Weak In The Knees ch 21-30

Chapter 21

After dinner, Scully and Morgan returned to the hotel to change clothes before going out to the Black Diamond club.

“What are you going to wear tonight, Jess?”

“Probably just a pair of jeans and a shirt.”

“Why don’t you wear your leather pants again tonight?” she suggested lightly.

A dark eyebrow quirked.

She smiled demurely, “I like the way they look.”

Jess smiled, pleased. “Alright. I’ll wear them. But…”

“But what?”

Grey eyes sparkled. “But I expect you to return the favor at some point.”

“But I don’t have a pair of leather pants.”

“You can do something about that.” With a smirk Jess gently pushed Dana into her own room to get ready. “See you in a few.”

~~~

Dressed pretty much as they had been the previous night, the two agents drove north to Ft Lauderdale.

At the Black Diamond they were stopped at the door by the rather large and muscular, middle-aged door­woman. “Cops. What can I do for you?” she asked challengingly.

Morgan smiled. “Feds, actually.” She flashed her badge. “We’re not here to bother anyone. Just to ask about this young lady.” She showed the picture of Elizabeth to the woman. “We’re told she frequented this club.”

The woman looked at the photo. “What’d she do?”

“Nothing. She was killed. We’re investigating her murder.”

“Oh, hell. Her name was Beth, and she was a good kid.”

“Do you know if she was seeing anyone particular? Someone who could tell us more about her?”

The doorwoman nodded. “You’ll want to speak to Kate. Ask for her at the bar.”

“Thank you…”

“Marge.”

“Thank you, Marge.” Morgan pulled out her wallet to pay the cover charge but Marge waved it away. “Don’t worry about it – just find whoever killed Beth.”

“We intend to.”

Morgan and Scully entered the bar. They were somewhat surprised at the interior. There was a long hardwood bar on the right side of the room. On the left was a very large stone hearth fire­place – with a fire burning in it. Large, stuffed, leather arm chairs were arranged in a semicircle facing the fireplace, set in pairs, with a small round table for drinks for each pair. In the back left corner was a baby grand piano, currently sitting idle. There were over 20 women present. The two agents walked up to the bar.

“Welcome to the Black Diamond. What can I get for you, ladies?” the green-eyed blonde behind the bar asked.

“We need to speak to Kate. Could you direct us to her, please?” Scully asked.

“Can I tell her what it’s in regard to?”

Dana flashed her badge. “It’s a personal matter.”

The blonde nodded. “Alright. I’ll get her.”

The blonde picked up the phone behind the bar and made a quick call.

A couple of minutes later, a door in the back right corner, on the right hand wall, opened, admit­ting an attractive brunette and sounds of typically loud dance music and revelry of a club. The brunette was 5’8”, brown-eyed, svelte and had an air of authority. She looked to be in her late 20’s. She approached the agents. “I’m Kate Rossini. What can I do for you, Officers?”

“I’m FBI Special Agent Dana Scully and this is my partner Special Agent Jessica Morgan. Is there somewhere we can speak privately?” Scully asked.

“Sure, come on back to my office.” Kate led the way through a locked door in the back wall. It emptied into a long corridor. They passed a small, unused kitchen on the right. Kate’s office was on the left. “Have a seat.” She sat down behind her desk. “Now, what can I do for you?”

Morgan handed the picture of Elizabeth to her. Neither agent missed the quiet intake of air.

“Beth. What’s happened?”

“I’m afraid Beth was killed two nights ago. We’re investigating her murder,” Scully said gently.

Kate closed her eyes and her chin began to tremble. A few tears escaped from the corners of her eyes. “Beth and I…” she couldn’t continue.

Morgan stood up and walked around the desk. She crouched next the Kate and placed her hand over the shaky one in Kate’s lap. “I understand, Kate. If you can’t do this right now, it’s alright. I know what you’re feeling – I’ve been there. I promise you that Agent Scully and I are dedicated to finding and catching whoever did this. But we need your help. We can come back tomorrow if you prefer.”

Rossini swallowed and opened her eyes. She looked down into the grey eyes of Agent Morgan, seeing genuine concern and understanding in them. She wiped away her tears even though more followed. “What do you need?” she asked softly.

Morgan gave her woman’s hand a gentle squeeze before letting go and moving back to her chair. “What can you tell us about Elizabeth’s social circle? Had she made any new friends recently?”

“Not that I know of. We didn’t get to spend as much time together as I’d like. And she was in the closet. She said her family wouldn’t understand, and she wasn’t ready to tell them.”

“That can be hard on a relationship.”

“She was worth it.”

“How did you meet?”

“Here, at the bar. One of my bartenders was out sick so I was working on the other side.”

“The other side?” Scully asked.

“The other side of the bar is the club side – DJ, dancing, pool tables – your typical bar scene. She looked a little overwhelmed sitting at the bar, sipping her drink. We struck up a conversation, and when one of my other bartenders made it in, Beth and I continued our talk in the wine bar. We started having nice talks every time she came to the Black Diamond. We became friends… even­tually lovers.”

“Weren’t you concerned you hadn’t heard from her for a couple of days?”

“No. I usually don’t during the week. She was very driven and committed to her studies. She was close to getting her PhD in Molecular Biology. We limited our time together to the weekends, at least until spring break. We were going to go on vacation together.”

“Alright. Thank you,” Morgan said. “If you think of anything, anything at all that might help us, do not hesitate to call either of us.” She stood and handed Kate her card, Scully followed suit.

Kate nodded.

Scully started to say something, but Morgan silently urged her out of the office. She looked at her partner. “Why did you stop me from saying anything?” she asked, not upset, but curious.

“Because you were about to ask her if she was alright. She’s not,” Jess said without reproof and with the certainty of experience.

They arrived back in the wine bar. “Do you want to stay and have a drink?” Scully asked.

“No.” Morgan wanted to get out of the bar. But she did recognize the desire in her partner, and in herself, to bring the work day to an end and transition to some personal time. “But I wouldn’t mind going for a walk.” She smiled. “I understand they have some beautiful beaches here.”

“That’s right, you have a thing for tropical beaches,” Scully replied with a smile. “A walk sounds nice.”

When they stepped out of the bar Morgan approached Marge again. “I think it would be a good idea if someone made sure Kate got home safe tonight; maybe stay with her so she’s not alone.”

Marge nodded. “I’ll see to it.”

Morgan gave her a nod and then turned back to Scully. They got in the car and drove back to Miami. Morgan pulled the car into a parking lot at a small beach. They got out of the car and, holding hands, walked along the beach.

“Are you alright in your heels walking in this sand?” Jess asked.

Scully chuckled. “I can walk anywhere in heels.”

There was a clear sky and a three-quarter moon above, so there was plenty of light.

“So… you like tropical beaches and walks in the moonlight,” Dana said lightly.

Jess laughed. “Sorry – I don’t mean to be such a cliché.”

Dana squeezed her hand and stopped, pulling the brunette to a stop as well. Jess turned to face her. She reached up with her other hand and brushed some hair back from Jess’s face. “I don’t mind cliché, especially where you and moonlight are concerned.” She pressed her lips to her lover’s and sighed as Jess responded. They held each other loosely and kissed gently, savoring the soft­ness and emotional connection.

After a few minutes, Jess pulled back, her heart pounding and legs feeling a bit rubbery. “I need… I think I need to sit down.” She sat down in the sand, facing the ocean.

Dana knelt down next to her lover. “Are you alright?”

Jess smiled. “Yeah. You just kind of blew me away.” She reached up, cupped Dana’s cheek, and pulled her into a deep kiss. Wrapping her arms around Dana she pulled the redhead to her as she laid back in the sand.

~~~

Sometime later, the two women were sitting up watching the waves. Dana was sitting between Jess’s legs, leaning back against her. She rested her hands over the arms wrapped about her waist.

They talked; sharing some of their histories with each other. Finding more and more things they held in common: enjoyment of moonlight and beaches; medical school experiences; a love of seafood, etc. Dana spoke of her relationship with her father and his lack of support for her decision to join the Bureau. Jess spoke of her relationship with her grandfather and the immense feeling of loss at his passing. And they talked about the last five or six years of work subsuming and oblit­erating everything else in their lives… resulting in a loss of a part of themselves.

Eventually they rose and walked back to the car, arm in arm.

In Dana’s hotel room, they undressed each other and came together under the sheets, connecting on more than just a physical level.

Dana lifted her head from Jess’s chest and gazed down into shining grey eyes. “Jess…”

“What?” the brunette prompted when Dana didn’t continue.

How much could she risk of herself? She gazed into her lover’s eyes and found the answer. “I’m falling for you.”

A soft smile graced Jess’s lips. She reached up, brushed back some of Dana’s red hair and caressed her cheek. “I’ve already fallen for you.”

Dana’s felt her heart swell and tears filled her eyes. She kissed Jess, gently, thoroughly. Laying her head on her lover’s shoulder, Dana closed her eyes. Finally she knew what real hap­piness felt like. She slept peacefully in her lover’s arms.

~~~

A phone was ringing. She’d let the answering machine get it… no, it was a cell phone. She’d let voicemail get it. She growled when her human pillow shifted out from under her. She opened her eyes and blearily saw her lover retrieve the offending noisemaker.

“Morgan.”

It was amazing how the woman could visibly transform into Agent Morgan, even naked. Scully sat up, holding the sheet to herself.

Morgan sat in the chair. “Why?… I see… Tell me, why now?…” Her jaw tightened and she flashed a glance at Scully. “You know I can’t do that… Why not this morning?… Where?… I’ll find it.” She hung up and dialed the airport, making reservations on the 4:20 flight to Atlanta that afternoon.

“We’re going to Atlanta?” Scully asked.

Morgan sighed. “The son of a bitch wants to talk. Wants me to meet him at a bar in Atlanta – Doc’s Saloon.”

An auburn eyebrow arched. “Sounds like a fine establishment,” she said sarcastically.

Morgan let out a huff. “Probably a biker bar.” She rubbed her hands over her face. “What time is it?”

Scully looked at the clock radio. “4:23. Come back to bed and get some more sleep.”

It was so tempting to crawl back under the covers and snuggle with Dana, but she needed to prepare for what the day would bring. Morgan moved and sat on the side of the bed. She leaned in and kissed her lover. “I’d love to, but I have some work I need to do.” She kissed Dana again before standing. “Get some more sleep. It’s probably going to be a long day.” She picked up her stuff and went into her own room.

~~~~~~

Chapter 22

When Morgan retreated to her own room, she slipped on a robe and booted up her laptop. She wanted to do some research on a number of things. She needed to find out where Doc’s Saloon was and if possible find out what kind of establishment it was. She also wanted to research devices that could distort and disguise a person’s voice. The voice on the phone didn’t sound electronic per se, but it did sound as if it had been altered somehow. She typed an email letting AD Taylor and the Director know about the contact she’d had with the UNSUB. And she placed a couple of phone calls.

Doc’s Saloon wasn’t a biker bar, but from the history of police calls to the location, it was definitely a rough place.

Morgan found a number of devices that could be used to alter the voice, but they were rather cheap and would have been obvious in their use. And she didn’t find any that were specifically for use with a cell phone. What she was looking for could have been a very high end specialized piece of equipment – perhaps even custom built.

She also called the cell phone company and verified the call she’d received had been placed from Atlanta. She had an uneasy feeling.

She and Scully were going to spend the day at the University of Miami speaking with Elizabeth’s teachers and fellow students. Then they were going to fly up to Atlanta.

Having completed the tasks she’d set for herself, Morgan rubbed her face and put her laptop aside. She looked at the clock. It was about 40 minutes before Scully’s alarm would go off. Or… she could wake Dana up herself. She smiled. It was amazing how the redhead had changed her in a little over three weeks. Before this case she wouldn’t even have considered setting work aside for a few minutes just to spend some personal time with someone. She shook her head – it was time to act, not think.

Morgan got up and returned to Dana’s room. She stood next to the bed for a few moments, just gazing down at the beautiful woman. She looked so peaceful. Morgan shed her robe and slipped into the bed next to her partner… next to her lover.

Jess tenderly brushed some hair back from Dana’s face. She lowered her head and kissed soft lips.

Dana smiled into the kiss that awakened her. She moved her arms up around the shoulders of the one kissing her, pulling her close. Jess was smiling when Dana opened her eyes and looked up into her shining grey eyes. “Good morning.”

“Good morning.” Jess ducked her head and started nuzzling the redhead’s throat and neck.

“Mm, is it time to get up?”

“Not yet. I hope you don’t mind me waking you a little early,” the brunette replied softly. She latched onto Dana’s pulse point, teasing it with her lips and tongue.

