Ghost of Millcreek Inn by Tess & J LaVa

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The Ghost of Millcreek Inn

Title: The Ghost of Millcreek Inn –

Book One: The Haunting (Part 1 of 10)

By: Tess and Jacquie LaVa

Rating: NC-17

Disclaimer: Some of the characters herein are the property of Fox and 1013 Productions

Summary: She felt the familiar, haunting ache of her loss and the renewed stirring of a love stolen from her too soon

Book One: The Haunting

Prologue

September 1776

Lancaster

Pennsylvania

At sixteen years of age, Molly Sullivan was a beauty.

Strawberry blonde curls tumbled down her back. She was tall and slender with a generous bosom and she viewed the world through crystal blue eyes.

Molly Sullivan was a beauty, but she was poor. The youngest of ten children, she had grown up watching her mother work herself into an early grave as she struggled to keep her family fed and clothed; watched her mother wait hand and foot on her father and older brothers as the family farm fell into ruin around them.

At sixteen years of age, Molly Sullivan watched her older sisters meet the same fate as their mother – each of them married and giving birth to children of their own before they were much more than children themselves. Each of them scratching out a living on a meager plot of land with their husbands. Each of them growing old before their time.

At sixteen years of age, Molly Sullivan was convinced that there was something better awaiting her and she knew that it wouldn’t be found in the arms of a poor farm boy from western Pennsylvania. And so she struck out on her own, seeking a glamorous life in

Philadelphia.

She was not destined to bear a litter of children and doom them to a life of misery and despair and hunger.

No. She would go to Philadelphia and there she would meet the man of her dreams. She would dazzle him with her beauty and grace and he would love her and take care of her. She would live in a world where there were no backbreaking chores – no children whimpering with hunger. She would live in a grand house with a wonderful man who would treat her like a queen. Her clothes would be sumptuous; her skin would be white and unblemished by the harsh weather. Her hands would be dewy and soft. Her children would be well educated and well mannered and she would love them – love him until the day she died.

At sixteen years of age, Molly Sullivan packed her few belongings in a bag, tucked her meager savings into her bosom and struck out for Philadelphia and her destiny.

She made it as far as Lancaster before her money ran out. Uneducated, she could not find work in any of the respectable businesses in town and no woman wanted a girl of such rare beauty and voluptuous curves to work in her home where she might tempt a husband into straying.

She finally found work and a room of her own at the Millcreek Tavern. For more than a year she had served ale to the tavern’s customers and slapped away their groping hands while watching the other barmaids lead eager customers up the stairs to their rooms above the tavern. For more than a year, she had hoarded her paltry earnings, saving for a time when she could once again strike out for the city and her dreams, but it was impossible to save money when there was little money to be had.

At seventeen years of age, Molly Sullivan took the hand of an eager customer and led him up the stairs to her small cell of a room. He was younger than many of the men – yet much older than she – still, he was cleaner than most of the patrons of the tavern…

At seventeen years of age, Molly Sullivan lay on her back on her tiny bed, in her tiny room and closed her eyes, pretending as he grunted and moaned and moved above her that he was handsome and young and her husband. When he was finished, he thanked her and she rolled onto her side and cried until her eyes were swollen.

And when she opened her eyes, her gaze landed on a small stack of coins on the rough-hewn table next to the bed. Gold and silver, they glinted in the light of the fat candle dripping wax onto the tin plate beneath it, mesmerizing her.

At seventeen years of age, Molly Sullivan wiped her eyes and swept the coins into a soiled handkerchief and hid it under a loose floorboard near her bed. She poured cool water in a basin and splashed it over her face, pinched her cheeks to bring color to them, smoothed her hair and pulled her dress back on. She pasted a smile onto her face and returned to the tavern floor below.

At seventeen years of age, Molly Sullivan was a beauty and she would use that beauty to find her way to Philadelphia and a better life.

****

September 1777

At twenty-two years of age, William Foxworth was sore of heart. A lieutenant in the Continental Army, his regiment had been moved closer to Reading,

Pennsylvania. General Washington had made the painful – and necessary – decision to protect the ammunition supply base in Reading at the expense of protecting Philadelphia and word up and down the lines was that the British army was only days away from capturing the colonial capital; from invading William’s beloved city.

He tried to keep his mind on the journey ahead as he and his men rode from Reading to Lancaster. They had come to beg the town for her sons to join the fight; for money and food; for blankets and boots for the colonial army before the harsh Pennsylvania winter swept in. But his thoughts kept turning to home. They had been told that the bell atop the Pennsylvania State House had been secreted out of the city for safekeeping in anticipation of the arrival of British troops.

Indeed, patriot citizens and Washington’s soldiers had stripped the city of anything that the British could use against them. Most of the bells in the city were removed so that they could not be melted down and made into cannonballs or musket balls. Businesses were shuttered and livestock driven from the city limits.

He knew that his parents and siblings had most likely fled the city for the relative safety of their summer home in the countryside.

William’s heart was heavy with the thought that the stately brick town home in the city in which he had been raised might only be days away from becoming headquarters for some red-coated officer. He and his men drew their horses to a halt outside of the Millcreek Tavern and hitched the reins to the iron posts driven into the cobblestone street.

***

Molly Sullivan looked up when the heavy, oaken door of the tavern swung open to admit three young men dressed in the uniforms of the colonial army. The air was heavy with smoke and the smell of fried fish; the room overly warm from the many bodies crowded into the small space. To her left, Rodger Stanton laid a heavy hand on her shoulder in an effort to bring her attention back to him. She shrugged her shoulder and ignored the weight of his gold signet ring as it bit into her tender flesh. The shocked businessman watched through narrow eyes as she moved across the room to greet the newcomers.

William and his men settled at a table and as Molly sauntered toward them, she threw a warning glance over her shoulder to the other barmaids to stand back. She planted one hand on her hip and tossed her curls over her shoulder.

“Welcome,” she said in her husky voice as her eyes swept over the three men crowded around the table. She smiled at the well-built blonde man nearest her.

“What’ll you have?” she asked flirtatiously. Without a doubt, he was the best-looking man to set foot in this tavern in more than a year, even if he had the big hands of a farmer. Still… he was gorgeous to look at…

She laughed, as the three remained silent. She was used to leaving men tongue-tied. Holding up one finger to indicate that she’d be back, she strolled slowly toward the bar, confident that three pairs of eyes were following her every move.

She returned a few moments later carrying a tray loaded with pitchers of ale and heavy mugs. She leaned forward as she set one pitcher onto the table, knowing full well that the low neckline of her blouse would gape away and allow a tantalizing peek beneath. The balance of the tray shifted under the weight of the remaining pitcher of ale and she almost lost her grip.

The pitcher and the mugs slid precariously to the edge of the tray and Molly struggled to regain a solid grip.

A strong hand shot out and righted the tray, easing it onto the table.

Molly threw a thankful glance toward her rescuer and the smile died on her lips as she stared at him.

Tall and lean with dark hair, he looked to be only a few years older than she. He was not as good looking as the blonde at the other end of the table but his face was compelling. Molly was struck dumb and her heart began to pound in her chest.

William locked his hand around the girl’s wrist and pulled her onto the bench beside him. He ignored the rueful glances thrown his way by his men and was only peripherally aware of the other barmaids flocking to the table.

“What’s your name?” he asked. Molly heard the question, but she was lost in his eyes. Green with just a bit of gray around the rims, they showed a sharp intelligence and, she thought, as she peered more closely, they were shadowed with a hint of sorrow.

“Molly,” she whispered. “I’m Molly Sullivan.”

He smiled, showing a row of straight, white teeth and for the first time Molly felt like swooning under the attentions of a man.

“Well, Molly Sullivan. I am William Foxworth and I am very pleased to make your acquaintance.” His voice was low – smooth and cultured – and pleasure curled low in Molly’s stomach at the sound of it. Reality intruded as the tavern owner bellowed her name. She jumped to her feet and smoothed her skirt over her hips.

“I… I’m…” She looked over her shoulder and saw the tavern owner sharply gesturing for her to get back to work. “I’ve got to… I need to…” His fingers were still wrapped around her wrist and she tugged, halfheartedly trying to free herself from his grip.

“You’ll come back?” he asked, holding her gaze with his own. She nodded mutely and jumped when he trailed his fingers over the back of her hand before releasing her.

She clasped her tray over her chest and hurried to the bar and back to work.

For the rest of that night, Molly went about the business of serving food and drinks in a daze. She ignored the sharp looks from her boss and the proprietary hand that Rodger Stanton tried to lay on her every time she drew near. At every opportunity, she would hurry back to William’s table to sit beside him where they would converse in low voices until she was pulled away again. And at the end of the evening, when most of the customers had staggered home; when the tavern owner was wiping down the tables and the barmaids were giggling in the laps of the other soldiers, Rodger Stanton watched through a haze of fury as Molly Sullivan led the young lieutenant up the stairs and his fingers curled into fists at the sound of a bedroom door swinging firmly closed.

***

Molly and William did not make love that night. They lay on her narrow bed. They talked and they talked and all the while they were falling in love.

She told him of her childhood on the farm and of her dreams of escape.

Shamefaced, she admitted to the sordid details of the last year of her life and she wept when he smoothed his hand over her hair and didn’t judge.

She listened as he talked about what it was like to fight in battle; to see row after row of British soldiers as they swarmed and invaded the land. He spoke of his fears for his family and his city and she held him as he wept over the loss of friends, of men too young to die.

When a rooster crowed and dawn broke over the horizon, he slipped from her bed, pressed his lips to her forehead and promised to be back that evening. As she watched him shrug into his heavy woolen coat and close the door behind him, she vowed that he would be the last man she would take to her bed.

***

William kept his promise – and so did Molly. He rejoined his men and they took note of the spring in his step and the lightening of the shadows in his eyes.

They silently nudged one another and hid grins behind their hands and the three young men mounted their horses and rode toward town, eager to conduct their business and return to the tavern that night. They spoke to the town council and raised funds.

They met with the farmers gathered near the feed shop and gained the promise of food. The good ladies of the town cajoled their shopkeeper husbands into donating boots and warm clothing; they gathered blankets and watched with fearful hearts and teary eyes as their little boys became men in an instant when they signed on to volunteer for General Washington’s Army.

Triumphant from their successes, the three returned each night to the tavern to celebrate. And waiting for William every night was Molly Sullivan with the glorious strawberry blonde hair and blue eyes that ignored all others.

On the third night, William stripped Molly’s clothes from her trembling limbs and followed her down onto the bed. She kept her eyes open when he joined his body with hers. She’d had other men and he knew it. But for both of them, it was the first time they had ever made love. Their young bodies moved slowly, lazily in the flickering glow of the candlelight and they whispered solemn pledges of love and loyalty; of trust and faith as with muted cries they reached for and found fulfillment.

Throughout that magical night, Molly refused to sleep.

She wanted the night to last forever – wanted to remember this moment, always. Rising carefully from their rumpled bed, she fetched a sheet of parchment paper and a small piece of charcoal from the hearth.

Molly had never learned to read, but she’d known how to draw from a young age. She didn’t think anything much of this talent, assuming that everyone could do it…

Curling up in the faded armchair across from the bed, wrapped in a tattered shawl – Molly watched her love sleeping. And she drew him, the way he looked to her, so young and handsome as he lay in her bed. William slept and Molly sketched him, pouring her passion for him into a drawing that when finished reflected a timeless love that brought tears to her eyes. Setting aside the completed drawing, Molly removed her shawl and slipped back into bed, curving her body against his warm skin and sighing happily when he murmured her name in his sleep and clutched her tightly.

On the sixth day, they were awakened by the thundering sound of hooves racing toward the tavern. New orders had arrived and William and his men were to report back to their regiment in Reading along with their new recruits.

Molly hurried down to the kitchen to wrap meats and cheese in some cloths and she filled a wineskin with good, strong ale. She pressed her offerings into William’s hands and he secured them to his saddlebags.

He turned back to her and smiled tenderly at the lovely sight of her standing before him, adoration in her eyes – the same expression he knew must be in his. He didn’t want to leave her. It was breaking his heart…

He cupped her face in his hands and lowered his mouth to hers and kissed her on her sweet lips. Her fingers curled over his wrists and she stretched up onto her toes to fuse their mouths more tightly together. They kissed passionately, each understanding the gravity of their situation and yet with all of their young and strong optimism knowing they would be together again, when this cruel war was over.

Breaking the kiss, William again bent to Molly, pressing a kiss to first one side of her soft neck, and then the other, the silky skin exposed by the ribbon she’d hastily tied through her hair. As he

straightened and regarded her with so much love in his face, she pulled that ribbon free and let her hair tumble down around her shoulders, keeping his farewell kisses safe from the morning air. She tucked the ribbon between the brass buttons of his uniform jacket.

It was a tribute, a token to remember her by, as he went into battle. Her eyes were glassy with tears but her expression held nothing but fierce pride.

William held out his arms and Molly threw herself into them. “I will be back soon,” he promised as they shared one final embrace, “I’ll walk right up to you and kiss you underneath your flaming hair and I’ll never leave you again.” He inhaled deeply, filling his lungs with her own unique scent – the musk of their lovemaking blended with a delicate hint of the lilac water he had brought back from town one night as a gift for her. She nodded against his shoulder and somehow managed to keep her tears at bay.

“I’ll be waiting,” she vowed in a hoarse voice.

“Godspeed, William.” She let her hands fall away from him and stepped back as he swung up into his saddle.

He smiled down at her and she offered a brave smile in return. William jerked the reins in his hands and set off down the road with his men in close file behind him. He was perhaps fifty yards away when he suddenly reined the horse in and turned around.

“I love you!” he shouted and even from the distance, he could see the broad grin that wreathed her face.

“I love you too!” she cried. He nodded and returned her smile before digging his heels into the horse’s side, spurring him into a light cantor away from his lover and toward duty. He would be back, he knew.

And when he came back he was going to marry Molly Sullivan and take her to Philadelphia to meet his family.

*****

October 4, 1777

Germantown

Pennsylvania

Lieutenant William Foxworth waved his saber over his head and valiantly tried to rally the men around him.

His regiment had left Reading and had met up with the main body of Washington’s troops several days earlier.

They had marched overnight toward Germantown, a small village several miles outside of the city limits of Philadelphia where General Howe was garrisoned with 9000 British troops.

The Americans divided into four columns and attacked at dawn. Their spirits were bolstered when the British initially scrambled back in retreat. But the men in William’s column had lost their bearings as the thick fog and heavy smoke swirled around them, choking them and leaving them hopelessly disoriented; and worse, allowing the British to regroup and surge forward again. William’s horse had been wounded earlier in the morning and he was on foot as he urged his men on and shouted orders. Tears streamed down his face from the acrid smoke and his ears were ringing from the relentless sounds of bugle calls and exploding cannon shots and the screams of wounded men.

“Come now, lads!” he shouted. He nodded at one of the young men who had accompanied him from Lancaster and clapped a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

“It’s going to be alright,” he promised the teary-eyed boy. “It’s easy.” His smile was a slash of white in his grime-streaked face. “When you see a red coat, you just aim and fire!” He scrambled about, offering similar reassurances to his other men, herding them into some semblance of a formation just in time to see a wall of red-coated soldiers step through the dense fog.

“FIRE!!” William shouted. The world around him exploded in a cacophony of sound and he took a moment’s pleasure at the sight of the King’s Army faltering under the barrage of rebel fire. And then, suddenly everything went quiet. He looked about and saw men screaming and shouting, but he couldn’t hear them. He saw the flashes of fire from the muskets in the hands of his men, but couldn’t hear the discharge of the guns as the world seemed to slow down around him.

And then he was falling, spinning as the ground rushed up to meet him. Pain exploded in his chest as a musket ball slammed into him. He heard the boy from Lancaster cry out ‘Lieutenant’ before he too fell to the ground.

The British soldiers swarmed into the field and William could hear the bugle calls sounding retreat as the Americans stumbled and scrambled for safety.

Lying on a blood-soaked field, William Foxworth reached between the buttons of his uniform and drew forth a ribbon. The scrap of satin was the same color as the blue, blue eyes of his true love. A solitary tear trickled down his cheek as he brought the ribbon to his lips. As his life’s blood poured onto the ground beneath him, he whispered her name on his dying breath.

“Molly…”

******

October 13, 1777

Lancaster

Pennsylvania

Rodger Stanton was tired of waiting. Molly Sullivan had put him off night after night. He knew she fancied herself to be in love with the young officer.

Rodger had never had to force her into bed before.

Molly had always willingly taken his coin in exchange for the pleasures of her bed. She had laughed at his jokes and made him feel important but she had never looked at him the way she had looked at Lieutenant Foxworth. And now, she was withholding herself from him; turning her back from him and turning her nose up at the sight of his money.

“No, thank you.” Her voice had been polite enough but stiff – all vestiges of the saucy, flirtatious girl now gone replaced by a haughty woman who didn’t know her place. Rodger had tried to find his ease with one of the other barmaids, but none of them could hold a candle to Molly’s beauty and charms. She had been his long before Foxworth had arrived and by God she’d be his again.

Bolstered by a few drinks, he fancied himself irresistible. But when he put his hands on her, she didn’t even try to gently disengage herself as she had on previous occasions. Instead, she slapped at his hands and planted her fists against his chest, shoving him back against the bar.

“I said no!” Molly’s blue eyes blazed in indignant fury and she glared at him for a moment before turning her back on him to pick up a tray of drinks. Rodger straightened up and ordered another drink and his eyes followed her about the room for the rest of the night though he made no move to touch her again.

Molly sighed with relief as the last customer stepped out into the chilly autumn night. She wanted badly to leave the Millcreek Tavern, but William had promised to come back for her and she wanted to be there when he returned. Word had traveled across the state of General Washington’s retreat from Germantown. Deaths on the American side had been thankfully light with only one hundred and fifty-two men dead.

Molly hurriedly made the sign of the cross and asked God to bless those lost in battle, confident that William was not among them – for he had promised to return to her.

In her little room, Molly found solace in the nightly ritual of readying herself for bed – washing her face at the washstand and brushing her lovely hair. Setting aside the hairbrush, she knelt at the side of her bed and pried up the loose floorboard, where she’d been keeping her saved coins. Since she’d met William and stopped allowing men the ease of her body, the amount of savings had dwindled but Molly didn’t mind. At least the money she now earned was honestly-won…

Reaching into the hole she pulled out a rolled-up scroll tied with a scrap of ribbon. She untied it and spread it on the floor, smiling softly as the drawing of her William soothed her and comforted her. For long minutes she stared at it, remembering that night, his gentleness and his passion – his overwhelming love.

And she knew this memory would sustain her for as long as William was gone. Pressing a finger to her lips, she then trailed that finger over the sleeping face of her lover, before rolling it up again and tying it securely. She placed it back in its hiding place and replaced the floorboard.

Standing up, Molly pulled off her dress, threw it over the end of the bed and smoothed her hand over her cotton chemise. “Your papa will be back for us soon,” she promised the baby she was only just beginning to suspect she was carrying. “And then we can leave this place forever.”

A low growl alerted her only a second before a heavy hand slapped her across the face, sending her tumbling to the wooden floor.

“Whore!” She looked up to find Rodger Stanton towering over her. “You stupid slut!” he said. “He’s never coming back for you – why would he come back to a whore?”

Molly scrambled back against the wall and pushed herself up on trembling legs.

“You’re drunk,” she said in a low voice. “Rodger – I want you to get out of my room.” She pointed toward the door and spoke with an authority she didn’t feel.

Rodger sneered. “I spent six months with you and you think that you can turn your back on me when a younger, prettier face comes along?”

His eyes were black with fury and Molly looked wildly around for a route of escape.

Rodger clamped his hands on her arms and crushed her into the wall. “Are you really so stupid that you believe that a rich boy like that would come back for an uneducated whore like you? Pregnant with God only knows whose baby!” His laugh was shrill and mocking.

“This baby is William’s” Molly spat. “Until I met William, I made sure that I would never become pregnant with another man’s child. I never wanted your child!”

she said defiantly. A red haze settled over Rodger’s vision and he threw her onto the bed. Molly’s head rapped against the iron headboard and her vision blurred as he crashed down onto the bed atop her. She threw out one hand and scrambled for the knife she kept hidden between the bed and the wall as he tore the clothes from her body. His mouth closed over her breast and she sobbed as he bit down on her tender flesh. Her fingers scraped across the rough planks of the floor before they brushed against the smooth handle of the knife. She closed triumphant fingers around the handle and lifted it into the air.

Rodger saw the glinting knife rushing toward him from the corner of his eye and he jerked to the side, causing the blade to strike a glancing blow off his shoulder. They grappled for control of the knife and he slammed her wrist into the wall. The knife fell from her numb fingers and he snatched it up into his hand.

“I hate you,” she hissed and fury coursed through him leaving him in a towering rage. Molly’s eyes widened and a low, shocked cry slipped from her lips as the knife pierced her flesh in a mortal blow.

Rodger stumbled back and watched with horror as a red stain bloomed over the white cotton of Molly’s chemise.

The knife clattered to the floor as he ran for the door. Molly was distantly aware of the sound of his boots racing down the steps and the clattering of hoof beats into the dark night.

She turned painfully onto her side and drew her knees toward her chest. Her fingers played over her stomach where she imagined her baby was sleeping. The pain was fading and sleep was beckoning her and she went willingly, imagining William’s protective arms sliding around her and their child.

“We’ll be waiting for you…”

****

To be continued

Chapter One

October 2001

Lancaster

Pennsylvania

Scully stroked her fingers over the tufts of reddishbrown hair atop her son’s head. Will had been fretful for much of the trip. He had cried, straining against the straps securing him into his car seat, his chubby hands extended toward his mother, begging her to hold him.

“Maybe we should have left him with my mom.” Scully looked at Mulder in the rearview mirror. Her voice was tight with frustration. They had pulled into several rest stops on the trip from D.C. to Pennsylvania to feed the baby or walk him around and a trip that should have taken a little more than two and a half hours had turned into an epic journey of almost twice that amount of time. Scully had been forced to spend the last ninety minutes of the trip in the backseat, futilely waving a rattle and humming. But Will didn’t want to be entertained. He wanted to be held. At least the ride was comfortable. Shortly after Will’s birth, Mulder had convinced her that they needed a roomier car. A couple of days later, they were the proud new owners of a dark green Ford Explorer. Stretching her legs, she was grateful now for the extra room.

“We couldn’t leave him, Scully.” Mulder glanced away from the road to meet her eyes in the rearview mirror.

“You’re still breastfeeding him and besides… neither one of us really wants to be away from him yet.”

Scully smiled ruefully. He was right. Still, this was their first real vacation and she wanted it to be special. She knew that traveling with a five-month-old would have its own challenges, but she prayed that Will’s fractiousness could be attributed to being confined to the car seat for so long. Perhaps, unlike his parents, Will simply wasn’t a good traveler.

The baby snuffled and rubbed his tear-splotched face against his mother’s hand. His tiny mouth opened and closed over her pinky and as he sucked on her little finger, Scully eyes widened. Was that… no. A tooth?

At five months? She rubbed an experimental finger over his gums and stopped again when she encountered a tiny bump beneath the skin. Poor baby, she thought. No wonder he’s in such a bad mood. Scully sighed and rested her cheek atop the padded side of Will’s car seat. The baby was, thankfully, quiet for the moment as he contentedly suckled her finger and she took the opportunity to study the scenery as it sped past the vehicle’s windows.

This vacation was a gift from Scully for Mulder’s fortieth birthday. She had been surfing the Internet and had stumbled across a vacation-planning guide for Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Covered bridges, quaint shops and… ghosts. She had booked a suite at the Millcreek Inn, a bed and breakfast well known in the area as being haunted. In fact, it seemed that Lancaster County was a hotbed of paranormal activity. She had downloaded information not only on the haunted inn, but also on the nightly ghost tours held in the county.

With Halloween only a few short weeks away, she was assured that everything would be appropriately…

spooky.

Scully smiled at the sight of a group of Amish children walking along the side of the road on their way home from school. The small red and white plastic Igloo coolers in their hands contrasted with the dark skirts and pants peeking out from beneath equally dark coats.

They drove past rolling farmlands dotted with wooden barns that were decorated with brightly colored hex signs. They rolled past shops – the tacky hawking “genuine” Amish souvenirs; the charming offering handstitched quilts and sturdy hand-woven baskets.

Mulder consulted the map lying on the passenger seat and flipped on the turn signal before executing a left hand turn off the highway. Scully was pleased to see the corner of his lips curl up in a small smile.

Despite Will’s crankiness, Mulder seemed to relax with every mile they put between them and D.C. Sunlight spilled through the bright orange, yellow and red leaves of the ancient trees that towered overhead, dappling the winding country road with light. Their SUV climbed a small hill and as it cleared the rise, Scully saw the sign for the inn.

“There it is,” she pointed and Mulder steered the Explorer onto the gravel driveway leading to the inn’s front door. Parking the car, he climbed out and paused for a moment to indulge in a long, satisfying stretch.

Scully unsnapped the safety straps of Will’s car seat and eased the harness over the now sleeping baby’s head. She slipped her hands under his arms and hauled him gently out of the seat. Crawling back out of the SUV, she protectively covered Will’s head with one hand as she eased down onto the ground, carefully shielding him from the frame of the car door.

Mulder reached out and lifted the baby onto his shoulder and moved to the back of the vehicle. He popped open the back door and yanked out the heaviest of the suitcases, leaving the two smaller bags for Scully to carry. The fallen leaves made a satisfying crunch beneath their feet as they crossed the yard and mounted the stairs.

“You must be the Mulders.” The screen door squeaked as the innkeeper pushed it open to greet her guests.

Mulder and Scully shared a private smile at the innkeeper’s presumption of their wedded state. “I’m Doris Knaubler. Welcome to the Millcreek Inn.” She took one of the bags from Scully’s hands and stroked a gentle finger over Will’s chubby cheek. A fire crackled cheerfully in the stone fireplace on one side of the room. A sofa and two armchairs sat in front of the fireplace. The walls were lined with shelves crammed with books and magazines. A table and four ladder-backed chairs invited guests to sit down to a game of checkers or cards.

The small family followed Doris to the check-in counter discreetly tucked beneath the wooden stairs leading to the second and third floors of the inn.

“Your suite is ready,” the innkeeper said. Her reading glasses were perched atop her head and she slid them onto her nose and peered at the computer and tapped on the keyboard. Scully signed the registration forms and accepted a set of keys.

“This key is to your room,” Doris explained as she pointed to the larger of the two keys on the ring.

“And this key is to the front door of the inn. I don’t imagine with a little one that you’ll be out too late, but I lock the front door after nine o’clock in the evenings and you’ll need the key to get in after that.”

Mulder hitched Will more securely onto his shoulder and adjusted his grip on the heavy suitcase as he followed Scully and Doris up the stairs to the second floor.

Doris led them down a hallway and paused in front of one of the doors.

“This is your room,” she said as she fit a key from her own ring into the lock. “There’s one other room on this floor, but no one is staying there. I have two other couples staying in the rooms on the third floor but if this little guy wakes up crying in the middle of the night, don’t worry about it. This inn is almost two hundred and fifty years old and the walls are heavy and solid. You won’t disturb anyone.”

Doris pushed open the door and stepped aside to allow her guests to enter the room. “If you need anything, just stop by the front desk to let me know.” She stepped back into the hallway. “Breakfast is served in the dining room from seven o’clock until nine thirty in the mornings.”

Scully smiled her thanks and began to wander about the suite. A queen-sized Shaker-style bed and matching armoire dominated the master bedroom. Scully ran a pleased hand over the quilt hand-stitched in a double wedding ring design that was draped over the bed.

White eyelet lace curtains hanging on the windows matched the trim on the pillowcases and the dust ruffle on the bed. Wood was stacked in the hearth and a colorful afghan was draped over the back of the small loveseat that faced the fireplace. The bathroom was small and old-fashioned, complete with a claw-footed bathtub. Thick, fluffy towels were artfully stuffed into a wicker basket on the wide windowsill.

Mulder called to Scully in a low voice and she followed him to a door that led to the connecting room. This bedroom held a twin bed and small dresser and in one corner stood a beautiful antique crib. Mulder stripped Will’s jacket from his unresisting body and gently laid the baby into the crib. Scully held her breath when Will rubbed the backs of his hands over his nose and eyes and sighed with relief when he quieted and once again fell into a heavy sleep. She wandered back into the master bedroom to find Mulder sitting on the edge of the bed, flipping through a pile of brochures that had been waiting on the bedside table.

“You know,” he said thoughtfully. “This place sure can give a person ideas.” Scully wandered across the room and stopped in front of him.

“How so?” she asked curiously and stifled a yawn.

“Well…” He tossed the brochures aside and his hands settled on her hips. “It’s the names of the towns,” he said. “For instance, there’s Blue Ball.” His voice took on a plaintive whine as he named one of the local towns and Scully huffed out a laugh. His grip tightened on her hips; he tugged her onto the mattress and loomed over her.

“Bird-in-Hand.” He pushed his hips toward her until she obligingly curled her fingers over the button-fly of his jeans.

“Intercourse…” His lips feathered over her cheek in a whisper soft caress. Scully fought down the weariness assailing her limbs. The drive had left her feeling grubby and Will’s demands had exhausted her.

But this trip was supposed to be about finding time for one another away from the daily routine of their lives.

She wrapped her legs around Mulder’s waist and pulled him down on top of her.

“Don’t forget Paradise,” she breathed against his lips.

Their lovemaking was sweet, vital yet comfortable and they quickly found their release with a familiar ease before snuggling together under the quilt for a nap before dinner.

***

Twilight was settling over the county and the couple lying in the bed shivered in the suddenly cold room and tugged the quilt higher over their naked bodies. The scent of lilacs perfumed the air. The woman’s brow furrowed and she curled more tightly against the man, her dark red hair spilling across his shoulder. The man tossed his head from side to side. His hair was sleep-rumpled and one lock fell over his forehead.

Tall and lean, his long limbs shifted restlessly beneath the quilt and he moaned softly in his sleep.

Molly was drawn to him.

Unable to resist, she bent down and brushed her lips over his in a gossamer kiss. His features relaxed and a tiny smile flirted with the corners of his full mouth.

Her eyes lingered on his handsome face and she found a small measure of contentment stirring in her heart for the first time in many, many years.

A sound from the adjoining room drew her attention away from the man and Molly moved to investigate. The baby stirred beneath his blanket and he rubbed tiny fists over his face. She studied the wisps of reddish-brown hair on his head and fingered her own strawberry blonde curls thoughtfully.

The baby’s face screwed up into a pout and his whimpers grew louder. He drew his knees up to his chest and angrily waved his fists in the air. He opened his eyes and for just a moment she was convinced that he was looking directly at her.

“Here I am.”

Molly had been so consumed by this tiny and fascinating creature that she hadn’t heard the movement behind her.

She wasn’t able to move out of the way quickly enough and the red-haired woman from the bed walked directly through her, warming Molly for just a second. The woman shuddered and stopped in her tracks. Her head turned from side to side as her eyes searched the room for… something. She let out a small laugh and reached into the crib to lift the baby into her arms.

“Brrr,” the woman shivered. “It’s freezing in here.”

She sat down on the edge of the twin bed in the room and reached out with her free hand for the soft cotton throw artfully tossed across the foot of the bed.

She wrapped the small blanket over her shoulders and tucked the edges around the baby. The woman shifted the child in the cradle of her arm and guided his mouth to her breast. He latched on eagerly and the suckling sounds of his hungry grunts filled the air.

“Slow down, Will,” the woman chided. “You’re going to make yourself sick.”

Will. William.

Molly’s hand curved over her stomach and she felt the familiar, haunting ache of her loss and the renewed stirring of a love stolen from her too soon.

***

To be continued in Chapter Two

Chapter Two

October 2001

Lancaster

Pennsylvania

The watery sunrise outside their window shone just enough light within the shuttered bedroom to awaken Mulder, who stretched beneath the thick quilt. He opened one eye, glancing at the dim morning and realizing as his stomach began to rumble, that they’d slept right through dinner and the rest of the night although he vaguely remembered Scully climbing out of bed at some point to feed Will. He yawned and stretched again, then snagged his bed-partner around the waist and pulled her sleeping form against him.

In the other room he could hear Will gurgling and cooing. Mulder decided to leave well enough alone for the moment; he’d go for the baby as soon as the gurgles turned into snuffles of hunger. In the meantime he was in bed with Scully and it was warm and early in the morning.

Life was good.

An hour later father and son were wide-awake, Will having made his desires loudly known by screeching his hunger and diaper changing requirements into his personal space. Mulder had collected him in a hurry, whipping off the wet diaper and taping him into a fresh one, while Will blinked up at him with wet blue eyes and gnawed like crazy on his little fist. Mulder carried him into the bedroom and placed him next to Scully, who had somehow managed to sleep through her son’s ungodly din.

Will, smelling Mommy and consequently, his breakfast, rooted against her until he found a bare nipple all by himself – and when he latched onto it Scully awoke with a startled snort. Mulder bit back a laugh at her confused, sleepy face and the laugh spilled out of him when she glanced down in shock to see her son chowing down without her apparent knowledge.

She looked up into Mulder’s amused smirk. “Mulder, how on earth did he find the nipple? He’s too young to be squirming around that much!”

Mulder shrugged and leaned over to press a kiss on Scully’s forehead. “He can smell mommy milk a mile away, I suppose. Maybe you were leaking a little.

Will knows where to find the food, just like his old man.”

Mulder puffed up his chest in an exaggerated show of male superiority, and Scully tossed him a disgusted look as she cradled Will’s head while he finished his breakfast. “You’re such an idiot, Mulder. How about feeding me? Do you think the dining room is open yet?”

Mulder kissed her again, before hopping out of bed and strolling naked across the room, secure in the knowledge that Scully was ogling his bare ass. He didn’t have to look over his shoulder; he just knew.

He opened a dresser drawer and pulled out a pair of jeans, sliding them up over his legs and hips without bothering to put on his boxers first. Leaving them unbuttoned, Mulder snagged a shirt and half-buttoned himself into it, then grabbed the inn’s brochure off the dresser and brought it back to the bed. Scully held a drowsy Will against her shoulder and worked a burp out of him while they both looked at the breakfast menu listed inside the brochure.

Mulder could feel his mouth watering at the tastysounding meals. “God, Scully – ham steaks and Farmer’s eggs with gravy and buttermilk biscuits. Apple pancakes with maple syrup. I want it all; I’m starving to death!” He showed her his best ‘pathetic boy’ face, trying to garner instant sympathy.

Scully laughed and laid the sleeping baby on their pillows, mounding two more around him for protection.

She wormed her way in between the salivating Mulder and the menu he still held in his hands. Placing a smacking kiss on his lips, she murmured, “It all sounds great, Mulder – I’m starved too. Why don’t I put Will down for a quick nap, and we’ll catch a shower – by then the dining room should be open. We can go down and eat and then plan our day. Sound good?”

