Walking The Line Book I - The Collector's Edition
by XF-Stew
<xfstew@yahoo.com>

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Title: Walking The Line, Part 1
Author: XF-Stew
Classification: SR
Rating: NC-17
Spoilers: Quagmire, Jose Chung's From Outer Space
Keywords: Mulder/Scully friendship, Scully/Other (Slash)
Summary: Scully meets a nice Naval Officer.
The inevitable disclaimer: The characters of Dana Scully and Fox Mulder do not belong to me, they are regulars on a television show called the X-Files. Perhaps you've heard of it? Anyway, they were created by this guy named Chris Carter and they belong to him. He's the one making all the money from them, not me. I am borrowing them without permission for non-commercial use. However, I'm fairly certain Mr. Carter himself wouldn't be caught dead using them this way! Heh, heh, heh...
Also, lyrics from the song "Frying Pan" were written by Victoria Williams and performed by Evan Dando on a CD titled "Sweet Relief." These lyrics were also used without permission.
Note from the author: This takes place somewhere near the beginning of the fourth season, and you may notice it is set in December. However, it doesn't follow the timeline of the show with perfect accuracy. I've only set it when I did because I love the holiday season. I say it's fourth season because there are references to Quagmire and Jose Chung, both third season episodes.
This story, to quote our former president George Bush, is a "kinder, gentler" X-Files. The reader may note the almost complete absence of angst, which was done on purpose because its author was wading in a sea of angst while in the midst of writing her next "Trinity" story (which, in case you care, is called "Visions," has angst-galore, and will hopefully be coming out before Christmas). This is something I came up with as a break from those angst-driven stories, and is just a sappy romance...of a different sort.
**I live for feedback on my stories and would love some on this one. It's my first foray into any type of romantic story, and my first foray into (gulp) slash. Send any comments to: xfstew@yahoo.com
Special Thanks go to Mary Colleen, my faithful beta reader. Without her help, this story would have been a sad little mess. Thanks Mary, you're the best!


WALKING THE LINE
a story by xf-stew
xfstew@yahoo.com

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Georgetown University Library
December 16
Saturday, 11:15 am

Scully removed her glasses, but resisted the temptation to rub her eyes. One thing she always envied about men was their freedom to rub tired and itchy eyes. She, of course, would ruin her mascara and eyeliner, even though she wore very little of it.

She squeezed her eyes shut to allow them a moment of relief, then looked over at the sleeping woman again. Yep, she was still zonked out.

She'd seen the woman there the night before as well, wearing the crisp, neat dark blues of a Naval Officer's dress uniform. At first, it was the uniform that caught her eye, later it was the woman herself. She was tall, much taller than Scully herself. Scully guessed the woman was in her mid-twenties. She moved about the stacks with and easy, athletic grace and had lovely olive complexion. Scully guessed by her features that she was of Mediterranean descent, probably Italian. Her hair was dark brown, all one length, and fell only a couple of inches below her ears. It had a wave to it that gave it rich body, and when the woman ran her hand through it, which she did quite often, it obeyed her every command, falling back neatly off her face and over the crown of her head.

Scully didn't know why the woman had interested her so, except maybe for the Naval uniform, which vaguely reminded her of Ahab. There was something about her, though, something Scully couldn't identify, something that made her glance over in the woman's direction many times throughout the night.

The woman was totally engrossed in her work, thick stacks of law books dotted the table around her. She'd taken copious notes all evening, and Scully noticed that she was left-handed, a minute detail that didn't really matter, just added to the woman's mystique. Yes, the woman had been there for hours on Friday night, and apparently was still here on Saturday morning, wearing the same uniform, though the jacket was unbuttoned and the dress tie hung down out the sides of her collar.

Of course, the biggest giveaway was the fact that she was face-down in the middle of a hardcover book.

Scully herself had come, gone, and come back to the Law Library. Although the monograph she was working on had nothing to do with law, she'd just recently discovered this place, and found that she enjoyed the quiet and peaceful atmosphere of it.

She'd been there for five hours last night, and the Naval officer set down her attache case and began gathering her books around 7:30. Scully had come back on the stroke of eight this morning, anxious to finish her paper and have it off her back. She was nearly there, only now needing to compile the bibliography, which she could do at home anytime over the course of the weekend.

She stood and stretched, glad that she'd dressed comfortably in jeans and a huge, baggy sweatshirt. It felt great to wear running shoes after a week in heels. She got so tired of wearing skirts, jackets, and pumps that some days she thought she was going to go postal right there in the basement office.

Gathering her papers to take with her, Scully prepared to leave. She crossed the room, but something stopped her. She couldn't get the woman out of her mind. On impulse, she looked back at the sleeping officer, then turned and quietly walked up to her. She gently tapped the woman on the shoulder.

Her head still down, the woman cleared her throat. Scully saw one eye pop open, then the woman shook her head a little and lifted it from the book. She blinked the sleepiness from her eyes and looked up at Scully. She had dark chocolate eyes and an easy, if tired, smile.

"You caught me napping," she admitted as she rubbed an eye. With the other one she gazed at the strikingly attractive red-haired woman standing in front of her. Her ears began to ring a little and she felt momentarily light-headed. Piercing chips of blue ice were planted in the redhead's eyes. They were startlingly beautiful.

Scully jealously watched to woman give her eye a good polish with the heel of her hand. Though the gesture was one Scully wouldn't normally approve of, on this woman it seemed completely natural, a part of her personal charm.

<Apparently *she* doesn't care about eye make-up> Scully thought, then realized that the woman wore none. She had thick, dark lashes that were quite beautiful without it. Scully hadn't realized her breath had caught in her throat until she tried to speak. Nothing came out. She was startled by her own reaction, unsure of what it was about this woman that had triggered it.

She cleared her own throat, "Sorry to wake you," she apologized, "but I've noticed you sleeping here for a couple of hours. I didn't want you to miss any sort of deadline."

The woman blinked and lifted the left side of her mouth, forming a lopsided smile, "Oh no. I finished my *real* work last night around three. But I got caught up in my personal obsession and must have nodded off."

She moved her hand from the pages of the book for Scully to see it. Glancing down at the page, she blinked at it. Her mouth opened just slightly. It was an old hardcover edition of 'Moby Dick'.

The woman had a smooth, pleasant voice. "I think I've read it at least three times, but it never seems to get old. It's like listening to one of your favorite songs, you want to hear it again and again."

Scully swallowed and gave her a little smile, "It's one of my favorites too."

This time the woman's odd smile was big enough to give Scully a glimpse of brilliant white teeth. "A fellow lover of the classics, that's wonderful. A kindred spirit in the night...or maybe I should say the morning. Thank you for waking me. I should leave anyway. I think they're beginning to hate me in this place."

"Why is that? Do you often make a habit of sleeping here?"

The woman's smile turned wry, "Unfortunately, yes. The other day, in fact, one of the janitors flat out said to me, *this ain't no Howard Johnson's ma'am.*"

Scully chuckled softly, remembering she was in a library. "I should introduce myself. I'm Dana Scully."

The woman stuck out her hand and pumped Scully's fist up and down three times, then released it. "I'm Anne Kazmerowski, but everyone just calls me Kaz. It's the curse of having a long and complicated name. And working in a male-dominated profession, I guess."

"I know what you mean, I work for the Bureau. The only person who uses my first name is my mother. To everyone else, I'm Scully."

"Well, Scully, can I thank you by offering a cup of coffee? Personally, I'm dying for a hit of caffeine."

On any other occasion, Scully would have refused a morning of small talk with a complete stranger, but something inside her was secretly pleased by the offer of prolonged contact with Anne Kazmerowski. She was friendly and radiated a personal warmth that charmed Scully instantly.

She found herself instantly accepting, "Sure."

Kaz rose and closed the book, then gathered her papers and put them in her attache case. She looked down at her wrinkled jacket and skirt, brushed them out a little, then waved a hand in the air, dismissing them. She followed Scully out of the library.

"So, Scully," she said as the walked in the crisp air of early December, "are you a gourmet coffee drinker or do you prefer the old-fashioned cup of joe?"

"Ill take a cup of joe anyday."

Kaz put a hand to her chest, "A woman after my own heart. I know a great place just down the street. They've got great breakfasts too, if you're interested. I'm starving myself."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They took up a booth at Sam-N-Ed's Diner and instantly got their coffee fix. Scully noticed that Kaz drank it black, like any *good Navy man.*

"So, uh, Kaz, I see that you're a Lieutenant Commander."

Kaz's thick eyebrows went up in surprise, "You know your stripes, huh?"

Scully nodded as she sipped hot coffee, "My father was a Captain."

Kaz noticed the past tense. "M-m-m. Interesting. Career Navy?"

"Oh yes." Scully replied, and began a list of all the places she had lived growing up.

"It must have been tough, moving the way you did."

Scully shrugged, "Sometimes, but I had two brothers and a sister. We kept each other company until we made temporary friends with all the other brats on the base."

"So your family is close?" Kaz asked, already signaling for a refill.

The waiter came by and dropped her a nod and a greeting, she was apparently a frequent customer at the diner. They gave him their orders and he scurried off.

"We were," Scully answered after he left, "but nowadays, I don't see my brothers too often. They're both in the Navy as well. They're often at sea."

"And your sister?"

The minute the sentence left her mouth, Anne Kazmerowski regretted it. She instantly saw the drop of her new acquaintance's face and wanted to kick herself. <Nice going, dipshit> She chided mentally.

Scully's heart felt like a heavy stone in her chest as she replied, "My sister Melissa, well, she died about a year ago."

"I'm very sorry to hear that." Kaz said with real empathy.

Scully waved her apology away, even now too distressed to talk about it. She changed the subject, "Tell me, what do you do in the service, Kaz?"

Kaz, realizing she needed to lighten the mood as well as point the conversation in a different direction, smiled a little and downed half her fresh cup of coffee before saying, "Guys like you dad and brothers probably wouldn't consider me *real Navy.* I'm rarely at sea. I'm with the JAG Corps here in DC. I'm a lawyer. I did the whole ROTC bit and everything."

Scully's eyes widened a little. It made sense, with the law books she'd poured through all last night, but she looked fairly young to be a lawyer. She studied the woman's fresh, open face, careful not to dwell too long on her rich brown eyes. The eyes made her feel...well, she didn't know exactly how they made her feel, but she found it prudent not to look into them for too long.

Luckily, their food arrived, giving Scully a chance to break away from those eyes and gather rational thoughts. She felt altogether off-kilter today, as though she were doing much more than having breakfast with a new acquaintance. What that was, however, she did not know. All she did know was that Anne Kazmerowski intriuged her like few people did. She'd known the woman less than an hour, but felt drawn to her in some new and indefinable way.

"How old are you, Kaz?"

The woman laughed, a pleasant sound, and said, "I'm 27, why do you ask?"

"You just have a young face, I guess. Are you new to the JAG Corps?"

Kaz shook her head, but smiled as she swallowed a forkful of eggs, "I get that a lot. Many of the guys underestimate me in court, thinking I'm a fish. But actually, this is my third year. I'm almost done with my required stint in the Corps. I haven't decided whether to stay with it or not."

"I see. And you're stationed here in DC for now. Where are you originally from?"

"San Francisco, born and raised. My family lived in the Haight-Ashbury district when it was losing its appeal for the acid freaks. We loved it, though. In high school I used to go to all the old beat poet hangs, sometimes even with my dad, who loved that kind of stuff too. The art, the sounds, the sea air on the coast...it's all so different than here."

She looked a little wistful to Scully, who said, "Sounds like you miss it."

Kaz thought about it as she finished off her second cup of coffee. "I miss the atmosphere, but my life is here now."

Scully's next question was tentative, "And your father, he's not around anymore?"

Kaz shook her head, "He died two years ago. It was hard. He and I were always close. It seemed like my dad understood me better than anyone else I knew. Kind of a weird concept, but it held true in my case." She toyed with the rim of her coffee cup for a moment before asking the reciprocal question, afraid it might bring up as strong a reaction as before. She steeled her nerve and asked it, "I noticed you used the past tense in speaking of your father, the Captain, as well."

Scully chanced a look into the woman's eyes. They were warm and caring, sympathetic in the mutual loss of loved ones. She looked out the window of the diner as she replied, "He died three years ago, a coronary. It was about this same time of year."

"I'm sorry." Kaz said in a quiet voice, yet encouraging her to continue, realizing it was something she didn't speak of often.

"It's all right. I looked up to my father like no one else. I think, in many ways, I worshipped the ground he walked on. Perhaps it was because I often went for long periods without seeing him...no...that's not it. I simply loved and respected him. I was his little darling, his youngest daughter, and we had a lot of special times together when he was at home." There was a warm glow of nostalgia in Scully's cheeks as she spoke. "In fact, I get my love of Melville from him. When I was a girl he used to read to me from 'Moby Dick' before I went to sleep at nights. Seeing you with that book this morning, wearing that uniform, it gave me a little bit of deja vu."

Kaz smiled kindly across the table at her, "I see your father was a man of fine tastes too. I take it he was in love with the sea?"

"The sea and his family. Those were his two loves in life."

"He sounds like a fine man."

Scully nodded, struggling to keep the emotion from her face. "He was."

They ate in silence for a few minutes. Kaz allowed her breakfast companion time to gather her thoughts once again, which Scully promptly did.

"Earlier you said you might not stay with the Navy. Are you thinking of private practice?" Scully asked, finishing her breakfast. She knew that the bigtime money of a private practice or admittance into a large firm was the number one reason law students went through ROTC and served their time in the JAG Corps.

"To tell you the truth, I'm not sure I want to practice at all anymore."

Scully was caught off-guard by the statement. People just didn't go through the agony of law school only to practice for three years. Ever the perceptive one, Kaz noticed her surprise.

"Don't get me wrong," she explained, "I like the Navy. I enjoy the people and the work. The guys are great, it's not that. It's just that the military, well, it doesn't always allow its members the personal freedoms that ordinary people enjoy. And private practice doesn't interest me as much as I once thought it would. I sometimes think of the ACLU, because I'm in love with constitutional law, something most lawyers are not enamored of, but although I'm politically very liberal, I don't think I'm quite enough of a bleeding-heart for those folks. Besides, they aren't really high on former JAG officers, even if you did go to Berkeley."

"So what do you want to do?" Scully asked, genuinely interested in the young woman's future.

Kaz swallowed her last bite of toast. What direction should she go with this? The woman sitting across from her was intelligent, interesting, and extremely attractive. For some reason, she felt she and Scully had formed some sort of bond over the course of the morning. She couldn't explain why she felt so drawn to the FBI agent, but knew she wanted to get to know this woman better.

"Do you really want to know?" She asked.

"Sure." Scully replied.

Kaz thought about it for a moment, then said, "It would be easier to show you. Want to take a walk?"

"Where?"

"My place. It's only about a mile from here, and the walk is really nice."

"You live around here?" Scully asked, again caught off-guard. The neighborhood was one of the most exclusive and expensive in the DC area.

Kaz cocked her head as she tried to explain, "It's not like that. Mine is one of the smaller places in Georgetown, but it suits me, and I bought at a good time."

She took the bill and rose to take care of it. Scully stopped her, wanting to pay her share, but Kaz shook her head.

"Call it a thank you for the wake-up call."

The disheveled officer left a generous tip for the friendly waiter and left the diner with Scully in tow. They walked through the posh neighborhoods, admiring and commenting on the character of the fine homes they passed along the way.

Scully could hold her question no longer, "So how can a Lieutenant Commander in the JAG Corps afford to live in one of the oldest and finest neighborhoods in DC?"

Kaz gave her a crooked smile and replied, "My dad left me some money when he died. He said he wanted me to buy a house with it, so I bought one he would have really liked. Of course, I like it too."

"What did you dad do for a living?" <Own Texas?>

"He played third base for the San Francisco Giants for twelve years. After that, he and a buddy opened a small chain of sporting goods stores in the Bay Area."

Scully thought of the name again. Kazmerowski. Not being a baseball fan, it meant little to her, but Mulder would surely know it. She made a mental note to mention it to him on Monday. She knew he would be suitably impressed that she had met a professional athlete's daughter.

"Sporting goods, huh?"

"Yep." Kaz said with a leaning smile, "I worked in the store for two years, summers and weekends. If you need advice on which baseball bat or jock strap to buy, I'm your girl."

"I'll remember that." Scully said wryly as she started to chuckle.

"Don't laugh," The tall Naval Officer warned, "I bought my first car with money I earned selling jock straps."

The small redhead at her side snorted laughter, making Kaz's heart warm and set her ears ringing all over again.

Kaz patted her pockets, beginning the search for her keys. She turned up a walkway and they approached a picturesque little stone and brick house. Scully was in some kind of minor awe. Though small, the cozy-looking house was magnificent. Ivy climbed lazily over the brick front and up to the second story windows. It was easily over a hundred years old, and probably well over it.

Suddenly, though, a thought entered Scully's mind. What was she doing here? Why had she so blithely accepted the interesting young woman's invitation? And most of all, what was it about Anne Kazmerowski that made her accept it? For Scully knew that there was some quality to Kaz, some kind of charisma or grace or even mysteriousness, that drew her to this door. She'd enjoyed their easy, conversation in the diner. She rarely talked about her father, but for some reason had felt comfortable discussing him with Kaz. She felt as though she'd known the young woman for much longer than just for the morning.

Kaz unlocked the door and they stepped inside. She offered to take Scully's coat, hanging it on one of a row of wooden pegs by the door. She dropped her attache case on a small table and motioned for Scully to do the same.

"Come on," she said with a smile and a jerk of her head, beginning to climb the stairs to the second story.

Scully wanted to explore the old, grand house, but obediently followed Kaz up the stairs and into a room painted gun metal gray. It was a curious color, but just right for its contents.

It was a studio of sorts, on various easels held painted canvasses in different stages of completion. Kaz, however, by-passed these and led Scully to the corner of the room, where lay a stack of colored-pencil drawings mounted on page-sized poster board. As Scully flipped through them she realized they told a story. Most were set in dense woods, some by a river, a few in the mountains. They all had a young boy in a dirty plaid shirt and jeans encountering some type of natural obstacle, impediment, or danger.

"You see," Kaz explained with obvious excitement, "they go with this story I'm working on about a young boy who lives through a plane crash in the Rockies. He must survive in the wilderness until he is rescued. It's a young adult book, probably geared to boys around twelve or so. There aren't many books out there that young boys *want* to read, and I love action stories, plus they make great scenes for the illustrations."

Scully was amazed by the intricate detail of each illustration. The artwork was spectacular, and she told Kaz as much.

"Thanks," Kaz said, suddenly a little shy, as though afraid she'd been showing off, arrogant. She wanted to kick herself again for getting too carried away by her own excitement, forgetting how she looked to those around her. "I, um, well, I mean it's just a hobby. I don't usually go around showing this stuff to people I meet at the library. You know, when I think about it, I don't know if I've ever have met anyone at a library before."

"Me neither."

Kaz smiled, her midnight eyes sparkling just a bit. The sight of it made a little shiver run down Scully's spine. She wanted to chalk it up to a sudden draft, but something in the back of her mind told her that wasn't the case. She followed Kaz out of the room and down the stairs.

As they entered the living room, Kaz checked her watch, two o'clock. She turned to Scully, "Am I keeping you from things you have to do today, Scully?"

This, they both realized, was the perfect 'out', for Scully, a chance for her to leave if she wanted. Scully considered it for only a split-second before deciding that she wanted to spend more time with Anne Kazmerowski.

"Nope. I pretty much finished my monograph this morning so that I could relax for the rest of the weekend."

"Well, then, do you like Hitchcock?"

Scully's jaw almost--almost--dropped. She'd been planning to finish her paper this morning in order to make it back home in time for 'Notorious,' one of her favorite Alfred Hitchcock films. After meeting Kaz, however, she'd forgotten all about it. Apparently, Kaz hadn't, and the lawyer had the same taste in films.

"I love Hitchcock," she replied with a smile, "and 'Notorious' is one of my favorites. It's on in a few minutes, isn't it?"

Kaz grinned, "Sure is, two-thirty, want to stay and enjoy it together?"

"I'd like that."

Kaz offered Scully something to drink, then went into the kitchen to pour iced tea for her guest. She caught her reflection in a window and wanted to die. She only now realized she was wearing a very wrinkled blue dress uniform. Her tie hung around her unbuttoned collar, and her usually immaculate jacket was a mess. What a first impression!

She handed Scully, who was seated on the couch, a glass of tea and said, "You'll have to pardon my appearance, Scully. I don't normally treat my uniform with this kind of disrespect. Do you mind if I clean up a little before the show starts?"

"That's no problem," Scully replied, "I was wondering how long it would take you to realize you were still wearing that."

Her lopsided smile was shy and self-depreciating, "Yeah, I got a little excited about showing you my stuff. Personal egotism, I guess. Kind of forgot I was still in the monkey suit."

"It's nice." Scully remarked with sincerity.

Kaz wasn't sure how to take that, but she was hopeful as she thanked her guest. On her way up the stairs she called back to Scully, "Feel free to look around the place if you like. I'll be back in a flash."

Scully watched her rush up the steps, two at a time. She seemed a bundle of boundless energy. It was refreshing to a person who, when she wasn't looking for mutants, killers, and freaks of nature, spent her days in a windowless basement in the corner of the Hoover Building.

Feeling relaxed despite the unfamiliarity of her surroundings, Scully took Kaz's offer to look around to heart, and explored every room as she thought through this strange day. The first thing she noticed about the rooms were that each was painted a different color, and Scully quickly came to associate every one by it's tone. It wasn't the 'laundry room' anymore, it was the 'blue room', the studio became the 'gray room', and the guest room was the 'peach room.' Scully wondered what color the upstairs bathroom was, and was particularly interested in what color Kaz's own bedroom was. She didn't venture into those rooms though, not wanting to create an embarrassing situation and catch Kaz unaware.

In the downstairs office, or 'green room' Scully saw a large workstation with a fairly-new PC system, a wall full of law books, and another small bookshelf that held not books but pictures in silver frames and miscellaneous momentos. She approached it to see a tall, tanned, dark-blonde man in a baseball uniform that read 'Giants' across the chest. In front of him, facing the camera, stood a young Anne Kazmerowski in summer shorts and a T-shirt, a baseball glove on her right hand and a Tootsie Roll pop nestled in one cheek. It was a cute little picture, and Scully could see why Kaz would frame it.

There was another picture of her father, her mother, and herself on the shelf. Now Scully could see where the Italian features came from. Though 'Kazmerowski' was most probably a Polish name, Anne's coloring was Mediterranean. Her mother was a classic Italian woman, dark and petite with jet-black hair; even in something as lifeless as a photograph, the woman looked like hell on wheels.

She turned to gaze through mini-blinds and out into the sunny skies of the bright, crisp December day. She'd put it off long enough, now she had to think about just what it was she was doing. Always priding herself on being so logical, rational, and sane, Dana Scully realized that she was impulsively spending the day with a bright, young, attractive woman she barely knew.

But was that true? Did she barely know Kaz? She knew she felt something towards her, but couldn't identify the emotion. Was it merely Kaz's personal charisma and charm? She certainly was an interesting person, someone Scully wanted to know more about. And that sparkle in her eyes...

All Scully knew for sure right now was that she enjoyed being here with the energetic, artistic Navy lawyer. Kaz was a great conversationalist, sensitive as well, and seemed sincerely interested in listening to what she had to say. Was the gleam in the woman's eye and the almost-constant smile on her face only an indication of an artistic nature and easy-going, friendly personality, or was there more to it than that?

A voice from behind startled her, making her jump a little. Scully turned to see Kaz leaning against the doorframe, tanned arms crossed in front of her. Her hair looked darker now, still damp from only a half-hearted drying job. She wore a plain white T-shirt and light blue jeans. In deference to the coolness of the hardwood floors beneath them, she wore Birkenstock sandals on her feet, reminding Scully that she was, indeed, a California girl at heart.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to sneak up on you. So, what do you think of the place?"

Scully smiled at her, "This is great, Kaz. I really like the color schemes."

Shoving her hands into pockets of her jeans, she modestly said, "Well, I had some free time, thought I'd get a little creative with the place."

"It's great, and the architecture of the place is something else."

"Yeah, it was built in the 1830's. It's really quite historic, but has been redone many times. I like that about it though. A blend of the old and the new. The bathrooms are great, the original clawfoot tub is still in the one upstairs, but the previous owners added a separate shower."

Scully smiled playfully at her, "And what color is *that* room?"

Kaz's lopsided, bashful grin was endearing. It gave Scully another chill while showing her Kaz's youth and good-nature, "It's pink, of all things. I'm thinking of changing it to plum. I've really been into plum lately. I can't believe I didn't use it originally."

Scully looked seriously at her, "Can I ask you a question, Kaz?"

The officer shrugged, "Of course."

"How did a talented artist like you, a person who's 'hobby' is writing children's books, who paints every room of her house a different color, end up in the JAG Corps? Most lawyers I know are extremely...well, extremely uncreative. How did you decide on your career?"

Kaz's smile was a little self-deprecatory, she shrugged and gave Scully the short version, "I excelled in school, graduated a year early from high school, and did very well in college. I majored in history as an undergrad and one of my professors encouraged me to apply to Law School at Cal. Somehow, I got in, and fell in love with constitutional law. For some reason, I naively thought that's what being a lawyer was all about, gallantly protecting the civil rights of the common man. That's what I am, you know, a civil rights attorney, something there's really not a huge call for. So I made some adjustments, and right now, I'm in a spot I really like."

The redhead raised an eyebrow, then pursed her lips and said, "Earlier, you said something about not staying with the Navy, what, in particular, are your reasons for possibly leaving it?"

Kaz looked up, once again meeting Scully's blue-green eyes with her own dark chocolate ones. She swallowed, and it was a moment before she could speak. Scully's eyes were entrancing, beautiful, like cold fire. She had to pull her gaze away in order to answer the question.

"As you know, being in the armed forces is different than being a regular member of mainstream society. It's a subculture, there's probably one somewhat similar to it in the Bureau. There's pressure to fit in with what the majority does, or wants, or desires. I've never been big on following the crowd, I've always been an independent thinker, which makes it, in some minds, highly ironic that I went ROTC and joined the Navy. I dance to my own drummer quite often, to borrow a phrase from Emerson.

"Like I said before, I really like the Navy and *love* the people I work with. The guys in the office are great, and I feel really close to them. I think they've accepted me even though I'm a woman. Hell, I can drink the pansies under the table." She smiled, probably at memories of nights in bars with her male co-workers. "But sometimes it gets hard when you have your own principles. I know that's a little vague, but it's the best I can do."

"That's okay," Scully replied, "I think I understand what you mean."

She thought back to days and nights, hell, more like weeks and months, of frustration over the dead-ends, the half-truths, and the long trails of disinformation she and Mulder ran into during their investigations. It was hard when you knew there were people in your own organization, or else organizations close to yours, who were following a different agenda, who wanted you to follow their lead or accept the consequences. She thought of Melissa. Those were pretty difficult consequences to accept.

She snapped out of her reverie in time to hear Kaz say to her:

"You ready for the flick? I threw in some popcorn, should be ready by now."

Scully followed Kaz, and her nose, to the kitchen, where they refilled their tea glasses and took a bowl of air-popped popcorn to the living room to watch the movie. They sat on opposite sides of the couch with the bowl in the middle. Kaz kicked off her Birks to sit cross-legged, and Scully snuck sidelong glances at her at odd times throughout the show.

She didn't notice that Anne Kazmerowski did the same thing to her.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

5:05 pm

When the movie ended, Kaz flipped idly through the stations as they talked. Finally, she flipped the machine off and turned to Scully. She still sat cross-legged, and Scully wondered how she did that without her legs falling asleep.

They discussed Hitchcock films, agreeing that 'Notorious' was one of the top three, but Scully claimed that the other two were 'The Man Who Knew Too Much,' and 'Spellbound.' Kaz disagreed, telling her companion that the best ones were 'Rear Window,' and then either 'North By Northwest,' or 'The Trouble With Harry.' The argument ensued for over twenty minutes before they called a friendly truce.

Kaz got up from the couch, "Would you like another drink, Scully? I have more iced tea if you'd like, but I think I'm going to have a glass of wine. Would you care for one?"

Scully nodded, and followed her to the kitchen. It was a modern room with a large island in the middle. The room's walls were a muted rust color, but the dark paint was offset by the liberal use of white tile. It was a nice, cozy place, a tasteful and very comfortable kitchen. From this room, Kaz opened a door leading to a basement cellar and motioned for Scully to join her. The wonders never ceased. In addition to extensive dry goods storage, the room held an extremely well-stocked wine cellar.

Kaz caught Scully's pursed-lip look and decided an explanation was in order. "I'm not some crooked Navy lawyer who took a big payoff or something, Scully. I know what you're thinking, and I'll be straight with you. My father left me a considerable sum of money, enough to keep me comfortable for the rest of my life."

"And he wanted you to buy a house. Did he want you to keep a good wine cellar as well?"

Kaz threw back her head and laughed. "He wasn't specific on that point, but wine's always been a very important beverage in my family. My mother's quite Italian, you see, and--"

"Ah, yes," Scully said, interrupting briefly, "I've been meaning to ask you about her."

"She was born here in America, but her parents are from the 'Old Country', as they call it. She and my dad divorced when I was a teenager. I gotta tell you outright, my mother is weird. She'd outgoing and abrasive and intrusive and doesn't really care if she'd butting into anyone else's business. Luckily for me, I inherited my father's more easy-going personality. What about you?"

Scully's brows lifted at the deft change of direction. "You mean, am I like one parent or the other?"

"Yeah."

"I'm a female version of my father, or so says my mother. It's hard for a person to tell, but I know I'm not like my mother in many ways. She's very maternal, very happy to have spent her life as a wife and mother."

"And you don't have the same ambitions?"

Scully's pursed lips curled into a wry smile, "I'm a career girl."

Kaz covered her mouth to hide a laugh at the choice of words.

"Wait," Scully said quickly, "maybe that didn't come out right. I mean that my career *at the Bureau* is very important to me. It's not everything, but it's the best I have right now. I'm a little more independent than my mother is."

They stopped their conversation to choose a bottle. Kaz allowed her guest to choose, assuring Scully that anything was okay with her. It was her cellar, she didn't put anything down here that she didn't like.

Scully chose a Merlot. Kaz nodded at her good taste and brought the bottle up. They opened it and allowed it to breathe before pouring two glasses. The hostess then went to the refrigerator and pulled out a small pan of lasagna, as yet uncooked.

Shaking her head at the younger woman, Scully said, "I take it this means I'm staying for dinner. Do you always have a lasagna on hand just in case you have company?"

Kaz turned on the oven as she replied, "Yes, you are. I decided. And I usually put together dinners for a couple of nights all at once. I never know when I'll have time to cook, and I try not to eat fast food. I got hooked on it once, but I'm desperately trying to kick the habit." She smirked at Scully, "This was supposed to be my dinner last night, but I had a minor relapse. Luckily, the closest thing was a Subway and not a Burger King. I have this thing about a big, fat Whopper with cheese."

It certainly didn't show. In fact, Kaz looked extremely trim. She had a medium to large build, and was far from a waif, but every inch of her body looked as though it were roped with muscle. Solid was the word that came to mind to describe this woman. One thing Scully knew for sure was that she wouldn't want to mess with Anne Kazmerowski in a dark alley.

After the oven heated up, Kaz popped the baking dish in. She refilled their wine glasses and took them to the living room. Scully sat on the couch while Kaz went over to fiddle with the stereo system.

"You mind some music, Scully?"

"Depends on what's playing."

"Well, I only listen to gangsta rap." Kaz said seriously.

Scully almost choked on her wine, and had a small coughing fit. Kaz came over and patted her on the back a little to help her out.

"Easy there, partner, I'm just kidding. Guess my poker face is a little too effective. I'm not really a Snoop Doggy Dogg fan."

"Thank God," Scully murmured in a choked voice, her face flushed from her attack.

The music started up and Kaz smiled gently, "To tell you the truth, I'm a jazz freak. This is a little John Coltrane."

Kaz was still patting her on the back, though Scully was over her coughing jag. As if suddenly realizing this, she quickly removed her hand and lifted her glass of wine to take a sip.

"So," she asked, "what do you do with the Bureau, Scully? Or shouldn't I ask? Is it one of those *I'd tell you but then I'd have to kill you* bits?"

Scully chuckled softly, "I'm an agent in one of the divisions."

Kaz's round soft eyes got a little bigger, "Oh, so I should be calling you Special Agent Scully right?"

Scully lifted a brow sarcastically, "Only if you want me calling you Lieutenant Commander Kazmerowski."

"No, no, no," Kaz said with a little laugh and a shake of her head, "I don't subject people I like to that."

"And you like me enough to let me get away without the formality?"

Kaz's eyes glittered again, "Yes," she replied evenly, "I like you very much."

They chatted for awhile longer, discussing their families and their childhoods until the timer went off in the kitchen. Kaz trotted Scully back in, prepared a quick salad as the dish cooled, and warmed some garlic bread.

"You're amazing," Scully said with a shake of her head, "it looks like you're just wandering around in here, and all of a sudden you have this great-smelling dinner all whipped up and ready to go. You're really something, you know that."

"Aw shucks, Scully, you're embarrassing me. So I like to cook, where's the crime?" She smiled over at the redhead to let her know she was just playing, then quickly set the table. "And if you think all of that is something, you haven't seen anything yet."

Intrigued by this comment, Scully followed her, wineglass in hand, to a small, stone-colored dining room. When they had the table all ready to go, however, Kaz went to the far wall and flipped off the lights. Scully just now realized it was fully dark outside, and momentarily the room was pitch black. Then Kaz hit another switch, and the room was lit by only a small string of green and red Christmas lights which lined the window. The effect added a festive ambiance to the room and shadowed their faces in a kaleidoscope of red and green hues.

Kaz gave Scully her lopsided grin, and Scully couldn't help but give the young woman a wide smile of her own. It really was a great effect.

"So, Kaz, do you eat here in the semi-darkness every night?"

To Scully's surprise, she nodded, "I like it--but then, I have a thing about Christmas lights. I have to force myself to take them down each year. There's something about all those tiny lights making so many people so happy, just by being themselves. By being simple and beautiful." Abruptly, she shook her head, "Sorry, I get really weird sometimes. The weekends are my time to forget about the Navy and being a lawyer and all of that stuff, I guess I get carried away by my own bizarre thoughts sometimes."

Scully sipped from her glass, "They're not bizarre, at least, not the ones I've heard so far. I think that perspective is quite interesting. I must admit I've never heard it before, but I like to hear your views...they're rather refreshing after a week in b.s. central."

They sat down to eat and continued the long-running conversation they'd been having all day.

"What section of the Bureau do you work in, Scully? Vice? Violent Crimes? White Collar? What?"

Uh-oh. The dreaded question. Even after three years, she still hadn't come up with a good explanation of her job. But out of respect for Kaz, she tried to wade through it.

"I work in a small, special section. Few people know it even exists."

Kaz gave her a look of mock intimidation, "Hey, remember, I told you I didn't need to know if you're gonna have to shoot me afterwards."

Scully gave a small smile, "No, it's nothing covert, but it is a little obscure and...a little strange."

Taking a bit bite of salad, Kaz said, "Strange is good, I like strange."

"Well, then, you're gonna love this. I work in a division called the X-Files. It's a catchall for unexplained cases, UFO sightings, reports of alien abductions, and other miscellaneous phenomena."

"You mean when Farmer Fred says he saw a flying saucer, you go and check it out? Gee, I didn't know we did stuff like that."

Scully's face grew a little pinched, "Well, it's kind of the 'pet project' of my partner. He used to work Violent Crimes. He was their star profiler, but his success allowed him to pursue his own interests, and he became fascinated with this room down in the basement of the Hoover Building that was filled with these unexplained cases. He wanted to re-open the X-Files Division, and his reputation for excellence made it possible."

She left out Mulder's reputation as being *Spooky,* and omitted mention of the sister he believed was abducted by aliens as well. Best to let Kaz start out respecting Mulder, not mocking him with the quick-wit she'd displayed all afternoon.

She continued, "A year or so later I was assigned to assist Mulder in investigation of the X-Files, and no, we don't just run out to interview Farmer Fred when he says he saw a UFO. We deal with all types of cases, and, for the most part, there has to be a substantiated reason we're investigating."

"For the most part?"

Scully smirked and chuckled a little, "Well, sometimes Mulder drags me out to some strange places. I remember this one time in particular, we went out to Georgia to investigate missing persons, chewed up body parts and reported sightings of Big Blue."

"Excuse me?"

"A mythical creature--at least in southeast Georgia--somewhat similar to the Loch Ness Monster."

"And did you find Big Blue?"

Scully sighed, "Unfortunately for Mulder, no. He really had his hopes up about that one, but it turned out to be the work of a hungry alligator who had recently lost his food source, so he got adventurous and sampled the local cuisine."

Kaz got a big kick out of that, and nearly choked on a piece of garlic bread. "Great story."

"Yeah," Scully said a little sadly, "the only bad part was that the alligator ate my dog for an hors d'ouevre before moving up the food chain."

The smile disappeared from Anne Kazmerowski's face, "Oh Scully, that's terrible. I'm so sorry."

Scully shrugged and took a bite of lasagna. It was delicious. Scully could get used to eating like this. She herself had a penchant for fast food, thanks to Mulder, though her weakness was for Quarter Pounders with cheese.

"It was a long time ago," she said, "water under the bridge."

Kaz turned the conversation to travel, and listened to Scully discuss the trip she took to Europe a couple of years ago. She was content to listen to Dana Scully talk, for she found the small redhead's voice to be extremely pleasant, even soothing. Scully was petite and compact, but had an aura of strength that drew Kaz to her. She was obviously intelligent, a medical doctor *and* an FBI agent. Plus she was easy to talk to, yet Kaz had the distinct feeling many other people didn't find her to be that way.

After dinner, Kaz went to the cellar to fetch another bottle of wine, and Scully looked at her watch. It couldn't be nine o'clock already, could it? She stood and looked out the window, her reflection framed by the small red and green lights surrounding her face. She took a good look at herself as well as the quiet Georgetown neighborhood. She really should leave. In fact, she wasn't really sure why she was still here in the house of a woman she'd just met this morning. No, this was not like rational, sensible Dana Scully at all.

Yet, she really didn't want to go. She'd thoroughly enjoyed her day with Kaz and was afraid that when she left, she would never see the young Naval officer again. The day seemed to have flown by, and now the thought that it was nearing its end saddened her more than a little. She had a foreign, expectant feeling in the pit of her stomach, and knew it had been put there by Kaz. Still, the question remained, should she leave?

She heard footsteps on the stairs and saw Kaz emerge with a fresh bottle of Merlot. She saw the look on Scully's face and said, "Not having second thoughts about opening another, are you?"

It took Scully only a split second to make up her mind, "Nope," she said, and followed the tall, dark-haired woman into the kitchen.

They took refilled glasses into the living room once more, and Kaz once again turned out the lights, replacing the plain, white lamplight with the soft glow of multi-colored Christmas lights.

"Got to take advantage of the season," she explained with a smile.

She switched CD's in the player and announced to Scully that this new one was the great Charlie Parker.

"I know." Scully said.

Kaz's eyes glittered once again in the dim light as she gave Scully her lopsided grin, "I see you have good taste in music too."

"My father loved jazz, he and my mother had a big record collection. I guess my mother still has them up in the attic somewhere."

"It's great stuff, but people seem to either love it or despise it. Me," Kaz said, sipping her wine, "I think it's sent straight from heaven."

Scully took a substantial drink of her own, "I like it too. Very soothing, and yet full of extremely powerful emotions."

Kaz's eyes, jet black in the spotty light, widened, "That sounds like one of the bizarre things I say. Maybe we are kindred spirits, Scully."

"Speaking of kindred spirits, do you have a special someone hanging around?" Scully asked her.

"You mean, am I romantically involved with anyone? No, I'm not."

"Oh. Between relationships?"

Kaz shrugged and took a much larger drink of her wine, not sure how she felt about Scully's question. A part of her was uncomfortable with the conversation, but another part was relieved it had finally come up. At least now they were getting down to it.

"Well," Kaz replied, "I haven't been seriously involved with someone in over a year. In fact, I really don't date much."

"That surprises me, Kaz."

"Why?" Kaz asked with genuine interest.

Scully thought about it for only a moment, "Well, you're young, intelligent, attractive. You're a talented artist and a woman with a good career. Face it, you're a great catch."

"So why isn't there a ring on my finger, is that what you want to know?" Kaz smiled gently and took another long sip before answering, "Maybe I'm *too* self-sufficient. In the past, none of my relationships lasted very long. I'd meet a guy, we'd go out for awhile, and he would *always* want me to do things with him. I don't really have much leisure time, and when I have it I like to decide what I want to do with it. Take today for example. Do you think that if I was involved with someone, I could ever have gotten away with falling asleep on Friday night in the Georgetown Law Library, then spending my entire Saturday with the person who woke me up?"

She smiled warmly at Scully as she waited for the inevitable answer.

After she got it, Kaz continued, "I know this is typically the thing you hear from the guy in a relationship, not from a woman, but for me, it's true. I like to do my own thing, and they don't seem understand that. It's fine for them, but when the shoe is on the other foot..." she shrugged, "But then, maybe I just haven't found a person I'd choose over a day drawing pictures upstairs in my studio. Someday, though."

Scully smiled and lifted her glass, "To someday."

Kaz returned her smile and clinked her glass to Scully's, "To someday."

They drank from their glasses, eyes meeting over the rims.

"Well, Scully," Anne Kazmerowski said, "I just bore my soul to you. Now it's your turn."

Scully instantly blushed, glad that the dim glow of the Christmas lights covered it. Her face was growing warm from the wine. She set the empty wine glass on an end table.

Running a hand through her hair, Scully said, "There's really not much to bare."

Kaz snorted in disbelief, "You don't think I'm going to believe that, do you?"

"Actually, I haven't had a serious relationship in over three years, and I rarely date."

"What? Are you married to your work or something, Dr. Special Agent?"

Scully shook a finger at the younger woman, "Don't mock me, Lieutenant Commander."

"Then why the lack of a social life, Scully?"

"It really is hard with my work. Mulder and I travel quite a bit, we never know if we're coming home at night, or flying to North Dakota in the afternoon."

"So what's the story with this guy Mulder?"

Scully snorted this time, "Mulder?" she queried, thinking she'd misheard, "You mean my partner, Mulder?"

"No, I mean my neighbor Mulder."

Scully's brow furrowed, "You have a neighbor named Mulder?"

Kaz covered a laugh with the back of her hand, "No, dippy, I'm giving you a hard time. My, you're an easy target after a few glasses of wine."

"That's not true." Scully protested.

"Oh, you mean you're this gullible every day."

Scully laughed, then said, "Actually, I'm know for my lack of gullibility. I kind of have a reputation as being a skeptic."

"Good for you. Like they used to say in the Haight: question authority--dude."

"They said 'dude' back in the Haight?"

"Well, when I was in high school they did, but I'm guessing they didn't back in the 60's. Back to the subject though, you're ducking my question. What about Mulder? Is he a potential Mr. Right."

"Mulder isn't even Mr. Maybe. Mulder and I, though really great as partners, are like oil and water as far as personalities go."

"Opposites attract right?"

"In this case, they've attracted themselves into the best friendship I've ever had in my life. In fact, at random times throughout the day I've thought about what to tell Mulder about my weekend, and about you."

Kaz sipped the last of her wine and set the glass on an end table behind her. He propped her head on a fist against the back of the couch and asked, "What would you tell him?"

"Oh, definitely about your father. Mulder will love it that I met you. He has this inexplicable adulation for professional sports figures. And I have to tell him about how I met you. You should have seen yourself doing that faceplant in the book."

"Not one of my better moments, I must admit. I guess I didn't make a great first impression, drooling all over the pages of Melville."

Scully slapped her playfully on the arm, "You weren't drooling, and when I think about it, I'm glad I met you that way. I'll never forget it, that's for sure."

Kaz covered her eyes with a hand, "What a way to distinguish myself!"

"It was kind of cute."

Suddenly, Kaz sobered, "Cute?"

Scully knew she was walking a new, unfamiliar line, yet she didn't back away from it. There was something between them. It was undeniable. She could barely look Kaz in the eyes at this point, she was deathly afraid the sight of those beautiful browns would make her leave a small puddle on the couch.

Her voice involuntarily dropped just a little as she replied, "Yeah...cute."

Kaz smiled, but it was a different smile than those she'd been liberally bestowing all day. The woman turned her head and looked out across the room, toward the windows and the tiny multi-colored lights lining them. She took a deep breath, steeling her nerve. She hadn't done anything like this in a long time. But nobody else, man or woman, had ever made her feel the way she felt today with Dana Scully. She had to test that feeling, regardless of the consequences.

Scully noticed the change in her demeanor, but said nothing.

Finally, after a long moment of silence, the first between the women all day, Kaz turned back to her and said, "Scully, can I ask you a question?"

Scully felt her heart leap into her throat. Was that fear? Anticipation? The unknown? The look on Kaz's face and the sudden seriousness of her tone made Scully extremely nervous about the question. Had she misinterpreted? Was this not the situation she'd thought it was?

Her throat was dry; she had to swallow before answering, "Okay."

Kaz's face was deadly serious, but Scully didn't know that Kaz's heart was beating just as fast as her own. The Naval officer was just as anxious, just as nervous, had just as much of a ringing in her ears.

"Scully, can I kiss you?"

Scully's mouth opened to answer, but nothing came out. She snapped it shut and looked Kaz directly in the eyes. Warm dark chocolate met ice blue, and each caught the glimmer in the other's. She managed a small nod, inwardly sighing with relief, and yet scared beyond belief. Kaz let out the breath she'd been holding since the question had left her mouth.

Their eyes still locked, Kaz glided closer to Scully. She leaned over very slowly, allowing Scully every chance to change her mind. When she got to the point of no return, she moved in quicker, anticipation overcoming everything else.

Scully felt soft lips gently touch her own. They reached out to brush her lips, then pulled back. As they once more touched hers, Scully leaned forward just a bit, a subtle cue not to leave again. She felt Kaz's arms move around her waist, gently settling on her hips for a moment before moving up to feel her back. Scully's own arms imitated the gesture, and she discovered that she was right, Kaz's back was hard and strong beneath her T-shirt.

Kaz's lips grew hungrier, and Scully, relishing the new, soft sensations, opened her mouth to admit an exploring tongue. As their mouths locked and their tongues touched for the first time, Scully saw fireworks behind her closed eyelids and felt the wetness she'd been fighting invade her lower regions.

Their tongues danced and dueled, stroking and exploring the newness of the other as hands began to do the same. After a few long, luxurious minutes of this exploration, Kaz leaned forward, tilting Scully backwards on the couch. She lay back in the soft pillows as Kaz settled by her side, her hand now hesitant on top of the sweatshirt before mustering the courage to slide under it, feeling the soft, bare skin of Scully's stomach.

Scully was momentarily startled by the bold movement, just now realizing what she was doing. <I'm making out with a woman. And it feels so good, so soft, so right.> She relaxed her body and let herself go with the exquisite sensations. She could think later, but for now she needed to hold and feel and kiss the woman beside her.

Kaz grew even bolder now, and placed a knee between Scully's legs, gently bringing it into contact with Scully's warm center through her jeans. The moan she felt rumbling out of Scully's throat and into her own sent shocking currents of heat, need, and desire racing through Kaz's body. She returned the moan instinctively as she traced the line of Scully's teeth with her tongue.

Scully began to reciprocate the aggressive gestures now. She brought a hand between them and set it on Kaz's breast. The swell of it fit perfectly into Scully's small hand, and she rubbed a thumb across the nipple, wanting to feel one other than her own (and on a live body) for the first time. The nipple quickly grew taut and erect beneath the thin fabric of the T-shirt and casual sports bra Kaz wore.

Scully felt a warm hand on her own breast, but this one was directly on the bare skin. She broke the kiss out of a need for air. Kaz peppered her face with light kisses as she kneaded one breast, then the other, with what Scully assumed were experienced fingers.

Catching her breath, Scully lifted the hair off of Kaz's face and tucked it behind her ears, then bent forward to resume the kiss. Kaz, however, kissed her only briefly before moving her mouth close to Scully's ear.

"Stay the night," she whispered, her voice heavily laden with desire.

"Yes," Scully instantly replied in a voice that matched her partner's.

Kaz kissed her once again, then found Scully's arms and gently coaxed her to her feet. "Let's go upstairs."

Scully said nothing, but simply nodded into the taller woman's shoulder as they made their way to the stairway, stopping occasionally for kisses, caresses, and soft words whispered by Kaz into Scully's ear. As for herself, Scully wasn't sure her Jell-O-like legs were going to make it to the upstairs bedroom, and she wasn't entirely sure she knew what was going to happen once they were there. Although she was a very willing participant in this, she had never done this sort of thing before. It was taboo, something that simply wasn't talked about, wasn't done.

But one look at Anne Kazmerowski, passed out from exhaustion in the Georgetown Law Library, seemed to have changed all of that, however.

Kaz supported her as they walked up the stairs. She was familiar with the house even in the dark, and quickly navigated the twists and turns until they reached their goal. She laid Scully down on the bed and looked into her eyes as she knelt over her, seeking permission. Scully reached up, hooked an arm around her head, and pulled her down for a hungry kiss.

She straddled Scully's body as their tongues met once more. Careful not to put too much weight on the smaller woman, she laid down so that their bodies, although still fully clothed, lay against each other.

Kaz reveled in the feeling of Scully's soft mouth, her sensitive fingers, and her warm, greedy tongue. Scully had quickly taken control of this kiss, discovering every inch of Kaz's willing mouth. Her lips were so sensuous. Kaz had been immediately drawn to them, outlined as they had been in bright red lipstick, a lipstick she was now tasting between deep kisses.

She now forced herself to pull away. "Scully," she gasped, "I need you naked."

The reply was husky and sensual, "Then make me that way."

<Oh God,> Kaz thought, moaning inside her head as another tide of warm wetness flowed between her legs.

She lifted the sweatshirt, laying feathery kisses on Scully's midriff as she moved the shirt higher and higher. She pulled it over the gorgeous mass of red hair and off Scully's body. Even in the pale moonlight, she could sense the creamy smoothness of Scully's fair skin. She wanted to taste it all, to kiss every inch, to lick it, to own it, even if only for a moment. She reached between beautiful round breasts to find a small clasp and released it, allowing the milky white breasts the freedom they deserved.

She disposed of the bra and sweatshirt, piling them in the corner, then, still straddling Scully, lifted her own shirt by the bottom seam and pulled it over her head. She ran a hand over her head, taming her dark hair, and leaned back down. Scully understood what she wanted and reached out a slightly tentative hand. She snaked it underneath the loose elastic of the sports bra and pulled it up and off.

Kaz made no movement for a moment, but simply locked eyes with Dana Scully. Then she slowly lowered her torso until their nipples grazed each other. She watched Scully's mouth form a perfect 'O', and heard the low groan in her throat. She lowered herself a bit more, pressing the sensitive nipples against each other, and setting off exquisite sparks in each of the women. Kaz looked on as Scully's eyes slipped closed and she bit her lip. Kaz captured the lip between her own and gently pulled on it. She sucked it into her mouth and carefully nibbled on it as she pressed her hips into Scully's.

Scully brought her hands up to caress Kaz's bare back. The skin was smooth and silky beneath her fingers. This was so very different from any other sexual encounter she'd ever had. Not that those hadn't been very good or very satisfying, but it had never felt anything like this. The softness, the gentleness, the feel of the touches were so intense. This was full of tenderness, giving, and emotion. With most the men she'd been with, there had been a sense of rushing. They had to get there fast, be there now. With Kaz, the slow foreplay of their encounter was exquisitely powerful. Scully had never felt anything like it before in her life.

Now, Kaz was kissing her neck as she worked with one hand on the buttons of Scully's jeans. The sweet sensation on one of her most sensitive areas instantly brought up another comparison. No whisker burn. Kaz's face was as soft as her own, and the absence of this roughness combined with the silkiness of Kaz's lips nearly sent Scully's pent-up sexual energies brimming over.

Scully sent her own hands to Kaz's belt and deftly unbuckled it, then unbuttoned the jeans and pushed them off of Kaz's narrow hips. Scully just now realized as she reached far down that Kaz was rather wedge-shaped, with broad shoulders and a strong back that tapered to narrow hips and legs. Cupping Kaz's ass, Scully realized the woman barely had one. But she made do with what she had, and ran her hands over it again and again, kneading the flesh until she heard a soft exhalation against her neck and a voice in her ear.

"Oh, Scully--"

Kaz now worked harder to rid the redhead of her jeans, both of them growing anxious and needy. Scully wasn't sure what she was so anxious for, but knew that after this, it would be tremendous.

In seconds, they lay naked on the bed. Kaz hastily pulled back the sheets, something she'd neglected before, and felt a soft hand on her shoulder. The touch sent shivers through every nerve, every pore of her body.

"Kaz," Scully said, now kneeling back on her legs.

A soft kiss on Scully's lips, then, "Yes?"

"I've...I've never done this before."

Kaz touched her forehead to Scully's as they knelt side by side. "Good," she said, and reached out to kiss Scully once more.

"But--"

Kaz put a finger to Scully's magnificent, sexy red lips. "Don't worry about it. You only do what comes natural for you. Nothing more, okay?"

Scully nodded, then took Kaz's finger into her mouth. Anne Kazmerowski almost lost it right then and there, with the most beautiful woman she'd ever seen in her life doing nothing more than sucking on her finger.

She decided to give a little of the torture back, wanting--no, needing, to feel Scully writhing under her touch. She leaned in and ran a hand through the red tresses she'd been entranced by all day, loving the thickness, the softness, the texture of it. She moved it back off of Scully's neck, and once again dipped her head in. This time, she kissed her way to Scully's ear, then licked delicately at the sensitive spot behind it. Kaz felt a tremor run through Scully's body and smiled to herself. She nibbled at Scully's earlobe as her free hand ran the length of Scully's back, teasing the flesh into goosebumps. She felt her finger being pulled at even harder, Scully's warm tongue just at the tip.

Now needing to do what she'd been wanting to do for the last eleven hours or so, she removed her finger from Scully's mouth and trailed her left hand down Scully's body. She felt another tremor run through her partner, and felt the weakening in Scully's legs. She laid Scully back on the bed, then moved herself down to catch a bobbing nipple with her mouth.

Scully instantly moaned at the sensation of Kaz's mouth on her breast. It had been so long--far too long--since she'd felt that particular sensation. And yet, this was something completely new, because it was the same, yet different. Kaz wasn't just nuzzling her breast, she was *loving* it, worshipping it, bestowing upon it everything she had to give. And as she moved on to the next one, Scully felt the same power, the same reverie, begin all over again.

With the powerful sensations in her aching nipples, Scully almost forgot about the fingers moving ever so slowly down her stomach. She quickly remembered them, however, when Kaz parted her lower lips and felt the heavy evidence of Scully's desire. Kaz rubbed it gently over the entire area before entering Scully with two fingers, slow at first, then began to pump them in a careful, measured rhythm. Her thumb went to Scully's clitoris, and Kaz heard a sharp gasp from above her.

She lifted her head from the almost irresistible breasts to peek at Scully's face. Her heart once again leapt as she saw the intense beauty intermingled with pleasure. Scully's eyes were closed, but her mouth was open and her breath was quickening in her chest.

She lowered her eyes once more and half-kissed, half-licked her way down Scully's flat stomach.

Suddenly, she felt Scully's body tense and heard a voice above her, "No, Kaz, you--you don't have to...no."

She didn't hesitate, but continued her progress downward as she replied, "Yes, Scully. I want to, I need to."

