Title: Strays
Author: mlb
e-mail: mlb@ipass.net
Rating: NC-17
Category: Skinner/Scully/Mulder
Spoilers: don't think so Keywords: humor
Disclaimer: All X-File characters belong to CC and 1013.

Summary: It's Mulder and Scully's turn to experience feline life.

Note: Response to a SIS challenge and my first foray into, ulp, slash.

"Thomas Rhymer?"


Scully and Mulder looked suspiciously at the man standing on the rooftop, who had risen awkwardly to his feet at their approach. In his jeans and flannel shirt, he didn't look much like a high-ranking ceremonial magician. His long brown hair almost concealed a crystal dangling from one ear and thick glasses magnified mild blue eyes.

However, he was clutching a large black book under one arm, a book they suspected that he had killed 13 other magicians to obtain.

His landlady, rather upset that they wanted to question "that nice Mr. Rhymer", had said he liked to spend time on the building's flat roof, and that was where they had found him. He hadn't attempted to elude them although he must have seen them as soon as they emerged through the rooftop door.

"Mr. Rhymer, I'm going to ask you to come with us," Scully said calmly. "We need to ask you some questions in conjunction with the death of some members of a group called 'The Brotherhood of the Sword'."

Rhymer sighed and stood up. "You don't have to question me, Agent Scully," he said in a deep gentle voice. "I killed them."

Mulder and Scully glanced at each other. Their looks said, This Is Too Easy. Be Careful. Her look also carried a slight overtone of How Did He Know Who I Was?

"Then we'll have to arrest you," Mulder said mildly. He started forward, calm and easy, nothing to upset their suspect. He automatically chose a direction that gave her a clear shot if Rhymer turned violent. In response, Scully rested her hand on her weapon and shifted slightly in the opposite direction to give herself more room. It was almost spooky how they could anticipate each other's actions in these situations. Spooky, but handy. She was damned glad of it.

"I had to kill them," Rhymer explained. "They would have used this book to destroy the entire world." He glanced at Scully, obviously dismissed the attempt to convince her, and looked at Mulder earnestly, willing his understanding. "You mustn't arrest me. I can't guard the book properly in prison."

For a moment, Scully was afraid that Mulder would take Rhymer's side, or at least want to listen to his story before they made an arrest, but he had seen the bodies too. Whatever Rhymer's motivation, they had to take him in. He was dangerous.

"We'll work something out," Mulder soothed in his 'calm the suspect' voice, the voice that automatically made people start confessing their inmost secrets. She had heard it on a number of occasions, sometimes directed at her. "Maybe I can watch the book for you."

Scully felt sorry for Rhymer, despite the killings. From all she had heard, the Brotherhood of the Sword were not nice people and suspected in several brutal killings, themselves, though nothing could be proven. She had a hard time believing the ex-hippie in front of them could have taken them out. She also wondered how he'd done it when there were no wounds and tox screens showed no signs of poison. However, they were undeniably dead and all evidence pointed to Rhymer.

Mulder suddenly jerked to a halt and stood still, swaying slightly.

In one motion, Scully pulled her weapon and aimed it at Rhymer, although he hadn't moved, and she couldn't see any way for him to have injured her partner. "Mulder!" she said sharply. "What's wrong?"

He staggered and went to one knee, the air around him beginning to shimmer. Scully moved toward him, still covering Rhymer who held very still, hands in plain view.



Nausea and dizziness hit her like a wave, and Scully swallowed against a frantic need to vomit. She tried to keep the gun on Rhymer, but it fell from her suddenly nerveless fingers.

The shimmering was all around both of them now, and a bright network of lines appeared on the roof as if she and Mulder were trapped in some sort of fantastic, glittering net.

She managed to turn her head to check on Mulder. He was watching her too, through squinted eyes. Scully couldn't make him out clearly, the shimmering air distorting her vision, almost seeming to change his shape.

Rhymer knelt between them, although she couldn't remember him moving. He, at least, was very clear as he stretched out his arms between them and lowered his hands to cover their eyes. As his hand neared her face, the air became brighter and brighter until it turned black.

-- --

What's going on? she thought muzzily. Why am I being carried? Why can't I see?

She tried to shake her head to clear it and realized that her face was covered by a piece of black cloth. Slowly, memory came back: Rhymer, the roof, the odd nausea, Mulder! Where was Mulder?

Scully tried to struggle, but everything felt disjointed, as if her body didn't belong to her. Then, she felt herself being lowered to a hard surface.

She batted the fabric from her face and saw Rhymer straightening. He looked down at her gravely.

"I'm sorry about this," he said. "But I can't let you arrest me."

The hell with this, Scully thought furiously, and tried to leap to her feet, with the full intention of tackling Rhymer and forcing him to tell her Mulder's location.


She made it to her feet but it didn't gain her much: she was still a lot shorter than normal. She also seemed to have gained a couple of extra appendages.

Stunned, she looked down at herself. Dainty white paws with a couple of delicate patches of pale fawn. Scully tried to take a step, tangled her feet, and fell over. Shit! Rhymer had drugged them or...or something. Anything, but what her eyes insisted was the explanation.

Meanwhile, Rhymer had put down a second bundle of cloth. It struggled and eventually parted to reveal a small coal-black head with lambent green eyes. The eyes stared first at Rhymer then at her and widened.

Rhymer reached under the day bed and hauled out a duffel bag. He stuffed the book in the bag, slung it over his shoulder, and headed for the door.

"Don't worry," he called back. "It isn't permanent. I just need a head start. You don't have to worry about me hurting anybody else. I'm not a violent person, but I couldn't let them use the book."

The door closed.

Scully closed her eyes. I have been drugged, she told herself very firmly. I know that I have been drugged and that I am currently hallucinating. I have to shake this off so that I can find Mulder. When I open my eyes, I will no longer have this delusion. Here we go. One, two, three.

