IMTP VS8 Episode 18:

Your Past Is Showing

By Jo-Ann Lassiter
Art by

TITLE: Your Past is Showing
INFO: Written for I Made This Productions Virtual Season 8
AUTHOR: Jo-Ann Lassiter
DISTRIBUTION STATEMENT: Post anywhere. Thanks.
SPOILER WARNING: Up to, but not including, "Requiem"
KEY WORDS: M/S UST; Sk/M/Sc friendship
DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters created by
Chris Carter and
Ten Thirteen Productions. Characters used without
permission. No
infringement intended.
THANKS: To Gerry, for her usual bang-up job of beta-ing.
SUMMARY: When Scully and Mulder travel to Newark, New
Jersey to assist A.D. Skinner with a case, Mulder discovers
that he and Skinner had previously been assigned to the
same case there ten years earlier. While Mulder's
recollection of the case is somewhat hazy, Skinner's is all
too clear.

Your Past is Showing 
By Jo-Ann Lassiter


Newark, New Jersey 
Thursday, May 16, 1991


"Set," the voice came crackling over the headset.

"On three. One, two... go!"

Eight helmeted forms, covered neck to foot in bulky navy
blue, lumbered across the field of weeds and uncut grass
toward the ramshackle two-story house.

Two figures at opposite ends of the field dropped to their
right knees and took aim at the house. "Tear gas ready!"
they announced almost simultaneously.

The man in the lead nodded. "Do it."

As the canisters were fired, the front door burst open.
One man with a semi-automatic machine pistol threw himself
out the door, hit the porch flat on his stomach, and opened
fire on the task force. His only cover was a battered
rocking chair, but it provided enough of a barrier for him
to pick off each member one by one. He screamed that they'd
never take him alive.

The man was right. By the time it was over, he was dead.

So was everyone else.


X-Files Office 
Thursday, February 15, 2001 
8:30 a.m.

"Don't get comfortable, Scully. You won't be there too
long." Mulder breezed through the door, a large manila
envelope in his hand.

The female agent frowned. "Oh, come on, Mulder. We've been
out of town all week." She sighed as she lowered herself
into her chair. "All right. What's up?"

Her partner walked over and sat on a corner of her desk.
"We've been asked to consult on a case."

Scully looked thoughtful for a moment. "The Chairman of
the Board killings?"

Mulder stared at her, a bemused smile on his face. "Mind
telling me how you made that connection?"

She schooled her face into recitation mode. "Number One:
The persons in question were all presidents of
international corporations. Two, they all died of a lobar
intracerebral hemorrhage, which in itself wouldn't have
been suspicious, until a second and then a third CEO died
of the same cause. And, three..." She met his eyes. "That's
where Skinner is."

Mulder's face broke out in a grin. "How did you know he
was there?"

Picking up several sheets of paper from the corner of her
desk, she waved them in the air. "These expense reports. I
brought them up to him, and Kim said he'd gone up Monday.
The Newark SAC's out with a respiratory infection, and they
wanted someone high profile to take charge of such a high
profile case."

Mulder nodded, standing. "Well, we'd better get home and
pack. We're booked on the eleven o'clock out of National."

"This morning?" She groaned. Why couldn't they just once
catch her before she drove all the way in to work?

" 'Fraid so." He moved to the coat rack, unhooking her
coat. Sighing, she walked over and let him help her into
it. "Meet you at the gate between 10 and 10:30?" he asked.
At her nod, he touched a hand lightly to her arm. "Can I
interest you in a bagel from Katz's?"

She brightened at his offer; the best bagels on the planet
came from that little hole in the wall shop down the street
from Mulder's apartment. "That'd be great, Mulder. Thanks."

He slipped into his own coat. "My pleasure, partner." When
he held the door open, she grabbed up her briefcase and
strode out ahead of him.

They walked to the garage in silence, parting at Mulder's
car; he always got a prime spot, since he arrived at the
crack of dawn. Scully wasn't too much further away, but she
still envied him those few less steps she might have saved
her aching feet at the end of a hard day.

She looked back when she reached her car and gave him a
wave. He waved back, then got in and pulled out. Scully was
behind him until the first corner, where he went straight,
and she turned right. Flicking on the radio for background,
she tried to remember what the weather was like in New
Jersey this time of year.

Newark Field Office Bullpen 
1:05 p.m.

"Excuse me."

Mulder decided that ninety seconds of standing in front of
a desk waiting to be acknowledged was ninety seconds too
much. The agent on the obviously personal phone call
glanced at him, threw an irritated glare his way, then
turned his back on him.

The D.C. agent blew out an exasperated breath; Scully came
into his line of sight, and he scowled at her. "Oh. You're

He watched her eyes take in the man making goo-goo noises
over the phone; when her eyes met his he knew she was fully
aware of the score. "I couldn't get anyone at Reception to
acknowledge me, either, Mulder. Let's go find the A.D.

The man's eyes bugged, and Mulder was impressed at the
speed with which he blew off someone who, mere seconds ago,
had commanded his utmost attention. Yessiree bob, a little
name-dropping went a long way.

"You're Fox Mulder," the man declared, as if informing him
of a momentous occurrence.

Mulder's eyes narrowed. "Yes, I am." He held a hand out
toward Scully. "This is my partner, Dana Scully. We'd like
to see Assistant Director Skinner, please."

The man nodded to them. "Special Agent Eric Stone," he
introduced himself, pushing the chair back and standing.
Scooting out from behind the desk, Stone led them down a
corridor. "This way, please." The agent stopped in front of
a door bearing the title, 'Conference Room 3.' Stone hooked
his thumb toward the door. "Skinner's in there."

Mulder blinked at the man's sudden return to disrespect.
He sighed and nodded. "Thanks."

Just as Mulder raised a hand to knock, Stone spoke. "Er...
Agent Mulder?"

Mulder lowered his hand. "Yeah?"

"You probably don't remember me, but I was here in '91
when you caught Henry Linderman."

Mulder furrowed his brows in concentration, trying to
recall the time frame. "Ninety-one?"

Stone nodded. "May of '91. It was amazing. You weren't
even here two days when you wrote the profile that nailed
the guy." Stone's eyes hardened. "It's too bad you didn't
get here a couple of days sooner, before *he*..." Mulder
followed the man's eyes to the closed door. "
everyone killed."

Mulder looked up quickly. He had heard that the
investigation had not gone well, that there had been a
bloodbath right before his arrival. But he had not heard
that the blame had been placed on the previous SAC, and
he'd had no idea that that SAC had been Skinner.

Mulder smiled wanly. "Um..." What do you say to someone
who has just paid you a compliment, but at the expense of
another? "How've you been, Agent Stone?" he asked, lamely.

"Fine, thanks. At least until a few days ago." Stone left
no doubt in Mulder's mind as to what happened -- or,
rather, who arrived -- a few days ago.

Mulder felt uneasy with Stone's obvious animosity toward
Skinner. He'd come to respect his boss, and was pretty
close to considering the A.D. a friend.

"Well, it was nice to meet you, Agent Stone," Scully said,
"but we'd better report in." She rapped sharply on the
door. Stone beat a quick retreat, and Mulder sighed

At the muffled, "Come in," Scully turned the knob and
pushed open the door; Mulder followed his partner in.

"Scully, Mulder... come on in." Mulder exchanged a look
with Scully; Skinner sounded almost excited to see them.
"Sit down, please." He gestured them to the comfortable-
looking chairs in front of his desk. "Have a good flight?"

The agents' eyes met once more. Skinner *never* indulged
in small talk. "Er... yes, sir," Scully answered.

"Good; good," Skinner said, nodding. "Find the motel all

Mulder's eyes widened. What was going on here? "Actually,
no," he answered. "We picked up our rental and came
straight here. Sir, are you all right?"

Skinner seemed surprised, then annoyed by the question.
"Fine, Agent Mulder." The A.D. straightened his shoulders,
and any hint of anxiety fled. "Have you had time to
familiarize yourselves with the case?" he asked, all

"Yes, sir," Scully answered. "I understand you're holding
the last victim for me?"

Skinner  nodded. "Victor Ramsay. President of Anchortron
Development Corporation."

Scully flipped through her notes. "Ramsay? I don't -- "
She looked up quickly. "Another one? Six now?" At Skinner's
clipped nod, she asked, "When?"

The A.D.'s voice was tight. "This morning."

"Same as the others?" Mulder asked.

Skinner sighed, nodding.

"Do you have any suspects, sir?" Scully asked.

"Not really," Skinner said, and Mulder could almost taste
the man's frustration.

"So what have you got?" Mulder asked.

"Not a whole hell of a lot." Skinner pushed his chair back
hard, then stalked out from behind the desk. Mulder and
Scully followed him to the far wall, where a street map and
several assignment boards were hanging. As the A.D.
outlined the various teams and their progress thus far,
Mulder couldn't help but wonder at the lack of several key

"What about charitable organizations?" Mulder asked when
it appeared that Skinner was done. "Environmental issues?
Were the companies damaging the surrounding areas in any

Skinner grabbed a legal pad and handed it to his agent.
"Here. Make a list."

Mulder looked at him, then the assignment boards drew his
attention. "You should already be on these, sir. Who's your

The A.D. met his eyes. "You."

Mulder stared at Skinner. "You've been working this case
without a profiler?"

"Might as well be," Skinner huffed out, and Mulder's jaw
dropped. He had never known Skinner to malign an agent in
front of other agents. Skinner sighed and scowled in what
could only be construed as distaste. "My profiler's Roger
Neuberg." Skinner looked pointedly at Mulder. "Explain

To say that Mulder was appalled would be the granddaddy of
all understatements. Neuberg definitely had to have friends
in high places, because the man, to put it bluntly,
couldn't tell his ass from his elbow.

"How the hell did this case draw Neuberg?"

Skinner laughed, but Mulder could tell it wasn't from
amusement. "You're going to love this." Mulder glanced
Scully's way and caught her confused eye; he nodded that
he'd fill her in later. "The widow of the third victim
requested him. Once it had been speculated that one person
was responsible for both killings, she used her influence
and asked that a friend of her husband's be assigned the

Mulder shook his head. "So you've been stuck with Neuberg
all this time."

The A.D. nodded. "He's still the profiler of record. But I
want to solve this case, and the only way to do that is to
bring you and Scully in on it." The A.D. met Scully's eyes
and Mulder was amazed to see discomfiture in the man's
eyes. "Thank you for coming here, Agents. You didn't have
to, and I want you to know I appreciate it."

"It's no trouble, sir. We're glad we could help." Mulder
was pleased -- and relieved -- by Scully's statement. He
hadn't exactly posed the trip as a question.

"Where's Neuberg now?" Mulder asked.

"Who the hell knows?" Skinner said in an 'and-who-the-hell-
cares' tone. "So long as he stays out of my way." An
inkling of a smile touched Skinner's mouth. "Don't take
this the wrong way, Mulder, but he's an even bigger pain in
the ass than you."

Mulder laughed. "That's kind of hard to believe, sir."

