In an unfamiliar space, in an unfamiliar situation, the first thing Dana Scully's instincts told her to do was search for the familiar, that which she could identify. One hand strayed absently to touch her lips -- sensitive and bruised -- but how they came to such a condition was simply too distracting to think about just then. She took a steadying breath and looked to her surroundings.
The room smelled of citrus, cigarettes and recently steamed carpet. By the light of a full summer moon streaming through windows, she could see a rust colored sofa and a matching love seat directly facing. Between was a cherry wood coffee table bearing stacked papers emblazoned with the ATF seal, an issue of "Interview" magazine with some Rubenesque actress on the cover. She knew the girl's name, but it escaped her at the moment. At a right angle to the conversational area was a small wood and glass entertainment center with matched components of CD, VCR, receiver and television set, all JVC brand. Two mid-sized speakers stood by the wall behind the couch and two tiny satellites were mounted overhead in corners. Scully wondered where the subwoofer was hidden. She discreetly dropped to one knee and spied it under the coffee table.
It made perfect sense to place the thing there, and she was inordinately relieved by finding it. Scully liked it when things made sense. The order of the room was comforting, a steady counterpoint to the chaotic state of her own mind, her own feelings. For all the money, truth, or wisdom in the world, the eminently logical Special Agent Dana Scully of the FBI couldn't have come up with a truly sensible reason for being here... but here she was. And she wasn't about to run.
At one end of the living room was a hallway leading into impenetrable darkness, the unknown. Bedroom and bath, she imagined vaguely, trying not to think that far ahead. At the opposite end was an open archway leading to the dimly lit kitchen. She heard the sound of a drawer opening and closing, the soft pop of a bottle uncorked, the clink of glasses being gathered, the flick of a light switch, footsteps returning.
Her private period of adjustment was over. Her hostess was back.
"The merlot is all gone," she said. "I hope you like gamay Beaujolais."
Scully took one of the glasses and brought it to her lips, taking in a mouthful of the savory red wine. "This is good. Thank you."
"You wanna sit for a minute? We could talk some more."
"No. I've already talked more tonight than I have in the previous month. I'm sick of the sound of my own voice."
The woman took a sip of wine and cleared her throat. "Okay. I'm open to suggestions."
By way of an answer, Scully stepped close and slid one hand behind the woman's neck, drawing her face down, kissing her again. A soft press first, then open, deeper, tongues sliding heavily together in a slow, sweet dance.
Seconds ticked by, then minutes. Hours and days might have meandered past without disturbing the seamless kiss, but something hit Scully's foot and she drew back, blinking in surprise. The woman had dropped her wine glass, and the contents spread a wide stain across the ivory carpet.
"Oh, no," Scully murmured, unable to prevent a pang of regret for having inadvertently caused the mess. "Do you have some club soda? If we hurry, we could stop it from - "
Her words were cut short when the woman, who was much stronger than her slim silhouette would indicate, swept her up into her arms. It was an unprecedented move, one Scully had only seen in films or read about in high school, the behavior of some arrogant sheik in a paperback romance novel.
"I�ll clean it up later," the woman said, her smooth voice roughened by urgency. "Right now, I don't give a damn. I'm taking you to bed."
The reality of what was about to happen hit Scully like a storm surge, sweeping away whatever half formed excuses she had given herself for coming here. She came here because she wanted this, needed this. *This* being sex. The kind of thing she wasn't supposed to want or need anymore. A dead appetite, ignored for ages until the need withered and was forgotten.
"It's been... a long time for me," Scully whispered, clutching her wine glass almost tightly enough to shatter the delicate vessel.
The woman stopped just shy of the dark hallway and stood perfectly still, watching Scully's face for any sign of fear, any indication that she should not proceed. Wide blue eyes stared back at her, showing not fear, but amazement... and something else. Something very encouraging. Lust.
"That is a tragedy. Just know that you don't have to do anything but be here," her bearer assured her. "Just let me be good to you."
It sounded so simple, so easy. No concrete demands on her time beyond this encounter, no meeting parents, no awkward explanations to friends or colleagues, no fears of abandonment or loss. None of the things which had caused her to deny the appetite in the first place. No strings.
"Please do," Scully told her.
The woman smiled in beautiful relief and carried her into the darkness. Once the light was gone and Scully could no longer see that smile, she shut her eyes and tried to remember how she got here. The night had started out so badly.
"Mulder, it won't help our case if you persist in antagonizing that... man," Scully insisted, her voice a quiet scream in the early morning desolation of Quantico.
"He isn't listening!" Mulder raved, his hands cutting through the rarified air in agitated chops. "Reynolds couldn't find his ass with both hands and a flashlight, but he has the nerve to refuse my help! I can't understand it."
She took a slow breath, counted to five, checked the conference room door that was - at last check - closed to *both* of them. "Our presence at this meeting was not requested. We drove down here to give CASKU the interview statements, tissue samples and photographs. What they choose to do with that evidence is their business."
"But they're not gonna do anything with it! Reynolds doesn't believe the statements OR the test results, and no one in that room has the guts to disagree with him."
"That's not entirely true," Scully objected. "Dr. Scarpetta and I talked this afternoon, and she was quite willing to listen. While Reynolds was holding court, she took her time examining the photos and my post mortem analysis. Also, she wants to listen to the autopsy narrative for the Brian Phelps procedure. I believe she has doubts about their current theory."
"Oh, great." Mulder was somewhat less than thrilled. "Out of twelve federal agents, cops and psychologists, the only one who gives a damn about the truth is the consulting coroner. That's pathetic."
Scully had to agree that the Child Abduction Serial Killer Unit of the bureau was suffering for the loss of its former head, Benton Wesley. Murdered earlier in the year, Wesley had left a leadership vacuum that a political animal like Ted Reynolds could never fill. Still, it was a long drive home, and Scully hated the idea of all their efforts going for naught.
"I want to stay until the meeting ends," she announced. "If one member of that group can sway the others to consider our perspective, it's the commonwealth's chief medical examiner. She has pull and credibility. I'll explain our theory in more detail and lend her my copy of the narrative tape."
Mulder snorted, hatefully eyeing the locked door which separated him from the gathering of *legitimate* law enforcement officials. Despite all the productive years he had poured into the FBI sieve, the respect some held for him as an investigator had peaked early in his career and could not be regained.
They listened to him during his stint as a profiler, gave weight to his opinions in times of crisis. Ironically, his success in that respectable arena gave him carte blanche to pursue the only cases that mattered to him, the X- Files. The ineffable nature of this work and the general perception that he was wasting valuable resources on a monumental snipe hunt eventually led to his becoming a joke among the conservative old guard like Reynolds. Certain that he lacked the stomach to preach to pagans again this evening, Fox Mulder opted to surrender the pulpit.
"Fine. You stay. I'm going home." He checked his watch and pushed a few beeping buttons to set the alarm. "There's a D.C. shuttle leaving at five after the hour, about thirty minutes from now. I'll catch it so you can keep the car."
Scully canted her head quizzically. "You're leaving? Just like that?"
"I'm tired of this, Scully," he sighed, his eyes red rimmed, his shoulders slumped from carrying the weight of the world. "Five boys have been murdered, presumably burned to death by a serial killer. I bust my ass to find the real cause of death only to have a myopic sewer chewer like Ted Reynolds tell me that my help is not required. Sometimes I wonder why I bother."
Her whispered word buzzed into his ear like a gnat, damaging his equilibrium. "What?"
