole time, she knew she'd never hear the end of it from Mulder.

And besides, the weather had been absurdly warm for weeks. She'd probably die if she tried to wear a blazer.

"Scully?" Mulder's voice came from the living room.

"Using your key again, are we?" She ducked into the bathroom, grabbing makeup and shampoo. Then she grabbed her bag and joined Mulder.

"Uh, you might want to change, Scully."

She looked at her jeans and short sleeved shirt. "Why?"

"My air conditioner's broken and Massachusetts is a bit of a ride."

"I'll be fine." She didn't think it would be that hot. "Here."

Extending the suitcase towards Mulder, she grabbed her keys and followed him to the door.

"Why am I suddenly carrying your bag? I haven't carried your bags for six years."

"Stop whining, Mulder. We've never taken a trip together before."

He dropped the bag on the floor of the elevator, causing the light to flicker. "What planet are you from?"

"We've worked together, but this is different. This is vacation. Besides, it's too heavy for me." She smiled coyly at him and punch the instrument panel, jarring the elevator into motion. She glanced at Mulder and smiled, trying to reassure him. Then she crossed her fingers and hoped the sudden demise of the elevator wasn't a bad sign.

 


Mulder pulled into a rest stop somewhere in Connecticut announcing that he was getting a soda and asking her if she wanted anything. She nodded and did her best to seem happy. The moment he was out of sight, she peeled herself off the sticky leather seats of his car and pulled the sweat soaked shirt off of her back. She doubted the car could get any hotter if the sun descended from the sky and took up residence in the back seat. She dug through her purse, sticking twelve bobby pins in her hair in a futile attempt to keep it off her neck. Then she rested her arms on the burning hot roof of the car and dropped her forehead. She was simply going to die before they got there.

Suddenly, something freezing cold and soaking wet touched the back of her neck. She screamed and turned around to see Mulder holding a soda and smiling. Grateful, she took the soda and gulped down half of it in one sip. "Thanks."

"Hot enough for ya?" His evil grin reminded her that he'd warned her about the jeans.

"Just don't say it."

"Aw, come on."

"Mulder, I've spent the last three days in my completely climate controlled apartment without watching the news or setting foot outside the door once. I had no idea it was this hot."

"Told ya so." He winked and then climbed into the passenger's seat. "You don't mind driving for a while, do you?"

"Sure." Reluctantly, she climbed back into the car of death and headed back tot he highway. Mulder's head lolled to the side almost immediately and she was glad he was finally getting some rest. She knew they had a couple more hours before she'd need directions of any kind.

With the addition of the interstate being down to one lane almost the entire length of Connecticut, the couple hours rapidly became four.

And Mulder slept through the whole thing. Several times in the dead stopped traffic, Scully'd been tempted to get out of the car and ask if she could sit in the Lexus along side of them. The nice looking business man inhabiting the car was talking away on his car phone, air conditioner blasting, completely ignorant of how hot it was. She envied his yuppie life for quite a while.

Then Mulder woke up, turning towards her sleepily and taking her hand. "I'm glad you came with me, Scully." He let go of her hand and then drifted back to sleep. A dumb smile settled on her face at his words and she stopped minding the traffic so much.

By the time they crossed the state line and entered Massachusetts, Mulder was awake again, attempting to find a radio station. He told her which exit to take and gave her the directions to a small town. She was amazed he could remember the directions so well since she was always the one who navigated.

"Have you been here before?"

He smiled. "Yeah, I spent a lot of time here when I was in high school. More fun than at home." He pointed to a driveway on her left.

"That's the turn."

She carefully pulled onto the bumpy road, waiting for a huge sparkling beautiful house to appear at any moment. Instead, a dilapidated building that looked more like a run down barn than a house appeared.

"You've got to be kidding me."

He smiled. "That's it."

Scully sighed and turned off the car. The house's paint was peeling off, there were weeds growing everywhere, the walkway from the driveway to the house was completely overgrown, and several of the shutters were hanging loose. "Mulder, why do we have to housesit a house that's been abandoned for fifty years?"

"Well, Elizabeth lives right up the street and she usually keeps an eye on it, but she's away."

Scully grew very attached to the car. "Why can't we stay in her house?"

"Because there's a housekeeper there to look after it." He climbed out of the car and grabbed both bags.

Scully folded her arms over her chest and sat in the car. There was a motel a few miles back. She could stay there for the night and then go home, with a rental car, in the morning. "Why can't the housekeeper look after this place?"

"She's afraid of it, what with the curse and everything."

"Curse?"

He grinned and opened her door. "It's haunted. I thought it would be fun to check it out."

Scully stood up, telling herself it was just to get some air. "I thought you said you stayed her a lot."

"I did. But that was before." He grinned again and began walking to the front door.

"Mulder..." She followed him, not sure of why.

"After she sold it, there were four different families who bought it and tried to live here. At least one person in every family died mysteriously. The last family, all five of them, disappeared completely.

Elizabeth bought it back, thinking that it was the ghost of her dead husband who killed all those people."

"Mulder, I saw a motel back there, with vacancy."

He smiled at her, pushing the creaking door open. He dropped their bags inside the door and then slung an arm around her shoulders.

"Come on, Scully."

"Mulder, I didn't realize we were going to be working."

"We're not, Scully."

"Then why are we staying in a haunted house?"

He walked into the front hallway, switching on some lights and demonstrating to Scully that it wasn't nearly as bad on the inside as it was on the outside. "Why are you out there?"

"I don't want to stay here."

"You're not afraid, are you, Scully?"

"Of course not." Indignantly, she stepped up into the house, her foot broke through a rotted board, causing her leg to drop a foot through the floor. She shook while Mulder helped lift her out, then bent down and rubbed her sore ankle. "Let's go, Mulder."

"You'll live, Scully." He wandered off to look through the house.

Scully limped after him, wincing with each step. "Why don't you sit down if it hurts that much?"

"Because." She hurried to catch up with him, ignoring the pain as best she could.

He ducked around a corner ahead of her. When she stepped into the room, he wasn't there. "Mulder?" NO answer. "Mulder?" He voice got a little louder. "Mulder!"

"Boo!" He jumped out from the closet.

She jumped back, landed too heavily on her sore leg, and then crumpled to the ground. "That wasn't funny."

He looked guilty and sat down on the floor next to her. "You all right?" She rubbed at her ankle and nodded. "I'll get you some ice."

He disappeared around another corner. It was abnormally quiet and she didn't like it. She'd been talked into spending the night in a haunted house by her brothers when she was a little girl, trying her best to prove she wasn't a sissy. They'd joined her, spending the night dropping things on the floor above her, moaning and groaning and basically scaring her half to death. It wasn't an opportunity she ever wanted to repeat. Besides, she figured, Mulder was just pulling her leg. She was willing to bet the house wasn't haunted. Elizabeth was probably just some elderly lady who was afraid someone would break into her precious gem of a house.

Scully stood up gingerly, testing her ankle and finding that it didn't hurt so much anymore. She walked around the room, eying the expensive figurines and paintings on the walls. It might look like a shack from the outside, but the inside was impressive. If you didn't count that rotted floorboard in the hall. She stood in front of an antique mirror, gently running her hand along the gold frame. Something caught her eye and she looked up to see a figure on the stairs behind her.

"Mulder?" She turned around. The stairs were empty.

"I'll be right there." His voice came from the other direction.

She turned back to the mirror. The figure was still there.

Scully looked at it, and found that that when she concentrated, the figure became almost invisible. She looked back at her own reflection and rearranged the pins in her hair. The figure moved again. Scully could tell it was a woman, dressed in a beautiful floor length dress. It was a pale yellow, with a white lace. The woman's blonde hair was curled and hung freely around her face. She just stared at Scully for a moment and then walked up the stairs. Scully shivered and then followed. She made it to the top of the stairs within seconds. There was no one there.

All the doors were closed. She should have been able to hear any of them opening and closing again.

"Scully?"

She looked down the stairs and saw Mulder holding a bag of ice.

"I'm right here."

He smiled. "Exploring?"

She opened her mouth to mention the woman, but thought better of it. He'd been teasing her earlier, she was sure. The power of suggestion, she decided. "Yeah. I'm just looking around."

"What do you think?"

She descended the stairs and sat down on the couch, allowing Mulder to join her and apply the ice carefully to her ankle that didn't even hurt anymore. "It's beautiful." Scully looked up at the window and saw the reflection again, the same woman, standing behind her. She turned quickly and saw nothing.

"Scully?"

Scully looked back at the glass. Nothing. "Just got the chills. I think that ice is a little too cold."

"You sure you're all right? You didn't hit your head when you fell did you?"

That might explain it. "Maybe I did." Just in case, she decided to stay away from glass.

"How about some television?"

She grinned at Mulder who had the remote in his hand. He'd pulled her feet into his lap and seemed perfectly content. "Only you would drive ten hours to do what you'd do at home."

"Yeah, but I'd have to do it alone." He smiled at her and then turned his attention back to the TV.

Scully tried to watch it for a few minutes, but she was tired.

She let herself drift to sleep, knowing Mulder was right there.

The woman was back. Standing right in front of her. Scully frowned.

The woman continued to stare at her. "Can I help you with something?" Scully asked.

The woman continued to stare.

"Hello?" Scully waved in front of the ghost-woman's face. "Is this the curse?" she asked.

The woman pointed. Scully just gaped at her. "Mulder?" she asked, looking down at her partner's sleeping form.

Her eyes were closed and someone was shaking her. "Mulder?" she mumbled as she opened her eyes. Mulder's face loomed large and close and he was grinning. "Mulder?" Scully frowned at him. "Why...?"

"You said my name."

"When?" she asked, dragging herself up.

He pushed a strand of her hair from her face. The light touch made her shiver. "In your sleep." Mulder grinned.

"I did not," she insisted, crossing her arms over her chest.

"Did too," he was still smiling.

"I was having a weird dream," she said, getting up from where she had been lying on the floor. Her ankle threatened to give out and Mulder touched her gently to try to steady her. She had her balance in a second, though.

"A weird dream?" he asked, as though it was a good thing.

"Tell me about the ghost who lives here, Mulder," Scully ordered.

"You don't believe in ghosts now," Mulder asked lightly, trailing Scully into the kitchen where she began opening and closing cabinets at random. She picked up a dusty package of crackers and put it back.

"Scully?"

"I'm hungry," she said.

"I don't think there's anything to eat."

"Thanks, I noticed," she said, taking out the package of crackers again, considering it, before putting it back and going through the rest of the cabinets.

Mulder's hands closed over hers, stopping the wild flapping of the doors. "I think the only poltergiest here is you, Scully," he said.

"Who said anything about a poltergiest?" Scully asked. Suddenly her heart was thudding in her chest and she had no idea why. It couldn't be Mulder. He'd stood this close to her before. Dozens of times. But she was really feeling it this time.

