Snapshots

A/N: A special thank you to yellowsmurf6 and k_icker for the beta.

Snapshots:
A Brief History of a Life Less Ordinary
 

February 22, 1966

Elizabeth was bored. But that was nothing new. Even as a child she had always been a bit… fickle.

As the daughter of the Earl of Essington, her whims and flights of fancy were usually indulged by the staff of Essington Manor… and by her father. The Earl knew he spoiled his daughter, but having lost his wife to leukemia when Elizabeth was but a year old, he found he didn’t have the heart to deny her anything.

Anyway, Lady Elizabeth was used to getting her way, and acting out when she didn’t. So, when she felt her husband Philippe wasn’t spending enough time with her she pulled her usual trick – she disappeared. She checked into the hotel using her maiden name, Elizabeth Morgan. She knew her husband, or more likely his lawyer, would check all the five star hotels first, so she chose a smaller but still respectable hotel.

~~~

February 23, 1966

The pain woke her up. She reached for and fumbled with the phone on the nightstand. She managed to dial 0 for the front desk.

“Help me! Please!” Another pain made her cry out and drop the phone.

“Ma’am? Ma’am?!” The desk clerk grabbed the night manager. “Greg, I think we’ve got an emer­gency! Room 237 – Ms. Morgan. She just called and asked for help then cried out as if in pain.”

“Call 911,” he ordered as he took off running for room 237.

~~~

In the ER it was quickly determined that Elizabeth needed an emergency c-section. A scant 15 minutes after arriving at the hospital Elizabeth had given birth.

“You have a beautiful new daughter! Do you have a name picked out for her?”

“Jess… Jessica Renee…” she managed before drifting off.

~~~

February 25, 1966

Philippe Rodier walked into the hospital carrying a rather large bouquet of flowers. He was irritated Elizabeth had taken off again. His lawyer already told him which room his wife was in, but he went straight to the nursery to see his son.

He stood at the window trying to read the names on the bassinettes. A nurse smiled at him but he frowned. He didn’t see his son. The nurse came to the door and stuck her head out.

“Can I help you, sir?”

“My wife gave birth two days ago.”

“What’s your name?”

“Philippe Rodier.”

She frowned. “I’m afraid we don’t have any babies named Rodier.”

“But my wife is in room 417.”

“Oh, you mean Elizabeth Morgan.”

He sighed. “Yes.”

“Go to the window; I’ll be right there.”

Philippe returned to the window and waited. The nurse appeared at the window with a tiny baby wrapped in a pink blanket. He shook his head. That couldn’t be right – he had a son. The nurse nodded as she pulled the blanket away to give a clearer view of her face. Philippe again shook his head. The nurse placed the little girl in a bassinette and pressed the intercom.

“What’s the matter, Mr. Rodier?”

“Where’s my son?”

“You have a beautiful daughter, sir. Jessica Renee Morgan.”

“Alright, thank you.” He turned and walked away, dropping the flowers in a trashcan on the way out of the hospital.

~~~~~~~

April 13th, 1972

The principal, Ms. David, came into the classroom and spoke to the teacher quietly. Then she turned to the students. “Jessica, I need you to come with me, please.”

“Yes, ma’am.” She walked next to the principal until they arrived at her office. There she saw her favorite person in the whole world – her grandfather. “Grandfather!” She ran into his always-strong arms.

He picked her up and held her close. “Jessica! How’s my little Sunshine?”

She smiled and laughed at his pet name for her and wrapped her arms around his neck, clinging to him.

He looked at the principal. “We’re going to go for a walk, Sunshine.”

Ms. David nodded in understanding as he carried Jessica outside.

The Earl found their favorite quiet spot on a bench under a tree. “Jessica, I’m afraid I have some bad news, sweetheart.”

“What’s wrong, Grandfather?”

“It’s your mother… she’s gone, Jessica.”

She reached up and wiped away the few tears that had escaped and ran down his cheeks towards his beard. “It’s okay. She goes away a lot, but she always comes back eventually.”

“Not this time, Sunshine. Your mother is dead, Jessica.”

“Oh.” She was quiet for several seconds before speaking again. “She wasn’t a happy person, Grand­father.”

He gazed into the sparkling grey eyes of his granddaughter and saw intelligence far beyond her years. He sighed. “No, sweetheart, she wasn’t.”

“Maybe she’ll be happy now.”

“Maybe she will.”

That sat together in silence for several minutes.

~~~

April 17, 1972

“Lord Essington, I understand you’re Jessica’s grandfather, but Mr. Rodier is her father. And quite frankly we are just not set up to board students through the summer.”

“As far as her father is con­cerned–” He stopped himself before he said something very regretful.

“That man didn’t even bother to show up for his wife’s funeral. He was ‘too busy’ to attend or to spend any time with daughter. So I don’t care what it takes, Ms. David, just make it happen. And don’t give me any crap about not having money in the budget. I will cover any and all associated costs.”

“Why don’t you let her stay with you during the summer?”

“Jessica’s expressed a desire to stay at school. She loves learning, and I think she likes the consistency of environment. If Jessica wants to stay at school during the summer, then that’s what she’ll get to do.”

The Earl left the principal’s office and rejoined Jessica outside under ‘their’ tree.

“What did Ms. David say?”

“It’ll be arranged. But are you sure it’s what you want, Sunshine? Do you really want to stay here during the summers?”

“Yes. It’s not like Father is ever around anyway; I never see him when I am home. And here I can study and learn stuff.”

“You know you can come spend summers with me. I’d love to have you stay with me.”

“I know. Father might not notice if I’m around or not, but he’d never give permission for me to go England with you. At least you can still visit me here,” she said with a smile.

“That I can, Sunshine. That I can.”

~~~~~~~

June 3, 1973

He sat on the side of the bed and brushed the hair back from her face. “Hey, Sunshine.”

She opened her eyes and smiled tiredly. “Hi, Grandfather.”

He bent down and kissed her forehead. “They tell me you haven’t been feeling your best.”

She yawned. “I’m so tired.”

“Do you think you feel up to a walk with your old grandfather?”

Jessica simply held her arms out. The Earl picked her up and carried her. Once outside he walked until he found a quiet place away from everything. He sat down on the ground, under a shade tree. He looked at his granddaughter and saw she’d already fallen asleep. He kissed her forehead.

Jessica lifted her head up from his shoulder with a yawn. “S’ry.”

“It’s okay, Sunshine. I’m sorry you haven’t been feeling well.”

“The school nurse called a doctor. He couldn’t find anything wrong with me.”

“No, he wouldn’t. Unless someone told him…”

The little girl frowned. “What is wrong with me, Grandfather?” She could easily sense his apprehension as he sighed. “I’m not like the other kids, am I?”

“What do you mean, Jessica?”

She held the index finger of her left hand up. “I cut my finger the other day.”

He looked but didn’t see any sign of injury.

“When it started bleeding, I felt funny… a little like after spinning too fast on the merry-go-round.

I didn’t have a kleenex so I sucked on my finger.” She took a weary breath and let it out. “When I looked at my finger it was already scabbed over, and the scab was gone the next day.”

The Earl gave his granddaughter a squeeze. “No, sweetheart, you’re not like the other kids. But that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you, just different.” He was hesitant to continue; he had prayed this day wouldn’t come. But Jessica deserved to know the truth, needed to know. And with her intelligence, he was sure she could comprehend everything. And of course, he’d always be there for her.

Jessica sensed something serious was going on. She waited for her grandfather to gather his thoughts.

“I’m not quite sure how to tell you, Sunshine, so I guess I’ll just say it.” He paused for half a beat. “The reason you’re different is because you’re half vampire.” The Earl almost laughed at Jessica’s expression. Her left eyebrow had climbed nearly to her hairline.

“Vampire?!” Jessica couldn’t believe her ears. She knew her grandfather had a sense of humor, but she also could tell he definitely wasn’t joking. She reached up and laid her hand across his forehead, like the nurse always did to check for a fever. “Are you sick?” she asked with concern.

He took her hand in his own and lowered it from his forehead. “I’m just fine, honey.”

“Grandfather, I can’t be half vampire because vampires aren’t real,” she said as if he was the child and she was gently and patiently explaining there was no Tooth Fairy. “They’re just make-believe, like ghosts, and monsters, and Santa Claus, and the Easter rabbit, and Tinker Bell.”

Even though Jessica was an exceptionally gifted child, with an intellect that far surpassed her age, the Earl of Essington couldn’t help but feel a little sadness that his seven-year-old granddaughter didn’t seem to believe in any of the magical things most kids her age believed in. But then, her childhood had not been very typical. “I’m afraid vampires are real, Jessica.”

“But the sun doesn’t hurt me,” she protested.

“That’s because you’re only half vampire. If you were full vampire the sun would definitely hurt you.”

“So you mean Mom was a vampire?”

“No.”

“Father?” she asked incredulously. “He can’t be. He’s not nice, but the sun doesn’t hurt him. How can I be half vampire?”

He sighed. “You remember how your mother used to go away, sometimes for a few days at a time?”

She nodded.

“Well, one time when your mother was visiting me in England, she left for several days. While she was gone she met someone, a vampire, who tricked her.”

“He bit her?”

“No, honey.” He paused, trying to figure out how to tell her. “They spent time together like mommies and daddies do.”

Jessica paused for only half a beat before responding with, “Oh, you mean they had sex.”

He didn’t want to know how she already knew about sex. He simply nodded. Jessica’s ensuing silence worried him though. “Jessica? What are you thinking?”

She frowned. “If I’m half vampire because my mother had sex with a vampire… then Father isn’t really my father.”

The Earl sighed. “I’m afraid not.”

She took a deep breath and let it out before continuing. “Is that why he’s so… not nice?”

“No, sweetheart. He doesn’t know about the vampire. And your father is just… the way he is. But it’s not because of you. Okay?”

She gave a slight nod.

They continued to talk and he answered all the questions she asked. He carefully and clearly ex­plained what she needed to do take care of herself, to remain healthy. He also explained the importance of not drinking human blood as she drank the pig’s blood he’d brought. He just hoped she grasped the seriousness of the situa­tion and the responsibilities that came with her biological heritage.

Since he visited her regularly at school, he would ensure she received the sustenance she would periodically require.

~~~~~~~

May 28, 1978

Everyone there had friends and family in attendance, all to wish them well and congratulations on their achievement. Every student graduating was exceptional; none were older than 15. Jessica accepted her diploma, shifted her tassel, and looked for that one special face in the crowd on the way to the stage steps. Her smile brightened her entire countenance when she spotted him.

After the end of the ceremony she ran to her grandfather and they hugged fiercely. “I’m so glad you’re here.”

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world, Sunshine.”

“Congratulations, Jessica. Your father sends his love.”

She looked at Mr. Michaels, the family lawyer, and smirked. “No he doesn’t. But it’s still good to see you, Mr. Michaels.” She smiled and gave him a quick hug.

Benjamin Michaels had never approved of Philippe Rodier on a personal level, especially of how he’d treated his wife and daughter. Michaels had become quite fond of the girl and did whatever he could to make her life as easy as possible. He knew her two greatest joys were learning and her grandfather. So he had become her advocate in ensuring she got to pursue whatever educational goals she had, and that she got to see her grandfather as much as possible, despite the fact that Philippe held an animosity toward the Earl for some completely unknown reason.

Michaels returned her smile as they parted. “Be that as it may, I do have a gift from him – some really good news.”

“Oh?”

“You get to spend the summer with your grandfather – as long as it’s here in the States or in Canada.”

Her whole face lit up. “You’re kidding!”

“Nope. You have the whole summer together.”

The Earl also grinned as his granddaughter threw her arms around him with a squeal of delight. He looked at the lawyer. “Thank you.”

“You’re more than welcome.”

~~~~~~~

July 22, 1980

The phone on her desk rang. At first she ignored it. She was too wrapped up in the book she was reading to tolerate the interruption. She figured whoever was calling who soon give up. But when it rang for the ninth time, she put the book down with an irritated growl.

“What?” she barked.

“Jessica?”

“Yeah.”

“It’s Mr. Michaels.”

“Oh, hi, Mr. Michaels. How are you?” She heard his soft sigh.

“I’m alright. But I’m afraid I have some bad news.”

“What is it?”

“I’m afraid your father… he was in an accident, Jessica, a car accident. I’m afraid he’s gone.”

“Oh.” She really didn’t know what to say. She hadn’t even seen the man since before her mother died. He was her father in name only… Well, actually, he hadn’t even given her his name. He was simply her mother’s husband. She was closer to the Mr. Michaels, the family lawyer, than she was to Philippe Rodier.

“Jessica?”

“Yes?”

“Are you okay?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Well, he was your father.”

She let out a humorous bark of laughter, tinged with a touch of bitterness. “Yeah, right.”

“The funeral will be in two days. You should be here.”

“Do I have to?”