Skinner rubbed his eyes. "I don't know. Maybe it's me.
Maybe it's being in this office again."

Mulder looked quickly at his partner, warning her *not* to
ask the obvious question. "Most of the same agents still
here?" Mulder asked quietly.

"Yeah." Skinner sighed. "I don't know why the hell they
sent *me* here."

Mulder wouldn't insult him by telling him that they sent
him because he was the best man for the job. Perhaps he
was. But Skinner knew exactly why it was he was sent into
such a potentially volatile situation. Presidents of
powerful corporations were being killed, men with friends
in the hierarchy of the Bureau. No, an ordinary A.D. would
not do for this case. The HQ A.D. would, however, do quite

Even if it meant dropping him into the middle of a war zone.


Newark Field Office 
Conference Room 3 
5:10 p.m.

Skinner stood up and stretched, feeling every one of his
forty-eight years. Glancing at his watch, he sighed. It was
almost time for the field teams to begin reporting in. He
supposed he should get set for another fun-filled evening
of "Kick the A.D.."

Christ, but he hated this office. The chairs were
uncomfortable, the "heat" was undetectable, and the
lighting gave him a headache. Then there was the tiny fact
that everyone in this office -- with the possible exception
of the third-shift janitor -- hated his guts.

Well, not anymore, he amended, as his gaze fell upon the
solitary agent hunched over at one end of the conference
table. As he rubbed his aching back, Skinner wondered if
Mulder was subject to the ravages of time; the agent had,
after all, been in the same position the last time Skinner
looked over, about two hours ago.


The agent immediately straightened and looked up, puzzled
for a moment; then Skinner saw him regain his bearings and
direct his gaze toward the A.D.. "Sir?"

"How's it going? Want to take a break?"

Mulder closed his eyes tightly for a few seconds; when he
opened them he squinted up at Skinner, then leaned back in
his seat. The A.D. smiled when he heard the bones in
Mulder's back crackling. "Oh, God, that feels good," the
agent moaned, rubbing up against the seat back like a
contented cat.

Skinner had to laugh. "I take it that's a 'yes?'"

As Mulder massaged the back of his neck, he rose and
arched his back. "What time is it?" he asked.

"A little after five."

The agent kneaded his fingertips into his eyes. "Mm. That
sounds about right." He looked around the empty room.
"Anyone back yet?"

As Skinner shook his head, he couldn't keep the sour look
off his face. "Any second now," he said, unenthusiastically.

When his agent looked a little lost for words and just
nodded, Skinner sighed. If anyone knew how he felt, it was
Mulder, yet that didn't mean that Skinner should weave him
his tale of woe. "How about a cup of coffee?" he asked the
agent, gesturing toward the coffee pot in the small kitchen
to the right of his desk.

Mulder started walking toward the kitchen, then stopped in
mid-stride. "I, uh... think I'd better get rid of the last
two cups before I take another," he said, smiling
sheepishly. "Excuse me." And he disappeared into the
private lavatory which, besides the kitchen, was the
conference room's --hell, the entire office's -- only
redeeming trait.

"Of course, Agent Mulder," Skinner said to the air. He
strode over to the coffeemaker and eyed the carafe
suspiciously. How long had it been since he'd made that
last pot?

Well, if he couldn't remember, it had been too long. He
poured the thick black liquid down the drain and rinsed the
pot. As he was tearing open a packet of coffee, the door
opened. "I'm making a fresh pot," he called. "I think the
other one was about to get up and walk..." His voice
trailed off when he finally looked up and discovered that
his 'guest' wasn't Mulder, but Special Agents Rodriguez,
Dalton and Cejka. "I'll be there in a minute, Agents," he
said as businesslike as he could. He positioned the coffee
grounds in the maker and poured water into the opening at
the top. Mutterings of 'one long coffee break' and '...know
who's doing all the work around here" reached his ears, and
Skinner felt his face flaming, though whether from
embarrassment or anger he truly couldn't tell.

Deliberately taking his time, Skinner strolled back to
behind the desk. "Your reports, agents?" he asked crisply
when none of the men volunteered anything.

Three identical manila folders were produced from nowhere
and slapped down in unison. Taking the one nearest him,
Skinner flipped open the binder and skimmed the contents.
Neat, precise handwriting and carefully-detailed phone
calls met his eyes. Cejka's. Opening the next one he sighed
at the barely legible and incomplete scrawlings. He
directed his gaze up at the bored-looking man.

"Agent Dalton..." he began, then stopped when he took in the
barefaced annoyance on the other man's face. They'd played
this scene too many times already. Skinner closed the
folder and tossed it back to its owner. "Print it, type it
or dictate it. I don't care which, and I don't care how,
and I want it in an hour."

"Now wait just a minute -- " Dalton's angry rebuttal was
cut short by a Skinner who'd put up for too long with the
agent's slipshod work.

"Do it, or find yourself another line of work," the A.D.
said, enunciating each syllable precisely. The two stared
at each other until Dalton snatched the folder off the desk
and stalked from the room.

Skinner watched him leave, then directed his glare to the
two remaining agents. Letting out a breath slowly, he
nodded to them, easing up on the intensity of his gaze.
"Your report looks fine, Mr. Cejka, and I know yours will
be, too, Mr. Rodriguez. You can both leave."

Satisfaction mixed with disgust tinged Rodriguez's eyes
before he turned and left; Cejka was unreadable. He just
nodded curtly and followed his fellow agent out.

The sound of a throat clearing nearly gave Skinner
whiplash when he twisted his head around toward the noise.
Mulder stood in front of the lavatory door, hands in
pockets and eyes averted. "I didn't mean to listen, but I
didn't want to interrupt," he said in an apologetic tone.

"It's all right, Mulder," Skinner said, gesturing him
over. "I'm sure it's nothing you haven't heard before."

The agent looked offended for a moment, then returned
Skinner's smile. "Maybe not the words, but the tone is
awfully familiar." Mulder sniffed the air. "Do I smell
fresh coffee?"

"Help yourself." Skinner indicated the full pot, then
flipped open Rodriguez's report.

Mulder nodded and held out his hand. "Can I get you a cup?"

Surprised, Skinner looked up. God, he'd missed common
courtesies these past few days. "Um... Yes. Thank you." He
surrendered his empty cup to this agent. "Black, please."


Skinner watched his agent for a second, then turned back
to the report. Rodriguez had been onto something promising
when last he'd checked...


Newark Field Office 
Conference Room 3 
6:30 p.m.

This was all too surreal, Scully thought, watching the
Newark agents interacting with her partner. They were
treating him like the second coming of God; nothing, it
seemed, was too good for Agent Mulder.

Scully couldn't complain about her treatment, either.
While she wasn't held in the high regard with which her
partner was being regaled, she was given the utmost respect
and courtesy. Adoration by association, she supposed.

It was painfully obvious that no amount of association
would elevate Skinner above that of "bottom-crawler,"
however. She wondered what exactly had happened here in May
of 1991 and whether Skinner had, in fact, been responsible
for the deaths of those agents. She couldn't bring herself
to believe that he could have committed such an offense and
risen to his position of assistant director; the FBI wasn't
in the habit of rewarding incompetence with promotion.

So why were these agents treating him so disrespectfully?
Why was he allowing it?

Her head jerked up as the latest team burst through the

A female agent Scully didn't recognize dropped a sheaf of
papers directly on top of the report Skinner had been
reading. "Our findings, *sir.*" Scully watched as the woman
turned on her heel and walked out the door, not waiting to
be acknowledged, not deigning to meet Skinner's startled

The A.D.'s eyes locked with hers, and Scully gave him a
slight nod, if for nothing else than to let him know that
he had at least one agent who felt respect toward him. Even
as Scully saw the gratitude reflected in his eyes, she felt
his embarrassment at her having witnessed the disdain shown
him by the other agent. Lowering her eyes, Scully returned
her attention to the reports.

A few pages later, the air beside her stirred and she
looked up to find Mulder invading her personal space. "Save
me," he whispered, and she was just about to berate him for
disturbing her with his childish behavior when she saw that
he was dead serious.

He was clutching the legal pad with his notes like it was
the only thing keeping the wolves at bay. "They finally
getting to you?" she said in a quiet voice.

"They got to me the first five minutes," he whispered
harshly. His eyes drifted over to their boss, reading alone
at the desk, then back to her. "Anything in there?" He
indicated the autopsy reports with his chin.

She blew out a breath. "Not so far." Her eyes took in the
pad covered in Mulder's scrawlings. "How about you?"

He shook his head, smiling slightly. "Nothing I'm ready to

Scully smiled tiredly. She'd returned from the morgue an
hour ago, with only an aching back to show for her efforts.
As she'd filled Skinner in on her non-findings, she noticed
that her boss's eyes kept roaming over to where her partner
sat, immobile except for his hand, which was skittering
over the legal pad balanced on his knees. In a hushed
voice, Skinner had informed her that, except for one short
break, Mulder had been that way since she left, tucked away
in the corner, steadily filling the pad with page after
page of his thoughts on the case.

He'd worked quietly until about half an hour ago, when the
agents who'd been reporting back finally decided to disturb
him. Mulder had employed all his tried and true 'Spooky at
Work' tactics, but the Newark agents weren't having any of
it. Mulder was their hero, and they weren't about to let
the opportunity to finally express their gratitude slip

Beside her, Mulder stiffened suddenly, and Scully could
see that the agents were on to his ploy, already on their
way over to hail the master profiler, savior of the Newark
office, once again.

"Mulder, we have to get going," she said, some of the
alarm in her voice genuine. "I forgot to call the motel and
tell them to hold our rooms."

Her partner caught on immediately, his feigned dismay
overlaid with gratitude and relief. He had a look in his
eye that said that if they weren't in a roomful of agents,
not to mention in the presence of the Assistant Director,
he would sweep her off her feet and plant a big, wet one on
her lips. Gathering up her reports, he guided her toward
their coats.

"We're calling it a day, sir. We have to get to the motel
to check in," Mulder said to Skinner, the invitation to
join them heard clearly by Scully. She hoped that the A.D.
had heard it, too.

Skinner pushed his chair back and stood up. "That sounds
like a good idea. I'm going to head back, too, so why don't
you follow me? The turnoff to the motel is easy to miss in
the dark."

"Thanks, sir. We'd appreciate not wandering the New Jersey
countryside at night."

The agents who'd been approaching Mulder had frozen in
place as soon as Mulder had engaged Skinner in
conversation. The A.D. addressed them now. "Why don't you
all go home, too? Get a fresh start in the morning."

A few murmurs and mumblings was all the response his
declaration garnered before the agents turned their backs
and walked out the door without so much as a, "Yes, sir."

Scully stared after them, aghast at their behavior. She
wondered how long Skinner would put up with their juvenile
behavior before coming down on them. Turning back around,
she was surprised by the mask of quiet defeat Skinner was
wearing. As he moved toward the coat rack, however, she was
secretly pleased to find his expression steeling into one
she was more familiar with: resolve and determination.

