On the way home from work she stops by Blockbuster. He'd requested something "creepy, not gory", so she checks out Poltergeist. They've both seen it before, but they never actually watch the movie, so she can't imagine it'll matter.
At the counter she adds on a bag of mixed fun-size candy. Last year they didn't get any trick-or-treaters - not surprising, considering their house lies two miles down an unmarked dirt road - but you never know, and Scully has no interest in cleaning egg off the siding tomorrow morning.
When she pulls up in front of the house, he’s outside raking leaves in the waning light. She's glad to see him outside, glad to see him doing something useful. She worries about him alone in that house all day.
There's a pumpkin sitting on the front porch, perfectly fat and round and orange. "Where'd that come from?" she calls.
Mulder turns to her, letting the handle of the rake rest on his shoulder. "Took a walk earlier. The Harringtons are selling them out of their truck."
All of this is good news to her. He'd spent the whole sweltering summer lying on the hardwood floor in their living room with a fan blowing on him, refusing to go outside during the day even when she accused him of being a vampire. Maybe that was just a phase, or some kind of reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder.
"I got your movie," she says, waving the blue-and-white box in the air.
He lets the rake fall to the ground and comes over to grab the box. "Good choice," he says. He peers in the bag. "And candy? We never have candy."
"It's Halloween, Mulder, I'm not a monster."
“If you were, it’d be seasonally appropriate."
She flashes a grin at him. "Besides, we might get trick-or-treaters."
Mulder looks around at their complete lack of neighbors - way off to the west there's a little light on the horizon from the nearest house, and that's it - then back at her. "We're not gonna get any trick-or-treaters." Then he shrugs. "More candy for us."
"More candy for you," she corrects, linking her arm through his. He smells good, like earth and charred wood, and she brushes a stray leaf from his shoulder. "I'm only going to have one piece."
"That's what you always say," he grumbles. "And then I look up and the whole bag's gone."
"I don't think that’s ever happened.”
“Sounds like an X-file,” she says lightly, and his smile isn’t entirely convincing. One day they’ll be able to joke about it. Eventually enough time will pass. The wounds will scar over, then fade.
An hour later they're curled up together on the couch, eating fun-size Mars bars and drinking spiked apple cider in their pajamas. A couple of Scully’s pumpkin-scented candles light the dark corners of their living room. It's pleasantly festive.
His hand, which started out resting on Scully’s flannel-clad knee, has gradually wandered up her thigh; it reaches a critical juncture right when Carol Anne gets sucked through the TV, and she smacks him away.
“You made me stop for this movie after an incredibly long day at work, so now we have to watch it,” she says, but the way her hips curve toward him means that she could be convinced otherwise.
He puts his hand right back where he left off and presses his lips to her ear. ”I’ll make it worth your while,” he says, running his tongue around the curve of her ear.
Apparently Scully doesn’t need much convincing. She climbs into his lap, her knees on either side of his legs, all of her wrapped tightly around him. It’s immediately obvious that he’s been thinking about this for a while, and she leans down to kiss him, nipping at his lower lip and mumbling, “That is not fun-size.”
“I’m not sure how to take that,” he replies, but he kisses her again, placing his hands on her hips and pulling her even closer. She moans into his mouth, her arms go around his neck—
And then she pulls sharply back. “What the hell was that?” Her eyes dart around the room, then lock on the window even though there’s nothing to see. It’s just as dark outside as it is in the house. “There’s something out there.”
He cocks an eyebrow. ”You’re not getting spooked by the movie, are you?” A thousand years ago they’d watched The Exorcist in some motel somewhere - Georgia, maybe? - and she’d pretended to be scared, and he’d pretended to be fifteen, stretching his right arm out and then letting it rest across her shoulders. He’d pulled her close when she fake-gasped.
But she shakes her head. Which makes sense; they’re well past the point of needing excuses to touch each other. ”I’m serious, Mulder, I heard something."
He mutes the movie and they sit in absolute silence. This time he definitely hears it: the sound of screaming, coming from somewhere outside.
Feeling suddenly like the lead in a slasher flick, Mulder disentangles himself and goes into his office, emerging a minute later with their handgun. (Well, her handgun; for obvious reasons, Mulder can't get a license.) He tries to remember how those movies go. The lead doesn't die, right?
What about the lead's partner? Girlfriends always die in those movies, he's pretty sure. Probably wives too. Partners might be safe. But just to be sure...
"Stay here," he says to Scully, but she just rolls her eyes at him.
"Don't be ridiculous, Mulder." She shrugs on her coat and follows him outside, grabbing a flashlight off the hall table.
They stand on the porch for a minute, surveying their surroundings. A screech echoes in the darkness, and when they look toward the sound they see flashlights dancing in a copse of trees.
"What the hell?” Mulder barks, but Scully's already out ahead of him, running towards the woods. He calls her name and then follows her. The screaming continues.
