Heads Up
Allen Driskill

Heads Up

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the principal investigative
arm of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ).  Title 28, United
States Code (USC), Section 533, which authorizes the Attorney General to
"appoint officials to detect .  .  .  crimes against the United States"
and other federal statutes gives the FBI the authority and
responsibility to investigate specific crimes.  At present, the FBI has
investigative jurisdiction over more than 200 categories of violations
of federal law.

The Bureau also is authorized to investigate matters where no
prosecution is contemplated.  For example, under the authority of
several Executive Orders, the FBI conducts background security checks
concerning nominees to sensitive government positions.  As well, the FBI
has been directed or authorized by Presidential statements or directives
to obtain information about activities which jeopardize the security of
the Nation.  The FBI is also authorized to provide cooperative services
to other law enforcement agencies, such as fingerprint identification,
laboratory examinations, police training, Uniform Crime Reports, and the
National Crime Information Center.

The FBI is a field-oriented organization in which 9 divisions and 3
offices at FBI Headquarters (FBIHQ) in Washington, D.C., provide program
direction and support services to 56 field offices, approximately 400
satellite offices known as resident agencies, 4 specialized field
installations, and to 22 foreign liaison posts.  The foreign liaison
offices, each of which is headed by a Legal Attache or Legal Liaison
Officer, work abroad with American and local authorities on criminal
matters within FBI jurisdiction.

The agency now known as the FBI was founded in 1908 when Attorney
General Charles J.  Bonaparte appointed an unnamed force of Special
Agents to be the investigative service of the U.S.  Department of
Justice.  The Special Agent force was named the Bureau of Investigation
in 1909, by order of Attorney General George W.  Wickersham.  Following
a series of changes in name, the FBI officially received its present
title in 1935.

The FBI concentrates its investigative resources in seven major
programs: counterterrorism, drugs/organized crime, foreign
counterintelligence, violent crimes, white-collar crime, applicant
matters, and civil rights.  Each of these programs is further subdivided
into departments responsible for more specific areas such as
enforcement, field investigations, investigative support, and training.
The FBI's total annual funding for all operations, salaries, and
expenses is approximately $2.2 billion, and employs approximately 10,000
Special Agents and 13,750 other employees who perform professional,
administrative, technical, clerical, craft, trade, or maintenance
support activities.  About 7,250 employees are assigned to FBI
Headquarters in the J.  Edger Hoover Building, Washington, D.C.

One small department of the FBI's Violent Crimes Investigations division
has the distinction of being the only investigative department at FBI HQ
which is housed in the basement.  It shares the floor with Building
Maintenance, Office Supply, and Print/Copying Services, and Receiving.
The complete department occupies a single room constructed by
partitioning off a section of former Office Supply storage space.

Total staffing for this smallest of all FBI departments is two Special
Agents.  The department budget includes no clerical support; research
assistance is "borrowed" from the Violent Crimes Statistics department.
Both Agents are occasionally placed on loan to other departments.
Accordingly, the department budget is the lowest in Bureau.  Despite
this, its closure rate per man-hour of investigation remains the highest
in the Bureau, earning it a high degree of autonomy.  The department's
success is directly attributable to the dedication and talent of it's

The department head, Agent Fox ("Spooky") Mulder, is a specialist in
criminal psychology.  Prior to assignment to the department, Agent
Mulder gained an excellent reputation within Violent Crimes as a tracker
of serial killers, and is credited with some of the most accurate
psychological profiles ever produced by the bureau.  Agent Mulder's
leaps of investigative intuition are legend within the Bureau.

Agent Mulder is assisted by Agent Dana Scully, an M.D.  with
specialization in forensic pathology.  Originally assigned to the
department to document it's anticipated failures and mismanagement,
Agent Scully has instead become an instrumental part of every

At its founding, this department inherited a tremendous backlog of
unsolved cases whose circumstances fall outside the perceived boundaries
of convention criminal investigation.  The department objective: The
Truth; it's motto: Trust No One; it's guiding principle: The Truth Is
Out There.

This department is simply called "The X-Files."


Heads Up

A Section of I-90 
West Side of Buffalo 
New York State 
2:18 a.m.

The old wino known as Clyde tottered down the dimly lit alley, talking
softly to no one in particular.  It had been a rainy afternoon and
evening, and although it was no longer raining, the streets and
sidewalks were still dark with dampness, and water stood in the gutters
along the side street where the alley ended.  Lighting was somewhat
better, momentarily, as the muttering derelict exited the alley and
crossed the street into the grassy field beyond.  But as the
illumination from the few working street lights faded away behind him,
he entered the inky shadows under an elevated section of I-90.  The
constant roar of the cars passing overhead was oddly soothing in his
inebriated state, and he had the notion of sleeping somewhere under the
highway.  He knew the pavement overhead would offer some protection from
any additional rain.

When the near-total darkness under the road shielded him from any
jealous eyes, Clyde took out his bottle for a nightcap.  He began
casting about in the darkness looking for a familiar spot, for he had
sheltered in this general area many times.  As he searched, an unusual
sound drifted to him over the routine rumble and rush of the late night
traffic overhead.  Metal clashed on metal, somewhat like the sound made
by children climbing over the chain link fence that discouraged
pedestrian access to the freeway.  But this sound was pitched slightly
higher, and seemed almost rhythmic; it rose and fell in intensity like
ocean waves.

In his state of general diminished capacity, fueled by the bottle of
cheap wine from which he took long, repeated pulls to warm himself,
Clyde's curiosity made him do a foolish thing.  Generally, the stupid
and foolish are quickly weeded out by a life on the streets.  The bitter
cold of Buffalo winters claimed the shortsighted who did not plan their
shelter well in advance.  Teenage gangs, who molested the street people
for entertainment and the few coins they might have in their pockets,
often injured the unwary who crossed the invisible bounds of gang
territories.  Clyde had been on the streets a long time, and knew the
potential cost of excess curiosity.

Nevertheless, he allowed the strange sounds to draw him toward a large
paved area inside the curve of the freeway.  The area was usually only
used by early morning car-pools, which left their extra vehicles
marooned there.  The makeshift parking lot was outside the shadow of the
overpass supports, but was lighted only by natural light.  After the
showers that had passed through, the sky was clear and the moon was
almost in full phase.  Clyde felt sure he could see what was going on,
without leaving the protection of the surrounding darkness.

Just before Clyde reached the point where he expected to be able to see
out into the light, the clash of metal on metal stopped; so Clyde
stopped, too.  After a moment of nothing but highway sounds, a new and
even stranger sound came to him clearly from the direction of the lot.
A crackling and sparking sound began, and grew in intensity.  Instead of
the pale moon and starlight, flashes of a brilliant, harsh light began
reflecting off the tops of nearby road supports and the metal girders
supporting the road over Clyde's head.  In an alcoholic daze, blurry
eyes looked up at the light show for a long minute, as Clyde's curiosity
was slowly overridden by his street-sense for survival.

Whatever was happening, it was beyond Clyde's experience, and he wanted
no part of it.  Adrenaline flowed freely as panic did its job.  Ancient
legs grew stronger, a straining heart pumped its best, and Clyde
retreated from the strange phenomenon much more quickly than he had
approached.  As he retraced his former path out of the grassy area and
across the street, he looked back over his shoulder.  Behind him, the
strange light continued to flash for another few seconds, and then

Clyde stopped at the mouth of the alley, and clung to the corner masonry
for balance.  As he looked back into the freeway shadows, seeing only
the reassuring darkness again, he began to calm.  His first rational
thought since beginning his flight from danger was about how to relate
this tale to his buddies down at the mission.


Heads Up
Chapter One 
Shall We Dance?

FBI Headquarters J.  Edgar Hoover Building Washington, D.C.  10:28 a.m.

Even counting all the support staff, with its traditional cast of
secretaries, clerks, and assistants, the FBI is predominantly male.  If
you considered only the Special Agents, testosterone rules about 90% of
all active agents.  For Special Agents assigned to Violent Crimes, the
percentage approaches 99%.  This is a vast improvement over the early
days of the Bureau, when Agents were 100% tall, white, Anglo-Saxon

This long-time propensity for male staff probably explains why there are
no Lady's Rooms in the Hoover Building except on the third and fifth
floors.  And since few male staff wore heels, it might also explain why
the stairs from the first floor down to the basement had those stupid
"sandpaper" traction strips that always caught at Agent Dana Scully's
heels and threatened to toss her headfirst down the stairwell.

Or, she thought as she descended the last three steps, maybe the problem
was her concentration.  She usually took the stairs for exercise, but,
God knows, descending down to the X-Files "dungeon" this way always
invoked a lot of memories and introspection.  But today, it was a
slightly different distraction on Scully's mind.

That memo from the Deputy Director kept drawing her thoughts.  Should
she mention it to Mulder?  Silently she sighed.  Even if he had, for a
change, bothered to read a departmental memo, he would never bother to
think about this one.  It was, once again, going to be up to her.

X-Files Office Basement of J.
Edgar Hoover Building Washington, D.C.  10:45 a.m.

".  .  .  dance, Mulder?"

The half-heard sound of Dana's voice brought Fox Mulder's eyes up from
the case file he'd been reading and over to the face of his partner,
Dana Scully.  Thinking hard, he tried to remember what she'd said while
his attention was buried in the grisly details of autopsy reports and
crime scene photos.  Something about dancing?

As long as he was looking, he took a moment to consider his partner in
some detail, just as he had a hundred times before.  For perhaps the
hundredth time, he asked himself "When Did She Change?" On that first
day, when she walked into the room and had been introduced as his new
partner, she had been plain.  Bookish.  Cold.  Stuffy and arrogant.
Mulder's personal taste in women ran to tall, warm, busty, brunettes.
Except when it came to Scully; she was different.  She was beautiful,
now.  How and when had that happened?  Was it the shorter hair?

He took in the shining red (auburn!) hair, highlighted by the side glow
of the reading light on her desk.  He considered the contrast of her
eyebrows against the smooth, pale (creamy!) skin of her forehead, the
healthy glow of her cheeks, the determined set of her chin, the
impatient gesture of her hands tapping the end of her pen against the
desktop .  .  .  Impatient?  Ooops!

"I'm sorry Scully, what did you say?" Mulder smiled in the way of

Not for the first time, he wondered if she'd be so much fun to look at
if he didn't know her so well.  At some point, somehow, that person that
he hadn't originally liked had somehow become his partner, and his best
friend.  Across the narrow space that separated their desks, he risked a
look into those bright, intensely blue eyes.  Eyes that seemed to
clearly see whatever he most wanted to hide.  Well, almost everything.
He still had a few secrets that he kept from F.B.I.  Agent Dana Scully.
He hoped.

Dana creased her forehead in mild annoyance at Fox's hesitation.  For
someone with an eidetic memory, his attention seemed to be wavering a
lot lately.  All the more reason to pursue this; he needs a break, and I
need a break, she thought.  This is one of the things I do for him;
bringing him back to earth from all that angst he likes to wallow in.

And now Dana saw that Fox was giving her that dreamy half-smile that
other females seemed to find so intriguing.  Seeing other women's
reaction to Fox had convinced her, at first, that his seemingly
meaningful glances were a quirky kind of flirting.  But having seen it
so many times over the years they'd worked together, with no follow-up
on his part, she'd finally learned a Mulder Secret.  It was all an act.
She ignored his look and sighed in exasperation over his verbal

"Mulder!  Pay attention!  I just read you this stupid memo from the
Deputy Director's office.  They're having, of all things, a formal
dinner dance to welcome the new Director.  Agents at your level,
department heads and above, are expected to attend, as well as "senior
department staff..." She glanced up, over the top of her reading
glasses.  "That's me, I assume." she said with a rueful grimace.  "And
it's Black tie.  You do have a black tie, don't you?"

Dana reversed the memo in her hand and extended it toward Fox.  By her
manner, she made it clear that she was expecting him to take it, read
it, and that she'd be waiting until he finished, to give a test.

Reluctantly, Fox Mulder lowered his feet from the top of the short file
cabinet (where they'd been very comfortable, thank you!), closed the
file he'd been holding in his lap, and rose from his chair.  He crossed
the sparse ten feet that separated him from his partner's desk, and
perched on the corner (there was always so much Room on Scully's
desk!).  He took the proffered memo, on official F.B.I.  letterhead, and
read it through.  He assumed a puzzled attitude and looked over at

"So what's the problem, Scully?  No shoes to wear?"

From his new location he could see behind Dana's desk to a familiar
picture.  To work comfortably at the standard-issue FBI desk despite her
short stature, she had adjusted the desk chair to its highest setting.
As a result, her feet barely touched the floor, and were bare.  (And
were lovely!)

Dana was notorious for her 2 1/2" or better high-heel shoes.  In
Mulder's opinion, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the way this
affected the appearance of his partner's legs, but he chuckled at
memories of Scully running down alleys, over plowed earth, and
complaining of ruined shoes.  Dana also had even less luck finding
comfortable shoes than more conservative women, and looked for every
opportunity to remove them.

Dana tucked her feet beneath her chair self-consciously.  She'd never
had much restrain about her shoes; probably because she agonized about
her height.  Mulder had even gone so far as buy a sturdy pair of hiking
shoes in her size and keep them in his trunk.  Dana retaliated by
keeping a supply of health food in her purse, for times when Mulder
couldn't find a vending machine for his frequent junk food fixes.

"My problem, Mulder, is that I need an escort for this.  I am NOT going
stag to an event sure to be overrun with type-A personality macho wolves
packing sidearms!  And since I know YOU have even less of a life than
ME, my question was: Can - You - Dance?" She said the last words slowly,
as if to make it easier for Fox to understand.

"Dance?" he echoed.  "You mean the usual hug - and - sway stuff?  Sure!
I have all the basic social graces; it's required study at Oxford."
Inwardly, he cringed.  Mentioning his English education sounded
arrogant, even to his own ears.

Dropping the memo onto Dana's desk, Fox sauntered back to his own
territory and resumed his slouched position behind the desk.  His feet
went back on the file cabinet, but instead of reclaiming the file he had
been reading, he did a one-hand search through the mountains of paper on
his desk.  Shortly he came up with a large bag of unshelled sunflower
seeds.  Content again, he relaxed into the chair, popped some seeds into
his mouth, and considered Scully's commentary on his private life.  What
was she getting at?

"Didn't you read this?" she said, picking up and waving the memo in the
air.  "There's going to be a live "Big Band", and that means Real
Dancing.  Foxtrot.  Waltz.  Rhumba.  So: Can - You - Dance?" she
repeated for the third time.

Fox gave the question two more seconds of thought, and then grinned.
This was TOO good.  "Agent Scully!  Are you asking me out Socially?  To
a Formal Party?  To a Dance?" The grin, and the tone of delight and
amusement, increased with each taunt.  Suddenly, Agent Fox Mulder was
having A Very Good Time.

It was hard to tell under the florescent lighting, but Mulder thought he
could see the beginnings of a blush creep up the sculptured neck of the
woman (his best friend!  Partner!) across the room.  Oddly, he felt an
answering warmth of his own, centered somewhat lower.  Why was he so
pleased by her reaction?  This was just office banter with his partner,

Dana turned up the annoyance factor in her voice about two notches, more
to get Mulder's attention than out of real aggravation.  She knew he
lived for embarrassing her at every opportunity.  Damn!  Why couldn't he
for once be serious about something other than his work?  She adopted
her most logical and collected "Lecturing Physician" speech mode, and
gave Mulder a choice of excuses to accept.

"Yes.  I am.  It only makes sense.  We have to go, anyway.  Skinner will
make our lives miserable if we don't.  The X-Files Division could use
all the favor we can curry from the Powers That Be; we need to practice
our Ass Kissing skills.  Besides, it's been ages since we did anything
together that wasn't Deadly Serious!  This is a chance to do some of
that Partner Bonding they tell us about during our psychological
reviews.  C'mon, Mulder!  Together we might even have fun at this

This last didn't come out quite as Dana had planned, but Fox seemed to
perk up at those final words, and fixed his partner with another quirky
look.  His grin finally went to maximum width, an event Dana had seen
only on the rarest occasions.  But no sooner had Fox's expression
cheered Dana, than it changed.  He suddenly looked positively Hangdog
Sorrowful.  Dana never ceased to be amazed at Mulder's ability to
sabotage his own good moods.

"Mulder?  What's wrong?  If you've already got plans, just tell...."

"No, Scully" he interrupted, "that's not it.  I'd love to go to this
dance with you." I would?  " But, no, I can't Really Dance.  For what
you've got planned, you should probably find someone who can keep up
with you.  I don't want to let you down....  you deserve to have fun.
Besides, I'm not sure you realize what it would mean around here to be
seen socially interacting with Fox "Spooky" Mulder.  The office gossips
would have a field day!"

Dana Scully's eyes began to gleam.  There was an opportunity here too
good to pass by.  Visions of revenge for all the embarrassing situations
Mulder had placed her in over the years flashed through her thoughts.
And an opportunity to spend even more time with her partner than she'd
first thought.  Besides, this was something she thought about doing on
her own, anyway.  It was time to do something in the Get A Life

And all the time she'd be spending in Mulder's arms?  The uncomfortable
thought warmed her, scared her, and made her shy away from too much self
examination.  No, this was strictly a professional self-interest kind of
thing; and for Mulder's own good; and for revenge!

"Mulder, you've NEVER let me down.  And the office ALREADY talks about
us.  They refer to the X-Files as The Twilight Zone of the FBI, and our
case reports as scripts by Rod Serling.  Half the support staff think
we're sleeping together, and most of the Special Agents think we're so
far off the deep end that we do it in a coffin!" Dana felt a faint tug
of something at the mind-picture she'd just painted.  But her words had
the intended effect; Mulder was smiling again.

"I'm no great dancer, either, Mulder.  But our lack of expertise is
easily solved!  What would we do if we needed a special skill for a

For Mulder the room temperature seemed to suddenly drop several degrees,
and he fought the urge to shiver.  He had heard this tone of voice from
Scully before; She Had A Plan.  And Mulder NEVER liked Scully's plans;
they tended to push the limits of the Mulder Embarrassment Quotient.  So
why did he always end up going along with them?  He tried to guess what
she had in mind, but...

"Contract out the work?" he offered hopefully, but not optimistically.

"No!  We'd study up!"

Panic overtook Fox as Scully's intentions slowly penetrated his thick
skull.  The walls started closing in like an old Hitchcock movie.  She
couldn't mean...  She didn't expect....  Ahwww Nooooo......

"We can take a few dance lessons together!  This'll be fun!" Dana's face
fairly shone with cheerfulness, optimism, and (above all) sheer
innocence.  "We've got six weeks to prepare, and it that amount of time,
we'll be ready to serve as the life of the party!" The notion of Mulder
as Life of the Part was so funny, Dana was hard pressed to keep a
straight face.

Not for the first time since opening the X-Files, Special Agent Fox
Mulder felt blind, unreasoning, stark terror .  .  .