There were no more protests as Kaz replaced her pumping fingers with her mouth. Hearing the beautiful redhead moan loudly at the sensation, she thrust her tongue deep inside of Scully, tasting her and smelling her and wanting all she could get of her. She drove her tongue in and out as she rode the thrusts Scully began to give. She heard the excited cries and pants from above her and was, at that moment, the happiest person in the world.

She continued to tongue-fuck Scully until she felt, through Scully's own compact body, the climax begin to build. She moved deftly up and planted her mouth on Scully's engorged clit, kissing it carefully at first, then beginning to stroke it with the flat of her tongue and suck it with her entire mouth.

Scully thought she was going to die. Kaz's mouth was like magic, she'd never felt anything better. She was barely aware of her gasps and cries, and lost all senses except that of touch, which she was feeling quite liberally right now. Her hips bucked involuntarily, pushing her up into Kaz's face. Kaz didn't seem to mind, though, and afterwards worked even harder to make Scully come.

It was like a freight train, the express, rushing through town hard and with intense power behind it. Scully was vaguely aware of screaming Kaz's name repeatedly and of clutching the dark, soft hair of her lover's head, which lay between Scully's legs.

The orgasm went on and on, Scully going wild with pleasures she hadn't felt in so long, but Kaz kept at it, and before the first climax ended, another began, making her scream again.

"Oh my God!" She panted, "Oh, K-a-a-z-z-z-z!"

As Scully came down from her second orgasm, Kaz lapped lazily at the juices surrounding her lover's hole, wanting to devour every drop. When she finished, she snaked back up into Scully's waiting arms, and they held each other for a moment. Then Kaz turned to face her and bent forward to kiss her partner, allowing Scully to taste herself on Kaz's lips and in her mouth.

Of all Scully's former lovers (not that there'd been many), not one had ever done this for her with such passion and enthusiasm. And none had gone immediately to her mouth after. She wasn't sure about doing it until it was too late, and Kaz's hot tongue was in her mouth, seeking out her own. It was wonderful, though, this taste of her own self, and the giving of it was so sensual. Scully found herself thoroughly searching all throughout Kaz's mouth for more, and they shared the secret substance together.

After a few long minutes of deep, passionate kisses, Scully leaned over close to her new lover's ear, "What do you want me to do?"

Kaz looked at her with glimmering obsidian eyes that radiated happiness, "You don't have to do anything, Scully."

"But I want to."

Kaz grinned in the moonlight, bright slivers reflecting off her straight white teeth, "Then do whatever you feel like doing."

Scully gave her a smile and kissed her once more, this time climbing on top of Kaz's powerful, yet entirely feminine body. She kissed her way down to Kaz's breasts and cupped them once more, enjoying the feel of the soft flesh in her palms. Then, after only a moments hesitation, she bent down and cautiously licked a nipple.

Kaz laughed throatily from above her, "You see, it won't hurt you."

Scully's return laugh was playful. "Let's see if I can't shut you up for awhile."

"Oh," Kaz said innocently, "my talking bothers you?"

"If you haven't noticed," Scully replied in mock-seriousness, "I'm trying to concentrate on a job here. I'm kinda new to it and was a little out of it during my training session."

That brought a hearty laugh from Kaz, who seemed to enjoy the bedroom banter. Scully did shut her up, however, when she enclosed her mouth around a nipple and suckled on it, using her tongue to brush the tip. The laugh Kaz had turned into a long, low moan.

Scully reached a tentative hand out to stroke Kaz's sides, teasing the flesh into goosebumps and occasionally tickling her. Kaz was sensitive, every axion and neuron seemed to be firing tonight, for everywhere Scully touched on the woman seemed to evoke a strong response.

Still very hesitant, but growing braver by the second, Scully let her hand drift down between Kaz's legs. She played her fingers gingerly over the small patch of hair there, then stroked the inside of Kaz's thighs. She felt the muscles jump with anticipation beneath her fingers. Finally, summoning up the courage, she parted Kaz's lips and entered her with a single finger. She slid it in and almost out a few times before adding another. Kaz thrust her hips up toward Scully's hand, and Scully left the security of Kaz's breasts to explore this new, unfamiliar territory. Of course, it wasn't totally unfamiliar, but Scully had never tried to please any woman but herself before, and found the challenge rather intimidating. She wanted to please Kaz, didn't want to be a let down for her. Most of all, she was afraid a bad performance would lead to rejection, something she was fairly sure she didn't want. She knew she couldn't do what Kaz had done to her, but she felt, for now, that she could do this.

Scully moved down and watched her fingers pump in and out between Kaz's spread legs. She remembered when Kaz did this for her, and moved her thumb to massage Kaz's aching clit. The reaction was instantaneous. Kaz sighed and murmured her assent to this maneuver. Her hips began to move in rhythm to Scully's fingers. Taking this as a signal, Scully increased the pace.

Kaz moaned beneath her and groped, finding Scully's arm, then her free hand. Kaz brought it to her mouth and kissed it, then held it tightly between her breasts as her own orgasm came close.

Although it took all her willpower, she opened her eyes to meet Scully's. Scully read the message in them. They thanked her, and they showed Scully the intense feelings she was already harboring for her. Then the chocolate eyes closed and Kaz's face contorted as she hit the top. She let out a cry and bit her lip as tremors and spasms shook her. She contracted around Scully's fingers and cried out her name into the stillness of the room.

When Scully felt the race was over, she slowed her fingers, then slipped them out. Kaz felt their absence immediately, but quickly reached down to pull Scully up to her. She squeezed Scully to her chest for a moment before kissing her once more.

Scully pulled away after several minutes of deep soul kissing to ask, "Was that okay?"

Kaz once again captured Scully's lips. She sought out her tongue and stroked it briefly before leaving to say, "That was wonderful, Scully."

Scully broke out into a full-fledged smile, a rare sight, though Kaz didn't know it yet, and kissed her on the top of the nose. She felt her eyelids growing heavy, and settled into Kaz's arms for a little rest. However, after a long day of nervousness and anticipation, they both fell quickly into deep, contented sleep.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sunday, December 17
9:15 am

Scully woke up to the sound of a phone ringing faintly from down the hall. It took her a moment to realize that this wasn't right; she wasn't at home, wasn't wearing her pyjamas, and wasn't alone.

Anne Kazmerowski slept close to her side, her breath slow and regular. She had an arm draped over Scully's stomach and her head sat nestled up against Scully's shoulder. Scully's mind quickly ran through the events of the previous night, re-filling her in on recent developments. She was just about to settle in for some hard thinking about them when she realized that the phone was *her* phone. It was the high-pitched trilling of her cellular, and she remembered how Kaz had hung her jacket up in the hallway right below the stairs.

She disentangled herself, careful not to wake the sleeping woman beside her, and searched for her clothes. She spotted her sweatshirt and threw it over her head, then raced down the stairs and to her phone.

"Scully," she said quietly into the instrument.

Mulder's monotone carried through the airwaves and into her ear, "Yeah Scully, it's me. I thought we were going to meet for breakfast this morning?"

"Um, breakfast?"

"Remember, we talked about it on Friday? I came by to pick you up, but you're not home."

"Yes I am, Mulder," she teased, "I'm standing right on the other side of the door. I just don't want to answer it because I'm practically naked and just had some of the best sex of my life." The first part was a joke, but the second was absolute truth.

"B-u-u-u-l-l-l-shit." Mulder said in disbelief, "Stop pulling my leg, Scully. Besides, if you were on the other side of the door I'd be able to hear you through it."

"Nothing gets past you, does it, detective-boy?"

Mulder was silent on the other end for a moment, considering her uncharacteristic joviality. "Gee, Scully, I'm starting to doubt my doubts now. You're in an awfully good mood this morning."

Scully heard the creaking of the stairs behind her and turned to see Kaz in a gray Navy T-shirt and mesh shorts. She smiled just a little nervously at Scully and passed her, heading to the kitchen. She gave Scully an affectionate touch on the shoulder as she passed, and Scully shot her a little wave in return, following her into the kitchen, a move that apparently pleased her.

"No, you were right, Mulder, I'm not there. I'm in Georgetown. I spent the evening with a friend and, um, well, I had a little bit too much to drink and crashed on the couch." She gave Kaz a little wink before continuing, "I forgot all about breakfast, I'm sorry."

"I didn't know you had a friend who lived in Georgetown."

Scully looked at Kaz as she talked. Their eyes met and a sense of warmth passed between them.

"It's no one you know, Mulder. I met her just recently."

Kaz slapped a hand over her mouth to stifle a laugh. They'd met recently, all right.

"What?" Scully asked, aware that he'd been speaking, but having missed his last question.

He repeated his query, "Who is this person? What does she do? Who signs her paychecks?"

Scully rolled her eyes. "I'm not going to give you her bio here over the phone, Mister Paranoia."

"I just want to make sure you're safe, Scully. Don't want you mixing with *the wrong crowd* if you know what I mean."

"I know exactly what you mean, Mulder, but sometimes I swear you're worse than an older brother. I can take care of myself, especially when it comes to selecting the few friends that I do have. Got it, big guy?"

"Sure thing, little woman."

They both smiled into their phones at the long-standing inside joke. Still, though, he wouldn't give it up.

"Listen, Scully. I was thinking maybe both you and your friend would like to come out to eat. We can make it brunch instead of breakfast."

"Well, I'll ask, but you've got to promise me one thing."

"Name it."

"You won't rush her name out to your hacker buddies I love so much. If I see evidence of a background check, you'll be very, very sorry."

"What you going to do, shoot me?"

"I've already done that, Mulder. The thrill is gone. I'll get more creative for this one; delicate parts of you anatomy may be involved."

"Ouch, Scully, you really know how to threaten a guy, don't you. I promise, okay, now will you ask her already?"

"Hold on," she instructed.

She covered the receiver and turned to Kaz. She kissed her quickly on the cheek, a move that elicited a beautiful smile full of white teeth and gleaming brown eyes.

"It's my partner," she explained, "I forgot I was supposed to meet him for breakfast, and now he wants us both to come. You game, or would it make you too uncomfortable?"

"I'm game if you are." Kaz replied immediately. "I'd like to meet him too, considering how important he is to you. Besides, I've never met a UFO-chaser before--well, present company excluded."

Scully lifted the phone and uncovered the mouthpiece. "Okay, Mulder, she'd willing to brave it. One thing, though."

"What's that?"

"You're paying!"

He tried whining, "Just because I eat three times as much as you doesn't mean you shouldn't pay one out of every four times."

It didn't work. Her voice was all business as she ignored his remark, "We'll meet you, what time and where?"

"If you're in Georgetown, I'll come out there. I know a great little diner near the campus."

Scully glanced over at Kaz, who was draining a glass of orange juice, "Let me guess, Sam-N-Ed's?"

The surprise was evident in his voice, "Hey, how did you know that was my favorite place?"

Scully smiled across the room at Kaz, "Mulder, I think you and my friend are going to get along just fine."

"How about 11:00?"

"Sounds great, see you then."

She hung up and set the phone down on the island. She felt Kaz's approach and let her come up from behind. Kaz encircled her waist with strong arms and set her chin on Scully's shoulder. Scully leaned back into the embrace. The feeling of warm envelopment in Kaz's arms made Scully never want to leave.

"You know what, Scully?" Kaz asked quietly into the redhead's ear.

"What's that?"

"I think I found someone I like better than I like drawing pictures."

Remembering their conversation from the night before, this meant a lot to Scully. She turned in Kaz's embrace and gave her a soft, gentle kiss. They brushed their lips together, touching just a little more each time until they opened their mouths in unison and let their tongues do the talking. Now more familiar with each other, they did the little things that got the best responses from their partner.

Scully broke off to kiss the base of Kaz's throat, the spot her mouth was naturally on a line with. Kaz responded by pressing her lips to Scully's forehead, and they held each other for a moment longer.

"Kaz," Scully said in a low voice, "we can't do this. We have to meet Mulder soon."

Kaz glanced over her shoulder at the clock on the wall, "It's only 9:40, I think maybe if we shower *together,* both our needs may be met."

Scully chuckled at that ingenious thought and grabbed Kaz's hand, entwining their fingers, "Lead on," she called, and followed Kaz to the upstairs bathroom.

Kaz stopped at a linen closet, pulled out two thick towels, and carried them with her into the rose-colored bathroom. Her left hand was still held fast by Scully's right, and a sudden rush of warmth spread through her merely by way of this almost superficial contact.

She set the towels on a rack hanging just outside the new, large, modern shower stall and turned on the water, testing it with one hand before spinning back to face Scully.

"It takes awhile for the water to heat up in these old houses."

Scully, feeling her own heat rise with the water, stood on tiptoe as she leaned in and came close to Kaz's ear, "I'm sure we can find a way to occupy ourselves until it does."

She reluctantly released Kaz's hand and moved both arms to the bottom edge of her baggy, hanging sweatshirt. Kaz swallowed hard as she watched Scully lift the article very slowly, pull it over her head, and throw it into a corner of the small room.

Kaz hadn't fully realized that she wore nothing underneath.

"Oh, Scully," she said, barely audible over the shower, "you're so beautiful."

Scully felt herself blush and lowered her eyes in sudden modesty, but Kaz quickly stepped up and lifted her chin with two fingers.

"No, don't be embarrassed. It's true. You're the most beautiful woman I think I've ever seen."

She kissed Scully's trembling lips with care and felt small, warm hands go around her waist.

Scully pulled back to ask, "Have you seen many, Kaz?"

Kaz met her eyes to see the real question in them, which was: have you been with a lot of women?

She shook her head, "I'm not exactly experienced in this sort of thing either, Scully. Once, when I was in law school at Cal, I had a...a relationship with a woman."

"Was it serious?"

Kaz vacillated, still unsure herself, "Sort of. But I was so caught up in the taboo concept I didn't let myself have a moment's peace. She could feel it, she knew I was having trouble with it. But then, of course she did, she was the one I was alternatingly loving and pushing away. It wasn't until a year after we wisely split that I came to better terms with this side of myself. Now I realize that people must follow their own instincts. In order to be happy, we choose our kinds of love...but I haven't been with a woman since then."

"So you don't have religious issues with this?" Scully asked, getting the feeling that Kaz, like herself, was Catholic.

"No. I haven't been close to the Church since I learned to think for myself, way back in high school. Of course, that gives my whacked-out Catholic mother one more thing to harp on me about, but she lives all the way out in Tucson, and I do screen my calls."

Scully hid a smile with the back of her hand.

Kaz tilted her companion's chin up once more, "So how are *you* doing with this, Scully?"

Scully searched her eyes for a long moment, then had to look away to form coherent thoughts. When she turned back, she saw the soft sparkle of empathy and concern in Kaz's dark, expressive eyes.

"I'm doing surprisingly well considering that 24 hours ago, nothing like this had ever remotely even crossed my mind."

"Not even a little crush on a friend, maybe as a kid?"

Scully shook her head, "Not that I'm aware of. Maybe, if I look back, I'll see it there, but I honestly don't think so. But yesterday, or Friday night, when I saw you in the library--I knew I felt, what? I guess I just felt *different* about you. You strolled in wearing that snazzy dress uniform. It was the way you walked, your hair, your beautiful dark skin, the spark of intelligence on your face...I felt my eyes automatically pulled toward you all night."

Kaz leaned forward, kissing her lightly once more before saying, "I have to admit I noticed nothing beyond my books and the brief I had to finish that night. Saturday morning, though, when you woke me, I looked up and thought I was staring into the face of an angel."

Her words made Scully blush all anew, an easy thing to do since she was standing here, naked and exposed in a bathroom.

"Promise me something, Scully."

Scully looked up at Kaz's serious tone.

Kaz met her eyes once more and was touched by the liquid ice within them, "Promise me that you'll let me know when you need to talk about this. And I know you will. Maybe not now, but at some point you'll want to, and we need to do it together."

Scully had absolutely no desire to talk about this right now, however, for she was having too good of a time enjoying the wild sensations that passed through her body under Kaz's gentle touch. She hadn't felt these sensations in a long, long time, and they'd never been as intense as they were at this moment. She could feel the heavy steam filling up the room, obscuring the walls and framing Kaz's dark face. All she wanted right now was to rip off Kaz's clothes and feel the soft bare skin with her eager fingertips.

Filing the tall, dark officer's words away, she nodded and stood on tiptoe to capture Kaz's full lips between her own. Kaz bent down to her, allowing Scully total control. Scully tugged ineffectually at the T-shirt, and Kaz broke the kiss to allow herself to be disrobed. The job was quickly done and they stepped into the hot shower.

Kaz grinned wickedly down at Scully and grabbed for the soap. She worked up a lather with her hands and began to spread it over her own body. Scully watched, open-mouthed, as Kaz's hands slid easily over her breasts and down her flat stomach.

She leaned very close and said right into Scully's ear, "Do me a favor, will you, Scully. Wash my back?"

She pulled away and their eyes met once more. Scully reached out a trembling, shaky hand and took the soap from Kaz. She turned the tall woman around so that the spray hit Kaz in the front.

Before starting, though, Scully embraced Kaz from behind, feeling Kaz's tight ass against her stomach as she laid sharp quick kisses all over the soft skin of Kaz's back. She heard a little sound over the noise of the shower and realized it was a groan of anticipation and pleasure from her wet companion.

Scully smiled against the bare skin beneath her cheek, then reached around to run soapy hands over Kaz's breasts and stomach, letting her touch be light and sensual. It seemed to be highly effective, and soon Kaz was leaning heavily against one tiled wall, her legs growing too shaky to stand.

It gave Scully an idea, and she followed Kaz, stepping behind her and pinning her to the wall. Scully coaxed her legs further apart and brought the soap down past her ass and to her warm, pulsing core. Kaz gasped as she felt the bar on her inner thigh. Scully worked up a generous handful before dropping the bar into a tray. From behind, Scully touched Kaz with a soapy hand, massaging it into the crevices and folds she found between Kaz's strong, wiry legs.

Although the soap was slowly washing away, Scully continued to caress Kaz, exploring her hole with two fingers as she brought a hand in front of them to search for the bundle of nerves that would drive Kaz wild. She found it, and Kaz came loudly and almost instantly.

A smooth, provocative voice rang out in the small room, "Oh, Scully! God! S-s-c-c-u-l-l-e-e-e-e!"

Scully leaned heavily, using all her force to hold Kaz upright against the tile wall. When Kaz's legs again grew firmer, she backed off and Kaz turned with another wicked grin.

"I think it's my turn," she said, reaching for the soap.

Scully nearly melted when it touched her. Kaz's hands slid gracefully over her skin. They glided over her shoulders and back, over her breasts, and down her stomach. They went to her hips and then down her thighs. Kaz began to kneel, stopping once to claim a nipple and suckle momentarily before moving on. She ended up on an eye-level with the small tuft of dark auburn hair at the juncture of Scully's thighs.

For now, though, she ignored it to work the soap over Scully's legs, down to her knees, ankles, and feet. Scully now was the one who felt weak. Kaz sensed it and led her toward the back wall of the large shower stall, where she was able to prop herself up.

Kaz took the bar and meticulously cleansed Scully's firm ass, then moved down to part Scully's lips with her tongue. She waited, wanting to heighten the anticipation before moving forward to place her eager mouth on Scully's clit. Scully's legs instantly turned to Jell-O and Kaz had to hold her up by her slippery hips, a precarious position, but one that increased the sexual excitement for them both.

Kaz felt fingers in her wet hair, and gentle pressure on the back of her head. She smiled as she ate her new lover, as happy to be giving as to be receiving.

Taking a daring chance given Scully's state, Kaz slid a hand around and drove two fingers into Scully's warm, wet pussy. All she wanted at this moment was to make Scully scream and buck and come hard.

Scully felt the pressure build. The excitement of the scene made her more than ready, and she realized that Kaz had come very quickly too. She let herself go under the onslaught of sensation in her most sensitive of places. Her fingers were buried deep in Kaz's thick, wet hair and her head was lolling as she closed her eyes and let out a series of sharp, hoarse pants. Her climax came rushing at her.

She was on the edge, and she screamed out, making Kaz work even harder. The tip of Kaz's tongue was flying over Scully's clit again and again as her fingers pumped into and out of the soft glove inside her lover.

"Oh Kaz! Oh Kaz, don't stop! Oh G-A-A-W-W-D-D-D!"

Scully began to slide down the wall as she bucked and twitched under Kaz's mouth and hands. The large, strong officer tightened her hold and continued her work, loving the taste of the sweet woman she was pleasuring.

Kaz once again drew the orgasm out as long as she could, riding the storm of Scully's thrusting and thrashings as she slowed the pace of her hand, but kept a fast, steady rhythm with her tongue. She sucked the nub between her lips and rolled it there, eliciting another scream.

When it was at last over Kaz again bent to receive all she could of Scully's essential juices, then shared them once more with the petite redhead, who was little more than a puddle in the back of the shower stall.

Kaz held Scully close and leaned against the wall as she came down. She reached for the shampoo with one hand and washed Scully's hair with loving care as the agent recovered, then quickly washed her own. She gave them each another quick once over with the soap, all-business this time, and stood Scully in front of the nozzle for a good rinsing. She rinsed herself after and turned off the water.

They dried themselves and went to Kaz's room, which Scully now realized was the 'teal room.' Wrapped in a towel, Kaz threw open the door to one of two large closets and encouraged Scully to take a look.

"You're welcome to anything you think'll fit." Kaz told her.

"What's in this other closet?' Scully asked, tapping the door.

Kaz held a hand over her eyes and groaned, "Ugg, lots and lots of uniforms."

Scully opened it and peered inside. Neatly arranged by color hung over twenty-five Naval uniforms. Whites, Khakis, and dark dress blues with crisp white shirts by their side. The sight gave Scully an eerie sense of deja vu. It was so like Ahab's closet, which the young Scully children used to covertly peek into when their mother was out shopping and their father away at sea. She closed the door with a secret smile and turned back to the other one.

They outfitted Scully in a plain white T-shirt, a bra that fit fairly well, jeans that were huge, but when rolled and belted looked halfway decent, and a big, soft, gray US Navy sweatshirt. Scully rolled the sleeves, but still swam in the garment. It appealed to her, however, and she pictured in her mind how it would look on Kaz, hanging from those wide shoulders and tucked in at her narrow waist. Scully couldn't think about the image too long, else she'd ruin the borrowed panties she'd just put on.

Inwardly, Scully thought, <There's another first. I'm wearing another person's underwear. Seems kinda minor in comparison to the other firsts of the weekend, though.>

As for herself, Kaz selected light blue jeans and a black T-shirt. Scully was ready to make a remark about how the only things Kaz seemed to have in her closet were jeans and T-shirts, when Kaz yanked out a forest green fleece pullover. It was a henley with a metal zipper but no collar. It was an outdoorsy kind of shirt, and Kaz wore it zipped only halfway, but she looked absolutely beautiful in it. Not in a traditional sense, Scully reminded herself, aware that Kaz would never achieve supermodel status with her strong build and wide shoulders. But Anne Kazmerowski was an attractive woman made beautiful by her athletic poise, natural grace, and enthusiastic spirit, which was palpable. She glided when she walked, and Scully suddenly longed to see her run, anticipating that the movement would be absolutely gazelle-like.

The overshirt Kaz wore clung to her in all the right places. Its fleece looked so soft and inviting that Scully couldn't resist but to up and lay her head against it, her arms wrapping themselves loosely around Kaz's waist.

Kaz held her for a moment, then said, "We've got to bust a move, Scully. We're meeting Mulder at 1300, right?"

Scully chuckled against her chest, "Yep, 1300 on the dot, sailor."

"Sorry," Kaz said, running a hand over Scully's damp hair, "I'm never around anyone who uses regular time. Well, I should say I never *used* to be."

Scully tilted her face up for a quick kiss, then Kaz went back to the bathroom to get ready, leaving Scully momentarily alone in the bedroom. The radio was on, and as Scully looked at herself in the mirror a new song began to play.

It was slow and soft and the man singing was accompanied by only an acoustic guitar. She listened to the words as she stared at her reflection in the mirror.

     "One laugh in the middle of a struggle.
     A diamond at the bottom of a puddle.
     Did you ever stare at the moon till you saw double?
     I hear you walk away from trouble.

     Good love there ain't no denying.
     I say bad love, somebody's trying.
     Did you ever walk someplace just to take the time?
     Or take the fast road and get going?

     And then the rules break, there's no mistake,
     These are precious times. You and I, we walk the line.
     We walk the line."

<Rather prophetic,> she thought as she comtemplated current events, <I'm walking the line right now, aren't I?>

But the question she really was asking herself was: is this the line I want to walk? She thought about yesterday, meeting this new and exciting woman. This woman who made her feel different than any woman, or any man, she'd ever known. She was walking a new line now, one she'd never considered setting foot on. Yet, surprisingly enough, she didn't feel bad, didn't feel guilty about what she had done last night, or just now. She felt only an incredible sense of happiness and fulfillment. Wasn't she supposed to be angst-ridden over the 'sin' she'd just committed? The priests would scream "Yes!" And yet she didn't feel that. She felt as though a new door had opened, giving her entrance to something she'd been missing all her life.

When Kaz had taken the bold step and kissed her last night, she'd finally experienced something entirely different from anything she'd experienced before, and it felt so good, so right, and so natural. She knew this would prove to be a difficult line to walk, but with Kaz by her side, she knew they both could make it.

Kaz rushed back into the room, "Scul--"

She stopped, reading Scully's introspective posture. <This is it,> she thought, <this is when she realizes that this was all a big mistake and runs out of here. Please, don't let her cry,> she prayed, <please, don't let her hate me.>

Scully turned to see Kaz standing in the doorway, her eyes sad and worried, her arms hanging limpy at her sides. She smiled at the tall, dark woman and walked up to her, placing a kiss on her cheek. They stood face to face, and Scully watched a slow smile spread over Kaz's young, unlined face as she realized she was not being rejected.

In a low whisper, Kaz said, "I thought maybe you had changed your mind about this. I thought you were going to run screaming out the door."

Scully put her hands on Kaz's hips, facing her squarely as she shook her head, "I don't think I could leave, Kaz, even if I wanted to...and believe me, I don't want to."

"Oh good." Kaz replied with relief, bending down to place a soft kiss on Scully's red lips.

Scully wanted more, much more, but knew that time was an issue, so she gave Kaz a brief squeeze and went to the bathroom to get ready for their meeting with Mulder.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sam-N-Ed's Diner
11:02 am

They had walked the mile to the diner, once more commenting on the unique architecture of the surrounding homes, and walked into the diner glad to be out of the chilly December air. Removing coats and mittens, Kaz turned to Scully and saw her scanning the patrons. She saw the redhead's eyes light on someone across the long, dark room. Kaz followed her gaze to see a tall, handsome man slide out of a booth and cross the restaurant to meet them.

"Morning Scully, long time no see," the man said in a monotone. However, the voice was deep and pleasant and Kaz found that she liked it.

They followed him back to the table and immediately received steaming cups of coffee from Kaz's favorite waiter, who gave her a friendly nod but left her to converse with her tablemates.

Scully and Kaz sat across from Mulder, and Scully instantly introduced her new friend, "Fox Mulder, this is Anne Kazmerowski. Kaz, this is Mulder."

Kaz nodded, "It's nice to meet you, Mulder. I've heard good things about you."

"Sure you did," he said with a playful smirk at Scully before turning back to the tall, attractive woman with the deep brown eyes and beautiful, full-bodied hair, "It's nice to meet you too, Anne--or do you prefer Kaz?"

"Either is fine, but I have a tendency to forget my own first name sometimes, since it rarely gets used."

"Kaz it is then," the man said with a gentle smile, "but I have to put a disclaimer on anything Scully has told you about me. I swear, all the charges have been dropped, they couldn't prove a thing."

Kaz gave him her lopsided little grin but said nothing.

Mulder continued after sipping from his cup, "Which brings me to point number two. Scully hasn't told me a thing about you, except that you live here in Georgetown."

Scully clicked her tongue and shook her head at him, "Fine Mulder. You want the lowdown?"

He smirked again, "Of course I do."

Scully smiled over at Kaz, then said, "Here's something that'll make you quake in your paranoid little boots. Kaz is a government employee."

"O-o-h Scully, I'm all a-tingle. Half the people in this city are government employees. Could you be a little more specific?"

Kaz sipped her black coffee and listened to the agents' banter. They certainly seemed to have a great rapport, and Kaz loved to hear Scully talk, so she stayed mute and enjoyed the developing scene.

"Kaz is in the JAG Corps. She's a lawyer with the Navy."

"You certainly love those Navy-types, don't you, Scully?" Mulder teased.

Kaz caught the quick glance Scully threw her out of the corner of her blue eye as she smiled, "I sure do, Mulder, and you're going to love this. Her father played...was it third base?" Kaz nodded, and Scully went on, "Third base for the San Francisco Giants."

Mulder's deep-set eyes grew wider and gleamed with excitement, "Your name is Kazmerowski? Not Tommy Kazmerowski. No way!"

Kaz chuckled and nodded modestly, watching the man's glee grow.

"Tommy Kaz is your dad. I can't believe it! Why didn't you tell me that before, Scully? Tommy Kaz was one of the best third basemen in the game! He hit over .320 for five straight seasons and won three gold gloves. He's in the freaking Hall Of Fame for crying out loud. Why didn't you tell me all this before?"

"Well, I didn't know it was going to get you all hot and bothered, Mulder."

"Wow, Tommy Kaz. He was one of my favorite players when I was a kid. How is he doing?"

Kaz calmly said, "I'm afraid he had a heart attack and passed away about two years ago."

Mulder sobered at once, "I'm sorry."

Kaz smiled softly at him, accepting his condolences, "It's all right. For years he'd been telling me that he had lived a full life and would die with no regrets."

The waiter came and they ordered. They continued to make small talk until it arrived. Kaz watched with something resembling awe as Mulder put away a huge stack of pancakes, five sausage links, two strips of bacon, and three eggs. Scully laughed out loud when she caught the look on her friend's face.

"My God, man," Kaz said to him as he continued to chew long after the women had finished, "did you bring your hollow leg along with you today or what?"

Mulder washed down his mouthful with a long swallow of coffee, "Tell me, Scully, do you pick your friends based solely on their ability to give me shit?"

Scully laughed and reached for Kaz's hand under the table. It was warm and soft and their fingers automatically entwined as Scully answered, "Nope, but it's definitely a fringe benefit."

Kaz looked over at Scully and their eyes locked. They smiled softly at each other, then forced themselves to look away.

Mulder asked Kaz about her background, and all three spent a few minutes discussing their respective educational histories.

Kaz then withdrew her hand from Scully's as she excused herself to use the restroom. Mulder watched her leave, now finally finished eating.

"She's very nice." Mulder said when she was out of earshot.

Scully nodded, "Yes, she is."

"How did you come to know her, Scully?"

"Why?"

"Because you don't meet very many people that I don't meet at the same time. I just didn't know you hung out at places where you'd meet JAG lawyers. Is she someone you met through one of your brothers?"

"N-o-o-o." Scully said slowly wondering how much to tell him.

She had always been pretty honest with Mulder, after all, he was her closest friend as well as her partner. It hadn't always been that way. At first, he was grudging and somewhat hostile about her presence, but as time went on they found that they worked well together. Over the past year they had grown closer and closer as friends, sharing much of their personal lives as well as their professional ones.

If Kaz had been a man, she'd have told Mulder about the events of the previous day already, but this was different. She knew already she had strong feelings for Kaz, this was no one-night stand, and it certainly didn't feel like a passing fancy. But was she ready to shock Mulder to the core? And what if things went sour with Kaz? Would she simply want to forget this strange interlude, chalk it up to temporary insanity and never want anyone to know about it? She certainly didn't want most people in her life to know about it; her mother for instance. But Mulder? She shared everything with Mulder now.

"So how did you meet?" Mulder repeated.

In her newly-found state of happiness, Scully wasn't even sure if she was thinking straight. She made a snap decision to answer all of Mulder's questions truthfully.

"I met her in the Georgetown Law Library. I go there sometimes to work on papers. It's quiet and peaceful and has some great stained-glass windows."

Mulder looked just a bit confused, "You met her in a library? Scully--you don't meet people in libraries."

"Just because you've never met anyone in a library doesn't mean that other people don't."

"People read in libraries, Scully. They do research. They write their papers, like you."

"Can you drop it, Mulder? It happened, what's the big deal?"

Mulder looked seriously at her from across the rim of his coffee cup. He set it down carefully and said, "It's just that I get the impression that woman has more than a friendly interest in you."

Scully pursed her lips thoughtfully. She remembered her vow and said, "You're right, Mulder, she does...and I have more than a friendly interest in her as well."

The silence stretched between them. Scully scanned Mulder's eyes, searching for some reaction. There was nothing but his stony poker-face, the one he usually reserved for unusually bizarre cases. He picked up his cup and took another sip, then set it down and circled the rim with a finger for a moment.

"Mulder?" She said, needing a response.

He looked up and met her eyes, "That was brutally honest, Scully."

"I know it was, Mulder, and I'm sorry. I should have been more tactful. I shouldn't have said something like that here, under these conditions."

"No, Scully, don't apologize." He lowered his voice so that only she could hear him, "I approve of your choice. To quote your favorite little troll, she's hot. I just never knew you dated women as well as men."

She leaned over the table and matched her voice to his, "I never have before, Mulder. This is the first time."

That one shocked him only a little more, "For how long?"

Scully bit her lip momentarily and kept her eyes on the restroom, watching for Kaz's return. "Not long."

Knowing Scully as well as he did, the answer spoke volumes. "Scully..."

"Okay, Mulder. I've been honest with you so far, you might as well know the rest. After work on Friday I went to the library to work on my monograph. I saw her then and felt the attraction. Of course, I didn't recognize it as that then. The next morning I went back to finish, and she was still there, sleeping with her head in a book. I woke her up and she asked if I wanted to get a cup of coffee. The rest is history, so to speak."

"Wow."

"Ha! You said a mouthful, big guy."

"It's...it's just so unlike you, Scully."

Scully caught Kaz's emergence from the bathroom and said, "I know. I've never done anything like this ever before, but something happened between us Mulder. I can't deny it and I can't explain it, but she's made a very powerful impact on me."

"An X-File, huh?"

She gave him a skeptical look of disapproval, "I don't think I'd go that far, but make nice, here she comes."

Kaz approached the table and scanned their faces, "O-o-h, the hushed voices routine. Is this official FBI business, or can anyone join this conversation?"

Scully smiled and patted the seat beside her, "We could tell you, but then we'd have to kill you."

Kaz laughed as her words from yesterday were tossed playfully back at her. "I thought you said you didn't work the cloak and dagger routine, Scully."

"*I* don't, that's Mulder's forte. Breaking into restricted zones by cover of night, dressed all in black and with greasepaint on your face, right Mulder?"

He shrugged, "Trespassing on restricted property is just a hobby."

"Well don't quit your dayjob." Scully advised, "You need the money to pay for your bail."

Kaz smiled at the pair and grabbed a napkin out of the dispenser. She pulled a pen out of her pocket and looked over at Mulder for a minute, studying his face. Then she bent to the paper. The agents watched the pen, guided by her graceful left hand, fly over the paper for a couple of minutes. Gradually, an image emerged. A small body dressed all in expertly shaded black held a small, ineffectual pocketknife in one hand. The figure had a huge, disproportionate head with dark, unruly hair, deep-set eyes under bushy brows, and an exaggerated pouty lower lip that was curled up into a trademark smirk. It was a wonderful caricature of Mulder, and Kaz detailed it by drawing a barb-wire fence around him complete with an askew sign that read *NO TRESSPASSING, THIS MEANS YOU!*

Mulder and Scully laughed freely at the picture, and Kaz smiled modestly. She pushed the picture across the table.

To Mulder, she said, "For you."

"Thank you, Kaz. This is great. I didn't know art classes were a pre-requisite for law school."

She grinned at him and her bright teeth sparkled, "You have your hobby and I have mine."

Mulder checked his watch, surprised to find that it was ten after one. "Well, ladies, I have to run. The 'Skins are on at two and I'm watching the game with some friends."

Scully gave him a disapproving look, "My favorite friends?"

He smirked, "Of course. I'll give Frohike your love."

Her voice dripped sarcasm, "Yes, be sure to do that."

Mulder laid some bills on the table and picked up the check. They followed him to the counter as he waited to pay.

"Thank you for breakfast, Mulder." Kaz said to him, "It was a real pleasure meeting you. I hope to see you again."

Mulder smiled at her and gave her a brief hug, which shocked the pants off of his petite partner, "I hope to see a lot of you, Kaz. Good luck at the Navy Yard."

"And good luck to you, too. I hope you find an alien one of these days."

Mulder stuck his tongue out at Scully for a quick second before turning back to Kaz, "At least someone wishes me luck in my lonely quest. She always wants to burst my bubble."

Scully crossed her arms over her chest and rolled her eyes. In lecture mode, she said, "Mulder, a zipper on an alien is a dead giveaway for a hoax."

Kaz got a thoughtful look on her face, "Zipper on an alien, huh? That sounds familiar. I know, I read about it in this book by Jose Chung. I don't remember the title, but--"

She was cut off by groans from both FBI Agents. She looked from one to the other in puzzlement.

Scully put a hand on her arm, "Don't get us started on Jose Chung."

They said their good-byes and left the restaurant. On the sidewalk, Kaz turned to Scully. "I really liked your partner, Scully. He's got a great sense of humor."

"That's Mulder, all right, just a big bundle of chuckles."

"Well, Scully," Kaz said, exhaling loudly and running a hand through her hair, "as much as I want to deny it, this weekend is slipping away from us. Do you want to get your car while we're here?"

"I suppose I should."

Kaz could tell by the tone of her voice that Scully was equally disappointed that this revelatory weekend was in its last day as well.

Kaz touched her shoulder to Scully's as they walked, "Don't be sad, Scully, we still have a few more hours. That is, if you'd like to spend them with me."

Scully smiled brilliantly up at her, "There's no one else I'd rather spend them with."

Kaz grinned back at her and asked, "Where is your car?"

Scully pointed to a blue Taurus just up the street.

The young officer turned to her and said, "Beat you there," before sprinting up the deserted street with a merry laugh.

It took Scully only a moment to register that she was, one, in a race, and, two, already losing. "Hey! Wait up!" She yelled as she tried valiantly to catch up with Kaz.

It was a lost cause, however. The Naval Officer's long legs took her farther with every step, and Scully slowed to a jog in order to watch Kaz run. She had been right, it was beautiful. Scully felt her heart expand as Kaz stopped by the car, leaned against it, and crossed her arms over her chest to wait for her smaller companion.

"Cheater!" Scully grumbled with mock indignation as she reached the car.

Kaz shrugged, "If you're not cheating, you're not trying."

Scully unlocked the car and they drove the short distance. She grabbed Kaz's hand and held it as she drove. When they reached the house, Kaz gave her a quick kiss before exiting the car. They walked up the front porch steps and Kaz patted her pockets in search of her keys. She finally found them and unlocked the door.

Scully closed the door behind her and removed her jacket, hanging it on a peg beside the door. Kaz did the same, then turned back to Scully. The redhead was instantly in her arms, holding her tight for a moment before stepping up on tip-toes to kiss her long and deep. Kaz walked them back to the living room couch and sat with Scully across her lap.

Kaz broke the kiss and touched her forehead to Scully's. "You know who we have to thank for all of this, Scully?"

"Who?"

"Herman Melville. If I hadn't taken that header into a copy of 'Moby Dick', we might never have met."

Scully laughed out loud. This wasn't the first time 'Moby Dick' had made an impact on her life.

"You know what they say, Kaz. You can always count on the classics."

She leaned in and kissed Kaz again, so glad that she'd finally met a nice Naval Officer, just like her mom always wanted her to. Of course, Kaz probably wasn't what Margaret Scully had in mind when she'd said that to her young daugter so many years ago. But Scully had never met anyone who'd made such an impression on her as had Anne Kazmerowski, her friend and now, her lover.

~~~~~~~~~~~
THE END
~~~~~~~~~~~

 


 

Title: Walking The Line, Part 2: Home For The Holidays
Author: xf-stew
Rating: NC-17
Classification: SR
Spoilers: Third Season
Keywords: Mulder/Scully friendship Scully/Other (slash)
Summary: Scully asks her new friend, Anne Kazmerowski, to join her at the Scully family mountain cabin for holiday fun with Mulder and Mrs. Scully. However, Maggie doesn't know about her daughter's new relationship.
**disclaimer: Characters not mine, except Kaz. Don't sue. No money anyway.
Lyrics from Lenny Kravitz's "Heaven Help" and "All I Ever Wanted" are also used without permission, but Lenny's cool, he won't sue.


WALKING THE LINE, PART 2: Home For The Holidays
by xf-stew
xfstew@yahoo.com

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

J. Edgar Hoover Building
Basement Office
Thursday, December 21
5:05 p.m.

Dana Scully let out a frustrated little growl as she stared at the thick stack of paperwork piled high on the table she sat at. Why did everybody and their brother decide that the holiday season was the best time for annual reports, questionnaires, reviews, and departmental inventories to be done? In addition to the already substantial number of triplicate forms she and Mulder had to complete following each case, suddenly their paperwork load had doubled just at the time of year when everyone wanted some time off.

Including Scully. Other than for a brief lunch on Tuesday, she hadn't seen Anne Kazmerowski since last weekend. It had also been, of course, their first weekend, and a weekend she'd never forget. Scully met Kaz in the Georgetown Law Library last Saturday morning and after an entire day of getting to know the curious, intriguing, and beautiful young woman, Scully ended up spending the night with her. Literally.

It had mainly been work that kept them apart for the following four days, but they'd called each other every night since, speaking for hours on any of a thousand random topics. They discussed French Impressionists, classic literature, and the national economy as well telling more personal stories about themselves and their families. One night they debated hot political issues, and on this evening Scully had been reminded of Kaz's easygoing, California upbringing and her Berkeley education. Considering these things, she wasn't too surprised to hear her friend immediately spout radical left-wing rhetoric. Scully smiled at the irony. She was fairly certain Anne Kazmerowski was the most liberal-minded officer in the United States Navy. She herself had always been a staunch Republican, which made for an evening of interesting and heated conversation. Both immensely enjoyed their nightly phone conversations, feeling that they were growing much closer despite the miles between them.

On each of these nights, Scully brought the phone to bed with her, wanting Kaz's sweet, low voice to be the last thing she heard before falling asleep. They talked until they drifted off, only hanging up when one quit answering the other's sleepy questions.

However, the lack of actual physical contact with her new companion had Scully more than a little frustrated. Both had busy schedules, with Kaz sometimes working until after seven or eight at night, but they had vowed to make time to spend with each other. Of course, that vow had been made last Sunday, long before the avalanche of extra paperwork came drifting into the office and somehow seemed to settle itself in front ot Scully.

<Not in front of Mulder,> she thought, tapping a pen pensively against her teeth. <I don't even have a freaking desk, and still the paperwork seems to congregate in my direction.>

She glanced once again at her watch. Five-fifteen now, and Mulder was nowhere to be seen. They hadn't discussed her relationship with Kaz, and Scully was beginning to think that Mulder wanted to forget the whole thing, never thinking of it again. She had waited for him to bring it up, not wanting to make him uncomfortable by doing so herself. She was surprised by the lack of discussion, though. Mulder didn't hold many social prejudices, including homophobia. <But then,> she thought, <I suppose it's different when it's you best friend your talking about, not Joe Blow off the streets.> Maybe they'd have a chance to talk about it over the weekend.

Tomorrow night, Friday, she and Mulder were driving up to the Scully family's woodland cabin, where they spent every Christmas for the past ten years. Bill Jr. had his own family, and they were stationed in San Diego, so they wouldn't be able to make it, but this year Charlie was lucky enough to be in port, and would be joining she and her mother.

And Mulder. Although it probably upset Mrs. Mulder, he rarely made the effort to join her in Massachusetts for the holidays, and had accompanied Scully to the cabin for the last two years.

This year, however, Scully would have preferred to come up on Sunday, Christmas Eve, allowing herself a day with Kaz, but they'd made these plans months ago, and she certainly couldn't change them now without raising a couple of eyebrows she didn't particularly want raised.

Today, though, she'd planned to spend the evening, and most probably the night, with Kaz. She was anxious to get out of the office, but the paperwork was holding her up.

Mulder strolled in about a quarter of six with a smile and an armful of Chinese food. Scully tried not to shoot him and evil glare as he crossed to his desk.

"How's it going, Scully? Sorry it took me so long."

"Mulder, you left three hours ago and I thought you said you had a meeting with Skinner. The last time I checked, there were no Chinese take-out places between here and his office."

"Settle down, Scully," he said, "I figured since we've got a night full of paperwork, I might as well get us some dinner."

The irritation rising in her voice, she said, "If you'd been here three hours ago we might have it done by now."

She tossed her pen on the makeshift desk, took off her glasses, and pinched the bridge of her nose as she shut her eyes. Her head was beginning to ache from tension.

"What's wrong?" Mulder asked her.

She shook her head, "Nothing. I just wasn't expecting to have to spend so much time on this crap." She gestured at the papers and forms on the drafting table.

"Did you have plans?" he asked with genuine interest, concern, and maybe a little remorse.

She looked away and nodded.

He sat down in his chair and wheeled it close to her. Softly, he said, "With Kaz?"

At her nod, Mulder looked at the thick stacks of paperwork on her table, one pile finished and the other still to go. He glanced over at his desk, which held no completed forms.

"Scully, I'm sorry. I've avoided this all day, procrastinating and putting it off and hoping you'd do it. Now here I am, expecting you to work on it half the night as well. I should have been more considerate. I should have asked if you had anything to do tonight."

"It's okay, Mulder," she replied, the note of defeat still in her voice, "stuff like this happens."

"No, it's not okay. You should go. We've already worked late all this week, and I putzed around all day to get out of this, so I should be the one to stay and do my share. I'll get most of them done, and we can finish them tomorrow before we go."

"No Mulder, I'll stay."

"You don't understand, Scully. I don't want you to stay. I want you to go see your friend. You deserve it."

Scully had promised herself not to do this, but figured this was enough of an opening for her. "Okay, Mulder, I'll go, but before I do I want to talk to you about something."

He wheeled himself to the door and shut it tight, then came back, "About Kaz?"

"Yes. I want to know if you're okay with this. You haven't said anything about it all week, so I--"

"I didn't think you wanted me to."

Scully's brows furrowed, "Huh? Why would you think that?"

"Because it's personal. It's something you're just coming to grips with yourself, right?"

Scully thought about that for a minute, then nodded. She still couldn't explain her sudden and unmistakable attraction to Anne Kazmerowski, an attraction she'd never felt for a member of her own sex before. In fact, she wasn't sure she'd ever felt this powerfully about any member of either sex. She felt the ache of Kaz's absence grow more painful with each passing day. She was almost desperate to see Kaz tonight, and wasn't sure what another delay of their reunion would do to her.

Even so, though, she did feel conflicting emotions inside. Some told her that she was a sinner, a freak of nature for what she was doing, something unnatural. Another side told her to be true to herself above all things, and the truth inside her was as clear as a bell. She simply needed Kaz; needed her companionship, her calming presence, her touch, and her body.

Was she in love with Anne Kazmerowski? She didn't think so, at least not yet, for they had only known each other for a week. Scully did know, however, that this new and intriguing person in her life had quickly overshadowed everything else in it.

She interrupted her own train of thought to respond to Mulder's statement. "Yes, it is personal, but I feel very strongly about her, and I don't want to be in a position where I have to misrepresent myself to you. I don't want to lead a double life when I'm with you, Mulder, which you have to admit is most of the time. I respect you too much to sit here and lie to your face about my relationship with Kaz. But I need some feedback as well. I need to know how you feel about this."

Mulder smiled softly, "I must admit, Scully, that at first I was surprised. I had never even thought about, well, about your sexuality. After that case with Jack Willis, I just naturally assumed..." he let the sentence trail off. "But after thinking about it for a day or two, I came to understand it much better. Physical attraction cannot be denied, Scully, and Kaz is definitely an attractive woman."

Scully smiled, "You think so?"

"Oh God, Scully, she's a knockout! She's tall and dark and her eyes--oh man, those brown eyes are amazing. She has a kind of natural beauty, a kind of poise and bearing that makes her light up a room when she walks into it." He hung his head and smiled shyly for a second, "But, then, you have that effect on a room, too."

She clicked her tongue and punched him playfully in the shoulder, "Do not!"

He met her eyes very seriously, "Yes, Scully, you do. But I can see that there's more between you and Kaz than physical attraction. The way she looked at you that morning in the diner, she has personal respect and high esteem for you, Scully. I can see it."

"Is it obvious when you look at us that we're...together?" Scully asked, knowing that keeping up appearances was crucial, especially for Kaz.

He shook his head, "No, I just know you far too well. I've seen enough small town doctors and detectives giving you the eye that I can now recognize it when I see it."

She smacked him again, "She wasn't *giving me the eye* Mulder."

He smiled and cringed from her attack, "No, but I could tell she liked you very much." He decided he could finally kid her about this, and a little humor might, in fact, be just the thing they needed to put them more at ease with the situation, "Of course, it could have just been post-coital euphoria."

He waited to be slapped again, and promptly received a series of short, quick blows to the arm as she laughed out loud, "Mulder!"

When the onslaught ended he said, "So what is Kaz doing for Christmas?"

"She's debating whether to visit her mother in Arizona or not."

"Debating?"

This time Scully was the one to smirk, "I guess her mother is kind of difficult to deal with for anything longer than twenty minutes. I believe 'whacked-out' was the term Kaz used to describe her."

Mulder's eyes and tone were both serious as she said, "Why don't you invite her to the cabin?"

Scully appeared stunned, as though the thought had never even crossed her mind. Then, after dwelling on it for a minute, apprehensively said, "I don't know. You spent two hours with us and could tell, how much do you think my mother will pick up after three days?"

Mulder shook his head, "I don't think it would be like that, Scully. The morning I met you two, well," he smiled, "the post-coital bliss thing kind of comes to mind again. But the two of you have had some time to get used to things now. I'm sure you could appear as nothing more than friends in front of your mom and Charlie, couldn't you? I mean, it's not like your going to start making out under the Christmas tree--at least I hope you're not."

She threatened to slap him again, making him cringe and smile again. She said, "I'll think about it. I don't know, though. I'm not sure either of us is ready for a weekend of close scrutiny." Her face reddened just a touch, "Especially when we've been separated for so long."

Mulder laughed, "Its only been four days, Scully."

"Four days too many!" she replied, playfully punching him once again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

She took off a little after six, and the moment she was in her car took out her cellphone and dialed Kaz's home number. There was no answer, so she punched in a pager number Kaz had given her, claiming that she was seldom in her small office.

Within moments Scully's phone rang in her hand. She hit the start button and lifted it to her ear with a wide smile.

"This is Lieutenant Commander Kazmerowski," the voice on the other end said, "I was paged to this number."

"Kaz, it's me."

"Hey there, how's tricks at the Hoover Building?"

"Don't ask. Mulder pawned his paperwork off on me all day, then wanted me to stay late tonight too, the big jerk."

She noted a hint of disappointment in Kaz's smooth voice, "So you're busy, then?"

"Nope," Scully said cheerfully, "I guilt-tripped him a little. Nothing he didn't deserve, but still a dirty trick."

Kaz chuckled, "I'll bet you're full of dirty tricks."

Scully changed her voice, made it low and sexy, "I'll just bet I am. Maybe I can show you a few of them tonight."

Kaz's light, unwavering tone let Scully know that she couldn't speak freely at the moment, "That sounds very interesting. Perhaps you should."

"Kaz," Scully said, realizing she must firm up their plans from her end, "do you want me to come to your place, or tell you how to get to mine?"

"The latter," Kaz replied.

Scully recited her address and some brief directions, "When do you think you'll be able to break away?'

"We're just finishing up here. Give me an hour."

"And Kaz?" Scully said, biting her lip.

"Yes."

"Bring clothes for tomorrow."

Kaz chuckled softly into the receiver and took a look at the roomful of uniformed men behind her, "I'll be sure to do that."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

7:35 p.m.

There was a soft knocking at the door, and Scully stood on tiptoe to peek out the spy hole. Through it she saw Kaz in a round-neck maroon sweater beneath a brown bomber jacket. She had a garment bag slung over one shoulder and carried a bottle of wine in the other.

Scully unlocked the door and pulled it open, her smile wide and bright. Kaz stepped inside the door and gave her a quick, friendly peck on the cheek. Innocuous enough, but it sent a series of chills down Scully's spine. Kaz held out the bottle for Scully's approval.

Scully grabbed the bottle and took it to the kitchen as Kaz removed her coat and looked around the place, commenting on the finer points. Its simple good taste and dark pastel colors were so Scully that Kaz broke out into a wide grin as she walked through the living room.

"I'm glad you approve," Scully said, returning to the front room with two glasses of burgundy. She handed one to Kaz and they sat on the couch talking, sipping, and staring at the small fire Scully had built in the fireplace.

Kaz let her eyes roam the walls once again, "This is so you Scully. It's very nice; small and very cozy. I like it."

Scully gazed warmly at her, "I don't have your creativity when it comes to interior decorating, but this suits me fine. Actually, I feel as though I'm in cheap roadside motels almost as much as I'm here."

"So you travel often?"

Scully thought about it, "We probably make about twenty-five trips a year. Sometimes cases are in the greater DC-Baltimore area, so we can stay close to home, but more often than not, we take our show on the road."

Kaz raised her glass just a bit, "Well, here's to infrequent travel."

Scully looked into her eyes as they touched glasses and drank. Then she said, "Have you eaten, Kaz?"

"Hardy Williams bought dinner tonight. He's a paralegal I work with often on cases. Actually, this one's finally winding down. I've got closing arguments tomorrow, thank God. This thing has turned into a monster. I'll be glad to finally have it behind me. How about you, Scully, have you eaten?"

"I ate some of the Chinese Mulder brought." She shrugged, "Hell, I figured I deserved it for all paperwork he stuck me with today."

"How is old Mulder doing?"

Scully rolled her eyes a little, "Same old Mulder. He's a great guy, and a good friend, but his allergy to paperwork gives me fits."

Kaz smiled softly at her and said, "I like Mulder, at least, I like what I know of him so far."

"He was quite taken with you too. He tacked that picture you drew of him on the wall behind his desk."

Kaz's face scrunched up a little, "That cheesy one on the napkin? That was horrible."

Scully's eyes widened, "It was great," she replied, putting a hand on Kaz's forearm, "You're very talented, Kaz. Have you ever thought of art as a profession?"

Kaz sipped her wine and shook her head, "It isn't a profession, it's a hobby, a pastime for me. If I tried to do it as work instead of love, I think it would lose...I don't know...something vital, that special quality that brings it to life."

Scully smiled at her, amazed at Kaz's attitude. The woman had the sensitive, aesthetic mentality of a true artist, Scully couldn't believe that same mind wrote legal briefs and fought battles over brig time and restricted duties. Kaz certainly had two personalities, a professional one and a personal one. Scully was glad she was getting the chance to see this one.

"You're something else, Kaz."

Kaz returned her smile and put her hand over the one Scully had rested on her arm. The contact made Scully shiver and her insides melt. She could smell Kaz's fresh, crisp, almost earthy smell, and it was driving her slowly insane. She set her wineglass down and leaned in, kissing Kaz lightly on the lips. When she pulled away she saw that Kaz's eyes were still closed, but a sweet little smile remained on her face.

"Are you okay Kaz?" Scully said, taking a good look at her companion.

Kaz let out the deep breath she'd been holding for quite a while and opened her eyes. "I'm wonderful, Scully."

"Then why have you sat here, talking to me for over half an hour, and not even attempted to make the slightest advance? If I remember correctly, that's not like you."

