Walking the Line: Book II - The Collector's Edition
by xf-stew
<xfstew@yahoo.com>

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Contains:
Walking The Line IV: Trials
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Rating: NC-17
Classification: SAR
Keywords: Scully/Other (Slash)
Spoilers: **MAJOR SPOILER ALERT** This story very closely follows the events of "Tunguska" and "Terma." If you have not seen these episodes, this story will spoil nearly every aspect of the plot for you. And if you haven't seen them, this story may not make a lot of sense to you either. Just a warning.
Summary: "Tunguska" and "Terma" only told half the story. This is the rest of it.
Disclaimer: I didn't make anyone you see on T.V. So there.
Note: Those who follow the series will remember that it is set in the fourth season, and you may also realize that the episodes of "Tunguska" and "Terma" took place in November or December of that season. I hope you will allow me a little leeway to play with the timeline and set the events of the episodes within my WTL universe.
Special thanks go to Mary Colleen for editing, beta-reading, and being patient with me over the course of the three months it took me to write this.
And thanks go also to Patti, who knows how much she means to me. Without you, this story would not exist. Your 'input' was invaluable, Patti. <g> Thank you so much for everything. You're wonderful.
Feedback welcome at: xfstew@yahoo.com


Walking The Line, Part 4: Trials
by xf-stew (xfstew@yahoo.com)

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Anne Kazmerowski's House
Sunday, Feb 3
5:35 p.m.

Commander Anne Kazmerowski sat on a stool in front of a large easel in her studio. She wore an old, ratty shirt, a pair of paint-stained sweatpants, and her black baseball cap, the one she liked to wear when she was working up here. A small radio was churning out wild, fast-paced jazz though the volume was turned low, and Kaz occasionally tapped her foot or hummed along as she mixed colors on her palatte and dabbed blue-green oil paint on the canvas in front of her.

Suddenly, she heard a stampede of footsteps and hard nails loudly clicking on the hardwood floor. She didn't even look up form her work, but continued as she spoke to the new arrival.

"So, what do you think you're going to do up here, huh?...Did you miss me that bad, baby? Yes, I know you did...now--hey wait...stop that!"

Now she did turn, and her voice rose to hint at discipline as she continued, "Listen girl, if I've told you once I've told you a zillion times, you can't run in here. Just don't do it--better yet, don't even think about it...hey. Hey!"

There was a loud crash as one of the easels off to her right crashed mightily to the ground.

"Dang it, Brandy!" Kaz shouted as she hopped off her stool and grabbed the adolescent boxer's collar, pulling her into the room's only open space, which was near the open doorway.

Kaz knelt, coming face-to-face with the excitable young dog. "Now Brandy, don't you want to show me how good you can be? Aren't you my good puppy? Didn't I toss you that spit soaked tennis ball out in the park for forty-five minutes? Remember that? It couldn't even have been an hour ago."

The dog looked ashamed for perhaps a millisecond, then wagged its stub-tail like mad and licked Kaz's face with wild abandon. Kaz closed her eyes and squinted under the onslaught. She soon began to laugh and grabbed Brandy's smooth head to rub it as canine saliva coated her face. She didn't care, though. Brandy's kisses were given with love, and she accepted them in that spirit, then laid her own kiss on the dog's head as she scratched the energetic pup on the back and ribs.

Brandy had been her mother's late Christmas present. She arrived at Kaz's front door (with an escort and a leash--of course), two days after the unfortunate affair at Quantico's Marine Combat Development Center. That had been the case she'd worked with Dana Scully and Fox Mulder. Though it had been tough to work with the person she were involved with, Kaz had enjoyed seeing another side of her friend and lover. She felt, in the end, that it had brought them even closer together. However, she'd needed two weeks to physically recover from injuries she received during the investigation. Brandy's arrival helped her though the lonely days alone in the old house.

Brandy rolled onto her back, encouraging Kaz to rub her belly. Kaz obliged, talking to the dog almost non-stop, as was her habit. She didn't care that the pup couldn't respond, she loved animals and enjoyed their companionship. The dog had definitely been the best gift her peculiar, badgering mother had ever given her. Rose even had the foresight to get a dog who was a little older and didn't need house training. Of course, the back yard was slowly being torn to shreds by the extremely excitable Brandy, but she was a great dog...in Kaz's opinion, at least.

Suddenly, Brandy flipped and was on her feet, her ears up and listening intently.

"What?" Kaz asked her, grinning, "Is the Scullster here? Go get her, Brandy. Go say hi...go on."

At her words, the dog gave her face one last lick and bounded down the stairs. Kaz followed, now hearing the key turn in the lock. As it opened, a bright smile lit up Kaz's face, just as it did every time she laid eyes on Dana Scully.

In Scully's left hand was a brown bag full of small white boxes that smelled divine, especially to Brandy, who accosted the small, red-haired FBI agent as soon as she closed the door. The big dog jumped up, balancing its paws on Scully's shoulders and licking her face.

Scully's squint was not so kind as Kaz's had been. In fact, Scully looked more than a little disgusted. She liked dogs in general, and Queequeq had been a good companion as well as pet, but Queegs was a tiny little Pomeranian, not a hulking brute like Brandy. This was no dog, it was a force of nature.

"Argh! Brandy! Down Brandy, down girl. Kaz, call her off, will you?"

Kaz laughed from the stairwell, "She's just telling you she loves you. You never complain when I lick your face. It's the same thing."

"It's not even remotely close to the same thing."

Kaz relented and spoke to the dog, "Down Brandy. Come here, girl."

The happy-go-lucky boxer instantly obeyed, coming over to Kaz, who bent to scratch Brandy behind her ears and kiss the top of her head.

Scully wiped her face with the sleeve of the black Armani suit she'd been forced to wear today. She'd been called into a special meeting, even though it was a Sunday,

For a moment she tried to brush the saliva off her sleeve, then gave it up. Hell, the suit had to go to the dry cleaners anyway. Why not give them a little something to take out? She looked down at Kaz and her dog. Despite the annoyance of Brandy's exuberance, Scully couldn't help but smile at the two of them. Although she'd had the dog for only a short time, Scully knew Kaz had once again fallen in love at first sight.

She carried the bag of Chinese food into the kitchen, setting her briefcase down with it, then returned to the entranceway, where Kaz immediately stood, choosing her over the dog.

Kaz bent to touch Dana Scully's luscious bow-lips with her own. They were soft and ripe, as always, and as always, Kaz was not satisfied by only the first touch. She went back for more.

Scully's hands moved up around her neck, sliding into her thick, dark hair. When Scully opened her mouth and pushed out with her tongue, Kaz saw sparks shimmering before her closed eyes.

The dog, Brandy, came up behind Kaz, whimpering a little for attention, but Kaz pushed gently back with her foot, nicely telling Brandy to get lost. She had more pressing concerns.

Her mouth still locked to Scully's, Kaz deftly unbuttoned the well-dressed agent's jacket and slipped a hand inside to cup her breast through a thin blue shirt. Scully's moan reverberated through both their bodies.

With one more light kiss, Scully broke off, looking up at Kaz with somewhat glassy eyes. "We can't get too carried away, Kaz. I have to catch the ten o'clock shuttle to New York."

"But Scully, it's Sunday...and you've already been gone all day." She lowered her voice a notch, "All work and no play makes Scully sexually frustrated."

A wide, beautiful smile played across Scully's face for a moment. She leaned her head against Kaz's shoulder and rubbed her face against the soft, old flannel shirt.

"I know, but I still have to go."

Disappointment lurked just behind Kaz's youthful, unlined face, but she did her best to hide it. Both women hated to spend even one night apart. But travel was a necessary part of Dana Scully's job, and Kaz understood. It left her pleasantly surprised to hear a key turning in the lock in the early morning hours. On these occasions, Scully would undress and crawl quickly into bed, snuggling close to her, ready for an early morning love-making session.

"What's in New York?" Kaz asked, moving her hands down to Scully's hips.

"I'm really not sure. Mulder got some kind of tip from an informant and called me just now. Told me we were taking the 10:00 shuttle to JFK. I didn't see him much today...he was off doing 'Spooky' things, I guess."

Kaz smiled. Scully never used to joke about Mulder's nickname, but Kaz had turned the name into a private joke between the three of them, laughing at those who laughed at him. At first, Mulder hadn't enjoyed her playful use of this dreaded nickname, but after awhile he took his cue and took the name for his own, mocking those who used it behind his back.

Kaz glanced down at her watch, 6:10 p.m. "Well, we've got about three hours till you need to go. What do you want to do?"

"Eat," Scully replied with widening eyes. "I'm starving."

They put the dog outside for now. Both knew if they wouldn't get much of the food if the dog was around, and what they did get they'd have to fight tooth and nail for.

"I've got an idea, Scully," Kaz told her with a little smile that Scully immediately recognized. "Let's eat in the living room. Bring the grub, will you?"

*****

Kaz spread an old blanket on the floor, "Indoor picnic," she yelled to Scully, who was in the kitchen.

"What do you want to drink?" Scully called as she opened the refrigerator door.

"I think there's some white zin in there."

"Wine with Chinese?"

"Scully...I'd drink wine if it was hamburgers. Jeez, don't you know about my alcoholic tendencies by now?"

This was another old joke between them. Despite her Polish surname, Anne Kazmerowski was Italian to the bone. She'd been drinking wine with meals since she was five, and couldn't break the habit now. Kaz was addicted to the beverage, and just last weekend had drug Scully out to a fancy wine-tasting party one of her Georgetown neighbors had thrown. One very good thing that had come of their working together on the Deakins case had been its excuse for the pair to claim a public friendship and gave them a cover story for how they met.

Scully came back in carrying the bag and two glasses of zinfandel.

Kaz arched an eyebrow, imitating Scully's ever-present skeptical look, "Wine with Chinese?"

Scully set everything down on the coffee table before playfully smacking Kaz in the arm. Kaz pretended to be hurt before reaching to pull Scully down.

"Come here, Scullster. I want to do something."

Uh-oh. When Kaz said that, it usually meant she'd end up a puddle of burning desire within mere minutes. But this time, Kaz quickly stood and moved away from her. Scully watched as she flipped out the lights and plugged in the small colored strings she *still* kept around her windows, even though Christmas was two months past. Kaz then moved to the stereo and popped in a disc. Soon soft, light jazz was playing.

Kaz plopped down beside her again, still dressed in her painting grubs and hat. To Scully, Kaz was the only one in the world who could wear these ratty old things and still look damned sexy. Of course, the round, silver-rimmed glasses she wore didn't hurt. The combination sent a shiver of anticipation down Scully's spine.

"Whaddya bring for us?" Kaz said, leaning over to touch Scully's shoulder.

"A little of everything. All your favorites."

"You're my favorite," Kaz told her with a little smile.

Scully smirked as she peeked into the bag, "Well then, I brought that too, didn't I?"

"Yes," Kaz replied, "you certainly did."

They emptied the bag onto the coffee table and opened the boxes. Dumping out napkins and two pairs of wooden chopsticks, Kaz quickly made a grab for them. Scully held out her hand for a pair but Kaz grinned evilly and shook her head.

"Nope. You don't get any."

Scully gave her a somewhat annoyed look, "Kaz, I'm starving."

"I'll feed you, Scullster," Kaz announced, pulling the wrapper off the sticks.

<Oh God,> Scully thought, <So this is what she's up to. She's going to drive me insane. Oh Lord.>

She felt the ring in her ears already. Was it hot in here? She took off her jacket and tossed it on the couch, leaving her in the pale blue shirt. She swallowed hard and sipped her wine, then said,

"Okay."

At that, Kaz turned so that they faced each other, sitting cross-legged on the floor. She picked up a box of chicken chow mien, using her left hand to set it carefully into her right palm. Kaz picked up the chopsticks and deftly lifted a mouthful, then raised it to her own mouth. She opened up, but just before placing it inside, stopped. She looked at Scully's wistful expression and smiled, then held the food just in front of Scully's red lips. They parted and closed over the wooden sticks. Scully closed her eyes, savoring the taste as she slowly pulled the food off the chopsticks and into her mouth.

She chewed it slowly, sensuously, and when she opened her eyes again Kaz was staring raptly at her. The dark brown eyes were fixed on her mouth as she swallowed. She watched Kaz lick her own lips and swallow.

Scully smiled inwardly, she'd turned the tables, all right. Kaz's hand was a little shakier as she reached into the box again, and Scully saw the white box teeter precariously in Kaz's unsteady right hand. She quickly grabbed it as it started to fall, then looked up into large brown Kaz's eyes once more. They had suddenly turned sad.

"Let me hold it," she said gently, leaning over to kiss Kaz's cheek.

Kaz was not appeased, and seemed almost embarrassed to have had this happen in Scully's presence. Her eyes darted away from Scully's, but the agent reached out to cup her chin and pull them back.

"Hey," she said reassuringly, "it's okay. I like to see you trembling with desire for me. It boosts my ego."

At this, a weak smile came to Kaz's face, and she tentatively leaned forward to kiss Scully briefly. She took the chopsticks once again and continued to feed both Scully and herself, alternating between them, feeling more confident with each bite. After five or six more bites, Scully picked up a new container, this one of sweet and sour pork. She watched Kaz easily pick up a large piece and hold it out to her.

Scully bit into half the piece, but pulled it from the chopsticks so that it hung partially out of her mouth. Instantly sensing what she wanted, Kaz leaned forward and bit off the other half. Their faces were mere inches apart as they slowly ate. Kaz speared another piece, this time taking it between her own lips before allowing Scully the other half.

As Scully's mouth approached, a shiver of anticipation ran through Kaz's body, and when Scully's lips closed around the food, they came into contact with her own. Lightning bolts danced in front of the officer's closed eyes.

Kaz swallowed her mouthful quickly, needing less of the meal and more of Scully. Her companion seemed to feel the same way, for the box went slamming down on the coffee table and Scully's mouth was hot and open and pressed hard against her own before she knew it. Scully's warm, eager tongue was exploring her mouth once again, never seeming to tire of the search.

She was pushed back onto the blanket as Scully straddled her, throwing her hat aside and laying wet kisses on her neck. Kaz's hands went under Scully's thin blue shirt to caress the bare skin beneath. She pulled the shirt up and off, Scully's red hair flew out to cover her face as their lips and mouths met once again.

Kaz ran her hand through Scully's auburn hair, pulling it off her face and tucking it behind her ears, "I thought you were starving, Scully. Don't you want to save this for dessert?"

In a low, husky, bedroom voice that drove Kaz wild, Scully said, "I want my dessert now."

With that, sat on Kaz's hips to pull off the old, paint-stained shirt. She quickly unfastened Kaz's bra and discarded it before letting her partner reach up to remove her own. As soon as Scully's torso was bare, Kaz sat up, meeting Scully face-to-face, their nipples pressed tightly together as their mouths eagerly sought each other once again. Their passion grew with each passing moment, wanting--needing more.

Panting, Scully broke away from Kaz's mouth. Her head fell back, exposing her neck. Kaz took advantage of the invitation and kissed her way down Scully's throat, to the hollow, and further. She leaned them both back, laying Scully flat before claiming a nipple with her mouth. Scully gasped, holding Kaz's head to her breast and grinding up against Kaz's narrow hips.

Kaz brought her thigh up to caress Scully through her pants, the movement eliciting a heavy moan from the petite doctor. After spending adequate time worshipping each of Scully's perfect breasts, she moved down, licking and kissing Scully's soft, flat stomach and bringing her hands to Scully's belt.

Abruptly, Kaz's magnificent tongue disappeared and she lifted her head. Cool air washed over Scully's stomach, damp from Kaz's wet kisses. She groaned at the loss of contact and was about to protest when Kaz began to chuckle.

"If I didn't know otherwise, I'd swear you slept with this thing on your hip."

Opening her lazy eyes, she saw Kaz holding her black Sig Sauer. She let her head fall back with a soft thud. "Oh yeah. Sometimes I forget I'm wearing it."

Kaz knelt over her once more, "On you, it looks beautiful. The contrast of cold metal with the liquid fire within your body."

Scully opened her eyes and stared into Kaz's above her. They alternated between her bare flesh and the large gun Kaz held in her hand. The agile artist flipped the gun into the air, catching the barrel. She lowered it slowly and ran the smoothness of the butt against Scully's skin--first along her arm, then up to her shoulder. Down it went, cold as it kissed the hollow if her neck and trailed between her breasts.

Seemingly mesmerized, Kaz continued, "It's dark coolness; your light, flaming hair. The white shine of light reflecting off the barrel; the blue heat of your clear, sparkling eyes."

The butt of the gun traced a cold path down Scully's stomach. It lit a blaze inside her body that burned just beneath the skin, but carried all the way to her soul.

Kaz's hand reached for the button of her trousers. They came loose, and Scully lifted her hips to allow removal. The fire burned even in her ears, which rang with white noise.

No...wait. That wasn't right. It wasn't just in her ears.

It was her cellphone.

She heard Kaz's disappointed sigh and added her own, only now realizing exactly what had happened. Kaz reached for Scully's jacket, pulled out the phone, and handed it to her.

"Scully," she said into the instrument.

"Scully, it's me," Fox Mulder said into her ear. "We've had a change of plans. You're on the eight o'clock shuttle to New York. Seems they need to fit you with specialized gear since you're a woman, but they want you on this detail. Word got around that you're a crack-shot, and they okayed you for the team."

"What team? Mulder, I have no idea what you're talking about."

"I don't have time to explain, and you don't have time to listen. We're going in with a Special Forces entourage. I got as tip and we're making a raid tonight up in Queens."

"Mulder--you and I are not *on* the SWAT team."

Ignoring her statement, he went on, "I have some things to finish here, but I'll meet you at the 59th street office at midnight."

Click.

She was left with the sound of a dial tone in her ear. Christ, he pissed her off sometimes. First, he basically tells her to forget about getting laid tonight, next tells her she needs 'special equipment' so she can join the SWAT team for a day, and finishes by saying she can meet him in Queens. Of all the armpits of the nation...Queens?"

She hung up and looked at Kaz, who was sitting cross-legged beside her. Kaz's pert young breasts were bare and very tempting, but Scully make her eyes move away from them and up to Kaz's face.

"I have to catch an earlier flight. I'm sorry, Kaz." She felt the pleasant pressure within her fade and added, "Very sorry."

"That's okay," Kaz replied, trying not to sound disappointed, "I'm getting used to this, I suppose. I--I just worry when you're away, that's all. Especially when you mention words like 'SWAT team.'"

Scully sat up and pulled Kaz into her arms, laying the dark head between her breasts and stroking Kaz's soft hair. "I know you do, honey. Just remember, though--I've got you to come back to. With incentive like that... We're going to grow old together, Kaz. We'll be gray-haired and sitting in our rocking chairs, laughing about times like these."

"Talk about coitus interruptus, huh?"

Scully felt Kaz smiled against her chest and released the larger woman. Kaz kissed her briefly on the forehead before tossing her bra and blue shirt at her. The younger woman put her own shirt back on as well.

They stood to get Scully ready for her trip. Much of her stuff was over here now; Kaz had cleared out a closet for her clothes. Though she still made frequent trips to her apartment, Scully preferred the cozy house, and spent many of her nights here.

She kissed Kaz in the stairwell, patted Brandy on the head, and took off for the airport in a rush.

Kaz closed the door behind her with a loud sigh, "Well Brandy, I guess you get to sleep with me after all. I hope you're not offended, but you're definitely my second choice. Just don't tell Scullster you drool on her pillow, okay girl?"

She bent down to let the dog nuzzle her face. Kaz stroked the soft, short hair of Brandy's back absently, her mind still on the amazing auburn-haired woman who'd just left. The ache of Scully's absence was already in her belly. She didn't think it would be leaving anytime soon.

"I love her so much," she told the dog. "Say a prayer for her, will you Brandy? Join me in a prayer to keep her safe."

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

Special Forces Mobile Unit #23
Flushing, Queens
Monday, Feb. 4
3:07 a.m.

"We can't go in too soon. We've got to be patient, It'll happen," Mulder said as he stood, dressed in black, by the console checking intercome frequencies.

Scully leaned against the reinforced wall of the mobile unit. She was similarly dressed and carried a semi-automatic weapon which she'd grown familiar with over the last couple of hours.

"What makes you so sure?"

"I received a series of receipts over the past few weeks; for detonation cord, for racing and diesel fuel, for eighty bags of ammonium nitrate. Purchased in case in three different states under three different signatures."

"Well," she asked, "what makes you so sure that it's here, that it's tonight?"

"Last night I received two new receipts. One for first and last on a storage space at this address and one to rent a two-ton truck yesterday. Both purchased with the same signature. We could be looking at the next Oklahoma City."

Scully was somewhat upset that he hadn't deemed to share this information with her sooner., but decided this was neither the time nor the place to discuss the matter. "Well, so who do you think is leaking them. And why would they leak them to you?"

A team member standing at the communications console looked over at the pair of agents, "We've got traffic."

They quickly grabbed their Kevlar vests and flak helmets before joining the rest of the team. Scully strapped the huge helmet to her small head and fastened the chin strap, wondering for about the thousandth time just what the hell they were doing. She was nervous as hell about this Commando mission.

<Why am I doing this? Why is he doing this. Hell, that's a stupid question. He's doing it because he's completely obsessed...and what does that say about you?> she asked herself, but never got a chance to answer.

