Disclaimer:Not mine. I'm just playing. I'll put'em back when I'm done.

Rating: PG-13

Synopsis: On Halloween, Mulder goes exploring on his own and Scully ends up having to face some pretty strange things to save him from certain doom.

October 29
Dana Scully's residence
Arlington

Darkness had fallen hours ago, shrouding the world with a blanket of impenetrable blackness. No stars were visible and no moon brightened the overcast sky. Another day had passed with stressful activity and seemingly unending piles of paperwork for Dana Scully. But the case was over and she was back home, ready for bed and looking forward to a good night's sleep. Trailing through her living room, switching off lights as she went, she felt relaxed and dreamy, well aware that those feelings would provide her with a long, healthy sleep. One she dearly needed after this last case, which had ended successfully, leaving both her and her partner drained and in desperate need of a weekend with nothing to do.

With a content sigh, she reached for the last lamp, which was sitting right beside the phone, ready to switch it off, too, when the phone rang. She froze and stared at the to her sometimes-obnoxious contraption, then she grabbed the receiver, already knowing who it was before she introduced herself. "Scully," she said, not quite managing to suppress the slight hint of annoyance in her voice.

"Hey! What are you up to?"

It was so typical Mulder to start a telephone conversation without introducing himself. "I'm on my way to bed, Mulder," she said in a slightly exasperated tone of voice, hoping against hope that he would take the hint and leave her to it.

"So soon? It's not even 10 p.m. yet," he replied, sounding surprised. "Scully, it's Friday night. Don't you have a date or something?"

For a moment she considered a suitable comeback to that one, but didn't feel like getting into a major banter with him. Instead she repeated her sigh. "Mulder, I'm tired, okay? I really, really, really want to go to bed and just fall into a 100 year sleep," she said, hoping that if she cut it out in cardboard for him, he would apologize and leave her alone. No such luck.

"Do I get to wake you with a kiss, then?" he asked and she could virtually see the smirk on his lips.

She closed her eyes and briefly considered just hanging up on him. But she knew what the result of that would be. He would call her back immediately, certain they'd been cut off. "Sure. If you let me sleep for 100 years," she finally said, her tone sarcastic.

"Ooh, Scully. That sounds really romantic. Should I come charging into your bedroom on a white horse, then?" he asked on, a smile in his voice.

"Mulder, if you come charging into my bedroom on a white horse, I'm going to shoot you and marry the horse, okay?" she told him, unable to keep the smile from her voice.

Mulder chuckled under his breath and she heard the characteristic crack of a sunflower seed losing its husk. "Wow! Easy now, my lady. Horses aren't cheap, you know," he told her, enjoying the joke.

"You mean, it would bring me flowers and chocolate?" Scully retorted, trying to sound cross but not quite managing.

Unable to keep up the charade any more, he started laughing. "You crack me up, Scully," he told her after regaining marginal control over his need to laugh at her jokes. "Listen, I actually called because I wanted something."

"Really?" she asked. "And here I was thinking that you just called to hear my voice," she mocked him. "Whatever it is, it's not going to happen tonight, Mulder. As I said before, I'm tried. I want to go to bed and sleep."

"Yeah, I know. But, it's not tonight. It's on October 31. The Schreck Mansion is having an open house night. I just have to check that out. You wanna come?" he asked, sounding all excited.

"The... Schreck Mansion?" she asked and rolled her eyes with vexation, wondering who came up with those names. "You mean that old German mansion near Charlottesville?" she asked on.

"The same," he agreed, cracking another husk with his teeth. "Come on, Scully. It could be fun. They're having a Halloween special. With cobwebs and ghosts booing. The whole casaba."

For a long moment, she remained silent, thinking up a million ways to get out of that one. Then she sighed again. With Mulder, there was only one way. "No," she finally said.

"What do you mean, no? You haven't even thought about it," he replied almost at once, sounding slightly miffed.

"Mulder, what part of no don't you understand? I am not going to spend Halloween in an old German mansion with fake cobwebs getting stuck in my hair and rubber ghosts jumping at me from all corners. That is not my idea of fun, okay? So, no, I don't want to go," she tried to explain, knowing full well that he would keep pestering her about it until she caved in and said yes just to get him off her back.