The sudden strident ringing of the phone on his desk was like the
cavalry trumpet in an old western, as the hero was suddenly saved by the
appearance of reinforcements.  Mulder grabbed the phone like a drowning
man grabs for a life preserver, and for the first time in memory reacted
to his boss's voice like a call from a long lost friend.

"Yes, sir .  .  .  Right .  .  .  OK, we're on our way up." He returned
the handset to its cradle, all thought of dancing pushed to the back
recesses of his mind.  "Scully, Skinner wants to see us.  He's got a hot
case for us."

Dana Scully pushed back from her desk and fished her shoes out from
underneath.  As a result, she was almost a dozen steps behind Mulder as
he charged for the door.  Unhurried, she followed, knowing Mulder would
hold the elevator for her, if not the door.  Here we go, she thought,
and half smiled, even as faint chill chased up her spine.  And so the
adventure begins, again!


Heads Up
Chapter Two

The FBI is headed by a Director appointed by the President of the United
States and confirmed by the U.S.  Senate for a 10-year term.  The
Director of the FBI is assisted by a Deputy Director, also appointed by
the President and confirmed by the Senate.  Each major division of the
FBI is headed by an Assistant Director.  The Director, Deputy Director,
and Assistant Directors keep offices at FBI Headquarters (HQ).

Although FBI HQ is in the Hoover Building, Washington, D.C., the FBI is
a field-oriented organization.  FBI personnel are distributed across the
country, and work through almost 60 FBI Field Offices located in most
major cities.  Field offices are usually headed by a Special Agent in
Charge (SAC), with the exception of very large offices (like Washington,
D.C.  and New York City) which are managed by an Assistant Director in
Charge (ADIC).

All FBI field agents bear the title Special Agent (SA).  Differences in
seniority, job responsibilities, specialities, and pay scales are not
reflected in job titles.


Office of Assistant Director Walter Skinner
11:09 a.m.

When they arrived at AD Skinner's office, Kimberly, Skinner's secretary,
motioned them toward the door separating the public and private parts of
the office suite.  "Go on in; he's waiting for you."

Mulder flashed Kimberly his most heart-stopping smile (at least, that's how
Dana would describe it) and paused at her desk.  In the James Bond
tradition, Mulder never missed an opportunity to flirt with
secretaries.  The higher up their bosses, the more attention the support
staff got from Fox.  At first, Dana had found this to be one of Mulder's
most aggravating habits; it had looked at first like condescension or
chauvinism.  Later, when she saw Mulder carry on the male- to- male
version of this performance (which involved a contest to tell the
biggest lie about recent sexual exploits), she recognized it for what it
really was.  Mulder recognized the value of friends in "low places", but
was most comfortable with shallow, distant, work relationships.  With
the exception of his partner and a few others, Mulder's friends were
those people he saw most rarely and with whom he had the least
interaction.  And with that kind of person, Mulder put on his most
intense "show", since he had the least time in which to perform.

"Have you reconsidered your policy about not dating other men while
you're married to Ted?  You're forcing me into a monastic existence,
Kimberly; other women just don't compare after .  .  .  " he let the
sentence trail off, and punctuated with a sly, suggestive look.

"After you've had ME, Mulder?  But you've never HAD me, Mulder .  .  .
except in your dreams!" Kimberly was smiling the "aren't you cute" smile
that Dana saw on the faces of all Mulder's "willing victims".

"In my dreams, Kimberly!  In my dreams!" Mulder gave her one last 100-watt
smile, and turned to Skinner's door.  Scully followed in mild disgust,
but was mostly resigned to Mulder's behavior.

No harm, no foul, I guess, thought Dana.  His victims always seem to
enjoy themselves.  And so far, there had been no sexual harassment
charges.  If he treated me like that, I'd .  .  .  I'd .  .  .  probably
enjoy it, too.  Sigh.  I just wish he would refrain from hitting on
other women in front of me.

Mulder opened the inner door, and executing an about-face in attitudes,
moved slightly aside to allow Scully to enter first.  If he'd given the
simple courtesy any thought, he'd have probably cited two reasons for
his gesture.  First, he'd been raised almost solely by his mother, and
courtesy to women was something that had always been part of his basic
makeup.  Secondly, the first head through the door often drew the first
fire; and since Skinner's attention was (so far) non-lethal, he felt it
only proper to allow Scully to draw her share.  No chauvinist, he!

Scully also gave it little thought as she stepped past Mulder to lead
the way into the room.  If asked, she could probably have cited both
Mulder's motivations for the courtesy, but she'd long since accepted
Fox's gentlemanly ways toward her as part of the package.  Being brought
up in an Iris Catholic household with two very rough and tumble brothers
had taught her to accept courtesy when it was offered; besides, Skinner
"liked her best", and a pleasant smile from her before he laid eyes on
Mulder seemed to set a better tone for most of their meetings.

Walter Skinner was a large man, in a large office, behind a very large
desk.  He was an ex-Marine, and acted it; his stony looks had withered
many a cocky agent over the years.  He even purposely positioned his
desk in front of the window, so that light in the eyes of his visitors
made his expressions even harder to read.  Few people "messed" with AD

As they entered, they saw they were not alone with the Assistant
Director.  Another man, in the classic FBI uniform of dark suit, dark
tie, and black wing-tips was seated in front of Skinner's desk.  Dana
hesitated to see if Mulder recognized the man, who was unfamiliar to
her.  Mulder had an eidetic memory, and made it a practice to know the
face of every major player in the bureau, as well as many top law
enforcement agents.  If their picture made the papers, or one of the FBI
crime alert newsletters, Mulder would remember.  Since people are
usually impressed by being recognized, Dana had developed the practice
of giving Mulder the first shot, and then acting matter- of- fact.
Usually, this let the good first impression extend to her, as well.

Sure enough, Mulder nodded in recognition at the visitor.  "Special
Agent in Charge Charles Devon, isn't it?  Buffalo Field Office?" he
asked, fully knowing he was correct.  As Mulder spoke, Devon rose from
his chair and shook hands first with Scully, and then Mulder.

"Pleased to meet you both.  I've heard only good reports about your work
in serial killer investigations; that's why I'm here.  I need help."

Devon earned immediate points on Mulder's scorecard by cutting directly
to the reason for this meeting.  On the other hand, Mulder couldn't help
but wonder if the SAC's compliment had been worded to avoid comment on
the X-File team's more unconventional investigations.  In any case, Fox
gave the man a B+ for first impressions, and settled into a chair as
Devon resumed his seat.

Scully moved a third visitor's chair slightly so that it was exactly
side-by-side with Mulder's, and to his left.  Appropriate "partner
position", I guess, Dana thought.  The chairs of the two SAs, plus the
SAC's chair, now formed a "V" shape with Skinner's desk at the point.
Everyone could see everyone else's face with only a slight turn of the
head (except Fox and Dana, who rarely needed to look at one another to
read minds, anyway).  For a moment, all four individuals regarded one
another in silence.  As usual, Mulder broke the silence first.

"So, you think you have a serial killer?" asked Mulder, looking at SAC
Devon.  "Why is that a Bureau issue this time?  And why me and Scully?"
Mulder directed these last questions toward AD Skinner.

"Yes," said Devon, "We have a serial killer in Buffalo; six victims over
a two month period in highly similar circumstances.  It's a Bureau issue
because the locals started screaming for support as soon as they ran
some basic background inquiries through us.  All this has happened
rather early in their investigation, for a change".

This last bit of rueful commentary referred to the usual extreme
reluctance on the part of local agencies to get "the Feds" involved.
Conflict between the FBI and local law enforcement is legendary when
high-profile cases like serial murders and rapists are involved.  From
the FBI's point of view, this was always due to local politics.  Locals,
of course, claim Federal Agents like to take over and throw their weight
around.  Everyone in the room knew that both points of view contained
some truth and some fiction, and mostly depended on the particular
personalities involved.

"So what makes this an X-File?" Mulder asked Skinner a second time, "Or
are you just loaning us out to Violent Crimes again?" Mulder knew he had
some kind of talent for getting into the minds of serial criminals, but
he resisted getting involved in "mundane" cases.  He knew there were
other, just as talented, agents available in Violent Crimes
Investigation.  Of course, Scully had something of a reputation herself
as an outstanding forensics pathologist; maybe they were really after
her?  Either way, Mulder guarded his time jealously; the X-Files backlog
already went back further than he would ever have time to investigate,
working only with Scully.  Staffing problems in Violent Crimes were not
his concern.

"Oh, never fear Mulder." growled Skinner, aware of Mulder's train of
thought, "This is an X-File, all right.  Devon, describe for agents
Mulder and Scully the circumstances surrounding the death of your

Skinner smiled grimly, and watched Mulder and Scully's faces for their
reaction.  Mulder was relentless when on one of his crusades; the trick
was in making the Bureau's needs coincide with Mulder's passions.  This
case, he was fairly sure, would grab Mulder's attention.  Scully, of
course, would follow Mulder anywhere, and keep him in line.  Theirs was
a strange and wonderful partnership that served the Bureau well.

Devon clear his throat nervously and shifted his position in his chair.
He looked down for a moment at the standard-issue FBI file folder in his
hands, and then leaned toward Mulder to pass over the reports filed by
his own investigators.  The folder was thick.

"As I said, there have been six murders.  It seems, Agents Mulder and
Scully, that each victim was killed by decapitation.  At the site of
each murder there is evidence of multiple nearby lightning strikes,
despite clear weather.  And three of the victims were tortured, and seem
to have been living under a false identity."

SAC Devon seemed apologetic at delivering such a hodge-podge of bizarre
facts.  He, too, was looking intently at Mulder and Scully to gauge
their initial reaction.  He was desperate for someone to make sense of
this case; pressure from the Buffalo politicos was intense.

Mulder accepted the file without comment, and spent a few moments
seemingly thumbing through the reports inside.  Scully and Skinner knew
he was in fact reading the reports in their entirety.  Still in silence,
Mulder handed the pathology reports to his partner, and Scully glanced
through the first one to note details of the decapitation.  A close read
for Scully would have to wait until she could read them at her own more
leisurely pace.  This went on for a couple of minutes, as Scully waited
patiently (asking Devon a few inconsequential questions to give Mulder
the time he needed), Skinner glowered, and Devon fidgeted.  Finally,
Mulder looked up and closed the folder.

"Interesting.  Scully and I would like to look over one of the murder
sites as soon as possible.  Scully will probably want to do her own
slice- and- dice routine, too.  We're not working under any time
constraints in our other cases right now, and we have no court
appearances coming up for two weeks.  I think we should fly to Buffalo
this afternoon." He glanced at Scully and got a nod of confirmation; all
was well on her front.  "Sir?" Mulder looked to Skinner for final

Skinner was not surprised by his agents' reaction; he had played this
scene too many times, with facts much more bizarre than these seemed to
be.  SAC Devon was at first startled, and then relieved; he had
anticipated resistance to getting the aid he needed.

"Go." said Skinner, and he waved almost absently at the door.

With a final handshake for Devon and a nod to Skinner, Mulder and Scully
vacated the office and started their descent to the basement.  As they
went, discussion began for plans and schedules to get themselves to
Buffalo as soon as possible, with Mulder devising excuses to load Scully
with most of the paperwork

Behind them, SAC Devon looked to Skinner with a mixture of pride in the
bureau and mild disbelief.  Something in the Agents attitude had
inspired confidence, unlike many similar meetings in the past.

"I would have expected more resistance.  They must be very dedicated
professionals to accept such an odd case with so little skepticism."

Skinner just laughed.  Buffalo must be a quiet town.  Mulder and Scully
would fix that!


X-Files Office
11:45 a.m.

"So, Mulder?" Dana has been studying Mulder's face as they returned to
their basement lair.  She could tell that this case had stirred her
partner's interest, but so far he hadn't made any comment.

"Do you really think Skinner buys this "lightning" business, Mulder?  It
sounds way too bizarre for him to lend it any credibility.  This has got
to some coincidence, or a deliberate act to destroy evidence or divert
the investigators."

"Well, something interesting's going on here, Scully.  At the very
least, we have a serial killer on the loose.  And the beheading business
rings a bell with me, somehow.  I think I'm calling The Lone Gunmen
right away.  I'm curious whether Buffalo and beheadings strike any chord
with them.  Could you call Washington National and get us a flight out?"

"Sure, Mulder.  First class, as usual?" She grinned.

As he reached for the phone, Mulder chuckled.  "Not unless Skinner
slipped you some extra pocket money when I wasn't looking.  The last
time tourist was full and I took a First Class ticket, I ended up paying
the difference myself." Their boss's close eye on field expenses was

"OK, bargain basement it is, then.  How long will it take you to pack?"

"I just need to stop by my apartment and drop a vacation feeder in the
aquarium." Now, what was Frohike's number, again?

Dana glanced up as her computer was dialing America Online to check
flights and seat availability.  "Now that you mention it, how are the
new fish?"

Mulder made a half-annoyed, half-embarrassed face.  It seemed like he
always had new fish, 'cause they were always dying.  Mostly, they died
from neglect.  But for some reason, he always bought more, and if he
didn't, then Dana bought them for him.

"Larry, Mo, and Curly are just fine, thanks."

"I thought they were named Kirk, Picard, and Janeway?"

"Yeah, well, the captains didn't survive our last case, I'm afraid.
They've been beamed up to that big shuttle bay in the sky.  I thought
this time, I'd go with a comedy team instead of drama."

Mulder call went through, and so did Scully's.  As Dana made their
reservations, she tuned out Mulder's conversation with whoever answered
the phone at The Lone Gunmen.  Mulder often touched bases with the
magazine staff on their odder cases; they were the only people Dana knew
who were more paranoid and more in tune with obscure facts than her
partner.  If it just weren't for that damn Frohike character always
hitting on her!

Mulder finished his conversation, and turned to his partner, who was
also finishing up.  "Are we set?"

"Our flight leaves at 3:05 from Gate 16.  What did the Gunmen have to

"They said there's been a lot of beheading over the last few years,
worldwide.  They promised to check it out, and get back to me.  Oh, and
Frohike said to ask if you liked "this month's selection".  What was
that about?"

Frohike must have given him some hint, but not told him the whole story,
because Dana could tell Mulder was genuinely curious.  She tried to
suppress the blush that she knew must be obvious.  Damn her pale skin,

"That little pervert bought me a year's subscription to the Panty of the
Month Club, Mulder.  I've been wondering how to retaliate: maybe an NRA

Mulder couldn't help it, he laughed.  He laughed so hard that he looked
in danger of falling off his chair.  Panty of the Month Club?  He
envisioned Dana carrying the packages upstairs at arms length, and
dumping them directly into the trash, unopened.  This was just too hard
to resist following up on!

"So, Scully!  When is the fashion show?"

"When Hell Freezes Over, Mulder!  And if you tell Mom, or my brothers,
about this, I swear to God I'll shoot you dead on the spot!"

Frohike was already in trouble with Scully's brothers for his lingerie
Christmas present last year.  News of this would probably send Bill, the
Maryland cop, on a manhunt.  Mulder could hardly wait.  Mulder got
control of himself, and wiped the tears of laughter from his eyes with a

"Scully, when they fall for you, they certainly fall hard!"

Suddenly, a thought occurred and his mood swung radically over to a
"very solemn" setting.  "Scully?"

Dana responded in her blackest, most dangerous tone.  "Yes, Mulder?"

"Dance lessons?"

"Dance lessons, Mulder."

With a grin, her spirits were restored.


Chapter Three
Head Scratching

Gate Sixteen National Airport Washington, D.C.  2:50 p.m.

At least I've learned one thing working with Mulder, Dana mused.  I can
leave town in two hours, and live for a week out of two bags.  Mulder
managed with only one bag, but then Mulder didn't mind his appearance
much, beyond what the bureau required.  He was certainly no clothes
horse.  Who could tell, for instance, if those garish ties of his were
stained or wrinkled, anyway?  Dana, on the other hand, needed a clean
blouse and pressed slacks in the morning like most people needed a cup
of coffee.  Oh well, she sighed, he'd make some remark about her packing
before the trip was over, she was sure.

Looking around the airport waiting room, she wondered how many times
they had played out this same scene.  When Mulder was working a case,
and especially when he was starting a NEW case, he worked every minute.
Across the carpeted isle, he sat facing her with the file he'd marked
"Heads Up".  The flip reference to the decapitations they were
investigating was a typical Mulderism.  It was one of the many ways he
distanced himself from the horrors that they faced so often.

Watching him pour through the reports from the Buffalo Field Office, she
smiled.  She had always found it amusing that he could memorize files
with a single reading, but that his working style was to read them over
and over during every spare minute.  She wondered if all geniuses were
also quirky.

"So, what do you think, Scully?" said Mulder, tossing out the first ball
as usual.  When he asked Dana's opinion, she knew that meant he'd
already formed his own, and was ready to argue.  It was how they worked;
for them, conflict tended to uncover The Truth.

"There's not much to think, Mulder.  Six victims: Tim Avery, 42; David
Donnelly, 31; Arthur Willis, 38; Kevin Taylor, 28; Costas Menendez, 50;
Arnold D'Angelo, 30.  Avery, Willis, and Menendes appear to have been
tortured, and then beheaded.  Donnelly, Taylor, and D'Angelo also
suffered miscellaneous injuries prior to decapitation, but to a much
lesser extent.  The murderer uses a large, bladed instrument; I would
guess a sword."

"You said "torture", Scully.  What did he do?"

"Well, from bruising around the throat it looks like he may have choked
them into unconsciousness several times.  Also, he inserted the blade
into various non-vital areas and twisted the blade from side to side.
It was very bloody, and it went on for a very long time- one or two
hours was the examiner's guess."

"Definitely not a nice man, Scully."

"Or woman, Mulder.  It could have been a woman."

"Statistics are against you, Scully.  Besides, you said "he", too."

"Yeah, I guess I did."

Dana referred again to some notes she'd made in the autopsy margins.
"The pathologist in Buffalo thinks the heads were separated from the
rest of the body in a single stroke.  That requires a very sharp edge, a
very fast stroke, a very strong arm, or some combination of the three."

"I would think that swordsmanship is a lost art Scully; doesn't it
strike you as odd that our murderer chose such a unique weapon?  Doesn't
that give us a major clue to work from?" Mulder knew that Scully's
forensic pathology background included a wide range of knowledge about
anything that choked, stabbed, cut or fired projectiles.

Scully sighed.  "Not really, Mulder.  There are fencing courses being
taught on every college campus, as we speak; I took a few myself, on a
lark, once.  There are cadets drilling every day with blunt swords at
every military academy.  Japanese "katana" swords are in use in
practically every martial arts school.  Swords aren't all that rare,
when you really think about it; they're just not common as murder
weapons, that's all." Scully paused and removed her glasses so she could
do her best thoughtful look.  "But why use something so big if you want
to do your killing up close and personal?  A knife or garrotte would do
just fine, and be a heck of a lot less conspicuous to carry around.  Not
to mention neater."

Mulder nodded as if the same thoughts had occurred to him.  In the back
of his mind, an image of Scully in fencing gear was forming.  His Scully
with a sword in her hand?  Every time he started thinking he knew this
woman, something else came along to shake his image of her.

