Loup Garou II - the Beginning
Author: Lycanthrophile (lycanthrophile@imadethis.org)
Fandom: Original Characters, The X-Files
Spoilers: Season 3
Disclaimer: Fox Mulder and Alex Krycek are the property of TenThirteen Productions. No copyright infringement intended. I'm just playing with them. Jessica Leash, Jake Farnsworth, and Robert and Michelle Preston are copyrighted to me. Mystery the Cat is a loving composite of all the wonderful kitties I've ever known.
Rating: NC17 for male/female sex, language, and violence
Summary: A young woman buys an unusual piece of jewelry that changes her life forever.
Word Count: 11,493
Notes: The first section of this story is lifted directly from Loup Garou IV - Life Mates.
Archive: Please inform me

Jess and Krycek laid in bed together, asleep in each others arms. Swept away by their emotions, they had pleasured each other until they were both too exhausted to move.

Krycek woke up first. One eye slid open to take in the setting sun.

Then the second one opened so he could focus on the beautiful woman in his arms. [As screwed up as my life is, how did I manage to end up with someone so wonderful?] He tenderly brushed her bangs back from her eyes.

Jess stirred lightly from his caress. Her eyes blinked open to see Krycek smiling at her. She reached up to stroke his cheek with the back of her fingers.

Neither of them wanted to break the spell they were under. Afraid to speak, Jess settled for actions to express herself. She pulled his head to hers and kissed him passionately.

Krycek sighed and rolled onto his back. He pulled her on top of him. Grinning, he grabbed a condom and raised his eyebrows.

Jess grinned and let her hands and lips start to roam. Krycek also explored her tenderly. Aside from the occasional gasp as an extremely sensitive spot was probed, the love they made was silent and tender, each trying to express their feelings through the physical act.

Jess and Krycek collapsed back into the bed, sated for the moment. Jess felt content, secure in the knowledge of Krycek's love. But she still felt something needed to be explained. "Do you still want to know how it happened?"

Krycek nodded. He settled deeper into the pillows, keeping an arm around her shoulders.

Jess nestled down beside Krycek. She put her head onto his chest. She quietly began to speak.

I'm still not quite sure why I went into that second hand shop. I was just coming out of my bank and noticed the new store "Now and Forever Changed." Now normally I don't go to this type of store. If anything, I'll go to a second hand bookstore. Otherwise, I avoid those places like the plague.

Dimly lit, it almost looked like an antique store. Only instead of old elegant pieces of furniture, there were mostly old bean bags, lava lamps, and scarred teak furniture. Clothes from the last four eras lined the walls. In one corner, by a register that looked older than I was, were a few shelves of ratty Harlequin novels, old college texts, outdated National Geographics and a glass case. I wandered over to the books, thinking [You never know what you might find]. I was right, but not the way I expected.

I happened to glance into the case as I passed by, and stopped short. There, amid the cheap beaded necklaces was a ring. It was a wolf's head. The garnet eyes glared me out of the silver head, mouth wide open to expose long fangs.

"Do you see anything that interests you?" a crackly voice asked behind me. I whirled around to see an old lady, with a case of osteoporosis that made my back hurt just looking at her, standing behind me.

"Sorry," I sputtered, "I didn't hear you. And I am interested in that wolf ring."

"Ah, yes, that ring," she said. Pulling it out, the wolf seemed to wink at me. "It's funny," the old lady said. "I mark all the incoming items, and I don't remember marking this one. Must be getting absent minded in my old age..."

"It happens to the best of us," I joked. "How much?"

"Ten dollars."

"I'll take it." Why I said that I'm not really sure. I usually wear gold, and don't wear that many rings. But, I found myself outside, ten bucks poorer, and with an unusual ring. I pulled it out of the recycled plastic bag to get a better look at it in the sunlight. The garnet eyes glimmered in the light. The fangs appeared to have been enameled in white. What appeared as a snarl in the store now looked like a smile. Looking at the inside band, I noticed some some scratches. I squinted made out the words - Loup Garou.

I arrived at home, and began my daily ritual of banishing the ghost of my ex-boyfriend Jake Farnsworth. It still hurt that he had left me. Not that he was a great guy, in fact he was a jerk. During that last fight, I had threatened to leave him. He then slapped me hard and... did other things to me. Afterwards he burst out laughing. He told me that I wouldn't survive five minutes without him, that I'd come crawling to him, begging him to take me back. He left.

Permanently, I hoped.

As I entered my ground floor apartment, I heard a familiar meow. "Hello, Mystery," I cooed. "How did you get out of the bedroom this time?" The scared little black and white kitten I found crouching on my doorstep a year ago had grown into a self-assured cat.

Mystery rubbed against my legs as I pick up the mail off the floor. Bills, bills, and more bills. I was still getting the occasional letter for Jake, but fortunately none this time. I flopped down on my couch, pull Mystery on my lap, and clicked on the T.V. I pulled out the ring and gave it the once over again. Mystery looked at the ring and sniffed at its nose. She jerked back like she had been shocked, and raced off into the bedroom. "Psycho cat," I muttered to myself.

The words loup garou sounded vaguely familiar. I thought it was from some Arthurian legend. I decided to call Robert. Growing up next door to each other, we were best friends, almost brother and sister. He had a passion for myths and tragedy and had studied Celtic mythology at Oxford. I figured he could identify what the ring was. All I got was his answering machine, so I left a message and a description of the ring and asked him to call back.

All this time, I had a strong desire to slip on the ring. I had told myself I had bought it as a curiosity, something to give Robert, but now I wasn't so sure. The garnet eyes stared at me, practically ordering me to put it on. I slid it on slowly. As I put it in place, I felt a jolt of pain, yet it was erotically pleasant. I could feel shivers running throughout my body. I was sweating, but felt ice cold.

As soon as I regained control of myself, I tore the ring off my finger. Cautiously, I tried it on again. I felt nothing, no feelings of pain, pleasure, or anything, just the weight of the ring on my hand. [You've got one hell of an imagination, girl] I scolded myself. I rationalized that the previous experience was static discharge from the carpet.

I went into my bedroom and put the ring on my dresser. Mystery scooted out from under the bed, glaring at me. I got ready for bed, laid down, and coaxed Mystery up beside me. Normally she would be glued to my side, but tonight it took her a little convincing to get up on the bed. As I drifted off, my body still reacting to the sensations unleashed by the ring, I wondered what I could do to feel that way again.

I didn't hear from Robert until late the next day. I went on to work, my going nowhere cashier job, and then to school. It was my fifth year on a two year technical degree. Considering the mistakes I had made, it was a major miracle I still had my job and was in school. After putting up with rude customers, due projects, and bad parking at school, I was more than ready to go home and crash and burn.

