Title: Cats and Cross-dressers
A Halloween tale within the Hurricane Season Universe
Author: beduini
Rated PG-13


"Oh, no. No." Dana Scully drew in a deep breath, then shook her head decisively. "No."

But Fox Mulder could not be put off that easily. "Come on, Scully, it'll be fun," he prompted from the living room floor, where just a foot away, their son slept peacefully sprawled out on his back underneath a colorful baby gym.

She stared at him from across the room, and folded her arms over her chest. "Fun." She snorted humorlessly. "Mulder, I've been on my feet since seven-thirty this morning. I taught three classes and then conducted a complete autopsy, not to mention the fact that I had to skip lunch just so I could make it home by four, as you so emphatically insisted in bed at five a.m. this morning. I'm tired, I want to drink my tea, Mulder, and sit down with my son. Trudging around my mother's neighborhood, gathering candy that he can't even eat - and I wouldn't let him eat even if he could - is not my idea of fun."

Rising to his feet, he smiled to himself. It had been a while since he'd heard her particular way of turning a defensive phrase, not to mention seeing that specific dig-her-heels-in stance. This woman worked alongside him the better part of eight years. This woman challenged, charmed, stimulated, annoyed, amused and infuriated him. Sometimes, he really missed working with her, even if he did get to share DNA and sleep next to her every night in the exchange.

"Your mother really wants to see him," he said, turning on the charm as he joined her at the dining room table. "She promised all the neighbors her little grandson would make the rounds this evening." As if she were holding up a piece of evidence, Scully used her thumbs and forefingers to carefully lift a fuzzy yellow hooded sleeper out of the lone box on top of the table. Embroidered on the hood of the garment were two round eyes, completed by an orange felt beak, which sat like a visor over the opening for the face.

Her forehead creased as she squinted dubiously at the item. "You bought our son a chicken costume?"

"It's a duck. A duckling, actually."

He'd seen the costume in a shop window while on his usual father-son stroll around Georgetown, but the visual wasn't what prompted him to buy it. Gathering the soft material in his fist, he pulled it away from her and pushed a finger into the middle of the sunny fluff until a series of quacks rattled out into the still air. It made him chuckle, even though he'd been playing with the garment since he'd purchased it that morning. With only an infant to entertain all day long, he was forced to get his jollies wherever he could find them. She stared at the duck suit, one eyebrow cocked, wondering how much of this was spur-of-the-moment and how much of it was planned. "I suppose you already told my mother about this."

Mulder's smile fell slightly as he looked down at the costume in his hands. "Uh, would that be a bad thing?"

A faint whistling noise broke in from the kitchen, and he watched her turn and walk over to the stove, snapping off the burner underneath the teakettle. He was tenacious, though, and still clutching the costume, he followed her into the kitchen. "Where's your Halloween spirit, Scully?" he asked.

"Since when did you become imbued with the spirit of Halloween, Mulder?" she asked in response, her back still turned to him as she moved the kettle. "In the eight - no - nine years that I've known you, I don't recall one incident of Halloween spirit." She tilted her head to the side in thought as she unwrapped a teabag, dropping the bag into a teacup waiting on the counter. "You've alleged encounters with all kinds of ghouls and goblins, yes," she said. "Spectors and shamen, a beast woman, a flukeman, vampires..."

Mulder opened his mouth to refute her use of the word alleged, but there was no room for interjection - and she was just getting warmed up.

"...gender-switching puritans, mutants that eat not only fat and liver, but also cancer...Eddie Van Blundht, whatever the hell he was -"

"A loser?" Mulder replied.

Scully ignored the comment, still running down her list as she poured the hot water from the kettle into the cup. The scent of peppermint wafted up with the steam. "A succubus, a golem, a tulpa, a werewolf, a jinniyah..." she paused to breathe in the warm mint air, her shoulders rising and falling as she briskly dunked her teabag. "And Mulder, not once did any of these encounters happen on October 31st."

Mulder shrugged. "With work like that, who needs trick or treating? Besides, I didn't have a kid then."

"Your kid is only five months old, Mulder," she replied. "He should be home in his crib, not traipsed around in the night air dressed like a chicken."

"Duckling," he corrected her, automatically setting off a new round of quacking from the fluff still bunched up in his hands. He looked down at it briefly, then tucked it behind his back. "And your mother told me Halloween was one of your favorite holidays. She said you used to love to dress up in costume, even in college."

Scully blew out a sigh, and glanced at him over her shoulder. "That was one year out of four, Mulder, that I happened to be home on Halloween." She was starting to go with the idea that some planning had gone into his proposal. Of course, he had been playing Mr. Mom for just over a week and already displayed all the major symptoms of cabin fever.

"Come on, Scully, I know you're not immune to it. I found your stash of Crunch bars, and there's no way you can convince me that you bought four bags just to have chocolate around when you want it."

"I bought five bags, Mulder."

"You sure?" he asked, trying to sound innocent. They both knew what became of the fifth bag.

He stepped closer, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her back against his chest, the yellow sleeper cushioning the place between her belly and his palms. Her body softened against his, and he knew then her resolve was not as definite as she would like him to think. "We'll take our little duckling out to your mom's for an hour, let everyone coo over him, overindulge ourselves on his booty and still be home in time to hand out Crunch bars to the greedy little neighbors."

She was silent a moment. Plan or no plan, she reasoned, he could have told her sooner. But she could see he wanted to do it, and besides, his power of persuasion was no small part of his charm. "But I don't have a costume," she argued one last time, knowing that the decision to go had already been made.

Mulder grinned. Maggie Scully had been right - his beloved did have a soft spot for Halloween. "So go as yourself. Or throw a sheet on and go as a ghost, we've got a little time."


He found Scully standing in front of the vanity mirror in the bathroom, wearing a black leotard, sheer tights and high-heeled black shoes with straps that buckled at her ankles. While most of her skin was covered, the ensemble left little to the imagination. Or maybe too much, he couldn't decide. Either way, he was surprised at her choice, though he knew he shouldn't be. She never failed to surprise him.

"That's your costume?" he asked lightly, stepping up behind her and watching her face in the mirror.

She looked up, meeting his eyes. "It will be when I'm finished."

He blinked at her without recognition. "You're going as a Yoga instructor?"

She rolled her eyes. "I'm a cat."

"A cat?" He looked her over, his gaze a little too lingering, perhaps. He could see the cat in her, but that had little to do with her clothing. She was feline by nature.

Her makeup bag was open on the counter beneath her, and she pulled out a slim black tube. "I'm going to draw whiskers and a little black nose on my face."