Dana’s breath caught in her throat as gentle hands caressed and fondled her. “Not… at all.”

~~~

Content and satisfied, the two women were simply holding one another in quiet lassitude when the alarm clock finally announced it was time to get up. So they parted to shower and dress in their respective rooms.

Morgan was closing up her briefcase when Scully entered her room. “Ready to go?” Morgan asked.

Scully nodded. But she set her things down next to the door and turned to the brunette. “Just one thing…”

“What?”

Scully leaned in and lightly kissed her partner. “Thank you for my wakeup call, Agent Morgan,” she said with a soft smile. She was rewarded with a beautiful smile.

“You’re welcome, Agent Scully.” Playfulness shone in grey eyes. “Just trying to be a good partner.”

They shared another kiss and smile, then went to check out of the hotel.

~~~

Scully and Morgan spent all morning and a good portion of the afternoon at the University of Miami. They interviewed Elizabeth’s fellow students and her professors. They were both frustrated and disappointed as they left for the airport. No one knew of any new person in the victim’s life. No one stood out; no one didn’t belong.

Morgan sat down in her airplane seat with a sigh.

Scully settled next to her. She patted her partner’s arm. “We will catch him, Jess.”

Morgan nodded. “I know. I’m just afraid of how many more women will die before we do.”

Scully was going to express her concerns about the alleged meeting in Atlanta, but Morgan closed her eyes and was soon napping.

~~~

In Atlanta they rented a car and checked into a hotel. It was over dinner Scully finally confronted her partner.

“Just what exactly are your plans for this meeting tonight?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, just what exactly are we going to do? What if he doesn’t show up? What if he does? What kind of backup are we going to have?”

Morgan put down her plastic fork and pushed the remnants of her meal away. She wasn’t looking forward to this conversation. It was, in fact, the reason she’d suggested takeout to begin with, rather than dinner at a restaurant. “Not we, me.”

“What?” Scully asked with arch brow, not sure she’d heard correctly.

We are not going. I am.”

Morgan knew the Scully would be angry, but she wasn’t quite prepared for the full wrath of the redhead. She sat silently as the livid woman gave vent to her anger. The truth was she’d be just as angry if their places were reversed, but there was no way she could let Scully go to the bar. Finally Scully wound down.

“Well?! Are you going to say something?” Scully demanded from across the room where she’d been pacing.

“He said he wouldn’t show if I didn’t go alone.” Before Scully could go off again, Morgan continued. “And he said he kill you on sight, Dana. It’s not a vague threat anymore. It’s an explicit threat against your life.”

“I’m not quitting this case!”

“I’m not asking you to.”

Morgan’s quiet response took some of the wind out of Scully’s sails. She sat down on the end of the bed.

“I am asking you to trust me.”

Scully ran a hand across her eyes and tried to rein in her ire. She reminded herself that Morgan wasn’t Mulder, she wasn’t an unreasonable person. Morgan had always been profes­sional and respectful of her; the least she could do was hear her partner out. “Alright, talk to me, Jess.”

Morgan nodded. “Okay. First off, please remember that this isn’t my first time to the rodeo. I’m an experienced agent and have a history of dealing with these cases.”

Scully nodded.

“I’m going to Doc’s Saloon tonight, but I won’t be alone – and neither will you.”

“What do you mean?”

“I placed a call early this morning to a local detective that I’ve worked with before. He’s going to be at the bar.” She looked at her watch, “In fact he should already be there. And his partner will be with you.”

“With me?”

“I’m not naïve enough to discount the possibility this is just a ruse to get me out of the way so he can come after you, Dana.”

“Or it could be an attempt to isolate you so he can kill you, Jess.”

Morgan nodded. “That is a possibility, although I honestly don’t think it’s the most likely.”

“Why not?”

“None of his threats have been directed at me, only you.” She paused. “Dana, I know you don’t like it, but you have to let me go without you.”

“Damn it, Jess. You made me promise to be careful and not take unnecessary risks.” She stood up, walked back over to the small table and knelt next to her partner… her lover. She took the bru­nette’s hand in her own. “I need you to make me the same promise, Jess. I don’t want anything to happen to you. Please do not take any unnecessary risks.”

Morgan looked down into bright blue eyes full of earnestness and naked emotion. She gently caressed Scully’s cheek. “I promise.” She then bent down and kissed her, and with her hands on Dana’s shoulders, Jess stood up, pulling the redhead up with her.

Scully pulled out of the kiss. Sapphire blue gazed into sparkling grey. “What time do you have to leave?”

Morgan glanced at the clock. “Bobby’s partner should be here in a couple of hours. I won’t leave until he gets here.”

“Good.” Scully claimed Morgan’s lips with her own.

The next thing Jess knew she was on the bed with Dana pinning her down.

~~~

Morgan looked through the peephole when there was a knock on her hotel room door.

“Agent Morgan? It’s Detective Gene Franco, Bobby Marinelli’s partner.” He held his shield up.

Morgan opened the door. “Come on in, Detective.”

“Just call me Frank,” he replied as they shook hands.

Morgan introduced the detective to her partner. She then grabbed her weapon and slipped it into the holster at the small of her back.

“Bobby’s been at Doc’s for about two hours. He said a couple of fights had already broken out the last time he checked in with me, so keep your eyes open, Agent Morgan.”

“Will do.” She turned to Scully. “I’ll see you later.” And then she was gone.

~~~

As Morgan walked into Doc’s Saloon all of her senses were on high alert. She knew what a risk she was taking, but she honestly didn’t think the Reaper would try to kill her. Even his previous inva­sion into her hotel room had been timed to ensure she wasn’t present. And he’d apparently fol­lowed her, as evidenced by the break-in at Scully’s apartment, giving him ample opportunity to kill her. No, she didn’t think he wanted to kill her.

She’d dealt with his kind before. They wanted a foil to parry against, test and demonstrate their superiority. She had been that foil on more than one occasion.

But she wasn’t dumb enough to dismiss the possibility of a trap, for herself… or Scully. So when she’d been told to come to Atlanta, she’d called an old contact there. Bobby Marinelli was a detec­tive on the Atlanta PD’s night shift. He was a good detective and had several years of experience in both undercover work and the in the homicide division. And in a worst case scenario, he was someone she knew could more than handle himself and back her up.

Morgan spotted Bobby almost immediately. His 5’9”, lanky frame, unshaven and unkempt appear­ance belied the sharp intelligence and unexpected strength of the man. The brown-eyed man was doing a good impression of a sleepy drunk, conveniently sitting in a spot that allowed his field of vision to cover the entire room. Neither one acknowledged the other.

Morgan went to the bar and ordered a Jack Daniels. She didn’t care for the amber liquid, but Doc’s wasn’t a place one ordered ginger ale, and she could nurse the whiskey for quite some time.

Morgan had been sitting at a table for over an hour. She’d had to fend off some unwanted advances and had been called quite a few choice names. Finally a man sat down at her table who wasn’t trying to hit on her. He looked her up and down before speaking.

“You’re Morgan.”

“And you’re not the person who called me,” she said with instinctive certainty.

He smirked. “No. But I was sent by him.”

She arched an eyebrow. “I was told be here to meet with him.”

“There’s something he wants me to give you.”

“What?”

He looked around. “Not here.”

“Well, I’m not about to go anywhere with you.”

“You misunderstand – I just mean not right here.” He jerked a thumb toward the back of the bar. “There’s a room in the back, more private.”

Morgan weighed her options. The man in front of her was large – at least six foot and 225 pounds. And he was not fat. But she also knew that she could take him if it came down to it. She gave a slight nod. “Alright.” As she stood she made an inconspicuous gesture with her hand, signaling Bobby to stay put but keep his eyes open. She didn’t have to look to know Bobby caught her signal. She followed ‘the hulk’ to the back of the bar.

~~~~~~

Chapter 23

As soon as Morgan stepped through the door, a heavy object came down on the back of her head. When she came to, she was tied to a wooden chair with her hands tied behind the back of the chair. Her feet were also tied to the legs of the chair. Suddenly cold water was thrown in her face. She sputtered a little and raised her head. She was rewarded with a fist to her left cheek.

She tasted blood where the inside of her cheek was cut. And she was dizzy.

“Hey! I said not to do anything until she woke up!”

“She is awake.”

Footsteps marked the approached of a second man. “Well, well. What have we here?”

Morgan glared at the second man.

“You are a feisty one, aren’t you? Well, that’s why we’re here.”

“I’m gonna love teaching you a lesson or two, bitch,” smirked ‘the hulk’ just before he smashed the side of her face again.

Morgan spit some blood onto his shoes. She then looked back up at the second man. He was clearly the brains of the duo, but that also made him the more dangerous. “Look… if I’m supposed to be learning something here, wouldn’t it better if I knew what the hell the lesson was?”

She received a blow to the opposite cheek for her impertinence.

“Gag her.” The second man walked away as ‘the hulk’ gagged her.

Even with Morgan’s strength, it was difficult to break the bindings on her hands without good leverage. But since it was obvious these two wanted to beat her rather than kill her, she knew she could last long enough for Bobby to realize something was wrong.

~~~

Bobby was a patient man. Too many undercover cases taught him that to act too soon could blow someone’s cover. But his instincts were telling him it was time to check on Morgan; she’d been gone too long.

Unfortunately, as soon as he made his decision to go check on her, a bar fight broke out – in sec­onds it encompassed the entire place. He jumped right in – in an attempt to work his way to the back. He also got his phone out and hit the memory dial for his partner.

“Frank, got a problem here. Send some ba–” His call was cut short when someone smashed a particularly heavy liquor bottle over his head, knocking him out.

~~~

Scully had waited exactly ten minutes after Morgan left. She then tucked her weapon in the small of her back, slipped on her blazer, and headed to the door.

“Um, Agent Scully? Where are you going?”

She gave Det. Franco a determined look. “To back up my partner. You can either stay here or come with me.” She opened the door and walked out of the hotel room.

Det. Franco was on her heels doing his best to stop her, but finally saw there was no way to sway the redhead from her course of action. He indicated he’d drive his car so she didn’t have to hail a cab. He did get her to agree to wear one of the Kevlar vests in his trunk and to his plan to park a certain distance from the bar so that they weren’t obvious in the parking lot. He assured Scully that his partner would call him if there was a problem he felt he and Morgan couldn’t handle.

They’d been sitting in the car for a quite a long time when Frank’s phone rang. “Franco… Bobby?… Bobby?” He slapped his phone shut.

“What’s going on?” Scully demanded.

Instead of answering her directly, he picked up the mike to his radio and called in, requesting backup. Since he wasn’t starting the car and getting them there, Scully started to open her door to get out and cover the two blocks on foot. Frank caught hold of her arm barely in time to keep her in the car as he turned the key in the ignition. Quickly pulling up short of the front door of the bar they both jumped out of the car.

Frank reached to open the door, but before he could a body came crashing out of a painted over window. Scully and Frank exchanged a look and headed inside with determination. What greeted them was one of the biggest and roughest melee’s either had ever encountered. When Frank spotted his partner unconscious on the floor he pushed and shoved their way to him. Scully knelt down next to Bobby and checked him out. He was alive and his pulse was strong. But he had a bleeding wound on the back of his head.

“He should be alright. He’s bleeding but it’s not a bad wound. Head wounds always bleed a lot.”

Frank took off his over shirt, folded it up and pressed it against Bobby’s head wound. Scully stood up to try to find her partner.

“Where’s Jess?”

Bobby came to. “Back…”

“What?” Frank asked.

“Morgan… back room…”

Scully tried to work her way to the back of the bar, but the fighting around her threatened to engulf her as well. She found an overturned chair, set it upright, stood on top of it, and fired three quick shots into the ceiling. The noise level dropped dramatically and nearly every head in the place turned toward her. “Everyone settle down, sit down, and shut up!!” Several objections started but she fired another shot. “Now!!”

The battlers, for the most part, obeyed. She looked at Bobby and Frank who indicated they would take charge of the room. She quickly made her way to the back of the bar. She was not, even in the most remote way, prepared for what she found when she entered the back room.

~~~

Morgan realized that something had gone very wrong. Bobby wasn’t coming. It was solely up to her to deal with the situation she was in. Despite the blows she’d taken to her face and body, she contin­ued to try to break the bindings holding her arms and hands behind the back of the chair. Finally they gave. Morgan didn’t waste any time. She surged up, surprising both men. Her features shifted in an instant. She kicked her legs free as she ripped off her gag. A very hard and well placed punch knocked out the ‘brains’ of the duo. That left the hulk.

The change in Morgan’s features may have stunned Jerry (the hulk), but he quickly recovered while she focused her rage on his partner. After knocking Bill out, she turned back to him. He met her with a fist to her face. But it wasn’t enough to stop her. She lunged at him. Jerry met her lunge, grabbing one of her arms and yanking it behind her with all his strength. They both heard the pop when it dislocated.

Morgan let out a yell when her arm was twisted and her shoulder dislocated. It also caused her already high adrenalin levels to spike even higher. With a roar she spun, landed a punch to his jaw which she followed up with physically shoving him into the wall with her own body. She grabbed his throat with her right hand, lifted and squeezed. Suddenly the door flew open.

