Welcome To The Harem

Secret Admirer by KristenK2 Part 1 of 2
Summary: Kimberly's got a secret admirer. Schmoop alert.

TITLE: Secret Admirer
AUTHOR: Kristen K2
SUMMARY: Kimberly's got a secret admirer. Schmoop alert.
LEGAL DISCLAIMER: Nobody in this story (hail, hail, the
gang's all here) belongs to me, except Emma and Andy the
Pandy. They belong to CC, Fox and 1013; I just borrowed
them for a little bit. The use of these characters is not
for profit or any other form of compensation. I also swiped
a poem from Maya Angelou, but I think it's worth borrowing.
CATEGORY: Skinner/Other Romance
SPOILERS: All up to Requiem. This was written before Season
8 started, so in this story, there's no Doggett, and Mulder
came back unharmed, I don't know how.
NOTES: Beta-free for your viewing enjoyment.
E-MAIL ADDRESS: KristenK2@deslea.com

Kim didn't know what to think when she walked into her
office that first Monday morning. She'd come in a bit
early, which was unusual for her. Mornings were always the
most difficult; between feeding and bathing and showering
and getting dressed and making lunches for both herself and
Emma, the hands on the clock moved much faster than the two
attached to her arms. Didn't matter how early or late she
woke up either; it was always a race to the finish line.
But she made up for her frequent tardiness by pulling lots
of late nights. Her mom took Emma in after day care closed
at 5, so Kim could stay as late as needed. And she often
did; the overtime money stretched her paycheck in a much
appreciated way. Plus her boss worked far more hours than
she did, and her gatekeeper position right next to his
office door, barring unwelcome interruptions, allowed him
to focus on his work so he could get home at a decent hour

Somebody in the coffee room the other day, Mulder it might
have been, had asked the group milling about if they were
happy with their lives. Of course, Scully had said yes
right off the bat, since she was just starting her second
trimester. Just wait until she had a squirming baby in her
hands, demanding, and deserving, every second of her time,
Kim had wanted to inform her. But then, Scully was going to
have some help with that. Mulder was already overly
attentive to her every pregnant craving. Kim had been doing
it all by herself for over five years.

When the question had swung around to her, she hadn't
really known what to say. Happy was a pretty broad term.
She enjoyed her job, and Emma really was a delight. Raising
her bubbly, sweet daughter was the proudest accomplishment
of Kimberly's life. So there were too many nights that she
crashed and fell asleep on the couch, her arms full of
unfolded clothes, her sink still full of dishes. So there
were too many mornings that she just couldn't take another
person jostling her aside on the Metro, or the last day of
the month, when she balanced her checkbook and allowed
herself a few deserved tears.

But happy? Kim had only given a Mona Lisa-like smile to
Mulder, and said sure, she was happy. Why bother anyone
else with the exhausting whirling tornado that was her
life? Certainly no one was volunteering to be bothered.
*And that's what truly lies behind your frustration, isn't
it, Kimberly?* Men didn't really look at a woman, still
hanging onto to some annoying pregnancy weight, with a
small child balanced on her hip, a perma-worry wrinkle
between her eyebrows, and say, yeah, I wanna take that hot
number to bed. But that train of thought only got her
depressed, so she let it go. She'd made her bed, so to
speak, and now she was lying in it. Alone.

So she didn't know what to think when she spotted the
enormous bouquet of flowers on her desk.

It wasn't her birthday or Secretaries Day, and besides,
Walter Skinner didn't give her flowers for either of those
two occasions. He was usually more practical than that. One
year it had been a beautiful pen set, another time a
leather appointment book. Last year for her birthday, he
had even taken her to lunch at a very expensive French
restaurant. That hadn't gone well; she'd felt very out of
place there, afraid she had dried snot on her shoulder
since Emma had had the flu that whole week, and the waiter
had looked at her very haughtily. But it had been such a
sweet gesture on Skinner's part, and it warmed her heart
that he'd gone to the effort, so she covered her discomfort
as best she could. He wasn't a person who engaged in a lot
of small talk, so she could see the toll it took on him to
converse lightly as they ate their meals.

But he was, as always, ever-so-polite to her, even after
the strange lunch, asking after her daughter, remembering
small details she told him. He'd even bought a card with a
crisp new five-dollar bill inside for her to give to Emma
when she had lost her first tooth a few months ago. And
every year he insisted she take her daughter's birthday off
from work, with pay. Not to mention how attentive he'd been
to her during her pregnancy, she suddenly recalled, making
sure she stayed off her swollen feet as much as possible
during the last few months, and keeping her job open for
her during her maternity leave. She'd been such a mess
during the whole thing, still adjusting to the idea of
raising a fatherless child, she'd been sure he was going to
re-assign her to a less-stressful post.

