CERRIL: El salvaje y peligroso gato

by Sita

CERRIL: El salvaje y peligroso gato

Author: Sita

Rating: Hard R or TV-M, for language and violence (rape), and (if I may be so egotistical) some wicked imagery.

Category: I never know how to do this. DRR, Angst, V, Animal Intelligence. CERRIL: El salvaje y peligroso gato

Author: Sita

Rating: Hard R or TV-M, for language and violence (rape), and (if I may be so egotistical) some wicked imagery.

Category: I never know how to do this. DRR, Angst, V, Animal Intelligence.

Spoilers: This is set in S9, and is a semi AU. I've added some characters and rearranged the episode airing order. I reference episodes such as "4-D", "Audrey Pauley", "Lord of the Flies", John Doe", "Provinance", "Underneath", and "William". All in my semi-AU, the "Cerril-verse".

Disclaimer: I'm doing this for free. Why do I even need to bother with this?

Summary: Reyes has a new man in her life.

Dedication: Thanks for the inspirational conversations Scully3776, SpookyKat, Feline Femme, Kristy, and everyone else. This goes out to all those little protectors with hearts of big cats and loyalty to last the ages. To Marti Fox Linnaeus and my own RL Cerril Reyes, I love you.

Cerril-verse Episode Re-air List:
NIHT 1&2
Daemonicus
4-D
Audrey Pauley
(Enter Cerril)
LotF
TN1
John Doe
Hellbound
Provenance
Providence
Scary Monsters
Improbable
Sunshine Days
Release
Jump the Shark
Underneath
William
The Truth

Author's note: Some of the episodes, it doesn't matter what order they are in. I just wanted to mix them up anyway. hehe But for specific ones, the order I put them are conducive to my story.

Contact Info: sita@intrstar.net


Chapter 1: Basis in Reality

Monica Reyes Apartment
October 22, 2001

She would find herself on a beach. She would be sitting there on an emerald green towel, naked with the noon sun bathing her body. The clear blue sea seemed to calmly reach for her toes, then ebb slowly away. A slight breeze ruffles her hair, which is much longer than in actuality and in it's natural wavy state, and stirs the sand near her hips. She can fell it tickle her breast and down to her thighs as the slow wind plays with it. She notices a sound off to her right, as if something is moving smoothly through the sand. She is totally unbothered by whatever is coming towards her and doesn't turn to look. Leaning back on her hands, she lazily lifts her leg and extends it off to the side to draw a circle in the sand, the air cooling against the now exposed area between her legs. She closes her eyes as she feels the first touch of whatever approaches. It slides, warm and smooth, first over the knuckles of her right hand, then down to her outstretched foot to wrap around her ankle. It proceeds to make its way up her leg, encasing as it goes. It then branches off, just as it covers up to her calf, and lifts over to encircle her other ankle. Her legs are gently pulled further apart and she offers no resistance.

The same low sound issues this time from off to her left. Her head falls back, the sun warming and the air teasing her neck. She lowers her back down to the downy soft towel. She could swear, as her head settles, the sound that reaches her ears is that of her head disturbing soft grass rather than a towel, but it's so soft. Just as she stretches her arms over her head, arching her back, she feels something close around her wrist just as it did her ankles. Just as before with her legs, her arms are guided apart, but still held above her head. She sighs pleasantly at what feels like warm silk sliding in continuous movement around her extremities. She has no concern as to her vulnerability as she lays splayed out on the empty beach.

Suddenly, she senses a presence and for a moment she is afraid. A sense of panic sets when she knows that there is nothing she can do. She doesn't even test her bonds, she knows she is held fast. A dull rumble surrounds her, slightly louder than the wind but not overwhelming. Yet she doesn't have the urge to open her eyes yet as she no longer feels the heat of the sun touching most of her body. She feels hot breath puffing out, then cool air flowing away from her sensitive skin. Almost as if a bellows was being moved over her. Air moving in and out, against her skin with warm moist currents caressing over her thighs to her hips to her abdomen and up her torso to finally puff against her face. She feels something of a different kind of soft slip on first one side of her head then the other, cradled in the Ubends created by her arms, shoulders, and neck. She then feels the same furry softness slip up the insides of her slightly bent knees. She can no longer feel the sun's warmth except for on her upper arms and lower legs. The presence looms above her and she finally opens her eyes. All she sees is a mass of dark gray, like a storm cloud hovering above her. Two bright orange orbs glow from directly above her head, staring down into her face like eyes. She realizes they are eyes and this mass is alive. Suddenly, the orbs dart to the side. It has turned what appears to be its head away from her, to look off to her right. She follows its gaze and sees two beings standing there, watching her. They are not like what's above her, they are definitely human. Two men who lack faces. Not even the bright orbs do they possess. They are the origin of the fear she felt earlier. She doesn't want them to come any closer, but they both step towards her again.

The furry cloud covers her, protects her and emits the low thunderous rumble again at the men. They stop their approach and she relaxes.

The cloud settles firmly over her.

At 1:22 am, Monica Reyes' eyes popped open and she sat up quickly in bed. She flicked her head back in frustration as her hair tried to stick to the slightly moist skin of her forehead. Her thoughts and dreams had been muddled as of late, and they had kept her awake or would awaken her at the oddest times. But this last one was way too vivid and clear. She couldn't understand her actions in this one. Tonight she would get no more sleep. She sighed, harshly willing her heart to cease its pounding of her chest. How could she be so afraid of a dream as to not want to go to sleep at night for fear of it occurring? She fears the meaning. Her dreams in the past have been semi-prophetic in nature. What could the future hold for her in relation to this dream? Other times her nightmares were brought on by a physical malfunction or detriment to her body. Like back when she was hospitalized at the age of 14 for an undetermined illness which she recovered fully from, or when she quit smoking cold turkey, and other times of trial in her life of varying degrees of severity. She hoped it was just another result of the flu she felt coming on or her overactive imagination, rather than a portent.

She shook her head as if to clear it and remembered that she had forgotten to put the trash out. Pick-up was at just after 6 am that morning and she always seemed to miss it getting ready for work. She decided that since she was up and sleep wasn't appealing right now, she'd get it out of the way.

She got up and slipped on the black robe that matched the satin-like textured nightgown she wore to bed. She grabbed a pair of sweatpants off the back of a nearby chair and slipped them on under the gown. Not bothering to tie the robe together, she walked from her bed to the bathroom to grab the bag from the trash there. She picked up the wastebasket from beside her computer desk on her way out of her bedroom. Carrying both to the final receptacle in the kitchen, she dumped first the mostly paper waste from the computer desk and the bag in the bin. Tying it up, she stopped at the door to slip on her running shoes and left her apartment.

Halfway down the steps to the first floor landing on the back staircase, she heard the screech of tires outside. She pauses a second on the stairs. Then another screech as the car hastily speeds away. She continue her decent.

As she opened the door to the back exit into the alley, the too cool night air hit her. She'd forgotten that this was D.C. she was living in now. While Louisiana would be warm and toasty at night this time of year, she was living much farther north and in much lower temperatures. She pulled her robe closed with her free hand and hunched her shoulders against the cold wind entering the back alley.

She walked quickly toward the dumpster near the opening of the alley beside the street, her long legs taking as far a stride as they could. She got a harsh sense of dread from this side of the door, and she wanted to waste no time out here. Very little light made its way into the mouth of the alley, but she could see where she was going. She slung the bag over the top into the large bin. As she turned to walk away, a soft sound registered from the other side of the trash. She whirled around to face it, her hand whipping open her robe and reaching at her hip. It was then that she realized her automatic response yielded nothing since she hadn't bothered to take her gun down with her.

She took a step back, her eyes wide and searching for any movement. She saw nothing, but heard another sound, this time a low whine. Almost like a meowling. She went around to the other side of the large green refuse container and peered around.

There lay a large mound of fur. It was dark, so she couldn't see clearly, but she could make out that it was a rather large cat. A dead cat. A dead, mid-labor cat.

Reyes kneeled down, heedless of the cold, dirty pavement and the harsh chill in the air and swallowed the lump that materialized in her throat. She reached out her hand toward the hideous sight. There, halfborn, was a tiny baby kitten with his hind legs still encased within his mother's womb. Everything was still as her hands touched the mother. She could feel the fur wet with blood and the tiny bumps from broken bones beneath her fingertips. Now, with her hands up against the side of the cat, she had a basis to measure the proportion. Her hands were dwarfed by the cat. She had never seen one so big before and knew that this was no ordinary house cat. She resembled a small cougar or something.

"Oh...", she sighed and her shoulders slumped. She remembered the sound of harsh braking of a vehicle on the street as she came down the stairs and she put two and two together. She wanted to say something, but no words came to her mind. There was nothing she could say. Nothing that would erase this moment. How someone could strike down such a magnificent creature and not care was beyond her. Sadness leaked into her expression and she felt as if she would cry.

Then a thought came to her. Hadn't she heard the kitten? Maybe it was still alive.
She used her index finger to rub from the tip of the kitten's nose and up between his eyes, and almost jerked her hand back when it moved. Just a little. And she heard the tiny, pitiful cry. Her tears fell then.

She wasn't sure of her next move, but she had to do something. She figured that since the mother was dead, her only concern now was for the kitten. Pulling the sleeve of her robe down over her hand, she gently rubbed away the amniotic fluid that was starting to dry around the kitten's tiny mouth and nose. She noticed that its breath instantly seemed to come easier. She could tell he was still under definite stress.

Mentally reminding herself that the mother was dead, the sight of her brains settling out of her opened skull the give away, Reyes reached one finger into the mother's vagina. Her finger slipped around to the hind legs of the baby cat, making sure they were straightened. She then pulled as tenderly as she could, while circling her finger around the back and to the front of the kitten.

After about a minute, she had pulled it all the way out. She breathed a sigh of relief when she noted that she was able to keep its legs straight and that it didn't get hung up. She didn't want to take the chance of breaking its legs. Now she wondered should she worry about delivering the placenta or whether she should just figure out a way to sever the umbilical cord. She wasn't sure how to expel the placenta without the aid of contractions.

She then remembered the twist ties stuck to the bottom of the large bag from the kitchen that she pocketed when they fell on the floor. She reached into the pocket of her robe, pulling them out and using one hand as she held the kitten in the other, she twisted a few around the sac-like cord until they were tight then raked her fingernail across the cord over and over till it separated.

Bringing the now shivering kitten to her chest, she wrapped it up in the folds of her robe. She didn't care that he was all wet and sticky and smelled a little weird. She fell instantly in love with him.


Chapter 2: Stay With Me Tonight

Back in her apartment, the baby kitten wrapped in a towel in the middle of her bed and the large mother cat in a plastic bag in her freezer, she was in her bathroom running lukewarm water in the basin. After she made sure it wasn't too warm, but would keep the little bit of heat it held for a while, she walked back to her bed. The little ball of muck hadn't moved, but she could see that he was still breathing. She tugged the now stained nightgown over her head and tossed it on the floor. Keeping watch over the towel with the dark spot in the middle, she walked to her dresser and pulled a clean Tshirt out and slipped into it.

She then walked back to the bed and picked up her phone. Carefully sitting on the edge and leaning over on her elbow toward the kitten and stroking it with her free hand, she dialed Scully's cell phone number. She knew that Dana kept it on vibrate so the ringing wouldn't wake Baby William.

After just two rings, a wide-awake Scully answered.

"Scully?"

"Dana, it's Monica. Sorry to call you at such a late hour, but it's kind of an emergency."

"My first class isn't until one in the afternoon. William was demanding a late night snack anyway. Don't worry, you didn't wake me. Is something wrong, Monica."

"Yes, umm, I'm not sure if you can help me."

"Try me."

"Ok. You wouldn't happen to know any good veterinary offices that would be open really early would you?"

"Monica, you don't have a pet?"

"Umm, I do now. A cat got hit outside my building. At least I think it was a cat. But anyway, I saved a kitten and I want to get him checked out."

"You saved a kitten? How so?"

"Well, the cat that was hit was pregnant, and..." She trailed off.

"Ahh, I see. Well, I know a great vet not too far from your house. He's very, very good. And his clinic is open from 2pm to 9am."

"Sounds good, thank you very much!" Just then, the kitten decided to make itself known, albeit weakly, at the same time William felt the need to say hello to his Godmother Monica over the phone.

"Was that...", Monica and Dana said at the same time.

"Ok, that was weird." Scully said looking down to the tiny face now happily gone back to the job of suckling at his mother's breast.

Reyes looked down at the now quiet kitten. That moment had to have some meaning. She could feel it.

She grabbed a paper and pen from her nightstand and wrote down the directions from Scully.

"Thank you very much, Dana. Wish William a good night for me."

"Sure thing. Take care, Monica."

Monica placed the phone back on the base, then leaned back over the kitten. "Hold on, ok? I'll take care of you. Just please stay with me tonight."

She picked the kitten up, resisting the urge to gather it to her chest this time, and carried it to the waiting basin of water. She figured it was ok to give it a short bath, just to make it a bit presentable. She placed the kitten in the shallow water letting his head rest between her thumb and forefinger. Using one of her washcloths, she gently stroked in the direction of the fur. The sticky residue came off rather easily and she had the kitten relatively clean in a few minutes. She dried him off with a few paper towels, taking care to not put pressure on his tightly closed eyes as she dried his face. She smiled as his tiny pinkish-gray nose twitched slightly and his mouth opened in a tiny meow. Now he was no longer inky black. She could see that he was actually a beautiful blue-gray. She could see he had tiny slightly darker areas in bands around his tail and spots across his sides and tummy. She noted that they mirrored his mom's spots and stripes only she was more a rust color with black markings.

The little kitten shivered, and this time she could cuddle him to her chest. With it wrapped in a clean towel, she had to find something to put it in. Then she remembered the welcome fruit basket that her kind landlord, Mr. Withers, had given her back when she first moved in. It was empty now, but she had saved it. She put the kitty in it, then went to retrieve the body of its mother.

Then she remembered the wet spots on the knees of her sweatpants and ran to change into a pair of jeans. Grabbing her jacket, keys, wallet, she and the kitten were off for his first doctor's visit.


D.C. Animal Hospital, Emergency Veterinary Care Center Dr. Mitchell Cheatwood, DVM
2:13pm

Monica Reyes walked into the foyer of the surprisingly large beige building. She looked around the nearly empty waiting room. Off to the side, a middle-aged woman was coddling a huge St. Bernard and an old man with a very nervous looking Mountain Fice sitting shivering in his lap wearing a bright yellow sweater. Across from her was the reception counter. She walked over to it. The 20-something year old receptionist looked up from his computer.

"Hello! Welcome to the D.C. Animal Hospital and ER. How can I help you, ma'am?"

"I have a kitten here who needs to be checked out. It went through a rough birth, to put it lightly, about half an hour ago."

"You said the kitten, right? Just the kitten? Where's the mother?"

Monica held up the black bag and wore a sympathetic and slightly embarrassed look. "Ahh." The receptionist replied. Then nodded. "No problem. We'll handle it. I just need some information."

They went down the list taking her name and other info, then they got to "name of pet". Monica thought for a moment. She was about to say she had no idea, then she remembered how she had described his entrance into life. She definitely wanted to have a name that reflected her roots, as she had always wanted to do once she had children of her own. The word was rough; spero in Spanish. He was also wild, definitely a description that fit the look of his mother. But neither of those made a good name. But then she thought of a word that not only meant the same as both of those things, but made a great name. Cerril.

She spelled it out for the receptionist. "Ok, Cerril Reyes is in the computer. I'll take the, umm, bag." Monica nodded and handed the man the bag, thankful to be unburdened of the feeling of carrying around a dead, not to mention heavy, cat. The receptionist, who's name plate said Carl S., wasn't expecting the weight either and grunted. " Whoa!" he let out, then recovered not wanting to look like a wimp in front of the attractive new client. "Have a seat and we'll call for you as soon as possible."

"Thank you." Monica smiled at him then turned and walked over to a nearby chair, close to the woman and her St. Bernard. Not too close, just incase this dog didn't like cats.

The woman looked at Monica, then leaned over and whispered in a conspiratorial tone. "We swallowed my cellphone." She pouted a bit and turned back to the dog to wipe some of the copious amounts of drool pouring out of its mouth with a towel. Monica nodded and smiled. Behind her smile, she wondered about the sanity of a person who referred to both she and her dog as "we".

Cerril was starting to perk up. His tiny legs began to work uncoordinatedly as his big kitten head bobbed up and down, the tiny muscles of his neck not being strong enough to lift his chin up off the bottom of the basket for very long. He began to let out tiny inquisitive mews. Monica put the basket on the seat next to her and took Cerril out wrapped in his towel. Cuddling the kitten to her chest once again, she rocked him slowly to calm him. She fingered his tiny paws and pink pads, making his almost transparent claws unsheath. She drug her finger lightly down his stomach and back up watching as he stretched and wiggled and made Monica smile in wonder.

"Excuse me, Miss Reyes?"

Monica looked up, the beautiful smile still on her face. For a second, the receptionist paused, the sight stealing his breath. Monica understood what was wrong and prompted him with a polite "Yes?"

"Oh, the doctor will see you now.", he fairly stammered. A short woman with graying hair had appeared and tried to cover up her amusement. She had on a white polo shirt with "D.C. Animal Hospital, EVCC" printed in navy blue on the top right corner.

"Thank you." She looked down at Cerril and whispered, "It's ok. Time to see the doctor." She put him back in the basket then got up. Holding the basket in front of her stomach, she followed the vet technician down one of the two hallways and into a room.

"Dr. Cheatwood will be with you in a moment.", the short woman said as she opened the door for Monica. She looked into the basket. "Awww, your baby is so cute! What kind of cat is it?"

Monica shrugged a bit. "I have no idea. I hope someone can tell me."

"Well, Dr. Cheatwood did one of his theses on Feline breed recognition. I'm sure he could tell you."

"Thank you."

"He'll be here in just a bit.", she said to Monica. Then to Cerril, "Bye, Cerril!", she exclaimed. Monica just smiled, loving the older lady's enthusiasm. She set Cerril's basket on the exam table as the woman closed the door.

His fur had completely dried out now. She had been worried about him being out in the cold right after a bath, but she hadn't wanted to take him out without getting off the slick coating from his birth. She leaned on the high metal table and stroked Cerril's downy head. His little neck had long since tired out and he just resigned to resting his chin on the towel and making soft meows.

Monica took a look at her surroundings and noted the standards found it a doctor's office for people. The container of cotton balls and Qtips and assortment of cabinets and other items noticeable of the medical profession, but with one difference. Instead of a poster of the internal workings of a person, it was a poster of "Owner's Care Sites" on a dog. Simple ways to tell when your animal is sick. Warning signs to look for that cause alarm.

Monica didn't know how long she was there leaning over the table when she heard the door open behind her. She looked back over her shoulder to see that the doctor had arrived. She appraised him, as any woman would.

His long, lithe frame. The healthy muscle tone, just enough for masculine strength on a slim body, that could be seen even through the button-up shirt and black jeans. His sienna undertones giving him the definite glow of indigenousness. His deep set eyes giving the illusion of deep charcoal depths. His dark chocolate locks slightly wavy and cut close to his head for ease of maintenance. The hand that held the door open well manicured, but not overly so. He looked like a nice, attractive man. Monica's instincts told her that inside, he was every bit like is outer appearance.

"So, you're the one who brought in the Jungle Cat!", Dr. Mitchell Cheatwood said in a calm yet excited voice. Even his voice sounded great; an easy and lyrical lilt born of time spent on a reservation.

"The what?", Monica asked, both amused and confused by his choice of introductory line.

"Oh crap! Sorry." He walked all the way into the room and she turned to shake his hand. She noticed that he kept his hand back and waited for her to extend hers before fully committing to the act of greeting. She added "old world" charm to his list of attributes. "I'm Dr. Mitchell Cheatwood. Everyone calls me Doc Mitch."

"It's ok.", she said with a light laugh. "Monica Reyes." They broke off the handshake and he stepped around to the opposite side of the table. "I've never heard of a Jungle Cat. Admittedly, I don't know much about cats. That is a cat, isn't it?"

Dr. Mitch laughed, but not patronizingly so. "Yep, it's a cat all right. And some cat! They are beautiful creatures. I've got Andy getting together some literature for you. He should have it ready by the time you leave." He looked down at Cerril. "Wonderful name you got there, Cerril! Let's have a look at you."

"Thank you very much." She looked down at Cerril as the exam began. Inwardly, she breathed a sigh of relief. Her imagination and recent work on the X-files, along with past sparse paranormal experience had her thinking mutant cat or a really small cougar with freaky genes.

Dr. Mitch took an otoscope and a tiny cone attachment and looked in both Cerril's ears. He then too a small cotton swab, and lightly brushed out Cerril's ears. Without looking up from his task, he noted out loud to Monica, "You did a great job cleaning him up."

"Thanks. I didn't know if I should have given him a bath or not."

"No, it's ok. He won't need any more actual baths anytime soon, though, just in case. Just wipe him down with a warm, damp paper towel or cloth. But it was good that you got all the stickiness off. Gives them a major case of dandruff if it dries."

Monica couldn't help but let out a chuckle. She really liked Cerril's new vet's personality. Dr. Mitch took the kitten's temp with the electronic ear monitor. Cerril made tiny protestations. Dr. Mitch just calmly stroked his tiny kitten head and cooed at him in baby talk., which Monica thought was adorable.

In a couple of minutes, the examination was complete.

"Well, it would seem that he was full term and in perfect health. No broken bones, no signs of permanent stress related injuries other than those experienced in natural birth. No signs of forced expulsion from the womb, which means she was in the throes of labor when the vehicle hit her. His eyes are still closed," he looked up at Monica's shift in expression and assured her, "which is good. The mother looked to be in perfect health before the accident. I can do an autopsy on her later to make sure there isn't something we should be looking for in this little guy later on. So far, everything looks fine. We can keep him over night though. Kittens without mothers are rather hard to take care of. We don't mind starting him off for you. And it will give you time to get ready for him or decide if you really want to keep him."

Without hesitation, Monica put her hand out to touch Cerril. Her fingertips spayed across Mitch's hand that was still stroking the downy soft fur. "I want to keep him. Definitely."

"Ok, well then. That's wonderful!", he replied just slightly phased by the open contact.

"I don't think I could be apart from him. I'm already attached. Can I take him home tonight?"

"Sure. I'll teach you a few things that you'll need to know, like things that the mother cat would normally do. And just know that although there is a milk substitute available, which is very good, the fact that he won't receive the colostrums found in natural milk lends to the chance that he may get sick. His immune system may not be as strong, so you'll need to watch for that."

"Just like with human babies?

"Exactly."

Monica nodded and picked Cerril up off the exam table. "Ok, just tell me what to do and I'll do it."

After a crash course in kitten care, Monica was saying her goodbyes to Dr. Mitch. "If you have any problems, don't hesitate to let me know." He reached in his back jeans pocket and produced a card. "That's my sister's business card. She's a veterinary technician who runs a pet daycare that specializes in infirm or special needs pets. During your work hours, he'll be very well taken care of there. And even if, like you mentioned, you have to go out of town, he'll be boarded over night for however long you are gone." All of a sudden, as if it had just occurred to him, Dr. Mitch added, "Oh, and we've been referring to Cerril as a "he". It's way too early to tell for sure, but from his genital placement, it looks as if he might be a boy."

Monica thought for a minute. "He does have a rather masculine aura."

Dr. Mitch stared at her for a few seconds before blinking. Then, as if she had made total sense, "Ok.", he agreed. Then held up his arm and gestured for her to precede him back down the hallway.

Monica then thought of something else. She looked over as she walked. "Was Cerril the only one?" She was worried that maybe she should have checked, even if she hadn't known how.

"Don't worry, he was the only kitten his mom was carrying. It's not unusual for Jungle Cats to have one kitten in a litter, which technically isn't a litter.", he added with a laugh. Monica relaxed. "So don't worry, you did a great job and you saved this guy's life." He reached over and stroked Cerril's head in the basket. Cerril made an annoyed mew. "Oooh, touchy!", Dr. Mitch joked.

Monica laughed and likewise stroked Cerril's head, this time to a much different meow. A very calm meow. She looked up at the doctor with a smile.

"Well, seems like he's very attached to you, too!", he said as he pushed open the doors to the waiting room. Just then, a young man with dyed fuchsia hair that made his white/blue eyes seem to pop and wearing a frock with frolicking puppies and kittens came up with an armload of papers.

"Here you go, Doc. Cheat `em."

"Thanks, And. Get Carl to find a notebook or binder to put them in."

"Sure thing, Doc." Andy made a B-line behind the large reception desk as Carl started looking for something to put the papers in. The grayhaired woman came out of a large open stock area with a beige canvas bag that made dull clunks like full cans bumping against each other. She smiled as she soundly smacked the back of Andy's fuchsia head with her open palm, then held the bag open for him to slip the thin binder packed to bulging with the information papers in.

"Owww, Mawww!", he exclaimed mock obnoxiously while dramatically making a face and rubbing the back of his head. "He don't mind that I call him that!"

His mom gave him "the look" and Andy shut up. Dr. Mitch, Carl, and Monica to a lesser extent laughed at Andy's plight. "Randy, honest, I don't mind. As long as he does his work well then he can call me `Rez Prince' for all I care."

"Whatever." Randy answered, faking exasperation, as she came from behind the counter to stand beside Monica and Dr. Mitch.

By then, Carl had finished pulling up Monica's bill. "We're only charging you half price on his exam. And don't worry about the autopsy for the mom."

"You didn't have to do that, really!", Monica objected.

Dr. Mitch cut in. "You didn't have to do what you did either. You saved this kitten's life and I really respect that. He's very special, and not just because of his heritage. It would be an honor to take care of his mom, maybe even find out where she might have come from. No one in their right mind would let such a magnificent breed such as her just escape."

"Honestly, I don't know what to say. Thank you so much! I didn't think this was the kind of thing that happens everyday, not with cats like her." She looked down at Cerril after Carl handed her credit card back along with a print out of the bill. "Well, I've got to get home and finish feeding the baby here. Thanks again!"

She shook Dr. Mitch's hand again. "Randy will help carry the bag out. Have a good night!"

Monica turned, and with a smile to Randy, she started for the door.

"Man,", Carl whispered in awe, "I think I've just met my future wife."

Andy snorted. "What would a woman like that want with a wimp like you?!"

"Carl, my man. I don't think it would work out. She's an FBI agent and not only can you not bust a grape, but you are afraid of guns. Plus, she's too smart for you."

Carl shrugged. "Yeah, but a wimp like me needs a gal like her to protect him." He affected a mock stern look. "Don't even think of trying to steal my girl, Doc Mitch!"

Dr. Mitch just laughed saying, "With those eyes of hers, she looks too much like my sister.", and walked back in the back to check and see if the laxative had started to take effect on Muffin, the St. Bernard. And to see if it was truly possible for a Mt. Fice to be afraid of the dark, not to mention afraid to be naked.

Outside in the parking lot, Monica thanked Randy as she placed the bag in the SUV.

"It sure is great to meet a caring person such as yourself. Children should be more like you these days."