Mulder gave her a grateful squeeze before bounding off the bed and heading to the bathroom. “I got first shot at the shower head, Scully…” He looked over his shoulder at her and snickered as she shot up, still naked, and scooped Will into her arms, hustling him off to his nap. Over the noise of the water in the tub he could hear her admonishment.

“Don’t you dare use up all that hot water!”

In the lovely dining room they stuffed themselves on pancakes and Farmer’s eggs, Mulder heaping food on Scully’s plate until she protested, “Mulder, God! You want me to explode?”

He laughed at her as he grabbed a fork and began shoveling in his breakfast. “You’d better eat up, Scully – we’ve got a lot of sightseeing to do!”

Scully broke off a tiny piece of unsalted egg from her plate and mashed it with her fork, then scooped up a bit of the soft yolk and let Will suck it from her finger. The baby waved his arms and smacked his lips, gumming her poor finger almost raw. She could feel the hard ridge of baby tooth, and commented, “I’ll bet Will cuts a tooth before too long, Mulder – I can feel it.

At least we know why he’s been so crabby. We’ll have to buy some Anbesol to put on it later.”

Mulder drained his juice and nodded as he wiped his mouth with his napkin. Pulling out the brochure from the breast pocket of his shirt he consulted the back page, looking for a listing of the sights. His eyes lit up when he saw the pictures of the ‘Woolerton OneRoom Schoolhouse’. He hitched his chair closer to Scully and waved the picture under her nose.

“Scully, check this out! An authentic one-room Amish schoolhouse filled with animated Amish kids! We gotta go see it!”

Scully studied the color photo, which depicted the interior of what indeed appeared to be a one-room schoolhouse filled with antique desks and children sitting in those desks in various poses intended to look as if they were all studying earnestly. The children looked like wax figures with bad wigs, even from the flat one-dimensional photo. She shuddered.

“Mulder, that looks truly creepy. Can’t we just go visit a museum?” She sent him a plaintive look, which he blithely chose to ignore.

“Come on, Scully… it’ll be fun. Informative.

Educational! We can point fingers and laugh at the kids without hurting their feelings! How can you not want to see it?” His teasing voice and huge smile went a long way toward melting her – as usual – and she finally nodded and shrugged helplessly. She struggled to unfasten Will’s safety straps and her grudging acquiescence made Mulder whoop with glee.

“Well… okay. But tomorrow you have to promise to take me to at least one real farm and several museums.”

Mulder held Will in one arm and managed to help her on with her jacket with his free hand, then kissed her nose affectionately before herding her toward the door and promising, “You betcha, Baby… tomorrow is all yours.”

The drive to Bird-in-Hand was really very nice, with sunshine flooding the cloudless sky and the crisp fall air biting at their cheeks when they stopped along the way to take photos of a picturesque covered bridge.

The surrounding landscape was flat with small hills dotting the distance and lovely old farms nestled behind huge crop fields.

Woolerton Schoolhouse was about halfway between Birdin-Hand and Intercourse; Mulder still couldn’t get over the suggestive-sounding names of the towns. They turned off Route 340 and into a large parking lot; the little schoolhouse sat off to the side with several horse-drawn wagons pulled up beside the foliage-edged sidewalk. The lot was only about a third full, but it was only mid-morning.

The schoolhouse was very authentic-looking, right down to the whitewash on the outer walls. Mulder paid the admission to a smiling Amish woman who cooed at Will as she took their money. Slinging Will’s diaper bag over his shoulder, Mulder followed Scully along a narrow hallway that emptied out into a roped-off room, cunningly decorated to look like a turn-of-the-century Amish schoolhouse. Little kid-size antique desks were artfully arranged in untidy rows in the middle of the room, and a scarred oaken desk at the front of the room proclaimed a teacher once sat there guiding the class who were all as still as, well… wax figures. Mulder and Scully stared, wide-eyed, at the eerily realistic and yet surreal scene.

Nothing was moving yet – obviously the show was on a schedule. The children and their teacher remained frozen in whatever position they’d been in when their motors had ground to a halt however many minutes ago, when the last show ended. Little girls with pigtails were bent over desks and one small blonde girl sat in a front desk and stared mournfully, right at Mulder. The teacher squatted next to a little boy, one hand caught in the act of flipping through a thin lesson-book.

Two boys sat on the planked floor, their hands raised as if getting ready to throw yet another marble, a pile of which lay upon the floor space between them. There were several older-looking children lounging here and there around the small room, one gazing off into space and the other two huddled close, perhaps whispering to one another. Mulder could only conclude that in the olden Amish world teenagers were universally adolescent. The thought made him grin.

They were still staring out into the display when suddenly a clock chimed, somewhere in the building and the tableau before them jumped to instant and startling life. Scully jumped right along with the animated bodies, jostling a sleeping Will who immediately woke up and started fussing. She soothed him with a hand and he quieted… until the teacher began to speak. Standing with a disturbingly jerky movement, the figure first appeared to make a pass with its eyes over the room, now alive with the sounds and sights of children busy at all sorts of traditional kid-type things.

The boys on the floor flipped their hands around as if playing marbles. The teenaged girls whispering to each other by the window reached out animated hands and pointed at the teenaged boy who continued to stare off into space, ignoring them. The sound of turning pages in lesson books and little feet shuffling in place filled the air – and the Amish teacher turned toward the roped-off area, its booming male voice echoing in the room.

“Good morning, Students! God be with you and with us all as we begin a blessed day of lessons and the Word of our Lord!”

The voice was creepy. The face was even creepier, Mulder decided, and he leaned in to whisper to Scully, standing in front of him. “I feel like we’ve just stepped into Stepford, don’t you agree?”

Scully nodded slowly, turning a little to whisper a reply. “Oh, yeah. I find this very… disturbing, Mulder…”

No sooner had the words left her mouth, than Will started to scream. Scully turned him in her arms and looked into his little red face, trying to calm him and shush him; the wailing baby was having none of it.

Mulder soothed a hand over his son’s head, murmuring to him.

“Hey, Buddy… whatsa matter?” Will screamed louder, his eyes fastened on the little blonde robot in the front row – and when Mulder followed the baby’s fretful gaze, he understood – for the little girl was whipping her body around in her chair, back and forth faster and faster, pigtails flying out. Obviously a

malfunctioning robotic; it was hard to say how long it would take for the operatives of the display to notice.

Truly scary, especially for a little baby – between the body flailing about and the absolute dead look in the robot’s eyes Mulder felt as though he’d walked into a cut scene from “The Exorcist”. He put a hand on Scully’s shoulder and pulled at her, indicating that they should leave.

Out in the chilled sunshine, Will calmed somewhat but his eyes were filled with huge tears and his little body hitched in sobs. Scully re-buttoned his fleecy jacket and then handed him over to Mulder so she could slip into her coat. Mulder bounced their son up and down, whispering silly nonsensical things to him until his sobs ceased completely and he slumped wearily in his father’s arms. Scully caressed his wet little cheek and her voice was full of mommy-sympathy.

“Poor little Love. Talk about creep-overload! How on earth do you manage to find these kinds of places, even when we’re on vacation, Mulder? It never fails.” She grinned up at him, and Mulder merely stuck out his tongue and waggled his eyebrows at Will, making the teary baby giggle. He shrugged as he rocked in place, the baby leaning in over his shoulder.

“It’s a talent and a gift, Scully. You’re just jealous because you weren’t blessed with it.” A loud snort was his only answer, as Scully slipped a hand around his arm and tugged at him.

“Whatever, Mulder. All that matters is that it’s almost lunchtime and you owe me a museum visit. Pay up.”

Mulder allowed himself to be pulled away towards the parking lot, grumbling to himself loudly enough for her to overhear. “There’d better be farm animals at this museum…”

******

During lunch Will continued to snuffle and fuss even after a lengthy nursing in the car and a concentrated effort by both Scully and Mulder to lull him to sleep.

They’d driven the picturesque back roads in between Intercourse and Bird-in-Hand, hoping the soothing motion of the drive would calm the fretful baby.

Figuring they’d be better off avoiding a restaurant when Will was upset, Mulder had found a place that had take-out and had bought a lunch of Lebanon bologna sandwiches and potato salad; they’d stopped at a small park outside of Intercourse and Scully had nursed Will.

The baby accepted the feeding readily enough but he’d pinched Scully’s nipple twice with his voracious suckling, confirming once and for all that a tooth was on its way out.

Scully had winced as she switched him to her other breast, commenting, “I can see the writing on the wall – a nursing infant with teeth just can’t be a good thing. I have a feeling I’m about to become a chew toy for our son.”

Mulder chuckled as he opened her sandwich and plopped extra mustard on the meat, waiting until she’d finished settling Will down in his car seat before handing over her lunch. Scully eyed the thick sandwich. “That had better be Gulden’s you just slathered all over my Lebanon bologna, Mulder – none of that nasty yellow junk…”

Her partner snickered and stuck a plastic fork in her potato salad, then pretended to be wounded by her admonishment. “Scully, please – you know I don’t do yellow condiments. I got the real stuff for you, promise.”

Will dozed a little while they ate, long enough for them to take their time sipping their drinks as they rolled their windows down an inch or so and enjoyed the cool breeze floating over them. The park was lovely with its leaves turning orange and red, little piles of fallen color scattered over the grass and pathways.

The sky was still cloudless and everything looked crisp and sharply in focus – almost not quite real. Mulder wiped excess mayonnaise from his mouth and looked around, thinking that here was a day where anything could happen – anything at all…

After lunch they made an attempt to stop at the Amish Farm and House Museum, but by then Will had awoken and was gnawing on his fist like mad, whining with teething pains.

Scully was upset and feeling guilty that she hadn’t thought to buy him any teething rings. “It just seems so soon, Mulder! But I should have done it anyway; what was I thinking!” She rubbed a hand over Will’s back as he sobbed in Mulder’s arms. There didn’t seem any way to calm the teething child. Scully’s frustration was evident in her weary face.

They stood in the sunshine nearby a pen of cute but smelly pigs. Mulder tried in vain to distract Will from his sore gums, calling to him and pointing at the squealing porkers. Will refused to look and continued to cry and gnaw on his hand. Mulder rocked him as they moved from the pigs to a fenced in area that held two plow-horses and a mule. Mulder leaned against the fence and urged, “Willy, look! Horses! Look at the pretty horses!” His son’s response bordered on hysteria, as both hands went into his mouth. Mulder groaned.

“Maybe we’d better head to the nearest store and stock up on teething paraphernalia, Scully.”

Nodding, Scully led the way back to the parking lot and once again helped get Will settled, this time climbing into the back seat with him. Dipping her fingers into the paper cup of Coke she held, she pulled out a small piece of ice and rubbed it over Will’s gums, sighing in relief when the baby quieted and allowed her to soothe his poor little mouth. Mulder drove back into town, searching for a supermarket.

Two hours later they were back in the room, Will snuggled between them on the bed and a cold teething ring clenched in his mouth. Mrs. Knaubler had been kind enough to put the ring into her freezer as soon as they’d gotten back to the inn, and since it was filled with fast-freezing liquid the teething ring had gotten very cold in no time at all. They’d bought three rings in all and the other two were still in the freezer, for later use.

Scully rubbed her son’s tummy as he lay on his back gnawing on the ring, his eyes growing drowsy from lack of sleep. Mulder stroked damp baby hair from Will’s forehead and pressed tiny kisses on his temple, smiling down at the sleepy-eyed baby. He hummed under his breath and watched his son’s eyes slowly droop, and finally close, his mouth going slack around the teething ring, his little body limp. Mulder pulled a soft cotton throw from the foot of the bed and draped it over the sleeping baby while Scully propped a few pillows around him, neither of them wanting to disturb their baby now that he was actually asleep.

Mulder checked his watch, noting how late it had become – sighed and flopped back into the mattress. “Poor little guy. They have no idea what’s making them feel bad. Thick cotton diapers between their legs that get wet and chafe their skin – nasty little sharp teeth that pop out and cause them pain they can’t understand.

It’s gotta be hell, being a baby.” He turned his head on the pillow and regarded the tempting fullness of the breast nearest his face, and his voice dropped to a husky murmur as he added, “Of course there are hidden benefits…” He leaned in to press a kiss between the soft mounds – and Scully emitted a huge yawn right in his face.

Mulder fell back on his own pillow, pretending to be wounded by her lack of interest, and Scully smiled apologetically at him. “I’m sorry, Mulder – I’m so wiped out. I know it’s still fairly early but I need to sleep. Maybe once we get Will back on track I’ll actually be able to stay awake long enough… I’m sorry,” she apologized again. “This trip isn’t turning out anything like I had planned. I imagined spending glorious autumn days with my two favorite men and long, warm nights making love with you…”

She raised her head off the pillow, far enough to press a kiss into Mulder’s neck; he slid a hand under her head for support and returned the kiss lovingly, on her mouth. With a whispered, “I’ll hold you to it. Sleep tight, baby.” Mulder carefully swung himself off the bed and reached for Will, gathering him, the blanket and his teething ring and carrying him into the other room. He laid his son down in the crib and Will never stirred once. Brushing a kiss over his forehead, Mulder left a soft light on in the corner of the room and padded back to Scully, yanking at his tee shirt.

It wouldn’t hurt him to have an early night as well and start over again fresh, in the morning. He slipped into bed and snuggled close to Scully, back to front.

Sighing into the pillow, face buried in her hair Mulder dozed off.

******

To be continued in Chapter Three

Chapter Three

October 2001

Lancaster

Pennsylvania

Molly drifted into the center of the room; she’d been hovering in the corner, waiting. One lone glow from the bathroom was the only illumination available but truly she didn’t even need that much light – for she knew this man. Blindfolded or in the blackest of night, she would know him. His smell. His shape, under the thin blanket and sheet. She knew.

Pausing at his bedside. Looking down at him, filling her eyes and her senses with him. The familiar ache inside her, an ache borne of wishes that never came true and of lives cut off much too soon. She could feel a fluttering within her and pressed one thin pale hand to her breast, easing herself. So long… she had been searching for him for so long. His name filtered out between her lips like an echo on the night air.

“William…”

Next to him on the bed lay another woman, who had obviously found a way to capture his heart. Enough to have taken him – and their child. Her palm rubbed against a stomach that was never meant to be flat. It had always been intended for the bearing of many children – HIS children.

She drifted closer, examining her rival. This was a pretty woman. Pretty enough to catch the eye of her lover… maybe even pretty enough to house the spirit of the only woman who truly loved him. She sat carefully on the edge of the bed, atop the sleeping woman, the pretty one – and she stretched out, over her – and as the two blended into one, a deep hitching breath was heard in the silent room – a gasp. And another.

And another…

***

Mulder awoke to the feel of heated skin, bare and silky, behind him, and soft determined hands curling themselves over his shoulders and chest. In a semiconscious state he turned toward the heat source and opened an eye – finding himself face-to-face with a very awake and very aroused Scully. In the dim light her eyes glowed, her mouth glistened red and invitingly moist – her hands not only beckoned but they demanded.

All of him, pressed up against her. And the feel of her brought him up hard and full and straining, in about three seconds flat. He groaned softly, “Baby, thought you were too tired to mess around…”

She merely responded with a throaty, “Shhh,” and pressed him closer.

Mulder groaned again.

Her hands were everywhere and her fingers worked magic along his sensitive ribs and sides. Full lips that tasted like honey teased his mouth open, small white teeth nibbled at his lower lip – a plump wet tongue probed at, and then conquered, his. Mouths fused tightly together, their bodies twined around each other’s on tangled sheets. Mulder pulled her willing body beneath his and found himself cradled between silken thighs that clamped around his hips. Her tongue slipped alongside his cheek and trailed fire over his ear, darting inside for a shivery tickle before slicking its way down his throat and against his Adam’s apple – and her mouth opened hotly over it and suckled like a baby. Mulder shuddered, hard.

Jesus. Who would have thought an Adam’s apple could be erogenous…?

He couldn’t believe the way she looked sprawled on their bed.

Eyes fully dilated, blue-black with need, staring up into his. Skin on fire, burning him – fingertips emitting sparks everywhere they touched him. Wild red hair spilling out over the pillow beneath her head and Mulder was gasping to her, “Beautiful, so gorgeous, baby – God – I’ve never seen you look so beautiful…”

And his words made her mouth curl into a secretive little smile; in the offset bedroom light he could see it. Her arms tightened, her thighs grasped harder and Mulder suddenly found himself on his back with Scully straddling him and her inner heat melting down over him – melting into him. He inhaled deeply, drawing the heady, floral scent of her perfume into his lungs.

He hissed out a strangled, “Fuck!” – as the desire boiling up out of control threatened to end him before he could even begin. He was dying to be inside her and he knew the moment he got there he’d explode and it would be all over – and even as he fought to keep his head, he heard her chuckle, richly – and her hand reached between their bodies and grasped him, letting him pulse in her hand for a second before raising her hips and then coming down slowly, taking him inside.

Deep. Wet. Narrow clinging hot hot hot…

“Oh, Scully…” He could barely form coherent words.

He cupped her rounded cheeks and thrust against her, rising up from the pillow under his head, lips closing hard around the tempting nipple within reach.

She gasped, a harsh low sound – and the thick purr of it went straight to his groin. He could feel himself twitching, helpless to stem the buildup, knowing she wasn’t ready yet – and before he could help stimulate her with his fingers, she slipped her hand over the base of his penis, and circled him with her thumb and index finger – and squeezed. Immediately, his urgency to climax ebbed…

He hissed out a strangled, “Scully, Christ… what are you doing to me…?” A moaning growl in his ear was his only answer, as she leaned into him and licked the outer shell, and then nipped his lobe.

Sitting back a little, Scully loosened her hold on him, and started to move again. Slowly, so slowly. Taking him deep again. It felt incredible. He reached for her hips again but she shook her head, forced his hands over his head, coaxing him to wrap his fingers around the rails of the wooden headboard. Mulder decided he’d do anything she wanted at this point – as long as she never stopped loving him this way… he held on tightly and let her ride. And when he felt it come up again, this time faster, more intensely – she closed her fingers around him again and pressed, stemming him…

easing him.

Prolonging him. How had she learned… WHERE had she learned? She’d never done anything like this; felt amazing, he loved it, never wanted it to end, it had to end, he knew it did. He was coming apart beneath her as she moved faster, bucking against him, her legs trembling – and he let go of the headboard and clenched his fingers into her hipbones and slammed her down, hard. Lifted her, and did it again. And the moment she threw back her head and screamed aloud in the throes of her orgasm… he shattered inside her, endlessly, one long rasping shout ringing through him.

Sounds he’d never in his life made.

A full minute later he felt her sink down upon him, boneless and limp. Mulder wrapped weakened arms around her and helped her slip from her dominant position, cuddling her close as overwhelming exhaustion swamped him. Damp arms and legs wound up together; trembling muscles and after-shocks rippling through both of them… Mulder threaded a hand in her hair and pulled her face back, tenderly kissing her lips, her cheeks, her neck.

His head came to rest next to hers on the pillow and he whispered an adoring, “You’re amazing… I love you more than life, baby… more than my soul…” And as he fell into slumber he thought he heard her echoing his words… but she called him ‘William’…

His last thought was that she’d loved him into an oblivion so complete they’d both forgotten each other’s names. Strange…

He slept.

As her lover breathed and dreamed, full of life even in sleep, Molly rose from the bed. Her body ached with delicious satisfaction; she had never felt so alive.

It had been such a very long time since she’d felt this vital, alive… loved.

Adored.

Pushing tangled hair out of her eyes she leaned over his face and brushed one last open-mouthed kiss across his lips… and she moved toward the smaller bedroom.

As exhausted as she felt, her arms ached for the welcome weight of her child. William, her son.

Child of her womb and of her lover’s strength – her William’s seed. She stood in the doorway for a moment, staring at the small bundle of sleeping boy. She reached the crib and bent over, touching his soft little cheek, her eyes filling with tears and her heart overflowing with the love that she’d been holding for him, so very long.

She slipped her arms underneath the baby and lifted him out; he didn’t awaken. There was a rocking chair in the room; she sat down with her precious bundle and cradled him in her arms, unable to take her eyes from him. So beautiful… her William was so beautiful.

She rocked him gently and watched him sleep.

******

Scully awoke to the feel the warm autumn sun streaming over the bed. She arched her back when she felt Mulder’s fingers trace a path over her spine.

“Good morning.” She pulled her shoulder up to her ear when his warm breath washed over her neck, tickling her.

“Good morning,” she mumbled into the pillow. She reached back and cupped his jaw with one hand. Mulder twisted his head back and forth, rasping the soft skin of her palm with his stubbled chin. Scully rolled onto her back and opened her eyes, blinking against the sun’s rays to find Mulder propped up on one elbow, looming over her.

“Last night was incredible,” he whispered. Her brows knit in confusion, but Mulder’s eyes were following his hand as he swept it over her arm to cup one full breast in his palm. His thumb brushed over the nipple, causing it to harden in response and Scully glanced down, startled to find that she was naked beneath the blanket. Mulder’s hands continued to wander over her body and he pushed the covers aside.

“I’m sorry about this,” he murmured before dipping his head to brush his lips over her hip. Scully’s head lifted from the pillow to see his lips cruising over bruises in the shapes of his fingers that stood out against her pale flesh. “But you were making me crazy,” he admitted as his tongue darted out to lap at the offending marks. He laid his cheek against the soft skin of her stomach and looked up at her.

“I don’t think I want to know where you learned to do that,” he said cryptically, “but… God!” He slid over her body and buried his lips against her throat.

Scully was torn between the pleasurable feel of his lips moving against her throat and jaw and the confusion caused by his words. Where she learned to do what, she wondered. She didn’t remember anything beyond collapsing into bed in complete and utter exhaustion. She didn’t remember putting Will into his crib, nor did she remember getting up in the middle of the night to feed him. She didn’t even remember changing out of her clothes and she certainly didn’t remember making love with Mulder.

And yet… her limbs ached in the familiar way they did after a night of loving Mulder and his whispered words of praise against her throat were convincing.

“So beautiful…” He punctuated the tribute with a kiss. “Wild…” His tongue dipped into the hollow of her throat. “Demanding…” His words vibrated against the tender skin on the underside of her jaw. He raised his head. “Amazing.”

“Did you cast a spell over me?” He smiled into her eyes, oblivious to her bewilderment. “I was helpless… and I loved every second of it.”

Scully smiled weakly and stroked her hand over his bare shoulder. His eyes were alight with remembered pleasure. How could she not remember?

How could she tell him that she had no memory of what was seemingly an incredible night?

She opened her mouth, was struggling to find the words when Will made them aware that he was awake and hungry with a loud, demanding wail. His mother hid a sigh of relief and swung her legs over the side of the bed to stand on shaky legs. She threw an apologetic glance toward the man lying in the bed and shrugged into her robe.

Mulder stood and rounded the bed to intercept her on the way to Will’s room. His fingers caught the open edges of her robe and he pulled her tightly against him, dropping a kiss onto her lips. He stepped back when the baby’s cries escalated and ran a regretful knuckle over the swell of Scully’s breast.

“He’s hungry,” she whispered. Mulder nodded and drew the edges of her robe together. He cinched the belt tightly around her waist and hoped that the old adage of ‘out of sight – out of mind’ would be enough to help quell the arousal stirring low in his groin.

“Go on,” he nudged her toward the baby’s room. “He’s waiting for you.” She pushed open the door to find Will sucking hungrily on his fingers. Scully settled into the rocker and opened her robe. She could hear water thundering through the walls as Mulder turned on the shower. She absently stroked her fingers through her son’s downy hair and furiously tried to remember what Mulder and her body were telling her had happened.

She couldn’t.

She looked into her son’s face. He was contentedly nursing but to her concerned eyes his cheeks seemed to be a little swollen and she made a mental note to be sure to pack the infant pain reliever into the diaper bag before they set off for the day. She sighed as she remembered how hard it had been for her to see her little boy in such pain. She had been worn out by day’s end. Scully latched onto the thought. It was little wonder that she couldn’t remember the events of the past night. Satisfied with this simple

explanation, she tucked her worries into the back of her mind, determined that she wouldn’t spend the rest of their vacation thinking about something she couldn’t control.

******

“This must be the place.” Mulder steered the Explorer into one of the parking spots along the street and stepped out onto the pavement. Scully lifted the safety harness of Will’s car seat over his head, careful not to awaken him. The early part of the day had been good. Will’s teeth had not bothered him and they had strapped him into his stroller and had spent several hours idly walking along the picturesque roads, stopping at a Pennsylvania Dutch restaurant for a lunch of tender rotisserie chicken, buttered noodles, fresh vegetables and shoofly pie.

Will had awakened from his late afternoon nap, furiously sucking on his fingers and drooling. The teething ring and a small dose of infant pain reliever had helped to settle him down, but he clung to his mother for the rest of the day.

Now she climbed out of the SUV. The air held the bite of an autumn night and she pulled the hood of Will’s jacket over his head and tugged the cuffs of his tiny jeans down to be sure that his legs were covered.

Mulder reached for the baby and began to slide him into the infant carrier strapped to his shoulders, but Will stirred and began to whimper. Sighing, Scully took Will back into her arms and Mulder shot her an apologetic look.

“Seems like only his mommy will do,” he said ruefully.

He peeled the infant carrier from his shoulders and took the fussing baby away from her as she adjusted the shoulder straps and fastened the carrier over her chest. Mulder slipped the baby into the carrier and tucked a small blanket around him. Will nestled against Scully’s breast and quieted upon hearing the heartbeat familiar to him from the womb. His lips puckered rhythmically around his pacifier and he tumbled back into sleep.

Mulder buttoned up his leather jacket and caught one of Scully’s hands in his own. A small group of people was gathered on the street corner. This was one of the highlights of the trip that Scully had planned for Mulder. They were taking a ghost tour.

The tour guide had several lanterns set on the ground beside her. She introduced herself and handed the lanterns out to some of the people in the group.

Mulder clutched the metal handle of one lantern in his free hand and flashed a smile at Scully.

The guide was good and she led the small group on a tour of many of the local sites and buildings that were purportedly haunted. She wore a long, black cape that fluttered in the breeze and she used her lantern to good effect – the candlelight bathing her face in flickering shadows as she told her tales in a low, smoky and appropriately spooky voice. Mulder and Scully trailed along behind the others and shared private smiles while the other guests shivered and grimaced as they listened to the stories of restless souls that walked the grounds of Lancaster

County.

The group rounded a corner and followed the guide into a small cemetery. High clouds drifted overhead, momentarily obscuring the crescent moon. They walked past the large, marble monuments of the wealthy dead of Lancaster and stopped at the far edge of the cemetery.

The guide set her lamp down onto the path and leaned against an old oak tree.

“Are any of you staying at the Millcreek Inn?” she wondered aloud. Mulder grinned and raised his hand.

The tour guide’s eyes widened appreciatively.

“My favorite story to tell is of the ghost of the Millcreek Inn,” she confided to the rest of the group.

“It’s always more fun when someone on the tour is staying there.” She grinned and settled more comfortably against the oak tree. “Of course, after you hear this, you may want to find someplace else to stay for the rest of your visit.” Mulder raised a challenging brow at the guide as if to say ‘bring it on’ and Scully rolled her eyes in amusement. She peeked under the blanket to assure herself that Will was still comfortably asleep and ran a hand in rhythmic circles over his tiny back. Mulder’s lantern was resting on the ground beside him and he stood behind Scully, his arms locked around her waist and his cheek resting against her hair.

“Molly Sullivan was a beauty,” the guide began.

“Sixteen years old with crystal blue eyes and strawberry blonde curls…” Her voice was low and hypnotic as she wove the tragic tale of Molly Sullivan and William Foxworth.

Scully relaxed against Mulder’s chest and allowed herself to be swept up in the heartbreaking story of lovers who found each other only to be torn apart by the horrors of war and the rage of a spurned man.

“William’s body is interred in the Foxworth’s family plot in Philadelphia. Word of his death never reached Molly.” The guide picked up her lantern and took a couple of steps away from the oak tree.

“This is Molly’s grave.” The guide fell silent as she swept her arm out and the lantern’s light spilled over a small grave marker. The words etched into the stone were faded and worn. A breeze kicked up, sending a shower of oak leaves swirling wildly around the small group of people and causing more than one person to jump at the sudden break in the stillness. A small pile of leaves settled around Molly’s tombstone and the guide knelt to brush them clear of the grave.

“No one knows for sure, but it’s widely believed that Molly was carrying William’s child when she was murdered.” Scully’s arms tightened reflexively around her son and he grunted in sleepy protest.

“Molly’s body may be buried here, but they say that her spirit haunts the Millcreek Inn. For more than two hundred years, people have reported hearing strange noises… a woman sighing sadly or the plaintive whisper of a lullaby. No one has ever actually seen Molly, but her presence is often marked by the scent of lilacs. She wanders the halls, mourning the loss of her child and waiting for her true love to return to her as he had promised.”

It was a silent group that followed the guide out of the cemetery and back to the starting point of the tour. By the time they reached their cars, the group was once again chattering, although they were noticeably quieter than they had been throughout most of the tour as they thanked their guide and climbed back into their cars.

*****

To be continued in Chapter Four

Chapter Four

October 2001

Lancaster

Pennsylvania

Mulder took a sleeping Will from his mother’s tired arms and carried him into his room. While he dressed the baby in a clean diaper and pajamas, Scully took the opportunity to go into the bathroom and wash up before getting ready for bed.

She came back into the bedroom and Mulder took her place in the bathroom.

She pulled a pair of silky pajamas from the bureau and changed into them before stretching out on top of the bed.

She heard the pipes squeak in the bathroom as Mulder turned on the shower. Scully scrubbed her fists over her eyes, determined to stay awake and spend some quiet time with Mulder.

Her lids drooped heavily, despite her best intentions. I’ll just close my eyes for a few moments, she thought and stifled a yawn behind her hand. Just until Mulder is finished… She wrapped her arms around herself as a sudden chill swept into the room and a strange lethargy weighted her limbs…

******

Molly rose from the bed and began to prowl about the room.

She poked through the items strewn across the smooth surface of the bureau. She lifted a small bottle of perfume to her nose and took an experimental sniff, grimacing at the slightly spicy scent. She fingered the coins and studied the unfamiliar paper greenbacks curiously. Flipping open a leather wallet, she smiled with pleasure when she saw the image of her beloved staring up at her. So tiny – like a miniature portrait – but with the most amazingly lifelike detail… She squinted at the words next to the picture.

Molly had never spent a single day in her too-short life in school and she could only read a few words. During their short time together, she had asked William to teach her to spell his name. Now, the familiar letters leapt up at her.

“Fox… William…” Her lips curved into a smile as they formed the words. His face was not exactly the same and his name was slightly different, but she knew. He had promised to come back to her and now she was more convinced than ever that her long wait was over.

Molly looked into the large mirror attached to the bureau and wrinkled her nose in distaste at the site of the strange sleeping garment that she wore. Why did this woman dress like a man? Molly had borne witness to more than two centuries of time and had grown somewhat accustomed to the sight of women wearing trousers, but she couldn’t fathom any woman wanting to dress like a man in the bedroom. William called the woman ‘Scully’. What kind of name was that for a woman, she sneered? She closely studied the image reflected back at her in the mirror. Certainly, she was a pretty woman… but how did she hold William’s interest? With a man’s name and unattractive nightclothes? With the tired look in her eyes and what Molly suspected was less then exciting

lovemaking.

Molly rummaged through the bureau and sighed with satisfaction when she found a pretty nightgown neatly folded in one drawer. She remembered the look of astonished pleasure on William’s face when she had awakened him with her caresses. Molly peeled off the offending articles of clothing and clutched the nightgown in her hands. She could feel her strength growing with every moment that she spent in the warmth of this living woman’s body. She would enthrall William in the only way she knew how. She would use this body, weave a spell over him… bind him to her with her touch and her kisses until the other woman’s ways were but a distant memory. She had found her beloved again; found their child safe and whole with him. She would do whatever it took to keep them.

******

Mulder came out of the bathroom to find Scully perched on the edge of the bed. She was dressed in a white sleeveless cotton nightgown. The top buttons were unfastened revealing the shapely curve of one breast, and a strap had slipped onto her arm, exposing the creamy skin of her shoulder to his gaze. Her bare feet were propped up on the wooden rail of the bed frame, small toes peeking out from beneath the hem of the nightgown.

Molly kept her head down, projecting an innocent shyness that immediately caught Mulder’s attention.

“Scully.” He moved to the side of the bed and tilted her head up with gentle fingers beneath her chin. Molly held her breath as his eyes searched her face.

“So beautiful,” he breathed softly. His lips roved over her face with an exquisite tenderness that sent a shiver rippling down Molly’s spine. His hands cupped her cheeks; his mouth settled over hers, sipping, tasting, nibbling. Molly lifted her hands and wrapped her fingers around his wrists. She tugged lightly and pulled his hands away from her face.

“Mu… Mulder,” she stumbled over the unfamiliar name. Molly was convinced that William did not recognize her… indeed, she believed that he did not even realize who he was. It was best to be cautious, lest she drive him away. She pressed their joined hands against her breasts.

“I… I…” Again, she dropped her gaze, projecting a shyness she didn’t feel. “Tonight, I want to do whatever you’d like,” she whispered in a rush, eyes still locked on their hands.

“I’ll do anything you want…” she offered. “Anything…”

she said in a breathless promise. She hesitantly nibbled on her lower lip and chanced a glance upward to meet his gaze with her own. His eyes were dark and two spots of color rode high on his cheeks as he shook his head.

“No… Scully,” he protested weakly. “I don’t… we always do this together.” His voice rumbled unconvincingly. Molly guided his hand into the open front of her nightgown until his palm brushed over her rigid nipple.

“Please,” she begged prettily. “I want this.” She slipped one hand around the back of his neck. “Anything you want,” she offered again and stood until their mouths were but a breath apart. “Please.”

Mulder curled one arm around her waist and pulled her against his bare chest. He had been semi-erect from the moment he had set eyes on her in her virginal white nightgown sitting demurely on the edge of the bed. Now he felt a jolt of lust that sent a surge of blood to his groin.

Anything he wanted… Scully, offering herself to him… for him. The idea of it rushed through him, headier and more potent than wine.

Molly gasped when she felt his flesh rise beneath the soft flannel pants that rode low on his lean hips. She closed her eyes and offered her mouth to him. Mulder groaned with the knowledge that she was standing before him, ripe for the taking. His lips covered hers, his tongue plunging into her mouth and he reveled in the moan that vibrated beneath his hand where it covered her breast. He tore his mouth away from hers and took a step back, panting.

“O… okay.” He cleared his throat and let his hands fall away from her body. Once again her gaze fell to the floor and Mulder fought back a groan, more turned on than he’d like to admit by this suddenly submissive side of his Scully. He could feel himself tightening all over, could sense the moment his desire and need overrode any reservations he might have. When he spoke his voice reflected that desire.

“Undress,” he said, commanding her. Her hands rose swiftly to the buttons of her nightgown. “Slowly,” he cautioned.