~~~

Scully froze as she took in the appearance of her partner. Morgan’s face was bruised; she had blood running down her face from the corner of her left eye and below her broken nose; her left arm hung useless at her side; and her wrists were chafed raw from being tied up. All that was a shock, but wasn’t what gave her pause.

What rooted Scully to the spot were Morgan’s black eyes and fangs! And she was holding a 225 pound man a couple of inches off the floor with one hand around his throat!

While the newly arrived redhead distracted Morgan, Jerry saw his chance and took it. He broke the grip Morgan had on his throat and threw as hard a right as he could to her body, following it up with a left to her head.

All three heard the snap of ribs breaking and the forceful expulsion of air from her lungs. The blow to her head stunned her. Morgan dropped to her knees. As Jerry raised a broken chair leg, prepar­ing to bring it down on her head, Scully was finally spurred into action.

“FBI! Freeze!”

He didn’t.

A shot rang out.

The bullet struck Jerry in the chest knocking him back… but he didn’t go down. With a yell he still attempted to attack Morgan. A second bullet ended his life.

Morgan was on the floor. Scully moved toward her. Pain was clearly written in her features. It was with grey eyes she looked up at her partner. Before she could say anything Bobby and Frank appeared in the room.

“Fuck!” growled Bobby while Frank stepped out and called for a couple of the EMTs that had just arrived. Bobby knelt next to Morgan while Scully checked on the unconscious man on the floor. “Take it easy, Morgan. You’re going to be okay.”

Scully sat down on a couple of stacked boxes. She simply didn’t know what to think or say. Did she really see what she thought she did? Could Jess really be a monster in disguise? What did it mean?

~~~

Once Morgan was able to catch her breath and answer the EMTs’ questions, she was helped up from the floor and, at her own insistence, walked out of the back room, through the bar, and out to one of the ambulances.

Bobby went with her, still holding a cloth to back of his head. “I’m sorry, Morgan. I got blindsided.”

Morgan sat on the gurney in the back of the ambulance and the EMT began to check her out more closely and prepared her for transport.

“It’s not your fault.”

“Did you find out what you needed to?”

She let out a sigh. “The guy I’m after wasn’t here, but apparently I was being taught a lesson, pun­ished.”

“For what?”

“They wouldn’t say.” She winced a bit when the EMT gently examined her nose. “I still have to question the second one in the morning.”

“Sorry, Agent Morgan. I’m going to put you on some oxygen and start an I.V. Then we’ll get you both to the hospital.”

~~~

At the hospital Morgan was quickly examined and x-rayed. She was given a muscle relaxant and pain medication before her shoulder was manipulated back into place.

As soon as Bobby got a few stitches in the back of his head, he joined Morgan. “You look like shit,” he said with a smile.

“Thanks a lot.” Morgan looked around making sure no one was currently paying attention or listening to them. “She saw me, Bobby,” she said softly.

He sat on the gurney next to her feet with a sigh. “I’m sorry. If I’d been more careful it wouldn’t have happened.”

“It’s not your fault. I knew I was taking a risk agreeing to the meeting. And she agreed to let me go without her.”

“Frank said she waited ten minutes before leaving the hotel. He couldn’t stop her so they parked a couple of blocks down the road.”

She shook her head. “I should have known. It’s not like her to back off.”

“So now what?”

“I’ll continue to work the case and move on when it’s over.”

Bobby placed on a hand on her leg and gave it a supportive squeeze.

~~~

When Scully finally arrived at the hospital she once again flashed her credentials. She inquired about the condition of Morgan, but didn’t go back to see her. She took a seat in the waiting room.

Frank on the other hand, went back to check on his partner. He, of course, found Bobby with Morgan. After making sure they were both going to be okay, he left and returned to the precinct to help process the three dozen, or so, people arrested at the bar.

Scully sat in the ER waiting room, trying to sort out her thoughts and feelings. What the hell had she seen? What was Jess? What did it mean for their partnership?

What did it mean for them on personal level?

~~~~~~

Chapter 24

Morgan had to fight with the attending physician, but she vehemently refused to be admitted into the hospital for observation.

“Agent Morgan, you have a concussion, your ribs are broken, and your shoulder was dislocated–”

“All of which you can’t do a damn thing about at this point.”

“Agent–”

“I’m a doctor – I know you can’t make me stay. And I’m not going to. So go get the damn paper­work I need to sign so I can get out of here.”

The paperwork was brought and she signed herself out A.M.A. (against medical advice).

~~~

Scully stood up when Bobby and Morgan both came out. “They’re not keeping you overnight?”

“I’m fine.”

Morgan’s reply received a highly arched eyebrow in response. Scully clearly didn’t believe her. The brunette continued on her way out the door.

Scully exchanged a look with Bobby, but then they followed.

“Det. Franco brought me in your car,” Scully informed Bobby. “It’s over here.” She took the lead.

Bobby helped Morgan into the back seat and then got in the front with Scully. “We need to make a stop on the way back to the hotel,” he informed the redhead.

Scully nodded and Bobby pulled out of the parking lot. When he pulled the car into a parking space Morgan looked at where they were.

“What are we doing here?”

“You know why we’re here,” replied Bobby.

“Forget it, Bobby. I just want to go back to the hotel.”

Scully turned slightly and looked at her partner, and noted the irritated expression on her face.

Bobby turned around to look at Morgan. “I didn’t say anything about want. This about need, Morgan, and you damn well know it,” he snapped, not giving an inch.

Morgan glared at him. “I don’t–”

“I know.”

When she didn’t reply he opened the door and got out of the car.

Scully watched Morgan. The brunette was obviously not pleased. In fact, she seemed downright sulky; something she hadn’t seen in Jess before. She was uncomfortable with the heavy silence in the car, but she didn’t know how to break it. She didn’t know what to say to Morgan. Hell, she didn’t know what to think.

Morgan, on the other hand, did know what to think. She knew as soon as Scully had seen her at the bar that it was over. Dana had seen something Toni never had; she’d seen her other half. She closed her eyes and mourned what was apparently not to be.

Bobby returned to the car after only a few short minutes. He lightly tossed a small, brown, paper bag to Morgan in the backseat. They exchanged a look before he turned back. “Now we can go to the hotel.”

~~~

At the hotel, Bobby helped Morgan up to her room. Scully watched silently as Morgan stiffly walked into the bathroom with the paper bag in her hand and closed the door. She was clearly in pain.

In the bathroom Morgan opened the bag and took out the plastic container within. She removed the lid and drank the still warm blood. She looked in the mirror at her own visage, obsidian eyes looking back at her, mocking her. The half of her heritage that had saved her life… had just lost her the chance of being happy again.

When Morgan came out of the bathroom she threw the paper bag, with the empty container in it, at Bobby. He caught it and, with a nod, left without a word.

Morgan began to unbutton her shirt with her right hand. She carefully shrugged it off, exposing her bound left arm and ribs. She then undid her jeans and managed to push them down and off. She didn’t bother with pajamas as she moved to the bed. Scully was transfixed by the visible damage, the bruising, on Morgan’s body; evidence of the brutality she’d withstood. She startled a little at the sound of her partner’s voice.

“If you don’t mind, turn off the light on your way out, please. I’ll be sleeping in late.” Morgan was lying under the sheet, her eyes already closed.

Silently, Scully turned off the light and retreated through the connecting door to her own room, locking it behind herself.

The snick of the lock as Dana turned it was as loud as a jail cell door slamming into place, locking her heart away. It was the first time the adjoining door between their rooms had been locked. A single tear escaped and rolled down the side of Jess’s face and into her ear.

Scully tossed and turned the rest of the night. Sleeping poorly, and having disturbing dreams. She dreamt of eyes black as night and sharp fangs… and blood. She dreamt of monsters and Mulder and being caught in quicksand, unable to escape. She dreamt of eyes sparkling grey and full of warmth and understanding. She dreamt of happiness and passionate lovemaking.

~~~

Since it was after 3:00am by the time they got done at the hospital and back to the hotel, it was a little after 10:00 when Scully woke. She awoke to find herself clutching the second pillow to herself and wondering why it wasn’t Jess she was holding. Jess…

Everything from the night before came flooding into her mind, including the dreams. She didn’t know what she had seen meant, but she knew she had to find out.

Scully got up, showered, and dressed. Having braced herself for the coming conversation, she unlocked the adjoining door and stepped quietly into her partner’s room. She was not prepared for what waited for her.

Nothing.

Jess was gone… as was her luggage. Scully was absolutely livid! She never thought Jess would ditch her like Mulder had done countless times. “FUCK!” She whirled around to leave the room, but something caught her eye. There was a folded, white piece of paper taped to the door adjoining their rooms. It had her name on it. She took it down and opened it. It was definitely Jess’s handwriting.

Scully stalked back into her own room, the note crumpled in her fist. She was so angry she was having trouble thinking clearly. She closed her eyes and counted to ten, trying to calm herself down. She pulled out her cell phone and called Jess. Not surprisingly Scully got her voicemail. She was too angry to leave a message though. Scully went to her nightstand and picked up the busi­ness card Det. Bobby Marinelli had given her. She dialed his number.

“Marinelli.” He sounded half asleep.

“Det. Marinelli, it’s Agent Scully. I need to speak with you.”

“Umm… alright.” He gave her directions to his place.

~~~

Scully knocked on the detective’s door. The door opened and she stepped into a rather dark apart­ment. All the windows were covered by blinds and heavy drapery. The only light in the living room came from a lamp standing next to the couch.

“Come on in, Agent Scully.”

“Thank you. I appreciate you meeting with me.”

“Would you like something to drink? Coffee?”

“Coffee would be great.”

“Come on into the kitchen.” Bobby led Scully into the kitchen and started a pot of coffee as she took a seat at the kitchen table. He sat down across from her. “Now, what can I do for you?”

“How long have you known Jess?”

“Let’s see, the Stevenson case was in ‘91, so eight years.” He gave her a hard look. “Is something wrong?”

“I’m trying to figure out what’s going on; what’s happened.” She took a breath and let it out. “What was that all about in the car last night between you and Jess? What was in that paper bag?”

“I think that’s something you should ask her. It’s not my place to tell you.”

“I would, except she’s gone!” Scully snapped.

Bobby sighed. “I didn’t expect that… but it’s still not my place to tell you.”

“What can you tell me?”

“I can tell you that Morgan is the best damn cop I’ve ever seen. She has great instincts and really cares about the job, the cases, the victims. I’d work with her anytime, anywhere. She’s already saved my life once, back in ‘91.” He got up and poured two cups of the freshly made coffee. He set a cup down in front Scully before retaking his seat. “Morgan is as good a person as they come. I was pleased she called me for help. Although in the end, I didn’t turn out to be much help,” he added regretfully. He lightly touched a hand to the back of his head. “I got blindsided.”

“It can happen to anyone.”

“You said Morgan was gone. Did she indicate where she went?”

“No. She was gone when I got up – just left me a note saying it wasn’t necessary for me to con­tinue to work with her, that I was free to do whatever I wanted.”

“And what if what you want is to continue to work with her?” He paused for a couple of beats. “Or, do you?”

Scully looked down into her cup of coffee, feeling a little ashamed. “I don’t know,” she said softly. “I need to know what’s going on before I can determine that.”

“Then you need to talk to Morgan.”

“Yeah. But she left.”

Bobby let out a snort. “Well I can tell you she didn’t walk out on the case. And I don’t imagine it would be all that hard for you as an FBI agent to find her.”

After a few seconds of silence Scully put her cup on the table and thanked Bobby for his time. She then left.

Bobby poured the remnants of the coffee down the drain. He opened the refrigerator, pulled out a container of blood and put it in the microwave to warm it up. “What in the hell are you up to, Morgan?” After the microwave dinged, he took out the blood and started to drink it. It would be hours before the sun set and it was safe for him go out, but he could make a call. He dialed Morgan’s number.

“Hello, Bobby. Isn’t it a bit sunny out for a creature of the night like you?” she quipped.

“Up yours, half-breed. What the hell did you do, Morgan?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, you disappeared without telling your partner where you were going.”

“I told you – she saw me, Bobby.”

“So?”

“So it was best for me to continue working the case without her. I gave her a glowing and well deserved review, and made sure she has her pick of assignments.”