She opened her eyes. She was still short, and she still had four paws. Despite the pep talk, her mind insisted she was in a cat's body. Damnit.

The black cat also seemed to be having trouble standing up. Finally, he (she knew it was a he on some sort of cellular level) got almost all the way up, stepped on his own tail, and fell back over.

The cat spat. At least, Scully's ears heard it as a spit, but she found that something inside herself could translate it very clearly as, "FUCK!"

She knew that voice, even mentally. "Mulder?" she quavered, simultaneously hearing his name and "Mmrrww?"

He went still and stared back at her, "Scully/Prrow?"

She sighed. "Mulder, I think we're in trouble."

She sighed. "Mulder, I think we're in trouble."

He looked down at himself, then turned his head to check out his tail. "To coin a phrase, no shit, Scully."

He was being annoyingly calm about the whole situation. I know this kind of thing happens to Mulder more than it does to me, Scully thought crossly, but he could at least acknowledge that this is a little strange, even for us.

He was also adjusting better to their transformation on a physical level, pacing carefully around the room, sniffing at the furniture, experimenting with jumps onto chair seats.

She tried again. "We've obviously been drugged or put under some kind of hypnotic suggestion or...."

He cocked his small, black head at her and twitched his tail tip in what she somehow knew was amusement. "Or Rhymer's turned us into cats?"

She realized that, if she concentrated, she could focus on Mulder's 'voice' rather than on the associated kitty-sounds, which made it a little easier to talk to him. Of course, that didn't make what he was saying any more acceptable.

"Mulder, that's impossible, from any scientific or spiritual viewpoint. Nobody could do that. Nobody has that kind of power."

"Oh, come on Scully. You originally thought the big, blond guy that traded Samantha for you was me, remember? He could change his shape. So could Jeremiah Smith." His kitty face arranged itself into a leer. "Not to mention Eddie van Blundht. Rhymer just took it one step further that's all."

With difficulty, she refrained from responding to the Eddie van Blundht dig. "So, if Rhymer has that kind of power, why doesn't he use it for his own benefit? Why does he live in a cheap, furnished apartment? Why isn't he rich and powerful?"

"Maybe it isn't important to him. Maybe he really wants to 'use his powers for good'. Is that so hard to believe?"

She considered a moment. "Given what I've seen, I'd have to say yes," she said honestly. "Most powerful people seem to only want more power. They don't care about anyone else."

Mulder stared at her. "Scully, that's horrible. I'm supposed to be the cynical one on this team. You're supposed to be the idealist."

His words were light but his tone was serious. "This isn't supposed to be permanent, so maybe you should enjoy it while you can."

Suddenly, he crouched down in front of her and batted her lightly on top of her head.


"Mulder!" she sputtered, pawing back at him.

"Can't catch meeeee!" he sang and sprang away from her to race around the room.

For a moment, she tried to resist, but the urge to chase and play was too strong. Scully leaped after him, stumbling a bit in her unfamiliar form, but gradually gaining control.

It was wonderful. She was much lighter and faster on her feet than in human form, and this small body could jump several times its height.

And the smells! Everything in the apartment had a different scent. She could tell the furniture Rhymer favored, where Mulder had stepped, both as cat and as human, so that his scent overlaid the other man's, and where her own feet had been. The FBI should employ cats, she thought crazily. They/we could track suspects anywhere.

Mulder skidded to a halt on top of the mirrored dresser, and she slid into him, ending with a nose full of black fur. "Hey, Scully, check us out."

They stared at themselves in the mirror. Scully had seen Mulder, of course, all black with no touch of white except a set of long whiskers. Other than his apple-green eyes, he would be invisible at night.

Now, however, she could see herself. Her coat was longer than Mulder's and mostly white with patches of fawn, gold, and red. Her face was slightly rounder than his sharply pointed features and pure white except for a rakish patch of red over one of her dark blue eyes.

Neither of them was very big, but she was still smaller than Mulder. Darn it, she thought, if I had to be turned into a cat, why couldn't it be a tiger?

-- --

Her ruminations were interrupted by a disturbance in the hall. They looked toward the door, hearing the chatter of the landlady and an answering low voice.

As the key rattled in Rhymer's lock, her nose caught the scent. Starch, soap, and something underlying - some musk unmistakable to her feline self, speaking of command, authority, and frustration.

Before she could say anything, Mulder, nose twitching, said, "What's Skinner doing here?"

The landlady swung the door open, Skinner towering behind her.

"I'm sure you received a call, Mr. Skinner, but I saw the lady and gentleman leave a little while ago and I haven't seen Mr. Rhymer since this morning, so I don't know who could have called you, and this is all very confusing because Mr. Rhymer is a very nice man and...AHCHOO!"

The tide of chatter was interrupted by an intense bout of sneezing. Under the feline and human gazes the landlady's eyes began to water and swell as her breathing become labored under the continuous sneezing.

"Cats!" she managed to gasp, waving in their direction. "Allergic...."

Skinner hastily drew her out into the hall and pushed the door closed.

"She saw us leave?" Mulder puzzled.

Scully gave her own tail a twitch in what she hoped was equivalent to an eyebrow lift. "Making the landlady think she saw us leave is probably pretty simple for a man who can change people into cats, Mulder. Do you think he called Skinner?"

Mulder undulated his body in a shrug. "Who else? Why would he, though? Why not let us just hang out until this wears off?"

Scully shook her head. Skinner's appearance had brought her to a new level of discomfort. She didn't like the idea of being this vulnerable around him, but couldn't quite figure out why.

It's not as if he'd hurt me, she thought confusedly.

The reason for his appearance troubled her as well. Rhymer must have called him, but how had he known whom to call? Had he read their minds? Did Skinner hold such pride of place in her sub-conscious that Rhymer called him instead of her mother, for instance? And was he a central figure in Mulder's mind as well?