The flowers took her attention away from her rambling
thoughts. As far as she knew, there wasn't anyone in the
Bureau, or in any portion of her life, who would send her
such a beautiful gift. Not beautiful, she amended as she
looked closer, *exquisite*. Breathtaking. The colors of all
the blossoms varied; there were rich, vibrant hues of
purples, oranges, magentas, blues, and a smattering of
brilliant yellows. A bouquet that immediately made her
think of autumn, which was just around the corner. Of
crisp, cool air and dried leaves crackling under her feet.
Her favorite time of year.

As she began walking toward it, the dazzling scent they
gave off made her sigh in pleasure. She resisted the urge
to bury her nose amongst the petals. Instead she dropped
her purse in her bottom drawer, removed her coat and hung
it on the hook beside her filing cabinet, and slowly sat
down so the tops of the flowers were over her head. The
vase they were in was just as expensive as the flowers, she
noticed. Heavy cut glass, with a graceful swirling pattern
etched into its thick side. Might even be crystal. The
healthy green stems were blurred by the clear water and the
glass. They would last for at least a week before wilting,
her forever-practical side informed her.

Kim just looked at the flowers for a long time, unable to
fully wrap her mind around the concept. It took about five
minutes before she even noticed the un-addressed envelope
sitting next to the vase on her blotter. A heavy ivory-hued
stationary, the paper felt like raw silk against her
fingertips. The envelope was sealed, and there was a blank
card inside. When she opened it, she didn't recognize the
handwriting, but it was written in a very carefully traced
looping penmanship, the likes of which she hadn't seen
since grade school, when she was taught that skill by
Sister Mary Catherine.

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit
A fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

On her third reading, once she got over her awe-struck
giggles, she recognized the poem. It was the first stanza
of Maya Angelou's "Phenomenal Woman". One of her favorites.
She couldn't remember the rest of the verses, though; it
had been a long, long time since she'd had an opportunity
to read poetry. She used to read it in her tub, while
soaking in a hot bubble bath. A luxury she rarely allowed
herself anymore.

The phone rang sharply, jolting her out of her reverie.

"Good morning, Assistant Director Skinner's office."

"Good morning, Kim. Please let AD Skinner know the Deputy
Director is calling."

Her eyes shot over to his open door, but from this angle,
couldn't see his desk except the outer edge. She hadn't
even checked to see if he was in yet, she'd been so
enraptured by the flowers. "Certainly, Grace," she told the
DD's secretary. "Please hold one minute." Clicking the hold
button, she scampered up to see if her boss was at his
desk. To her utter embarrassment, he was, his focus
directed at the report in front of him. He must have been
in for a while now, she realized with dismay, since he'd
already removed his suit jacket. His red tie sliced the
broad expanse of his white starched shirt neatly in two.
The glass of his wirerims flashed in the sunlight when he
turned to look in her direction, the glare hiding any
expression in his eyes.

"Good morning, sir. I didn't realize you were in yet. The
Deputy Director is holding on line one. Would you like me
to get you some coffee while you take the call?" she asked
hurriedly. She didn't want him to get angry at her for
delaying an important caller. Not that he would, he never
yelled at her the way everyone assumed he did. One of the
things she liked best about working for Walter Skinner was
how courteously he treated her.

He sighed, and as his hand reached for the phone, he
replied, "Good morning, Kim. Coffee would be great,

She exited quickly, closing the door behind her. When she
wasn't at her desk, she always made sure his domain was
secure. He had so much responsibility bearing down on him,
so much was expected of him. Her primary function at the
Bureau was to slow down the unending tide of pressure and
people so he could do his job as effectively as he did. For
the most part, she was very good at that. She kept his
office running as smoothly as possible. Until somebody,
Scully or Mulder being the worst culprits, would burst in
and ruin the calm atmosphere she worked so hard to create
for him.

Ignoring her desktop, she scooted over to the break room
and poured two steaming mugfuls of coffee. He liked his
strong, and black. She had more of a sweet tooth, so she
added two Sweet'n'Lows and a splash of skim milk to her
own. She was still floating from the rush of the flowers,
but caffeine was always welcome, and necessary. Walking
carefully back to the office, so she didn't spill, she
placed hers on her desk, before knocking quietly on his
door. Since the phone buttons were unlit, she knew his call
was concluded, but he'd looked pretty busy with his
paperwork before she'd interrupted him a few minutes ago.
It only took him about three seconds to re-focus, she knew
after years of working for him. His intensity was legendary
in the Bureau.

"Come in, Kimberly."

