From: "starbuck22" <jbowne@top.monad.net>

TITLE: Fletcher 2: Rollercoaster
AUTHOR: Dana Starbuck
FEEDBACK: dks_starbuck@yahoo.com
DISTRIBUTION: Archive only to ScullySlash Homepage
CROSSPOSTING: None please!
KEYWORDS: Slash, Scully/Other romance, Mulder/Other Friendship, Silence Of The Lambs Crossover (sort of)
SPOILERS: Minor all the way up to the end of Season Five.
RATING: NC17 for sex and language
SUMMARY: Scully's relationship with Fletcher continues
DISCLAIMER: The X-Files characters and situations are the creations and property of Chris Carter, 1013 Productions and the Fox Broadcasting and have been used without permission. SOTL characters are the property of Thomas Harris and have been used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended and no money shall be made with this piece of fiction. All the others belong to the author.
MUSIC DISCLAIMERS: The following songs (briefly) have been used without permission: "Turn Me Loose", "I Need a Lover", "Just A Gigolo", "Goodbye Stranger", "I'm a Girl Watcher", "Hello, I Love You", "Stay With Me", "The Wanderer", "Shameless"
THANK YOU: Special thanks to Rad and Eeyore for beta-reading. And a _really_ big thank you to my 'separated at birth cyberbro' deejay for his editing, ideas and friendship.
THANK YOU: Special thanks to Selena for beta-reading. And a _really_ big thank you to my 'separated at birth cyberbro' deejay for his editing, ideas and friendship.
Thank yous: Thanks to Athos & Selena for stepping in and "pitch hitting" when I 'lost' 2 beta readers. They seem to joined the starting lineup. And a special thank you to deejay, who's done more than his share of hand-holding, and not just over the beta reads. He's worked his way from the bullpen to the starting lineup, and now he's number one in the rotation. (Sorry, I'm a baseball fan, folks <G>)
THANKS: Once again, big thanks to Athos, Selena & Rad (welcome back, Rad). Your help, feedback, patience and friendship is greatly appreciated. I can't do it without you. And a special thanks to my cyberbro deejay. Words can't express my thanks and gratitude.


<<Chapter 1>>

Friday, November 6, 1998 9:15 PM PST Seattle-Tacoma Airport

Fletcher looked up at the monitor displaying all of the departures. <Damnit, they're all cancelled. Oh, fuck. What a perfect fucking ending to a perfectly miserable week.> She hooked the strap of her bag over her shoulder and stood in line. <What a lousy day. I swear if I heard one more word about that fucking Green River Killer, I was going to go Postal.> She shifted the bag on her shoulder. <It'll never be solved. Better minds than mine have had a crack at it. Build a bridge and get over it, guys.>

"Can I help you?" a perky voice interrupted Fletcher's thoughts.

Fletcher looked up and to see a statuesque blonde woman standing behind the counter. She had a perky smile to match the voice. <Terrific,> Fletcher sighed. <I've got 'Barbie the Ticket Agent' waiting on me.> "Yes, thanks. I need to get on the next flight available to Washington, D.C."

"All flights in and out tonight are cancelled or delayed by the fog."

<No shit, Nancy Drew. I can read the board.> "Are they expecting it to lift any time soon?"

"Hopefully by dawn."

"When's the first flight in the morning?" Fletcher asked, handing the agent her no longer valid ticket.

"Which airport?"

"Dulles."

The agent checked her computer terminal. "I've got a 6:00 flight through Denver. The connecting flight should put you in to Dulles about 3:45."

<Damn.> She looked at her watch. <Too late for a motel. That's just great. Sleeping in an airport. Wonderful.> Her calm demeanor belied her irritation. "Book me a seat on it, please."

"Certainly. May I see some identification, please?"

Fletcher took out her FBI badge and flashed it. The woman gawked at it for a moment, but she quickly recovered her composure. "Thank you."

"Can you upgrade my seat to first-class on both flights?"

"Let me check." She scanned her computer. "I can get you a window seat to Denver, then an aisle seat the rest of the way."

"Fine, thanks." <You can put me in the cargo hold if it'll get me home.> "I'll pay for the upgrade separately," Fletcher said, handing the agent her credit card.

She finished the paperwork, then handed Fletcher her new ticket.

"All set. Thank you."

"Thank _you_," Fletcher said. "Let's just hope the fog lifts."

She stuffed the ticket into the inner pocket of her trench coat and walked away in search of a place to sit down. She looked at her watch. <Too late to call Scully. I'll call her before I leave.>


Saturday, November 6, 1998 5:15 AM PST

Fletcher shut off her laptop and stretched. She looked out the window and saw the rain reflecting off the lights. <Rain. What a surprise in Seattle.> Any other time, the downpour would have been depressing, but the rain had knocked down the fog, causing a flurry of departure announcements. Fletcher's fellow strandees were yawning and stretching. Some of them were starting to mill around the gate entrance. Even a middle seat in Tourist would be more comfortable than the homicidally-designed plastic chairs they'd tried to sleep in. Fletcher looked at her watch and grabbed her cell phone. <They'll be loading soon. Better call while I have the chance.> The phone rang once, twice. <I hope she's up. She should be. It's not _that_ early.>

"Scully," she said, trying to suppress a yawn.

Fletcher closed her eyes and smiled. "Good morning, sleepyhead. It's me."

"Where _are_ you?"

"Stuck and sleepless in Seattle. All the flights were fogged in last night. The fog's finally lifted and I'm on the 6:00 AM flight out. I should be landing about 3:45." She stretched her legs out in front of her. "Listen, I need a favor from you."

"What?"

"Can you go out to the house and meet Marva and Karrin?"

"Sure, but I don't have a key or the new security code."

"I'll call the company and have someone meet you there. They'll let you in and instruct you on the procedures."

"Okay. What time do I need to be there?"

"Noon okay for you? Karrin and Marva are coming over about 1:00."

"I'll be there."

"Thanks." She yawned once. "I was going to fix spaghetti. Just take out one of the containers in the freezer. I'll make it when I get there. You may have to pick up some salad fixings. I know they're bringing cheese and crackers and who knows what else."

"I'll take care of it."

"Thanks," Fletcher said, reaching up under her glasses to rub her eyes.

"Did you get any sleep last night?"

"In these chairs? Not fucking likely."

"Oh, Fletcher..."

"The night wasn't a total loss. I used the time to get my reports all caught up. Now I won't have to worry about them over the weekend." <What's left of it.> "I'll sleep on my flight."

"You sound wiped out."

"I'm exhausted." <And I miss you, Red. I miss you bad. I can't wait to get home and get into your arms,> Fletcher thought.

"Try not to get overtired, Fletcher."

"Yes, doctor," Fletcher said, smiling.

"I miss you," Scully said after a short silence.

"I miss you, too, Red." She looked over both shoulders to see if anyone was sitting near her. Even though no one was, she hunched over and lowered her voice. "I've missed waking up next to you, missed falling asleep with you, and I've especially missed keeping you up at night."

"I kept hoping you'd be here when I woke up."

There was no mistaking the longing in Scully's voice. <Damn, sounds like she was missing me as much as I was missing her.> Fletcher grinned. "I had every intention of crawling into bed with you..." She looked at her watch. "...just about now, as a matter of fact."

"It's been really hard being apart this week. The days - and nights - have just dragged for me."

"I know, and it's not going to get any better," she sighed. "Sometimes, I really hate my job. I don't mind traveling when I'm on an actual case, but this hopping from city to city for pep talks is the pits."

<She _really_ sounds cranky, and with good reason> Scully thought. "Try to get some sleep on the plane."

"Yeah, I will." She looked up and saw the gate agents. "Gotta go, Red. They're getting ready to begin boarding and I still have to call the security company."


Saturday, 1:10 PM EST Fletcher's house

Following the instructions the security company had given her, Scully opened the gate for Marva and Karrin. She waited until they had parked in the driveway before going outside to greet them. A woman with short blond hair got out from driver's side of the dark blue Saab. <Finally, someone my height,> Scully thought as she saw how short the woman was.

Marva came out the passenger side with a smile and a warm wave. "Dr. Frankenstein, I presume."

Scully rolled her eyes, thinking about Frohike. "Hi, Marva."

"Fletcher slaving over a hot stove?" she asked, reaching into the back seat.

"Not unless there's a kitchen in the airplane. She got fogged in last night in Seattle," Scully explained, taking the grocery bag from Marva. "She's somewhere in the air between Denver and D.C. right now."

<Dana's here alone? Now that's interesting,> Marva thought. "Tough break for her. When will she be here?"

"Around 5:00 or so."

Marva slung the strap of her bag over her shoulder, then put her arm around the blonde. "Dana, I'd like you to meet my partner, Karrin Gundersson. Karrin, this is Dana Scully."

Scully shifted the grocery bag to her left arm and stuck out her right hand. "Pleased to meet you."

"How do you do?" Karrin said, shaking her hand.

Karrin was blonde haired and blue-eyed and looked like she'd just stepped off a farm in the Midwest. She was wearing jeans and an oversized sweatshirt with "DUKE" emblazoned across the front. <She's got that fresh, well-scrubbed All-American look,> Scully thought as she led the way into the house.

Scully set the grocery bag down on the counter and asked, "Have you had lunch yet?"

"We had a late breakfast, but _I_ could use a snack," Marva smiled.

Scully nodded. "Any preference?"

"Whatever goes well with Fletcher's wine collection."

"I'll put the bags in the guest room," Karrin said, taking Marva's bag off her shoulder. "Don't start without me."

Marva's grin got even wider. "Never."

Karrin took the bags upstairs while Marva went down to Fletcher's wine cellar. <They seem to know their way around Fletcher's house pretty well,> Scully thought searching through several cabinets before she located the wineglasses. <I wonder how long it'll be before I do?> She had made up a plate of cheese and crackers when Karrin came into the kitchen, about the same time Marva returned with two bottles of wine, one white, one red, both dusty.

"Fletcher has the best wine," Karrin commented. "Do you know if she's still making the trip to Europe to get some of her wine?" she asked, sitting down at the kitchen table.

"I didn't know she did," Scully answered.

"I don't believe she's gone in the last couple of years," Marva replied. "She'd better go soon. Her supply is getting low."

"If you'd stop opening a bottle every time you came over..." Karrin playfully scolded Marva.

"We don't come over all that often. Just a few times a year."

"And every time Fletcher comes over, she brings at least two bottles."

"So we like good wine," Marva rationalized, sitting down beside Karrin and picking up a piece of cheese.

Scully smiled, listening to the two of them. <Such a contrast, tall and dark, and short and blonde. I wonder what kind of couple Fletcher and I make, what _we_ look like next to each other?> She sat down opposite Marva.

"Have you known Fletcher long?" Scully asked, sipping her wine. <Karrin's right. Fletcher does have good wine.>

"Years," Marva laughed. "We go _way_ back."

"How did you meet her?" Scully asked, curious to hear Marva's version.

"Fletcher was working a case and someone, I never did find out who, pointed her in my direction. She needed a crash course in makeup and costumes."

"When was that?"

"Oh, gosh, how many years ago was it?" Marva thought for a few moments. "It was before Fletcher went overseas."

"When did Fletcher go overseas?"

"She was called up on active duty for the Gulf War. I guess we met the spring before that - 1990." Marva smiled. "She was something else back then," she added, refilling everyone's glass.

"What do you mean?"

"Ever seen Fletcher interview someone?"

"No, we've never worked together. Not yet, anyway," she added.

"It's an experience," Marva laughed. "She must be very good at her job. She kept me off balance the whole time. And those eyes of hers. You can't lie to her, not that I was trying to."

"How'd you become friends?"

"She spent the whole day interviewing me, even bought me lunch. The next day she came back around closing time."

"What happened?"

"Well, I asked her if she had any more questions, and she said 'Just one'."

"What was it?" Scully asked, curious.

"'Would you like to have dinner with me?'" Marva grinned. "Smooth. I'll give her that. It was the last thing I expected from her. I mean, I thought she was a lesbian from the first moment we met, but I didn't think she knew I was. Then again, I'm sure _my_ sexual orientation wouldn't have mattered to Fletcher," Marva laughed.

"Did you have dinner with her?"

"Yes." Marva saw the unasked question on Scully's face. "And yes, we did sleep together. We were involved for a few months, but it just didn't work for us. She had the most insane schedule, and I needed someone I could count on back then. I'm also a firm believer in monogamy, and Fletcher, well, Fletcher wasn't quite ready to settle down with just one woman." Marva took a sip from her glass. "Besides, there was a lot of darkness to Fletcher then. She was far too moody for my liking. We decided we'd be better off friends than lovers."

"Was that before or after she was involved with Clarice Starling?"

"Before." Marva looked over the top of her glass at Scully. "You know about Clarice?" <I doubt, however, Fletcher's told you the whole story, Dana.>

"A little. I know she and Fletcher were involved and I'm guessing that the parting wasn't altogether amicable."

"You're a very good guesser," Marva said dryly.

"How long were they together?" Scully asked Marva.

"Two, maybe two and half years."

"Did you know Clarice?"

"We both did. Fletcher got together with her about the same time Karrin and I did. We socialized on occasions," Marva said casually, but she was still unable to hide the look on her face that bordered on animosity.

"Now, honey, it wasn't that bad," Karrin said lightly, her hand on Marva's arm. "I think you were just a little jealous that Fletcher became involved with Clarice and she hadn't with you."

"Maybe, but I just always had problems seeing the two of them together. They weren't really right for each other." She took a drink from her glass. "Maybe it was all physical," she muttered to no one in particular. "Maybe they just had great sex."

"I liked her," Karrin said. "Granted, she was a little too intense, a little too serious at times, but she was a decent, kind person. Intelligent with a very dry sense of humor..."

"She had a sense of humor?" Marva interrupted.

Karrin ignored Marva's comment. "She and Fletcher obviously cared about one another. They just ended up being not very compatible."

"What happened?"

"They had a falling out," Karrin said, her eyes warning Marva to keep quiet. "I think you'd be better off asking Fletcher the whole story."

"She's not very talkative when it comes to Clarice."

"She'll tell you when she's ready."

Marva topped their glasses off once again, then got up from the table to get more cheese and crackers.

"How did you meet?" Karrin asked Scully, changing the topic. "Fletcher never did tell us."

"I went for drinks after work with my partner. He introduced us."

"Who's your partner?" Marva asked, setting the plate on the table.

"One of Fletcher's old friends from ISU - Fox Mulder."

"Fox Mulder's your partner? I should've known that," Marva said, rolling her eyes in mild self-disgust. "I knew the Halloween costume was for him. I just never put it together."

"You know him?" Scully was surprised.

"Oh, I've known him almost as long as I've known Fletcher. You can't know one without knowing the other. The two of them are as close as brothers." Marva sat back down. "Enough about him. When did you meet Fletcher?"

"A couple of months ago."

"And it was love at first sight, huh?" Marva teased.

"Hardly," Scully replied, her cheeks pink. "I'm afraid I didn't make a very good first impression." She looked down at her glass, her embarrassment over her actions that night still all too acute in her mind.

"Why do you say that?"

"I drank on an empty stomach and ended up too drunk to drive."

"Did Fletcher drive you home?" Marva asked, knowing how Fletcher operated.

"Yes." Scully looked up. "Why?" Marva smiled at Scully. It took her a few moments, but Scully finally realized the implications in Marva's look. "Oh, she didn't stay," Scully explained. "Nothing happened."

"Nothing?" Marva raised her eyebrows in surprise. "I find _that_ hard to believe."

"Really. Nothing _happened_ between us for quite some time."

"Fletcher must be slipping," Karrin laughed.

"Why do you say that? I was so drunk that I got sick. Besides, Mulder's my partner, my friend. Fletcher would've respected that."

"Don't get me wrong, Dana," Marva explained. "I love Fletcher. She's one of my best friends, but I _know_ her. I also know that most of the time _none_ of that matters to her."

"I keep hearing all these hints about Fletcher's reputation and so far, I've seen no evidence of it with me," Scully said almost defensively. "She was always very, um, very 'well-behaved' with me."

"Can I ask you a question, Dana?"

"Sure," she responded warily.

"How long did you know Fletcher before she made a move on you?"

"She didn't."

"Excuse me? Didn't what?"

"She never made the first move. I did, and it was only after we'd known each other for a month or so."

<You are just _full_ of surprises, Dana Scully,> Marva marveled. <My opinion of you just keeps getting better and better.>

Karrin opened the second bottle of wine and poured them each another glass of wine. <Good thing we're planning on staying. At the rate we're going...> She shook her head.

Scully nodded her thanks to Karrin. "How did you two meet, if you don't mind my asking. I'm just a little curious. I can't see your work bringing you together," Scully said with a smile.

"Well, it did, sort of," Karrin said, a big smile on her face.

"My sister and my niece were visiting from Baltimore when my niece had a severe asthma attack. I had to drive them to the hospital. Karrin was the doctor who treated Felicia."

"I was doing my ER residency at the time. It wasn't until I completed it that I decided that I really wanted to be in pediatrics," Karrin explained.

"I didn't notice Karrin at first. I was more concerned with my niece. It wasn't until the crisis passed that I happened to notice how attractive she was and how good she'd been with us." She smiled at Karrin and took her hand. "Little did I know how multi-talented she was," Marva laughed.

"While I treated her niece, I was also sort of checking Marva out. It wasn't something I normally did. I don't think I'd ever even looked twice at a patient or a family member of a patient before or since."

"How'd you get together?"

"Well, I made a point of personally thanking Karrin before we left the hospital."

"And she asked me if there was anything she could do to thank me."

"She surprised the heck out of me when she said there was."

"I told her she could by having dinner with me."

"What is it that makes these women I don't even know ask me to dinner? Do I look that easy?" Marva said, a wide smile on her face.

"It's one of your best features, hon," Karrin said. Her smile wasn't wide, but it was sly.

"Smartass." Marva squeezed Karrin's hand and kissed her cheek.

"How long have you been together?" Scully asked.

"We just had our seventh anniversary in September."

The smile on their faces said it all. Scully couldn't help but smile at the warmth and love that Marva and Karrin had for one another. <I want what they have,> Scully suddenly thought.

"Can I ask you a question?" Scully asked.

"Sure," replied Marva, noticing the slightly nervous tone in Scully's voice.

"How do your families feel about your relationship?"

There was no missing the dark cloud that passed over Karrin's face. <Uh oh,> Scully thought. <Maybe I shouldn't have asked.>

"I'll put it this way," Karrin answered. "Marva, out of all the major holidays since we've been together, how many times have I gone home?"

"Of the ten you didn't have to work on, one."

"My supposedly liberal family turned out to be just awful," Karrin said, disgusted. "I don't know what angers them more, the fact that I chose to stay here in D.C., that I'm involved with a woman, or that I'm involved with a black." She finished off her glass of wine.

"Was Marva the first woman you were involved with?" Scully asked, surprised that she'd even asked such a personal question.

"No, but she was the first my family knew about for sure. I brought her home with me for Thanksgiving the first year we were together."

"It didn't go over very well," Marva added. "They were very civil, very polite to me, but it was clear they were less than thrilled to have me there."

"Which is why we - I - haven't been home since."

"Do you have any contact with them?" Scully asked, beginning to wonder how her own family would handle her relationship with Fletcher.

"Christmas cards, birthday cards. That's about it. My younger sister calls on occasion. She's even stayed with us when she's been in town on business, without my parents' knowledge of course."

"Anna's a gem," Marva said. "I like her a lot. She's always been very supportive of us."

"How many brothers and sisters do you have?" Scully asked.

"Two older brothers, one older sister and one younger sister."

"How about your family?" Scully asked Marva.

"They love Karrin. We don't just go to visit my family on holidays. We probably visit someone in my family once a month. It helps that they all live in and around D.C. or Baltimore." Marva looked carefully at Scully. "Does your family know, Dana?"

"About Fletcher?"

"Yes."

"No, they don't."

"How do you feel about another personal question, Dana?" Marva said gently.

"Okay, I guess," Scully replied, trying not to sound nervous. <I shouldn't be nervous. It doesn't sound like there are many secrets here between us, and for some reason, I do trust Marva and Karrin.>

"Is Fletcher the first woman you've ever been involved with?"

"Yes," Scully answered, her cheeks growing warm.

"I thought so."

"How could you tell?"

"Call it woman's intuition," Marva smiled. "Are you planning on telling your family?"

"I hadn't really thought about it, until now. I have a feeling that they might be more inclined to act like Karrin's family than your family. I had a _very_ Catholic upbringing."

"Well, it might go over a little easier if they meet Fletcher first as your friend, and not as your lover," Karrin suggested.

<My _lover_> Scully thought. <Is that what Fletcher is now - my lover?> She took a large swallow from her glass. <I guess I could call her that. I still don't know what it is we're doing, what kind of relationship we have.>

"Enough of this serious talk," Marva said, interrupting Scully's thoughts. "I've got an idea."

"Oh, no, watch out, Dana," Karrin warned.

"Nothing bad," Marva said, a mock frown on her face. "I was going to suggest we make up some nachos and frozen margaritas. Let's get this party moving."

"Should we?"

"Why not? You two get the ingredients together and I'll go put some music on - and no requests. I'm playing DJ tonight."

"Better make a _big_ plate of nachos," Karrin said as she took out the blender and the tequila. "We'll need something to soak up Marva's Margarita's from Hell," she added. The house was soon full of music. Karrin grinned. <Motown. Marva's definitely in the mood to party.>

Scully opened the refrigerator and rummaged through the drawers and shelves before taking out several bags of cheese. She held up a jar that appeared to be salsa. It was marked 'Slap my ass and call me Sally.'

"Do you think this is salsa?" she asked Karrin.

"Oooh, goody. Fletcher's got some left. Do you like hot food?"

"Yes, why?"

"This stuff is dynamite. It'll bring you to your knees."

"Bring _who_ to their knees?" Marva asked returning to the room. "We don't know Dana well enough to be talking dirty in front of her," she cracked.

"Check this out," Karrin said, tossing the jar to Marva.

"Oh, this is great. I didn't know she had any left."

"She's been holding out on us. It hasn't even been opened."

"Maybe we shouldn't," Scully said.

"Bullshit. Everything in the refrigerator or liquor cabinet is fair game when we're here. Well, almost everything," Marva added, opening up the liquor cabinet. "Let's see what Fletcher's got before I decide which recipe to fix." She moved a few bottles around then took out a bottle of lime juice and orange liqueur. "This should work. Dana, would you fill the blender about half full with ice? Thanks."

Scully opened the freezer door and began to put ice into the blender. She noticed a small compartment in the freezer. <What's this?> she thought as she opened it. Three bottles were lying on their sides. Karrin looked over Scully's shoulder.

"Fletcher's vodka," she explained. "She's always got three bottles of Stoli in the freezer. She's very particular about her vodka - likes it very cold. It's the only thing we _don't_ touch."

End Chapter 1 of ?


<<Chapter 2>>

Saturday, 4:15 PM

"And when my soul was in the lost and found... Aah-oop! You came along to claim it," Marva sang as she finished mixing a second blender of margaritas. Scully recognized the song as the one that she and Fletcher had danced to the week before. <Is that possible? Was it only last week we were at the Halloween Party? It seems like it was weeks ago.> She frowned to herself. <It just seems like weeks because I haven't seen Fletcher since early Tuesday morning.>

"Dana, do you have access to the Internet here?" Marva asked.

"I have my laptop. I'm sure I'd have no problem. Why?"

"I've just _got_ to see if you two are compatible, astrologically speaking."

"Marva's on a new kick ever since she found out we were a good match," Karrin explained.

"Can we try it?" Marva asked again.

"Sure. Let me get my laptop. It's in Fletcher's bedroom."

Marva turned to Karrin as soon as she heard Scully go up the stairs. She raised one eyebrow. "Well?"

"I hope Fletcher knows how lucky she is," Karrin replied.

"I'm surprised she hasn't told us more about Dana."

"Since when has Fletcher told us anything about the women she's seeing?" A sarcastic smile briefly crossed her mouth. "We're lucky if she tells us the names before they're history."

"I wouldn't classify Dana with the others. I think there's something special about her. Think about it. When was the last time we ever met _any_ of Fletcher's women here?"

"Gosh, I don't know."

"We haven't; not since Clarice. And another thing, has she ever trusted anyone at the house alone besides Clarice or Fox or us?"

"No."

They heard Scully come back down the stairs and quickly shut their mouths.

"Where should I hook it up?"

"There's a phone line right here," Karrin said from by the kitchen table.

Scully quickly setup her computer on the kitchen table. Once she was connected, Marva sat beside her. "May I?" she asked Scully.

"Be my guest."

"Now, what's your sign?" she asked, logging into one of the websites after searching for a few minutes.

"Pisces."

"And Fletcher's a Scorpio," Marva added.

"She is?" Scully asked.

"Don't you know when her birthday is?"

"No. It never came up," Scully explained, mildly embarrassed.

"Her birthday's in less than two weeks - the eighteenth."

"Oh, great, that won't give me much time."

"We'll have you over for it," Karrin offered.

"She'll be out of town. She'll be out of town pretty much the whole month," Scully sighed.

Marva began to laugh evilly. Karrin and Scully both looked at her, curious.

"What did you find?"

"I sure do hope you've got a lot of stamina, Dana."

"What do you mean?"

"To start with, a Pisces-Scorpio match is 'a highly sexual union.'" Marva looked up. "Is that true, Dana?" Scully remained quiet, her face flushing a deep red. "Wait. There's more. 'You love to be possessed and cared for with the deep warm affection that the Scorpio provides. Truly a match made in heaven.'" Marva couldn't help but laugh at her glowing complexion. "Wait, there's more. For Scorpio-Pisces, 'probably the most erotic combination. The fish is willing to be a part of your whims and desires and that makes for a lasting union.'" Marva moved to another screen. "This is so perfect. Listen to this description of the Scorpio Male."

"Marva, Fletcher's a woman," Karrin protested.

"Fuck that. She's more masculine than feminine. Besides, this seems to fit her. Listen. 'When it comes to lovemaking you are capable of attaining the highest level of passion. You are persuasive and will not admit defeat once you have your mind fixed on a particular female. You prefer to control your mates' emotions. Like everything else, you always give one hundred percent and of course expect the same in return. To you, sex is a competitive game, and revenge and jealousy are two of your characteristics that will surface if you aren't winning.' If that isn't Fletcher to a tee..." Marva cackled.

"What does it say about the Pisces Female?" Karrin asked.

Scully rolled her eyes. <I can't believe I'm listening to any of this.>

"Just a sec. Okay. 'You are feminine, intuitive, responsive and sensual. You are drawn to the creative or the occult.'". Scully smirked and thought <well, that's certainly true, though not always by choice>. "'You are empathetic to those who have problems and therefore often get used. You are a great one for fantasizing and in fact acting out your desires. Your biggest problem it that you tend to pick the wrong mate, resulting in the need to have extra-marital affairs.' Oh, that's not a good idea with a jealous Scorpio for a lover," Marva counseled. "'You are prone to tears and extremely good at using emotional blackmail.'"

"I really don't believe in any of that," Scully said with a smile. "I wouldn't necessarily say it's completely accurate." She added, "for me, anyway."

"Well, you really should have a better idea of what you're getting yourself into, Dana," Marva said, returning to the first site she'd seen. "Here. I'll just read you the highlights - or the lowlights, depending on your opinion. These are all for Scorpio. 'Ruling the House of Sex can either be a blessing or a curse, and a lot depends on how the wily Scorpion deals with this erotic burden... are quick to channel their raw energy, power and strength into an exploration of their lover's emotions and sexuality... Anyone willing to take on the Scorpion will be engaging a cosmic power with plentiful sexual urges... an aura which says try me if you dare.'" Marva giggled. "Fletcher, you old stud, you. This is great. 'The Sex God of the Zodiac has quite a lot to live up to! And the Scorpion does just that.'"

"Why did you ask if I had stamina?" Scully asked, not sure if she really wanted to hear the answer.

"I quote, 'the ideal Scorpio soul mate can go twelve rounds anywhere, anytime and preferably in bed. The sexual prowess and drive of those born under the sign is legendary... If you want to ride a tiger to an emotional and sexual crescendo, jump on the curvy back of the sleek Scorpion. The Scorpio lover has an almost hypernatural libido and loves giving sensual pleasure.'" Marva chuckled, and said, "here's something for you, Dana. 'Scorpions adore a lover who can go on forever, the perfect gift for this truly sexual being. If that lover brings some toys along, things will be tied up oh-so-neatly... The Scorpion lover is determined, forceful, has great passion and strength and finishes what they start. This is a powerful and sexual being who isn't for the fainthearted. Those with guts are bound for glory.'"

Marva leaned back in her chair and looked at Scully. Once again, she couldn't help but laugh. "Oh Lord, child, it's a good thing you can't see your face. You'd think you'd died and come back as a stop light!"

Karrin hid her smile behind her hand. <We shouldn't tease her _this_ hard. Not till we've had another round of drinks, anyway.> "Marva, how about some new music?" she asked, hoping to distract her.

Marva got up and gave Scully's arm a friendly squeeze. "Don't worry, Dana," she said, oozing sincerity. "We don't expect all the nitty-gritty, down and dirty details until the _second_ time we all get together." Scully went from red to pale in three seconds flat. "God, Dana, I'm only teasing!" Marva laughed.

"I knew that," Scully lied, an unconvincing smile on her face.

"Yeah, right," Marva giggled. "Someone say something about new music?"

"Yes, please," Karrin replied.

"It'll cost you."

"Do you take credit?" Karrin asked with a flirtatious smile.

"Only at abnormally high interest rates - _personal_ interest rates."

"I can swing that."

"Good. I can't wait to collect the first payment," Marva responded, her arms around Karrin's waist.

The three of them went into the den together to look at Fletcher's collection of CDs. Scully began to look through the CDs that didn't have any labels. She handed Marva a CD that was marked '3G-I'. "What's this?"

"Oh, Fletcher probably made a copy of one of her tapes. I've always wondered how these 'make-your-own' CDs sounded." She popped in the CD. Karrin continued to look through the discs as a loud guitar riff filled the room.

'I was born to run I was born to dream,
The craziest boy you ever seen
I gotta do it my way, or no way at all
And I was here to please, I'm even on my knees
Making love to whoever I please
I gotta do it my way, or no way at all...'

"Ewwww," Karrin said making a face. "I thought only my brothers listened to Loverboy."

Marva pressed the remote and skipped to the next song.

'I need a lover that won't drive me crazy
Someone to thrill me, and then go away
I need a lover that won't drive me crazy
Someone who knows the meaning of
"Hey, hit the highway..."'

"I love rock and roll," Marva said sarcastically. "It's so empowering." She clicked through a few more songs:

'I'm just a gigolo, everywhere I go
People know the part I'm playing...'

<CLICK. SKIP.>

'It was early morning yesterday, I was up before the dawn
And I really have enjoyed my stay, but I must be moving on
Like a king without a castle, Like a queen without a throne
I'm an early morning lover and I must be moving on...'

<CLICK. SKIP.>

'I'm a girl watcher, I'm a girl watcher
Watching girls go by,
My, my, my...'

<CLICK. SKIP.>

Marva grinned and shook her head. <Oh, boy, I think I know what this CD is. It's Fletcher's 'pick-up' music. She used to listen to these songs when she was on her way to the bars or a date with some nameless woman. I wonder if Dana's figured it out yet.> She looked over at Scully who had sat down on the couch and seemed to be lost in thought.

'Hello, I love you, I know you, I knew you
I think I can remember your name
Hello, I'm sorry, I lost myself
I think I thought you were someone else
Shouldn't talk about the weather
Shouldn't talk about the government...'

<3G... 3G... That sounds familiar,> Scully thought. <Oh, that's what Mulder said to me about Fletcher. What did it mean? Think, Dana. What was it?> Then she frowned. <I remember now. 'Get 'em drunk, get 'em bed and get 'em out the door'. That's what he said.> Her frown deepened. <Is this what Fletcher's really all about? Is _this_ how she thinks, how she operates? Does she feel that way about me? I didn't think so before, but now... I wonder.>

<CLICK. SKIP>

'So in the morning
Please don't say you love me
'Cause you know I'll only kick you out the door
Yeah, I'll pay your cabfare home
You can even use my best cologne
Just don't be here in the mornin' when I wake up...'

<CLICK. SKIP.>

"Hey, I think I've found the paper that goes with the disc," Karrin said, standing up and handing the slip to Marva. "Is this CD what I think it is?" she asked quietly as she watched Marva scan the list of the song titles.

"I'd say it's a safe bet, yes."

'Hello, I love you
Won't you tell me your name
Hello, I love you
Won't you tell me your name
Hello, I love you
Won't you tell me your name
Hello, I love you
Won't you tell me your name...'

<CLICK. SKIP>

'Oh, I'm the type of guy who'll never settle down
I'm never in one place, I roam from town to town
I kiss 'em and I love 'em
'Cause to me they're all the same
I hug 'em and I squeeze 'em
They don't even know my name
'Cause I'm the wanderer
Yeah, the wanderer,
I go around'n'round'n'round'round'n'round...'

<CLICK. SKIP>

Karrin looked out of the corner of her eye at Scully. "How about we put something different on," she suggested to Marva.

"Good call." She ejected the disc and reached blindly for another CD. <Marvin Gaye. That'll work.>

"Can I ask you both a question," Scully abruptly asked.

<Not fast enough, Marva,> she chided herself. "Sure."

"Is Fletcher really as bad as her reputation? As bad as Mulder - and you -make her out to be?"

"Which is?" Marva asked, trying to stall for time to think of an answer.

"That, um, that Fletcher's a 'love 'em and leave 'em' type."