It hit her then why Skinner had asked for her and Mulder.
While it was true that the case was most likely an X-File
and they would have been called eventually, that wasn't the
reason Skinner had requested them. More than his need for
their investigative skills, more than Mulder's profiling
talent, to put it quite simply, he'd needed to see a
friendly face.


Act II

6:53 p.m. 
Rental Car

"All right, Mulder, are you going to tell me what's going
on with Skinner?"

Without taking his eyes off the rear lights from Skinner's
car, Mulder nodded. "As much as I can. As Stone mentioned,
it was May of '91. I wasn't called in until the tail end of
the case."

"From what I gathered listening to the other agents, it
was only the tail end because you came in and solved it."

Mulder shifted uneasily; he preferred not to talk about
his VCS days much although his success rate was unmatched
even today -- even by the two of them. "They'd already done
most of the legwork and information-gathering. All I did
was sort it out and stitch it together."

Scully nodded. "What about Skinner? How does he fit into
the equation?"

Mulder drew in a breath and let it out slowly. "The day
before I came -- it was a Saturday, I remember -- they
changed SAC's. The Thursday before, eight agents conducted
a raid on a suspect's residence. The suspect turned out
later to have no connection to the case, but the guy was
packing like you wouldn't believe. The agents approached
the house, and there was no cover -- I went out and looked
at this place after it was all over -- and there was no
cover anywhere."

He stopped talking; he'd been at the academy with one of
the agents involved, and while not a friend, the man had
been one of very few who hadn't ridiculed him at every
opportunity, who'd even gone so far as to be friendly
toward him. It had never even crossed his mind that
Parrow's death had been the fault of the Special Agent in
Charge at the time: Walter Skinner.

"They were very tight-lipped about the details, but all
eight were cut down in a matter of seconds."

Without even looking at her, Mulder could feel her horror.
"Were they wearing vests?"

Mulder nodded. "They were wearing body armor, head to toe."

Scully drew in a breath sharply, and Mulder knew she'd
guessed. "Cop Killers?"

"Cut through their shields like they were paper."

"And Skinner sent them down there?" The disbelief in her
voice almost made him smile. It might be annoying when
posed in regard to his theories, but never in regard to her

Mulder shrugged. "To tell you the truth, at the time I was
so stressed out from the job that it never occurred to me
to ask." He glanced at Scully, their eyes meeting for a
brief second. "But given what we know of Skinner, I doubt
it was he who sent those men to their deaths."

Scully was staring at him. "You never found out?"

"I never had reason to; the damage had already been done.
I wasn't looking for anyone to blame." The truth was -- and
Mulder felt rather ashamed to admit it -- the incident had
been filed away as soon as the case was over. Free time for
him in those days was practically unheard of. The few
moments he did have were too precious to waste on something
he could do nothing to change, something that no longer
affected his life.

Until now. Now someone he knew and respected and even
cared for was being hurt by those events. And as surprised
as he was to admit it, it *was* affecting him.

"Did you ask Skinner about it?"

The right blinker on Skinner's car flicked on and Mulder
automatically followed suit. "I didn't even know it had
been him until we got here. Until Stone."

The two cars turned onto a narrow one-lane road, the
'Fairbright Motel' sign tucked neatly out of sight behind
an overgrown fir tree. Skinner was right; he and Scully
would have passed by without an inkling that the dirt road
they were traveling down led to their "home away from
home." If for no reason other than leading them safely to
shelter in the wilds of New Jersey, two very tired federal
agents owed Skinner their gratitude.

Yet it went beyond that, Mulder knew. More than once,
Skinner had pulled their asses out of the fire. More than
once he'd proved that their loyalty was not displaced.

"I think I'd like to find out what happened."

Mulder wasn't sure which of them actually voiced it.


Another Rental Car 
7 p.m.

Shifting  the car into park, Skinner leaned back with a
sigh. Home at last.

As assistant director, he'd been subjected to his share of
animosity, but never this constant nor unrelenting. He
never thought he'd ever hear himself thinking it, but thank
God for Mulder and Scully.

As he unbuckled his seat belt, he allowed the tension of
the past hour to flow out of him. He'd survived another day
in Newark.

Had he made an error in judgement, though, calling in
Mulder? After all, so far as the Newark agents knew, it was
the younger agent's profile that had pulled Skinner's ass
out of the fire nine -- hell, almost ten -- years ago. And
here he was about to do it again.

How much of that old case did Mulder recall, Skinner
wondered. Skinner had heard about Bill Patterson's "Golden
Boy," of course. Everyone had. Practically since the day
Mulder had set foot in Quantico, the rumor mill hadn't just
sparked, it had been aflame. The guy's solve rate was
phenomenal. And his caseload must have been tremendous,
given the number he'd brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

Skinner glanced up into his rearview mirror, watching as
Mulder pulled into the spot behind him. When Mulder quit
the ISU for the X-Files, Skinner, like everyone else, had
been astounded. How could the man throw away such a
promising career for the pursuit of a whim?

Older and wiser now, Skinner knew how, and he knew why.
Mulder had been overworked and underappreciated. He came,
he solved, they sent him somewhere else. Until today,
Skinner would bet that Mulder hadn't even known it had been
Skinner's bacon that he'd saved.

The A.D. smiled, thinking over the last hour. It was quite
a nice change to see Mulder as the recipient of praise
rather than mockery, even though it very obviously made his
agent uncomfortable. Scully seemed to enjoy Mulder's
newfound popularity, too; although she'd been very good at
concealing her pleasure from her partner, the one time
Skinner had made eye contact with her, she couldn't hide
her grin.

Even so, he was never so glad to be out of anywhere as he
was to be out of that godforsaken office. They may love
Mulder, but they hated Skinner with a passion. Should he
set the record straight? Should he tell them what *really*
happened all those years ago?

If he wanted to survive the week, he might have to. They
only question was, would they believe him?

Fairbright Motel 
7:02 p.m.

Scully wasn't surprised one bit when Skinner followed them
into the motel office. She'd seen the A.D. angry, sad,
scared and hurt, but she'd never seen him starved for
companionship. Until today, as a matter of fact, and only
because she was seeing it with her own eyes, she'd never
even suspected that he could be.

"Mr. Skinner, is everything all right?" The worried-
looking older man behind the desk addressed their boss
while they filled out the reservation cards.

"Fine, Mr. Roux. I just brought my agents over." He nodded
toward Mulder and Scully.

"The ones from D.C.?"

Scully looked up, surprised that Mr. Roux was privy to
that information, but she was even more surprised when
Skinner's face reddened slightly. "Agent Mulder, Agent
Scully," he said by way of introduction. "This is Mr. Roux,
the owner of the Fairbright."

Mulder held out a hand to the solidly-built man. "Nice to
meet you, sir."

The owner shook his hand. "And you as well, young man."
When Mr. Roux took Scully's hand, his eyes twinkled with
mischief. "Mr. Skinner didn't mention that one of you was a
lovely young woman." Until he winked at her
conspiratorially, Scully hadn't been sure how to take that,
but she quickly realized that Mr. Roux was having fun with
her boss -- another first for her.

"Life is just full of surprises," Skinner said, smiling,
and Scully was beginning to wonder if she was in one of
Mulder's parallel universes. Meeting her partner's eyes,
she found that he was every bit as perplexed as she.

"Yes, indeed," the motel owner agreed, "and some more
pleasant than others." Mr. Roux switched his gaze to
Skinner. "The restaurant's open for another hour." He left
the statement hanging.

Skinner suddenly looked ill at ease, and Scully thought
she'd put him out of his misery. "There's a restaurant in
the motel?" she asked him.

The A.D. relaxed a little. "Best chicken, broccoli and
ziti I've ever had."

Immediately, Scully's mouth started watering. "Really?"
She looked at her partner, and then turned to their boss.
"Would you mind if we joined you?"

Skinner didn't even try to hide his delight. "I was hoping
you might."

Scully finished her card and handed it to Mr. Roux. "Will
we have time to take our things to our rooms?"

"Yes m'aam," the owner said. "The dining room doesn't
actually 'close.' Just the kitchen does. So as long as you
get back in time to order your meal -- say, half an hour --
you can take as much time as you want to eat it. We'll get
the dishes in the morning."

"Oh, we shouldn't be that long," Scully said. She turned
to Skinner. "Sir, Mulder and I just want to drop off our

The A.D. picked right up on her unasked question; he
nodded. "I'll wait for you to order."

Mulder handed her a key, and she followed him out the
door. "Our rooms are on the other side of the building," he
said, getting in the car.

Nodding, she got in, then let out a yawn.

"Tired?" Mulder asked softly, starting the engine.

"A little," she admitted, as Mulder pulled away from the
office. "Mulder..." She hesitated, wondering whether or not
she should ask.

He looked at her when she didn't continue. "Scully." He

Feeling more at ease by his relaxed manner, she decided to
plow ahead. "Do you ever miss those early days when
everyone looked up to you?"

His sharp bark of a laugh was so sudden and so unexpected
that she jumped. He pulled into a parking slot and gazed at
her, his expression a mixture of amusement and
astonishment. "What?"

They'd never actually spoken of his time with the ISU, but
she knew that before the X-Files, he was considered top of
his field.

"I don't mean do you miss the work," she said quickly. She
knew full well that if he hadn't discovered the X-Files, he
would have either gone insane or gotten himself killed if
he'd remained a profiler. "I mean the fact that you were
the best, the one everyone came to with their 'unsolvable'
cases." Every once in awhile, she remembered what he used
to be, what he still was; she let a little of that awe show
now. "Do you miss being that much in demand?"

He stared at her a moment, as if he couldn't believe she'd
asked such a thing. "Is there a reason you're asking me
this?" he said, finally, his curious tone underlaid with a
tinge of suspicion.

She shrugged her shoulders. "Not really. Just watching you
with those agents today... it got me wondering if every so
often you don't wish you were back on top again."

His eyes ensnared hers. "Maybe after being dragged through
bile by a mutant, or contracting a deadly retro-virus, or
being burned alive in a train full of alien corpses..." His
eyes were boring into hers so intently, she forgot to
breathe. "Never, Scully."

He looked away, and her breath came out in a whoosh. "Why,
Mulder?" she asked, softly.

Her partner sighed. "I was in demand -- yes. I was the
best of the best --no braggadocio intended, but I was. And
I never had a minute, I never had a *second* to myself.
There were stretches when I didn't leave the office for a
week at a time. There was no respect involved, Scully.
There was only Spooky Mulder working his ass off to save
all the lives that would be lost if he didn't. Well, guess
what, Scully? I couldn't. I couldn't save them all, and as
soon as I realized that I threw my guts up for a solid
week. And do you know what happened?"

She shook her head.

"Nothing. They still brought me cases. As I hunched over
the toilet, as I lay with a fever, as I was coughing up a
lung, they brought them to me. And I worked on them until I
ended up in the hospital." His eyes blazed with anger. "And
they brought them to the goddamned hospital until the
doctor found out and forbade me to do anything but lie in
bed. He complained all the way to the director, and then
finally, finally, they left me alone."

Scully stared at him. "I had no idea."

