DISCLAIMER: The X-files and its characters belongs to Chris Carter, 1013 Productions and Fox Entertainment. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: If you're a fan of Mulder you may want to pass. My eternal thanks to Celievamp for the great beta. This work is better because of your help. All mistakes are my own. Constructive is feedback welcome. A special thank you to Bara_brith and Yellowsmurf6 you both know why!
SPOILERS: Set somewhere in the first half of season six.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Weak in the Knees
By Dhamphir

 

Prologue

Her feet and her back were killing her. Doing two back to back autopsies inevitably strained muscles that she would just as soon forget she had. But doing three was absolutely brutal. She didn't so much sit down as collapse into the chair. She managed to bring her right foot up to prop it on her left knee by pulling on the fabric of her scrub pants until it was within reach. Once she had her foot in place on her knee, she pushed off her shoe and started to massage the knots out of the arch of her foot. She was going to need a long, hot soak in the tub.

"Good night, Dr Scully."

"Good night, Adam," she called out to the attendant who had put the last of the three slain women she had just examined into the cooler.

Wearily she slipped her shoe back on and turned her chair to face the computer. She quickly typed up her initial notes on the final autopsy and printed them out. She grabbed the copies of the tapes she'd made during the autopsies to transcribe in detail later and headed out, to return to the taskforce bullpen.


Visibly exhausted, Scully dropped into the chair next to Mulder.

"How did the autopsies go?" he asked.

She let out a sigh. "Nothing new. No fibers, no DNA, nothing." She took in his ragged appearance. Everyone was tired and strung out, none more so than the profilers trying to pin down the sick bastard that they were all working to stop.

They had both been assigned to the taskforce that was hunting the serial killer the press had dubbed the East Coast Reaper. Over a dozen women up and down the coast had fallen prey to him. The killer was particularly vicious... and smart. He'd managed to leave few clues at the crime scenes. Or at least, few clues that seemed to lead the investigators to anywhere but dead ends.

Mulder's reputation as a top profiler, before his crusade and personal quest that were the X-Files, and Scully's reputation as an outstanding forensic pathologist and scientist, got them added to the taskforce when it was expanded following yet more headlines of the Reaper's latest victims. The Bureau was taking a very public beating over its lack of ability to identify, much less stop, the Reaper.

Suddenly there seemed to be some commotion near the elevators. Assistant Director Ben Taylor, the man leading the taskforce, had come out of his office and gone to the lobby. A loud ding announced the arrival of the elevator and then a hushed conversation took place in the open doorway.

Benjamin Taylor had been an offensive lineman in college and carried his bulk with grace and athleticism even into his late forties. His 6'5" frame blocked everyone's view of whom he was speaking to. But when he turned and escorted his 'guests' to his office that was when the whispered comments started. His guests consisted of the Director himself, and a woman.

"I'll be damned."

Scully looked over at her partner. "What? You can't be surprised the Director is here after all the heat the Bureau is taking in the press."

"No, not him... her. I can't believe it's her."

Scully looked at the back of the woman as she disappeared into Taylor's office before he closed the door. "What do you mean, Mulder? You know her? Who is she?"

"I never thought she'd step foot in the building again."

Scully tried to make sense of Mulder's tone and the lack of expression on his face. "Who is she, Mulder?" she demanded, tired and a little impatient with his non-answer.

"Jessica Morgan," Mulder said stonily, then angrily got up and marched out of the bullpen.

 

Chapter 1

After the Director left AD Taylor took Special Agent Morgan to an empty office. "It's not much, Agent Morgan, but it's yours for as long as you need it."

"Thank you."

"Copies of the files are in the boxes there. The Director ordered them prepared for your arrival. I didn't know what time you would get in, so..."

"I'll get started."

"Uh, okay. You sure you don't want to get checked into your hotel? I mean, get some rest and get started fresh in the morning?"

"I'm fine. I'd just as soon as get started. Thank you, Assistant Director."

"Ben. Everyone calls me Ben," Taylor said with a smile. Morgan slipped off her suit jacket, sat down at the desk, opened a box and pulled out a file. She opened the file and began reading.

"Well, if there's anything you need... files, coffee maker, pencil sharpener... just let me know..."

"Alright... Ben."

Taylor, suddenly feeling quite ill at ease, turned and left the office. There was definitely something about the woman that unnerved him. And it wasn't the fact that she was the Director's personal pick to work this god-awful case. Taylor was not one to let ego get in the way of solving a case, particularly one as bad as the current one. There was just something in the grey eyes of Agent Jessica Morgan that said she knew what evil was – had an intimate familiarity with it.

Morgan read the extensive files on each murder that made up the string of killings done by the Reaper. She did not read any of the profiles already done, however. She was there to do her own workup on the killer. The Reaper was, no doubt, a smart killer, and a very brutal one. He enjoyed killing, and he enjoyed leading the police and FBI on wild goose chases. Only a cursory glance at the crime scene photos was all it took to tell her this was going to be a bad one. But then, the Director only called her in on the really bad ones.

Over 18 hours later she was still in the office. She had several sheets of handwritten notes. She'd taken the crime scene pictures from the files and taped them up on the walls. She moved slowly, from one gory picture to the next, studying each in detail. She was on the hunt. Only time would tell how long it would take to find her prey. Finally she went to the window and stared out, looking at nothing really. After almost an hour of standing practically motionless, she took a deep breath, turned and walked out of the office. She walked into Taylor's office.

Ben Taylor looked up. "What can I do for you?"

"How many of the bodies do we have?"

"Here? The last three. The previous ones were handled either by local law enforcement or the Bureau field offices. The first four have been buried. Because they were all different jurisdictions it took a while before all the dots were connected and we realized what was really going on."

Morgan walked over to the window and looked out. "Who's the best pathologist you've got?"

"Agent Scully."

"Scully... she did the posts on the last three," she said, remembering the name and signature on the autopsy reports.

"Yes."

"How long until you can get the other bodies here?"

"Within a day – at least for some of them."

"Do it," she said quietly. She then turned from the window and walked out of Taylor's office.

Taylor picked up the phone and made the necessary calls.


When Scully walked into the autopsy bay after changing into her scrubs she was surprised to find one of the bodies she'd autopsied two days before pulled out on its drawer and someone in scrubs looking at it. When the person turned she saw it was Agent Morgan.

"It's Agent Morgan, right?"

The dark-haired woman gave her a small smile and a nod. "Yes. And you're Agent Scully."

"Yes," she replied as they shook hands. The woman was of average height, about 5'6", and appeared to be of athletic build. Though attractive there was nothing particularly striking in her features, save her grey eyes. Her eyes seemed to... suddenly Scully felt as if she were falling into obsidian pools of warmth, embraced by–

"... you alright?"

"W-what?" Scully shook her head clear. It felt like she was short of breath and had to shift her feet under her to regain her balance.

"Are you alright, Agent Scully?"

"I'm fine. I'm fine."

Morgan seemed to sense it best not to question the veracity of Scully's statement and let it go unchallenged. "I want to thank you for taking a look at the other bodies for me."

"Not a problem. I just hope we find something. I haven't been able to yet."

"I know. But I'm hoping the UNSUB was less thorough in covering his tracks in the earlier cases. And if there was something missed in their autopsies, I'm told you're the best to find it."

Scully didn't really react to the compliment, but Morgan sensed a touch of pride from her anyway. Pride hard earned and well deserved. Morgan looked back down at the body a couple moments. "She was beautiful... and too young to end up here," she said quietly and reverently. After another moment she pulled the sheet over her again and pushed the drawer back in.

"Who do you want to start with?" Scully asked.

"Let's start with Karen Rivers."

Even though it was a re-examination of the body, it was still time consuming since Dana had to be careful and not make any assumptions whether the previous pathologist had missed something. So it was well past lunch time when she finished up with the first one. As she reached for the drawer that contained the next body, Morgan suggested they break for lunch.

"I'm fine," Scully said indicating she didn't need the break.

Morgan looked at her. "I know your back and legs have to be killing you. Mine ache and I'm not the one cutting. Let's break for lunch and come back fresh."

Scully hesitated but then nodded agreement when she realized Morgan was being genuine and not patronizing in any way. They went into the locker room to change.

"Do you like Italian, Agent Morgan?"

"Italian?" she asked while changing.

"There's a nice little Italian restaurant not far from here. Would you care to join me for lunch?"

She thought about it moment and then accepted Scully's invitation. "Alright. But do you mind if I meet you there? There's something I need to do. It'll only take a few minutes."

"That'll be fine. I'll see you there."

They went their separate ways when they left the locker room.


Scully had only been seated for about five minutes when Morgan arrived. A waiter quickly took their orders and they were left with just their thoughts.

Scully finally broke the silence. "You seem very comfortable in the autopsy bay. Most agents aren't."

"I wouldn't exactly say comfortable. But it's a part of the work." She paused just slightly. "It's hard to figure out the killer's thought processes if you don't look at their 'art'."

Scully nodded, seeming to understand what she was getting at. "How long have you been with the Bureau?"

"About nine years, but not all in one shot. I resigned for a time and then returned. And yourself, Agent Scully?"

"Going on eight years. I taught forensic pathology for a couple years here at Quantico. Since then I've been partnered with Mulder."

Morgan raised an eyebrow. "And you're still with him?" she asked with a touch of humor to her voice, grey eyes and corners of her mouth.

From someone else, such a comment would have elicited an immediate defensive and sharp retort. But coming from Morgan, in the manner she delivered it, simply elicited a small smile.

"How do you like working the X-Files?" Morgan asked.

"It's certainly been interesting."

That got a smile from Morgan, instead of just a slight curling at the corner her mouth. "Working with Mulder, I can imagine."

"So you know him?"

Morgan shook her head. "Not really. He was a top profiler when I was assigned to the VCU. He had already earned his nickname of Spooky and I was just earning mine. A lot of the agents weren't happy I was brought in right from the Academy. We worked a few of the same cases."

Scully was impressed. No one got assigned to VCU straight from the Academy. It was an assignment you had to earn, to prove yourself capable of – after at least two years of field work. "What office do you work out of?"

"I don't really."

"I don't understand."

"I work on a case by case basis. For all I know I'll be in Wisconsin next week, or Utah."

"Sounds like a lot of travel."

Morgan nodded. "They're trying to get me to come back here – to Quantico."

"To teach?"

She again nodded. "And occasionally work cases as needed."

"Are you considering it?"

"I don't know if it's what I want. You taught – it's very different from being in the field."

Scully nodded. "Yes it is. I did enjoy it though."

They continued making small talk through their meal. But before they were done they were interrupted by Morgan's phone.

"Morgan... Alright, don't let anyone touch a thing, and keep everyone out of the house." She hung up and looked at Scully. "There's another victim. I need to get to the crime scene. I'd like for you to come along."

Scully nodded. She knew there were often clues that could be found when the bodies were initially inspected in situ, rather than waiting until it had been manhandled and sent to the morgue. "Absolutely."

They quickly dropped money on the table and got up.


Scully and Morgan ducked as they exited the helicopter when it landed in Richmond, Virginia. Taylor was waiting for them at the front door of the house. "No one's been in since the responding officer found her. Nothing's been processed."

She nodded. "Thank you. Keep everyone out until Agent Scully and I are done."

He nodded. "You got it."

Scully and Morgan donned shoe protectors so as not to contaminate the scene with their footprints. They then entered the house.

When she stepped into the house, Morgan sucked in a breath with a slight hiss, the stench of death overpowering her heightened senses.