Molly peeked up at him through her lashes. His arms were folded over his chest and his features were tightly drawn.

Her fingers trailed over the skin exposed by the half-open front of her nightgown before she slipped a button free of its mooring. She fought back a knowing smile when she saw his chest rise and fall on a quick breath. Slowly, she unfastened each button. Her fingers trembled with repressed excitement as they tugged on the satin ribbon and pulled the ends from the loose bow between her breasts.

With the nightgown unbuttoned, she let her hands fall to her side to await further instructions. He reached out and pushed a strap from her shoulder so that both straps drooped over her arms. The sheer material clung tenaciously to her full breasts, hiding most of the milky white skin from his view.

“Pull your arms out,” he ordered hoarsely. Molly shrugged her shoulders and slid her arms from the straps. The filmy nightgown slipped down and clung to her hips for a moment before slithering to the floor to pool around her feet.

“Touch your breasts.” His voice was strained and he began to breathe rapidly. Molly ran the backs of her knuckles over her breast, mimicking the way she had seen him touch her that morning. She tucked her hand under her breast and lifted it slightly as though offering it to him. Mulder moaned and leaned down, taking the rosy tip of her breast between his lips. Molly’s knees buckled and Mulder caught her with one strong arm wound low around her hips. He released her breast and pressed his lips to her ear. His heart was pounding – he was beginning to sweat – he was incredibly aroused.

“God, Scully.” His whisper was harsh in her ear. “Now, undress me.”

Molly tangled her fingers into the flannel waist of his pants and slowly tugged them over his hips. She paused, carefully easing the material over his straining erection and pushed them down his legs as far as she could reach. She felt his fingers curl over her shoulder as he coaxed her to the floor.

There was a tremble in those fingers; the telltale reaction made her smile. His hoarse command confirmed it.

“Kneel down…”

Molly sank obediently to her knees and impulsively rested her face against his strong thigh. His flesh bobbed in eager anticipation and she nuzzled her cheek against the velvety soft head.

“I want to be in your mouth,” Mulder growled. His face was flushed and sweat gleamed lightly on his chest and arms.

Molly nodded and her tongue darted out to skim over the length of him. Mulder drew in a harsh breath when her mouth closed over the tip of his penis, her lips suckling his swollen flesh. He threaded his fingers into her auburn hair and lightly thrust his hips forward.

“More.” The words were a groan and a command and a plea all wrapped up into one vital word. And when she nodded again her mouth slipped over him several more inches. Mulder closed his eyes and let his head fall back onto his shoulders.

Jesus… he’d never felt anything like it. Her mouth… So hot. So greedy for him, for his flesh. He couldn’t remember a time when Scully had this level of greed, for him. His head raised and he looked down at her in awe. That slender, sweet throat… she’d taken him very deep. Inside her mouth, slick and hot, burning him. Then, sliding him deeper, further…

Into that slender throat. Oh, Christ… Nothing like this had ever happened to him before. Mulder twined his hands into the fiery silk of her hair and held tight, standing on rubbery legs in the center of their dimly-lit bedroom.

At first he fought the need to move and thrust into her mouth, just relishing the feel of her tongue and the sharp edge of her teeth. She slipped down over him; then pulled back with a swirl of her tongue, over the head of his engorged penis. And again… and again. Over and over; slowly, languidly. As if she had all the time in the world to make this amazing love to him. Her hands moved from his hips and curled over the backs of his thighs, slid over his buttocks… applied a little pressure, causing his legs to part a bit more. Through half-closed eyes glazed with an overload of passion, Mulder watched her work his flesh, felt her kneading his cheeks…

When she released him from her throat and eased his length from her mouth his eyes opened in surprise and he stared down at her in a confused haze. “Scully… what are you… oh, Jesus…”

For she had locked passion-darkened eyes with his, as she brought a hand to her mouth, and closed her lips over her index finger, wetting it completely. Her tongue licked along the length of that finger, until it was dripping with her saliva… his breathing hitched in his chest… then stopped in shock when she curved that same hand behind him again, wet finger slipping in between his cheeks, probing delicately…

searching for his most sensitive place, and finding it easily…

Pushing inside. When her mouth took him over, deeply, again… Mulder’s eyes rolled back in his head and his raw gasp filled the quiet bedroom. Her throat engulfed him, her finger pushed and stroked inside him – her other hand cupped and squeezed at his balls. A triple whammy, three moves calculated to make him come apart, to dissolve in her mouth, burning from the inside out.

He couldn’t last three more seconds.

He felt he could fly this way forever.

He was dying to reciprocate.

He selfishly wanted to explode in her amazing mouth.

He wanted to worship at her feet, kiss her little toes in grateful supplication.

He wanted to shout to the world at large that this woman was his, his alone – his to command. His to persuade, seduce, ensnare…

His to adore.

The groan that erupted from him shot out like a bullet, his body shook, fingers now digging into her hair, inadvertently pulling at the soft strands… and his eyes snapped open when her head jerked against his hands and away from him, from his throbbing erection. He looked down at the exact moment Scully looked up at him, her mouth still open, rounded and wet and glistening, eyes also rounded – with utter shock.

***

For Scully, it was like swimming from the depths of the ocean floor. Sounds came through in a muffled roar and when she tried to open her eyes, everything was dark and mysterious.

She fought against invisible bonds that held her captive in the murky darkness – like tentacles of seaweed wrapped around her limbs. Something was snarled in her hair, tugging, pulling… hurting. Her heart beat madly beneath her breast and she had trouble breathing. There, in the distance – a glimmer of light and she struggled toward it. She burst to the surface and opened her eyes, fighting for breath.

And she stared up, at the dark and hard length of him poised right above her face – she took shocked note of the way she knelt at his feet, with her hand buried in the heat of his groin and a finger pressing inside him. Stared at the blazing eyes and wide, gasping mouth of a lover she suddenly didn’t seem to know very well… somehow a stranger.

His image was blurred – Mulder, and yet not Mulder. Eyes that were, for a split second, more green than hazel; his features were younger, his hair longer. His fingers were still knotted in her hair and his chest was heaving. She drew in a deep breath and her senses were swamped by his familiar scent mingled with the muted fragrance of lilacs.

She blinked and his face came into focus. He whispered her name and his hips pulsed toward her pleadingly.

Scully was frightened. She remembered stretching out on top of the bed while waiting for Mulder to finish in the bathroom. Now, in her mind’s eye, she caught fleeting glimpses of them. Images came to her as though through a gauzy veil. She – stripping the nightgown from her body, eyes downcast in submission. His expression – at once shocked and filled with lust. She – stroking her fingers in a movement both wanton and innocent over her breasts; cupping and offering her flesh as a gift to the man towering over her. He – pushing her to her knees, his voice demanding, commanding as he tangled his fingers in her hair. She taking him deep, deep into her mouth and throat… licking her finger and curling her hand around his flank…

Scully squeezed her eyes shut against the images. Fragments of memories… of which she had no recollection. And yet, between her legs she felt a familiar stickiness; could smell her own arousal. A light coating of perspiration was drying on her skin and she shivered once and let her hands fall away from his body.

Mulder sank to his knees in front of her and cupped her face between his hands. “Scully,” he murmured. He whispered her name over and over as he peppered her face with kisses. His arms curled around her, but instead of growing warmer, her limbs felt weighted with an icy coldness. The air around her seemed to shimmer with rage, pulling at her, threatening to drag her back into the murky darkness. She coiled her arms around Mulder’s neck and held on tightly. The windows flew open with a bang, lace curtains streaming in the cool, autumn wind. From the top of the bureau, the small bottle of perfume fell onto its side and the loose change tumbled to the floor with a clatter.

For Mulder, the flung-open windows and flapping curtains, spilled bottles and coins should have warned him that something unnatural was happening in this historic room. But he was too far gone, too deeply into his own unfulfilled needs and desires, to focus on anything other than the way every pore of his body screamed for release, for his climax.

He’d never felt anything like it, this insane build-up of pure lust. And somewhere in the back of his mind he knew the selfishness he was exhibiting was very unlike him – yet he couldn’t seem to stop. He did manage to ease the demand of his hands on her body, suddenly mindful of the possibility of bruising her soft and shivering skin. It took every ounce of his resolve, but he managed…

The trembling of Scully’s muscles eased under the familiarity of Mulder’s gentling caresses. His erection had not subsided in the least and was prodding her hip insistently. She lifted her head from his shoulder and stared into his eyes.

Gone was the stranger and in his place was the man she adored. Determined to forget about her fears and worries and instead to focus on Mulder, she slid her fingers into his damp hair and shifted, rubbing the soft skin of her stomach against his aching flesh.

Scully kept her gaze locked on his and her fingers pressed on his neck as she reclined on the soft carpeting beneath her.

She pulled him toward her and Mulder propped himself on one elbow. Scully trailed one hand over his shoulder. Her palm grazed his chest and she stroked her palm over one pectoral muscle, amazed – as always – when her touch elicited a soft groan from him. She never tired of the loving look in his eyes when they touched; never grew accustomed to the fact that he wanted her. She loved to watch the slow fluttering of his lashes when she slipped one hand between their bodies to wrap her fingers around his hot flesh. This man… this man she knew. Partner. Best friend. Lover. Father of her child.

She parted her legs and drew him into the cradle of her thighs. She linked her fingers with his and drew their arms over her head, stretching, lengthening her torso and pressing her breasts into his chest. She twined her legs around his hips and brushed her mouth over his jaw.

Filled with an inexplicable need to see his eyes and for him to see her face, she whispered to him as he sank into her body. When he was deep inside of her, she smiled. Scully arched her back, lifting her hips from the floor to meet him.

He moaned her name with each thrust of their hips. As they moved together, they were oblivious to everything but each other; unmindful of the cold, unaware of the shimmering rage of a woman, long dead, watching her beloved prepare to spill himself into the body of another woman.

***

Mulder hadn’t understood the sudden change in Scully’s demeanor from innocent seductress to the shivering woman in his arms, earlier in the night when she seemed to be making frenzied love to him one minute and then almost cowering from him in the next. His own body had been quivering with unfulfilled desire and he couldn’t have fought the desperate urge to bury himself in her, much longer. The relief he felt when she began to respond to him again was so much like the easing of an agonizing ache that he’d actually groaned aloud as if in pain.

The wet silken feel of her surrounding him was sublime as always – the loving way she curled her arms and legs around him, arched herself against him, a familiar and wonderful thing… yet in the back of his mind Mulder couldn’t help but compare the woman who now clung to him so sweetly to the temptress with the wild red hair who just minutes ago made his body strum and vibrate as never before. And yet, they were both the woman he adored. As he plunged his hands into her damp hair, feeling her nails drag up his back and press into his spine, as he thrust and shivered and groaned and came, hard and deep inside her… Mulder told himself that she’d suddenly for no apparent reason gone shy on him – and he found it rather endearing. He buried his lips against her neck and rasped out one shuddering, “Scully…!”

And as she convulsed and cried out beneath him, clenching him deep within her… Mulder could swear he detected the fragrance of lilacs.

****

She had stolen this woman’s release, and she reveled in the warm life now coursing through her senses. Wet and hot and familiar and oh, she’d missed it so badly… that explosion of blood and heat and life, within her lonely soul.

Molly hadn’t been able to bear the thought of this red-haired woman with the manly name, taking her man’s seed – not when it was becoming easier and easier to slip inside her, take her over, bask in her emotions and in her utter life force.

And so when the woman had begun to shudder, to gasp and to clutch at her beloved… Molly had glided over – and had taken over. She’d made him come, for her – within her.

Pure bliss… William, my love…

He sank down over her and Molly welcomed the heavy and sated body covering hers. She couldn’t breathe very well but she didn’t care; after all, she’d been bereft of inhaling air for hundreds of years. For the feel of him in her arms, Molly would forego oxygen forever, if necessary. His head came to rest on the carpet under her shoulder and he stared deeply into her blue eyes. And his gaze was loving and worshipful; in that moment he looked exactly the way William had when last he’d gazed upon her, their final night together. He smiled sleepily at her and Molly smiled back, adoring him as never before.

Her beloved William…

She could have stayed there all night, awake and holding him in her arms, watching him sleep – but a soft snuffle and a whimper from the small room adjoining the bedroom drew her attention, and Molly raised herself on her elbows, carefully dislodging the slumbering man beside her. The baby… her baby. William the Second, her other beloved. Coming awake in the middle of the night, wanting his mother.

Wanting her. Molly rose eagerly, unaware as she gained her feet and walked to the door that the slumbering man sprawled on the floor had awoken and was watching the sway of her hips in confusion, was actually sniffing the air as if detecting a fragrance that wasn’t supposed to be cloying and intrusive…

There he was. Her beautiful baby. Will lay on his back, sleepy yet awake, one plump hand in his mouth, sucking hard at his fingers. Molly’s hungry eyes soaked him up, committing him to memory, hands reaching out for him. She couldn’t wait to hold him, suckle him – her breasts ached with the need to nourish him…

When her hands touched his pajama-clad body, Will blinked up at her, one fist still crammed in his mouth. Molly scooped him into her arms, snuggling him near, crooning to him all the words she’d held inside her for so very long… and as she gazed down into his sweet face with rapturous eyes, Will opened his little rosebud mouth –

And screamed bloody murder.

The shock of his howling distress stunned Molly so much that she almost dropped him. His little body twisted and stiffened in her arms; tears pouring from his huge blue eyes – and Molly hurriedly sat down in a nearby chair and brought him to her bare breast, deciding the poor love must be starving for mother’s milk. With sniffles and hitching whimpers Will rooted for her nipple, latching on fiercely…

only to pull away in distaste and sob anew, harder than before.

Molly stared down at him in confusion and worry; her darling boy had to be famished. Why else would he take on so? She cupped a hand under her breast and brought the nipple close to his mouth again, pressing the hard nub to his mouth, trying to coax his lips to open and take his feeding When suddenly a sharp pain tore through her breast, and with eyes glazed in tears Molly looked down to see blood on her nipple. William had bitten her! With the new tooth he’d been cutting somehow he’d managed to bite down and draw blood… Molly could feel the pain of it, the shock of it…

but the pain seemed to be fading, as the room suddenly faded, right along with the feel of the sobbing baby in her arms…

her arms. They were fading, too…

Molly managed to cry out a despairing, “NOOOO… William!…”

***

Chapter Five

October 2001

Lancaster

Pennsylvania

What the fuck was going on?

Mulder had watched Scully leave the room, and it was his lover and yet not. Her hips moved in a way he’d never seen before; she seemed to glide instead of walk… and that smell again, of lilacs. Scully never wore lilac perfume…

Mulder raised himself on an elbow, now awake enough to register the sound of his son crying, loudly. Well, that was nothing new, at least lately with the discomfort of teething pains. Yet this cry had a panicked note to it he’d never heard before – and he found himself pushing to his feet and following the form of a lover he suddenly wasn’t sure he knew.

He paused in the doorway, hidden in the night’s deep shadows, and watched as she lifted Will from the crib; watched with a mouth hanging open as his son not only pitched one hell of a fit when she tried to hold him – but actually bit the nipple she tried to put into his mouth.

Bit her. Bit his mother…

And Mulder stared anew in complete confusion and escalating worry, when the blood welled on Scully’s pale breast and he saw her take a huge shuddering breath, her entire body trembling as if icy-cold; she stared down at the baby as if she’d never seen him before.

Then that despairing cry of hers – “NOOOO… William!…”

When Mulder made a sound of distress, there in the doorway, her gaze swung to him and he gaped at the blank look of her, so unlike Scully. For a few seconds they stared at each other in mute disbelief, eyes locking together… and their son broke the odd spell by gurgling in satisfaction as his persistent rooting gained him the reward of his mother’s uninjured breast and he caught the nipple between determined little lips and began suckling like mad. The other nipple still seeped blood… Mulder suddenly found his voice.

“Scully – what the hell’s going on?”

She didn’t seem to hear him, her eyes still focused in on her son and then glancing down at her injured nipple. Finally she raised tear-filled eyes to Mulder and her voice sounded so lost, when she spoke.

“Mulder… how did I get out here? Why am I bleeding?”

*****

Scully’s head ached when she awoke the next morning, her pulse pounding in her temples. She pushed the tangle of hair away from her face and blinked, slowly bringing the room into focus. Mulder was sitting up in bed beside her with Will propped against his upraised knees. Mulder’s brow was furrowed and his eyes were dark with concern as he studied her in the pale morning light. Will’s tiny face crinkled in a welcoming smile when he saw that his mother was awake and he reached out with one hand, cheerfully babbling a good morning to her.

Scully groggily pushed herself into a sitting position and reached out for Will who lunged eagerly into her arms. She unbuttoned the front of the white cotton nightgown that she vaguely remembered Mulder helping her into before she collapsed into bed. Opening the last of the buttons, she bared her breasts for Will’s breakfast. The sight of the small bandage covering the nipple of her left breast brought back a hazy memory of Will screaming in her arms, intensifying the pounding in her temples. She guided the baby’s mouth to her right breast and lifted tired eyes to Mulder.

“How are you?” he asked, softly running a finger around the edge of the small bandage. Scully shook her head and rubbed the fingers of one hand through her son’s downy hair. His eyes were closed contentedly, a marked contrast to the distraught child of only a few hours earlier, and his little hand flexed open and closed against the upper swell of her breast.

“What happened, Mulder?” Scully leaned her aching head against Mulder’s shoulder and felt his arms come around her in an almost protective embrace. He leaned his cheek on her head and she heard the sound of his whiskers rasping against the fine silk of her hair when he shook his head.

“I… Do you remember the story we heard on the tour last night?”

Scully adjusted Will more comfortably in her arms. She tilted her head back and frowned up at Mulder.

“What are you…” She was confused. Mulder was watching her so intently, but his question made absolutely no sense to her. “What about the ghost tour?” she asked, trying to gather her scattered wits.

“The tour guide talked about the ghost that has haunted this inn for the last two hundred and some years,” he said softly.

Scully nodded and closed her eyes tiredly. “Molly Sullivan.”

“Right.” Will had finished nursing and Mulder raised his arm from Scully’s shoulders to lift the baby. He slipped both hands under the baby’s arms but Will turned his head back against his mother’s breast with an irritated little grunt.

“Leave him.” Scully shifted the baby onto her shoulder and rubbed his back with the flat of her hand. “What about Molly Sullivan?” she prompted impatiently. Her left breast was engorged with milk and was beginning to ache. She couldn’t allow Will to suckle there. The wound was small but it was painful and still covered with the anti-biotic ointment that Mulder had spread over it before covering it with the bandage. The soreness in her breast was fast becoming a distraction and she tried to ignore the pain and focus on Mulder’s words instead.

Mulder curved his arm around her shoulders again and began to speak. “The tour guide said Molly wanders the halls of this inn, mourning the loss of her baby and waiting for her lover to return,” he reminded her. After he had tended to the wound Will had left on Scully’s breast, he had lain awake all night, watching her sleep; his mind had whirled with a thousand crazy ideas. But his thoughts kept returning to the same place and now he tried to put his theory into words for the first time.

“Scully, you don’t wear floral perfumes, do you?” She blinked at the confusing change in the direction of his conversation and struggled to keep up with him.

“No,” she said. “I don’t care for flowery scents.” She bit back an impatient sigh. Mulder knew exactly what kind of fragrance she preferred.

“Every night since we arrived at this inn… when I’m in your arms…” Mulder fell silent for a moment before continuing.

“The perfume you’re wearing reminds me of the huge lilac bush that grew in the yard of our house on the Vineyard.”

‘Her presence is often marked by the scent of lilacs.’ The tour guide’s words rang clearly in Scully’s mind and her gaze shot up to Mulder’s. She started shaking her head and her arms tightened around Will until he gave a breathless grunt.

She eased her grip slightly but continued to clutch him close.

“Nonono…” Scully shook her head rapidly and pulled away from Mulder. He scrambled to his knees before her and placed his hands on her legs, holding her in place.

“Just hear me out.” His fingers clutched her through the sheets covering her legs. “Scully… what do you remember about last night?”

She pressed her mouth against the reddish-brown curls on Will’s head and closed her eyes. She tried to block him out, but Mulder’s voice was insistent.

“Scully, one minute you were a… a seductress,” he told her.

“The last two nights…” He licked his lips and struggled to find a way to put his thoughts into words. “You’ve been…

different. Aggressive. Wanton and inventive… wild.”

She watched his eyes close and his teeth sink into his lower lip as he recalled the last two nights spent in her passionate embrace and a faint memory of the words he had spoken tickled her brain. ‘Beautiful, so gorgeous… I’ve never seen you look so beautiful…’ Scully swallowed hard and her gaze fell to the sleepy baby in her arms when Mulder opened his eyes again.

“I didn’t realize it at the time,” he continued in a soft voice, “but now I know.” His thumbs traced circles over her knees. “When you woke up yesterday morning… you had no memory of the previous night, did you?” Scully rubbed her finger over Will’s diaper-clad bottom and stubbornly refused to meet Mulder’s gaze.

“And last night…” His voice faltered for a second and he cleared his throat before continuing. “One minute you were driving me out of my mind… swallowing me whole…” Her face flamed at his words and she began to pull away from him.

“Then suddenly… I don’t know.” His voice held all of the confusion he had been feeling the previous night. “You were looking at me with such shock and… fear.” His words were rough with suppressed emotion. “God, Scully… you were looking at me as if I was a stranger – like you didn’t know who I was.”

Scully opened her mouth to speak but the words were stuck in her throat. To admit that she had no memory of how she came to be kneeling on the floor before him… doing things to him – with him – that she had never done before… would give credence to Mulder’s crazy theory.

She gulped in much-needed air, burying the admission deep in her heart before speaking.

“Mulder, this has got to be one of the craziest things you’ve ever said to me.”

“Scully…”

“No! I know that you’ll believe just about every paranormal story that comes down the pike but, Mulder! Even for you this is extreme.”

Mulder dug the heels of his palms into his eyes, growling at the too familiar sensation of arguing with Scully and her refusal to accept extreme possibilities. He listened, as her voice grew more strident with every word.

“I am NOT being possessed by the ghost of a Revolutionary-War era prostitute, Mulder!” Will whimpered and stirred in her arms as her voice lifted into a near-shout. Scully stroked a hand over the baby’s head and immediately lowered her voice.

“I booked this inn because I thought you would enjoy the history and supposed hauntings but, Mulder you are taking it too far. I know that things haven’t worked out the way we had planned and I’m sorry that I’ve been so worn out and…”

Mulder reached out and grabbed her by the shoulders, giving her a tiny shake. “Jesus, Scully! The other night, you called me William! That was his name – the name of Molly’s lover.” His voice pleaded with her to make the connection and he bit back a curse at the stubborn set of her jaw.

“Even our five-month-old son knows that something is going on. He bit you last night!” His gaze dropped to the bandage covering her left breast. “Maybe he’s only got one small nubby tooth so far but he was frightened enough of the woman who held him, to draw blood and leave behind a wound, Scully.

He would have had to bite down very hard and that means he had to be so scared. When you walked into that room and picked him up last night… he knew that something was wrong… he knew that the woman holding him was not his mother!”

Scully’s arms tightened around the baby again and she rubbed her cheek against his hair, trying not only to comfort the child, but herself as well. The headache raged unabated and her vision blurred – whether from tears or from the pain she wasn’t sure. Her heart was hammering in an out-ofcontrol rhythm between her breasts. She didn’t want to talk about this any longer. She didn’t want… she couldn’t…

God, please make him stop!

“Mulder!” Her voice was a harsh whisper. She lifted pleading eyes to his. “Please… I’m so tired. I can’t do this right now.” She slumped back against the pillows and Mulder relented in the face of her obvious exhaustion.

He reached out and lifted the baby from her arms. Will stirred briefly before settling more comfortably against his father’s chest.

“Why don’t you get some rest,” Mulder said softly. “Will and I are going to get dressed and go out for a little while.

I’ll tell Mrs. Knaubler that you’re sleeping and ask her not to disturb you.” He stood and watched as Scully nodded wearily and tugged the blankets up to her chin. Her eyes slowly closed and he knew that she was pretending to sleep as he moved about the room, dressing himself and the baby.

From her corner near the window, Molly watched with satisfaction as he stepped into the hallway and pulled the door closed behind him. He recognized her, she thought joyfully! For the first time in more than two hundred years, someone had finally seen her… If she’d had any doubts before that this man called Mulder was her beloved William come back for her, those doubts had vanished. He was back, just as he had promised.

Her happiness was so complete that she could even forgive him his stubbornness in refusing to acknowledge her as baby William’s true mother. No doubt he felt some residual loyalty to the woman who bore the earthly body that encased the spirit of her beautiful baby boy. Well, she could afford to be generous… up to a point. Soon enough, he’d understand everything, and she’d reap the benefits of that understanding. Until then…

Molly smiled, straightening her spine, smoothing her fiery hair. Now, it was up to her. This time, she would let nothing tear her family apart.

She drifted across the room and stopped beside the bed to stare into the wan face of the woman sleeping fitfully beneath the colorful quilt. She threw a glance over her shoulder toward the closed door.

“When you come home, William… I’ll be waiting for you.”

******

It wasn’t until he’d strapped the gurgling Will into his car seat and revved up the engine that Mulder knew where he wanted to go.

Back at the Millcreek Inn, Mulder had sought out Mrs.

Knaubler to let her know Scully wasn’t to be disturbed. He’d found her in the warm and bright kitchen, baking banana bread. She’d greeted him cheerfully and made him sit down at the scrubbed oak table, serving him a piece of warm bread dripping with melted butter, and a cold glass of apple juice.

Mulder had known better than to protest, so he ate the delicious snack while Mrs. Knaubler bounced Will on her hip and tickled his little tummy, making him giggle.

Brushing the remaining crumbs from his lips, Mulder smiled at the innkeeper and thanked her for the treat. She waved his thanks away with a merry, “Oh, it’s nothing at all, Mr.

Mulder! I love to cook and this time of year the number of guests I enjoy dwindles off into nothing. When I have a few, I like to fatten them up!” She gave his lean frame the once over and chuckled aloud at the pink cheeks her perusal brought on.

Managing to get his embarrassment under control, Mulder stood up to leave, a wriggling Will deposited back into his arms after one last tickle from Mrs. Knaubler. Settling the baby on his hip, Mulder inquired, “If I wanted to find the library, how would I get there?”

Mrs. Knaubler obligingly fetched a paper and pencil and drew him a map, explaining, “Just follow the ‘City Center’ signs until you get to Brook Street…” A few more lines and the map was complete. As she handed it to Mulder she asked, “Are you wanting to do some research?”

Mulder shrugged. “Well, not really… I confess to some curiosity about the legend of Molly Sullivan and the man she still waits for, this William Foxworth. I thought I’d see what I could dig up at the library…” His words faded off at the decisive shake of her head.

“Well, I can save you a trip, I think. You won’t find much of anything at the public library. William Foxworth was from a well-to-do family and any historical reference on his life and death would be in his home town, Philadelphia. In fact, his identity as Molly’s lover wasn’t known until after both their deaths.” She poured another glass of apple juice and slid it across the table to Mulder, who sank back down into his chair with a now-dozing Will curled in his arm. Mrs.

Knaubler took the chair across from him and resumed her tale.

“You see, Molly died in the tavern of this very inn, as the legend states. A few days after her death, the innkeeper went up to her room to clear out her few possessions. It was said he liked Molly quite a bit and was very saddened by her murder.

“Well, he was in her room, packing up her clothes – and his foot caught on a loose floorboard. When he pulled at it the board came up and he saw there was a hole in the floor.

There was a little bundle in the hole, and a rolled-up parchment. He picked up the items and was surprised to see a substantial amount of coins tied into a handkerchief.

“Then he unrolled the parchment – and saw a wonderfullydetailed drawing of a young man, very handsome – and sleeping in what appeared to be Molly’s bed. And he recognized the man in the drawing as the soldier William Foxworth, who’d frequented the inn and had made Molly so happy for so brief a time. He could only imagine she’d drawn it, for no one else had ever come to her room once William became her true love.

“Well, the innkeeper refused to send it to William’s family, preferring to have it framed and to keep it as a memento of the young woman who’d died so young. And he used her saved coins to assure her a proper burial with a headstone marker, instead of having her placed in a common grave, which was often the fate of poor people in that day and age. That’s why Molly Sullivan has a nice marker and a private gravesite.” Mrs. Knaubler sat back in her seat and regarded Mulder with a sad smile, no doubt thinking of the tragic fate of the two lovers.

Mulder returned her smile, rocking Will as he slept in his arms. “I would have liked to have seen that drawing.”

Mrs. Knaubler clapped her hands excitedly. “Well then, Mr.

Mulder… you’re in luck! Because this inn has remained basically the same since Molly’s and William’s day including the paintings on the wall. And William’s drawing… it’s in the evening dining room. Would you like to see it?”

Mulder was on his feet in a second, suddenly wanting more than anything to see that drawing. At his earnest, “Yes, I would,” the smiling innkeeper got to her feet as well and led the way into the dim and quiet dining room.

In a corner of the room, framed in gilded oak and matted with faded blue velvet, William Foxworth reclined on a rumpled bed, fast asleep. Sheets were twisted around his hips but his muscled chest was bare; he lay on his side with a tousled dark head pressed against a pillow and one hand tucked under his cheek. The detail in the drawing was impressive; Mulder could see the man’s beard stubble, the well-defined, full lips and one elegantly-strong hand as it lay on his chest.

And beside him, Mrs. Knaubler sucked in a humming breath of surprise.

“You know, Mr. Mulder… when you and your missus first came here I thought there was something familiar about you but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. But now I know… why, you’re the spitting image of our William Foxworth!”

Mulder turned to her and stared at her, mouth hanging open…

then he faced the drawing, and gaped at it.

******

To be continued in Part 7

Chapter Six

October 2001

Lancaster

Pennsylvania

After leaving the inn – trying not to show on his face the reaction to William Foxworth’s drawing – Mulder had walked slowly in the bright fall sunshine, Will propped in limp slumber over a shoulder – and thought about the astonishing resemblance. The longer he’d looked at the drawing the more he could see it. True, William’s eyes had been closed – but otherwise it was like looking at his twin.

Mulder was trying like hell to fight his own thoughts, as he eased out of the inn’s parking lot and onto the deserted country road. Unsuccessful at holding them at bay, he drove slowly, on automatic pilot – and let them run wild.

William Foxworth could be his brother – and the ghost of Molly Sullivan thought her lover had returned to her. It all made sense – true, a horrifying sort of sense… but nonetheless a sense he had to face.

Mulder drove and thought about Molly Sullivan and her passion for her William. A love like that transcended years, centuries – it had kept her spirit bound to the Millcreek Inn, her promise to a dead lover held fast and true. It had dropped her into the path of a living man in whom she saw her beloved William – had persuaded her to find a way to lay claim to a child she believed was theirs.

Because of that belief Mulder knew that he and Scully – and Will – were in serious trouble, whether or not he accepted the idea that he was some reincarnation of William Foxworth.

In addition, he was having a difficult time reconciling the intense pleasure Scully had given him last night… when she really wasn’t Scully at all. It felt like cheating, though there wasn’t a way in Hell he’d cheated. He’d been loved by his lover – loved with sensual purpose, and in a way she’d never done before. And he couldn’t forget it, didn’t want to let it go – because as wonderful as loving Scully always was, there seemed to be a tiny part of him that missed a few, special acts of love… and that just wasn’t fair of him, not at all.

Not fair… Because William was five and a half months old and before Scully became pregnant the number of times she and Mulder had made love could be counted on half a hand. And all the time he was gone, he’d missed out on the wonder of being intimately joined with the woman he adored, while she carried life within her body…

After he returned and after Will’s birth it was difficult to find the time to be together in any sort of intimacy; new babies had a way of draining the energy of both parents.

Plus Scully had needed extra time to heal; Will was not a small newborn.

Their intimacy had at first of necessity been very careful, very gentle. They’d had to wait for two months due to an unexpected infection brought on by Scully tearing during delivery. Their first few times were painful for her even though Mulder had been so careful… He remembered the very first try; after several thrust attempts that brought tears to Scully’s eyes, Mulder had withdrawn from her and had instead used his fingers to bring her to orgasm. It had been a less-than-satisfactory way to go – but it had killed Mulder to see her crying. And he remembered that he’d been aching to be inside her, but the last thing he’d wanted to do was upset her further.

Yet he remembered, God how could he not? He remembered the feel of her mouth upon him, both as herself and as this formless ghostly presence. Dana Scully had taken him into her mouth perhaps twice in their intimate history – and it had been warm and wet and wonderful. She’d been a little shy, a bit hesitant – but Lord, he’d loved it.

And last night… Jesus. Mulder gave up trying to drive and think at the same time, and pulled over onto the road’s shoulder, letting the engine idle. Last night the term “BlowJob” had taken on all sorts of new connotations; Mulder had never experienced anything like it. He was selfish enough to admit to himself that he wanted it again, just like that…

and the guilt that filled him was all too real. It was his woman… and yet it wasn’t. Sooner or later Scully would realize this, accept it – find herself deeply hurt by it.

And then they’d have find a way to deal with what it meant to them, but for now there was a threat to their relationship and a danger to Scully and their son –

Mulder rubbed at his tired eyes, then started up the Explorer and nosed back onto the highway. Ten minutes later he stood in front of a plain, simple headstone – in the poorer section of Lancaster’s only cemetery – reading the words, ‘Molly Sullivan’ on the worn and weathered marker.

In his stroller Will dozed fitfully, gnawing on one of his hands. The wind whipped up a bit and blew dead leaves around the wheels of the stroller, same as a few nights before when they first took the ghost tour. Mulder stared at the stone marker and told himself a dead young woman was laid to rest here, fighting against the remembered feel of the lover who drove him just about insane last night. Reminded himself of the senseless tragedy of a life cut short much too soon, the sheltered embryo within her body snuffed out as well – and strained to forget the sound of his child sobbing in the arms of a mother he didn’t recognize and a soul he wouldn’t accept.

Mulder stood in the rising wind of a desolate section of a very old cemetery and tried not to think of one reason the ghost of Molly Sullivan could have for imagining he was her William, come back to her. But he only served to convince himself that once she made up her mind this was so… that she’d find a way to inhabit Scully’s body, forever.

And in doing so, end his world as he knew it.

****

By the time Mulder and Will returned to Millcreek Inn, the day had lengthened quite a bit and the beginnings of a storm had settled in.

He parked the SUV and got out, opening up the rear and covering Will’s head with his blanket before hauling him out and making a dash for the front doors. Will gurgled and babbled underneath the blanket, finally emerging from its folds once they were safely inside the lobby. He smiled a huge gappy grin at his father, who promptly buried his cold nose in the child’s neck, making him shriek with laughter.

