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prologue






HANDBOOK FOR ON AND OFF-DUTY AGENT CONDUCT 

 

The following handbook summarizes the principal laws and regulations governing the conduct of Federal Bureau of Investigation agents. The purpose of this handbook is to increase agent awareness of the fraternization rules and their applications.  We suggest that agents consult the full text of the law or regulation for additional information.

An agent shall not engage in criminal, dishonest, immoral or disgraceful conduct, or other conduct prejudicial to the government. This includes time spent off-duty, as such behavior may reflect poorly upon the institution.

Generally, agents should be mindful of their responsibilities to make an honest effort to use government time for official business only, and to protect and conserve government property. Agents should not share rooms, beds, clothing, or consort in a manner that distracts from their duties.

As government employees, agents are generally authorized to make minimal personal use of that time where the cost to the government is negligible and where it does not interfere with official business. 

However, this limited personal use is a privilege, not a right.












i. check-in




Scully knew the rules and regulations held by most FBI agents didn’t necessarily apply to her and Mulder. They’d crossed several of those boundaries during their very first case together. It may have simply been the nature of their work, or perhaps even something more: something special the two of them shared that defied explanation. But the comfort and trust they’d experienced together that very first night was something she continued to hold close to her heart. She clung to it; remembered it on the nights they were separated, the nights where there was a wall between them: of the metaphorical kind as well as the physical.

Working on the X-Files had practically forced them to get close; be it shoulder to shoulder in some underground mutant’s lair, or backing each other up in front of powerful people in the bureau. Close in mind; in the way they volleyed and wrestled each others’ theories to the ground, one after the other. 

But it also meant getting close in spaces where the work was no longer present.

“You smell like the drunk tank,” Scully chastised him as they left the diner. Mulder was covered in sweat and grime and the thick August humidity wasn’t helping matters.

He ducked into the passenger seat of her rented sedan and closed the door with an apologetic grimace. “Sorry.”

She started the engine, then made a face. “No, Mulder, I’m sorry. I cannot drive us back to D.C. with you in the next seat smelling like that.”

Mulder glanced at his watch. “I’ve got an hour left before I have to check out of my hotel. Why don’t you take me there first so I can de-smellify?” He gave her a lopsided grin and ever so briefly something popped into her head that her friend had put out into the universe yesterday.

You said he was cute.

She had indeed said that, after Ellen had given her a thorough grilling. Most of Scully’s friends had taken the road more traveled: husbands, kids, remarkable houses. She wanted that too, perhaps someday, although she still wasn’t quite sure whether it was a desire that came from within or without.

Mulder wasn’t exactly the type of guy she could picture herself marrying. Besides the fact that mixing personal with professional was something she’d been actively avoiding since her past failed relationships, Mulder was far too focused on the X-Files to give any woman the time of day, much less Scully. In any event, he seemed to treat her like one of his buddies, not necessarily like a woman, and for the first time in her life she actually appreciated that. It was difficult enough making her way in a man’s world; the FBI was another beast entirely. 

A relationship with her partner? No . The idea had left her mind almost as quickly as it had entered it.

But. Still. He was cute. That thought might never leave her mind, even if she wanted it to.

When they arrived at the Galaxy Gateway hotel, Mulder stopped and turned to her a few feet away from room 756.

“Just a second,” he said, and knocked.

“Why are you knocking on your own door?” she asked him, confused. Suddenly the idea he might have company inside, perhaps even female company, struck her soundly. This was Atlantic City, after all, and surely there was no shortage of available women scouring the casino. Her stomach lurched. She identified the emotion instantly and didn’t like it. Why should she care if he’d entertained someone in his hotel room after hours? It was absolutely none of her business.

“The man who gave me the information last night was sleeping in an alleyway,” Mulder explained. “I wanted to investigate, so I gave him my spare room key so he could have a bed not made out of newspapers for the night.”

Scully felt an unexpected rush of emotion directed at her partner. This audacious display of compassion and generosity warmed her heart. She hadn’t known him long but one thing she was beginning to learn about Mulder was that, as self-absorbed as he could be, he could also be absolutely selfless in the most unusual of circumstances.