They both carefully approached the body, slipping on gloves. After Scully took pictures Morgan tenderly moved a lock of hair to see the woman's full face. She gazed at her in reverence. Morgan whispered something that sounded a lot like 'I'm sorry,' and then stepped back from the body. She slowly moved around the room, taking careful visual inventory of everything.

Scully began a careful and gentle inspection of the body.

"How long?" Morgan asked.

"Three to five hours. I'll know better once we get her back to Quantico." She stopped and peered closely at something on the victim's shoulder near her neck, stuck in some blood. "A hair." She quickly took some pictures of it and then carefully removed it with tweezers and bagged it. "This isn't the victim's," she looked up and met Morgan's eyes. It was possible she'd just found their first piece of tangible forensic evidence.

Scully resumed her inspection of the body while Morgan continued to take in the surroundings. After a while Scully announced she was done inspecting the body. Morgan was in another room. Scully found her in the victim's bedroom looking around.

"I can get started on the autopsy as soon as I get the body back. I'll take the body back now and meet up with you later," she offered.

Morgan looked at her. "I'd rather sit in on the autopsy, if you don't mind." She paused. "Something doesn't feel right."

"Alright. Do you want to me to take the body back now and wait for you there?"

Morgan took a deep breath as she took one more look around the room. "No, I'm done here."

They stepped out the front door. The body was loaded on the helicopter and they flew back to Quantico.

Once they were back in the autopsy bay they worked together to remove the victim's clothes, photographing and documenting everything every step along the way. Scully examined the body under a magnifying glass, inspecting every inch of skin. The autopsy was painstaking and meticulous. It was four hours before they were done. They rode back to the Hoover building together where the taskforce was busy gathering information about the latest victim.

"Scully," Mulder called out to her.

They walked over to him.

"How are you doing?" he asked her.

She nodded. "Fine. We just finished with the latest victim's autopsy."

"So that makes 14," he said disgustedly.

"I'm not so sure about that," Morgan said quietly.

Mulder and Scully both looked at her surprised. "What makes you say that?" Scully asked.

Morgan let out a breath and shook her head slightly. "Not much more than a feeling at this point."

Taylor entered and called everyone together. He went over information about that last victim and how it appeared consistent with the killer they were tracking. He also went over the current profile they were working from. Morgan then went into her office and started reviewing everything they had on the case and doing some research.

 

Chapter 2

48 hours later found Morgan still in her office, Scully exhausted from re-examining the bodies that had been shipped to Quantico, and Mulder tired and surly from trying, along with the other profilers, to come up with a workable profile of the Reaper. At least Scully had gone home each night and gotten some sleep. All agents on the taskforce were commanded to appear at the meeting called by AD Ben Taylor in the bullpen.

The entire taskforce was present and there wasn't a happy face among them. Taylor wanted updates on any progress. Unfortunately there wasn't any real progress to report. After the meeting broke up, Mulder pulled Scully aside. Despite his rumpled, tired countenance, there was a spark in his eyes.

"You know, Scully, I've been thinking... maybe the reason the UNSUB hasn't left any telltale clues behind is because he's not a typical perpetrator."

A fine auburn eyebrow arched. "What? You're not trying to say this is an X-File, are you?"

"It would explain a lot. Like the lack of forensic evidence, the amount of blood missing from the bodies–"

"Mulder, the wounds explain the blood missing from the bodies."

"Then where the hell did it go?" he demanded. "Not all of it is at the crime scenes! The missing blood didn't just evaporate into thin air."

"So you automatically think what? An alien killed these women? A vampire?" she scoffed.

"Could be."

"Come on, Mulder, you're obviously sleep deprived. Go home, get some sleep."

"Scully–"

"I don't want to hear it, Mulder. Go, get some sleep. We'll talk tomorrow." She pushed him out the door.

Scully started to follow but stopped. She felt the pull to go back to the bullpen. She turned and headed back. Regardless of the time of day, there were always some agents present when a taskforce was formed to work a case such as the Reaper. The mood in the bullpen was subdued due to the apparent lack of progress and growing body count. But that wasn't why she was there.

She stopped and looked at the closed door to one particular office. She hadn't seen the mysterious agent since they had finished the autopsy on the most recent victim, Andrea Bishop. And during the two nights since she dreamt of grey eyes and obsidian pools... and of things she didn't understand, but couldn't get out of her mind. A good investigator was someone who didn't rush to conclusions without evidence, and Scully was nothing if not a good investigator. Nor was she a coward. She'd been through too much, lost too much, and come too close to dying.

Scully took a deep breath and marched up to the closed door. She knocked and waited.

"Come in," came from inside.

She opened the door to see Agent Morgan sitting at the work table in the room. The walls were covered in grim crime scene photos. Both the desk and work table were overflowing with stacks of file folders, reports and even more photos.

The fact that Morgan had obviously been holed up in the office for over 48 hours didn't diminish the woman's attractiveness. Her suit, though a bit creased, still snugly fit the obviously toned form of the agent. Her black, shoulder length hair had lost none of its shininess. And her captivating grey eyes were still alert and bright though there was a tenseness around her mouth and eyes. Even so, she smiled warmly at the redhead when she looked up.

"Ah, Agent Scully, you have great timing."

"Oh?"

"I need your expert opinion of something."

"What can I help you with?"

"I've got some autopsy reports I'd like you to look over for me, if you don't mind."

"Alright." Scully slipped off her jacket and set her briefcase down on the end of the work table. She opened her briefcase and took out a folder, handing it to Morgan. "Here are my findings on the last of the re-examinations of the previous victims. Unfortunately there's nothing new to report. Sorry."

"Not your fault." Morgan handed her a file folder.

"Is there something specific I'm looking for in these reports?"

Morgan shook her head. "I don't want to bias you. In the meantime, can I get you something to drink? I can offer you bottled water or hot tea," she said with a gesture to the small square refrigerator in the corner next to the desk, and the coffeemaker sitting on top of it.

"Tea would be fine."

While Scully began to read autopsy reports, Morgan prepared two mugs of hot tea. Both women sipped the hot tea while they reviewed their respective reports.

It wasn't long before Scully could see why Morgan had asked her to review the autopsy reports. After an initial quick review she felt her heart drop to her feet. She then went back through the reports slowly, carefully, making sure. She felt herself pale as she set the last report down and closed the folder on the table. "Oh, God," she whispered. She looked up and saw Morgan's eyes on her.

"So I'm not crazy," Morgan said quietly.

Scully shook her head. She saw, what she could only describe as agony, pass behind those grey eyes. Morgan stood up and turned some pictures over from where they had been facing the wall. She had each of them labeled with names, dates and places. They both stared at the line of victims, now significantly longer than the 14 they'd had two days before. They both felt sick to their stomachs.

Scully's voice was a little shaky when she spoke. "Why didn't these show up before?"

Morgan sat back down and ran a hand through her hair. "VICAP is only as good as the information entered into it. Problem is some one-horse towns and rural areas just don't utilize it. I've been on the phone nonstop getting these."

"So the Reaper has been active longer than we thought."

Morgan nodded. "I'm going to need your help – to take a look at his earliest victims."

Scully nodded. "You have it."

Morgan nodded. "Thanks." She let out a sigh. "Get a good night's sleep. We'll be on the road tomorrow. If I know the Director, he'll light some fires and the exhumation orders will be signed first thing in the morning." She stood up but wavered so badly she tried to grab the edge of the table to steady herself, but missed.

Scully jumped up and grabbed the brunette, keeping her upright. "Whoa, whoa." She was surprised at how light the other woman seemed. "Easy does it," Scully said as she helped Morgan back into the chair.

"I'm okay."

Scully lifted Morgan's chin and looked in her eyes. She held up the index finger of her right hand. "Follow my finger."

Morgan impatiently followed Scully's finger then sat back in the chair. "I'm fine, Agent Scully. I just stood up too fast."

"Let me be the judge of that since I'm the doctor."

Morgan frowned. "I've got an M.D. as well, and I know I'm fine. My blood sugar is just a little low. I need to eat something, that's all."

Scully stood back up straight. "When was the last time you ate?"

"Lunch," Morgan answered.

But Scully didn't miss the slight blush that colored the agent's cheeks. She quirked an eyebrow. "Lunch? You mean lunch over two days ago?"

It didn't take a genius to see the fiery redhead didn't approve. Before Morgan realized it she was wearing her suit jacket and was being dragged out of her office.


The women handed the menus back to the waitress once they had placed their orders.

Morgan sipped her water and gave Scully a small smirk. "So, do you always manhandle fellow agents and forcibly abscond with them to restaurants, Agent Scully?"

"Do you always ignore common sense and not eat or sleep for days at a time, Agent Morgan?"

"Not on purpose, but... enough time has been lost on this case, and enough lives lost."

"I understand that. But you won't do anyone any good if you run yourself into the ground."

"I'm pretty resilient."

"Mm hmm, says the woman who nearly did a nose dive into a table not 15 minutes ago."

"I know my blood sugar's down. I'd have gotten something to eat and been fine." Morgan took in the sternly arched eyebrow. "But a meal is a good idea," she finally conceded.

"Well at least you have some sense."

"You know, Agent Scully, if you're going to give me such a hard time, you may as well call me Jess."

Scully smiled. "Only if you call me Dana."

"Deal."

A thought suddenly occurred to Scully. "Oh, I meant to tell you – that hair we found on the last victim?"

Morgan nodded. "I know. It doesn't belong to our UNSUB."

"Right. It belonged to a previous victim. How did you know?"

"That it belonged to a previous victim? I didn't. That it wasn't his?" She shrugged. "He likes playing games with us. So far, every piece of evidence that we've found has turned into a red herring. He's taunting us, thumbing his nose at us. He's saying, 'Look how good I am. Not only can I do what I want, kill who I want; but I can send you on wild goose chases, too.'"

"It's scary when they're this good."

"Yes, it is. But it'll also be his downfall. Eventually he'll get tired of the game as it is. He'll get tired of manipulating the cops so easily. After all, what fun is the chase if there's no chance of being caught? So he'll eventually leave a clue that will actually be a real clue."

"You mean he really wants to be caught?"

"No. He only wants there to be a chance he'll be caught – so he can show how superior he is when he isn't. Of course our job is to be better than him anyway. To catch him before he takes too many more innocent lives."

"Let me ask you something. What do you think he's doing with the blood? Granted the crime scenes are bloody, but not enough to account for all of it. There's at least a pint missing from each of the victims. Is he taking it to use in some ritual or something?"

"Actually I think he's taking it just because he can." Morgan let out a quiet huff. "Then again, he could be bathing in it or drinking it. Either way, he's a psychopath."

The waitress arrived with their food. They managed to restrain from discussing the case while they ate. After dinner Scully dropped Morgan off at her hotel.

 

Chapter 3

After a few hours sleep, Morgan was back at work by 4:00 AM. She wrote up a summary of the new cases she'd found and prepared the presentation she knew she'd have to give to the taskforce to bring them up to speed on the new findings.

After Scully had dropped her off at her hotel, she had called the Director and told him about the new victims. He agreed with her, that she and Scully would have to take a look at the bodies. They would be leaving after the presentation to the taskforce.


Scully arrived at work early. She'd slept well, even though she did dream about a certain agent with grey eyes most of the night. Somehow she wasn't surprised to see said agent was already at work as well. She hung up her coat and walked over to the open office door. She knocked.

Morgan looked up at the knock on her door. She smiled without knowing it. "Dana. Good morning." She received a smile in return.

"Good morning." Scully crossed her arms and adopted a mock stern expression. "And just what time did you come in, Jess?"