Together they headed up to their suite – and the woman waiting for them both…

The bedroom door was ajar; dim lighting and a flickering fireplace created a cozy and warm atmosphere. Without stopping by the master bedroom Mulder carried Will to the smaller bedroom and laid him down, quickly and efficiently whipping off his soiled diaper and getting him into his fleecy sleeper. While Will played with his fingers and cooed, Mulder got a fresh blanket and scooped up his son, carrying him into his mother –

Who was reclining on the bed in the glow of a fireplace and several strategically-placed candles… naked but for a pair of pale blue thong panties. Mulder stopped dead in his tracks, and gawked at her. When she raised her eyes and smiled sensually at him he knew beyond a doubt that Molly had once more intruded upon their lives.

Mulder closed his eyes and swallowed down the flare of anger and fear – and reluctant desire – that her presence caused.

The anger and fear was workable; it was a normal reaction to the threat she posed against his family. The damn desire was another layer he didn’t need, not now or ever…

God, she looked incredible. Mulder stood locked in position in the doorway of the seductively-lit room, his son in his arms, and fought the urge to fall to his knees in front of her.

Her skin gleamed pale rose in the dim light, a pile of pillows behind her back giving a provocative thrust to her lovely breasts. From this angle the bandage covering part of her injured breast was barely visible. The tiny thong hid nothing and revealed only the perfection of her rounded hips and slender thighs. Red silky hair spilled out around her head and over one shoulder, her lips glistened moistly as if she’d just finished licking at them. And the blue fire of her gaze just about ate him alive. Her focus was so tight on him that she at first didn’t seem to notice the baby in Mulder’s arms, adorably dressed for bed and looking like a little angel. And if nothing else brought it home to Mulder that this exquisite creature wasn’t his Scully… that little detail certainly did.

Well, that and the fact that when she finally did switch her attention to Will, and smile sweetly at him… the child promptly began whimpering unhappily and hiding his face against his father’s shoulder.

Mulder rubbed Will’s back soothingly as he continued to stare silently at the stranger in his bed, who chose to ignore the baby’s distress and instead concentrate on a situation she perhaps felt she could better control – Mulder. Her arms stretching toward him in invitation, she whispered a throaty, “William… I’ve missed you so…”

The voice coming out of her mouth was soft and husky with emotion – and it just about killed him to hear it because it wasn’t Scully. And Mulder could have faced down the most horrendous nightmarish enemy from their past, gladly – rather than face the irrefutable proof that for this moment his lover and the mother of his child had in effect vanished from her own body.

As a result the response she got from the unsmiling man standing in the doorway wasn’t the one she was expecting.

“The name’s Fox Mulder, and I want you to release my partner.

NOW.”

When in a low, hurt voice she begged, “Don’t you know me?

You must! I’ve waited for you, for so long. I knew you’d return to me someday, and bring me our son. I knew it.

Please… don’t tease me. Come to me, my love – let me hold you, and our son.”

He shook his head and his eyes were hard as they stared at her. “I don’t know you, Lady. Believe it. I’m not who you think I am.”

Mulder watched those familiar blue eyes narrow in displeasure at his words and their tone, before they softened again and took on a pleading light. She raised herself to her knees and Mulder had to mentally remind himself this was not the woman he knew and loved. He took one tiny step backwards and hitched Will closer to him; the hungry baby was now gnawing like mad on his fist and snuffling in distress. It was only a matter of minutes before the snuffles became cries and then screams of outrage, not to mention pain, for his teething woes had intensified over the course of the day. Will needed to be fed – immediately – and he needed medication applied to his raw gums and a caring and gentle hand to pat his back as he was rocked to sleep.

Will needed his mommy – Mulder took a deep breath and planned a strategy, to reason with the sultry creature on her knees before him. Even from across the room he could see how engorged with milk her breasts had become. It had to be causing her some sort of major discomfort.

As if reading his thoughts she cupped the underside of both breasts with her hands and one caressed her uninjured nipple while the other splayed gentle fingers over the bandage, hiding it from view. Her eyes never left Mulder’s. If this had been Scully rubbing at her body and on her knees in the middle of a room designed for seduction… Mulder would have been all over her. Instead he steeled himself and prepared to fight.

“Molly. You have to help Will. He’s hungry and his mouth is sore from his baby teeth cutting through. Please… let Scully come forward, and feed him.”

When she slowly shook her head Mulder smothered an urge to curse aloud. He had to stay calm… He tried again. “M…

Molly,” he stumbled over the incongruity of calling Scully by a ghost’s name, “Please… Will needs his mother. Please…”

Again, Molly shook her head – reluctant to give up control of the body she now inhabited. The baby’s cries were becoming louder and her heart clenched with love and pity. She reached out, intent on gathering the tiny creature to her breast and to relieve his suffering, but when she touched him, the baby shrieked and buried his face against his father’s chest. Molly gasped and her hands flew to her forehead, kneading away the sudden ache that contorted her features into a pained grimace…

****

With a low, snarling cry, Scully flung herself against the barrier that Molly had erected to keep her submerged and she used every ounce of her strength and determination to batter her way to the surface. She felt the other woman’s surprise and she used that waver in Molly’s concentration to tear herself free of the ghost’s control.

“Will!” Wild-eyed, she reached out a trembling hand to touch her child. The baby’s shrieks quieted to a hiccupping sniffle under the familiar feel of his mother’s fingers threading through his hair and he stared at her with teardrenched eyes from the safety of his father’s arms.

Scully lifted the now willing baby into her arms and he immediately latched onto her breast. Her arms tightened protectively around him and she raised her head from her study of the small boy to look up into his father’s frightened and confused eyes.

“Scu… Scully?” Mulder lifted a tentative hand toward her and she nodded, nestling her face tiredly against his warm palm. Her skull ached horribly. She could hear Molly’s shrieks of frustrated anger in her head; could feel her clawing her way back to the surface with every beat of her heart.

“God… Mulder,” she breathed. “She’s so strong.” Scully’s voice was a hoarse whisper. Her attention was divided between the man who was kneeling on the floor before her, the child suckling at her breast and her struggle to fend off Molly’s attempts to regain control.

“You can feel her?” Mulder asked. Scully nodded. Her body was covered with a fine film of sweat and her breath escaped her in short, sharp bursts. Her heart was pounding with the effort of holding the other woman at bay. Despite her exertion, her limbs were trembling and her teeth were chattering with a coldness coming from deep within her body.

Mulder stripped out of his denim shirt and wrapped the warm, heavy cotton around her shoulders. “You’ve got to stay with me now, Scully,” he pleaded. Scully shook her head and lowered her eyes back to the baby in her arms. He was still nursing hungrily; his tiny fists were kneading the plump flesh of her breast and her milk trickled over his chin and pudgy cheeks as he greedily drew on her nipple.

Her poor baby. He was so hungry… she had to hold on long enough to finish feeding him.

“I don’t know how long I can hold her off,” Scully told Mulder. She leaned against him in quiet exhaustion, trying to draw strength from the warmth of his arms and the brush of his lips against her hair. “She’s… Mulder, she’s convinced that you are her William come back for her. And she thinks that Will is their baby.” Scully sighed and rested her cheek against his chest. She closed her eyes tiredly, losing herself in his familiar scent and her concentration wavered for a moment as sleep beckoned.

Mulder’s breath caught in his throat when he felt Scully’s hand creep between their bodies to fondle him through the heavy material of his jeans. His body stirred under her caressing fingers and he pulled his head back to look down into her face. Scully’s eyes were open and dilated and there was an oddly dreamy look in them. Will whimpered. His lips were still suctioned around her nipple, but his mouth had stopped its rhythmic pulling on her breast.

Scully felt Mulder’s hands tighten on her shoulders and she blinked and shook her head to clear it, surprised to find her hand cupping his surging flesh. She gathered all of her energy and sent one silent shrieking ‘no’ into the space between her soul and Molly’s – once again succeeding in pushing the ghost away. She could feel the other woman scratching and clawing at her consciousness, scrabbling for an entry point.

Dazedly she looked around the dimly-lit room. “Mulder, what time is it?” Mulder drew in a shuddering breath and willed himself to ignore the reluctant arousal coaxed by her wandering hands. He glanced at the watch strapped to his wrist.

“It’s a little after four o’clock,” he told her and shot a look towards the windows. “There’s a storm brewing outside, so it seems later.” As if he had carefully arranged it, the sky lit up with a jagged bolt of lightning and a few seconds later a low peal of thunder rolled through the countryside.

“You were gone a long time,” she murmured. “No wonder he’s so hungry.” She took a deep breath. “Mulder… she’s been so sad. All of these years she’s been waiting here for him.”

Scully shook her head and knuckled away a stray tear as the devastation of Molly’s enforced loneliness washed over her.

“Can you hear her?” Mulder’s sharp question startled Scully out of her sad reverie. She closed her eyes and ‘listened’.

A tiny crease formed between her brows and when her lashes fluttered open, Mulder was heartened to see the familiar light of discovery and curiosity in her blue eyes. He cocked his head to the side and looked at her questioningly.

“Well?”

She bit her lip and squeezed her eyes closed again. “No,” she said finally. “It’s not… I can’t hear her the way I hear you, but I can feel her… sense her. I know what she wants.” Scully opened her eyes and stared across the room at her reflection in the mirror. She felt Mulder shift so that he was sitting behind her and she watched his arms wind around her and Will to cradle them protectively in his embrace.

“She wants you. She wants you both.”

Mulder cast his eyes about the room, desperately searching for something… anything that would help them. He dropped his chin onto her shoulder and nuzzled her neck, inhaling the familiar, clean fragrance that was Scully. Will’s belly was finally full and he was no longer nursing with the same ferocious concentration as before. Ready to play, he craned his neck against Scully’s arm and offered his father a gummy grin before flinging his head back to latch onto his mother’s breast and lazily suckle once or twice. He caught the toes of one foot with his fingers and gurgled cheerfully as he pulled them toward his head, obviously intent on having a toe or two in his mouth. Scully’s eyes were fixated on her son’s antics. She cooed and murmured to the little boy and was rewarded with a giggling baby laugh. Her lips curved up in response to Will’s giggles but Mulder could see the exhaustion that sapped her posture of its natural grace.

Scully watched in confusion as Mulder slipped away from her and quickly walked across the room to the bureau. He yanked open one of the drawers and began to pull out her clothes and stack them on top of the bureau.

“Mulder.”

The muscles under the bare skin of his back were drawn tight with tension. He continued emptying the drawers and she called him again, her voice soft and pleading.

“Mulder.”

He turned and she saw the barely leashed fury in his eyes and in his movements as he clutched a bundle of her clothing against his chest. He looked around and gave a satisfied grunt when he spotted her suitcase on a luggage rack in one corner of the room.

“Mulder! What are you doing?” He shoved the garments violently into the suitcase and stalked back to the bureau for another armful.

“We’re leaving.” Grim determination shaded his voice.

“No.”

Mulder’s head snapped up in disbelief. He narrowed his eyes and studiously ignored her as he made a return journey to stuff more clothes into the suitcase.

“Mulder.” Scully slid from the bed and walked over to where he stood. She laid her palm against his back, enjoying the warm, silken skin beneath her fingers. “We can’t leave.”

Mulder whirled and grabbed her by the upper arm. “Yes! We can. We are.” His grip tightened painfully around her arm.

“We’re leaving, now… and we’re never coming back here.”

“Mulder… please, you’re hurting me.” Instantly, his grip eased and his fingers danced apologetically over her arm.

She cupped his cheek in her hand and forced him to look at her.

“We can’t leave. Don’t you know? She’s inside of me.” Her eyes searched his for understanding. “I don’t know why she’s still there… and I don’t know how she’s holding on… What I do know is that if we leave, she’ll come with us.”

Mulder hissed in frustrated confusion. “Maybe if we put some distance between us and this place, her grip will weaken.

You said yourself that she’s been waiting here all of this time for William to return. Maybe… don’t you think that she would refuse to leave this place? The place where William will come looking for her? If we leave… if we just get into the car and drive away, doesn’t it make sense that she would let go of you so that she could stay and be here when he returns?”

Scully smiled sadly into his hopeful face. “Mulder, you said it yourself, just this morning… to Molly, you ARE William.

She’ll follow you wherever you go.”

Mulder stifled a scream of rage and vented his fury on the suitcase, shoving it from the luggage rack to the floor and stomping it with a booted foot. Will watched wide-eyed as his father mauled the suitcase and Scully smoothed her hand soothingly over the baby’s head as she waited for the storm to pass. Her patience was rewarded a moment later as Mulder quieted, his shoulders slumping in defeat.

“Mulder, look at me.” She curled her fingers over his hand where it hung fisted at his side. “I need your help… we need to figure a way out of this.” Mulder nodded and led her back to the bed, once again kneeling on the floor near her feet.

“Did you eat anything today?” He worried that a lack of appetite and sleep would deplete her ability to keep fending off Molly. Scully shrugged and Mulder began to climb to his feet, intent on raiding the kitchen.

“No!” Her nails dug into his jeans and he obediently sank back to his knees before her. “Don’t leave.”

Mulder’s arms slipped about her and he burrowed his face into the loose folds of the shirt she was wearing to nuzzle the downy skin of her stomach. His lips caressed the tiny swell below her navel that was a lasting legacy of her pregnancy and, he had to admit, one of his favorite places on her body to explore.

Scully juggled Will in her arms and propped him on one of her thighs. The baby promptly tangled his fingers in Mulder’s hair and he gave a hearty tug, earning a yelping cry and an exaggerated pout from his father. The baby giggled and tugged again. Mulder gingerly pried Will’s hand from his hair and as he pressed a kiss to the baby’s chubby thigh, he felt Scully’s fingers sift comfortingly through his hair.

“What I can’t figure out is why… after more than two hundred years, Molly has fixated on you,” Scully said quietly. “At first, I thought it was because of Will… but surely there have been other couples with young children who have stayed in the inn over the years.”

Mulder shifted until he was seated on the floor between Scully’s legs and curled a hand around Scully’s ankle. His thumb dipped into the hollow behind the knot of her anklebone and his fingers feathered over the network of veins that ran across her instep. In a halting voice, he told her of the charcoal portrait Molly had sketched of William Foxworth.

“It… he looks just like I did when I was in my twenties,” Mulder admitted. “We could be twins.” Left unspoken was the niggling question of whether or not Molly could be right; that he could possibly be a descendent of William – or worse, Foxworth reincarnated… Mulder left the thought unvoiced because he refused to give it credence. As easy as it would be to accept that his physical responses to Molly were due to a repressed memory of a former life, the truth was that in this life, he belonged with Scully. Belonged with her and to her. She owned him, heart, mind, body and soul and he had willingly and joyfully given himself to her. He scooted closer to her and inhaled deeply; once again filling his lungs with Scully’s fresh, clean scent. He compared her scent – so familiar and arousing – to the fragrance of lilacs that marked Molly’s presence. Mulder knew that memories were closely linked with the sense of smell and he took comfort in the knowledge that the fragrance of lilacs stirred no long hidden memories of a time when he had loved another woman.

He looked up into Scully’s beloved face and returned the quiet smile she directed toward him. “Okay. Let’s go through this from the beginning. How do you think that Molly is able to po… possess you?” He stumbled over the word and its ugly connotations.

Scully pressed her lips to the top of Will’s head and leaned down so that her face was close to Mulder’s. She lowered her voice, as if trying to keep Molly from hearing her words.

“I don’t know, Mulder. I can’t remember, because I think I’ve always been asleep…” Her voice trailed off and her mouth opened on a startled gasp.

Mulder’s eyes widened. “That’s it!” His fingers tightened around her ankle. “Scully!” He rose up and pressed a smacking kiss on her lips. “That’s it exactly!” His mind feverishly raced over the moments he now recognized as being the times when Molly had invaded Scully’s body.

Will yawned loudly and sagged in Scully’s embrace. Mulder reached out and lifted the baby from her arms. He rose to his feet, intent on carrying him into the other room, but Scully laid a staying hand on his arm.

“I want to keep him nearby.” Her eyes were fixed on her child and Mulder nodded at the possessive look in her eyes.

He recognized her need to keep the baby close and set Will in the center of the bed, mounding pillows around him to keep him from rolling off. Once the baby was settled, he drew Scully to her feet and led her across the room. He sat on the loveseat near the fireplace and pulled her onto his lap.

“I think you’re right.” He voice was pitched low so as not to disturb the sleeping baby. “I think you’ve been asleep every time.” She nodded and leaned her head on his shoulder, listening to the low rumble of his voice. “But you’re awake now, so…”

“So, why isn’t Molly gone?” Scully finished his thought. He nodded. She tipped her head back against his shoulder and looked up at him. “I don’t know, Mulder. I just know that she’s still there.” And she was. Even now, Scully could sense Molly scrambling for a foothold; looking for a way to regain control.

“Well,” Mulder sighed. “It’s simple. You just can’t ever go to sleep.”

Scully chuffed softly. “No problem.” But it was, and they both knew it. She pressed her hands against his shoulders, pushing away from the warm comfort of his arms.

“Mulder… what are we going to do?” Her worried eyes met his. “You’re absolutely right… I can’t fall asleep. I…

I think she’s just getting stronger and stronger. I was never aware of her before, but now, even though I’m awake, I can feel her. If she gets back in control, I don’t know…

I’m afraid I won’t be able…”

Mulder lifted Scully from his lap and stood, tugging her into his embrace. Hugging her close, he rocked her from side to side. “Then we’ll just have to keep you awake until we come up with a solution.”

***

Scully’s eyes burned with fatigue. Her nerves were jangling from the four cups of coffee that Mulder had poured down her throat. As they formulated and rejected one plan after another, Mulder had led her around and around the room. With each passing hour, she was leaning more and more heavily on him, relying on him to keep her on her feet as she stumbled along beside him.

To make matters worse, Will was awake – grinding his tiny fists against his raw gums and whimpering pitifully.

Scully’s hands shook as she dug through the diaper bag for the Anbesol. Mulder took the tube of medicine from her and she sank down onto the loveseat they had abandoned several hours earlier. Tired. She was so tired. Will’s cries were becoming softer and she was sinking… drifting…

“Scully!” Mulder. She could hear his voice calling her name but it was fuzzy and distant. She wanted to sleep. Just a few moments of blessed sleep…

A strong arm curled around her waist and hauled her out of the chair. “Scully!” His voice was commanding and reluctantly, she concentrated on dragging her eyes open.

“Come on, Scully. Don’t give up on me now.” Mulder tamped down on the panic rising in his throat and he shook the woman in his arms. “Damnit, Scully!” He smiled when he saw the blue of her eyes peering at him from beneath heavy lashes.

“That’s it, baby. Open your eyes, now. Please.”

Dark shadows bruised the delicate skin under her eyes and her hair was a wild tangle around her face. They were losing this fight. Every time Scully blinked her eyes, he could feel Molly closing in, winning the battle for control.

Desperate, Mulder lifted Will from the bed and shoved him into his mother’s arms, counting on Scully not to relinquish control of her body to the other woman, while holding her son.

“We’re getting out of here, Scully!” Her head felt so heavy, but she forced herself to look up at him as he grabbed a pair of her jeans out of the half-packed suitcase. She shook her head in confusion as he knelt before her to guide her legs into the pants and slip a pair of sneakers onto her feet.

She held the baby as Mulder zipped Will into his little jacket and tugged a T-shirt over his own head before shoving his arms into his leather coat and checked for his car keys.

Grabbing the quilt from the bed, he wrapped it around Scully and took Will from her. He coiled his free arm firmly around her waist and led his family from the inn.

Outside, Scully leaned against the SUV as Mulder secured Will into his car seat. The cold night air helped to revive her a bit. Mulder straightened and turned to find her clear-eyed for the first time in hours.

“Where are we going?” Scully’s eyes searched his for answers.

He cupped her face between his palms and she stretched up on her toes to meet his descending mouth. Mulder’s lips brushed over hers once, twice. When he answered her, his voice was grim.

“We’re going to Philadelphia.”

******

To be continued

Chapter Seven

Route 30

Pennsylvania

The roads were damned slick, Mulder thought, as he eased his foot from the gas pedal yet again. He was fighting the urge to speed, knowing a traffic ticket was the last thing he needed. But at least the storm had abated some and the pouring rain had lessened to a light sprinkle.

They’d been driving about forty-five minutes and were ten miles from Coatesville and the exit for Route 202. For this time of night traffic was fairly heavy and several times he’d had to slow down to less than fifty miles an hour on Route 30, which would take them into Coatesville.

Beside him Scully alternated between staring out the window and keeping a worried eye on their son, who dozed in the back seat with three fingers in his mouth. So far, Will’s teething troubles seemed to be submerged under his more pressing need for sleep – but Mulder knew he’d have to be nursed, soon. He didn’t want to pull over, didn’t want to stop for anything. The rising panic within him had calmed very little since leaving the Millcreek Inn and he just wanted to get to Philadelphia and hopefully, some answers.

He’d been desperate to keep Scully awake and aware enough to stymie Molly’s ceaseless attempts to gain control. Knowing his woman thoroughly also meant knowing what the motion of a vehicle would do to her when she was exhausted; she’d be out like a light regardless of the amount of caffeine she’d consumed earlier. And so, Mulder had kept up a running conversation that forced her to reciprocate… because he persisted in reminiscing about past case files and what he remembered was consistently ‘sexual’ in nature…

“Hey, Scully… tell me the truth. That nasty green gunk you slathered all over your face in ‘Suburbia’ was just a ruse, wasn’t it? The thought of us snuggled in a three-bedroom two bath scared the shit outta you.”

“No, Mulder – what scared the shit out of me was that whole baby kittens thing…”

He grinned in the darkness. “You never wanted to make like a baby kitten, and push up against my ass? Jeez, Scully – that was always a fond dream of mine…”

A tired snort, “THAT was a fond dream of yours? I have to say that I always thought your… dreams would be a little more complex than spooning in bed. I know mine were…”

That perked him up. “Well, there’s dreams, baby – and then there’s fantasy. I dreamed of spooning, but I fantasized about stripping those cute little Laura Pee-Tree duds off your body and licking every inch of it, back to front – with or without green face-gunk. I kept wondering if the gunk tasted like kiwi…”

“Mulder! Well – you should have tried harder. I’ve got a little secret for you… I wasn’t wearing anything under Laura’s robe.”

Even from the distance across the interior of the SUV, he swore he could feel the heat that had to be flushing her cheeks. He moaned, “Oh, Christ… now you tell me. You have any idea how hard it was for me to get off that bed, and walk out the door – that night? Everything I wanted was in that room. Soft lights and a comfortable bed, a sweet-smelling woman wearing a huge old fluffy bathrobe with her hair pulled back off her face, in this large white… thing. Green glop covering every kissable inch of that exposed face… man. I wanted nothing better than to dive right in and come up with a mouthful of green. I tossed and turned all night, imagining the possibilities, extreme though they were…”

She sighed. “All you had to do was ask… nicely.”

“Well, I’ll remember that, next time you come to bed all gunked up. And another thing, baby… you never thanked me for setting you up on that blind date with Sheriff Fartwell…”

That earned him another snort. “Sheriff HART-well, Mulder.”

A surprised exclamation, “You know, he said the same thing!

When I talked to him that night – he corrected my pronunciation. But as I told him – regretfully, I might add – that night… he’ll always be Fart-Well to me.” Her reluctant participation in his goofy banter was such a relief…

Her next words made him even happier. “Thank you, Mulder for setting me up on a lovely blind date with a blood-sucking vampire.”

“Why, you’re welcome, Scully. I knew I was doing you a real favor – after all, I’d always suspected you had a very sensitive… neck… and I figured with my small, perfect teeth I wouldn’t be able to do much for you. But, Fartwell and his large buckys… well, shiver me timbers, y’know?” He waited for a snappy comeback.

“Mulder?”

“What, baby?”

Her voice was sleepy – too sleepy. “I’m so tired. I don’t want to do this anymore. I just… I just want to close my eyes… just for a second…”

He panicked. “NO! Scully, come on! This is fun, don’t you think? When was the last time we had a chance to talk over old times, huh?” Mulder gripped the wheel so hard the ridges cut into his palms. He blurted, “Come on, play with me.

Tell you what: ask me anything, about any of our past cases.

Anything at all. I’ll tell you something about my thoughts, an observation I never thought to share with you at the time.

Okay?”

She sighed with such exhaustion that for one moment he thought she would refuse, but she straightened in her seat, and he released a huge breath of thankful relief when she murmured, “Oookay… remember that trip to Florida for the team building seminar?”

Thank you, God – she’s willing to hang on… “Well, of course! A man always remembers the first time his woman sings to him.”

This time she gave him an actual snicker. “Shut up, Mulder…”

He loved her so much in that instant – she was fighting, his Scully was not a quitter – “Ooo, I sense frustration. Come on, get past it, Scully – you brought up that trip for a reason. What do you want to know? You can ask me anything, remember?”

She swallowed hard. “When… when I came into your motel room with a platter of wine and cheese… you knew I was trying to put the moves on you, didn’t you?”

Oh, Scully… “Well… I think I was hoping. But I don’t recall thinking ‘moves’ so much as your natural inclination to make me feel at home in a motel room, baby. You have a real talent for it.”

“So, then… why did you run out of the room? I’m not angry… actually, in hindsight, I’m glad that our first time wasn’t in some dumpy motel room. Still, I’ve always wondered if maybe I wasn’t sending out the right signal…”

He groaned. “God, baby… any right-er a signal and I would have flung that tray of Bacchus into a corner of the room and pinned you down underneath me so fast your signals would have spun! But, if you want the truth… I was scared shitless in that moment. Not of you. Well, maybe a little… mostly I was afraid of me. Of how needy I was.”

She reached over and clasped at the hand closest to her, resting on the wheel. “I was afraid too. S’okay, Mulder…

I just… I always wanted…. mmmm, it’s warm in here. Isn’t it, warm? To-asty warrrmmm. Mmmmm…”

SHIT…! “I’ll open a window, I’m opening your window, baby – NO! Don’t close it, leave it open, doesn’t that feel good on your face, hmmm? Leave it, Scully – Will’s fine, he won’t get cold. Listen to me, listen – I’m glad you were scared too, Scully – I’m glad we didn’t do it then. You wanna know another time I was glad we didn’t do it? That Christmas Eve, you remember? The Christmas we played in the haunted house-”

“Stop snapping your fingers in my face, Mulder! And I wouldn’t call it ‘playing’!!”

He reclaimed her hand, squeezing it gently. “Sure it was, just playing. You mean you thought for a second that we were in any real danger, other than from each other? No way, Scully. Maybe we were creeped out from having to deal with Maurice and Lyda, the Ghost-ests With The Most-ests… but I never for a moment believed we’d ever really hurt each other.

Besides, there was this gift with your name on it… and I sure didn’t want one of my fish to have to open it!”

Another yawning snicker. “This gift you mention… was it the one so expertly wrapped in that festive paper… or was it wrapped in a white T-shirt, jeans and boots?”

He could have bawled in sheer relief. “Baby, what do YOU think? Given a choice between some inanimate thing wrapped in holiday cheer… and a very warm, VERY animate animal wrapped in special holiday ‘cheer’… which would YOU have unwrapped?”

Scully shrugged helplessly. “I don’t know, Mulder… you just finished saying that you were glad we didn’t, I believe the expression you used was -‘do it’ that night… and at the time I didn’t realize that the gift you were giving me was a tube of day-of-the-week underwear so, I probably would have gone for the long, tube-shaped gift.”

Her mild sarcasm had him grinning like a fool. “Man, am I glad you said that! Because there has always been a HUGE gap between what I wanted to do with you… and what we ended up doing, for real. Just knowing you wanted to, that far back… makes me feel warm – all over – guess it’s a good thing I opened our windows, right?”

No answer.

“Scully… I said, ‘right’?” A worried glance in her direction revealed the worst; her head was reclined against the seat. He almost shouted at her, “Baby, don’t close your eyes! Tell me what an idiot I am, call me a moron! Come on, I know you want to… Scully?”

“I’m awake, Jesus, Mulder! You don’t have to yell! And yes, you’re a moron. But I adore you anyway.” Scully sat up and softened her sharp words by leaning in and brushing a kiss on his right shoulder. Smiling affectionately at him, she resumed her seat and raised her arms above her head, stretching.

Mulder’s silliness went a long way toward making her feel better; at least she was more alert. Yet she knew it was only a temporary reprieve. She was stronger but she could still sense her adversary just under the surface, waiting for a way out, watching for an opening…

‘Adversary’ didn’t begin to cover the resentment and anger Molly Sullivan was experiencing, as she simmered within this living woman who had the sort of hold on her beloved William that she could barely comprehend. There was a connection between him and the woman – a thread of personal knowledge that went far beyond just the reading of his needs and desires. And Molly didn’t like it, not one bit.

She’d lived her short amount of years on earth as a woman whose only professional position had been to provide the ease of a man’s lust and a receptacle for his seed. She’d done what she had to, found a way to survive, had performed her duties for the sole purpose of saving every penny and finding for herself a better life. But she’d stopped her enforced profession the night she fell in love with William Foxworth, and she’d sacrificed her life attempting to honor her new way of life. She would do it again in a heartbeat… would never have let another man touch her, after William pressed that final passionate kiss upon her lips and had ridden off, his shouts proclaiming his love for her proudly, for all to hear.

Maybe she’d never had the advantage of a fancy education or the love of a family, as she was sure this woman had enjoyed… maybe she hadn’t lived long enough in the world to understand all the ways of making a man happy. But what little she’d learned, Molly had absorbed very well – and if she could just get control again, just gain the upper hand…

William could be hers. He would not be able to resist her or deny her. Molly redoubled her efforts to wrest away the blockage in her path, using her jealousy and fury to fuel her strength…

Scully could feel the wave flowing through her, that same numbing effect from the other night, same overwhelming fear of losing herself. And she was losing; there was no doubt in her mind. Suddenly all her newfound strength seemed to ebb right out of her in a rush, leaving her shaken. She whispered brokenly, “Mulder, I’m so tired. I can’t think anymore; my brain is fried. Can’t we just travel in silence for a bit?”

The exhaustion in her voice tore at him but he couldn’t let her slip, not the tiniest bit. He glanced at her and his heart sank – for even in the dark of the car he could see the slump of her shoulders.

Reaching out a hand he tugged hard on her arm, startling her out of her almost catatonic state. “Scully! Come on. Don’t you dare fall asleep, not now. Talk to me. Anything.

Whatever the subject, it doesn’t matter. Just talk. You’ve got to stay awake and I can’t take my eyes off this road; we’re getting close to the exit for 202 and I have to concentrate. Please, baby – don’t let her get hold of you…”

Beside him Scully shook her head hard, raked the hair out of her eyes, actually slapped at her own cheeks. She sat up straighter in the seat and after turning around once to assure herself that Will was still asleep, she propped her back against the passenger door and fixed her attention on Mulder. So tired… and yet reinvested – determined. This spirit was not going to take control again…

“Mulder, did I ever tell you about the very first time I had to defend you against the wrath of Bill?”

Mulder shot her a surprised sideways glance but shook his head, a smile playing about the corners of his mouth as he digested her query. “No, Scully – I don’t believe you ever did. Why don’t you tell me all about it.”

With a weary yet optimistic chuckle Scully tucked a foot underneath her and her soft voice filled the darkened cab.

“Well, it was before he visited me in the hospital, that first time – I think Mom had maybe said something to him over the phone one day, out of the blue. I think she always knew right from the start I’d follow you anywhere…”

Her soft voice sifted over him like a balm and he smiled and nodded and let himself banter with her, as the story unfolded.

An hour later they hit Philadelphia proper and were maneuvering through more heavy traffic. Their time had been spent talking almost non-stop, with both of them taking turns contributing to a verbal potpourri of confidences, confessions and assorted tale telling. It had served to take Mulder’s mind off the seriousness of their predicament and it had done an admirable job in keeping Scully awake and in control.

But as they’d gotten closer to the city their conversation had waned, each knowing the reality of their danger couldn’t be put off any longer. This was not a crazed serial killer or an unexplainable monster that’d popped up from God knows where, to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting world. They knew how to handle those sorts of menaces…

This was the ghost of a young woman who had lost so much it was just about impossible to fathom. Who had gone through generations and hundreds of years in total spiritual upheaval and unrest. Neither of them could pretend to understand something that ethereal, that otherworldly.

And she was growing stronger; at one point in a conversational lull Mulder had stretched out his free hand and pressed it warmly over Scully’s knee, and as she’d twined her fingers through his he’d asked her, “Can you… do you still…” He took a deep breath. “Is she still there, Scully?” His eyes met hers and even in the dark she could see the worry in them.

She nodded. “She’s there, Mulder. It’s so hard… I’m beyond tired…”

Mulder expelled a frustrated huff; they were stuck at an intersection with malfunctioning traffic lights and three lanes of cars on each side were trying to take turns zipping through it. There were at least four cars in front of them.

He was more in a hurry than ever; underneath his hand her knee was tense and hard with anxiety, with trying to hold herself tightly together. Her voice was thin with weariness and tinged with the sort of despair he never dreamed he’d ever hear from her.

He couldn’t stand it. He WOULDN’T stand it… Mulder gripped her leg, hard, forcing a gasp from her as he grated out, “You’re NOT going to give it up, Scully. Do you understand? I won’t lose you to some senseless eighteenth century crime! I feel sympathy for Molly; I do. It’s a terrible thing that her life was snuffed out at so young an age.” The red taillights of the car ahead of them shone into the windshield, giving Mulder’s face an eerie glow as he added, “But she’s gone. She’s been gone for hundreds of years. And if by some miracle she lived in this age I’d still belong to you – I wouldn’t be available to be with her.

So you goddamn FIGHT her, Scully! I don’t care about anything but you and Will, please baby… fight her.”

Scully nodded, eyes filled with tears of exhaustion, as she clasped Mulder’s hand, still cupped over her knee. And beneath the surface of her consciousness there was an angry scrabbling, a fury… she could feel it.

Ten minutes later they finally got through the jammed intersection, with Mulder sighing in relief as he drove through the less-populated streets toward Germantown. Next to him Scully gripped his hand and stared out the window; behind them Will snuffled in his sleep. And somewhere deep inside the quiet and weary red-haired woman who sat in the passenger seat, a furiously jealous Molly Sullivan was feeding her anger on the words she’d managed to sense, coming from her beloved William… knowing as surely as anything that his feelings had to be colored by the woman who held him captive. It wasn’t his fault… it was hers.

Molly tried harder than ever, to regain control.

Scully’s eyes were screwed shut tightly, squeezing the tears out from beneath wet lashes as she sent a silent shriek of her own down into that black hole within her, a shriek to go away and stay away… She drew in a deep breath, preparing to take a final stand against Molly. This was it. Scully had to fight her off now – right now – or risk the chance of losing to her forever.

<Go away! Get out. No one wants you here. They’re mine!> she thought fiercely. <My lover. My baby. Now go!> She gathered up all of her fear and anger and flung it toward Molly with every remaining ounce of her strength. All of her thoughts were turned inward as she struggled in this last skirmish to fend off Molly. Silently, she and Molly fought and grappled for control…

They were just turning from Johnson Street, within a few miles of Germantown Avenue, when Mulder realized the woman sitting next to him wasn’t Scully.

