Title: Gemma
Author: KMS
Written: March 1995
Warning! THIS STORY IS NC-17 Rated! The story you are about to read contains SEX, written in loving detail. If that bothers you, either do NOT read this story, or get someone who doesn't mind erotica to black out all the juicy parts for you before you read it. If you're underage, get your parent's permission to read it. Don't flame me if you're silly enough to go ahead and read it after I warned you, and then get offended by it. --kms This is the first of the 6 files which comprise this story.
Let me make a couple of disclaimers. First, this story is, of course, NOT in any way shape or form approved by Fox Television. It simply expresses my appreciation for a quality product. Second, it *is* set in my neck of the woods, but that doesn't mean that Gemma is me, any more than any of my other characters are me. Third; The story is not particularly X-otic, just a touch of psychic ability on Gemma's part. Mostly I was interested in getting them in the sack! :-)

Originally the story ended with part two, but after numerous requests for "more!" I wrote a continuation so there are now 6 parts total.

This story is copyrighted by the author, 1994.
Permission to distribute freely is given, provided you do not attempt to sell it. X-Files is a trademark of Fox Television, characters not used by permission.

Summary: Mulder does some investigating while Scully is on vacation, and finds something other than psychic serial killers and little gray men. The woman he ends up with is a "finder" who attempts to help him locate a kidnapped child.


Quarter of two... only fifteen more minutes to go, and it'd be closing time. With a sigh Gemma picked up the heavy tray of dirty glasses and headed for the back room with them, glancing again at the back corner table under the burned out light. He was still there. He'd been in the day before, too, though only for a little while. She'd noticed him then, for several reasons. The style and quality of his clothing told her he must have a good job... or had until recently, anyway. He'd given her good tips, and been nice to her too, always calling her by name once he'd found out what it was, instead of "hey you," or worse, "baby."

On top of that, he was one of the best-looking men she'd ever seen. Six foot or more, lean, but well-muscled, his dark hair short but well-cut. He had light-colored, sleepy-lidded eyes, and an incredibly sensual mouth. He looked like something out of a men's fashion magazine. One thing was for sure. He wasn't the kind of guy who normally hung around the Hi-Lo, especially not at quarter of two in the morning.

Unfortunately, she wasn't the only one who'd noticed him, and that concerned her. He'd had paid for his drinks from a pretty good-sized roll of cash, and she wasn't sure but that Art & Donny had seen it. She'd tried to stand between him and the pool tables while making change, but wasn't sure she had managed to do it every time, plus while she'd been on her dinner break Darla had taken his table, and it would never have occurred to Darla to be that circumspect.

She put the tray down next to the sink and smiled at Miguel, up to his elbows in dirty dishwater.

"Almost closing time Miguel! How're you holding up?"

He smiled back. "Fine, Gemma, fine."

That was all he ever said. She wondered if he knew any other English. Probably not. She felt badly for him, knowing Carl probably was underpaying him because he was an illegal, but there wasn't much she could do about it. She'd once offered to sponsor him if he needed one to get a green card, but he'd just nodded and said "Fine, Gemma, fine." She wished she spoke Spanish. Why hadn't she taken Spanish for her foreign language, instead of useless Russian she didn't remember more than a dozen words of. She wiped her hands on her apron and headed back out to the bar to pick up the drinks for last call. She handed out four beers, reminded the regulars it was time to leave, and took the double Southern Comfort to the table in the back. He paid for it with a ten, and waved away her attempt to make change.

"Keep it." His voice was slightly husky, but then, it had been all day. It was not slurred, just husky. As far as she could tell he showed no sign at all of having put away most of a bottle of expensive bourbon over the past several hours. No sign, other than the fact that he'd just given her an eight-dollar tip. She laid the money back on the table and pushed it toward him.

"No, that's too much."

His hand covered hers before she could lift it, and he shook his head. "Keep it."

She stared at his hand for a moment, at the long, lean fingers that covered hers. Beautiful hands... Slowly she slipped her hand out from under his, shaking her head. "I can't. You might need it."

He snorted derisively. "Don't need it more than you do."

She stiffened, feeling a sudden rush of angry humiliation, and turned wordlessly to go.

"Wait..."

She stopped, but didn't turn, wondering if he would apologize.

"Sorry."

He sounded sincere, but then, drunks had a way of always sounding sincere. She turned and looked at him. He even looked sincere, and not drunk at all. Just... devastated. That was the only word she could think of for it. He looked like his best friend had just died. It had taken a lot of bourbon to free that look. Her anger melted away, she could never resist anyone in pain.

"It's okay, Don't worry about it."

"Just thought you probably could..." he paused, and tried again. "I mean... doesn't look like a place that pays well."

"It doesn't, but I get by, thanks. It's closing time... can I call you a cab?"

He grinned. "It's better that Spooky."

She blinked... he was obviously joking, but she couldn't make the reference. She smiled to let him know she knew he was teasing her, and tried again. "I meant can I get you a taxi?"

He looked at her thoughtfully, then shook his head. "Got a rental car..."

"Which will be in a ditch if you try to drive it anywhere. You do realize you're certainly over the legal limit, don't you?"

She wouldn't have dared say that to most customers, but somehow she knew he wouldn't mind.

He nodded, slowly, consideringly, then frowned. "Can't leave it here... be gone by morning. Hell to pay with my E-07."

She was amazed he could still speak in nearly complete sentences. But no matter how coherent he seemed, she couldn't let him drive. If he had a rental car, he was obviously from out of town, maybe she could get someone from his hotel to come out and get him.

"Where're you staying?"

He thought about it for a moment, then dug in a pocket, extracting a key. After looking at it for a moment, he shook his head. "Doesn't say."

She reached over and took it from him. He was right. It was a generic hotel key, with no distinguishing features other than a room number... 308. It could belong to any one of a hundred hotels, maybe more. She ran a hand through her hair, fingers catching in the tangles at the nape of her neck. As she sighed she wondered absently why her hair always seemed to be tangled there.

"What am I going to do with you?"

He smiled. "Take me home?"

She lifted an eyebrow at him, prepared to be disgusted, and couldn't do it. He was too ingenuous. She shook her head.

"You could be a serial killer for all I know."

He looked offended. "Might catch 'em, but not one."

"What?" she was totally at a loss, he hadn't made any sense.

He dug into his pocket again, and proffered her a small leather wallet. She took it, puzzled. "What's this?"

"Open it."

She did, and almost dropped it in surprise. The letters FBI were about an inch tall. She looked at the photo on the ID, then at him... yep. That was him alright. 'Might catch them, but not one.' So that's what he'd meant, it made sense now. She read the name, Fox Mulder, odd name, that. She handed it back to him.

"So, Mr. Mulder, what brings someone like you to a place like this?"

"Questions."

He *had* been asking a lot of questions yesterday... but not about any crime. She was pretty sure he'd been asking about the Ken Caryl Ranch UFO sightings that had been all the talk lately. And he'd not asked anyone anything today, other than her for his drinks. "I'd buy that for yesterday, but not today. You can't be on duty now, you're not the type to drink on the job."

He stared past her, and shook his head. "How'd you know?"

"I'm a good judge of people."

"Anniversary," he said softly, almost too low for her to hear. Unaccountably she felt disappointed. She hadn't noticed a ring...

"It's your anniversary and you're stuck here in Denver, instead of being at home, right? Would your wife appreciate the way you're celebrating?"

He looked up at her and shook his head. "Not that kind of anniversary."

Then what, she wondered? Then suddenly she knew. Earlier she'd thought he looked like his best friend had died. Maybe he had... or she... someone had, anyway. On this date. He wasn't celebrating, he was mourning.

"I'm sorry," she whispered, and suddenly made up her mind. She wasn't about to leave him alone to get in a car accident, or get taken to the drunk tank, or rolled for his cash in the parking lot by Art and Donny. "You wait right here while I finish up. I'll drive you to a hotel and you can get a room there, you may end up paying for two different rooms for the same night, but that's better than the alternative, right?"

He nodded. Feeling relieved, she took her receipts to the bar for Carl to total, watching him like a hawk as he counted out the money she'd given him and compared it to the tabs. He'd managed to short her one too many times for her to trust him, but this time he played it straight. As she turned to go get her coat and purse from the back room, she suddenly realized she'd better say something or he might toss her charity project out in the street.

"Don't throw out the guy at table thirteen, okay? I'm driving him back to his hotel."

Carl looked surprised, then laughed nastily. "Thought you told me you didn't turn tricks, Gem!"

She swung back to face him, fists clenched. "Get your tiny little mind out of the gutter, Carl! I'm just making sure he doesn't get in an accident, he's in no shape to be driving!"

Carl grinned widely. "Yeah, right. I gotta hand it to you Gem, you know how to pick 'em. He's pretty, and he's got money. Just remember... get paid *before* you spread 'em."

Gemma felt hot color rise in her face, and turned away, trying not to let him get to her. "I'm going to pretend you didn't say that."

"Why? You ain't foolin' nobody."

She didn't bother to reply, but had trouble keeping her pace below a run as she headed for the back room, blinking to clear the angry tears that stung her eyes. If she didn't need the job so badly, she'd tell him to go do something anatomically impossible.

Miguel looked up as she came in, and seeing her face he started toward her, murmuring something in Spanish. She shook her head and pasted on a shaky smile.

"No, Miguel, I'm all right... esta bueno, gracias," she said, dredging up the words from somewhere.

Whatever she'd said must have been at least marginally correct, because he stopped, and nodded, turning back to the dishes. She sighed in relief and slipped into the back room, pulled her coat from the coat-tree, then bent down to pick up her purse from the floor where it had fallen. As she did, meaty hand slid between her legs and squeezed.

"I'd pay to fuck you too, baby..."

She jerked upright with a gasp and turned to find Carl behind her. Without thinking she swung her purse as hard as she could. Weighted with a day's worth of tips, it was quite heavy, and it caught him right in the face. He howled and staggered back, holding his nose as she shoved him aside and ran. She stopped at the table in the back and grabbed Mulder by the arm.

"Come on, *now*!" Her urgency must have penetrated the alcohol haze because he was on his feet instantly, if a bit unsteadily. His eyes narrowed as he looked from her, back toward the kitchen from which Carl's cursing could easily be heard.

"Whatsa matter?"

"Just a little labor relations problem, come *on*"

He picked up his coat and followed her, walking with deliberate care. As they reached the front door, Carl roared out of the back, holding a bloody towel to his nose. Gemma realized she wasn't going to be able to get out. Nothing stood between her and Carl's six-foot-six, three-hundred pounds of rage. Her mind seemed to shut down, she froze, time dilating. She was ten years old again, and it wasn't Carl, but her stepfather who stood screaming at her, belt in hand.

Despite years of therapy, and even self-defense training, remembered terror overwhelmed her then, and acting on a child's instinct she dropped down and put her arms over her head protectively, waiting for the blows to start. A sharp, metallic click intruded... that sound didn't belong in her nightmare-memory. No blows came. It was oddly quiet. After a moment she dared to look between her fingers, and saw that Carl wasn't even looking at her, but at someone she couldn't see.

"Step away from her, now."

The husky voice was familiar, but now held an authoritative crispness. Carl moved away, and she saw why he was being so uncharacteristically cooperative. Mulder had a gun, a lethal-looking black steel thing, trained with unbelievable steadiness on Carl. How could he be as drunk as he had to be, and still be able to stand there like that, utterly focused?

"You can get up now," he said quietly, not turning his head. She knew he was talking to her, and stood up, realizing she was still clenching her coat and purse.

"Hey, man, she *hit* me!" Carl whined. "You got no reason to pull a piece on *me*! She's the problem!"

"She's the problem? You got ten inches, two hundred pounds on her, an' she's the problem? What'd y'do to make her hit you?"

Gemma knew suddenly that Mulder's steadiness was an act. He'd dropped too many words out of his sentence... he was still drunk. Carl was too mesmerized by the gun to notice, thankfully.

"Nothin' man! Nothin'!"

"What'd he do?" the words were directed at her.

"He touched me, and said... things," she said quietly.

"'Figured it was somethin' like that. Okay, go to the table close t' the kitchen," Mulder said quietly.

Carl obeyed, eyes never leaving the gun.

"Turn th' chair toward the wall, sit down, and start counting. When you get to five hundred, you can get up."

Carl turned slowly, obviously not wanting to take his eyes from the man with the weapon, but not seeing a choice. After a moment he started to count, voice shaky, obviously convinced that he was about to be shot in the back.

Mulder lowered the gun and rubbed at his forehead for a moment, then nodded toward the door. Instantly she opened it, and they hurried out. He pulled a key from his pants pocket and shoved it into her hand.

"Drive."

It was obvious which car, it was the only one on the street less than ten years old. She ran to it and unlocked the driver's door, which automatically unlocked the passenger door too.

Gemma slid into the driver's seat, put the keys in the ignition, and fumbled for the adjustment, her legs weren't near as long as his and she couldn't reach the gas or brake. He got in on the other side as she found the lever, then started the car and peeled out, leaving tracks half a block long. He leaned back in the seat, eyes closed, breathing in short gasps. She suspected he was trying hard not to get sick. She made a left, and right, then left again onto a one-way that would lead her to Sixth Avenue more quickly, She was pretty sure Carl Coby was still sitting at the table counting, but she didn't want to take any chances.

For a moment she thought uncharitable thoughts about her passenger, then felt ashamed of herself for having done so. Even if he had inadvertently been the catalyst, it wasn't his fault, not really. The confrontation with Carl had been inevitable, and if he hadn't been there, she might have ended up in the hospital. One thing was sure, she was never going back to the Hi-Lo again! She wasn't going to give Carl another shot at her.

It suddenly hit her. She'd just lost another job. Without it, she couldn't pay her tuition, without that, she'd never get the degree she needed to stop working service industry jobs. Her throat grew tighter and tighter, until it hurt even to breathe, and she didn't dare try to talk. Despite her control a tear slid down her face, then another, blurring the road, making it hard to see. She reached inside herself and located the cold, numb place where nothing hurt, and slid into it, walling herself off. The tears stopped, her throat relaxed. She could breathe again. Better. Gemma realized he'd gotten awfully quiet, and looked over at him in concern. He was out... she could tell by the boneless way he was sitting, kept upright only by the shoulder belt. Well... at least he'd managed to stay conscious long enough to be helpful. He still held his gun, though thankfully his fingers were around the grip but not through the trigger. That would have made her awfully nervous. The fact that it was out at all made her a bit tense, and she glanced at the speedometer. Just to be on the safe side, she slowed to exactly fifty-five. All she needed was to get pulled over and have a cop notice. She was sure he had a permit for it, after all, he was sort of a cop himself, but she was also sure that what he'd just done was against some regulation or other, if not specifically against the law.

She drove east on Sixth until she got far enough into a populated area to feel safe, then pulled into the parking lot of a La Quinta Inn. For a moment she sat there, at a loss, she'd never had the opportunity to stay in a hotel herself, though she'd worked in housekeeping at a Holiday Inn for awhile. She wasn't entirely sure to how to go about getting him a room. Did one pay in advance? The only money she had on her was her tips. That wasn't going to do it. She reached over and shook him gently.

"Hey... hey, wake up, please?"

No response. He was really out of it. She sighed.

"I'm sorry, but I have to get to your wallet," she said, feeling a bit silly talking to someone who was obviously unconscious. She gently removed his gun from his lax grip and pushed it under the seat out of sight, then reached underneath him to see which pocket his wallet was in. The right one, of course, that meant she'd practically have to lie in his lap to get to it. As she managed to work her fingers into his pocket she was very aware of the warm, resilience of his skin separated from her fingers by the scant thickness of the pocket lining. Her face was pressed against his chest and he smelled good... surprisingly so, considering how long he'd been sitting in the smoky atmosphere of the Hi-Lo. She was sure she reeked of stale tobacco and liquor. Maybe in the back the smoke didn't get as thick as it did around the pool tables and bar. That was something she wouldn't miss. Finally she managed to get her fingers around his wallet and extract it, with some difficulty, from his pocket. Thank god he'd been wearing a suit, she'd never have gotten it out of a pair of jeans.

She looked through the contents of the wallet, noticing that his driver's license had been issued in Virginia, and that he had about eight credit cards along with close to a hundred dollars in cash, and more in travelers checks. She took the keys out of the ignition, dropped them into her coat pocket, and locked him in the car before walking up to the office. The clerk, a big fresh-faced kid who looked like a high-school linebacker, looked up eagerly as she walked in.

"Hi, I'm Mark, can I help you?"

"I need a room, please."

"Certainly, just tonight?"

She thought about it for a moment, and shook her head. In all likelihood he wasn't going to be awake before checkout. "Better make it through tomorrow, just in case."

"Okay, single or double?"

"Ah... single."

"Smoking or non-smoking?"

"Non-smoking." He hadn't smoked in the bar, and if he hadn't there, he didn't.

"Any special needs?"

Special needs? Like what, she wondered, then it occurred to her she did have one. She had to be able to get him into without help. "Do you have anything on the first floor? Near an outside door?"

His fingers flew on his keyboard. "The only thing I have on the first floor near a door is a double."

"I'll take it."

"Okay. Cash or credit card?"

"Um... credit," she pulled out the first credit card she found. Thankfully it wasn't one of those with a photo on it. She gave it to the kid and he ran it through the machine without comment, then handed it back to her. She waited, as he finished filling out the form, then handed her a key, and a photocopied diagram of the hotel.

"Here you are, you're in room 184, I've circled it on the map. You'll have to go through the main entrance here, we lock the other doors at night for the security of our guests."

She took the key and headed for the door, then stopped as his meaning sank in. There was no way she could wrestle an unconscious six-foot male from the parking lot, through the lobby, and all the way back to the room. She turned back to the desk.

"Ah... I have a little problem."

The kid looked up, curious. She smiled, embarrassed.

"My friend... out in the car. He's had... well... a little too much to drink and passed out. That's why I wanted a room near an outside door."

Mark stared at her for a moment, then he started to grin. "Hey, I've been there... hang on a second..." he picked up the phone. "Jen, could you come out to the desk for a minute? I need to help someone with their stuff. Yeah? Thanks!" He looked back at her and smiled. "Someone will be right here to take the desk for me, why don't you drive around to the west door, and I'll meet you there and let you in."

She drove the car around to the back of the hotel as he'd instructed, and found him waiting at the door when she arrived. He propped the door open with a cinderblock and came over to the car.

"Need help?"

She looked at him, then at her passenger. "Would you mind?" she asked, hopefully.

"Nah, like I said, I've been there," he chuckled and leaned in, unfastening the seat-belt. "Why don't you go unlock the room?"

She hesitated. "Don't you want me to help?"

"Nah... really, it's easier to just do it myself."

She nodded and dashed ahead to unlock the room. A moment later Mark appeared, Mulder slung over his shoulder like a garment bag. She couldn't help but hope being carried like that didn't make him sick. Mark eased him down onto one of the beds and straightened.

"There ya go, safe and sound."

"Thank you so much!" she fumbled in her purse and dug out the twenty dollar bill she'd gotten from the money machine earlier that day. "Here, please, you've been so helpful!"

He shook his head. "That's okay, just do someone else a favor sometime."

She nodded, and he left the room. It suddenly occurred to her that she'd left the car open, and went back outside to close and lock the doors. Remembering his gun, she fished it out from under the seat and tucked it into her purse, hoping it was safe to do that... she didn't know anything about guns. When she let herself back into the room he hadn't moved, not a centimeter. She looked at him lying there fully clothed, and sighed. She couldn't leave him like that. Plus, he was lying on his back, never a good thing when you'd overindulged. She set her purse down carefully on the dresser, hung up her coat, put out the "do not disturb" sign, and went to work. Shoes first, then socks, then tie. She managed to wrestle him out of his overcoat and suit coat, got his shirt off, and stopped for a moment to catch her breath and decide if that was far enough.

Gemma studied him for a moment, and smiled to herself. He was every bit as good looking with most of his clothes off, as he was with them on. That, in her experience, was not typical. She decided to keep going. After all, she deserved *something* for her trouble! She opened the hook, and eased the zipper down far enough to see that he had on something underneath. Good. She hadn't planned to go quite that far. She tugged his pants off, and her smile became a grin. Boxer shorts? She'd never actually seen them on a man before, at least not on a man who wasn't in an advertisement or a movie. She admired the view for a moment, then put a hand beneath his hip and shoulder and rolled him onto his stomach. That done, she pulled the bedspread off the second bed and covered him.

Picking up his clothes she stepped into the little wardrobe area next to the bathroom and hung them up, then she started feeling a little shaky. She leaned on the bathroom counter for a moment to let it pass, but it didn't go away. With nothing to occupy her, she couldn't stop thinking about what had happened, about the utter helplessness she'd felt, something she'd sworn she wouldn't ever feel again. The look on Carl's face as he came toward her, the feel of his hand between her legs...

She barely got the toilet seat up in time. A few moments later she flushed and was able to straighten and rinse her mouth at the sink, letting the cold water cleanse the taste of bile from her mouth. She looked at herself in the mirror and saw that her face was dead white, her eyes dilated. She felt dirty... handled.... The smell of the place was in her hair, on her skin, in her clothes. Without thought she turned on the shower and kicked off her shoes. There were the usual complimentary toiletries on the counter, she grabbed a bar of soap and unwrapped it, then stepped into the shower, to try to scrub the reek of the bar from herself. After a moment she sank to her knees, crying.

As her tears slackened, it suddenly dawned on her that she'd gotten into the shower fully clothed. Looking down at herself, watching the hot water course over the ugly polyester peasant blouse and short black skirt that constituted her cocktail waitress 'uniform,' her tears suddenly became laughter. Shaking her head she peeled off her sodden clothes and finished showering. She dried off, and squeezed as much water as she could from her things before hanging them over the rod to dry. She was stuck now until her clothes dried. Ah well, at least Colorado had a dry climate, so it shouldn't take long for them to be wearable again. She found a pocket comb in his suit jacket, and used it to tug the snarls out of her hair. Checking the mirror, she saw that her color and eyes looked normal again. She felt almost human, though extremely tired.

Tired... she realized there was a perfectly good bed that was not being used, and she intended to rectify that. She didn't feel comfortable wandering around without a stitch on, though. She eyed her still-dripping bra and panties with a sigh, not about to put them back on yet. That left her only one choice. She took his shirt off the hanger and sniffed it cautiously. It had a very slightly smoky smell to it, but nothing like the nicotine stench her own clothes had held. It also smelled like... him. There was no other way to describe it. She stood there with her nose in his shirt, breathing in the rich complexity of it, until she realized what she was doing and a blush that started somewhere around her toes washed over her. Quickly she slipped the shirt on, and went to get into bed. As she reached for the light, she noticed he was lying on his back. She pushed him onto his stomach, turned back the covers of the other bed to get in, but by time she'd sat down, he was on his back again. She sighed, rolled out of bed, and flipped him over again, and shook a finger at him in exasperation.

"Stay there!"

She turned out the light, put a knee on her own bed and heard the telltale sound of sliding covers. Turning, she confirmed it, and shook her head.

"Look, if you don't lie on your stomach, you may regret it!"

Her scold drew no response, and she stood there looking down at him, knowing that even if she did roll him over again, the minute she turned her back he'd turn over. It was tempting to just let him lie, but she'd had a roommate who'd almost died when she'd passed out drunk and thrown up. She couldn't deal with that.

"Okay, let's try this..." she turned him over again, quickly lifted the bedspread and slid in next to him, her body preventing him from turning over again. She waited. He stayed put. She decided to wait a little while longer just to make certain he stayed where he was.


She was waking up... she didn't want to wake up. She was *sure* she didn't want to wake up, her dreams were just too good to lose, and she was too close to it.. ah yeah, right there, like that... Her dream-lover's fingers moved just exactly the way she wanted them to, his warm body against her back felt wonderful, his lips and teeth grazing the back of her neck as his hand worked magic between her thighs. Oh... just a little more... she moved her hips, arching into his touch, and moaned as ecstasy unleashed itself inside her, leaving her limp and gasping. Both the hand cupped over her from the front, the one on her hip, and the lips against her neck were still as her body shivered itself into peace, and the slow realization dawned that she wasn't dreaming. After a moment's thought she knew exactly where she was and with who, and she felt too incredibly released and relaxed to jump, or scream in surprise, or do any of the things the situation might warrant.

"Good morning..." his voice was still husky, velvety, and the sound of it made her shiver as it coaxed a last curl of pleasure from her body.

"Yeah..." she sighed, trying to decide whether to be angry with him for taking advantage of her, or pleased that he had.