She brought the coffee over to him, which he took from her
hand, his fingers brushing hers as they exchanged the
weight of the mug from her grasp to his. He usually just
let her set it on the desk, so the feel of his innocuous
touch was something of a shock. A tremor rippled through
her, warm and strong. *Just like his hands.* Jeez, what was
the matter with her? One bouquet and here she was
fantasizing about impossible things.

"So is it a special day? Did I forget something?" he


"The flowers arrived soon after I came in this morning. I
had the messenger leave them on your desk."

Kim felt her face flush, and resisted the urge to cool it
with her palm. "No, sir. It's just Monday. Um...would you
happen to remember the name of the delivery service?"

He smiled at her little joke, and shook his head no.
Standing next to him, she could see past the glass lenses
into his eyes. He had the warmest brown eyes of anyone she
knew. It amused her that everyone quaked in fear of him. To
be fair, Walter Skinner did have a foreboding, military-
style erect stance, his massive body and drill-sergeant
voice creating an invisible circle around him that
screamed, 'touch me only if you're willing to die'. But if
you looked at his eyes, or his face, you could see it was a
fa?ade. For a man who was allegedly unemotional, the
muscles of his face were almost always in motion, and gave
everything he was feeling away. Kim had spent years
studying him, and now could practically read him like a
book. His jaw twitched when he was angry, he bit the side
of his lip when he was anxious, his ears reddened when
embarrassed, the lines on the sides of his mouth and
between his eyebrows deepened when concerned. She rarely
got to see what moved on his face when he was experiencing
a positive emotion.

"I'm sorry. I didn't catch it. Is there something wrong
with the flowers? Do you need to contact them?"

"N-no," she stuttered, slightly mortified to explain any
further, "I just wanted to see if they would tell me who
they're from. The card wasn't signed."

His eyebrow lifted in his instantly-recognizable amused
facial gesture. "Unsigned? Why, Kimberly, I think you may
have a secret admirer."

A secret admirer? The idea was so moving, and so
preposterous, she didn't know whether to laugh or cry. She
picked laugh.

"I doubt that, sir. But I wish I could thank whoever sent
them. They're just what I needed to boost my spirits."

He looked like he was about to say something else when two
lines on his phone rang at once. So they both got back to
work, and the moment was soon forgotten in the flurry of
the day.

But every time her gaze caught sight of a blossom, or when
she turned quickly in her chair and a whiff of their
lovely, heady scent invaded her nostrils, she found herself
foolishly smiling and thinking of his words. A secret

And that was the same consensus reached by the people in
the break room, as well, when the talk turned to her
mystery gift-giver. Kim was rarely the center of attention,
and frankly, she basked in the glow. A low-level buzz
coursed through her veins all day.

When the second gift appeared two weeks later, once the
flowers had died and been relegated to the wastebasket, you
could have knocked her over with a feather. It took her
five minutes just to unwrap the bright red ribbon and thick
paper from the box, her hands were shaking so badly. The
tissue paper crumpled easily under her touch, and she let
the box fall back onto her desk with a small surprised
gasp. It was a scarf, a gorgeous silk scarf, that when she
draped it around her neck, matched both the forest green of
her overcoat that she hadn't taken off yet, and the color
of her hair. A soft gray, with delicate swirls of red, gold
and green inlaid in the fabric. It felt wonderful, cool and
sensual, against her cheek.

There was another blank envelope, the same stationary as
the first, and the words blurred in her damp vision when
she read the second stanza.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Maybe she really did have a secret admirer, she admitted.
And her curiosity as to who saw her as the woman in the
poem was overwhelming. So she put on her thinking cap and
started to play a little detective.

It had to be someone in the office, she deduced. Skinner
told her, when she'd asked, that he hadn't been in the
office to sign for the second package, so it had to be
someone who worked here. Security was too tight around here
for it to be a random person off the street. Plus she never
wore her green overcoat anywhere but here. She'd paid a lot
of money for it, and wasn't about to ruin it with food
stains or dirt if she had it on when she and Emma ran
around town on the weekends, running errands or going to
the park. Her dry cleaning bills were high enough.

But who? She started watching the men whom she ran into on
a regular basis more closely. Mulder she immediately
crossed off the list; he was so obviously crazy about
Scully, and they were having a child together. Not every
man bolted for the door when you told them that you were
pregnant, Kim reminded herself. Mulder was the kind who
stayed, unlike Emma's father. The sperm donor, she called
him in her head, when she was feeling particularly snippy.