There was a message from Robert waiting on the machine. It's a secondhand from a garage sale, and actually records every third word. "...Jess... ...ring... ...not Celtic... ...friend... ...to see... ...call me. Bye."

I punched in Robert's phone number. "Hello?" came a male voice.

[Great! I actually got him on the first try.] "Hi Robert, it's Jess. Just got home."

"Hey, Jess! How's it going?"

"The usual. What do you know about the ring I got?"

"Well, from your description, it isn't Celtic. More likely French. Not my area of expertise. I did mention it to a friend, and he'd like to take a look at it."

"You're not trying to set me up, are you Robert?" He had tried to hook me up with a few of his friends after Jake left. I felt too wounded to try again so soon.

"No, honest. But he is single if you're interested."

"You never give up, do you?" I laughed. "I'll stop by in a hour with it. If you're friend's there, fine. But don't expect anything."

"Okay, see you soon." I hung up the phone.

Mystery sauntered out of my bedroom. She stood aloof, deciding not to acknowledge my presence. "Would the Queen of the Universe like some dinner?" I moved into the kitchenette. "Let's see, beef in aspic, white ocean tuna, or roast turkey with gravy," I said reading the cat food cans. "Sometimes, Mystery my girl, I think you eat better than I do." I dumped the tuna flavored mush into her dish. Mystery stepped to it, and daintily started nibbling at the pile. I gave her a pat and got ready to go out again.

I pulled up to Robert's home in the middle of suburbia. It was the typical middle class home, just lacking the two point five kids playing with the dog in the yard. However, since his wife Michelle had set her sights on climbing the corporate ladder, it didn't look like that scenario would play out anytime soon.

As I entered the yard, the Rottweiler move as close to me as his leash would allow. He barked a greeting to me. "Hey Rexy, how's it going?" Rex responded by lunging and growling. That was the usual. Rex would usually greet someone, and then not allow anyone outside of Robert or Michelle and touch him.

I pushed past him and knocked on the door. Robert opened it. "Hi, Jess. You're a little early."

"Made good time. Is Michelle here or at a power dinner?"

"Late meeting at work. It'll be you, me, and Mulder."

"Mulder? His name is *Mulder*?" [God, what *were* his parent's smoking!]

"That's his last name. Doesn't like to go by his first." There was a knock at the door. Robert gave me a martyred look. "Please, Jess, *try* not to embarrass me too much." I stuck out my tongue at him as he opened the door.

That's when I first met Fox Mulder. He was a handsome man with a full lower lip that just begged to be kissed. I was suddenly conscious of my old t-shirt and jeans, my short stature, my pale skin and dark hair. Not for the first time, I wished I was a six foot blonde with a perfect body.

[Here's a guy that I could never end up with.] So I didn't go out of my way to flirt. I was my usual smart mouthed self. [I don't need a relationship now.] And I did my damnedest not to allow it to happen. So, begging off, I gave Mulder the ring and got the hell out of there.

"Jessica, can I see you in the office before you clock in?"

I didn't like the sound of that. Usually Mr. Hawworth would talk to you after you were punched in. If he wanted to talk to me before, it wouldn't be good.

I was right. "I'm sorry Jessica, but I'm going to have to let you go. Effective immediately."

I was surprised, but not extremely so. "Why?"

"Cutbacks. The corporate office thinks that we could run the store with five less cashiers."

"Dammit, I worked here for three years and I'm being dismissed because some CEO wants to raise his salary at my expense?"

"I'm sorry Jessica, but my hands are tied. You'll get unemployment, of course, but that's the best we can do."

Two weeks later I met Michelle for lunch. "So how's life going?" Michelle asked.

"Unemployment ain't what it's cracked up to be," I snorted. "I've applied for three cashier jobs and they all tell me I'm 'overqualified.'

"In other words, you want too much money."

"Exactly. Why pay for someone who actually knows what she's doing when you can get a kid in high school who's willing to take minimum wage." I shook my head. "I'm squeaking by on my savings and unemployment."

Michelle asked the thing I hadn't wanted to hear. "Why don't you ask your parents for help?"

I sighed. "Things haven't been great between us since I got involved with Jake. When he left me, I got an I-told-you-so speech from Dad, a disgrace-of-the-family, Rachel-would-have-never-done-such-a-thing speech from Mom. I would constantly be compared to my dead sister. I just can't go back to that situation again. If I went back home, I would never hear the end of it."

Michelle looked at me with an arched eyebrow. "Is there ever anything *good* going on in your life?"

"Once in a while, things do go right for me, believe it or not. Just nothing recently."

"Not even Mulder?"

"So you and Robert were trying to set me up." I grinned at her. "And no, I never heard from him about my ring."

"Well hang in there. Something's bound to happen sooner or later."

The dream's started a few nights later.

I was running on all fours. [All fours?!?!?] I was eating up the ground effortlessly with giant strides. I glided like a shadow through the back streets and alleyways. I was hungry. I was hunting.

I pause when I see a human lurking in the shadow of a building. He was watching the street, gripping a switchblade. A junkie. He was waiting for a hapless victim who would supply him with the money for his next hit. He was a predator, taking what he desired without guilt for the sake of an artificial high.

Little did he know that predator had become prey.

I dropped into a stalking posture and inched closer. Saliva dripped from my bared fangs. I barely suppressed a growl, not wanting to betray my presence... yet.

I heard footsteps approaching, the sound of someone jogging. Junkie and I tensed, ready to spring.

Everything happened fast, to the humans. The images were perfectly distinct to me. A young blond woman jogged by. Junkie was behind her, grabbing her and putting the knife to her throat. His demand for money was drowned out by my howl.

The howl of a hunter who has cornered her prey.

They both turned to look at me as I sprang for his throat. Junkie met my eyes for a split second. In that fleeting moment, I read the horror in his eyes. No withdrawal induced hallucination compared with *this* terror.

I heard two screams, one male, one female. I shoved Blondie out of the way, intent on my victim. Junkie had wet himself. He was sobbing, begging for his life. Ignoring his pleas for mercy, I tore out his throat. As Blondie ran screaming into the night, I let out a howl of triumph.

Now that the killing had been accomplished, I felt no desire to feed. The act of killing had been what I needed. The dream started to fade as I turned and slipped back into the night.

The alarm went off at 6:30 AM. I woke up feeling more exhausted than when I went to sleep. I rolled out of bed and stumbled to the kitchenette. Mystery almost tripped me as she twined herself against my legs. I made some coffee and plopped down on the couch and turned on the TV. Mystery jumped into my lap. I stroked her absentmindedly as I half listened to the TV.