The hand on her hip stroked gently, and he spoke again. "Look, I'm sorry about last night, I honestly don't remember a thing... as plowed as I was, I can't possibly have been any good. But I'd be happy to try to make it up to you now."

She stared at the line of sunlight beneath the heavy curtains at the window and wondered what the heck he was talking about. After a moment's thought she suddenly realized he must *really* not remember... about Carl, or the gun, or anything. He must think she'd picked him up to have sex with him! She wondered if he even knew her name. For some reason she found the whole situation incredibly amusing. She was lying in bed with a gorgeous man, who'd just given her one of the best orgasms she'd ever had in her life, and it was all a mistake. She started to giggle, and tried to smother it so he wouldn't be offended. She felt him tense against her, and then he was turning her onto her back so he could see her face. She put her hands over her face to hide behind them.

"Gemma... are you crying?"

Oh no... that interpretation hadn't occurred to her. She shook her head, desperately trying to control herself. Well, that was one question answered. He did remember her name.

"What's wrong? What's the matter?"

"N...n...nothing!" she managed to gasp.

He pried her hands away from her face, and the look of concern on his face became bewilderment, then slowly he started to smile as he realized what was happening.

"You're laughing! Thank god!"

She sucked in a deep breath and managed to speak. "Sorry.. sorry. Didn't mean to."

"Want to share the joke?"

"You wouldn't understand..."

"Try me."

"No, really... but thank you."

"What for?"

"For the best wake-up I've ever had."

He grinned. "Liked that, did you?"

She nodded. "It was great."

He looked at her searchingly, and stroked her hair back away from her face. "Really?"

"Really." She studied him, he really was amazingly attractive. His dark hair was tousled, his eyes still sleepy, his mouth a sensual invitation... her breathing grew a little ragged and she licked her lips, they were suddenly very dry. His eyes lowered.

"Good, at least I did that right. When I woke up and found you here I was so... well... I mean, I'm surprised I could even walk, let alone..." his voice trailed off, and his color heightened. She ran a finger across his cheek where the color was deepest, feeling the heat of his blush.

"You couldn't, but don't worry about it."

"I couldn't?"

"Walk, or anything else for that matter."

"How'd I get in here?"

She grinned. "The bell-boy."

"You're kidding, right?"

"Nope, he carried you in like a piece of luggage."

He looked horrified, and collapsed back against the pillow, covering his face with his hand. "Oh my god... I am so embarrassed."

"Don't be. It was alright. You helped me out of a bad situation, it was only fair for me to help you in return."

"Hang on here, I'm getting confused. Would you mind telling me exactly what did happen last night?"

"Not at all, just remember, I'm not upset, okay?"

He looked puzzled, but nodded. She explained. About halfway through the story he picked up a pillow and put it over his face, but didn't interrupt. When she finished, he was silent for so long she started to get worried. She tried to lift a corner of the pillow, but he held it in place.

"You still alive under there, or did you suffocate?"

"If I died, it would be of humiliation, not suffocation," came his muffled reply. "I will never, ever be this ashamed again in my entire life."

"Never say never. Come out from under there, you've got nothing to be ashamed of."

"Ha!"

"No, really. I *told* you I wasn't upset."

"How can you not be upset?" he demanded, lowering the pillow to stare at her in amazement. "I just... just..." he trailed off, blushing again.

She shook her head and pulled the pillow out of his hands, laying it aside. "I like you, I liked what you did. I'm not sorry you did it."

"I..." he studied her face for a long moment. "You're sure?"

Feeling exceptionally bold, she reached over, took one of his hands in hers, and placed it on her breast. Even through the shirt he had to be able to feel her nipple harden. "I'm sure," she said softly. "In fact, I wouldn't mind if you did it again."

Still looking into her eyes, his palm shaped her breast gently, then his fingers skimmed the taut peak, brushing the soft cotton of his shirt over it. She caught her breath and sighed, eyes closing for a moment, then opening again as his eyes dropped to her mouth. He lifted his other hand and trailed a fingertip over her lips until she shivered, then he leaned over and covered her mouth with his.

Velvet, just like his voice. She reached up and slid her fingers into his hair, encouraging her to kiss her harder, but he didn't. His lips brushed hers, over and over, then he traced the outline of them with his tongue. She flicked her own out to touch his, hoping to entice him into following it inside, but again he refused to take the hint. He lifted away and pressed a kiss into the curve just below her ear, then moved to repeat the caress on the other side. All the time his fingers kept teasing her breast, just the one, until she was aching for him to turn his attention to the other side.

"Gemma..." his voice was a whisper against her ear. "What exactly did you want me to do again?"

She turned her head so she could see him. He looked utterly serious, a shadow of uncertainty in his eyes. This close she could finally see that they were mostly green, with brown flecks. Because of that uncertainty she concentrated on his question, trying to read any hidden meaning there, ah... that was it. He wanted to know if she'd been asking him to get her off, or inviting him to join her. She smiled.

"I want you to make love with me."

There. It couldn't be said any plainer. The uncertainty disappeared instantly, and he took her mouth again, this time with less restraint. She returned his kiss, fiercely hungry for it. She'd never much cared for kissing, but somehow his were different. Something about his mouth made her want to suck it, lick it. She indulged, and after a moment or two he lifted his head, breathing heavily.

"Hey, slow down, it's not a race," he laughed softly.

She blushed, a little embarrassed. "I guess I'm just a little... eager. It's been a long time."

"How long is a long time?"

She thought back, and it was a bit of a shock to realize how long ago she'd moved out of the apartment she'd shared with Mike. There had been no one since.

"Three years," she admitted.

"That *is* a long time, I can see how you might be a little... eager," he imitated her pause perfectly, and smiled. "Let's see what I can do to slow you down."

He pushed the tails of his shirt up around her hips and cupped a hand over her mons. She closed her eyes, pushing herself toward him.

"No, let me do it, you just relax... there, good..." his fingers moved, stroking, parting. She'd never felt herself so wet... almost embarrassingly so. But oh... it felt good, so good, as his fingers teased. She shifted restlessly, opening her thighs a little wider, giving him better access.

He kissed her again, his tongue found the seam of her lips, parted them and slid inside, tasting her. She moaned and closed her eyes, letting him lick at her, licking him back, every movement sending shockwaves of arousal through her. She drew back, gasping for breath, and he followed, his lips grazing her chin, her throat.

"Fox... Fox, please..." she couldn't decide whether to tell him to stop, or to keep going. It felt so good it almost hurt. She put her hand up to his face, he caught it and kissed her fingers, then slowly sucked each one before taking her hand and placing it behind his neck as he began to lick her throat. He captured her earlobe in his teeth for a moment, then whispered; "Gemma, I want to taste you."

Her whole body shuddered at the thought, and she gasped as his hands were on her inner thighs, opening her wider, and his mouth closed over her sex. His tongue probed inside her, then slid upward to flick over her clitoris. She arched and moaned, clutching at his shoulders.

"Goddess that's good!" she gasped, shaking with need.

He lifted his head and smiled sensually. "Then come for me, I want to feel you come."

She couldn't refuse him... his voice alone could almost make her come. His tongue swirled over her clit again, then his fingers were opening her so he could lick deeper into her vagina. She clenched her fists in the bedspread and panted, reaching for it, reaching for it... As his mouth closed over her clit and he pushed his fingers into her sheath she found it, and went stiff, digging her heels into the bed as her entire body seemed to clench, then release in rhythmic spasms. His hand stilled, fingers buried deep inside her, but he continued to tongue her, coaxing another gasping shudder from her, and another. Finally he let her come down, his head resting on her thigh as he began to gently work his fingers in and out of her sex again.

"Oh stop... I can't... no more..." she managed to gasp, trying to catch her breath. He didn't stop.

"Yes you can, Gemma, you know you can. I want to fuck you now... will you let me?"

She shivered as the gentle obscenity sent ripples of fresh desire through her. His reverent tone removed any harshness from it, and rendered it intensely erotic. She tried for a moment to think rationally, but as she did he rolled to his knees, fingers still moving inside her, as he unbuttoned the shirt that covered her, then braced his weight on his other arm and leaned down to taste her right nipple. All rational thought fled, and a single word shaped itself in her mouth.

"Yes."

He sat up, and shifted position, leaning down to kiss her mouth very softly, his tongue licking delicately at her parted lips. She sighed, and sucked on his tongue, tasting herself in his mouth. She put her hand behind his neck and held him in place as their kiss went from lazy to urgent, and she pulled him toward her.

"Now," she gasped. "I need you, please!"

"Just a second, I want to feel all of you..."

She felt him tug first one sleeve of the shirt off, then the other, then she was free of it, in seconds his shorts were gone too, and both of them were completely naked. She drew up her knees, her thighs wide to give him easy passage, watching him kneel there. He was so beautiful... long, lean, muscled, everything flowing smoothly from one curve to the next. Even his sex was beautiful, a new concept to her... that a man's sex could be beautiful, but it was. Hard, strong, urgent, perfectly made, flawlessly compatible. She still couldn't believe this was happening. He leaned forward, fingers opening her, then he was entering her for the first time, his body becoming part of hers. She curved herself up to him, helping him forge deeper, loving the way he filled her. She heard herself moaning softly, as he completed the inward stroke, and whimpered as he withdrew. She was going to come again... impossible, but undeniable. She knew the insistent ache that signalled an approaching explosion. He surged into her again, setting a slow, steady rhythm.

"This is too good!" she gasped, panting.

"There's no... such thing," he whispered back, his movements becoming faster, and harder. She clutched at his hips, ran her hands over the hard curves of his buttocks as he drove his body into hers, lifting her off the bed with each stroke. She thought she was going to die of pleasure. He was wrong, there was such a thing as too good... and this was it. She chanted his name like a spell, to keep her firmly attached to her body as he pushed her past her boundaries. Lightning struck, and she cried out in ecstasy as it pulsed through her, again and again. As the tension left her she felt him go still, buried deep inside her, and felt the sudden heat of his release as he filled her, a soft moan breaking from his lips as he shuddered into her a last time. She pulled him down and held him in the cradle of her body, arms and legs folding him close as his breathing began to slow.

She was afraid to speak, afraid it would somehow destroy the utter perfection of the moment, so instead she just dropped a kiss into his hair and held him, hoping he would understand. Apparently he did, as he didn't speak either, but he did find her hand and laced his fingers through hers. Her eyelids began to droop. She fought it off a couple of times wanting to savor the feel of him in her arms, but finally she couldn't fight it any more, and her eyes closed.

####

"... you're sure? No complaints or anything? Yeah... no... that's okay, thanks. I appreciate your help."

The sound of the handset returning to its cradle alerted her to the fact that he'd been talking to someone on the telephone, not her, which was good because from her point of view it hadn't made much sense. She opened her eyes to find him sitting on the unused bed, writing something on a piece of hotel stationary. He was wearing pants but no shirt, and his feet were bare. She noticed absently that he had long toes.

"Hi..," she said, feeling a bit awkward all of the sudden.

He looked up and smiled, relaxing her instantly. "Hi yourself. Get enough sleep?"

She considered that for a moment, then nodded. "I think so."

"Good. Get dressed and we'll go get something to eat."

She studied him for a moment, shaking her head.

"Don't you have a hangover?"

He shook his head. "No, oddly enough. I should, but I don't."

"Amazing. Who were you talking to?"

He grinned sheepishly. "Local law... I wanted to see if there was an APB out on anyone fitting my description for pulling a gun in a bar. There's not. Apparently your boss didn't see fit to notify the authorities. Oh, and he didn't complain about getting beaten up by any of his waitstaff, either, if it makes you feel any better."

She shivered. "Well, since I hadn't even *thought* about that possibility until you mentioned it, no, it doesn't really."

She sat up, holding the sheet around her, unaccountably shy now that they weren't actually making love. He watched her, and she saw a dimple appear in his cheek as he tried not to smile.

"I know, it's silly. I can't help it."

"No, it's not silly, I thought it was kind of cute."

"Augh!" she cried, and put her hands over her ears, dropping the sheet in the process. "Don't *ever* call me that! I *hate* that!"

A broad grin spread across his face, "Okay."

She sighed. "Why do I get the feeling I should *not* have told you that?"

"You must be psychic."

"Well, sometimes. What do you want to eat?" she asked, attempting to change the subject.

He chuckled, his eyes moving downward over her in a caress she could almost feel. "That depends..."

She blushed and hauled the sheet up again. "Besides that."

He looked so disappointed that she almost let it fall again, until she saw the mischief in his eyes. She shook her head, smiling. "I bet that works almost every time, doesn't it?"

"What?" he asked innocently.

"You know what."

"Oh, that. Well... sometimes. He reached behind him and picked up his shirt off the bed. "Here, wear this. I hung up your things when I took my shower, they seem to be dry."

The thought of him removing her panties from the shower- curtain rod made her blush again as she put his shirt on. It seemed so... intimate. Fastening the buttons, she stood up and headed for the bathroom.

"How'd you get soaked like that? Was it raining last night?" he asked innocently.

She stopped, eyes closed as she fought against remembering the way she'd felt, and shook her head. She opened her mouth to tell him, but couldn't find a way to explain it, so she just left it at that and continued into the wardrobe area to get her things. As she was taking her skirt off the hanger, she felt his hand on her shoulder.

"Hey... what's wrong?"

"Nothing."

"Not nothing, what?"

She could tell he wasn't going to let it go. "My clothes got wet in the shower, okay?"

"In the shower? What were you doing in the shower with your clothes on?"

"Trying to feel clean," she whispered, staring unfocused at the hangers.

He gently turned her to face him, and searched her face with narrowed eyes. "What did he do to you?"

"Nothing really, he just touched me..." she shuddered and swallowed against sudden nausea. "I was just so... scared. I kept thinking about my stepfather..."

Somehow he understood, just from those few words. "Gemma..." his voice broke slightly. "God...I'm so sorry!"

"No, it's okay. It was a long time ago."

"How could you let me..."

She put her fingers against his mouth, stopping him. "Don't. There's no comparison at all. Ten years of counseling taught me that."

He drew a deep breath and touched her hair gently, smoothing his palm down the thick fall of black curls. "Are you okay now?"

"I'm fine, really."

He nodded, his jaw tightening. "I almost wish I'd shot the sonofabitch."

She shook her head vehemently. "No! Violence is never the answer."

He gazed at her for a long moment, and shook his head. "You're wrong. Sometimes it's the only answer."

There was a wealth of pain in his voice. She stared at him, wondering what his secret darkness was. Most people had one, but some were darker than others. Why did she think it had something to do with him getting drunk the previous night?

"I asked you last night why you were drinking... you said it was an anniversary. What kind of anniversary?"

His gaze shadowed, and he closed his eyes for a moment, turning his head. "It was the anniversary of me screwing up and getting someone killed, that's what it was. Two someones."

"Oh, goddess, that..."

"...hurts." he finished for her. "It hurts."

She nodded, and drew him to her. His arms went around her and they stood that way for a while, comforting each other. After a bit Gemma sniffled, and gently disengaged so she could see his face.

"So, both of us are kind of a mess, hunh?"

He smiled a little and nodded. "Apparently so. What did you mean a minute ago... when I said you were psychic, and you said 'sometimes.'"

"Exactly that. Sometimes. Why?"

"I was wondering how you knew what I was thinking about."

"It didn't take telepathy to see you were hurting, or to equate it with your binge last night. No, my talent is in finding things."

"What kind of things?"

She shrugged. "Anything. Pens, pencils, jewelry, clothes, software, toys, kids, birth control pills... you name it, I've found it."

She expected him to laugh, but he didn't. Instead he nodded.

"Does it work on demand, or just erratically?"

"Both," she smiled. "Lose anything lately?"

He smiled ruefully. "Just my wallet, and my gun."

She laughed. "That's easy. On the dresser, in my purse."

"Thank god... I was starting to get worried. That was incredibly irresponsible of me. If anything had happened..."

"It didn't, so stop worrying about it."

He sighed, and nodded. She ducked into the bathroom and got dressed. When she came out he was still standing exactly where she'd left him, looking rather distressed. She handed him his shirt, which he automatically began to put on.

"What's wrong now?" she asked as he buttoned it. He looked up, then down again, and even in the awful florescent light she could see he was a little flushed.

"I... ah, didn't think about this earlier... speaking of incredibly irresponsible... but when you were talking about finding things, something you mentioned made me think of it. It's too late now, but I thought I should ask..."

"Yes," she said, interrupting him, having figured out what he was trying to say.

"Yes what?" he looked nonplussed.

"Yes, I'm on the pill... otherwise I have very irregular cycles."

He looked infinitely relieved. She grinned. "But it was still incredibly irresponsible of us. You'd think neither of us ever heard of s.t.d's."

"Well, that you don't have to worry about."

"You either. So, now that we've got that settled, let's go eat."


"So, what *are* you doing in Colorado, anyway? You're a long way from home," Gemma asked finishing the last of her poblano chili rellenos, having already teased him for not trying them when she'd offered him a bite.

Fox rearranged the lettuce shreds around what was left of his burrito with his fork before replying vaguely. "Just investigating a case."

"Oh, top secret, hunh?"

He laughed. "Hardly. Actually, to be honest, I'm checking out a UFO sighting."

She sat forward, intrigued. "The Ken Caryl Ranch sighting?"

"How'd you guess that?"

"I didn't. I overheard you asking some people about it in the bar on Tuesday. Besides, I'd be surprised if the sightings *didn't* get investigated. Martin Marietta is up there, and they do a lot of defense work. It was a pretty clean sighting, several sherriff's officers saw it too, if I remember that right. There was a MICAP report about it posted on the Net a couple of weeks back by Matt Forest."

"Whoa, wait... what report? You know someone who saw it?"

"Sort of. I don't know him personally, but I know him electronically," she read his blank look and laughed. "You know, e- mail, bulletin boards, the Internet... the President's infamous 'information superhighway?'"

"Actually, no."

She stared at him in surprise. "You mean you're not on-line? I'm amazed! I figured the intelligence community would be all over the net... all that free information on the science groups, the conspiracy groups, the paranormal groups, the Star Trek groups..."

He grinned. "Sounds right up my alley! I guess I'm behind the times, where do you... how does it work?"

"I'm set up for remote access at home... it's all second hand, and it's only a 2400 baud modem so it's kinda slow, but it works. I got it so I could work on my computer courses from home. Why don't you take me home and I'll show you?"

"You live nearby?"

"Well, near is a relative term, but it's only about twenty-minutes from here."

"Hey, where I'm from it takes twenty minutes to go next door! That's close as far as I'm concerned." he picked up the check and stood up. "Come on."

She hesitated, and he lifted his eyebrows. "What?"

She sighed. "Oh, nothing. I guess really don't need one."

"One?" he prompted

"They make incredible sopapillas here..."

"Incredible what?"

She grinned. "Sopapillas. Sit back down. If you've never had one, you've led a deprived life. It won't kill you to wait a few more minutes to be introduced to life in the e-lane."

He sat back down. Gemma waved the waitress over and ordered.

####

"Okay, you were right. They were incredible," Fox checked his rearview mirror and slowed for a left into the small, neatly-kept trailer park Gemma had indicated.

She grinned. "I told you so. Mexican doughnuts. No nutritional value whatsoever."

"I like my food that way."

She laughed. "Then we have something in common. Okay, turn there, and go all the way to the end of the row. It's the last one"

He turned the only way possible and drove slowly, avoiding the occasional squirrel meandering across the road, and rolled to a stop in front of a white trailer with slate trim. He read the name on the mailbox.

"G. Birdsong? Is that you?"

It dawned on her that until that moment he hadn't known her full name, and felt embarrassed. "Yes, Gemma Birdsong."

"Native American?" he guessed.

She laughed, shaking her head. "A little bit, along with just about everything else under the sun, though that's not where the name came from. It was Vogelsang when my great-grandparents on my father's side emigrated, and the clerk at Ellis Island translated it."

"A common enough event," he reached over and tugged gently on a strand of her hair. "And here I thought I'd found the explanation for the exotic features, not to mention the hair."

"Ah, that's a combination of things."

"None of which came out of a box, I noticed."

It took her a moment, but she got it, and blushed. "Fox!"

He grinned. "Sorry, couldn't resist. You were saying?"

"My hair... on my mother's side I'm Chinese, Hispanic, Greek and Cheyenne."

"Good god! You weren't kidding about everything under the sun, were you?"

"Nope. Well, come on, time to go virtual."

She opened the car door and got out. As she did a small black woman with beaded braids flew down the steps of the trailer next door and grabbed her by the shoulders.

"Gemma! Oh, thank god, you're all right!"

Startled, Gemma patted her neighbor on the back reassuringly. "Well of course I am, Beulah! Why wouldn't I be?"

Beulah bit her lip. "Oh, hon, your place..."

Suddenly afraid, Gemma looked at her door and registered the yellow plastic tape printed with the words "Do Not Enter" across it. She suddenly felt weak-kneed. "Oh no... Goddess, no... what happened?"

"Someone broke in last night and tore it up good... I heard the noise and called the police, but by the time they got here he was gone. When you didn't come home last night I was afraid you'd been kidnapped or something! I'm so glad to see you I could cry!"

"No, I'm okay, I spent the night with..." she hesitated and glanced at Fox, just getting out of the car. "... a friend."

Beulah followed her gaze, and smiled appreciatively. "Nice."

"Yeah," Gemma agreed, then turned and took a step toward her stairs. "Is it okay for *me* to go in, or does that sign include me too?"

"I don't know, hon. They didn't say."

Gemma stared at the door as Fox joined them, looking curiously from her to Beulah.

"Is something wrong?"

"Beulah says someone broke in last night and wrecked my place!"

His eyes narrowed as he looked at the tape that barred entry, then back at Gemma. "Does Carl know where you live?" he asked quietly.

She stared at him, feeling herself turn pale as his implication sank in. It was an odd feeling. She nodded slowly. "Yes. My address is on my application."

He swore, shaking his head. "He came after you... I don't believe it! He actually came after you!" he turned to Beulah. "Did the investigating officers leave a card? I want to talk to them."

Beulah nodded. "They did, I have it on my counter. Come on over, you can use my phone."

Gemma resisted. "No, I want to see what he did!"

Beulah shook her head, her beads clicking noisily, and took Gemma's arm. "No hon, you don't. Not right now. Come on to my place now."

Fox nodded. "She's right, we need to make sure they've completed their investigation before we go in."

Gemma shook her head, pulling her arm from Beulah's grasp. "Damnit, it's *my* house! I want to see it!"

Fox touched her shoulder lightly, and shook his head. "I know, you do, and you'll get in soon. We just need to be sure it's okay. You wouldn't want to accidently disturb something they might be able to use to convict him, would you?"

He made sense, and she knew it. Angrily she wiped her eyes and nodded. "Alright, I'll come."

####

An hour later she finally got to enter her house. It was a shambles. Furniture overturned, dishes broken, books thrown all around, the monitor on her computer smashed in... but nothing was missing. It was obvious that the motive had been vandalism, not theft. She picked up a broken statuette, a mother Goddess she'd been given by a friend, and stared at it blindly until Fox came up behind her and put his hands gently over her shoulders.

"Gemma, come on, let it go, it's just stuff, and your insurance should cover the broken things, right? You need to let it go."

She turned on him angrily. "Don't tell me what I *need*!"

He let go instantly and stepped back, holding his hands up, palm out in a gesture of conciliation. "Sorry, bad choice of words. I'm... I just want to help."

She bit her lip and sighed, shaking her head. "Oh, Lady... I'm sorry. It's not your fault, but it just makes me so mad! It so... so... damn *male*!"

He looked at her silently for a moment and she made a face. "I know, I'm generalizing, and I shouldn't... but what the hell makes him think he has the right to do this to my stuff?"

"The same thing that makes him think he has the right to do it to you, which he would have if you'd been here last night. However, try to keep in mind that stupidity has no gender."

She was torn between laughing at his observation, and the realization that he was right... if she'd been home Carl would have had her. She shivered.

"They said they found fingerprints, right?"

"Don't get your hopes up, most of them probably belong to you, or your friends."

She nodded, and sighed. "I know," she looked around, feeling helpless. "Goddess, it's such a mess... I don't know where to start."

He looked at her curiously. "You use the oddest epithets, you know."

She smiled. "I know," she waited a moment, then smiled. "So... you want to know *why*?"

He nodded.

"I'm Wiccan. You probably don't know what that is, right?"

"Wrong. Wicca is an earth-based religion whose primary deity is female, correct?"

"Close enough. That's very good, by the way. Most law- enforcement types still think we're Satanists."