-- --

The door swung open again, and Skinner stepped into the room, closing it again behind him.

As they watched, he began to methodically search the room, opening drawers, shaking books, and peering under furniture.

"Well, Scully," Mulder remarked. "If you ever had anything you wanted to say to our 'beacon in the night', now's the time."

"I'm glad to see being turned into a cat hasn't affected your mature outlook on life, Mulder," she answered dryly.

"Oh, come on. Tell me you haven't dreamed of this moment." Mulder hopped off the dresser and padded over to the daybed that Skinner was methodically stripping.

"Assistant Director Skinner," Mulder declaimed, "is a close-minded bureaucratic robot who wouldn't recognize the truth if it bit him on his," Skinner bent down to check under the daybed, his backside about 6 inches from Mulder's nose. "well-honed ass," Mulder finished in a gulp.

Skinner straightened and looked down at the black cat. His face softened in a grin that neither of them had ever seen before.

"Talkative, aren't you?" Skinner asked, still smiling. He swept his hand gently over Mulder's body from head to tail tip, ended with a tickle under his now-feline agent's chin, and continued with his search of the apartment.

Scully thought Mulder was going to pass out. He stood where Skinner had left him, swaying, staring fixedly into the space where Skinner had been.

Not that she could blame him after the smile that transformed Skinner's face from blank wall to warm sunshine. He seemed an entirely different person from their tense, irritable boss. If I'd known he could smile like that, she thought dazedly, I would have...actually, I don't know what I would have done, but I would have definitely done something.

Skinner's search had brought him around to the dresser where Scully sat. She watched as he sorted through the drawers, hypnotized by the long fingers that so delicately searched through scraps of paper.

Finished, he straightened and favored her with a smile of her own.

"Hello, pretty girl," he said softly and held out a hand for her to sniff. She did so, cautiously, unsure of what she was doing or feeling. She couldn't trust her reactions, couldn't be sure that they weren't based on the bizarreness of her situation.

As she desperately tried to cling to some remnant of sanity, Skinner slipped a hand under her middle and lifted her. For a moment, Scully hung suspended in mid-air, then was cradled against his chest.

She had a visceral memory of Ahab cuddling her when she was no more than three. The sense of safety she had now was like that, but now it was all wrapped up with the muscles of his chest against her body, the huge hands that held her so gently, the smell of him drowning her senses.

She felt herself start to vibrate. A buzzing noise filled the air, and Scully realized she was purring. Skinner chuckled, a sound she would have sworn he didn't know how to make.

He looked around the room again and shook his head. "He can't have had you two very long. He doesn't have any supplies."

There was a tap at the door, and Skinner set her down next to Mulder, who eyed her sardonically.

"Enjoy yourself?" he asked asked with acid politeness.

"I didn't see you scratching and biting to make him stop petting you," she responded smugly.

Mulder looked as embarrassed as a cat could manage. "Yeah, well, it happened pretty quick," he mumbled.

"Uh-huh," Scully took pity on her partner and didn't say anything else. She'd been startled enough by her own reactions, and she didn't even have to deal with alternative lifestyle issues. Well, she might if she didn't change back to human.

Skinner had stepped into the hall, but they could still hear him talking with the landlady. "Rhymer seems to have left. All of his clothes are gone."

"Oh, dear. At least his rent was paid up. What will I do about those cats though? I hate to send them to the pound, but I just can't have them here."

It was very quiet for a moment. Then Skinner sighed. "If you'll give me something to carry them in, I'll take them home with me."


"Go home with Skinner?" Mulder muttered as the landlady brought Skinner a large, lidded cardboard box. "Oh, won't this be fun?"

"Would you rather go to the pound?" Scully answered. "You get three days in a wire cage before they gas you to death."

"The spell probably wouldn't last that long. Besides," he added teasingly, "I'd be sure to get adopted. I'm too cute to pass up."

"Skinner seems to think so," she answered sweetly and was rewarded with sudden silence.

Skinner took a lethal-looking switch-blade from his pants' pocket, sat down in one of the chairs, and began to cut neat, round holes down the side of the box.

"It's not legal for him to carry that," Scully remarked in surprise.

Mulder's whisker's twitched. "I don't think he cares. Looks like he knows how to use it too. I wouldn't have pegged Skinner as one of the Crips, but we don't know much of anything about him, do we?"

She flicked her tail in agreement. It was true. They knew little of Skinner, beyond what happened on the job. She cast a sideways glance at her partner. She thought Mulder knew more than she did, that Skinner had talked to him a few times about personal matters, that there was a bond in which she did not share. Not that they were buddies or anything, but there was something between them.

Which was fine, of course. It was nothing to her, certainly, if Skinner talked to Mulder on a personal level. It was equally fine if Mulder didn't tell her about any of it. People shouldn't betray confidences. Even to their partner. Even when she would have wanted to know.

Oh, stop it, she thought in disgust. Your boss is about to adopt you as a pet. Let's deal with that for now, shall we, and leave any jealousy issues for later?

The problem was, she didn't know exactly if she was jealous or who she was jealous of - Skinner for talking to Mulder or Mulder for listening. Resolutely, Scully pushed the entire matter out of her mind as Skinner finished with the box and stood up.

"Are you going to be good about getting in the box?" he asked, setting the box down on the daybed beside the two agents.

"Sure, why not?" Mulder hopped into the box and stuck a paw out of one of the holes. "Come on, Scully. Show him what good kitties we are."

She walked slowly toward the box. It was a well-kept secret, but she didn't care for small confined spaces. The interior of Duane Barry's trunk flashed before her eyes.

"Just for a little while, sweetheart," Skinner said gently. A large hand stroked her fur. "It'll be all right. Your friend's in there."

True. She wouldn't be alone this time. Scully didn't protest as Skinner boosted her into the box and closed the lid.