He sighed heavily. “No, you don’t have to. But…”

“But you think I should.”

“Yes. Besides, there are some matters we’ll have to discuss.”

It was Jessica’s turn to sigh. “Alright then.”

“I’ve made arrangements for a car to pick you up and drive you to the airport. I’ll pick you up at the airport here myself.”

“I need to call Grandfather.”

“I’ve already called the Earl. He’s flying in to Vancouver as well.”

~~~

July 24, 1980

She was weary. She didn’t know any of the people who had attended her father’s funeral, and didn’t really care about their condolences and well wishes. She hated the pretense. Philippe Rodier was a misogynistic bastard and everyone knew it. She also didn’t like the vibe she got from a couple of the board members of Rodier International. Finally everyone was gone.

Mr. Michaels said he needed to talk to Jessica and her grandfather. They went into the study. Jessica and the Earl sat on the couch while Michaels sat at the desk.

“It’s time to discuss your father’s will,” Michaels started.

Jessica smiled. “I don’t care.”

Mr. Michaels looked at her sympathetically. He understood her feelings; after all, he’d been the Rodier’s family lawyer since before she was born. Which is why he’d done whatever he could for her, wherever he could. “I understand, Jessica, but hear me out.”

The Earl took her hand in his and squeezed it as she nodded.

“Since you are a minor, your inheritance is to be placed into a trust until you’re 18. Also, you will have a guardian assigned to see after you.”

“Now wait a minute! I’m her grandfather, her only living relative. She should come live with me,” the Earl objected.

“You and I both know Philippe did not like you. And he never liked the relationship you two have.”

“It’s not like he ever gave a damn about me,” Jessica spat out.

Michaels nodded. “I know, Jessica. I know. Fortunately, as the executor of your father’s will, I get to say who controls your trust and who becomes your guardian,” he said with a knowing smile.

As soon as his words sunk in, Jessica smiled. She’d always known Mr. Michaels was a good guy, even though he worked for her father.

“So, unless you have any objections, I believe it’s in your best interest to have your grandfather become your guardian.”

~~~~~~~

May 23, 1982

“I’m so proud of you, Jessica.”

“Thanks, Grandfather.” They hugged. She grabbed his hand as they parted. “Come on, I want you meet Dr. Lenihan.” She pulled him along until they approached some of the faculty. She tapped the professor on the shoulder. “Dr. Lenihan?”

The man turned and smiled. “Ah, Dr. Morgan. Congratulations.”

“Thank you. Dr. Lenihan, I’d like you meet my grandfather, Geoffrey Morgan. Grandfather, this is Dr. Lenihan, my favorite professor and doctoral advisor.”

They two men shook hands. “It’s nice to meet you Mr. Morgan. Jessica has spoken highly of you, and often.”

“It’s nice to meet you, too, Dr. Lenihan. I want to thank you for looking out for Jessica.”

“No trouble at all. She’s the best T.A. I’ve ever had.” Lenihan reached out and patted her shoulder.

“And you’re going to be great at Oxford. I’m glad you decided to take the Rhodes scholarship.”

She blushed but smiled. “Thank you. I’m looking forward to it.”

The Earl slipped his arm around her shoulders. “And I, for one, will be thrilled to have her so close to home.”

~~~~~~~

Feb 24, 1984

Jessica arrived at Essington Manor after her classes for the week were done. Even though Essington Manor was not a great distance from Oxford, she chose to stay at school during the week. However, on the weekends, she happily headed to the only place that ever really felt like a home.

It was the day after her birthday, and she was looking forward to celebrating it with her grandfather. He had hinted at something special planned, so she’d hurried to the manor as soon as her last class let out. Besides, she had some good news to share with him as well.

Edward, her grandfather’s longtime butler was the first person she saw. “Good afternoon, Edward,” she cheerfully quipped and kissed his cheek.

“Good afternoon, Miss Jessica. And Happy Birthday.”

“Thank you. Do you know where my grandfather is?”

“The Earl is in the library.”

“Thanks, Edward.”

She breezed through the hallways and opened the door to the library. She was surprised to see that her grandfather was not alone. “Mr. Michaels.”

The lawyer smiled. “Hello, Jessica.”

“How are you?”

“I’m fine. It’s good to see you.”

“Jessica, Mr. Michaels has a few things he needs to discuss with you,” said the Earl.

“Oh?”

“Since you turned 18 yesterday you’re now entitled to your trust. Included in that is the controlling interest of Rodier International. There are some matters that you need to be made aware of, Jessica.”

She let out a sigh. “Alright. Let’s get this over with. Because I planned on a good weekend.”

“I’ll leave you two to it.”

“No, Grandfather. Stay. I’ll undoubtedly want your advice anyway.”

With a nod, he resumed his seat.

~~~

With issues of her inheritance addressed, the mood shifted to a much more upbeat one.

Her grandfather led her outside with his hands over her eyes. “No peeking.”

“How can I with your hands over my eyes?” she chuckled.

“Ready?”

“Yes.”

He removed his hands. Before her was an ocean blue 1966 Austin Healey 3000 Mark III convertible – fully restored.

“You finished it!” she excitedly exclaimed. She knew her grandfather had been working on restoring the car for the last five or six years. It was something ‘to get his hands dirty’ with and putter around with when he felt restless. “It’s beautiful!” She ran her hands over the sleek lines and took in the navy blue leather interior. “Have you taken it out yet?”

“Nope. I figured her owner ought to do that.” At her confused look he continued. “She’s all yours, Sunshine,” he said with a grin.

Jessica’s jaw dropped. “No way!”

He dangled the keychain in front her. “Want to take it for a spin?”

“Yes!”

~~~

Dinner was a quiet celebration with just her grandfather and Edward – and just what Jessica wanted.

“So what’s this good news you have?”

Jessica smiled. “I just found out today – I got approval to study at the Repository. I’m to report on July 15.”

“That’s wonderful. How long will you be given access?”

“A year.”

“What is the Repository?” Edward asked.

“It’s the single greatest collection of religious texts in the world. Texts from all the world’s religions, original manuscripts and first editions,” Jessica answered excitedly.

~~~

“You know I’m happy for you, Jessica, but we need to talk about your plans.”

She sighed. “You mean about being cloistered at the Repository for a year.”

“You know you can’t buy blood there.”

“I know. I’ve been gradually extending the time between–”

“I don’t care how much you extend the time between feedings, you cannot go a year without blood.”

“I know, Grandfather.”

“Well, you certainly can’t feed from anyone there!”

“Of course not! I would never do that!”

“Then what do you propose to do?”

“I won’t be able to leave, but I will be allowed a few limited visits.”

The Earl took a deep breath and slowly let it out as he nodded in understanding.

~~~~~~~

July 14, 1985

The Earl sat in the car nervously tapping on the steering wheel. Jessica’s year at the Repository was over and it had been a long time since he’d seen her – too long. The ‘limited visits’ had not worked out as well as they’d planned. He was not able to pass the blood to her every time he’d been up to see to her due to a lack of privacy during his visits. As a result, it had been way too long since she’d last fed.

When she finally exited the gates she looked like death warmed over. He jumped out of the car and rushed to her side. “I’ve got you, Jessica.”

She drew in a deep breath and stiffened her back and resolve. “I’m fine.” She stubbornly moved to the car under her own power.

The Earl shook his head and walked back around to the driver’s side. “You look like shit.”

“Gee, thanks.”

He started up the car and pulled away. “There’s something for you in the paper bag there,” he said referring to the bag on the passenger side floor.”

She reached down and took out the pint of blood.

~~~~~~~

December 14, 1986

“Take another picture, Edward.”

“Don’t you have enough yet, Grandfather?”

“It’s not every day my granddaughter graduates from Oxford,” the Earl replied with a proud smile.

Edward took a few more pictures.

~~~~~~~

February 15, 1987

She stood at his casket and gazed down at the only person in the world who had ever really given a damn about her.

Her mother had been… fickle, to put it kindly. Elizabeth had been killed when Jessica was only six years old. Her father, Philippe, hadn’t even showed up for the funeral – he’d said he was too busy. But then what should she expect from a man who wouldn’t even give her his name simply because she wasn’t a son? The next time she saw the man was at his own funeral when she was 14.

But her grandfather, Geoffrey Avery Morgan, the Earl of Essington, had always been there for her; always loved her; always understood her – even when she didn’t understand herself. She had been pressed to have a large public funeral for her grandfather, but she knew that wasn’t what he would have wanted.

She reached out and tenderly cupped his cheek as tears trailed down both of hers. “I’m going to miss you, Grandfather, so very much.”

Edward lightly touched her arm. “It’s time.”

She looked at her grandfather’s loyal butler and trusted friend. “It’s not fair, Edward.”

“I know.”

Jessica bent down and placed a kiss on her grandfather’s forehead. “Goodbye, Grand­father.” She closed the casket and walked with Edward out of the private family cemetery.

~~~

Back at Essington Manor, Jessica retreated to her room. It was only a couple of hours later when Edward came to tell her the solicitor had arrived.

“Do I really have to do this now?”

“The Earl made the arrangements himself.”

She sighed. “Very well.”

The grey-haired man stood as Jessica entered. “Countess Essington.”

She held her hand up in a clear stopping gesture. “Don’t. I am not Countess Essington.”

“In point of fact, you are, my lady. As the Earl’s sole heir, his title and estate pass on to you.”

“How? I mean, don’t titles pass to male heirs?”

“Most do, but not all.

~~~

February 21, 1987

“Are you sure about this, my lady?”

“Yes, Edward, I am.”

“But why not MI5 or MI6? I know they’ve both tried to recruit you. And Oxford has offered you a position.”

“Yes they have. As have the CIA and Harvard and a number of other agencies and universities. However, I’ve decided to take the FBI up on their offer.”

“But I thought you–”

“I changed my mind, alright?!” she snapped. Jessica stopped and took a long, slow, deep breath.

“I’m sorry, Edward. I didn’t mean to snap at you. I know how much Grandfather trusted you, Edward. I want you to stay on to run the manor and attend to other matters, but I’ll understand if you decide not to.”

“Of course I’ll stay, my lady. It’ll be my honor to serve you as I did your grandfather.”

“As long as you accept a promotion. What I’m asking of you goes beyond the duties of a butler.”

“I will perform whatever duties you ask of me, my lady; however, I am a butler and it is the only title I am interested in,” he replied proudly.

~~~~~~~

June 15, 1987

“Cavanaugh! Get in here!” barked AD Vince ‘The Great White’ Sharkey. Sharkey was a slight man, barely 5’9”. But his reputation was legendary.

Cavanaugh entered his boss’s office. “What’s up?”

Sharkey handed Agent Cavanaugh a file as he sat down. “That is our newest addition to the unit. I’m assigning her to your section.”

Cavanaugh opened the file. His eyes widened. “You’ve got to be kidding me. Since when we do we take rookies? She graduated from the academy yesterday! My god, she’s just a kid!”

“I know. I had to call in almost all my markers to get her.”

The other man’s jaw dropped. “Why the hell would you want her?”

Sharkey smiled. “That kid was a Rhodes Scholar and has three PhDs in Psychology. We’re lucky to have her. Read her file.” He looked at his watch. “She’s due in at 10:00.”