"Most law-enforcement types never bothered to read up on the subject. I have. When you do psychological profiles of killers for a living, understanding what differentiates a cult from a religion is important. Interesting, I don't think I've ever met a Wiccan in person before."

"You probably have, you just don't know it. There are a lot of us, but we tend to stay in the woodwork... too many people just don't, or won't accept us."

"Yeah, I can see that it could be a problem."

She nodded. With a sigh she picked up three books and put them on the bookshelf, straightened a chair, and put the cushions back on the couch. That took her close to her desk, and she stood staring at her ruined monitor for a moment.

"I guess I'm not going to be able to show you how to use the net after all. I'm sorry."

"No, don't be. I'm sorry this happened... I feel as if it's my fault."

She looked up, surprised. "Why?"

"Because I precipitated it... that was pretty obvious."

Gemma shook her head. "No, not really. It would have happened sooner or later. Carl's been after me since I started working there, and he's been getting more and more aggressive about it lately. It wasn't your fault any more than it was mine. The only person at fault here is Carl. Are you going to get in trouble?"

"What for?"

"You told the officers about using your gun to make Carl back off last night, will you get reprimanded or something?" She knelt and began to pick up scattered papers from the floor.

"Oh, that. No, they agreed the situation called for intervention."

She felt relieved. "Good, I wouldn't want to get you in trouble. Speaking of which... aren't you supposed to be working or something? You don't need to hang around here and watch me clean."

When he didn't reply for a moment, she looked up to find him watching her with a troubled expression. "Something wrong?" she prompted.

"I don't feel right leaving you alone here. He could come back."

She clenched her fists. "You would have to point that out."

"I'm sorry... I can't help it. I make my living thinking of possibilities like that."

She nodded. "I understand, but I don't have to like it."

"Look, you're right, I have things I need to be doing, but I don't feel like I can leave you alone here. Would you be willing to come with me while I work?"

She looked at him for a long moment, then shook her head. "Fox, you won't be here forever. Sooner or later you'll have leave."

His mouth tightened. "Hopefully by the time I have to leave they'll have arrested him, so I won't have to keep worrying about what he might do to you. Humor me, please?"

"I'm just supposed to ride around with you and get in the way, is that it?"

"Well, not exactly," he said with obvious amusement. "Maybe you can still help me... I'm used to working with a partner, but she's on vacation right now and I'm on my own."

"She?"

He grinned. "We're very progressive at the Bureau."

"So I see. I'm impressed."

"You should be, she's very good."

"I don't see how I'm going to be of any use to you, it's not like I know how to do... what you do."

"Well, for starters I'd still like to be able to see that report you were talking about, and maybe talk to the person who wrote it. Is there any way to get it without your computer?"

"Sure, all I need is a computer equipped with a modem, though a printer would be handy too if you need hard copy."

"Can I use your phone? I left mine at my hotel... my first hotel."

She looked around. "If I can find it..." she crawled under her desk to find where the phone cord plugged into the outlet, and started pulling on it. Halfway across the room a pile of books moved. "There it is," she backed out from beneath the furniture and sat up to find him regarding her with a broad grin.

"What? Have I got something on my face?"

"No, but for future reference you probably shouldn't crawl around on your hands and knees in that skirt."

She laughed ruefully. "I forgot what I was wearing... sorry."

"Oh, don't be... not at all," his expression nearly took her breath away, reminding her forcefully of how he'd felt against her, inside her... She blushed and handed him the phone.

"Speaking my clothes, I want to get out of these, I'm going to go and change."

He nodded, digging in his pocket for something. She picked her way through the mess to the narrow hallway that led to the bedroom. Thankfully the hall was clear of debris, and when she opened the door to her room she was relieved to see that it hadn't been torn apart like the living room. Quickly she undressed, then lingered a moment over what to wear, finally opting for the dark peach sandwashed-silk shirt she'd splurged on a couple of months earlier, and her black Indian gauze skirt with mirror-spangles embroidered around the hem. She didn't bother with a bra, and the silk felt very sensuous against her skin, reminding her again of that morning. This time, alone, she let herself remember, which soon had her wishing he'd put the phone down and come in. After a minute she laughed at herself, and sat down on the bed to tie the laces of her sandals.

As she pushed herself upright, her hand brushed something, and she looked down to see what it was. A patch of some dry, whitish stuff was crusted on her bedspread. She stared at it, trying to figure out what might have caused it, then felt nauseated as she realized what it was. Jumping up she ran to the bathroom and washed her hands repeatedly, shaking with anger and revulsion. To her disgust she realized she was crying again.

Fox must have heard her, because he was there suddenly, drawing her against him in an embrace she found immensely comforting. She put her arms around him, getting water all over his suit, and hid her face against his chest, gulping air, trying to calm down.

"Hey, come on, it'll be all right. Don't let it get to you."

"He..." she started, then her voice broke. She tried again. "He... on the bed..."

Fox looked down the hall toward her bedroom, scowling, and pulled away to go and look. A moment later he was back.

"Don't be too upset about it, sweetheart. Yes, it's disgusting, but it might also be exactly what we needed because they can run a DNA match on it. I'll call Detective Delano and tell him what we found."

For some reason it struck her as funny. Carl, convicted by his own bodily fluids! She laughed, and Fox grinned.

"That's better. I've arranged for you to be able to use a computer at the Denver main office, we can go there as soon as you're ready."

She nodded. "I'll be out in a minute."

She rinsed her face with cold water, debated putting on makeup, and decided against it. Why start now? Closing the door, she used the facility for its intended purpose, washed her hands yet again, and then joined him in the living room.

"Do you have an overnight bag?"

"Yes, why?"

"I'd like you to stay with me tonight."

She instinctively started to demur, then stopped. She *wanted* to stay with him, why pretend otherwise?

"Okay, I'll just be a minute."

The look of surprise on his face almost made her laugh as she braved the bedroom again to throw some clothes into her bag. He'd obviously expected a fight.

####

"So, this is the Denver office of the FBI?" Gemma asked, looking around with interest.

"Impressive, isn't it?" Fox said, deadpan.

She grinned. "If you like government interior decorating."

"You think this is good, you should see *my* office."

"Oooh, I'll bet it's exciting!"

"Absolutely! The best basement in Washington."

"Basement, eh? So that's how you keep your lovely pallor?"

"Hey, don't get personal!"

She laughed. "But I like it, it's so... luminous."

"Luminous? Geez, I *glow*? I think I'll buy a membership to a tanning spa."

"Don't. You'll ruin your skin."

"I know. So, have you got everything you need?"

She looked at the computer in front of her and nodded. "I think so. You're sure..." she paused and read the nameplate on the desk. "...Agent Jamison doesn't mind me using his computer?"

"I'm sure. I bribed him."

"With what?"

"I told him you'd try to find a lost file for him."

She lifted an eyebrow. "You promised him *I* would do it? You're pretty generous with my favors there, bud."

"Hey, I only said you'd try, I didn't say you'd do it!"

"Well... okay. This time."

Amazingly, Gemma was able to get a line on the first try. Within minutes she had printed out the file containing the sighting report, and contacted the person who had written it requesting an interview. That done, she took Fox on a brief tour of the newsgroups she thought he might find interesting. He did. By the time he'd finished reading all the articles that had caught his attention, almost an hour had passed, and an answer from Matt Forest had arrived on her e-mail. He would be happy to be interviewed, but he lived in Fort Collins. They agreed to meet in Boulder, which was almost equidistant for both parties. After she logged off she managed to find the lost file, which had been saved under a considerably misspelled version of what it's creator *thought* he'd named it.

Agent Jamison reclaimed his computer, and she found an empty desk to sit at while she watched Fox talk shop with some of the local agents and wished she'd brought something to do. She was getting bored. She started to daydream, and found herself getting a little flushed. She hadn't intended to continually replay the morning's events, but it was nearly impossible to resist doing so. For distraction she began doodling on a blank notepad, absently sketching trees, a creek, a large rock, something under a tree that looked like a shoebox. The next shape to flow from the pencil disturbed her. It looked almost like a skeletal hand. She shivered, wondering what dark corner of her subconscious that had come from. She tore off the page and was about to throw it in the trash when someone reached over her shoulder and picked it up.

"Where did you get this?"

She looked up to find a fortyish, dark-haired man staring at the sketch with narrowed eyes.

"I drew it, just now, why?"

He didn't answer, instead he looked over at the trio of men with Fox. "Hey, Don, come over here."

One of the men looked up and nodded, then crossed to where she sat.

"Look at this." The first man handed her sketch to the second.

He studied it for a moment, and his eyebrows lifted. "Where'd you find it?"

"She says she drew it."

Both of them looked at her suspiciously. "Why'd you go in the conference room?"

"I didn't. I've just been sitting here, waiting for Fox... Agent Mulder, I mean."

"Then how did you see the photos?" the first man asked.

"What photos?"

"And what're these?" the second man asked, pointing at what she'd thought looked like a shoebox, and the skeletal hand.

"I don't know! I was just drawi..." she looked at it again, then up at them, and knew, suddenly. "Oh, shit..."

"What's the matter here? Is something wrong?"

She looked up gratefully as Fox's presence caused them to move away from her a little bit, giving her more space. She bit her lip, and gestured to the drawing.

"I.. ah... I think I just 'found' something."

"Found something? What?"

"I'm not sure yet, maybe a body?" she shuddered. "Ugh, I've never done that before. I didn't mean to... it just happened. Someone must have been thinking about it being lost, and I picked up on it."

She saw the two men she didn't know exchange a meaning-filled glance, then one of them turned to Fox.

"Can we talk to you for a minute... in private?"

"Sure," he touched her shoulder reassuringly and followed them into a room a couple of doors away. She fidgeted nervously until he came out a few minutes later, and walked over to her.

"Have you ever consulted on a criminal investigation before?"

"No, never, why?"

"Because, you may have just started. I think I've managed to convince them you're legit."

"What? What are you talking about?"

"They've been looking for a box, near the site you sketched. You didn't find a body, they already knew about that. What you may have found was the box. They're going to go up and see if they can find it where you sketched it."

She stared at him, "They are? Why would they believe me?"

"Because you're with me, and I have kind of a... reputation."

"For what?"

"You don't want to know. But if we don't get out of here now, we're going to miss our rendezvous with Mr. Forest," he put a hand under her elbow and urged her to her feet, steering her toward the door. "What's the fastest way to get to Boulder from here?"

"Speer Boulevard to I-25, to U.S. 36. What do you mean I don't want to know?" she asked as they headed down the stairs toward the parking lot.

"Well, let me put it this way. Behind my back, they like to call me Spooky."

"Spooky? That's cute."

"It's *not* meant to be endearing," he said severely.

"Oh. I still think it's cute."

"Remember how you told me you hate being called cute?"

"Yeah."

"So do I."

She grinned. "I'll keep that in mind."

####

####

"So, what was your favorite part of Boulder?" Gemma asked, much later, after their meeting, and dinner, and a stroll along the downtown pedestrian mall.

"I don't know... maybe the beer sampler at the Walnut Brewery? I never had raspberry beer before. But then there was the barefoot electronic violinist in the white tuxedo on the mall, it's hard to say which was better. Um.... do you have to drive this fast?"

"Fast?" Gemma glanced over at him, saw he was clutching the armrest and smiled. "Fox, I am not driving fast, I'm barely doing thirty. Don't be such a flatlander."

He swallowed heavily. "Thirty is pretty fast when you're going straight up."

"This is hardly straight up."

"Where exactly are we going again?"

"Just up Flagstaff Mountain road to the amphitheater."

"Why?"

"You can't come to the People's Republic of Boulder and not drive up Flagstaff at night, I think it's against the law or something. Once we're there you'll see why. It's worth it."

"Okay. Mind if I just close my eyes 'til we get there?"

"Go right ahead, just don't fall asleep."

"Not a chance," he said through gritted teeth.

She turned on the radio and fiddled with it for a moment, looking for a station she liked.

"I don't suppose you could keep both hands on the wheel..." Fox asked plaintively.

She laughed and finished tuning the radio, then placed both hands conspicuously on the wheel. He relaxed a little, but not completely until she pulled into a parking spot and set the brake.

"Have we landed?"

"Safe and sound. Come on, it's a bit of a walk from here."

"You didn't say anything about hiking in the dark," he said dubiously.

"It's not a hike, it's a walk, down a gravel road. Come on. You're not getting out of this."

He sighed loudly, but followed gamely along after her. He stopped suddenly when they reached the amphitheater itself and stood at the top of the irregular flagstone steps that led down to the platform-like stage area.

"Wow..."

She stopped, eyes serious in the dim light. "Wait, just wait. Close your eyes, I'll lead you."

She put an arm around his waist and guided him the rest of the way with great care, warning him of every bump and dip along the way. They descended, crossed a flat space, then ascended again before she finally stopped. She turned him carefully, standing behind him with her hands on his shoulders.

"You can open your eyes now."

He did, and gasped. "Incredible!"

For answer she slid her arms around his waist and hugged him from behind. From their vantage point, the lights of nearly every city along the front range spread out like glowing jewels on a necklace as far as the eye could see to the east, north, and south. Behind them the mountains loomed, blocking the view west. A ribbon of moving lights to the south marked the highway they'd driven in on.

"What's that?" he asked, pointing toward a peculiar patch of orangey-pink light glowing in the sky west of the road.

"That? That's the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Facility. Probably what your aliens were here checking out."

Fox chuckled. "Not if they're smart," he peeled her hands from around his waist and drew her around in front of him.

"Thanks for bringing me up here, even if I did have to suffer through the drive up to see it. From the highest point in D.C. you can see all of about three blocks in any given direction... this is staggering."

Gemma found her eyes stinging suspiciously, and smiled.

"I hoped you would like it."

He pulled her close, one hand spread across the small of her back, the other slid beneath her hair and tilted her head so he could kiss her. She slid her arms around his neck and kissed him back eagerly, letting him sway her body into his, feeling his sudden response against her stomach. She rubbed against him, enjoying the feel of him, the smell of him, the taste of him. Somewhere inside a part of her was warning her not to get involved, that there was no future in it, but she ruthlessly ignored it. It didn't matter. Sometimes all that mattered was *now*.

He lifted his mouth from hers and took a deep breath, a shiver rippling through him. His hands gently massaged her hips as he brushed his lips across her hair and sighed.

"Right now I really wish we didn't have a forty-five minute drive ahead of us."

She slid her hands down his chest and hooked her fingers in his belt, leaning into him. "Me too."

"I suppose it's too much to hope that this place stays deserted all night..."

She looked up at him, eyes wide. Could he possibly mean what she thought he meant? The intensity of his gaze told her he did. She shivered and blushed.

"A lot of people come up here at night..."

"Here, precisely?"

"The best view is from the stage."

"How about there?" he nodded toward the stone benches at the very back of the amphitheater where the shadows were lush. Her heart started to beat a little faster.

"Well, no, not there."

He took her hand and drew her into the eclipse, leading her to the where the darkness was thickest before he picked her up and lay her back on one of the benches. She let her feet rest on the ground on either side of the bench, open, as he lifted her skirt in handfuls to bare her legs. He pressed a line of kisses along her inner thigh, then lifted his head.

"Your skirt is full of stars..." he murmured.

She touched one of the mirror spangles and smiled. "So it is."

He moved forward and kissed her again, his tongue sliding over the sensitive inner surfaces of her mouth, tasting her unrestrained response. His hands slid beneath her skirt again, traced the right leg opening of her panties from between her thighs to her hip, until his hands closed around the fabric on either side of the seam. He made a quick, powerful movement and she felt and heard the seam give way. She shuddered and grabbed his head, pulling him down so she could kiss him wildly, tongues twining, teeth clashing. A moment later she felt him tear the seam on the other side and lifted her hips so he could remove them.

His fingers were shaking as he touched the moist warmth of her sex, coaxing a soft cry from her lips. She arched up into his touch, her own hands searching, finding, opening. She slid her hands beneath the soft cotton of his boxers to find the silky heat of his hard male flesh. She took a moment to touch him, delighting in his gasp of excitement as she caressed him. Lifting one knee she braced her foot against the bench to try to bring him down to her, and suddenly realized the bench was too narrow to really function as it needed to. A moment's thought presented an alternative. She sat up and patted the bench.

"Fox, sit down."

"Why?"

"Just do it."

He grinned, but sat. Gemma stood up, and straddled his knees, lifting her skirt. She took his hands and put them on her hips to hold the fabric out of the way and used her own hands to free him from his clothing, then eased herself down, her fingers guiding him. His head fell back as she took him into her, a soft moan breaking from his lips, his fingers digging into her hips. She leaned down to kiss him, licking softly at his lips and tongue as she rocked above him, making little sounds of pleasure. He let her skirt fall once he was fully contained within her, and the breeze ruffled it around their legs, concealing them even from the night. She lifted her mouth from his and leaned back, hooking her fingers over his shoulders as an anchor, riding him.

"Gemma... god, you feel so good..." he whispered, his fingers slipping the buttons on her blouse from their buttonholes so he could spread it open. His lips were warm and the night air cool, the contrast made her shiver. When he lifted his head the moisture his tongue had left on her skin became cold as the wind touched it. He repeated the caress on her other breast, drew back a moment, waiting. then touched his tongue to one taut nipple again. This time his mouth felt hot in contrast to her chilled skin. She whimpered, grinding her hips down against him as a wave of pleasure spread outward from where their bodies joined.

He put his arms around her and drew her close, his mouth just below her ear.

"Shhh... I think we have company..." he whispered.

Still dizzy with release, it took her a moment to understand what he'd said. It wasn't until she heard voices that it sank in. She stiffened, listening intently. Several voices... both male and female. She didn't move, frozen in place, as the newcomers navigated the steps only a hundred feet away. She could make out five people . They walked up to the stage and stood looking out over the valley, exclaiming over the view. A hot blush suffused her and she trembled, trying to remain still despite his strong, insistent presence within her, terrified of discovery.

"Don't make a sound and they won't even know we're here," Fox whispered against her ear.

She nodded silently. Suddenly she felt his fingers slide beneath the crumpled fabric of her skirt and move across her thigh, into the damp curls, then into the crease between her legs, over slick, heated flesh; touching the supersensitive bud of her clitoris. She bit her lip to keep from crying out as he moved his hand slowly, gently, stimulating her unbearably. She moved reflexively, then froze again, but couldn't keep still for long. As he continued to torment her she started to shift against him in tiny undulations.

Afraid of giving away their presence, she couldn't protest, or moan, or make any of the sounds she wanted to make... needed to make. She clenched her teeth as his other hand slipped into her shirt to caress her breasts, and his lips moved softly against her neck, his tongue tracing fiery patterns on her skin. The tension inside her kept building, and building... only to be short-circuited time and again by the fear of discovery. It was the most intense sexual experience she'd ever had, taking her light-years past where she'd normally have given in to the need and found release, yet somehow she couldn't.

She started to shake uncontrollably as the dark figures on the stage began to walk back up toward the parking area. They would notice, surely they would notice... they didn't. Laughing and joking among themselves they passed the entwined couple, oblivious. Soon all that remained of them was the muted sounds they made.

"Now," Fox said softly, urgently. "Now, Gemma."

She gasped, pushing hard against him, clutching at his hips as she took him deep. "Now!"

Pleasure exploded through her, pulsing; fire licking along every nerve, overwhelmingly ecstatic. She keened softly, feeling his hands on her hips again as he moved her on him, extending the stimulus, extending her response as he reached for his own. A moment later he shuddered and sighed, and she knew he'd reached his own fulfillment as well.

She leaned against him, panting, and lifted a hand to brush away the tears she hadn't realized were there until that moment. They sat there in total silence for a long time, until finally Fox broke the quiet.

"That was..." he began; she interrupted.

"Evil... mean, nasty, cruel, heartless, beastly... inhuman!" she finished for him.

He leaned back until he could see her face, and relaxed as he saw her smile.

"You scared me for a minute there."

"I meant to. It's little enough revenge," she shook him slightly. "How could you do that to me?"

"Well I could show you if you want me to..."

She sighed and leaned her forehead against his. "Never mind, it was fantastic. But if you ever do that to me again I'll murder you."

He grinned, his teeth gleaming faintly in the darkness. "Y'know, things described as 'fantastic' aren't usually punishable by death."

"No jury would convict me! I was terrified they'd see us!"

"But they didn't..."

"No thanks to you! I still don't know how I kept quiet!"

"By channeling all that energy into sensation instead."

"I find things, I don't channel," she said drily.

He laughed. "Hey, that's good! It's nice to find someone with a sense of humor."

"Yeah, it is," she tilted her head and kissed him softly on the mouth. He returned it just as softly, a kiss of tender fulfillment instead of desperate passion. Lifting her head a moment later, she sighed.

"I need to move, I'm getting a cramp in my leg."

He nodded, and steadied her as she stood up, and made a face as the inevitable result of lovemaking manifested messily.

"Damn, now I wish I had my panties back," she sighed.

He reached into the pocket of his suit coat and pulled out what she thought at first was a handkerchief, but as he dangled it from his fingers she saw what it was and started to laugh. Her panties... or rather what was left of them.

"Planning on keeping them as a souvenir?" she inquired.

"Thought I'd have 'em bronzed," he returned smoothly.

She giggled and reached for them, putting a foot on the bench. He refused to relinquish them, pulling them out of reach.

"Allow me..." he put his hand beneath her skirt and gently removed the excess moisture, exactly as she'd planned to do. She turned her face away, blushing hotly. None of her lovers had ever done anything so astonishingly intimate for her before.

"Better?" he queried softly.

She whispered her thanks, unable to muster a normal voice, and busied herself buttoning her blouse as he straightened his own clothes.

"Did that embarrass you?" he asked shrewdly after a moment.

"I... yes."

"Why?"

"I... don't know."

"Fair enough, I guess. Ready to go back?"

She nodded. He found her hand and threaded his fingers through hers as they walked.

####

It was late when they got back to his hotel. Gemma was a bit surprised to find it was considerably less plush than the La Quinta they'd occupied the night before. She'd somehow expected him to be staying someplace expensive. Fox laughed when she told him, and reminded her he was on a government expense account. The message light on his phone was glaring redly. He picked up the handset, dialed the desk, and started scribbling notes. She used the bathroom and got ready for bed, feeling oddly nervous. Despite their having made love, it felt peculiar to be getting ready to sleep with him... more familiar than she was completely comfortable with. But this room had only one bed, so there was no question about sharing a bed. It was a given.

Taking a deep breath she opened the bathroom door and spent a moment hanging up her clothes before she turned toward him. He was sitting at the table now, still writing. He looked up as she walked toward the bed and smiled welcomingly. Something was different about him... glasses! He was wearing glasses. On him they were sexy. What a peculiar concept.

"Guess what?"

"What?"

"You were dead-on. They found the box buried about six inches down, exactly where you sketched it. They're impressed. Oh, and Agent Jamison said you saved him a month's work by finding that file, and he wants to have your baby."

He said it so deadpan she didn't even realize what he'd said for several seconds. When it finally sank in she started to laugh helplessly and had to sit down on the bed because she couldn't breathe. He grinned, waiting for her to control herself. She finally managed it and shook her head.

"Tell him thanks, but no thanks. The last thing I need right now is another mouth to feed."

He gazed at her searchingly, the smile gone, the instant changeability of his emotions taking her by surprise.

"You're really in financial difficulties?"

She sighed, not really wanting to get into it, but knowing he wouldn't let it go. He was as tenacious as a terrier! "Not yet, but I'm certainly not going to go back to work at the Hi-Lo, so it's back to looking for a job. Not my favorite thing. I have a little in savings, but that goes pretty quick when there's nothing coming in."

He looked at her thoughtfully, tapping his pen against his lips.

"Their receptionist is moving to Texas."

"Hunh?" she blinked at his non-sequitur.

"Agent Chavez mentioned that their receptionist is moving to Texas in two weeks. They haven't hired a replacement. Ever do any clerical work?"

"Are you serious?"

"Of course I am. It's partly my fault you're out of work. If you hadn't tried to help me you'd probably be fine. You haven't answered my question."

"I've done everything from flipping burgers at McDonalds to the front desk of a law office. You could say I've done clerical work, yes."

"Ever take the GS test?"

"What's that?" her question effectively answered his.

"The Government Service exam. Tomorrow I'll find out for you when the next one is scheduled. Until then, maybe they can hire you as a temp."

"Why would they want to hire me? They don't know anything about me!"

He grinned. "They'd want to hire you because Agent Jamison is their agent-in-charge, that's why. Plus you just gave them invaluable assistance on a stalled investigation. They might occasionally ask you to 'find' things, though. Would that be a problem?"

