Date: Wed, 10 Jun 1998

Title: Profiles in Caring
Author: Daydreamer
Author E-Mail:
Rating: PG for language - emotional intimacy and kissing
Category: SA - character exploration
Spoilers: Set post Redux II - no specific episode spoilers
Keywords: MSR/UST - M/Sc/Sk friendship
Disclaimer: Mulder, Scully, and Skinner are owned by Chris Carter,
1013 Productions, Fox Television Network, etc. They are wonderfully
brought to life by David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, and Mitch Pileggi.
I will make no profit from this, and neither will Fox if they sue me,
because I am poor and have nothing material they can profit from.
Archive: Yes, please.
Feedback: Yes! Please!
Comments: This is just a series of hurt/comfort, angst, support, care
and concern, friendship/MSR vignettes, wrapped around an extremely
loose plot. I have more fun making the characters interact with each
other than making them solve crimes. Enjoy!
Summary: After her release from the hospital, Scully follows Mulder to
where he is working on a case for VCS.

Profiles in Caring
Part 01 of 06

"What are you doing here, Agent Scully?" Skinner barked. "You haven't
been released from medical leave yet."

Scully stood quietly in the gentle drizzle, her eyes fixed on the tall
man who knelt, oblivious to the rain, in the middle of a dirt field
surrounded by yellow crime scene tape. She watched as he carefully
felt the earth before him, moving so slowly across the area, it almost
seemed he wasn't moving at all. His hair was plastered to his head,
his suit coat drenched and sticking to his back. He had apparently
removed the ubiquitous trench coat to avoid having it drag as he worked
his way across the scene.

"Agent Scully." Skinner spoke again, not quite so sharply this time,
but demanding her attention and an explanation.

"I know I haven't been cleared for active duty yet, Sir," she started,
"but you have him in VCS again! Profiling, no less. You know he can't
do this - shouldn't do this, and certainly not alone - you know that
and yet you sent him here and didn't tell me!" She knew she sounded
petulant, but seemed unable to suppress it.

"Scully - Dana - I didn't send him," Skinner responded. "One of the
agents assigned to this case knew you weren't - available - for a while
and took advantage of the situation to request a consult directly from
Mulder. You know how he is - won't say no if he thinks he can make a
difference. He thinks he saw something the others missed, and well,
here he is." Skinner turned his gaze from Scully to the man kneeling
in the mud, then stated, "And none of that explains how you found out
and why you are here when you haven't been cleared to return to duty

Scully continued to watch the man in the field, half focused on what
Skinner was saying, but primarily interested in what Mulder was doing.
"I feel fine, Sir," she said rotely. At Skinner's silence, she paused,
turned to look at him, then added, "I really do. I would have been
released on Monday. But right now, I need to be here."

"Scully," he began gently, "You know you can't be here until you are
cleared. That's not my rule - you know that. We don't have any options

"You can get me cleared, Sir. Monday is only 4 days away. I am not
going back." She looked directly into the AD's eyes, willing him to
agree to her continued presence.

He paused, assessing her level of determination, then grunted, all the
acknowledgement and acceptance she was likely to get, and turned again
to watch Mulder as he continued to work the field in the rain.

Scully released a breath she didn't realize she had been holding. Her
muscles relaxed, and tension began to slowly seep out of her. "How
long has he been here?" she asked.

"Five days," Skinner replied. "How did you find out?"

"He's been calling me, daily, sometimes twice, since I got out of the
hospital. It was almost annoying. But then, he started to sound
distracted and two days ago, the calls stopped. I checked around and
found out he wasn't even in town, dug some more, and found out he was
here. I guess he remembered to call the first few days, but as he
slipped further in, he forgot." She shrugged. "I'm glad, in a way.
If he has to be here, he shouldn't be alone."

Skinner gave a rare smile. "In case you hadn't noticed, I am here.
I didn't exactly send him unarmed into the fray."

Scully looked up at the unexpected remark from the AD. She stared at
him seriously for a moment, then gave a slight smile of her own. "Do
you have an umbrella?'

Skinner started at the abrupt change of topic. He recovered, "In the
car. I'm sorry, I wasn't thinking. I'll get it." He darted over to
the rental car, retrieved the umbrella, raised it, and came back to
where Scully stood. She was almost as wet as Mulder by now. She
continued to watch him as he worked his way across the field.

"Where are the crime scene techs?" she asked, as Skinner moved next
to her, shielding her from the rain with the umbrella.

"They're across the way, out of the weather, waiting for him to get
done. After the body was removed, he wanted to do a sweep himself, to
get a feel for what's happening. He didn't want anyone else in the

"Oh." Long pause as they both continued to watch Mulder work the
pattern he had laid out for himself. "Can I have the umbrella?"

Skinner looked down at her. Her attention was still focused on the
man in the field. He passed the umbrella to her and watched as she
took it silently. She walked slowly toward the crime scene tape. As
she approached the tape, she stopped and continued to watch. When she
was confident that she could approach Mulder without walking or
stepping in an area he might not want disturbed, she ducked under the
tape and headed across the field.


The rain suddenly stopped. Mulder paused for a moment, shook his
head to clear the water from his eyes, grateful for the relief from
the ceaseless drizzle. He continued to work his way across the field.
The ground was still wet but at least it wasn't raining on him.
After another three quarters of an hour, he paused and looked outward.
<Hey, wait a minute, it was still raining! Everywhere but on him.>
He looked up and saw the umbrella held in a small hand. His eyes
followed the hand up an arm, and across to a very familiar face.
"Hello, Mulder. I missed hearing from you."

He wiped his eyes again, trying desperately to shift his focus from
the killer he was stalking to the woman standing before him. The
woman he had sworn to call daily and then promptly forgotten about.
<Oh shit!> The woman, he reminded himself, who was just released from
the hospital, weakened by her battle with cancer, and yet had stood
here, <for how long?> holding an umbrella over his head to keep him
dry. Well, sorta dry - drier - he hastily amended. "Hey Scully,
whatcha doing here?" he grinned foolishly up at her.

"I thought you might need someone to keep you out of trouble, partner,
especially when I heard Skinner was here," she responded, smiling
fondly at him. She reached out and brushed a wet lock of hair from
his forehead, her thumb gently tracing the eyebrow beneath it. "But I
see you mostly need someone to keep you dry. Are you almost done

He looked up at her for a minute longer, then rose shakily to his
feet. He stretched the kinks out of his back, and brushed the worst
of the mud from his knees. He straightened and then reached out and
took the umbrella from her hand, stepping in close to her as he did,
covering them both.

"Yeah, I am. This wasn't our guy - I can't explain it, there's just
a different feel to it. I don't know if it's a copy cat or not." He
placed his hand on the small of her back and they began to walk slowly
back across the field. "Some of the elements are the same, but the
killer is not extremely individualistic with his signature anyway, so
this could just be a random murder, with enough similiarities that we
had to look twice. It took a long time for anyone to connect that we
had a serial loose here anyway. There is such an element of randomness
to his kills, it's hard to see the pattern. I know it's there, but
I can't see it yet"

Scully listened as he spoke. She looked sharply at him, studying his
face, pale and tired looking. His eyes, darkly ringed and bloodshot.
His clothes, already beginning to hang from his lean frame. After his
brief spate of attention on her, he had already begun to turn inward,
focusing on the hunt again. She needed to get him back before he was
gone for several more hours. She reached out and took his arm. He
stopped in his tracks and turned to look at her. "Mulder," she asked
gently, "have you eaten yet?"


Skinner continued to stand in the rain as he watched Scully cross the
field. He noted the way she carefully studied Mulder, his pattern,
what he was doing, before she crossed the tape and approached him.
Even then, it didn't appear she spoke. She just took up a position
behind him, and held the umbrella over him, shielding him from the
ongoing drizzle. And he never even noticed! Skinner was amazed at
the way this man could tune everything out when he was on the hunt.

For almost an hour, Scully followed Mulder, holding the umbrella.
Skinner noticed she held it out, over him, and she stood quietly in
the steady rain. He stood and watched, astounded at the level of
Mulder's concentration, amazed at Scully's forebearance. At one point,
the crime scene techs had approached him with complaints that they
needed to get started, but he had waved them away, telling them to

Finally, Mulder seemed to notice that it was raining everywhere but
on him. He looked up, startled, and saw Scully. Skinner couldn't
hear what was said, but he saw the grin that burst across Mulder's
face. Scully seemed to be looking down on him fondly. Skinner
watched as she reached out and touched - no - caressed - his face.
Mulder reached out to her, then rose to his feet, albeit unsteadily.
He stretched, then brushed the mud from his pants. He stood for a
moment looking at Scully, then reached out and took the umbrella from
her. He stepped closer to her - very close, Skinner noticed - and
placed his hand on her back. They turned and began to walk across
the field toward him.

As Skinner realized Mulder was finished, he pulled his cell phone and
called the techs. "The area is yours. Mulder's done." He hung up
brusquely, not wanting to listen to the repeated complaints and gripes
that were sure to come up again, his attention already refocused on
his agents crossing the field.

Mulder seemed to be speaking tiredly, but with feeling. Scully was
listening, but she was also examining Mulder. Skinner looked closer
at the man, trying to see what Scully was looking for. As the two
drew closer, Skinner began to see it as well. The suit, while wet
and bedraggled, was looser than it had been 5 days ago. His face was
pale, unshaven, with bruised looking circles under his eyes. He walked
stiffly, as if it was an effort to stay on his feet.