They moved out.

~~~~~~~~~~~

The squeal of accelerating tires carried over the rattle of diminishing gunfire. A white step van roared past them. Mulder and Scully sprang to their feet to pursue it. As it pulled further and further away, Scully stopped, raised her weapon, and fired.

It was a direct hit, taking out the left rear tire. The van careened, smashing into a parked car and screeching to a stop.

"Cover the driver's side," Mulder instructed as they approached, cautious, weapons still raised.

She did as he suggested, and slowly moved to the left side of the truck. As she approached the window she saw a large bloodstain coating the inside of it. Bits of bone and brain were mixed with the thick red blood. She immediately knew the man inside had not survived.

"Driver's dead," she told Mulder, joining him.

"I counted two men," he replied. Then, sensing motion in the side mirror, yelled to the man inside, "Get out of the truck!"

A .25 caliber pistol with a silencer attached to the barrel came flying out the window and landed with a thud on the damp dirt before their feet.

"Let me see you hands," Mulder shouted, a little nervous, in her estimation. "Hands in the air."

The man exited the vehicle. When he did, both Mulder's and Scully's faces registered their surprise.

<No,> she thought. <It can't be. He's...I thought he was--dead.>

"You son-of-a-bitch," Mulder said flatly, as though stating the obvious.

He shot forward and rammed the but of his weapon into the man's stomach, causing him to sink to the hard ground.

"Mulder--" Scully called with a hint of warning.

The man looked up at Mulder with anger and annoyance in his eyes, "I handed you this bus, Mulder!"

"Oh come on, Krycek," Mulder said cynically.

"Who do you think sent you those receipts?" Alex Krycek replied.

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

Washington Navy Yard
Room B-17
1:25 p.m.

The phone rang in Kaz's office. She took a sip from her soda to wash down her turkey sandwich and picked it up.

"Kazmerowski."

"It's me."

"Hey Scully, what's up?" she said easily, but inwardly sighed with relief, glad that her companion was safe. The SWAT team comment had worried her more than she wanted to admit.

"I'm still in New York. We've been interviewing a suspect all night and into the morning."

"Things went well then, I take it."

"As well as can be expected," Scully replied in her cool, no-nonsense tone. "I'm going to catch a few hours sleep, then we're driving back to Washington. I don't know what time I'll be in though."

"No problem. I know the drill. You take care, and good luck."

"Thanks, bye."

They hung up. Kaz smiled into her empty office. Things were fine. Scully was okay and on her way back to Washington. Kaz picked up a dart, took aim, and fired.

The metal-tipped projectile flew from her hand and landed smack in the middle of the target. It stuck out of Benito Mussolini's right eye, and Kaz smiled all anew.

"Bull's Eye," she whispered into the empty room, and turned back to the law books on her desk.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Scully hung up her phone and turned back to the two men in the incongruously flowery hotel room. They'd been there for hours, questioning Krycek, trying to pry information out of him as they killed time, waiting for the courier's flight to arrive. They were still in New York, but would drive to DC in the evening. She was exhausted, needing to take her turn at sleep. She'd given Mulder the first nap while she watched Krycek. He was awake now, and she realized she was hungry as well as tired.

"Checking in with your boyfriend, Scully? Isn't that sweet," said a mocking voice from behind her.

"Shut up, Krycek," Mulder spat and smacked the handcuffed man hard with the back of his hand.

Undaunted, the raggedy renegade sat upright in the bed he was cuffed to and retorted, "You two really are naive, you know that? With your holier-than-thou quest for 'the truth.' It's no wonder you never find the answers, no wonder you're stuck down in the basement. If you two really knew how to get things done, you'd realize there is no justice, only punishment. And there's only one way to punish them...exposure."

Utterly disregarding his remarks, Scully faced the man once more, "You're wasting our time. What do you have for us, Krycek?"

"Impatient, Agent Scully? What, you want to get back to your boyfriend?"

Another sharp slap rang out, and Krycek muffled a shout of pain.

"You're gonna have an awfully sore hand tomorrow, Mulder. All that slapping me around is gonna come back and bite you in the ass someday."

Mulder snorted in his face, "I'll take my chances."

Scully tried her best to ignore them as she laid down on the bed nearest the door and tried to catch a few hours sleep. Hearing Kaz's smooth, reassuring voice on the other end of the phone had soothed her somewhat, allowed a little of the tension to drain, but Mulder and Krycek's schoolyard arguments were destined to keep her from anything more than a light doze.

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

Anne Kazmerowski's House
11:45 p.m.

Scully quietly entered the house, took off her coat, and headed immediately upstairs. She entered the bedroom and let her eyes adjust to the darkness. Kaz lay sleeping under the covers, the hulking dog beside her. Thankfully, Brandy was on the outside of the covers, though her head was precariously close to Scully's pillow.

The dog poked her head up at Scully's entrance and looked at her with those big, sad eyes that boxers have, regardless of their temperament. Scully's sat gently beside the dog, trying not to disturb the sleeping young woman. She scratched the dog's head as she thought back through the events of the evening.

Krycek was leading them on a wild goose chase, of that she was growing fairly certain. Nothing he said could be trusted, yet this afternoon Mulder seemed to be soaking in every one of the man's words, accepting them as gospel, blindly following any possible lead on his sacred quest for some modern grail.

Not that he didn't spend a good percentage of the afternoon beating the hell out of the guy as well. This was another thing that bothered her. True, Mulder had reason to hate Alex Krycek, but she'd rarely seen him resort to physical violence with a suspect. Occasionally yes, in extreme situations. This, however, was not a life and death type matter. No twelve year old girl was being held in a pit somewhere. Mulder was just on edge, and something about Krycek was pushing him over the brink.

Kaz stirred restlessly beside her, turning over and making a sleepy, yet odd little noise as she did so. She settled again, this time facing Scully and the dog.

Scully looked at her unlined, beautiful face. In sleep, she looked even younger than her 27 years. Kaz's presence in Scully's life had been almost cathartic. The brilliant, exuberant, sensitive Navy lawyer had re-opened a vault of emotions and feelings Scully had long ago shut the door on. This new relationship had revitalized her, given her hope when she had almost given up on it.

However, it also made her question herself and her actions in ways she hadn't in quite a while. Now that she had something--someone--to live for, she found herself doing some hard thinking about all the senseless risks she and her partner took. Fox Mulder had proven time and time again that he had a single-minded purpose in his life: to find the truth.

And what was this ubiquitous 'truth?' For there were many truths out there. The truth about Samantha? The truth about the governmental conspiracy ongoing in our country and abroad? The truth about his belief in extra-terrestrial life and the plan to colonize the Earth?

To him, they were all intertwined, all parts of the same truth. To her...what were they? For the quest for these truths had consumed her life as much as they had consumed his. But now--now that she had Kaz...

The beautiful young woman shifted again, rolling onto her back with a small sigh and interrupting Scully's thoughts.

"Hey," Scully called to her. "Hey Kaz."

The tall, dark officer opened her eyes and turned her head. Scully watched a soft smile grow on her sleepy face.

"Scullster, you're back."

"I sure am," she agreed, returning the smile. "You made noises in your sleep. Were you dreaming?"

Kaz shook her head, her face turning more serious, "No. I just don't sleep very well when you're away."

Scully smiled gently, "I'm here now."

"And I'm glad. Did you find what you were looking for?"

Scully snorted, "Hell if I know. We intercepted a chunk of rock at the airport. Chased a guy through Dulles to get it."

"O-o-h," Kaz responded, propping her head on an elbow as she turned toward Scully. "Did you read it its rights? Slap your cuffs on it?"

She clucked her tongue, "Don't mock my work," she said jokingly, "or I'll slap my cuffs on you one of these nights."

Kaz waggled her eyebrows up and down, "Sounds like fun, how about tomorrow night?"

Scully grabbed a pillow and smacked her with it, "You're incorrigible."

"What can I say? You bring out the best in me, Scullster."

"Quit calling me that," Scully said lightly, already feeling the last 24 hours ebbing away. Kaz had that effect on her.

The sleepy brunette reached out to hold her hand, "You're cold, Scullster. Give the puppy a nudge and hop in. I had her warm it up for you."

Scully stood and quickly removed her clothes, just now feeling the chill in her bones. She found a pair of her silk pajama bottoms and pulled them on before crawling into bed with Kaz. Brandy moved to her dog bed in the corner, reluctantly giving up her warm spot.

Kaz immediately moved in close, snuggling up and spooning Scully, enveloping her in a human blanket of warmth.

<She's always so warm, inside and out,> Scully thought as Kaz scooted up to set her chin on top of Scully's head.

Kaz was getting braver about using her damaged right hand, and now rubbed it up and down Scully's arm, generating even more heat. Soon Scully's cold shivers slowed, then stopped altogether. She sighed at the sense of rightness she felt. If she had to pick a place where she felt completely comfortable and at peace, it would be here, in this bed with Kaz's arms wrapped protectively around her.

"Are you tired?" Kaz whispered into the stillness of the night.

"Exhausted," Scully replied, "but still wound up."

"Tell me about your case, then. Talk to me until you fall asleep."

"Well," Scully started, unsure of where to begin, "we found a man last night, a dangerous man, one we thought was dead. He's a renegade, tried to play both sides against the middle and lost. He told us he had vital information that could blow the Consortium wide open."

"Cancer Man and his pals, right?"

"Yes. The man we found, Alex Krycek, gave us a lead. We intercepted a courier at Dulles, just wanted a look at the contents of the pouch he was carrying. He bolted, but ended up ditching the pouch. It contained the rock I told you about. I figure it's some sick joke on Krycek's part, running us around like a couple of stupid lap dogs."

"What are you going to do?" Kaz asked quietly.

"We're taking the rock to the lab at NASA Goddard tomorrow morning to have it analyzed. Mulder's idea of course, not mine."

"What do you think of all this?"

"I think Alex Krycek is a desperate man, willing to do anything to save his life. I'm trying to reserve judgment until we get the rock analyzed, but right now, I think Krycek's yanking Mulder's chain."

Kaz's voice was soft, but concerned, "Which isn't very hard to do, is it?"

Scully thought about that for a moment, "It's becoming easier and easier lately. I'm worried about him, Kaz. You should have seen him with Krycek. He's like a man possessed, smacking the guy around like he was. You wouldn't have recognized him as the same, mild-mannered man we spent Christmas with at my mother's."

Kaz said nothing, but thought about Scully's words and the tone in which they were spoken. It took a lot to shake the unflappable Dana Scully, but Kaz detected a note of apprehension in the low, measured voice.

Scully turned in Kaz's arms and held her close, "You talk to me now, Kaz. Tell me a story or something. I want to hear your voice while I fall asleep."

Kaz thought for a moment, then recited a poem by Wordsworth, one of her favorites, and one she knew by heart. One that always made her feel light and warm and alive. She recited it very slowly and very softly to Scully:

     "I wandered lonely as a cloud
     That floats on high over vales and hills,
     When all at once I saw a crowd.
     A host, of golden daffodils;
     Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
     Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

     Continuous as the stars that shine
     And twinkle on the milky way,
     They stretched in never-ending line
     Along the margin of a bay;
     Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
     Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

     The waves beside them danced; but they
     Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
     A poet could not but be gay,
     In such a jocund company:
     I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
     What wealth the show to me had brought:

     For oft, when on my couch I lie
     In vacant or in pensive mood,
     They flash upon that inward eye
     Which is the bliss of solitude;
     And then my heart with pleasure fills,
     And dances with the daffodils.

She stopped speaking and listened, attuning her body to the one she held. Scully's breathing had become deep and regular.

Kaz kissed the top of Scully's scorching auburn hair and pressed her cheek to it. She closed her eyes and gave a silent prayer of thanks. She knew that God watched all from above, and although she (like Scully) had been raised a strict Catholic, she didn't believe in a vengeful, harsh God. She knew in her heart this could not be so, for God was kind and loving an wanted His people to be happy. Kaz knew He or She had meant for she and Scully to be together; for something that felt this right could not possibly be wrong.

And nothing under heaven felt as right as Dana Scully sleeping in her arms.

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

Tuesday, Feb. 5
6:15 a.m.

Out of breath and sweaty from her morning run, Kaz unlocked the door and entered the house with Brandy trailing behind on a leash. She released the dog from her chain. Brandy immediately headed for her water bowl, and wet slurping sounds soon came from the kitchen. Kaz took her hat off and wiped her brow with the sleeve of her shirt as she caught her breath.

The phone suddenly rang, startling her. She quickly ran to get it, not wanting the noise to wake Scully, who had chosen to sleep this morning instead of run. Kaz knew her overworked companion was exhausted from the previous day; she wanted Scully to catch up on some of the rest she'd missed.

"Hello," she said quietly into the phone.

"Kaz, is that you? This is Mulder--is Scully there? Her cellphone is turned off and I--"

"Yes Mulder, she's here, but she's sleeping."

"I need to talk to her," he said, dismissing the 'let her sleep' hint in Kaz's tone.

Something about his voice told Kaz this wasn't an emergency, but was more of a 'I have nothing better to do' call.

"At six-fifteen in the morning you need to talk to her?"

Irritation was clear in his voice as he replied, "Yes. I need to make sure she knows we're meeting Dr. Sacks at NASA Goddard this morning."

"She knows," Kaz told him. "She said something about it last night--"

"Will you just let me talk to her?" he interrupted impatiently.

Her voice took on a harder edge, one he had come to recognize as her no-nonsense, 'Commander-voice.' "Don't speak to me like that, Mulder. And when did you become her talking appointment book? Give her a little credit. She's not going to forget about your little meeting."

She stopped speaking as she heard the creak of footsteps on the stairs. Scully entered the hallway in her bathrobe and yawned, then said, "Is that Mulder?"

Kaz nodded and with the slightest note of sarcasm, spoke into the phone, "Well, you got your wish, Mulder. Here she is."

She handed the phone to Scully, who said, "Mulder, it's me. What's going on?"

Kaz stood beside her, hands on hips, listening to Scully's end for a second as she calmed down.

"Yes. I know...8:30...I'll pick you up at eight, okay?"

Pause.

"You took him where? To Skinner's! Mulder, that's nuts." Scully's usually calm voice was a little thick, but still incredulous.

Kaz watched Scully's sleepy eyes roll, then the agent covered them with a small, fair hand.

"Do you think he's safe?" she said into the phone.

Kaz turned away, running a hand through her damp hair. She turned away and shook her head, unsure of why the phone call had bothered her. She chided herself for acting like a mother hen about Scully getting her rest, but his dismissive tone had touched a nerve. And what was this business of 'reminding' Scully about the appointment? Dana Scully was one of he most intelligent and organized people she had ever known. Why was he patronizing her, treating her like some second-banana, a Gilligan to his Skipper, a Tonto to his Lone Ranger? It pissed Kaz off, but she tried to calm herself. It really wasn't her business anyway, and Scully was definitely a woman who could take care of herself.

She touched Scully on the shoulder as she passed and went up stairs to take a shower, hoping to wash her own irritation with Fox Mulder away. Reaching one hand into the shower, she spun the hot water dial and peeled off her sweaty running gear as she waited for the water to heat. When it was ready, she stepped in, luxuriating in the hot water, letting it run over her head, down her shoulders and back, all over. She closed her eyes and felt some of the early morning anger dissipating.

Kaz was rarely angry, or even upset. She was an easy-going person who was in love with the woman of her dreams. She smiled as she picked up the bar of soap. Feeling the rush of cold air and her favorite presence beside her, she opened her eyes.

"Sorry I was rude to Mulder," she said to Scully, who was as gloriously naked as she was.

Scully stood on tiptoe a little to kiss her on the cheek, "It's okay, he can be a pain in the butt sometimes. It's the case. He's wound a little too tight on this one. He did something kind of...not smart...last night."

"What's that?" Kaz asked, turning Scully around and running her soapy hands all over the smooth skin of Scully's back.

"You have to promise you're not going to laugh--but he took Krycek to our boss's house. The AD handcuffed Krycek to his balcony and made him sit out there all night."

Kaz chuckled, "You're kidding."

"I could not be kidding you less," she replied. "Stop laughing."

Kaz did as told, but continued to run her hands over Scully's body. At first, she was business-like and making a genuine effort, but her touches began to lighten and linger. Then, she wrapped her arms around Scully from behind and pulled her close, laying her chin on Scully's shoulder.

"Kaz," Scully warned, feeling her body respond a little too well, "remember the rules."

After the first few mornings they spent together, they had found it necessary to create a few 'rules' regarding mutual showers. The first and foremost one was that they didn't start anything on work days.

The tall, dark woman let her hands fall away and backed off, "Sorry, Sculls. I just love to touch you, and it feels like it's been so long. It's my fault, I couldn't help myself."

Scully turned to face her, "Don't apologize. I love your hands on me. I'd like nothing more than to stay here until we both turn into prunes. But we can't."

"I understand. Can I wash your hair, though? I promise to be good."

Scully's look was skeptical. Kaz loved to wash her hair, and did it almost every morning, but was it a good idea today?

"You promise, huh?"

Kaz grinned and aimed the faucet at Scully's head, "I promise."

Soon she was whistling as she worked shampoo through Scully's enchanting auburn hair. Kaz made sure to keep her touch steady and deliberate instead of light and sensual. Scully was right, they had no time for intimacy. Still, it was a hard task, keeping her mind on the washing and off the beautiful, exhilarating, satisfying body beneath her hands.

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

7:45 a.m.

At the door, Scully went through her morning ritual of fussing over Kaz; adjusting her sleeves, straightening her lapels, pulling her sweater or jacket down a little. Today, the Commander was wearing Scully's favorite, the dress blues, for a court appearance. Kaz wasn't trying the case, but was getting her first taste of being on the witness stand. She was a witness for the prosecution in a case she had looked into last week. Since military justice moved much swifter than in the public court system, the hearing was this morning.

Scully's breath never failed to catch in her throat at the sight of her beautiful companion in this uniform. It was the way she'd first seen Kaz, back in the Georgetown Law Library so long ago.

Not so long, really; for it had only been a little over a month ago. But to Dana Scully, it had been a lifetime. She felt as though her life had just begun on that day, the day she'd tapped this bedraggled-looking young officer on the shoulder, waking her from the nap she was taking. Kaz's head was laying in the middle of a book, and she'd looked so peaceful, so beautiful.

She remembered the look on Kaz's face later that night as the exquisite young woman bit her lip, looked her straight in the face, and said, "Scully, can I kiss you?"

Thoughts of that first night brought a smile to her face once more. The feel of Kaz's soft lips, her gentle hands, the gleam in her rich brown eyes...

Out of necessity, she pulled her mind back to the present and finished her fussing and straightening. Kaz bent down to kiss her, pulling on Scully's lips just a little before tenderly releasing them.

When Kaz pulled away, Scully's eyes were still closed. She reached out to touch a porcelain cheek. Scully leaned into her palm.

"I have to go Scully, the hearing starts at eight. I'll be in my office after that, though. Call me if you can."

Scully opened her reluctant eyes, "You know I will. Anymore, I can't even go eight hours without hearing your voice."

Pulling her in for a hug, Kaz ran a hand over Scully's hair and inhaled her clean, fresh scent, "I love you, Scully. You and me...there's nothing better."

Scully squeezed her tight for a minute, then broke away, "You'd better go. If you don't leave now, neither of us will be making our eight o'clocks."

Kaz thought the idea was very appealing. She wanted nothing more than to spend the entire day in bed doing secret and satisfying deeds with Dana Scully. But instead, she kissed Scully's cheek chastely, put on her coat and hat, picked up her case, and left.

Watching the tall, broad-shouldered officer walk out to her red vintage Mustang, Scully smiled to herself, replaying Kaz's last words in her mind:

<"You and me...there's nothing better.">

It was so true. The words had gone straight to her heart. She was so deeply in love with Kaz, the thought of an entire day without hearing Kaz's voice, without sharing some little thing with her.

Every minute they were not together, Scully felt as if a part of herself was missing.

She forced herself away from these thoughts and picked her trench coat up off its peg. She went to the back porch, making sure Brandy had food and water for the day, patted the excitable dog for a moment, then went back in to grab her things and left to pick up Mulder.

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

Washington Navy Yard
Room B-17
12:35 p.m.

B-r-r-i-n-g-g-g

Kaz fumbled for her keys, they slipped from her right hand, she swore like an enlisted man, and picked them up with her left...

B-r-r-i-n-g-g-g

...finally found the right one and jabbed it into the lock.

B-r-r-i-n-g-g-g

...she dropped her briefcase on the chair and snatched up the phone, "Commander Kazmerowski."

Scully's unmistakable voice greeted her through the earpiece, "Kaz, it's me."

"Hey Scully. How was NASA G.?"

"I'm up here right now. A lot of strange things have been going on."

Kaz lifted an eyebrow. When Scully said 'strange things' it meant really, really strange things.

"Go on--" she prodded.

"We spoke to a Doctor Eugene Sacks up here, and he believes the fragment of rock we recovered may contain the remains of fossilized alien bacteria."

"Oh."

"Oh?" Scully repeated incredulously, "All you can say is 'oh?'"

"Scully, I'm not exactly up on my fossilized alien bacteria research. But I'm taking it I should be impressed, no?"

"Sacks is speculating the rock may be from Mars. He's estimating it's over four billion years old."

"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. I'm officially impressed now."

"My problem is that something happened to Dr. Sacks. He had an accident while taking a core sample from our Martian rock and he's in some sort of catatonic coma state now. Agent Pendrell and I are going in there to take a look at him."

Kaz frowned, her natural instincts concerning Scully's safety kicking in. "Is that going to be dangerous? You don't know what's in that rock. Maybe the bacteria isn't dead--or fossils--or whatever."

"There's no danger, Kaz," Scully reassured her. "We're going to be in full decontamination gear. Level four suits, which are the top of the line."

"Like in 'Outbreak'?"

Scully chuckled, "Yes, just like in 'Outbreak.'"

"But Rene Russo got a puncture wound through her suit and got infected. She almost died."

"That was a movie, Kaz. I'm going to be fine."

Kaz didn't say anything, but her heart was pounding hard in her chest. She didn't like the idea of Scully being exposed to anything--period.

"It'll be fine, Kaz."

"Okay," Kaz replied in a smaller voice. "So...uh, did you call just to worry me?"

"Actually no. I called to ask you a favor. Mulder's been a virtual non-entity this afternoon. I have no idea where the hell he is, but he called and asked if I'd get an address for him. I guess I didn't sound as if I was busy enough out here. Do you think you could run it down for me?"

"Sure. What's the name?'

"Marita Covarrubias."

"Covva--what?"

Scully chuckled, "Kazma--what?"

Dryly, Kaz replied, "Ha-ha, very funny. Spell it for me, will you?"

Scully did so, and Kaz wrote the name on one of her notepads. She noticed the stress in her companion's voice and knew it had been a long day for Special Agent Scully.

"I'll get back to you as soon as I can," she told Scully, then said, "Would you like to go to dinner tonight?"

"Oh Kaz," Scully replied with a hint of anxious relief, "dinner sounds great. Let's go someplace nice."

"Enrico's? In Georgetown?"

Scully almost sighed into the phone, "I'd love it. You don't mind?"

With the prospect of dinner out together, Scully's voice had become considerably lighter. Kaz recognized it, and knew her dinner offer had been perfect. She wouldn't dream of objecting.

Though Kaz wasn't big on eating out and felt uncomfortable having to keep up appearances in public, she knew Scully loved fine dining, so she took her beautiful companion to dinner as often as Scully desired.

"Of course not. I'd love to go to Enrico's, especially with you," she told Scully.

"You're the best, Kaz. I'll meet you, hopefully around six."

Kaz agreed with a smile. Hanging up the phone, she picked up the pad and tore off the note. She walked out of the office, down the hall, and into Hardy Williams' cubicle.

"Hey Hardy, want to show me how you work your magic?"

Williams, a young, lean black man of Kaz's same height, smiled at her and offered her his guest chair, "What kind of magic are you talking about, Kaz--and would Tonya approve?"

Kaz grinned and slapped him on the back. Tonya was Hardy's wife, and one of the nicest, most pleasant people she knew. Kaz liked the Williams family, and occasionally baby-sat for them when they needed a break from 10-month-old Terrence, their first born.

"I don't think Tonya would be interested in this kind of magic, old boy. I need to find an address for this chick." She handed him the note. "Dazzle me, my man."

Williams frowned down at the note, "Corva-- Conga-- Kaz, what the hell kind of name is this?"

Kaz chuckled at the joke, and tried to distract herself. She was worried about Scully. The words 'level four' and 'decontamination suit' had her more than a little nervous. As Hardy finished with the address, she laid a hand on his arm and said,

"Hardy, do you think you could get a little information about this Covva-whatsis lady? I don't even know if she's important, but it's a favor for a friend in another department."

"No problem Kaz, I'll get you everything I can."

She smiled, "Thanks Hardy, you're the best. I need to run an errand, but I'll come by for the stuff before the end of the day."

"No sweat," he replied with an easy smile. "Just remember me on National Paralegals Day."

"I'll bring you some flowers and a box of chocolates, how about that, old boy?"

Williams chuckled, "Hey, you know what I like, Kaz. See you."

She waved a goodbye and went back to her office. Restless, unable to sit still or concentrate, Kaz picked up her coat and hat and headed out to her car. She paused for only a moment before turning the key and revving up the engine. She couldn't help herself, she had to be there.

Once she made it out of midtown traffic, Commander Kaz headed out to Greenbelt, Maryland--home of NASA Goddard.

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

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
2:13 p.m.

Still in full dress uniform, Kaz stood on the outside of the isolation glass, one arm propped on the other and folded across her chest. She nervously chewed on her thumbnail as her eyes remained intently fixed on only one thing: the short red-haired woman inside the chamber.

On the other side of the glass, Scully wore a blue decontamination suit, as did her associate, a round-eyed, bookish man with dark red hair and freckles. He had "lab nerd" written all over his face.

Kaz, of course, was oblivious to this fact, for the only thing in her mind was the safety of the two investigators. She heard their voices through the intercom system as they discussed the possibilities of Dr. Sacks' illness. Then, suddenly, Scully looked up and locked eyes with her.

She felt a little guilty, afraid Scully might be upset by her presence, by her instinctive need to make sure Scully was safe. Kaz knew perfectly well how capable Dana Scully was of taking care of herself...but this...well, biological toxins were something completely different, and rather disturbing, in Kaz's mind.

Instead, Scully nodded at her and turned one corner of her mouth up into a tiny smile before continuing the examination. Relief washed over Kaz. The minute smile was Scully's professional way of saying everything was kosher. She was even more relieved, however, when Scully and Agent Pendrell walked out of the Plexiglas lab chamber, through a spray-down room, into a drying room, and into the changing area. The entire process took over ten minutes, but once they had finished they began removing their heavy headgear.

Scully motioned for her to come inside, and she stepped through the sliding door.

"Good afternoon, Kaz," Scully said in greeting, still the consummate professional, but with a hint of personal warmth.

"Hello Scully."

Since the case they'd jointly worked out at Quantico, Scully and Kaz had decided they could be more familiar with each other, even in front of colleagues like Pendrell. There were no rules or regulations saying two single women could not be friends.

Scully began to pull duct tape off her wrists as she motioned to the man beside her, "Commander Anne Kazmerowski, this is Agent Brian Pendrell. Pendrell, Commander Kaz, as we call her."

Pendrell waved his gloved hand in lieu of a shake and grinned self-consciously at her, "It's nice to meet you, Commander."

"Thank you, Agent Pendrell, and please, call me Kaz." She shifted her gaze to include both of them, "Were you able to reach any conclusions?'

Scully yanked futilely at the tape, "It's too early to tell. We'll definitely need some time on this one. I've never seen anything like it, and I've seen a few strange things in my time."

Kaz chuckled and nodded, then stepped forward to help her remove the tape. Holding Scully's wrist with one hand, she unwound it with the other. As she was doing so, Scully glanced over to see Pendrell's eyes on the two of them.

It gave her pause. Did something about this look suspicious? Then, she realized Pendrell's eyes were not questioning or judgmental, but appreciative and a little yearning. Pendrell was checking them out. She hid a smile behind Kaz's shoulder.

Abruptly, she heard her name over the loudspeaker, "Special Agent Dana Scully, please report to Dr. Johnstone's office. Agent Scully to Dr. Johnstone's."

"Johnstone is head of the department," Scully explained to Kaz. "I'm sure he's eager for a run-down of our preliminary findings. Excuse me, will you?"

She exited through the sliding Plexiglas, leaving Kaz and Pendrell alone.

Unwinding the tape around his boots, Pendrell mustered his courage and spoke to the second most graceful, most beautiful woman he'd ever seen. "So, uh, Kaz...are you a friend of Da--Agent Scully's?"

She bit back a grin, "Yes, I like to consider myself her friend." <Understatement of the year,> she added to herself.

"So, um...do you...do you ever see her socially?"

A small smile crossed her face for the briefest of moments before she pulled the mask of professionalism over it. "Well yes, Agent Pendrell. We've spent some free time together. In fact, Scully was kind enough to invite me to spend Christmas with her family. A special gesture, considering I have no family of my own in the area."

The idea of Dana Scully as Good Samaritan seemed to please him greatly. He smiled to himself as he worked at the tape on his wrists. With the restriction of the gloves, he was having the same trouble Scully had, and Kaz stepped up to help him.

They stood virtually eye-to-eye and only a mere foot apart as Kaz pried the edges of the duct tape off with what Pendrell noticed were nicely-manicured nails. She was so close he could smell her perfume. It was light and sweet.

<God, she's really pretty. Not like Dana is, but so tall and graceful...and her eyes. Not ocean-blue like Dana's, but brown as iodine. They're beautiful in their own way.>

"Did you want to ask me a question, Agent Pendrell?" Kaz asked, the knowing little grin back on her face.

"Huh?"

She looked up and into his eyes. He nearly blushed and tried to think of other things; the complex logorhythms housed in the functions of the microprocessor chip he'd been devising with his buddies; the Krebs Cycle; a Quarter Pounder with cheese--anything to get his mind off the woman in front of him. She was clouding his thoughts, distracting him. She was fascinating...and disturbing. Innocent and kind, yet somehow dangerous.

"I asked if you had something you wanted to ask me. You seemed to be leading up to a question. A question about Scully, maybe?"

"Yes, yes, yes," he repeated, stepping away now that she had unwound the tape. He pulled the gloves off his hands, "I just...well, I'm a little embarrassed to ask someone like Agent Mulder this, and I figure since you're a woman-friend of hers..."

Kaz nearly lost it as the irony sunk in, but bit back her wry smile and said, "Yes?"

Pendrell's face reddened just a little more as he pulled off the remainder of the decon suit. He now stood before her in his slacks and undershirt.

Buttoning his dress shirt, he mustered the courage to go on, "Well I...well, I just wanted to get Dana something for her birthday. It's next month you know."

"Yes," she agreed with a nod, "I know."

"Well, I wanted to get her something, but it has to be just right, if you know what I mean, Commander."

Kaz's smile turned soft and her heart suddenly went out to the man. He had a crush on Scully. A harmless little office crush. She wasn't upset or jealous, she felt kind of bad for this brave little guy who had summoned up the guts to ask her this question. He'd asked her--a total stranger--but one he thought may be a 'woman-friend' of Dana Scully's.

And of course, the poor guy had no idea...

In a gentle voice, very unlike her standard military tone, she replied, "I know exactly what you mean, Agent Pendrell." She felt a little bad, getting his hopes up like this, but she couldn't bring herself to make up a lie about a mysterious boyfriend and burst his balloon either.

Her eyes were soft and warm as she said, "Sc--er, Dana has a small collection of glass figurines. She keeps them on a shelf in an old china cabinet her grandmother gave her. The figurines are just little trinkets, but they mean a lot to her. The other day she told me she'd been looking for a certain piece; an angel with a little halo over it's head. I was going to look for the piece myself, but I believe...coming from you...it would be a memorable gift, something just right, no?"

Pendrell's face lit up as wheels began to turn in his head. Kaz couldn't help but return his smile. Although the 'lab nerd' lacked more than a few social skills, he had a kind face and heart of gold.

And the fact that he cared for Scully...well, that put it over the top for Kaz. <What the hell?> she thought with an inward shrug. <It's a harmless little office crush. And he's sweet...>

Her thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of Kaz's cellphone. She answered it and was told Captain Martin was looking for her. After pocketing the phone she pulled out a pad of legal paper and wrote a quick note in her flawless script:

"Glad you're okay. Yes--I'm overprotective. See you tonight. Enrico's at 7:00 Love--A.K."

Pendrell was adjusting his tie as Kaz opened the locker where Scully's jacket hung and set the note under her phone, which sat on the shelf above.

She turned back to Pendrell, "It was nice to meet you, Agent Pendrell. Unfortunately, I must go back to the Yard. Will you give Agent Scully my apologies?"

"Sure and, er, thanks for the tip Commander. You don't know how much it means to me."

Kaz smiled softly, "I think I do, Pendrell old man. She's very special, isn't she?"

She didn't wait for his answer, but glided easily out of the room, her gait poised and graceful. He smiled at the retreating form of the tall, classy naval officer.

This year--he'd vowed--this year he was going to ask Dana Scully to dinner, he was going to ask her out on a date. It had been his one and only New Year's Resolution. he gave a little prayer of thanks for the pretty young woman who'd just left. She'd definitely given him a leg up on the competition. That was for sure.

And wow! The Commander was almost as stunning and beautiful as Dana herself. Not that she was really his type. She was far too tall and with an Italian nose and too dark of hair. Still though, she was the first friend of Dana's he'd ever met. Had he expected anything less than for her to be a knock-out as well?

Pendrell whistled as he straightened his tie again and winked at himself in the mirror. Oh yes, he was a handsome devil. And tonight he was going shopping for Dana Scully...

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

Enrico's
6:32 p.m.

Scully's eyes scanned the patrons of this upscale Georgetown restaurant. Couples, small groups, an occasional all-male or all-female party...but few singles. She wandered toward the bar and spotted Kaz sitting calmly on a stool.

Her breath caught. Her heart hammered in her chest. A high-pitched buzzing in her ears was accompanied by a flush she could feel spreading across her face and down her neck.

<God, she's beautiful,> she thought as she watched Kaz, who hadn't spotted her yet.

The tall brunette wore a simple, black, sleeveless cocktail dress. The neckline was low and rounded and Scully could see the silver chain she'd given Kaz for Christmas. It sat around her slim, feminine neck, as it had every moment since Scully had put it there in the mountains of Virginia, some three weeks ago.

The chain matched her sparkling diamond earrings and the frames of her silver, wire-rimmed glasses...the ones she was wearing much more lately. Dark hose and pumps completed the ensemble, and Scully watched her tuck a lock of soft black hair behind her ear with fascination.

Scully had never seen her friend and lover in this way before. She had no idea Kaz even knew how to put herself together like this. In her experience, Kaz wore her regulation Navy uniforms or extremely casual clothes (sweatpants and t-shirts came most readily to mind). The sight of Kaz in evening wear, looking so graceful and stunning and beautiful; it was almost too much.

She watched Kaz lift a crystal glass half-full of ice and amber liquid to take a small sip before turning back to a set of papers she had on the counter. Uncapping a green highlighter, she ran it over a few lines.

Then, as if sensing intent eyes watching her, Kaz looked up and directly at Scully. The sight of her instant and easy, peaceful smile warmed Scully even more and elicited a slight throbbing in her lower regions.

Kaz stood and greeted Scully with a peck on the cheek. The officer figured it was innocuous enough to give her friend a small kiss, she'd seen women meet each other in this fashion plenty of times over the years.

Offering Scully a stool beside her, Kaz sat again, trying not to stare at Scully's breathtaking outfit. She swallowed hard as her eyes ran over every inch of the long-sleeved velvet dress Scully wore. It was a beautiful burgundy color that set Scully's enchanting red hair aflame. Kaz's hands twitched, wanting to touch it, to touch *her*.

The gold cross, as always, sat against the milky-white skin of Scully's chest, its delicate chain touching Scully's neck in places Kaz longed to touch herself. Scully's enchanting, fiery hair was swept up off her neck and piled intricately on top of her head in a manner far too complicated for Kaz to even contemplate. She merely stared at it, swirled and looped and curled as it was to perfection.

"Close your mouth Kaz," Scully told her with a small smile, "you're attracting flies."

Kaz's mouth snapped shut, but her dark eyes were still faraway as they took in the sight before her. She closed them and took off her glasses, setting them down on the stack of papers. When she opened them again, she appeared more composed.

Giving Scully her lopsided grin, Kaz said, "Catching flies, huh? Nothing like a little pathology humor before dinner, don't you think, Dr. Scully?"

Scully didn't answer, but touched one of the papers in front of Kaz, "It looks like I'm not the only workaholic here."

"Actually," Kaz said, picking up her glasses and setting them on her face once again, "these are related to you. I checked into this person you asked me to get the address for. She's--"

Scully shook her head, "No Kaz, It's not my business. He chose not to tell me. I just needed the address. I'd be betraying his trust by looking into her behind his back."

Kaz pursed her lips, then said, "*You'd* be betraying *him?* I don't see it that way at all. Yes, it's true, I don't exactly have a partner, but I tell Hardy pretty much everything, Scully. I don't keep secrets from him or make cryptic comments or ask him to look up people without explaining the significance of who they are. He helped me on this one and I told him, quite honestly, that I didn't know who the hell this lady was. The point I'm trying to make is that I give him the professional courtesy he deserves, and he's only my assistant. *You're* Mulder's partner."

"You don't understand, Kaz. You don't know him like I do. This is the way he is sometimes. Don't worry. I'm sure he'll call soon to tell me what's going on."

Kaz removed her glasses once more. She almost rubbed an eye, but remembered where she was and the fact that she'd worn eye make-up, a rare thing, but something she'd do for Scully in a heartbeat. She picked up her glass of Chivas and took a healthy slug of it.

"So you got decontamination suit duty while he gets Upper West Side duty?"

Scully's expression dropped into a look of mild disapproval as she said, "I'm a scientist, Kaz. I don't think any sane person trusts Mulder in a decon suit. This is just how it works. It's not a fairness issue."

"You're right," Kaz agreed, signaling the bartender for Scully. "It's a safety issue. He knew you were chilling with your lab buddy in the decon suit out at NASA G, but you have absolutely no idea where he is right now, do you?"

Scully's face was neutral, "I can only assume he's driving up to New York, probably with Krycek in tow."

The bartender came by. Scully asked for gin and tonic while Kaz ordered another whiskey. She discreetly took Scully's hand for a moment and squeezed it, wanting to give reassurance and wanting Scully to know that she was worried about the situation as well.

The electric touch of their hands, however, sent chills down each woman's spine. Kaz saw the flush in Scully's cheeks and quickly released her hand.

"I'm just concerned, Scully. That's all. Something's not right here, and you can tell me to butt out right now, but..." she trailed off, unsure of how to finish the sentence.

The drinks arrived, and Scully turned her attention to her glass. She trailed her finger over the rim of it. Should she tell Kaz she'd been having the same concerns, the same fears? Should she tell her about the conversation in the office that day, the one in which she'd almost blurted out how she couldn't follow him on these blind quests for intangibles when she now *had* a life? Kaz meant so much to her...but so did Mulder. They were the two most important people in her life, but it was all becoming so hard. She felt as though loyalty to one meant betraying the other.