"Sculleee," he whined. "It's not going to be any fun without you. Come on. Please? For me?"

"No, Mulder. Now, get off the phone. I want to go to bed and sleep. Besides, you get a bigger kick out of telling me about it afterward," she told him sternly.

For a moment, there was morose silence at the other end, then she heard him sigh and crack another sunflower seed. "Fine. I'll just go and have fun on my own," he pouted.

"Be my guest," Scully told him with a smile. "Now would you please let me get to sleep?" she added.

"Okay, Scully. Have a nice nap," he finally said, sounding all cheeky again. "I'll tell you all about this trip on Monday, okay?"

"Yeah, you do that. And don't get into any kind of trouble, okay? I do not want to have to bail you out of a haunted mansion, Halloween or no Halloween," she said. "Good night, Mulder."

"Night, Scully. Sleep tight," he replied and hung up.

Scully returned the receiver to its cradle and gave it a thoughtful look. "Heaven help me," she mumbled. "I am not going to give in to this one. If he calls again, I will stay firm and tell him no," she promised herself, switched the light off and went to bed.

X X X

October 31
Schreck Mansion
Charlottesville, Virginia

The house turned out to be no house at all. It looked more like an ancient castle with towers and spires rising toward a brooding sky. Darkness had come a while ago and the torches placed along the long, winding path leading up to the mansion added to the mystic and somewhat scary feel the building gave off.

Mulder stood at the beginning of the path, admiring the sight unfolding in front of him. His car was parked in the lot to his right and he could fully understand why the visitors weren't allowed to park their cars up by the mansion. It would deduct from the spooky atmosphere surrounding the large structure. The pale, off white stones the mansion had been built of and the black tiles of the roof made him gape in amazement.

Schreck Mansion had been built sometime in the 18th century by some bigshot German business man, who apparently had thought he was still in Germany. The feel of the building was definitely European. At each corner of the house, there was a high, slim tower and above the entrance, which was in the center of the front of the house, a large, wide clock tower rose high into the air.

Slowly, he made his way up the winding path, his eyes never leaving the building growing to sinister proportions the closer he got. It was breathtaking, a dream come true for any believer of the supernatural. He knew from research that investigators into the paranormal loved Schreck Mansion. It was said to be haunted and every Halloween, there was an open house night, where people could visit the otherwise uninhabited mansion and get scared out of their senses by the mere atmosphere of the house. The caretakers had arranged it as a way to help them financially in the huge task it was to keep the mansion in reasonable shape.

It took him a little more than ten minutes to reach the square in front of the mansion. For a brief moment, he felt as if he had been transferred back in time and for a minute he actually expected to be met by the original owner when the huge entrance doors opened.

A woman in her mid forties stood there, smiling at him. "Good evening. Have you come for our open house?" she asked.

Mulder nodded. "Yeah. This is quite a place," he said, craning his neck to look up at the clock tower rising above him. He felt dwarfed by its sheer height.

"Oh yes, it is," the woman said. "And it's even more impressive on the inside," she added and stepped aside to let him in.

Mulder stepped through the doors and found himself dumbstruck by the sheer sensory overload he received from the entrance hall of the mansion. Extricate carvings on the wall panels, all kept in earth tones, gave him a sense of having entered a darker, more evil dimension. The ceiling of the hall loomed above him, brooding with its religiously inspired paintings and dark background. "Wow," was all he could say.

The woman smiled knowingly, having seen that kind of reaction countless times before. "When you take your walk through this mansion, please stick to the marked route. This is a very big house and it is quite possible to get lost here," she said, making a sweeping gesture toward the broad flight of stairs leading up to the upper parts of the house. "The red cords mark the route," she added. "I'm Mrs. Crane."

Mulder pulled himself together long enough to give her a smile. "Thank you, Mrs. Crane. I'll be sure to stick to the route," he said, thinking that he would certainly go exploring if he saw the chance. "How long are you open?" he wanted to know.

Mrs. Crane folded her hands almost primly in front of her. "We close at 1 a.m. Please try to be back here by then. My husband and I do make a round before we leave, but the house will be locked off after 1.30 a.m. and we don't come here more than once a week."

