Title: Small Hauntings
Author: NeoxphileStory one in The Resurrection series
Category: Kidfic; Post-series.
Spoilers: Invocation; Emily; William
Disclaimer: Scully, Reyes, William, Mulder and Doggett are only being borrowed. Tabby is mine. All mine!
Summary: They were just little kids tagging along for Trick-or-treating. But why did we feel so afraid?
It was the first Halloween since Mulder and I had gotten our new house. And it was the first Halloween that Monica brought Tabby Trick-or-treating. You'd of thought that it would be a nice night, just two friends taking their little ones out to beg for candy. That's how it was supposed to be anyway. But not how it turned out at all.
October 31st, 2004
"I'm so sick of this case," Monica moaned to anyone who would listen. Mulder and Doggett just grunted.
After rolling my eyes at them, I turned to her. "I think we're almost through with it. We're bound to solve it sooner or later." My voice was full of false bravo, though. We were no closer to figuring out how the murder had been committed in a locked room than we ever were. Mulder had his usual wacky theories, but the rest of us were trying to think about things logically. And had been for a month.
Not that I'm complaining. It was nice to be on the X-Files. Almost half as nice as having William back home. That one threw me for a loop, since for the first three months after Mulder came home, I wracked my brain trying to think of ways to convince William's adoptive parents that it had all been a big mistake, and I was really sorry to destroy their dreams, but I wanted my little boy back now that his dad and I could form a nuclear family again. In the end, after I decided that it would be horribly selfish to demand him back, they gave him up in a panic.
It seemed that the shot that Jeffery Spender gave my son was a only a temporary damper, because the first time William cleared the dinner table with his mind, his new parents decided they weren't so keen on the family thing anymore. I felt a little indignation when the social worker called up to tell me that he'd been returned to them, and a lot of relief. It seemed to surprise the woman that I'd take him back, since she'd just wanted me to know they were looking for a new home for him.
Our son was almost two when we got him back, and he seemed to remember me. I can't prove it, but he called me Mama and went to my arms without crying, so that has to mean something, doesn't it? Mulder, on the other hand, did cry. And so did I-
"Dana, trick or treating starts at six, right?" Monica voice broke into my thoughts, and brought me back to the dingy basement office that was our second home.
"Um, yeah. Six. We're meeting at my house, right?"
"Sure. Wait until you see Tabby's costume. She looks adorable." Tabitha is hers and Doggett's firstborn, twenty months old. Due to be a big sister in five months.
"She always does," I said it mostly so I could see the look of pride on Doggett's face. He didn't boast much, but he was very proud of his little daughter.
About as proud as Mulder was of William. "William looks like a handsome little devil in his costume too," he remarked on cue.
"Yeah, I'm sure he's a regular little mister spooky pants," Doggett deadpanned. "The kids are going to clean up tonight."
"Maybe we should bring a wheelbarrow," Monica suggested. She sounded serious, but the corners of her lips twitched with her efforts not to grin.
"I almost wish I was going out with you guys tonight," Mulder said to us, and gave the cast on his ankle a rueful look.
I wished he was coming too, but two weeks earlier he'd taken a tumble on wet stairs and gotten unwanted proof that he's growing older. Hell, we all were.
The sun was fading and William was bouncing off the walls when I heard a knock.
"Oh, doesn't she look cute!" I couldn't help but exclaim as I opened the front door for Monica.
Playing shy, Tabby buried her face in her mother's neck. But a few seconds later she was grinning at me. "We go tick treat."
"I know. What are you going as?"
"Witch!" she squealed gleefully. Spying my son behind me she added, "'ill uh debil."
"Mommy, does she think I'm a gerbil?" William looked faintly insulted.
Monica laughed. "No Sweetie, she was trying to say devil."
"Then how come she didn't say-"
"Tabby is a lot smaller than you," I reminded him. "You had to learn how to say things correctly when you were a baby too."
His look suggested that he didn't believe that. "I don't remember that."
"Well I do, Kiddo." It was on the tip of my tongue to remind him of just last summer when green beans were bean beans and backpacks were pack packs.
"Where's your costumes?"
I was about to explain that grown ups usually didn't dress up for trick or treating, but Monica said, "We are dressed up."