“What if she still wants to work with you?”

“I highly doubt that.”

“Why?”

“Because most people don’t take it too well when someone they’ve gotten involved with has deceived them. And I can tell you that Dana is not a woman who takes kindly to being lied to or misled.”

“Involved w– You mean– Damn, Morgan.”

“Yeah, well…”

“So, where are you now?”

“Why?” she asked suspiciously.

“Keep your knickers on. Scully was just here asking questions about you.”

Morgan sighed. “What did you tell her?”

“Well, I didn’t tell her you’re a half-breed. But you need to sit down and have a talk with the woman. You owe her that, Morgan.”

~~~

Scully placed a few phone calls. Morgan had returned to Miami. She didn’t know why, or where the brunette would be staying, but she decided to go and see if she could get the woman to talk to her.

~~~~~~

Chapter 25

After Morgan heard Scully lock the door between their rooms she made a decision. She knew she couldn’t bear the rejection. She had opened up to someone for the first time in years, but she’d ruined it. It wasn’t Dana’s fault. Jess was the one who had deceived her, who didn’t tell her about herself.

But then, how does one go about telling someone her kind of secret? Not even her parents knew – only her grandfather had known. He was the one who explained to her what was going on when she realized she was different from everyone else. He was the one who explained to her what she was, who she was, and what she needed to do.

Her family gave her privilege, her heritage that gave her power… and it was her grand­father who taught her the responsibilities required of her. And one of those responsibilities was to not inflict herself on an innocent person. Actions had consequences. So, she set the alarm to wake her at 6:30 to make some calls and travel arrangements.

~~~

Morgan was feeling better physically when she got up in the morning. But she really should have had more time to recover. Although her ribs were no longer broken they were still very sore. At least her shoulder only had a twinge in it. And there was only faint bruising remaining on her face. Another pint of blood and some more sleep and she’d be good as new.

She made her phone calls and then went down to the precinct to interview the brains of last night’s escapade. Bill Simon was little more than a low level criminal. Her interrogation of the man pro­duced only the confession that he’d been hired, by phone, to ‘teach some uppity bitch’ a lesson. He’d received a picture of her and $3000 in an envelope with no postage in his mailbox. For a mere $500 he hired Jerry Brunson to do the actually beating – because he didn’t like to get his hands dirty, and because Jerry enjoyed beating women so much.

Not expecting to find anything more from this lead, she turned over the follow-up to the locals. Morgan then caught the 9:45 flight back down to Miami. Once there, she rented a car. Since she was on her own dime, she’d made a reservation at the Loews luxury hotel that had opened only two and half months earlier.

A discreet symbol on the concierge desk (visible only to those of a certain breed), let her know that she wouldn’t have to leave the hotel to obtain the pint of blood she needed. She placed her order and retired to her room. Not ten minutes after arriving in her room there was a knock on the door. She took delivery of her order. Even though it wasn’t even 1:00 in the after­noon, she drank the warm, thick liquid and then went to bed.

~~~

Morgan got up at 6:00 feeling pretty good. She changed into some shorts and a tank top, and went for a long run. She enjoyed the run. Back at the hotel at 7:30 she showered and changed. She went to dinner and then drove up to Ft Lauderdale.

Morgan was on downtime for a couple of days because of what had happened. She hadn’t told the Director just how badly she’d been hurt since she knew she’d be fully recovered in a short time. Unusual for her though, she was actually going out for the evening just to be herself and relax. She had liked the Black Diamond wine bar when she and Scully went there during the investigation. So, on this Thursday night, she headed to the Black Diamond.

Marge, the doorwoman, recognized Morgan. “Good evening, Agent Morgan.”

Morgan smiled. “Good evening, Marge. And tonight it’s just Jess.”

“Any luck with finding Beth’s killer?”

“I can’t discuss the case, but don’t worry, we will get him.”

Marge nodded. She waved Morgan’s money away when she tried to pay the cover charge. “I told you, no charge for you.”

“I’m not working tonight, Marge.”

“Just go in. Kate wouldn’t want me to charge you.”

“How is Kate?”

Marge sighed. “Hurting. But she’s a strong woman, she’ll be okay.”

“She’s not in, is she?”

“No. Although she would have been if we hadn’t all threatened to walk out on her if she came in.”

Morgan nodded. “She’ll need some time to mourn, but she’ll also need to keep busy. Don’t be too hard on her if she needs to work.”

The older woman recognized the sound of experience of in the agent’s voice. “Don’t worry; we’ll take good care of Kate. Have a nice evening, Jess.”

“Thank you, Marge.”

Morgan entered the bar. There was a different bartender on duty and there were only eight cus­tomers present. She went to the bar, ordered a glass of wine, and took a seat in one of the leather arm chairs.

After a couple of glasses of wine, Morgan wandered to the back corner of the bar, to the baby grand piano. While at Oxford she worked part time at a quiet little pub called The Squire. She had played the piano there. It had been a much more innocent time in her life. It had been a long time since Morgan sat down to play the piano, because no matter how she tried, her emotions always came out in the music. If she was angry, so was the music; if she was happy, so was the music; if she was melancholy, so was the music. She placed her fingers on the keys, caressing them, but not yet applying any pressure.

“Go on.”

Morgan looked up at the softly spoken words.

“Go on and play something,” Marge gently encouraged her.

“Taking a break?”

“No. I was just filling in for Barb who was running late. I’m not actually working tonight.” Marge sat on one of the stools placed around the piano. “So, play something,” she said with a smile.

Morgan let out a slow breath, caressed the keys a moment, and started to play. Her eyes drifted shut as the melancholy notes mingled, formed a coherent union, and wrapped themselves around her. Morgan wasn’t sure how long the music had carried her, but when she opened her eyes again, there were five or six other women also sitting on the stools around the piano. She felt her face color and she dropped her gaze as she let her hands fall away from the ivory.

“No, don’t stop.”

“That was beautiful!”

“Please, play some more.”

“Yeah.”

“Play some more.”

Morgan looked at Marge who was smiling.

“I think you’d better play some more before they get rowdy,” Marge said with a smirk.

Morgan played the baby grand piano for over two hours. The women commented on the beauty of the music, though not the melancholy woven within it. Finally she took a break. She grabbed the latest glass of wine that had been purchased for her and moved back to one of the leather arm chairs. Marge sat in its companion, sipping a mineral water.

“You play beautifully, Jess. But I have to ask, why so blue?”

Morgan sighed. “Just things catching up with me, I guess.”

“Things?”

Morgan had had enough wine to loosen her tongue more than usual. “I’m tired of investigating the murders of young women; tired of crawling around in the minds of the sick and evil bastards that rape, murder and molest; tired of trying to catch monsters after they’ve wreaked havoc in the lives of innocents…” she trailed off. “Tired of being afraid and alone… and of not being happy,” she added softly.

Marge placed her hand on Morgan’s forearm and gave it a squeeze. “I can’t imagine a beautiful woman like you ever having to be alone… if she didn’t want to be.”

“I don’t want to be… not anymore…” She took another sip of wine. “I miss her,” she said, thinking of both Toni and Dana.

“What happened?”

Morgan’s mind played out the scene of Toni’s murder… and the locking of the door by Dana. Right at that precise moment, she wasn’t sure which hurt more. She let out a sigh. “Bad things hap­pened.”

Marge didn’t press Morgan for more detail, but she did keep her company throughout the evening.

Around 2:00 Morgan decided it was time to go. She had long since surrendered the keys to her rental car. She turned to Marge. “Time to call a cab.”

Marge smirked. “Where are you staying?”

“The Loews.”

Marge stood up and offered a hand to Morgan. “Come on. I’ll drive you.” She helped Morgan up, who wavered just slightly. The bartender tossed Morgan’s keys to Marge when she asked for them. Marge got the tipsy agent into the passenger’s seat of the car and then got behind the wheel.

“How old are you, Jess?”

Morgan, who had been gazing out the window didn’t catch the question. “What?”

“I asked how old you are.”

“Ah. Just turned 33 a couple weeks ago.”

“Then regardless of what’s happened in your life, you’re still young enough to set yourself on the path you want to follow.”

Morgan frowned. “You sound as if you think you’re too old to do that for yourself.”

Marge chuckled. “It gets a little hard when you’re in your 50’s.”

“50’s? I’d have thought 40, 42 tops.”

“Thanks. And I’m not complaining about my life. I don’t have many regrets.”

~~~

When they arrived at the Loews Marge insisted on seeing Morgan up to her room.

“I’m not that drunk, you know,” said Morgan.

“I know,” Marge replied with a smile. “Besides, I wouldn’t mind a look at Miami’s new luxury hotel. I hear it’s pretty posh.”

“The suite I have is definitely nice. It has a great big claw foot tub and a separate marble shower,” the agent said as they walked inside.

“Suite? And the feds pay to put you up in a place like this?”

“No. I’m here on my own dime.”

When they neared the door to Morgan’s suite, she heard something… from inside. She froze in­stantly, and tried to concentrate through the effect of the wine. “Marge,” she said softly, “move to the side of the door and don’t make a sound.” She reached down and retrieved her backup weapon from her boot.

Marge’s eyes got large. “What’s going on?” she whispered.

“I don’t know yet. But stay put,” Morgan cringed at the snick of the electronic lock releasing. As quietly as possible she slipped into the dark interior, her eyes shifting so she could see.

“We need to talk.”

Morgan spun around and aimed her gun at the source of the voice. She quickly pulled up though. “Bloody hell, Dana! I could have shot you!”

Scully turned on the lamp on the table next to the end of the couch she was sitting on. “Nice room.”

“It’s okay, Marge,” Morgan called out. “Come on in.”

The older woman peeked around the door and then entered. “Everything alright?”

“Yeah.” Morgan replaced her weapon in the holster inside her boot. “Everything’s fine. Marge, you remember Agent Scully? Agent Scully, this Marge Grayson, from the Black Diamond.”

“I remember.”

“Hi.”

“Well… I’ll be on my way, Jess. If you need anything while you’re in town, you have my number.”

“Wait.” Morgan walked out into the hallway with Marge. She insisted on giving the woman money for the long cab ride back to Ft Lauderdale. “It’s the least I can do, Marge. Thanks for everything tonight.”

~~~

Scully had been surprised to see Marge, the doorwoman, enter Morgan’s suite. But then a lot of things were surprising her where the brunette was concerned. She could hear them speaking quietly just outside the suite in the hallway, but couldn’t hear what they were saying. Finally Morgan came back in.

“We need to talk, Jess.”

“Perhaps. But not tonight.” She continued, cutting Scully off, “Because I’ve had either too much to drink, or not nearly enough, to do this tonight.” She closed her eyes. Morgan took the keycard out of her back pocket and dropped it on the desk. “You’re welcome to the room. I’ll see you in the morning.” With that she turned for the door.

“Jess, wait!” Scully got up and moved a couple of steps towards her.

Morgan looked over her shoulder. “What?” she replied a little snappishly.

Scully wasn’t sure what to say. When she didn’t speak, Morgan continued to the door. “I need… I need to know what’s going on, Jess. I saw… what I saw…” she trailed off, at a loss.

Morgan turned back around and looked at her. “What you saw was this!” Her features transformed. Eyes shifted to fathomless obsidian, fangs elongated, and an aura of power radiated from her. She took a step toward Scully and stopped when the redhead took an instinctive step backwards, away from her. She shook her head. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” With that she turned and walked out of the suite.

Morgan went downstairs to the main desk and checked into another room. Once in the new room, she stripped naked and crawled into bed.

~~~

Scully stood, without moving, for a full minute after Morgan’s exit. She couldn’t believe the trans­formation that had taken place right before her eyes. Jess’s sparkling grey eyes changed to the black eyes from her dreams; her canines elongated into sharp fangs; and the very air about her became charged with… power.

Scully saw it. She watched it happen. But ever the scientist, her mind struggled to find a rational explanation. Even transformed, Scully couldn’t miss the hurt in her partner’s eyes when she took an involuntary step back from her. Or the melancholy that settled around the brunette like a cloak as she turned and left.

And that hurt.

Finally Scully went into the bedroom. She retrieved a t-shirt from Jess’s suitcase, bringing it to her face and inhaling her scent. She stripped, put on the t-shirt and crawled into bed.

~~~~~~

Chapter 26

When Scully had finished talking with Det. Bobby Marinelli, she returned to the hotel and placed some phone calls in an effort to find out where Morgan had gone.

Scully called headquarters and spoke to AD Ben Taylor and then the Director himself. The Director congratulated her on the glowing review she’d received from Jess. He then asked what assign­ment she wanted. When she expressed her desire to stay on the taskforce he expressed his con­cern over the threat against her life. Scully reassured him she didn’t want to leave the case and he finally agreed. However, since he wasn’t aware of any issues between the two agents, he didn’t tell Scully where Morgan was; and she felt it was best not to ask him.