Nodding, Mulder barely heard her. His eyes were once again trailing over the impressive interior of the hall. "Sure," he said, slowly turning, fully captivated by the atmosphere. "I'll be back by then," he added, giving Mrs. Crane a fleeting smile before he headed toward the first open door which was marked by the red cord leading through it.

Mrs. Crane gazed after him for a moment, then sighed. She had seen that fascination before and it always scared her a little. Glancing at her watch, she noted the time. It was 8.05 p.m. It would be a long evening. She didn't feel like being in the house after dark, but on this one night of the year, she could handle it for a few hours as long as she knew that her husband was nearby, too.

X X X

Corridors twisting and turning, rooms as big as a ballroom, all equipped with 18th century furniture in mint condition, led Mulder through a at the same time creepy and marvelous world. He walked slowly, eyeing carvings of odd scenes which made little sense with interest. This house was a tribute to the dark arts. There was no doubt in his mind. Most of the carvings were referring to witchcraft, voodoo and the likes. One had to know that when looking at the carvings, but for him there was no doubt. Although he couldn't decipher most of the carvings, he knew what they were without thinking too much about it.

He met a few people along the way, most of them looking really spooked, and that made him grin. These people got what they came here for. He could sense the darkness in the atmosphere and knew that the other visitors could, too. The atmosphere was greatly influenced by the decor, he knew, but he also felt as if the house itself had a kind of presence. It mostly felt as if he was walking around inside a living, breathing thing.

At that thought, a shudder ran through him and he smiled at the goose pimples rushing up his arms. There was nothing quite like that feeling. And all he could think was that Scully was missing out on this. He felt like calling her and letting her know. Stopping, he pulled his cell phone from his pocket and dialed her number. But there was interference, probably from the structure of the house, and he couldn't get through. Somewhat disappointed, he switched the phone off and stuffed it back into his pocket, then glanced around him.

The corridor he was in was lined with doors on either side, all closed and bared by the red cords. That would usually not hold him back from diverting from the set course, but he was too engrossed in his surroundings to give it any serious thought. Slowly, he walked on, inspecting the paneling along the wall with ever growing interest, until he reached a door which was ajar. Stopping again, he stared at it in utter fascination for a moment, then glanced either way to make sure he was alone in the corridor. Finding that he was, he then returned his attention to the door and reached out to give it a light push. It swung open into a room, which had doors going off in all directions. Too curious to leave it be, Mulder ducked under the cord, stepped into the room and carefully pushed the door shut behind him.

Reaching out for the light switch, he then looked around the room, wondering where either of the doors would lead him. Time to go exploring, he figured. Glancing at his watch, he promised himself he would not lose track of time and be back by the entrance at 1 a.m.

X X X

The house turned out to be a much bigger challenge than he had thought it would be. There were staircases leading up to levels halfway to the ceiling of any given floor. The library, which for some reason wasn't on the tour, was huge in every sense. It felt to him as if it reached from the ground floor to the upper regions of the house, but he figured that was probably just an optical illusion because of the almost offensive number of books stored there.

Slowly walking through the immense library, craning his neck to see the top of the bookshelves, which he felt should be shrouded in clouds, he felt the rush of adrenaline rippling through him at the speed of light. Why this house had that kind of effect on him he didn't know. But there was more here than met the eye. That much he was certain of. He could almost sense it in the air.

A bump behind him made him jerk and he turned to see a book lying on the floor where he had just walked past. Frowning, he glanced upward again, trying to estimate where it had come from, and saw a pile of discarded books on a shelve further up. The stack was neither tidy nor straight and it was no wonder that the book had fallen off the top of the pile, probably prompted by the vibrations of his footsteps. Grinning, he silently scolded himself for letting himself get spooked by a book, and continued on his unsupervised trek through the haunted mansion.

Glancing at his watch, he stopped dead in his tracks. He had arrived at 8 p.m. and it was now 12.30 a.m. Surprised that four and a half hours had passed him by without a trace made him frown. Glancing around the large ballroom he had just entered, he tried to employ his usually good sense of direction and decided that if he continued onward to the other end of the hall and walked through the doors there, he should come out either on the same level or right on top of the entrance hall.

He reached the double doors and grabbed the handles, twisting them down, only to realize that the doors were locked. With a somewhat annoyed sigh, he glanced around and saw a single door to his right. He still knew where he would end up if he went through that door and it also turned out to be open. Unfortunately, the door didn't open up into a room, but to a tight corridor, which twisted away from the ballroom at an odd angle.