Marva wasn't sure how to reply to Scully's question. She looked at her partner, hoping for some help. Karrin gestured with her hand as if to say, 'tell her'. Marva nodded, resigned. "A year ago, I would've said yes, no doubt about it. Ever since she and Clarice split. Oh, she was like that before Clarice, but not as bad. The last year or so, however, she's really been very cautious, very low-key. She's even turned down fix-ups and blind dates from us." Marva sat down beside Scully as Karrin selected several new CDs. "Dana, how do you feel about Fletcher and your relationship?" Marva asked.

<She doesn't pull any punches> Scully thought. <She's very upfront about everything.> The alcohol had lowered Scully's resistance to keeping her feelings to herself. <I guess there isn't any reason for me not to be as well.> "It's still all so new to me," Scully admitted. "And the times we do see each other are haphazard at best. She's been out of town more than she's been home."

"The nature of the work, I suppose," Marva sympathized.

Karrin started the Marvin Gaye CD and quietly left the room. She returned moments later and refilled their glasses with more of the frozen margaritas.

"I understand that," Scully continued. "I'm the same way. When she's away, we talk once or twice a day. And every day she's been home, we've been together since we... you know..."

"Got together?" Marva tactfully suggested. Scully nodded. "Being with a woman, how do you feel about that?"

"If you'd asked me two months ago, I would've said you were out of your mind. Now, I can't wait to see her." She half-sighed. "I don't think I've ever felt this way about anyone."

"And I suppose it scares you to think the Fletcher might be just playing around with you, having some fun?"

"She hasn't given _me_ any reason to worry." <Not yet.> "But I've heard enough talk and enough jokes to make me wonder, make me feel a little uneasy."

"I'll let you in on a little secret, Dana. When you two walked into my store last week, well, I haven't seen that look on Fletcher's face-"

"I know, I know, since Clarice Starling," Scully said wearily.

"Girlfriend, that's not what I was going to say. I have _never_ seen that look on Fletcher's face." She paused. "And I didn't think I ever would, either."

"Well, she hasn't said anything to me."

"Have you?" Marva countered.

"No," Scully acknowledged in a small voice.

"Then what are you two waiting for?" Marva said, getting up from the couch. "It's time to start communicating a little better, don't you think?"

End Chapter 2 of ?


<<Chapter 3>>

Saturday, 5:00 PM

Fletcher's seatmate glanced over his shoulder once as he moved down the escalator. She hadn't planned on following him, but he'd been such a jerk on the flight, she decided to let him think she was. <What a prick,> Fletcher thought as she adjusted the strap on her bag. <Why do some guys think they can hit on every woman they meet? As if I'd be interested in him. As if _any_ woman would be interested! And rude doesn't _begin_ to describe how he was with the flight attendants.>

He hadn't stopped trying until Fletcher had casually rearranged her blazer, then reached up to adjust the air vent above her head. She knew he would be looking at her chest. She'd counted on it. And when he looked, he saw the gun in her holster. His eyes had widened, but he'd shut his mouth for the duration of the flight.

Fletcher strode past the other passengers as they waited for their luggage. <Some people never learn,> she chuckled to herself. <Carry-on is the _only_ way to travel.> She saw her seatmate once again, and nodded to him, her face stern. He looked away quickly and she laughed. <Asshole.>

She unlocked her Jeep and threw her bags into the bag seat. After exiting the airport, she reached into the CD case beside her and took one out. <I've got to listen to something besides the damn radio. All I'll get on Saturday night is ads or some DJ who thinks he's God's gift to the airwaves. And there's no way I'm going to listen to talk radio.> She glanced at the clock in the dashboard. She debated whether or not to call the house. <Nah, I'll just surprise them. I should be home in half an hour, maybe less if traffic cooperates.>

She hummed along with the music absentmindedly. <Damn, I missed Scully -_really_ missed her.> She frowned. < How did this happen so fast? What's the matter with you, Buchanan? Do you really think you could be in love with Scully? And maybe - _maybe_ - Scully feels the same way. Yeah, right. As if _she'd_ be in love with _me_. God, Buchanan, sometimes your ego is so fucking unbelievable.> She groaned out loud. <I don't know if I'm ready for this _at all_.>

She suddenly became aware of the words to the song that was playing.

'And I'm changing, I swore I'd never compromise
But you convinced me otherwise
I'll do anything you please

You see in all my life I've never found
What I couldn't resist, what I couldn't turn down
I could walk away from anyone I ever knew
But I can't walk away from you

I have never let anything have this much control over me
'cause I worked too hard to call my life my own
Yes, I made myself a world and it worked so perfectly
But it's your world now, I can't refuse
I never had so much to lose
I'm shameless...shameless. . .'

<Oh, great. Not a song I need to hear now,> she thought, irritated. She hit the off button and drove the rest of the way in silence.


Saturday, 5:30 PM

Fletcher could hear the music as soon as she opened the door from the garage to the kitchen. <The Motown Girl Groups. Marva's choice. It's got to be.> She set down her briefcase and suitcase and surveyed the kitchen. An almost empty plate of nachos sat on the kitchen table next to three empty wineglasses. Two empty wine bottles stood next to a bottle of Jose Cuervo and a bottle of Triple Sec. The blender was on top of the counter and was half full of a greenish liquid. <Marva's been making the menu, too,> Fletcher deduced. <Margaritas and nachos. Builds strong bodies twelve ways.> She smirked briefly. <And puts you on the floor another twelve ways.> She shook her head slowly at the mess, then continued to the den.

The couch and the recliner had been pushed back and out of the way. Marva was leading Scully and Karrin, showing them a simple dance step.

"And step, step, pivot, arms up... Now shimmy, girls... No, no, no! I said _shimmy_, not wiggle like some old worm on a hook..."

Fletcher quietly watched from the doorway for a few minutes. She waited until the music stopped before saying anything. "The Supremes you're not," she said wryly, leaning against the doorjamb, her arms folded across her chest.

Scully was the first to see Fletcher. <She looks awful,> she thought, looking at the dark circles under her eyes, the hair that fell down across her forehead and her rumpled clothing. Scully wanted nothing more than to go to her and put her arms around her, but something in Fletcher's body language told her not to.

"All hail the Sex God of the Zodiac!" Marva laughed, and bowed, her arms straight out in front of her.

An amused, confused and a somewhat irritated look crossed Fletcher's face.

"We're not worthy! We're not worthy!" the trio chorused.

"What the hell are you talking about?" Fletcher asked.

"Guess you had to be here, Fletcher," Marva said.

Fletcher unfolded her arms as Marva walked over to Fletcher and hugged her hello. Karrin greeted her with a smile and a hug of her own. "Long time, no see."

"What is it with you G-men and trench coats?" Marva needled Fletcher, pulling at a lapel.

"That's G-_woman_," Fletcher retorted, gently brushing Marva's hand down. "And you'd have one too if you'd just spent a week in Seattle, San Francisco, and Portland. I don't think I saw the sun once all week. What crappy, crappy weather."

Fletcher nodded hello to Scully, suddenly feeling shy about showing her feelings for her in front of her friends. She was certain that they'd be able to see through her, tell how she felt about Scully. Instead of going to Scully, she nonchalantly said, "Hey, Red. Thanks for taking care of these two. I know they can be a handful, Marva especially."

Marva quickly sized up the situation. Her back to the others, Marva hissed at Fletcher, "Don't be an ass, Fletcher. Go say hello _properly_." She took Karrin's hand and began to lead her from the room. "Let's get everyone a fresh drink, hon." She looked back at Fletcher. "Your usual, Fletcher, or can I interest you in a margarita?" she asked.

"One of your Margaritas From Hell? Sure. Just remember to pick me up off the floor later."

Fletcher waited until they left the room before going over to Scully. There was no passion in her hug, only relief at having Scully in her arms. Scully slipped her arms inside of Fletcher's coat and drew her closer. Fletcher sighed heavily and rested her cheek against Scully's.

"Rough flight?"

"No, I'm just so damn glad to be home."

"Fletcher, I -"

"Ssshh, Red. Just let me hold you. It's been a long week."

Marva peeked around the corner and saw that Fletcher and Scully were just standing in the room, arms wrapped around one another. <Yup. They're in love, even if neither one of 'em will admit it. Fletcher tries so hard to hide it, but it's so obvious when she looks at Dana. And Dana, she doesn't even realize how much she cares about Fletcher.>

Marva cleared her throat loudly before entering the room, Karrin right behind her. "Why don't you take off your coat and stay awhile?" Marva said as she handed Fletcher her drink.

Fletcher nodded her thanks. She stepped back, but kept an arm around Scully's shoulders. <No sense in trying to be aloof. Marva can see through it anyway. Besides, I don't want to avoid Scully all night. The exact opposite, actually.> She smiled to herself. <There's no way I could -or even want to - keep my hands off of her.> "You may not want me to. I've been in these clothes since yesterday morning."

"Thanks _so_ much for sharing that with us," Marva said dryly.

"How was your flight?" Karrin asked Fletcher as she handed Scully another margarita.

"Not bad, once I finally got airborne." <And once my seatmate saw I was packing.> She reached around and rubbed the small of her back. "I've got to get in a hot shower. Hygiene issues aside, my back is killing me from sitting in those damn plastic chairs all last night."

"Would you like a backrub?" Scully asked, her tone of voice offering more than a simple backrub.

"Thanks, but not right now, Red. Maybe later," she smiled. <Definitely later.>

"I've got my bag in the car," Karrin said.

"I'll be fine, thanks. Besides, I can always call Scully."

"You're a doctor, Dana?" Karrin asked, surprised.

"Yes."

"I thought you were an FBI agent."

"I am. I'm also a forensic pathologist," she said modestly.

"Well, while you two talk shop," Fletcher interrupted, "I'm going to run upstairs and grab a quick shower." She gave Scully as quick kiss on the cheek before leaving the room.

"Where did you go to medical school?" Karrin asked after Fletcher had left the room.

"Johns Hopkins. And you?"

"Duke," she replied, glancing down at her sweatshirt. "Where did you do your undergrad?"

"I did a year at Berkeley, then finished up at Maryland. Where'd you go?"

"Minnesota. That's where I'm from," she explained.

"I am _so_ glad she put those snowshoes on and went as far as those little size sixes would take her," Marva said, taking Karrin's hand.

"So am I," Karrin agreed.

"Fletcher looks wiped out," Marva said sipping from her glass.

"Being on the road can do that to you."

"Did I hear you say she's going to be out of town most of the month?"

"She's got a flight at 6:30 Monday morning and won't be back until sometime Friday. Then she's got reserves next weekend, and leaves again the following Monday."

"I don't remember Fletcher ever traveling so much," Marva commented.

"I think this is a little out of the ordinary. There's been a shakeup in her department. As a matter of fact, Mulder and I are going on temporary assignment with ISU beginning December first."

"Really? You'll be working with Fletcher?" Marva looked over at Karrin, one eyebrow raised. <Another workplace romance? I don't know about that...> Karrin looked back at Marva and nodded once in agreement, as if she'd read Marva's thoughts.

"I think I'll be mostly in the path labs, and then maybe in the field doing autopsies. I doubt I'll work much with her or Mulder."

"How long is the assignment?"

"Six months." Scully swallowed the last of her drink. "Did Fletcher tell you that she was promoted this week?"

Karrin raised her eyebrows. "No. To what?"

"Second in charge."

"So, technically, Fletcher will be your boss then," Marva mused. <Forget the workplace romance. Fletcher'll be sleeping with another subordinate. Hope this one works out better than the last time.>

"I guess so. I never really thought about it that way."

Marva saw Dana's eyes light up. She didn't even have to turn around to know that Fletcher had returned. Marva looked over her shoulder anyway, if only to confirm it. Fletcher stood in the doorway, her hair wet and combed straight back. She wore a pair of faded jeans, a plain t-shirt and a navy v-necked sweater. <She's still got it,> Marva thought with a tiny little twinge of regret. <She does casual better than anyone else I know.>

"Can I interest anyone in some dinner?" Fletcher asked. "I'm starving."

"Sure," Karrin said.

"I definitely need to eat something," Scully said, "or I'm going to be passed out by seven o'clock from all the drinking."

"I should've warned you," Fletcher said with a grin. "When you party with these two, you _party_."

"Little too late to warn her now," Marva laughed.

"Guess it'll be Mexican tonight," Fletcher said, looking at the margarita in her hand.

"Yup," Marva said. "Ready for another, Fletcher? I was just getting ready to mix up another batch."

"Why not? I'll just warn you now. If I drink too many of your margaritas with only a few hours of sleep, well, you could very well be putting me to bed in no time."

<Sounds like a good idea to me> Scully thought. <I'd enjoy putting you to bed right now, Fletcher.> She looked at Fletcher and caught her eye. Fletcher winked at her, then smiled. <I _know_ Fletcher's thinking the same thing.>

"Well, let me see what I can whip up for all of us," Fletcher said, leading the group to the kitchen.


Saturday, 9:50 PM

Marva looked over at Fletcher and Scully, who were sitting cozily together on the couch. Fletcher's long legs were stretched out in front of her and her feet rested on the coffee table. Her arm was across Scully's shoulders. Scully's hand rested on Fletcher's thigh. <Fletcher has _never_ been affectionate with _any_ woman in front of us. I don't think she showed Clarice this much affection in all the time they were together.> Marva smiled to herself. <Oh, how the mighty have fallen. And she certainly has fallen hard.>

"Okay, how about this," Marva said. "Provincetown, 1994."

"Oh, no, don't remind me," Fletcher said, covering her face.

A wicked smile appeared on Marva's face. "You should've seen her," she said to Scully.

"It wasn't that funny," Fletcher grumbled through her hands.

"Sure it was." Marva settled back against Karrin's shoulder.

"What happened?" Scully asked.

"We'd rented a house at the beach. The second night there we went out dancing and drinking. Karrin and I left before closing. We didn't see Fletcher again until she stumbled in the next morning."

"Tequila shooters," Fletcher groaned, recalling how hung over she'd been.

"Poor baby." There was no sympathy in Marva's voice. "Served you right."

"Marva and I spent the day in town, shopping," Karrin continued the story. "When we came back, we found Fletcher sleeping it off on the patio. She'd fallen asleep on her stomach, her head turned to one side."

"I was _so_ sunburned," Fletcher explained.

"She sure was," Marva agreed. "Her back, the back of her legs..."

"And only one side of her face. It looked like someone had taken a magic marker and colored one side of her face red," Karrin laughed. "And the front of her legs were white and the backs of her legs were red. I don't think I've ever seen a sunburn quite like that."

Scully joined in their laughter. Fletcher scowled. "You wouldn't have thought it was so funny if it had happened to you."

"How many days did you stay inside?" Karrin teased. "I can't remember. Was it two or three?"

"Two, and I had to sleep on my stomach the rest of the time we were there."

Marva didn't add that Fletcher hadn't spent the whole time alone in bed either. <Dana doesn't need to hear _that_ part of the story. God, what were their names? The first one was that woman from Ireland, the nurse. She stayed over at least two nights. And then there was that lawyer from Boston. Diane. No, that's not it. Debbie. No, DeeDee. That was her name. DeeDee. I was glad _she_ didn't stick around. Yes, she was attractive, but what a snob. I saw through her in a New York minute.>

Fletcher's eyes met Marva's, her warning clear. <She's remembering too> Marva thought. She gave Fletcher a short nod in reply and briefly touched her index finger to her lips. <Message received, buddy. My lips are sealed on that one.>

"You don't strike me as the fair skinned type," Scully commented.

"Normally I don't burn, but I fell asleep for about six hours."

"Must've been some hangover," Scully teased.

"One of my worst, I admit."

"Maybe we can go back there again this summer," Marva suggested. "We haven't been there in what - two years?"

"Maybe, maybe," Fletcher said yawning.

"Fletcher, have you ever thought of a different line of work?" Marva asked. "This one seems to take so much out of you."

"Sometimes," she admitted, her fingers gently stroking Scully's neck.

"What would you do?"

"Well, I don't _have_ to work, you know."

"We know _that_. I'm just curious. If you could do anything else, what would it be?"

"I'd teach."

"Really? What?" Scully asked. "Psychology? Criminology?"

"Nope. Astronomy. I'd go back and get my doctorate, or at least my master's, in astronomy and then teach."

Scully was surprised at Fletcher's response, as was Marva and Karrin. "Astronomy? Why astronomy?"

"I always liked it. My dad and I used to sit out in the backyard and he'd tell me all about the stars and the constellations. When I was in college, I took as many classes in it as I could. I think every elective I had was a course in it." She took a sip from her glass. "What would you do?" she asked Marva. "If money were no object, what would you like to be doing?"

"Hmmm. Good question. Probably perform. I always wished I'd stuck with it a little longer, pursued an acting career a little harder."

"Drama? Comedy?" Fletcher asked.

"Probably comedy, but definitely on the stage. No movie or TV for this gal."

"You'd be very good," Karrin said, taking Marva's hand.

"I agree," Fletcher said with a smile. "You always had a flair for the dramatic."

"Smartass." Marva turned to Karrin. "What would you do, honey?"

"I'm doing what I always wanted to do now. I'm a doctor. But, if money were no object, I'd have my own pediatric clinic in the city. I think I could really make a difference there."

"That's my woman, 'Alberta Schweitzer.'" Marva gave Karrin a wide, warm smile.

"What about you, Scully?" Fletcher asked.

"I don't know. I never really gave it much thought."

"Surely you must've dreamed about a career or profession," Fletcher persisted.

"Well, I wanted a career in science, medicine to be exact. I've kind of got that now."

"Did you ever want to have your own practice?" Karrin asked.

"I thought I did. I contemplated a career in surgery, then pediatrics for a time, but I discovered I really didn't want that, didn't want to deal with patients," Scully admitted, hoping it didn't make her sound callous. "Pathology seemed to be the most logical course."

"Ever consider running the pathology department in a hospital, or teaching?" Karrin suggested.

"Well, I've already taught at the Bureau. I don't know. I guess I'm pretty content doing what I do."

Fletcher sensed Scully's discomfort. "I bet you've got a secret desire to be a mud wrestler," she joked, trying to lighten the mood.

"Hardly," Scully laughed. "But I must admit, being a roller derby queen seems kind of intriguing."

The others burst out laughing. Fletcher hooked her arm around Scully's neck and whispered into her ear, "I'd rather wrestle you." She kissed her once then released her.


Saturday, 11:35 PM

"We'll see you in the morning," Marva said as she and Karrin headed down the hallway to one of the spare bedrooms.

"I'll make breakfast once everyone's up," Fletcher replied, following Scully into the master bedroom. "Goodnight."

"'night, Fletcher, Dana."

Fletcher closed the door and immediately pulled Scully into her arms. "Finally."

"What?"

"We're finally alone."

She bent her head and gently kissed Scully on the lips. She felt Scully's hand move up to the back of her neck and she increased the pressure of the kiss. <I can still taste the salt of the margarita,> Fletcher thought as her tongue darted across Scully's lips. Scully opened her mouth, inviting Fletcher's tongue inside, and Fletcher happily obliged. They stood together in a passionate embrace, tongues dueling and dancing.

"I've missed you," Fletcher said, holding Scully tightly. "I'm just so tired of saying it, of having to say it."

"I know, I know," Scully whispered, stroking Fletcher's back.

<And I don't even know why I do. I just do. And it's not just the sex either,> Fletcher thought as stepped back and pulled off her sweater. <It's too much.> She tossed her sweater onto the chair, then kicked off the moccasins she was wearing.

"Do you want the bathroom first?" Fletcher asked, sitting down to take off her socks.

"No, go ahead," Scully replied, though she was confused. <What's the matter with her? One minute she's kissing me and holding me and the next minute she's all matter-of-fact.> "Fletcher?"

"What?" Fletcher looked up.

"Have I done something wrong?"

"No, Red," she said heavily. "I'm beat. I need some sleep."

<Just drop it, Dana. She's right. She's tired. That's probably all it is. And if it isn't, now is _not_ the time to be talking about it.>

When Scully came out of the bathroom, Fletcher was laying on top of the covers, clad in a t-shirt and a pair of plaid, flannel boxer shorts. <Glad I brought something to sleep in,> Scully thought, her disappointment rising to the surface once again. Fletcher's eyes were shut but Scully couldn't tell if she was asleep or not. "Fletcher?" she asked softly, sitting down on the bed.

"I'm awake, I'm awake," she replied somewhat groggily.

"It's okay. Go back to sleep."

"I'm really sorry, Red," she apologized as she crawled under the covers. "I'm so tired. I really do need to sleep."

"I know. It's all right." She slid in beside Fletcher. "We don't have to have sex every time we sleep together, you know," she said, taking Fletcher into her arms. Fletcher laid her head on Scully's shoulder and slipped an arm around her waist. "One more night won't kill us, I'm sure," she smiled, kissing the top of Fletcher's head. "I'm just glad we're not apart another night."

"Got that right," Fletcher agreed, her eyes closing.

Scully gently rubbed Fletcher's back until she fell asleep. <This feels so right, having Fletcher in my arms> she thought. <I don't know why, or how it even happened, but it feels like this is how it's supposed to be. I just hope I'm right, that Fletcher feels the same way.>


Sunday, 3:15 AM

Scully woke up with a start, not remembering her dream. She felt Fletcher's steady breaths warm against her neck, felt her arm around her waist, and she smiled. She took Fletcher's hand and moved it up to her breast as she pushed her ass back against Fletcher's groin. She covered Fletcher's hand with her own and began to massage her own breast. <It's been too long - again - since I've felt her touch.>

Fletcher stirred behind her, her body slowly waking. Her fingers began to knead Scully's nipples through the thin material of her t-shirt. Her lips found the back of Scully's neck, then her ear. She began to move her hips rhythmically against Scully's buttocks.

"You're awake," Fletcher murmured, feeling Scully's hard nipples.

Scully rolled over onto her back, pulling Fletcher on top of her. She slid her hands up Fletcher's back, under her t-shirt. She spread her legs and moaned softly when Fletcher settled between them.

Fletcher pushed up Scully's t-shirt as her mouth moved from Scully's neck to her breasts. Her tongue circled the hard nipples again and again, then she sucked hard, wanting to take in as much of the breast as she could. Her hand moved down and in one quick movement, tugged Scully's underpants off. Her fingers expertly sought out Scully's swollen, sensitive clit. She began to massage it slowly, rolling it between her fingers, dipping down only briefly to moisten her fingers, then returning.

"That feels so good..." Scully panted, raising one knee to give Fletcher better access. <Please... Fletcher... I need you in me...> Scully thought as she felt the pressure build.

As if sensing Scully's thoughts, Fletcher eased one finger deep inside. Scully exhaled loudly, as if she'd been holding her breath. Still keeping the pressure on Scully's clit, she added a second finger.

"Oh... yes... so good... so good..." Scully moaned, drawing the other knee up.

Fletcher kept pumping her fingers in a slow and steady rhythm, Scully's hips rocking with the motion. She felt Scully tighten around her fingers as her back arched up from the bed.

"Don't stop, Fletcher..." she pleaded. "Don't stop... I'm almost there..."

"Oh, yeah..." Fletcher panted, her face pressed against Scully's neck. "Come for me, Red..."

"Oh...oh, Fletcher...I'm coming..." she cried out, her body stiffening, her arms clutching Fletcher.

Fletcher showered her face with kisses, her body covering Scully's. She could feel Scully's body still tremble.

"You okay, Red?" she asked gently, her kiss soft on Scully's forehead.

"Oh, yes... I'm fine... Just give me a sec..."

"Take all the time you need..." Fletcher replied with a small smile, her body slipping off of Scully's. She wrapped her arm around Scully's waist once more as she rested her head on Scully's pillow. "Nice... Very nice..." Fletcher sighed as she drifted back to sleep.

End Chapter 3 of ?


<<Chapter 4>>

Sunday, November 8, 1998 8:15 AM

<Keep going, Buchanan... Just a little longer... You can do it.> Her heart was pounding, the sweat dripping off her face. She looked down at the Stairmaster's digital timer. <Five more minutes... Just five more minutes.> She grabbed the bars a little tighter and picked up the pace, her knees pumping higher with each step. <I am _so_ out of shape. It shouldn't be this hard.>

"There's a metaphor for you." Fletcher looked up. Marva stood in the doorway, watching her. "Running like hell," Marva continued, "not going anywhere."

Fletcher glared down at her. "What the hell's that supposed to mean?" she asked, irritated. <I don't have the time or the patience for guessing games today, Marva.>

"Just indulging my literary side. No need to snap my head off." She walked over to Fletcher and leaned against the handrail. "Someone get up on the wrong side of the bed this morning?"

Fletcher ignored Marva's comments. She drove herself a little harder over the last minute, then slowly eased back. When she stepped off the machine, Marva handed her the water bottle that sat on the bench.

"Thanks." She took a long swallow from the bottle, then wiped her face off on the towel draped around her neck. "I didn't expect to see you up so early."

"I guess my recovery time is better than Karrin's. How's Dana?"

"Sound asleep when I got up."

Fletcher set her bottle and towel down and walked over to the rack of dumbbells. She lifted one, then another. <I haven't lifted in over a week. Better take it easy.> She decided on one of the lighter sets. "Care to join me?"

"You know me better than that."

"Then why _are_ you here?" Fletcher asked warily, as she began to do arm curls, first the right arm, then the left, over and over.

She held out the CD marked '3G-I'. "I thought you might want some music to work out by."

"Where did you get _that_?" Fletcher eyed Marva suspiciously.

"Downstairs with all the others."

"I haven't listened to that in over a year," Fletcher said, wishing she didn't sound so defensive.

"Then you should get rid of it."

Fletcher's mouth was dry again, but the bottle was out of reach. "Scully didn't hear it, did she?"

"She was the one who found it."

<Great. Just great.> Fletcher grimaced. She stopped her arm curls and began to lift the weights together over her head, turning the dumbbells slowly and touching the ends together, then bringing them back down to shoulder height. "Do you think she knew what it was?"

"It was a little obvious," Marva snorted, rolling her eyes.

"And I'm sure a little storytelling on your part more than filled her in," Fletcher replied, her annoyance clear.

"'Storytelling' implies what I told her was fiction." Fletcher remained silent, her eyes dark. "Does Dana have anything to worry about?"

"What do you mean?"

Marva waved the CD in front of Fletcher. "Think you'll be needing _this_ any time soon?"

<I should have used it for skeet-shooting practice, not left it around for prying eyes.> "No, of course not."

"Then why don't you 'retire' it to the trash, where it belongs?" Marva suggested.

Fletcher didn't look at her. "I don't know."

"I'm sure it would make Dana feel a little less worried."

"I haven't given her any reason to be concerned," she protested.

"I'm sure you haven't. And I'm sure you haven't given her any reason to feel any more secure, either."

"What?"

"Does she know how you feel?"

"How can I tell her how I feel when _I_ don't even know how I feel?" Fletcher snapped, returning the weights to the rack.

"Bullshit."

Fletcher whirled on her. "Excuse me?"

It was wasted dramatics. Marva wasn't the least bit intimidated. "Come on, Fletcher, this is _me_ you're talking to. Maybe you can bullshit yourself, but not me."

Fletcher remained silent as she put weights onto an empty barbell, then started her next set of exercises. She tried not to think about Marva's comments. It was kind of difficult, what with Marva standing in front of her, arms folded. <She won't quit. She never does. Why do I put up with it?> she thought. <Maybe 'cause she's one of the best friends I have. Maybe because she's right?>

"Can I ask a question?" Marva inquired, sitting down on the bench.

"Why ask permission? It never stopped you from asking me anything before," she replied with a crooked half-smile on her face.

"What are you so afraid of?"

Fletcher stopped, her arms flexed, the bar under her chin. She slowly lowered it to her waist, then onto the floor. "I can see I'm not going to have much of a workout this morning," she replied, picking up her towel. Marva smiled and raised one eyebrow, waiting. "Marva, I've been shot at, been in a car accident, stared down some of the most evil, most despicable men this country has ever seen, but in all honesty, I was never scared. Angry, maybe. Disgusted, sure. Scared, never."

That statement won her an appraising look. "And that tiny woman sleeping in your bed right now scares you?"

"Frankly, I don't know what scares me more," Fletcher confessed. "Losing her or having her in my life."

"Why don't you tell her how you feel?"

"I don't want to scare her away," she said, sitting down beside Marva.

"Scare her away?"

"Suppose she doesn't feel the same way?"

"I don't think you have anything to worry about there, buddy," Marva smiled reassuringly.

"And then there's... Well, did you know I'm the first woman she's been involved with?"

"Yes. So what?"

"So she could very easily decide to go back to men. This lifestyle isn't the easiest in the world. Or maybe she'll get tired of me and want to see other women."

"Not everybody thinks the way you do - _did_. And Dana certainly doesn't strike me as the type to bed-hop out of so-called boredom."

Fletcher looked out the window. A slight breeze was gently stirring the few remaining leaves in the trees. "Bored? Is _that_ what I've been?"

"Among other things." Marva smiled and put her hand on Fletcher's arm. "I think you need to take a chance here, Fletcher. I don't want to be too pushy, but you two belong together. You've got some sort of connection, some bond between you, that I've never seen for you before. Not even with Clarice."

Fletcher smiled now. "You think so, huh?"

"I _know_ so. And I know something else, Eudora Fletcher Buchanan." Fletcher cringed at the use of the dreaded first name. "History had better not repeat itself. If you do to Dana what you did to Clarice, Dana won't get the chance to shoot you. I'll do it myself." Marva said it with a smile, but her warning was clear.


Sunday, 9:30 AM

Fletcher was chopping up scallions when Scully walked into the kitchen. There were several small bowls atop the counter, filled with diced ham, peppers, shredded cheese, and mushrooms.

"Good morning," Scully said, slipping her arms around Fletcher's waist, her face pressed against Fletcher's back.

Fletcher set her knife down and turned around. Scully had a wide, warm smile on her face. <A smile just for me,> Fletcher thought, her heart suddenly filling. <When has anyone looked at me this way?> "Good morning." Fletcher kissed Scully lightly on the lips and put her hands on Scully's hips. "I wondered when you were going to get up."

"I guess I was more tired than I thought."

"You didn't even budge when I took my shower."

"You should've woken me up. I would've washed your back," Scully said, her smile turning sly.

"I'm sure." Fletcher grinned.

"Anyone else up yet?"

"Marva's been up for some time. She just went up to see if Karrin's awake."

"Can I give you hand with anything?" Scully asked, her voice a bit flirtatious. She moved her hands to Fletcher's small, firm ass and gently squeezed.

"What did you have in mind?"

"What do you _want_ me to do?" Scully licked her lips and Fletcher almost groaned.

"I, uh, I think I'm all set. You can make a fresh pot of coffee, I guess."

"That's all?" Scully raised one eyebrow.

"For now," Fletcher assured her. Suddenly she pulled Scully close and hugged her affectionately. "I'm glad you're here." She kissed Scully on the top of her head. "I really like having you around."

"Hope you don't have anything burning on the stove," Marva interrupted, walking into the room, a broad smile on her face.

"Not yet," Fletcher said, stepping back from Scully.

"Karrin will be right down," Marva said, pouring herself a cup of coffee.

"Omelettes okay for breakfast?" Fletcher asked, returning to her food preparations.

"Sounds good to me."

"Scully, would you set the dining room table for me?" Fletcher asked.

"Your wish is my command," she smiled as she left the room.

"Are those your home fries that I smell?" Marva said, lifting the lid off the skillet on the stove.

"Yup."

<Yum.> "Now if I could just get you to fix some grits like a true Southerner." Fletcher made a face, cracking Marva up. "Guess not. Too many years of that damned Yankee education." Marva speared a potato. "You're going all out this morning." She blew on the potato before popping it into her mouth. <Mmmmm. Rapture. One of these days, I'm gonna torture her until she tells me what she seasons these with.>

"I haven't had a home cooked meal all week. I'm sick of restaurant food. Even worse, airline food."

"What else are we having?"

"There are bagels and a bowl of fresh fruit that I cut up this morning in the 'fridge."

"You've been a busy girl this morning."

"Uh huh. Nothing but the best for my friends."

"For which my stomach is eternally grateful."


Sunday, 11:00 AM

Fletcher had been fairly quiet all through brunch. It was a contented silence. She was just happy to sit back and listen to the others talk, happy to just look at Scully. She leaned back in her chair and smiled. <Scully really gets along well with Marva and Karrin. I could be wrong, but I bet she's laughed more this weekend than she has in the past year.>

Scully caught her eye and she beamed at Fletcher. <She takes my breath away> Fletcher thought. She reached to her left and took Scully's hand. She continued to listen to Marva tell another story while she continued to hold Scully's hand.

Marva noticed the exchanged smiles and the hand-holding, but didn't say anything, didn't interrupt her story. <Don't let go of her, Fletcher,> she thought. <Dana is so good for you.>

"Can I get anyone anything else?" Fletcher asked, getting up from the table.

"Another cup of coffee, please," Karrin requested blearily. Although she'd had four Advil and two helpings, she still felt the worse for wear. <Never again,> she swore, not for the first time.

"Scully, Marva? More coffee?"

"Sure thanks."

"Why don't you guys go into the den?" Fletcher suggested. "I'll bring the coffee in there."

Minutes later they were all in the den with fresh cups of coffee. Fletcher slid open the door to the patio to let in some fresh air. "What a nice day it is," Scully commented.

"Won't be too many more of them," Fletcher replied.

"Will you ever put a pool in?" Marva asked as she looked at the large backyard.

"Not until I'm home often enough to enjoy it and take care of it. Maybe when I retire." Fletcher smiled an 'I know something you don't know' smile. "I am, however, giving myself a late birthday present next month."

"What?" Marva was curious.