"Kaz--" she began weakly, looking up and into the deep brown depths of Kaz's eyes.

They danced and sparkled, reflecting the showy lights of the bar behind them. As Scully stared into them, she felt a melting inside herself, and no more words found their way past her lips.

Kaz gazed back at her, tentatively reaching out an olive hand to feel the crushed velvet of Scully's sleeve. She ran it lightly over the material. Kaz watched Scully's eyes slip shut and knew the fire was racing through the fabric of the dress, then into and under Scully's fair skin. The sight of her companion's arousal, just from this small touch in a public place, made Kaz's own head spin with need.

Just then, a smooth, low voice came over the intercom system, "Scully, party of two. Scully party, your table is ready."

Kaz quickly removed her hand and busied herself collecting papers. <My God,> she said to herself, <What are you doing? You idiot. You're deliberately turning her on in a restaurant two miles from your house! All your rich neighbors are probably here eating escargot and caviar and shit like that. Are you *trying* to instigate a national public scandal? Sitting here seducing your female lover in front of everyone in Washington. Sometimes Kaz, you're a fucking retard.>

She packed the stuff in her case and turned back to Scully, who was still sitting on her stool, not moving, cheeks flushed.

"I'm sorry Scully. Our table is ready, let's go."

Distantly, Scully remarked, "You used my name."

"They stumble over mine, and yours is so nice. Come on," she said, trying to pull Scully back to reality. "We can go to our table."

Scully shook her head a little, amazed at what had just happened--and the danger of it. She picked up her drink and followed Kaz deep into the dark recesses of the restaurant. They sat at a dimly-lit table relatively far from the other customers. As Scully looked around, she realized Kaz must have requested this spot, hence the wait.

She understood Kaz's caution, especially here in Georgetown. Scully also knew that Anne Kazmerowski hated to pretend. If they each had one wish, Scully was fairly certain they'd both wish for the same thing: to be able to publicly declare their love for each other with no negative repercussions.

Scully sympathized, knowing Kaz hated having to be dishonest about their relationship--but was caught in the middle of a difficult predicament. Her career in the Navy was at stake, and although Kaz claimed not to care much about that, Scully knew she did. Add in the fact that her name was fairly recognizable to anyone who followed the world of professional athletics and...well, the press coverage following her discharge for homosexuality would surely go national.

Still, with the deep bond the women shared, they couldn't go to a nice, candle-lit, romantic restaurant and not feel something for each other. At least, Scully knew she couldn't. After years of repressing herself sexually in favor of her dangerous and erratic job, she had found Kaz. And she wasn't about to miss out on having a life because of other people's hang ups.

The maitre d' showed them to their table and politely handed each a menu before excusing himself.

"How is your mother?" Kaz asked as they perused the menus.

"She's well. I talked to her a couple of days ago, and she always asks about you. I think you charmed her, Kaz." Scully smiled to herself, knowing that Kaz charmed everyone.

"She's a special lady. You're very lucky to have her, Scully," Kaz replied, her eyes a little shiny.

"She wants us to come over for dinner, maybe Sunday, if we're free."

"I'd love that," Kaz told her, closing the menu and reaching under the long tablecloth for Scully's hand. She found it and Scully immediately gave hers a squeeze.

The waiter came for their orders; Scully decided on chicken marsala while Kaz opted for the linguini. They selected a wine, and the waiter left them to talk.

"Linguini again?" Scully asked, "You had that last time we went out."

Kaz shrugged and looked out at the other diners. The long tablecloth covered their linked hands, but she still didn't feel completely comfortable. And on top of it, Scully's strong blue eyes were boring into her.

"Kaz? Are you turning vegan on me?" Despite the lame joke, there was an underlying hint in Scully's voice that Kaz picked up on immediately.

The tall brunette forced a smile to her face as she reached with her free hand for her glass. She drained half the whiskey in it before meeting Scully's eyes. Her expression was serious, but her eyes were still gentle.

"Linguini is easy for me to eat, so is salad and pasta, and that's why I eat them when we're out. Please don't push me on this, Scully. It's something I don't like to discuss. Not here. Here, all I want to do is stare at you in that amazing red dress." She lowered her voice a notch, "You're so beautiful, and tonight especially so. You do know how beautiful you are, don't you?"

Scully lowered her eyes and blushed, but gently squeezed Kaz's hand in appreciation. They made small talk for awhile, discussing the book deal Kaz had in the works for the illustrated story she'd been working on, then the spoke of Captain Martin's impending nuptials, to which they'd both been invited. They'd go separately, of course, with Mulder escorting Scully and Kaz most likely dragging her buddy Nobbs along.

Midway through the meal, the conversation turned back to Mulder.

"But why is he so obsessed with this case, Scully? I don't think I understand the significance."

"He's obsessed with every case. It's just the way he is."

"Does he correlate the discovery of fossilized bacteria with the existence of sentient extra-terrestrial life? That seems like quite a leap to me."

Scully pursed her lips, thinking, not wanting to pick a side in this debate, although she sided with Kaz. Bacteria and intelligent alien lifeforms were worlds apart in her mind.

Kaz sipped her wine thoughtfully, "It's not that I don't get into my work, or you either, for that matter. It's just that this morning he sounded so...what?...Strung out. That's the word. He sounded completely over the edge."

Scully thought about that one as she ate, but as time passed they both let the subject die, preferring to focus on themselves instead. Scully still couldn't get over Kaz in the sexy black dress. The smooth lines of her olive skin dropping down to that low neckline; her firm, toned arms; her shapely legs; her ripe, sensual mouth. And those eyes. It all came back to those big, dark chocolate eyes that sparkled behind thick black lashes. Those eyes made Scully tremble just a little, and she took a sip of her wine, trying to steady the tremor that ran through her body.

Kaz was enchanted by her table mate as well. In particular, it was the hair swept up off of Scully's slim neck. That bare neck longed, she felt, to be kissed, to be touched and caressed and, quite possibly, licked. One small, soft tendril of auburn hair rested against the milky-white skin of Scully's neck. It curled at the end and looked very fine. 'Baby hair,' she's heard it called before. That lock of hair held Kaz captivated until the waiter came around with the dessert tray.

Scully was about to decline, knowing Kaz would like to escape the restaurant for the safety and comfort of home, but instead, Kaz looked at her with wide, questioning eyes.

"Would you like to share something?"

Blinking the surprise from her eyes, Scully nodded. Kaz waved at the tray, encouraging Scully to select a dessert, and soon they had a large bowl of chocolate mousse between them.

Kaz picked up a spoon and lazily began to swirl the whipped chocolate. Scully saw the dangerous little smirk on her face, the gleam in Kaz's eyes. She swallowed.

"Kaz...what are you doing?"

Under the table, Kaz slipped her hand from Scully's. She set it on Scully's knee. Locking eyes across the small table, she slid her hand beneath the exquisite dark red velvet and gently caressed Scully's leg through the sheer hose she wore.

Dana Scully struggled to remain composed. She willed the flush from her burning cheeks and tried to think about desiccated corpses instead of the pleasant rush of hot liquid that now flowed freely between her legs. She tried not to think of all the magnificent things she knew Kaz could do with her mouth and with her hands. She tried to think of the Chaco Chicken plant where the animals ate mashed up pieces of their cousins and even closer relatives, instead of the tempting mouthful of mousse Kaz was holding in front of her lips.

But it was impossible. She opened her mouth to accept the spoonful of rich chocolate. It was divine, made even more so by Kaz's tender feeding of it. Scully's head was spinning wildly, making her glad Kaz's hand couldn't reach far past her knee, for who know what might happen if...

As Kaz lifted the spoon to her own mouth, her hand disappeared from Scully's leg. The redhead relaxed, disappointed by the loss of contact, but relieved as well.

She nearly gasped, however, when Kaz's stocking-clad foot slowly, sensuously ran up her calf, over her knee, and eventually to her thigh. Kaz's eyes were clear and innocent as she offered Scully another bite of mousse.

Scully's strained voice was barely above a whisper, "You're so evil."

Her words were met by a sparkling gleam of white teeth as Kaz's foot traveled closer and closer, rubbing Scully's inner thighs, making her hot, wet, needy.

Scully couldn't think, couldn't reason. Somewhere, distantly, in the back of her mind, bells were going off like mad, telling her this was crazy--too outrageous even for Kaz. But the alarms were overshadowed by the fire in her belly and the tingling, the hunger between her legs.

She accepted the chocolate and pulled it off the spoon, finally letting her eyes slip shut, savoring the rich blend as Kaz's foot finally came into contact with her center. Even through her hose and panties, the touch felt so intimate, so wildly erotic, she almost moaned.

Instead, she swallowed the sweet, light chocolate in her mouth and casually reached for her glass of water. She met Kaz's eyes across the table as she took a sip. The edges of Kaz's mouth turned up, but she gave no other outward indication of what she was doing. Taking a cue from Scully, she reached for her wine. Her eyes were still locked on Scully's as she sipped.

All the while, her toe was tracing slow circles over Scully's clit. She watched Scully shift in her seat just a bit, tilt her head slightly back, clear her throat, and let out a long breath. Kaz smiled wickedly, just long enough for Scully to see it, then put her casual mask back on and took another sip of her wine.

Scully's ears rang, the heat inside them was incredible. She felt as if her face were on fire, and knew she must be hopelessly flushed. Still, she tried not to draw attention, couldn't let the other diners know what her table mate was doing to her. But the incredible pressure, the sensation against her clit...oh God...she was throbbing, her climax building blindingly fast, and she struggled, fought not to thrust against the increasing pressure on her wet, aching bud.

Kaz wore a bored expression as she lifted the spoon, looked casually off across the room, and took another bite of the dessert. She swallowed with a satisfied nod, letting Scully know how good it was, and licked her lips before smiling across the table.

Scully's eyes were riveted on the woman across the table. Her temperature was high and increasing with every passing second. Kaz's toe pushed between her lips, teasing, before moving back up to finish her off. The feeling, the sensation was mind-blowing. Scully's breath was shallow as she tried to return Kaz's smile, but failed miserably as the passion overtook her and she flew over the edge.

"A-a-h-h-h..." she cried softly and bit her lip, her eyes closing of their own accord as she sat back in her chair.

Kaz calmly handed her napkin across the table. Scully made a grab at it and immediately held it to her face to hide a tortured grimace of pleasure and pain as her body was wracked with spasms. Every muscle contracted, squeezed and released; every nerve sent wave after wave of orgasmic pleasure rippling through her. She bit the napkin to hold back a scream.

In the midst of her climax, the waiter stopped at their table. Kaz looked up at him with a pleasant smile and tented her hands in front of her.

"Can I get you ladies anything else?" Then he frowned, sensing things were not right with the small red-haired woman in the striking velvet dress, "Are you all right, ma'am?"

Scully removed the napkin and tried to speak, but Kaz suddenly increased her torturous pressure, drawing the orgasm out until Scully thought she might simply die. All that escaped her mouth was a small, strangled noise.

Waving a hand, Kaz easily replied, "She'll be okay, she just needs a second. Something went down...well, you know, it went down the wrong way. Could we possibly get our check, sir? I do believe we're ready to take off."

Within sixty seconds, the check was on the table. Kaz removed her foot, caressing Scully's smooth thighs once more before slipping her shoe back on and picking up the check.

Scully hastily grabbed her water glass and swallowed the remainder. Kaz chuckled as she reached into her purse and pulled out her MasterCard.

"So, Scully," she said, "did you enjoy the dessert? I figured since you didn't get any the other night, maybe I'd let you have it tonight."

Under her breath, Scully whispered, "Jesus Christ."

"Tsk-tsk," Kaz chided as the waiter came to take the folded leather wallet containing their bill and Kaz's card, "Taking the Lord's name in vain. You, a good Catholic girl who should know better than that."

Scully suddenly sprayed nervous yet relieved laughter at the irony of Kaz's words, and the dark brunette in the stunning black dress smirked knowingly.

"I can't believe you, Kaz. You've got a hell of a lot of nerve doing something like that here."

"I just wanted to make the evening memorable," Kaz replied innocently

The waiter came back with her card and two mints. Kaz popped one in her mouth, picked up her purse, and held out a hand to Scully, helping her up.

As Scully stood, she intentionally leaned in close to Kaz's ear, "And the evening's not over yet, sailor. You're going to get yours."

Kaz let out a long, slow breath, then spun on her heel and made tracks to the coatroom, ready to get out of Enrico's as soon as possible. Scully followed with a sly, knowing smile on her face.

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

Upper West Side
New York City
Wednesday, Feb. 6
12:38 a.m.

Impatiently, he knocked on the door. Nothing. He quickly knocked again and heard a low, feminine, unmistakable voice from behind it.

"Who is it?"

"Fox Mulder."

She pulled the door open, but he could see it was still held by its security chain. The small blonde woman wore a sheer white bathrobe, but her kept hair and careful make-up lent proof she hadn't been sleeping. She did, however, appear startled by his presence.

"What are you doing here?" Marita Covarrubias asked him.

"I need your help," he explained with a hint of urgency as he ran through a short synopsis of the events that led him to this door.

Mulder had quickly come to trust this woman. He saw her as a valuable informant and ally in his search, his quest for the truth. Admittedly, he didn't know much about her, but after the photos she'd shown him, the pictures of ten girls out in a field. All of them identical to his missing sister, Samantha.

He'd come to a snap judgment on this issue, feeling she was a person he could depend on. He didn't know why, and maybe it had something to do with his emotional state during their initial meeting, but he felt he could trust this eerie woman with the strange sibilance in her voice.

A sense of weary relief washed over him as she unlatched the chain and let him inside the apartment.

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

Anne Kazmerowski's House
12:45 a.m.

Scully drifted out of sleep and slowly rubbed her cheek against Kaz's stomach. The Navy lawyer lay on her back, delightfully naked and sleeping peacefully with one hand resting on Scully's arm. Somehow, Scully ended up perpendicular to Kaz so that their bodies formed a "T." Scully let her head rise and fall with Kaz, listening to the slow, steady rhythm of her lover's oblivious respiration. She realized that every breath, every movement Kaz made increased Scully's hunger for her.

Anne Kazmerowski was like a drug, and Scully was most definitely addicted. It wasn't as though they hadn't made love for over two hours after returning home from dinner. They had, and it had been tender and wonderful. Still, the fact remained: Scully just couldn't get enough of this lean, beautiful body.

She couldn't be close enough to the person who inhabited it, for it was Kaz herself whom Scully craved.

She reached out with her tongue to lick the underside of Kaz's breast, tasting the tang of sweet perspiration they'd worked up from their earlier encounter. Inching closer, Scully ran her tongue all the way around this slight crevice.

The sleeping woman moaned very softly and shifted her head on the pillow. Her body was coming to life though her mind was still at rest. Kaz needed very little sleep at nights, and often only stayed down for a few hours. Once she did fall asleep, however, she was like a log. Especially when she was as comfortable and as relaxed as when she was with Scully.

And this was exactly how Scully wanted her.

Rolling slowly onto her stomach, Scully licked her lips, her mouth just inches above Kaz's breast. Gently--lovingly--she kissed the nipple once, twice, and yet again. She watched it tighten and looked up to see Kaz's face contort just a little, then resettle.

Scully lowered her head once again, this time covering the sensitive nipple with her entire mouth, laving it with her tongue, flicking the tip just a little and gently nipping with her teeth.

Kaz made a noise deep in her throat, somewhere between a gasp and a moan. Out of the corner of her eye, Scully saw Kaz's strong left hand grip the bedsheets tight. She rolled the other nipple between her fingers. By now, she knew exactly what Kaz liked, and did her best to arouse the young officer with simple, light touches. She tongued the nipple again, kissing it as she would kiss Kaz's sweet, yearning mouth. Scully heard and felt the sharp intake of breath as Kaz quickly drew in air and clutched once more at the sheets.

It was time to move on.

She snaked her body down and ran her hands slowly over the tops of Kaz's thighs. Kaz lifted an arm and laid it across her forehead. Instinctively, she used it to pull the hair off her face and exhaled heavily as her body began to writhe beneath the sensual touch she was being subjected to. Her eyes remained tightly shut, however, and Scully doubted she was fully conscious.

It was perfect. Kaz was perfect. And making Kaz come to life just like this would be perfect.

She slowly guided Kaz's legs apart, bent them at the knees. Kaz's hips were already grinding down against the sheets a little. Scully looked at up her partner as she ran her fingers lightly over Kaz's inner thighs.

She'd never known a woman could be so beautiful. It was enough to make her cry. The sight of Kaz, eyes closed, innocent yet so aroused, heart-breakingly lovely and inviting...it took Scully's breath away once more.

Kaz's scent was heavy, intoxicating. Scully inhaled deeply, breathing in all of it that she could get. It was a mixture of sexual excitement, a hint of sweet perfume, and the sandalwood lotion Kaz always wore. Combined they made up Kaz's essence, her own unique scent. It was a scent that drove Scully wild with passion and need.

Scully lowered her mouth to sample that essence. She tenderly brushed each of Kaz's outer lips before parting them and laying small, delicate kisses inside.

"Oh God--Scully..." Kaz moaned, coming to the realization that this was no erotic dream. It was real.

Kaz's hands drifted down to tangle in Scully's thick red hair as she spread her legs further. Scully looped her arms around Kaz's thighs as she kissed her intimately, darting her tongue inside to taste Kaz's flavor; then flicking up to the hot, swollen bundle of nerves.

"A-a-h-h-h-h...oh yeah, Scully. That's good...oh God--that's good."

Scully loved it when Kaz talked to her. The tender voice made her ears ring and drove her even further. She was drunk on Kaz's heavy juices. Her mouth, her hands, her whole body needed to make Kaz scream, to make her come hard and long and loud. She heard Kaz's breath grow shallow and felt the hands in her hair, caressing her, urging her on. She readily complied, and sucked harder on Kaz's throbbing clit before laving it all over again with her tongue. Her hands slid down under Kaz's ass to squeeze it and caress it as she ate her.

Kaz bucked up hard into her face but Scully hung on, worked harder; now frantically alternating between Kaz's wet hole and her insatiable bud. Kaz went wild, her back arching, her head tossing from side to side, her hands tightening their hold on the flaming head of auburn hair between her legs.

It was then that Scully wet the tip of her finger inside her lover's hot center and pressed it against the small, puckered opening down below.

The orgasm was instantaneous. Kaz cried out into the semi-darkness as her mind floated away and her body shuddered with pleasure. Scully peered up as she continued to circle Kaz's clit with the flat of her tongue.

Kaz's face was enchanting. That was the only way she could describe it. The contorted mixture of pleasure and fulfillment was the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen. Even in the moonlight that trickled in from the far-off window, Scully could see the flush of excitement and complete gratification in Kaz's body as she moaned once again.

As it ended, Scully kissed her way back up Kaz's body, finally making it into the strong, smooth arms. Kaz wrapped them tight around her and held Scully to chest, pressing their damp foreheads together. Her dark eyes were still closed, and they shared their mutual breathlessness.

When Kaz had recovered sufficiently, Scully touched Kaz's full lips with her own. Kaz pulled her even closer and sought her tongue. As they met, each woman saw a shower of sparks before her eyes. Kaz delved deeply, hungry to taste herself in Scully's ripe mouth. Scully let her probe, explore, delve.

She loved this kind of sharing, enjoying it nearly as much as the act itself. It was something Kaz had taught her, and something she'd never done with anyone else. It was intimately special to her because of this fact.

After a few minutes, their kisses grew shallower, less needy, and more tender. Kaz ran her hand through Scully's hair, smoothing it back. Scully's own ran over Kaz's back. She loved the feel of this dark, silky skin. She never got enough of it.

"Scully, that was...oh God, I can't even say. Thank you."

Kissing her lightly once more, Scully said, "Don't thank me. I did it for me as much as for you."

Kaz leaned in to touch the silken lips again, "I love you so much, Scully. You know that, don't you?"

"I had a feeling," Scully replied with the softest of smiles.

They kissed tenderly once more as they settled into each other's arms and slowly fell back to sleep, their faces close, their bodies tangled together, their hearts content in their mutual happiness.

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

Washington Navy Yard
10:26 a.m.

Commander Kazmerowski strolled down the hallway to her office in her standard white uniform covered by a regulation blue sweater. She carried her briefcase in one hand and her hat crooked under her elbow.

A familiar voice from behind her made her turn, "Well, if it ain't The Brick. How you doing, Annie?"

Kaz smirked sardonically at her smooth-talking colleague, "I'm hanging in there, Nobbs. What are you doing with your bad self now that I'm not around to bother?"

The velvet-skinned black man gave her a wide, bright smile and put an arm around her shoulders, pulling her closer as they walked.

"Hell Annie, I'd go miles out of my way to bother you. Take today for example, I walked all the way to the other end of the Yard to bother you."

"Don't I know it..." She replied with laid-on sarcasm before giving him a small smile.

He removed his arm from her shoulders and hooked her elbow, linking their arms as he patted her affectionately. She looked at him, unwittingly giving him a classic 'Scully-look' full of skepticism and expectancy. He was about to ask her a favor and was blatantly buttering her up with this gentlemanly show.

"What do you want, Nobbs?"

He put on an offended expression, but it went only skin deep, "Nothing, baby. Can't I walk my favorite lady down the hall without her being suspicious?"

"No--and I'm not even on your top ten list of favorite ladies. Try to jog your memory a little and it'll come back to you: I'm the one who didn't put out, remember?"

He patted her arm one more time, "We could change all of that, now couldn't we? Just think of it Annie...you, me, a bottle of tequila, a vibrating bed..."

"Sounds wonderful...and *so* romantic. Tell me Nobbs, do I get to lick the salt off of your bare chest?"

The Lieutenant Commander's grin grew wider, "Ooh--you're my kind of girl, Kaz-baby."

She smirked a little as they approached her office door, "I seriously doubt that, old boy."

She disengaged her arm from his and patted her pockets, searching for keys. Finally finding them in her right pocket, she prayed to God she wouldn't drop them in front of Nobbs.

Hunting for the right one, she turned away from him and toward the lock, nodding at another of his suggestive remarks and dimly aware of the unmistakable clicking of high-heeled shoes on tile. It reminded her of someone, but she was engrossed in keeping her keys in her one-handed grasp. She was pretty sure she was going to make it. In fact, she'd been trying to use that hand more lately...

"Hello Kaz," came an all-too-familiar voice from behind them.

The keys slid futilely from Kaz's hand and fell to the floor with a loud jangle. She turned her wide eyes up to see Dana Scully standing behind her, hands in the pockets of her tan trench coat, a serious expression on her face. Kaz blinked rapidly, trying to recover from the shock of seeing Scully here. It was certainly unexpected, and not a Scully-like thing to do.

To the innocent bystander, and most certainly to Lt. Comm. Nobbs, the red-haired woman appeared to be a calm, cool, well-dressed professional. But Kaz, who knew her more intimately than anyone ever had, immediately saw that she was unusually tense. 'Stressed out' was the phrase that came most readily to mind.

"Well, this is a pleasant surprise," she said, putting on a show for Nobbs' benefit. "Scully, this is Lieutenant Commander Franklin Nobbs. Nobbs, this is a friend of mine, Special Agent Dana Scully. She's with the Bureau."

Kaz watched as her co-worker and favorite drinking buddy shook hands with the love of her life. It made her a little sad that she couldn't share her new-found happiness with Nobbs, but such was life in the US Navy.

"So, what brings you to my branch of the paper jungle, Scully?" Kaz asked, reaching for her keys again.

"I need a little advice."

Kaz got the key in the lock this time and managed to turn the knob, "Don't wear white shoes after Labor Day," she joked.

Nobbs snorted a little laugh, "Avoid running with scissors," he added.

Not even cracking a ghost of a smile, Scully added, "Legal advice."

The kidding smirk on Kaz's face faded as she locked eyes with the auburn-haired FBI agent. Something was most definitely wrong.

Turning to Nobbs, she said, "Will you excuse us please? I'll come over for a visit soon, I promise."

He nodded, noting the serious mood of the pair, "I'm gone. Catch you later, Kaz."

She followed him to the door and shut it before offering Scully a chair. She sat in its companion instead of behind her desk. Crossing the shapely legs beneath her white skirt, Kaz leaned forward, propping her chin on one hand.

"What's wrong, Sculls?"

Reaching into her coat pocket, Scully withdrew the letter of summons she'd received via Walter Skinner and handed it to Kaz, who read it with a thoughtful frown.

"The Sub-Committee on Intelligence and Terrorism? You're being called in to a congressional hearing?" The Commander met her lover's icy blue eyes, "What's going on here, Scully?"

"We've stepped into a pile of shit, that's my guess."

Kaz turned back to the subpoena, "This names you, Mulder, and your AD. Does this have to do with the man found dead outside an Alexandria high-rise?"

Scully blinked, "How did you know about that?"

"I'm not an idiot, Scully. You said Mulder took this man Krycek to your boss's house. I read about the unidentified dead man in the paper this morning. I *am* an investigator now, you know. I'm honing my skills."

Scully took a deep breath and pursed her lips thoughtfully. Kaz was definitely getting the hang of the investigation racket down quick. She was startled all over again when Kaz continued.

"And I take it this has something to do with the biohazardous toxin contained in the Mars rock?"

Reluctantly, she nodded.

Kaz watched Scully fidget a little, bite her lip, look down at her hands. She looked over toward her office windows to make sure the shades were pulled before reaching out and hooking two of Scully's fingers with her own, calming and reassuring this incredibly strong and independent woman. She was fairly certain Scully didn't really need it, but she wanted to give as much as she could.

Little did Kaz realize that this was exactly why the agent had come by. Though Dana Scully internalized almost all of her feelings, stayed impossibly stoic in the face of everything that crossed her path, she needed to see Kaz now, needed the tall, dark officer's reassurance and support. She was coming to rely on Kaz's soothing presence and easy demeanor more and more. It lent her strength, something she needed badly right now.

And for once--she admitted this need to herself.

"Then I'm sure all the sub-committee wants from you is your testimony on the issue of the diplomatic pouch. These diplomatic affairs are always touchy, and if the man was attempting to transport a lethal toxin onto US soil, it's going to stir plenty of questions. That would explain the Sub-Committee on Intelligence and Terrorism. You, Scully, were doing your job; upholding your oath to protect the citizens of this country. The contents of this pouch put the citizens of the United States at risk. I believe your investigation to this point has been proper and justified. I'm sure the senators see it this way as well. This summons is most likely calling for a formal deposition."

She waited for a reply, but none was forthcoming. Scully didn't seem appeased by her reassuring explanation. She took the next step.

"What else can I do to help you, Scully?" Kaz asked her with gentle eyes.

Scully gathered herself and focused on the other issue that had brought her here. Kaz kept herself up on current politics to the point of nearly being an expert. Scully was fairly certain that if she ever chose to leave the Navy, Kaz could get a position in the political arena in an instant--though Scully seriously doubted she'd ever take such action. Coming to Kaz with this question easier and less conspicuous than researching the topic herself through the Bureau's mainframe.

"What do you know about Senator Sorenson?" she asked.

Kaz looked off thoughtfully for a second before nodding and meeting Scully's eyes once again, "Sorenson's from North Dakota, I think he's about two years into his third term. He's well-known as an arch-conservative. Personally, I believe he has a spotty voting record for a man of his 'so-called' political stance. On more than a few occasions, he's splintered; supported issues, bills, or charges that were completely against everything he supposedly stands for. It's rather subtle, and I'm constantly surprised he hasn't been publicly called out for it. But then," she shrugged, "who knows what goes on behind closed doors? Especially between politicians and members of the press."

Scully thought about that for a long time. Kaz didn't press her for more information, didn't flood her with questions. She let Scully quietly think it through. After a few minutes, the petite G-woman stood, preparing to leave.

Kaz stood with her, releasing her link on Scully's fingers. The agent looked up at her and suddenly leaned in to kiss her cheek. Kaz smiled at her and reached for Scully's hands once again, holding them by their sides.

"Good luck, Scully. Remember, I'm always here if you need me."

"I know you are. I'll see you tonight, okay?"

"Tonight," Kaz agreed with a nod, then bent to return Scully's peck on the cheek, "At my house again? Don't you ever miss your apartment?"

Shrugging, she replied, "Not really. I feel like my life is with you, and your house is special. Special to me...special to us."

Kaz was deeply touched, "You don't know how much it means for me to hear you say that. You're the best thing that's ever happened to me, Dana Scully. Now go out there and kick Sorenson's ass."

Scully smiled up at her. Kaz always did this; took a situation that was tearing her apart inside and built her back up, made her feel like she could bring down any Goliath set into her path. She hugged Kaz tightly before turning and reluctantly leaving the office.

Anne Kazmerowski watched her go. She nibbled on her lower lip for a moment and frowned. Her reassurances to Scully had been just that, reassurances. She wasn't a fan of Senator Albert Sorenson, and didn't like the fact that Dana Scully and Fox Mulder had been called onto his carpet.

She stood and circled around to her desk. Flipping on her computer, she picked up the phone and punched in a memorized extension.

"Hardy, it's Kaz. Can you come to my office for a few minutes. I need your help accessing something. Do you know how to access congressional records? Yes, recent issues and voting breakdowns by individual..."

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

Anne Kazmerowski's House
6:45 p.m.

Scully unlocked the front door of the dark, silent house and let herself in. She was a little surprised Kaz wasn't home yet, but not extremely so. The Commander's job was sometimes just as unpredictable as her own. She went upstairs to take off her pantsuit and replace it with jeans and a baggy white sweatshirt, then headed back down to let Brandy in.

The light brown and white boxer trotted eagerly into the kitchen, her stub tail wagging and her tongue eager to lick Scully's hand. Scully bent down to allow a few 'kisses' from the big dog and scratched Brandy's ears as she talked.

"Hey there, Brandy old girl. How was your day? I bet it was a hell of a lot better than mine." She stood and found a bottle of opened burgundy in a cupboard.

Pouring herself a glass, she spoke to the dog again, "What are we going to do, huh girl? What are we gonna tell your momma?" She raised her glass thoughtfully and sipped, then looked back down into the excitable young puppy's big dark eyes, "You're momma--she's a smart one, Brandy. She's no fool, and I'm so in love with her. I just don't want her to get mixed up in this swill. You understand, don't you girl? You know how important she is to me...to both of us."

The dog came forward to lick her hand once again. Scully smiled down at the big beast, then heard the garage door open on its automatic chain and the purr of the old Mustang's smooth engine echoing through the acoustic tile room. Brandy immediately turned and ran to the hall, leaving Scully alone, but with an amused look on her face.

The dog and Kaz had most definitely formed a bond. Although she had only been a part of the young officer's life for a short time, Brandy was extremely protective of Kaz, sometimes even misinterpreting a few of their more playful moments, thinking Scully was attacking her beloved owner and becoming agitated.

Strolling into the hallway, Scully heard the knob turn. Kaz's voice rang out in the hallway as Brandy greeted her affectionately.

"Hey! Here's my baby, what's shaking, Brandy? Where's the Scullster?"

"Hello Kaz," Scully said, leaning against a door frame.

Kaz tossed her hat onto a small table in the hallway and dropped her attache case next to it. She wore her long jacket over a pair of gray sweatpants and matching shirt emblazoned with 'Property of USN' across the chest. On her feet were black Adidas athletic shoes. She shook out her somewhat damp hair for a moment and ran a hand through it, tucking stray strands behind her ears as she smiled at the vision of beauty that stood at the end of the hallway.

"Was it causal day at the Navy Yard?" Scully asked her with a smirk.

Returning it, Kaz approached and took of her jacket, tossing it on a nearby chair, "I was working at my desk *all* afternoon and was dying for a little exercise. As soon as the clock tolled five I was out of there and headed for the weight room."

Scully leaned forward to kiss her fresh, clean cheek. The tall brunette smelled of Ivory soap and her sandalwood lotion.

"Am I not relieving enough of your pent-up sexual energy?" she joked, recalling one of their earlier discussions regarding Kaz's exercise fixation.

Kaz chuckled and set her hands on Scully's hips, "You sure as hell are, but I still need to work out occasionally. Besides, Nobbs was complaining that I don't spend as much 'quality time' with him as I used to, so we lifted together."

"Tell me more about your friend Nobbs," Scully prodded, her right hand playing with the silver chain around Kaz's neck.

Pursing her lips for a moment, the officer said, "He's twenty-nine, from Texas, of all places, and probably my closest friend at the Yard. A couple of years ago we dated, but never slept together. Still, we stayed friends, since we get along great, but that romantic pull just wasn't there. At least, I know it wasn't there for me, and he seemed to take it in stride too."

She looked down into Scully's eyes as she said this, gauging her lover's reaction. It was the first time she'd specifically mentioned a former boyfriend, and Scully never had. Realizing her friend was interested, but not upset in the least, Kaz continued:

"He thinks I'm seeing someone, and I think he's a little miffed that I won't admit it and give him the details."

"Why does he think you're seeing someone?"

Smirking, Kaz rolled her eyes, "He tells me I come to work with a 'just been fucked' look on my face."

Scully drew her lips in, biting them to hold back a laugh, but failed. She snorted, tittered, and finally gave in, expelling an uncontrolled gale of laughter. Kaz couldn't help but join her, for the rare sound of Dana Scully's laughter was music to her ears.

As Scully calmed, she asked, "And what did you tell him?"

"I just gave him a mysterious little smile and said nothing. Sometimes silence is more of a torture than any snappy retort, and that's particularly true in Nobbs' case."

"So you two went out once, it didn't work, but he *still* teases you with endless sexual innuendoes?"

Kaz cocked her head to one side, "Like I said, we're good friends, and it's an old, running joke between us. I don't mind, it keeps the conversation lively. I guess...well, I guess I take them as compliments. Even though we didn't last as a couple, he still finds me attractive. That's always a nice thing to hear."

Scully slid her hands around Kaz's back, "He's not the only one who finds you attractive, Kaz."

Kaz smiled sheepishly and looked down at the floor, but Scully reached out to tilt her chin up.

"Honey, you're beautiful," she said, and lifted her head more to brush Kaz's lips with her own.

As they touched, Kaz closed her eyes, staying passive and reveling in the sweet sensations. Scully kissed her top lip, her bottom one, then both together. Kaz melted under the gentle onslaught and opened her mouth, admitting an exploratory tongue which sought her own and stroked it tenderly. She raised her hands to cup Scully's face, growing more aggressive and kissing Scully's ripe, full mouth deeply and thoroughly.

After several long minutes they broke apart, and Kaz pulled Scully in against her neck, keeping the agent close and setting silky lips against her temple. Scully loved how well they fit together in this upright embrace.

Softly, the tall Italian asked, "How was your meeting with the Scarecrow?"

"Scarecrow?"

"Sorenson. With that thin face and pinched nose, he kind of looks like the Scarecrow from 'Wizard Of Oz.'"

Scully couldn't help but chuckle again at that. The image of Senator Sorenson in yellow greasepaint, a ratty old straw-filled hat, and patched-up jeans struck her as funny. Her head shook against Kaz's shoulder as she turned her face in to kiss the sensitive skin of her lover's neck.

"I'll try not to picture that image when I go before the committee day after next."

She felt Kaz's head nod as if the lawyer had expected this. "I had a feeling they weren't just going to depo you. Sorenson *would* haul you in front of the entire Sub-Committee. In my opinion, he's kind of a bastard."

Scully shrugged within the embrace, feeling more confident now than she had that morning. She'd formulated something of a game plan, had thought through all the angles, and had taken into heavy consideration what Kaz told her earlier.

"How did it go?" Kaz asked, running a hand over her hair.

She pulled back slightly and tucked one more strand of soft, damp hair behind Kaz's ear, "Very brief. He threatened Skinner with perjury, got upset because Mulder wasn't there, and let us go. Said he'd see us in two days before the panel."

Kaz's brows knitted, "Mulder wasn't there, huh? That takes some balls."

Scully willed her body not to tense within Kaz's arms as she replied, "He's out in the field."

The officer's thick eyebrows lifted, "He *will* be back for the hearing though, right?"

"I'm hoping so," Scully said truthfully.

Kaz frowned just a little at this vague answer, but didn't press. This was Scully's business, not her own. She was merely a side-player; one who'd already stuck her nose in further than she'd been asked to. She couldn't help herself though. She was as addicted to Dana Scully as Mulder was to lights in the sky, and helping her companion was second-nature.

Looking into Scully's clear blue eyes, she said, "I did do a little more research on Sorenson. I don't know if it will help, but I have a few things for you."

She walked back to her attache case and pulled out a thick handful of papers. Scully's eyes widened at the sight. Following Kaz to the dining room table, they sat.

"These are Sorenson's voting records on certain issues I ascertained might be tangential to this inquiry. I highlighted the ones of particular interest. The ones that don't seem to jive with a man of his particular brand of politics."

Scully opened and shut her mouth a few times before anything came out, "Kaz, you didn't need to--"

"I think I did," Kaz interrupted. "Look over these while I call for pizza."

"Pizza?" Scully asked her fitness-freak girlfriend.

"Yep, and I'll get you a beer. It's gonna be a long night, Scullster."

Scully flipped through a few of the pages on the stack, stopping to read some of the passages highlighted in green. Kaz was right. It was going to be a long night. A night filled with legal talk and maybe a little bit of courtroom strategy.

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

Thursday, Feb. 18
2:21 p.m.

"Damnit!" Walter Skinner barked, slamming the phone's receiver back into its cradle for perhaps the tenth time that day.

Where the hell was she? Had she pulled a disappearing act similar to that of her partner? For a few seconds, he considered the possibility that his two most brilliant and most troublesome agents had just left him holding a rather smelly bag.

He tossed that idea in the trash can. Dana Scully wasn't one to shirk her responsibility. She'd never leave him to fend for himself when *she* had been one of the people who'd gotten him into this mess. No, it wasn't Agent Scully he was worried about.

It was Fox Mulder.

Mulder was the one who unwisely brought Alex Krycek into his home. Mulder was the one who'd retrieved the known felon and almost certain murderer--but hadn't turned him into the proper authorities. And Mulder was the one who was ignoring a congressional summons and was MIA right now.

<"In the field,"> Scully had said, which meant anywhere.

And that was all she was saying.

One thing Walter Skinner knew quite well by now was that when Dr. Scully decided to keep her mouth shut, it stayed shut. There was no point in trying to open it. As frustrating as this was to him, it was a fact, plain and simple.

He picked up the phone one more time and hit redial. She still wasn't answering her cellphone. He called her apartment on the off-chance she'd be there, but only heard her terse voice again on the answering machine.

"Damnit," he mumbled, hanging up once more.

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

Briarwood Apartment Building
6:15 p.m.

Commander Kazmerowski parked in the far corner of the Briarwood parking lot. She popped the trunk and pulled out her garment bag and a large sack of groceries. Reluctantly, she'd left Brandy behind, safe in the mud room with plenty of food and water.