Cavanaugh was not pleased. He had no use for an inexperienced 21-year-old kid, even if she was book smart.

~~~

Jessica was excited and nervous. It was her first day as an FBI agent. She had been surprised when she received orders to report to the Violent Crimes Unit. She had expected to be assigned to the Behavioral Science Unit, where most of the Bureau’s profilers were.

Jessica looked at the name on the paper in her hand. She was to report to Assistant Director Vince Sharkey – The Great White. Sharkey had been in the Bureau for almost 30 years. He’d made his reputation in the Organized Crime Division, taking down the worst of the worst by working undercover in the Mob for several years. His most striking feature was his white-blonde hair, hence the nickname the Great White (Shark).

“May I help you?”

Jessica turned. The question had been posed by a six foot, sandy-haired man. “Yes. My name is Jessica Morgan; I’m looking for Assistant Director Sharkey.”

“Are you filling in for Eric today?” Casper noted her light British accent and sparkling grey eyes.

“Who?”

“Eric – from the mailroom.”

Jessica smiled. “Ah, no. I guess I should have said I’m Special Agent Jessica Morgan; I’ve just been assigned to the VCU.”

Surprise showed in green eyes. “Oh. Sorry.” He held his hand out. “I’m Special Agent John Casper. I heard we were getting a new addition.” They shook hands. “Sharkey’s out right now, but Cavanaugh is here. He’s our section chief.” Casper gestured to an empty chair. “Have a seat and I’ll let him know you’re here.”

“Thank you.”

While Jessica sat waiting, she noticed a white board nearby with pictures of murder victims on it. She stood and walked over to it, studying the crime scene photos.

“Cavanaugh is on the phone, but will be with you soon,” Casper said when he returned.

“Thank you,” she replied without taking her eyes from the photos. “Is this a current case?” she asked.

Casper ran his fingers through his hair. “Yes. We’ve got ten victims, across the five boroughs of New York. The locals asked for some assistance in profiling the killer.” He gestured to the right side of the board that had highlights of a profile written on it. “That’s what the BAU has given us. But it hasn’t gotten us anywhere. No one has a clue to his motivation and we don’t know when or where he’ll strike next.” Casper noticed how Morgan tilted her head in thought. He came to an impulsive decision. He picked up a folder from his desk. “Take a look.”

Morgan opened the case file and quickly read through it. She suddenly picked up an eraser and moved to the board, but stopped and looked at Casper. “Do you mind?”

“Not at all.”

She erased the profile highlights and began to write.

Casper sat on his desk and watched. The kid was completely focused as she wrote.

Morgan was rearranging the photos when Cavanaugh approached. He lightly smacked Casper’s shoulder. “What the hell is going on?”

“I’m not sure.”

“What is she doing with that case file?”

“I gave it to her to look at.”

Cavanaugh gave Casper a look that clearly indicated he wasn’t pleased. However, neither man interrupted Morgan as she continued.

Finally Morgan finished. She turned to Casper and the man standing next to his desk. “You have more than ten victims. There are two missing from this group. And there will be another in two days. He’s killing every nine days.”

“How do you figure every nine days?” Casper asked.

“The photos were up in the order of discovery. Correlating the information from the autopsies and the position of each body tells us the order he actually killed in.”

“Position of each body?” asked Cavanaugh.

“Look at the photos.”

Both men stared at the photos, but didn’t see to what she was referring.

“Here, maybe this will help.” Morgan moved the photos so they were directly next to each other, illustrating how the hands of victims matched up from one photo to the next, as if they were holding hands. She left two gaps where the ‘missing’ victims belonged in the chain. “These two are the ones that are missing. And they explain why almost three weeks passed between the killings here, and here. So there are actually 12 murders so far. As for his motivation, these are hate crimes with religious undertones.”

“What?”

“His message is in the crime scene addresses.” She underlined the first letter of each street name; then wrote them in order with the appropriate gaps.

Hardin Ave

Olive St

Mercy St

Seventh Ave

Bluebird Cir

Union Dr

Rancho Vista Cir

I St

Ninth St

Hamilton Ave

“I still don’t get it,” said Cavanaugh.

“If you fill in the gaps and finish the sequence…”

“And nine is the biblical number of judgment. There are nine Greek words derived from the root word meaning judgment = dikay. The words abussos – bottomless pit; asebee – ungodly; aselgeia – lasciviousness; and astrapee – lightning, each occur nine times in the Bible. And according to 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 the gifts of the spirit are nine in number: the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues, and interpretation of tongues. The killer is passing judgment on gay men.”

Both men were silent as they took in what had been laid out for them.

Finally Cavanaugh spoke. “There’s nothing in the file that says all the victims were gay.”

“Some clearly were. And many people are in the closet. But if you dig deep enough, I’d bet you find all of them were gay.”

“How do you know that stuff about the bible and the number nine?”

“I have a degree in Theology and Religious Studies.”

There was a very long moment of silence. Finally Cavanaugh reached a decision.

“Casper, get this info to the New York office.”

“On it,” he replied with a knowing smile.

“Come with me, Agent Morgan.”

~~~

AD Sharkey returned to the VCU bullpen after a meeting with the Deputy Director. He took note of the new agent in one of the small conference rooms. She was reviewing unit orientation material. He stopped at Cavanaugh’s desk.

“So, what do you think?” he asked with a nod towards the glass-walled conference room.

“She’s smart, I’ll give her that.”

“But?”

“But she’s still a rookie with absolutely no experience. No one’s going to be willing to partner with her.”

“I will.”

Sharkey and Cavanaugh both looked Casper.

“You’ve paid your dues, John. You don’t have to do that,” said Cavanaugh. “Reggie Purdue from the BAU will be joining the unit next week. I was going to partner him with you.”

“You don’t understand; I want Morgan.”

“Why?”

Casper grinned. “I like her. I think she’ll be a good partner.” He chuckled. “And she’s even better than Spooky Mulder.”

“What do you mean?” Sharkey asked.

John told him about the New York case.

Sharkey grinned, “And that’s why I fought to get her.”

Cavanaugh kind of growled. “She got lucky. And given a choice, I’d take Spooky over her; he’s at least had some experience.”

“Well you don’t have a choice,” Sharkey replied. He turned to Casper. “You got it, John. She’s your partner.”

~~~~~~~

July 4, 1987

“Jessica! Over here.”

Morgan waved at Casper and joined him at the picnic table. “Hey, John.”

“Jessica, I want you to meet my wife, Jennie. Jennie, this is my new partner Jessica Morgan.”

The women shook hands.

“Jessica, I’ve heard so much about you,” said Jennifer Casper.

She smiled. “It’s nice to meet you, Jennie.”

“You hungry?” John asked.

“I guess.”

“I’ll get you both some food. Be right back.” John left.

“John never told me how beautiful you are.”

Jessica didn’t miss the tone of Jennifer’s voice. She suppressed a half smirk. “I appreciate the compliment… but I’ll let you in on something – John is not my type.”

The blonde arched an eyebrow. “Oh?”

Her smirk bloomed. “I’m gay, Jennie.”

Blue eyes widened in comprehension.

Jessica’s smirk softened into a smile. “Besides, I may have been John’s partner for less than three weeks, but I can assure you he’s head over heels in love with you. Even if I was interested, he definitely wouldn’t be.”

“Can I ask… How old are you?”

“I’m 21.”

“But John said you had a couple of PhDs.”

“I do. Look, I understand how you feel, Jennie. Your husband is in a potentially dangerous job and has to rely on me, as his partner, to have his back. And you know partners tend to form close relationships because of that reliance. I give you my word that I will do everything in my power to ensure John comes home to you each night.”

Jennie blushed slightly and dropped her eyes. “I’m sorry. I just…”

“It’s okay.”

“So, everyone ready to eat?” John asked as he returned with plates full of food.

~~~

The brunette nudged the man tending the BBQ. “Who’s the newbie?”

He glanced in the direction Jeffers was looking… then rolled his eyes. “That’s Casper’s new partner,

Jessica Morgan.” He paused. “Don’t even think about it, Toni.”

She looked at him as if insulted. “Come on, Sharkey, give me a little credit – she’s looks awfully young.”

“She is. She’s just a kid.”

“Besides, I’m seeing someone – Chris Talley, in Records.”

“I thought you were dating Jim Glass in White Collar.”

Jeffers let a quiet huff of amusement. “That was last month. I like Chris, she’s sweet.”

“You like all of them… for a while.”

She gave a one-shoulder shrug. “What can I say? I’ve never found the right one. Not all of us are as lucky as Casper.”

“Yeah. And God knows the job doesn’t exactly make it easy.”

~~~~~~~

March 2, 1988

Jessica burst through the doors. She rushed up to the nurse’s station. “I’m Jessica Morgan. I’m here for Jennie Casper. Where is she?!”

A nurse came out from behind the counter and grabbed her arm. “This way.”

Jennie cried out just Jessica entered the room. “AHHHHH!”

The brunette ran the to the blonde’s bedside and grabbed her hand, letting her squeeze it. “I’m right here, Jennie.”

The blonde looked up at her husband’s partner. “Where’s John?”

“He’s still in court. As soon as he’s done testifying, he’ll be here. I promise.”

“Well, unless he gets here soon, this is going to happen without him,” said the doctor. “This baby is ready to be born. We’re going to move you into the delivery room, Jennie.”

Jennie squeezed even harder on Jessica’s hand. “Don’t leave me, Jessica!” she pleaded.

“Of course not. I’ll be with you all the way,” she said as she brushed some hair from her forehead.

“If you’re going with us, you need to change. Show her where,” the doctor ordered a nurse. “You can meet us in the delivery room.”

Jennie refused to let go of her hand. “Don’t go!”

“It’ll be alright. I’ll be right with you as soon as I change. I promise.” Jessica dropped a kiss on a sweaty brow and left with the nurse.

Jessica was given a set a scrubs to change into. Before heading to the delivery room, she tried her partner’s phone one more time. Still no answer. She’d already left a number of messages, so she hung up and rushed to the delivery room.

~~~

John arrived at the hospital in record time. When he arrived at his wife’s room he stopped in the doorway and smiled. Jennie was asleep, and his partner was sitting in a chair next to the bed, looking worn out.

Jessica opened her eyes and saw John standing into the doorway. She smiled. “Hey, Daddy,” she said softly. Following his gaze to his wife, she said, “She’s fine, John, just worn out.” Jessica stood up and stretched. “Have a seat and I’ll let them know you’re here.”

John sat in the chair next to his wife’s bed and took her hand in his own. A few short minutes later, Jessica returned, followed by a nurse – with a small bundle in her arms. His heart skipped a couple beats as the nurse placed his son in his arms.

“Hey, buddy. How’s my boy?” John softly said with wonder in his voice.

“John…”

He looked to see his wife’s bright blue eyes. John stood, kissed his wife, and sat back down with his precious burden. “Hey, honey.”

She smiled tiredly. “He’s beautiful.”

“Yes he is, just like his mother.”

Jessica moved to the side of Jennie’s bed. “I’m going to go now.”

Jennifer grabbed the brunette’s hand. “Thank you, so much, Jessica.”

“You’re more than welcome,” she replied with a soft smile. She leaned down and they kissed each other’s cheek. Jessica then turned to her partner. “Congratulations, John. Enjoy your leave.” She kissed him on the cheek as well.

“Thanks, Jessica. Keep out of trouble until I get back.”

“Sure thing.”

~~~~~~~

April 4, 1988

Purdue slapped him on the back. “Welcome to the VCU, Mulder. Now you’ll finally get to work in the field, instead of being cooped up at the BSU.”

“Thanks.”

“Come on, I’ll introduce you to the section.”

Reggie introduced Mulder to the other agents in their section that were present.

Later, at lunch, Mulder elbowed Purdue and gestured toward the woman who’d entered the cafeteria. “Who’s that?”

“Special Agent Toni Jeffers. She’s in Beck’s section.”

“You mean she’s in the VCU? Nice.” He grinned like a fool. “There are definitely some perks to being in Violent Crimes compared to Behavioral Science.”

Reggie shook his head. “Down, boy. She doesn’t take shit from anyone – she’d likely throw your scrawny ass across the room if you tried anything. She’s the VCU’s top marksman, too.”

“But she is definitely my type – tall, leggy, sexy…”

~~~

After lunch they returned to the unit.

“Hey, Reggie!” called out a young woman. She approached and handed Purdue a file. “Here’s that workup you wanted on the Diekmann case. Oh, and I’ve set up the time to interview Wilson. I’m heading to the prison to see him in a couple hours.”

“Thanks a lot, Jessica. No one’s been able to get Wilson to crack; I appreciate your help.”

“No problem,” she replied with a smile.

“Oh, Jessica, I’d like you to meet Special Agent Fox ‘Spooky’ Mulder. Mulder, this is Special Agent Jessica Morgan.”

They shook hands.

“It’s nice to meet you, Agent Mulder. I’ve heard a lot about you. Welcome to the VCU.”

“Thanks.”

Morgan retreated to her desk.

“So that’s the Freak, huh?”

“Be nice, Mulder. Jessica’s a good agent, and an outstanding profiler and interrogator.”

“Well, I’d still like to know who the hell she slept with to get assigned to the VCU right out of the academy,” he sniped petulantly.

“You know, you two have quite a bit in common. You both have a PhD in Psychology, you both joined the FBI right out of Oxford, and you’re both excellent profilers. I would think with so much in common you’d become friends.”