How could he have missed it, he berated himself. He had specifically
come on this assignment, leaving his desk job for the field, so that
someone - he, himself, Skinner - could make sure Mulder didn't get so
far in, he hurt himself, and already the man looked like death warmed
over. He shook his head ruefully. How does Scully do it?

Skinner watched her continue to lead Mulder gently across the field.
When they reached the tape, he leaned down and lifted it for her.
She stepped under as he kept the umbrella over her head. She reached
out, took the umbrella, and waited while he stepped under the tape.
When he stood again, she handed it back to him and they continued

Scully seemed to have finished her surrepticious exam of Mulder and
she reached out, placing a hand on his arm. Skinner saw Mulder jolt
to a stop, and look, first at her hand, then into her eyes. She
seemed to be asking him something.


Mulder looked down into Scully's eyes. <Oh, God, not the food
question. She knows I can't eat on these kinds of cases. Let's see,
how do I get around this one?>

"Sure, Scully, I ate a while ago." <That should be safe - who can
define a "while?">

Scully looked down, "Oh," she said. She seemed disappointed.

<Oh shit, what did I say wrong? Maybe she's not trying to force
feed me. Maybe she's hungry.> "When did you get in Scully? Have
you eaten yet?"

His effort was rewarded as she ducked her head to hide the slight
smile that graced her face. "I sorta left in a hurry, Mulder, and
I didn't get a chance to get anything. I was hoping you would join
me. I hate to eat alone."

<How could I hope to resist her? Why would I want to try? Guess
I'll be eating tonight at least.> "Sure, Scully, we can get a bite.
Have you been to the hotel yet?" He gestured down at himself. "Can
we swing by there and get into some dry clothes first?"

"No, I haven't checked in yet; I came straight here. But changing
sounds like a wonderful idea."

Mulder glanced sharply at her then, realizing how very wet she was.
She must have held the umbrella over him the whole time, leaving
herself exposed to the rain. Why did this amazing woman care for him
like this? She continually astounded him.

They reached Skinner and stopped.

Mulder straightened and began to report. "Sir, I don't think this
was our guy - it just feels different to me. I don't know if it's a
copy cat or not. Our killer is not overtly individualistic with his
signature, so this could just be a random murder, with enough
similiarities that we had to look twice. Some of the elements are the
same. It took a long time for anyone to make the connection that this
was a serial killer because there is such an element of randomness to
his kills. There's nothing I can learn here. I still can't get a
handle on the killer's pattern."

At that admission, Mulder seemed to fold into himself. The nights
without sleep, days without food, the sheer physical exhaustion began
to catch up with him. But he forced his mind to focus on the task -
he had to catch a killer. He half stumbled as he stood before Skinner.


Scully saw it happening again. She reached for him at the same time
Skinner did. They each held an arm, and Mulder gazed blankly at them
for a moment then, shook them off, and straightened again. He was
slipping back into his profiling mode. Well, not until he was dry,
had eaten, and, if she had her way, had gotten some sleep! She took
the umbrella from his hand, and turned to Skinner.

"Sir," she began. "I haven't had a chance to check in yet. I had the
airline send my bags to the hotel, and took a cab here. I think all
of us could do with some dry clothes. Is that your rental?" She
indicated the vehicle he had gotten the umbrella from and began
heading that way, half leading, half pulling Mulder.

"Yes," Skinner replied. "But I need to stay here for a while. I'll
have another agent take you to the hotel."

Skinner reached out and unlocked the car. Scully opened the rear
door and helped Mulder inside. She watched as he sank back wearily,
leaning his head far back on the seat and closing his eyes. She helped
him with the seat belt, then murmured soothingly to him, stroked his
arm, stood, and shut the door.

"Sir, you said you came to watch out for him. Well, he needs it now.
He's exhausted, he's already lost weight, and I know he hasn't been
sleeping. He'll fight me - but you - you can make him rest." She
chuckled dryly. "Or at least order him to stay in the hotel. I need
you to come with me."

Skinner studied her appraisingly, then relented. "All right, Agent
Scully. Get in."

He moved to the driver's seat and slid behind the wheel. Scully went
around to the other side and got in beside him. Skinner was surprised;
he realised he had expected her to get in the back with Mulder.

Scully looked over her shoulder and, sure enough, Mulder was asleep.
It amazed her that the man couldn't sleep nights for more than a
couple hours at a time, yet could fall asleep anywhere else at the
first opportunity. It had to be his own, finely developed, coping

Skinner had started the car and begun the trip back to the hotel. He
was currently on the phone, giving guidance and direction to the team
still at the last crime scene. He released the agents assigned to
the serial hunt, accepting Mulder's conclusion that this murder was
not by the same killer. Those agents went back to the command center.

Scully looked at Skinner as he made his assignments. He looked tired
as well. "So, Sir, want to bring me up to date?"

"There have been 5 murders over 10 weeks. It wasn't until the third
one that anyone began to suspect a serial killer. It was a fluke
anyone caught it. The murders themselves have been by strangulation,
different ligature each time. Electrical cord, belt, scarf, a rawhide
boot lace, and wire coat hanger. The bodies were all face down, in
obvious display, but the positioning was different for each. That's
the extent of it for now. You can review the files later this

"Later this evening? Sir, Mulder needs to rest. He is dead on his
feet. You don't look so good yourself. I know we're on a timetable,
but could we at least do the review at the hotel? Maybe he'll get
some sleep if he's not 'on display' for the rest of the team. He
puts such pressure on himself to produce in these cases."

"I'm OK, Scully," Mulder spoke up from the back seat. "Really, Sir,
I'm fine."

Scully snorted and shook her head. They were just reaching the hotel.
Skinner parked and then looked at each of his agents. Mulder was
exhausted. He had tried to straighten himself in the seat to give
credence to his "I'm fine" argument, but was already slumping back
again. Scully looked tired as well. The hours in the rain had
cleansed her skin of makeup, and she was pale as well. He made a

"Agents," he declared, "I want you to get checked in, Scully, and
both of you get changed. Scully, go ahead and order meals for the
three of us. We'll use your room tonight if that's OK. I'm going to
change out of these wet clothes as well, and then I am going to the
command center to get the files and other pertinent material and will
be back in about an hour. When I return, we will eat, spend some time
reviewing the case and bringing Scully current, and then, everyone,
and I mean everyone, Agent Mulder, will get some rest."

Skinner exited the car and strode off, not waiting for the argument
he expected to come from Mulder. It didn't take long either, as
Mulder caught him at the elevator. "Sir," he began.

Skinner cut him off. "Mulder, this is not just for you. Have you
looked at Scully? She's just out of the hospital, she had a long
flight here, she stood in the rain for hours. She is worn out. But
you know and I know she will not rest if you don't." Skinner turned
and looked at Scully as she stood at the hotel desk. His voice turned
thoughtful. "She's thinner, too. She needs to eat." He looked back.
"Mulder, you can't let this case consume you. I don't think she is
strong enough to deal with you on a tear right now. Offer what help
you can, but don't - don't - drag her into this too far."

Mulder had also turned and was watching Scully. <Skinner's right,
she is thinner.> "Why is she here, Sir? Did you call her?"

"No, Mulder," Skinner sighed. When you didn't make your 'annoying'
daily call, she got worried. She started looking for you, found out
you were here on a case for VCS, and she just showed up. I was going
to send her home, but she was very - persuasive - when it came to why
she needed to be here."

"Refused to go home, eh, Sir?" Mulder grinned. <That's my girl!>

"In a word, yes," Skinner said shortly. "And she is not to get sick
because you can't take time to eat and rest, understand?"

"Understood, Sir." Mulder turned and headed over to Scully at the
the desk.

End part 01 of 06

Profiles in Caring
Part 02 of 06

The bell captain had retrieved Scully's bags from the storage area
where they had been placed on arrival from the airport. Mulder deftly
removed them from the bell boy, and asked, "Where to, Agent Scully?"

Scully gave a small smile. Mulder was trying. "I had them put me in
the room adjoining yours. That'll make this late night meeting a
little easier on us both. Ok? You don't think Skinner will question
adjoining rooms, do you?"

"That's fine, Scully. I think Skinner is firmly on our side on this
one. You know, 'do what you need to do to do the job, and get out.'"
Mulder monotoned in a reasonable imitation of Skinner. They both
smiled. "No, seriously, Scully, Skinner has been great on this. He's
been working with me, getting me what I need, keeping everybody else
away. It hasn't been that bad. He nags me to eat and to sleep, or at
least rest." He looked down, embarrassed. "He even sat with me in the
evidence room when I went through everything - you know - so I wouldn't
have to do it alone. He was quiet - respectful - didn't interrupt,
but knowing someone was there, well, it helped."

"Then I'm glad he's here Mulder." They entered the elevator, the doors
closed, and Scully reached out and laid her hand on Mulder's arm. "So,
how are you holding up, partner?"

He looked at the hand on his arm, then lifted his eyes to her face.
"I'm tired, Scully. I can't get a bead on this guy. He could go again
anytime now, and I don't think I'm any closer than I was when I got
here. I really need you to look at the autopsies for me. I need you
to look at the pictures and the reports. I've got to get a fresh
perspective, something's got to give, I've got to . . ." He broke
off as she placed her finger against his lips.

"Shh - Of course, I'll look at everything. That's why I came. But
you - you are NOT single handedly responsible for stopping this, do
you understand?"

The elevator opened and they walked to the rooms. Mulder put Scully's
bags down outside her door, and moved down to his own. They each
entered their room and went directly to the connecting doors. Each
opened their own door, propping it to keep it open. Mulder came
through immediately.