"I... don't know, I never thought of it as a job skill before," she shook her head, confused and tired. The past two days had been rough... emotions running at unaccustomed levels, and her routines shot to hell. She sighed, shaking her head. "It's too late for this, I need sleep."

He didn't argue with her, letting the subject drop.

"Can you sleep if this light is on? I have some work to do before I turn in."

"I think so," she yawned widely. "In fact, I'm sure of it."

Gemma turned back the covers and slipped into the bed, running her bare feet over the sheets, relishing the feel of their clean crispness against her skin. With a sigh she relaxed back, letting the bed take her weight, trying to decide how she wanted to sleep. After a moment she turned onto her side facing away from the light, and slid an arm beneath her pillow. Before she could reach for the covers to pull them up, he was there doing it for her. She smiled as he covered her, making sure she was comfortably tucked beneath them.

"You're awfully sweet, Fox. How come you're not taken?"

He leaned down and kissed her forehead, then stood up with a sigh, his face oddly shadowed. "I am."

Instinctively she knew he wasn't talking about a woman. Something else possessed him, something infinitely more complex. She wanted to comfort him, but knew he wouldn't let her.

"Maybe someday it'll let you go."

"Maybe," he didn't sound as if he thought it was much of a possibility. "...someday."

She reached out and touched his fingers with hers, just to let him know he wasn't alone. He smiled.

"Go to sleep now."

She nodded and drew her hand back under the covers, content.

####

She'd been wrong the night before, Gemma thought, curled around Fox's warmth like a cat. She could get used to sleeping with him, it was seductively comfortable. She wondered what time he'd finally come to bed. It must have been late, because she'd been awake for at least half an hour, just savoring the presence of him, and he'd shown no signs at all of waking. She lifted her head and looked over his shoulder at the clock on the nightstand. Nine-thirty. She wasn't sure, but she suspected he was normally up much earlier than this.

She remembered waking up the previous morning with his hand between her thighs... just thinking about it roused an insistent warmth low in her belly. He was a damned good lover, almost too good. He made her forget everything but what she was feeling. She had been almost passive each time, letting him pleasure her, and doing next to nothing to return the favor. Once he got started, her ability to think rationally seemed to disappear. She smiled wickedly. Well... this time, she'd get started first, and see who stayed rational.

Easing away, Gemma carefully lifted the covers off him and folded them to the bottom of the bed, exposing the entire splendid length of him as he lay on his side, knees drawn up slightly. He frowned a little in his sleep as his body registered the change in temperature, but didn't wake. She nuzzled the back of his neck, and licked the delectable spot behind his ear that somehow cried out for attention. He shivered, and curled up a bit tighter. Grinning, she let her fingers play up and down his long, muscular thighs; over the firm, shallow curves of his buttocks; over the little indentations below his hips. He was sparsely furred, she could actually feel the warm satin of his skin beneath her fingers, rather than a mat of wiry hair.

Turning, she rubbed her lips over his hip, then her teeth, then her tongue, loving the way he tasted, the way he smelled. He shifted restlessly, turning onto his back, which was just as well, since it made it easier for her to reach him. She knelt beside him and leaned down to kiss the hollow of his throat, then the ridge of his collarbone, then the flat, coin-like circle of one nipple. Though his head moved on the pillow, his breathing was still deep, and even. She circled his other nipple with a dampened fingertip while she kissed the first again, openmouthed. He made a sound, almost a purr. She trailed her tongue across to the base of his sternum, then down an imaginary longitude line running the length of his torso; past the dip of his navel, over the flat plane of his stomach, into the silky curls that surrounded his half-erect penis. His mind might not be awake, but his body was well on the way to being so.

For the time being she bypassed his sex and moved to the sensitive skin of his inner thighs, using her teeth lightly. His muscles tensed slightly... he was definitely waking up now, she could hear the change in his breathing too. Determined to wake him as pleasurably as he had woken her the day before, she nudged his thighs apart and lay between them, lowering her head to brush hot, soft kisses all over his thighs and belly, easing ever closer to her goal. She could feel the tempo of his heartbeat against her lips, not so slow now. He moaned faintly, half-waking, half-sleeping, completely hers. Her fingers found the heavy fullness below his sex, petting, stroking. He shifted, curving up into her touch, asking for more...

She gave it. Brushing her lips down the hot, rigid length of his shaft, she traced her tongue along the slight indentation that ran the length of him on the way back up, then took him into the moist warmth of her mouth.

He moaned, suddenly fully awake, in every sense of the word. His hands lifted toward her, as if uncertain whether to pull her away or urge her closer, then fell limp to the bed as she suckled him, causing him to lift instinctively into the pleasure she gave. His fingers clutched and released the sheet beneath him as he fought for control, and lost.

"Gem... Gemma... ah god, woman you're killing me..."

She lifted her head for a breath, smiling, her fingers taking over the rhythm instead. "Only a little."

She lowered her head again, fingers, lips, tongue all working to reduce him to a shuddering heap of sensation. His breath caught on a sob as her teeth grazed him lightly.

"Yeah, oh... yeah."

This was fun! She could feel herself growing slick with passion as his pleasure stirred hers. She wanted him. Oh goddess, she wanted him, deep inside, easing the burgeoning ache there... but that would be giving in to her own greed, She resisted, and set up a strong cadence, her own body moving against the bed in the same tempo. His hands lifted, fingers sliding into the thick softness of her hair, caressing, following, but not shoving her down onto him like some men had in the past. She felt the tension in him growing, felt the distinctive response that heralded a man's release, he was almost there, right at the edge.

"Gemma..." he rasped. "I want to be inside you."

She lifted her head. "You'd rather that, than this?" she asked, swirling her tongue around the blunt tip, down the side of him, back up again. He gasped, panting, unable to answer for a moment before he found his voice.

"Want to... please you too."

"You are," she whispered, and lowered her head again. Before she could take him in again, he moved suddenly, his hands beneath her arms as he pulled her roughly up his length. She gasped in surprise, and his mouth closed over hers, tongue driving in, licking, caressing. He turned with her in his arms, so she was below him, his knee between her legs. For a moment she yielded, rubbing herself on his thigh, opening to let him in, then she remembered that wasn't what she'd been planning and her stubborn streak manifested. She managed to squirm away and grabbed his hips, laughing as she pushed him over and bent toward him again.

He laughed too, low, and sensual, as he twined his legs around hers and flipped her onto her stomach. She got to her knees to turn over again, but he slid one arm around her waist and the other across her chest just below her breasts, and drew her tight against him instead. She stilled suddenly as a wave of pure desire swept her. What did it matter who was where, as long as they were both satisfied? She leaned back against him, signalling her surrender. His arms loosened around her, moved, his hands cupping her breasts, teasing her aching nipples. He began to kiss her neck and shoulders, his hips moving against hers, the hard length of his erection pressed against the soft curves of her rear. She wanted him so badly she could almost feel him opening her, sliding inside... she leaned forward, bracing her hands against the wall, and shifted her thighs wider apart.

He didn't need asking. His fingers moved between her thighs, parting her, stroking, teasing, until she thought she might die of wanting him, then finally he was entering her. She sighed in pleasure as he started to move, slow, languid strokes that filled her to perfection. She shook her head, he'd done it to her again. She was taking, not giving. Before she could really dwell on it he shifted one knee forward slightly and his hands moved down to hold her, pulling her back against him as his tempo changed, hardened. His urgency was contagious. She pushed against him, taking him deep, rolling her hips, arching as she felt the heat rising, intensifying... then it was there, flooding over her in surging breakers.

It wasn't until he eased them down to the welcome support of the bed she that realized they'd finished together. His breathing was gradually slowing, like her own, their bodies slick with sweat where they were pressed tight together, still one. He nuzzled her hair out of the way and rubbed his cheek against the back of her neck, sighing. She heard him take a breath to speak, but before he could do so a shrill beeping sound startled them both into tense awareness. He gently drew away and kissed her on the shoulder as he rolled to his feet and grabbed something out of his briefcase on the table.

"Mulder... yeah," she realized it was a cellular phone and relaxed. Eyes closed, body slowly cooling, she half-listened as he spoke to someone on the other end, just letting the rough velvet texture of his voice flow over her.

"No, damn it! Where? About what time? No, that's alright. Yes, I will. You have? Give me the flight information..." he grabbed a legal pad off the table and scribbled something on it. "Okay, I'll be there. Thanks, Scully."

She tensed, knowing what was coming. It was obvious. He thumbed the phone off and ran a hand through his hair, then lifted shadowed eyes to her.

"I have to go back to D.C. right away."

She nodded and sat up. It had only been a matter of time. For some reason it was easier to deal with the actuality of his leaving than with the anticipation of it.

"I'll get dressed. I can take the bus home."

"No, I don't want you going back there alone. He could still..."

The room phone rang, interrupting him. With a look of intense frustration he grabbed it.

"Mulder," he said, his voice crisper this time, more authoritative. There was a moment's quiet as he listened to the caller, when he spoke again he sounded shocked. "You're kidding! Last night? How? That's unbelievable... thanks. I really appreciate the call."

He set the phone down and turned to her again.

"You're never going to believe this..."

"What?"

"Carl Coby's not going to be bothering you any more."

"Did they catch him?"

"Not exactly.... He got drunk last night and plowed his car into a median barrier. He's dead."

It took a moment to sink in. When it did she felt the blood drain from her face, and was glad she was sitting down.

"Dead?"

He nodded and moved to sit beside her. "You okay?"

"I... I... yeah, but... dead? I never wanted him dead... I just wanted him to leave me alone!" her eyes filled with tears despite the fact that Carl had tried to hurt her. He'd been alive, and now he wasn't.

Fox put his arms around her and held her gently "I know you didn't. It just happened, Gemma, don't blame yourself. It had nothing to do with you."

"I know, I know, but somehow it feels like it must have..."

"Just think of it as karma."

She was silent for a moment, considering, then she nodded. "The law of threefold returns. Whatever you do will return to you threefold, whether for good, or ill."

"Hey, I like that... that's better than the golden rule."

"I always thought so."

His hand stroked her hair softly, comfortingly, and they sat there for awhile in silence. Finally he drew back. "Why don't you shower first? I have a couple of phone calls to make."

"Sure, thanks," she picked up her overnight bag as he retrieved his cell-phone and started to dial. She watched him a moment, smiling at the incongruity of him conducting business utterly naked, and slipped into the bathroom to shower and change.

####

Gemma looked at the clock and sighed, turning off the television. Ten minutes after midnight, and like Cinderella, she was missing a certain handsome prince. Silly girl. She'd known what kind of a relationship it would be right from the start, she'd harbored no illusions, but still, she missed him. Missed his dry humor, his chameleon emotions, the hard warmth of his body.... She took a last sip of the burgundy she'd poured an hour earlier, and stood to put the empty glass in the sink, looking around the room. She almost couldn't tell it had been ransacked a day earlier. Only her broken monitor remained mutely accusing. If not for that she could almost believe she'd dreamed it all. That, and the agreeable ache low in her body that reminded her she'd been well pleasured more times in the past two days than she had in her life. She was definitely going to miss him. They hadn't spent enough time together to see if they were really compatible any way but sexually, but that had been spectacular. She yawned and headed back toward her room, unbuttoning her blouse, tugging it out of her jeans.

She still couldn't quite believe it. No more waiting tables in a dingy redneck bar and going home black and blue with pinch-marks. She was starting temp work for the very grateful Agent Jamison on Monday, and was scheduled to take the government service exam in three weeks. Those were the phone calls he'd made while she showered that morning. She still felt vaguely as if she'd gotten the job a bit nepotistically... but then, there was no guarantee that she'd pass the test or get hired permanently. And it wasn't like she couldn't do the work. She'd also found out that they'd pay part of her tuition if she got on full-time, which was beyond anything she could have expected.

She washed her face, brushed her teeth, and pulled on an old oversized tee-shirt to sleep in. As she turned back the brand new comforter she'd bought earlier in the day the phone rang, startling her badly. Who would be calling her after midnight? The only calls people ever got after midnight were pranks and emergencies. Gingerly she picked up the handset.

"Hello?"

There was a tiny pause, then; "Hi," even the cheap phone couldn't disguise rough silk of that voice.

For a moment she couldn't speak, she was too surprised. "Fox?" she finally managed. He sounded tired.

"Congratulations, you got it on the first try. Did I wake you?"

"No, no I was just getting ready to go to bed."

"Good."

"Where are you?"

"Um... jus' a sec..." there was a rustling noise, then he was back. "The Hide-Inn-Seek, someplace in upstate New York... I'm afraid I've forgotten the name of the town."

She laughed. Leave it to him to take her literally. "Fox, it's after two in the morning there!"

He sighed. "Tell me about it, I just got in."

"Poor baby, long day, hunh."

"Very."

"Is... is everything okay?"

"Yeah, I just..." he paused, and laughed softly. "I just wanted to say goodnight."

She smiled mistily. "Goodnight?"

"Yeah, I was thinking about you."

"I was thinking about you. But you should be in bed."

"I am. I plan on dreaming of this morning, myself."

Her fingers itched to touch him. "Me too."

"Good, see you there. Sweet dreams."

There was a soft click, then dial tone. She stared at the phone for a moment, then put it down, still smiling, and turned out the light.


Standing outside the ugly, 1960's-vintage building, staring up at it, Gemma found herself wondering if they gave tours. She smiled to herself. Even if they did, what would she do, ask the tour guide where the basement was? Right. Still, she had a legitimate excuse for being there. She shifted the redrope file-pocket she carried and walked purposefully through the front doors. Metal detectors flanked the entrance. She walked through them without pausing, knowing she wouldn't set them off, and she didn't. She paused a moment and looked around until she spotted what looked like an information desk. She walked over toward it, feeling a breathless kind of tension in her throat. She knew exactly why she was feeling that way, she was nervous, with an undercurrent of repressed desire that made her feel even more tense. She knew she wasn't going to see him, but she couldn't help thinking about it anyway. It had been nearly a year since he'd leaned across the seat in the rental car to kiss her goodbye, though only two weeks since they'd last spoken. He still called her frequently, every couple of weeks, just to talk. She loved that, she had never expected to see or hear from him again, but he'd kept in touch. However, in all that time, neither of them had ever spoken of trying to get together again, so that was the font from which a good portion of her nervousness sprang. She didn't know how he would feel about her suddenly showing up on his doorstep. She was torn between trying to see him again, and just letting the sleeping dog... or Fox... lie. Taking a deep breath she smiled at the older woman behind the desk.

"Hi, I'm Gemma Birdsong from the Denver office, I have a delivery for Agent Fox Mulder."

"I can take that," the woman held out her hand, nails polished in a subtle shade of taupe.

Gemma hesitated a moment, and the woman smiled at her reassuringly.

"I'll see that he gets it right away, dear, don't worry."

With a sigh Gemma relinquished the file-pocket, grudgingly resigning herself to the fact that this was as close to him as she was going to get. So close, and yet so far. "Thank you," she said, though she'd far rather have said something snippy. She turned and walked out, past the metal detectors again. A wild thought came to her that perhaps she ought to go buy a knife and try to walk in with it in her purse, just to attract attention... and she laughed softly at her own silliness. The day was lovely, warm and springy, the cherry trees were in bloom, and the Air and Space museum beckoned. There was no reason to waste her entire vacation hanging around in front of the J. Edgar Hoover building waiting for someone who might not even be there at the moment. Glad she had resisted the urge to wear a pair of high-heels, she took off for the Mall with its flanking museums.


Even without high-heels, spending the day museum-hopping had taken a toll on her feet. By the time Gemma took the Metro and a bus back to her hotel it wa well after eight in the evening, and all she wanted to do was soak her feet in a hot bath, and order something from room service to make up a little bit for her disappointment. She picked up the phone and ordered a hot fudge sundae, then went to the bathroom and started the tub filling. She sat down and took off her shoes, then peeled off her pantyhose. She rarely wore the damned things, and wouldn't have today except that she'd wanted to look nice, just in case. As far as she was concerned pantyhose had been designed for the sole purpose of being worn over the faces of bank robbers.

Though it was still early in the spring, the day had been extremely humid, and she felt damp and sticky all over. She slid her underwear off, kicked them across the room, and lifted her skirt to stand in front of the air-conditioner and let it evaporate some of the sweat from between her thighs. After a moment she let her skirt fall back into place and went to go check the water in the tub. As adjusted the flow more toward the hot side she heard a knock at the door. Her ice cream. She scrabbled in her purse for her wallet, dug out the smallest bill she had, which unfortunately was a twenty, and opened the door, holding it out.

"Here you g..." she stopped, staring, as he took the bill from her fingers and lifted an eyebrow at her.

"I'm, flattered, really, but you don't have to pay me, you know."

Her mouth went dry, and she gasped. "Fox!"

He winced. "I keep meaning to talk to you about that..."

"How... how did you find me?"

He grinned. "That's my job, ma'am."

She felt foolish. Of course he had dozens of ways of tracking her whereabouts. But still...

"But how did you know to look?"

"The file you dropped off this morning. Terry said it was hand- delivered by someone from the Denver office. That made me curious so I asked who had brought it. She'd forgotten your name, but not what you looked like, and I knew it had to be you. Why didn't you tell me you were going to be in town?"

"I... ah..." she blushed and studied the carpet, unable to meet his eyes. "I didn't want to bother you."

He put two fingers under her chin and tipped her face up, studying her searchingly. After a moment one side of his mouth curved up.

"Oh, you bother me alright, but not the way you mean."

In the sudden silence the water running in the bathtub sounded strangely loud. Her eyes widened.

"Oh, damn, the tub!" she exclaimed, as she dashed into the bathroom and frantically turned off the faucet. The water had just begun to spill over the side of the tub, but the terrycloth mat had caught most of the overflow. She mopped up the rest with a spare towel and opened the drain to let the water out. It slurped noisily as the water level dropped rapidly. Behind her Fox spoke, but she couldn't quite hear him for the noise. She closed the drain and looked up to find him standing over her, a very inviting smile on his face.

"You don't have to do that. Please, go ahead and take your bath, I can wait."

"I... "

"Go on, I'll watch television."

The thought of lying in the tub, with him in the next room was a bit overwhelming. She shook her head.

"No, I couldn't. You just got here..."

"Of course you can, you were going to before I knocked, what's stopping you? Don't worry about me, I'm good at waiting, I do stakeouts all the time."

"I... " it occurred to her that she hadn't finished more than one sentence out of the last ten, she must sound like a half-wit! "Oh, alright. My feet do still hurt."

He looked down at her feet, then back up. "Why?"

"Oh, several reasons... the Air and Space Museum, the National Gallery, the Museum of American History, and the Museum of Natural History."

He grinned. "Ah, played tourist today, did you?"

She nodded. "I should have saved at least the National Gallery for tomorrow. Everything's a blur. I keep seeing that silly statue of George Washington as a Roman emperor superimposed on a nature diorama from the museum of natural history. Pretty weird."

He chuckled. "Sounds like it. I'll be right around the corner, yell if you... need anything." The last was said with a subtle wink as he moved out of the room.

For just a moment Gemma was tempted to throw caution to the wind and take him up on his implied invitation, but she felt unpleasantly grimy and probably didn't smell all that nice. A bath would be a nice prelude to later possibilities. She closed the door, undressed and stepped into the water. The water was almost too hot, but just almost. She eased herself down into it with a sigh, feeling her muscles loosen almost instantly. She bent her knees and slid down until she could duck her head under and let the water fill her ears, shutting out the world, letting her mind go blank as well as the water lapped over her closed eyelids.

At first that worked fine, but then she started to think of things, or rather, to remember things. She remembered how it felt to be naked in his arms; remembered the taste of his kisses, the feel of his skin beneath her fingers... ah, damn... remembering was bad enough without knowing he was in the next room. She was feeling an entirely different kind of heat now. Even as she thought about heat, something icy touched her breast, encircling her nipple. She surged upward with a gasp and found him kneeling, coatless, and with sleeves rolled up, beside the tub with a wicked expression on his face, and a pressed-glass sundae cup in one hand.

Looking down she saw a dollop of rapidly melting whipped cream slide from her breast, down her ribs and into the water where it dissipated into an oily slick. Not the real thing, obviously. Cheap non-dairy topping. She smiled, and lifted her eyes again, catching his, feeling the heat in them. She felt surrounded by warmth... the water, her feelings, his eyes. He lifted a spoonful of ice cream toward her, and she opened her mouth for it. Cold slid over her tongue, cold and sweet. Something cold hit her throat near her collarbone at almost the same time... a drip off the spoon. He leaned over and licked it off. She shivered. He sat back and spooned another bite out, but instead of offering it to her he put it in his own mouth, then leaned down again. She lifted her mouth to meet his, and shivered again as he fed it to her, the ice cream cold and smooth, the fudge hot and silky, his tongue and lips warmly mesmerizing.

He moved away again, and she struggled for composure.

"I thought you were going to watch television."

"I was," he agreed amiably.

"And?" she prompted.

"Your ice cream came."

"So...?"

"I couldn't just let it melt, could I?" he asked, completely angelic.

She struggled not to grin, finding that innocent guise hard to resist. "No, I suppose not," she held out her hand. "Delivery made, you can go watch tv now."

He looked from her to the sundae, then back, and his expression of dismay was too much. She burst out laughing and sat up reaching out to put her hand behind his neck and draw him close, getting him quite damp in the process.

"Goddess, I've missed you!" she whispered, rubbing her nose across his before she let her mouth claim his.

Gemma heard the clink of the sundae cup as he put it on the floor, then his arms went around her. The sensation of dry shirtsleeves against her bare, wet skin felt very strange, and strangely erotic. She leaned forward, pressing herself against him to the waist, but from there down she couldn't because the cold slick rim of the tub separated them; a porcelain chastity belt. Her breasts brushed against his shirt, she could feel the warmth of his skin through it. In oddly high contrast, the width of his tie made a runway of cool silk between her breasts. His hair was crisp and thick under her fingers, and his mouth hot and velvety as he returned her kiss, drinking her in. So many textures, so many tastes... ice cream, chocolate, male. She kissed him harder, deeper, expressing her urgency. It had been so long... so long.... As if he'd read her mind, he drew back, breathing heavily, and then leaned in again, sliding an arm behind her knees, the other behind her shoulders as he lifted her out of the tub. She gasped in surprise and held on as he carried her out to the bed and placed her on it.

She lay still for a moment, watching as he loosened his tie and removed it. The breeze from the air-conditioner was cold but it felt good, though it did nothing to cool her inner fever. He opened the first button on his shirt, the second; he was moving much too slowly. Impatiently Gemma got to her knees and grabbed him, dragging him down onto the bed with her, fingers working at the buttons of his shirt as she nibbled along his jaw and up toward his ear. He tried to help her with his shirt until she slapped his hands away, then he laughed and gave up, lying back and letting her undress him. She got all the buttons open, dragged his shirttails out of his pants, and peeled it open so she could explore his bared chest. The flat plane of his abdomen bounced beneath her hands as he continued to laugh softly, and he reached up to caress her face with his palm, inviting her down for another long, intense kiss, his tongue stroking into her mouth intimately.

Gemma couldn't believe it was happening this way again; as if no time at all had passed, none. It had to have been just the day before that she'd woken him with her mouth and hands, intent on pleasuring him as he had her. It seemed just the same, though with the added depth of a year's fantasies. She found his belt, opened it, opened his trousers, and slid a hand within the opening to find him hard and strong, as quickly ready as she was. She let her fingers play along the rigid arc of his shaft, caressing him through soft fabric... much softer than cotton, silk this time. She smiled against his mouth, wondering if he'd worn them for her, or if his taste in underclothing had gotten more exotic over the last year.

He pulled his mouth from hers with a ragged gasp, his hips bucking under her hand, thrusting himself up into the cup of her palm. She stroked him teasingly, then used both hands to work his pants and shorts down to free him completely. He reached for her, and she drew back, smiling, and shaking her head.

"No, not yet."

He seemed a little puzzled, but he let his hands fall back to the bed, fingers moving restlessly on the covers. She lowered her head and kissed the hollow of his throat, his nipples, his navel, the line of dark hair that arrowed downward into his groin. She felt him becoming very tense under her lips, knew he was holding his breath. She teased him, running her tongue along his hip and thigh, never quite reaching her goal. How long could he hold his breath? Taking pity on him she put her lips against the velvety skin of his cock and let her tongue flick out to cool it. He let out his breath in a gasp that sounded like her name, and dragged in a new lungful of air. She repeated her caress in quick, butterfly flickers until she could feel his pulse-beat quicken against her lips and tongue, as he moved closer to losing control. He shuddered, following her movements, hips curling upward.