A crash came from one of the other rooms and Scully jumped. She actually jumped. Mulder looked at her with intense eyes and she flushed, ashamed for being so tense. "They're here," she offered with a crooked smile she didn't really feel.

Mulder seized her hand and dragged her off in the direction of the noise. "Mulder, uh -" she said. "That's my hand."

He turned on the light in the room and gave her hand a squeeze. "Was my hand," she corrected. Then he shifted and she saw what had made the crash. Her perfume. The new bottle she'd gotten for her birthday and been hoarding ever since. Was now shattered on the floor. "Damn it, that was my perfume!" she cried, tearing away from Mulder and walking over to it.

"You shouldn't have set it so close to the edge of the table," Mulder suggested.

"I didn't," she snapped. Her eyes were reddening and beginning to swell. That stuff was almost as strong as the green blood that came out of clones. Or were they hybrids? She could never tell.

"You're trying to tell me it was an earthquake?" Mulder demanded.

"Or a poltergeist," she murmured, aware of the look he gave her. She looked at him and coughed.

"Scully, you don't look so good. We should get you out of here." She felt his hands on her and heard him pull the door closed. She didn't feel so good. "Why did you bring that stuff if you're allergic to it?" Mulder asked.

"I don't have any allergies," Scully said stubbornly, even though she was sitting on the floor with her eyes swollen shut and her lungs about to follow suit. Something cool and moist touched her eyes and they felt better already. Mulder made a wonderful nurse. "Thanks," she said and heard him breathe. He was going to walk away.

She strectched out her hand and grabbed his. "I don't want to be alone tonight," she said. "Here," she corrected.

"Why agent Scully whatever do you mean?" Mulder asked in his playful seductive tone.

Embarrassed at his leer, she tried to smile. "You mentioned six bedrooms, I'd rather sleep in one of them than down here."

"Uh huh. Sure." His grin returned and she frowned. She was getting sick of his grinning at her.

She turned and walked out into the hallway, feeling her hands against the wall for a light switch. "Is there electricity here?"

She heard a click and then the lights came on. Mulder was grinning again. "It's starting to rain. Maybe the power will go out."

She rolled her eyes and was about to spout of about how the power had better not go out when the room was plunged into darkness. She heard Mulder's chuckle and slammed her hand against where he'd been standing.

The air turned icy for a moment and then the lights came back on.

Mulder was across the room, already on the stairs. Scully shivered and hurried to catch up to him.

She was content to sleep wherever, preferably in a room with lots of light, no windows, and no mirrors, but as long as it was next to Mulder's room, she didn't care. He walked all the way to the end of the hall and pushed open a door. It was the master bedroom, she could tell before he even turned on the light. It was almost as big as her apartment, impeccably decorated, and absolutely breath taking. She couldn't believe anyone would have such a beautiful room and not live in it. She caught sight of the huge mirror above the dresser and realized why. Mulder walked up to the bed and pulled back the sheets. She noticed he'd already put her suitcase at the foot of the bed. She smiled and wondered if there was a casual way to ask him to cover the mirror.

"The bathroom's right through there." Mulder pointed to a door and then headed for the hall again. "I'll be at the other end of the hall if you need me."

Her shoulders sagged, knowing she'd have to walk all the way down the creepy dark hall to get to him and realizing she wouldn't have the chance to blame any funny noises on him since he'd be too far away to hear. Apparently he'd noticed her dejected posture because he stepped up behind her, put his hands on her shoulders and whispered into her ear.

"Of course, I could always stay in here with you."

She wanted to take him up on the offer, but she couldn't because his offer was for something very different than someone to protect her from the imaginary ghosts. She shrugged him away and started looking through her bag for something to sleep in. "Mulder, I certainly hope there's going to be food here the rest of the week."

He was already halfway down the hall, but he turned back towards her. "We'll go shopping in the morning." She heard the door to his bedroom click shut behind him. She walked over to her own door and pushed it shut, dismayed to find it didn't have a lock. Well, it had a lock, if she had the skeleton key, which she didn't. She pushed a chair in front of it and shook her head at herself. Like a lock is going to keep my imagination out anyway, she thought.

She made it all the way through her suitcase before she realized she'd forgotten to pack a nightgown. And she wasn't about to sleep in jeans. And none of the shirts she had with her covered much past her waist. She bit her lip and quietly opened her door, tiptoeing down the stairs and opening Mulder's bag. He'd left it in the living room. She smiled to herself, finding the shirt he'd been wearing earlier and retraced her steps to the bedroom. She could still smell his cologne as she pulled it over her head. It covered down to her mid thighs and she deemed it acceptable. So long as he didn't see her in it and didn't notice it was missing, it would be fine.

She wasn't feeling tired, so she began placing her clothes in the drawers, being careful not to look in the mirror. She was proud of herself for not even closing the door all the way the second time.

Something in the mirror moved and she jumped again. She spun around, ready to tell ghost lady off and found Mulder standing there with his arms crossed over his bare chest, wearing only boxers and looking hopelessly smug.

"You scared me."

"I thought I heard someone on the stairs, so I wanted to make sure you were ok."

"Oh, I'm fine. It was me."

He yawned and nodded. "Oh, ok. Good night."

She ducked her head, shocked and almost disappointed that he hadn't noticed her wearing his shirt. "Night." She turned back and closed the drawers.

"Next time you want to wear something of mine, you can just ask."

By the time she turned around, he disappeared into his room again.

She glanced back at the mirror and saw only herself, with a slightly red tint to her cheeks. She turned out the lamp and climbed into the big antique bed, amazed that there were no creaks or moan when she turned around. But she couldn't get to sleep. She kept hearing imaginary noises in the room and got up more than once to check the hallway for activity.

No one was ever there. The fourth time she got up to turn on the light, she decided to just leave it on. Then she climbed back in the bed and made the mistake of glancing in the mirror directly across from her.

The mirror reflected a man and a woman in the bed, holding on to each other, obviously having been asleep. There was blood smeared on the walls and on the blankets and on the floor. The man's eyes were opened, his face frozen in terror, the woman in his arms completely covered with blood.

Terrified, she jumped out of the bed, ran down the hall and jumped into Mulder's bed.

He woke up at the sudden intrusion, staring confused at the quivering woman who'd thrown herself into his arms, crying hysterically.

"What, honey? What is it?"

"I saw... I... they were dead... in the mirror..."

Her rubbed her back and shushed her. "It was just a nightmare, Dana. It's ok. You're ok, I'm here, I'm not going to let anyone hurt you."

She sobbed into his chest for a while, eventually falling asleep, safely wrapped in his arms. It was until she woke up to the bright sunshine the next morning that she realized how much the man had looked like Mulder.

Mulder noticed something was different about Scully the next morning.

She was subdued and seemed tired, and she kept staring at him until it raised the hair on the back of his neck. He pretended not to notice for a while, until he couldn't ignore it any longer.

"Scully," he said, making her stop tracing designs in the dust on the kitchen counter and look at him with eyes that seemed to have a bit of trouble focusing. Her eyelids drooped. "Are you okay?"

She nodded and went back to the design.

"Cause if you're tired..." he tried again.

Scully shook her head.

Mulder nodded. She wasn't talking. Sometimes he really hated Scully.

"Then can you stop moving like a snail so we can get to the store?" His stomach rumbled loudly as though on cue and a twinge of embarrassment went through him. Scully was just looking at him again, her eyes darker than usual. Paired with the slightly worried look on her face, it had the effect of making her look as though she'd lost her glasses.

"Sorry," she mumbled, shuffling off to the bedroom where she'd left her things. The man in her dream-nightmare-vision had looked like Mulder.

He'd been covered in blood and dead and she couldn't shake it. She also knew she couldn't discuss it with Mulder because he'd ridicule her. He believed in aliens and ghosties and things that went splat in the night, but not when she did. If she believed in things like that, she was a foolish moron.

Maybe I am just tired, she thought, checking out the bags beneath her eyes as she shoved back her hair, looking in the mirror. She looked terrible. Maybe breakfast would cure that, too.

"Ready?" Mulder looked up from his own dust-doodling when she emerged from the bedroom, completely dressed with her shoes tied in neat bows.

"Yeah," she said, making an attempt to sound like her old self. "Let's go." She picked up the keys from the counter before he could make a grab for them and went out to the car.

Her hair was glued to the back of her neck before they made it out of the driveway. "How did your car get to be the heat-trap of death, Mulder?" Scully asked, turning in her seat to look out the back window as she drove in reverse.

"Do you know how much freon costs?"

"Do you know how much you make a week, Mulder? Quit being so cheap," Scully snapped.

"Fix it yourself then," Mulder retorted.

Scully slammed on the brakes, sending Mulder's head dangerously close to the windsheild. "What?" he demanded.

She looked pointedly out the window and his gaze followed hers. It was a Sears Auto Center. "Want me to fix it?" she asked.

"Just find the damn grocery store," Mulder replied and she jammed on the gas, leaving him to wonder if there was a szygy in town or if she was always like this when he let her drive.

Scully commandeered a basket much the way she'd taken control of his car and she steered it purposefully through the narrow aisles of the small grocery store, tossing items into the cart seemingly at random.

"Scully, are you a closet bulimic or is there something you're not telling me?" Mulder remarked as she tossed in a box of chocolate chip cookies.

"Like what?" she asked.

"This is enough food for ten people," he said, prying the family-sized tub of cream cheese out of her hands.

"I'm used to buying in bulk, it's more efficient," Scully told him, looking at the enormous amount of items she'd put into the cart as though she'd never seen them before. She began to sort through them, deciding what they needed and didn't need. Mulder happily noted the cookies were a necessity.

Not long afterward, they were pushing the cart through the automatic doors of the store and heading for the car. Mulder grabbed the box of cookies from one of the brown paper bags and ripped the top open.

Scully shot him a look but he figured she was just jealous.

"Hi, Mrs. Perkins," Mulder said to a full-figured white haired lady with a poodle perm as she walked past.

The woman froze and looked at them. "I'm sorry, do I know you?" she asked, more curious than annoyed. Small towns, Scully thought as she put the bags into the trunk. They made people trusting.

Mulder nodded, smiling. "You look familiar..." Mrs. Perkins said, looking from Mulder to Scully and back to Mulder.

"I used to be younger," Mulder offered.

"Did we all," Mrs. Perkins said, then looked again at Scully. "Are you the nice young couple who bought the old house...?"

"Couple," Scully snorted, which earned her an odd look from Mrs.

Perkins.

"I should have realized. I'm Mrs. Perkins. I manage the local historical society. Your house has quite a history, you know."

Scully looked up. "Tell me," she said.

Mulder grinned. "You don't have to tell us," he offered. "I used to spend my summers here."

"I thought you spent your summers in Quono-whateverthehell in Rhode Island," Scully looked at her partner.

"Fox Mulder," Mrs. Perkins realized. "I never forget a face. Welcome back."

"Tell me about the house, please, Mrs. Perkins?" Scully asked.