The news was talking about a young man killed last night, apparently by a mad dog. I looked up when they flashed a picture of the victim.

My mouth dropped open.

It was the junkie from my dream.

I felt nauseous. What was going on? Was I connected somehow to the killings? I hadn't heard when the attack occurred. [Maybe I half-heard it last night, and dreamed about it.] I crawled back into bed and managed to shut out the world and the questions in my mind.

I woke up again around 5 PM. Mystery was curled up beside me. I got out of bed, disgusted that I had slept so late when I should have been looking for a job.

There was a message on the answering machine. [Musta slept through the phone ringing.] I hit the playback button.

"...Mulder... ...information about... ...talk... ...call...." I was surprised to hear his voice. I had figured that I was getting the big kiss off. Fortunately, the machine decided to record long enough to get the phone number. I dialed it.


"Hi, this is Jess Leahs. You called me earlier."

"Hello Jess. I found some information about your wolf ring. Care to meet somewhere to discuss it?"

"Actually, I'm not much of a social butterfly today. Feel more like a social moth. Would you mind coming here instead? Say in about an hour?"

"Okay. I'm just leaving the office now." I gave him my address and hung up.

I showered and got dressed. Mystery insisted on helping by shedding on whatever I laid on the bed. There was a knock at the door just as I finished after about forty five minutes. "You're early. Be there in a moment," I yelled. Mystery didn't take to strangers too easily, especially men. She got jealous easily and tried to 'defend her territory,' by scratching and biting, so I left her in the bedroom.

I opened the door. There stood Jake.

"What the hell are you doing here," I whispered. I was too shocked to slam the door in his face.

"Baby, I'm sorry about everything. I've come here to... ."

"Don't say it. I'm not interested. You made your feelings for me clear when you left." I moved to slam the door.

Jake pushed the closing door open and shoved me back into the room.

"Listen to me, baby, I want us back together. And you know I *always* get what I want." He reached for me and I backed away.

Part of me was cowering in terror. [Control, maintain control.] I also could feel something trying to take over myself. The urge to let loose and attack was growing by the moment. It felt like the wild dream of violence I had the night before. "Get out now."

A quiet "ahem" made us both look towards the door. "Is there a problem, Jess?" Mulder had appeared in the doorway. He glanced at Jake and shot a questioning look at me.

[Hell yes there is!] "No, Jake was just leaving." I glared at Jake and pointed out the door.

"Who's he, baby?" Jake stared at Mulder. He acted like he had a right to know about my every movement.

"Same thing you made me when you left. None of your damn business. Leave!"

Jake moved out the door. "I'll be seeing you soon. It's not over between us. You know that." He left.

I exhaled the breath I didn't know I was holding. As I slumped against the wall, Mulder crossed the room. "Are you okay?"

"Give me a minute or two and I'll be fine. You have an impeccable sense of timing." Seeing Jake had unnerved me more than I cared to admit. I shook my head. "That's not the welcome I had planned."

"Who was that?"

"Jake, my ex-boyfriend. He walked out of my life about a year ago. Apparently he wants to walk back in." I sighed. I moved to the couch. "I really don't want to talk about this right now. Please, sit."

Mulder started to sit, only to stop at an indignant squawk. He jumped back up and turned to stare at Mystery. She was sitting on the couch, ears back, glaring at him.

"Mystery, what do you think you're doing?" I chided. I swept her into my arms and sat down on the couch. [So much for keeping her in the bedroom.] She was still staring at Mulder, moving uneasily.

"I take it that that's you pet."

"Mulder, meet Mystery." I was trying to get her to relax by stroking her. Her ears slowly came forward. She was still tense, but wasn't trying to get off my lap, or scratch Mulder... yet. "She was a stray. I think she was abused as a kitten. She's never been easy around strangers."

"Why do you call her Mystery?" Mulder placed his hand near Mystery's nose. She cautiously started to sniff it.

"Careful, she sometimes bites." Mystery pushed her head under Mulder's outstretched hand. She quietly purred as he started to rub behind her ears. "She has an amazing talent for escaping from whatever room I put her in. I still haven't figured out how she does it. When she first did it, I kept saying 'It's a mystery how you do that, cat.' And Mystery just sorta stuck."

Mystery, in the meantime, decided Mulder was an okay guy. She jumped down, stretched ostentatiously, and meandered back to my bedroom. I shook my head. "She's *never* accepted anyone that fast. You trying to make me look like a liar, cat?" I called after her. Her tail whipped an s curve around the door in response to my tone of voice. "So what did you find about the ring?"

"The words 'Loup Garou' roughly translate into 'man wolf'. In other words, a werewolf.

"Uh oh. Do you mean to tell me that I've bought a cursed relic of a lost tribe of vicious monsters?"

"No, I'd say you somehow got a hold of a prop from a Grade B horror flick."

I shivered in mock terror. "How have I survived the evil influence for the past month?"

"There's only one way to break its spell," Mulder grinned at me. "Have dinner with me tonight."

"If that's the only way I can be saved, I guess I'll have to do that."

Three months passed. I dreamed of a better life. I dreamed of Mulder, who was becoming a close friend. I dreamed of Jake leaving me alone. And I dreamed of my other self's actions.

[There's a pattern here.] The thought wouldn't leave me. I was having violent dreams once a month, from the point of view of a wolf-creature who would only attack someone about to commit a crime. The next day there would be some victim found with their throats torn out by... something.

I grabbed a calendar and started checking dates. The dreams I had coincided with the full moon.

I dropped the calendar. [No! It can't be possible!] I was delusional, losing my sanity. Werewolves aren't real, they're just a myth. There's no scientific proof they ever existed, let alone exist today.

I picked up the calender again. Tomorrow night was the next full moon. I would take steps to prove to myself that I was ill and needed professional help. I would end the fantasy that I had become a creature of the night.

I borrowed a video camera from Robert.

It was easy to set it up last thing before I went to bed. It was pointing where I would be lying, and had an eight hour tape. More than enough time to prove to myself that I was just having nightmares.

I clung to that thought as I slipped into bed, praying that I would be proven right, that they were just nightmares. I didn't even want to think about the other dark possibility.

I was running through the city streets. I was the spirit of the night, dark and dangerous.

The sound of a scuffle in an alleyway drew my attention. Two human scents wafted towards me on the night air - one alive, one newly dead.

I had found my prey for the evening.

I stalked into the alley and scanned for my victim. There. A dirty teenager, wearing gang colors, rummaging through the pockets the corpse of the rival he just stabbed in the back.

I repressed a whine of hunger. I started forward. My paws rustled some newspaper lying on the ground.

The gang banger looked up. He saw me leap at him, framed by the moonlight. As my teeth met in his throat, he was able to slice the knife into my left shoulder.