"Wow. That's original."

She gave him a pointed look underneath an arched brow as she screwed the lid off the black tube.

He laughed. "When I was in school, every year on Halloween some girl would always wear a black leotard and say she was a cat."

"Well, this is all I have," she replied. In her hand she held a tiny little brush, and somewhere in the back of his memory he recognized it as mascara.

"I'm not complaining, Scully. You wear it well. Besides, it was always one of the cute girls." He leered for good measure, and she ignored it, as they both knew she would. "But I think a bunny costume would be much more interesting. I could make you some white shirt cuffs, a bow-tie and a fluffy little white tail."

"I'm not going to my mother's house dressed as a Playboy bunny, Mulder."

"Oooo, later, then? A private costume party just for yours truly?" She pumped her mascara brush into its tube a few times. "Is this some weird fantasy you've yet to tell me about?"

"It is now."

"I'll take that into consideration, along with all of the other casually mentioned scenarios on the list," she said, lifting the brush to her eyelashes and sweeping it deftly from root to tip. Her mouth was open, and Mulder watched her, fascinated by her deft skill at handling the small brush.

"You know, I think women like dressing in skimpy costumes on Halloween. The skimpier the better."

She put the mascara away and smiled softly to herself as she sorted through her makeup bag. "You think so? Is that your assessment as a psychologist or a red-blooded male?"

"Both. I think it makes you feel feminine. Empowered. It fulfills a subconscious desire to let go of your inhibitions for a night."

"And you think that applies only to women?"

"No, it's not gender-specific, actually. Besides the temporary transformation of self, one of the reasons Halloween remains so popular in our society, as well as other celebrations such as Carnival, Shrovetide and Mardi Gras, is the implied license to engage in games and good cheer. Trick or treat, Scully."

She pulled a long black pencil from the bag, and touched it lightly to the outside corner of her eye. "I was always in it for the candy."

He grinned at the obvious opening she left for him. "Want some candy, little girl?"

She snorted softly, moving the pencil to the corner of her other eye. Mulder watched her with rapt interest.

"You know, I could dress up as a woman," he said.

She glanced up in the mirror, catching his eye. "You mean for Halloween?"

He pressed his lips together and gave her a discriminating look, which made her chuckle softly.

"What is it with men and women's clothing?" she asked. "When I was in school, some guy or a group of guys, usually from the football team, always dressed up like a woman on Halloween."

"I don't know. Maybe all of those years working in the J. Edgar Hoover building is finally making an impression on me."

She bit back a smile. "You're not touching my clothes, Mulder, even if you could fit into them."

"You don't have any of those maternity things laying around?"

His question was met with silence, which soon took over the mood of the small room. They'd touched upon a tender subject, one that neither of them had broached until that moment. She pretended to be rummaging through her makeup bag again. "I put them away."

He pondered her response, and found there was something more to it. "Away, as in, 'saving them' away?" he asked, and moved closer, resting his chin on top of her shoulder. She didn't reply, and he added, softly, "In case you might need them again?"

"If it happened once it could happen twice," she replied, quietly. He kept his tone neutral. "It could."

She didn't reply.

"Scully -" he started, hoping that she hadn't already set her heart on something that could easily turn to disappointment.

She looked up then, searching his eyes. "How would you feel about that?"

He held her look. Stopping her from wanting another child was as impossible as trying to stop the sun from rising or the moon from setting. They both knew the first time was nothing short of a miracle. A second time wasn't any more likely. But they knew it wasn't impossible, either.

"Like the luckiest man in the world," he replied honestly. "Twice over."

Their gaze lingered and turned warm, mouths turning up in soft, knowing smiles. Then she lifted the black pencil again, drawing three horizontal lines across her cheek. "So you're not dressing up at all?" she asked while repeating the lines on her other cheek. He bit the corner of his lip, still watching her. "I could dress up as your average basement-dwelling FBI agent."

"You know, I wouldn't mind seeing you in one of those suits again."

"You like the suits?"

A soft smile bloomed on her face. "I admit, there was something about you in a suit and tie that always caught my eye, Mulder." "Scully..." he looked at her, surprised. "I could arrange a private viewing, if you'd like."

A pink glow warmed her cheeks. "I'd like."

"Okay...I've changed my mind. Let's stay in tonight."

She shook her head, zipping her makeup bag closed. "Nope. Too late, I'm ready to go."

He took a step back, and allowed her to precede him out of the bathroom, watching her hips sway in the tight leotard.

"So, Josie, don't you need ears and a tail?"

"I made them already," she replied, stopping short when she entered the bedroom and spied the huge ball of yellow fuzz rolling around in the crib. Her little miracle.

Mulder stepped around her, walked over to the crib and picked up his little duckling. "Hey buddy," he said, lifting him into the air above his head. "Show your mommy how cute you are, just like we rehearsed."

"Mmmffff," was the slobbery reply, complete with waving fists and chubby kicking legs. Mulder laughed and lowered him back down, cradling him against his chest with one arm while he pulled the hood over the infant's head so that Scully could get the full effect. Leaning against the door frame, Scully watched with raised eyebrows, and shook her head. But she smiled to herself as she crossed the room to add the finishing touches to her costume.


Maggie Scully lived alone, and while her taste bordered on elegant, the ghosts of family and the memories of many shared holidays still filled the rooms of her house. It was a comfortable house - a home, with photographs on the mantle and souvenirs collected from childhood events and travels to faraway and not-so-faraway places. Mulder and Scully sat in the middle of the living room sofa with the baby perched on Scully's lap. Maggie's long-time neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Vargas, had come by for a quick visit, and they sat in the armchairs opposite them. Maggie was in the kitchen, preparing coffee.

Of course, everyone's attention was focused on the baby.

"What's his name again?" Old Mr. Vargas asked loudly, leaning forward to catch as much sound as he could with his good ear. "William," Scully replied, shifting her duckling on her lap. "Wim for short."

"Like Captain Scully, dear," Mrs. Vargas added, patting her husband's arm.

"Actually, he's named for Mul-"

Scully stopped when a sleek black cat hopped up onto the coffee table and sat down like it belonged there, nonchalantly cleaning its whiskers. She was still staring when her mother entered the living room with a fresh pot of coffee.

"Oh, I see you've met Whiskers," she said with a smile, pouring a cup of decaf for each of them.

"Whiskers?" Scully asked, her brow crinkled in confusion. "This is your cat?"

Maggie nodded. "Mmm hmm. I found her on my front porch when I came back from the beach. Didn't I tell you?"