Monica smiled at being called a child. "Your son sure is, seeing that he works here."

"Yes, he's a great kid. As you can see, I'm pretty relaxed when it comes to him doing certain stuff. I pick my battles. He can dye his hair any color he wants as long as I don't see it affecting his brain." She and Monica shared a laugh. "Plus, I told him I'm not messing around with my money. I think that if he has to pay his own way in school, he'll take it seriously and make something of himself. He wants to be a vet."

"Well, I think he's got a great mentor in Dr. Cheatwood."

"He is great, isn't he? And not married. And I don't think he noticed that you weren't wearing a bra." She blurted the words out really fast, then kept going." Well, you and Cerril have a good night and we'll see you in a couple of weeks. Good night!", she finished cheerily, then waved as she turned tail and walked away.

Monica just chuckled and shook her head as she stepped up into the driver's seat. Making sure Cerril's basket was settled in the floor on the passenger side, she started the engine and drove off heading back home.

Monica Reyes' Apartment
4:10 am

After feeding Cerril and massaging his tiny kitten bottom just as she was taught, she was back in her sleep attire with Cerril snuggled up in the curve her body created as she lay on her side reading the material on Jungle Cats and kitten care.

She had decided to call in sick tomorrow which was actually later the same morning, hoping that Skinner wouldn't think she just wanted to get a jump-start on weekend festivities, and visit Mychel Cheatwood's day care later in the day. But that would have to wait till after she got in a few hours of sleep. With Cerril and his welfare on her mind, the dream seemed a far away memory. She barely remembered what had woken her hours ago and led her to finding the kitten which in turn gave her such calm now. The circle of events didn't even register as she closed the book with a yawn. She leaned over and placed it on the nightstand then turned off the lamp

In the dim moonlight streaming from her half closed blinds, she looked down at a still Cerril. She smiled in the dark, then let her head rest on the pillow and her eyes close. Soon, everything was quiet except for even breathes from the two sleeping beings.


Chapter 3: Shaky Steps

Monica Reyes' Apartment
2 weeks later
5:55 am

Monica rolled over in bed. Her alarm hadn't gone off yet but she felt rested enough to start the day, despite having had another late night disturbance of a rather pleasant nature.

Cerril found it very annoying that, even though he could barely walk, he had no way of reaching Monica on the bed. He struggled across the wood floors of her bedroom and onto the fuzzy black cat area rug on the side of her bed and flopped down. Then started to complain, loudly. His cloudy blue eyes now open and alert, he looked up as best he could and yelled. Then waited.

The perpetrator of her late night awakening was now awake again. Monica peeked over the side of the bed to see the cutest, saddest sight! Her little Cerril with his mouth wide open and his pink tongue showing letting loose with a series of short bursting meows, still not quite being able to stand up. But he was definitely mobile, enough to get from his tiny flat bed and cross the long distance of one foot and over to the side of the mountain where his mommy was at the top.

Monica reached to the floor and pulled him into bed with her. She loved the feel of his downy soft fur against her face as she rubbed him against her cheek. "Are you hungry, Cerril?"

Cerril answered her with a purr. The first time he had purred, it came as a shock. For one, she thought maybe he was too young to purr. And another thing, she thought that cats had to learn how to purr. She was learning from Cerril everyday. "Let's get breakfast." She slid her long legs out of the bed, holding Cerril to her chest. She walked over to the fleece-lined basket, where Cerril had spent most of the night sleeping until his tummy woke him almost two hours ago, and placed him back inside. She carried him to the kitchen and grabbed a new can of his KMR from the cabinet and, setting Cerril's basket on the table, made him a bottle. Then she grabbed a couple of pop tarts from the box on the counter and dropped them into the toaster. As she turned back to the basket, she saw the top of Cerril's blue-gray head appear at the rim. He was still too small and unsteady on his feet to get out, but he was getting stronger everyday, and had already doubled in size. She scooped him and his fleece-liner out and settled him on her lap to eat. She was so engrossed in watching his tiny pink tongue wrap around the tiny rubber nipple on the bottle that she jumped when her pop tarts popped up out of the toaster a couple of minutes later.

Cerril made a noise. He didn't like that his mommy's heart had sped from its comforting thump-thump to a quicker pace. He growled a bit low in his throat.

"It's ok. You can finish eating, I'm not getting up." Stroking under his chin to get him to reopen his mouth, she got him to finish his bottle. After that, she munched on a pop tart as she carried Cerril to the bathroom so he'd be close while she was in the shower.

Mychel's Folly: Pet Care & Camp
7:40 am

"Hi, Miss Reyes!" Jenny the perky blonde exclaimed as she unlocked the front door for Monica. "Hi, Cerril!"

"Hi, Jenny. Is Mychel around?"

"Sure is, she's in the back finishing up the morning meds."

"Thanks." Monica handed Cerril's bag over to Jenny's waiting hands then followed her to the back of the building.

"Mychel?!", Jenny called out.

"In here!" Mychel's voice, a feminine and higher pitched version of her brother's, came from the kitchen area. Jenny and Monica walked towards where the voice had come and entered the swinging door. Their eyes set on the back of a tall frame, fit like her brother, only with more curves. She had her thick, straight dark hair pulled back in a ponytail that traveled the length of her spine as she cleaned the food bowls in the sink. She stopped and grabbed a towel to dry her hands, then turned to greet them.

Matching honey-mocha eyes met. "Miss Reyes, how are you today?"

"Just fine, thank you."

"And how is our baby doing? Is he coming to stay with us?"

Jenny answered then. "Yep, Mychel. I'm just gonna go set up where he will be staying." She then turned and walked off to get Cerril's place ready.

"Yep, it looks like I'm going to have to go out of town. I'm not sure for how long. Up until now, I haven't had to go out into the field."

"It's quite alright, Miss Reyes." Mychel assured. "We are used to taking care of him and, in fact, he's no problem at all. Honestly!" She stepped forward to see the object of their conversation. "Wow, he looks like he's grown since he left here yesterday!" Almost identically colored eyes met in amused agreement.

"He has. He walked from the flat bed you suggested for me to get him and right over to my bed and woke me up this morning."

"That's very good!" She reached in and stroked Cerril's downy head. "He's picking up strength as he should be. He's progressing very well." Mychel laughed as a thought came to her. "And he's very vocal, too. That's also the sign of a healthy kitten."

Monica started to laugh too. "Oh yes! Vocal he is!", she emphatically agreed. She then handed Cerril's basket over to Mychel's waiting hands.

The two women continued their discussion down the hallway as Mychel walked Monica out, looking for all the world like long lost sisters and speaking for all the world like long time friends.


J.E. Hoover Building
8:20am

Agent Reyes walked down the hallway after checking in down stairs at the basement to see that her partner had left her a note.

It read: "I'm already up stairs awaiting the caning. J"

Reyes shook her head and smiled, then slipped out of her leather jacket and hung it up. She didn't think it would be that bad. Well, not for her and John at least. They weren't the perpetrators of the "misuse of allocated funds". It was one or more of the other agents under Skinner's supervision. But seeing as how Skinner hated to repeat himself, he figured a group reprimand was in order so that everyone would watch their collective Ps and Qs for next time.

It made sense to Reyes, but not to Doggett. "I ain't do this crap, so why do I have to waste time sittin' getting my ass chewed?!", she mentally quoted to herself. She sighed to herself as she sat her satchel down behind her desk, grabbed what she needed for the meeting out of it and off her desk, and headed out the door.

Once upstairs, she went directly to Skinner's office. Kim looked up at Reyes as she entered. "Good morning, Agent Reyes." All professional. "They're all in the conference room down the hallway." She gestured toward Skinner's office door. "He's still in there steaming, but making the agents waiting do the actual sweating.", Kim added with a grim smile.

"Thanks, Kim." Monica turned to leave, but Kim called out to her.

"Monica! How's the new fellow in your life?"

Monica couldn't help but smirk. "He's great." She sighed and leaned against the doorframe. "Wonderful, in fact."

"You look a bit tired. I bet that appetite of his is pretty draining."

"Sure is! He woke me up twice during the night wanting more. But he's so strong, I don't mind giving in. If he needs it, he needs it. Can you tell I'm in love?!" Monica's goofy smile made Kim laugh, which sounded more like a controlled cough. Kim liked Agent Reyes, even though she hadn't known her but a few months. Not that she didn't like Agent Scully. She just liked them for different reasons. She liked Scully's professionalism and the fact that she was just as worthy of respect as any man. So was Reyes, but Monica was more personable and seemingly approachable. She definitely liked both women for their strength of character.

"I'm dying to meet him again. He's so handsome. I think I want one just like him!"

Just then, the intercom on Kim's desk quietly squawked. Skinner's distracted voice filtered in to the conversation. "Kim, could you please get in here?"

She tapped a button on the desk and responded, back in her professional mode. "Be right there. She tapped the same button, then looked back up at Monica as she stood. "Speaking of men in need." She and Monica shared a snort. "We'll both be in the conference room in just a moment."

"Ok.", Monica answered, then turned and almost ran into Doggett.

"John! I was just on my way." She looked at her partner, and was confused by the look he was giving her. She read shock and suspicion in his features and, if she felt just past it all, a rigidity. "What's wrong?" She laid her hand on his shoulder and he blinked, but didn't look away from her face. "John, are you ok?" Her voice was almost a whisper.

He looked down, effectively shutting himself off from her. But not quite. "Nothing. I came to look for you. Let's just get to the conference room before Skinner comes out." He turned away from her, almost an about face. Now she was totally confused. She didn't know that he had been standing within earshot of the whole conversation and misunderstood fellow animal lover's lingo for something of an entirely different personal nature.

She spent the next 2 and a half hours trying to ignore the inexplicably angry waves she felt radiating from the man beside her and at the same time look as if she were paying total attention to the various fellow agents excuses and "self-ass-covering" interspersed with Skinner's controlled ranting.

After the meeting out in the hallway, Reyes pulled Doggett away from the throng of agents making an exodus from the wrath of Skinner. He came to her with no resistance and allowed her to direct him to face her, then just stood there impassively.

She appraised his look and stance. He was definitely agitated with her, but she hadn't the slightest idea what she had done to deserve it. "Is there something you want to say to me, John?" There was just the tiniest bit of agitation in her usually tame voice. If someone was going to be mad at her, then they damn well better have a good reason.

His answering look was angry and incredulous, like she had no right to ask such a question of him. They had a stare off of about a second, trying to read into each other. Then Doggett sighed, resigned. "Look, Monica." He paused, and sighed again. Reyes felt her earlier defensive reactive anger fade. "You are... You can do whatever it is you want. You're a grown woman."

"Okay?", Reyes said slowly, knowing he had to be leading to something with that comment. "I've been a grown woman for quite a while, thanks for noticing." Sarcastic words, but she had meant them to be funny.

Luckily, Doggett knew from their time together to take her meaning and not her words this time. He wanted to laugh, be light with her, but she was in a relationship that he didn't know about. And she hadn't even been there but half a year. A rather possessive and slightly abusive relationship from the sounds of it. He prayed like hell he had misunderstood on that point. He knew she could do so much better than that. So much better than the slime he was forced to call "sir" by some fluke of God, no doubt. Or maybe Follmer had sold his soul to the Devil. Yeah, that had to be how it went down. Anyway, back to this unknown, demanding, possessive guy of Monica's.

"Ok, we can't talk about it here. And we've got a flight out to New Jersey that leaves in an hour. I've already got everything squared away with Skinner and all that. We've got to go."

"Ok, let's go. I'm already packed."

Reyes followed Doggett down to the garage, wondering if she should be looking forward to this "talk" or running as fast as she could in the other direction.

The talk never happened. Not before the case at least. They went over the information received from the Ocean County Coroner's Office once they were in the car and on the way to the airport. Then, once they got to New Jersey, the weirdness started. With bugs listening to chemical commands from a Bug Boy. That's how Doggett had put it. And Scully was first dumbfounded and uncomfortable, then later when she was describing the events to Reyes, outrageously amused with the antics of Dr. Bronziano. Dana and Monica were able to relax and laugh.

But then Scully had to catch an earlier flight back, which left Monica and John back to the waiting conversation that they had been distracted from having during the case. That was their way. Work first. Talk later. But they did have resolution to talk, to express themselves to each other and to not hold it in. This had of course been Monica's idea since the beginning of their relationship which had lead into their recent partnership. John was still the typical man and wouldn't initiate, of course, and sometimes she could draw him out and other times she let him be figuring maybe she didn't really need to know.

Was this one time that she really didn't need to know what was on his mind?

She sighed next to him on the plane and he looked over at her. He had been watching her flip through one of those science fiction books that she seemed to love so much for the past hour, but he wasn't sure she was reading in. Hadn't she already reread that "Tale of the Body Thief" by that weird Goth woman 15 times already since the book came out? And God knows how many other books written she had read just as many times? He just didn't understand her fixation with all that stuff. He mentally shrugged, like he had done countless times in the almost 10 years he had known Monica?

Maybe that sigh and the fact that she had let the book flop into her lap heralded her initiation of the conversation that he had said could wait till after the case. He decided to be a man and dive right in.

"Well, I did say later."

"Yes. You did." She turned her head to look at him, flicking her chocolate hair back as she did so.

It struck him just then how much he was glad that she had dyed it back from what he had termed "Little Miss Wicca" black to her natural brown. There wasn't a constant shadow over her features. Even she had told him it was a phase from her break with Follmer. And she was finally allowing it to grow back out. Not that it had been her choice to cut it in the first place. He'd ask her what changed her mind about that later. Always later, he mused. He just hoped he wouldn't run out of laters. Recent history gave him proof that life only gave out a limited number of "laters".

That thought strengthened his resolve to ask her. He looked her straight in the eye. "Who's your new guy?"

"New guy?"

"Yeah, I heard you and Skinner's Assistant talking about him that day."

Reyes just stared at him, her mouth slightly open. She tilted her head a millimeter down.

Doggett couldn't stop himself. "Listen, Monica. Like I said before. You are your own woman, and you can be in any relationship that you want. We are friends. I'd say you are my best friend, and if there is a change in your life, I thought that you would want to tell me about it. I get the idea that there is a big secret surrounding this guy and I get a bad impression as to why." He took a breath, half because he had run out of it and half as a way to let her absorb what he was saying and to be able to interject if she wanted. All she did was blink, her eyes darting back up from his mouth where she had been occasionally watching his lips move.

"Back in past work I've done, I've seen a sort of sickness. I guess I'd call it that. Some women mistake abuse for love." At that, he got a dip in her eyebrows. But the tiny expression change went away before he could process it. He still had to get his point across so he continued. "I don't understand it, but it happens. To ordinary women. And..."

"And you think I'm an ordinary woman?"

He was knocked off his train of thought and stuttered. "No! I just..."

She was looking at him in that maddeningly calm way still. "Damnit, Monica! I don't want you to get hurt!", he force whispered, leaning a bit closer towards he so he wouldn't be overheard.

She looked away from him, slouching over and covering her mouth with the back of her hand, giving the impression that she might be upset. She was actually trying to keep from laughing. She had just figured out the reason he was so upset. When he mentioned the conversation with Kimberley Arlene, she couldn't understand why he would have gotten upset over her having a pet since he hadn't shown any dislike for the idea. In face, she got the totally opposite idea. And why in the heck would he not like the idea of her having a pet. A tiny bit of her thought that maybe he was thinking that ever since Scully had her baby, there might have been a sort of weird transference of the infamous "biological clock" effect. And maybe that was a factor. She didn't know why she hadn't told him about Cerril, she just hadn't thought to tell him. But she did feel that if she kept thinking funny thoughts like the previous one, she wouldn't be able to hold the laugh she could feel still bubbling in her. And she wanted to have a little fun with John. She clamped down on her amusement and looked back at him, a neutral expression on her face.

"I know you care about me, John. I know you'd never allow me to be hurt. I also know myself pretty well." She exaggerated a sigh, like she had come to the decision to reveal something of importance she'd been holding back. "I'll take you to meet the new guy in my life."

"Where are we going, Mon?" She had told him just to drive and she would navigate.

"We're going to see Cerril." Her tone was even.

"Is that a first name or a last name?"

"First."

Doggett sighed. He got the sneaky suspicion she was running a game on him. After he had dropped his spiel, he started to reflect on how stupid it had been for him to jump to conclusions. Monica was definitely no ordinary woman. She was brilliant and strong and knew what she liked. In what he knew of her relationships, they had been with men of power. That, as well as the obvious and non-obvious, was one thing that he knew she looked for. As she put it, that reason alone was not exclusive to her selectivity. At the time she had said that, he thought that she had been hitting on him. But that also would have meant she was taking a knock at his background or status, and that was one thing he could always count on her not to do. She would never look down on someone. Wouldn't that mean that she would never be attracted to a person who looked down on others? Obviously not in the case of some, who shall remain nameless. God, she had been way off at times. But she was human, and she was allowed to make mistakes. But would she make a mistake so big as to be with someone who would mistreat her? Would she want someone who in fact thought they had but didn't really have power or strength and tried to convince themselves that they did by holding control over one who would love them? John just couldn't believe that about her. Never Monica. But just incase she had... Well, John wouldn't stand to allow her to be hurt. He'd just wait and see.

Reyes sat there awaiting his next question. She could feel the wheels turning in his head. She wondered how far she could get with the truth without tipping off her hand in the game. For some reason, she found this situation very amusing.

"So, how long have you known him?"

"Oh, 21 days."

"How well do you know him?"

"Very well."

Doggett waited for more, but then decided that that was all the information she was going to give up. But technically, she had answered his questions fully. Maybe he wasn't asking the right questions.

"So how much like the previous guys in your life is this new guy?"

"He's totally different. He's nothing at all like them. Although he does remind me a bit of my father, but Cerril is in a class all his own."

Hmm, like her father, Doggett thought. Well, every little girl wants a man like her father. He was just getting ready to ask another question when she piped up.

"Here we are. Just take this left and park anywhere."

He did what she said and as he looked up at the sign on the building, then down to her glowing smile, he knew he'd been had. Monica jumped out the car with a quick "Be right back." Once she was out of sight in the building, he let his head fall back against the headrest, feeling just slightly stupid.

"Gaawd!", he let the expletive drawl out of him. To the interior of the car, he moaned, "I should have known.

On the other hand, now that he knew that Cerril was an animal and not a man, he couldn't wait to meet him. He wondered exactly what kind of pet he was. It had to be something that she could keep in the apartment. They had spoken about dogs and cats. That time seemed so long ago.

He shook the bad thoughts from his head.

After a few minutes, Monica came waltzing out of the building carrying a brown woven basket covered with a dark green baby's blanket. In her other hand was a canvas bag that seemed to have a few bulges in the bottom, which she tossed in the back seat of the car upon reaching it. Then she eased both herself and the basket into the passenger seat and settled it onto her lap.

"Yeah, you got me. Are you happy, Monica?"

"Extraordinarily."

"Uh-huh.", was all he said to that, trying to cover up his own amusement at being tricked.

"Want to meet Cerril?" She pulled the blanket off the top of the basket to reveal a gray ball of downy fur to John. He looked over.

"He's cute, Mon."

"I know. They said he got a taste of canned kitten food two days ago. They mixed it in with his milk and he liked it. That's what's in the bag. The next step is introducing dry kitten food."

"Are you planning on keeping him?"

Monica looked confused. "Yes, of course. Why not?"

John shrugged. "I was just asking." He looked really good into the basket at the kitten. "He is kind of cute, really." He then reached over and into the basket. Cerril's wide cloud-blue eyes widened even more at the approaching finger. Quicker than the reactions expected from a normal three week old kitten, he swiped at John's finger. It didn't hurt, but John pulled back his hand in shock.

Monica gasped, then couldn't hold back the ensuing giggles.

"Jeez!" John just stared at the tiny unassuming gray critter as it gave him what he thought to have been an evil eye, then watched it curl back up as Monica reached in to caress and smooth his hackles down. John shook his head and as he turned the key in the ignition, he looked over and half joked, "So, tell me where you got this demon spawn from." Of course that statement only made Monica laugh harder.


Chapter 4: Out of the Fire

Monica opened the door and ushered a very tired Doggett into her apartment. Her hand grazed his back, the sense of overwhelming sadness and heartache echoing from him and into her. He continued walking away from her into the apartment. Monica looked down at the bag she held and then something drew her attention down the hallway. The feeling of being watched was confirmed as the door down the hallway and opposite hers clicked shut as soon as her gaze fell to it. She ignored it not wanting to deal with the pervert down the hall. But if he came over asking to "borrow" something late at night or early in the morning, she had decided to pull her gun on him. She admitted to herself that she wouldn't shoot him, just scare him.

She sighed as she crossed the threshold. Looking for John for the past week had been draining. She almost couldn't bear to hear all he had gone through in Mexico. She was at first afraid it would change the way she would look at the place where she grew up. She knew it wasn't perfect for no place ever was, but she still had the untarnished view from a child's perspective to look back on. It turned out that she didn't have to worry. John didn't tell her everything, and she knew it. He thought the same way and didn't want to ruin that innocence in her. And she was thankful of his depth of feeling for her, but she had to put herself aside. He was hurting and he needed to talk about it. Everything.

He more or less flopped onto the couch and she noticed something suddenly. Cerril was nowhere in sight. She had thought about taking him to Mychel's but thought that since he was now able to use the litter box all by himself, it was ok. She had been back and forth. Dana had said that she would be able to go feed him when Monica had to leave for Mexico on a lead. She had told Monica that it would also be a good idea to get William around a cat for a short time to make sure he didn't turn out to be allergic to cats like his mother. Monica had a suspicion that there was no chance for William to have inherited that particular ailment from his mother. Maybe it was more along the lines of Dana having read something into the moment between William and Cerril months ago on the phone. So she decided to take Scully up on the offer, no matter what her real intentions.

Besides, Mr. Whitaker had been nice enough to let her refit the defunct section of the old fire escape outside her bedroom window into a little space where Cerril could go outside and breath the fresh air. She had taken it a step further since she was on the top floor and had the enclosed metal staircase lead up to a large enclosed area on the roof where long ago someone had kept carrier pigeons. Maybe Cerril was up there watching birds fly by. She'd look for him later.

Monica turned slightly and closed the door. She made her way to the couch and sat down beside John. With enough space for him not to feel hemmed in but close enough for him to feel her friendly aura. He didn't look over at her just yet so she studied him. She had had a short time before to study him when they stopped off at her adopted parent's house before getting on the plane to give John time to rest a bit and clean up. She had forgotten that her mom sent her an email saying they would be on vacation for a month, but it was just as well since John was in no shape to meet them. She had snuck some time to study him then and, compared to how he looked now, he had looked honestly awful. Very weary in mind and body, but now he didn't look so aged.

"Do you want something to eat?"

He settled back into the couch, his head thrown back on the headrest. She grasped his hand, held it for a short time, then released it as she got up off the couch and went to the kitchen area. She soon got busy making a couple of sandwiches and pouring iced tea. She didn't even hear John walk up behind her, but once he was close, she could feel him. She turned around to see him standing there watching her. She could interpret a myriad of emotions from both his conscious and his face. Not sure how to react, she just waited to see if he was say something.

"Thank you, Monica." He then pressed his lips together. She was about to say something in reply when he suddenly engulfed her in his arms. At first she was shocked not having expected the force of his emotion, but soon she melded to him. She rubbed imaginary circles into his back as he started to weep. She had commanded him to focus, to put the coming past on hold so they could save themselves, so now was the time for him to let it go. To relive his past and he chose the comfort of her arms. He was saying something, muttering words she couldn't understand. She didn't have to understand the words.

"It's ok, John. It's not your fault." She hugged him tighter. "You were a wonderful father to Luke and I know he knew that. He knows you love him." She could feel him calming down, his hand smoothing her hair at the base of her neck. Then she felt John stiffen at the same time she heard a sort of high pitched, in-human keening sound. Almost like a whining with sudden breaks in tone and pitch.

John backed away from Monica but kept his eyes on the huge growling mass of fur. It seemed to just have appeared on the kitchen table. When Monica told him her cat was a particularly large breed of feline, he envisioned maybe something as large as his aunt's old Maine Coon but not this big. He hadn't seen the cat since their last strange meeting when the tiny ball of fluff scratched the tip of his fingers. Cerril, at nearly 4 months old, was the size of a medium sized dog. He had to remember to ask Monica what she had been feeding Cerril.

"Cerril, no!", Monica admonished. Cerril immediately stopped growling and staring John down to look over to his mistress. If John weren't mistaken it seemed to him that the cat's angular face softened. Monica held her hand out and Cerril instantly hopped soundlessly to the floor and sauntered over. Once reaching her leg, the cat stood up on its hind legs and stretched up the whole length of her leg, his paws reaching just past her belt. He dropped down, gave John a passing glance, then walked away into Monica's bedroom.

"I'm sorry about that, John. He's really protective of me." She tried to laugh a little. "He even attacked the maintenance man the other day."

John actually looked amused at being "punked" by a cat. He leaned against the opposite counter. "I understand his behavior."

Monica tilted her head as she regarded her partner. That brief outpouring of emotion seemed to have made all the difference in the world. And maybe Cerril's behavior had also been a sort of healing comic relief. Laughter following a good cry was actually probably the best medicine. She reached behind her and then handed him one of the plates with a sandwich on it. "Ham and cheddar. You don't want it toasted, do you?"

He held his hand out for it and she relinquished it to him. "Just make sure Cerril doesn't snatch it out of my hand."

He then took the glass of iced tea she held out to him. Monica turned as John walked back to the couch. She filled Cerril's cat food bowl with dry kitten food and opened a can to hide his vitamins in. Behind her she heard the tiny little thumps of her big baby's paws as he galloped into the kitchen after hearing his food being prepared. He sat at her feet waiting patiently for her to put the bowls down then pounced and started eating before the bowls were barely settled. She walked away and came back with Cerril's harness, putting it on while he was otherwise engaged. He didn't even squirm, just kept on eating. His harness training was going very well. She would have no problem taking him for walks in the park where she could actually put him down and not have him in a carrier.

She grabbed her sandwich and glass and went over to join John on the couch. She took one bite and chased it with a sip of tea, then looked over to John popping the last of his lunch in his mouth. "Talk to me, John. Anytime you're ready.", she said as she took another bite. Cerril walked calmly up to them on the couch and launched himself on to the side arm. He then eased his way gently onto Monica's lap, facing John, and took a bite out of the bottom of her sandwich.


3 weeks later
December 23
9:30 am

"I'm really going to have to thank your mother for getting this for me. I love it!" Monica gushed over the Kittywalk Stroller Mrs. Scully got as a Christmas present to Monica. "What doesn't she know about?"

"Well, she sure seemed to know whenever I had the urge to be bad when I was younger." Scully said as she pushed William's stroller alongside Monica and Cerril. William's eyes were glued to the huge kitten riding next to him behind green mesh. There was also a little green/red/dark blue/yellow striped drape over the back half as a sun shade, but Cerril sat up at the front of the little enclosure on wheels so he could see everything that was going on around them.