Scully ended up calling the Lone Gunmen and asking them the favor of trying to track her down.

“But I thought you were working a case with Jessica,” Frohike said.

“I am. It’s just… well, we’ve had a bit of a misunderstanding. When I got up this morning she was gone. She left a note, but it didn’t say where she went.”

“You mean she ditched you like Mulder always does?” Langly asked incredulously.

“That doesn’t sound like Jessica,” Byers added.

“Look, I know you guys care about her. So can you help me out?”

“What do you need, Scully?” Frohike asked.

“Can you check her credit cards maybe, and see if there’s any activity on them that would tell me where she’s at?”

She waited for them to work their computer magic.

“The only thing we can find was that she took a flight from Atlanta to Miami,” Byers told her.

“No idea where she’s staying?”

“I’m afraid not.”

“Wait a minute, let me check something,” Frohike yelled in the background. He worked on the computer for a couple minutes. He then cleared the screen and the cache so no one would know what he’d done. He took the phone from Byers. “Guys, I need to talk to Scully privately.” He waited until the other two left before continuing. “Uh, Scully?”

“Yes?”

“I have to know – is Jessica in some kind of trouble?”

“No, she’s not.” She sighed. “Something happened last night, Frohike, and I didn’t handle it well. She left before I could talk to her about it. She left a note that said I didn’t have to work with her anymore.”

“So she thinks you’re mad at her.”

“Something like that.”

“Are you?”

“I’m more confused than anything. Which is why I need to find her and talk to her.”

Frohike hesitated. He didn’t want to do anything to betray Jessica. If she didn’t want anything to do with Scully… But he knew Scully and knew she was a good and honest person. “Is it personal or work related?” he asked.

Scully bit her lower lip as she considered her answer. “Both, Frohike… but mostly personal, I think.”

After a pause, he spoke again. “Hopefully she won’t kill me for this.”

“What?”

“She’s staying at the Loews hotel in Miami, but not under Jessica Morgan.”

Scully could hear the hesitancy in Frohike’s voice. “What name is she using?”

“Lady Essington,” he replied softly. “You cannot tell anyone about that, Scully. I’m breaking a long held confidence by telling you that. Swear to me you won’t tell anyone, Scully.”

Confused by Frohike’s words Scully nonetheless promised. “I promise. I won’t tell anyone.”

And now, she was lying in bed, in Jess’s room, unable to sleep and still not sure what was going on. She saw Jess change, right before her eyes. But her rational, scientific mind was having trouble wrapping itself around what appeared to be the obvious explanation.

She thought back to the case she and Mulder worked in Chaney, TX the year before. Mulder had been convinced Ronnie Strickland was a vampire – he even put a stake through his heart. They never had any proof he actually was a vampire since he had fake fangs and his body disappeared from the morgue. Although Scully thought she might have seen Sheriff Harwell’s eyes glow, she had been drugged and couldn’t rely on her memories of that night. And she couldn’t go by anything Mulder said since he’d been drugged as well.

She didn’t believe in the existence of vampires… but what other explana­tion was there for what she’d seen?

She rolled over again, pounding her pillow in a vain attempt to relax enough to sleep.

~~~

When Morgan woke up in the morning she wasn’t looking forward to the day. She had been thrown by Scully’s presence in her hotel room, especially since she’d used the Essington account to pay for it. Very few people knew about her familial ties and it wasn’t in her personnel file at the Bureau. She’d made it a requisite of her joining the Bureau that certain information about her not be in the files. She rubbed her hands over her face and shook her head. But then, Scully was an excellent investi­gator and she really shouldn’t put anything past the woman.

Morgan then realized that she didn’t have a change of clothes with her. Her bag was in the suite she’d left Scully in. She didn’t want to go walking through the hotel hallways just in one of the provided robes, so she put on her clothes from the night before.

Time to face the music.

~~~

When Scully heard the knock on the door she looked through the peephole. Tugging on the bottom of the t-shirt in an effort to cover herself more effectively, she turned the doorknob. As soon as the door was open she retreated to the bathroom to get one of the robes.

Morgan entered, and didn’t miss seeing Scully retreat into the bedroom. Nor did she fail to recog­nize her own t-shirt on the petite redhead. She quirked an eyebrow when Scully came back out, securing the robe around herself. “Where’s your stuff?”

Scully blushed. “In the car.”

Morgan picked up the phone and called down to the concierge desk. She requested they send someone up to get Scully’s car keys and then retrieve her luggage from the car. In three minutes flat there was a knock on the door. Scully tossed the keys to Morgan who opened the door and gave them to the bellhop.

“The car is…” Morgan turned back to look at Scully.

“A dark blue Mercury Sable,” the redhead provided.

“Not a problem. I’ll take care of it, Lady Essington.”

“Thank you.” Morgan closed the door. She sighed when she turned around again. She gestured toward the bedroom. “Would you mind if I got a change of clothes so I can go take a shower. I feel grungy in last night’s clothes.”

“No. Of course not.”

Morgan walked into the bedroom and got some stuff from her bag. When she returned to the living room and headed for the door, Scully stopped her.

“You don’t have to leave, Jess. You can take your shower here; this is your room after all.”

Morgan visibly hesitated.

“It’s not like you’ll use all the hot water,” Scully quipped, trying to lighten the heaviness in the air between them. “Go on, Jess, take your shower.”

With a silent sigh, Morgan returned to the bedroom and entered the bathroom.

Scully sat down on the couch when she heard the shower start. She felt nervous and confused… and angry. She wanted answers, but didn’t know what she was going to do with them once she got them. She went to the door when there was a knock. Answering the door she found the bellhop with her bags. “Wait a moment,” she said as she moved to get her purse so she could tip him.

“No need, ma’am. Have a good day.” He left, closing the door behind him.

Scully took her bags into the bedroom. She didn’t notice the shower had stopped, so she was sur­prised when Morgan came out of the bathroom, wrapped in a towel and started to dress. She stood silently, unable to move. She couldn’t take her eyes off of Morgan. Gone were any traces of the beating she’d taken. Even the gash on her left arm that she’d gotten rescuing the driver from the accident was gone. She was in perfect condition.

Scully shook her head. “Sorry,” she murmured when she realized she’d been staring.

Morgan simply finished dressing and retreated to the living room.

Scully took a long shower. She was putting off the coming conversation… and she knew it. She was the one that demanded they talk, but was afraid of what the outcome may be. Finally, she turned off the water, stepped out and dried herself. Morgan was nowhere in sight when she en­tered the bedroom. She quickly dressed and went out to the living room. She was afraid Morgan had once again disappeared, but then she spotted her out on the balcony. She took only two steps toward the balcony before Morgan turned around and looked at her through the open sliding glass door.

“So, what did you want to talk about?” Morgan asked flatly.

Scully’s jaw dropped. “What did I– How the hell can you even asked me that?” she snapped. “You know what we need to talk about!”

With a sigh, Morgan came back inside. She walked over to the mini-bar and took out a cold bottle of water. She spoke after taking a drink. “I’m just not sure what you want to accomplish, Dana. I can’t change what’s happened or who I am.”

“Well, for one, you could tell me why the hell you ditched me yesterday in Atlanta! I expect that kind of bullshit from Mulder, but not from you. I expected better from you! I expected some con­sideration from you!”

“Consideration? Why the hell do you think I left? I left out of consideration for you!”

“I don’t count being unceremoniously dropped from the case consideration. An impersonal note from you and it’s a done deal? I don’t think so!”

“I didn’t just get you dropped from the case. I got you your choice of assignment – anywhere in the damn country! I did what I thought was best for you.”

“Any assignment except working on the task force to stop this killer! And who are you to decide what’s best for me? Don’t you think that should be up to me?!”

“What the bloody hell do you want from me?!”

“I want to know what the hell is going on and I want to know what you are!”

Morgan turned away, flinching at the ‘what’ in Scully’s demand. She’d expected it… but it hurt more than she anticipated. Her eyes watered until she reined in her feelings and erected another wall around her heart. Her face was an expressionless mask when she turned back around. “Come on, Dana. You’re a smart woman. Do you really need me to spell it out for you? I’m a bona fide X-File! I’m half vampire!”

“But vampires aren’t real.”

“HA!” Morgan barked bitterly. “Then I guess I don’t exist!” she snapped as her features shifted.

Scully recoiled, taking a step backwards.

“And that’s why I left! You’re afraid of me.”

“I’m not afraid of you!”

Morgan marched toward Scully, following her as she retreated until her back hit the wall. Morgan planted her hands on the wall, boxing Scully in. She glared at the redhead before dipping her head and sniffing the side of the redhead’s neck before raising her head and looking into her eyes again. “Perhaps you should be, after all, I do need blood now and then,” she growled. Then she forcefully shoved herself back from the wall and Scully, turning and walking away. Her features were back to normal when she turned back around. There was bitterness in her voice when she spoke, “Don’t worry, I’ve never taken human blood and I’m not about to start with you.”

Scully eyes flared with anger. “Then what the hell was that about?!”

“Making a point. You can’t help but recoil from me. Fear, revulsion, disgust; it doesn’t matter why. Forcing us to work together won’t do either of us any good. Being partners was only temporary anyway.”

“Well, for your information, I spoke to the Director – I’m still on the taskforce. I’m not a quitter!”

“So you’re still on the taskforce. Great. Last I heard they were headquartered in DC. I suggest you join them!”

“And what about us?”

“What about us? It was great while it lasted.”

Scully felt hurt and betrayed by Morgan’s dismissive words. But she was more angry than anything. So angry she simply saw red. She turned and stalked into the bedroom, grabbed her bags and marched out of the suite, slamming the door behind her.

Scully drove to the airport and caught the first flight she could find back to DC.

~~~

Morgan stood still, breathing heavily as Scully walked out and slammed the door. Her breaths soon turned to quiet sobs. She dropped to her knees and cried. It hurt so much… but it would have been worse, would have hurt more, to have to work beside Scully and see the revulsion in the redhead’s eyes.

~~~~~~

Chapter 27

On the plane, Scully laid her head back and closed her eyes. She fought to hold back her tears; tears of anger, tears of frustration, and tears of a breaking heart. What had she been trying to accomplish by confronting Morgan? Get the brunette to admit she was something other than human? Well, she’d accomplished that. Get Morgan to tell her why she ditched her? That, too, was accomplished. Determine where they stood personally? Well… she got that answer as well, didn’t she?

But then what did she expect?

Morgan had warned her that she wasn’t a good bet. But Scully had still pressed, encouraging Morgan to take a chance on what she felt between them.

Scully drifted to sleep even as her thoughts of Jess continued.

~~~

Morgan allowed herself 15 minutes to mourn. After that, she clamped down on her feelings, erected walls around her heart and focused on the job. Just as she had done for the last six years. “What’s done is done. Back to work, Morgan,” she told herself out loud.

She retrieved her laptop and opened up some files. Unless something new turned up in the case, she was going to return to DC the next day. In the meantime, even though she was on downtime, she would immerse herself anew in the case files.

~~~

Since it was still early afternoon when Scully landed at Reagan National Airport she reported back to the Hoover building. At the end of the day she drove to the safe house. When she closed the door behind herself, it struck her just how empty the place felt. She went to her room and changed. Then she started a load of laundry. After she was done with the laundry and ate a lonely dinner for one, she decided to retire for the night.

Without thinking about it, she bypassed her bedroom and went into the bedroom Morgan had used. She came to an abrupt halt when she realized just how empty the room was – all of the Morgan’s things were gone. Someone had packed up and removed her stuff. She pulled the covers back and laid down, pulling the covers up and clutching the second pillow to herself. She could just make out the faint scent of Jess. Silent tears soaked into the pillow as she drifted to sleep.

Outside, a dark sedan drove past the house and turned at the corner. It parked three blocks away. A lone figure made his way back in the shadows. He watched the house from the cover of a hedge.

~~~

Morgan was surprised when her hotel phone rang. She wasn’t expecting any calls, certainly not on the hotel phone. “Morgan.”

“Good evening, Jess. It’s Marge.”

“Hey, Marge. What’s up?”

“I was wondering what your dinner plans were.”

“Uh, I was just going to order something from room service.”

“It’s Friday night and you’re in Miami. I can think of much better places to have dinner than your hotel room. I’ll pick you up in an hour.”

Marge hung up before Jess could respond but she didn’t miss the good humor in the older woman’s voice. And, Marge did have a point. She’d probably benefit from a nice dinner out, knowing she’d likely not bother with dinner if she stayed in her room.

Morgan was ready when Marge arrived.