He’d been quietly confident that she’d been holding her own.

Stupidly confidant, no doubt – sure in the belief that only if Scully fell asleep Molly could gain a foothold. Jesus, he should have known

better –

For the last ten miles Scully had been half-turned in her seat, staring at him. Relaxed, occasionally looking all around, at the dashboard lights and out the front and side windows – but mostly her attention was trained on him. A first he found it sweet and he’d sent her a delighted smile from time to time, eliciting an answering grin from her.

When after miles of driving her focus remained on him, only an occasional murmur from her throat in answer to his remarks – and she never once checked the back seat and Will, who was beginning to awaken and fuss, obviously hungry and perhaps in pain from teething… Mulder found himself slowing down more than he needed to, as he took the corner into Cliveden Street. Found himself turning to look at her as his ears caught the sound of Will’s increasing distress – consequently not watching the street and the traffic –

As Molly purred out a longing-filled, “William… my beloved,” and her hand reached into his lap and clutched the crotch of his jeans. The shock of it startled Mulder just enough – in reaction his hands left the wheel as he grasped at her hand, trying to dislodge her fingers, that move allowing the steering column to slip, just enough – and his foot reacted to the hard pump her fingers managed to accomplish, the sole of his boot pushing down on the gas pedal, just enough.

The SUV careened sideways, spinning on the slick, rain-wet street. In a second of complete loss of control, it leapt the curb and bridged the driveway of a large estate, coming to a shuddering stop up against the cast-iron fence surrounding the property.

Inside the cab Mulder had been flung into the steering column, and Scully, who in turn had suffered a stunning blow to her right temple, had slumped against the passenger window. In the back seat Will had been held securely in his car seat but was screaming in terror. Dazedly Mulder registered the utter fright of his child and after one quick glance at Scully to assure she could hold her own for a few minutes, he wrenched open the door and dragged himself out.

He yanked at the back door, desperate to get to Will.

He managed to unbuckle the safety straps, thanking God they’d bought the highest-rated car seat they could find. Will’s chubby face was soaked with tears and he was hysterical, hiccupping with the force of his distress. Mulder lifted him out and cradled him tightly, rocking him from side to side and trying to soothe him with soft sounds issued from a raw throat. Will buried his face in his father’s neck and sobbed.

With the distraught child in his arms Mulder moved quickly around the back of the SUV, reaching the passenger side, pulling hard at the door. It opened and Scully slid sideways and spilled out of the front seat, barely conscious and limp.

Mulder caught her with his free arm and eased them to the wet ground, keeping them in his embrace.

Will continued to cry loudly as Mulder begged, “Scully, come on, baby – open your eyes. I need you to wake up now, please, baby, please…”

He almost sobbed in relief himself when Scully raised her head a little and one weak hand fluttered to her head, gingerly touching the bruised know on her temple, fingers coming away smeared with blood. Her dazed eyes stared at the stained fingers, then swung to Mulder’s worried face. Her lips parted and in a shaky, thin voice she rasped, “Mulder, what happened? Will? Is he hurt?”

***

Chapter Eight

Cliveden –

Site of the Battle of Germantown

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Scully gathered a shrieking Will from Mulder’s arms and cuddled him close. He was still hiccupping with every breath that shuddered out of his sturdy, little body and he was burrowing against the heavy denim shirt she wore. Scully unbuttoned the first three buttons of the shirt and Will quieted against her breast as he sought comfort more than nourishment.

Her thumb stroked over the baby’s blotchy cheek. She shivered and pressed herself tightly against Mulder’s side.

The blanket she had been wrapped in when they left Lancaster was strewn over the passenger seat of the Explorer. Mulder wrapped his arms tightly around her and he willed his pounding heart to slow to a more normal beat.

“Where are we?” Scully squinted through the darkness at the mansion rising up in the middle of the property – a sentinel of gray stone and white shutters.

“This is Cliveden,” Mulder whispered. “This is where the Battle of Germantown was fought.” Scully’s brow furrowed in obvious confusion.

“This is where William died,” Mulder explained. Scully stared unseeingly at the house. He saw her lips moving, but he couldn’t make out what she was saying. Mulder jumped in shock when a low, guttural shriek was torn from Scully’s throat.

“Liar!” She scrambled to her feet, nearly dislodging a nowsleeping Will from her breast. “YOU are William! Why are you lying to me?”

Molly.

Mulder hung his head in despair for a moment and then stood.

He cautiously reached out and lifted the baby from her unresisting arms. Turning to the Explorer, he eased Will back into his car seat and secured the safety harness over his tiny chest. The baby whimpered once or twice but settled under the soothing caress of his father’s hand.

Once he was sure that Will was drifting off to sleep, Mulder turned his attention back to the woman who was staring at him with tear-drenched, accusing, blue eyes. He had no idea what had pushed him to make the long drive from Lancaster to Philadelphia; had no idea what he was hoping to find now that they had arrived… he simply knew that he had to do something. Anything.

Here, on the site where two armies had converged in a bitter battle between domination and liberty, another smaller war would be waged. He realized that he had brought them to this place in the hopes that he could prove – finally prove to Molly that he was not the lover lost to her so long ago.

Hoping to find a marker or a record that would confirm the fact that more than two hundred years earlier, the man she loved had fallen on these fields. Praying that if he managed to convince her… she would set Scully free.

“Molly, listen to me.” He held out a pleading hand. “I’m not William.” Molly stepped closer, curling her fingers around the back of his neck and pressing her breasts against the white cotton covering his hard chest.

She looked up at him through the veil of her lashes. “How can you say that? Do you think I wouldn’t know you?” she murmured. Her lips feathered over his and she brushed her hips against the erection swelling beneath his jeans. She lowered her face to hide the triumphant smile that curved her lips.

“See… you DO remember me,” she whispered. Mulder clasped his fingers around her wrist and pulled her hand from his neck. He wrenched his body from hers and pushed her firmly away.

“Molly…” It was difficult to concentrate when his body was throbbing for release; his mind saturated with guilt from his unwilling response to the woman standing before him. She looked at him with wide, uncomprehending eyes… teardrenched eyes so familiar to him. He was nearly overwhelmed by his need to pull her into his arms and comfort her.

“Molly, if I truly was William… don’t you think I’d want to be with you? Why would I lie?” Bewilderment registered in Scully’s eyes… no, in Molly’s eyes. Mulder wiped his hands over his face in anguish. She was his beautiful Scully…

and yet she wasn’t. The woman he loved was locked inside, fighting desperately to find her way out. He would fight equally hard to get her back.

Molly looked at him through narrowed eyes. “You might lie,” she said slowly. “This woman,” she swept a hand over the body she inhabited, “this woman has bewitched you.”

Mulder cast his eyes helplessly around him. With the cessation of the rain, a low fog was rolling over the grounds surrounding the eighteenth century mansion. In the distance he could hear a church’s bell tolling the hour.

Midnight.

As the last chime pealed in the still, night air, Mulder’s tired brain tried to make sense of what he was seeing. He rubbed the heels of his hands against his eyes and blinked.

Emerging from the trees at the edges of the estate, they began to appear. British and American… men who had died in mortal combat at one another’s hands, now they wandered through the mist that hugged the rain-drenched grass – bound for eternity to this place where they had fallen; bound for eternity to each other.

“Oh my God,” he breathed. “Scully… are you seeing this?”

Spellbound by the ethereal images slipping out of their hiding places, Mulder automatically reached for her hand.

Excitement and a niggling of fear warred for supremacy inside of him. Stunned amazement had him forgetting, for the most brief of moments, the dire circumstances that had led them to this place. Suppressed exhilaration made him want to share this discovery with his partner.

Until a tiny gasp came from the woman standing beside him.

She tugged sharply until her hand slipped free of his.

“William,” she whispered. She took several halting, stumbling steps towards the mansion. Mulder chased after her and locked his fingers around her wrist, manacling her to his side. He had to stay close to the car where William slept, peacefully unaware of the drama unfolding all around him.

Neither would Mulder allow Molly to take Scully out of his reach.

Molly slapped at the hands imprisoning her, twisting and struggling to gain her freedom.

“It’s William,” she panted. Mulder locked his arms around her waist and held on tightly. “WILLIAM!” she screamed frantically. “WILLIAM!” Her breasts heaved with the harsh sobs tearing from her chest and she continued to beat and claw at Mulder’s restraining arms, but he stood firm.

Exhausted, she stopped fighting and slumped forward, gasping for breath. Her eyes were locked on the ghosts converging on the lawns surrounding the mansion and she whispered his name again.

“William.”

Mulder watched as one ghostly warrior separated himself from the other men. The man wore the scarlet-lined blue coat and tan breeches of a Continental soldier. As he drew closer, Mulder could see that his uniform was covered with soot and dirt and the white vest worn under the coat was marred with the scarlet bloom of his life’s blood. Mulder felt the shudder that went through the woman in his arms and heard her quiet, disbelieving moan.

“Oh, no… not my poor William.”

The man stopped when he was less than five feet from where they stood frozen in place and Mulder knew that an identical look of shock and disbelief was mirrored in his own eyes as he stared at the ghostly, younger image of himself.

“Who are you?” The man’s hand clenched around the hilt of the ornate saber that hung at his side. His voice held both suspicion and curiosity. His eyes never left Mulder’s face and he showed no recognition of the red-haired woman, straining against the arms that held her fast.

“William, don’t you know me?” William’s eyes darted away from the man who bore his own image to gaze at the woman who was reaching out to him beseechingly.

“It’s me,” she whispered. Tears clogged her throat. “I’m Molly.”

William reeled backward and tears filled his eyes at the sound of his beloved’s name crossing this stranger’s lips.

His saber being drawn from its sheath was a metallic whoosh of sound – loud and deadly in the stillness of the brisk, autumn evening.

“You play me false, madam.” His eyes flashed with green fire. “I beg you not to speak her name again. I have never seen you before. I do not know you.” He took another step back, wanting to leave, yet strangely unable to walk away from her.

Mulder leaned forward and whispered into Molly’s ear. “He can’t see you, Molly.” Dumbfounded, Molly stared into Mulder’s face. In her frenzy upon seeing William – truly seeing him for the first time since the day he had ridden away from her – she had forgotten that she inhabited another’s body. Molly relaxed in Mulder’s arms, closed her eyes and willed her spirit to leave Scully’s body.

Nothing happened.

Startled, she tried again. And again, she was unable to escape. Panicked, she whirled around to look up at Mulder.

“I cannot get out!” She sensed William’s confusion and saw the rising anxiety in Mulder’s eyes. “I cannot get out,” she repeated, her voice a stunned whisper.

“What are you talking about?” Mulder’s voice was low and tinged with fear. “You’ve done it before, just… just leave!”

She closed her eyes and bit her lip, concentrating.

Struggling to free herself of the body she was trapped in.

And groaned in despair, “She’s gone,” she gasped. “Your Scully… I cannot find her.”

Mulder shook his head in denial and hauled her up against his chest.

“What do you mean, you can’t find her?” He clamped his hands around her upper arms and shook her. “You’re blocking her.

Preventing her from regaining control. Just let her go!” He shook her harder and auburn curls tumbled over her face.

William took a threatening step forward, angered to see any woman being roughly handled. He stopped when he heard her whisper.

“No… you don’t understand. Always before, I could feel her, hear her. But now… now I don’t feel anything. I’m trapped. I do not think I can free myself when there is nothing here to take my place.”

“NO!!” Frenzied, Mulder threaded his fingers through her hair. “Scully!” He bent close and pressed his lips to hers.

“Scully,” he sobbed. “Oh God!” He pulled her tightly into his arms and ran his hands over her back, frantically calling her name.

“Scully, please. Baby! Wake up! SCULLLY!!!”

His face blanched at the sudden realization… Oh, Jesus.

Oh, God… the accident. She had hit her head…

No! No, he wouldn’t believe it. She wouldn’t leave him.

Had never left him.

“Scully.” He pressed his lips to her ear and whispered her name over and over. Pleading. Demanding. Cajoling.

Frantically, he looked into her eyes and saw Molly’s equally frantic gaze looking back. She shook her head and slumped against him in defeat. She threw a mournful glance filled with tears, over her shoulder toward the place where William stood, his face awash in bewilderment.

***

To be continued

Chapter Nine

Cliveden –

Site of the Battle of Germantown

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Molly was startled out of her sad reverie when Mulder began to drag her across the grass. He stopped near the door of the Explorer and looked at her with fierce eyes.

“Stay here,” he warned in a low, threatening voice. She nodded dumbly, once again turning toward her beloved William.

She held out her hand and William took two steps closer, inexplicably drawn to this woman whose face he had never seen before, but in her eyes… oh, in her eyes… there seemed something so familiar, in those blue eyes –

Molly and William tore their gazes away from each other at the sudden, loud sobbing coming from behind them. Mulder had reached into the car and hauled the baby out of his car seat.

The abrupt movements woke the little boy and his sobs were loud and piteous – just as his father had intended. And Mulder sent out a prayer of forgiveness for frightening his precious child, but the soul of his mother was at stake.

He cradled the baby to his chest and wrapped his free arm around Scully’s waist. “Scully.” He called to her again.

“Will needs you.” He bent his knees and peered into her face, looking beyond Molly for the woman trapped within.

“Come on, Scully. Wake up and take care of your son!”

Sensing Molly and unable to find his mother, Will’s shrieks grew louder and more frantic. Mulder fought down the guilt that swamped him as he listened to the terrified cries coming from his son; felt the trembling of his tiny limbs; saw the tear-streaked face… Will was their only hope, for if anything could bring Scully to the forefront it was the love she had for their son.

“Come on, come on, come on,” he chanted under his breath.

But nothing happened; Molly remained in place. Somehow sensing this, Will arched his back and flung himself against his father’s chest in baby-misery; Mulder released Scully’s waist in bitter defeat. He curled his arms protectively around the baby and turned away, crying openly.

“It’s okay, sweetheart,” he murmured against Will’s head.

“Daddy’s here. It’s okay.” His voice broke on the word ‘Daddy’ and he pressed his wet face into Will’s neck as he walked to the other side of the Explorer. Sinking down onto the grass, he leaned against the side of the vehicle, using the car as a shield, blocking Will’s view of Molly as well as her view of them. He whispered reassurances into his son’s ear, rocking the distraught child there on the ground.

The baby’s sobs turned to snuffling, shuddering sighs.

Mulder’s tears dampened the reddish-brown curls atop Will’s head as his own terror consumed him.

Then from the other side of the car there was a low moan.

“My baby…”

A muffled thud and the sound of William Foxworth’s low curse had Mulder scrambling to his feet. He peered over the wide hood of the Explorer and saw Scully, crumpled on the wet grass. Standing next to her was Molly.

Thank you, God…

Tall and slender with strawberry blonde curls tumbling down her back, she glowed in the moonlight. At a less desperate time in his life Mulder might have gaped at her in wonder, but right now all he cared about was getting to Scully. He stumbled around the car and fell to his knees beside her unconscious form.

“Scully.” He laid his hand against her throat, frantically checking for a pulse. Beneath his fingers, he was rewarded with the faint, but steady throbbing of her heartbeat.

“Oh, God!” His soft exclamation was both plea and prayer as he held Will tightly in one arm and scooped Scully up to cradle her with his other arm. She moaned softly and turned her face against his chest and Mulder felt the gripping terror ease. A movement from the corner of his eye caught his attention and he looked up.

William had eyes only for Molly and he moved toward her slowly. She stood quietly, afraid to move… afraid to break the spell. William stopped when he was but a few inches away from her and reached out with one trembling hand to touch the blood that stained the white cotton of her chemise.

“Molly?”

****

In the swirling mist, two lovers who had not laid eyes on each other in over two hundred and twenty six years stood and stared hungrily, at beloved features so achingly familiar to them both.

William Foxworth traced a path up Molly Sullivan’s bare shoulder, and fingered a lock of her pale red hair. The errant curl clung to his hand when he released it, and he managed a shaken smile as he remembered the way those silky strands would wind about him in the night when they had slept wrapped together in bare skin and rumpled bedclothes. He spoke his thoughts aloud and watched silent tears well up in his Molly’s eyes; saw them streak down her face. And he shook his head, held out his hands for her, closed his arms around her when she flung herself against him and sobbed on his bloodstained coat.

For a long minute they embraced, both in tears, afraid to break the magical spell with words. Finally Molly raised her head and slid one hand up to cradle the curve of his jaw, eyes still swimming in tears.

So many things she wanted to say to him! So many… and she had waited so many years to say them. She’d wandered the halls of Millcreek, lonely beyond imagining, aching in her never-ending silence to whisper his name once more – to tell him she would never have forgotten him, would have died all over again – for him. To tell him and then show him how many times she’d dreamed of touching him, holding him, kissing him… making love with him.

When she rose on the tips of her toes, hands curving around his neck, William groaned softly and snatched her up tight against his chest, until she faced him eye to eye – and their lips met in a kiss that had been in the waiting for two hundred and twenty six years.

All of the loneliness and the longing, all of the despair and pain and unending ache of separation was poured into that one kiss. Lips starved for the other’s caress locked together with such tenderness and passion that anyone watching would have felt their heart breaking at the sight of it. Their tears mingled together on their wet cheeks and their sighs and moans could be heard above the rustling of dead leaves still attached to the trees dotted over the Cliveden estate.

Neither dared to close their eyes; they had to see each other, had to absorb each other, completely.

William’s hands slipped up from her slender waist and cupped her face as he kissed his beloved Molly; kissed her with adoring lips and questing tongue, with all the stored-up passion of hundreds of years. He’d walked these damned bloody grounds for an eternity, pining for her; afraid he’d remain in this purgatory forever, denied his Molly. To have her in his arms again, to feel her against him, holding him… it would be enough to sustain him, for another three hundred years, he thought. And although he had no certainty of where they would go from here, although he had believed in Heaven and Hell because he’d surely been somewhere in between since the day his life had drained from his battle-weary body… William Foxworth knew without a doubt he was now standing in Heaven.

The kiss ended, the lovers drew apart, slowly – and twin smiles of adoration lit up the already-glowing faces of Molly Sullivan and William Foxworth. Without taking her eyes from his, Molly whispered hoarsely, “I would have waited forever for you…”

He nodded, swallowing hard, and replied in a rough and broken voice, “I would have spent eternity trying to get back to you.”

Reaching into his pocket he withdrew a scrap of ribbon, tattered from residing in a war-torn article of clothing.

William smiled gently at his beloved as he carefully tied it through Molly’s thick, curling locks, binding her hair up and away from her face, baring her neck to the worshipful kiss he placed first on the left and then the right side. The reverse of what he’d done, oh so many years ago when he’d left her standing in front of the Millcreek Tavern with a fervent vow between them and her lovely hair covering the kisses he’d given her…

****

Mulder was peripherally aware of the reunion playing out so near, but the center of his attention was the precious cargo he held. Will and Scully – his entire life – safe in his arms. He pressed a kiss first against Will’s temple and then to Scully’s. His mouth lingered there as he reveled in the steady thrum of her pulse against his lips. Scully roused and the smile she gave him was both sleepy and confused.

“I’ll be right back,” he whispered as he eased his arm from around her. Scully nodded tiredly and watched him carry Will to the car. He was back a moment later, kneeling before her and cupping her face in his hands.

“Ready?” Mulder slid his arms around Scully’s waist and drew her to her feet to lead her to the Explorer. He held her securely with one arm and yanked open the passenger door, tenderly guiding her into the front seat while Will watched wide-eyed from the safety of his car seat. Exhausted, Mulder walked around the car and pulled himself into the driver’s seat. Praying that the car would start, he turned the key in the ignition and breathed a sigh of relief when the engine roared to life. He put the transmission into gear and looked up.

“Scully…” he breathed. “Open your eyes – you have to see this.” Drawn by the urgent tone of his voice, Scully lifted sleep-heavy lids and followed Mulder’s pointing finger.

They stood there, two ghostly figures, glowing and beautiful.

William pressed another kiss to Molly’s upturned mouth, then taking her hand he began to lead her away, toward the open grounds of Cliveden Mansion and into the dark and damp night mist. They had only taken a few steps, when Molly stopped and turned back.

Her eyes met Scully’s and she smiled tremulously; Scully didn’t know why but that smile caused her to roll down the passenger side window. When she heard Molly’s soft voice, Scully allowed her heart to listen.

“I am so sorry,” Molly offered in a humble whisper. “I never meant to hurt you. I only wanted… I just thought…” She glanced toward Mulder and then up at William who stood protectively by her side before returning her gaze to Scully.

“I didn’t know…”

Long seconds passed as the two women studied each other silently. Scully knew what it was to love someone beyond all reason; knew what it was to have a love that spanned eternity. She nodded, solemnly accepting Molly’s apology.

William leaned down and spoke softly in Molly’s ear and the smile she directed toward the small family waiting in the car was radiant.

“Thank you,” she said fervently before raising her eyes once again to meet William’s expectant look. They moved as one, and as they glided away on feet that didn’t quite touch the ground, their clothes were no longer bloodstained. Restored to the way they’d looked, that fateful October in 1777, Molly Sullivan and William Foxworth had found each other – and they would remain together, on another spiritual plane.

As it was meant to be… as it should have always been.

***

End of Book One

Title: The Ghost of Millcreek Inn –

Book Two: The Aftermath

Rating: NC-17

Summary: Home from their ill-fated vacation, Mulder and Scully must find a way to deal with the emotional fallout of their encounters with Molly Sullivan or lose each other forever.

The Ghost of Millcreek Inn –

Book Two: The Aftermath (1 of 7)

Prologue

October, 2001

Ritz Carlton Hotel

Philadelphia,

Pennsylvania

Scully held Will in her lap as she sat on a plush sofa. Her weary eyes followed Mulder as he made his way to the reception desk and reached into the pocket of his leather jacket to pull out his wallet. She could feel the curious gazes of the late night staff as they took in the bedraggled appearance of the hotel’s newest guests. Her eyes wandered over the gilded elegance of the marble-columned lobby of the Ritz Carlton Hotel.

Immediately upon leaving the grounds of Cliveden, Mulder had fished his cell phone from his pocket and had placed a call to the information operator, asking for a listing to the closest Ritz Carlton Hotel.

“If ever there was a time we deserved to be pampered, it’s now,” he had said in reply to Scully’s questioning look as they raced away from the battlefield.

Now, he returned to Scully’s side and helped her to her feet.

He pulled her and the baby into a loose embrace.

“Housekeeping is going to bring some of the basic necessities up to the room,” he told her.

“Diapers?” she murmured against his chest.

“And a crib,” he confirmed. “Come on.” He wrapped an arm around her waist and led her to a bank of elevators on the other side of the marble lobby. Scully noted the sympathetic smile on the desk clerk’s face.

“Mulder, what did you tell them?” She craned her head back to look up into his face. He smoothed a hand over her hair and tickled Will under the chin.

“I told them we were on vacation and that our flight had been re-routed through Philadelphia.” Mulder ushered Scully into the waiting elevator. He stabbed the button for the fourteenth floor with one finger. “I also mentioned that all of our luggage had been lost.”

“What? You didn’t think that they would believe the truth?”

she asked wryly. Mulder huffed out a tired laugh as the elevator silently whisked them upwards. The doors swished open quietly and they stepped into the hallway. Even here, the carpets were thick and plush. They quickly found their room and Mulder slipped the key into the lock and pushed the door open. Scully stepped into the room and slapped wearily at the light switch just inside the door. Soft light flooded the room. Both exhausted, they were only dimly aware of the understated elegance of the living area of the suite Mulder had requested.

A quiet knock prompted Mulder to peer through the peephole before swinging the door open to permit the housekeeping staff to enter the room. A man in a crisp uniform trundled a portable crib through the doorway.

“Where would you like me to set this up, Sir?” he asked politely.

“I want to keep him with us.” Scully spoke softly and looked up at Mulder for confirmation. He nodded toward the bedroom door.

“Put it in the master bedroom, please,” he instructed. A similarly uniformed woman had followed the man into the room.

She quickly moved toward the bathroom and began to set out toothbrushes and toothpaste; disposable razors and shaving cream, as well as a comb and a brush near the basket of complimentary soaps, shampoo, moisturizer and mouthwash already on the marble countertop.

She stepped out of the bathroom. “The night manager thought you might be more comfortable sleeping in this.” She proffered a small bundle to Mulder. He grinned and shook out an oversized T-shirt bearing a picture of the famous LOVE sculpture and the words ‘Philadelphia, The Place That Loves You Back’.

“The latest fashion in sleepwear,” he smirked. Scully smiled gratefully at the housekeeper.

“This is perfect. Thank you.”

The rest of the bundle contained diapers for Will and another even larger T-shirt emblazoned with the Phillies logo on it for Mulder.

Mulder walked the two employees to the door and pulled a tip out of his wallet. “The hotel has an overnight laundry,” the woman offered as she discreetly slipped the folded bill into the pocket of her uniform. “There is a bag in the closet in the bedroom. Just leave the bag of clothes outside the door and call housekeeping. Someone will come right up to collect your clothes and they’ll be ready for you in the morning.”

Mulder leaned against the doorjamb. “Perhaps you could just tell housekeeping to send someone up in about twenty minutes?” he asked. The woman smiled and nodded.

“I’ll take care of it, Sir.”

“Thank you.” Mulder swung the door closed. He leaned against it tiredly and watched Scully and Will disappear into the bedroom.

Scully called to him softly. “Mulder, would you bring a towel from the bathroom?” He pushed away from the door and poked his head into the bathroom, taking brief note of the huge sunken tub. The idea of soaking in a hot bath was infinitely appealing, but he was afraid he’d fall asleep and drown. He snagged a fluffy, white towel from a shelf over the vanity and carried it into the bedroom.

Scully had pulled Will’s clothes from his tiny body and the baby, wearing nothing but his diaper, was happily kicking his feet. She took the towel from Mulder’s hand and laid it over the silk bedspread as a changing pad. She lay Will in the center of the towel and quickly stripped him out of the soiled diaper and into a clean one. She tugged the cotton shirt back over the baby’s head and fastened the snaps between his legs. She lifted him and walked over to the window, pushing back the heavy drapes to stare out over the city. She swayed back and forth softly and felt Will grow limp in her arms. She looked up to see Mulder’s image reflected in the glass as he stood behind them. Turning, she held the baby out and Mulder carried him to the waiting crib.

He settled the little boy into the crib and tugged a soft blanket over his tiny body. Mulder turned around to find Scully already stripped out of her clothes. Nude, she stretched her arms out to her side and rolled her head, grimacing and then sighing with satisfaction as she loosened some of the stiffness from her neck and shoulders. She stuffed all of her dirty clothes into the laundry bag that she had found in the closet and tugged the oversized T-shirt over her head.

Mulder quickly followed suit and he crammed his clothes and Will’s into the bag with Scully’s. Eschewing the T-shirt provided by the hotel, he padded naked through the suite, opening the front door just enough to set the bag onto the hallway floor and hang the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the doorknob.

He returned to the bedroom to find Scully snuggled under the blankets. Mulder crawled into the bed and she turned and draped herself over him. She closed her eyes and let her body melt into his.

“What time is checkout?” she yawned against his chest. She unconsciously arched her back in response to the fingers stroking lightly over her spine.

“Noon.” His sleepy voice rumbled through his chest and vibrated under her ear. “But I booked the room for two nights, so we can sleep as late as we like. Or as late as the baby will let us,” he amended.

Scully’s head popped up from his chest. “Are we staying here two nights?” she asked. Mulder clapped a hand over his mouth as a huge yawn escaped him.

“We can stay as long as you’d like.” He slipped his fingers under the soft cotton T-shirt and rubbed his hands over the silken skin of her back.

“I want to go home.” Her voice was soft. Tired. Plaintive.

She settled down on him again and tucked her face into the warm skin of his neck.

“Then, I’ll take you home tomorrow,” he promised. He made a mental note to call Mrs. Knaubler at the Millcreek Inn in the morning to make arrangements to have their belongings shipped to D.C. Scully grumbled in her sleep when he shifted her off his chest and onto her side. Mulder curled his body around hers and tightened his arms around her. A few feet from their bed, Will shifted and sighed before settling back down.

Safe again… they slept.

****

Chapter One

November, 2001

Outside the wind picked up, rattling the glass in the windows of their living room. Rain spattered in uneven patterns over the side of the building and the sky was inky black. A small illuminating light from the kitchen was enough to assure Mulder didn’t stub his toe, as he made his way over to the armchair by the fireplace, and sank into it. The air was a little cool; the furnace hadn’t kicked on yet. Mulder pulled a soft wool throw from the arm of the chair and unfolded it over his naked body. He could have put on some clothes, but found he liked the feel of the wool against his bare skin.

Besides, he didn’t want to awaken Scully by digging through the bedroom when he knew she was asleep.

A quick glance at the Regulator clock on the mantle told him it was two in the morning. He had to be up in four hours for work. He was really wiped out… as he rubbed the heels of his hands into his eyes, Mulder thought about why he couldn’t sleep.

Actually there wasn’t a reason he could think of why he shouldn’t be dead to the world, right now. And yet, he wasn’t.

He and Scully had spent a happy but tiring evening playing with Will. Now six months old and the proud owner of two teeth, their son had eased off on the teething for the moment and was sleeping through the night once more. Scully was just beginning to wean him a little, supplementing his breast-milk diet with fruit and vegetables, as well as rice and a more substantial cereal. He was thriving, playing harder during the day but much more content at night. And he was just beginning to try raising himself to his hands and knees and crawling. Another few months and he’d be pulling himself up to his feet and trying to walk – and then the fun would really begin.

In the meantime Will was quite a handful just the way he was.

But he’d been a very good baby and had fallen asleep with a minimum of fussing after a quick nursing. Scully had laid him down and when she came back to the bedroom and crawled under the covers with Mulder, who’d been dozing a little, he turned to snuggle her into his arms and had discovered a delightfully-naked bed-partner who had chucked her nightgown as soon as she’d hit the edge of the bed.

It had taken him about one second to shed his pajama bottoms and another three to get his body into ‘erection status’.

They’d made sweet, slow love in the quiet of their bedroom with nothing more than sighs and whispering moans accompanying the pounding rain outside. Afterward, Scully had fallen asleep very quickly but Mulder had been unable to relax his mind, though his body was beyond sated. He’d risen from their bed and walked to the living room in the dark, on silent feet.

They’d been home a month. Thirty days ago they’d escaped their vacation; it seemed an odd way to describe the recollection but it had happened just that way. Mulder rubbed his hand over his jaw wearily. He couldn’t begin to fathom why in hell they couldn’t have a normal family vacation like everyone else did. It was as if the outlandish and the unexplainable just followed them around like baby ducks. And it had nothing at all to do with their jobs, for neither of them worked on the X-Files any longer.

After Will’s birth there had been no reason for him to go back. He had been politely asked to return and had as politely turned down the offer. It didn’t interest him any longer; that particular fire was gone, burnt out. He had a family now; it was time to get a more responsible, less dangerous job.

Because of his background and education he was a very popular and professionally eligible catch, and had several job offers before he finally chose a full professorship at Georgetown University’s Psychology department. In the Cognitive Neuroscience program at Georgetown Mulder had found an acceptable niche; the field itself was expanding rapidly and the discipline was one he found exciting enough to hold his interest and take his mind off eight years of the unexplained and paranormal.

More or less.

As for Scully, her decision to stay home with Will for at least a year had been met with disappointment at the Bureau and with great happiness by her family, especially Bill Jr.

Because of her new status as stay-at-home mother and Mulder’s final split from the Bureau Bill had actually softened quite a bit toward Mulder and the two had managed to form a wary truce. Extremely wary – but the tentative bridge thrilled Scully’s mother to no end. It made things a lot easier for Scully, too.

Mulder stared out the rain-drenched window in the dark, thinking about the way a ‘simple’ week of vacation had messed up their balance – and he couldn’t even say why. Before Lancaster, their lives were busy, to be sure – but fulfilling and happy. Living with Scully had added a layer of contentment, something Mulder had always lacked. It went way beyond the joy of fatherhood and the guarantee of regular intimacy. For the first time in his life Mulder felt like he was that ‘whole person’ he’d once fought to make Scully acknowledge.

Loving Scully was wonderful. She was passionate and her libido was a good match for his. The intimacy of their romantic relationship had enhanced their base friendship; had truly made them each other’s touchstones. Once, they had both declared it. But never had it seemed to be truer than, when in their quest for sexual fulfillment and the possibility of reproduction, they had at last fully merged their souls. And having felt that level of love and trust for Scully, Mulder had thought nothing could change or alter it.

But something had touched it – something had given him pause to feel a restlessness and a kind of dissatisfaction – no, that wasn’t the right word… a lacking – yes, that was more accurate. Something was lacking, not completely missing but certainly not all there, either. What troubled Mulder the most, though – was the feeling that he could have easily gone his entire life not knowing what was missing, and been perfectly content.

And hard on the heels of that revelation was the solid knowledge that if he thought about it too much, analyzed it too far, he’d discover way too much – and find himself confronted by events better left unacknowledged and words better left unspoken.

****

Scully opened her eyes and watched Mulder rise from their bed to move quietly through the darkened room. These late night sojourns had become more frequent of late, she thought, as he slipped out of the room and eased the door closed behind him.

She sighed and stretched out one arm to rest her hand on the rumpled pillow he had abandoned. Scully knew that he thought she was asleep. Always before, Mulder had been the first to succumb to sleep after lovemaking. He would rest his cheek between her breasts or curl his body tightly around hers and she would listen, as his rapid breathing would slow until each breath was a rasping sigh of contentment.

But no longer. Now he eased away from her to lay in quiet stillness until he thought her asleep and instead of listening to the rhythmic sounds of his breathing, she could practically hear the thoughts whirling through his mind before he would steal away to his solitary retreat. Two nights earlier, Scully had crept to the doorway after he had left their bed. Peering through the door, she had found him sprawled in the armchair near the fireplace, a soft woolen throw tossed carelessly over his body. Tonight, she listened to the soft thud of his bare feet crossing the floor, the creaking of the chair as his weight settled into it and the soft rustle of the throw being shaken out.

Her fingers curled into the cotton of his pillowcase and she pulled it into her arms. Something was different, she thought, as she inhaled his scent into her lungs. Her eyes landed on the glowing red numbers of the digital alarm clock on the nightstand closest to Mulder’s side of the bed. What sent him brooding into another room four hours before he had to get up for work? Was he chafing at the ties of fatherhood? Scully shook her head in mute denial. No, she told herself as she called up a mental picture of Mulder smiling in delight at Will’s latest antics. He loved being a father.