Mrs. Perkins shot her a charming glance and Scully knew instantly she was not going to get the information she wanted. Indeed, Mrs. Perkins told her to ask her "husband." Scully wished she hadn't left her badge and gun at home.

"Tell me about the house," Scully asked Mulder, who took the keys from her and assumed the driver's seat.

Mulder shoved the box of cookies at her. "You're whining."

She looked down at the sweets. "Cookies aren't for breakfast, Mulder," she told him.

"Why not?" he asked. Shrugging, she dug into the box.

"Now what?" she asked him after they'd put the groceries away. He just looked at her. "Tell me what happened in this house. Why those people abandoned it."

"Who said they abandoned it?" Mulder asked.

"You did." He looked blank. "You said entire families disappeared. I assumed that meant they walked away."

"They died."

Scully shivered, hard. "All of them?"

Mulder nodded gravely.

Scully ran down the hall to grab her bag. "I want out of here now, Mulder!" she screamed at him over her shoulder. She picked up her suitcase, wincing at its heft, and whirled around. Mulder was standing there and he caught her shoulders, stopping her.

"What are you so afraid of?" he asked her.

She shook her head and dropped the suitcase. She couldn't tell him.

She turned and decided to hide out for a while. But Mulder caught her arm. "What the hell is going on, Scully?"

She looked back at him and decided to lie. Like a rug. "I just didn't get a lot of sleep last night and I had nightmares when I did, so I'm feeling grumpy. It's nothing some sleep won't fix."

"Then why don't you take a nap? If I'd known you were going to be a bitch, I wouldn't have asked you."

She glared at him. "Why don't you tell me about the house?"

"I told you. People died here. A lot of them." He took a moment to stuff half a cookie into his mouth. "About 15 people in 20 years.

What else do you want to know?"

"Why did that lady think we were the married couple who bought the house?" She raised her eyebrow and faced him in a challenge.

"Well, guess she just assumed we were married, this is a small town and people don't live together until they're married. As for the buying part..."

"Well?" She crossed her arms and waited. He broke a piece of the cookie off and shoved it into her mouth.

"Well, the lady who went on vacation, Elizabeth, well, my mom said she was having a breakdown living here with the ghosts and all and I didn't want to drive her insane, so I traded her."

Scully swallowed the cookie in her mouth. "Traded?"

"My dad left me his house out on the island and I mean, I wasn't living there and even if I do decide to move here, I don't want to live six miles away from my mother. I'm not insane, Scully." He went into the living room, propped his feet up on the table and turned on the TV. "I traded houses with her. So this one is mine and that one is hers and her son is a realtor, so it was all very easy. You know, a couple of faxes."

She sat down on the other end of the couch. "Why would you want to buy a house people died in? Why would you even want to stay here?"

He turned toward her and shrugged. "All my life I've walked around yammering on about all the facts and reports and accounts. Maybe for once I"d like to see it myself."

"Looked in a mirror lately?" She was muttering and not really wanting to be heard.

"Scully, why'd you come running into my room last night?"

"I don't know. I was having nightmares, I probably got scared."

"So you were asleep?" She nodded, eying him warily. "You were talking about the people being dead and a mirror and stuff."

She shrugged. "I don't remember." She stared off out the window, trying to appear nonchalant as she lied through her teeth.

"But you just mentioned mirrors now."

She raised her hands and shrugged again. "I'm kind of tired, Mulder."

"Then go take a nap."

She stayed on the couch, carefully tucking her legs up underneath of her and resting her head on one of the pillows. A moment later, she felt a hand on her leg.

"Scully? You want to sleep down here?"

She nodded and shifted around slightly. "Yeah, why?"

"Well, I know you hate sleeping with the TV on. I'll go in the other room." He stood up without another word and vanished, the thick walls of the house blocking out any noise he might have made. She twisted around, figuring anything was better than sleeping upstairs. She drifted in and out of sleep, finally waking up at an incessant tapping on the glass. She stood up and looked. There was nothing there. She shook her head and hurried past the mirror to look for Mulder. Then she thought better of it.

All right, Dana, she muttered. Prove that there's nothing there.

She turned and faced the mirror, carefully looking around the room. The woman was there, Scully stood perplexed, watching the woman working on some kind of needlepoint in a rocking chair Scully was certain wasn't there. The woman set the circle down next to her and stood up.

The way the skirt moved around her as she walked, Scully knew it was from the 1800s. The woman stepped up next to her in the mirror and Scully could see out of the corner of her eye that there was no one there. She looked up at the reflection of the woman and saw the color of her eyes.

Pale blue eyes that looked miraculously like her own. The woman pulled the clips out of her hair and let it fan out over her shoulders. It had looked blonde while it was up, but now that it was down, Scully could see the red clearly. The woman titled her head, as if examining herself in the mirror, turning slightly toward Dana's own reflection. Their eyes locked for a moment and Scully shivered violently. It was her own reflection. But she had long hair and the yellow dress. Scully clamped her hand over her mouth, running towards the door, trying to not feel the terrible cold feeling as she ran through where the woman had been standing.

She tore through the other rooms on the first floor, not finding Mulder in any of them. Then she ran up the stairs and threw open the door to his room. He was sleeping, curled up in a tiny ball on the bed. Her heart stopped pounding quite so hard. She sat down on the edge of the bed and ran her fingers through his hair. He looked worried, even in his sleep. Undoubtedly over her. She'd been acting strangely, and he had no idea why. She leaned over and placed a light kiss on his forehead.

Then she turned and went back into her bedroom, walking up to the mirror and staring into it. That woman had looked just like her, so much so, that she was truly surprised she hadn't noticed on the first look. Maybe that was why the man had looked like Mulder. Maybe they had lived together in this house many years ago. Maybe they'd been murdered in their bed and that was why Mulder was so protective of her in this life.

She laughed at herself. "Dana Scully, you're going insane."

She looked down the hall, saw Mulder still sound asleep, and decided to explore. As promised, four of the doors led to bedrooms.

Another door led to a second bathroom. The last door led to a tiny staircase. There was no light switch, and it was pitch black even in the middle of the day. She found a candle and matches in the kitchen and made her way up the tiny winding stairs into the attic. Shades were pulled tight over the windows. She opened them, but it did nothing to alleviate the darkness.

Setting the candle down, she surveyed the room. It was hard to see much, but she could make out the outlines of some trunks. There was a oval shaped full length mirror across from her. She turned away, deciding to look in the trunks instead. Mirrors were just freaking her out.

Lifting up the lid of the first trunk caused enough of a draft that dust flew everywhere. She started to sneeze and before she could stop, the candle blew out.

But the room was still illuminated. She turned toward the source of the light, the mirror, and slowly approached it. She knew without looking that the door below her had closed and locked just as she knew Mulder would never hear her screaming for help. She stepped in front of the mirror and gasped. Spinning around, she saw nothing but blackness around her. Yet in the mirror, there was a clear reflection of a man hanging from the ceiling beams behind her. His body was swaying slightly and she saw his face. He looked like a cross between the man she'd seen in the mirror the night before and Mulder. Or maybe like Mulder in his twenties. The man had a mustache, but there was no mistaking that face.

Another movement drew her attention away from the man. A woman was standing at the top of the stairs, holding her hands over her open mouth, sobbing at the sight. The woman was also young, mid twenties just the like the man. They were both wearing jeans and the woman's long curled hair had been replaced by a long ponytail. But the face was the same. It was her.

But it wasn't.

 


Scully ran. The door wasn't locked anymore - she'd seen all she needed to see, so many the ghosts unlocked it for her - and it turned easily under her hand. She ran down the stairs and out into the sunshine, standing there for several minutes, letting the warmth and light burn into her skin and breathing hard.

She didn't like this house.

The car keys were just inside the door where Mulder had left them and she grabbed them, jamming in the ignition key and roaring down the driveway away from the house.

Scully stopped in town. There was a Home Depot on the outskirts and she bought two big barrels of all purpose yellow exterior paint. The house was okay on the inside, but a wreck on the outside. Besides which, if Mulder was stupid enough to buy the house and drag her out to it, she was going to fix it up. He could watch TV if he wanted to. She added brushes to her order and noticed Rusty, the Home Depot Helper, was staring at her as he rang her up.

"Is there a problem?" she asked sharply, raising an eyebrow at the young man.

He shook his head and she would have sworn he looked afraid of her.

"No, ma'am." He accepted her credit card and didn't offer to help her to the car with the two 5-gallon drums that were almost as big as she was.

Maybe I should cool the FBI agent routine, Scully thought as she pulled out of the parking lot. No wonder people were afraid of her. She tried to relax and hummed along with the radio, staring out the open window and wishing it wasn't so hot.

There was a stop sign in front of the library/historical society building, a cute little brick thing that looked like a schoolhouse and when Scully glanced over she saw the "Open" sign hanging in the window like an invitation. The next thing she knew, she was getting out of the car and heading for the building.

"Hello again," Mrs. Perkins greeted her.

"Hi." Scully was disappointed. She'd expected the library to have air conditioning. "I was wondering if you had any more information on the house."

Mrs. Perkins nodded. "I'm not surprised he didn't want to tell you."

"Why not?" Scully asked, and Mrs. Perkins looked very serious.

The older woman withdrew a slim volume from one of the shelves behind her desk. She put it on the table in front of her and opened it to a photograph. Scully wasn't entirely certain what she was looking at until Mrs. Perkins spoke. "For a century, newlyweds have moved into that house only to die horribly."

"But we're not..." Scully breathed, then noticed the historian's curious look. "We're not going to live in the house," she finished.

"You're there now." Mrs. Perkins closed the book and put it into Scully's hands. "Read it."

"Don't I need a library card or something?" Scully asked, and Mrs.

Perkins shook her head. Looking down at the book, Scully went back out to the car, her curiosity making her want to grab the book and read it in the parking lot. A house could not make people die. Her problem was that she wasn't being rational enough. They were probably dealing with some kind of land feud or multigenerational serial murderer.

And there was something creepy about Mrs. Perkins that Scully hadn't been able to put her finger on.

Mulder woke up, hot and mildly confused. The sun was shining, and he didn't usually sleep in the daytime. Why wasn't he at work? Was he sick? And whose musty smelling quilt was this? Mulder sat up and it only took a few moments for his brain to start working again. He hadn't meant to drift off. He'd been trying to think and let Scully rest. If he'd intended to sleep, he'd have offered to share the bed with her.

It had been nice holding her in his arms the night before. He hadn't realized how good it would feel.

"Scully?" he asked, emerging from the bedroom and beginning to wander through the house. She wasn't on the couch where he'd left her. Mulder walked through the entire house and wondered how he could have missed her.

Then he heard the car pull into the driveway. Shaking his head at his silliness, he walked out into the front room, greeting her at the door. "Thanks for ditching me," he said lightly.

"You were sleeping," Scully said.

"What's that?"

"Paint." She set the enormous container down and took a breath.

"There's another one still out in the car."

"No, that," Mulder specified, walking closer and touching the thin red book under her arm.