“That’s really kind of you, Mulder,” she said, liking him a little bit more than she had only a minute ago.

“Let’s just hope he didn’t raid the minibar.” Mulder pushed the door open and called out “Hello?” After a second, satisfied that the occupant had left, Mulder grinned at Scully and held the door open. “Looks like he must have gotten homesick for his tent.”

Mulder liked to break the rules, and she’d learned this about him almost instantly. In fact, she’d known it by his reputation before they’d met. She couldn’t deny that this aspect of his personality excited her, even titillated her. But the one boundary Scully insisted on adhering to was apparently difficult for Mulder to stay behind. Their own personal space while on assignment was their own personal space

She was beginning to realize Mulder had no concept of personal space whatsoever.

Scully felt a flush on her cheeks and looked down at the hallway rug, straightening her skirt. Regardless of what had occurred between them in Oregon, the idea of entering Mulder’s private space was somewhat daunting. “Actually, I think I’ll just go down and wait in the lobby.” She wondered why she’d even followed him up here at all. It had been automatic, like a donkey following a carrot dangling in front of its face.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” he said. “They don’t have HBO in the lobby.” He stood by the door expectantly, gesturing her inside, and although every muscle in her body felt like it was warring against this breach, she found her legs moving towards the door of their own accord, into his room. 

“Make yourself comfortable,” Mulder said as the door closed behind them. He picked up the remote, tossed it to her, and began removing his jacket. 

“HBO, huh?” she muttered, hoping there would be something on television to distract her from the awkward situation she worried this might quickly turn into. 

She had no idea how quickly that would actually happen. 

Pointing the remote at the TV, the screen came to life, revealing a naked couple writhing on the floor together, ubiquitous bow chicka bow wow music permeating the room. Scully barely had time to register what she was seeing before two heaving, sweaty, anti-gravity breasts came into view as the woman mounted her male companion, his enormous erection pointed directly at her.

“Oh,” Scully said, flustered, as she frantically attempted to change the channel. Of course, as most hotel remotes were, this one was infuriatingly complicated. She stole a glance at Mulder, who held his hands up in surrender.

“Don’t blame me,” he chuckled. “Looks like my nomadic compatriot was making good use of taxpayer money last night.”

Scully finally got the channel changed to When Harry Met Sally as Mulder made his way toward the bathroom. “I’ll only be a few minutes and then we can get back on the road,” he called over his shoulder. He threw his jacket on the bed, then loosened his tie, threw it on top. Kicked his shoes off. Began to untuck his shirt and unbuckle his belt, and just when Scully was convinced (and slightly terrified) he was prepared to strip down to his underwear in her presence, he turned and walked into the bathroom without another word, closing the door.

Relieved to be left alone, she began to wander around the room aimlessly. The drifter had left it fairly clean, hadn’t seemed to have abused the mini-bar, and even made the bed. She sat down across from the TV and watched Meg Ryan pretend to have an orgasm, then quickly switched the channel, afraid he might hear and misconstrue. 

Suddenly she heard the shower turn on and was wildly cognizant of the fact that Mulder, her partner, was naked in the next room. 

They’d only been working together for a short time, and while she was aware that he was clearly comfortable sharing her space, she wasn’t exactly sure how comfortable she was sharing his. This felt intimate, maybe too intimate. And perhaps she herself had been to blame for his presumption she would be comfortable with such an intimacy. She had, after all, dropped her robe in front of him their first night together.

She shook her head a bit in remembrance, brushing off the phantom-like feel of his fingertips as they softly pressed against the small of her back. She knew so little about him and yet, somehow, it felt like she’d known him her entire life, not for just a few short months. Thinking about that night always brought her comfort: the knowledge that having this person in her life was truly something unique and special. 

But she couldn’t deny thinking about that night also brought plenty of confusion.

She must have been lost in thought for some time, because the next thing she knew, the shower was turning off with a loud squeak. She listened as the curtain swept open, picturing in her mind its plastic rings scraping along the rod as the fabric pulled back to reveal Agent Mulder stepping out of the shower and into her vivid thoughts: steam encircling him, dripping wet. Naked.