"About 4:00. Got over six hours of solid sleep," Morgan replied proudly. "And before you ask – yes, I ate breakfast.

Scully smiled. "Very good. You have potential after all." She was surprised but pleased by the brunette's soft chuckle. "What are you working on?"

"I'm putting the final touches on the presentation I have to give this morning, to bring the taskforce up to date on our findings. I spoke to the Director last night. After the meeting this morning you and I are going to head out and take a look at the earlier victims. Hopefully we'll find something. Nobody is perfect right out of the gate. He had to have made a mistake somewhere."

"With almost 30 victims he's certainly had enough practice to become perfect," Scully said with disgust.

"I know," Morgan replied with a sigh.

They were silent a few moments, each lost in their own thoughts. But then Ben Taylor arrived and wanted to talk to Morgan, so Scully left them alone.

By the time Taylor and Morgan were done talking the rest of the agents on the taskforce were present and it was time for Morgan to let them know about the new findings. She flipped over three free-standing chalkboards at one end of the bullpen. On them were pictures of 27 women. 14 the taskforce already knew about and 13 more she had dug up through research.

"Ladies and gentlemen, our job has gotten even more difficult. What you see here are the pictures of the victims of our UNSUB. Almost twice as many as we thought." She paused to let the murmuring and grumbling settle down. "I shouldn't have to tell you that we obviously don't want this getting out to the press, but let's make this clear – no one says a word to the press about this. I know you've all been working hard investigating any and all possible leads in this case. Well now we have 13 new victims to investigate. We have them, their families, their friends, their acquaintances, everything. Leave no stone unturned. Be thorough, but do not let on in anyway your investigation has anything to do with the Reaper case. I've prepared a brief for everyone that you can take with you. Assistant Director Taylor will give you your assignments." She started handing out the briefs she'd made up for everyone.

Taylor tapped Morgan on the shoulder. "Come into my office, Morgan."

"Alright." She handed the rest of the briefs to another agent and followed Taylor.

Taylor stopped before entering his office. He looked for Scully and called out to her. "Scully." When she looked up at him he gestured her over. "Come here." When Scully joined them Taylor ushered both agents into his office and closed the door. "Have a seat." He sat behind his desk. "I spoke with the Director this morning. He's informed me that you will be taking a look at the earlier victims and has arranged for some exhumations. He also said that you two are to be partnered for the duration of this case." He paused and watched both women, as if looking for a response from them. "Okay. If there's anything you need, just let me know."

"Thank you."

"Thanks."

The two women stood up and exited his office. Morgan turned to Scully. "Our flight doesn't leave for a couple hours. Do you need to go home and pack?"

Scully shook her head. "I keep a bag packed in my car just in case. A practice I've found very beneficial working with Mulder."

"I just need to take care of a couple things and then we can go."

"Alright."

Morgan went into the office and Scully went back over to where Mulder was sitting, eating sunflower seeds. Mulder stood as she approached.

"You ready to go? We've got to interview the family of this Carol Evans," he said snapping his fingers against the sheet of paper in his hand. "And it's a two and half hour drive there. Let's get going."

"I'm not going with you, Mulder."

"What? What do you mean?"

Before she could answer, another agent, a young man joined them. "Agent Mulder? I'm Jeffrey Crest. I'm going to be your partner since Agent Scully is being reassigned."

"What?! What's going on, Scully?" It was obvious Mulder was very unhappy.

"Calm down, Mulder. It's just for duration of this case. It's temporary."

"Where the hell are they reassigning you?"

"I've been assigned as Jess's partner. We're going to take a look at the bodies of the earlier victims."

"No! You can't! Not with her!" Mulder grabbed her arm. "You can't work with Morgan, Scully!"

"It's not like I have a lot of choice. The Director himself assigned me. I can't exactly say no even if I wanted to, which I don't."

"You don't understand! It's not safe! Working with her could get you killed!"

Scully was getting irritated at Mulder's irrational anger and his grip on her arm was beginning to actually hurt. She yanked her arm free and frowned at him. "And working with you couldn't?" she asked incredulously. She knew it was a low blow, but it was also true. She had lost count of the number of times her life and career had been put in peril because of Mulder. She turned away from him, afraid that if she didn't she would say something even more hurtful, something that permanently damaged their friendship and partnership. So she didn't see Mulder turn and march into Morgan's office.

The door was closed so the few agents still present did not see what was going on and only a few words could be heard. To those closest to the office it was obvious that Mulder was yelling, but no one was going to interfere. Uncomfortable looks were exchanged.

When Scully turned back around she caught the looks being exchanged and the quick glances cast in the direction of Morgan's office door. As she neared she could make out Mulder's raised voice, but not the words. She got closer and then she could make out a few scattered words.

"... fuck her... Jeffers... killed... you..."

Without knocking Scully opened the door in time to see Morgan blanch, whether from anger or some other emotion she didn't know.

"Get out," Morgan said flatly.

"What is the problem here?" Scully asked.

Mulder just stood there, breathing hard and staring daggers at Morgan.

"Get out now," Morgan said slowly and evenly.

He still didn't move.

Morgan looked up at him from the desk top. "If you don't leave now, I'll have you removed, Agent Mulder."

When he didn't move she picked up the phone and started dialing. He struck out, physically knocking the receiver from her hand and then grabbed the phone and yanked it out of the wall, throwing it across the room.

"That's assault," she said evenly. "How far do you want to take this?" she asked calmly.

"Mulder..." Scully tried to warn him he was going too far, but he was too enraged. To Scully's disbelief he swung at Morgan. "Mulder!"

Morgan blocked his punch and somehow dropped him onto the floor on his stomach. She had him cuffed in no time.

"You fucking DYKE!"

Taylor had heard the commotion, as had the few agents left in the bullpen. Taylor appeared in the doorway right behind Scully in time to see the swing Mulder took at Morgan.

Taylor pushed past Scully. He leaned down and took Mulder's gun. "You're under arrest for the assault of a federal agent." He hauled Mulder up and tossed him into a chair. He turned to Morgan. "Are you alright?"

She nodded.

"I'll take care of this. You have a job to do."

She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and let it out. "I'm not going to press charges. Just..." She let out another deep breath. "Just keep him out of my hair till we leave."

"Don't do me any fucking favors!" snarled Mulder.

"Mulder, shut up!" snapped Scully.

Taylor grabbed Mulder by the arm and hauled him to the doorway. "Whether Agent Morgan presses charges or not, you are going to answer for your behavior today." Taylor marched him out and off the floor.

Morgan sat down in her chair, rested her elbows on the desk and her face in her hands. She was obviously trying to calm herself down, although up to that point she had appeared to be calm.

Scully closed the door so they were alone. She pulled the other chair up and sat down. She noticed one of Morgan's hands trembling slightly. "Are you alright, Jess?"

"Just peachy," she snapped a little. She took another deep breath and let it out. She dropped her hands and looked at Scully. "I'm sorry; I didn't mean to snap at you."

"Understandable. I'm sorry about Mulder," she said softly. "I don't know what's gotten into him."

"No need for you to apologize, Dana." She stood up and went to the window, gazing out, but not really looking at anything. "As for what's gotten into him... he's never forgiven me for Toni Jeffers."

"Why is that name familiar?"

"Toni was an old girlfriend of his."

"That's right, now I remember him mentioning her. Said she broke up with him to start seeing another agent."

"That's what he believes. But she broke up with him quite a while before she ever asked me out."

Suddenly some of the pieces started to fall into place for Scully. "I see."

Morgan let out a shaky breath. "I was young, Toni was older and everything I wanted to be. At first I was just so damn flattered she was even interested. Then we fell in love. She was my first real love. She was killed in our apartment one night, by a serial killer I had profiled. He came looking for me... he found her. I should have been there."

Scully could hear tears in her voice. She knew the same kind of pain and guilt. "I'm so sorry. I know how hard it is to lose someone you love," she said, remembering her sister.

Morgan sniffed and wiped her eyes. "Since we were a couple when it happened, Mulder blames me. He kept trying to tell Toni what we had wasn't real, even after we'd been together a couple years. He blamed me for taking Toni from him, for seducing her... the ironic thing is, she's the one who seduced me. Anyway, after she was killed I resigned from the Bureau. My old partner, John, was the one that kept me from totally losing my sanity. I stayed with him until we caught the guy and closed the case, but then I had to get away. Away from the work, away from our life together, away from everything that had to do with the Bureau. I needed a diversion, so I moved and went to medical school."

Scully was surprised to hear someone talk about going to medical school as a 'diversion'.

Morgan took a couple more deep breaths while getting herself back together. She finally turned away from the window. She started going through a box of files on the table. "I've scanned the complete case files into my laptop, but I always like to have certain hard copies available to work from. I'll be bringing the pictures from each case and a handful of other documents. Are there any you want for yourself?" she asked completely changing the subject.

Scully could see Morgan was back in full professional mode, even if her eyes were a little shinier than normal. "As long as you have access to the complete case files, then the only things I'd like to take a hard copy of are the autopsy reports."

Morgan nodded. She pulled out a folder. "Here. They're all in there. And if you bring your laptop, I can copy everything I have to your computer as well."

"Alright."

 

Chapter 4

It was almost time for Scully and Morgan to board their plane when Morgan's phone rang.

"Morgan... No, sir, that's not necessary. I already told AD Taylor I wasn't going to press charges."

There was apparently a long response from the other end of the line. Finally Morgan spoke again.

"No... I don't want it to go that far... I know... Look, Lou, it was about Toni, okay? He cared about her. Just let it be. Please... Thank you... Yes, sir, we'll call if we need to... Goodbye." She was rubbing her forehead by the time she got off the phone. She let out a deep breath.

"So the Director knows about what happened," Scully observed.

Morgan nodded. "Taylor had to tell him – he's who I report to. Just like your AD will receive a copy of the incident report. He called to let me know it was being handled."

Scully took a deep breath. Assaulting a fellow agent was prosecutable, and the attack on Jess had been unprovoked. She was concerned about what was going to happen to Mulder. "May I ask what's going to happen?"

"He was going to take Mulder's badge, but I told him not to. He said he'd leave discipline up to the OPR board." She let out a sigh and looked at Dana. "I'm sorry, Dana. I know he's your partner. I promise he won't lose his badge. Like I told the Director, it was because he cared about Toni. I can't really fault him for that."

Dana looked at her. "You're more forgiving than you need to be. It certainly wasn't your fault." She let out a sigh. "And unfortunately, I can't say it's the first time he's flown off the handle."

"Well, if he loses his badge, it won't be because of this." Morgan stood up. "I'm going to the bathroom. I'll be right back."

"Alright."

As Morgan walked away Scully's phone rang.

"Scully."

"Where are you?" asked Mulder.

"At the airport, about to get on a plane. How about you? What are you up to?"

"They sent me home without my badge and gun until an OPR hearing."

"I wouldn't complain if I were you. You could be in a jail cell right now. The Director himself is after your hide."

"I suppose the Freak couldn't wait to tell him all about it," he said snidely.

"No. She didn't tell him."

"Then how does he know already?" he pointed out petulantly.

"Because the incident report went to him just like it did to Kersh. Jess reports to the Director."

"Christ!" he said disgustedly. "Looks like I may lose my badge after all." He was pissed.

"If you do, it won't be because of this incident or because of Jess. She told the Director point blank not to take your badge."

"How do you know?"

"Because I was sitting right there when he called her."

"Well I guess that makes her think she has the moral high ground," he spat out contemptuously.

"Mulder, grow up. You did this to yourself. Take responsibility. I'll talk to you later, I have to go." She was disgusted with him at the moment.