~~~

“How much longer are you going to be in Miami?” Marge asked over after dinner drinks.

“Actually, I’m going back to DC tomorrow.”

“So, does that mean you’re giving up on Beth’s case?”

“No! Of course not.” She paused. “This is the only case I’m working. But the answers aren’t to be found here in Miami.”

Marge took a few moments to think about Morgan’s response. “Beth’s case is related to another,” she concluded thoughtfully.

“I really can’t discuss it with you, Marge, but rest assured I’m doing everything I can to find the person who killed Beth.”

Marge nodded. “Fair enough.” She took a sip of her drink. “So, where’s your partner, that cute little redhead?”

Only Morgan’s years of experience allowed her to keep her features schooled in an impassive mask. “Agent Scully and I were only temporary partners. She’s from another division.”

Marge smirked. “I wasn’t talking about your work, Agent Morgan. I saw the way you two looked at each other. There’s more than just work between the two of you,” she finished with confidence.

“I’m not sure what you think you saw, Marge, but Agent Scully and I are not together,” Morgan replied evenly.

It was obvious Marge didn’t believe her.

~~~

It was after midnight when Jess got back to her hotel room. Marge hadn’t pressed her any further about Scully, but the redhead hadn’t been far from her thoughts all night. Once she was back in her room alone, she packed, showered and went to bed. She was awake for a long time before finally drifting to sleep.

Morgan dreamed of sparkling, blue eyes and silky, red hair; soft kisses and passionate lovemaking. And she dreamed of gunshots and blood pooling… and the ghostly pale face of Dana.

Morgan came awake with a yell. “NOOO!” She was struggling for breath and covered in a cold sweat. After a several gasping breaths, she looked at the clock radio on the nightstand: 4:37. After that dream there was no way she was going to get any more sleep. She placed her feet on the floor and stood up. Might as well start the day.

Morgan called the airport and rearranged her flight to an earlier one. A quick shower, a change of clothes and she was good to go.

She landed in DC at 10:15 and went directly to headquarters. She received a few nods from the agents present in the bullpen as she passed through to her office. When she entered her office, she found her luggage, which had been at the safe house, in the corner. She would worry about where she’d stay later. She picked up a couple of folders on her desk and started to read.

It was after 1:00 when a figure appeared in her office doorway. “Welcome back.”

Morgan looked up and saw AD Ben Taylor as he entered. “Thanks.”

“I understand your ‘meeting’ didn’t go so well.” He paused for a beat as he sat down. “Agent Scully told me things got a little out of hand. You could have been really hurt, Morgan, or killed.”

“It was a calculated risk, one worth taking. Besides, killing me wasn’t the point. Teaching me a lesson was.”

Taylor reserved his judgment on the matter. “So what was the lesson?”

She shook her head. “They didn’t say, but I suspect it was to demonstrate that our guy can get to anyone he wants to, whenever he wants.”

“What did you find out about the men who attacked you?”

“Bill Simon was contacted by phone and hired for $3000 to ‘teach me a lesson.’ He received pay­ment via his mailbox, though the envelope containing the money and a picture of me wasn’t sent through the mail. He in turn hired Jerry Brunson, the dead guy, for $500. Brunson had a penchant for, and a history of, beating up women. He had a record of domestic abuse and assaults. But he wasn’t very imaginative. He was a follower.”

“What about the guy in custody?”

“Bill Simon is small time. A few cons, receiving stolen goods and the like. Anything that made him money without getting his hands too dirty. Of the two he was the brains of the outfit, but that’s not really saying much. And, unfortunately, since he had no direct contact with our guy, he’s pretty much a dead end. I did order the money he had left from the $3000 be checked for prints and see if the serial numbers could be traced. I’m not holding my breath.”

“So, care to tell me why I received a call from the Director telling me Agent Scully was off the taskforce and then another one telling me she was back on? Or why she came back to DC before you did?”

Morgan carefully measured her words and tone. “A direct, explicit threat was made against her life. Given the circumstances I felt it was best not to risk her further by having her continue working the case. The Director agreed. It’s my understanding that Agent Scully expressed a strong desire to remain on the taskforce, though, until we catch this guy. However, I do not see the need for her to accompany me in the field, especially considering the threat against her. So she returned. Since I was on enforced downtime, I chose to delay my return until today.”

Taylor had been in the Bureau more than long enough to recognized Bureau-ese double speak. Something had happened between the two agents, possibly a major disagreement of some sort. He had no idea what, but with the glowing review Morgan had submitted on Scully, he suspected it wasn’t anything he’d get Morgan to reveal. It was obvious she considered it a closed matter. “I see,” he grunted. He stood up. “Well, we’re getting some new blood. Six more agents have been assigned. They’ll be here Monday. If nothing takes you out of town, I’d like you to bring them up to speed.”

“Alright.”

~~~

Morgan worked in her office until late evening. She then left and checked into a hotel, using the Essington account to prevent anyone from tracking her.

Sunday passed with Morgan holed up in her office as well. As a result, she didn’t see Scully until she walked in Monday morning.

Scully was sitting at a desk and talking on the phone. Morgan simply entered her office and closed the door. After a few minutes she reappeared, only to head into Taylor’s office.

Scully felt her stomach tighten and her breath catch a little when Morgan arrived that morning. She hadn’t seen the bru­nette agent since she’d walked out on her in Miami Friday morning. Though she had dreamt of her extensively. She had spent the weekend trying to reconcile her feelings about the beautiful agent.

Though a skeptic, she had seen enough while working the X-Files to know that there were extraordinary people and things in the world; people and things that defied logical explanation. As a scientist, she had always been driven to find answers and explanations. So even though she’d been coming to terms with the reality of what Morgan was, she had a lot of questions and wanted answers. And the fact that she had allowed Morgan to get close to her, that she’d opened her heart and took such a risk on a personal level, intensified that desire for answers.

Scully hadn’t opened up her heart in longer than she cared to remember. It was just her luck when she’d finally taken a chance and risked her heart that she came face to face with one of those extra­ordinary things she’d been investigating for the past five and half years.

She needed to talk to Jess again. Scully couldn’t take her eyes off of Morgan when she exited Taylor’s office and headed to the elevators.

~~~

Morgan’s desk phone rang. It was Taylor, who asked her to come to his office. Once there, they discussed the imminent arrival of the six new agents. When the call came that the new agents had arrived, she headed to the elevators and went down to meet with agents and escort them up to the taskforce bullpen.

Once she brought the new arrivals up, she gathered them in a corner of the bullpen, and, with visual aid of the white boards with pictures and facts of the victims, brought the group up to speed. Most of the agents already present joined the group of new agents to listen to Morgan’s briefing. She covered everything that had happened in the case, including her encounter at Doc’s Saloon in Atlanta. Morgan then took some questions, answering them to the best of her ability.

“Each of you were added to the taskforce because of your individual abilities. I want to hear your ideas, thoughts, theories. You are the ones with the fresh eyes. If you have questions or ideas my door is open, and if I’m not available AD Taylor is.” With a nod Morgan dismissed the assembled group. She turned and started toward her office.

“Agent Morgan.”

She turned back to the agent who called her name. “In my office.” Once they both entered her office she closed the door and turned to him. A smile lit up her face. “God, it’s good to see you, John.”

They hugged and held each other closely.

“It’s been a long time, Jessica. Too long.”

They let go and kissed before fully parting and sitting in the chairs at the work table.

~~~~~~

Chapter 28

“So how long have you been back with the Bureau?” John asked.

“About three years.”

His green eyes widened.

“I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch with you, John.” She paused half a beat. “I haven’t been in touch with anyone from back then. And I’m never in one place too long since I work on a case by case basis for the Director.”

“Where did you go, Jessica? It was like you dropped off the face of the earth after we arrested Conrad.”

She let out a sigh. “I went back to England, stayed at my grandfather’s place and basically had an emotional meltdown,” she said with a rueful half-smirk. “Finally, with the help of an old friend, I got off my ass and decided to go to medical school.”

“Really? So you’re a doctor now?”

“I’ve never practiced. Before graduation the Director came to me and asked me to come back to the Bureau. It took some serious negotiating, but I eventually agreed. So instead of taking a residency I came back to the Bureau. Been hopping all over the country ever since.” She got up and retrieved a couple of bottles of cold water from the small refrigerator. “So what about you, John? How are Jennie and Jeremy?” she asked as she retook her seat and handed him one of the bottles.

“Uh, Jennie and I finally divorced.”

“Oh, John, I didn’t know. I’m sorry.”

The sandy-haired man shrugged. “You know things were rocky between us for a long time. She had a hard time dealing with the job.” His green eyes twinkled when he smiled, “I’ve got Jeremy’s latest school picture.” He pulled out his wallet and handed it to his former partner.

“My God! He’s gotten so big!”

“Well, he was only five years old the last time you saw him. He’s 11 now.”

“He looks like he’s 14.”

“And he’s as tall as a 14 year old. He keeps growing the way he has been and he’ll be taller than me in no time.”

Morgan shook her head. “I remember holding him the day he was born.” She smiled at her good friend and former partner. “I also remember the look on your face when you finally got to the hospital and walked into Jennie’s room. It’s the first time I saw you cry… The only other time was when Toni was killed.”

“You know I loved Toni, Jessica. You two were family. I’ve really missed you.”

She nodded. “I’ve missed you, too. So, where have you been keeping yourself?”

“San Diego. I took a posting there, working narcotics, after you left. And I was supposed to report to the Cyber Crime Division in Norfolk today, but I was tapped for this taskforce. They said I wouldn’t start with them until after this case was solved. I heard a couple of the other new agents mention similar stories this morning.”

Morgan and Casper were interrupted by a knock on her door. She got up and answered it. One of the mailroom interns was standing there with a bouquet of flowers in a vase.

“This arrived for you, Agent Morgan. It’s been cleared by security.”

Morgan carefully took the vase so as not to leave any undue fingerprints on it. “Thank you.” The intern left as Morgan set the flowers on her desk.

John Casper smiled. “So whose heart have you captured and sent you flowers?”

She frowned. “I don’t know.” But she had a suspicion. She pulled out some gloves and put them on before removing the attached envelope. She carefully lifted the flap of the envelope and removed the card within.

With a scowl, Morgan dropped the envelope and note into an evidence bag. She walked to the door and called for Taylor who was talking to an agent in the bullpen. He knew something was wrong as soon as he saw her face. He walked into her office.

Morgan handed him the note. “He’s toying with us again. This just arrived with these flowers,” she said with a nod at the vase on her desk. “I highly doubt he wrote the note, the handwriting is feminine. But we may be able to trace something through the florist.” She wrote down the florist information from the card stock on a piece of paper and handed it to Taylor. “I’ll take the note and flowers down to the lab so they can check for fingerprints.”

“Alright.” Taylor followed her out of the office. “Barker, Scully, check this out,” he instructed as he handed the information to Scully.

“Yes, sir.” Scully felt a frisson of anxiety as she watched Morgan carry a vase of flowers and an evidence bag in gloved hands to the elevators.

Taylor turned to Casper who was also watching Morgan walk away. “I understand you used to be partners with Morgan.”

“Almost six years.”

The assistant director nodded. “Then you won’t mind keeping an eye on her. This son of a bitch has made things personal with her. Since there seems to be some friction between her and Scully, you’re her backup, Casper.”

“Yes, sir.” Casper clenched his jaw in consternation. He’d been there the last time a suspect made things personal with Jessica. It had nearly destroyed her. And despite not hearing from her during the last six years, he still cared about her just as much as ever.

~~~

Casper was waiting for Morgan when she returned to her office. She opened a file and pulled out pictures of the messages written in blood on her wall and Scully’s wall. Along with those she set a photocopy of the note from the flowers on the table. “So tell me, what do you think about this guy, John? Because I’ve been struggling with the profile.”

Casper took his time looking over the notes. “Let me see your profile.”

She gave him a printout of her original profile, and the revised profile after the notes and phone calls started.

Casper carefully read the profiles. When he was done he looked up at her. “He’s definitely changed the rules of the game. But I don’t know why the sudden taunting. You’re right, it does not fit with your original profile. Of course, that may be the very reason for it – an effort to throw you off your game.” He paused. “What kind of flowers did he send you?”

“According to one of the lab techs they were rhododendrons.”

Casper went to the computer on Morgan’s desk and did a quick online search. He turned back to her. “The symbolization of rhododendrons is ‘beware’ or ‘caution.’”

Morgan let out a snort. “Like hiring a couple of guys to beat me up and teach me a lesson isn’t enough of a warning?”

The two agents spent the day discussing and dissecting the case. Morgan enjoyed the easy give and take she and her old partner always had. John Casper was a great agent, and she loved him like a big brother. He had been her partner, dearest friend, and staunchest ally back when they were both in the Violent Crimes Unit.

But the truth was… she missed Scully. But she couldn’t dwell on what she couldn’t have.