He looked like a sphinx watching the landscape, his eyes occasionally locking on to the baby riding beside and watching him. Sometimes he would catch sight of the few people out exercising in the park in their cold weather workout wear. Would catch them watching him watching them, somehow knowing his size was the reason for those looks.

"He sure seems to like it. And mom said you don't have to get her anything."

"Oh, but I have to say thank you. I'll get her something anyway, whether she wants me to or not."

"Ok, I was just passing on the message.", Scully said with a smile. "She likes to collect 1/18 scale model cars." At Monica's glance, she explained further. "You wouldn't guess that about her. It was something my dad started and he'd send them back home to her. She's probably got about 1000 of them by now."

"I'll remember that."

Scully looked over at Cerril in his new carrier/stroller. "He's got the calm attitude of a well-trained dog, Monica. It's amazing! Does he behave like this all the time?"

Monica was about to say yes when she thought back to yesterday's bath time. Cerril had long since graduated from sink baths to tub baths. It wasn't like he disliked water. Once and a while when Monica was taking a shower, Cerril would slip under the curtain and join her. He liked to wind his way around her legs and splash and pounce in the suds as they drained out. Water in that situation was no bother. It was when the bath was focused on him and shampoo was actually lathered into his fur that he gave issue. Monica was sure that had anyone heard her yelling out "Back in the tub, now! I am going to wash your cajones, Cerril! Now sit still!" followed by a loud "yeeoow!" from the washee that people would wonder what the hell was going on in her apartment.

"Generally yeah.", was her answer.

"I know you said he was sort of possessive of you. How does he act around Doggett?"

"Well, he's not exactly rolling over and exposing his tummy to John. But he let him come in the door and stay." Dana gave Monica a strange look. "Stay without using him as a pounce toy."

"Maybe Cerril is leaving that honor up to his mommy.", Dana said with a smirk.

Monica snorted out a "maybe". Contrary to popular belief, as Monica found out, Scully wasn't the hard, unfeeling, professional bitch her co-workers thought her to be. Honestly, it was just an act. Her social cover was different than Monica's, but they were pretty much the same person on the inside. Dana had even said that Monica reminded her of her sister, Melissa. That simple statement meant so much to the adopted only child. So, just as there was a bond between sisters, there was a bond similar to that between the new friends. Although, Monica had to get used to the fact that her new friend also had abandonment issues to a certain degree that made her not want to get too close to anyone. But Monica took that as just another aspect of Dana's complex personality, as complex as her own, and it didn't phase her. Everyone had their little foibles.

The two women found a bench to sit on. As soon as his stroller came to rest, William tried to pull away from his little seat belt and shoulder straps. His chubby little hands in their knit mittens weren't anywhere near coordinated enough to do the job, so he looked to his mom for help.

"Ok, I've got you, William." Dana leaned over and pulled him out of the chair and onto her lap. He sat there with his big blue eyes staring out of his big baby head at various things. More joggers ran by. William watched. Across the park, a man was playing Frisbee with a black lab and a golden retriever. William watched. He was so engrossed he didn't even notice the slight chill in the December air reddening his puffy cheeks, but Dana did. She pulled his little cap down snug on his head and fussed with his goose-down blue coat and matching scarf.

Monica reached over and tickled a pink cheek half covered by an earflap. "He sure does look good in his new outfit."

"And I think blue suits him very well. Thank you, Monica. Sorry William couldn't quite wait two days to open his present. I blame myself for telling him it was from you, he cried for me to open it."

"That's ok, Cerril didn't either."

"Are you sure it'll be ok to let him out?" Dana said to Monica who was bending over to open the back door on Cerril's carrier.

"I'm sure. We've been practicing since he was small. Plus he listens to me."

"Wow, a cat that listens. That's a first." Dana said blandly.

"Shocking, isn't it?" Monica said just as dry then smiled over at Dana. She held on to his turquoise leash as he stepped slowly out and onto the ground. He was the picture of calm as he pulled his large haunches under himself and sat down at Monica's feet.

"Actually, I am a little shocked." Dana said with slight awe in her voice as she and William sat watching the statue-like pose of the giant gray kitten.


Across the park sitting on another bench, Dr. Hans Velmer sat reviewing his notes and speech he was going to have to give at the committee meeting in two days. He ran an unsteady hand over his stressetched forehead and back into his terribly receding hairline. Right now he was very near contemplating suicide. Well, either that or pulling a really big disappearing act.

Up until July of this year, his life was going great. His career was going great. After receiving news that the project he had been working on was going in a different direction after all this time, he had still been cool. He just took it all in stride.

Even being a ruthless man, he had not exactly been easy with human experimentation, as was the project's focus. He wanted to fool himself into believing that he had some scruples. Though he had none. He and the fellow scruple deficient scientists had gotten very far with the few human subjects they had been allotted. It was just that animal subjects were more numerable and easier to control. Especially after that incident 20 years ago, that fact should have been blatantly evident.

So it was decided that they would dispose of the remaining troublesome human test subjects and acquire some that were smaller and less likely to scream. But the cats still screamed, often sounding out humanistic wails.

Dr. Velmer would just turn up the volume on his personal disc player as he also turned up the dial to boost the radiation on a subject. One of the best ways to block out the screams and activate the forceful combination of genes, respectively.

On the night of June 29th, Velmer's happy little world of harsh genetic study and bopping to the music as he worked his inhumane deeds came to a screeching halt as his only surviving and most successful subject, a rather large genetically altered Jungle Cat, escaped from the lab. A rather large, genetically altered, and very pregnant Jungle Cat. She'd been of pure blood, meaning they had caught her from the wild. And wild she was with the worst temper. Even after all the tests and the torture, they had failed to break her spirit. In fact the scientists often got a kick out of watching her throw herself against the glass walls of the observation room as they waited to see what effects, if any, their nasty experiments would have on her. But just as soon as the as they had appeared, the devious smiles turned to frowns as she would eventually become calm and calculating, but never easily controlled. And still taking chucks of flesh out of all of their asses at every opportunity. All this study and work would be for naught if her continued advancement in intelligence also meant her increasing fierceness and independent attitude. Well, maybe the fierceness and willingness to fight was a huge advantage, but everything they had worked for hinged greatly on the subject's ability to follow orders blindly, like an automaton.

This Jungle Cat would never be that, it seemed. Until one day, she listened. She obeyed. She no longer attacked the scientists and the trainers.

They should have known she was faking it. They should have known, and they didn't. They were a group picked because of their intelligence and devious need to succeed, their harsh egos and their own ability to be controlled by the Systematic Evolution Funds Committee (FESC) for whom they all worked for. For all that they collectively were, this animal had outsmarted them all and escaped. No longer an animal.

They wanted her back in a bad way. It had been someone's, now in hindsight, stupid idea to impregnate subject 1013 to see if the offspring a) too would be born with her perfect genetically altered state and b) would then be easier to train and control having been born into the study. So Velmer had borrowed his wife's prize-winning Korat stud, extracted a sample, and the rest was history. His wife hadn't been any the wiser. She would kill him if something happened to that cat and she might just kill him if she knew the atrocities he'd committed involving animals, so he'd never tell her where the money to buy such an expensive cat came from. Only because he valued his life, but now that it might be up for grabs after S1013's escape, he was contemplating telling her.

So here he was sitting in the park probably preparing his last words. He paused in his typing on the keyboard of his laptop and let himself fall against the back of the wooden bench. His weary old eyes wandered around the park barely noting their surroundings. Suddenly he gasped as his eyes fell on something he couldn't believe could be real.

Across the park sitting in front of two beautiful young women, one holding a baby, was a very large gray cat. Dr. Velmer blinked behind his reading glasses, and he snatched them off. Being far-sighted helped a bit, but he couldn't see any details except that it was definitely a cat. Velmer grabbed his computer attach case from beside him and pulled out the digital camera he'd bought for his wife for her photography class. She'd long since advanced and he took the old (still just as expensive) one to use for documentation in his work. He quickly zoomed in, took a few pictures and downloaded them into his computer.

Now he was sure of what he was seeing. The intelligent green-gold eyes, the carriage of the body as he retrieved a feathered ball softly tossed by the dark-haired woman, the lean, muscular build and stature. The all-over gray monotone inherited by his Korat father.

He was looking at what would have been subject 1014.

Dr. Velmer shivered, but the chill in the winter air wasn't the cause. He fumbled around in his pocket for his cell phone and connected to his laptop as fast as his numb fingers would go. As soon as his computer connected to the SESC server, he emailed the photos to the lead scientist overseeing all testing. A Dr. Fisk, who was the only one who had direct contact to the SESC. Then he got off line and dialed said man in charge.

He waited through three anxious rings before a deep voice said, "Yes.", by way of greeting.

"Dr. Fisk, sir? It's Dr. Velmer. Something unbelievable has come up involving one of our test subjects. I've sent you some photos."

"Just a minute, Velmer."

Velmer sat, his eyes alternately flicking between the images of the cat still on the computer screen and the real life action going on across the park. The clicking of keyboard strokes could be heard over the line for the next few seconds.

Then Velmer could hear a gruff sound, like the clearing of a dry throat. "Ah, I see."

Velmer didn't know how to respond to that, so he didn't. He just listened. For a while he waited some more. Then, "Find out how this woman got Sub-1014 and report back to me."

"How?" Velmer asked, but no sooner did he get it out of his mouth he was already talking to the dial tone. "...am I supposed to do that?", he finished. Velmer wasn't exactly a social person having spent most of his adult life pondering over experiments, results and scientific evaluation of facts. But, since this was an order, he'd have to go over and subtly question them without bringing some kind of suspicion.

"So, you said that Doggett was over?", Scully asked.

"Yep."

"So what have you two been up to lately?"

"Nothing really. We go out, hang out. Keep each other company when we're bored."

"Oh, really?"

Monica, who was bent over at the waist picking up Cerril's feather ball, turned her head to look at the red-head with the dark ruddyhaired baby smiling up at her from her lap. William's mom wasn't looking at Monica's grinning face, she was playing with her little boy's wildly gesticulating arms. "Dana, are you fishing for something?"

Dana looked up, the perfect picture of innocence. But Monica wasn't buying it. "You are! You're a closet pervert, admit it!" Dana gasped and William blew bubbles. "What you really want to ask is if John and I are banging behind closed doors."

"I...wait...that's not.", Dana stammered, then sighed not seeing anyway out of this conversation.

Monica laughed and threw the ball for Cerril, who was now off the leash and running after his toy. "Listen Dana. We're friends and we've been through some things."

Despite her blushing cheeks, Dana nodded in understanding as she bounced William on her knee. William was leaning forward as if he wanted to follow Cerril. Not yet being able to even stand on his own didn't seem to matter to the almost 8-month old.

"I'm not the type of person who closes herself to the world. I'm open and honest with myself and those around me, a veritable open book, to the right people. Sometimes the wrong people, I'm not perfect. No one is. But just know this, I don't hide from neither my good deeds nor my mistakes. If you want to know something about me, you can just ask. Since we are close, I'll tell it to you like it is."

Dana watched as Cerril brought the ball back and Monica threw it again, this time a little farther. "I'm sorry, Monica. I guess I was hedging because I didn't think it was any of my business."

"Don't apologize. It's ok."

"Yes, but I guess I don't want to overstep my bounds possibly or hurt our friendship. In the past I've been known to be too forward. Sometimes pushy and I don't want to be that way with you if it's not a trait that you would like."

"I understand, really I do. Don't give it anymore thought. Ok, so why do you want to know about John and I? Is there something I should know about your feelings towards him?"

Monica chuckled at Scully's sudden wide-eyed look. "No!", she said a bit too loud. "No, nothing like that.", she said back to her normal conversational tone. "No." Now she let out a huff of breath that was half sigh and half small laugh. "I just... I don't have a life Monica." The two women looked at each other. "A love life, that is.", Dana elaborated.

Monica kept the understanding look on her face, urging Dana to go on. "I guess I just feel the need to live vicariously through others. I'm a mother now, and I seemed to have skipped something." The end of the last sentence sounded sort of like a question, but Monica still didn't say anything. She glanced out at Cerril who was pouncing and attacking his ball as if it were a live bird in the grass.

Dana continued. "I guess it's just weighing more on my mind at times. I didn't have a love life before I had William and now I'm pretty sure I'm not going to have one anytime soon afterward..."

"Dana?", Monica interjected suddenly, her eyes now set. "I've experienced some things that would make me hesitant to ever say this phrase again, but I'm going to have to. As far as I can tell, what you've said is almost impossible."

"What is?"

"Well, I'm not a doctor, but I'm thinking that a love life would kind of be conducive to producing a child. Am I right?"

"You're right."

Dana had meant to speak again, but she was cut off. "Ok, if I'm right, then explain the cute baby in your lap right now."

Dana started slowly, "Well..."

"Excuse me, ladies."

Both women and baby immediately turned to the voice's source. An older gentleman with gray, thinning hair had just walked up and spoken to them. "My name is Mr. Velmer, and I saw your cat." Velmer gestured towards the large kitten now trotting back to them with the feathered ball in his mouth. "He's a beauty."

"Thank you.", Monica said smiling politely.

"Umm, do you mind if I ask about him?"

"Sure."

Scully and William watched the man, William's inspection was with a critical eye.

"He's a very large cat. What kind is he and where did you get him from?"

Monica looked off to where Cerril had been approaching and noticed that he had stopped and was now crouching in the grass. Something was weird about the look in his shiny golden-green eyes. Monica looked away from Cerril toward the man who had come up and spoken to her realizing that Cerril's gaze was on the man. There was something about him that the large kitten didn't like, which automatically put Monica on guard. She decided not to disclose anything in entirety.

"Actually, I found him. Near a dumpster. And he's a mixed breed, exact origin of mixture is unknown." None of it was a lie, yet she still answered his questions.

"Ahh." Dr. Velmer looked over his shoulder at Cerril who flicked the tip of his long tail in an irritated manner. A cool breeze ruffled the kitten's gray coat, the only indication that this wasn't a statue sitting there. That and the intuitive gaze from the glass-like eyes. This deeply unnerved the old man. Could Subject 1014 possibly recognize, on some deep cellular level, the man who was responsible for most of its mother's torture? Velmer wished he could laugh the thought off as being silly and having no scientific basis, but with the evidence staring him in the face no laughter could even be possible at this point.

"He's a remarkable animal.", Velmer said around the lump in his throat. "Are you planning on studding him in the future? My wife raises prize-winning Korats. And he definitely looks like one of them."

Monica looked to Dana for a second. "I haven't even thought about that, sir.", Monica said without looking back to Velmer. She was now looking at William, who had almost the same look of baby indignation on his face that Cerril did.

Scully was wondering how this man could have garnered such a negative reaction from her child. His back had gone rigid and she could feel the muscles in his tummy jumping as they tensed. Her confusion shown through to Monica. "But I seriously doubt it, Mr. Velmer. I've never seen the need some people have to sell animals. Although I'm not against it, I've never been for breeding animals for profit."

"That's understandable, Miss..."

"Reyes.", she supplied.

"Miss Reyes, here's my wife's card." Velmer had just happened to have some his wife gave out at cat shows. "If you change your mind any or ever want to show him even."

She took the card with a polite smile and a nod and nothing else.

"Thank you for speaking with me. Good day, ladies." And Velmer turned and walked away, resisting the urge to run with the feeling of a heated gaze on his back from cat and the little child in the red head's lap.

"That was a little weird." Dana said under her breath as she turned William around to get his attention. At first his head stayed turned following the retreating back. She kept turning him until she caught his eye. "Who was that weird man, William?", she said in a highpitched voice and smiling at him. William seemed to forget and smiled back at her, gently patting her cheeks with his mitten bound hands.

Monica stood up calling to Cerril who instantly stood up, grabbed the feather ball he dropped and ran over to her. "I think we've had enough fresh air for today. Are you ready to go, Dana?"

"Sure. My mom might need some help for tonight. She said she'd call me if she did."

"Ok." Monica glanced at her watch. It was 10:45. She still had time to get home and call her own parents before they left for their Christmas holiday at noon, her time. Monica put the leash back on Cerril, deciding to walk him on it to the edge of the park then put him back in his carrier once they reached the parking area.

The two women started walking away when they heard a deep bass voice behind them. "Mo-Mo? Is that you?" They both turned around.

Monica recognized the man right away. "Re-Re? Oh my goodness, what are you doing here?"

The man continued to walk toward them. Scully couldn't help but notice Cerril's reaction to him, or rather his non-reaction as he sat down beside Monica's feet and stared at a stray brown leaf that had hung on to a nearby tree up until now. Scully also couldn't help but notice the approaching man's amazingly muscular physique and strong features on his light olive-skinned face. He was dressed casually in a zipped up leather coat and blue jeans that did nothing to cover the evidently fine body underneath. He grasped the hand that Monica held out in his larger one.

"What, no hug for your old F-BOS?"

Monica let out breathy chuckle and pulled him in for a hug. "Ok, quit being a bear, Re-Re.", Monica jokingly remarked of his tight hold on her. She pushed him away and turned to Scully. "This is my friend and professional consultant, Dr. Dana Scully."

Dana shook the man's hand. "Dana, this is Ren Robbards, my former Regional ASAC in Louisiana. Now an FBI/CIA liason." She looked to Ren for acknowledgement of the fact and he nodded.

"How do you do, doctor?"

"Fine. It's nice to meet you." Just then, Scully's cell phone rang. "It's probably my mom. Excuse me." She pushed William's stroller a few feet away to give the obviously old friends time to talk.

"That's William, her son and my godson." Monica told Ren proudly.

"That's really good for you. I know you love children and animals.", Ren said as he looked down to the large bored cat now resting his huge head on his long front legs. His eyes were still alert, but his body was at ease.

"This is my big baby, Cerril. Say hi to Re-Re!", she said to Cerril.

Cerril lifted his head up and looked at Ren who bent over and rubbed between his ears eliciting a loud purr from the giant kitten. "I have the magic touch when it comes to puddy-tats."

Monica covered her mouth with her hand to temper the explosive laugh. She looked up and away from Ren but turned back with a lopsided grin. "You haven't lost your sense of humor, I'm sure of that! Are you here for good?"

"Yeah, I live here now. I take it you do too."

"That's right. I'm working up here now, thanks to John."

"Doggett?"

"Yes, that's right. We're partners now."

"He's good people. Did he leave that wife of his yet?"

"She left him. I tried to talk him into trying to convince her not to, but he just decided to let her go."

"Damn. Well, I guess it was all for the best. Not that that's a good thing, mind you. I'm not saying that. It's just that, from what you told me, the "glue" was gone." Ren looked sober following these words.

"Yeah." Monica looked down at her feet and noticed Cerril looking up at her.

"Enough with the blues. I want to know what you've been up to lately. It's been so long since we've talked." Ren reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a card. "That's got my phone numbers, email address, pager, any way you need to get a hold of me. We need to catch up."

Monica took the card. "Thanks, that'll be great. I sure have missed our talks."

"Anything else about me you've missed?", he asked with a grin.

Monica shook her head and bit her tongue. "Times were good."

"That they were."

"Hey, if you aren't busy tonight, Dana's mother is having a Christmas party. I don't think she'd mind if you came. We can talk some there and you can meet John again."

"That will be good. I'll have to call you if I'm free."

"Oh!" Monica reached into her friend's pocket and pulled out another card, then pulled a pen out of her own. She wrote her number on the back on it, then handed it back to Rene. "There you go. I don't have any of my own cards with me."

"Great. Then we'll talk later."

"Anytime." Monica said as she reached out and hugged him again. When she pulled away, she ran her hand over his bald head and then down his face really quick. She giggled at his mock irritated look.

"Don't start what you can't finished, Mo-Mo.", he said making his voice deeper.

Her reply to that was to stick her tongue out. "Later, Re-Re." She watched him walk away then turned to see Dana watching her with a blank look on her face.

"He's an old friend of mine, too."

"Mm-hmm.", Dana said.

"We have a lot in common."

"Mm-hmm.", Dana repeated. "So, he must be good in bed."

"Want details?"

"I don't think I could handle them!", Dana said wide-eyed and taking another glance at the figure putting distance between them.

Monica laughed then clicked her tongue to Cerril. He immediately got up and walked with her back over to Dana and William. "I take it you know what FBOS stands for. We just thought is was funny since it's said just like ASAC and no one knew what we were talking about when I called him that."

"Yeah, well I said I was repressed not stupid.", Dana snorted and started to push William in his stroller again as they continued to walk to the parking area. "Are you still planning to come to the party tonight? Mom wanted me to check with you again."

"Of course. If Ren calls me tonight, is it ok if I invite him too?"

"Sure. My mom wants a full house tonight. Bill and Charlie are going to miss it this year again so she wants to help as many people celebrate as possible. John said you two are riding together?"

"Yeah, he's picking me up. What time should we be there?"

"Umm, I think 6:00 would be good. I'm going over early to help her get ready so we should have everything set up by then."

The two women chatted as they walked, not even suspecting that Dr. Velmer was off watching them leave. Nor did they, or even he, suspect the magnitude of what he had set in motion.


Chapter 5: Silent Night

December 23
5:15 pm

Monica felt a very familiar pleasant vibration across her chest. She opened her eyes to see a big angular face staring back at her.

"Was Mommy's nap too long for you?"

Cerril purred and gently pawed her mouth and down her neck. His soft pads tickled making her laugh. Just then, Cerril's ears perked up. He jumped off and ran to the door. Followed by a knock on the door.

Monica got up. She remembered to retie her bathrobe before she opened the door. "Hi, John.", she greeted.

"You're not dressed?"

"Sorry. Cerril and I were playing and after that I got in the shower. Then we laid down to watch "That's My Baby" and I fell asleep. I'll be ready in a few minutes."

John had no idea what "That's My Baby was, so he just said, "Ok. You said 6, right?", he asked her as she walked into her bedroom.

"Yep.", she called back.

"Yeah, ok. We're going to get stuck in rush hour anyway. Oh, and you have to re-do your makeup."

He heard some steps as she headed to the bathroom. "Cerril doesn't like me to wear eye makeup. He licks or paws it off if he has the chance.", he heard her yell back.

"Ah.", John said to himself as he looked at the giant kitten sitting just outside Monica's open bedroom door. Maybe he was just reading something into it, but he could swear the cat was daring him to make a wrong move. John sighed and went to flop down on the couch. He figured right that this was a safe area to go to since the cat stretched out on his side by the door.

John had just gotten interested in a show called "Emergency Vets" when Monica came out. He didn't hear her right away since she hadn't put her shoes on yet. Plus the veterinarian on the show was using a bone drill to replace a Shepard's hip joint.

"I'm ready."

She was wearing a long sleeved, forest green angora sweater with an oval neck that was almost off the shoulders and showed off her long neck. Her ankle length brown linen skirt flowed loosely out from her legs and had a hem of embroidered mistletoe with bright green leaves and deep red berries. She also had her hair pulled back from her face and a ring of mock-mistletoe on the band that held it. John was stunned and just sat looking up at her.

"What, too much?"

"No, it's perfect. You look great."

"Good. My mom and I went shopping three years ago and I've never had a chance to wear it. You sure it's not too over the top?"

"No, it's very nice. I'm sure everyone will love it. Don't be surprised if you get kissed a lot tonight." He got up and headed for the door with Monica behind him.

Monica wasn't sure if John had clearly understood his own words. She just smiled and hoped he meant what she wanted him to mean. She made a detour to the kitchen to put some treats down for Cerril and some fresh water. Cerril seemed to refrain from rubbing against her legs as if he knew he'd shed on her. Instead he put his paws up on the counter for her to scratch between his ears, then set to eating his treats. With that done, Monica joined John in the hallway and locked the door.

Halfway to Maggie Scully's residence

John and Monica were conversing about different things.

"Oh, do you remember Ren Robbards?"

"Tall fellow with the bald head?"

"Yes, that's him."

"Sure I do. Met him way back when." John ended the sentence there on purpose. "And then again that time I came down to Louisiana after I saw my parents in Georgia. What's he been up to lately?"

"Dana and I saw him in the park today."

"Here?"

"No, we took William and Cerril to a park hundreds of miles away. Of course here!", she joked.

John just laughed. "Sorry. What's he doing here?"

"Apparently he's been called in to help make sure the FBI and the CIA are on the same page from now on. Ridge called him in personally."

"Wow, he must be good." Monica nodded when John looked over at her. "How'd he pull that outta his ass?"

"According to him, he's got `connections'." Monica tried to imitate her deep voiced friend.

"Please, Monica, make sure you stay in good with him."

"That won't be a problem.", she snorted.

John had slowed down for traffic again and looked over to her.

"We go way back.", Monica elaborated, just in case. "You know he was adopted too.", she added.

"No, I didn't know that. Not that we ever got that close to talk about anything personal, but I think I know him enough to know he's a good man."

"Well, you'll meet him tonight." She watched John glance over for explanation. "I invited him to the party. Dana said Mrs. Scully would be ok with it."

"You know I think this is going to be one of the safest Christmas parties around."

"I bet you're right, John. If past incidents of working on the X-Files reflects a possible future for us then we better enjoy tonight."

"I'm with you, Mon."


Lexington Park Apartments
Lexington Park, MD
6:10 pm

Randie Newton jumped out of her old silver Durango. She was very proud of it, the suv having been the first large purchase she had ever paid for entirely by herself. So what if it was bumblebee yellow and so what if the interior was a butt ugly rust color. It was a V-8, had pretty good mileage for a '95 model, and the engine was still in great condition.

Randie's dad had insisted he look it over and she had conceded. Her dad had also told her that, if she wanted, he would pay to have it painted any color she wanted. Except for pink. He wouldn't pay for a girly color. Randie had just laughed.

Randie Newton, daughter of Randall Newton, was the only girl with five older brothers and one younger. After her mother passed away as a result of complications from ovarian cancer when she was 5, Randie grew up in a testosterone-laden home. She wouldn't even have thought of having a pink car. Or pink anything, except for what was on her collection of Hello Kitty items. Including the one that was hanging from her key chain.

Right now it was the only kitty she could afford to have. One that didn't eat. So she was thankful that her father had paid to have the Durango repainted, but she didn't want him to waste money changing the ugly seats. She'd spent a whole weeks paycheck from one job on a gift for her dad. She could deal with the seats that color for a while.

Randie had just finished her short shift at the gas station that afternoon and she had another 3 hours for dinner until her overnight job as nursing assistant at the local retirement village. She had kind of regretted stopping at the post office that morning, but it would have been closed by the time she got off work. The medium sized box her dad had sent her had been mocking her from the back counter behind her all day as she waited on customers. Every time she got up to open it and take a peek at what her brothers and father had sent her for Christmas, a new person came in. It had been a steady rush as travelers were on their way to their families, so she wasn't able to see what her own family had sent her. She just knew that the box contained a different present purchased separately by her father and each of all of her brothers.

Well, now she had three hours to see what was in the box. Randie turned around and leaned back up over the seat. She had put the UPS box right between the seats, but it wasn't there. She straightened up and closed the driver's side door. She then opened up the back door. There is was. It must have slid back there. Randie had a bad habit of racing other cars at the stoplights.