"Anything unusual about the placement of the fatal injuries?  How
consistent is our swordsman in his approach?"

"Not very, Mulder.  The only consistency I see is the single-stroke
kill.  Other than that, our perpetrator isn't exactly a surgeon.  He
just hacks off the heads as best he can.  I see in the reports that the
cuts were at varying angles, and severed the neck vertebrae in various
places; I don't think he's particular."

"What do we know about the weapon?"

"Not much.  Very sharp, straight, and at least an eight-inch blade to
slice completely through the neck.  There were enough microscopic traces
of metal left in the wounds to do a metallurgical match, if we recover a
possible weapon.  Otherwise, nothing distinctive."

"Did you notice the report about the victims' coats?"

"Coats, Mulder?  What about their coats?" Although Mulder had read all
the files several times, Scully had only skimmed much of the material,
other than the autopsy reports and photos.

"Two of the victims, Taylor and D'Angelo, were wearing trench coats with
a special pocket sewn into the inside lining.  The investigators didn't
speculate, but I've guessing they've been designed for concealing a

"You think the victims had swords, Mulder?  I don't remember reading
anything about swords being recovered from any of the bodies or
dwellings of the victims."

"Maybe the killer took the victims' swords as trophies?  Maybe this is
some kind of fencing society rivalry?  Or dueling martial arts schools,
like in The Karate Kid?"

"That's your theory, Mulder?  I'm disappointed!  No aliens, no
government agency suppressing information, no mutants?  Maybe we should
go home and leave the locals to figure it out?"

Mulder smiled that enigmatic smile that meant he wasn't ready to let go,
yet.  "I just think the victims and the killer are all related somehow,
and that's going to be the key to this one.  Whatever the relationship
is, I think we'll discover it has something to do with swords, combat
therewith, and ritual decapitation.  I think it's time to call up our
research department and get them started searching the literature with
at least that much." In this case, they both knew Mulder meant their
friends The Lone Gunmen; Violent Crimes Research was already busy doing
their own analysis of the Buffalo reports.

"You haven't mentioned the most interesting part to me, Mulder.  Why do
three of the victims seem to have false histories?  The reports list
subtle inconsistencies in the records of Donnelly, Taylor, and D'Angelo
that make them look like carefully manufactured cover stories." Dana
raised only her right eyebrow, a trick Mulder wanted to learn.  "Maybe
Avery, Willis, and Menendez have false IDs, too, just better ones?
Could these people be part of the Federal Witness Protection Program?
That would let us tie this all into some kind of government conspiracy."

"Or maybe they're all ex-Mafia, hiding from the Law?  Or visiting Alien
Spies?" Mulder delivered the suggestion in a strictly dead-pan tone,
hoping to get Scully to raise her eyebrow again.

No such luck.  "Maybe, Mulder.  Or maybe they're all illegal immigrants
fleeing from Castro or the Columbian Drug Cartel." Now it was Scully's
turn to change the subject.  "What about the "lightning"?  Surely you
got some psycho-kinetic explanation for that?" One of their previous
cases had involved an individual who could, apparently, call down
lightning strikes at will.

"The reports don't actually use the word "lightning".  One near-witness
reports seeing "flashes of light" reflected from the underside of the
elevated highway overhanging the apparent murder site.  The
investigators report "carbonization traces consistent with electrical
discharges" on nearby metal objects.  Also, it seems every light bulb
and electrical device, some car radios and public address equipment,
showed damage "consistent with a power surge".  But there are no reports
of fused soil, no damage to nearby tree tops, no burn marks on the
victims.  Something obviously happened, but I don't think it was
lightning strikes.  Sorry, Scully.  I can't think of any wild theory
that covers all the bases.  Yet." He gave her the famous Mulder smile.

Dana furrowed her forehead in thought; something was nagging at the edge
of her mind.  "Mulder.  Did they report "lightning" in every case?"

Mulder consulted the files floating around in his head.  "No.  Only at
the sites of the Donnelly, Taylor, and D'Angelo murders."

The furrow got even deeper.  Donnelly, Taylor, and D'Angelo.  We keep
talking about Donnelly, Taylor, and D'Angelo.  Donnelly, Taylor, and

"Mulder, we have a pattern of some sort.  Avery, Willis, and Menendes,
call 'em "Group A", appear to have been tortured; Donnelly, Taylor, and
D'Angelo, Group "B", were not.  Group A, no lightning; Group B,
lightning.  Group A, no hidden pockets; Group B, hidden pockets
(Donnelly may have a coat we haven't found).  Group A, apparently solid
histories; Group B shaky false histories!"

Mulder seemed to pick up on Dana's enthusiasm.  "And the order of the
killings, Scully!  Avery, Donnelly, Willis, Taylor, Menendez, D'Angelo;
strictly alternating between Group A and Group B!  So we not only have
two distinct groups of victims, but the groups are interrelated in
pairs, somehow.  Also, Group A bodies were found in their homes or
places of business, while Group B were always outside in secluded

"And Group A is older than group B!" offered Dana.  "Could that be
significant?" Suddenly, the rest of that nagging thought broke through.
"And tattoos!"

"Tattoos, Scully?  You think we're ready for that step?  Can I pick the
spot for yours?" Mulder gave her a mock leer.

"Not for us, Mulder!  For them!  Everyone in Group A had a tattoo on the
inside of their left wrist!" Dana started digging almost frantically
through the autopsy photos.

Mulder frowned.  "Dana, there's nothing about tattoos mentioned in the
reports.  How could the autopsy have missed that?"

"They didn't miss them.  They weren't there." She finally found the
third photograph she wanted, and compared them side by side while trying
to keep the pictures out of plain view by the civilians in the nearby
seats.  Their conversation was already drawing some curious ears and

"Oh.  They're not there.  Of course.  How interesting .  .  ."

"No!  Look, Mulder.  The inside of the left wrist on Avery, Willis, and
Menendes is mutilated is the same way.  I'm betting that was done to
disguise a distinguishing mark of some kind.  And on three different
men, I'm betting it had to be a tattoo!"

"Amazing, Scully.  That would never have occurred to me." How could
anyone with eyes like that, also be so damn smart?  It didn't seem fair
to other women.

Overhead, the PA system began to blare.  "WE ARE NOW READY TO BEGIN

"What say we give it a rest till we get there?  It's likely to be a late
night, and I could use the flight time to catch up on my sleep."

Mulder was a chronic insomniac, except when it came to planes.  Scully
hated flying, and would usually spend most of the flight trying to avoid
looking out the windows; Mulder would sleep through takeoff, the hour
and fifteen minute flight, and the landing, if Scully let him.

If Fox was asleep, then maybe he won't notice me holding his arm during
takeoff and landing, thought Scully.

"You can hold my hand during takeoff, if you want." Mulder gave Scully
his best innocent look.

So much for that guilty secret.  "Thanks, Mulder, but I'll be fine.  I
still need to read some of these reports in detail.  I'll wake you in

"Sounds like a song lyric, doesn't it?" Mulder started humming some
meandering melody as they stumbled down the boarding ramp to the plane.
"I'lllll wake yooooou in Buff - a - loooo!"

"Sleep, Mulder!"


US Air Baggage Claim Carousel
Greater Buffalo International Airport
4:28 p.m.

Mulder hefted one of Scully's packs off the carousel.  "Geez, Scully!
What did you do, anyway?  Pack everything you own in here?  No wonder it
takes you so long!"

"Shut up, Mulder."

"And why did I wake up with nail marks on my arm?"

"Shut up, Mulder.  And I'm driving."

"Yes, Scully."

They picked up the bureau car, a Chevy Cavalier with the requisite
police radio, hidden lights and siren, and a lock-box in the trunk for
evidence and firearms storage.  As Dana negotiated the meandering
airport exit roads, Mulder pondered the directions he'd been given to
the Buffalo Field Office, and a map of Buffalo obtained from the glove

"Turn right onto Genessee after we clear the parking area, Scully." .
.  "Take that upcoming exit for the Kensington Expressway; we want to go
West." .  .  "Take the Goodell Street exit .  .  .  RIGHT HERE, SCULLY!"
.  .  "Left on Pearl.  Move left, Scully!" .  .  "Right on West Mohawk.
Ummm, that was Mohawk back there, I think.  Turn around, Scully." .  .
"Where's Niagara Street?"

"Are we lost, Mulder?"

"NO, WE ARE NOT LOST!  There it is!  Turn left on Niagara, and Voila!
We're here!" .  .  "Mulder?"

"Yes, Scully?"

"Next time, you drive, I'll navigate, O.K.?"

"O.K., Scully." Mulder almost pouted.  They'd made it, hadn't they?
 What was her problem, anyway?


A Section of I-90
West Side of Buffalo
New York State
7:38 p.m.

Mulder slowly surveyed the view around the crumbling slab of pavement
for a final time.  There'd been nothing interesting here that hadn't
shown up in the reports.  None of the nearest buildings had windows
facing the right direction, and might have been too far away to see
much, anyway.  The police canvas had turned up Clyde the Wino, who told
an interesting but largely useless tale.

He glanced over at the two cars that been left parked overnight; it had
been one of the owners that discovered the body, after finding their car
a shambles.  The headlights had exploded, the batteries was cracked, the
radios showed carbonization traces and would never play again.
Something weird had happened here, but Mulder was still clueless as to
just what.  Had some new electrical weapon been used?

He turned slightly and considered the location of the victim's car.  It
had been parked back at the nearby street, far enough away that it was
unharmed by whatever had happened here.  Advance planning on the part of
the victim, or coincidence?  Maybe just caution about approaching the
site, like Clyde?

Mulder has hoped for tire tracks of the killer's vehicle, but this area
was obviously used regularly for overnight parking, and specific tracks
were impossible to pick out.  It dawned on him that if the killer had
parked a car here, it might have suffered the same fate as the others.
Unless it was protected somehow.  Or parked further away, like the
victim's car.  Or unless the killer rode here with the victim.  Or
walked.  Or took the bus.  Sigh.  Wasn't it Mr.  Spock who said,
"Speculation without facts is futile."?  It's true: Everything I Really
Need To Know, I Learned From Star Trek.  Anyway, better check bus
schedules, taxis, and repair shops.  And maybe the killer had parked
illegally nearby and gotten a ticket.

What was D'Angelo doing in this desolate location anyway?  The victim's
home and business were miles away.  It felt like the victim had come
here to meet someone, probably the killer.  If Clyde could be believed,
the victim and killer had fought with swords, presumable ending when the
victim lost his head.  Then there was an electrical event that destroyed
the cars, after the murder.

Oh, well.  I can see the older sites tomorrow; maybe some of the pieces
will start to tie together.  I hope Scully is having better luck at the


City Morgue
Buffalo, New York
7:48 p.m.

"I didn't learn much, Mulder.  Most of the work's already been done for
me, so at first I just spot-checked some of the gross details against
the written reports.  Then I had the bright idea to take a stab at
reconstructing what I thought would be a tattoo.  Then I took a look at
D'Angelo and Menendez in a little more detail."

  Mulder watched as his partner heaved a tired sigh, and started
stripping off her latex gloves.  The body of Costas Menendez lay nude on
the examination table in front of them.  Scully's green protective
jumpsuit showed traces of fluids and substances that Fox didn't care to
inquire about.  Years of this work had eliminated all outward traces of
squeamishness, but he had to admire Scully's seemingly total detachment
from the circumstances of her work.  Unbidden, the thought came to
Mulder that this was the same attitude he'd seen exhibited by young
mothers changing dirty diapers.  Mulder grinned at the image of Scully
changing diapers.  Geez, she'd kill me for that one, he thought.

"What's funny, Mulder?"

"Nothing Scully, my mind was just wandering.  So, did you put together a

Scully frowned at Mulder's evasion, then decided to let it go.  Still,
she'd noticed him grinning at her a lot lately.  She wondered what was

"No, I couldn't put together a tattoo, but I did find enough
pigment-containing tissue to confirm that there was a tattoo.  All the
pigment I found was the same shade of blue, so the tattoo might have
been mono-colored indigo blue."

"That'll be a big help, Scully, if we manage to identify a potential
next victim.  That's good work." In Mulder's opinion, she was the best
forensic pathologist he'd ever encountered; 'course, he was probably

There he goes with that grin again!  "Thanks, Mulder."

"Anything else?" he asked, as they left the examining room, and Scully
shed her overalls, mask, and hood in the cleanup area just outside the
doors.  Why is watching this part so much fun?  It's like that Coke
commercial, where the guy watches some cute girl strip off her clothes
and toss them in the washer.

If he doesn't stop grinning, I'm gonna shoot him!  What am I thinking,
he's too damn handsome to shoot.  "Maybe, Mulder.  Something is nagging
at me, but I want to think it over before I shoot off my mouth with a
weird theory .  .  .  God, I'm hungry.  When are you going to feed me?"

Mulder was still wondering what the logical and cynical Dr.  Dana Scully
would call a "weird theory", when he got the second shock hearing that
he was responsible for the care, or at least feeding, of said Dana
Scully.  OK, he could live with that!

"Right now!  Burgers, barbecue, or pizza?" He figured that by offering
choices from all three major food groups, he must have all bases

"Mulder, we're gonna have to open an X-File to see how you manage to
survive on a one hundred percent cholesterol diet!  Just take me
anywhere I can get a great big garden salad, O.K.?"

Take her?  "Your wish is my command, Madam Doctor."


Ponderosa Steak House
10:23 p.m.

Scully's mood improved a little as she worked her way through a huge
green salad, but she didn't seem to want to talk, so Mulder left her to
her thoughts.  One of the best things about their relationship, he
thought, is that they were just as comfortable with each other in total
silence as not; they each seemed to know when to give the other space.
Mulder demolished a steak, baked potato, corn on the cob and was eyeing
the deserts before he finally broke the silence.

"So, ready for dessert, yet?" The salad bar included chocolate pudding,
which he knew was a particular favorite of Scully's.

Scully never looked up from her salad, which was almost gone but seemed
to be holding her eyes riveted to the bottom of the bowl.  Finally she
looked up when Mulder delivered a heaping bowl of chocolate pudding to
her side of the table.  "Thanks, Mulder."

"So.  What's this weird theory, anyway?  Ready to talk about it?"

Dana sighed.  "Mulder, there's something odd about our Group B victims.
Something that doesn't come through in the standard autopsy reports."

"And that is?" By this time, they were both spooning chocolate pudding
into their mouths almost absent- mindedly.

"Physically, they're perfect."

"Perfect?" Mulder started digesting that fact along with another spoon
full of pudding.  "You mean they're the ideal Scully Fantasy Date?  All
three of them?  Wow, Scully!"

"No, none of them are my type, Mulder." You're my type Mulder, and
you're far from perfect!  "I mean they show no traces of having ever
been injured, they have no scars, no calcification in their joints, no
hair loss, no acne, no hangnails, for Pete's sake!"

"They have no hangnails?" Scully was getting weird.

"And they have no appendix; I don't mean they've had them taken out, I
mean there's no sign they ever had an appendix!" Scully held out a hand
toward Mulder, as if begging to be believed.

"Is that unusual?"

"It's not unheard of to be born without an appendix, Mulder, but all
three of them?  It's too strange to be a coincidence.  I think our Group
B victims are .  .  .  clones, or .  .  .  aliens, or .  .  .  something
other than normal human beings." The volume of Dana's voice lowered
throughout her last sentence, until Mulder could barely hear "human

"Way To Go, Scully!" Mulder was beaming from ear to ear.

Scully was miserable.  She felt like she was turning into another Fox



Chapter Four
Two Heads Are Better Than One

Days Inn Motel
Buffalo, New York
10:55 p.m.

Dana and Fox made their usual sleeping arrangements; adjoining single
rooms at the cheapest convenient place.  As they carried in their
baggage, each of them immediately unlocked and opened their side of the
double doors connecting their rooms.  Each knew, without mentioning it,
that the doors might be closed at any time for privacy, but would never
be locked.  In the course of a hundred nights spent in a hundred small
hotels, a protocol had worked itself out.  Spending so much time living
in close quarters required certain accommodations and concessions
between them.  Like college roommates, they had discovered ways for each
of them to have space and privacy where none really existed.

Mulder's unpacking was simple; he unpacked his spare suit coat and hung
it, and the one he'd been wearing, in the closet.  Then he loosened his
tie, unbuttoned his collar, and fell backwards onto the bed.  Their
informal protocol required that he wait for Scully to finish unpacking
before they spoke.  Moving into a new place was a transition, and each
needed a few minutes to collect thoughts, settle in, and let go of the
day.  With his eyes closed, Mulder listened to the familiar sounds of
his partner rummaging about in the next room.  Mulder smiled at the
soothing, almost domestic, sounds.  Scully always moved in; Mulder lived
directly out of his suitcase because it was easier.

Dana, on the other hand, unpacked every item from her bags and placed
each in either the closet, a drawer, or on the bathroom counter.
Everything was arranged in basically the same way as in her apartment
back in Maryland.  Dana Scully was not a morning person, and she
couldn't cope with searching through a disheveled bag while half
asleep.  It was much easier to stay organized and consistent; it took
less thought.  As she put the last items away, she considered her next
move.  Straight to bed, probably.

She knew Mulder would not enter uninvited, so she went ahead and skinned
out of slacks, knee-highs, blouse, camisole, bra, and panties.
Discarded items went neatly into a bottom drawer reserved for laundry.
With her favorite pajamas in hand, she suddenly changed her mind.  No
way was she going to put on clean pajamas while still feeling dirty from
the long day.  A long hot shower might ease the knots of tension in her
back and let her sleep better.  The bathroom, she realized, was on the
other side of the connecting door to Mulder's room, as was her terry
robe.  To tired to get dressed just to cross the room, she went for the
easy way out.  "Mulder, don't look!" she called.  Getting no response,
she waited a beat and then crossed through the line of sight from the
door, anyway.  She went into the bathroom without a second thought.

At the sound of Scully's voice, Mulder instinctively pulled his head up
from the bed and looked toward the door.  As Scully's words soaked into
his tired brain, he chivalrously looked away, almost in time.  He was
just slow enough to glimpse in his peripheral vision a flash of red hair
and a lot of pale skin crossing in front of the doorway.  Despite
himself, Mulder smiled as he settled back into the soft bed.  His mother
had always said that if you lived next door to someone long enough, you
eventually learned all their secrets, including what they looked like
naked.  He wondered if this had been his one opportunity.  He hoped
not.  In a few moments he could smell the strawberry shampoo that Scully
used, the scent of which always lingered on her hair.  For the moment,
life was good, and Special Agent Mulder slept.

When Dana emerged from the bathroom, wearing a pair of light green men's
pajamas, she glanced through the connecting door into Mulder's room.
Fox was asleep; he was making the soft slumbering noise he always made,
more like a sigh than a snore.  She smiled.  All the terrible things
they'd been through, together and apart, made it difficult for either of
them to sleep.  Fox, she knew, was a classic insomniac when alone.  When
they traveled like this, he slept, but would be the first one up in the
morning regardless of alarm clocks or schedules.