"As what?!" A bit of Mulder's temperament shone through once in a while, like now. As if there was any doubt about his parentage.
"We're dressed as normal people. Your folks and I don't get to do that very often."
He groaned. I suppose it was just as well that she told him that; I wouldn't put it past Mulder to dress up next year. This way I was saved from complaints of "But you said...!"
Peering out the door, William turned to Monica and I with a scowl. "It's getting dark! You said we would go out as soon as it got dark."
"We're-" I trailed off when I heard a rhythmic thumping that could only be from Mulder's crutches.
"Hey! Don't I get a goodbye before I'm abandoned?"
I picked William up so he could give Mulder a kiss on his stubbly cheek. To be honest, I'd be glad when he could shave again. He'd rejected my offer to help, saying that he loved me, but didn't trust anyone to put a blade to his throat.
"We ain't abandoning you, Daddy. You're going to go play at John's."
Turning away, I hid my smile. Playing probably wasn't something Mulder or Doggett had in mind. Watching a couple of horror movies featuring screaming, big-breasted women was probably more their style.
Once we managed to parade outside, Doggett helped Mulder into his truck, then turned to address his wife. "Are you sure you're up to doing this?"
"I'm pregnant, not an invalid. No offense, Mulder," she added as an after thought.
"Whatever," Mulder grumbled. He was more focused on finding a comfortable position.
I leaned into the truck and kissed him. "See you in a few hours."
"Flashlights?" Doggett asked out the window after starting the truck.
We both held ours up to see, and William turned his on. He'd been thrilled ever since Mulder had bought it, since it was alien green which he claimed was his favorite color.
Doggett held up a hand to shade his eyes. "Have fun tonight, kids."
"Bye Dadee!" Tabby shouted, then they were off. We made sure both kids had their bags then set off ourselves.
Then we were off into the shadowy, rapidly growing dark, night. The moon was a gorgeous orange, and I tried to explain to William how rare it was for it to appear that color fully overhead, but he listened to scientific explanations about as well as his father. But at least Will has the excuse of only being three and a half. Mulder, on the other hand…
"Down, Mommy. Down!" Before Monica could reply, Tabby began to struggle in her arms, doing that back arching thing that toddlers are renowned for. It always amazes me that they seem to have no idea at all that if the person holding them did let go as they desired, they'd end up falling on their heads.
To spare her daughter brain damage, Monica did put her on her feet, but shot me a rueful smile. It would only be a matter of time before Tabby got bored of walking and demanded "Up!" instead.
Taking advantage of my distraction, William slipped his hand out of mine and surged ahead. "Come back here!"
"You're too slow!"
We caught up with him, and let him knock on the door. The old woman who answered seemed tickled by the kids' chorus of "Trick or Treat!" To be honest, I was a bit surprised to hear Tabby belt it out, since I could remember both William and Charlie being too shy to say anything the first time they went out. Then again, neither of her parents are the shy types, so maybe I shouldn't have been surprised.
The woman was rewarded by gleeful woops when she threw the first of the night's offerings into the bag. "Aren't you sweet?" she asked with a smile. Neither of them really heard her because they were tugging on us and demanding that we go on to the next house. Sugar lust filled their eyes.
Something else filled Monica's. "Is it dumb that I want to have her first piece of candy bronzed?" she asked over the kids' noise.
I shrugged, not wanting to tell her that it was. "I don't think candy would survive the process."
"You did her shoes anyway, didn't you?"
"Yeah. I guess you can't coat all your kid's firsts with metal, huh?"
"I can just see a market now for bronzed first diapers."
She was still laughing when we got to the next house.
They joined us about a block and a half away from the house. Neither Monica or I noticed them at first, not until we wondered why Tabby was looking behind her. "What?" her mother asked.
Tabby pointed a chubby little finger. "Boo."
Wondering what she meant, I turned around and looked. Three little kids were following us. All three were dressed in white sheets, Charlie Brown style.
"They're ghosts, right, Mommy?" William wanted to know.
"Yup. When I was little kids sometimes dressed up as ghosts like that because it was a cheap way to make a costume."