-- --

"You doing ok, Scully?"

"I'm fine," she answered automatically. It wasn't a lie, for she was coping reasonably well with the box. The holes Skinner had cut let in adequate light and air, she knew she wasn't in danger, and her partner was with her. All in all, it was much preferable to Duane Barry's car.

"You can't fool me," Mulder said. "You just wanted Skinner to pet you again."

"And you're just mad because you didn't think of it first," she retorted.

Mulder shut up again. Scully sneaked a sideways glance at her partner, wondering how well he was coping with what was happening. Mulder always struck her as quite heterosexual, but he was definitely reacting to Skinner on a physical level. Her own responses to Skinner were making her nervous, as well. This new side of their boss that she was seeing, his gentleness and compassion, were having a strong effect on her. Outside the formal setting of their jobs, he was far different from the cool, distant man they were used to.

Her thoughts were interrupted as the car pulled smoothly to a halt and Skinner got out.

"Where's he going?" Mulder wondered.

Scully's pet-owning experience came to the fore. "Not everybody expects their pets to fend for themselves. He has to get us supplies. You know food, food dishes,..." she gulped. "...litter boxes."

"Shit. You're right. Oh, great."

"I don't like it, either," she said crossly. "I don't particularly want to share a litter box with you, Mulder."

"Well, excuse me, DR. Scully. I'm sure your's stinks too."

They retreated to the opposite sides of the box, sulking, until Skinner came back to the car. He began stowing supplies on the floor of the backseat. Since their box was secured on the backseat, they had a good view of what he'd brought. They were relieved to see that he had included two litterboxes.

Mulder said, "Pink and blue. How sweet. I never suspected this cute streak of Skinner's."

"Be nice. Look, he's bought us some toys."

Skinner leaned over to adjust some of his purchases, bringing the back of his head into proximity with their box. With the air of one who knows this is wrong, but who just can't help it, Mulder darted a paw out of the box and lightly batted at the fringe of hair on the back of Skinner's head.

"Hey!" Laughing, Skinner tapped Mulder's nose where it stuck out of the air hole. "Bad boy. I can tell you're going to be the troublemaker of this pair."

"The more things change, the more they stay the same," Scully commented.

-- --

They reached Crystal City without further incident. Skinner left the purchases in the car, tucked their box under one massive arm, and went to the lobby. However, instead of going directly to the elevators, he knocked on a door discreetly labeled 'Manager's Office' and stepped in.

"Why, Mr. Skinner! How nice to see you!" trilled a feminine voice.

Well, aren't we just happy as hell, Scully thought in sudden annoyance. She and Mulder peered out of their air-holes.

The woman was in her early forties with short silver-blond hair. Nicely dressed and not bad-looking, although in Scully's opinion, she was wearing too much makeup.

She was also extremely happy to see Skinner, touching her hair and smiling flirtatiously.

And there's nothing wrong with that, Scully reminded herself. He's single. She's (Scully peered at the woman's left hand) single. She's probably a very nice woman. Why shouldn't she flirt with him...watch it, bitch, that's close enough.

To his credit (and self-preservation), Skinner did not respond to the flirtation. He looked more nervous than anything as he pulled out his checkbook.

"I want to pay a pet deposit," he muttered, fixing all his attention on the check. "For two cats."

"Kitties? Oh, how sweet. They'll be company for you. I know you must be so lonely, living all alone."

"And wouldn't you just love to fix that, angel?" Mulder muttered. Scully noticed that the fur on his spine was beginning to stand up. She found herself in perfect agreement with the sentiment. He's our Skinner. Get lost.

"Can I see what you've got?" the manager continued. Two tails bottle-brushed in outrage.

"In the box I mean," she giggled.

"I'll bet," Scully snorted.

Skinner hastily set the box down and backed away. A finger with a long red-painted nail slid in through the air-hole. Scully and Mulder practically salivated from temptation. However, FBI training (you don't eat people's fingers, even if you really want to) was strong and they restrained themselves.

Encouraged, the woman lifted the lid of the box and beamed down at its inhabitants. Her smile faded slightly as she took in Mulder's ruffled fur and Scully's laid-back ears.

"They're just adorable," she said in a less convinced tone of voice and began to reach into the box. Scully began to make a low rumbling sound. It wasn't a purr.

Hastily, the woman drew back and Skinner clapped the lid on the box.

"Bad-tempered little things, aren't they" she sniffed.

Skinner stiffened. "They're upset about being confined," he said, coolly. "If they were really bad-tempered, they would have tried to bite."

Sensing she had lost points, the woman hastily agreed. "I'm sure they'll be fine."

"You two are going to get me in trouble," Skinner scolded as they rode up alone on the elevator. He snickered suddenly, mischievously. "Maybe she'll quit inviting me to tenants' parties. Wouldn't that be too bad?"

-- --

He set their box on the floor and vanished again, re-appearing soon with their supplies. After depositing everything on the living room carpet, he opened their box and the two agents hopped out.

"Make yourselves at home. I'll set your stuff up in a minute."

They watched as he headed over to a telephone that sat on a large desk.

Mulder said, "Is it me, or is he a lot chattier than usual?"

Again, Scully understood. "I always talked to Quequeeg about everything. He knew all my secrets."

Mulder brightened, "We could get some blackmail material out of this, Scully. I wonder if he sings in the shower or something."

She was amused but also a little sad, for herself and for Skinner. "No matter what kind of day I had, or what I did, or who was mad at me, I knew Quequeeg was always on my side. He'd always love me, no matter what. Some days, I...I really needed that."

After a moment of strained silence, Mulder said, "I never really bonded with a pet. Mom was allergic when we were little. I just had the fish. I guess it would be nice to have something like that, especially," he paused, "if you didn't feel like you could depend on the people in your life."