Softly, she padded over to the side of his still form, knowing he would
awake but pretend not to; it was a game they played.  Fox was a very
light sleeper, a fact that had saved his, and her, life on more than one
occasion.  Early on, Dana had agonized whenever she woke him from his
fitful catnaps.  Mulder had started pretending to sleep through her
interruptions; Scully had reconciled with herself that Mulder really
didn't mind.  Leaning over the bed, her face inches from his, she
whispered "Mulder?".

"Hummmm?  Scully?  What?" He had awoke when the water shut off, but
pretended to remain asleep when Dana entered.  He knew she worried about
his sleeping, which strangely was never as much of a problem when he
traveled with Scully.  She'd probably be pissed if she knew he was
playing possum.  He squinted his eyes and opened them to slits.

"Wake me in the morning for breakfast, OK?  I discovered they've got a
great cafeteria at the Field Office; we should eat there to save time.
And Mulder?  Take your clothes off."

"Scully, am I dreaming, or did you just ask me to take my clothes off?"
Despite the humor in his voice, and the smile that crept onto his lips,
he tried to let a little hopefulness inflect his tone, too.

"Trust me, you're dreaming Mulder.  I'm going to bed; you should do the
same.  Good night."

"Good night, Scully." For an instant, he thought she was going to kiss
him because she had leaned so close, but she just straightened and
headed back for her room.  Mulder figured that nothing ventured would
mean nothing gained, so he called out.

"Scully, what about my good night kiss?"

Lord!  she thought.  Could he really read my mind that well?  No,
probably not.  He's just being Mulder.  Scully paused at the doorway.

"Sorry, Mulder.  Not in my job description!  Good night!" She breezed
on, as casually as possible, back into her own room.  She slid beneath
the covers, and turned off the last light on the nightstand.

Mulder wondered who he could see about job descriptions, and then
realized that he was the X-Files Department Head.  Maybe he'd have to
take care of this himself?  'suppose Skinner would sign off on a clause
that said "Junior team partners must kiss senior partners good night."?

"Scully?  Sleep well." At that moment, a thought occurred to him.
"Scully?  Are you really gonna make me take dancing lessons?" He tried
to work a little touch of whining into his voice, to mask the hint of
fright and anticipation that he really felt.

Make him take lessons?  Make him take lessons?  Since when did anybody
make Mulder do anything against his will?  What was he trying to tell
her?  That he really wanted to do this, but wanted her to take all the
blame if it became a disaster?  Dana let out a long breath, and decided
that if this was the role Mulder offered her, she'd play it this time.
Maybe things would go better if she just played along with his stupid
male games this time.

"Yes, Mulder!  And you'll like it.  You'll be an even bigger hit with
the ladies." Dana delivered this last suggestion with a voice dripping
in scorn, recalling to mind all Mulder's disgusting exploits with the
women they'd encountered in the course of their partnership: Dr.  Bambi,
for instance, and Lt.  White.  Mulder hit on every woman they
encountered.  Except Me!

"OK, Scully.  Whatever you say." Mulder hoped that Scully couldn't read
him on this one.  It had occurred to him sometime today that dancing
with Scully would mean touching Scully, a lot.  And smelling that wonder
strawberry shampoo.  He'd pretty much decided that maybe dance lessons
with Dana weren't such a bad idea, after all.


The National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) was formed
by the FBI in 1985 at its Quantico, Virginia, facility.  It is a law
enforcement-oriented resource center that consolidates research,
training, investigative, and operational support functions to provide
assistance to law enforcement agencies confronted with unusual,
high-risk, vicious, or repetitive crimes.

The Center's research activities include the study of serial and violent
crimes, such as homicide, rape, child abduction, arson, threats, and
computer crime, as well as hijacking, crisis management, and areas of
interest relating to hostage negotiation, special weapons and tactics
team operations.  Investigative support is also offered through the
Violent Criminal Apprehension Program to alert law enforcement agencies
which may be seeking the same offender for crimes in their


Two days later Cafeteria of the FBI Field Office One FBI Plaza Buffalo,
New York 6:23 a.m.

Mulder had filled a plate with bacon, sausage, fried potatoes, and
scrambled eggs smothered in cheese sauce.  He was in heaven at Scully's
discovering an all - you - can - eat breakfast in the Field Office
cafeteria.  Coming here had already become a morning ritual for them
both.  Scully's slightly different taste was content here, too.  She
found bagels, cereal, and a variety of fruits including melon.  Both of
they were drinking gallons of coffee after their particularly short

Given the security of their location, surrounded by other Special Agents
and Support Staff, they had removed their jackets and were obviously
"packing".  Mulder kept his weapon in a shoulder holster under his left
arm; Scully carried her Sig Saur in a belt holster at the middle of her
back.  How Dana managed to sit with her holster in that position was a
mystery to Fox, but because of her small size Dana found it difficult to
keep a side holster from looking obvious.  On her frame, the bulge was
just too large to hide, even by special tailoring.

They had spent the previous two days going over all the murder locations
together.  The Group A sites were bloody and horrific.  The Group B
sites reinforced Mulder's initial impressions: secluded locations,
victim's vehicle parked some distance away, signs of electrical
disturbance.  They found little new, except some chop marks on tree
trunks and a park bench that might have been from the killer's weapon.
Also, this first murder had been in a grassy area inside the Buffalo
zoo.  Marks in the soft ground made it obvious that a fight had gone on
for some minutes before the beheading.

There were many times during a case when the pair went for hours without
speaking to one another.  An outward observer might think they had
argued, or didn't care for each other's company.  In fact, each was a
basically a quiet, introverted person, content with their own company
and content with one another.  Often they'd seen that each looking at
the same evidence would see slightly different things, and holding on to
their impressions until out of the field seemed to work best for them.

Also, the silence was more of their personal protocol; it was a way to
give room without being apart.  So this morning, Mulder and Scully ate
together in silence, like a couple might hold hands in silence.  It was
like a small liberty they took with one another that excluded others,
let them feel close, and gave each one space to think and relax.  Many
times, words weren't necessary between them, anyway; a look, a gesture,
and they could communicate volumes.  But whenever one of them felt ready
to talk, then it was time.

This morning, Scully had news for Mulder, but it could wait until they'd
finished their breakfast.  Knowing him, he'd want to rush right out of
the room when he heard her discovery, and this melon was just too good
to waste.  Or maybe her news would fizzle, since there was no obvious
way to follow up with the information.  But meanwhile a little
harassment couldn't hurt .  .  .

For several minutes, Dana hassled Fox about the poor performance of his
favorite sports teams.  Invariably, Fox picked underdogs to root for,
and usually got exactly what one would expect.  The race doesn't always
go to the swiftest, nor the battle to the strongest, but that's the way
to bet.  Eventually, the sports talk ran thin, so Dana switched to Fox's
favorite subject.

"Mulder, I don't remember ever working a case where you took this long
to either come up with some radical X-File theory, or dismiss the case
as banal.  And yet, you seem to be as cheerful as I've ever seen you, at
work.  Is there something you're holding out on me?  Are you spending
time with some local "babe", or do you think you've already solved this
case?" If Mulder had found some woman to chase, Dana couldn't imagine
when he'd found the time.  They'd been together almost constantly for
the last three days.  Still, all of his recent smiling and whistling was
hard to ignore from a guy usually wallowing in gloom and doom.

Mulder recognized an assault when he heard one.  Fortunately, he was
ready with a counter-punch.

"Well, you might say I'm spending time with a "babe", Scully, but it's
all in the line of duty." His familiar smirk appeared.  "But the reason
I'm so cheerful is that you've already laid out an X-File theory, and
I'm quite content to go with it.  Again, Scully, Way To Go!"

Is he talking about me?!  Does he think of me as a "babe", and is that
good or bad?  Damn, Mulder, you make me nuts!  Since it looked like they
were both nearly finished with breakfast, Scully decided it was time to
divert the talk back to work at hand.

"How about if you lay it all out in order for me, Mulder?  I'm new at
this hair-brained theory business; I think I keep losing some of the
threads." Scully knew Mulder missed the overhead projector back in D.C.,
where he liked to sort out his thoughts by flashing slides on the wall
while he thought out loud.

"OK, sure, Scully.  We have Group A victims.  Our killer tracks these
people down, often at home, and tortures them for information on finding
or contacting Group B victims.  Then he kills them by chopping off their
heads.  The Group A victims all belong to some secret society that
identifies their members by a blue tattoo on the inside of the left
wrist.  The killer hacks up the tattoos to confuse the authorities,
that's us, so we can't identify the mark and make the connection among
the Group A victims."

Mulder munched a final piece of bacon for a moment, before continuing.
"After each Group A murder, it takes our killer between a few hours and
a day to track down the Group B victim that was just given up.  The
killer and the Group B victim meet in some secluded location and fight
it out with swords.  The victim loses, gets beheaded, and there's an
electrical storm.  The electrical storm sounds like a consequence of the
killing which both killer and victim expected: they kept their
transportation far enough away to avoid damage.  The Scully Theory .  .
." Mulder paused to give Scully his best thousand-watt smile, "explains
this effect nicely.  The victims are really aliens, who just naturally
cast off lightning bolts when they die."

The Scully Theory earned Mulder a scowl, the likes of which Mulder had
never seen before.  He was momentarily shocked that his diminutive
partner was capable of looking so positively deadly.  Oh well, he was
sure she'd forgive him, eventually.  Besides, it was her idea.  He
pressed on.

"The boys and girls back home at NCAVC have been working overtime on
several aspects of this case.  I got a phone call this morning, and a
very long e-mail message.  Our group A victims have well-documented
histories in every case; no doubt about identities.  But the queer thing
about Group A is that all the victims seem to have a common source of
supplemental income: they are part-time paid "researchers" for a very
private, very high-brow organization called International Assets." This
last was new information for Scully.

"International Assets seems to be almost a fraternal organization of
historians, genealogists, antiquarians and the like.  Most of the
members are only part-time, membership is by invitation only, you can
guess the usual egghead drill.  They authenticate paintings, sculptures,
maps and other antiques and artifacts.  Museums and private collectors
hire them a lot to establish the worth of rare collectibles, probably
explaining the name.  The organization has a web page with a charter
statement about contributing to the knowledge of mankind by preserving
the knowledge of the past.  And that's all the bureau researchers came
up with.  Frohike, who sends his love by the way, dug up some additional

Dana made a face at the mention of Frohike.  His obvious and obnoxious
advances were a pain to put up with, but the guy wasn't all bad.  He had
been a good friend many times in the past, and was always a boon at
obtaining information as long as you didn't question his methods.

"Apparently, a few of their members publish regularly in several
respected history and antique journals; some of those papers are
available on-line and Frohike says they leak a lot of odd details.  A
lot of their people seem to move around frequently and unexpectedly.
Frohike says International Assets always foots the moving and travel
bills.  He also says International Assets is rumored to have a
magnificent antique collection of their own, including the largest
private collection of swords in the world.  "

"Lastly, Frohike toured the International Assets web page and recommends
it for bedtime reading only.  Also, he mentions that the page is headed
with an interesting logo.  Care to take a guess?"

"I would guess that it's blue?  Like the tattoos?" asked Scully, with
one raised eyebrow.

"Bingo.  A blue bird.  So via their web page I sent e-mail to the
address of their U.S.  Coordinator, one Joe Dawson.  Perhaps Mr.  Dawson
will be able to tell us why three members of his fraternity have been
bumped off in such rapid succession, and why anyone would try to obscure
the tattoos on their arms.  Or even why they sport tattoos in the first
place.  And maybe he can explain who the Group B victims are.  Anyway,
that just about recaps what we know to date."

"Well, I have some news to contribute.  Want to hear what Quantico
thought about the tissue samples, Mulder?" This will make him happy, I'm
sure now, thought Dana.

"Sure!  What planet are our Group B victims from, Scully?"

The dignified Dr.  Dana Scully extended her tongue in a most childish
way in the general direction of her partner.  She reflected that one of
her brothers had often done the same to her, except he had neglected to
swallow his food, first.  This is the kind of thing I'm reduced to,
working with Mulder, she thought.

"They mentioned nothing about an extra-terrestrial origin for any of the
samples, but they did make a lot of interesting findings about the
overall body chemistry of Group B.  You remember about free-radicals,
right Mulder?" It was a rhetorical question.  On a previous case, he and
Dana had been afflicted with a disease that raised the free-radical
level in his bodies, and caused rapid premature aging.  "Well, the
current literature still considers the free-radical factor a prime
suspect in the whole process of aging.  We can fairly accurately guess
the age of an individual from the level of free-radicals in his
tissues.  Want to guess the average age of our Group B victims,
calculated by that method?"

There was a nasty gleam in Scully's eyes.  The answer had to be
startling, so Go For It, thought Mulder.

"Two hundred fifty years?"

A smile broke out on Scully face.  He was gonna love this!  "Nope.  Too
high.  Want another guess?"

"One twenty five." He was starting to feel like that old show with Bob
Parker and Dian Parkinson, The Price Is Right.

"Nope.  Still too high.  Give up?"

"I give, Scully.  How old?"

"Five years, Mulder.  Free-radical-wise, they were all around five years
old." Despite herself, Dana couldn't help but feel pleased with
validation that those bodies in the morgue were very, very, strange.
"Until now, Mulder, the experts thought free-radical aging was accurate
to within two percent.  There will be some very unhappy scientists in
the next few days when the eggheads at Quantico share these samples,
from apparently adult bodies, with their academic buddies."

Mulder put down his fork, and clapped his hands almost soundlessly.
There was not a hint of insincerity in his manner as he inclined his
head toward his partner, as if bowing.

"Congratulations, Dr.  Scully.  The medical community rallies 'round
your clone - or - alien theory.  Bravo!" Cripes!  Not only does she come
out with this wacko theory, but she does me one better by finding
scientific evidence.  Well, I always knew she was brilliant.

Scully lowered her own head in acceptance of Mulder's praise, secretly
enjoying it even more than she let show.  Mulder's admiration was rarely
given, but always given freely when due.  I thought I was past needing
the approval of others, but this feels really good, she thought.  Like
pleasing my Dad, or Mom.

"So Scully, what do you think?  Clones or Aliens?"

She'd known this question would come, and she'd dreaded it.  She'd
explained the circumstances to Dr.  Cummings back at Quantico; he'd been
unwilling to make a guess.  And now she was going to go out on a limb
for the second time in the same case.  But what the heck.  When you've
eliminated the impossible .  .  .

"Mulder, I don't think they were five year old clones.  Maturing a clone
to adulthood in that length of time would be unlikely, not to mention
all the high speed reeducation that would be required to let them pass
as adults.  And I don't think they were aliens; there was nothing
noticeably wrong with their DNA or tissue samples.  I think .  .  ."

"Yeah, Scully?" Mulder smelled Another Good One Coming.

".  .  .  I think they weren't aging Mulder; that would make some kind
of bizarre sense considering the extreme state of good health I saw in
each cadaver.  I think their false histories might have been constructed
to hide the fact that they were very, very, old."

Mulder whistled very softly, in amazement and excitement.  "We should
request a computer search through the fingerprint back-files, Scully .
.  ." he paused as Scully removed a small print-out from her purse and
slid it across the table.  "What's this?"

"Way ahead of 'ya, Mulder.  They found one hit in the "dead files" from
one of our victims." She waited as he read the fingerprint search

Mulder's eyes widened.  "You score two for two, Scully.  Soon you're not
going to need me any more for the weird stuff.  This says Group B victim
Kevin Taylor was previously known as Ken Tailer, and enlisted in the
U.S.  Army in 1945 at the tender age of 25.  That would make him now
seventy years old, if he hadn't died at an Army field hospital in 1948
from a gunshot wound." He looked up at his partner with a new
intensity.  "We've gotta talk to this Dawson guy."

Mulder rose from his chair and looked longingly back at the breakfast
layout.  "You suppose they'd care if I get another O.J.  to go?"



Chapter Five
Three Heads Are Even Better

Joe's Place
(a blues club)
Chicago, IL
6:30 a.m.

Joe Dawson sat alone in the office behind the club, hunched over a
desktop computer, staring at an e-mail message on the screen.  His head
hurt, probably due to the tension and stress that had become his
constant companions these days.  The implications of the Buffalo murders
had not escaped him; the media was having a field day because of the
beheading aspect.  It didn't help matters that he knew all the victims;
half of them, Mulder and Scully's "Group A", he knew personally; they
were his people.  He felt the weight of the years, and all those deaths,
on his shoulders.

He also knew this FBI agent, Mulder, at least by reputation.  Having
more than a passing professional interest in the metaphysical himself,
Joe had heard this name before.  This was the guy that Joe's people in
the bureau called "Spooky Mulder".  This was the guy who had a rep for
developing the most incredible explanations for events and circumstances
that other, more conventional, law enforcement people would dismiss out
of hand.  And he had a reputation for closing such cases.  This guy
might be very dangerous to Joe, his people, and their work.  He was
dangerous because he might believe.

Not for the first time, Joe considered the wisdom of the tattoos that he
and most of his organization's people wore on the inside of their left
wrists.  The symbol was ancient, as ancient as their organization
itself.  It reminded the wearer of their cause, of the history and
importance of their work, of the danger they faced every day.  But it
had also probably helped lead this Fox Mulder to his electronic
doorstep, since the agent had mentioned tattoos on the bodies.

Maybe it had been a bad idea to bring International Assets out into the
open; he had been part of that decision.  It was seen as a way to
explain the connection between his people, and to manage the
expenditures needed to keep all the fronts covered.  Government
agencies, especially the tax collectors like the IRS, were just getting
too damn smart, or thorough, to be fooled by untraceable sources of
cash.  Several times they had people entangled with the Drug Enforcement
Agency, the FBI, or the IRS.  All because of the need to support their
people who were forced to pack up and move on short notice.  Hiring such
people as "researchers", and filing all the requisite mountains of
governmental paperwork, had seemed the smartest course at the time.

Of course, this FBI agent was really only his secondary problem.  The
primary problem was that someone seemed to have at least a partial list
of Joe's people.  Someone, somewhere, had gotten careless, again.  Their
purpose was only to watch and record, but now another Immortal had
become aware of the Watchers.  The Watchers were being killed, and being
used to locate their assigned Immortals.  The result was the same as if
the Watchers were taking an active hand in these Immortal's deaths.
This could not be allowed to continue.

Joe paced his office for a while, and then went into the club area
proper.  The room was deserted except for the sights and scents left
over from yesterday night's crowd.  Joe still hadn't been to bed after
last night's, really this morning's, closing.  He hadn't cleaned up, a
task he reserved for himself as penance for being "the boss".  There was
litter on the floor, spilled wine and beer on the table tops,
overflowing ash trays.  The trivialities of life, of the life that he'd
come to think of as his "cover" life, overwhelmed him for a moment.  So
much to do, so little time.  Life, for him, was short and crowded.  But
for three of his people, and probably more to come, life had been cut
even shorter than the pathetically short allotment allowed to mortals.
Doing something about their killer was his responsibility.