She tried to shoo the image away but she couldn’t not think about it now. She was sitting on his bed, which she knew Mulder hadn’t actually slept in, but she still felt flustered. She shifted a bit. Was she sweating?

It wasn’t until the bathroom door swung open and Mulder emerged in only a towel that she realized she was in exactly the kind of trouble she’d so assiduously tried to avoid. All she could do was stare at him as he walked over to his duffel bag and began rooting around inside.

“So who’re we meeting with? Someone at bail bonds?” he cracked, his back turned to her. She enjoyed this, his easy humor, and a flush crept into her cheeks as she appreciated the fact that he had the ability to make her smile in spite of herself. 

“An old professor of mine at the University of Maryland,” she explained. “Dr. Diamond.”

“And… he’s an expert on the Jersey Devil?” Mulder asked in that excitedly hopeful voice she was beginning to really, really like.

“No,” she corrected, staring unabashedly at his back. Drops of water beaded along his trapezius, which she couldn’t help but follow all the way down his spine to its natural conclusion: the place where the gentle curve at the top of his backside was barely visible beneath white terry-cloth. She felt a rush of heat between her thighs as her heart rate suddenly picked up. “He’s an anthropology professor. He’s going to convince you this Jersey Devil doesn’t exist, since I can’t seem to.”

Mulder finally spun around, holding a pair of freshly located clean underwear in his hand from which she tried to avert her eyes. She awkwardly looked around the room, anywhere but at him, then realized he was talking to her, so she reluctantly dragged her eyes back to meet his.

“Anthropology, eh?” Mulder smirked. “Was that an elective, Doctor Scully?”

She completely ignored his quip, as she was having a considerable amount of trouble keeping her eyes on his face and not wandering all over his torso. She idly thought of Ellen and how she now regretted allowing the words “yeah, he’s cute” to escape her lips. Because as she sat here practically gaping at her partner’s near-naked body, imagining how his ass looked beneath that towel, she was aware of a new, alarming truth.

He wasn’t cute. Fox Mulder was, in fact, a stone-cold fox.

“Uh…” she stammered, her eyes raking over his chiseled abs and pectoral muscles. She couldn’t help it.

She found herself thinking about her date tonight, and how perfect and normal and… well, boring Rob was. He was kind, a good father, and obviously had time to take out of his busy work schedule to share with her. He seemed to be on the same page as she was when it came to the things she thought she wanted out of life. But had there been a spark there? Had they shared a moment? Had she felt the same heat, the same sudden urge to cross her legs when she’d shaken Rob’s hand?

Would she have dropped her robe in front of him in the dark in complete and absolute trust?

Mulder was self-absorbed, but measured in his compassion. He’d never expressed a desire to be a father and it seemed a safe assumption he never would. And as for his work? Well, Mulder never left the work in the office. There was nothing about him that was desirable in a lifelong partner, at least not on paper.

She felt a bit guilty evaluating him in this way when he wasn’t even supposed to be on her radar as a romantic partner. She was supposed to be his equal, his backup. But the fact that he was so comfortable practically naked in front of her gave her pause. He’d been so nonchalant when he came out of the bathroom. She began to rethink her earlier considerations: did he truly see her as one of the guys? Just another partner in a line of male partners that came before her?

And if so, why was it bothering her so much now, when moments before it had been a source of comfort?

“Earth to Scully,” Mulder was saying, startling her out of what had been very obvious ogling. “Come in, Scully.” She finally met his eyes, embarrassed. Had she been staring this entire time? 

“Yeah. Sorry.”

He held up a shirt he must have pulled from his bag, which was horribly wrinkled. “Which would you rather tolerate? The wrinkles or the smell?”

She glanced down at the bed at his discarded suit, reaching out to touch it. Lifting the sleeve of his shirt to her nose as she slightly leaned over, she expected to smell whiskey and biker sweat or some other drunk-tank-bouquet, but instead was greeted with the familiar, masculine scent of Mulder, just Mulder, that same scent she recognized all too well by now from being constantly stuck in close quarters with him. 