"We," Scully repeated, more solidly this time. "You found a link between the radiation leaks from the hospital lab and the patient admission records for the victims. *I* got the nurses to change their stories about seeing Phelps, *I* searched the morgue for John Does until Phelps turned up, and *I* did the autopsy that actually confirmed the radiation damage to his liver and spleen. You did not get here alone, Mulder. Now, we're *both* out here in the damned hall, in case you failed to notice."
He stood back, hands on hips, mildly stunned by his normally silent partner's play for equal billing. "I... I know that."
"Go home and get some rest," she advised, instantly letting the subject drop. "I'll call you tomorrow if anything comes of this thing with Scarpetta."
"Scully, I didn't mean - "
"Forget it, Mulder. You're tired, I'm tired. Let it go."
He bit his lip, concerned that he'd really put his foot in his mouth this time. "Maybe you're right about Scarpetta. I'll wait with you."
She shook her head, running a hand through her hair to symbolically smooth ruffled feathers. "There's no need for you to stay."
"They could be in there for hours," he persisted, mustering a smile of contrite charm. "I'll go fetch us a couple doses of high test caffeine. Maybe I can scrounge up some of those little powdered sugar donuts you like."
Blue eyes zipped up and regarded him with something akin to sadness, disappointment. "I haven't eaten any of those for the past three years."
Mulder's shoulders drooped a little, his donut jest proving impotent. "I know that. I was only kidding."
"Whatever." Scully gathered up her valise and handbag from the bank of chairs lining the hall. "I'm going out for a walk. I need some air."
Oh, yeah. That foot was so far in, Mulder could wiggle his toes and tickle his tonsils. "Wait up, I'll come with you."
She was already walking away, leaving him standing alone in the hall, waiting for an invitation that would not come. "Mulder, someone has to wait here for the meeting to break up. Ring my cell phone when Dr. Scarpetta becomes available."
Reasoned into a corner by her obstinate logic and subtly executed guilt trip, he stuffed his hands into his pockets and shuffled his shoes on the carpet. "Okay, so I'll just... wait here."
"Back soon," Scully called over her shoulder, swaying through the elevator doors without bothering to look back.
The grounds of the FBI Academy were lit by high powered lamps, bright bulbs that hurt your eyes if you dared confront them with a direct gaze. Scully wanted darkness, so she shouldered her bags and headed for the blackest area in view : the recreation area, surrounded by oak trees and bushes, dotted with picnic tables. A nice place to disappear for a few minutes, find a little solitude. Someplace where no one would see or care if she was alone and brooding.
*Men are from Mars,* she mused, reflecting on how easy it was even after years spent in each other's company for she and Mulder to miscommunicate, to miss each other's meaning and turn resentful. *And women are from the Orion Nebula. That argument could have been avoided. Why does he still _do_ that? Assume that he's alone, like the Lone Ranger... until he needs Tonto. I don't wanna be Tonto. _Trigger_ got more respect than Tonto.*
She chose a table by a high azalea woven through with honeysuckle, sat down and laid her head across her folded hands. A sultry breeze sifted through the leaves, huffing perfume over her shoulders. For nearly a full minute, Dana Scully was allowed to enjoy the sweet quiet. Then, predictably, something happened. Two things, actually.
First, she heard an unidentifiable metallic clinking; not quite the familiar sound of a gun being loaded and primed, more like the click of parts being assembled. Second, she smelled smoke. Not the comforting scent of burning oak leaves or sweet pipe smoke. This was definitely from a cigarette.
At this late hour, the only people known to be on the grounds were security officers and the members of the CASKU team, but the nearest security post was far from here, and no one had left the meeting except for Mulder and herself.
A chill ran down her spine. What if it was *him*? Out here, puffing away on a Morley, hiding in plain sight at one of the most secure law enforcement facilities in the world. The irony of that prospect made Scully almost smile as she quietly slipped her Sig Sauer from the holster, chambered a round and pulled back the hammer. Sniffing the wind, she tracked the smoke to the other side of the high shrub and peeked around the leafy edge.
"You can put your piece away," a throaty voice advised, seemingly from nowhere. The speaker was clearly female, and she sounded like she meant business. "ATF."
Scully edged out from behind the bush and into the spotty light, arcing her weapon across what appeared to be an empty, secluded picnic area. Scully kept looking for the source of the voice, her azure eyes wide and anxious.
"FBI," she replied, fingering the I.D. badge on her jacket lapel. "Show yourself."
"Shit." A soft rustling from *under* the picnic table followed the curse, then a length of black and white appeared on the ground as the woman eased out from beneath the table and stood up. The orange tip of a lit cigarette was visible, the butt clenched between her teeth.
"Thought I was alone out here," she mumbled around the filter. In her right hand, two tools - a shiny steel socket wrench and a pair of pliers - dangled loosely in long, curled fingers.
"I could say the same," Scully replied as she holstered her gun. She was squinting curiously at the stranger and wondering what the hell she was doing under the table.
She couldn't see details of the woman's face through the dense blanket of shadow, but she was tall, nearly five-ten in her shiny combat boots, and her skin glowed lunar pale. Her black nylon jumpsuit was unzipped with the top half pulled down to dangle from slim hips, leaving her torso covered by only a white tank top. A concession to the late summer heat, it seemed.
*Flight suit,* Scully's mental index supplied. *Probably the ATF chopper pilot.*
"You're here for the CASKU confab," the woman stated, as if she already knew. She dropped her cigarette in the grass and crushed it under a booted heel, watching Scully all the while.
Scully, who happened to be watching the woman watch her, answered eloquently. "Yeah."
"Is it over already? Thought it would take longer."
"No, they're still at it," Scully answered. "I, um... had to take a break. Are you waiting for someone from the group?"
"Dr. Kay Scarpetta. I'm her ride back to Richmond. Well, not *me*, my bird. Helicopter."
Scully mused over that for a second, her lips quirked perfectly flat. "Must be nice to have your own airborne chauffeur."
A guarded sniff of laughter preceded the woman's answer. "Not that she appreciates it. Sometimes I think she'd rather drive herself, or take the bus." The woman stepped forward into a spill of moonlight, finally revealing a face for inspection.
*Mid twenties,* Scully noted, making a quick inventory. She took in prominent cheekbones, straight, narrow nose, lips with a fullness that collagen couldn't forge, poreless ivory skin, vibrant blue eyes, and a shoulder length crop of shining auburn hair. High shoulders, long neck, narrow waist, solid and slim as a bayonet. Confirming Scully's guess, she looked to be around five-nine or so, most of that courtesy of generous legs. This woman looked more like a spokesmodel for fitness equipment than some chopper jockey for Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
*Genetically engineered,* she could hear Mulder quip, even as he began to salivate in that hormonally helpless way that so often annoyed her.
Since she was momentarily sans Mulder and able to avoid the embarrassment of his slobbering, what could it hurt to kill a little time conversing with an attractive stranger? Someone who was stuck here at another's whim, just like her, who was obviously sulking about it, just like her.
"It stinks being taken for granted, doesn't it?" Scully asked, seemingly out of left field, apropos of nothing and inappropriately familiar.
The pilot didn't miss a beat, picking up the thread of despair in the petite redhead's voice as if it were glowing and blinking like runway lights. "You shouldn't let them get to you."
"Pardon?" Scully asked, raising one narrow brow.
"Reynolds and his ass kissing cronies," she clarified. "Sooner or later, guys like him always hang themselves. From what I understand, you and your partner were bringing him a healthy length of rope tonight. Just bide your time and wait for him to work it into a noose."