"I ordered a Jacuzzi for the patio. It'll be big enough for six people."

"When's it coming," Karrin asked.

"Sometime in December," Fletcher answered, sitting down beside Scully.

"Well, you can be sure _we'll_ be over more than just a few times a year," Marva sighed.

"I was counting on it." Fletcher laughed.

"I hope it's in by New Year's." Marva grinned. "The idea of celebrating the New Year in a Jacuzzi with a bottle of champagne rather appeals to me." She looked at Karrin and smiled. "Maybe we should get one, hon."

"Let's get the house first, Marva."

"Will you be house hunting soon?" Fletcher asked.

Marva took Karrin's hand. "We've already started."

"The week after they made me an Attending at St. John's, we talked to a realtor."

"Hot damn," Fletcher enthused. "It's about time you two left the apartment life behind."

"Are you looking in any particular area?" Scully asked, her hand dropping from Fletcher's shoulder to her leg.

"Well, Georgetown is out of our price range," Karrin said. "We're thinking Arlington, but we really need a place that's close to both of our jobs."

"Let me know if you're having any trouble," Scully offered. "I've got a cousin who's a realtor in the D.C. area."

Marva threw a grin at Fletcher. "She's useful."

Fletcher gave Scully's hand a squeeze, then she draped her arm across the back of couch behind her. Her hand rested on Scully's shoulder. "I like to think so."

Scully shifted and moved closer to Fletcher. <I like it when she puts her arm around me> Scully thought. <I feel closer to her somehow.>

Marva watched them carefully. <We should leave. They need some time alone.> She looked at Karrin and gestured with her eyes. Karrin glanced at Fletcher and Scully, then nodded once to Marva.

"I think we're going to head home now," Marva said, getting up from the loveseat.

"Don't go," Scully objected.

"Sure. Just eat and run," Fletcher quipped.

<No, that's something _you're_ famous for, Fletcher> Marva was tempted to say. She smiled. <I guess I'll be watching what I say from now on.>

"No, responsibility calls. We've got a ton of things we need to do today," Karrin assured them.

"Are you sure you can't stay longer?"

Karrin exchanged another quick smile with Marva. "Positive."


Marva hugged Scully at the front door. "Come by and see us, Dana. You're always welcome, with or without Fletcher."

"Thanks, I will."

"And don't hesitate to call if you're feeling lonely." She pulled back so Scully could see her grin. "I know what it's like when your sweetheart isn't home because of work."

Scully gave Marva's arms a squeeze. "I will, thanks." <New friends. Haven't made many of _those_ in a while.> They gave each other one more hug.

Marva turned her attention to Fletcher as Karrin and Scully said their goodbyes. She hugged her and whispered, "remember our talk."

"Uh huh," Fletcher grunted. "Thanks for coming over."

"Thanks for having us. We'll do this again soon."

"Yes, we will. I'll call you when I get back."


Marva waved to Fletcher and Scully as Karrin turned the Saab around. "What a picture of domestic bliss."

"What?"

"Just look."

Karrin looked out the open window. Fletcher stood beside Scully, her arm across her shoulders. Scully's arm was around Fletcher's waist and she was leaning against Fletcher. They were both smiling and waving. Karrin whistled as she put the car into gear and started down the driveway. "I never thought I'd see _that_ with Fletcher."

"No lie," Marva agreed.

"Funny, I didn't _hear_ any reports of hell freezing over," Karrin cracked.

"There wasn't anything on the news about pigs flying either," Marva added, joining Karrin in her laughter.

End Chapter 4 of ?


<<Chapter 5>>

Sunday, 12:15 PM

Fletcher closed the front door behind them. "Red, I've got some stuff I've got to get done today - packing, laundry, that kind of thing," she said, as she put her hands in her pockets. "You can hang around here if you want," she added rather off-hand.

"Do you want me to?"

"You know I do."

<No, I _don't_ know you do, Fletcher. Tell me that you want me to stay.>

Fletcher headed for the staircase. "Got to polish that paperwork. You can set up your laptop down here or in Mulder's room, if you want."

"I'll work down here," Scully said with a sigh, watching Fletcher take the stairs two at a time.


Sunday, 5:00 PM

Scully finished the last paragraph of the last report and looked at her watch. <Five hours. Enough is enough> she thought as she saved the file and closed her laptop. <I wonder if Fletcher's ready to stop for the night.> Except for refills on iced tea and the occasional kind word on the way to the laundry room, she hadn't seen Fletcher to speak to all afternoon. Scully poured herself a glass of wine and headed upstairs. She quietly walked to the doorway of Fletcher's office, but stopped.

Fletcher was sitting in front of her desk, her PC and her laptop both on. She was leaning back in her chair, holding the photograph of herself with Clarice Starling and Mulder. Scully couldn't see Fletcher's expression, and she was too far away to catch the reflection in the PC monitor. After a few more moments Fletcher sighed loudly, then opened her bottom desk drawer. She dropped the framed photograph in, closed the drawer without hesitation, and went back to whatever she was typing.

Scully silently backed out of the room, hoping that Fletcher hadn't seen her. She leaned against the wall, out of sight. A dozen questions bounced through Scully's mind. <I wonder what _that_ means? Has she finally put Clarice behind her? Why now?>

She took a deep breath, then called out, "Fletcher?"

The typing ceased. "What?"

Scully walked into the room, trying to look casual. "Do you want something to eat? I thought I'd fix us some supper."

"I'll pass on anything fancy," she answered, taking off her glasses and rubbing her eyes. "I guess I'll just have some of the leftover fruit."

"Do you want me to bring a bowl up to you?"

"Thanks, no. I'm almost done here. I'll come downstairs in a few."

"Okay."


Fletcher came down a short time later, carrying her bag and her briefcase. She set them down by the door to the garage. As she came into the kitchen, she set a slip of paper on the counter. "Something smells good."

"Grilled cheese sandwich," Scully informed her. "I wasn't in the mood for fancy, either."

"Enough left to make another one?"

"Thought you weren't hungry," Scully teased.

"I was wrong." Fletcher put her arms around Scully's waist. "Laundry's done and my bags are packed. I've just got to put them in the car tonight, save myself the time in the morning." "What time are you getting up?"

"Good question. Hmmm. I've got to be at the airport no later than 5:15. I won't have to worry about traffic at that hour so I'll probably get up around 4:00."

"Which means an early night for you, I suppose."

"Well, since you mentioned it," Fletcher said with a smile, "I was thinking that a long, hot bath before going to bed seemed like a good idea. I was wondering if you'd like to join me after we have some supper."

"I'd like that," Scully said, her hands slowly rubbing Fletcher's lower back. "I'd like that a lot."

"Good."

"What's that?" Scully asked, looking over at the paper on the counter.

"Just my itinerary for the week. I thought you might want it."

"Thanks," she said neutrally. <And if you don't stop being so indifferent, I think I'm going to scream.>


Sunday, 6:00 PM

"What a great bathtub," Scully said, watching Fletcher turn on the faucet to the old fashioned tub. It was longer, wider and deeper than most bathtubs. <Plenty of room for the two of us> Scully thought with a smile as she pulled off her shirt, then her bra.

"When I had the bathroom re-modeled three years ago, I had to order this special." Fletcher took off her own shirt and bra and tossed them into the hamper. She turned to face Scully just as she was stepping out of her pants. <Goddess, she's beautiful,> Fletcher thought, holding her breath at seeing Scully naked before her.

"Can I give you a hand with these?" Scully asked, her index fingers tugging on the belt loops of Fletcher's jeans.

"Be my guest," Fletcher grinned.

"I'm glad I'm not in any kind of a hurry," Scully said with a frustrated smile as she struggled with Fletcher's jeans.

"Why's that?" Fletcher asked as she kissed Scully's neck, her fingers lightly tracing the swell of Scully's breasts.

"Button fly jeans?" She made a face. "What a pain these are."

"Don't you like a challenge?" Fletcher's fingertips moved to Scully's nipples. "Won't it make it all that more worthwhile?"

"I'd probably have a lot more success if you'd stop distracting me," she complained, but only half-seriously.

"Then why don't you let me take them off?" Fletcher suggested.

"Give me a minute."

"Take all the time you need." Fletcher laughed. "I'm not going anywhere."

"Got it," Scully exclaimed as she unfastened the last button. She slid her hands inside of Fletcher's jeans and cupped Fletcher's ass. She pulled Fletcher close, her breasts touching Fletcher's stomach, her face between Fletcher small breasts. <So good... It feels _so_ good to have her skin against mine...> Scully thought.

"Plenty of time for this later," Fletcher said, her lips finding Scully's shoulder. "We'd better get into the tub now, or the water will get cold."

"Aye, aye, captain," Scully replied, reluctantly parting from Fletcher.

Scully stepped into the tub as Fletcher shucked the rest of her clothes off. She sat down and leaned back, the water deep enough to cover her breasts.

"This feels wonderful," Scully sighed.

"Hey, where am I supposed to sit?" Fletcher asked.

"Right here," Scully said, "in front of me."

Fletcher turned off the water, then climbed into the tub. Scully spread her legs, and Fletcher sat between them. "Got enough room?" she asked Scully.

"I'm fine."

Scully began to knead the broad shoulders in front of her. Fletcher's head dropped and her shoulders sagged.

"That feels great, Scully."

"Well, I did promise you a backrub yesterday."

"Better late than never." Fletcher sighed. "And it's well worth the wait."

"Where did you get your tattoo?" Scully asked, her fingers gently tracing the anchors, shield and eagle on Fletcher's right shoulder blade. <It's the Naval officer's crest> Scully thought. <I'd know that anywhere.>

"Where or when?"

"Both."

"San Diego, when I was 'regular' Navy. When a bunch of us got our first promotions to j.g., we all went out drinking. A veteran warrant officer took us around town. We ended up very drunk and in a tattoo parlor." Fletcher smiled, remembering. "He told us it was an initiation that we all had to go through."

"How many of you had it done?"

"Five guys, two women. Only two backed out." She smiled again as she felt Scully's lips press lightly against the tattoo. "Why are you asking me now?"

"Well, I never really had a good look at it before. It just dawned on me tonight that my brother Charlie has the same tattoo in exactly the same spot."

"Was he ever stationed in San Diego?"

"For a year, right after Annapolis."

"I'll have to ask him about it when I meet him," Fletcher said as leaned back against Scully once again. "Speaking of tattoos, where'd you get yours? Ouroboros, isn't it?"

"Yes." <I know I shouldn't be surprised that Fletcher knows what it is, but I don't think I've ever met anyone who's ever heard of it. Must be that photographic memory of hers. She must've read it somewhere.> "I got it almost two years ago when I was, uh, a little too drunk. I was in Philadelphia on a case."

"I didn't want to say anything, but you're the last person I expected to see with a tattoo."

"It was not a good time in my life," Scully said, her voice quiet. She flashed back on Ed Jerse, and Leonard Betts. Her hand instinctively went to the back of her neck and she touched the small scar. She briefly fingered the scar, then dropped her hand back to Fletcher's shoulder.

Fletcher kept silent. Something in Scully's voice told her not to pry any further. <I already know about the cancer, Red. Mulder told me all about it - years ago - and your abduction, too. He _didn't_ tell me about the tattoo, though. Does he even know you have it? Hmmm. I wonder...>

Fletcher stretched her legs out, then put her hand on Scully's knee. "Red, did you ever think you'd be sitting in a tub with another woman?" she asked, changing the topic.

"If you'd asked me that two - no three - months ago, I would've said no. It's not that I was opposed to it, I just never considered it an option." She began to rub Fletcher's shoulders once again. "I guess I'm more surprised that I'm seeing _anyone_. I never thought I had the time; never really wanted to find the time, I guess." She kissed Fletcher's shoulder. <I suppose I should be more shocked about it, but it feels so right to be with Fletcher. Maybe I wouldn't feel that way about another woman. Maybe it's just Fletcher.>

Fletcher leaned back against Scully, resting her head on Scully's shoulder. Scully wrapped her arms around Fletcher, her arms crisscrossing Fletcher in a quasi-possessive hug. She kissed Fletcher's temple. <I've grown very fond of you, Fletcher. Maybe more than just fond... I just wish I knew if you felt the same.>

Instead of telling Fletcher how she felt, she asked, "Have you always known about yourself?"

"That I was gay?"

"Yes."

"I guess I always knew I was different. It just took me a little while to figure out what it was that made me feel different." Fletcher had a small smile on her face. "It took me a little longer to act on the feelings."

"How old were you?"

"Seventeen. When I was in college."

"Did you ever have sex with a man?"

"Nope. Never wanted to. Even when I was still figuring it out about myself, I never had any desire. And after my first time with a woman, there was no going back. It just confirmed what I guess I knew all along."

"Have there really been all that many women, Fletcher?"

Fletcher's body tensed. "Have there been a lot of men for you, Scully?" she replied, not answering the question.

"Touche'," Scully said quietly.

"Does it really matter, as long as you're the only one I'm seeing now?"

"No, I suppose not."

"And if you're concerned about AIDS, don't be," she continued, her voice defensive. "I've been tested, more than once, and I'm negative. And I haven't been with any women in more than a year. Can you say the same?"

"Yes. I can."

Fletcher took several deep breaths, forcing herself to get over her anger. <Little touchy, aren't we, Buchanan. Of course she's going to be worried. Who knows what Marva and Mulder have been telling her. And yeah, let's be honest. The past is finally catching up to me - the one time I really don't want it to.>

"Fletcher?" Scully asked, her hands stroking Fletcher's upper arms.

"Yeah?"

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have brought it up. That's your past. It's not _our_ past."

"Don't apologize. I'm just a little overly sensitive on the topic." Fletcher turned her head and kissed Scully's cheek. "I would never... Not to you, Red," she stammered. "I couldn't... I just... I don't think of you that way..."

Scully lifted her hand to Fletcher's face, her fingers trailing down her jaw line. <I believe her,> Scully thought, looking into Fletcher's eyes. Fletcher shifted, twisting her body. She reached up and brought Scully's head down and kissed her deeply on the mouth. She groaned when Scully opened her mouth, drawing in her tongue.

"I think we should go to bed now," Fletcher said, kissing Scully's throat.

"I think you're right."


After toweling Scully off, then herself, Fletcher took Scully's hand and led her the few steps to the bedroom, then the bed. She turned the covers back and waited for Scully to get on the bed before she climbed in beside her. Fletcher lay on her side, facing Scully, who was also on her side. She slowly ran her hand up and down Scully's torso.

Fletcher looked directly into Scully's eyes. <Tonight, Red, tonight I want to make love to you. Not have sex. Make love.> She reached up and tucked a few stray strands of Scully's hair behind her ear. <I hope I can at least show you how I feel.>

<She's got such an intense look on her face> Scully thought. <I feel like her eyes are looking right through me, right into my heart.> She moved into Fletcher's arms, her legs intertwining with Fletcher's.

Fletcher kissed Scully once. "Do you have any idea how beautiful you are?" she asked.

"You're embarrassing me."

"Don't be. You're a very beautiful, very desirable woman."

She leaned her body into Scully's, easing Scully onto her back. Every touch of Scully's body sent sparks through Fletcher's body. <I've never wanted anyone so much...never wanted to make love to anyone more...> She placed a soft kiss on Scully's forehead. <And Goddess help me, I do love her...> She returned to Scully's mouth, kissing her over and over. Her kisses weren't passionate, but loving, full of feeling.

<It's different> Scully thought, her desire growing. <Not better, not worse, just different. It's more...> She spread her legs, pressing one thigh between Fletcher's legs. Her arms went around Fletcher's neck as Fletcher's mouth moved down to her breasts.

"Oh," Scully exhaled when she felt Fletcher's lips on her nipple. "So nice..."

Fletcher groaned her response, her tongue gently circling one nipple, then the other. <I could do this for hours,> Fletcher thought <But not now... There's so much more that I want to do for her...> She lifted her body and began to kiss her way down Scully's body, all the while her hands caressed Scully's hips and thighs.

She dropped her hands to the inside of Scully's thighs and gently spread her legs. Scully half-moaned, half-sighed at Fletcher's actions. Fletcher placed her thumbs on either side of Scully's clit and began to massage the base of it. She placed her lips over it and gently sucked. Scully's moans grew louder and her hands dropped to the back of Fletcher's head. Fletcher began to slowly explore every fold and crevice with her tongue, all the while she keeping the pressure with her thumbs.

"Oh, Fletcher... that feels really good... Oh, yeah... like that... don't stop..."

<She's so wet> Fletcher thought as she gently lapped at Scully's slit. <She's ready for me now, but not yet...> She stiffened her tongue and started to drive it into Scully. She felt Scully's hips thrust up from the bed.

"Please, Fletcher..." <I'm going to explode... it's too much... it's never been like this before...>

Fletcher returned her mouth to Scully's clit. She started to nibble at it with her lips, slowly at first, teasing it with her tongue. Scully's hands ran wildly through Fletcher's hair, urging her. Fletcher kept the fingers from one hand near Scully's clit and continued to rub the base of it. She slid her other hand down and began to stroke Scully with her fingers.

"I'm almost there... Oh God, Fletcher..."

Fletcher's drove two fingers deep inside of Scully as she repeatedly pumped her hips against the bed, her own climax imminent. Scully moaned again, almost a whimper, then she cried out, her hips thrashing wildly.

"Fletcher..." she sobbed out loud.

Fletcher felt Scully's orgasm rocket through her body, then her own followed seconds later. "Scully...." she moaned into Scully's stomach. <Oh Goddess, the stars...>

She quickly moved back up and took Scully in her arms. They clutched one another tightly, not wanting to let go. Scully could feel Fletcher's pulse in her neck, and she kissed it. She knew her own heartbeat was racing just as fast as Fletcher's.

Fletcher felt her body finally relax. It was then that she noticed the tears on Scully's face. "You okay, Red?" she asked gently.

Scully put her hand on her own cheek, startled to find it wet. <That's never happened before...> She looked up at Fletcher and gently touched her damp fingers to Fletcher's lips. Fletcher kissed her fingertips, then kissed the tears from her cheeks. Scully kissed Fletcher tenderly on the lips, then buried her face against the hollow of her neck. She held on to Fletcher, not knowing how to tell her how she felt, afraid of telling her how she felt.

"I've never cried before... from coming..."

"It was special for me, too, Red..." Fletcher admitted, her lips pressing against Scully's forehead in a soft kiss. "I've never come just from... without being touched..."

"I'm glad," Scully whispered. "So glad... I could do that for you..."

"Red, what you do for me-" She stopped, and then just kissed Scully, soft and long and loving.


Monday, 3:50 AM

Fletcher opened her eyes and looked at the clock. <Good. The alarm won't go off and wake her up.> She carefully slid her arm out from underneath Scully's neck. She reached over and re-set the alarm for 6:00. <If only it weren't so damned early,> she thought with some regret. <I'd consider waking her up.> She quietly got out of bed and went into the bathroom.

Fletcher took a quick, cool shower just to wake up and to clear her thoughts of the previous night. She dressed in layers because there was frost on the windows. <First one of the season.> She sat down on the edge of the bed beside Scully. She put her hand on Scully's hip and gave her a quick kiss. Scully smiled and mumbled something unintelligible.

"I re-set the alarm for you," Fletcher said softly.

"Mmmm... thanks," Scully replied, half-asleep.

Fletcher looked at her watch and said, "I've got to leave now or I'll miss my plane."

"Call me," Scully said sleepily, pulling the covers up to her chin.

"When I can. I'll see you on Friday." She stood up, then leaned over and kissed Scully softly on the cheek. "Love you. 'bye."

End Chapter 5 of ?


<<Chapter 6>>

Thursday, November 12, 11:45 AM

Scully stared at her monitor. 'You have 0 unread messages' was displayed cruelly across the top. <Damn. More than three days and not one phone call. Not even a single lousy email.> She sighed, unaware that it was loud enough for Mulder to hear.

"Scully?"

She took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes. <I didn't expect it to hurt this much.>

"Scully?" Mulder repeated. "Hello? Anybody in there?"

She looked up. "Did you say something?"

"What's so fascinating on your computer?" he asked, getting up from his desk.

"Nothing, Mulder." She quickly closed the Internet connection before Mulder could look over her shoulder.

"Well, something's sure caught your interest. You've been staring at it for the past half an hour."

"I have not."

<Something's going on with her. I just don't know what. She was fine on Monday. Maybe a little _too_ cheerful for my taste,> He grinned inwardly <but I'm sure that was because she spent the weekend with Fletcher.> The past few days, he'd silently watched her mood deteriorate. <It can't be Fletcher. She's been out of town all week. At least I _hope_ it's not Fletcher.>

"Let's go get some lunch. I'm starving."

"When aren't you?" she said dryly.

"Well, I don't know about you, but I'm going to take advantage of all of these great restaurants in town before we get stuck out in Quantico. You know they don't have the variety that we have here."

"I suppose."

"C'mon," he cajoled. "We haven't been out to lunch all week."

"All right," she said resignedly, taking her purse out of her desk drawer.

- - - -

"So, have you got a birthday present for Fletcher yet?" he asked as they waited for their food.

"No. Have you?" she shot back.

"Not yet. I thought I'd look this weekend. She's hard to shop for. I mean, what do you give the woman who has everything? If she doesn't have it, she goes out and buys it."

"It's not like she's got a 'collection' that she can add to - unlike some people I know," Scully smirked.

Mulder ignored her remarks. "Usually I try to get tickets to some game, but with the NBA on strike, or lockout, or whatever it is they're calling it, and the Redskins playing so poorly, that idea's no good." He munched on a breadstick. "I suppose I could look at hockey tickets. We haven't been to a Caps game in a long time."

Scully sipped from her glass of water. "I don't even know when or if we'll be celebrating it. She's going to be out of town next week, too." <I don't even know if I'm going to be seeing her at all. If we don't talk soon·>

"Is that what's got you so moody?" he asked solicitously.

"I'm not moody, Mulder."

"Right," he said sarcastically.

The waiter returned with their food - a salad for her and a steak 'n cheese sandwich for him.

"Don't you get tired of eating the same old thing?" he said. "It's always salad, salad, salad."

<I'm not eating the 'same old thing' anymore. I've changed _some_ of my eating habits,> she thought wickedly. She smiled to herself, deciding that some things were better left unsaid.

"How do you think I keep my girlish figure?" she said with a straight face.

Mulder cocked one eyebrow. <Yup. No doubt about it. Being with Fletcher has certainly improved Scully's sense of humor.> "Behold my sandwich," he said gesturing with both hands to the plate in front of him.

<Oh, boy, there he goes. Off on another tangent.> Scully rolled her eyes.

"Depending on where you're from, this could be called many things. A Philly Cheesesteak, a sub, a torpedo, a hoagie, a grinder-"

"Grinder?" Scully interrupted. "That doesn't sound very appetizing. Where do they call them _grinders_?"

"New England."

"Mulder, you're just a fountain of information. How did I ever get through life without you?"

"I ask myself the same thing every day," he replied taking a bite out of his sandwich.

She chuckled for his benefit, but it was a short effort. "Mulder?"

Following his mother's admonitions, he waited until he swallowed before he said, "What?"

<No, I can't talk to him about it. He wouldn't understand. He'd kill Fletcher first, ask questions later. He's a lot like my brother Bill that way, but I would never tell Mulder that. He'd kill _me_.>

"How do you feel about going back to ISU? We've never really talked about the transfer."

"I'm not happy because I think we should be back on the X-Files. On the other hand, it beats having to be on 'bullshit' investigations." He stuffed a few chips into his mouth. "I swear, if I had to hear one more farmer talk about his beet crop or whatever, I was going to build my own bomb with the fertilizer." He wiped his mouth with his napkin. "What about you?"

She thought for a moment. "Well, I guess I'm looking forward to using my skills again."

"Just straightforward autopsies, Scully. No aliens, no exploding bodies, no green goo," he said with a smile.

"It'll be less dangerous than the X-Files."

"And not as boring as what we're doing now," he agreed, then added, "but still boring."

"Do you think we'd get to work together at all?"

"Probably." <That can't be what's bothering her. We've been split up before. And we'll at least be in the same department.> "As I understand it, the forensics staff gets assigned on a rotating basis. Whoever's next up on the board, gets the job, unless it relates to a case you've worked before."

"So I could work with Fletcher?"

"Yup." <She doesn't look very happy about that. How come?> "You'll be working with everyone in the department, including the staff not at Quantico."

<Clarice Starling,> Scully thought suddenly. <I could be working with her. Oh, great. And if Fletcher and I don't work it out soon, then I'm looking at a _long_ six months.> "Mulder, what was Fletcher's working relationship with Starling like?"

"Well, you have to understand the circumstances. When Starling came into ISU, BSU back then, she skipped the mandatory two year field assignment. They brought her right into the department. I guess it was all that publicity with Lecter and Buffalo Bill. And it was a politically connected, high profile case. I don't think the Bureau could afford _not_ to have her in BSU."

"When did she start working with Fletcher?"

"Not right away. Fletcher was overseas during all this, or she would've been working the case. She'd had some contact with Lecter, but I'm guessing she wouldn't have used him to get to Buffalo Bill." He flagged down the waiter and ordered a piece of pie for dessert. "You want anything, Scully?"

"No, thanks."

He waited until the waiter left their table before continuing. "Starling took a lot of crap from the guys in the department. They resented her immediate success, her coming into the department without putting in the time in the field, the fact that she got the case when everyone knew Fletcher would've worked it. It wasn't a good time for her. She couldn't even walk through the office without some asshole whistling 'Buffalo Gals' under their breath, just loud enough for her to hear it."

Scully could empathize with what Starling had gone through. She herself had experienced something similar all through med school and at the academy. And of course there were all the whispers after she'd joined the X-Files. Mulder thought she hadn't heard them, didn't know about them. But she had.

"When Fletcher returned, it was quite the scene. She walks into the office, still in her dress whites, wearing all those ribbons and medals and whatnot. Everyone made such a fuss about it." He took a sip from his coffee cup. "And then she did something very classy. She went through the office, saying hello to everyone. When she got to Starling, she shook her hand, said 'pleased to meet you. Nice job on Buffalo Bill' then continued on. She didn't have to say anything. Made a hell of an impression on Starling and me. She made her point about Starling's ability without really making a big deal."

"So that's when they started working together?"

"No, Starling was still working with Jack Crawford. Occasionally, she'd go out on a case with me or Fletcher or both of us, but she stayed with Crawford until his retirement. Crawford wanted Starling brought along as slowly as possible." When the waiter brought Mulder his pie, he ordered another cup of coffee. Scully asked for more hot water for her tea. After the waiter left, Mulder went on. "Starling learned a lot from Fletcher, though. You can tell that Fletcher was _really_ her mentor."

"How so?"

"When you get a chance to work with them, watch carefully. Study the way they approach a case. Fletcher taught that to Starling. She also taught her how to walk into a room of mostly male law enforcement officers and silence them without doing or saying a thing. I've seen Fletcher do it time and time again. She gets their respect just in the way she carries herself. She doesn't try to steal the collar, doesn't try to outshine the locals or take over the case. She makes them a part of the investigation, makes them think they're running it, that she's assisting them. That's one of the reasons she's so successful, and so requested." He leaned back in his chair. "Starling either had Fletcher teach it to her, or she learned it by observing. Either way, it's eerie when you've worked with both of them. They hardly had to talk when they were on a case. It was like they had some sort of ESP between the two of them."

<I won't ask him about their involvement. It may be moot anyway. Fletcher may end up being just my boss and nothing more.> She sighed. <Oh, stop it, Dana. Stop being so paranoid, so pessimistic. You don't know anything for sure, so stop worrying.>

"I assume you're paying for lunch?" Scully said.

"What?"

"I paid last time, Mulder. You're getting off cheap. Your lunch last time was twice what mine cost."

He grumbled good-naturedly, but paid the bill.


Thursday, 7:30 PM

Scully set her briefcase down on the dining room table. She immediately checked her phone for messages. No matter how long she stared at it, the light on the answering machine remained dark. <None. Damn. Why won't she call me? This is ridiculous. I've left a message every single day at her various hotels, and she hasn't returned one call. She can't be _that_ busy. Or is she avoiding me?>

She opened her briefcase and rummaged through it, trying to find Fletcher's itinerary. <I know it's in here. Damn. I can't find it. Where is it?> She took a deep breath. <Patience. It's here.> A few moments later she found it. <Kansas City. I'll try her one more time and if I don't get her, that's it. I'm not going to call her again, even after she comes back. She can call _me_.>

She poured herself a small glass of scotch before she went into the bedroom. She sat down on the bed and stared at the phone.

- - - -

As soon as she unlocked the door, Fletcher heard the phone ringing. <Great. Lansdowne probably thought of something _else_ he had to tell me about the Netcrawler.> She set down the ice bucket she was carrying and answered the phone. "Buchanan."

"Fletcher? It's Scully."

"Oh, hi, Red," she said tonelessly. "I just got back. Can you hang on a sec?"

"Sure." <Go ahead. Just blow me off like you have been all week.>

Fletcher set the phone down and went back to the ice bucket. She dumped the contents into the sink, then stuck several bottles of beer into the ice. She opened one bottle, took a long swallow from it, then returned to the phone.

"Thanks for waiting. I had to take care of something."

<What's her name?> Scully thought unkindly. <Are you there alone? Why haven't you called me? Why are you avoiding me? Why haven't you returned my calls?> Scully took a deep breath. <Easy. Don't nag. Give her the benefit of the doubt.>

"How are you?" she asked.

"Okay, I guess. Mostly just tired."

"I'm glad to hear you're alive. I was beginning to think that maybe you'd dropped off the face of the earth," Scully said, unable to keep the sarcasm out of her voice.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"I haven't heard from you all week and I was worried."

"Well, I'm fine, thanks for asking," Fletcher said tersely, fighting to keep her temper under control. "How are you?"

"I've been better," she admitted.

"What's wrong?"

"It's been a rough week," Scully said evasively.

"Mulder being his usual pain in the ass?" Fletcher leaned over and took her shoes off.

"No, he's been fine, actually."

"Then what's wrong?"

"Nothing." Scully paused. "We need to talk when you get back."

Fletcher's heart dropped; her mouth went dry. She reached for the bottle of beer on the nightstand. She took another long swallow. "About what?" she replied, her voice calm, her tone even.

"We'll talk tomorrow."

"Then why the hell bring it up now?" she said angrily.

"Because I don't want you to think I'm trying to ambush you."

Fletcher silently counted to ten before responding. "Scully, I'm too fucking tired for this. What do you want?"

"If you're going to tell someone you love them for the first time, you should at least wait until they're awake."

<Oh, fuck. She did hear me.> Fletcher held her breath, then slowly exhaled. She picked up a pen and began to fiddle with it. <I want a cigarette. First time in _years_ that I've wanted one.> She dropped the pen and picked the beer up. She finished it off in one gulp.

"Do you still want to talk?" Scully asked quietly. "I will, but I'd rather do it when we're together, face to face."

Fletcher put her hand to her forehead and rubbed. "Yeah, I suppose that would be better."

"Okay. Why don't you come over to my place tomorrow night? I'll cook us some dinner and... we can talk."

"Fine. I'll see you then."

Fletcher quietly hung up the phone. <She didn't even tell me she missed me> she thought unhappily. <Then again, I never really did give her much of a chance. Maybe she was waiting for me to say it. I should've said something. I did miss her. I still do.> She got up from the bed and grabbed another beer out of the bathroom sink. <I suppose I should've called her this week, but I never had the opportunity. Too many fucking late flights, too many unnecessary meetings that just wouldn't end...>

She turned on the TV and flipped through the channels. She didn't pay attention to it as her mind was filled with thoughts of Scully. <Damn it. I had a nice little 'something' going and I blew it. I never should've said anything. What was I thinking? You idiot, Buchanan. You've probably scared her off for good.> She chugged her beer. It wasn't nearly cold enough, and not at all comforting.

End Chapter 6


<<Chapter 7>>

Friday, November 13th, 5:30 PM

Fletcher's flight back to Washington had been uneventful. <Only positive thing that's happened all fucking week,> she thought as she unlocked her Jeep. <Good thing, too. I've had enough stress.> She pulled out of the airport and headed for her apartment. She flipped on the radio and immediately selected the NPR station. <News. I can handle news. I just can't handle the silence.>

Despite her best efforts, Fletcher continued to fret over her pending dinner with Scully. <Time for the 'Hit the road, Jack'. Sure is different this time. I'm usually the one doing the dumping.> She slammed her fist down on the seat beside her and swore out loud. <This isn't fair. Less than a week ago I was making love to Scully. _MAKING LOVE_, damn it, and it was great. And I was happy. What the hell happened? All this because I said 'I love you'? I thought love was supposed to make you happy.>

She took a deep breath and looked at the dashboard clock. <I wonder if I've got time for a shower? Nah, why bother. I might as well get this over with. No sense in delaying the inevitable.> She sighed heavily. <I'll just drop my stuff off and change my clothes. I don't need to grab a uniform, either. I doubt I'll be staying over tonight.>


Friday, 6:05 PM

"Hey, 'grumpy', you wanna grab a pizza?" Mulder asked as caught up to Scully in the parking garage.

Scully kept on walking. "No, thanks."

"How 'bout Chinese?"

<God, doesn't he get enough Chinese take-out when we're working? No wonder his kitchen's so clean. I doubt he's ever cooked anything in it.> "I'm meeting Fletcher for dinner," she said quietly.

"Just _dinner_?" he teased.

Scully turned her head and tried to glare at him, but found she didn't have the energy for it to be all that effective.

"Oh, right," he continued. "Dinner and _dessert_," he leered.