Giving the corridor an uncertain glance, he then briefly looked behind him, searching for another way out of the ballroom, but there was none other than the way he had come in and he wasn't so sure he could find his way back to the entrance hall in time if he went back that way. Undetermined, he again sent a glance down the twisting corridor, thinking his options through. Okay, so he could go down that corridor and try to keep his orientation until he reached the end, wherever that might be. It would probably be easier than going back the way he'd come.

Half an hour later, he started feeling a little frustrated. He had left the tight corridor behind and had stepped out into one of the bigger, certain he had been there before. He had gone it in the direction he figured the entrance hall would be and had suddenly found himself at the North end of the house. Cursing under his breath, he had turned around and run back the way he'd come. On the way, he had passed the still open door to the smaller corridor and was sure he was on the right track then, only to find himself at the South end of the house, facing a dead end.

Suddenly, this wasn't so much fun anymore. Come to think of it, he hadn't met anybody for quite a long while and it was starting to worry him a little. Mrs. Crane had told him that she and her husband would make a round through the house before locking up, so he didn't really feel too worried yet, but it was ten minutes past the time where the front door had been locked and he had yet to find a corridor that was marked with the red cords. Deciding that it might be best to return to the ballroom and go back from there, he turned and ran back the way he'd come, keeping an eye out for the open door. The further he ran, the more convinced he became that he had lost his mind. He knew for certain that he had not taken a wrong turn, but there was no open door anywhere along the route he was taking and when he ended up back at the North end of the house where he had been previously, he started getting just a tad nervous.

Stopping for a moment to catch his breath, he tried to think clearly, trying to visualize the route he had taken and knew for a fact that he had gone the right way. So the door had closed. Was that so abnormal in an old house? No, of course not, but then it should have been closed the first time he passed it and he knew for a fact that it had been open.

Taking another glance at his watch, he noted that it had turned 1.30 a.m. and the thought that he was now all alone in this house made his flesh crawl. Shaking his head in denial, he took a look around the room he was in. It was similar to the ballroom he had been in earlier, but definitely not the same room. His eyes trailed over the windows and the heavy, ornamental bars in front of each one. There was no getting out of the windows. That much he knew. Not here on the first floor and not downstairs, either.

Closing his eyes for a moment, he inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly, then opened his eyes again and looked around once more. Right then, he spotted a door he had missed earlier. Hoping that he was now heading in the right direction, he ran over to it and pulled it open. A flight of narrow stairs lead downward and he nearly sighed with relief. Not thinking twice about it, he hurried down the steps until he came to another door, which opened just as easily. Grinning now, he stepped out into a corridor lined with the red cord and hurriedly followed it back to the entrance hall. It was 1.45 a.m. at that point.

The front doors were locked, but he had expected that. Since there was still light in the majority of the building, he figured that the caretaker and his wife were still there, checking the house for lost visitors before leaving for the night. Instead of getting himself all worked up about having to spend the night in the old house, he settled down on a bench to wait for them. The bench was rather comfortable, covered in red velvet, soft and with a high back. Leaning back against it, he sighed and slowly realized how tired he really was. With a yawn, he allowed himself to close his eyes for a moment to just take the peak of his fatigue, fully aware that he would have to drive all the way back to Alexandria.

X X X

With a jerk, he woke up, at first unaware of where he was and why he was sitting up. Then it came back to him in a rush. It was pitch dark around him, not a sound to be heard anywhere. Frowning into the darkness, he sat up. There was no way in hell that the caretaker and his wife could have missed him when they had left the house and that in general made him quite aware of that they had already left by the time he arrived back in the entrance hall. Which again meant that the lights could obviously be switched off from outside the house unless they were on a timer. Hoping for the latter, since it would mean that he could switch them back on from the inside, he slowly rose from the comfortable bench and tried to find his bearings in the darkness.

Pressing the light button on his watch, his frown deepened when he realized he had been asleep for almost two hours. It was 3.15 a.m. "Great, Mulder. You've done it again," he mumbled under his breath. His car was sitting in the parking lot outside the grounds of Schreck Mansion and if the caretaker and his wife had not noticed in there, he was in deep shit. He didn't particularly want to spend the entire night locked up in this house. With a sigh, he searched for and found the wall and made his way up to the entrance doors to find a light switch.