But all the other agents seemed to basically ignore her,
when she studied their reactions to her presence. Most
didn't even know her name. She struck up a conversation
with one likely candidate, Agent Johnson, but after a
couple of minutes, started praying that it wasn't him. He
was as dull as dishwater. When she got back to her desk,
having made some excuse to extricate herself from the
fourth circle of hell, she looked down at her front, and
laughed. He'd been staring at her chest because she had a
blob of left-over oatmeal from Emma's breakfast on her
blouse. Not because he was enamored of her.

Next she examined Skinner's most frequent non-Bureau
visitors. The three weirdos who followed Mulder around
often might be candidates. The one with the beard was sort
of cute. But when she mentioned in passing the poem, his
eyes had glazed over and he'd dreamily commented that some
woman named Suzanne had been a phenomenal woman. So she
scratched him off the list too, and didn't even bother with
the other two. If they were the guy sending her presents, a
simple thank-you was all she was willing to give either of

Kim shuddered and sent a swift prayer skywards that the
Smoking Man no longer came around. He hadn't been in
Skinner's office since she bought her green coat, so he
wasn't a possibility. And the idea of him thinking about
her, in any way, shape or form, was enough to make her want
to join a convent. That leathery skin and those cold, dead
eyes, yuck. Not to mention the cigarette stench that reeked
from his very pores. It used to take her days to air out
Skinner's office after one of his visits.

But his lackey might be the one, and Kim wondered what the
heck she would do if it was. She remembered Krycek from his
Special Agent days, and had thought he was pretty hot back
then, even though she was living with the sperm donor at
the time. But when he'd jumped ship, and it was clear he
was not a man you'd want to introduce your child to, she'd
changed her opinion about him. He'd been hanging around
Skinner's office lately, ever since Mulder had been
returned from his ordeal in Oregon, and when Skinner kept
him waiting on her office couch, she'd looked up from her
monitor to find him staring at her so intensely she got
goose bumps. On the other hand, he looked that way at
everyone, she told herself. Didn't mean a thing.

Frustrated, she approached Holly and tried to find out if
there was anyone who might have, well, a crush on her.
Since Holly worked in Records, she talked to a lot more
agents and staff than Kim did, and she had a finely-tuned
ear for all gossip. But that awkward discussion yielded
nothing; Holly hadn't heard any talk except the same
speculation about her gift-giver that Kim had, and she kept
attempting to shift the talk to Skinner and his personal
life. Kim didn't like to talk about him to the rest of the
staff. He was a private man, and she respected him too much
to engage in tawdry innuendo about him. So what if he was
divorced, and didn't date, as far as she knew. It wasn't
anybody's business but his.

Kim didn't even allow herself to entertain the thought that
Walter Skinner was behind her current situation. Sure, he
was a gentleman toward her, courtly almost in his demeanor,
but she was a pretty integral part of his success at work.
It didn't necessary follow that he had some personal
feelings for her. He just knew that snapping her head off
would only ruin the comfortable relationship they had. And
he was far too savvy about office politics to piss off his
assistant. He knew, if she was *that* kind of person, she
could damage his reputation easily. A few well-placed
rumors about a peccadillo or a hint of sexual harassment,
and that would be that. His previous assistant, the one
that only stayed about two weeks before Kim was assigned to
her current post, had done just that. It had taken her six
months to assuage everyone on the staff that he wasn't the
man that nasty woman had implied he was. It had taken
another six months beyond that before Skinner had begun to
trust Kim herself.

But now that he did, and had for years, working for him was
one of the most enjoyable parts of her day. He didn't shove
her aside, like some agents did or like the other commuters
on the train, he didn't nag her about dating like her mom
did. Unlike her daughter, he talked to her in full
declarative sentences, and he didn't ask her to read "Green
Eggs and Ham" for the millionth time before bed.

The thought of him asking her to read *anything* to him in
bed was both one of the most erotic, and the most
ridiculous, images she'd ever depicted. Sometimes her
imagination ran away from her, she chided herself.

So she firmly put all of it out of her mind, and let her
busy life do the thinking for her. Which was as easy as
falling off a log. She and Emma went to the zoo the
Saturday after she got the scarf, and Kim spent the ensuing
week listening to her cheerful excited talk about how cool
the pandas had been. Personally, she enjoyed the aquarium
more; fish didn't squawk or roar, there were no phones
ringing, or car horns bleating, or trains rushing by. It
was silent except for happy chatter and the soothing sound
of splashing water. But Emma thought the aquarium 'bo-ring,
Mommy', so they didn't go as often as Kim would have liked.

The following weekend was the one after payday, and Kim
decided to splurge a bit after they ran errands all day
Saturday. Usually, on Sundays, she cleaned the house, and
cooked meals for the week, freezing them in small
Tupperware bowls that were easy to re-heat each night when
she got home from work. But this Sunday, she took Emma
shopping. Not just any kind of shopping, either. To the
store of all stores for a five-year-old, the grand high
exalted holy Mecca of toy-dom: FAO Schwarz.