"No." Scully squinted at the cat, and it suddenly leaped onto Mulder's lap, flopping down on its side across his thighs, the tip of its tail twitching. Wim squealed in delight, tossing his arms up and down in the air.

Mulder reached down and scratched the cat behind the ears, setting off its internal motor. The cat blinked its yellow eyes and purred in contentment. Amused, Mulder looked at Scully, flashing her a grin.

"Irene was just telling me how long it had been since she last saw you, Dana," Maggie said, sitting down next to her daughter on the sofa after serving the coffee. "She mentioned that it was our family dinner several years ago, just after Billy accepted his commission at Miramar."

"That's right," Mrs. Vargas replied. "I think it must be four or five years now, at least. I remember how handsome Bill looked in his uniform."

"Captain Scully's name was Bill," Mr. Vargas said, as if he were imparting the wisdom of the ages.

"It was, dear," Mrs. Vargas assured him before turning back to the conversation. "I've been looking forward to seeing you tonight, Dana. That basket on the coffee table there is for you. Don't forget to take it home, now."

Mulder glanced down at the basket at the same time Scully did, quickly estimating at least three-dozen cookies along with half a dozen caramel apples and an assortment of chocolate. Homemade. There were also a few small children's books tucked along the sides. Although he didn't know Mr. and Mrs. Vargas, he guessed that they didn't give baskets like that to just anyone.

"Thank you, Mrs. Vargas," Scully replied with a broad smile. Mrs. Vargas returned the smile, and it was clear to Mulder that Scully was not unaccustomed to such generosity.

Mr. Vargas was shaking his head, blinking at the little golden bundle of joy on Scully's lap. "She said his name was Jim," he declared.

"What was that, dear?" Mrs. Vargas asked, turning to him.

"The baby!" he cried, his voice rising, as if she were the one hard of hearing. "She said his name was Jim, not Bill!"

Whiskers hopped off Mulder's lap and disappeared into the dining room, and Mulder glanced over at Scully with eyebrows raised, just as the grandfather clock began to chime five o'clock.

"Oh, dear," Mrs. Vargas said. "We'd better get home. Vernon likes his supper at five-thirty, and you've got quite a few people to call on before it gets dark." She smoothed her dress down over her thin hips, and slipped her hand through Mr. Vargas' arm, subtly encouraging him to stand. They all stood along with them, and Scully handed the baby over to Mulder, following them to the door.

"It certainly was a pleasure to finally meet you, Fox," Mrs. Vargas said to Mulder. "I've seen you come and go from time to time, of course, and I've heard so much about you from Maggie and Dana."

Her comment caught Mulder by surprise, and he smiled. "Thank you, it was a pleasure meeting you, too. Both of you."

"Thank you for stopping by, Irene," Maggie said, warmly, offering the older woman a friendly hug. "Vernon, it's good to see you, too," she added, louder.

"Give my best to the Captain," Mr. Vargas said on his way out the door. Mrs. Vargas shook her head, then turned to Scully.

"Dana," she smiled, affectionately. "Come by and visit some time, dear," she said, enveloping her in a motherly hug. "He's just lovely," she added softly. "Both of them."

Scully hugged her back, and whispered, "Thank you, Mrs. Vargas. I will."

Mrs. Vargas pulled back slowly, still smiling, then shared a look with Maggie before turning to help her husband down the front steps. Scully watched as her mother closed the door, quickly brushing her hair back from her face before turning to face her daughter. She might have been brushing away tears, but from where he stood, Mulder wasn't sure. Maggie affected a smile, but Scully's eyes were solemn.

"Alzheimer's," Scully said.

 

Maggie drew in a deep breath, releasing it in a rush. "Yes."

Scully was stunned. "When?"

"He was diagnosed about a year ago." Mulder did the math, and knew why Maggie hadn't told her daughter the news. Scully was dealing with enough unhappiness of her own at that time.

"Who's his G.P.?" Scully asked.

"Doctor Ramlakahn. She's been taking very good care of him."

Scully nodded, shifting her weight from foot to foot. Her thoughts were written all over her face. She was a medical doctor - surely she could do something. "I'd like to talk to Mrs. Vargas. There's a new medication recently approved by the FDA I was just reading about -"

"Dana -" Maggie cut her off with a stern voice, shaking her head. "He's in good hands. Irene is taking care of him. She needs this as much as he does."

Scully drew in a slow breath, but said nothing more. Maggie glanced up at Mulder and offered him a tight-lipped smile.

"Fox, let me hold my grandson."

Mulder handed Wim over to Maggie, but he was still thinking about Mr. and Mrs. Vargas. No one had mentioned children, and he had the feeling that there weren't any. At least, not of their own. Based on Scully's reactions, his own observations and the gift basket, he was willing to bet that at some point, Scully may have become a surrogate child or grandchild for the couple.

" - or we'll still be out when it gets dark," Scully was saying. Mulder blinked and looked at her, focusing his attention back to the inhabitants of the immediate room. "So how many houses are we visiting tonight?"

Scully and her mother exchanged a look, communicating silently with knowing smiles.

"A few," Scully said, cryptically. She reached down to the coffee table for the cup of decaf still waiting for her, and plucked a cookie out of the basket.

"Any of them haunted?" Mulder teased.

Scully looked up at her mother again and bit into the cookie before responding, "Yes, actually. Mr. and Mrs. Vargas' house."


The sun had set long before they made their way back up the road toward Maggie's house, and the older ghouls and goblins, Harry Potters and Power Puff Girls were already filling the streets. Scully's 'few' turned out to be a total of fourteen homes - each set of inhabitants a new introduction for Mulder as well as baby William. Some Scully knew well, and others she had met only once or twice.

The evening was warm due to the low clouds that covered the nighttime sky - the reflection of the metropolitan city lights cast the world into a dark, warm auburn rather than a cold black. Multi-colored leaves covered the sidewalks and well-manicured lawns of Maggie's neighborhood, crunching a steady tempo under their feet. Walking between Mulder and Maggie, Scully had her hands tucked up under her arms, her leotard proving limited warmth, even on this temperate evening.

Mulder had offered her his jacket, but she'd opted for vanity over reason when it came to her Halloween costume. She said it would ruin the effect if she walked around with a big black leather jacket hanging down to her knees, covering the leotard and tail. He wondered if he was ever going to figure this woman out.

"I can't believe Lucy's daughters are both in college already," she was telling her mother, while Mulder pointed out to his son the carved jack-o-lanterns that were glowing in windows and perched on doorsteps. Maggie responded with something about high school and babysitting and Wim kicked his feet and stuck out his tongue, blowing spit bubbles and making happy noises - which closely resembled the noises he made when he soiled his diaper.