"Scully!" he whined.

She simply hung up and turned off her phone. As she put her phone away she saw Morgan returning and heard their flight being called.


Both agents were pretty much in their own world on the flight to Savannah, Georgia. Scully was going over everything in her mind about what had been going with Mulder's behavior and actions. She was confused by him. He was definitely volatile at times, but she never would have thought he'd actually try to coldcock a woman. And he'd been acting strange leading up to the incident... ever since Morgan joined the taskforce.

Mulder seemed angry from the moment Morgan first arrived. Jess, on the other hand, had comported herself in nothing but the most professional and courteous fashion the entire time. The only break from her professional demeanor had been the few tears she'd shed, and hid, while she told Scully who Toni Jeffers was, and how she figured into Mulder's actions.

Rather than thinking about Mulder, Morgan was going over the files in her head, working on her profile. It was a struggle. She knew there was a piece of the puzzle that she was not seeing, that just wasn't falling into place yet. With so many victims it was both a hindrance and a help. More victims meant a more complete picture of the killer's actions. But so many victims also meant so much information to correlate, more places for that one crucial piece of information to hide or get lost.


Once they landed in Savannah the two agents retrieved their luggage and rented a car. They drove south to a small town called Midway. They weren't exactly welcomed with open arms by the town's police chief, Bud Calhoun, especially since the body that had been exhumed that morning was the daughter of his cousin. But Scully and Morgan were not about to let a small town cop with a big attitude prevent them from doing their job.

Scully and Morgan left the small police station and went to the funeral home where the body was waiting for them. The mortician wasn't any more welcoming, but he left the women alone to do their work.

Morgan watched as Scully got started. After a few minutes she moved away from the table and sat on a stool. She opened up the case file on the counter and started studying the crime scene photos. After about 30 minutes she closed the file, stood up and walked back over to the table.

"If I go talk to the victim's mother, Mrs. Browning, will you be all right here alone, Dana?"

"Yeah. I'll be a couple of hours here. They don't have everything I need, so I'll have to send most of the samples to the lab at Quantico."

"Alright. Be back in a while."


"I don't understand, Agent Morgan, why is the FBI interested in my daughter's case? It's been months. Why did they have to dig my baby up?"

"I am sorry for any distress this has caused you, Mrs. Browning. But we have reason to believe Dawn's death is related to another case we're investigating."

"That doesn't make any sense. Chief Calhoun arrested the man who killed Dawn. He's in prison."

"I understand." Morgan could tell the woman was close to breaking down and pushing her wasn't going to be helpful. "Your daughter lived here at home with you, didn't she?"

Mrs. Browning nodded.

"Would it be possible for me see her room?"

"It's upstairs, first door on the left. I can't..." Mrs. Browning's tears finally started.

Morgan quickly grabbed some tissues from the box on the coffee table and handed them to the older woman. "I understand. It's okay, Mrs. Browning, you stay here," she said gently.

Morgan went upstairs and opened the first door on the left. It was immediately obvious that Mrs. Browning had kept Dawn's room just as it was on the day her daughter died. Morgan was confident that Dawn Browning was a victim of the Reaper, but what she was looking for in her bedroom was a sense of who Dawn was and why the Reaper chose her, if indeed there was a reason beyond random chance.


On the way back to the funeral home Morgan stopped at a small diner and picked up a cup of tea and cup of coffee to go. By the time she arrived she had been gone about an hour and a half. She was surprised by what greeted her as soon as she entered – the raised voice of Chief Bud Calhoun. Morgan rushed back into the prep room to find the beer-bellied police chief yelling at, and advancing on, Scully. She didn't even stop to think, she simply acted. Morgan put the drinks down on the counter, marched up behind the man, grabbed him by the back of the neck and his belt, and quickly shoved him out into the corridor before he knew what was happening. In the corridor Morgan spun the overweight man around and slammed him up against the wall and held him there with her left hand around his throat with enough force to hold him in place but not choke him.

Calhoun's left hand went for his gun but was stopped by a painful, vise-like grip on his wrist. He tried to remove the hand at his throat with his right hand, but found he couldn't even budge it. He continued to struggle against the apparent immovable force holding him in place. When he looked into Morgan's face his struggles came to an abrupt halt. He was staring at fathomless obsidian eyes and a feral sneer with sharp, elongated canines. He felt the color drain from his face.

"Now that I have your attention, why don't you explain to me why you were threatening my partner?"

"Uh... I..."

Scully came out after having retrieved her weapon from the bathroom where she'd left her belongings when she changed into scrubs. "Jess, you alright?" she asked from behind her.

Without turning Morgan answered, "Just fine, Dana. Bud and I are just clearing up any misunderstandings. Isn't that right, Bud?" She tightened her hold on his wrist to encourage him to answer.

"Yes."

"In fact, Bud was just telling me how he felt bad about his behavior and wanted to apologize to you, Dana." She tightened her grip a little more, threatening to break the bones.

"T-That's right. I'm sorry, ma'am. I was out of line. The loss of Dawn has been real hard on our family, b-but that doesn't excuse my behavior. I'm very sorry."

Morgan loosened her grip. "Well, we appreciate your apology, Bud. Agent Scully and I both understand what grief can do to a person. But please keep in mind that we are not the bad guys here. We are only after the truth, only trying to stop other innocent young women, like Dawn, from being killed." She completely let go of him. "Thank you for your time, Bud. If we need anything we'll let you know," she said dismissing him.

Calhoun nodded and left the building as quickly as he could.

Morgan closed her eyes and took a deep breath before turning around and facing Scully. "You alright, Dana?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," Scully answered as they entered the prep room.

"I'm sorry I wasn't here. I didn't expect Bud to come and harass you."

"It's not your fault. I can't believe I left my weapon in the bathroom with my clothes."

"Do you normally keep you weapon on you when you perform an autopsy?"

Scully sighed. "No."

"Then don't beat yourself up over it." Morgan walked over to where she'd set the drinks down and retrieved them. "Here, I stopped on the way back and got you some coffee."

"Oh, bless you."

Morgan chuckled. "So, did you find anything?" she asked as took the lid off her hot tea.

"Nothing new. The wounds are consistent with the others. I won't have the test results until Quantico runs them and gets back to me. I'll send the samples overnight."

"Are you done?"

"Not quite. I should finish up in about 20 minutes."


Once they were done in Midway, Scully and Morgan got in their car and headed north to their next destination, the small town of Branchville, South Carolina. It was about 120 miles from Midway. By the time they arrived it was dinner time, so they went directly to their hotel in the neighboring town of Saint George.

The clerk at the hotel front desk handed Morgan a FedEx package when they checked in. "This arrived for you, Agent Morgan."

"Thank you." She opened it up.

"What is it?" Scully asked.

Morgan pulled a white envelope out and removed a credit card from it. With a smile she held the card out to the redhead. "It came addressed to me, but it's for you."

Scully took the card from her.

"I don't understand?"

"It's a card on my expense account. Anything you would normally put on an expense report to get reimbursed for such as copies, car rental, meals, whatever, just use the card."

"You have a Bureau credit card?"

Morgan smiled. "It beats the hell out of filling out expense reports all the time. Especially with how much I travel."

 

Chapter 5

The next morning Scully and Morgan drove the 12 miles to Branchville. Their presence was much more welcome than it had been in Midway. They were met by Sheriff Greg Munson. When they were told the crime scene was still intact Scully could see Morgan's eyes light up. It wasn't often an older crime scene was intact.

"Why don't you go and take a look at the scene, Jess, while I go to the hospital and take a look at the body?"

Morgan gently pulled her aside. "Are you sure, Dana? After what happened yesterday I'm hesitant to split us up."

"It's okay. Sheriff Munson is no Bud Calhoun." She quirked one side of her mouth. "And I won't leave my weapon in the bathroom."

Morgan returned her smile. "Alright. Take the car since the hospital is in Bamberg. I'll walk to the house to check out the scene."

"Okay. See you later."


Scully sat down on the bench in the locker room with a sigh. Doing autopsies on young women killed by the Reaper day after day was getting to her. She was frustrated because she couldn't find anything that could be considered a lead. Whoever he was, he just didn't seem to make any mistakes. She finished getting dressed. When she slipped on her watch she realized it had been almost four hours since she'd parted ways with her partner. Scully had expected Morgan to show up long before she finished the autopsy and was quite surprised that she hadn't.

Scully walked out of the hospital and got into the rental car. She drove the 12 miles back to Branchville and sheriff's office. She tried calling Morgan on the way, but only got her voice mail.

"Agent Scully, how did things go?"

"Just fine, Sheriff. Has Agent Morgan been by?"

"No. I haven't seen her since she left to go take a look at the Jensen house."

A niggling shot of worry skittered across her senses. "Can you give me directions to the Jensen house?"

"Certainly. Just turn right out of the parking lot, left at the third intersection onto Chestnut. Follow Chestnut to the edge of town. It's 1947 Chestnut."

"Thank you." Scully turned to go.

"Agent Scully?"

"Yes?"

"Would you please make sure your partner returns the file she borrowed?"

"Sure thing, Sheriff."

"Thanks."


Morgan actually enjoyed the walk to the Jensen house. She hadn't been running in several days because of work, and the crisp winter air smelled and felt good. She stopped when she arrived at the house. She stood a few seconds just looking at the front of it. Nothing about the exterior of house gave a clue about the horrible scene inside it. Even the yellow police tape was gone. The house had simply been locked up and left undisturbed. No one wanted anything to do with it.

Morgan opened the accordion file and withdrew the key as she walked up the front steps of the porch. She pulled open the screen door and inserted the key in the front door. It turned with ease. Stepping into the house she immediately smelled the staleness of the air. And beneath the staleness, death. Despite the morning hour the house was dark. All the shades and curtains were drawn shut. She tried the light switch near the front door, but the electricity was off. It didn't matter, she didn't need it. Her eyes shifted from grey to black.

Even if she hadn't read the file, Morgan would have found the room where Annie Jensen's body had been discovered. The smell of death still had its grip on this place. It wasn't in the living room where most guests would be entertained, but the smaller, more intimate den near the back of the house, off the kitchen. As she passed through the kitchen Morgan took note of the single plate and glass in the drainer by the sink – dinner for one.

Morgan stopped just inside the doorway of the den. She had read the case file at the sheriff's office, but resisted looking at the pictures since the crime scene was available. And so she was hit with the full force of what she was seeing.

"Oh shit."

She sat down in a chair in the corner of the room.


Scully walked up the steps of the porch. She opened the screen door and turned the knob of the front door. It was unlocked. When she stepped inside it was dark. She flipped the light switch near the door but nothing happened. She reached in her pocket and withdrew a small flashlight with one hand as she pulled her weapon from the holster at the small of her back.

"Jess?"

No answer.

Scully carefully made her way through the house. "Jess?" she tried again, but still received no answer. Finally she came to the kitchen. Something in the corner of her eye made her spin to her right and go through the doorway to the den. Her flashlight landed on her partner sitting in a chair in the corner of the den.

"I'd prefer it if you didn't shoot me," Morgan said without looked at Scully.

Scully lowered her weapon. "Why didn't you answer when I called your name?"

"Sorry."

Scully moved towards Morgan slowly. Something was off; her voice was flat, expressionless. "Have you been sitting here all morning, Jess?"

Morgan simply nodded.

"Why?"

"Annie Jensen was killed here," she said with a slight nod at the scene in front of her.

"I know, Jess. That's why we're here."

"No, you don't understand. Annie was killed here, not brought here after she was killed. This is a primary crime scene rather than secondary."