"It's one of the reasons I don't like to profile these

She knew the other, more important reason: his tendency to
identify too closely with the killer, to become so wrapped
up in the case that he loses himself. "They remember you
here, Mulder. They respect you."

He nodded thoughtfully, then looked at her and grinned. "I
guess there's no pleasing me, is there, Scully? I should be
lapping it up, all this attention. But it's driving me

She smiled at him. "That's one of the few areas where
we're similar, Mulder. Neither of us accepts praise well."
She opened her door. "Let's put our stuff in the rooms and
get back to the restaurant."


Mulder popped the trunk and got the suitcases while Scully
opened her door. "Do you want to leave yours in here for

Mulder's eyes widened, and he let out a small cough,
probably, she was sure, from swallowing the ribald remark
his fertile brain had automatically supplied. "All right,"
he finally said, and she gave him a part-disappointed/part-
appreciative smile while he placed the luggage inside.

When he met her gaze, he shrugged and grinned
apologetically, stepping aside so that she could close and
lock the door.  "Come on," she told him, just as her
stomach rumbled. "Let's get back. I'm starving."

Mulder nodded and headed toward the car.

"Let's walk," Scully said, and he veered away.

"Nice night," he agreed. "Cold, but no wind." He sniffed
the air. "Smells like snow, though. I'll bet it starts
before the night is through."

"Oh, don't say that, Mulder," she moaned. "We just got
over winter."

He smiled. "Yeah. In D.C. But not here."

"I don't care. I'm tired of snow."

They walked for about a minute, then he sniffed again. "I
don't know. Maybe I was mistaken. Maybe we'll just get

She looked at him. "Think so?"

"Do you want me to tell you the truth or tell you what you
want to hear?"

She considered a moment. "Tell me what I want to hear. I'm
a little tired of the truth, too."

He gave her an amused smile, then looked up to the sky
where fat white flakes were starting to drift down. He held
out a hand and caught a few in his palm.

"Looks like rain," he said.


Fairbright Motel Restaurant 
9:35 p.m.

As Mulder returned to the booth after his visit to the
restroom, Scully stood up to let him back in. Smiling his
thanks, he reclaimed his seat next to the window, eyeing
Scully's half-eaten chicken, broccoli and ziti as he passed
by. He thought what a shame it was that she'd decided to
destroy the remains of her meal by shredding her napkin
into it; even after consuming a "super burger with all the
trimmings," he was still hungry. He poked at the greens
still on his plate, seriously considering choking them
down. Delighted when he discovered a cache of french fries
under an abandoned lettuce leaf, Mulder popped them into
his mouth, one savory piece at a time.

Once he'd consumed them all, he looked across the table at
Skinner. He could tell by the glazed look in his boss's
eyes that Skinner was very far away indeed. More
importantly, though, his garlic bread was untouched.

"Sir?" Mulder called softly, so as not to scare him.

Skinner didn't budge an inch; the blank look remained

"Sir?" Mulder's voice was a fraction louder this time.

Skinner's expression was startled as he looked away from
the window and into the agent's eyes. Then he blinked and
sighed. "Sorry." Gesturing toward the winter scene outside,
he smiled sheepishly. "The snow. It can be mesmerizing."

Mulder's eyes darted toward the white parking lot, the
white cars, the white grass. "You mean the rain?"

Skinner stared at him a moment, then his gaze drifted back
to the window. "Awfully big raindrops, Agent Mulder."

"Yes, sir, they are," he agreed.

Mulder watched as Skinner carefully avoided eye contact
with him, choosing instead to meet his partner's annoyed

"Is he all right, Agent Scully?" Skinner whispered, as
though Mulder wasn't sitting right next to her and hearing
every word.

Scully pushed the remains of her meal away, shifting over
in the booth so that she was a little further away from
Mulder. "That's always debatable, sir."

Skinner's eyebrow raised, and his expression changed from
worried to amused. "What about at this minute?"

"Agent Scully's sick of snow, sir," Mulder offered.

Mulder was surprised to see the A.D. break out into a
smile. "Ah," Skinner said, nodding. "I sympathize whole-
heartedly." His boss looked out the window once again. "The
rain is accumulating at a rather alarming rate, Agents. May
I suggest that we head to our rooms?"

Mulder grinned as Scully rolled her eyes and shook her
head in exasperation. "Any idea how much we're supposed to
get?" Mulder asked, scanning each face.

Skinner shrugged. "I didn't hear any weather forecasts
today." The A.D. looked at Scully questioningly.

She shook her head. "Me, neither."

"Well, then, we'll be surprised, won't we?" Skinner
started to rise and Mulder pointed to the garlic bread.
"Are you going to eat that?"

Skinner looked down, then back up at Mulder. "You're still
hungry, Mulder?" he asked with such awe in his voice that
Mulder supposed he should be embarrassed.

But he *was* hungry, damnit. For about half a second,
Mulder considered a sarcastic response, but that wouldn't
gain him any brownie points--or food. "Yes, sir," he said
in as contrite a voice as he could muster.

Skinner hoisted the plate, offering it to Mulder. "It's

Mulder grinned, scooping the bread off the plate and
devouring a third of it on his first bite. "Thanks," he
said, around the mouthful.

"You're welcome," Skinner said in a slightly amused voice.

Scully was shaking her head, not commenting, but Mulder
heard her tsking him all the same.

Finishing off the final piece, Mulder cleaned his hands on
his still-intact napkin and rose, following Skinner and
Scully to the restaurant entrance. He waved a good-night to
Mr. Roux as they passed through the lobby.

When he stepped out into the night, a blast of snow-filled
wind struck him in the face, and he staggered back a step.
Turning up the collar on his overcoat, his eyes drifted
down to Scully's high-heeled shoes, then to the slick, snow-
covered surface upon which they were about to travel. He
was suddenly very sorry they'd left the car back at the

"Scully? Mulder?" Mulder looked up to find the A.D.
holding open the front passenger door of his rental car.
Grasping his partner's arm gently but firmly, he guided her
to the car. She gave him a grateful smile as she settled in
safely and Skinner closed the door.

"Thanks, sir," Mulder told him. "It was much nicer out
when we decided to walk." He pulled open the back door and
slid in.

"No problem, Mulder," Skinner said, getting in and
starting the engine. "Our rooms are fairly close together."

Mulder and Scully exchanged a glance, and Skinner suddenly
looked uncomfortable. "I, uh, thought it might be easier if
we wanted to discuss the case."

Mulder nodded, feeling a pang of sympathy for his
superior. He had no idea what to say, so he leaned back and
sat quietly while Skinner backed out carefully, then drove
them to their rooms.

Helping Scully navigate the slippery ground once again,
Mulder waited while she unlocked the door. Meeting the
A.D.'s curious look, Mulder explained. "We just dropped the
luggage in Scully's room earlier."

Skinner looked at Scully, then back at Mulder. "Of
course." Still holding Mulder's gaze, he reached into his
pocket and withdrew a key. "Good night, Agents." His gaze
flicked over to Scully and then he began the slippery trek
to his room.

"Good night, sir," they said, and Mulder wondered what the
hell all those meaningful looks had been about.

As Skinner disappeared through his doorway, Mulder stepped
inside Scully's room and reached for his suitcase. His hand
hovered over it a second, then he asked, "Are you going to
be using the laptop tonight?"

His partner stifled a yawn. "Unh, uh." She gestured toward
it. "It's all yours."

He smiled and picked it up, slinging the strap over his
shoulder. "Thanks."

"Uh, huh," she said, tiredly.

A sudden impulse overtook him, and Mulder had to reach
over and cup her cheek in his hand. "Do you know you're
adorable when you're sleepy?"

"Uh, huh," she said, tiredly, and Mulder chuckled.

"I'll let you know what I find out," he said, softly,
letting go. He smiled as she let out a huge yawn.
"Tomorrow," he added.

She nodded. " 'Night, Mulder."

" 'Night."

Pulling the door closed, he checked that it was locked,
then headed next door. Once inside, he logged on to the FBI
database, found the casefile, read it, then downloaded it
to the hard drive; a quick call to the lone gunmen got him
access to the human resources records.

Mulder had never really given much thought to Skinner's
career before the point where he'd intersected with
Mulder's life. He'd been assistant director for as long as
Mulder had known him, yet logically Mulder knew that at
some point, Walter Skinner had been a field agent. He'd
assumed the man had had his share of rough cases, bad cases
and even downright horrific cases. And as Mulder dug a
little deeper into Skinner's work background, he found that
he was right.

He also found that, while not the disobedient maverick
that Mulder may have been, his boss had bucked the system a
few times himself. The bulk of Skinner's aberrant behavior
occurred during his early years at the Bureau, with the
balance of his career spent with an eye toward advancement.
All very predictable considering Skinner's  current
position, and all very upwardly mobile -- with one notable

It was that one exception that surprised -- and confused --

Why would a man so ingrained in bureaucracy request
control of a little-known, little-respected, and career-
killing division like the X-Files?


Room 1246 
1:46 a.m.

Skinner thumbed the off button on the remote, effectively
plunging the room into darkness. Through the thin motel
walls, he could just hear the sound of Mulder's TV, and the
steady click-click of a computer keyboard. Christ, didn't
the man ever sleep?

Lying in bed with his eyes wide open, Skinner snorted. Who
was he to talk? Since he'd arrived in Newark, the most
sleep he'd gotten in any one night was four hours. He had
to stop letting all the hostility get to him. God help him,
he didn't think he could take it much longer. Four days
had been hard enough. He couldn't imagine how the hell 
Mulder dealt with it for eight years, let alone four days.

Feeling himself getting drowsy at last, Skinner made a
promise to himself. Now that he had someone in his corner,
he wasn't going to take any more of the blatant disrespect
being shown him at that office.

He'd felt nervous coming in, even though he knew that he
should have had no reason to feel that way. If Robertson
hadn't taken Skinner's being made SAC over him so
personally all those years ago, he wouldn't have ignored
Skinner's orders not to raid that militant's compound, and
Robertson wouldn't have gotten himself killed -- along with
seven other agents.

But there had been no way to prove that Robertson had
disobeyed a direct order. The only witnesses were dead.
Skinner had been very fortunate that the review board had
seen fit to believe him,  even though they had still
replaced him.

That case had hung like a noose over his head until a
computer programmer, updating the office's files to the
latest software, had discovered a hidden file on
Robertson's old computer. Goddamned bastard had kept a

Six months later, a copy had finally filtered its way down
to Skinner. Robertson had recorded Skinner's explicit order
to stand down and Robertson's intention to disregard that
order; Skinner had actually felt lightheaded that such a
huge weight had been lifted off his chest.

Perhaps that was the reason he'd felt the need to have the
journal accompany him to this office where he was so
despised. Perhaps he finally wanted to clean the air and
clear his name.



Fairbright Motel Restaurant 
Friday, February 16 
6:45 a.m.

Scully took a sip of her coffee, using the movement to
throw a surreptitious glance at each of her companions.
After greeting her ten minutes ago, both men had lapsed
into introspective silence, speaking only to relay their
orders to the bright-eyed waitress.