Was that merely an excellent guess? If the woman had just mentioned Mulder's hallway fit of megalomania, it would have been enough to cause a fit of the creeps. Scully stepped a little closer, trying to get a closer look at the pilot in case she should recognize her. For a stranger, she seemed to know a lot about their current situation. "Have we met?"
"No, Agent Scully, but I've seen you several times. Enough to put name to face."
"May I ask where?"
"ERF. I used to work there."
*Engineering and Research?* Scully repeated to herself. *She worked for the bureau's brain trust, now with ATF, Scarpetta's pilot... oh, Christ. It can't be her.*
"I'm Lucy Farinelli," the woman announced, extending her left hand in greeting.
*It is her. I am _so_ perceptive,* Scully silently lamented.
Lucy Farinelli was the former child techno prodigy who designed CAIN, the bureau's artificial intelligence system linking law enforcement computers worldwide to a vast database of shared information, who introduced the use of VR simulations for crime scene walk throughs, the young woman who became the first and only female member of the elite Hostage Rescue Team, the *niece* of Virginia's chief M.E., Dr. Kay Scarpetta. Tales of her genius with technology, her physical conditioning and reckless courage were canon among the silicon chip and test tube set. Agent Pendrell had spoken of her more than once, always rather dreamily.
Predictably, there were also scads of scandals that flourished along the gossipy grapevines of the Hoover Building; she allegedly botched a key CAIN security protocol and harmed the effectiveness of her own creation, she had an affair with a psychopathic serial murderer named Carrie Grethen, she resigned from the FBI under clouds of speculation about her personal life (depression, violent temper, sexual proclivities), and recently suffered the loss of a personal friend and mentor when Benton Wesley was murdered, cruelly enough, by Carrie Grethen herself. Lucy and her aunt were also involved in a recent helicopter chase and the ensuing crash which resulted in Grethen's death. Rumors all, save perhaps the last two.
As all this whirled around in her mind, Scully realized that she had yet to respond to Lucy's greeting. "Dana Scully," she unnecessarily announced, grasping the proffered hand.
"Nice to finally meet you."
Long, tapered fingers, smooth, warm skin, strong grip... Scully caught herself and found her voice. "Hmm? Finally?"
"Oh, yeah," Lucy confirmed, gently disengaging their hands and taking a seat on the picnic table. "I wanted to introduce myself on a few different occasions, but I guess I was a little star-struck. You're a bit of a celebrity to us grunts in the trenches. Solemn and sober, yet constantly in the soup."
Scully gave her a dubious frown, partly for Farinelli's pejorative characterization of herself as a 'grunt,' partly for the familiar description of Dana Scully as an undertaker with an unseemly thirst for adventure. "Right," she facetiously agreed. "As opposed to you: the shy, retiring type."
"Touch�." A wink of a smile and she waved at the empty benches, inviting Scully to sit. "Still, I'm Garbo compared to you. You're the oversight committee's favorite poster girl."
Scully's cautious nature wanted to find an insult couched in that statement, but it felt like a rather flattering version of the truth. She took a breath of cool night air and sat down on the table top beside the pilot a couple of feet away, just to maintain polite distance.
"Appearances before the oversight committee hardly constitute a springboard to fame," Scully observed. "It's not the kind of attention I need to kick-start my modeling career."
Lucy smirked at the not so ridiculous idea, but savored the niblet of sarcasm. "Hey, I hear Arlen Specter is close friends with Herb Ritts. Be nice to him and it could still happen for you."
"Somehow, I think I'd stand a better chance with Teddy Kennedy."
"_Everyone_ stands a better chance with Teddy Kennedy," Lucy observed wryly. "Just don't let him drive you home."
*Was that a Chappaquiddick joke? She wasn't even _alive_ when that happened. Plus, it was kinda tasteless...*
And yet, Scully had to bite back a grin, though she couldn't say why she bothered. Habitual solemnity, maybe, or preserving her level sobriety. Evidently, she had a reputation to maintain.
The younger woman leaned closer, a conspiratorial twinkle in her voice. "Are they as bad as everyone says? Grumpy, anal old men in rep ties and sweaty suits?"
Scully nearly smiled. Closer this time, but still no dice. "I remember the knots they caused in my stomach more than their personal characteristics. Imagine going to the principal's office in elementary school, then magnify that fear by the power of ten."
"Yeech," Lucy blanched, then gave a light chuckle. "Just give it time and even that Pecksniff Reynolds will find himself in their sights. Aunt Kay says it's a statistical inevitability."
It took Scully a moment to place the name: a Dickens hypocrite, a literary way to call someone a prick. That finally pushed her over. Her smile was slow and magnetic, the edges of her mouth curling northward with an irresistible constancy. Lucy had no idea how hard it was for Scully to let that happen, and Scully covered by keeping the conversation going.
"And the reasoning that makes that occurrence inevitable... "
"Everyone who rocks the boat in order to keep it moving gets called in to explain, over and over until the committee finds out why the boat gets stuck in the first place," she explained. "You're a boat rocker, Reynolds is the reason the ship gets bogged down. He'll get his, by and by."
Scully looked at the young woman with an expression of barely suppressed gratitude. That little analogy was evidence that to some, she wasn't simply an oarsman pulling for the deafening coxswain named Fox Mulder. Someone held the opinion that she, Dana Katherine Scully, had the temerity, the incalculable gall, to rock boats. After five years of sacrifice, of trailing behind, cleaning up, and gamely anticipating the next turn in the Byzantine maze her life had become, this was something she needed to hear.
"Thanks," Scully said cheerily. "I hope you're right."
"Sure I am," Lucy grinned at her as sweetly as she could manage. "Come talk to me in six weeks. If Reynolds isn't mired in shit by then, I'll buy you dinner."
Scully was taken aback. This young woman had asked her out to dinner after knowing her less than five minutes, and the invitation was so casually and boldly offered, with no hesitation or fear of misunderstanding, as if she were the sort of person who should be asked out easily and often. It was totally unlike the halting, reserved requests Dana Scully sporadically received and rejected. If only this particularly intriguing possibility hadn't been seated on the sluggish burro of bureaucratic efficiency.
The senior agent furrowed her brow and smiled. "Seriously?"
"Sure." Lucy watched Scully�s expression turn from pleased to somber, then asked, "What, you think it won't happen?"
"Let's just say my faith in karmic justice is shaky at best," Scully offered, waggling a hand in an unstable arc. "I won't get my hopes up."
"A-ha." Lucy Farinelli pursed her lips, contemplated the wisdom of testing her luck even further, and eventually decided that a shot at the brass ring was always worth the risk. "How about we remove the variable for us and let Reynolds fend for himself? I know an Italian restaurant pretty close by. Excellent marinara, fresh cannoli, nice wine list. What do you say?"
Scully blinked, bowing up her mouth and staring at her navy suede flats as she took stock of her situation. She was sitting on a picnic table, in the dark, on the grounds of a federal law enforcement training facility, wearing a striking but uncomfortable tailored suit and shoes that gave her corns. At the age of thirty four, living under an accumulation of dangers and losses and epiphanies that should have left her insane, she was being asked out on a date (and she had no doubt this would be a _date_) by a woman. This was a first.
Granted, she was the most striking woman Scully had seen up close in the whole of her life, not to mention legendarily intelligent, in a compatible line of work, and disarmingly direct in her attitude and charm... but this was something entirely out of Dana Scully's considerable cognition. This was too unexpected, too sudden, too strange, too _something_ and she didn't want to make a clumsy mistake just because she was tired and agitated and lonely.
"Okay, sure," she blurted.