She'd only taken her there a few times, and usually
regretted it. Emma's 'must-have' toys were usually out of
her price range. But she'd put in a lot of overtime the two
weeks prior, and it showed in her checkbook. So she planned
on buying her daughter anything her precious little heart
desired. Kim told herself it had nothing to do with the
guilt of leaving her with her grandma for so many evenings.

Emma dragged her all over the store, ooh-ing and aah-ing at
the dolls, the stuffed animals, the games, her grin as wide
as the Grand Canyon. Kim soon got caught up in her
overflowing enthusiasm.

"Oh Mommy, look! A pandy bear! Like at the zoo!"

Kim eyed the huge stuffed creature. The darn thing was
bigger than Emma. "Just like the zoo. What would you call
it, if you took it home? It has to have a name, you know."

Emma pursed her lips, thinking. A deep laugh suddenly burst
behind Kim's shoulder.

"My goodness, she looks like you when you're lost in

She spun toward the low voice, her brain not accepting that
it was the person who her ears told her. But it was. What
on earth was Walter Skinner doing in a toy store?

"Oh, hello sir. I mean, Walter," she corrected herself.
He'd asked her, when they'd gone to the fancy French place,
to please call him by his first name when they weren't in
the office. She hadn't had an opportunity to take him up on
that until this very second.

"Hello, Kimberly." His eyes danced behind his wirerims as
he looked down at the little girl staring open-mouthed at
him. "You must be Emma. I've heard a lot about you."

"You're bigger than a grizzly bear," Emma blurted out, and
Kim winced.

"Emma, that's not polite. Say hello to Mr. Skinner,

To Kim's utter disbelief, Skinner laughed again and
crouched down so he was eye-level with her daughter. He put
out his hand to her, and Emma placed her tiny one in it,
and shook it politely. Her entire fist disappeared within
the palm of his hand, and Kim stifled a giggle at the

"Hello, Mr. Skinner, it's very nice to meet you," she said,
then looked to her mother for approval. Kim nodded, and let
them speak, ready to jump in when either Emma got to be too
much, or Skinner ran out of things to say. Both were
distinct possibilities.

"It's nice to meet you too, Emma. Have you decided on a
name for the bear?"

She shrugged. "Maybe Andy. Andy the Pandy. But I don't want
to take him home."

"And why's that?"

"My other animals might get mad at me. He's so big he might
crush them when we had our tea party."

"I think Andy would be careful not to hurt them. Big bears
don't always have to be scary, especially when the big bear
wants to be friends with the smaller bears," he said,

Emma mulled that over, then returned his grin. "Like you?"

"Just like me," he said, as he stood back up to his full
height. Emma craned her head up, then giggled at him,
before her attention shifted back to the panda. Kim was
amazed by the entire exchange.

"She's charming, Kimberly. You must be proud," he said once
Emma was fully engrossed by the stuffed animals. Kim kept
one eye on her, while the other tried to focus on the man
addressing her. But it was hard to pay attention,
especially since he wasn't wearing a suit. Today he had on
a pair of khakis, and a dark-green chamois shirt, with the
top two buttons undone. A little chest hair peeked out at
his neck, and it sent her mind flying in all sorts of
inappropriate directions.

"Thank you. You handled yourself well, considering the fact
I doubt you spend a lot of time with five year olds," she
said with a nervous titter. What the heck was she nervous
about, she wondered.

He smiled in agreement. "Actually that's why I'm here. My
niece's birthday is next week, and I'm at a loss as to a
gift. I thought I'd put myself in the hands of
professionals, begging for mercy, but the salespeople seem
to be swamped at the moment."

"Not surprising for a Sunday. Maybe I can help with some
suggestions. How old is your niece?" she asked, laughing at
his woebegone expression, when Emma came back and tugged on
her arm. Kim swung her up onto her hip, as Skinner spoke to
both of them.

"She's five too. So I was wondering, Emma, if you could
help a poor big bear find a good present to give somebody
your size."

And somehow, hours later, Kim found herself sitting in an
ice cream parlor, sharing a hot fudge sundae with Walter
Skinner. They had combed the store thoroughly, Emma often
dragging Skinner by two of his fingers, to show him a
'really neat' gift. Eventually he settled on a Barbie for
his niece, and Emma decided her special Sunday toy was
going to be the board game Chutes and Ladders. Kim's
foolish imagination kept bursting through her consciousness
as she watched the two of them interact. Skinner was so
serious and funny at the same time, asking Emma's advice on
each toy, listening to her every word with a series of
dignified nods, inspecting it carefully with her, before
moving onto the next. And Emma was as enthralled by his
focused attention as Kim herself was. He was just being
kind, she told herself. Then he had shocked her by
accepting Emma's impromptu invitation to the ice cream

He looked over at Emma fondly, who was resting against
Kim's hip with a sleepy expression on her face. Her kid's-
sized scoop of mint chocolate chip was long gone, most of
which had landed either in her lap or somewhere in the
vicinity of her mouth. She'd been too busy talking to
Skinner to see where her spoon was headed.