Scully turned her flashlight to illuminate the crime scene. "Oh, my– So that means..."

"That means I've underestimated this bastard. He's been active longer than we think, and there are a lot more victims we don't know about." Morgan finally tore her eyes from the scene and looked at Scully. "We're nowhere near the beginning of his killings. These bodies aren't going to tell us anything."

"So what do you want to do?"

"We go back to DC and try to find the beginning."


Morgan was silent during the drive to the Columbia, SC airport and the flight to Washington, DC. But Scully didn't find it an uncomfortable silence. She knew the other agent was lost in thought, working on profiling the UNSUB. Besides, it afforded her the opportunity to watch Morgan. Something she found herself doing more and more.

When they landed Morgan and Scully went their separate ways – Scully went home and Morgan went to the hotel. Morgan changed clothes and went to the hotel gym where she worked out for over two hours. When she returned to her room she took a shower, turned on her laptop and started working.

When Scully got home she found Mulder sleeping on her couch and a couple cases worth of empty beer bottles scattered around her living room.

"Mulder!"

Mulder opened his eyes and blinked them a few times. "Hey, Scully," he said with a silly grin.

"What the hell are you doing in my apartment?"

"Well I couldn't go to work and you wouldn't answer my calls."

"And that gives you squatter's rights to my apartment?" She grabbed a trash can and started picking up and throwing away beer bottles.

"Where have you been?"

"Working."

"Why wouldn't you take my calls, Scully?" he whined.

"I've been busy, Mulder. I haven't had time to listen to your drunken ramblings."

"But I was worried about you."

"No, Mulder, you were bored. Now it's time for you to go home. I've got things to do and I have to be to work in the morning."

"But, Scully."

"Out, Mulder. Now."

"Scully."

"No. Out. Now." She pushed him out the door and locked it.


In the morning Scully found Morgan sitting at the work table in her office. "I see you got an early start this morning."

"Actually I've only been here about 20 minutes." Morgan leaned back in her chair and let out a sigh.

"How's the profile coming along?"

"Done. Or at least it's as done as I can make it with what we know at this point. I'll be presenting it to the taskforce this morning."

There was a knock on the open office door. Morgan and Scully both looked up and saw the Director.

"Good morning, sir."

"Morning, sir."

The Director smiled and entered. "Good morning, Jessica, Agent Scully. You ready to give your presentation?"

"Yep. And you're not going to like everything I have to say."

He frowned. "That bad?"

Morgan nodded. "Afraid so."

The Director looked at Scully. "I don't mean to be rude, Agent Scully, but could you give us a couple minutes?"

"Certainly, sir." Scully left the office and joined the other agents that were already starting to gather for Morgan's presentation.

The Director closed the door. "So, now that you've got your profile are you ready for your next assignment?"

Morgan shook her head. "We've just scratched the surface on this one, Lou."

"What are you talking about? You found the additional victims–"

"Like I said – just scratched the surface. This is a lot worse than anyone thought. Look, I don't know what's going to lead to us getting this guy; finding a mistake he made when he was first starting out, or he tires of his current game of toying with us and deliberately leaves us a clue. Either way, his body count is going to go up. I underestimated this son of a bitch. I want to see this case all the way to the end, Lou."

"Alright." He paused. "Have you given any more thought to taking the job at Quantico?"

"Not really. I've been concentrating on the case. Once we get through this case I promise I'll give it some thought."

"Fair enough."

The Director opened the office and walked out.


"Before our UNSUB killed his victims and then brought their bodies back to leave them in their own homes, he simply killed them in their homes."

"So you're saying he changed his M.O.?"

"More like refined it. Made things more challenging for himself. The UNSUB has an IQ of at least 150, he's probably 5'10" or taller, very athletic, but not a body-builder. He's what most people would consider handsome and charming; he doesn't set off any alarm bells in his victims. He's a chameleon; he can fit in no matter what group he's in. But at heart he's a loner. He's could be self-employed, but is probably wealthy enough that he doesn't have to work. However, he isn't a show-off about it. He's educated, most likely holding at least two PhDs. And I wouldn't be surprised if he was a gifted child and graduated early from high school, perhaps as young as 11 or 12. And I believe the UNSUB has had training in law enforcement of some kind."

"You're saying we're looking for a cop?!" someone blurted out.

"No. Remember, I said he's self-employed or wealthy enough that he doesn't have to work. But I believe he's had the training. Whether he actually worked as a cop we won't know until we identify him." Morgan paused. "And finally, for the really bad news. Our UNSUB has been active far longer than any of us thought. The 27 victims we've identified so far are just the tip of the iceberg."

The Director stood up and addressed the assembled agents. "Alright, people, I realize that eventually the press is going to get wind of the scope of this case, but I want to delay that as long as possible; so no leaks."

 

Chapter 6

Morgan and Scully worked on their computers all day, going through files and databases trying to find more cases that could be attributed to the Reaper. Since they worked past dinner time they ordered pizza. Scully called it a night at 9:30.

"I'm starting to go cross-eyed. I'm going to head home."

"See you tomorrow, Dana."

"You should go too, Jess."

"I will. I just want to work a few more minutes. I'll see you in the morning."

"Alright. Good night."

"Good night."


The next morning Scully was surprised not to find Morgan in her office when she arrived at work. She took her jacket off and hung it on the back of a chair and turned on her laptop. Before it was done booting up Morgan came in – still in the same clothes from the day before.

She arched an eyebrow. "I thought you said you were going to go get some sleep last night."

Morgan actually blushed a little bit. "I was going to, but I got on the trail of something."

"Oh? What?"

"Well, we think our guy takes his victims out of their homes, kills them, and then returns their bodies back to their own homes. We've been unable to find the primary crime scenes. Right?"

"Right."

"But with Annie Jensen we saw he simply killed her in her home. He went from the easier scenario to a more complicated one – one where he has to get in and out of their homes unseen twice, increasing the risk of getting caught."

"Right."

"Well, I started a new search of bodies found in unoccupied and abandoned buildings. I didn't find any with the same wounds on the east coast. However, I did find some on the west coast with wounds not exactly the same, but similar. I've requested the files on the cases because we can't be sure it's our guy until we evaluate the autopsy reports and look at the photos."

"Okay."

"That's not all. I regressed his M.O. back further and ran some more searches."

"What did you find?"

"Some possible matches in the Midwest from North Dakota down through Texas. If we can connect enough dots, it might be possible to follow his M.O. through the cases back to its origin, and maybe find a live victim. Someone that he assaulted before he crossed the line into murder."

"That's if he didn't start out killing with his first victim," Scully pointed out.

"I know. And I know it's going to take a lot of work. The first step is getting a look at those files I requested. They should be here soon."


Scully and Morgan sifted through files and reports all day. When Scully noticed Morgan rubbing her eyes and pinching the bridge of her nose she spoke up.

"Alright, that's enough." Scully stood up and slipped on her suit jacket. She then moved to the other end of the work table where Morgan was sitting. "Come on, Jess."

"Hmm?"

Scully put her hand on Morgan's shoulder, startling her. Morgan jumped and whipped her head around, looking up at Scully.

"You need to get out of here, and that reaction just proves it. Now come on."

"You go, Dana. I just want to check a few more files."

"Right. I've heard that one before. Jess, you've been here two days. You're tired and you need to eat. You've been going nonstop for days. You need to get out of here."

"I need to find this bastard."

"I know. But you're not the only one looking for him. It's not all on your shoulders."

"I couldn't have said it better," said a male voice from the doorway. Both women looked up to see the Director standing there. "Jessica, you're no good to me, or the victims, if you run yourself into the ground. You have to take care of yourself. I know how hard you push yourself. Go, get out of here, take tomorrow off, and come back fresh." He held up a finger to quiet her as she started to object. "That's an order. Agent Scully, I trust you'll see Agent Morgan follows those orders. I don't want to see either of you back here until the day after tomorrow."

"Yes, sir."

The Director turned and left.

Morgan dropped her head backwards and looked up at the ceiling as she let out a heavy sigh. "You're right. He's right. I know it." She closed her eyes.

Scully smiled. She couldn't help but draw comparisons between Mulder and Morgan. They were both driven agents. But while Mulder often became obstinate and unreasonable, Morgan was stubborn but listened to reason.

"How long has it been since you've had a home cooked meal?"

"Almost as long as it's been since I've had an orgasm." Morgan's eyes popped open and her head snapped upright. "Oh shit. I said that out loud, didn't I? I'm more tired than I thought. Sorry, Dana." She stood up. When Morgan turned to get her jacket from the back of her chair she saw Scully standing there holding one hand to her lips, her face pink and her body shaking from her silent laughter. Well if Dana was laughing at her, then she hadn't offended or embarrassed her, so Jess relaxed. She smiled. "I'm so glad you're amused," she said in a beleaguered tone.

Scully smiled. "Come on, let's go. I can at least do something about one of those," she said chuckling. When Morgan reached for her briefcase she stopped her. "Nope. No work, Jess."

Morgan looked at her a couple of moments, as if she was going to object.

An auburn eyebrow arched.

Morgan smirked. "Alright. But don't think that look is always going to work."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Scully replied as she lightly pushed the other woman towards the door.

"You know, you're a bossy woman, Dana."

"Keep moving."

"See?"


After stops at Morgan's hotel so she could take quick shower and change clothes and a wine store because she insisted on providing the drinks since Scully was cooking dinner, they arrived at Dana's.

"Make yourself at home, Jess. I'll just be a minute." Scully went into her bedroom and changed into a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt. She put on some warm socks but didn't bother with shoes. She then went into the kitchen to start working on dinner.

"Is there anything I can do to help, Dana?" Morgan turned on Scully's CD player and soft jazz began to play.

"Nope. The lasagna is already made; I just need to put it in the oven to cook."

When Scully came out of the kitchen she brought a bottle of wine, a corkscrew and a couple wineglasses. She uncorked the wine and poured them both a glass. Scully sat back as she handed Morgan her glass.

"So, how long has it been... since you had a home cooked meal?" she asked with a smirk and amusement in her tone and shining in her eyes.

Morgan rolled her eyes. "Cute. Let's just say it's been a while."

"Fair enough. So, where do you call home?"

"When?"

"Ah. Army brat?"

"No; but I was born in California, lived in Vancouver until I was four, Texas until I was 12, Massachusetts until I was 16 and England until I was 21."

"What about now?"

"Now? Well, for the last three years home is whatever hotel I'm checked into."

Scully's eyes widened. "You're kidding."

"Nope. Other than what's in my suitcases, all my stuff is in storage." Morgan shrugged her shoulders. "No use having a place when I'm never there. I'm always on the road, working one case or another."

"Do you always work cases like this one?"

"This – rapes, molestations, kidnappings. Whatever the Director needs me on."

"I can't imagine it. Working these kinds of cases day in and day out. Why do you do it?"

"Someone has to." Morgan let out a sigh. "And I'm good at it," she added softly.

Scully didn't miss the weariness in the woman's voice. "When was the last time you had a day off?"

"Does traveling between cases count?"

"No."

"It's been several months, almost a year."

"You're more than overdue for some time off."

Morgan nodded. "Yeah. So, enough about me. What about you, Dana? Where did you grow up?"

"All over. My dad was in the Navy. He retired a captain."

"Where do your parents live?"

"My mom lives in Baltimore, but my dad's gone."

"Sorry."

"It's okay; it's been a few years."

"Any siblings?"

"Two brothers, and a sister who's gone. You?"

"I was an only child."

"What about your parents? Are they still in England?"