"It's the history of the house," Scully told him. "Mrs. Perkins at the library loaned it to me."

"You're settling in, aren't you?" Mulder asked and she gave him a look like she thought it was an odd thing to ask.

"I want to know what happened."

"I told you what happened."

Scully draped her legs over the arm of the chair and opened the book, ignoring him.

"What about the paint?" Mulder asked.

"It's in the trunk." Without looking up, she tosssed the keys to him.

Mulder barely caught them before they put his eye out. With another look back at her, he walked out into the yard.

Scully sat up straight a moment later as she realized why Rusty the Home Depot Helper had looked at her oddly. She looked just like the original owner of the house. The one who had murdered her husband in cold blood and been sent to jail for it. The one whose picture was reproduced in the book. The original was on the wall at the library.

Scully hadn't noticed it when she'd been there, but she recognized the faces in the book.

It looked just like her.

It doesn't mean anything, she told herself, dropping the book as Mulder walked in with the paint. She greeted him and grabbed a brush. "Is there a ladder?" she asked, opening the front door.

"You're doing this now?"

"No time like the present," Scully told him. "You don't have to help."

"Maybe I want to," Mulder told her, going off to find a ladder.

Meanwhile, Scully went outside and worked on the lowest level of the house that was within arm's reach. Pretty soon there was a good yellow stripe at the bottom of the house. It was going to look terrific when she was finished.

The sun went down almost without her noticing. One moment she was working in the sun, and the next the twilight made it impossible for her to see what she was doing. Reluctantly, Scully sealed up the container and rinsed her brushes in the outdoor faucet. She didn't want to spend another night in the house. Painting hadn't forced any of the demons away.

Mulder was inside, lying on the couch and reading by candlelight.

"What happened to the ladder?" Scully asked, walking over to sit down next to him. He glanced at her and put the book down.

She reached for it, but his words stopped her. "I don't think you should read that." She looked at him questioningly. "That's what's spooking you about the place, isn't it? The murders? I know you get sensitive to things like that, Scully, but -"

"I'm fine," she said mildly. "Why the candles?"

"It's romantic."

"You should have the wiring checked," she told Mulder, assuming the power had gone off again. "The wiring in some of these old houses can start fires."

He nodded, looking at her. "I ordered dinner. It should be here any minute," he told her. Just then there was a knock at the door. Mulder returned a few moments later with a large pizza and a bottle of wine.

"I didn't know Domino's delivered wine," Scully remarked as he opened it.

"Small town," Mulder informed her. "They were happy to bring it for us.

All I had to do was ask."

"Nice," Scully judged, tasting the wine and nibbling on the pizza.

She was starving, she realized suddenly. Mulder was watching her.

"You look beautiful," Mulder told her.

Damn it, he was being weird again. "I'm all hot and icky," Scully informed him.

"You're sunburned and you have paint on your forehead, too." Mulder grinned, and he seemed absolutely enchanted with her. "You do like the house, don't you, Scully?"

"Sure, it's fine," she answered breezily.

Mulder nodded. "There was another reason I invited you out here," he admitted, looking faintly embarrassed.

"Not just to get me to paint your house?" Scully asked.

That was when he pulled the small box out of his pocket. The small velvet box that could only hold one thing.

"Mulder..." Scully began to protest.

He wouldn't listen. "Marry me, Scully," he said and he had tears in his eyes. Strangely, she found that she did too as she allowed him to slip the striking slim gold band with its single brilliant diamond onto her finger.

One of her tears broke free and rolled down her face. "Mulder?"

He smiled. "Yes, Dana?"

"Is this a joke?"

It was a perfect fit, which only served to make her cry harder.

"I'm not sure if that's a yes or a no..."

She noticed his hands, which were still clasped around her, were shaking. He'd put a lot on the line for this, with very little idea how she'd react. She sat up on her knees and leaned forward, pulling him into a tight hug. "It's a yes," she whispered. "A definite yes."

His arms held her for just a moment longer and then she felt his hands at her sides, pushing her away. When he caught her eyes, she saw his tears were dry, replaced with absolute joy. "Well, now that we're engaged, can I kiss you?"

She laughed and scooted forward, pushing the forgotten pizza and wine aside. "If I don't kiss you first."

They met in the middle.

Several long minutes later, a loud crash drew them apart. Scully jumped back, already fearing what they'd find in upstairs. Mulder grinned at her and offered her a hand getting up.

"Let me guess, you thought you'd leave your perfume on the windowsill instead of the dresser?"

Scully gripped his hand as they climbed the stairs. "I only brought one bottle."

Mulder led her into the master bedroom where they found the mirror shattered on the floor. "I guess the wind has seven years of bad luck coming."

Scully shivered. She was just as happy that the mirror was broken. Turning back to the stairs, she stopped short. IT was the woman from the book, leaning in the door, staring at them. "Mulder, look."

He turned around, searching for whatever she was talking about and not finding it. "What?"

The ghost woman looked startled, Scully guessed it was the first time she'd gotten a good look at Mulder. She walked, well, actually, sort of floated, over, standing right in front of Mulder and laying a transparent hand on his cheek. Scully felt the shiver run through Mulder, but he still didn't see anything. The woman's eyes appeared wet with tears.

"My William." Her hands dropped back to side and she gazed lovingly at Mulder for a moment before turning and running, or floating quickly, out of the room. Scully could hear her loud sobbing coming from the room at the far end of the hall.

Scully stared at the closed door and wondered how Mulder had missed that. She felt a tug on her hand.

"Scully? What are you looking at?" He looked concerned.

She smiled, squelching the desire to mention what she'd seen since he'd obviously missed all of it. "You."

He grinned, dropping her hand in favor of putting his arms around her. "Now, where were we?"

An hour later, they lay tangled in the sheets. Mulder was sound asleep, lying on his side, holding Scully against him. She waslying there wide awake, terrified beyond words, staring up at the ghost woman who was sitting on Mulder's side of the bed.

She reached out gently, touching first Mulder's hair, then his cheek. In his sleep, he shivered and Scully fought the urge to pull the sheets up higher. "My William. Still so sweet."

Scully was shaking, no longer quite able to convince herself that she was maing this up. This man was hers; the still awkward feeling diamond stood testament to that. She stared at the ghost's face, her own face, though somehow younger and older than her own simultaneously.

This woman had killed her William and Scully didn't want her getting confused as to who the living man was. Suddenly, the woman looked at Scully, seemingly noticing her for the first time.

Scully felt strange, staring into her own dead eyes. "Who are you?" She already knew the answer, but she had to ask.

The ghost's head inclined toward the door, inviting Scully to join her. Scully waited until the woman was gone before slipping on Mulder's shirt and joining the woman in the hall. "Ok, now talk." The woman looked at her and then crooked her finger, inviting Scully to follow her.

Feeling like an idiot, Scully followed as the woman drifted into the living room. She stopped and pointed at the book, the one with the house's history.

"The book?" Scully lowered her voice to a whisper because she didn't want Mulder to wake up and think she'd gone insane.

The ghost nodded. Scully picked it up, flipping it open to the woman 's portrait. "You're Victoria?" The ghost nodded. Scully closed the book. "You'd better not get any ideas about killing Mulder."

The ghost stepped back, clasping a hand over her heart. "My William. I'd never hurt my William."

Scully lifted the book and shook it. "Says here you killed your William. And all I can say is that you'd better leave Mulder and I alone."

Victoria shook her head, looking disappointed. "But it wasn't me."

Scully ran her hand through her hair, not believing that she was having an argument with a ghost. "And cut it out with the mirror crap.

It's getting boring."

"But it wasn't me."

Scully shook her head and turned back to the stairs, abandoning the book on a chair. An icy sensation on her hand stopped her. She spun around. Victoria was still across the room, but she was staring, open mouthed at something else. "William!"

Scully saw nothing and quickly turned to face the mirror. A figure that Scully couldn't see clearly was brandishing a knife, threatening Mulder with it. But then she realized that it wasn't Mulder.

Victoria dissolved in tears, shrieking hysterically as another figure grabbed her from behind. Scully turned away from the mirror when she saw the first hint of blood, unable to watch. She got the message Victoria had been trying to give her, but it didn't help her out any.

Shaking, she climbed the stairs to find Mulder tossing and turning, in the grasp of a terrible nightmare.

Scully joined him on the bed, shaking his shoulder and calling his name until he opened his eyes. He was scared to death, breathing heavily and crying when he finally woke up. His eyes focused on Scully and before she could say a word, he sat up and pulled into such a tight hug that she choked.

"Sh, Mulder, it was just a nightmare. You're fine."

"You were hurt, Dana. Someone hurt you."

She pushed him back gently, wiping away his tears. "I'm fine.

I'm right here."

He nodded and pulled her back against him, just not quite as tightly. "But it was different. It was you, but it wasn't."

"Dreams are like that, Mulder. That's all it was."

"No, we were already married. But It wasn't us. And the house looked like... It was a long time ago. They hurt you."

She pushed his hair back and tried to calm him. "Mulder, we're not married and no one is hurting me."

"Maybe it wasn't us, Scully."

She pulled away, sitting carefully on the edge of the bed and tugging at the bottom of the shirt. "It was just a dream, Mulder."

"Someone had broken into the house and they were going to kill me but then you walked in and scared them. Then one of them grabbed you."

Scully shivered at his accurate description of the events she'd just witnessed in the living room. "Mulder..."

"You were wearing this long yellow dress and your hair was real long. It was..."

"Just like that book you were reading." She sighed and turned her 'you silly little boy' face on him. "The one you told me not to read because it would frighten me."

"But you were there, Scully."

"Dressed like the woman in the book who looks just like me."

"No, I mean, there were two of you. One of you was wearing the dress and one of you," He sat up and began fishing around for his clothes. "was wearing a big shirt. It actually looked like the one I was wearing before..." His words trailed off as he realized what she was wearing.

"That's probably because you woke up for a moment when I got up and put it on." Scully was glad it was so dark because that way he wouldn't be able to see how deathly pale her face had become. He'd seen it. The same thing she had seen. But he'd been upstairs asleep. She joined him in getting dressed, giving him back his shirt to put on her own. Then she followed him silently as he hurried down the stairs and went into the living room. She watched him replay the scene in his head, moving over to where she'd seen him standing in the mirror.

"Look, Scully."

"What?" He was just standing there.

"In the mirror."

She looked and saw nothing but her own reflection, wearing a yellow dress with long hair. Victoria. She spun around. Mulder was just staring at her.

"Mulder..."

"Where's Scully?" He narrowed his eyes as if he didn't trust her.

"Mulder, I think we should get out of here. Now. I don't like this place."

"I'm not leaving without Scully."

She turned back to the mirror, still facing the image of Victoria.

Her own real face was nowhere to be seen. She faced Mulder again.

"Mulder, what's going on?"

"Scully?" He looked like he was about to cry.