Kaz's gaze fell to her hand, she began to stroke Scully's, which lay beneath it. She continued to look at their hands as she spoke, "I promised myself that tonight I would let you make the first move. I needed to know you were still okay with this, so I made myself promise."

Scully reached out a hand and tilted Kaz's chin up so that their eyes met. Small flames danced in Kaz's dark brown eyes, a reflection from the fire in front of them. The sight of it burned Scully with desire, and she smiled softly before leaning in to kiss the soft, sensual lips before her.

Kaz immediately reciprocated, eagerly reaching out to meet Scully's reddened ones. Scully's mouth opened to admit Kaz's eager tongue. They dueled hotly as their hands roamed, remembering the feel of each other. Kaz sighed into Scully's mouth, releasing a tide of wetness in both their centers.

They kissed each other deeply for several minutes, each eager for the lovely contrast of roughness and smoothness as their tongues stroked and danced. They found an enchanting rhythm with one another, and their kisses quickly grew more passionate, more feverish.

The need for air was all that made them separate.

"Oh God, Scully," Kaz whispered hotly as she gasped for breath, "I've missed you so much."

"M-m-m, me too," Scully said before dipping her head to lay kisses on Kaz's neck.

Kaz cupped Scully's right breast through her knit shirt. She used nimble fingers to tease the nipple erect as she spoke to Scully. "I missed you when I went to bed on Sunday night. I wanted you there so badly it hurt. I missed you when I woke up on Monday morning, the space beside me longed for your body, as did I. I missed you when I got in the shower..."

This evoked a little growl from Scully, who was nibbling Kaz's earlobe hungrily.

"I missed you when I turned in my brief. I realized it was the one I had been working on in the library...where I met you. I missed you when I ate lasagna leftovers, because I first ate it with you. I missed you when I took off my uniform, because you liked it so much. But most of all, I missed you when I hung up the phone every night, because I could no longer hear your voice on the other end of the line."

Scully moved back to her mouth, kissing her hungrily. Kaz's speech definitely had one of its desired effects, it drove Scully wild with passion and need. She pulled at Kaz's sweater, lifting it up so she could feel the bare skin beneath. Kaz broke away from Scully so that it could be removed.

Scully, unable to withstand the slow foreplay Kaz had subjected her to during their first coupling, took the initiative and yanked her own shirt over her head and quickly unfastened the clasp of her bra, then reached for Kaz's.

The moment Kaz's firm, pert breasts hung free Scully bent to one, she nipped and licked at it as she teased the other with her fingers. Kaz leaned back and Scully immediately climbed on top of her.

Kaz's voice was raspy, though barely audible, "Scully, don't you want to take this elsewhere?"

Scully never wavered from Kaz's dark breast, she merely shook her head negatively as she licked and nipped at it.

"But, your couch--" Kaz protested weakly.

Scully paused to look up at her. She hastily grabbed Kaz's arms and pulled her down to the floor. They rolled on the carpet for a moment before coming to a rest, Scully once again atop her companion. The redhead pushed the hair out of her face before coming quickly down to assault Kaz's lips with her own. Each cried out through their locked mouths as bare nipples were pressed together.

Scully snaked her hand down Kaz's stomach and to the top of her jeans. She quickly unbuttoned them and pulled the zipper down. She cupped Kaz through her blue satin panties, eliciting a low moan.

Reluctantly, Scully pulled her mouth away and encouraged Kaz to lift her hips. She did, and her jeans, panties, socks and shoes were gone with a speed that surprised even her.

Kaz lay naked and very exposed on Scully's living room floor, and Scully was kissing her way up Kaz's leg, her thigh, her mound. She stopped there, hesitating for just a moment. Kaz raised her head and saw the indecision on Scully's face.

"Scully," she said hoarsely, "you don't have to do that."

Scully's head snapped up and their eyes locked. Kaz's were so full of understanding and caring, but she saw the deep, underlying desire in them and her courage was steeled. She had never done this before, and though she wanted to taste her lover so badly it made her tremble, she was incredibly nervous about it. This was Kaz, however, who did not judge, but only accepted. A shiver of anticipation ran through Scully's small body as she knelt between Kaz's bent knees and lowered her head.

Using Kaz's technique as a guide, Scully parted Kaz's nether lips and tentatively licked at the wetness surrounding her. She found it warm and sweet, and instantly wanted more of it. She slid her tongue slowly and carefully inside Kaz, felt her partner's hips shift slightly and heard a soft moan. She did it again, and got the same response.

Suddenly she realized what her slow assault was doing to her partner and speeded her movements, driving her tongue in further and faster.

Anne Kazmerowski thought she had died and gone to heaven. It had been so long since anyone had done this for her, but knowing what it took for Scully to do it--that she was nervous, that she had never done this before--these things made it even more special. Although Scully wasn't experienced, Kaz enjoyed the feeling of unexpectedness, the anticipation of not knowing what her partner would discover next.

She reached back behind her head, needing something to grab hold of. She found the legs of a sturdy chair and gripped them tight as her companion continued her exploration. When Scully's mouth finally reached her throbbing clit, Kaz called out loudly, her breath shallow and her voice ragged. Reflexively, her hips bucked, pushing Scully's face further in. She tried to control her thrashing out of respect for her partner's fragile confidence in this new sexual adventure, but it was hard when Scully was so eagerly nibbling away at her. She was on fire, a fire that grew from Dana Scully, and the fire burned every nerve in her body, igniting them all and sending her high upon a plateau of pure pleasure. She tingled as Scully dipped inside her once again.

Scully chanced a peek up as she ran her tongue over Kaz's flaming clitoris and saw the rapture on the officer's face. With that one glance, all nervousness left and her resolve grew tenfold. She closed her eyes and slid her hands under Kaz's small, tight ass as she sucked the hard bundle of nerves into her mouth and nipped at it gently with her lips. She felt her own desire growing almost uncontrollably as she licked and sucked at Kaz with wild abandon. She moved from her partner's clit back down inside her once again, needing to drink the plentiful juices before returning to the apex of her lover's pleasure.

Kaz cried out at the fury and power of the orgasm that slammed into her. No longer able to control her body, she twitched and thrashed and howled out her delight under Scully's oh-so-eager mouth and tongue.

Scully lapped at her as she came down, then, taking a page from Kaz's own book, came up to share the sweet essence she had found. Kaz kissed her hungrily and squeezed her tight in appreciation. She carefully licked all the juice from Scully's cheeks, nose, and chin before sucking Scully's tongue into her mouth and nibbling on it playfully.

When she released it, Scully broke off to say, "Does that answer your question?"

Kaz looked confused, but content, "What question?"

"About whether I'm okay with this."

Kaz laughed into the quiet stillness of the apartment, "I guess it was a resounding 'yes.' My God, Scully, that was wonderful. Thank you so much."

Scully smiled at her and bent, needing another kiss. Kaz obliged, working the magic Scully was coming to associate only with her. She'd been kissed by more than a few men over the course of her life, but never as deeply, thoroughly, and satisfyingly as when kissed by Kaz. The woman's lips, mouth, and tongue were unreal. The passion and sensuality they unleashed in Scully were unrivaled by any other.

Kaz made her melt with a series of deep, fiery kisses, then realized that Scully was still half-clothed. Quickly, she solved the problem, then brought a hand up and ran it through the soft, wet auburn curls between Scully's shapely legs.

Scully closed her eyes and moaned out loud. Kaz watched her face as she slowly entered her partner with two long fingers. Scully was beautiful, and never more so than at this moment of deep heat and scorching passion. Her face was flushed with desire and her mouth formed a perfect 'O' as she let out a series of small sighs and groans.

Suddenly, she slipped her fingers from Scully's warm heat and softly said, "Scully, sit up."

Scully did as instructed, but ached from the loss of contact. She followed Kaz's simple directions as she quickly realized what Kaz wanted. Soon she was kneeling on the floor, legs spread, and Kaz quickly slid beneath her, then grabbed Scully's hips and guided her lower until she sat on Kaz's face. Kaz immediately began then, her tongue wildly alternating between Scully's dripping center and engorged clitoris.

Kaz raised her arms to Scully's back, supporting her as she caressed the soft skin there. She opened her eyes to see Scully's heated face, twisted in pleasure and aching with need. It was a beautiful sight, and made Kaz renew her efforts. She watched her partner as she drove her tongue inside her, then came up to suck at her. Scully threw her head back, thick red hair flying as she cried out.

"K-a-a-z-z-z! O-o-h-h-h, K-a-a-z-z-z...I'm...I'm c-com..."

<Yes,> Kaz thought as she heard Scully's words, <Come. Please come. Come hard, and long, and loud...Oh God, I think I love her.>

Scully did come hard and loud, and it went on and on, the second orgasm starting before the first had even ended. And as that began to wind down, Kaz lowered herself just a little and shoved her tongue into Scully's ass. Scully screamed and came again as Kaz worked in and out of this new orifice while bringing a thumb to Scully's tortured clit.

As the third climax ended, Scully begged for mercy and fell forward, off of Kaz and onto the living room floor. Kaz turned and moved to her, holding her tight, Scully's head just above her breasts as they panted, each catching their breath.

Their sweaty bodies were pressed tightly together as they finally relaxed. The force of their release had been worth the long separation, and now they finally lay together, spent and very happy to be in each other's arms.

After long minutes with no words and only sensations, Scully said, "Kaz, have you decided what you're going to do this weekend?"

Kaz's voice was thick, she was tired and on the verge of sleep, "M-m-m. I think I'm staying here. Mom's not what I need right now. Being with her is sometimes hard for me. Among other things, she hounds me about my single status almost constantly," Kaz chuckled a little, the sound rumbling through her chest and into Scully's cheek, "At the moment, I'm not sure I can take that. I think I'll stay here and work on a few of my projects."

"I don't want to be away from you all weekend, Scully said, laying a small kiss on her neck, "and I don't know if I'd be able to anyway."

"Scully," Kaz said with a hint of disapproval, "I'm not saying I want you to stay here instead of being with your family. I would never ask you to do that."

Scully shook her head a little beneath Kaz's chin, "No, I'm not staying, but I want to know if you'll come with us."

Kaz's body tensed around her a little. She was entirely still as she spoke, "To your mother's?"

"Yes. Mulder is going, as you know, and my mom and brother Charlie will be there too."

"I don't know, Scully," Kaz replied hesitantly, "you said Mulder picked up on us right away. I don't think you're ready for your family to do the same thing."

Scully clicked her tongue, "Mulder has radar, Kaz. He's a psychologist and he's my closest friend. His job is to read what people say without words, and he's very good at it, especially when it comes to me. Mom and Charlie aren't like that, and besides, we've had some time to get used to this now. I think we can come up with better poker-faces than we had on Sunday morning."

"I'm still not sure, Scully. I would love to spend the weekend seeing you, because when I don't it starts to hurt, but we'd definitely have to remember it's strictly 'lookie--no touchie,' right?"

Scully pursed her lips as she chewed on that. "Maybe," she replied, "but there's only three rooms in the cabin. I was going to get my own room, but I really wouldn't mind sharing with you." She chuckled a little as a new thought entered her head, "Of course, we might have to tone our act down a little bit."

"Yeah, right Scully," Kaz called out in protest, "like we're going to have sex with your mother right down the hall!"

Scully laughed and kissed her chin, "Still, I want to sleep with you in my arms."

She knew that a slow grin was spreading over Kaz's face. Soft lips were pressed to the crown of her head and she heard a voice in her ear, "Okay Scully, I want that too, and I'd love to meet your mother."

Scully squeezed her tight and cheered her decision. Kaz returned the embrace, once again touching her lips to Scully's magnificent hair.

"Hey Scully?" she asked quietly.

"Yes."

"Are we going to sleep out here in your living room, or do I get the entire tour?"

Scully laughed and slowly pulled herself from Kaz's arms, "Okay, it's off to bed we go."

She tugged Kaz's arm to get her to her feet. Scully led her to the bedroom and pulled back the covers. Kaz still held her hand, and lifted it to her lips before they crawled into the soft, comfortable bed. Once inside, they held each other, kissing deeply once more. Scully broke off after long minutes and touched her forehead to the younger woman's

"Kaz?"

"Hmm?"

"Did I ever tell you what my brothers got me for my birthday a couple of years ago?"

"Uh, n-o-o-o, you didn't," she replied, unsure of where the conversation was headed.

"Well, it was a joke gift, and definitely one nobody told my mother about."

Kaz lifted her eyebrows, this was starting to get interesting, "What was it?"

Scully snorted a little through her nose, making Kaz laugh along with her at the sound, "Well, Bill and Charlie said it was just the thing for a single woman in the city. They kidded me, saying it was the safest sex around. They even named it, called it Joe. Then, when my mother was around, they'd ask if I was still seeing 'Joe.' Of course, they got a big laugh out of that, but I don't think they expected that I'd actually use it."

Kaz's body began to warm all over again as she realized what Scully's gift was. The petite redhead twisted around to her bedside night stand and pulled open a drawer. Kaz laughed out loud at the sight of the calm, cool, reserved Special Agent holding a fat, pink vibrator in her hand.

"Pink?" Kaz asked through her laughter, "They got you a *pink* vibrator?"

The federal agent shrugged her shoulders non-chalantly, "What can I say, it was a gift."

"And what do you plan to do with that?" Kaz asked in a voice full of mock-naivete.

Scully reply was low and husky. "You'll see, sailor-girl, you'll see."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

7:15 am

Scully emerged from the bathroom in a black suit with a white knit shirt beneath. Her red hair stood out in bright contrast, framing her face within a ring of brilliant fire.

Kaz was standing in front of the mirror to put on small hoop earrings. The dark blue jacket with shiny gold buttons hugged her broad shoulders and tapered perfectly down to her narrow waist. Beneath it was a white dress shirt with a simple, neat ribbon tie. The skirt fell just over her knees, and beneath it were shapely, athletic legs covered in dark hose. In deference to her already substantial height, Kaz wore flat black issued pumps instead of heeled ones. A white name tag which bore the JAG insignia and the word "Kazmerowski" lay just above her right breast.

Scully watched her straighten her cuffs, which were marked by three narrow stripes, and tug at the bottom of her jacket, pulling it neat and straight. Scully approached, coming to stand by her left shoulder. She crossed her arms in front of herself as they both looked into the mirror. She could smell Kaz's clean ocean-fresh scent once again.

"So, do I pass inspection?" Kaz asked Scully with a smirk.

"Oh yes," Scully replied, laying a hand on her back.

Still gazing into the mirror, Kaz met her eyes, "You look great, Scully."

"I may look great, but the sight of you in that uniform just made my underwear all wet."

Kaz laughed out loud and said, "I'm having that same problem. One glimpse of my favorite G-woman, and gush! I just hope I don't leave a mess in the councilor's chair."

Scully leaned over to kiss her cheek.

Kaz accepted it gladly, then bent close to the mirror, inspecting the red lipstick mark on her face. "I like it," she concluded, "but I bet the boys'll raise their eyebrows a little."

Scully smiled and wiped it away.

"So, Scully," Kaz asked as she reached for her blue and white formal hat. "What time did you want to leave tonight?"

"It depends on when Mulder and I decimate the mountain of paperwork sitting on our desks, but we'd planned on getting out of the basement around three-thirty. It'll take a couple of hours to get there."

"I should be finished before then. We have closing arguments in the morning, but it's an appellate case, and the judge is Quick-Draw Templeton. He's famous for his snap decisions. The word is that he hears closing, goes to chambers, takes two shots of Jack Daniels, flips a coin, and comes back with his answer."

Scully lifted a skeptical eyebrow, "Really?"

"No, he's not *that* arbitrary. I'm expecting a favorable decision. The case is a little tricky, though. An assault case involving an enlisted man and his commanding officer. My client, the enlisted man, spent a week in the infirmary with a broken arm and jaw. The case started out with charges of habitual insubordination against my client, but I turned us into the prosecution when I filed counter-charges. The officer says he was provoked into the attack, but I'm asking for demotion, loss of pay, and an official reprimand. Probably won't get the whole boatload, but you never get what you don't ask for. I should get most, though, they're cracking down on that sort of stuff."

"I should hope so," Scully remarked, then said, "Can we pick you up at four?"

"Sure thing, babe," Kaz replied with a smile and a kidding wink. They gathered their things and left for their respective destinations.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

3:55 p.m.

Scully drove with Mulder in the passenger seat. They were on their way to pick up Kaz when Scully said to him, "I'm kind of surprised you're so willing to do this, Mulder. It must be a little weird for you."

He considered it for a moment, "It is. I'm still getting used to the idea, and I figured this was a good way to do that. I like Kaz, she seems to make you happy, and anything that makes you happy is okay with me."

She thought that was just about the nicest, sweetest thing Fox Mulder had ever said to her. She didn't even know how to respond, so she patted his hand and said, "She does make me happy, Mulder. And she makes me feel young and new and alive. I do appreciate your open-mindedness about all of this. Most of the men I know wouldn't be half as understanding about it."

Mulder had been telling his partner the truth, but inside, he wasn't sure exactly how he felt about her new relationship. It wasn't that he had a problem with the concept of same-sex relationships, it was just strange in its unfamiliarity. He had never had a homosexual or bisexual friend before, and wasn't sure what he should or shouldn't say about Scully's new 'friend.' He knew they wouldn't do anything to make him feel uncomfortable, and he also knew that they'd keep their relationship a secret, 'in the closet,' so to speak. Discovery would mean disaster for Anne Kazmerowski, and probably for Scully as well.

He was glad, and honored, that Scully had told him about this. As a psychologist, he knew what repression of a relationship could do to a person. It was essential for a person hiding such a secret have at least one person to confide in. He was, in large part, proud of the fact that Scully had chosen him. It meant that she trusted him, didn't want to be dishonest with him, and that she considered him a worthwhile person in her life. If there was one thing that was for certain, it was that he admired and respected Dana Scully, and to be shown reciprocal respect by her warmed his heart and reaffirmed their strong friendship.

Besides that, he liked Anne Kazmerowski. At least, he liked what he knew of her so far. She was young and upbeat, witty and intelligent. She complimented Scully well. But the deciding factor for Mulder was the look in Dana Scully's eye when she was with Kaz. It was a look of contentment and happiness.

Over the course of the three years they had worked together, that look had become a rare sight. Scully had been held hostage by her former boyfriend, abducted, beaten, marked by a foreign implant, and lost a sister to foul play. After having gone through so much, Mulder would have given anything to restore the happy, innocent light in the eyes of the woman who'd walked into his basement office on a gloomy morning in 1993. Anne Kazmerowski brought much of that light--that sparkle--back, and anyone who could do that, male or female, had Mulder's ultimate gratitude as well as his blessing.

They pulled up in front of a great little two-story house in Georgetown. It was smaller than the statelier surrounding homes, but had tremendous character, and Mulder immediately knew it was perfect for Kaz. Scully got out and started up the walk. He followed her, his head on a swivel as he admired the ivy crawling up the brick facade, the stone columns, the white granite stairway leading to the porch.

Scully knocked on the door, but got no answer. She knocked again, and they heard a noise from above. Stepping from under the cover of the overhang and into the brisk, open air, Mulder spotted Kaz leaning out an upstairs window.

"It's open, come on in. I'll be down in a sec."

They entered and stood in a short foyer. Mulder turned around, only to look up into the face of a small stone gargoyle who protected the front entrance with a grimace. The thing looked ancient, giving Mulder the feeling that Kaz's house was quite venerable. He glanced about, admiring the architecture and uniqueness of the old house, appreciating the combination of old and new. It gave him more of a sense of knowing Kaz, for often the inside of a person's house reflected its owner.

Scully motioned for him to follow, and gave him a quick tour of the downstairs rooms. It was grand. The kitchen a warm, rust-colored room and the study a serious forest green. Yet it had small, personal touches that made it homey as well.

Kaz came rushing down the stairs to meet them, still in her uniform, though the tie hung from the unbuttoned collar and she had removed shoes and hose. "Sorry I'm not ready. Quick-Draw was a little rusty today. Must have needed a few more drinks before he was ready to flip his quarter, the good-for-nothing alky."

The agents were mildly shocked at Kaz's tone. Apparently, things hadn't gone well in court. Scully asked her about it.

Hands on her narrow hips, she answered, "He gave the major ten days of restricted duty. Do you know what that means for a major?" The question was rhetorical, no answer was needed, "It means he gets a damned vacation. Ten days, no work, three-quarter pay. It's a slap on the wrist. My client, however, can't chew for two more months. It just gets me when they let these high-ranking officials get away with crap like this. And to top it all off, I'm usually a defense lawyer, but this guy came to me asking for my help. I accepted his case even though I don't normally do this, because he needed the help, and they just throw all of it back in my face with a decision like this. Sorry, I'm just venting now."

Mulder and Scully exchanged a knowing look. Scully said, "I think we can relate."

Anyway," Kaz said, running a hand through her hair, which tamed it perfectly, "I just got home. Give me ten minutes to change and pack, will you?"

Mulder spread his hands, "Take all the time you need. We just have to be there by seven."

"Why is that?"

Scully elbowed him and groaned, "I swear, Mulder, you're a bottomless pit. We ate just before we left."

Mulder turned back to Kaz, "That's what time Mrs. Scully's putting dinner on the table."

Kaz smiled at him, "I'd better get cracking, then. Feel free to wander while I get ready. There's drinks in the fridge if you want one. Help yourself."

After she trotted up the stairs and they were alone, Mulder put a hand on Scully's back, drawing her attention, "Is that what she looked like when you first saw her, Scully?"

"You mean, was it the same uniform?"

The phone rang, and they heard Kaz groan loudly in frustration before picking it up. They heard a "yes, sir" and a "thank you, sir" from upstairs before continuing with their conversation.

"Yeah, was it?" He asked her again.

She nodded.

Mulder let out a low whistle, "I can see why you got all hot and bothered, Scully. That outfit is a killer."

Scully's reply was quiet, a little shy. "It wasn't the uniform, Mulder, it was the person inside it."

"Yeah, but that person comes in an awfully nice wrapper."

She covered her mouth to stifle a laugh, then said, "So you think Kaz is hot, huh?"

He elbowed her playfully in the side, "Don't you?"

"Yes I do, Mulder," she replied, glancing at the stairwell Kaz had just climbed. "Yes I do."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Scully Family Mountain Cabin
Virginia Mountains
6:40 p.m.

There was a knock at the door, and Margaret Scully promptly answered it. Standing on the threshold were Fox, Dana, and a woman named Anne Kazma-something; a woman Dana had called this morning to say would be joining them. Maggie had no qualms with the woman's presence, but thought it strange that Dana had never mentioned her before. More often than not, Maggie spoke to her daughter a couple of times a week, sometimes much more, and knew just about all of Dana's friends. This must be a relatively new acquaintance, and one who had no family in the East to spend the holidays with.

"Hello Mom," Scully said, giving her mother a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

Mulder did the same upon entrance, and when Kaz tentatively entered the foreign abode, Scully immediately introduced her.

"Mom, this is my friend Anne Kazmerowski. Kaz, this is my mother, Maggie."

Maggie gave her a quick once-over. She was a handsome, attractive woman, and tall too, much closer to Fox's height than Dana's. Her complexion was olive, and she had beautiful dark brown hair that hung over the crown of her head and fell just below her ears. Her eyes were the color of dark chocolate, and sparkled with excitement when she smiled, as she was doing now. She held, in her left hand, a dark bottle of wine, which she handed to Maggie.

"A little housewarming gift." She said in explanation.

"It'll warm the house, and its occupants, quite nicely. Thank you Anne."

She shrugged shyly, "It's nothing. A thank you for having me."

"You shouldn't have, Anne, but I'll accept it. That is, as long as you promise to help me drink it."

Kaz smiled, "That's the idea."

The new arrivals removed their snow-covered boots along with mittens and jackets, then filed into the living room, where a warm fire was blazing.

Scully scanned the room, searching for her younger brother. "Mom, where's Charlie?"

Maggie's shoulders sagged a little as she explained, "I got a letter this morning before I left. His ship has been delayed by engine trouble. He won't be into port until Wednesday at the earliest."

That's too bad," Scully said, a little disappointed.

"Yes, well, these things happen," Maggie said with a shrug, "It's the price you pay when your boys are in the service."

Mulder tried to brighten the spirits of his favorite women by saying, "Do you really have boys, Mrs. Scully> I don't think they exist. Three years I've known her," he jerked a thumb at his red-headed partner, "and I've yet to see these mythical 'boys.'"

Scully and her mother both smiled at that, but the younger gave him a slug on the shoulder before replying, "You've seen the pictures, Mulder."

"Fakes!" He proclaimed heartily.

Mrs. Scully shook her head at his old joke, "And I thought my daughter was supposed to be the skeptical one."

Kaz watched the easy conversation, the warmth, and the smiles the trio shared. She was instantly glad she had agreed to this holiday trip. She saw bits and pieces of Scully in her mother's features, and was happy that her friend's relationship with her remaining parent was so strong. As the three conversed about things she knew little of, she looked around her at the rustic mountain cabin. It's walls were dark wood, its furniture plain yet cozy, and a tall, bare Christmas tree stood in one corner, primed and ready to be decorated. Mrs. Scully had waited for them.

Unbeknownst to the others in the room, a slow smile was spreading over Kaz's face. This was going to be a great Christmas, something she hadn't experienced since her dad had been alive and healthy. Although she wasn't spending the holidays with family, she would be spending it with someone already very important to her.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They brought their things in and settled into the upstairs rooms while Mrs. Scully finished preparing dinner. Mulder took the room across the hall from Scully and Kaz. Mrs. Scully had settled into the one at the end of the hallway.

He poked his head into their room as they unpacked, ready to tease, "I better not hear any strange noises coming out of here tonight."

Scully spun on her heel and quickly retorted, "We better not hear any out of your room either. Good thing there's no VCR in there."

Kaz slapped a hand over her mouth, stifling a spray of laughter. Scully had told her the story of the first time she'd turned on the VCR in their basement office, only to be greeted by gyrating bodies and screams of ecstasy from the 'actors' on the screen. Mulder, undaunted, stepped up to Scully and swept her up into his arms. She called out in amused protest as he plopped her down on the bed, where she bounced a couple of times before rolling to the other side. He pounced across it, but she backed away, laughing, and he belly-flopped on top of the covers.

The spectator smiled as she watched them, thinking that this was a perfect time to give Mulder a huge wedgie, when she heard an authoritative voice from down the stairs call up. It was Mrs. Scully, and she was not happy.

"You kids quit horsing around up there!" She yelled, then her tone softened, "Wash you hands, it's time for dinner."

She said the magic word, apparently, for Mulder was out the door in a flash and racing down the hall to the bathroom. They heard the water turn on. He was obediently washing before going down to eat.

Kaz jerked a thumb over her shoulder as she smiled, "Quite a guy."

"Yeah, he's a prince." Scully replied sardonically as she re-tucked the shirt that had come loose during her tussle with her partner. She listened as Mulder walked down the stairs, then lifted herself to briefly kiss Kaz on the lips before taking her hands, "I'm so glad you're here."

"I am too, Scully. This is going to be great."

She returned Scully's kiss, then they washed their hands and headed downstairs to eat.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

7:05 p.m.

"What took you so long?" Maggie asked good-naturedly as she lit candles on the table.

Mulder groaned and rolled his eyes, "Women! They have no sense of priorities. How can you sit upstairs putting clothes on hangers when there's food on the table? I'll never be able to understand it."

Scully smiled appreciatively at him as they sat down, "Everything looks great, Mom."

"Thank you , honey. Anne, would you like to open the wine you brought for us? I think it'll go quite nicely with the fettucini."

"Fettucini Alfredo?" Mulder asked with excitement, rubbing his hands together, "I thought that was what I smelled."

Maggie bestowed a warm smile on him, "Then go get it, Fox. It's on the counter in the kitchen."

He stood to retrieve the dish. Kaz was in the kitchen as well, working a corkscrew into a bottle of zinfandel.

He grabbed potholders to protect his hands from the hot dish, "How you doing, Kaz?"

She smiled at him as she twisted. She was only a couple inches shorter than his six feet, and they almost stood eye-to-eye. "I'm doing very well, thanks."

He lowered his voice a little, "You're not uncomfortable with this, are you?"

She stopped and turned to him, "Are you?"

Mulder chuckled, "I'm the psychologist. I thought *I* was the only one who could answer a question with a question."

"Nope, lawyers do it all the time. So--?"

"Am I uncomfortable? Not right now I'm not."

"How about in general?"

He stuck out his lips a little and scratched his chin, "I'm still getting used to the idea. I'm more uncomfortable with the difficulties the situation presents, rather than the relationship itself."

"Yes," she agreed, "that worries me too, but it's worth it, Mulder. She's worth it."

Mulder smiled as Kaz grabbed the bottle and passed him, giving him a friendly pat on the chest as she walked by. She strolled gracefully out the swinging doors and into the small dining area.

As every hour passed, Mulder found himself liking Anne Kazmerowski more and more.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Margaret Scully said grace, and they began to pass fettucini, salad, and garlic bread around the table.

Kaz turned to her, "This is one of my favorites, Mrs. Scully, and it smells delicious."

"I hope it tastes as good as it smells. By the way, Anne, you look like you might have a little Italian in you."

"I have more than a little." Kaz replied, spooning salad onto her plate, "My mother is a Parducci, of the Florence Parduccis." She rolled her eyes and with light-hearted sarcasm continued, "If I have to hear the step-by-step account of how my grandfather build his own vineyard back in the 'Old Country' one more time, I just might explode.". Scully smiled at her, and she heartily returned it. She felt a jean-clad leg touch hers under the table, and non-chalantly looked up at Scully, who gave her a soft smile as she primly took a bite of salad.

Mulder took his head out of his plate long enough to speak, "Mrs. Scully, did Sc--Dana tell you K--Anne was in the Navy too."

Maggie gave her daughter a disapproving look, "Why didn't you mention that, Dana?"

Scully shrugged, "Must have slipped my mind." <Like I don't have enough to juggle this weekend!> "Anne is in the JAG Corps. She went to school at Berkeley too."

"Dana went to Berkeley for a year." Maggie said between bites, "Did you know each other back then?"

"No, Mom," Scully answered, "Anne is younger than me. We met awhile ago in Georgetown."

Gratefully, that was enough of an explanation for Maggie, who was more anxious to talk about the Navy. "So, you're with JAG? Do you know a man named Tomlinson? He was a Commander when Captain Scully knew him."

Kaz nodded, "Captain Tomlinson is the commanding officer for general councilors. He used to be my C.O. as well."

"But not anymore?" Maggie asked with interest.

"I was moved to another department about six months ago, a small group that investigates only criminal cases. We've finally decided there should be some separation between disciplinary infractions and those that violate the criminal code."

"But you said your group was small. Aren't there more than a handful of criminal cases out there?"

Kaz nodded, but studied her food as she modestly said, "My group is, um, well, kind of special. We take on major assault cases, arson, murder, rape--basically the Index crimes. Most often, we are involved in general court martials."

Scully almost dropped her fork. She'd asked Kaz about her work almost daily since they'd met, but Kaz had been fuzzy on the details of her job, merely discussing in a vague way the generalities of the case of the assaulted man she'd recently defended. She'd never mentioned the elite group she belonged to, or the fact that she was the Navy's version of Daniel Webster. Defending a person in a general court martial usually meant trying to keep them out of Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary. Kaz had said she was a civil rights lawyer, not Melvin-freaking-Belli.

All of a sudden Scully held renewed respect and admiration for her mother, who apparently could draw blood from a turnip. Although Kaz had been excited enough about her art to share it with Scully after only an hour's acquaintance, she had obviously been much more modest in regard to her skill in the field of law. No wonder she was already a Lieutenant Commander, she was a hell of a good lawyer.

As for Kaz, sitting just to Scully's left, she didn't like discussing herself, and always downplayed her own accomplishments. She felt like she was dominating the dinner conversation here tonight. She also thought Scully's mother would have made a pretty fair lawyer--she had her cross-examination down pat.

Unaware, or uncaring, of her discomfort, Mrs. Scully continued to question her, "That's very impressive, Anne. You must be very good at what you do. Tell me, what's your rank, and are you up for a promotion?"

Kaz swallowed a large mouthful of wine and glanced quickly around the table. All eyes were on her, and her face began to darken a little under the scrutiny. In court, she never minded being the center of the room's attention, but here, in a rustic Virginia cabin, she felt the pressure of three pairs of eyes as she answered.

"Well, um, I was a Lieutenant Commander. On Tuesday I'm getting new stripes. I was promoted to Commander today."

This time, Scully choked on her drink. Her face turned scarlet as she coughed into her napkin. Kaz and Mulder both reached out to pat her on the back. Then, noticing the other's movement, backed off. Finally, Kaz patted her lightly.

"Scully, are you okay?" She asked.

Still emitting an occasional cough, Scully nodded as she wheezed, "It just went down the wrong way. Why didn't you tell me you got promoted?"

Mulder took a long sip. <Uh-oh,> he thought.

"It's no big deal," Kaz answered with a shrug.

Scully gave her a look that said, 'we'll talk about this later,' and took another sip of wine to clear her throat. "It is a big deal, Kaz. Congratulations."

The officer smiled weakly, "Thanks." She knew she was in for it, and deserved it too. She was forever grateful to the higher power when Mrs. Scully left her alone and turned to Mulder to ask about his mother.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They finished their dinner and cleared the table, each of the three young people thanking Maggie for the excellent meal. Scully pushed her mother gently out of the kitchen, telling her to relax while they did the dishes.

Mulder began to scrape plates, but one look from Scully and he scooted out the door too, taking her hint that she needed a minute with Kaz.

She turned on the water and squirted dish soap into the sink, "Why didn't you tell me about the promotion?"

Her voice held no anger, but a hint of disappointment, of hurt. Kaz checked to make sure they were alone before laying a hand on Scully's arm.

"I just found out this afternoon. That was the call I had before we left. I knew I was up for review, but didn't want to say anything in case I didn't get it. That would have been a little embarrassing. The Captain called to let me know before the holidays, which was nice of him, and I wanted to tell you. That was the first thing I wanted to do, believe me, but with Mulder there, and in the car and all, it felt like bragging. I wanted us to be alone when I told you...but when your mother asked, I couldn't be dishonest with her."

For a split-second, Scully contemplated the irony of that remark. They were both being dishonest with her mother, telling her a lie of omission. True, Maggie hadn't asked: 'are you two involved in a sexual relationship?', but Scully hated hiding things, especially from her mother. It was worth it to have Kaz here, but if their relationship turned long-term...

<Please let it. Oh, please let it> she prayed.

...she'd inevitably have to tell her mother. However, since it was in its infancy right now, she felt okay with the willful misperception.

She covered Kaz's hand with her own, wanting to hug her, but not daring, "I understand, just don't do it again. I want to know something like that the minute it happens. I want to share those things with you."

Kaz's eyes were warm and loving, "I want you to share them too, and I'm sorry if you were hurt. I don't ever want to hurt you. I just didn't want to sound arrogant in front of your partner."

Scully smiled up at her, "You're a lawyer, you're supposed to be arrogant."

Kaz began to wash the dishes in the sink, handing them to Scully as she finished, "I guess I'm cast from a different stone."

<That you are, Kaz,> Scully thought as she dried the dishes, <You're the stone that has my heart tied to it.>

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

8:25 p.m.

The two put on coffee before rejoining the others in the living room. They smiled at each other as they watched Mulder and Mrs. Scully scrutinize the tree, trying to decide on a decorating strategy. Mulder thought they should use lights, Maggie thought tinsel was the way to go.

Scully stepped up to them, putting an arm around each of their waists, "Can't we have both?"

"W-e-e-l-l-l-l," Mulder said, a hand on his chin, "I'm trying to visualize it."

She clicked her tongue at him, "Stop visualizing and start decorating," she ordered. "We've got to load this baby up."

She grabbed a boxful of ornaments and began to dig through it, coming across beautiful, sparkling crystal balls side-by-side with clothespin reindeer the young Scully's had made as schoolchildren. She tried desperately not to be sad when she ran across a small wooden stocking, painted green and with the name 'Melissa' stenciled on it. She held it up by the old red ribbon that supported it and hung it on the tree, a reminder that her sister's spirit still lived on despite her physical absence in this world. Her mother met her eyes and they shared a moment of remembrance.

Kaz and Mulder untangled rows of tiny Christmas lights, arguing the entire time about which end needed to go where to separate the strings. By the time they figured it out, Mrs. Scully had prepared four hot cups of Irish coffee, which they sipped as they began to hang the lights.

Scully turned on the stereo and popped in some Nat King Cole. They all got into the Christmas spirit as a deep, beautiful voice told them all about chestnuts roasting on an open fire.

It took them an hour to decorate the tree, and it definitely was decorated. Glass balls, bulbs, ornaments, and childhood crafts adorned every branch strong enough to support them. It was gaudy, but all agreed it was grand. Upon completion of their task, they turned out the lights and sat, exhausted, in recliners or on the couch and enjoyed the blinking lights that lit up the colored crystal and set a warm glow about the room.

Mulder finished off his coffee and tired quickly, unused to the alcohol. He announced his intention to turn in for the night, and they all followed his cue, realizing they too had had a long day. Scully gathered their cups as Mulder and Maggie said their goodnights and headed up the stairs. Kaz remained in the living room, staring at the tree. Scully came back from the kitchen, about to turn out the tree's lights, when she spotted Kaz standing in a dark corner of the room, staring raptly at the tree. Her eyes glimmered unnaturally, and it was only when Scully got close that she realized they were filled with tears.

"Kaz, what's wrong?"

Kaz wiped at her eyes with the heel of her hand. "It's nothing. I just can't remember being so happy at Christmas since my dad was around to share it. It's different now...with just my mom. I'm not upset, Scully. I'm happy."

Scully didn't care who was watching, she embraced Kaz, pulling her head down to her shoulder and stroking her soft brown hair. She felt Kaz's warm tears on her neck and breath on her collarbone. Then Kaz pulled away and wiped her eyes again.

"Thank you, Scully," she whispered.

Scully reached out and took her hand as she shut out the lights, leaving them with only the upstairs lights as a guide, "Let's go to bed," she replied gently as she led the Commander up the stairs.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Everyone shut their doors," Scully advised loudly from the center of the hallway, "Mulder snores like a bear."

"Do not!" Came the deep protest from the middle bedroom.

"Yeah, right! Who has to listen to you saw logs all night through the paper thin walls of those cheap motels you always book us into? I should know."

Mrs. Scully peeked out, her bathrobe covering her pajamas, "Now you two aren't going to start teasing each other at this hour, are you? I swear, Fox, you're an easier mark than Bill or Charlie. When she says things like that, just ignore them, she'll stop eventually."

"Yes Mom," he replied obediently as Scully laughed in the hallway. He was secretly pleased when she teased him, it meant she was in a good mood, something it became harder and harder to be in as the years went on and the cases remained as gruesome as ever.

"And you," her mother said, instantly silencing her, "quit badgering him. You never could leave well enough alone."

"Sorry Mom," she apologized, but knew her mother was only playing out her part from long-ago interventions she'd performed back when her four children incessantly teased each other.

"Goodnight Fox, Dana, Anne. And I don't want to hear you two girls giggling half the night." She wagged her finger at the two women before shutting her door.

"Yeah," Mulder whispered with a smirk, "no 'giggling.'"

He quickly shut the door, immediately hearing two thumps as both Scully and Kaz hit the door, ready to give him a smack on the arm. He had a feeling he might come home from this trip black and blue, but it was worth the fun he was having with the two women.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

11:05 p.m.

Scully wore her light blue silk pajamas, while Kaz wore a flannel pajama top with Navy-issue boxer shorts.

The small redhead gave them the once over, "How'd you get those, or shouldn't I ask?"

Kaz rolled her eyes, "I didn't 'do' a sailor to get them, if that's what you mean. A couple of years ago I had a client accused of distributing contraband taken from the quartermaster. I got him released on insufficient evidence, namely that the witness was sloppy drunk, and he gave me 25 pair of boxer shorts as a thank you. Want a pair or ten? I've got a drawer full of them at home."

"Isn't it unethical to accept boxer shorts from a man who robbed the quartermaster?"

Kaz held up a finger, "Excuse me, that's *allegedly* robbed the quartermaster. Lack of evidence, mind you." She grinned the lopsided grin that sent shivers down Scully's spine.

They turned out the lights and climbed into the big, comfortable bed. Scully held out her arms and Kaz crawled into them, her head just under Scully's chin. Although she was much larger than her petite, red-haired lover, Kaz felt safe and comfortable within the strong circle of Scully's arms. They lay silent for a moment, relishing the feel of each other.

"Scully," Kaz whispered softly, "I can hear your heart beating."

"Is it fast?" Scully asked, though she knew the answer.

"It's racing."

Scully kissed the top of her head, "Do you know why it's racing, Kaz?"

For a moment she said nothing. Then, hesitantly, she ventured an answer, one she desperately hoped was correct.

"Because of me?"

Tightening her grip on the soft, yet firm body in her arms, Scully assented, "Yes Kaz, because of you."

She felt movement, then silky lips pressed to the base of her throat. Scully smiled as she drifted to sleep, but before the blanket drew completely down, she heard Kaz's voice once again whispering in the night.

"I love you," it said.

She gently squeezed Kaz again, running a hand lazily over her back as she mumbled her reply, "I know, I love you, too."

Within seconds, they were asleep.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

8:15 am

Scully awoke enveloped in warmth. It was a cozy, comfortable warmth, one she didn't want to leave. Reluctantly, she opened her eyes, only to stare into a blinding brightness coming from the window. The room was naturally dim, and she knew it was fresh snowfall that had painted the woods a brilliant white.

In the quiet of the house, she heard the distant murmurs of her mother and Mulder. She couldn't make out their words, but could picture them drinking coffee and chatting in the kitchen.

Mulder loved her mother, she knew that. They had a special relationship that had been forged during the time she'd been missing. She was glad they had bonded, for they were two of her favorite people in the world.

Another of her favorite people was beginning to move around her. Scully was spooned by Kaz's body, which was the soft cocoon she'd woken up within. Now, it was beginning to stir. Scully found Kaz's left hand, which lay draped across her pajama-covered stomach, and blindly entwined their fingers, lifting Kaz's to wake her more fully.

"Good morning, Sleepyhead," she called over her shoulder.

Kaz kissed the top of her ear, "G'morning. It feels good to wake up with you, Scully. I could get used to this really quick."

"I hope you do, cause I don't want to sleep alone ever again."

Kaz kissed her ear again, then freed her hand to push the hair off of Scully's smooth, milky-white neck. She pressed her lips to the creamy flesh, feeling Scully's pulse beneath her lips. It quickened just a bit.

"Kaz--" Scully mumbled, her voice low, "What are you doing?"

She felt the lips pull back into a smile, "I'm saying good morning."

"You already said it."

Kaz's breath was hot on her neck as she said, "But now I'm saying it in the right way."

Scully sighed at the gently touch, her body beginning to tremble slightly, "Don't say it *too* right, or you'll get us both in trouble."

Kaz reluctantly stopped and crawled out of the bed, "I'd better take a shower."

Scully laughed at her, "Better make it a cold one."

"You read my mind," she mumbled, grabbing a towel and leaving the room.

Scully lay in the bed, already missing Kaz's arms, her lips, her warmth. She'd never before felt the joy, the fulfillment, the contentment she felt when she was with Kaz. She thought back to their sleepy declarations of the previous night, and knew that they were true. Although they'd only known each other a short time, Scully already couldn't imagine her life without Anne Kazmerowski in it. How had she ever survived the past thirty-two years without the beautiful, wonderful woman she'd found sleeping in the Georgetown Law Library? She didn't know, but she knew she couldn't go back to her life as it was before. She needed Kaz like she needed air.

Reluctantly, she threw back the warm covers, crawled out of bed, and wrapped her bathrobe around her. She went downstairs to say good morning to Mulder and her mother, but the one who was really on her mind was naked and probably shivering under cold water in the bathroom down the hall.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

She poured a cup of coffee and kissed her mother on the cheek before settling down at the table next to Mulder.

"Sleep well?" He asked her with a slight smirk.

"Like a baby, and you?"

"Probably not as well, but okay."

Mrs. Scully, dressed in blue jeans and an old flannel shirt, shook a disapproving finger at him, "Fox, are you still having trouble sleeping? You need to get some help for that problem."

Mulder and Scully exchanged a look.

"It's okay, Mrs. Scully," he replied, "I just have an overactive imagination. It makes me restless in the night."

Scully elbowed him hard under the table, then said, "You didn't have your usual bedtime story, either."

Maggie's brow furrowed, "What's your bedtime story, Fox?"

He elbowed Scully back for putting him under the glass with her mother and forcing him to think on his feet, "Oh nothing, just an old joke. Sometimes I watch a, a documentary or something before I go to sleep."

"Or really? Are you a history buff?"

"No, I'm more into nature specials."

Scully raised her mug to hide a smile.

"Where's Anne?" Her mother asked her, "Still in bed?"

"Nope, she's taking a shower. She probably wants to look presentable for you, Mom. She'd not as scroungy as Mulder and I."

Her mother sipped coffee, "I take it she doesn't have family in the area."

"No," Scully answered as she refilled her cup, then added cream, "Her father passed away and her mother lives in Arizona. They are not close." She said, anticipating her mother's next question.

Maggie smiled and patted her daughter's hand, "Well, I'm glad you asked her to come up, then. No one should be alone for the holidays, and I've enjoyed meeting her. She seems like a very nice young woman."

"She is," Scully replied with a smile.

A voice from the foot of the stairs startled them all and made them turn in their seats, "Stop it, you're making me blush."

She strolled into the room in jeans, a black mock-turtleneck, and a thick, cream-colored fisherman's sweater. Her shortish hair fell perfectly over the crown of her head and settled an inch or two below her ears. She tucked an errant strand behind her ear as she smiled at the group. Scully felt her body instantly react to Kaz's presence, and had to will the flush from her cheeks.

<God, she's beautiful,> she thought, rising to rinse her cup. It was now time for her own cold shower.

They all said another round of good mornings, and Scully excused herself, reluctantly leaving her lover alone with her mother and best friend. She knew that Kaz could take care of herself in this den of lions, but still wanted to be present for every word that was spoken between them.

However, the need for cleanliness, as well as a cool down, was essential, so she excused herself and hurried upstairs.

In her absence, Kaz adroitly turned the conversation away from herself and onto Margaret Scully and Fox Mulder. First, she quizzed Mulder on his background, carefully avoiding the topic of his sister, Samantha, whom Scully had warned her about during one of their phone conversations.

She used her conversational skills to turn the tables of Mrs. Scully as well, asking pointed questions about the Scully family that she knew would draw long-winded responses. Finally, she and Mulder ganged up on the older woman, asking for childhood stories about Dana Scully.

Maggie told a long and completely endearing story about Dana's adoption of a stray dog. She was eight years old when she brought the huge mutt (who was almost as tall as she and reminded the family of Marmaduke) to the front porch and simply announced that 'Lucky' was the newest member of the family. There was no arguing with the fiery little redhead, and Lucky lived with them for ten years, traveling from base to base as the children grew. When he died at a venerable age during Dana's senior year, his funeral was teary...and well-attended.

She was just finishing the tale when Scully came into the room wearing jeans and a low-cut red sweater that drew admiring stares from two of the three at the table. Kaz swallowed hard and forced herself to concentrate on her black coffee as Mulder openly ogled her.

"Got to get you out of the office more often, Scully," he remarked. "Those conservative suits don't do you justice. You look great."

"Thank you, Mulder. Now its your turn. Go up and shower before we start making the snowman without you."

"O-o-h, a snowman!" He said excitedly, "I'd better get cracking."

They watched him rush up the stairs in a blur of flannel and gray sweatpants.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

11:05 am

The Fibbies and their new friend donned boots, parkas, and mittens to ward off the brisk winter chill. They filed out the door. Maggie watched them from the front bay window as they scooped up handfuls of snow to pack and toss playfully at one another. A smile lit her face as she watched the action in front of her. They seemed so happy, Dana in particular.

She'd witnessed the changes in her daughter over the past three years, since she'd become a field agent instead of an instructor at the Academy. Dana had been happy to move to the field, and after the usual pains of adjustment, had become quite comfortable with Fox Mulder as her partner. In the past six months or so, she and Fox had grown closer as friends, yet Maggie saw the wear and tear the events of their partnership had taken on Dana. Not that she blamed Fox, he was only doing his job, and doing it well, from what she heard. But the gruesome aspects of their work would take its toll on anyone, and although Dana was, from day one, a strong, rational, independent woman (who could face the horror of opening and inspecting dead bodies on a daily basis), the culmination of everything piled together was leaving its mark.

When Dana had stepped in the door last night, though, Maggie could swear five years had been taken off her face. She had worn a warm, almost blissful smile all night, and carried her high-spirits with her throughout the morning. It was under the surface, hidden deep, but yet undeniably there. Dana was happier than Margaret had seen her in years. She didn't know what the cause of the peaceful, contented look on her daughter's face was, but she relished it, reveled in it, enjoyed it and prayed it would never leave.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kaz and Scully rolled a huge snowball into position, then helped Mulder lift a slightly smaller one on top of it. Mulder made a small head while the women planned a strategy for bringing personality to the snowman. Kaz suggested some red licorice for a mouth. They could form it into an 'O' and make a Mr. Bill snowman. Scully, always the traditionalist, liked the Frosty look. Finally they agreed on something, and brushed a spot in the gravel driveway clear to pick out usable stones.

They approached the snowman and began their work. Mulder looked on as they made small eyes; big, bushy eyebrows; a largish nose; and placed small stones off-kilter for the snowman's mouth. Kaz bent to the stomach for a long minute, carefully concealing what she was doing from him. When they stepped back, he realized what they'd done. The bushy-browed snowman was smirking at him. On his stomach were six letters: M-U-L-D-E-R.

The women turned to him and held their hands out, presenting their creation to him.

"So, Mulder," Scully asked with a smile, "Whaddya think?"

His lips curled into a twisted smile that mirrored the snowman's perfectly. Mulder quickly ran up and carefully tackled her, forcing them both into the soft snow beneath them. Scully yelled in surprise, then in shock as snow fell into her jacket and froze her neck.

"You're going to pay for that, Mulder!" She said as she laughed at their little game.

Mulder leaned over her, balanced on all fours, but was quickly knocked off-balance by Kaz, who gave him her own flying body tackle, sending them both rolling in the cold powder.

"Ooph!"

They laughed like school children as they came to a stop and caught their breaths. Kaz recovered quicker and grabbed a handful of snow, which she rubbed playfully in Mulder's face before popping to her feet and sprinting for the safety of a nearby felled tree. Just before she made it, she felt a wet thump in the middle of her jacket as Mulder pelted her with a snowball.

The fight was on, and each found a hiding place as they gathered ammo. Scully hid behind the snowman while Kaz stayed with her tree-bunker. Mulder ran for cover and found the rear bumper of Scully's car. Scully peered out at Mulder, preparing to chuck a well-packed snowball in his direction when suddenly...

THWACK!

She was struck in the shoulder, the spray flying over her face and chilling her anew.

"Direct hit!" Kaz yelled, standing to raise her arms and do a little victory dance.

Scully changed her aim and threw the ball at Kaz, who deftly caught it and smilingly threatened to chuck it back at her attacker. The redhead cringed away, but didn't receive the blow. The tall woman walked up to her and put a mitten sideways to her mouth, a signal for stealth.

Kaz grinned as she added more snow, then packed the ball tight. Taking careful aim, she lofted the ball high in the air. Scully watched its trajectory. Perfect. It began to curve back down on a direct line with Mulder's hiding place behind the bumper of Scully's blue Taurus.

They heard a cry of alarm, then a hoot and Mulder bolted upright, scrabbling at his head with his arms to get the icy-cold snow out of his hair and off his face.

"I surrender! I surrender!" He shouted as he walked up to them, shimmying a little to shake snow out of his jacket. "Jesus, you really are Tommy Kaz's kid, aren't you?"

Kaz helped wipe powder off his neck and out of his collar, "Yes I am...AND I inherited his arm."

"You coulda warned me or something," he said, pretending to be annoyed.

Kaz smiled over at Scully, "Then we would have missed out on all the fun."

A chill ran through him and he hugged himself to stay warm, "Well, you had your fun. I'm freezing. I think I have melted snow in my underwear even, I'm going in, away from you two bullies."

"Oh Mulder," Scully teased, "don't go away mad."

"Just go away..?" He suggested with a smirk and another shiver.

"I didn't say that," she replied amiably. "We were going to take a walk through the woods. Want to join us? We can wait while you change your underwear."

"Unfortunately," he replied with an uncomfortable shifting of his hips, "parts of my anatomy have suddenly shrunk. I think I need to sit in front of the fire for a little while." He let them laugh before finishing. "You two go ahead. I'm going inside to let your mom feel sorry for me. I'm sure hot cocoa will be involved."

"Okay then, just tell Mom we went exploring, will you?"

He spared them one final smirk and a raising of lewd eyebrows, "Don't do too much 'exploring.'"

She pushed him off-balance, nearly sending him back into the snow, "Save it, Mulder."

He laughed over his shoulder as he jogged back to the cabin, where Mrs. Scully was waiting with a sympathetic face and a mug of steaming hot chocolate in her hand. With marshmallows even!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

12:35 p.m.

Scully and Kaz walked in a northeasterly direction away from the cabin. When they were far out of its sight, Scully took Kaz's arm and linked it in her own. Eventually they ventured down by a small stream.

"I know I've already said this, but I'm so glad you're here, Kaz."

Kaz smiled down at her, "I'm glad too. Thanks for inviting me. Your mother is a wonderful woman and Mulder's great too. I can see why you like him so much."

Scully laughed, a lovely sound that Kaz tried to evoke as often as possible, "He's something, all right. That was pretty good aim with the snowball."

She shrugged, "When you got it, you got it."

Scully pressed her shoulder against Kaz's, "And you've definitely got it, sister."

Kaz slowed, took a quick glance around to assure they were deep in the woods, and bent to lay a gentle kiss on Scully's lips. When she attempted to pull away, Scully hooked an arm around her neck and pulled her back. Scully opened her mouth and touched her warm tongue to Kaz's lips. They parted, and soon, amidst the cold snow and light arctic breeze that surrounded them, they created their own heat. They kissed for several long, satisfying minutes, their mouths clinging to each other as their tongues met in the middle, stroking gently and lovingly.

When they eventually parted, Kaz bent to touch her forehead to Scully's, meeting the cold fire of her lover's captivating blue eyes with her own warm, rich brown ones. "Scully," she said, "I have a Christmas present for you."

"I got one for you too, Kaz."

Kaz explained herself, "I mean, I have one to put under the tree, and I have one that's just for you."

Scully smiled just a little, "I know. I got a 'cover' present for you, too. But the real one is in my pocket right now."

Kaz leaned back and laughed out loud, "So is mine. Do you want to wait, or can we have an early Christmas?"

Scully didn't answer, but pulled her mitten off and reached into the pocket of her parka. Kaz did the same, and each produced a small wrapped box. Kaz bent to kiss Scully chastely on the cheek as she held out her box. Scully blushed a little and held out her own. They opened them together, and each gasped in surprise as they realized they had purchased almost identical gifts for each other.

Scully's gift was a gold bracelet. A mist covered her eyes as she realized it perfectly matched the chain of the small gold cross she wore around her neck. Kaz had obviously studied it while she had slept. It was beautiful.

Kaz's gift was a necklace, a beautiful chain of delicate silver links. They exchanged a look of pleasant surprise for a moment, then smiled warmly at each other.

"Great minds think alike," Scully said as she lifted the bracelet from the box. "I was going to get gold to match your uniform trim, but I noticed all of your jewelry is silver...and it looks so good with your skin."

Kaz said nothing, just smiled happily at her.

Scully held the chain out to its giver, "Will you put it on for me?"