Did he miss having his own place? His freedom? He had given up his apartment at Hegal Place shortly after Will’s birth to move in with her and the baby. The picture frames and flower-filled vase that had once graced the top of the low table in the hallway leading to the bedrooms had been removed to make room for his aquarium. His books were nestled next to hers on the bookcase. They had both put several pieces of furniture into storage and the apartment was a comfortable blend of him and her. Of them. Mulder’s basketball rested in the same plastic tub as Will’s toys. His sneakers lay in a jumble in the bottom of their closet in direct contrast to the neat array of high-heeled boots and shoes arranged by color on her side of the closet. When he appeared each night in the kitchen doorway upon his return from work, sniffing the air and snooping through the pots and pans on the stovetop, he always greeted her with a huge smile and a kiss.

He was happy here with them… wasn’t he?

It was only now, in the predawn hours, when he would sneak out of their bed that Scully sensed any sign of discontent.

She closed her eyes and sighed tiredly. And in the darkness, she finally acknowledged the thought that had been nagging at her for weeks now. That she knew exactly when things had begun to change.

Lancaster and the Millcreek Inn.

Lying in a lonely silence broken only by the restless shifting of her brooding lover in the other room, Scully stared at the empty expanse of the bed he had abandoned and she couldn’t help but give silent voice to a disquieting thought…

That Molly Sullivan was still haunting them.

*****

To be continued

The Ghost of Millcreek Inn –

Book Two: The Aftermath (2 of 7)

Chapter Two

Three nights later, Scully snapped the dishwasher door closed and spun the dial to set the wash cycle into motion. She hoisted Will out of his highchair and set him on her hip. She bounced the baby up and down once or twice, eliciting a giggle and the proud display of two tiny white teeth.

She laughed. “Let’s go see what your daddy is up to.”

Will slapped her shoulder with one pudgy hand and gurgled in happy agreement. She carried the baby into the living room. Mulder was seated at the desk, the checkbook to their joint account lying open and a stack of unpaid bills scattered across the desktop. He was thoroughly engrossed in what he was reading and was unaware of their entrance into the room.

“Hey, Daddy. Whatcha doing?” Scully hefted Will in her arms so that she was hiding behind his back and she pitched her voice up into a silly baby tone. She curled her fingers around Will’s tiny wrist and helped him wave to his father. The baby’s shrieks of laughter finally grabbed Mulder’s attention. He spun in his chair, dropping the papers he had been reading and looked up over the tops of his glasses with a grin.

“Hey, Buddy,” he called back and returned the wave with a waggle of his own fingers.

Scully walked over to stand beside Mulder who reached out to take the baby into his lap. Will stood with his father’s assistance and he clapped his hands against Mulder’s cheeks and squeezed his nose with his fingers.

Something crinkled under Scully’s feet and she bent down to pick up the papers that Mulder had dropped. It was the invoice from the Millcreek Inn along with a glossy color brochure and a calendar of scheduled events taking place in Lancaster over the upcoming holiday season.

Scully set the brochure onto the desk. “We just wanted to say hi,” she told him as she lifted the baby back into her arms. “We’ll let you get back to work.” She carried Will over to the quilt spread out on the floor near the fireplace and guided his legs into the fabric seat of his baby walker. She sat down on the quilt and lifted a soft ball out of the plastic tub of toys and gave it to the baby. They played together, she handing the ball to Will who promptly tossed it onto the floor with an accompanying giggle before she held it back out to him. Scully laughed and offered the toy to Will again. He flung out his hands and she held the ball just out of his reach before swiping it against the baby’s nose and handing it to him again.

She felt Mulder’s stare and she looked up. He was holding the inn’s brochure again and his thumb was swiping a lazy path over the glossy cover. He had a faraway look in his eyes, even though he seemed to be staring directly at her.

The ball bounced harmlessly off her cheek and she lifted it absentmindedly toward the baby as she stared back at Mulder. Unbidden, a hazy image flashed before her mind’s eye. Mulder’s fingers knotted in her hair; his eyes glazed and dark with passion. His face, contorted with an agonized pleasure that she had never seen before… or since.

She narrowed her eyes, wondering what he saw when he stared at her like that. Was he seeing her? The thirty-ish woman with milk-heavy breasts and a soft stomach that no amount of stomach crunches seemed to help return it to its taut, pre-pregnancy flatness?

The woman who let her hair grow longer so that she could tie it back into a pony-tail to protect it from a baby’s inquisitive fingers? Was he seeing the woman who had looked at him from across a basement office, who had been seated next to him in countless cars and airplanes, who had stared at him from hospital beds and who had peered up at him from the sweat-dampened sheets of their bed?

Or was he seeing a youthful beauty with curls tumbling down her back; high, full breasts and a blatant, earthy sexiness? Unbidden, a red mist of jealousy clouded Scully’s gaze. The thought that had been gnawing at her heart since the moment she had awakened to find him standing over her with a wild, primitive, passionate look etched on his face, flooded her mind.

That it was Molly who had been making love with Mulder.

Molly, who had brought such an expression of lust and desperation and need to his face. Scully closed her eyes against the most painful thought of all… that it was Molly, who even now, captured Mulder’s thoughts.

Scully drew in a shaky breath and blew it back out.

She opened her eyes and found Mulder’s gaze fixed on her, a confused expression on his face.

“Are you okay?” He tilted his head to the side and raised his brows questioningly. Scully nodded wordlessly and blinked when Will tossed the ball and hit her squarely in the chest with it. She clutched the ball in her hands and looked back at Mulder. His eyes were clear and honest and his lips were curved in an affectionate, intimate smile aimed directly at her.

She returned his smile shyly and dipped her head as embarrassed guilt swamped her.

Scully tugged the rubber band from her hair and leaned toward Will. Her unbound hair swept over her cheeks, hiding the flush of embarrassment from Mulder’s eyes as she refocused her attention on the baby. She held the ball out to the Will and let him snatch it from her unresisting fingers… and she let his baby giggles hold her fears at bay.

Mulder loved her and was true to her. He would never cheat on her. He had believed himself to be making love to her… not to Molly Sullivan.

Later that night… when Mulder once again crept from their bed… it was a truth and a mantra that she clung to with all her strength.

***

Three weeks later

December, 2001

Mulder spun into the bathroom, resisting the urge to slam the door, letting it close by itself. His hands gripped the sink as he forced calming breaths through his nose, blowing them out his mouth. He didn’t look in the mirror, didn’t want to see the anger in his own eyes.

He could hear the clanking of pans and dishes in the kitchen, as Scully finished loading the dishwasher. He winced, imagining if she got any louder it would awaken Will, who’d just been put down for the night. But, maybe not – he’d been sleeping very soundly these past few weeks. Still… in his opinion Scully didn’t have anything to be irate about – it hadn’t been her favorite shirt, ruined at the cleaners…

“Mulder, I told you twice already. I did NOT kill your shirt! I took it to the dry cleaners, as per your instructions. I told them to use light starch. Again, as per your instructions.” She’d faced him down in the kitchen, wiping her hands on a dishcloth. Her eyes held irritated patience at first – until Mulder plucked the shirt out of its plastic wrapper and shook it in her face.

“Scully, look at it! There are yellowish streaks all over it – they used the wrong kind of starch on it.

You obviously told them heavy starch. It’s even written on the receipt.” Mulder had plopped his shirt down on the kitchen counter, crossed his arms and tried to retain a placid expression, which failed miserably.

Well, he was angry – this was the best and most expensive shirt in his wardrobe – and of such a finegauge cotton that using heavy starch on it would mean certain destruction. And Scully had always hated that shirt… hated the color, which was an unusual shade of blue. She’d once compared it to a ‘mean sky in the middle of a tornado’, and always managed to get in some sort of dig when he wore it. But she’d never deliberately tried to sabotage it – until now.

He must have spoken aloud… as he stared, her eyes narrowed and the tone of her voice warned him that a line had been crossed. “You think I sabotaged… a shirt? Are you nuts, Mulder? You don’t think I have better things to do with my time than to kidnap your shirt, take it to the cleaner and attempt clothing manslaughter by instructing the clerk to SUFFOCATE it with extra starch? Jesus!” She glared at him once, then turned and faced the sink, grabbing the handle of the first pot she could find. Mulder scraped his ruined shirt off the kitchen table, before Scully could beat it to death with the grimy pot – and took himself off to the bathroom.

Deep breaths. Counting to ten. He looked into the mirror and saw the anger in his eyes. Again. It had happened again, within a few days of the last time something of small consequence had blown into a goddamn war.

It was getting worse. Mulder admitted this to himself, as he stared at himself in the mirror and sucked down calming oxygen.

He didn’t understand. They never fought. Barely had disagreements. In the six months they’d been together they’d never bickered, not like this. And Mulder conceded that it had become something more than bickering, especially lately. It worried him. A lot.

It had started right around the time they’d returned well, fled – from their vacation.

Suddenly there was a reduction in tolerance; that was the best way he could explain it. Mulder knew a great deal of it was his fault – he’d been unsettled since their return. Difficulty sleeping at night, his old insomnia problem resurfacing – feeling as if something was missing. Again, him. And he didn’t know how to fix it. Wasn’t even sure what needed to be fixed…

For the past week he’d been careful to show Scully by word as well as deed, how much she meant to him – how happy he was to be living with her and their son. He’d let small and daily irritants roll off his back; had gone above and beyond to relieve her of the bulk of caring for Will when he was being particularly fractious. He told himself he was making it easier on both of them… but in reality his actions were complicating an already-difficult situation.

Mulder wasn’t quite sure how his actions were making it worse – he could only go by the way it felt between them – and it didn’t feel right…

In the bathroom he stared at his unhappy face, and knew it was up to him to try again – to fix it.

******

Chapter Three

Two nights later Mulder got his chance.

It had been almost forty-eight hours of polite calm from Scully and continuing worry from him. Thankfully Will had been angelic and on his best behavior, so any stress forming was not coming from his direction.

They hadn’t made love since two days before the ‘shirt war’ as Mulder had come to think of it – and Mulder was feeling the physical neglect very sharply. It was the longest they’d gone without some form of intimacy since Will’s birth. Mulder knew that days could easily stretch into weeks, with each empty day solidifying the rift, until going back and fixing it would be just about impossible.

He didn’t plan anything grandiose, nothing complicated.

He brought home a delicious shrimp and lobster dinner from Franco’s and picked up a nice bottle of wine. He snuck the food and drink into the kitchen when Scully was in the bathroom bathing Will. By the time she came into the kitchen with an armful of sleepy baby snuggled into his pajamas, Mulder had candles glowing on the table and fragrant seafood and rice pilaf mounded on plates, crusty sourdough bread dripping with butter and glasses of wine breathing, all ready to be consumed.

Scully skidded to a halt and took in the sumptuous spread, her mouth hanging open – then her gaze swiveled to Mulder, standing beside the table with a soft smile on his face. She blinked a few times, her nose twitching at all the delectable smells; she broke into a bemused smile and queried, “Mulder… what’s going on?”

Ten minutes later Will was in bed, fast asleep, and his parents were enjoying a romantic feast. Everything was delicious, from the succulent lobster to the burnt creme the restaurant had so thoughtfully provided.

They each had three glasses of wine and neither was feeling any pain.

Scully pushed herself away from her dessert plate and groaned, holding her stomach. “No more… I can’t eat another bite. I’m dying over here!” At Mulder’s chuckle she looked up into his smiling face; he’d come around the table when she was busy rubbing at her stuffed tummy and had missed him moving toward her.

Now she quirked an eyebrow at him when he reached down and pulled her gently to her feet; slipping his arms around her waist he hauled her into his chest and breathed into her ear, “Does that mean you can’t handle Phase II of the dessert?”

“What’s ‘Phase II’ entail, specifically?”

He nibbled the reply over her lobe, adoring the shiver she released against him. “That’s where I get to have my dessert…”

She deadpanned, “But you already ate your burnt creme, Mulder… aren’t you full yet?”

At her amused question, Mulder caught her lips with his and kissed her softly, then whispered into her mouth, “Not even close, baby. I want more…”

“How much more?”

“I’ll show you…”

In the bedroom Mulder lit three candles while Scully finished up in the bathroom. He found himself actually shaking with excitement. Four days without sex… to think he’d once gone years without it, save whatever manual ease he could give himself. In his mind that counted for nothing at all; it had only staved off the tension and never did anything to sate him.

He knew the first year of life with a new baby was one serious settling-in period. And his and Scully’s intimate time together had gotten short-changed not only by his absence during her pregnancy but her infection directly after childbirth and her body’s own lengthy recuperative time frame. His own restlessness of late hadn’t helped, either – and Mulder knew she could tell he had a lot on his mind.

But not tonight. It was going to be all about Scully, tonight. What she liked. What she wanted, needed…

and in giving to her he knew he’d find everything he wanted for himself, for hadn’t that always been the case between them? Nothing had changed it… nothing.

Had it?

When Scully came out of the bathroom on a cloud of something softly spicy, tinged with flowers… Mulder was reclined on their bed, naked except for a pair of pajama bottoms, his appreciative nose sniffing her scent and feeling himself start to tighten in reaction.

She smelled delicious – she would taste even better.

Wearing a pale green silk tank and matching panties, Scully moved to the side of the bed, and sat down next to him. When he held out a hand to her she placed her palm against his, smiling when he brought her hand to his mouth and kissed it lingeringly, knowing how much she liked it. His eyes darkened as they roved over her, so lovely and so damn enticing in her silky little pajamas. Her hair was a mass of red flame around her head and her gaze was brightly blue and fierce upon him. He tugged at her hand and Scully fell into his arms.

God… this was it. This was what he’d needed, all week. This touch. This embrace, this kiss, this…

everything. Oh, they’d made up after their fight, but it hadn’t involved anything past the words and the hug and kiss. The rift had still hung between them. But now… that rift seemed silly in the extreme and a million miles away.

Mulder nuzzled at the sweet-smelling neck under his nose, smiling when she shivered and her fingers clutched at his arms. He wriggled himself between her thighs and pressed down on her teasingly, before murmuring to her, “I threw away that shirt, Scully…”

She huffed out a startled laugh against his throat.

“You’re kidding. After all of that hoo-ha about starch and sabotage and whatnot, you tossed your favorite shirt?” She pushed at him, enough to see into his face. He fought down a flush and nodded, then leaned in to bite-kiss at her lips gently.

“Yes. I did. The shirt wasn’t worth the potential loss of the one person who has better taste in clothes than I do…”

She snorted. “You’ve got a thing going with Ralph Lauren?”

“Oh, yeah. That gray hair of his simply sets me aflame, baby…”

After that bit of silliness, no more words were necessary. Mulder set about telling his woman without words – of how much he’d missed her, these past four days. With his hands, he told her, fingers trailing over and around each taut rosy peak of her breasts; with his lips he left her in no doubt of his desire and his need, kissing his way along the same path his hands had just traversed. With his eyes he adored her; with his body he cherished every inch of sweet skin that curled against him.

So soft… so adorably sweet… his woman. His Scully.

He hated to be at odds with her, for whatever large or small reason. Never again –

Their sighs rose and mingled in the moist air of their bedroom, as they kissed and caressed with mounting fervor. Mulder was ravenous for her and it showed in each deep kiss he gave and every touch of fire he left on Scully’s skin. He tangled his fingers though her wet curls, tugged lightly – heard her ragged moan as she reacted to him. She smelled delicious; smelled of hot wet aroused woman. God… he slid down her body, clamped his hands around her hips and tilted them up to meet his greedy mouth. And when he fastened his lips around her swollen clit, she jumped and cried out, a strangled wordless plea…

“MulllllGoddddd…!”

Mulder held her tightly, loving the way she shuddered against him, the way she pulled at his hair – the way her legs trembled and quaked. So goddamn good… he slipped a hand beneath her hips to support her, and his index finger pressed between her slippery cheeks. She gasped. And that sound triggered a memory in him, of a night of passion he could still recall with stunning detail, not so long ago – how a small hand had touched him and wet fingers had glided within, to rub, press enflame him. It had been amazing… surely if he’d combusted in reaction to that deep massage, so would Scully.

He had to try it – had to give her that feeling. Had to see if she’d combust, go up in flames, there in his arms, against his mouth… on his tongue. He had to.

Mulder lifted his head, paused in his ministrations, until Scully opened glazed eyes and stared at him in confusion. But before she could utter a protest, he’d brought his glistening fingers to his mouth, and was licking at them, drinking in her wetness. She moaned again, couldn’t seem to take her eyes from what he was doing, as he cleaned her from his fingers, then left his index finger in his mouth, soaking it in his saliva. Her eyes widened as he took that finger from his mouth, then bent his head and took possession of her clit once more, laving it with his tongue – gently, so gently – he could feel her tense up with the need for release, heard her hissing moan, felt her fingers digging into his scalp –

And felt the way her entire body jerked when he slipped his wet finger between her taut cheeks, and slid it inside, just a little…

“Don’t!”

Her ragged protest stopped him, cold.

He let her go, let his hand slip from her, let his mouth release her, and eyed her in concern. Scully stared down at him with damp eyes gone wide with…

shock. Mulder was seeing shock, that familiar look of her from over a month ago when in his passion he’d felt her withdrawal from him, the night she came to herself and the realization that she’d been a helpless participant in a game of desire she hadn’t instigated.

Jesus… what had he been thinking?

That was just it… he hadn’t allowed himself to think – he’d acted on feeling and feeling alone. That she would accept it – that she would revel in it, in the feel of something so intensely personal, so incredibly arousing. Something different – something dark and good. He’d thought she’d enjoy it the same way he’d loved it, when she had done it to him.

Well, judging by the shock in her face and the sound of her protest still echoing in the silent room… guess not.

He eased himself away and up, until he lay on the pillow next to her, still staring into her eyes. And he murmured the only thing he could think to murmur, at the moment. “Are you okay?”

Scully blinked at the question, and moved away from him to sit up, hugging her knees to her chest. “Yes. I’m all right. You just… you took me by surprise, Mulder. I wasn’t expecting… that.”

“Did you like it? Would you -”

She interrupted him bluntly. “No. I don’t. I wouldn’t. Mulder, nobody has ever… I would never let… I don’t like… that.”

He tossed her a puzzled, “How do you know if you’d like it or dislike it, if you’d never tried it before, Scully?” She just shook her head and looked down at her hands. Mulder reached out and tugged at the fingers closest to him, until she raised her head and glanced at him, a pink flush on her face.

She stammered. “I just know. I wouldn’t have to – I just know I wouldn’t like it, that’s all!” She pulled her hand away.

Mulder found himself frowning in confusion, feeling the familiar beginnings of irritation at her closed mind.

“Scully… I thought we were past the point where you just discount something because you haven’t experienced it.” He reached out for her hand again and gave her limp fingers a squeeze. “What’s really going on? Talk to me…”

“No, I don’t think talking about this serves any purpose, Mulder. It’s something I don’t like. That’s all.” Her voice was firm but he could see her bottom lip tremble a little – and he knew there had to be much more than what she’d said – or not said, in this case.

And he wasn’t about to let it go – that’s not what their relationship was about. In the years they’d been together both as partners and the months they’d spent as lovers, they’d learned not to avoid subjects for long. They’d kept it honest… and he wouldn’t let her start to hide things again, not now.

Mulder took a deep breath, and chose his words carefully. “Scully… I want our love life to be wonderful and exciting for both of us -”

As soon as the words were out of his mouth he knew he’d said the wrong thing. Scully turned to him and the anger in her eyes was easy to see.

“You’re telling me that what we now have together ISN’T wonderful? Isn’t exciting? At least, not as wonderful and as exciting as I think it is. Sounds like that’s what you’re saying to me, Mulder.” Her eyes never wavered from his, and her hands clenched the sheets.

Even in the dim light he could see how white her knuckles had gone…

Shit. This was not going well – he tried again. “No, baby- that’s not what I’m saying, not what I meant. I love the way we make love – love everything we do. I adore it. Tonight, I wanted to make you feel cherished and loved and I wanted to send you straight to heaven…”

Her voice was quivering when she interrupted him.

“Mulder… your lovemaking already does that for me.

When you love me it sends me to the stars – it always has. Whatever made you think it didn’t? Don’t I always let you know, maybe not in words but in the way my body responds to yours? Can’t you tell how much I love what you do for me?”

Oh God, of course he could tell – she loved the way he loved her. But he wanted more for her; he wanted her to fly higher than the clouds; wanted her to know how incredibly erotic some acts of love could be, now that he’d had a taste of them…

And his mind refused to say why, or how that taste had come about, as Mulder slipped his arms around her bare waist and pulled her closer. Scully came, slowly.

Hesitation, Jesus – she was acting hesitant, around him.

Shit.

He pressed soft kisses to her mouth, her cheeks, murmuring to her, “I don’t want to fight about this, baby. Please… I’m sorry. Please – come to bed with me, I just want to love you…” He eased their bodies back on the mussed bed sheets and breathed a sigh of relief when she let him take her down. He lay on his side and tangled their limbs together, legs opened to each other – arms clutching eager flesh close, then closer. When she moved a thigh over his hip Mulder sent two tender fingers inside her, stimulating her anew, then sighed again when his hard flesh merged with her slippery silk and he plunged deep.

Slow. Deeper. Faster. Then harder. The way she liked it best – the way her body responded to him, the best. He locked his mouth to hers and drank in her moans, her breathless purrs – tongue to tongue, kiss for kiss. When she tightened around him and shuddered, cried out – he rolled her fully beneath him and thrust harder and faster, prolonging her climax for as long as he could, before succumbing to the hot waves, and following her under.

He collapsed against her, shaky and sweating. Pressed his damp forehead into her neck. Felt her soft kiss on his hair. Responded to her hands curling over his back and stroking over his wet shoulders. Stayed inside her until he couldn’t stay there any longer, and let himself slip out gently. Lovingly.

Gave her the afterglow she loved the best – gave her the ease she adored. The ease he loved, as well…

Knew the moment she’d fallen asleep, and whispered an almost inaudible, “I love you” into her tender nape, before carefully extricating his body, and rising from her warm comfort.

And as he made his silent and usual way to the armchair in the living room and grabbed a soft throw to wrap around him… Mulder tried not to think about another kind of satisfaction – and how much he’d really wanted it just that way, instead of that ease he’d found, with his lover.

****

To be continued

The Ghost of Millcreek Inn –

Book Two: The Aftermath (3 of 7)

Chapter Four

December, 2001

Scully smiled at the elderly gentleman who held the door to the bookstore open for her to push the baby stroller through.

“Thank you, very much,” she said. Her smiled deepened as he touched his fingers to the brim of his hat in a courtly gesture.

“You’re welcome.” His voice was soft with age. “Got to get that little one out of the cold. He waggled gnarled fingers at Will. “That’s a handsome boy you have there, Miss.”

Scully glanced down at the baby. His cheeks bore bright red patches of color from the sharp December cold and his eyes sparkled as he gleefully smacked his juice cup against the small tray of his stroller.

“He is,” she murmured proudly. The wind kicked up, swirling about their legs as they stood in the entryway of the store.

“Best be going.” The man tugged the collar of his coat over his neck. “Have a good day,” he offered as he stepped outside.

“Thank you. You do the same.” They exchanged a final smile and Scully turned to push the stroller away from the doorway and into the warmth of the store.

“Feels good in here huh, Will?” Scully squatted down and unzipped the baby’s coat. She plucked the fleecy cap from his head and stuffed it and his jacket into the little basket beneath the stroller. She tugged off her own coat and draped it over the collapsed hood of the stroller. She consulted the store directory and pushed Will through the wide aisles stopping before the bookcases in the ‘Self-Help’ and ‘Relationship’ aisles.

It was mid-morning and the store was mostly empty.

Scully knew that it would grow busier as the lunch crowd trooped in to get a jump on their holiday shopping, so she and Will had made the effort to get out of the house as soon as possible. The baby was babbling to himself and Scully handed him her keys to play with as she scanned the bookshelves.

Twenty minutes later, she pushed the stroller toward a secluded corner of the store and flopped down into an overstuffed chair with several books. Will had nodded off and was enjoying his midmorning nap. She carefully eased the stroller seat back so that the baby’s chin wasn’t falling onto his chest and he lifted heavy eyes to peer sleepily at her for a moment.

“Shh.” She stroked her fingers over his tummy and pried a stuffed bunny from under his well-padded rear.

He clutched the toy to his chest and rolled his head to the side as he sank back into sleep. Scully watched his tiny chest rise and fall for several moments before she settled back in her chair. She sorted through the books in her lap and selected one at random, stuffing the other three books onto the cushion beside her.

Pulling back the cover, she idly flipped through the book.

I’m not a prude, she thought moodily. She’d had several relationships throughout her adult life and she had always enjoyed sex. She loved the sex that she shared with Mulder, but lately… it didn’t seem to be enough for him. She leaned her head against the back of the chair and looked down at Will’s peaceful face.

She wasn’t a prude but prior experiences had made her a little hesitant to initiate sex or to experiment. Jack had been… intense. She remembered describing him as being incapable of relaxing, as relentless and determined. While the sex between them had been every bit as intense as his personality – it hadn’t lent itself toward playfulness or experimentation. And Daniel… Scully scrubbed her hands over her face as if to wash away the memories. Strictly a missionary position kind of guy, Daniel had been shocked and put off by any suggestion of aggression on her part and his reaction had left her feeling inept and vaguely ashamed. To be honest, the entire affair had left her feeling very ashamed…

Scully opened the book again and stared sightlessly down at the pages, the words and pictures blurring as her focus remained turned inward. She had spent more than seven years repressing her desire for Mulder. At first unwilling to become involved in another relationship that would be deemed inappropriate by herself and those around her, and then afraid to jeopardize the most important friendship she had ever had in her life, she had ruthlessly pretended not to notice how desperately attracted she had been to her partner.

She knew that Mulder was a highly sexed man. The sly innuendos, the magazines and videos she occasionally found peeking out from beneath the rubble scattered over the coffee table in his apartment… the way he had always stood so close to her; had always put his hands on her in even the most innocent of ways… had caused her to spend many sleepless nights fantasizing about his hands on her in ways not so innocent.

When they finally did cross that line, when they had at last permitted themselves to admit their love and desire for one another, their lovemaking had been the most amazing experience of her life. To be bonded to this man who was the other half of her soul. They had touched one another with love and passion, with lust and romance. They had moments where they treasured and cherished one another and others filled with desperation and hunger.

And in the newness of it… they thought they had forever to learn everything there was to know about the other. But they didn’t – and all too soon, Mulder had been taken away from her. And when he came back, she was two-thirds of the way through a difficult pregnancy. A prolonged healing from a post-delivery infection had followed. After Will’s birth, she had found her focus shifting to the baby, something primal and deep causing her to be alert to his every need at the exclusion of everything else. The exhaustion of caring for an infant combined with the sudden changes in her life, as she became a stay-at-home mother, often left her feeling less than sexy and attractive.

When the hell was she supposed to have the time or the inclination toward being the sex kitten he suddenly seemed to want? She felt the resentment boiling beneath the surface and sighed as she recognized how defensive she had become.

Scully had planned their trip to Lancaster in part to find a way for her and Mulder to reconnect and rediscover one another. She had intended for it to serve as an opportunity for them to spend time together away from the daily grind of their everyday lives.

Instead, she couldn’t help thinking that they came home further apart than ever before. And she couldn’t shake the feeling that she had lost a part of Mulder to Molly Sullivan. Restlessly, she stacked the books in her lap and tapped her fingers on the cover of the top book.

She knew that Mulder loved her; that he was in love with her. But lately, he seemed to need something more, to want something more than she was giving to him. Scully was afraid that he had found that elusive something in Molly and that she had lost a part of Mulder to the memory of the long-dead woman. Jealousy and anger flared briefly before she tamped them back down with the studied calm that had served her so well as a federal officer of the law.

Her upbringing – the admonishments of her parents and her church – as well as her relationships with Jack and Daniel had left her feeling awkward and uncertain afraid of… and ashamed of her natural curiosities toward sex. She had spent most of her life suppressing those desires and curiosities, telling herself that she was wrong for wanting those things. Her innate shyness left her uncertain of her abilities to entice and attract.

But she’d be damned if she would lose Mulder to the memory of a ghost. While she hadn’t won every battle, she had never backed down from a fight and she wasn’t about to start now.

Regardless of how inane it seemed to be engaging battle with a ghost…

Resolute, she pushed herself to her feet and shrugged into her coat. She carefully eased Will’s arms into his jacket and zipped it up before tugging his hat over his reddish-brown hair. Scully chose two books and put the others back onto the bookshelves. She struggled against the urge to bury her selections in a stack of other books. Struggled against it and lost.

She added a thriller from the bestseller’s list and two soft-sided, plastic-coated baby books for Will to gnaw on to his heart’s content to her pile and carried her selections to the counter. And immediately felt foolish when the bored clerk rang up her purchases and stuffed them into a shopping bag without blinking an eye.

She was now the proud owner of the ‘Illustrated Guide to Kama Sutra’ and ‘101 Ways to Please Your Man’.

God help her.

****

“When sitting facing her, you grasp her ankles and fasten them like a chain behind your neck and she grips her toes as you make love, this is the delightful ‘Padme’ – the Lotus position.”

Scully wrinkled her brow and read the paragraph again and then studied the picture carefully. She looked around the room and then stood and dragged the maple valet stand that she had bought for Mulder over to the bed. She lifted the suit jacket he had hanging from the valet and draped it over the cedar chest at the foot of the bed. Sitting down on the mattress, she lifted her feet onto the valet and locked her ankles around the top of the hanger as if it were Mulder’s neck. She leaned forward and stretched her hands towards her feet. Straining, her fingers brushed against the tips of her toes, but a shooting pain through her side had her flopping back onto the mattress. Gasping, she opened the button at the waistband of her jeans and lowered the zipper. God knows she wouldn’t be wearing such restrictive clothing if she and Mulder were to actually try this.

Less encumbered by her clothes, Scully raised her feet onto the valet and stretched toward them with renewed purpose. She struggled and her fingers flailed toward her toes before gaining purchase. She curled her hands around her toes, panting with the effort. She held the position for several seconds before an inability to breathe and a vicious cramp forming in her calf had her falling back onto the bed in defeat.

“Oh God,” she groaned. Her fingers played over the soft roundness of her stomach that was the legacy of her pregnancy. “I’m so out of shape.” She sat up and tried again. When her hands were firmly wrapped around her toes, she looked up and caught a glimpse of herself in the cheval mirror in one corner of the bedroom. Her cheeks were stained a blotchy red from her exertions, beads of sweat trickled over her temples causing her hair to frizz and curl and her face bore a look of grim determination.

“Oh yeah, Dana. Very sexy.” Scully fell back onto her elbows in disgust. Rolling onto her stomach she dragged the book toward her again. Perhaps it would be best if she didn’t start out with something so…

complex, she considered. She flipped through the book and its beautifully erotic, Hindu-inspired

illustrations. The less strenuous positions were, of course, the more ordinary and basic of lovemaking positions and not a far cry from those that she and Mulder had already tried.

She needed something different. Something that would catch his attention and make him forget about Lancaster and Molly Sullivan. She continued to read.

“Lift the lady’s feet until her soles lie perfectly parallel, one to each side of her slender throat, cup her breasts and enjoy her… this technique is called ‘Uthkanta’ or Throat-high.” Scully’s mouth dropped open as she studied the illustration. “I don’t think so.”

She flipped forward through the book. “Seated, the lady raises one foot to point vertically over her head and steadies it with her hands, offering up her ‘yoni’ for lovemaking – this is ‘Mayura’ – the Peacock.”

Experimentally, Scully lifted one foot over her head.

Reaching up to hold her foot steady as instructed in the book, she chanced a glance toward the mirror.

“This is crazy!” she groused. How the hell was she supposed to be sexy when all of the positions left her feeling out of shape and ridiculous? She flipped through a few more pages, mumbling instructions.

“Sitting face to face in bed, her breasts pressed tight against your chest, let each of you lock heels behind the other’s waist, and lean back clasping one another’s wrists.” She tilted her head to the side. “Hmmm.”

Not quite as adventurous as the other techniques, but definitely different from anything they had done. It might be a possibility… She used a scrap of paper to mark the page and set the book to one side.

****

Two nights later

Scully stood in the middle of the bedroom facing the cheval mirror. She stretched her arms over her head and pointed her fingers toward the ceiling, then slowly began to bend forward, curling her torso toward her knees. She bobbed down carefully, fingers touching her calves and then her toes. She shifted her legs and breathed steadily as she tried to place her hands flat onto the carpet between her feet.

“What are you doing?”

Startled, Scully lost her balance and tumbled to the floor. Sprawled in an inelegant heap on the carpet, she pushed her hair out of her eyes and looked up to find Mulder standing in the bedroom doorway, watching with curious eyes. She scrambled to her feet and made an effort at smoothing her hair.

“Just stretching,” she said with a studied casualness.

He lifted one brow in a fair imitation of her expression of disbelief and she hurriedly stretched her arms over her head again. Clasping her hands together, she pulled her arms from side to side and twisted at the waist in what she hoped was a convincing show.

“Going for a run?” He glanced toward the darkness on the other side of the windows. Scully gave up and dropped her arms to her sides. So much for limbering up first, she thought. She sighed and walked toward the bathroom.

“What’s the score?” she called out as she hurriedly brushed her teeth. She pulled her hair into a sloppy ponytail and splashed cold water onto her face. She was hoping to redirect Mulder’s attention to the football game he had been watching so that she could slip back into the bedroom and change into the sexy, deep red, silk pajamas that she had bought earlier in the day when he had settled onto the sofa with Will to watch the first of several ball games.

She looked at herself in the mirror. She had plans for this evening and they did not include trying to seduce Mulder while dressed in the oversized sweats she was currently wearing.

“Tied at the half.” Mulder’s voice was loud and unexpectedly close. Her face buried in a towel, she had not realized that he had followed her into the bathroom. Startled, she dropped the towel and turned around, but he was blocking her path out of the small room. His hands settled on her hips and pushed under the hem of her sweatshirt to caress the soft skin of her stomach.

Obviously, he had lost interest in the game. Scully closed her eyes as his fingers inched closer to her breasts. She had weaned Will down to only a bedtime feeding each night and although she suspected that Mulder privately mourned the loss of those more voluptuous curves, the good news was that she once again just about fit into the collection of pretty, lacy, frothy bras and panties that had always been her weakness.

The bad news was that all of those pretty undergarments were in the bureau with the sexy red pajamas, and beneath her sweats she was wearing what she considered to be truly ugly underwear. Mulder would take one look at her clad in the functional – but less than inspiring bra and panties – and completely lose interest.

“Why don’t you go back to the game,” she tried again to get rid of him, “and I’ll slip into something a little more comfortable and join you in a few minutes?” His hand slid up her back to pop out of the neckline of her shirt and tug on the rubber band securing her ponytail in place. Her hair fell over her shoulders and his hand once again disappeared beneath the fleece-lined cotton shirt. As his fingers skimmed over her back, he paused long enough to unsnap the hooks of her bra.

“Why don’t you just slip out of your clothes altogether?” he countered and slid both hands under her loosened bra to cup her breasts. His thumbs swiped a lazy path over her and her nipples immediately reacted to his touch, rising against his palms and begging for his attention.

He nuzzled his face into her throat and she rubbed her cheek against the day-old stubble darkening his jaw.