Scully shivered violently, reacting to the sudden cold that ran through her. Then she passed out, collapsing to the ground before Mulder was able to catch her. Victoria slipped away quietly, without Mulder even noticing her.

Scully's eyes opened only a second after she hit the floor. "Ow," she said, rolling onto her side and touching a painful spot on her head.

"Scully, what happened?" Mulder cried, worried, crouching over her.

"You didn't catch me!" she pointed out, getting to her feet without his help. She shook her head, like she could make the pain stop that way.

"I'm not sure I can marry a man who doesn't catch me when I fall."

Mulder pouted.

Scully got up and went to throw her belongings back into her bag.

"Where're you going?" Mulder asked.

"I am getting the HELL out of this crazy HAUNTED house!" Scully cried.

Her head twinged. "Ow."

"Are you okay?" Mulder asked, walking over to her.

She felt kind of shaky and shook her head, ready to cry again. Mulder walked over and put his hand on her head. He found the sore spot pretty quick and she winced. "Sorry," he murmured.

Since he was holding her, she knew they were going to end up kissing again, so she kissed him before it became an issue. She pulled away a moment later and found him staring at her.

"Are you going to try to tell me you're possessed?" Mulder asked.

"Do I look possessed?" Scully retorted.

"If you don't want to marry me, just say so."

"Where did that come from?" Scully asked, but Mulder wouldn't say more.

He just toyed with the lacy edge of something that was hanging out of her bag. She figured he didn't need to know it was the sexy nightgown she didn't remember packing. "Fine, I'm going to the basement."

"Why?" Mulder asked.

She didn't say anything, just left the room and walked down the steep, rickety stairs. Scully made a grab at the pull-string for the light, wishing she had her flashlight. What had to have been a 10-watt lightbulb glowed from the ceiling. Scully watched where she stepped as she walked around the unfinished stone walls, which seemed more damp than she thought was healthy. She tried not to think about black widow spiders, scorpions, and silverfish. Who said Mulder was the only one afraid of bugs? "Scully?" Mulder called, and she heard one step on the stair before he stopped, as though he was reluctant to join her.

"There are bugs down here!" Scully cried, thinking it would keep him from joining her.

"Are you okay?" Mulder took another step.

"Fine," she said.

"What kind of bugs?" he asked.

She shrugged. "I know you don't like them so I thought I'd..." Mulder had joined her.

"Where are they?"

"I just figured, being a basement and all, there would be some bugs down here somewhere..." Scully made excuses. "Is it cold down here?"

she shivered.

Mulder put his hand on her shoulder. "You're not going to pass out again, are you?" he asked.

She shook her head, touching the wall near the floor with the toe of her shoe. "See that? Mud. The basement floods. That's not a good sign." Mulder looked at her blankly. "I think you got taken on this house."

"Maybe I wanted a haunted house," he said.

"Why?"

"I thought it would be fun."

"Are we having fun, Mulder?"

He leered at her. "We were having fun earlier," he grinned.

She ignored him, walking around the basement, aware that he was watching her. "Found it."

"Found what?" he asked.

"The cold spot."

"Is that like the wet spot?" Mulder quipped.

"And what would you know about that?" she asked, moderately annoyed by his lack of courtesy. "Anyway, the cold spot. Where spirits manifest themselves."

"I thought you didn't believe in ghosts."

"That doesn't keep me from watching 'Sightings,'" Scully said.

"What is your scientific conclusion on ghosts, Scully?" Mulder asked.

"that they're bugging me here and now."

"So they exist?"

"I didn't say that?"

"If they don't exist, then what's bothering us?" Mulder asked.

Scully leaned into the cold spot and crossed her arms. "It's believed that poltergeist phenomena is the result of errant electrical charges from the brains of children. Perhaps this ghost phenomena is similar...you've heard of 'race memory' or 'generational memory' - it's like instinct in animals. Maybe this is the same thing."

"Errant electrical impulses left over from the minds of people who died long ago?" Mulder asked. "I'm sorry, Scully, but you just described a ghost."

She gave him a dark look.

"But we have a bigger problem than that."

"What?" she asked.

"You're about to be slimed."

"Ha, ha, very funny," she said. It was a good touch that his eyes were fixed with awe and fear on a spot just above her head.

"Dana - " Mulder said warningly just as something wet and mildly sticky rained down on her. It felt like a water balloon full of unset jello had been popped over her head. She glared at him. "Dana, I warned you."

"There is no Dana, there is only Zoul," she muttered. "What the hell is this stuff?"

"Ectoplasm."

"I think I need a shower."

"Want some company?" Mulder offered.

"Only if you get slimed first," she managed a sweet, threatening smile. "Mulder...this stuff is really cold...I feel kind of strange..."

"Scully?" he rushed to her side and grabbed her arm.

"Got you," she grinned.

"Bitch," he muttered.

"Excuse me?" She pulled her arm away. He sounded serious and his eyes had turned dark. "Mulder?" He really looked angry, and he didn't say anything. Shivering harder, Scully bounded up the steps and locked herself into the bathroom.

Then she realized the towels and clean clothes were outside the bathroom. And so was Mulder.

The question of how she was going to get a towel was answer quickly, as Mulder entered the bathroom from the other door, the one Scully'd forgotten about. She stepped back, trying to unlock the door behind her as Mulder approached. He didn't look quite so angry anymore.

In fact, he grinned, playing with the top button on her shirt.

"Tag, you're it."

"Huh?" He looked like Mulder...

He smiled again. "Why'd you run up here like that?" He looked genuinely hurt.

"You scared me down there."

"I'd never hurt you. You know that."

"I'm sorry. This place is just getting to me." She turned on the taps and adjusted the temperature.

"OK, well, I think I'm going downstairs to watch TV. Come visit when you're out?" He turned and walked away, leaving her mildly disappointed that he didn't offer to wash her back.

She ducked out in the hallway and grabbed a towel, muttering to herself abut having gong insane. Maybe it was the paint fumes. What the hell had she been spouting off about in the basement? Mulder was right.

She wasn't acting like herself. No wonder he was acting strangely too.

She took a quick shower, making sure all the slime was out of her hair. Then she dried herself off making sure to spend several minutes staring happily at the sparkling clean ring on her finger. She suddenly realized that she wanted to get married in the fall. That wouldn't leave much time for planning, but she knew neither of them wanted a big wedding.

Just family. Hell, maybe they could fly off to Vegas at the end of the week.

She'd forgotten to get nonslimed clothes, so she walked down the hall in her towel. She crossed the room carefully in her bare feet, trying to avoid stepping on the broken pieces of the mirror. She grabbed clean clothes and tossed them on the bed.

The door slammed shut suddenly and she jumped. Then she sighed, relaxing her tensed shoulders. "Mulder, you scared me."

He just smiled and began crossing the room.

"I thought you were going to watch television."

He was within two steps of her and he was still smiling oddly at her. She stepped back.

"Mulder, what's going on?"

He reached out and grabbed her arm roughly, pulling her closer against her will. "You talk too much."

She struggled, finding it exceedingly difficult to fight off a much stronger person while trying to hold her towel closed. "Quit it, Mulder, you're scaring me."

"What makes you think I'm Mulder?" He glared at her, causing her to wince. Then he pushed her toward the bed and working on unbuttoning his shirt.

He must not have been Mulder she realized, because he seemed shocked that the moment he let go of her arm, she rolled off the bed and ran out of the room. He hadn't expected her to act so quickly. HE chased her. She couldn't go far in a towel and she had no clue where his keys were, so she ran into his bedroom, where there would be clothes, and locked the door. He slammed his fist against the door countless times, and then gave that up in favor of slamming his body against the door.

It shook, but it didn't move.

After several minutes of terrorizing her, he stopped. The dead silence that followed made her suspect that he was just waiting outside the door. She looked at the door, the only protection she had against her best friend and felt her chin start to tremble. Something was wrong here.

And she began to suspect it was too late to escape the curse she suddenly completely believed in.

She waited, sobbing, for a long while. She didn't hear another sound. Shrugging, she dug through Mulder's bag until she found a t shirt and boxers and big thick socks. She wished one of them had brought a teddy bear; she certainly felt like holding onto one right then. Then she sat down on the bed, pulled the covers up around her neck and stared at the door.

It was a long time before the sun's light appeared through the windows. Scully's eyes snapped open, her heart skipping a beat as she jerked awake. She hadn't wanted to fall asleep. Rubbing her eyes, she looked at the door. It had been dark when she'd last noticed, so she had no idea if he was still out there or not. Approaching the door carefully, she bent down and tried to see through the keyhole. As far as she could tell, the coast was clear.

"Mulder?" She kept her voice light, not wanting to draw his attention if he was downstairs and she stood a chance at escaping. No answer. He could just be ignoring her, or worse, waiting for her to step out into the hall before he announced his presence. Either way, she had to do something. She turned the lock as slowly as she could, wincing at the barely audible click as it slid home. She hoped he hadn't heard it.

Slowly walking down the stairs, the smell of bacon hit her nose. Her stomach grumbled loudly. Then she remembered. Dinner had been cut short by Mulder's proposal and the mirror, and then the ghost had appeared and the night had gone to hell. She hadn't gotten the chance to finish eating dinner. She'd barely gotten the chance to start.

Before she went to investigate the bacon, she opened the front door and propped it open with a brick. Escape route A, in place. Then she turned and quietly walked to the kitchen.

Mulder was busy making eggs and bacon and pancakes and trying not burn himself. He was failing at all four. He looked benign enough.

"Morning." She stayed by the door, ready to run.

He looked up, startled by her voice. "Hi." His eyes drifted over her, taking in her outfit of his clothes before settling on the arm she had propped against the door. "What happened?"

She glanced up and saw the large bruise that had formed when he'd grabbed her the night before. "You don't remember?"

He shrugged. "Not a clue." He looked back at his pans and stirred the eggs around some.

"Look at me, Mulder." He did as asked, not a hint of the dark gleam that had been in his eyes. "You really don't remember?"

Keeping his eyes locked on hers, he shook his head. "I woke up in the hallway this morning. The door was locked. So I came down here and started breakfast. Why? What happened?"

She pulled her arm down and crossed both of them in front of her chest. "What's the last thing you remember?"

He looked confused for a moment. "We were in the basement. You were talking about ghosts and then something hit me."

It made sense to her, since that was exactly when he'd stopped acting like himself. Her shoulders dropped. What sense did that make? He was possessed. Yeah, right, Dana, you've gone insane, welcome to looneyland.

"What happened, Dana?" He abandoned his cooking and stepped closer to her.

She stepped back. "You attacked me last night."

"I would never..." He looked shocked, flabberghasted, by her accusation.

"That's what you said last night." Her chin started to tremble again and for the life of her, she couldn't make it stop. "That's what I believed." She didn't know what she'd been expecting, but Mulder standing there, holding the pancake flipper in one hand with his mouth hanging open and staring at her wasn't it. She turned and headed for the door, luckily spotting the keys on a small table on her way. She grabbed then, gunned the engine and backedall the way up the one lane dirt raod while Mulder stood at the door and stared after her.

