The body was that of a woman in her late teens or early 20s, dead of an apparent stab wound to the heart.
Gil Grissom shook his head and moved a little closer to Sarah Sidle, the youngest techie on his team. He still felt a bit protective, almost paternalistic, toward the young woman, especially when the victim was someone so close to her own age. Sarah, a slender brunette, was not yet 30. Grissom himself was a bit of a contrast; his boyishly handsome face and fit frame belied the years that his gray hair attested to.
"You okay?" he asked her.
"I'm fine," she replied tersely.
Grissom was still staring at her morosely when Catherine Willows, his second in command, came up behind him. "She'll be okay, Gris," Willows said gently.
Gil let one corner of his mouth lift up in the tiniest suggestion of a smile. He had a reputation for being aloof and hard to read, but Catherine always seemed to be able to tell when he was worried. Perhaps it was because, although her long slender legs and vibrant red hair still hinted at the dancer the fortyish Willows had once been, her true vocation in life seemed to be neither dancing nor criminalistics, but motherhood.
"What have we got here?" Nick Stokes called out as he and Warrick Brown, the last two members of the Crime Scene Investigations team, hurried over. Both men were good-looking guys in their early thirties and had formed a close friendship during the years they'd worked together; Nick was white, slightly shorter and broader than his lanky black friend.
"Stabbing victim. Looks like she was killed someplace else, then dumped here," Willows replied.
"Let's roll, then," Warrick said, pulling on the latex gloves all members of the team wore while working a crime scene.
Special Agent Fox Mulder pored over the nationwide reports scattered across his desk at FBI headquarters.
He was searching for patterns in seemingly random killings. He headed the bureau's elite serial killers task force and had developed a reputation for seeing cause and effect where others saw only chaos.
Serial killers came in basically two types. Those who stayed in the same general locality and those who drifted.
Right now, he was looking for drifters. In the past three months, two young women in their early 20s had been stabbed to death and dumped in remote areas. Mulder's working motto in cases like these was: two can be a coincidence, three's usually a pattern. Stabbing wasn't an unusual method of killing, lots of murderers dumped their victims' bodies and the early 20s were notoriously high-risk years -- for both men and women -- for becoming victims of violent crimes. However, since each murder had lacked an obvious suspect -- neither woman had recently broken up with a boyfriend or filed a restraining order against anyone and neither had known ties to illicit activities such as prostitution or drug dealing -- there was some suspicion that they had been killed not by someone who hated them personally, but by a serial killer who simply hated all women of that age.
Mulder's computer began to beep. He'd run a trace through all the national crime data bases, seeing if he could turn up any other unsolved cases involving the stabbing death of a woman in her 20s during the past six months. He looked up to see where the report had originated; Las Vegas, just the kind of place a drifter looking for victims might be drawn to. And the date was -- holy shit, the body had just been found this morning! It was a hot case.
Mulder hurried to the outer office. The half dozen members of his task force were there, sifting through piles of reports on their own. "Anybody interested in a trip to Vegas?" he asked.
After selecting four members of the team to accompany him, and placing a call to the Las Vegas Police Department to alert them of his interest and upcoming visit, Mulder placed a second phone call. This one was to the FBI labs at Quantico.
"Scully," the female voice on the other end answered briskly.
"Hey, Scully. It's me."
"Hi, Mulder. What's up?"
"You really want me to go into details about what's 'up' Scully? With both of us in our respective offices and everything?"
Special Agent Dana Scully huffed into the phone; sometimes her husband's sense of humor more resembled that of an adolescent boy than a grown man with an Oxford education and professional acclaim as a criminal profiler. "Mulder, if the only reason you called is to flirt with me. . "
"Want to go to Vegas with me?"
"If you're asking me to elope, Mulder, we've already been there and done that. Remember?"
"How could I forget? All kidding aside, Scully, this is a serious request. I'm on the track of a suspected serial killer and a possible victim just turned up in Las Vegas. I know you're between sessions, just doing lab work and autopsies rather than teaching classes. I'd like to have you on the team for this one. I'll even go through official channels, get the A.D. in charge of Quantico to approve a temporary transfer of you to my squad. But first I need to know if you want the assignment?"
"I just read a report by a. . .hold on, wait a minute, here it is. . .a Gil Grissom, head of the Crime Scene Investigations Unit at the Las Vegas Police Department. It's in my most recent forensics journal. From what he says, they're doing some amazing things out there. The Vegas crime lab is supposed to be second only to the one here at Quantico in advanced diagnostic equipment.
"So is that a 'yes', Scully?"
"Professionally, I want to go," she conceded.
"How about personally?"
"That's where I'm torn. As a wife, I want to go. As a Mommy, I feel like maybe I've been leaving Melissa with my mother too frequently."
Mulder was quiet for a moment. Then he said, "I've got to be honest with you, Dana. I truly do want your professional assistance on this, but that's not the only reason I'm asking. As you say, the Vegas crime labs are well equipped and I'm sure this Grissom guy and his team know their stuff. But we haven't been back to Las Vegas since we got married there nearly three years ago. And our anniversary's next week. I though maybe, once we'd finished up on the case, we could send the rest of my team back home and stay on an extra day. . .have a dramatic reenactment of our wedding night."
"That depends, Mulder," she replied briskly.
"Depends on what?" he asked, perplexed.
"On whether we have to include that business of you getting kidnapped by Krycek in our reenactment. Because, quite frankly, I'd rather not go through *that* again."
He chuckled into the phone. "We'll leave that part out of it. Listen, sweetheart, I hate to pressure you, but I need to get moving on this. Take an hour or so to think about it, then call
and let me know. If you're going, fine. If you decide you need to stay put with Melissa, that's okay, too. I love you. Bye."
Scully clicked off the connection with her husband and hit the second number programmed into her speed dial.
"Mom, it's me."
"Is anything wrong, Dana?" Maggie Scully asked. She watched her granddaughter, Melissa, on the three days a week her daughter worked. During the first few weeks after Dana had returned to work from her maternity leave, she'd called to "check in" frequently. However, now she rarely called unless she had a specific concern.
"Nothing's wrong, Mom. I just need to ask you something. Two things, really. Fox is going out to investigate a case in Las Vegas; he's leaving this afternoon. He wants me to come with him."
"And you want to know if I can keep Melissa overnight for the next few days? Certainly, sweetheart."
"It's not just that, Mom. I not only want to know if you can take care of her. I want you to tell me -- and please be honest -- if you think I'm leaving her too frequently. I mean, in addition to working here at the labs three days a week, this would be the third time I've left her with you so I could go out-of-town on a case."
Maggie huffed into the phone, sounding remarkably like her daughter had a few minutes earlier. "Oh for heaven's sake, Dana! It will be the third time in something like eight months. I hardly think that makes you a neglectful mother."
"I have a pretty high standard to live up to, Mom," she pointed out gently.
"If you want to go, I think you should go. I do have one sort of. . .concern. . .though."
"Well, whenever you and Fox go away, it always seems to be business related. I don't mean to be nosy, but shouldn't the two of your occasionally spend a little time together when you're not busy being either agents *or* parents? When you're just being husband and wife?"