"Don't sit on the bed, Mulder - you're still wet." He arrested in
half sit, and stood again. Scully had pulled dry clothes from her bag
and was heading for the shower. Mulder moved to a chair and was again
stopped. "Not the chair either - Mulder - go clean up and get changed
- you're wet and you're filthy."

<How does she do that?> Mulder smiled. "Ok, Scully, you win - I'm
going to shower and change. Shall I put on something 'more comfortable'
too?" he leered at her.

She ignored his innuendo. "Shave, too," she called back over her
shoulder as she closed the door to the bathroom. "You're positively


Skinner arrived with the room service waiter. He was dressed casually
in jeans and a polo shirt, a briefcase in one hand, laptop in the
other, and a huge box balanced precariously between them. Scully
relieved him of the box, placing it on the bed, and directed the waiter
to the small table by the door.

Mulder was already sprawled on one of the beds, in sweats and a tee
shirt, hair still wet, remote in hand. The tv was on low, and every
few seconds, there was a click as he surfed the channels. He seemed
completely zoned out, asleep, or barely awake at best, and yet, there
was that steady click from the remote. One arm was thrown carelessly
over his eyes, the other holding the remote and extended out toward the

He had shaved, Skinner noted, and while he still looked worn, he did
look better. What made the difference? He was clean, he looked
comfortable, he wasn't 'on display' as Scully had put it, so he was
more relaxed. And, of course, Scully was here. The last was the most
important point, Skinner was sure.

Scully, too, had showered and changed he noticed. She had on jeans
and an oversized sweater. Seeing her in casual clothes, with her hair
pulled back, no make up, and that huge sweater, she looked much
younger than her 34 years. She, too, looked tired and drawn. He
decided right then, to try to make this a short session.

Skinner took note of the open doors between the rooms. He glanced into
Mulder's - just what he thought - disaster. He had been right in
choosing to meet in Scully's. He looked back into the room and caught
Scully watching him. He gave a slight shrug and headed for the table.

He watched as Scully went to the bed where Mulder lay, and sat quietly
for a moment. No response. She shifted and moved closer to him.
Still no response. The remote continued to click, the tv shifted from
screen to screen, but Mulder didn't move.

Interesting, thought Skinner as he watched the two. She's dealt with
this before.

Scully gently spoke. "Mulder. Mulder, come on, it's time to eat."

Slowly, he seemed to come back to himself. The arm came down and he
turned to look at her. His eyes were at half mast, and a slow, lazy
smile crossed his face. "Hey, Scully, you're back."

She reached out to take the remote from his hand, but he dropped it
and his fingers captured hers instead. He turned her small hand over
and began to stroke the palm with his thumb. "I missed you, Scully.
I'm glad you're here. I'm glad you didn't die."

She smiled down at him, then stroked his arm with her other hand.
"I'm glad I'm here, too, Mulder." She paused, giving him a few more
moments to come back to himself, from wherever his billiant, driven
mind had taken him. He continued to make small circles in her palm as
he gazed at her. Finally, she glanced up, looking at Skinner where he
stood by the table.

Skinner had watched this small interaction, almost mesmerized. As
Scully looked at him, he saw a small crease appear in her brow and she
colored slightly. She seemed concerned he had witnessed this decidedly
intimate moment between the two of them. He gave a suggestion of a
mile and nodded, and she turned back to Mulder.

"Mulder, are you with me now?" she asked, still speaking gently,

"Yeah, Scully, but I really did miss you. It's a lonely place out
there." He still held her hand, unwilling or unable to let go yet.

"I know, Mulder. I know. I'm here now. But right now, you need to
get up and eat. I'm hungry and you said you'd keep me company. And
you need to eat too."

At the mention of food, Mulder had turned slightly green. But when
Scully had mentioned her own hunger, Skinner watched as he swallowed
hard, and bit back the response he had been about to make. Hmmm,
considerate Mulder - who'd have thought? Skinner chuckled in his mind.

"And AD Skinner is here, too, Mulder," Scully continued.

<Shit. Shit, shit, shit. Skinner is here. I am an idiot. I
completely forgot about Skinner. And here I sit - here I lay - on
HER bed, holding her hand, and stroking it. Shit, shit, shit, shit,

Mulder dropped Scully's hand and jumped up off the bed. He looked at
Skinner, face burning, stammered a brief greeting and turned back to
his partner. "Scully," he said, gathering his composure, "what's on
the menu?"

Scully had watched this little scene with humor. She rose gracefully
from the bed and went to the table. She and Skinner began to lay out
the plates from the room service cart.

"Soup and salad for everyone. One chicken, one fish, one pork.
Which do you want, Mulder?"

<She wants me to eat. She's gonna make me eat. That's why she's
letting me pick first, before Skinner.>

"Uh, Scully, I think I can manage the soup, maybe the salad. I don't
know if I can do more."

"That's fine, Mulder. I know it's hard for you." A gentle touch.
"Start with the soup and we'll go from there."

Mulder took the bowl of soup, moved to the desk and took a seat.
Scully brought a glass of iced tea. She rejoined Skinner at the table
and began to eat her salad. Skinner was already eating his soup, but
looked up when she placed her's aside and began on the salad.

His eyebrows went up - a silent "what?" Scully glanced at Mulder -
idly stirring the soup - and Skinner knew. She wanted to have more
for him in the event she could get him to eat at all.

"Mulder, bring the chair and join us," Skinner said. "The table's not
that small."

Mulder dutifully got up and moved, bringing the tea, but conveniently
leaving the soup. Scully started to get up, but Skinner gestured and
rose himself. He retrieved the bowl, and placed it before his agent.
Mulder grimaced, shot a covert look at Scully, and picked up the spoon.

Within 30 minutes, they had all finished, Mulder eating all of his
soup, some of Scully's, and even nibbling at his salad. Skinner had
been surprised at how hungry he had been, and had eaten both the
chicken and the pork entrees. Guess I'll have to be more careful
myself about being sure to eat, he thought. They worked together and
cleared up the remains of the meal, stacking it on the cart and moving
the cart into the hall. Once that was done, they were ready to get to


Two hours later, they were still at it. Scully had read everything
there was to read, Mulder had gone over everything again, Skinner had
retraced every step that had been taken so far. They were no closer
to answers than they had been.

Scully stood and stretched. At this, Skinner too got up. They both
looked at Mulder. He was seated cross legged on the floor, staring at
pictures of the victims, taken at the crime scene. He picked the first
one up and began again. His breathing slowed, and he stared at each
one for a long time before moving to the next. His eyes began to
unfocus. His hand froze.

Scully's breath caught. "He sees something," she said. Skinner nodded
in agreement. They both waited. Five minutes, ten, fifteen. Skinner
looked at Scully, willing to take his cue from her. She glanced down
at her watch again - 20 minutes - no movement.

She moved toward Mulder, gesturing for Skinner to stay where he was.
Moving carefully in front of him so as not to startle him, she knelt
before him. "Mulder," she said. "Mulder, what is it?"

His eyes slowly came into focus and fixed on her face. <Her face!>

She reached out and took the picture from him. Her hand lingered on
his for a moment, then retreated to her side. "What did you see?"

"Is Skinner still here?" looking around. "Oh, Sir, I think you'll want
to see this." He rose stiffly, then reached back down and helped
Scully up. He sat on the bed, pulling her down beside him. Skinner
came and stood next to them.

Mulder pointed to the first picture. "Does that look like an 'M' to

Scully and Skinner stared. "It's possible, Mulder. Why?" from

"Because, this," he pulled the next picture up, "looks like an 'A' to
me." Next picture. "And this could be an 'I' and this may be an 'L.'
The last one is another 'M.' I think we need to check connections
with the post office." He looked at Skinner. "I know it's weak -
but it's something new to look into."

Skinner studied the pictures, then he studied his agent. "All right,
Mulder. We'll look into it."

Mulder started to rise. "Just let me get ready, Sir, I'll be with you
in a minute."

"Agent Mulder, the only 'getting ready' you are going to do, is getting
ready for bed. I will call the night team at the command center and
tell them what we've got. They will do what preliminary work they can
for the rest of tonight. Tomorrow, when you and Agent Scully" -
a discreet look in her direction - "are rested, we will begin a more
active investigation into this line of inquiry." Skinner looked
meaningfully at Mulder, then at Scully. "I am going to my room now,
to get this started. I will see you both at 0700 hours in the
morning. I'll tell the team we'll be there by 0730. Get some rest."

"Uh, Sir, could you make it 8:00? That way we could get breakfast."
Mulder spoke hesitantly, with a sideways glance at Scully, sho smiled

Skinner studied them, sitting side by side ont he bed, each worrying
over the other.

"Yes, of course, Mulder," he replied. "0800 hours it is. I'll see
you both in the morning." He turned and left the room.


Scully stood and looked down at Mulder. He fell backwards onto the
bed and looked back at her. She cocked an eyebrow. "Letters, Mulder?
Could it be that cliché?"

"You never know. This guy isn't exactly playing with a full deck.
Who knows what pops his cork?"

"All right. We'll deal with it in the morning. At least its a new
avenue to explore." She gazed at him - he looked like he was settling
in for the night. "Up, Mulder. You're next door."

He grinned and rose. "Ah, Scully, you're no fun." He headed for the
door to his room. As he passed her, he reached out and took her hand.
"Thanks for coming, Scully."

She looked at his hand, holding hers, then raised her eyes to meet his.
"Where else would I be, Mulder?"