Mulder went back to the stove, in just enough time to save his breakfast from bursting into flames. Scully'd been terribly moody, and he figured she would be back sooner or later. Meantime, he was starving. Something about being knocked out by a ghost and attacking his partner-fiancee that he didn't remember had really taken it out of him.

"Hey, dickhead."

Mulder turned around. Scully was standing there in jeans and a checkered shirt. Only it wasn't Scully, since she'd run out of there in a T shirt and boxers. She also didn't have a waist-length ponytail and bangs that Mulder recalled. "Are you talking to me?" Mulder frowned.

"Yeah, asshole, what do you think you're doing?"

"Eating breakfast," Mulder said. "Who are you?"

"Don't you recognize me, h-"

"Can you stop calling me names?" Mulder requested. He gestured to the chair across from him and the ghost sat down.

She shrugged. "My name's Mitzi."

Mulder tried really hard not to laugh.

"Hey, moron, I came to thank you."

"For what?"

"Killing me."

"I'm sorry, I don't think we've met. I know I didn't kill you," Mulder said.

"Yeah, right, Craig."

Mulder wished Scully hadn't taken the car so he could leave. He looked down at the food on his plate. Breakfast had been a really bad idea. He undoubtedly had food poisoning and was delirious.

"Next you'll blame it on the fucking curse."

"What year do you think it is, Missy?"

"Mitzi," she corrected. "It's 1958."

"It's 1998," Mulder informed her.

"No shit?" she asked. "I guess time flies when you're dead."

"Tell me about the curse," Mulder invited.

Scully roared to a stop on the outskirts of town. She couldn't leave Mulder alone in that house. What if the ghosts got him? She didn't want to believe in ghosts, but she knew there was something goofy going on.

And if Mulder was having blackouts...experiencing behavior that he couldn't recall...she had no right leaving him alone. She was a doctor.

She should try to help him.

Plus, she couldn't get out of the car dressed the way she was and the car was almost out of gas.

Turning the wheel, Scully made a U-turn and headed back to the house.

"You know all about the curse, you idiot," Mitzi informed him. It was kind of disconcerting for Mulder to hear that kind of langauge coming out of Scully's mouth. Or what looked like Scully's mouth.

"Are you the one harrasssing my partner?" he asked.

She shook her head. "Are you sure it's 1998? That's an awful long time to be dead."

"Go turn on the TV if you don't believe me."

"Where're you gonna be?"

"In bed," Mulder told her, sliding from the chair and making it to the first bedroom before he closed his eyes.

"Mulder. Mulder."

He groaned as he opened his eyes. Scully was leaning over him. He grabbed a handful of her hair and it was short. He was safe. "Thank god."

"Mulder, you've got a fever."

"I'm not surprised."

"Why do you say that?" she asked, sitting down on the bed.

"I thought I met a ghost from 1958 who looked just like you but swore all the time. She kept talking about the curse." Mulder laughed. "It sounds crazy, I know."

"No, it sounds delirious and there's a difference," Scully said tenderly, brushing his sweaty hair off of his forehead.

"You didn't change your clothes," he noticed.

"I didn't have time. I was worried about you," she said, stroking his hair even harder. She swung her legs around so she was holding him closer, supporting his head against her chest. He kind of liked it there, he realized.

"I'm -" He was going to say he was fine, except he was still feverish and he didn't want her to stop petting him.

"Mulder, what exactly are you trying to do?" Scully asked, looking down at him.

He lifted his head and that seemed to satisfy her. She placed a cool hand on his forehead. "I think your fever's gone up."

He groaned for effect. "Why did you take off, Scully?"

"I couldn't stand it anymore."

"Me?" He was hurt.

"This stupid ghost crap," Scully said, reminding him of his dream.

"Let's pretend there isn't a ghost," Mulder suggested.

"fine with me," Scully said, then realized that without the ghost, they had little to talk about. "What do you want to do then?"

"Watch TV?" he suggested.

"You must be feeling better," she said, sliding off the bed to her feet. "I'll go finish painting the house."

"Don't." He caught her hand and clung to it.

"I'm not going to watch you watching TV," she informed him.

"Think a cool bath would take my temperature down?" Mulder asked.

"What is it with you and water?" Scully asked. But the look he was giving her was so winsome, she couldn't resist. "I'll wash your back," she offered.

Mulder jumped off the bed and ran into the bathroom. "You are feeling better," Scully said when she walked into the bath. Mulder was pulling off his shirt. She sat down on the toilet and he stopped undressing when he saw her face. "Mulder, we need to talk," she said.

"about what?" he asked, instantly serious.

She held up her hand. "If this means that we're going to spend all our time with our clothes off..."

"It's nice to be naked, Scully," Mulder said and he didn't mean just physically.

"Mulder, we can't..."

"Scully, we're on vacation. We should be having fun." He reached to unbutton his pants, but she frowned and he stopped. "What?"

"I'm afraid it's this house." she looked at him seriously. "I'm afraid that when we get back to normal life, this isn't going to work."

"Scully, I really hate to have to say this, but it's not working now," Mulder said honestly.

"What're you saying?" She reached for the ring. "Do you want this back?" Her voice broke into a whisper.

"No," Mulder said. "I want this back." He leaned over and kissed her incredibly gently, touching his lips to hers without touching her otherwise. Her eyes were wide and moist when he pulled back to look at her.

"I, um, have to get something," Scully said, standing up and extricating herself from the small space. Mulder watched her go, thinking she needed tissues and wondering why she didn't just use TP. He finished disrobing and lay back in the bath. It was soothing after the heat. He began to feel like himself again.

"Hey," he said when he heard the door open.

Scully didn't say anything.

Mulder opened his eyes and sat straight up in the tub. Scully was standing there with a large, gleaming kitchen knife.

She stopped just inside the door, holding the knife at her side and twirling it in her hand. It was very threatening in general, but especially to the naked soaking wet man in front of her.

She glared at him. "Get up."

"Scully, you're not thinking of changing your name to Lorena, are you?"

"Get dressed, you asshole."

His jaw dropped open as he complied, feeling certain he was experiencing a version of what she'd experienced at his hands the night before. "Anything special you'd like me to wear, darling?"

"Just your clothes."

While he was getting dressed, she lifted the knife to his neck and pressed hard enough to make him flinch. But she didn't actually draw any blood. "Scully, can you answer me one question? What year is it?"

She glared, lowering the knife to her side again. "My name is Maribeth."

He smiled awkwardly. "Hi, Maribeth. What year does it happen to be in your land?"

"It's 1961, you son of a bitch. And your time is up."

"1961?" He bit his lip for a minute, thinking.

"Yeah. Now, up the stairs."

He let her prod him up to the attic with the knife at his back.

"Is it October of 1961?"

She pointed to the coiled rope at his feet. "Make a noose."

"Uh, I don't know how."

"Then guess you little shithead."

"While I'm doing this, could you please tell me if it's October of 1961?"

She sighed. "No, moron. It's January."

Mulder frowned while he attempted to tie the rope she'd tell him to hang himself with. He didn't know the first thing about tying knots.

"Hey, uh, Scully, you're the Navy brat, can't you help?" He looked up hopefully, saddened to see the disdain on her face, a look of sheer hatred he'd never seen on her before. "oh, wait, you're Maribeth."

She smiled. "And you're dead." She squatted down next to him, holding the knife up to protect herself. He twisted around and saw a different Scully, one a little older with bruises on her neck and a black eye.

"Uh, Maribeth, what's my name?"

She stood back up and backed away. "Don't you try that shit with me."

"No, really honey, while I'm hanging myself."

"Knock it off. Do you know how much I hate you?"

He grimaced at the awkward looking noose. "I'm getting an idea."

"You're suck a prick, Jason." She kicked a stool at him. "You can figure out what comes next, I mean, since you're so smart."

"I caused those bruised, didn't I?"

She looked a bit dismayed at his question. "You're not going to hurt me again."

Reluctantly, Mulder stood up on the stood and began attempting to pretend he was tying the end of the rope tightly to the rafters. "So, it's uh, January, right?" As he said it, it suddenly made sense. Jason died in January. Mulder would have been conceived in January. He looked at the rope and pondered it. If Jason lived, Mulder wouldn't. So if he didn't kill himself, he wouldn't be born.

He turned back to Scully and saw an odd look on her face. "You're not Jason are you?"

Mulder shook his head.

She considered it. Then she shrugged. "Too bad, you're going to die anyway." The smile returned and Mulder made a mental note that, should he live, he'd check into a history of mental problems in Scully's family.

Mulder made a great deal out of pretending to lose his balance, where he eventually actually lost his balance, and instead of a controlled fall away from the knife wielding partner of his, he fell flailing on top of her. And her knife. Luckily, it just barely made contact with her shoulder.

Unfortunately, the ground seemed to make a great impact on Maribeth's/Scully's head.

Mulder gently picked her up and carried her down to the bedroom, leaving the knife on the floor. It was probably just as well that there be one less knife to grab. He tucked her in, the innocent looking defenseless unconscious Scully look drawing him in enough to carefully brush her hair back and kiss her forehead. She was just going to get a little sleep, which was just fine with Mulder. He hoped she was herself again when she woke up. Just in case, he locked both doors to the bathroom when he returned to his bath.

He emerged a few minutes later, and walked down the hall toweling his hair as he went. Scully was still asleep, so he headed downstairs and sat down on the couch. He looked at the TV and thought about turning it on, but he didn't really feel like it. Then he noticed the ladder leaning outside the window and decided to help Scully out painting his house.

He got a three more lines on the bottom of the house before a rustle in the tall grass caught his attention. He took a deep breath and hoped non of the ghosts knew where he'd hidden his gun. Turning around, he leveled his eyes at Scully's height and scanned the area.

"Scully?" Maybe she was playing some kind of trick on him.

The grass parted and a teenaged girl stepped forward. "Sorry, dad."

"Who are you?"

"Karen?"

"Are you asking me or telling me?"

The tiny Scully mumbled an apology and went back into the house.

Intrigued, Mulder followed the transparent girl into the house. She disappeared into the kitchen. When Mulder turned the corner, he saw Karen and who he assumed to be her mother, naturally another Scully.

Both of them smiled broadly at him and he wondered how hard he'd hit his head.

"Hi, honey. Lemonade?"

"I need to sit down." Rather than look for a chair, he slumped down to the ground. "Who are you?"

The woman laughed. The girl answered. "She's Mom. You've been out in the sun too long."

The woman turned to her daughter. "Go wash your hands. Supper will be ready any minute. And find your brother." She turned and smiled at Mulder, not mentioning his newfound seat on the floor as she carried a tray past him into the dining room and promptly vanished.

Well, he thought, now I've met the family that vanished.

Not quite ten minutes later, Scully reappeared.

He moaned, wondering how she was going to kill him this time.