*Where the hell did that come from?* Scully's dormant Catholic volcano spouted a tiny magma flow of doubt, burning through the lava tubes of her conscience. *You _cannot_ be serious. Talk about rocking the boat.*
"Oh... great," Lucy replied, hesitant not from reluctance but shock.
Shocked to the point that she was sure her body chemistry had altered. Asking was a leap of faith, an act of courage on the part of someone accustomed to losing what she loved, someone tired of giving in to her own fears. She had expected a polite, squirming refusal from the venerable, beautiful Agent Scully. She couldn't help doubting the validity of the quick answer.
"You did mean that, didn't you?"
*No,* Scully thought. *I don't think so, anyway. God, I don't know. Well, why not? It's only dinner. A meal shared with another human being who is not Mulder or my mother. What a concept. So what if that person happens to be a woman? An enigmatic, troubled woman whose company could prove monumentally diverting. Is that what I want? Can I deal with _more_ of that? If so... *
Scully blinked at Lucy, tongued the edge of her lip nervously as she tamped down her own explosive insecurities like gunpowder in a cannon. "Mmm hmm. I mean it... but I�m imposing one condition."
Lucy ducked her head, cowed by apprehension. "What?"
"You have to tell me what you were doing under the table with those tools."
The bed sported a full size mattress with remarkably firm constitution, which Scully had yet to test for herself. She was sitting on Lucy's lap, legs wrapped tightly around her waist. Their breasts were bare, brushing fleshy crowns of coral and pale brown together in twin kisses that mirrored their mouths.
It was a testament to how lost she had become in the valley of Lucy's throat, the silken forest of her hair, the flooded chasm of her hot mouth, that she couldn�t recall how she became naked to the waist. Surely there must have been some fumbling with the buttons of her jacket, the tiny closures on her blouse, a grappling with the tricky front hook of her brassiere, but she couldn't remember any of that.
Mulder might have called it 'lost time' and claimed that she was under the influence of some external force, some malevolent entity out to strip away her self control. Scully could not honestly claim that she cared.
"You feel so good," she told Lucy, running both hands up the smooth plane of her back, burying fingers in her hair. Scully rose up and pressed herself closer, rubbing up and down to feel hard nipples tickling at her ribs, pushing against the soft undersides of her breasts.
"I can vouch for that," Lucy agreed, licking cat like along the milky tendons of Scully's neck. "I feel absolutely fucking wonderful."
Before Scully could even finish snickering, she was borne up into the air as Lucy stood, then turned around and gently deposited on her back. The bed was, in fact, quite firm and very nicely coordinated. Smooth sheets of pale peach, too many pillows, a duvet of light blue and peach woven with an intricate jacquard pattern, headboard and footboard of shiny brass.
"Lucy, this is a great bed."
"It looks much better from where I'm standing," she replied lasciviously while blatantly ogling the half naked woman sprawled on her freshly laundered sheets. She was beyond glad that she'd cleaned the place up a few days back; she suspected that the apartment's previous state of disarray would have alarmed her guest.
Lucy stood at the edge of the mattress, soaking up images of Dana Scully rarely seen by another living soul: the flushed skin of her cleavage, the puckered indent of her navel, lips red and swollen from vigorous, protracted kisses, pupils dilated so wide her eyes were nearly black.
"You... are the most beautiful woman... I have _ever_ seen," Lucy haltingly whispered, utterly appreciative and heart-rendingly sincere.
If Scully thought it was impossible to blush any hotter, that comment and the tone in which it was delivered proved her wrong. It felt like her ears were melting against the sides of her skull, and the warm ball of energy sparked hotter in her groin. She shook her head in denial.
"You obviously haven't been near a mirror lately," she asserted.
One dim lamp burned on the bedside table, draped with a cornflower scarf which dyed the light a soothing shade of blue. Cast in this shade, Lucy's body took on an unreal sheen of perfection, like marble sculpted by some ancient artisan, woven through with streaks of flame blue and perfectly pure as burning alcohol. The only things that betrayed the illusion were the labored breaths lifting her chest, and her shaking hands, with fingers clutching convulsively from the need to touch.
"Let's call it a draw," Lucy offered shyly, "for now."
Scully gifted her with another smile, self conscious and thankful, and Lucy graciously let the topic drop. She reached down and took off Scully's shoes, setting them neatly side by side on the carpet, then brought one stockinged foot up to rest against her shoulder. Turning her head, Lucy kissed the slender ankle, nipping a bit at the delicate bones, sliding her hands along the inside of Scully's tailored slacks and rubbing at her calf.
"Mmm. That's nice," Scully murmured, watching rapt as the younger woman slid her pantleg up and kissed her way to a kneecap, all tender lips, glancing bites and stroking tongue.
Lucy grinned blindly against her leg, then eased her hands up to massage Scully's clothed thigh in long, deep strokes along the top and back, careful not to stray too close to the inside. They had plenty of time, no sense rushing into the restricted zones until an invitation was extended.
"I can't get this undone," Scully said suddenly, sounding mildly agitated.
When Lucy was able to shift her attention from her absorbing activity, she found the smaller woman yanking at the double buttons of her trousers, seemingly quite eager to shuck her pants. If that wasn't an invitation...
"Lemme help you with that," Lucy offered, lowering the well attended leg and positioning herself over Scully's prone body. She moved a set of smaller hands away from the waistband and slid her own fingers between the half open flap to grasp the second button and neatly unclasp... well, maybe not.
"See? It's stuck," Scully told her, feeling more than a little foolish. Lucy's long fingers wiggled around against her stomach and Scully's breath caught somewhere in the middle of her throat. No hand had been that close to her in ages except her gynecologist, and that didn't count at all.
"I think it's just a thread looped around the button," Lucy said. "I could yank it off, but it might tear the fabric."
Scully arched up and bit gently at Lucy's lower lip, licking it once before lying back again. "Do it."
A bolt of wicked energy shot down Lucy's spine, and the preservation of Scully's wardrobe faded to a non issue. She groaned a low, hungry sound and dropped her mouth into the valley between Scully's breasts, raking down her stomach, pinching and scoring the tender skin between her teeth until she arrived at the troublesome fastener.
"I knew I should have brought those friggin' pliers home with me tonight," Lucy complained, then proceeded to bite the button clean off Scully's trousers.
The younger woman started slightly at the inquiry, a shimmy of her shoulders betraying discomfort. She looked at Scully for a long moment, deciding whether it was safe to make such a disclosure to a virtual stranger. Something in the compassionate set of her face, in the effortless empathy of her eyes, told Lucy that she could be trusted. Dana Scully wouldn't push, wouldn't judge, wouldn't tell anyone else. She would just listen.
"Do you believe in the practice of exorcism, Agent Scully?"
Bobbing her head a little as she adjusted to the odd question, Scully nodded. "I believe that evil can reside in people as a force guiding their actions. I suppose I believe that it can be removed, but as for how that's done - "
"What about inanimate objects?"
Scully frowned at her obtusely. "Lucy, I'm afraid you've lost me."
Unconsciously, the young woman smiled at hearing her own name used so casually. It bespoke a comfort in her presence that she was unaccustomed to feeling from anyone outside her small sphere of confidantes. "Sorry. This is stupid. I don't know how to explain it without making you uncomfortable."
"You would be amazed at what it takes to make me uncomfortable," Scully assured her. "If it's something you'd rather not get into... "
"I was planning to disassemble this picnic table, take it off to a safe location, build a bonfire and burn it to ashes," Lucy said, her words tumbling out in a reckless rush of candor. "I don't feel comfortable or welcome inside, and that's to be expected. Thing is, I don't even feel right waiting _out here_ anymore, and I think this table has something to do with it."