Mulder banded his arms around her waist and lifted her onto the small ledge that ran along the wall between the sink and toilet.

Scully was fast losing control of the situation and she placed her hands against his chest and pushed firmly until he was forced to take a step back.

“Let’s go into the bedroom,” she suggested. His head snapped up and down in a quick nod of agreement before he caught her hand in his and began to drag her out of the small room. She gasped as he pushed her shoulders and followed her down onto the mattress. Scully squirmed from beneath him until she was kneeling on the bed beside him.

“Come here,” he demanded and propped himself on his elbows. Scully tore her sweatshirt over her head and skimmed the straps of her bra over her arms, tossing both garments onto the floor. She fumbled with the drawstring of her sweatpants for a moment before hooking her fingers into the elastic waistbands of both her sweatpants and underwear and hurriedly stripping them down her legs. Nude, she knelt in the center of the bed and sat back on her heels.

“Your turn,” she instructed. She placed her hands on her thighs and watched him scramble out of his clothes, eager desire written all over his face. When he was naked, he reached for her, intent on pulling her beneath him again, but she stopped him with one hand pressed against his heart. He stared at her, confused.

“No,” she whispered. “Like this.” She urged him to sit up and used her hands to push his thighs apart.

Crawling over the bed, she climbed into his lap and straddled his legs. Scully curled one leg around his hips and slipped her hand beneath one of his arms to lay it flat on his back. Inching closer to him, she locked her eyes on his face and saw his cheeks flush when she lifted her left leg and laid it over his right shoulder. His eyes darkened and he clamped his hand over her leg, securing it in place on his shoulder.

His other arm curled around her waist and he helped to lift her into position.

Her breath stuttered from her lungs as his body penetrated hers. She knotted her fingers in his hair and tightened her free leg around his hips, hitching herself closer, forcing him deeper.

This position didn’t allow for much movement. Instead, Mulder remained buried deep inside of her and they rocked against one another. He leaned his face against her leg and rasped his bristled cheek against the side of her knee. His gaze was cast downward at the place where their bodies were joined. He dropped his hands onto her hips and his fingers dug tightly into her flesh as he pulled her impossibly closer.

The feel of him pulsing within was nice, and of course she always loved their physical connection – but Scully soon realized she’d been too hasty, engaging intercourse before Mulder had a chance to stimulate her. And even as the thought came to her, so did the fleeting self-derision that her less-than romantic approach was cramping the mood, so to speak… Scully mentally shook it off and tried to concentrate on the way he felt inside of her –

But she could hear the change in the pitch of his breathing as Mulder drew ever nearer his climax. He was panting and her leg almost slipped from his sweat-slick shoulder. She was nowhere close to orgasm. She thought that maybe if she could just… reach between their bodies… She unclenched her fingers from his hair and immediately lost her balance, falling backwards and almost severing their connection.

Mulder’s arms wrapped around her in a vice-like grip and he hauled her back up.

This position wasn’t going to work for her. His body felt good, so deeply buried in hers, but she couldn’t quite get the right angle… couldn’t concentrate as the leg slung over his shoulder began to cramp painfully… it was time to concede defeat – and save her poor leg from becoming gangrenous with a pressureinduced blood clot –

Scully curved her hand behind Mulder’s neck and brushed her lips against his.

“Now,” she whispered and bore down on him with her internal muscles, wringing a cry from his throat as he exploded into her. His arms convulsed around her as he spent himself. Exhausted, he fell back and her leg slipped from his shoulder. She followed him down and stretched her body over his, straightening her leg and flexing the abused muscles gratefully.

Mulder rolled her onto her back and rose up on one elbow above her. “That was… but you didn’t… did you?” His eyes were still dilated as they gazed down at her.

Scully merely smiled and drew his face down. She brushed her mouth over his and then parted her lips to deepen the kiss. Breaking free, she curled against him and laid her cheek on his arm, pulling him down to rest on the pillow. She didn’t answer him with words and to her relief Mulder didn’t pursue it. He relaxed and cuddled closer to her.

As she felt him slide under sleep’s embrace, she cautiously pulled her sore leg toward her, bending the knee and flexing the tight muscles. Tonight’s experiment had been successful in one respect, but she had spent too much time concentrating on maintaining the position… perhaps next time she should try something else…

*****

He wasn’t asleep.

As he lay with Scully in his arms, her soft and slightly snuffled breathing indicating deep slumber, Mulder let his thoughts overtake him – and most of them were not… great.

He wasn’t quite sure what that new position had been all about. Not that he hadn’t enjoyed it; of course he had! Any time he found himself deeply buried within the woman he loved, it was a wonderful thing. The heat of her, the wet cling, all around him… the way she shuddered when she came. He loved it.

But she hadn’t climaxed tonight. Thankfully she hadn’t faked it, either. He once dated a woman who faked orgasm often enough to make him feel like a sexual failure; it took him years to get past the idea that it had been all his fault. As he’d gained experience not only with women but with life in general, Mulder had come to understand and accept that sexual intimacy had as much to do with the mind as it had to do with the body.

For him, sexual fulfillment meant experiencing the wonder of his woman coming apart in his hands. Knowing and exulting in the knowledge that she felt what she did as a result of what he gave to her – and in return, reacting to her orgasm and reaching his own pinnacle because of the way she felt when she peaked. One of the reasons he would gently refuse her offer of ease, back when she was recuperating from Will’s birth, was because without her ability to share in the experience it just didn’t mean as much. Mulder had found himself patiently waiting until she was ready – for her body and her mind to fully engage with his.

He reveled in the way her breath hitched when she was excited; the purring words of encouragement she was just beginning to feel comfortable moaning in his ear.

Could anything be more wonderful than the way she tightened all around him, her inner walls squeezing him, at the height of her climax? It’s what spurred him, seduced him, and made their love so utterly amazing. But this time he’d missed her getting there with him. Mulder smoothed a hand over her bare hip, quieting her when she moved restlessly against him.

Scully sighed in her sleep and burrowed her face deeper into her pillow, body stilling beneath his palm.

Mulder left his hand warmly cupping her hip, and thought about the past week.

He knew her sudden interest in alternative positions had to be a result of the things he’d said to her, when he’d told her he’d ‘just wanted to try something new’.

He’d hurt her feelings, made her feel as though she wasn’t enough for him… even though he’d said that all he wanted was for her to reach the stars –

Well, tonight she sure hadn’t left the ground.

As the night outside their bedroom window lightened into dawn, Mulder pondered how in hell he could possibly make this right – how he could take it back to the way it had been between them, a week or so before their ill-fated vacation.

****

To be continued

The Ghost of Millcreek Inn –

Book Two: The Aftermath (4 of 7)

Chapter Five

The next night

“Is he asleep?” Scully looked up as Mulder crept out of the nursery and eased the door closed behind him.

He flopped onto the sofa next to her and squinted at the television screen.

“You’re watching the preview channel?” He watched for several seconds as the grid of television listings slowly scrolled up the screen.

“Pay-Per-View.” Scully stood up and glanced at her watch. “Come on. We’ve got about twelve minutes to make some popcorn and get something to drink. She held out her hands and pulled him to his feet, laughing when he pretended to stumble and fell into her. He squeezed her tightly in his arms and lowered his mouth to hers.

A moment later, Scully pulled away with a determined, “We’re gonna miss the movie.” She pressed one last smacking kiss to his mouth and stepped out of his arms.

Mulder heaved a regretful sigh and followed her into the kitchen. A few moments later, Scully shook a bag of microwave popcorn into a large bowl. She was reaching into the refrigerator for two bottles of beer when she heard the microwave start up again. Scully wrinkled her nose in distaste as Mulder pulled out a small measuring cup filled with melted butter. He grabbed a second bowl out of the cupboard and dumped half of the popcorn into the bowl, drenching it with the melted butter.

Scully handed him a bottle of beer and carried her bowl of untainted popcorn into the living room. Mulder tipped back his bottle and took a long swallow of beer before ambling into the room behind her.

They settled onto the sofa. Mulder dug into his bowl, searched for the kernels of corn that were absolutely saturated with butter and popped them into his mouth with a near mechanical precision. The chatter of the preview channel’s host was abruptly cut off when the movie started. As a low, throbbing, cheesy guitar riff began to filter into the room overridden by the sound of a woman moaning, Mulder sucked in a breath and inhaled a tiny piece of popcorn down the wrong pipe.

Scully immediately turned to him and began to pat him on the back while peering into his face to be sure he wasn’t choking.

“Here.” She handed him his beer when he finally stopped coughing and sputtering. Her eyes were soft with concern.

“Are you okay?”

He nodded and pointed without making a sound. Scully’s eyes widened as she followed his pointing fingers toward the television screen where a surgically enhanced actress was bent forward over a table theatrically moaning and gasping – while an actor plunged into her from behind.

“What movie did you order?” Mulder wheezed. Scully snatched up the cable guide magazine and rapidly flipped through it, all the while keeping one eye on the screen.

“I must have pressed the wrong buttons on the remote,” she muttered. “I thought I was ordering ‘Men in Black’.” She paused as she finally found the page she was looking for.

“Ohhh.” Scully bit her lip and handed him the magazine. He looked down to where she was pointing and biting back a laugh, read the movie title aloud.

“Men in Back.”

Her face was study of wide-eyed innocence before she turned her attention back to the screen where one of the title characters was grunting and groaning and to her ears, sounding as if he was close to dying.

Mulder took a sip of beer and waited for her to turn off the television but she merely sat back and scooped popcorn into her mouth. He thought of the exaggerated look of innocence on her face and smiled into his beer.

On purpose, it would seem – still trying things on ‘for size’… His penis stirred to life with the realization that she had planned the whole thing. With that realization came his determination that tonight she’d hit those stars – and pass them like a shot, all the way to heaven.

Mulder set aside his own bowl of popcorn and slid closer, draping one arm over her shoulder. He spent the next few minutes dividing his attention between the movie and Scully’s face as she watched the onscreen antics. Her intent concentration; the way she licked popcorn crumbs from her lips as she stared at the screen – the way her hand tightened around her beer bottle as the sex on the TV screen sped up. Mulder focused on the grip of her fingers, imagining them around his already hard and aching penis – and stifled a groan. He wasn’t ready to act yet – he wanted to see how far she’d let this go.

The scene changed and her brow furrowed as two young beauties began to eagerly strip the clothing from a man who was – to be kind – decidedly too unattractive to warrant such enthusiasm. Scully pointed her bottle toward the screen.

“Yeah… right. I’m supposed to believe that a man that homely and unattractive could get not just one, but TWO beautiful women – half his age – to want to have sex with him?” She snorted. “These movies really are a guy’s fantasy!” Suddenly, her eyes widened and she actually leaned forward as the two women finished peeling the man’s pants down his legs – finally revealing the true pull of his attraction.

“Oh my God!” she breathed, her eyes riveted to the screen.

Mulder winced and shifted as his aroused flesh strained uncomfortably against the fly of his jeans. He was suddenly jealous of the way Scully was so raptly entranced by the movie. He glanced down at his lap.

Maybe it was time to distract her before he suffered by comparison. He knew anyone measuring less than two feet in the groin would suffer in comparison to ‘Mr.

Tripod’ up on the screen – but that didn’t stop him from feeling momentarily inferior. He carefully set his beer on the low coffee table.

Seconds later Scully squeaked as he suddenly yanked her onto the floor.

“Forget about him.” Mulder’s breath was hot in her ear. “I can give you everything you need.” He pinned her to the carpet with his big, warm body. Scully pushed her hair away from her face and peered up at him speculatively. Everything, huh?

She wormed one hand between their bodies and cupped him through the well-washed and worn denim of his favorite jeans. He was rock hard already… Her fingers busily traced and measured his length until he thought he would burst through the sturdy metal zipper. Jesus…

felt incredible…

Mulder groaned and pushed against her hand, encouraging further exploration with each pumping movement of his hips. Scully hid a private smile – this was working out exactly the way she had hoped. She had set out to seduce him until there was room in his mind for only her and judging by his harsh breathing and the way he chanted her name over and over again, she was succeeding.

Scully felt a heady rush of power. Of lust. Of possessiveness. He’s mine, she thought. She curled her legs around him, lifted her hips from the floor and ground herself against him. She ran her hands under his T-shirt and skimmed them over the damp flesh of his back. She could feel him shudder when she lightly scraped her nails across his shoulders.

A piercing shriek from the television caught her attention and she looked up, distracted. Onscreen, the man was thrusting vigorously into one of the women.

With each thrust, he was grunting and groaning, completely unintelligible – while the woman kneeling before him screamed and mewled and whimpered. The other woman watched, caressing each of them in turn, all the while snarling out commands.

“That’s right. Harder, baby,” she called to the man.

“Oh yeah, you like that don’t you,” she sneered at the woman. The faces of each of the people onscreen were contorted into grimaces that Scully assumed were a display of the sum total of their acting skills. The entire thing was so ridiculous and so unattractively NOT sexy that Scully started to laugh. She snickered at first, causing Mulder to lift his head from his exploration of the soft skin beneath her jaw.

“What?” He noticed that she was watching the movie again. Well, that would never do… He nudged her cheek with his fingers to divert her attention.

“Hey… remember me?” he asked.

Scully looked up, her blue eyes filled with mirth. She twined her arms around his neck and pulled his mouth down to hers. She tried losing herself in their kiss and in the heat of his body pressed against hers, but a loud screeching ‘Oh yeah! Oh yeah!’ penetrated the fog of desire surrounded her and her lips curved against his in a smile. She studiously avoided looking at the television but, if possible, that only made things worse as the sounds emanating from it were even more ridiculous without the assistance of a visual aid.

At a particularly loud and impassioned shriek, Scully’s body shook beneath his as a belly laugh worked its way up to her throat. She pulled away from Mulder’s lips and clapped a hand over her mouth to hold it back but the music was building to a tawdry crescendo as were the moans and shrieks, and with each ‘oh, baby’ a giggle slipped from between her lips.

Mulder lifted his head again – it was impossible to kiss her at the moment – and glared at her with mock sternness. This was becoming way too distracting. And it was a hell of a mood-breaker…

He stared down into her eyes, demanding, “What’s so funny?” She shook her head and scrubbed her hands over her face in an effort at regaining her composure.

“I’m sorry.” She tried to settle her lips into a straight line and swallowed another laugh. “But that is just… just one of the most absurd things I’ve ever seen!”

Mulder glanced toward the television. To him it looked just like any one of the porn movies he had seen over the years – nothing unusual to it. But Scully obviously found it hilarious. And laughter was wonderful, but not when he was overheated and wanting nothing more than to get her in the same condition.

Mulder eyed the remote control, but it was out of reach. He wasn’t about to let her go just to snap off a TV set. She’d just have to focus on him instead of an ugly yet well-hung man and the women who used him…

Meanwhile, Scully had chanced another peek at the screen – taking a moment to marvel at the stamina of the actors. She screwed her eyes closed as another giggle threatened to erupt. This was ridiculous and she knew she shouldn’t let the antics onscreen affect her this way… but little tremors of suppressed laughter wracked her body even as Mulder set himself to the task of pulling her attention away from the movie and back to him.

His busy fingers went to work on the buttons of her shirt and he smiled triumphantly against her breast when he heard her sigh and felt her body go limp beneath him. This was more like it… she felt wonderful. Silky taut skin under his fingers, God…

nothing in the world felt better. He passed a hand underneath her breast and lifted it to his mouth.

Scully rolled her head against the carpet, losing herself in the sensation of Mulder’s lips pressing against the aching tip of her breast. Her eyes opened as his lips roved over her skin and while one part of her brain was engaged in the pleasures he was creating, the other part could not help but notice that the actors in the movie were moaning and crying out in supposed ecstasy, but their mouths were not moving.

When she realized that the vocals had been dubbed, she began to lose her composure.

Scully struggled valiantly against the image of the actors standing in recording studio, gasping and screeching into microphones with bored looks on their faces. But when Mulder ground his hips into hers and gasped, “Oh yeah!” against her breast, a shrieking laugh exploded from her. His head instantly jerked up and he stared at her in shock. She clamped both of her hands over her mouth, but the giggles continued to burble in her chest. Her entire body shook with helpless laughter and when the actors onscreen began to shout in supposed rapture, she lost it.

Her body heaved beneath his and she actually bucked him off as she rolled onto her stomach. Mulder watched with equal parts amusement and frustration as she gasped with laughter. Every time she thought she had regained control, she would take a look at his stunned face and lose it all over again.

Mulder had never seen her like this – and while part of him was enjoying her mirth, another part desperately wanted her to stop. As a mood-killer, it was a definite success. He could feel himself deflating with each burst of laughter. His brows snapped together in a frown, and as if she could feel it, Scully stared at him helplessly, shoulders still shaking.

“I… I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” she chanted as she slowly began to calm. Tears streamed from her eyes and she wiped her hands over her face before reaching for him.

“I’m okay,” she promised through a tiny snort of residual laughter.

Mulder’s lips curved into a resigned smile. Maybe she’d finally gotten all of it out of her system… She was adorable – not a word he usually used to describe her – but in this case that’s what she was. He wanted her badly, but when he cautiously lowered his mouth to hers again, her body quivered with another suppressed laugh – and it was just too much. Mulder gave up and heaved himself to his feet.

“Don’t go.” Scully sat up and held out both hands.

“I’ll stop. I promise.”

Mulder eyed her speculatively but he could see how difficult it was for her to maintain her composure. He shook his head at her. “No, I don’t think so, baby.

You’re not in the mood – and neither am I, right now.

I’m going for a run.” He bent down and brushed a kiss over her forehead, then turned toward the bedroom to toss on his sweats.

Scully sighed heavily, leaning back against the sofa.

Well, that had been an unmitigated flop…

*****

Chapter Six

With Christmas only a few weeks away, Mulder and Will were out taking care of some holiday shopping. Scully took advantage of the quiet to do some more reading.

Movie night had been a complete disaster. Obviously, the dubious merits of porn were lost on her. She grabbed a note tablet on which she had written various ideas and crossed ‘porn’ off her list.

The campaign she was waging to drive the memory of Molly’s lovemaking from his mind was pretty much a dismal failure, she thought. A comedy of errors. She was determined to succeed though – and she stretched out over the bed with ‘101 Ways to Please Your Man’. A couple of hours passed as she read and scribbled notes onto her tablet. Scully stretched her arms and rolled onto her stomach. Propping herself onto her elbows, she flipped to the next chapter and began to read attentively. Mulder never seemed to have any complaints when she took him into her mouth, but maybe there was something here to be learned.

She skimmed through the chapter; stopping when she hit a subchapter entitled ‘Advanced Lessons’, she began to read aloud.

“Don’t bore your man. Keep things fresh by alternating techniques. Drive him crazy by humming as you slide your mouth up and down his penis. Wrap your thumb and forefinger tightly around the base as you suckle the head between your lips.

“Buy some strong peppermints and suck on them before taking him into your mouth. You’ll enjoy the minty fresh taste and he’ll go wild with the sensations.

“Don’t focus solely on his penis and abandon the rest of him. Scratch your nails over his stomach; tangle your fingers in his hair. Cup his balls in your hand; nibble on his thighs.

“The inside of your mouth is hot… trying surprising him by taking a drink of something cold before engulfing him in your mouth.”

A sound from the doorway caught her attention and she looked up to find Mulder staring at her with wide eyes.

His face was an odd blend of shock and lust. Will was sound asleep on his shoulder.

“Wha… what are you reading?” He moved into the room and Scully slammed the book shut and hid it behind her.

Her face flamed with embarrassment. He reached out to grab the book from her hands and she scrambled off the bed.

“No!” Her voice was loud and Will stirred in his father’s arms, a tiny whimper escaping his lips.

Mulder smoothed his hand over the baby’s head, narrowed eyes taking in the hot blush on her cheeks. What the hell was she up to? In his arms, Will began fidgeting.

Mulder sighed.

“I’ll be right back.” He carried Will from the room and Scully hurriedly began to gather her books and notes up. She slammed a bureau drawer closed and jumped guiltily when Mulder returned.

“Come on, Scully.” He crossed the room and she maintained a defensive position in front of the bureau.

Mulder reached around her and hooked his fingers around the handle of the drawer.

“Mulder… don’t.” She pulled on his arm and tried to move him away but he merely wrapped his hands around her arms and lifted her out of the way. He yanked open the drawer and pushed aside her lingerie. His eyes lit up and he pulled out the first thing he saw.

Interesting choice of reading material…

“Illustrated Guide to Kama Sutra,” he murmured and delightedly began to flip through the book, pausing as some of the more intriguing pictures caught his eye.

Scully tried grabbing the book from his hands but he held it out of her reach.

“I want to see,” he told her before turning back to rummage through the drawer. He pulled out ‘101 Ways to Please Your Man’ and her notes. His delighted expression turned serious as he began to flip through the books. He noted that she had tagged various pages with yellow Post-It flags. She had used a pink marker to highlight a number of paragraphs in the books. Her notepad was covered with her plans for seduction. He frowned at the filled-out notepad. A planned seduction…

“What is this?” he asked. Scully shook her head, unsure of how to answer. Mulder’s frown deepened.

“What IS this?” he asked again. He rapidly flipped through the books again and when he looked up the expression on his face did not bode well.

“You’re what… you’re studying?” he asked

incredulously. “Taking notes?” Scully nodded, miserable at having been caught. Now he would know beyond a doubt that she was not a naturally creative bed partner.

Mulder took a deep breath, fighting a losing battle to keep his sudden anger at bay. “Why the hell are you doing this?” he demanded.

Scully swallowed. “I thought it would help. I… I thought I could learn something…” Her voice trailed off when he shook his head and skimmed through her notepad, obviously seeing the events of the last few nights outlined in her neat handwriting.

It was all there… Jesus! He passed his hand over his face and slammed the books down onto the top of the bureau. He was furious. Mulder clenched his hands into fists, still staring down at the books.

Scully felt the first stirrings of panic settle in.

She moved a step closer. “Why are you so angry?” she asked hesitantly. His head snapped up, a confused frown on his face.

“I want to know why you’re doing this.” His eyes were dark with emotion.

“You said…” She gulped and pressed her fist against her hammering heart. “You said you wanted to try new things,” she reminded him.

He gaped at her. “I wanted spontaneity! Exploration!

You’re treating our sex life like it’s an exam you have to cram for!” His voice was accusatory. “Highlighting the pertinent chapters. Christ! You’ve got an outline here!” He slapped his hand down on top of the books.

“I don’t understand why this bothers you so much.”

Scully carefully controlled her voice. She was humiliated at having been caught.

Mulder shook his head as he processed her words.

Didn’t understand… He sputtered, “You don’t know why I’m upset to find out that everything we’ve done over the last few nights has been carefully plotted out by you beforehand? You don’t know why it bothers me that you’ve been ‘cramming’ ahead of time to make love to me?” His voice was incredulous. He could not believe she saw nothing wrong with what she’d done; couldn’t grasp why he was angry. Shit, more than angry…

betrayed. He felt betrayed. And it all showed, there on his face; when she looked into his eyes, she saw it too.

Oh, God… Scully sank down onto the mattress and ran her fingers through her hair, raking it back behind her ears.

“Mulder…” She pressed her fingertips against her forehead, feeling a headache brewing behind her eyes.

“This is the way I do things,” she told him. She looked up beseechingly, willing him to hear her out and understand.

“I’ve got ten books on child-rearing. I read at least five books on pregnancy and devoured every magazine article about expectant mothers that I could get my hands on.” Her expression told him that he should already know this about her.

“I’ve got half a dozen cookbooks in the kitchen and I painstakingly follow the recipes. I don’t even think about experimenting until I’ve cooked the meal at least a dozen times.”

His silence was unnerving; his stare unwavering.

Scully blew out a frustrated breath, knowing she wasn’t getting through to him. “This is who I am!” she reminded him. “I read. I highlight. I take notes.

It’s how I learn.” She swallowed hard, refusing to cry. “It’s what I do!”

Mulder looked past her to the books stacked haphazardly on top of the bureau before returning his gaze to hers.

She didn’t get it. It was impossible for him to wrap his mind around it; that she just didn’t see a reason for his anger. His hurt.

“I…” he shook his head. “I can’t talk about this now.” Hurt colored his voice as he turned on his heel and left the room. Scully rose from the bed and crossed the room. She carefully aligned the books and laid her notepad on top of them. She slid her pen through the spiral binding of the notebook and pulled open the bureau drawer. She moved things around and set the books into the drawer, then stacked her neatly folded lingerie on top of them. Precision and control.

Order. It’s how she liked things.

As she pushed the drawer closed, she heard Will fussing in his nursery. She laid her forehead against the cool wood of the bureau and took a deep breath. Will was whimpering loudly now and she pushed away from the bureau to go to her son.

Things were going from bad to worse.

*****

Mulder walked along the quiet street, hands buried in the deep pockets of his jacket. Hatless, his hair glistened with the snow that was intermittently falling. His ears were growing cold but he really didn’t feel it. Actually, he wasn’t feeling much of anything. And in his head the same words spun themselves around, again and again…

<I’m not overreacting. I’m not…>

His mind’s eye could see Scully’s face when she was pleading for him to understand. Why she felt the need to take notes. Why she had to write it down, what kinds of ‘study habits’ she seemed to feel were necessary. Mostly, WHY she seemed to think studying was necessary.

He hadn’t overreacted.

He knew he wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination a ‘red-hot’ lover. He hadn’t been involved that many times in his life – but what relationships he’d had, whatever their seriousness, had been open-minded and enjoyable. He’d learned a lot, by experience and by the viewing of more than a few of those videos he liked to deny watching.

He’d looked forward to trying different things, with Scully – but there hadn’t really been all that much opportunity either before Will’s birth, or after it for experimenting. Both of them were always tired Scully certainly more so than he – and it always seemed easier to make love in the most expedient manner. Of course it was wonderful. Loving Scully was the best experience of his life, regardless of whether or not they could take their time or had to hurry it along.

It was all good…

The snow was falling faster now and Mulder turned up the collar of his jacket in an attempt to keep the wet stuff off his neck. He walked on, still thinking. How good it was – how he’d wanted to have the opportunity to make it better, for Scully. How those opportunities had come few and far between, until their vacation at Millcreek Inn.

How they’d both been looking forward to it, couldn’t wait to get there and relax, spend quality time with Will – with each other. Time to snuggle in bed before a cozy fire, sip some wine – try something new…

Instead they’d been forced into a sort of bizarre ghost-hunt, with near-disastrous results. They’d escaped – from their own vacation.

Over a month later, their daily schedule was still insane and rushed. Even though Will had tapered off on the teething and the midnight crying sessions – and had responded well to the weaning process – he and Scully were still tired every night and their lovemaking had fallen back into the same familiar pattern as before.

Certainly it was not a bad thing – but there was so much more, out there…

Mulder didn’t think it was unreasonable to want that ‘more’ from the intimate side of their relationship.

He had always thought Scully wanted the same thing.

It’s what growing together was all about… the need to explore, to learn and to apply. It had never been his intention to make her feel less than desirable, less than sexy and beautiful and everything he ever wanted in a woman. To him she was all of that, and more.

It was also never his intention to make her feel so out of balance with him, that she figured the only way to please him was to study up on sexual techniques and take copious notes as if a pop quiz was right around the corner. Not his intention to see her subjugate her own satisfaction in an attempt to give him what she thought he needed.

He hadn’t overreacted.

But he’d made her feel less than everything he knew her to be… and somehow he was going to have to find a way to fix it – before it spiraled out of their ability to grasp hold and repair what damage had been done.

*****

To be continued

The Ghost of Millcreek Inn –

Book Two: The Aftermath (5 of 7)

Chapter Seven

After Mulder returned to the apartment, hurt feelings on both their parts simmered beneath the surface for the rest of the evening. He’d entered quietly, shedding his damp jacket and hanging it up in the closet; leaving his wet boots by the door. He’d collected a towel from the bathroom and dried his hair, then walked into the living room where Scully sat, holding Will who had awoken wet and hungry. She’d looked up when he sat down beside her, had given him a small smile but hadn’t spoken to him – and in return he hadn’t said anything much to her. They sat side by side on the sofa and Scully had rocked Will until the baby finally dropped off. Mulder had silently held out his arms into which she’d placed the warm weight of their son, watching as he left the room. He carried the baby to the nursery and got him settled in. He reentered the living room, resumed his place on the sofa and they had watched the game in silence.

On this night, Scully didn’t watch Mulder leave their bed – because he’d never joined her in it. Instead, he had watched the rest of the game and then, seemingly transfixed by the late-night sports wrap-up shows, had wished her a good night. Confused by his silence and the gentle kiss he’d placed on her forehead, Scully had retired to bed, alone. Hours had passed while she watched the flickering blue light of the television stream from the living room through the half-open bedroom door before she finally fell into an exhausted sleep.

While Mulder was at work the next day, Scully spent her time tending to Will and mechanically taking care of the myriad of chores and errands that made up her day.

She was beginning to wonder if trying to outperform Molly Sullivan was a wise idea. She couldn’t help but question whether she had been wrong all this time.

Mulder never made mention of Molly. The rivalry appeared to be solely in Scully’s mind and in trying to compete, she was failing miserably.

By the time he had returned home from work, she had come to a decision. She would put her jealousies and self-doubts to rest. A femme fatale she would never be… but she would do her best to be more open-minded about their sex life and hopefully together, they would find a way that worked for both of them.

It seemed they had both spent the day putting aside hurt feelings and misconceptions. The atmosphere during dinner was less strained. No mention of the prior evening was made, as they were determined to put it behind them. After dinner, Scully could hear Mulder rattling around in the kitchen as he cleaned up the dinner dishes while she settled Will into the safety bath ring seat secured to the bottom of the bathtub with suction cups. She felt her mood ease further as the domestic sounds Mulder generated in the kitchen filtered into the bathroom to compete with Will’s happy squeals. Scully let the baby play in the warm water for several minutes and she gently splashed her hands, causing the water to spray lightly into his face. He shrieked and rubbed his fists against his eyes before smacking his own chubby hands into the water in retaliation. Scully reared back as the water splashed up and drenched her shirt.

“Okay, Will. You win, this time.” She soaked a soft washcloth in the water and squeezed a small amount of liquid soap into it. She handed him a yellow rubber duck to keep his hands busy and quickly began to wash him. She rinsed the soap from his sturdy body and poured a bit of shampoo into her hand working a gentle lather into his reddish-brown hair. Grabbing a plastic cup from the shelf over her head, she filled it with clean water and carefully rinsed the shampoo from his hair. She lifted the baby from his seat and sent the water swirling down the drain.

Scully carried Will into his room and dressed him in a clean diaper and soft, fleecy pajamas. She sat him on her lap and, turning her blow dryer onto the lowest setting, blew his hair dry in a matter of minutes. He normally played with the dryer, trying to grab it from her hands, but he was sleepy tonight and by the time his hair was dry, his eyes were drooping heavily and she was able to lower him into his crib without the requisite thirty minutes in the rocking chair. She switched on the baby monitor and eased the nursery door closed.

From their bedroom, Scully heard the sounds of the television being turned on in the living room and the rustling of the newspaper as Mulder settled onto the sofa. She peeled off her soaked shirt and bra and tossed them into the overflowing hamper. Her days spent reading and researching had left her behind in doing the laundry.

She pulled open the bureau drawer and yanked out the first nightgown she found, pulling it over her head.

She quickly fastened the row of buttons that ran from neck to waist and tied the satin ribbon between her breasts into a bow. She shivered in the sleeveless nightgown. Belting her robe around her waist, Scully turned off the bedroom lamp and walked into the living room.

Mulder looked up with a hesitant smile as she came back into the room. He’d spent a great deal of his day thinking – almost as much as he’d spent the night before in front of the television. Luckily he’d had no classes today and no lectures, because the day had pretty much been a total waste for getting any work done. By the time he could leave for home he’d decided that yes, he had overreacted. He’d somehow driven Scully to feel compelled to research sexual variety because she thought he wanted it. And that wasn’t it not at all…

Mulder knew one thing, and one thing only: he cherished, adored and loved Dana Scully, madly. He hated being out of sorts with her. He’d do anything to make her happy, anything for her and for Will – and if it meant dealing with her need to research, catalog and take notes – then he’d deal with it.

His troubled eyes cleared when she curled up on the sofa next to him with a medical journal in her hands.

Long moments passed with the quiet broken only by the soft murmurs coming from the television and the rustling sounds of his newspaper and her book.

“I’m going to make a cup of tea.” She pushed to her feet. “Do you want anything?” Mulder reached out to play with her fingers for a few seconds before shaking his head.

“No, thanks.”

She squeezed his fingers with hers and then went into the kitchen to brew the tea. When she returned to the living room, Mulder had set the newspaper aside and was slumped down against the sofa cushions watching a news magazine on the television. Scully set her mug onto a coaster on the end table and knelt down on the floor in front of him. She pressed her hands against his knees and pushed his legs apart, settling between his thighs.

“I’m sorry,” she began. She shifted her weight and rested her cheek against one of his legs. “I thought I needed…” She cast her eyes around the room as if hoping to find the right words painted on the walls, before returning her gaze to his. “I thought I could find what you wanted in a book.”

Mulder sat up and leaned forward. His hand slid beneath the heavy fall of her hair to curl around the back of her neck. His rubbed his thumb over the vein that pulsed with each steady beat of her heart. He was struggling to give a voice to his desires.

“Baby, I’m sorry, too. I feel so badly for pushing you into a situation where you thought you needed to go to a book. I just wanted…” His stopped and cleared his throat. “I thought we could try…” Again his words trailed off. Scully inched closer and nodded her head.

“You thought we could try something new.” Her fingers tugged at the tie of her robe and she shrugged her shoulders, allowing the robe to pool onto the floor behind her. Her hands rubbed over his thighs and she looked up with eyes both sly and hesitant at the same time.

“You know,” she paused and let her fingers toy with the buckle of his belt. “It would be a shame to let everything I learned go to waste…” She bit her lip and waited. His response was immediate as desire flared to life in his eyes and stirred under her hand.

Mulder watched as she unfastened his belt buckle and flicked open the button of his trousers before easing the zipper over his rising erection. Despite the anger and hurt feelings of the previous night, he also remembered the sudden rush of desire that had flooded him when he had heard her reading aloud from her book.

His body had hardened instantly as he had stood in the doorway listening to her, and he had wanted nothing more than to pull her onto her knees in front of him.

Now she was there, kneeling – looking so goddamn beautiful, wearing a nightgown he had always secretly loved… tugging his clothing down his legs, peeling his socks from his feet. She stretched up and undid the row of buttons on the front of his shirt and pushed it open to reveal the rapid rise and fall of his chest.

Her lips played lightly over his in a sweet, almost chaste kiss, while her fingers kneaded the muscles in his thighs. The soft cotton of her nightgown brushed over his heated flesh and he groaned aloud. Jesus…

already the feelings she was arousing in him were not to be believed…

Scully’s mouth began to follow a downward path.