"Both my parents are gone."

"I'm sorry."

Morgan shrugged. "It was a long time ago, and I barely knew them."

"What do you mean?"

"I was sent to boarding school when I was four. I stopped going home for the summer when I was six after my mother died. I didn't see my father again until his funeral when I was 14."

Scully wasn't sure what to say but was saved by the ringing of her home phone. "Excuse me." She got up answered it. "Hello."

"Scully! Where have you been?"

"Working, Mulder."

"You haven't been answering my calls," he whined.

"And yet you keep getting drunk and calling me 15 times a day," she sighed. "Why don't you try calling when you're sober?"

"No reason to stay sober. The OPR suspended me, Scully. A month without pay."

"You're lucky that's all it is. You could be in a jail cell."

"That fucking freak–"

Scully hung up on him and turned the volume down on her answering machine. She no sooner turned to rejoin Morgan on the couch when her phone rang again. She just shook her head.


A few hours and a lot of conversation (not to mention a couple of bottles of wine) later both women were in a state of quiet lassitude, barely able to keep their eyes open. It was a battle they both lost.

It was only an hour or so later when Scully woke up. She woke up slowly, the alcohol in her system, the easy camaraderie of the evening, the physical comfort of her body and the sense of safety infusing her entire being, all combining and contributing to the languidness. She listened to the steady heartbeat beneath her ear, and the slow even breaths. She felt the warm hand on her waist, where her sweatshirt had ridden up a bit, and the arm around her shoulders, holding her securely but gently.

Without opening her eyes, she lazily thought about the body she was snuggled against, or rather, mostly atop. She calmly wondered who it could possibly be. A part of her said she should be alarmed, and should get the hell out of wherever she was. She never allowed herself to sleep with her lovers – she couldn't lower her guard enough to do that. She always left after sex or made them leave. She couldn't let anyone get that close to her, couldn't be that vulnerable. Not even Daniel. Of course he'd always had his wife to go home to.

But she did not want to leave. She was comfortable and felt... safe, content, peaceful. She felt like she belonged. She took in a long, slow, deep breath let it out with a sigh. The hand on her waist slid to the small of her back, holding her closer. The arm around her shoulders tightened and then a hand slipped into her hair at the back of her head. Fingers lightly massaged her scalp. Lips briefly moved against her crown as soothing words were whispered into her hair.

"Shhh... it's okay, you're safe... just a dream..."

Scully recognized the voice. It was Jess. And she didn't want to move – she was too comfortable. "Mmmm..."

"You okay?"

"Mm hmm. You?" Scully responded, continuing their mumbled conversation.

"Mm hmm."

"Sorry about falling asleep on top of you."

"S'kay. Not a lotta room on the couch." Morgan yawned.

"Could move to be'room.... more room."

"Means we gotta move."

"Mm hmm."

"Hmm... 'kay."

Neither moved.

"Guess we should sit up firs'," Morgan said still mumbling and then yawned again. "On three."

"M'kay."

"One... two... three..."

Neither woman so much as moved a muscle.

After a minute Scully broke the silence, "Nigh'..."

"Nigh'..." Morgan mumbled back in response.

Both women were asleep moments later.

 

Chapter 7

When Morgan woke up in the morning she was still holding Scully who was still mostly on top of her but was cradled by Morgan's body and the back of the couch. Her face was tucked into Morgan's neck and the redhead's right hand was gently but rather possessively holding her left breast. Scully's right leg was also trapped between her own.

Morgan kept her breath slow and even so she didn't wake Scully up. She was sure Scully would be more than a little embarrassed to wake up in their current position. Especially to find herself fondling her partner's breast and teasing her hardening nipple with her thumb. It was definitely time to get up. Morgan very, very carefully eased herself out from under Scully.


When Scully woke up she was surprised to find herself without her oh-so-comfortable human pillow. That thought brought her to an immediate stop. Why the hell would she have a human pillow? Morgan! Scully opened her eyes as fractured memories came flooding into her mind. She saw a thermal travel mug with a note taped to it. She slowly sat up and pulled the folded note with her name on it off the side of the mug.

Dana,

Made you some coffee. Thanks for the hospitality. Enjoy your day off.

Jess

She sat up and took the lid off the mug. The coffee was still hot and tasted good. It helped to clear some of the cobwebs. She remembered everything about the evening before, especially how much she liked talking and spending time with Morgan. Scully found the woman pleasant and funny and charming on a personal level; respectful, courteous and smart on a professional level. And for the life of her, Scully couldn't fathom the depth of the animosity Mulder had shown for the woman she was working with. While she continued to drink her coffee, an idea formed. She had known Mulder for years, but there were others who had known him longer. She came to a decision.

Scully got her phone and called the Lone Gunmen. Once she convinced them to turn off the tape recorder she told them why she was calling.

"Guys, I need some information."

"About what?" Langly asked.

"What do you guys know about an Agent Jessica Morgan or Agent Toni Jeffers?"

"Jesus, talk about ghosts from the past!" exclaimed Frohike.

"Where did you hear those names, Scully?" Byers asked.

"Just tell me what you know, guys."

"Well, Jessica was a profiler in the VCU back when Mulder worked there. She was the wunderkind of all time," Frohike said.

Byers continued, "After Jessica graduated from Oxford she was heavily courted by government agencies both here in the US and in the UK, not to mention civilian employers and think tanks. I heard several universities offered her a professorship."

"But she signed up with the Bureau and began profiling right away," Frohike added. "The way she sees into the mind of suspects is unbelievable. Mulder was called Spooky for his ability to profile, but what Jessica could do was downright freaky. And that's what they called her, the Freak."

"And with an accuracy/closure rate over 98% she could write her own ticket," Langly pointed out.

"Especially after she and her partner took down Neil Croskey," Byers added.

"I got to tell you, Scully, what she went through on that case... well, Croskey just about killed her – cut her bad. But despite being severely wounded Jessica managed to save her partner's life and that of the Croskey's last victim. She got some medal of valor for it. Her partner, John Casper, refused to work with anyone else until she was back. I really hated seeing what that case did to her. She was the sweetest kid, but afterwards... well, you could say she lost all her innocence on that case," Frohike said. "She was only 22 at the time," said Frohike.

Scully closed her eyes for a moment and thought back to when she was 22 and in medical school. To have to face such a monster as serial killer Neil Croskey at such an early age... somehow it just didn't seem quite right... or fair. "What about Toni Jeffers?" she asked.

She could hear the smile in Frohike's voice when he replied. "Jeffers was the best thing that could have happened to Morgan. She took an interest in Jessica, at first professionally, but then it turned very personal. They fell in love with each other. Toni put the light back in Jessica's eyes."

"Jeffers also happened to be an old love interest of Mulder's," Langly pointed out.

"He mentioned that to me. He said Jess stole Toni from him."

"Bullshit!" bellowed Frohike. "Look, Mulder's my friend, but Toni dumped him long before she and Jessica ever got together. Quite frankly, Toni played the field a lot – a regular 'Donna Juana,' if you know what I mean. She was nice, but a real free spirit. Mulder just won't admit he never stood a chance with her; she was out of his league. But Mulder's always blamed Jessica because she's who Toni gave up her footloose ways for and settled down with. He's full of it."

"It got worse after Toni was killed," Byers pointed out.

"What happened?"

"She was murdered in their home. A killer Jessica profiled, Devon Conrad, came after her. She wasn't home, but Toni was."

"You don't want to know what he did to her, Scully," Byers said in a dark tone.

"And Jessica was the one to find her..." added Langly.

"We all thought she wasn't going to make it. Losing Toni that way, and finding her body... well, I guess you can imagine," Frohike continued sadly. "Her partner, Casper, took her in and looked after her for a while. Then the day they nailed Conrad she resigned from the Bureau and up and disappeared."

There were a few moments of silence.

"Why are you asking about Jessica and Toni?" Byers asked.

She let out a little sigh. "Would you believe I'm working a case with her right now?"

"You mean Jessica?!"

"You're kidding?!"

"When did she come back?"

"What has she been up to? How is she?"

"We want to see her!"

Scully couldn't keep from smiling at the affection and caring these guys obviously had for Morgan. That and their version of events led her to be secure in her own instincts regarding the woman. Morgan was definitely one of the good guys, and earned the respect and care of those around her. Scully could only imagine what the young agent had been through.

"She doesn't know that I called you guys."

"We want to talk to her, see her, know how she's doing."

"She seems to be doing quite well, at least professionally. I only met her last week. I called you because the story Mulder told me and what Morgan told me were different. I wanted your version of what happened."

"I can't imagine Jessica would have lied to you about any of it," Frohike said defensively.

"She didn't."

"So Mulder told his warped version," Langly concluded.

"Yeah. I guess he never got over it. He tried to punch her out the other day."

"She never deserved any of his shit. He created his own woes. All Jessica ever deserved from anyone was kindness and respect," Frohike asserted.

"I believe you, guys."

"Scully, please tell Jessica we asked about her, and let her know we'd love to talk to her or see her sometime," Byers requested.

"I will." She concluded her call with the Gunmen.


Morgan was working on her laptop at the desk when there was a knock on her hotel room door. She took the pen from between her teeth and stuck it behind her ear as she stood up and walked to the door. She looked through the peephole and saw a certain redhead. She couldn't help the small smile that graced her lips. She opened the door. Before she could even say hello, Scully marched into the room past her. "Well, come in, Dana," she said to the redhead's back and closed the door. She followed Scully and found her looking at her computer.

"Ah ha! Just as I suspected."

"What?"

"You got up, came straight back here and got to work. You're supposed to take today off, Jess – that's what the Director ordered you to do. And he told me to ensure you followed those orders." Scully closed the laptop and turned to face Morgan. She gave her a once over, taking in her sweats and well-worn t-shirt. "So, get changed. We're going out."

Morgan was amused, but she crossed her arms and arched a dark eyebrow. "Actually I came back here, went for a workout in the gym, and then got to work. And just who are you to come in here and order me around, Agent Scully?"

Scully smirked. "Well for the duration of this case, I'm your partner." Her smirk morphed into a smile. "And after last night, I'd like to think, your friend."

Morgan held her stern expression for a second longer before finally giving the redhead an amused smirk and a nod. "Alright. Just give me a few minutes to get ready." Morgan opened a suitcase, grabbed a change of clothes and stepped into the bathroom. She reappeared less than five minutes later, dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt. "So, where are we going?"

"The National Gallery of Art."

"Mm. I've been there. They have some beautiful pieces of art."

"But have you been to their skating rink?"

"The ice skating rink in their sculpture garden? No, can't say that I have."

Scully grinned. "Well you won't be able to say that after today."

"Ice skating? Do you know how cold it is out there?"

"It kind of has to be cold for there to be ice to skate on."

"I'm more of the tropical beach type." Morgan smirked. "Or at least a hot tub."

"Well today you're going ice skating." Scully pushed her to her towards the door.

"Didn't I already say something about you being a bossy woman?"

They both chuckled as Morgan put on her coat and they left.


Though Morgan wasn't very experienced at ice skating, due to her athleticism and natural grace, she was able to skate pretty smoothly without falling. However, she was surprised by how well Scully skated – the redhead was a regular speed demon and quite agile. Scully credited it to having grown up with three siblings, two of whom were brothers who knew how to play hockey.

"What can I say? I was a total tomboy."

"You? With your ever present three-inch heels?"

Scully sped up and did a quick turn in front of Morgan, ending up facing her and skating backwards. "I'm not wearing heels today."

"True. And was it your sister and brothers that also taught you to be so bossy?" Morgan joked.