"A picnic table." Scully pursed her mouth and nodded. "Is the table inherently evil or has it been corrupted by an external entity?"
Lucy didn't seem to take offense at Scully's facetious inquiry, and she gamely pressed on. "I made the worst mistake of my life right here where we're sitting. It cost me my career at the bureau, my self respect, very nearly my sanity, and it's resulted in the loss of two people I cared about. Right here," she repeated, smacking the wrench against the table. "I gave myself to a killer."
Unaware that she was doing so, Scully pressed her palms against the sanded wood table, as if she could leech some insight from the grain. "Carrie Grethen," she whispered impulsively, cluing Lucy in that she knew at least some part of the story.
A shiver touched her spine at the thought of that psychopath invading the inner sanctum of the bureau. It was very nearly the same sensation of violation Scully had felt when she smelled cigarette smoke, disgusted and fascinated by the thought that the man who had tortured her with such inhumanity had lurked here, safe under the aegis of need-to-know anonymity.
"Carrie and I worked together at ERF," Lucy continued. "We used to come out here together at night. Smoke, talk... then one night she kissed me. I trusted her with everything I was and she tore me apart. She killed Benton."
"I'm sorry, Lucy." Scully was empathically sincere, able to identify with the fury and agony accompanying such a pointless, bitter loss.
"Carrie was my first love, and she was the first person I ever _truly_ hated," the young woman confessed stonily. "Killing her didn't make me feel any better. It didn't bring Benton back. I couldn't let go of the anger, and that drove my... Janet... away. Finally. She put up with a lot from me, but I couldn't find my way out in time to hang on to her."
Mentally combing over the details of Lucy's revelations, Scully realized that the helicopter crash which resulted in Grethen's death months ago had not been an accident. Gunfire was reportedly exchanged between Lucy's chopper and Carrie's, and Lucy's intent was now clear: she had been shooting to kill.
*Wouldn't you have done the same?* Scully asked herself. *If it _had_ been him, sitting here in the dark, smoking, wouldn't you have emptied your clip into that brown smile and blown his head apart? And would that make you feel any better? It wouldn't bring back Melissa, or Mulder's father. Or Emily. Death doesn't equal closure, it doesn't heal. You still hurt. You're still alone every night with your memories, the guilt no one can help you carry.*
"Aunt Kay's the only one who's still around... well, aside from Pete Marino, but he�s another pain in the ass entirely," Lucy continued, regaining Scully's attention. "Aunt Kay's been through the wringer right along with me, but there are things she can't help me with."
"Some things are impossible to share with the people closest to you," Scully commented, wizened from similar experience. There were things she would never tell Mulder, so many things that she felt she had to carry alone. "The potential pain is too great to chance."
Lucy looked at her with an expression of gratitude for her succinct understanding. "I don't want to think about what I would�ve done without Aunt Kay. She's a rock against my tides."
Scully could identify with that analogy, having felt herself turn to liquid and foam against her solid partner in moments of crisis. "It's okay to break around them, as long as you pull away soon after."
"Exactly." Another quirky, surprised look of mirrored empathy from Lucy. "You sound like you have a few tables of your own to burn."
"A few," Scully muttered, envisioning old RFK Stadium filled to the brim with wooden patio furniture. "But it's not in my nature to start wildfires."
"Oh, baloney," Lucy said, waving her wrench in rebuttal. "The heroine of 'Jose Chung's _From Outer Space_' is no shrinking violet. You must keep a pack of matches on you at all times, ready to spark 'em up and burn down the town."
Scully barked out a short laugh and covered her face in embarrassment. "How do you know that was me Chung was... umm, dramatizing?"
"Please. Anyone who's paid attention to your work or even taken a good, long look at you, for that matter could read between the lines of that potboiler and see that _you_ were Agent Diana Lusky."
"I didn't realize his portrayal of me was so transparent."
"Allow me to quote from Mr. Chung: 'Agent Diana Lusky, a high pressured crock pot of slow cooking sensuality, could have served as a university recruitment tool for the bureau, tempting the young into government service as the sirens beckoned Ulysses toward the rocks. Her clipped, intellectual delivery of facts peppered with a coy, playful humor did little to mute her invasive appeal. As I stammered through my questions, I felt the heat of her gaze lasering over my naked scalp, and I wondered if she had ever considered dating an older man.' End quote," Lucy intoned, a naughty grin splitting her face as she watched Scully squirm.
"You must have a photographic memory," the crimson-skinned agent murmured.
"Ehh, give or take a word or ten. I do remember thinking that Chung had the hots for you. Well, as much as a superannuated queen ever gets the hots for any mortal woman."
Scully could feel her stomach flutter with swallowed laughter, with anxiety over how many others had seen through the 'old queen's' thin veil of obfuscation, and with a decidedly unfamiliar twitter of pride. Lucy Farinelli had obviously been among those who had taken a good, long look at the self-thought dowdy FBI agent, and had seen something percolating behind her calm facade. Something worth looking at, worth remembering and, evidently, worth trusting.
"I came out here tonight to get away from my partner," Scully announced, having instantly decided to reciprocate with equal candor. "Reynolds isn't listening to us and Mulder thinks it's all his fault, although he doesn't know that yet. He's too busy feeling slighted to say it, but he knows that if the evidence we brought had come from anyone but us, Pecksniff would have listened and CASKU would be on the right track by now."
"It sounds like you know how he feels better than he does."
"I usually figure it out after the damage is done," Scully realized. "If I had been a little less absorbed in my own longstanding insecurity about our partnership, I would have fixed things instead of walking out on him. It's easier to think kindly of Mulder when he's not around."
"People do tend to snipe when they feel like shit and don't know why," Lucy contributed. "Was he being a bitch? Is that why you took a break?"
Scully mulled that over. *Mulder? Being a bitch? Hmm...*
"In a word, yes. We've worked together for years and yet, when something goes wrong, he tends to think it's entirely his responsibility."
"And it isn't?"
Scully shook her head in wordless defense of her partner. "When you form a solid connection with someone, you want to share both the good _and_ the bad, but with us... it�s tough. If we haven't worked that out by now, I don't think we ever will. There's so much I'm afraid to talk to him about, and the more time passes, the less I believe we'll get to that point. There's just too much history between us for us to be that candid."
"Aunt Kay's closer to me than anyone else in my life, but I still can't talk to her the way I want to... like I just did with you," Lucy admitted. "That's weird, isn't it? She knows most every bad thing that's ever happened to me, but I don't think I'll ever be comfortable laying it all out to her."
"That's exactly what I was..." Scully began, then lost her thread of thought as Lucy met her eyes with a strikingly familiar expression of expectation.
There was something running between them, some shared realization that they were already accustomed to dealing with each other -- in type, at least. With her passion, emotional judgment and volatility, Lucy Farinelli was a lot like Fox Mulder, and whether she liked it or not, Dana Scully was knee deep in the ascetic professionalism that signified Dr. Kay Scarpetta.
"Thank you," Scully said suddenly, her voice a low hum in the night air.
Lucy squinted at her, slightly befuddled. "For what? Talking your ear off?"
"Sharing part of the load," she clarified. "I know it's not the same as talking with someone you care about, but I'm flattered to be deemed an acceptable surrogate for your aunt."
Leaning forward to rest her elbows on her knees, Lucy twirled the wrench around in nimble fingers as she considered just _why_ she had chosen to spill her guts to this woman who was unknown to her, but not quite a stranger. On the same intuitive track as Scully, she asked a rather bizarre question which, in light of their respective regular confidantes, made perfect sense. "Would Mulder burn the table?"