There seemed nothing to say to that. It was true, she hadn't felt she could depend on Mulder or her mother, or anyone to love her unconditionally, except her little dog. Skinner must feel that way as well, to be so happy with new pets. She had known he seemed isolated at work, but she hadn't considered how lonely he was. As lonely as I am, she thought, as lonely as Mulder. Maybe we should do something about that, sometime.

Mulder nudged her, nodding towards the phone. Listening, she realized Skinner was calling the Bureau.

"Have Agents Mulder and Scully reported in?"

They watched him listen to the undoubted negative. His face tightened into an expression they were all too familiar with.

"He's going to kill us," Mulder noted, sighing.

Skinner hung the phone up carefully, then crashed his fist down on the desk. Both felines jumped. "Dammit you two. Call in!" He glared at the phone for a moment, then unhooked his glasses, set them aside, and roughly pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes, sighing deeply.

"He's worried about us," Scully said wonderingly. Another surprise: Skinner worried about them. It clutched at her heart in a mixture of guilt and shame, adding to her earlier sadness.

"Yeah." Mulder's tail drooped. "You know, when he chewed us out, I just assumed he was pissed off, you know, doing the whole Assistant Director routine. I didn't know he worried about us."

Scully nodded. "It made it easier to defy him. He was just one of the enemy."

"I knew he wasn't the enemy. Not really. I just...I just didn't...." Mulder begain to pace, tail lashing.

"We didn't think of him as a person," Scully finished. "With feelings of his own outside the job. We especially didn't think of him as a friend."

"No. Now, we have to." Mulder sat down. "Now, we'll feel guilty if we don't call in. We'll know he's worrying about us."

"How dare he care about us," she said dryly. "Damn him, anyway."

With one accord, they and padded over to Skinner, who was still sitting at his desk, leaning his head on his hand.

Mulder jumped onto the desk. "Sir. We're ok. Really."

"Hey, boy," Skinner sighed and gently stroked Mulder's head.

"Mulder, he doesn't understand you," Scully twined around Skinner's feet.

"Maybe it gets through on some level."

"Jesus, don't you two ever shut up?" but Skinner laughed a little as he said it, a noise which still unnerved Scully. "You remind me of a couple of my agents. Of course, you're here, and who the hell knows where they are?"

He scooped Scully up and deposited her next to Mulder. "You'd think they'd tell me," he continued. "But, oh, no. They'd have to admit the whole fucking universe wasn't against them. Two against the world and God forbid a third person join in. Even me, after all this time." He shook his head slightly. "They still don't trust me. Anything that goes against them, I was probably behind it."

"I'm sorry!" Scully wailed. Unable to endure his unhappiness and her own rampaging guilt she rubbed her head on his shoulder and along his hard jawline. Mulder, equally frantic, was doing the same thing on the other side.

Skinner jumped, startled by this sudden outpouring of affection. "Guys, I'm ok, really."

Undaunted, they continued.

"That's enough!" he said, laughing and sputtering through fur. "That's all the affection I can stand right now."

He gently pushed them back to their former positions, sat back and looked at them, dark eyes narrowing as they flicked between green and blue gazes. We're almost in the same positions we use in his office, Scully realized.

He suddenly blinked and shook his head. "I've been supervising the X-Files too long."

He lightly ruffled their fur and got up, "How about some dinner?" he asked, grabbing a bag of their supplies and heading towards the small kitchen.

"Do you think he suspects?" Scully wondered.

"Not consciously, but he's picking it up somehow. He's not worried about us anymore."

They trotted into the kitchen after him.

With his usual air of concentration, Skinner took a plastic mat from the bag and set it neatly in one corner of the kitchen. He then removed four bowls (decorated with little pawprints, Scully was amused to notice) and set them in a straight line on the counter. Next came a bag of food and a measuring scoop. Precisely one scoop of food went into two of the bowls and Skinner began to fill the other two bowls with water.

"For God's sake," Mulder exploded. "I don't take this long to fix food for humans! Just put it down already!"

"Give me a minute," Skinner muttered, as if he understood.

When all was to his satisfaction, he set the two food bowls down on the mat and retrieved the water while Mulder and Scully inspected the contents.

They were less than appetizing. Scully recognized the brown pellets as the kitty version of Quequeeg's dog food. High in nutrient value, low in interest. Since it probably wouldn't hurt her in this state, and she was hungry, she took a cautious bite. Bitter, but not terrible. She began to eat.

Mulder, however, was having none of it. "I don't want this," he said flatly. She had a vivid image of five-year old Fox confronting a plate of Brussels sprouts.

"Mulder...," she sighed.

He looked up at Skinner. "I don't *want* this," he said more loudly.

"That's all you're getting," Skinner said in a no-nonsense voice.

He set their litter boxes up in the small, downstairs bathroom while Mulder continued to scowl at his food.

When Skinner came out, dusting his hands together, he smiled at the recalcitrant kitty. "You'll eat when you're hungry enough. Pout if you want to. I'm going to get changed."

That sounded interesting, but Scully forced herself to stay in the kitchen as Skinner vanished upstairs. There was no need to be a voyeur. Mulder, highly insulted, stalked into the living room.

She finished as much food as she could stand, made good use of her pink litterbox, and wandered toward the living room herself.

Mulder, hind leg thrown over his head, was industriously cleaning his private parts. He almost dislocated his spine at Scully's amused snort.

"I always heard that if guys could do that, they wouldn't do anything else," she said dryly.

"It's a dream come true, all right," Mulder said, recovering his cool. "It is like a dream, isn't it Scully?" he continued. "All the rules have been suspended. We've been returned to our basic, animal nature. We really can't be held accountable that happens, or for anything we do."