<Can't resist, can you, Mulder? Enjoy it while you can. I have a feeling that after tonight you won't have any more opportunities.> "Y'know, Mulder," she said, a hint of a smile on her face. "For a trained psychologist, sometimes you've got all the subtlety of a flying mallet."

"You're such an easy mark, Scully. I can't help it. I haven't had anything _this_ good to tease you about in such a long time."

"See you Monday, Mulder," Scully replied, stopping at her car. <When you can tell me 'I told you so'.>

"Have a good time, Scully," he laughed, walking off to his own car.


Friday, 7:20 PM

Scully heard the short knock on her door. She looked through the peephole to make sure it was Fletcher. She quickly unlocked the door and opened it. Fletcher walked into the room and thrust two bottles of wine into Scully's hands.

"I didn't know what we were having so I brought a bottle of white and a bottle of red," she said awkwardly.

"Thanks."

Fletcher closed the door and leaned back against it. <She looks horrible> Scully thought. It wasn't just the circles under her eyes or the new lines in her face. It was her whole body. <She doesn't just look exhausted -like she hasn't slept in days... she looks ö fearful? Worried? I never thought I'd see her that way.> She looked away, certain she'd been staring. <And if I wasn't so damn mad at her right now, I'd be worried.>

It was then that Scully noticed Fletcher had been carrying nothing but the wine. <Where's her bag and her uniform? She's got reserves tomorrow.> Scully's heart sank. <She's not staying tonight. I was right. She didn't mean it. She doesn't really love me.> She bit her lip, surprised at the tears that suddenly filled her eyes. She turned away from Fletcher and walked into the kitchen, hurriedly wiping her eyes.

Fletcher followed behind, her hands deep in the pockets of her leather jacket. <No kiss, no hug> she thought. <It's worse than I thought.> She suppressed the urge to rub her own chest. <_Fuck_, it hurts> she thought. But she was smart enough to recognize that the pain she felt wasn't physical. "Hope I didn't spoil dinner. Traffic was really bad tonight," she said blandly.

"No, I got a late start. It'll be ready in a few minutes. Another Scully family favorite," she said. "Fish on Friday."

A ghost of a smile flickered across Fletcher's face. She took off her coat and draped it over a dining room chair. "Do you want a glass of wine?" she asked Scully.

"Thanks, yes."

Fletcher got two tulip-shaped glasses out of the cupboard and silently poured them both a glass of wine. She set Scully's down on the table. "Can I give you a hand with anything?" she offered.

"No, I'm all set. Just have a seat."

Fletcher sat down at the table and compulsively toyed with her silverware. <We're just going through the motions. We need to stop this fucking pretense, stop pretending to be so civilized.> Fletcher was so lost in her thoughts, that she didn't even look up when Scully set a plate of food in front of her.

<What is she thinking?> Scully worried as she sat down. <She looks miserable.>

"Fletcher?"

Fletcher suddenly pushed back from the table. "I'm sorry, Scully. I guess I'm not very hungry."

"Fletcher, what is the matter?"

"I can't do this," she choked.

"Do what?"

"I can't sit here and pretend that nothing's wrong. Let's just get this over with, okay?" She jumped up from the table and went into the living room.

<Here it comes,> Scully thought, following her. She sat down on the sofa and waited for Fletcher to stop pacing. <Wait,> Scully told herself. <Wait for her to speak; let _her_ say it first.>

Fletcher stopped, pushing her hair back off her forehead and rubbing her face. "Y'know, I never would've said it if I thought it was going to make you mad or want to stop seeing me," she finally said after a long silence.

Scully was incredulous. "You think _that's_ why I'm mad?"

"Isn't it?"

"No. I'm mad at you because you said it and then made your 'great escape'. You never gave me a chance to talk to you. And then you avoided me all week, wouldn't return my calls."

"You thought I was _avoiding_ you?"

"Weren't you?"

"My schedule made it nearly impossible to call you at a decent hour," Fletcher rationalized. "Thursday night was the first time I'd checked into my room before midnight. I couldn't call you then. Think of the time difference..."

"Please, Fletcher. Give me _some_ credit. It never stopped you from calling before. And you could've at least emailed me."

Fletcher looked down, unable to meet Scully eyes. "Yeah. Okay, yes, I guess I was avoiding you. I used my schedule as an excuse."

"Why?"

"I had my reasons, and it looks like I was right."

"Would you mind sharing them with me?" Scully asked sharply.

"Whatever my reasons were, well, what's the point," Fletcher blurted. She resumed her pacing, her words picking up speed as she talked. "I took a chance, said something I probably shouldn't have said, and look where it got me. I'm sorry I didn't call sooner, but I just didn't want to hear you tell me to get lost, that you didn't feel the same way..."

"Do you really think that?"

"Isn't that why you invited me to dinner, to tell me that it's over?"

<She thinks _I'm_ breaking up with _her_?> Scully didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Instead, she got up from the sofa and went to Fletcher. She touched her arm gently, then put her hand on Fletcher's cheek. "I only have one question."

"What?" Fletcher asked, her voice thick.

"Did you mean it?"

"Yes," she admitted.

"Haven't you ever said it before?"

"Yes."

The pause had been momentary, but Scully had caught it. "Did you mean it then?"

"Of course. I wouldn't say it if I didn't mean it." Fletcher looked away, not wanting Scully to see the vulnerability on her eyes. Her voice got very small. "I just never said it _first_."

"Fletcher, look at me," she softly ordered, her fingers on Fletcher's chin, steering her face back so that she could look at her.

"Red..." <Here it comes.>

I love you, too."

Fletcher's jaw dropped like a rock. It flapped for a few moments as she tried to form words. <Did she say... She's not... Oh Goddess, I'm...> Finally she just gave up, wrapped her arms around Scully and hugged her tightly.

Scully felt Fletcher's body shudder once, as if she were trying to stifle a sob. She tightened her arms around Fletcher's waist and squeezed.

"You don't know how happy that makes me," Fletcher said, her voice cracking. "I didn't think I'd ever hear you say it; didn't dare hope that you could feel the same way."

"I didn't think I'd ever say it to anyone again, until you."

Fletcher leaned back, but kept her arms around Scully. She looked at her, searching Scully's face for any signs of deception. "You do, don't you? You love me." Fletcher's face was filled with wonder.

"Yes," Scully replied, smiling. "Yes, I do."

She tilted her head up to meet Fletcher's. They kissed once, twice, then hugged one another again.

"I think we should eat that dinner that you so graciously made," Fletcher said, looking over Scully's shoulder at the food on the table.

"Dinner? Is that all you can think about? You're as bad as Mulder."

"Not just dinner." Fletcher grinned. "Dessert, too."

"I didn't make any dessert," Scully replied with a smile of her own.

"I'm sure we can think of something."

"But?" Scully couldn't quite read the look on Fletcher's face.

"But we'll have to go out for it."

"Meaning?"

"I can't stay here tonight." She saw the worry instantly appear on Scully's face. "I don't have my uniform," she explained. "Why don't we go back to my apartment for 'dessert'?"

"Better eat first," Scully cracked. "We'll need our strength."


Friday, 9:30 PM

Scully sat facing Fletcher, her legs draped over Fletcher's, her feet crossed behind Fletcher's back. She felt Fletcher's hands on her hips, her thumbs caressing her sides. Her eyes locked on Fletcher's, Scully traced her fingers up from Fletcher's shoulders to her neck and throat. It was if she was seeing Fletcher for the first time, touching her for the first time.

Fletcher hardly moved, hardly even breathed. She just sat there, reveling in the feelings that each touch of Scully's brought to her.

Scully's fingers moved downward to Fletcher's small breasts. She looked down as her hands each cupped a breast. <Small breasts, but they fit so perfectly in my small hands.> She gently began to rub the nipples with her thumbs, marveling at how quickly they hardened. <Because of me, because of my touch,> she thought with just a tiny bit of pride.

Fletcher's hands were suddenly on Scully's breasts and her touches mirrored Scully's. She leaned into Scully and kissed her. She opened her mouth, allowing Scully's tongue to explore her mouth, letting Scully take possession of the kiss.

Scully slowly ended the kiss. <I want her... I want to make love to her...> Scully thought as she moved onto her knees, then she eased Fletcher back against the pillows. Fletcher looked up at her, her hands once again on Scully's hips.

"Fletcher, I..."

"What? Tell me what you need, Red."

"I need to make love to you," she answered in a husky whisper, her mouth leaving a trail of kisses from Fletcher's mouth to her nipples.

Fletcher watched Scully, her hand lightly resting on Scully's shoulder. Back and forth Scully went, from one breast to the other. Scully ran her tongue down Fletcher's stomach, pausing briefly at her navel before stopping when she reached her pubic hair. Scully reached up and tucked her hair behind her ear, then laid her hand on the small mound of curly hair in front of her. She brushed the hair back, exposing Fletcher's clit. Scully softly blew on it, watching it harden in response.

Fletcher didn't think she could possibly see anything more erotic in her life than seeing Scully's tongue gently flick at her swollen, erect clit. But she was wrong. The sight of those full lips closing over her clit almost put Fletcher over the edge. Her eyes nearly rolled back into her head as she clutched at the sheets.

"Oh... goddess... that feels so good... Oh... Scully..."

<I need to do this more often,> Scully thought, her tongue probing deeper and deeper. <She enjoys it so much... _I_ enjoy it... as much as she does, I think...> She slowly inserted one, then two fingers. <She's so open...> Scully pushed further into the wet warmth. <I bet I could fit another...> She twisted her hand and slid in another finger.

Fletcher was making sounds deep in her throat that Scully had never heard before. She glanced up. Fletcher's face was knotted up, almost as if she were in pain. <She's so close,> Scully thought and she continued her assault on Fletcher's clit with her tongue, her fingers sliding in and out in a steady rhythm.

"Oh, Scully..." Her cries were almost agonizing.

<Come for me, Fletcher... now...>

"Scully!" Fletcher half-shouted, her body convulsing with the most powerful orgasm she'd ever known. Another small aftershock ran through her body, followed by several more smaller tremors.

Scully waited until she felt Fletcher's body relax before she kissed her way back up to her.

"I love you," she said, kissing Fletcher's forehead.

"Oh, goddess...Oh, Red..." She exhaled. "The best..." She put her arms around Scully and hugged her with whatever strength she had. "I do believe I might've died and gone to heaven..."

"I wanted you to feel the way I do... the way you make me feel..."

Fletcher reached up and drew Scully's face closer. She placed a short, loving kiss on her lips, then hugged her again. She whispered into her ear, "Do you get excited when you make love to me, Red?"

Scully lifted her head, her lips brushing against Fletcher's. "Why don't you see for yourself?"

Fletcher's hand insinuated itself between them, her fingers quickly seeking out Scully. She sighed out loud when she felt how wet Scully was. Scully pushed herself up off of Fletcher so that she straddled Fletcher's hips. She brought her hands up to her own breasts and she squeezed the nipples hard.

Fletcher's eyes fixed on Scully's hands. She began to stoke her fingers back and forth, feeling Scully jerk every time her finger rubbed over her clit.

"Scully..."

"What?" she breathed.

"Touch yourself," she requested, reaching up with her free hand and bringing down one of Scully's hands. "Help me make love to you."

Scully dropped her other hand and she began to rub her clit, slowly at first. A soft moan escaped from her lips when she felt Fletcher push two fingers up into her.

"Fletcher..."

Fletcher inched her body down. Soon she was eye-level with Scully's fingers kneading her own clit.

"Oh, Scully..."

She planted her lips on Scully's clit and sucked. Scully's hands dropped and quivered weakly in Fletcher's hair.

"Oh, god... Fletcher... so good..." She thrust her hips down. "Fill me..."

Fletcher easily added a third finger as she continued to suck the clit above her. <She's close... I can feel it building...> She moistened her little finger, then slowly pressed it into Scully's anus. Scully climaxed almost instantly.

"Fletcher," she wailed, her hips bucking wildly. She rose up, then thrust down one final time, her muscles clamping down on all of Fletcher's fingers. She collapsed onto her stomach, then rolled over onto her back, Fletcher's fingers slipping out.

Fletcher laid her head on Scully's thigh and waited until Scully's breathing slowed. She moved back up beside Scully and gathered her into her arms.

"I love you, Scully," Fletcher said, kissing Scully gently, tenderly.

"I love you, too," she sighed, a smile on her face.

She curled up in Fletcher's arms, secure. Her heart was filled with a happiness she didn't know she could feel. <I'm loved... I love...>

"Penny for your thoughts?" Fletcher asked, seeing the smile on Scully's face.

"I feel good... happy..."

"Making love can do that," Fletcher chuckled softly.

"It's the 'love' part. It feels good to be in love, to be loved."

"Amen to that." Fletcher kissed Scully's cheek. Scully's eyes were fluttering with the effort to stay open. "Sleepy?"

"Mmm... yes..." <Damn it, I want to stay awake...Want to keep looking at her...>

Fletcher heard the disappointment in her voice. "It's okay. I am, too." She quickly checked the clock radio to see that it was set, and then settled in, her arms still around Scully. "Goodnight, Red. Sleep well."

"You, too."

<I will now.> Fletcher kissed Scully one more time before they both drifted off to sleep.

End Chapter 7


<<Chapter 8>>

Saturday, 8:50 AM

Scully awoke to the sound of her cell phone ringing. She took a few moments to get her bearings, then got out of bed. She picked up the first article of clothing she could find - Fletcher's shirt - and put it on. She walked into the living room and located her phone.

"Scully."

"It's me, Scully. Where are you? I tried you at home."

"At Fletcher's. What's wrong, Mulder?" she asked, walking back to the bedroom.

"Do you have any plans today?"

Scully pulled back the covers and got back into bed. "Not really. Fletcher's got reserves this weekend."

"Let's go shopping for her birthday presents today."

"I guess today would be a good of a time as any." Fletcher's pillow was still dented. Scully put her hand on it and smoothed it out. <This time she woke me up to say 'I love you.'>

"Do you want to meet at your place?"

"I need you to pick me up here. I have to stop at my apartment for a change of clothes, if that's okay."

"Don't you think you might want to start leaving clothes at Fletcher's? I do, and I'm not even sleeping with her," he smirked.

"Mulder, you're just too funny for words."

"I'll see you in about twenty minutes."


Saturday, 9:30 AM

"Why didn't you drive yourself to Fletcher's last night?" Mulder asked as she unlocked the door to her apartment.

"It's a long story. It was a spur of the moment decision to stay at her place."

"Must be getting tiresome, bouncing around from Fletcher's apartment to your apartment to Fletcher's house."

"We manage."

"Uh huh," he said, looking at the dirty dishes on the counter, the empty bottle of wine. "Looks like you 'managed' to get an early start here." He grinned.

Scully just shook her head and went into her bedroom, closing the door behind her. Mulder wondered around Scully's apartment. He picked up one of her medical magazines, thumbed through it, then set it back down on the coffee table. <Nothing interesting there. At least at Fletcher's, there's always some sports magazine laying around.>

As soon as Scully walked back into the room, her phone rang.

"Hello... Oh, hi, Mom... No... Just shopping with Mulder..." Scully looked up at Mulder and rolled her eyes at what her mother was saying. "No, nothing like that... a birthday present for a friend of ours... Yes, I was planning on it. Either Wednesday night or Thursday morning. It depends on my work schedule... Yes... When are Bill and Tara coming?... And Charlie?... Okay... I'll call tomorrow... Yes... Love you too, Mom. Bye."

Mulder looked at her, a knowing smile on his face. "What did she pin you down on _this_ time?"

"Thanksgiving. Bill and Charlie will both be there with their families. What are you doing?"

"I've got plans."

"Sure, you do, Mulder," she said skeptically. "I know you're just avoiding my brother Bill."

"Wouldn't you, if you could?" he replied, a wise-ass smile on his face.

"He's my brother," Scully said neutrally, not answering Mulder's question directly. She picked up her purse. "Let's get some shopping done."


Saturday, 10:30 AM

"So, do you have any idea what you're going to give Fletcher?" Mulder asked as they walked through the mall. <I don't think I've ever seen so many teenaged girls in my life,> he thought as they passed by yet another group of giggling adolescents.

"A book."

"About what?"

"Astronomy," Scully replied, stopping in front of the mall map to look for the location of the bookstores.

"And you expect to find one here?" He looked around the mall. <Yuppie paradise,> he thought looking at the people lining up at Starbucks. <Lots of places for them to spend all their money on absolutely nothing of value.>

"Well, there _are_ bookstores in here, Mulder." She located one of the chain bookstores and pointed it out to him. "Besides, I need to pick up a card."

"Do you know what book?"

"I had a friend of mine from the Smithsonian recommend a few."

"Astronomy, huh? Nothing else?" he teased as he followed her through the mall.

"Like what?"

"Oh, I don't know. Maybe something informational of a more personal nature."

"Such as?" Scully raised an eyebrow.

"Maybe the Joy of Lesbian Sex?" he suggested.

Scully quickly looked over her shoulder to see if anyone had heard him. She made a face at him. "Are you saying we need it?" she said, giving it right back to him.

"No, no, nothing like that."

She rolled her eyes in exasperation. "You need to get your mind out of the gutter."

"But Scully, I finally find out that you have a sex life _and_ I know who it's with. It's just too good to pass up."

"Mulder, you're beginning to irritate me," she said sternly.

"Okay. I promise. No more teasing while we shop."

"Good." <I wonder how long that promise will last?> "So what are _you_ going to get Fletcher?"

"I scored tickets to the Redskins game ö three of them ö for next Sunday." He grinned, proud of himself. "Fifty yard line, thirty-fifth row."

"I thought you weren't interested in getting tickets to any of the football games," Scully asked, as she headed for the back of the bookstore.

"I couldn't pass up the chance. It'll be fun. We can tailgate before the game."

"I'm sure she'll like them." She took a book off the shelf, then turned to him. "If you've already got a present for her, why are you shopping with me?"

"I didn't have anything else to do," he offered. "Besides, Scully, we hardly ever get a chance to socialize outside of work anymore. You're always spending your weekends with Fletcher."

<Is he jealous?> she thought. <No, maybe just feeling a little hurt, a little neglected. We never socialized that much, but I suppose now that Fletcher and I spending all our free time together, he doesn't really have either one of us to fall back on for entertainment.> "Well, the weekends right now are the only time Fletcher and I can see each other." She returned the book to the shelf and selected another one. "Why don't you have dinner with us tomorrow night?"

Mulder visibly perked up. "Okay."

"Don't you want to know what we're having?"

"No."

"Oh, that's right. As long as someone else is cooking or paying, you don't care," she smiled. "Well, in case you're interested, it'll be leftovers."

"Sounds good to me."

<Somehow I think it would 'sound good' if I was serving braised liver with creamed corn.> Scully's stomach churned. <Liver ö that's a bad choice,> she thought, suddenly remembering Eugene Tooms. <Even Mulder's not _that_ much of a masochist.> "Mulder, I have to do some other shopping. Why don't we split up and meet for lunch at one o'clock?"

"Okay. Maybe I'll get a headstart on my Christmas shopping."

Scully's face was filled with disbelief. "Now I've heard everything."


Sunday, November 15th, 6:20 PM

Mulder watched Scully as she cleaned up the kitchen, then set the table. <She's been in a good mood all day long,> he thought. <They must've had a good time last night.> He smiled. <Just wish she could continue it. She's been too up and down the past week.>

"When are you going to give Fletcher her birthday present?" he asked, helping himself to a beer.

"Probably Friday night, after she gets back."

"Would that be the one you bought at Victoria's Secret?" Scully blushed and Mulder grinned triumphantly. "I saw you go in there when you didn't think I was looking. Did you get something good?"

"It's none of your business, Mulder."

"So you did."

"Not _this_ time," she replied with a straight face. "They didn't have a black pushup bra in my size."

This time Mulder blushed. <Good. I finally got him,> Scully thought gleefully.

He recovered quickly. "That surprises me, Scully. You strike me as the garters and lace type. I didn't think you'd go for the pushup bra."

"Well, I guess you'll never know, will you?"

"I'm sure I could find out somehow."

"Better be nice, Mulder, or I'll sic my girlfriend on you."

"Oh, I'm shaking already," he laughed. A knock at the door interrupted him. "Geez, Scully, haven't you given Fletcher a key yet?"

"You've got my spare," she said, opening the door.

"Then I guess I'm still first in your heart."

"Hey, Red," Fletcher said, kissing Scully's cheek as she walked into the apartment. "Mulder," she nodded.

"Fletcher."

"Got another beer?" she asked, dropping her bag and briefcase on the floor.

"I'll get you one," Mulder offered. "Give you two lovebirds a chance to say hello."

"A least say hello without you gawking at us, Spooky."

Fletcher waited until Mulder was in the kitchen before putting her arms around Scully. She kissed her, adding a little passion to her kiss. "I missed you today," she said.

"I missed you, too."

"I kept thinking about Friday night."

"So did I," Scully said, her hands slipping to Fletcher's ass.

"Is he staying for dinner?" Fletcher asked in a low voice.

"Yes. He's feeling a little neglected, I think."

"Do I have time for a shower?"

"Sure. Dinner'll be ready in about 20 minutes."

"Great." She nuzzled Scully's neck briefly and whispered, "I love you."

"Should I get a pan of cold water to throw on you two?" Mulder strolled back into the living room, handing Fletcher a bottle of beer.

"Jealous?" Fletcher retorted, nodding her thanks at the beer.

"_Jealous_ isn't the word that comes immediately to mind," he said with an obscene grin.

"Maybe _you_ should be the one taking a shower, Mulder ö a cold one."

"Moi?" he replied innocently, touching his hand to his chest.

"'Leroy, boy, we gotta get you a woman'," Fletcher sang. "Just so you'll leave us alone."


Sunday, 9:30 PM

"I'm beat and I ache," Fletcher said as she got into bed. "Too much sitting in meetings and airplanes and not enough exercise."

"Take your shirt off and turn over," Scully said, getting onto the bed next to her.

"What?" Fletcher was surprised.

"You heard me. Doctor's orders."

"Ooh, Scully, I love it when you're assertive," Fletcher leered, pulling her t-shirt off. She flipped over onto her stomach, her head resting on her forearms.

Scully moved onto her knees, straddling Fletcher's ass, and began to rub Fletcher's shoulders. <She's right. Her back is all knotted up.> "Thank you."

"For what?" Fletcher was clearly puzzled.

"Letting Mulder spend the evening with us."

"He's my friend, too. I haven't seen him much since Halloween."

"Well, it was still hard to have to share you tonight."

"Oh, really? Why's that?"

"Because my mind kept wandering to Friday night," she replied.

"_What_ about Friday night?" Fletcher asked, an almost-smirk crossing her lips.

"Wait 'til I'm finished and I'll show you," Scully suggested, her voice low.

"With an offer like that, how could I refuse?"

Scully just grinned and moved her hands to Fletcher's shoulder blades. "What time is your flight tomorrow?"

"Not until the afternoon. I've got a meeting with Roy Tupper in the morning. We've been planning Stu's retirement party."

"What are you doing for it?"

"Roy's job is to come up with the guest list and send out the invitations. My job is to host the party. It's going to be a surprise party."

<Too bad I don't have any oil. Maybe next time.> "How will you get him to your place?"

"I'll work with Stu's wife. We'll tell him that it's a Holiday Party."

"When are you having it?"

"The Saturday before Christmas, the nineteenth. I expect we'll have sixty people, probably more."

"Speaking of celebrations, what do you want to do for your birthday?" Scully asked, her hands moving down the spine.

"I'd like nothing more than to be at home with you, but that's not possible. "I'll be in Chicago."

"I thought we'd do something next Saturday night. Marva and Karrin suggested we get together."

"And we've got to celebrate with Mulder, too." <Goddess, she's got such small hands, but she certainly knows how to give a back rub. This is great.> She felt the tension ease.

"I've tentatively planned something on Sunday with him."

"Well, if we're doing something with Marva and Karrin, I'd like to go out to dinner someplace fancy and then go dancing. They'll know just the place." She sighed as Scully's hands moved further down her back. "Why don't you go ahead and make any plans you want. Just tell me where and when I need to show up."

"Sounds like something Mulder would say," Scully commented.

"Planning my own birthday is not on my list of things to do."

Scully shifted her body lower so she could rub the small of Fletcher's back. "What are you doing for Thanksgiving?" she ventured.

"I've got plans," Fletcher said quickly, too quickly. Scully could feel the muscles tense beneath her fingers. "I'll be out of town."

"Work?"

"Not exactly." She lifted her head, rested her chin on the backs of her hands and stared at the headboard. "I've got to do something for a friend of mine," she said vaguely.

"I just thought you might want to come for dinner at my mom's."

"No, you go ahead. I've got to decline. Besides, you already said you couldn't remember the last time you were all together for Thanksgiving. You need to spend some time with your family."

"How long will you be gone?" Scully asked, trying to sound matter-of-fact while her insides were churning. <What is she hiding?>

"I'm leaving Wednesday and coming back Sunday."

"Then I guess I'll spend the weekend with my family." <I've got to trust her, even if she is being secretive.> She leaned forward and kissed Fletcher between her shoulder blades. "I love you," she whispered. Fletcher's muscles relaxed once again.

Fletcher rolled over onto her back. "I love you, too. Very much." She sat up and put her hands on Scully's hips.

"I thought you were too tired and too sore," Scully smiled, her hands atop Fletcher's, trying to keep them from straying off her hips.

"I'm never too tired for you," she grinned back.

"I can think of a time or two when you've been too tired."

"Name one."

"Two weeks ago - when you came back from Seattle."

"But I wasn't too tired in the _middle_ of the night," she countered.

"But you fell back asleep almost immediately."

"You're not gonna let me catch a break, are you?" Fletcher asked with a wide grin.

"Nope."


Monday, 3:45 AM

"Mmmmm," Fletcher groaned, certain she was having a wonderful dream. She didn't want to wake up, but it felt _so_ real. She forced one eye open. Scully's mouth was at her breast and she could feel Scully's hand slipping inside the waistband of her boxer shorts.

"Scully..."

"Shhhhh," she murmured, her tongue drawing small circles around Fletcher's nipple.

"What are you doing?" she asked groggily.

"Teaching myself to dance." Her giggle was muffled; her mouth was full of Fletcher's breast.

<_She's_ waking _me_ up to make love? Oh goddess, kill me now. I have now lived a rich and full life.>

End Chapter 8


<<Chapter 9>>

Wednesday, November 18th, 11:30 AM

Scully looked up from the lab reports and realized that Fletcher was down the hall from her, heading in the same direction. <I'd know that walk anywhere,> she smiled. <What's she doing _here_? I thought she was supposed to be in Chicago. I wonder how long she's in town?> She quickened her pace in hopes of catching up with Fletcher.

She then noticed that Fletcher wasn't alone; she was walking with a pretty woman with a _very_ short skirt. <Who is that? I know her. What's her name? Helen? No, that's not it. Heather? Holly? That's it. That's _Holly_ with her.> She felt a twinge of jealousy when she realized they were both laughing, and Holly kept putting her hand on Fletcher's arm. <She doesn't need to do that,> Scully thought, her jealousy growing.

Scully stopped, watching them. Fletcher had stopped by the elevators and was leaning against the wall, her back to Scully. Holly had said something else that had made Fletcher laugh again and this time, she left her hand on Fletcher's arm. <I'm probably imagining it, but that gesture's a little too intimate for my liking.> Holly said something else to Fletcher, gave her arm a squeeze, then walked away. Fletcher remained where she was, obviously watching Holly walk.

<Oh God, Mulder was right. A leopard doesn't change its spots. Damn it. At least now I know why she was so evasive about her Thanksgiving plans.> Scully fought back the tears that were welling up in her eyes as she turned and walked in the opposite direction. <She didn't even tell me last night that she was going to be here. I don't get it. She tells me she loves me and then she pulls this crap?>

She hurried back to her desk. Mulder was at his desk, talking on the phone. He looked up and saw the anger in her face. He quickly cut his conversation short and hung up the phone. "What's wrong, Scully?"

"Nothing."

"Right. Whatever you say."

The phone on Scully's desk rang and she knew it was Fletcher. <I don't want to answer it. But if I don't, Mulder will ask me why. Damned if I do and damned if I don't.>

"Scully," she said tonelessly, answering the phone.

"Hey, Red."

"Fletcher," she replied coolly.

"Got any plans for lunch?"

"Yes, I do, as a matter of fact," she lied.

"Okay. How about dinner tonight? My flight isn't until 10:00."

"I'll pass, thanks. I'm not up for any company tonight."

"What's wrong, Red?"

"Nothing. At least nothing _I_ need to talk about," she said icily.

"What's that supposed to mean," Fletcher asked, confused.

"Figure it out. You're a detective."

"Well, excuse me," Fletcher replied, irritated. "Why don't you call me when you're feeling better? I don't have time for any damn guessing games."

"Fine. I will."

She set her phone down and looked over at Mulder. He raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. <Well, no use trying to keep it from him. He knows me too well for me to be able to keep a secret.>

"Let me hazard a guess," he said gently. "You two had a fight." <And it doesn't sound good, either.>

"Be honest with me, Mulder."

"Ohh-kay..." <Oh, god, Scully, don't put me in the middle of it.>

"Did Fletcher sleep with Holly?"

"Excuse me?" Mulder's eyes opened wide and he was a little taken aback with bluntness of Scully's question.

"Tell me. Did she?"

"Uh, yeah. A few years ago. There wasn't anything really between them. It was just a fling. Why?"

"Oh, I just figured out where Fletcher's spending her Thanksgiving."

<She knows? How is that possible?> "Where?"

"She's been so evasive about her plans. Well, now I know why. She's spending it with Holly."

Mulder needed to take a second before he answered. "Did she tell you that?"

"Not in so many words."

"Then how do you know that?"

She took a deep breath then recounted what she had witnessed in the hallway between Fletcher and Holly.

"And I talked to her last night," she continued. "She didn't say anything about being in town. Now I wonder if she was even in Chicago last night. It's not like I called her. She called me."

Mulder let out a breath. "Scully, I don't know why she's here and not in Chicago, and I don't know about what you witnessed, but I _do_ know that Fletcher's _not_ spending Thanksgiving with Holly."

"How do you know? You're probably just covering for her." Scully's voice bordered on nasty.

Mulder's gaze hardened. "Scully, Fletcher may be one of my best friends, but I would _never_ cover for her. I'm hurt that you would even think that of me."

One look at Mulder's wounded face and Scully was immediately sorry she'd accused him. "I'm sorry, Mulder," she apologized. "I just saw Fletcher with Holly and I, well, now I know what you meant by Fletcher's reputation."

"Scully, she hasn't done anything wrong."

"That I know of."

"And when would she have the time? She spends every free minute she has with you." <Who'd have ever believed it? I never thought I'd be _defending_ Fletcher over something like this. If anything, I expected by now to have told Scully 'I told so' at least a dozen times. I think this is worse.> "Scully, I think you're over-reacting this time. Granted, Fletcher standing there watching Holly walk away was not a cool thing to do, but she's only human." <Boy does that sound lame.> "I mean, I'd watch. Holly's got uh, she's got nice legs." <And a nice ass, but I'm not gonna tell Scully that. She definitely doesn't need to hear _that_.>

Scully was doing a fine job of examining her blotter. "You don't think there's anything going on between Fletcher and Holly?"

"If you'd asked me that six months ago, I would've said 'maybe'. Now, I don't think so. She's too crazy about you." He smiled. "Besides, she'd have to answer to me."

"As if that would scare her," Scully smiled back.

"I think you should call her and see her. It _is_ her birthday and you just gave her one fine 'how-do-you-do'."

Scully's hand flew up to her mouth. "I am such an idiot. I totally forgot about her birthday."

"So call her already, willya?"

"Okay, okay." Scully looked pointedly at Mulder.

"I get the hint." He got up and headed for the door. "You want anything from the soda machine?"

"Diet Coke, if they've got it." She was dialing as she reached for some change.

"My treat. I'll be right back."

She waited until he was out of his chair before calling Fletcher on her cell phone.

"Buchanan."

"It's me." Fletcher remained silent. "Is it too late for me to join you for lunch?"

"No," Fletcher replied frostily. "I don't have to be back to my meeting until 1:30."

"Should I meet you out front?"

"Sure, fine."

"I'll see you in a few."

She quickly hung up her phone. Fletcher's tight-lipped responses were almost more than she could bear. <I hope I haven't screwed up completely with Fletcher. I didn't know I could be so jealous.> She shut down her PC and reached into her desk drawer.

"Are you going to lunch?" Mulder asked as he sauntered back into the room. He put the can next to her phone and sat down at his desk.

Scully was looking through her purse as she got up. "Yes. I'm meeting her out front."

He thought about making a crack about the soda he'd just bought her, but refrained. "Have a good one."

<He just bought me a soda, I should do something for him.> "Do you want me to bring you back anything?"

"No. I'll probably head out myself in a few minutes."

"See you about 1:00 or so," she said, leaving the office.

He waited until the door closed behind her before picking up his phone. <I probably shouldn't do this, but I think it's best.>

"Buchanan."

"Fletcher, it's Mulder."

"What do you want, Spooky?"

<She sounds pissed off.> "I thought you should be forewarned."

"About what?"

"Scully saw you in the hall with Holly."

"So?"

"So, she thought you were in town to see Holly, that you're spending Thanksgiving with her."

"What? Where'd she get that idea? Mulderö"

"She asked me point blank if you'd slept with her."

"And you told her?" Fletcher was livid.

"I told her that it was years ago. I'm not going to lie to Scully."

"No wonder she's so pissed. What were you thinking, Mulder?"

"She was angry when she came into the office, _before_ I even said anything."

"Why would she be mad?"

"I guess you two looked a little too friendly to Scully. And..."