~~~

Scully and Agent Barker tracked down the florist shop that delivered the flowers to Morgan. They spoke to the owner and verified that the order had been placed in person by someone who’d paid cash. They went to the shop to obtain the security camera video tape. Back at headquarters they reviewed the tape. The person who’d placed the order was just a teenager, probably not even out of high school yet – obviously not the Reaper himself.

On a hunch, Scully called the cell phone company to see if any more calls had been placed on the account they were interested in. But Alan Stillwell verified there hadn’t been any more activity on the account since the call placed from Atlanta several days earlier.

She sat at the desk and stared at the closed door of Morgan’s office. One new addition to the task­force had been in there all day with the brunette. And, quite frankly, it hurt that it wasn’t her in there. Being closed out by Morgan hurt more than all the times Mulder ditched her, because Mulder would always turn around and need her to do something for him later. It was inevitable. And like a fool, she’d jump to his rescue or to do his bidding, yet again. It was a repetitious pattern.

But with Morgan… she knew Jess wouldn’t turn around and play with her like a yo-yo the way Mulder did. If they were going to talk about things again, it was going to be up to her to initiate the discussion. Scully had done a lot of thinking since leaving Miami. Just as the thought of remaining Mulder’s partner had become overwhelmingly unbearable, so had the thought of not clearing the air with Jess.

~~~

Morgan and Casper finally decided to call it a day. He was going to get checked into his hotel, and then they were going to meet for dinner. She opened the door and they both stepped out of the office.

“Thanks for your help, John.”

“My pleasure. I’ll see you later, Jessica.”

They shared an easy smile, then he turned and left. Morgan turned to reenter her office.

Scully decided to take the bull by the horns. She stood and approached Morgan. “Jess.”

Morgan looked over her shoulder.

“Would you have dinner with me?”

“I already have plans,” she replied and retreated into her office, closing the door.

Scully was angry at Morgan’s dismissive attitude. So much for it being easy. She silently counted to ten, took a deep breath and pushed open Morgan’s office door without knocking. She quickly closed it behind herself and spoke before the brunette could react to her intrusion. “Look, I get that you don’t want to work with me, but I’ll be damned if I’ll let you simply dismiss me as if nothing ever happened between us. I thought we were friends, Jess,” she said accusatorily.

Morgan sat at her desk, trying to get a hold of her emotions. She responded when she was sure she could keep her voice steady. “I’m not dismissing you. I do have plans tonight. I’m meeting John for dinner. It’s been six years since I’ve seen him – we have a lot to catch up on.”

“John Casper? Your old partner?”

“Yes. I may be a number of things, but I’m not a liar.” She stood and picked up her briefcase and coat. “Now, I have to go and meet John. I’ll see you tomorrow.” She left. Alone in the elevator she punched the wall. She knew damn well she had lied to Scully in Miami when she’d said, ‘It was fun while it lasted,’ insinuating that what was between them was nothing more than a cheap thrill. Seeing Dana every day was going to be hell.

~~~

Morgan and Casper met at a restaurant they used to frequent several years earlier. They spent a pleasant night talking and filling each other in about the last six years. Morgan’s phone chirped. She reached down and pulled it off her waist. She had a text message.

I have him in my sights. If you let on it’s me i’ll kill him.

Morgan kept her face impassive.

“What is it, Jessica? Something about the case?”

“Uh, no. Just a friend,” she replied, looking around. Another chirp.

Don’t try to look for me. Excuse yourself so we can talk.

Morgan looked up at her companion. “John, could you excuse me, please? I need to make a personal phone call.”

“Sure.”

Morgan got up from the table and as soon as she stepped into the hallway leading to the bathrooms, her phone rang. “What do you want?” she growled.

“Did you like the flowers?”

“I repeat, what do you want?”

“I see you aren’t too much worse for wear after Atlanta.”

“You didn’t hire very competent people. One is dead and the other is in custody. I would have expected better from you. I would think someone like you could find someone actually capable of carrying out simple orders.”

“Don’t test me!”

“Or what? You’ll have someone try to beat me up again?”

“Or I could decide to take your dinner companion out right now!”

“You aren’t that stupid.”

“Perhaps you’re right. I could always pay a visit to the lovely Agent Scully. After all, she must be lonely in the house all by herself.”

“What house?” she asked, dread filling her.

“Even you are that stupid. I’m talking about the house at 703 Tribeca Ave. The house Agent Scully is in. The house I can see… right now. She looks quite lovely in her blue silk pajamas.”

“You s–” She was cut off when he hung up on her. Morgan slammed her phone shut and marched back into the dining room. “John, we have to go. Now.”

Casper recognized her tone of voice and didn’t question her. They rushed out to her car. Morgan wanted to drive since she knew where the house was.

“Call Taylor and tell him we may have a problem. Have him contact Scully and the agents watching the safe house. Tell them our UNSUB might be there.”

As Morgan sped through the streets of DC, Casper called AD Taylor. They were almost at the house when his phone rang. He wasn’t on the phone long.

“Taylor says all he gets is Scully’s voicemail and the house phone is busy.”

“What about the agents watching the house?”

“No answer, from any of them. He said backup’s on the way.”

“Fuck! We’re almost there.”

~~~~~~

Chapter 29

Morgan brought the car to a stop a block from the house. She saw the first vehicle that contained an agent on watch. Morgan and Casper both got out of the car with weapons already drawn. She was the first to reach the car. One look told her the agent was down. She opened the door and checked his pulse.

He was alive, but unconscious.

“He’s out cold.”

“Where are the others?” Casper asked.

“Another car, closer to the house. Then there are two agents in the house behind the safe house.”

“Check the other car, I’ll check on the others.”

With a nod they split to their individual tasks. Morgan quickly moved through the shadows and found the second car. That agent, too, was unconscious. All her senses were on high alert, but she didn’t see or hear anything suspicious.

She knew she had to get to Dana to make sure she was alright. Morgan stealthily made her way to the house. She felt exposed on the porch at the front door, so she planned on limiting her time there. She gripped the doorknob and, using her strength, forced it to turn despite being locked. She cringed at the noise, but quickly slipped inside.

Morgan left the foyer and entered the lit living room. Scully was sitting on the couch, laptop on her lap, head laid back – asleep, unconscious, or dead. She silently moved to the couch and was re­lieved to note the redhead was breathing. “Dana,” she prompted softly. She reached out and placed a gentle hand on Scully’s shoulder. “Dana.”

“What?!” Scully exclaimed as she abruptly woke.

“Are you alright?”

“What are you doing here?”

“Taylor couldn’t get a hold of you. The house phone was busy and you didn’t answer your cell.”

“My battery died; it’s charging. And I was online,” she replied powering down her computer and disconnecting the phone line.”

Morgan’s head snapped up when she heard something at the back door. “Stay here, and stay away from the windows,” she ordered as she crept further into the house and to the back door. Casper was the only thing she saw there. She unlocked the door and let him in.

“Both agents in the house are unconscious, but their pulses are strong. I called Taylor and told him to send a couple of ambulances to check them out,” he reported as they headed back to the living room. “How’s Agent Scully?”

“She was asleep on the couch.”

“What the hell is going on?” Scully demanded when Morgan returned with Casper.

“I received a call,” Morgan replied as she moved to a window and carefully peeked out.

Before Scully could ask more questions, Casper spoke. “The agents in the house in the back and the two out front in the cars are all unconscious.”

“What?!”

Morgan turned to look at Scully and moved from the window. “I received a text message and then a call while John and I were talking after dinner. First he led me to believe he was at our location. But then he made it clear that he knew where the safe house was and that you were here alone.” She looked pointedly at Scully’s blue pajamas. “He complimented you on your… attire. We called Taylor and he said he couldn’t get a hold of you or the agents on watch–” Morgan was cut off by some­thing she saw – a targeting laser moving along the wall towards Scully. “Look out!!” She threw herself at Scully, knocking her down as the window broke and quiet impacts of silenced rounds hit various items in the room.

Casper was the first to move. “Stay here! I’ll check it out.”

“John! He’s using a targeting laser!” Morgan warned as he headed out the back of the house in an attempt to circle around the shooter.

Scully started to get up but was forcibly held in place by Morgan. “Stay down,” she growled.

“Damn it, Jess, let me up!”

“No. Not until it’s clear.”

Sirens were soon heard and police cars with flashing lights skidded to a halt in front of the house. Unmarked FBI cars were right behind them. Morgan still wouldn’t let Scully move until AD Taylor entered through the front door. “Morgan! Casper!”

“In here,” responded Morgan.

Taylor stepped into the living room. “Where’s Scully?”

Morgan let Scully up from where she was on the floor behind the sofa.

“Here, sir.”

“Are you alright?”

“Yes. I’m fine.”

“Where’s Casper?”

Morgan answered, “He went after the shooter.” She continued before he said anything more. “The agents out front are unconscious. And from the sweet odor, I’d say he used chloroform on them. Casper checked on the ones in the house. They’re also unconscious, but I don’t know how they were knocked out.”

More sirens could be heard and Taylor looked outside. “The ambulances are here now. They can check the agents out.” He pinned Scully with a look that said she had no choice. “Go pack. You’re being moved.”

Scully didn’t like it, but under the circumstances… She retreated to her bedroom and started to pack. She also changed out of her pajamas.

~~~

Casper returned and entered through the front door. “Sorry, Jessica, I didn’t find him.”

She shook her head. “I don’t think anyone could have. He obviously put planning into this. His phone call to me, chloroform for the agents out front, whatever he used on the agents in the back, silencer for his weapon, laser sight… it’s all part of his plan.”

“Well, thank God he missed,” Casper replied.

Morgan frowned. “That may have been part of the plan as well.”

“What do you mean?” Taylor asked.

“He could have taken Scully out while she was asleep on the couch – he’d already taken care of the lookouts. But he texted me and called me. He told us where he was and that Scully was vulnerable. He gave us the time to get here.”

“Then maybe he was actually after you instead of me,” Scully remarked as she returned to the living room with her packed bags.

The brunette sighed. “A possibility, but I doubt it. He’s had more than ample opportunity to kill me. Even when he hired a couple of thugs it was to beat me up, it was to just deliver a message, not to kill me. He also used the threat of killing John to control my actions at the restaurant. No, I don’t think he wants to kill me. But hurt me? By hurting someone I care about? Yeah.”

Casper gave his old partner a concerned look. “He knows your buttons and is pushing them, Jessica.”

She shot him a perturbed look that made it clear he wasn’t telling her anything she didn’t already know.

“Well, either way, we need to get you two out of here.” Taylor glanced at Casper. “Actually, I’d say the three of you.”

“What?!”

“This guy has successfully murdered at least 30 women that we know of; he’s been leading the Bureau on wild goose chases; he leaves clues that mean nothing and doesn’t leave clues that do; he took out four trained agents tonight. And now you are the second agent he’s directly threat­ened, Casper.” He glared at Morgan and spoke before she could object. “And you are the one he’s seen fit to… spar with. So, I want the three of you somewhere safe – even if I have to plant you in a conference room in headquarters with sleeping bags!”

Morgan closed her eyes in frustration. She knew the director, and knew that one word from Taylor and he’d back up Taylor’s orders. She ran a hand over her face and let out a sigh. “Alright. But we don’t have to stay at headquarters. I’ll make arrangements. I just need to make a couple of phone calls.” She took out her phone and left the living room to give herself some privacy.

“MacRusso.”

“Hey, Mac. It’s me.”

“What’s up, Jess?”

“I need you to take care of a couple of things for me.”

“That’s why you pay me. Shoot.”

Morgan told her lawyer, Lindsey MacRusso, what she needed and then ended the call.

Taylor made a couple of calls of his own, coming up with a way to get the three agents out of the house and to whatever location Morgan made arrangements for without being recognized, in case the Reaper was still haunting the area.

Morgan rejoined the others in the living room. “I’ve made some arrangements. I expect a call back shortly letting me know everything has been taken care of.”