That same scent that stirred something inside of her she wasn’t prepared to deal with at the moment.

“This one,” she declared, holding up the shirt. “Seems the shower took care of the smell.”

He stepped forward to take the shirt from her hand, and she was suddenly painfully aware of how close she was to a living and breathing naked male specimen, something she hadn’t been in some time. He took the shirt and began to slip it on, remaining so close to her she could actually feel the heat radiating off his stomach. 

His glorious, toned, perfectly edible stomach.

Appetite for human flesh, indeed.

“Can I use your bathroom, please?” 

She didn’t know why she said it, but suspected her fight or flight response had acted up, propelling her into another room. Before he could even answer in the affirmative she was up and moving past him, into the bathroom, shutting the door behind her. 

For some reason, bits and pieces of her anthropology lessons back at the University of Maryland flooded the primal parts of her brain that were still mentally undressing her partner.

Wild men. Aggressively territorial. Orientated by selfish sexual and reproductive drives.

She shuddered. This wasn’t right, she couldn’t fall back into her old habits. Starting up romances with men she was professionally involved with was a thing of her past, the old Dana. Something Ellen would have expected. She was the new, responsible, independent FBI Dana now. She shouldn’t be fantasizing about her partner while he was half naked in the next room.

There was a gentle knock at the door. “Scully? You okay?”

“I’m… not feeling well, just a minute,” she said quickly. Just get dressed, please , was what she wanted to say, but she figured if she stayed in here long enough that particular problem would sort itself out. Now, she couldn’t help but turn her attention to her own problem, the unstoppable images in her mind that were making every last nerve ending in her body light up like a Christmas tree.

She stood in front of the steamed-up mirror and reached underneath her skirt, seeking the source of her frustration. As suspected, her inappropriate thoughts about her naked partner in his tiny little towel had soaked her underwear all the way through to her nylons.

She couldn’t drive back to D.C. like this. What if he smelled her? Would he identify her lust for what it was? Could she handle that humiliation this early in their partnership?

Someone or something out there is hungry, Mulder had said. He had no idea how right he would turn out to be.

Her thoughts turned to primal man-beasts and pure animal instinct. She could feel her heartbeat throbbing between her legs and she knew she would never, ever survive a three hour drive next to Mulder if she didn’t take care of her little problem right here and right now.

Scully kicked off her shoes and did away with the nylons quickly, stuffing them deep into the trash can. Hopefully Mulder wouldn’t notice their sudden absence but, she reasoned, it was too fucking hot out to be wearing them anyway. She tiptoed to the door, quietly locked it, and pressed her ear against it, listening for sounds that indicated Mulder was not privy to her activities. When she heard the channels changing on the television again, she was satisfied she had at least a few minutes before she aroused his suspicions.

Gripping the edge of the counter, she slid the well-practiced fingers of her other hand adeptly into her underwear, her middle finger immediately finding the bundle of nerves that so desperately craved attention, first rubbing softly, then flicking it back and forth. She had to make this quick. Her sensitive bud was slick with desire and she closed her eyes, trying to convince herself this was merely biology, just something she needed to do to function properly. Not completely inappropriate lusting after her co-worker.

Mulder’s face appeared impudently behind her closed eyelids, and she could see him stripped down before her: his eyes, his nose, his perfectly kissable lips. The body she’d only just been introduced to was fully visible to her in her imagination, and the idea she might never actually be allowed to touch it was surprisingly and incredibly painful. For some reason she felt entitled to it, as if they belonged to one another, even though they’d never acknowledged it.

She thought of him a couple of months ago, reaching out to straighten her necklace, certainly unintentionally but ever-so-slightly grazing her breast as he did so. 

It seems like you were acting very territorial.

Of course I was. 

They did belong to one another, somehow, in some way, and he knew it too. This knowledge turned her on even more.