"And what?"

"She watched you watch Holly walk away."

Mulder could see Fletcher rubbing her forehead, her usual reaction to stress. "Geez, I didn't mean anything by it. You and I both know Holly's got a great ass. I'm just so used to looking at it."

"I know, I know. But it wasn't a very smart thing for you to do." He cleared his throat. "Fletcher, where did you tell Scully you were going for Thanksgiving?"

"I didn't. It's not my place to say anything."

"I think you should."

Surprise crept into her voice. "It's okay to tell her?"

Mulder swallowed before he spoke. "Yeah, I think so."

"Okay. There she is. Gotta go. Thanks for the heads up, Mulder."

"Anytime. See you Sunday."

- - - -

Fletcher quickly pocketed her cell phone and trotted down the steps to meet Scully. She wanted to kiss her, put her arms around her. Knowing that she couldn't only made it worse.

"Red..."

"Fletcher..."

"If we weren't in public..."

"I know, I know."

"I'm sorry I didn't call you. Stu called me this morning and I had to catch a 6:00 AM flight out of Chicago."

"Everything all right?"

"Yeah. Just some budget crap up on Capitol Hill. Stu, Roy and I had to meet with AD Gorman."

"Before I forget again, Happy Birthday," Scully said, giving Fletcher's hand a brief squeeze.

"Thanks. Where do you feel like eating?"

"It's your birthday. Where do you want to go?"

"Xristo's okay?"

"Sure."

They walked to the restaurant in an uneasy, yet companionable silence. Fletcher greeted the owner warmly and even though it was busy, he found a table for them in the back.

"Do you want me to order?" Fletcher asked.

"Please."

She looked briefly at the menu, then placed their order. When they were alone, she started, "Scully, Iö"

"No wait, Fletcher. Let me speak first." She looked down at her place mat. "I saw you today, by the elevators."

Fletcher sipped from her water glass. <Let her get it out. You haven't done anything wrong. Not really.>

"I saw you with Holly," Scully continued. "You looked, uh, rather, um, rather friendly."

"That's just Holly. She's a bit of a flirt."

"I thought that maybe you were in town to see her. When I talked to you last, you were in Chicago."

"I know. The meeting came up suddenly." Fletcher took another sip from her glass before setting it down. <Time for her to hear about it from me.> "About Holly. I do have a past with her," she confessed. "We dated a few times a couple of years ago. Nothing more. We've just remained friendly. There's nothing else to it." She reached across the table and took Scully's hand. "You don't have to worry, okay? I don't need anyone else. I'm in love with _you_." She saw their waiter on the way to their table and she let go of Scully's hand. She waited until he set the food down and left before turning back to Scully. "I suppose you've been wondering where I'm going next week."

"It's crossed my mind a time or two," Scully said with a small smile.

"I'll be with Mulder. Every Thanksgiving, we take a trip to Chilmark."

"Why Chilmark? Isn't his mother in Connecticut?"

"Thanksgiving usually falls on or about the anniversary of Samantha's disappearance. I stay with him as he goes on one helluva bender."

"He never told me that was where he went."

"It's not something he's particularly proud of."

"But I know about Samantha."

"And you know all about his survivor's guilt too, I'm sure. He just needs the chance to feel all of his pain over Samantha ö and you."

"Me?"

"Sure. He feels responsible for most of what's happened to you over the past five and a half years."

"Wait a minute," Scully said sharply. "How much do you know about what's happened to me?"

"I know about your abduction, your cancer, your sister, some of the cases you've been on. I don't know all the details, just some basic information and how it relates to Mulder."

"I'm not so sure I like the sound of this."

She took Scully's hand once again. "We don't talk about you, Red. Mulder just gets drunk, talks about Samantha, talks about his guilt over you both, and I listen. It's a dark time of the year for him. If I can help him get through it, I will." She let go of Scully's hand and returned to her food. <I hope I haven't said too much. If I have, well, it's too late now.>

<So Fletcher knows what's happened to me. But _how_ much does she know? I'm not comfortable with this at all. Why didn't she tell me earlier? It's one thing for Mulder and my family to know about it all, but Fletcher? It'd be one thing if I'd been the one to tell her.> "I spoke to Marva last night," she said, changing the topic. "She said she's made all of the arrangements."

"What's she got planned?"

"She wouldn't say. She just said that they'd pick us up Saturday night at six o'clock and to be, as she put it, 'dressed to kill'."

Fletcher smiled knowingly. <I bet I know where we're going. Good ol' Marva. We haven't been there in a long time.>

"How late will you be today?" Scully asked, picking up her coffee cup.

"I expect the meeting this afternoon will be a quick one. Can you get out of work early?"

"How early?"

"4:00? I thought we could meet at my place for dinner before I leave tonight."

"Back to Chicago?"

"Yes, then Detroit on Friday."

"Call me when you get out of your meeting."

"I will." Fletcher smiled. "Looks like I'll get my birthday wish after all."

"What's that?"

"Spending it with you." Her knee pressed against Scully's knee. "I love you."

"I love you, too."


Wednesday, 4:30 PM

Fletcher was packing her suitcase when she heard the knock at the door. She dropped her socks into it then walked to the front door. She saw Scully and opened the door at once.

"So what's for dinner?" Scully asked with a smile as she set her briefcase down.

"Well, I know what _I_ want for dinner," Fletcher said taking Scully into her arms and kissing her.

"Oh, really? And what might that be?"

"I'll give you three guesses and the first two don't count," Fletcher replied, reaching up and unbuttoning Scully's blouse as she kissed her neck.

"Wait a minute," Scully laughed, grabbing Fletcher's hands. "You invited me for _dinner_."

"I ordered a pizza. It'll be here about six."

"You invited me for _pizza_? I think I'm insulted."

"C'mon, Scully, we've got time." Fletcher broke free of Scully's grip and her hands wandered down to Scully's ass.

"Is that all I am to you ö a sex object?" she kidded.

"Didn't you know that?" Fletcher laughed back.

"Just checking." She kissed Fletcher hard on the lips, a kiss so passionate that it left them both gasping for air.

"Oh, Red, what you do to me..." Fletcher sighed.

"So 'Birthday Girl', you've got little more than an hour before the pizza man's here," she said, unbuttoning Fletcher's shirt. "What would you like?"

"Excuse me?"

"Your choice." Her fingers slipped up under Fletcher's bra and she lightly squeezed her nipples. "Whatever you want."

<Does she have any idea what she does to me when she talks like that?> Fletcher thought, her body growing warm. <How could she possibly be worried about Holly? Or anybody else for that matter. She's all I want, all I've _ever_ wanted.> "Hmmm, weekday sex and _before_ dinner. Seems kinda wicked and decadent." Fletcher pretended to mull for a moment. "Do you know what I want to do?" She slowly backed Scully into the bedroom.

"What?"

"I want to eat _you_ for dinner," she said, her voice rough and thick with her desire. "I want to make you come so hard that your ears pop."

"Promises, promises..." Scully's voice was light, but her body was humming with her arousal. Fletcher's words had made her wet, _very_ wet.

Fletcher eased Scully down onto the bed, pushing aside her suitcase. Scully kicked off her shoes and laid back. Kneeling in front of the bed, Fletcher lifted up Scully's skirt, then gently yanked down her pantyhose and underwear. Wasting no time, she lowered her face. She groaned loudly when she realized how wet Scully already was.

"Oh, Scully..."

She began to lick Scully ever so lightly, tasting her. Her thumb pressed down on Scully's clit, the pressure constant. Scully's hips bucked again and again. "Oh, yes... Fletcher... like that... don't stop," she pleaded.

Fletcher began to tongue-fuck Scully, driving her near the brink. As soon as she sensed Scully was close to coming, she backed off, leaving Scully gasping and whimpering. Scully thrust her hips up into Fletcher's face, needing the contact. "Please... Fletcher," she moaned.

Again, Fletcher brought her to the point where Scully was sure she was going to climax, and again Fletcher backed off. "You're driving me crazy... I can't take much more..."

Fletcher moved her lips to Scully's swollen, over-stimulated clit. She sucked gently at first, then gradually tightened her lips. Her tongue flicked at the very tip of it and Scully cried out. "Now... oh, God... Fletcher... oh... oh, yes..."

Fletcher sank two fingers deep into Scully, then just as quickly pulled them back, but not completely out. Over and over, she repeated her actions until Scully's climax almost exploded from her.

And still, she kept at it, eliciting yet another strong orgasm from Scully. <Oh, yeah, Scully, keep coming... Come _for_ me... Come _because_ of me·>

Unable to take anymore, Scully gently pulled Fletcher's head away. "Time out," she panted. "Let me catch my breath·"

Fletcher's hand stilled and she slowly withdrew her fingers. She kissed the top of Scully's thighs, then her stomach. She began to sing softly to herself.

<What is she singing?> Scully thought. <I know that tune.> She smiled, then laughed as she finally understood the words.

"Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me..."

-end-


<<Chapter 10>>

Saturday, November 21st, 5:50 PM

Fletcher smiled when she saw Marva and Karrin through the peephole. "Sorry," she said through the apartment door. "No solicitors."

"But we have fine hair-care products," Marva called out plaintively.

"Then get your asses in here!" Fletcher unlocked the door and grinned at her two laughing friends.

Marva was wearing a short, black skirt that showed off her shapely legs. Her blouse was silk with browns, blacks and golds. With her heels, she was almost the same height as Fletcher. Karrin was wearing a dark gold dress that showed just enough cleavage to catch Fletcher's eye. <I'm such a pig,> Fletcher chastised herself as she realized she'd been staring at Karrin's chest. "Don't you two look nice," she complimented them.

"Thanks."

"You look pretty good, too, Fletcher," Marva commented, kissing her on the cheek. "Happy Birthday."

"Gracias." Fletcher was wearing a pair of loose, but tailored, black slacks. She wore a black and gold button vest with a white tab collar shirt underneath. Karrin hugged Fletcher and added her own birthday wishes.

"Anyone for a drink?" Scully asked as she emerged from the bedroom.

Fletcher held her breath. She'd seen Scully in skirts and business suits before, but that was nothing to how she looked tonight. She wore a somewhat tight-fitting short black dress with a plunging neckline. She wore a matching short black jacket over it and black heels. The simple gold cross that she wore seemed to add to her grace.

Marva nudged Fletcher and whispered, "breathe, Fletcher."

"Right," she nodded. "You look great, Red."

"Thanks."

"How about that drink?" Fletcher said, tearing her eyes away from Scully.

"I'll have a club soda," Karrin said. "I'm driving tonight."

"Marva?"

"White wine?"

"Sure. Scully?"

"Scotch rocks."

Fletcher went into the kitchen and poured the drinks, making sure to pour herself a double vodka over ice. <That gorgeous redhead in there? She's mine. And I'm hers. Hohhhhhhhhly shit.>

Marva lifted her glass after Fletcher had given everyone their drinks. "A toast to the birthday girl."

"Hear, hear," Karrin said, smiling.

There was a tiny little 'clink' as their glasses touched once.

"Did you have a nice birthday, Fletcher?" Marva asked.

"Yes, thanks. I was even in town for it," Fletcher replied, her arm slipping around Scully's waist.

"Really? I thought you were on the road all last week."

"I was in just for the day. I only had time to grab something to eat before I had to leave." Scully's cheeks blushed a faint pink, recalling what Fletcher had 'eaten' for her birthday. "We really celebrated _last_ night." She sipped from her glass. "You should see what Scully gave me."

<Oh, God, I hope she's not talking about what I 'gave' her after dinner,> Scully worried. <She wouldn't tell them about that, would she?>

"What's that?" Karrin wanted to know.

"This really great book about astronomy. Next time you're out to the house, I'll have to show it to you. The photography in it is amazing."

Scully thought she'd hid her relief well, but Marva didn't miss it. Marva rarely missed anything. She caught Scully's eye and winked. Scully's cheeks reddened and Marva smiled to herself as she took another sip. "Fletcher, when was the last time we went out like this?"

Fletcher thought a moment, then rolled her eyes. "Geez, maybe five or six months ago. I think we went out last spring or early summer. I know it was before the Fourth of July."

"Where are we going?" Scully asked.

"A private supper club we belong to," Fletcher said vaguely.


Saturday, 7:00 PM

Scully was completely lost. She had never been to this part of the District before. It was an industrial area, mostly deserted at this time of the week. After a great deal of turns and sidestreets, Karrin pulled into a building that on first look appeared to be a warehouse but was really a parking garage. She stopped the car and a young, blond woman wearing a black uniform approached the car and opened the door.

"Hello, Lila," Karrin said, stepping out of the Saab.

"Dr. Gundersson, Ms. Owens."

"Lila," Marva said, getting out on her own. <Give the girl a _little_ break. She's probably been running since they opened.>

Lila held the door for Karrin, then stepped to the right and opened the door to the backseat. Fletcher stepped out, straightening her designer tuxedo jacket.

"Dr. Buchanan," she said quietly.

"Good evening, Lila. This is Dr. Scully," Fletcher said, taking Scully's hand as she stepped out of the car.

Lila nodded her head then got behind the wheel. "Your usual spot?" she asked Karrin.

"Please."

"Valet parking?" Scully commented as Lila drove away. "I'm impressed."

"Just wait," Fletcher said simply.

Scully fell into step beside Fletcher as they followed Karrin and Marva down a hallway to a non-descript door. Scully spotted a security camera in a darkened corner of the ceiling. Piano jazz floated into the corridor as Fletcher opened the door. Another young, well-dressed woman - this one Asian - was waiting on the other side. She stood in front of a carved wooden lectern, a ledger book opened in front of her. Scully could see two other women standing in the background, in the dark.

"Good evening, Dr. Buchanan."

"Good evening, Mariko." Fletcher said something in Chinese or Japanese -Scully couldn't be sure which. The woman replied in kind, a smile on her face.

Mariko greeted the other women, nodding when Fletcher introduced Scully to her. "Would you like your usual room?" she asked Fletcher.

"Sure, but we'll have a drink in the bar first."

"Certainly. I'll tell Rita that she can find you there."

"Thanks. Is Elizabeth here?"

"She's upstairs with a dinner party, but I expect her back momentarily."

"I'll look for her later."

Fletcher gently took Scully by the elbow and escorted her down a long, paneled hallway. They went around a corner and suddenly they were standing in a large dining room. Most of the tables were full. <It's all women,> Scully thought as she quickly scanned the room. She thought she recognized some of the women, or at least their faces looked familiar. More than half of the women were in dresses or skirts, and all were well-dressed. <Are all these women...? They certainly don't _look_...Come on, Dana, don't be stupid.> She looked at her dinner companions as they walked around the edge of the high-ceilinged room. <Does Marva look gay? Or Karrin? I suppose Fletcher does, but I didn't think so the first time we met.>

She looked up at Fletcher who was nodding hello to several women as they made their way to the bar. A waitress immediately seated them at a booth with a view of a baby grand piano. Scully sat down between Fletcher and Karrin.

"Dr. Buchanan, Dr. Gundersson, Ms. Owens, we haven't seen you in months," the waitress said, taking out her pad.

"It's been a while, Carol."

"Let's see _how_ much of a while." She pointed her mechanical pencil at Fletcher. "Stoli rocks..."

"You got it."

Carol moved the pencil point to Karrin. "Club soda -- with lemon, _not_ lime..."

"Right," Karrin laughed.

The waitress nodded, making her curls bob. She pointed at Marva. "Fetzer chardonnay, _ice_ cold..."

"She is _so_ good," Marva intoned.

Carol smiled at the compliment. She turned to Scully, and paused. Finally she said, "I'm stumped."

"She's never been here before, Carol," Karrin informed her.

"That would explain it." She gave Scully a friendly smile. "What'll it be?"

"Scotch rocks. Dewar's, if you have it"

"We have it. I'll be right back."

Scully turned to Fletcher and whispered, "When we came in, did I see -"

"Yes, but what and who you see here, stays here."

"But I thought she was married," Scully continued.

"Not everything is how it seems, Red."

"Wow." Pause. "Is he -"

"Like I said, not everything is how it seems." The waitress returned with their drinks. "Put them on my tab," Fletcher instructed her.

"Wait a minute," Marva interrupted. "You're our guest tonight, Fletcher."

"Oh, for pete's sake, Marva, let me buy a round or two."

"No way." Marva turned back to the waitress. "Put them _all_ on my tab."

Carol looked pointedly at Fletcher, who put her hands up in mock surrender. "Fine," she agreed. "Put them on her tab."

"Fletcher Buchanan, as I live and breathe," a sultry voice said from behind Scully. She looked up to see a very attractive <No, stunning> dark-haired woman place her hand on Fletcher's shoulder. <Who's _that_,> Scully thought, her jealousy flaring up.

"Elizabeth," Fletcher enthused. She stood and greeted the woman warmly.

"Word travels fast through here. I had to see for myself. You actually brought a _date_?"

"Elizabeth, Dr. Dana Scully," Fletcher said introducing them. "Scully, this is Elizabeth Delaney. She runs the place."

"Pleased to meet you," she said, extending her hand.

"Likewise."

Scully quickly checked her out as Elizabeth greeted Marva and Karrin. <She's older than Fletcher, but not by much. And the jewelry she's wearing - easily worth more than my entire year's salary. She's certainly attractive. I wonder if she and Fletcher - stop it, Dana. The past is the past.>

Elizabeth slid into their booth beside Fletcher. "I was wondering if I could entice you to do something for me?"

"You know I have trouble saying no to you, Elizabeth," Fletcher laughed.

"Could I interest you in a little piano playing tonight? My regular is out tonight with the flu."

"You want me to sing for my supper?"

"Something like that," she said with a smile.

"Well, only for a little while, as long as Marva agrees to sing with me, and I get to keep the tips."

"_We_ get to keep the tips," Marva corrected Fletcher.

"Do you mind, Red?" Fletcher asked.

"No, go ahead." <I'd like to hear her play the piano.>

Fletcher got out of the booth after Elizabeth, then made a big deal out of escorting Marva over to the piano. She sat down on the piano bench, Marva beside her.

"Start with a little Gershwin?" Fletcher asked Marva.

"Sure. Which one?"

"How about 'Could You Use Me'?"

"I think that's a good opener."

Fletcher played the intro, then repeated it. Most of the women in the bar turned to watch them. It wasn't the first time they'd seen Fletcher, with or without Marva, at the piano.

"With apologies to the Gershwins," Fletcher said, then she sang:

'Have some pity on an Easterner, show a little sympathy
 No one possibly could be sterner, than you have been with me
 There's a job that I'm applying for, let me put it to you thus
 It's a partnership I'm dying for, missus and missus us.
 Before you file it on the shelf, let me tell you of myself
 Oh, I'm the chappy to make you happy,
 I'll tie your shoesies and chase your bluesies
 Oh, lady, wouldya, oh lady, couldya use me
 I'd shake the mat out, and put the cat out,
 I'd clean the garret and feed the parrot,
 Oh, lady, would you, oh tell me, would you use me
 Do you realize what a good gal you're getting in me?
 I'm no Elk, or Mason, or Woodman who gets home at three
 The girls who see me, grow soft and dreamy
 But I'm a gander, who won't philander
 Oh could you use me, 'cause I certainly could use you

Fletcher turned to Marva, and Marva sang the second stanza.

'There's a gal I know in Mexico, who's as strong as she can be
 Eating nails and drinking Texaco, she is the type for me
 There is one in California, more romantic far than you
 When she sings 'ha cha chania', I often think she'll do
 But as for you, ma'am, I'm afraid, you will never make the grade
 For you're no cowboy, you're soft and how, boy
 I feel no muscle, that's fit for tussle
 I must refuse you, I cannot use, excuse me
 No nightlife for you, the birds would bore you,
 The cows won't know you, a horse would throw you,
 You silly gal, you, to ask me, can you use me, huh
 Though at love you may be a wizard, I'm wanting to know
 Could you warm me up in a blizzard, say forty below?
 Your ties are freakish, your knees are weakish
 You're not a sender, you elbow bender
 Though you can use me, I most certainly can't use you

Scully joined Karrin and the other women in their applause and laughter. She turned to Karrin as Fletcher started another song.

"They're really good," she said. "Do they do this often?"

"Oh, once in awhile when we all go out. I think Fletcher does it whenever she comes here alone."

"What exactly is this place?"

"A very exclusive, private club."

Scully's eyebrow seemed to go up on its own. "Exclusive? How exclusive?"

"Lesbian or bi-sexual women only. You have to be recommended by another member, and the annual dues are...very expensive. I think you have to have a six digit income to get in as well."

"You don't know?"

"We got in on Fletcher's recommendation. To be honest, Dana, I think Fletcher's a silent partner here. Marva and I don't even have to pay dues, and I know Fletcher has something to do with it."

"Have you been coming here long?"

"Fletcher has since before she met Marva. We came here as Fletcher's guests for a few years, then Fletcher gave us our own membership one year. We've been coming here ever since."

"It's certainly posh." Scully gazed around the room, trying not to gawk too much.

"It is nice to have a place to go out to dinner when we feel like dressing up. Sometimes we just come for drinks and dancing."

"Elizabeth said something about Fletcher bringing a date."

"Oh, that." Karrin smiled. "Fletcher's never brought a date here." <Though she has _left_ here with someone more than a few times.> "She never even brought Marva here - not until Marva and I were together."

"What about Clarice?"

"She wouldn't come with Fletcher, except once we all went out for dinner. She didn't want to be - um, how do I put it - publicly out? She also didn't like the wealth. I think she felt outclassed by the women here, which is too bad. I think she had more class than a lot of the women here. Money and upbringing don't necessarily guarantee class."

Scully turned her attention back to Fletcher and Marva. They sang several more showtunes, mostly duets, then Marva sang a song or two by herself. She saw Fletcher whisper something to Marva, then she began to play a familiar tune. She looked up at Scully and smiled, and then she sang:

"Lookin out...on the morning rain..."

"Ahh-oop," Marva put in.

Fletcher nearly broke up, but continued. "I used to be so uninspired..."

Scully tried not to be embarrassed when she realized there were several women in the bar trying to see who Fletcher was singing to. She looked down at her drink for a few moments, then back up at Fletcher. <Our song. We have a song. And she's _singing it_ to me. Oh, this is so great.>

<I don't think I've ever heard Fletcher sing this one,> Karrin thought. She started to say something, but stopped herself. Scully seemed intent on hearing every word. <I wonder if anyone in the bar has picked up on Fletcher's mood,> Karrin wondered. <It'd be hard not to. Her eyes rarely leave Dana and she can't seem to keep from smiling. And it's a real smile, too; not one of those almost 'predatory' smiles she used to have whenever she was here.>

When Fletcher finished singing, she tossed back her drink quickly. Her smile, surprisingly, appeared to be shy, embarrassed; almost as if she'd suddenly realized that she'd been caught feeling happy.

"I am so glad that Fletcher's seeing you, Dana," Karrin said quietly.

"Excuse me?"

"You're the best thing that's happened to her in a long, long time. I've never seen her in love. It's good to see. And it's good to see someone in love with her, too."

"Does it show that much?" Scully asked, somewhat embarrassed.

"Only to the people that know Fletcher." She reached out and squeezed Scully's hand. "And yes, it does show on you as well."


Saturday, 8:30 PM

After begging off another encore, Fletcher and Marva were finally able to leave the piano. The hostess walked up just as they got back to the table. "Your room is ready now."

"Thanks, Rita."

"Elizabeth wanted to know if you'll be returning to the bar," she asked Fletcher and Marva as she led them upstairs.

"Probably not. We were planning on a little dancing after dinner."

"I'm sure she'll be disappointed to hear that," Rita replied, sliding back the door to their dining room. "Would you like this open or closed?"

Fletcher looked at the others before responding, "Open is fine."

Scully followed Marva and Karrin into a room with a large round table and four chairs. A small chandelier hung over the table. The walls were an off white, almost beige color, and the wood trim was ornately carved.

Rita waited until they were all seated before handing them their menus. It took a Scully a few minutes to realize what was different about the menu. <There are no prices listed.>

"Do you want to see a wine list?" Rita asked.

"Sure, but the wine and any other drinks are going on my tab," Fletcher said firmly. Marva opened her mouth to protest, but quickly shut it after a stern look from Fletcher.

"Here you go," Rita said, handing Fletcher the list.

"Anyone want an appetizer or will the salad be enough?" Marva asked.

"I'll pass," Karrin said. "I'm watching my weight."

Scully nodded her agreement as she continued to look over the menu. <Everything looks so good, but I'm not _that_ hungry.>

"We'll start with the Caesar for four and the rolls," Marva ordered. "Oh, and Rita, put anchovies on it."

"Oh, yeah. Good idea, Marva," Fletcher agreed.

"Oh, no, not this again," Karrin sighed. "Help me out here, Dana. Don't tell me I'm outvoted 3-to-1."

"I'm with you on this one, Karrin," Scully said in support.

"Great. We're deadlocked," Fletcher grumbled.

"How about I put the anchovies on the side?" Rita suggested.

"Depends on how much these two are willing to go without kissing," Karrin said with a smirk.

Scully blushed but her face remained expressionless. "Or if they're willing to start flossing _now_."

"Your call, friends."

Marva and Fletcher exchanged looks. "Well, if it's for the greater good..." Marva said.

"No anchovies," Rita said, writing it down.

"Give us a minute or two on dinner," Marva continued.

Rita turned to Fletcher. "Would you like to hold off on ordering the wine, as well?"

"Just give me one second." After reviewing the wine list one more time, Fletcher quietly ordered two bottles, a chardonnay and a cabernet.

"What are you having?" Scully asked Fletcher after the waitress left.

"The twin baked stuffed lobster tails. After four days of airline food, I'm starving for something good. How about you?"

"Probably the broiled sole."

"That would be my second choice. Have it with the potatoes. They're divine." Scully nodded.

"I bet I know what you're ordering," Karrin said to Marva.

"Oh really? What?"

"Filet Mignon."

"It's a tossup between that and the London Broil," Marva admitted. "How 'bout you?"

"The chicken and vegetable pasta." She made a face at Marva, but her eyes were smiling. "Some of us don't have the perfect metabolism."

"Some of us don't eat like a bird on a hunger strike," Marva returned.

Scully started to worry about the exchange, but then she saw they were holding hands and smiling. Karrin leaned over and gave Marva a quick kiss on the cheek. <Longtime companions,> Scully thought enviously.

After pouring the wine, Rita made up the Caesar salad on a small cart that she'd wheeled into the room. She set the salad onto the table, followed by a basket of assorted hot rolls.

"Are you done with your traveling?" Karrin asked Fletcher.

"I've got trips to Pittsburgh and Cleveland this coming week, and then New York, Philadelphia and Boston the week after that. That's the end of _this_ tour. Of course, all of that can change at a moments notice," she added, buttering a roll.

"Are you traveling much, Dana?"

Scully shook her head as she sipped her wine. "Not right now. I start next week in Fletcher's division. I don't imagine I'll do any traveling the first week." She looked over at Fletcher. "Or will I?"

"Best guess, Roy will have you get familiar with the staff and the procedures the first week. After that, you'll be on the board for cases. I don't know how much traveling you'll do." Fletcher helped herself to a second serving of salad. "So, Karrin, are you still getting decent hours at work?"

"Well, I wouldn't call them 'decent'," she laughed, "but they certainly are better than the hours I had during residency."

"At least she's home more nights than before. It was really hard trying to fit my store schedule around those hours."

"Do you know your holiday schedule yet?" Fletcher asked.

"Actually, yes." Karrin handed Rita her now-empty salad bowl. "I'm working Christmas weekend, but I have New Year's weekend off."

"Do you want to spend New Year's together?" Marva asked.

"I'd like to. Did you have any plans, Red?"

"No." <I can't remember the last time I _did_ have plans for New Year's.>

"Good. Why don't you come over New Year's Eve and spend the weekend with us?" Fletcher suggested.

"Will the jacuzzi be in?" Marva inquired.

"It's being delivered the week after next."

"Then the champagne's on us."

"I can live with that," Fletcher laughed.


Saturday, 10:15 PM

Fletcher refilled her wineglass, then leaned back in her chair. She looked over at Scully. She watched as Scully smiled seductively, then slowly slipped the last bite of dessert into her mouth. Fletcher cocked one eyebrow and smiled back at her.

"Mmmmmmmmm," Scully said, wiping her mouth with her napkin. "Cheesecake of the Gods."

"Absolutely," Marva concurred.

"I think I totally blew my diet tonight," Karrin groaned.

"Diet? You're on a diet?"

"Well, I'm trying to eat better. Residency totally messed up my eating habits and I put on a few pounds that I'd like to take off."

"A few pounds?" Fletcher asked skeptically. "Where?"

"Trust me on this one, Fletcher."

"I keep telling her she looks fine. If she wants to eat healthier, okay, but she doesn't need to diet," Marva commented.

"Well, maybe a little dancing will help," Fletcher said, pushing herself back from the table.

"Upstairs or downstairs?" Karrin asked.

"Hmmm. Good question. Upstairs okay? I'm not really in the mood for fast dancing. Maybe later."

"Sounds good to me," Marva agreed, standing up.

Fletcher took Scully's arm and they followed Marva and Karrin up a flight of stairs. The room was large, dimly lit and had many booths and tables and chairs facing the dancefloor. A bar ran along the back wall and several women sat at it. There were quite a few couples dancing to the quiet, romantic music. Marva and Karrin went to the bar to get the drinks while Scully and Fletcher made for the last unoccupied booth in the room.

<This is an intriguing place,> Scully thought as she sat down. Three floors, probably more. I didn't see any dance area when we came in.> Fletcher slid into the booth beside her. Scully took Fletcher's hand and squeezed it. "I love it when you look relaxed."

Fletcher laughed, leaning back against the lushly padded booth. "It's great to _be_ relaxed. These last few trips I've felt like a rabbit on a treadmill with the carrot just out of my reach." She snaked an arm around Scully's shoulders. "Though that makes coming home even better."

Scully felt warm in more than a few places. "Do you really like your book?"

"Oh, Red, it's _fabulous_! I've always wanted a really good book on the stars!" Her grin widened. "Of course, I _always_ see stars when you're around."

"I love you," Scully said suddenly.

"I love you, too, Red," Fletcher replied immediately. "Would you dance with me?"

"Now?"

"Yes."

"Sure, okay."

Fletcher took Scully's hand and led her to the dancefloor. She took Scully into her arms and held her tenderly, almost reverently. Fletcher clearly looked and acted like a woman in love.

Marva and Karrin watched them as they sat down at the table.

"I can't help but smile when I see them together," Marva said, sipping from her glass.

"I've never seen Fletcher happier," Karrin replied. "I just hope she doesn't do something stupid."

"I don't think she will. She doesn't dare."

"Why do you say that?"

"Because I threatened to shoot her if she did. And she knows I wasn't kidding her. Not completely, anyways." Marva looked back over at the dancing couple. "All kidding aside, if Fletcher _does_ screw this one up, she will have me to answer to, and I won't be as kind as Clarice was."

"I'm sure Fletcher won't want to meet the wrath of Marva," Karrin kidded.

"Would you?"

"No. Once was enough for me." Karrin set her drink down. "Dance with me?"

"All you have to do is ask." Marva smiled a wide, flirty smile.

<<End Chapter 10>>


<<Chapter 11>>

Sunday, November 22nd, 8:45 AM

The sound of a steady knock on the front door woke Scully up. Fletcher was still sound asleep, on her stomach, her face buried in her pillow. Scully quickly got out of bed and put her robe on without disturbing her. <Not surprising,> Scully thought ruefully. <How many Stolis did she have?> She glanced at the clock on her way to the living room. <How did it get so late? We must have forgotten to set the alarm.>

She looked through the peephole. When she saw it was Mulder, she unlocked the door.

"Is Fletcher up?" Mulder asked as he walked into the apartment.

"No, she's still asleep. We had a late night last night."

"Is she dressed?"

"What?" Scully was confused.

"Does she have any clothes on?"

"Yes. A t-shirt and a pair of sweats."

"Good," he said with one of his patented smirks.

"Why do you want to know?"

Mulder ignored Scully's question and walked past her and into the bedroom. She followed him in, curious to see what he was up to, certain that it was no good.

"Rise and shine, Fletcher!" he said loudly.

"Go away, Mulder," she groaned, covering her head with a pillow.

He sat down on the bed beside her and started bouncing up and down, singing in time to his bounces. "Hah-pee birth! Day! To! You! Hah-pee birth! Day! To! You..."

"Mulder, if you don't stop shaking the bed, I'll be forced to do something drastic."

"Like what?"

"I might...have...to puke on you." She leaned toward him, making a retching sound. Mulder jumped back. As he did, Fletcher rolled off the bed and clobbered Mulder with her pillow, knocking him over. As he tumbled back on the bed, Fletcher pounced on him, sitting on his back and pinning him face down, one arm behind his back.

"Say uncle."

"Aunt."

"Uncle," Fletcher repeated.

"Never!"

She reached down and began to poke him in the ribs and armpits. Mulder erupted in peals of laughter. Scully's eyes widened. <I didn't know Mulder was ticklish.> She couldn't believe she was watching two supposed grown-ups acting like this. She folded her arms across her chest and tried to look stern, but it didn't work. Her face dissolved into laughter.

"Tell me, Mulder," Fletcher asked as he squirmed and laughed beneath her. "How do you know if a girl is ticklish?"

"Give her a couple of test-ticles," he shot back, almost giggling. She continued to tickle him. "No...no more...uncle...uncle," he pleaded.

Fletcher got off of him and sat back. Mulder snorted a few more times, wiping his eyes on the back of his hand. He rolled over and sat up beside her.

"Y'know, Mulder, you're the only man I ever let into my bed."