Lightly biting his jaw. Sliding wetly over his Adam’s apple. Her tongue sipped from the hollow at the base of his throat and then she pressed an open-mouthed kiss over his heart. She nipped and licked and bit her way across the skin stretched tightly over his ribs and then over the quivering muscles of his stomach. She dipped her tongue into the sensitive crease where his leg met his torso and threaded her fingers into the tangle of coarse hair between his thighs.

“Stand up,” she whispered. He rose on shaky legs and gasped when she swirled her tongue over the head of his penis. Scully peered uncertainly at him in the shadowed room and when he nodded and tightened his hand around the back of her neck, she lowered her mouth to him again. She didn’t concentrate on what the books had instructed. Instead, she let instinct and a desire to please him, and in turn, herself, take over.

Mulder’s low moans and the soft, wet sounds of her mouth moving over him filled the room. His fingers were knotted in her hair, showing her what he liked best. Scully’s own hands were busy, stroking where her mouth could not reach, cupping him and smoothing her hands over his thighs. When she scraped her teeth lightly over his sensitive flesh, she felt his legs tremble and his knees buckle. She curved her hands around his hips to steady him. The knowledge that she was responsible for reducing this strong man to a mass of shivering flesh was… very empowering…

She shifted, sinking back onto her heels, taking him more shallowly into her mouth. Mulder cried out and bucked his hips forward, urging her to pull him deeper.

Scully opened her eyes and looked up. Sweat gleamed on his shoulders and face; dampened the sparse hair covering his chest. He was watching her through the veil of his lashes, but although he seemed to be staring at his penis slipping in and out of her mouth, she didn’t recognize the faraway look in his eyes.

For Mulder, the sight before him was overwhelming in its sheer sensuality. His woman, on her knees before him, her mouth doing the most incredible things to him, pure blue eyes smoldering up at him, hot wet tongue and clever hands… red hair tousled underneath his fingers.

Red hair… bright and soft and like silk rippling over his wrists, as he held her head against him, moved against her beautiful face, his engorged penis now deep inside her mouth. But it wasn’t enough, there was something missing, something she did for him, to him…

something he wanted so badly to feel again because it had been the most amazing thing he’d ever felt, and he had to have it, feel it, again…

Mulder bent forward, again changing the angle and the depth of penetration. He caught her hand with his free one and dragged it over his flank, pressing one of her fingers insistently against the puckered flesh between his cheeks. His hand clenched involuntarily in her hair, snarling in the soft strands painfully as he shifted his stance and opened himself to her… he was moaning, gasping… his hand pushed at hers, trying to place it where he needed it, had to have it there, right there…

And Scully was ripped from the moment and the safety of their apartment and flung back into their room at the Millcreek Inn. She tore her mouth from him and scrambled backwards. Away from him. Away from the blind desire clouding his eyes.

She crouched on the floor on her hands and knees and stared up at him through tangled hair.

“Oh, my God…”

***

Her raw, shaky voice snapped him out of the swimming fog, and Mulder opened his eyes, shocked at the way she cowered away from him. “Scully? Baby, what it is?

Why did you… what’s going on?” Mulder took a reflexive step forward, afraid that she had been hurt.

Scully flung up a hand and he halted in his tracks.

“Oh God… oh God… I didn’t want to believe it…”

“What? Believe what?”

“Molly! All this time… and I thought… but I told myself I was imagining things…” Scully climbed to her feet but kept a cautious distance between their bodies.

His face was a picture of stunned confusion. “Molly?!

What the… what the hell has Molly got to do with anything?”

“Ever since we came home… it’s been Molly that you want. Not me!”

Mulder was completely taken aback by her accusation.

“I don’t believe… what the fuck would make you say something so insane? You’re talking about a GHOST, Scully. A dead woman! Jesus!” He took another step toward her.

Scully shook her hair out of her face and stood her ground. “A ghost you had sex with… apparently the greatest sex of your life!”

“Sex with a ghost. Are you nuts? It was YOU, Scully.

I was making love to YOU. YOUR body,” he protested.

“My body, yes… but it wasn’t me doing those things with you… it was Molly.” Her tone was strident with anger and hurt.

He could feel himself splintering inside as he listened to her. “I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. I was making love to the woman I love and she was loving me right back. It was incredible, baby how can you say that wasn’t you? I held you in my arms! I was inside you, and everything you were doing to me… Christ, it was so good! It was us together, you and I – ” He held out one hand in a pleading gesture.

She ignored his outstretched fingers. “NO! Look, I know… I know you thought it was me at the time, Mulder… but God! You’re the one who figured it out.

You’re the one who told me the next morning. Damn it!

You know I’m right!”

Mulder was stunned. She was literally quivering with rage and he felt his own temper flare in response.

“No. You’re twisting this around because, for some God-only-knows reason, you’ve suddenly decided you don’t want to experiment, try new things… not unless it’s something you can read and outline from some goddamn sex manual!”

Scully fought down the hurt caused by his words and savored the heat of her anger. “I can’t believe you said that… you know what, Mulder?” She slapped back with her own spiteful words. “Before Molly fucked you senseless, you were perfectly happy with the way we made love.”

He reeled back. “Fucked me… Jesus! The only one that ever fucked me senseless around here was YOU! At least, you used to… and now you’re letting a fucking ghost come between us. Of the two of us, I thought I was the one who gravitated toward ‘extreme

possibilities’…” He raked agitated fingers through his hair. “You’re the one who can’t let it go, Scully.

Not me. You’re the one who thinks I’m not happy.

Don’t you get it? I love YOU. Not some spirit who thought I was her long-dead boyfriend!”

“You’re right. I can’t let it go because you obviously aren’t happy. Why do you leave our bed every night?

Before we went to Lancaster, we fell asleep wound around each other… now you sneak away as soon as you think I’m asleep.” She wrapped her arms around herself, suddenly chilled in the sleeveless nightgown.

“Did you think I didn’t know? That I wouldn’t notice your absence? That I wouldn’t hear you shifting around out in the living room every night – sighing mournfully?”

She flung out a hand in disgust. “How am I supposed to let it go… when you tell me not only with actions, but with words, that you want me to be someone else?

Do you remember what you told me out there? You said that I was a seductress… inventive and wild…

‘wanton’, I believe was the word you used. You told me that one minute I was driving you out of your mind and the next minute I ruined everything by pulling away from you. How else am I supposed to take that?”

Scully’s voice was low with remembered hurt.

Pure shock colored his tone and Mulder could hear it as he protested, “Scully… how could you think I’m not happy? I have everything in the world I ever wanted!

It’s all I could think about when I was gone. Afraid I’d never make it back to you… but I did make it home, to discover that I was a father, too! I cherish and adore both of you…” Mulder gentled his tone, trying to regain control of the situation and to calm both of them. “You’re everything to me. You’re taking something I said during a stressful, trying time in our lives, and making it seem as though I’m unhappy, missing something. Hell, the only thing I’m missing is you, in my arms!”

“So… you’re telling me that this is all in my head.

That you are completely content with the idea that our sex life should stay the way it was before we went to Lancaster.” She ignored the pleading look on his face, intent on making him see what was really happening.

“And that… that this feeling I have deep inside that you are not satisfied with our lovemaking is my overactive imagination?”

“I don’t know what I’m saying anymore. All I know is that one minute we were making love and the next you yanked yourself away as if I were some sort of deviant.” He paced the length of the room, trying to walk off his frustration, but his own feelings were deeply hurt by her accusations. “The look on your face, Scully… it was as if you were staring at a monster. I know we haven’t had all that much time together since Will’s birth, but godammit… you know me! Of course I love the way we make love! I was just thinking it would be fun to try some new things…

that’s all. I sure as hell didn’t mean for you to feel as though you have to take notes and study books as if it were some sort of damn class!”

His cheeks were flushed with temper. “You say this is the way you do things. You say you want this. And yet the minute it’s put to the test you pull away. And blame it on something that happened two months ago, something totally out of our control.”

Scully’s shoulders sank under the weight of his allegations. They were getting nowhere. “I can’t keep doing this. We’re just going around and around in circles. Mulder… I never doubted your love for me.

And maybe I am blowing things out of proportion. I don’t… God, I just don’t know what to think.” She stalked into their bedroom with Mulder following close on her heels. “Maybe it’s a pressure that I’m putting on myself. Or maybe it’s a pressure that you are unconsciously putting on me, but I feel like I’m competing with her for your attention.”

Scully tore the nightgown over her head and hurriedly stepped into a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved Tshirt. “Molly, with all of her experience,

instinctively knew how to please you. I don’t… I don’t have… it doesn’t come naturally… what I…

God!” She swept up Mulder’s keys from the bureau and strode out of the bedroom toward the front door. “I didn’t mean to hurt you by buying those books and studying them. I meant it when I said I wanted to try.

But I sure as hell didn’t realize it meant recreating that night!”

Scully curled her fingers around the doorknob and yanked the door open.

“Where are you going?” he demanded.

“Someplace where I can be alone and think for a little while.” She leaned her forehead against the doorjamb.

“You may want to do the same thing,” she said sorrowfully and pulled the door closed behind her.

***

To be continued

The Ghost of Millcreek Inn –

Book Two: The Aftermath (6 of 7)

Chapter Eight

Scully hit the steps of the apartment building at a run and burst through the front door of the building. The cold air of the mid-December night slapped at her.

I can’t go back up there, she thought. She hurried down the street to her car. She fumbled with the keys, shivering with cold until she realized that she had grabbed Mulder’s set from the bureau before escaping the apartment. She spun around and searched the street for his car. A few minutes later, she was thawing out as the heater blasted warm air into the car. When she was no longer trembling with cold, she put the car into gear and pulled away from the curb.

She drove aimlessly for long minutes as a million jumbled thoughts raced through her head. Sitting at a traffic light, she was startled when the motorist behind her angrily leaned on his horn. She looked up to find that the light had changed to green so she drove through the intersection. She passed a shopping mall and was surprised to see the crowded parking lot.

Scully glanced at the digital clock on the dashboard it was just a little after nine o’clock. For some reason it seemed much later to her. Time passed slowly when your life was falling apart.

Scully flipped on her turn signal and joined the short line of traffic entering the parking lot. The mall was open late – extended hours to accommodate the holiday shoppers – and she pulled into the indoor parking garage and turned off the motor. She reached over to the passenger seat for her purse and realized that she had raced out of the apartment without it. Pulling open the ashtray, she scooped out the change that Mulder kept there. Together with the two crumpled dollar bills in the pocket of her jeans, she had enough money to buy a cup of coffee.

****

Mulder would still have been standing in the middle of the room, staring at the closed door and hearing the echo of its slam throughout the quiet apartment… if Will hadn’t chosen that moment to awaken, and screech.

The pitch of the cry in question had ‘hunger’ written all over it. Mulder snapped out of his daze and headed to the kitchen to warm up a bottle, hoping the baby would take it gracefully and not reject it for the mommy-milk whose ‘regulator’ just vacated the premises.

He moved quietly into the nursery, bending over the crib, murmuring, “Hey, Willy… what’s all the fuss, huh? Come on, nothing can be that bad!” Will lay on his back, feet kicking, red faced and little screwed-up eyes leaking huge baby-tears. Mulder slipped a hand into his sleeper; Will was dry so at least that wasn’t part of the trouble. Had to be hunger… Mulder picked him up and cradled him gently against his shoulder; Will snuggled close but continued to sob.

With a sigh, Mulder walked into the kitchen and collected the warmed up bottle, pressing it to Will’s mouth. The fretful baby sucked on it for about two seconds before spitting it out, and crying harder.

Mulder laid a hand against his forehead, noting Will felt overly warm… sure enough, he was running a slight fever. And that meant…

A gentle finger inserted into the baby’s mouth confirmed it, especially when Will grabbed hold of his finger with both hands, and enthusiastically bit down.

Mulder smothered a groan. Another tooth breaking through. No wonder the poor little guy was feeling bad! He opened the freezer and rooted around for one of Will’s teething rings, finally locating it behind a quart of Godiva ice cream. Carrying the ring, the bottle and Will back into the nursery, Mulder pulled a soft blanket from Will’s dressing table and sat down in the rocker, preparing himself for a teething siege.

As Will gnawed furiously on the icy teething ring, Mulder wrapped the blanket around him, and thought about what had happened earlier.

Scully’s accusations had shocked the hell out of him.

Her abrupt transition from eager and sexy lover to cowering victim had truly thrown him. The look in her eyes… her body language – it was as if she’d discovered herself making love to a stranger. And as much as he’d refused to acknowledge, at the time… in some way he’d felt like a stranger… had felt different than Fox Mulder, lover of Dana Scully.

When they’d left Lancaster, Mulder had done his best to put the whole bizarre experience out of his mind.

Molly Sullivan and William Foxworth had been reunited.

They’d left a realm in which they no longer had a place, and had at last retreated to the world that welcomed them, had been waiting so long for them.

The damage that Molly’s spiritual possession had wrought on Scully manifested itself the day after they returned to DC, and had taken over a week to reverse; her blood pressure had remained elevated as well as her heartbeat. She’d slept for almost two days; awakening only long enough to nurse Will when Mulder couldn’t get him to take a bottle filled with pumped breast milk.

Her appetite was practically non-existent, and Mulder had fought his own panicky impulses, and had managed to avoid nagging her to eat. Will had been fractious for most of the recuperative period and it had been difficult keeping him away from his mother, who’d really needed her rest. Finally, after about a week of frequent, restless sleeping and no appetite, Scully had improved almost overnight and their lives had slowly gotten back to normal.

Mulder gently rocked the chair, Will propped on his shoulder and still awake but now snuffling tearfully as the teething ring eased his sore gum. Mulder rubbed his back soothingly as he let his mind drift, analyzing the past hour – trying to piece it together.

He seemed to remember bits and pieces of that week at Millcreek Inn, albeit different bits and pieces than Scully had been able to recall. They’d both had bizarre dreams – not exactly nightmares but certainly not anything overly pleasant. Scully had mentioned dreams in which the spirit swamping her consciousness had refused to leave, even for her beloved Foxworth; Scully would awaken from those dreams in tears and gasping for breath. Mulder would hold her, rub her back, until she fell asleep once more. And he’d remain awake.

Scully had accused him of leaving their bed after lovemaking, waiting until she was asleep to ease his body away from her and spend the rest of the night alone in the living room. And Mulder couldn’t deny it… he’d done exactly that. Only it wasn’t always because he just couldn’t seem to fall asleep; had another woman on his mind, as Scully had assumed…

quite a few times his reasons stemmed from the disturbance of Scully’s dream, and his inability to relax after he’d soothed her back into slumber. He had no idea she’d awoken again and knew he’d been restless.

It was another layer of misunderstanding, and one they could ill afford.

As for his dreams… they’d centered around a hot, lush mouth, kissing him, engulfing him – soft, damp hands that caressed him, stroked him, enflamed him – blue eyes burning so deeply into his that he’d become mesmerized, consumed by a need such as he hadn’t felt in so very long – slender thighs opening to him, rounded arms that twined through his and a body made for loving… He’d awaken drenched in sweat, panting and hard as stone and with his woman’s name on his lips – sitting upright in the big overstuffed chair in their living room with a soft wool throw tenting over an erection that had returned with a vengeance, even though not two hours before he had been loved to Heaven, and back.

He didn’t want to even consider thinking about any woman except Scully, not during intimacy whether real or in dreams. The woman he’d held in his arms, who’d given him these amazing experiences – had been Scully.

And yet… not.

Maybe the thing he couldn’t accept, refused to consider, was the knowledge that he’d been loved by a stranger who just happened to look like Scully. And when they’d been at the Millcreek Inn, when this bizarre episode in their lives had actually happened…

Mulder had no trouble accepting it, even fighting to make Scully believe it. So, why now was he in such absolute denial?

Because. Because at that time the spirit of Molly Sullivan had been firmly in place, fooling him. It was – acceptable – he supposed was a good enough word because he hadn’t known the woman in his arms was anyone other than the one he adored. Now that ghost was gone, and there wasn’t anything he could use for an excuse. That was pretty much the crux of it. He didn’t have a reason to want that ‘other’ side of Scully – the side that really hadn’t been her at all.

And yet… obviously he did want just that…

***

Scully sat in a deserted corner of the nearly empty food court and cradled her coffee cup between her hands. She pursed her lips and blew a stream of cool air onto the surface of the hot beverage. What’s that old expression, she wondered? ‘A man wants a lady in the parlor and a whore in the bedroom’. She set down the cup and idly traced the abstract design of the Formica-topped table with her thumbnail.

Yeah, she thought cynically. Well, if that’s what he wants, he can forget it. She moodily tore open a packet of sugar and dumped its contents onto the table.

I’m not whoring myself for anyone, not even Mulder!

But it’s not whoring when it’s with someone you adore… when it’s an expression of love, a tiny voice whispered in her brain.

Shut up! she snarled silently, effectively sending the voice of reason scurrying off into the recesses of her mind. Scully propped her chin in her hand and let her eyes wander around the mall. Directly across from the food court, less than fifty feet from where she sat, was a lingerie store. The windows were filled with mannequins dressed in skimpy bras, matching panties and filmy robes. Scully watched as a man close to Mulder’s age hurried past the store. He stopped abruptly and stared at a window display for several long seconds before marching decisively into the store. Scully craned her neck to get a better look at the display that had captured the man’s attention. A mannequin was posed in a sheer red teddy, trimmed in faux white fur, complete with matching Santa hat.

Ten minutes later the same man strode out of the store, with a satisfied and expectant look on his flushed face. In his hands he clutched the handles of a clear shopping bag emblazoned with the store logo through which Scully could make out a gaily-wrapped package.

Typical, she sneered to herself. Men buy trashy lingerie and try to pass it off as a gift for their woman… and every woman knows that he’s really bought it with himself in mind. Typical, she repeated.

Selfish. Her hand tightened around her coffee cup and she cracked the fragile Styrofoam, spilling a small river of lukewarm liquid onto the table.

Swearing, she leapt to her feet and hurriedly mopped up the spill with the handful of napkins she had grabbed at the coffee shop. She tossed the sodden mess into a trashcan and wiped her damp hands against her jeans.

Leaving the food court behind, Scully wandered toward the lingerie store. She sank down onto a bench and stared into the store windows. That’s what men want, she thought. That’s what Mulder wants. She studied a large photograph of a famous model dressed in a maroon velvet bra trimmed with sparkling beads and matching thong underwear. A triple strand of pearls was looped around the model’s neck, nestling into her impressive cleavage and her lips were pursed into a pout as she coyly sat on Santa’s lap and whispered into his ear.

In the background, an elf – who looked disturbingly like Frohike in pointed shoes – peeked lecherously at Santa and his… helper. Beneath the photograph was an artfully arranged array of velvet bras in various colors, along with the matching thong underwear.

Was this what women had to do to keep the attention of the men in their lives? Dress up in fantasy-inspiring clothes and pretend to be someone else? She looked at the model – with her tousled-hair, voluptuous breasts and impossibly thin waist and wondered how real women were supposed to compete with the fantasy.

She couldn’t compete. Mulder hadn’t even seen Molly…

she had hidden in Scully’s own body… and still, it was obvious to her that she would never be able to measure up to his memories of those nights when Molly had kissed him and enticed him; aroused him and satisfied him.

Scully thought of the drawer filled with pretty undergarments back in the apartment and she knew that it was not just men. Women would buy into the fantasy as well. She had a weakness for lacy bras and panties and had indulged in them even during the long periods of abstinence that had made up most of her adult life.

She had worn them, because she had bought into the fantasy… and because they made her feel sexy.

Feminine. Desirable. Even back at a time in her life when it seemed that no one would ever touch her again.

******

Mulder rocked Will a little slower, tightening his grip on his son, enough for the drowsy child to grunt softly in protest, face puckered into an irritated pout.

Immediately Mulder eased his embrace, kissing the baby’s forehead. He wrapped the blanket more securely round Will’s little body and soothed a hand over his back, hoping he’d give in to sleep soon… and thinking hard about where to go from here.

Sex with Scully was wonderful… fact. They hadn’t had a lot of time to learn about what each of them wanted, needed, in the bedroom… also a fact. They had just begun to try different things, when they took their fateful Lancaster vacation – big fact. Little wonder that, when faced with a sexual dynamo inhabiting Dana Scully, he’d gone off the deep end for her. Now, the question Mulder had to ask himself: if allowed to discover each other naturally, without an intrusive third party… would the consequences have been the same?

He honestly didn’t know. And another unknown would be whether or not he’d ever care about the difference.

His only surety was that he loved Scully, more than life – and he couldn’t lose her to something this insanely unimportant. He had to MAKE it unimportant, and then they needed to start over. He couldn’t live without her. And he wouldn’t put her through any more pressure, either consciously or otherwise. Somehow he had to make her understand… whatever she wanted was more than good for him. He adored her. And love was far, far more necessary than sex… more vital and lasting. Fifty years from now they’d be incapable of more than a peck on the cheek and maybe a fumbling clasp of gnarled, arthritic hands… but the love they had for each other would be young and as strong as ever. It was all that mattered.

Mulder stared out the window in the middle of the night, rocking his teething son, waiting for Scully to come home, so he could tell her, show her – make her believe.

****

Scully walked into the lingerie store and wandered through the aisles, trailing a finger over the pastels and jewel-tones of the shop’s merchandise. Almost without conscious thought, she gathered several items into her hands and carried them toward one of the plush dressing rooms at the back of the shop. She nodded politely as the salesclerk offered her assistance and waited for her to unlock the dressing room door.

Once she was safely behind the locked door, Scully methodically stripped out of her clothes, noticing for the first time that she had been in such a hurry to get out of the apartment and away from Mulder that she had not even put a bra on beneath her long-sleeved T-shirt.

She pulled the first item from the padded hanger, dressed herself in it and stared into the mirror. The black, baby-doll nightie was split down the middle, held together between the breasts with a tiny, black pearl button. Strategically placed embroidered flowers drew the eye to her breasts and to the matching string bikini. Scully smoothed her hand over her slightly rounded belly, sucking in her stomach and arching her back in an attempt to lift her breasts and mimic the lush body of the model in the photograph.

Her breath left her in a rush and she sank down onto the padded bench in the dressing room. Still staring at herself in the mirror, she reflected that it had been a very long time since she had felt sexy and desirable.

She stood again and twisted her head, studying herself from every angle in all of the mirrors. And what she saw was a woman with tired eyes and tangled hair and a body that would never be model-perfect playing dress-up in a slinky baby-doll nightgown.

“What are you doing?” she whispered to the woman in the mirror. “Who would want that?” She jerked her chin derisively toward her image and turned from the mirror.

Mulder would. That tiny voice of reason whispered again in her brain, and this time she didn’t hurry to hush it. Mulder would want you in lace and satin or in cotton and denim. She thought of the joys to be found in his lovemaking and of the tenderness of waking to him in their bed, and she compared it to the last few months of joyless sex and the empty expanse of their bed when he crept from it in the middle of the night.

What did he expect of her… and perhaps more importantly, what did she expect of herself? The answers were not going to be found in the dressing room of a lingerie store.

Two hours after she left, Scully slipped back into the apartment. The living room was empty but a soft light spilled from beneath the door of the nursery and she could hear Mulder’s low voice. She crept across the room and leaned against the wall, peering into the baby’s room.

Mulder was seated in the rocking chair. His toes were braced against the floor as he pushed the chair back and forth on its rockers. Will was nestled in his father’s arms, his fingers playing with the buttons of Mulder’s shirt. He was fighting sleep, eyes drifting closed under the hypnotic tone of Mulder’s voice, only to spring back open seconds later.

Mulder smoothed his fingers over the baby’s cheek and continued his story.

“The clock was counting down, ten… nine… eight…

seven… and I thought ‘this is my chance!’…

six…five…four… she had saved my life earlier that night – again! She was my beautiful, avenging angel at the top of those stairs, and even more beautiful as she wistfully watched the ball dropping in Times Square…

three… two…one! So, I bent down and I kissed her.

Our very first kiss, Will.” The baby gurgled and slapped his hand excitedly against his daddy’s chest.

Mulder grinned, an almost faraway look on his face as he continued, “And if I hadn’t already been head over heels in love with your mother, I would have fallen right then and there.”

Scully knuckled a tear from her lashes and stepped into the room. Mulder looked up and his face was filled with the same hope and hurt, fear and frustration…

love and longing that tied her stomach into knots.

She crossed the room and took Will from Mulder’s unresisting arms. The little boy snuggled his face into the curve of her neck and she shifted her weight from one foot to the other as she studied the familiar curves and planes of Mulder’s face. She felt the baby sag in her arms as sleep finally claimed him and she spoke to his father over the wispy curls that covered his head.

“Can we talk about this?”

***

To be continued

The Ghost of Millcreek Inn –

Book Two: The Aftermath (7 of 7)

Chapter Nine

Scully led the way out of the nursery and Mulder pulled the door closed behind them. She glanced toward their bedroom, but changed her mind – thinking that it might be better to keep this conversation out of the bedroom.

She sank into the sofa cushions with a tired sigh and Mulder eased himself down onto the coffee table, facing her. He wanted badly to touch her, but she was rubbing her hands nervously over her jeans-clad thighs.

“Scully…” His voice trailed off when she held up a staying hand.

“Mulder,” Her voice was soft. “May I go first?”

He hesitated for a moment before nodding his assent.

She flashed a grateful smile and continued to rub her hands over her legs.

“I need you to let me say it all… without

interrupting.” Her eyes bored into his. “Please?”

Again, he nodded and held out one hand in an invitation for her to speak.

Scully drew in a deep breath and slowly, slowly exhaled before beginning.

“First of all – I want to say that I’m not a prude. I like sex. I love sex with you. And I want to be sexy and exciting for you… for us.

“I guess I just never thought that there was anything wrong with our love life. I know that it hasn’t been perfect – but nothing ever is for us. I arranged for us to go to Lancaster, not only because I thought we could use the vacation but also because I wanted to go away and really make an effort to rediscover each other. I know that since Will’s birth, I’ve been tired, sometimes too tired and I wanted to go someplace where we could relax and just enjoy each being with each other.”

God! She had expected that this conversation would not be easy – but it was worse than she had imagined. She stared at her hands and plowed doggedly on.

“I knew things could be better, but I didn’t realize you were so dissatisfied. Shortly after we returned home, though, I started to wonder if you were unhappy.

You kept climbing out of our bed in the middle of the night. You seemed distant at times, lost in your thoughts. It all seemed to lead directly back to our vacation and that’s when I began to wonder whether you were thinking of Molly.”

Mulder sucked in a breath and leaned forward as though to speak, but without looking up, she shook her head sharply to forestall him.

“I’m not accusing you of being unfaithful… I know you love me and I know that in your heart and in your mind you were making love to me in Lancaster, but since we’ve been home…” Her voice trailed off. For her, this was the heart of the matter and she had to word it just right… she had to make him understand.

“I can’t help but feel that you are comparing me with Molly and that I keep coming up lacking in some way.”

Her head lifted and she looked at him with pleading eyes. “I didn’t know what else to think. All of a sudden, you seemed frustrated with our love life.

Suddenly it felt as though I wasn’t enough anymore; I thought you wanted me to be someone else…

“It was as if I was in some kind of competition with her… and I was losing. Molly the wild seductress versus Scully the boring mother.”

She paused and buried her face in her hands.

“That’s why I bought the books and studied them. I was jealous!” Scully’s voice was muffled as she continued to hide her face. “I hated the fact that Molly’s lovemaking had been so exciting and unforgettable. I wanted to drive her memory out of your head.”

Her hands fell away from her face and she tiredly leaned back into the sofa cushions and stared at the ceiling.

“Every magazine, movie and television show drives the message home to American women. It’s not enough to be smart. You have to be sexy. Beautiful. Thin but bigbreasted. You have to have a perfect body. And you have to be a wild woman in bed.”

She rolled her head against the sofa cushions to look at him.

“When I realized that you were in love with me… I knew that all of that hype was wrong. It was so amazing to me…” Her voice was soft with wonder. “I knew that you loved me – all of me – regardless of how I looked, whether I was tired or grouchy or sick… You loved me. And you wanted me.”

Scully paused. She was tired, drained from the emotion of the evening. She had rehearsed this speech all the way home from the mall… so why did it sound so incoherent now? To her own ears, she was rambling without making any sense. But she couldn’t stop. She had to keep going until she could make him understand.

“When you suddenly started to want to do things differently – when our lovemaking didn’t seem to be enough for you – that was proof to me that you wanted me to be more like Molly.

“I did a lot of thinking while I was out tonight and…

I know you don’t want to hear this, but I can’t help it. There IS a connection between your encounters with Molly in Lancaster two months ago and your recent dissatisfaction with our lovemaking.”

His eyes had fallen to the carpet between his feet and this time, she was the one to lean forward in an attempt to emphasize her point.

“I want what we deserve. Time. Time to explore each other; to learn everything about each other we don’t already know. In bed and out. But I’ve learned that it has to come about naturally. It can’t be forced.

It can’t be based in jealousy and fear. And much as I may think differently… it can’t necessarily be found in a book. And, Mulder, there’s something else. I remembered tonight that there is something more important than any of that. I have no doubts you love me and that you want me in any way you can get me. I realize now you haven’t consciously been thinking of Molly or comparing me to her.

“I heard the story you were telling Will.” For a second, her lips curved in a tiny smile. “And I want you to know, because I don’t tell you often enough…

Mulder, I’m head over heels in love with you too.”

This time she was the one who reached out a hand – and relief flooded through her when Mulder linked his fingers with hers, palm damp and a little shaky. They stayed like that for a full minute, unspeaking, both staring at their joined hands – then Mulder slowly released her and the eyes he raised to hers were glittering with emotion. Scully braced herself, hoping what he had to say wouldn’t hurt…

***

Mulder took a deep breath as well, hardly knowing where to start – so damn glad to hear her say she loved him, that nothing else mattered. But, that wasn’t true. It did matter – his thoughts, his feelings. She’d been honest with him, even though her words had cut. It was his turn to afford her the same courtesy.

He locked eyes with her and fought to keep his voice even. “I wish we’d never gone to Lancaster. If we’d never gone we wouldn’t be having all of these problems.

Because I truly believe we’d have discovered everything about each other’s sexual needs, naturally – in our own good time.” When she bent forward and her lips parted as if to interject something, Mulder shook his head, silently cautioning her not to interrupt.

“Don’t get me wrong, Scully. I love that you wanted to give me a vacation for my birthday. I love that you thought of a haunted inn. Shit, who could know we’d get caught up in a Revolutionary-War ghost story? And that we’d become actively involved? Even I, with my supposed ‘nose’ for the paranormal, couldn’t have predicted something that ‘out there’.” He shook his head again, this time in self-derision at his steadfast proclivity for finding the ‘weird’, and smiled a bit when he saw her nod.

He murmured, “I wish we’d never gone because it hurt you, Scully, physically as well as emotionally. It took weeks for your body to recuperate from the damage Molly’s possession had rendered. I was so worried. I could barely sleep at night, found myself watching you to make sure you were breathing properly, for God’s sake.

“What it did to us… I can’t even begin to sort all of it out. Mostly because we’re still learning each other, baby. We may have known each other over nine years but we’re still learning. Intimacy with you…

it was something I’d longed for, ached for. I used to wonder if it would ever happen, and if I ever deserved for it to happen. When you first told me you loved me, first showed me… it was amazing. I’d needed you for so long… years. When it finally happened, I was beside myself with happiness.”

The emotion in his voice was enough to make both of them tear up – and they did. Mulder took another fortifying breath, determined to get through it all.

She needed to hear it, all –

“We only had a few chances between us, Scully – to make love. To create the life that became Will. I was taken and gone for all those months, and when I returned you were so pregnant that you knew there wasn’t a way in hell I was going to jeopardize you by expecting sex. It was enough to be back with you. Our time would come and I was content to wait for it.

“After Will was born you were so sick, baby. And you’d only been healed and really functioning again for a little over a month when we went to Lancaster. I was looking forward to that trip as much as you were. I had hoped we could finally start learning about each other. Well, obviously it didn’t happen that way.”

Another deep breath; needing to touch her, Mulder again took hold of Scully’s hand, caressing her fingers. It was so difficult to keep his voice from cracking when he continued, “I know I hate to think about it this way but you’re right. Another woman got to me first, took advantage of me before you could. I never knew, Scully – how could I? Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine a ghost would take you over, make you do those things to me. I thought it was you. I thought it was your way of showing me – what you liked, what you wanted us to do together. And it was the same things I had wanted to do with you – the very same. Of course I went off the deep end! All my dreams were coming true.”

He met her eyes and the pain he saw in those blue depths tore at him. And the knowledge that his next words could fuck up their entire future, made him speak with raw intensity. “When I realized it wasn’t you, I was crushed. I felt like something had been stolen, from both of us – the chance to discover, and to learn.

And deep inside I guess I knew we’d have problems dealing with it when we got back. And sure enough, we are.

“I accept the responsibility for just about all of it, Scully. The side of you I saw in Lancaster was fabulous, but it wasn’t you. Not really. And now we’ll never know for sure if it could have been you, and me responding to you – because that chance has been taken away from us. I feel like we have been cheated.

And I don’t want to feel that way. I could so easily ignore it, tamp it down – but that’s not honest of me.

And above all else, our love has to be honest. Like everything else with us.” His gaze clung to her – he knew he was about to beg – and he didn’t care that his male pride was in danger of being permanently eradicated. His pride was nothing – Scully and their life together was the only important constant.

He whispered brokenly, “I don’t want to pressure you.

I don’t want you to think I find you anything but desirable and sexy and exactly what I need in my life for the rest of my life. You are everything to me, Scully – you and Will. I breathe you… God, don’t you know that? If you were gone I’d surely die. I couldn’t go on. Not even for Will, God help me. I’m not that strong, even though everyone thinks I am. I know exactly where my weaknesses are – right at your feet. Same place as my heart.

“I’ll do anything to get past this. I’ll go to counseling with you if you think we should, I’ll leave you alone if that’s what you need. If you want to get away from me and think, need time apart – I’ll request a leave of absence and take care of Will. Anything you want. Only don’t leave me for good, baby. Don’t cut me from your life. I love you so much, Scully. I love you.”

Heart pounding, eyes blurred by tears, Mulder found himself holding his breath –

And Scully fell onto her knees in front of him; inserted herself between his spread legs. She wound her arms tightly around his neck and clung to him with all of her strength.

“Never, Mulder. I’ll never leave you.” Her voice sounded as raw and broken as his…

A shudder wracked his frame and his arms tightened convulsively around her as she molded herself to him.

So many other things had threatened to tear them apart in the past. They had prevailed through heated disagreements, perceived betrayals, abductions, cancer, enforced separations and the loss of loved ones.

Clinging tightly to one another, they knew that none of those things had come as close to destroying them as the interference of one sad and lonely soul who had spent centuries searching for her lost love.

Tonight, they would begin to truly lay the ghost of Molly Sullivan to rest.

The End

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