A corner of her mouth crept up in a smirk as Scully replied, "Yes, he would want to burn the table. But I would suggest less destructive alternatives."
"Would he listen?"
"Maybe, maybe not. It depends on whether the table poses a danger to the public at large," Scully reasoned, then sucked up her courage and gambled on a loaded question. "Do you think every encounter which begins on this cursed piece of lawn furniture is guaranteed a tragic end?"
Lucy looked at her and smiled, a full on, brilliant smile that made the full summer moon appear dim in comparison. She tucked the wrench and pliers into a utility pocket on her thigh. "I sure hope not."
"So do I," Scully agreed. She felt a tangible sense of relief that her valiant reply had managed to spring up straight from her heart, neatly bypassing the network of censors installed by years of conditioned denial.
She leaned back on her hands and just looked at Lucy, just let herself feel relieved that she had been up to the challenge posed by the younger woman's bold openness. Lucy's confessions were taken in stride, her interest and admiration returned as easily as an echo across a canyon.
*Not _too_ strange or _too_ sudden. Too _easy_, that's what it is,* Scully thought. *I knew there was a superlative in there somewhere. It should always be this easy.*
There are unique patterns in the way people make love, some so dim they're negligible, some glaring as the noonday sun. Though she was awash in insatiable desire, virtually floating above the bed on a cloud of self renewing need, Scully was still cognizant of the pacing and staging of Lucy's technique. She could discern a building momentum, slow and languorous and clearly intentional. The woman was practically a virtuoso.
Nothing felt rushed or premature, and nothing was a surprise except the sheer abundance of pleasure Lucy gave her. Long minutes were spent stroking her belly, her breasts, hips and thighs, stoking the flames burning in Scully's body until her womb wept thick tears of desire, scenting the cool air of the bedroom with her need.
Kisses fell everywhere, as indiscriminate as raindrops, spanning the entire length of her body. Scully was mildly alarmed when Lucy's mouth drifted from her neck, across her shoulder, and a tongue dipped into her armpit - good Lord, how that tickled - and she was absurdly glad that her hygiene was up to snuff. When she threw a questioning glance at the ravenous young woman, Lucy just grinned and nipped at her neck.
"Can�t help it. Your skin tastes so good."
"Mmm. Try to leave some on the bone, would you?"
"I make no promises."
At the approximate speed of a glacier, Lucy kissed a path down to Scully's naked groin, nuzzling her pubis, kissing her vulva, gently parting the engorged petals of her labia, brushing her fingers across the tender opening and painting the entire area from the translucent palette of Dana Scully's own arousal.
Easy. It was so damned easy just to lie back and let it happen, to give herself over to a beautiful lover and let that lover give to her what had been rejected by others. Lucy�s hidden tenderness was deemed an exploitable flaw by one, while her passion and complex volatility proved too challenging for another.
Scully was in no position to judge the second woman Lucy mentioned - someone named Janet, obviously a significant relationship - but she found herself wondering what it would be like to have *this* on a regular basis. She wondered what it would take for someone to throw up their hands and walk away from Lucy Farinelli. Perhaps what little Scully knew of her was only the modestly jagged tip of a killer iceberg, perhaps she�d never know what lay beneath the surface. Fucking her and living with her were, after all, two drastically different propositions. Right then, Dana Scully was too deeply involved in the former to even contemplate the latter.
She moaned uncontrollably and unashamedly, her hips lifting skyward at the entry of tongue, the smooth, hot slide inside, the swirling caress over deliciously sensitive nerve endings, the hard press of teeth against nether lips. Lucy's tongue curled and stroked, steadily building up a rhythm as divine as the beating wings of seraphim. Scully held fast to the joy for as long as she could, and she smiled as she felt the tightening begin anew, a band of pulsing energy widening, spreading and building from deep inside until her body became a dam unable to hold back the cresting flood. Then and only then did she muster breath and cry out a request.
Both of Dana Scully�s hands landed on Lucy's hair and pressed her close, urged her to remain inside and share the splendid, staggering parade of contractions. A surplus of sexual energy stored up for too damned long in Scully's body arced like electricity between her brain and groin, turning her to a streak of lightning, burning her up inside until she screamed loud and long with the unbearable agony of release, quenching her own fire with a gushing surrender.
Lucy hung on throughout; she refused to be shaken by the tumultuous ride of bucking hips as she gathered every drop of streaming nectar. She was convinced again that nothing else on earth could taste so sweet as the proof of a woman�s pleasure. As Scully rode down the waves, Lucy kissed the hooded pearl of her clit ever so gently and rested her head on her lover's firm stomach, careful to cup one hand around her throbbing sex to maintain the security of contact.
Some unknowable amount of time passed before Scully's awareness of self returned, accompanied by a ringing in her ears and tiny white spots dancing in her field of vision. Scully concentrated on breathing, since that seemed as much as her limp, wrung out body was capable of at first.
"Oh my God," she huffed, blinking away the spots as she tried to find Lucy, suddenly overcome with the need to see her. A crown of auburn hair rested on her lower abdomen. Breath tickled the fine hairs on her belly. A hand lightly guarded her sex with a warm embrace.
Scully reached down and touched her lover's cheek, stroking her thumb across wet skin.
"Lucy? Are you okay?"
In answer, the young woman nodded and softly kissed her navel. Gradually, she gathered enough courage to raise up on one elbow and gauge Scully's expression, which quickly contorted from bliss to concern when she saw the tears staining her cheeks.
"I'm fine," Lucy assured her, wiping a wrist across her eyes. "Good tears, not bad ones."
"Why any tears at all?" Scully wondered. "Afraid I woke the neighbors?"
A sweet, shy smile met the effort at jest, but Lucy quickly turned sincere again. "Just now, when you let go... thank you. I�m keeping that."
Scully gave an inverted frown and wrapped her arms around solid shoulders, drawing Lucy up to kiss away the trace evidence of her secret sentimentality. Her tears were warm and salty on Scully's tongue, and it seemed perfectly natural to continue to kiss her, to move down to her lips and taste the echoes of her own release.
As she took Lucy's mouth, she could feel the need building all over again. Scully knew without question that her resuscitated desire would continue to cycle as long as her constitution could hold out, demanding more each time until she passed out or dropped dead.
"You still have your jumpsuit on," Scully noticed, amazed that the rustling nylon hadn't been noticed before and slightly insulted that Lucy seemed to think she wouldn't be willing to reciprocate... somehow. "Take it off."
The younger woman was sucking lazily on Scully's neck, but she managed to mumble something like 'you don't have to, I'm okay.' Scully was having none of the noble refusal. There was a limited amount of time before her own body was able to receive such attention again, and she did not intend to waste the interim. She slid both hands down the back of Lucy's suit, into her underpants, and grabbed her ass - hard.
"MMMPPHHH! Jesus!" Lucy raised up as far as she could, maybe six inches or so, before Scully pulled her down again, hands roaming over and between her buttocks, testing the pooled wetness lurking just below.
"You don�t feel *okay* to me," Scully taunted, slipping one blind finger along the hidden crevice, hot and seeping like a mineral spring.
"I ... oh, shit... I mean it. I can take care of myself later," Lucy bravely insisted. "I don't want you to feel like you've _gotta_ do anything."
"Listen, if I hadn't wanted to make love with you, I'd never have agreed to come home with you," Scully explained patiently. "And I certainly wouldn't have broken that damned picnic table."
Raised eyebrows met Scully's claim of credit for the destruction. "I seem to recall we both had a hand in that."