His eyes, as they looked into hers, were green as emeralds, and she felt an uncomfortable surge of warmth. The stress of the events of the afternoon combined with the affectionate lust she had always felt for Mulder and the new strong sensations for Skinner to send her deep into arousal. Good God, was she going into heat? No, this was nothing that couldn't be denied, but she found herself not much interested in denying it as Mulder came to her and began gently nuzzling and licking the top of her head. He bit the back of her neck, and Scully emitted a low growl of need/warning.

"Do you want me to stop?"

"No," she said honestly, "but...."

He was maneuvering to get on top of her, trying to nudge aside the tail she had clamped between her legs. "Just relax, Scully. We don't ever have to mention it after we change back if you don't want to."

"That's not the problem," she said, her voice sharp with frustrated desire.

"Then what?" He was getting frustrated, as well.

"I've got one word for you, Mulder. Kittens."

He leaped off of her as if she'd suddenly caught fire.

"I thought you couldn't have children!"

"I couldn't. I didn't used to be a cat, either. Who knows what's going on with this body? Do you want to take the chance?"

-- --

They were a chaste distance apart by the time Skinner returned to the living room. Mulder had made a trip of his own to the litterbox to recover, and they mutually, and silently, agreed to forget the previous incident.

Skinner, barefoot in blue jeans and a t-shirt, was enough to take their minds off each other. Those suit trousers were not nearly sufficient to show off what was undoubtedly a fine, fine backside. Nice legs, too, Scully reflected, and he does fill out that t-shirt. The fact that his toes were slightly hairy seemed inordinately cute.

They followed him into the kitchen and he contemplated the food bowls. "Still being stubborn?" he asked Mulder, as he opened the refrigerator and began to haul out sandwich makings.

Delightful odors assailed the two agents: turkey, cheese, mayonnaise.

"That's more like it," Mulder said, enthusiastically.

Scully agreed, but figured the chances for a treat were slim. Skinner looked like the 'don't feed from the table' type. She had been one herself. The Revenge of Quequeeg, she thought, payback for all the times I wouldn't give him any scraps.

Mulder stretched up on his back legs and patted the counter.

"Oh, no you don't," Skinner said firmly, nudging him down. "Your food's over there."

"Damn it, I don't want that shit," Mulder fussed, earning a sharp look from Skinner.

He waited until Skinner turned his back to reach for a paper towel and leaped on the counter, snagging a piece of turkey in his claws. He sprang for escape, but Skinner swung back and caught him by the scruff in mid-air. Mulder dangled helplessly from Skinner's huge hand.

"Bad cat!" he said sharply. He jerked the turkey out of Mulder's mouth and administered a hard swat to his rump, before dropping him to the floor.

Scully lost it. She howled, she snorted, she guffawed, rolling around on the kitchen floor. If she'd still been human, she'd have been bent double, tears pouring down her face.

"When I think...of all the times...he's probably wanted to do that...in meetings!" she giggled. "It isn't funny," Mulder said, in tones of wounded dignity, although he was laughing too. "I'll have to report him for harASSment." That sent Scully off again.

"Are you having some kind of seizure?" Skinner said, worried, as he knelt beside her.

She managed to pull herself under control except for the occasional snicker and Skinner finally went back to his sandwich.

Mulder, meanwhile, had decided on a different plan. When Skinner passed him to go to the living room, he made a great show of flinching away and slinking to the corner of the kitchen, tail and head down. He huddled into a small ball and stared at Skinner with huge, scared eyes.

"Oh, come on, I didn't hit you that hard," Skinner said, holding out a hand. "Let's be friends again."

Mulder shivered and put his head down on unhappy paws, looking up in terror. As Skinner reached for him, he gave a tiny, pathetic "Mew," the cry of a new-born kitten whose Mama has left him all alone in the big bad world. Scully rolled her eyes, but it worked: within 60 seconds, he was eating a piece of turkey in a contrite Skinner's lap.

"Mulder, you...you SUB!" Scully exploded.

Since he was facing away from Skinner, Mulder winked broadly.

"Hey! I want some turkey too!" Scully, tail switching, sat by Skinner's chair and glared. "I ate the stupid cat food! I deserve a reward!" She reared up, pawing at his arm.

"All right, all right. Don't you start. Here." Skinner put a piece of turkey down on the floor. "Why did I think I wanted cats?"

Having gotten his way, Mulder started purring. Skinner, who was turning out to be more of a soft touch than Scully could ever have guessed, petted him, then set him down.

"Normally, I'd go back to the office, but I don't want to leave you two alone this first evening, so I'll do some work here," Skinner decided and settled at his desk.

-- --

The rest of the evening passed quietly. Skinner worked on reports under Mulder and Scully's supervision ("That isn't how it happened!" "Mulder, shut up." "Get down. I don't need an audience.") for awhile. However, the day had been tiring, to say the least, and around 9:00 p.m., both agents fell asleep, tangled on the couch.

Scully was dimly aware when Skinner turned off the light, raising her head with a sleepy "Prrrr?"

"Good night, sweetheart," he said softly, smoothing her fur. "You too, rascal," he added with a grin and a poke to Mulder's belly that made him curl up tighter. "I'll have to give you names in the morning."

I could go up with him, she thought, dreamily imaginging curling up to that big, warm body. But that would be pushing it too far. She imagined changing back to human sometime in the night and trying to explain her presence in Skinner's bed.

She put her head resignedly back down on Mulder's back and was just drifting off, when her sharp ears caught a sound from upstairs. It sounded almost like a groan.


Scully raised her head, ears twitching sharply, but the sound didn't come again. Could she have imagined it? She glanced at Mulder, but he was still deeply asleep, paws jerking slightly as if he were running. Chasing mice in his sleep, she thought in distracted amusement.

Surely, there hadn't been time since Skinner went upstairs for him to have fallen asleep and have a nightmare. Had he suddenly gotten sick?