Tossing her hair out of her eyes, Gemma sat up and lifted herself over him, straddling him. His eyes flickered open, heavy-lidded, smoky with desire and anticipation. Fox lifted his hands to her breasts, fingers smoothing over the pebbled hardness of her nipples, sending sparks of excitement to add to the conflagration already burning between her thighs. She reached down, opened herself, found him, and sank down, taking him deep inside her. They both moaned in unison, tenor and alto joining in erotic duet.

She stayed perfectly still for a long moment, letting herself adjust to his presence inside her. She'd taken things a bit fast, and it was slightly uncomfortable. Finally she felt herself begin to ease, and she slid down a touch further, he took it as a signal and his hands moved down to her hips, urging her into movement. Gemma resisted, enjoying the control, and took one of his hands in hers, guiding it down to where they joined. He smiled lazily, knowingly, and moved his fingers into the mesh of moist curls searching, finding. She gasped and her hips arched involuntarily as he found the taut bud of her clitoris and began a slow, gentle massage. She finally began to move then, riding him.

Her eyes locked with his, almost reading his thoughts in their astonishing clarity. It suddenly dawned on her that she'd never made love with her eyes open before... usually she hid her thoughts and needs behind the shields of her eyelids. It wasn't necessary now, not with him. Between them was nothing but honesty. That was such an astonishing thought that it stopped her in mid-movement, her eyes widening as she stared down at Fox. His fingers didn't stop though, and moments later her body took her equally by surprise. A cry of startled delight escaped her as pleasure whiplashed through her, and she braced her hands against his shoulders, head falling forward as her body shuddered and clenched in ecstasy.

As the sensations began to subside she managed to catch her breath and lean down to kiss him again. She was panting so she had to settle for several soft, brief kisses instead of the extended one she wanted. He wove his fingers through her hair and stroked her back, looking up at her with a slightly amused smile curving his generous mouth.

"You're always in such a *hurry*, Gemma! Now that we've got that out of the way, would you like to try slowing down a bit?"

She felt herself blush, and laughed in embarrassed amusement.

"Sorry."

He shook his head, still smiling. "No, don't be sorry, you just took me a bit by surprise, that's all. I didn't come here expecting... well, to take you to bed. I wasn't sure how you'd feel about..."

He trailed off, looking a bit embarrassed himself. She grinned.

"Well, now you know."

He grinned back. "I guess you could say that, lean over here..." he guided her down toward him, then turned onto his side, taking her with him, still joined. She shifted, bending her knee and resting her thigh across his hip as he started to move, very slowly, a liquid undulation of his pelvis that a middle-eastern dancer would have envied. She enjoyed the feel of his body sliding in and out of hers for a long time in silence, then sighed and traced her cupped hand down his face, noticing that his jaw was as smooth as silk. It was well past eight o'clock at night, and no stubble? She traced her fingers over the tiny hint of a dimple, and the almost invisible mole on his cheek.

"You shaved just before you came over, didn't you?"

He nodded. "I wanted to make a good impression," his hand moved over her thigh, up to her waist, back down, then around behind to the small of her back where he pressed her down into his upstroke.

"Oh!" She caught her breath at the sensation, and willingly abetted him on the next stroke. "Yes... that's... oh, yes," she knew she was sounding like a bad Penthouse forum letter or worse, a Barbara Cartland novel, but didn't particularly care.

The sensation was exquisite, a deep, gliding penetration that stimulated everything perfectly. She reached out and began to trace her fingertip along the intricate convolutions of his ear, that being about the only thing she had enough concentration for at the moment. He closed his eyes and the breath sighed out of him in a way that made her smile. She wasn't the only one enjoying this. Gemma leaned forward until she could reach his mouth with hers, and gently traced the curve of his full lower lip with her tongue.

He made a soft sound in his throat and licked back, his tongue sliding across hers as the smooth rhythm of his body in hers faltered momentarily, then quickened. She moved with him, learning the new tempo, and tightened her thigh across his hip to deepen his entry. His hands moved down from the small of her back to cup her rear and pull her tight against him as he executed a flawless twist that put her beneath him instead of beside him, and the pace quickened yet again. Sliding one hand out from beneath her, he managed to work it between them until his fingers found the slick heart of her sex and his touch set her off like a rocket.

With a sob she clutched him to her as if she could trap him inside her as she rode out the pulsing waves of her climax. It must have worked, because a moment later he shuddered and went still, a soft moan breaking from his lips. She could hear the harsh rasp of his breath in her ear gradually calming, like her own, and oddly the first rational thought she had related to the last thing he had said. A grin curved her mouth.

"I'd say you've succeeded at making a good impression," she whispered.

He laughed out loud, which had the unfortunate side effect of dislodging him from inside her. She sighed at the loss, and he lifted his weight off her, rolling to the side where he propped himself on an elbow and smiled at her.

"Y'know, this is not at all what I had in mind when I tracked you down. I really had planned to see if you wanted to go out to dinner or something, not to come in here and jump on you like some over-eager frat boy."

It was Gemma's turn to laugh, shaking her head. "I think the jumping-on was quite mutual, so there's no need to compare yourself to a lower life-form. I think we're just fated to shoot first, and ask questions later."

"Which is very bad form for an FBI agent, by the way. You're hell on my self-control."

She grinned. "Thanks."

"So, speaking of questions, what *are* you doing in D.C.?"

"It's my college graduation present to myself. I know it's kind of corny and touristy, but I always wanted to come here, see all the museums, the capitol, and all the historic places in the surrounding countryside. There's so much history here, so many neat..." He was looking at her oddly, his expressive eyes shadowed, and she stopped, midsentence. "Is something wrong?"

"You graduated? And you didn't tell me?"

"I..." she couldn't think of what to say, suddenly realizing he felt hurt. She groped for a way to explain, and finally just blurted it out. "I didn't know if you'd be interested... I don't know where I fit."

He stared at her for a moment longer, then sighed, and nodded. "Yeah, me either. I mean, I don't know where I fit for you. I wasn't sure if I should even come here tonight, since you didn't tell me you were coming or anything... and I've always called you, not the other way around."

Obviously that had bothered him too. She reached out and put her palm against his cheek.

"I never knew your phone number."

He looked a bit taken aback, then smiled ruefully, shaking his head. "Stupid, it never occurred to me to give it to you. And you wouldn't call me at work, that's not your style."

"You're right, it's not."

"Remind me to write it down for you when we're near pen and paper."

She reached over and opened the nightstand drawer, fished inside and came up with paper and pen. He took it from her, wrote his number down, and handed them back, grinning.

"No excuse now, you have to call me."

"I will, I promise. I'm sorry, I should have sent you a note or something, I just wasn't sure... you know how it is, when you just don't know..." she ended lamely, with a helpless shrug, unable and unwilling to go on.

He took a deep breath and nodded. "Yes."

She studied him for a long moment, seeing the shadows in his eyes, and concluded that he meant it. She was a little surprised by that, and at the same time she felt a little stirring of anger inside at whoever had hurt him. She realized suddenly that she felt more than just a slight feeling of protectiveness toward him, and almost laughed at herself. He was a big boy, and could take care of himself. He didn't need her jumping to his defense like some miniature lioness. She contented herself with leaning over to kiss him again, and this time the kiss was unhurried, almost lazy, with none of the urgency they had shared earlier. In mid- kiss, his stomach growled, loudly. She started laughing and pulled away, putting her palm against his abdomen where she could feel the lingering rumble.

"You're not hungry or anything, are you?"

"What makes you say that?" he managed to quip, though she could tell he was blushing.

"When did you last eat?"

"Ah... I had some coffee and a doughnut this morning around nine."

"That's not eating, that's snacking. C'mon," she smacked the flat of her hand against his hip. "...up! We need to feed you."

"Yes, ma'am." he rolled off the bed and stood, stretching for a moment. She stared at him unashamedly, her gaze playing admiringly over the long, lean expanse of him. He caught her looking and grinned as he leaned over to pick up his shirt from the floor and pull it on.

"You have to get up too. I came here to take you out to dinner, and I'm going to do it. I'm not going alone."

Gemma sighed and nodded, but didn't move. "I just want a minute more, I feel so lazy."

He regarded her in a calculating manner, and a slow smile curved his mouth, then he bent down and picked her up again. This time, not so caught up in the moment, she struggled.

"Stop that, you'll hurt yourself!"

"No I won't, I know what I'm doing," he carried her into the bathroom and let her slide down his length until she was standing in the still-warm water of the bathtub.

"Finish your bath, but don't take too long. I want to eat sometime tonight... and no, I'm not interested having melted ice-cream for dinner," he added, picking up the sundae cup and setting it out of the way on the counter. That done he leaned over and kissed her, a long, soft, very arousing kiss, then he stepped back and left her standing there, swaying slightly. A moment later she heard the television click on. She shook her head, smiling, and lowered herself into the water.


Mulder tried to take her to a place called The Red Sage. The wait was long, though, and Gemma took one look at the menu and protested. "Fox, I know you can't afford this!" she said, tugging him toward the door.

"What makes you think that?"

"I do the payroll for the office, I know what agents get paid!"

"You know what *some* agents get paid. It varies."

"Not *that* much, it's still government service. Besides, you said you wanted to eat sometime tonight. By the time we get seated, it'll be tomorrow!"

"I think you'd like this place, though."

"I might, but remember, I'm used to hole-in-the-wall Mexican dives, and this is *Southwestern* *cuisine.*" she sniffed haughtily and lifted her eyebrows. He laughed.

"I thought you liked adventurous eating..."

"I do, but this place is so... so... public. I was hoping for something a bit quieter."

"You don't want to eat with the beautiful people?"

She grinned. "There's only one beautiful person I'm interested in eating with."

He flushed slightly as her meaning sank in, and tried one more time.

"Are you sure? I *can* afford it, you know."

"I'm sure. I mean really, in here everyone would notice if I decided to crawl under the table," she winked.

He looked at her blankly for a long moment, then chuckled. "I think they'd notice that just about anywhere, Gemma, but I yield to your request. Give me some guidelines, what do you want to eat? What kind of atmosphere?"

She thought for a moment, and then spoke. listing points on her fingers. "Quiet, intimate, low lighting, finger food, sensual."

He grinned. "Got just the place for you, it's a bit of a drive from here, though."

"Then lets get to it, now *I'm* starting to get hungry."

He escorted her out to the car, a gray-blue Ford Taurus with Maryland plates, and opened the door for her. As she slid in, she noticed something lumpy wedged beside the seat and fished it out. It was dark brown leather, very small... a woman's glove. Suddenly she felt very insecure. She'd been making assumptions, and he hadn't contradicted her, but... what if... He got into the car and glanced at her as he turned the key in the ignition. His hand went to the gear-shift and paused there.

"Something wrong?" he asked quietly.

"Fox... do you have... are you seeing anyone, here?"

He was quiet for a moment, studying her, then he shook his head, his gaze steady. "No, I'm not."

Gemma let out the breath she'd been holding in a long sigh.

"I would have told you, you know," he said, sounding just a touch hurt.

"I thought so, but I... I've been burned before."

He reached over and put his hand over hers. "So have I."

She lifted her hand, raising his with it, and brushed her lips across his fingers.

"Sorry."

"S'okay. Ready to go now?"

She nodded, and he put the car into gear. She idly toyed with the glove in her hand and wondered who it belonged to.

"Scully'll be glad you found that, she's been complaining for weeks about having lost it."

She looked over at him. "Scully?"

"My partner, remember?"

"Oh," she knew she was blushing, and was glad the darkness hid it. How had he known what she was thinking? Was she that obvious? "I'll put it in the glove box... that's where gloves belong, right?"

"Absolutely."

"Where are we heading?" she asked, changing the subject.

"Rockville, there's a place I've been to a couple of times, just what you were asking for. Not trendy at all. In fact, it's kind of passe, but its dark, quiet, definite finger food, and very sensual. You'll like it."

"Sounds perfect... what *kind* of food?"

"You'll see."

"Ooooh... I just *love* it when you get mysterious," she said in her best 'vacuous bimbo' voice, batting her eyelashes at him.

He chuckled and shook his head. "No wine for you tonight."


The Melting Pot was exactly as she'd requested. Quiet, intimate, and sensual. Gemma was delighted with it. All they served was various types of fondue, which she'd never eaten, having somehow missed out on the fondue craze of the early seventies. They worked their way through apples and bread in cheese, to shrimp and chicken with various dipping sauces, and finished with dipping fruit and bits of cake in a pot of velvety dark-chocolate and Chambord fondue and feeding them to each-other. Of course, she would far rather have eaten the stuff directly off his body, but having the waiter come silently up behind her just as she was telling Mulder that made for a somewhat embarrassing moment. Fortunately for his tip the waiter pretended not to have heard, and they managed to keep their laughter reasonably contained until after he'd gone off to get their after-dinner coffees, decaf, of course.

"I can't believe you said that in public!" Mulder said, after he'd finally managed to stop laughing. "Besides, it's hot, it'd hurt! "

Gemma stuck her finger into the pot and left it there for a moment to test the temperature. "It's not that hot. I bet you could stand it."

She removed her finger from the fondue pot and went to lick it, but he reached across the table, caught her hand, and gently straightened her arm across the table between them.

"Unh-unh. Allow me."

He drew her finger into his mouth and sucked the chocolate coating off, his tongue stroking gently around it in a way that had her insides feeling like the melted chocolate in the pot. He released her hand bare seconds before the waiter reappeared. She sat up quickly and hoped she didn't look as dazed and aroused as she thought she probably did. The waiter placed two steaming, brandy-scented coffees on the table and diplomatically disappeared again.

"Do that again and I really *will* be crawling under the table," she threatened huskily.

He grinned at her unrepentently. "Promises, promises."

Deliberately she slid down in her seat as if she were going to slide under the table. He quickly pushed aside the fondue pot to lean across and wrap his fingers around her wrist where it rested on the edge of the table, holding her in place.

"You wouldn't..." he began.

"Don't dare me," she warned.

He looked at her for a long moment, read the challenge in her eyes and shook his head, smiling. "I wouldn't. Not in a million years. Please, sit up?"

She resumed a more upright posture and grinned. "That's what I like about you, Fox. You're a highly intelligent man."

He released her wrist and picked up his coffee, "Well, this highly intelligent man has to go to work at what feels like an ungodly hour in the morning. Let's finish up and go home."

Gemma went still. Home? Half a second later she mentally shook her head. He'd said it out of habit, no doubt. She picked up her own coffee and took a sip, watching him do the same with his, thinking more about the way his fingers looked curled around the white coffee cup than anything else. He really did have beautiful hands.

"Would you?" he asked quietly.

She blinked, puzzled. Had she missed something?

"Would I what?"

"Come home with me."

She felt as though someone had just hit her in the solar plexus. After a moment she managed to remember how to breathe and swallowed the sip of coffee she'd almost choked on.

"Home? Your place?"

He nodded, eyes serious, posture a bit stiff, almost defensive. She hated seeing that... what made him do that? What made him that insecure?

"I'd love to."

He relaxed, slouching slightly the way he usually did, but managed not to look too overtly relieved. "It's kind of a mess..." he started.

"It can't be more of a mess than my place usually is," she interrupted, smiling.

"It's certainly less of a mess than you place was the first time I saw it," he agreed with a grin that faded suddenly as he realized that she might not appreciate the reminder. "I mean..."

"It's okay, it doesn't bother me." she took the last sip of her coffee and reached for her purse. "It's water under the bridge."

"I'm glad. That was pretty rough."

"Shall we go?"

He nodded, and signaled the waiter for the check.


Gemma, pt. IV (an X-Files erotica)

Gemma stood behind Mulder, watching as he unlocked the door to his apartment, both the standard lock and the dead-bolt. She glanced up and noticed that there was a window above the door, very old-fashioned, like the rest of the building. She guessed it had been built in the nineteen- thirties or forties. He opened the door and stepped in, gesturing for her to follow as he snapped on the lights. She glanced at the unusual art-deco coat tree next to the door as he shrugged off his suit-jacket and hung it there, then she stepped into the small foyer. She glanced to the left, realized the door there led to his bedroom, then followed him into the living-room.

He was right, it was messy... but not the way she'd expected. Not in a bachelor-quarters-old-pizza-boxes-and-take-out-containers sort of way. Rather, it was more... cluttered. Nearly every available surface held a stack of books, if it wasn't taken up with some other small object or item. That was a bit of a surprise, he hadn't struck her as a knick-knack sort of person. A leather arm-chair was pushed against one wall... with books piled on its seat. A triangular shelf-unit filled a corner next to the window, across from it sat a small desk with a drafting lamp and a telescope on it.

A big green leather sofa occupied the long wall, above it were two framed prints. What looked like a handmade quilt was folded neatly over one arm of the sofa. She wasn't sure, but thought that both the sofa and the arm-chair were either second-hand or inherited... they just didn't *look* new. In fact, all of his furniture looked old. Not antique, just old, kind of 1940's, to match the building. The walls were painted a rich shade of cream that gave the apartment a warm feeling, though the clutter made the place seem somehow a bit small for his big frame.

"Well?" he asked softly.

She realized he was waiting for her to comment. "Nice. You don't like to read at all, do you?"

He grinned. "No, of course not. What makes you think that?"

She laughed and poked at the stack of books that sat on top of his television. "Just a wild guess," she picked up the top book and read its spine. "Strange America? Let me guess, Fortean phenomena?"

"That one, yes."

Under it was a hard-back of Asimov's first "Foundation" book. Beneath that was a biology textbook, and the last book in that particular stack was a volume of poetry by Robert Burns. She shook her head.

"You've got pretty eclectic tastes, Mr. Mulder."

He gazed at her in a way that made her temperature rise, and smiled. "Guess I do, at that."

Trying to bring her pulse-rate down, Gemma shifted her gaze to the stack of compact disks on the shelf next to the player. The mix there was equally eclectic. On top was the latest Loreena McKennit, then Sarah Vaughan, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, The Smiths, Joy Division, Tears for Fears, Simple Minds, The Eurythmics, Billie Holliday, New Order, a couple of Pretender's, The Cure, Paul Young... she was starting to see a pattern. There was a lot of heartbreak-music, much of it from the early eighties, and British. Interesting. The fact that he'd gone out and bought them in cd form to replace vinyl told her they meant something to him... but was she reading too much into it? Devo's "Are We Not Men" album kind of stood out, though.

"Why don't you put some music on?" he suggested. "Would you like something to drink? A glass of wine?"

"Sure," she said, answering both questions as she turned on the player, hoping his system was straightforward and not annoyingly complicated like some. The disk in the cradle was Sarah McLachlan's latest so she just hit the play button. The singer's strong, haunting voice floated out of the speakers, and Gemma listened to the lyrics as she heard Fox moving in the kitchen, the clink of glasses, the unique sound of a refrigerator being opened, then closed.

"I would be the one to hold you now,

kiss you so hard,

I'll take your breath away.

And after I wipe away the tears,

just close your eyes, dear."

Gemma shivered, not from cold. He moved close behind her, close enough that she could feel the warmth of his body. His hand crossed over her shoulder into her field of vision, holding a glass filled with deep red liquid. She took it from him, took a sip, letting its spicy richness slide over her tongue as the song continued.

"You speak to me in riddles,

you speak to me in rhyme.

My body aches to breathe your breath,

your words keep me alive."

At that moment, she knew *exactly* how the singer felt. She set down the glass and turned to face him, lifting her hand to place it behind his neck and draw his mouth down to hers.

For a moment the kiss was as soft as the touch of a rose petal, the brush of a moth's wing, but just for a moment. Then it was thorns, and sparks, and hunger. He moved forward until her back was against the wall and she could go no further; his hands began to tug her skirts up. She let her tongue duel with his and waited for him to discover her surprise. It didn't take long. He pulled his mouth from hers with a gasp, his eyes wide.

"Gemma!" his voice was surprised, amused, and pleased all at the same time. "Have you been like this all night?"

She nodded, smiling wickedly. "It seemed logical."

His hands smoothed the silky skin of her hips, moved behind her to pull her against the rigid shape his clothing did little to disguise. He kissed her again, as if he were drinking her. She shuddered in his arms, wanting more, but he lifted his head again.

"I can't believe you aren't wearing anything under this! You can see through it!"

"Only in daylight, besides, it's lined," she countered softly, reaching up to run a fingertip over the indentation in the center of his lower lip. For the first time she noticed that one of his front teeth was ever-so-slightly crooked... that was part of what made his smile so endearing. He closed his eyes and captured her finger with his mouth, lightly stroking it with his tongue as he had in the restaurant. She arched toward him, feeling the urgency of him against her.

"I wish..." she whispered, then stopped, slightly embarrassed. He let go of her finger and leaned over to nibble at her earlobe, a press a kiss into the hollow where jaw became throat.

"You wish what?" he whispered.

"I wish I was taller," she admitted, frankly. "I don't think this is going to work."

He moved back, frowning softly as he turned her words over in his mind, then his lightning grin flashed as understanding came. "I'm afraid you're right, but that doesn't mean we can't start here."

He went to his knees then, and started opening the long line of small buttons down the front of her dress, spreading the filmy georgette and slick rayon lining open to bare her; then bent low to press his lips to her belly, just below her navel. She cupped her hands around the back of his head as he began to kiss his way up her stomach, over her ribs, then finally captured the taut peak of one breast. Her fingers curled into his hair, tugging him even closer, her breath coming in quick gasps. One of his hands slid beneath her skirt, up her thigh, searched, then found... she made a soft sound of excitement as her knees almost buckled.

Why did she react like this to him, she wondered with what little was left of her rational mind. What was it about him that made her about as self-controlled as a cat in heat? The way he looked? The way he smelled? His quick, dry humor, or his obvious intelligence? All of the above, and more, she concluded as his caresses grew more intimate, one of his fingers easing into the depths of her body with gentle persistence. She braced her hands on his shoulders, hips rocking as he urged her toward a climax. He leaned forward and placed a hot, openmouthed kiss in the hollow of her hip, then scraped the edge of his teeth over the prominence of it. That drove her over the edge. She shuddered and moaned, her body clenching around his fingers as she slid down the wall, ending up on his lap, straddling his thighs.

His fingers stilled, then withdrew, leaving her empty. His head lifted and his gaze sought hers, smoky with desire. "What now, love?"

Oh, goddess... he would have to say that! She felt a completely non-physical melting sensation as the last of her defenses were breached. Whether or not he meant it didn't really matter right at this moment. She began to open the buttons on his shirt.

"You," she said, not bothering with a full sentence.

He grinned and yanked off his tie, pitching it aside with gratifying carelessness. As she finished with his shirt his hands slipped her dress from her shoulders. It caught at her elbows for a moment until she slid her arms free and it dropped around her waist. When she stood up a moment later it fell to the floor and she stepped out of it as she reached down and took both his hands in hers, urging him to his feet, and toward the bedroom. He followed willingly into the room, and into his bed, skinning out of his trousers and letting them lay where they fell, next to the bed.

Gemma put her arms around his back and pulled him over onto her, opening herself to him, loving the solid weight and presence of him against her, and a moment later, inside her. She sighed in welcome and contentment, savoring the incredible closeness. You couldn't get any closer and still remain two separate people. He shuddered in her arms and moaned softly, struggling for control.

"Let go..." she whispered in his ear, "...just let go. You don't have to hold back."

"But, you..."

"It's what I want," she said fiercely, and pulled his mouth to hers.

Eyes closing on a sigh of pleasure, he complied, surging heavily into her. This time she held back, wanting just to experience him. Lost in her embrace, he didn't notice. She tightened her arms and thighs around him as he came, feeling him pulse and release inside her as she didn't usually, since every other time she'd been in the middle of her own peak.

He fell asleep in minutes. She couldn't. For a long time she just held him, watching and listening to him sleep. She was wide awake, wondering where she fit, where he fit. What were they were creating between them, and why did it feel... slightly off? She felt as if she were trying to work a jigsaw puzzle with too many missing pieces. Carefully she eased herself out of bed and used his bathroom, then wandered out into the living room to re-start the cd player and listen to Sarah Mclachlan again. Her song lyrics seemed all too appropriate, somehow.