Now, I was *pissed.* It wasn't a major wound, but deep enough to make me favor my left leg. No one had ever wounded me during the hunt before. The cool logic of a hunting animal left me, replaced by the blood lust of a wounded beast. I worked out the rage by savaging the body. No one had the right to hurt me. Didn't they know I was the dark avenger who dealt Death at a whim? The dream faded into oblivion as I continued to disfigure the corpse of my prey.

I woke up with the details of my latest dream still fresh in my mind. I started to get out of the bed, and collapsed back down.

I couldn't put much weight on my left shoulder. It was throbbing. I glanced at it. There was a cut on it.

I examined my fingernails. There was blood under them.

I sat on the edge of the bed. My mind was refusing to process anything but one thought. [It's true. I am a werewolf] was all I was capable of.

I eventually took the tape from the camera. I put it into the VCR and prepared to watch it, mostly out of curiosity of what I looked like as a beast, not from the need to convince myself that I was a werewolf.

I settled on the couch in front of the TV. [Should be interesting] I thought as I started to forward search the tape.

There, an hour into the recording, I saw the Change beginning to happen. I had kicked off the blankets, wormed out of my clothes. I was panting heavily and dripping with sweat. I started to thrash about on the bed, wrestling with an unseen enemy.

I watched, detached and fascinated. The logical part of my mind was screaming [No! This *cannot* be happening!] The instinctive part of my mind felt like I was waking up from a long sleep.

On the screen, I started to contort into a fetal position. I saw fur bursting from the follicles all over my body. My bones were reworking into a canine form. I had thrown my head back, baring my newly grown fangs, as my jaws stretched and my muzzle extended. Four inch talons extended from my hands/paws.

Within a minute, the transformation was complete.

There I lay, now as a wolf. And I was a magnificent creature - as large as a St. Bernard, with a glossy black pelt, ivory fangs, and jet black claws. Deep brown eyes, the only thing that looked remotely human, blinked in the moonlight.

I leapt to the floor, shook myself and stretched like any dog would when it wakes up. I then slipped out the open window beside my bed.

I shut off the VCR. I clicked through the TV channels until I found a local news program. The top story was about the "Full Moon Murderer." He had struck again last night. The current theory was that this sicko had a large dog, most likely a large husky of some sort, that he was siccing on his chosen victims. I smiled grimly at the description. [They don't know how close they are.] There was a passing mention of the local police asking the FBI for help.

I got the phone call later that day. As if I didn't have enough troubles then.

I phoned Robert and Michelle. Surprisingly, they were both there at the same time.

"Hi, it's Jess."

"Hey Jess," Robert answered. "What's up?"

"I just got some bad news. I need you to take me to the airport and cat sit for me. Mom and Dad were just killed in a car crash."

The next month was a blur.

I know that there was the funeral, but I only have a few vague images from it. I do remember moving from their graves over to my sister Rachel's. [Ironic, Mom and Dad died from the same thing Rachel did.] It was hard to think about Rachel, even seven years after the fact.

One good thing was the fact that I got to talk to my brother. He was also a black sheep of the family. He had decided to go into medicine, but not the kind Mom and Dad had planned. Instead of being a neurosurgeon or a heart specialist, he became a vet. He was a good one too. I don't think I would have gotten through this all without him, and his wife, Annie, who was, ironically enough, a doctor.

What did surprise me was the reading of the will. I was the sole heir. Michael, my brother, had been cut out entirely. That I was aware of, but what I didn't know was how large the estate was. A lot had changed since I had left with Jake. I had gone from scraping by to independently wealthy in a day.

I spent most of my time sifting through Mom and Dad's possessions with Michael, keeping what we wanted and donating the rest to charities. I also tried to give half of the money to Michael. He didn't want any of it, except enough to pay off his student loans. I didn't want to move back to the house where I grew up. Too many bad memories. So I concentrated on getting rid of the stuff I didn't want. I also pondered my newly discovered werewolfness, which I didn't tell Michael about.

A thought wouldn't leave me. Maybe I could learn to control the transformation. Maybe I could learn to have more control over my beast-self. Not a cure, but the next best thing. Maybe I could even learn to leash the urge to kill. Admittedly, I was killing those who broke the law, but part of me worried about killing some innocent.

I got home late on the night of the full moon. I didn't want to bother Robert or Michelle and decided to take a cab home. [Hell, I can afford it now, so why not.]

I decided to try to stay awake. I wanted to be aware of the transformation. I felt that I could learn to control the hunting instinct, maybe channel it to other ends.

I stood naked in front of my dresser, facing the mirror. I dangled the ring and stared into its eyes. I hadn't put it on again after the first time, but I didn't want to be parted from it. So I wore it on a silver chain, usually tucked under my shirt.

Something about the eyes drew me in. I couldn't look away. I poured out all my concentration into outstaring those ruby eyes.

Then I felt the Change begin.

My skin started to itch like crazy. I lifted my hand to scratch my cheek, only to see shaggy black fur covering it. My nails were lengthening and thickening.

Then the wave of pain washed over me.

I dropped to my knees, except they weren't knees anymore. They were hocks. My instep had lengthened and my calves shrunk. My tail started to extend.

I fell forward onto my arms/forelegs. My tongue had become too large for my mouth. It flopped out as I panted, head lolling. My jaws stretched and my teeth exploded through my gums.

And then blessed relief. No pain. Just silence, except for the sound of my raspy breathing.

I looked around. I couldn't see into the mirror from my position. I stood about four feet tall on all fours. I reared up and looked into my eyes. They were the only thing that remotely resembled me as a human.

I jumped away from the mirror and through the window in one fluid motion. The urge to hunt was becoming uncontrollable. I ran without conscious thought or direction.

Part of me registered the fact that I was at Robert's house. I was prowling in front of the driveway.

/Strange dog-not-dog!/ came the growl. /Go away! Or else!/ Rex was loose in the yard. He had somehow slipped his leash.

/Not stranger. Friend. Peace,/ I barked back, wagging my tail. I didn't want to fight Rex. [Never thought I'd be trying to reason with him like this.]

Rex however didn't believe me. /Go away! Not dog. Not man. Don't belong. Enemy!/ He stepped towards me growling louder.

My ears pinned back. I growled and bristled myself. /Want friend. No want fight. No want hurt. Will defend. Warning. No threat./

Rex lunged for my throat. It was absurdedly easy to side step him and nip his hip as he passed by. /No fight. Could hurt. No want to. Friend?/

Rex made another pass at me. I was a little slow moving out of the way. He scratched my right shoulder with his jaws.