"Nope. They teach that in medical school. But you should know that since you went. But maybe you missed that class." Scully was rewarded with a genuine laugh.

"Actually, in my professional opinion as a psychologist, I think it has more to do with you being a pathologist."

"What?"

"Well, all your patients are dead, so when you give them orders they never talk back or argue. You've gotten used to it and it's left you with a sense of... expectation, entitlement even. You feel that everyone should just do as you say and shut up about it."

It was Scully's turn to laugh, her blue eyes sparkling. "Or it could just be that when I tell you to do something, I'm right!" She swiftly spun around and took off, leaving her companion behind.


After having spent most of the afternoon at the ice rink, the two women finally headed back to the car.

"Since you were such a good sport about the ice skating, you get to pick where we have dinner," Scully announced. "What are you in the mood for?"

"How about Japanese."

"Sushi?"

"No, hibachi."

"Sounds good. There's a place not far from here." Scully put the car into drive.

"By the way..."

"What?"

"I know you pushed me into that snow bank on purpose." Morgan paused. "And I'll get you back."

Both women were smiling as they continued on their way.


Scully and Morgan had a good time at dinner. Since Scully had cooked dinner the night before, Morgan had insisted on paying for dinner. It was still rather early when they arrived back at Scully's. They had stopped on the way to rent a movie. However, when they got out of the car to go in, the movie was left in the car, forgotten in the midst of their conversation. Just as they neared the door to the apartment building Scully remembered.

"Oh! The movie!"

"Give me the keys to the car and I'll get it. You go on in," Morgan volunteered. She accepted the car keys and headed back to the parking lot. She was only about halfway to the car when she was suddenly, and very unexpectedly, smacked in the back of the head with a projectile. Morgan stopped dead in her tracks. Cold, wet snow began to fall in clumps from her hair and icy cold drips ran down her neck and back. She reached up, unbelievingly, and brushed the clinging splatters from the back of her head. She slowly turned around and just looked at the redhead. "Did you just..."

Scully's expression was a mixture of feigned innocence and smug guilt. And she was already preparing another snowball.

Morgan held up an index finger and slowly wagged it her partner. "You don't want to do that."

"Oh, I'm pretty sure I do," the redhead replied with an evil glint in her eyes. Just as Morgan opened her mouth to reply Scully let loose with her second snowball, nailing her partner in the ear as she turned away.

"Now you're going to get it!" Morgan shoved the car keys in her jeans pocket and took off chasing Scully, scooping up some snow on the way. She had excellent aim and splattered the collar of Scully's coat at the back of her neck.

An all out war had begun.

 

Chapter 8

Both women were wet and freezing as they finally made their way inside Scully's apartment.

"We need to get out of these wet clothes. Come on." Scully led Morgan to her bedroom where she pulled out an oversized sweatshirt and a pair of sweats. "The sweats belonged to my sister so they should fit you. And here are some socks," she said as she added some athletic socks to the pile. "Just leave your clothes in the bathroom and I'll put them in the dryer after you change."

"Thanks."

Morgan headed into the bathroom to get out of her wet clothes. When she came out, Scully was already changed and had just started a fire in the fireplace.

The redhead looked over her shoulder. "Better?"

"Much."

"Well, come and sit in front of the fire and get warmed up." Scully dropped a blanket around Morgan's shoulders as she sat on the floor in front of the couch. "I'll be right back." She grabbed the wet clothes from the bathroom and put them in the dryer. Then she went to the kitchen and made a couple of mugs of hot chocolate. "Here." She handed Morgan her hot chocolate, then sat down next to her and wrapped a blanket around her own shoulders. "Hot chocolate and a gas fire. It's the best I can do since I don't have a hot tub or a tropical beach handy."

Morgan chuckled. "It'll do." She took a sip of her hot chocolate and sighed. "I can't remember the last time I actually did something just because it was fun or silly." She looked at her companion. "Thank you."

"You're welcome."

"Are you always so impulsive and carefree?"

Scully almost choked on the sip she'd just taken. She managed to swallow it without making a mess. "Hell no! The last time I did something impulsive was two years ago. I got drunk, got a tattoo and almost got stuffed into a furnace."

"What?"

"Long story. Suffice it to say, you hang around headquarters long enough and you'll hear a few nicknames I've been christened with – Blue-eyed Bitch and Ice Queen being the most popular. That and Mrs. Spooky."

"Blue-eyed Bitch and Ice Queen? I don't see it. I only met you a week ago, but I'd never say you were cold, just professionally dispassionate – something you have to be to do what we do. But Mrs. Spooky – unfortunately that kind of stuff is everywhere. There was a lot of speculation about John and myself, even after Toni and I got together." She paused as she took another sip of her hot chocolate. "So what prompted today's impulsiveness?" Morgan was surprised to see Scully's cheeks suddenly color with embarrassment. "What is it?" she asked.

"It's my birthday," was the soft reply.

Scully wouldn't look at her, so Morgan bumped her shoulder against her companion's. "Hey." She waited until their eyes met. "Happy Birthday."

"Thanks."

"Not that I'm complaining, but why not spend your birthday with your family?"

"My brothers are both stationed in California and I talked to Mom earlier today. But the truth is, I spent the day exactly how I wanted to, Jess. And I did so for the first time in a long time, longer than I care to admit." That there was a hidden depth to her words was not lost on either woman. Scully felt her throat tighten and the backs of her eyes sting as they filled with unshed tears. She wasn't about to let them fall though. Unfortunately, a rogue tear defied her will and spilled down her cheek. She closed her eyes and clenched her teeth in an effort to make sure it was the only one. Tender fingertips wiped it away for her.

"I understand." Morgan slipped her arm around Scully's shoulders and gently pulled the redhead closer.

Scully resisted at first. She hated being seen as weak. But for some reason she believed Morgan did indeed understand, and her better instinct won out. She accepted the offered shoulder, burying her face against it, and letting the silent tears go as Morgan's other arm came up and completed the embrace.

After a few minutes Scully pulled back, wiping the tears from her face. "Sorry."

"Don't be. I get the feeling you've been holding those in for a while." She paused. "I also think there's a whole lot more that need to be let go," Morgan said gently.

Scully shook her head and sniffled as she wiped her face again. "Not tonight."

Morgan nodded in understand. "But keep in mind if you don't let them out they can build up until you drown."

"How much for the session, Dr Morgan?" Scully quipped defensively.

Morgan let out a sigh. "I've simply been speaking from personal experience, as one friend to another." She paused a moment. "But if you would really prefer, I can do the psychologist bit."

"No... I wouldn't prefer that," the redhead said quietly.

"Good. Because I'd much rather be your friend than your therapist." Morgan bumped her shoulder against Scully's. "It's alright. I'd prefer you to be my friend rather than my pathologist, so it's only fair," she said with a small smile. She got the response she was hoping for when Scully smiled.

"I should hope so!"

The buzzer from the dryer sounded, startling both women.

"Well, on that heart-stopping note, I think I shall use your bathroom."

"Down the hall, on the right," Scully told her as she also stood.

"I remember."

"I'll check your clothes."

After Morgan finished in the bathroom she opened the door and found Scully waiting with her clothes, fresh from the dryer.

"Here you go."

"Thanks. I'll just be a sec." She retreated into the bathroom and changed into nice and warm clothes. When she came back out Scully was in the kitchen.

"Did you want some more hot chocolate, Jess?"

"Actually, I think I'll call it a night."

"It's still early."

"I know. But I think you might have been a good influence on me today."

"Oh?"

"Yeah. I might try to get a good night's sleep for a change, since it's back to the grindstone tomorrow morning," she said with a small smile.

"You mean you're not going back now so you can work this evening?" Scully challenged.

"Nope. I'm going to make a couple calls – to friends – and get some sleep."

"Well... in that case I'll let you go." Scully smiled. "Let me get my keys so I can drive you back to your hotel."

Morgan was waiting by the door by the time Scully grabbed her keys and got her shoes and coat on. She stopped the redhead as she reached for the doorknob. "Dana, I want you to know I really did have a good time today." She dropped her eyes, a little embarrassed. "And it's been a very long time since that's happened." She looked up into bright blue eyes. "I know today was your birthday, but you gave me a gift today. Thank you," she finished softly.

Touched, Scully gave the woman a hug. "And you made this one of my best birthdays in a really long time, so thank you, too."


After returning home from taking Morgan to her hotel, Scully turned on some music, put in a load of laundry and sat down to take care of some correspondence. Despite the brief incident of tears, she really was feeling good and had had a wonderful day... with Jess.

She had just gotten her laundry from the dryer and started folding it when there was a knock at her door. She looked through the peephole and saw Mulder. He at least looked reasonably sober so she opened the door. Before she could even say hello, he pushed in past her with a six pack in one hand and a pizza box in the other.

"Happy Birthday, partner. I bring food and drink," he said with a grin as he passed her in the doorway and headed to her kitchen. He proceeded to prepare two plates and opened two beers. He then went into the living room and set everything down on her coffee table before plopping down on her couch. "Come and get it, Scully."

Scully continued to fold some of her laundry. "Have at it, Mulder. I'm not hungry."

"But I got your favorite, pepperoni and anchovies."

"No, that's your favorite. I hate anchovies. Besides, I already ate, Mulder. Jess and I had an early dinner, a very nice dinner in fact."

His mood immediately changed at the mention of Morgan's name. "How is the Freak?" he sniped.

Scully threw down the shirt she had in her hands and glared at him. "She's just fine, Spooky."

He glared at her.

"You know what, I don't like this side of you. Take your pizza and leave."

"You don't know what she's capable of! You don't know what she did!"

"That's where you're wrong. You see I did some checking of my own. Toni Jeffers may have dumped you but she didn't do so because of Jess. In fact Toni was quite the player from what I hear – she dated a lot of people."

"So that's the fiction she's been telling you?!"

"No. That's what the Lone Gunmen told me. They said Toni had no interest anything serious with anyone... until Jess."

"Toni's dead because of her!"

Scully shook her head. "No. She's dead because some mad man murdered her." He started to say something but she cut him off. "You tell me it's not my fault Missy was killed in my apartment, in my place."

"Of course it isn't!"

"Then how is it Jess's fault that Toni was killed – simply because she was home and Jess wasn't?"

"That's different!"

"No, it's not."

"Morgan was warned to back off of that case! She knew about the threats against her! Toni's dead because of Morgan's refusal to back off, because of her god damn pride and drive to close the case!!"

"And how many people are dead because of yours?! How many more bodies are going to be sacrificed in the name of your personal quest?!" Scully knew as soon as the words were out of her mouth that things would never be the same between her and Mulder again. Something had snapped, broken, never to be repaired.

Mulder glared at her. "You'll see I'm right. You'll see I know what I'm talking about when it comes to Morgan." He marched out, slamming her front door behind him.

Scully closed her eyes and let out a deep breath. She threw the pizza away, poured the opened beers down the drain and washed to the two dishes. She poured herself a glass of wine and sat on the couch, drawing her legs up under her. Her day had been so good... but it was ending so badly.

She felt torn. Over five years of her life had been spent working with Mulder. He had saved her life more than once... but then again, most of those times, her life wouldn't have needed saving if not for him. The truth was out there, he said. But her truth... was that she couldn't take it anymore. So when that 'something' between her Mulder broke, she felt the loss... but she also felt relief.

She had just turned 35 and what did she have to show for it? She knew she was a good agent and a skilled pathologist. She didn't regret joining the FBI – what was inside her that had prompted her to join in the first place, was still there. Granted, it had gotten a bit buried under the junk of the last few years... but it was still there.