He looked puzzled. "Cheap? Like baby birds?" Guess he must have been thinking of the fair from the month before.
"No, the other cheap. Not too expensive."
"Expensive is a lot of money." William nodded sagely. He and Mulder have been discussing the price of things whenever the I-Wants overwhelm him.
I forgot about the kids until we got to the next house, and the man at the door remarked that the "five kids are so cute." Then I realized that they'd come up right behind us, and were quietly holding their bags open too.
They seemed awfully young to be out by themselves, the littlest one wasn't even as tall as William, but looking about, I didn't see an adult around running to catch up. Though it would never enter my mind to let kids only seven or eight shepherd around their little sister, maybe I'm jaded. Most people haven't seen the monsters I have, so maybe they're not as inclined to hold onto their kids as tightly as I hold onto mine.
A few houses later, and they were still following us around. That didn't strike me as normal, three little kids inserting themselves into our group like that. Weren't most little kids shy of strange grown ups? The thought occurred to me that maybe they weren't strangers after all. Maybe they were kids from our neighborhood, or the little one might be in William's preschool class.
"Hey William, do you know these guys?" I whispered to him.
"Who, the ghosts?" he whispered back loudly.
He wrinkled his nose. "Nope. I don't know any big kids."
Big kids? I guess the older two are big to a child his age. "Oh, okay."
If they weren't kids that William knew, why were they trailing after us like a small family of ducklings? Shaking my head, I thought of the most obvious answer - they'd thought that they were grown up enough to go out themselves, then gotten scared and decided to follow the first people they found. Us.
I turned towards them with a friendly smile. "Who are you little ghosts?" When they didn't answer, I added, "I'm Dana, and this is Monica. The kids are William and Tabby. What are your names?"
My hope was that I could get names out of them, in case they were lost. Unfortunately silence met the question. Were kids still being told not to talk to strangers these days? Since it was something I intended to teach Will, I supposed that a lot of parents did. Still, it was strange that they didn't say a word, not even trick or treat. Instead they silently held out their bags after letting our kids speak for them.
Though I'd given up, Monica soon decided to make her own attempt to get them to speak. "Do your parents know where you are?"
To my surprise, one of the two bigger ghosts nodded. Well, that was something.
I tried to push aside the nagging feeling that something wasn't right.
"Oh!" William's grip on my hand tightened as we approached a house. "Look at the pumpkins, Mommy!"
"Pritty," Tabby remarked.
"No Tabby, they're scary!" William insisted. Given that she wasn't old enough to argue yet, she didn't dispute his claim.
And neither did I. Maybe my impression was colored by my edgy mood, but I couldn't imagine pumpkins that look more evil. Squat and hugely round, their faces were gargoyles' sinister sneers. Even worse, the smoky light filling them was far too orange. It was though a piece of the bright orange moon had been shoved into each husk of former pumpkin. Because that's what Jack o' lanterns were, the hollowed shells of what was once a living plant, so similar to a body empty of organs after aut-
"Are you okay, Dana?"
"You just seemed a million miles away, and the look on your face suggested that wherever you were wasn't a nice place."
"I don't like those pumpkins," I blurted out, forgetting my resolve of never letting my child see me afraid of innocent things. "Um, I'm okay."
After the house owner threw candy in the kids' bags, I was careful not to look at the pumpkins as we walked away.
"Ahhhh!" William nearly jumped out of skin, and Tabby began to cry when a small black shape yowled and rocketed right at us. My own heart beat like a drum until the creature breached the circle of light my flashlight threw off. It stopped and cast an injured look backwards before licking itself.
"Midnight! You need to go back in," a man cried before gathering the cat up and petting it. He gave Monica and me a sheepish look. "I'm real sorry about scaring your kids. Midnight apparently wanted to see what was going on...I didn't know he was there until I stepped on his tail."
After he poured his slinky black pet in though the doorway, he returned with a large bowl of candy. "Here, let's give you extra candy to make up for scaring everyone."
I'd realized by then that he hadn't scared everyone; not one of our three little tag-alongs had reacted at all.