She heard his voice in her mind as she touched herself, and where she would normally insert vague utterances of pleasure or encouragement, she instead found herself imagining him talking to her about the Jersey Devil, spouting some wild theory about carnivorous beast men or similar lore, his eyes sparkling with the excitement of discovery that she found absolutely thrilling. Then, completely unexpectedly, her finger became that tongue, those lips, that mouth that worked around sunflower seeds on a daily basis (lucky bastards) delving between her folds. Then, a pair of hazel eyes were watching her dutifully, a smile curving intimately against her. 

Her eyes flew open and she mentally chastised herself for making this fantasy far, far too personal.

She tried to redirect her focus to a more appropriate subject: Rob, the handsome divorcée who had given her the attention she was now realizing perhaps she wanted from her partner instead. Rob seemed nice enough. He had a steady job that seemed to get him home on time. He checked all the boxes she could ever need to check off her list. 

But right now, with her fingers shamelessly attacking her clit in the bathroom, she couldn’t help but compare him to Mulder. 

He’s a jerk.

He’s not a jerk.

He’s obsessed with his work.

She’d reacted defensively to Ellen’s questions, she now realized. Not once had she entertained the idea of simply replying “he’s not my type.” Because if her fluttering fingers and wandering imagination were any indication whatsoever, Fox Mulder was most definitely her type.

On the other side of the wall, she heard the TV turn off. She was officially on a clock, and it was ticking down fast. Rob and his plastic Ken doll haircut weren’t doing the trick. Alone in this bathroom, carried away with her darkest fantasy, she knew the truth. She wanted something else: she wanted weird, she wanted wild. 

She wanted Mulder.

Allowing her brain and her body to tell her what she needed, she once again shifted focus to her partner. And like clockwork, like magic, she could feel her orgasm beginning to build deep down inside. She widened her stance as much as she possibly could with her skirt hiked up around her waist, and felt her hips gyrating against the counter, creating additional friction against her pubic bone as she leaned forward. She couldn’t tell if the fog on the mirror was from Mulder’s shower or her own ragged breaths. 

Her mind leapt to a dozen conversations, the rhythmic timbres of their shared dialogues a functional aphrodisiac. Mulder’s theory. Her rebuttal. For the first time she saw it clearly for what it was: sex. Their own safe, private, ‘chaste’ version of sex.

“M...Mul…” she bit her lip hard to stop herself, wanting so desperately to utter his name but knowing somehow that would make this real; that would make it even more forbidden. She’d already crossed so many boundaries in body and mind in the past two minutes alone.

She was rapidly reaching the point of no return and hastily thrust her hand into her blouse to relieve the pressure of her painfully hard nipples, inadvertently popping a button off in the process. 

Her crest approached like a wild, predatory beast, stealth in the darkness, coming right for her. She welcomed it as she stared into the mirror at her reflection: eyes at half-mast, jaw slack, her traitorous panting echoing within her ears. As the beast sunk its teeth into her she threw her head back in ecstasy, imagining a primal scream she withheld out of societal duty. 

As she recovered she looked at herself once again in the mirror, straightening her hair, adjusting her blouse as best she could, shimmying her skirt back down. Her activities had wrinkled it atrociously and she prayed Mulder wasn’t the type to notice such a thing. 

She turned around to flush the toilet, congratulating herself on this tiny act of subterfuge. Washing her hands, she readied herself to face him in the flesh.

She turned the doorknob slowly and entered the bedroom to find Mulder sitting on the edge of his bed, reading a piece of paper in his hand. He looked up, registering her presence, and she was relieved to see he was fully dressed, although his shirt was still unbuttoned to a dangerous degree, swaths of coarse brown chest hair peeking out like forbidden invitations. 

She prayed to God he couldn’t tell what she’d been doing.

Demurely tucking a strand of hair behind her ear and clearing her throat, she adjusted her skirt a bit and walked, a little wobbly-legged, towards him, attempting to be as normal as possible.

“Everything okay?” he asked, and while it was definitely not ideal for Mulder to be asking after her prolonged bathroom habits, she found herself pleasantly surprised he cared at all.

“Everything is fine.”

More than fine, now.