A large group of rough marauders passed by, shining flashlights over the street and in each other's faces as a chorus of children's voices sang "trick or treat!" a few houses over. When he wasn't focused on his son or trying to follow the conversation, Mulder's thoughts alternated between wishing he were a kid again; the best candy to score; trying to remember the names of the people he'd just met and probably never see again; and Scully's ass.

She had a point about the effect of the costume - in his opinion, she was sexy as hell.

"Nice pussy...cat," some kid called out a few steps away, as if he'd followed Mulder's train of thought. Mulder turned and looked back over his shoulder, and there was accompanying laughter. Scully ignored the comment, while Maggie merely sighed and shook her head. Kids these days, they each thought privately. What are you gonna do? Mulder sniffed the air, then his son, deciding those hadn't been happy noises, after all.

"Time for a new diaper," he informed mother and grandmother. On their left, where the street they were walking down and the next cross street formed a "T", there loomed a large, twisted oak tree, and behind it sat a two-story house with clapboard siding and leaded glass windows. The front porch light was on, but the neighborhood kids who had just passed deliberately avoided the house.

"What, they hand out lousy candy?" Mulder asked aloud as another large group of children suddenly crossed the street in front of them, steering a clear path around the large house. "Boxes of raisins?"

A few kids glanced over at him nervously, and Scully leaned her shoulder into him as they walked. "That's Mr. and Mrs. Vargas' house," she said, as if she were taking him into confidence. Sure enough, they had already reached Maggie's house, and she stopped, looking up and holding his gaze with a knowing lift of her brow. "The one that's haunted?" he asked with interest, turning his head to look at the house once more. This time, he admitted to himself, it did look intriguing. They had visited a haunted house once, and it had been a surreal, eye-opening experience.

Scully caught the look in his eye. You can take the boy out of the basement, but you can't take the curiosity out of the boy, she told herself.

"So what's the story?" he asked.

"Oh!" Maggie interrupted, looking at her wristwatch. "It's eight o'clock! I made arrangements with Tara to video conference over the Internet." They all started up the walkway, and Maggie pulled out her house keys to unlock the door. "Be careful not to let Whiskers out. He's been declawed and wouldn't fare well in the outside world, the poor darling."

She got the door unlocked and opened without the cat anywhere to be seen, but Mulder stopped Scully from following her inside. "Scully - story."

She looked at him, then reached out and slipped her index finger into Wim's hand. His little fingers closed around her big one, and she smiled, jiggling his hand. Mulder really was lucky to be the one to stay at home with him, but she knew her partner needed something more to stimulate his brilliant, agile mind.

"Her name was Amanda Lynn Madison," she said. "She was the daughter of the house's previous owners, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Madison. They lived there through the depression, and moved out in the early forties. The Vargas' bought the house from them just after World War II."

Mulder nodded, encouraging her to continue. Scully dropped Wim's hand, and crossed her arms in front of her, leaning back against the porch railing. She wore that look - the one she got when she knew she had his attention and she had something to say that was of interest to him.

"Amanda Lynn Madison died of pneumonia in 1942," she said. "At thirteen. However, those who have seen her apparition report seeing a younger child, blonde, about seven or eight."

"So the haunting has nothing to do with her death," Mulder replied. "She's here for another reason. Something that happened before - something unresolved."

Scully nodded. "That's...one explanation."

He grinned, clearly enjoying himself. "Okay, Scully, I showed you mine, you show me yours."

She smiled cryptically, just as fond of the repartee as he was. "She likes it there."

"Scully. Are you telling me you actually believe there is a ghost of a little girl living next door?"

She shook her head. "I didn't say that. What I am saying is -" Just then, Wim let out a mournful wail. His face was scrunched up and scarlet, and Scully stepped forward, pulling him out of Mulder's arms and into her own.

"Alright, sweetie, I understand," she purred. "Let's get you changed." She entered the house, dropping the previous conversation and leaving Mulder standing on the porch, staring at the neighbors' house.


Mulder caught up with Scully in the bathroom just off the den, which had a long counter that worked out well for changing diapers. "Go on and join your mom if you want, Scully," he told her. "I can handle this." She paused, and looked at him with slight incredulity. Diaper duty was not his favorite detail. He added a smile of reassurance, and she nodded, slinking off to join her mother in front of the computer.

He was nearly finished replacing Wim's diaper when he heard Tara Scully's voice chiming through the computer's speakers.

"Oh, Dana's there, too!" she exclaimed. "Isn't this great! It's almost like we're all together in the same room!"

Mulder grinned as he slid Wim back inside of his duckling costume. It had been his idea to set up video conferencing so Maggie could keep in touch with the Scullys on the West Coast. When Bill Scully had decided to take early retirement from the Navy, he'd accepted a civil service position at China Lake Naval Weapons Center in California's Mojave Desert, much to the dismay of his wife, Tara, who wanted to move back to the East Coast to be near family. This was a way to help ease the distance, and Bill had gladly put out the money for the equipment.

"Gwanma, Auntie Dana, wook at me!" a child's voice exclaimed. It was Matthew, Bill and Tara's son, who was nearly four years old. "I a piwate!"

"I see," Maggie replied, with a grandmother's indulgence. "And a handsome pirate, too."

"I go get candy, too! Wotsa candy!"

"Some candy," Tara qualified before turning back toward the camera. "He's been excited for days, ever since we got him the costume. I had to hide it in the back of the closet because he kept trying to put it on every time my back was turned."

Mulder snapped up the sleeper, positioned the hood over Wim's head, and picked up his son, carrying him into the den to join Scully and Maggie. Maggie was sitting in front of the nineteen inch monitor, and Scully was standing next to her mother with her arms crossed in front of her.

"There was a Halloween party on base Saturday, and...hey!" Tara exclaimed as Mulder walked into the room. "Look who's here, Matthew! It's your baby cousin."

"Wim! Wim! Wim!" Matthew chanted, his little form hopping up and down.

"Hi, Mulder," Tara said, with a quick wave.

"Hi," Mulder smiled back, and Wim squealed, almost as if he recognized the people on the screen. It had been weeks since he'd last seen them, but with his son, Mulder wasn't going to rule out the possibility. He recognized the early signs of genius. "What an adorable costume!" Tara added. Mulder pressed on Wim's belly, setting off the quacking noise, and Tara laughed. "You look cute, too, Dana."

"Thank you," Scully replied, trying to sound casual and not to let on that she was cold. "So where's Bill?"