My favorite house was on the next block. Every year the family set up a small haunted house in their expansive basement, and they tailored how spooky it was to the youngest kids in a given group of trick or treaters. We'd arrived just as another few preschoolers and parents did, so it was sure to be tame. William unexpectedly grabbed Tabby's hand and rushed ahead. The ghosts weren't far behind.
I was about to go after them when Monica touched my arm. "Let them have fun. I want to talk to you a minute."
"Is it just me, or are those kids creepy?"
My relief was palatable. "Oh, thank god. I thought it was just me."
She shivered a little. "The way they follow us around without a word, you'd almost think they were real ghosts."
"Huh. But gh-"
Several shrill shrieks began to come from the far corner of the basement. Whipping my head towards the sounds, my eyes passed over William and Tabby and centered on another group of children: several preschoolers – and the ghosts.
Even at a distance, we could hear one of the mothers talking loudly to Jake, the house's owner. "No no, you guys didn't do anything over the top. Betsy turned around and saw these little fellows and lost it, scaring the other kids. It's no one's fault, Betsy's awfully high strung. If I were one of her parents I'd..."
By then William and Tabby had finished going through the haunted house, and had come back to us. And the other kids had drifted back too. I groaned inwardly; I'd hoped that they'd want to stay here and we'd be rid of them, but apparently not.
At what point do you decide enough is enough, even when it means being mean to small children? As the hour closed in on eight, I was beginning to get to that point myself, bare inches from screaming at the kids to get lost. These children weren't my responsibility, and I was beginning to seriously resent the fact that I felt obligated to keep an eye on them too, not just our kids, when they strayed too close to the road. Oh sure, I could have just let them run out in front of cars, but I'm not the type of person who could turn a blind eye to children's peril, so I was stuck with the task of keeping not two children safe, but five.
Paradoxically, my brain also insisted that they weren't really doing anything wrong at all. They were just walking near us, and it was their right to do so. They hadn't done anything to harm us, and it had only been by accident that they'd scared those little kids at the haunted house.
Even still, I kept looking at their hands as they held out their bags for treats. Small hands, with clean, trimmed fingernails. Not claws. Not bones. Just ordinary little hands. Monica's comment about them seeming like real ghosts had obviously gotten to me.
Although the official end to Trick or Treating was ten pm, both of the kids were tired out by quarter to nine. Tabby had long since held her arms up to be carried, and William's feet were dragging. If I hadn't offered to carry Tabby a while, I'm sure he'd have been whining to be picked up too. As it was his "I'm a big boy" veneer was wearing pretty thin by the time we circled back to our own neighborhood.
Stopping short in front of the house, I addressed the ghostly trio. "This is the end of the line, kids. We're home. I bet your parents are expecting you to be home too."
One of the ghosts slowly shook its head.
"I can't make you go home, but it's time for us to say good-bye," I told them. "Stay out of trouble, and look out for cars, okay?"
We'd only gotten a few feet when William came to a sudden halt and looked behind him. "No, you go away!"
To my amazement, they were still following us, right up the driveway. "We said good-bye, remember? It's time for you to go home or go to some more houses, but you can't come with us."
My mistake was thinking that they'd gotten the picture. When they just stood there, we walked up to the house. I passed Tabby back to Monica, and opened the door. A backward glance showed me that they hadn't left yet, but at least they'd stopped following us.
But when we got to the living room, they were there.
"What the hell?" Monica yelped, which was the only proof I had that I wasn't hallucinating. "How did they get in here before we did?"
That was something I was wondering myself. The door had been locked, and I'd checked the back door before we left. Even if the back door had been open, how could they have run around the house and beat us into the living room? It didn't make any sense. Yet there they were, standing quietly in the center of the room.
"Look kids, I thought I was clear before. You've got to go."
All three of them shook their heads.
"What do you mean, no?" These kids were really beginning to piss me off. Who did they think they were?
"Go home!" William shouted, obviously picking up on my mood. He took a threatening step towards them before I could restrain him.
Then the lights went out.
When I reached out and pulled him back, they came back on.
"Guess we're having a storm," Monica said, and I could detect a slight bit of fear in her voice. No wonder, there was no sign out the window that a storm was brewing.
"Are you kids old enough to know what trespassing means?" When they didn't respond in anyway, I explained. "Trespassing is when you go into someone's house when they don't want you to. I don't want you here, so you're going to have to leave."