Unfolding the quilt she wrapped it around herself and picked up the volume of Robert Burns verse she'd spotted earlier. As she opened it something fell out. She retrieved it from the floor; it was a postcard. The front of the card showed a museum case which held a mannequin wearing armor and holding a huge axe. She stared at the card for a long time, then finally lost the battle against her curiosity and turned it over. There were only two words written on the back, "Goodbye, Mulder." and it was signed "Phoebe," in a careless, looping scrawl. The postmark on the card was June 1981, and it was addressed to Fox Mulder at a university address in Oxford, England.

Gemma thought about his cd collection with its preponderance of moody, painful songs, his wariness and underlying hurt, the postcard... and one of the missing pieces fell into place. He'd been burned in the past. Badly enough that the scars still showed more than ten years later. She tucked the card back among the pages of the book and curled up inside the quilt, staring into space and listening blankly to the music. Another piece, but not enough yet. There was still something missing, something important.


Sun was streaming in through the angled slats of the blinds when she awoke, hitting the creamy walls and turning them to striped amber. Gemma felt a warm hand on her chilled shoulder and turned to look up at Fox. He looked concerned.

"Good morning," he said quietly.

"Morning," she returned, yawning.

"Is... anything the matter?"

"No, why?"

"I wondered... you're out here..."

"Oh, that. I had trouble getting to sleep last night, so I came out to listen to music so I wouldn't disturb you. I must have fallen asleep on the couch. Sorry."

He shook his head. "No, that's okay, I was just worried that I'd managed to upset you, somehow."

She sat up and reached out, touching his face softly. "No, Fox, please don't think that. I just had trouble sleeping. I sometimes do, especially in a strange place."

His eyes searched hers, then he nodded. "I do too, sometimes. What have you got planned for today?"

"Just more touristy stuff... the White House tour, the Capitol building, you know."

"Would you like to see my office?"

She grinned. "Your sanctum sanctorum? Of course! I'd love to!"

"It's kind of..."

"...a mess?" She finished for him, laughing. "No doubt. I don't care."

"Then as long as you promise not to make snide comments on it, you're welcome to come to work with me; speaking of which I need to be there in forty-five minutes, so we need to book."

Gemma started untangling herself from the quilt, then suddenly stopped. "Damn!"

"What?"

"All I have to wear is what I wore last night."

"So?"

"It's daylight now."

He grinned. "I see the problem... and so will everyone else, which *is* the problem, right?"

She nodded, laughing and blushing simultaneously. "Could you drop me at the hotel? I'll change and take the Metro to meet you at your office."

"I don't know, I kind of like the idea of you running around the office in that dress, and nothing else. It would certainly give me an incentive to clean off my desk."

For a moment she sat there wondering what her state of dress had to do with cleaning off his desk, then it sank in and she laughed out loud.

"You're terrible, Fox! What would your partner think?"

"Ah... good point. I'd rather not add to my list of notorious eccentricities, and I have enough trouble with my name as it is."

"You don't like it? I do."

He shook his head, smiling ruefully. "To be honest, I hate it. I was in high-school when the term 'fox' came into use as a synonym for 'hunk.' I thought I'd never live it down. It was bad enough having a weird name, without that!"

Gemma reached over and laced her fingers through his. "Would you like me to stop calling you Fox? I can go to Mulder if you want..."

He shook his head. "No, it's okay. Somehow from you I don't mind it."

"You're sure? I understand, really... I was Gummy all through my school-years. I *hated* it."

"Gummy?" he echoed, incredulously.

"From Gemma. Don't ask me how they managed to get that out of it... Gummy, or Gummy Bear. I never have figured out why kids are so mean to each other."

"It's a way of acquiring power," he answered absently. "Kids have very little power of their own, they're usually under the control of adults. That sort of deliberate cruelty makes them feel more powerful."

"Should I call you Dr. Mulder?" Gemma grinned. "You sound like my developmental psych prof!"

He chuckled. "I did, didn't I? Well, are you going to get dressed or wear my quilt all day?"

"It's a nice quilt, but it would kind of tie up my hands to have to be holding it up all day so I guess I'll get dressed. And you *will* drop me at my hotel, right?"

He sighed, looking dejected. "I suppose, if I have to."

"You do. Do I need any special instructions to find your office?"

"No, just ask Terry at the reception desk, I'll let her know you're coming."

"Promises, promises," she said drily, echoing his sentiments from the previous evening.

He laughed silently and swatted her thigh through the thick quilt as he headed for the kitchen. She picked up her dress from the floor and shook it out. It was a good thing the fabric was supposed to be wrinkled.

###

That breathless feeling was back. Why now, when she was sure of her welcome? It didn't make sense. Did it have something to do with the building itself? Probably not. Maybe it was the humidity, or the pollution instead of nerves. She walked past the security devices at the door and over to the receptionist, who smiled at her and extended a plastic clip-badge emblazoned "visitor" toward her.

"You're here to see Agent Mulder, right? I remember you from yesterday. He said you'd be back today. You just want to go through that door there, down the stairs and take a left, then all the way to the end of the hall. His name's on the door."

Gemma thanked her and clipped the badge to the lapel of her jacket, then headed for the indicated door. She had worn a suit... one bought for graduation, and hopefully interviews. It was a beige raw silk, cut in very classic lines. It was the most expensive thing she'd ever owned, and she still felt funny wearing it, knowing how much it had cost. Her salmon-colored silk blouse was perfect with it, though. She wondered if he would remember it from a year earlier... she'd worn it the night they'd gone to Boulder.

The office was at the end of a long hallway filled with computer storage tapes. He hadn't been kidding about being tucked away in the dark. His name was displayed next to the door, as was a 'D. Scully.' His partner. The door was slightly ajar so she knocked lightly and pushed it open.

"Hello? Fox?"

A figure appeared in the inner doorway. A woman. Gemma studied her, very glad she'd insisted on changing. She was tiny... but despite the camouflage of a severe navy suit, she was very female, with lush curves and a poised air Gemma would never be able to achieve. She had red hair tamed in a neat chignon, expressive hazel eyes, and lips that in the not-too-distant past would have been called 'bee-stung.' She had a rather peculiar expression on her face, though.

"Fox?" she asked, eyebrows lifted.

"I'm sorry, I should have waited... I mean, I was looking for Agent Mulder..." Gemma explained, sounding lame even to her own ears.

"He just went to have something copied. He'll be right back."

"Oh, thank you. I'll just wait out in the hall then."

"No, please, the office belongs to both of us," the red-head cleared a stack of file folders off of a chair and waved a hand at it. "Have a seat. I'm Dana Scully, Mulder's partner. "

"Gemma Birdsong, from Denver. I'm just... a friend."

Scully put out her hand, nodding pleasantly. "Nice to meet you."

"Nice to meet you," Gemma echoed, taking her hand awkwardly. She could shake a man's hand effortlessly, yet for some reason shaking a woman's hand always seemed odd. She sat down in the indicated chair.

"What brings you to Washington?" Scully asked conversationally.

"Nothing in particular," Gemma lied. "And everything in general. I'm doing the tourist routine."

"Ah, I see. It's a good place for that."

Gemma nodded. "I spent yesterday at the museums, I'll do the Capitol building and the White House tour today... that probably sounds terribly prosaic to you."

"Not at all, I enjoy the museums myself."

An awkward silence fell. Gemma looked around the office, noting that it was, as Mulder had implied, very messy. Except for one desk. She smiled and nodded toward it.

"That must be your desk,"

Scully grinned. "Is it that obvious?"

Gemma nodded, and would have commented further but the door opened and Mulder came through it.

"Hey, Scully, did I remember to tell..." his voice trailed off as he realized she wasn't alone, and his glance slid from Gemma to Scully, then back. "Never mind. Hi Gemma, I see you've met Scully."

"Hi, yourself, Mulder," she deliberately used his last name, and looked around the office, one eyebrow lifted. "Nice office."

He grinned. "Isn't it? Don't say I didn't warn you."

"I won't. It's funny, your partner doesn't seem to have trouble with her desk..."

"She hasn't been here as long as I have," he said defensively.

"And I'm compulsive," Scully put in with a smile. "I'm going to get those files, be back in a few."

Gemma didn't miss the puzzled look Mulder gave his partner as she left the room. She'd made up that excuse in order to leave them alone. Very tactful of her.

The door closed behind Scully and he crossed to where she sat. "You look great," he slid a finger down the placket of her blouse and smiled. "I remember unbuttoning that blouse, don't I?"

She grinned. "Yep."

He glanced at her legs and sighed sadly. "Pantyhose."

She shook her head. "Stockings."

His eyebrows lifted, and his gaze warmed. "Oh, yeah?"

For reply she simply smiled. He groaned.

"Damn it, Gemma, you're trying to drive me crazy, aren't you?"

"No, I'd say I was succeeding."

He leaned down and kissed her, a short, but very thorough kiss, then drew back with a smile. "Two can play at that game."

Gemma took a deep breath and shifted uncomfortably in the chair. "Ah, yeah. I remember that now."

"Good," he reached down and took her hands, tugging her to her feet. She lifted her mouth and met his kiss descending, letting him draw her up against him, when the sound of the door opening jerked them apart like a pair of teenagers caught necking in a car. Mulder took a step back as Scully stepped into the room, carrying an armload of folders. Gemma knew she was blushing in a shade that clashed with her blouse.

Trying to decide if they'd been caught, Gemma covertly watched Scully walk over to her desk and place the folders neatly on it. In doing so, she saw something she otherwise would have missed. When he turned to pick up an object from on top of a file cabinet, Scully shot a glance toward Mulder that held a peculiar combination of exasperation, amusement, and... something else. Something that dropped another piece into the puzzle. There was no mistaking it. Jealousy. Her heart sank, Mulder had told her he wasn't involved...

She took a deep breath, let it out, and counted to ten. Just because Dana Scully was obviously not immune to her partner's considerable charm didn't mean he'd lied to her. In fact, she'd be surprised to find that any female was invulnerable to his appeal. Still... he worked with her every day, and she knew from past conversations with him that he felt a great deal of affection and loyalty toward her. Those things were not to be taken lightly, especially in view of what she'd just seen. The potential was there, and she suspected it was only their professionalism that held them apart. Goddess... how did the woman stand it? Working in close proximity constantly, with him just out of reach? Hell on earth! Gemma smiled at Scully sympathetically, and was rewarded by a puzzled but friendly smile in return.

Mulder made an annoyed little sound and turned toward her, holding out a pile of folders, photos, and miscellaneous stuff.

"Hold these for a minute for me, would you? I can never find..."

Whatever it was he couldn't find faded into insignificance as she took the proffered stack. The moment it touched her hands she was flooded with sensations. Fear... overwhelming, utterly stark, terror. Darkness. Hunger. Small space, musty smell, sounds from above her... singing? A choir? Out.. she needed to get out... please let me out, please... I'll be good, I won't do it any more, let me out...

"Gemma? Gemma, what's wrong? Come back, come on... please Gemma!"

She was being shaken, not particularly gently, Fox's voice sounded tense and fearful. She opened her eyes and found herself on her knees. He had her shoulders in his hands... they hurt from the pressure of his grip. The stack of things she had been holding was scattered on the floor around her. She looked around, bewildered.

"Please, you're hurting me," she whispered.

"Gemma!" this time his voice was infinitely relived. His grip eased. "What happened to you?"

"I... don't know. I've never done that, felt that... before. It was like I was someone else for a moment, someone... a little girl, maybe? Somewhere dark, and small. I couldn't get out, and I was hungry..." she shuddered, trying to push the feelings away.

She looked up to find him staring at her with an incredibly intense expression on his face.

"What?" she asked, half afraid to find out.

He looked down at the mess on the floor, then back up at her. "Is it something in there? Something you touched?"

She looked down, frowning. "I... maybe. I don't know."

"Which one? Can you find it again?" there was a leashed tension in him that she'd never sensed before. He *wanted* her to find something, maybe even *needed* it! She stared at him a long time, feeling confused, resistant, and shuddered, not wanting to risk that feeling again. But it seemed so important to him. Gingerly she reached out and began to sort through the papers. After a moment her fingers brushed a blue file-folder and she flinched. That was it. Steeling herself, she picked it up, and held it out to him.

"This... it's this."

He took it, looked at it, and his face seemed to harden. He turned away from her and did something, then extended the folder toward her again.

"How about now?"

She took it back. Nothing. She shook her head. "I... it's not there now. I don't understand..."

He reached into his coat pocket and drew out a small zip-lock plastic bag. It held a short length of dirty, tattered yellow ribbon.

She didn't even have to touch the bag to know. She could feel it from a foot away.

"That's it... what is it?"

"Its evidence, from a missing persons case."

Gemma closed her eyes, and shook her head. "No..."

"Yes."

"I can't!"

He didn't say anything, but the disappointment in his eyes stung her. She knew she was being a coward, but she didn't want to feel those things again. It was too real, and too familiar. It made her remember things she would rather not remember. Including the fact that no one had helped her. She looked at him again, resolute.

"Get me a map. I'll do it."

He helped her to her feet and she sat down again, feeling shaky. Scully was staring at her suspiciously. After a moment she looked a Mulder who was tearing apart his desk, presumably in search of a map.

"Mulder, can I talk to you for a moment?"

He looked around, his expression exasperated. "In a minute, Scully."

"Mulder..."

There was an unspoken "now" tacked onto the end of her sentence. Mulder sighed.

"Scully, you can talk in front of Gemma. She works for the Bureau in Denver."

"She's an agent?"

Gemma smiled, shaking her head. "No, at the moment I'm their receptionist and general jill-of-all-trades, though I just applied to the Academy."

Mulder swiveled around and stared at her, openmouthed. "You've *what*?"

Gemma bit her lip, silently cursing herself. She hadn't meant to tell him like that. She tried to convey her apologies with her eyes as she nodded.

"That's part of why I'm here, and part of what I came to talk to you about."

"Then why *didn't* you tell me?"

"I... just couldn't decide how to bring it up."

"It's easy. You just say, 'oh, by the way, I've applied to the FBI academy.'"

"I know that! I just didn't want it to sound like I was..." she broke off, realizing Scully was listening to their conversation with great interest. "Um... can we talk about this later?"

He followed her glance toward Scully and flushed faintly as he realized the same thing Gemma had. "I'm sorry, of course we can. What was it you wanted to say, Scully?"

Scully looked for a moment as if she were going to balk, then she shrugged. "I just wanted to know what was going on, that's all."

"Gemma has a unique ability to find things, which she's used for the Bureau before. She felt something when I handed her that file, something unusual."

"What file?"

Gemma was surprised that Scully didn't question her ability.

"The Corman file."

Scully's mouth tightened. "Mulder, that case is two years old!"

"Does that make it any less deserving of being solved?" he asked, obviously daring her to say it did.

She relented, shaking her head. "No, of course not."

"I'm glad to hear you say that."

Gemma heard the anger in his tone, and knew it wasn't really directed at his partner. He was angry with *her* for not telling him. She couldn't really blame him. They'd talked for a long time the previous night, and she hadn't mentioned it. She'd known she was going to do it for the past six months, and had never mentioned it. She'd been afraid to. Even though he'd never offered her anything but support and encouragement, there was a part of her that was afraid he'd tell her she wasn't qualified, or that she was psychologically unfit for it, or worse yet, think she was chasing after him, and had no life of her own.

"Fox, I..." she started, trying to apologize.

He shook his head, interrupting her. "This isn't the time or place to discuss this. I'm going to find a map."

He didn't slam the door on the way out... but the decisive click might as well have been one. Gemma sighed and rubbed her forehead where an incipient headache lurked.

"He's a bit wound up today," Scully remarked evenly.

Gemma turned and smiled. "I think you could say that. I don't think he much cares for surprises."

"No, that he doesn't; which when you think about it is strange for a man who works with the kind of cases we do. What's your background in?"

They were back to the academy application now. "I double- majored in computer science and psychology," she sighed again. "You'd think I'd be better at handling this sort of thing, with a psych degree, wouldn't you?"

"Don't be too hard on yourself... Mulder can be a difficult person to get along with at times. He's hard to read, he's very demanding, he expects a lot, but on the other hand, he'll never let you down."

Gemma looked over at the other woman in surprise. It seemed a very personal thing for her to say to a stranger. Her gaze was distant, fixed somewhere or maybe somewhen else. A moment later she blinked, and returned, smiling ruefully.

"But then, he's a lot like me, except I'm more organized. That's why we make a good team. That's also why I wouldn't be in your shoes for a million bucks."

Gemma knew precisely what she was referring to and laughed, "Is that right?" she asked with a broad wink.

To her surprise Scully blushed, but also managed to summon up a grin. "Well... maybe for a million bucks..."

They were both laughing as the door opened and Mulder came in, carrying a travel atlas and a rolled-up map. He stopped just inside the door, from the expression on his face he was a little taken aback by their apparent good-humor. The tension around his jaw told Gemma he wasn't through being annoyed, though. She stifled a sigh as he spread out the rolled map, which turned out to be a map of the entire United States.

"I brought this just in case you don't find her in the area where she disappeared. Can you get a general location from the larger map, and then focus down from there?"

She nodded. The plastic bag with the ribbon in it lay on the desk, and she swallowed hard as she reached for it, afraid of feeling it again. Suddenly his hand was on hers, gently restraining her.

"Wait... you don't have to do this you know. You don't have to humor me."

She looked up and saw pain in his lucent gaze, and knew it had nothing to do with her finding a missing child. Damn... damn... but now there was this interfering, and it needed to be done.

"I'm not... you see, no one helped me, when I needed it... I need to do it."

Understanding flooded his face, and a little of his own pain receded as he empathized with hers. He nodded and let go of her hand. She picked up the bag.

Expecting it helped. It wasn't such a shock this time. She was able to reach through the fear, through the pain, and find the person... there. Her hand came down on the large map, her fingertips on New Jersey.

"Here, somewhere... the other map..."

He opened the atlas and placed it on top of the first map. She closed her eyes and flattened her hand out, searching... searching, small, dark, singing, cross... cross... what kind of cross? Romeo and Juliet. She shook her head. Where had that thought come from? What did it have to do with her search? She opened her eyes and looked down at the map. Her finger was on a tiny dot with the words Star Cross next to it. Star Cross... of course. Free-association had done that... Romeo and Juliet, the star-crossed lovers. But there was some other kind of cross too.. the singing had been hymns. She looked up.

"Here, somewhere close to it, anyway. Has to be within a three of four mile radius, from the feeling. In a church, I think. I keep hearing hymns."

The two agents looked at each other knowingly, and Mulder swore.

"Damnit! It *was* Hamlin! I knew it!"

Scully took a deep breath. "Mulder, we don't know that, we haven't found anything yet."

"I don't have to. I knew it was him, but since we never found a body.... It never occurred to me that he would have hidden it in the church, that seemed too much even for him."

"She's not dead," Gemma said, oddly certain. She could almost feel the girl... she was too real a presence, too solid, to be dead.

"What?" they both asked, almost in unison, disbelief written on their faces.

"She's not dead," Gemma repeated. "I don't get that feeling."

"Not..." Mulder began, then he broke off, his expression anguished. "He's had her locked up somewhere for two years?" he asked, obviously not expecting an answer. "Two *years*?" he repeated, incredulously. "We've got to get on this *now*. If he hasn't already done permanent psychological damage he will have soon. I'm going up to travel accounting to see if we can get a flight to the closest airport... that should be Philadelphia, within the hour, if not, I'll get us a car and we'll drive it. Scully, call the Philly office and alert them, we're going to need a victim advocate local to them who specializes in children."

"Wait, Mulder, they're going to want to know why we're checking out a two-year-old case! What am I supposed to tell them?"

"Tell them..." he paused and looked at Gemma, then went on. "Tell them we've had a tip from a reliable source."

Scully sighed, and shook her head. "If you say so."

"I say so," his voice was firm, and Gemma was grateful for his belief. She knew Scully was the team's designated skeptic, but still her obvious doubt hurt a little.

Mulder was out the door, then, presumably heading to wherever the travel accounting office was. Scully picked up the phone and started dialing. Gemma realized suddenly that she was more than a bit superfluous. Though she felt extremely frustrated at having to leave everything unresolved, she knew there was nothing she could do about it at the moment. She picked up a blank piece of paper and wrote his name at the top, then stopped, staring at it. What could she say? Nothing. With a sigh she wrote down her hotel name and room number, and her travel dates just in case he 'forgot', and placed it on his desk, then let herself out of the office.


Arriving back at the hotel late in the evening from a day-trip to Annapolis, Gemma checked at the desk for messages, and again found none. She tried not to dwell on the fact that she still hadn't heard anything. It had been three days. She had only a day and a half left in D.C. Perhaps it was a bit naive of her, but she had thought he would call to continue their unfinished conversation... or perhaps that should be argument, but he hadn't. She also thought he would have at least called to let her know whether or not they had found the girl. Without the ribbon to establish a connection she couldn't tell. However, there had been no messages for her at all... and she suspected that the front desk clerks were starting to get annoyed with her for asking two or three times a day.

She went up to her room, carting the bag that held a painting she'd found at an odd little gallery in Annapolis that specialized in fantasy and science fiction art. It was a simple, almost austere painting of nebulae and stars, but the execution had been wonderful, the colors luminous, and it had just felt right to her... for a present. Of course it was looking more and more as if she wouldn't get to give it to him. Feeling a bit on the morose side she sat down on the bed and turned on the television to the news, figuring that a few random killings and some gang violence ought to be just the thing to lighten her mood. She found herself staring at the screen blankly and not hearing anything until the anchorwoman mentioned an arcane set of initials which penetrated her haze of self-pity.

"...FBI spokesperson said today that the case was solved due to an anonymous informant, however an unofficial but reliable source has hinted that the tip actually came from a psychic."

Gemma sat up and leaned forward, staring at the screen, hoping for more, but she'd missed the main body of the story. Quickly she switched channels, and managed to get lucky on the third try, finding a station running a parallel story.

"The FBI confirmed today that a fundamentalist minister was arrested yesterday in New Jersey for kidnapping and imprisonment of a child in a two year old case. Amazingly Miranda Corman, now age nine, was found relatively unharmed after apparently spending two years of being held prisoner in the crawlspace of a church. Reverend Talbot Hamlin claims the child possessed what he termed 'evil powers' and that he was simply trying to 'save her soul from eternal damnation.' Authorities were apparently acting on a tip from an informant."

This anchor didn't mention anything about a psychic... apparently that had been exclusive to the other station. Gemma couldn't help but wonder if the 'unofficial but reliable source' had been Mulder. A peculiarly strangled sound emerged from her throat, and her face felt strange, taut... she realized she was trying to laugh and cry at the same time. She'd done it! She'd managed to use her talents to help save a child in need... but her joy at that accomplishment was somewhat tarnished by the continuing silence from Fox. Damn old scar-tissue anyway! She was virtually certain his reaction stemmed from some past experience she didn't know about. Why was it that people couldn't seem to let go of emotional trauma?

She laughed at herself for that thought... what a stupid question coming from someone who had survived an abusive childhood! They held onto it because they couldn't help it. She prayed silently that Miranda Corman would have good counselors and a loving family to help her recover. She would need them. Thinking about the child freed her tears finally... most of them were for Miranda, but some of them were for herself. Crying helped. After a while she pulled herself together and channel surfed until she found a PBS station showing all four installments of "Prime Suspect I" back-to-back. The story sucked her in immediately, despite the fact that she'd seen it twice before. Something about the Jane Tennyson character was incredibly compelling... probably the fact that she was so damn good at what she did, and so messed-up in her personal life. The juxtaposition was fascinating... and realistic. Plus the plot and the acting were first rate.


When it came, the knock at the door startled her. She felt a surge of hopefulness as she almost leapt off the bed and went to answer it, which faded quickly when she opened the door. It *was* an FBI agent, but not the right one. Dana Scully stood in the hallway, looking uncomfortable and oddly furtive.

"Ms. Birdsong... I realize it's getting late, but could I talk to you for a moment, in private?"

"Of course," Gemma stepped aside to allow her into the room, and closed the door after her.

"What can I do for you?"

"I thought you would want to know we found Miranda Corman. We had to go over the place with a fine-toothed comb to do it, but we found her, in a kind of crawlspace under the baptismal pool. She's going to be okay."

"Thanks, I heard about it on the news tonight. I'm really glad, to be able to help like that... makes it worthwhile being strange."

"Ms. Birdsong..." Scully began. Gemma interrupted.

"Please, call me Gemma. After all, I feel as though I already know you after all the stories Fo... Mulder has told me about you."

The redhead's eyebrows lifted. "Stories? Oh, god... do I even want to know?" she asked with a quizzical smile.

"He's never been anything but complimentary. He thinks the world of you."