"I'd love to," Kaz replied, taking the chain and wrapping it around Scully's wrist. As she finished, she lifted the hand and kissed the back of it. She held Scully's small hand for a moment, rubbing it between both her larger ones to warm the cold fingers. Reluctantly, she returned it to its owner, then unbuttoned her jacket so that Scully could hang her own gift around her neck.

Scully brushed off a stump, "Here, sit down."

Kaz took the seat, feeling Scully's powerful presence behind her. Cold metal touched the top of her chest, just below her collarbone. It grew warmer as it became accustomed to its new home. Scully's fingers worked the clasp at the back of her neck, lightly brushing the sensitive skin and sending chills down her spine. Then she felt soft lips on the delicate skin. She warmed instantly.

Scully wrapped her arms around Kaz's chest and rested her chin on top of soft, slightly wavy brown hair. They looked out over the small stream surrounded by the purity of fresh snow.

"Thank you," Kaz whispered, raising her hands to cover Scully's.

"No, Kaz," Scully replied, kissing the crown of her lover's head, "thank you. Thank you for falling asleep at the Georgetown Law Library. Thank you for looking so damned sexy in that uniform. Thank you for showing me your studio. Thank you for being so wonderful...and thank you for summoning up the nerve to kiss me. You've made me happier than I've ever been in my life. I love you, Anne Louise Kazmerowski."

Unseen tears of joy ran down Kaz's face and dripped off her trembling chin. "I love you too, Dana Katherine Scully. I love you more than I thought I could ever love anyone."

They stood there, watching the water from the brook flow by, content in the stillness of the natural surroundings. They stood that way, enjoying the presence of one another, for a long time.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

2:44 p.m.

They opened the door to the cabin and they quickly stepped in. The pair removed their jackets and shoes and quickly made for the living room and the blazing fire in the hearth. They were cold and a little tired in the way only vacations and lots of snow can make a person tired. The combination had been deadly. Apparently, it had been deadly for Mulder, too, how lay snoring softly on the couch, his outfit entirely different from what he'd worn outside in the morning.

Scully went upstairs to change wet socks while Kaz wandered the small house in search of Mrs. Scully. She found her sitting at the dining room table in the chair closest to the windows of the little alcove.

"Hello, Mrs. Scully. What are you doing?"

Maggie, who had been gazing out the window with a placid expression turned to her, "Do you have a place, Anne, where you can go just look at something--some mountain or tree or even a statue, a work of man? A place that is so beautiful, so perfect, that you never want to look away? You feel so calm, so at ease, I guess 'balanced' is the word I'm looking for." She nodded, more to herself than to her listener, "You feel that, by looking at something beautiful, at one of God's natural wonders, you can regain your harmony and balance. Do you have a place like that, Anne?"

Kaz smiled knowingly and softly at her, "I have many places like that, some are in the natural world, some are man-made, but beauty is in both, isn't it?"

Maggie nodded, turning back to the window, but obviously wanting Kaz to continue.

"I can spend hours, no--days, wandering a museum, looking at the beauty that we humans have created with our hands. And I see things much more beautiful than anything a mere man can create when I look at the simplest stream, the barest patch of woodland, the plainest of meadows."

She realized Mrs. Scully was not yet ready to respond, so she continued, simply because it appeared as if the older woman merely wanted to listen to her voice. "Sometimes, late at night, I wander down to the Reflection Pool and look up at the lights on the Monument. I hold my eyes open until tears blur my vision and distort the image, making it something new altogether. New beauty formed from old beauty, and something that is only mine, something only I can see.

"At home, I had a spot I could drive to on the coast. From there, I could sit for hours staring at the surf as it pounded the shore in great crashing waves. The ocean is a beautiful sight, one accompanied by smells and sounds and the breeze across your face, lifting your hair magically off of your neck and tickling your scalp with its fresh, tangy sea scent. I would sit there and regain my balance."

"What puts you in harmony, Mrs. Scully?" she asked, already knowing the answer, but wanting to let her companion to put it into words.

Maggie's eyes remained on the scene out the window, and Kaz followed the line of her sight, now studying it more closely. Snow clung to the thin pine trees like thick white frosting and curdled on the ground like beaten egg whites. Kaz let her eyes wander up the gentle slope that led up a small hill dotted by a mixture of huge green pines and bare, leafless oaks. She had to admit it was quite a sight, something very peaceful and soothing.

"In the summertime, this whole area is painted in greens and browns, and every summer when I'm here I think of how it was in the winter, coated in white and sparkling in the winter sun. Every winter I reminisce about the summertime, when dense green overtakes the hill once more, electric and full of life. I watch the cycle of life in this miniature valley, and I wonder at the simplicity within the complexity. I sit here each time I visit. I look out this window at my favorite view in the whole world. It's almost like a meditation site for me. I stare out my window, and hours fly by, but when I look away, I always feel better."

Maggie turned back to her, looking into her brown eyes with shiny hazel ones that were full of maternal warmth. The older woman reached out and, to Kaz's surprise, took her hand and squeezed it. Maggie's hands were soft and smooth and warm, and Kaz smiled at her, squeezing them back.

They both turned to look out the window, neither seeing Dana Scully, who stood in the shadows just beyond the entranceway to the kitchen. She had listened to the entire exchange, and now smiled as she wiped a small tear from her eye. Her heart expanded with love for the two women in the kitchen, and her mind turned over the problem of introducing the true role of one to the other.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kaz gave Mrs. Scully's hand a final squeeze before excusing herself and retiring to the upstairs room for a nap. Scully had snuck back up unobserved as her mother and her girlfriend shared their special moment. She now lay on top of the covers with a huge afghan wrapped around her. Kaz smiled at her as she walked in, but made no move to join her beneath the blanket.

Instead, she crossed over to the closet and pulled out a thin, flatish case she'd brought along. It was large and square. In her other hand Kaz now held a small tackle box, like the kind used by fisherman. Scully said nothing about them when she saw them loaded into the car last night, and still didn't question their appearance.

There was a small desk in the room with a hard wooden chair for its occupant. Kaz plopped herself down and drew out a large sketch pad from the flat case. She opened the tackle box and selected a fine-tipped black marker.

Scully watched as she reached behind her to her things on the dresser, rummaged through her make-up bag, (which held very little make-up), and emerged with a small black case. Popping the case open, she removed a pair of wire-rimmed glasses, silver of course, and put them on before bending to begin her work.

After about ten minutes of Scully watching her left hand fly over the paper in sweeping lines and long arcs, Kaz looked up at the redhead who lay propped on one elbow, looking at her.

"I've decided on your mother's Christmas present," she announced with a small smile.

"You don't have to give my mom anything for Christmas, Kaz. That wasn't the idea in bringing you up here."

"I know, but I brought these things in case I became inspired--which I have."

Scully sat up, smiling cat-like at the dark-complected beauty in the corner of the room. The glasses (which Scully had never seen her wear before, even on that night in the library) were so damn sexy she wanted to jump Kaz right where she stood. She held off only out of respect for the work she was doing and for the two people downstairs.

Instead, she stood and walked behind Kaz, watching the expert hand glide over the paper, leaving black marks in its path. At first, the marks seemed nearly random, unattached. As time wore on, however, she watched a tree, a hill, or a small piece of scrub brush slowly emerge on the page.

She lost track of the time, and had no idea just how long she'd been standing there when Kaz rose to turn on the room's overhead light. Scully blinked then, realizing that it had grown dark.

Kaz sat back down, but didn't immediately set to work again. She inspected the drawing, put a finger to her lips and tapped them a moment, then took a clear straightedge from the tackle box and set back to work.

Within minutes, Scully was no longer looking at a landscape, but a view from inside a glass-paned window. Scully realized the remarkable thing about it was that, in her mind, Kaz had been picturing the window all along. She'd left bare spaces between trees and bushes for the white-painted wooden window panes, she just hadn't drawn them yet. She shook her head, amazed by the deftness of Kaz's left hand and the surety of the mind from which came this exact replica of the view from her mother's dining room window.

After another ten minutes of details and shading, Kaz capped her marker and turned to Scully, still standing behind her. "I'm going to have to sneak down sometime to get the finer points and the colors, but this is a good start."

"It's magnificent, Kaz."

Kaz averted her eyes, embarrassed by the praise, "N-o-o-o. It's okay though." She was silent for a moment, then looked up again, "Scully, can I make a sketch of you?"

A slow smile spread over Scully's face, and she bent her head for a quick kiss, mindful of not bumping Kaz's glasses, but they'd been turning her on since they'd been donned. Kaz briefly touched her tongue to Scully's, feeling the instantaneous response in her midsection.

"Where do you want me to sit?"

Biting back the sexual innuendo that immediately jumped to the forefront of her mind, Kaz replied, "How about next to the window. Lean against it, facing me, and cross your arms over your chest."

"Like this?" Scully asked.

Kaz nodded, moving her chair to the center of the room, just beyond the end of the bed. "Now think about quantum physics or why Mulder is the way he is or something. Something enigmatic and unexplainable, like Big Blue. Think of something like that."

Momentarily, Scully gave her a skeptical look, which she enjoyed almost as much as the one she was trying to evoke from the redhead. Scully's face blanked for a second, then came up with just what she wanted.

"Oh yeah," Kaz said, swallowing hard, "just like that. That's perfect."

The look on Scully's face was pensive, her lips were pursed just a little as she contemplated life's mysteries. Just as Kaz's glasses had turned Scully on, this pose was one that it all the right buttons for Kaz. It captured Scully's deep analytical processes, her intelligence, her spark of skepticism. Kaz had fallen in love with Scully's mind as well as her body, a mind that worked so differently than her own, yet somehow came to many of the same conclusions.

At the same time, this pose and the expression on Scully's face were gracefully beautiful, capturing all of the physical attributes Kaz loved as well.

Kaz's hand began to move across the paper, this time using a dark pencil. Occasionally, there would be an erasure, a blow on the paper, and a line remade. Kaz's intent gaze alternated between the paper and her subject, who leaned slightly against the wall in the provocative low-necked sweater and blue jeans. Scully watched her eyes sparkle with delight and concentration as she worked.

Suddenly there was a knock at the door that startled them both.

"Stay put," Kaz instructed as she quickly put the window-scene into her flat black portfolio case, then settled back in the chair facing Scully. "Come in," she called to the knocker.

Mulder very hesitantly opened the door and peeked his head inside. Scully remained still but met his eyes, trying not to laugh at the nervous expression on his face.

"What's wrong, Mulder? Afraid you were interrupting something?"

He smirked, "Well, yeah, I kind of thought maybe..."

"Thought, or hoped?" Kaz teased, her eyes never wavering between the paper and her subject.

Scully snorted through her nose, losing her thoughtful stare.

"That's okay," Kaz told her, "I'm almost done."

Mulder came to peer over her shoulder. She could smell his Old Spice cologne. It made her smile as she shaded Scully's hair and face. Her father used to wear Old Spice, and she enjoyed the association between the two men. She though her father would have liked Fox Mulder.

"Oh wow," was all he could say as he watched the details of the sketch emerge.

Soon the room's lighting reflected off the figure on the paper in just the right way, the creases of her jeans took shape, and her hair hung just perfectly down her neck and behind her ears.

Kaz lowered the pad and looked up at Scully, "Okay, I think it's done."

She crossed the room to stand behind Kaz's left shoulder, laying a gentle hand on it, while Mulder's larger form dominated the space behind her right. Scully gazed down to see a casually-dressed woman, her arms confidently, expectantly crossed over her chest and a look of tough, determined resolve on her face. She was thinking, yet you got the impression the answer was just one more step away, as though nothing could elude the woman in the picture. It was lovely drawing of a vibrant woman.

It took a moment for the knowledge to actually sink in. This was her. At least, it was Kaz's rendition of her. Was this how Kaz saw her? Is this how she looked to other people? Gazing once again at the woman's eloquent face and how much was conveyed by this simple expression, Scully got a rare glimpse of how she was perceived by those around her. Not just by any person, either. This was what Kaz saw, and it was obviously a pose she liked.

As if Scully were not even there, she held the picture out in front of her, "Isn't she beautiful?" she asked specifically to Mulder.

He looked at his petite yet powerful partner for a moment, then switched his gaze back to the picture, "Yes, she certainly is."

Scully caught him shooting her another look and smiled bashfully, "You two are a little biased," she said, squeezing Kaz's shoulder to let her know she appreciated the bias.

Kaz didn't even attempt to speak, she merely stared at the depiction of the endearing expression that was now immortalized forever. She could not pull her eyes away from it, even when she heard Mrs. Scully's voice call them down for dinner. She heard Mulder leave the room, then felt Scully's other hand reach for her right shoulder.

A voice called from just behind her ear, "Thank you, Kaz."

She swallowed and finally found her voice, "This wasn't for you, Scully. This was for me. I've been wanting to draw you since we met, but was afraid to ask."

"Don't be," Scully replied, kissing her cheek.

Kaz chuckled, over her stint of seriousness and back to herself, "Then do you want to pose for a nude?"

Scully gently pushed her head to one side, "Yeah, right..." she thought about it for a moment, then said, "On second thought...maybe I'd like that."

Kaz turned, grinning and meeting her sapphire eyes, "Now you're talking."

Scully peeked at the hallway, assuring herself they were alone, then bent to kiss Kaz lightly, getting only the slightest taste of what she craved.

"Come on," she said, reaching for Kaz's free hand. "Let's go eat."

Kaz laid the sketchbook down on the bed and followed her out the door.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

10:35 p.m.

The evening was a relaxing affair, each full from the meal, they chatted amiably in the front room, watched the fire die, and went to bed sometime after ten. Mulder hugged everyone, including Kaz, before trotting upstairs for the night.

Mrs. Scully remained with the two women for a few moments, watching the lights sparkle on the tree before giving them each an affectionate squeeze and reminding them to turn out the lights before heading upstairs. They assured her that they'd batten down the hatches and watched her walk up the stairs and to bed.

Kaz stood and crossed to the bay window, looking out on the snow outside, "This place is great, Scully. Have you had it long?"

"My mom and dad bought it a couple years before he retired, so, maybe eight years now."

"And does your mother come up here often?"

"Not as often as she used to when Dad was around. They used to come up and stay for weeks at a time. He fished in a little lake about five miles up the road, and she just enjoyed the time with him. When he was an active Captain, he used to be gone for months at a time, so she missed out on a lot of the day-to-day sharing most couples have."

"I can see why they'd want to come up here to be alone, get away. The solitude of the place is amazing. It's so peaceful up here."

Scully came up close and put an arm around her waist. She leaned her head against Kaz's shoulder as they looked out into the night, lit dimly by the snow. "Come on, let's go to bed."

Kaz smiled at her, "Okay."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

3:10 am

Kaz lay lightly sleeping on her back. Scully was pressed up next to her side, the exquisite head of flaming hair in the crook of her shoulder. She savored these moments, when she woke in the middle of the night, as she had every night they'd spent together, to listen to Scully's breath, to feel the rise and fall of her chest, to watch her sleep.

She dozed peacefully, well aware of the person beside her. Then, she felt movement over her flannel shirt, over her chest. Small, warm fingers played at her neckline, then slowly worked back down to the buttons of her pajama top. They lazily unfastened one, then another. Her ears were ringing and her pulse quickening, but fear tore at her heart as well.

"Scully," she whispered to the sleeping woman beside her who was definitely *not* sleeping, "we can't. It's not that I don't want to, but we can't."

Scully's hand never even hesitated, but continued to work on the buttons, "We can if we're quiet. Can you be quiet, Kaz?"

Kaz swallowed. She felt the fingers move under the cotton fabric and graze a sensitive nipple. Scully's touch was electric, it sent shocks throughout her body. Her eyes wanted to roll to the back of her head. Scully had finished her first task and now was pushing the sides of the top away, exposing her bare breasts. She wanted Scully so bad she could barely speak, but felt this was neither the time nor place.

She swallowed again, "I can be quiet, but still...I don't think we should."

Scully's fingers circled an aureole, making Kaz shake and her breath grow shallow. "If you help me, I can be quiet, too," the agent said to her companion in a low, bedroom voice, "I need to feel your bare skin, Kaz. I need to make you tremble with desire. I can't wait for two more days. I need to taste you again. I've been aching for that taste ever since the other night. I need it now."

Somehow, Kaz managed to speak, "I'm glad I ignited an insatiable need for oral sex in you, Scully, but your mother is right down the hall, and Mr. Insomnia is, like, forty feet away."

Silky lips pressed themselves against her neck, went down her throat, and finally made their way to the top of her breast; then the voice that drove her to fits of passion was in her ear. "This bed is silent as a stone, and they won't hear a thing. Where's your sense of adventure?"

"I lose it when I think of your mother storming in here, seeing us doing a '69' or something."

Scully stopped in mid-kiss. Kaz felt the smile spread over her face and groaned softly.

"No, Scully," she said, "forget I said that. I didn't mean to give you any ideas."

"It's a wonderful idea, Kaz. Let's do it," she said before kissing each of Kaz's taut nipples, giving them a little flick with her tongue for added incentive.

"Oh God, Scully!" Kaz whispered in agony, able to hold out no longer. "Just be quiet, please. I don't want to get busted by your mom."

She sat up and yanked the shirt away, then disposed of the boxer shorts as well. She hastily unbuttoned Scully's top and attacked a pink nipple as they rid Scully of her blue satin p.j.s.

Now, both lay naked in the big, sturdy bed. Remembering their vow of silence, they tried hard to keep moans and pants to a minimum. They whispered to each other in the dark, but emitted no louder noise. Kaz sucked hard at Scully's breast, but Scully pulled her up and their tongues immediately intertwined as they frantically sought to swallow the other whole.

Eager hands were everywhere, in hair, on breasts, hips, and thighs. Each caressed the silky skin beneath their fingertips as if it were again the first time.

Scully pushed Kaz onto her back, then straddled her. The warm wetness of Scully's core on her stomach drove her wild, but she grew hotter still when a drop of Scully's juice began to run slowly down the right side of her stomach.

Their mouths were still locked, and jaws worked frantically as their tongues seemed to need more and rougher contact. Finally, after several minutes of this growing torture, Scully pulled away. She squirmed on Kaz's firm, hard stomach for a minute, biting her lip to stifle a moan of pleasure. Kaz quickly reached up to pull her back, then brought a hand between them, inserting two fingers into Scully as she stifled moans with a hot mouth over her partner's. Scully thrust against her hand, and Kaz brought her lover off by placing a thumb on her aching clitoris and simply letting Scully move against it.

Scully moaned into her mouth, but Kaz kept her quiet with an agile, roving tongue that sucked on Scully's as they writhed together in the bed. She held it there until Scully came with a tight stiffening followed by a tremendous shudder and a gasp as she collapsed on Kaz's chest. Kaz held her while she came down, cradling her smaller body as though holding the most precious of jewels. In her mind, she was.

Then Kaz heard a voice in her ear, "Are you ready?"

Kaz, who still couldn't believe this was happening, nodded an affirmative, and gave a little 'thank you' to those above.

Scully had tried '69' only once, and the results had been disappointing. The man, her college boyfriend, had been all torso, making their fit far from ideal. In addition, as soon as he came, that was the end of it, and she got little gratification our of the encounter. She'd resisted the idea ever since, not that it presented itself too often.

With Kaz, though, it seemed wild and exciting. Though Kaz was at least six inches taller than she, it was mostly legs, and knowing Kaz the way she did, she had the feeling this encounter would be far from disappointing.

She lifted herself from Kaz's chest and turned, then scooted backwards and lowered her head between Kaz's long, olive-toned legs. She eagerly entered the dark patch of curls and parted Kaz's lips with her tongue. They were wet and tasted divine, just as she'd remembered. She nipped at one side, then the other, feeling this tender flesh before beginning.

She felt Kaz's hands on her ass, kneading the cheeks tenderly, kissing them softly. Then she felt hot breath on her open and exposed pussy, and a gentle kiss on her clit before Kaz's tongue slid into her.

She had to dive in herself to stifle a cry of ecstasy. She tried to set a slow pace as she explored the inside of her lover with her wet tongue, but it was hard to concentrate with the sensations going on in her own body. She was still tingling from her first orgasm, but knew Kaz would have little trouble sending her over again. She could come ten times under Kaz's clever mouth and expert tongue.

This was no disappointment, either. Kaz once again worked her magic. Scully tried to give back all she was being given, going on pure instinct, something she knew Kaz loved.

Kaz clutched Scully's hips tighter in lieu of making any noise, partly to let Scully know she was in heaven, and partly to keep the smaller woman still. Scully was squirming wildly on her, making the job a little difficult.

They felt the pleasure in themselves, and in each other, build. Kaz worked from core to clit and back, while Scully used her thumb to push the pleasure button and kept her mouth over Kaz's wet hole. Their faces, deep within the folds of their lover, mostly stifled their cries. When they came, together, Kaz had to hold very tight to her convulsing partner, who shook and shuddered with a tremendous force for such a small person.

Kaz herself had seldom felt such a powerful orgasm. The increased danger of doing this so close to their sleeping companions and the need for silence had heightened the excitement, making her head spin and the earth tilt beneath her. She was aware only of Scully, whom she still licked at, drinking up the plentiful juices--and wanting to milk every tremor out of her beautiful bedmate. Scully was doing the same to her, and when she finished simply collapsed into Kaz, too exhausted to move.

When Kaz had finished lapping up every drop of Scully's essence, she turned her head a little, kissing and moving her lips languidly over the soft skin of Scully's cheeks. She rubbed her face against them as Scully recovered, her chest heaving against Kaz's stomach.

Eventually, Scully regained her energy, and rolled off, then came fact-to-face with Kaz. They clutched each other tight and entwined their legs, their sweaty bodies gliding easily against each other. Scully found Kaz's lips and kissed them, first the top, then the sensual bottom one, then both together.

"Scully," Kaz whispered between kisses, "I think that was the most earth-shattering, mind-blowing sex I've ever had."

Scully drew herself even closer and found Kaz's amazing tongue once again with her own. They stroked each other, slow dancing in a now-familiar rhythm, their mouths locked tight, their nipples pressed together, sparks flying through their bodies as they tasted each other.

Finally, Scully pulled away, brushing the hair back off of Kaz's sweaty face, "So, do you still think that was a bad idea?"

Kaz giggled, then shut her lips tight, drawing them into a thin line to keep the laughter inside. When she had it contained, she said, "I think I've changed my mind."

Scully kissed her again, pulling her bottom lip between gently nuzzling teeth. Thought Anne Kazmerowski had been sexually confused for over four years, she now knew exactly what she wanted. She wanted to spend the rest of her life with this brilliant, sparkling, beautiful woman named Dana Katherine Scully.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sunday, December 24
6:20 am

Scully slipped out of bed to take a shower before anyone else arose. She folded herself within the warm comfort of her white terrycloth bathrobe, kissed her sleeping lover on the forehead, and quietly left the room to shower.

When she returned, Kaz had her pajamas on again and was sleepily robbing one eye with the heel of her hand, a gesture Scully was becoming quite familiar with. She smiled and approached, bending down for a quick kiss. Kaz surprised her though, by bringing a hand up behind her ear and delving into her wet hair. The newly-promoted Commander kissed her deeply and thoroughly before releasing her.

Scully kept her face mere inches from her lover's, "Now *that* is a 'good morning.'"

Kaz grinned into her face and kissed the tip of her nose, "It sure as hell is. Merry Christmas Eve, Scully."

"Same to you," she replied after kissing her once more. "You'd better go get cleaned up, sailor."

A grin preceded Kaz's movement from the bed. She grabbed her robe and a towel before going down the hall to shower.

Scully put on khaki pants and an old Terrapins sweatshirt over a turtleneck. Looking in the mirror to inspect her appearance, she realized this was the same baggy sweatshirt she'd worn to the Georgetown Law Library on the day she met Kaz. The thought made her smile as she changed the sheets on their bed.

She was re-making the big bed when Kaz re-entered the room. The eagle-eyed officer noticed the shirt right away.

"I never knew something so huge could be so damn sexy," she said quietly as she ran a towel over her head.

Scully came up to her and grabbed the towel. She guided Kaz to the freshly-made bed and sat her down, then gently dried the dark brown hair herself. Kaz turned so that her back was to Scully, and the smaller woman stood behind her with the towel. When she finished her drying job, she retrieved Kaz's brush from her bag and combed the soft, dark hair. Though still damp, the wave kept it in place as Scully brushed it back over the top of her head and down to the spot it naturally wanted to fall to; just two inches below her small ears.

Although the job was sufficiently done within four or five strokes, Scully continued to brush it, "Tell me something about yourself, Kaz. Something I don't know."

"Like what?"

"Oh, anything. Something you can do, or something about your childhood, a story from when you were a kid. Just tell me something I don't already know about you."

"Well...um...okay, I got something. I can surf."

Scully's eyes widened, though Kaz could not see them, "You mean, in the ocean-type surfing?"

"Yeah, hang ten and all that." She stuck out her thumb and pinkie and shook her hand in the 'hang loose' sign. "My cousins live in Monterey, which is a couple of hours from Frisco. I used to go down there a lot in the summertime. I never had brothers and sisters, so my cousins were kind of a big deal to me. They taught me to surf when I was, oh, about ten. They really got me hooked on it. After I learned how to do it, I bugged my mom to take me down there all the time. Then, after I saved up to get my car, I drove down there every weekend during the summers."

Scully chuckled at a memory of something Kaz had said last weekend, "Is that the car you bought from your jock strap sales?"

She felt the shake of suppressed laughter through Kaz's shoulders. "Yes. A 1969 cherry-red Mustang convertible."

"Sounds like you were in love with the car."

"I was, or, I should say, I am. I still drive it. In fact, he's sitting in the garage at my house, and he's probably upset because I'm neglecting him."

Scully stopped brushing and laid her hands on Kaz's shoulders, turning her slightly, "You do not drive a red convertible Mustang to the Navy Yard every day."

Kaz's eyes were sparkling with glee as she replied, "Yes, I do. It still has all the original accessories too, right down to the factory-made AM radio. I love it and I treat it like a spoiled child. My dad and I used to work on it when I first got it. He taught me all about how to fix it and everything. It's a sweet car. I'll take you for a spin someday. Wait until the summer when we can put the top down and cruise. It's the best."

Scully shook her head at Kaz's excitement over her car, "You're full of surprises, do you know that?"

Kaz didn't answer that, but instead turned sideways, still wearing only the robe. She sat cross-legged and patted the empty space in front of herself. Scully sat facing her.

"It's your turn to tell me one of your surprises, Dana."

Scully's look turned skeptical, "Dana?"

Kaz smiled, "Just wanted to see what you'd do if I called you that. I like your name, especially when your mother says it. It's a beautiful name, but it doesn't feel right calling you Dana. Can I stick with Scully?"

The demure redhead smiled at her, "Call me whatever you want. You could probably call me shithead right now and I'd come running."

Kaz covered her mouth to stifle a laugh, "You'd better not say things like that. I might turn them into pet named when I'm in one of my playful moods."

"I like your name too. Anne. It's simple, yet very distinguished."

"Oh, distinguished, is it?"

"Yes," Scully answered with a nod, "It's a perfect name for you...but still, after screaming your nickname in the throes of passion, I don't think I can make the switch."

Kaz bent forward, capturing Scully's perfect lips between her own. She held the lower one for a second, savoring it before giving it back to its owner. "I don't think anyone's ever screamed my name before, Scully. And if they have, its never before had the effect on me that you do when you say it like that. I don't want you to switch."

Scully gave her a look of disbelief. With her electric touch and magical tongue, Scully was fairly certain Kaz's name had been screamed by more than a few people. "You know, I have a hard time believing that, Kaz."

The sheepish grin was back on her face, "Aw, thanks Scully. It's nice to know I found a satisfied customer."

Scully punched her playfully in the arm, "Oh I'll bet you've satisfied a quite a few 'customers' with those lips."

Through the dark complexion of Kaz's olive skin, Scully could see the slightest blush on her face as she shook her head, "I need to be honest with you, Scully. On that first night, I said I hadn't had a relationship in over a year. Well, it's actually been much longer than that." Scully watched as Kaz examined her hands, "I haven't been too active in the dating department in a long time."

Scully reached out to touch her hand. She entwined their fingers and held them tight, "It's okay, Kaz. I've been pretty much that same way. With my work, my lifestyle, the way I am, I've hardly had a date in the past three years."

Reluctantly, Kaz looked up to meet her eyes, "I could say all of those things too, but they would only be part of the truth." Her eyes fell once again to their hands, still entwined, "You know the Navy, Scully. It's 90% men, and, at one time or another, I think almost every guy I've worked with has tried to hit on me at one point or another. And at every lewd comment, every suggestive remark, I make a joke, usually at their expense. It gets a big laugh out of the rest of the guys and has made everyone more open and friendly with me. They make the comments on purpose now just to see what I'll come up with in return. Its become banter. I'm just 'one of the boys' now. The only difference being I look better in a skirt than they do.

She ran a hand through her hair and let out a deep breath, "What I'm driving at, Scully, is that I've turned down almost every opportunity I've had for a date since I started with the JAG Corps. I've gone out occasionally, and usually only on a few dates before I lose interest and want to paint more than see the guy. You see...I've been so confused for so long."

Scully squeezed her hand, wanting to reassure the young woman who was trying so hard to tell her one of the things close to her heart, "How do you feel now, Kaz?"

Through eyes that were rimmed with red, the dark-eyed woman replied, "For awhile now, I've known that I am attracted to both men and to women, but I was still not sure what I wanted. That was my problem. But now, I'm not confused anymore, because there is only one person I look at, only one person I see, only one person I want to be with, and that's you."

This time Scully leaned forward, gently touching her lips to Kaz's. They were soft and yielding, just like the first time they'd kissed, and they spent several long moments simply touching their lips together before opening their mouths to each other.

Abruptly, they heard a door down the hall opening, and quickly parted, each giving the other a pained look at their need for secrecy. They were silent as they listened to the footsteps recede down the stairs.

When all was silent again, Kaz quietly said, "How are you feeling, Scully? You haven't said much about this, and I know it's a big change for you."

Scully looked down at their linked hands. She turned Kaz's so it lay on top of hers, then brought it up to kiss the back. Kaz smiled at the gold bracelet dangling from her lover's wrist.

Scully gathered her thoughts for a moment before speaking. "You're right, this is a big change in a person's life. On Sunday night, I left your house after spending the entire weekend with you. As I drove home, I felt a tightening in my chest. 'What was it?' I asked myself, but I wasn't sure. I thought it was guilt or remorse of perhaps the burden of 'sin.' I thought maybe my subconscious was telling me that I was a freak of nature, that something was inherently wrong with me."

Kaz looked intently into her eyes, hanging on every word that was spoken. She was glad Scully was being honest about how she felt, even if the words were painful to hear. She needed her friend's honesty as much as she needed her love.

Scully continued, "I thought about myself for a minute, and about my sexuality, something I'd never questioned before. I've never been homophobic, nor had I ever been propositioned by a woman, so the issue never really arose. I was aware of it in others, but never had my own experience with it.

"But in the library that day, as soon as I saw you, I felt something. It was something I'd never felt, and at the time I had no idea what that feeling was. As we spent more time together, I began to figure it out, and by the time you kissed me that night, I knew that was exactly what I wanted."

Scully clasped Kaz's dark hand between her smaller ones. She enjoyed looking at Kaz's dusky tone, especially when standing out against her fairer skin. The contrast was beautiful, and she knew Kaz enjoyed it too. It went right along with her whole artistic 'blending' theme she'd explained over dinner on their first night together.

Again, Scully continued, "My chest hurt when I drove home Sunday night; I missed you already. I didn't want to be going home, away from you." She wet her lips before continuing, "I, like you, am usually attracted to men. It now seems, that at the ripe old age of 32, I've realized that I am attracted to women as well." She cocked her head to one side and smiled at her companion, "Or, I should say, I'm attracted to at least one woman. The way I feel about you, Kaz, I've never felt about anyone in my life. I'd always scoffed at the romantic concept of 'love at first sight.' Actually, I can still disclaim the notion of it, because I don't think I fell in love with you at first sight. It wasn't until that next morning when you stood in the kitchen and held me from behind. I can still feel your arms around me and hear your voice in my ear. Do you remember what you said?"

Kaz's eyes were full and about to brim over. It was apparent she couldn't even speak at this point. Scully reached out and carefully wiped the tears from her dark, beautiful face.

"I'll tell you what you said, Kaz. You told me that you'd found someone that you liked better than you liked drawing pictures. By that point, I could tell that art was your love, and by saying you'd prefer to spend your time with me rather than in your studio, that meant so much to me. I don't think I realized it then, but that was when I fell in love with you."

This time, Kaz reached out a trembling hand and, with her thumb, wiped a tear from Scully's face. Surprised, Scully blinked, and more tears fell. She hadn't been aware of them, but now let them fall. It was the first time the force of a *positive* emotion had ever brought tears to her eyes, but she was so happy, and so glad to be here, sharing her feelings with the one she loved, that she hadn't even noticed the tears.

Kaz leaned in, needing to hold her. They hugged each other tight, rocking slightly as the emotional tears subsided.

Kaz put her mouth close to Scully's ear, "I love you, too. Thank you for everything you've given me, Scully."

They clung to each other, content to hold and be held, until they heard another set of footsteps in the hall, this one heavy and leading to the bathroom. They both knew it was Mulder, and broke apart with a smile.

Scully took in Kaz's robe, slightly damp hair, and red eyes. "We got to get you some clothes. Can't have you going around in a bathrobe all day."

Kaz sniffed and wiped away her last tear. They got up off the bed and went to her duffel bag. She let Scully pick her outfit, and ended up wearing dark blue jeans, t-shirt, and a multi-colored crewneck sweater full of blues and greens, browns and reds. It was one of her favorites, and now apparently one of Scully's.

Near the bottom of the duffel was a plain black baseball cap, a pro-back with elastic lining that stretched it to different sized heads. Scully held it up, a question in her eyes.

Kaz smiled as she explained, "It's the hat I wear when I draw at home. It's stupid, but I'm really attached to it. I don't feel right if I leave home for more than a day or so and don't have it with me."

Scully walked up and set it on her head. Her hair was mostly dry now, but still the hat looked funny. Then, Kaz lifted it and turned it around backwards. Now Scully saw it. The hat was perfect. It swept the hair off her face and made it curl just under her ears. It was charming, and made Kaz look very young. Scully loved it.

"You're wearing it," she announced.

"No way!" Kaz protested, sure her companion was only joking. "It's dorky-looking, I usually only wear it around my house. Ever since I was a kid I loved to wear baseball caps, but I don't wear them out in public."

Scully pointed to her own chest and firmly said, "*I'm* dressing you today, and *I* say it stays on. Which reminds me, are your glasses just for reading, or all the time?"

Sheepish again, as though she'd been caught, she said, "Um, I'm supposed to wear them all the time, but I usually forget."

"You're wearing them today." Scully announced in a voice you just didn't question. Kaz was starting to come to a better understanding of the 'Lucky the dog' story Mrs. Scully had told the day before.

Scully picked the glasses up off the desk and carefully set them on Kaz's face, then fished under the collar of Kaz's sweater to bring out the silver necklace she'd given her. Kaz held still while Scully put in her silver hoops as well and slipped her watch onto her wrist.

"Gee, Scully, are you going to dress me every morning?"

The smaller woman stood on tiptoe to get close to her ear, "If you want me to, I will. I'd love to put you into that dress uniform. But do you know what I'd like even more?"

Kaz swallowed, thinking she knew. Still, she waited, her lips parted, for the answer.

"I'd like to take it off," Scully said seductively before kissing her just below the ear.

She inhaled the scent of soap, Kaz's herbal shampoo, and Kaz's own fresh scent. It reminded her of walks on the beach, fresh ocean breezes, and driftwood. She lingered on the scent, unaware of the slight tremor that ran through her partner's body.

Kaz's hands could hold off no longer and went around Scully's waist to pull her closer. Scully held her, then tipped her head back, looking into Kaz's lens-covered eyes. The glasses were not large, and were held by shiny silver wire-rims. They stood out on her olive-toned face and made Kaz even sexier than she already was.

<If that's possible.> Scully added mentally.

They leaned in for a long, slow kiss. Suddenly there was a knock at the door. Groaning softly, but stepping away, Scully went to answer it. Fox Mulder stood smirking on the other side.

"Am I interrupting?"

With blunt honesty, Scully replied, "Yes," and made to shut the door again.

Mulder popped his head and shoulders in before she could close it all the way. He caught Kaz's broad-shouldered form in the corner.

"Hey Kaz, how you doing this morning?"

Not nearly as blunt nor as baldly honest as Scully, Kaz nodded at him and said, "I'm just fine, how're you, G-man?"

Mulder stepped into the room, as though Kaz's acknowledgment of him was an open invitation. He flopped down on the bed, making each of the women was grateful Scully had the foresight to change the linens. He wanted to tease them, though, so he rolled and stretched on the bed, bouncing a little before settling down to speak.

"I'm fine. So, did you guys sleep well?"

Knowing his tricks, Scully cut to the chase. "What's your point, Mulder?"

"Oh, you know me, Scully, I often have no point. Right now, I'm just trying to be friendly, asking you how your night was."

"Mulder, you *always* have a point, and even though it takes you forever to get to it, all questions circle around it."

Kaz nodded at him in approval, "That's a sound legal tactic. Good work, Mulder old boy."

He winked at her, "Thanks old chap, and by the way, you look great today."

This time, Kaz folded her arms over her chest and gave him a skeptical look, "Flattery will get you nowhere, old bean."

Mulder studied her posture and her expression, "Did you get that look vicariously from her?" He pointed at Scully, "You probably did, it's her favorite, and she bestows it upon me quite often. I like the hat, though, it's cute."

Scully almost sprayed ironic laughter across the room, and she and Kaz exchanged a glance. Mulder, having no idea that a similar 'cute' comment had opened the door to their first romantic encounter, went on in oblivion, trying to repay the women for ganging up on him in the snowball fight yesterday.

"Anyway," he said, "I was just wondering if you slept well, because I woke up a time or two and thought maybe there were some raccoons mating outside or something."

Kaz was horrified by the thought that Mulder had heard them last night, and stayed mute out of dumb shock. Scully, who loved little more than turning the tables on her cocky partner, figuratively rolled up her sleeves and dug in.

"Raccoons, Mulder? Raccoons? I think you know as well as I that raccoons don't mate in December. It's far too cold for the males to sustain their little raccoon erections, isn't it?"

Mulder smirked, "Well, it is damn cold out there. It takes its toll on us guys, you know. But if it wasn't raccoons, what could it have been?" he asked, feigning ignorance, trying hard to embarrass his pretty little partner.

"Don't think I'm going to play your little game, Mulder." She walked up to him, sat down, and put an arm around his shoulders. She leaned in close to him and winked at Kaz, who was starting to pick up on the game. The tall woman came closer too, leaning against the dresser and only mere feet from where they sat.

He definitely didn't expect to hear what next came out of his prim partner's mouth.

"You didn't hear raccoons, Mulder. You heard us, moaning and panting in the midst of wild sexual acts." She looked up at Kaz, "It was probably a lot like something from one of his videos, don't you think?"

Kaz put a hand to her chin and stroked it thoughtfully, then nodded, "You know, I'll bet it was. You were terrific too, Scully. When you did that thing where you--"

"Okay! Okay! Enough," he pleaded, his face beet red and his hands planted firmly over his ears, "I don't need to hear anymore. You win. I give up, you win."

He tried to stand, but the laughing women held him down.

Scully laid her head on his shoulder, "I'm sorry Mulder, but you asked for that."

He gave her a look of mock-indignation, "I *asked* for it? I think you two should have a little mercy on me, if not outright sympathy for me."

Scully did feel a little bad for him, actually. She had this new, exciting relationship, and all he had was a stack of porno mags and a few hundred cheesy skinflicks.

She kissed him on the cheek, and Kaz bent to kiss him on the opposite side. He accepted the kisses, then slapped his leg in frustration.

"Damnit! This is great! The only kisses I've gotten in the last six months, and they're from women I'm never going to sleep with!"

The trio laughed out loud as they made their way downstairs. Each was happy to be here, away from the daily grind of their jobs and their lives back in the city, and happy to be sharing the holidays with each other.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

9:40 am

The three of them cooked a huge breakfast, serving Mrs. Scully first before sitting down themselves. As they ate, they chatted away about Christmases past, the beauty of the Virginia mountains, and the differences between the East and West coasts in December. Then Mulder and Kaz went off on a discussion of pro basketball teams while Scully and her mother talked about Bill Jr. and his family out in San Diego.

Mulder cleared the table as the younger women did the dishes.

As they washed and dried, Kaz leaned over to Scully, "You need to take your mom for a walk or something so I can get a good look out that window."

Scully nodded as she washed, then leaned back over to her, "That's fine. We need to do some mother-daughter bonding anyway."

"Are you feeling bad about keeping her in the dark about us?"

Scully thought about it as she washed a pan. "For now, no. But I know that eventually I'm going to have to tell her. I can't keep this a secret from her for long. Of course, that's assuming this is more than just a fling."

Kaz stopped drying and put a hand on her arm, drawing her gaze, "I don't know how you feel, but for me, this is far more than a fling."

Scully stared into the deep brown pools and instantly felt remorse over her careless words, "I'm sorry, Kaz. I feel the same way. I shouldn't have said that."

"It's okay, Scully. I just want you to know I've never done something like we did. With you, it just happened that way, but it doesn't cheapen the feelings I have for you."

Scully dried her hands and gave Kaz a brief squeeze on the shoulder. "I know. I'd never done that either, and I didn't mean to hurt you by saying that. I know this is more than a fling--but I didn't want to assume anything."

Kaz gave her a smile of forgiveness and of happiness, "If you want to assume something, assume that I want to be with you as long as humanly possible. It hurts to be away from you, Scully. In my office at work, all during this last week, alone at home every night, all the time. Somewhere in my mind, I'm always thinking about you."

Scully had to break away from her gaze, it was so intent and so full of passion. She backed up a step and closed her eyes. "Don't say things like that here, Kaz. It makes me...just don't, or I'll need another cold shower."

Kaz grinned her lopsided grin, which didn't help Scully's predicament in the least. She bent forward, closer to her lover, "But I like to make you hot, Scully. I like to turn you on using nothing more than words."

Scully shivered a little, Kaz's proximity having a giddying effect, "It's--it's just that you're so good at it."

Kaz backed away and picked up her drying towel again. She concentrated on her work, as though the previous conversation had never even taken place. She even whistled as she dried coffee mugs and set them back in their cupboard. Scully turned the water tap on cold for a second and threw her hands under it, hoping that would be enough to do the trick and cool her down. She heard Kaz chuckling behind her and flicked water in the tall, dark brunette's direction.

The officer didn't attempt to retaliate, but only stood there with water trickling down her face and glasses, smiling like a Cheshire Cat.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

10:20 am

Scully took her mother for a long morning walk, leaving a digesting Mulder and an anxious Anne Kazmerowski alone at the cabin.

"So Kaz," Mulder began, raising his eyebrows lewdly as he tried to kid with her, "what should we do, all alone here?"

"Well, I can tell you one thing we *won't* be doing."

He laughed, "Just giving you a hard time, kid."

She frowned, "Kid?"

He came up and punched her playfully on the shoulder, "Yeah, to me you're just a kid. How old are you, anyway?"

Kaz smirked at him, "What, are you afraid your partner's 'robbing the cradle?' Well, don't be. I'm 27, and last I checked, that was well past the age of consent."

She started up the stairs, and, having nothing better to do, he followed her. She gathered her supplies and pulled the landscape out of her portfolio case. Looking at it from over her shoulder, he was suitably impressed. They went down to the kitchen (Mulder still following her like a puppy dog) and sat across from each other. Mulder talked to Kaz as he watched her work, and she alternated her gaze from the view out the window to the paper as her left hand glided easily across the page.

Mulder tentatively asked her about her childhood. He wanted to know what it was like growing up as the child of a professional athlete. Kaz picked up on this curiosity, having run across many men who wanted similar details. It was one of the things that broke the ice with quite a few male colleagues. Her father's Hall Of Fame status, combined with her interest in and knowledge of the sports world, made her something of a female novelty. Women who could talk sports were rare, and most of her Navy buddies loved this quality in her. Although she never flaunted the fact that her dad was a ballplayer, and was usually rather shy about it, the name was unusual, and quite a few people she met instantly made the association.

As she worked, Kaz told Mulder about how she sometimes sat in the dugout during a homestand and collected discarded bats and helmets.

"You were a bat-girl? Did you get to wear a uniform?"

She clicked her tongue, "Of course. It even had my name on it, though it's so long it ran all the way across my 10-year-old back and onto my sleeves. I used to love going straight from school to the park, and during batting practice, some of the other kids and I used to shag flies too. It was a lot of fun, a great way to grow up. I was very lucky."

"So you were a tomboy, right?"

"I guess. I hated to wear dresses and all that. But now, I wear a skirt almost every day. I love my khakis, because they have pants, but they don't looks as nice as the whites, so I usually wear the whites."

"You look very nice in that dress uniform."

Kaz smiled as she grabbed a new shade of green and began to shade the trees. "So I've heard, thank you."

He scratched his unshaven chin and asked, "With a dad who played pro ball, you must have been a player too. Especially judging from that arm."

She chuckled, thinking of the little dance he did trying to get the snow out of his wet collar the day before. "I played up until high school, then I got hurt and kind of had to give it up."

"What happened?"

"My senior year, we made the state playoffs, which is a bigtime affair in California. We definitely love our softball out there. My team was in the semifinals and were up against the perennial number one team. To make a long story short, I was hit by a pitch that broke...no, shattered my right hand. The pitcher was a hard thrower, one of the best around. Anyway, that ended my softball career."

"You never came back?"

She held her right hand out for him to see. At first, it looked fairly normal, but upon closer examination he saw long, pencil-thin lines near the knuckles and a few larger, deeper scars on her hand, just below the last two fingers. She curled the hand, and after a few seconds, was finally able to make it into a tight fist. Mulder could tell it took effort.

She looked up at him, "This is three surgeries later, and I still have pins in it. Damn things make the airport metal detector go off. The doctor said the pins are mostly what's holding my hand together. But that's not what bothers me. What bothers me is if it had been my left hand. I would barely be able to write, let alone do something like this." She waved her hand down at the picture she was working on.

"I was recruited to play at Cal, but every time I got in the batter's box I'd start thinking about my hand, my left one, and what my life would be like if the same thing happened to it. For me, not being able to draw would be devastating, especially if I couldn't draw because I'd been hurt playing a game. So I'd get in the cage and I'd start sweating and could barely stay in there for a full count. It was an irrational fear, but..." she shrugged, "I lost my nerve, I guess."

Mulder shook his head, "No, you didn't lose your nerve. You made a choice." He peered to look at the landscape she was almost finished with, "And it looks to me like you made the right decision."

She smiled at him, thankful for his reassurance, then shrugged again, like it was no big deal, "Doesn't matter much anyway, after that, I had no backhand."

Mulder smiled at that, then watched her in silence for a few minutes.

Kaz looked up at him over the silver rims of her glasses and stated, "You're not finished with your questions."

For once, Mulder's look was a little sheepish, "Well, I wasn't sure if I'd have the nerve to ask them."

She bent back down to the paper, feeling he'd be more comfortable if she wasn't making eye contact, "Go ahead. I know you're curious about me. I'm seeing your best friend, yet you hardly know anything about me, right?"

"Well, it's not that--well, you know--I..."

Kaz smiled as she selected another shade of green, "I understand. What do you want to know?"

Mulder cleared his throat, obviously nervous about this encounter. Ever since Scully had so baldly announced that they were involved he'd been burning with questions for Anne Kazmerowski. Now that the chance had arisen, his mouth went dry and his palms grew damp.

Smiling like the Mona Lisa, Kaz prompted him, "You better ask now, because I'm almost done here, and when I finish, You'll leave me no choice but to look at you while you're doing the asking."

He almost groaned. The last thing he needed was her looking at him while he asked these personal questions. It was strange, in a way, because he asked people personal questions all the time during investigations and never thought twice about it, but the mere idea of asking his partner's 'girlfriend' about her sexual history scared him to death. He took a deep breath and found his voice.

"Are you a lesbian?"

The Mona Lisa smile remained and the hand gliding easily over the page never wavered, "No, I don't consider myself a lesbian. I suppose, if you wanted to label me, put me in a group, I guess you'd have to say I'm bisexual."

Mulder pursed his lips a little, thinking about that, "Do you mostly date men or women?"

Kaz chuckled, "I mostly don't date anyone. On the day I met Scully, I hadn't been with anyone in over two years. But, overall, I've dated men. And that's *dated,* mind you, not *slept with.* I'm usually rather selective about that, and I have to admit that Scully is the only person I've ever become involved with so quickly."

"But you've, uh...been with women before?"

Kaz couldn't believe she was telling him all of this. She never talked about it. The old "don't ask, don't tell" policy had been a lifesaver at times. She'd told Scully, of course, but Scully had been the first person she'd talked with since it had happened.

"I had a relationship with a woman once before, when I was in law school."

"Once?" Mulder blurted, unable to hide his surprise.

"Yes, once. I'm not the evil, seductive, lesbian enchantress you're giving me credit for being."

He raised his brows, "Well, I...uh...I never said you were."

"But you think I've turned your partner into something she's not, don't you?"

He thought about it for a minute, preparing his words carefully, "Listen Kaz, Scully means a lot to me."

She nodded, "I can see that."

"And it's difficult for me to see her getting into something like this. Something that is not, as yet, accepted by mainstream society. Certainly you can understand my concerns."

"I think I understand them better than anyone, Mulder."

"Yes, of course you can. It's just hard when I think of the societal pressures, which are hard to overcome. However, there's been a change in my partner, my friend. It's been a change for the better. She's happier now, she shines more than I've ever seen her shine. True, it's a subtle thing for those who don't know her well, but to me the change is obvious. I'm truly happy for her, and I have you to thank for it. She's in deep with you, and the two of you do, truly, make a good couple. That's a hard thing for me to say, but I'm saying it because it's true. You compliment each other well, and I wish you all the best."

She looked up at him now, a gentle smile on her face, "Thank you, Mulder. You don't know how much that means to me. I've never met Scully's brothers, but if they're half the men you are, she's a lucky woman."