Concerned, although in her current state, there was little she could do if he was sick, Scully extricated herself from Mulder and glided swiftly upstairs. The top floor of Skinner's apartment consisted only of a landing with doors leading to three bedrooms and a bath. She and Mulder had explored up here earlier in the evening, and she went unerringly through the doorway of the master bedroom.

It was dark in the room, except for a spill of light from the attached bathroom. Her feline eyes adjusted easily to allow her to see the bed and dresser. The bathroom door wasn't closed all the way, and as Scully peered in through the narrow opening, all thoughts of embarrasment or propriety were overwhelmed by growing concern.

Her eyes widened, both at the sudden influx of light and at the sight that greeted her.

Skinner was naked, standing over the toilet; one hand braced on the wall while the other stroked and caressed his erect cock. He groaned again, softly, arching his neck, as his thumb slid over the blunt head.

I have to get out of here, Scully thought dimly, I can't watch this. It's wrong.

However, her body wasn't interested in obeying her command. Rooted to the spot, her eyes swept over Skinner, hungrily taking in the sheen of sweat on the thick shoulders, the dark skin, hard muscles, jutting erection. Scully bit back a howl of pure heat as he thrust his hips through his fingers. She desperately wished she were the one he moved against. She wanted to touch him, taste him, guide him inside her. She wanted him touching her, kissing her, impaling her on his cock and on his tongue.

But that wouldn't be enough. Scully wanted Mulder there too. She wanted to explore her partner's lean, elegant body and him to return the favor. She wanted to see those hazel eyes light up with desire as they came together, the final affirmation of their partnership.

Still, not enough. She wanted Mulder and Skinner together, two hard male bodies taking each other, a final resolution to all the anger and grief and caring that had built over the last few years.

Scully shuddered, shifted position, and jumped when she bumped into a soft body. Mulder sat just behind her, raptly taking in the sight. For a second, their eyes met in acknowledgment of their mutual desire, for each other and for the man who stood before them. Then they returned to their watching. Who am I kidding? Scully thought. There's no way I'm going anywhere right now.

Skinner's body was beginning to tighten, his breath coming in short gasps between his teeth, as the rhythm of his hand increased. "Scully...," he gasped, "Mulder...."

Scully heard Mulder hiss, and she thought she might collapse right there. Skinner imagined them when he was masturbating? Dear God in heaven. A wave of arousal hit her, arousal, and need, and nausea.

Nausea? She shook her head to clear it, which was a mistake. The room began to spin around, then to turn inside out. Behind her, she heard Mulder fall over with a small cry of distress. Skinner heard it too, for he suddenly ceased pleasuring himself, looking sharply toward the door.

In sheer horror, Scully realized that the nausea was familiar. She had felt it just that afternoon when Rhymer changed them into cats.

-- --

She tried to go to Mulder, because they had to get out of there as fast as possible, but only managed to collapse where she was. She was facing him now, however, and could see the air beginning to bend and twist and glow around him. Scully could only guess that it was happening to her as well.

The bathroom door opened behind her, and she heard "What the HELL?" before the air became unbearably bright and then black.

It could only have been a few seconds later that she blinked her eyes open, but there must have been enough time for Skinner to get his gun and his glasses, because he was standing over them, still naked except for the glasses, gun trained on herself and her partner.

Scully slid her gaze toward Mulder who was lying very still, with his hands raised to his shoulders. He was human again; however, Rhymer apparently hadn't felt it necessary for their clothes to make the transition because he was as naked as Skinner. With a lump in her throat, she glanced down at herself. Oh, yes.

Normally, she would be quite happy to be naked in presence of these two men, especially since they were naked too, however, the current circumstances were not ideal. Skinner looked angrier than she could ever remember seeing him, which was saying quite a lot. Mulder looked somewhere between conciliatory and terrified.

The silence swelled, filling the bedroom. Scully couldn't think of a damned thing to say: "We'll just be going, if you could lend us some clothes," didn't seem quite the thing. Neither did "You have to admit, we had a good reason for not calling in." Mulder, for once in his life was at a loss for words himself.

Skinner finally broke the silence. "Would somebody tell me," he said icily, "What the FUCK is going on?!"

Mulder took a deep breath, and began in a pleasant, conversational tone. "Rhymer turned us into cats. Then he called you and you took us home with you. We just changed back. On the stroke of midnight," he finished brightly.

Scully tensed, waiting for a bullet to strike.

Skinner's eyes flicked toward the clock and back again, but the gun never wavered.

"This is some kind of Cancerman trick," he said flatly.

"Sir, anything Cancerman did would have been a lot more believable than this," Scully sighed. She didn't blame Skinner for doubting them; she was still having a hard time believing it herself. "It would be more on the lines of what happened with the prostitute."

He didn't believe them yet, but he was wavering. His eyes moved towards the door.

Mulder said gently, "The cats aren't here anymore. There's no way anyone could have gotten into your apartment. Sir, it happened like we said."

Skinner thought a moment, then jerked the gun at them. "Get up. Put something on."

Thankfully, although everyone had certainly seen everything already, Scully wrapped a blanket around herself. Mulder did the same, although he knotted his sheet at the hips.

"Face away, foreheads against the wall, hands behind your head," Skinner barked.

They obeyed and heard rustling as he pulled on his jeans.

"Move." Skinner gestured Scully to stand in front of Mulder, then put the muzzle of his gun to the back of Mulder's head. They marched downstairs and through the apartment, which Skinner searched thoroughly, directing Scully to move cushions and chairs, while he kept the gun on Mulder. The cats weren't there, of course, and all the locks were intact.

When they finished the search, Skinner was slightly pale beneath his tan. "I cannot believe this," he muttered.

"Teleportation or transformation. You have to believe one or the other. Will you take the gun off me now, please?" Mulder asked tightly.

Skinner swung the gun off him and dropped to the arm of the couch, staring at the two agents. Then, he looked toward the ceiling and a dull flush spread over his face. "Fine, you were cats. Now, you aren't. Get out of here."