Scully took a deep breath and let it out in a sigh, as if distressed by that revelation. A moment later she looked up at Gemma, a bit side- long, assessingly. "I think a lot of him, too."

"I know, I can see that," Gemma replied evenly. The topic was quite uncomfortable, had the other woman come to warn her off... to stake her claim as it were? Probably. What else would make her so uncomfortable that her innate poise was almost completely absent? Not that it really mattered any more. She decided to try and head the conversation off at the pass.

"Look, you don't have to do this, you know. I'm no threat to you."

Scully looked genuinely puzzled. "I don't... what do you mean?"

"He hasn't called since I saw him in the office, and at this point I doubt he ever will. The field is wide open, he's all yours."

Scully gazed at her a moment, absorbing her words, then flushed as the implication became clear. "Oh! No, I didn't... I mean I'm not... oh, hell." she rubbed her forehead distractedly for a moment, then gestured at the chair. "Mind if I sit down?"

"No, not at all, go ahead," since there was only one chair in the room, Gemma sat down cross-legged on the bed facing her guest. Scully took another deep breath, flexed her fingers, and finally spoke.

"I think you've misunderstood something... I'm not interested in Mulder... that way.

Gemma lifted one eyebrow. That was all it took.

Scully blushed again, the redhead's curse, then smiled faintly. "Well, I respect him, I... care for him a lot, as a friend," she pointed out hastily. "And I'd have to be blind not to have noticed he's an attractive man... which I'm *not*. But to be perfectly honest with you, he pushes too many of my buttons for me to ever consider getting involved with him. Not to mention the fact that he's may *partner*! I have to work with him every day! It's hard enough to maintain any kind of equilibrium with him, without throwing sex into the equation."

Gemma considered her words for a moment, searched her face, and saw nothing but honesty there. "Okay... what then? You didn't just come here to tell me about Miranda Corman."

"You're right. I'm worried about him being alone right now. The Corman case hit too close to home for him."

Gemma shook her head. "Why? What do you mean?"

"How long have you known him?"

"A bit over a year."

"And he's never mentioned his sister?"

A knot began to form somewhere behind her sternum. "No... but then, we only talk once or twice a month."

"Talk?" Scully asked in obvious surprise, then bit her lip and shrugged apologetically.

Gemma smiled. "I live in Denver, he lives here... there's not much opportunity for anything else."

"The other day in the office, I thought there was more..." the sentence trailed off, but her implication was clear.

It was Gemma's turn to blush. "There is, just not very often."

"I see. Well, to return to the subject at hand, though I can't tell you any details, I can tell you this; Mulder had a younger sister who disappeared when he was twelve. They never found her."

Gemma felt for a moment as if she couldn't breathe, then she managed to suck in a breath. "Oh, Goddess! And this case brings it all back... stirs it all up again..."

"Exactly."

Gemma felt tears stinging to the surface and blinked them back. No wonder he hadn't called her... he was dealing with things that were far deeper and more traumatic than some stupid misunderstanding with someone he barely knew.

Sully spoke again, softer now. "I came to ask you if you would..." she hesitated, bit her lip, then plunged ahead. "He needs someone right now, and it can't be me. I can't get that involved with him, for reasons I've already told you. You can... you already are, it seems. I think you should go to him, be with him, just so he's not alone right now."

Gemma looked up at Scully, somewhat stunned by the request. Her first instinct was to say no, but after a moment's thought she nodded, slowly.

"Of course... if you think he'd want me there... he's not very happy with me at the moment."

"I don't think that matters," Scully said, echoing Gemma's thoughts.

"No, not now. I'm afraid I don't remember how to get to his apartment... I've only been there once."

"I'll take you there."

"I... okay, but what if he doesn't want me to stay?"

"I think he will, but I'll wait for awhile, just in case."

Gemma shook her head, laughing. "This is weird, you know."

Scully laughed, then sobered. "It is... but I just couldn't think of what else to do."

Gemma looked at Scully for a long, quiet moment, trying to see past her facade, then shook her head, puzzled. "Couldn't you stay with him, just as a friend?"

Scully lifted her gaze, and her eyes were shadowed. "No, not this time. I... don't trust myself. Not right now, not with him."

Gemma let that sink in a moment, then nodded in sympathy. "I understand. I really do, and I want you to know I think you're pretty amazing."

"That, or terminally stupid," Scully said with self-deprecating shake of her head.

"That's a distinct possibility," Gemma admitted with a grin. "Shall we go before you change your mind?"


Gemma walked up the stairs to Mulder's apartment building, glancing back once to see that Scully was waiting in her car at the curb across the street. It still felt odd to have Scully pushing her at Mulder like she had... almost giving her carte blanche, as it were. Would she regret it later? Possibly... even probably. She hoped it wouldn't make any future interactions between herself and Scully awkward. She wasn't planning to mention it to Mulder... it didn't seem like the kind of thing Scully would want him to know. She wished he didn't live in a building where you had to be buzzed in. It would be much simpler if she could simply walk in and knock on his door. This way it seemed like she was running a much greater risk of rejection. Steeling herself, she pressed the button next to his name, and waited. And waited. Finally, just as she was about to turn and leave, a voice came over the intercom, tinny and flat-sounding.

"Yeah?"

"Fox... I mean, Mulder... it's Gemma. Can I come up?"

There was another very long pause. He didn't answer her question verbally, but finally the door buzzed as it unlocked to admit her. She grabbed it quickly and opened it, then waved to Scully who waved back and pulled away from the curb as she turned and entered the building. Walking up the inside stairway to his door was even more nerve-wracking than before. She wasn't sure what to say to him... she had to be careful not to betray what Scully had told her. She'd have to stick to her own agenda until she saw how much he was willing to reveal to her.

Taking a deep breath, she tapped on his door. A moment later it opened. His eyes were dark with pain and memories, his face lined with fatigue. He looked worse than he had the night she'd met him, getting quietly drunk in a shitkicker bar in Denver as a memorial to fallen partners. A quiet ache began to close her throat, and she had to make a real effort to steady her voice.

"Hi... I hope this isn't a bad time... you look..."

He cut her off, but not meanly. "It's been a rough couple of days. Come on in, excuse the..." he caught himself and smiled wryly. "I think I've said that to you in every conversation since you got here. You must think I'm a slob."

She smiled back as she stepped inside and he closed the door, wondering if teasing would help. "Nope, I *know* you're a slob."

He chuckled, shaking his head as he placed a hand over his heart. "Wounded to the quick!"

"Aw... poor baby, you have my sympathy... but you could always hire a maid."

He sighed. "I could use a bit of that right now."

"Which? Maid service or sympathy?"

He grinned again. "Both."

"Sympathy you get free, but I charge for maid service."

"Care to take it out in trade?" he asked suggestively, attempting his usual dry humor.

She eyed him speculatively, taking in the two-day stubble, the wrinkled t-shirt and sweatpants, and his drooping shoulders. "I might be willing to consider it, but I've got to say that at the moment you don't look like you've got either the inclination or the stamina to make good on your end of the bargain. It looks to me like what you really need is someone to talk to. Why don't we just try that for now... you can pretend I'm on the phone if you need to."

She hadn't quite meant to say that, but it was out... damn.

He studied her solemnly for a moment, then put out a hand to touch her cheek softly. "Look, I'm sorry I haven't called you, I should have. I even meant to. But it's really been a difficult couple of days. You know I don't need to pretend I'm on the phone with you to talk to you, don't you? I don't just see you as a... a..." he stopped, obviously at a loss for the correct phrase.

"Fast fuck?" she supplied, crassly. "Easy lay?" he flinched a bit and she realized he'd taken her the wrong way so she smiled to let him know she wasn't angry. "Well... I hoped so, but it's not like you've got any evidence to the contrary, the way I practically assaulted you the other night. Honestly, I've never met anyone who affects me quite the way you do."

"I'm flattered... I think. But really, I love talking to you. You always manage to pick me up."

"Now I'm flattered. Come on, you look dead on your feet. Let's go sit down and you can tell me all about it," she took his hand and led him toward the couch.

"It?" he queried, flopping down with a tired sigh, legs splayed out, staring blankly at the space between his sock-clad feet.

Damn, but he had big feet, she noticed absently. Kind of like a puppy that hadn't yet grown into its paws. That thought almost made her smile, and she had to school her expression to seriousness as she replied to his question.

"Whatever it is that's bothering you."

"Oh. That," he said the words as two separate sentences. "It's kind of a long story, you don't want to hear about..."

"Don't say it!" Gemma interrupted him, standing with her fists on her hips. "Don't you dare finish that sentence, or I really *will* think you just see me as a sex object! I'm your friend, damnit! You can talk to me! I *want* to hear!"

His expression became rueful. "Sorry... really. I guess... most people don't want to know."

"I'm not most people, am I?"

"No, you're certainly not. Now will you sit down before I get a crick in my neck from looking up at you?"

She grinned. "Turnabout is fair play, but yes, I will." she sat down, kicked off her shoes, and tucked her feet up under herself. "Ready whenever you are."

He sighed, then reached over and took her hand, tracing his thumb across her palm. "Let's start simple. I'm sorry I got so bent out of shape the other day. I guess I was feeling a bit... well... like you were earlier, believe it or not. Guys have those fears too."

"Some guys do... I believe you're one of them. I felt badly... I should have said something sooner."

"After I had a chance to think about it, I could see why you were having a hard time bringing it up. You didn't want me to think you were trying to use me to get in, or for special favors and such."

That wasn't *precisely* what she'd been thinking, but it was close enough. She nodded. "I didn't want you to feel... compromised in any way."

He smiled. "Compromised... now there's a very Victorian word. Trust me, I don't. I think you'll do well, and your talent will be a real plus for you. Just don't let people know you have it... some of them will think you're a fruitcake, the rest will try to use it to their advantage. Use it, just keep it to yourself."

"I thought that would be the best course, but I appreciate the backup. Speaking of using my talent, I heard about Miranda Corman on the news. They said she was unharmed, but you and I know she can't be... not after this long. There has to be a lot of psychological trauma there that will have to be dealt with. Is that what's bothering you? The case?"

He shivered, closing his eyes. "Kinda."

"Don't clam up on me, Fox, please."

He flinched. "Don't call me that... not tonight."

"Okay... on one condition. You have to tell me *why*. The *real* reason. Not that nonsense about 'foxy.'"

He turned away from her slightly. "That was true."

"Yes, I know, but it's also only part of the problem."

"Damnit, Gemma... you keep telling me you don't read minds," he complained softly.

"So I lied. Come on. Tell me."

"Nagger."

"Yep, it runs in the family. I don't give up easily, either."

He sighed and ran his hands through his hair, disheveling it thoroughly. He remained half-hunched over, his face in his hands as he spoke, almost in a whisper. "I can't hear my name, and not think of her calling out to me."

Gemma tensed... was this it? Was he going to tell her about his sister? "Who was calling out to you, and why?" she asked softly, putting a hand on his shoulder.

"Sam... my sister. She was calling for help, and I couldn't help her."

"Tell me." she prompted.

"I dream about it too, that's why I usually sleep in here with the television on. It seems to help, kind of white noise for my brain. If I don't I dream... I can hear her, calling for me to help, she sounds so scared... but I can't move, and the light is so bright I can't see what they're doing to her... even if I could turn my head to look. They said she would be alright but they never brought her back."

Gemma tried to sort through the vivid images his words stirred to make sense of what he was saying. For some reason she found herself associating what she was hearing with a movie about alien abductions she'd seen on television once... she stiffened. Was that...? No, it couldn't be. She swallowed hard and managed to find her voice.

"How old were you?"

"Twelve."

"And your sister was younger?"

"Eight. Miranda Corman just turned nine. She was seven when that monster took her."

"Oh, Sweet Lady... but you... they didn't harm you?"

"No... it was like I wasn't there! They only wanted her."

"What about your parents?"

"They were sleeping... they didn't hear anything."

"They were *sleeping*?" she asked incredulously. "How could they sleep through a kidnapping? She was calling for help... what about you? Were you calling out too?"

"I..." he lifted his head, and she wanted to cry at the anguish written on his face. "I couldn't. They wouldn't let me. This voice inside my head kept telling me not to move, not to call out, not to look. And I didn't! Why didn't I?"

She shivered. "Inside you? Telepathy?"

"Yes... I think so."

"Goddess... I can't... Please, let me say this so I'm certain of it. You *are* talking about an alien abduction, aren't you?"

He stood up and went to the window, sticking a finger through the blinds to drag the slats apart so he could look out, obviously not really seeing anything. "I don't know, I'll probably never know, but I think so. It has all the earmarks of one. I went through hypnotic regression to access the memories... before that all I had were the dreams."

She went and stood behind him, her arms around him, her face pressed against his back. "I hurt for you," she whispered softly. "I hurt *with* you. I wish there was something I could do, but there isn't, is there?"

"Nothing. Nothing at all," he said bleakly.

They stood like that for a long time, until Gemma felt a drop of something hot and wet hit her arm. Then another. The shudder in his indrawn breath confirmed it. Gently she unclasped her arms from around him and turned him to face her, pulling him down with her as she sat on the floor, holding him in silence, just letting him work through the grief. Scully had been right. He shouldn't be alone with this. He'd been alone with it for far too long. She held him against her breasts, her fingers stroking through the softness of his hair, then across his shoulders and upper back in a pattern of comfort that was ages-old.

He calmed finally, and she felt him come back into himself in the tightening of his arms around her, in the way he cleared his throat, in the way his breathing changed. Her heart ached for the child he'd been when he had been forced to confront so much misery, for the adult left scarred by a lifetime's hurt. She continued to stroke his hair, cradling him. Against her shoulder she felt his lips move... her name, a bare whisper. She drew him even closer and kissed him on the ear, the only spot she could reach. He shuddered in her arms, and moved until his mouth could find hers, blindly, his eyes still closed. Gemma opened to him, knowing this was a kind of comfort too, the reaffirmation of life in the face of intense loss.

His hands slid under her shirt, cupping her breasts. Her nipples hardened and she caught her breath at the pleasure of his touch. He stroked his fingers across the taut buds again, then abandoned her momentarily as he yanked her t-shirt up and off. His mouth closed over her right breast, beard-stubble harsh against her skin as his teeth tugged at the peak through the through the lace and satin layers of her bra. His fingers ripped open her jeans with the ease of someone familiar with the vagaries of button-fly Levi's, then one of his hands was sliding into the opening, beneath the elastic band of her briefs, then between her thighs.

Gemma arched upward with an incoherent sob as his fingers found her and his mouth moved to her other breast, using his teeth again, just enough to pleasure without hurting. His hips moved, rubbing the heavy thrust of his erection against her thigh with only the softness of worn-thin denim and sweatsuit-fleece between his skin and hers. The rough urgency in his touch and his breathing was infectious. She rocked her hips, stroking over his fingers, feeling herself grow slick and open for him. He moved his hand farther down, found the entrance to her sex and slid two fingers inside her. She moaned and reached down to grab him by the ears and pull his mouth up to hers, using her tongue to show him what she wanted him to do to her. His fingers mimicked the slow thrust and deep exploration, wringing more incoherent sounds from her.

Just when she thought she was going to explode he stopped suddenly, and she whimpered in distress as he worked his hand out from between her thighs. He grabbed the waistband of her jeans and began to tug. It took her a moment to realize that he was trying to remove them, but when she finally did she lifted her hips and he stripped them off, taking her underwear with them. She bent her knees and opened her thighs as he yanked his sweats down and moved into place. She held her breath for a moment as he positioned himself, then he was entering her in a fast, powerful thrust that opened and filled her perfectly. She locked her legs around his waist and held on as he drove hard into her, feeling the cool slickness of the floor under her back in stark contrast to the hot, silky male above and inside her. As it always seemed to, her body responded to his with almost unnatural ease, and she felt the heat and tension of her nearing release coiling in her belly, each thrust of his body into hers torquing the spring tighter. When it came it was so powerful that she vocalized it, something she'd never done before in her life.

It took her several minutes to realize that the sharp, feral cry had been her own. It also took her that long to realize they had finished together... or as close as made no difference. His body was wedged tightly into hers, his arms at full extension as he braced himself above her, his eyes closed and a strangely fierce smile on his face as he struggled to regain his breath. She knew exactly how he felt... her own expression probably mirrored his. Pleasure so intense it was almost pain. His arms started to tremble and she reached up to touch his face with her palm. That seemed to break the spell. His eyes snapped open, he stared at her for a moment with an indescribable mixture of emotions, and then he sighed and let himself ease down until he was resting against her, his nose against hers as his mouth brushed softly over her lips.

"Thank you," he whispered.

"What for?"

"Being a friend. Being here when I needed you."

She smiled, and shook her head. "That's what... friends are for. Fox... I can't really breathe..."

He rolled over, taking her with him. "Sorry... I didn't think."

Lying on top of him, Gemma drew a long, deep breath and smiled. "S'okay, now. I think you just tend to forget just how big you are."

He grinned shamelessly. "Is that a compliment?"

She grinned back. "If you like."

He was about to reply when the phone rang. He reached for it, knocking it off the coffee table in the process. Gemma retrieved it and handed it to him. It was one of those cordless kind, and he extended the antenna and thumbed it on.

"Mulder," he said matter-of-factly. She wondered if he always answered the phone with his name, instead of the more usual 'hello.' "Hi Art... yeah, what? The tv?" he had a puzzled look on his face for a moment, which transformed into a brilliant grin as he laughed aloud, then swiftly had to compose himself again. "No, no, it's not funny, not at all. I was laughing at something else. Yes, I'm sure it is. I'm really sorry. Yes, I'll try, thanks."

He turned the phone off again and tossed it at the couch, then looked at her, grinning again, eyes warmly amused.

"What?" she asked, half afraid of the answer.

"That was Art. He lives downstairs."

"And...?"

"He asked me to turn the TV down, he said it woke him up."

Gemma looked over at the blank screen of the big television, then back at Mulder. How could this Art person have been woken up by the television when it hadn't been on since she'd gotten... Sudden realization came.

"Oh..." she breathed softly, her face hot with embarrassment. "I don't usually..." she began, then broke off, deciding silence was the better part of valor. Too late, though. His grin broadened.

"Now that I *will* take as a compliment."


Mulder was asleep finally, but just as she had the last time she'd spent time in his apartment, Gemma found herself unable to do the same. Something about his place made her feel restless and unsettled. She lay in bed with him long enough that she was sure he wouldn't wake if she got up, then went into the kitchen and fixed herself a cup of tea. For a while she stood there in her t-shirt, sipping her tea and staring blankly at the beige bricks behind the stove, trying once more to fathom where exactly she fit into his world, and for that matter, asking herself where she *wanted* to fit. Finally, deciding she still didn't know, she sighed and went out to the living room to find a book.

She was struck again by the number of small knickknacks he possessed. Curious, she walked over to the display shelf that held most of them and studied them. One in particular caught her eye... it was a photograph of two kids, both looking a bit stiff in their Sunday best. One was a tall, rather gangly boy of about ten or eleven, she was sure it was Fox, even at that age the sleepy-lidded eyes and full lower lip were unmistakable. The other child was a girl, six or seven years old, with shoulder-length dark hair and a sweet, open smile. His sister? What had he called her? Sam? Probably Samantha. She picked up the photo and studied it more closely, noting serious gaze of the boy, and the protective way his hand rested on the girl's shoulder. She felt tears starting and blinked them back.

How awful... to not know. To feel that emptiness for years, that guilt. Anger surged through her suddenly. Why had his parents let him go on thinking he should have been able to help? Why hadn't they reassured him that it wasn't his fault, gotten him counseling to help him deal with the loss? The anger faded quickly as she thought further. They probably hadn't even known he felt that way. He wasn't the most forthcoming person on the face of the planet, and they had been dealing with the pain themselves... probably blaming themselves as well. Yet if what Fox had told her was true, there was nothing any of them could have done. She had been taken by someone, or something, capable of circumventing any interference. The not- knowing must be the worst. Wondering year after year if she was still alive, if she was safe...

Gemma caught her breath. If she was still alive... of course! Could she possibly... would it work? She turned the picture frame over and slid the cardboard backing down, exposing the photograph. She lifted the photo out of the frame, and held it carefully so as not to smudge the glossy images. Letting herself go, she reached out, searching. There was a very familiar feel in it... Fox. The photo retained an imprint of his grief, she could almost see him sitting with the picture in his hands. There was a tiny, blurry presence that his mostly overlay, but it wasn't nearly enough of a focus for her to use. The disappointment she felt was acute. With a sigh she replaced it in the frame.

Meticulously she set it back down in the dust-free spot that marked its normal position, and looked at some of the other items. There was a baseball with an illegible scrawl on it that she assumed was the autograph of some famous player; a small die-cast metal car, like a Hotwheel (tm) ... she thought it was an old Mustang but she wasn't sure. Next to it was a seashell, and way at the back of the shelf sat a little blown-glass swan of the sort usually found at local carnivals, and a six-inch high doll with porcelain face and hands dressed in Victorian- era clothes. Her nose was slightly chipped, and her green gown was dusty. Gemma caught her breath. Those were not the sort of thing a man normally collected. Could it be... could they have belonged to his sister? That sort of very personal focus could work!

Gently she picked up the swan, feeling its cool slickness in her palm. She closed her eyes, and... yes! She felt something! Faint, indistinct, but *there*. And it was the same person whose faint imprint she had sensed beneath Fox's in the photo. She lifted the doll from the shelf, blew the dust from her, and tried again. The odd sensation was stronger, more coherent, and both objects had definitely belonged to the same person, that much she could sense easily! The perception of presence warmed her right hand, flowing up her arm, life... strong, and powerful. Whoever had owned these things was not dead, and if she wasn't dead... did that mean she was still someplace that she could be found? Could Samantha have been brought back, but not home? Was she 'findable?'

Glancing around the room she spotted a globe on an upper bookshelf. She got it down and set it on the desk, then sat down in the chair in front of it. Holding the doll and the swan in her right hand, she placed her left hand over the globe and began to walk her fingers across it, eyes closed, searching, waiting for the almost painful tingle in her hand that would tell her she was near her goal. She could still feel that 'alive-ness" in her right hand, but in her left hand there was nothing. No 'finding' tingle at all. Gemma turned the globe, inching her fingers across it in a painstaking spiral, fingers feeling the tiny ridges of the relief on the globe, the striations where the edges of each section met, the raised band of the equator... but nothing else.

She wanted so badly for her theory to be true! She wanted to do this for him, to heal that awful emptiness... she worked harder, trying to force the feeling, but still nothing. Nothing. Her hand began to tremble slightly as she moved it to the north pole and started the search over again, even slower. Still nothing. She worked from the south pole this time, working up the globe, turning it, careful not to miss a millimeter. Nothing. 'Oh, please... let her be *somewhere*,' she prayed silently. 'Let me find her!'

Her head was beginning to hurt but she kept at it, fingers tracing and retracing each latitude line, each longitude intersection, yet each time found nothing. There as no warning spark in her palm, no pinprickly pain in her fingers. She put the focus items down on top of each other on the desk, held the globe between her palms and put her lips against the doll. Sometimes using a more sensitive surface helped... Yes! There.... she felt something, a tiny itch in the *back* of her right hand, then it was gone again. She let out a little sob of sheer frustration, and then couldn't stop. Tears spilled down her cheeks, leaving wet spots on the doll's dress as she tried again and again. Then suddenly Mulder was there, his hands over hers, lifting them away from the globe. They felt shockingly hot... it took her a moment to realize that it was because her own hands were so cold. She fought him, trying to get back to the globe, to keep trying to find the source of her certainty that Samantha Mulder was alive. He held her hands firmly, not allowing it.

"Stop, Gemma, please," his voice sounded strained, yet also softly compassionate. It broke through her concentration and she lost the focus completely. With a moan she turned and buried her face in the fluffy thickness of his white terry-cloth robe, feeling the knot of the belt against her cheek.

"I can't find her!" she whispered. "I can't find her. I feel her but I can't find her! I wanted to find her so bad... why can't I find her?"

"Because she's not here," he answered, a world of loss in his voice.

She pulled away and looked up at him, regret written across her face. "She's not, is she?"

He shook his head slowly, but there was a question burning deep in his eyes. She knew what it was, and it was one she could answer.

"She's alive, Fox. I can't tell you any more than that, but maybe that's enough."

His eyes closed and his hands tightened painfully around hers as he sucked in a ragged breath.

"Thank god..." his voice cracked, and he swallowed hard, she could feel the relief flood through him like a physical thing. "That's more than I could hope for." He leaned down and brushed his lips across her knuckles. Thank you... it seems to be my night for saying that."