"I can see why," he deadpanned.

"I don't understand, Mulder. I thought you were into the rough stuff."

"No, you must have me confused with somebody else," he replied, looking at Scully.

"Mulder!" She grabbed a pillow and swatted him with it.

"Kidding, kidding," he said, his hands up in self-defense.

"And don't encourage him, either," Scully said, trying to glare at Fletcher, but failing. "You two..." She threw her hands up in exasperation and shook her head. "I'm going to take a shower."

Fletcher turned to Mulder after Scully disappeared into the bathroom. "Maybe I'll go join her. Wash her back and..." She smacked her lips and leered at Mulder.

"I, uh, I don't want to know about it." Mulder fidgeted.

Fletcher leaned over, hooked her arm around his neck and whispered into his ear in a low and throaty voice. "Wouldn't it just about kill you to have to sit out here, waiting, while you know that Scully and I are taking a shower together?"

He clapped his hands over his ears. "I can't hear you," he said, beginning to hum loudly.

"Just imagine it, Wonder Boy. Scully and I, in the shower, naked, our bodies all wet and soapy."

"La,la,la,la,la,la..."

"Better than any of your videos, huh?" she laughed, slapping his thigh. "And it'd be happening live, only feet from you, just a door away."

She got up from the bed and started for the bathroom. Mulder jumped up and retreated to the living room, Fletcher's laughter following him.


Sunday, 12:00 PM

"Perfect football weather," Fletcher said, squinting into the bright November sun. "Just cool enough to need sweatshirts, but not too cold." She adjusted her maroon and gold baseball cap, then placed it back on her head.

"I ordered it up special," Mulder said with a grin. "Did you expect anything less from me?"

"From you, Mulder, I'd expect freezing temperatures and torrential rain," Scully commented.

"Oh ye of little faith. How could you doubt me?"

"I've known you far too long to expect anything but the worst," Scully fired back.

"You really outdid yourself with the picnic, Spooky," Fletcher said, pulling another beer from the cooler. "What I want to know is, who helped you?"

"Nobody. I went to the grocery store _myself_ and made the sandwiches _myself_."

"I'm impressed. You're not domestically-challenged after all," she laughed.

"Hey, I resent that." Mulder pretended to be hurt.

"Puh-lease, Mulder. I've been feeding you for years under the pretense that you couldn't fend for yourself."

"Which doesn't make _me_ the clueless one."

"Point taken," Fletcher grinned, raising her bottle in a salute.

"Mulder, did you pack anything for dessert?" Scully asked.

"Chocolate chip cookies from the bakery," he replied, pulling out a small bag.

"My favorite," Fletcher smiled.

"I remembered."

"I don't know, Mulder. I may have to open up an X-File of my own on you," Fletcher teased. "You packed a picnic lunch and even remembered a dessert."

"And I could open one on you, too," he countered.

"Why's that?"

Mulder looked over at Scully who had moved to the front seat of the car, looking through her purse for something.

"That's more of an X-File than me."

"What? Scully dating me?"

"Well, yeah," he agreed, "but more _you_ dating anyone more than a week or two."

"I guess you'd better check the stars. Maybe the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter's aligning with Mars."

"That's about the only plausible explanation I've heard."

"For what?" Scully asked, returning.

"Uh, why the Redskins are so bad this year," Fletcher lied.

"Speaking of which, we should probably get to our seats soon," Mulder suggested.

"Good idea. Let me finish my beer first."

She swallowed the last of her beer, then returned the empty bottle to the cooler. Mulder locked up the car and the trio headed for the stadium.


Sunday, 5:10 PM

"Great game, great game," Mulder said as they walked back through the parking lot.

"I was ready to leave at halftime," Fletcher said.

"Well, when they were down thirty-one points, I thought 'here we go again.' I was really surprised they made a game of it."

"Maybe there's some hope for them. And how 'bout those Cardinals? They could make the playoffs this year."

Scully walked quietly beside Fletcher, just listening to them. She understood football, had even enjoyed the game, but she wasn't a fan like Fletcher and Mulder.

"Where should we go for dinner?" Mulder said, unlocking the car.

"Dinner? You had two hotdogs during the game," Scully observed.

"And two pretzels and a box of popcorn," Fletcher added.

"That was hours ago. By the time we get out of here, it'll be dinner time."

"Why don't we stop and get a pizza on the way home?" Fletcher proposed. "By the time we get to my apartment, I might be hungry enough to fight you over the last slice."

"How about you, Scully?" Mulder asked.

"A pizza would be fine."


Sunday, 7:30 PM

"What time should I come over on Tuesday?" Mulder asked, picking up another slice of pizza.

"Anytime after work. I'll be in Pittsburgh, but I should be home by seven-thirty." She looked over her shoulder for Scully, who had disappeared into the kitchen. "Hey, Scully, are you staying over at my house Tuesday night?"

"I didn't know I was invited," she said, returning to the living room, a can of diet coke in her hand.

"Consider yourself invited."

"Are you sure I won't be in the way?" Scully asked, sitting down beside Fletcher.

"Of course not. You'd better be packed and ready to go, Mulder," Fletcher warned. "I want to get an early start." She draped a leg over Scully's lap.

"Well, I'm sure they won't be sending Scully and me anyplace so I should be packed."

"Good, good. I'll fix us a late supper."

"Let me, Fletcher," Scully offered, her hand dropping to Fletcher's thigh. "I need the practice, especially with my trip to my mother's coming up."

"Be my guest," Fletcher said with a grin. "I won't ever stand in the way of anyone else cooking - unless it's Mulder."

"Hey! I know how to cook," Mulder whined.

"Since when? What have you ever cooked that wasn't frozen?"

"I've cooked plenty of things."

"Boiling water for ramen noodles doesn't count."

"You wait, Fletcher. I'll cook you a dinner."

"I won't hold my breath waiting. In the meantime..." She leaned forward and grabbed the last slice of pizza before Mulder could. "Do you want a bite?" she asked Scully.

"Of the pizza?"

"Well, yeah," Fletcher said, a crooked grin on her face. "Unless you're offering to bite something else." She raised her eyebrows several times in a poor imitation of Groucho Marx.

"Yuck! You two are making me lose my appetite," Mulder groaned.

"I doubt it," Fletcher hooted. "It's probably those five slices of pizza on top of two hotdogs on top of two sandwiches..."

"But who's counting," Scully added.

"I don't need this abuse," he grumbled, trying not to smile as he got up from the recliner.

"You don't have to go, Mulder. We'll behave ourselves."

"Nah, it's late. I've got to get a start on my packing."

Fletcher set the pizza down and got up. She walked Mulder to the door and hugged him. "Thanks for the great birthday, Spooky."

"We'll have to make it an annual event again."

"Most definitely. Thanks again," she said, kissing him on the cheek.

He was embarrassed and tried to cover it up. "Careful, Fletcher. You know what they say about jealous redheads."

Scully gave him the raised eyebrow. "Don't you have to be a threat for me to be jealous?"

Mulder staggered, clutching his heart. "Medic!"

Scully laughed. "See you tomorrow, Mulder."


Tuesday, November 24th, 6:30 PM

Scully parked her car next to Mulder's. She reached into the back seat and picked up the bag of groceries. Mulder opened the front door for her.

"So what's for dinner, Scully?" he asked, taking the bag from her.

"Salad, steaks, baked potatoes."

"Sounds like a lot of food just before Thanksgiving."

"God only knows what you two will be eating while you're away. I wanted to make sure you had at least one decent meal before hitting the road," she replied, unpacking the groceries. <Why do I always sound like my mother when I'm with these two?> "Did you get packed?"

"Yup," he said, proud of himself. "My bag's in my car."

"Good, then you can help me fix dinner." The look on his face was priceless. <Good. I got him. No excuses tonight.>

"Are you sure you want me to?"

"I trust you with a knife, Mulder. Besides, if you hurt yourself, I'm a doctor, remember?"

"Okay, but I'm _not_ wearing an apron."

--------------

"How do you feel about being apart on your first Thanksgiving?" Mulder asked as he attempted to cut the carrots.

"Fine," Scully asked, surprised that Mulder had even asked. She bent over and picked up the pieces of carrots that had bounced to the floor. "Mulder, let me show you how to do this without making a mess." She demonstrated the proper way to dice carrots, then had him try again. "Better, much better."

"Does your family know about Fletcher?"

"No."

"Are you planning on telling them?"

She avoided answering him by asking her own question. "What is this? Twenty questions?"

"I'm just trying to make normal conversation, Scully. You're always telling me that my conversation is too focused on UFOs and conspiracy theories."

"But does your conversation have to revolve around _my_ personal life?"

"You're the only one that's got one, Scully." He put the carrots into the salad. "What's next?"

"The cucumbers."

"Cucumbers? Y'know what they say about cucumbers, Scully..." he leered.

"Don't go there, Mulder," she warned.

"Why _is_ a cucumber better than a man?" he persisted.

"Mulder..." She waved her knife in front of him.

"Okay, okay."

"You're doing this on purpose, aren't you? You want me to kick you out of the kitchen so you won't have to help. Nice try, but it won't work. Get chopping!"


Tuesday, 7:55 PM

Fletcher peeked in the oven before heading into the den. <Mmmmmm. Baked potatoes and I think that's steak in the broiler.> Mulder and Scully were sitting on the sofa together, watching TV. She did a double take at what they were watching.

"'What is Mozart...'" Alex Trebek said dramatically, "is right!"

Scully looked like the Cheshire Cat. She smiled and held out her hand. Mulder sighed as he handed her a dollar.

Fletcher leaned over and kissed Scully on the cheek, then grinned and kissed Mulder on the cheek. "Don't mess with my girlfriend on 'Jeopardy', Mulder."

"I knew we should have watched 'Cops'," he grumbled.

"How long before we eat?" Fletcher put her briefcase down next to the sofa.

"Dinner's ready whenever you are," Scully replied, getting up.

"Great. Just let me hang up my coat and wash my hands."

"How was your flight?" Scully asked as she put her arm around Fletcher's waist.

"Late, as usual. And traffic was a bitch getting out of Dulles." Fletcher put her arm around Scully and gave her a quick one-armed hug. "Can I give you a hand with anything?"

"No, it's all set."

-------------

"Great dinner, Red," Fletcher said, pushing her empty plate out of the way.

"Mulder helped."

"Yeah, right," Fletcher said sarcastically.

"Really. He made most of the salad."

"I did," Mulder piped in. "I had no choice. Scully threatened me with a knife."

"You'll get a cooking lesson from me one of these days, Mulder. How do expect to catch some woman if you can't even cook a simple dinner for her?"

"I'll spoil her by wining and dining her at all the best restaurants."

"Emphasis on _whining_, no doubt," Fletcher grinned.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing."

"He's got to meet a woman first before he can take her out to dinner," Scully teased.

"Well, hanging around with you two isn't helping."

"You're meeting women, Mulder. Just none that'll date you."

"How 'bout -," he stopped himself. <I don't think it would be a good idea to ask Fletcher for her 'little black book'. Scully probably doesn't even know Fletcher has one.>

"How about what?" Scully asked.

"How about dessert?" he asked, hoping he sounded smoother than he felt.

"There's an idea," Fletcher agreed promptly.

"Apple pie sound good?" Scully asked, apparently accepting Mulder's quick change of subject.

"Always," Fletcher assured her.

"With vanilla ice cream," Mulder added conspiratorially.

"Ahhh," Fletcher sighed, leaning back in her chair. "There's no place like home."

Mulder put his napkin on the table. "I'll get it."

"No, sit down, Mulder. I'll take care of it. You and Fletcher can clean the kitchen and take care of the dirty dishes."

"Damn, KP again," Mulder swore.

"Are you packed?" Fletcher asked Mulder.

"Yup. I'm ready to go."

"Good. I've just got to make a quick trip to the grocery store tomorrow morning before we pack the car."

"No problem. I'll just sleep in a little later."


Wednesday, November 25th, 1:45 AM

Fletcher moved closer to Scully, her hand slipping up underneath Scully's pajama top. <Goddess, I love her so much. I can't seem to get enough of her either. I'm glad we went to bed early, had some time alone. Mulder was pretty cool about it, too. No obnoxious comments either - for a change.>

Scully stirred, her body slowly waking up. She shifted, stretching her body, then arching it up to meet the strokes up Fletcher's hand. "What time is it?" she mumbled.

"Almost two," Fletcher replied, her lips finding Scully's neck.

"Again?" Scully asked with a hopeful smile, her eyes still shut. <I just love it when she kisses me right...there...yes...God, one kiss is all it takes...> Scully sighed as she felt her body begin to stir.

"Oh, yeah, again..." Fletcher unbuttoned Scully's top, then moved into Scully's arms, a leg wedged between Scully's legs.

"Do you think he's asleep?" Scully whispered against Fletcher's lips.

"I think so, and if he isn't, does it really matter?" she answered, her hips slowly rubbing against Scully.

"No...not at all..." Scully's hands moved up Fletcher's back and she pulled her t-shirt up.

Fletcher kissed Scully again and again, her hips continuing to thrust against her in a slow, steady pace. She slid her hands down and Scully raised her hips so that Fletcher could tug her pajama bottoms off. Fletcher lifted her body off of Scully's, but only so she could take off her own clothes.

"Much better," Fletcher said, laying between Scully's legs, her breasts mashed against Scully's. She kissed her once, then again. "You feel so damned good, Red...I just love the way you feel against me..."

Scully placed her hands on Fletcher's head and kissed her hard on the lips, her legs around Fletcher's hips, her pelvis pushing up against Fletcher's. <It doesn't take much,> Scully thought. <A touch, a word, a kiss...I get so aroused so quickly...I wonder if she knows it...>

"Fletcher..."

"What?" Fletcher was breathing heavily.

"You're getting me so excited..."

"Tell me, Red...what do you want...what do you need..."

"Touch me...go in me..."

Fletcher dropped her hand between them and lightly stroked her fingers across Scully's clit, feeling the warm moisture increase.

"How...how do you want it..." She slowly pressed two fingers inside of Scully, groaning aloud at how warm and soft it was. "Slow..." Her fingers slid slowly in and out once. "...or fast..." She quickly moved her fingers in and out, then stopped. "...soft..." Her fingers barely stirred inside of Scully, then she pushed her fingers deeply into Scully, filling her. "...or hard..."

Each movement of her fingers caused Scully to respond by moving her hips in kind. "Slow...and hard...and...deep..." Scully replied.

Fletcher was turned on, her body reacting in a way that she'd never felt before. She sensed something different between them, unsure what it was. Scully had never before been quite so verbal about her wants, her needs.

"You want me to fuck you..." Fletcher croaked.

"Yes..." Scully exhaled.

"Then tell me that...tell me, Scully..."

"I want you..." she stammered. "I want you to...fuck me..." she said in a hoarse voice, her hips seeming to move on their own accord.

Fletcher did as requested, her fingers plunging into Scully, slowly and firmly, her hips moving with every thrust. She pressed her thumb down hard onto Scully's clit. <Oh, goddess, she feels so good...>

"Oh, Scully..." Fletcher gasped.

"So good...oh, Fletcher...don't stop...oh, god, please don't stop..." she babbled.

"Never...never...oh, Red...almost there...come for me, baby...oh yeah..."

Scully clutched at Fletcher, her arms tight around Fletcher's neck and her legs squeezing Fletcher's waist. "Faster...fuck me, Fletcher...oh, god... yes... yes... like that...oh, god, Fletcher..."

Scully cried out, her body stiffening, her arms holding on to Fletcher tightly.

------------------

Mulder looked at the clock beside his bed. <Hmmm. It's after two. They should be asleep. I doubt I'd wake them up.> He pulled on a pair of sweatpants. <I've got such a craving for that leftover steak in the refrigerator.> Halfway down the hall, he heard the moans coming from Fletcher's bedroom and he stopped. <Oh, geez, that's not...that can't be...oh, man...it _is_. I did _not_ want to hear _that_.> He rushed past the closed door, only to hear a loud noise, a voice crying out. <Oh, God, I think that was Scully.>

He ran down the stairs as quickly and quietly as he could.

--------------------------

Fletcher collapsed atop Scully, her body covered in sweat, her heart racing. She pressed her cheek to Scully's.

"I gotta tell you, Red..." she gasped. "I'm getting rather fond of these, uh...wakeups in the middle of the night..."

Scully slowly relaxed the hold she had on Fletcher. Her legs fell back to the bed and her arms remained loosely around Fletcher's back. She raised one hand and gently lifted Fletcher's head from her shoulder, then kissed Fletcher's forehead.

"Just when I think it can't get any better..." she sighed. "I love you, Fletcher..."

"I love you, too, Red...I love making love to you, touching you, feeling you..." She kissed Scully lightly on the lips. "It's going to be hell these next few days, being apart."

"You've certainly given me something to remember you by." Scully smiled, hooking one leg around Fletcher's hip. She slid her hands down Fletcher's back to her ass. She squeezed the small behind, pulling Fletcher closer.

Fletcher lifted her head higher, hearing a noise.

"What?" Scully asked.

"Shhh." She cocked her head and listened. "I thought I heard something." She lowered her head to Scully's breast. "Guess not."

"Do you think it was Mulder?"

"I don't think so. And you know what, I don't care." She propped her head up as she leaned on one elbow. "I refuse to have my sex life revolve around whether Mulder can hear us or not."

Scully leaned into Fletcher and kissed her in an effort to silence her. She moved a hand up and placed it on Fletcher's chest, just above her breasts. Fletcher lifted her hand from Scully's waist and covered Scully's hand.

"Do you feel it?" Fletcher asked.

"What?"

"My heart...beating for you..." she said earnestly, her eyes looking into Scully's eyes.

Scully remained silent for a moment, wanting to process every feeling, every thought she was experiencing. "I love you, Fletcher."

"I love you, too, Red."


Wednesday, November 25th, 7:35 AM

Mulder strolled into the kitchen, still wearing his sweatpants and faded t-shirt. Fletcher was standing by the backdoor, zipping up her leather jacket. Scully was dressed in a pair of jeans and a sweater, and she was standing in front of the kitchen sink, a glass of juice in her hand.

"I'm going to the store to pick up a few provisions," Fletcher said. "Do you need anything?" she asked Mulder.

"How about some earplugs?" he asked with a smirk as he poured himself a cup of coffee. Scully spit her juice out, then began to choke, her face bright red. Mulder put his hand on her back. "You okay, Scully?"

"Fine, fine," she managed to say. "It just went down wrong."

"Uh huh, right."

Fletcher glared at Mulder. "Just for that remark, Mulder, no donuts for the road."

"What? _No_ donuts? I take it back, I take it back."

"Too late." She turned to Scully. "Are you okay, Scully?"

"I'm fine."

"Do I dare leave you here with Mulder or do I take you with me?"

"I won't shoot him _this_ time."

"Yeah, been there, done that," Mulder cracked.

"I could always aim a little further south, Mulder."

"Fletcher, take her with you. I don't trust her not to hurt me."


Wednesday, 8:50 AM

Mulder loaded the cooler into the backseat and then got into the passenger seat. Fletcher walked down the driveway with Scully, holding her hand. They stopped by the front of the Cherokee and turned to face one another.

"Call me?" Scully said.

"Why don't you call me? I don't want to interrupt anything with your family."

"Okay. I'll call tonight after I go to bed."

"Bed, huh?" Fletcher grinned. Her hands moved to Scully's waist and she hugged her close. "Wish I was going to be there tonight."

"Me, too." She kissed Fletcher on the cheek. "Have a safe trip. Try to stay out of trouble."

"Always." She kissed Scully on the lips. "I'll miss you."

"I'll miss you, too."

Mulder leaned over and honked the horn. <God, those two...they're always touching and kissing...who would've thought it of either of them?> "C'mon, Fletcher, let's go," he called out.

"In a sec, Mulder. Hold your horses." She pulled Scully up against her body and kissed her deeply on the lips. "When I get back..."

"What?"

"I'm going to take you to bed and fuck you for hours," she whispered against Scully's neck, her voice deep and full of lust.

Scully's body instantly responded to Fletcher's words and the tone of her voice. She croaked, "and after that?"

"And after that you can do the same for me," she grinned.

"Can't beat _that_ deal with a stick," Scully giggled. She stroked Fletcher's cheek. "Please drive carefully." She snuck a glance at Mulder. "And make sure he doesn't go too far."

"You know it." They had one more hug. "I love you."

"I love you, too."

It was a few moments before Fletcher reluctantly pulled away and got into the Cherokee. Scully didn't move until the SUV was through the gate and out of sight.

<<End Chapter 11>>


<<Chapter 12>>

Wednesday, November 25th, 10:30 AM

"Hungry yet, Mulder?" Fletcher asked.

"Yeah. I didn't have much of a breakfast."

"Look in the backseat, in the white bag."

Mulder unbuckled his seatbelt in order to reach the bag. Once he snagged it, he turned around and buckled himself in again. A little-boy smile sprang onto his face when he saw the bag's contents. "Donuts?" he said, surprise in his voice. "I thought you weren't going to buy any." He pulled out a cinnamon sugar covered donut and began to devour it.

"You know I can't stay mad at you." She grinned, then grimaced at his abysmal-as-usual table manners. "And Mulder, try not to make a mess, okay?"

"Can't help it," he replied, the donut topping sticking to his lips and chin. "Do you want one?"

"Give me a bagel. I don't care what kind."

He stuffed his donut into his mouth as he searched the bag for a bagel. "Here, pumpernickel," he mumbled through his full mouth.

"Thanks," she said, her eyes never leaving the road as she took the bagel from him. "Think you can manage getting me a bottle of water out of the cooler?"

"Sure." He finished his donut before returning his attention to the backseat once more. He grabbed a bottle for himself as well. "Do you think we'll make the ferry?"

"The last one is at ten o'clock. We damn well better make it to Woods Hole before that. I'm aiming for the eight forty-five ferry."

He put the water bottles in the cup holder between the seats before reaching in the bag for another donut. <Mmmm. Mmmm. I just _love_ fresh donuts.> "Have a good time last night?" he asked between bites, a small smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth.

"Yeah, we did, as a matter of fact." Fletcher refused to be baited.

"Sounded like it."

"Bullshit. There's no way you could have heard us in your room."

"I didn't hear you _there_. I was on my way down to the kitchen for a little late night snack and, well...you know..."

"No, I _don't_ know. Tell me." <I'm not gonna let him get away with silly little comments and innuendo. He's gonna have to say what he heard.>

"I wasn't spying or anything," he said, suddenly defensive, and embarrassed. "I just happened to overhear you two as I was walking by your room. That's all."

"Guess we'd better get you a little apartment refrigerator for your room."

"Well, the way things have been going between you two, that probably wouldn't be a bad idea."

"What's _that_ supposed to mean?"

"Scully's in love with you, you know," he said brusquely, almost challenging her.

"Did she tell you that?"

"No, but I can tell."

"Oh, and just how can you _tell_?"

"Fletcher, I've been with Scully for almost seven years. I've never seen her look at anyone they way she looks at you, never seen her act the way she does whenever you're near her. and it's not just a, uh, a physical look, either."

"Do you mean, she doesn't just 'have the hots' for me?"

"Yes...No...I mean, she's...it's not just a physical attraction for you," he stammered.

"Mulder, your detective powers haven't slipped one bit," Fletcher said wryly.

"Huh?"

"I know how Scully feels. I know she's in love with me."

<Uh oh. I know what _that_ means.> "And what are you gonna do about it?"

"What do you mean - 'what am _I_ gonna do about it'?"

"How long are you gonna leave her hanging? Don't you think the holidays are a lousy time to dump someone?"

"Who said I was going to dump her?"

"Aren't you? I'd almost rather you did dump her instead of stringing her along," he added.

"Mulder, I wonder about you sometimes," she sighed, not really angry with him. "You can be so off-base."

"Why's that?"

"I'm in love with your partner," she said quietly.

"What? You?" Mulder was glad he was sitting down. <_She's_ in love with Scully? No way. Fletcher swore she'd never fall again.> It was the _last_ thing he thought he'd hear Fletcher say.

"Yeah, I know," she confessed. "It surprised me, too."


Wednesday, 2:30 PM

Scully had stopped at her apartment to pack before going to her mother's house. She wasn't really in any hurry to get there. <I can't wait until Fletcher stops traveling so much. It would be so nice to be able to have more than a night or two together. I don't think we've ever spent more than two or three consecutive nights together.> She changed lanes in the ever increasing holiday traffic. <Sleeping alone is getting to be tougher and tougher. Huh.> She smiled. <Never thought I'd be thinking _that_.>

As she pulled into the driveway, she saw her brother Charlie and his sons in the side yard, kicking a soccer ball. She beeped her car horn and waved. They stopped playing and came running over to her.

"Aunt Dana!" the boys called out.

"Hi, JR, Kevin," she greeted them, getting out of her car.

She didn't have to bend over too far to get her hugs hello from the boys. <My God, they're growing like _weeds_!> Charlie waited until she'd said hello to his sons before approaching her.

"Take your Aunt's bags to the house, boys."

"Okay," Kevin said.

Scully took her bag out of the backseat. "It's not too heavy for you?" she asked them.

"No," JR assured her. "We'll both carry it."

The two boys, nine and seven years old, each grabbed an end of the bag, and carried it into the house. It wasn't heavy, just awkward.

"Hey, sis," Charlie said, hugging his sister.

"Charlie." She gave him a long, hard hug, then kissed his cheek. He was surprised at the intensity of her hug, but kept his thoughts to himself.

"Everyone else inside?" she asked.

"Bill and Tara are visiting Jack Dylan, his old C.O. on the 'Osborne'. They'll be back in time for dinner," he explained, picking up her other bag.

"When did you get here?"

"Last night." The two redheads walked to the house together, each with arm around the other's waist. "It's good to see you, Dana. We're all glad you could join us."

"Getting the time off was easier this year. I'm going on a new assignment next week, so my boss didn't want us on any new cases."

"Where are you going? Wait, never mind. You can tell all of us at once instead of repeating your story."

"Thanks."

"You won't believe how big Katie is now."

"Is her hair still red?"

"Three kids, and she's the only redhead. It's more your color than mine." He grinned and ruffled her hairdo, eliciting a laugh. "And she's got the temper to go with the hair, too."

All Scullys were quick with a raised eyebrow. "Are you insinuating something, Lieutenant Scully?"

"Moi?" He put his free hand to his chest. "I know nothing of insinuation. I am just a simple Search and Rescue deity..."

"Emphasis on 'simple'," she cracked. He laughed, eyeing her hairdo. <She's wearing it shorter,> he mused. <And I've never seen her wear it over her eyes. It's actually kind of sexy.> He wondered why that was so unsettling.

Maggie was waiting for them at the front door. Scully gave her mother the same hug she gave her brother. Startled by the strength of her daughter's hug, Maggie looked over Scully's shoulder at Charlie. He looked back at her and shrugged his shoulders. Scully threw in a peck on the cheek. "Good to see you, Mom."

"We were worried you'd get caught in the traffic," Maggie said, leading them through the hall and into the living room.

"Just missed it," Scully said, shucking out of her trenchcoat. "My timing was good, for once."

"I put you in your old room."

"Great."

A sturdy four-year old girl came running into the room, braids flying, her mother bringing up the rear. Katie Scully was dressed like her brothers, in jeans and a NAVY sweatshirt. Already she was showing signs of being a tomboy, constantly tagging along after her brothers.

"Aunt Dana!" she shouted, flying into Scully's arms.

"And how's my goddaughter?" Scully asked, picking her up and hugging her. <Charlie wasn't kidding! She's not just big for her age, she's solid, too! She's built more like Charlie than either of the boys.>

"Gramma said I could help smash the 'tatoes tomorrow," the young girl exclaimed.

"Oh, really?" Scully looked at her mother, one eyebrow raised. Maggie smiled and nodded. Scully set her niece down and greeted her sister-in-law with a warm hug. "Hey, Jill."

"It's been way too long," Jill said, giving Scully a squeeze.

"What are you feeding this one?" Scully asked, nodding at Katie.

"Frosted flakes and steroids," Jill deadpanned. "Gives 'em that rosy glow in their cheeks."

"Good healthy Navy diet," Charlie put in, adding to the laughter. Katie didn't know what they were laughing about, so she hugged her father as an alternative. He tugged on a braid and held her close with one hand.

"Can I do anything to help now?" Scully asked her mother and Jill.

"Between Jill, Tara and I, we've pretty much got everything done for tomorrow."

"If you're smart, sis, you'll just stay out of the way," He winked at Scully. "I'm surprised Mom allows anyone else in her kitchen. You know how territorial she is," he said, a mischievous smile on his face.

"Charles Scully," Maggie said sternly, but her mouth twitched with a badly-hidden smile.


Wednesday, 11:00 PM

After saying goodnight to the others, Scully headed upstairs to her old room. It hadn't changed much since she'd moved out. The walls were still an off-white, the matching bedspread and curtains still the same green and blue patterns. <That's new,> she thought, spying the framed print her mother had put up. Scully had never been one to put up posters when she was a teenager, unlike most of the girls she'd known; the exception had been the human anatomy poster she'd put up when she'd finally decided that she wanted to be a doctor. <Mom took it down as soon as I left for college. Guess she thought it was too graphic or offensive.>

She smiled as lifted her bag up and set it on one of the twin beds. She opened her purse and dug out her cell phone. She sat down on the other twin bed and pressed the speed dial.

- - - - -

Fletcher had left her cell phone on the dresser so she could find it quickly. She was reaching into the cooler for a beer when it began ringing. <If this is work, I'm gonna be _pissed_!>

"Buchanan," she answered.

"It's me."

<Thank you, Goddess, I owe you one.> "Hey, Red."

"Are you there yet?"

"Yup. We checked in about half an hour ago. What time did you get to your mom's?"

"Just after two. How was the drive for you?"

"Not too bad until we got into Connecticut. We picked up a lot of traffic coming out of New York City. How about you?"

"Okay. I was ahead of most of the holiday traffic coming out of the city." Scully laid back on the bed. "Are you alone?" she asked.

"Yeah. Mulder went to see if he could find some hot food. He should be back soon." She heard the silence at the other end. "Something wrong, Red?"

Scully paused, then asked, "you're sharing a room?"

"Yeah. Is that a problem?" Fletcher replied, sitting down on her bed. She tucked the phone between her ear and her shoulder as she unscrewed the cap off a bottle of beer.

"No. It just surprises me, that's all."

"We're only sharing a _room_, not a bed. We always have. I like to keep an eye on Mulder while we're in Chilmark. I don't like leaving him alone when he's like this."

"How is he?"

Fletcher shrugged, even though no one was there to see it. "Quiet, moody. He'll be okay by the time we leave."

Scully still worried, but she accepted the reassurance. <I miss you like fire, Fletcher, but I'm glad you're there for him.> "What're you doing tomorrow?"

"After breakfast, we'll drive around, walk the beaches. And if we can find an open restaurant, have a nice dinner. Either way, we'll be back in our room for a few beers and to watch the football games." She took a long swallow from her bottle. "What time is dinner for you?"

"Same time it is every year when my brothers are here - between the football games."

"That's late."

"Oh, we won't starve. We have breakfast together, then munchies when the first game kicks off - mostly vegetables, crackers, cheese. Nothing too heavy."

"How's it going there?" <And even though Mulder needs me, I wish I could see for myself.>

Scully had her shoes off and had her back against the headboard. "Okay. It's pretty hectic with four young kids under foot."

"I bet."

"I wish you were here, Fletcher," Scully said, lowering her voice. "I really want to feel you beside me tonight."

"Anyplace _else_ you want me?" Fletcher said, her voice light, almost teasing.

"On top of me," she whispered. "In me..." Scully's hand automatically dropped into her lap. She squeezed her legs together, trapping her hand.

"Do you have any idea what you're doing to me, Scully?"

<I do, Fletcher. It's the same thing that happens to me when you talk to me in that deep, husky voice of yours.> "No, tell me," she said suggestively.

"I...don't think so. That wouldn't be a very good idea."

"Why not?"

"Red, the last thing I need is to have Mulder come back to the room and find me with my hand down my pants, having phone sex with you."

Scully laughed softly. "It's going to be a long four nights, isn't it?"

"Yup," Fletcher laughed along with Scully. "Good thing it's only four nights. Any more than that and Mulder might even start looking good," she cracked.

"Very funny. I suppose you're going to be staying up late and watching the porno channels."

"Not at this hotel. We're lucky we get the network channels and ESPN."

"I'm surprised you two didn't pack a VCR and some of his tapes."

"Not this trip. Besides, he's not into watching them while we're here." She looked up at the sound of the key in the door. "He's back." Mulder walked into the room, a bag in each hand. "Looks like he was successful." She covered the phone. "What'd you get?"

"Hi, Scully," he called out. "I sweet-talked the waitress at the local diner to stay open long enough to fix us clam chowder and BLTs," he said in response to Fletcher's question.

"Surprise, surprise," she said into the phone. "He did okay with the food, Red."

"I'll let you go, then," she said.

"Pleasant dreams, Scully."

"Nighty-night, Scully," Mulder added.

"Goodnight, Fletcher. I love you."

"Me, too," Fletcher said.

"Oh, tell her you love her, will you?" Mulder complained, as he flopped down on his bed. "Your food's getting cold."

"Mulder says I should tell you 'I love you'," Fletcher said.

"Really?" Scully was surprised. "Did you tell him?"

"Sort of."

"Oh," was all Scully could manage to say, her grip tightening on the phone.

<Uh oh.> "We'll talk more tomorrow. Love you. Sleep well."

"You too, Fletcher."

Fletcher set her phone down on the bedstand. <She's not pleased. She wanted to tell him herself. Shit.> "You can be such an ass, Mulder."