"Well, now, there's a greeting." She shuffled past him and opened the fridge, grabbing her cookies and shoving two of them in her mouth.

He looked up hopefully. "Scully?"

"The one and only." Except with a mouthful of cookies, it sounded like 'va um un onwy."

He shook his head. "That's not exactly true."

She swallowed. "What happened to you?"

"You held me at knifepoint and tried to make me hang myself and then you and your daughter offered me some lemonade, but not before I got some more paint on the house."

She nodded, took out another cookie, and faced him. "Not an entirely nonproductive day, then, was it?"

"Scully..."

She sat down on the floor across from him. "Let's get the hell out of here. This house, the one where we keep trying to kill each other, is not somewhere that I think we should be working on our relationship."

"Scully I have to get rid of the ghosts or I'll never be able to sell it."

Scully stood up and fished through one of the drawers, finally locating what she was looking for and tossing it in front of him. He glanced at the pack of matches and then back at her. "Burn it, Mulder.

To the ground."

"I can't do that."

"I'll drive getaway." She put a hand on his shoulder. "Mulder, I know this is going to sound kind of strange coming from me, but I think I've figured out what's going on."

He stood up and followed her onto the porch where they both sat down. "Do tell." He closed his eyes and leaned his head on her shoulder, accepting the half of the cookie she offered him.

"Ok, from what I could figure out, Victoria didn't kill her husband, but she got blamed for it. So either she and her husband, Cade, returned to haunt the house to maybe find the real killer or something like that. I don't know how this stuff works. Then somehow, the two of us kept finding the house and confusing Victoria and Cade and that's what led to the murders."

"Good theory."

"Thanks." She leaned her head on top of his.

"So we have to find out who really did it, right? Then they'll all leave?"

Scully shrugged, jarring his head from her shoulder. "Or we burn it."

"Or we burn it."

"So, Mulder, we solved a hundred and some year old mystery or we burn this place to the ground and never look back."

"You got it."

"What's your vote?"

"I'm for whatever you think."

"Oh, thanks, Mulder. I'm thinking of clobbering you."

"Are you still Scully?"

"Yeah, why?"

"Then you can clobber me. As long as you have the right person with the right name in the right year, then you can kill me. Otherwise, you can tell me what we're going to do."

"I'm leaning towards killing you."

"Since we're investigators, maybe we should try solving the case," Scully suggested.

"What about clues?" Mulder demanded.

"What about them?" Scully asked, then remembered Mulder wouldn't notice a clue if it bit him on the ass. She headed up to the attic and Mulder followed her. "We've got all the clues we could possibly want," she told him, throwing open a trunk.

"You know, you may be right," Mulder agreed, pulling a yellow rag out of the trunk. It was stained with blood and had a big hole in it.

"It suits you," Scully said.

"How would this get back here, if whoever was murdered in it in days of old?" Mulder asked.

Scully shrugged, digging further. "Pictures." She tossed a handful over to Mulder. He flipped through, amazed by the resemblance between the women in the photos and Scully. "Anything?"

He shook his head. "I think this is pointless," he said, putting the photos back into the trunk. "We'd have better luck down in the basement investigating the cold spot."

"Want to?" Scully looked at him. Without another word, they abandoned the trunks and went back to the basement.

"It's still cold," Mulder said.

Scully nodded, shivering.

"This is probably the portal where the evil spirit enters the house," Mulder said.

Scully gaped at him.

"Or something," Mulder added, aware that he'd sounded mildly insane and since he'd been having strange visions earlier, he didn't want Scully to committ him. He'd been comitted once and he didn't much enjoy it.

"So to find the good dead ghosts we should look for a warm spot?"

Scully asked.

Mulder held up his hand, to stop her talking. She frowned at him. "Do you hear something?" Mulder asked.

"Not another visitation," Scully commented.

Mulder shook his head, once, quickly. "I think we have a bigger problem than that."

"I give up," Scully stated. "We should burn this place to the ground.

That'll take care of the ghosts."

"I think they've taken care of themselves," Mulder said.

"What?" Scully demanded.

"There's a giant warm spot right over us, Scully."

"Mulder if you don't start making sense..." Scully threatened.

"The house is on fire," Mulder said, his eyes wide. Scully turned around and saw the curls of smoke seeping under the basement door, which they'd luckily closed behind them. Unfortunately, it was a wooden door.

Even more unfortunately, it was the only door leading out of the basement.

"Are you insured, Mulder?" Scully asked.

"You're the beneficiary, you know that," Mulder said, giving her a suspicious look.

She hadn't known that, actually, Scully thought. Her brother was her life insurance beneficiary. She realized Mulder would be disappointed in that. "Not your life, the house," Scully said.

"Oh, sure," Mulder said. "But I think we have a much larger problem at the moment than how to spend the money."

The door was beginning to glow and Scully didn't think it was due to evil spirits. "Yeah," she said. "Mulder, can you reach the window?"

"Window?" Mulder spun around and saw the painted-over glass up near the ceiling. He walked over and took a swing over his head at it. "No."

He gestured that he would give her a leg up. His hands slid against her body as he hoisted her into the air. She pushed on the painted-shut window with all her might and it opened.

Scully looked down at Mulder. "Go through," he prompted her.

"What about you?" He'd never be able to pull himself up.

"It's a pretty small window," Mulder said.

"I told you not to eat so many cookies," Scully said, frowning because there were tears in her eyes.

"You'll have to get the fire department," Mulder said and he had on his stoic face, the one he always wore when his life was in danger. Then he started pushing her through the window.

A few seconds later, Scully was face-down on the cool grass. She hadn't even gotten to kiss Mulder one more time. She leaned down and peered through the window at his face. "Try and find something to stand on, Mulder."

"Call the fucking fire department!" Mulder yelled at her. There was a crash from the basement and he shouted.

"Mulder!" she screamed, tearing her phone out of her pocket. "This is FBI agent Dana Scully. There is a fire and a man is trapped in the basement." The dispatcher assured her someone would be along shortly, and she returned to the window. "Mulder! Mulder!" she yelled at him.

Ominously, there was no response. A fire engine roared up the dirt road and firemen in their yellow outfits approached her. "He's down there!" she yelled, noticing for the first time the tears drying on her face.

"It's going to be okay, ma'am," one of the firemen assured her. He was baby-faced and pudgy, with a sweet Southern accent.

"Go fight the fire!" Scully ordered.

The fire chief walked over then. She knew because it said so on his hat. "This was a pretty minor fire, ma'am. It took out the living room and the kitchen over to the basement door and pretty much burned itself out."

Scully's eyes locked on Mulder, who was helped out of the house by a third fireman. "Mulder!" she screamed, running over to him. "Mulder, are you okay? Mulder, I'm so sorry and I was so scared and..." She began petting his hair and watching him breathe to make sure he was breathing regularly. "Mulder, say something."

"I would if I could get a word in edgewise," Mulder said. His voice was a little husky and his face was dirty, but he was no worse for the wear. He laughed softly. "I guess you got your wish."

"What?" asked the fire chief, who was hovering over them.

Scully felt her face flush, but she remained serious. "What started the fire?"

"The wiring in the kitchen," the chief told her. "These old houses..."

he shook his head. "It needs to be replaced. I hope you have insurance. The water made something of a mess."

With those cheerful words, he left them.

"Think it took care of the ghosts?" Mulder asked, his teeth white against his smoky skin.

"I don't want to know," Scully commented.

Mulder and Scully stood in the overgrown yard, watching the fire trucks pull away. Scully looked down at their joined hands and saw the ring on her finger. Letting go of Mulder's hand, she brought the ring up to her face, staring at it for several minutes.

"Oh my God!"

Concerned, Mulder turned to her. "What? Did you lose the stone?"

She dropped her hand back to her side and stared up at Mulder in awe. "We're engaged!"

A wide smile erupted across his face as he tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. "We certainly are."

She smiled back, glancing quickly between the ring and her fiancee. "Wow." Her smile continued to grow, despite her best efforts.

"I think I'm going to walk around with this stupid grin on my face for the rest of time."

He ran his hand over her cheek, delighted that she leaned into it.

"I kind of like it, you know, if my opinion counts. I like seeing you so happy." He leaned closer to her and gave her a quick kiss on the lips.

"Especially to see you so happy because of something I did."

She reached for him, hugging him tightly. "I love you. Have I ever told you that?"

He hugged her back, rocking her slightly, trying to grow accustomed to the feel of her in his arms finally. "Well, I figured, but it's nice to hear it." He drew back and kissed her again, this time longer and deeper. "I love you too, you know."

She gazed into his eyes for a moment. "Let's go clean up the mess." She tugged on his hand and led him back to the kitchen.

They looked at the black walls, the puddles of water, and the demolished door to the basement. The insurance people wouldn't be around for a few more days. "Mulder, I can't stay here in this mess. We should just go home."

"But Scully, this is home. I mean, it's mine. I have to do something with it."

"When the insurance people get finished with it, it'll be all painted and the cabinets will all be replaced and so will the wiring.

You'll have no problem selling it."

Mulder let go of her hand, folded his arms over his chest and looked dejected.

"Mulder, what?"

"But I want to live here. Just without the ghosts."

"And the fire."

"And the broken mirrors."

"And the faulty wiring."

"All right, fine. Let's get packed." He turned and walked up the steps, giving Scully the impression he'd be stomping if he wasn't afraid of upsetting the ghosts.

She followed him, but turned and went to her own bedroom, gathering her things together and stuffing them in the bag. She heard muffled sounds of Mulder packing down the hall. Settling down on the bed, she held her hand in front of her face and stared at her ring. She hadn't gotten the relaxation and sleep she'd expected, but she had gotten engaged to the man she loved. She looked at her suitcase, still bulging with vacation themed clothes. They still had a few more days.

She smiled and stood up, lugging her suitcase to the stairs and then flopping down on Mulder's bed while he attempted to pack around her.

She was sprawled across the bed, and rather than mention it, he just continued packing clothes, setting piles on top of her while he folded things. She pushed a stack of t shirts off her stomach and sat up.

"Mulder?"

"Yes, Scully?" He didn't look up from his task.

She had no idea he was so methodical about packing and she watched him, enthralled. "I was thinking..."

"Oh, no..." He looked up and smiled and then returned to his task.

"We've still got time off."

"Yeah?"

"We're twenty miles away from a resort town."

"Yeah?"

"We just got engaged."

"Yup."

"We should celebrate."

He closed his bag and sat down next to her, a bit closer than he would have in the past. "What did you have in mind?"

"A vacation. You know, with a motel and a beach and shopping for souvenirs and postcards and stuff."

He kissed her on the forehead. "If we set foot on the Cape, we'll have to go visit my mother who will pry shamelessly."

Scully shrugged. "Yeah, so?"

He kissed her cheek. "You sure?"

"Yeah." She moaned softly when his lips grazed her neck.

"Then we'll go there. But not for a few hours." His hands moved for the hem of her shirt.

"Oh? And why aren't we leaving now?" She heard a loud thump as his bag was shoved off the bed.