Gemma shook her head. "I should thank you."

"What for?"

"For believing me... you don't know how hard it is to always see doubt in people's eyes when I tell them things. That's why I rarely do it anymore, I just keep it to myself."

He smiled. "I believe in the extreme possibilities, you know that. 'There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.'"

She smiled back. "The benefits of a classical education?"

"I didn't go to Oxford for nothing. I can quote the Bard with the best of them. A line further down provides another appropriate quote, 'Rest, rest, perturbed spirit.' Come on, you look like I feel," he tugged her to her feet, turning toward the bedroom. She balked.

"No, I won't be able to sleep."

He turned back to her, a concerned expression on his face. "Why not?"

"I... too many things on my mind, I guess."

"Such as?"

"Oh, lots of things."

"Tell me."

He wasn't going to leave it alone. "Honestly, your mother picked the wrong variety of canine when she named you! She should have called you Terrier! You're like a dog on a bone!"

He laughed silently in the odd way he did when acknowledging a hit. "How'd you guess that was my middle name? Not to change the subject, but out with it! What's bothering you?"

"We are... us... whatever."

His gaze suddenly became guarded. She sighed. "Oh settle down. I'm no more comfortable with this than you are! But I think we need to figure out... what we are. If I get accepted to the Academy I'll be living here for however long it takes to get through it, and I want to know where I stand with you... what to expect, if anything. I can deal with whatever we decide, I just need to know. Can you understand that?"

He nodded, slowly. "Yeah, I think I can. I know what it's like to wonder, and not know. To be honest, I've wondered what we are, myself."

She relaxed a little. So far, so good. "Okay, let's start with this... I like you. I like being around you. I like having sex with you."

He grinned. "I can deal with that."

She lifted an eyebrow in exasperation and his grin softened into a smile. "I like you too, and I enjoy your company, and I think it's fairly obvious that I enjoy having sex with you too. So far we agree on all points."

She nodded, then took a deep breath. Now came the hard part.

"I also think you'd be hell to try to have any kind of a steady relationship with. You're driven, almost obsessive about your work. You're extremely inner-directed, and sometimes uncommunicative. None of those things make for easy relationships."

He lifted his eyes to hers, and she braced herself to see pain in them... but it wasn't there. He was frowning a little, but his expression was more rueful than hurt. "You're right. All those things are true, and I have to add that I'm not likely to change, either."

She tempered her surprise enough to answer him. "No, but I wouldn't like you nearly as well if you were any different. Part of what I like about you are the very things that make you..." she smiled, softening the words, "...high risk, as it were. But, that leaves us back at square one. Do we want to continue as we have been?"

He looked at her thoughtfully. "Exactly how is that? How would you describe what we've been so far?"

She sighed, frustrated. "If I could do that I don't think we'd be having this conversation."

"Earlier tonight you said you were my friend... is that how you feel?" he asked it lightly, but something about the intensity of his gaze told her that the question held more meaning for him than he wanted to let on.

"Yes, but..."

"No qualifiers, is that how you feel?"

She nodded. "Yes. I do. I feel we're friends... pretty good ones, in fact. I love talking to you. I miss you when you don't call for awhile. I've told you things about myself I've never told anyone else... especially not anyone male. You've never taken advantage of that, or made fun of me... you've always been honest and understanding. Those are things I value, I don't want to lose that."

His face lit with one of his rare, really genuine smiles. "I like that... I like being friends with you, and I feel very much the same way you do. I don't... have all that many friends."

"Oh, Fox..." she began, feeling awful. He interrupted her.

"Don't. I prefer it that way, most of the time. It's easier."

Gemma swallowed the sympathy she'd been about to offer, letting him keep his pride. "There is one thing though..."

"Which is?"

"Well... the other part. Sex."

He lifted an eyebrow. "Want to clarify that?"

"Are we friends, or are we lovers?"

He took her hands, studying her face, his thumbs massaging her palms. After a long moment he spoke. "Do we have to be one or the other? Can't we be both?"

"I..." she stopped, thoughtful. "I never really thought about it before. It always seemed like a one or the other proposition in the past."

"And now?"

"I... now... I could see being both. With you," she laughed suddenly. "Beulah would laugh at me. She and her lady have that kind of a relationship, and I've always envied it. I always said it wasn't possible for a man and a woman to have that sort of relationship, and she said it was. Why are you looking at me like that?"

Fox was staring at her, a slow smile spreading across his face.

"Why do I feel like I'm watching 'When Harry Met Sally'?" he asked, chuckling.

She giggled and nodded. "Oh, goddess, that was practically right out of the script, wasn't it?"

He nodded "Sure sounded like it to me."

"Just don't ever take me to a deli," she said, deadpan, but she couldn't keep it up and they both burst out laughing. A moment later he was serious again, regarding her intently.

"Can you live with this? Is it enough?"

"Enough what?"

"Enough of a clarification... of what we are."

She nodded. "Yes, it's exactly what I needed to know. We leave things as they are. We're friends, and we're occasional lovers," she grinned. "...and we don't try to be anything we're not."

"Fair enough. Now will you come back to bed? I..." he hesitated, the smiled sheepishly. "To be honest, I sleep better when you're there."

She shook her head ruefully. "What a compliment! I put you to sleep!"

"Hey, for me that IS a compliment! I have a lot of trouble sleeping, so it's a rare talent as far as I'm concerned. C'mon. I need rest. Otherwise how am I going to keep in shape for those 'occasions'?"

She laughed and let him lead her back to bed.


She was waking up... she didn't want to wake up. She was *sure* she didn't want to wake up, her dreams were just too good to lose, and she was too close to it.. ah yeah, right there, like that... Her dream-lover's fingers moved just exactly the way she wanted them to, his warm body against her back felt wonderful, his lips and teeth grazing the back of her neck as his hand worked between her thighs...

Feeling a strong sense of deja-vu along with her intense arousal, Gemma opened her eyes and smiled, arching back into his touch, feeling the hard ridge of his erection against her buttocks. She shifted, rolling onto her belly, spreading her thighs. He sat back and his hand slid between her legs, fingers slipping easily inside to wring a gasp of pleasure from her as they stroked and explored the depths of her body, hot with arousal, and wet from the previous night's lovemaking.

"Good morning." the husky rasp of his voice made her shiver and clutch at the sheets as his fingers continued to work their magic. Her hips rocked against the bed, and she was trembling.

"'Morning..." she managed, as he gently bit the side of her neck, then tongued the spot as if in apology. She bucked harder, riding his fingers, wanting more. "Fox, please... I want you!"

"You got me," he teased, stroking the palm of his free hand over the curve of her buttocks, kissing the spot between her shoulder blades that made her crazy, then he licked a path down her spine to nip lightly where his hand had just stroked. Shocks of response made her whole body jerk, clenched her vagina around his fingers. She panted a moment, then finally found her voice.

"No! You know what I mean!"

"Do I?" he asked, wickedly.

She could hear him grinning, damn him. "Yes! You do!"

"I'm here, what more could you want?"

"I need you!"

"That's nice."

"Stop teasing me, damnit!"

"Tell me what you want..." his voice was a bare whisper, hot against her ear. She could feel him, hard and urgent against her thigh. He wanted it as much as she did, but he also wanted the forbidden thrill of being asked. Why not?

"I want you inside me, I want you to fuck me," she whispered, indulging him, feeling her face flush and her pulse race as she said it.

He knelt the vee between her legs, then to her surprise he reached down and turned her onto her side, so one of her thighs was draped over his hip. She looked up at him, waiting, and his eyes locked with hers. Then he was entering her, pushing inside in a long, slow movement that gave her plenty of time to adjust and accommodate him. His eyes closed, his lips parted, and she came, watching the pleasure on his face as their bodies merged. He gasped, his big hands splayed across her buttocks.

"Ah, god, Gemma, I can feel that!"

She moaned, feeling another wave pulse through her as she realized what he meant. He was feeling the contractions of her orgasm around his penis. He held still until they subsided, then he began to stroke slowly into her, sending little sparks of delight racing through her with each movement. She'd never tried this position before, and she discovered she liked it. She loved being able to see his face, loved the angle at which he entered her, the curious sideways twist it gave his movements and the way it made her feel every hard, heavy inch of him going in... and coming out.

The almost transcendent intensity of concentration on his face made her wish she could feel what he was feeling, wondering how different it was for a man. He looked like an angel... not a pudgy little cherub with wings, but the kind who guarded the gates to Eden; sculpturally beautiful, luminously male. She smiled at the thought, knowing he'd love to tease her about flaming swords, but just then he gripped her hips, lifting her, pulling her back hard onto him and she moaned in surprised pleasure, everything driven from her mind but *feeling*. She wrapped her arms around a pillow and held on, using it to muffle her soft cries as he drove into her relentlessly.

Lightning exploded through her, electricity arcing through every nerve ending, She shuddered and sobbed, trying to keep from waking up the neighbors as she had the night before. He went still suddenly, and let out a long, soft moan, then slid down until he was lying beside her, and took her face between his palms and kissed her, a hot, open- mouthed kiss that seemed to prolong the pleasure almost past bearing. Finally he pulled away and turned onto his back, his legs tangled with hers, his body still pulsing inside hers. She watched his stomach move as he tried to catch his breath and knew she looked about the same. Finally she had enough breath back to speak.

"Wow... that was..."

"Yeah," he sighed, grinning a little wearily. "It was."

She laughed softly and put her hand against his face, enjoying the roughness of his stubble against her palm. He rubbed against her hand, like a cat butting his head into a petting. She scratched him lightly under the chin, grinning.

"Good kitty."

"Mrrrow," he said, looking at her through half-closed eyes, a playful smile curving his mouth. Her breath caught as a shock of almost pain ran through her, the harsh intrusion of reality on her fantasy. He propped himself on an elbow and looked at her in concern.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing, really."

"Don't start that again... what?"

"This is Saturday. My plane leaves at nine-thirty tonight."

His face went almost expressionless for a moment, then he sighed in resignation. "All good things..."

"... must come to an end," she finished for him. "Worse yet, I have a 10 am checkout. Do you have any idea what time it is?"

He looked over her shoulder and nodded. "Seven-eighteen."

She was surprised. "That early?"

He grinned. "The early bird gets the worm."

She burst out laughing. "I'd hardly call you that!"

His grin broadened. "Well... a cock is a kind of bird..."

"Oh, so I'm the worm?" she demanded in mock outrage, grabbing a pillow and bashing him with it. He laughed and reached for the other pillow. She tried to snatch it out of his reach and they ended up wrestling for it. He won easily, pinning her beneath him, her wrists trapped above her head in one of his hands.

"No fair, you're bigger than me, and you've had martial arts training and all that kind of stuff!" Gemma said, pouting stagily as she squirmed beneath him, half-heartedly attempting to free herself.

"Agents are trained to use every advantage when subduing an opponent," he responded as he leaned down and placed a kiss behind her ear, tickling her into a shiver. She felt his penis stir where it was pressed against her thighs, and she smiled. Was that right? She shifted her legs apart and his hips sank between them. She curled her hips upward, rubbing herself over him. His eyelids fluttered closed and she heard his breath hiss over his teeth. She did it again, more slowly, making sure he came into full contact with the moist heat between her thighs. He let go of her wrists so he could use his hands to brace himself. The instant he released her she grabbed both pillows and brought them down on his rear-end with a satisfying thwack.

He jerked in surprise, letting out a startled yelp. She lifted her eyebrows and smiled smugly into his amazement.

"You said to use every advantage."

He shook his head, smiling ruefully. "So I did. Maybe you should be applying to the CIA, not the FBI, with dirty tricks like that."

She laughed. "Moi? Dirty tricks? You're just mad because I won..."

"Won?" he asked silkily. "Have you?" he sat up, pinning her thighs with his weight, and his hands flashed out and captured her wrists again. He transferred them to one hand as he stretched his other hand toward the dresser top, straining slightly to reach it and hold her still simultaneously. Something metallic rattled and he swore, then grinned as he managed to get ahold of whatever he was after. She tried ineffectively to wriggle out of his grasp, but he held her without much effort and then dangled a pair of blue-silver handcuffs in front of her nose.

"If you really were a suspect, you'd be wearing these by now. A year from now I won't be able to do this so easily."

"Why not?"

"Because you'll have been through all the same courses I have by then."

She realized he was talking about her application to the Academy. "You really think I'll get in?"

"I know you will," he said, utter surety in his tone.

She arched an eyebrow at him suggestively. "Then I guess you'd better use those now, while you still can."

The look on his face was worth losing the fight. His eyes widened, and his mouth actually fell open. He looked from the cuffs in his hand, then back to her face, as if unable to believe his ears. She gazed up at him challengingly, and his eyes went smoky.

"Ah, Gemma, don't tempt me," he said softly.

She grinned. "But I like tempting you."

He grinned back, and let the cuffs drop onto the floor. "I don't need these to be tempted, and you don't need them to be tempting."

He lowered his head, his tongue trailing a damp pathway down her throat, stopping briefly to lick each nipple into aching tautness before continuing down to dip into her navel, then lower, over the gentle curve of her abdomen, into the hollows below one hipbone, across the indentation just above her pubic curls to the matching hollow on the other side. Moving his mouth to the vulnerable cup where the tendon arched, he bit gently, then sucked. Gemma gasped, trying to reach down, to bury her fingers in his hair and tug him away, but she couldn't; he still held her wrists in one hand. Feeling her trying to pull away he looked up at her, and shook his head.

"Don't move, don't touch, this is for you."

She stared at him, then nodded. He let go of her hands. She almost reached down to touch him, then stopped, and put her hands behind her head. His mouth descended again, to the same spot.

Almost instinctively she tried to close herself, but he wouldn't let her, planting his elbows firmly between her legs so she couldn't close them as his mouth moved up and down the silky, tender flesh of her inner thighs. She moved her hands up to grip the headboard, trying to keep herself from touching him.

He bent her left knee so he could nip at the sensitive skin behind it. It tickled and she laughed, twisting, trying to get away, but held in place by his grip on her ankle and calf.

"Fox, stop it! That tickles, let go!"

He shook his head, grinning. "Relax and it'll stop tickling," he whispered. "Relax."

She huffed a breath out in exasperation. "Relax? How... oh! Oh, Goddess..." she forgot what she was going to say as his tongue laved the ticklish spot with utterly devastating results. No tickle this time, just an arc of ecstasy blazing up the back of her leg and imploding deep in her belly. She gasped as he moved lower, licking and nipping down her calf to her ankle, then he lifted her foot and pressed a kiss into the arch. It should have tickled, but it didn't. Something had changed, as if some secret switch inside her had been tripped, transforming the sensations from annoying to arousing. She stopped protesting, though not from any conscious decision.

He massaged her foot, then set it down and did the same to the other one. After that he reversed his course, kissing the arch of her foot, licking and nipping a path up her leg, behind her knee, then he was lifting her legs over his shoulders and she felt his fingers parting her, very gently, exposing the very heart of her. She tensed, waiting for his touch, aching for it. She felt utterly exposed and vulnerable, yet completely safe, he might drive her mad with desire, but he would never hurt her. A current of air touched her, cool against her heat, startling. He did it again, blowing gently, until she arched upward.

"Please..." she breathed. "...oh, please."

He relented. She clenched her teeth around a scream as he gave her what she wanted, fingers sliding deep inside her as his mouth closed over the taut, aching bud of her clitoris. Trapped in her own need she imploded, shattering into a thousand fragments, glittering shards of liquid fire, then gradually coalesced again, like drops of mercury running together to form an apparent whole.

When she came fully back to herself her hands were free and he was holding her, wrapped around her like a cocoon of warmth and comfort. She realized she was crying, and shaking, and his body was tight and tense against her, his voice hoarse with concern.

"I'm sorry... I'm sorry..." he was whispering into her hair.

"Wha...." she swallowed to get some moisture into her throat and tried again. "What for?"

He eased away and looked down at her face, obviously puzzled by the beatific smile on her face. He touched the wet streaks left by her tears with a finger tip, and drew a shaky breath.

"God! You scared me! I thought I'd killed you for a minute there."

"You did," she smiled, "...just a little. It was heaven, anyway. Now it's your turn."

She lifted her mouth to his and kissed him as her hand slid down his chest and found his sex, only partly erect... he really had been afraid he'd hurt her. She stroked him, feeling him fill and harden in her palm, and his mouth became demanding, drinking her in as his fear turned to relief, and relief to need. She pushed him down onto his back and leaned down, engulfing him in the heat of her mouth, wanting to repay the gift he'd given her. He moaned and bucked, catching her hair in his hands to pull her away.

"No, please... I want *inside* you."

She gazed down at him, his lips parted as he struggled to keep himself in check, eyes dark and unfocused with desire. She straddled him, found him, and guided him into her. As she sank down onto the hard length of his cock he made a sound midway between a moan and a growl, and arched upward to meet her, driving himself deep. She shuddered, opening to his invasion, and then began to rock, bracing her hands on either side of him for balance. He shook his head.

"No, let me, I need..."

Before she could react he managed to turn, levering both of them onto their sides, then he completed the roll, and she was beneath him. He began to move, driving into her, with the same ferocity as he had the night before, operating at an almost instinctive level. She matched him, lifting to meet each thrust, pushing herself into him until he shuddered, pouring his need into her body, and collapsed down against her, his head heavy against her breasts. She held him, feeling his pulse and breathing gradually slow. After a few moments she realized he was asleep. She smiled and eased herself into a more comfortable position. There was something really gratifying about loving a man into exhaustion.


Gemma had to call the hotel from his apartment to request a late checkout. She had a hard time not cracking up as she did it, since Mulder was shaking his finger at her and laughing as she lied baldly to the desk-clerk about having had car trouble the night before. She hung up the phone and scowled at him.

"Was that necessary?" she inquired, arms crossed.

He shook his head, obviously unrepentant. "You're terrible at that, you're going to need a lot of practice before you can be a really proficient liar, you know."

"Well it's not a skill I've ever needed, before," she said defensively.

"You didn't need it this time, either, you know. The desk clerk doesn't care why you needed a late check out, or why you weren't calling from your room. All he needed to know was that you wanted one."

"Well... I'm not used to staying in hotels, either."

"That'll change. Since I joined the Bureau my life seems to be lived in a succession of ratty hotel rooms," he sighed. "But I'm hungry. Let's get dressed and go get you checked out so we can eat, okay?"

She nodded, and fished her jeans out from under the coffee- table as he headed for the bathroom. She heard the shower go on, then he stuck his head around the door frame.

"Come on, it'll be quicker if we do this together, and it conserves water. I'll wash your back, you can do mine."

She stood there for a minute, jeans in hand, grinning. "You think it'll be *quicker* to shower *together*? Have you lost your mind?"

He laughed. "No, but I'm hungry. That'll keep my mind off... other things. I promise, I'll be a perfect gentleman."

For a moment she considered taking that as a dare, but decided against it. She tossed her jeans onto the bed next to her t-shirt and joined him. She was little disappointed that he was indeed, a perfect gentleman, since there was something quite arousing about having a slippery, soapy body pressed up against your own in a confined space, with hot water cascading all around you. Next time, she promised herself, watching him shave as she combed her hair out. Next time.


"Where are we going?"

"You'll see."

"Can I open the bag? Whatever's in there smells wonderful!"

"It's raspberry croissants, and no, you can't. Not until we're there. Drink some of your latte so you can get the lid on it before it spills, okay? Some of these potholes... excuse me, I meant 'street improvements' are big enough to cause tidal waves."

She laughed and licked some of the foam from where it towered above the edge of the paper cup, then sipped the steamed-milk-and- espresso mixture until the level was low enough for her to snap the lid down over it.

"There. Happy now?"

He glanced at her, taking his eyes off the road long enough to make her nervous, then he shifted his gaze back to the street in front of them.

"Yes, actually, I am... how about you?"

She was shaken a bit by his sudden gravity. "Yes, I am. Very much so. I really do lo... enjoy being with you." she almost slipped... best not to use *that* word around a skittish male, no matter how appropriate it was, and how innocent the context. His shrewd gaze slid her way again for a moment, and a slight smile curved his mouth.

"I don't scare that easy, Gemma."

She stared at him, then shook her head and sighed. "I should know better than to try and slip anything past you."

"Yep, you should. There's no need to censor yourself, I believe in free speech.

"I'll remember that. Oh... wow... what a gorgeous place!" She craned her head to look up at the towering spires of the building they were approaching. "I assume it's a church."

He grinned. "Yep, that's Washington Cathedral, though some people call it the National Cathedral."

He clicked on the turn indicator and pulled into turn lane for the parking lot. Gemma looked at him, a little puzzled.

"Why are we stopping?"

"The Central Tower is the highest point in DC. We're going to eat our breakfast in the Bishop's Garden, or maybe the Herb Garden, depending on which one is less crowded, then we're going to go up there so I can return the favor you did me up on Flagstaff mountain."

Gemma felt herself blushing hotly. "Ah... no, I don't think so, Fox! I mean, really! I may be pagan, but even *I* wouldn't do that in a *church*!"

He stared at her for a long moment, then suddenly threw his head back and laughed until the tears ran. Offended, Gemma crossed her arms over her chest and felt smugly pleased when the car behind them honked for him to go ahead and pull into the parking lot. He maneuvered the car into a spot, still laughing. Finally he managed to control himself, and shake his head.

"I meant the *view* Gemma."

"Oh," she blushed again, then bit her lip. "I thought... I thought..."

"I know what you thought," he said, chuckling.

It *was* funny. She tried not to laugh, but couldn't resist. A strangled snort escaped her, and the utter silliness of the sound made it impossible to resist, and she doubled over, cackling like a madwoman. He leaned over and kissed the back of her neck, which sent a shiver through her and didn't much help her quest for calm, then he tugged on her sleeve.

"If you can walk, come on. I'm about to starve to death."

Gemma managed to get out of the car, still laughing though not quite as hard, and hung weakly on the door-frame for a moment as she sucked the thick, humid air into her lungs. Mulder pressed her cup into her hand, picked up his own coffee and the bag containing the mysterious, and tantalizingly-scented whatever it was, then came around to her side of the car.

"Need help?"

"I can manage." She straightened and closed the door. He nodded toward the big wrought-iron gates through which other people were entering the grounds.

"Then let's go."

He started walking, she followed, admiring the lean grace of him, the way his weathered gray polo draped over his torso, and his jeans clung to his legs making them look about a mile long. Damn, he was a good-looking man! A couple of high-school-age girls who were standing by the gate gawked at him, and she resisted the urge to smirk, though she did walk a bit faster to catch up with him. She winked at the girls, and was rewarded by a giggle from one of them. Mulder looked at her, obviously suspicious, and she just widened her eyes innocently as they passed through the gate into another place and time.


Gemma came in the door feeling harried, hot, and exhausted, having worked late into the evening preparing a report for Agent Gonzales. To top it off there had been construction on Sixth, making the drive home unpleasant to boot. It was also hot in the trailer, since the 90-plus degree weather transformed it into a nice little oven, though thankfully it wasn't humid.

Switching on the swamp-cooler, she threw her mail onto the counter, kicked off her shoes, then started taking off clothes; dropping her jacket onto the couch, her skirt on the coffee- table, peeling off her blouse so she could unfasten the confining band of her bra and get comfortable. She grabbed a soft gauze sundress off the back of a chair where she'd left it that morning, and slid it on, then skinned out of her pantyhose and underwear, leaving them in a pile on the floor. Finally she poured a glass of cold water from the jar in the refrigerator and downed it thirstily, before turning to confront her mail. Bill, bill, bill, ad, bill, ad; she sighed, and shook her head, hating that sort of mail day.

She flipped to the last piece of mail and her heart seemed to stop. The envelope was FBI letterhead, from the Academy. Was this *it*, or was it something from Mulder? She hastily ripped open the envelope, unfolded the contents, and began to read. A moment later she dropped it to press her hands to her face, trying to still their shaking. She'd done it. It was an acceptance. She almost couldn't believe it, but there it was, in black and white.

She sat down on the stool next to the counter, and re-read it three times. The message remained the same, unequivocal. She was going to Virginia. With a sudden whoop she grabbed the phone, checked the number on the scrap of paper clipped to the refrigerator with a McDonald's magnet, and dialed. Somehow it just felt right that Mulder should be the first person she told.

The End


This is the last of it now. I have no idea if I'll ever continue it, though the door is open. ---KMS

The lyrics used in part 4 are from the song "Posession" by Sarah MacLachlan, from her CD "Fumbling Toward Ecstasy". If you haven't heard this cd, DO so! :-)

-- Kellie

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