Kaz loved the dog and hated to leave her, but she and Scully needed to talk tonight--and she wanted it to be here. Scully was going to be anxious and nervous, though she wouldn't let on about the fact. Kaz wanted to take her friend's mind off of work, if only for a little while.

She had brought up the idea of staying here tonight before they'd left for work this morning. Scully had agreed with a distracted nod, her mind already on the busy day ahead.

She held tight to the grocery bag full of miscellaneous items and headed in. Using the keys Scully had given her for the first time, she walked into #35 and flipped on the lights. Glancing around, she realized the place looked exactly like what it was: a stop-off point.

Kaz paused for a moment to calculate; Scully hadn't spent a night in this place in over two weeks. Dry cleaning bags were laid across the couch; there were no dishes in the sink nor on the drying board; the bed in the back room was covered with medical journals, piles of papers, and the odd sweater or pair of pants lying in a heap.

She smiled at the unScullyness of this clutter when compared to the state of the apartment on the first night she'd seen it. Running two fingers over the dresser, they came away with a thin film of dust.

Kaz took off her leather jacket and straightened the sweater beneath it. She'd worn the multi-colored one Scully seemed to have liked up at the cabin at Christmas. She tossed her hair back over the crown of her head and rummaged beneath the sink for some cleaner and a rag. Whistling to herself, she began to dust and tidy the cold apartment. A small grin lit up her face as she worked, hoping that tonight would be one of the last nights Scully ever stayed here.

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

7:18 p.m.

As Dana Scully drove the half-hour back to DC, her mind carefully turned over the events of the day, both what had happened...and what hadn't.

Mulder hadn't shown up. All day she found herself glancing through the glass walls at NASA Goddard, expecting him to show his face any minute. As the day wore on and there was still no sign, she found it harder and harder to focus on the investigation. Even the discovery of the strange vermiform organism they'd found in Dr. Sacks hadn't taken her mind off this nagging concern for her missing partner.

Initially, she hadn't been too upset by his latest disappearing act. Why should she be? It wasn't as if this were a rare occurrence. Last night, when Kaz asked her if he'd be there for the hearing, she'd given a simple, non-committal answer.

That one question, though, seemed to bring forth a flood of others to the forefront of her mind. She'd suddenly been reminded of other times he'd run off.

After the 'UFO' back in the early days. The time they'd encountered Max Fenig, the quirky maverick of the NICAP squad.

Puerto Rico. They hadn't officially been partners then, but still, the fact that he'd run off without leaving a clue as to his whereabouts had been troubling.

And Alaska.

What could she say about Alaska. When she'd walked into that room and seen him, looking pitiful and amazingly ashen...God, she didn't want to think about Alaska ever again.

Her mind turned back to the night before. She'd woken in the middle of the night, her mind racing. Kaz had been sleeping peacefully next to her, laying on her side and facing her. The tall, lean woman's hand had been outstretched, touching her arm, needing this small contact, even in slumber.

Kaz had changed her life, there was no doubt. She was sweet and kind and intelligent and witty and creative and stunningly beautiful. Kaz was also completely devoted to her, and Scully returned this devotion whole-heartedly.

But this new mess--this was something she had to tackle alone. She couldn't bring Kaz into it. The dangers to her life and to her career were too great.

These thoughts had led Scully to considerations of Mulder and what he was doing. Just what was he doing? Hell if she knew.

It was then that she realized she was pissed off. She was getting fed up with his little Houdini acts. The way he just took off with no word as to his whereabouts.

This time was different, too. This time, it wasn't only about his safety. This time he'd left her in the midst of a congressional investigation. She was expected to pick up whatever pieces were left here in DC, no questions asked. He'd taken off and left her to explain it all to Congress like it was no big fucking deal.

He was just gone. Without a word. Without a phone call. Without a goddamned clue.

Had he done it because of her stupid little speech back in the office? The one where she'd told him he was swallowing Krycek's story whole without using his fat melon to think it through. The one in which she'd told him she didn't know how far she could follow him. Had he taken it to mean she was turning her back on him? Didn't he understand how having some semblance of a life had changed things for her?

This thought turned it full circle, coming back once more to Commander Anne Kazmerowski.

After a few moments, she decided she'd had enough thinking for that night. Pushing Mulder out of her mind, she had rolled over and burrowed in nearer to Kaz, who instinctively pulled her close and put an arm around her. Even as she slept, Kaz was a comfort, a soft bastion of security.

Now, driving home from NASA Goddard, she longed to take off her confining work clothes, throw on some of Kaz's old sweats, turn her brain off for a few hours, and simply be with her friend. Thoughts of the warm old house and the peaceful demeanor of her companion filled her mind. She was almost to Georgetown before she remembered Kaz wanted to stay at her place tonight.

Pursing her lips wistfully, a little sad not to be going to her favorite place, she pulled back out onto the freeway.

Ten minutes from her apartment, she remembered she'd turned her phone off. Flipping it on, she punched in her home number. It rang four times before the answering machine picked up.

"Kaz," she said into the receiver, "it's me. Pick up if you're there."

She heard a click, then Kaz's voice was in her ear, bringing an automatic smile to her face. "Hey Scully. Where are you? I'm waiting here rather impatiently."

"I'm almost there. Ten minutes tops."

"Oh good," Kaz said, and Scully recognized the playful, mischievous tone in her voice.

Warily she asked, "What are you up to, Kaz?"

"Oh, not much," the young woman told her with a small sigh. "I'm just sitting here at the table, waiting for you to join me for dinner. It's lasagna, and it smells really good. I put out a nice tablecloth and there are candles on the table..."

Smiling in sweet anticipation, Scully said, "Go on."

"Well, what else is there to tell? Except I built a fire...I'm sipping a glass of wine...Oh, and I'm naked."

Scully almost had to pull over. A full ten seconds passed before she could speak.

"Y-you are not."

"I am."

"You are *not* sitting naked at my kitchen table causally sipping a glass of wine."

In a bored voice, Kaz replied, "How do you know I'm not?"

Scully's own was strained and a little too high, "I--I...well...you're not, are you?"

"Well, you can just wonder about that now, can't you?"

--click--

There were a few seconds of loud silence, then the jar of a dial tone in Scully's ear.

"Jesus," she whispered into the empty car.

Nudging the gas pedal, she pushed her speed up another five miles an hour.

*****

She strode quickly down the hallway, pulling her keys back out of her pocket. There was no sound from inside the apartment, but she knew Kaz was in there. She could feel her close by, intuitively sensing the tall, sultry lawyer's presence.

Just as she found the right key, she heard an authoritative masculine voice behind her, "Agent Scully."

She jumped just a little, startled by the harsh tone as much as the unexpected visitor himself. Her eyes widened as she saw Walter Skinner striding down the hall toward her, coattails flying.

<Ohshit.What'shedoinghere.Hecan'tcomein.Holyshit!Shesaidshewasnaked.Whatifhewantsin?OhI'msodead.>

"Sir, w-what are you--"

He cut her off, his voice irritated and rising in volume with each word, "I've been trying to contact you for hours. The better part of a day."

Recovering, but still off guard and scared as hell, she tried to appease him with an apologetic tone, "I'm sorry sir, my cellphone was turned off. I was--"

"You owe me some answers, Agent Scully," he replied angrily.

*****

Kaz was indeed, sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by the dim glow of the distant fire and closer candlelight. She held a glass of wine, and was now sipping it thoughtfully as she eavesdropped.

The hardwood floor beneath her feet made the perfect conductor, and she heard every word the pair in the hallway said.

"Yes sir," Scully was saying. "S-sir, if I might explain...The contents of that pouch, it...it contained...some kind of a biohazardous organism that is luckily b-being contained in a...in a contamination laboratory at NASA Goddard, which is where I've been all day trying to determine its exact nature."

When she heard Scully's first reply to the man in the hall, she covered her mouth to stifle a laugh. A scrambling Scully was a hell of a lot of fun to listen to. She'd really thrown the little red head with that "I'm naked" crack.

As the conversation wore on, however, she became more intrigued by it, and listened intently as the man said:

"...To find out who was to receive it."

*****

Scully looked up at him in surprise. It took a lot for Walter Skinner to bend the rules.

"Who was it?" she asked.

Still as surly and tight-lipped as ever, he replied, "Dr. Bonita Charne-Sayre. Are you familiar with that name?"

She paused, thinking for a moment, "Yes sir, I am. She's...she's a well-known physician. A-a virologist who's...who's looked in on presidents. She's also an authority on...on variola viruses."

"Variola?"

Still nervous, she split her attention between the two conflicting situations: the matter of Dr. Charne-Sayre and the pouch, and the matter of the quite possibly naked woman on the other side of the door and her boss's discovery of said woman.

It made concentration difficult, to say the least.

"Smallpox," she answered, striving to keep her voice level and even. "She's... she's been a vocal proponent of eliminating the last remaining stores o-o-of the smallpox virus. D-de-destroying the only remaining vials i-in facilities here in Atlanta and in the former Soviet Union."

He pondered that for a moment, obviously still unsure of how the pieces of this puzzle fit together. "Well, she was killed tonight."

"Killed?" Scully repeated, her eyebrows raised.

"A horse stepped on her throat in a riding accident in Virginia..."

*****

Kaz listened to the retreating footsteps of Walter Skinner. By now, she's completely forgotten the threat of discovery and was focusing solely on the conversation she'd just heard. She stood and walked slowly to the bay window, staring out at the street, the occasional passing car, the odd pedestrian.

The lock turned at last, and Scully entered the large front room, immediately scanning it for her. She turned and caught the disapproval in Scully's eyes as the agent looked her up and down, shaking the small head framed by burning auburn hair.

Kaz was wearing her multi-colored sweater, blue jeans, and ankle-length leather boots. After a moment, the tall brunette smiled, remembering the earlier phone conversation. The naked thing. It had been nothing more than a red herring. A very effective one.

Shrugging, Kaz grinned and put on a housewife act, "Honey, you're home. Want to put up your feet? Let me get your slippers for you."

Scully was not appeased, "You know, don't you, that I was scared shitless out there. I was afraid he was going to invite himself in, walk through that door, and find you writhing naked on a bearskin rug or something."

Kaz clicked her tongue, still grinning, "Don't be silly. You don't even have a bearskin rug. I really had you going though, didn't I? You really thought I was sitting in her wearing nothing but a smile."

Scully was uncharacteristically at a loss for words, "Well, I...I-I didn't know what to think."

Kaz's voice dropped a notch, "But what were you hoping?"

To the officer's amusement, Scully's face blanked, "Wha--well--I...I was torn," she finally said with resignation.

Chuckling, Kaz crossed the room and helped Scully out of her trench coat. The agent looked around the apartment, shaking her head in wonder. It looked just like it used to; back in the days when she used to live here. It was tidy and dusted and smelled faintly of cleaner.

She took in the small fire blazing in the hearth and the candlelit table. Spinning around, she stared into Kaz's soft brown eyes.

"You cleaned."

"Yes, I did," Kaz replied gently. "I want tonight to be kind of special."

Scully gave her a questioning look.

The tall, dark woman circled her waist with long, thin hands, "I wanted to take your mind off all this stuff going on and let you relax for a few hours. You can think about everything else later, but for now..." she shook her head.

Only now did Scully take a moment to notice the divine smell of lasagna and garlic bread in the air. She tilted her head up and smiled at Kaz.

"You're so wonderful," she told the officer.

Kaz grinned sheepishly and looked down, "Don't give me too much credit right now. I *do* have ulterior motives, you know."

"Oh do you?" Scully replied innocently before leaning in to touch their lips together.

Kaz tasted as sweet as she ever had, and when she opened her mouth Scully received a fleeting sample of the cabernet Kaz had been sipping, tasting it on the expert tongue that stroked hers gently. She melted and sighed wearily as Kaz moved to support her back, wrapping her in a warm cocoon of strong arms.

Her own hands came up to Kaz's cheeks. She rubbed the soft, smooth skin with her thumbs as Kaz traced the line of Scully's teeth with a lazy, sensual tongue. The pleasant friction of their breasts pressed against each other brought warmth to both their faces.

When they parted, Scully laid her forehead against Kaz's shoulder, turning her head into Kaz's neck to inhale the comforting scent of her lover.

The brunette stroked her hair gently, "Are you hungry?"

"Starving," Scully replied, not moving her head, "but hold me a minute longer, will you?"

Kaz briefly touched her lips to Scully's temple, "You don't even need to ask."

She tightened her embrace just a little, offering all the love and support she could give. Scully closed her eyes and let herself go, turning off her racing mind for a few minutes, feeling only the presence of the tall, dark, wonderful woman who loved her dearly.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Friday, Feb. 7
3:02 a.m.

For the third night in a row, Scully woke in the darkness of the very early morning hours. Once again, Kaz was right by her side, sleeping peacefully. It took her a moment to realize she was in her own bed, her own place, and not the Georgetown house.

She threw back the covers and quietly left the warm, comfortable safety of the blankets and Kaz. Finding a pair of pajama bottoms and a sweatshirt, she put them on and went out into the living room, gingerly closing the bedroom door behind her. She flipped on a lamp and sat on the couch, lips pursed in thought as she contemplated the coming day. Factoring in the new information Skinner had given her, she changed her game plan for the upcoming sub-committee meeting.

With a heavy sigh, Scully ran her hand through her hair and stood. She turned on her computer and waited for it to boot up. As it did, she thought through her new course of action one more time.

Yes, she concluded, it was the only thing to do. They'd left her no other choice. *He'd* left her no other choice. If he was here now, it would be a whole different ballgame. But he wasn't here, and if she answered the question they would most surely pose tomorrow, there was an overwhelming possibility he'd never return.

She started up her word processing program and began to type out her opening statement.

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

US Capitol Building
Rotunda
9:43 a.m.

Commander Anne Kazmerowski, clad in her finest dark blue dress uniform, signed her name to the visitor's sheet and was given a small badge. Finding her way to the hearing room was not a problem, she'd been there before during her stint with the JAG Corps. On the way, she caught a glimpse of fiery red hair above an immaculate black Armani suit and turned to see Scully talking to a tall, bespeckled bald man. The man stood very close to her with his hands on his hips. He had an erect posture Kaz immediately recognized as military. She remembered Scully's mention of her superior's past in the Marine corps.

<Ten to one that's the boss-man, Walter Skinner,> she thought as she walked by, nodding just slightly to Scully though her face remained stoic and expressionless.

She opened the door to the hearing room and walked in, sitting to the left of the long table set up in front of the raised panel platform. Many of the sub-committee members were already seated up there.

The men rustled papers and spoke whispered to aides, pages, or other underlings as they waited for the hearing to begin.

A few minutes later, Scully and Skinner walked in. Kaz watched as Scully set her briefcase flat on the wooden table before the committee and removed a few papers from inside.

Walter Skinner sat across the room from her, to Scully's right and at another, further table with a microphone in front of the chair. He glanced about the room, surveying the audience. Kaz watched his quick, hard eyes dart among the spectators and assumed he was searching for Fox Mulder.

Kaz herself had absolutely no idea what to expect from this hearing. Originally, she'd assumed it would be based on the matter of the dead man who'd most probably been the courier entrusted with the diplomatic pouch Mulder and Scully had intercepted. However, after hearing about the death of Dr. Bonita Charne-Sayre, she wondered if that might now be the highlight of the investigation.

It was only upon seeing Walter Skinner's hard, almost harried eyes dart around the room that her thoughts re-focused on Mulder. Where the hell was he? Leaving Scully alone to face a Senate Sub-Committee investigation was, to Kaz, a *very* unpartnerlike thing to do.

She quickly averted her gaze as Walter Skinner's eyes focused on her. She watched him watch her out of the corner of her eye as he looked her up and down, taking in her uniformed presence. His eyes narrowed. She was certain the man was wondering what the hell the Navy's interest was in this affair. Wryly, she smiled inside, knowing that whatever conclusion the man came to would most likely be *far* from the actual reality.

As the chairman, Senator Romaine from New Mexico, banged his gavel, Kaz straightened in her seat. People who had milled about found seats and the hearing began.

Romaine surveyed the small crowd in front of him, "We, the Senate Select Sub-Committee on Intelligence and Terrorism, have called this meeting today in order to hear testimony from Special Agents Dana Scully and Fox Mulder, as well as that of Assistant Director Walter Skinner.

"As we all are aware, an international diplomatic incident occurred here in Washington a short number of days ago. We will first hear testimony from Special Agent Dana Scully." His eyes turned to the stone-faced woman who sat a the main table before the panel. "Agent Scully, please stand and be sworn in."

Kaz was one again impressed by the tight rein Dana Scully held on her emotions. The woman could be so stoic, so clinical, and so businesslike it held Kaz in constant awe. She knew that she often went into a mode similar to this while in court or on a case, but Scully's iron will was indomitable.

Scully stood and raised her right hand. Her smooth voice rang out, amplified by the microphone, and as hard as steel.

"I, Dana Katherine Scully, swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; so help me God."

Romaine banged the gavel once, signifying that the oath was acknowledged and binding. Scully sat and pulled her high-backed chair up close to the table.

"I would like to read from a prepared statement," she told the committee.

Kaz watched Scully closely, wishing there was more she could do. She had selected a seat far to the left in order to catch a partial glimpse of Scully's face rather than just her back. The petite yet formidable federal agent took a breath and lifted the small sheaf of papers laying before her.

In a clear, confident voice, Scully began to read: "I left behind a career in medicine to become an FBI Agent four years ago. Because I believed in this country..."

Kaz frowned in her seat. This wasn't the intro they had worked on over pizza and beer two nights ago. She wondered momentarily just when Scully had decided to change it, and why they hadn't discussed it together. It wasn't that Kaz was offended or upset by Scully's decision to re-vamp the speech. She didn't take it personally, but she was concerned by possible changes. Her legal mind fretted over the text of Scully's words, hoping they didn't give the Senators any opening for attack.

"...I still believe in this country, but I believe there are powerful men in this government who do not. Men who have no respect for the law, and who flout it with impunity..."

The Commander's dark eyes widened and her lips parted slightly. She looked up at Senator Sorenson and saw the flash of surprise, then anger in his eyes.

<What the hell is she doing?> Kaz asked herself. <She can't call them out *here*, in public, in the middle of the fucking US Capitol. Oh shit, they're going to have her for breakfast. Jesus wept.>

She closed her eyes, feeling an ache begin to form behind them as Scully continued:

"I have come to the conclusion--"

Chairman Romaine interrupted her, his voice full of gentle reprimand, "Agent Scully--"

Ignoring his words, his very presence, Scully continued, "--that it is no longer possible--"

"This is not a soapbox, Miss Scully. Your statement will be entered into the record," he told her, his voice full of disapproval and patronization.

Laconically, she replied, "With all due respect Mr. Chairman, I would like to finish,"

He cut her off before she could even start up again, "This is not why we are here today, Miss Scully."

Kaz was growing quickly irritated by the way Romaine kept referring to his witness as 'Miss Scully.' It was demeaning and a blatant lack of respect for Scully's professional position within the Bureau.

However, his condescension didn't even faze the tough-as-nails Special Agent Scully, who flipped the question right back at him.

"Then why are we here, sir?"

Kaz stifled a grin. Apparently, Scully had remembered a one of her incessant ramblings and favorite pieces of legal advice: "When in doubt, answer a question with a question."

Scully's question was brushed aside by the impatient 'Scarecrow' Sorenson, a man whose very presence left a bad taste in Kaz's mouth.

"Agent Scully, do you or do you not know the whereabouts of Agent Mulder?"

Kaz watched Scully's head shift in Sorenson's direction, but she did not answer. Sorenson repeated his question rather heatedly, but Scully only wet her lips and looked down at the table in front of her. Kaz judged her expression to be almost sardonic, as though she were amused by the Senator's question.

When Scully looked up, she sat back in her seat and said, "I respectfully refuse to answer that question sir, because--"

Romaine, annoying bastard that he was, interrupted again, "Agent Scully, you cannot refuse to answer that question."

"--because I believe answering that question could endanger Agent Mulder's life," she shot back defiantly.

As much as she admired Scully's resolve and determination, Kaz slumped a little in her seat. Although she could only see a small portion of Scully's face, she could read her companion's voice and body language like a book. And she knew one thing for certain:

Senators or not, these guys weren't going to get that particular piece of information out of Dana Scully.

The Commander also realized that even though Mulder's current whereabouts were a side issue in this affair, the Senators were not going to be happy with their witness's refusal to answer the question.

"...your response is not optional," Romaine told Scully with a furrowed look of disapproval, "you're an agent of the FBI."

Scully immediately picked up her notes again, "Then if I may please finish my statement," she said, them began to read again, "--that it is no longer possible for me to carry out my duties as an FBI agent."

This time, Kaz's jaw dropped. What the fuck was Scully doing? Committing professional suicide? Actually resigning? No. She refused to believe that. Scully had some kind of motive here; some trick up the sleeve of her slim, tailored black suit.

Still, Kaz was getting nervous. She propped an elbow on the arm of her chair and chewed on her thumbnail. The negative repercussions of the actions Scully was taking today could be the end of her career in the Bureau. This could follow her the rest of her life.

All because Fox-fucking-Mulder was some kind of maverick loner who'd left her holding the bag.

She tuned in once more and listened as Scully made her statement:

"--a culture of lawlessness that has prevented me from doing my job. That the real target of this committee's investigation should be the men who are beyond prosecution and punishment. The men whose secret policies are behind the crimes that you are investigating."

Becoming frustrated by his witness's recalcitrance, Sorenson nearly barked at her, "You have a legal obligation to answer the questions posed. Now either you tell us what you know about Agent Mulder's whereabouts, or you'll be held in contempt of Congress."

The Naval Officer stared intently at the calm, composed, unbelievably strong Dana Scully sitting before the Senate Sub-Committed, the let her eyes slip shut. She counted backwards from ten to quell her rising anxiety.

By the time she reached zero, Scully still had not spoken. The senator told her he'd give her one more chance to give them Mulder's location, but Kaz knew it was useless.

Romaine banged the gavel and announced the charge. He concluded, "--to be held against Agent Dana Scully until such time as she divulges answers to questions we are seeking."

Sitting helplessly in her chair, Kaz watched as two guards escorted Scully to a side door and out of the room. It wasn't until Romaine called for a recess ten minutes later that she tore her eyes off the door.

Just a little over two hours ago, they'd been taking a very satisfying mutual shower, one in which Scully had agreed to toss away "the rules." Now, that same woman was being escorted to a holding cell. Scully was going to jail for contempt of Congress. Dumbly, the Commander blinked, still not believing it.

She sat in her chair as others whispered, rose and left the room. Swallowing hard, Kaz felt her head lighten until it was as weightless as a feather. She watched Sorneson rise and leave the hearing room through a back door, then stood on shaky legs.

Steadying herself by touching the back of each chair she passed, Kaz made her way out of the hearing room. She floated back to the verandah, surrendered her badge, retrieved her jacket, and left the Capitol.

Some logical part of her mind told her to go back to the Navy Yard, but she told it to shut the fuck up.

With a dazed expression on her young face, Anne Kazmerowski walked two miles in the blustery cold. When she reached The Bomber she yanked the door open and entered--heading immediately to the bar.

The bartender finished wiping the polished wood and said, "Hello Commander, need a quick cup of coffee this morning?"

She looked up with foggy eyes, noticing the man for the first time, "No James. Chivas on the rocks. A double."

James raised his eyebrows, "Rocking the boat kinda early, aren't you Kaz?" he asked as he pulled a glass from under the counter.

The officer's only response was a shake of the head as she unbuttoned the collar of her uniform and yanked at the ribbon tie.

He set the glass of strong whiskey down in front of her, "What's wrong, Kaz?"

She looked into the glass for a moment before lifting it and completely draining its contents. Setting the glass back down on the counter, she said, "Everything's fucked. And I need a refill."

James furrowed his brow for a moment. Commander Kazmerowski was one of his favorite patrons, one he knew well, and despite the constant epitaphs most of the naval customers used here with uncanny frequency, this was the first time he'd heard Kaz swear. Flipping the bar rag over his shoulder, he reached for the bottle of Chivas.

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

12:53 p.m.

Reaching into her attache case, Kaz pulled out a bottle of Advil and a roll of mints. The Advil was to help her recover from her 'breakfast,' the mints were lunch. She dry swallowed three of the brown pills before popping a mint into her mouth and grinding it between tense jaws.

"Commander Kazer--Kazmerwaski to see Dana Scully."

She stood, ignoring the slip on her name, and followed the guard down a short hallway that led to a large barred passage. They paused until a loud buzzer rang, making Kaz wince slightly. The barred metal doors began to retract. Her female escort led Kaz halfway down the hallway and stopped in front of Room #17.

The guard unlocked the door and pulled it open. Kaz grumbled a thank you and stepped inside, stopping just on the other side of the door. Scully was sitting at a small desk bolted to the wall, fountain pen in hand and with a small notebook in front of her. At Kaz's entry, she looked up.

The door clicked shut behind them, and only then did Scully speak.

"Hello Kaz."

The Commander didn't immediately respond. Scully watched Kaz's dark eyes slowly move across the room, taking in the small desk; the fluorescent lights attached to the wall above it; the spare bunk; the bare, gray walls; and lastly, the cold metal toilet in the corner. Finally, the burnt chocolate eyes resettled on the small, well-dressed woman sitting in the simple chair.

"Nice place you have here Scully," the officer said, her voice laced with sarcasm. "Is this a short stay, or are you considering the option of a six-month lease?"

"Kaz don't," she replied wearily.

"Don't what?" Kaz snapped back, "Don't b-e-e-e...upset because you're in jail? Don't b-e-e-e...angry because you're being held in contempt of Congress? Don't b-e-e-e...concerned by the fact that you're jeopardizing your career?"

"You don't understand," Scully said flatly.

Kaz took a breath and began to pace the small cell, her voice slowly rising and the words coming out with increasing rapidity, "I don't, do I? Really? And I thought I understood perfectly. Your partner took off and decided to throw you to the wolves, so to speak, while he's out finding answers to the mysteries of the universe. Off on his Zen Buddha quest."

"Kaz--" Scully interrupted.

The Commander continued as if she'd never spoken, "He said, 'Here Scully, you go handle those pesky senators while I play fucking boy wonder. I'm sure you can do it, Scully. I have total confidence in you.' Now does that sound like an accurate synopsis of the current situation? Or am *I* the one whose all fucked up on this one?"

Scully looked down at the table in front of her. Kaz's off-hand account was too accurate to admit. The frustration and dismay in her companion's voice tore at her heart as well. Kaz almost never used this type of language, nor had the usually calm, gentle woman spoken to her in this manner in the past.

She looked up at Kaz, who leaned against the far wall with arms crossed over the jacket of her dress blues. "If I tell them what I know, I may never see him again."

Kaz looked into Scully's piercing blue eyes. She saw barely concealed fear in them and knew that fear was genuine. Scully didn't put up her customary iron front when they were together.

When she felt she truly understood the entire picture, she lowered her voice and said, "You don't know where he is, do you?"

Scully's eyes slipped shut and she turned her head away. It was all the answer Kaz needed. The officer pushed herself away from the wall and sat on the bunk. Reaching out, she laid a hand on Scully's arm and gave it a reassuring squeeze.

Scully immediately spun the chair around to face her. The red-head's face was calm, but Kaz saw the panic in her eyes as the words began to pour out in a hushed whisper.

"I have no idea where he is, but if I say that, if I speak it aloud in that hearing room--Mulder could be as good as dead. He's out there alone, unprotected. He could be in New York or Canada or goddamned Greenland for all I know. If I say that, and they find him first--he could disappear forever. I wouldn't even know where to look. Telling them that I don't know his location is *more* dangerous than telling them--that is, if I even had an answer to give them. You see that, don't you Kaz? You understand that, don't you?"

Scully was losing her mask and growing more frantic by the second. Keeping this bottled inside had been killing her, that was plain, even for herself to see. It had been hard enough stonewalling Skinner, maintaining her steadfast composure during his own interrogations; but she couldn't do that to Kaz. The comfort she felt with the dark Italian woman allowed her to lower the drawbridge and let someone inside, even if for only awhile. Keeping this from Kaz had been torture.

However, the perceptive lawyer had seen through her, had solved the mystery that stumped a Senate sub-committee and an Assistant Director of the FBI.

Now, in the small, gloomy cell, Kaz slid her arm down to place her warm hand over Scully's chilly one, "S-h-h-h," she whispered softly, "I understand. I understand. Tell me, Scully--what can I do to help?"

Scully shook her head, "You can't help me, Kaz. It's too dangerous for you. If you're involved, you put yourself at risk."

Kaz locked eyes with her once more, "*Now* who doesn't understand? Your being here," she gestured to the walls around them, "is the same as my being here. I'm not complete without you anymore. My own happiness is dependent on yours. What happens to you happens to me. You need an ally, Scully. You are locked up in a cell with steel-lined walls. To make any progress, to continue any type of investigation, you need help. Let me help you. You know that I can, and you know you can trust me."

Scully thought about that for a long moment. She could let Kaz help in small, innocuous ways. Nothing more. She turned the palm of her hand up to Kaz's and squeezed it gently.

"I need to know more about Dr. Charne-Sayre's work with the Variola virus. If you can get some of her published works on the subject to me, it would be an enormous help. Also, before he left, Mulder told me about another courier carrying something he believed was similar to the contents of our pouch. This courier was detained in Hawaii and three people, including the courier, died under mysterious circumstances. If you can get any information on that..."

Kaz nodded, "No problem. I'll be back later this afternoon."

"Thank you Kaz. And please, be careful. Cover your tracks."

With a reassuring smile that was only skin deep, she replied, "Don't worry, babe. You just take care of yourself in here. I'll be back soon, and when I do, I don't want to hear you singing 'Swing low, sweet chariot' or any other maudlin jailhouse crap like that. Got it?"

The feeble joke brought a small smile to Scully's face, draining a little of the tension out of it. In her current state, she didn't notice that Kaz was putting up all this good cheer solely on her account.

They stood together and Kaz pulled her into a tight embrace, rubbing her hand over Scully's back and lending the small, determined woman as much strength as she could give.

"Thank you, Kaz," Scully whispered in her ear just before they parted.

When they broke away, Kaz still held Scully's hands loosely and gave them a little shake, "Take care of yourself, Sculls." She lowered her silky voice out of habit to whisper, "Remember, I love you."

"How could I forget?" Scully replied, bringing a hand up to touch the side of Kaz's face for a moment.

Reluctantly, Kaz moved away and pressed the buzzer to call the guard. The door was promptly opened.

The tall, sultry officer gave Scully one last little smile before stepping through it and out of the room.

The door slammed shut with a loud bang, but still Scully stared at it, her mind still with Kaz, still picturing the hurt and the distress on her face. She closed her eyes and swallowed the lump that had risen in her throat. She missed her companion already; for she needed Kaz as much as the younger woman needed her. Scully knew her own well-being and happiness was also tied to Kaz's.

And she could tell Kaz was far from happy. Despite the layer of peppermint, Scully had detected a hint of alcohol on the officer's breath as well as the slight red tinge rimming Kaz's eyes.

Saddened, Scully sat on the edge of the spartan bunk and gathered her will. They would surely call her back soon to see if she was ready to co-operate.

Just as she felt she was once again centered, the buzzer outside her door rang and a guard stepped in.

"They're ready for you, Ms. Scully. Please come with me."

She stood, straightened her jacket, and followed the woman out the door.

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

Unknown location Kazakhstan
11:53 p.m. RST (Russian Standard Time)

He said a little prayer of thanks to a deity he claimed not to believe in, but he knew divine intervention was the only possible way he could have convinced the Russian trucker who harbored him *not* to dismember his left arm.

Wrapping himself a little tighter in the old blankets he had been lent, he used what little light that seeped in and glanced about the root cellar. Shelves. Jars. Bags of apples and potatoes. Not much else, but the only place to hide for the night. It was cold and damp, but he was grateful for it.

Tomorrow, he would begin the journey to St. Petersburg, where he could find the embassy and catch a flight back to the States. Numbly, he wondered what was going on there, what Scully was doing, if the Knicks beat Chicago last Thursday...

The thought of that world, that life he led back in America looked heart-breakingly appealing in comparison to the small, dank cabin and the primitive, bone-chilling root cellar that lodged him for this night.

Mulder shivered a little and pulled the blanket tighter, adjusting his head on the burlap sack that made up his pillow.

His mind traveled back over the last couple of days. What had he gotten himself into? Why had he trusted that rat-bastard Krycek? Hell, he should have known better. But for some reason, the discovery of Alex Krycek, alive and well, had pushed a button deep inside him. He'd become utterly obsessed with this new case. He couldn't explain the obsession, the drive, the *need* to seek. All he knew was that when that button inside was pushed, the hunger began...and he was helpless in the face of it. He *had* to follow that hunger and find its source.

And where had that hunger led him this time? Further than he'd previously thought he would go.

Siberia.

Tunguska.

To a slave labor camp where he'd been held prisoner. He could so easily be dead right now...and still, he felt the hunger.

'Black Cancer.' That's what the other inmate had called it. It was the same shit they'd poured on his face and apparently inoculated him against. It was probably an experimental inoculation, and who knew how effective it would be. His mind turned over the possibilities, the potential effects and possible uses of such an organism.

He was unable to come to any definitive conclusions, but the very memory of the test made his body tremble all anew. He shook, not with cold this time, but with revulsion.

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

4:12 p.m.

"Thank you so much Kaz," Scully said, lifting the heavy black garment bag off the taller woman's shoulder.

"Sure," Kaz replied, struggling to sound off-hand and failing miserably. "I thought...well, just in case."

Scully couldn't think of a single thing to say to that. Kaz looked away from her and down at the tile floor as she set her bulging attache case on the table. Both bags had been thoroughly inspected by a rotund, ponytailed guard before they were allowed, but all items had been approved. This was, after all, only a simple lock-up, not a high security prison.

"So what's the deal?" Kaz asked, "They been calling you back?"

Nodding, Scully replied, "Like clockwork. Every two hours until closing time. They ask the same questions, I give the same replies. It's already growing a little tedious."

Kaz forced a convincing grin, "I'm sure you're driving old Sorenson nuts. He probably thinks you're one of those 'uppity women' who doesn't know her rightful place."

Scully was glad to see the reappearance of Kaz's smile, even if it was somewhat put-on. She returned it with one of her own.

"So what's the plan for the weekend? Are they going to meet tomorrow?"

Scully bit her lip for a moment, then said, "Yes. They think that by telling me they're going to meet in a special session instead of sitting in their dens drinking bourbon or playing golf with their buddies will induce sufficient negative pressure to make me speak up."

Kaz gave a long, slow nod at this and willed her face to stay calm and not twist into a pained expression that was instinctive.

"How are you doing?" she asked, sitting on the bunk and patting the space beside her.

The agent took it and truthfully replied, "Nervous, a little frightened, but generally okay. Most of all, I want to find out what's behind all of this."

"Yes," Kaz agreed, scratching her chin a little as she pondered this mess again, "I must admit I was surprised at the quick contempt charge."

Scully looked over at her, frowning, "Why?"

"Well," the lawyer replied, "they slapped it on without getting to the heart of the issue. I knew they'd be upset about your reluctance to divulge Mulder's location, but I thought they'd plow ahead, then come back to Mulder at the end--giving you one more chance before saddling you with that contempt charge. After all, what's this entire inquiry for? I *thought* it was to get info on the pouch."

Scully closed her eyes and let out a long sigh of relief. Someone else was getting it. Was she really surprised to find that person would be Kaz? She let out a slow breath, happy it wasn't just she who was suspicious of this panel's members.

Kaz noticed her change in demeanor and gave the agent a questioning frown that begged an explanation.

"For a while there, I thought I was being as paranoid as Mulder. But I'm not, am I?"

It was a long time before the officer replied, "I'm not saying I approve of this Scully."

Scully's lips drew in for a moment as she fought to keep her emotions under control. When she had them beat, she said, "I know you don't."

"But I'm behind you. My disapproval comes from another source."

The agent nodded, knowing that her lover blamed this whole stinking scenario on her partner, Fox Mulder.

"You *may* have some justification for your paranoia, though," Kaz continued, "I'm still not completely convinced. I was, however, taken aback by how they refused to ask you the questions they claimed to be seeking answers to."

A slow smile spread over Scully's face as she reached over and touched Kaz's hand for a brief moment. "This lawyer-friend I have, she's given me one certain piece of advice about, oh--ten thousand times."

Kaz fought back the electric chill that ran up her arm at Scully's fleeting touch. She concentrated on her companion's words, running them through her mind a few times before realizing Scully was talking about her.

"What particular piece of legalese would that be?"

"When lawyers ask the wrong questions..." she began.

"They don't want the right answers," Kaz finished, her smile wide and genuine this time. "I never knew you were listening."

"I'm always listening, Kaz."

Their eyes met and shared mutual warmth and depth of feelings once more. It quickly grew too powerful for Congressional lock-up. Kaz stood abruptly, needing to break the contact before she did something she shouldn't.

"I've--uh...I brought you some stuff on Dr. Charne-Sayre. I think it should keep you plenty busy. I only scanned the stuff myself, and a lot of the jargon went way over my head, but here it is." She opened her case and pulled out two thick handfuls of medical journals and professional monographs.

Scully joined her at the table, peering past the tall woman's elbow to peruse the materials. She leaned over, coming so close she detected the light, pleasant smell of Kaz's unique blend of scents. They made her head spin just a little, throwing her senses off-balance. Wisely, she backed off and circled to the other side of the desk before flipping through the materials.

Kaz watched Scully's face melt into the cool, professional mask of an FBI agent. She tried to stay as calm and clinical as the tiny redhead did, tried to focus on the papers in front of them, but it was impossible.

She swallowed and her eyes, of their own accord, began to roam across the spare contents of the room once again.