The lights came on easily enough and he sent a look around the entrance hall, feeling very much alone all of a sudden. The house was huge, enormous, and he was locked in, all alone. With a shudder, he hugged himself, sending suspicious glances to the carvings on the walls and the paintings on the ceiling. Then he sighed deeply. "Get a grip," he mumbled. He knew very well what Scully was going to say to this.

Suddenly remembering his cell phone, he snapped his fingers and pulled it out of his pocket. Of course. That was the trick. He had memorized the number of the caretaker, a reflex when he dialed a number the first time. All he had to do was call them and tell them they'd locked him in, could they please come and let him out. Grinning, he switched it on and dialed the number, then brought the phone to his ear. Nothing. There was no sound at all. Not even static. Frowning, he took a closer look at the illuminated display of the phone, shook it, then listened to it again with the same result. "What the hell?" he mumbled, then sighed.

Okay, fine, so maybe he would be forced to spend the night in this house. He could sleep on the bench. It was comfortable enough and he would be close enough to the front doors to hear them open. Stopping short in his mental tracks, his eyes trailed over to the locked front doors and he paled considerably. "Oh shit," he said. The caretakers weren't coming back for a week. That was what Mrs. Crane had told him. "Aw, no." In sheer frustration, he kicked the solid looking bench.

"Okay, okay," he told himself quietly. "Don't lose it. There has to be a phone in this place somewhere," he added and looked around. Talking to himself was usually not something he did, but he felt better hearing his own voice than nothing at all.

Looking around again, he tried to come up with a location for a phone, but found that despite the two hour nap he'd had, he was tired to the bone. It could wait till morning, he decided. Dropping down on the bench again, he stretched out on it, draped an arm over his face and sighed. Scully was going to have a field day with this one. She was never going to let him live it down. The thought of her making fun of him about that had its charm. With that on his mind, he fell asleep again.

X X X

When he woke up again, it was broad daylight. That was, inside the house, it was brighter than it had been during the night. He could see his surroundings easily, but it was still gloomy, still dark enough to be oppressive. Sitting up on the bench, he arched his back and groaned. Okay, so the bench wasn't as comfortable as he had originally thought. Rolling his head from side to side, he almost winced when his neck cracked. "Great," he grumbled and got up.

His stomach rumbled with hunger and he decided that he needed to check out the house for something edible first. Then he could focus on finding a phone and getting out of this place. With one hand pressed against his somewhat sore back, he started toward the North wing of the house in search of the kitchen. He found it fairly quickly and was slightly surprised to find a fully functional, highly modern refrigerator, which even contained food. Not much, but enough to get him by until he had managed to get in touch with someone over the phone, which he kept telling himself was bound to be in the house.

After making himself a mug of coffee, he decided to move on to find that phone. Taking the mug with him, he trailed on through the North wing, opening doors along the way, searching for a study or something similar. At the far end of that wing, he entered a winter garden, which was in severe need of a helping hand, but he didn't really care about the state the plants were in. He looked around for a moment, glanced upward at the high glass ceiling above him, then looked around once more and spotted a door at the other end of the winter garden. It led out of the elaborate greenhouse and back into the mansion. With a heavy sigh, he figured that there was no phone in this end of the house. At least he didn't expect to find one in the winter garden.

Turning around, he left again and took the second corridor back toward the entrance hall. He continued to open doors along the way, inspecting rooms which seemingly had no other function than a living room. It made him wonder a little why there would be that many rooms with only that purpose. But, in general, it didn't matter. All that mattered was finding a phone. The last door he opened before he would have reentered the entrance hall admitted him into the study he had been looking for. And there, on a large, mahogany desk, stood a completely new, high tech telephone.

With a sigh of relief, he stepped inside, closed the door behind him and walked briskly over to the phone. Grabbing it, he almost fearfully brought it up to his ear and grinned brightly when he heard the dial tone. He quickly dialed the number of the caretaker, which he had memorized when calling for directions, and listened to the clicks and whirrs in the wiring. And then the line went dead. Frowning, he stabbed a finger down on the cradle, got the dial tone again and re dialed the number. A second later, the line went dead again.