Mulder didn’t reply to Reggie’s observation.

~~~~~~~

April 19, 1988

“He’s an organized killer,” declared Mulder.

Jessica frowned. “No, he isn’t. At least not totally. Some of the crime scenes show distinct signs of disorganization. We have to classify him as mixed.”

Violently shoving files off the table, Mulder stood. “You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about!”

“Mulder! Calm down!” barked Purdue. “We’ve been working on this case for weeks, and we’re no closer to catching this guy than we were when we started.”

“I’m right about this guy! He’s meticulous.”

“Yes, he is. However, he doesn’t always use a murder kit; sometimes he’ll use whatever objects he finds at the scene as props and weapons. Sometimes he kills brutally; sometimes he kills quickly. Sometimes he poses the body; sometimes he doesn’t. He kills men and women. He’s not consistent,” Jessica continued.

Because he’s organized!”

“No,” she said shaking her head. “He leaves messages because he wants the bodies found. He’s proud of his work and wants to show it off.”

“The messages are meaningless, a red herring.”

“Everything he does means something. The way he kills, the messages he leaves, the victims he chooses, how he ties his shoes, how he combs his hair. Everything has meaning! He’s extremely ritualistic.”

“He changes his M.O. to throw us off the trail!”

“Alright! That’s enough!” barked Section Chief Beck. “I specifically asked Cavanaugh for your assistance on this case because of each of your success rates in profiling the tough cases, not to listen to you bicker! Now get your act together and come up with a workable profile on this guy.” With that, Beck called an end to the meeting.

Jessica just sat at the table as everyone else filed out of the room. She felt a hand on her shoulder. The young woman looked up into the face of Agent Jeffers.

“Look, Morgan, don’t let them get to you. You’re good at what you do. I’ve heard nothing but the very best about you from everyone who’s worked with you.”

The young agent let out a rueful huff. “Yeah, that’s why they call me the Freak.”

Jeffers sat down next to her. “Hey, that is not meant as a dig. In their own way they’re complimenting you. It’s because they don’t understand. What you do, and do so well, is get into the minds of the suspects in a way they can’t comprehend. You have a real talent. And believe me, there are a lot of worse things they could call you. Trust me, I know.” Jeffers’ tone made it clear she’d been called worse.

Jessica looked the older agent. “But everyone respects you, Agent Jeffers. Everyone knows you’re a good agent.”

The older woman sighed wistfully. “That has taken a number of years. The FBI is, in many ways, still very much an old boys club. Women are still a minority – especially in the field. Fortunately, most of the men here in the VCU really are decent, and accept us based on our abilities. But even so, the testosterone can get a little thick around here,” she said with a smirk, and received a smile in return. “Listen, if things get to you, or you just want to talk, call me.” She handed one of her cards to the young agent.

“Thank you, Agent Jeffers.”

Jeffers stood. “You’re welcome, but only if you call me Toni.”

Morgan found herself smiling widely. “Alright. Thank you, Toni. And it’s Jessica.”

“Take care, Jessica,” the older agent said on her way out of the conference room.

Morgan felt flattered that the senior agent took the time to reach out to her. She was the only female agent in her section. And while John Casper was a very supportive partner and she loved him like a brother, it felt good to connect with another female agent – especially one as good as Jeffers.

~~~

May 26, 1988

Jessica wasn’t happy. She sat at her desk, glaring at the file laid out in front of her. John walked up and looked over her shoulder.

“What are you doing with that file? I thought you already presented your latest analysis.”

“I did.” She paused. “For all the good it did.”

John sat on the edge of her desk. “What happened?”

Jessica leaned back in her chair and tossed her pen onto her desk. “They’re not giving Croskey enough credit. He’s consistently been three steps ahead of us. If we don’t change our tactics, we’re not going to catch him.”

“So what do you want to do?”

She let out a sigh. “Try to figure out his next move before he makes it.”

“Any ideas?”

“Maybe…”

~~~

May 27, 1988

It was early morning. So early that the office was practically deserted. John and Jessica had worked through the night, digging through case files and notes, researching online, and trying to figure out Croskey’s next move.

Finally, Jessica tapped her computer screen. “John! I think this might be it.”

He rolled his chair around the desks and next to his partner. “What have you got?”

“This. Croskey is always thinking and planning.”

“I thought you said he was disorganized.”

“No, I said he was mixed. Some of his crime scenes show definite signs of disorganization and explosive anger. But, he is also very ritualistic. And part of his ritual, I believe, is to have his next scene set up and ready to go, and have his next victim picked out before he finishes with the one he already has. He took his latest victim four days ago.”

“So, going by his history, Croskey will probably kill him within the next two to three days, if he hasn’t already.”

Jessica nodded. “And if the Bureau’s history repeats, we won’t find the body for a couple days beyond that. Unless…”

“Unless what?”

“Unless instead of playing catch up and trying to find where he is, we focus on where he’s going to be.”

“What are you two doing here so early?” Cavanaugh’s voice startled the two agents.

“Working on the Croskey case,” Casper answered.

Cavanaugh frowned. “You’re not assigned to that case.” He pinned Jessica with a hard look. “And you were only on loan to Beck’s section. You’ve been released from that case.”

“But Reggie and Mulder are still working it,” Jessica replied.

“Look, I know you don’t see eye to eye with Mulder on the profile. But Beck made his call; he’s not convinced your analysis is the right one,” Cavanaugh said, not unkindly.

“Oh, come on, Lou! You know Jessica is better than anyone in the unit at getting into the heads of these guys.”

“Agent Mulder is also a good profiler. His track record proves it.”

“Lou, we’re not going to catch this guy playing catch up. By the time we figure out where he is, he’s already moved on. We need to figure out where he going to be.” Jessica paused for a beat. “And I think I have an idea about that.”

Section Chief Lou Cavanaugh had initially been very skeptical about Morgan being assigned to the unit. However, since she’d joined the VCU, she had yet to be off the mark. And Lou was not a stupid man. He pulled up a chair and sat down. “Okay, tell me what you’re thinking.”

Jessica went over her research and conclusions with Cavanaugh. “I’m telling you, Lou, we’ll never catch him focusing on where he is.”

“I get what you’re saying, Jessica. But we can’t just write off his latest victim. We have to try to find him.”

“Of course we do; we should never write off a victim. And you know Beck has his people doing everything they can to find him and Croskey. But what does it hurt to follow up on Jessica’s theory?” John asked.

“It’s not our case, and Sharkey won’t abide us interfering with the investigation.”

“Who’s interfering? We’d just be checking out a few empty locations; simply scouting out possible leads about where Croskey might go next,” John rebutted. “We’ll stay completely away from the active investigation.”

Lou shook his head and sighed. “Alright. You can check out the locations that fit your theory. But do not do anything. Simply observe and report back to me what you find.”

Casper jumped up with a smile on his face and patted his partner’s shoulder. “Come on, let’s go, Jessica. Let’s grab some breakfast first.”

~~~

“Jessica!”

“Hey, Jennie.” They hugged quickly. “Don’t be too mad at John, it’s my fault we worked all night.”

“No it’s not,” the blonde replied with a smirk. “No one has ever made John do something he didn’t want to.” She kissed her husband as they hugged.

“Sorry, Jen. But we got caught up in a case.”

“Have you had breakfast, Jessica?”

“Uh, no.”

“Then come into the kitchen. It’s just as easy to cook for three as it is two.”

“Let me help.”

“No, just relax. Besides, I’m sure you two aren’t done talking about whatever case had you working all night.”

As John and Jessica sat at the kitchen table talking about their plans for the day, Jennifer Casper started cooking breakfast. Suddenly 12-week-old Jeremy voiced his displeasure about something.

Jessica jumped up. “Let me get him,” she said with a smile.

“I’ve already fed him, so he probably needs a changing,” the blonde called after her.

“Okay.”

After she changed the baby, she returned to the kitchen with him in her arms.

“So, do you think you’ll want any of your own?” Jennie asked with a smile as she set their food on the table.

Jessica smiled. “I don’t know. Maybe.” Her smile widened as she looked up. “Probably. But I’d have to find the right woman to settle down with first.”

Jennie smiled. “Well, you’re still young. You have plenty of time.”

“Oh, I know. I’m not in any hurry.”

~~~

After breakfast with Jennie and Jeremy, John and Jessica headed out. They had checked out six of the seven possible locations.

“After we check this next place out, I’m going to go home and sleep!” John said.

“Yeah. Sleep does sound real good right now. At least it’s Friday. You got any special plans this weekend?”

“Nope. Just spending some time with my wife and son,” he replied with a big smile.

She returned his smile. “You know, I hope I find someone that loves me as much you do Jennie.”

“I’m sure you will, Jessica. You’re a hell of a catch.”

She blushed and looked at the road sign they were passing. “You should take the next left.”

~~~

Even though they were tired, they carefully moved around the remote building, looking for signs of recent occupancy or use. They met back up at the side door.

“I don’t see anything, Jessica.”

“I don’t either.”

“Sorry.”

She shrugged and shook her head. “It was just a theory.”

“It was still worth checking out.”

“Well, let’s get out of here; my bed is calling me.” She turned and started back to the car.

Casper rubbed the back of his neck, hesitating.

Jessica was more than halfway back to the car before she stopped and turned back. “What?”

Suddenly John withdrew his weapon and rammed his shoulder into the locked door. Once, twice. It gave, wood splintering. Jessica ran after her partner as he disappeared into the dark interior. She heard him cry out before she reached the doorway.

“John!” She found him at the end of the corridor. He was on the floor clutching his thigh.

“Be careful… booby trap…” he ground out between clenched teeth.

Jessica gasped at the expanding pool of blood. It was a lot of blood – too much blood. She ripped open the slice in his pant leg and saw the telltale spurt of arterial blood. His femoral artery had been compromised. “Bugger!” She applied pressure, causing him to cry out again in pain. “Take off your belt,” she ordered.

His own blood-slick hands fumbled with the buckle, but he managed to remove his belt. She wrapped the belt around his thigh, pulled it as tight as possible and twisted it. She told him to hold the makeshift tourniquet in place as she pulled her phone out and called for an ambulance and backup.

“Are you barmy?! What the bloody hell made you break in the door?!” she demanded.

If he hadn’t been in pain and suffering from blood loss, he would have been amused by Jessica’s light British accent resurfacing – something that happened when she was stressed. “I heard something… a woman scream…” He looked up at her in the darkness. “I think he’s here, Jessica.” Then he passed out… letting go of the tourniquet.

She grabbed the webbed belt and twisted it, again cutting off the blood flow. Then she heard something from somewhere further in the interior of the building. “Fuck.” She couldn’t let go of the tourniquet because John would bleed to death, but there was a woman screaming for help.

“Go… help her…”

She looked up at his whisper to see him pass out once again. She came to a decision. She released the belt just long enough to tie it in place. She then slipped her arms under her partner and carried him outside where the EMTs could find him. With weapon in hand, Jessica re-entered the building.

~~~

When the call had come in that Casper and Morgan were in trouble Cavanaugh raced to the scene. He was appalled by the amount of blood found inside the abandoned house. Especially in the kitchen. Lou had been to countless crime scenes during his career, seen the worst that mankind had to offer; but he had to retreat back outside before he lost the contents of his stomach.

Police and agents milled around, not really knowing what to say or how to take in what they’d seen. Lou approached the ambulance. The young woman was sitting in the back of it, being cared for by the paramedic.

“Miss? Can you tell me your name?”

She stared back, eyes glassy.

“What’s your name?” he asked gently.

The paramedic handed him a driver’s license when she didn’t respond. Her name was Erica Towne.

“Erica. That’s a pretty name. My name is Lou, Erica. I’m an agent with the FBI. Can you tell me what happened?”

She still didn’t respond.

“I’m afraid she’s in shock, Agent.”

Lou nodded and turned away.

“She saved me.” It was barely a whisper.

Lou turned back to Erica. Her eyes were still glassy; she still wasn’t all there.

“He butchered her…”

~~~~~~~

May 28, 1988

Several agents, including Cavanaugh and AD Sharkey were impatiently waiting in the waiting room. Casper had been through surgery to repair the artery in his leg and was recovering. His wife was with him in his hospital room. However, nine hours after arriving at the hospital, Morgan was still in surgery.

Finally, the surgeon entered. Seeing all the badges and guns present, he acted out self-preserva­tion and the knowledge that cops considered themselves family. He quickly made his announcement. “She’s alive… for now. But she is not out of the woods. The best thing you can do for her is pray.”

Sharkey and Cavanaugh approached the doctor and they spoke quietly.

“Does Agent Morgan have any family here?” the doctor asked.

“No,” answered Sharkey.

“I suggest you get them here.”

“You don’t understand, Doctor. She doesn’t have any family, period.”

“Doctor? Is there any chance… she’ll make it?” Cavanaugh asked.

He let out a heavy sigh. “I honestly don’t know. Quite frankly, I don’t know why she’s made it this far.” He shook his head. “There was extensive damage and she had massive blood loss. We had to repair her bladder and large intestine and we were forced to remove a third of her small intestine, her uterus, and one of her ovaries.” He paused as the men he was addressing absorbed the news.

“Does anyone know if she has a living will or not?”

“I think… I think she and her partner have an agreement,” Cavanaugh replied.

“Then I need to talk to him.”

“Casper. John Casper. He was brought in, too, with an injury to his leg.”

“Alright. I’ll speak with him.” He turned and left.

Cavanaugh couldn’t help but picture the disturbing crime scene, and the unbelievably large blood pool where Morgan had gone down. He pictured the dead suspect, Neil Croskey, and wished the bastard hadn’t gotten off so easy.

~~~

June 2, 1988

Pain. The closer she approached wakefulness the more pain she felt. She wanted to sink back into the darkness, but someone was calling her name, urging her to consciousness.

“Come on, Jessica. You can do it. Wake up, Jessica.”

It was a female voice she didn’t recognize. Suddenly a bright light was flashed in each of her eyes in turn as someone held open her eyelids. She felt a warm hand take hers.

“Squeeze my hand, Jessica.”

She managed a weak squeeze.

“Good girl.”

She sank back into the darkness.