"Mom, I know this is probably kind of hard for you to understand, since you and Dad had a traditional marriage, but for Mulder and me. . .when we go off and and work a case together. . ." Scully's voice trailed off. She couldn't bring herself to use the phrase "it's a turn-on" when talking to her mother, but that was about what it boiled down to. On both the previous occasions when she and her husband had left their daughter to work a case together, they'd practically set the hotel room sheets on fire during their off hours.
"It brings back fond memories?" Maggie suggested.
"Yes," Scully agreed, glad her mother had thought of an unembarrassing way to phrase it. "I'll leave here by noon, swing by and pick up Melissa so she can spend the afternoon with me. That will give you a couple of free hours, in case you want to run any errands that will be easier to handle without a toddler in tow. Then Fox and I will drop her back at your place on our way to the airport."
Scully called her husband back, outlined the plan to him, and told him to call her supervisor and put things in motion.
Gil Grissom drove through the glare of a garish Nevada sunset competing with neon lights from the Strip. He'd only managed a few hours of sleep, a shower and a quick meal since leaving the office at mid-morning and now he was heading back. Homicide Detective Jim Brass had called while he was in the shower and the message he'd left on the machine -- that the FBI was coming in to take over the case -- had been enough to send Grissom hurrying back to work.
Not that I probably wouldn't have gone in anyway, Grissom admitted to himself with rueful honesty. He enjoyed his job and was good at it. There wasn't much else in his life he could say both those things about.
Grissom debated which, if any, of the other members of his team he should call in to join him. Not Catherine; she was skillful and diligent, but she cherished the hours of late afternoon and early evening as the only time of day she got to spend with her daughter. He was hesitant to call Sarah for almost the opposite reason. She already spent too many of her off-hours at the labs; he felt it was more important to encourage her to develop hobbies and interests outside of work than to offer her overtime. Maybe Warrick or Nick, if he could find either of them. They often spent their off-hours together, going to clubs or working out at a local gym where they both had memberships.
Grissom parked his car and strode quickly into the LVPD headquarters. "Why the hell do the feds want to butt in on our case?" he demanded of Brass as soon as he entered the homicide detective's office.
"They think it may be a serial killing, linked to two others in the past few months. This is the first hot lead they've had," Brass replied.
"So Gonzalez wants to take over?" Grissom asked, referring to the head of the Las Vegas field office of the FBI.
"No, I got the feeling that Gonzalez heard about the FBI's interest in our body at the same time and in the same manner that we did. The Special Agent in Charge will be one Fox Mulder. He's the head of the Fed's serial killers task force, which is apparently the cream of the cream; the most elite unit in the most elite law enforcement agency in the country."
"So long as he doesn't get in the way of my crime scene investigation," Grissom answered, turning toward the labs.
In a plane high above mid-America, Mulder reviewed the facts he had with the members of his team who were accompanying him. Scully was in the seat next to him. By the window was Andrew Chan, Mulder's favorite among the agents on his task force. While Mulder would never have used the word "partner" in reference to Chan -- that word was forever linked in his mind to a mental image of Scully -- that was, in effect, the function Chan served when the two of them were in the field together.
On the other side of the aisle sat Charles Guilbeau, Mulder's second in command. The black man was the oldest and most experienced member of the team. Next to Guilbeau was Donna Briggs, a tall, thirtyish blonde; she was the team's only female member, if you didn't count Scully's on-again, off-again assistance. By the far window was Mike Huffman, the team's rookie agent. Huffman was only in his mid-20s; his main value to the team was his ability to appear even younger than his years. Huffman could -- and had-- pass for a college student or even, on one occasion, a high school senior while undercover. There were three other members of the team, but he'd left them behind in the office. He'd even left Tom Colton in charge temporarily, which had thrilled the other agent. Colton was that type of guy; more interested in having a short-lived supervisory position than in actually getting out in the field and solving crimes.
"So what do we know so far?" Scully asked.
"Three victims in the past three months; one in Texas, one in Wyoming, one in Nevada. All white females in their early 20s, all stabbed, all dumped in remote areas with evidence to indicate they were killed first, then transported to the spot where they were found post-mortem," Mulder replied.
"Any signs of sexual assualt?" Briggs inquired.
"None," Mulder answered.
"Any similarities beyond the obvious ones of race, age and gender?" asked Chan.
"Nothing that jumps out at me, but you can take a look,' Mulder said. "Texas victim had just turned 20, never been married, was a full-time college student; Wyoming victim was 22, divorced, worked as a waitress in a truck stop. Vegas hadn't identified their victim at the time we left Washington; hopefully they'll have something solid for us by the time we touch ground."
"You said three victims in the past three months," Scully pointed out. "Has there been *exactly* a month-long interval between each death?"
"Why, Scully? Certainly you're not thinking the killer could be influenced by a full moon or something. . .weird. . .like that, are you?" Mulder asked, a teasing glint in his eyes. He also laid his hand gently on his wife's nylon-clad knee, just below the hem of her suit skirt.
"Who knows what kind of weird ideas go through the mind of a psychotic serial killer?" Scully replied with a shrug. "While every *sane* person knows that creatures like vampires and werewolves don't exist," here she shot her husband a teasing glance in return, "somebody so deranged he's killing strangers could well believe he's some sort of supernatural creature."
Scully debated whether or not she should ask Mulder to move his hand. It was hardly an inappropriate way for a man to touch his wife, even in public, but it wasn't exactly in keeping with their mutual agreement to behave in a professional manner at all times when they were in the company of other members of the team. She decided not to make an issue of it for two reasons. The first was that nobody else seemed to have noticed it; the only one who even could have seen from the way their seats were arranged was Chan and he was busy scanning some of the documents Mulder had handed him. The other reason, she admitted to herself with a tiny smile, was that she enjoyed the feeling of her husband's warm fingers against her, their skin separated only by a thin layer of silky material.
"You referred to the killer as 'he', Agent Scully," Briggs pointed out. "Isn't that assuming information we don't have yet?"
"It's an assumption we have to operate under, unless we have some indication that we ought to be thinking differently," Mulder replied. "Well over 90 percent of serial killers are male. We also have to assume he's white, because almost all serial killers choose victims from their own race. Psychotic criminals don't abide by equal opportunity laws or ideals of political correctness. Our perp is unlikely to be a female, a racial minority or a practicing homosexual -- although it's quite possible that part of the reason he kills is that he's subliminating homosexual desires and blames women for not being able to arouse him. And to get back to your question, Scully, no, the intervals haven't been exact. Six weeks between the first killing and the second one; about four between the second and the third."
"Could mean he's pacing his killings more closely together. That he needs the rush it provides on an increasingly frequent basis," Guilbeau suggested.
"Could be," Mulder admitted. "But it could also mean that what he considered an appropriate victim presented herself sooner than he expected. Or it could mean that there are victims whose bodies haven't been found yet. Or that he made an attempt between the first and second victims and the would-be victim managed to escape; that would have gone into the database as an assault, not a murder, and so wouldn't have come up when I did my search."
"How about a suggestion of age?" Huffman asked.
"Probably young; almost certainly not beyond his mid-40s. Toxicology reports on both the Texas and Wyoming victims came back negative; so we're looking for someone who was able to physically overpower two healthy young women in their twenties without the use of drugs; even taking into account the fact that he would have the element of surprise on his side, it's unlikely that a man older than 45 would have the reflexes and strength to do that," Mulder said.
"We're assuming he's a drifter who lives alone, right?" Chan inquired.