That got me angry. [No more Miss Nice Wolf.] Letting go of what control I had, I attacked. Rex gave a weak yelp as I locked my jaws around his throat. I hefted up onto my hind legs and shook my head back and forth like a cat worrying a rat. Rex's legs left the ground and swung freely. I felt more than heard the spinal column snap. I let go mid shake and watched the body arch through the air to land in the bushes.

The last thing I remembered was my bloody mouth opening wide in a savage howl of triumph.

The pounding on the door matched the pounding in my head. I woke up with a splitting headache. [God! Is this what an aneurysm feels like?]

I rolled out of bed. At some point I had pulled on a t-shirt. I grabbed my robe and stumbled out to answer the door.

There stood a police officer. "Miss Jessica Leahs?"

I nodded. [Oh shit! Someone saw me last night. They're here to haul me away.]

"Sorry to wake you, Miss. I'm Officer Malone." He offered his hand. "I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but something has happened."

"What?" [Oh hell! I'm in trouble now.]

"I'm afraid that your friends Robert and Michelle Preston were killed last night. We need you to identify the bodies."

I sat in the police cruiser silently. The officer, thinking I was in shock over the loss of my friends, didn't speak to me.

I was in shock. Just not the way he thought I was.

[You were there last night. You lost control and killed Rex. You lost control and killed Michelle. You lost control and killed Robert,] one inner voice chanted.

[No! I don't remember killing them. Rex yes, but my friends, no!] another inner voice countered.

[You don't know what you're capable of. It didn't take much to push you into a lethal frenzy. Just one little scratch, and you're a killing machine. Admit it, you enjoy feeling the life ebb from your victim.]

[I've killed before, yes. It was either to protect or avenge. And I've never killed more than once a night.]

[That you remember. What if there are others who have satisfied your hunting hunger? What if... ]

"We're here." Officer Malone's voice interrupted my internal debate.

I stepped out of the car only to see Mulder ducking under the police tape and come towards me. "What are you doing here?"

"We thought at first this could have been another of the Full Moon Murders. I've been assigned to help investigate and wanted to see the crime scene." Mulder hesitated. "Um, where Robert and Michelle taking care of your cat?"

"Yeah, they were keeping Mystery while I was gone..." I stopped. "No. Not *her* too."

"I'm sorry, Jess. Mystery was stabbed repeatedly. We think Rex tangled with someone's dog. Michelle and Robert were found with their throats slit."

After identifying the bodies, Mulder brought me back to his apartment. "You shouldn't be alone right now," he explained. I was too heartsick to protest or care. My only comfort was knowing that I hadn't caused their death.

I walked through the door, not paying attention to anything. Mulder guided me to the couch. I sat down, numb with grief. I was staring at my leg when I noticed the cat hair that still clung to my jeans.

Mystery's hair.

That was what pushed me out of my shocky state. Tears fell as I thought about how I would never have to change Mystery's litter box again. How I would never try to decipher Robert's messages on my answering machine again. No more of Michelle and Robert playing matchmaker. No more lectures from Mom and Dad about my wasted potential.

I felt Mulder's arms encircle me. "Let it out, don't hold back," he whispered.

I gave in completely to my tears as Mulder rocked me like a child. I cried for Robert, for Michelle, for Mystery, for Mom, for Dad, for Rachel, but mostly for myself.

We quietly started to talk about the losses in our lives. I told him about my sister Rachel who had been killed in a car crash when I was thirteen. How my parents, out of grief, tried to remake me and Michael into the child they lost. And how, unable to deal with it any longer, I ran off with Jake, out of rebellion, when I turned eighteen.

He told me about his sister Samantha. About how she had disappeared without a trace. About fearing that she was dead, and fearing more that she was alive and hurting. A few tears escaped his eyes.

I was stunned. "God! How you have suffered. At least I know what happened to my sister. I'm not strong enough to handle that. I would have gone crazy if I had to live with that." I reached up to wipe the tear from Mulder's cheek.

I felt an electric shock course through me as I touched him. I was transfixed, staring into his eyes. It had been so long since I had been in this situation, I wasn't sure how to react.

Apparently he felt the same attraction that I did. He pulled me in closer and kissed me.

Part of me had been waiting since the day we first met. I ran my fingers through his hair. He moved away from my lips and explored my cheek, my earlobes, and my neck. I could easily feel his growing excitement, as well as my own.

I pushed away slightly. [Too soon since Jake. Dammit, I'm letting it happen again.] "We shouldn't be doing this," I whispered.

Mulder traced the contour of my cheek. "You're right, we shouldn't." He then kissed me again, parting my lips with his tongue. He slowly began to thrust into my mouth. I trembled and matched his rhythm with my hips. He broke off the kiss, leaving me gasping. "Are you sure you want to stop?"

"No," I whispered. "All I'm sure of is how much I want you." I started to kiss his neck. He moaned quietly as I slowly pulled off his shirt. He guided me to the bedroom.

He laid me down on the bed, and then knelt on the bed, straddling me. He brushed his lips across my forehead and then slowly began to work his way down to my right breast, kissing and stroking me through the fabric of my shirt. It felt good, until he gently nipped my erect nipple.

That is when I remembered what Jake had done to me.

I had felt so safe with Mulder, I had completely forgotten. [Shit! He's gonna see...] I froze up, unable to move due to the memory.

Mulder must have thought my sudden stillness was from extreme excitement. He closed his eyes, unbuttoned my blouse and unhooked my bra. Grinning in anticipation, Mulder opened his eyes to get his first look at my nude torso.

His jaw dropped. "Jesus! What happened to you?"

A network of scars crossed my abdomen and breasts - straight cuts that almost looked like surgical scars, stab wounds, and the jagged bite marks were still clearly visible. Some had paled to white streaks, but most were still bright pink to angry red. A year wasn't enough time for them to completely heal. None had been serious enough to need stitches, just severe enough to leave their mark.

I looked away from him, a lump in my throat.

Mulder put a hand on my cheek and turned my face back towards his. Infinite pity was in his eyes. "Jake did this to you,"' he said quietly.

I nodded. I had clicked over to the emotionally detached mode that I always used to think about that night. "I was miserable at that time in my life. I had threatened to leave Jake. He thought I was leaving him for another man. He told me that he'd never let that happen, that he'd make it so another man would never want me. I didn't know he had a switchblade on him...." My voice broke and I started to shiver.

Mulder pulled me in close and stroked my hair. He didn't push me to continue, just kept whispering that it was all right, that it wasn't my fault.

"After he finished raping me, he left. Said that he'd done *too* good of a job, that he could never become excited seeing those scars. Not that I wanted him to stay." I paused. "I've never told anyone about that night. Robert and Michelle knew something had happened, but not what. If I hadn't found Mystery a few days later and forced myself to take care of her, to care about her, I would have killed myself." I started to cry.