He laughed. "Yeah, but I still don't know why." He reached out and
stroked her cheek, then turned and went into the other room. But both
doors remained open.

End of part 02 of 06

Profiles in Caring
Part 03 of 06

Mulder was trying to be good. He went into his room and lay on the bed
He turned the tv on, but kept the volume low. The blue light made
flickering patterns on the ceiling. He lay there and watched as they
danced over his head. He made himself lay still, thinking, but not
moving. He knew that sleep would not come. An hour passed. Halfway
through the second hour, he got up quietly and moved to the connecting

He peeked into the room and saw Scully asleep in her bed. She lay on
her side, her hair spilled over the pillow. She clutched the blanket
to her chin. <She looks so small.> He moved toward her, then stopped.
He didn't want to risk waking her - she definitely wouldn't approve of
him being here - so he contented himself with a long look - drinking
her in - reassuring himself that she was really here.

Then he turned and padded over to the table, lifted the box of
materials they had been using last night, and returned to his room.
He settled back on the bed, and began again.

After several more hours of relatively fruitless work, Mulder got up.
He pulled out his shorts and running shoes and got dressed. One last
look in on Scully - still sleeping soundly - and he slipped out the
door. He started slowly, working his way up. After half a mile, he
was settled into a steady rhythm. He continued on, following the 5
mile path he had laid out for himself the first day.

Running helped. It cleared his mind of extraneous things. His body
was occupied, no distraction, he could focus on the things that needed
to be looked at. As his feet pounded onward, his eidetic memory began
to pull up the reports again, going back over them, again and again.
Looking for the one thing he had missed that would make that
connection. As he reached the turn that would bring him back to the
hotel, the sun began to make its way above the horizon. He began to
slow, cooling down, finishing the last block or so at a walk. He
needed more background information on the victims. It was there, but
it didn't go back far enough. He would ask Skinner to put someone on
it today.

He entered the hotel, crossed to the elevator, and rode up to his
floor. As the doors were opening, he heard a familiar voice scream,


Skinner had just gotten up and was headed for the shower when the air
was split by a loud scream calling Mulder's name. He grabbed his gun,
flew out of his room and across the hall to stand outside Scully's
door, ready to force his way in.

He looked up, as a panicked Mulder came flying down the hall. He had
obviously been running. He didn't even stop at Scully's door, but went
right to his own and entered. Skinner followed, weapon at ready.

Mulder grabbed his own weapon from the table by the bed and entered
Scully's now quiet room. The room was empty - no intruders - and he
put the gun aside and went to where Scully lay, fighting with the
covers on the bed. Skinner stood by the door and watched as Mulder
spoke softly to the woman on the bed.

"Scully, I'm here. Don't fight. Wake up." He reached out and gently
pried the blankets from her fingers, gathering her hands into his own
as he did. He held them loosely for a moment, then said again,
"Scully, I'm here." With a guilty glance back over his shoulder at
Skinner, he reached out and began to stroke her hair. With the other
hand he stroked her shoulder and pulled her toward him.

Suddenly, with a cry of "No!" she jerked away. Tears began to flow
down her cheeks and she began struggling again. With a tremendous
surge, she pulled away from Mulder and struck him, hard, across the
face. He fell backward and tumbled from the bed.

Skinner darted forward and grabbed her wildly flailing arms. "Are you
all right Mulder?" he asked. Scully continued to fight him and he
tightened his grasp.

Mulder looked up, and seeing Skinner holding Scully, said, "Don't
restrain her, Sir. It frightens her more. Let her go and move away."
Skinner looked doubtfully at Mulder, but released Scully and backed
away. She quieted almost immediately, but tears still flowed down her
cheeks. "Mulder, you're bleeding," he stated.

Mulder reached up to his lip, touched it, and brought back a bloody
finger. <Oh shit! She won't like this.> He rose and headed for the
door to his room. "Just watch her for a minute. I need to wipe the
blood off. If she remembers this, she's going to be upset enough as
it is."

Pondering that cryptic comment, Skinner sat on the other bed, and
watched as Scully alternately lay quietly or struggled and fought,
crying soundlessly the whole time. He debated on whether or not to
try to wake her, but decided to wait for Mulder's return. He came back
quickly and moved to the bed where Scully lay quietly now.

Just as he sat, she again surged upward, but this time he was prepared.
He grabbed her arms and spoke sharply, "Scully!" Her eyes flew open,
and she froze in mid-fight. She stared at Mulder, eyes glassy at
first, then slowly clearing. At last she seemed to collapse into
herself. Mulder caught her as she sagged and pulled her into his arms.
She began to sob. "It was so real, so real. It was happening all over

"What, Scully, what was happening?"

A small sniff. "I don't remember. I just know it was awful.
Nothing could make it stop."

Mulder began to speak soothingly to her. He cupped her face in his
hands, erasing the tears from her cheeks with his thumbs. She seemed
to settle somewhat as he spoke, relaxing under his touch. She
instinctively moved toward him, and he pulled her tightly into his

Skinner was fascinated as he watched the tableau unfolding before him.
Mulder continued to hold Scully, stroking her hair, and speaking
gently. Her body began to slump, as if from exhaustion, and Mulder
slowly lowered her from his arms to his lap. She nuzzled into his
thigh, relaxing under his ministrations. When she was completely at
ease, Mulder started to pull back and rise. But she reached out and
clutched him, gave a wordless plea, and held him in place. He risked
a quick look at Skinner again and said, "She has these nightmares, Sir,
since the abduction. Not often, but when she's under a lot of stress.
It's happened a lot since the cancer."

"Then it's a good thing she has you to help her, Agent Mulder,"
Skinner responded.

Mulder nodded, his attention focused on the woman who lay on his lap.
He gently stroked her, making soothing, nonsense sounds for another
minute, then responded quietly, "No, Sir, it's a good thing I have
her. I don't know what I'd do without her."

Mulder extricated himself from Scully's grip, and pulled the covers
back over her. He smoothed her hair one last time, his touch
lingering. He tucked both arms under the blanket and ran his hands
over the spread, chasing away the wrinkles. He rose and went to join
Skinner in the doorway to his room.

"It's time for us to get up, Sir. She's not going to like you being
here. She doesn't even like me being here, but she tolerates it."

"I understand, Mulder, but I would like to assess Agent Scully's
condition for myself, if you don't mind. I'm not competely satisfied
that she should be working after all."

"Oh, I don't mind - she's the one you'll have to deal with." Mulder
grinned at Skinner and went back to Scully's bed. "And YOU will be the
one to tell her she can't work. That I want to see." The last was
half muttered under his breath.

Mulder approached the bed again. He reached out and gently shook
Scully. "Hey, you, wake up. It's time to get up."

Scully rolled toward Mulder and raised one eyelid. "What are you doing
in my room?" she began, but then noticed his swollen lip. She sat up
quickly. "What happened to your lip?"

Mulder darted a guilty glance in Skinner's direction, then lied, "I
fell when I was running."

Scully followed Mulder's glance and saw Skinner standing in her room,
still in night clothes. "Why are you here, Sir?"

Mulder cast a pleading look at Skinner. Skinner looked at them both
and then said,"I came to wake Mulder early. We're needed at the
command center. You have half an hour to get dressed. We'll still
have time to grab a quick bite to eat before we meet with the team."
Skinner turned and exited through Mulder's room.

Mulder shoulders sagged in relief. "You awake now?" At Scully's nod,
he continued, "I'm gonna grab a quick shower - I'm ripe." He rose and
headed back to his own room.


The three met in the hotel lobby and crossed the parking lot to the
coffee shop located next door. Both men had on standard business
suits, though Mulder's tie was anything but standard. Scully wore a
skirted suit, with her ever present heels.

As they walked Scully fell back a bit behind the men, studying Mulder.
He turned, "What? What are you looking for now?" he asked in

"I'm watching you walk." she stated flatly. "I want to make sure you
didn't hurt yourself more than you're telling me in your fall."

Mulder flushed and looked guiltily at Skinner. "And here I thought you
were just checking out my ass, Agent Scully."

"You wish, Mulder," she replied. "But, actually, you don't look too
injured. Are you sure you're ok?"

"Yes, Mom." Mulder answered.

"You didn't sleep, though. I can tell. AND you worked last night."

"How can you tell that?" Mulder was surprised, he thought he looked
pretty alert this morning.

"You cut yourself shaving - you never do that unless you're tired.
And, you forgot and left the box in your room. It was on the table in
mine when we retired."

"With those investigative techniques, Agent Scully, you should ask for
a raise."

Skinner watched the interplay with amusement, then cleared his throat.
Both Mulder and Scully jumped, as if they had forgotten his presence.
"We need to get a move on if we're going to make the morning meeting
on time."

They all resumed their steady pace toward the coffee shop and
breakfast. They entered and were seated promptly. The waitress
appeared to take their orders.

Mulder started, "I'll have coffee, the largest you have, black, and
another to go."

Scully cocked her eyebrow at him, and he ducked his head. "He'll have
orange juice, half a cantaloupe, and toast. I'll have the same. Sir?"

Skinner looked at the waitress, who looked in confusion at Mulder.
He just nodded sheepishly and studied the table. The waitress turned
her attention to Skinner. "Actually, that sounds very good. I'll have
the same, but bring me a danish instead of toast." The waitress nodded
and hurried off.

"Mulder, you have to eat," Scully started, but Mulder waved her quiet.