"Looks like it didn't snow too much longer after we went
to bed last night," she remarked.

"Hmm?" Mulder looked up, a befuddled expression on his
face, before realization entered his eyes. "Oh. No. It
changed to rain around 1:30."

Scully looked at him in dismay; she wondered just how much
sleep he'd gotten last night.

"Were you working last night, Agent Mulder?" Skinner asked.

Mulder shook his head. "Just doing a little research, sir."

"On the case?"

Another shake of Mulder's head. "No. I... uh... needed to
take a break from it for awhile. I had something I needed
to check out." Scully noticed how he was careful to avoid
any eye contact with their boss.

"Oh." Skinner went back to staring out the window.

Mulder had obviously found something interesting, or he
wouldn't be in such a contemplative mood. She could tell
from his demeanor that though it was nothing bad, it had
shaken him nonetheless. Catching his eye, Scully questioned
him with a raise of her eyebrow. A barely-imperceptible
shake of his head was his confirmation that, yes, he'd
discovered something interesting, and, yes, he'd disclose
it to her when they were alone. With a crease of her brows,
she asked if he was okay. The smile in his eyes told her
that he was.

They held eye contact another few seconds until the
waitress appeared with their meals. Sneaking a glance over
at Skinner, Scully blushed when she found herself under
Skinner's appraising gaze.

The A.D. glanced at Mulder, then gave her a tiny smile
before giving his full attention to his Belgian waffle.

Scully leaned back in her seat and let out a breath
slowly. Picking up her fork and knife, she cut a piece of
her omelet and stuck it in her mouth, chewing thoughtfully,
wondering just when it was that the unspoken communication
that she and Mulder shared had evolved to include Skinner.

And whether or not that should worry her.


Newark Field Office 
9:05 a.m.

Mulder tried not to fidget while Skinner read over his
report. It was as complete as he could make it with the
information available, yet Mulder still felt that it was
lacking. He couldn't shake the feeling that he was missing
some important piece of the puzzle.

"I'll get agents out to those locales you specified,
Mulder. Nice work."

Skinner's voice startled him out of his introspection.
"I'd like Scully and myself to join them, sir."

The A.D. pondered his request a moment, then nodded.
"Okay. You can take number three."

"Actually, sir, I'd like to see all of them. I may be able
to glean a little more insight as to who might be next if I
can talk with them myself."

Skinner watched him a moment. "Is something bothering you,
Agent Mulder?"

Blowing out a frustrated breath, Mulder nodded. "There's
something I'm not getting. Something's missing..." He
concentrated on trying to figure out what. "It's the
killer," he said, finally. "I can't get a real handle on
him. I can't get inside his head. These killings are just a
little too cold, a little too calculated for your average
serial killer."

"Sounds more like an assassin than a serial killer."

Mulder stared open-mouthed at Skinner before his vocal
cords caught up to his brain. "That's it. That's it
exactly. There's no emotion involved. These people are
being executed. The commonality won't be personal, it'll be
professional. The key to finding the killer isn't in
profiling *him,* it's in profiling his victims.

"What about this?" Skinner held up Mulder's report.

"It's still valid, sir; since I didn't have a good feel
for the perpetrator, I focused on identifying the most
likely targets by comparing them to the victims. I was on
the right track, but the wrong train." Mulder tapped the
report in Skinner's hands. "I'd like to do a little fine
tuning, though. Give a little more attention to the
businesses. That's where Scully and I will concentrate our

"Do you want me to hold off on releasing this?"

Mulder shook his head. "No. Go ahead." He met Skinner's
eyes. "We'll need a copy of the interview transcripts,
though, so we can pick up where the others left off."

Skinner nodded. "All right. When do you propose to begin
your interviews?"

Mulder thought a minute, calculating what would be
necessary to complete his profile. "We should be ready
early this afternoon. I'm going to have Scully check more
thoroughly into the victims' corporate backgrounds. Maybe
it's as simple as how they got their starts."

Mulder made a move toward the door. "With your permission,

The A.D. nodded, and Mulder left to track down his partner.

Newark Field Office 
11:26 a.m.

"Assistant Director Skinner?"

The booming voice startled Skinner, although it was the
recognition factor rather than the timbre that surprised
him. "Director?" The A.D. stood up behind the desk,
blinking in confusion at the director of the FBI and the
attractive middle-aged woman at his side. Neither looked
particularly happy. "What can I do for you, sir?"

"I understand you've called in another profiler."

Skinner met the man's eyes, frowning just the tiniest bit.
"Not exactly, sir." At the director's upraised eyebrow,
Skinner hastened to explained. "I asked two of my agents
from D.C. to consult on the case, because of the bizarre
nature of the..." His voice faltered as the face of the
middle-aged woman registered in his mind as belonging to
the wife of one of the victims. "...because of the unusual
circumstances surrounding this case."

Noting the slightly grateful expression in the director's
eyes only appeased him marginally. "Then you aren't
replacing Neuberg?" The director's eyes darted to the
woman, whose name Skinner now recalled as Birmingham.

"Is that an option?"

"It could be. May I ask why?"

Skinner's gaze darted to the woman, then back to the
director. "Agent Neuberg appeared to be having a difficult
time with this case," the A.D. said, wording it as
tactfully as he could.

The director seemed to accept that, and turned to the
woman. "Did Agent Neuberg mention that fact, Mrs. Birmingham?"

Mrs. Birmingham squared her shoulders. She fixed her glare
on Skinner while delivering her reply to the director. "He
said that his superior was a difficult man to work for, and
that nothing Roger came up with pleased him."

Skinner had to admit that that much was true. Garbage
presented as fine cuisine was still garbage.

"Well, Skinner?" the director asked. "Were you giving Mr.
Neuberg a hard time?"

"I don't think so, no, sir."

The director leafed through several papers he was holding
in his hand. "Agent Neuberg states that you dismissed his
profile outright. He also states that you were short with
him in front of other agents -- he has corroborating
statements from the other agents to support that -- and
that you deliberately excluded him from last night's

Of course, he would have corroborating statements from the
other agents; they all hated Skinner. But what in hell else
was he talking about. "Meeting? There was no meeting last

"In the conference room. Around 6 p.m. You, your agents,
and all the other agents." The director looked up from
where he had been reading. "According to Agent Neuberg, 
he was never invited to attend, even though he is the profiler
of record on this case."

Skinner shook his head, sighing. "Sir, that was no
meeting. "The Newark agents were talking with one of my
agents from D.C. They'd worked together before, and they
were getting re-acquainted. It was all very informal and
spontaneous; there were no 'invitations' extended."

Apparently satisfied with that explanation at least, the
director nodded. "As to the other matters..." The director
looked him square in the eyes, waiting.

Skinner decided that he may as well get it out into the
open. Perhaps then he could concentrate on the specifics of
the case, rather than on the personal emotional aspects of
this case. "Sir, Neuberg gave me nothing any first-year
agent couldn't have come up with. His profile as to the
make-up of the killer was a textbook generalization that
fits fifty percent of the population -- and it's that low
only because he'd utilized the well-known edict that serial
killers are almost always male. After only a few hours,
Agent Mulder has given me a clear-cut idea as to where to
center our efforts."

The A.D. took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "As to
the 'words' Agent Neuberg and I shared, I was out of line
for speaking to him as I did in front of his fellow agents,
and while I apologize for the method, I don't apologize for
the content." Straightening himself up to his full six-feet
two inches, Skinner eyed the shorter man. "He has no
business being on this case, and if you want me to catch
this killer, I'd have a much better chance with him out of
my hair."

Just the inkling of a smile lifted the corners of the
director's mouth, and Skinner mentally kicked himself for
using that particular analogy. It took the steam out of an
impassioned plea when your audience was trying very hard
not to laugh at you.

Mrs. Birmingham had no such compunctions, however, and let
out a guffaw that so contrasted her refined appearance that
Skinner stared in open-mouth amazement. Quickly covering
her mouth, the woman blushed and stared at Skinner in
shock. "I'm sorry. It's just..." She turned away, but not
before Skinner saw the tears of laughter threatening to spill 
from her eyes.

"It's all right, Mrs. Birmingham. I understand," Skinner
told her quietly. He knew that sometimes the most minute
things could set you off when you were trying so hard to
hold it together.

Pulling a handkerchief out of her purse, the woman dabbed
at her eyes before turning back around, all evidence of
weepy widow extinguished. "He's right, Louis. I should
never have forced Roger's all-too-questionable talents upon
Mr. Skinner. The man may be married to my sister, but he's
still not the brightest bulb on the tree."

The director nodded curtly. "Very well. Neuberg's off the
case." He looked at Skinner. "Do you require the services
of another profiler? I know Agent Mulder is no longer
profiling full-time, and he may not--"

"No, sir. Agent Mulder's got a pretty good handle on this
case. With your permission, I'd like to have him officially
sanctioned as the profiler of record. He and his partner,
Agent Scully."

At the director's questioning gaze, Skinner explained.
"Agent Scully is a gifted pathologist, and her insights
often have a direct bearing on Agent Mulder's findings."

"All right, Walter." The director placed a guiding hand on
Mrs. Birmingham's arm, directing her gently toward the
door. "Good luck." After one last second of eye contact, he
disappeared through the door.

Skinner sank down slowly into his chair, took off his
glasses and rubbed his eyes.

Christ, you never knew who was going to pop up out of the
woodwork in this damned place.


Manning Research & Development Corporation 
Office of Wilfred Manning, President and CEO 
4:43 p.m.

"This way, please." Mulder and Scully were ushered into a 
-- what could only be described as 'posh' -- office. The
administrative assistant brought them to the front of an
imposing mahogany desk, where she stopped and addressed the
nattily-dressed man of about fifty behind the desk. "Mr.
Manning, these are Agents Mulder and Scully from the FBI."
She nodded to the agents and took her leave.

Mulder extended a hand to the man behind the desk.
"Pleased to meet you, sir."

It was when Manning impatiently waved to the two chairs
behind them that Scully noticed that he was speaking on the
telephone. She exchanged a glance with Mulder, who
reclaimed his hand, and they took the indicated seats.

Scully crossed her legs, pulling out her pen and notebook.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw her partner do the

At the sound of the phone's being put to rest in its
cradle, she looked up. "Mr. Manning, as you know, you've
been identified as a potential target--"

Manning waved his hand in dismissal. "You can dispense
with the preliminaries, Agent..." He looked from face to
face, his own expression one of annoyance. "Which is
Mulder, and which is Scully?"

"I'm Agent Scully," Scully answered, feeling a little
peeved herself at the man's rudeness.

"Fine. Agent Scully, let's get down to the nitty-gritty.
What do you want to know?"

At Scully's first question and Manning's answer, Scully
heard Mulder curse under his breath. After jotting down
Manning's response, she glanced Mulder's way. "Pen's out of
ink," he said, sheepishly. "Do you have another one I can

As Scully started to search through her purse, Manning
tossed a pen to Mulder. "Here, use this. I don't have all
day." Opening his top middle drawer, he pulled out another

"Thanks," Mulder mumbled, and Scully could feel his

About ten minutes into their interview, Scully noticed
that Mulder had grown quiet. A few minutes later, when
Manning put a halt to the proceedings -- for the fourth
time -- to take a phone call, Scully used the opportunity
to check on her partner.