"Somebody looks like they're ready for a nap," he
commented, as Kim shifted her arm so Emma could nestle in
closer. Then his eyes scanned her own face. "Maybe two
people," he amended.

Kim sighed, and dug her spoon into the parfait glass
between them. "Yeah, but this sundae's too good to waste.
We'll go in a bit, okay, honey?" she said to her daughter,
who mumbled a drowsy "okay" back.

"I want to apologize to you, Kim," he said sotto voce, and
she looked over at him, confused. "I don't think I realized
until today how selfish it is for me to ask you to put in
such long hours as you do."

"That's okay, sir," she quickly responded. "I don't mind,
and ah...the money comes in handy," she confessed, a little
color staining her cheeks.

He bit the side of his lip, in the gesture she knew from
experience meant anxious. She immediately regretted making
him think she didn't know how much he appreciated her.

The words tumbled out before she could stop them. "I didn't
mean that the way it came out. I'm not angling for a

"Oh, I know that. But I still think you deserve one."


"Walter," he gently corrected her.

"Walter," she repeated, "really, I'd rather you didn't. I'd
just feel guilty every two weeks when payday comes. My
regular raises are fine, honestly. Please don't make a

He nodded, and looked hard at her all of a sudden. Kim
didn't know what was the matter.

"Nobody really makes a fuss over you, do they, Kimberly?"

The blush came so fast to her face she actually felt dizzy.
"Not really," she agreed, "but that's okay. I don't think
I'd know what to do if they did."

His eyebrow arched. "Is that why you get so flustered over
your secret admirer?"

"Maybe. It's embarrassing being the subject of everyone's
discussion on breaks. But on the other hand, it's kind of
nice, to know someone thinks about me once in awhile."

"So are you going to keep trying to figure out who it is?"

"How...how did you know I was doing that?"

He laughed, and leaned back into the booth, waving his hand
to indicate she should finish the last of the sundae.
"Kimberly, I was a field investigator for a long time. I'm
a fairly observant person."

So much for being subtle about her little detective
excursion, she thought with a little laugh. "Well then,
Sherlock Holmes, so who do you think it is?"

He chuckled. "I haven't a clue, my dear Watson." Then he
got serious, his dark eyes watching her carefully behind
his lenses. "But maybe the point is, who do you *want* it
to be. Let the man remain a mystery, and just enjoy the
attention. Besides, you might not like the person behind
the gifts, and that would spoil his intent. Perhaps,
whoever it is, just wants you to feel special."

"You mean, you think the person doesn't care for me?"

He shook his head. "No, he obviously does. Let's look at
the evidence," he said in his AD Skinner tone, and Kim bit
back a laugh. It sounded very out of place here. "The
flowers would appear to be a general affectionate
statement. And sending them to your place of work, rather
than your home, says that he is marking his territory, in a
way. Letting other men around you know that there is
someone who thinks you're worthy of being treated well. The
scarf, because it matches your coloring and coat so well,
tells us that he's watched you, and he pays attention to
detail. But sneaking something into the office under both
of our radar indicates that he doesn't want to be found.
So, in the final analysis, we could conclude that your
secret admirer's true agenda might just be to encourage you
to dream. To indulge in a fantasy."

She waved her hand at him, and tucked a stray curl of
Emma's hair behind her ear. Sweet little thing had fallen
asleep right on her lap. "Who's got time for that?"

"Maybe you should make the time," he said, his voice as
dark and rich as the hot fudge she licked off the edge of
her spoon. "Maybe he wants you to take a little time for

"You're one to talk, Walter. I think *you* need a secret
admirer," she scoffed. She tore her eyes away from his
suddenly mesmerizing ones, and grabbed at some napkins to
clean off Emma's face and overalls before the ice cream
took root. A bath had not been on today's agenda, and
laundry wasn't until Wednesday night.

He moved so fast, and so gracefully, she didn't realize he
was holding onto her forearm until she felt his fingers
clamped around her bare skin. "Look at yourself, Kim," he
said sternly, his jaw twitching. "You're doing three
different things at the same time, and you're probably
thinking about two others that you didn't have time to
tackle yet."

She blinked, shocked. He'd never raised his voice to her
before. And he sure as hell had never touched her.