~~~

June 3, 1988

“Come on now, let me see those eyes, Jessica.”

She managed to open her eyes halfway.

The nurse smiled down at her. “That’s it. My name is Elise Chambray and I’m your nurse. Don’t try to talk; you have a tube down your throat helping you breathe right now. We’ll see about getting it removed today depending on how well you do. Now, I’m going to ask you some questions. Since you can’t talk just give a slight nod or headshake to answer. Do you understand?”

Jessica gave a small nod.

“Good.”

“Are you experiencing pain right now?”

She again nodded.

“Okay. The doctor has signed an order for pain medication.” Elise pulled a syringe from her pocket and administered the medication via Jessica’s IV line. After disposing of the refuse she returned to the agent’s bedside. “You should be feeling the effects of the medication any second.”

Jessica gave a nod and the tension around her eyes eased.

“Good.” The nurse leaned down and spoke softly, “I know what you need, Jessica. What I need to know is, do you prefer human blood?”

Despite the pain medication and its mind-dulling properties, Jessica’s eyes widened and something akin to panic showed in her grey eyes.

Elise placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. “It’s okay. Your secret’s safe with me.” Elise’s brown eyes turned black and her canines elongated. After only a second they changed back. Elise smiled gently. “Now, do you want human blood?”

Jessica shook her head.

“Okay. I’ll bring you some pig’s blood then.” Elise stood back up and smiled. “Now get some sleep.” She stayed until Jessica drifted off.

~~~

June 4, 1988

She opened her eyes. “You’ll get stiff sleeping like that,” she managed in a raspy voice.

John’s eyes popped open. “Jessica!” He rose from the chair in the corner and moved with a cane to her bedside. He smiled. “They told me you woke up yesterday, but you were out of it when I was here.” He took her hand in his and gave it a squeeze. “It’s so good to see you.”

She gave him a small smile. “Thanks. But go home, John. Spend time with your wife and son.”

“I’m your partner, Jessica.”

“I know. But your wife needs you to be with her right now. She had to have been terrified when you were hurt, John. Go.”

Casper took a deep breath and slowly let it out. He and Jennie had actually argued about that very thing before he’d left home to come visit his partner. “Call me if you need anything.”

She nodded.

~~~

June 8, 1988

She saw him as soon as she entered the waiting are from the jetway. As he took her carryon bag from her shoulder she kissed his cheek. “Hello, Edward.”

“Welcome home, Countess.” He offered his arm for support, which she took.

She smiled when they arrived at the car. It was her Austin Healey.

“I thought you might prefer the drive in this rather than the Rolls, my lady. I hope I haven’t been too presumptuous.”

“Not at all, Edward. Thank you.”

“Do you wish to drive?”

“No. You drive. It was a long flight.”

He placed her bag in the boot before getting into the driver’s seat.

~~~

There was a knock on her bedroom door. “Come in,” she called from where she sat in bed reading.

Edward opened the door and entered. He carried a silver salver with a large mug upon it.

She smiled. “I know my grandfather liked a hot toddy before bed, Edward, but I’ll pass.”

“It’s not a hot toddy, my lady.” He held the tray until the mug was within her reach.

She picked up the mug but then froze. The mug was filled with blood. “Edward… what is the meaning of this?” she asked in a flat tone.

“It’s pig’s blood, not human, my lady.” Jessica arched an eyebrow, which Edward correctly interpreted to mean he should explain. “I served your grandfather for many years, my lady, since before you were born. I dare say there were few secrets between us.”

She took a deep breath and slowly let it out. After a long moment she finally nodded. She drank the blood and placed the mug back on the tray. “Thank you, Edward.”

~~~~~~~

July 25, 1988

John watched as everyone in the unit welcomed his partner back. He shook his head. When Cavanaugh had told him that Jessica had passed her physical to return to duty he’d been amazed. That she was alive was a miracle, the doctors had said so repeatedly. To be back on duty a mere two months after what she’d been through was unbelievable. He watched her carefully as she moved through the room and several agents spoke to her. She would smile, thank them for their well wishes, and move on to the next. However, John could see her smile didn’t reach her eyes; not the way it used to.

She finally reached her desk. John stood and gave her a hug.

“Welcome back, Jessica,” he said softly.

“Thanks.”

They released each other and both took a seat at their desks.

“So how are you, really?” he asked.

“I’m fine, John.”

“Where did you go?”

“I went home to England.” She reached for her inbox to start getting up to speed. “How’s your leg?”

John smiled. “It’s good.”

“So, what did I miss?”

“Sharkey finally named his replacement.”

“Yeah?”

John smiled. “It’s Lou.”

She nodded. “Good for him,” she said and pulled a folder from her inbox.

As his partner opened a folder and started reading, he felt a little sad at the apparent change in her. She had always been an upbeat person, and had an easy smile. Now, she seemed so much more serious, not that she wasn’t ever serious about her work – she’d always had an outstanding work ethic. But a piece of her innocence had been taken away. The light in her eyes didn’t shine as brightly.

John silently sighed. Such was the price of their chosen profession. He had simply wished it had taken longer for the 22-year-old to reach that point.

~~~~~~~

July 27, 1988

Mulder couldn’t take his eyes off of her. She had great legs! Since he’d heard she was no longer seeing Agent Johnson, he’d been screwing up his courage to ask her out. Finally, he stood from the lunch table and walked over to hers.

“Hey, Jeffers.”

She looked up. “Mulder.”

“Are you going to Sharkey’s retirement party?”

“I plan on it.”

“How ‘bout we ride together? Then there’ll be fewer cars in the parking lot and you won’t have to drive.”

“Sure. Why not?”

~~~

July 30, 1988

It was Saturday at the park, and everyone was present to celebrate AD Vince Sharkey’s retirement. After everyone had a plateful of food, they sat at the picnic tables and many of the agents took turns roasting the Great White Shark. Sharkey then stood and took his turn. Not a single agent escaped his sharp wit.

After lunch, a softball game started up, some horseshoes were thrown, and a volleyball game started.

Toni Jeffers played volleyball until the second game was done. She then decided to take a break. She retrieved a beer from a cooler and took a long drink. She looked around and noticed Morgan sitting under a tree by herself. She watched for a few moments, trying to evaluate what she saw in the young woman’s eyes. Then she realized it was something she didn’t see the agent’s eyes.

She walked over and sat down next to woman. They sat in silence for a couple minutes. Toni finally spoke, “You did everything right, Jessica.”

~~~

Jessica sat watching the softball game, but soon wasn’t really seeing anything. Not for the first time, she reviewed everything that happened with Neil Croskey. She tried to figure out how the hell the man had so completely defeated her. It shouldn’t have happened, not with her superior strength. She had been able to pick up her six foot partner and carry him outside. She could out bench press any other agent. Yet faced with the killer Neil Croskey, she was all but helpless. He had a large knife, but she had a gun. In the end, that was the only thing that made a difference. By all rights, she should be dead.

She’d asked herself over and over again what she could have done differently. That’s all she did while on medical leave. Day after day she’d sat at her grandfather’s grave and asked herself what she’d done wrong.

“You did everything right, Jessica.”

The words startled her. She hadn’t even noticed the other agent even though she was sitting right next to her. “I’m sorry?”

Toni looked her in the eyes. “You did everything right. We talked to the woman you rescued, Erica Towne, reviewed your and Casper’s actions, and reenacted the events of the day. And, you did everything right, Jessica.”

The younger woman drew in a deep breath and slowly let it out. “He got the better of me.”

“But in the end you took him down, and saved Erica. You didn’t give up, Jessica, that’s what made the difference. You’re a good agent, an excellent agent. So don’t over-analyze what happened, don’t doubt your skill. If you do, it’ll only mess you up, keep you from acting when you need to.” She paused for a couple of beats. “Did they make you see the Bureau shrink?”

She let out a rueful huff. “Of course.”

“How did it go?”

Jessica looked at Toni. “I have three PhDs in psychology – I passed with flying colors,” she quipped with a smirk.

Toni was glad to see the spark in Jessica’s grey eyes, even if it was short-lived. It meant that her spirit hadn’t been broken – bruised perhaps – but not completely broken. She decided a change of topic was in order. “It’s going to be strange around here without Sharkey. He’s the one that recruited me for the VCU. Got me to transfer from Cyber Crimes.”

Jessica nodded. “He came to Oxford to recruit me.”

“So that’s how you got assigned to the Violent Crimes right out of the academy,” Toni said with a friendly smile.

“What do you mean? I was surprised when I got my assignment. As a profiler I expected to be assigned to Behavioral Science at Quantico.”

Toni looked at her appraisingly for a couple of moments. “You really don’t know, do you?”

“Know what?”

“No one gets assigned to the VCU without at least two years of experience. Everyone wondered how you managed it right out of the academy.”

Jessica took a deep breath and let it out with a sigh. “I guess that explains some of the attitudes.”

“And your exceptional skill has turned most of those attitudes around. For example, look at Cavanaugh. He wasn’t pleased you were assigned to his section, but now you and Casper are his go-to team. You’ve more than earned the respect of your fellow agents. And Casper refused to go into the field with anyone while you were out.”

She looked at the older agent. “He did?”

Toni smiled. “Yes, he did.” The older woman bumped Jessica’s shoulder with her own and held up her beer bottle. “Come on, my beer’s empty. Let’s get something to drink.”

~~~~~~~

August 26, 1988

Jess sat down at her desk shaking her head.

“What’s wrong, Jessica?”

“At lunch Toni asked me out again.”

“What is that, like the fifth time?”

“Sixth.”

John leaned back in his chair and simply looked at her in silence.

She saw his look. “What?” she demanded.

“Why don’t you accept and go out with her?”

Her eyebrows climbed into her hairline. “What?”

“Why not? You haven’t gone out once or done anything fun since you got back.”

“I think she’s a great agent, and I’ve been grateful for all the help she’s given me work wise. But

you know Toni’s reputation. She doesn’t exactly have a good relationship track record.”

“Well, hell, Jessica, I wasn’t suggesting you settle down and have kids together. I know Toni plays the field. Just go out to dinner with her and have a nice time.” He paused for a moment. “At least think about it.” He went back to his paperwork.

~~~

Jessica worked for a couple of hours, but found she had trouble concentrating. John’s words kept running through her mind. She hadn’t done anything fun since well before she was injured. And she’d only been on a handful of dates since joining the Bureau. And Toni had been going out of her way to be helpful at work.

And she was gorgeous.

“I’m going to get something to drink,” she said standing up. “You want anything, John?”

“No. I’m fine.”

She left the bullpen and headed down the hallway. Instead of stopping at the vending machine she paused at a door to one of the conference rooms. She knew Toni was inside the room, with her partner and a couple of other agents from her section, going through some files. She took a deep breath and opened the door. All four agents turned and looked at her.

“Um, could I talk to you a second, Toni?”

“Sure,” the older woman replied with a dazzling smile. She stepped out into the hallway with Jessica, closing the door behind her. “What can I do for you, Jessica?”

Suddenly feeling a little tongue-tied and cursing herself for the blush she felt coloring her cheeks, Jessica found herself looking at her own feet instead of the dark brown eyes of the taller woman. “About dinner…”

“Yes?”

“Is your invitation still open?” She risked a glance up.

Toni’s smiled softened. “Of course it is. Pick you up at 7:00?”

Jessica smiled shyly and nodded. “Okay.”

~~~

They sat at a table sipping their drinks as they waited for their meals. Toni had been pleased when she found out Jessica liked seafood. She could tell the younger woman was a bit unsettled and tried to lighten the atmosphere. She smiled, “Relax, Jessica, it’s dinner; not an execution.”

Jessica looked up, but didn’t return the smile. She needed to get something off her chest. She took a steadying breath. “Toni, I want you to know how much I appreciate everything you’ve done for me at work. You’ve been a big help and an understanding ear.”

“My pleasure.”

“I’m just not sure what you want.”

“Just dinner, Jessica, and to get to know you a little better,” she replied easily.

The tension in the younger woman eased and she relaxed back into her chair.

By the end of their meal, both women were smiling and laughing as they exchanged stories and information about themselves. Both had a good time and didn’t realize how much time had passed until the waiter indicated the restaurant was closing.

~~~

Toni walked Jessica to her apartment door. The younger woman slipped her key in the door and then turned to Toni.

“I had a really nice time tonight, Toni. Thank you,” she said with a smile.

“So did I. Maybe we can do it again sometime?”

“Maybe.”

“Good night, Jessica.”

“Good night.”

~~~~~~~

September 16, 1988

Toni Jeffers was frustrated. It had been three weeks since her dinner date with Jessica Morgan, and she had yet to get the younger woman to agree to a second date. She sat at her desk, tapping a pen against her teeth. Jessica intrigued her. She was obviously smart, the fact that she was so young and had more than one advanced degree proved it. She was also extremely insightful; she missed very little, if anything, when observing crime scenes or people, even casually. But all of that was information that could be gleaned from her personnel file.