"Not me." He handed her a large styrofoam cup containing the soup. "It's pretty good," he commented. "Your sandwich is in the other bag. Whole wheat, toasted, no mayo, right?"

"Very good, Wonder Boy. There's hope for you yet."

"Any more beer?" he asked, turning on the TV.

"There's a six pack on ice in the cooler."

"I love a responsible roommate," he said, getting up from his bed.


Thursday, November 26th, Thanksgiving, 7:15 AM

Scully lay in bed. She could smell breakfast cooking, hear the kids noisily trying to stay quiet as they made their way up and down the stairs. <I don't know what's different this year, but something is,> she thought. <I had a really fun time last night, reminiscing with everyone. I don't think I've seen Mom smile that much in years. Even Bill's more relaxed than I've ever seen him. Maybe fatherhood is mellowing him out.>

She pulled the covers up around her neck. It never once occurred to her that maybe _she_ was the one that had changed.

There was a tiny knock at her door.

"Come in," she said, sitting up.

Katie Scully opened the door, then ran in and jumped on Scully's bed. She was still in her pajamas - her brother Kevin's hand-me-downs. "Are you ready to get up yet, Aunt Dana?"

She couldn't help smiling at her goddaughter's enthusiasm. <A hundred miles an hour, and it's not even eight o'clock yet. It's Jill that needs steroids.> "Are you?"

"No. Can I get in with you?"

"Sure, but only for a few minutes," Scully said, folding back the covers. "I don't want us to miss breakfast."

Katie quickly scooted under the covers with her Aunt. She laid her head on her pillow as Scully snuggled with her. "Gramma said she was going to make chocklit chip waffles for us."

<Oh yes. Breakfast of my dreams.> Scully smiled to herself. <Sorry, Fletcher, but even your omelettes can't top my mother's waffles.> "She used to make them for your daddy on very special occasions."

"Do you like them?"

"I might eat one or two." Scully smiled.

"I can't eat as many as Kevin and JR," she said, her face in a frown. "Someday I will."

"I'm sure you will, too."

"We might get a dog," she said suddenly. "Daddy said we could. Mommy doesn't want one. She said she'll have to take care of it all the time when Daddy goes back to his ship. Did you ever have a pet?"

"We had a few. Your daddy even had a pet rat when he was a boy."

Katie's eyes doubled in size. "A rat? Coooool!"

"Gramma didn't like it very much."

"Did you?"

"It was a white rat with a big brown spot. He was very nice."

"What was his name?"

"Fred," Scully laughed, surprised she remembered.

"That's a silly name for a rat," Katie giggled. She hopped out of bed and tugged on Scully's hand. "Let's go eat breakfast."

"Okay. I'm hungry, too."

Scully put her robe on over her pajamas. Katie held her hand all the way down the stairs. Upon seeing the others around the dining room table, Scully was struck once again by the difference in her brothers and their families. Bill and Tara were dressed and sitting at the dining room table. Mathew was sitting in his high chair, fussing over his breakfast. Charlie and his family were still in their pajamas. The boys' plates were covered with half-eaten waffles and a puddle of syrup.

"Daddy, what happened to Fred?" Katie asked her father as she sat down in front of plate with a fresh waffle on it.


Thursday, 10:45 AM

"Where to?" Fletcher asked, getting behind the wheel of her Cherokee.

"Just drive. I don't care where," Mulder said morosely.

"Aye, aye, sir."

Fletcher pulled out of the motel parking lot. She knew where he _really_ wanted to go and it didn't take her long to get them on the road to the Mulder house. She'd driven there enough times over the past nine years that she knew how to get there without asking Mulder for directions.

She parked in front of the house and cut the engine. Mulder didn't move, simply staring out the window at the forbidding structure. <Say it. You think it every year. This time, say it.> "You really should do something with the house, Mulder," she said softly.

That seemed to set him in motion. "What do you mean?" he asked, getting out of the car and heading up the front walk.

"Either sell it or rent it. It shouldn't just sit here empty. It's time to let go of it. It doesn't hold any good memories for you."

She didn't have to mention Samantha or his father. He turned and stared at her, his eyes both dark and blank. <Shit,> Fletcher swore to herself. <It's a bad one this year. Maybe 'cause it's the twenty-fifth anniversary of Samantha disappearing,> she mused. She turned up the collar to her coat. <Damn, that wind just goes right through me.>

"What do you know?" he asked, his back to her once more.

"Enough." Fletcher paused, then continued, "there was nothing you could do then, and there's nothing you can do now, Mulder. You were just a kid, for chrissakes. What were you supposed to do?"

"I was supposed to be the one," he said angrily, starting to walk around the house.

She cut him off before he could get away. "Well, it didn't happen that way, bud," she said harshly, stepping in front of him. "It wasn't your choice, anyway. And no matter how much you beat yourself up, it won't change one damn thing."

"Stop trying to psychoanalyze me," he snapped back. "You sound like one of those radio-shrinks."

Fletcher grabbed the back of his head. For a split second, Mulder thought she was going to head-butt him, then just as crazily thought she was going to kiss him. He stared into her eyes, which were quickly growing dark. He put his hand on her arm as if to knock it away, but he stopped himself.

"Mulder, listen to me," she said calmly, her eyes no longer dark. "I hate to see you like this. It tears me up inside to see you do this to yourself, year after year."

"It...it was my fault..it's all my fault..." There were tears in his eyes and he looked down at the ground.

"No, none of it was your fault. Not really. Not even what happened to Scully. You've been a victim, Spooky. You've been a pawn in a sick fucking chess game. Nothing more. And there wasn't - isn't - anything you can do about it."

Fletcher hugged Mulder close to her body as if trying to absorb the pain he felt. He sighed once and allowed Fletcher to hold him. He nodded his thanks and hugged Fletcher back.

"Mulder, you're all the family I really have. You're a brother to me, even if you have a dopey first name," she said, trying to coax a smile from him.

Mulder stepped back, his small smile almost looking like a grimace. "Who says _I_ have a dopey name, 'Eudora'?"

"I might have to get mad at you, Mulder. You _know_ first names are off-limits."

"I wasn't the one who made the crack about first names," he answered.

<Good,> Fletcher thought. <He seems to be coming back. I'll just have to keep teasing him for the rest of our stay here. The sooner we leave, the better off he'll be.>

"What do you say we try to find a place for dinner and then catch the Lions game?"

"Sounds like a plan," he agreed. They walked away from the house without looking back.


Thursday, 3:45 PM

"Charlie, Bill, Dana, boys, dinner's ready," Maggie announced.

"The game's gone into overtime." Bill complained.

"The turkey needs to be carved, William Scully," Maggie said, her voice a little sterner.

"Let Dana do it," Charlie suggested, a twinkle in his eye. "She's good with a knife."

"No way," Bill said, immediately getting up from his chair. "That's my job, not hers."

Charlie looked at his sister and winked. Once Bill had left the room, Scully moved next to her younger brother.

"Once a chauvinist, always a chauvinist," he whispered to his sister.

"He's just playing Daddy's role," Scully chided him.

"Maybe," Charlie allowed. "Still, I feel sorry for any women serving on his ship. He's probably a real pr - er - jerk."

"No doubt," Scully said dryly, a slight smile crossing her face.

Katie came into the room in a blur, like she always did. She climbed up onto her father's lap.

"I helped with dinner. I smashed the 'tatoes." She turned around and looked at the TV. "Who's the good guys - the blue shirts or the white shirts?"

"Well, Daddy likes the Lions."

"Which ones are they?"

"The blue shirts." Charlie looked up at the doorway. "Did Bill talk to you about tomorrow yet?" he said in a lower voice.

"No. What about it?"

"Katie, go wash up. You too, boys."

"Aww, Dad," JR whined.

"_Now_, sailor," Charlie said firmly. The boys sighed and trudged off after their sister. He waited until his kids were out of earshot before he continued. "We've set up an appointment with a photographer. We're going to have a family portrait taken of all of us as a Christmas present for Mom. We're all supposed to leave at different times and meet at one o'clock so Mom won't get suspicious."

Scully mentally reviewed her on-hand wardrobe. She was not pleased with the results. "How formal?"

"Well, Bill and I will be in our dress blues. And you know Tara will be wearing some getup. Jill won't be so formal."

"You'll have to put me in the back. I don't have any skirts or dresses with me."

"How about a sweater and slacks, like you're wearing now? That'll work."

"Are you sure?" <I think I'm wearing my best outfit now. It'll be wrinkled by tomorrow. I'll borrow Tara's iron. She always carries one...or maybe I could pick up a blouse and sweater at the mall beforehand.>

"It'll be fine."

"Charlie, Dana, time for dinner," Jill said from the doorway.


Thursday, 5:40 PM

"I still can't believe they screwed up the coin toss," Mulder said, his mind still on the previous game.

"It was pretty strange," Fletcher agreed. "Get me one, too, wouldya?"

Mulder grabbed them both another beer out of the cooler, then sat back down on the bed beside her. "I think the Cowboys are gonna get beat bad in this game."

"Would you like to make a little bet on how much?" Fletcher asked, a gleam in her eye.

"Nah, I know better than to bet a _spread_ with you."

"As long as you're talking football, Mulder," she warned.

"What else would I be talking about?" he asked, his attempt at wide-eyed innocence failing.

"Well, with your pornographic mind..."

"Not me, never."

"Uh huh. Right. Whatever you say, Spooky. Hand me the bag of chips, wouldya?"

He set the bag of chips on the bed between them, grabbing a handful for himself. <I can't believe neither of us is drunk yet,> Fletcher thought as she reached into the bag of chips. <How many beers have we had since dinner? I know we've split a six pack, maybe two.> She looked over at Mulder. <He's okay now, has been since we got back to the room, but I don't know how long that'll last. I wish we could leave tomorrow instead of Saturday.>

"So, tell me, Fletcher," Mulder said trying to sound casual, "are you really in love with Scully?"

"Do you think that's something I'd kid about?"

"No. I just have trouble believing it."

"Believing what? That anyone could be in love with Scully?" He remained silent. "Mulder, are _you_ in love with Scully?" Fletcher was curious.

"No...not _in_ love with her." He drank deeply from his bottle, his eyes still on the TV. "I thought I could be once, but I think it was more guilt over what has happened to her. I guess I feel protective of her, responsible." He looked at Fletcher. "And that means I want to protect her from getting hurt..."

"By people like me," Fletcher finished for him. Mulder's silence spoke for him. "Mulder, I don't know what I can say to convince you of my feelings for her. I love her, I'm _in_ love with her. She's the best thing that's ever happened to me. I don't know how I lived without her."

Now it was Mulder who was curious. "What makes it different for you?"

Fletcher looked at the TV now, but she wasn't watching the game. "Scully's a remarkable woman. I felt a connection with her the first time we met. I mean, sure, I was attracted to her. Who wouldn't be? But..." She shook her head. "I can't explain it. I'm not sure I want to, to tell the truth." She took a decent pull on her beer. "And it constantly amazes me that _she_ loves _me_."

"Why?" he smirked as he leaned back on the bed. "You're not so bad..."

Fletcher snorted. "Says the guy who thinks I'm gonna cut and run now that I've lured her into my web."

"A good handicapper goes on past performance," Mulder offered, trying to make a joke out of it.

"Yeah, well, you got this old nag down pat," Fletcher muttered, looking at her beer bottle like there was something unknown inside it. She began to scratch at the label with her thumbnail.

<Great. Nice job, Flash,> Mulder thought, guilt gnawing at his collarbone. <Jesus, if I'd known it was this serious, I'd have shut my big fat mouth.> "You've had a history," he finally said. "That doesn't mean you're not good enough for her."

"'Not good enough' isn't the point," she snapped, a little heat rising through the gloom.

He didn't want to say it. <But she's brought it up. Kind of, anyway.> "Is Clarice the point?"

Fletcher closed her eyes. "Nothing gets past you, does it, Wonder Boy?"

Mulder sat up again. "Fletcher," he said haltingly. "You don't need me to tell you whose fault it was. You _know_ what went wrong there. It's no mystery. You remember that old saw they had above the door to one of the classrooms at Quantico? 'Those who do not remember the past...'"

"'...are doomed to repeat it,'" she finished it for him. The maxim didn't seem to help her mood.

"Some things are more true than others. Don't let the past stop you, but don't _forget it_, either. Don't...make that same mistake..." He put his hand on the small of her back. "And keep being as good for Scully as you have been..." That got a small smile. He kept going. "...and you can't go wrong."

She never took her eyes off the bottle. "I'm good for her, huh?"

"She glows," he said seriously. "I've seen her in almost every possible situation, every possible mood. But I've never seen her glow. _Never_. It's great to see. You get the credit for that one, Fletcher."

Fletcher's eyes glistened. "I guess miracles do happen."

"Hey," Mulder chuckled, "fairy tales can come true."

She squinted at him. "Who you callin' a fairy?" She punched him lightly on the shoulder. They laughed and then they cheered. The Vikings had scored again.


Thursday, 11:05 PM

Fletcher woke up with a start - her phone was ringing. The TV was still on and provided the only light in the room. She reached out in the nearly dark room and groped for the phone only to get a handful of hair. <Mulder? What the hell is he doing on _my_ bed?> He hardly moved. <Shit, we never should've done those shots of Schnapps,> she silently groaned, rubbing her forehead.

"Buchanan," she said hoarsely, struggling to sit up straight.

"Hi, it's me. Did I wake you?"

"Uh, sort of." Fletcher cleared her throat, then turned to the sleeping body beside her. "Goddamnit, Mulder get in your own bed," she said, nudging him.

"Excuse me?" Scully said, not really sure of what she had just heard.

"Sorry. I was just telling Mulder to get off of my bed." She pushed him with her foot until he mumbled something.

"Um, Fletcher, what's Mulder doing in your bed, or shouldn't I ask?"

"He's not _in_ it. He's _on_ it. And he's getting off of it _right now_," Fletcher said more to Mulder than Scully.

"Okay, okay," he grumbled, rolling off the bed and stumbling over to his own. He crawled onto his bed and immediately fell back asleep.

"We fell asleep watching some movie," Fletcher explained. "We were drinking and never got around to having any dinner. Guess we passed out."

Fletcher looked around the room. The dresser next to the TV was covered with empty beer bottles. The half-empty bottle of Peppermint Schnapps sat beside two plastic cups. <Well, at least with the lights off I don't have to look at that ugly green wallpaper,> she thought.

"I once thought you two were like the Hardy Boys," Scully commented. "Not anymore. You're more like a couple of the 'Lost Boys'."

"We're not _that_ bad," Fletcher protested.

"Why do I get the sneaking suspicion that you two have done a lot worse than just getting drunk and passing it out." Scully sounded serious, but she couldn't keep the smile off her face or out of her voice.

"We've...uh...we've had our share of...um...'fun'," Fletcher stammered.

"I'm sure you have. I think it explains those few Mondays over the past several years when I wondered what Mulder had been up to over the weekend. All this time I thought he was trespassing on secret military installations or watching the skies for flying saucers. I know better now. I'd even bet a week's pay he was with you."

"All work and no play makes Mulder a dull, uptight G-man," Fletcher cracked.

"And what about you?"

"What about me?"

"All work and no play makes you..."

"I'm sure you can fill in the blank yourself, Red," Fletcher grinned. She reached back and rearranged her pillows. "How was your dinner?"

"Good. My mother's a great cook. I'm still full."

"I bet I can think of another way to fill you," Fletcher leered into the phone.

"Fletcher!" Scully almost sounded embarrassed.

"Relax, Red. Mulder's asleep."

"It's not just that..." Scully's voice trailed off.

"Then what is it?"

"I don't want to be thinking about...you know..." Scully resisted the urge to slide her hand down inside her pajama bottoms. <Not now. I can't think about it _now_. Absolutely not. I've just got to stop thinking about how much I wish Fletcher was here...kissing me...touching me...> She stifled the groan that threatened to escape from her lips. <This isn't working.>

"Tell me, Scully," Fletcher urged, her voice lower. "Thinking about what?"

"Fletcher, I'd rather just go take one of your prescribed cold showers than think about spending another night without you." She slid under the covers, hoping the cool sheets would help. <I really don't want to take a cold shower now. There's no way I could explain _that_ to my family. 'Oh, yes, Mom, that was me in the shower last night. I just _had_ to take a cold shower. Why? My lover's miles away and I'm going crazy without her and her touch.'> She smiled. <Definitely _not_ a scenario I want to play out with my mom.> She swallowed hard then shook her head once to clear her thoughts. "I _miss_ you," she said.

"I miss you, too, love."

"It's different this time, not like when we're apart because of work."

"I know, I know." Fletcher stretched, then covered her mouth, muffling her yawn. "Just two more nights."

"Two _long_ nights."

"Red." Fletcher's voice became serious.

"What?"

"Are you upset that Mulder knows about us?"

"He's known about 'us' since the beginning, Fletcher." Scully was confused.

"I don't mean him knowing that we're sleeping together."

"Oh, you mean, Mulder knowing how we feel."

"Yeah. You sounded a little upset last night."

"Not upset, just surprised. I didn't think you'd tell him."

"I didn't have any choice. It just kind of came up out of the blue."

Knowing Mulder the way she did, Scully knew he must've sprung it on Fletcher. <She probably felt like she was being ambushed,> she thought, a small smile on her face. "How is he with it?"

"It wasn't anything new to him. He'd already figured it out."

"And you? How do you feel with him knowing?"

"I'm okay with it. How 'bout you?"

"All right, I guess. It sort of makes sense that he's the first to know. He _was_ the one that introduced us after all," Scully smiled. She heard Fletcher yawn. "It's getting late. I'll call you again tomorrow night."

"Love you, Red."

"I love you, too."

"Good night. Have a good sleep."

"You, too."

Fletcher set her phone down. She went over to Mulder and saw that he was still out cold. She sighed, sat down on his bed and took his shoes off. She pulled the covers down and rolled him under the blankets. <This is the last year we do this, Spooky,> she thought, tucking him in. <I'm getting too old for this.>

She took off her shoes and got into her own bed. She watched the TV for a few minutes, then flicked it off. <Damn, I wish it was Scully that was here with me. Oh, well, if wishes were horses...>

<<End Chapter 12>>


<<Chapter 13>>

Friday, November 27th, 10:00 AM

Bill and Tara quietly slipped out of the house with Matthew without arousing Maggie's suspicions. Their cover story was that they were going to visit the Naval Academy to see an old instructor's of Bill's. Maggie made a half-hearted attempt at getting them to leave Matthew behind, but Bill said he wanted Matthew to have his first look at where he was going to go to college. Scully had listened with half an ear, and it sounded believable enough. <It's something Bill _would_ say in all honesty,> she thought. <I wonder if he would've said the same thing if 'Matthew' had been a 'Mary'? I doubt it.>

An hour after they left, Jill walked into the kitchen, a newspaper in her hand and Katie in her wake. Scully had just finished the breakfast dishes and was sitting at the kitchen table with Maggie.

"Dana, didn't you say something about needing a few new sweaters?" Jill asked.

Scully saw nothing in her sister-in-law's eyes except curiosity. <She's still a good actress, even if she doesn't do community theater any more.> "As a matter of fact, yes. How come?"

Jill held up a full-page advertisement. "Heavy specials at Macy's. Care to brave Black Friday with us?"

"Hey, I love mob scenes," Scully answered, already getting up. "Why don't you let me drive?"

"Sure. We can make it a girls' day out at the mall."

"I don't think I've done an after-Thanksgiving sale since Melissa was a teenager," Maggie said. "May I join you?"

The phone rang, saving Jill and Scully from having to come up with a plausible excuse for _not_ inviting Maggie. "Hello?" Maggie said into the phone. "Oh hi, Geraldine... What?" She threw a quick look at the other women. "Well, Geraldine, I'd love to, but..." She got up and walked out of the room, holding the mouthpiece away for a moment so her best friend wouldn't hear her sigh. "Yes, I realize that..."

As soon as Maggie went into the other room, Jill sighed in relief. "Perfect timing," she whispered conspiratorially. "I called her Tuesday afternoon and told her we needed help getting Mom out of the house, but not with us. Geraldine's going to invite her over, and she won't take 'no' for an answer."

Scully gave her sister-in-law an approving nod. "That'll give Charlie a chance to get the boys ready." She glanced out at her mother, who was still vainly trying to get a complete sentence in edgewise. "Good thing she called just then."

"Sometimes you need a little luck with your military precision."

That broke Scully up. Bill had made everyone synchronize their watches the night before, and he hadn't cracked a smile when he suggested it.

They heard Maggie relenting against Geraldine's full-court press. "Come on," Jill said, "Let's get ready to look disappointed. It's going to be tough enough getting a parking spot."

- - - - -

Scully was pleased she'd finally gotten her car detailed on Monday. <That's what people with light work schedules do, I guess.> She glanced in the rear view mirror at Katie, who was talking to her teddy bear.

"Do you have a dress for her to wear?"

"No. She won't wear them; absolutely refuses to. She wants to wear what her brothers wear."

"I can remember being that way when I was her age. I wanted to wear what Bill wore. Dresses were so inconvenient for rough-housing."

"And I'm sure you spent more than enough time in those 'wonderful' plaid skirts and jumpers all through school."

"Catholic schools." Scully laughed and shook her head. "I remember Melissa rolling up the top of her skirt to make it shorter. The nuns were always punishing her for that, and the makeup."

"But not you."

"No, not me. I was too busy trying to be the good student, the perfect daughter," Scully said with a wry smile. "I guess I was more like Bill than Melissa."

"And Charlie was more like Melissa than either you or Bill. He says he's still amazed he got into Annapolis."

"He always was a smart guy, a good student. He was just full of life."

"Still is, thank goodness," Jill said, her voice full of affection.

"He certainly seems to enjoy fatherhood."

"We've been lucky this past year. With the 'Eisenhower' in drydock for a refit, he's home more now than he's ever been." She turned to face Scully. "You should come down for a visit. It's been far too long since you've visited us."

"Maybe in the Spring."

<I bet I could bring Fletcher with me. Jill would understand. And I know Charlie and Fletcher would get along.> Scully was suddenly saddened that she hadn't - couldn't - share her relationship with Fletcher with her family. <Not yet. I don't know when, but it'll have to be soon. There's no way I'm spending Christmas without Fletcher. One holiday apart is one too many.>

Jill noticed the sudden change in Scully's demeanor but said nothing. It was a subtle difference in the way her mouth was set, the way her eyes slightly crinkled, but Jill could tell. <I wonder what she's thinking about? She's had something on her mind since she's been here, but she's not saying. I don't think it's bad, despite what Mom and Charlie said. She looks too healthy and happy.> The proverbial light bulb went on over Jill's head. <That's it - she looks _happy_. I don't think I've _ever_ seen her look that way before. I wonder what's changed in her life? I doubt it's the job change. Hmmm. I'll have to think about this. What could it be?>


Friday, 12:15 PM

"You take me to the best places," Mulder said through a mouthful of lobster roll.

Fletcher laughed, nearly choking on a spoonful of chowder. The Cherokee was the only vehicle in the parking lot, and they had a great view of the roiling waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Fletcher had slid her seat back as far as it could go so she could stretch her legs. Her soda bottle sat between her legs.

"Much as I love a good Thanksgiving turkey, nothing beats lobster and fresh clam chowder," she said, tossing her trash into the paper bag.

"Well, your Christmas turkey is pretty good," he remarked.

"Thanks." She slapped his thigh. "Let's go for a walk."

"A walk? Now?"

"Come on," she urged. "How often is the weather this nice in late November?"

"Nice?" His face was full of disbelief. "It's only forty and the wind is strong."

"The sun's out and fresh air will be good for both of us." She zipped up her coat, flipped up the collar and pulled her baseball cap down. "Come on, wimp. Let's go."

She jumped out the car and started down the beach. Mulder thought for a moment, then followed her.

"Wait up, Fletcher!" he called out.

Fletcher stopped and waited for him to catch up to her. She faced the water, the wind making her jacket flap loudly. She shut her eyes and took in a deep breath of the cold, salty air.

"I love the ocean so much," she said to him when he stood beside her. "I just wish I spent more than two weeks a year at sea."

"Why don't you? It's not like you live that far from the ocean."

"I just never seem to find the time. I tell you, when I was on active duty in the Gulf War, I tried to get topside at least twice a day. Even when I was off-duty and supposed to be sleeping, I'd go stand on the fantail and listen to the water, and the jets taking off and landing. I know it was a lousy situation - we were at war and all that - but I was happy to be at sea for so long."

Mulder looked at his friend. She'd never talked about the Gulf War before, and she never talked about the sea either. At least not with the dreamy-eyed look she was now sporting. <Maybe being in love is changing her,> he thought. <I know I said Scully was the one that 'glows', but Fletcher is getting close to looking that way, too.> He smiled warmly at her.

Fletcher threw an arm over Mulder's shoulders. "I never did thank you properly for finally introducing me to your partner, Spooky."

"Just what kind of thank you are you talking about?" he asked, a hint of nervousness in his voice.

"Let's do something crazy tomorrow night. Something we haven't done in a long time. You choose."

"Hmmm. The possibilities are endless." His smile turned impish, almost naughty. "How much time do I have to decide?"

"Just tell me on the way home tomorrow. And Mulder?" He looked at her. "Whatever we do, it _can't_ interfere with Sunday night."

"What's Sunday night?" he asked, clearly puzzled.

Fletcher removed her arm from his shoulders and stopped walking. "Do I have to explain _everything_ to you?" she asked, rolling her eyes at him.

"What?"

"I'm spending Sunday night with Scully."

"Oh, yeah, right. _That_." Now it was his turn to roll his eyes.


Friday, 12:35 PM

"The color's okay?" Scully asked as she signed the credit card slip.

"Dana, it's perfect," Jill assured her, as the sales clerk bagged the deep gold cashmere sweater. "Normally, I wouldn't think yellow would be a good color for you, but that shade is perfect." <It's good to see her in something besides black and navy. Some color makes her seem a little less severe, a little more relaxed.>

<Other than the price, it was actually a relatively painless purchase,> Scully thought. <Even the crowds haven't been as bad I thought they'd be.> She smiled as she put her credit card back into her wallet. <I must've been out of my mind to agree to shop in a mall the day after Thanksgiving, but it hasn't been that bad. Jill made that task pleasant, even fun.>

They gathered up their bags and made their way out into the throng of bargain-hunters. "Can we see Santa Claus now, Mommy?" Katie asked for what must have been the tenth time.

"After we get our pictures taken, honey," Jill explained patiently.

"Will you come too, Aunt Dana?"

"I wouldn't miss it. Do you know what you're going to ask Santa for?"

"Uh huh," Katie nodded solemnly as she took her aunt's hand.

"And what _do_ you want for Christmas?"

"I can't tell anyone until Santa. I hafta tell him first," she said with the logic that only a four-year old could understand.

"Here it is," Jill said, leading them to the photographer's shop.

Charlie and the boys were waiting by the counter, looking at the various photos displayed on the walls. Charlie was wearing his dress blues, the two gold stripes gleaming on his sleeves, the gold wings shiny above the two strips of ribbons on his chest. Both of the boys were wearing khaki slacks with navy sweaters. All three of them were sporting fresh Navy regulation haircuts.

"Where's Bill?" Scully asked.

"He and Tara and Matthew are having their picture taken first. They're giving one to Mom and one to her parents," Charlie explained.

"Is there someplace where I can change my clothes?" Scully asked.

"Down that hall, second door on the left."

Scully carried her purse and the paper bag down the hall and to the small dressing room. She quickly changed out of her blouse. <A separate photograph for Mom, huh? That's a great idea. I should have one done of myself as well. I don't think Mom's got anything more recent than the one when I graduated from the Academy.> She folded her blouse and placed it in the bag. <A photograph would make a good Christmas gift for Fletcher, too,> she thought as she carefully pulled on her new sweater. <She can put it on her desk in the office - now that she's put away that one with Clarice.>

- - - - -

"So, did Dana say anything to you?" Charlie asked Jill while they waited for Scully.

"About what?"

"Is she sick again?"

"Oh, Charlie, look at her," Jill sighed. "She isn't sick. As a matter of fact, I don't think I've seen her look healthier."

"Mom's worried," Bill added. "She thinks Dana's sick again and just not telling anybody, that she's come home for one last hurrah."

"Bite your tongue, Bill," Jill chastised him.

"Well, something's wrong. She's not acting like herself."

"Do you really want to know what I think it is?"

"Of course."

"I think she's in love," Jill said suddenly. Tara looked at her, nodding her agreement after a thought and a smile.

"What?" Charlie looked immensely shocked. "Did she tell you that?"

"No."

"Then where did you ever get an idiotic idea like that?" Bill demanded.

"A woman knows," Tara said quietly.

"Right," he said skeptically. "Like _she's_ going to be in love. She's got no life, a career that keeps her up to her elbows in dead bodies and her only male friend, hell, her only friend is that space cadet she calls a partner." He groaned. "Oh, Christ, it had better not be _him_."

Tara took his elbow and squeezed it hard. He saw Scully heading toward them and he quickly closed his mouth. Bill and Charlie tried not to stare at their sister. <She does look different,> Charlie thought. <It's the sweater. She finally looks like she's upgraded herself from black-and-white to technicolor.> He smiled at her. <I wonder if Jill's right - that she's finally seeing some guy?>

- - - - -

Scully suffered in silence through the whole series of photographs. Over and over the photographer repositioned the group, trying several different poses. When he finally snapped the last photo, Scully sighed. <About time,> she thought, watching the boys begin to fidget.

"Since it's a rush, I'll have the proofs ready for you tomorrow. You'll just have to let me know which one you want."

"I think we can _all_ find the time to stop by at some time tomorrow and vote," Bill said, his voice full of authority.

"You can make your arrangements with my assistant out front," the photographer directed them.

As the others headed out of the studio, Scully approached the photographer. He looked up and smiled. It wasn't every day that he had such a pretty woman in his studio, and the camera clearly loved this one. "Yes?" he asked.

"I know it isn't planned, but do you think you could take a photograph of me?"

"For that special fella?" he asked, a knowing smile on his face.

"Actually, for my mother," Scully said with a wry smile.

<Sure,> he thought, his eyes mentally rolling. <She's a woman in love and the photo won't be for her mother. I know better.> "Did you want to take them now?"

"Could we? Or I could come back tomorrow," she offered.

"No, today, right now is fine. I'll be too busy tomorrow."

"Thanks."


Friday, 2:20 PM

"I know it's not your job of choice, Mulder, but I'm glad you're coming back to ISU," Fletcher said as they drove back into town.

"Why's that?"

"It'll be good to be working with you again."

"That's about the only positive thing about it."

"You've always been welcome in the department."

"As long as you've been there," he added.

"I'm not the only one that feels that way. You wouldn't have been requested if you weren't welcome, weren't needed."

"I suppose," he muttered. "I just want to get back to the X-files."

"Would you rather be on that shit detail, or doing background checks?"

"No, no, anything but that."

"So put your time in and then in six months maybe things will have cooled down enough so you can have the X-files back."

"I'll believe it when it happens." He reached across and tapped Fletcher on the arm. "How does it feel to have _your_ career back on track?"

"What do you mean?"

"Didn't you feel exiled when you had to teach and couldn't work active cases?"

"At first. I was pissed, I admit it. But I also realized I was lucky. I was given a second chance."

"You came pretty close to wrecking your career."

"I know. And now look at me. I'm almost 'management'," she laughed.

"You know you'll be next to sit in the 'big chair'."

"Maybe."

"Fletcher, everyone knows the second whip moves up to the boss's spot."

"We'll see. I'm not so sure that's what I want to do."

"Well, you might feel differently. What's Roy got, seven years before his retirement?"

"Something like that."

"By then, you may want to stop working so many active cases."

Fletcher shrugged and looked over at him. He looked like he had something else to say, but was struggling not to. "What?"

"I was just thinking..."

"About what?"

"How Clarice feels knowing she won't get to be boss."

"Why wouldn't she?"

"There's no way the powers that be would make her second whip if you're the boss."

"Why not?" <Not _everyone_ knows about me and Starling.>

"Think about it, Fletcher. Do you really think they'll have two _women_ running the department?"

"That's assuming I move up. And what makes you think she even wants to?"

"Hell, I've known it for years. Surely you have."

"I haven't talked to her since she was transferred to Chicago."

"Bullshit. You keep telling me that, but I can't believe you haven't talked to her once in almost five years."

"Nope."

"Not even for work-related issues?"

"No, not once."

<Oh, boy,> he thought, <I knew it was a bad split, but I really had no idea that they still can't even talk to one another. What a shame. They made a great team, one of the best, when they worked together. Man, Fletcher, I still can't believe how badly you fucked up that one. You'd better not do it again with Scully.>

"Would you interested in playing three-on-three at Quantico?" Fletcher asked, changing the topic.

"Did you sign up?"

"Yup. I've got five of us signed up for a team. I'd like you to join us."

"Who else?"

"Does the name Byron Turner sound familiar?"

""Lord' Byron Turner? The kid who graduated from Annapolis two years ago? The best player to come out of Navy since David Robinson?"

"One and the same. Seems he chose the Marines over Navy when he graduated. He happens to be one of the PT instructors at Quantico."

"How'd you get him?" Mulder was practically drooling over the prospect of sharing the court with such a talented player. <Turner could've gone pro! With him on the team...Oh, baby!>

"I think he wants to join the FBI when his hitch with the Marines is over." Fletcher grinned. "And I pulled rank and gave him shit for being a Marine instead of going Navy."

"Who else do you have?"

"Johnny Hill - " Mulder shrugged. " - a weapons instructor. He's been at Quantico for three years. Played college ball at Nebraska. And Daryl DeStefano. "

"I remember Daryl. I'm just surprised he's still at the Academy."