"Almost certainly lives alone and has no significant family ties at this time," Mulder agreed. "However, it's possible that up until a few months ago -- when the killings started -- that he had a relationship of some sort with a woman and the end of that relationship is what triggered his psychotic impulses. Could be he was living with his mother and she died; could be he had a girlfriend or wife and she left him."
"So all we have to do is look around Las Vegas for a white, male drifter ages anywhere from late teens to early middle age," Guilbeau said. "Piece of cake."
"I've got a suggestion," Scully said, "I think we need to try to find out more about the Wyoming murder. It seems to me that's the weak link here. Las Vegas and Houston are both big cities where people come and go frequently. Wyoming is one of the least-populated states in the country. A drifter would me much more likely to stand out in Cheyenne than in Nevada or Texas."
"Good idea, Scully," Mulder replied. "I'll put in a call to the Cheyenne PD as soon as we touch ground."
Grissom was pacing the crime labs when the other members of his team began to drift in. Sarah was first, as he knew she would be. Warrick and Catherine arrived almost simultaneously. Nick was the last to arrive, only moments before their shift officially began.
"What did the autopsy reveal on the body we found last night?" Catherine asked once they were all seated.
"We don't know yet," Grissom replied tersely, "because the autopsy hasn't been done yet. The FBI is taking over and they're flying out a team that will include one of their own pathologists. Should be arriving any minute."
"FBI?" Nick echoed, surprised. "There's absolutely no indication at this point that the victim was transported across state lines."
"They think she may be the latest victim of a serial killer who's been working the West for the past few months," Grissom explained. "Similar killings have occurred in Texas and Wyoming."
"So we don't even have an I.D. yet?" Warrick inquired.
"Actually, we do," Grissom answered. "We matched her general description to all local missing persons reports for the past two weeks. She was a student at UNLV who worked part-time in a gift shop at Circus Circus. Her name is Maria Garcia."
"She was Hispanic?" Sarah asked, a bit confused. "She looked Anglo to me."
"Her parents came to identify the body," Grissom explained softly. "Her father is Hispanic, her mother Anglo. You're right though, Sarah; simply based on her looks, I would have classified her as Anglo rather than Hispanic. Brass interviewed the parents, got a list of her friends, classmates, professors, co-workers. . .all that jazz."
"Parents have anything interesting to say?" Catherine asked.
"The usual," Grissom said with a shrug. "She was a good girl, worked hard at work, worked hard at school, no bad habits, popular with both her own gender and the opposite sex, but too busy for a serious boyfriend."
"The old 'don't speak ill of the dead' compulsion," Warrick said with a nod. "No matter what the problems might have been, nobody ever wants to admit the victim was anything less than a candidate for sainthood. . .even when it's knowledge of the less savory elements of her life that might help us catch the killer."
"Luckily for us, we don't have to do that sort of digging," Grissom replied. "We do, however, have some evidence to analyze while we're waiting for the feds."
After nearly an hour in the labs, with the team members going over her clothing, soil samples from the crime scene and various other items, Nick said, "I think I may have found something."
"What?" Grissom asked.
"There's a faint heel print on her blouse; just a partial, nothing we can get clear identification on, but there's some sort of animal matter clinging to it."
"Animal matter? You mean like blood or fur?" Sarah asked with a slight shiver. She loved animals.
"No, more like animal waste," Nick replied. "As if he -- to put it bluntly -- stepped in shit and didn't get it completely wiped off hs boots or shoes. Then, later, he pressed his foot against her body to hold her down or maybe to give himself leverage while pulling the weapon out."
"Find out what kind of animal it's from," Grissom ordered.
At that moment, one of the department's secretaries poked her head into the lab. "The FBI team just arrived; they're meeting with Brass in the main conference room. He figured you'd like to attend the meeting, Gris."
Grissom wasn't sure if Brass was issuing an invitation or an order, but it hardly mattered; either way, he wanted to be in on this.
Grissom hurried down the hall to where the FBI team was meeting with Brass. When he arrived, he found five agents there. A fortyish white man, a black man about a decade older, an Asian-American man and a white woman, both of whom seemed to be in their 30s, and a twentysomething white man who would have looked like a college student had it not been for his regulation suit and tie.
Brass quickly made introductions and then said, "There's a sixth member of the team, a Special Agent Dana Scully. She's a forensic pathologist -- teaches the subject at Quantico -- and has joined Dr. Robbins to perform the autopsy. They should have results for us within an hour or two."
"What have you got so far?" Mulder asked.
Grissom explained about the animal waste residue Nick had found and that it was being analyzed.
"Can you take us to the crime scene?" Mulder inquired.
"I can have a member of my team take you to where the body was discovered," Grissom replied. "It's a crime scene only in the sense that unauthorized disposal of a dead body is a crime. The total lack of splatter pattern in the surroundings -- and the fact that there were no traces of soil composition that matched that of the scene on the victim's shoes -- make it a near certainty that she was transported to the site post-mortem. If I could find the location where she was actually killed, I'd have a lot more to work with."
"We're trying to discover that," Brass replied. "Unfortunately, there was a time lag of nearly a week between when she was last seen and when her body was discovered. Until the autopsy is complete, we won't even know at what point during that period she was killed, much less have an idea on how to start trying to figure out where it took place."
Soon Mulder and most members of his team were at the crime scene, accompanied by Warrick, Nick and Sarah.
"Did anything leap out at you when you processed the scene?" Guilbeau inquired.
"Other than the fact that she wasn't killed here, the main evidence of note were the tire tracks," Nick replied.
"We parked over there," he gestured to a location several yards away from where the body had been found. "The rancher who found the body parked there," he gestured in the opposite direction. "These tracks here," he squatted and pointed to a set of indentions in the dust, "were right near the body. The width between the tires and the size of them indicates a pickup truck."
"Any footprints?" Chan asked.
"No," Sarah answered. "We're guessing he was smart. Most likely, he had the body in the bed of the pickup, probably covered with a tarp or something. When he reached this site, he simply swung himself out of the cab and into the bed of the truck; that's certainly possible if he was reasonably agile. Then he lifted the body out of the truck, unwrapped it and dumped it, then flipped himself back into the driver's seat and took off. Ergo, even if we had a suspect in mind, there would be no evidence on his shoes or person to connect him to this locality."
"Well, we know he drives a pickup truck," Huffman pointed out. "Most likely actually owns it, since you could hardly borrow a truck from a friend to transport a body."
"Agent Huffman, maybe in the Washington area the knowledge that a suspect drives a pickup would be considered valuable information; this is Nevada. Trucks are more common than cars," Warrick said.
"I'd like to ask a question that doesn't have to do with the crime scene, per se, but may effect the way in which our task force interacts with your squad," Mulder said. "Does your boss have some sort of special interest in this case or does he get prickly whenever the feds show an interest in any case?"
Warrick, Sarah and Nick glanced back and forth at one another for several moments. Finally, Nick nudged Warrick in the ribs and muttered, "You're senior; you field it."
"I don't think Grissom has any particular interest in this case or any specific resentment against the feds," Warrick explained. "Prickly is simply his personality. As far as any of us are aware -- and I've worked with the man for several years -- his work is his life. He takes every case seriously and resents any interference by anyone else."