"Because I can't think of something even more fun for a little while."

Scully reclined on the bed again, this time pulling Mulder with her. "Deal."

He moved to kiss her again, but a loud whining creak came from the hall, immediately followed by the slamming of the bedroom door. They jumped off the bed. "Scully, let's continue this in a motel room, ok?"

She yanked the door open and took his hand before stepping out into the hall. "Good idea."

They grabbed their bags and ran for the car.

**

A little over half an hour later, they pulled up in front of a white house Scully'd been to before. Mulder turned in the front seat and looked at her. "Are you sure you're up to this?" he asked.

She nodded, looking serious. Mulder squeezed her hand and she grinned as though on cue. Then he got out of the car. Scully noticed he didn't open the door for her and she unbuckled her seat belt and trailed after him.

His mother was already shutting the door when Scully got up the walk.

Scully inserted her foot and pushed the door open. The woman barely glanced at her before turning back to her son.

"Fox, you never come to see me," Mrs. Mulder said.

"I'm here now, Mom, aren't I?" he pointed out, his eyes firmly fixed on the floor.

Mrs. Mulder put her hand on her son's forehead, shoving his head up and back. "Do you have another hole in your head, Fox?" she demanded.

Scully snickered and Mulder glared at her. She tried to hold it in.

"No, did you have another affair with some old fucking asshole whose trying to take over the world?" Mulder asked in the same even tone she'd used with him.

Scully laughed. She couldn't help it. No one whose last name was Mulder acknowledged her, which left her feeling like the outsider at the party.

"No," said Mrs. Mulder, "But I made chocolate chip-oatmeal-butterscotch-raisin-peanut butter cookies."

"With chocolate milk?" She nodded. "My favorite!" Mulder exclaimed and they trooped into the kitchen. Mulder crammed a pair of the truly sick looking cookies into his mouth until it was so full he could barely chew them. Mrs. Mulder politely offered one to Scully, but she couldn't bring herself to take one.

"Milk?" Mrs. Mulder asked her.

"I'm sorry, I don't consume dairy products," Scully said.

"Really," Mrs. Mulder said like it was the oddest thing she'd ever heard, something Scully found unbelievable from someone whose son believed his sister had been abducted by aliens and transformed into a green-blooded clone.

"I don't eat wheat or meat either," Scully said.

"No wonder you're so thin," Mrs. Mulder said like it was a bad thing.

"SCully, you don't?" Mulder asked, unfortunately giving her an eyeful of the cookies he was chewing. She thought she was going to be sick.

"Why did you come here, Fox?" Mrs. Mulder asked.

"Can't I come see my mommy?" he asked.

"You can, but you never do. I mean, you haven't asked me about the vaccuum cleaner or run downstairs to look in the basement yet and you've been here almost ten minutes," Mrs. Mulder pointed out.

"We're getting married," Mulder said.

"WHAT!" Mrs. Mulder jumped up, glaring at Scully.

Scully sat quietly at the table, twisting the ring around and around her finger.

"Is that the family heirloom ring your father gave me on our engagement!" Mrs. Mulder shrieked.

"No," Mulder said, looking like a poor abandoned pup. "You've still got that in the safe deposit box. For *Samantha.*" He whined. "I bought that ring myself at Barker Brothers."

"The discount store?" Scully mumbled.

"Scully, is something wrong?" Mulder asked.

"I feel kind of weird. Or, actually, I feel normal. Which is weird because I felt so abnormal at that house," Scully explained. "I don't know what we were doing, Mulder."

"What're you saying?" Mulder asked, barely breathing.

"I'm saying that I'm not sure we should get married, Mulder," Scully said. "There's so much to think about. Would we have to quit the X-Files? Whose apartment would we live in? Yours or mine? What if we had kids? We couldn't drag them around with us on cases, so one of us would have to quit. And if we get married, we'd hate to be argueing about somebody not having done the laundry or washing the dishes when there's mutants to be caught."

"Fox, this woman's bizarre," Mrs. Mulder stated, but no one was listening to her anymore.

"We could have a long engagement and work it out," Mulder suggested.

"Well.," Scully said. "I'm just not sure it would work. If we're together, it's like we're obligated to be happy and that...that just wouldn't work," she said.

"You think marriage makes you happy?" Mrs. Mulder asked.

"Yeah, you think marriage wouldn't give us even more to be miserable about?" Mulder asked. "It's not all rosebuds and apple pie."

"Especially when I'm allergic to roses and I don't eat apple pie," Scully said.

"See," Mulder said, his eyes bright. He glanced at his mother. "And my mother doesn't like you, that would cause problems."

"And my brother hates your guts," Scully remarked.

"We could have a fistfight at the wedding," Mulder promised.

"I'm not punching your mother," Scully said.

"I'm glad to hear it!" Mrs. Mulder said and when they looked at her, she was smiling. "I like this woman, Fox. You should marry her."

"Uh.," Mulder said, looking at Scully.

"In fact," said Mrs. Mulder, going to the kitchen cabinet and beginning to sort through recipe books, "I can make the wedding cake.

I'm sure I have a recipe here somewhere for something your finicky bride can eat. You know your sister was always a picky eater too."

"Let's don't go there," Mulder muttered. Scully rolled her eyes and nodded. Mulder shoved more cookies in his mouth and stared into space. "Mom," Mulder said suddenly. "What's that?"

"This old thing?" she asked, holding up her finger. "I'm getting married again."

"To who?" Mulder was filled with dread. Scully put her hand on his arm, worried as well.

"I believe you know him," she said.

"Hello, Fox," said the low voice of the man who came in from the yard dressed in overalls and a straw hat. He dropped his cigarette on the kitchen floor and stubbed it out. "Maybe we can have a double wedding."

Scully didn't catch Mulder when he fainted. He hit the floor with a dull thud. Serves him right, she thought.

**

When Mulder woke up, he was comfortably stretched out on a bed, think blankets wrapped around him, down pillows under his head, and an air conditioner in the window next to him, running full blast. He smiled and rolled over, wondering when his mother had bought a new bed and comforter and sheets and carpeting and had the walls painted. He stretched his arms out and then curled back up, deciding to ask her later.

"Morning sleepyhead." Scully's voice was warm and inviting and Mulder suddenly realized her was curled up in her incredibly comfortable bed.

He sat up confused. "How'd I get here?"

"After you passed out at your mom's I thought it might be best if we came home." She offered him a tall glass of water. "I also got your air conditioning fixed before we left, so you owe my Sears card $300."

He nodded, snagging her hand and checking. "You're still wearing it?"

She nodded. "I think your mom was just freaking me out." She kicked off her shoes and snuggled into bed next to him, wrapping her arms around his neck. "I really like having you here, even when you're unconscious."

He hugged her back, glad that they were still engaged. "How'd you get me up here?"

"You a lot more agreeable when you're out cold. In fact, I think I like you better unconscious." She grinned.

"How long was I out?"

"About 12 hours. Maybe you were just tired." She turned away from him and snuggled down to go to sleep.

"Scully, what are you doing? I just woke up."

"Yeah, but it's midnight. Time for bed."

He shrugged, not really tired, but willing to cuddle with her anyway, He draped an arm around her waist and buried his face in her hair and somehow managed to drift back to sleep.

**

He woke up a few hours later, made a phone call to the insurance company and his mother's friend Elizabeth. He wasn't keeping the house.

It was someone else's problem he decided. Then he wandered into the living room and sat down to watch TV. A huge electrical storm was raging outside and it was mere seconds before all the power in the apartment shut off. He glanced up at the mirror over Scully's fireplace and saw an eerie light whose source he couldn't discern. He closed his eyes when he stood up and walked past it, ignoring whatever it was that someone wanted him to see.

Cuddling back in bed with Scully, he whispered to her. "Let's get a new apartment and before we move in, we're having a priest bless it."

Scully mumbled something in her sleep that he decided was a yes.

Then he lay there and pondered how to tell his boss that he was marrying his partner and neither of them was going to accept a transfer.

"You're what?" Skinner screamed, standing up quickly to glower at Mulder and Scully, who were occupying their usual chairs in front of his desk.

"Getting married," Mulder said, taking Scully's hand.

"We're in love," Scully said, casting Mulder a sappy look.

"I think I'm gonna puke," Skinner muttered to no one in particular.

"If we wanted you to puke, we'd mention it's a double wedding with my mom and the smoking man," Mulder said.

Scully gagged.

"Are you...I mean, is this a shotgun wedding?" Skinner asked, looking nervously between Mulder and Scully.

"We're having a metal detector," Mulder explained. "I'm a little concerned about her brother Bill."

Scully shivered.

"Well you know he hates me," Mulder pointed out.

"Mulder, do Skinner's eyes look red to you?" Scully whispered.

"Sir, what're you doing?" Mulder asked. He jumped up from his chair just as Skinner pulled a particularly vicious looking letter opener from the pencil cup on his desk.

"I can't allow this!" Skinner rasped in a voice that sounded like a poor imitation of the devil in a third-rate horror movie.

"Mulder, it's the ghost! It followed us and possessed Skinner!" Scully cried.

Mulder didn't want to ask how she knew that. "What do you want me to do?" he demanded, pushing Skinner away. If the A.D. had had hair, Mulder would have pulled it.

"I don't know!" Scully screamed.

Skinner was getting the best of Mulder. "Do something!" Mulder yelled.

"Kimberly! Help!" Scully screamed, trying to pull Skinner away from Mulder, except her boss was a very solid man, so she didn't have much luck.

The red-haired secretary dashed in, tackling Skinner. Mulder rolled away, relieved. "thanks," he said as he set his clothes back to rights.

"Wha - what happened?" Skinner asked, blinking through his thrown-askew glasses.

"You were attacking Mulder," Kimberly said in almost a baby voice as she petted the side of Skinner's bald head. Skinner nodded.

"Everything's going to be okay," Kimberly promised.

"Okay," Skinner agreed, noticing that without his glasses on, Kimberly looked an awful lot like Scully.

"Mulder, I think we should leave them alone," Scully suggested, since the secretary was still sitting on Skinner's chest with no sign of getting up.

"Maybe you're right," Mulder replied. "I wonder if he was possessed at all." Mulder noticed that Kimberly looked a lot like Scully from the proper angle.

"What do you mean? Why else would he attack you like that?" Scully demanded.

Not wanting to suggest the boss had been jealous of their impending nuptuals, Mulder just shrugged.

Mulder was a little worried when Skinner called him down to his office the next morning, but he put on his brave face and went alone, without mentioning it to Scully. "Yes, sir, what's this about?" Mulder asked.

"I have a question for you, Mulder."

"What's that, sir?" Mulder asked, hoping this wouldn't involve a letter opener.

"Kimberly and I are getting married," Skinner said. "Can we make it a triple wedding?" He looked so hopeful. Mulder knew he must be hallucinating because Skinner was smiling.

"Why the hell not," Mulder agreed.

the end.

 


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