"I know, I'm sorry, I'll try. Listen, I decided while I was running
that we need more background information. What we have doesn't go back
far enough. Could you get someone on that this morning, Sir?"

"All right, Mulder, how far back do we need to go?"

"Let's try to go back to when they first left the parents' home.
All the vics were fairly young, but had lived on their own for at least
three years. Track where they lived, when, roommates, everything back
to when they left the nest."

Their meals arrived then, and conversation turned to more mundane
matters. As they finished, Mulder looked at Scully and quipped, "I
cleaned my plate, Mom, can I have that coffee to go now?"

Scully frowned across at him, then beckoned the waitress. "One large
coffee to go, please."

She turned to Mulder, "Happy now?"

"Oh, Scully, you know what I like," he teased back.

Mulder's coffee arrived and they all headed for the rental, and
the long day ahead of them.

End of part 03 of 06

Profiles in Caring
Part 04 of 06

As the car slowed and then stopped, Scully's voice broke into Mulder's
reverie. He was grateful. He'd spent the drive over thinking about
getting into the killer's head, his thoughts, the whys and wherefores
of his actions. It was exhausting work, going to a dark and disturbing
place, a place he didn't want to enter. Sometimes entry seemed to cost
him both his sanity and his soul. He knew what he needed to do, but
any break in this sort of work, while postponing the inevitable, was a
welcome relief.

As the three entered the command center, a phone rang. An agent
answered, listened for moment, the hung up. He turned to Skinner,
"There's been another one, Sir."

Mulder visibly sagged at these words, reaching out and gripping the
table edge to keep himself on his feet. Skinner quickly moved to him,
and seated him in a chair. Scully moved behind him and placed her hand
on his shoulder. Skinner stood by the two for a minute more, then
faced the waiting team.

"Those who were working on the possibility of a post office connection,
finish up with that, get a report together and be prepared to share
your findings at the briefing this afternoon. I want another team on
deep background. We need more information on the victims. Trace them
back to when they left their parents' homes. Make sure you include the
latest victim. This team should also be prepared to report this
afternoon. I want the crime scene people with me. Any questions?
All right, people, look sharp and get busy."

Skinner gave a last look around then focused on Mulder. Scully still
stood behind him, her head bent toward his left ear, murmuring to him.
He still looked pale, too pale. Her thumb moved in small circles over
his shoulder blade, her fingers resting near his neck. He was tense,
but seemed soothed by her presence.

He walked to them and cleared his throats. "You're both with me."
He lowered his voice, leaning down slightly, "Are you all right,
Mulder? Do you really have to come to the crime scene?" But he knew
the answer even as he asked the question.

Mulder straightened in his chair. His hand rose and joined Scully's
for an instant, fingers intertwining. He looked back and up at her,
a slight smile on his face, deep sadness in his eyes. She gazed back
at him with compassion, caring, concern. Then the moment passed. Both
hands fell and Mulder stood. Skinner wondered if he had imagined the
interplay; the professional masks were both so firmly in place now.

"I'm fine, Sir." A glance at Scully, her slight nod - agreeing?
encouraging? "We're ready."

As they entered the car, Scully slipped into the back with Mulder,
leaving Skinner by himself up front. The drive to the crime scene was
silent. Skinner looked in the rear view mirror several times. While
the distance between his two agents never varied, at some point, Mulder
had reached for Scully, and held her small hand in his. Yesterday,
her mere presence had been enough to calm and comfort him. Today,
especially after the latest murder, he seemed to need more tactile

The body lay in an abandoned gas station near the edge of town.
Strangulation - this time using a man's necktie. The yellow tape was
up, but once again, the techs had been held off, waiting for Mulder.
He stood in the doorway, staring at the young woman lying face down on
the dusty floor. She was nude and had been abused. The garrotte was
still wrapped tightly about her throat, the trailing ends carelessly
spilled across her back.

"Our next letter, Scully," Mulder said, pointing to the woman's back.

"Mail me? What does it mean, what does he want?" Scully asked.

Mulder shrugged. He motioned for the techs to come and take the body.
Then he moved into the room, taking up a position by a window covered
with plywood.

Scully moved with Mulder, stepping closer to him. She spoke. "I need
to go with . . . " She gestured at the victim. "Will you be all
right until I get back?"

Mulder shrugged again. "I'll be fine. Go. Do. It's all right."

Scully reached out and laid her hand gently on his arm. She looked up
and captured his eyes with her own. They stood there, motionless,
until Mulder finally covered her hand with his own. In a soft, gentle
voice, he said, "Scully, go. It's all right."

She continued to search his sad eyes, then at last, nodded agreement.
"Remember, Mulder, Skinner is here. You are not alone. You don't have
to do this alone. You are not responsible for stopping this. You can
only do what you can do."

Scully pulled her hand free, turned, and walked away. Mulder followed
her with his eyes until she left the building and he couldn't see her
anymore. Then her returned his attention to the scene before him.


Several hours later the crime scene analysts and forensic detail people
had left. Skinner had spent that time supervising the work, overseeing
by phone the investigations going on from the office, and watching
Mulder. Scully had left with the body in order to expedite the
autopsy. Mulder had found a corner, settled in, and not moved. He
had watched the others working, had gazed at the spot the body had
occupied, and had spent time staring into space. He was currently
hunched down in the corner, legs open, arms draped over knees. He had
removed his tie, and held it loosely in his hands, gazing at it with
unfocused eyes. He alternately inhaled, pulling the tie tight, then
exhaled, allowing the tie to fall loose again.

Skinner went to him, standing in front of him, waiting. When Mulder
didn't acknowledge him, he knelt, trying to catch his agent's eye.
Still no sign of recognition. It was as if Mulder wasn't there.
Skinner cleared his throat. Nothing. It was frightening, the way he
sank so completely into the killer's mind and motives.

"Agent Mulder." Skinner spoke quietly, but clearly.

"He chokes them." Mulder said in a small, tired voice. The tie pulled
taut. "He gets off on choking the life out of them." One end knotted
around his hand - pulling tight. Voice deepening. "They choked him
somehow - choked his self-respect, choked his social life." His hand
turning red, the tie tightening as he pulled, harder and harder. Voice
sinking, "Maybe he choked sexually with one or more of them. Now he's
choking them back." His hand was turning purple now, cut off. Voice
choked, lowering. "They cut him off - from sex? From love? From life?
What? From what he needs. They cut him off from what he needs"
Voice lowering more - impossibly low - gasping for breath to speak.
Hand completely purple, still pulling on the tie. "So he cuts them off
from what they need - the breath of life - no air for those who cut him
off." Shudder, gasp. "no circulation for him - no circulation for
them." Pulling harder on the tie - hand beyond purple - swollen. "He
has to choke them so that he can breathe."

The last was uttered barely above a whisper, and Skinner found himself
staring into eyes glinting with a shifting lucidity. Mulder began to
wheeze, unable to catch his breath. "Mulder - Agent Mulder." Skinner
spoke sharply but Mulder continued to gasp. He reached out quickly and
unknotted the tie from around the man's wrist, throwing it across the
room in disgust. As the blood began to flow back into Mulder's hand,
his breathing began to even out.

Skinner cradled the abused hand in his own, massaging the palm and
fingers, trying to help work the blood back into the starved
appendages. He captured Mulder's gaze, trying to ground him, but Mulder
stared back, unresponsive. Skinner reached out and felt for a pulse at
the neck. It was racing. He was cold, frighteningly cold. "Mulder?"

Skinner lowered him all the way to the floor, seating him with his back
still in the corner. He rose quickly and went to the door, calling for
a blanket. He pulled his cell and called Scully. "Come back now."
She didn't even answer, just silence, rustling, and a click at
disconnect. Skinner assumed she was on the way.

After his commentary on the killer, Mulder had retreated completely
into himself. Skinner gave orders for no one to enter the abandoned
room, keeping the curious away. He wrapped the blanket around Mulder's
shoulders, then, hesitantly, almost uncomfortably, took his hand again.
"Come on back, Mulder. Scully will be here soon. You don't want her
to see this, do you?" Skinner felt terrible using Scully to invoke
guilt in his already guilt ridden agent. But there was no response.

Skinner pulled the blanket tighter around Mulder's shoulders, then
seated himself on the floor in front of him. He continued to hold
Mulder's hand, hoping that the contact would keep him tethered to the
here and now, at least until Scully arrived. Seeing Mulder like this,
lost in a killer's world, was a new and unsettling experience. If this
was what it took to be a profiler, Skinner gave silent thanks that he
had never shown an aptitude in that direction, and settled in to wait.


Scully was assisting in the autopsy of the latest victim when her cell
phone rang. Having the diener extract and open it, holding it up for
her, she answered, "Scully." Skinner's voice sounded in her ear, "Come
back now." She didn't even answer. She began stripping off the gloves
and issuing instructions for the body to be held until she could get
back. She reached out, took her phone, closed it, and left.

When she arrived at the crime scene, she immediately noticed an agent
standing by the doorway to the interior of the gas station, almost as
if on guard duty. She crossed to him and he waved her inside. She
stepped in, pausing to let her eyes adjust to the darkened room.

She saw Skinner first, sitting in the dust in the far corner. She
moved in his direction and he made as if to get up. She motioned for
him to stay put. Idly, she noted he was holding Mulder's hand. Now,
that was intriguing. She had long known that Skinner was caring and
compassionate, especially where she and Mulder were concerned, but she
was surprised by this overt demonstrativeness.