"He should be home any minute. I sent him out to buy more candy since he already got into the candy I bought last week."

At that moment, Maggie's doorbell rang.

"I'll get it," Mulder offered, handing off Wim to Scully.

"The candy bowl is on the dining room table," Maggie called after him.

Mulder snagged the huge Tupperware bowl off of the table on his way through the dining room, and crossed the living room in a few quick strides. When he pulled open the front door, he was greeted by a motley group of masquerading children.

"Trick or treat!"

Half a dozen plastic pails and pillowcases were thrust forward, and he laughed, grabbing fistfuls of candy out of the bowl and dropping the loot into the goody bags. "Thank you!" each kid said as their bag was filled, turning and rushing down the stoop to get to the next house and the next bowl of candy.

Mulder grinned, watching the last kid trot down the steps. Just as he was closing the door, he felt something brush past his ankle. He looked down just in time to see Whiskers run across the porch and disappear between the spindles of the railing.

"Shit!" he exclaimed under his breath, glancing back over his shoulder and dropping the candy bowl onto the coffee table before slipping out the door. He walked over to the porch railing, scanning the darkness. Whiskers was barely visible in the middle of the yard. It turned it's head and looked at him briefly, yellow cat eyes glowing in the night.

"Whiskers!" Mulder called softly from the porch. Of course, the cat ignored him.

He moved carefully down the front steps, his eyes fixed on the feline. He could just make out the dark form, its tail suspended away from its body. The cat watched the groups of trick-or-treaters moving across the street, its back to Mulder, still ignoring him. Mulder approached slowly, quietly. Just as he was within reaching distance, Whiskers hopped forward, bounding across the yard and stopping a few feet away.

Mulder paused, then stalked toward the cat again. Again, before he could reach it, the cat nonchalantly leapt out of the way. Mulder and Whiskers were repeating the dance when another group of kids approached the house. The movement and the sound from the group of kids startled Whiskers, and the cat scampered off across the yard and underneath a bush at the base of the Vargas' front porch. Mulder cursed under his breath, crossed the yard and entered the Vargas' property, walking all the way up to the porch. There was a maple smell - the smell of pancakes and syrup, or something home-baked, like maple oat muffins, or maple sticky buns. At the base of the porch, the bushes rattled, and he bent down to get a closer look. He ended up getting down on his hands and knees. He couldn't see the cat. He didn't figure it would be long before Scully noticed him out there and joined him in the hunt for Whiskers. He was right. Somebody had to hand out candy, and not long after he heard the trick-or-treaters shuffle off he heard Scully's voice in the air behind him.

"Mulder?"

He realized how ridiculous he looked, poking around in the neighbors' bushes like a big dumb dog after a stupid cat. He raised his head and glanced over his shoulder, giving her a look that was supposed to sum up the entire situation without any further discussion.

Of course, she didn't get it. She was cold and she wanted to go home and sneak candy out of Wim's pail when no one was looking. Or better yet, the basket Mrs. Vargas had given her. She kept her tone carefully neutral when she asked, "What the hell are you doing?" With a sigh, he sat back on his knees, rubbing his muddy palms down the front of his jeans before rising to his feet. "Looking for Whiskers."

She blinked at him. "You let the cat out?"

"I didn't let the cat out," he qualified, edgily. "It escaped."

She rolled her eyes, and blew out a long sigh. Leaning over, she peered into the hedge. Then she got down on her hands and knees. There was something back there. She reached in and pulled it out, sitting back on her heels and holding it up for him to see. A baseball, somewhat weathered.

"There's a window broken beneath the porch," she said, brushing her hands together and rising to her feet. "Whiskers probably slipped in through the window and is now fast asleep in the cellar."

Mulder took the baseball from her, palming it. To a group of kids, he imagined a baseball was a small price to pay to avoid poking around in the hedges of a haunted house. He faked a throw, then slipped the ball into the pocket of his coat, pressing his mouth into a grim line. "So now what? Do we just leave it in there?"

She sighed, and her shoulders dropped in resignation. "No, I suppose not." She looked up at the Vargas' porch. "I'll ask if we can check in the cellar."

Just as she said 'cellar', the front porch light went out, leaving them standing in the darkness. They blinked at each other.

"I know they didn't run out of candy," he said.

"They've probably turned in for the night," Scully replied. "Mr. and Mrs. Vargas used to run a bakery and had to get up early every morning. After they retired, they never adjusted their schedule."

He nodded, thinking about hot maple sticky buns. He was hungry, and she was cold. She shivered, and he decided the quickest solution was the best solution for getting both cats back inside Maggie's house. Where there's a cellar, there's usually a cellar door, he reasoned, and took off around the side of the house, knowing Scully would follow him.

There were basement doors just around the back corner of the house, and they were unlocked. A haunted house, on October 31st, a black cat and an unlocked basement entry. It doesn't come any easier than this, Mulder thought to himself as he pulled the basement doors back, revealing a dark staircase. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the small flashlight he'd tucked in there in case of emergency.

By the time he got the light on, Scully was right behind him. "Mulder, we shouldn't be entering the Vargas' basement without their permission." She was halfway down the stairs by the time she finished the statement.

He ignored her, as they both knew he would.

The smell of maple sticky buns seemed stronger, and Mulder deduced that they must be standing right underneath the kitchen. Shining the flashlight around the perimeter of the room, he quickly assessed the size and layout. Small. The ceiling was low - a claustrophobic's worst nightmare, cluttered by dozens upon dozens of wicker baskets hanging from the rafters. Old steamer trunks were stacked almost to the ceiling in the near left corner, and ceiling-high shelves lined not only the wall that shared the staircase, but also the wall on the right, and part of the wall on the left. The shelves were loaded with a variety of paraphernalia - boxes, books, old suitcases, old appliances, baking racks and pans - all covered with dust and connected by cobwebs. Also sharing the left wall was another staircase, wooden, which ended at another door, presumably the door into the house. In the farthest corner, old carpets lay rolled up and stacked on top of each other. There was a small door leading to a coal bin or an adjacent storage room. And beneath the broken window, on the wall directly opposite them, was a workbench. On top of the workbench, were two glowing yellow eyes.

"Hey there, Whiskers," Mulder said carefully, illuminating the cat. Whiskers' tail twitched. "Whiskers," Scully called softly. "Here, kitty kitty."

Whiskers sat unblinking and perfectly still. Mulder began his approach, moving slow and trying not to make any sudden moves. He was within three feet of the workbench when a sudden coldness gripped him. Bone-chilling cold, like stepping into a freezer or falling into a frozen lake. Debilitating cold. Whiskers let out a yowl, leapt off the workbench and ran up the stairs, out into the world beyond.