Mulder reached out and patted her on the right arm, "I think she's a very lucky woman, Kaz."

~~~~~~~~~~~~

11:55 am

When Scully and her mother came back to the cabin, they were greeted by the sound of the stereo, turned up loud and playing late-sixties Beatles tunes. Exchanging an inquisitive glance, the women tentatively entered the living room to find Mulder and Kaz both lying in the middle of the living room floor with blue plastic boards between them. They lay on their stomachs, facing each other, and singing 'Strawberry Field Forever.' There was a large bottle of peppermint schnapps and a shotglass on the hearth, mere feet away from them.

"J-8," Mulder said, his eyes slightly glassy.

"Miss," Kaz replied, then pursed her lips, thinking of her next move. "C-10," she said, eyeing him carefully.

Mulder's head fell to the carpet for a moment, making Kaz clap her hands and laugh out loud.

"Hit," he said in a defeated monotone.

"Did I sink it?"

He groaned, "Yes."

"That's two then," Kaz said merrily, looking up from their game of Battleship to pour a shot into the glass.

Mulder took a deep breath, looked her in the eyes, and lifted the glass. He tossed it off as Kaz watched with an expectant smile. Grimacing, he lowered the glass and plunked it down on the hearth. With a wide grin, Kaz promptly refilled it.

Maggie Scully watched as Mulder downed the second shot of schnapps. With surprise (and a hint of disapproval) in her voice, she addressed the pair, "What are you two doing?"

Kaz reached out and ruffled Mulder's already-tousled hair, "We're just playing a friendly little game of Battleship. Who wants winners?"

Scully put her hands on her hips and met Mulder's glassy eyes, "Mulder, you shouldn't be doing this. She's a sailor, big guy, she'll drink you under the table before she even gets a buzz."

"Aw, S-c-c-ully," he slurred just a little, "she's not a real sailor. She's a lawyer."

"All the more reason to watch out for her." She turned her gaze on Kaz, who didn't appear to have any obvious symptoms of intoxication, but was fighting hard to contain a bad case of the giggles. "And you, I bet this was your idea, wasn't it?"

Kaz covered her mouth to stifle a mad little grin, then said, "What do you think?"

Suddenly, Scully broke out in a smile, "I think you should have waited for me." She pointed to her chest, "I got winners."

The players raised their eyebrows, then burst into a fit of laughter. Scully just shook her head at them, smiling to herself, happy that her two friends seemed to have formed a bond.

Kaz turned back to her opponent, "Your turn Mulder."

"B-6."

"Miss!"

"Damn!"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

1:05 p.m.

Mulder was snoozing on the couch by the time Scully and Kaz finished their game. Although Kaz had whipped Mulder's ass, Scully had whipped hers, and the combination made her just a tad unsteady on her feet.

She glided into the kitchen and asked Mrs. Scully if she could help with anything. Maggie assured her she was doing okay, but asked her to stay and talk. She agreed and deftly hopped up on the kitchen counter to chat as she nibbled on carrot sticks from the relish tray they'd set out in lieu of lunch. Dana Scully came in to join them, claiming that Mulder's snoring in the living room wasn't very exciting.

Maggie was mixing cookie dough in a bowl. Kaz offered to stir the heavy mix, and was handed the bowl. Scully stood beside her, leaning back against the counter. She was only mildly drunk, but still watched her friend stir the contents of the bowl with glossy fascination. Maggie noted this with a smirk, and directed her questions to Kaz.

"Tell me, Anne, do you have someone special back in Washington?"

Kaz sobered immediately and kept her poker face as she replied, "I don't have a boyfriend, if that's what you mean, Mrs. Scully."

"Well don't worry," Maggie assured her as she pre-heated the oven. "You're a pretty young woman with a good head on her shoulders. I'm sure the right man will come along soon."

Kaz and Scully exchanged a look full of emotions as Maggie turned to the sink. Kaz reached out an affectionate hand and laid it on Scully's back, rubbing it for a few moments. They weren't aware of the fact that Maggie could see their reflection perfectly off the glass window.

"Maybe, Mrs. Scully," Kaz replied in an even, unwavering tone, "but I'm doing okay on my own right now."

It was a long time before Maggie answered, "You young people are very independent these days. You live differently than we did."

Scully grew a little anxious at her mother's tone. It was slightly different, almost like a mild scold, but not quite. Maggie quickly turned and wiped her hands on a dish towel, then took the bowl from Kaz and began to spoon small drops of dough on a cookie sheet.

Maggie Scully deftly changed the subject, "How long has your mother lived in Arizona, Anne?"

Kaz, not knowing Scully's mom as well, hadn't noticed the change in her tone, and blithely answered, "Let's see, about ten years now. My parents divorced when I was a fifteen, and my mom moved right after I graduated high school, so ten years."

"Your parents are divorced? That's too bad."

Obviously Kaz was not upset about the subject, and spoke openly and freely on it. She shrugged her broad shoulders and said, "It was for the best. They hadn't been close in many years. I think that for a long time, they stayed together for my sake, which wasn't really necessary. I don't doubt that they were once very much in love, but my parents were so very different, like oil and water."

This led them to a general discussion of marriages, couples, and compatibility. Scully was glad for the change of topic, and both her mother and Kaz appeared to be at ease with each other. Kaz told Maggie a few of the tamer Navy jokes she'd heard lately, and seemed to enjoy bringing a smile to the older woman's face. Scully watched them, occasionally joining in their banter, but for the most part just listened to their harmonic, feminine voices chatting and laughing easily together.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

5:45 p.m.

Christmas Eve dinner was traditionally a casual affair at the Scully house, since the Christmas Day meal would be a lavish one. This year, however, Kaz volunteered to cook, not allowing anyone else to help, not even Scully. At six o'clock she called them in to eat, and, to their mutual surprise, found a huge platter of great-smelling chicken stir-fry in the middle of the table. Kaz then brought a big steaming bowl of rice in and three different sauces.

Mulder leaned over to his small partner, "She can cook too?"

Scully covered her mouth with the back of a hand to hide a smile, "Why do you think I keep her around?"

He bit back a remark that was unsuitable for the dinner table and took his seat.

Maggie o-o-h-ed and a-a-h-ed at the spread, "This looks wonderful, Anne. I had no idea your culinary skills went international."

Kaz shrugged, "Well, you can't eat spaghetti every night, can you?"

After dinner and dishes were finished, the foursome once again gathered in the living room. They watched "It's A Wonderful Life" as they conversed.

Kaz enjoyed the easy company of her surroundings, and liked Mrs. Scully a great deal. As the movie was ending, she decided to venture a question for the federal agents

"Tell me a little more about what you two do. Scully told me a few of the details, but they left me wanting more."

Mulder's monotone answered her, "What do you want to know?"

"How did you and Scully come to work together?"

Mulder and Scully exchanged a strange little glance, then he started to tell her a tale of abducted teenagers in Oregon, missing time, and lights in the sky. Between the two of them, they utterly confused the Navy lawyer, which made the pair laugh out loud.

Still, Kaz was fascinated by this strange work Scully and her partner did. She continued to question them, loving how Scully's version of a particular case differed so completely from Mulder's. She finally put the pieces of the Jose Chung story together and realized that Scully had been a major primary source for the man's book. It was incredible.

Over the course of the next few hours, she listened to stories of circus freaks, cockroaches made of metal, man-eating cannibals, exploding methane factories (and Scully covered in cow dung--which sent her into a fit of hysterics), and psychic insurance salesmen.

Mulder and Scully were careful to relate only those stories that did not involve the group they called the Consortium, and left out all mention of their chain-smoking 'friend.' Kaz was enthralled. She got a sense of the danger of their work as well as the excitement of the investigative process.

Both agents, of course, neglected to inform her of the many near-misses they'd each had in the line of duty, just as Kaz hadn't told Scully of the time one of her clients grabbed an MP's sidearm and held it to her head, demanding the court let him go back to rejoin his platoon in the Middle East.

Mrs. Scully sat smiling in the old, comfortable recliner as she listened to Fox and Dana talk about the lighter side of their work to their new friend. She snuck little glances at Anne Kazmerowski as she thought through the day's events in her head. Deciding that there was nothing she could decide right now, she settled back in her chair and let the stories, most of which she'd already heard, drift over her. No matter what, she was happy to see a blissful smile on her daughter's face, a sight that had been growing rarer and rarer until this weekend.

At eleven o'clock she kissed each of her three visitors on the cheek before retiring for the evening. Mulder, Scully, and Kaz played Uno as they continued to talk.

"Tell me, Mulder," Kaz said as she laid down a red seven, "are *you* seeing anyone right now?"

He threw Scully a Draw Two card before answering, "Nope. I'm open to suggestions though."

She tilted her head back and laughed, "You're asking the wrong person to set you up, Mulder. I work with men, remember. That is, unless you're interested in one of them."

He quickly shook his head, "No thanks."

Kaz scratched the back of her neck for a second as she thought, "My cousin Mary broke up a couple of months ago. She lives in Baltimore. I was thinking maybe I could hook you two up. You'd like her."

"Is she Italian, like you?"

Kaz scrunched up one eye, "Yeah, why?"

"I dated an Italian woman once. Her grandmother beat me with her purse and cursed at me in some foreign language because she caught us kissing on the front porch."

"And my grandmother would probably do the same thing. Never underestimate the power of an Italian handbag. How old were you at the time of this alleged attack?" Kaz asked him.

"*Alleged*, I like that. Before you said that, I wasn't really sure you were a lawyer. Now I know you are. I was fifteen at the time of the *alleged* handbag assault."

Kaz and Scully both smirked and began to chuckle at the thought of a tiny, toothless old lady in black crepe swatting Mulder with her handbag while he was trying to 'cop a feel.'

The Navy lawyer recovered and leveled her gaze on him, "So, you want me to set you up? Or are you going to let your adolescent experience with geriatric Italians scar you for life?"

He smirked at her and sardonically said, "So what are you, a matchmaker too?"

She grinned at him, the light from the fire reflecting off her glasses, "Well, I try. You told us just this morning we should feel sorry for you, so I'm trying to get you a date. What're you going to do, G-man, arrest me?"

"Ha!" he snorted, "You'd probably get yourself off on a technicality."

Scully called 'Uno' and, before they knew it, won again. She'd been the consistent winner all night, and Mulder finally threw in the towel, "I'm going to bed," he announced, rising and stretching. "I have to be asleep before Santa can come.

"Knowing you," Scully replied as she picked up the cards, "you'll have the binoculars out, looking for Rudolph on the rooftop. If you can't prove the existence of extra-terrestrial life, maybe you can get a few Polariods of a flying reindeer with a luminescent nose. That ought to be worth something."

He pointed a finger at her, "Just you wait, little woman. One of these days the alien WON'T have a zipper, and then you'll be sorry you mocked Fox William Mulder."

The women exchanged a glance, then cracked up, rolling on the floor as laughter shook them.

"Well, I'm turning in for the night," he announced once more. "Visions of sugar plums are a hell of a lot nicer than being laughed at by you two. See you in the morning."

They wished him a goodnight and followed his retreating figure with their eyes as he trod up the stairway. Kaz and Scully sat in the middle of the living room floor watching the fire burn down as they finished off glasses of wine. The light of the fire and the Christmas tree was all that illuminated the room, making it warm and cozy.

Scully turned to her companion, "Do you want to go to bed?"

Kaz shook her head, "Not yet. It's nice out here, and I like the lights of the tree. Are you tired?"

Scully smiled at her and scooted over so that their shoulders touched, "Not a bit."

"Then do you want to sit for awhile?"

She nodded and took a quick peek behind over Kaz and toward the stairs, then rested her head on Kaz's soft shoulder. The Naval Officer's arms went around her, pulling her closer. They sat in front of the dying fire, staring at the lights of the tree.

Kaz placed a small kiss on the tip of Scully's head and softly said, "Have I told you lately that I love you?"

"H-m-m," Scully hummed contentedly before replying. "Probably, but I wouldn't mind hearing it again."

"I love you."

Squeezing Kaz's waist for emphasis, Scully said, "I love you too. I can't believe this. It's all happening so fast. Two weeks ago I was a zombie, my thoughts single-minded and focused on only one thing, my job. Only now do I see everything I was missing. I was missing a life, I was missing love...and then I met you. You've opened my eyes and made me so happy. I feel so young and alive...and in love. It's wonderful, Kaz."

She pulled her head out from beneath Kaz's chin to look at her. Kaz's brown eyes glimmered in the dim light, warm and inviting. Scully tilted her head up for a kiss, but as Kaz bent in, Scully saw the robed figure of Maggie Scully in the background, standing at the foot of the stairs.

Abruptly, she stood, "Mom. Hi. I didn't see you," she said nervously, hoping against hope, "Uh, how long have you been there?"

Maggie's eyes were dry, but her heart was heavy and pounding hard in her chest, "Long enough."

Kaz stood too, her heart racing as well and a defeated sense of foreboding filling her entire body. They had been discovered.

Margaret Scully entered the room, her arms full of wrapped Christmas gifts. "I thought you'd gone to bed, so I came down to play Santa and surprise you for the morning. It looks like I'm the one whose been surprised."

"Mom--" Scully said anxiously, then trailed off. There was nothing she could say.

Maggie calmly walked to the tree and set the packages down, then turned back to the startled couple. "I guess it's not really as much of a surprise as you might think. I wondered just a bit this afternoon, in the kitchen. This just confirms it."

"I'm sorry, Mom."

The elder Scully turned to her daughter, "Sorry for being with a woman, or sorry for trying to deceive me?"

Scully swallowed and looked down, "For deceiving you. I meant to tell you, but not yet."

"I see," Maggie said stonily, then turned her gaze to Anne Kazmerowski, "And you?"

It took all the courage she could muster, but Kaz looked her straight in the eye, "I know what you must think of me now, Mrs. Scully, but I care for Dana very much."

"I heard you tell her you loved her."

Kaz nodded, "I do."

Maggie returned her nod and once again said, "I see."

Scully looked up into her mother's face, "Please don't be angry, Mom. I'm sorry you had to find out like this. I should have discussed it with you earlier--but I wasn't sure how to do it."

"That was your decision, Dana, and I can understand why you'd be hesitant to do so. I'm not angry, honey, I'm just...well, I don't know how I'm feeling. This is strange and new for me."

"It's new for me too, but I can't deny my feelings, Mom." Scully looked over at Kaz, who was trying to stay strong for her. Scully took her hand as she said, "I'm in love, Mom."

Maggie's lips drew down into a tight line for a moment as she stared at their linked hands. She closed her eyes for a second and took a cleansing breath, then opened her eyes and took in the couple once more.

Answering her daughter's statement, she said, "I can tell. When I look back on it, I should have been able to tell from the first night. What you said earlier was true, Dana. You were an emotional zombie, and nothing I did seemed to bring you back. You shut everyone out, closed yourself off to everything but your work. I can see that this is what brought you back to life, and *I'm* happy to see *you* happy. It's just unexpected--but I accept all of your decisions in life. I accept you. You are my daughter and I love you. I want you to be happy, I just never expected it to happen this way."

Neither Scully nor Kaz spoke, so Maggie continued.

"I can see that it has, though, and I'll respect your relationship, and respect the both of you."

Kaz cleared her throat, making speech once again possible, "Thank you, Mrs. Scully."

Maggie's eyes drifted to hers, "I like you, Anne. You're a warm, caring person, I can see that already. I'm entrusting my daughter to you, so don't let me down."

For the first time since they'd been seen my Scully's mother, Kaz smiled, "I won't, Mrs. Scully. She's in good hands."

Maggie stepped forward to embrace the tall woman. Kaz let go of Scully's warm, sweaty palm to accept it. She held Mrs. Scully tight and bent close to the older woman's ear.

"Thank you for understanding. You have my eternal gratitude for this."

Maggie comprehended the hidden message in her words and knew this woman would never hurt her daughter. Dana's feelings were foremost in her mind, which told Maggie that Anne was, indeed, in love with her daughter.

When she let go of Kaz she turned to Dana, whose eyes were rimmed with tears, "Don't cry, honey. I'm glad you've found someone."

A sob escaped Scully's throat as she crumbled into her mother's arms. "I'm sorry, Mom. I didn't mean to lie to you. I wanted you to know, I really did, I just..."

"S-h-h-h," Maggie whispered softly, patting her daughter's back and rocking her gently, "It's all right, honey. I understand. How could you ever think I wouldn't? I could never deny you what makes you happy. I could never be angry with you. You're my baby girl and I love you."

Kaz stepped away, leaving them alone, but her progress was halted by Mrs. Scully, who lifted her head to look at her retreating form.

"Don't leave, Anne. Stay here with us."

Scully pulled away from her mother, but still held her hands as she said, "You're so wonderful, Mom. Thank you."

Maggie squeezed her hands as she looked from one woman to the other, "I don't envy the path you two have chosen, but remember that I'm here to support you. This will take time for me to fully accept, but never forget the fact that I'm behind you."

Scully kissed her mother on the cheek before wiping the tears from her eyes. "I love you, Mom."

Reaching out to cup her chin, Maggie said, "And you know I love you, Dana. It's time for me to get back to bed. These late hours are too much for an old lady like me. Remember, though, my feelings won't change with the break of dawn. I'm your mother, and I'll always be here for you." She turned to the tall Italian woman who stood by the fire, "And for you too, Anne."

"Thank you, Mrs. Scully."

Maggie crossed the room to leave, touching each of them on the shoulder as she passed. She stopped in the entranceway and turned back to Dana, "Does Fox know about this?"

Even more ashamed of her deception now, Scully nodded, "He kind of figured it out on his own, Mom."

Maggie's lips pursed for a minute, "Yes, I can see how he would."

She headed back up the stairs, and when they heard her door quietly close, Scully turned to face Kaz. Their eyes met from across the darkened room. Scully crossed the room and fell into her arms. Kaz held her in a comforting embrace, rubbing her back as they stared into the embers of the fire.

In a small voice very uncharacteristic of her sturdy self, Scully whispered, "Kaz?"

"H-m-m?"

"That was hard for me."

"I know it was...how do you feel?"

Scully took a long time answering, "Sad. Happy. Nervous. Relieved. Guilty. Free."

Kaz squeezed the back of her neck gently, "Loved?"

Tilting her face up to meet Kaz's rich brown eyes, she replied, "Definitely loved."

Kaz kissed her softly on the forehead. "Your mother is quite a woman."

"Yes, she is. I'm glad she knows. It was difficult for me, her not knowing. But the knowing is hard too."

"Yes," Kaz gently agreed.

"I love you, Kaz."

The chocolate eyes sparkled in the glow of the tree's lights, "I know you do." She cupped Scully's face between her hands and kissed her softly on the lips. "Let's get ready for bed. Tomorrow is Christmas Day."

She took the smaller woman's hand and led her to the tree. They turned out the lights, then made their way up the stairs. When they crawled into the big, soft bed, Scully huddled up next to Kaz, burrowing in as close as she could. Kaz held her tight and stroked her hair, pulling it back off her small, round face, then running the backs of two fingers across the porcelain skin of her cheek. The soothing gesture calmed Scully, and before she knew it, she was drifting off to sleep, safe and warm in Kaz's loving arms.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

7:15 am

Anne Kazmerowski became aware of two things at once. The first was Karen Carpenter singing, "I'll Be Home For Christmas," and the other was Scully's arm around her waist and warm breath on the back of her neck. It felt wonderful, each exhalation even better than the last. She never wanted to move, never wanted to leave this feeling of peaceful bliss.

She laid there quietly as the song changed to "The Little Drummer Boy," and she felt movement against her back. Scully's arm tightened around her and she could feel the small, beautiful red head pressing between her shoulder blades as her companion shifted.

Kaz listened to the songs play through, letting her mind go blank and her soul take over. Although last night's revelation had been difficult for both Scully and her mother, Kaz was glad it had happened. It was no longer a dreaded obstacle in Dana Scully's mind, she no longer needed to deceive her mother.

She also knew Scully was relieved. Kaz didn't think most parents would be half as understanding, half as accepting. Although Mrs. Scully hadn't been overjoyed by the news, she had handled the situation better than Kaz had even dared to hope.

Scully shifted once more, this time letting out a small sigh as she snuggled in. Sensing that her companion was in the early stages of waking, Kaz took the opportunity to turn in Scully's arms.

Kaz opened her eyes to look into the face of Dana Scully. Relaxed in sleep, the tough-as-nails federal agent looked very young. Her lips were slightly parted, and although now devoid of her trademark red lipstick, very inviting. Kaz leaned in to kiss them softly.

The fair-skinned red-head did not wake, and Kaz kissed her again, this time making more contact. As Kaz was pulling away, she heard a small sigh of contentment and felt Scully's lips begin to curl at the corners. She bent back in, but this time Scully met her halfway, pulling Kaz's bottom lip into her mouth and gently nibbling on it before letting go.

"Merry Christmas, Scully," Kaz said as she faced the smaller woman, their heads sharing a pillow.

Scully opened her crystal clear blue eyes to meet Kaz's dark ones, "Merry Christmas to you."

Their eyes closed as their lips touched again, this time parting to allow the kiss to grow deep. Scully met Kaz's tongue and they stroked each other over and over. Kaz slipped her arms around Scully, feeling the soft silk of Scully's pajamas beneath her fingers as she ran them over the soft, firm back.

Scully traced the line of her teeth before pulling away, "How are you this morning?"

Kaz looked into her eyes, searching for any sign of the pain Scully had felt last night, "How are *you*?"

The entrancing lips once again touched Kaz's own before she heard Scully's reply, "I'm much better. I'm glad she knows. It's going to be hard for her, and she'll think it's her fault. She'll think that she did something wrong raising me, something that made me 'turn lesbian.' But we'll talk about it more. Maybe next week, after she's had a few days to deal with it. I do know one thing, though."

"What's that?"

"She meant what she said last night. She won't treat us any different this morning than she treated us yesterday. I know her well enough to tell you that for certain."

Kaz let out a deep breath and smiled, "That's good. I was a little worried."

"I know you were, but don't. It's Christmas Day, and we've got presents to open." She reached out to kiss her partner once more. "You've got to tell me, Kaz, what did you get for Mulder?"

Kaz grinned her uneven grin and shook her head, "You'll have to wait and see. I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise."

Scully playfully punched her in the arm, "Well you're no fun!"

Kaz lifted a lewd eyebrow, "You want to bet?"

She bent to capture Scully's lips once more. Their mouths melted together for a long minute before Scully pulled away.

"We need to go downstairs. The music is my mother's signal for everyone to get their butts out of bed."

Reluctantly, they crawled out of the bed and threw sweatpants and sweatshirts over their pajamas. Scully went to the dresser and grabbed the black hat, once more placing it on Kaz's head. She received a slightly bashful grin in return, but Scully insisted.

"It's sexy. You're wearing it. Let's go," she said with a wide smile and grabbed Kaz's hand.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Monday, December 25
7:40 a.m.

Maggie sat in her spot at the dining room table, staring peacefully out the window. Scully went up behind her and gave her a hug, then kissed her on the cheek.

"Merry Christmas, Mom."

Maggie placed a hand over her daughter's crossed arms, wrapped across her chest, "Merry Christmas, dear," she nodded and smiled at Mulder and Kaz, who were standing in the doorway, "Merry Christmas, Anne, Fox."

In unison, they wished her the same, then raced each other to the coffee pot. Maggie chuckled at them and laid her cheek against Dana's for a moment. She felt her daughter's cheeks raise up into a smile before another kiss was placed on her cheek.

In her ear, Dana whispered, "Are you still okay, Mom?"

"Of course," Maggie replied, though inside she was still fluttering. The news had shaken her. Imagine everyone in the parish finding this out. What would be said of her? She could hear them now, 'Maggie Scully's daughter is a lesbian. That's what happens when you let women do a man's job. Those Scully children were always ruffians, anyway, Maggie never could control them.'

She's spent a good portion of the night convincing herself that everything would be okay, that maybe Dana just had to get this out of her system. Maybe this was just some strange fling she was having. It didn't mean that she'd never marry. Maybe if she met a man she liked better...

Then she pictured the expression on Dana's face when she'd looked at Anne last night. Love was in her daughter's eyes. And Anne obviously returned her feelings. This was more than a passing fancy. She thought of Anne's profession. She was in the military. Something like this would almost certainly ruin her career in the Navy. She was putting her career on the line for this relationship. That thought elevated the esteem she held for Anne, but it didn't make this right. It was a sin. It was unnatural.

But this was Dana's decision, Dana's life, and she had promised herself when her children were grown to always respect the decisions they made.

Dana left her side to pour a cup of coffee. Maggie rose to lead the small group to the tree in the front room. She turned the music down a little, but left it softly playing in the background as she asked Fox to distribute the gifts. She sat in her favorite recliner to sip her coffee. Anne and Dana took up seats on the couch as Fox did a semi-circle around the tree, making a huge production of his job.

Finally, Scully prodded him along, "Come on 'Santa,' we're starting to grow long white beards over here."

"Hold your estrogen ladies. Santa's got to make sure he picks just the right one."

He rummaged through the small assortment of gifts until he came up with the one he was searching for. "To Mrs. Scully, From 'Fox.' I only wrote that because it's you, Mrs. S. Here you are."

She opened the package to see a gold-framed photograph. It had been taken at the wedding of one of Scully's cousins last summer. She'd invited him to escort her, and the photographer had snapped a shot of the three of them at a table during the reception. Later, Mulder tracked the guy down to make sure he was sent a copy of the photo.

It was a great shot. All three of them with their heads close together and smiling broadly. Scully and her mom were both beautiful in their dresses, and he had to admit he didn't look too bad either.

"Fox, this is great!" Maggie exclaimed with a wide smile, "I've always wanted a picture of the three of us."

He pointed to the wrapping, "Keep looking in there."

She examined the paper more carefully and found a small box she had missed. She opened it, and laying on the cotton filling was a silver broach. Encased in the silver shell was a large piece of turquoise.

"Oh Fox, it's beautiful." She held it up for the others to see, and Scully leaned to her left to get a better look. It was hand-crafted, and a rare sight in the middle of Virginia.

"Where did you find this, Mulder?"

He smiled a little sheepishly, "New Mexico. During my short convalescence, I saw it at a trading post. I thought of you, Mrs. Scully, and..." he shrugged.

She stood and embraced his, "Thank you, Fox. It's beautiful."

He turned back to the tree and selected another gift. "To Dana, From Mom."

She took the flat box from him and quickly disposed of the paper. Inside the box was a soft plum-colored sweater. She bent to kiss her mother on the cheek and thanked her warmly.

Mulder continued to distribute presents, many of them between the mother and daughter. Mrs. Scully had given him a sweater as well, a black cable-knit, his favorite kind, and a pair of jeans. Her gifts were so 'motherly' he almost got a little choked up, for he admired and respected him partner's mother so much, the mere thought that she considered him a part of her family made him a little emotional.

A bright smile broke out on his face as he pulled out the next package. "To Scully, From Mulder."

At her uncertain look as she accepted the gift, Mulder smirked, "It doesn't glow in the dark, if that's what you're afraid of."

"That's the least of my concerns, Mulder."

"Open it!" He exclaimed anxiously.

She did, and found a videotape entitled, "Football Follies."

Looking up at him with pursed lips, she said, "Let me guess, it goes with 'Superstars Of The Super Bowls."

"This one's even better," he told her. "It's a crack-up, you'll love it."

"I'm sure I will," she replied, trying hard to keep the irony out of her voice. "Thanks Mulder, you really know what to get a girl."

"You're not a girl, you're my partner. Besides, here's another one for you." He pulled a second package from the stack and handed it to her, "It's part two of your present."

She opened the small box and found a three sided wooden block. She lifted it and turned it in her hands. As she did, a puzzled look crossed her face. Etched on one side of the block and painted black was her name.

She peeked back into the box and lifted out a small, square pad of notes. Written across the top one were the words:

"From the desk of Dr. Dana Scully"

"What's this Mulder, a joke? You know I don't have a desk."

A wide grin spread over his face as he said, "Correction, you *didn't* have a desk, but one's coming on Monday. I should have got you one a long time ago."

Comprehension dawned, and Scully stood, crossed the room, and gave him a hug. "Thanks Mulder, does this mean you want me to move in with you?"

He embraced her small body, smiling over the top of her head as he replied, "There's no one else I'd ever want to share with."

"Thanks," she said again, "This means a lot to me Mulder. More than you'll ever know. Now you have to open the one I got you."

He did. It was s big box full of an assortment of things. He pulled out a shirt and unfolded it so they all could read the front:

     I WAS ABDUCTED BY ALIENS AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS LOUSY T-SHIRT

Scully and Kaz erupted into gales of laughter, and Mulder pretended to be wounded. "Mocked, everywhere I go!" he turned to Maggie for sympathy, but found that she was covering her mouth to stifle a smile as well.

He reached back into the box and came out with black silk boxer shorts with green alien heads all over them, a hand puppet of an alien who wore boxing gloves. He stuck his hand inside, working the lever that made the doll punch, and thumped Scully in the forehead with it.

"I think I see a pattern emerging here," he said as he fished through the box to come up with the last item.

It was a stuffed animal, ALF. Mulder pressed his stomach and the doll said, "Here kitty, kitty..."

"My favorite TV alien," he announced good naturedly, ruffling Scully's hair as a thank you.

She stood and went to the tree, "I was just kidding with that one, Mulder. Here's another for you."

He smirked, "Great minds think alike, huh?"

"Or utterly insane ones," she replied as he tore the wrapping from the small package.

Inside was a black box. Mulder opened it to find a gold-plated pen and pencil set. She looked up and smiled at her.

"Wow, Scully, these are nice. You shouldn't have."

She pointed to the contents of the box, "Read the inscription."

He lifted the pen from the box and saw the words etched into the metal, "To thine own self be true."

"Scully--" he croaked in a voice full with uncharacteristic emotion, then stopped, unable to say anything more.

The words touched him deeply. Her acceptance of him, her respect for his wild and unique ideas--these things were important to him. Fox Mulder could care less what 99.9% of the people in the world thought of him or his theories, but Dana Scully was different. He did care what she thought. He valued her opinion as he valued few others. To see these words, a written symbol of the reciprocal value, made his heart swell. Dana Scully was his best friend. Sometimes that thought ran through his head, and he was unable to believe it. How had he become so lucky? What had he done to deserve her?

He didn't know, but he was so glad she had stepped into his office, so young and naive, those three years ago.

Sensing his emotion, Scully pulled him down for another hug. She kissed his cheek before pulling away. "Don't say anything, Mulder. I know."

He swallowed hard and blinked back tears, trying to pull himself back to the matter at hand. He pulled another gift from the stack and handed it to Kaz.

"To the Commander, From Mulder."

It was smaller than a shoebox and fairly heavy. Kaz gave him a questioning look as she opened it, but her eyes sparkled and she smiled broadly when she saw what lay inside.

A gavel.

Mulder said, "I figured every lawyer needs a gavel to take out their aggressions at home. And you never know, you might be sitting on the bench yourself some day."

"Thanks, Mulder. I'll use it next time Quick-Draw rules against me."

He winked at her, "Just don't use it on Quick-Draw. I wouldn't want to see you going to the brig yourself."

She smiled and gave him a quick hug of appreciation. He turned back to the tree and picked up another package.

"This one is to me from Kaz. Wonder what it could be?" he said as he lifted the flat, rectangular package.

Kaz caught Scully's glance out of the corner of her eye and smiled over at her. They both watched as Mulder unwrapped his gift and stared down at it in rapt fascination. Eventually, he turned the framed work around for the others to see.

"My God, Kaz, this is great."

It was done in a cartoon-style, with Fox Mulder in a gray suit and Dana Scully in black pin-stripes and heels. Mulder pointed up at the sky, where a large, metallic gray craft was hovering. Above is head was a bubble. Kaz's handwriting was immaculate, and in perfect capital letters were his words:

LOOK SCULLY. THERE IT IS! THIS VERIFIES THE EXISTENCE OF EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL LIFE! SCULLY, WE ARE NOT ALONE!!!

In the picture, Scully stood with her arms folded across her chest and her weight was shifted onto one leg. It was an impatient pose. She was rolling her blue eyes and her pursed red lips were twisted to one side. The bubble above her head read:

SURE. FINE. WHATEVER, MULDER. BUT IF THIS ALIEN HAS A ZIPPER TOO, YOU'RE IN BIG TROUBLE.

The colors were vibrant, and so perfect, right down to their skin tones and the shade of Scully's lipstick. Everyone, including Maggie Scully, stared open-mouthed at it, then at Kaz, who smiled shyly and said,

"Is it okay?"

Mulder's eyes popped open as far as they could go, "Kaz, it's...it's..."

"It's magnificent," Scully finished, still staring at the framed work.

"Yeah," Mulder agreed, unable to say anything more. It was one of the greatest gifts he'd ever been given, partly because it was a wonderful work, but mostly because it light-heartedly symbolized his work with his best friend, Dana Scully.

Kaz smiled, "I'm glad you like it. Can Mrs. Scully open hers now?"

Maggie spoke up from her chair, "Anne, you didn't have to get me anything."

"I didn't. Open it," she instructed with an anxious nod.

Mrs. Scully did, and found herself looking out her dining room window. Once again, no one spoke as they gathered around to look at the mounted picture in a loose plastic frame.

"You made this?" Maggie asked her in a choked voice.

Kaz nodded, shy again, "Do you like it? I'm sorry about the frame, I had to make do with the temporary one I carry, but I'll get another one when we get back to town."

She felt bad about not having a proper frame to present it in, but in truth was simply babbling out of nervous anxiety over the gift. She had been deathly afraid Mrs. Scully would hate it, but would force herslef to say nice things about it only to be polite.

However, the look on the older woman's face told her Maggie Scully loved it, and said as much, "This is beautiful, Anne. It's a perfect replica. It's amazing."

Kaz sat on her hands to keep herself from wringing them; she always grew a little nervous when presenting her own artwork. "It's for your house back in the city, for when you need to get back in harmony with the world."

Scully thought she saw tears in her mother's eyes as she stood and walked over to Kaz. The young woman stood as well, and received Maggie's embrace. The strength of it startled Kaz, but her heart soared to know her gift was truly liked. It was for a moment like this, she felt, that God had given her the gift He had. It was so she could evoke these gorgeous smiles from those who saw the things she created.

When all were again seated, Mulder pulled one of the few remaining gifts from under the tree. "To Anne, From Maggie."

Kaz looked startled, not expecting gifts, and wondered what this women, who had known her for only three days, had for her. She unwrapped the heavy rectangle to find a thick book bound in soft leather. Embossed in gold on the front were the words, "Captain's Log USN."

Kaz looked up and across the room. Maggie explained, "My husband, the Captain, had many of these over the course of his career. When he passed away, I found many partially filled, and this one, as yet unused. It was here, in the room down the hall, which used to be his den here at the cabin. I want you to have it, Anne. It would make an excellent journal or notebook, and I think you could put it to good use."

Kaz started to protest, "Mrs. Scully, I can't acc--"

Maggie cut her off, "You didn't hear me. I *want* you to have it. I hadn't run across that book in over a year, but Saturday, as we were sitting in the kitchen and talking, I suddenly thought of it. I thought that you should have it, and that you would use it, so I'm giving it to you."

Swallowing the rising lump in her throat, Kaz said, "Thank you very much, Mrs. Scully. I will put it to good use."

Maggie smiled, "I know you will."

She looked over at her daughter and saw the relief, the joy, and the love in her eyes. They shared a knowing smile, a smile of acceptance, then turned back to their makeshift Santa Claus, who was picking up one of the last two presents.

"To Kaz, From Scully," he read as he handed her the box.

Kaz opened it to find an assortment of classic Hitchcock films on videocassette. "Hey, you know what I like. Thanks," she said to Scully as she perused the titles. They shared a smile filled with the memory of the moment they had exchanged their 'real' gifts.

Mulder handed his partner the last present, "To Scully, From Anne K."

Scully tore the wrapping off, expecting a small, friendly gift like the one she'd given. Struck dumb at what she found, she blinked at the book in her hands. It was old and black and stamped with the words 'Moby Dick or The White Whale: by Herman Melville." It looked to be a first edition, an extremely rare book, and undoubtedly expensive.

Scully twisted her gaze slowly to the woman beside her, who smiled warmly back at her. "Kaz, this is too much," she said in protest as she turned the first few pages. It was, indeed, a first edition.

Kaz waved a hand, "Naw, it's not. When you told me the story of your father reading this this to you, it really stayed with me. I have a friend who runs a rare bookstore. He owed me a favor, and I thought this was reason enough to call it in."

Scully ran her fingers over the stamped gold letters as she stared at the book, "Thank you, Kaz. This book...it means a lot to me."

Kaz smiled and squeezed her hand for just a moment, "To us both."

Mulder and Mrs. Scully watched the exchange, Mulder just now realizing that Maggie knew about her daughter's new relationship. He smiled softly at her, and she returned it, a little sad, yet resovled. They both knew how much the book, and the symbol of the book, meant to Dana Scully. Apparently Anne Kazmerowski knew it as well. Neither, of course, knew what the book meant between them.

When the moment was over, each said another round of thanks and headed into the kitchen to make breakfast. They talked easily and amiably as Maggie scrambled eggs and Scully made toast while Mulder and Kaz put on another pot of coffee. It was a beautiful Christmas morning, and all the cabin's occupants were happy to be sharing it with each other. Some, of course, were happier than others, but that was to be expected.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

2:20 p.m.

The day went quickly. Showers were taken and beds stripped, then remade with fresh sheets as they made preliminary moving out preparations. Mulder and Kaz watched the afternoon football game, much to Scully's dismay, while she and her mother had a glass of wine and discussed her current situation.

"I just worry about you," Maggie said. "Living your life behind closed doors won't be easy."

"I know, Mom, and maybe some day we won't have to. For now, though, it's worth it. She's very special, Mom."

Maggie nodded, sympathetic, though not really understanding, her daughter's feelings, "I can see that she is. How long hove you been seeing each other?"

Scully stayed intentionally hazy on that one, "Not long."

"How long is 'not long?'"

"Less than a month." Not a lie, but not entirely honest. However, she didn't feel bad about this deception. She knew few people would understand the relationship she and Kaz had forged in only a week's time. Scully felt closer to Kaz than to people she'd known for years. Closer than she felt to many of her own family members.

"And you're already thinking of a time that could be years down the road. Aren't you putting the cart before the horse?"

"Do you mean, am I assuming this relationship will grow long-term? The answer to that is yes. One thing that had been different with Kaz than with any of the men I've seen in the past is our honesty with each other. We're much more open and honest about our feelings. I think that's one reason we've grown so close so fast. Another is just the feeling I get whenever I see her. When she walks into a room, when she stands next to me, even when I hear her voice on the telephone. It's powerful, Mom, much more powerful than anything I've ever felt."

Maggie nodded, looking out her window momentarily before she replied, "I won't tell you that I understand the feelings associated with this, because I don't. It's hard for me to even try to comprehend these feelings you have for this woman. But, as I said last night, I will respect your decisions, and will treat Anne accordingly. I'm not going to tell anyone about this, either. You are in charge of who knows and doesn't know as far as this family is concerned."

"Thank you, Mom. I know this is difficult for you to accept, but I appreciate all you've done to accommodate us. I also want to let you know that my relationship with Anne is not the result of something you did wrong when you raised me. This is not some rebellious act to subconsciously get you back for some thing I thought unfair as a child. I had a wonderful childhood in a loving family, and you were, and still are, the heart and soul of that family. This is just the way I feel. It's the first time I've felt this way, and it's the first time my emotions have been this strong. But, honestly, I can't imaging my life without her, Mom. I'm glad you know this, because it was very hard for me, your not knowing."

Maggie said nothing, but reached over to take her daughter's hand. They held hands and looked out the window together. Scully could smell the turkey beginning to cook in the oven and gradually felt a peaceful sense of optimism wash over her. Everything was going to be okay.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

3:00 p.m.

They packed their things upstairs, a little regretful to be leaving this peaceful haven and return to their lives and jobs back in Washington. Kaz looked over her Christmas gifts and felt the sting of tears in her eyes. Damn, she hated crying, and this was the third time she had felt the burn of tears this weekend.

She'd essentially been living like a hermit ever since she'd moved to DC. At work Kaz was overflowing with friends and eager acquaintances, but she rarely allowed them into her private life. Only a few close friends, mostly ones she felt certain were not interested in her sexually, were permitted to enter the circle of her life.

Two years ago, she'd stayed in DC for Christmas, and had been miserable, missing her father terribly. He'd passed just that last November, and she'd spent most of Christmas Day that year drunk and crying over old photo albums and home movies of a younger, happier Kazmerowski family.

Last year she'd gone to visit her mother in Tucson, and the results were equally bad, only in different ways. She'd wanted to spend that day drunk as well, and resisted only out of a need to flee the house as soon as possible. She had to stay sober for the drive to the airport, though once safely ensconced in her seat (she'd sprung for first-class as a reward for even going to her mother's) she downed three quick shots of Chivas before even beginning to relax. For some reason, her mother literally drove her to drink. She loved the woman, but simply couldn't be around the questioning and incessant second-guessing of decisions she'd made in her life. She wouldn't even dare to mention the confusion she'd been ravaged by in the last few years to Rose Parducci. Kaz couldn't be near her for long periods of time and still maintain her sanity.

This year, however, had been so unlike those others. Tears of past sorrow mixed with present joy threatened, and Scully observantly spotted them as she bustled about the room packing their belongings.

She shut the door and walked over to Kaz, staring up into her red-rimmed eyes, "What's the matter, Kaz?"

Kaz's chin trembled a little, but she blinked the tears back as she said, "Thank you for inviting me here, Scully. I don't think I can even tell you how much it means to me."

Scully reached out, pulling Kaz's head down to her shoulder. The tears came now, and Kaz wept freely on her friend's shoulder. Scully ran her hand over the soft brown hair on Kaz's head and whispered kind words in her ear.

Together, they sat on the bed, Scully still holding the larger woman. When the tears subsided, Kaz lifted her head and kissed Scully's cheek.

"Thanks. I don't know why I'm so emotional this weekend, I don't usually cry, but thank you for everything, Scully. I'll never forget this. I never realized it before, but I was so lonely. When my dad..." she trailed off, shaking her head.

Scully lifted her chin with two fingers and looked into the watery brown pools. She wiped the moisture from Kaz's olive-toned face, then kissed her softly.

Neither was satisfied with just the one kiss, and soon Kaz could taste Scully's red lipstick in her mouth. She held Scully close as they grew ever more hungry by the second. Scully had one hand on the back of Kaz's neck and the other on her firm breast when she heard Kaz's sigh of pleasure.

Realizing they were getting far too carried away, they broke off by mutual consent, smiling bashfully at the other as they caught their breath. Each knew lipstick would have to be reapplied to Scully and wiped off of Kaz before they headed back downstairs.

"Feeling better?" Scully asked with genuine concern, though she knew the answer.

Kaz grinned, "I am now." She bent forward to get just one more small kiss, "Scully, will you stay with me tonight?"

Scully smiled, a beautiful sight, and replied, "Nothing could keep me away."

They kissed one more time, only briefly touching to ensure self-control, then stood. Scully chuckled as she retrieved a tissue and wiped Kaz's face to remove the red lipstick smudges all around her mouth.

Kaz suddenly smiled and reached over to the dresser to retrieve Scully's lipstick. She opened it and twisted the bottom.

Scully reached for it, but Kaz raised her eyebrows and pulled it back a little, "Let me," she said.

A shiver ran through Scully's small body as Kaz's words sank in. The intimacy of this gesture nearly made her knees weak. She nodded and Kaz stepped up to her. Scully tilted her head up and stared into intense brown eyes which were seriously focused on her lips.

Kaz brought the tube up and with her sure left hand applied the bright, rich red to Scully's bow-lips. She carefully painted each side of the top one, then opened her mouth as a guide for her friend, who mirrored the gesture. Kaz's intent eyes moved down just a bit as she gently ran the color over Scully's bottom lip.

Crooking her little finger, Kaz wiped a small smear from the corner of her lovely companion's mouth, then brought her own lips together, drew them into a line, and relaxed them. Scully did the same, her eyes on Kaz's sensual mouth.

"Blot?" Kaz asked with raised eyebrows.

Scully nodded slightly, a little unsteady on her feet. The effect of Kaz's mere physical presence was amazing. Now, she was folding a tissue and placing it between Scully's lips. After Scully had pressed down, she removed it and smiled down at the red outline. She set the tissue down and faced Scully once more.

"Thanks, Scully. I've wanted to do that since we met."

Recovering, Scully smirked just slightly, "Another of your secret desired, like sketching me? Do you have any more secret desires, Kaz?"

Kaz leaned over and set her lips just in front of Scully's ear, "About a million," she said softly.

When she pulled away, Scully's eyes were closed and her face was deeply flushed. She put her arms around the small redhead and pulled her closer, giving her more of a friendly hug.

"I'm sorry, Scully," she said mirthfully, amused by the effect she had on her petite companion, "I shouldn't be seducing you in the middle of the day like this." She pulled back and held Scully at arm's length, "You going to be okay?"

Scully opened her eyes and willed the heat from her cheeks, "Sure, in about an hour, after I cool down. You're bad, you know."

Grinning, Kaz replied, "I'm not just bad, I'm e-e-e-vil."

There was a knock on the door, and Scully shot Kaz an annoyed look. This was all her fault, and the tall, sexy brunette knew it. Scully went to the window and cracked it open, letting a rush of cold air hit her as Kaz went to the door and let Mulder in.

In his excitement over the coming meal, he was thankfully oblivious to Scully's distress. "So, you guys getting hungry?"

Kaz just grinned at him, but Scully rolled her eyes, "You ate about a dozen cookies only an hour ago! You can't possibly be hungry!"

He spread his hands, "All you have to do is say the words 'Christmas dinner' and my stomach starts 'a rumbling."

They filed out of the room and down the stairs to help prepare the meal. Mulder opened a bottle of wine and they toasted the holidays. All seemed to be happy, and they carried their good spirits through dinner and after dinner conversation.

After dishes were done and the kitchen was spotless, Kaz excused herself, asking if she could use the phone to call her mother. She went into the small room that once was Captain Scully's den and used her credit card to make the call.

Mulder, Scully, and Maggie sat in the living room sipping coffee.

"Fox," Maggie asked, "are you going to call *your* mother?"

He raised a hand, "Already taken care of. I called last night. She was planning to spend the day with some cousins up in Hartford."

Maggie patted his knee, "Good boy."

He beamed before sipping from his cup.

Maggie turned her gaze to her daughter and tentatively asked, "What is Anne's mother's name?"

"Rose. I think it's short for Rosalie."

"And she lives in Arizona. Where about?"

Scully sipped before answering, "Tucson. I think she lives with another of Kaz's aunts."

"Why didn't she do out there for Christmas?"

Scully cleared her throat, not really wanting to speak for Kaz. She thought she had a fairly good idea, though. "For one thing, she just wrapped a case up on Friday, so she wasn't able to get extra days. It's also a long flight out there for just a couple of days, and one thing Anne and I have in common is a dislike of air travel." She acknowledged Mulder's sneer at her discomfort over flying. She paused, though, still unsure of this next part herself, "Mostly, though, I don't think Anne and her mother get along very well. Kaz was very close to her father, and they divorced when she was a freshman in high school. But she also has told me that her mother is...well, pretty outspoken about how her daughter should be living her life. I think she kind of nags Kaz about not being married, being so independent, painting all day instead of hunting down a husband, and putting her job in front of plans for marriage."

Maggie looked at the tree as she said, "So I take it she doesn't know that Anne is--you know--seeing you?"

"I can't say for sure, but I'm fairly certain she doesn't know. And if she did, I'm doubting she would be very supportive."

"I see. Tell me more about Anne, Dana."

Scully was overjoyed by her mother's interest. It meant she was moving toward accepting Kaz as a significant person in her life. She told her mother little things; about the book Kaz was writing and illustrating, that she was a small-time wine connoisseur, and that she owned a great little house in Georgetown that Maggie would have to see to believe.

Toward the end of the description, Kaz re-entered the room, "What am I missing out on?"

Scully patted the cushion next to her, "A description of your house."

Kaz plopped down next to Scully and crossed her legs, sitting 'Indian-style.' "You should come out there some time, Mrs. Scully. My house is nothing, but the neighborhood is great. I can give you a tour, show you where all the bigtime politicians used to live. Oliver Wendell Holmes once lived in the house across the street from mine. There are quite a few people in the neighborhood that work on the Hill. I see Diane Feinstien all the time at the market. She was one of my idols as a teenager, so it's kind of a big deal for me. Of course, I had to introduce myself and tell her how great I think she is. Now I chat with her whenever I see her." Kaz smiled at her audience, "Living in Washington is so great. This is the heart of the nation, and just being here is...I can't even explain it, but I love it."

Her enthusiasm was endearing, and Maggie smiled at her, "I can understand how you feel, and I'll be sure to come out for a tour sometime. How is your mother, Anne?"

Kaz kept her poker face, though Scully felt her tensing in her seat, "Oh, she's fine. Having a merry Christmas and all of that. I sent her a bread maker and she seemed pleased by it. She sent me a gift too, but wouldn't tell me what it was. I'll have to wait until I get home."

"That's sweet," Maggie said.

"Yes," Kaz replied, forcing a smile to her face. Those were the only kind words Kaz and her mother had exchanged before Rose asked her about her current marriage prospects. Certainly (Rose had said to her) with all those thousands of men in the Navy, one of them must surely find her interesting. If not, it was probably because she let herself get too dark in the summertime and never protected her skin. It didn't do for a woman to let her skin get too dark. Rose herself was lighter-skinned than her daughter, all because she was careful not to let herself get too much sun.

From there, the conversation continued to deteriorate until Kaz felt she needed a good, stiff drink. She covered her eyes with one hand and listened to her mother tell her all the things she'd been telling her since Kaz was in grade school. The ever-popular "you're too dark" conversation had been giving her fits since she was eight and old enough to understand that her mother's fear of the sun came from old-school prejudices against non-Anglos. Her dad, on the other hand, told her to be proud of her heritage, no matter what it was. He said that by the time she was an adult, people would love her for who she was, not what color her skin was.

Scully diverted the conversation by asking if anyone else was ready for pie, and they all had huge slices of the homemade cherry pie Maggie had baked. It was Mulder's favorite, and he had three slices, finishing it off.

A little after seven o'clock the visitors decided to shove off and began to say their good-byes. Maggie was staying for another couple of days, so she saw them to the door. As Mulder and Kaz loaded up the car, Scully found time for a word alone with her mother.

"Are you still okay with everything, Mom?"

Maggie suddenly hugged her daughter with surprising force, then held her at arms length, "Actually, honey, I'm doing much better now than I was when I woke up this morning. I really do like Anne, and if there's anyone I would want you to be with like this, it would be her. She's intelligent, caring, and wonderful. And, though I'm sure you've already noticed this yourself, but she is quite beautiful as well."

Scully blushed and lowered her eyes, "Yes, she is."

"I wish you two happiness, and I want to see you again soon. Just because you're seeing her doesn't mean I don't get my time with you too. Bring her over for dinner at the house sometime."

"I will, Mom, I promise. Thank you for having us, and thank you for the gifts. Thank you most of all for your kindness and your support, Mom. I love you."

They embraced, "I love you too, honey. Drive safely."

Kaz and Mulder joined them, and another round of 'thank yous' were said and huge given before they finally headed out the door.

Scully drove, with Kaz in the passenger seat and Mulder in the back. He had plenty of leg room since Scully was driving, and he stretched his legs out. They waved at the figure of Mrs. Scully in the window until she was out of sight.

"Your mother is a wonderful woman, Scully." Kaz remarked, smiling as she watched the snow-covered trees fly by her window."

"You said it, kid," Mulder replied, stretching his arms and making his jacket into a pillow to sleep on.

Within minutes he was snoring softly along with the light Christmas music coming from the radio. Scully reached out and touched Kaz's hand. Their fingers entwined and they smiled softly at each other as they made their way home.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

8:55 p.m.

They dropped Mulder off at his place and helped him take his things upstairs, then accepted hugs and friendly peck on the cheek as thank yous for his gifts.

To Scully, he said, "See you in the morning, little woman."

She cocked a finger, making a gun and shooting him with her thumb as she winked, "Sure thing, big guy."

Climbing back into the car, Kaz said, "Do you still want to come over?"

"There's nothing I want more."

"Then let's pick up some clothes for you and go," Kaz said with a huge smile that made her teeth gleam in the moonlight.

Scully felt herself warm at the sight, and had to concentrate to keep her focus while driving. Kaz took her hand once again, idly stroking the back of it with her thumb as Scully drove. It didn't make the job any easier, but they eventually reached their midway destination.

Pulling into her space outside the apartment building, Scully turned the car off, but did not pull her hand from Kaz's. They sat in the dim lamplight for a moment, not wanting to break the contact between them. Reluctantly, however, and they got out of the car and stepped into the crisp night air.

The pair brought Scully's things in and quickly picked out a suit for the morning. As Kaz's back was turned, Scully pulled Joe the vibrator out of a dresser drawer and stuck him in her bag.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

9:20 p.m.

They stumbled in the front door loaded down with boxes and bags. Kaz set her box of gifts on the love seat and took dinner leftovers to the refrigerator. As she closed the door she felt, rather than heard or saw, Scully behind her. Turning around, she faced the smaller, fairer woman, and brought a hand up and ran it over Scully's cheek. Closing her eyes, Scully leaned into the warm palm of her hand. Kaz bent forward to kiss her companion.

Kaz's touch sent electric currents racing through Scully's body, making her feel as though her skin were deliciously on fire. Once again, the tall, dark Naval Officer was driving her slowly insane with light, seductive touches and kisses. She decided to turn the tables, and leaned heavily into the taller woman, pinning her against the refrigerator. She ran her hands up under Kaz's sweater and t-shirt to feel the bare skin of her lover's midriff. Kaz's nipples instantly hardened the moment Scully's nails glided over the fabric of her bra.

Kaz sighed into Scully's mouth, yet somehow tore her own away, "Scully, don't get too carried away yet. I have plans for you tonight."

"Plans?" Scully asked, kissing her neck lightly.

"Yes, plans, and they don't involve the kitchen floor. Come on."

Scully pulled back, her eyelids heavy and her face deeply flushed. Her beautiful bow lips were parted and slightly swollen from kisses. Kaz took her hand and led her to a drawer, where she rummaged for a moment before pulling out a paper sack. Grabbing a book of wooden matches on her way, Kaz led her companion up the stairs.

They once again stopped at the linen closet for towels. It reminded Scully of their 'morning after' lovemaking session.

"Another shower?" she asked in a voice she tried to keep steady, but instead was heavily laden with desire.

Kaz smiled softly but shook her head. "No, something even better."

They walked into the bathroom and Kaz released her hand to peek into the bag. She pulled out an assortment of candles and began to place them on flat surfaces all around the room. Finally, she placed two small ones on a runner at the end of the huge clawfoot tub and a few at the head of it.

She looked back at Scully, who was nearly swooning, her imagination already taking her far into this scenario. Kaz approached and pulled her into supportive arms.

Into the redhead's ear, she whispered, "Last week, you told me on the phone how much you enjoyed taking a bath, so I thought you might like this."

Scully had to swallow hard before she could reply, "Oh...I do. I can already tell I'm going to like it very much."

Kaz kissed her lightly on the forehead, the tip of the nose, then on the mouth. She then turned to plug the tub with the stopper and twist the brass handles. Soon the room was roaring with the rush of hot water, and Scully looked down at the old porcelain monster. It was like nothing Scully had ever seen. Kaz began to light the candles, then switched off the overhead lights. She took Scully's hand and led her to a cabinet which held soap and scented oils.

"You choose which you'd like. I'll be back in a moment." Kaz said, kissing her briefly before leaving the room.

Scully watched her leave, the turned back, looking through the small collection of bottles before picking one that reminded her of the clean, earthy scent of Kaz herself. This was it. This was what she'd been smelling everytime Kaz came near. She'd been trying to identify it ever since she'd met the beautiful young woman.

Scully poured a fair amount of the sandalwood-scented oil into the large tub and set the bottle on the runner next to a candle. She felt Kaz re-enter the bathroom and faced her.

Shadows flickered across Kaz's young, unlined face as she set down a small cassette player and plugged it in. She stuck a tape in the machine and hit the play button, then came up to Scully and gave her a huge, excited grin before leaning forward to claim Scully's red lips again. Their kiss quickly deepened until they each sighed heavily.

Kaz reluctantly broke away to turn to the water off. Only then did Scully hear the music form the stereo. To her surprise, Kaz hadn't picked jazz, but apparently had a home-made tape. At Scully's upraised eyebrow, she explained.

"Lenny Kravitz is one of my favorites, and although most people don't think of him as 'mood music', his ballads make me melt. He's a genius," she said before stealing another kiss.

Scully closed her eyes and listened to the slow music as Kaz's fingers worked on the buttons of the flannel shirt she wore.

    "There comes a time to be free of the heart.
     I want to be ready, ready to start.
     On a love journey, I got places to go.
     Made up my mind and now I've got to let you know."

In no time, her shirt was gone, and Kaz was lifting the white turtleneck over her head. Her bra was unfastened and carefully pulled away, then Kaz's gentle fingers were removing her earrings, something endearingly intimate to Scully, who felt a spreading warmth in her midsection and a wetness between her legs. Kaz's hands were now cupping her breasts, then one soft kiss was placed on top of each.

She opened her eyes to meet Kaz's. They were sparkling and, as always, beautiful in the candlelight. Scully quickly stepped out of shoes and socks and allowed her jeans and panties to be removed as well. She then went to work on Kaz, pressing her naked body close as she worked to rid her tall, sexy companion of the garments that separated them. The music was beautiful:

    "Heaven help the heart that lets me inside,
     Heaven help the one who comes in my life,
     Heaven help the fool who walks through my door.
     'Cause I decided right now...I'm ready for love."

When Kaz was gloriously naked as well, they stepped into the other's arms, each relishing the feel of her partner's bare skin against her own.

"Am I a fool for walking through your door?" Scully asked, her eyes heavy with desire.

Kaz moved forward and caressed Scully's arms and shoulders, amazed by the soft, milky-white skin. "If you are, you're my fool now. There's no way I could give you up," she replied, leaning in to touch Scully's lips.

<Nor could I,> Scully thought as the full, pliant lips pulled gently at her own, tasting both the top and bottom one before pushing out into her mouth. Their tongues met and meshed together. Scully ran her hands down to Kaz's narrow waist, then over her soft, firm ass. She pulled the officer closer. Her movement was immediately reciprocated.

Breaking a deep, excruciatingly delightful kiss, Kaz pulled away and stepped into the hot bathtub. She sat back in it, leaving a space in front of her for Scully.

The water was warm and inviting, and as Scully laid back in Kaz's embrace, she felt so safe and content that she let out a long sigh. Kaz curled her arms around Scully's stomach and coaxed her back so that she rested her head on Kaz's shoulder. She felt Kaz's breasts against her back, Kaz's body beneath her, and Kaz's hot breath in her ear. A current flowed through her body. Scully was warm with desire, and yet she was still wound up from the nervous excitement of the last few days.

"This was a wonderful weekend," Kaz said softly, reading her mind and curling her arms across Scully's stomach to hold her close, "but I'm sure it took its toll as well. I want you to let go of the tension inside yourself and relax. Don't worry about yesterday, or tomorrow, or even today. We're outside all of that here. Here, it's just the two of us. Let go of everything else and just be with me."

Her words were soothing, her embrace comforting and safe. Scully felt the tension of the weekend drain from her body. She hadn't realized she'd been stressed, but between hiding her secret from her mother, and then worrying once Maggie had found out, Dana Scully had been more than a little over wound. Every time Kaz had drawn near to her, some of that tension had eased, but still, it had run through the entire holiday weekend.

This, however, was so relaxing, so luxurious, so sensual and arousing that she felt herself dissolving into Kaz's embrace. Kaz's cheek was against her temple, and occasionally she felt a soft kiss placed on it, but for the most part they simply lay there, eyes closed, bodies slowly relaxing as the songs played through.

    "All I ever wanted, all I ever needed,
     All I ever wanted was love.
     Remember kissing in the moonlight?
     How we held each other all night,
     All I ever wanted was love."

As the song ended, Kaz whispered, "How are you doing?"

"M-m-m. Fine. It's getting cooler though."

Unhooking the stopper with her toe, Kaz let some of the cool water out. She then took an agile foot and spun the hot water dial. Scully giggled a little at the sight.

Her giggling ceased, though, when she saw Kaz lazily reach for the bottle of oil she'd set close to a candle. Kaz let a generous amount run out into her hand, then brought both hands to Scully's chest, gently working it over her; slowly down to her breasts, over her shoulders, and up near her throat. Kaz's fingers glided soothingly over her skin, enveloping her in a warm, sensual cocoon.

The water was hot once again, very hot when combined with the growing heat between them. Kaz turned it off with her foot, then hooked her legs around Scully's, parting them and opening her up. She scooted Scully up just a bit until they were cheek to cheek.

Kaz took more oil now and once again ran her hands over Scully's breasts, watching her hands work on the nipples until they tightened into hard nubs. She knew Scully's eyes were closed and she heard the contented little noises her companion was making. She kissed Scully's cheek, then sent her tongue into Scully's ear as her hands began to work lower.

Scully moaned at the onslaught. The warm, wet tongue in her ear and the soft, gentle hands across her submerged abdomen were driving her insane. Kaz moved her hands to Scully's thighs, running over the tops, then down to the insides of them.

The slow, sensual motion sent sparks through the redhead. Her brain was buzzing, her senses overloaded by pleasant stimulation. She gasped as a finger slowly entered her, and again as another was added. Kaz's own legs kept hers apart and bent at the knee, which exposed her, exposed them both, completely.

Kaz's free hand slid to her clit and gently pressed, making her utter a long, slow moan.

Then Kaz's lips were in her ear, hot breath driving her mad as she heard the soft, sweet voice, "Yes, Scully. That's it. I want this long and slow and hot. Is that what you want too?"

Scully bit her lip and nodded, feeling Kaz all around her.

"Good," Kaz said in her ear as she pressed Scully's hard bundle once again, "because I want you to let go of everything when we're here like this. Nothing else exists. It's just you here with me, and I'll make you come as many times as you could possibly want."

Scully thought that this might just be the night she died of sensory overload. Kaz kept the pace maddeningly slow, pushing in and curling her fingers a little before pulling them back. She brought her thumb to Scully's clit as her free hand drifted back up over Scully's stomach and cupped the underside of one breast. She could feel Scully's strong response reverberating through her own body.

Scully moaned again, more relaxed and more aroused then she'd been in--oh God, she'd never felt like this before. She was putty in her partner's hands, and Kaz's hands were like magic on her body. She felt the officer's hot breath on her cheek as well, and it was driving her insane.

She twisted her head, blindly seeking Kaz's mouth. They met and she instantly felt Kaz's tongue against her own. Their mouths were locked tight as they stroked each other and Kaz's smooth hands continued their pursuit. Her tongue mirrored the action of her hand, slowly, rhythmically driving into Scully's mouth to be enveloped inside the warmth of the small, beautiful body.

Quickening the pace just a bit, Kaz kneaded one milky breast, then the other. Scully moaned again, this time into Kaz's mouth, which excited them both tremendously. Scully's hips began to rock in time to Kaz's hand, and the thumb began to press a little harder.

Somewhere, far away, Scully heard the water lap against them as her thrusts grew stronger and her climax built. She released Kaz's mouth and set her own, still open and gasping, against Kaz's cheek. Her lower lip slid up and down against it as she began to pant, every nerve in her body rising to new heights of sensation.

Kaz moved her hand faster still, sensing Scully's nearness. She watched herself move as she pleased her partner, overjoyed at the love and the trust that Scully placed in her by letting her do this. The woman in her arms was exquisite, absolutely amazing, and Kaz wanted nothing more than to please her over and over again.

She was doing an excellent job of it now, as Scully could attest to. The orgasm was rushing at her and she felt herself perched upon the brink of it. Then, yet another finger was slipped inside her, and that was all it took to send her over the edge and into blissful oblivion.

Her body shook and her hips jumped at Kaz's expert hand, which continued to move inside her. The thumb slowed over her nub, lengthening the ride and milking every shudder from her body.

Another strong wave passed over and through her as Kaz again drove a hot tongue into Scully's ear. It sent a new series of deep orgasmic shudders racing through her as she screamed, the sound reverberating off the walls and the tile of the bathroom and back at them. Her chest was heaving and her heart pounding as she cried out again and again and was aware of nothing except this exquisite sensation and the person who was giving it to her: Anne Kazmerowski.

Eventually, her climax subsided, and Kaz very slowly removed her fingers from inside Scully. She brought both arms across the creamy white skin of Scully's flat stomach and whispered calm, soothing words into her ear. Kaz kissed Scully's cheek as the federal agent recovered in her arms.

Gradually, Scully felt the soft lips against her face. She came floating back to reality, overjoyed to realize that Kaz was still there, and that she was still in Kaz's arms. This was a safe haven, a place for only the two of them. It permitted no intruder, no threat, none of those who could not understand the depth of feelings, the love, and the passion between them. Here, with Kaz, she wasn't a gun-toting, hard-nosed FBI agent; she was simply a woman named Dana Scully, a woman who loved and was loved.

When she felt she could, she turned so that she and Kaz lay side-by-side in the huge clawfoot bathtub.

"Thank you," she whispered, looking deep into Kaz's glimmering eyes.

The officer kissed her delicately and said, "Don't thank me, I wanted that as much as you did...maybe more."

"Another of your secret desires?" Scully asked with a little smirk, tracing Kaz's lips with a finger.

Grinning sweetly, Kaz said, "Of course."

Scully initiated the kiss this time, seeking out Kaz's soft tongue and stroking it briefly but fully before saying, "Can I fulfill one of mine?"

Kaz's face mocked seriousness, "O-o-h, let me think about it..." then the grin reappeared, "Okay!"

Scully returned it and kissed the tip of her nose, "Then let's go to the bedroom."

They slowly, sensuously dried each other, Scully's lips following the towel over Kaz's long body. Surprisingly enough, this was the first time she had *really* looked at it, and only now did she realize just how muscular, how toned, and how beautiful her dark, sultry lover's body was. She felt firm muscles beneath soft skin, and ran her hands over the flesh in front of her.

Kaz's Italian skin was like light suede compared to her own Irish fairness, and Scully celebrated their ethnic differences by pressing herself tightly against Kaz's back, her arms encircling the tall young woman's mid-section as she lay her face against the back of Kaz's neck and held her. She felt the silver chain she had given her lover and smiled. Kaz hadn't removed it once since Scully had put in around her neck out in the woods on Saturday.

A shiver ran through the taller woman's body, and a sense of power coursed through Scully's veins as she realized the strength of her effect on her partner. She released her hold on Kaz and they blew out the candles, save two large ones they carried to the bedroom and set on night stands framing the large bed. Kaz noticed that Scully held in her hand the bottle of sandalwood-scented oil. Another shiver ran through her.

"Are these sheets special or anything?" Scully asked, pulling back the covers on the bed.

"No...why?" Kaz replied with an upturned brow.

Scully came up to her and placed a kiss in the hollow of her neck, "Because this could get a little messy."

Kaz had no reply for that and only swallowed, trying to control the heat in her body. Scully felt the heat and the trembling of Kaz's body through her lips, and darted her tongue out to lick at the sensitive skin in front of her. She took Kaz's hands in her own and led her to the bed, laying her face down on it. Scully straddled her, sitting on her hips as she grabbed the bottle of oil and squeezed a generous amount into her hand. It was still warm, and she spread it slowly over Kaz's back, over firm, broad shoulders and down her toned arms.

Scully used her expert doctor's hands to massage the muscles, discovering the true strength the Navy lawyer packed beneath her uniform. Scully bent to lay her lips on Kaz's shoulders as her hands worked over biceps and lowered to down-covered forearms.

"A-h-h, Scully," Kaz mumbled against the mattress, her eyes slipping closed, "that feels s-o-o-o good."

"My God you're strong, Kaz," Scully said as she worked her hands into the firm muscles lining Kaz's back, "I didn't know the Navy was so strict on the fitness of their support divisions."

Kaz chuckled weakly, "Well, I used massive amounts of exercise to try and work through my sexual confusion and growing frustration."

"And did it work?"

"Not nearly as well as this is working," she replied contentedly. "But I'm still going running in the morning if you'd like to join me."

Scully's hands worked their way down Kaz's lower back and to her hips. "I think I can work you out well enough tonight, you'll be exhausted by tomorrow morning."

A little rumbling sound escaped Kaz's throat as she melted into the mattress, "H-m-m...I'd like that."

She reached Kaz's small, tight ass and worked on it slowly. God, it was so magnificent, she took her time and enjoyed the feel of it beneath her fingers. Reluctantly she moved down to her companion's thighs, planting her thumbs deep in the hamstrings to relax them. She smiled at Kaz's blissful sighs.

"You're beautiful," Scully whispered as she made her way down to toned calves.

"M-m-m, you're biased," was the only reply Kaz could make.

Finally, Scully massaged each of Kaz's feet, and was rewarded by happy sounds of relaxed contentment from her partner. She moved up and once again spread oil over Kaz's back, then curled an arm under Kaz's stomach to coax her hips up. She set a pillow under them, then covered Kaz's body with her own, laying her head against Kaz's back and her breasts just above Kaz's fine ass.

Kaz let out a long, low, highly-aroused sigh at the contact, but didn't move. Her body was humming with desire, but this was Scully's show, and she relinquished all control to her beautiful, red-haired lover.

It was during these thoughts that she first heard it. A vaguely familiar sound, but in her current state Kaz couldn't place it. As it touched her opening she jerked a little, suddenly realizing what it was. A slight smile crossed her lips as she let herself relax once more.

It was Joe the vibrator, and Scully was slowly slipping him inside her. She let Scully push her legs farther apart and felt her small, light partner on top of her back. Scully was kissing and licking her spine as she filled her. The feeling was divine, one that she missed more than occasionally over the course of the last few years, and although this was somewhat different, it was Scully who was doing it to her, which heightened her passion and her excitement even more.

"Oh God, Scully," she moaned. "Oh yes."

Scully smiled, laying her face flat against Kaz's back as she pulled back and almost of Kaz before plunging the instrument back in. Kaz's whole body shifted with each inward motion, and it wasn't long before she began to emit excited little grunts and groans. Reaching beneath them both, Scully found Kaz's clit and rubbed it as she increased her pace. Kaz was going wild below her, hips grinding as her body tensed for the oncoming release.

"O-h-h-h, Scully. Harder, Scully, please! Oh yes, that's it!"

Scully's pace became frantic now, both hands working hard to send Kaz flying into orgasm. She felt a sheen of sweat break out between them and mix with their oiled bodies. She rubbed her face into the skin of Kaz's back and rode the thrusts with her, the Kaz-like smell of sandalwood in her nose and the feel of Kaz against her face.

"A-h-h-h, S-c-c-u-l-l-l-e-e-e!" Kaz moaned as she lost control and submitted to the intensity of the pleasure coursing all throughout her body.

The tension in Kaz's body exploded into a shattering orgasm as her mind fell apart and her body rode on wave after wave of sensation. Her head was swimming in thoughts of Scully and nothing else.

As she came down, Scully turned off the vibrator and slipped it out, making Kaz squint and groan at the sense of loss. They lay still, though, Scully on her partner's back, holding her slick body tight as she recovered.

Eventually, Scully slid up to cover Kaz completely, straddling her with strong legs but leaning over to kiss beneath her ear. "I guess you've found out one of my secret desires now, Kaz. I've been dreaming of doing that since our first night together."

"Wow..." was all Kaz could say.

Scully chuckled, slipping herself off of Kaz to lay by her side. Kaz rolled so that they could embrace each other, kissing ferociously for long minutes before speaking again.

It was Kaz who broke away to ask, "Do I get to pick what we do next?"

"That's only fair," Scully replied, her eyes still closed and her lips beautifully swollen from Kaz's hungry kisses.

"I want to taste you," Kaz told her in a low voice.

Scully's eyes opened and stared into sparkling black onyx. "Only if you'll allow me the same pleasure."

"Of course," Kaz said, her lips all over Scully's face as she repeated her lover's words, "That's only fair."

They touched their mouths again before moving to the position they'd discovered over the weekend. Scully was glad she'd given it another try. She realized not that it was a wonderful thing...you only needed the right partner.

And for her, Anne Kazmerowski was definitely the right partner.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tuesday, Dec 26, 1997
5:35 am

As Anne Kazmerowksi drifted back to consciousness, a slow smile spread across her face. Scully's sleeping form was pressed tight against her back, one arm curled possessively around her stomach. She wanted nothing more than to stay here in bed with Scully all day. Unfortunately, though, she knew they would have to move. After a three-day weekend of good food, wine, and relaxation, she had to get out and run this morning. Exercise was no longer simply a way to let out her frustrations, but it did keep her strong, both physically and mentally. Kaz found that she felt better and that her mind was sharper and clearer when she did a quick five miles in the morning.

She carefully disentangled herself from Scully's grasp and reluctantly got out of the bed. Scully sighed and rolled over, curling her small body into a fetal position and hugging a pillow in Kaz's absence. Although Kaz wanted nothing more than a cleansing shower to clear her skin of the layer of oil still coating it, she donned sweats and an old stocking cap and brushed her teeth. She smoothed the hair back from Scully's face before kissing her lightly on the forehead, and went outside.

She jumped up and down on the balls of her feet, acclimating herself to the brisk December day. It was so different than back at home in San Francisco, but she enjoyed the full four seasons that the East had to offer, and relished the crisp feel of the December air in her nostrils.

Kaz smiled to herself as she started out. This was going to be a great day. How could it not be? She had just been promoted, would have new, challenging duties assigned to her, and (most importantly) was in love with the beautiful Federal Agent who lay sleeping upstairs in her bed.