Scully and Dr. Robbins worked compatibly together in the autopsy bay. They didn't learn anything startling; the victim had died from a loss of blood due to multiple stab wounds. Position and depth of the wounds indicated a single, right-handed assailant. She had been dead for approximately 36 hours before her body was found. Bruising and scraping around her wrists, ankles and lips indicated she had been bound and gagged at some point while still alive.
"How old did you say she was?" Scully inquired.
"Twenty-one; would have turned 22 next month. Why, you see anything unusual?" Dr. Robbins asked.
"Well. . .her hymen is intact," Scully replied. "I suppose it's a somewhat sad commentary on modern-day society, but almost-22-year-old virgins are a relatively rare species nowadays."
"I can't see that as being significant in any way," Dr. Robbins said, "we already knew she hadn't been raped."
"At least it tells us that her parents' assessment of her personality was accurate; she really *was* too busy for a serious boyfriend," Scully replied with a shrug. She herself doubted that it was a significant finding; after all, the Wyoming victim had been a divorced woman, so lack of sexual experience was hardly a factor in the killer's mind.
At that point, Willows and Grissom walked into the autopsy bay and Dr. Robbins introduced them to Scully. They were discussing the results when Catherine's cell phone beeped. She took a look at the caller ID and said, "Excuse me, it's from home," and stepped out into the hall.
"She has a young daughter," Grissom explained to Scully.
When Catherine re-entered the room, Grissom asked, "Everything okay?"
"Basically, yes," Catherine replied. "Lindsey's been running a slight fever and she woke up miserable. Mrs. Goodwin just wanted to make sure it was okay to give her another dose of medicine."
"Do you have children, Mr. Grissom?" Scully asked, simply out of politeness.
"Me?" he replied, startled. "Uh, no."
Within moments, Grissom had retreated to his office and Dr. Robbins had begun clean-up procedures.
"Did I offend your boss?" Scully inquired, perplexed.
Catherine smiled and shook her head. "No, he just doesn't discuss his personal life much. Actually, I think that's probably because he doesn't *have* much of a personal life. So, do you have children?"
"Yes, a daughter. Melissa is 18 months old," Scully answered.
"Lindsey is eight," Catherine replied. "Who watches her when you go on out-of-town cases?"
"My mother. This is actually rather unusual for me; I generally teach at Quantico and then only part-time. But I'm between sessions and Mulder wanted my input on the case."
"Mulder. That's the team leader, right? Are the two of you close friends?"
Scully laughed softly. "You could put it that way. We're married."
"That. . .works? For you to be under your husband's supervision while on the job?" Catherine inquired.
"It probably wouldn't be ideal for a permanent solution, but this is only a short-term assignment for me. Mulder and I did work together, as partners, for almost seven years before we married. Technically speaking, he was the senior partner and I guess *could* have ordered me around to a certain extent, but we always operated on an equal level. He's not a control freak."
Catherine nodded and tried to quell the wave of envy the female federal agent's words evoked. How nice it must be, she thought, to have a marriage like that.
At that moment, the object of their discussion poked his head into the room.
"Hey, Scully. You done slicing and dicing?"
"Just finishing up, Mulder. Have you met Catherine Willows? She's part of the CSI team here."
"Pleased to meet you," Mulder said, reaching out to shake Willows' hand.
Catherine volunteered to go find Grissom, so the two team leaders could confer on what they'd learned so far.
"How you doing?" Mulder asked Scully after Catherine had left.
"Achy and exhausted," Scully admitted. "It's nearly 3 a.m. by Washington time and I've got a backache from the autopsy."
"Here," Mulder said, pressing the heel of his hand into the area between her shoulder blades, then beginning to massage the tight tendons in her neck.
"Mmm. Fox, that feels so good. I'm going to fall asleep on my feet in a minute," Scully said.
At that moment, Grissom and Willows returned to the room.
"People are always telling me I need to adopt a more hands-on approach to managing my team," Grissom said. "I didn't realize they meant it literally."
Mulder chuckled and gestured to Scully. "Grissom, have you met my wife,
Dr. Dana Scully?"
"I've met Dr. Scully," Grissom replied. "I didn't realize the two of you were married."
"Well, we're going to head on over to our hotel," Mulder said. "You and Brass both have my cell phone number, should you have an urgent need to contact me. We'll be back up here first thing in the morning. But I guess you'll be off-duty by then?"
"Technically, yes," Grissom answered. "But I'll probably be around. Good night, agents."
Grissom and Willows walked down the hall to rejoin the rest of their team.
"You guys learn anything interesting from the feds?" Warrick asked.
"The team leader and the pathologist are married to each other," Catherine volunteered.
"Catherine, I hardly think that's what Warrick meant," Grissom began, only to be interrupted by
"You mean Agent Mulder? I don't blame her. If I were married to a guy that good-looking, I wouldn't want to let him out of my sight, either!"
"Actually, it was his idea that she join him on this trip. They used to be partners and I guess he misses working with her. Usually she stays home, because they have a baby," Catherine explained.
"Ladies!" Grissom hollered. "We are *not* here to discuss the private lives of FBI agents." Turning to Catherine with a look of astonishment on his face, he added, "But how the hell did you find out all this stuff? You didn't talk to Agent Scully for more that five minutes."
"Female bonding, Gris," Catherine replied with a smile.
Special Agent Dana Scully was having a dream. A very nice dream. In the dream, she was several years younger. She and her new partner, Special Agent Fox Mulder, were going undercover on a cruise ship. They were supposed to be newlyweds and Mulder was kissing her, even though they were alone in their stateroom and there was no reason for him to be. . .
A sound from the hotel corridor woke Scully up. For one tiny instant, as she hovered on the brink between sleep and consciousness, she felt the disappointment she had experienced many times over the years when waking up from an erotic dream about her sexy partner. Then she became aware of the warmth and weight of an arm thrown over her waist and relaxed with a smile. Okay, so they weren't on the Love Boat. She really was with Mulder, though. He wasn't merely her partner or even only her lover; he was her husband and the father of her child. And God, the way the dream Mulder had been kissing her. . .
Scully would tell herself, later, that she hadn't been fully awake and that excused her next actions. She twisted in Mulder's arms and rolled him onto his back. Sliding her hand inside the fly of his black silk boxers, she lifted out his erect penis. Wonder if he was having the dream, too, she thought idly. She and Mulder could sometimes share each other's dreams, but it happened more often when they were physically separated rather than sleeping in each other's arms. Then she straddled her husband and slipped him inside her body.
"Dana?" Mulder murmured sleepily, his eyes popping open. "What are you doing?"
"What does it feel like I'm doing, Fox?"
"Umm. . .having your way with me?" he suggested.
"Oh, yeah!" she replied. Scully stretched and flexed atop Mulder, while clutching his biceps tightly. The strong muscles in his upper arms had been the beginning of her attraction to him, all those years ago. During the first few days she'd known him -- when he'd been fully clothed in a regulation FBI dress shirt, jacket and tie -- she'd been able to dismiss him as a bit of a geek, to write off his lanky build as being tall but skinny. But the first time he'd shown up at the door of her motel room, wearing a sleeveless sweatshirt and inviting her to go for a run with him, she'd known that "skinny" wasn't an honest adjective to describe him and that she'd be spending a considerable amount of time disciplining herself not to drift off into sexual fantasies about her partner.