"Shit!" Mulder cried, turning and following the cat. Scully was beside him, and their feet hit the bottom step of the staircase at the same time when the basement doors unexpectedly swung closed with a resounding crash. They ran up the short steps, Mulder reaching the handle first and giving the doors a strong shove with his shoulder. They were locked.

There was no way to unlock the doors from the inside - no latch, no deadbolt, no keyhole. Mulder slammed his fist against the doors and sat down on the steps with a frustrated groan.

"Now what?" Scully whined.

"I don't know," he said. This wasn't in his original plan. Get in, get cat, get out. That was his original plan.

Scully sucked on her teeth and looked around, then she grabbed the flashlight out of his hand, crossed the room and purposefully climbed up the other staircase to the other door. She twisted the doorknob, pushed and pulled, but that door was locked as well. With a huff, she walked back over to stand in front of Mulder, paws crossed in front of her. But she didn't give him back his flashlight.

"Now what the hell are we supposed to do?" she asked with irritation, trying not to shiver. Mulder took off his jacket and placed it around her shoulders. This time, he didn't bother to ask, and she didn't bother to refuse. "Thank you," she said, pulling the leather closer to her body. It smelled like him.

"Just don't expect me to have sex with you."

She gave him a dirty, cranky look that had nothing to do with sexual favors and everything to do with his balls and a sling. "Why the hell not?"

"Because the couple that has sex is the first to go," he replied. "Mulder, this is not a horror film. Some of the neighborhood kids saw us come down here and decided to play a prank."

"Does that mean you're open to sex?" She gave him another dirty look, and he chuckled. "Then tell me more about Amanda Lynn Madison."

"What, you think a ghost locked us in here?"

"Just humor me, okay?"

Scully blew out a sigh and climbed up the short steps to sit next to him. "I've been doing that for years. So what do you want to know?" she asked warily.

"How many reported sightings have there been? How often? You said she appears as a seven or eight year-old child. Does she have a ritual? Is there a message?"

Scully shook her head. "She protects the house. Or, at least, the things in the house."

"How?"

"You may have noticed the large oak tree out front." Mulder nodded. "When Hurricane Fran passed through here, the force of the winds blew a large branch of the tree through a window of the house, right into a spare bedroom where Mrs. Vargas kept many of her personal items. Specifically, a set of collectible figurines. Those figurines were on a shelf in front of the window. But when Mrs. Vargas heard the noise from the broken window and went into the room to assess the damage, she found all of the figurines lined up facing the far wall, completely intact."

He grinned, forming a mental picture. "What makes you think it was Amanda?"

"Mandy. It wasn't the first time. Since the day she moved into the house and began her collection, Mrs. Vargas has found the figurines moved out of their original position. Sometimes it's just a few inches, and sometimes it's from one shelf to another. Like a child has been playing with them."

"What else."

Scully drew in a deep breath and held it, thinking. "Closed doors found open. Open doors found closed."

"Like basement doors, for example?"

"Mulder -"

"-I know, I know. Neighborhood prank." He stood, and climbed down the steps, turning to face her. "Talking about windows gave me an idea. Maybe we can get out through one of these windows. I don't think I would fit, but you might."

There was another wave of bone-aching cold, and it gripped both of them like a nauseating fear. As fast and as intense as it happened, it left just as quickly.

"Tell me you didn't feel that," Mulder said, drawing air back into his lungs.

She paused. "Okay, I felt something. That doesn't mean it was the ghost of Amanda Lynn Madison." Her voice sounded tremulous.

"Mandy," Mulder corrected her. "Come over here and get up on this bench, Scully, and see if you can get that window open." She walked over to him, and he slid his hands under the leather jacket, hoisting her up by the waist. He could feel the gentle shift of bone under his hands, leaving them there as she sat in front of him, her feet swinging. The space between them was warm.

He leaned forward, his lips barely brushing against her ear as he spoke. "Have I told you the one about a haunted cellar and you dressed like a black cat?"

She smiled, but swatted him away and rose to her feet. "This is why we remained platonic for so long, Mulder."

"You make it sound like the good old days," he said pointedly.

She turned her back to him and used the pocket flashlight to examine the latch on the window. "I didn't say that." There was a large amount of dust collected on the sill, and she blew it away, holding back a sneeze.

He grinned.

She noticed that through the window and the bushes she could see the clouds were clearing around the brilliant, full moon. Something on the other side of the window blocked her view, and she started...only to find herself face to face with the yellow glowing eyes of Whiskers the cat. She slapped the palm of her hand against the glass, frightening the cat away, and when her breathing slowed again she turned her attention back to the window latch. Evidently, Mulder was occupied elsewhere and had missed the cat exchange.

"Mulder, this window is painted shut," she said, moving around on the bench in search of a better angle of vision. There were small shards of glass on the surface of the bench, and they made a crunching noise under the soles of her shoes. "We can't get through here." She turned off the flashlight and turned around to face him. He was in the process of climbing up onto the bench behind her, and they bumped into each other. Both let out a strangled gasp.

"Jesus, Mulder!" she said, drawing in a deep breath. He blew out a careful breath himself, then grinned.

"Did I scare ya?"

"Shut up and help me down."

Mulder stood on his knees on top of the bench, peering at the paint on the window, and lending a hand as Scully hopped down onto the cellar floor.

"Be careful of the broken glass," she warned, worrying about his knees.

"Well, since the window is already broken...we could break it some more," he offered.

"We'd have to rip out the entire frame for me to squeeze through that narrow opening."

"Well we can't stay down here all ni-" He stopped when he heard a distinct creaking noise, like a very squeaky door being opened nearby. Within the room.

"What was that?" Scully asked nervously.

Mulder hopped down off the bench. "I dunno, you've got the flashlight."

Scully remembered the flashlight and twisted it on, first shining it on the door leading into the house, then into the farthest corners of the cellar. She and Mulder were in the middle of the room, back to back, doing an almost reverse dance in a counter-clockwise circle as their eyes closely scanned the darkness for any movement, any item that would register out of place. In the corner where the little storage room was located, the flashlight's wide beam of dim light fell upon the storage room door.

It was ajar.

Scully approached carefully, wishing she had her service weapon. Out of sheer reflex, her free hand reached into the pocket of Mulder's coat, and her fingers closed around a hard, round object. Stitches. The baseball. She gripped it in her palm and held it up near her head like a stone as she slowly advanced on the open door.