"Granted. Now I intend to have a hand in this."
Scully dipped the first knuckle of her index finger into a tight cavern of heat, catching Lucy totally off guard and drawing some indecipherable yelp from the young beauty's throat.
Ten seconds later, the flight suit was history... just like the picnic table.
Lost in thought, Scully seemed unaware that she was staring at the other woman with a blissed out, comfortable smile. Lucy was quite aware of the fact, and she twisted her body slightly to the side, bracing one arm on the table to bring herself closer. The movement jarred Scully back to awareness, and she found her eyes sliding easily down Lucy's face, along the column of her throat, across a shoulder and over the sleek marble limb, an artful display of cultivated feminine strength.
"You exercise a lot, I�ll bet," Scully murmured dimly, studiously ignoring the fact that Lucy was inching closer in fits and starts. Her earlobes felt warm, and she wondered if she was blushing. An impulse to run welled up and was quickly stomped down. She didn't feel like running any more tonight.
"Therapy," Lucy replied throatily. It sounded to Scully like her voice had dropped several octaves to a dangerously sexy level. "Helps me think clearly."
"You must think as clearly as CAIN by now," she replied, alarmed that her own voice had lowered as well. Her earlobes were burning coals, her throat felt constricted, clogged with words she�d always stopped herself from saying.
*There's still time to run,* Scully's cowardly conscience told her.
But she didn't run. Wouldn't give her spinsterish, sidekicky insecurity the satisfaction. Couldn't think of a reason to deny herself a moment of solace, a bit of affirmation that she was worthy of the attention, the talking, the flirting. The possibility of touch without fall.
Several years ago she would have been obtusely confused, would have picked up her shit and beat feet back to the relative safety of Mulder and Quantico, but not now. Not after all she had been through. She was strong enough to admit that she wanted something to happen, bold enough to try and see it through.
Lucy smiled again at the reference to her de-facto child, lips parting over teeth as she eased her body closer still, touching at the shoulder, the hip, thigh aligned with Scully's. "I guarantee CAIN isn't thinking what I'm thinking," she ventured.
"Mmm. What might that be?"
Close enough to feel the heat radiating off the smaller body, close enough to smell transparent perfume and dry cleaned gabardine, Lucy closed her eyes and winced. Inches away from her goal, she locked herself down and floundered. *Too much, too fast. She'll scream. She'll shoot me. She'll run,* she thought.
"I forget," she muttered.
Scully breathed out a stream of butterflies and dug down deep, trying to find the courage to rock the boat. "Can I hazard a guess?"
Lucy's eyes fluttered open, fixing her intended with a gaze of direct, earnest desire. "Please."
"I won't run."
Amazingly, Scully had said precisely the right thing. With one last surge forward, Lucy dropped her mouth to Scully's and brushed their lips together in a brief union of softness. After one gentle press, one tender stroke, Lucy pulled back and shuddered out a long breath littered with her shattered fears.
"True to your word, Agent Scully," she whispered.
"Always," Scully confirmed huskily. "Jose Chung doesn't lionize wimps."
Lucy chuckled nervously and watched mesmerized as Scully closed the gap between them, pressing their mouths together in a firm, heroic kiss.
*Valor pays off,* Scully thought, tasting the sweet, vaguely smoky pillows of warm lips, utterly terrified and shocked at her own behavior, yet having no intention of stopping.
Seconds turned eternal as the chaste merging slowly altered, deepened, lips parting, tongues slipping forward on waves of warm, wet need. A hand slid into Lucy's hair and Scully felt arms wrap around her waist, drawing her half onto the lengthy pillar of Lucy's hard body.
The kiss still unbroken, Scully braced herself on one arm and pressed the weight of her body down on the younger woman, laying her flat on the surface of the picnic table. Some weak voice inside her said that this was a remarkably bad idea, then Lucy raised her thigh between Scully�s legs and the inner voice yelped out a more frantic warning of danger.
> Beep-beep! Beep-beep!<
Though not the sound of a shrieking inner voice, the quick, faint electronic noise jarred both women back to their senses and the kiss ended abruptly. Soft footsteps were heard nearby, but from which direction they could not tell. Scully lifted herself onto her elbows and knelt on the tabletop. They listened closely and made out the footsteps again - retreating.
"Someone was out there," Lucy whispered, quite unnecessarily.
Scully nodded and sat back on her calves, preparing to hop off the table. Lucy tried to sit up at the same time, and the combination of their movements jostled the loosened - and sadly forgotten - bolts on the table legs. In less time than it took for them to realize what was happening and find each other�s eyes, the legs buckled and the table gave way.
Lucy�s back was still against the table at the moment of breakage, so the collapse and subsequent impact stole her breath and gave her a jolting blow to the back of the head. Scully managed to roll sideways and take the punishment on her side and arm. She recovered first, but the shock was still evident on her face as she scrambled to her feet and stood over Lucy.
"Are... are you okay?"
"Nnnnhhh. Just gimme five more minutes, ma," the younger agent teased, feigning sleepiness as she lay practically prone. She tried to yawn and a stitch in her neck stopped her cold. "Ow."
"Come on, on your feet," Scully ordered, offering her hand to help Lucy up.
As her arm extended, she noticed the time glowing on her backlit watch. 2:01 a.m. A distantly sick feeling came upon her, as if the time should mean something specific, but the feeling went away as Lucy took her hand. She hoisted the fallen agent to her feet and they stood silent for a moment, surveying the flattened table.
Lucy brushed her hands together a few times and sighed. "Well. My work here is done."
Scully arched her brows and blinked. "Is this really what you had in mind?"
"No," Lucy said. "This is much better."
They looked at each other and shared perhaps a few seconds of wordless communication, remembering how fast things escalated, wondering how far they would have gone if not for the beeping and the falling and the sudden stop.
"SCULLY! Hey, Scullllayyy!"
Mulder�s voice, calling for her loud and long. Lucy�s eyes darted toward the sound, and for a moment, Scully thought the young woman looked angry.
"My partner," Scully muttered. "Over here, Mulder."
Lucy nodded her understanding. She took a couple of steps back, away from Scully. Her eyes squeezed shut, her lips pursed like she was holding back a flood of words, words she didn�t have time to say before their privacy ended.
Mulder rounded the high azalea bush and his eyes went straight to the busted picnic table. He scratched his nose and put his hands on his hips. "Wow."
Scully couldn�t look at him when she lied. "Yeah. We were just... sitting there. Talking. And the thing just... gave way."
Mulder gazed directly at her, compelling Scully to meet his eyes. "Uh-huh," he said. "You realize that was government property and therefore probably cost about seven grand."
The dry, teasing tone was there, but she heard something beneath the joke. Something tight and reserved. She couldn�t tell what he was thinking or what he suspected, and she wasn�t sure she wanted to find out tonight.
"Mulder, this is Lucy Farinelli from ATF," Scully blurted, eager to break the quiet.
He glanced at her and tried to smile. "Hi. Fox Mulder," he said. He did not approach her or offer his hand to her, and Lucy mirrored his polite distance.
"Pleased to meet you," she said while shrugging back into her flight suit top.
"Yeah," Mulder affirmed. "Well, the meeting is over."
Scully was surprised. "Really? Who won?"
"The forces of good, for once. I think Reynolds overstepped his bounds with a few of the senior agents. I heard the words "disciplinary hearing" and "demotion" as the bigwigs brushed past."
Lucy turned her face away, scuffed at the grass with her boot. Scully could see an �I told you so� in the set of the young woman�s crooked smile, but Lucy had the grace and discretion to remain silent.