Taylor nodded. “It’ll be a little bit before you can leave anyway.”

~~~

“So, tell me, where will you be staying?” the AD asked.

“I don’t–” Morgan was cut off by her phone ringing. “Morgan… Alright. Thanks, Mac.” She hung up. “Sorry,” she said in apology for the interruption. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to say where we’ll be. But it is very secure. There’s no way he’ll be able to get anywhere near us without us knowing. All we really need to do is get out of here without being followed.”

At that moment two more agents arrived, both female, brunette, and wearing blonde wigs.

“I think I can help with that,” Taylor replied with a pleased smirk.

The blonde wigs were removed and given to Scully and Morgan. A third wig, a red one, was produced and one of the recent arrivals put it on.

“You may want to exchange clothes to better sell this,” Taylor said.

With a nod, Morgan indicated for her decoy to follow her back to one of the bedrooms. Scully led the other decoy to the bedroom she’d used. Once clothes were swapped, the four women returned to the living room. Wigs in place they all checked each other out. Casper traded coats with a male agent as well.

“Well, it won’t pass close inspection, but it should be enough to throw someone off the trail long enough for you to get away,” Taylor pronounced. “Okay, you know what to do,” he said addressing the decoys.

“Yes, sir.”

The three decoys, and a fourth agent to drive, exited the house. They were noisier than necessary and obvious in their intentions to head to FBI headquarters, the Hoover building.

Quite a bit later, after the ambulances, police cruisers, and extra agents left, Morgan, Scully, Casper, and AD Taylor silently slipped away unnoticed.

“Okay, Morgan, where to?” Taylor asked in the car.

“The airport – Dulles, cargo hangars.”

~~~

It was after 1:00 a.m. when the private chartered jet took off, with Scully, Morgan, and Casper on board. About two and a half hours later the jet landed in Key West. As soon as they exited the jet they were taken to the helipad where a helicopter waited to take them the final leg of their jour­ney. Only 25 miles and a short ride later the helicopter landed on the private island of Pecuniary Key. A man was waiting for them when they disembarked.

“Lady Essington?”

Morgan stepped forward. “Yes.”

He held his hand out. “I’m Greg Titan. Lindsey MacRusso called me.”

“Thank you for making the arrangements so quickly.”

“My pleasure. Since you rode the helicopter out here I brought the boat so it’s here for you use. Likewise, a car is parked on the lot on Summerland Key. Here are the keys to the car, boat, and house.” He handed her the items. “I didn’t know what you would and wouldn’t want, but I did stock the kitchen. And here’s my number,” he said giving her a business card. “If you need anything – provisions, the helicopter, anything – call me, day or night.”

“Thank you.”

He walked to the helicopter and got in. It took off, returning to Key West.

Morgan turned and looked at her companions. “Well, let’s take a look at our new accommodations.”

~~~~~~

Chapter 30

Scully and Casper exchanged a look and followed Morgan into the three-story house.

The building was less than four years old and an unusual shape – two octagonal structures linked together and surrounded by airy verandahs. On the first floor were a large anteroom and a stair­case leading up the actual living quarters. The second floor contained the laundry room and three bed­rooms, each with their own full bathroom. The third floor consisted of the fully equipped gour­met kitchen, a spacious great room with a 14-foot, beamed ceiling and a wet bar, and the dining room which offered a spectacu­lar view of the Atlantic Ocean and surrounding islands. Also, just off the kitchen was a workstation already set up with internet access.

It was after 4:00 in the morning and all three agents had been going since early morning of the day before. So, they each retreated into a bedroom and went to sleep.

~~~

When Scully woke up in the morning she smelled eggs and bacon. She opted for a fast shower. Dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, she joined Morgan and Casper on the third floor. She found Morgan at the stove cooking and Casper sitting out on the verandah.

“I know it’s lunchtime, but I opted to cook breakfast. How many eggs do you want?” Morgan asked without turning around.

“Two. Scrambled, please.”

“Coming right up. There’s some juice in the refrigerator and if you want some coffee it’s in the cupboard above the coffeemaker.”

“Thanks.” Scully moved to the counter and opened the cupboard with the coffee in it. She silently started a pot in the coffeemaker. Scully turned, leaning her hip against the counter, and simply watched Morgan as she cooked the late breakfast. “Can I ask you a question, Jess?”

“Do I have a choice?” the brunette quipped, her trepidation coloring her voice with irritation.

Scully sighed sadly and looked away. “Never mind,” she said softly.

Morgan dropped her head and took a slow breath. “No. I’m sorry. What did you want to ask?”

“What’s up with the name Essington? I mean, you used it in Miami, and now here. Is it a cover identity?”

“No. It’s who she is,” came Casper’s voice from the open doorway to the verandah.

“I don’t understand.”

“Our Jessica comes from nobility. She is Lady Essington,” he said with an amused smile.

Scully saw Morgan blush as she plated everyone’s breakfast and carried the plates out to the ve­randah. She sat down and started buttering her toast. Scully and Casper joined her at the table.

“So, your name is really Jessica Essington?”

“No. My name is Jessica Morgan… but my grandfather, Geoffrey Morgan, was the Earl of Essington. My mother was Lady Elizabeth Rodier.” She looked at Casper who was grinning like a fool. He had always gotten a kick out it. “Shut up, John.”

“What? I didn’t say anything.”

“No, but you’re thinking it.”

He simply snickered and took a bite of his eggs.

“But you said you were Lady Essington, not Lady Morgan,” Scully pointed out.

Morgan silently sighed. “As my grandfather’s sole living heir, I inherited his title and estate.”

“I thought titles were handed down through male heirs.”

“Most are, but not all.”

“Well, you are full of surprises, aren’t you?”

Morgan wasn’t sure what to make of Scully’s tone of voice, so she simply started eating her breakfast.

“So, where exactly are we?” the redhead asked, changing the subject somewhat.

“Pecuniary Key. It’s a privately owned island which the owners rent out. The only way here is by helicopter or boat, so there’s no way the Reaper can get here without us knowing it. But we’re only a few minutes from the airport by helicopter; and with our phones and internet access we can still work the case.”

~~~

After breakfast, Morgan gathered the dishes and returned to the kitchen. Dana followed and volunteered to wash the dishes.

“No need. It’s John’s turn.”

“What?”

“It’s sort of a tradition. Whoever does the dishes gets to cook the next meal. And John said he wanted to cook dinner.”

“That’s right! We’re having grilled steaks tonight,” Casper said enthusiastically as he joined them.

Morgan turned and pinned him with a look, arching an eyebrow. “You are not grilling my steak, John. I prefer my steak not to be burnt.”

“I do not burn steaks. I just prefer them cooked. But you, if you stuck a steak with a fork and it mooed you’d say it was cooked just right.”

Morgan’s eyebrow arched higher. “Whatever. You are not cooking my steak, John.” She glanced at Scully. “And if you have any hope of enjoying yours you won’t let him cook your steak either.” With that Morgan turned to go downstairs to her bedroom to change clothes. “I’m going for a swim before getting to work.”

~~~

It wasn’t a very large pool, but it was enough to let Morgan stretch her muscles. She wasn’t sure how she felt about Scully knowing about her familial background. But since she’d found her in Miami under the name Essington, it wasn’t exactly a complete secret. However, there were few people in the FBI who knew – John, the Director… and now Scully. Toni had known, of course, but not until they’d been together a while.

Morgan finished her swim, went back into the house, changed out of her swimsuit and went to the computer workstation off the kitchen. She went online and checked her email and some reports.

“Anything interesting?” Casper asked from behind her.

“I was right about chloroform being used on the agents in the cars. The agents in the house were knocked out with chloral hydrate. It was found on their pizza, at near overdose level. They were lucky.”

“Where did the pizza come from?”

“Pizza King. They’re interviewing all the employees who were working last night and looking for the delivery driver.”

“Looking for the driver?”

“The driver apparently didn’t go home last night. He hasn’t been seen since leaving work.”

“Do you think he’s dead?”

“It’s possible. But it wouldn’t really fit with the M.O. I think it’s more likely that the delivery person was hired or bribed by our guy, or possibly even duped somehow.”

Casper grabbed a chair from the kitchen table and set it next to Morgan’s, facing her. “Jessica.”

Morgan heard her old partner’s tone of voice. She looked at him. “What?”

He reached out and took one of her hands in his. “It’s been six years, but I still know you, Jessica. What’s wrong?”

She frowned, “You mean other than working a case trying to catch a man that’s killed possibly as many as 100 women?”

“I’m not talking about work. Or at least, not the case.” He looked into her grey eyes intently. “What’s going on between you and Scully?”

She should have expected it – John had been her partner and best friend for years. And despite her lack of communication with him for the last six years, he still knew her better than just about any­one… even if there were a few things he didn’t know. But it didn’t mean she wanted to have this conversation. “Nothing.”

“Bullshit nothing. Come on, Jessica, talk to me.”

She rubbed her hands over her face and leaned back in the chair with a sigh. “It’s personal, John. Just let it go. Please.”

“It’s affecting the job.”

She gave him a sharp look and snapped, “Don’t you think I know that?! Why do you think she was at that safe house alone? I tried to walk away.”

“From what? The case?”

“Of course not.” She paused for a very long moment. “From Dana,” she said in a whisper.

“What happened, Jessica?” he asked gently.

She couldn’t meet his eyes. “I screwed up, John. Big time. I… I let her get close… too close.”

“And?”

“And it didn’t work out. What more do you want?” She abruptly stood up, pushing her chair back. “I’m going for a walk.” Morgan left.

~~~

It was dark out and Morgan hadn’t yet returned to the house. The island was less than 500 feet long and 300 feet wide, so there weren’t exactly a lot of places to hide or get lost. But John also knew from experience that Jessica needed alone time, particularly when sorting out her feelings. He also knew, from experience, that she could retreat into herself too far if left alone too long. While preparing dinner he decided that he would give her until after he and Scully ate dinner… and talked. Then he would retrieve Jessica from her self-imposed isolation.

“Only two steaks?”

Scully’s voice brought Casper out of his thoughts. He glanced at the grill where two steaks were cooking. “No use grilling Jessica’s if she’s not going to join us.”

“What do you mean?”

Casper nodded to the woods surrounding the house and clearing. “She’s out there somewhere; has been almost all day.” He took one of the steaks off the grill and put it on a plate. He handed the plate to Scully. “Here you go; one steak medium rare.”

“Thank you.”

“Go on in. I’ll be right behind you.”

Scully went into the house and up to the dining room. She poured iced tea for Casper and herself, and set out the salad and dressing. Casper joined her a few moments later, bringing his steak and aluminum wrapped potatoes for them. The two agents sat down and began their meal.

“Mm, this is good.”

Casper smiled. “Contrary to what Jessica would have you believe, I do know how to grill a steak with­out burning it.” He chuckled. “But I will admit to charring a few in the past.”

After eating the majority of his meal Casper decided to sound out Scully. “So, how long have you been on the taskforce, Agent Scully?”

“About a month and a half. And you can call me Dana.”

“And you’ve been working with Jessica the entire time?”

“No. She joined the taskforce a month ago.”

“But you’ve been working closely together.”

Scully nodded.

“So what happened?”

Scully felt uncomfortable. “What do you mean?”

Casper pinned her with a look that clearly said he wasn’t going to let it drop. “Something is going on between you and Jessica, and I know it’s personal. Normally I wouldn’t poke my nose into it, but it’s got Jessica so twisted up in knots that it’s affecting her ability to do her job.” He pointed his fork at the redhead. “Fix it, Agent Scully.”

Scully frowned. “Jess has made it quite clear she doesn’t want to work with me anymore – she had me removed from the case.”

“Yet you’re still here,” he pointed out.

“I told the Director I wanted to stay on the taskforce.”

“So, you didn’t give up and pushed to get what you wanted. Right?”

Scully nodded.

“Then you should do the same thing with Jessica.” He paused. “That is if you want to work things out,” he said easily. His tone hardened as he continued, “But if you don’t want to work things out with her – leave. Walk away and let Jessica get over whatever it is that happened. Because no matter what happened she doesn’t deserve to be toyed with.” John abruptly got up, placing his plate, glass, and silverware in the sink before going down to his bedroom.

Scully was a bit taken aback by Casper’s attitude. It was, after all, Jess that had ditched her and left an impersonal note ending their professional and personal relationship. And she had tried to get Jess to talk to her – more than once. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly while trying to rein in her ire.

She then thought about the apparent care and protectiveness Casper had demon­strated for Jess, even after not seeing her in almost six years. Quite frankly it impressed her. Every person Scully talked to who knew Jess expressed how much they respected and cared about her. Well… every­one except Mulder, and, given his behavior, he hardly qualified as rational where Jess was con­cerned.

Scully got up and put her own dishes in the sink. She started the water and added some dishwash­ing soap. She absentmindedly washed the dishes as she considered her next move. Almost before she knew it she finished the dishes. As she put the last glass in the drainer she smiled when she realized she was on the hook for their next meal since she did the dishes. Folding the hand towel after drying her hands, she took a deep breath and let it out. It was time.

Scully walked down the stairs to the first floor and then outside. She glanced around the area and headed out… to find Jess.

Casper smiled as he watched from a second story window.

~~~~~~

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