But what else did she have? She was missing several weeks of her memory; her sister was dead – murdered in her place; she had cancer – in remission for the time being, but who knew for how long; she had a dead daughter, conceived from her stolen ova; and she was barren. All of which could be tied to a cabal of powerful men that would never have perpetrated any of these things if she wasn't mixed up with Mulder and his never-ending quest for 'The Truth.'

Oh, and she had a tattoo.

She shook her head. How many times had Mulder ditched her? How many times did she have to go chasing after him to save him? How many things did he keep secret from her? He didn't even tell her things she more than had a right to know! Like the knowledge that her ova had been taken when she'd been abducted. He kept that secret – from her! Only her discovery, and subsequent application to adopt Emily, dragged that information out of him.

Mulder didn't want her as a partner when she was assigned. But over time they got past his initial paranoia of her motives, and they became friends.

But did real friends treat you the way he treated her?

Mulder constantly took her for granted; expected her to be at his beck and call, day and night. He was quick to believe any and every quack that crossed their paths with a ghost or UFO story, but scoffed at her faith. He said he trusted her, but he didn't even trust her with information about her own body. That particular betrayal though a year old, still burned deep and hot.

Scully closed her eyes and counted to ten... then she counted again, taking slow breaths. She didn't want to delve too deep in that particular well this evening.

She opened her eyes and watched the flames of the gas fire. A small smile formed as her thoughts turned to her temporary partner. There were definitely some similarities between Mulder and Morgan. Perhaps the traits they had in common were what made them good profilers. But there were some stark contrasts between the two. Despite the circumstances of the case itself, it had been a pleasant change working with Jess. She finished the wine in her glass and got up from the couch.

"Maybe change is just what I need."

 

Chapter 9

Scully and Morgan arrived at work early in the morning and started reviewing some of the case files that Morgan had requested after she'd run her searches. They read several faxes and printouts of emailed reports, sorting them into piles – one pile for possible Reaper cases and another for the cases they had eliminated. After an hour or so Morgan tossed a folder down in frustration. She got up, walked to the window and looked out. Scully finished what she was reading and looked up at the other woman. Morgan was clearly agitated.

"What's wrong, Jess?"

Morgan rubbed her face with her hands before turning around. She shook her head. "We can sit here and read these damn files for weeks, but it's not going to tell us what we need to know. We don't even have crime scene pictures." She sighed. "How are you doing with the autopsy reports?" she asked in a calmer tone.

"Well, there are some similarities certainly, as you know. But without the bodies, or good pictures of the wounds and their placement, it's hard to be sure."

"That settles it. We go."

"Alright. But you have to know redoing autopsies on bodies this old..."

"Yeah, I know. But we can at least get access to the original files and photos, and check out some of the crime scene locations." Morgan walked over to her desk and picked up the phone. She started making travel arrangements.

They were on a flight to San Diego, California by noon.


The two women spent the next four and half days visiting various cities on the west coast, liaising with the local police and sheriff departments, reading and evaluating case files and looking at crime scene locations. Then they got a phone call.

"Morgan." She stepped away from Scully and the detective she was talking with.

"Agent Morgan, it's Ben Taylor."

"Yes?"

"We've got another one – Wilmington, DE."

She closed her eyes and sighed. "It's been 13 days since the last one. He's still not sticking to any pattern in frequency."

"That's not all."

"What is it?"

"There's a note... and it's addressed to you."

"What?!"

At Morgan's exclamation Scully glanced over at her partner with concern.

"It was mailed to the office. The envelope was addressed to 'Reaper Taskforce Leader.' But the note inside was addressed to you by name."

"What did it say?"

"'You look for me high and low. How far are you willing to go? Are you ready for the Reaper? To find me you must dig deeper.'"

"I assume you had forensics check the note and envelope out."

"Too many hands on the envelope for prints to do any good. And no prints on the note. Both the envelope and paper are too common to trace."

"Alright. We'll get a flight to Philadelphia as soon as possible. Obviously you can't leave the body at the scene in the meantime, so make sure they take a lot of photos of the scene and the body before they move it."

"Already got them working on it."

"Good. And send the note to the Philadelphia field office. I want to see it. I'll call you with our flight information so someone can pick us up."

"You got it. Talk to you later, Morgan."

"Bye." Morgan put her phone away and rubbed her temples.

Scully finished up with the detective and approached her partner. "What's going on, Jess?"

"We've got another one."

"Damn."

"Yeah. We've got to catch the next flight to Philadelphia. Let's go."


On the flight from Portland, OR to Philadelphia, PA, Morgan was lost in thought. The note really threw her, for more than one reason. Most obviously because it had been addressed to her personally. She hadn't been on the press's radar so there hadn't been any TV or newspaper reports that mentioned her. So how did the Reaper even know she was working the case? And after what had happened with Toni... having a serial killer know who she was, that she was hunting him, brought up some bad memories.

Then there was the note itself. It simply made no sense. The wording was banal and seemed... forced. Not something she expected from the mind of the killer she had profiled. In fact, sending a note at all just didn't appear to fit with the person who committed so many murders without leaving any useful forensic evidence. The kind of person who would plant a hair from a previous victim on another victim just wasn't the kind to write such a note. It lacked... intellectual elegance.

It was 9:00 at night when they landed in Philadelphia. An Agent Erik Bowman was waiting for them as they came off the plane.

"Agent Morgan, Agent Scully?" the young man approached them. He looked barely old enough to shave and was obviously fresh out of the Bureau academy.

"Yes?"

"I'm Agent Bowman, Erik. I have a car to drive you to Wilmington."

"Good. Let's go."

When they got to the car Bowman scurried to put the senior agents' bags in the trunk. Scully and Morgan exchanged an amused look. He even opened the passenger side car doors for them. Morgan got into the backseat leaving the front for Scully. Bowman hurried around to the driver's side. He started the car, allowing it to warm up. He pulled a legal size envelope from a valise and passed it back to Morgan.

"Assistant Director Taylor sent this for you, Agent Morgan."

"Thank you." She opened the envelope and took out the contents. She looked at the note that had been addressed and sent to her. Morgan stared at the block printed message, trying to make sense of it.

"Jess? Jess!"

"Huh? What?"

"Agent Bowman asked if you wanted to go by the field office before heading to the crime scene."

"No, no," she answered distractedly.

Bowman put the car in gear and they were on their way. For the entire hour's drive, Morgan sat in the dark of the backseat, staring at the note. Her thoughts raced, between the current case and the past.


Scully had to prompt Morgan out of her mental wanderings again when they arrived at the crime scene. Sensing something was wrong, other than a new victim, Scully kept a concerned eye on her partner as they entered the house. It was because she was watching her partner that Scully caught the involuntary breath Morgan sucked in with a slight hiss. And something... happened with her eyes... didn't it?

"Are you alright, Jess?"

"I'm fine. Let's get to it." Morgan moved past Scully, pulling on her gloves.

Scully arched an eyebrow as her partner passed, but she didn't voice her doubts. They had a job to do.


Due to the late hour, it was decided Scully would do the autopsy in the morning. Even though it was after midnight when they got checked into a motel it felt earlier since they had started their day on the west coast. Scully changed and immediately knocked on their adjoining door.

"It's unlocked," came from the other side.

Scully opened the door. She stood in the doorway leaning against the jamb with her arms crossed. Morgan was sitting in one of the chairs, facing out the window. Her feet were propped up on the table, crossed at the ankles. Scully waited silently for an entire minute. Finally she spoke.

"Are you going to tell me what's going on, Jess?"

"What do you mean?"

Scully shook her head and uncrossed her arms. She walked over and sat on the edge of the bed, close to Morgan's chair, but still to her back. "Look, I've only known you for two weeks, but we've spent a hell of a lot of time together during these past two weeks, on and off duty. You've not been yourself since this morning. What's wrong?"

Morgan took a deep breath and slowly let it out. "Maybe I've been doing this too long."

"Why do you say that?"

"Because I'm confused."

"About what?"

Morgan didn't say anything, but after a moment she got up and retrieved the envelope from her briefcase. She handed it to the redhead. Scully opened the envelope and pulled out the note while her partner began to slowly pace. She read the note and frowned.

"How did he know you were working the case?"

"I don't know. But that's not what I'm confused about."

Scully reached out and gently grabbed Morgan's arm as her pacing brought her near. "Sit down here and talk to me, Jess." Morgan sat down next to Scully on the bed with a sigh. "What are you confused about?"

"The note itself. It just doesn't make any sense to me. The profile I did... he just wouldn't do this. And if he did, it sure as hell would be more elegant. It doesn't fit." She sighed again and shook her head. "Unless I'm really off with my profile. In which case, I don't know where to go from here."

"Well, we start with the body tomorrow morning."

"I'm not holding my breath that we'll find anything new."

"Then we continue what we were doing."

"But that's just it. I don't know if what we were doing is the right thing to be doing. If my profile is wrong then..."

"Then what, Jess? Then you're wrong?"

Morgan gave Scully a look. "Don't you get it? If I'm wrong... then people die."

"That's a risk we all accept when we put on the badge. Lives depend on the decisions we make and the actions we take. Jess, you're an excellent profiler and investigator, but everybody makes mistakes – we're human. All anyone can do is do their best."

Morgan still looked full of doubt.

"Come on, let's go." Scully stood and pulled the other woman up as well.

"Go?"

"To get something to eat."

"At 1:00 in the morning?"

"You skipped lunch and didn't eat dinner on the plane either."

"I think I'll just go to bed."

An auburn eyebrow arched disbelievingly. "As tightly wound up as you are? I don't think so. You need to eat something and relax a bit." She gently pushed Morgan towards the door. "Let's go."

"What did I tell you about being bossy?"

"And what did I tell you about me being right?" Scully retorted.

Morgan shook her head and opened the door.


First thing in the morning, Scully and Morgan went to the morgue. Needing to focus her mind on something other than the note and crime scene photos, Morgan also changed into scrubs and planned to assist Scully.

Per the FBI's request, the body had been bagged at the scene and then left alone. So the two agents removed the body bag from the cooler. Scully unzipped the bag. They carefully removed the bag and then began their examination, starting with her clothes.

When Morgan took one of the hands in her own to scrape under the nails she paused. She lifted the hand and sniffed at the wrist. She then reached across the body and did the same with the other wrist. Scully saw her actions and raised an eyebrow in question. Before Scully could give voice to her question Morgan spoke.

"Dana, could you please toss me the evidence bag with her shirt, please?"

Scully grabbed the bag and tossed it to her partner.

Morgan took the shirt out and sniffed the material at the collar. She handed the shirt to the redhead. "Do you smell that?"

Scully sniffed the collar, but the scent wasn't as apparent to her less sensitive senses. "Perfume of some kind?"

"Mm hmm. It's Estée by Estée Lauder; fragrance spray, $20-$25 a bottle depending on where she bought it. I knew someone who wouldn't wear anything else." Morgan bent down and sniffed again, this time at the victim's breastbone and then her knees. "And she was looking forward to a romantic night." She took hold of a wrist and brought it up, bending the elbow and sniffing the victim's wrist once again. "And her date brought her a gift."

Scully was confused. "What?"

"Take a sniff."

Scully bent down and sniffed the proffered wrist. She frowned. "It smells different."

Morgan nodded. "Joy – at about $400 an ounce." She gently placed the arm back down on the table. "I'll have someone run a check on purchases. No telling when or where he bought it, but it's worth a try."

Scully nodded in agreement.

Part 10

Return to X-files Fiction

Return to Main Page