Her eyes passed over Skinner to rest on Mulder, still hunched into the
corner, sitting unmoving, with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders.
His tie was gone and there were angry red marks around the wrist of the
swollen hand Skinner held.

Scully knelt next to Skinner and asked, "What happened?"

"He seemed ok, watching, taking things in, not commenting, but at least
alert and responsive. He squatted down here and took his tie off. I
thought he was getting comfortable, settling in for the long haul.
I - I didn't realize . . . " Skinner's voice trailed off.

"I know. It slips up on you. Did he tell you anything?"

"Something about the killer needing to choke the victims, because they
had choked him. I missed a lot because he seemed to be trying to cut
his hand off with his tie at the same time. I was more interested in
restoring circulation and trying to get him to reconnect with the rest
of us." Skinner was frustrated, distressed, and feeling a bit

Scully nodded and focused on Mulder. She took his hand from Skinner,
carefully examining it for signs of damage. She began to stroke his
hand, then up his arm, all the while making soothing sounds and quiet
noises. She moved closer, her knees touching his thigh.

He blinked and began to focus, her quiet voice pulling him back into
the here and now. He jerked back, then looked gratefully at her,
drinking in her presence. He leaned forward into her arms for a moment,
murmuring, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I wasn't going to do this, I didn't
mean to. . ." His voice trailed off as he pulled back and sat up.
In a clearer voice, "Thanks, Scully. I got a little deep here, huh?
Is everything ok? I didn't ..." He stopped, blushing.

She smiled softly and withdrew her hand from his arm. "A little deep?
You could say that. I think you scared AD Skinner." She smiled,
turned slightly to look at the ruined tie lying on the floor, then
quipped, "At least the tie is no great loss."

Mulder chuckled dryly, " Scully, you wound me!"

She turned serious and looked back at him, reached up and brushed his
hair from his eyes, then cupped his cheek. Leaning forward, she
touched her forehead to his for a long moment. "Mulder, you have to
quit doing this. It's not good for you."

He captured her hand in his own, holding it to his face, and leaning in
to her strength. He just looked at her; there was no response he could
make. They both knew he would do what had to be done.


Skinner looked up in relief when Scully slipped in. He watched as she
stood quietly for a moment, then headed over. He started to rise, but
Scully walked over, and joined him on the dirty floor, asking what had
happened. He briefly told her what had occurred, feeling she was only
half listening to him, her attention was so focused on the man before

She surprised him by acknowledging his report, then reassuring him that
he could not have prevented this slide into the murderer's madness that
Mulder seemed to have taken. "It slips up on you." she had said. How
often has she seen this, dealt with this side of Mulder, he wondered.
He resolved to be more careful of what he assigned them, and what he
allowed them to take on.

Skinner looked on as she reached out, taking Mulder's hand from him
carefully, as if it were an injured baby bird. She cradled his larger
hand in both her own, gently assessing any damage.

With a slight glance in his direction, she began to caress Mulder's
hand, a slow, almost sensuous movement up and down the palm, and over
the back. All the while she spoke softly, quietly, encouragingly, as
one would to a frightened child or a wild animal. The words were not
important, it was the tone they conveyed. Safety. Security. Trust.
Compassion. Caring. Belonging. Love.

Mulder seemed to blink, as if trying to refocus himself. Scully's hand
began the same slow stroking movement up his arm. She moved closer to
him, her knees tight against his thigh. One hand held his, the other
stroked him, almost like a trainer would gentle a wild horse.

Skinner watched in awe as Mulder blinked again, his eyes shifting into
and out of focus, until finally, he jumped, pulling back slightly, then
leaning into Scully's arms. He murmured to her, too quietly for Skinner
to hear. She shushed him and held him tightly, grounding him to the
present, until he slowly, obviously reluctantly, pulled back and sat

Skinner was surprised when Mulder thanked Scully, in a fairly clear
voice. He said something about getting in too deep. Too deep, Skinner
thought, that's gotta be the understatement of the year. Scully must
have agreed, for a second later she made the same comment out loud,
adding "I think you scared AD Skinner."

Scared - shit, that didn't even begin to cover it, Skinner thought.
No wonder they call him Spooky. How does Scully deal with this
obsessive behavior on a regular basis? Skinner was rapidly developing
even greater respect for Mulder - for his abilities and persistence in
spite of the obvious pain and discomfort his pursuit caused him; for
Scully - for her strength and steadiness, her intelligence and
committment, her resilience and willingness to take on some of Mulder's
burdens; and for the partnership itself - they complemented each other
so well, like two halves of a whole, each bringing what was needed to
achieve completeness.

Skinner laughed to himself. Those bastards thought these two were
dangerous - but they didn't have a clue - not a fucking clue - exactly
how dangerous they could be. If that cigarette smoking bastard every
found out - Skinner didn't think he could offer sufficient protection,
no matter what he was willing to risk. He would have to find a way to
temper the passion these two brought to whatever work they were doing.

Skinner looked back at Scully and Mulder just as she made some comment
about his hideous tie being no great loss. He was relieved to hear
Mulder's dry chuckle and quick response. But then, Scully reached up
to caress Mulder's forehead, stroking his hair back, then resting her
hand against his cheek. Skinner watched as she leaned forward,
touching her forehead to Mulder's and held him for a long moment.

"Mulder, you have to quit doing this. It's not good for you." Skinner
couldn't have said it better. They had to find this guy and get Mulder
out of here. This couldn't go on. He began to think of ways to pull
him off the task force and send him home, knowing it was futile.
Mulder didn't take direction well, not when he felt he needed to finish

Skinner watched, slightly envious of the closeness his two agents
shared, as Mulder captured Scully's hand against his cheek, leaning
into her, seeming to draw strength from her presence. He didn't
respond to her comment. Skinner knew there was nothing he could say.
Instead, he rose himself, saying, "Let's go, Agents. Time to head back
to the motel, change and grab a bite to eat, then meet the teams for
briefings this afternoon. Hopefully, something will break."

End of part 04 of 06

Profiles in Caring
Part 05 of 06

Once again Skinner drove, this time with Mulder in front and Scully in
back. She gave her findings thus far from the partially completed
autopsy of the latest finding. She then leaned back into the seat,
sighed, and closed her eyes.

Mulder glanced cautiously over his shoulder and saw her sitting with
eyes closed. He took the opportunity to study her a little more
closely. What he saw concerned him. <She IS thin. And she looks
tired, drawn.> He made a decision.

He caught Skinner's eye, then pointed with his chin over his shoulder
at Scully, resting in the backseat. "Sir, can we move the briefing to
this evening? I need a few more hours to look at what we have so far."
<Please, please, please, understand what I'm saying.>

His quiet sigh of relief was echoed from the back as Skinner looked at
him for a moment, and then responded, "I believe that can be arranged,
Agent Mulder. How does 1900 sound?"

"Sounds like you're back in the Marines, Sir, but 7:00 pm sounds
great!" Mulder quipped.

A groan from the back, and when Mulder chanced a quick look, was
pleased to see a half smile on Scully's lips. <That's my girl! Laugh
at all my horrible jokes!>

Skinner pulled his cell and began the process of moving the meeting
back. He also arranged for any reports, complete or partial, to be
copied and messengered over to the hotel for their review. He also
ordered meals to be delivered to Scully's room again.

As they walked into the hotel, Mulder held Skinner back for a moment,
"After we eat <grimace> give me about an hour, Sir, and then you can
bring the reports to my room. I'll even clean up a bit!" Scully had
stopped and turned to look at them, so they hurried forward to catch

As they exited the elevator, Mulder was secretly pleased, for Scully's
sake, and dismayed for his own, to see the room service waiter outside
Scully's door. "Looks like you get yet another chance to make me eat,
Scully," he groaned. She just arched her eyebrow and looked at him.

Scully opened the door, gesturing the waiter in, then the two men.
Skinner busied himself with the server and the food. Scully went to
the far bed and almost collapsed onto it. Mulder watched as she seemed
to remember that she wasn't alone, and pulled herself stiffly up. She
sat with her back to Skinner, looking out the huge picture window.

Mulder made his way around the bed and knelt before her. He felt like
he was facing the executioner. She might just shoot him again for what
he was about to do! He reached out and removed one small, heeled shoe.
Scully didn't move. <Good sign> She gave him a quizzical look, but
did't pull her foot away.

Mulder began to massage her foot, with slow circular motions. She sat
utterly still, watching him, but he kept his head down, focused on his
task. He could just see her from under his lashes as she looked at him
as if he had grown another head. Finally, she began to relax, closing
her eyes, and allowing her shoulders to slump. Gradually, she placed
her hands on the bed behind her and leaned back, semi-reclining.

Mulder chanced a glance at Skinner. The waiter was gone, the lunch
laid on the table, and he stood watching them both. Mulder offered a
small, sheepish smile, and Skinner responded with an encouraging nod.
Mulder removed the other shoe, and offered the second foot similar
treatment. Finished, he gently took both her ankles in his hands and
sat back on his haunches.

Scully sighed, then slowly pulled herself up and looked down at Mulder.
Her eyes were still half closed and she seemed to struggle to pull
herself upright. Mulder reached up and took her arm, pulling her
forward slightly, and steadying her. She placed her hand over his, and
leaned down to him, murmuring, "Thank you."

Mulder glanced at Skinner, then said, "Scully, after we eat <another
grimace> we're all going to try to grab some sleep. You look tired -
please - tell me you'll try to sleep." He hated the pleading whine he

heard creeping into his voice, but he didn't know how to extract this
agreement to rest from her. He was getting really worried. She could
be so stubborn - and she really did look exhausted. Just getting out
of the hospital - he knew she should be home on her couch, with a good
book, resting, not out chasing serial killers and supporting half
crazed profilers.