The smaller room was pitch black. A few feet beyond the doorway, a strange-shaped object on the floor caught the beam of the flashlight, and Scully stepped inside, pocketing the baseball. She leaned over to pick up the object, then straightened, turning the item over in her hand.

Suddenly, the door slammed shut. She turned, still clutching the item, and her flashlight went out.

Mulder was at the door a few seconds later, rattling the knob.

"Scully!"

"Mulder!"

She twisted the knob from the inside, pushing and pulling at the door, but it would not budge. The flashlight wouldn't work, either. It was dark.

Mulder yanked on the doorknob, trying to force it open with the strength of his will and his bare hands. "Scully!" he called again, and felt the cold wash over him one more time. The fear. The room behind him grew brighter, and he slowly turned around to look. There in the middle of the room stood a young, blonde girl with pincurls, no more than seven or eight years old. She was surrounded by a pale, silvery light, like the light of the moon, and she wore an old-fashioned button-down dress with a Peter Pan collar. On her legs she wore braces.

"Mandy?" Mulder said, his eyes wide.

Mandy stared at him solemnly, then looked up the staircase to the door leading into the house. The door opened and a large figure appeared wearing an old-fashioned dress of a similar era as Mandy's dress, with stockings and high-heeled shoes. The woman began to descend the staircase, and Mulder immediately realized as he watched her that this large-framed woman was not Mrs. Vargas.

The woman headed for the door Scully was locked behind, passing right by him without seeming to notice his presence. A frigid breeze blew over him, and Mulder saw that this was not a woman, but a man dressed in a woman's clothing - a man who was not Mr. Vargas. The man walked right up to the small door.

"Are you ready to come out of there?" he asked in a gruff tone.

"No!" was the reply from the other side of the door. It wasn't Scully's voice - it was a child's voice. A young girl's voice.

"Don't you sass me, little girl."

"Go away!" the child called out.

The man grew angry. "I'm gonna ask you again, now, and you'd better answer me nice or you'll be sorry. Are you ready to come out of there?"

"Leave me alone Uncle Joe!"

His fists clenched, and the man began to shake, fumbling with a key. Mulder could hear a scraping noise on the other side of the door, and Uncle Joe got the door unlocked, threw it open and stepped inside the room, pulling the door closed behind him.

"You better not tell, little girl," he warned from the other side of the door. "You better not tell."

Then there was a high-pitched, blood-curdling scream.

Mulder ran to the door, his heart pounding. "No!" he yelled, banging on the door, pulling on the doorknob. His chest was constricting. Where was Scully? The door rattled on its hinges. Mulder pulled, then slammed the full force of his body against the door. "No!" he yelled again.

All at once, the door unlatched and slid open with a resounding creak, slowly, slowly. Wider...wider. Mulder watched the doorway, only instead of Uncle Joe and Mandy, he found Scully standing on the other side, huddled in his leather jacket. She looked fine - only slightly confused. He whipped around to look back out into the cellar, but saw only the same dusty, cluttered, uninhabited room from before.

Mandy was gone.

"Mulder?" Scully said in a small, tired voice.

Mulder looked back at her, then out into the cellar again. It was still empty, and he moved into the room, blindly feeling his way around in the dark. He bumped into something that felt like a large appliance, but otherwise, the room was uninhabited.

"Mulder?" Scully said again, as if he'd lost his mind.

"She was here, Scully."

Scully paused a moment, trying to mentally catch up. "Who was here, Mulder?"

He stepped out of the room and crossed into the middle of the cellar, turning a full circle. "Amanda Lynn Madison. Mandy. She was here."

Scully closed her eyes and let out a sigh. "Mulder..."

"I saw her, Scully." His voice rose, his jaw was set, and his arms hung tensely at his sides. His fists clenched. "Right here, in this room." He shifted his weight from foot to foot, still pumped with adrenaline. He pointed at the ground where he stood. "Right here."

"Mandy," Scully repeated.

"Blonde, curly hair, eight years old, wearing a nineteen thirties dress and leg braces."

Scully paused, then asked in a very low voice, "Are you sure?"

"Yes, I'm -" Mulder noticed that her eyes had grown wide, and the way they flitted around the room, her breathing quickened. "Scully - what?" he asked.

She let out a shaky breath. "Amanda Lynn Madison was stricken with polio when she was three years old. As a result, she had to wear braces the rest of her life."

They stared at each other as the import of the events caught up with them.

"She wanted to show us something, Scully. That's why she locked us down here. That's why she locked you in that closet."

Scully started a reply, but stopped herself. She took a few shallow breaths, then said, "Show us what?"

"There was a man dressed as a woman. Uncle Joe. He locked her in that room over there. He abused her, Scully, and warned her not to tell. She wanted to tell somebody. She wanted to tell us." Scully slowly opened her fist and looked down at her hand, the item retrieved from the small room laying on top of her flattened palm. It was an old-fashioned hairpin, but it gleamed in the ambient light, shiny-new. She wasn't even going to ask why us - she'd long ago resigned herself to the idea that if this kind of stuff was going to happen, they would be the ones it would happen to.

"Mrs. Madison had a brother named Joseph," she said, pinching the hairpin between her thumb and forefinger and holding it up in the moonlight. "He lived here with them for a few years during the depression."

They heard footsteps scuff across the floor above them, and then a light switched on just beyond the door that led into the house, illuminating the cracks inside the frame. They glanced at each other briefly as the door opened slowly to reveal the slim silhouette of a woman. With a flick of her wrist, the cellar was flooded with light.

Mulder and Scully stared up at her like animals caught in the glow of an oncoming car.

"Dana?" Mrs. Vargas said with surprise.

"Hi, Mrs. Vargas," Scully replied sheepishly.

Mrs. Vargas chuckled. "Ghost hunting again, Dana?"

"Um, we were looking for mom's cat," Scully said. Obviously, there was not a real cat anywhere to be seen.

Mulder looked at Scully, took in her expression and Mrs. Vargas' reaction, and the realization dawned on him that something had been left out when he'd heard Mandy's story. One more bit of information that Scully hadn't shared.

"Again?" he asked, his gaze demanding her response.

Scully cleared her throat, crossed her arms in front of her chest and shifted her weight to the balls of her feet. "Charlie was fascinated with the idea of ghosts when he was in high school."

"You and Charlie came looking for Mandy," Mulder supplied, doing a quick mental calculation. If Scully's younger brother Charlie was still in high school at the time, that would have meant that Scully had already been in college. He remembered what Maggie Scully had said about Scully dressing up in costume when she was in college, and Scully said she'd come home for the holiday one year. "On Halloween," he added. "So that's how you know so much about Amanda Lynn Madison."