Randie pulled the box toward her and picked it up when she heard a man's voice behind her in the quiet parking lot.

"Excuse me, darling. Would you be able to help me?"

Randie turned around, her bright blue eyes meeting ones of equal color and clearness. With his almost black hair and tall frame, the man could easily have been one of her brothers. The only difference was that instead of fair skin like her own, his was golden tan. "Sure, if I can. What do you need help with?"

Instead of answering, the man rushed towards her. One hand clamped on her throat and the other over her mouth as he threw all his weight against her, pinning her on the carpet in the back seat.

Randie kicked and scratched at his neck and face, but the man leaned back out of reach of her short arms. With her body bent back over the floor of the vehicle, she lacked any leverage to make her kicks work. Just then, the opposite back passenger door opened and another figure jumped in, grabbing her arms and pulling them sharply up over her head. She tried to scream around the man's soft hand over her mouth as rougher, stubbier hands wrapped soft material around her wrists.

Randie looked up as she struggled under the heavy weight of the man on top of her. She could see the second man in the dim light of the setting sun. His unkempt blonde hair, wild brown eyes and stocky build wasn't what shocked her the most in her fear, it was the myriad of pock marks on his terribly broken out skin. The exact opposite of the man that has spoken to her. The man looked sick with disease, his overweight body moved with fevered, jerky movements in the small confines of the floor in front of the second row seating. The peach colored material binding her arms was a stark contrast to the dark rust colored upholstery as the shorter man wrapped the free ends around the bottom of the front passenger seat's base. He took another shorter strip of material and flicked it around her mouth as the dark haired man removed his hand, the silky material sliding between her teeth and gagging her. The first man held Randie's head up by her neck so the second man could knot the fabric.

The shorter man, once finished securing her to the seat, jumped back out of the suv and slammed the door. The tall, dark haired man took a step up onto the foot ledge on the side of the Durango. Hooking his hands behind both of Randie's knees, he pulled her legs up on either side of his body and shoved her inside like he was pushing a wheel barrow as he climbed up to kneel inside the vehicle. The second man, then slammed the door behind the first man, picked Randie's keys up off the ground where she'd drop them and clambered up into the driver's seat.

The Durango roared back to life and peeled out of the parking space, narrowly missing the brown UPS box sitting on the asphalt beside the dirty little HelloKitty head.


Mrs. Scully's Residence
6:19 pm

Maggie Scully greeted them at the door. "Merry Christmas and come on in!" Maggie had decorated herself even more than Monica. Over a thin red shirt she wore a white button-down sweater with a winter scene of a father carrying an axe and two children having a snowball fight on their way to find a Christmas tree. The buttons were tiny snow-covered trees and the little snowballs were fluffy cotton puffs that stood out from the sweater.

"Merry Christmas!", John and Monica chorused back.

"Very festive, Mrs. Scully.", Monica gushed.

"I agree, ma'am.

"Call me Maggie, and thank you." She placed her hand on Monica's arm. "I love your hair, Monica. And your tie, John, so eye-catching."

As they were getting out of the truck outside, Monica had attacked John and put this tie on him that she'd brought telling him that he looked too bland and needed some Christmas spice. He looked down at the tie, a forest green Christmas tree with various colors of sequins for lights. "Thank you, Maggie.", he said with a smile, but gave Reyes a withering look. She just quietly mouthed, "See, she likes it."

"Dana is around somewhere speaking to a very nice gentleman. She told me you knew him, Monica."

"Ren?"

"Yes that's it." She led them through the room sparsely filled with people. There was music playing in the background and blended with the low conversations. "Refreshments are over there. I was going to have a sit-down dinner, but I decided that buffet would make it easier to mingle. So have fun. Oh, there's Dana." Maggie pointed over to Dana who was holding William as she spoke to Ren.

Dana just happened to look over in the middle of responding to a question and saw John and Monica. She waved the two over. William tried to mimic her with an awkward jerk.

"Hi. Look who's here.", Dana said with a wave of her hand in Ren's direction.

"You made it early." Monica said, glad to see her old friend so soon again. She hugged him.

John watched the exchange, not exactly jealous but not exactly comfortable with it either.

"We were just talking about you, Monica.", Dana supplied. William gurgled.

"Hopefully you aren't trying to color my friend's perception of me." Monica looked to Ren, her eyes narrowed playfully.

"Always.", he replied straightfaced.

Monica scoffed and turned to lay a hand on John's shoulder. "John Doggett, Ren Robbards.", she introduced.

The two men leaned toward each other and shook hands.

"It's good to meet you again, man."

John noted the addition at the end of his greeting. It was something that his younger brother used to do, and it used to grate on John's nerves. But with Ren, it was with more flow. Gave a glimpse into his personable nature and John knew his first impression of him way back then hadn't been wrong. "Likewise."

"So glad it's at a party this time."

"I couldn't agree more." Eager to change the subject, John added. "You here for good?"

"As long as there's a job to do, I'm not leaving it half done. It's hard work and I'm up for the challenge. But it's good to have a chance to unwind tonight. I'm feeling good vibes."

With that last comment, John immediately knew how Ren and Monica had become friends.

As the two men talked, the women had started an impromptu side conversation when William grabbed for Monica. "What's this little guy doing here?", she asked as she took William when Dana passed him over.

"Greeting the party-goers." Dana smiled and smoothed the boy's russet brown hair. "The sitter said her parents insisted she eat dinner with them first. Then she'll be here. Until then, I'm trying to let him tire himself out before she gets here. Try to make it easy on her."

"It's easy when you have such a little angel. Isn't that right, William?" Monica bounced him around close to her chest. William tilted his head up and back so he could see Monica. After staring at her and watching her speak, he lowered his head, his eyes closing sleepily. He turned his ear to Monica's chest and before either woman knew, William had fallen asleep.

Five minutes into William's nap, the doorbell rang for the third time. John volunteered to answer it since he just happened to be close to it. On the front porch stood a short girl with a bright golden complexion, her equally bright golden hair done up in little plaits cascading over and around her shoulders, and startling green eyes. Next to her stood a pale-faced tall man in a police officer's uniform, his blonde hair cut military style and sharp blue eyes gave him a definite no nonsense look.

"Hi, my name is Carlee.", the girl spoke in a deep yet feminine voice. "And this is my dad, Charlie Patton. I'm baby-sitting little William."

"Come on in.", John said.

The father and daughter stepped inside, and John closed the door. "Thank you.", Carlee said quickly. "I'm going to go find William." Carlee, dressed in a beige tank top with a black down coat over it and camouflage cargo pants sauntered off, her waist-length sunshine honey braids bouncing gently.

Charlie Patton turned to John and sighed. "She really does love watching William, but I think I embarrassed her. Driving her the two blocks here."

"Kids.", John said, sympathetically.

"Yeah, I know, overprotective father. But I can't help it, what with those kidnappers on the loose."

"Kidnappers?" John's years of training snapped to the fore.

"Yeah. Are you one of Dana's friends. You're FBI, right?"

"That's right. Special Agent John Doggett." The two men shook hands.

" Thought I'd guess right. My next guess would have been doctor or veterinarian. You guys should be getting into this soon. We've got rumors running around saying that there's a couple of serials crossing state lines and kidnapping young women." Officer Patton looked toward his daughter, who was cradling a sleeping William as she listened to Dana's last minute instructions. "She's our only child, my wife and I." A wistful look crossed the taller man's face, and John could easily feel the same emotions.

"I tell ya what." Charlie looked back to Doggett. "It could already be on the FBI's plate by now. Could be held up because of Christmas. I'll check into it with my boss. If there is evidence that they have crossed state lines, it's in our jurisdiction. Especially if it's in our backyard."

"I'm glad to hear that. Thanks. I'm not into that "separation of official priorities and jurisdiction" crap. And if anyone has a problem with it, tell them to send complaints care of Captain Patton."

"Will do.", John said with a laugh.

"Listen to me, running my mouth. Let me get my girl and ya'll can get back to your party."

"Car-lee.", Charlie called as he and John walked within earshot. The teenager turned green eyes to acknowledge her dad, then turned back to Maggie and Dana.

"That's about it, Carlee. And thank you so much for watching him.", Dana said.

"It's no problem. I would have been playing video games around this time anyway. I have no life. And my grandmothers are driving me crazy.", she said with a wink of her perfectly almond shaped eye. She shifted William in her arms. "This is much more fun anyway."

"Please don't say you are practicing, even if it's a joke, Car."

Carlee stuck her tongue out at her dad. "Can you get William's bag, daddy?"

Maggie handed Charlie the diaper bag. "I was just telling Carlee that I'm looking forward to more of her mom's authentic jerk chicken."

"You can take the woman out of Jamaica. Sorry we couldn't make it to the party."

"That's fine. You've got both your parents visiting. Maybe I'll see you at church?"

"You can count on it." Then to Carlee. "Ready to go?"

"Yep. We'll be back in the morning. We've got to leave the adults to their fun and alcohol, now."

Carlee turned, missing the various looks she received from said adults within earshot. She grabbed William's car seat for the still sleeping baby and headed for the door. Captain Charlie Patton turned apologetic eyes to the crowd. "She gets that from her mother."

Maggie walked the Pattons to the door.

"Carlee wasn't lying.", Dana said suddenly.

Replies of "glad to hear it", "good thing, that", or "I was hoping so", went around, followed by snorts of laughter.


Monica Reyes' Apartment
4:58 pm (officially Christmas Eve)

Monica tried not to laugh at the fact that her door key kept blurring before she could insert it in the lock. John was standing patiently behind her and his presence, for some unknown reason, made her want to laugh even more.

It was an X-File.

Monica had to laugh about that thought, but she had the forethought to cover her hand with her mouth.

John still saw it. "Monica.", he halfheartedly warned.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry.", she giggled and they both knew she didn't mean it.

John rolled his eyes and shook his head, then just happened to glance down the hallway. One of the apartment doors down the hallway was cracked and he could just see a man's face peeking out, watching them. When John turned his full attention to the door, the face looked shocked, then disappeared and the door quietly closed.

When he got over the irritation at being watched by "the pervert" as Monica called her neighbor, John looked back to find his partner had finally gotten the door. Then he chastised himself for hoping that Cerril wouldn't mind having his owner returned to him not in the same state with which she had left.

They walked into the now dim apartment and John immediately saw glowing green/gold eyes shining from the middle of the living room.

"Hi, Baby!", Monica whispered, her words slightly slurred. But Cerril didn't seem to mind. He walked up to them, his footsteps sure in the darkened room.

John's hand searched for and found the light switch. The room was suddenly filled with a warm glow from the twin lamps.

Monica started to shed her coat in the cozy apartment, with Cerril following beside her. Not winding his way around her legs trying to trip her up, like "normal cats" John had seen.

"You can come on in, John.", Monica said as she put her hand on the sofa to help steady herself as she took her shoes off.

"I should be going, it's late."

"That's a good reason for you to stay."

"Monica, you need to go to sleep." There were two reasons why he wanted Monica to go to her bedroom and for him to be heading out the door.

"Go on, have a seat on the couch. I'll get you something to drink."

John sighed when she walked to the kitchen area, still obviously drunk, but in no danger of falling over. Now that her high heels were off. Cerril went with her and John flopped down on the couch, admitting defeat for now. "I'll just have water." He still had every intention of staying the "designated driver" route, still planning on driving home tonight. Technically this morning. His mind drifted back to what he'd asked Monica's landlord to hide in her room once they'd left.

Her gift to him was still wrapped and sitting on the nightstand beside his bed. And he was resolute in not opening it until tomorrow morning. But Monica's gift was too big to wrap, and wouldn't be practical if he had. So he'd decided on the sneaky way of getting her gift to her.

But now, she wouldn't go in her room to find it. And she was keeping him here when he wanted her to find it himself. Not to mention he was slightly uncomfortable being alone around a Monica with slightly fuzzy inhibitions for too long. But he didn't just want to leave abruptly. He'd just have to ease his way out the door.

He looked over from the couch and could see Monica bend over behind the counter. She came back up after John heard a low meow, then the sound of Cerril munching on a late night snack. Monica rinsed her hands in the sink, then grabbed both glasses of water off the counter. Once she reached the sofa, she handed one to him and sat down with hers.

"Mrs. Scully sure has a beautiful voice.", John said to distract himself as Monica stretched her long legs out and propped them up on her coffee table.

"Yeah, who knew. I wonder if Dana can sing." Monica took a swig of her water, letting an ice cube float into her mouth. She set the glass on the side table, then settled back into her slouched position on the couch.

"We'll have to ask her sometime. Your friend Ren can sure belt out the tunes. Not too shabby."

"He's got a great set of lungs." Monica snorted out around the cube of ice.

John could still hear the slurring of her words around the piece of ice. He sat forward and set his glass on the coffee table, then sat back again. "If you're tired, I can leave...", he looked over and stopped before he could finish his sentence.

His eyes were glued to her mouth. Monica was sitting with her mouth half open, playing with the ice on her tongue. Not just playing with it either. She had her tongue stuck out just past her lips, the ice resting in the tiny hollow created. He could hear as she breathed air over the cube, melting it and letting the water run back across her tongue and into her mouth. Her eyes slowly drifted over and up to his.

She flicked her tongue back in her mouth, her eyes blinking lazily. "What?"

Before John knew it, he had leaned down and pressed his lips to hers. Their bodies starting to gravitate toward each other, facing each other, what was left of the ice disappearing with the heat of them both. He could feel her back sliding down and away from him and her jaw relaxing, allowing him to probe her mouth. He cupped the side of her face had slipped his other arm under her steadily slouching back when he realized that she wasn't responding to him.

John was confused, until he pulled back and looked at her. Her eyes were closed, her mouth was open a bit, her head was tilted back and he discovered that his arm was the only thing keeping her up. For the second time that early morning, John found himself chastising himself and shaking his head.

"Aww crap!", he whispered to no one in particular, then sighed loudly. He had to admit it was pretty laugh-worthy, he could no longer say he's ever put a woman to sleep like that.

Just then he was startled when Cerril, who had apparently been watching the entire time, launched himself onto the arm of the sofa behind Monica. There came the low growls again. John just happened to look at the huge kitten's paws, noticing how his usually sheathed claws were out. And sharp.

"Take it easy, Cerril. I promise, I'll be a good boy."

John must have said the right thing. The claws retracted, but only halfway. He tried not to feel bad, thinking of how this might look from the cat's point of view.

Either way he thought of it, now was a good time to leave. But he couldn't leave Monica on the couch.

"I'm just going to put her in the bed, ok?", John said.

Keeping his eyes on the cat's reaction, John maneuvered his own body from the sofa then scooped Monica's up and took her to her room.

There on the bed, where he expected it to be, was the giant chocolate colored stuffed teddy bear. A long time ago, Monica told him of a favorite stuffed animal her parents had gotten her once. She took that bear everywhere she could, seeing as how it was bigger than she was and he could barely carry it herself. She told him that she used to not be able to go to sleep without it. Then one night, the Reyes family had gone on vacation. There was a mishap with a gas leak in the kitchen of the vacation home and the kitchen exploded into flame. None of the rest of the house had been damaged, but little Monica had eaten breakfast with Oso Grande, hence the cherished possession had been sitting at the breakfast table after the family had left for the day.

John saw this bear one day, and ordered it. The only difference was that the old bear had been a cream color, but Monica wouldn't care.

He gently lowered Monica to the bed. As soon as he got her down, she curled up to the bear. John watched her sleep for a few seconds, until Cerril appeared from the shadows and jumped up on the bed opposite him. More staring and low growling.

"I'm leaving." John started to back out of the room. Cerril followed him step for step, then got tired of being patient and trotted past John heading straight to the door. The cat would look back every so often as if to check and see that John was following. And he was, letting the cat escort him to the door.

One last look as John locked and closed the front door had him walking away with the impression that the cat was giving him a smug look. John just happened to look down the hall. Satisfied that "the pervert" wasn't blatantly looking at him, he could still have been watching through the peephole, John left.


Christmas Eve
9:59am

Monica's leg stirred under the heavy weight of the giant kitten draped across her calf. The side of her face and inner thigh of her free leg shifted across something extremely soft. And cool, and big, and not alive. She opened her eyes to the sunlight trying to filter in through the thick purple drapes. Pushing herself up on her elbow, she looked at what she was half laying on.

It was a big stuffed plush teddy bear, with black paw pads, a black nose, light brown plastic eyes, and big red bow around its neck. The huge head was close to 2 feet across and it had to have been over 4 feet from head to toe.

Monica smiled. "He remembered." She bit her lip trying to recall how long ago it had been when she'd told him about Oso. Years ago it seemed. The bear had been a constant fixture in her life from the age of two to age eleven. And almost twenty years later, she'd gotten a replacement. Care of her best friend.

Monica looked down to Cerril curled up and still asleep on her leg and decided that she didn't have to get up just now. A few more hours of sleep, settling back onto the bear like she had been before.

But the respite was short-lived when the doorbell rang. Her eyes popped back open and she could feel that Cerril had already left. When she came out of her bedroom, she could see that he was already at the door, waiting for her to get there. Monica opened it to reveal Ren, looking just as suave as ever. Unruffled after last night events. Thick coat over a coal colored knit sweater and jeans.

"I hate you.", she said with a big smile.

"Good morning, Sunshine.", he said as he stepped around her and into her apartment. "Brought you a present." He handed her a CD jewel case with the words `Fave Old School Picks' on it and a list of the tracks burned to it. "What up, Cerril?", Ren said as he passed the cat sitting beside Monica's legs. Cerril chuffed in response and followed the bald man.

Monica shut the door and turned to where her guest was standing. "How do you do it? You never get hung over." She never did either, especially not after downing the water from last night, but she didn't exactly feel her usual bright and cheery self. She read one of the tracks on the CD. "Funky Cold Medina?"

"Hey, it's `cole' and that's a classic!"

"Whatever. Excuse me for having perfect English."

Ren shrugged. "I speak perfect French, as per my parents. But you already know that." He turned and winked to her, then feigned casually looking around. "I would have expected your ole boy, JD, to be here. You know.", he winked at her.

"Yeah right. He's not like you."

"Ouch. You cut me." He watched her walk over to the couch and retrieve the glasses left there from last night. Her clothes were rumpled where she has slept in them and she hadn't even bothered to push her tousled hair back in any semblance of order, like some women would have done before opening their front door. She was totally not vain, yet dressed like she would be. She was beautiful and nice and smart. Doggett sure was missing out, in Ren's opinion.

"You do know that there's a sure fire way to cure your hang over."

"I'm not like you either, Re-Re." She walked to the kitchen and refilled her glass. She downed the first glassful, then refilled again. "I'll stick to water, Mr. Sicko."

"Knock it if you want and call me names all you want. See if I offer you my help again." The tall, bald man made his way over to the sofa and sat down.

"Have you eaten yet? Or are you still doing that power bar breakfast of yours? That's not the way to start your day, by the way."

"Ok, mom." She looked over at him with narrowed eyes till he laughed at his own joke, the answered her for real. "No, I haven't. And no, I eat a real breakfast these days. I came to take you out."

She finished off her third glass of water. "That would be great. Can you wait till I've showered?"

"Sure." Monica started for her bedroom again. "Call me if you need any help in there."

"I think I've got it covered, thank you.", she said without looking back.

Cerril took up his guard position at the bedroom door. Ren, without knowing it, mimicked John's reaction by looking around the apartment at everything but the large kitten.

He knew that Cerril was responding to his confidence in himself, knowing that the cat wouldn't pick up on any threat or fear, as animals can do. But even then, Ren wouldn't test the lead way that the cat had given him. So he was going to stay right on the couch. Monica knew he was joking, but Cerril might not take it the same way.

As Ren was sitting pondering the mysteries of the giant kitten with the sound of the shower in the background, Monica's doorbell rang. He got up to answer it.

A weasel looking man was standing outside, his hands stuck in his pockets. After a few seconds of watching the man try to hide his surprise, Ren broke the awkward silence. "Yeah?"

"Umm, is Miss Reyes in?"

"Yeah, she is. But she's in the shower, what do you want?" He tried not to sound too gruff, but his penchant for messing with guys like this stuck out. Ren crossed his impressively muscled arms in front of him and the guy visibly shrank. It was priceless.

"Um, nothing, I just, um, I'll come back later." The man fairly ran down the hall and disappeared quickly into his apartment.

Ren stuck his head out the door as he watched him leave. "You do that.", he muttered to no one. He heard some steps from the other direction and swiveled his head to see John Doggett walking up, also trying to cover his surprise. He was doing a much better job than the weasel man, but Ren could still see it. "Bet you're wondering what I'm doing here."

"Where's Monica?"

"Shower."

"Oh."

Ren respected John and didn't want to play his usual game with the man. "I stopped by to take her out to breakfast. Wanna come, I'm paying?"

John relaxed his suddenly tight jaw as the two men walked further into the apartment. "I'm with that."

"Good."

"Actually, I just came by to discuss this case with Monica. Captain Patton told me something last night at the party, and I was just doing some checking." John handed the folder over to the fellow agent. "I know this isn't what you get paid to deal with, but..."

"Nah, I'm pretty broad ranged in my duties. Dipping in here and there." He started to flip through the folder John brought. "I've heard of this. It's two serial rapist/murderers, something that goes against the usual profile."

"Yeah, I know. Serials don't usually work together. And one of them is HIV positive. That's one of the ways they've been tagged. We've got DNA on them, but neither one is in the database."

"I can see how this could be frustrating. Well there's more people official on it now. Hope it's not like looking for Osama.", Ren said with a smirk.

John chuckled. "Hope not."

Just then Monica called from the back. "I'll be ready in a little bit." She appeared at the door in a thick black terry robe, bent over at the waist running a towel through her hair. When she straightened up, flicking her damp hair back, she could see that there were now two men in her apartment. "John! Good morning!"

"You got a better welcome than me.", Ren muttered good naturedly.

"Just here to discuss something. We're all going out to breakfast."

"Great! Just let me get dressed.", she half turned, then turned back and leaned against the doorframe. "Oh, and thanks for the present last night."

"Glad you liked it."

When she pushed away from the door to get dressed, Ren turned and waggled his eyebrows at John, uttering an insinuating "Oooh!"

"I got her a bear."


Chapter 6: New Light

January 8, 2002

Agent Doggett had been working all night. Reyes had long since gone home, saying Cerril was waiting for her on the roof, his new haunt. Doggett remembered her saying something about a defunct fire escape that her landlord had let her close in and an old pigeon coup on the roof, a hold over from the landlord's father. The elder Mr. Withers aka Mr. Wizrienski, a Jewish emigrant from Poland, had kept carrier pigeons that had once been illegal at the times for the Jews to own. But in America, he'd felt proud to have them, building a wellconstructed mesh enclosure on the roof of the building. This enclosure, where birds no longer were kept, was ideal for Cerril to feel the freedom of being wild without the dangers the big city held.

The little side thought had quelled the anger John Doggett had felt at not being able to readily find the information like he wanted. Working on two cases at the same time. The long standing one of the two serials still on the loose since last year, and now this crap had come up with the finding of rubbings allegedly from a spacecraft similar to ones filed in the X-Files turning up. Not to mention this new player in the game, Agent Comer.

Hours of combing the archives for information regarding this wayward Agent Comer, he'd decided to put the case of the serials aside for now. He wasn't the only one working on this, so for the time being, he could focus on one search.

Climbing the ladder and following the numbers labeling countless data down here in the true basement, he'd finally found it. Something told him that this man, thought to be dead, really wasn't and had some insidious dealings with whatever it was that had lead Comer astray.

Doggett packed the folder under his coat, along with the "borrowed" rubbings from Skinner and headed out.

Later on the following morning, after Doggett, Reyes, and Scully had their late night pow-wow, Agent Dana Scully had returned home. Disenchanted, like she was used to being at times like this, she longed for a time when she could just be Dana. She and William could just be Mother and Son and have a life without all this insanity that her world had evolved to.

Maybe the rest of the day wouldn't be so bad, she hoped.

But sometimes it doesn't matter how much or how hard you wish for something to be, it won't come true.


Monica Reyes Apartment
January 9, 2002
7:10am

"I don't want to go to work." Monica sighed.

John looked at her over the plate breakfast he'd run out to grab. He understood, entirely. He felt like crap also after the all nighter they'd had pouring over these strange spacecraft rubbings, the information regarding this cult a fellow agent might have made more than just an assignment, and the possible actions they could follow. So far, two points had been laid out, but the third was still in the planning stage.

And they had to be to work at 8, which they would actually be early for. Right now though, both agents were running on steam.

"At least you had a nap in the last 24 hours."

"Sorry, I'm thinking about myself." She popped a hashbrown into her mouth and chewed thoughtfully.

"You barely do that, so I'll let it slide this time."

She let out a short laugh around her food. "Thanks." She chewed some more. "I just have the feeling that today would be a good day to curl up under the blankets and hide from the world."

John liked the sound of that, but not exactly as she probably meant it. "Most days are worthy of generating that feeling. Where's the cat?"

"Cerril's up on the roof. He loves it up there. Sometimes I have to call him down so he can eat.

Monica sighed and stuffed some eggs and a piece of biscuit in her mouth. Just then, the phone rang beside John. He reached over and answered it.

"Hel... Dana, what's wrong?" Monica looked over to him and sat up. John was listening intently over the connection. "We'll be right there."

"What?" Monica asked, already putting her food aside and standing up.

"Dana. Something happened."

John and Monica rushed out the door. From the bedroom came a clang, then Cerril stepped through the open window from the enclosed old fire escape. He sniffed the air and then ran to the living room and sprinted up to the coffee table. He looked on top and saw the abandoned Styrofoam containers just sitting there with their delicacies still half eaten in them. Never one to waste food, Cerril decided to clean up. He easily stepped up onto the table with his long legs and set about to do just that.


Dana Scully's Apartment

Reyes and Doggett ran up the stairwell and onto Scully's floor. The door to her apartment was ajar, and the two wondered why. Doggett pushed the door open and went in, Reyes right at his heels. Once inside they saw Maggie Scully sitting on the couch, her head in her hands holding something to it. She looked up at them as they came in.

John and Monica stooped down in front of her, worried about the state she looked to be in.

"Oh my god!", Monica breathed as she tried to look where Maggie was holding an ice pack to the side of her head.

"Mrs. Scully are you ok?"

All Maggie could do was nod, and even that was difficult. She needed time to find her voice. Everything seemed to hurt as she took a few shallow breaths, her eyes closed.

Just then, Dana walks out of the back room with William in her arms. All three in the living room look to her. William looks as bewildered as a baby can look. John stood up and walked closer to Dana.

"What the hell happened here?", he asked, keeping reins on his worry.

"I need your help.", she said to him, no answer to his question immediately forthcoming. Her eyes slightly wild with fear and anger, tamped down for now, she looked to Monica.

"Agent Reyes, I need you to take my mom and the baby." Maggie looked as if she were about to object, but still couldn't find her voice. "Can you do that, Monica?", she added.