Three small heads shook defiantly.
"Yes, you're leaving. Who are you kids anyway? If you won't go on your own, you're small enough for me to carry out of the house."
I took a step towards them, hoping to spook them into bolting, but as soon as I did the entire room began to tremble, as if in the midst of a small earthquake. Startled, I took a step back, and it stopped.
When William let out a small moan, I realized that I'd tightened my grip on his hand. Ashamed, I loosened my hold before dealing with our little interlopers. It was crazy, but I was somehow sure that the power blip and the shaking had something to do with these kids. I had to get rid of them before something worse happened.
"This isn't funny anymore!" I shouted at the three silent figures. "Take off those costumes off right this minute. You are going to be in so much trouble when I speak to your parents..."
Like ordinary children, they seemed to hesitate when I mentioned them getting into trouble with their parents. Eventually, however, small hands reached for costume hems, and pulled costumes slowly up over their heads.
When I screamed, Monica nearly dropped Tabby. After adjusting her hold on her daughter, she turned to me, seemingly puzzled by my look of horror.
I do understand why. The removed ghost costumes hadn't revealed anything grotesque, just three typical looking children. Yet I couldn't help it that my reaction was one of utter terror. She hadn't been on that case with Doggett and I, so she couldn't know what I did. Maybe she hadn't even seen the pictures. I'm sure all she saw was three little kids, one brunette and two blondes.
William looked ready to cry, so Monica was quick to try and reason with me. "Dana!" she hissed. "What's wrong with you?"
"Don't you see it?" I knew my voice was shaky, edged with barely restrained panic.
"All I see is three little kids."
"They're kids, but which kids they are..." When Monica's only response was to stare at me, I extended a finger and pointed at one of the children. "You must know him."
I think she was about to dismiss the idea when she decided to study the boy instead. At first glance he was about seven, with blond hair, and blue eyes like both of the girls. Unfazed by my reaction, he merely looked back at Monica with a calm expression.
"I don't..." Monica trailed off, squinting at the boy. "I know I've seen him before, but..."
"Not in person?" I suggested. I was about to say more when she figured it out.
"Luke." She covered her mouth in horror. He merely smiled at her, revealing a missing front tooth.
"I knew you'd figure it out," I said hollowly. "Luke. And Emily. And Samantha."
"But he's dead. They're all dead!" It seemed as though my panic was contagious. In Monica arms Tabby began to cry, and William looked scared to death.
Those three, though, were serenely calm. I took a shuddering breath and looked away from them. "They're obviously not now."
"This is impossible!" Monica insisted, then murmured to her daughter, trying to sooth her.
William tugged on my hand. I didn't look down, because I knew he was going to ask who they were. How did I explain to him that his dead sister and his dead aunt were standing in front of us, looking no older than the last time anyone saw them?
Smiling faintly, Luke spoke up in a sweet little boy's voice. "He said we could."
At first I had no idea what he was talking about, then I put the pieces together. Luke was talking about the party last week. I didn't know what to say. How could I tell them that Doggett had only been joking?
Sorry kids, that wasn't a real offer of permission. Please go back to being dead now. It's been nice seeing you.
I put William's hand in Monica's free one, then walked over to Emily and touched her. My fingers felt solid flesh, much like the last time I'd touched her. For a fraction of a second I had the urge to swing her up into my arms and settle her on my hip, the way I used to dream of after she died. But it passed when I recalled another child seemingly returned to life. He'd felt real too.
"Mommy," Emily said softly, forcing me to look her in the eyes.
She spoke. I didn't know what to think of that. The ghost Doggett and I had seen seemed flesh and blood too, but he was silent. Just like these three had been all night. Until now.
Staring at them hard, I was at a loss about what to do. If this was some sort of macabre joke, perpetrated by God or the universe, I'd get over it.
But if they were really alive, what were we supposed to do next?
Author's notes: This fic was written for the "Dead Kid Resurrection" Challenge. I write a Halloween fic every year, but I missed this challenge in 2004 in favor of writing Safe as Houses. The challenge is reopened for this Halloween, so please consider writing a fic for it too.
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