"So what if I am? Is there something wrong with that?" she
asked, on the verge of being offended. And inexplicably, on
the brink of tears. *God, pull it together, girl. Maybe she
did need a nap.*

He gentled his tone and his grip as he continued. "Kim, you
work yourself down to the bone. I'm...I'm just concerned
about you. Please don't take it the wrong way."

What other way was she supposed to take it, she thought,
thoroughly frustrated. A dozen angry retorts were on the
tip of her tongue, when Emma stirred against her and got
her back on track. She dug through her wallet for some
money, ignoring his protests to pay for dessert, and
scooped her purse, a still-sleeping Emma, and their
shopping bags into her arms as she rose. He stood up as she
did, grasping her elbow firmly to stop her hasty escape.

"Kimberly, I'm very sorry. I didn't mean to upset you."

She forced herself to smile. "You didn't. I just have to
take her home and really let her nap or she'll be cranky
all night. Thank you for a lovely afternoon." He dropped
his hand, and she turned to leave. Then she reconsidered,
and faced him again. He wasn't just nibbling his lip, he
was practically swallowing it whole. "You probably have a
point, Walter. And I do appreciate you trying to help. I
shouldn't have over-reacted. It just...touched a nerve."

Then she closed her eyes, and let loose what she'd really
been thinking. "I guess I was hoping that maybe my secret
admirer wanted me. As a woman. I didn't tell you, or
anybody really, but there's this poem that he's been
sending snippets of, and..." She stopped, mortified that
she was even discussing this with him. Oh God, she'd
practically announced she needed to get laid. To her

When she worked up the nerve to open her eyes, he was
staring at her with the most unreadable expression she'd
ever seen on his face. She, who had become an expert on
every unspoken need he had at work, didn't have the
slightest clue what he was thinking.

"A poem?" he finally said, after the longest silence of her

"Yeah," she mumbled, squirming. "It's kind of, ah, well,

After another too-long beat, his mouth widened into an
enormous smile. Kim had never seen a look of pure delight
on his face before. It was probably the most beautiful
thing she'd ever seen.

"Well, that throws my whole theory off, doesn't it? I
didn't factor in a hot, lusty poem."

She giggled, relieved that somehow they'd gotten past their
awkward moment unscathed. She didn't like almost-fighting
with him. "It's not really that hot. It's just..." *Just
what? Erotic? Empowering? Passionate?* "...flattering," she

"Kimberly," he said, "I think I misjudged both you and your
mystery man. You should probably disregard everything I
said this afternoon. He most likely has very deep feelings
for you." His brown irises melted into hot fudge, as he
emphasized, "As a woman."

When she got into work Monday, she nearly fell down onto
the linoleum of the hallway in relief. Even though her
brain kept telling her to be sensible, to not expect
anything, her heart kept saying, "Two weeks. It's been two
weeks since the last gift." She had tried very hard to
ignore her heart, but it had been hopeless. And worth it.
Because there was a brightly-wrapped, oddly-shaped bundle
on her desk, waiting for her.

Once she got it open, she was more confused than ever. A
basket of toiletries? Huh? But she had to admit, this guy
had great taste. The bubble bath and the soaps were from
Crabtree & Evelyn, and in some of her favorite aromas. A
sweetly-scented spring bouquet, and a more musky one.
Sandalwood, when she looked the label. Of course, the best
part was the third stanza.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

She was so involved in reading, she didn't hear him come in
until he was right up next to her. Kim jumped about six
feet in the air when she saw a plastic hand reaching for
one of the bubble baths sitting out loosely out on her

"What's this?" Krycek asked, his green cat's eyes drilling
into hers.

"Nothing. A gift," she babbled, then took a deep calming
breath. "Do you have an appointment with Mr. Skinner?"

His eyebrow shot up. "A gift? Someone sent you bubble bath?
That's sexy as hell." He picked up the bottle and sniffed
around the cap. "I bet this will smell great on you, too."

She stood up, and snatched the bottle out of his hand.
Suddenly she felt very dirty, and not in a good, raunchy
way, either. The idea that maybe Krycek had sent the lovely
gifts cast a bleak pallor over everything. An image of him
standing in the store, sampling different scents while he
pictured her in her bathtub, made her sick to her stomach.

"Don't touch that," she spit. "Do you have an appointment
or not?"

His sharp eyes raked over her, and he gave her a wicked
smile. "Yes I do. My, aren't you touchy this morning, Kim.
Does this mean you're not going to invite me over to help
scrub your back?"

"Krycek, leave her alone," Skinner barked from the outer
door of her office. In four fast strides, he loomed over
the younger man, and quickly hustled him into his office.
Skinner gave her a brief glance, then closed the door
behind him without saying another word.