"All right, Mulder, I'll rest. But you will too." She turned and
looked at Skinner, including him in the next statement. "And whatever
plans you two have made to get together when I'm asleep, scrap them
now. You both need to rest as well. No excuses. I agree to rest - so
do you, ok?"

Mulder nodded, then gave Skinner a guilty look. He rose to his feet and
helped Scully up.

Skinner cleared his throat, then said, "Agreed, Agent Scully. A little
rest will only help us this evening. Now, agents, lunch is served."


After eating, they cleared the table and put the serving cart out in
the hall again. Skinner excused himself and returned to his room.
Scully took comfortable clothes and went into the bathroom to change.
When she came out, Mulder was asleep on her other bed, tv on low,
remote in hand, but sound asleep. He was still fully dressed, having
only shed his suit coat. His shoes hung over the end of the bed. She
smiled down at him fondly, then stroked his hair.

She took the remote from him and turned the tv off. She pulled the
blinds on the window, darkening the room. Then, she removed his shoes
and unbuttoned his shirt cuffs, trying to make him a bit more
comfortable. She found an extra blanket, covered him, and crawled,
exhausted, into the other bed.

Mulder was half aware of the blanket being put over him. Even in his
state of semi-sleep, he inwardly rejoiced. <She's letting me stay!>
He snuggled down into the warm comfort of the blanket and that thought,
and sank more deeply into unawareness.

Sometime later, when he heard her begin to moan in distress from the
other bed, he got up. He looked down at her, struggling against unseen
enemies, and made a decision. He took his socks and pants off, then
removed his dress shirt, leaving on his boxers and t-shirt. He pulled
back the covers, joined her in the bed. He lay down with her, and took
her in his arms, surrounding her with himself. He needed this as much
as she did.

He held her gently, stroking her back, and murmuring soothingly in her
ear. She settled almost immediately, rolling willingly into his arms,
placing her head on his chest. He continued to stroke her, her back,
her hair, her arm as she slipped back into a deep sleep. <I am the
luckiest man on this planet - or any planet for that matter.> He, too,
drifted off to sleep - all thoughts of serial killers and murders
chased away by dreams of a small, redheaded woman who lay nestled
trustingly in his arms.


Skinner wanted to let his agents sleep as long as possible. When he
could wait no more, he called Mulder's room. No answer. Now that was
strange. Mulder had promised Scully he would rest, and while he didn't
always follow instructions, he would never have left after telling
Scully he would rest. He might bend the definition of rest, but he
would stay in his room.

Skinner hung up, then tried Scully's room. He had wanted Mulder to
wake her, just in case she became distressed again. But . . . Mulder
seemed missing in action at the moment.

The phone rang once, then a sleepy male voice answered, "Mulder."

Mulder? Skinner eyebrows shot up. Well, not missing in action
anymore. And he's obviously been asleep - in her room. In her bed?
Skinner's forehead creased - this could prove difficult.

"Hello?" from the phone. "Hello?" Mulder sounded more awake and
seemed to be getting pissed off.

"Oh, sorry, Mulder," Skinner finally spoke into the phone. "I wasn't
expecting you to answer." Wish I could see his face now, Skinner
thought wryly. That would be a sight!

"Agent Mulder, it is time to go to the command center for this
evening's briefing. Would you wake Agent Scully - I presume she's
there with you since it is her room - and both of you meet me in the
lobby in 30 minutes."

Long pause. "Uh, hello, Sir. I, uh, fell asleep in Scully's room.
I, uh . . ." The voice trailed off. After all, what else could he say?
Skinner chuckled to himself.

"Did you hear me? It's time to get moving. And Mulder, don't worry
about the sleeping arrangements, just don't flaunt it."

"Uh, yes sir. Thirty minutes. Lobby. Thank you, Sir." Click.

Skinner laughed again. This could be difficult, but it was bound to
happen sometime. Anyone could see the committment these two had to
one another. He put the phone down. And besides, as tired as they
both were, they probably just slept.


Mulder was awakened by a tickle in his nose. He reached up to brush it
away and found a handful of hair. He opened his eyes, and looked down.
Red hair. Red hair sprawled across his face, his chest, his arm. He
sighed contentedly. THIS was where he belonged. This felt so right.
He didn't ever want to move again. He tightened his arms around the
woman he held, and closed his eyes again, breathing in her scent. His
mind began to work out ways to stay here, blow off the briefing, blow
off the case, just stay here.

And, of course, because he was happy, content, hopeful, something had
to happen to shatter that. The phone rang. Without thinking of
anything but not waking Scully, he reached out and grabbed it.
"Mulder." He murmured sleepily.

No one answered. He shifted slightly, waiting, then said, "Hello?"
Still no response. Now he was coming fully awake, alert. Again,
"Hello?" a touch of anger in his voice.

Skinner's voice responsed. <Oh shit! What have I done now?>
Skinner began talking about the briefing, time to get ready, wake
Scully. But Mulder couldn't take it in. He was stuck on the thought
that he had answered the phone in Scully's room, obviously asleep,
and it was Skinner who had called. Skinner knew he was sleeping in
Scully's room.

"I, uh, fell asleep in Scully's room," he stammered. That wonderful
feeling of just a few moments ago was gone, replaced with fear and
panic. What would Skinner do? A chuckle - did Skinner just chuckle?
Don't flaunt it? What is going on here?

"Uh, yes sir. Thirty minutes. Lobby. Thank you, Sir." He hung up.
Skinner wasn't upset. He lay back, relief flooding him. He pulled
Scully close for one more minute, engraving this moment in his mind for
all eternity.

She snuggled trustingly into his side, tightening her hold on him as
he tightened his on her. "Hey," he whispered in her ear, "time to get


Scully was scared. She was alone. They were coming for her again.
She looked for Mulder, but he wasn't there. She wasn't going to let
them take her again, never again. She turned and began running, away
from the light, away from the forms within the light. She looked back
over her shoulder and tripped. As she fell, a moan escaped her lips.
As she lay there, waiting in horror for what she was sure would come
next, suddenly, Mulder was there. He wrapped her in his arms, and
lifted her up. He turned and carried her away from the light. She
clung to him, feeling his heart beating beneath her head. She wasn't
alone anymore. She slipped willingly into the darkness, secure in
Mulder's arms.

Someone was breathing in her ear. She slowly began to wake as she felt
arms tighten around her. Mulder. She lay in his arms and felt so
safe. She felt better rested than she had in what seemed like years.
This nap was the best sleep she could remember. She tightened her
own arms around him and snuggled in closer.

"Hey," he whispered in her ear, "time to get up."

"Mmmmm - five more minutes, ok?" she responded sleepily. Somewhere in
the far recesses of her mind, she wondered why Mulder was in her bed,
why she was in his arms. But it was so comfortable and comforting, she
refused to think about it just now.

He laughed softly, "No can do, Scully. Skinner wants us in 30 minutes.
Gotta get a move on." He reluctantly began to pull away.

She groaned, then held him tightly as he tried to pull away. "Wait,

He looked down into her face questioningly.

She opened one eye, looked up to see him looking at her, expectantly.
"I just wanted to say, that is, er, thank you, Mulder. I really slept
well. Thank you for being here."

He continued to look at her, then reached out and cupped her face in
his hand. He slowly leaned down, his lips reaching for hers. He
kissed her lightly on her lips. He pulled back, watching, waiting.

Looking into her eyes, still not speaking, he leaned into her again
and kissed her softly, gently, tenderly, but with a hint of passions
yet to be explored. She let him, needing the love that he was
offering. She opened herself to him, letting him hold her, touch her,
kiss her, need her, because it was what she needed too.

She shivered from the force of the emotion in his kiss. This was
right - she knew it in her heart. This was right for both of them.
Why had she waited so long? She needed to be in his arms right now.
Strong arms that made her feel safe and warm and cared for. She
reached up and pulled him in for another kiss, harder, deeper, making
the spiritual connection that was between them real in the physical

They parted slowly, lingeringly. The naked emotion, the sheer need,
the overwhelming love in Mulder's face almost broke her heart. They
needed to explore this, she knew. But not now, not here.

End of part 05 of 06

Profiles in Caring
Part 06 of 06

Mulder and Scully rode down in the elevator in silence. Every time
he tried to say something, he throat closed up. <She kissed me!>
It was an unending litany in his head. But he couldn't bring himself
to actually say anything.

It was like, if he verbalized it, it would evaporate. But here he
was in the elevator, growing more anxious by the minute - panic
attack just around the corner. He began to fidget, shifting his
weight from foot to foot, then to twist his fingers in his hands.
He stared at the floor - convinced he had dreamed it all.

And then - Scully reached out - rescuing his already sore hand from
self-inflicted abuse, and spoke. "Mulder, we need to talk about this.
I know that. But not here, not now. When we get home, ok?"

He looked up from the floor, meeting her gaze, and fearfully asked,
"But is was ok, right Scully? It really happened and it was ok,
right? I didn't hurt you - you're not mad? We're ok, right?"
He was desperate for reassurance.

Just realizing the depth of his fear, she released one hand, turned
and pressed the button to stop the elevator. She recaptured his hand
and stepped closer to him. "It was definately ok, Mulder." She
smiled. "And I want to explore where this will take us. But not
while we're hunting a serial killer. I want to be able to focus
all my attention on you, on us. Is that ok with you partner?"