Monica jumped to the task. "Of course." She was just as curious as John was about what was going on here. She walked to Dana and took William from her. His arm wrapped in the soft dark blue hooded sweater his grandmother had gotten for him, brushed against her neck as she cradled him and walked past John to the door. Holding it open as Maggie took a last look back at her daughter then walked out the door, Monica looked to John. Confusion was evident in his eyes, but she knew he'd find out what was going on here.


Maggie Scully's House

Maggie and Monica walked in the front door, closing out the chilly air behind them. On the drive over, Monica had tried her best to start up a conversation with Mrs. Scully, but the older woman was still in shock. She still couldn't quite believe what had happened, but she was starting too. She figured that her daughter's search for the truth about her grandson's origins might not be as unnecessary as Maggie had first thought. Had she known that there were people out there with a hatred or fear or whatever irrational feelings they had fueled by even more irrational beliefs only known to themselves and harbored toward a defenseless child, she might have been able to protect him better.

She had watched the scenery go by out the passenger window of the Explorer, blaming herself. Had that man been successful in his mission that morning, William would be dead and she would not have been able to stop him. She felt like cursing herself for being too old, for a factor of human nature which she had no control over.

She sighed as soon as they were in the house, looking around at the familiar surroundings then down to William in her arms.

"Maggie, do you need me to get you anything?", came Monica's soft voice behind her.

"I don't know." Maggie answered distractedly, rubbing her chin across William's soft forehead.

"Come on, Mrs. Scully." Monica placed her hands on the older brunette's shoulders. "Let's sit down and talk."

An hour later...

"So you're the only Scully with vocal talent?"

Maggie nodded, finally a smile on her face. She took a sip of her lemon herbal tea, as if stalling for time. "Unfortunately, not to mention I'm a Scully by marriage."

"Well you have a beautiful voice enough for all of them." Monica thought of something. "I know Dana mentioned her sister to me once. How many children do you have?"

"I still think of myself as having four children. Missy may have passed, but she's still here with me." Maggie sighed and took another sip of her tea, a thoughtful pause. She turned to a picture on the side table and pulled it to her lap, turning it so Monica could see. It was of four smiling children, with hair of all varying degrees of a reddish blonde color. The two boys, one very tall and much younger and shorter, both wore charcoal colored suits. Both girls too were dressed alike in matching dark blue taffeta dresses. The older girl was as tall as the oldest boy, her almost blonde curls allowed to cascade around her shoulders. The younger girl, Dana, had her wavy locks clipped back and away from her face. Melissa had one arm around Dana's shoulders, the other holding her shorter sister's hand. Whereas on the other hand, Bill Jr. was giving his much younger brother rabbit ears behind his head. "They took another prim and proper picture, but I liked the playfulness of this one. So I framed it." She pointed out the children as she named them. "There's William, named after his father. He's the oldest. Melissa was the second child, Dana was the third, and then there's Charles. My children have led paths of selfsacrifice, they help people, protect them. Bill Jr. and Charlie are both in the military, though I fear for Charlie more.

"Why is that?"

"It's silly." Maggie looked to Monica to make sure she really wanted to know, that she wouldn't think she favored one child over the others. "Charlie's in Black Ops. I barely hear from him. If I get a letter or email from him once every three months, I'm happy. Or at least satisfied. And with all this with Dana, I just run the risk of..." Maggie sighed, her eyes pleading with Monica to understand without her having to say anything.

Monica understood, and she knew that Maggie needed a change of subject. "William here, he's going to want to help people too. You should be proud of your genes, Mrs. Scully. A very altruistic line."

"Maggie."

Monica nodded and chuckled. "Maggie."

"Have you thought of having children, Monica?"

"All the time." Monica handed William a cookie, but first she put it in her mouth so he could try to grab it. Maggie laughed out loud as William tried to keep his head steady enough to focus on the cookie, and his chubby hands controlled enough to grab at it. But he kept missing, and laughing about it. When he laughed, he'd lose what little control he had over his limbs and they'd drop down to his sides or flail up and down. Finally, she handed it to him.

"A big family maybe?"

" I was adopted and an only child. So, yes I do." The cookie in William's mouth was turning to mush as he gummed it, the soft mixture of dough and baby spit running down his chin. Monica wiped it away and made a face at the boy.

"I can see that you'd be a wonderful mother, Monica."

Monica smiled at her.


Hampton, New Jersey
March 1, 2002

The old man had seen his share of dealings in life. His face was weathered and sagged, and the rest of his body wasn't in much better shape. But he still felt that he could live fore many years to come. That is, if he could keep his secrets to himself. Many things and people with whom he had to associate with could easily become liabilities, and even the smallest of liabilities could threaten his current way of life.

So he vowed to do what he had to do to maintain his security.

He knew things, and he also knew people who knew things. Horrible things, things that most people would be sick if they knew the half of it.

Which is why he was here, in a high dollar hotel, sipping on bourbon. He emptied the glass, and without having to tell her, his assistant came to refill it. Anon, a tall beautiful young woman with caramel colored skin seemed to slink across the room. Her lithe body bent over as she poured the bourbon, giving him a glimpse of her ample cleavage in the black long-sleeved low scoop-necked top. Her long brown hair, done up in a single thick fish-tail braid fell from the back of her head and swung around near his knee as she handed the glass back to the old man. He blinked his thank you, and she nodded, then went back to her seat. She picked up the pillow and continued the hand-stitching of the country scene she'd started not too long ago. She crossed her legs with ease in the too-short maroon skirt.

He settled back again. The plush leather couch where he sat was definitely lounge- worthy, but when his guests arrived, he didn't want to look relaxed. He had to look authoritative. Make them look up to him, in fear if possible, so they would readily do what he wanted.

There was a timid knock at the door.

"Enter.", commanded the older man.

In walked Dr. Velmer, looking a little worse for wear in a business suit. Similar to the one the old man on the couch wore, but much less expensive.

Velmer was shocked when he was told that all would be handled regarding the mistake and escape of Subject 1013, and the subsequent loss of the potential of Subject Offspring 1014. But when after two months had gone by after he'd informed them of SO 1014's whereabouts, and nothing had been done, Velmer started to worry. He started to think that they had just told him it would be ok to lull him into a false sense of security. To have him think that all had been forgiven, only to pull the rug out from under him at a later date. And he dreaded what that would mean. So he just watched his back.

And then this had come up today. A trip to New Jersey that, while he had no problem explaining away to his wife, he could come up with no possible explanation for himself as to why he'd been called there. Utterly petrified as soon as he woke up that afternoon to board the plane, Velmer's tendency to shiver when nervous started. And didn't stop, hadn't stopped even now. The entire time he was going through the security check at the airport, he kept having thoughts of being questioned by airport security, them thinking his nervousness might be attributed to the fact that he was carrying something dangerous to the other passengers, and being strip searched in a back room. Or worse, shot right in front of everybody.

And in the back of his mind, he knew that, had that happened, it would only be a matter of the karma his wife always talked about. The universe making him suffer for his crimes against nature. Recently and over fifty years ago. The days of being a child science prodigy with dreams of saving the world were over, and only something fiery awaited him.

But now as he peered around the doorway to see the man he knew as Dr. Fisk, he knew that a greater hell awaited him. The hell of continuance.

Velmer cleared his throat before speaking. "Your guests are here, sir."

"Have Vern and Mel bring them in."

"Yes, sir."

Velmer closed the door again and went downstairs via the freight elevator. He made his way though the semi-busy kitchen. The cooks and wait staff paid him no attention as if this happened all the time. He went to the back service door and stuck his head out.

At the sight of Velmer, two very large men got out of the back of a limo parked in the loading area. Between the two men, two other men were ushered out. One tall and slim with almost black hair and startling blue eyes, the other a short pudgy man with a major skin problem, a dirty blonde shag and murky brown eyes. The four men marched behind Velmer as they made their way inside the building and to the freight elevator.

Vern, standing next to the shorter man, started to edge away a bit in the roomy elevator. Something about the man, other than the slightly pungent odor emanating from him, gave Vern the willies. And Vern wasn't afraid of anything. But from both Vern and Mel's perspectives, the taller man had something weird behind his almost transparent eyes. He looked normal, or maybe a bit above normal. His extremely smooth skin was perfectly an even natural tan tone, he was perfectly proportioned with his 6'1 frame, and his jeans and leather jacket hung well down the planes of his body. But his eyes betrayed some kind of contained psychosis seemingly palpable to the two buff escorts and Dr. Velmer as they rode up. The two large men just hoped that they wouldn't have to restrain the two men they were escorting, they didn't want to even touch them.

Mel wasn't into this stuff, but Vern read stories of people's auras. His late mother claimed to see them, although Vern never remembered seeing them himself. But he trusted his mother and she seemed to be able to read people by them. She always seemed to be right, too. But Vern felt that if one were either really good or really bad, then their aura would be palpable even to those who couldn't see them. And there was a really strong, really negative aura coming from the two men, the strongest was from the tall dark haired one.

Finally they came to the door Velmer had been leading them to. Velmer knocked and once again the old man said "Enter."

The five men did just that as Velmer announced the two guests. Vern and Mel stayed close to the entryway of the suite. Velmer led the two visitors out of the entrance hallway and into the open sitting room.

Dr. Fisk got to the point. "I've been keeping tabs on you two, what you've been up to lately. I take it you've been as accurate as possible in following my pointed suggestions." Fisk changed his tone on the last word.

"Yes, Fisk.", the taller man spoke in a deep and husky, yet strangely lyrical voice. His transparent blues eyes danced, as if he was making an effort to keep them steady on the man who spoke to him. But his eyes kept drifting over to Anon sitting in a chair off to the side.

Anon hadn't set her beautiful chocolate eyes on the two men since they came in a minute ago, instead watching her hands as they worked, so engrossed on her pillow. Yet, Fisk was speaking and the tall dark haired man could barely hear over the sudden sound of her voice in his head. "Dante.", he heard her call to him.

"I will not divulge my reasons to you, I know you don't need reasons.", Dr. Fisk's voice resounded from far away, then cut out again.

Dante heard the woman again. "Dante, it's so easy for you. To take me. Hard. Fast." The woman breathed a moan, resounding in the dark haired man's ear. Dante could hear Dr. Fisk speaking so he looked back to the old man.

"Keep going..."

"You can hurt me as much as you want. You can hold me down, I won't fight..." Another breathy moan caused Dante to cut sharp eyes over to Anon. Her eyes were still intently on her pillow. "I can feel you already, growing inside me... Please... Dante..." A sharp intake of breath right next to his other ear.

"Annie.", the old man called in a quiet, but demanding voice. Anon looked up at him at once, pausing in her work. "You can finish your pillow in the bedroom."

Anon stood up at once, freeing up one hand to smooth her skirt down to five inches below her panty line from the one inch it had ridden up to. Then, both hands clasping the handle of the basket with all her threads and the pillow on top, she walked calmly across the room. Dante followed her with his eagle eyes as she passed within 3 feet of him and Philip, his shorter associate. She didn't even look at them. She didn't see Philip's sneer as he shamelessly looked her up and down. She didn't see Dante's cold, bland face with his fiercely heated stare.

Anon kept walking until she reached the door of the room, opening it then closing it behind her. As soon as the click sounded in the empty room, she let out a huge breath and set her basket on the dresser. She leaned against the wall, her hand on her stomach, feeling as if she might be sick. She suddenly couldn't stop panting and tears came to her eyes. She squeezed them shut for a few seconds, inhaling slower and slower until her heart was a barely tolerable pounding in her chest.

Anon pushed away from the wall and headed to the nightstand where her cell phone was. She hit speed dial no. 1 on the brand new unit and waited for a connection. After a few clicks, the line rang once and she heard someone answer.

"Yes?", came the deep voice.

"Tout vous.", Anon said to him.

The deep voice answered back with his code words. "Sans doute, Anon."

"Re-Re, they're here."

"What's going on, An?"

"The two men I told you I'd heard Fisk talk about, the ones we'd heard to look out for. Fisk has them under contract."

"Two shits like that? To do what?"

"I guess what they specialize in doing. I don't know." Anon sighed, her voice shuddering.

"Well, we have to know everything that Fisk is up to. We know he's dirty, but whether it's with mud or... We've got the coffin, we just need the nails. Are you ok?"

"Not really." She looked down at her feet as she slipped off her black high heels.

"They didn't do anything to you?"

"No. God, Re-Re. What I could feel from them. I could almost taste it in the air. It was horrible! I'm glad I'm just an `empath' and that I can't read their thoughts. But even that was becoming too much, I almost dropped my faade." She bit her lip, try to evoke the strength to answer his question fully. "They wanted to. I could tell. But not in front of everyone." Just then, her eyes widened as her mind went into overdrive. "Oh, God, Re-Re!", she whispered into the phone. She turned toward the closed door.

"What?" When she didn't answer, he repeated a bit firmer.

"Fisk sent me to the bedroom. What if..." A sudden nervous hiccup cut her off as her lower lip began to tremble.

"Anon, stay calm." He was answered by a sob. "Anon. Listen to me, you have to calm down so you can feel them out. Feel past your fear, girl. Don't panic." His words were the opposite of what he felt, having to beat down his own growing anxiety. "Listen, I want you to repeat after me. I."

"I.", she forced herself to say through her tears.

"Am.", he continued.

"Am." She was starting to wonder what he was going to say next, the edge of her near hysteria subsiding.

"Sydney Bristow."

Anon snorted loudly in the phone, covering her mouth so she wouldn't laugh out loud. She bit her full lower lip again, removing most of the pink lip gloss. "You nut!", she whispered, this time a smile moving her tear dampened cheeks.

"Someone as pretty as you shouldn't mess up her face like that."

Anon scoffed, most of her worry gone as quickly as it had come. "You say that to all the ladies."

"Of course. How else would I get the..."

"Shhhhh.", she cut him off, and dropped the phone away from her head.

"What? Anon?", he said. But she wasn't listening to him. She'd heard some loud footsteps outside and the door slam, then silence. She was listening for more, feeling out with her mind and not getting anymore of those disgusting emotions back.

She put the phone back to her ear. "I think they're gone. Thanks, I'll call you back.", and she hung up before he could respond.

Dr. Velmer stuck his head in the bedroom and saw Anon sitting on the bed, working on her pillow. "Umm, Annie?"

Anon calmly looked up at him, her face dry. She waited for him to speak.

"Dr. Fisk says it's time to go."

Anon got up, turned her back to Velmer and bent over to retrieve her travel backpack.
Velmer, suddenly red faced, looked up at the ceiling immediately. He heard her step towards him, her black heels clicking on the hardwood floor once cleared the expensive Oriental rug the bed sat on in the center of the large room. That's when Velmer knew it was safe to look again. She grabbed the thread basket off the dresser next to the door, and Velmer stepped aside to allow the taller woman to exit.

Velmer and Anon met up with Dr. Fisk, Vern, and Mel out in the hallway and the group left the building.


Chapter 7: Tragic Sickness

Monica Reyes Apartment
Monday, April 9
6:58am

Monica sat on the floor of her bedroom. With her right leg bent so her heel touched her inner thigh, she leaned in the opposite direction over her straight left leg. Pulling her upper body down, her long arms over her head grasping her heel, she rested her cheek against her knee. Once she got her stomach and chest folded as flat as she could, she started to twist her head and shoulders around. Switching her hand placement so she was still pulling herself toward her foot.

Her breathing was slow and even as she looked up at the ceiling, then closed her eyes. Her ponytail moved. Then it moved again. And another swish.

She opened her eyes and saw Cerril's angular gray head peering down at her. Monica smiled at the animal. "Good morning to you too.", she said in a hoarse voice. Cerril started to purr and rub his chin and cheeks over her ear and forehead, making her laugh. Monica reached her right arm back and scratched the base of his skull. He purred even louder. She untwisted her contorted torso and sat up, pulling her long legs together. When she folded herself flat against both legs, Cerril put his forefeet on her back. Like he was pushing her into the floor. With his hind feet on the floor behind her, he stretched his long body along the entire length of her spine. Then continued to bat her hair around. "I'm pretty sure you have toys to do that too, Cerril.", she said through her tired smile.

But Cerril either wasn't listening or was choosing to ignore her. The ends of her hair being flicked by his paws was too entertaining for the large kitten. So Monica lay there giving Cerril time to play in her tresses, collapsed over her legs straight out in front of her, almost going back to sleep.

But then her alarm clock went off with its annoying repetitive beeping, after the fifth time she'd hit the snooze button. This time, instead of reaching up to slap it, she let it go for while. The beeping started to fade away into the background and the slow rhythm of her heart beating sounded in the darkness her closed eyelids created. Just behind that came the rumbling sound of Cerril's purring. The constant vibrations, gentle now that he'd stilled his assault on her hair, made their way through her skin. She could feel the light puffs of his breath on the back of her abnormally heated neck.

Monica had awakened that morning feeling very stiff. She'd kicked everything off around her in the middle of the night. She looked around as soon as she opened her eyes to see that her sheets were at the bottom of the bed and her pillows and the big bear were all on the floor. But Cerril was curled up beside her head, which was in one corner of her clear mattress. How he'd made it without being ejected like everything else was beyond her, though he could have just been moving and dodging her the entire night.

She struggled to remember if she'd had another one of those weird dreams last night. Like she'd had a couple of times last year and a few times this year. But could recall nothing past the tumultuous feeling in her stomach and the thickness in her head and ears. That aught to teach her to be more careful when chasing down a man who's transubstantiated alternate, yet genetically similar, form was going around murdering people 13 year after previously being incarcerated for the same crimes he wouldn't admit to himself to committing.

Monica felt a rough tickle in her throat and coughed into her knees. Cerril gave a low mew which sounded half inquisitive, and half annoyed. He pulled himself off her back and inched across the floor on his belly until he was lying stretched out beside her, his long hind legs looking like sprawled frog's legs. Huge sprawled frog's legs with dark gray hair all over them and super sharp claws.

His green/gold eyes looked over to her and seemingly through her as well, as if he wondered why she wasn't paying him attention. He then flipped over on his side, looking cute. Then, as if to step it up a notch, he turned over on his back and meowed again. This time, Monica lifted her head.

Her cheeks were flushed and her eyes felt as if they were being boiled inside her head. Last time she felt like this was after she woke up in the hospital after the accident and before that...Well, she couldn't remember anything recent. Except for the time she got thrown against an old barn door by a guy with super human strength and couldn't sleep on her back for a week. And before that, hardly anything.

Especially nothing that made her feel sick to her stomach or gave her migraines. Then she thought again. Getting hit on the back of the head with an oxygen tank isn't exactly gentle on the brain.

All this thought was making her sick and she knew that Cerril was expecting breakfast. Monica unfolded herself and pushed up off the floor, rethinking having gotten down there in the first place.

She began to think hard about calling in sick for work. It wouldn't be like she'd be dropping everything in John's lap. Besides the fact that summer seemed to be the slow months for paranormal activity, her partner had gone down to visit with his parents in Georgia for a while. "For a while" were his exact words, when she'd asked him on the way back from Brooklyn last Friday, on when he'd be back. At the time, it had occurred to her that not only was he worried for his mother in her ailing condition, but that he also needed time to work out the disillusionment thrown into his world about his previous partner in the NYPD.

On her way to the kitchen, Monica's hearing cut out in her right ear. The whole side of her head hurt from the itchy sensation in her Eustachian tube. She absentmindedly pressed her palm against her ear, which didn't do anything but make her wish she could scratch it. But knowing she couldn't, she filled up the coffee maker with water and let it heat while she fixed Cerril's morning intake. And to Cerril's credit, he didn't beg. Instead he went in the living room and, standing on his hind legs, went to look out the window at the clouds.

Monica could see to the front window from the kitchen that the sky was dark and overcast. If it started to rain, then she definitely wasn't going to risk going to work. The rays of the still dawning sun barely shown through some of the lighter patches of clouds and Cerril began to growl at the thunder.

"You don' t like that sound, do you kitty?", she said to him as he came running when she placed his bowl down. "Either that, or you think it's competition.", she said more to herself as she rubbed his velvet soft ears. He shook his large head after biting down, as if the food were a live catch.

Monica stood up and almost fell over, her heart pulsing loudly in her stuffed head. She squeezed her eyes shut and leaned on the counter taking deep breaths trying to swallow the heavy feel of bile in her throat. She opened her eyes when she felt a soft paw on her bare foot. She looked down to see that Cerril had left his bowl half full and was looking up at her, giving her a concerned look and some inquisitive grunts. Monica thought it was weird, but his attentiveness to her ailment made her feel just a little better.

"Good boy.", she whispered past the burning in throat. Not wanting to risk bending over to rub his head, Monica lifted her foot and tickled around his strong neck with her toes. Cerril didn't mind the substitution, he closed his eyes and tipped his head back.

Monica pulled the sleeves down on the peach colored fleece pajamas her parents had sent her. Her chilled hands curled in the soft material, she started to make her way back to bed intending to call work to say she wouldn't be in today when the phone rang. It rang a couple of more times before she finally got there and answered it.

Lowering herself onto the bed, Monica greeted the caller as cordially as she could muster.

"Hello?", she managed.

"Mo-ne-ca!", came her mother's heavily accented voice.

"Mom?" Monica wasn't sure if she'd heard correctly. "Mommy, is that you?", reverting back to her first language.

"Oh, Monica, I didn't think you'd be home. I'm so glad to have gotten you." Her mother's Spanish speech was made even more beautiful by her natural smoker's voice, a voice that Monica had wished she'd had.

"What's wrong, Mommy?" Monica's worry partially masked her ill body's protestations. She could hear her mother crying over the line. "Mommy, please!"

Herminia Solana Reyes sighed many miles away as she looked down at her husband, Rico Esteban Reyes, asleep in his hospital bed. She didn't have a hand free to wipe her tears. One hand held the phone as she spoke to her dear Monica, the other kept constant contact with her dying beloved.

"Nia, it's your papi. He's... Can you make it back home?"

Monica couldn't speak. What was wrong with her father? She couldn't think straight.

"Of course. I'll be there, mommy."

"Get here as soon as possible, my child."

"I will."

Monica said goodbye to her mother, deep in thought and worry over what was happening. She had a few things to do now. Book a flight, call in to work and tell Skinner she had a family emergency, call Mychel's to make an appointment for Cerril, pack her bags, etc. Monica sighed as she stood up, still feeling a bit dizzy. And stop by the drug store so she could at least travel with any semblance of comfort, she added to her list of things to do.

An hour later, when she brought her luggage out of the apartment building, she didn't notice a small green sedan sitting across the street from her building. She didn't notice the two men sitting inside of it, watching her as she rushed back inside. They were still there when she came back outside pulling Cerril in his carrier/stroller via the wheelchair ramp that ran off the side of the steps.

When Monica finally reached her vehicle, with Cerril in tow, she went to lift him in his carrier up into the SUV.

"Would you like me to help you with that?", came a deep clear voice behind her.

Monica startled a bit, and looked up, not recognizing the voice. She looked at the handsome dark haired man with ice blue eyes as he smiled congenially, running a hand through his boyish curls. "What did you say?"

Dante pointed to Cerril through the green mesh. The large gray kitten's eyes were wide and focused on the strange man as his heavy rumbling growls echoed up from the pavement in warning. "Do you need help loading your pet?"

Monica looked down, then back up at the man with almost black hair. "Thanks.", she managed to get out before she sneezed, which didn't do any good for her stomach.

"Bless you." Dante told her, sounding very sincere as he easily lifted the almost 30 lbs kitten plus his carrier and it's wheel attachment. Cerril swiped at him from inside the carrier as Dante removed his hand from the handle. The man acted as if he didn't notice.

"Thank you.", Monica replied behind a tissue she'd fished out of her jacket pocket as she wiped her nose. Just then, her ears felt clogged again and she shook her head. Her hair flicked around her head, half covering her face. As she thanked the man again, she closed the side door and began walking around to the driver's side facing the street.

"I see you're going away. Vacation?"

Definitely not, Monica thought. But instead of replying, she smiled sadly, then said "Personal matters." With a parting nod, she began to walk away.

"You're a very beautiful woman."

Monica stopped in front of her SUV and looked back at the man. She raise her eyebrows in a curious manner, then uttered a half cough half laugh. "Ok. Thank you." She didn't feel very beautiful at the moment, what with her fever at just over 100 degrees, but she figured she didn't want to be mean over a compliment. Even though it made her feel uncomfortable. "Goodbye."

Just then, Mr. Withers came out of the building and waved to her. Dante looked back at the older man and began to walk away. Monica watched him leave for a second until she noticed her landlord approaching the passenger side. She lowered the window.

"Have a good trip and I hope your father will be ok.", the kindly man told her.

Monica smiled sadly at him. "Thank you so much, Mr. Withers. I do too."

"I'll go pick Cerril up for you, like you told me. Just call when you think you'll be back."

"You're sure you don't mind. I could have my friend pick him up all the days. It's just that she's got her son, and..."

"Miss Reyes, don't worry about it. I love animals, plus Cerril is a great service to the building." The white haired man laughed, making Monica smile. "Just tell your friend to call me when she can't get him, and I will."

"Thank you again, you're wonderful."

Mr. Withers blushed. "Be well.", he said as he waved to her and walked away.

Now back in the car, Dante sat with Philip as they watched Monica drive away.

"Damn!" Philip exclaimed in the quiet of the car. "I can't believe we're getting paid to do `that'.", referring to Monica.

Dante just sat there, staring at the steering wheel. His face was a mask with no discernible emotions. The smooth, soft skin of his face unlined as his mind whirled with activity.

"I bet she feels as good as she looks." Philip turned his wild eyes to his associate. "Do you think I can..."

"How are you feeling, Phil?", Dante said without looking at the man in the passenger seat beside him.

The question caught the shaggy haired blonde with the terrible skin by surprise. "What? I told you I feel fine. There's nothing wrong with me." Philip said, while his bloodshot eyes and the systemic thrush ravaging his throat told a different story. Right along with the rest of him, except for his weight, which had remained high. For now.

"Maybe you should sit this one out." Dante turned his heated blue eyes to Philip.

The blonde's mouth dropped open, shocked at the cold chill his friend caused in him. He started to stammer, then stopped. "But she's an FBI agent..."

Dante turned that icy stare to his friend once again, shutting him up. To him, this one was different. That fact registered in even in his twisted and misfiring mental processes. While his friend was only thinking of the thrill and his own ways of getting revenge he thought he so desperately needed, and while Dante had agreed and formulated the ways in which he would aid his friend in exacting said misplaced vengeance, this time Dante didn't want to follow their playbook. "Ok. But I'm taking my time with this one. Come on, let's go." Dante exited the car, fully expecting Philip to follow. The heavy-set man crossed through the sparse morning traffic behind his taller associate as they headed toward Monica's building.

Once inside, they easily located Mr. Wither's apartment, the first door right inside the external entrance. It also had his name on it, imprinted on a gold plate. Fully planning on stealing the extra key to their target's room, Dante knocked to make sure no one was in. Just because he had seen the landlord leave, he just wanted to make sure the man's wife or something wasn't in. But a few seconds after he knocked they heard they heard steps and the lock start to shift.

"Let me do the talking.", Dante whispered to Philip.