"I did some research," Scully replied defensively.

"Did you see her?" Mrs. Vargas asked excitedly, moving down to the top step of the staircase, her eyes shining.

Mulder nodded. "Yeah. She was here."

Mrs. Vargas clapped her hands together and let out a joyful cry. "Oh, I'm so glad! I haven't seen her in such a long time! I was afraid she'd left us."

Somewhere, farther away, Mr. Vargas called out, "And fifty pounds of flour! Don't forget the flour!"

Mrs. Vargas sighed, her shoulders dropping. There was a moment of silence, then she smiled - a sad smile. A lonely smile. "Well, why don't you come on up, then, and I'll let you out the front door. I'm sure Maggie is wondering where you two have got to. Has she got the baby?"

Scully looked at Mulder, then started up the staircase. "Yes. God knows what she thinks happened to us."

Mulder followed, and as Mrs. Vargas led them past the kitchen, he noticed the room showed no evidence of recent baking. It smelled like pine cleaner, not maple.

"Were you baking tonight, Mrs. Vargas?" he inquired, following her and Scully into the living room.

Mrs. Vargas looked over her shoulder. "What? Oh no, I finished my baking several days ago."

Scully looked at him, and he shrugged.

"I smelled maple. Like somebody was baking maple sticky buns."

Mrs. Vargas laughed. "That was Mandy," she replied, fondly. She unlocked the front door and pulled it open for them, then picked up a bowl filled with little red boxes that had been sitting on a small table next to the door. "Here, take some raisins before you go. I've got so many left - we just don't get the kids through here like we used to."

They each took a box of raisins, and when they were on the front porch, Scully turned to face Mrs. Vargas.

"Thank you, Mrs. Vargas," she said. "I'm sorry we disturbed you."

Mrs. Vargas dismissed the idea with a wave of her hand. "It's no bother, Dana," she said. "I'm just glad to know Mandy is still around. She's always been my little guardian angel, you know."

Scully nodded, and Mulder smiled at the older woman, guessing that the child had been more than just a guardian angel to Mrs. Vargas. He took Scully by the hand, leading her off the porch. They were both more than ready to get back to their own little duckling, and quickly crossed the yard, climbing onto Maggie's stoop.

Whiskers was waiting for them, nonchalantly cleaning his paws by the front door.


The tea kettle sounded in readiness, and Scully moved it off the burner, snapping off the fire with one hand while pouring the steaming water into her teacup with the other. This time, she poured a cup for Mulder as well.

Wim was asleep in his crib, and Mulder had called dibs on the shower while she'd changed into a comfortable pair of slacks and a sweater. Now she could finally relax with her tea and maybe a few little goodies from Mrs. Vargas' basket. Nothing was made with maple, much to Mulder's dismay and her secret delight. Chocolate was Dana Scully's confection. There were always homemade chocolate kisses at the bottom of the basket. Dark chocolate, rich and sinful, just the kind she liked.

Tucked away in her own kitchen corner, she pulled herself up onto the kitchen counter, and popped a candy into her mouth, savoring the taste of the sweet, dark chocolate on her tongue mingling with the warm, peppermint smell that drifted up with the steam from her teacup. She leaned her head back against the cabinet and sighed. Somewhere in the mix was the faint smell of Mulder's aftershave. She attributed it to his leather jacket - which she'd worn all the way home - the scent having rubbed off onto her warmed skin.

She stayed that way a few minutes, finally hearing Mulder move into the living room and sit down in front of the computer, his fingers clicking on the keys on the keyboard. Probably looking up more information on Amanda Lynn Madison, she mused, picking another kiss out of the basket, popping it into her mouth and pushing it into her cheek with her tongue. She tucked a foot up under her. He would be up half the night surfing from site to site until he'd exhausted the World Wide Web.

She was going to finish her tea.

Moments later, drifting, flashes of light from the living room began to fill her peripheral vision at regular intervals. It reminded her of another time - a time when they worked together in the basement of the Hoover building. Slides. It reminded her of walking up the dimly lit hallway toward Mulder's basement office, and seeing the light emanate from the partially opened doorway. It reminded her of cows. Dead cows. Exsanguinated cows.

Her curiosity piqued, she hopped down off the kitchen counter and padded around the corner, peering into the living room. Mulder was fully dressed - not only dressed, but dressed for business - charcoal suit, tie, blue dress shirt, and shiny black shoes. He stood a few steps away from the computer monitor, watching the screen.

"Hey," he grinned, looking over at her. "I've been playing around with PowerPoint." He nodded at the computer, and the glare bounced off the lenses of his glasses.

Images from their latest vacation flashed by on screen, of Wim and her family, smiling faces, beach scenes and lighthouses. A slideshow, featuring all those who she loved best. Mulder watched as tears welled in her eyes.

"Here, kitty kitty," he said, softly.

Scully approached him, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand, smiling. "Halloween is over, Mulder."

"Uh uh. That's Agent Mulder to you." He reached out and ran his index finger down her nose, holding it up for her to see. There was a black smudge across the tip, and she realized she'd forgotten to wash her nose and whiskers off.

She drew in a breath, but before she could move away to run off and scrub her face, he slid an arm around her waist and pulled her close.

"Leave it," he whispered, pressing gentle, biting kisses down the side of her neck. He was clean shaven, and smelled like aftershave.

Warm, like Mulder.

Her hands closed around his shoulders, and she chuckled low in her throat, tilting her head to the side to allow him more skin. He kissed the place between her neck and shoulder, then raised his head, capturing her lips between his. She opened to him, warm and chocolatey. When he pulled back, he licked his lips with a grin. "Somebody's been in the candy."

"So."

"And you didn't share?"

She grinned wickedly. "I just did."

He chuckled, leaned over and kissed her ear, nuzzling as he bent her back over his arm, pressing her lower body closer to his. "I like the way you think, Agent Scully." His mouth closed over her soft throat, and she gasped. "If you like the slides, wait until you see what I want to show you in the other room."

"Mmmm..." she replied, breathlessly, then groaned when his hand glanced over her breast. "Okay."

Mulder pulled her back up, and wrapped his arm around her shoulders, leading her toward the bedroom. But Scully stopped before they entered the hallway.

"Wait," she said, looking back over her shoulder, toward the kitchen, then up at him.

"What?" He watched her with darkened eyes, already loosening his tie.

She hesitated, as if weighing a decision. Then, her decision made, she let out a heavy sigh.

"Bring the basket."

the end

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