"Oh, and a scrap of personal vindication for you, Scully," Mulder continued, "Doctor Scarpetta is waiting for you at the chopper pad. She wants to know if you�ll ride back with her and go over the Brian Phelps material in Richmond tomorrow."
"I thought my report was pretty self-explanatory. I could just give her my narrative tape and ... " Scully trailed off as she heard Lucy clear her throat and take a step forward.
"The chief is a stickler for first-hand accounts," Lucy said. "If she wants to hear from you, she probably has some specific questions."
Scully watched Lucy as she spoke, tried to keep her face neutral as the pilot toyed with the zipper of her flight suit, tugging it down slooowly, then up, down again... "Oh. Right. Of course. I�ll just get my things and then I�ll be with you... be right with you."
She rounded the azalea and left Mulder and Lucy alone. Mulder stuffed his hands in his pockets and stared at the ruins of the picnic table. Lucy glanced at the mess, then turned her attention to the glorious moon that beamed as quietly and brightly as she.
"Beautiful night," she remarked softly.
"Yeah. Warm," Mulder blandly added.
Time seemed to drag on and on until they both began to wonder what was keeping Scully. Mulder took a step toward the azalea corner.
>Beep! Beep! Bee- <
He slapped a hand over his wristwatch and shut off the alarm, set for 2:05 -- the time the D.C. shuttle was set to depart. Mulder looked back at Lucy Farinelli, whose eyes were big as dinner plates and loaded with double servings of recognition and apprehension. He shrugged his shoulders and attempted to smile.
"Guess I missed the bus," he said.
Lucy swallowed hard and tried to breathe normally. "Another one will come along."
Mulder fished the car keys from his pocket and jingled them showily, his false smile cracking just a hair as he said, "S�okay. I�m used to driving myself."
Scully finally returned, bearing her valise and handbag in one hand, her microcassette recorder in the other. "I cued up the tape, just in case she wants to listen to it on the way back."
"Of course she will," Lucy remarked. "You two are gonna get along just great."
"Ahem." Mulder stepped up to Scully and leaned in close enough to whisper. "You�re not still mad at me, are you?"
His partner sighed and smirked. "I was never really angry, Mulder. I just get tired of you forgetting I�m there."
Mulder�s sad eyes belied his smile. "I�m an idiot. Forgive me?"
"Sure. Forget about it," she said sincerely. "I�ll probably be back tomorrow evening, but if we find anything new, I�ll call and give you the news."
"I�ll be waiting by the phone." As he started walking away backward, his focus was on Lucy Farinelli. "Hey, ATF! I want my partner back in good condition, understand? You break her, you bought her."
"Gotcha," Lucy responded, giving him a half-salute.
Mulder turned and jogged away, out of sight. Scully looked to Lucy and asked, "What was that about?"
Lucy didn�t even think about telling Scully the truth, that her partner had accidentally witnessed them making out and was giving her a subtle warning to treat Dana Scully right. "I dunno. Interesting guy."
"You�d like him."
"Yeah, but I don�t think he�d like me," Lucy murmured.
Before Scully could ask her to repeat herself, the pilot grabbed her elbow and essentially began dragging her off toward the helipad. Scully blinked, smiled, and let herself be dragged. As the chopper came into sight, Lucy released her arm and walked two steps ahead. Scully�s expression sobered as she spotted a slight blonde figure standing beside the black bird � Doctor Kay Scarpetta, arms crossed over middle, foot impatiently tapping the tarmac.
Lucy sped up to a light run and Scully stifled a grin as she watched the girl go; she suspected that watching her run at full speed was a sight to behold.
"I�ve been waiting here for nearly ten minutes," Scarpetta grumbled at her pilot. "If this is such a chore for you, perhaps Teun could assign someone else to fly me around."
"Teun? Since when are you on a first name basis with my boss?" Lucy shot back, playfully evading the criticism.
Her aunt�s perfunctory answer was dry and clipped. "I�ve told you, she�s a colleague and a contemporary, nothing more."
"God, don�t be so defensive! I wasn�t *suggesting* anything."
"Excuse me?" Scully interjected mildly from her position on the sideline, "If you two would prefer me to wait somewhere else while you continue this..."
"No," both women said in unison. Scarpetta frowned at Lucy and took over. "I believe Agent Farinelli and I have concluded out chat. Thank you for being so agreeable about this consultation, Agent Scully."
"It�s no trouble at all." Scully couldn�t help glancing toward Lucy. "Really."
Of course Scarpetta noticed this. She said nothing as she climbed into the helicopter and buckled herself in. And, of course, she also noticed that Lucy offered a hand to Dana Scully and helped her climb into the chopper. Regarding this, she raised an eyebrow and discreetly glared at her niece while the attractive young FBI agent was settling in her seat.
Lucy blinked innocently. "What?"
Kay Scarpetta shook her head and sighed. Lucy winked at her and secured the doors. No one saw as she removed the pliers and wrench from her pocket, kissed them, and placed them carefully in the tool bin. She already planned to buy replacements and take those specific tools home with her at some later time, just as a keepsake.
Sunlight broke through the bedroom window and fell across tousled sheets, discarded clothes, entwined bodies. Scully slipped her fingers into Lucy�s hair and eased their mouths together for perhaps the thousandth time in less than five hours. She couldn�t remember the last time her lips ached from kissing all night; maybe this was another first. Even the dull pain of this gentle contact now felt beautiful, fragile, likely because it would end soon. Soon and forever.
"You�re sure you don�t want to see me again?" Lucy asked quietly.
"I do want to, I just can�t," Scully patiently explained again. "My life is... the only way I can manage is by keeping things simple, uncomplicated. Easy."
"I can be easy."
"You are the antithesis of easy."
Lucy chuckled and rolled onto her back. "I think that, by definition, a one night stand is pretty goddamned easy."
Scully nestled close by her side, stroked her thumb across the smooth skin of Lucy�s stomach. "When I said easy, I wasn�t referring to your virtue � ow! I told you, no pinching."
"Okay." The younger woman leaned in and contritely kissed her lover�s forehead. "I understand. You�re probably right."
"I usually am." Scully burrowed her head against Lucy�s shoulder. "And I hate it."
They were quiet and still for a long time, just holding on, breathing shallow, willing time to slow down. Lucy watched the clock, dreading the alarm which would soon ring and signal the official end of their night together.
When the quiet grew too warm, too heavy, Scully asked, "It was good, wasn�t it?"
Lucy tightened her arms, a final squeeze in preparation for the letting go. "It was very good. And it always will be. I�m keeping this."
"So am I."
Scully raised herself up for one last lingering kiss, during which she sneaked a hand onto the nighstand and palmed Lucy�s snazzy windproof cigarette lighter emblazoned with the ATF logo. Her desire for a keepsake of some sort had reduced her to petty theft, and Dana Scully giggled into her lover�s mouth as she realized it was yet another first. She rolled off the bed, stood proudly naked and declared, "I�m meeting your aunt in about an hour. I want a shower... and I want to see what you look like wet." With that, she turned and strutted slowly across the hall and into the bathroom.
Lucy did not need to be told twice. She was out of bed and slamming the bathroom door behind her when the eight a.m. alarm finally sounded.
"- and in local news, the commonwealth�s chief medical examiner, Doctor Kay Scarpetta, will hold a news conference this afternoon at two. Doctor Scarpetta will be reading a statement and fielding questions regarding the recent string of kidnap/murders in the Virginia and lower Maryland area. She is expected to have new information on at least one of the victims, fourteen year-old Brian Phelps, who went missing last... "