An hour later, both men emerged from Skinner's office, and
Krycek sauntered past her without speaking, thankfully.
Skinner leaned against his doorway, his arms folded across
his chest. He looked both concerned and tired. The lines by
his mouth were very deep.

"Did he say anything to you before I got here, Kim?"

She shook her head and shifted her gaze to her empty
blotter. She'd put away all evidence of her gift, feeling a
little soiled by her mini run-in with Krycek. "No, sir."

In the space of a heartbeat, she felt a warm hand on her
shoulder, and her eyes followed the white cotton of his
sleeve up to his face. "Then what's the matter?" he

"Do you...do you think maybe he's been sending the gifts?"

Skinner dropped his hand, and folded his arms back up.
"What makes you think so?"

"I don't know. He looks at me strangely sometimes, and
well, he was here lurking around. You and I weren't. He
could have sneaked in and left them here for me."

By the tight look on his face, Kim knew he was taking her
anxiety seriously. "I doubt it," he replied, the words
coming out slowly through his clenched jaw. "Krycek doesn't
strike me as someone who cares very much about anyone
except himself. I've completely misread his character if
he's capable of doing anything that's brought such a string
of delighted smiles to your face in the last few weeks."

She gave a valiant effort at one just because he was being
so sweet, but fell far short of her mark. "I hope your
analysis is correct, sir."

"May I ask what was in today's gift?" he inquired politely.

"Toiletries. Bubble bath and soaps and stuff."

He pondered that for a minute, frowning. It was so weird,
but for a second there, Kim got the impression that he was
just a tiny bit...jealous? Impossible, she decided. "It's
actually a very nice gift, from whomever the source. I'm a
big fan of bubble baths," she said hurriedly, determined
not to think about Alex Krycek again. He just couldn't be
her secret admirer. She was going to take Walter's advice
from yesterday and not try to uncover his identity anymore.
She was just going to let it be whomever she chose it to

Skinner peered into her face carefully, then smiled. "I
hope you enjoy it then."

And enjoy it she did. A few days later, Friday night to be
exact, after she'd managed to get in and out of work on
time, after she'd cleaned up after dinner, and long after
she put Emma down for the night, Kim drew herself a nice,
hot bath. She selected the spring bouquet bath oil, and
hunted unsuccessfully for her Maya Angelou book while the
water ran. Faintly annoyed when she couldn't find it, she
instead took the three cards out of her dresser drawer and
took them with her into the bathtub. The stupid sperm donor
must have swiped her book when he packed up and moved out;
now that she thought about it, she hadn't read the poem
since before Emma was born.

Kim let the water and the heat and the bubbles surround her
until she felt loose-limbed and relaxed from the
luxuriousness of it all. When she was good and ready, she
picked up each card, in order received, and savored each
individual line. Indulging an instinct, she sniffed at the
paper. She didn't recognize the scent, but it was
tantalizing. Clean and clear, like rain.

She imagined a man's large hand, holding the black pen
loosely, the edge of his palm raised over the paper,
brushing against it occasionally as he copied this lovely,
alluring poem. To her. Thinking of her with every stroke of
his...pen. She let the cards fall to the floor, and ran her
fingers through the bubbles, then below, along the contours
of her body, imagining that same man, with a wide chest and
an even wider smile, wrapping his strong arms around her in
the tub. Touching her, kissing her, whispering sweet
nothings in her ear as he made slow, passionate love to
her. Kim tipped her head back against the cool enamel of
the tub and sighed with pleasure.

It was the last enjoyable moment she experienced for a
week. Her car broke down on Saturday, stranding her and
Emma in the parking lot of the supermarket. When she got to
the mechanic's where she'd had it towed, the estimate for
repairs nearly depleted half her savings account. But no
car wasn't an option, so she agreed, after negotiating only
a pittance off the price. Sunday brought more disasters.
She burned her hand while pulling the lasagna out of the
oven, Emma scraped her knee badly while playing hopscotch,
and her mom came down with a nasty head cold. So she re-
organized her schedule for the week so she could get out of
the office on time each night. Pity, too, because she had
hoped the overtime would give her a head start on
replenishing her savings.

And the entire week at the office was no better. Skinner
was out of town for most of it, mopping up some mess Mulder
had created down in Florida. She could hear the tightly
reined-in strain in his voice every time he called in for
messages. Her computer crashed, twice, and the tech guy she
called couldn't retrieve the reports she'd been working on,
so she had to re-type all of them. The corner of her desk
decided to become a pantyhose magnet, shredding four pairs
of them in the space of two days. All in all, she had never
been so happy to see Friday appear in her life.