After a few minutes, Scully noticed her silence and growing unease. She looked up to see the officer's large brown eyes lose the air of duty and professionalism. Kaz's sturdy, powerful shoulders began to sag as she stared at the metal john in the corner. Scully watched the intimidating presence of Commander Kazmerowski fade until she simply became a distraught woman in a dark blue uniform. For a moment, the tall, confident Italian was a child lost in a large department store, overwhelmed by the sudden change of circumstances.

Scully saw the face she had long-ago memorized soften with sadness, Kaz's chin quivered momentarily, and the officer turned away from her, leaning heavily against the small wooden table for a moment.

When Kaz turned back to her, she was once again The Commander; posture erect, shoulders back, head up. It was as though she had never lapsed.

Her voice was clear and steady as she spoke, "Unfortunately, I was stonewalled at the State Department trying to get more info on the situation in Hawaii. No one wants to speak until they fully understand the incident themselves."

"I expected as much, thanks for trying."

Kaz shrugged and paged through the journals with Scully. She stayed there, reading an esoteric article and trying her best to help decipher the medical terminology, but mostly just wanting to spend as much time as she could with Scully.

After about twenty minutes of quiet concentration in which Kaz simply reveled in the knowledge that Scully was by her side, the inevitable buzzer rang, startling them both. A guard opened the cell door and stoically waited for Kaz.

Both women stood, and Kaz stepped up to give Scully a reassuring hug.

"Hang in there, Sculls. I'll be back before you know it."

Scully nodded, staying as strong as ever, and said her good-byes. Once again, she watched Kaz's tall, lean form exit the room. Only after the door shut did she allow herself a single tear. She let is slide down her face unheeded and felt it drip off her cheek down to the floor.

Turning back to the journals, she picked up one of the three highlighters Kaz had left. Rolling it between her fingers, she felt small indentations near the top. Bite marks. In her mind she pictured a scene from their life together; a memory of Kaz sitting up in bed wearing a t-shirt and boxer shorts, as she did every night. The silver glasses sat on her lovely light brown face as she read through a brief and chewed pensively on the top of just such a pen.

The memory brought the threat of more tears, but she refused to let them fall. She bit them back and picked up a monograph entitled 'Variola Viruses.' Rubbing her thumb lightly over the chew-marks on the pen, she began to read.

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

Kaz looked up the darkening hallway as she and her escort walked away from Dana Scully and closer to the free world. The clicking echo of their footsteps was the only noise in the hall until the metal doors far ahead of them retracted and another female guard escorted Walter Skinner through them.

She lowered her gaze as he passed, but felt his eyes on her. Just when she thought he was going to let the opportunity go by, she detected the absence of his clicking heels and heard a deep, surly male voice ring out in the hallway.

"Excuse me, ma'am," he said loudly to get her attention. "Can I ask you a question?"

Kaz stopped, gripped her attache case a little tighter, and turned around. She took a few steps back in his direction, letting him cover the rest of the distance himself. Their escorts watched impassively.

Once Skinner got up close, he looked Kaz over for a moment, assessing her, taking in her rank, position, and the designations on her three impressive rows of honor bars. Her posture was erect, her shoulders straight, her noble chin up as she was inspected.

"I'm sorry to bother you, Commander," he said, his intent gaze meeting her own, "but I noticed you in the courtroom this morning."

"Yes," Kaz replied, a half-question.

She was going to make him ask, so he complied, "What was your business with the court, Commander? I wasn't aware of any Navy involvement in this matter."

Deciding a half-truth was better than an outright lie, she told him, "Agent Scully is a personal friend as well as a colleague. I'm Anne Kazmerowski," she held out her hand, "with the JAG Corps. I worked with your agents a few weeks back."

Skinner took her hand and gave it a hearty shake until the instant he saw a wrinkle of pain flash in the woman's dark eyes. He quickly released it, realizing it was more fragile than the rest of her.

"I'm Walter Skinner, Assistant Director at the Bureau."

"I'm aware of who you are, sir," said Kaz with a nod.

"Kazmerowski, you said? The Quantico investigation, yes?"

She nodded again.

"Are you assigned to investigate this matter as well, Commander?"

"No, sir. My only involvement is on a personal level. I am concerned for you agents, Mr. Skinner, just as you are." <Perhaps even more so,> she thought to herself.

He inhaled slowly and deeply. Kaz watched the man's nostrils flare as he placed his hands on his hips and expelled the long breath. She could tell the man still had his doubts, but wasn't in the mood to justify her presence to him. He had no reason to suspect her true involvement with Dana Scully, and she figured the less she said to this man, the better.

"I must leave now, Mr. Skinner. It was nice to meet you."

She nodded to him and resumed her journey down the hall, not looking back.

Skinner stood in the hallway, hands still on his hips, watching her broad-shouldered back as it receded from view. He wondered just how strong the Naval Officer's 'personal involvement' with his agents was; for the woman had a hell of a lot of balls showing up at a Senate Sub-Committee investigation the way she had and standing behind an agent charged with contempt of Congress.

He made a mental note to check the log books periodically to see just how many times Commander Kazmerowski visited Dana Scully over the course of this ordeal.

With that thought, he turned and followed the guard to cell #17, where his most dedicated, determined, and loyal agent was being held.

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

Anne Kazmerowski's House
6:45 p.m.

Kaz walked through her front door, took a deep breath, and let out a long, frustrated growl. She tossed her attache case on the couch and took off her jacket. Yanking the boxy hat off her head, she stared at it for a moment, then reared back ant threw it as hard as she could against the far wall.

She ran up the stairs as she unbuttoned her immaculate navy blue jacket and tore it off, throwing it roughly on the bed. She stepped out of her shoes and kicked them across the hardwood floor, wishing this little tantrum would ease her tension instead of making is so much worse. The angry process of undressing and redressing continued until she stood in a pair of gray sweats and an old baseball hat. She tied her running shoes tight with tense, shaky fingers and stomped down the stairs.

Momentarily, she thought of Brandy, but shook her head. This run needed to be solo, and it needed to be very, very long.

She tossed on a bright orange and yellow reflective vest, figuring this *would* be the night she'd be run down by a fucking car, and slammed the front door behind her. Once off the porch, she broke into a sprint that didn't slow much until she neared the Capitol Building, nearly three miles from her home.

When she reached its steps, she stopped and climbed the first few, panting and aching from her exertion. Still, the anger, the frustration, and the impotent, helpless feeling stayed with her. The place was nearly deserted on a Friday night, but the building was brightly lit for its nightly display. Somewhere deep inside this building sat Dana Scully.

It wasn't fair. It wasn't right. Scully shouldn't be here. She should be home, with her, making dinner, sipping wine, laughing and joking as they bantered back and forth. Scully should be rubbing her shoulder or touching her arm as she passed by on her way through the room. Scully should be sleeping with her tonight, not on that thin, nasty, bug-infested mattress in Congressional lock-up.

Scully was putting her career on the line, giving up the job she admittedly loved in order to protect a partner who didn't even extend her common professional courtesies. He left her dangling on the line, walking a dangerous tightrope that could very well cost Scully her job and her livelihood. In Kaz's mind, it was an unforgivable sin.

Looking up at the ornate front doors, Kaz reached up and pulled the baseball cap off her head. Her lungs were on fire, her breath came in ragged gasps. She twisted the cap in her hands, trying to wring something unattainable out of it.

She looked up at the Capitol's dome, teeth clenched tightly together, "Fuck you, Fox Mulder," she spat through them, the emotions finally bursting inside her.

Her vision clouded and the lights of the Capitol melted together as tears filled her eyes. Kaz dropped to her knees on the hard concrete steps, sat down on one, and covered her face with her hands. The sobs tore out of her raw, aching throat. Her body shook with both physical and emotional pain as she set her head on her knees and cried for her friend and lover, the most important person in her life: Dana Scully.

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

Congressional Lock-Up
Cell #17
9:45 p.m.

It had been a very long day for Scully. After waking early, agonizing over what course of action to take at dawn, staving off angry Senators all day, and pouring over the reams of information for the last five hours, she was utterly exhausted.

Scully stretched her arms out in front of her a little, feeling subconsciously claustrophobic inside the small cell. She turned to the bunk and unzipped the garment bag, only now looking through its contents. Intentionally, she'd faced away from the bag all evening. Its presence only reminded her of the unhappy person who'd brought it; of the evening she could be spending, making that person much happier; and of the life she and Kaz were attempting to build together.

Was she jeopardizing that life by following this course of action? Certainly she was. Could she have changed a single one of her decisions? Definitely not. In her mind, there had been no decision to make. Given the course of events, there was only one thing for her to do, and it was this.

Mulder was her partner...her friend. Yes, he'd gone away (again) without a word, without a trace. That meant nothing. He was Mulder. That was what he did. No, it was not nice. No, it was not "partnerly." But it was Mulder.

Still, the memory of Kaz's face as she momentarily lost her composure this afternoon...it was almost too much for Scully to bear. She knew Kaz was going insane with worry, with concern for her present and her future. Her heart quaked, knowing what this was doing to her companion, her lover--as well as to herself.

She brought out the burgundy suit Kaz had packed inside the bag and smiled. It was one of their mutual favorites, and she'd wear it tomorrow during the special Congressional session. Hanging it on a large metal peg protruding from the wall, she went back to the bag and unpacked the rest of the items inside. Toiletries, pumps, hose, blouse...

As she brought out each item of clothing, she held it to her nose and inhaled deeply. Yes, it was there, but very faint. The scent of the cozy house in Georgetown had seeped into the silky material of her wardrobe. Kaz's little house had its own unique aroma, one that soothed and comforted Scully. It was a mixture of oil-based paints, fresh garlic, the peach potpourri Kaz sprinkled in bowls throughout the place, and homemade bread, which they made together weekly.

She drew her lips tightly together, trying to hold back the sudden threat of tears as she removed her suit jacket and unbuttoned her blouse. She reached back into the bag, unzipping a small compartment where she always packed her bedclothes. Kaz knew this, as she knew everything about Scully, and had inside it had put an oversized Cal t-shirt and...a pair of US Navy boxer shorts.

The kind they always wore. Together. At home.

Scully's deep blue eyes slipped shut as a tear rolled down her cheek. She finished undressing and put on the t-shirt and shorts, then sat down heavily next to the bag. Another tear fell, she wiped it roughly away, angry at her emotional state.

She could face angry Senators; surly, intimidating ADs; and twisted serial killers without batting an eye, but the thought of a sad and upset Anne Kazmerowski brought her whole world crashing down. Her head dropped into her hands, and she fought back tears once again and made a frustrated growling noise deep in the back of her throat. Reaching out, she swiped at the garment bag, sending it to the floor with a dull thud.

At that, she paused, her flash of temper gone as quickly as it had come. The thud. What was that? Scully lifted her head and glanced down at the bag again. There was another small zippered pouch in the back of it. She saw the outline of a flatish, rectangular shape beneath the vinyl.

Bending forward, she opened the pouch and drew out a small, leather-bound book. It was soft and smelled faintly of pipe-tobacco. The aroma instantly told her what it was.

Ahab's journal. The one her mother had given to Kaz at Christmas. She's seen Kaz tuck it under the bed often as she herself was crawling in. On these occasions, Kaz would cap her pen and close this old, worn log book. Then the young, energetic lawyer would pull off her silver glasses, grin like a beautiful fool, and crawl into Scully's waiting arms.

And here it was. The leather-bound Captain's journal. Scully fanned the pages, searching for whatever message Kaz had intended. Near the front of the book , she found a folded note on light blue paper. With an unsteady hand, she plucked it from the pages and clutched it tight.

She made herself wait for a count of ten before unfolding the delicate paper. When she did, there lay Kaz's neat, precise, all-capital script.

"Dana--" the note began, and this very opening wrenched her heart, for Kaz rarely used her first name. She reserved it for times of high emotion or tender confidences. As Scully read the words her love had written, she heard Kaz's sweet voice speaking them in her mind.

     Dana--

     You know that you are precious to me. You are my
     one and only love. I love you with all my heart,
     all my soul, and with every fiber in my body.
     It is only to you that I so willingly surrender these
     things.
     
     This is a difficult time for you. I know that, and
     I understand the reasoning behind your actions.
     Your determined resolve, your dedication, and the
     pureness of your heart are the very qualities that
     define you. They make you who you are, and they
     comprise a part of the infinite reasons why my heart
     belongs in your hands.

     I stand firmly behind you in your strong convictions,
     Scully. Please know this, and do not fear for me. My
     only regret is that I can only stand by and watch,
     virtually powerless in this battle.

     I realize my actions have left you puzzled, unsure, and
     have hurt you. For this, I sincerely apologize. I would
     never want to hurt you Scully, for you mean everything
     to me. It was only my fear for you that led me to these
     thoughtless actions.

     As you sleep tonight, put your mind at ease. Please, do
     not worry over me. Sleep well, sleep deeply, and remember
     that I am always near to you, in spirit if not in body.

     Tomorrow, when you awaken refreshed and ready to stand
     firm once more, I will be there, with all of my love
     and support behind you. I belong only to you, and for
     you, I will go to the ends of the earth. You are, and
     always will be, my Scully.

     Love,
     Annie K.

Scully let out a long, shuddering breath as she wiped at the tears that now flowed freely, blurring the page in front of her.

<Remember that I am always near to you, in spirit...>

<I belong only to you...>

<You are, and always will be, my Scully...>

A sob tore out of her throat, followed by a torrent of them. She brought the note to her chest and clutched it there as her body shook and her features twisted. She curled up on the bed, brought her knees up into a fetal position, and cried until there were no tears left in her small body. The thin penitentiary pillow soaked them up. She rubbed her wet face against the scratchy material, wishing it were Kaz's soft chest. The dark, windowless cell surrounded her, swallowed her whole.

Although the tears were gone, she still shook from fear and from loss. She was alone here, without Kaz and without Mulder, the two most exceptional people she had ever known. She longed for the presence of one of them, if not both, and cried herself to sleep with the image of them both in her mind.

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

Anne Kazmerowski's House
10:39 p.m.

Kaz poured herself another glass of Chivas. The ice in the crystal highball glass had melted long ago, but she didn't mind. She was too numb to care.

Brandy's large head lay in her lap. She idly scratched the dog's ears as she stared at the fuzzy images on the television screen. She'd forgotten where her glasses were, and by now was apathetic about their location. The tired young woman was apathetic about pretty much everything right now. Alcohol deadened the world, or had the world deadened her? The question floated up through the thick haze surrounding her brain, but she didn't have the energy to answer it, and so it drifted away.

Expressionlessly, she looked on as Lucy and Ethyl stomped with bare feet in big wooden barrels or sour grapes. The laugh track told her that this little escapade should be particularly hilarious, but Kaz saw nothing even remotely amusing in the scene. In fact, she was so far gone she barely recognized the familiar figures on the screen.

She picked up the remote control and flipped to C-SPAN, her favorite channel. It usually held her in rapt awe, but tonight, it made her shoulders slump even further in defeat.

Scully ribbed her constantly about watching hours and hours of C-SPAN. About how she critiqued Trent Lott's ties and commented on the condition of Paul Wellstone's balding pate. Now, the channel only succeeded in reminding her of the Sub-Committee meeting she herself had attended just this morning. She flipped the television off and contemplated chucking the remote at it really hard--but she didn't even have the energy for anger.

She was hopelessly drunk and glad of it. Sobriety only made it hurt that much worse.

In slow increments, Kaz remembered the note she'd written to Scully this afternoon. She'd meant every word she wrote. She did love Scully, loved her more than she'd thought it was possible to love somebody.

Kaz was sorry for how she'd acted earlier, for her harsh words and foul language. She'd never spoken to Scully that way before, the dulled memory of her tone and words broke through the wall of alcohol and drove a dagger into her heart, twisting painfully.

She told the truth when she said she would stand behind Scully. She loved and respected the tough federal agent too much not to stand with her.

But that didn't mean she was any happier with the situation. Mulder was still an asshole, leaving the way he had. Scully was still in lock-up. And the case was still unresolved. How long would Scully stay in jail for Mulder?

Even though she was terribly drunk, she instinctively knew the answer. Forever. Scully would stay in jail until Mulder came back, or his body surfaced. That could be days, weeks, months, or years.

Kaz moved her hand down to scratch Brandy's ribs and chest. The dog whimpered contentedly and shifted to give her better access. She reached for her glass again and took a long swallow, draining half its contents. When she lowered it, Kaz knew what she had to do.

There was only one lead on this case, one lead she hadn't followed. And she hadn't followed it for one reason and one reason only. Scully had asked her not to.

But that had been before the hearing, before the contempt charge, before Mulder had been missing for three days.

Kaz lifted Brandy's head and staggered to her feet. It took her a full five minutes to fumble around until she found her attache case, and another five to focus on the words typed on pages and briefs until she found what she was looking for.

Brandy was by her side, looking quizzically at her with large, sad eyes.

"It's okay, Brandy kid," she said, reaching down to pat the dog. She stumbled a little and shook her head to clear it. It spun dangerously, which irritated her now that she had a plan of action. She debated following this course of action--or staying drunk for at least three days.

"Fuck that," she mumbled, and sat down heavily on the floor, leaning against the dog's flank. Brandy faithfully supported her as she read the words on the small sheaf of papers.

"Here it is, baby," Kaz told her with a little slur. "This is what we're going to do. Tomorrow morning, pup. Right after Scully tells 'em to go to hell again. We're gonna pay a little visit to this UN bitch, okay?"

She held the handful of papers in front of Brandy's nose, as if the dog could read all about the Special Representative to the Secretary General, a woman named Marita Covarrubias.

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

US Capitol Building
Rotunda
Saturday, Feb. 8
9:51 a.m.

Kaz squeezed her eyes shut and popped them open again, as if she could will the redness, the bloody streaks that ran through them away. She pulled her crisp blue jacket down, hoping against hope she looked about a hundred times better than she felt. Her head throbbed and her tongue was a thick, dry lump inside her mouth. Her throat ached for more water, and she stopped at the fountain to temporarily quench it before pulling open the heavy doors to the hearing room.

As she walked in, she noticed the pronounced lack of an audience in comparison to yesterday's crowd.

<Looks like they know as well as I do that "Iron Jaw Scully" ain't gonna talk.>

She selected a seat near where she'd sat yesterday and closed her eyes, gathering herself for Scully's entrance. She wanted to look cool, strong and composed for her.

"Commander--" a loud, deep voice boomed not far from her right ear.

She winced painfully as her head split in two, caught herself, and opened her thick eyes to see Walter Skinner sitting beside her.

"Er, uh--Mr. Skinner. Nice to see you again. Wish the circumstances were different."

"Likewise," he said in a much lower voice that was music to Kaz's pulsating ears. "You've chosen an interesting way to spend your Saturday, Commander. Or is this your standard weekend entertainment?"

Kaz ground her teeth together for an instant, not in the mood to tap dance with this man. "Actually sir, I enjoy seeing my friends brought up on contempt of Congress charges," she spat sarcastically, "Watching them squirm in front of a Senate Sub-Committee is one of my favorite things."

Ignoring her sub-message, which was 'go away,' he brusquely continued, speaking quietly through clenched teeth, "You're a mystery to me, Commander. Pardon me for wanting to know just what piece in this particular puzzle you represent."

"I understand you curiosity, Mr. Skinner. All I can do is reassure you that I don't fit into this puzzle at all. I am merely a spectator in a court of law today."

He read the slightly regretful note in her voice, which told him that a part of her wished she did fit into the puzzle, "So exactly why *are* you here?"

The conversation was growing quite irritating to Kaz. She wanted to end it as soon as possible, but knew she was stuck for the moment.

"I told you yesterday. I'm a personal friend as well as occasional colleague."

Staring her straight in the eye, Skinner replied, "It's a very good friend who shows up in full dress uniform to stand behind someone charged with this particular crime. Just how good of a friend are you, Commander Kazmerowski?"

Unblinking, Kaz glared back at him, "Stop playing games, Skinner. What are you trying to say?"

"I'm asking if you're in on their little game--"

"Who's game?"

"Mulder and Scully's. Where is Agent Mulder, Commander? I think you know."

"I don't," she said flatly, yet with heated intensity.

"I think you do," he reaffirmed, squinting hard at her. "I think both you and Scully know. And since you're the one who doesn't want to play games, I'll tell you why."

Kaz didn't need this, not now...not with Scully in jail, with the hangover from hell, and with the five hour drive she had ahead of her. If she had been in a better frame of mind she would have played it differently. However, she was blind right now, clutching at anything she could grab hold of that would help her friend.

And she was pissed off by Walter Skinner's surly, know-it-all attitude.

"Fine," she said quietly and quickly, "Tell me why. Give me your sound, logical, oh-so-certain-to-be-true reason why I know."

Skinner sat back in his chair, suddenly much more relaxed. A grim smile crossed his large face, "Because you're 'involved' with one of my agents."

Kaz fought to keep any semblance of reaction out of her face. She thought she twitched just a little, but prayed she hadn't. There was only one way to play it now.

"Oh really?"

He nodded, "Yes really. Just how long have you been sleeping with Agent Mulder?"

A loud snort escaped through her nose, out before she even realized it. Hell, it made sense. An ironic kind of twisted sense, but sense nonetheless.

"That's right, Skinner," she said calmly, a small, not-quite-mocking smile playing across her lips. "I'm sleeping with Mulder. We've been carrying on a torrid, clandestine affair for months now, and he's told me everything. He talks in his sleep, you know, after I've screwed his brains out. And I'm there, with pen and paper, dutifully jotting down every word he says."

"Now who's playing games, Commander?"

"Not I."

"And I'm expected to believe that?"

Kaz opened her mouth to speak again, but was interrupted by the loud clang of the side door opening. Both she and Skinner looked up to see two bailiffs escorting Dana Scully into the room.

Skinner stood, but turned back to her, "We're not finished with this conversation."

Kaz held his eyes, narrowed her own, "Yes. We are. Goodbye, Mr. Skinner."

He wanted to reply, wanted to get the last work in, but Scully was nearing the front table. He turned his back to the Navy lawyer and crossed the room to his seat.

Kaz watched Scully prepare herself for what surely was to be a very short session. The immaculate red-haired agent showed no sign that she's spent the better half of the last twenty-four hours in jail. Kaz was amazed by Scully's poise (as she always was). Scully calmly set her briefcase on the main table before the panel, opened it, and pulled a legal pad out of it along with a few of the medical journals Kaz had brought to her yesterday. After that, she chanced a quick glance in Kaz's direction.

The officer sat straight in her chair as Scully's blue eyes settled on her. She gave only a small nod and the ghost of a smile. It was all she could be allowed with Skinner watching them like a hawk. However, the message seemed to be sufficient, for the edges of Scully's lips turned up into the smallest of smiles.

The gavel banged and the session began. Scully sat primly in her seat and laced her fingers together on top of the table, ready for the routine to begin.

Romaine didn't even bother with the preliminaries, he leaned forward and said, "Miss Scully, you've been given adequate time to consider compliance with our investigation. Do you wish to do so at this time?"

She leaned forward just a touch, "I will comply with any questions you have regarding the matter of the recovered diplomatic pouch."

Sorenson's face was already deep red as he nearly shouted into his microphone, "You will comply with any questions we ask you, Agent Scully!"

Scully said nothing, only regarded him flatly. Kaz covered a grin with her right hand, pretending to cough. Even though she detested these proceedings, she loved the way Scully got under Scarecrow Sorenson's skin.

Senator Romaine intervened, "Agent Scully," he began, "we created this special session, came in on a Saturday morning, rearranged our schedules, and broke away from family obligations in order to be here. In order to make headway on this investigation. It is that vital, that important to us."

"Then why don't you ask me *about* the investigation, Senator?" Scully replied, unflappably calm in her high-backed chair.

Ignoring her question, Romaine continued, "Where is Agent Mulder?"

Nothing.

"I'll ask you again, Miss Scully," Romaine said in that irritatingly condescending voice that made Kaz dig her fingernails into the arms of her chair. "Where is your partner? Why is he not here?"

The silence in the courtroom stretched for a full ten seconds. Finally, Romaine sighed, shook his head, and picked up his favorite prop, his wooden gavel. He rapped it sharply against its striker.

"The charge of contempt of Congress lobbied against Special Agent Dana Scully stands. Please rise, Miss Scully, and be escorted out of the courtroom."

Kaz took a deep breath and slowly let it out. She was a little deflated, though she could not consciously pinpoint the reason why. Has she really expected things to go differently? Perhaps subconsciously, she had. She watched numbly as the bailiffs marched Scully toward the side door> Her brown eyes beheld Scully's small, proud back and straight shoulders.

<Here is a woman with the strength of ten men,> she thought, proud yet saddened at the prolonged separation. She tried not to envision the drab, depressing cell deep in the depths of this building, the cell that had become Scully's temporary (she prayed) home.

Stiffly, she stood as the door shut behind Scully's flanked form, thinking of nothing except a visit to her imprisoned companion. As she approached the heavy wooden courtroom doors, she was abruptly cut off by the imposing figure of Walter Skinner.

"Leaving already Commander?" he asked, his voice laced with heavy sarcasm.

"Yes," she replied curtly, "I have to feed my dog. If you'll excuse me, sir."

She attempted to walk by, but he moved with her, once again blocking her exit.

It was a stand-off, each of them bearing identical expressions of determined resistance to the other.

"What do you want from me, Skinner?" Kaz asked with weary exasperation.

"Where is Mulder?"

Kaz was greatly tempted to tell the man to go fuck himself, but held her hangover induced irritability in check. In a low tone, she said, "That's what I'm trying to find out."

"You know," he whispered back.

People were beginning to stream by them and out the doors. They stepped aside as Kaz replied, "We're back to that, are we? You're starting to bore me with your redundancy. Your agent asked me for a professional favor, and I, being a friend, simply complied. I'm trying my best to unofficially help Agent Scully and Agent Mulder."

Skinner made a big show of looking over her uniform, "Unofficially, eh? I hate to tell you this, Commander, but you look pretty damn official to me."

Kaz's eyes narrowed, "You know I'm required to wear my uniform in court, even if I'm not involved in the trial. I risk disciplinary repercussions if I do not. However, Mr. Skinner, I am well-recognized in this courtroom. Coming here out of uniform would be far more suspicious as well as completely pointless. I cannot hide in anonymity in this courtroom, sir."

He chewed on that for a moment as she looked impatiently at her watch.

"It doesn't matter whether you believe me or not, Mr. Skinner," she told him with finality as she prepared to move on. "Ultimately, we're after the same thing. We both want this to end; we both want Scully free; and we both want Mulder to turn up alive and well. If you'll excuse me, I need to do what I can to help bring us to those ends."

She swiftly sidestepped Skinner and breezed by him, touching him briefly on the upper arm as she passed, a gesture he interpreted as a reassurance she was, indeed, an ally.

He turned and watched her shapely retreating form as she strode away, her hips gliding easily, her toned calves hinting at the condition of the body beneath the blue uniform.

<Fox Mulder is a very lucky man,> he thought. <Smart and sexy...what a combo. I guess a woman like that could take a man's mind off of aliens and government conspiracies for a little while. Even a mind like Mulder's>

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

Cell #17
10:33 a.m.

The minute the door closed behind Kaz, Scully was in her arms, pulling her down by the neck so that they were cheek-to-cheek.

Into her ear, Scully whispered, "I miss you Kaz...I'm so glad you're here."

Kaz had a hard time equating the same woman she'd seen stoically staring down a Congressional Sub-Committee with the one who was now squeezing her for all she was worth. The rugged determination Dana Scully applied to her professional life was amazing, even to Kaz, who had a definite professional persona herself. And yet it was *this* Scully, this warm, loving, sensitive Scully that she had initially fallen in love with. The private and professional Scullys were but two halves of this same wonderful woman, this woman who constantly astounded and amazed her.

"How are you?" she asked quietly, not breaking the embrace.

Scully nodded beside her head, "I'm fine."

Kaz read the subtle anxiety in her voice that belied the words, but said nothing, knowing that Scully was determined to maintain her composure.

Remembering the surveillance camera in the corner of the ceiling, Scully reluctantly pulled away, but reached for Kaz's hands and held them loosely, something that might only be interpreted as a friendly, consolatory gesture.

However, the pressure of Kaz's soft, warm hands against her own sent pleasant chills all through her. Kaz was a living, breathing balm to her frazzled nerves, one that soothed her as well as lit a passionate fire deep in her soul.

They sat together on the neatly-made cot and talked of different things. Kaz let Scully lead the conversation. The agent asked how she was doing, inquired after Brandy, asked what she'd eaten for dinner the night before (which led to a small lie on Kaz's part. The officer wasn't about to let Scully know she'd consumed nothing but a half-bottle of Chivas last night).

Scully wanted to make small talk, and Kaz readily complied, knowing that her small, beautiful companion needed to forget these surroundings for the moment and speak of the life she had before all of this.

The life they both prayed she'd be living again very soon.

Kaz droned on and on about little things she cared absolutely nothing about right now, yet made them sound fascinating for Scully's sake. She told a few stories of things that had happened at the Yard over the past week, smoothly trying to evoke a smile from her imprisoned companion. She succeeded more than once, and every bit of cheerfulness she brought forth from Scully warmed her heart immensely.

As for Scully, she didn't care what the tall Italian woman said, she only wanted to hear the sound of Kaz's gentle, reassuring voice. It calmed and reassured her like nothing else did. She sat beside Kaz, feeling her warmth, wanting to reach out, take her hand, pull her close--but not daring to.

When the buzzer that signaled the end of their allotted time rang, Kaz could see the change in Scully's demeanor. Much of the tension had drained from her face, neck, and shoulders. Her chin was once again tilted up instead of being cast down toward the stone floor. Her eyes sparkled with love instead of anxiety and fear.

They stood and embraced once more; a long, supportive gesture filled with suppressed emotions and tender wishes. Kaz stroked Scully's fiery auburn hair once, twice, then made herself break away.

She made a grin appear as she said, "Take care of yourself, Red. I'll be back before you know I'm gone."

They both knew that was far from the truth, that the moment the door clanged shut behind the officer, an aching chasm would separate them. Still, Scully smiled wanly and ran her fingers over the blue sleeve of her lover's uniform.

"Good-bye, Kaz."

"Good-bye...for now." She bent in closer once more, "I love you, Dana Scully."

Holding back a flood of tears, Kaz picked up her coat and hat and left the room.

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

Lincoln Tunnel
New York City
4:03 p.m.

Kaz checked her map once again, eyes darting between the road ahead and the city map in her hand. The fucking Upper West Side had to be around here somewhere. Why couldn't New York make sense, like West Coast cities did? The East drove her nuts in that way.

Frustrated and irritable from her long trip as well as the current state of general affairs in their life, Kaz tossed the map into the passenger seat and cursed it like the Navy girl she was.

She had taken Scully's car, knowing the Taurus was less conspicuous than her Mustang, and knowing she wouldn't be identified as easily in it. Since the car's owner was sitting her fine ass in Congressional lock-up right now, a simple license plate check wouldn't give her away.

Reaching into the pocket of her black leather jacket, Kaz pulled out a roll of Tums. She flipped one into her mouth and slowly crunched it between her teeth, then washed it down with a warm swig of orange juice.

Following her instincts, she pulled the car over and looked at the surrounding buildings. There it was. Right in front of her. What karma.

She ran a hand through her hair, took a deep breath, and exited the vehicle, ready to get to the bottom of this fiasco.

*****

The blonde woman parted the curtains and peered outside. The day was clear and sunny, yet brisk. She considered taking a walk in the park to clear her mind.

It was all getting to be too much. How could they expect her to keep giving more and more? But they did. It was as simple as that.

They took your soul and squeezed it dry, wrung every drop of humanity out of it, and tossed it back to you--an empty shell.

On days like today she felt particularly empty. Used. Abused. Left drifting in the breeze.

Still gazing numbly out the window, she saw a blue car pull up in front of the building. A provocative-looking young woman dressed in jeans, a white t-shirt, and a black leather jacket stepped out. Small, dark sunglasses sat on her face and black boots covered her feet. She was an attractive woman with a serious look on her olive-toned face.

Marita watched the woman turn toward the building and run a hand through her thick, dark hair to pull it off her face. She frowned at the sight of her, thinking the tall, dark young woman looked somewhat familiar. Then she shook her head, dismissing the idea. There were plenty of Italian girls in the city, ones who came up from Jersey on weekends to panhandle from well-off relatives.

She closed the curtain and attempted to forgot about the mysterious woman. It worked for about thirty seconds, after which she heard a sharp rapping on her door. Although Marita knew it was her, she peered through the peephole to take a better look.

The woman stood impatiently in the hallway, the dark glasses gone so that Marita could see her entire face. Dark, stormy brown eyes held barely restrained fire, and Marita knew this was one pissed off lady. The woman reached out and knocked louder and longer this time, clearly agitated. A tense voice accompanied the knock:

"I know you're in there. I saw you at the window. Listen, I just want to talk to you."

Marita took a deep breath and closed her eyes, gathering herself for this strange, unexpected encounter. What could the girl want? Whatever it was, she was determined to get it. Checking the door chain to make sure it was firmly attached, she twisted the handle and opened it the allotted six inches.

"What do you want?"

*****

The voice that met her held a strange sibilance that immediately grated on Kaz's ears. She looked into the eyes of Marita Covarrubias, a small, slight woman who stood on the other side of the door. The blonde was taller than Scully, but with far less presence than the federal agent. While Scully's small form was confident, impressive, and imposing, Covarrubias's was frightened, wary, and shrinking.

Kaz used this to her advantage. She kept the sharp edge in her voice.

"I want some information on Fox Mulder. I know he came to see you about three days ago."

The eyes darted around the hallway in which Kaz stood before resettling on her, "You have the wrong apartment, Miss. I don't know anyone by that name."

"Sure you do," Kaz said with cocky self-assurance. "And you're going to tell me where he is."

"Look miss," Covarrubias replied, drawing out the "s" on miss until Kaz wanted to reach into the space between the door and the frame and slap her silly, "I don't know you, I don't know anyone named Mulder, and I'd like you to leave."

Kaz's deep eyes bored into the blonde's. She let the silence stretch as she wordlessly intimidated the woman.

Marita swallowed. Opened her mouth. Snapped it shut. Her eyes darted up and down Kaz's body, as if assessing how dangerous her visitor was.

She had no idea.

Kaz walked up close to the space between them and lowered her voice, "I'll say this one more time, Ms. Covarrubias. I want to know where Mulder is. I'm going to get this information from you. Now we can do it the easy way or the hard way, it makes no difference to me. Let me in and we can talk."

"I...you...no."

As soon as the last word was out of the informant's throat, Kaz stepped back, drew up her booted foot, and sent the door flying open, snapping the ineffective chain with ease. She strode up to Marita's rapidly retreating form, her brown eyes narrow and hard.

Covarrubias picked up the telephone, but hit only one button before Kaz slapped it from her hand, sending it skidding across the hardwood floor and into the corner. The blonde grabbed a houseplant in a heavy clay pot off a table and threw it. It cracked Kaz under the eye, but didn't slow her progress in the least.

As they approached the center of the room, Covarrubias stopped, her expression changing. She reared back and attempted a quick poke at Kaz's jaw.

It wasn't bad, in Kaz's estimation. Obviously the woman had some kind of professional training, but needed a refresher course. Kaz caught her wrist easily and yanked her off-balance, then spun around and pinned the blonde's arm behind her back. Bringing up her own right arm, Kaz looped it around Covarrubias's neck and tightened her grip, effectively disabling her opponent.

Her head was close to Covarrubias's ear, and in a harsh whisper she said, "Don't fuck with me, lady. All I want is Mulder's location. I know he came here to see you."

Covarrubias struggled, but was no match for Kaz's larger body and superior strength. Kaz twisted her arm up higher until the blonde cried out in aggravated pain.

"Let me go--and I'll tell you everything you want to know."

"Bullshit you will," Kaz spat back, squeezing her wrist.

"You're hurting me."

"That's the idea," Kaz replied roughly.

"Who are you?" Covarrubias moaned, aching with the pain in her wrist and shoulder.

"Someone with a vested interest in seeing Fox Mulder alive and well and back in DC."

"Let me go," the informant whined.

"Tell me where Mulder is."

The blonde took a deep, shuddering breath, "I booked him on a flight to Russia. Kazakhstan, actually. But I don't know anything more that ."

Still holding the smaller woman firmly, Kaz asked, "What's in Russia?"

"A place called Tunguska. He thinks it's a city, but it's not. Now it's--" she groaned in pain, "it's a prison camp."

Kaz's eyes widened in shock, then narrowed in anger. Her hand clamped down even tighter, pulled the shoulder up higher, eliciting another yelp. "And you sent him there?"

"He would have gone whether I'd have sent him or not."

"Not if he knew it what the place truly was. Even Mulder's not that stupid."

Despite the pain she was in, Covarrubias barked a harsh laugh, "Don't underestimate Agent Mulder's stupidity, miss."

"Shut the hell up," Kaz told her. Just because *she* thought Mulder was an asshole didn't mean this silly little bitch could rag on him too.

"I've told you what you wanted to know, now let me go."

Kaz released her grip and pushed the woman away. Covarrubias spun around to face her, rubbing her red, swollen wrist as if she expected an apology.

"I could have you brought up on assault charges for this. Breaking and entering too."

Kaz took three quick steps toward her, pinning her close to the corner and getting right up in her face, "But you won't, will you? That would be as bad for you as you think it would be for me. I get the feeling you're in no position to draw undue attention to yourself, are you Ms. Covarrubias?"

"I don't even know who you are. *You* are the one who is breaking the law, coming here, threatening me, demanding information. You think you can find Mulder and save the day, is that what you think? Mulder will never set foot on American soil again, and his stubborn little partner is going to rot in jail for the rest of her life, pineing away for him."

Before she could stop herself, Kaz brought her hand up and slapped Covarrubias hard across the face, stunning the blonde woman into horrified silence.

"You fucking bitch."

Covarrubias blinked, still startled. In a small, faraway voice she whispered, "You hit me..."

"Yes, I did. And be glad I'm in a good mood," Kaz told the informant, "otherwise, you'd be eating through a straw for the next six months."

With that, she turned and walked out the door, leaving Marita Covarrubias standing alone in the dissolved apartment.