Dante and Philip stilled when a teenage boy came to the door, his tall lanky frame gave him an awkward appearance. The boy's skinny arms stuck out of his loose black T-shirt with a skull and cross bones and baggy jeans with a small chain hanging off two of the belt loops.

"Yeah?", the teen narrowed his shrewd brown eyes at the two men.

Dante thought quickly for a moment. "We've got a proposition for you, son." He pulled out a few folded bills and the teen's eyes widened on sight of the green. "Think you can help us out here."

"For the right price." The boy leaned against the doorframe.


Centro Medico ABC (American British Cowdray's Medical Center) Mexico City, Mexico
3:55pm

Monica ran up to her mother and threw her long arms around the shorter, former blonde.

"Mom, what happened?" She pulled away and looked down. "Oh, mom.", she sighed as she wiped the tears off the woman's age weathered, yet still stunning, face.

"Monica, baby."Herminia spoked in her husky Spanish. "Please, I'll tell you on the way up. Come with me." She took her daughter's hand and led her to the elevator.

Once on the floor and outside a door Monica was taken to, Herminia held the door open for the taller brunette. Monica slowly stepped inside. On first sight of the person laying in the bed of the private room, Monica looked back to Herminia. For acknowledgement for she didn't recognize the thin, frail looking man in the bed.

At the slight nod from her mother and the sad expression on her sand toned face, Monica felt the heat of tears prick behind her already burning eyes. She brought one hand to her mouth as she closed the gap between her and the hospital bed.

This was not Papi Rico, the strong, tough father with the heart of gold. The man, of originally Brazilian heritage, who worked hard and honestly in the Mexican Ministry of Health and Welfare for the good of his fellow Mexicans. The one who used to pick her up, kiss her on the cheeks then, before tossing her up in the air, telling her to take that kiss to the stars. A man dedicated to his family and his work. A man who, along with his wife, loved to travel the world. Who loved to make people laugh, who gave his daughter and his wife everything they ever wanted.

No, this couldn't be him. This was some cruel joke. It had to be.

But as Monica reached out to touch her father's discolored face, she knew this was no trick. This was real. This was her father.

Her fingers brushed lightly against the skin of his puffy cheek. Once a handsome rusty brown, now splotched dark blue and dark red as the toxins built up in his body.

Her mother came up behind her, laying her hand lightly between Monica's shoulder blades. "It started as just high blood pressure. We thought it was just normal for his age. And he'd had recurrent bladder infections over the years, so when he started having abdominal pain, we just thought it was that. He was treated for the infection and the symptoms went away." Herminia breathed as she lay her white/graying head against her tall daughter's shoulder. "But then they came back. That's when we learned that the infections over the years had been building up to pyelonephritis through his pelvis. And, not only that, he had now developed malignant tumors in both kidneys. He was on antibiotics, dialysis, and we were awaiting a possible kidney transplant with a back up of an artificial kidney when he went into a coma four days ago."

Monica's face was wet with her tears, as was her mother's with her own.

"Why didn't you tell me sooner?" Monica stated in as non-accusing a manner as possible. At the same time, she blamed herself for know knowing. For not believing her feeling when she suspected something was wrong when she last visited before her move official move to D.C.

"You know your father. He is a proud man, has always been strong. He didn't want you to see him this way. He kept telling me that everything will be ok and that we wouldn't have to worry you. Soon he'd be back to himself. And then, this happened. Renal insufficiency and uremia. He's dying. I couldn't keep that from you." Herminia began to choke on her sobs. "I just wanted you to say goodbye."

The silence of the room was filled only with the sound of the various monitors on the patient and the low sobs of the two women who had shared a once vibrant life with him.


Washington, D.C.
Saturday, April 14
11:47pm

Monica rubbed her tired eyes, feeling as if the simple move was torture on her dry sockets. She was almost home and none too soon, she felt as if her entire soul had been drained the last 6 days. And she didn't think that even sleep could rejuvenate a quarter of her strength.

Right now, she was wishing she had taken up on her mother's offer to stay longer. After the funeral.

Rico Esteban Reyes, the first man Monica had ever loved and still loved, had now passed away. On his 68th birthday three days ago, he'd woken up long enough to see his daughter's tearful face and then he was gone.

Her whole body was numb since then. She barely remembered saying goodbye to her mother at the airport in Mexico City, boarding the plane, the short lay over, the connecting flight, and now her drive back home. Even now as she looked out her windshield to the quiet of her street, just enough of her mind was on the operation of the vehicle to get her home safely. The rest was back in Mexico watching as the only father she'd ever known was lowered into the ground. She still couldn't remember ever shedding as many tears ever before in her life.

"Sometimes the mind agrees with the body, that it's time to move on to the hereafter.", she remembered one of the speakers commenting about Rico Reyes.

She wasn't angry with her father for wanting to save her some grief. It's just that in the long run, his way of doing so didn't pan out the way he wanted it to. She'd been hurt even more by what was a sudden death from her perspective. But ultimately, it wasn't pride or shame that kept him from telling her and letting his wife tell Monica, it was love. Monica couldn't see not forgiving her father for loving her too much.

She smiled through the haze that was her body in ill health. Everything was clear, just not registering as such to her in its true sense. There and not there, past her still broken heart.

She pulled into an available parking space, shut off the engine and got out. The chill wind of the spring night was a bit drastic from the confines of the enclosed interior. Underneath her old cotton knit jacket she wore one of her father's large dress shirts. She'd had it on since leaving her parents house early that evening. She felt closer to him, wearing something her father had worn. As she had done many times when she was young. Feeling his essence through the imprint of a day in the fibers.

The last impression she felt now as she let her mind go was of her father, strong and tall, hard at work on his hobby. He had been trained as a blacksmith, as his father had before him. But his government job had made it a task that he didn't need to do as a way of life. But it was his centering motion, the repetitive beat as he shaped the metal. The sweat soaking through his shirt and pants as his little chocolate haired beauty watched in awe as the bright red orb became something else. Her mother still had the silver heart her father had made and hung over her bed in their house. She pulled the little leather pouch her mother had put it in for her to take with her out.

She didn't feel like taking her luggage out tonight. She could do it in the morning. She made sure to lock the doors and turn on the alarm before she started to walk away.

She focused on the sound her steps made as she climbed the concrete stairs of the front of the building.

She remembered that either Cerril was still at the boarding kennel, or behind the door to her landlord's apartment asleep with him. Wherever he was, she didn't want to bother him by going to retrieve him. He would be fine where he was for the night.

She walked down the hallway to her door, ready to fall into bed. The lock turning clicked in the silent hall. She pushed her hair back from her face and massaged her aching temples.

She opened the door, blinking in the darkness as she slipped her jacket off and tossed it on the sofa as she passed. She toed her sneakers off, leaving her socks in them. The starry sky joined the streetlamps in illuminating the drapes from outside with soft light, she made those out as she made her way to her bedroom.

Then, she caught sight of a shadow before a heavy weight pushed her to the floor.

Monica barely caught herself on her hands before they were snatched up and over her head, pressing her chest into the floor. She felt the body on her back, shift up higher, the person leaning over as they straddled her to press her bound arms to the floor. She heard her gun slide across the wood floors in it's holster as rough hands reached under her waist in a frenzy to undo her pants.

When the rough hands pulled her jeans down, she let her stomach fall hard on the foot of the person straddling her, and rolled. And kept rolling when she heard the pop of an ankle turning in the wrong direction and a man scream.

In the dim light, Dante fell off of Monica and held on to his twisted ankle. Philip fell back as he pulled her jeans away, but once her legs were free, Monica kicked the pudgy man in the face. She sat up and swung both arms, connecting with Dante's head. When she heard him hit the floor, she leaned on both hands and kick back and to the side. This time hitting Philip in the chest, knocking the wind out of him.

When she rolled over on both hands to stand up, Dante had shaken off her hit and grabbed her around her waist. He jerked her back and slung her around. The dizzying feeling and nausea created by the move made it impossible to control her stomach.

Philip yelled unintelligibly in disgust. "God, she fucking threw up on me!", hissed to his friend, his anger focused on Monica as she coughed and tried to pull Dante's hands off of her.

But she was winded from her struggle, her hands shaking so badly that she couldn't get them to function. Dante pulled Monica up off the floor, Philip scrambling with his girth to do the same. Then, without warning, Philip punched Monica in the stomach, catching most of Dante's arm in the process. A totally un-thought out move on his part, not only because he hit his associate, but also because it caused Monica to throw up on him again.

Dante turned dropping Monica near her bed behind him and she hit the floor with a groan. He turned to Philip with his icy stare. "I didn't tell you to do that.", he said calmly

"Look at me! Damnit, let's just go ahead and get this bitch over with!" Before Philip could react, Dante elbowed the shorter man square across his already bleeding nose. The taller man grabbed Philip by his messy hair and pulled the man's ear close.

"I told you that she was different." Dante's voice was low, controlled and very menacing. ""I told you that I", he emphasized the previous word by placing a well cared-for hand to his chest. Philip flinched as the dark haired man went on. "was going to take my time here. Now get out of my sight." He shoved Philip towards the door.

For a second or two, Philip could just stare at Dante as the shorter, unkempt man held his nose in both hands. Without saying anything more, he backed out of the room. Dante walked over and locked the bedroom door behind the retreating other. He heard Monica make a sound behind him.

He flicked on the small lamp sitting on the dresser beside the door as he turned around. He heard her again as she slowly tried to sit up on her elbows.

"I know you do.", Dante responded to Monica's low moan of "No." as he closed the distance between them.

Downstair, Mr. Withers came from taking his mother and aunt around to see their elderly friends. At nearly ninety years old, the twins; one Mrs. Withers and one Mrs. Pait, still made their once monthly Saturday evening rounds to visit friends they'd had for ages it seemed. For some reason, this Saturday had lasted quite late into the night.

After getting the ok to leave his favorite tenant's pet in his mother's house; she loved cats too, he and his mother and aunt drove around for hours meeting this person and that. Going to many people's homes and when he finally went back to return his mother and aunt to their house and pick up Cerril, it was a little after 11:00pm and he had an hour's drive back.

Pulling up to the building now, he saw Monica's Explorer parked outside and knew she'd returned home. He'd gotten a call from her saying that she was staying for a while until after her father's funeral, which the kindly old man was extremely sad to hear. Mr. Withers was profoundly apologetic, telling her not to worry about Cerril and that he'd take care of picking him up from the kennel so she'd only have to pay day-boarding when she got back.

As he lowered Cerril in his carrier on the wheelchair lift of the van, he spoke to the large gray mass inside. "Your mom is back." All he could see in the dim light of the streetlight was the reflection of Cerril's gold/green eyes as he blinked and looked up at him.

Mr. Withers pulled Cerril up the ramp and inside. He walked, unnecessarily telling the young cat not to wake the neighbors as they made their way to the elevator.

"We're going to the roof so we don't wake Miss Reyes." The kindly old man put the appropriate key in the lock of the elevator panel and turned, then hit the button for the roof. In no time, the doors opened to the nice cool breeze blowing across the building tops on the clear night. He knew that Monica always left the window open and Cerril would be able to get down from there. He opened up the heavy metal gate on the coup and pushed Cerril's carrier inside. Closing the door part way, enough to put his arm through, Mr. Withers pulled the back door open on the carrier allowing The huge gray kitten to step clear of the carrier he'd been stuck in for an hour. Two hours if he counted the trip out to Mrs. Withers' house. "There you are. Now don't wake Miss Reyes up on your way in." And with that, Mr. Withers checked the lock on the gate and made his way to the elevator.

Cerril, alone with his thoughts, stared up into the sky. The twinkling lights and the moon shone down on him. He sniffed the clean air of the night with his pink tinged gray nose. Then, he cocked his head to the side, his large ears flicked like satellite dishes picking up on a signal. An electric crackle developed along the ridge of his spine as his hackles rose up. His longish tail twitched and expanded to three times it's width as he lowered it almost to the ground. He stalked through the tunnel of wire to the edge of the roof where the old structure of the long since unused fire escape was bolted into the brick. He looked down through the easy maze of curving metal before starting his journey down the old black steps.

On the level outside Monica's bedroom window, Cerril landed soundlessly on the grating. His eyes narrowed and his pupils dilated, instantly allowing him to see into the dim room.

In his young life, Cerril had never experienced the level of rage coursing through him at what he saw. He didn't even need to know the concept of emotions to know they were strong and fueled by the sight that met his eyes through the window.

It was so easy to learn the word "no". Cerril had, and when Mommy said no, there was no excuse not to stop whatever you were doing. This stupid animal wasn't listening to Mommy. Cerril could feel her pain in pulsing waves, as sure as he could feel energy flowing through his blood. Cerril would make the animal listen.


Dana Scully's Apartment

Dana paced the floor after replacing her phone on its base. Two hours had gone by after Monica called her and told her she was almost home. They had a brief conversation where Dana expressed her concern over the sound of her friend's voice, or actually the lack of volume. She could barely hear Monica, she had to be so sick. But Monica told her not to come over, that she would be fine until tomorrow. Dana had convinced her to call back as soon as she got home, which should have been an hour ago.

Dana tried to tell herself that she was being stupid to worry. Monica could have just been too worn out to call back and went straight to sleep. Second thoughts each time made her replace the phone when she had the notion to call Monica. But there was still that nagging feeling.

She walked into William's room to find the baby wide-awake in his crib, staring up at the ceiling. When he heard her enter the room, he rolled over and clumsily sat up on all fours. His little whimper told her that he was maybe having a nagging feeling of his own.

Just then, the phone rang. Dana picked up William and hurried to the bedroom. Sitting down on the bed holding the baby in her lap, she answered right after the fourth ring.

"Monica?"

"It's John.", Doggett said, wondering why she answered the phone in such an unusual manner.

"Oh.", she said with a sigh.

"Are you expecting to hear from Monica?"

"Yes, actually I was."

"Is something wrong?"

"I don't know, I hope not. Are you back?"

"Yeah. I just needed some time with my family, but I'm back. Look, I wanted to see Monica anyway. To sort of apologize for leaving so suddenly."

"I bet she'd like to hear that. She sounded very sick on the phone. Plus, she might need someone to talk to. Her father..." Dana paused. John waited. "passed away."

"Aww, man!", John exclaimed quietly. Then, after a breath and a pause, "I'm heading over there now."

"Ok. Call me if I need to come over to check up on her."

"Alright."

Dana hung up with the sound of the dial tone. She looked down at William, who was looking up at her with a curious expression. Followed by a curious noise from the baby. "Yeah. I hope so too.", she told him as she cuddled him to her chest.

Cerril looked up at the top of the window and, in one swift movement, he leapt four stairs up. His large paw smacked the upper right corner of the top pane, causing it to drop three inches.

Inside, Dante didn't hear the dull crack over his own ragged breathing as his body exerted itself in its heinous act.

Cerril bounded off the stairs, his sharp claws catching the top frame. His heavy weigh coupled with the jolt of his landing made the window plummet the rest of the way down, shattering the glass inward.

At an explosion that couldn't be ignored, Dante shoved Monica away from him and half scrambled, half crawled farther away from the window. His fearful eyes searched the darkness and settled upon the huge shadow perched on the two, now level, window panes.

All that could be seen in the shadows of the far streetlamp, and the tiny light inside the room illuminated only Cerril's golden eyes. To Dante, they looked like frightening glowing orbs floating in a dark cloud.

The large "cloud" floated down in front of Monica's limp body on the floor, and began to stalk towards Dante. He made a break for the door, but didn't get very far before the glowing golden orbs were upon him.

Outside the bedroom, draped across Monica's living room chair in his damp and hastily wiped off clothing, Philip sat angry and feeling sorry for himself. He'd taken a few paper towels he used to do a quick brush off at the kitchen sink and was holding them to his still profusely bleeding nose. He sat up quickly when he heard Dante's scream, a crash and a loud thud of a body hitting the floor.

Then more screams and what sounded like a tiger or mountain lion snarling. Before he knew what he was doing, Philip walked closer toward the door. He called to the taller man, but as he approached, the door flew open and his associate came running out clutching one hand in the other.

Philip had time to register the state of shock and horror on Dante's bloody face before the taller man barreled into him. The both fell to the floor like dropped bricks. They gasped for the air that was expelled from their lungs in the collision, but stilled completely when they heard the loud rumbling behind them. Full of trepidation, they slowly turned around.

Out of the near inky darkness, the glowing orbs moved toward them. The last thing that Philip saw was a flash of teeth right in front of his face. And the last thing he felt was a sharp pain in his throat. He didn't even have a chance to scream.

At the sound of flesh tearing to his left, Dante ran. He didn't look back as he quickly unlocked the front door and stumbled out into the hallway. One hand gripped his open jeans, the other hand steadily dripped blood from the gaping wound left by his missing middle finger. He made his way down the hallway, but quickened the pace when he heard Cerril's large feet as he galloped out of the apartment.

When he turned back, Dante caught a glimpse of the attacking cat heading straight for him. The dark-haired man managed to make it to the stairwell and down the few flights of stairs to the first floor. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see that he hadn't lost the feline. Without thinking, he ran down the ground floor hallway and into the door marked basement. Down at the lowest level in the building, he ran into a large room and pulled the heavy steel door closed behind him.

Cerril slowly walked up to the door of the old coal bin, stood up on his hind legs, and pulled the metal latch down. It slapped into the Urings, effectively locking Dante inside. Then, as if being summoned, walked back up the stairs. Easily pushing the doors on their welloiled hinges open, making his way back up stairs.

Mr. Withers had heard the commotion outside his apartment on the first floor and stuck his head out in time to see Cerril's tail disappear through the first floor stairwell door. His eye brows knit together in confusion. Had he not placed the large kitten properly in the coup on the roof? But even if he didn't, the only way Cerril could have gotten in the building was if he walked out of Monica's door.

The old landlord walked out of his apartment and noticed the dark drops on the floor and the dark paw prints beside them. He wondered who had dropped used motor oil, which is what it looked like against the dark red stained wood flooring, inside the building.

Following the path to where Cerril had disappeared, Mr. Wither's opened the door. In the brighter light of the stairwell and on the light gray concrete floor, he could see that it wasn't motor oil. It was blood.

"Oh God!", he whispered. His eyes followed the tracks up the stairs. Despite his arthritic hips, Mr. Wither's started his ascent up the flights.


Chapter 8: Little Dreamer

Monica lifted her head at the sound of the birds whistling in the trees over head. She blinked in surprise to find herself sitting in the sand at the edge of a forest, which met the beautiful beach. The sound of the waves lapping softly at the shore and the rustling of the branches above calmed her. She wasn't worried about where she was or how she got there.

For some reason she couldn't explain, Monica had an urge to smell the sand she was surrounded by on three sides. She reached out to the right and grabbed a hand full of sand. Watching as most of it sifted through her fingers, she brought the remaining palm full to her nose.

The smell of lavender and jasmine wafted up from the glittering golden sand. "And chamomile.", she said with a smile. As she tilted her hand to let the rest of it float back to its resting place beside her, she could feel that she wasn't alone. She looked up.


John made the turn onto the street that ran in front of Monica's building. The first thing he noticed were the flashing lights from two police vehicles and an ambulance. On first glance, his thoughts went strictly towards the professional. To find out what was going on and be of service.

Since he'd tried to call his partner on the way over and didn't receive any answer, John figured she was already in the thick of things.

He parked and walked the rest of the way to the building. The lower floor was unnervingly quiet as he headed toward the elevator right next to the entrance. But once off on Monica's floor, the level of activity changed drastically. All of it centering around the door to Monica's apartment. Taking quick stock of the people on the floor, the only one he recognized was Mr. Withers who was wringing his hands. Monica's landlord and two uniformed cops turned when they heard the elevator bell ding. As one of the cops made a move toward him, a slight second's flit of John's eyes caught the sight of the bloody spots and paw prints. He began to sprint down the hallway, but was caught by one of the policemen.

"Monica!", John uttered, his panic evident.

"Whoa, sir!", the cop said as he stopped John coming closer. "You can't be here."

Mr. Withers interjected on John's behalf. "This is Miss Reyes' work partner. Agent Doggett.", he said quickly.

"What's going on here?", John half yelled, but restrained himself from trying to go further. With some huge effort.

The cop kept his cool and calmly answered. "We've already cleared the hallway. We don't know what were dealing with, exactly. All we know is we have a body down in front of the door and a huge angry cat that's gone crazy."

"He means they think Cerril killed someone."

John's wide eyes went to Mr. Wither's. The older man answered the question John hadn't asked. "I told them there's no way it's Monica. But we don't know what's going on, and Cerril won't let us in the apartment. He let me close the door without attacking, but that's it."

"Look, sir." The cop directed to John. "Agent Doggett. Maybe you've got some pull with this cat. Otherwise we'll be forced to take action against him."

Without answering, John made his way to the closed door where one of the paramedics on the scene was holding a flashlight ready to look into the darkened room as another uniformed officer held his ear to the door. They had all heard the exchange in the hallway and moved as Doggett approached.

With a gloved hand, the paramedic turned the knob on the door. Just enough to open it. With the aid of the two men holding lights behind John, he pushed the door open with his toe.

In the back of his mind, John really didn't want to see what was behind that door. Not if it would break his heart.

Leading the way, John walked as soundlessly as he could. The others followed his actions, panning the flashlights over the room.

"Goddamn!", came a whisper from one of the men. John couldn't tell from whom but he instantly saw why.

Less than fifteen feet from the door lay a large body. Now that they got a good look at it, there was no way it fit the description Mr. Withers gave of Monica. Nor would it be likely to fit the description of anyone, not any more. It looked like someone had taken out all their aggressions on a human shaped lump with a set of razors, and there was no face at all.

Just then, a large gray shape ran past the light of the beam. John heard the men behind him issue a collective gasp and jump back. In another situation, it might have been funny.

"Cerril?", John called and was answered by a low rumble. He knew that rumble pretty well. Only it sounded twice as loud and ten times as pissed off, more so than when it was aimed at him.

The cop beside him had tried to follow the shadow with his light and the beam fell on the open bedroom door. John headed there, followed by the small pack of cops and paramedics.

In the floor, her arms stretched over her head and tied to one of the legs of her bed, Monica lay half twisted with her knees loosely pulled to herself, both legs parallel to the floor. She was dressed only in her father's old t-shirt, but it hung open where all the buttons were missing.

John placed his hand on the officer's hand that held a flashlight and redirected the beam higher up on Monica's body. Up to her chest. One of the paramedics did the same, following one of John's reasons.

The men held their breath until they saw that Monica took her own. There were no discernible marks that they could see from where they were. "She's breathing.", came one man's relieved reaffirmation.

"Cerril? Where are you?", John called.

There was a hiss from the darkness before glowing golden orbs appeared to be floating near the floor on the other side of the room. John made a move to step into the room. Quicker than the eye could see, Cerril leapt out in the way, putting himself between the door and Monica.

"Cerril, we have to check on Monica."

Cerril wasn't going to be placated so easily. He began to pace, looking very much like a caged tiger in a zoo. He would walk a few steps, turn and head back in the other direction repeating the same move. Never taking his eyes off the people standing outside the door.

John slipped his hand inside his jacket, slowly as if someone were holding a gun on him, and pulled out his cell phone. The other men around him looked at the FBI agent as if he'd gone crazy, but they did wondered what was the plan.

"Yeah, it's Doggett. Dana, can you come over to Monica's? And bring William."

10 minutes later...

When Scully pulled up, she was worried about all the police presence in view. Once she got William out of the back car seat, she hurried up and into the building. Mr. Withers, a man she'd seen only once or twice but still recognized, ushered her in.

"Mrs. Scully, I'm not sure what Agent Doggett has in mind, ma'am. Could you come with me." He guided her in with a light hand on the back of her arm. William looked all around as they got to Monica's floor. All the new people needed inspection as Dana carried him past, her worry intensifying. But if something really bad had happened to Monica, John would have told her on the phone, she concluded. So she went on, seeing the blood in the hallway along with the paw prints running both ways.

John met her at the door and put a hand on her shoulder. "We need your help, and William's."

"What's going on, Agent Doggett?", she said, trying to mask her trepidation.

"Something happened to Monica."

Dana stopped, and John's hand fell from her shoulder. She looked at the large pool of blood where the dead man had once been then, turning William's head so he wouldn't see, she looked to John. "We don't know really. Cerril won't let us get to her but I think that he'll let you let us in."

Dana quickly walked toward the bedroom where the officers and paramedics were still stationed. They stepped aside as she and William went in the room. One of the cops gave John a confused look for him sending in a mother and her child, but John simply returned the look as he rejoined the group.

Once just past the door, Scully shortened her steps. With the lights shining behind her, she could make out a broken lamp in the doorway, and stepped over it. She startled when Cerril jumped out of nowhere and landed right in front of her. Despite her shock at both his appearance and Monica's on the floor, she called to the cat.

"Cerril. It's ok. We want to help your mommy. Ok?" William cooed with his mother's words, and gestured with his arms. Scully wondered for a moment if she would be able to check Monica herself, but decided that she and William both would be able to calm the enraged feline so the paramedics could work. Then she remembered something that Monica had said she taught Cerril to do. Dana held her hand out, palm up, then slowly turned her wrist till it was facing palm down.

Cerril blinked, then sat. "Can you let the men help, Cerril? They need to come in. They won't hurt her, I promise."

Cerril cocked his head to the side, still looking up at her with his bright golden/green eyes shining in the lights from the officers and paramedic. In one swift movement, Cerril turned and jumped up onto Monica's bed. He lay down, looking very much like a sphinx, his head hung as he looked down on Monica from the corner of the bed.

Scully gestured behind her to the men, and they cautiously sprung into action. One of the officers flipped the light switch he'd found on the wall after announcing it to the room, making sure he had gloves on first. Cerril didn't move a muscle as the paramedics got on either side of Monica to check her vitals.

"Her pulse is strong, but she's burning up. High fever. Come on, let's get her out of here.", one said to the other as they put her on the back board they had with them. The covered her with a sheet before taking her out into the cool breeze of the spring night.

John looked to Dana, who was standing next to the bed speaking in soothing tones. Tones directed at Cerril, William, and unconsciously to herself. She looked up long enough to say "Go with her.", before John raced after the men.

She looked to the large kitten.

Two cops entered the room.

"What in the hell went on in here?" One officer panned the entire room, his mind trying to piece together some of what occurred.

The other officer piped up. "What are we going to do with the cat?"

Dana didn't know exactly how to answer the questions. Her eyes took in Cerril's state, his gray fur turned black with drying blood. "We've got to make sure he's ok.", she muttered.

The two officers looked to each other, then back to Scully holding William. Mother and son were watching the cat.

Cerril still had his eyes on the floor where Monica had been.

Mr. Withers came into the room. "Oh my goodness!" His wide eyes looked around behind his glasses, his mind trying to fathom what they were seeing. He shook his head. "There's something I just thought of.", the old man gasped. "Cerril was chasing something, or someone. And I think it's down in the basement."

The two officers rushed to follow the landlord as he led them downstairs. Cerril made a move like he was going with them. "No, Cerril. Stay." The cat laid back down like he was. Still in the room, Scully pulled out her cell phone."