Mulder swallowed hard and nodded. "I just wanted to - needed to -
know that everything is ok with us, Scully." A strangled sob. "I
couldn't bear to lose you." He dropped to his knees. "I couldn't
bear it if I hurt you."

Scully pulled him in to her, cradling his head against her abdomen
and stroking his hair as he cried softly. "I know, Mulder. I'm
sorry, I didn't realize how scary my silence would be to you. I
just need time to work things out in my own head - that's why I was
so quiet. Not because you hurt me or upset me or anything. We
kissed - wonderful kisses - full of joy and hope and promise. I
don't want that marred by this case."

She joined him on her knees, and he took her in his arms, holding her
close and showering her with feather light kisses. Then he bounded up,
pulled her up with him, and pushed the resume button.

<Us - she said us. There's an US!> The elevator opened and they
went to meet Skinner.

They met Skinner in the lobby as directed. Both had showered quickly,
dressed, and were ready to return to work. Skinner noticed immediately
that they both looked more rested than they had since this whole thing

"Scully, Mulder," he began, "we have time for a sandwich as the coffee
shop before the briefing this evening."

Once again, the trio headed across the parking lot to the coffee shop.
Skinner noticed that Mulder couldn't seem to take his eyes off Scully.
His face wore a perpetual smile, that broadened into a grin every time
he looked at her. Something happened this afternoon, Skinner thought.

They entered the restaurant and took a seat. The same waitress from
the morning was still on duty. She approached and asked to take their
order. This time, she addressed Scully, asking, "What will he have?"
nodding at Mulder.

Skinner and Mulder both burst into laughter. Scully colored a bright
red, and ducked her head in embarrassment.

"Yeah, Scully," Mulder teased, "what will I have?"

She looked up and met his eyes, then laughed softly at his playfulness.

"Ok, ok, you win," she sighed. Turning to the waitress, she said,
"Better ask him this time."

The waitress looked at the three of them, laughing. They were all nuts
she concluded. She took the orders and left them to their merriment.

All through the meal they discussed the case quietly. Though each was
rested, and in good humor, Skinner knew that it was temporary. As
soon as they entered the command center, and the case was right there,
real and immediate, he knew that Mulder would begin to go under and
Scully would quickly wear down. They needed to wrap this up, now.

He sighed to himself. Maybe the reports from the two teams working
on background and mail connections would reveal something new.

He sat back and listened as Mulder and Scully argued minute details.
Mulder reached out and took her hand, offering a comment, then released
her. She answered, touching his arm. He brushed her hair back from
her face, speaking intently. She stroked his leg, responding calmly.

Yep, Skinner thought. Something had definately changed. He had never
seen them share such open, unaffected contact before. Mulder was
very tactile - Skinner knew this and had witnessed it many times.
He took any opportunity to touch Scully - a hand on her back, guiding
her by her elbow, a gentle touch to hand or arm to assure her

But Scully was more reserved - usually only initiating contact in
fairly extreme circumstances. And even then, she often sought privacy,
or relative privacy, before touching Mulder. Yet she was practically
holding his hand here in a public diner.

Yes, indeed, something had happened.


They arrived at the command center and Skinner immediately called
everyone to order and began the briefing. Mulder grabbed copies of the
teams' reports and went off by himself to a corner to read. Scully
gave her report on the autopsy - thus far - with assurances she would
complete it the next day.

The crime scene and forensics agents reported and the deep background
team was up next when Mulder suddenly stood up. "It's him," he said
quietly, pointing to a name on one of the lists he had been reading.

The room erupted. Questions, comments, even accusations were flying
fast and furious. Skinner banged on the table for quiet.

Scully went to him, looking at the list, and asked, "How can you be
so sure?"

"You said it yourself, Scully, when you asked me 'Letters? Could it
really be that cliche?' Yes, Scully, it could be that cliche. Liam
Emerson - mail me - an anagram that fortunately he hasn't completed all
the letters to. He's connected to 3 of the victims and to a fourth
victim's family, though distantly. The other connections are there,
we've just missed them. It's him, I'm sure of it."

Just then, the phone rang. One of the local agents answered it.

Mulder looked at Scully - his face crumpling. "Oh God, I finally
know who it is, and it's too late. He's got another one." He
collapsed back into his chair.

Scully gripped his arms, forcing him to meet her eyes. "You don't
know that Mulder."

They both looked at the agent on the phone and at Skinner.

The phone went down, and the expected announcement was made. "A girl
reported missing by her friends - fits the victim profile. Missing
2 days."

Mulder jumped up. "She may be alive - we have to find him."

Skinner looked at Mulder, assessing him and his pronouncement. After
a long pause, he finally turned and said, "Assemble a team - work
with local law enforcement QRT. Let's find this guy and find him

Mulder immediately headed for the door. Skinner's voice stopped him.
"Agents Mulder, Scully, a word please."

The room emptied of all but Skinner, Scully, and Mulder. The partners
waited anxiously to see what Skinner wanted.

"Agent Scully, you are only provisionally back at work. You will not
participate in this phase of the operation." Mulder nodded
approvingly, as Scully sputtered and began to protest.

Skinner held up a hand, demanding silence, and she quieted.

"And Agent Mulder, you are physically not in any shape to participate
in this operation." Now Scully nodded and Mulder sputtered.

"You will both join me in the van, the mobile command post. We will
observe, but not participate - is that clear?"

Both nodded and they all followed the others out and up to the street.


The van was parked outside a non-descript farmhouse. The owner was
one William Emerson - father of Liam. Inside the van it was hot,
noisy, and crowded. Mulder stood behind Skinner, watching a video
monitor and trying to hear the audio feed. Scully couldn't jockey
a position to see, so she concentrated on listening.

The QRT members were working their way up to the house on all sides,
when all of a sudden the front door burst open and a terrified, half
naked young woman came racing out. In pursuit was a young man waving
a gun. The team members began racing toward to the two, but it looked
like no one would get to them before the man caught the woman.

Mulder took all this in, glanced quickly, almost apologetically, in
Scully's direction, and bolted out of the van. Scully cried out,
"No, Mulder!" She and Skinner both dove out of the van, following

Mulder raced across the road. The man looked up, saw that trouble
was coming and lowered the gun, taking aim at the woman's back.

Mulder redoubled his efforts and, as the gun went off, launched himself
at the woman, efficiently tackling her and taking her out of the line
fire. QRT tackled the man at the same time, subduing him quickly.

Skinner reached Mulder first, as he was trying to rise. He reached
down to help the younger man up, Scully stopped him. "Don't move
Mulder." She knelt down next to him, looking reproachfully back up
at Skinner. "He's bleeding."

Skinner looked again, and saw the blood on Mulder's hip, seeping
through the torn trousers. Skinner called, "Paramedics, we've got
an agent down here!"

"Geez, Scully, it's just a nick." Mulder complained.

"And where did you get your medical degree, Dr Mulder?" she asked
sarcastically. "Just lie still and let me look at you." She
unbuttoned his pants and began to unzip them, when Mulder
cleared his throat.

"Um, Scully, as much as I'd like you to get into my pants, I'd
prefer a little more privacy, please?"

Skinner laughed. He couldn't be hurt badly if he was concerned about
his modesty.


Mulder lay in the hospital bed, sighed and tried not to pick at the IV.
Sure enough, Skinner and Scully had ganged up on him, insisting he go
to the hospital. And then, the doctors from hell had decided he
was dehydrated and suffering from exhaustion. He was stuck here
overnight. Where was Scully? She said she was just going to
change. Mulder sighed again.

The door opened, and Scully peeked in. "I should have known you
wouldn't be sleeping."

Mulder's face brightened, "Scully, I missed you. What took so long?"

She held out a bag. "Peace offering? I stopped and got you a
burger and fries."

"Ah, Scully, you do know what I like." Another sigh, this one of

Scully put the bag on the table by the bed and sat next to Mulder.
She took his hand in hers and took a deep breath. "Mulder, I don't
know if I can do this." She shuddered, then continued. "When you
jumped out of the van, I wanted to kill you. And then, when the
bullet hit you, I wanted to die. I feel like I've just found you, and
I don't want it to be over before it ever begins." She shuddered
again, swallowing a ragged sob.

Mulder pulled her down to his chest, putting his arms around her.
"Shhh - its ok. I'm ok. We're ok." She began to cry and he
murmured to her - the same repetitive words - trying to calm her
with the steady drone of his voice. She began to calm, and he
pulled her completely into the bed with him. He rocked her
gently and rubbed her back.

"Scully, you won't lose me. Having you here with me - this is
more than anything I ever expected in my life. I used to think if
I could just kiss you, hold you, one time, I could die happy."

He lifted her chin and looked seriously into her eyes. "But Scully,
I am a selfish man. Once is not enough. I want this everyday,
for a hundred years, and then I want to renegogiate for a new
contract. If that's ok with you?"

He leaned into her, lightly touching her lips with his own. Reminding
her of their new beginning. She gripped him tightly and deepened the
kiss, opening herself to him, sharing all that she was.

"We have forever, Scully. And when we get home, we'll start making
our plans. But for now, just rest."

She burrowed into his chest, holding him as tightly as she could
without hurting him. He stroked her hair and listened as her
breathing evened out and she slipped into a deep sleep.

<I am the luckiest man on this planet> Mulder closed his eyes
and settled into sleep, looking forward to sleeping for once
in his life. Looking forward to dreaming of a small, redheaded
woman, and the life they would make together.

End of part 06 of 06