The words were cold, but Scully knew the emotion behind them. They had seen into him, seen his fiercely guarded private self. They knew at least one of his secrets. She would have hated it herself, and was sorry they had embarrassed him, although it had been unintentional. She wished she could think of something to say to ease his shame and to let him know how they felt, but her own shyness kept her silent.

Mulder, of course, didn't have that problem. "You don't need to be embarrassed, Skinner, it's not like I don't jerk off - a LOT. I usually think about Scully when I'm doing it too."

She froze, blushing so hard, she thought her blanket might catch fire.

Mulder continued very softly, "But sometimes, like after we've had a big blowup in your office, I think about you."

Scully swallowed hard. "I usually think about Mulder, but I've dreamed about you, sometimes." It was true: her subconscious, without the self-placed barriers of her waking mind, was often full of Skinner.

Skinner didn't move a muscle for a very long minute. He might have been carved from stone, only the flare of his nostrils showing that he breathed. Scully wanted to die of embarrassment. If she could have gotten the gun away from him, she would have been tempted to put it to her temple.

Then, Skinner shot an arm out, grabbed Mulder by the back of the neck, much as he had done when Mulder was in feline form, and jerked the agent against him, pulling Mulder's mouth down to meet his.

Mulder's knees buckled and Scully thought she might collapse too as the kiss went on. Both men's eyes were open, watching each other, and the meeting of their minds was almost more palpable than that of their mouths and bodies.

Scully bit her lip and began to edge toward the stairs. They were so...so caught up in each other that she felt unnecessary. I should be glad for them, she thought fiercely, they've been alone for so long. She would borrow something to wear, Skinner's t-shirt would reach to her knees, and go home, and try to forget all this had happened.

Before she reached the steps, strong arms closed around her waist from behind.

"Where do you think you're going, Agent Scully?" Skinner growled in her ear before closing his teeth on her neck.

She gasped and jerked back against him as Mulder appeared in front of her, glassy-eyed but grinning, to attack her mouth.

Drowning in the multiple sensations, she sagged between the two men, as she felt Skinner's fingers go to work on her sheet. That seemed like a good idea, so she reached for the knot at Mulder's hip. Their sheets dropped at the same time, and Mulder moved to stand between her thighs, as Skinner cupped her breasts. She arched her neck back to find Skinner's mouth with her own, and he swallowed her groan as Mulder began to stroke her clit with the tips of his fingers.

Without releasing her lips, Skinner lifted her off the floor slightly, holding her against his chest as Mulder slipped into her. Skinner pulled back from her and leaned up to claim Mulder in another kiss. That particular configuration put Mulder's nipple at the level of her mouth and she took advantage of the situation to latch onto it. Mulder, jerked, moaned and began to pump into her faster. She clamped down on him in a second orgasm and felt him let go.

They all slid to the floor gasping for a few minutes, savoring the sensations of being wrapped in each other's arms. Then Scully lifted her head from Skinner's shoulder to catch Mulder's eye. The lovemaking seemed to have increased their telepathy because they each knew what the other was thinking. Up to now, Skinner had done all the work. Also, he hadn't climaxed. Also, he still had pants on. This would simply never do.

Scully reached up and gently unhooked Skinner's glasses, setting them safely aside. He raised an eyebrow at her, then let out a yelp as they attacked both sides of his body, nuzzling, licking, kissing, and biting in a more interesting version of their earlier 'kitty affection'.

He let out a roar as Mulder's teeth gently grazed his ribs. "He's ticklish, Scully," Mulder said in delight. "Isn't that cute?"

"Adorable," she agreed.

Skinner started to say something, probably to protest being called cute, but lost his train of thought as Scully suckled his Adam's apple and Mulder started to gently lower Skinner's zipper with his teeth.

He twined his fingers in Scully's hair, drawing her mouth to his. Scully sank into the kiss as Mulder worked Skinner's pants down. She felt Skinner suddenly writhe under her and glacned back to see Mulder running his tongue up and down the length of Skinner's cock and around the testicles. He took the head between his lips and began to suck lightly. Now that she was sure of her place and her welcome, the sight made her inner muscles contract towards another orgasm.

I know what I'd like to do with it too, she thought, returning to Skinner's mouth, although she didn't particularly mind if Mulder finished Skinner off. She forsaw lots of interesting combinations in the future.

However, she felt a pat on her bottom and looked back up to find that Mulder had slithered up beside her. Understanding once more flowed between them, and they paused to exchange a long kiss of their own, absently holding Skinner down with one of their hands on each of his shoulders. She thoroughly enjoyed the mingling of the tastes of the two men.

Then, Mulder settled his chest comfortably across Skinner's and began to ravage his mouth again, while Scully worked her way down Skinner's body to an erection that looked even more impressive than it had in the bathroom. She picked up where Mulder had left off, lavishing kisses across cock and balls, once again appreciating the unique Mulder/Skinner flavor combination. However, her groin was starting to throb almost painfully and Skinner was bucking in earnest against her mouth, so she straddled his thighs and slowly took him into her. Mulder looked up from his kissing and both men watched her raptly as she rode Skinner, sliding with delicious slowness up and down his rock-hard length.

Mulder had begun to harden again, and Skinner wrapped a hand around the younger man's cock, stroking him in time to Scully's rhythm.

She braced her hands on Skinner's ribs and increased her pace. Skinner obligingly picked up the tempo on Mulder with his hand, and Mulder, with a moan, arched up from where he lay beside Skinner to kiss Scully. Scully felt Skinner start to come deep inside her and the knowledge that she had caused it sent her over the edge a second time. A final hard squeeze from Skinner, and Mulder came too, shuddering as liquid spattered across Skinner's belly. Still inside Scully, Skinner sat up, his arms coming around to embrace them both.

-- The End --


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