He lifted an eyebrow. “So who’s the guy?”

“Guy?” She felt her face completely drain of color.

Oh, God. Had he heard her?

“Yeah, you said you have a date tonight? Lawyer? Stockbroker? Someone who always follows the rules, I’ll bet,” he winked. 

She exhaled slowly, relieved his question seemed to be an innocent one. But Mulder never asked her about her personal life unless it was a request to cancel it. This was unexpected. She found herself somewhat annoyed he seemed to be making fun of her.

“I… don’t really know much about him, actually,” she answered. “That’s kind of the point of a date, you know?”

“Well, I hope it goes well. I know how much you’d like to get a life.” His words came out a bit harshly, and it was the first time she realized what she’d said in the diner might have actually hurt his feelings.

“You don’t have any interest in having a life outside of the X-Files, Mulder? Honestly?”

He shrugged. “I like my life the way it is. Besides, I’ve tried. It doesn’t really work for me.”

She wondered what exactly had entailed ‘trying’ for Fox Mulder. Obviously he had needs, the same as she did. There was a reason for all the adult videos she found scattered around his office. But perhaps she knew less about him than she thought. What if he had been dating someone, even during the short time they’d been partners? She had no idea what he did with the time he spent outside her presence. 

She’d always appreciated the power she felt as Mulder’s partner, as his equal. She knew now, more than ever before, she didn’t want to be seen as one of the guys. The idea of him spending time with some other woman made her feel less powerful, not more. 

“Why not? Has no woman ever lived up to your high expectations?” she found herself asking.

He shifted uncomfortably, as if she’d stumbled upon a sensitive topic. Suddenly she felt like they were delving into territory in which she wasn’t welcome, even though he’d brought it up himself. 

“No,” he said. “It’s just hard to muster up the interest.”

“Really? No interest?”

He shook his head. “Not at this time.”

She paused. It was amazing how Mulder could be such an open book and such a mystery at the same time. “You don't ever just... feel like talking to someone?”

“I have you,” he shrugged, as if he were making the most obvious statement in the world. “I’d rather spend my time talking about primitive territorialism with you.”

Scully blinked, surprised. She was flattered and overcome at the same time by this new revelation. It wasn’t that Mulder saw her as merely a partner. It appeared that, to him, being his partner made her absolutely everything. 

“That’s nice of you to say, Mulder,” she finally replied a bit shyly, tucking another bit of hair behind her ear in a slightly self-conscious way. 

“It’s only the truth,” he said simply. His eyes darted down to her chest, and she saw his cheeks flush bright red. “You’re, uh… you’re a little…” he made a gesture at his chest level and she looked down, confused. 

The button that had popped off her shirt during her frenzied masturbatory session had evidently been an important one. Her breasts were practically spilling out of her blouse.

“Oh!” she reacted immediately, covering herself. “This shirt is… uh, old.” 

She pulled her jacket closed in front of her and buttoned it, dreading the ride back in the wretched heat. But from the pink hue on the tips of Mulder’s ears, she was now satisfied that however he behaved in the field, right here, right now in this motel room, he most definitely saw her as a woman.

They looked at each other for a moment, and as she felt the heat coursing between their bodies and minds somehow she knew that this thing between them, whatever it was, was far too complicated for this tiny room. Suddenly she couldn’t breathe and needed to get out.

“Ready to go?” she asked. 

He stood, grabbed his bag, and gestured for her to lead the way. As the door closed behind them she knew that what had happened needed to stay there until she figured out exactly what was going on. She only worried she’d most definitely be thinking about Mulder’s towel-clad body tonight while on her date.

She wiped her brow with the back of her hand, still a bit sweaty from her exertions in the bathroom. That had been close… too close for comfort.

As he passed her and walked a couple of steps ahead, her gaze drifted down to his ass, and she abruptly averted her eyes. 

Never again, she lied to herself. The rational part of her brain wouldn’t allow any other course. They weren’t in Las Vegas, but the rules still applied, and Scully always followed the rules.

What happened in Atlantic City stayed in Atlantic City.