In better times, he would have called his Immortal friend MacLeod.  But
at the moment, the two of them were not on very good terms.  Duncan
MacLeod was having a period of personal crisis again, like the records
said he always did when facing the loss of a loved one.  The guy just
hadn't been truly happy since Tessa died.  Ah, beautiful, sweet Tessa.
Another mortal life cut needlessly shorter.  Even Amanda and Richie, the
two people who loved him most, were having trouble dealing with

Joe pushed open the large front doors of the club, and looked up through
the crowded skyline to try and catch a glimpse of sunrise.  Another day,
more lives in his hands, perhaps more deaths on his hands.  The only
possible resolution was that an Immortal had to be found and killed.
Joe wasn't naive enough to think that anything less would do.  Immortals
were not a reasonable or even-tempered lot; that came naturally, he
guessed, as the result of living with the daily threat of violent death
for centuries.  And with seeing all your loved ones wither with age and
die, again and again.

Watchers lived with the Immortals' violence, too, but vicariously.
Direct participation in death and violence wasn't in Joe's nature, even
when he had been a soldier.  He'd had his own share of personal
tragedies over the years, and Death was always a tragedy, no matter how
long, or short, the life.  Joe sighed.

Dawson needed an ally who could track this ambitious and bloodthirsty
Immortal, and who could be convinced, or tricked, or bribed, or coerced
into killing him.  He let the club doors swing shut, and held his face
in his hands for a moment.  What to do?

For sure, he'd call Adam Peerson.  This was almost as much an Immortal
problem as a Watcher problem, and Methos had a foot in both worlds.  And
he'd invite Fox Mulder for a visit, at least to gauge the extent of his
problem on that front.

With another sigh, he straightened and limped back through the club to
his PC.  This FBI agent was sure to be tenacious, sure to ask dangerous
questions, and had resources behind him that Joe couldn't hope to
match.  Would he be friend or foe?

Maybe Fox Mulder would be the Ally he needed.


FBI Field Office
One FBI Plaza
Buffalo, New York
7:15 a.m.

Scully and Mulder were sharing a spare office temporarily assigned to
them by the Buffalo Field Office.  Scully was using the laptop PC she
always carried in the field, while Mulder had borrowed the machine left
by the previous occupant.  The office only contained one desk, but they
were making due by sitting opposite and offset from one another, across
the desktop.  By unspoken consent, they preferred the cramped
arrangements to being out of eyesight and easy speaking distance.  As
usual, Mulder had found excuse after excuse to leave the daily reports
to Scully; rank, after all, having some privilege.  By this point in
their relationship, Scully had actually come to prefer writing all the
reports herself, anyway.  It saved time over having to tone down the
references to Mulder's unconventional theories and investigative
techniques.  Not that Scully hid her partners' explanations, it was just
that she had learned to present them in a way that made them more likely
to be read and considered, instead of Mulder's somewhat blunter
"sledgehammer" style.

Before directing the resources of the FBI, and Frohike, into tracing Joe
Dawson, Mulder had decided to check his e-mail on the off chance that
Dawson had sent a reply.  Surprisingly, he found a message from Dawson
waiting for him, in reply to his early morning message.

     to: fwmulder@fbihq.gov from: joe_dawson1@chicago-freenet.org

     yes, i believe i have information that can help you in your
     investigation.  it is imperative that we meet in person, since very
     confidential information is involved.  despite your reputation for
     open mindedness, i suspect my info will tax your willingness to
     believe.  i'm guessing that your travel budget is bigger than mine,
     so i suggest we meet at my club asap.  see .sig for address.
     please hurry, time is of the essence.  don't worry about leaving
     buffalo.  next victims will not be in buffalo, but do not know who
     or where is next.  my own people are investigating, too.  may have
     more info by the time you get here.

Dawson's signature file, a standard closing which e-mail users prepare
once and then append to every outgoing message, contained the address
for Joe's Place in Chicago.

"My people are investigating?" he echoed under his breath.

"What?" At the sound of her partners voice, Dana looked up from her
screen and searched her partner's face.  Reading the expression she
found there, she inquired "Find something interesting, Mulder?"

Mulder swung the monitor around so Scully could read the message for
herself.  He waited silently for a few seconds until her eyes stopped
flicking across the screen and returned to his.

"He saved me the trouble of tracking down his address, for which I'm
grateful.  But how could he know the next murder will not be in Buffalo,
and not know where the next site will be, Scully?  It sounds to me like
he's confessing to a major involvement in these crimes, and yet wants to

"Maybe he just realizes that his people are targets, and maybe all his
people in Buffalo are dead, now?  Maybe he has other people in other
cities, but has no way to guess where the killer will move to next.
Maybe he is deeply involved, even responsible, for these deaths and
wants to sidetrack us to Chicago because we're getting too close here in
Buffalo.  Remember, Mulder, "Trust No One".  We have no reason to take
anything this person says at face value."

"Cynicism, Scully?  You don't believe this Dawson character is just a
concerned citizen, anxious to help the authorities in any way possible?"

"No, and neither do you.  If I thought we were making any headway at
identifying the killer from what leads we have, I'd say we should split
up at this point and you go to Chicago while I run things here.  But
since we're not, then priority two ought to be forestalling any further
murders, and Dawson seems like the best lead on that front." And
besides, you are not running off without me!

"My thoughts exactly, Scully.  Which means we have no reason to hang
around here, and no reason not to follow where Dawson leads us.  Let's
head for Chicago." Mulder glanced at his watch.  "There's a flight in
about two hours, if I can get us seats."

Quickly, Mulder checked with the airline through CompuServe, while
Scully tapped out messages that notified the local FBI people of their
departure, and informed Skinner of their new destination.  Finishing
with the administrivia, she collected their belongings.  Scully scooped
most of Mulder's desktop clutter straight into his carry-bag, just as he
would have done.  In fact, as she tried to zipper his bag shut, Mulder
flipped a spare notebook into the bag from across the room, startling
her.  Fox apologized with a smile, then rolled the top down on his bag
of sunflower seeds and slipped them into the side pocket of his jacket.
Scully dropped Mulder's bag by the door, and neatly transferred her few
desktop items into her own carry-bag.  Voila, the office was packed.

Reservations finally made and confirmed, Mulder sent another e-mail to

     to: joe_dawson1@chicago-freenet.org from: fwmulder@fbihq.gov

     on my way.  bringing my partner, dr dana scully.  she'll be the
     cute, smart one.  should arrive at club approx noon.  don't doubt
     our ability to believe a good story, we have some of our own.
     anxious to hear yours.

Slipping on her own jacket, Scully circled the desk and peeked over
Mulder's shoulder in time to see his last message.  Mulder was
temporarily distracted by the scent of strawberries and his partner's
profile so close to his own.

""Cute, Smart One", Mulder?  Is that how you usually describe me to
people?" She turned her head and gave Mulder a challenging look at close

Mulder attempted to raise only one eyebrow, failed miserably, and
settled for one - and - a - half.  "No, it's not; I usually use the word
"hot", but I don't know Dawson that well.  How do you tell people to
recognize me, Scully?"

Cute?  Hot?  Smart?  Me?  "I tell people to look for a tall, handsome,
angst-ridden guy with a terrible tie." She motioned toward his current
tie with her chin.

Handsome?  Tie?  Me?  Mulder looked down at his neon blue tie with
little orange flying saucers, as if bewildered.  This was his favorite.
In fact .  .  .

"But Scully, you gave me this tie!" Handsome!

"I know.  It was supposed to be a joke, but it's still a big improvement
over most of your collection." Hot!


In Front of Joe's Place
Chicago, IL
12:18 a.m.

"Looks closed, Scully."

It was hard to tell, really.  In typical club style, the front windows
and the glass in the doors had been painted over black from the inside.
There were no posted hours, no "OPEN" or "CLOSED" signs, and the "Joe's
Place" sign over the door was not lit.

Scully tried one side of the club's big double doors, and shrugged.
"It's open, Mulder."

As Scully pulled the door open slightly, Mulder pressed his back against
the other door and peered in cautiously.  He considered pulling his gun
and entering high - and - low with Scully, police style.

"The lights are on inside, Scully.  Looks like somebody was expecting

As Scully pulled the door open further, Mulder closed his eyes and
entered first, sliding around the right edge of the door to press his
back against the inside.  There was no pause for curtesy this time; he
didn't mind Scully drawing Skinner's fire, but real bullets (or a
sword!) was something else entirely.  With the extra seconds to adjust
to lower light, his vision cleared quickly as he opened his eyes.

A little miffed at Mulder jumping in front of her again, Scully
reflected that she should maybe cut a little slack for someone who
described her as "smart" and "hot"; besides, he was the senior agent and
officially got to make calls like this.  Recognizing his tactics, Scully
followed Mulder's lead by hanging back a moment before entering in a
similar manner, only moving to the left side.  Feeling a little more
cynical than Mulder, she had drawn her own weapon, but was keeping it
low and inconspicuously hidden in the folds of her trench coat.

Instead of swords or bullets, a voice greeted them.

"We're back here, folks.  You must be Mulder and Scully.  Welcome to
Joe's Place.  Can I get you something to drink?" The voice came from the
gloom at the back of the large room.

As Mulder's eyes adjusted to the low lighting, he could see two figures
raising to their feet on the other side of a table at the far end of the
room.  Their hands appeared to be empty, and they were the only two
people immediately visible.  Mulder started forward, not taking his eyes
off the men, but staying alert for movement in his peripheral vision.
Scully moved forward two paces behind Mulder and to his left; most of
her attention was focused to the left and right.  As she crossed the
room she casually moved her right hand, holding the automatic, under her
coat where she replaced it in the holster at the small of her back.

The man on the left had spoken, and looked to be the older of the pair,
maybe 50, Caucasian, about 5'10" tall, and 175 lbs.  He sported a full,
short trimmed beard, light brown with a touch of red and gray, like his
hair.  In raising, he favored his right leg.  Mulder saw a cane propped
against the man's chair, and guessed at a long-term injury.  The older
man moved his hands out to the side and low, palms forward, in the
familiar gesture of a host bidding a guest to enter.  Mulder assumed
this was Joe Dawson.

The man on the right was younger, probably in his early thirties.  He
was taller, maybe 6' even, and thinner, around 160 lbs.  His hair was a
light brown, and his features were thin and somehow exotic.  Mulder
couldn't place his ethnic background, except to say Caucasian.

The man on the left spoke again.  "We're having coffee; there's ice tea,
soda, or something stronger if it's not too early?"

So we're playing it friendly and casual; O.K.  "Some ice tea would hit
the spot for me; what about you, Scully?"

"Nothing for me, thanks.  I'm fine." Scully did an obvious once-over of
the room as she neared the figures ahead, and remarked "Kind of quiet,
isn't it?"

The older man answered.  "We're usually closed at this time of day; the
crowd starts drifting in around eight o'clock."

The pair of Agents reached the table area almost simultaneously, and
stopped a few feet short.  The two men rounded the table to meet them.
The older man spoke first.

"Hi, I'm Joe Dawson; most people just call me "Joe"." Dawson, who had
used the cane even for that short distance, shifted the cane to his left
hand, extended his right hand to Scully and looked expectant.

"Hello.  I'm Special Agent Dana Scully.  This is my partner, Special
Agent Fox Mulder."

Then Dawson turned to Mulder and extended his right hand again.  Mulder
tried to see the inside of Dawson's left hand as he moved, but the gloom
and angle prevented him from seeing if the man sported a tattoo.  Dawson
nodded at Mulder as they shook hands.

"Agent Mulder.  You described your partner well, I see." Dana wondered
if men truly thought they were being complimentary by talking about
women in the third person.  It was an annoying habit she could just
barely tolerate from Mulder.

Mulder decided to let his hair down; after all, the man had offered him
ice tea and thought Scully was cute; he couldn't be all bad.

"Joe.  Pleased to meet you.  Just call me "Mulder"."

"It's good to meet you in person; I'm still struggling to get
comfortable with the new technology.  E-mail is fast and convenient, but
it seems terribly impersonal." Dawson retrieved his hand, and switched
hands with the cane.  "I'll get your tea."

As Dawson limped away to the bar, the thinner man extended his hand to
Scully.  Scully matched him, but instead of shaking her hand the tall
figure bowed slightly and raised her hand to his lips.  Never taking his
eyes off Scully's face, he kissed the back of her hand briefly, before
releasing it.  The action was so natural and matter - of - fact on his
part, that Dana had no time to react until the deed was done.

"Charmed to meet you, Agent Scully.  My name is Adam Peerson, and I must
disagree with my friend Joe.  Your partner's description does not do you
full justice; you're quite lovely."

Slightly flustered, having never had her hand kissed by a stranger
before, especially as foreplay to so smooth a compliment, Dana seemed
uncertain about what to do with her released hand.  After a slight
hesitation, she tucked it into her right pocket, matching the left, and
gave Mulder a double - raised - eyebrow look.

Adam turned to Mulder and offered his hand for a more conventional
greeting, and a warm smile.  His grip on Mulder's hand was firm but not
overly so; there was no attempt to crush bones.

"Agent Mulder.  Pleased to meet you, sir.  You are a very lucky man to
have such a pleasant working companion."

"I count my blessings ever day, Mr.  Peerson.  Are you a good friend of
Joe's?  We had expected a private talk."

Dawson had said nothing about a fourth person at their meeting.  Mulder
wondered how this new name fit into the picture.  It was an enigmatic
sounding name, too, like the man's features.  And Mulder wasn't sure he
liked anyone kissing his partner's hand.  And his compliments were much
too obvious to appeal to Scully.

"Please call me Adam.  And yes, Joe and I have known one another for
many years; I know why you're here.  Won't you two sit down?  Can I take
your coats?"

Adam gestured toward the extra chairs at the table.  When Dana stepped
closer, Adam pulled out a chair for her.

Scully refused the man's offer to take her coat.  "No, thanks.  The
trench coat is part of the standard FBI uniform; I don't feel quite
dressed without it." Dana did not want to part with even symbolic armor,
until she felt more at ease in these surroundings.  She took the offered
seat, and let Peerson tuck in her chair.

As Peerson took a seat, Mulder took a seat across from him and studied
the man quickly.  Adam put both elbows on the table, and wove his
fingers together as support for his chin.  There was a blue tattoo
inside the left wrist, Mulder noted.  A blue bird in a circle of stars.
And it seems this Adam had eyes for Scully, he's studying her while I'm
studying him .  .  .

Scully noticed Adam' gaze, too, and returned it boldness for boldness.
"I see you have a tattoo inside your wrist; isn't that the logo for
International Assets?  Are you a member?"

Adam smiled mischievously, and positioned his left arm so that the
partners could clearly see the tattoo.  "Yes to both questions, Agent
Scully.  The International Assets symbol is quite old, as is the
practice of tattooing itself; many of us accept this mark as part of our
"initiation" into the company, a sign of our sacred trust to protect and
preserve our history.  You probably think it's a barbaric practice, but
I guess you could say I'm a founding member of IA, and a member of the
Board of Directors.  I thought it only fitting to adopt what's become
something of a tradition.  And too, when I was a young man, tattoos were
quite common in my part of the world."

At that moment, Dawson returned from behind the bar with a tall glass of
iced tea for Mulder, and, after offering again to fix something for
Scully, reclaimed his seat.  He was mildly troubled by Methos'
small-talk.  Knowingly or not, the Immortal was dropping clues left and
right to his own origins, and Dawson hadn't yet decided how much to tell
these Federal Agents.  Joe had the usual distrust of The Government, and
government agents, that most men of the baby-boomer era had developed.
Joe decided to try and slow the meeting down while he formed an opinion
of these "Feds".

"I hope your flight from Buffalo was uneventful, folks .  .  ."

Mulder and Scully allowed the conversation to drift into the usual
meaningless social pleasantries as they collected their own thoughts.
Neither agent had expected to be greeted like guests, nor had they
expected to see anyone but Dawson.  Letting Mulder hold up their end of
the chit-chat, Dana surveyed the room trying to get some insight into
the character of their host.

The club was obviously a place for watching entertainment, more than it
was a bar.  There was a small corner stage equipped with a piano and
sound system.  Most of the interior was decorated in New Orleans style;
Mardi Gras masks decorated one wall, photographs of famous blues artists
covered another, old license plates and business cards were arrayed on a
third.  The floor, tables, and bar were well-worn but clean; the
glassware behind and hanging over the bar was sparkling.  It seemed to
be the kind of place that Dana would probably like to visit on a day
off.  If I ever had a day off, she thought.

Her eyes flicked over a trench coat hanging from the polished oak coat
rack that stretched the length of the back wall.  Her eyes came back to
it; something had nudged her subconscious.  From the proximity to their
table, the coat probably belonged to Peerson, she decided.  Dawson would
have a back office someplace, and would keep his personal items out of
the public area.  Something about the way it was hanging .  .  .  oh!

Mulder could see that Scully was trying to show him something without
drawing attention.  Her eyes kept flicking to the back of the room
whenever he looked her way.  As he chatted about the work of the X-Files
department, he followed the direction of her eyes, and studied the
trench coat.  After a moment, he noticed what Dana had seen.  Damn, he
thought; those gorgeous eyes are sharp, too.  He caught his partner's
eye again and gave her the "O.K., go for it!" shrug.  It was her find,
after all.  She seemed to be the one with all the intuition about this
investigation, and was doing a fine job so far.

At the next break in the conversation, in a perfectly conversational
tone of voice, Scully looked to the man calling himself Adam Peerson and
asked "So, Adam!  Beheaded anyone with that sword, lately?"

For a long moment there was no sound in the room, as both Dawson and
Adam looked at Scully as if she'd sprouted wings.  When no one else
broke the silence, Scully decided to throw in a gentle threat while she
had their attention.  "I certainly hope you have a permit for that sword
you have in your coat; you do need a permit in Illinois to carry a
concealed weapon, don't you?" She gave Adam her best "cop look".

The men's silence continued another few long seconds, as Adam turned to
look toward his coat and study the way it hang.  As he turned back,
there was a look of delight on his face, and he began to chuckle.

"Agent Scully, you amaze me!  Suddenly I feel like Dr.  Watson to your
Sherlock Holmes.  Agent Mulder, is your partner really that observant
and intuitive, or does she just read minds?"

"Personally, I think she reads minds.  Which worries me to no end, since
she's almost always armed.  It worries me almost as much as I worry
about your answer to her question."

Mildly annoyed that Mulder had made light of her question, after
indicating that she should take a shot with her observation, Scully
decided to play "Bad Cop".  Sitting here comparing the weather in D.C.
versus Buffalo versus Chicago wasn't going to get them anywhere.  She
turned up her glare at Peerson.

"I want an answer to my question, sir.  We have three dead victims that
used to have that tattoo", and she gestured toward Peerson's arm, "and
three others that were all carrying swords and are somehow linked to the
first three.  Now I see the two of you sitting here with tattoos, and a
concealed sword is hanging nearby.  I have half a mind to place you both
under arrest right now, and take that sword into the lab for analysis."

The look Scully gave Dawson and Adam would have scared the hell out of
Mulder, if she'd been looking at him.  How such a small package could
look so intimidating was a mystery to Fox, but it usually worked.
Nobody played Bad Cop like his partner!