Mulder still holding me rolled onto his back. He didn't say a word, just offered me silent strength as I sobbed into his shoulder. His arms around me were the last thing I remembered as I fell into an emotionally exhausted slumber curled up on his chest.

I woke up late the next morning. At first, I couldn't figure out where I was. Then last night came slowly into focus. I was in Mulder's bed, alone.

[Hell's bells!] I thought. I then noticed that I was wearing my shirt again. [Mulder musta dressed me while I was asleep.]

Thinking about last night with Mulder was painful. [Well, it's obvious that I've blown any chance I had with him. Just ought to get out of his life and stop being such a foolish dreamer. Like someone like him would want me.]

I rolled out of bed. He had put my shirt back on, but not my bra. I looked around, but couldn't see it. [Fine, I don't need it.] My cowboy boots were another matter though. They were my favorite pair and I wasn't about to walk home barefoot.

I remembered kicking them off in the front room. [Just grab them and go.] I opened the door. I had figured Mulder had gone on into the office and I wouldn't have to face him.

Wrong. He was sitting on the couch, reading the morning paper. He looked up at my entrance. "Sleeping beauty awakens," he quipped.

I didn't want to deal with the rejection I knew was coming. "Shouldn't you be at work?" I growled.

"Finished the profile and called in sick today. Coffee, Jess?"

The answer came a little too quickly. I had heard enough of Jake's alibis to know when I was being lied to. "No, thanks. I'll just find my boots and leave. And don't worry. I won't bother you again."

"'Bother me?' Jess, you're not making any sense."

I sighed. [Looks like I won't be able to slip out.] "I know that after you found out what happened to me you..."

"...wouldn't want a thing to do with you?" Mulder finished. I nodded, unable to meet his eyes. "Jess, you didn't deserve any of what Jake did to you." Mulder was moving towards me. "And anyone who would turn you away because of that doesn't deserve you." He wrapped his arms around me, pulling me in close.

I leaned against him, shivering. He tugged me back to the couch. "Did you get any counseling?"

"For about two weeks," I said as I dropped down. Mulder took the other end, giving me space, but also holding my hand. "Then my boss told me to either quit asking for so many days off, or quit my job. I needed the money, so I gave up the counseling."

"Bastard," he spat.

"Tell me about it." I sighed. "I was just bent on survival. My goal was to just make it to the next day."

"Ever thought about pressing charges?"

"When this... happened to me," I stumbled over the words. I still had difficulty thinking that night, let alone talk to someone about it. "...I didn't want anyone to know. I was..., am, too... ashamed of it. The one time I actually got as far as picking up the phone, I thought of the public humiliation that I would go through. That and the fact that I didn't want to face Jake again was enough to convince me to hang up."

"So, without any support from friends or family, no counseling, no nothing, you kept going?"

"Yeah, that's basically it." I paused. "Michelle and Robert kept trying to play matchmaker for me since a week after the shit hit the fan."

"Yeah, when Robert called, he kept telling me what a 'nice girl' you are."

"Hmm, sounds like something he'd do... I mean done. I'd avoided anything to do with dating, until you came along."

"Ohhh. So it's not me you're after. It's my PhD."

I laughed a little. "No, it's a nice bonus, but I'm not interested in being psychoanalyzed for free. Actually," [Oh boy, this is hard to say.] "When I first saw you, something inside told me that I could trust you."

"You can trust me, especially now." Mulder slid over next to me and touched my cheek. "I want to try and make things better for you. I know you want to leave, but stay. Please."

I thought about it. I couldn't resist the pleading tone in his voice. "Yes. I want to leave. But I want even more to stay." I leaned towards him and kissed him. I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled in as tight as I could.

I lost myself in the tidal wave of sensations. We were back in his bedroom. Somehow, our clothes had disappeared. He pushed me (I pulled him?) down onto the bed.

Being with Mulder brought me pleasures I had never known before. I had never experienced such passion. Every touch, every kiss, every lick, every stroke, every thrust left me breathlessly sobbing for more.

I finally came under his skilled hands, seconds before he did deep inside me. Mulder held still, except for the slight twitching in his loins, as he pumped into me. I sighed in contentment as he moaned his relief. He kissed me deeply as he withdrew. I could taste his tongue and my (his?) tears. Still pressed against me, he pulled the sheets back over our forms.

I buried my face in the warm skin of his neck, unsure of what to say.

I had never felt so coddled in my life. At the same time, I never felt so panicked. "Mulder, what the hell did we just do?"

"Jess, do I really have to explain to you what happened?" His eyebrows raised and he wore a look of mock surprise.

"Mulder, I *know* what we did," I giggled. But I grew serious quickly. "It's just that a lot of things in my life have changed so drastically and so fast that..."

"... things feel out of control?"

"Yes." [You don't know the half of it.]

"The only thing you can do is take one day at a time. And I'd like to help."

I sighed. "Do you have any idea what you're asking of me?"

"Do you have any idea what I'm offering? Or how hard it is for me to offer?"

I thought about it. He had told me about his girlfriend from Oxford and how she had hurt him deeply. This had to be as hard for him as it was for me. "Yes, I think I do know. And yes, I do want your help."

"So how about I start helping you now?" he breathed into my ear, sucking my earlobe.

"Mmmm, you know me, Mulder, always ready for a little help."

"So do you want to tell me the real reason you didn't go into work?"

We were sitting in the kitchen. After our second bout of lovemaking, we had decided to get a late breakfast.

Mulder shifted uneasily. "Was it that obvious?"

I smiled ruefully. "Let's just say Jake gave me a lot of practice at telling when someone's lying. Now, spill."

"I was pulled from the Full Moon Murders."

"Your boss didn't want you sleeping with one of the murder suspects. I'm assuming I *am* a suspect."

"No, you're not. The cab driver verified your alibi."

"Then why?"

"Do you believe in paranormal phenonema, the existence of beings that cannot be explained by science as we know it?"

"Well, yes..." I trailed off. The sudden change of topic had thrown me off track. "I'm not so arrogant to think that humans are the only intelligence in the universe. Surely there exists on other planets..."

"I'm not talking about alien life forms. I'm talking about werewolves." There was an earnestness in his voice I had never heard before.

"Excuse me?" I blinked. [How much does he know about me?] That frightened me. I had thought I had been so careful.

"All the Full Moon murders had three things in common, a full moon, the sighting of a large dog, and someone about to commit a crime."

"But Robert's and Michelle's..."

"They weren't part of the pattern. I didn't gain a lot of points when I mentioned that this probably wasn't the same person."