"Hi, this is Dana Scully. Do you remember me?" She breathed a slight laugh despite herself at his cheery affirmative answer. "I know it's late, but I need your help."


Sunday, April 15
1:02am

John stood beside the hospital bed, holding Monica's hand. He watched her face, her eyes moving behind her eyelids. She was dreaming and John hoped they were good dreams. He didn't really want to think about what had happened to her as he tried to suppress his investigative imagination.

Two women entered the room in their nursing uniforms. One wheeled in a small cart with a small sheet over the top.

The older nurse went to John's side while the younger woman pushed the cart next to the bed.

"She'll be ok." The nurse settled a comforting hand on John's forearm. "We'll take good care of her." She paused and watched him carefully, seeing the tears collect in his eyes. "It's easier on her if we do this now, rather than when she's awake. Get it over with. We can explain everything when she wakes up."

"When will that be?"

"She has a viral/bacterial infection. She's on medication through the IV. Her fever hasn't broken yet, but it won't be long. She just needs to rest." Her matronly demeanor made John smile, if only just a little.

"You can wait out in the hall.", she gave John a way out. "But if you stay, you can talk to her while we work."

The younger nurse looked up at John and nodded helpfully at him. "It will be good for her to hear your voice and even holding her hand will comfort her. We'll tell her what we're doing down here. Ok?"

With his nod, they set to work. He tried to keep his eyes on his sleeping partner's face as the older nurse rolled the sheets from the bottom of the bed and away from Monica's legs, stopping mid thigh. John momentarily let go of Monica's hand as the two nurses slid their arms under Monica's legs and back and moved her closer down to the foot of the bed. With ginger motions, they slipped their hands under her knees and lifted her feet into the stirrups. "Monica, it's Nurse Kensie and Nurse Erica. If you feel anything, that's us. Ok?", she spoke as if Monica were awake. She brushed her patient's chocolate hair back before she putting on a pair of gloves.

Reclaiming his hold on Monica's hand, John turned his head away, squeezing his eyes shut.


On the beach, Monica looked up at the figure that had approached. She stood up, brushing the scented sand off her long gray skirt. She took a moment to look down. The white sleeveless shirt was tucked into the thin skirt and around her waist was a wide black belt. She couldn't remember buying such an outfit, but she guessed she liked it. She couldn't see past the long hem of the skirt, but could feel the sand under her bare feet.

Looking back at the short figure, she could see that it was covered from head to toe in a dark purple cloak. The hood of which was pulled down so far that she could see no face. Curious, she got closer. Involuntarily, once she was less than a foot away from the waist high figure, Monica reached out near its head. Her fingers ran through jetblack curly hair peeking from under the hood.

"Your hair is very pretty.", she said in a high voice. "It's so soft."

"Thank you.", came a sullen child's voice.

"What's your name?", Monica stooped to the figure's level, sure she was dealing with a little girl, but she still couldn't see the face past the shadow of the hood.

"I do not have a name."

"Everyone has a name.", she said cheerily. "I'm sure your parents gave you one."
The child didn't answer. "My name is Monica. Why are you at the beach alone?" Monica looked out on the waves.

"No one wants me."

Monica jerked her head back to the child. "I'm sure that's not true."

"You would not want me.", came the even reply.

Now it was Monica's turn not to answer. She blinked in confusion.

The child went on. "You would not want me, for I am not all of you. And part of someone else. For that part, I would be cast aside."

"What?", Monica didn't understand. The breeze wafted through and ruffled the hood on the girl's head, but didn't dislodge it.

"I would not bear you ill will.", the little girl continued.

"I..." Monica was at a loss for words, but reached out to touch the child's beautiful hair again. "May I please see your face?"


Jimmy Bond waited 10 minutes after Scully had gone inside the hospital before he made his move. Easily lifting the heavy carrier in one hand, he slunk inside a back entrance to the hospital. He ran through the laundry room in the basement, looking around him every so often to make sure no one saw him. Walking to the freight elevator, he took one last glance around before taking the covered plastic box up to the 3rd floor.

When Agent Scully called him, he was more than happy to do her a favor. It was what the Gunmen would have done, and he was proud to be carrying on in their name. Of course all the computer and technical stuff he knew he couldn't do, but he had Yves to do that. He was so glad she decided to work with him and continue, essentially, the very work that Byers, Langly, and Frohicke had done for years. Not to mention he liked her, a lot.

Not only that, he liked Agents Scully, Reyes, and Doggett. This simple cloak & dagger task was right up his alley, something that he always wanted to prove that he could do.

And now that he had reached the floor Scully had told him to come to, he hid to the side as the elevator opened. As he held the button to keep the doors open, he snuck a peek around the side, and drew his head back. Then snuck another peek. The hallway was clear, so he stepped out. Keeping watch down both ways, he tip-toed across the white and green tile. He was pretty proud of himself, his boots barely made a sound.

At the hallway junction, he had to peer around, knowing the nurse's station was somewhere near. It was to his right, so he had to go to his left. As he looked around, Cerril made a low mew.

"Shhh, we've got to be quiet. Agent Reyes is waiting, so we can't get caught." It seemed natural to Jimmy to speak to the cat like he could understand. So when Cerril instantly quieted, Jimmy thought that was natural too. "Thanks, Cerril." Jimmy didn't expect an answer back now that they were both on the same page for silence, and Cerril didn't give him one.

Jimmy watched as one nurse went to check on an alarm that sounded, while another nurse turned to put something back in a file cabinet. He made his move.

The door to Agent Reyes' room was closed, so Jimmy tapped lightly on the glass. Agent Doggett turned and looked at him. Jimmy waved as Doggett got up to open the door for him, and Jimmy slipped inside with Cerril.

"Here he is!" Jimmy looked to Scully and Doggett with a smile on his face. When he looked to Reyes on the bed, her eyes were parted slightly. She seemed drowsy and still out of it, but she smiled up at Jimmy. He put Cerril's carrier on the floor "How are you feeling, Agent Reyes?" Jimmy moved closer to the bed and touched her shoulder. When she jumped slightly, he jerked his hand away. "I'm sorry."

"It's ok, just a bruise there.", Monica told him groggily. "Please call me Monica."

Scully spoke from the other side of the bed. "Thank you for sneaking the cat in. I couldn't have brought his carrier in myself. Monica, was worried about him."

Jimmy made a dismissive gesture with his head. "No problem at all. Dr. Cheatwood said all he needed was a bath and some time to cool down. No broken skin at all."

Dana turned to Monica. "Did you hear that, Monica? Not a mark on him. He's ok."

Jimmy bent over and opened the large carrier, then stepped back to give Cerril some breathing room. Cerril stuck his head out, or rather his nose to sniff the air. At first, he opened his mouth partway and breathed through his mouth, not liking the hospital smell. But then he caught Monica's scent, and came the rest of the way out of the carrier. He started to look around to get his bearings.

"Cerril.", Monica called weakly.

Cerril's head jerked around, looking at John, Dana and back at Jimmy. Then he practically flew up on the foot of the bed.

"Cer-Cer Baby." Monica started to lift her head. She groaned when it hurt and laid back down instead. At the sound of her voice, Cerril chuffed low in his throat. His feet picked a path up towards her head. He lowered his head and rubbed his big cheeks all over her face. Monica breathed out a chuckle as Cerril tried to get his own smell back on his Mommy.

John, who hadn't spoken, leaned against the wall watching all that went on. He was trying to focus on the solace of the moment and the fact that, for right now, Monica was glad to see her little savior. That she found some happiness in his presence so she wouldn't have to deal with the awful truths of the situation. He watched as she ran her hands over the cat's head and down his back as Cerril stretched his long body alongside hers. With his fore and hind legs out to their full length, John could truly see the enormity of him. His head was on the pillow next to her, one furry arm draped over her chest and the other curved into her hair, and his back feet reached down to her knees. And according to Monica last time John had asked, Cerril was still growing.

The fact that he was dangerous wasn't in question anymore. He had killed a man and, by a recent report from one of the officers still at the apartments, Mr. Withers had led them to a second badly injured man. But, in John's eyes, there was also no question that they deserved it. "God help me, but I would have done the same.", John thought as he watched Monica drift off still caressing a loudly purring Cerril.

"Monica, we're going to leave. We'll be back in the morning, though."

Monica nodded, not bothering to open her eyes. "Cer, time to go.", Monica mumbled.

Cerril picked his head up to look at her for a second, as if he wanted to be sure she'd be ok. He licked the corner of her mouth, then jumped over her down to the floor and ran right into his carrier. Jimmy closed the metal door again and picked up the carrier. Dana patted Monica's hand one last time before following Jimmy out the room.

John pulled himself away from the wall where he' been leaning. Checking to see if Monica had gone to sleep, he turned and slipped out the door. Scully was waiting outside for him.

"There's going to be some tough days ahead of her."

"I know."

"And some equally tough questions we have for her, too."

"Like what? We know who did this!", he said heatedly. "She won't..."

"That's not what I mean. And actually two questions that will need to be answered as soon as possible."

Dana sighed and reflexively tucked her red locks behind both ears. "Did you know Monica had a latex allergy?"

John's brows wrinkled. "No.", he answered. Honestly, that wasn't something he had ever asked her about, and something she hadn't been in a situation as of yet to tell him about.

"It's not as bad around regular exposed skin. But near any sebaceous glands, it's particularly pervasive. I'd forgotten until the ER doctor said she'd had a reaction where he'd checked her ribs. In her exam it's apparent that her attacker didn't use any." Dana looked down at her feet. "And it's highly unlikely that he would have used vinyl." She reached up to rub her itchy eyes.

She missed the horribly hurt look on John's face. His suppression had worked, this possibility hadn't entered his mind. He felt like screaming. Instead, he walked down the hallway to the bank of public elevators and left without saying a word. Dana didn't try to stop him.


Irkutsk, Siberia
Sunday, May 15
3:10pm

Anon unlocked the heavy metal side door and entered. She walked down the narrow corridor of the old building, tossing the fur-lined hood of her thick coat of her head. At the end of the hall was a recessed spiral staircase, which her long legs jauntily carried her up.

Coming to a room on the next floor up, she knocked.

"Enter.", Ren called.

Anon opened the door and stepped inside, closing it behind her. "I'm here. Who summoned me, was it you or mom?"

"Your mother told me to call you in. How was your trip?", the muscular bald-headed man turned in his leather computer desk chair.

"Long.", she paused. "I loved it!", she said with a smile.

"You do like to travel.", Ren stated as he turned back to type something on his laptop.

"Always. Plus I'm so glad to be away from Fisk. He gives me the creeps, even though he's nice enough to work for. But I can feel his sinister past and present dealings like a pall around him." She sighed heavily. "Here's the information on the Systematic Evolution Funds Committee, what ever the heck that is. It's founded an agency that I only know as the IHBRH. I never learned what that stood for." Anon pulled out a CD jewel case. "It's all on there. I got that pretty easily seeing as how I had access to his computer. I brought you something else I think you should see."

Ren didn't like the change in tone. "What?", almost afraid to ask.

Anon shrugged off her parka and walked to his desk. Holding the coat by the collar, she unzipped an almost hidden compartment in the lining that ran across her back when she wore it. Pulling out a folder, she tossed her coat on a nearby futon and placed the manilla folder beside Ren's arm.

"This freaked me out when I saw it.", she flicked her loose locks over one shoulder as she leaned on one arm against his desk so they'd fall where she wanted them to, and not in Ren's field of vision.

Ren flipped the folder open and was shocked to find a bunch of disturbing photos. Snap shots of a meeting he'd had back in December. They were of him and a very familiar brunette smiling at something he half remembered saying. The top five pictures were of that long ago chat in the park with three of them centering on the large cat Monica had, then the rest were as if someone were stalking her. Pictures of her walking outside her building, going to work, getting in her Explorer, and even going to the store.

"You're in a couple of these pictures, Re-Re, so I figured you'd know who she is. Mom told me we couldn't do anything to contact her, but she's in danger, I can feel it. Well, she was." Anon touched one of the pictures.

Ren shot a look to Anon. "What do you mean `was?!"

Anon stared at his outburst, but all she could do was shyly shrug. "I... I don't know."

Ren stood abruptly, startling Anon. "Why in the hell would your mom tell you not to contact this woman if she was in danger?!" He slapped his hand on the stack of pictures.

Her brown eyes wide with apprehension, she shrunk back, shaking her head in tiny jerks. Her brown hair shimmered in the disturbance, and Ren instantly regretted shouting at her. She wasn't the one to which his questions should be directed.

"Sorry. Come on.", he said, this time in control of his voice. She stepped back quickly as he stormed past her. He grabbed his coat and tossed Anon's to her on the way to the door.

"Where are we going?", Anon asked as she struggled back into her parka, feeling a bit of embarrassment at being rattled so easily.

"Your mother's got some explaining to do." He opened the door and walked out, with Anon close behind and locking up after her.


Chapter 9: Careful Words

Wednesday, May 9

The little girl had her cloaked back to Monica as she stood facing the water, her midnight violet hood still over her head. Monica walked up to the child and placed a hand on her shoulder. The child turned her head towards the tall woman, but didn't look up as most kids do when an adult is beside them.

"I don't know what to do. Please help me."

"It is not for me to decide. It is for you alone..."

"I know. It's just that, well, before I do anything I wondered if you'd like some input."

The child turned her face back to the water. "I will not burden you with my own wishes. I don't have any."

"Yet.", Monica filled in with a hopeful tone. Maybe that would get the little girl to talk to her. "Why don't you just say what I feel. I mean, you are just a part of my psyche. Right, a part of my own subconscious here to supply only cryptic retorts to jumpstart my own decision making processes?

The child turned to face Monica, but still didn't look up. The hood still hid her face even though the setting sun shone directly on her and behind Monica. "Has your mind ever worked that way before? Ask yourself, has your personality ever splintered so that you could have conversations with yourself.

"No."

"Then it is just wishful thinking on your part. That I'm simply a part of you."

Monica sighed. "You're right. I know who you are. I'd never fooled myself." She looked out at the ocean along with the girl with the jetblack hair and no face. Monica bent down and kneeled beside the little girl. "It's so beautiful here."

"I know."

Monica wanted so desperately to see the little girl's face, but instead she said, "Would you mind if I gave you a name?"

The girl didn't answer, instead she turned and ran from Monica. Away from the beach and toward the forest at it's edge.

"Hey!", Monica barely had time to yell before the child disappeared behind a shaggy bush-like tree.


Monica stared at the tree until it dissolved into a flurry of green, then came back into focus. Only this time much smaller. That's when it came to her that she was actually staring at a potted plant in the lobby. The semi-comfortable pleather seats weren't doing anything good for her still aching hip. She put the clipboard she had been filling out down next to her and fidgeted in her chair. She stretched her long legs out in the aisle and took a deep breath, letting it go slowly as she looked down at her shoes. Clenching and unclenching her fists in rapid succession, Monica glanced around the almost empty lobby.

Just last week, she had been hoping she wouldn't have to come here. Last week, she still had a glimmer of hope that she could just put all this behind her and continue to live her life. A life she had worked very hard to get to where it was. It was difficult. Her work was hard, yet she loved it. Hands on with helping people in their time of need no matter how bizarre the time or the need may be.

Three weeks ago, she was relatively care-free in her duties to protect and serve. Even free to deal with her father's sudden death in a way she saw fit. Now, no matter what of that seeming long ago night was erased today, her life would be different. She'd be changed forever.

And with one question, she didn't need to be told. On Sunday evening, when the nurse had asked her the date of her last period, Monica instantly knew.

Monica leaned forward, her elbows heavy on her knees, her head buried in her crossed arms. She tried to shut out the gurgling of the infant in his mother's arms on the other side of the lobby. And the two pregnant women talking a bit too loudly about how intelligent their children will be since their father's were geniuses. It wasn't exactly getting on her nerves, it was just that she didn't feel like hearing this stuff before she was called to the back. She wished she had someone to talk to, hold her hand, be there for her. John had offered, but she had declined thinking it would be the utmost in awkwardness for him to come with her. Not just because he was a man. Dana had been there too, the three of them sitting around when Monica told them where she would be going today. The look on Dana's face reflected the words John spoke. So in a way, she had declined them both.

Dana had William to take care of. It wouldn't be right for Dana to come with her as she did something like this.

Monica noticed that all through her internal recounting of recent days, she couldn't call what she was about to do by name. Not being able to let herself say the word. So she let her mind go, allowing it to sink in and fill her head.

Abortion. The definition of the word didn't encompass the emotion of the true act in its clinical nature.

Death. Strictly the truth, whether if be an actual life with a spirit or just a collection of dividing cells with the potential.

Monica said the two words together in her head, feeling that they were one and the same in her eyes. So why was she here?

"Reyes, Monica?", the nursing attendant called out, his voice as low as possible.

Monica jerked her body upright as if he'd shouted, ignoring the jarring her movement put on her hip. Ignoring the uncomfortable tingles from the various bruises still healing. Almost healed but she could still feel them.

She grabbed the clipboard as she stood and walked towards the man who had summoned her. She nodded her head to him and forced a small smile, which he returned. He received the clipboard from her.

"Sorry I took so long filling it out."

"Think nothing of it.", he assured her.

Think nothing of it. It. She wished she could.

"I'm Nurse Finn. You can call me Huck. Everyone else does." He chuckled light-heartedly as he held the door open for her to walk through and into the back hallway. She stopped, the hallways amber recessed light slightly dimmer than the natural light the lobby's frosted exterior windows let in. Nurse Finn let her take a moment before he stepped around her to lead the way. "This way. We've got the room all ready for you. I just want you to try to relax as best you can, ok?", he turned slightly to see if she was following. She was.

Monica could hear the tone in his voice and didn't mind that he was speaking to her as if she were a lost child. She did feel lost. She just nodded her head. She felt at ease around him, this sort of burly but cute nurse with the gentle voice and curly sandy blonde locks. She wanted to ask how he was able to make this a part of his job, if he had children, what his real first name was. Or if his first name was Finn. But she couldn't open her mouth, it seemed not to be connected to her body anymore and her tongue felt like lead. Plus she was awfully thirsty. That's when she remembered she hadn't had anything to eat or drink for the last 50 hours. Not since the last time her nausea overwhelmed her. She took one round of antibiotics for the bacterial and viral infection, but didn't like that it had instantly put her into a deep sleep she'd had a hard time waking up from. The recognizance of forcing her eyes to open in the dark, her foggy brain not making sense of what should have been the semi-familiar surroundings of John's bedroom, the sound of John bolting up from the couch in the room obviously responding to a sound from her that she couldn't remember making.

Nurse Finn stopped at and opened the door to an examination room. "Here we are." He walked in first then closed the door behind Monica once she was inside. He walked over to a long yellow counter in the room.

Monica, with her arms down to her sides, looked around the room. The walls were painted light beige from the floor to about waist high. A wallpaper border went all the way around the room with little different colored flowers on it. She looked closer and it looked like there were little rust, purple, and yellow angels with gold wings flying amongst the flowers holding what looked like navy blue olive branches. Like they were playfully corralling or sweeping the flowers around them. From the border up, the walls were painted a sky blue.

Monica started to fuss with the hem of the loose white T-shirt she wore. On the walk from the bus stop, she had started to feel hot in the old blue jeans and the lightweight beige fleece jacket she had on. But she didn't take the jacket off, not even when she entered the building. And she still had it on now, the heat staying close to her skin even in the slightly chilly exam room.

She looked over at Nurse Finn as he took the papers off the clipboard and put them into a manilla envelope he had carried in with him. "Dr. Reeves will be in soon. She's really nice and gentle." He glanced up at her and finished writing something down. He noticed that Monica was looking around the room at everything except the paper-covered table in the middle. "It's policy that a nurse accompany a doctor for procedures. But if you don't want me here, I understand."

Monica looked over to him and shook her head slightly. "It's ok."

"Are you sure? We want you to be totally comfortable. We do this on your terms." When she nodded again, he continued. "I'm going to step outside now while you don your gown. I'll give you plenty of time but I'll be right back, ok? Would you like some water, it's no problem?"

"Thank you, that will be fine."

"Ok, I'll be back." He repeated, then quietly left the room.

As if in a daze, Monica reached into the pocket of her jeans and pulled out the necklace. She didn't know why she had grabbed it on her way out. Bringing the brightly colored lace of beads up eye level, she stared at it. On the tiny little gold-plated charm hanging amongst the beads, Cerril's name glittered in the florescent lights. Monica stared at it in her hand.

She wondered what he was doing at that moment. No doubt standing over William's crib in the window sill at Maggie's house. Or in the crib with the baby, sleeping next to him. Dana had asked Maggie to drop by Monica's house that morning after she picked William up so Cerril could go too. So the large kitten wouldn't be alone when Monica left. Maggie was only too happy to oblige, having loved the kitten now turned large adolescent cat. Dana had then called Monica at 7 to say her mother was on the way. Monica had been awake then, but strangely not. Just as she was now, in her skin but not, waiting for the nightmare to end.

She clutched the necklace in both hands and tucked it under her chin as she closed her eyes.


Doggett and Scully sat at the two desks down in the basement office. Scully was finishing up Reyes' paperwork for her. Doggett was trying to concentrate on his own. The operative word was trying. He looked over at Scully as she made notes here and there, wondering how she could be so focused. So diligent.

She, not him, had spoken to Monica that morning. Up until a week ago today, Monica had been staying with him. But she returned to her own apartment not long after receiving the news that something more had resulted from her attack. Monica hadn't called him and he hadn't called her, deciding to give her space. But he knew where she was and what she was doing. But he didn't know what was happening to her. Or if she'd be ok. Then again he knew she would get through this, but she'd never truly be "ok".

He gave up on the paperwork in a huff. A noisy huff that caused Scully to look up at him.

"John?"

"I can't do any of this."

"She said she'd call when she's ready. She didn't want to leave her car there so she took the bus. And she'll be in no shape to drive home anyway. She promised she'd call.", Dana sounded like she was trying to keep something from herself, her words were kind of stilted.

But John didn't question her on it. He just leaned heavily back in the chair and stared up at the ceiling. "How... How long?", he couldn't finish.

"Not long, just... Well, she'll call." Dana was having as much difficulty with her speech as he was. At least he wasn't alone. Not like Monica.

"I should have just showed up there.", John sighed and draped his linked fingers over his eyes, then ran them back over his spiked hair.

Dana couldn't admonish him for his feelings since she felt the same way. But Monica had told them both that she didn't want them there and they respected her wishes.

Just then, the phone rang. John and Dana looked at each other. It rang again and this time, John grabbed it up. "Doggett?"

"It's Skinner. Has she called yet?"

John sighed. "No, not yet." He looked over to Dana and shook his head. She relaxed back into her chair and continued with the paperwork.

"Let me know when she does. And how she's doing.", he added. It wasn't an order. John could hear that he had genuine care for the agent in his charge.

"I will, sir."

Skinner hung up the phone in his office. He got up and walked over to the window, looking down into the street below.

Back in the office, Doggett placed the phone back on the base. "Skinner checking in."

"I see."

Doggett looked at his watch. Her appointment had been at 8:30 that morning. It was almost 11am. John sighed again. His skin itched, and he wanted to get up and move. But he didn't want to get irritated and start pacing, so he stayed in his seat. Drumming his fingers on the desk. He knew Dana had to be irritated of the loud sound, but she didn't say a word.

Just then, the phone rang again. John and Dana shared the look again and just as before, John calmly picked up the phone.

"Doggett?"

"It's Monica."

John held onto the sigh of relief at hearing her voice. "I'll be right there.", he said quickly. Then he waited for her acknowledgement.

"Ok."

She sounded quiet, distant, not herself. But then again, she wasn't herself anymore. Would he ever meet the loving, bubbly Monica Reyes he had always known? "Fifteen minutes, tops.", John promised. He heard what might have been a breath of air, then the dial tone. He took the phone away from his ear and stared at it for a second, then put it back down. He stood up, grabbing the keys to his truck off the desk. "I'm gone."

"Call me later, at home. Whenever, ok?"

John nodded to her. "See you later, Dana.", he looked back at her as he walked through the door, then quickly strode down the hallway to the elevator.

Dana watched him go. When she heard the ding of the elevator and knew he was gone, she dropped the pen on the desk, and pushed the keyboard away from her. She reached for the phone and dialed, then waited.

"Hello?"

"Hi, Mom."

"Hi, Dana! How are you? Is everything ok?"

"Yeah, I think it is. I just wanted to check up on William."

John drove through the city. Scully had given him the directions Monica had given her. He'd driven by that building many times and never thought twice about it. To him, it was just another building. Even now, it was just another building only this time, he didn't want to think twice about it. He just wanted to get Monica and take her home.

He stopped at a red light and glanced around as the pedestrians crossed on the cross-walk. On this Friday midmorning, the first of the workers on their lunch hours filled the streets. Not too crowded, but in a few minutes, the sidewalks would be packed with them. The small knot of people crossed in front of the cars.

John looked off to his left in the direction the people were headed. A tall, dark haired woman made her way against the flow of the crowd, pushing a brightly colored baby carriage in front of her. The small pack of people made a path through themselves for her and he could see her sheepish smiles of thanks as she hurried to cross. Just as she got to the middle, the light changed and she stopped as the traffic proceeded through the intersection where she had just crossed, on the opposite side from John.

The driver in the lane to the left of John looked over at him, and the two men nodded at each other. The huge man with a scruffy black beard, white sleeveless tank, and tattoos wrapping around both bare dark skinned arms that completed his biker look stuck his hand out the window and waved her across. "Go on, honey.", he yelled in a deep voice, gruff but kind.

The cute brunette with an equally cute brunette baby in the carriage waved to them both and started to trot across the rest of the way. One of the cars behind them beeped its horn. Both John and the other driver saw the young mother jump, the sudden horn having startled her, but she kept hurrying across.

The biker-looking guy beside John stuck his head out the window and glared back. With no qualms, he got out of his car and turned around, yelling "Shuuud uaap! The lady's walkin `ere!!!" John started to laugh and he too waited as the guy got back into his vehicle as if he had all the time in the world. He winked to John, revved the engine in his black Charger and drove off. John turned to his right and watched as the young lady got up close to the side of a building and stopped. She stooped in front of the carriage, flicking her long loose curls back from her face as she kissed the baby's cheek. She just happened to look over at him, her bright blue eyes twinkling. She noticed John driving past and shyly waved to him. He nodded to her and drove on. In his rear view mirror, he watched her play a little more with her baby, then pushed him into the doughnut shop she'd stopped in front of.

The whole exchange had diverted his attention from his destination so that he wasn't really thinking about where Monica was. His mind was more focused on what was important. That Monica was ok and was waiting on him. He put his foot down a bit more and made it though a couple of yellow lights with no problem and soon he was there.

He drove around the front of the building, then the side and back around to the small back parking lot. He didn't see Monica standing outside, so he parked and got out. He wondered if she would be in the lobby waiting on him or if he'd have to notify them that he was there to pick her up. For a second, he paused at the clear glass front door, not being able to see into the large frosted glass in the picture window. Pushing aside whatever hesitation that had seized him when he touched the handle, he walked on in.