"Easy, Scully!" said Mulder, as he started his Good Cop role.  "We came
here at Joe's invitation, to hear what he has to say.  It seems to me
they're just feeling us out."

Peerson was impossible to read, but Scully could tell that Dawson was
scared when she mentioned Adam's sword.  She decided that an over - the
- top attack at Peerson would probably get the biggest reaction from

"Six people are dead, Mulder, and here we sit talking about the
weather!  From what I can see, our killer is probably sitting right
there!" and she jabbed in Peerson's direction with the forefinger of her
left hand.  "How old are you, anyway, Adam?  From your manners and
speech, I'd say considerably older than you appear.  I want to get to
the bottom of this, right now, and I think taking you in for questioning
is the best way to do that!"

Scully rose from her seat with her automatic in her right hand again,
pointed between Peerson's eyes.  Mulder had never seen her even begin to
reach for her gun; it just appeared in her hand as if by magic.  He got
a queazy sensation.  Drawing on a civilian was a little extreme, even
for an act.

"Or maybe," Scully growled deep in her throat, "we should do an
experiment to see if lightning strikes me down!"

Geez!  A death threat!  But Score One Slam Dunk, Scully!  thought
Mulder, as he watched Joe Dawson's reaction.  Dawson was turning pale
and squirming like a man who'd drunk way too much beer and couldn't get
away to the restroom.  Peerson, on the other hand, was just grinning at
Scully and completely ignoring the gun pointed at his head.

Mulder put on his best look of outrage and came to his feet, too.
"Agent Scully, control yourself!  You are completely out of line!  Put
away that weapon and apologize immediately!"

Scully looked at Mulder with an expression of pure rage; her face was
flushed, her jaw was set, and her eyes had turned icy blue.  Her aim
never wavered from the point just above the bridge of Peerson's nose.

"I'm completely in control, Mulder!  You're the one letting these people
snow you with their "gracious host" routine!  They know something
important, and I plan to find out what!"

Now was the time for the Ranking Officer finish.  "Agent Scully!  Put
down that weapon and go outside!  Now!  I'm the senior agent here, and
I'll handle this my way!  Go!" He pointed toward the club door with his
right hand, and slammed his left fist down onto the table, for

Dana looked at Peerson, then Mulder, then Peerson again, as if
undecided.  Suddenly she whipped her automatic out of sight, and pivoted
on her heel.  She stomped away noisily on her high heels, making a
tremendous show of anger in every motion, complete with slamming out the
club door so violently that Mulder wonder if Skinner would pay for the
property damages.

Mulder had turned back to Dawson and Adam to apologize for his partner's
behavior, a de rigueur part of the Good Cop / Bad Cop routine, when he
saw Peerson's face.  Dawson's face was white as a sheet, but Adam
Peerson .  .  .  was laughing.

"Oh, my!" Adam put a hand on his chest, as if he couldn't get enough air
to laugh any harder.  "Excellent performance, Agent Mulder!  My
compliments to both you and your partner; that was the best rendition of
Good Cop / Bad Cop that I've ever seen, and let me tell you that in my
time, I have seen more than a few!"

Blown.  No doubt about it, our performance is blown.

"Gee, thanks.  I think." Mulder could tell that the strange man's
reaction was genuine.  He was totally unshaken and supremely self
confident.  Mulder had to admit a grudging respect for anyone who could
stand up to Scully's wrath, even simulated wrath, and remain unshaken.
Not to mention ignoring a gun pointed at your face.

Adam got control of himself, and turned to Dawson, who still looked
stunned.  "Joe, I like these two!  We were all ready to feed them some
story about ritual feuds between extremist religious cults, but I think
they've already figured out way more than we'd thought!  For safety's
sake, I think we're going to have to tell them everything, and just
trust them.  After all .  .  ." Adam had to take a moment to get some
wind before he could continue.  ".  .  .  if you can't trust the F.B.I.,
then .  .  .  then .  .  ." he stopped laughing suddenly, and looked
straight at Mulder.

"Then who can you trust?!" Mulder and Adam spoke in unison.  Then they
both started laughing, as if at some grand joke that only they

Dawson watched the two of them uncomfortably for a few seconds, then
decided to lightened up.  After all, Adam had four thousand, nine
hundred and fifty years more experience judging character than he had.
It was obvious the Immortal had made up his mind; the Watchers might as
well follow suit.  Dawson smiled, then started laughing, too.

"Agent Mulder, call your partner back in and let's have some lunch."
suggested Dawson.



Chapter Six
And Methos Makes Four

In front of Joe's Place
Chicago, IL
12:48 p.m.

"Let's go back in, Scully."

Mulder had found Scully waiting patiently outside, positioned with
her back to the front wall of the club and with an eye on the door. 
She looked none to happy.

"They didn't fall for it?" she asked, with a fatalistic edge to her

"Nope.  What was your first clue?"

"Peerson's total detachment, I guess, or maybe his belly-laughing. 
But I thought Dawson might cave, anyway."

"No such luck, Peerson is too quick.  But, it looks like our
Thespian skills, charming personalities, and your good looks have
made some kind of impression.  We're invited for a serious pow-wow. 
They've both gone back in the kitchen to make lunch for us. 
Chicken salad, I think."

Mulder sighed and shook his head woefully.  This was certainly not
a normal case, not even by X-File standards.  Since when did the
witnesses make lunch for the interrogators?  He put his own back
against the wall, next to Scully, and leaned heavily as if
exhausted.  He squinted up through the mid-afternoon glare to
consider the Chicago skyline.

"I think they're talking it over back there; trying to decide 
exactly how much to let us in on.  Those guys have a lot of
secrets, and they're not sure they want to share." he said. 
"Scully, I think we've hit information pay dirt here; these people
know what's going on, and they seem to want to stop it just as
badly as we do."

"How do you know that, Mulder?  I've had a strange feeling about
this case all along, and the feeling's getting stronger.  This
could all be a setup to divert us from the truth."

"I have a gut reaction too, Scully.  I think they need us, and I
know we need whatever information they have.  I just hope we can
afford whatever price they're going to ask; I don't think they're
going to help us unconditionally.  But, for the time being at
least, they seem willing to play it buddy-buddy, so I think we
should play along.  Besides, I think Adam has the hots for you, and
I bet he'd tell you just about anything you wanted to hear."

"Well; they don't seem like Bad Guys, I guess."  She paused.  "And
Adam is kind of cute."

"What?!" grinned Mulder, "What did you say, Scully?"

"I said Adam's kind of cute." repeated Scully, then, in a sudden
change of mood, "Let's go in, I'm starved."

"Scully, I'm hurt!  You take that back! . . . "

Joe's Place
1:35 p.m.

Lunch had been cajun potato soup and grilled chicken salad. 
Scully, Dawson, and Adam were content with the cuisine; Mulder was
promising himself pizza, later.  Apparently a consensus had been
reached in the kitchen, because Dawson looked terribly nervous, but
was mostly letting Adam do all the talking.  Mulder was still going
with his policy of letting Dana steer their side of the
conversation; her intuition seemed to be outdoing his own on this
case.  The four of them started out with more chit-chat, but
sensing the anxiety of the two agents, Adam quickly started getting
down to business when he finished his meal.  He pushed the lunch
dishes away and cleared a space before himself on the table.

Methos considered the two federal agents solemnly until he had
their full attention.  He spoke slowly and gravely; it was clear
that he felt he was taking an enormous risk out of dire necessity. 

"I must ask that the two of you keep our secrets; it will be clear
in a few minutes what secrets I mean.  In return for a promise to
do so, our organization will cooperate fully and actively with you
to stop this bloodthirsty murderer.  I am going to reveal facts and
events to you that may tax your conscience, and place Joe and
myself in risk of arrest and confinement in a mental hospital.  On
the other hand, if we do not cooperate, dozens of additional people
may die.  Can the two of you stretch your professional ethics
enough to cooperate with us, if we cooperate with you?"

Mulder and Scully had already taxed their professional ethics many
times, and already knew secrets that required a great deal of
pragmatism to keep confidential.  In pursuit of Justice and The
Truth, sometimes laws had to be bent and lies had to be told.  The
thin line between the behavior of the Good Guys and that of the Bad
Guys was an edge they walked during every case.  Even though they
had already agreed to cooperate before Mulder returned with Scully,
Mulder looked again to Dana for the final word.  Dana took the
initiative and accepted Mulder's unspoken faith that she would do
the right thing.

"Yes, we'll agree to keep your secrets, or to stop and walk away if
you ask too much of us." said Dana.  "But in return, we want
answers to all our questions.  We must have the final say about
what we need to know.  Tracking a murderer is our profession, we
are the experts, and we must be the ones to decide what's important
to know, and what's not."

With a final glance at Dawson, Adam nodded.  He ran his hands
through his hair nervously as he collected his thoughts.  Where to

"From time to time, Dana, a person is born with traits radically
different from those of their parents, right?  That's simple

Where is this headed?, Dana wondered.  She answered slowly and

"Yes, we call that individual a genetic mutation.  Most mutations
are harmless and mostly go unnoticed or ignored.  Most of the truly
radical mutations are nonviable; missing body parts or organs are
the most common."

"Yes, well, apparently mutants are sometimes born with significant
advantages, too.  At least, mutation is the only scientific
explanation we have for my kind; there are some of us who think we
are descended from extraterrestrials, or gain our uniqueness from
metaphysical origins.  Myself, I prefer to think we're just a
normal part of nature; perfectly normal individuals in some more
cosmic view of nature."

Now Mulder and Scully were both having trouble choking down the
last of their lunch.  Mulder had heard "mutation", 
"extraterrestrial", and "metaphysical" spoken in the same breath;
he was beside himself.  Scully had heard the same thing, and
although she had a sinking sensation of having already bought into
this line of B.S., she didn't intend to go under without a fight.

"So Donnelly, Taylor, and D'Angelo were all "your kind" Adam? 
You're like them, medically perfect?"

"A little more than just medically perfect, Dr. Scully.  We're . .
." Adam looked very reluctant and at a loss for words.

After a significant pause and nothing but an expectant look from
Scully, Mulder decided to contribute a nudge. "You're what, Adam?"

Adam said it quickly, as if to get it out before changing his mind.
"We're Immortal."

Mulder looked to Scully in hopes of a quick telepathic chat, but
Scully's eyes never left Adam's face.  Adam's words insulted every
scientific tenant on which Dana had carefully constructed her life
and career.  She simply could not swallow this on blind faith.

"I'm afraid I'm going to need some heavy convincing to buy this
part of your story, Adam.  Just what do you mean, "immortal"?  You
mean you live longer than most people?" she asked.

"Yes, we live longer; a lot longer, some of us.  I anticipated your
desire for incontrovertible evidence, Doctor, and I thought this
might be enough."

With his right hand, Adam picked up a paring knife that he'd
carried in from the kitchen with their lunch.  He laid his left
hand, palm up, on a cloth towel that he'd also brought from the
kitchen.  "God, I hate this." he said.  Just as Dana realized what
he intended to do, Adam slashed deeply across the palm of his hand
with the knife.  A subdued grunt of pain escaped his lips.


Dana was on her feet instantly, and reaching for the knife as if to
ward off a second stroke.  Seeing the blood well up in Adam's hand
threw the doctor into overdrive.  Grabbing a cloth napkin from the
table with her right hand, she rounded the table and grabbed Adam's
hand with her left and tried to staunch the crimson flow from
Adam's palm.  Adam  caught Dana's right hand with his own, before
she could obscure the wound.  Adam spoke through gritted teeth.

"Don't, Dana.  Just watch."

For a moment, nothing happened except for the warm gush of blood
pouring out of Adam's palm, flowing over Dana's supporting left
hand, and finally dripping into and being caught by the towel on
the table top.  Over the course of about ten seconds, mesmerized,
Dana watched as the flow of blood diminished, then stopped
altogether.  The blood which had pooled in the open gash seemed to
be reabsorbed, and then arcs of energy, like electricity, played
over the splayed edges of the cut.  The edges of the severed muscle
and skin began to visibly pull together, beginning at the ends of
the cut.  Before her eyes, like time-lapse photography, Scully saw
the wound close to an angry red scar.  After another few seconds,
the scar shrank into the skin with a faint sound like static,
leaving the previously injured area with only a sunburned look. 
Adam released Dana's right hand at that point, and she began almost
absently to wipe away the remaining blood from Adam's palm and
fingers.  Before she was finished, the final redness faded way,
leaving his hand as whole as before.  When Adam flexed his fingers,
proving the slashed tendons had re-knitted, Dana released his hand,
and stood looking at the blood on her own.

"Well," she said after a moment of contemplation and a deep
cleansing breathe, "that was special."  As a medical doctor, Dana
felt shaken to her core.  What she had just seen was absolutely,
totally, completely impossible, and yet it had happened, literally,
right in front of her eyes, right in her own hands.

Mulder had risen to his feet, too, when Adam raised the knife, and
now stood behind Adam, looking on quietly.  Scully finally raised
her eyes to her partner's and did her imitation of Mr. Spock with
her eyebrow.  Mulder understood her message.  This had been no
trick; her expert eyes were sure of what they'd seen.  Mulder
nodded his understanding, and looked back to Adam.

"Do all wounds heal that quickly?" 

Mulder admired the calm in his own voice, which belied the emotion
surging through him.  This was hard, undeniable confirmation of his
longstanding faith in extreme possibilities.  No debate; no
question; both he and his partner had witnessed a "miracle".

"No.  The time varies depending on the site of the injury, the
severity and number of injuries, and the individual immortal. 
Fortunately, I happen to heal a little more quickly than most. 
Non-traumatic injury, like diseases and tooth decay, simply never
happen at all."

"Like hangnails?" said Mulder, trying to break Dana out her silent

"Like aging." said Scully, with a hint of wonder showing through
her facade of silent detachment.  She shifted her eyes back to
Adam.  "You don't age, do you?"

"No," admitted Adam, "we don't; at least, not noticeably."

Mulder thought back to Dana's observations about Adam's mannerisms,
and his own inability to place the man's ethnic origins.  A
question needed asking, and Dana would probably be too polite.

"How old are you, Adam?" asked Mulder.

"Well, I'm not sure.  I am the oldest Immortal we know of, and I
don't exactly remember my early life.  I only know that my memories
go back about five thousand years."  Adam looked apologetic, or
perhaps embarrassed, about his answer.

Now it was Mulder's turn to look stunned.  He paled, and went back
to his seat, where he sank heavily into his chair.  He watched
silently as Adam and Dana went into the kitchen to wash the
remaining blood from their hands.  He looked at Dawson, who was in
turn watching Mulder's face intently.

"I suppose you believe all this?" Mulder asked.  "You believe that 
man is older than the pyramids?  Three thousand years older than
Jesus Christ?"

"Yes.  Adam was one of the architects of the first pyramids, and he
claims to have met a man that might have been Jesus Christ.  I know
it's difficult, that it's utterly fantastic, but everything Adam's
told you is true.  Adam's an Immortal.  I'm not, obviously."  Joe
Dawson gestured at his prosthetic leg.  "I'm just a simple mortal
like yourself, caught up in incredible events with incredible
characters playing unbelievable roles."  Dawson attempted to read
Mulder's eyes.  "Do you believe what we're telling you, Agent
Mulder?  If you can get past this first part, the rest of our story
is easy.  If you can't, then nothing is going to make sense.  This
is all about them, the Immortals."

"Well," said Mulder, "I Want To Believe."

Joe's Place
2:45 p.m.

Fox Mulder's adrenaline levels were so high, he couldn't quite sort 
out whether he was more excited, shocked, pleased, or frightened. 
For the last hour he had listened to a story more incredible than
he had ever imagined.  Flying saucers, alien abduction, government
conspiracies, telepathy and psychokinesis he could accept.  Those
were ideas he had grappled with for years and come to think of as 
a real part of his universe.  Immortality, in the true, physical
sense, was not a concept he was prepared to accept easily; not to
mention the side issues.  He felt a need to keep verbalizing the
facts he was given, as if repetition would make everything easier
to swallow.

"OK.  So.  Immortals just appear, and no one knows how or why. 
They are unaware of their "difference" until they are first killed. 
They come back to life, and after that they heal quickly, never get
sick again, and never get any older.  They live among us mortals
trying not to be noticed, except a few show up as myths and
legends.  They can only be killed by decapitation, and when they
die in the presence of another Immortal, there's a massive
electrical disturbance wherein a "Quickening" occurs, and the
nearest Immortal gains the dead Immortal's knowledge and strength."

"Immortals are guided by a code of unknown origin, handed down from
teacher to student across all the ages of their existence.  This
code says that eventually there will be only one Immortal left, who
will inherit great power and rule the world; forbids Immortals from
killing one another except in one - on - one combat, and forbids
combat on Holy Ground.  Just like us lowly mortals, Immortals come
in two flavors: Good and Evil."  

"Good Immortals do not seek out other Immortals to kill; they only
defend themselves and their loved ones when they have to.  Good
Immortals honor the code, vis-a-vis single combat and Holy Ground. 
They want only to survive, and don't care about the part of the
legend that says the last Immortal will rule the world."

"Evil Immortals, on the other hand, actively seek to become that
last standing Immortal.  They seek out Immortals weaker than
themselves and kill them in any way possible, irrespective of the
code in some cases.  The more Immortals they kill, the stronger
they grow and the more Immortals they can then overpower."

Mulder tore his eyes away from Adam Peerson and looked at Joe

"And there's a secret society of mortals who are aware of all this. 
They have watched and recorded the activities of the Immortals for
centuries, and continue to do so today.  They try to keep tabs on
all the Immortals in existence, but never interfere in their little
duels to the death.  These people call themselves The Watchers, and
International Assets is just the most recent cover organization to
hide the existence of the Watchers.  In general, Immortals are
unaware of the Watchers, but there are a few exceptions.  Adam,
here, whose real name is Methos, by the way, is an exception, since
he is an Immortal.  In fact, I would guess Methos started The
Watchers as a means of self protection."

Methos averted his eyes at this last remark, which told Mulder that
his guess was close, if not dead on the mark.  Dawson looked at
Methos quizzically, but Mulder suspected Joe would never get a
completely straight answer.  It was obvious that Dawson was
uncomfortable with Methos, or Adam, being part of the Watchers, and
that these two had a lot of unsettled issues between them.

"Further, I suspect the Watchers get involved more than you've
admitted, Joe.  It looks to me like the Watchers would be sorely
tempted to step in any time an Evil Immortal starts upsetting the
apple cart.  Again, this looks like a service to Immortals built in
by the Watchers' founders."

Methos, again, said nothing and looked no one in the eye.  Dawson
looked like a man whose faith had been shaken, but was not
interrupting.  He, too, had noticed Methos' silence, and taken it
for assent. 

"And now, some Evil Immortal has gotten hold of at least some of
the Watcher's records.  We suspect he has the entire
Immortal/Watcher membership database, since a copy of the database
fell out of the Watcher's hands only a few years ago, and a backup
copy was never recovered.  Whoever has those records is tracking
down the Watchers one by one, torturing them for the latest info on
the location of their assigned Immortals, and then killing the
Immortal, too.  We don't know who is doing this, but we know for
sure that it's an Immortal."