I was growing uncomfortable with the conversation. "I hate to end this, but I've got to get ready for the funeral, if I can find my boots."

Mulder grinned lopsidedly. "Confession time. Follow me." We went back into the bedroom. "I figured that you might try to skip out on me," he said opening the closet. There were my boots.

I snatched them from him. "And where's my bra?" I said with my eyebrows raised.

He gave me a devilish grin. "How do you think I'm planning to get you back here again?"

The funeral was a nightmare. Well, not the funeral itself, but what happened afterwards.

Mulder and I sat together in one of the pews of the chapel. There were a few of Michelle's and Robert's coworkers. I subconsciously noted a late comer had sat down in the back, but I was too absorbed in my grief to pay too much attention to my surroundings.

That was my mistake.

It was after the ceremony. Mulder and I had split up to talk to the other mourners. I had just finished comforting and being comforted by Michelle's secretary. I was moving to an alcove besides the coffins, just wanting to be alone for a moment.

"Baby, we need to talk."

[Shit! Just what I don't need now!] He had been popping up where ever I was when I least expected it. Because he hadn't hurt me or threatened me, a restraining order was out of the question for the moment. "Jake, I thought I told you to stay the hell away from me." My back was to him and I did not want to look at him.

He grabbed my arm and spun me around. "I told you things weren't over between us."

I tried to break his grip on my arm, but couldn't get the leverage. Jake laughed at my struggle. "You remember what I like," he said snaking an arm around my waist and pulling me in closer. "But I didn't think you'd be so eager to do it in a mortuary."

"You sick bastard," I hissed through clenched teeth. I was revulsed by his nearness. I slapped him hard with my free hand in an attempt to get away.

The sound drew everyone's attention. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mulder start forward, coming to my rescue.

Too late. Jake released his grip on me and slammed a fist into my face at the same time. The blow caught me square on the jaw. Off balance, I staggered backwards towards a pew. Jake's leg whipped behind mine, tripping me and sending me crashing to the floor. The last thing I remembered was the star burst pattern of lights as the back of my head impacted with the hard wood edge of the pew.

I woke up in my bed the next day. There were fuzzy images from after the beating I took. I vaguely remembered the hospital and talking to some police about pressing charges.

I slowly started to get dressed. It was obvious that someone brought me home, but I didn't have a clue as to who.

I padded into the kitchen, not really paying attention to anything. [Gotta feed Mystery... Damn!] Tears started to fall from my eyes.

I felt a Kleenex gently wiping my tears. I opened my eyes. There stood Mulder.

I managed to smile through my tears. "Hi there," I whispered. "You spent the night?"

Mulder smiled back. "Yeah. I just wanted to make sure you'd be okay. You had a pretty hard fall."

I reached back to feel my head. There was a large lump there. "I bet my jaw has turned lots of pretty colors."

Mulder nodded and reached out with his hand. He gently caressed the uninjured side of my face. I leaned into his touch, savoring the fact that I could finally trust a man who I had met as an adult. But I still couldn't tell him about my suspicions about myself. [Not yet, soon.]

"You okay?" he asked.

I shook my head. "I will be, but not right now. I just need some time." I thought for a moment. I wanted him to stay the day, and hopefully the night. "Would you mind staying around for a while? I don't want to be alone."

He leaned in close. "Especially tonight?"

"Yeah." I was embarrassed by my forwardness.

"Of course. All you have to do is ask."

Several months passed. With the full moon above me, I slipped out into the night. The Change was becoming easier to control, and the pain didn't bother me as much. In fact, I was starting to enjoy the relief after the pain. And the need to kill humans didn't consume me this time as it first had. Rats, squirrels, and the occasional gopher made excellent substitutes. Several sated my appetite, one here, one there, whenever the urge struck. Dogs I avoided, more because I felt like it would be killing my retarded cousins than any fear. Every time I thought about attacking a passing cat, I saw Mystery, so I left them alone too.

I prowled around aimlessly, wandering where I would, and not actively hunting anything. I found myself in the alley behind Mulder's apartment. [Pining to be with him, even when you're lupine.] I mentally snickered at the rhyme, but there was more truth to it than I cared to admit. I was becoming dependent on him emotionally, although I would be the first to deny it. And the sex wasn't bad either.

The hunting urge was growing. I put my nose to the ground and started to pay more attention to what I was smelling - old rat spoor, [at least a day old], today's garbage [just turning ripe] and a human who passed by a few moments ago.

The human scent made me do a double take. It was familiar, too familiar.

It was Jake's scent. I had sniffed at an old shirt of his I found before I left home tonight. Something had warned me to be prepared.

I growled low in my throat.

I started tracing the trail. It lead inside the building, to Mulder's apartment. The door had been pushed ajar. My ears swiveled, listening for any noise. I heard the faint scuff of a shoe against the carpet.

I pushed my head through the space. The apartment was unlit except for the light from the TV, but my sensitive eyes still needed a few seconds to adjust to the darkness. Jake's scent, and the smell of whiskey grew stronger. I could smell Mulder now as well.

Mulder looked like he had fallen asleep on the couch. He looked like an angel compared to the evil look Jake had. Jake was edging to the kitchenette. He was muttering beneath his breath. Too quiet for a human to hear, and almost too faint for me to hear. "...told you to leave her alone... ...belongs to me... ...dammed if anyone... ...show her not to... ...mine and no one else's...."

It suddenly all made sense. I knew who killed Mystery. I knew who killed Robert and Michelle. I knew what he was about to do to Mulder if I didn't stop him.

My hackles rose as I slid through the open door. I settled unnoticed into a dark corner, waiting to see what would happen.

Jake moved towards the couch. I could see the glint of the knife in his hands. I could feel my muscles tense up, readying to spring.

A slight twitch of Mulder's arm made me freeze. He was awake and aware of Jake, but not of me. I decided to wait and see how this played out. If I didn't have to betray my presence, good. But I wasn't about to let Jake kill Mulder.

Even if it meant I would have to reveal wolf-self.

The idea of revenge also had a strong appeal. I wanted to toy with Jake, and not kill him outright. I wanted to make him *suffer* for what he had done to me. A quick death was too good for him. Maybe not even death at all. An attack savage enough to leave him alive, but a broken man.

Jake raised the knife.

Mulder's fist shot up into Jake's face, almost too fast for me to track. Mulder was up and off the couch, preparing to defend himself.

Jake had managed somehow to hold onto the knife. He repeatedly slashed at Mulder's throat, barely missing.

Mulder kept throwing punches. He managed to grab Jake's wrist, keeping the knife from his throat. But he didn't know what I did, when Jake was in a drunken rage, it was almost impossible to stop him.