~~~~~~~~~~~

6:15 am

Kaz opened the front door and was assaulted by the heavenly smell of coffee brewing. The kitchen, however, was deserted. She took her cap off and climbed the stairs, hearing movement in the bathroom. A look inside yielded the sight of Dana Scully in a black skirt and white silk blouse. She was carefully applying eyeliner until she spotted Kaz in the mirror and smiled radiantly.

<God, she's beautiful,> Kaz thought for the thousandth time in ten days.

"Good morning," she said to the red head.

"G'morning," Scully said in return. "I guess I didn't wear you out after all."

Kaz grinned, "Oh, you wore me out all right, but I'm young, I recover quickly. And I need to stay in shape...my girlfriend, she's a livewire."

Despite the beads of sweat that stood out on her forehead and ran down her temple, Scully stepped up to Kaz and kissed her deeply, her arms encircling the tall woman's waist.

When she pulled back, Scully said, "You know, Kaz, you kind of smell."

Looking down into the icy-blue depths of Scully's eyes, Kaz said, "I just ran for forty-five minutes, what do you expect, roses?"

The crystal eyes turned impish, "I didn't say it was a bad smell. You smell like sandalwood."

Leaning foreword for another kiss, Kaz said, "And do you like sandalwood?"

Scully met her lips, lingered on them before touching the tip of her tongue to her dark lover's, "I love sandalwood...and I love you."

Kaz's breath shuddered in and out as she closed her eyes, "I love you too, Scully, but if you don't stop doing this I can't be held responsible for my actions."

Scully backed off, still smiling playfully. She tossed a towel at Kaz and said, "Here, you need a shower."

Kaz caught it and hung it on the peg by the shower stall. Then she peeled off her shirt and running bra, her sweats and underwear. She knew Scully was watching and took her time, looking non-chalant. When she'd rid herself of every stitch of clothing. she finally looked back at Scully, who leaned against the sink witching, jaw hanging slack and eyes becoming heavy.

Turning on the water but holding Scully's gaze, Kaz said, "Turnabout is fair play, Red."

Scully closed her mouth, but still stared openly and longingly as Kaz stepped into the shower. She watched the woman smile and give her a little wave before closing the door. Kaz began to whistle a little tune as she moved behind the obscuring glass of the door.

She wasn't playing fair. Definitely not. Scully scanned the bathroom, found a drinking glass, and filled it with very cold water. Only instants after pouring it over the top of the stall she heard the loud protests.

"Damn! Scully! A-r-g-g-h-h! You'll pay for this later, babe! I promise you that! Damn!"

Scully laughed out loud and whistled a tune of her own before picking up her eyeliner and turning back to the mirror.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

7:25 am

They ate Grape Nuts, drank coffee, and shared sections of the newspaper, enjoying their last few minutes alone before they had to separate for the day. Each woman savored the domesticity of this morning ritual, so common in other households all across the world, yet uncommon to each of them. Neither of them would mind it becoming much more common.

Refilling her cup, Kaz said, "I can't go all week without seeing you again, Scully."

The black-suited agent looked up from The Post to look at Kaz, who was striking in her khaki uniform, but wore a sad look in her large brown eyes. Scully reached out and covered Kaz's hand with her own. Kaz took her free hand and fingered the links of the gold chain around Scully's wrist.

"I don't think I can even go all day," she replied.

Kaz looked up from their hands to Scully's angelic face, and the puppy-dog look brightened to one of unexpected happiness.

Scully shook her head at the young officer, "I thought you lawyers were stone-faced, that you held your cards close to the vest and all that, but you wear your heart on your sleeve, sailor."

Kaz winked at her, "Only when it comes to you, Red. Besides, you've never seen me in the courtroom, I get mean there."

Scully doubted Anne Kazmerowski had a mean bone in her body, but said, "I'll bet. I'd invite you to my place tonight, but I really like it here, and it's so close to the Hoover Building. Do you mind?"

"Of course not, as long as I'm with you, I don't care where we are. I'm glad you like the place though."

Scully glanced once more around the cozy kitchen walls. The house was indeed venerable, but had been well-kept, and all of its owners seemed to appreciate its age, only making modifications when it was necessary to accommodate modern convenience. The effect was a perfect blend of old and new, a celebration of the past, yet an acknowledgment of the modern world. It was completely Kaz, and Scully loved it.

She turned back to her hostess, "I'll call you at lunch and we can make plans then."

Kaz nodded, then stood and took their empty bowls to the sink. They straightened the kitchen and Scully went upstairs for her things.

"Leave them," Kaz told her, embracing her from behind as she gathered her things from the bathroom.

Looking into the mirror, their eyes met, and both women smiled at the other. Scully turned and hugged Kaz hard, drawing the officer's body tight against her own in friendship, reassurance, and love. It was only when Kaz's honor bars poked into her neck that she released the taller woman.

"I have to go," she said, "Mulder worries if I'm not in by eight."

Lifting an eyebrow, Kaz remarked, "A little overprotective, maybe?"

Nervously, but with a valiant effort to hid it, Scully replied, "Well, he has reason to be."

"I see," Kaz said with a nod, knowing that she shouldn't pry.

She grabbed Scully's garment bag from behind the door and handed it to her, then they filed downstairs, where Scully donned her long trench coat. They gave each other a brief peck on the cheek before Kaz opened the door for her visitor. She watched Scully walk down the front porch and to her car. They exchanged a wave before Scully drove off. Kaz closed the door and gathered her things, her mind still on Dana Scully.

Just as she was about to leave, she remembered something, and checked the small black box beside the telephone. She had 14 messages waiting for her, and hit the 'PLAY' button to get them going. Most were from co-workers who'd heard the rumor she'd been promoted and were calling to congratulate her. She chuckled at the same old jokes about how they saluted every morning before coming to work anyway, and they'd be happy to do it in the office as well.

"No thanks guys," she mumbled as she stared out the window at the space where Scully's car used to be.

Toward the end of the list a more authoritarian voice came on. It was female, and Kaz recognized it instantly as belonging to Captain Martin.

<Oh hell, what's the Dragon-Lady calling me for?>

Captain Martin was a liaison between other departments, which usually meant CIA or NSA, but covered a wide range of other areas, including internal security bureaus. Her nickname of 'Dragon-Lady' was not a put down, for among the Navy lawyers being known as a dragon, a tiger, or a bear in the courtroom was a fine distinction. However, Kaz had no idea why Captain Martin would be calling her.

"Congratulations on your promotion, Commander Kazmerowski. I'm calling to set up a meeting with you for Tuesday morning at 0930. There I'll brief you on your new duties and hand you your first assignment. I'll expect to see you in my office then. Good-bye, Commander."

Brief and to the point, that was Martin all right. Frowning to herself as she mentally replayed the unexpected message, Kaz picked up her hat and attache case and walked out the door.

~~~~~~~~~~~

J. Edgar Hoover Building
8:00 am

Scully strolled into the office to find Mulder hunched over a pile of photographs with a magnifying glass.

"Looking for Waldo?" she joked as she hung up her coat.

"Stop," he replied in his trademark monotone, "you're killing me. Come take a look at these, Scully."

She walked behind the desk and peered over his shoulder, "They're cows, Holsteins, to be precise."

He held up a finger, "Dead Holsteins, to be even more precise. And look at this series of marks near the neck."

She studied the picture briefly, "Looks like some type of brand."

He snorted at her response, "Since when have ranchers started branding their herds with what looks like a perfect set of Dracula-teeth?"

Crossing her arms and raising an eyebrow, she said, "Dracula-teeth? Is that a medical term or a scientific one?"

He waved a hand at her sarcasm and thumbed through the photos, "You probably have another name for it, but you know what I'm talking about. Sharp, oversized incisors on the top and bottom like this." He pointed to an area of the photo near the cow's neck.

"Yes," she replied, her arms crossed in front of her, "I'm sure we have another name for what you're referring to, but I prefer 'Dracula-teeth' myself, it gives us so much more credibility if we call local law enforcement and ask them to be on the lookout for dead cattle bearing the 'Dracula-teeth' brand."

"I don't think it's a brand, Scully."

She poured herself a cup of coffee and stirred creamer in as she said, "Let me guess, then. Aliens have yet again mistaken Holstein cattle for the most advanced form of life of the planet and are stealing their blood for experimental purposes."

He gave her a wry smile, "O-o-h, Scully. You make me all warm and tingley when you talk like that."

"You have a two-track mind, Mulder. Are sex and extra-terrestrials the only things you think about?"

"Well, your mother's cooking runs a close third, and then of course, there's how the Knicks are doing."

She was spared further discussion of the subject by the ringing of the telephone.

"Scully," she said into the instrument.

She listened for a moment, punctuated the conversation with an occasional, "Yes, sir," and hung up. Mulder looked expectantly at her and she said, "That was Skinner, he wants to see us at nine-thirty."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Washington Navy Yard
Room D-206
0930

"Have a seat Commander," Captain Martin told her, rising momentarily.

"Thank you, ma'am," Kaz replied, seating herself in a comfortable leather chair in front of the Captain's desk.

The Captain was a medium-sized woman with long black hair she wore in a loose clip at her neck. She was a striking woman with piercing gray eyes, one who commanded respect and was somewhat intimidating. Kaz, however, admired as well as respected the Captain, who had made her way to her prestigious position through hard work and diligence. Not many women rose to her station. Kaz had even heard rumors that Martin may achieved Rear-Admiral status in the near future.

"Commander Kazmerowski, I need to inform you of changes in your duty schedule. With your promotion comes reassignment."

Kaz wasn't altogether surprised. She'd been expecting a change, but hadn't been expecting to be briefed by Martin.

"I will be your immediate superior, but your association with me will be loose."

Kaz's brow furrowed slightly, "I don't believe I understand, ma'am."

"Your work on the Criminal Task Force was tremendous, Commander, and it was difficult for me to pull you away from your unit, but I believe you are the perfect candidate for a new position I am creating in this office. Your background in Constitutional law and military jurisprudence combined with your vast experience with criminal law in the Task Force makes you ideal. However, I had trouble convincing a few of the boys because of your gender and your disability."

"Disability, ma'am?"

"Your medical history indicated three surgeries on your right hand and that you have sustained permanent damage to it."

Kaz had no idea why they would be questioning her physical fitness or the condition of her hand. She was a lawyer, for Christssake, not a goddamned SEAL. Besides, if her hand was a problem, she'd never have made it into the physical to get into the Navy.

Hastily, she defended herself, "I have passed every physical challenge set forth in my training, ma'am, and have encountered no difficulties in the performance of my duties. I feel I must dispute the claim that I have a disability."

Martin held up a hand, silencing her, "Just the same, Commander, this was a concern our superiors had. I, however, was able to convince them you were the best officer for the job. From now on, Kaz, you will be assigned less often to straight legal cases and more often to investigative matters. Your tireless investigation tactics have, in the past, helped you discover the real truth behind many of your cases. A lesser attorney would have simply accepted facts as they appeared and taken a plea for their client. You, however, have shown exceptional skill at this type of behind-the-scenes fact-finding. I hope that you will continue this excellent work under my command."

"I'll do my best, ma'am."

"I know you will, Commander, but it will be difficult to do alone, so I'm assigning you an assistant, one I believe you have worked will with in the past. Lieutenant Junior Grade Hardy Williams will be your assistant. He will provide support from the office while you actively investigate."

Kaz nodded, still stone-faced in Martin's presence. She liked Hardy Williams, and the Captain had been correct, they worked well together when he'd been assigned as her legal assistant in the past. Williams was a para-legal, a young man with only ten months in the JAG Corps, but an excellent researcher and a sharp guy, and they had a natural rapport.

"Thank you, ma'am, that will be excellent."

As if on cue, there was a knock at the door, and Lieutenant Williams was shown in. He took a seat next to Kaz and waited for his assignment.

"Good morning, Lieutenant Williams," Martin said, then went on to explain his new assignment to him.

When she finished she handed each of the officers a manila folder and went through the contents with them. "Early last week, Marine Private First Class Andrew Deakins, stationed at Quantico's Marine Corps CDC (Combat Development Center), was reported AWOL. Two days ago, however, members of his squad out on maneuvers found Deakins sitting alone and naked in the woods. His eyes were glassed over and he was babbling incoherently. A drug test, however, came up negative. Since the incident, PFC Deakins has remained rather uncommunicative, and disciplinary measures are being considered.

"JAG is involved in the case because Deakins attacked the soldiers assigned to bring him in. Assault charges are being considered, and his mental health is in serious question.

"Am I being assigned as council for Private Deakins, ma'am?"

"Not at this time, Commander. You are there in an investigative capacity. If formal charges are brought against the Private, it is altogether possible that you will be assigned as council. However, this case is rather peculiar, and must be handled delicately. It was assigned to my office because it is a case which will be jointly investigated. When it all boils down, Kaz, *this* is what your new duties are all about. You will be investigating cases as a representative of the US Navy in joint-effort with other branches."

Kaz nodded, "I see, ma'am."

Martin took a sip from a heavy mug of coffee and said, "The pair of agents you will be working with will meet in your office at 1100 hours. I expect you both there to brief them and discuss how you will be handling the investigation. Have no doubt, Commander, *you* are in charge of the investigation. The other agents will work jointly with you, but you are the considered to be leading the investigation. If there is a question in their minds, put it to rest."

"Yes, ma'am."

The Captain opened her desk drawer and pulled out a small white laminated card and handed it to Kaz across the desk. Kaz blinked at the weapon permit a few times before comprehension sank in.

"Yes, Commander, it is a permit. I'd suggest you dig your service weapon out and give it a good cleaning. You are under orders to carry it whenever you are actively investigating a case. Before the end of the day I'll expect to see your name on the log in the range. I know its been a few years since firearms class in ROTC, so brush up. That will be all, you are both excused."

They stood and left the office. On their way down the stairs, Williams bent his head in her direction and said, "What the hell is going on, Kaz? You're a lawyer, not Annie-Fucking-Oakley. What's all this about?"

"I wish I knew, Hardy old boy," she said, examining the weapon permit in her hand. "I guess we'll find out soon enough, though."

She looked at her watch, 1015, just enough time to clean her weapon and look over the case before the meeting with...well, whoever.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Walter Skinner's Office
10:15 a.m.

Mulder snapped the file shut and nodded at his superior, "We'll do our best, sir."

"I know you will, Agent Mulder," the surly man said through clenched teeth. "That will be all. Good luck Agent Mulder, Agent Scully."

"Thank you, sir," she said as she rose to leave the room.

In the elevator, Mulder re-opened the file, "Sounds interesting, possible abduction scenario."

"At least it's close to home," she remarked. "No six hour flight to Weed, California for this one."

Mulder smirked at her, "I hear Weed is lovely this time of year. In fact, I was thinking of spending my next vacation there."

She pursed her lips and raised an eyebrow, "You mean going to Weed, or smoking it?"

"Very funny, Agent Scully," he remarked as they reached the basement.

The pair read through their assignment one more time, aware that they had few details at the moment. Everything would be clarified in time, though. Each sensing it was time, they gathered their papers in briefcases and donned their rain coats.

"You want to drive?" Mulder asked her.

She thought for a second, "Let's walk. It's only a mile or so, and it'll be good for you after three days of feeding your face."

"You know," he said on the way back to the elevator, "concern for a male's eating habits is a sign of sexual interest on the part of the female."

"Oh really? Did you read that in one of your Freudian psychology journals?"

"No, the 'Reader's Digest.' It was in the john at the cabin."

"Uh-huh..." she said with a wince. "What a lovely image. You, pants around your ankles, paging through the 'Reader's Digest' on my mother's toilet."

He smiled as he opened the door and they stepped out of the Hoover Building and into the chilly December air.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Washington Navy Yard
Room B-17
1050

Kaz had cleaned and oiled her silver-plated Smith and Wesson service weapon, then attached her holster to the belt of her khaki pants and slid the gun inside. It felt heavy, as heavy as the responsibility that surrounded it. She had never been a fan on guns in general, and even though she was apparently a crack-shot (according to her firearms instructors back in ROTC), didn't like to carry one.

She sat down heavily in her chair and mentally prepared herself for the meeting. They needed to take a trip down to Quantico, and made a mental note to have Hardy all down to make arrangements. Picking up a metal-tipped dart, she twirled in her fingers for a few minutes as she thought through the briefing she would be giving. She brought the dart back near her left ear and tossed it at a well-worn dartboard on the back of the door.

<Bull's Eye. Right up Rush's nose.>

Rush Limbaugh had been featured on the dartboard for a few weeks, and his face was indented with hundreds of puncture marks. She made another mental note to clip a photo of Jesse Helms from The Post soon, or one of Don King, if she got desperate.

She bent back to chuck another dart when the door opened and Hardy Williams walked in.

"Christ, Hardy!" she said with undisguised irritation, "Can't you read the eight signs outside the goddamned door? Knock!...Knock! I came this close to taking out your eye."

"Sorry, Kaz," he said, closing the door and taking a seat to her right. "I forget."

"S'okay," she replied, tossing the dart. It thumped soundly next to the first. Another Bull's Eye. "Just don't say I didn't warn you when you go Sammy Davis on us and have to get a glass eye."

She tossed another dart, this one falling a few inches lower.

"You missed, Kaz," he remarked with a smirk.

"That's where I was aiming," she corrected.

He looked again and realized she had hit Limbaugh's picture squarely in the genitals. He threw back his head and laughed. Williams liked working with Kaz. She was an excellent commanding officer, never demeaning his position and always treating him as an equal, even when she gave him direct orders. Many of the lawyers in the Corps treated him as a peon, as if he were nothing more that their personal secretary and workhorse. With Kaz, he felt like they were a team. She was an extremely talented attorney and had a mind like a steel trap. She was generally easy-going, yet no one messed with her, for Kaz had a lightning-quick tongue that could shoot banter and barbs with the best of them. Her enjoyable personality made her popular among both the male and female staff of the JAG Corps.

Of course, she was also strikingly beautiful. Which helped as well.

"Where'd your nameplate go?" he asked her now, noticing it had been removed from outside her office.

Thwack. Another direct hit. "New bars, new nameplate. I think they're just going to scratch off the Lt. part and throw it back up there."

He laughed a little, and for the first time processed the fact that she was wearing glasses, "New specs?"

She tossed a dart with perfect precision, striking her target in the right eye, "I've had them for months, but always forget to wear them. I'm trying harder to remember nowadays."

She smiled as she thought of how much Scully seemed to like the glasses. If Scully liked them, she' never take them off again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

10:45 a.m.

Mulder and Scully showed the guard their ID's as they set their guns and keys in a tray before passing through the metal detector. The guard on the other side returned them and they were once again on their way.

"You ever been here before, Scully?" Mulder asked, his eyes roaming the dark halls of the main floor, where many of the historical exhibits were displayed. He punched the down button on the elevator and they waited.

"Not since I was a teenager," she replied, stepping into the elevator, "but I've been meaning to come back for some time now."

"Who knows," he said, leaning down to her, "maybe you'll see a familiar face while you're here."

She only shrugged, not wanting to discuss it in the semi-crowded elevator. They exited one short floor down. Unlike the Hoover Building's basement, in this one there were windows near the ceiling that gave the tiled hallways some exterior light.

"Here it is," she said, "B-17."

The nameplate slot was empty, so they had no idea what lay on the other side of the door. It had a large glass window, but it was covered by mini-blinds. On the glass near the door's jamb, however, three paper signs had been taped; one up high, one in Mulder's eye-line, and another in hers. Each held identical messages written neatly in black marker:

"PLEASE KNOCK"

Around each sign were handwritten comments in different scripts, obviously graffiti written by impish co-workers. A few of the messages read: "If this doors a 'rockin, don't bother knockin," "Not responsible for puncture wounds," and "Brick--I heard you got knocked up...er, promoted. Congrats--T.P." Another note read, "DJ Annie K, wanna drink my juice today? Love, Smooch Nob."

Despite the crassness of the messages, the words 'Annie K.' caught both Mulder and Scully's attention. They exchanged a glance, but said nothing. Scully reached out a hand to knock at the door, but stopped short when she heard a loud thud from the other side of it and a very-familiar female voice say,

"Bull's Eye!"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
TO BE CONTINUED...
~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I know, I know, this is really mean, but I had to do it! The story will pick up in Walking The Line 3, which is in progress as we speak. Thanks for reading this story, and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

If you'd like to drop me a line, please feel free to, and send it to:

xfstew@yahoo.com

Thanks again, and have a happy holiday season!

Stew

 


 

Walking The Line, Part 3 - Of Cabbages And Kings
by xf-stew

Rating: NC-17
Classification: SR
Spoilers: Jose Chung's From Outer Space
Keywords: Scully/Other (slash)
Summary: When Scully and Mulder are assigned to work on a case in conjuction with JAG Corps Commander Anne Kazmerowski, Scully finds out what it's like to work alongside someone you're involved with. Marine PFC Andrew Deakins is a disturbed young man, can Mulder, Scully, and Kaz find the cause of the man's strange and troubling behavior? And what's that smell...could it be cigarette smoke?
Dedication: I don't normally do this, because always thought it was kind of cheesy to dedicate internet stories, but...never say never. This story is for Dred, who's getting a hard copy because he's compter illiterate.
Thanks again to Mary Colleen, faithful editor and friend. You're great Mary, thanks a bunch. I also want to thank everyone who has taken the time to respond to these stories. Your input helps me enormously, and has kept the series alive.
**Disclaimer: Characters not mine, except Kaz. Making no money. Don't sue.
Note: This story (as you may already have guessed) is a sequel, and picks up mere seconds after the ending of 'Walking The Line II.' I strongly recommend reading both the first and second stories before jumping into this one. It's not going to make a heck of a lot of sense if you don't.
It's also somewhat important to remember that this story takes place amidst the fourth season,

**THIS STORY IS RATED NC-17. MINORS, PLEASE TURN BACK**

Feedback is always welcome and appreciated. I'm at: xfstew@yahoo.com


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Washington Navy Yard
Room B-17
Tuesday, Dec. 26
10:59 a.m.

Scully reached out a hand to knock at the door, but stopped short when she heard a loud thud from the other side of it and a very-familiar female voice merrily exclaim:

"Bull's Eye!"

Scully's mouth ran dry. She swallowed to find more saliva, but none was forthcoming. White noise filled her ears, blocking out the world momentarily. Then she felt the familiar pressure of Mulder's hand on her back and her mind cleared.

"I'm following your lead, Scully," Mulder whispered close to her ear.

She swallowed again, unable to turn and face him, but now able to form words, "Okay," she croaked, "It's...uh...it's not a problem. I'm, uh...I'm fine."

She lifted her hand once more an knocked firmly on the heavy wooden door.

It was opened by a young black man of average size and build. He nodded politely and beckoned for them to come in. As he stepped aside to allow them entry, Scully saw Kaz sitting behind her desk, glasses on, head down. She was straightening file folders and quickly examining the contents of one. Scully's mind traveled back to last night. The bathtub. The massage. Their bare skin gliding easily together. The number of times she had screamed Kaz's name, or Kaz had called out her own.

She swallowed and fought the crimson blush that threatened to invade her face.

Still looking down and preparing folders for the meeting, Kaz said, "I'm Commander Kazmerowski and this is Lieutenant Williams. We are pleased to be working wi--"

She looked up from her papers--darting her gaze from Scully to Mulder and back. She settled on Scully's eyes, and the agent watched the mental replay of last night fly through Kaz's mind as well. Startled, she looked abruptly back down at her desk.

"Er...um, with you," Kaz finished, trying to regain her composure, her ears growing unbelievably warm. She stood and shot a glance in Hardy's direction to see if he had noticed her slip. He didn't seem to have. She made a snap decision and went with it.

Sticking out her right hand, she smiled just a little and said, "Agents Mulder and Scully, correct? I believe we met a few months back. Howard University? The--um..." she put two fingers to her forehead, as though thinking hard about it, when she was really buying time in order to gather her frazzled thoughts. "The lecture series on procedurals, if I'm not mistaken."

Scully nodded at her as they shook. She understood the gesture of Kaz's smooth lie while trying not to sense the shower of sparks that raced through her when Kaz's skin came into contact with her own. For Kaz's benefit, she chose not to smile, "Yes, Commander, I remember you well."

"Have a seat, please," Kaz offered, all business as she adjusted her glasses and settled into her own chair once more.

Scully watched her carefully, knowing that Kaz was the one in charge of this meeting and (officially) of this entire investigation. Other that her initial show of surprise, Kaz was the consummate professional. She looked cool and collected in her khaki sweater, her gold-leafed lapels, and her neatly pressed trousers. Lieutenant Williams, who also wore khakis, sat facing the agents and off to Kaz's right. Scully felt her eyes uncomfortably settle on her young lover's.

Kaz picked three folders off her desk and handed one to each of the visitors in her office. She opened her own folder, but sat back in her chair to run through the preliminaries of the meeting.

"Agent Mulder, Agent Scully, I believe you have been assigned to investigate an altercation at the Marine Combat Development Facility involving one Private First Class Andrew Deakins. The JAG Corps has assigned me to this case as well, and I very much look forward to working with the Bureau in general and with the two of you in particular.

She paused momentarily, which allowed Mulder a chance to speak, "We look forward to working with the Navy and with you as well, Commander."

Kaz smiled politely as she threaded her hands together on the desk and leaned forward, "Thank you, Agent Mulder. Shall we begin, then? The report I received this morning indicated that PFC Deakins disappeared from his barracks room on Saturday, December 15. His belongings were abandoned and his departure woke none of his sleeping platoon-members. The private was missing and assumed Absent Without Leave until a somewhat mysterious and as yet unexplained re-appearance on Friday, December 22. He was found naked in the woods that surround the Quantico area and was reported as being in a state of incoherency. When troops tried to bring Private Deakins in, his actions allegedly became hostile, resulting in assault charges being considered against him.

"It is my understanding that I am to look into this matter in an investigative capacity with an eye on the legal ramifications of the incident. At this time, I am not assigned as council for Private Deakins. This morning, I was also informed of your agency's involvement in this matter and told that the investigation will be a co-operative venture between our departments. I can understand the Bureau's interest, given its odd flavor and the fact that it occurred very near your headquarters and main training facility. Hardy and I will set up a visit to Quantico for this afternoon if that is okay with you."

Mulder and Scully both nodded at her. Mulder was amazed at the way she'd pulled herself from her startlement and went into smooth lawyer mode in the blink of an eye. Scully was impressed as well. She was struck by how different Kaz was here in her office. Her tone was friendly, yet businesslike. Endearing and charming, yet quick and to the point. She was just starting to see a new quality emerge in her perception of Anne Kazmerowski. Kaz was incredibly charismatic. Initially, she thought this was an effect Kaz had only on her, but it was quickly becoming clear (when viewed through the lens of professional interaction) that Kaz charmed most every one she met.

<She probably has juries eating out of her hands,> she thought as she listened to Kaz's voice, the careful construction of innocuous sentences that conveyed information without conceding guilt, nor claiming innocence. They were the measured words of a lawyer, and a good one.

She fought an inward battle to detach herself, to concentrate on the facts of the case as Kaz was presenting them instead of how beautiful and how sexy the woman across from her was, even in her somewhat 'unisex' khaki uniform. It was difficult to focus though, especially since Kaz was wearing those damned silver glasses. Difficult, yes, but not impossible. Scully gathered herself and forced her concentration on the matter at hand.

Kaz finished the briefing by giving her a copy of Deakins's medical history and handing them both the results of his introductory psychological profile. She told them Deakins had been re-evaluated, and that they would speak with the psychiatrist at the base when they arrived. After that, she checked her watch, realizing it was close to 1230 hours.

"Agent Mulder, Agent Scully, may I offer you lunch before we head out to CDC?"

Scully met her eyes, only now allowing a hint of personal warmth instead of professional courtesy into them. "That's very nice of you, Commander. Thanks."

Kaz smiled back at her, returning the warmth, "Wonderful. Hardy?" she asked, turning to Williams.

He begged off, claiming he needed to finish some paperwork and call the contacts down at Quantico to set up her visit. Kaz watched him leave the office, then let out a deep breath. She closed the door, went back, and sat behind her desk once more.

Scully and Mulder took their chairs again too, realizing that the meeting was not quite over. Scully watched Kaz pick up a metal-tipped dart and twirl it in her fingers. The young officer stared at it thoughtfully for a few long seconds before she looked back up at the pair of agents.

"Is this going to be a problem for either of you two?"

Mulder glanced at his partner. With his eyes, he told her he was fine with things. Her own expression was so neutral he knew it could only be a mask. What lay beneath it, however, he could not tell.

He listened to his petite partner turn to her friend and speak, "It's not going to be a problem for me as long as it's not for you, Kaz. I think this meeting we just had proves that you are very good at separating your work from your personal feelings. Hell, *I* wasn't even sure if you knew me."

Kaz smiled weakly at the joke, "It's not a problem for me. I'd love a chance to see you work. I just wanted to make sure everything was kosher at your end."

She twirled the dart again, this time staring hard at a point just above the agents' heads and between their shoulders. She drew the dart back and chucked it.

"Jesus!" Mulder yelped, leaning quickly away from the zip he heard just over his ear.

Scully didn't even move. She stared into Kaz's face, still heavy with concentration. Gradually, it brightened into a small smile. Scully looked back over her shoulder. The dart stuck smack in the middle of the target's face.

She turned back to the officer, "Bull's Eye."

Kaz grinned at the agents, "Damn straight. Come on," she said, standing and grabbing her attache case. "This is going to be fun. Let's go grab some grub."

Exchanging a glance with the still-startled Fox Mulder, Scully shrugged her shoulders and followed Kaz out of the office.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kaz shut the door behind them and turned to lock it.

"Hey Kaz," a blonde, bearded man called out as she passed. "Congratulations on the new job, don't miss me too much."

"Thanks Chilton, I'll try not to," she replied as she twisted the key in the lock.

Another man, this one tall, handsome, and very black stopped by her side. In a velvety-smooth voice said, "Well, if it isn't the lovely miss Annie K. You must have impressed someone upstairs, Brick. Did you finally give it up to Captain Lyndon? That dirty old man has been checking your ass out for years."

She finished locking the door and turned to the man. With a dean-pan expression she replied, "No, Nobbs old boy. I 'gave it up' to Captain Martin. She's been after me a lot longer. Plus, she lets me spank her when she's naughty."

Mulder and Scully watched the man, Nobbs, suddenly burst out laughing and clap her on the back for a moment before continuing down the hall.

Over his shoulder, he said, "That's a good one, Brick. You and a lady. Captain Martin of them all! Ha! You coming to The Bomber after work?"

"We'll see," she replied as the trio watched the cocky young man recede from view.

"Who was that?" Mulder asked her.

She gave Scully a little smile and a quick wink, then looked up at Mulder, "That was Nobbs, AKA, The Smooch Nob. He just got bumped too. He's a Lieutenant Commander now. His mission in life is to get my goat, so I try my best to give it right back."

"I see," Scully said, jerking her head at the graffiti-covered signs outside her door. "It looks like your co-workers have little respect for your signs."

Kaz ran a hand through her hair, scratching the back of her head as she tried to come up with a logical explanation for why she let the blatant sexual innuendoes from her male co-workers slide. "It's kind of a running joke. I put the signs up because I like to throw darts when I'm thinking. It helps me concentrate. But everyone kept walking in when I was throwing and I almost took out a few eyes. Now I have these huge signs, and most of the guys knock, knowing that I only close the door during meetings or when I'm tossing darts around. However, they *do* feel the need to desecrate the signs whenever possible. Every time I make new ones, two days later they're covered in blow-job jokes."

Scully raised an eyebrow, "It doesn't upset you?"

Kaz led them down the tiled hallway. She almost reached for Scully's hand, as she'd done in every spare moment over the weekend. Startled by the instinct, and pushing it down hard, she re-ran the question through her mind.

"Um--Not usually. Very few people come to my office. That might change with this new assignment though. If it does, I think I have an idea that might stop the graffiti."

"What's that?" Mulder asked as they climbed the stairs.

Smiling evilly, Kaz said, "Among my artistic talents is the ability to forge almost anyone's handwriting. A little white-out, some colored pens, and presto--all the blow-job jokes are addressed to Nobbs. Tack the sign on his door one morning, sit back, and watch the sparks fly."

Scully gave her an appreciative smile as they headed into the cafeteria, "Not bad. Who's Captain Martin?"

"She's my new CO; well-known by the guys as a hard-ass, Ice Queen and all that." She didn't notice the glance the two FBI agents exchanged. Little did Kaz know her girlfriend was known by the same nickname in certain circles within the Bureau.

"Is she that tough?" Scully asked her, accepting a bowl of minestrone from the counter.

Kaz shrugged, "I'm not sure yet. They call her the Dragon-Lady. One, because you don't mess with her, and two, because she breathes fire in the courtroom. When I was a fish I saw her a few times and was downright amazed. She's fantastic in court, and was something of a professional role-model for me until I developed my own style. I respect Captain Martin, and my comment back there was way out-of-line. Captain Martin is happily engaged, and, as you both know quite well, I have no such aspirations with the good Captain. I apologize for letting Nobbs engage me in locker-room banter in your presence."

"That's okay," Scully said as they searched for a table far in the back of the cafeteria. "Despite his constant stream of lewd sexual references, Nobbs sounds like a good friend."

The officer nodded, "He is, and his jokes really aren't that bad. He and I are buddies, we often go to official functions together. His girlfriend hates them...but I think she likes me even less," she finished with a smile.

As they made their way through the large lunchroom, Scully was surprised by how many people warmly greeted Kaz. Men (and the few women) at every table had a smile and a friendly wave, many giving congratulations on her promotion as they passed. It seemed, from the admiring glances liberally bestowed, that Kaz's latent celibacy wasn't for lack of potential partners. She smiled to herself as they sat, little did these guys know...

They went through PFC Deakins' personnel file and progress reports as they ate, talking shop and, at least in Scully and Kaz's case, trying hard to concentrate on the materials in front of them instead of on each other.

"So what are our plans for the afternoon, fearless leader?" Scully asked as she finished her soup.

The younger woman chuckled as she finished off her soda, "Well, I'm supposed to go to the firing range. Captain Martin said she expects to see my name on the log. I have to practice because I'm now required to wear my sidearm during investigations. If you don't mind, we could stop down there for a half-hour or so, then head to Quantico."

"No problem," Scully replied, then nudged Mulder with her elbow, "He can practice keeping his gun in his hand."

"Hey!" Mulder protested, pretending to be wounded, "It's not my fault Japanese Tae-Kwon-Do experts keep taking me on."

Smirking, Kaz said, "Maybe you should try a Velcro grip, old boy."

He looked back and forth between the two women, then threw up his hands. "Does working with both of you mean I'm going to have to take twice as much shit?"

Scully gave him her Mona Lisa smile, "Looks like it, big guy."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

3:10 p.m.

They took Kaz's Mustang to Quantico's Marine CDC. Climbing prudently into the backseat, Scully smelled the pungent odor of old, well-kept vinyl. It reminded her of the Scully family station wagon of her youth. The car was full of nostalgia, warmth, and fun...it was perfect for Kaz. The scene was completed when Kaz started the engine and the AM radio began to blare 'Love Potion #9' from its speakers.

Kaz turned the music down for conversation. They all felt more at ease alone in the car, away from those they were all keeping up appearances for. Here, they could speak freely, and Mulder asked Kaz about her car. She told him the story of her high-school job at her dad's sporting goods store in San Francisco, with Scully piping in about how she bought it by selling jock straps.

That led to a conversation about first cars, and Mulder described the old Gremlin he drove in high school, while Scully told them how she had learned to drive a stick on an old jeep at Miramar Air Force Base.

Then the pretty, young Commander asked them about their time spent at Quantico, knowing they had both been trained there. Scully took the opportunity to tell the tale of a Bureau legend, a brilliant yet brooding young profiling genius whose nickname was 'Spooky.'

"Spooky, huh?" Kaz repeated with a friendly smile, her eyes never leaving the road in front of her. "I like that, 'the Spookster'...The Spookster and The Scullster. Can I call you guys that? I mean, when we're not working, of course."

"No," the agents said loudly and in unison.

Kaz laughed, a full, rich sound that filled the classic car, "Now I'm definitely calling you that."

She hung a left and approached the guard shack. They all showed identification to the MPs and were allowed to enter.

Parking the car in a visitors lot, the three found their way to the main buildings. At the entrance, they dropped weapons and keys into a bin and walked through. Scully hated the ever-present metal detectors. Ever since she'd found the metal chip in her neck she'd held her breath when passing through one, praying it didn't go off yet again. The damn machines were a constant reminder of the violation her body had been subjected to.

To her relief, she passed safely through, and waited on the other side of it for her companions. Mulder walked through the machine, and they looked around the hallways as they waited for Kaz. As she passed through, a loud, high-pitched buzzer went off.

Scully's heart skipped a beat as her head whipped around, <No, not Kaz. This can't be Oh God, no. They can't take her away from me. No...this can't be happening. No!>

Panic racing through her compact body, Scully watched Kaz, who didn't appear shaken in the least. She simply clicked her tongue and reached into her pocket for her credentials once again. Scully wore a worried frown as Kaz reached behind her ID card to pull out a white laminated card. She passed it to the MP, who stared down at is without comprehension.

With a confidant and authoritative tone in her voice, Kaz explained, "It's a disclaimer, like a medic alert, understand?" He obviously didn't, "It means I have surgical steel in my hand--pins, screws, get it? I set these things off a lot. You can run your wand over me if you'd like."

Mulder covered a grin, oblivious to his petite partner's distress and thinking that the guard, although somewhat dense, would probably love to run his 'wand' over the attractive young officer.

He did, but it wasn't the wand Mulder had been thinking of, and it clicked offensively as it passed over her right hand. He checked the rest of her with the device, but found no other offending areas.

The stoic MP shrugged and handed the card back to her. Scully plucked it out of her hand before she knew it was ever there.

"What's all this about?" Dr. Scully asked, her anxiety ebbing, but not yet entirely gone.

"Didn't I tell you?" Kaz replied, trying to sound non-chalant as Scully inspected the medical ID card. "I hurt my hand once and they had to put pins and screws in to hold it together. I'm not quite the Bionic Woman, but it's enough to mess up the metal detectors."

Scully was a little aggravated to find she hadn't heard about this event sooner, and knew that Kaz had just told her first lie in their relationship when she said she thought she had told her before. For now, however, she let it pass, trusting Kaz enough to know there must be a reason for the omission, and, besides, there was work in front of them to do. She handed the card back and looked at Mulder, who didn't seem surprised by Kaz's statement in the least.

"Does he know about this?" she asked Kaz, jerking her head in Mulder's direction.

Kaz still tried to avert disaster, "Oh, I guess it was you I told the story to," she said, meaning Mulder. Then, to Scully, "It's no big deal. It was a long time ago."

This time the fiery field agent was more than a little upset. Mulder knew something about Kaz that she didn't. Scully took a deep breath and tried to digest the information. Her rational, scientific mind told her this petty jealousy was irrational--but then, her rational, scientific mind told her that the entire concept of love was irrational. Yet she had to admit to her scientific, logical mind that she most definitely was in love with Kaz, a woman she'd know for less than two weeks.

<Talk about irrational,> she chided mentally.

And yet here it was, as plain as day. She walked down the hall behind Mulder and Kaz, dwelling for a few precious seconds on the mystery of this love she had most certainly found. Their histories weren't important, for she knew Kaz, knew her heart, and felt connected to her mind. This did not mean, however, that they weren't going to have a long talk about this when they got home.

As Mulder knocked on the door to the Infirmary Doctor's officer, she turned these thoughts off, once again becoming the cool, clinical Dr. Dana Scully, Special Agent of the FBI.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Dr. Rosencrantz?" Kaz asked, stepping through the doorway. "I'm Commander Kazmerowski and these are Special Agents Mulder and Scully of the FBI. We're here to investigate the incidents surrounding a PFC Andrew Deakins."

Rosencrantz wore a lab coat over his Navy blues. He gave the three a funny little smile and said, "So, you're here to see Deke, ay? Well, I should give you a little warning--don't mention the Allied forces or the Battle of the Bulge. He tends to get a little agitated."

"Excuse me, sir?" Scully said with a raised eyebrow, "The Battle of the Bulge?"

"Yes," Rosencrantz replied with a nod and a smirk, "the invasion of North Africa. Remember?"

"Yes doctor, I do," she said with a hint of irritation. "But why does the Private become agitated when you mention a fifty-five year-old military engagement?"

Don't you know?" the doctor asked, pushing his glasses up with a finger, "He's still a little touchy about it. You see, PFC Deakins believes he is the reincarnated spirit of Benito Mussolini."

Scully blinked and raised an eyebrow.

Kaz pursed her lips, a slight frown wrinkling her dark brow.

Mulder's eyes twinkled. This was getting interesting.

All were thinking back to what they knew of the Italian fascist dictator. Mussolini had turned set the depressed Italian economy back on its feet in the 1920's and 30's, and was initially a respected leader. Hitler based his own economic plan on Mussolini's, and pulled Germany out of its post-WWI depression as well. Mussolini joined Hitler in forming the Axis powers, but soon became the deranged Austrian's pawn. As the world got a better look at the demagogue, they saw him first as a swaggering braggart, and eventually as a power-hungry, arrogant, pompus fool. In the end, he had been deposed by his own army. With the help of German forces, he escaped from prison, only later to be shot and killed by Italian partisans. His own people.

Kaz was the one to finally break the silence, "I see," she said thoughtfully. "And is this a recent development for PFC Deakins?"

"If you mean, did it occur after his temporary absence, the answer is yes. Deke believes that his absence was a spiritual journey. He claims that he 'saw the light' as he puts it. Apparently, he now realizes the importance of his place in history, and currently believes that 'The People,' as he calls them, are trying to execute him again. Or, I should say, sometimes he believes this."

"What do you mean, Doctor?" Scully asked.

Rosencrantz turned to her and folder his arms over his chest as he spoke, "I mean just what I said, that he often believes he is the reincarnated spirit of Mussolini. However, at other times, he is simply a very sick young man. During these periods, he fidgets, paces nervously, chain-smokes, and generally appears to barely be holding himself together.

"And when he's in the midst of one of his--states, how does he behave then?" Mulder asked the doctor.

"He is confident and cocksure, although rather paranoid. It's not a nervous or rampant paranoia, however, but rather a constant caution. It is at these times that he voices his strong opinion that he *is* Mussolini--and it is at these times that he has been known to become violent."

Mulder bit the side of his cheek, thinking, "May we see Deke, Doctor?"

Rosencrantz nodded, picking up his clipboard and leading them down the hall. The stopped by the window of a small room. Mulder, Kaz, and Scully took a look at the man inside. He was pacing the room, hands behind his back, in green issued pants and a matching t-shirt.

Scully watched him for a moment before speaking, "Can you give us a brief run-down on his psychological profile, Dr. Rosencrantz? I am a medical doctor and Agent Mulder is a psychologist."

Rosencrantz tore his gaze from the man in the room and turned to her, "His initial profile was within normal parameters for a Marine. He was deemed to be extremely loyal, honest, mentally sound...he comes from a two-parent household in Iowa, grew up in Des Moines. He had no difficulty adjusting to Marine Corps life and was, in fact, being considered for promotion to Lance Corporal. He was friendly and, from all accounts, a well-liked member of his platoon. His record is clean, no previous disciplinary action has ever been filed against him until now. His corporal and sergeant were both surprised by his absence, and no one in the platoon has reported any indication whatsoever that he would leave. It appeared a shock to all of them."

"Did you ask him why he left his barracks room?" Mulder asked.

Rosencrantz turned to him, "He says he didn't."

Kaz looked at the doctor, her dark brow furrowing, "How does he explain his absence?"

"Deke says he never left. He does, however, say that he had a dream in which all was revealed to him. He says that he was visited during his dream by important and very influential people. He says that the visitors explained to him his true identity."

"How does he account for the fact that he was found naked in the woods?" inquired Scully.

"He says he must have sleepwalked, and that's all he says, for now."

Mulder looked once more at the man in the room. "Is he aware of the fact that six days passed during his dream?"

"He doesn't appear to be. He says that's all a lie the 'The People' are trying to make him believe. In case you haven't guessed by now, Agent Mulder, Private Deakins has been diagnosed by our resident psychologist as a paranoid schizophrenic."

"Is he on medication?" Scully asked with an arch of her eyebrow.

Rosencrantz shook his head, "Not yet. The diagnosis was made just this morning. We're going to sedate him later today in order to draw blood for more advanced testing before prescribing."

Kaz's eyes had never left the distraught man in the room. He was now fumbling with a cigarette, trying to light it with shady hands. "You need to sedate him to draw blood?" she asked.

"Yes Commander. He has a tendency to become rather violent when sharp objects are introduced into his environment."

Kaz nodded, then painfully tore her eyes off of Deakins to face Mulder and Scully, "We'll need to check our weapons before meeting with him."

Rosencrantz's eyes widened as he fumbled for words, "You're going to interview him?"

"Of course," Kaz said dryly. "Why do you think we came down here?"

"I--I was told it would be a formality. Private Deakins is obviously mentally ill and will be immediately discharged from the Corps, won't he, Commander?"

Although standing a good five feet from her, Scully sensed a wire of tension begin to run through her lover's body, and stepped slightly back, realizing that the doctor had just committed a major faux pas with Kaz. Mulder took her cue, also noting the change in the Commander's demeanor. He stayed quiet, watching her carefully as she visibly stiffened and looked the doctor straight in the eye.

"I don't believe you are the one to be making that decision, Lieutenant," Kaz said, her usually-gentle voice suddenly like stone.

Neither Mulder nor Scully missed the switch in title from 'doctor' to 'lieutenant.'

She continued, her face a brick wall, "This investigation precedes the very thought of legal and/or disciplinary action being taken against the private. On the surface, perhaps, it appears that PFC Deakins is mentally disturbed. However, this investigation into the circumstances surrounding this development is far more than a formality. Questions regarding the private's disappearance must be answered, Lieutenant, and we are here, first, to find those answers, and second, to pass judgment on the course of action to be followed regarding the private. You do what you must as a physician, Lieutenant, and we shall do as we must in our investigative capacity. Now...is there a place where we can check our weapons before meeting with Private Deakins?"

"Yes Commander," Rosencrantz said immediately, recognizing her presence and her authority. "Right this way."

As they followed the doctor down the hall, Mulder bent to Scully's ear and said, "Now that's how you get things done. We should bring her along more often."

Scully nodded, still more than a little taken aback by the new side she had just seen of Commander Anne Kazmerowski, USN.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They entered a room with a long table and four chairs. In one of them sat Private First Class Andrew Deakins, wringing his hands nervously and looking somewhat haggard. He stood when they entered and raised a shaky hand to salute Kaz. She returned it with soft eyes and a nod, silently letting him know she was on his side. When Scully saw it, she immediately saw the defense lawyer in her companion coming out.

Without hesitation, Kaz approached the man, who was visibly nervous and shaken, yet trying desperately to stand stiffly at attention.

Softly, gently, yet with a commanding air, she said, "At ease, Private."

Deakins relaxed somewhat, moving his legs apart and placing his hands behind his back. Mulder had no doubt he was twisting and wringing them in discomfort and agitation. He studied the man, first looking for classic signs of paranoid schizophrenia, then looking more closely for symptoms of other, less...conventional trauma.

Scully stayed silent, gathering data in which to formulate a theory regarding the events surrounding the private's current mental condition.

Kaz spoke to the man, "I'm Commander Kazmerowski and these are Agents Scully and Mulder of the FBI. We're here to ask you some questions. Please have a seat, Private."

He waited until the three of them were seated before taking his own. They sat across from the nervous young man, with Scully in the middle, Kaz and Mulder on her sides. Deakins placed his shaky hands on the table in front of him, trying hard to fight the tremors that ran through them.

Kaz opened her mouth to speak, then closed it as she took in Deakins' posture. Mulder and Scully both waited for her, knowing they must follow her lead. They were both a little surprised by what came out when she finally spoke.

"Would you care for a cigarette, Private?"

Deakins swallowed and nodded at her, immensely relieved. Scully watched her bend, open her attache case, and pull out a hard pack of Marlboros, which she pushed across the table to Deakins.

He fumbled for the pack, spending long seconds tearing the cellophane off. When he finally got the box open, he managed to pull a cigarette out-only to have it drop to the floor. He fumbled for another, but Kaz reached across the narrow table and put a hand over his. She met his eyes with her own, and both Mulder and Scully saw Deakins' haggard face visibly ease. He took a deep breath as Kaz removed the pack from his hand.

She pulled a cigarette out, tapped it on the box, and handed it to Deakins, then reached into her pocket to retrieve a silver lighter. Flipping the top open, she held the flame to the tip as he inhaled deeply.

"Thank you, ma'am," he said after exhaling a long cloud of smoke.

Kaz nodded and pocketed the lighter. "We need to ask you some questions about what has happened to you in the last couple of weeks."

"Yes, ma'am," Deakins replied nervously before taking another long drag.

She reached into her pocket and drew out a small tape recorder. "May I record our interview, Private? It's for our own use. Nothing you say here can be used against you in court."

The young man's eyes darted wildly from one to another. He gave Mulder and Scully a wary glance before his eyes finally settled on Kaz's warm, empathic brown ones. He nodded before taking another pull on the Marlboro.

She nodded to Mulder and Scully, acknowledging their expertise in such matters and allowing them to take charge of the questioning.

Mulder began, "What happened to you that night, Private Deakins?"

As soon as the last words were out of his mouth, Deakins stopped trembling and straightened in his seat. His face momentarily blanked, then took on a mask of confidence and spite as his eyes narrowed cruelly.

"I am *not* Private Deakins, Mr. All-American Suit-and-Tie." He looked Mulder up and down before smirking and continuing. "You're not even one of my soldiers. You are a mere subject. When you address me, subject, you shall use my proper title."

Scully covered her mouth to hide a tight smile and held back her snort. They paused in the questioning momentarily, however, taking in the change in the man's demeanor.

After a few seconds, Scully said, "And just what is your title...sir?"

"Il Duce is what I prefer. And for you uncultured, heathen Americans, that means The Leader. However," he flicked his head in Kaz's direction, "she may call me General Mussolini. I understand they're letting females into the forces nowadays, much to my own dismay, but I will allow for the changing times. I expect proper respect for my position though, *Commander.*"

Exchanging a wary glance with Scully, Kaz read the agent's eyes, they told her to play along. "Yes General, I understand. May I ask, sir, how did you end up here, in this position."

Deakins sat back in his chair, smirking at them as he took another drag, "Once again, I have been captured by my own soldiers. They've turned on me, just as they did before. Tell me, *Commander,* are you with them, or are you loyal to your leader?"

Mulder quickly nudged Scully for her notepad, and she discreetly handed it to him under the table. He jotted a note and tore it off. Scully passed it to Kaz, who glanced at it very briefly.

"Gain his trust," it read.

Once again locking eyes with the man across the table, she said, "I am here for you, General."

"Good--and your compatriots?"

"They are also your loyal supporters."

Deakins nodded and propped a leg on his knee. He smiled conspiratorially at them.

Mulder asked, "What happened to you, sir? How did they capture you?"

Anger crossed his face, "They found me in the woods, a surprise attack."

"How did you come to be in the woods?"

A split-second of confusion crossed the man's face. It spoke volumes to Mulder, who was formulating a theory as they spoke.

"I--I am not sure. My guess is poison in my food, their favorite little trick, and a natural vulnerability. As you Americans say, they 'slipped me a mickey.' Rest assured, my subjects, we shall find those responsible. Punishment will be swift and heavy."

"Do you know what happened before they caught you in the woods, sir?" Mulder asked him.

"Before the woods, I was lost. I had no idea of my true mission. I had forgotten who I was, but now I know--and I am back."

As they spoke, Kaz discreetly dew a pen from her pocket and wrote a short question on Mulder's note. Se put it in Scully's hand, trying hard to ignore the pleasant heat of their touch.

Scully peeked at it and wrote her own message before passing it to Mulder.

"Cuckoo?" was Kaz's question, "Mult. Personality?" was her own.

She ventured her own question to 'General Mussolini' in order to give Mulder time to reply, "Il Duce, who did you think you were when you were lost?"

He shook his head and snubbed the cigarette in an ashtray on the table, "It is of no consequence."

"Please sir, we need to know," she said softly, as though asking a favor.

He eyed her carefully. "I lived this life for twenty-two years without knowing my true propose. The man I was before is gone, he has become me, for now I realize who I truly am, and the two of us are one once more."

Mulder handed the note back. Scully took one look at it and knew she should have expected this. Actually, she had expected him to say he thought it was some sort of past-life experience, for that was something only Mulder would postulate, but instead, he wrote:

"Post-Abduction Syndrome"

The note went one to Kaz, who lifted a thick, dark eyebrow. The silence stretched as Kaz took in the bizarre words on the paper, only vaguely aware of what the syndrome was. Her only experience with the term came from reading that stupid Jose Chung book.

Scully filled the silence by asking another question, "Sir, what knowledge do you have of Private First Class Andrew Deakins?"

The man's face fell slack and his eyes glazed over for a moment. He blinked rapidly, as though waking from a nightmare. Suddenly frightened, he stared across the table at the officer and the FBI agents as though seeing them for the first time. He stood like a man with a fire in his pants, knocking his chair over and backing quickly into the corner of the room.

"No--no, don't touch me. Please, go away...leave me alone. You can't--you can't...No!" he shouted as he cowered in the corner.

Her sympathetic instincts for a potential client surfacing, Kaz stood and slowly walked around the table. "It's okay Deke, we're here to help you."

The man immediately straightened into an authoritative military posture. "Why are you standing, soldier? Did your ruler tell you to stand? Do you think because you are a woman you do not have to obey the commands of your Supreme Leader? Sit down at once, *Commander,*" he ordered firmly.

The abrupt change in demeanor again threw her off-balance, and Kaz, confused as hell, looked to Mulder and Scully to gauge their reactions. Scully was stoic on the surface, but Kaz knew the razor-sharp wheels in her head were turning like mad. Mulder wore a small smile and his eyes gleamed brightly.

<The son-of-a-bitch is excited by all of this,> she thought, amazed by this strange man yet again. <No wonder they call him Spooky.>

She was already beginning to find 'General Mussolini' tedious, but obeyed his command, figuring it was the best was to continue the interview.

"May I ask you one more question about your dream, Il Duce?" Mulder asked.

Deakins put his hands behind his back, stepped out of the corner, and shot Mulder a cocky, arrogant smile, "Of course."

This was the all-important question for Mulder. The one he hoped would tell him everything he needed to know. It would confirm or deny his hypothesis regarding Private Deakins' behavior.

"Who visited you during your dream? Who told you who you really were, sir?"

The question was greeted by a smirk, "If I told you, you would not believe me."

Mulder was tempted to return the smirk, but refrained, "Try me, General."

General Mussolini shrewdly debated for a moment, then said, "There were many who visited me as I dreamt, but the most poignant and influential among them was a rotund, bearded man with small glasses--like your own, *Commander.* He spoke to me often, informing me of all that had ensued during my absence and explaining why I must return."

"Did he tell you his name, sir?" Mulder asked, his eyes glittering with excitement.

"His name was Jerry Garcia."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Anne Kazmerowski's House
6:35 p.m.

Weary and frustrated, Kaz punched the button lowering her garage door. Scully opened the one leading into the house and Kaz followed her inside. Once there, she pulled her hat off and flipped it onto the kitchen table, then slumped into a chair.

"Please tell me you don't deal with crap like that every day," she said to Scully, rubbing her tired eyes with the heels of her hands.

"Not every day," Scully replied calmly, standing behind her to rub her shoulders, "Only twice a week or so."

"Har, har," Kaz said, "very funny. So what do you think?"

"Of Deakins? Well, he's obviously sustained some sort of psychological trauma. It could be paranoid schizophrenia, it could be multiple personality disorder arising from the time he spent missing. Or--and I'm just toying with this one--it could be the result of post-hypnotic suggestion."

"Why would someone hypnotize a Marine into thinking he's the reincarnation of Benito Mussolini and that Jerry Garcia was his spirit guide?" Her head lolled a little as Scully dug in harder, "Oh, that feels good. Right there." Back to the subject, she said, "I think this particular combination is the result of a damaged mind, but I want to know what happened during those six days. I'm guessing his current mental state is the result of what happened at that time. I'm not saying he's not a fruitcake now...I mean, anyone who believes he once was a fascist dictator most certainly has a screw loose. But Mussolini isn't a person a guy like Deakins would dream up. He's from Iowa, for God's sake, which means he's plain as cheese pizza."

Kaz let her head roll forward as Scully worked her strong fingers over the tight muscles. She sighed contentedly.

"Who were the others he said visited him? Other than Garcia, I mean." Scully asked, her mind replaying the names, but wanting to make sure she had all of them.

"Let's see," Kaz replied, "I remember Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Jimi Hendrix. I think he mentioned a few more, didn't he?"

Digging her thumbs into a know, she said, "Jimmy Page and Janis Joplin."

Kaz sucked in a breath at the pleasant pain Scully was bringing forth, "Isn't Jimmy Page still alive? Yeah, I'm sure he is. It seems that old Benny is a little confused in his 'who's who' of dead rock musicians."

Scully chuckled a little, "So, have you formulated any kind of theory about our man Deakins?"

Kaz tipped her head back, resting it against Scully's chest. "I've had a few clients who went bonkers in rather, shall we say, original ways; but this one takes the cake. The thing is, I don't think Deke went crackers on his own. By all accounts, he was an ideal soldier. The very fact that he was stationed at the Combat Development Center tells us that. It's rather elite. Something happened during those six days, Scully. Something he doesn't *want* to remember. The mind can confabulate fantastic scenarios to hide the truth, even from one's own self. It's possible that Deke is in some sort of fugue state, don't you think?"

"Possibly," Scully said wrapping her arms around Kaz, setting her chin on top of the soft dark hair she'd been willingly trying to ignore the whole day. Being able to touch it now, to lay her face against it, let it tickle her cheek--was heaven.

She could tell Kaz's wheels were still turning though, and asked her, "What about Mulder's theory?"

Kaz snorted, "That he was an extra-terrestrial test subject? Well, let's take a look at that. Now, I wouldn't rule out the idea that he was kidnapped or 'abducted'--as Mulder likes to say--but by aliens? I don't think so. Over 600 people live and work at CDC. One of them would surely have spotted the 'craft' that picked old Deakins up. Too many potential witnesses. No one heard Deke leave and no one saw a thing. Taking into account all the stories surrounding UFO-related phenomena, I think someone would have seen lights in the sky if Deke had been abducted by E.T.'s. I think the explanation is much more...conventional. Not that I know what that explaination is right now, but I'm confident we'll find it."

Scully smiled at Kaz's variation of her own theory on the existence of extra-terrestrial life. Kaz hadn't outright denied believing in the phenomena, but didn't think it applied to the case before them. What Scully liked most, however, was that Kaz had given Mulder's theory some serious thought. She hadn't outright dismissed the idea as preposterous. She had sound, logical reasoning for why she didn't believe Deakins had been abducted by aliens. It showed to Scully, yet again, Kaz's open-mindedness, her liberalism, and her willingness to consider any theory until it was proven false.

Kaz closed her eyes and brought her hands up to place on Scully's arms under her chin. Scully sensed the change in her demeanor and waited for her to speak.

"You're so beautiful, Scully. It was hard--all day I wanted to touch you, even just a little. Three times I almost reached out to hold your hand. I like working with you and Mulder--but its so very hard."

"I know," Scully replied, close to her ear. She felt the shivers that ran through Kaz's body at the sound of her voice and smiled to herself, pleased by the reaction. "It was no bowl of cherries for me, either. You know how hot you make me, don't you Kaz?"

She paused and heard Kaz's breath grow a little more ragged. The rise and fall of the chest beneath her arms quickened just a bit.

She continued, "When I walked into your office this morning and saw you, all I could think about was your bare skin against mine. You holding me in the bath, driving me wild, making me come so hard I though I was going to die."

"Scull-e-e-e," Kaz squeaked, her voice cracking under the growing heat and need inside her body.

"I thought of your flavor, your smell, your gorgeous body as I ran my hands all over it."

Kaz could stand no more. She pulled at Scully's arm, guiding the agent down to her lap. Scully straddled her in the chair as they kissed each other feverishly, hungrily, greedily. Kaz's hands were deep in Scully's hair, finally free to caress the entrancing red tresses at her leisure.

Scully's own hands went down to the small of Kaz's back, running beneath the sweater and pulling the khaki shirt out of its waistband to feel the soft bare skin beneath. She pressed her body close to Kaz's, grinding her hips into her lover's as their hot mouths worked, occasionally battling for dominance, but mostly stroking hard against each other.

They shared everything, their bodies, their breath, their need. Neither woman was satisfied to only possess the other's mouth, and Scully ground down harder onto Kaz, who pushed up to meet her, making her gasp and almost break the contact of their mouths.

Suddenly, Kaz pulled away. She panted as she lifted Scully's entire body and set her up just a foot or so, onto the sturdy kitchen table. Kaz stood and ran her arm swiftly over the table's contents, sending them crashing to the floor. She bent in to kiss Scully once more, pushing the jacket off her shoulders and tossing it aside. Scully's hands were at her waist, pulling the sweater roughly off and untucking her shirt to run her hands over the smooth, tight skin of Kaz's stomach. She could feel the heat radiating off her lover, and knew that her own fire was of equal intensity.

With trembling, yet precise fingers, Kaz unbuttoned Scully's shirt and unclasped her bra, pushing the cups aside to reach a sensitive nipple. Scully gasped as Kaz's hot mouth enclosed around it, sucking as much of it as she could inside before laving the tip with her wonderful tongue. She quickly moved on, knowing what they both needed, and needed immediately.

With a strong arm, she led Scully backwards, laying her down on the table with only her legs over the edge. Kaz bent over her, looking into her heavy blue eyes for a moment, giving her a message filled with love, lust, and desire. She bent down between Scully's taut breasts and smiled before laying her tongue on the skin, licking in one long stroke down Scully's stomach, stopping momentarily to dip into her navel, then continuing until she reached Scully's waistband.

Scully's head was swimming. She was *very* aware of the fact that Kaz was taking her on the kitchen table, and it made her hotter than she could remember being in her entire life.

She felt Kaz's hands on her hips and mouth at her waistband. Then a slow pulling and <Oh God,> Kaz was lowering the zipper with her teeth. She writhed on the table, panting hard as her hands moved to her own aching breasts. Kaz yanked her pants and underclothes off in one fell swoop.

The cool air against her own naked thighs made Scully gasp. She pulled harder on her own nipples as she heard the scraping of a chair and Kaz's weight settle into it.

<Oh God, she's sitting down to eat me,> Scully though wildly, her mind racing, feeling as thought she would explode the moment Kaz touched her.

Her eyes were shut tight as warm hands parted her thighs. There was nothing for a second, a long second that nearly drove her as crazy as Andrew Deakins. She squirmed helplessly on the table.

Then gentle hands were removing her own from her breasts, replacing them with the expert fingers Scully enjoyed far more than her own. She murmured something incoherent and her head lolled. The buzzing in her ears was so loud now, it consumed her with need and desire.

She felt warm breath over her stomach, then between her inner thighs. The hands still gently caressed her breasts, thumbs dancing over her nipples as Kaz licked her in a long stroke, ending with a sharp flick over her clitoris.

"A-a-h-h-h, K-a-a-z-z-z. O-h-h-h-h-h," she groaned, completely overwhelmed.

Kaz went back in earnest, eagerly nipping at Scully's lips before entering her with a greedy tongue. She felt pleasure building deep within herself as well, and ground down on her chair a little as she worked on her partner. Sliding her hands under Scully's ass, she squeezed as Scully bucked up into her face, making her own climax build even more.

<Yes,> Kaz thought. <She's so wet, so ripe, so beautiful. Come Scully, come hard for me, baby.>

She moved up to accomplish this mission, taking the sensitive bundle of nerves between her lips, sucking gently and running the tip of her tongue across it.

Scully cried out and thrust hard into her face. Kaz brought two fingers under her chin and entered Scully, scissoring them inside her to heighten the sensation.

It was all Scully could take. She screamed into the stillness of the room and clutched at Kaz's head between her legs. She felt herself squeezing, clamping down on Kaz's fingers as a huge orgasm coursed through her body.

The sound and the vicarious sensation of Scully's climax triggered one in Kaz. She groaned as she drew Scully's out with steady strokes of her tongue. She felt herself tightening, then exploding into brilliant colors and high-pitched sounds as she mouth instinctively worked. This was new, something that had never happened to her before; she never knew it was possible to come simply by pleasuring her lover.

As it subsided, Kaz felt drained, both physically and emotionally. She still lay between Scully's legs, her head resting on the soft skin of Scully's inner thigh. They stayed like that for a few minutes, each woman catching her breath.

Eventually, Scully sat up. She set Kaz's head on the top of her thigh and stroked Kaz's thick dark hair, pulling it back off her damp face.

"Kaz honey," she said softly, "are you okay?"

She saw and felt Kaz's nod against her let, and Kaz brought her arms, still clad in the short-sleeved khaki shirt of her uniform, around Scully's waist. Kaz held her tight, and Scully felt the drop of a tear on her leg.

It frightened her. <Oh my God, no. Is she crying? She's crying. Is she leaving me? Was this our last time because we can't work and do this too? Is this too hard for her? No, it can't be. Please God, no.>

"Kaz?" she asked, her voice uncharacteristically shaky.

Laying a soft kiss on her leg, Kaz looked up with wet, sparkling eyes. She immediately registered the concern on Scully's face and hugged her even tighter, this time burying her head in the skin of Scully's exposed stomach, the soft silk of Scully's shirt kissing her cheek.

"S-h-h, Scully. It's okay." She chuckled lightly, "There's one thing about me you haven't seemed to have figured out yet."

Still petrified by doubt and fear, Scully asked her, "What's that?"

Another brief squeeze was followed by her words, "I cry when I'm happy, Scully. And right now, I'm so very happy."

Scully almost shed her own tears of joy and relief as she held Kaz to her. Instead, she stroked her beautiful young lover's hair and stared out across the darkened room. Although the day had been long, difficult, and often frustrating, she was now utterly at peace with the world. For she was in Kaz's home, the safe place, the haven, and Kaz was her with her. It was all she ever wanted.

"Scully?" Kaz mumbled against her skin, her breath warm and exciting.

"Hmm?"

"I...I came--after you did. That...it...it made me come, too."

Scully ran her hand over Kaz's soft cheek, "I know, honey. I know it did."

"That's never happened to me before. I've never come just by doing something like that...by doing something for someone else."

"What do you think that means?" Scully asked gently.

For the first time, Kaz looked up into Scully's deep blue eyes, "I think it means I belong to you."

This time, Scully's eyes did fill with tears, and like Kaz's, they were tears of joy.

"Oh Kaz," she said, and bent down for a soft, lingering kiss.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

7:55 p.m.

Scully walked down the stairs in an old, baggy pair of Kaz's too-long sweatpants she'd rolled up and her favorite Navy sweatshirt, the one she'd worn on the morning of their breakfast with Mulder. She glanced at Kaz, who was similarly clad in gray sweatpants and a tie-dyed t-shirt. They had showered separately so Kaz could start dinner. Scully watched her chop vegetables with an agile left hand and suddenly remembered their encounter with the metal detector at CDC.

Feeling almost as comfortable here as she did in her own home, Scully opened the refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of burgundy. Pouring two glasses, she set one in front of Kaz and leaned against the counter beside her.

"Tell me about your hand," she said firmly, yet also with tender concern.

Kaz chopped carrots for another moment, then put the knife down. She picked up her glass and took a long sip before resuming her work at the cutting board.

With a minimum of emotion in her soft voice, she said, "It's not important, Scully. It's no big deal."

"If you have enough to go off in a standard metal detector, it's a very big deal. Why didn't you tell me about it?"

Kaz shrugged, trying to downplay it, "I didn't think to tell you. Like I said, it's nothing."

Scully stayed silent, but bore into Kaz with her ice-blue eyes. Although Kaz never removed her gaze from the cutting board, she could feel the high-powered intensity of Scully's stare. She felt ill, as though she might be sick to her stomach. It was rolling and churning with nervous anxiety.

She closed her eyes and set the knife down again. When she opened them, she held her right hand out for Scully's inspection, explaining her injury as Scully turned it over inside her own smaller hands.

"I was hit by a pitch playing high school softball. She threw smoke and I couldn't get out of the way. It came in on me and I tried to move, but it kept riding in and cracked me hard. My hand...it just shattered."

As Scully examined it, she wondered how she ever could have missed this. Half of Kaz's hand was lined with pencil-thin scars, with three thicker ones standing out much more predominantly. Besides that, the muscles were far less developed than in Kaz's powerful left one. She ran her fingers lightly over the scars, feeling the malformation of the hand beneath her last two fingers and the general fragility of the hand itself. It was obvious, even upon this cursory examination, that permanent damage had been sustained.

"Does it hurt?" she asked, holding the hand tenderly between her own.

Kaz shrugged, "Sometimes, when it's cold. The temperature of the metal drops and aches pretty bad. There are pins and screws in it, or so I'm told. It's sore when the weather changes or when I try to lift something the wrong way. Mostly though, its those guys who give me bone-crunching handshakes. Those are a killer, but I refuse to offer those wimpy half-handshakes. I need to give a guy a firm shake if I want him to see us as equals."

Scully was still stunned by the fact that she hadn't detected Kaz's disability sooner. Not once had Kaz ever mentioned it, or given any indication that it was damaged or sore. She thought back on all their, well--activities--trying to recall Kaz's actions. Yes, she had been very, very left-handed. Scully berated herself mildly for not noticing this before.

"Do you have full use of it?" she asked, knowing there was no way Kaz did, but the doctor in her wanted a full assessment of the damages.

Kaz looked away from her and sucked in her lower lip for a moment, then said, "No, not really. It's a well-kept secret, though. I made it through all of my physicals and through training."

<Probably through sheer willpower,> Scully thought, examining it closer.

"But--" she prompted, encouraging Kaz to continue.

Quickly now, as though confessing a sin hidden far too long, the words began to spill out of Kaz's mouth, "But I can hardly make it into a fist sometimes, and I have trouble holding small things. I do everything with my left hand so that people don't even notice it, and I'm so goddamned lame I can hardly even use a steak-knife. When I do, it takes all my concentration not to drop the damn thing. There, I said it."

"I never knew that, Kaz."

"There's no reason why you should," Kaz said flippantly. "Have I ever served you food that required a knife to cut?"

Scully put a hand to Kaz's cheek, turning her face so that their eyes met. Kaz had been so smooth about this flaw. It obviously troubled her deeply. Scully wondered a little at the determination and the strength of a person who cold barely use a knife, yet could pass through basic training. True, ROTC basic was lighter than for enlisted men, but it was no walk in the park either."

She looked into Kaz's rich brown eyes. They were sad, like a beaten dog's, yet relieved at the same time. She detected a hint of fear in them as well. She understood the fear, recognized it for what it was.

Still, she could not help but say, "You should have told me."

Kaz tried to look away, but Scully held her face firm. The officer swallowed and closed her eyes, physically and mentally unable to look at Scully while she spoke.

"I didn't want you to think of me like that. I wanted you to see *me,* not someone with a fucked-up hand."

Kaz's use of profanity startled Scully, she hadn't heard Kaz use such language before. It made the impact of Kaz's words that much more powerful.

"I never meant to deceive you, Scully, but I couldn't make myself tell you, either. Things were going so well..."

"And you think they will be different now?"

Silence stretched between them for a long time, but when Kaz gathered her thoughts, she opened her eyes, meeting Scully's icy, yet somehow soft blue ones. "I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me, especially you. I don't want or need your pity."

"That's what you're afraid of, isn't it Kaz? You're afraid I'll pity you, and that my love will be based on my sympathy for you and your--your disability."

Kaz's eyes turned suddenly hard, "I don't have a disability!" she shouted, her voice like steel, once again very much the Naval Commander that Scully had seen all day.

However, Scully didn't even flinch. They stared hard at each other as they stood, a mere two feet apart. Scully realized she had made a mistake. She'd wounded Kaz's pride; she planned her next words much more carefully.

"I apologize, Kaz. That was poor wording. But what I mean to say is that it doesn't matter. I don't know how you could ever think that it would. I love *you* Kaz, whether you use steak-knives or not. This could never change my opinion of you. But you have to see how it bothers me that you told Mulder about this, but didn't feel like you could tell me."

Kaz's eyes softened and grew repentant, "He asked me why I stopped playing ball, and I told him. I wasn't really thinking about it, I was distracted by other things at the time. But also, I don't care what Mulder thinks, not the way I care what you think. I didn't envision our working together, so I didn't see how it would matter, or else I wouldn't have told him either. I planned on telling you at some point, Scully. I really did, but it's not as easy to tell someone you love as it is to tell someone you're not attached to. I know that sounds perverse, but it's true."

Thinking about that for a moment, Scully saw it in a new light. "I understand--sort of. But let's make a promise. No more secrets, not like this. You know as well as I that it hurts us both in the long run."

Hesitating for only a second, Kaz nodded, then reached out--with her right hand--and tentatively touched the fair skin of Scully's cheek. Scully closed her eyes and leaned into the palm.

"I'm sorry, Scully."

"I know you are. Just don't do it again."

"I won't," Kaz replied, embracing Scully and holding her close.

After a few minutes of lingering on each other, they turned back to dinner preparations, realizing that they had worked up an appetite over the course of this long, nerve-wracking day.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After dinner they retired to the living room and laid down, sharing the couch. Kaz took the back side, wrapping her arm around Scully's waist as the fiery redhead flipped through the television stations. They went through the channels three times before she shrugged and stopped on an old Three Stooges movie.

Turning the volume down low, Scully reached for her wineglass. She took a sip and passed it back to Kaz, who finished off what little remained. Scully turned in her arms so they were face-to-face.

"I just can't get enough of you, Kaz," she said. "I need you to kiss me again."

Kaz rolled her eyes light-heatedly, "Already?" Then she grinned and bent in to touch Scully's glistening red lips with her own.

It grew deeper, with arms coming around to explore and legs entwining, pulling each other closer.

When Kaz broke, she said, "Are you still mad at me?"

Scully looked deep into the soft brown pools of Kaz's eyes and replied, "I was never mad at you, Kaz. I just didn't understand. I do now though. I think I understand."

Leaning in for another kiss, Kaz said, "I'm sorry, Scully. I never meant to hurt your feelings." She flicked her tongue out to meet Scully's, "--it's just something that's hard for me."

Scully relaxed completely, allowing Kaz's sensual touch to carry her away. She let her eyes close as she began to float on a gentle wave of pleasant sensation.

However, the day had taken its toll, and both Scully and Kaz were exhausted. Their touches soon grew languid, and although they were deep in each other's arms, only their lips were moving, slowly meeting and pulling apart as they fought off their mutual weariness.

Opening tired eyes, Kaz said, "It looks like you wore me out after all, Scullster. I don't think I can move."

Scully's reply was low and thick with grogginess, "Don't move, stay here like this...and don't call me Scullster."

Kaz chuckled weakly and touched Scully's lips once more, "Okay Scullster, whatever you say."

Scully's eyes remained closed. She was quickly falling asleep. Kaz stroked her thick, beautiful auburn hair for a few minutes as she watched Scully's face relax in sleep.

Her won eyes were closing as well, but she fought hard for a few more precious seconds, watching her friend and lover. "I love you, Scully," she whispered. "So fair, so lovely, so brilliant. How did I become so fortunate?"

She leaned forward, laying the lightest of kisses on Scully's slightly parted lips before losing the battle and closing her own eyes, surrendering to sleep.