What had surprised Toni, was how much she like the woman beneath the personnel file. In fact, she hadn’t been able to stop thinking about her. The next day was Toni’s birthday, and she had turned down more than one offer to take her out to celebrate. And that was out of character for her. Everyone knew Toni was quite the social butterfly – never in want of a suitor and seldom dating anyone more than a month or two. However, she had not gone out once since her date with Jessica.

She finally tossed the pen down on her desk. She got up and headed to the cafeteria. She smiled when she saw Jessica sitting at one of the tables. She carried her tray over to the younger woman’s table. “Mind if I join you?”

Jessica looked up and smiled. “Not at all. Have a seat.”

Toni was uncharacteristically unsure of herself. She’d never had trouble getting someone to go out with her, male or female. She had never had to persuade anyone before. She wasn’t sure what to say. “Jessica?”

“Yes?”

“Tomorrow is my birthday, and…”

“Happy Birthday.”

“Thanks.” She took a deep breath. “I don’t have any plans and I was wondering if you’d be willing to help me celebrate.”

“What did you have in mind?”

Toni mentally scrambled; she had expected another polite refusal. “I was thinking something fun and playful. Will you join me for a day at Kings Dominion?”

Jessica was surprised the older woman suggested a day at the amusement park. “Are they still open?”

“Yeah, on the weekends.”

She thought about it a couple of moments before responding. “Okay. It sounds like fun,” she said with a smile. Jessica was rewarded with a bright, dimpled smile.

~~~

September 17, 1988

Toni picked Jessica up in the morning and they headed to Kings Dominion, which was 75 miles south of DC on I-95. They arrived at 11:00 and spent all day there. They screamed on the roller­coasters; laughed as they played games; stuffed themselves on hotdogs, pizza, and cotton candy; got soaked on the log flume and white water rafting ride; browsed the souvenir shops; and found themselves holding hands on and off for most of the day.

Once again they stood at Jessica’s apartment door. Brown eyes gazed into grey. Toni brought her hand up and tenderly caressed the younger woman’s cheek with the backs of her fingers. She slowly bent her head and pressed her lips to Jessica’s.

Jessica closed her eyes as the taller woman’s soft lips met her own. She accepted the kiss and returned it, but when Toni started to deepen it she pulled back. God, she wanted to give in to the beautiful woman, but she needed to be clear about some things. She looked into Toni’s dark brown eyes. Like everyone else, she was attracted to Toni. She just didn’t want to end up like everyone else did – with a broken heart. “Toni…”

“What is it?”

“We need to talk.”

“Uh oh.”

Jessica smiled. “It’s not anything bad. Why don’t you come inside for drink?”

“Okay.”

Jessica unlocked her apartment door and led the way in. She turned on the lights and invited the other woman to sit down. “Would you like some wine?”

“Sure.”

Jessica retrieved a bottle of wine from her kitchen along with two wineglasses and a corkscrew. She joined Toni on the couch and uncorked the bottle. After pouring two glasses she handed one to her guest. Holding her glass out she said, “Happy Birthday, Toni.”

“Thank you.” They lightly clinked their glasses and sipped the wine. “Mmmm, this is good.”

Jessica smiled. “One of the things my grandfather taught me was an appreciation of good wine.”

“I thought you said he died before you joined the Bureau.”

“He did. But I was living in England where the drinking age is lower.”

“That’s right, you graduated from Oxford.”

She nodded.

“So, what did you want to talk about?” Toni finally asked.

“Well, first off, I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed today.”

Toni smiled. “I did, too.”

“And I want to thank you for everything you’ve done to help me at work.”

“But?” Toni asked, suspecting a shoe was about to drop.

“I guess I’m just wondering.”

“Wondering what?”

“Why? Why me? You can have anyone you want – male or female. So why spend the day with me?”

Toni took another sip of her wine and dropped her gaze. “I know I have a reputation–”

“Not a bad one,” Jessica rushed to assure her. “Just…”

“I know what my reputation is, but I’m not ashamed of anything. I work hard and I play hard. I do what’s fun and spend time with people who interest me. And I move on when I’m no longer having fun and get bored. But I don’t lie or mislead anyone.” She looked Jessica in the eyes as she paused for a beat. “I respect your work as an agent. You’re smart, insightful, and probably the best at what you do. And I’ve enjoyed getting to know you on a personal level. I find you a very interesting person; intelligent, kind, wiser than your age, courageous, and beautiful.”

Jessica nodded. “I just don’t want to be another in a series of broken hearts.”

“We’re just getting to know each other, Jessica; I don’t know what the future will bring. I can’t make any promises. But, I won’t ever lie to you.”

There was only a slight pause before the younger woman responded. “Fair enough.”

They both smiled and relaxed.

Since they finished off the bottle of wine, it wasn’t safe for Toni to drive. She stayed the night… on the couch.

~~~~~~~

October 13, 1988

“Hey, Toni!”

She stopped in the hallway and turned around.

“You going to Shanahan’s for Purdue’s birthday?”

“I thought I’d stop by for a little while.”

“How ‘bout I pick you up, so you don’t have to drive?”

“Okay.”

“Great! I’ll pick you up at 6:00.”

She turned back towards her destination. Toni had been disappointed to find out that Jessica wasn’t going to be able to make Section Chief Reggie Purdue’s birthday get-together. She had just found out that Jessica and her partner, Casper, were on stakeout duty.

~~~

October 14, 1988

It was almost 2:00 a.m. and John and Jessica were waiting for the next team to arrive and relieve them from their stakeout watch.

“So, you got any plans for the weekend?” John asked.

“Toni and I are going to dinner and a movie tomorrow night.” She looked at her watch. “I mean tonight. We haven’t planned beyond that.”

John looked away from the house they were watching and glanced at his partner. “How long have you been dating now?”

“Not counting the first dinner we had, four weeks.”

~~~

October 15, 1988

Toni was woken up by loud knocking on her apartment door. She looked at the clock on her nightstand and growled. She and Jessica had been out late and no one should be knocking on her door so damn early on a Saturday morning. If something had come up at work her cell would have rang.

She slipped her robe on and tied it. She looked through the peephole and frowned. She opened the door. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“We need to talk.” Mulder pushed past her and inside her apartment.

Toni did not care for his tone. “What the hell is your problem, Mulder?”

“I saw you last night.”

“What?”

“I saw you last night… with Morgan.”

She crossed her arms and her eyes hardened. “And what, precisely, does that have to do with you?” she demanded.

“What does it–” Mulder couldn’t believe his ears. “We’re dating and you go out with someone else?! You go out with the Freak?!”

“What the fuck do you mean we’re dating?! We’ve never been on a date, Mulder!”

“Sharkey’s retirement? Reggie’s birthday? Any of this ring a bell with you?”

“Jesus Christ, Mulder, we carpooled a couple of times to work-related events. We did not go on any dates! Now get the hell out of my apartment, and don’t ever come here again,” she finished with a growl.

Mulder’s face turned red with rage, but after a moment or two he marched out of her apartment, slamming the door behind him.

~~~~~~~

December 24, 1988

They had elected to spend a quiet Christmas Eve together at Toni’s, rather than going out. Toni had cooked a wonderful dinner and Jessica had brought the wine. They stood side by side at the sink, washing and drying their dishes. Both content with the quiet domesticity of the moment. With the dishes done, they filled their wineglasses and settled together on the couch to watch some TV.

Before long they started kissing and stopped paying any attention to what was on the television. They were stretched out on the couch. Jessica was lying on top of Toni. She was showering Toni’s neck and throat with sensuous, open-mouthed kisses. The older woman’s hands slid up her back under her shirt. She deftly unhooked Jessica’s bra as Jessica latched onto a particularly sensitive spot on her throat.

“Mmmm, Jessica…”

Jessica was moving her body on top of Toni’s. She lifted her head and captured the older woman’s mouth with her own. Toni slid one hand down and grabbed Jessica’s butt, at the same time she raised a thigh between her legs. That move put wonderful pressure on the younger woman’s clit. As she ground against Toni’s thigh she was getting more and more worked up.

They usually put the brakes on before things got that far. But neither one was slowing or backing off. They had agreed to take their time getting to know each other, to take things one step at a time, so they hadn’t slept together yet.

“I want you, Toni…” Jessica breathed between kisses.

“I want you, too. I want to taste you… make you come…”

Toni brought her hands to Jessica’s face and kissed her passionately. When they parted they silently agreed to move from the couch to Toni’s bedroom.

~~~

December 25, 1988

She woke up rather early in the morning, despite their late night activities. She watched the woman in bed next to her sleeping. It suddenly hit her like a ton of bricks. She had fallen in love. The realiza­tion made her heart skip a beat. She felt a little lightheaded. She drew in a deep breath and slowly let it out. A tear trailed down her cheek without her awareness. A light touch of a fingertip wiping away the tear startled her. Not realizing she had closed them, she opened her eyes.

“What’s the matter? Why the tears?” her companion asked softly.

“I’m in love with you,” she whispered.

Sparkling grey eyes gazed up into dark brown eyes. Jessica slid her hand to the back of Toni’s head and pulled her down. “I love you, too,” she replied just before their lips met.

~~~

Toni was nervous. Jessica had promised her partner that she would come to his house for Christmas dinner. She knew Casper was protective of his partner, and he was well aware of her playgirl reputation. She wasn’t sure how he’d react to her showing up for dinner with Jessica. The younger woman told her to relax and not to worry. That was easier said than done. Despite the fact they were coworkers, going to Casper’s felt like going to meet her lover’s family for the first time.

John opened the door and wrapped Jessica in a bear hug. “I’m so glad you’re here.” He let her go.

“I brought someone with me,” she said with a happy smile. She held her hand out and Toni took it, stepping into view.

“Hi, John. Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas, Toni. Come on in.”

As John hung up their coats, Jessica slipped into the kitchen to see Jennie. “Do you need help with anything, Jennie?”

The blonde smiled. “If you could grab the mashed potatoes, we’re just about ready.”

“I hope you don’t mind, but I brought someone with me.”

“Of course I don’t mind. There’s enough food here for an army. I’ll set another plate.”

Meanwhile, in the living room, John closed the coat closet and looked at his partner’s date. “Forgive me if this comes out the wrong way, but how long is this going to last?”

“What?”

“You and Jessica. You’ve been together what? Three months now? Isn’t that some kind of record for you?”

Toni took a deep breath and let it out. “Four. Yes, I suppose it is. But one thing no one has ever been able to accuse me of is being a liar.” She paused. “I’m in love with her, John. It’ll last as long she wants me. I’m not going anywhere.”

He looked in her brown eyes and saw the truth of her words. Finally he nodded and smiled. “Hope you’re hungry. Jennie’s cooked a ton of food.”

~~~~~~~

October 6, 1989

“I can’t believe I’ve got to get all dressed up for this thing,” the younger woman whined.

“Relax, you’re beautiful.”

“You’re biased.”

“Perhaps. But that doesn’t change the fact that you’re beautiful,” Toni replied as she slipped her arms around Jessica’s waist from behind. She looked in her eyes in the mirror and smiled.

Jessica put her hands on the arms around her waist. She gazed at the dark brown eyes in the mirror. “You’re going to make me late,” she said with a smile.

“Move in with me,” the older woman suddenly said.

Jessica turned in her lover’s arms. When she didn’t immediately say anything Toni tried again.

“Or, if you don’t like it here we can find a new p–”

She was silenced by a passionate kiss.

“Is that a yes?”

“Yes!”

~~~

“For an act of valor above and beyond the call of duty exhibiting exceptional courage, extraordinary decisiveness, presence of mind and unusual swiftness of action regardless of her personal safety in an attempt to save or protect human life, it is my honor to present Special Agent Jessica Morgan with the FBI Medal of Valor.”

The Director, flanked by the Deputy Director and AD Cavanaugh, motioned her up onto the dais.

An embarrassed agent stood on the dais and reluctantly accepted a medal she didn’t feel she deserved. If not for the encouragement of her partner and her lover, she would have declined the medal. But John and Toni had finally convinced her to accept it. Still, she couldn’t wait to get out of the spotlight and slip back into her comfort zone.

~~~~~~~

October 14, 1989

“Okay, that’s the last box,” John said as he set the box down on the kitchen table.

Jessica handed him a cold soda and kissed his cheek. “Thanks for all your help, John.”

He gave her a quick hug. “No problem.” He smiled. “Though I must admit I never thought I’d see the day.”

Jessica simply smiled. She had known Toni’s reputation, but something had made her take a chance and go on a second date with the woman. Toni had never given her a reason to second guess or regret that decision.