Adam Peerson, or Methos, raised his eyes at this and regarded each
of the agents in turn.  He directed his question to Mulder.

"How do we know it's an Immortal?  Joe and I are just assuming that
only an Immortal would have a motive for this.  It could also be a
Hunter.  Hunters are a renegade group of former Watchers who think
the only good Immortal is a dead Immortal.  We've had more than one
run-in with them in the past."

Mulder shook his head.  "The Hunters might be involved, but an
Immortal has been the murderer in every case.  We talked to an
almost-witness who saw the electrical display you call "a
Quickening", and there was evidence at every Immortal's murder site
of similar disturbances."  Mulder smiled apologetically at Dawson
and Peerson.  "We kept that information suppressed, even internally
at the Bureau, as best we could.  Most of the local investigators
either didn't notice, anyway, or didn't connect what they saw with
the murder."

No matter how much Methos' five thousand year old instincts told
him that he could trust Mulder and Scully, secrecy is a hard habit
to break.  Dawson and Methos had their own version of a telepathic
conference by trying to read each other's face, and seemed to reach
a consensus.  Mulder had just shared a secret in return for
their's; there was no reason to hold anything back; they had
committed to go for broke.  Dawson spoke for them.

"And there have been fourteen deaths, Mulder, not just the six you
know about in Buffalo.  The first two were in Argentina three
months ago; then four in southern Texas, then two in Oklahoma, then
the six in Buffalo.  As you said, most local authorities don't know
what to make of murder by decapitation, and tried to blame it on
cults, motorcycle gangs, or drug dealers; they just forced the
facts to fit into whatever mold they were most comfortable with."

Mulder took the news of eight more deaths in stride; additional
data points were always helpful in serial crimes, and one had to
remain detached about the past victims and focus on preventing
additional deaths.  Scully, too, seemed to be back to her usual
logical and methodical self.  She was taking notes on her laptop
computer as she spoke.

"We'll needs names and dates, gentlemen, so we can have our bureau
researchers look into any connections between the earlier murders
and the Buffalo crimes.  Our first order of business hasn't
changed; we need to identify the person or persons committing these
murders, and then locate him."

"We've been working on that, Dana." said Methos, "We've had the
Watchers checking in with all our people in the field.  We're
trying to figure out who we've lost contact with; we think that
whatever Immortal has recently dropped out of sight is probably the
man we want.  Unfortunately, we have a lot of people to contact,
and we don't always know the location of every Immortal, every day,
anyway.  They tend to move around periodically, go on extended
trips, and even switch identities every few years.  When any of
that happens, we lose track of them for a while.  But by and large,
we know where almost every Immortal was in the last few weeks, so
we think we're narrowing it down every day.  Chances are good that
the person we want is an experienced immortal, since he's winning
all his confrontations.  I assume that you've seen no evidence that
the Immortals were killed in some other way than beheading?"

"That's correct, but how about if you give me the names, anyway. 
Better safe than sorry.  Danny, our colleague back at the Academy,
can sometimes make amazing leaps of intuition when given enough
data to work with."

Methos listed the eight additional names with the exact dates of
their deaths.  Scully added the information to her field report

"I assume four of these names are cover identities?" asked Scully. 

With a nod, Methos produced a floppy disk from his shirt pocket. 
He stared at the small black rectangle of plastic for a moment,
before extending it to Scully.

"Here is the real background information on all seven Immortals,
but I must ask that this information stay with you and Mulder. 
It's unlikely anyone could actually verify these records and
uncover the Immortal masquerade, but we'd prefer to take no

Scully nodded, accepted the disk, and inserted it into her laptop. 
In a couple of minutes, she was scrolling through a massive text
file of background on the seven victims.  Mulder had pulled his
chair close to hers and was looking over her shoulder.  He whistled

"Bizarre.  To see the history of a single individual go back three
centuries or more." He took a deep breath.  "This is going to take
some getting used to."

Joe's Place
11:15 p.m.

The four newfound conspirators had talked incessantly all evening. 
When Joe needed to open the club at 6 p.m., Methos, Mulder, and
Scully had moved into the cramped quarters of Joe's office. 
Questions were asked and answered on both sides.  Mulder and Scully
had become fully familiar with the details of immortality and the
Watchers; Methos listened as the agents called into play the
resources of the F.B.I. to locate the Immortals of which the
Watchers had lost track.   He listened to them sift through the
details of airline passenger lists and train schedules in an effort
to connect the locations of the various murders.  

Somewhere in the middle of their work, they had eaten again.  This

time Mulder was mollified, since the standard evening fair at Joe's
place was barbecue ribs with all the trimmings.  The scent of
simmering barbecue had even lured Scully to skip her usual health-
conscious fare and dig into red meat and a baked potato.  They all
ended up having seconds.

Finally, as evening became night, and then threatened to become
morning again, the flood of new ideas ebbed.  The bag of standard
investigative tricks was emptied.  Mutual glances around the office
made them all realize that they'd done all they could, for today at
least.  It was time to take a break, and let the researchers and
other field agents, both F.B.I. and Watchers, do their jobs and
file their reports.  They were all on their last legs, but to save
the male egos, Dana cried "uncle" first.

"Well, I'm sure all you macho men will want to stay up all night
drinking beer, chasing women, and listening to blues, but I'm a
daylight person myself, and I need some sleep.  Are you coming with
me Mulder, or can you make your own arrangements to get home?"

It sounded like Scully was trying to get rid him, but since field
trips with Scully were about the only time Mulder could get a good
night's sleep, he had no real interest in "partying with the boys",
despite the party atmosphere of the club; out front, the music and
nose gave no hint of ever calming down again.  He reflected that
Scully words were probably just an offer of acceptance if he wanted
to stay out, not a prompt to do so.  Besides, he and Scully did
their best thinking over breakfast.

"Scully, I'm with you.  Gentleman, I'm turning in also.  We've all
traded phone numbers, so we can stay in contact, but until
something turns up, I don't see any reason to continue this here at
the club tomorrow.  Let's all take a break while other people do
our leg work, agreed?"

There was no dissent, and with an exchange of handshakes the agents
departed for the local Motel Eight.  FBI accommodations were always
First Class.

Motel Eight
Rooms 3 & 4
Chicago, IL
12:05 a.m.


>From the sound of Dana's voice drifting in from the adjoining room,
Mulder could tell she was on the verge of dropping off to sleep. 
His own eyes were getting pretty heavy too, come to think of it.

"Yes, Scully?"

"Can we really take tomorrow off?  There's really nothing more to
do until someone calls?"

Mulder considered.  He had been planned to go over all their facts
a few times tomorrow, but he could basically do that in his head if
need be.  Scully sounded more than just physically tired.

"Absolutely.  Going to sleep in, then?"

"I think so.  I feel like I could sleep a week."

After a few minutes, another thought nagged Mulder back to

"Scully?  Are you still awake?"

"Yes, Mulder.  What is it?"

"Are we really doing the right thing?  Believing these people,
trusting them, chasing an Immortal sword-swinging murderer?  You
seem to be going along with all this way too easy; you're still
gonna rein me in at some point, right?"

"Mulder, I feel so nuts about this case that maybe you'll have to
reign me in.  Half the time I want to run screaming back to
Washington and to my nice cozy apartment; the other half of the
time I want to knock Adam down and have sex with him on the spot."

Mulder was suddenly wide awake.  He asked the next question in as
neutral a tone of voice as he could manage.

"You're kidding, right, Scully?"

"Gotcha, Mulder!" The laughter in her voice was obvious.

Sigh.  "Goodnight, Scully."

"Goodnight, Mulder."


Chapter Seven
Did I Step On Your Toes?

Motel Eight
Rooms Three & Four
Chicago, IL
7:15 a.m.

Mulder had slept incredibly late, for Mulder.  As he sat up in bed and
rubbed the sleep from his eyes, he listened for his partner in the next
room.  Gingerly, he padded to the connecting door in bare feet, tee
shirt, and boxers.  He eased the door open another few inches to check
on Scully.  Muldere saw an unruly mass of red hair peaking out from
under the covers, and heard the soft, regular, breathing of her sleep.
He considered the picture a minute longer than he needed to, but he
doubted if Scully would care.  He knew she sneaked into his room
whenever he talked in his sleep, just to make sure he was OK.  In this
case, Scully was definitely OK, but Mulder liked the sight and sound, so
he lingered anyway.  Eventually, he quietly pulled the door into a fully
closed position and considered how to start the day.  How about a run?

In about five minutes, Mulder had changed to sweat pants and shirt (it
was a cool morning) and laced his feet into a new pair of Nikes.  He had
ruined his old pair on their last case, chasing a teenaged mugger across
an abandoned lot where his shoes had gotten covered with a noxious
mixture of motor oil, garbage, and decaying vegetable matter.  His
initial reaction was to try cleaning them, since they had a certain
sentimental value, but Scully had made him throw them away.

He wrote Scully a note, "Running", and left it on the nightstand where
she'd know to look for it.  He exited the room quietly, locked the door
behind him, and checked the weather.  It was clear, cool, and breezy.
Checking his watch, he decided that about an hour's run would be enough
to get his blood pumping, and set off.


Motel Eight
Room 3
8:22 a.m.

When Mulder returned from his run, Scully was in the shower next door.
She had apparently awoke in a good mood, too, because Mulder could
faintly hear her singing.  He couldn't make out the words, but he knew
from experience it would be a Sea Chantey of some sort, one of many
taught to her by her father.  Scully's father had been a career Navy
man, a Captain, who she called "Ahab", after the captain character in
the Moby Dick novel.  Not for the first time, Mulder envied Scully's
family life; his own had been such a disaster.  The Scullys seemed so
close and supportive, completely unlike his own father and mother.

Skinning out of his damp sweats, Mulder started his own shower.  He
grinned to himself at the thought that taking a shower with Scully was
one of his favorite pastimes, he just wished she'd consent to share the
same bathroom; after all, he always offered.


Motel Eight
Room 4
8:22 a.m.

Scully heard Mulder coming in from his run, just as she started her
shower.  She reflected that she'd have to thank him for his note.  He
was actually getting rather considerate lately about keeping her
informed of his whereabouts.  Of course, maybe one of the Riot Acts
she'd read him over the last couple of years, delivered every time he
ran off on some crazy mission alone, had something to do with that.  At
least she could hope.  Of course it seemed like there were fewer crazy
missions these days.  Either she was having a good influence on him, or
she was being corrupted by him into seeing less craziness in his

As she turned on the water, she smiled at the thought that Mulder would
be disappointed at her timing.  He was certain to take his own shower
after running, and whenever he did that he made it a point to invite her
to share with him.  Her thoughts skipped past how she might respond if
she thought the invitation was serious, but the memory of his childish
leer, whenever he flirted with her, lifted her spirits.  As she washed
her hair, she began singing a Sea Chantey of her father's.  Faintly, she
was aware of the shower coming on in Mulder's room; in a sense, she
reflected, they were taking a shower together.

"Scully!  Are you there?" Her partner's voice could just barely be heard
through the thin motel walls and the double hiss of showers.

"Yes, Mulder!  What is it?" she shouted back.

"Wouldn't it be more politically correct if we contributed to the Water
Conservation effort, and "pooled our resources", so to speak?  You know,
Shower With A Friend?  Partners That Spray Together, Stay Together?  You
Wash My Back, And I'll Wash Yours?"

Dana laughed; he hadn't missed his chance, after all.  She tried to
think about it, but the idea was too scary; those were dark, uncharted,
unexplored waters 'way too near the precipice.  Like on the old maps:
Here There Be Monsters.

"Thanks, anyway, Mulder, but I'm sure it would turn out less efficient
in the long run!" she shouted back.

"OK.  Whatever, Scully." came the faint reply.


8:49 a.m.

 "Mulder, are you decent?"

"Nope.  Come on in, Scully."

Dana opened the connecting door and walked into Fox's room in her terry
robe, still rubbing her hair with a towel.  Mulder could smell the
strawberry shampoo, made more potent by the high humidity from the
stream escaping both bathrooms.  Fox was already dressed in a sweatshirt
and jeans, and was sitting on the bed reading a magazine that he put
away as Scully entered the room.

"Latest issue of Celebrity Skin, Mulder?"

Fox colored slightly.  He wasn't sure if he was more embarrassed by
being "caught", or the fact that she automatically knew what he was

"No, a scientific journal," he lied, ""Paranormal Psychology Today".
Very interesting."

One good thing about Mulder was that he lied to her only when he knew
there was no chance she'd believe it; it was the Mulder version of
honesty.  Dana walked over to Fox's bedside table, opened the drawer,
and retrieved the magazine.  She flipped it open to the centerfold and
turned the magazine sideways for a better view.

"Well, I can see why this would encourage your belief in anti-gravity,
Mulder, or maybe you think she uses telekinesis?  She's definitely your
kind of woman, but isn't she married to a Rock Star now?  And isn't she
pregnant?  She's probably not interested in psychologists these days."
She gave Fox her best scornful look, and waited for the comeback.

"Actually, Scully, I don't know who you're talking about.  I just read
it for the articles.  You know.  Interviews.  Recipes.  Really!"

"Uh, Huh.  Well, anyway, how did you sleep?  Were you up early?" She
returned Fox's magazine to the drawer and forgot it.  Sort of.

"Actually, I slept until about seven o'clock, Scully.  I must have
needed some beauty sleep."

"Mulder, can I ask you something personal?" She looked concerned.

"Sure, Scully.  I keep no secrets from you, there's just stuff I don't
admit out loud for fear of retaliation."

"Seriously, Mulder.  I've noticed something about you that puzzles me,
and I want to understand it.  Is that OK?"

"Shucks, Scully.  I was serious.  Anything you want to know, ask."

"OK.  Well, I was wondering about your sleeping habits.  When we're
working in D.C.  you never seem to sleep, and when you do, its only cat
naps.  But when we travel together, you usually sleep like a baby.  You
sleep in airport waiting rooms, airplane seats, and straight backed
chairs.  You still wake up at the slightest sound, but you seem to sleep
a lot.  How come, Mulder?  Which picture is the real you: insomniac or
closet Rip Van Winkle?"

Fox grinned, and considered his answer.  He knew that a lie would never
get past Dana, and he had agreed to let her ask.  Oh, well.

"Both pictures are the real me, Scully.  In D.C., and most other places,
I exhibit the typical insomniac's symptoms: I can't stop thinking, I
can't shut out the problems of the day, I can't relax enough to let the
sleep come.  And you know that when I do sleep, sometimes I have

Mulder seemed to reflect a moment.  Clearly, this was a question he'd
wondered about himself.

"On the road, I don't have that problem as much.  Instead of two or
three hours sleep, I manage to get in six or eight.  I guess that's why
I take us on so many of these field trips.  It's how I catch up on my

Fox smiled to make his words a joke, and hoped he'd said enough to get
past Dana's curiosity.  Unfortunately, though, it wasn't going to work.

"So what's the difference, Mulder?  Why can you sleep on stakeouts and
in Motel Eights, but not at home?  I've always been curious about why we
work late nights in D.C., but seem to make the most progress over
breakfast when we're on the road.  Is it just the change in scenery, or

Fox sighed.  She was determined to drag this out of him, and he
suspected she knew the real answer, anyway.  One of these days, after
they were through with the X-Files, they were going to have a long

"The difference, Scully, is that in D.C.  I eat alone, I watch T.V.
alone, and I sleep alone.  On a stakeout or on the road, there's someone
else nearby.  I think the little sounds and motions of another human
being, someone I can trust, put me at ease; sometimes just knowing
someone's nearby is enough.  I guess that when I'm alone, my
subconscious knows there's nobody to protect me from the bogeyman, so it
won't let me sleep.  Maybe it's a holdover from childhood; Samantha and
I shared a room for a long time, and even after she moved out, I could
always hear her next door."

Dana understood that Fox's frequently lame attempts at humor was his
protection against taking himself too seriously.  She also knew exactly
how many people Fox trusted, and exactly what his words really meant.
His explanation said a lot.

She flashed back to the last time Fox had crashed on her sofa and spent
the night.  Dana had been having the shakes over the Donnie Pfaster
case; Fox had told her to leave the bedroom door ajar.  She had thought
that was supposed to be for her own sense of security, now she knew it
had made Fox feel more secure, too.

And they always left the door between their rooms ajar, whenever
possible, when they traveled together.  And all those times she'd awoke
to find Mulder asleep in a chair near her bed; even that now made
sense.  They had something else in common; she remembered all the times
she'd been comforted, when awaking in the night, by hearing her
partner's soft breathing nearby.  She thought of all the times they'd
automatically found excuses to sleep in the same room instead of let so
much as a thin motel wall separate them.

But if she openly admitted how much she understood, they'd be off into
that uncharted territory they had silently agreed not to enter.  Better
to introduce some humor of her own than to explore Fox's admissions too

"That's terrible, Mulder.  You should get a dog for your apartment.
Pomeranians are pretty nice companions."

Fox grimaced, then smiled, then smirked.  "Pomeranians aren't "dogs",
Scully.  Boxers, Collies, Labradors are dogs; Pomeranians are rodents.
And remember the fish?  I can't even keep fish alive, so how could I
care for a dog?  What I need is a roommate interested in genetic
mutations, alien abductions, and paranormal phenomenon.  Any ideas?"

Dana caught Fox's not - so - subtle meaning, but had an answer ready.

"How about Frohike, Mulder?  I'm sure the two of you would have some
really interesting evenings together.  It might even grow into something

Fox laughed, and Dana smirked.  She was getting to like the power she
had over Fox Mulder.

"I'll be ready for breakfast in about twenty minutes, Mulder.  What's
our game plan?  Are we staying here, or going back to D.C., Buffalo, or

"I think it might be better to stay here a couple of days, until we see
what develops from the Watchers' information.  I think a break would be
good for us; we deserve some "down time".  Maybe we should see what the
tourists do in Chicago?  What do you think?"

"Well, I've got a couple of ideas; I'll need to make some calls.  How
about if you find us a place for breakfast from that restaurant guide on
the nightstand, while I get dressed.  I'm hungry!"

"Your wish is my command, Scully!"


The HomeTown Buffet
9:45 a.m.

With his unerring knack for locating breakfast buffets, Mulder had again
found a winner.  The restaurant had cafeteria-style seating and the
biggest assortment of breakfast foods that either agent could remember
seeing.  Mulder had piled his plate high with bacon, sausage, ham, hash
brown potatoes, scrambled eggs with cheese, and biscuits.  Scully had
found bagels, cream cheese, fruit, yogurt, and hot oatmeal.  Drinks were
serve-yourself, so the agents had helped themselves to orange juice,
milk (skim, for Scully), and coffee.  And best yet, the quality seemed
to match the quantities; everything was fresh, hot (or cold), and

"Scully, can you cook?"

"You know I can cook, Mulder.  I've fixed breakfast, and even dinner,
for you at my place."