Scully let her gaze drift to his bare, well-muscled chest with its smattering of hair in the center. That had been step two along the path to lusting after Fox Mulder: the first time she'd seen him shirtless. His chest was. . .perfect. Not too broad, not too narrow, not too hairy, but not hairless, either. Finally, Scully let her gaze drift up toward his face. That had been the last step, the point at which she'd stopped even trying to fight her attraction toward him: the first time she'd been exposed to a sleepy, rumpled, just-waking-up Mulder with a day's worth of beard stubble shadowing his face.
Mulder met his wife's eyes and smiled. "Am I allowed to move?" he inquired with amusement.
"Can you just stay still for a minute?" Scully begged, her face flushing slightly with a mixture of arousal and embarrassment. She was so close, he felt so good and she felt such a desperate need for release that she wasn't making much of an attempt to do much more than satisfy her own desires; unlike her usual style of lovemaking, which was to place as much emphasis on pleasing her husband as pleasing herself.
Mulder nodded and remained passive beneath her, although it took all of his considerable self-control to avoid giving into the desire to begin moving in counterpoint to her actions. Scully seemed to need to be in control of the situation for the time being and he was willing to allow her that. He was vaguely surprised at the intensity of her desire. She'd done this once or twice before -- practically attacked him -- but that had been when they'd been reunited after work-related separations lasting several days or several weeks. He couldn't imagine what would have triggered such a passionate need, when they'd only made love two nights earlier and had spent much of the intervening day in each other's company.
Scully could feel herself beginning to tense up as a preclude to her orgasm. She smiled down into Mulder's eyes. In the early weeks of their marriage, she'd had a tendency to bury her face in his shoulder or close her eyes when she was coming. He'd asked her not to; he enjoyed watching her. And, because he was Mulder -- the man she loved and trusted more than life itself -- she'd been able to do so. Now, except when they were making love in a position or with a technique which made eye contact impossible, she always gazed directly at him at this moment. Seeing the love reflected in his eyes made her physical release even more powerful and pleasurable. She stiffened abruptly and let out a little scream of delight as the familiar pulsing began to dance through her body.
Mulder waited until Scully had stopped quivering above him and then brushed a strand of hair gently out of her eyes. "*Now* can I start moving?"
"Now you can do whatever you want," Scully replied langorously. She still felt a tiny twinge of guilt for just. . .jumping Mulder like that, without even asking him if he was in the mood. She'd gladly provide him with any kind of pleasure he wanted now; assume whatever position he requested, give him a blow job. . .anything.
"Sit up a bit more," Mulder suggested. "Brace your hands behind you on my thighs."
Scully did as he'd asked. The position drove him up even deeper inside her and thrust her breasts out toward his face. Mulder quickly opened the top few buttons of her sleep shirt, so he could gaze at her breasts. He'd always been fascinated by the way they changed from milky white to pale rose when she was excited. Then he slid his hands down to her hips and held them steady while he began moving.
Scully gasped. Each time he flexed his hips, the tip of his cock bumped against her cervix. He was going straight up into her, not entering at an angle the way he did in most positions. If she hadn't already been wet from her own orgasm, it might have been painful. As it was. the sensation was merely. . .intense. She knew that a single, murmured word from her would be all it would take to get him to switch positions; he'd never want to force her into anything she was uncomfortable with, either physically or emotionally. But she held her breath and held on. She could tell from the look on his face that he was close to coming. . .and who said sex was always supposed to be completely comfortable, anyway? It was supposed to be *exciting* and this definitely was!
Mulder groaned out his wife's name as he gushed into her.
Before he could tumble her down beside him for a bit of afterglow cuddling, the
alarm on the nightstand began to blare. He turned to glare at it. "We've
got 45 minutes before we're supposed to meet the rest of the team for breakfast,
then head over to the Vegas PD headquarters," he said with a sigh.
"Give me two minutes alone in the bathroom, then come join me for a shower," Scully suggested.
Half an hour later, as Mulder was knotting his tie and buckling on his holster, he turned to his wife and said, "By the way, Scully, what brought on all that this morning? I mean, it's not that I'm objecting -- feel free to wake me up like that every morning for the rest of our lives -- but I'm just curious."
Scully felt herself redden slightly. She didn't mind sharing her sexual fantasies with her husband -- who else *would* she share them with? -- but she was still a bit embarrassed by how aggressive she'd been this morning. "I'd had a dream of us together, back in our early days of working the X-Files. Only you were kissing me, something you never did back then. When I first woke up, while I was still half-asleep, I went through just a moment of being disappointed; then, when I realized what stage of our life we were really in. . .that you were right there beside me and I could have you whenever I wanted. . .well, I just took advantage of the situation."
Mulder sat down on the bed and pulled Scully into his lap. Then he kissed her, slowly and deeply. "You do know you could have always had me whenever you wanted, don't you? All you would have ever had to do was ask."
"Always?" she asked with a small smile. "Even on our very first case together?" She was teasing him; they'd actually discussed this several times during the early months of their marriage and agreed that they'd *both* missed -- or misread -- a lot of signals from each other.
"Well. . .maybe not then," Mulder answered. "I *might* have thought it was some nefarious plot to get me kicked out of the FBI on sexual harassment charges if my beautiful new partner had offered to go to bed with me during the first month we were working together."
Scully smiled and gave him another quick kiss. "Let's call my Mom and talk to Melissa for a minute before we have to meet the rest of the team."
After they'd both spoken with Maggie and Melissa, Mulder and Scully headed down the hall toward the elevators. "Hey, Scully. You never gave me any details about the dream that led to you waking me up in such an. . .interesting manner. Were we in our old office or in a motel room or what?"
"We were undercover," Scully said as they entered the elevator. "On, um, a cruise ship. I think we were supposed to have been newlyweds." A few moments later, as the elevator descended, she glanced over at her husband and said, "Mulder, stop that!"
"Stop what?" he inquired, a look of angelic innocence on his face.
"You're whistling the theme to 'The Love Boat' under your breath!"
Scully shook her head as they stepped out into the hotel lobby. "Don't make me hurt you, Mulder."
Mulder and the rest of his team sat in a conference room in the LVPD headquarters. Everything they'd learned about this murder tied in with the theory that the perpetrator was the same one responsible for the Texas and Wyoming killings.
"Do you think the fact that this victim was Hispanic -- well, half-Hispanic -- and the other two were pure Anglo tells us anything?" Chan asked.
"I think about all it tells us is that the killer probably didn't engage his victims in conversation," Mulder replied. "Ms. Garcia had her father's name, but her mother's looks."
By mid-afternoon, all the members of Grissom's team except Catherine Willows had returned to the labs. "Anything new?" Grissom asked Mulder.
"Not much," Mulder replied. We received a fax from the Cheyenne Police Department. We'd hoped that murder would prove to be the weak link, since Wyoming is a much more sparsely populated place than Las Vegas or Texas. Unfortunately, the killing happened during the weeks the rodeo was in town; the one time of the year where strangers are common on the streets of Cheyenne."
"Too bad," Warrick said. "The theory was sound."
"The rodeo's here this week," Sarah said, simply for something to add to the conversation.
At that moment, Nick walked into the conference room. "Hey, everybody! I've finally got identification on the animal matter we found on the victim's blouse. It's bull shit."