In the bedroom, Toni relieved Jennie of her burden so she could get a diaper out of her bag. She played with Jeremy as Jennie prepared everything for the task of changing his diaper. “Thanks again for helping with Jessica’s move, Jennie.”

The blonde smiled as she took her son from the brunette. “It’s our pleasure, Toni.” She paused and smiled at the woman. “So, when are you and Jessica going to have one of your own?” She laughed at the look on Toni’s face. “Relax. Breathe. I was just joking.”

Toni chuckled at herself. “Sorry. I guess I’m still getting used to the idea of actually living with her.”

~~~~~~~

March 5, 1990

Casper took in the tanned skin of his partner and the radiant smile on her face. “So how was the vacation?” he asked as she sat at her desk.

“It was fantastic!”

“Well, from the color of your skin, I’d say you went somewhere warm.”

Her grey eyes sparkled as she grinned. “We went to Bora Bora.”

His eyes widened in surprise. “Wow. That’s some surprise!”

“It was incredible, John. We stayed at a beautiful resort. Our bungalow was in the water on stilts. The water was so clear and blue. We went kayaking and snorkeling and horseback riding and parasailing. I didn’t want to come back!”

~~~~~~~

July 4, 1990

Casper sat down on the grass next to his partner’s lover. She was intently watching the volleyball game. He watched her a few moments before turning his attention to the game as well. “So who’s winning?”

“Huh?” She seemed almost surprised there was someone sitting next to her.

“Who’s winning?”

“I don’t know.”

“But you’ve been sitting here watching the game since it started.” He saw her shake her head from the corner of his eye. “Then what have you been doing?”

She grinned. “Watching her.”

John chuckled. “You’ve got it bad.”

“Yep.” She took a breath and turned her head to look at him. “Is this how you felt when you met Jennie?”

He nodded. “Yeah.”

“You know I never thought I’d meet someone like her.” She turned back to watch her lover playing volleyball. “I’d marry her if I could, John.”

That surprised him. He knew Toni loved Jessica, he saw it in her eyes every time she looked at his partner. And it was obvious that Jessica felt the same. However, he hadn’t expected that.

~~~~~~~

March 7, 1991

Morgan and Casper stepped off the plane and walked up the jetway. In the airport they headed straight to baggage claim. While Jessica waited for their bags, John rented their car. Once they retrieved their bags, they left the airport and headed to the Atlanta Police Department headquarters.

When they arrived at the police department they met with the detective that was working the serial rape case that had brought them to Atlanta, Detective Bobby Marinelli. He shook both agents’ hands.

“I want to thank you for coming down and helping with us with this case. This rapist is… different somehow.”

“Well, you couldn’t ask for a better profiler than Agent Morgan,” Casper said with some pride.

~~~

March 8, 1991

She was in an office going through the original files of the rapes. Casper had slipped out to get something to eat. She would have preferred sleep, especially since they hadn’t even arrived in Atlanta until after 9:00 p.m. Oh well. It wasn’t the first time they’d worked through the night, and she really wanted to get a handle on the UNSUB.

Det. Marinelli entered and leaned against a wall, just watching her. Eventually she looked up at him.

“Something I can do for you, Detective?”

“He doesn’t know, does he?”

“What?”

“You’re partner. He doesn’t know about you.”

She frowned.

“He doesn’t know you’re a half-breed.” He smirked at her shocked expression. “Don’t be so surprised.”

She then closed her eyes and took a calming breath… and recognized him for what he was. She opened her eyes and looked at him again. “No wonder you work nights.”

His smile was wide and genuine. “It suits me.” He paused for a beat. “I’m surprised you didn’t recognize me as soon as you arrived.”

She sighed. “My thoughts were elsewhere.” A vision of her and Toni making love before having to leave for the airport flashed in her mind.

The door opened and admitted her partner, bearing food from an all-night McDonald’s.

~~~

March 11, 1991

Jessica’s profile had greatly narrowed the pool of suspects, and the three of them – Morgan, Cas­per, and Marinelli – were closing in on the house of their suspect, William Stevenson. They split up so that each of the front, side, and back doors were covered.

She heard Marinelli at the front door as he talked to the person who answered. Casper was around the back while she entered the side door. Their goal was to sneak in and secure his latest victim while Bobby kept Stevenson at the front. Of course things don’t always go as planned.

Jessica ended up having to shoot the suspect while he held Bobby at gunpoint. It was a shot that no one else could have made, because he and Bobby were in the dark and their location only given away by their voices. Only after letting her eyes shift was she able to pierce the cover of darkness and see their exact positions.

Afterwards, with the victim safely ensconced with her family, and the paperwork mostly done, Marinelli spoke to Jessica quietly. “Thank you. You risked being found out to save me.”

She looked at him. “What other choice was there? Certainly not to let him kill you.” She looked back down at her report. “Besides, I won’t hesitate to use my advantage when someone else is at stake.”

Hearing her tone of voice he sat down. “I take it that you have before.”

She gave an almost imperceptible nod. “Not consciously at the time, but yes, I did.” She looked back up at the vampire cop. “All my life, my grandfather taught me that actions have consequences. I’ve never had human blood and have always carefully guarded my ‘secret.’” Her grey eyes hardened. “But inaction also has consequences. I cannot put my personal wants before my duty or the safety of another.”

They held each other’s eyes for a few moments in silence and then nodded in complete understanding. Marinelli was quite impressed with the young agent.

~~~~~~~

May 24, 1991

“Hey, Jessica.”

The woman looked up at the sound of her lover’s voice and smiled. “Hey. How’s your day been?”

“I just finished up my paperwork on the Johansen case. I’m officially done for the day, and ready to get out of here. What about you?”

“I’m afraid I’ve got at least another 20 minutes of work left. If you want, you can go home and get ready. I won’t be far behind you. John can give me a ride home.”

“What do you mean I can give you a ride home?” John asked as he returned from the copy room. He grabbed a folder off his partner’s desk.

“Hey, I’m not done with that yet.”

“Yes, you are. I know you and Toni have special plans for this weekend. Now get the hell out of here.”

Jessica just sat there and looked at her partner as he opened the folder. “John.”

He looked up at her and smirked. “It’s not like you haven’t put in a lot of extra hours lately, Jessica. You’re not shirking your duty. I’ll finish this up and then go home to my wife and son. In the meantime, you and Toni go enjoy your long weekend.”

She finally nodded. “Alright.”

“Thanks, John,” Toni said as her lover locked up her desk.

“Just have a piña colada for me while you’re sunning yourselves down in the Caymans,” he said with a smirk.

~~~~~~~

December 11, 1991

The phone woke her up. She fumbled for it on the nightstand. “Morgan.”

“Jessica, it Lou.”

She was instantly wide awake. Getting a call from the assistant director at – she looked at the clock radio – 3:17 in the morning was not a good thing. “What happened, Lou?” she asked with trepidation.

“I’m afraid Toni was shot.”

“How is she?”

“I don’t know. She was unconscious.”

“Fuck!”

“I’m on my way to the hospital now.”

“Which one?”

“Memorial.”

“I’m on my way.” She hung up and rushed around the room quickly getting dressed.

~~~

She burst through the doors of the ER. She’d made it to the hospital in record time. She quickly scanned the room and saw Cavanaugh. “Lou!”

He turned and saw the young woman. They met halfway and he gave her a quick hug. “I haven’t heard anything yet.”

“What the bloody hell happened?” she demanded.

“Toni and Lance had to make a move on Wieder while on stakeout tonight.”

Just then a nurse came out. “Mr. Cavanaugh?”

“Yes?”

“The doctor said you can come back now.”

“Come on, Jessica. Let’s go see Toni.”

Jessica ran to the side of gurney Toni was lying on as soon as she saw her. “Toni!”

“Hey, Jessie.”

She took her lover’s hand and bent down to kiss her. “I was so worried about you.”

Toni reached up and wipe an errant tear from the younger woman’s cheek. “I’m okay. Just a couple of busted ribs and a knot on the back of my head.”

“They said you’d been shot.”

“She was, but fortunately she was wearing her vest,” said the doctor who joined them. “Hi. I’m Dr. Ross.” He shook hands with both Cavanaugh and Jessica.

“When can she go home?”

“We can’t let her go home alone. She’s needs to be observed because of the concussion.”

“That’s okay, she won’t be alone.”

The doctor took in the look the two women were sharing and their entwined hands. He nodded.

“Alright. I’ll have a nurse go over after care instructions with you while I prepare the discharge papers.”

~~~~~~~

June 12, 1992

“Don’t forget I’m leaving half a day today, John.”

“That’s right, you’re starting your vacation today. Where are you two off to this time?”

“Aruba.” She smiled.

Casper smiled widely at his partner’s happiness.

~~~~~~~

January 1, 1993

She wasn’t sure what woke her up. But she knew instantly something wasn’t right. The empty place next to her in bed let her know that her lover hadn’t made it home yet… Or had she? She got out of bed, slipping her robe on as she moved to the bedroom door and down the hallway. It was extremely rare that she could ever sneak up on her lover, but from Jessica’s posture, it was clear she was completely unaware of her presence.

Toni slipped her arms around her lover’s waist from behind and held her close. The tension just rolled off of Jessica’s body. She kissed the shell of her ear and whispered, “What’s wrong?”

After several moments, Jessica allowed herself to relax back into her lover’s embrace, the tension slowly seeping from her muscles. “Sorry I didn’t make it to the party.”

The older woman gave her a gentle squeeze. “I couldn’t care less about a New Year’s Eve party. I’m concerned about you. Talk to me. What happened?”

The younger woman let out a soft sigh. Toni always knew how to make her feel better without even trying. “It’s the case.”

Of course Toni already figured that much out. But she waited patiently for Jessica to continue.

“He’s made it personal, Toni.”

The rough edge to her voice concerned Toni. “What do you mean?”

“He left a message…” her voice broke as tears finally spilled, “carved into the body of the newest victim.”

“Oh, God.”

“And then there was a letter waiting for us when we got back to the office. It had been dropped off by courier while we were at the scene.”

“What did it say?” She felt the younger woman tense up in her arms again.

“‘Now the game really begins.’”

Toni could tell there was more to it from the slight tremble than ran through her lover. “And?”

“It was addressed to me personally,” Jessica whispered.

Fuck! Toni let go of her, placed her hands on her shoulders and turned her around so they were face to face. “Don’t let him throw you off your game, Jessica. Don’t let him win that way.”

She sighed. “I’m not going to let him win, but…”

“But it’s hit you from out of left field,” she said with a knowing tone. “Come on,” she said, leading her to the couch. “You’re not the first one this has happened to.”

Jessica settled into the arms of her lover. “I know. I told Purdue I didn’t want to do that damn press conference, you know. That has to be how he knew my name.”

“Not necessarily. You’ve been seen at a number of the crime scenes. And, you’ve been in the news before. Only a little research would provide him with a name.”

~~~

January 25, 1993

“Okay, people, we’ve got a sketch of the UNSUB from the description the latest victim gave us before she died. I want everyone to take a good look at the sketch and commit it to memory. We’ve got a face, now we need a name to go with it.” With that Cavanaugh ended the meeting. However, he did pull Jessica aside as the others filed out of the conference room. “Jessica–”

“You don’t have to say it, sir. I know. He’s escalating.”

“With this last one he’s gone past taunting you; he’s now threatening you.”

“I know,” she said softly.

“I’ll understand if you want off the case. I don’t have a problem reassigning you.”

She looked into his understanding eyes but didn’t say anything.

“Think about it, okay? If you decide you want out, just let me know. Come to me anytime; my door is open to you.”

“Thanks.”

~~~

“So what did Cavanaugh want?” Toni asked when she met Jessica in the cafeteria for lunch.

She signed. “He said if I wanted off the case he’d reassign me.”

“What did you say?”

“Nothing.”

Toni reached across the table and placed her hand over her lover’s. She gave it a squeeze. “I’ll support whatever decision you make.”

“I know. But what do you think I should do?”

“Catch the bastard and put him behind bars.”

~~~~~~~

February 17, 1993

She’d had a long day and was looking forward to getting home. Actually it had been a long month. And what she wanted more than anything was to go home, take a hot shower, and crawl into bed with her other half. She needed to feel Toni’s arms around her. She had told Toni she’d be home by 6:00, but then they got a possible lead on the killer they were after. And Jessica was the best interviewer of witnesses and suspects. Even the jerks who resented her presence in the division came to her for the really tough interrogations.

Anyway, after the interview of the reluctant witness she was finally able to call it a night at 10:30. Jessica had to stop and get gas on the way home. When she went inside to pay for it, she bought a small stuffed bear on impulse. She smiled at the little five-inch bear as she started the car and pulled away. Toni had a secret collec­tion of the cute stuffed animals that she’d kill to keep a secret from her fellow FBI agents. It didn’t fit with her tough as nails, no nonsense image. Jessica’s smile widened. Settling down with one person for the last four and half years didn’t fit with Toni’s reputa­tion either. It was the last thing anyone thought Toni would ever do. But that’s how long Jessica and Toni had been together.

Jessica parked the car and picked up the little bear with a smile. “Come on, buddy, let’s go make Toni smile.”

She rode the elevator up to their floor, and had her keys out before she got the door. With a heart­felt smile she unlocked the door and stepped inside, turning on the light in the hallway… and stopped. There was blood on the wall and floor. Her heart dropped like a stone. “Toni… Toni!” she called. She rushed into the living room. “TONI!!”

Jessica dropped to her knees and pulled the lifeless, bloody body of her lover into her arms. The stuffed bear lay forgotten in a pool of blood. “NOOO!!!”