"Mulder, are you feeling all right?" Scully asked.

He shook his head shakily. "I think... I... need to
leave," Mulder replied, and Scully was alarmed by
the pain she could discern so easily in his voice.

"What is it?" she asked, leaning over a little closer to
him. "Tell me what's wrong," she asked, gently.

"My... head..." Suddenly, he bolted out of his chair,
notebook and pen falling to the plush carpeting with a
'ploof, ploof.'

"Mulder!" Scully said frantically, as Mulder
staggered toward the door. Manning was staring at Mulder as
though he'd tracked something nasty into his immaculate

Hastily dismissing whoever he was talking to, Manning
addressed Scully. "You two stop off for a couple of beers
before you came here?"

Appalled, Scully rose, focusing her attention on the man
who'd been far and away their most unpleasant interview of
the afternoon. She gave him her coldest glare. "Thank you
for your time, Mr. Manning." Picking up Mulder's notebook,
stashing it in her suit pocket, she felt a certain
satisfaction at leaving Manning's expensive pen where it
lay. Then she pivoted away, striding quickly to catch up to
her partner, who was at the door, searching blindly for the

Not giving a damn about what it looked like, Scully
wrapped an arm around Mulder's middle, pulled open the
door, and guided them through; she was worried by Mulder's
complete aquiescence as he let her lead him out. He was
leaning so heavily on her that she was convinced he was
going to pass out.

When they burst through the front doors, Mulder walked a
few steps, gave a huge shudder and dropped down onto the
nearest step. Leaning forward so that his head was resting
on his knees, Mulder gasped, "Oh, God. Oh, Christ. Oh,

"No, Mulder, get up." Scully pulled at his arms, trying to
raise him. "I'm going to take you to the hospital." She
tugged him again, but didn't budge him. "Mulder, please!"
she pleaded, getting really scared now.

"Scully, wait," Mulder, breathless, told her. "I'm all
right now. Just need a minute..." He continued to breathe
so heavily that Scully was certain he'd hyperventilate.

"Relax." She rubbed a hand across his back. "Relax,
Mulder." His breathing started to calm. "Easy, now. That's
it," she soothed.

Finally, Mulder drew in a deep shuddering breath and
straightened. The tears still clinging to his eyelashes
bore silent witness to what he'd just been through. His
eyes held a remnant of fear when they looked into hers.
"That was most decidedly not fun."

Scully reached up and very gently dried his eyes with her
fingers. "Do you know what happened?" she asked, her
fingers lingering on his closed eyelids, her thumbs rubbing
gentle circles on his cheeks.

"Unh, uh." Mulder tilted his head up, as if reaching out
to her fingers with his face. "I'd consider going through
it again, though, if this is the end result," he said

Scully let her hands rest on his face more fully. "You
don't need to go through that to get to this point, Mulder."

She felt him go utterly still beneath her hands. "I
don't?" he asked, and she noted how his voice was still
shaky from his ordeal.

"No, you don't," she said softly.

His eyes opening and looking at her like she'd just told
him he'd won a million dollars shocked her to her senses.
Just what in God's name was she thinking? They were on the
front steps of a multi-national business, about two minutes
away from a shift change, and she was...

She pulled her hands away from his face and stood up. "For
God's sake, Mulder, you were in agony. Nobody in his right
mind would want to go through that again. Come on. I still
want you to get checked out at the hospital."

Ignoring the look of bewilderment and then hurt on his
face, Scully helped him to his feet. "I'm fine," he
mumbled; then, as she was about to protest, he added, "but
I'll go."

She was stunned. Mulder voluntarily submitting to a stint
in the emergency room? Whatever had happened to him had
scared him pretty badly.

Shoving prim and proper Agent Scully to the back of her
mind, Scully allowed her emotions to the forefront for
once. Taking her partner's arm gently, she led him away
from the building.

When they reached the car, Mulder drew the keys out of his
pocket, unlocked the passenger door, then handed the keys
to her. Waiting until she was seated before he seated
himself, Mulder slid into the seat, reaching for the seat
belt. As he clicked the buckle home, Scully caressed his
cheeks with her fingertips.

Mulder's head snapped up in surprise.

"Just so you know..." She let her hands trail down his
face before she let go.

After a few seconds of staring at her, he swallowed and
nodded. She almost didn't catch his smile before she turned
away to reach for her seat belt.


Rodgers Memorial Hospital 
Emergency Room Bay 3 
9:36 p.m.

Mulder lay huddled on his side, shivering. After they'd
put him through a battery of tests, they'd plugged him into
an I.V. and relegated him back to bed, which was fine with
him, except that it was twenty below zero, and they'd left
him without a blanket.

As he and Scully had begun their journey to the hospital,
Mulder had been glad he'd agreed to go, because the closer
they'd gotten, the worse he'd felt. His headache had
returned, and they'd had to stop three times so he could
throw up.

He didn't know what they were pumping into him, but it was
working because the urge to vomit had -- thankfully --
dissipated, and his headache had lessened. He shivered

If they could only remember that he was a person, not just
a patient, and bring him twenty or thirty blankets, he
could die a happy man.

He wondered where Scully had got off to. He'd been pretty
out of it when they'd arrived at the hospital, and this was
the first time he'd actually noticed her absence. Lifting
his head, he found that it sat curiously heavy on his
shoulders. He felt a kind of hazy awareness of his
surroundings. Was he in a real bed? Was he lying on top of
the covers? Could he navigate himself into a position where
he could actually utilize the damned things?

Attempting to sit up made the room shimmy and shake around
him, and he dropped back down like a rock. He lay on his
back, panting, for a few minutes, then resigned himself to
his blanketless fate and rolled onto his side, curling his
body in as much as he could in an attempt to conserve his
body heat.

As he lay pondering the fact that he hadn't warmed himself
up by the exertion of trying to sit up, he heard his name
being called softly.

"Scully?" he murmured, not opening his eyes.

The voice was deep and masculine. "It's Skinner. How are
you feeling, Agent Mulder?"

"Cold," he replied, without having to think about it. His
body was beginning to shiver in earnest. "Very fucking

In a matter of seconds, something heavy and -- warm --was
draped over him. Greedily reaching for it, he pulled it up
over his shoulders, hunching down into its depths.

"Careful, Mulder, you'll dislodge the I.V."

He felt Skinner carefully arranging the cover around the
I.V. line. "Thanks," Mulder said, rubbing his cheek against
the material, surprised at its roughness, but not enough to
give it up.

"You're welcome. Better?" Skinner's voice held the gentle
quality the A.D. only used for those occasions when Mulder
was dying, or...

"Not your fault," Mulder whispered, getting drowsy now
that he was toasty warm.

"I shouldn't have called you in on this," Skinner argued,
more with himself than with Mulder.

"I'm fine, sir." He carefully rolled onto his back so he
could see his boss, taking care to hold onto -- what he now
saw was -- Skinner's coat. Blushing served to make him a
little warmer, and he reveled in it. He fingered the coat.
"I appreciate this." Smiling sleepily at Skinner, he
yawned. "Warm now. Tired now." He closed his eyes.

"Is it all right for you to sleep?" Skinner asked,

"Didn't say not to."

"All right, then." He felt Skinner's hand closing around
his arm. "Get some sleep. I'll try to find Scully."

" 'Kay."

The room, and Skinner, faded away.


Rodgers Memorial Hospital 
9:42 p.m.

Skinner walked out into the organized chaos that was the
emergency room triage. Picking his way toward the
admissions desk, he spotted Scully and quickly detoured her
way, relieved that he wouldn't have to ask the ninety-seven-
year-old woman behind the desk for help in locating his

"Scully!" he called, just before she disappeared behind a

The door opened a second later, and Scully gestured him
inside. "Did you just get here?" she asked.

"About ten minutes ago."

Scully appeared to be calculating. "Did you see Mulder?"
she asked.

Skinner nodded. "He's sleeping. He says he's fine. Is he?"
Looking into her eyes, trying to gauge his agent's true
condition, the A.D. was heartened by what he saw there.

"He's not fine yet, but he will be."

"What happened?" Skinner asked.

Scully started walking away, and it was then that Skinner
noticed that they were in a private room containing one bed
-- and one patient. "A less severe version of what happened
to him." She indicated the patient in the bed.

"Who is he?"

"Wilfred Manning." When Scully noted his struggle to place
the name, she elaborated. "He's on Mulder's list."

"He's still alive?" Skinner stared in shock at the man
lying so still, hooked up to all sorts of machines.

"For now."

"What happened to them?"

Scully sighed tiredly, and Skinner could have kicked
himself for putting her -- and Mulder --  through this.
Damn, but it was selfish of him to have called in these two
for what he could now see was a purely personal reason.
While there was no doubt that Mulder's profiling skills and
Scully's forensic ones were definite plusses, Skinner could
have -- and should have -- just as easily gone through
channels to request another profiler.

"Sir?" His agent's laying a hand on his forearm jolted him
back to the present.

He gave her a rueful smile. "Sorry. You were about to

Nodding, Scully flipped open Manning's chart. "Lobar 
intracerebral hemorrhage occurs when there is a bleeding in 
the superficial white matter of the cerebrum. While he did 
have a bleed, which caused cerebral edema, they were able 
to repair the damage quickly, mostly because we knew 
exactly what we were dealing with. Plus, we think Manning 
may have become suspicious at the first sign of pain and 
called for help immediately, based upon what happened to 

Skinner just looked at her, puzzled.

"What happened to Mulder, happened in Manning's office,"
she told him.

Skinner stared at her in disbelief. "Why were they both
affected? Why weren't you?" He broke off suddenly, really
looking at her now.

"No, you're right," she reassured him. "I wasn't affected.
But neither was Manning -- at least not at the same time
Mulder was."

"Have you figured out how they were affected?"

Scully nodded gravely. Walking over to the closet, she
tugged on the door, and it slid open, revealing a man's
suit jacket dangling from a hanger. She pointed to the
right breast pocket. "I think it was that."

Skinner's attempt at reaching for the pen was aborted by
his agent's hand shooting out and grasping his wrist
tightly. "Don't touch it!"

Her rebuke was sharp, but he deserved it. "Sorry," he
said, freeing his wrist from her surprisingly-strong grip.
"Is it still activated?" Starting toward it, he checked
himself and decided to wait until he heard what she had to

"I don't know. I haven't had time to check." She eyed the
pen with loathing. "I only know that Mulder had possession
of that thing for ten minutes, and look what happened to
him." Walking back over to the bed, she looked at the man
lying there. "Manning would have been in better shape if he
hadn't had that..." She indicated the pen with her chin.
"...on his person. He's lucky the paramedics had to remove
his jacket to treat him, or he'd be dead."

"Is Mulder... Did Mulder suffer any damage? Any bleeding?"