~~~~~~~~~~~

US Capitol Building
Congressional Lock-up
11:17 p.m.

Anne Kazmerowski let herself be escorted down the now-familiar corridor. Neither she nor the guard spoke during the trek, but she grunted a thanks when the door was opened, allowing her a few moments alone with the person she loved most in the world.

The cell was dark, lit only by the light filtering in behind her. Scully was in bed, sitting up in the cot and shading her eyes with one hand. Kaz saw the cautious, resistant expression on Scully's face; knew the agent was wary at the unexpected arrival of a late-night visitor.

"Scully, it's me."

The heavy door clanged shut behind her, and she saw Scully's dim figure reach for the light.

"Leave them off, Sculls. The dark is better."

"Okay," Scully agreed. Without the lights they wouldn't be seen by the security cameras, which were fairly primitive looking and certainly not infrared here in general lock-up.

Kaz approached the bed, still in her jeans and leather jacket. She sat next to Scully and reached out, found Scully's warm hand, and rubbed her thumb across the back of it.

Scully was wearing the t-shirt and shorts Kaz had packed for her, and had been fitfully tossing and turning in the bed for the last hour, her mind racing through the facts of this case and the current situation. With every passing moment she grew more and more certain that Mulder would never return, that he was dead--wearing cement shoes at the bottom of one of the Great Lakes. Add to that the fact that Kaz hadn't been in court since this morning, and Scully was more than a little restless.

Seeing Kaz now eased her mind considerable. She hadn't wanted to admit how much the officer's absence had concerned her.

"Where were you Kaz?" she asked, letting the gentle motion of Kaz's thumb across her hand soothe and placate her.

"Doing a little research on the case. Time got away from me."

"Did you come up with anything?"

Slowly, Kaz shook her head, her features mostly covered by the darkness, "Nothing definite. Nothing certain."

Though the lie was like a stake in her heart, Kaz couldn't tell Scully about the information she'd wrung from Marita Covarrubias. She had to know Mulder's fate for certain before letting Scully know her suspicions, which were that Mulder was (at best) incarcerated at Tunguska--or (at worst) dead. It was a cruel omission, but if the situation were reversed, she knew Scully would do the same for her.

"How are you holding up?"

"I'm fine," Scully said quickly, then paused, lowered her head, "I say that to everyone, you know. People ask me how I am or how I'm feeling and I don't even think about it anymore. I give them this automatic answer, thinking it's what they want to hear. Or thinking that I...I shouldn't tell them how I really feel."

Kaz squeezed her hand a little tighter, urging her to continue.

Scully did so, "I'm not proud of the fact that I do it, but I can't seem to help myself. It's just a natural reaction. I want them to think I'm capable, that I'm strong."

This time, Kaz answered, "You know that you're not alone, don't you Scully? You don't have to take on the whole world by yourself." She reached up to cup Scully's soft cheek with her palm, "You're always so strong, Scully. That's never the question. You're the strongest person I've ever met. But you can't always play Atlas, standing alone, shouldering the entire globe. Sometimes, you have to let go.

"Let go right now, Scully. Let me help you, comfort you, be here for you. Let me carry the weight for just a little while. Please."

Scully's eyes rapidly filled with tears. Kaz saw them reflected in the dim light from the window across the room. A low sob escaped Scully's raw throat and she threw her arms around Kaz and leaned against the tall woman's shoulder, burying her face against the soft skin of Kaz's neck.

"Kaz-" she choked, "Kaz I..."

"S-h-h-h," Kaz hushed as she embraced Scully's small body and held her close. "Don't speak Sculls. Just let it out. I'm here baby. S-h-h-h...I'm here."

The officer rocked her gently inside strong arms. She chanced a look at the security camera in the corner. The darkness covered them, covered Scully's breakdown, covered their tender feelings and familiar touches. She stroked Scully's soft hair as the tough-as-nails federal agent cried against her shoulder, breath hot and weary against her neck.

In a low whisper, Scully spoke in ragged gasps between sobs, "I just...just don't know where...don't know if I'll...ever see him again...What if...what if he's dead, Kaz? What if he's dead? And I'll...I won't know...I'll live in here...forever...not knowing. I love him, Kaz. I love him like...like he was one of my...my own brothers."

"S-h-h-h," Kaz said again, pulling the hair off Scully's face and tucking it behind her ear. "Don't think about that right now, Scully. I'm working on that, baby. You leave that to me."

Scully sniffed once and moved against her neck, looking up at her, "You're looking for him?"

Kaz nodded.

"It's too dangerous, Kaz. You have to stop. If you find out, and they know you know...you'll be in here with me."

Kaz stroked her hair one more time and smiled, though she was fairly certain Scully couldn't see it, "As long as you're my cellmate Scully. They can put me anywhere, as long as I'm with you."

Scully said nothing, but resettled her face next to Kaz's neck, letting the gentle rhythm Kaz's rocking lull her. They sat like that for a long time, comfortable with each other, denying the world around them, concentrating only on the sensations between them.

"I love you Kaz," Scully whispered beside her neck, and placed a small kiss at the base of the officer's throat.

Dipping her head down, Kaz pressed her lips to Scully's temple, "I know you do, Sculls. And I love you too."

The buzzer above the door screeched at them, and they both groaned, upset that their time together was over so soon. Kaz kissed Scully's forehead one more time and reluctantly rose.

"I'll see you as soon as I have something, Scully."

"Be careful, Kaz."

"You know I will. Good night."

Scully watched her tall, impressive figure pass through the door. As it clanged shut behind her, Scully leaned back, laying down once more in the cot and lacing her fingers behind her head.

It was a long time before sleep came.

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

Sunday, Feb. 9
United States Embassy
St. Petersburg, Russia
6:40 p.m. RST (Russian Standard Time)

"I'm telling you," Mulder said heatedly, hovering over the consul's desk, "My name is Fox William Mulder. I am an American citizen. I am a Special Agent of the FBI. My badge number is JTT--"

A small, fussy, suited man named Flandering held up a hand and interrupted this now-familiar diatribe, "I'm sorry sir, but since you have no identification, no badge, no passport, no *wallet,* you're going to have to wait for proper verification. Do you know how many times I've heard similar stories, only to find some crazy, derelict Canadian wanted to hole up in our embassy for a couple of days?"

Mulder wanted to scream. He wanted to physically pound the prissy little man in the Armani suit and cheesy bow tie.

"I've been waiting for over twelve hours," he protested through clenched teeth. "How long is this going to take. Why don't you pick up the phone and make a goddamned call to Assistant Director Walter Skinner of the Federal Bur--"

"Mr. Mulder, we *did* call the Bureau. And they reported the identification bearing that name as lost and presumed stolen. So you see..." he spread his manicured hands in front of him and shrugged.

He looked Mulder up and down for a long time, taking in Mulder's smell, torn clothing and grimy face, "And frankly, Mr. Mulder, you look more like an escaped convict than a federal agent. Have you considered bathing at any point during those twelve hours you've spent here at the embassy? Or would you prefer to stand here trying to intimidate me with your foul and mysterious odor for the next twelve?"

<Bastard,> Mulder thought bitterly, turning from the man and running a hand through his greasy, dirty hair. <Maybe I can give you a little vacation advice, buddy. Tunguska is lovely this time of year, Mr. Flandering. You should really give it a try.>

He paced the room, claming himself by degree, then said, "I would appreciate a shower and if possible a change of clothes. As I've told you repeatedly, these are the clothes I was imprisoned in."

Flandering smiled knowingly and nodded, steepling his fingers in front of himself, "Ah yes, in the prison camp where they fed you cockroaches and poured toxic black oil on your face. Held you down with chicken-wire, right?"

<You mindless fuck,> Mulder screamed inside his head as his eyes blazed.

He forced them back to normal before saying, "Can I take a shower or not?"

"Of course you can. In fact, I'd greatly appreciate it. I'll get you some things and show you to a room."

"I don't want a room. I want you to move your ass on the verification so I can get back to the States. I've already told you that--"

"Yes, yes, yes. You're partner is probably looking for you and you need to help her save the world. You've told me the story about fifty times, Mr. Mulder. Unfortunately, the world is going to have to hold on a little longer. It's a Sunday, as I'm sure you know, Lord knows I've told you more than once. You, a 'federal agent' of all people, should know that next to nothing gets accomplished on a Sunday. Hopefully, we'll receive confirmation of your supposed identity sometime early next week."

Mulder almost began to pull out his hair. He was going insane, and this prissy little fuck was the one who was pushing him over the edge. He held back the impulse to grab the sack of shit by his stupid little bow tie and slap him silly. Only the burning desire to get the hell out of this country and back to the safety and sanity of the States held him in check.

Yes, he knew that *he* was responsible for proving his identity. Since he had no identification, he couldn't even prove he was an American citizen. He was, in fact, rather lucky they were harboring him in the embassy at all. But did that mean he had to put up with this fussy little prick's shit? "Early next week" meant he could be stuck here for days, completely out of contact with the rest of the world.

Earlier this morning, he'd pleaded with them to call Scully, to get confirmation (at least of his citizenship) from her. Finally, they'd relented and made the call, only to get her answering machine. He'd nearly thumped himself on the head, upset with himself for his own stupidity. Scully was *never* at her house anymore, she practically lived with her goddamned girlfriend.

When he'd told them to ring Skinner, they'd refused, claiming they weren't going to let him go through his entire address book to find the one person who would verify that they knew him.

Now, he let Flandering's assistant lead him down the hall to a small room that resembled a fairly-posh hotel suite. The assistant opened a drawer and pulled out a package of boxer shorts, an undershirt, plain black slacks, and a white dress shirt.

Mulder was impressed. No wonder derelict Canadians were so anxious to come hang out here.

The assistant left him alone, and he turned to the bathroom, barely pausing to look at his grimy reflection before stripping off the filthy, tainted convict's outfit. He stood naked in the bathroom, and looked only now caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror.

He was thin and dirty. Turning, he took a look at the small bruise on his left shoulder that stood out directly on top of his smallpox vaccination scar. Long and hard he stared at it, until his eyes glazed over and filled with nervous anxiety.

What had they done to him?

In his mind's eye he pictured the metal spigot above his head. Saw the thick black ooze pour out onto his face as he gasped and strained to free himself.

Squeezing his eyes shut, he shook his head to drive the image away, then quickly turned to the shower and pulled the hot water knob up full strength.

Mulder stood under the near-scalding shower water for nearly an hour, scrubbing frantically until the bar of soap was nothing more than a sliver, trying to wash away his revulsion, his fear, his anger, and his sense of violation.