~~~

February 18, 1993

As Casper drove to his home, he kept a watchful eye on his partner in the passenger seat. He was more than concerned. She was… too quiet. No crying, no talking, no anything. While she was obviously in shock, her lack of reaction was disquieting and worrisome.

When he pulled up to the house, he got out and went around to the passenger side. He opened her car door after getting her bag from the back seat. He had to actually reach in and grab her arm since she didn’t move a muscle. “Come on, Jessica. Let’s go inside.”

She moved as an automaton, without thought. Jennifer was up when they got inside.

“John?”

“Jessica’s going to stay with us for a little while.” He led his partner into the guest room. “If you need anything, just ask.” He closed the bedroom door behind him when he left.

Jennifer was waiting for him in the kitchen. “John, what’s wrong? What happened?”

Tears welled in his eyes and he swallowed. “Toni…”

“Did they break up?”

He shook his head. “Toni was killed.”

“Oh, God.”

~~~

February 23, 1993

It was a cold, clear day. Literally hundreds of agents had showed up to pay their respects to a fallen agent. However, John Casper was only concerned about one – his partner. Jessica didn’t break down, but he would have felt better if she had. She remained silent, not shedding a single tear. John didn’t like it. He knew she needed to mourn.

While John spoke quietly with a couple of agents that had known Toni in Cyber Crimes, Jessica moved toward the grave.

“It’s all your fault, you know.”

“What?” She looked up at the sneering voice.

“You’re the reason she’s dead!”

She didn’t know what to say to Mulder, who stood within her personal space, seething.

“You just had to be the fucking hero, didn’t you?! You wouldn’t back off the case and now Toni’s dead because of you!!”

A hand clamped down hard on Mulder’s shoulder and bodily spun him around. “That’s enough,” growled John.

“It’s not nearly enough! Toni’s dead because of the Freak! She may as well have killed her herself!”

John unconsciously balled his fist. “Get out of here, Mulder. You’re not welcome. Go back to the basement and your dusty files, your little green men and ridiculous, paranoid, conspiracy theories. Go back to the only person willing to put up with you, Spooky, your partner Diane Fowley. Oh, wait – you can’t go back to her, because she left your sorry ass and moved on to better things. Apparently no one is willing to put up with you and your bullshit.”

Mulder was apoplectic, but Casper calmly brushed past him and led Jessica away.

~~~~~~~

March 4, 1993

Stone faced, she walked up to the agents and the suspect they had in their custody. She simply stared at Devon Conrad. No one – not the agents present, not the police, not her partner, not AD Cavanaugh, and not the suspect – said a single word. Barely a breath was taken as she gazed at her lover’s murderer. The tension in the air was palpable. Finally she drew a breath and spoke in a disturbingly calm tone.

“Get him the hell out of here.”

The agents silently pulled Conrad away and put him in the back of a patrol car. With lights flashing and two Bureau cars as escorts, they headed to jail.

Lou walked up to Jessica where she stood, still as stone. He waited; when it appeared she wasn’t going to say anything he spoke. “Why don’t–”

She cut him off. “I quit.”

“What?”

She removed her gun and holster, turned to face him, and placed them in his hands. She reached into her pocket and pulled out an envelope. She shoved the envelope and badge into his hands. “I quit.” With that she turned and walked away.

“Jessica! Wait! We need to talk about this,” he insisted, following her.”

“No, we don’t,” she replied without even a glance over her shoulder. She got into her car and drove away.

~~~

She used the key John had given her to enter the house. She packed up her things and paused at the front door. She placed an envelope on the shelf near the door where John and Jennie always dropped their keys. She placed the house key on top it and walked out of the house, closing the door behind herself.

~~~

March 5, 1993

The taxi pulled up to Essington manor and she paid the driver. Grabbing her bag, she got out and walked to the front door. She paused for a couple of moments before entering. Edward came rushing (well, as much as a proper English butler rushed) out of the parlor.

“Countess!”

“I’m tired. I’m going to bed.” Jessica simply turned and headed upstairs to her room.

Edward watched with sadness, his heart aching for the young woman’s loss.

~~~~~~~

July 20, 1993

Edward sadly shook his head at the woman in the parlor. “I’m sorry, miss, Lady Essington is still not receiving any guests.”

The tall, dark-haired woman actually growled. “Well she’s getting a visitor, whether she wants one or not.” She looked the butler in the eyes. “Unless, of course, you intend to physically stop me from going up there.”

Edward suppressed the smile that threatened to break out. “I would never lay my hand on a lady.” He received a smile in return.

Mallory Whattley was a friend of Jessica’s. They’d met at Oxford and had a number of classes together. Edward hoped that Miss Whattley would be able to get through to his distraught employer. She was too young to give up.

Mallory walked past Edward, out of the parlor and up the stairs. She barged into Jessica’s room without even knocking. “It’s time you and I had a talk.”

“I don’t want to talk.”

“That’s fine. You just need to listen.”

~~~

August 11, 1993

It took more than one uninvited – and unwelcome – visit by Mallory to pull Jessica out of her black hole enough to acknowledge that life was indeed continuing despite her painful loss. Toni was gone, but she was still alive. Jessica couldn’t face going back to the Bureau… or anything that had to do with her life with Toni.

At a loss to know what to do, she picked up on a suggestion – one of many Mallory had thrown at her – and decided to run with. She would go back to school. However, it was well past any application dates to begin the fall term.

She picked up the phone and placed a call to her alma mater, Harvard. And for the first time, she used her family name and wealth, in conjunction with her own scholastic reputation, to pull some strings. Jessica was going to start medical school in less than two weeks.

~~~~~~~

April 19, 1996

Jessica arrived at her apartment after the last of her tests for the day. It was the one concession she’d allowed herself upon returning to Harvard. A place of her own – a refuge – a place to be alone with no one to see her fall apart occasionally. Fortunately that was happening less frequently, but it did still happen.

She dropped her bag, coat, and hat on the hall table and turned to head into the living area. If she hadn’t been so damned tired, after three days with no sleep, she’d have noticed his presence sooner. “Fuck! Bloody hell, Lou!” She put away the concealed weapon she carried whenever she was off campus and not at the hospital. “Bloody wanker, are you trying to get yourself killed?” She took a couple of breaths to slow her heart rate. “What the hell are you doing in my apartment?” she asked while glaring at him.

“I understand you’re about to graduate from medical school.”

“Yeah. So what?”

“There’s been a lot of changes at the Bureau since you left.”

“Again, so what?”

“I was appointed as the Director last year.”

“Congratulations. What does that have to do with you breaking into my apartment?” she asked not par­ticularly kindly.

He shifted forward in the chair a little. “I want you to come back to the Bureau. Come back and work for me.”

Jessica sat down heavily on the sofa. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

“No, Jessica, I’m not. It would be completely different this time.” He continued when she didn’t say anything. “You’d report directly to me, no one else, not even the Deputy Director. And you’d be senior agent on any case I sent you on. All you’d have to do is go in, profile the UNSUB and then move on to the next case.” He paused. “So what do you say, Jessica?”

“I say get out of my apartment, Lou.”

“Jess–”

“Get out!”

He stood and left the apartment. But as he closed the apartment door behind himself he heard the unmistakable sound of something made of glass or porcelain impacting a wall. He’d be back.

~~~

April 20, 1996

Jessica rolled her eyes when she opened the door and saw Lou. She turned and walked away, but didn’t close the door. He followed her into the living area.

“You don’t give up, do you?” she asked.

“No. And neither do you. Which is why you need to come back to the Bureau,” he said gently. He sat on the sofa facing her. “You have a gift. There’s no one better than you are at figuring out the really hard ones. I need you to be my ‘go to’ agent, the one I can send in to shake things up and break the logjams – just like you did the first day you walked into the VCU.”

Jessica sighed. “If I came back to the Bureau then what I have I been doing in medical school the last three years?”

“I’ll grant that you needed to get away for a while and do something different. But I think you know where you truly belong.” He retrieved a business card from his wallet and handed it to her. “That’s my private line. Call me.”

~~~~~~~

May 31, 1996

It felt strange to walk into the J. Edgar Hoover building. It had been a little over three years since she’d walked away from the Bureau. Part of her couldn’t believe she was back. She went to check in at the security desk and was surprised to find her new ID and badge already waiting for her.

“Just sign for these, and you can go right up, Agent Morgan.”

“Thank you.”

She signed, accepted her credentials and walked to the elevators. On the top floor she exited and entered the outer office of the Director.

“May I help you?” asked the woman at the desk.

“Hello. I’m Jessica Morgan and I have an appointment with the Director.”

“Hi! It’s nice to meet to you, Agent Morgan. I’m Stacy Drexler, Director Cavanaugh’s personal assistant. He’s on a phone call right now, but should be available shortly.”

“Thank you.”

“Would you care for some coffee?”

“No thank you, I don’t drink coffee.”

“Perhaps some tea then?”

“That would be nice.”

No sooner had Stacy handed a freshly made cup of tea to Jessica then the Director opened his office door. “Jessica!” To the surprise of his assistant, he gave the agent a hug. “I’m glad you’re here.”

“Thanks, Lou.”

They parted.

“Come in.”

They entered his office and sat on the couch together. “I was a little surprised you wanted to start today.”

She shrugged. “No use delaying.”

He nodded. “Well everything has been set up for you. All you need to do is see the range master and re-qualify with your weapon.”

“I can do that this morning.”

“Any time before Monday morning is fine.”

“Don’t you have a case for me?”

“Well, yes, but it’s Friday. It can wait until Monday.”

“There’s no reason to wait, Lou.”

He looked at her for a few moments, gauging her. Finally he nodded. “Alright.” He stood, walked to his desk, and retrieved a case file. He came back and handed it to her. “It’s a serial rapist case in Oklahoma City. See Stacy for information about your expenses.”

She stood up. “I’ll book a flight as soon as I’m done at the range.”

“Good luck. And remember, you’re answerable only to me. If anyone has a problem with it, let me know.”

“Alright. Talk to you later.” They shook hands and she stepped out of his office and approached Stacy. “The Director said to see you about my expenses.”

“Oh, yes.” Stacy pulled an envelope out of her desk. “Rather than have you fill out expense reports every week, you have a Bureau credit card. Use it for all your expenses – travel, meals, hotels, car rentals, photocopying – everything. Also, you’ll find my number in there. If there’s anything you need just give me a call. I’ve been authorized to assist you in whatever way I can. And if I can’t handle it the Director will. He’s included his direct and private number as well.”

“Thank you.”

“Is there anything you need at this time?”

“No. I’m just need to re-qual before I head to Oklahoma City.”

“I’ll call the range and let them know you’re on your way,” Stacy said with a friendly smile.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

~~~~~~~

February 14, 1999

Jessica was surprised to find someone waiting for her when she stepped off the jetway and into the waiting area. She even more surprised to see that someone was the Director himself, Lou Cavanaugh.

He gave her a smile and took her bag from her shoulder. “It’s good to see you, Jessica.”

“Thanks. But why are you here to pick me up?”

“I just wanted the chance to talk to you face to face.”

“You mean you want to try again to convince me to teach at Quantico.”

He smiled. “Well, now that you mention it.”

She rolled her eyes.

“Give me your claim tickets. I’ll have someone get your baggage for you and bring it to the office.” She handed over the baggage tickets, which Lou gave to an agent waiting by his car at the curb. “Takes us to Headquarters, Bill,” the Director ordered the driver.

“Yes, sir.”

Lou looked at Jessica appraisingly. “How are you doing, Jessica?”

She arched an eyebrow in response.

It was just three days until the sixth anniversary of Toni Jeffers’ murder. Whether she admitted it or not, he knew it was on her mind. After several long seconds of her continued silence he quietly sighed. “So, have you given any more thought to becoming an instructor?”

“Not really. I just finished up with the case in Indianapolis this morning.”

~~~

At headquarters, Lou escorted Jessica up to the taskforce bullpen. Assistant Director Ben Taylor was waiting for them as soon as the elevator doors opened. The Director handled the introductions. They then followed Taylor to his office. On the way, Jessica couldn’t help but notice the cold stare coming from a face from the past – Mulder. She sighed internally. Maybe the case would take her mind off things.

FIN

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