And then abruptly stops. The flashlights go out. He catches up to her and they stand together, breathing heavily, staring into the woods.
“Who’s there?” Scully calls.
Silence. Then giggling. A flashlight blinks on, then off, and a voice hisses “turn that off!” and another voice says “shut up!”
Scully sighs. “It’s just kids, Mulder. I’m going back to the house.” She turns and walks away. He considers following her, but instead he continues toward the woods.
The snickering continues. Under his feet branches snap and leaves crackle. He remembers that you’re never supposed to split up.
And then a third voice, slightly louder, says, “Did you hear that?”
“It’s just a squirrel, don’t be stupid.”
“It’s not a squirrel! Squirrels don’t make that much noise, it’s somebody walking—“
“They left, the flashlight’s gone—“
“Then it’s someone else! I told you this place was haunted! Nobody who’s alive would live in that dump.”
Mulder can’t decide whether he thinks that’s funny or offensive, but he’s kind of enjoying the increasing panic in their voices, so he keeps coming closer. And just for good measure - it’s Halloween, after all - he says, “oooooooo” in his ghostliest voice.
Somebody screams. The last voice, again: “I told you!” They’re not whispering anymore.
“Ghosts aren’t real,” says the squirrel one - this kid is the Scully, clearly. “It’s the wind.”
“Oh my God it is not the wind.”
“Somebody turn a flashlight on so we can see.”
“Do you want it to eat us?”
“Do you seriously think that ghosts eat people??”
“Let’s just go,” says the panicky one.
The Scully says, “Not a chance.”
Mulder steps in an extra-thick pile of leaves and crunches them vigorously underfoot. “Oooooo,” he says again, louder.
That’s the final straw. They scream, and then two silhouettes run through the woods, making no attempt to keep quiet.
This is fun, he thinks. He should do this every Halloween.
But the Scully - he should’ve known - the Scully didn’t run away. He hears her mutter, “For fuck’s sake,” and she turns her flashlight on.
Right in his face.
He winces in the bright light and brings his arm up to cover his eyes. Flatly, the girl says, “You’re not a ghost.”
She lowers her flashlight enough that he can see again. She’s maybe fifteen, and she is not impressed. “Is that your house?” she asks, pointing her flashlight towards it.
“What are you even doing out here?”
“What are you doing out here? This is private property.”
The girl shrugs. “It’s Halloween. We’re ghost-hunting. Abby thinks your house is haunted.” And then, with just the tiniest glint of curiosity in her eyes, she adds: “Is it?”
“Not that I know of.” And he’s checked.
“Well, you freaked my friends out. Honestly it’s kind of weird for a grownup to wander around the woods pretending to be a ghost.”
“It’s Halloween,” he retorts. “And we only came out here because we heard you and your friends screaming. Besides, you said you were ghost hunting. Now you can say that you found a ghost.”
“But we didn’t.”
He gestures towards the woods, all the footprints the other kids left behind. “Your friends don’t know that.”
For the first time, she does look impressed. “Huh.”
“I mean, as far as they know, you stayed behind to fight off the ghost.” He shrugs. “You’d look like a badass. That’s all I’m saying.”
She nods. “That’s…kind of awesome. And they’re stupid enough to believe it.” She grins at him. “Thanks for the tip, Mr…”
“Freeling,” Mulder supplies, suppressing his own grin.
“Mr. Freeling,” she repeats slowly, and for a second he thinks she’s going to call him out. “Why not? Well um…I’m gonna try to catch up with my friends. Enjoy being a creepy ghost, I guess.”
“Next year just ring the doorbell,” he says. “We have candy.”
Her eyes go big. “Dude, no one is ever going to trick-or-treat at your house. No offense, but even if it’s not haunted, it’s creepy as shit.” Just for good measure, she repeats, “No offense.”
Mulder shakes his head. “Happy Halloween, kid.”
“You too,” the girl says, and then she’s running off, flashlight bobbing in the dark.
Mulder comes through the door in his socks, muddy shoes abandoned on the front porch. When he tells Scully about the kids in the woods, she just laughs at him. And then she starts picking leaves off his clothes and brushing the dirt from his shoulders, and then he says that he should probably take a shower, and since she was running around in the woods too she might as well join him - and in any case, they don’t finish the movie.
In the middle of the night, Mulder wakes up when he hears more noises from outside the house, but he convinces himself that it’s his imagination. He goes back to sleep, pulling Scully close against him. She snuggles into his arms, and all he can think is how much he likes this house. Maybe it’s creepy - it might even be haunted - but it’s theirs together, which makes it at least a little bit perfect. He dreams of ghosts and snickering teenagers and strange crackling sounds.
And in the morning, the side of the house is covered in gooey, dripping egg.
Mulder cleans it up.