His agent met his eyes and nodded. "Very little, though.
We were able to get it under control right away, without
surgery. You know, it's funny..." She stopped in mid-
sentence, staring out into space. Skinner knew to give her
a minute to gather her thoughts. "That device wasn't
activated when Mulder first started using it. And Manning
had been using it before that." She pierced him with those
blue eyes of hers. "Either it activated itself at a certain
point, or someone activated it while we were there."

Skinner didn't like the implications that engendered. "Do
you think that Mulder was the intended target?"

Scully pondered this thought for a minute, then shook her
head. "No. I think Manning was the target. Mulder's using
the pen was a purely random event. The killer couldn't know
that his pen would run out of ink at that precise moment.
He couldn't know that Manning would give Mulder his pen."

Skinner nodded his agreement. "We'd better get that to the
lab so they can tell us how it works." Was it controlled
remotely by someone in the building? Did it have a further
range? Was it on a timer? Was it activated by some other
method, by touch, sound, light?

Scully nodded. "I've already put in a call." She glanced
at the door, then back at him. "Do you... would you mind
waiting for them here? I left word that they were to come
directly to this room, but I don't want them to disturb
Manning. You know how carried away the tecchies can get
over something new."

The A.D. laughed softly. "All right."

His agent started for the door, then hesitated. "I'll
be... I need to..." She pressed her lips together tightly.

"Go ahead," he said, gently.

Smiling gratefully, if a little embarassedly, Scully
nodded and left to see her partner.


Act IV

Rodgers Memorial Hospital 
Room 2437 
Saturday, February 17
6:43 a.m.

When Scully's eyes shot open, she was blinded. Giving a
strangled cry, she shifted in the chair, until she was out
of  range of the sunbeam that had attacked her. Squinting
against the light, she wondered if it was possible to be
part vampire, and then she decided that, yeah, before that
first cup of coffee, it was a definite possibility.

A soft chuckle off to her left reminded Scully of where
she was. She whirled toward the sound, her mouth already
forming its, "Mulder!"

But Mulder was holding a finger to his lips, and she
whispered instead, "What?"

Her partner's eyes shifted to the non-sunny side of the
room, where A.D. Skinner sat sprawled, dead asleep, in the
most uncomfortable position Scully could ever recall seeing
a human being in. "Mulder, we'd be doing him a favor if we
woke him up out of that human pretzel imitation he's doing."

Mulder shrugged. "It didn't seem to do you too much harm."

"But I'm shorter. Not to mention younger--"

"Not to mention cuter," Mulder interjected, eyes twinkling

Scully stared at him for a second. Well, someone was
feeling better. "I'm glad you think so," she said dryly,
taking particular delight in having turned the tables as
his face reddened. "So, how long have you been awake,
watching me sleep?" She let her gaze drift to Skinner
momentarily. "Or have you been watching him?"

Mulder imitated her action of glancing at Skinner, then
returning his gaze to her. "Well, now that you mention it,
there is a certain boyish charm--"

"Ahem," a deep, gruff voice interrupted, and Scully
thought she might bust a gut at the look of astonishment on
Mulder's face -- Mulder's very red, very flustered face.

"Sir, we were just about to wake you up," Scully told
Skinner in an attempt to give her partner a little time to
gather his wits about him.

Skinner gazed at her. "Oh, is that what you were doing?"
As she tried to formulate some sort of answer, Skinner
turned toward her partner. "Feeling better, Agent Mulder?"

"I was," Mulder mumbled, and Scully almost felt sorry for

Skinner stood up, wincing when he straightened his back.
Eyeing Scully, he shook his head. "Tell me you aren't
feeling the effects of that torture device," he said,
indicating the chair she was still sitting in.

She shrugged, trying to hide her smile.

"Well, I'm going back to the motel and then I'm heading to
the office." He turned his gaze to Mulder. "Are you being
released today, Agent Mulder?"

Glancing at Scully before looking at Skinner for the first
time since Skinner had awakened, Mulder shrugged
sheepishly. "To tell you the truth, I have no idea. I
really don't remember all that much after we got here. I
was pretty fuzzy..." He stopped, frowning. "I'm even fuzzy
about being fuzzy."

"That's from the injury, Mulder," Scully told him. "One of
the symptoms is a drop in alertness."

"Yeah, well, I can certainly attest to that," Mulder said.

"How's Manning?" Skinner asked Scully.

"What about Manning?" Mulder interspersed. "Was there an
attempt on his life?"

Scully nodded. "On yours, too, when you come right down to
it." Mulder just stared at her, and after a few seconds
passed Scully realized that she'd been waiting for his
usual quick response, but it wouldn't be forthcoming -- not
yet, anyway. "We think it was Manning's pen, Mulder. It
would explain why you and Manning were affected and I

"I should have gotten this, shouldn't I?" Mulder said, as
if reading her mind. "I should have made the connection. It
should have been so clear to me." His look was one of
pleading. "But it wasn't."

"It will be. Soon. Very soon." She patted his face. "Don't
worry. You'll be making those unsubstantiated leaps of
logic before you know it."

"When?" he asked, sounding, as only Mulder could, both
petulant and worried.

Scully sighed. "You've been through a lot, Mulder, and
believe it or not, you've been very lucky."

Mulder lowered his eyes, nodding. "I know." Scully had
filled him in on the causes, symptoms and treatment for LIH
when they got the case, so she was sure he was well aware
that he could very well have gone another route -- he could
have died, or he could have suffered loss of brain

"Scully, how do you know I'm not--"

"You're not," she said fiercely. "I've been over your
chart a hundred times. You didn't have any brain damage.
This... fuzziness as you call it, is mostly from the

Mulder's eyes darted to the I.V. line. "How much longer?"

Scully pressed Mulder's call button. "Let's find out."

"Er... I'm heading out now," Skinner said, an apologetic
look on his face. "Scully?" He motioned her over.

Giving Mulder a look of encouragement, she squeezed his
arm before walking across the room to where Skinner had

"When you get a chance, I need whatever you and Mulder
found out yesterday," he said, his voice a near whisper.
"And if he's up to it -- if *you* think he's up to it, I'd
like his thoughts on it, too."

"Yes, sir," Scully said, nodding.

"And, uh..." Skinner paused, looking uncomfortable, his
eyes settling on her partner for a moment before meeting
her eyes again.

Scully thought she would cut the man a break. "I'll call
you as soon as I know, sir."

His face reflecting his surprise, then his chagrin,
Skinner nodded stiffly. "Thanks," he mumbled. Then he
turned and left quickly, almost bumping into the nurse as
they met in the doorway.

"Mr. Mulder... Dr. Scully... Do you need help with
something?" Scully watched in amusement as the nurse tried
to check out her boss without being too obvious about it.

Scully tried to hide her smile. "Agent Mulder was
wondering when he could get his I.V. line taken out."

The nurse walked over, smiling in sympathy. "It can be
rather uncomfortable, can't it?" She picked up Mulder's
chart, seemingly unsurprised to find it lying on the foot
of his bed rather than outside the door where it belonged.
"I'm sure you know this already, Dr. Scully, but he's
coming along quite well. Dr. Hallinan left orders that if
he was awake and alert and in no pain, we could remove it
as early as 7 a.m." She glanced at her watch. "We have
about four minutes, but I think that's close enough."

Mulder studied the ceiling while the nurse pulled the
needle from his vein, and Scully looked out the window to
give him some privacy.

"All done," the nurse announced cheerfully. They thanked
her, and she left.

"Am I getting out of here today?" Mulder asked.

Scully nodded. "I'm pretty sure you are, but you'll have
to take it easy for a few days. No more interviews,
Mulder," she told him pointedly.

Mulder rubbed his forehead. "From what you told me about
the pen, it doesn't look like it'll be necessary anyway.
Anything back from the lab yet?"

Scully shook her head. "Not that I heard." She leaned back
in her chair. "Skinner said he'd let me know when they
found something."

When Mulder yawned, Scully stood up, stretching. "You know
what? I'm going to let you sleep while I go back to the
motel to take a shower and change. When I come back, they
should be about ready to release you."

Not until she finished speaking did she realize that
Mulder hadn't uttered one word of protest.

She laid a kiss on her sleeping partner's cheek and
tiptoed out.


Newark Field Office Saturday 
8:43 p.m.

Mulder reflected upon what a dubious stroke of luck it had
been that he'd handled that pen, that once they'd
discovered the means by which the murders had been
committed, it had been ridiculously easy to trace them to
their source. 

Lawrence Dexter III, certified genius according to the
tecchies, certified disgruntled environmentalist and
suspected killer according to the FBI, was now in custody a
few doors away from the office in which Mulder lay resting
on a couch, forbidden from questioning the suspect by his

Amazingly enough, Mulder was perfectly okay with that
order. He saw no need to personally interview the suspect.
For a genius, the guy had been dim-witted enough to use his
own name and credentials at each of the locations he'd
worked. Mulder couldn't get over the fact that they'd
actually sat in Manning's waiting room with the man. He and
Scully had even spoken to Dexter, had apologized for
bumping him from his appointment to consult on the firm's
computer system. It was a service Dexter had performed
regularly for MR&D and, they knew now, for the companies of
every single victim. It was also how he was able to find
out which companies used the same types of chemicals that
had killed his mother two months earlier.

Skinner had actually picked Dexter as most likely from the
list of names and bios they'd hastily put together. When
the technicians had dissected the pen, they were terribly
excited to find that it contained a highly-specialized
microchip; Skinner was excited to find that only ten people
in the Newark area had purchased the chip in the last
month. Once they had the list, Skinner had skimmed it and
immediately pointed to Dexter's name.

As well as having the capability to conceive and assemble
the device necessary to transmit the frequency necessary to
damage a person's brain, Dexter was an ex-marine. It was
his "Special Services" status that put Skinner on to him.
No mere egghead, he. The man had "skills."

Once they confronted him, the man had cracked like an
eggshell. He'd readily admitted to killing the men, but he
didn't seem to understand that he'd done anything wrong.
Why, he'd questioned, was it wrong to kill people who
killed other people? It was exactly what he'd done when he
was a marine, he'd explained, and he'd never been accused
of wrongdoing then; rather the opposite -- he'd been
congratulated, even decorated. 

If killing was wrong, why did his own country condone it?
Why did they teach him how to be so good at it? Hadn't he
been fighting for mom and country? When someone threatened
his country, he'd kill them. This time someone didn't just
threaten his mother, they'd *killed* her. He'd merely
carried out his duty. Couldn't they see that? Didn't they
understand? He was only doing what he was supposed to do!

Mulder sighed. Although the FBI had more than enough
evidence to convict Dexter, it was looking more and more
like they weren't going to have their day in court -- at
least not at this point in time.

"You're thinking again."

Eyes still closed, Mulder smiled at his partner's voice.
Either she was getting better at skulking about, or he'd
been concentrating way too hard. In any event, he hadn't
heard her open the door or walk up to him.