Grissom frowned slightly at his young employee. "Nick, if the lead didn't pan out or you made a mistake, just say so. There's no need to be crude."
Nick stared at his boss for a moment, then chuckled. "I'm not being crude, Gris. I'm being literal. It's bull shit. Or, if you prefer a slightly more technical way of phrasing it, it's cattle manure. The killer must have stepped in a cow patty sometime not long before he committed the murder. Enough residue was clinging to his shoe or boot to get transferred to the victim's blouse when he put his foot on her."
"So. . .what?" Scully asked. "We're looking for a ranch hand, somebody like that?"
"Wait a minute!" Agent Briggs said excitedly. "Mulder, exactly when did the Texas murder occur?"
"The body was found the first weekend in March," Mulder replied.
Nick Stokes locked eyes with Agent Briggs. He saw where she was headed with this. He'd grown up in Texas and the same light bulb was going on over his head as that of the female federal agent. But she'd been the first one to make the connection, so he'd let her be the one to spell it out for the rest of the agents and officers in the room.
"The rodeo's in Houston during late February and early March," Briggs explained. "And the Wyoming murder occurred when the rodeo was in Cheyenne. And this latest body just turned up here in Vegas, while the rodeo is *here*."
"And we found cattle manure on the victim's blouse," Nick pointed out for the second time.
Grissom and Mulder both scanned the room, seeking consensus in the faces of the other agents and criminalists. Liking what they saw, their eyes met and they nodded. "I think my team needs to head out to the rodeo grounds," Grissom suggested.
"You can take some of my agents with you," Mulder offered. "I'm going to stay here and try to work up a profile of the killer."
"Anything I can do?" Scully asked Mulder as the rest of the agents and criminalists filed out.
"Just make sure nobody bothers me," Mulder replied.
Scully nodded and left, closing the door behind her. It still scared her a little bit, even after all these years, to watch Mulder go diving headfirst into the mind of a madman.
A few hours later, Mulder emerged. "Okay, it's rough, but I think I've got an idea of what
we're looking for," he said the combined teams.
"What?" Guilbeau asked.
"Not a rodeo cowboy for one thing," Mulder said.
"The evidence would seem to indicate otherwise," Grissom snapped.
Mulder gave a weary smile and held up a hand. "I didn't say our perp wasn't connected
with the rodeo, just that he isn't actually one of the cowboys who competes in the events.
Help me out here, Briggs and uh," he glanced at the dark-haired young man from the Las
Vegas CSI unit.
"Stokes. Nick Stokes," he replied.
"You two both seem to know something about rodeos?"
"I did a little barrel racing, back when I was in my teens," Briggs answered.
"I never competed in any rodeos," Nick said. "But I went to enough of them while I was
growing up, picked up a bit of the lingo."
"I'm assuming that, in addition to the actual performers they have vendors, custodians,
clerical staff, people like that around rodeos," Mulder said.
"Sure," Nick replied with a shrug.
"Would they travel with the rodeo or would each city the rodeo visits have its own
staff of people like that?" Mulder inquired.
"Both," Briggs said decisively. "Most places, there are locals who work in conjunction
with the rodeo. But there's a small contingent of non-competitors who follow the circuit,
selling things like T-shirts, or hand-tooled belts and boots or, heck, sno-cones, for that matter."
"Why couldn't it be an actual cowboy?" Willows asked.
"Couldn't is, perhaps, too strong a word," Mulder conceded. "It's simply highly unlikely."
"Why?" Willows repeated.
"We're looking for somebody who is an outsider. I'm guessing that rodeo cowboys are a pretty tight group?"
Stokes and Briggs both nodded.
"The killings also indicate a man who's fundamentally unsure of his own power. Who kills as a way to prove to himself that he's a man. My guess -- my *educated* guess -- is that professional cowboy is the last man in the world who would feel like that. Cowboys are an American icon. A man who spents his days wrestling bulls and riding bucking broncos isn't going to have doubts about his testosterone levels."
"But a man who spends a considerable amount of time around cowboys, without being able to match their skills, just might feel inferior," Chan pointed out.
Mulder gave the other particulars of what they were looking for -- white, no older than
mid-40s, no close family ties or significant others. "Can we get somebody on the phone
to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, get a list of vendors who travel with the
rodeo? Better yet, a specific list of those who were in all three of the cities where the murders were committed?"
"Way ahead of you," Briggs replied. "It's right here."
"We have pictures of Maria Garcia?" Mulder asked.
"Plenty," Warrick confirmed.
"Then let's head out to the rodeo arena. We'll talk to the guys on the list, but we'll talk to the other vendors, too. See if anyone saw Ms. Garcia around the stalls of any of these guys," Mulder suggested.
It was a long, hot night. The agents and criminalists crossed and recrossed each other's paths, checking in with each other to report a furtive look on the face of one suspect, a positive ID on the victim from a witness. . .anything that seemed to help.
Eventually, the focus of their suspicions narrowed. There was one man, a soft drinks vendor, named Guy Hooks, who had joined the circuit about seven months previously. . .just shortly after his mother died. The vendor at the next stall, an older woman, said that a woman who looked like the victim had spoken to both her and the suspect during a lull time on the first night of the rodeo.
"The problem is, we don't have enough to justify a warrant," Grissom said glumly. "If we could only search through his trailer, find the knife he used or the boots he was wearing or maybe some physical evidence that the victim had been confined there prior to her death."
"Well, if we can't *look* for clues, we'll just have to listen for them," Mulder replied. "Keep talking to the guy, stay on his case, try to get him rattled. Maybe play a round of good cop/bad cop."
"With you, Mulder, it usually comes across more as good cop/insane cop," Scully muttered under her breath.
"Let's try this," Mulder suggested. "First two cops from the Las Vegas PD confront him, do the good cop/bad cop thing. Then, if you don't get anything after a bit, leave him. Just when he's starting to relax, we'll move in and try it again."
"Okay," Grissom agreed with a shrug.
"I'll be bad cop," Warrick offered.
"We'll let Catherine be good cop," Grissom said. "She exudes that maternal air."
Catherine rolled her eyes at her boss, but walked with Warrick back toward the stall where the suspect worked.
"I'll be bad cop for our round," Mulder said. "Chan, you be good cop."
"You're not suggesting *I* exude a maternal air, are you?" Chan inquired.
Mulder chuckled. "No, but you do that 'aw, shucks we just want to get to clear up this
misunderstanding' routine real well."
First Warrick and Catherine, then Mulder and Chan questioned the suspect. Both pairs came back more convinced then ever that Hooks was their killer, but with nothing concrete enough to justify a warrant.
"I know he's our killer," Mulder said wearily. "But it's to the point where I'm afraid we're not going to be able to catch him here; we may have to follow the rodeo to the next city it hits and keep him under surveillance."
"You don't *know*," Grissom said.
"Give it a rest, Gris," Catherine suggested. "The guy's obviously hiding something. That's obvious even to me and Warrick, and we're crime scene investigators, not FBI profilers."
"You know, it is *is* possible that he's hiding something other than serial killings," Guilbeau pointed out. "Traveling around the country with the rodeo would be a great way to distribute drugs, for example."
"You're making sense," Mulder admitted. "But I just. . .know. When you've spent more than 15 years of your life focusing on serial killers, you develop a sense about them. It's like they lack essential ingredient of humanity that the rest of us -- even grungy criminal types like drug dealers -- have to one degree or another."