"He's one of the few guys I'd trust with my life. You can't find a better backup anywhere."

<High praise from Fletcher,> he thought. <That's the ultimate compliment.> "Sounds like you've got enough players."

"I wanted to make sure we always had enough players. You know how much we'll be on the road, and we can't always count on Daryl being able to make it, either."

"When do we start?"

"After New Year's, Tuesday's at six-thirty."

"Sign me up."

"Good. It wouldn't be the same without you playing alongside me, Mulder."


Friday, 3:30 PM

"Aren't the boys going to see Santa Claus?" Scully asked as she and Jill walked Katie back through the mall.

"JR doesn't believe in Santa, and Kevin's still not sure. He _wants_ to believe, but not badly enough to stand up to his brother's teasing," Jill explained.

"I can't believe how much they've grown. JR's going to end up taller than his father, I bet. And Kevin won't be far behind."

"I thought with two boys so close in age that they'd be fighting all the time, but they don't. Sure, they wrestle with one another, but they're best friends, too."

Katie began to tug harder on Scully's hand, the closer they got to the 'North Pole'. "Hurry. I don't want to miss Santa Claus."

"Easy, sport," Jill laughed.

When they finally took their places in line to see Santa, Katie was hushed, saucer-eyed. She couldn't take her eyes off Santa, or his elves.

"Do you want to take Katie up?" Jill asked. "I need to get off my feet for a few minutes."

"Sure. Are you okay, Jill?" Scully was concerned. Jill always seemed to have an overabundance of energy.

"I'm fine, Dana." A wide smile spread over her face. "I just tire easy in the first month or two."

"Are you - ?" Scully's question hung in the air between them. Jill nodded and Scully hugged her sister-in-law. "How far?"

"Almost two months. We haven't told anyone yet, not even Mom."

"Is this..." Scully didn't know how to ask the question.

"A good thing? Yes. Unplanned, but yes, it's a good thing."

Scully reeled, ecstatic for her brother and sister-in-law. "Four kids. That'll be a handful for you."

"Not too bad. Katie starts school next year and the boys aren't much trouble anymore. JR is a big help now, especially with Katie."

"Well, you can count on me to come down for more than just a visit or two now."

"You're not upset?"

"Upset? Why would I be upset? _Mom's_ gonna go ballistic when she finds out how long you kept it from her..."

Jill bit her lip. "Well, I don't seem to have any trouble getting pregnant, and you..."

"I'm fine with it, Jill. Really." She squeezed Jill's hand. "I'll just be their favorite aunt," Scully said with a warm smile.

- - - - -

Scully waited patiently while Katie whispered her requests into Santa's ear. She kept a careful eye on Santa and all of his 'elves'. She hated being suspicious of anyone working with children but she knew she had to be cautious. <I've read far too many reports and seen too many statistics to not be wary,> she thought, trying to keep the frown off of her face.

Once Katie was done, they went back to Jill who had found a place to sit down.

"We should get back. It's getting late and Mom will need help with dinner," Scully said.

"No rush. Let Charlie and Bill help," she said as they headed back to the car.

"You must be joking," Scully said, unable to hide her disbelief.

"Well, I can't speak for Bill, but Charlie knows better. If Mom needs help, he'll offer it. Bill might even help if it's a choice between helping Mom or taking care of Matthew."

"Really?"

"Dana, the man has yet to change a diaper."

"We've got to work on Tara, get her to start asserting herself."

"It's too late," Jill laughed. "Bill's on the fast track, and she's going to remain a proper Navy wife."

"Then they were truly meant for one another."


Friday, 11:30 PM

Scully put her cell phone in her robe pocket before heading downstairs. She thought everyone had gone to bed and was surprised to see her older brother sitting on the couch, staring into the fire. "Bill, what are you doing up?"

Bill didn't jump, but he did give her a weak smile. "I didn't want to leave the fire unattended."

"Why don't you go on up to bed? I'll stay up until it's out."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. I just came down to find a book to read, and now that I think about it, sitting in front of fire with a book rather appeals to me."

"Okay. It is late." He got up from the couch, picking up his empty glass as he did. He paused for a minute, then looked away. "Um, Dana, is everything okay?"

"What do you mean?"

"You seem...different." He paused. "Mom's worried. I'm worried." Then his words came in a rush. "If there's anything you need to tell me..."

"I'm fine. Just passed my physical with flying colors a few months ago." She saw how uncomfortable he looked. "Go to bed, Bill. Rest easy, I'm fine."

"Okay, whatever you say." He was reluctant to go, but relieved. He didn't really want to pursue it, and definitely didn't want to know if she was involved with her partner. He kissed her cheek and went upstairs to bed.

<What was that all about,> she wondered, watching him leave the room. <The look on his face was so strange. And Mom's _worried_? I don't know why. I'm not acting any differently. I'm not sick. I certainly don't look sick. Mulder would've said something if I did.>

She wandered into her father's den to find a book to read. <Dad's been gone, what, five years? Six years? And it's _still_ 'dad's den'.> She ran her fingers over the high backed leather chair, suddenly missing her father very much. <What would you think, Ahab? Would you like Fletcher? Would you approve? I think you'd understand. I hope you would, because I am happy, daddy. Very happy.>

She sat down in the chair and looked around the room. It was full of photographs of the family, ships he'd served on, certificates and awards he'd won. A model of the USS Constitution was still displayed prominently on the center of the bottom shelf. <Fletcher would've gotten along great with dad, as long as they talked Navy. I could see her with a room like this if she'd made the Navy her career and not the FBI.> She looked at the clock, a small wooden captain's wheel with a clock in the center. <I hope it's not too late to call. I really want to talk to her.> She took her cell phone out of her pocket and dialed Fletcher's number.

"Hello?"

"Mulder? It's me."

"You have reached 1-900-SEX-4YOU. Tell us your fantasy and we'll make it true."

"Mulder..." She could almost see the smirk on his face, and she smiled.

"For B&D, press 1. For water sports, press 2. If you're a SEX 4YOU Fun Club member, press 3. For a list of barnyard animals, press 4..."

"Your credit card statements must make very interesting, Mulder," Scully cracked. "Where's Fletcher?"

"Getting the rest of the beer out of the Cherokee," he said, his words slightly slurring. "She'll be right back. How's the family? Is your brother Bill still a jerk?"

"Mulder, are you drunk?" Scully asked, ignoring his question.

"Yup. And damn proud of it, too."

Scully rolled her eyes. <Poor Fletcher. A drunk and obnoxious Mulder on her hands. I suppose, though, if anyone could handle it, she could. I think they've both had their share of taking care of each other.>

"Y'know, Scully, I'm still amazed that the _man_ of your dreams turned out to be a _woman_."

"Mulder..." she warned.

"Think about it, Scully."

<No, I'll give you something to think about Mulder.> "I'll let you in on a little secret, Mulder," Scully said, her tone teasing, taunting.

"What?"

"The next time you're watching your videos..."

"Yeah?" his voice cracked.

"The ones that are just women..."

"Scully..."

"Keep in mind, that when I'm with Fletcher..." Her voice dripped with lust and he swallowed hard. "It's _better_ - _hotter_ - than anything you could ever watch on one of them."

"Uh, geez, Scully..." he sputtered as she laughed. Fletcher came back into the room, two six packs of beer in her arms. He quickly thrust the phone at her. "It's Scully," he said, still a bit flustered.

"What's wrong?" she asked Mulder, taking the phone from him.

"Nothing, nothing. I need a beer."

She looked at him, a frown on her face. "Hey, Red," she said into the phone.

"Fletcher."

"What the hell did you say to Mulder? He's blushing like crazy and he just chugged half a bottle of beer."

"I just gave him a little taste of his own medicine." She told Fletcher what she'd said.

"Shit, just what I don't need - a drunk _and_ horny Spooky Mulder." She looked over at Mulder who was holding the cold bottle against his face. "Thanks _ever_ so much, Red."

"Anytime," she laughed.

"Good thing we don't get the 'Spice' channel here. One of us would have to leave, and it wouldn't be me."

"I'm okay, I'm okay," Mulder said, finishing his beer.

"Uh huh. Why don't you go take a cold shower?"

"No, really, I'm fine."

"Just as long as you stay in your own bed, and I don't want to hear any strange noises coming from your side of the room."

"Nothing any stranger than what _I_ heard Tuesday night," he countered.

"Don't make me hurt you, Mulder."

"What's going on, there?" Scully said. "What did he say?"

"Nothing that needs repeating," she said to Scully. "He's being his usual piggish self." She looked over her shoulder at Mulder. "Oink, oink."

"Fletcher, do you want me to call back later?"

"Sorry, Red." Fletcher turned her attention back to Scully. "What did you want?"

"I just needed to hear your voice. I miss you."

"I miss you, too."

"Oh, Scully, I love you so much. I miss you," Mulder said loudly in a sing-song voice. "I can't live without you."

"Mulder, shut up," Fletcher snapped.

"I heard him," Scully said. "Do you want to shoot him yourself, or do you want to wait and have me shoot him Sunday?"

"I'll take care of it." She walked toward Mulder and he shrank back on the bed, certain he'd crossed the line this time. "Enough, okay?" she said in a cold voice.

"Yes, boss."

Fletcher went into the bathroom and shut the door. "I should've thought of this before," she said to Scully.

"What's that?"

"I'm in the bathroom. It's the only place I can have some privacy." She sat down on the floor, her back against the tub.

"Is he really being that bad?"

"No worse than usual. I'm used to it. I just like to put a little scare into him every now and then," she laughed. "How was your day?"

"Family photos and a trip to see Santa Claus were the high points."

"My sympathies."

"Thanks, but it really wasn't that bad."

"Are you having a good time, Red?"

"Yes, but..."

"But what?"

"I didn't think it would be this hard."

"What are you wearing, Red?" Fletcher said suddenly, her voice low and husky.

"Fletcher, not now...I can't..."

"Why not?"

"I'm not in my room. I'm downstairs in my father's - in the study."

"So shut the door."

"Fletcher," she protested weakly.

"Shut the door, Red."

Scully got up from the chair and closed the door, latching it, then she returned to the chair. "Okay, it's shut."

"Now what are you wearing?" Fletcher repeated.

"Pajamas - the red satin ones," Scully said, feeling her desire begin to grow.

"Do you have a robe on?"

"Yes."

"Untie it." She waited a moment, then continued. "Unbutton the top button, slowly," she ordered. Scully did as she was told, even though her mind was screaming at her not to. "Now reach in - slowly - and touch your breast. Imagine that my fingers are touching you, squeezing your nipples."

"Fletcher...I can't do this..." Scully said even though her fingers had begun to pinch her nipple. She squeezed her legs together.

"Then don't. Just listen to what I'd do if I was there, next to you, holding you."

<I can't do this,> Scully thought. <Not here. It's...it doesn't feel right...> She buttoned her top back up.

"Fletcher, please stop. You're driving me crazy."

"Red, I want to be touching you, I want to be in you, feeling you move against my fingers...so deep in you..."

"No...don't do this to me, Fletcher," Scully moaned.

Mulder suddenly knocked loudly on the door. "Open up, Fletcher...I gotta take a leak. Now."

"Goddamnit," Fletcher swore. "What a mood killer," she muttered standing up.

"What? What's wrong?" Scully asked, relieved.

"Mulder needs the bathroom." She opened the door to let Mulder in. "Don't forget to put the seat back down, Mulder," she said, returning to the bedroom. "I almost fell in last night."

"Fletcher, it's late," Scully said. "I need to go to bed."

"Okay. You're right, Red."

"I love you."

"I love you, too. Only one more night."

"The hardest one."

"I know. Sleep well."

"You, too."

Fletcher waited until she heard the dial tone before she set her phone down. <I'm going to kill him. Just you wait, Mulder. Payback's a bitch.>

- - - - -

Scully stepped as quietly as she could, wincing at every creak in the floorboard. It had taken an hour for the fire to burn down, so it was doubtful anyone was awake by this time. Even so, it still wouldn't do to have anyone ask questions about her wakefulness. There was no sound from the boys room, or from the room Charlie and Jill shared with Katie, and only snoring from Bill & Tara's room. <Bill still saws wood like a lumberjack,> Scully thought, suppressing a giggle. Maggie's door was closed, but Scully could see the light was still on. She knew her mother always took a book to bed with her. <She probably dropped off in the middle of the new Charlotte MacLeod,> Scully decided. She still went by on tiptoe, waiting to hear her mother call to her, as she did to Melissa every time she came home late and tried to 'sneak past the guard.'

Maggie listened to her daughter pass her door and step into her room. She'd nearly called out, "Good night, Dana," but had stopped herself. <Let her have her secret,> she thought to herself, grinning in spite of her sleepiness. <She'll tell me in time. She's probably embarrassed. I guess she should be. I've seen it coming for Lord knows how long. I guess it just took them longer to admit it to each other. And to themselves.>

Maggie had been reading her new book when a pulsing headache came over her, so she had gone downstairs for aspirin and a glass of warm milk. She had seen the light on in the office and started to go in, when she heard Dana say, "Mulder? It's me... Mulder..."

Maggie heard the smile in Dana's voice, and immediately knew what it meant. <Finally,> she had thought, smiling. <Jill must be right, and it must be Fox that she's seeing. It's about time.> She had backed away from the door, not needing to hear anymore of the conversation.

<<End Chapter 13>>


<<Chapter 14>>

Saturday, November 28th, Noon

Scully was trying to wrestle the turkey platter out of the refrigerator when Charlie walked into the kitchen. He did a mock-powerlifting pose. "This looks like a job for... Nayyyyyveeee Mahhhhhhhhn!"

"My hero," she laughed, gratefully handing him the ungainly package. As usual, there was tons of food at the Scully Thanksgiving feast. Hence, there were tons of leftovers. Between Scully and Charlie, they got most of it spread out on the kitchen table, as well as all the necessary condiments. The overflow took up most of the kitchen counter.

"Should we just have everyone help themselves, or should we fix something?" Scully asked.

"Let's just make up a mess of sandwiches. To heck with heating anything up. We can save what's left of the leftovers for dinner."

Scully held up a jar of mayonnaise, a mischievous smile on her face. "You like this stuff on your turkey sandwich, right?"

Charlie looked like he had been presented with a full pail of diapers. "Do Marines register on the evolutionary scale?"

His sister just laughed. They quickly fell into their familiar teamwork, assembling a stack of sandwiches in record time. "Charlie, did you and Jill tell Mom that Jill's expecting again?"

He frowned. "_I_ didn't. I don't know if Jill did. I don't _think_ she did. Why?"

"I'm just trying to figure out why she's walking around with that mysterious smile on her face." Scully was baffled by her mother's behavior. Maggie Scully had been smiling and humming all morning. <It's not quite a 'Cheshire Cat' smile, but it's close.> It was almost getting to point where it was irritating Scully.

"She's probably just happy to have us all home for the holiday," he reasoned. "She doesn't usually get to see us all at once."

"I guess so, but I think it's something else, too."

"Could be she's happy to see you the way you've been," he said off-handedly, not looking up from a half-created sandwich.

"What do you mean?" she said carefully.

Charlie sighed. He put a mustard-covered knife down on a plate and turned to her. "Dana, I don't know what's happened in your life, and you don't have to tell me, either. But _I_ know I haven't seen you smile this much since...well, never."

Scully felt her face grow warm, and she knew she was blushing. <Oh, god, do they know? They can't. They would've said something. If they knew it was Fletcher...no way, they don't know.>

Charlie pretended not to notice, knowing that if he did, she'd be even more embarrassed. He picked up the knife and finished his creation. "You don't have to tell me anything, sis. When you're ready, you will. Just know that I'm happy to see you this happy."

She gave her brother's free hand a brief squeeze. <I want to tell him, but I can't. Not yet.> "Between you and me, Charlie...you'll know at Christmas."

"Okay," he said simply, ending the discussion. "Why don't you call the troops and tell them lunch is ready?"

- - - - -

Charlie set the box of Christmas decorations between his sons. "Okay, sailors, shore leave is over. I have a job for you."

"What?" Kevin asked, turning away from the television for the first time that day.

"I want you to untangle the strings of lights. Your Uncle Bill and I have to put them up on Gramma's house this afternoon. Think you can do it?"

"Yeah," JR enthused, already diving into the mass of green cable.

His brother was right behind him. "No problemo," Kevin piped up.

"Then make it happen, gentlemen," Charlie intoned.

"Aye, sir," the boys said smartly.

Charlie stood back up and winked at Scully. They walked out of the living room and started up the stairs. "That'll keep them occupied for a few hours, give Bill and I a chance to get the extension cords set up."

She looked over her shoulder as she went up the stairs. Both boys were working on a large green knot of cable and bulbs. "They're good boys, Charlie."

"They are," he agreed. "Jill's done a great job with them."

"So have you."

He grinned, embarrassed and pleased by his sister's words. "They work well together, don't they? Almost as well as you and I did when we were their age."

"You were the only one I could boss around, Charlie," she teased.

"Ah, yes, the many disadvantages of being the youngest."

"Until you got bigger than me."

"I've always been bigger than you, Dana."

"Have not."

"Well, I think I got taller than you when I turned five. You were such a pipsqueak. Still are." He laughed, his arm around her neck as he rubbed his knuckles lightly across the top of her head.

"Charlie!" He let go of her, his smile wide and warm. "I'm beginning to think that you still haven't grown up," she scolded him, her eyes laughing.


Saturday, 2:30 PM

Fletcher was still a bit annoyed and just a little hungover. They'd overslept and missed the early ferry, which meant they'd waited over an hour for the next one. Even the coffee she'd sent Mulder out for wasn't helping. <Look at us,> she thought. <We look like a couple of bums.> Neither of them had showered, and Mulder hadn't shaved in 2 days. Their clothes were wrinkled - like they'd been slept in. And even though the sun wasn't shining, Fletcher still wore her sunglasses.

"So, Mulder," she said breaking the silence that they'd sat in for the past five hours, "what have you decided for us tonight?"

"Let's get a motel room in Baltimore, grab a quick dinner and then go to Fanny's."

"Fanny's? You want to go to _Fanny's_?"

"Why not? We haven't been there in months and months. Besides, with you practically _married_ to Scully now, who knows when we'll ever get a chance to paint the town again?"

"What do you mean?"

"I think your, uh, your bachelor - or should I say 'bachelorette'- days are over," he half-joked.

"I don't know, Mulder...a strip joint? Can't you think of anything better?"

"You promised," he whined in his best little boy voice.

"Yes, you're right. I did promise. Still..."

"C'mon. It'll be fun. Maybe they've got some new girls there," he said, his eyes lighting up.

"Oh, all right," she sighed. <It's going to be a _long_ day and I'm getting a killer headache.> "Just get me a couple of aspirin, willya? They're in the glovebox."

"Sure."

"And Mulder, not a word to Scully. The last thing I need is to have her know I was in a strip joint with you."

- - - - -

"Goddamnit, Charlie, not that one," Bill said, throwing the string of lights back through the window. "The other one. Yes, that one. Hand it to me, will you? C'mon, get with it."

Charlie rolled his eyes at his sister. He'd grown used to his brother by now, and all of Bill's blustering and bullying didn't bother him in the least. He saluted once. "Yessir, Commander Scully," he replied, sarcastically. Scully snorted and choked back her laughter.

Down on the front lawn, Maggie watched with grandchildren. Jill stood next to her, a hand hiding the smile on her face.

"William Scully!" Maggie called out. "Watch your language. There are young children out here watching you."

Bill's ears reddened and he called out an apology. "Sorry, Mom."

"Yeah, Billy, watch your mouth," Charlie smirked.

"Just give me the goddamn lights," Bill hissed back through a smile.

Once Bill had completed stringing up one set of lights, he climbed down the ladder and moved it down to the next window. Charlie picked up the box and headed for the next room. "It's going to be a long afternoon."

"He doesn't know any better, Charlie."

"I know. He's been the man of the house ever since dad sat him down one day when he was thirteen." He saw the look on her face and knew he needed to explain further. "Dad had the same talk with me when Bill went to Annapolis. Told me I was the man of the house while he was at sea. Bill, unfortunately, still thinks he's it."

"So cut him some slack, Charlie."

"I do. It doesn't mean I like it."

Charlie held his tongue the rest of the time they put the lights up. He and Bill were able to finish their task without any further arguing. When Bill was down on the ground, Scully took Charlie's hand.

"Thanks."

"For what?"

"For holding back your comments. I know it couldn't have been easy, especially since you've been putting the lights up the past three years."

"Well, it was better for everyone this way."

Katie came running up the stairs in search of her father and her aunt. Charlie swept her up into his arms. "What's your hurry, kiddo?"

"Gramma wants everyone out front so we can see her turn the Chrissmiss lights on."


Saturday, 8:30 PM

Mulder unlocked the door and turned on the light. A large king-sized bed with a canopy dominated the seedy room. The carpet was worn and there were more than a few stains and scorch marks on it. It was hard to even tell what the original color was. The walls were smoke stained and the paint was peeling in spots. <Oh, shit, Fletcher's going to kill me,> he thought, blocking the doorway.

"C'mon, Mulder, get out of the way so I can get my bring my bag in."

"We've got a problem," he said, bracing himself for Fletcher's ire.

"What?"

"We've only got one bed," he said, holding the door for her.

"What? No way. I thought you told her 'two beds'."

"I told her I needed a room for two."

"Great. Just great. And I suppose this is the only room they have left?" she asked, throwing her bag on the bed. <Do I tell Scully that Mulder and I had to sleep together?>

"Yes." He set his own bag down. "At least it's a king-sized bed," he offered.

She sat down on the bed. Her eyes moved up and she groaned, then swore to herself. "Do you know that there's a mirror over the bed?"

"Really?" He flopped down on the bed beside her and looked up. "Cool."

"This day just keeps getting better and better." <A mirror. How tacky.>

"I'm sure you wouldn't complain about a mirrored ceiling if _Scully_ was with you." He made a half-hearted attempt at a leer.

"I woudn't be caught dead in a place like this with Scully," she retorted, laying down beside him. She looked up at the two of them, laying side by side. <We look like brothers. The only difference is he needs a shave and I don't.>

"Bullshit. C'mon, Fletcher, be honest," he said, nudging her in the ribs with his elbow. "Wouldn't you enjoy it just a _little_ bit?"

<It might be kind of interesting, even a little exciting,> she thought, <but there's no way I'm telling Mulder that.> "What do you want to do for dinner?" she asked, forcing herself to clear her mind. Images of Scully laying naked on top of her, seeing it in a mirror, kept dancing through her brain.

"Do you want to go out or order in?"

"Well, are you planning on showering first?"

"Nah. We'll fit in better if we stay the way we are. At least it won't be obvious that you're the only woman in the audience."

"And my body odor will certainly keep away the perverts," she added.


Saturday, 10:10 PM

Scully poured herself a glass of wine, then grabbed a few bottles of beer for her brothers. <It's a good thing this is my last night here. I've had just about enough 'family'.> She handed Charlie and Bill the beer, then sat down on the sofa beside her mother. Bill suddenly stood up, holding his hand out for Tara.

"Mom, there's something we need to tell you," he said, smiling.

"What?"

"Tara's expecting again."

Scully's eyes flew open wide. <No, it's not possible. What is this - a conspiracy?> She looked over at Jill and Charlie. They were both sporting wide smiles. <Good thing Bill sprang his news first,> Scully thought. <I doubt he'd handle having his thunder stolen as well as Charlie does.>

Maggie jumped up from the couch and hugged them both. "When?"

"Late May."

"How wonderful."

"Um, Mom," Charlie said after a round of hugs and cheer. "We've got some news of our own." Maggie looked excitedly at Charlie and Jill. "Number four is scheduled for arrival about July Fourth."

"No! Really?"

Scully offered up her congratulations to her brothers again, pretending that she hadn't known about Jill's pregnancy. In a way, she was relieved not to be the focus of her mother's attention. <This news will surely occupy her thoughts from now on, or at least until I leave. Thank God for small favors.>

Charlie sat down on the sofa beside Scully as they watched Jill, Tara and Maggie talk about the babies.

"You okay with all of this, Dana?" he asked kindly.

"Yes. Jill asked me the same thing yesterday. I'm happy for all of you. Really." She sipped from her glass. "Besides, it'll keep Mom from worrying about me not having any kids."

"True," he agreed.

- - - - -

Fletcher followed Mulder into the bar. It was loud and smoke-filled, with most of the light centered around the stage. He threaded his way through the crowd, finding them two seats at the front. Fletcher thought about taking her baseball cap off, then thought better of it. <I'm keeping it on. Adds to the uncertainty of my gender.>

A large breasted and scantily clad woman approached them. Mulder couldn't hide the 'kid in a candy store' look on his face.

"What'll it be, fellas?" she asked.

"Two bottles of beer," Fletcher ordered.

"Sure, sugar," she said, sashaying away.

"Nice ass," Mulder remarked.

"I didn't notice," Fletcher said truthfully.

"Seriously? Man, you _are_ slipping. Scully must have you blinded by love."

Fletcher's curt response was drowned out by a flood of sound that turned out to be a scratchy recording of "Jungle Love". A tall, leggy brunette sauntered out onto the stage to the hoots and catcalls of the audience. She wore a leopard skin bra and skirt, and her feet were bare.

"All right, gentlemahhhn," the deejay shouted into the mike "Time to let your Inner Animal roam free! Give it up for... Tarzana! Tamer of Man and Beast!"

The crowd cheered lustily, and Mulder whistled. Tarzana reached behind her back and then brought her arm foreward, cracking a whip. Mulder jumped and Fletcher laughed. <Hoo boy, Mulder's going to be a happy camper tonight,> Fletcher said, drinking from her bottle.


Saturday, Midnight

<Where are they?> Scully thought. She'd been trying to reach Fletcher for almost an hour. Every single time she'd dialed Fletcher's cell phone, she got an "out of service" message. <Why doesn't Fletcher have her phone on? Damn, I wanted to talk to her today, find out what time they were going to be home.> She put her cell phone into her purse. <Oh, well, I might as well pack tonight so I can get out of here early tomorrow morning.>

- - - - -

Fletcher looked up to see two very large breasts in her face. The waitress had leaned over to pick up their empties.

"Can I get you anything else?" she asked.

"Spooky, you want another beer?" Fletcher asked.

"Yeah, sure," he said, grinning at Fletcher.

"Two more of the same, thanks."

She walked away, and this time Fletcher noticed her ass. "You're right, Mulder. That is definitely a work of art."

"Why do you always get that kind of service?" he complained. "The barmaids never do that with me."

"I tip well."

"Well, if you have to _pay_ for it..."

"Why don't you ask her next time she's here, Mulder," she suggested, knowing he'd never do it.

The last dancer's music faded out as the next act came up. Fletcher wasn't complaining; the last girl danced to Metallica. <I think some of my fillings came loose,> she thought wryly. She was pleased to hear a golden oldie, Wilson Pickett's 'Mustang Sally', booming out of the big speakers now. "Hi ho, silver, awaaaaayyyyy," the deejay shouted. "Let's give a big Fanny's welcome to a _true_ Triple Crown winner... Miss! Stella! Equusssssssss!" A carousel horse rolled out onto the stage, an attractive blond woman wearing chaps and a fringed vest astride it.

<She's good,> Fletcher thought, sucking on her beer. <She actually has dancing ability. She even looks like she's had some sort of training.> Mulder's eyes were glued to her. <We haven't seen one stripper without large breasts. Stella isn't an exception, although her's don't look, um, enhanced'. If she's got implants, they sure are good ones.>

Stella strutted down the stage, various articles of clothing dropping to the floor. She danced her way over to where Fletcher and Mulder sat. Fletcher reached into her pocket and took out some money. She nudged Mulder, then handed it to him. He grinned gleefully as he stood up to stuff the money in her g-string. As he did, Stella looked over at Fletcher as she danced. She'd seen Fletcher give him the money. Fletcher grinned cockily at her and winked. A look of recognition crossed the buxom stripper's face as she realized Fletcher was a woman.

"Got another five?" Mulder asked Fletcher.

"Here."

Even though Mulder was putting the money in her g-string, Stella was dancing at Fletcher, her every move directed at her. Mulder was too entranced by her to notice that she wasn't dancing for him. As the song ended and she began to saunter away, she tossed her tassle to Fletcher.

"Goddamn, Fletcher! Will you stop it?" Mulder whined.

"Stop what?"

"Getting the women to notice you."

"Must be the baseball cap," she said innocently.

- - - - -

They sat through several more acts, each a little more explicit than the last. By the end of the night, Mulder and Fletcher were both tipsy and flustered by their experience in the bar.

"This is great, just great," Mulder said, a happy smile on his face, too drunk to notice the hardened edge on the strippers faces, the look of desperation on most of the men's faces.

"Well, I'm glad you're having a good time, Wonder Boy, but you'd best take care of that before we leave."

"Take care of what?"

Fletcher sipped her beer as she looked at the bulge in his pants. "You're not bringing 'Mr. Happy' back to the motel room with us. Find some way to say goodbye to him, or I'm dumping a bucket of ice down your pants."

"Christ, Fletcher," he said, embarrassed. He crossed his legs uncomfortably.

"I mean it, Mulder. It's bad enough we've got to share a bed, which I'm still having second thoughts about, by the way. I absolutely refuse to have your _little_ friend in bed with us."

With Fletcher's emphasis on the word 'little', Mulder cringed. "Geez, you really know how to hurt a guy, Fletcher."

"They don't call me 'ball-breaker Buchanan' for nothing, Wonder Boy." She set her empty bottle on the table. "Let's go. It's late."


Sunday, 9:40 AM

Scully stayed for breakfast before she left. She was glad to be on the road, heading for Fletcher's. <Breakfast wasn't too bad, and I was able to slip away without much fuss.> As expected, the topic around the breakfast table was the two pregnancies. <Well, it'll at least give Jill and Tara something to talk about.> She fumbled in her purse for her cell phone as she pulled onto the interstate.

- - - - -

Fletcher groaned at the sound of her cell phone. She had passed out on top of the bed, sprawled across Mulder's inert body. She blinked several times, her hands touching her chest, making sure she was still wearing clothes. She touched Mulder's back and was relieved to find he was fully clothed as well. <Whew. That's a relief. For a minute there I thought we'd done something _really_ stupid.> She cleared her throat. <We've got to knock this off. No more drinking like this.> She picked up her phone. "Buchanan," she said, her voice hoarse.

"Fletcher?"

"Yeah, Red."

"Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, you just woke me up, that's all."

"Where are you?"

"Some motel."

"I'm on my way to your house. When should I expect you?"

"Coupla hours."

"Are you sure you're okay? You sound horrible."

"Just hungover. We had a very late night last night. I'll wake Mulder and we'll head out in a few."

"I tried calling you last night."

"We were bar-hopping," Fletcher lied. "I shut my phone off and left it in the motel room."

"Call me when you're about fifty minutes from home," Scully said, her voice throaty.

"Why?" Fletcher began to wake up, her body stirring from the tone in Scully's voice.

"I'll have a nice hot bath waiting for you."

"Sounds good, but Mulder'll be with me."

"Fuck Mulder," Scully said, surprising herself and Fletcher.

"No, thanks. Not my type," Fletcher laughed.

Scully laughed with her. "Hurry home. I miss you."

"I miss you, too."


Sunday, 1:00 PM

Scully heard the security system acknowledge a car, and she knew it was Fletcher and Mulder. She hurried outside in time to see them drive up and park the car. She began to rush over to Fletcher, but stopped. She didn't know whether to be amused or disgusted by their appearance. Neither one of them looked as if they'd bathed in days and their clothes looked slept in. Mulder was sporting the beginnings of a beard and deep circles under his eyes. Fletcher was wearing her hat pulled low and her sunglasses hid her eyes.

"Must have been some weekend," she said dryly.

"Hey, Red," Fletcher said, waving.

Scully gave her a quick kiss on the cheek, but quickly leaned back. Fletcher's clothes reeked of stale beer and cigarettes. "Whew. You need a bath and some clean clothes."

"We didn't take time to clean up this morning. We wanted to come right home."

"She, not we, wanted to come right home," Mulder corrected. "I wanted to sleep until noon."

"What are you complaining about, Spooky? You slept all the way home."

"Are you hungry?"

"Famished." Fletcher's cell phone began to ring and she reached into the car for it. "Buchanan... What? When?... How many?...Oh, fuck..." Her hand went to her forehead and she grimaced. "No, I just got home..." She glanced at her watch. "Maybe an hour...hold the chopper 'til then...uh huh...And Tim, make sure the crime scene is secured... I don't give a damn. You get the field agents on site. Now. I don't want anything touched, and I mean _anything_, until I get there... Yes... And get me somebody from forensics who knows what they're doing." She turned her phone off and put it in her coat pocket.

"Trouble?" Mulder asked cautiously.

"My New Jersey boy got active again. Another multiple killing. Now he's escalated into a serial multiple killer." She spun around and slammed her fist on the hood of the car. "Goddamnit!"

Mulder gently grabbed Scully's arm to prevent her from going to Fletcher. 'Wait' he mouthed silently. They watched as Fletcher slowly brought her anger under control.

"Mulder, could you unpack? Just leave it in the garage. I've got to shower and get to Quantico. There's a chopper waiting for me." She started towards the house.

"Do you want me to make you something to eat?" Scully called after her.

"Yes, thanks, Red," she said over her shoulder. "That'd be great. We skipped breakfast and I don't know when I'll have a chance to eat."

"Go take your shower. I'll bring you up a sandwich. I brought home leftovers."

"Lucky me," she said wryly, her mind already on the scene in New Jersey.

<<End Chapter 14>>