~~~~~~~~~~~

At some point during the night they arose and made their way upstairs, instantly settling close to each other once again. Scully pulled Kaz's hand to her chest and loosely held her there. She heard Kaz's sleepy sigh of contentment and smiled to herself. Nothing in her lift had felt as right as Kaz's tall, lean body held close to her own. She fell quickly back to sleep, a heavy, dreamless sleep. It was the way she slept whenever she was with Kaz. It was untainted by nightmares or sudden fears that crept up like angry, feral cats. This sleep was as peaceful and harmonious as Kaz herself, and Scully quickly succumbed to it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Wedensday, Dec. 27
5:25 a.m.

Scully felt Kaz's movement beside her, but was reluctant to loosen her hold.

"Scully," Kaz whispered, "I have to get up. I'm going to run, but I'll be back soon, I promise."

Her voice was reassuring, and Scully relaxed, allowing Kaz to leave the safety and warmth of the quilts. She sighed and opened her eyes. It was still dark, but she found Kaz's form right away. Scully watched her strip off her t-shirt and sweatpants, then throw on running tights, bra, and a sweatshirt. She picked up an old ear-flapped stocking cap and threw it on her head.

As she left the room Scully hopped out of bed, rummaged through the closet, and found something to wear. She went into the bathroom, where Kaz was brushing her teeth.

"You got another dorky hat sitting around here somewhere?"

After her initial surprise, Kaz rinsed her mouth and grinned, "I'm sure I can find you something."

She was overjoyed by Scully's offer to join her on the run. It was an important part of her day, and there was no one she'd rather share it with. She loved getting up early, before the city really awoke, to run in the peaceful morning air.

Finding another stocking cap, Kaz placed it on Scully's head and tucked red hair behind tiny ears. "You're the best, Scully. Have I ever told you that?"

Scully smiled at her excitement, "Well, I had a feeling you felt that way."

Out on the porch, Kaz bounced on the balls of her feet a few times before starting out, a big grin on her face as she turned to Scully at her side.

Kaz kept her strides short in deference to her partner's smaller legs, but spoke almost non-stop, pointing out a building on the campus or planning out the route.

A half-hour later, they were nearing the government blocks close to the US Capitol Building. Kaz angled a glance at Scully, noticing that her companion has stopped talking altogether. Scully's face was red with cold and exertion, and when she saw Kaz watching her said,

"Christ Kaz, how far do you run?"

Kaz shrugged, "I think about five miles or so."

Exasperated, Scully panted, "It's at least five miles <gasp>...from your house <gasp>...to here! You're nuts."

Grinning, Kaz grabbed her arm and spun them, "Okay Scullster, we'll head back. I got carried away because you were with me."

Scully worked hard to control her ragged breathing. She knew she'd been letting her distance running slide lately, but she wasn't in bad shape. In her line of work, sprinting was usually more important than endurance, but she still tried to run a few miles each week.

This, however, was insane. Kaz was taking her on a 10K. In fact, they were far past 10K territory here. True, Kaz was five years younger than she, but still, she wasn't ready for the rocker yet.

"How you doing?" Kaz asked as they re-approached the campus.

Scully looked over at her. <Christ! She's barely even breathing heavily!> While Scully herself felt like her lungs were exploding inside her chest. She nodded at the officer though, not wanting to acknowledge the fact that she thought aneurysm may be imminent.

When they finally reached Kaz's front porch, Scully gave a thankful prayer to those above. She leaned heavily against the railing while Kaz walked around the front yard, still grinning like an idiot.

Scully watched her lift a let to the high railing and stretch her hamstrings. This was too much. She made an early New Year's resolution to run with Kaz every-freaking-morning until she looked this calm and cool after a ten-mile workout. She forced herself to stretch out as well, knowing she was going to pay dearly for this around two o'clock in the afternoon.

When they finished, Kaz unlocked the door and they entered, both ready for a shower. They took one together, all-business on account of the work day ahead, and got ready for their morning.

Kaz dressed in khakis identical to those she wore the day before. She adjusted her sweater and clipped on her name tag as Scully watched.

"You remind me of my brothers when they're dressing for duty. Well, except for the fact that you shave your legs and look a hell of a lot sexier in that outfit than they ever will."

Kaz gave her the lopsided grin and a kiss on the cheek, "Thanks. Don't dwell on that thought too much today, though. We have work to do, Scullster."

Kaz glided out of the bathroom as Scully rolled her eyes, realizing she was stuck with the silly nickname.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

J. Edgar Hoover Building
7:55 a.m.

Kaz dropped Scully off in front of the building, then went to the visitor's lot to park. They both knew it was best not to show up together.

As Scully walked through the basement corridor she whistled to herself, then stopped and jumped a little at the deep voice behind her.

"Someone's in a good mood this morning."

She spun on her heel, "Jesus, Mulder! You scared the hell out of me. What are you doing lurking in the hallways?"

He smirked as he rolled up his shirtsleeves. He was wearing his glasses, which meant he'd probably put together a lovely little morning slide show for them. She groaned inwardly at the thought. Mulder's slide shows were usually enough to make her own stomach turn precariously, and *she* was a pathologist. Who knew what it would do to Kaz.

"I was waiting for you, of course. Where's the Commander?" he asked with a little wink.

"She'll be here shortly. I take it you've been honing your multi-media skills down here this morning?"

He touched his chest, "Of course. I was an A-V nerd back in high school, you know. Today, I've added a laser-light show to the tune of the Sex Pistols singing 'Anarchy In The UK.'"

She lifted an eyebrow, "I thought maybe you'd selected a medley featuring all of Private Deakins' spiritual advisors."

He chuckled, "I'll see what I can whip up. I know I've got 'Stairway To Heaven' around here somewhere."

>From behind them came a low alto that sent shivers down Scully's spine, "I prefer the Grateful Dead's 'Touch Of Gray' myself," Kaz said with a smile as she approached.

Mulder returned it, noting that Kaz's good spirits matched his partner's. He led the way to their office, where the slide projector was set up and was ready to go.

Kaz walked through the door and into a dimly-lit room. Inside sat two desks, back-to-back, a small drafting table along the far wall, three large filing cabinets, and tons and tons of sketches, photos, and newspaper articles. They lined the tack boards and overflowed onto the wall. There were hazy photos of objects in the sky, sketches of supposed 'alien heads,' and the current Ten Most Wanted listings. She spotted the napkin drawing of Mulder she had given him upon their first meeting. It hung just to the right of a full-sized poster of a small craft hovering over a dense forest. Beneath were the words:

I WANT TO BELIEVE

Her eyes roamed the walls, fascinated yet repelled, wanting to register every detail, every picture and article, everything about the place where Dana Scully spent her days.

At the same time, she wondered how Fox Mulder had passed the Bureau's psychological evaluation.

Scully saw the bright, yet curious gleam of her eyes behind the wire-rimmed glasses and let her wander. She poured coffee for herself and for Kaz, then pulled the guest chair close to her desk for the officer to sit.

Kaz took off her overcoat and hung it on the rack before taking a seat. "Nice place you have here."

Mulder smirked as he held a slide to his lamp, "Yes well, the little woman and I try to maintain a spirit of originality."

"And who does your decorating? Stephen Spielberg?"

Scully choked on her coffee, sending a small spray over the papers on her desk. Both Kaz and Mulder turned to her as she brought a napkin to her mouth and coughed. Kaz stood to pat her back, trying not to linger and rub it affectionately as she chuckled to herself.

"Sorry Scully, I didn't know that line would trigger a spit-scene."

Scully caught her breath and took another sip to clear her throat, "S'okay. I just never think about how weird the place looks anymore. I've just come to accept it."

Kaz lifted her coffee mug as she sat, "Yes well, I can see your own personal touch all over the place." After taking a long sip, she gave the mug a closer look, "Excuse me, Mulder--but is this what it looks like?"

"On the bottom it says the name of the artwork on the cup," he replied. "Those were a Christmas gift from Frohike."

She had no idea who 'Frohike' was, but apparently Scully did. She groaned and covered her face with her hands as Kaz lifted the mug. Lifting an eyebrow and, in Mulder's estimation, looking remarkably like her girlfriend, Kaz met his eyes with a skeptical look.

"Llama Orgy? This guy sent you a cup with sexually rampant llamas on it? What kind of friends do you have, Mulder?"

"Ones with unique senses of humor."

"Well," she replied, "the name describes the action perfectly. I never thought all of these positions were possible, for animals or for humans. I guess you learn something new every day."

Mulder grinned at his partner, who smiled wanly, none too happy with Kaz's first impression of the office and her work. She helped Mulder load the carousel onto the projector, then flipped the lights off and pulled the screen down. She wheeled her chair next to Kaz and sat, waiting for her partner to begin.

The taller woman leaned toward her, whispering "What's he gonna show us?"

Scully raised an enigmatic brow, "I have no idea."

"It's not going to be dead cows, is it? You told me he has a thing about dead cows."

Scully hid a smile from her partner, "I can't see the connection between this case and cattle mutilations, but with Mulder, you never can tell."

They stopped whispering and gave him their full attention as he began to speak. "some of this may be review for you, Scully, but I felt I should be thorough for Kaz's sake."

He clicked the button in his hand, and a photo of a young woman filled the screen. "This is Chrissy Giorgio, who was found inside her boyfriend's car on a deserted country road in Klass County, Washington in May of this year. Chrissy was found disoriented and appeared to be the victim of physical trauma. The oddest detail of Chrissy's story, however, is that her clothes were on inside out and backwards."

Pushing the button in his hand, he flipped to the next slide, "Here we have Harold Lamb, Chrissy's boyfriend. Harold claimed that he and Chrissy were abducted by aliens."

"Wait a second, Mulder," Kaz said, "This story sounds familiar. Is it the one that Chung based his book on?"

Fighting the urge to curse Chung's name, Mulder nodded.

"I know the basic facts of the case, then. And I think I remember your point-of-view for that case as well."

"Good, I'll move on then," he said, and replaced the young man's picture with that of a middle-aged woman. "In 1995, Laura Cassanova went missing from her home in Louisville, Kentucky for eight days. She was found dazed, naked, and stumbling along the side of County Road D. Complete amnesia for two months until one day the cafeteria at Moundsville Mental Rehabilitation Center, where she stayed after her experience, served macaroni salad on a nice bed of lettuce leaves. Suddenly, Cassanova remembered everything that had happened to her. She said she'd been taken, lifted out of her backyard by a large craft, and in this craft was subjected to physiological tests of every variety. She also reports 'spiritual guides' talking her through the experience, reassuring her and letting her know she would be okay."

"Excuse me," Kaz interrupted, "but were Ms. Cassanova's spirit guides famous people, like Deakins' were?"

Mulder bit the inside of his lip for a second, then said, "Some were, but most were people she knew. Her mailman, her dentist, her sister Martha."

"And?"

He looked back at the slide for a moment before answering, "And Susan Lucci."

Kaz nodded, her face remaining steady and serious, "I see. It was nice of her to take time out of her busy 'All My Children' shooting schedule to reassure Laura Cassanova while she was in the mother ship."

"Yes. And, um--"

"And who, Mulder?" Scully asked before crossing her arms and pursing her lips, already getting a sense that she wasn't going to like this.

"David Hasselhoff."

Scully peeked over at Kaz's face. It was impossibly neutral. Did she look like that? Hell, probably. She focused again as Kaz spoke.

"Was the KITT car there too? Or was he wearing his red Speedos?"

"He's an extremely versatile actor, I'll have you know," he shot back, half in jest, "And lay off the Speedos. *I* have a pair of them myself."

Scully groaned, something she'd already done plenty of this morning, "Please Mulder, it's too early for an image like that. I'm still digesting my breakfast."

"Ha-ha," he replied, not laughing, "You're a very funny lady, Scully. You should take that comedy on the road, I'm sure people will come from miles around to hear your funny jokes. Can I continue now? Good. Next we have Charles Goodman, a 43-year-old insurance salesman from Billings Montana, who experienced an episode of unexplained time loss in late 1995. Goodman claims to have been driving home from the office on a Wednesday night."

"What happened?" Scully asked.

"When he arrived, it was Saturday morning. Goodman's suit was on inside-out and he, like PFC Andrew Deakins, was incoherent for a couple of days. When he started to form complete sentences, he swore up and down that he was the reincarnation of Mao Tse-Tung."

Kaz lost the passive, neutral expression. Her dark brow furrowed and she stared into her perverse coffee cup for a moment before addressing Mulder, "Goodman was 42 then? Mulder, Chairman Mao didn't die until the 1970's. He was alive and creating quite a stir in the free world when Goodman was born."

He smirked, "What are you trying to say, Commander Kaz?"

"That you picked a pretty crappy example."

He held up a finger, "Ah, but I beg to differ. My argument is not that Charles Goodman actually was the reincarnation of the Chinese Communist leader. I'm saying that his case is similar to that of PFC Deakins. In fact, all of these cases bare striking similarities to our current one. I believe we need to look into the possibility that Deke was abducted. Look at every instance I've shown you and you cannot deny the similarities."

"Coincidence," Scully stated.

Mulder shook his head, "The missing time, the clothes-or lack of them--the celebrity spirit guides--"

"That could be transference," Kaz said quickly. "When a person meets someone new and is asked to describe them, many instinctively state which celebrity they bear a resemblance to. I've seen it time and time again in criminal practice. We call it 'Cary Grant Syndrome,' and it's rather common."

"That could be...or it could be the result of the testing," Mulder replied. "If stimulation is electronically supplied to various parts of the brain, both visual and auditory hallucinations can be produced in the subject. They could very well believe that Jerry Garcia or David Hasselhoff or Queen Elizabeth talked to them in the place where they were kept."

"So tell me, Agent Mulder, what exactly are you thinking?"

"What I'm thinking, Commander Kaz, is that PFC Andrew Deakins is experiencing the mental trauma associated with Post-Abduction Syndrome, not Cary Grant Syndrome."

Kaz glanced to her right, "Agent Scully, do you have a similar theory?"

Mulder was a bit surprised. Not many investigators asked Scully for her opinion, let alone outright asked if she agreed with his own. He had to admit, however, that not many of the investigators they worked with slept with Scully either. He could see her think it through before answering.

"My own theory is somewhat different, yet it focuses on the same question, which is: what happened to Deakins during those six days? He's clean on drug tests, no one witnessed his actions during that time, he came back in a state of mental disrepair...I think we need to focus on that time--however, I believe our conclusions will be much more, er...mundane than Post-Abduction Syndrome."

Kaz nodded and stood, placing her hands behind her back as she paced the small, dark room, "I agree that we need to explore the six day period in which Deakins was missing more thoroughly."

She walked to the coat rack and picked up her long coat. "Come on," she said to the agents.

"Where are we going?" Mulder asked, a little caught off guard by the way she had taken over the decision-making process.

"Back to CDC."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Quantico's Marine Combat Development Center
Barracks Room E
11:15 a.m.

"This is PFC Deakins' bunk, ma'am," said Marine Lieutenant Murray.

"Thank you, Lieutenant," Kaz replied as the three scanned the room. "This is reported as the last place the private was seen before his disappearance, correct?" At Murray's stiff nod, she continued, "And this bunkhouse is where he has been residing for the past four months, correct?"

Murray jerked his head in assent once again.

Scully voiced a question as she looked about, "Lt. Murray, how long has PFC Deakins been under your command?"

"Since he was stationed here, ma'am. Just under six months."

"And in your reports you gave Deakins high marks. Is he an adequate Marine?"

"PFC Deakins is more than adequate, ma'am. He is--he was an excellent Marine. His marks prove that, and he was slated to move to Lance Corporal. Now, however, he will have to be re-evaluated."

Murray watched them wander and answered their questions as they searched the barracks room. Scully walked up and down the main corridor, looking for--well, anything out of the ordinary. She came up empty, however, as did both Kaz and Mulder.

They left the room, following Murray on his walking tour of CDC. The next stop was the field where Deakins was found.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

As they approached the area, Kaz felt a chill run through her body. She looked around the deserted woods. Nothing. No people, no birds, no breeze. The lack of activity--the lack of nature--in these woods was almost eerie. She chalked it up to the chilly air and followed Murray until he stopped. Waist high on an oak tree was a spray-painted orange X."

"This is the place where Charlie Company found PFC Deakins, ma'am."

Mulder was becoming irritated by the way the Lieutenant spoke exclusively to Kaz, but his curiosity superseded his temper, and he walked the woods carefully. Scully stuck close to him, within fifty feet or so, but he noticed how she never let Kaz out of her sight.

After fifteen minutes, they stumbled upon a small clearing, not far from where the X stood on the tree. Scully stopped and frowned, turning in a circle and looking up at the trees above. Nothing. She glanced around. Nothing. It seemed like any other part of the woods, but it was different. she felt weird, out of sorts, with an uncanny sense of deja vu.

"Scully?" Mulder called, suddenly at her side, "What is it?"

"I--I don't know, For some reason, I suddenly had the strangest feeling that I've been here before."

"You probably have. Quantico is a half-mile to the west. You've probably run these woods fifty times."

"Well, I--hmm, maybe. Yes, that must be it. I'm sure you're right."

Abruptly, they heard a sharp trilling and all jumped a little. Mulder and Scully looked expectantly at each other. Then, realizing it wasn't them, they turned to the Naval Officer who roamed to their left.

"Kaz," Scully called out, "I think that's your phone."

Kaz looked up at her. Her face suddenly lifted in realization and she reached into her pocket, "Sorry. I forgot they gave me one...Kazmerowski," she said into the instrument.

Scully turned back to the clearing. She scanned it, looking deeper into the trees and scrub brush. Mulder followed her eyes, curious at her reaction.

"Thanks Hardy, we'll be there in an hour or so," Kaz said before pocketing the phone.

She turned to the agents, "That was Hardy Williams. He'd like to meet in my office as soon as we get back."

Scully reluctantly turned away from the clearing and followed the group as they made their way out of the woods. The familiarity nagged at her like a sore tooth, and it wasn't until they were in Kaz's Mustang and halfway back to DC that she finally gave it up and listened to the conversation. Kaz and Mulder were discussing possible siginfigances of Deakins' 'spirit guides,' and soon fell into a debate on psychedelic rock verses Led Zeppelin.

"You weren't even alive in the 60's, kid. You're opinion doesn't count."

"I was too alive! I was born in 1969," Kaz protested. "And don't think that psychedelic rock ever faded from Haight-Ashbury. I grew up on The Dead and Jefferson Airplane. I probably *met* Jerry Garcia before you'd ever even *heard* of him."

"You met Jerry Garcia?" Mulder replied incredulously, and it went on from there.

Scully reflected for a moment. She herself had been born in 1964, which made her five years older than the woman she was sleeping with. Stretching her legs in her seat, she already felt the tightness there. She was growing unbelievably sore from the morning run Kaz had subjected her to, and her back was full of aches and pains as well. She supposed this was the different between 27 and 32--soon to be 33.

Did the age difference matter all that much? She looked up into the rear-view mirror, catching sight of Kaz's unlined brown eyes. Truth be told, the officer looked younger than 27. The uniform helped to distinguish her, but at home, in her comfortable clothes, Kaz looked as though she was barely out of college, let alone a lawyer three years past the bar exam. But Kaz's youthful good looks and her exuberance made Scully feel younger too, which was something she needed. She let herself dwell on the love she had found with Kaz as they drove back, needing these thoughts to help center herself after the displacement she had felt in the woods surrounding Quantico.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Washington Navy Yard
Commander Anne Kazmerowski's Office
2:25 p.m.

A the three assembled in Kaz's office, Hardy Williams strolled in. He was a small, compact man, and he and Kaz stood eye-to-eye as they spoke. Williams was calm and unflappable in his dress whites. Scully immediately noticed the gold wedding band on his left hand.

<No trouble on that front,> she thought, then berated herself for thinking along those lines at such a time.

Williams passed a folder to Kaz, who sat at her desk to scan it. Mulder and Scully took the guest chairs while Williams perched on the edge of Kaz's desk to speak.

"Approximately eighteen months ago a Marine Lance Corporal Henry W. Coleman pulled a disappearing act similar to Private Deakins'. He, too, was stationed at CDC, but his track record was 180 degrees in the opposite direction. Coleman, from reports given by platoon mates, had a problem with marijuana use. In fact, he regularly snuck off into the surrounding woods to smoke a quick bowl while on breaks.

Kaz stopped reading the folder and chewed on her thumbnail as she gave Hardy her undivided attention.

"On 11 May, 1995, Coleman goes out, reportedly for a toke, and is gone for three days. Without a trace. They find him on the fourteenth, mumbling incoherently and wearing only his pants." He swiveled his head to look at his C.O. "And get this Kaz--they were on inside out and backwards."

He paused, waiting for the witty comment he had come to expect from her, but was met only by a faraway look of serious concentration as she sucked at her thumbnail. He knew that face; she was deep in thought, so he let her be and continued his run-down.

"Coleman told base doctors and psychologists that he'd been sleeping in 'a bright, white place' but that over the course of his nap--are you ready for this one? A man came to talk to him, to comfort him and tell him everything would be kosher if he stayed chilly."

"Did he say who the man was, Hardy?" Kaz asked him.

Williams nodded, "Oh, he sure did. It was the Larry Legend...the great Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics."

A long moment of silence ensued before Scully spoke, "Was Coleman from Indiana, Lt. Williams?"

"Yes he was, ma'am, and you can call me Hardy."

"Thanks Hardy, and isn't Larry Bird also from Indiana? I thought you told me that once Mulder."

Williams nodded again, as did Mulder.

Scully turned to her partner, "Transference again. The man has a hero, smokes a lot of pot, an sees his hero in his dream. It doesn't mean he was abducted. Maybe all those years of marijuana use sent him into a state of incoherence. It's been known to happen."

"Explain the 'bright, white place' then, Scully."

Kaz answered, "It could be fog. That's a lowland area and it's very foggy at times. But, and I think you may agree with me Scully, the similarities are striking enough to warrant further investigation. Hardy, where does Coleman reside today?"

"Decatur, Illinois."

"We'll prepare a preliminary list of questions. Could you give him a call tomorrow morning?"

"Sure thing."

Kaz thanked him, then picked up a dart and began to spin it between her fingers. "What're you thinking, Mulder?"

He met the young Commander's eyes. This was a turning point in their newly-formed friendship, that he knew. He liked Kaz, she was good for Scully. Besides that, she was fairly open-minded and (in his opinion) one of the sharper tacks in the military box.

However, that was just the problem. The military. And here in her office, Kaz was a completely different person than the one he'd spent last weekend with. How freely could he speak with Commander Anne Kazmerowski? Walls around him had a tendency to have ears, and none were sharper than those inside military buildings, whether it be the Pentagon or the Navy Yard.

He glanced about the room, at Kaz, at Williams, out the window and into the busy hall. Yes, there were far too many ears around here for him to vocalize his theory.

In the intuitive way that she had, Scully picked up on his unease and said, "He's probably thinking about his stomach. It's after three and we haven't had lunch yet, so it's about feeding time at the zoo. Do you know a good place around her, Kaz? Off The Yard? We can talk there."

Kaz looked at her over the metal dart between her fingers. She recognized an escape plan when she saw one, and Mulder and Scully definitely wanted to escape from these surroundings.