With an annoyed snort, he had to acknowledge that there was something wrong with the caretaker's phone. Thinking it over for a moment, he then decided to call the office and get a hold of Scully, who was probably wondering where he was by now. It would make the wait a little longer, but he knew she would be able to get him out.

After dialing the number, he waited a second and cursed silently when the line died again. "Damn it," he hissed, stabbed the cradle of the phone again and managed to punch in the first number before realizing that there had been no dial tone this time around. Okay, so the fault was with the phone at this end. That again meant he wouldn't be able to get out of this place for a while yet. Maybe he was lucky and the caretaker would come back earlier.

Standing there with his back to the door and one hand still resting on the receiver of the phone, Mulder suddenly had the feeling that he was being watched. Frowning, he raised his head, trying to determine where it came from. Whoever was watching him was somewhere behind him. But the distinct feeling that the watcher wasn't friendly made him hesitate before turning around. The fact that the skin on the back of his neck tingled and the small hairs there stood on end made him feel very uncomfortable. An uncommon fear swept him and he found that he was holding his breath without being aware of it. Exhaling slowly, he turned his head a little and glanced over his shoulder, then turned around abruptly to face the dark corner on the right side of the door, where he was certain the watcher was standing.

It was with some surprise and no small amount of discomfort that he realized that the corner was empty. It was almost worse than if he had spotted a heinous looking creature lurking in the dark corner. The fact was that he felt watched, but also knew that he was alone in the house.

A sensation of a cold draft hit him all of a sudden and he shuddered and hugged himself. There was definitely something wrong with this room and he decided that he would have to find a place where the atmosphere was brighter. Slowly walking back over to the door, he kept glancing about, wishing that feeling of being watched would just go away. It made him feel unwelcome and at the same time there was the sensation of need. Whatever had its eyes on him wanted something from him. But he wasn't going to stick around to find out what that something was.

Leaving the room behind in a hurry, he virtually ran back to the kitchen, where the feeling of being under observation ceased the second he closed the door behind him. Breathing a little more heavily than necessary after that short sprint, he leaned back against the door. It didn't take him much to realize that he really didn't want to be in this house any more. The fact that he couldn't get out and that he would probably be stuck in this place for the majority of the week frayed his nerves.

Taking a deep breath to steady himself, he exhaled, closed his eyes and focused on what had really scared him. The psychologist in him immediately began to analyze his state of mind and eventually, he grinned. The house had him spooked because he didn't like being locked up. Simple as that. The fact that he was unable to leave this house, no matter how big it was, had him on the edge of his seat, figuratively speaking, and that was why he started feeling pursued.

"Jeez," he mumbled, pushed away from the door, grabbed a new mug, and walked over to the coffee pot sitting on the long table, which stood in the middle of the kitchen. Dropping down on the bench, he rubbed both hands over his face for a moment, then poured himself another mug of coffee, wrapped his hands around it and sipped the hot liquid slowly while considering his current situation. There wasn't much he could do about it. He would have to try the phone again a little later.

The next feeling washing over him made him reconsider his findings about his own mental state. The thought of having to go back to that room made him shudder and no amount of analyzing could remove the feeling of dread rising in him. Deciding that he needed to find a room with a similar atmosphere as the kitchen had, it also had to be one where he could lock the door. There was something in this house with him and the more he thought about it, the less he was interested in finding out what it was.

Glancing toward the window, he stared at the brightness out there and found himself wishing desperately that he was out there. Hell, the Arctic would be a preferable place at that point in time.

"Okay, stop it," he told himself quietly. "Enough's enough. Scully would tan my hide for working myself up like this," he went on, somewhat soothed by the sound of his own voice. And the thought of Scully made him feel a little more secure. She would raise heaven and hell to find out what had happened to him. If he was lucky, he'd be out of this place before it got dark.

Continuously staring out at the bright daylight, he found that for the first time since he had been a child did he dread the night ahead. But he was sure Scully would get him out of here before then. She knew where he had gone, after all, and she would come to his rescue. The thought made him smile wryly, but the smile was wiped off his lips by a hollow thud somewhere in the house. Holding his breath, he glanced toward the ceiling, feeling cold all over. "Please hurry," he mouthed.

X X X