"I don't mean all that healthy stuff you insist on eating.  I mean real
cooking, like this." He indicated the partially depleted pile of food on
his plate.  "If I ever met a woman who could cook like this, I'd have to
seriously consider marriage."

"Mulder, you're getting too easy in your twilight years.  I could manage
all this stuff, but that kind of eating is going to earn you an early
grave.  I can hear your arteries hardening from way over on this side of
the table!  You're no kid anymore, you know; you're gonna have to start
watching your diet."

"Doctor Scully; considering the line of work which I pursue, do you
honestly think I'm going to die of cholesterol poisoning?  It's far more
likely that a mutant will rip my face off, or an extraterrestrial virus
will wither me into a prune.  And if that's the way I'm fated to go, I
plan to go happy.  And happiness is a big breakfast, exciting work, and
excellent company."

"So, by your own definition, you're an outstanding example of "a happy
man", Mulder?  You sure had me fooled."

"Scully, in between attacks of stark fear and overwhelming depression,
I'm the happiest guy I know.  I get to eat on the FBI's nickel, travel
the world chasing ghost stories, and I have you.  For company.  As my
partner, I mean.  What else could a man want?"

"That blond bimbo from Celebrity Skin, maybe?"

"Nah, Scully.  That's just a case of admiring the scenery along the
highway of life, but you're the one riding along beside me.  That woman
in the magazine couldn't hold a candle to you; I wouldn't even stop to
give her a lift."

Mulder's usual leer that accompanied compliments to Scully was missing;
he seemed completely sincere.  Despite herself, Dana could feel a blush
slowly creeping up her neck.  One of the many problems with light skin
was the difficulty in hiding her embarrassment.

"Eat, Mulder.  The hot air from your side of the table is drying out my


Fred Astaire Dance Studio
Chicago, IL
11:30 a.m.

Fox Mulder paused on the sidewalk outside the studio and looked up at
the Fred & Ginger logo over the door.  He felt underdressed without his
automatic under his arm.  After consulting with Scully, they had locked
their weapons in the special lock-box in the trunk of the bureau car.  A
pang of anxiety seized him, and without thinking he opened his mouth and
starting trying to talk himself out of this situation.

"Scully, are you sure this is a good idea?  Shouldn't we take all our
lessons in the same place?"

"That's why I picked a Fred Astaire studio, Mulder.  This is a franchise
chain that has a standardized curriculum; they told me that at any
studio the same steps would have the same names, and be taught the same
way.  So we can work in a lesson wherever we find a Fred Astaire's,
whenever we find the time." Dana gave Fox her sternest glare.  "You're
not trying to back out on me, are you?"

Fox backpedaled quickly.  "No, no!  I agreed to this.  I guess I'm just
wondering how Skinner will react if he finds out how we're spending the
bureau's time, that's all."

"When I talked to Skinner, he actually suggested we stay over a couple
of days, Mulder.  It costs the bureau more to fly us around than it does
to cover our motel bills for a couple of extra nights.  Besides, if
you're that conscientious about it, we can always doc ourselves for a
couple of personal hours."

Fox considered the idea of penalizing himself for spending personal time
with Scully, and suddenly saw the humor in it.  After all the extra
hours and personal tragedy the bureau had cost them over the years, they
could damn well foot the bill for a few authorized hours of R&R!

"You're right, Scully.  We're not cheating anybody." He held up his
right hand as if taking a pledge.  "I promise!  No more agonizing, we're
here to have fun.  So let's do this."

With an exaggerated flourish, he opened the door, bowed slightly, and
indicated that Dana should go first.  "After you, m'lady!"

Mulder expected someone akin to a used-care salesman to swoop down on
them as soon as they entered, but instead, the people inside reacted
very casually.  The small lobby area opened onto a dance floor about
fifty feet square, where two couples were apparently already taking
lessons.  As each couple danced, an instructor tagged along beside,
quietly giving directions and encouragement.  Instead of high pressure,
it all looked very laid back.

The man at the lobby desk was on the phone, and from the sound of it,
was setting up an appointment for someone named "Ruth".  He looked up at
their entrance, smiled, and gestured with his free hand for them to
approach the desk.  As Fox and Dana strolled over, one of the gentlemen
taking a lesson looked over from the dance floor, smiled, and gave a
small wave.  Dana waved back; Fox just smiled.

The receptionist finished his call and turned his attention to the two
agents.  Dana stepped up to the desk, as Fox moved toward the dance
floor for a better view.  As Dana talked, Fox listened with half an ear,
and watched the couples on the floor.

"Hello!  Do you have an appointment?"

"Yes, I called earlier.  I'm Dana Scully, and this is Fox Mulder.  We're
here to .  .  ."

Fox noticed some people gathered around some tables at the side of the
dance floor.  They were probably waiting for lessons or chatting after
finishing their lessons.  There were five people in two groups seated at
tables, while two men stood talking by the coffee machine.  Ages seemed
to range from about twenty-five to sixty-five.  Fox tried to pick out
the instructors.  Probably that guy scribbling in a notebook as he
talked with a couple at his table, but the male & female pair at the
second table might be a couple, or an instructor and student; he
couldn't tell, there was no notebook in sight.  One of the standing men
held a matching notebook, Fox thought probably he was an instructor; the
other man gave no clues.

Dana explained their situation to the receptionist, who then nodded and
produced a folder labeled "Scully/Mulder".  Apparently, dropping in for
only one of two lessons was commonplace, because it drew no questions or
comments.  The receptionist, it turned out, was the franchise owner.

"I'll have an instructor come out in a moment." he said.  "Make
yourselves comfortable, meanwhile.  The coat room is through there," he
gestured to a door to the right side of the front desk, "as are the
washrooms.  Help yourself to coffee or a soda, on the house.  If you'll
excuse me, I'll be right back with your instructor." The owner
disappeared into the back.

As they hung up their trench coats, Fox remarked "It sure seems like a
friendly place, Scully."

"Well, the core of their business is personal relations, Mulder, so you
can always expect a comfortable atmosphere at a dance studio.  This all
reminds me a great deal of the place I went to in Maryland."

"Are you a ringer, Scully?  You've had lessons before?"

"A few, Mulder.  If you come from a large Irish Catholic family, you go
to a lot of wedding receptions and big birthday parties.  Dancing, a
little, is a survival skill in the Scully family.  But don't worry, I'm
no Ginger Rogers or anything."

Fox wondered if he'd just experienced the emotion called "performance
anxiety", but he shrugged it off quickly.  He was here with Dana, so how
bad could it be?  Besides, he had a surprise for her, hopefully.

Dana studied Fox's face anxiously.  Should she have kept the news of her
prior experience to herself?  Fox had seemed to tense up for a moment,
but now looked like his usual self again.  She desperately wanted this
to go well; the two of them deserved some fun, dammit!

"Hi folks, I'm Michelle!  I'll be your instructor; you must be Dana and

"Mulder.  Everybody just calls me Mulder, please."

Fox responded automatically, as he turned around to put a face with the
cheerful voice.  It was a very pretty face; pretty, tall, brunette, and
slender described their instructor quite well.  This experience was
looking up, minute by minute!

Dana saw Fox's reaction to their instructor, and breathed a silent sigh
of relief.  She could stop worrying about Fox, now.  He had already
decided that he was having a good time.  She was so relieved, in fact,
that she didn't bother to have her usual stab of aggravation (jealousy,
Dana?) at Fox's too obvious reaction to an attractive woman.  After all,
just this morning he had turned down that bimbo beach bunny, in the
magazine, in favor of Dana Scully.  She supposed she could tolerate some
male preening, if it meant Fox was having a good time.

"OK, "Mulder" it is!  And may I call you "Dana"?" she said, looked at
Dana.  Getting a nod, she got down to business.  "Fine, then.  Mulder,
Dana: Davis filled me in on your situation, so I guess we can dispense
with the studio tour?" At their dual nods, Michelle continued.  "Then
why don't we sit down and begin a plan for what you want to accomplish?
Let's find a table out here."

The agents followed Michelle to a table and settled into seats, Dana
automatically choosing a seat to Fox's left.  Michelle opened their
folder, took pen in hand, and prepared to take notes.

"So, what are your goals?  What do you want to accomplish, as far as
dancing goes?"

Dana glanced at Mulder, then spoke first.

"We have a social event coming up in about six weeks, a dance.  We'll be
going together, and we'd like to join in and have fun instead of feeling
like wallflowers.  We've decided to go for broke and study up for it.
Mulder and I work together and rarely get a chance to socialize, so this
is something of a lark for us.  Is that about right, Mulder?"

"Pretty much.  We want to look good together, and I want to make all the
guys at the office jealous over my partner." Fox was smiling because he
knew Michelle would use her own connotation for "partner".  Dana raised
both eyebrows, but said nothing.

"Has either of you had any dancing experience before?"

"I took a few lessons when I was a teenager," confessed Dana, "but I get
so few chances to dance these days that I've probably forgotten whatever
I once knew."

"And I learned a little Waltz and Foxtrot at college, just enough to get
through the social formalities.  Like Dana, I haven't had any practice
for years, though." Fox dropped his bombshell without a glance at Dana,
who was now giving him an exasperated look for having made her squirm
over her own background.

"Well, then, let's start out with seeing what the two of you remember.
There's a Fox Trot playing right now, let's start with that and see what
you remember."

The trio moved out onto the floor together, and Michelle motioned them

"Get into dance position and let's see how it looks." she directed.

Fox felt a moment of panic, and took a deep breath.  This was Scully,
his partner, his best friend.  This was just a social exercise, he told
himself, like shaking hands or giving her a hug when she was upset.  No
need to get tense, she was used to dancing, this was no big deal for
her, so it should be no big deal for him.  Calm.  Relaxed.  Cool.  Think
it over and remember how this goes.  It's only been ten years since you
learned this stuff.  No problem, he assured himself.  But this is Dana!

Dana was fighting to keep her breathing normal.  This was it, Fox is
going to put his arms around me!  Stupid!  she thought, he's just going
through with this because he wants to show up those bozos at the bureau
that call him "Spooky" behind his back.  He just thinks of me as a
friend, this is no big deal for him, so it's got to be no big deal for
me.  But God, it's Fox!

They turned to face each other.  Fox, of course, could remember every
word of his Oxford dance instructor's directions for assuming a dance
position.  He offered his open arms, and Dana stepped into him as if she
did it every day.  Fox's right hand found its position on her left
shoulder blade, elbow raised to be level with his hand.  Dana draped her
left arm over his right and gently grasped his arm in the notch of his
biceps.  Fox's left hand caught Dana's right and positioned it slightly
extended to his left, level with Dana's face, and midway between their
bodies.  He looked over Dana's right shoulder, slightly upward, and
froze in position.

For her part, Dana just stepped close to Fox, raised her arms to
shoulder height, and waited.  As Fox positioned his arms, she fit her
own to him and shifted even closer until they were lightly touching,
with her body slightly offset to her left from his.  Considering the
difference in their heights, it felt like a remarkably good fit.  Of
course, she couldn't look over his right shoulder as she was supposed to
do, so she just looked into his right chest, instead, and froze.

"Very nice!" said Michelle.  She stepped closer to the pair and made
some small adjustments in their stance to help with the difference in
height, and then stepped back with a pleased look.  "It looks to me like
you both remember more than you claimed!  We call the way partners fit
together their "frame", and you two have a very nice, firm frame.  Feel
good to you?  Great!  So .  .  .  Let's see your Fox Trot!"

Fox played his old instructor's words back about the Fox Trot "Basic
step" for a moment, and silently counted "Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick; Left
forward, Right forward, Left side, Right together." in time to the
music.  At the next correct beat, he stepped forward with his left
foot.  Miraculously, it seemed, Dana moved at the same time, and they
were dancing!

Dana muttered quietly into Fox's shoulder, "Mulder, you've been holding
out on me!", as they glided effortlessly down the floor.  Fox's arms
were so steady that she'd had no trouble feeling his motion or
direction; she'd managed to follow without a bauble!

As they progressed down the side of the floor, Mulder gently guided
their path around the other couples.  When the end of the room
approached he had a moment of anxiety until he remembered the "Left
Turn".  As they reached the edge of the floor, he stepped "Left forward,
right together, right back, left back & turn left, right together" as he
mentally repeated the words.  Again, by continuing miracle, they had
made a neat 90-degree left turn, and were progressing down the second
edge of the floor.  Piece of cake!

Michelle watched her newest couple negotiate the turn and continue down
the floor, as she trailed along to the inside.  She grinned.  It was
always neat to watch two people discover they could dance together, and
these two were obviously pleased with themselves.  The woman was flushed
with the accomplishment, and the man was grinning like he'd just "got
lucky".  Maybe he had; she was dying to know what was up with these
two.  They didn't act like lovers; they'd been very formal and almost
stiff until they'd started to dance.  They wore no wedding rings, but
they acted like they'd been together forever.  Michelle bet herself that
there was an interesting story about these two.  She wondered if she'd
have time to dig it out of them.

"OK, guys, enough!  "

They stopped, but reluctantly, and stepped apart as they turned to

"So!" said Michelle, "That seemed to go well.  Are you sure you haven't
danced together before?" She watched the pair make eye contact, as if
conferring, and then look back at her and shake their heads.  They both
looked flustered.  "Well, you seem to have a lot of trust in each other,
and that's a big step toward looking good on the floor.  And you both
remembered the Basic and Left Ad-lib Turn.  What other Fox Trot steps do
you know."

Since Dana and Fox had learned what they knew of dancing from very
different sources, they had no common language to describe what they
knew.  Dana had taken lessons as a child, but had mostly learned by
dancing with her father, and had no names for any of the steps he had
taught her.  Fox had taken a couple of group classes at Oxford, a
required course for all graduating gentlemen, and English names for Fox
trot steps diverged from the American radically after getting past Basic
and Left Turn.  In about fifteen minutes, with Michelle's coaching and
each of her students pantomiming steps, they figured out that Fox and
Dana also had the Box step and Underarm Turn in common.  Dana knew some
additional steps, but Fox had exhausted his repertoire.

"Fine," decided Michelle, "You've got enough to dance the Fox Trot.  If
we add the Closed Turning Basic, which just combines elements from what
you already know, you'll have all the tools you need to look good and
wow 'em at that dance.  Now, what steps do you know in Waltz?"

After more pantomime and discussion, it turned out Fox knew just about
as much Waltz as Fox Trot.  "Sorry, Scully." He looked truly

"Don't be sorry, Mulder!  You've already impressed me; I thought you
only knew how to "hug and sway", isn't that what you told me?" She gave
him a suspicious look, arms folded across her chest and forehead
furrowed.  Why had he tried to give the impression he didn't know
anything about dancing?

"I didn't actually say that, Scully; I said I couldn't "Really Dance".
We've already hit my limits in .  .  ." he glanced at his watch,
"Twenty-five minutes.  That's it, Scully.  That's all they gave us at
Oxford before they sent us out into the cold, hard, world.  A dancer,
I'm not." But I can see the profession has its compensations, he
thought, remembering the feeling of Dana Scully in his arms.  He'd held
her before, of course, but only when she was sick, or dying, or freezing
cold.  This was altogether different!

Before Michelle could leap in to boaster his ego, Dana took the plunge.
She had expected to end up dragging Fox through this, kicking and
screaming.  As usual, he had surprised her by exceeding her

"Stop apologizing, Mulder.  You have the best lead I've ever felt.  I
think that was the easiest and most comfortable Fox Trot I've ever
done.  And I bet you're just as good at Waltz; let's give it a try!"

"OK, Scully.  It's your toes."

Michelle heard her cue and smiled; the day has brightened considerably
in the last half hour.  Usually, a new couple meant hand-holding and a
lot of dreary stumbling and fumbling, but now and then a couple walked
in that was fun to teach right from the start; this was gonna be one of
those.  "Sounds like a winning idea to me!  I'll switch the music to
Waltz.  And Fox, I mean, Mulder, you're doing great!  This is gonna be
so much fun!  You two are natural partners!"

Fox muttered low enough that only Dana could hear him.  "I could have
told her that!"


Fred Astaire's
12:30 p.m.

Waltz was not quite as simple as Fox Trot, but it went reasonably well.
Michelle had to show Mulder the "rise and fall" action that made Waltz
look so distinctive.  Mulder then discovered that balancing on one's
toes didn't come naturally; it would require some practice.

But in their first hour, the Dancing Duo (a "Mulderism" that sprang up
around the forty-five minute mark) had established exactly where they
stood.  Waltz and Fox Trot were in fine shape for basic dancing, thanks
to their previous experience.  They only needed to learn a couple of
additional steps, according to Michelle, to have a complete Fox Trot
social repertoire.  And with his eidetic memory, Fox only needed to be
told a step's name, and shown it slowly, and he could parrot back every
direction that Michelle gave.  But Fox was quickly reminded that knowing
where one should step, and stepping exactly there, were two entirely
different things:


"Sorry, Scully!"

"I'm fine, Mulder.  I wasn't using the top of my foot, anyway." .  .  .


"Sorry, Mulder!"

"'s OK, Scully.  I don't think the ankle's broken, it's just had its ego

Despite a few false steps, an aching toe and a battered ankle, the
partners had fun.  There was no desperation, no danger, no conspiracy.
No one was going to drop in unexpectedly and draw asinine conclusions
about their relationship, no reports needed to be filed.  No one was
depending on their presence somewhere else.  There was only music,
activity, laughter, and the two of them working together as usual,
except with a nosey chaperon.

"Are you two, ah, married?"

That got one grimace and one leer.  "Nope."


That earned one blush and one grin.  "Nope."

"You just work together?"

Two small smiles.  "Yep."

"So, what do you do?"

Two big smiles and a silent consult.  "We're FBI agents."

"Oh." Fine!  Don't tell me, then!

 Eventually all good things end, and their hour of private instruction
ended much too quickly for either of them.  Flushed and charged with
adrenaline, they reluctantly left the floor to sit and review the lesson
with Michelle.

"So, what did you think of your first lesson?  Did you feel it was time
well spent, and did you have fun?"

Michelle didn't need to read the questions off the New Student
Enrollment form, she knew them by heart.  But this was one case where
she was pretty sure she knew how the hour had been received.  These two
had come in stiff and reserved; they were finishing relaxed and

There was laughter in Fox's voice.  "Michelle, I don't remember ever
having this much fun with two women before, at least not at the same
time.  Ummmpphh!" Fox's exclamation was from Dana's elbow striking his
ribs; not hard enough to injure, but firm enough to get his attention.

"Play nice, Mulder!" but she was obviously pleased, too.  She'd seen a
whole new side of her partner in the last hour, one that she'd never
suspected.  Fox was a natural dancer and, with a little work, would
probably end up much better than herself.  Of course, if she worked at
it too .  .  .  Dana's line of thought was interrupted by yet another

"Well, " said Fox, holding his sore ribs as if they were broken, "When
can we come back tomorrow?  Maybe about the same time?  And could we try
the Tango?  I've always wanted to dance like Aaaanuld!" He hoped his
Schwartzenegger imitation was recognizable.