His eyes immediately found Monica sitting in the waiting room, a big man with blonde curly hair, brown eyes and dressed in a white uniform was beside her. He was saying something to her, and Monica smiled at him and nodded. She then looked down at her hands clasped in her lap. The man, who was facing the door, noticed John looking at them.

John came closer and stopped a few feet from the two.

"Monica, I think your friend is here.", Nurse Finn said in a very low voice.

Monica looked up at him, a tiny smile trying to peek from her lips.

"Hi." John said, his kind blue eyes gazing down into her soft light brown ones.

"Hi.", she responded softly in the quiet and now empty waiting room.

Nurse Finn slipped a gentle hand behind Monica's elbow and brought her with him as he stood. He then held his hand out to John. "I'm Huck. It was a rare slow day here, so I was sitting with Monica till you arrived."

John liked this soft-spoken man. "Thank you very much." He wanted to ask how long they had been sitting there but instead he asked, "Are you ready, Monica?", he asked gingerly as he reached out and ran his fingers down her arm, then withdrew them.

"Yes." She turned to Nurse Finn. "Thank you."

Her smile was still sad. "It was no trouble for me, honest. I was honored." She gave him a slightly less sad smile this time. "Just remember, all good things in their own proper time."

John had no idea what that meant. Monica nodded, then turned to John with an expectant look, then she slowly walked toward the exit. John quickly turned to shake hands with Finn, then followed Monica outside.

The noonday sun made Monica blink after being inside for so long. She breathed in the slightly congested lunch rush air. The few trees lining the sidewalk gave a tinge of freshness to that air, so Monica still inhaled.

"Are you alright?"

"Yes, just enjoying the fresh air.", she stated plainly.

"Oh. Ok.", he said stiffly. "I parked around back."

"Ok, John.", she followed him around the back. He opened the passenger side door for her and waited as she stepped up into the truck. After she was settled, he walked around and got in.

The silence in the car was slightly oppressive. He wanted desperately to ask her how she felt, what she was thinking, did she think she would be ok. But he couldn't, something closed itself to her.

Monica wanted to speak, to discharge the still air in the truck's cab. But she didn't know exactly how to start, what the appropriate words would be, how he would feel about them once she said them. But then she wasn't sure if she should tell him now. Eventually, he would find out along with everyone else.

Monica looked out the window and noticed that they weren't heading toward either of their homes. Her realization made her interest peak. Where were they headed? She didn't feel like meeting anyone, just going home and going to sleep and hoping for the answers to her questions to come to her in the morning.

She turned her head toward John and opened her mouth to speak, but he beat her to it. "Are you hungry? We can pick something up." She didn't say anything. "I mean, if you're up for it. I don't know anything about... Well, this is new to me. Are you tired? I mean, if it's the same as, umm... You know."

She didn't know, actually. He was rambling, trying to prompt her to cut him off with anything, anything she wanted to talk about and she knew he'd be glad for her to be the talker and for him to just sit back and listen. What she had to tell him was burning in her brain and eventually that fire would rage and burn its way out of her body. She could feel her pulse quicken and she looked back out the window as he continued on his random diatribe.

She couldn't hear him, the sound of her heart issued loudly in her ears. She felt faint, the burning materializing behind her eyes and sinuses. She gritted her teeth, holding it in still. She opened her eyes again and saw that they had left the jumble of buildings of the immediate city with its pyres of metal and traffic. Here there was grass, both green and lush and tall and brown heated by the sun. It waved like weedy imitations of wheat fields she used to run through with childhood friends back in Mexico. The children, browner of skin than she herself but with no exclusivity in their hearts, frolicked in her mind still just as she and they had done back in the days when there was no evil, no danger, just endless days of play in the bright sun.

{Aqui` viene un ratoncito
Le cae un agua cerito}

The children in Monica's mind raised their hands, then wiggled their fingers as they brought them down to symbolize the rain.

{Y corrieno, corriendito}

The children ran the hand of one hand up the neighboring child's arm in the circle, making their fingers look like a scurrying creature. All smiles and giggles and laughs.

{Se mete a su agujerito.}

The children suddenly shoved the scurrying hand creature in the armpit of the child beside them in the circle and the entire circle collapsed into a fit of tickle induced giggles and belly laughs. Young Monica rolled so much, she got grass and dirt in her long wavy hair and on the back of her dress. Later that night, after a long hot bath, Monica's mother exclaimed in her smoky and constantly happy voice, "You've come clean, little Princess!"

"I didn't go through with it, John.", Monica suddenly blurted out in the truck's cab.

John had been saying something, something even he couldn't recall. He looked over at her, a look of total shock on his face. He couldn't help that his mouth hung open, but soon he looked back to the road and shut his jaw for the first time in 10 minutes for more than 30 seconds. And on, and on, he drove, still silent.

Monica just looked at him, her anxiety skyrocketing. She thinks she remembered him saying something about her being able to continue her life, pick back up where she left off. That she could now put this incident behind her with no lasting physical burden. And that all she would have to worry about is working things out in her own head.

Or that's sort of what he had said since she hadn't quite been listening during her reverie, though she was sure of the jist. He had been talking like the opposite of what she had done would have been for the best. But now that he knew she'd decided to keep the baby, he had clammed up.

"It's one hell of a way to quit smoking.", she lamely joked. John kept driving. Her face went uncertain again. "I just couldn't.", she went on despite his silence. "She's a part of me already. I won't do that. Not that I ever thought that it could happen this way, but I never was sure if I ever could do that. I was confused, but now I'm not. Not about this." Why wasn't he saying anything? Her breath caught in her throat, the tears starting to painfully prick her eyes as she kept her gaze on him. Waiting. "Please, say something.", she begged of him.

As if in answer, he turned onto the nearest off ramp and took a right at the stop sign. The new road they were on was empty as he drove for another mile. At a seeming unparticular spot, John pulled off on the grassy shoulder, calmly shut off the engine and got out.

Monica, not knowing where they were, didn't know what to think as he walked around in front of the truck. He kept on going until he was standing a good ways away in the field, the tall brown grass brushing up just under his knees. John stopped and balanced his weight over his right leg, his hands on his hips as he stared at the ground.

Inside the cab, Monica drug harried hands over her eyes and across her forehead. She made the decision to follow him out of the car. Opening the door, the heat of the sun should have made her hot in the fleece jacket she still hadn't shed. But the cool wind, that made the end of the loose ponytail she had put in her hair that morning tap feathery slaps across the back of her neck, did the opposite. Just a few wisps escaped and threatened to stick to her clammy face. She shivered with chills and stuck her hands under her jacket. She just wished John would come back and get in. She wished she were back home right now, curled in bed and snuggled up to Cerril and the giant brown bear John had gotten her for Christmas. She fished Cerril's necklace out of her pocket again, gripping it so hard the little beads dug into her palm. She started toward John.

He heard her approach, but didn't turn around.

"John, speak to me.", she commanded, an ounce of authority stretching out into her alto voice. He still didn't move. "This my decision. I don't care how she... I will not do that. She deserves a chance.", her words were forceful, a direct counterpoint to the way she was feeling right now. She felt ill, but her convictions were strong. Cerril's first necklace, too small to fit his neck, Monica slipped onto her wrist in exasperation.

"Damnit, John, you're my friend...", she started to yell, but gasped as he lunged at her. For a second, she forgot who he was and tried to retreat his sudden movement, but he was too fast for her. John pulled her into him firmly, but gently. His arms encompassing her to the point of a suffocating feeling. But it dissipated quickly for her and she could hear and feel his sobs as they shook them both.

Her automatic new-found-instinct driven retaliation to him practically throwing himself at her was to push against his shoulders, but now she relaxed. Remembering that this was John, her best friend whom she loved and who loved her, her hands glided along the thin cotton shirt covering his back. Wrapping her long arms around his head, she felt that her feet were no longer touching the ground.

"It's going to be ok.", she coughed out past her own sobs and his. Her hands smoothed the back of his head as she felt her shoulder become wet with his tears where his face was buried under her jacket, as close to her skin as he could get.

John couldn't control where the sobs broke through his next words as he began to speak, yet he carried on with his loving praise. "You wouldn't have been the person I knew. If you had done it. You wouldn't be the woman I love, my best friend. You wouldn't be the woman who said she would devote her life so that there would be no more dead children." John's words were rushed and to anyone else, they would sound strange and bizarre, but she knew his meaning. She remembered her oath as they stood on Luke's grave so long ago, that she wouldn't allow children to be denied their existence at anyone's hands. "No more dead children, Monica.", he echoed his past words in tearful recompense to her assurance of him and the sacrifice to her future.

His entreaty was her undoing, along with the pressure of his lips against her neck and the side of her face. The tears she'd suppressed fell heatedly, warming her flushed cheeks in the hot sun. She was like a rag doll in his arms, limp and trusting. She tilted her head back and closed her eyes, the spring sun producing dazzling colors behind her eyelids.


Chapter 10: The Lost

Dana Scully's Apartment
May 11, 2002

Monica walked down the hallway in Dana's apartment. Nothing made sense to her. The last couple of days were a blur. When they'd found the mysterious man with the grotesquely injured face, there were questions to be answered about him. With the introduction of a new case, Monica's mind was constantly elsewhere. It left her able to be her extroverted self, to not worry about the pain and turmoil her own life had become.

From the first moment that Scully started her examination of the man; which Doggett and Scully had strictly urged her not to attended since they didn't know if a contagion had done this to him, the confusion started to build. Through his actions concerning William, Scully had figured the unknown man out. That this was Jeffrey Spender and William's own uncle who had manipulated them all to get to his nephew. With having injected the baby with a form of what he referred to as magnetite, it became evident that his modus operandi had been to rid the coming invasion of their leader and to spite his own father's life work.

Yet even then, as Monica watched Dana crying over her miracle child in his crib, this agenda involving a child of agenda wouldn't help the boy in the long run. He'd still be perceived as a control, a constant in the whole scheme of the aliens' "homecoming".

Stopping outside the door to William's room, Monica's soft voice traveled inside. "Dana? The room's all fresh for you. I threw out all the old bedding and bought some brand-new stuff, okay?"

"Thank you." Dana's voice was as quiet as Monica's, but much more forlorn.

"I know it's impossible to stop thinking about what he said about William, but it's all lies, Dana. And you were the one who proved it." Monica tried to sound convincing, but she wasn't so sure herself.

"And how should I prove it now? By insisting that I can protect him.", Dana's voice changed pitch slightly. "Only to learn too late that I can't?" She had come to her own decision, and now she had completely convinced herself it was the best.

It dawned on Monica that Dana's demeanor seemed rather curious. "You say it as if you have a choice."

"He didn't have a choice to come into this life.", Dana sounded hopeful, yet still sad. "I don't have a choice about what he is or was, but I do have a choice about the life my son will have." She turned back to look down at her son looking up at her. She felt the tears and wondered just how long she'd been holding them in. "And shouldn't I choose that he never have to be afraid of anyone or anything? And can I ever really even promise him that?"

"But who can?" Monica asked, not meaning to make her friend cry. At least she felt that way.

But Dana's sobs were a long time coming. The mobile of stars drew her hand to them, just as William felt the urge to reach for the stars. "You can't."

Monica walked towards Dana, who looked at her. Monica's heart broke. "I'm sorry."

"No, you can't be. You can't ever be sorry. You made a choice, and it's a beautiful one.", Dana managed to say. "I can't put you and your baby in danger to protect my own.", she gasped out.

But was this the answer? Send the child away where he wouldn't be known. Where William wasn't a child of prophecy. Where he wasn't hunted because of his family ties, perceived or true. Where he would no longer be William Barrett Scully.

When Monica thought of it like that, there was suddenly some sense to this chaos.

"Dana, a life is by its nature full of hardships and hurt.", she said as Dana continued to sob quietly. Monica stroked her friend's back. "If this is one of those times that you have to go through to make William's life not so dangerous, then that's a burden you should take.

Dana let out a cough-like sob, as Monica continued.

"I always wonder what my own mother's reasons were. I'd like to think that there was a potential for pain in my life that my birth mother wanted to spare me from, so she made a better life for me. My life with my parents was the most loving and wonderful a child could ever know. Dana?"

The red head turned her face back up to Monica's, her sobs stopped as fresh tears cascaded down.

"I love my mother for giving me the life I had. William will love you for this too."

Dana pulled Monica into an embrace.


Southeast District of Columbia
D.C. Jail
May 25, 2002

Skinner walked down the hall, his purposeful strides pounding the tiled floors. He wanted to be here. He had set this meeting up, having an acquaintance with the director of the correctional institute. The man had been stunned when he heard what Skinner had proposed to him. Shocked and awed at what he had agreed to do. But it was that surprise along with the resounding respect for the woman Skinner had told him about that made him accede, with one stipulation. He wanted to be there to see it.

Up the hallway, Skinner could see four figures approach. Scully, dressed in a light gray suit with a cream colored oval neck shirt and thick high heels that he could hear clicking the tiles even from where he was. Doggett in a suit and dress shirt, but without a tie. A prison guard in uniform followed behind the lot.

But the one that got his attention the most was Reyes walking stoically between Scully and Doggett and in front of the guard. Her normally straight hair she'd allowed to dry naturally, the layered waves framing her face. The starched white button up blouse made to look like a man's dress shirt. It set off the navy blue long sleeve jumper quite well with an overlapping collar and lettuce leaf cuffs peeking from the sleeves. The stark color contrast made her look much better to Skinner than she did when he saw her in the hospital last month, though he knew she was still a bit ill.

He was sure that she looked ready to take on the world. But it wasn't the world she'd asked to take on.

Skinner stopped in front of a door that had the number 6 painted on it and waited for the group to approach.

"He's in here.", Skinner looked to Reyes. He watched as Doggett looked over studying his partner's profile. Scully watched them both, then looked back to her boss. He could see that she was looking well, despite what he thought and was true. Of course, Scully was an expert at covering her own feelings, even with something like giving up a child.

But he believed that the two women helped each other in these times or they wouldn't be here, both stronger than the men around them.

Reyes nodded to him and Skinner opened the door for the three other people.

Monica looked in. Her eyes first met the guard standing just inside the door as he looked at her. The next person she saw was the man she'd met before she left for Mexico in early April. She'd intentionally not wanted to see any information on the man who'd hurt her. Her mind had been formulating a meeting such as this, and she didn't want her outlook influenced by anything other than a personal bias against him. As for his associate, she studied him extensively, including his autopsy report.

But for the dark haired man sitting at the metal table in the room, she knew nothing except the essentials. His name, the report of his physical performed by the prison doctor, and what was in her own memory.

"Well, well. We meet again.", the dark haired man spoke, his voice oozed with sickening charm. Monica could feel a definitely horrible vibration coming from him.

Monica walked the rest of the way in the room and sat across from Dante, never taking her eyes off of him. "Yes. But I don't know you.", she said in an even voice. She heard Dana, John, and Skinner enter the room behind her and the guard shut the door.

Dante didn't speak as he watched them take up places at the back of the room behind Monica, his eyes lingering on Scully for a bit too long until he looked back at Monica's intent gaze. "Oh yeah, but I know you real well. Inside and out.", he said smugly.

John took a step forward, but both Skinner and Scully reached out to stop him on either side. Monica heard the slight sound the subtle movements made, but didn't turn around.

"I know you're just saying that to intimidate me. It's not working."

"I think it's working on him." Dante nodded his head toward John. "Your boyfriend?"

Monica didn't answer.

"Mad that I had your girl?", he directed to John, their ice blue eyes meeting. Dante sat back in the metal chair, the chains clanking dully under the table.

"I bet you're pretty proud of yourself.", Monica stated. Dante looked at her with a sideways grin on his smooth face. "Except for one thing."

"Oh, and what is that?", Dante countered.

"You didn't have me." Dante blinked and Monica went on. "If you had, I'd be dead right now. Couldn't finish, could you, Dante?", Monica said, a smirk in her voice but not on her face. "And I wasn't the only one either. All those women you and your associate tortured and strangled, but you weren't perfect. Two of us got away, so you failed."

The smile vanished from the dark haired man's face. "You fucking whore, you asked for it!", Dante sat forward quickly as his voice became a forced whisper through his clenched teeth. "All they did was tell me you'd want me but you initiated the whole thing. You told me you loved me."

"Who told you about me?", Monica interrupted, but Dante kept on his rant.

"I couldn't believe some of the things you were saying, just like I can't believe the nasty red-head over there." Monica could have sworn she heard Dana's jaw drop open and her shocked anger was palpable.

Skinner looked over to his two agent, then back at the prisoner. If John were thinking the same thing he were, then this Dante aught to thank God there were guards in the room.

"Dr. Fisk said to take care of you, and bring that damn beast you call a pet to him. But you side tracked me with your feminine wiles and, well, there's just some stuff I couldn't bring myself to do."

"Dr. Fisk?", Monica asked, her mind able to focus on part of her task. She could hear Skinner write the name down on a piece of paper.

"Although I did oblige you some of your wishes. You bewitched my mind. Even now, with you sitting there looking the way you do, I see myself giving in to you." Dante sat back from leaning over the table like before, but his voice was still a mix of smarminess and indignation. Then his demeanor changed over to one of reminiscence. "You tasted so good. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and I can still smell you, feel you around me. You were so tight."

Monica literally bit her tongue. As tears burned behind her eyes, she couldn't tell if his words or the sudden pain of her teeth had caused them. There was more movement behind her. Her eyes lowered to the table for a second until she saw the sand of the beach and a flash of dark purple against the clear blue waves.

She smiled and turned to John behind her, holding out her hand over the back of the chair in which she sat. John instinctively knew she wanted the object wrapped in a white handkerchief that she'd asked him to carry in his jacket pocket. He didn't know what it was and she didn't say. He only knew that it was ice cold and a plastic bag was under the white cloth.

The guard watched the exchange with a curious expression on his face.

From inside the next room watching through one-way glass, the prison director blanched. His normally fair face became so pale, right up into his receding hairline. His heart went out to the beautiful FBI agent and her obviously close friends and co-workers. He wondered how she could take all of this. He had just decided that he'd put a stop to it now that they had gotten that little bit of information that they needed, that Reyes had been a target as well as her unique pet, when he just happened to look back and see her partner hand her something.

Monica put the wrapped object on the table in front of her, then put her hands back to her lap as she looked up at Dante."I don't care about you or your psychotic nature. You mean nothing to me. I just want you to know that I'm still here. I'm alive and you didn't destroy who I am. You, on the other hand, lost yourself and only gained my pity. And one other thing." Monica paused, one tear escaping and racing down her cheek. "I gained something too. I'm pregnant."

Dante sucked his front teeth, as if mulling this fact over in his mind, then gave a haughty snort. "It's not mine.", he said in harsh insinuation.

"You piece of..." John lunged, not being able to take one more word of this man's degradation of Monica, but Skinner and the guard caught him.

"Ok, I think you should leave.", the guard firmly suggested.

Monica watched with a sad expression as reluctantly Skinner and the guard escort John from the room, his heated glare never wavering as he was led out until the door closed. Monica turned to Dana, who was biting her thumbnail, the two women sharing a look. They were alone in the room with the prisoner.

Monica stood up, leaning on her hands as she placed them on the table. "You're right. She is not yours.", she pointedly emphasized the feminine pronoun. "She will never be yours. You're a sorry excuse for a man. Your own mother should have done what your hideous affront to my person almost made me do to my own baby." For a second, Monica felt sorry for saying such a thing. Her overwhelming love wouldn't allow her to truly feel that way, but the wide-eyed look on Dante's face gave her a weird sort of satisfaction.

"But I know that it's not her fault, it's yours. You don't deserve even the most basic of human decency. You deserve to rot in here amongst the rest of the scum like yourself.", her voice an intense whisper. "But you need to know that MY baby will be the only good thing, the BEST thing you will ever contribute to in your entire despicable life."

Monica turned as if to walk out, and Dana moved closer to follow close behind, but the taller woman stopped. As Dana watched, Monica reached down to the table and unwrapped the little plastic bag. She quickly slid the bag across the table and it fell into Dante's lap.

"By the way, Cerril sends his greetings."

Dante looked down, saw what was in the bag, and gasped.


Out in the hallway, Skinner, who had been trying to calm Doggett down, heard the screaming. The guard shoved the door open, with Skinner and Doggett on his heels. They all stopped in their tracks behind Reyes and Scully, who were watching as Dante screamed his head off and yanked at the chains connected to the chair. Like he was trying to get away from something.

Skinner, Doggett, and the guard all craned their necks to see around Scully and Reyes and were all shocked to see a severed finger in a bag of dry ice.

Just then, the director and another guard came in behind them. "Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen.", he yelled over the screaming prisoner. When all five present, who were not hollering for their mother, turned to look at him, the director gestured them all out into the hallway.

The four FBI agents filed out into the hall. The director closed the door once they were outside and turned to them, his mouth twisted as if her were biting the wall of his mouth. "I'm going to have to call an end to this meeting now. I hope you agree?", he said in an almost nonchalant tone, as if there wasn't chaos as the two guards tried to subdue a maniacal Dante behind the closed door.

The four nodded as one, and Monica held out her hand. The prison director took it in both of his hands, his stern face going soft.

"Thank you.", Monica said sincerely.

"It was a pleasure to meet you, Agent Reyes. You take care." He broke off the hand shake and briefly shook the hands of the rest of the group before him. "Have a nice day."

The group started to walk toward the exit, where another guard was waiting to let them out. As the director watched them leave, he noticed that the screaming had stopped. He looked through the small metal reinforced pane of glass. The dark haired prisoner was in a corner, having been freed from the chair, sitting with his shackled legs and feet pulled up to his chest. He was rocking over his bandaged hand, staring catatonically at the bag still on the floor. The guards just watched him, then looked up as the director opened the door and stepped just inside.

The prison director, a nice man by nature and by no means evil, couldn't help the slight smile on his face. He really liked it when people received their comeuppance.


Monica was the first to reach the outside. Jimmy, Yves, and Ren were waiting, with the two men leaning against their respective cars and Yves standing beside Jimmy.

Monica walked up, followed by the others accompanying her. When the group of four met the waiting group of three, there was a small sympathetic silence.

"How did it go?", Ren cautiously asked.

"Better than expected." John answered, still a confused look on his face.

As was the expression on Skinner's face. "I'd say so, too. Agent Doggett doesn't have bloody knuckles."

"Are you alright, Agent Reyes?" Yves stepped forward and placed her hand on Monica's arm.

Monica blink slowly, then looked off in the distance. "I'm getting there.", she smiled to Yves. Then back at Dana, John, and her boss.

"Cerril came to pick you up, Miss Monica." Jimmy pointed to Monica's SUV parked three vehicles down from where they stood, with the engine running.

"Thank you for getting him.", she said to the child-like blonde. Then she announced to the group, "Thank you all for being here. I really needed the support.", she paused and looked over to Cerril's face staring out of the passenger side window. He put his paws on the door and stood up, as if trying to make his large body more noticeable. "I think Cerril and I are going to take a ride."

"You want some company, Monica?", Dana asked.

"No, that's ok. We won't go far." On that note, Monica turned and walked to her vehicle. She said hello to Cerril as she got in, waved after she pulled out of the parking space, and drove away.


Chapter 11: Final Scene

December 31, 2002
2 miles north of Mont-Laurier, Quebec
11:40pm

Monica sat on her knees, hunched over. Her hands covered her face and her wavy/curly hair fell down in a chocolate curtain. The lights from the Christmas tree towering beside her in the room glittered and reflected off the gold band on her left hand. She was still for a while, until she suddenly snatched her hand away from her face.

"Peek-a-boo!", she exclaimed and was rewarded by a gurgling burst of infant laughter. Monica laughed too, lowering her face down to kiss a tanned skin cheek. She smoothed the baby's jet-black curls. "Where did mommy go?", Monica gushed. "Where did she go? Well she's back. Yes!"

The many presents under the tree were just empty boxes set for decoration, their contents already having been removed carefully by Monica just for that purpose. She picked up a smaller box with brightly colored wrapping paper and twirled it over her head so the baby could see. The infant's startling violet irises danced as she followed the object.

"Look, Reina!", Monica still said in a high voice. "We've still got one present left. I wonder what it is."

Little Reina kicked her feet in her footed pajamas and smiled a cute toothless smile. She cooed loudly and her arms waved about. Cerril stuck his head into the living room, then trotted over to the baby on the floor. Reina looked up at the huge cat who looked down at her.

"Hello, Cerril." Cerril lowered his large head down and ever so gently rubbed his nose on her cheek. The infant crossed her eyes trying to track the large nose until it got too close. Just the tip touched her and she giggled. Monica laughed and stroked Cerril's neck as he purred then laid down next to little Reina, the cat's large gray body dwarfing the baby's. Her hands waved and snatched reflexively in Cerril's coat, but the cat didn't flinch one bit. Monica reached out and relieved Cerril of the burden he didn't mind bearing at all. Reina's mom held her hand away from the cat's coat. "Reina said she's sorry." Reina made a sound as if she agreed.

John walked into the room in his own pajamas: reindeer boxers and an oversized fleece shirt that also was decked with reindeer. "Hey, I told you not to open that until New Year's Day.", he joked as he strode across the room towards them, kneeling beside Monica on the opposite side as Cerril's long tail.

"Close enough.", Monica said as she tore into the box. She gasped. "Oh John!", she said lowly. "They're beautiful!" She lifted the first of the anklets out of the box. It was a baby sized one with tiny golden kittens every other link. Monica set the box aside and undid Reina's pale blue jumper so she could put it on. As soon as she was finished and had re-buttoned the baby's jumper, she turned to John and handed him the box. Pulling her right leg out from under her, she placed her foot in John's lap. "Can you do the honors?"

"I'd be delighted to perform that duty, milady."

Monica smiled as his hands kneaded her calf then down to her ankle before he placed the matching ankle bracelet on her leg. When he was finished, she sat up and straddled his lap wrapping her arms around him, the belt on her white terry robe loosening.

He nuzzled her neck with his nose as Cerril and Reina watched calmly.

"It's not going to be tonight?", John asked simply as he kissed her behind her ear.

"Reina's only 5 weeks old, John. And even then...", Monica looked down and pulled away slightly.

John shook his head and gave her a peck on her cheek. "Monica, no honey, don't do that." She looked back up at him. "I didn't marry you for that, you know. I love you."

"I know. I love you too. I just wish things were different."

"They will be, don't worry. Things won't be in your head." He hugged her to him again, rocking back and forth.

She ran her hands up the back of his short hair and closed her eyes. "Doesn't mean we can't fool around."

John stopped rocking and looked at her. She still had her eyes closed, but a coy expression was on her face. He chastely kissed her lips and she opened her eyes. The grandfather clock started its chiming of the midnight hour as their lips met with more pressure, but still only slightly parted. She pulled away and leaned far to the side, John holding her waist in his arms. Before the clock stopped its slow musical dings, she kissed Reina on her rose petal lips, and even kissed Cerril's up turned nose.

"We're going to be together forever.", she said as she sat back up to face her husband.

"Absolutely."

They smiled at each other in the light of the fire and the twinkling lights of the tree.

THE END


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