Trying to wash Tunguska off himself.

~~~~~~~~~~~

8:13 p.m.

He laid down on the bed in the pseudo-hotel room, suddenly realizing the extent of his exhaustion. Before taking his shower, he'd asked for a copy of the Washington Post, and it was now sitting on the bed. He glanced at the date, chagrined to find it was last Monday's edition. No help there.

He wondered if Scully and Skinner had identified the courier, if Scully found out anything about Dr. Sacks's mysterious illness, and if she'd made any progress in tracking down the intended destination of the diplomatic pouch. He now knew its origins, but the same questions surrounding it still remained. Why the effort to get it onto US soil? Who was supposed to receive it? And what was Alex Krycek's role in all of this?

Mulder hadn't seen or heard anything about Krycek since the truck crash. He wondered what had become of the double-agent. Had Krycek hooked back up with the keepers at the camp?

Was he dead?

That question gave him pause. He wasn't sure how he would feel about the news of Krycek's death. Sure, the son of a bitch deserved to die. But still, something about Krycek nagged at him.

The door to his room opened, startling him out of his thoughts. The prissy, Armani-suited consul strolled in and smugly said, "It looks like we won't be enjoying the pleasure of your company quite as long as we originally thought, Agent Mulder."

Mulder noted the switch to his professional title and his heart jumped a little, "What happened?"

"We received a phone call verifying your identity. Seems you got a little lucky. A US Naval officer sent out a blanket e-mail request to all of our embassies across the Commonwealth looking for a man fitting your description and name.

"Who?" he asked, though he had a sneaking feeling he already knew.

Flandering looked down at a scrap of paper in his hand, "A Commander Anne Kazma--mawaski?"

Mulder closed his eyes and let out a long breath.

<Thank you Kaz,> he thought with inward relief, rising to follow Flandering out of the room.

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

8:35 p.m.

After a long ten minutes spent pacing in the anteroom, and aide called Mulder's name and ushered him into Flandering's plush office once again.

The pompous little twit sat behind his desk, phone in hand, "Yes Commander, we're showing him in now. Of course you can speak to him."

To Mulder, he pointed across the room at a small table with a red velvet chair beside it. Mulder sat and picked up the ornate phone, cupping his hand over the receiver.

"Any chance I can speak privately?" he asked the consul.

Flandering chuckled and shook his head in wonder, "You're rather demanding for a man in your position, aren't you Agent Mulder?"

Mulder ignored the question and waited. Flandering set his own receiver in the cradle and stood. He smoothed his lapels before starting for the door.

"You've got ten minutes, then I get my office back."

"Sure, fine, whatever," Mulder replied, shooing him out with a wave of his hand.

When he was alone, he held the phone to his ear, "Kaz, you're a lifesaver."

Her voice held none of its usual warmth and good cheer, "Don't try to play nice with me Mulder. I'm pissed as hell."

"Huh?" he asked, caught off-guard by her tone and her statement.

"What the hell are you doing in Russia?"

He eyes darted around the office, "Nothing I can speak about over the phone."

"Oh," she said with indignation, "So now you're Fox Mulder, International Man of Mystery? Double-O fucking seven?"

Once again, he was confused by the anger in her words. This wasn't the Kaz he knew. Hell, it wasn't even the side of her he'd come to call 'The Commander.' Something was wrong. Very wrong, if it did *this* to a calm, easy-going person like Annie Kazmerowski.

"What's going on Kaz? What am I missing?"

Kaz's answering chuckle held no mirth, "Let me get you up to speed, my friend. First of all, there's a Senate Sub-Committee investigation that you, Scully, and your boss Skinner were called to. Unfortunately, you were otherwise occupied. Leaving the country without telling a soul is a very good way to dodge a subpoena. I'll make sure I recommend it to my future clients. I think I'll call it the 'Mulder Rule.'

"Oh but that's not all," she continued. "Your loyal partner and non-subpoena dodging partner, Dana Scully, has been sitting her butt in Congressional lock-up for three days because she won't divulge your location."

"What?! But she--"

Kaz cut him off, "--Doesn't even know where you are. Right on, buckaroo. But can she tell the panel that?" Kaz grunted in disgust, "Not with your stinky chain-smoking pal sitting in the back of the goddamned courtroom like a fucking specter. For some reason I can just barely fathom right now, she wants to protect your worthless ass. So tell me Mulder, is this how your partnership works? You just pick up and take off without a word whenever you feel like it? You just fly away and say 'fuck the consequences?' Is that how you operate?"

"Kaz, I can't explain it right now."

"I don't even want you to try. There's no possible explanation for what you did, Mulder. You know, she's worried sick, though she'd never tell *you* that. She thinks she's got to be as strong as fucking Plymouth Rock. She has no idea where you are and she knows the Senate investigation is a ruse to flush you out. You need to catch the first flight back. I've already booked you, and I cleared up your identification problems. You're leaving at eleven o'clock and you'd better have yourself in court at ten a.m. Eastern Standard Time. You should just make it."

"Okay, okay--I'll be there." A new thought occurred to him, "How did you find me Kaz?"

"I had a heart-to-heart with your creepy little girlfriend, Marita Covarrubias."

His eyes widened, "You did not."

"The hell I didn't. I've got a mother of a black eye as a souvenir of the encounter too. A souvenir I'm going to have to explain to Scully the next time I see her."

They both knew how ominous that prospect was, and Mulder exhaled slowly, hoping he wouldn't be anywhere in the vicinity when *that* conversation took place.

He decided to try a peace offering, "I'm sorry Kaz. I owe you, and I'll make it up to you when I get back."

"Not if you value the current condition of your testicles, you won't. You don't owe me anything Mulder. You owe her. If you want to 'make it up to me' then get your butt back to DC and into Hearing Room D by ten a.m. tomorrow...and uh, Mulder?" she added, her voice suddenly softening.

"Yes?"

"Are--are you okay?"

He paused for a second, "Yeah, I...I think so."

He heard her let out a slightly shuddering breath, and realized she was close to tears. "I'm glad. As upset as I am, I'm glad you're okay. I--I was worried."

The door to the office opened and Flandering walked back in.

Mulder ignored him for the moment and said, "I'm okay. Thanks for finding me, and for bailing me out."

She now sounded like the Kaz he knew and was coming to love in his own way, "Don't thank me, just get back here in one piece."

Mulder smiled grimly. She had no idea how close he had come to being in two pieces.

"Sure thing. I'll see you tomorrow."

"In court," she reminded.

He nodded, "In court. Good-bye Kaz."

"Good-bye, ya jerk."

She hung up.

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

9:05 a.m. EST
Congressional Lock-up Detention Counter

"Excuse me?" Kaz said to the uniformed female guard behind the counter, her voice full of exasperated disbelief.

Repeating herself, the woman blandly replied, "I'm sorry, but word just came through that Ms. Scully isn't allowed visitors. Her visitation privileges have been rescinded."

"On who's authority?" Kaz asked, her eyes narrowing.

"I believe it came from Senator Sorenson's office, ma'am."

"You're joking."

The woman looked at her and grunted, "In this job, there's little room for humor."

Kaz snapped her mouth shut and stared hard at the woman, but knew it was pointless. For one, she wasn't even in uniform. The only reason the guard had recognized her was because she had been such a frequent visitor of late. Secondly, if word came from a US Senator, even a bastard like Sorenson, she didn't stand a chance.

These facts didn't dissipate her anger any, though. She was running on empty as it was, having been up all night tracking down Fox Mulder. It had been over thirty hours since she's slept, and even that rest had been fitful. Her empty stomach twisted painfully and her face ached from the heavy ceramic pot that blonde bitch had chucked at her yesterday.

Still, she was desperate to give Scully the news of Mulder's impending return, and refused to be put off so easily.

"Can I give her a message? A written note to be delivered?"

The pale, dark-haired guard behind the counter shook her head, "No outside contact. That's what it says here." "Screw what it says, this is important. It has bearing on her case."

The guard was obviously getting tired of this conversation. "Then perhaps you should deliver your message to Senator Sorenson's office."

Kaz pushed herself away from the desk and spun away from the obstinate woman. She ran a hand through her hair and rubbed her neck a little, trying to gather herself. She paced the small area for a minute, ignoring the fact that the guard's eyes followed her every move.

Behind her, the woman spoke. Kaz whipped around to listen to her words.

"Commander, can I tell you what I'd recommend you do?"

"Well I can't exactly stop you, now can I?" Kaz snapped with more agitation than she'd wanted to show.

The guard's eyes softened, looked almost sympathetic, "Go home, Commander. Get some sleep. Put some ice on that eye. Take care of yourself. I've watched you come in here for the past three of four days, and every time you look worse and worse. I understand that your friend is in trouble, but driving yourself into the ground is probably not what she'd want you to do."

Kaz said nothing. She stared at the woman, her mind spinning in circles. She felt impotent, inept, and so very angry.

"Please Commander, go home."

Kaz's shoulders sagged within her heavy leather jacket. Suddenly, she felt so tired, so weary. Her world was crashing down, and there was nothing she could do about it. This was the straw that broke her back. This woman's obvious pity was exactly what she *didn't* want or need, yet there it was, plain as day on the guard's dim, pale face.

Kaz turned away from her once again, not wanting the woman to see the tears of frustration that were forming in her eyes. After a few moments spent biting her lip nearly hard enough to draw blood, she twisted the doorknob and walked out of the office.

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

10:58 a.m.

She didn't do as the guard suggested, which was to home and sleep. Instead, she decided (on an exhausted impulse) to drive to NASA Goddard to check on the condition of Dr. Sacks. Something about the exobiologist's condition nagged at her weary brain. When she pulled into the parking lot and hopped out of the Mustang, her body was charged only with tension and nervous energy. She was past the point of tired, and was now running on her third or fourth wind. It was near her last.

At the check-in counter, she pulled her identification out of her jacket pocket and waited for the receptionist to pull out the clipboard for sign-in.

She felt the presence of another person behind her, and turned to see an elderly man with white fading hair and a kind face at her side. His baggy pants and aging cardigan over turtleneck bespoke of harmless intentions.

"Excuse me miss," he said with a gentle, Slavic accent, "But I am wondering if you have the time of day? My bus," he explained with a small smile, "it comes at ten thirty-five. Am I late for my bus?"

Kaz pulled back her sleeve and checked her watch distractedly, "No sir," she replied, trying to be as polite as possible despite the load on her mind, "I have ten-thirty on my watch. I think you're right on schedule."

He smiled again and patted her arm in a grandfatherly way, "I believe I am. You're a good girl for helping out an old man. Dos vydonya, miss."

She watched the old man totter off, frowning to herself. Her brain told her something should be occurring to her. Something should be clicking...

Shaking her head, she held out her hand for a visitor's pass and trotted to the elevator bank. There was a hell of a lot more important stuff to worry about than a senior citizen's funky accent.

*****

She walked through the quiet, solitary corridor, her heels thudding dully on the linoleum. The overhead flourescents were on, but many of the auxiliary lamps were not. Occasionally, someone in a lab coat would pass, his or her nose in a sheaf of papers or staring intently at an odd colored substance in an Erlenmeyer Flask.

Recalling the exact route, Kaz soon stood in the same place where she'd watched Scully work early in the week. Sacks was still in his decon suit, but now lay limp and prone on an exam table in the center of the room.

Closing weary, boodshot eyes that burned with exhaustion, Kaz realized this had been a pointless and incredibly stupid thing to do. What had she expected to find here? She was a lawyer, for Christssake, not a doctor or biologist. It wasn't as if--

Hold on.

There it was again.

Yes--she was sure now. But to be certain she took off her glasses, rubbed the eye that wasn't swollen and sore, and popped it open again. Replacing the wire-rimmed spectacles, her vision cleared until she could make out the small black worm-like... things... on Sacks's face.

And then one of them moved.

"Hey!" Kaz shouted, turning to gain the attention of anyone in the general vicinity. Few acknowledged her presence.

"Hey," she repeated, approaching a passing technician. "What's going on in there. What happened to Sacks?"

The intern gave her a puzzled look and didn't even bother to glance through the Plexiglas, "Dr. Sacks has been in a coma for nearly a week, and--"

She cut him off with a firm voice, "I know that. But something's wrong. There are black th-things on his face. They look like worms."

"What?"

She pointed through the glass, and this time the small man turned to look at Sacks's prone form. Finally, he focused in on the strange organisms and nearly had an aneurysm trying to find a telephone. Kaz watched him punch buttons with a shaky hand and ask for a Dr. Johnstone.

Kaz reached into her inside jacket pocket and pulled out her own phone. She called information and got a number, then punched it in.

"Hello," a masculine, slightly nasal voice said.

"Is this Agent Pendrell with the Bureau?"

"Uh, well--yes. Yes it is. Who is this?"

"Anne Kazmerowski. Agent Scully's friend. We met a few days ago at NASA Goddard."

"You're with the Navy, right? Of course I remember you Captain."

"It's Commander, but thanks for the promotion. Anyway, I need to ask you a big favor."

She heard the split-second hesitation before Pendrell's exuberant voice replied, "Sure Commander. Ask away. Besides, I owe you for the advice on that gift for D-a-a-Agent Scully."

"Great. I'm back at NASA G. right now Agent Pendrell, and I'm wondering if you might be able to run down here. Since you initially examined Dr. Sacks, I think you might be able to help me identify the cause of the doctor's current condition."

"Well, what is his current condition?"

Kaz looked up and through the Plexiglas at the still, prone form on the table inside, "I--um...I think he's dead."

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

Cell #17
2:55 p.m.

Scully checked her watch for the fortieth time in the last two hours.

For the past three days, she'd been worried sick about Mulder, wondering if he was alive or dead. Hoping against hope that he'd saunter in the door, flash her one of his odd little grins, say something completely ridiculous, and get her the hell out of this place.

But now, her mind was focused on only one thing, only one person.

<Damnit, where is she?> Scully asked herself as she paged distractedly through the medical journal in front of her.

She was, of course, waiting for Anne Kazmerowski. There were no hearings scheduled today, and she'd expected Kaz to have been here by ten a.m. In fact, she'd been assuming her friend and lover would visit more than once today.

But even now, well into the afternoon, there'd been no word, no sign, no nothing.

Thoughts of the Commander nagged at her like a sore tooth. She couldn't get Kaz out of her mind. Usually, Scully was able to distract herself from thoughts of Kaz's warm, sensual body and pleasant, unassuming demeanor during their moments apart. Now, however, after this enforced separation, she simply could not. She closed the journal in front of her, allowing her defenses to slip and her mind to daydream.

It traveled back across the past two months. It constantly surprised her to realize all over again that she and Kaz had only known each other for such a short time. It seemed as if they'd been together much longer. She and Kaz were like two halves of the same whole, neither complete until the day they'd discovered each other. They complimented each other so perfectly...it was a beautiful syncronicity.

Scully pictured Kaz's face in her mind's eye; so youthful, so placid, so very beautiful. The thought led her to that face's most outstanding moments: the radiant, unassuming smile; the gently expression on the young woman's face just instants before their lips met in a tender kiss that always made Scully see stars, the rapture in it during their most intimate moments. The simple love in it with every glance...

She wondered what Kaz was doing right now. Maybe she was painting in the old, ratty clothes that would look grimy and slovenly on anyone else, but made Scully's insides tingle when she saw them on Kaz's tall, lanky frame. For only her Commander could be look so natural, so beautiful, and so sexy in those baggy, paint-splattered trappings.

Or maybe Kaz was out running, striding smoothly through the streets of Georgetown with the loping, good-natured Brandy at her heels.

Perhaps Kaz was in her kitchen, a natural element for the young woman, who could throw the most exquisite meal together seemingly with ease, as though it was nothing more than an afterthought.

Scully could almost smell the mussels in white wine sauce that Kaz would be making; she could almost taste the fine Merlot from the cellar on her lips.

And then, unbidden, came the taste of Kaz herself. At first, it was the taste of Kaz's full lips, of her sweet tongue. She could almost feel Kaz's mouth on hers, sealing their love with a passionate kiss that left Scully weak and wanting.

Then, Scully tasted that dark, smoky flavor of Kaz's secret inner essence, the one she could never quite get enough of. In her mouth and on her tongue was the flavor of their shared intimacy. It burned a hot trail down Scully's throat and inflamed her belly. Her body tingled hotly with the remembered sensation that seemed so real, so vivid. Her center began to throb with longing.

She tried to rein it in, to push it aside, but she simply could not. Scully wanted nothing more than Kaz's touch on her body. She wanted the tall, dark officer to hold her, to caress her, to possess her.

Reaching up, she shut off the desk light and stood. Only the dim flourescents lit the somber room. Scully curled up on the spartan bed, brought her knees up to her chest, and closed her eyes. She fell into a somber, frustrated doze, her only comfort the fleeting sensation of her absent lover's phantom touch.

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

Anne Kazmerowski's House
10:45 p.m.

Kaz stumbled in the door, dragging one foot wearily in front of the other. She'd had to blast the radio and stop off twice for coffee on the way home from NASA Goddard. Even with the caffeine, she barely made it.

And her night wasn't over yet. Despite her exhausted state, Kaz's mind still, somehow, functioned. She'd picked up on something Agent Pendrell had said just before they'd parted ways at NASA G. an hour ago.

<"You know, Commander--this reminds me of a story I read in the Post this morning," the analyst had said.>

<What was that?" she's answered despite her rapidly drooping eyelids.>

<It was just a blurb about a death outside a retirement center in Florida. Boca Raton, I think...">

She'd forced herself to pay attention as he went into the few details he remembered, and even though her body protested, her mind began to turn this new information over, entering it into the equation. Pendrell had been right, it sounded a heck of a lot like the condition they'd found Sacks in.

Dragging herself to her office, Kaz plunked wearily down in front of her computer. As the machine warmed up she felt her eyes closing of their own accord, and shook her head to clear the cobwebs.

<Just a little longer, Kaz old girl.> she told herself blearily.

Once hooked up to her on-line service, she surfed and clicked until she was staring at the headlines of the local newspaper in Boca Raton, Florida. She found what she was looking for and began to read.

As she did so, Kaz's narrowing eyes widened and the last jolt of energy her body could possibly muster ran through her, temporarily charging her once more. She gladly typed in her credit card number and soon had a copy of the article slowly crawling out of her printer.

The Commander sat back in her chair, closed her eyes, and blew out a long breath. The news article greatly disturbed her, for its implications were too malfeasant to contemplate.

Kaz thought back over her life, her decision to join the Navy, and her career as an employee of the United States Government. There was no doubt she loved this country. She'd taken an oath to serve and protect it. As only a second-generation American, the grandchild of Old World immigrants on both sides of her family, this was an oath she took very seriously. Her loyalties to this country ran so very deep...

The news she'd just read hit her like a slap to the face.

She thought once again of Dana Scully, whose dedication and loyalty was as strong as her own. It was one of the many things that had drawn them together. Her friend, her confidante, the owner of her heart was at this very moment locked behind bars; sitting cold and alone within the walls of a building which stood as the very symbol of American freedom and liberty.

Scully was sitting there because she would not play by *their* rules. Because she wouldn't betray those very freedoms, those same liberties. She would not betray her oath to protect the citizens of this nation.

All over again, a surge of love ran through Anne Kazmerowski, but it was accompanied by a sense of utter hopelessness. She felt as small and insignificant as a pimple on a whale's ass.

Her heart ached and felt as if it were tearing inside her chest. She needed her love back in this house, she needed Scully by her side. She felt she could stand up to their hideous machinations if only she weren't alone. Dana Scully was as essential to her as the air she breathed.

She was close to the breaking point--and knew it. A mixture of anger, frustration, and helplessness ran through her, nearly defeating her relentless will. As she sat there, head tilted back, tired eyes squeezed shut in pain and frustration, a single tear escaped and rolled slowly down her cheek.

Kaz wiped it angrily away and popped her eyes open, growling grumpily as she realized her injured eye opened only part way. It was swelling.

<So what?> she thought, <Who gives a fuck?>

Then, she answered her own question. Scully did.

She forced herself away from thoughts of her incarcerated lover, and her heart tore again. Grabbing the article from the printer, she stood. Brandy sat in the doorway, looking quizzically up at her with large, sad brown eyes.

"Come on girl," Kaz said quietly to the dog, patting Brandy's head slowly and affectionately as she passed.

Brandy trotted up the stairs at Kaz's heels. The canine watched her owner plop down heavily on the bed, clutching the white paper to her chest. Brandy tentatively climbed up beside the woman, curling in close.

A sob tore out of Kaz's throat and she threw an arm around the big dog, buried her face in the soft, short fur of Brandy's neck, and fell into an exhausted yet tormented slumber.

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

US Capitol Building
Hearing Room D
Monday, Feb. 10
9:49 a.m.

Commander Anne Kazmerowski sat in her spot to the left of the courtroom and shifted in her chair. She was unusually uncomfortable in her confining dress uniform this morning, and still feeling the effects of too-little sleep.

Even though her body had been crying for rest, her over-wrought mind played a constant stream of disturbing images behind her closed eyelids. Twice she'd woken in a cold sweat, clutching at her eyes and nose to make sure there were no black worms creeping out of them.

At six a.m. she'd given up and pictured in her mind the bottle of Chivas in the cupboard downstairs. It was a difficult urge to fight, for the temptation to drown out this whole ordeal was strong, but she'd drifted to the kitchen and poured orange juice instead.

However, the sight of her swollen, purple eye in the bathroom mirror had her wanting that drink all over again.

Kaz knew stress brought out the urge. It was her retreat from reality, her temporary haven from anxiety and angst.

Actually, it was something she usually reserved for visits from her mother.

And she could ill-afford succumbing to the temptation now. She'd thought of Scully and poured another glass of OJ.

Now, in the courtroom, she needed coffee and the sight of Scully more than anything. She'd been there since nine o'clock, hoping, praying they'd let Scully in just a little early.

At 9:55, she got her wish. The side door opened and an immaculately dressed Special Agent Scully was escorted into the hall. A tiny smile played at Kaz's lips. Scully was wearing the beige suit she'd brought yesterday, the one the nosy, dour guard had taken and promised to give before telling Kaz there was zero chance of getting to deliver the clothes herself.

The officer's dark eyes followed every step the petite red-head took as she approached the table in front of the raised floor.

Once Scully stood alone, opening her briefcase and preparing for the hearing, Kaz rose and walked slowly toward the center aisle and the wooden table.

Scully detected the movement and shifted her eyes. When they settled on Kaz, the officer caught the momentary widening of Scully's crystal clear blue ones and the look of stunned surprise on the reserved agent's face. Kaz remained stoic, as though she was oblivious to the stare, but inside she was in turmoil. Kaz knew the sight of her injured face disturbed Scully, but her earlier attempt at make-up to cover the blight had been futile.

She straightened her deep blue jacket as she neared the center aisle and discreetly dipped the fingers of her left hand into her pocket, pulling out the folded and slightly crumpled article she'd printed last night. She'd made the note as small as possible, small enough to fit between two of her long fingers.

Reaching the aisle, she agilely flipped the paper under Scully's chair, then turned and headed toward the doors. She pulled one open and left the room as though nothing had happened.

*****

Scully watched the door shut behind the tall Naval Officer, a blank look of mute shock on her face. She forced her mouth shut and blinked, clearing the image of Kaz's dark, ugly bruises and swollen eye from her mind. She had to physically force herself not to think about the disturbing mar on her lover's face.

Her eyes darted side to side before she reached down and picked up the note. She set it on top of the papers in her briefcase, shielding it from the eyes of the gathering senators before unfolding it to read its contents.

She scanned the article briefly, then read it again, closely this time. She made some of the connections Kaz had the night before and took a deep breath.

At the bottom of the note, in a neat, all-capital script that Scully recognized immediately, were the words, "MORE TO COME."

She re-folded the note and placed it in her jacket pocket, then sat at the table, ready to begin the proceedings.

*****

Kaz heard the heavy wooden doors click shut behind her and stopped, closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and ran a hand slowly through her hair as she exhaled.

Praying no one had seen the exchange between she and Scully, she strode away from the courtroom, needing a short walk to burn off even a mere fraction of her nervous energy. She was wound as tight as a clock and needed to cool down a little before re-entering the courtroom. Besides that, she was looking for a certain familiar face.

When she reached the Rotunda, the Commander drew her dark eyes quickly around the large open hall; searching, hoping, praying. She watched the front doors open and close. There was no sign of him. The nervous feeling in the pit of her stomach turned sour and she felt her shoulders sag. She gave an inward sigh and tried to control her anxious, slightly ragged breathing.

Kaz was about to give up and head back to the courtroom in defeat when the doors opened once again and Fox Mulder strolled calmly through them. He wore a simple dark suit and matching trench coat, yet his face was haggard, unshaven, and a nasty-looking gash lined his forehead.

Essentially, he looked like she felt.

He spotted her immediately, for she was a difficult figure to miss. As he approached, Kaz watched him look her up and down, then focus on her face.

"I guess you weren't kidding about that shiner," he said with a tired yet irritatingly blase expression.

She reciprocated his once-over, taking in his own appearance before saying, "I guess you weren't kidding about that prison camp. You look like shit."

He opened his trench coat, offering her a better view, "You want me to leave and go get a make-over?"

Kaz steeled him with her gaze, "No. I want you to get your raggedy ass into that courtroom."

"Then lead the way, Commander."

She wanted to beat the hell out of him more than anything; his flippant remarks and cool tone were pushing her that much closer to the edge she'd been treading upon for the last four days.

She'd pulled every string she'd had to get his sorry ass out of Russia and into this building, and now he was standing here flipping her shit. He deserved to be fucking slapped, in her opinion. The only thing that kept her from succumbing to the temptation was the fact that she needed him to spring Scully from stir.

She began the now-familiar path to Hearing Room D.

"So what's going on Kaz?" he asked as they strode quickly down the marble hallway.

The fact that he was oblivious to everything but what *he'd* earlier deemed important drew her anger even closer to the surface, but she kept herself in check and replied, "I told you the gist of it the yesterday. Scully has been held in lock-up since Friday on contempt of Congress charges. Do you know how serious a contempt of Congress charge is, Mulder?"

Taking note of her edgy tone, he tried to make peace with the officer whom he knew had fallen deeply in love with his partner. "Yes Kaz, I know how serious it is. And I'm sorry I've put her through that."

"You damned well should be," she replied as they approached the courtroom doors.

Kaz pulled one open. Inside, they heard Sorenson's amplified voice:

"I'm going to ask you again. Where is Special Agent Mulder and why is he not here?"

The Commander watched Mulder frown, then Scully's clear, unmistakable voice rang throughout the room, "I'd be happy to answer your questions about the man carrying the diplomatic pouch--"

"Agent Scully," Sorenson interrupted sternly, but to no avail.

"--about his murder and my opinion about his connection to Dr. Bonita Charne-Sayre of the..."

Mulder turned back to the tall young woman beside him, "And they've been doing this for how long?"

Kaz shook her head, "Way too long. I need her back, Mulder. I can't stand to see this anymore. They've kept her *in prison* for Christssake...and it's tearing me up inside."

Mulder bit the inside of his cheek, suddenly realizing how much him partner was putting on the line for him. Her reputation, her career...and her life with Kaz. He still wasn't used to the idea of someone special in Scully's life, and he definitely had been surprised when that someone turned out to be female. Still, he saw the strong bond between the women.

>From inside the courtroom Sorenson's voice boomed once again, "Just answer the question, Ms. Scully."

He turned away from Kaz and to the door's threshold, then took a breath and stepped inside, "What is the question?"

A tidal wave of relief washed through Kaz's tired, bedraggled body. She heard silence inside the courtroom, broken only by the click of Mulder's heels as he walked up the aisle.

Kaz remained in the hallway a little longer, not wanting to draw undue attention from the spectators inside. Her weary eyes slipped shut as she worked to recompose herself.

A few seconds later she heard a new clicking of wingtips on the marble floor and opened her eyes to see Walter Skinner approaching.

"Mr. Skinner," she said, trying hard to sound extremely congenial, "just the man I was looking for."

"What do you want Commander?"

"A favor," she replied lightly.

He was wary, as always, "What kind of favor?"

"I have some information Agent Scully needs, but I can't approach her. However, you can."

"I'm not a messenger boy, Commander. Perhaps you can pass her a note at recess."

She smirked, as though enjoying his joke, "I already used that trick, sir. I always strive to be original in my note-passing techniques."

His nostrils flared and his hands went to his hips. Kaz was becoming familiar with this posture. It sent a clear 'don't fuck with me' message, which she received loud and clear.

"Tell me," was all he said.

Another wave of relief passed through her, accompanied by a grateful smile. She quickly ran through the pertinent information regarding Dr. Sacks.

When she finished she gave him another smile and said, "I'll let you go, sir. I think there's someone in there you'll be happy to see."

Skinner gave her a puzzled look and stepped through the doorway.

Kaz remained in the hallway and gave a silent prayer of thanks before rushing to the restroom and emptying the contents of her twisted stomach into a porcelain bowl.

At the sink, she rinsed her mouth and looked at her marred complexion in the mirror. Suddenly, her eyes filled with tears of emotional release. She slumped against the cold tile of the bathroom wall and let them out, covering her face with her hands and sobbing uncontrollably. She didn't know if they were tears of frustration or of gratitude. At the moment, she didn't particularly care.

The nightmare was almost over. That was all that mattered.

~~~~~~~~~~~

10:49 a.m.

Scully filled out the necessary paperwork, reclaimed her personal effects (including her badge and gun), and walked out of the detention center of her own free will. That very fact alone elated her beyond belief. Mulder was back, safe and sound, and everything was right with the world again.

Well, maybe not right, but back to normal.

She looked back at the door to the detention center, praying she never had to pass through it again. No more Cell #17, no more metal toilet, no more dank gray walls.

No more nights without Kaz.

She stepped into the anteroom and came face to face with Mulder.

"Hey good-looking," he said drolly. "I tell you, you're a sight for sore eyes."

Concern as well as relief was evident in her voice, "So are you. Mulder, where have you been? You scared the hell out of me."

He nodded, "I know. I'm sorry."

She wondered about that, but let it pass, "Where were you?"

"It's a long story. I'll fill you in on the way to the airport. I'm starving too, can we get some food?"

Yep, same old Mulder. She shook her head in sardonic disbelief.

"Fine," she replied, wanting to get outside of this building as soon as possible. Still, she had more on her mind than just the case, "But I need to find Kaz first."

"But--" he began, focused on nothing but the trip ahead and the coming exchange of information between them.

She cut him off, "No buts, Mulder. I need to see her. You don't know what she's done Mulder. You have no idea. Besides that, she knows just as much as I do, if not more, about what's going on here."

As if on cue, the officer stepped off the elevator and approached the pair, a wide smile on her bruised face. The sight of the smile warmed Scully all over. The sight of the bruise and black, swollen eye tore at her heart.

To her surprise, Kaz stepped up and embraced her warmly. Seemingly uncaring of the fact they were in public, the tall Italian pulled Scully's head in to her shoulder and ran a hand over her back, as though testing the reality of Scully's presence.

The Commander held her tight for a long moment, silent and obviously too choked up for words.

"Thank you for everything, honey," Scully whispered close to Kaz's ear, "I love you."

"Don't thank me," Kaz whispered hoarsely, barely able to speak, "Just having you back, free and safe...it's all I need."

She broke the embrace, remembering that they were in a public place and not wanting to attract stares that neither she nor Scully could afford.

"I take it you're leaving for Boca soon?" the officer said, her hands in the pockets of her trench coat, which was the only means she could think of to keep them off of Scully.

The redhead nodded while Mulder, waiting anxiously nearby and oblivious to the emotional reunion, said, "Two hours until the flight. And we have to catch each other up."

Kaz, still acutely unhappy with him, faced Mulder gave a flat reply, "Fine. I'll go."

Scully quickly grabbed her sleeve as she made to turn, "No, wait. Come with us to the airport. You're just as much a part of this as we are, Kaz. And..." she trailed off.

Kaz met her eyes and read the unspoken message in them. Both women simply needed to be near each other right now.

The three left the detention center anteroom and exited through the front doors of the Capitol. Kaz led the agents to her car and began the drive to Dulles. Once safely ensconced in the backseat of the old Mustang, Mulder began his tale of Alex Krycek, of Marita Covarrubias, and of his imprisonment in Tunguska.

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

Dulles International Airport
12:05 p.m.

They sat in the corner of a busy McDonald's to talk. Mulder had made a b-line for it as soon as they'd checked in, selecting the fast food restaurant because of the heavy traffic and background noise it would afford them. Neither Kaz nor Scully cared where they were, they simply wanted to revel in the presence of the other nearby.

With an hour to go until their flight, each of the trio drank many cups of much-needed coffee and had briefed the others on the information they'd recently gathered.

It was then that Kaz opened her attache case and pulled out a file folder. "I did a little checking on Dr. Charne-Sayre. She was a professional-caliber equestrian. I find this 'accident' rather implausible considering the fact that she was an expert rider. The woman knew how to handle herself in the saddle, and I seriously doubt she would have taken one out alone after midnight."

"What's you point?" Mulder asked, for he'd already surmised as much as was anxious to get moving.

"Pardon me for wanting to give *all* the relevant facts instead of doleing out those I personally deem necessary," she retorted pointedly and with a glare that told him to tread lightly, for he was on her shit list. "But I contacted the paper up in Charlottesville. Apparently, Dr. Charne-Sayre held quite a few soirees, and the paper covered many of them for their social page. I got the run-around from the photo department, but apparently the reporter who covered the functions wasn't in on the hush-hush. He released these to me."

She tossed the folder onto the table and opened it, offering the photos to the agents, "I thought you might like to see what kid of company Dr. Charne-Sayre keeps. *That's* my point."

Scully flipped through the photos, noting the red grease-penciled 'X's through a number of them. She set these aside, then took a closer look at them while Mulder aimlessly shuffled through a stack, obviously not recognizing any faces.

"Wait," Scully said hesitantly, then nodded with more confidence, "I've seen this man."

Both Mulder and Kaz peered over the table to take a closer look.

She touched a finger to an older gentleman with gray hair, small eyes, and a narrow nose. He struck them all, for some reason, as decidedly British.

"He looks like the guy who played Baron Munchousen in that cheesy movie," Kaz said to her.

Scully remained stone-faced, "His demeanor is much less mercurial than the good Baron's," she told Kaz. Then, to Mulder, she said, "He approached me at your father's funeral. Warned me that I was in danger. It was just before...before Melissa."

Both Kaz and Mulder knew how hard it was for Scully to think about, let alone speak of, her sister Melissa. Kaz reached under the table and took Scully's hand, rubbing it gently between her own.

Scully looked up at her with sad eyes, then put the photos down, "I think he works with *them.*"

"Cancer man's cronies?" Mulder asked.

She nodded and to Kaz said, "I bet you couldn't get his name, right?"

Kaz shook her head.

Scully checked her watch. Half an hour before take-off, "We'd better get going soon," she said to Mulder. "I'll be back."

She stood and left the table. Kaz and Mulder watched her push through the door to the women's restroom, then eyed each other across the table.

"When are you going to stop treating me like dogshit?" Mulder asked the uniformed officer across the table.

"As soon as you quit acting like your full of it," she replied, her eyes intent on the door through which Scully had passed.

He pursed his lips and looked away, knowing he'd stepped right into that one. They sat in awkward silence for a few minutes, saying nothing. Kaz eyed him as he checked his watch impatiently for the third time.

"What's going on with you, Mulder?"

"I just want to catch our flight. We're going to be late."

"That's not what I meant."

"What's taking her so long?" he asked with obvious irritation.

"Oh, I don't know," Kaz quickly replied, her voice dripping sarcasm. "Maybe she's still upset about her sister's murder. Imagine that. Mulder, sometimes other people have things going on that are in no way related to your sacred quest for alien life forms. Have you ever, even once in all the time you two have spent together as partners, ever stopped to consider that notion? Of course not, you're Fox Mulder, and it's all about you. Sorry, I forgot there for a moment."

She didn't wait for an answer, but rose from the table, passed him by with a look of disdain, and headed for the restroom.

Mulder watched her enter and sat back in his seat, having absolutely no idea what her problem was. Sometimes that woman drove him nuts. Why couldn't she be more like Scully, who understood him much better and didn't nag him about stuff like this?

<Women,> he thought as he checked his watch once again.

*****

Kaz pushed the door open and peered inside, only to find Scully leaning against the sink, her arms crossed as she stared at the tile floor.

"Knock, knock," she called out quietly.

Scully looked blankly at her for a split-second before shaking her head and motioning for Kaz to come inside. The officer entered and shut the door behind her. Scully watched her tread past the stalls, assuring herself that they were alone.

Scully sensed rather than saw Kaz's approach. Her body responded so strongly to the tall Italian woman's presence. She leaned in Kaz's direction, and the officer pulled her into a loose embrace, stroking her hair and whispering soothing words close to her ear.

She told herself she would not cry. She simply didn't have time for it. But she let herself be comforted by Kaz's strong, loving arms around her, enveloping her in a soft blanket of comfort and safety. She never wanted to leave those arms again. If time could be made to stop at this very moment, Dana Scully knew she would be the happiest woman on the face of the planet.

Kaz's lips came down and tenderly kissed her temple. Scully's eyes slipped shut as they touched her and Kaz began to rock her just a little.

"Are you okay?"

Scully rested her cheek on Kaz's shoulder, "I am now."

Kaz smiled against the side of Scully's head. The agent's soft red hair caressed her cheek, making her realize all over again how much she had missed her companion.

"I'm sorry, "Kaz said, "...about the photos, I mean. And about Melissa."

There was a long pause before Scully answered, "It still bothers me. I miss her Kaz."

"Of course you do. She was your sister. You loved her."

"I--I did. I idolized her. She was so different. So free. When I was a kid, I wanted to *be* Melissa. She was so pretty and she sparkled--she glowed from within."

Kaz pulled Scully a little closer and kissed her temple again, waiting for more. The officer wondered if Dana Scully realized how pretty she herself was, how much *she* glowed inside. For in Kaz's eyes, Scully was the most radiant being ever to walk the earth.

Finally, Scully continued, "She had nothing to do with all of this...and she died in my place."

Those words ripped at Kaz's heart. She felt like a selfish heel for being so glad Melissa had taken her sister's place. She willed herself to say nothing, to do nothing but hold the woman in her arms.

Scully's voice was a whisper in her ear, "I love you Kaz."

"I love you too, Scully. More than anything."

Reluctantly, Scully broke the embrace, and by the look on her face Kaz could tell the discussion of Melissa Scully was over. Scully looked up into her eyes, and Kaz became aware once again of her swollen eye and bruised face. Scully hadn't brought the subject up in Mulder's presence, but she could tell that it was now time for the dreaded conversation.

Scully reached up and cupped the side of Kaz's face, running a gentle thumb over the deep discoloration beneath her eye. It came away darkened with the make-up Kaz had used in a futile attempt to cover the mark. The younger woman watched her companion rub the foundation between thumb and forefinger as she gathered herself to speak.

Their eyes met once again.

"What happened?" Scully asked.

Over the past few days Kaz had been carefully constructing an innocuous lie. She planned to tell Scully a story about a fateful trip to the law library that ended up in a top-shelf book slipping between her fingers and smacking her in the face. She'd practiced it in her head all morning in the kitchen as she drank glass after glass of orange juice and wishing it was scotch.

Now however, face to face with Scully, Kaz couldn't bring herself to tell it. Scully's sad blue eyes bored deep into her own. Within them were concern and love. Kaz found it impossible to lie into such a face.

"I had an--an altercation. I...um, well...things were thrown."

An eyebrow arched, "By you?"

Kaz shook her head and Scully nodded, having already come to that conclusion. Throwing objects during a confrontation didn't seem Kaz's style.

"What was it?"

Embarrassed, Kaz lowered her eyes and said, "A plant. Ceramic pot. I--I should have ducked."

"Who?"

Kaz bit her lip and traced the outline of a tile floor over and over with her shoe. Scully tilted the officer's chin up with two fingers, forcing Kaz to meet her eyes. The sight of the swollen one, half-shut and looking more fierce with every glance, chilled the agent to the bone.

"Who?" she repeated.

"Marita Covarrubias."

Scully drew in a long breath through her nose. Kaz recognized it as a signal that Scully was seething inside. Not knowing whether the anger was directed at her or at the informant, she quickly began to explain.

"I went to New York on Saturday. I know you didn't want me to, but I had to do it. She was the only lead on Mulder. Scully, I had to find him. I couldn't stand to see you in that cell."

Scully was not deterred by the speech and wasn't about to let her companion off the hook that easily, "What happened?"

"I...I just wanted her to tell me where he was. That's all, I swear."

"Did you threaten her?"

Kaz quickly shook her head, "No-no. Honest to God, I didn't. Sure, I was determined, I wasn't going to let her give me the run-around, but--"

"Let me guess," Scully interrupted, "you forced your way into her home and scared the crap out of her. In defense, she threw a houseplant at you."

Kaz ran a hand through her hair, resting it at the base of her neck. Once again, she was amazed at Scully's power of deduction. In this particular instance, however, she wished her companion wasn't quite so adept.

By this reaction, accompanied by an uncharacteristic silence, Scully knew she'd nailed the course of events dead-on.

"You didn't hurt her, did you?"

"Of course not."

"Honest?"

The officer's eyes darted around the small room as she licked her lips.

"What did you do Kaz?" Scully asked, her voice firm.

"I...well--I slapped her around a little. But not hard. She was a wussie, and I didn't hurt her, I swear."

"Did you stop to think of the trouble you may have gotten yourself into?"

"No."

The answer has been out of Kaz's mouth before she even knew she'd spoken. It was automatic and it was the truth. She hadn't thought about possible consequences, hadn't cared in the least about them. All she'd thought of was the woman standing before her.

After a moment, Kaz continued, "She isn't going to call the police, Scully. She's pond-scum. An informant, trying to play both sides against the middle. Granted, I probably scared her shitless, but she can't afford to call the cops. Besides, she doesn't even know who I am."

Scully crossed her arms in front of herself and leaned against the counter, "So your anonymity gave you license to act like a thug?"

"She sent Mulder to his death!" Kaz's voice rose to a heated whisper, "She knew Tunguska was a gulag. She knew he'd go. She knows he's fucking obsessed and used it to get him to essentially commit suicide. She's to be trusted, Scully. That much I know."

"How?"

Kaz's voice was once again even and level, "I just do. Instinct, I guess."

Scully said nothing for the moment. She looked down at the space between their feet. When she raised her eyes again, they were soft and gentle once more.

"I know you did it for Mulder."

"I did it for you," Kaz corrected. "I love you Scully. I love you more than life itself. Finding him set you free." The officer reached out and took Scully's hands in her own, "I'm not whole without you Scully, and I'd have let myself be beaten to a bloody pulp if it would have freed you from that pit. Don't you know that? Isn't it written all over my face? Every time I look at you, every time I touch you, every time I think of you..." she shook her head, "words can't even describe what I feel for you."

Silence filled the small room as the two women looked at each other.

Scully broke it, "Kaz, I..." she trailed off and stepped into the officer's arms again, burying her face in the folds of Kaz's soft blue dress jacket. She felt Kaz's arms wrap around her once more, keeping her safe and warm. Protecting her. Loving her.

They held each other like that until footsteps warned of another's approach. They broke away just as the door swung open and a woman led a young child into the lavatory.

"Come on," Kaz said, jerking her head in the direction of the door, "Mulder's probably climbing the walls out there."

Scully smiled softly at the officer and followed her out of the room.

*****

Mulder stood not far from the restroom's entrance. He had their coats and briefcases in hand. Kaz just shook her head in dismay as Scully gave him a bemused smile.

"Ready to go, Mulder?" she asked him.

"We really got to shake a leg, Scully. The plane touches off in twenty minutes."

The red-head nodded her agreement and let him lead the way to their gate.

As Mulder checked them in at the counter, Scully turned back to Kaz and laid a hand on her sleeve, something that could be interpreted by those around them as a gesture of friendship. She was always cautious when seen in public with Kaz, who drew plenty of attention with her Italian good looks and immaculate dress uniform.

Kaz covered Scully's smaller hand with her own, her bloodshot eyes crinkling into a tired smile. Scully wanted to touch the bruise beneath Kaz's eye again; wanted to heal it, to make it magically disappear under a barrage of tender kisses.

Now that Scully had been reunited with her Commander, she hated having to leave. She embraced Kaz firmly, trying not to cling, then reluctantly pulled away.

"I'll be back before you can say 'Kazmerowski.'"

The small joke earned her another bone-weary smile from the officer. "Good-bye Scully. And be careful."

Scully held Kaz's eyes a moment longer, "Go home and sleep Kaz. Please? For me?"

Kaz bashfully studied the carpet between them, "I'm not tired...not anymore."

Scully clicked her tongue at this feeble untruth, "You can barely walk in a straight line. You need some rest. How about this--you go home and crawl into bed, get Brandy to keep my place warm, and sleep the clock around. When you wake up, I'll be there by your side. How does that sound?"

The exhausted smile turned into a full-fledged grin, "I'd like that."

"Me too. So get going, hon."

Kaz was still reluctant. Scully gave her another hug before turning her around and pointing her back toward the terminal. The officer drifted slowly away, spinning to face Scully once again as she ambled backwards.

Before Kaz was even out of sight, Mulder came up and put a hand on Scully's shoulder, drawing her attention.

"They're ready for us," he said.

Her reply was small and faraway as she watched Kaz melt into the surrounding crowd of travelers, "Okay. Let's go."

Mulder placed a hand on the small of her back to lead her down the boarding tunnel and onto Flight 742 to Boca Raton, Florida.