Opening his eyes, he swung his legs over the side and sat
up, offering her a seat beside him. "Anything new with

Scully plunked herself down a few inches from him,
surprising the hell out of him by dropping her forehead
onto his shoulder. "Where should I start?" she murmured,
and Mulder could feel the movement of her lips against his

"Is he still looking good for an insanity plea?" he asked,
softly, hardly daring to breathe lest she should take it as
an indication to move.

"Mm, hm. But Skinner thinks it's all a very good act."

"Because of the Special Services thing?"

"Uh, huh." Scully leaned back into the cushions, and
Mulder deemed it safe to take air into his lungs again. 

"So what's happening now?"

"Skinner's requested his military record." She placed a
hand beneath his elbow and stood, helping him to his feet.
"We're going back to the motel to get some sleep."

It never even occurred to Mulder to question her. Even
though he'd been 'taking it easy,' with the exception of
the last hour he'd been taking it easy in a chair or on his
feet. As Popeye would so eloquently put it, he was pooped.
"Skinner?" he asked.

Shaking her head, Scully aimed them toward the door.
"Going another few rounds with the locals, I imagine."

Mulder stilled her hand as she reached for the doorknob.
"They're opposing him?" At her nod, he commented, "I should
think they'd want to see Dexter stand trial and not get off
on some plea."

Scully sighed. "I swear if he told them to be careful,
they'd shoot each other just so they could do the opposite
of what he said."

Mulder blew out a breath. "God, they're even more
infantile than I gave them credit for." He let go of
Scully's wrist, and she opened the door. "Should we stick
around?" he asked.  "Lend some support?" 

"Tomorrow, maybe." She placed a hand on the small of his
back and gave him a gentle shove. "Tonight we've been
ordered to bed."

He had to turn and look at her; she could not have made
that remark in innocence. 

"Gotcha," she said, smiling evilly. 

"Scully, my heart," he said, dramatically, flattening his
palm over the proper area on his chest. 

"Mine, too," she said, softly. 

Then she gave him another nudge, propelling him down the
corridor on his two suddenly-rubbery legs. 


Newark Field Office Conference Room 
8:39 p.m.

"What the hell is wrong with all of you?" Skinner's eyes
roamed over the eleven agents assembled around the
conference table. "This is real life! This isn't some
schoolyard where you take a stand against the school bully.
Think very hard about this before you turn in those
reports. Please. This man is a cold-blooded killer, not
some poor schmuck we decided to pick on."

"You can't dictate what we put in our reports, Skinner,"
Dalton snapped. "We may have had to kowtow to your commands
before, but the case is over."

"Fine. It's over. But, please... Think very hard with
regard to what you're about to do -- about what you're all
about to do."

"It's not as though our reports hold any sway with the
trial anyway," Rodriguez put in. "They've got more than
enough evidence--"

"The evidence is not what's in question," Skinner cut him
off. "We have him dead to rights; that part is cut and
dried. The question before the attorneys is *how* to try
him: as a criminal or as criminally insane. There's a huge
difference, as you all know."

"Look, Skinner," Dalton said. "I interrogated him. He
cried like a baby the entire time."

"It's an act," Skinner said, shaking his head. "It's all a
very good act."

"Oh, come on," Agent Falite spat. "Are you telling me that
that guy's wetting himself was an act?"

"Yes!" Skinner yelled. "Don't you get it? This is
precisely why he could get away with using his own name. No
one would believe anybody could be that stupid. And then he
uses the insanity angle."

"Nope." Cjeka spoke up from the end of the table. "Not
buying it. The guy's a fruit. I have an uncle who's a
permanent resident in a psychiatric home, and Dexter is a
carbon copy of him."

Skinner looked around the table at each stubborn face.
"Doesn't it bother you that this man has killed six people?"

"You killed eight." Eric Stone was staring at him with
unabashed hatred in his eyes.

A little taken aback, Skinner muttered, "You don't know
what you're talking about, Stone."

"Don't I?" Stone spewed, rising from his seat. "I lost a
good friend in that raid, Skinner."

"We all had friends that you sent to their deaths,"
Donnelly charged, also standing.

"We're not here to talk about that," Skinner said, in as
calming a voice as he could muster. "We're here--"

"No!" Rodriguez bellowed. "You're not brushing it aside

All around the table, agents were standing, shouting
accusations at him, murderous intent in their eyes. Skinner
recognized that the situation was getting out of control.
He thanked the powers that be that he was seated close to
the door. With eleven angry agents encroaching upon his
territory, Skinner started backing toward the door. He
yanked it open -- and found his escape route blocked.

"What's going on?" Mulder asked.


Newark Field Office Conference Room 
8:44 p.m.

They'd almost made it.

A dozen or so more steps and they would have been out the
door. But the angry shouting coming from the conference
room by which they had been passing could not be ignored.
They'd both known who was in there and who the intended
target of that anger most likely was. Mulder had glanced at
her quickly before he'd reached for the door, only to have
it pulled open by Skinner.

"What's going on?" Mulder had managed to ask --

And then a fist came flying at him from out of the mob of
agents surrounding their boss. Mulder took a hit high to
the cheekbone, staggering back into her arms, flailing out
in an attempt to right himself. Only Skinner's reaching out
and grasping Mulder under the armpits saved them from
landing in a very undignified heap on the floor.

"Rodriguez, you jerk! You clocked Mulder, not Skinner,"
came Stone's voice.

"I'll fix that right now," Rodriguez said, reaching for
the A.D., who was still holding onto a dazed Mulder.

"You touch him, I'll shoot you." Scully held her weapon in
both hands, her firearm trained on Rodriguez's chest.

"Whoa, Agent Scully. We have no argument with you. There's
no need for that." He indicated her gun.

"There's no need for any of this," Mulder said, rubbing
his face, pulling himself gently out of Skinner's grip.
"Thanks, sir," he said, positioning himself between the
agents and his boss.

"Hey, I'm sorry, Mulder," Rodriguez said. "I didn't mean
to -- "

"No, you meant to hit an assistant director of the FBI,"
Mulder said, and that seemed to bring them to their senses.
Very slowly, they backed away, drifting back to their
seats. Scully lowered her weapon and holstered it.

"You ladies and gentlemen seem to be operating under a
misconception," Mulder addressed them. "May I suggest that
you read the special addendum to the events of May 16,
1991? I believe you'll find it very interesting reading."

"We've already read his lies," Stone spewed.

"They're not lies, and they're not his," Mulder said.
"They're Robertson's."

"Rob -- He was killed in the raid," Dalton countered. "How
could he have given an account of it?"

"I never said he did," Mulder replied blandly.

"Then what --"

"Just read it," Mulder said, "and if it should necessitate
a revision in your reports, I'm sure you'll have time
before the 10 a.m. deadline."

Scully touched his elbow, and she was pleased to see the
smile return to his eyes. He laid a hand on her upper arm,
a gesture that meant that he needed another minute;
inexplicably, she also read apology in his eyes. When he
turned toward Skinner, indicating the door with a tilt of
his head, she knew why.

She read the uncertainty in Skinner's eyes as he
interpreted Mulder's message; when he locked eyes with her,
she gave him a small smile and a minute nod of her head.

The possibility of a romantic evening with her partner
would have to be put on hold yet again.

The story of their life in one simple sentence.

She gathered up Mulder and Skinner, and they left the 
conference room.


X-Files Office 
Thursday, February 22 
3:24 p.m.

In the end, it hadn't made an iota of difference.

Mulder didn't know whether the Newark agents had changed
their reports or even whether they'd read about Robertson's
journal. He hadn't asked.

"Hey, partner, who was that on the phone?" Scully asked as
he was hanging up.

"Skinner," he said, hurrying to help her with the mountain
of file folders she was carrying. "Jesus, Scully, did you
say a *little* research on spontaneous regeneration?"

"Mulder, can I... Thanks," she said, as he relieved her of
two-thirds of the stack. "Can I help it if you've
accumulated a ton of information on the subject?" He
followed her eyes as she took in the piles of folders on
every available flat surface. "...on a lot of subjects."

"Hey, I'm nothing if not thorough." Following her to her
desk, he set his accumulation atop hers.

"So what did Skinner want?"

"Oh. Uh, Dexter." Mulder flipped open the top folder.
"They're going ahead with the insanity plea."

Scully sighed loudly, and Mulder looked up. "He fooled
them all, didn't he?" she asked. "Dexter's going to get
away with murder."

The folder no longer holding his interest, Mulder closed
it and tossed it back onto the heap. "Maybe."

"Sometimes I wonder why we even bother." She sat down
heavily in her chair.

Mulder touched her lightly on the arm. "You know why."

Continuing as if he hadn't spoken, she said, "Why do a
good job when the criminals get off with a slap on the
wrist?" Finally acknowledging his presence, she looked up
at him just as he opened his mouth to offer his opinion.
"Oh, excuse me, this one will get sent to his room without
his supper." She crossed her arms, her posture exuding

"Scully," he started in his 'voice of reason,' then
stopped. She was right. They broke their asses to catch
these guys, to get them off the streets, and for what? So
some court-appointed psychiatrist can 'rehabilitate' them?
Well, it worked just fine for Eugene Tooms, and it'll be
just as successful with Dexter. Looking down at her just
then, he saw his emotions mirrored in her eyes, and an
overwhelming sadness washed over him.

Look what he'd done to her. Wasted away her youth,
stripped her of her innocence, robbed her of her belief in
right and wrong, good and bad.

"Oh, no, you don't," Scully said, standing up and grabbing
his hand.

"What?" he said, confused, stumbling over his feet as she
dragged him toward the coat rack.

"You are not going to wallow in self pity, or pity for me,
or whatever it is you want to wallow in." She snatched his
coat off its hook and held it open for him; he stared at
her in stunned silence for a moment before the sheer force
of her indignation snapped him out of his funk.

"Scully, it's only 3:30," he said, finally finding his
voice. "Where am I going?"

He tried to hide his pleasure when she removed her coat
also. "*We* are going..." She stopped. "...somewhere fun."

"Fun?" he asked, tickled. "I didn't know you indulged in
'fun,' Scully."

"I have been known," she replied in an affronted tone, "to
bat the occasional ball, down the sporadic quart of rocky
road ice cream--"

"You madwoman, you," he laughed, getting more into the
spirit of the moment. Maybe things weren't as dismal as
he'd painted them after all. "So where are we going?"

"To..." She ceased all movement, thinking. "I don't know,
Mulder," she admitted. She gave his arm a tug, then opened
the door. "But let's go now."

He followed after her without giving it a second thought.



Assistant Director Skinner's Office One Week Later 9:37 a.m.

Skinner looked up from his report at the knock on his
door. "Yes?"

His assistant opened the door and stepped inside. "This
just came for you, sir." She handed him a sealed letter-
size envelope.

"Thank you." Accepting the mail, he waited until the door
closed behind her before he returned to his desk and opened

He let out a huff of breath as he read the contents:

Lawrence Dexter III escaped from custody en route to the
Newark Federal Court Building from the Raynham Psychiatric
Hospital. Two guards and one bystander were killed during
the escape. At the recommendation of the staff
psychiatrists, Dexter had not been handcuffed.

The End

Feedback is appreciated!
Jo-Ann at