Jake managed to throw a lucky blow. It connected with his chin. Mulder went down, stunned.

I had seen enough. I rose to a crouching position. I growled loudly. I slowly advanced towards Jake.

Both Jake and Mulder looked in my direction. "Jess, don't," Mulder whispered.

Part of me registered the fact that Mulder had said my name. But I was concentrating on Jake.

Jake stepped forward. "Come on, you mangy bitch. I can take you on."

That's what he thought.

I launched myself at Jake. I knocked him flat on his back. The knife went clattering across the floor.

Jake curled his legs under me. With all his strength, he kicked me in the gut, knocking the breath out of me. He ran from the apartment.

I bolted after him, ignoring Mulder's yells. I was hunting now with the singlemindedness of a predator.

I trailed behind Jake, close enough for him to know I was still following, but far enough that I wouldn't get kicked. I herded him towards a park on the outskirts of town. I wasn't sure how this would end, just that it would end soon.

I could hear Jake's breathing grow ragged. He was wearing out and was nearing collapse. I quickened my pace.

Jake dropped to his hands and knees, panting. I was hardly winded. I started circling him, feinting and growling. He flinched at every false charge I made.

Finally I couldn't wait anymore. I walked forward slowly and deliberately. I looked Jake in the eyes. There was only one thing left to do. I kissed him on the lips, pressing my fangs against his teeth, and then slapped him across the face with a taloned paw. Just like he did when I upset him with a 'lack of excitement'.

Jake shuddered as he realized who I was and what I had become. "Oh, baby, please don't. I'm sorry, baby. I won't ever bother you again."

I ignored his pleas. His hands gripped my throat as my fangs closed on his. "Nooo!" was the final noise he made, aside from his death rattle. His hands limply fell from my neck.

Instead of voicing a triumphant howl, I turned away silently. Jake's blood, instead of being sweet like my other human victims, tasted bitter. [It's over,] I thought. I turned my back on the body, heading back to Mulder's.

I sat down on Mulder's couch, human, naked, cold, and stunned at what had happened. But the Jake's death wasn't what had thrown me.

[Mulder called you by name when you were a wolf. He knows!] repeated in my mind endlessly. I shivered.

"Cold?" Mulder handed me a afghan, which I wrapped around myself.

I looked into his bruised face. "Hhhh... how long have you known?" I sputtered, finally finding my voice.

"I had a good guess since I first saw the ring. There are many werewolf legends where the catalyst of transformation is a piece of clothing or jewelry."

"And you didn't tell me? Just watched?" I was hurt.

"No. I didn't truly believe until tonight." He looked down. "I thought we had something special. I was hoping you would tell me."

I bit my lower lip. "I didn't believe myself until just before the funeral. And things happened too fast for me to keep up after that."

"Too fast?" Mulder sounded outraged. "You become a deadly creature once a month and things were moving 'too fast' for you to tell me?" He reached quickly for something on the table beside me.

I cringed back. The movement was too similar to what Jake did before slapping me around.

Mulder stared at my horrified face in shock. "Jeez, Jess. Did you actually think I would hit you?"

"I don't know."

"Jessica." Mulder dropped to his knees in front of me. "I would never, *never* hit you. I thought you knew that." He kissed me, trying to reassure me.

I felt myself relaxing in his arms. Mulder's lips traveled down my neck. "I would never hurt you," he whispered and pushed the afghan off my shoulders.

"Mulder," I whispered softly as he tongued my shoulder. The emotions of the last few hours finally caught up with me. I could only think of expressing the feelings I felt for this man. And I only knew one way to express emotions - physically. I knew what was going to happen next. Part of my mind was questioning what I was about to do, if I was so scared and hurt, I shouldn't let this happen.

I pushed the afghan off my body, baring myself before him. As he took a nipple in his mouth, the questioning part of my mind shut up.

We made love then, trying to comfort each other. Afterwards, we just held each other, not daring to say anything that might spoil the moment. But the damage had been done. We both knew it would just be a matter of time before the relationship ended.

I sat amid the suitcases in my apartment. Everything was packed and ready to go. Only one thing was left, and I was dreading doing it.

I couldn't stay here anymore. I couldn't stay with Mulder anymore. And not just because of the hurt we both felt over our keeping secrets from each other. [We never should have become lovers,] I thought. My problem was I tried to define who I was by tying up my identity with someone else's. That was what I had done with Jake, first being known as his lover, and then his victim. And if I wasn't careful, that is what I'd do with Mulder. And he was too good of a friend for me to let that happen. So I decided to move out to San Jose to be close to the only family I had left, my brother. We had talked long about it and both agreed it was for the best.

But that didn't mean that either of us liked it.

The expected knock on the door finally sounded. "It's open," I called. I knew who it was already. Hell, I had asked him to come myself.

"Jessica, are you sure you know what you're doing?" Mulder asked as he stepped inside.

"No, but I can't stay here after everything that happened." I didn't beg him to come away with me, back to the West Coast, like I longed to do, despite knowing that it would be putting me in the identity crisis that I was trying to avoid. His work and the search for his sister were to important to him. I knew that if he came out of pity for me, he would end up resenting me for the rest of his life. "There is something I need you to do for me, though."

"Anything," he said, putting a hand on my shoulder.

I pulled the chain that held the Loup Garou ring from around my neck. I toyed with it. "I should have this destroyed, but somehow I can't find it in me to do it. I want you to take it and keep it safe." And my unspoken message was clear. [If you want to be with me, put it on and become like me.] I dropped it into Mulder's hand.

"I'll do my best, and I'll think hard about what to do with it," Mulder said softly.

[In other words, 'I don't know what I want.'] I thought. "That's all I'm asking." I paused. "The shuttle will be here in an hour to take me to the airport. My brother will meet me at the San Jose airport."

Mulder sighed. "Then I guess this is goodbye."

"Yeah," I couldn't keep the catch out of my voice, "but I'll stay in contact." We both had avoided using the word "love" when we talked about us. But we did love each other, but that love wasn't the kind that could keep us together as lovers. Close friends, yes, but lovers, no. "You can expect me to pop up sometime in the future and complicate your life."

"I think I'd like that," Mulder whispered. Then he leaned in close and kissed me.

It wasn't a horny, passionate kiss. It was the two of us relishing the closeness to each other that we wouldn't feel for a long time, and possibly, probably never again.

The kiss broke when I pulled away. I didn't want us to end up sleeping together once more. That part of our relationship was over. It had to be over, or else I would go crazy.

Mulder understood why I backed off. He brushed his lips against my forehead. "Goodbye, Jess."

"Goodbye, Mulder." I watched as he turned and leaved. I sighed as the door closed on that chapter of my life.

The End