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

Anne Kazmerowski's House
1:42 p.m.

Kaz did as she was told. She stumbled into the cozy Georgetown house once again, running clumsy fingers over the buttons of her dress jacket as she pulled open the back porch door to let Brandy inside.

The big dog immediately bounded in and licked her hand affectionately. Kaz smiled at the puppy's sweet innocence, "Such a good girl," she cooed as she bent to receive Brandy's wet, sloppy kisses. "We did it, Kiddo. We got our Scully back. She'll be home before we can say Kazmerowski."

Kaz wore an expression of exhausted happiness for a few moments as she stroked the dog.

When she gathered the strength to move again, she stood and said, "Come on Brands, it's naptime for momma. What do you say?"

The dog appeared to be perfectly agreeable, for she padded closely behind Kaz's heels as the officer drug herself up the stairs. Kaz shrugged her way out of jacket, tie, shirt, shoes, hose, and skirt; each garment seeming to weigh much more than the last.

She stripped herself bare, then pulled on a pair of boxer shorts and an old t-shirt. She ambled to the phone, very aware of her rapidly closing eyelids. Now that the ordeal was nearing its close, she felt enough of the tension drain that she knew she could sleep peacefully. She dearly looked forward to it.

Before she allowed herself the rest, Kaz slowly punched in the buttons that rang a number in the Navy Yard's JAG Corps Division.

"Williams," answered the deep, masculine voice on the end of the line.

She worked hard to keep her voice from a sleepy slur. "Hardy, it's Kaz."

"Hey Kaz. I was wondering where you were this morning. I haven't seen much of you in the past week or so."

"I had a--a personal situation that arose."

"Is everything all right Kaz?"

Despite her extreme weariness, a wide smile crossed her face. "It sure is Hardy. Everything's fine now. Still, the experience ran me down. We don't have anything on the books right now, and I think I'm going to take a few days of sick leave."

"What?" he asked with teasing surprise. "The I-can-never-miss-a-day-of-work-Commander-Kaz is calling in sick? Wonders never cease."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah..."she replied amiably.

"Well, you take care of yourself Kaz. Call if you need some soup. Tonya makes a mean chicken noodle."

"Yeah, in all her free time," Kaz replied with pleasant sarcasm. "When she isn't changing diapers or feeding that little lion you two have."

Hardy chuckled into the phone, "Terrence takes after his poppa."

"Of course he does," she agreed. "Thanks for the offer Hardy. Give my best to Tonya and the little one."

"Will do. You get some rest Kaz. It sounds like you need it."

"Bye Hardy," she said, and hung up as her eyes closed once again of their own accord. They burned with fatigue, and her body seemed boneless now.

She hadn't wanted to admit how nervous or anxiety-ridden she had been, but the truth was plain now. Her body needed to shut down for a good long while.

After saying a silent prayer for Scully's safety, Kaz threw back the covers and climbed between the soft, comfortable sheets. Brandy automatically climbed up beside her and, after a few loving licks to Kaz's chin that drew a groan from the bedraggled officer, the dog curled up beside her and laid down.

The minute Kaz's head touched the pillow, she was out like a light.

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

EIGHTEEN HOURS LATER
Tuesday, Feb 11
Flight 1213--Fargo North Dakota to Washington DC
7:10 a.m.

She couldn't get it out of her head.

The nightmare replayed itself once again before Dana Scully's closed eyelids, making her bolt upright in her seat and frantically search the nearly-deserted cabin around her.

She was, of course, searching for someone she knew was not there.

Kaz.

Every time she closed her eyes, she pictured it again. But it was no nightmare, it had been real. The old man had walked right up behind her, pulled her gun out of her holster, and put its cold barrel to her temple.

It was something that had never happened to her before.

Now, it made her angry. She couldn't believe she'd been that stupid. She mentally kicked herself a thousand times for being so foolish.

But that hadn't been what had caused the mental replay.

What caused it was her reaction to the incident, for in the space of perhaps two seconds she went from her calm, cool self to a woman who was certain she was going to die.

She'd been at death's door before. Many times, actually. In fact, her head had literally been on the chopping at one point.

But she hadn't felt then what she felt yesterday when the old man took her own weapon and held it to her head.

She felt, in the mere moments as it occurred, a blind horror at the thought of losing her new-found happiness. Now, after all the years of denial and repression of her true self, she had something to live for.

And it was going to be ripped away in the blink of an eye.

Her thoughts then, as now, were only for one person. Anne Kazmerowski.

As the old man had held her own black Sig to her head, she had only one last thought, and it repeated itself over and over.

<OhKaz.IloveyouKaz.I'msosorry.I'msosorry.I'msosorry.PleaseknowIloveyouKaz...>

And she had prepared herself for him to pull the trigger, with only her sorrow over leaving Kaz, alone and in grief, ricocheting wildly in her brain.

He hadn't killed her. He hadn't pulled the trigger. In fact, he had been sad, almost apologetic, about having had to take her hostage. He released her, to her unbelievable surprise, and was gone before she had even recovered her rational mind.

Now, as the plane began its descent into Dulles International Airport, she thought again of Kaz, of her career in the Bureau, of the risks she took in the line of duty.

Of Fox Mulder and his relentless quest.

Mulder was in the row behind her, snoring softly and looking (as he had for some time now) like hell. She wondered what drove him to such lengths. At one time, she thought she knew. Now, however, she couldn't seem to figure it out.

Then she realized what it was, and the answer was so plain and so simple she wanted to smack herself on the forehead.

This *was* his life. In his mind, he had nothing else. The red-flagged files in dusty cabinets within the basement office, those were his family members, his intimates. And he would do anything in his power to be with them, to solve the mysteries contained in each of them.

But could she?

Those files meant a lot to her as well. Inside each was a scientific puzzle, a doorway to things scientists hadn't yet discovered about the universe. They intrigued and fascinated her.

Yet, they were not her life. They were part of her job and part of something intellectually stimulating for her. But they were not her life.

She had her own family, had her own interests, and now, had her own love. She had given so much of herself in the past four years to Mulder and his X-Files, and now she had her own life.

It came down to one question: Could she strike a balance between the two?

She thought about that until the plane's wheels touched jarringly down on the runway at Dulles International Airport. By the time she gathered her things and exited the aircraft, she had found her answer.

Yes. She could find a balance. In fact, she *had* to find a balance. For she could not give up the immense happiness of her life with Kaz, nor could she turn her back on Mulder and the fascinating mysteries of the cases they investigated together.

As she walked through the tunnel and into the airport, Scully felt Mulder's hand come to rest comfortably on the small of her back. She looked up at him and gave him a small smile.

"How you doing, big guy?"

He shook his head from side to side for a moment, as if trying to decide. "A little worn out, but okay. Disappointed in a big way, I guess."

She nodded, "I can imagine."

They walked through the airport in silence, though neither found it awkward. As they exited the building and walked to the car, Scully rediscovered her voice.

"Why did you do it, Mulder?"

"Do what?"

"Follow Krycek. Go to Russia. Crawl under that fence. You were like a man possessed on this case, Mulder. You went to lengths that--that even I've never seen you go to before. You did it without batting an eye, without hesitating in the least. You threw away all sense of caution and jumped in, leaping before even peering over the edge to see what may lay in the chasm."

Mulder unlocked the door, busying himself with it to avoid looking at her face. "I had to know."

She looked at him over the top of the car, but he still would not return her glance. He stepped into the vehicle, sitting behind the wheel and waiting there for her to enter.

After a long moment, she did, but when he reached for the key in the ignition, she stopped his hand with her own, forcing him to meet her gaze.

The silence stretched between them. It grew long and increasingly tense.

"I had to know," he repeated, and reached for the keys once again, starting the car and pulling out of the parking lot.

Scully stared out the window, watching the buildings and bare expanses pass by them, the deceivingly brisk winter sun glinting off the landscape and into her pale blue eyes.

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

Anne Kazmerowski's House
12:03 p.m.

Scully entered quietly and shut the door behind her. She leaned back against it, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath, inhaling the sweet scent of the house she loved so dearly. It was just as she remembered it: the hint of oil paints, the fresh peach potpourri, the lingering smell of homemade bread, and Kaz.

She could smell Kaz in the house, for the house was marked by her companion's own unique scent. Sandalwood and sweet perfume and the clean tang of Ivory soap. That was Kaz.

She heard the sharp click of hard nails on the floor and opened her eyes to see Brandy standing in the entranceway, head tilted questioningly to one side, as though asking Scully to explain just what the hell had been going on lately.

"Come here, Brandy," Scully whispered, patting her knee.

The dog complied, but whimpered a little, telling Scully that the boxer was in bad need of some leg-stretching. Scully doubted Kaz had been conscious long enough to run the dog in the past 24 hours. She let Brandy into the back yard with hushed promises of a run soon to come. She took off her trench coat and climbed the stairway to the bedroom.

Entering quietly, she turned to see Kaz curled up beneath the covers, her long, lean back toward Scully. She sat very carefully on the edge of the bed, watching the slow rise and fall of Kaz's body as the officer took the long, regular breaths of deep sleep.

Scully reached out to pull back a stray lock that had fallen in front of Kaz's ear, then stroked the young woman's head gently. Kaz's dark hair was slightly damp, and the room held the lingering scent of soap and shampoo, as if Kaz had woken recently to shower and possibly eat, but had quickly fallen back to sleep.

As the agent ran her fingers through Kaz's hair, her mind traveled back once again to the events that occurred at the refinery. The effect this sleeping young woman had on her was amazing.

And the thought of how much pain her death would have caused Kaz was almost too much to bear.

Scully knew that if anything happened to Kaz, her own life would be in shambles. In fact, the very thought of losing Kaz was so emotionally devastating she couldn't dwell on it for more than a few seconds. Even those seconds were like a rusty spike being driven into her heart--for it hurt that much.

Beneath her hand Kaz shifted just a little, leaning up to meet it and moving with it, drawing out each stroke, making it last as long as possible. Kaz rolled over and laid on her back, her eyes still closed, but with a soft smile on her face.

"Scully," she whispered, barely audible.

"Hi honey."

"Is it really you? Or am I dreaming again?"

"It's me Kaz. Open your eyes and see for yourself."

Kaz's thick brows furrowed, "If I open my eyes, and it's a dream--you'll be gone."

Scully moved her hand down to Kaz's face, rubbing her thumb tenderly across the bruised cheek, wishing she could make it disappear.

She cleared her throat and said, "It's not a dream, honey. I'm here."

Scully read both reluctance and hope in the young face as Kaz willed her eyes to open. The rich chocolate irises lighted upon her. Scully watched them slowly focus on her form.

Kaz smiled and immediately leapt up to hug Scully tight. "It's really you. You're really free. You're here, in the house...with me."

Scully tried not to wince at the strength of Kaz's embrace. Though she feared the tall Italian might crack a rib, she took a shallow breath and said, "It's me Kaz. It really happened. I'm back."

Suddenly Kaz eased off, freeing Scully from her vice-like grip, "I'm so sorry Scully. Did I hurt you? I'm sorry, I just wanted to hold you so bad, I--I..."

Scully pulled Kaz back into her arms, laying the officer's head against her chest, "You didn't hurt me, hon. Just caught me off-guard. I'm glad you're so happy to see me."

Kaz's eyes slipped shut once again as she rested her cheek against the soft skin of Scully's neck, reveling in the feel of it after their agonizing separation. They sat like that for a long time, with Scully rocking the taller woman in her arms, occasionally setting her lips against the top of Kaz's head.

When Scully tilted Kaz's head back up, she saw tears in the young officer's eyes. Kaz let them slip shut, and a tear slid slowly down her olive-toned face.

Scully caught it with her thumb. "Don't cry Kaz," she whispered softly as she rocked the Commander once again. "Don't cry honey. Everything is going to be okay."

Kaz buried her face in Scully's neck once again. Her voice was soft and muffled as she said, "I know it is. I'm just so glad. I thought...I-I was scared Scully. So worried, so nervous. And to see you there, in that place..."

"S-h-h-h," Scully whispered, laying her lips against Kaz's temple to brush it softly.

The motion charged Kaz's body, sent a surge of repressed need and desire through her, reminding her all over again of the effect Dana Scully had on her body as well as her heart and soul. She lifted her head and looked up at Scully.

Scully watched as Kaz licked her lips, the brown eyes riveted on her mouth. Kaz reached a hand up to cup the side of Scully's face. Scully melted under the touch, letting her eyes slip shut, lost in the rekindled sensation of this woman's hands on her skin. Placidly, she let Kaz run gentle fingers over her cheeks, her forehead, her chin--and finally up to her lips. Kaz ran a finger along her bottom lip, tracing its ridges.

Her mouth parted just a little as a fire began to burn in her belly, scorching her all the way down to her toes. Her head spun as her tongue darted out touch the tip of Kaz's probing finger.

Kaz pulled it away, teasing lightly at first, wanting Scully's hunger to build. Then, she pushed forward with it once again, letting Scully pull the finger into her mouth and lave it with her warm, sensuous tongue.

Scully sucked on it, slowly at first, then with more urgency. Kaz felt the pulling, the need, the desire as Scully rolled it on her tongue and pressed it against the roof of her mouth. Her head began to spin with increasing desire. She inched her finger from the warm, wet confines of Scully's mouth, then brought a hand to the back of Scully's neck, pulling her in for a kiss.

At the first touch of their lips, both women uttered a small moan. The tension and stress of the past week began to ebb from their bodies as they re-acquainted themselves with each other.

Scully brushed Kaz's lips with her own, she pulled the officer's bottom lip between her teeth to nuzzle it gently. As she ran her tongue over and across it, Kaz uttered another moan and sat up straighter, increasing the contact of their bodies. Scully felt a hand trail down her neck, dip beneath her collar, and gently massage the skin that lay there.

She broke the kiss and her head fell back, exposing her neck to her companion. Kaz took full advantage, and laid wet kisses on it, tonguing the skin, tasting the delicious flavor of Scully once again. Her hand now worked at the buttons of Scully's shirt, deftly undoing each until she had room to slip one inside, under the satin of her bra, to touch a milky white breast.

Scully's nipple was already hard as stone, and the agent sighed as Kaz took one between her fingers and gently squeezed. Kaz returned the sound, feeling the pleasure vicariously, for Scully's pleasure was now her own as well.

Quickly tilting her head back down, Scully re-captured Kaz's lips, pulling hard on them until they parted to allow an eager tongue to enter. Delving deeply, Scully stroked Kaz over and over again, her hands running over the taut, plentiful muscles of the Italian woman's back as she arched into Kaz's hand, still on her aching breast.

It felt so good, those warm hands, absent for far too long. Each night, as she laid in that cold, dank cell, she imagined those hands on her skin, warming her, caressing her, loving her with expert precision.

They were running all over her now. Down her stomach, up over her shoulders, pushing her shirt and bra away to expose her bare nipples. She moved to allow for the removal of the offending garments, and let Kaz lead her gently down to the bed.

With a hand cupping each firm breast, Kaz bent to Scully's ear, "I missed you...and I missed this. You, in my bed, by my side."

Scully arched up into the soft, warm hands once again, "Touch me, Kaz. Touch me all over. Let me know I'm home."

At the sound of those words, Kaz lightly caressed the ridge of Scully's ear with her tongue. Her hands traced their way around Scully's nipples. As she sent her tongue into Scully's ear, she gently pinched the soft pink nipples between her fingers, rolling them over and over again until Scully moaned loudly and her breath came out in short, husky pants.

Moving back to the ripe, red mouth, Kaz traced Scully's lips with her tongue, then sent it inside, seeking Scully's and massaging it, reveling in the sensation of Scully once again.

Scully's ears turned hot and began to ring as Kaz's hands drifted lower, down to smooth over her stomach. One finger dipped into her navel and she groaned in anticipation. She felt Kaz smile against her mouth and laughed hoarsely as Kaz continued to worship her body with gentle strokes.

Together, they rid themselves of their clothing, and then lay on their sides against each other, their naked bodies pressed tight together within each other's arms. Kaz turned Scully on her back once more and kissed her way down Scully's neck, licking lightly into the hollow between Scully's breasts.

Kaz moved to straddle her lover, and Scully spread her legs wide to allow Kaz between them. Her throbbing center lay pressed against Kaz's flat stomach as the officer slowly leaned down to kiss each of her lovely pink nipples.

"Oh Kaz--yes..." Scully cried in a strained whisper that touched Kaz's very soul.

Kaz pulled one nipple into her mouth while lazily tracing circles over the other. Scully arched once again, her breath growing even shorter as Kaz painted the surface of the nipple with her tongue, laving it over and over again until Scully thought she was going to die.

"Don't stop," Scully pleaded in a small voice, making Kaz work even harder for a moment before moving onto the other breast.

She gave it even more tortuous treatment than the first, lightly grazing the surface with her teeth before sucking hard on it and caressing it with her tongue.

Scully whimpered as her hands tangled in Kaz's thick, dark hair. She pulled it off Kaz's face and forced her eyes open to see what her lover was doing to her.

Kaz's face was glorious as she worked. Her eyes were closed, her thick lashes melting together as her mouth moved over Scully's breast. With two fingers, Scully touched Kaz's cheek, tracing its smooth softness before placing her palm against it, feeling Kaz's mouth move as she nipped and sucked.

She lifted Kaz's head away, needing that mouth pressed against hers once again. Pulling the younger woman back up, she dove at Kaz's mouth, ravishing it with a deep kiss that sent another tide of wetness down between both their legs.

Kaz trailed her hand down between Scully's thighs, lightly rubbing the insides of them, feeling the quiver within them before moving up to part Scully's nether lips with one finger. She ran it from back to front, sliding it within Scully's wetness and briefly flicking at Scully's swollen clitoris before going back to begin the motion over again.

Scully moaned deep in her throat and broke the kiss. Kaz led Scully's head and shoulders back down to the pillows, then worked another finger between the soft folds at the juncture of Scully's thighs. She stopped at Scully's clit and rubbed slow circles over it as she moved down, licking and kissing her way toward her goal.

Scully lay back, a puddle of burning desire and sensation beneath Kaz's hands and mouth. She was unable to speak, unable to think, only able to sense the exquisite touches and hear the pounding of her own heart in her ears.

Kaz's mouth reached her now, and she felt the hot breath just above her for only a split second before Kaz pulled her lips apart and placed her mouth on Scully's flaming clit.

"A-a-h-h-h-h!" Scully cried as Kaz's tongue made another appearance, doing to her clit what she had done to Scully's breasts.

Kaz found the center of Scully's desire with ease, and flicked her tongue over the swollen bud again and again, moving to the rhythm of Scully's hips as they kept a steady pace that would send her closer and closer to the intense pleasure they both desired.

Within minutes, Scully was clutching hard at the sheets as Kaz continued her loving assault.

When she felt Scully was getting closer, she moved a hand down to cup her lover once more, then slowly pushed a finger into Scully's soft, wet center. She worked it in and out as she sucked and licked, tasting Scully and loving the familiar sweet saltiness.

"Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my GOD!" Scully cried as her body tensed and her hips shot up from the sheets.

Kaz knew it was close, and drove harder with her tongue, curling her finger inside Scully to find the right spot. Apparently, she did, for Scully bucked up into her face with a force neither of them had previously experienced. Kaz hung on, sucking hungrily with her tongue flying over Scully's clit with blinding speed.

Scully's head spun as she left the earth and floated above it. Her body was wracked with orgasmic spasms that sent her flying to new realms of sensation and pleasure. She heard herself cry out again and again, but was unaware that the sounds had come from her own throat. She coasted on a tidal wave of oblivion.

As it ended, her body eased back down onto the bed, still humming with pleasure and occasionally twitching with the last remaining shudders.

Kaz slowed gradually to a stop, then laid her tongue flat against Scully for a moment, still wanting to be this close to her, still wanting to please and taste and touch.

Scully lay prone and spent on the bed, panting and gasping for air. Kaz looked up to see a contorted mask of pleasure and pain on her lover's face, and now needed to be close to that face. She slowly slipped her finger out of Scully, cupped her once more, then moved up beside the beautiful redhead, gathering the smaller woman in her arms and holding her tight as Scully recovered from the intensity of her climax.

Scully clutched her tight, wrapping her arms around Kaz's neck. Their foreheads touched and Kaz felt Scully's hot breath against her face.

"It's okay, baby," Kaz said softly, stroking Scully's hair, running her fingers through it to pull it back off the fair, soft skin of Scully's face. "I'm here with you, Sculls. It's okay."

When Scully regained enough of her faculties to speak, she opened her eyes, looking into Kaz's smiling face and gentle brown eyes.

"Oh God, I love you, Kaz."

Kaz leaned forward and tenderly touched her lips to Scully's, then said, "I love you too. I want to spend the rest of my life with you."

Scully let her eyes slip shut once again as she smiled, "I want that too."

Kaz brought Scully's head in close and kissed her cheek, "Then don't ever leave this bed."

It took a second for Scully to process her words, but when she did, the redhead chuckled weakly, "So now you want me to be a 'kept woman?'"

"Exactly."

This time, the laugh was fuller, and Kaz couldn't help but join her companion, for the sound of Scully's rare laughter sent a surge of joy racing through her heart.

As the laughter died, Scully pulled Kaz close again and sought her lips for a slow, sensual kiss. She tasted herself on Kaz's lips and in her mouth, and the knowledge of this willed her on to seek Kaz's pleasure, to make the officer come as long and as hard as she herself had.

Kaz felt this change come over her partner, and relaxed within Scully's arms, letting the small, beautiful agent make love to her.

Scully ran her hands lightly over Kaz's back, tracing small patterns there, seeking the line of every vertebra, soothing the tension in her partner's strong upper back. She worked her way down to Kaz's hips, running them over Kaz's flank and to the smooth skin of her bottom.

Kaz sighed as she let out a long, slow breath, her eyes closing and her body beginning to hum under the light touch of these small, soft hands.

Scully turned Kaz on her back. She bent her head to Kaz's breasts and took a dark nipple into her mouth. Kaz exhaled loudly again and ran a hand over Scully's back, encouraging her to continue.

Scully did, lavishing the sweet skin with everything she'd received and more. She toyed with the other nipple while sucking lightly on the first, her tongue bestowing every pleasure she was capable of on the delicate peaks.

"S-c-c-u-u-l-l-e-e-e--" Kaz moaned as she writhed under her companion's ministrations.

The redhead continued the onslaught, making Kaz whimper and groan and call her name again and again. Then she said, "Do you think you can kneel?"

Eyes still closed, Kaz nodded her assent, and Scully helped her up until they were on their knees, face to face.

Scully reached out and cupped Kaz's breasts once again, then slowly set them free and pulled Kaz closer into her arms. She bent Kaz's head to her shoulder and let it rest there. Kaz wrapped her arms around Scully's back, needing the support for her shaky legs.

Scully slid Kaz's knees a little further apart and moved a hand down the officer's flat belly.

Realizing what Scully intended, Kaz relaxed into Scully's embrace, laying soft kisses against the smooth skin of Scully's neck.

Scully reached down between Kaz legs, parting her and momentarily allowing the cold air to caress her lover's hot center. Kaz quivered a little in her arms and moaned. Then, Scully slid a finger into the folds. It was immediately coated in Kaz's wet need and the officer tensed for a moment as her breath came quicker. Scully felt the rapid beat of Kaz's heart against her breast, and knew even Kaz couldn't maintain this position long.

She ran her hand through the wetness again, this time pausing to slip a finger into Kaz's rich warmth. Kaz strained upwards at the sensation, then knelt back down, coaxing it in even further.

"That feels good, Scully," Kaz whispered hoarsely against her neck. "Please don't stop."

Scully had absolutely no intention of stopping, and instead added another finger to the first.

"O-h-h-h-h-h..."

Kaz gripped Scully a little tighter to help steady herself as Scully began to move inside her. It was a slow pistoning, a gentle glide in and almost out, and with every stroke, Kaz let out a small groan of increasing pleasure.

Scully moved her hand in a slow, steady rhythm, wanting this to last forever. Kaz's inner walls were like velvet, so soft and so wet, her fingers slid smoothly in and back out.

"Another?" she whispered to the clinging woman in her arms.

Kaz nodded against her shoulder, then sighed, "Yeah...oh yeah."

Carefully, Scully pushed into Kaz with another finger, stretching her and increasing the pressure on her hand. She was unsure if Kaz could take it, and was hesitant until she heard Kaz's deep moan of pleasure and felt the officer's hips grind even harder down onto her, then up against her.

With her thumb, Scully searched for Kaz's clit, and knew she hit her mark when Kaz bucked hard against her and, panting, squeezed her face into the crook of Scully's neck.

"I've got you, honey," Scully said softly in reassurance, "It's okay. Let it go, hon. I've got you."

Kaz groaned again and opened her mouth, laying it against Scully's neck as she fought for breath. The build-up was intense, rockets of sensation were lighting off all over her body. Scully was filling her so completely and holding her so gently--Kaz thought she was going to explode.

The pleasure continued to build. She could feel it in her legs now, making them weak and shaky. Her heart pounded in her chest, her breath was wetting Scully's neck, she felt it against her own face as well. She held tight to Scully, trusting her companion to carry her through, knowing the walls could come crashing down around them and still Scully would keep her safe.

As she completely put her trust and faith in Dana Scully, Kaz felt herself relax again in her lover's arms. The only thing in her mind was the blinding sensation Scully was inducing inside her. It came even closer now, curling up deep within her belly, preparing to spring throughout her body and send her flying.

"Ah--ah--ah--S-c-c-u-u-l-l-e-e-e..."

Scully took her cue, and tightened her grip around Kaz's back, steadying her with her legs, leaning Kaz against her smaller body as a series of tremors ran through her partner's lean, strong frame. She continued her motion inside Kaz's softness, continued her slow assault on Kaz's throbbing clit.

Kaz shook strongly, bucked hard, tensed again, and then shook all anew as another series of spasms rushed through her. She cried out again, her damp, sweaty face pressed hard into the surrounding skin of Scully's neck.

After an eternity, the tremors began to abate and Kaz slowly came back down to earth. As she did so, her body lost its strength and she sagged into Scully's arms, limp and boneless as she panted and heaved and tried to recover her senses.

Scully held her heavy, dangling form tight, loving the feel of Kaz's skin pressed so hard against her own. Loving the feeling of absolute trust Kaz had placed in her. Loving Kaz for making herself so vulnerable.

Reluctantly, she slipped her hand from the softness inside Kaz's depths and led the exhausted officer down to the sheets. Kaz mumbled something incoherent that made Scully smile as she covered them both with the big down comforter, keeping them warm and safe despite the February chill in the outside air. She tucked the comforter around Kaz's still limp body and stroked the young woman's dark hair once again, smoothing it back off her face.

She focused on the deep, dark bruise beneath Kaz's eye and felt tears welling. She pushed them back, not wanting Kaz to see them should she open her eyes. Luckily, she was successful, for Kaz did pry her burnt chocolate eyes open seconds later.

"You're amazing, Dana Scully."

Scully leaned in and kissed her forehead, "You're not so bad yourself."

Kaz's lips turned up into a smile that exposed a mouthful of brilliant white teeth. "I have a question for you."

An eyebrow arched, "Now?"

Kaz nodded, "No time like the present."

"Okay," Scully said, a little hesitant. She didn't want to talk about the disappointing results of the case now, nor about Mulder's little disappearing act. She only wanted to be with Kaz, think about Kaz, and make love to Kaz.

Even in her still-exhausted and sexually satiated state, Kaz sensed the undercurrent of unease in Scully's voice. She reached out a reassuring hand and rubbed Scully's bare arm.

"Don't worry, it's nothing controversial. Well," she added with a thoughtful little frown, "at least, I don't think it is."

Scully gave her an inquisitive look that encouraged her to continue.

Kaz watched her own fingers trace a line up Scully's forearm, "I was wondering...I mean hoping...well--damn. I practiced this over and over when I woke up a couple of hours ago. Now I messed it all up."

"What?" Scully asked, gently prodding.

Kaz looked up into Scully's clear blue eyes. She reached up and cupped her companion's cheek.

"Scully, would you live here with me? I mean for good. Like give up your apartment and move all your stuff in and eat with me and sleep with me and paint the walls with me and do the garden in the summer and all that kind of stuff?"

Scully hid a smile, instead remained pensive, "You're asking me to move in with you?"

Abashed, Kaz looked away at the far wall as words began to rapidly pour out of her usually restrained, controlled mouth, "I mean, you don't have to. It was just a thought and I understand if you want some space of your own where you can get away from me if you need to. I just thought maybe you'd like to stay here for good but I don't want you to feel like you have to cause you don't and I'd totally understa--'

"Kaz--"

"--if you want to just stay here sometimes and I know it might be weird for you at work telling everyone you moved and especially if you say your roommate is a woman and--"

"Kaz!"

"--you might not like it here in Georgetown cause some of the people are kinda snobby--but some aren't bad--in fact I like a lot of them but you might not and I understand this is a big step and we've only known each other fo--"

"KAZ!"

The officer stopped, now hearing Scully for the first time. Scully gave her an incredulously amused look and shook her head just a little.

"Kaz-honey, I was just making sure you were asking what I thought you were asking."

"And?" Kaz replied in a voice that struck Scully as endearingly hopeful.

She allowed the smile to blossom this time, "And I'd *love* to move in with you. I want to be with you for the rest of my life, Kaz. If I could, I'd marry you in a heartbeat. I'd even become 'Mrs. Kazmerowski' if you wanted me to."

Kaz laughed with all the strength she had, "No, no, no. I think *I'd* be changing my name. 'Mrs. Scully' has a nice ring to it."

"Hmm...so what should we do about the name dilemma?" Scully asked her.

Kaz grinned and shook her head, "Nothing. We won't get married. We'll just live in sin."

Scully had to smile at that. For there was nothing in the world that seemed less like sinning than spending the rest of her life with Anne Kazmerowski.

"I'm glad you're home, Scully."

"Me too, hon. And thank you."

"For what?" Kaz asked, slightly puzzled.

"Oh, let's see...for standing behind me in the face of a US Senate Sub-Committee, for giving me your love and support while I was in lock-up, for tracking down almost every lead we had on this case, for finding Mulder. Remember those things?"

"Oh yeah, I remember now," Kaz replied, brushing them off. "It was nothing. You'd have done the same for me."

Scully ran a hand over Kaz's shoulder, focusing on the soft skin beneath her fingers. She thought over Kaz's statement, immediately knowing it was true.

Finally, when words could come, she slowly spoke, "You...you didn't even think, did you?"

Puzzled once again, Kaz frowned a little as she shook her head, "No--no I didn't. But...but what do you mean?"

Scully inhaled through her nose, then slowly let it out. She met Kaz's eyes once more. "You went out on a limb for me, disregarding all consequences to yourself. It's amazing to me, Kaz. Amazing that you'd do what you did for me. I-I've never been with anyone who'd do that for me, never had anyone go to such lengths, put themselves at such risk." Her hand wandered up to Kaz's bruised face once more, tracing the discoloration ever so lightly with her thumb. "She could have had a gun...could have shot you...could have killed you."

Kaz reached up and gently grasped Scully's wrist, pulling her hand from the injury, "But she didn't, Scully. I'm safe and I'm fine and so are you and this whole fucking mess is finally over."

"But--"

Firmly, Kaz cut her off, "No buts. It's over. You're back where you belong--with me. You know why I did those things, Scully. We both know. And it's really no surprise, is it?"

Her eyes narrowing in thought for a moment, Scully bit her lip, then released it, "No, it's not surprising."

"Then you tell me why I did it," Kaz instructed, wanting it as clear in Scully's mind as it was in her own.

Scully pulled her eyes away for a moment, studying the wall beyond Kaz's shoulder.

"Tell me--" Kaz prodded gently, squeezing Scully's shoulder with affection.

"Y-you did it..." Scully paused, forcing her eyes back to Kaz's, "you did it be-because you love me."

Kaz's smile was radiant, "Yes," she affirmed, "I did it because I love you so very much, Dana Scully. Is that so hard to believe?"

Scully licked her lips, drew her brows down. "There was a time--not so long ago--when I wasn't sure if anyone could love me. I'd let myself grow so distant. I retreated from everything and everyone." Her expression slowly grew soft as she spoke, "But now, now that you've come into my life...it's like I've awaken from a long, deep sleep. Almost effortlessly, you worked your way into my heart until...well, it *belongs* to you now.

"I love you, Kaz," she continued, "and you're right. I'd have done the same for you."

Kaz wrapped her arms around Scully and pulled the agent close. She laid a soft kiss on Scully's forehead, then whispered, "But you won't have to."

"Huh?" Scully asked, startled.

"You won't have to," she repeated, "because we're never leaving this bed."

Scully smiled softly and brought herself close to Kaz again, resting her head in the crook of the officer's soft shoulder. "Okay," she replied, burrowing in even further, "you convinced me."

Kaz set her jaw against Scully's temple and ran a leisurely hand over Scully's bare arm. Safe and warm in each other's arms, the pair drifted into a peaceful doze, the first for each in many days.

The first of many yet to come.

THE END

Scully and Kaz will return...

(Feedback welcome at: xfstew@yahoo.com)