"If Mulder knows, he knows," Scully said quietly, with absolute confidence in her voice. Mulder shot her a tired smile of gratitude. Of course, nowadays a lot of people seemed to share her confidence in his abilities. But he remembered all those long years when she'd been the only one who believed in him.
"Well, things are starting to shut down around here," Grissom
pointed out. "I'm hot, I'm tired and I don't think we want to be discussing
the particulars of the case here on the rodeo grounds; let's go back to
headquarters and rethink our strategy."
"Okay," Mulder nodded.
The group had almost made it to the parking lot when Sarah put a hand to her ear. "Oops. I think I lost an earring. And I was wearing my nice ones, the ones my grandmother gave me when I graduated college."
"I saw something shiny lying on the ground a while back," Huffman volunteered.
"Can you show me where?" Sarah asked.
"Sure," Huffman replied.
They two youngest law enforcement officers retraced their steps until they were almost in front of Hooks' stall. "It was right around here," Huffman said.
"There it is," Sarah said. She bent down to pick up her earring, but lost her balance as she reached for it and ended up toppling over in an undignified heap.
Huffman chuckled and reached out a hand. "Your middle name Grace by any chance?" he inquired.
Just as Sarah took hold of Huffman's hand to pull herself up, Hooks lunged. Whether he'd thought the young woman was alone or whether he'd been enraged at the physical contact -- brief and prosaic as it was -- between them, neither was ever sure.
Grissom and Mulder glanced at each other as the members of their teams climbed into the
various vehicles they'd brought with them. "Do you think we should go back?" Grissom
Mulder nodded and the two team leaders left the parking lot almost at a run, both seized by a feeling -- maybe intuition, maybe a subconscious reading of clues sharpened by their combined 35 years in law enforcement -- that the rookie members of their teams were in danger.
Hooks lunged at Huffman, the knife coming just close enough to tear the fabric of his shirt. Huffman tried frantically to reach his weapon while, at the same time, staying out of Hooks' range. Sarah was fumbling for her weapon, as well, when Huffman was caught in the glare of a high-density flash light. "Freeze," two deep voices yelled simultaneously.
"FBI!" added one.
"Police!" added the other. "Drop your weapon and step slowly toward us with your hands in the air."
Several hours later, Grissom gave a sigh of satisfaction. The fact that Hooks had attempted to stab an FBI agent had been more than enough to justify a search warrant through his trailer. Not that they'd really needed it. The knife he'd had in his hand when he lunged at Huffman had minute traces of the previous victim's blood on it. That in itself should be enough to put him away for a good, long time. But they'd also found pictures of all the victims in his possession. Members of both the FBI team and the CSI team were working conscientiously to make sure all the i's were dotted and all the t's crossed.
Grissom gave a little grunt. Despite his personal belief that criminal profilers practiced something that he considered more akin to an art -- if not more akin to voodoo -- than the science of crime solving using hard data that he and his team worked with, he'd enjoyed working with Agent Mulder and the other federal agents. He wished he'd had more time for conversation with Agent Scully, though. He'd like to hear more about the technological marvels she had access to at Quantico. Maybe he could arrange a field trip or something for himself and his team.
Scully was bagging up a final piece of evidence when Mulder strolled over to her part of the lab.
"Catherine asked me to give this to Greg. Any idea who that is?" she asked.
"I believe Greg's the Pendrell-type dude. Over there," Mulder said, indicating the man he meant with a jerk of his head.
"What's a Pendrell-type dude?" Stokes asked as Scully headed over toward Greg.
"Agent Pendrell was a friend of ours who worked out at the FBI labs," Mulder replied.
"He's no longer with the bureau?"
"He's dead," Mulder said with a sigh. "Proof, I guess, that just because some spend more time with a microscope than chasing suspects, every law enforcement officer is putting his life on the line every day he gets up and goes to work."
"That's good to hear," Stokes said. "I mean, not that your friend died. But sometimes those of us who do primarily crime scene investigations get kidded about not being 'real'
cops by the detectives and patrol officers."
"Don't kid yourself," Mulder replied. "You're a real cop."
"Agent Mulder, are we done?" Briggs asked.
"I think you and Huffman and Chan and Guilbeau can probably take off," Mulder said. "Any loose ends that need to be tied up, Scully and I can take care of. Everybody just be sure to be back at the airport in time for our 4 p.m. flight."
"If you guys can wait," Nick stretched his arm and glanced at his watch, then smiled at Donna "about half an hour, Sarah and I though maybe you and Mike would like to join us for breakfast."
"You don't have to wait," Catherine said, coming in on the tail end of the conversation. "You and Sarah have both logged plenty of overtime over the last couple of days. Go on, take off. Warrick and I will finish up around here."
The four youngest law enforcement officials left in such a hurry Mulder kind of thought he saw clouds of dust spurting out from beneath their feet, like in cartoons. He turned to Chan and Guilbeau and said, "You guys can leave, too."
"Want to go hit the blackjack tables for an hour or two?" Chan suggested.
"I've never gambled," Guilbeau replied. "I'd probably end up losing my life savings."
"I'll teach you," Chan replied. "Come on, it'll be fun. Like the one-and-only time you'll be
the one learning from me, instead of vice versa."
"What the hell," Guilbeau said after a moment. "We're in Vegas, might as well."
Mulder smiled at Scully and said, "Just let me go confer with Grissom for a minute or two. Then we can take off, go grab some breakfast and get a couple of hours sleep before we need to head out."
"Sounds good," she agreed.
Mulder walked into the CSI chief's office and extended his hand. "Grissom, it's been a pleasure working with your team. Not all local law enforcement agencies react so well when we feds move in."
"Our teams meshed pretty well, didn't they," Grissom agreed.
Mulder was quite for a moment, then he said. "I'm going to say something that's probably going to screw up what ever kind of camaraderie we've achieved, but I think you need to hear it. And you're probably never going to hear it from anybody else. I don't know what kind of pain or rejection you suffered in your past to cause you to lock people out the way you do. . .but stop doing it, Grissom. Let somebody in. Don't let your work become your whole life."
Grissom stiffened. "You don't know the first thing about me."
Mulder gave a fleeting smile and shook his head. "Hell, Gris, I *was* you. First twelve years I spent with the bureau, my work was my life. I told myself I had my reasons for that. Some flat-out bizarre stuff happened to me when I was a kid, and the fact that my first attempt at a loving relationship with a member of the opposite sex was with a psycho bitch didn't help matters. And I'm sure some crap's happened to you, too. But keeping aloof from people who care about you isn't going to make the pain go away. It's just going to make it keep growing. Depending on how much they care about you, it may spread the pain to them, too."
"What happened?" Grissom asked, intrigued in spite of himself.
"For me, Scully happened. The bureau assigned her as my partner and eventually I realized that all I had to do was trust her. . .love her. . .let her in. . . and all the pain would go away. But I was a slow learner. She suffered a lot due to my obsessions."
"The Las Vegas Police Department hasn't been kind enough to supply me with a partner who wants to become my wife and bear my children," Grissom commented dryly.
"And maybe the role of husband and father isn't meant for you," Mulder conceded. "Not everyone wants that out of life. All I'm saying is let *somebody* in. Make a human connection. Start treating your colleagues less like employees and more like friends. Or reconnect with your parents, your siblings. . .anybody."