"Of course," she said. "We can go to The Bomber. It's just down the street. Hardy, will you join us?"

He shook his head, "I just ate, and I have a few more things to run through today. CDC is stalling on Deakins' new psychological profile, and I want to track it down this afternoon."

"Come by when you're through, then. Meet us for a drink."

"Sure Kaz," he replied, wondering a little at how friendly she had become with these FBI agents. They were already dropping her title and calling her 'Kaz.' It seemed a little premature to him. He knew Kaz well, and although she had a heart of gold and was one of the gentlest souls he'd ever run across, on the surface she was as tough as nails. It usually took a long time for people to break through 'Brick' Kazmerowski's walls, but these two seemed to have done it in a matter of a few days.

Or had they?

He pushed these thoughts aside as he strolled out of the office, too busy to dwell on small matters. He made a mental list of everyone he needed to call this afternoon as he entered his own small cubicle.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Bomber Bar & Grill
3:45 p.m.

As they walked through the door, Kaz said, "This is kind of a hand for me and a lot of my friends from the Yard, but they shouldn't be wandering in for another couple of hours. It has good food and tables in the back where we can speak freely. That is what you wanted, isn't it? A place where we could speak openly?"

Mulder nodded appreciatively, "Yes, that's what I was hoping for."

The host walked up to them with menus in his hand, "Well hello, Commander," he said with a smile. "The boys tell me you've been promoted. Congratulations."

"Thank you very much, Joe. These are some friends of mine, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. We were hoping to get a table in back."

Mulder was pleased that she hadn't been more specific in her description of them to the host. It told him she understood his desire for discretion.

"Right this way," he said, and led them to a table far in the dark recesses of the restaurant near a deserted stage that apparently hosted live music. "Shayne and his guys won't be playing until seven. You should have peace until then."

"You're a saint, Joe. Thanks."

They took off their coats and sat, Scully and Mulder facing Kaz. The area around them was nearly deserted, the only patrons sitting near the front or at the bar.

"Okay Mulder," Kaz said, "spill it."

He turned so that he could read both Kaz's and Scully's faces as he spoke. "I believe PFC Deakins is experiencing Post-Abduction Syndrome. This is a phenomenon I have documented in many abduction cases. It involves a confusion of the mental processes incurred by the trauma of the abduction experience. I discussed it this morning, and everything we've encountered since then fits the profile."

"Including Coleman?" Scully interjected with a hint of skepticism.

He nodded, "Especially Coleman, considering the fact that he was stationed at the same base as Deakins. I think it was easy for the base to dismiss Coleman's case because of his drug use. But Deakins is a recruiting-poster Marine. His case was more difficult to shrug off."

The waiter came and they gave him their orders. Scully was starving from the long day it seemed she had already put in. The morning run had increased her appetite as well as her soreness. She downed three Advil with her water as she thought about Mulder's statement.

After the waiter had gone, Kaz asked, "So you believe both Coleman and Deakins were abducted. Are you saying they were abducted by aliens?"

"That is one possibility. Of course, there are others."

"Yes," Scully said, "It's quite possible they were test subjects of a different kind."

Mulder blinked at his partner, stunned that she would throw that out. He knew she didn't *want* to believe in covert government experiments, despite her own experience. And he was surprised she would bring this up in front of Kaz. He didn't know if the couple had discussed Scully's missing three months, but guessed that they hadn't. Understandably, Scully didn't like to talk about it.

"I've been thinking about Deakins," she continued, "and something struck me about his erratic behavior. It was like turning a light switch on and off." She snapped her fingers, "It was that quick. I think it's clear someone has been messing with his mind. Whether that force was extra-terrestrial in origin...I don't think so. To me, this whole case reeks of smoke." She turned her gaze to Mulder, "The smoke of a Morley, to be exact."

She met his hazel eyes and held them, their gazes speaking without the necessity of words.

Kaz watched them incomprehensively, "What do you mean, a Morley?"

Scully looked at her open yet confused face, and instantly regretted her words. What was she thinking, bringing Kaz into this? The last thing she wanted to do was involve Kaz in the tangled nest of the Cancer Man's long-reaching tentacles.

"Forget it," she said quickly, "I'm way off-base. It's nothing."

The wheels in Mulder's head had been spinning since she'd spoken the word 'Morley,' and he hadn't heard a word since. He didn't catch her hasty retraction either.

"Yes," he said." Yes, yes, yes. Using test subjects from the base. It's close to Quantico, where Lord-knows-what happens on the sub-basement levels. You need an F-6 clearance just to get two floors down."

"What are you two talking about?" Kaz asked, her voice holding a hint of irritation at being kept outside the loop.

"It's nothing, Kaz," Scully said. "Just a tie to an old case. I'm sure that's not it though."

Kaz's light brown face drew in as her eyes narrowed, "Don't stonewall me, Scully. You're the one who's hiding something now. No secrets, remember?"

Mulder was thrown from his thoughts by the hard edge in the Officer's voice. <Oh shit,> he thought, <I've stepped in it now. Either that or I've made Scully step in it.>

Scully's cool exterior never cracked, but she took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. "There's something we need to tell you, Kaz. Something that might have bearing on this case."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kaz ran a hand through her dark hair, pulling the few strays over the top to rest easily behind her ears. "So you're telling me there is a secret agenda being carried out by covert forces inside our own government? If I didn't know you any better, I'd think you'd been smoking a few too many bowls as well, Scully."

Scully just looked at her, her face a mask of poise and professionalism.

Exhaling slowly, Kaz continued, "But you, Scully, are the only one who could make me believe such a story. So...you think Deakins may be a test subject of this--this Cancer Man's?"

Mulder and Scully both nodded.

The waiter arrived to clear the plates they had emptied over this long and strange tale. It was a tale that didn't include Dana Scully's own experience with covert government testing and experimentation.

Kaz put a hand on the waiter's arm, "I'd like a beer please, whatever you've got on tap."

"Sure Commander, small or large?"

"Hah--the bigger the better." <I think I'm gonna need it for this,> she thought.

He whisked away to fill the order.

"We've personally borne witness to similar experiments," Mulder told her. "It happens, it's real, and it must be stopped before more innocent people end up like Andrew Deakins."

<Funny how he already knows what button to push,> Kaz thought, her heart going out to Andrew Deakins. Mulder had intuited the sensitive behind her formal, business-like exterior and used it to his advantage.

"How do you advise we proceed?" she asked the agents.

Mulder and Scully exchanged a glance, then Scully said, "Let's see what Coleman has to say before we rush into anything. Let's compose the list of questions for Williams and in the meantime dig a little deeper into the medical record of Marines at CDC."

"With close attention to those discharged on account of mental instability," Mulder added.

Kaz's beverage arrived, and she took a healthy swig before producing a legal pad and pen. they spent the next hour coming up with questions for Hardy Williams to ask Henry Coleman.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

5:50 p.m.

Kaz had excused herself to call Williams with the list of questions, leaving the agents alone in the quickly-filling pub.

Mulder leaned a little closer to ask, "Are you going to tell her about...about when you were gone?"

Scully looked down into her empty tea glass. Mulder almost never discussed the time she had been missing. The fact that he would do so now let her know that he acknowledged Kaz's importance in her life. It also showed that he was dealing with it in a healthier way than he had in the previous two years.

"I don't know, Mulder. I don't like to think about it, let alone speak of it. I'd like to believe that part of my life is over now."

He reached out and gave her a friendly pat on the arm, "It's your decision, Scully, but I say how upset you were when you found out about her hand."

"I'll tell her, Mulder. I'll tell her someday. I just need a little more time."

They spotted Kaz strolling back to the table. She took her seat and said, "Hardy's looking into getting medical records, but he may need your pull, Scully, being a doctor. Either way, it's after five, so not much is going to happen today. What do you say we meet Hardy in the morning and give it a shot then?"

They agreed, which was good, because Kaz continued in her orderly, on-the-go, busy lawyer's tone. "Now, regarding Henry Coleman. We can't speak to him because he died last week. A single-car accident. He drove off a short cliff. Toxicology showed heavy amounts of marijuana residue in his tissues and bloodstream."

"The plot thickens," Mulder said, scratching the stubble on his chin.

"No shit," Kaz replied, "I don't know about you two, but I don't believe in coincidence. If what you say about this Morley Man is true, I'd say someone knows about our investigation...someone who is none too happy."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

7:15 p.m.

After a stop at Scully's house for a change of clothes, Kaz drove them back to her place once again. Scully sat in the passenger seat of the old car, her mind flying through the possibilities of the case and her muscles singing with the pain of the long morning run. The day was finally nearing its end, and although her body ached and cried for rest, she looked forward to another evening with Kaz.

"How you doing, Scullster?" Kaz asked, reaching out to touch her hand.

Scully immediately took it and entwined their fingers, "I'm okay. I missed you all day though."

"What are you talking about? I was right there by your side the whole time."

Scully shook her head and raised Kaz's hand to kiss the back of it. She held it loosely and gently, aware it was the fragile right one.

"No, all day you were Commander Kazmerowski of the JAG Corps. Now you're my Kaz."

The officer smiled happily, "Your Kaz--I like that."

"Me too."

They arrived at Kaz's place, and Scully found herself taking a deep breath of relaxation, glad to be back in the peaceful, comfortable surroundings of the cozy house. Once they were settled, Scully plopped down on the couch. She sighed heavily, glad to finally rest her sore body.

A knowing little smirk crossed Kaz's young face, "What's wrong, Agent Scully, tough workout this morning?"

Scully's reply was laced with sarcasm, "I must admit, I'm not used to running marathons before seven a.m."

Kaz chuckled at her, "It's my fault. I should have thought of you a little more. I was just so happy to have you out there with me that I didn't want the run to end. I drew it out a little too long."

"No, no," Scully protested. "It's good for me. I'll go again tomorrow too."

"I see," Kaz said with a slow nod, "I've turned it into some sort of crusade, haven't I?"

Scully stretched out her legs, feeling the burn of taut muscles that ached with every movement. "I just want to. It does make you feel better, mentally, I mean. Right now, the physical part is killing me, but after a few days I'll be running circles around you, stretch."

Kaz went to the kitchen. She brought back a bottle of Advil and a glass of water.

"Here, take a few of these. I'm going upstairs to change. If you think you can manage it, come up there and I'll give you a hand with those screaming muscles."

Wild thoughts flew through Scully's head, and she managed a lewd smile, "I think I can make it, but give me a few minutes."

Kaz chuckled as she bounded up the steps. She took them two at a time, unable to keep herself from rubbing it in a little.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ten minutes later, Scully navigated the stairs to find Kaz in her standard at-home apparel of sweatpants and a t-shirt. She had spread a towel on the bed and the bottle of sandalwood-scented oil sat on the nightstand.

When she saw Scully stagger in, she stifled a snort of laughter, then made a serious face and scratched her chin, as though examining Scully.

"May I offer you my diagnosis, Doctor Scully?"

"I think I can make a pretty accurate self-diagnosis, Councilor Kazmerowski. I'm sore as hell."

Kaz nodded, "Yeah, that was my assessment too. May I offer you a little treatment, then?"

Exaggerating a moan, Scully said, "Please do, I'm dying here."

Kaz went to the tall dresser and pulled out a pair of boxer shorts--one of the many pair she'd been given by one of her clients--and turned to her aching friend.

Scully sat wearily on the edge of the bed and let Kaz pull off her shoes, her knee-high nylons, shirt, and bra. Helping her to her feet, Kaz slid both her pants and her underwear off. Scully thought of the trust she placed in Kaz, letting the tall young woman strip her bare in so matter-of-factly. Rarely in her life had she ever let anyone do something like this.

She placed her hands on Kaz's broad shoulders to steady herself as Kaz knelt to let her step into the boxer shorts. They were huge, nearly falling off her small waist, but felt luxurious against her bare skin.

As Kaz stood, Scully pulled her in for a kiss. Kaz was willing, and ran her hands slowly up and down Scully's bare arms as their mouths meshed. not to let it grow too deep, Kaz pulled away, "First thing's first, Scullster. We need to take care of that body of yours."

Scully's eyes remained closed, her mouth unsatisfied, missing the contact, "You were taking great care of it."

"There's plenty of time for that later. Right now, we need to get you back in working condition, so to speak. Lay down here."

With a disappointed sigh, Scully complied, laying face-down on the towel. She turned her head to the side, watching Kaz grab the bottle of oil and pour some into her hand. The bed sank slightly as Kaz climbed up to sit backwards on her butt. She closed her eyes as Kaz's warm hands began to move over her sore calves. Unable to help herself, she emitted small sighs and groans as Kaz's hands ran all over the throbbing muscles, alternating between deep friction and light, relaxing touches.

"Bear with me here, Scully. I'm not very good at this...with my hand and all."

"M-m-m, you're doing great," Scully replied sincerely.

She was aware, however, that Kaz's last two fingers of her right hand trailed ineffectually over her legs. The pressure of the left hand was much greater. Again, she wondered how she could have been oblivious to Kaz's injury for so long.

Kaz turned and moved Scully's legs slightly apart, allowing her to kneel between them. She dug her thumbs into tight hamstrings, ignoring Scully's winces of pain. They both knew it was necessary, a temporary pain for the greater good.

As Kaz pulled the boxer shorts down to work the heel of her left hand into Scully's butt, she said, "You say you've run across cases like this one before?"

A wire of tension ran through Scully's body, and Kaz felt it through her contact with the smaller woman. She didn't know what to make of it.

"You mean people being taken for testing?"

"Well, yes," Kaz replied, "I mean, it sounds far-fetched, but if you tell me it's real, I believe you."

Scully forced herself to relax, knowing Kaz sensed her unease, "It's real, Kaz--thought I don't like to admit it. I...I don't even like to talk about it. The very thought of it is repulsive--it's heinous."

"Yes, it is," Kaz quickly agreed, ready to give the subject up if it made Scully uncomfortable. "We don't have to talk about it, though. We don't have to talk about work."

"That would be great," Scully said, and Kaz felt her body ease once more. "Talk to me about California, Kaz. Tell me about you when you were a kid."

So Kaz spoke, softly and gently, soothing Scully with her hands and with her voice. She kneaded tight muscles and told stories of trips to the beach, of street poets who hung out in her neighborhood, of ball games and her father.

When she heard the soft sound of Scully's deep, rhythmic breathing, she moved to her feet and stepped around the bed, careful not to wake her tired companion. She brushed the hair off of Scully's face and neck to lay a soft kiss on her cheek. She noticed a small scar on the back of Scully's neck and ran her finger lightly over it. On impulse, she gave it a gentle kiss before pulling a blanket up and over Scully's sleeping form, then turned out the lights and left the room.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

10:10 p.m.

Kaz hit the rewind button again and listened to the same thirty seconds of audio tape for about the fiftieth time. She closed her eyes and chewed on the end of her pen as she listened through the small headphones.

She let the tape play through again, making occasional notes on the legal pad. She was sitting on the floor of her living room, the coffee table level with her chest.

Punching the rewind button on the microcassette once again, she sat back against the couch, preparing to listen once again to what Andrew Deakins said during their interview yesterday. His behavior had affected her deeply, for although at times his behavior was that of a brash, cocky, trash-talking lunatic, at other times he was simply a frightened young man reaching out, looking for anyone's help.

Kaz knew she was a bleeding-heart. She tried to hide it, especially at work, behind a cool, professional demeanor. However, she herself knew it was only as ruse, as did those who knew her well. She was a tireless crusader for her clients, sometimes to the point of fanaticism. She took their cases personally, something she'd been warned against countless times, but with some clients, in some situations--she just couldn't keep her distance. These cases nagged at her constantly, consuming her, pushing her to find the truth.

Many of her clients were guilty of the crimes charged against them, and Kaz defended them, as was her job. She saw that they received a fair and speedy trial, and served as little time as possible. But sometimes a case dropped into her lap that was different, someone she could go to bat for, someone who needed her help to get him out of the situation he found himself in.

Although Andrew Deakins was not her client, she decided that he needed someone to go to bat for him. Putting Scully and Mulder's theory of covert testing aside, she felt compelled to focus on Deakins himself. The question that spun in her head all night was this: What caused the mood swings? What button had these people pushed in Andy Deakins' mind that made him suddenly 'become' General Benito Mussolini? Was his behavior the result of general psychosis, or was it more specific than that?

These questions led her to the tape recorder she had placed on the desk during their interview with Deakins. Something about the interview and about Deakins' wild behavior nagged at a corner of her mind. She chewed on her thumbnail as she hit the play button and listened once more.

Remembering the short conversation they'd had yesterday upon arriving home, Kaz recalled Scully's words perfectly.

<"Or--and I'm just toying with this one--it could be the result of post-hypnotic suggestion.">

Kaz was somewhat familiar with hypnosis, but didn't know the specifics. Post-hypnotic suggestion, she believed, was a keyword or catchphrase that triggered some kind of reaction in the subject. If she could only figure out what that keyword was...

Her eyes were closed, and she was deep in thought as she listened intently to the voices on the tape. She didn't hear the movement on the stairs, or feel the presence in the room, so deep was her concentration. She did, however, smell the fresh shampoo and soap scent of Scully just before small hands went around her shoulders and arms.

She leaned forward to let Scully sit behind her, and Scully folded her legs over Kaz's long ones as her arms went around Kaz's midsection in a tight embrace. Her head fell to the back of Kaz's neck, and she laid soft, teasing kisses on it as her hands went under Kaz's shirt to caress warm breasts. They were neither large nor small, but perfect, and fit nicely into Scully's cupped palms.

"Good morning, Sleeping Beauty," Kaz said, pulling the small headphones off and tossing them on the table in front of them. "How was your nap?"

Scully pulled her back a little so that they could lean against the couch. Her mouth was close to Kaz's ear as she replied, "Very refreshing. I'm a new woman now, thanks to you."

Kaz's temperature skyrocketed. She felt Scully's dampish hair on her neck and behind her ear. Fighting the spin of desire that threatened to overwhelm her, she said, "How is your body?"

Scully's small, throaty laugh was right in her ear. The breath warmed it and sent a wave of wetness coursing down into her center.

"My body wants to thank you for your ministrations."

Kaz wanted nothing more than to take Scully up on that particular thank you, but in deference to her companion's previous condition said, "Are you sure? You were--and I quote--'dying' a few hours ago."

Scully drove her tongue into Kaz's ear, instantly making the officer moan and tremble in her arms. She rubbed her thumbs across the nipples of Kaz's breasts. The response was instantaneous.

Kaz felt her nipples tightening, felt the electric current of Scully's touch, wanted Scully to take her right there--but a part of her mind still tried to unlock the mystery of Andrew Deakins.

Scully's mouth was hot and open against her neck, "What are you doing?"

"I'm going through the interview with Deakins," Kaz replied breathlessly as Scully's hands gently kneaded and her tongue darted out to touch the sensitive skin of Kaz's neck, "I need to figure out what trips him out, what makes him...Ah, God...what makes him change into Il Duce."

Scully nipped at Kaz's neck with her lips, then moved up to a tempting earlobe, "And what have you found?"

"Well...um...oh Jeez, Scully....I was thinking about that post-hypn...o-h-h-h...hypnotic suggestion thing you mentioned."

Once again sending her tongue into Kaz's warm ear, she said, "And?"

Sparks danced before Kaz's tightly closed eyes as she reached back to feel the curve of Scully's hip, "And I think there's a keyword...or, Ah, or phrase that sends him over the edge."

Scully's right hand drifted down Kaz's flat stomach, lightly caressing the flesh, making it tingle and quiver. She wanted nothing more than to send Kaz over the edge right now.

"Have you reached any conclusions?" Scully asked in a low voice that sent a long chill down Kaz's spine. She felt Scully smile against her neck, pleased by this reaction.

"Um...no. I ...A-a-h-h-h-h! I haven't figured it out yet."

Scully's hand dipped below the waistband of her sweatpants and the shorts she wore beneath them. It cupped her before testing the moisture between her folds. There was plenty of it, and Kaz's head lolled back against Scully's shoulder.

"You're wicked," she said in a voice as dry as sand.

"I know," Scully replied. "And you're wet. Very wet."

"Do it Scully, please," Kaz panted. "Make me come while you hold me. I want that so bad."

At Kaz's plea, Scully entered her slick folds. Ideally, she would have liked to have drawn it out, but Kaz needed it now. She dipped her fingers inside her lover briefly before tightening her grip on Kaz's stomach and moving up to Kaz's flaming clit. She spun circles around and over it with two fingers.

"Oh yes, Scully. Just like that. Don't stop."

She wouldn't have stopped for anything short of a gun to her head, and quickly increased her pace. Kaz moaned and pressed her cheek against Scully's. It was so hot, it transferred the heat into Scully's own face, infusing it. Kaz's hips pressed up against her hand and back down again, creating a delicious friction against Scully's own warm center. Kaz must have realized this, for she began to grind harder and harder against Scully.

Scully's hand flew over Kaz, wanting her lover to come hard. Kaz did, with a tortured scream into the silence of the room.

As Kaz recovered, she still tried to press into Scully, sensing the build-up of her partner's own need. It wasn't enough, so she spun and quickly laid Scully flat on the floor. She roughly pulled the fresh boxer shorts off and sucked hard at Scully's bud, laving it with her tongue as she did so.

Scully's hoarse cry of pleasure was almost instantaneous, Kaz felt it reverberating through the small body before her. She drew it out before dipping down to drink the exquisite juices that flowed from Scully. Then Kaz came up and shoved her tongue between Scully's parted lips. Scully sucked eagerly on it as Kaz ran her hands through Scully's rich red hair.

After a few minutes, their kiss grew gentler and more nurturing. As they eventually parted, Kaz laid her head on Scully's chest. A small hand immediately drew the hair off her face and stroked her tenderly.

They were tempted to fall asleep there, but Scully sat up, lifting Kaz with her. "We need to go to bed, hon."

Kaz kissed her throat gently before standing. When Scully was on her feet as well, Kaz embraced her, enveloping her in a blanket of tender emotions.

"I love you, Scully."

"I know you do, honey. You're the best thing that has ever happened to me. I love you, too."

They made their way to the bedroom and quickly fell asleep, safe and close in each other's arms once again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thursday, Dec. 28
1:15 a.m.

Kaz awoke with her face pressed between Scully's shoulderblades. She lay there for a moment, feeling the rise and fall of Scully's chest through the contact. Her bare breasts lay against the small of Scully's back, and the luxurious sensation of skin on skin made her never want to leave.

But her mind began to work again, turning over the events of the past few days, particularly the interview with Deakins. What had set him off?

She found herself wide-awake, unable to drift back into blessed unconsciousness. She rolled onto her back and put her hands behind her head, staring up at the dark ceiling. It nagged at her like a loose tooth, one she was unable to leave alone. She had to pick at it until it came free.

After fifteen minutes, she still came up empty. She quietly got out of bed, wearing only her large boxer shorts embossed with 'Property Of The US Navy' on the leg. A smile touched her face as she thought of the fact that Scully was swimming in an identical pair of them...and nothing else. She tucked the covers around her sleeping companion and crossed to the window, where the only light was provided by far-off streetlamps and the half moon in the sky.

She idly wondered if there were any lurkers in the dark outside. If there were, they were in for a treat. It wasn't every night in Georgetown that a nearly-naked lady stood looking out her window at 1:30 in the morning.

Her mind turned back to Deakins, and Mulder's voice from the tape replayed in her head,

<"What happened to you that night, Private Deakins?">

What had it been? Was it the male voice? No, for Scully had induced a similar reaction later with her question. Was it the question itself? The tone?

She heard Scully shift in the bed behind her and turned momentarily, smiling at the presence of this entrancing woman in her bed. She still couldn't get over the fact that this was happening, that Dana Scully wanted *her,* was pleased by *her.* It amazed and astounded her.

Scully shifted again, reaching out her hand to the spot where Kaz had just lain. She made a small sound deep in her throat that wiped the smile off of Kaz's face.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

She was in the room again. It was a brilliant white, so bright it hurt her eyes to open them, so she kept them shut tight. She felt impossibly large, as though she had been filled to capacity with--what? She could not know. Her mind refused to focus. She heard deep male voices above and behind her, but could not move her head to see who they belonged to.

She lay unfettered on the bed, but was helpless to move. It frightened her beyond belief, but she fought the fear, thinking someone might come to save her. That thought was her only comfort. Mulder would be there. Kaz would be there, someone would help her.

She tried to speak, but all that came out was a small, ineffectual cry. She was alone...no...no--if she could move, she could reach Kaz. Kaz was beside her, wasn't she? If she could find the strength to lift her arm, to reach out and touch Kaz beside her, it would all go away. Everything would be okay and the men would be gone.

She gathered all her strength and reached out.

Nothing.

Kaz was not there. She had abandoned her, had left her in the clutched of these evil men who were hurting her.

Suddenly, her body was charged with energy, and she fought. She squirmed and battled against the light. She found her voice and screamed out into the darkness.

"NO! NO! You can't take me again! I won't let you!"

A strong hand was on her shoulder, fighting her struggles. It was soft yet so firm, and another settled on her arm, trying to hold it down.

"Scully! Scully, wake up! It's okay, Scully. Wake up."

She heard the voice from far away, it sounded like Kaz--were they using Kaz's voice to control her, to keep her there? The hands were shaking her, trying to hold her, but she freed her left arm from the ineffective grip and swung at her captor.

It connected.

Hard.

She heard a distant shout of pain and the hold on her eased for a moment, then her arms were pinned above her head and a strong weight settled over her body.

"Jesus Scully, wake up!" the concerned voice firmly commanded.

She opened her eyes.

Kaz's face was inches above her own, her body held to the bed by Kaz's heavier weight. The room was dark. There were no men, no lights.

Kaz watched Scully's eyes dart frantically around the room, trying to register her surroundings.

"It's okay Scully. You had a nightmare. You're safe...I'm here."

Feeling some of the tension drain from Scully's small but powerful body, Kaz loosened her grip. She lifted her right forearm and pried the fingers of her left hand from Scully's arm, freeing them.

Still feeling the disorienting effects of the vivid dream, Scully said, "You left me. You weren't there. I needed you...I needed him. And neither of you were there."

Kaz had no idea what Scully was talking about, but for some reason inferred that the 'him' was Mulder. She took some of her weight off of Scully, but kept enough pressure on to hold her still. She brushed the hair off her companion's damp, terrified face. This was an expression she'd never seen before, not on Dana Scully.

"I'm here, Scully. I'd never leave you. You had a dream, that's all."

"You were gone."

Kaz recognized the hint of fear that remained in Scully's voice and knew the dream was still with her. "We were sleeping, but I got up, that's all. I'm still here, Scully."

Scully blinked, only now truly focusing on Kaz's face, still mere inches above her own. She began to relax at last, and closed her eyes to lean into Kaz's palm, which rested against her cheek.

When she opened her eyes again, she said, "We have to go back to the woods."

At this sudden change of subject, confusion crossed Kaz's face, but she thought it best to simply agree, "Okay. We'll go back to CDC tomorrow."

Scully shook her head, "No. We have to go now."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Fox Mulder's Apartment
1:50 a.m.

Mulder had recently fallen asleep, and was dreaming of a beautiful blonde who had just seen him drain a 30-foot jumper when the phone rang. Growling in frustration, he reached beneath the couch to pull it out.

"This better be good," he mumbled into the instrument.

"Mulder, it's me. Can you meet me at Kaz's house in an hour?"

Suddenly he was wide awake, "What's going on, Scully?"

"I think I know what they're doing...and where. We need to go back to Quantico."

That was all he needed to hear, "I can be there in twenty-five minutes."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

2:05 a.m.

Kaz and Scully donned jeans and dark layers as they prepared for their night journey. Kaz threw two mock-turtlenecks and a black sweatshirt in Scully's direction before pulling a couple over her own head.

"It's freezing out there, Scully. You're gonna need these."

Kaz had been bustling about the room ever since Scully had stated her desire to go back to CDC. She hadn't even questioned it, but had immediately begun preparations. The fact that she even called her own answering machine at her office to state where she was going told Scully that there was more to the young Navy lawyer than met the eye.

<She's done stuff like this before,> Scully realized with a jolt. <She even leaves a message in case she doesn't come back.>

That last thought sent a chill down Scully's spine. It was quickly forgotten, though, when Kaz bent to lace up her thick hiking boots. The right side of her face was turned toward Scully, and the red-haired agent saw angry discoloration and swelling there. Kaz had been in constant motion, darting around the room since they'd turned on the lights, and she hadn't noticed it before.

"Kaz, what happened to your eye?"

Kaz shook her head, "Nothing."

Scully bent down beside her, lifting her chin to look at it. The socket was swelling quickly, and the eye itself was half-way shut with the force of it. Deep red surrounded the area.

"Oh my God," Scully said, her eyes widening as she suddenly felt the ache in her right fist, "I hit you."

Kaz shrugged, "It's okay, no big deal. I guess that teaches me not to leave the bed in the middle of the night." She smiled weakly at her own joke.

Scully pulled her to her feet, "I'm--I'm sorry Kaz."

"It's okay, it's okay," Kaz said with bored reassurance, "I'm sure it'll be fine in the morning. It's just sore right now."

She realized then that Kaz hadn't looked in the mirror within the last ten minutes. "You need some ice. Jesus, Kaz, you should have told me I clocked you."

Kaz shrugged again and kissed her forehead briefly, "It was a love tap, that's all."

Scully went to the kitchen and put crushed ice into a plastic bag, then brought it back up to Kaz, who was scoping her new look in the mirror.

"Man, Scully, when I said I liked 'Rocky' I didn't mean I wanted you to make me look like him."

"I'm so sorry, Kaz. I would never--"

"I know, Scully," Kaz said, putting the ice to her eye, but approaching Scully to give her a reassuring, one-armed hug. "You'd never hurt me. You didn't, I'll be fine."

They heard a sharp knock from the floor below and Scully went to answer it, letting Mulder in. Kaz walked down the stairs to join them, the soothing ice still over her eye.

After taking in Kaz's appearance, Mulder gave his partner a funny look, "Do you two play dangerous sex games up there or what?"

She said nothing, but elbowed him sharply in the ribs, a message to shut the hell up. He got it, and stayed silent. Scully felt horrible about hitting Kaz, and didn't want to rehash it with Mulder.

Kaz, however, didn't seem upset in the least, "Yeah, we were playing 'Interrogation" and I was the suspect. You must play 'good cop' when you go out in the field, Mulder, because she's got her 'bad cop' routine down pat."

Mulder chuckled at that, then turned more serious, "So what's the deal, Scully?"

"I remember why that patch of woods is so familiar. I think I've been there before."

"When?"

With a hasty, indecisive look at Kaz, she finally spilled it, "When I was gone. During the time I was abducted."

~~~~~~~~~~~

2:40 a.m.

Mulder drove as Scully told Kaz her story. He stayed silent the entire time, letting Scully sort through it by herself. This was something they both knew she had to do alone.

"I don't know what to say, Scully," Kaz said softly at the end of the tale.

"Neither do I, Kaz," Scully replied with a heavy heart. "I still don't know what to make of it, and I'm not sure I even want to go down that road. A big part of me wants to pretend it never happened, and just when I've about done that, something like this happens, bringing it all to the surface again. I think being in that clearing today brought back another memory, which subconsciously led me to the dream.

"And you get kind of violent when you dream," Kaz told her, trying to lighten her mood a little.

Scully smiled wanly at her and reached back. Kaz held onto her hand for a few minutes, rubbing her thumb across the back of it, a soothing gesture.

As Scully met her eyes, Kaz's mouth silently formed the unmistakable words, "I love you."

Scully nodded and squeezed her hand while fighting back rare tears.

As Mulder made the turn-off to CDC, Kaz released Scully's hand and reached down to the unfamiliar holster at her left hip. She slid the gun out and checked her loads. Twelve rounds. She has a spare clip in her pocket as well, but hoped the gun would remain in its sheath the entire night.

She watched Scully quickly check her own rounds, amazed by how natural the huge silver gun looked in Scully's small, feminine hands. Her mind traveled back for a split-second to the place where she'd first seen Dana Scully. Back in the Georgetown Law Library in jeans and a baggy sweatshirt, the red-head looked just as much like a housewife as she did a doctor, or a gun-toting G-woman.

They had taken Mulder's car, which blended better than Kaz's red Mustang. He switched off the headlights as they drew closer to the guard's shack and pulled off into the woods. The base was huge, and at many points the fence was a simple cyclone, not topped with razor-wire. It was at one of these places where they officially broke the law and trespassed on government property.

Scully led the way through the woods, with Kaz right behind her and Mulder in the rear. She hiked quickly over the terrain, finding her path with relative ease. The beams of their flashlights and the moon above were all that lit the trail.

When they reached the small clearing, Scully stopped and shone her flashlight in all directions, looking for familiar territory. Mulder and Kaz hung back, watching her and ready to follow her lead.

Leaning toward him, Kaz whispered, "This Cancer Man--was he behind her kidnapping?"

"If he wasn't the orchestrator, he was still in on it for sure."

"How much does she remember?"

He shook his head, "Not much. She knows she was held in the boxcar of a train for some of the time. That's...that's where they did their testing."

At the word 'testing,' Kaz's face twitched painfully and a shiver ran through her body.

"Jesus."

Mulder put a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

"I had no idea," she said in a small, strangled voice.

Scully turned back to them, "This way," she stated before starting out.

They followed her as she twisted and turned, making a path through the wooded area until they approached a small grove with a much smaller open clearing.

Suddenly, Mulder stopped.

"Scully," he whispered, "wait a second. Listen."

They halted and kept still, listening to the sound of movement through the brush. It was faint, and Mulder estimated it was at least 100 yards away.

"Turn out your flashes," he instructed, and they quickly obeyed.

Very dimly, the area to their right was lit. It was shaky lighting, as though others were out in the woods with high-powered flashlights. A dog's bark was audible in the distance, then another.

"They're searching," Scully stated.

"For us?" Kaz asked.

The question was never answered, for suddenly they heard a nearby sound of cracking twigs, heavy footsteps, and ragged breath. To their left, Andrew Deakins came running out of the woods, nearly crashing them as he bounded into the small clearing. Mulder and Scully instinctively reached for their guns, and had them out in a flash.

When he saw the trio, he panted, "Help me. You've got to hide me. They want to take me back. Back to the place."

Scully shone her flashlight on him. His face was a mask of intense fear. It looked out of place on the tall, sturdy Marine, which gave his words all that much more strength.

Kaz approached him.

"Kaz, stay away," Scully warned.

Unheeding, Kaz reached out a hand and laid it on his shoulder, "Take it easy, Deke. We're here to help."

The private immediately dropped to his knees. His hands flew to his head and he moaned, as though battling demons within himself.

"No--no--no--no," he repeated in a bizarre litany.

She knelt beside him, "It's okay Deke. It's okay,"

"No!" he screamed in a tortured voice, startling her momentarily.

"Kaz, get away from him!" Scully yelled, her gun still on the private.

"Back off Kaz, back away," Mulder said in a steady, even tone.

Only seeing the sick man in front of her, Kaz laid an arm on his shoulder, "Deke, we're going to get you some help, okay? You're gonna be okay. You're safe with us."

With a loud, angry growl, he jerked back and grabbed her, pulling her roughly to her feet and in front of him, shielding himself from the drawn guns of the two agents. A hand went, lightening quick, behind his back and came back with a knife, which settled just under Kaz's chin.

"Kaz!" Scully screamed.

"I see now that you are just like the rest of them, *Commander,*" Deakins said in a surly, cocksure voice.

<Oh shit,> Mulder thought, <he's back in Mussolini mode.>

Although she appeared to be cool and composed on the outside, inside, Scully was frantic. The panic settled behind her ears, making a high-pitched white noise. What the hell was Kaz thinking? Jesus Christ!!

Deakins held Kaz firmly with her back to his chest as he peered over her shoulder. He had her right arm twisted painfully behind her back and between them, using its leverage to keep her from escaping.

If Scully had a clear shot, Andrew Deakins would be a dead man.

Kaz slowly reached to her holster and unsnapped it from her belt. She brought it out in front of them and into Deakins' view.

"See this?" she said, striving to keep her voice low and soothing, "See it? Here."

Scully screeched out a frustrated protest as she tossed the gun on the ground well in front of them.

"That proves nothing, *Commander.* You deceived me."

The spite in his voice was palpable. He disdainfully spat out her title as if it were a curse.

Still, she forced herself to stay calm and talk to him, trying to reach the 'real' Andrew Deakins. "No. No I didn't. I'm here to help you, and so are they. They're aiming at you only because you're holding me, Deke."

At her last words, his grip loosened. Mulder and Scully could see confusion cross his face. Then, as Kaz tried to step away, he pulled her roughly back again. They saw the grimace of pain on her face as Deakins twisted her hand behind her back. A line of bright red blood began to trickle down her neck. The sight of it almost drove Scully insane with anger and helpless frustration.

"You're hurting me," Kaz told him, still trying to say composed.

His voice was unsure again as he called out across the clearing at Mulder and Scully, "I...I--don't shoot me."

"Let her go, Deakins," Scully commanded in a voice like steel.

"Ha-ha! I'd like to see you make me, dollface," he said, once again the belligerent dictator.

A cog suddenly and finally clicked in Kaz's head. Despite her fear and the brilliant pain in her hand she finally had it. The keyword.

None of them heard the sound of boots trampling through the woods, coming ever closer to the small clearing.

Softly, gently she spoke the single word, "Deakins."

The knifeblade eased, as did the pressure on her hand. Just behind her ear, she heard the drawing of a ragged breath.

"What's happening to me?" Deakins asked no one in particular, his voice tortured and confused.

Kaz looked up at Mulder and Scully, "Don't say his name. From now on call him Fred. Not his other name, but Fred."

A red rage traveled the short distance through Dana Scully's small body. She was pissed as hell and twice as scared. The wound on Kaz's neck was bleeding freely and her face occasionally twisted from the pressure he was obviously putting on her bad hand. And now, to top it all off, she was calmly and evenly telling them to call this goddam homicidal lunatic 'Fred.' If Kaz got out of this alive, she was in for a big, fat slap upside the head.

Mulder inched closer to her, "Easy Scully," he whispered, sensing her tension. "She's onto something. It's his name that triggers the change. Call him Fred, not Deakins."

"He's going to kill her," she whispered back, her voice filled with frustration, pain, and fear.

They stared at the young man who held the officer in his grip. He looked frightened, intimidated, and hopelessly confused.

Kaz spoke gently to him, "If they put down their guns, will you let me go so we can talk about this, Fred?"

"I--I don't think so. No," he said, making up his mind and sounding a little stronger, "It's a trap, they'll kill me as soon as I let you go. You're my insurance, ma'am. I'm already screwed, but I still don't want to die."

"A-a-a-h-h," she cried as he twisted her hand again. It was all she could do to keep from screaming. His strong grip ground sensitive tissues and bones against the sturdy, resistant metal. It hurt like hell, but she was more concerned by the knife at her throat and the guns that were trained on both she and Andrew 'Fred' Deakins.

"Listen Fred, you're very confused right now," she said through clenched teeth that bit back another cry of pain. "We're on your side. We want you to get better. We won't let them take you, but you have to let me go."

Scully was inching away from Mulder, her eyes on Kaz's face. Kaz's own eyes were clamped shut as she spoke to Deakins. She was in pain, Scully could tell, and Deakins was scaring the shit out of her, but Scully also sensed Kaz's sympathy for the mentally unstable Marine.

She moved to Deakins' left as he focused more of his concentration on Kaz. She wanted to find a clear shot, one she could take without hitting Kaz.

Kaz opened her eyes and immediately scanned the area for Scully. When she saw what the agent had planned her eyes went wide.

"No!" she shouted, halting Scully in her tracks. "Don't hurt him!"

Scully took a deep breath through her nose. The crisp air bit at her, but her forehead was lined with perspiration. Suddenly, she heard movement behind her and spotted the emergence of Lieutenant Murray, followed by three soldiers.

Across from her another three men emerged, one carrying a semi-automatic weapon, while the others sported handguns. When they saw Deakins with his hostage, they stopped short and formed a semi-circle about forty feet from the pair.

"Drop the gun, Private Deakins," Murray commanded.

"No!" Mulder shouted, "Don't say his--"

He was cut off by the sound of a scream of pain. He swung his gaze quickly back to Kaz, but the cry didn't come from her. Deakins was nearly howling, his head thrown back in agony. Kaz winced at the sound combined with her own fear. Her face tightened as the knife nicked her once again.

"Deakins!" Scully yelled, trying to yank on the chain that would settle him once more.

His tortured cries ceased as he looked frantically around at the men who had them cornered. Dragging Kaz with him, he slowly backed up, trying to ease them back into the woods.

"Nobody move--don't do it," he said, his voice rising shakily on the last note.

"Fred," Kaz said, loud enough for all the soldiers to hear, "we can end all of this now, but you have to let me go. Lieutenant, t--tell Fred you'll let him go."

Murray's eyes were wild with the sudden action that was taking place. Sensing an order, however, he nodded.

"Everything will be fine if you let her go," he told Deakins.

Kaz felt the hold on her ease somewhat, and encouraged him even more by softly saying, "My hand, Fred. Let go of my hand, it hurts."

The tight grip over her hand loosened, and she slowly slipped it out, nearly crying with relief. She moved her neck tentatively away from the blade. He allowed it, so she tentatively took a two steps away from him.

Abruptly, there was the click of a hammer from one of the soldiers.

"Liars!" Deakins yelled, and reached out to grab Kaz again.

The roar of gunfire rang out in the still night. Handguns exploded as Kaz turned back.

"NO!" she screamed, dropping to her knees amidst the shots still ringing out.

As the gunfire died, she scrabbled back to Andrew Deakins. He lay face-down on the leaf-laden dirt floor of the woods. Her injured hand was curled protectively against her body, but with the other she reached out and touched his back. It was liberally dotted with both entry and exit wounds.

Kaz's own voice was tortured now as she began to weep tears of frustration, anger, and empathy. "NO! NO! You stupid bastards! What the fuck were you doing?! Why did you do that? Why, goddamnit?! You fucking assholes!"

Scully ran to her side and fell beside her. Mulder approached more slowly. He put a hand to her shoulder and knelt down.

Tears were running freely down her face as she tried ineffectually to turn him over with one hand. She grunted with the exertion and grew more frantic in her efforts. Scully placed a hand over hers and pulled it away.

"He's dead, Kaz. Don't look. You can't do anything for him, he's gone."

Kaz tore her hand away from Scully's grip and ran it over Deakins head as another ragged sob escaped her throat. It came away covered in blood. Still, she continued to stroke his hair, pulling it back and off his face.

"Damnit!" she tried to shout, but it came out as little more than a weak whisper. Then, bending down close to the body of PRC Andrew Deakins, she softly said, "I know it wasn't your fault, Fred. You were a good man. I know."

Scully put a hand to her shoulder and guided her back up. Their eyes met and immediately registered the pain in the other's. Kaz leaned forward and into Scully, who, oblivious to her surroundings, held her tight and rocked her gently, whispering soothing words in her ear as a few more heart-wrenching sobs burst from Kaz's throat.

Lt. Murray and his soldiers slowly approached, forming a loose circle around the body. "Commander Kazmerowski, Agents, you are on this base without proper authorization. I'm going to have to ask the three of you to come with me."

"Give her a minute will you?" Mulder said to the Lieutenant, a hard edge in his voice. "She's obviously upset by the fact that you murdered this man."

Murray's eyes danced with controlled anger as he replied, "He went after her. We shot to protect the Commander, Agent Mulder."

"I didn't need your goddam protection!" Kaz yelled, suddenly on her feet and inches away from the Lieutenant's pasty grill. "Everything was under control until one of your fucking Commandos couldn't control his hard-on and cocked his goddam gun! You killed him, one of you did anyway, and I want you to know there will be a price to pay for that!"

Murray didn't even flinch, "You'll be the one paying the price, Commander. You are trespassing here. You are here without permission. Now, if you're over your grieving session, will you come with me?"

"You--!" Kaz growled and jumped at him, tackling him to the ground. She beat at him with her closed left fist until Mulder grabbed her and roughly pulled her off.

"Kaz, get a hold of yourself. You're in shock. You're upset. You need to relax."

He held her tight to his chest, fighting her angry struggles until her body became more pliable. When she was completely still, he let her go, but tilted her chin up to look beneath it.

"You're bleeding, kid. You need some stitches. Let's go with them," he said in a low, calming voice.

Kaz wiped a tear from her eye and looked over at Scully, who still knelt beside Deakins' body. She stood and walked to them. Putting a hand on Kaz's back, she guided her forward. They passively followed Murray and his men back to CDC.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Quantico's Marine CDC
Holding Room #3G
7:05 a.m.

Hours earlier, they had been led to a drab holding room with a table and chairs in the middle. A long bench was bolted across the back wall. Mulder sat on the end of the bench, dozing with his head against the wall. Scully leaned against his shoulder, asleep as well. Kaz laid across the remainder of it, her head on Scully's leg. Across her neck was a long white bandage which covered the thirteen stitches her pal Dr. Rosencrantz had administered after cleaning her wound with painful antiseptic. She had seen his little smirk and knew the doctor had taken immense pleasure from her winces as he wiped it away.

He'd given her a shot of painkillers as well (despite her protests that she needed to stay alert) and now she was drooling onto the denim of Scully's jeans as she wallowed in a drug-induced sleep. A melted icebag was wrapped to her right hand. It was dripping to the floor, unheeded by the exhausted trio.

The door to the holding room opened, jolting both Mulder and Scully into consciousness. Kaz stirred on Scully's lap and forced her heavy eyes to open.

When she saw who was at the door, her eyes fell closed again as she groaned inwardly. <Now the shit's really gonna hit the fan,> she thought as she fought the mind-numbing effects of the drugs she'd been given.

Pushing herself into a sitting position, she said, "Good morning, Captain Martin."

Mulder and Scully exchanged a glance. So this was the Dragon-Lady. She certainly looked the part. She was cool and composed in her dress whites, covered by a long coat that bore her rank on its shoulder-boards. She wasn't a large woman, but her impenetrable demeanor, her erect stance, and her piercing gray eyes made her a fiercely intimidating presence.

She gave Kaz a quick once-over, taking in her swollen eye, the bandage on her neck, the dripping icebag on tied to her right hand, and the blood caked on her dark shirt.

In a clipped, authoritative voice, she said, "Is it, Commander? It certainly doesn't look as if you're enjoying it."

"I had a rough night, ma'am," Kaz replied in a thick voice.

Mulder bit back a snort at Kaz's drug-addled response.

"So I hear," Martin said, approaching them.

Kaz cleared her throat, "Captain Martin, these are Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. They're with the Bureau."

"Yes," Martin replied, nodding at them. "I'm familiar with Agents Mulder and Scully...by reputation. That's why they were assigned to this detail."

Mulder frowned at his partner, who arched a quizzical eyebrow. How did the Captain know them? Their work wasn't exactly high-profile, or mainstream, within the community.

Martin took a chair from the table and brought it to where they sat. Sitting, she eyed the tired trio for a moment, then glanced over her shoulder to ensure that they were alone.

"You've done good work," she said quietly, addressing them all. "This should be enough to shut this site down. I wouldn't be surprised if they've already cleared out."

Mulder stared, open-mouthed, at the starched, composed woman before them.

She knew.

She was an ally.

Who the hell was she?

"Captain Martin," he said carefully, "how many other sites are out there?"

She shook her head, "I don't know, but I'd become aware of this one. It wasn't easy, getting this done, but I knew I chose the right people for the job."

"How do you know of us, ma'am?" Scully asked her in a hushed tone.

Martin turned the corners of her mouth up in a slight smile, "Don't you two know?" She shot her gray eyes at Mulder, "We have a mutual friend at the Capitol."

"Who?" Mulder asked.

This time the smile grew a bit bigger as she glanced down at the engagement ring on her finger, "I'm soon to become Mrs. Matheson. Imagine that...a senator's wife."

Mulder and Scully exchanged another incredulous look, then their faces eased into conspiratorial smiles. It their line of work, they had few allies, but this one looked to be very promising.

"Anyway," the Captain continued, "I've had the trespassing charges dropped, the assault charges as well. You are free to go. This case is closed, and further efforts on it will certainly prove to be futile. Despite the unfortunate death of PFC Deakins, I believe you can consider your efforts successful. You've saved others from Deakins' fate...And delayed their work considerably, I should think. Perhaps one day we can shut it down for good, but until then, we have to savor the small victories."

"Thank you, ma'am," Kaz said blearily, struggling to stay alert.

Martin turned to her, "Are you all right, Commander?" She gave a pointed look to Kaz's wrapped hand.

"Well, I think my icebag is leaking," Kaz replied, losing her battle for coherency.

Scully took up, explaining her condition, "The base doctor took a look at her, ma'am. He stitched her up and gave her a painkiller. On cursory examination, nothing is broken, but she'll need an X-ray, and perhaps a little time to recover."

"Thank you, Agent Scully." She turned back to Kaz, "Take the rest of the week off, Commander. I'll see you in my office Monday morning at 0900. I'll expect your report then. From there, we can compose an official report, one that will assure us personal safety."

"Yes, ma'am."

Capt. Martin stood. Mulder and Scully rose to shake her hand.

"It's good to finally meet you, Agent Mulder, Agent Scully. Your work does not go unappreciated."

"Thank you, Captain," Scully replied, taking pride and reassurance in the comment. "It's good to know we have others on our side."

Kaz found her legs shaky, but stood too. The Captain came up to her and put a hand on her shoulder.

"As I said before, Commander, I knew I chose the right people for the job."

Kaz smiled at her CO, glad for he compliment. From the stoic Dragon-Lady, someone Kaz had admired and respected since joining the JAG Corps, this was high praise.

Trying not to sway on her feet, she said, "Thank you, Captain."

Martin left the room, leaving the agent and the Navy lawyer staring dumbly at each other in her wake.

Scully walked up to Kaz, took her elbow, and led her to the door. "Let's go home, Kaz," she said.

Mulder took Kaz's other elbow, and they cautiously left the room and Quantico's Marine Combat Development Center for good.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Anne Kazmerowski's House
1:20 p.m.

Scully sat at the kitchen table with her laptop in front of her. She typed in occasional bursts as she worked on her report. As she finished, she sat back with a loud sigh, removed her glasses, and stared out the window across the room. A soft rain was falling and the sky was gloomy. She watched droplet hit the window, build, and run down the pane in tiny rivers.

She thought about Commander Anne Kazmerowski, USN. Kaz was sleeping in the big bed upstairs, still knocked out by the injection she had been given earlier. Scully had drawn her a bath and let her soak in it for over an hour, then put her in a pair of her favorite boxers and a thick sweatshirt before tucking her into bed.

Kaz was unlike anyone she knew in the military. Hell, she was unlike anyone Scully had *ever* dealt with on a professional basis. Most of the people who lived and worked in D.C. were out for only one thing: moving up the ladder. She herself had given up on this goal long ago, she estimated it to be around the end of her first year working with Mulder...after she had been 'returned.' She knew then that her mission was clear, and it had nothing to do with climbing up to a higher level of the governmental food chain.

Scully had run across more than a few lawyers in her days, but none of them would have even given the slightest thought to doing what Kaz did last night. She reached out to help a man who desperately needed it. She put herself at risk, went out on a limb to aid this man she hardly knew. Did Kaz identify with Deakins? Or did she just feel his pain?

Scully concluded it was the latter. Despite her choice of a career in the Navy, and as a lawyer to boot, Kaz was a sensitive soul. She had a prominent nurturing, mothering side. Not that Scully didn't have this characteristic as well, but Kaz sometimes wore it on her sleeve. Though she tried to be a gruff, matter-of-fact, authoritative Commander in her office, Scully saw through the facade and knew that just below that exterior, Kaz was a bleeding-hearted liberal from California, the 'free and easy' capital of the country.

She thought of the panic that had seeped into her chest when Deakins grabbed Kaz and held the glittering knife to her throat. The look in Kaz's eyes as she ran her hand over Deakins' dead body. The ache in her voice as she screamed into Murray's face.

But the most frightening of her thoughts was what she would have done if Kaz hadn't survived the night. When suddenly faced with this mortal threat, Scully realized just how much she needed Anne Kazmerowski. She'd be lost without Kaz. Without her companionship, without her dry humor and witty repartee, without her love--and without her body. Scully had never felt so powerfully about a person before, had never been this happy with a lover before, and had never experienced the kind of fear she had last night.

If Kaz had been ripped away from her, what would she have done? She didn't even want to think about that kind of loss, the very idea of it sent a terrible chill down her spine.

"Penny for your thoughts," a sleepy, scratchy voice from behind her said.

Scully whipped her head around to see Kaz leaning in the doorway. She was a mess to look at. Scully winced as she saw at the discoloration beneath Kaz's left eye, the result of her own right jab. Kaz came up behind her and set a hand on her shoulder. Scully placed her own over it, then brought it to her lips, kissing the back of it as she forced a smile.

She stood and faced the tall officer. "How are you, Kaz?"

"I suppose I'm okay. I feel like I got run over by a truck. Are you sure I didn't get run over by a truck last night?"

"No, but for a few moments I thought about running you down myself. You really scared me last night, you know that?"

The tall Italian lowered her eyes, "I'm sorry, Scully. Things got a little scary out there. I only wanted to help him, he wasn't a killer. He needed us...but they shot him like a dog. They shot him so they wouldn't have to deal with him--but he wouldn't have killed me, you realize that, don't you?"

Scully didn't reply. She didn't want to think or talk about last night any more. Her report was complete. She wanted to put the whole unsettling incident behind her. Behind them.

She put a hand on Kaz's shoulder and dipped her head just a bit to look into her companion's deep brown eyes.

Kaz suddenly reached for her and pulled her into a hug, mostly using good left arm. She wrapped her right arm around Scully as well, taking care to keep her hand out at an angle.

Scully let herself be enveloped by Kaz's clean warmth. She inhaled the fresh, ocean-breeze scent of Kaz herself, a reassuring smell if ever there was one. Last night, she wasn't sure if she'd ever smell it again.

After a long time, she pulled away to ask, "How is your hand?"

Kaz shrugged, "I think it's okay. It's been five years since my last surgery, so it should be pretty stable. It feels like there's a fire under the skin, but I think I just need to give it a few days."

"Good," Scully replied, setting her head against Kaz's shoulder and encircling her narrow waist with strong arms. "But you need more rest. I think you should go back and lay down again. That's doctor's orders."

"I don't know if I can sleep again. My hand hurts kind of bad right now."

Scully pulled away and went to the black medical bag she had brought with her. She pulled out a white bottle and shook two tablets into her hand. She brought them, along with a banana and a glass of orange juice, to Kaz.

Kaz swallowed the pills and unpeeled the banana, "So what was it I just swallowed. Arsenic? Still mad at me?"

Scully shook her head as her lips turned up into a small, Mona Lisa smile, "I never can seem to stay mad at you for long, Kaz. I think you know that." At Kaz's own small smile, she continued, "It's Tylenol with Codeine. It should take the edge off...and should put you back to sleep within minutes."

Swallowing the last bite of her banana, Kaz said, "I'll go back to bed, but only if you come with me. I sleep better when you're with me. You make me forget all the bad stuff."

"Okay," Scully agreed, "but we're going to *sleep,* Commander. No funny stuff."

A full-fledged grin was plastered on Kaz's haggard, weary face, "I'd never try funny stuff with you, Scullster. You'd kick my ass."

"I sure would. And I must admit, you've tempted me to."

"I know I have." Kaz leaned in to kiss Scully gently on the lips, "And after our nap, maybe I'll tempt you to do other things."

Scully let a smile play on her lips as Kaz led her up the stairs and to the big, comfortable bed that they shared.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
THE END

I hoped you liked this strange little tale. Let me know what you thought. I'm at:

xfstew@yahoo.com

Thank you for reading.