Mulder turned and walked out. He doubted he and Grissom would be exchanging friendly e-mails and if his team ever had to return to Las Vegas the reception would probably be downright frosty. But he knew that if he'd never said anything, it would have nagged at him; not incessantly but doggedly, like a toothache.
"So did you want to go out for breakfast or just have room service bring us something up to the room or what?" Mulder asked Scully as they headed back to their hotel.
"What I want is for you to stay down in the casino for about ten minutes when we first get back. Then I'll join you and we can go to breakfast. Then we can back to the room and," she smiled softly at him as her voice dropped to a husky purr, "sleep."
Mulder grinned at her. He had no idea why she wanted a few minutes alone in their room, but he was happy to indulge her. He had a feeling they would be using the bed for purposes other than sleep once they returned, which was fine with him. They could always nap on the airplane.
After agreeing where to meet, Mulder dropped Scully off at the front entrance and parked the car. He decided to amuse himself at the slot machines while he waited.
Scully took the briefest of showers when she returned to the room, then hurriedly put on the dress she'd brought with her. It was of a silky material that looked black in some lights, green in others. She'd brought it with the intention of going out to dinner, not breakfast, but what the heck? She added the dangly opal earrings Mulder had bought her a few months earlier to complete the outfit.
Mulder had just dropped another quarter in the slot machine and was watching the wheel
spin when he caught a whiff of a familiar perfume. He turned to see his wife standing behind him, wearing an iridescent dress, her opal earrings and what he privately referred to as her "fuck me" shoes. . .the black ones with high spiky heels, tiny ankle straps and open toes.
"Wow," he breathed out. "I just hit the jackpot."
"I guess this dress looks sort of silly to wear to breakfast," Scully began, but Mulder shook his head.
"Scully, there are lots of words I could use to describe the way you look in that dress, but trust me. . .silly would not be one of them."
Mulder and Scully drifted into one of the restaurants connected with the hotel; not the main dining room, but a smaller, intimate eatery. When the waitress came to bring their menus and take their drink orders, Mulder said, "Two glasses of orange juice and a bottle of champagne."
"Mulder, nobody drinks champagne for breakfast!" Scully protested.
"Sure they do," he replied with a shrug, "at wedding breakfasts."
"This isn't a wedding breakfast."
"Anniversary breakfast; close enough."
Scully smiled and quit arguing. Actually the idea of getting just slightly tipsy was not without a certain amount of appeal.
Almost an hour later, Mulder escorted a somewhat giggly Scully out of the elevator and into the corridor on their floor. When he reached their door, he bent down and swooped her up into his arms to carry her into the room. "Fox, what are you doing?" she asked between giggles.
"Carrying you over the threshold. Dramatic reenactment of our wedding night, remember? Minus the Krycek factor."
"You didn't do this the first time," she said.
"And you wouldn't let me order a bottle of champagne, and it was just past sunset, not just before dawn," he pointed out. "So we've made a few minor adjustments."
"Well," she said as they entered the room and closed the door, "as long as we get the main
event accurate, I guess the details can be altered a bit."
Mulder tumbled her down to the bed and kissed her long, slow and deep. "We've got too many clothes on," Scully muttered when they came up for air, reaching for the buttons on his shirt.
"In a minute," Mulder said, grabbing her hands with his and holding them on either side of her head. "I want to tell you something first; before we get naked."
"Just that. . .when we got married three years ago I already loved you so much, I didn't think it would be possible to fall any more deeply in love with you than I already was. But you would think I, of all people, would know better than to discount extreme possibilities. Because I have, Dana. As much as I loved you before we got married, these past three years -- sharing our lives together in every way, having a child together -- it just keeps getting better. I keep falling deeper and deeper in love with you."
Scully smiled at him and blinked tears out of her eyes. "I know, Fox. I feel the same way. That's sort of what I was trying to express yesterday morning. Every time I wake up with you beside me, it's like a dream come true."
Mulder was still for a moment. This moment felt almost too sacred for sex. Almost. But his body was having other ideas. "Want to undress me now?" he whispered, his voice a teasing murmur in her ear.
"Mmmhmm," Scully said, her deft fingers making quick work of his shirt buttons, then sliding it off his broad shoulders to land in a pool on the floor. She reached for his belt buckle and got the rest of clothes off in record time.
"Turn around," Mulder said, turning to Scully to face away from him. He began to inch the zipper of her dress down slowly, taking time to kiss and caress her back every time a bit more flesh was exposed.
"Mul-der!" Scully groaned after a few minutes, "are you trying to drive me crazy? We've got a 4 p.m. flight to make remember?"
Mulder chuckled and finished undressing her in a more speedy manner. Then he rolled her onto her back and begin to enter her, going exquisitely slowly.
By the standards of those videos Mulder used to own -- the ones that weren't his -- it wasn't particularly exciting sex. Making love to your own wife, on a bed, in the missionary position wasn't the stuff of which porn fantasies are made. But he couldn't ever remember it being better.
Scully moaned and tried to keep the feelings swelling inside her from reaching their crescendo too soon. Simultaneous orgasm wasn't something they achieved often; usually she came first. In all honesty, she rarely even made an effort to hold her own climax at bay, because she enjoyed watching her husband come without being distracted by the haze of her own desire. But, tonight, she wanted it to be mutual.
Scully was beginning to whimper, to quiver, to arch. Mulder smiled down into her passion-dazed eyes and gave one final thrust. Their moans mingled together. When they'd both stopped throbbing, he slid out and spooned her beside him. Murmured, "I love you"s were exchanged before they both fell into a contented sleep.
"Where is everybody?" Grissom asked as he walked into the labs.
"Define everybody," suggested Warrick.
"Nick. Sarah. All those FBI agents who have been swarming around here."
"Agents Briggs and Huffman went to go eat breakfast. I told Nick and Sarah they could leave early to accompany them," Catherine answered.
"What was it, like a double date?" Grissom inquired.
Warrick shrugged. "Catherine and I didn't ask for the particulars," he said. "Agents Chan and Guilbeau also left, but they were going to hit the casinos then get some sleep."
"Mulder and Scully left, too," Catherine added. "They said they were going to go to bed for a while before their flight left. And, no, we didn't ask *them* for particulars about what they weregoing to do there, either."
"Although, judging by the way they were looking at each other, we could make an educated guess," Warrick said.
"I realize I'm not the best person in the world to make judgments on what's normal, but aren't those two kind of. . .odd for a married couple?" Grissom asked. "I mean they seem awfully. . ."
"To be that hot for each other after three years of marriage and a baby is a tad bit unusual," Catherine agreed. "But if that's the weirdest thing going on between them, they're a lot luckier than most people."
"Our shift's officially over," Grissom said. "You two can take off."
"I promised Lindsey I'd take her to breakfast at the Mirage, then we could look to see if the white tigers are awake," Catherine said. "She told me my 'police mans' friends could come with us, if they wanted. Either of you gentlemen interested?"
"Sure, I'm up for it," Warrick answered.
"I," Grissom began, intent on saying that he had paperwork that needed finishing up. But then he remembered Agent Mulder's words and graced his two long-time co-workers with a smile, changing it to, "I'd love to. Let's get going."
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