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Not my usual job description
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Title:  Not My Usual Job Description
                                    Author: Waddles 52
                                    Summary:  When both Mulder and Scully are injured 
                                    while away on an assignment, Skinner comes to town to 
                                    lend a helping hand.
                                    Category:  MT, ST, M/S/Sk friendship
                                    Disclaimer:  No copyright infringement intended.
                                    Archives:  Written for the June MR open theme 
                                    challenge.
                                    Feedback:  I would love to hear from you. 
                                    waddles52@insightbb.com
                                    
                                    
                                    
                                    
                                    Trying to balance a cup of coffee, her briefcase and 
                                    a sack containing her bagel and a Danish for Mulder, 
                                    Special Agent Dana Scully was pleasantly surprised 
                                    when her partner opened the door to their basement 
                                    office.  Wearing a big grin on his face, he took her 
                                    briefcase and set it gently beside her chair.  It was 
                                    only after she removed the lid from her coffee and 
                                    took a generous sip that she noticed that Mulder had 
                                    the slide projector set up.  Groaning inwardly, she 
                                    sat down and fished her bagel from the bag.
                                    
                                    "Good morning, Scully," he beamed.  It had been quite 
                                    a while since he'd had to dig out the projector and 
                                    he was enjoying it tremendously.
                                    
                                    "And good morning to you too, Mulder.  So, what's up?  
                                    I haven't seen this equipment for quite some time."  
                                    She fished around in the sack and latched onto the 
                                    Danish.  "Here, take this before I change my mind."  
                                    A slide show first thing in the morning usually meant 
                                    that they'd be on a flight out of town before the day 
                                    was over.
                                    
                                    "Well, Scully.  I don't want to say too much until 
                                    you have a chance to look over everything.  Thanks 
                                    for the Danish, by the way."  He took a big bite from 
                                    it and turned back to the projector.
                                    
                                    Scully took a big sip of her favorite Starbuck's brew 
                                    and steeled herself for the worst.  Mulder dimmed the 
                                    lights and the first slide lit up the room.
                                    
                                    "Mulder," she protested as she looked at an image of 
                                    a dead cow in all its glory.  "I am not going back to 
                                    Texas!"
                                    
                                    "Who said anything about Texas?  This cow died in 
                                    Nebraska but it is the same circumstance.  
                                    Exsanguinated.  As well as this one, and this one and 
                                    that one."
                                    
                                    Mulder was in his element as he clicked the control.  
                                    The next picture was that of an older man, pale as he 
                                    could be, with two puncture marks on his neck.  He 
                                    advanced the slides again to reveal a middle-aged man 
                                    in the same condition.
                                    
                                    Scully began to check her calendar.  Surely this was 
                                    April Fools day and she was the butt of the joke.  
                                    Those photos were almost identical to what they had 
                                    seen in Chaney, Texas last year.  That group had 
                                    packed up and left and she had no desire to 
                                    investigate any further.
                                    
                                    "I know this is almost identical to what we found in 
                                    Chaney, but these events have taken place in Nebraska 
                                    over the past two weeks."
                                    
                                    "Well, at least there are plenty of cattle in 
                                    Nebraska.  This won't cause a shortage.  Mulder, 
                                    don't tell me that you think that group has relocated 
                                    there."
                                    
                                    "Okay, I won't tell you, but we have a 12:05 flight 
                                    out today."
                                    
                                    The tall, slender agent turned off the projector and 
                                    started toward the screen to stow it away.  Trying to 
                                    analyze the look on his partner's face, he didn't 
                                    notice the extension cord lying directly in his path.
                                    
                                    Scully loved to watch his graceful, fluid movements 
                                    so both were surprised when he tripped over the cord 
                                    and landed on the floor in an ungraceful heap.
                                    
                                    "Have a nice trip?"  She just couldn't resist that 
                                    line as Mulder sat on the floor, a shocked look on 
                                    his face.
                                    
                                    "Wonderful journey, though rather short," he grinned 
                                    as he pushed himself off the floor.  Mulder felt a 
                                    stab of pain in his right ankle and staggered a bit 
                                    before he regained his footing.  He winced and 
                                    quickly tried to hide it.
                                    
                                    Mulder was fast, but Scully's eagle eye was faster.  
                                    "Mulder, are you all right?"
                                    
                                    "Yeah, just a slight twinge in my ankle." He began 
                                    walking in the limited office space.  "It's feeling 
                                    better already.  I just need to walk it off."
                                    
                                    His partner wasn't totally convinced but she had to 
                                    admit that Mulder wasn't limping too badly.  "Scully, 
                                    why don't you go home and pack?  I'll put the 
                                    projector away and pick you up at your place.  Would 
                                    10:15 be all right?"
                                    
                                    "That will be perfect."  She gathered her things.  
                                    "You might want to put some ice on that if you get a 
                                    chance."
                                    
                                    "Yes, Dr. Scully, but the pain is almost gone."
                                    
                                    "Great!  I'll see you at 10:15 then?"
                                    
                                    "Count on it."
                                    
                                    She gave him a lingering look good-bye and left the 
                                    office.  Mulder could hear her heels clicking until 
                                    she got on the elevator.  Convinced that the coast 
                                    was clear, he limped heavily to his office chair and 
                                    sank into it.  He propped his foot up on his desk and 
                                    gingerly pulled the sock down.  He was greeted with a 
                                    palate of red, deep purple and light blue.  "Way to 
                                    go, Mulder," he berated himself.  "You are such a 
                                    klutz."
                                    
                                    Realizing that he didn't have much time, he pushed 
                                    himself out of the chair and put the screen and 
                                    projector away, all the time trying to think of a way 
                                    to hide his injury from Scully.
                                    
                                    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
                                    
                                    Scully was amazed to see her partner pull up in front 
                                    of her apartment at 10:15 on the dot.  Grabbing her 
                                    luggage, she locked up and was out the door before 
                                    Mulder was able to get out of the car.  She signaled 
                                    him to pop the trunk release and she threw her bags 
                                    in.
                                    
                                    Once inside the car Scully noted that he had changed 
                                    to casual clothes.  Mulder looked hot in whatever he 
                                    chose to wear, be it Armani or a flannel shirt and 
                                    jeans.  A pair of Doc Martens completed his outfit.
                                    
                                    She, too, had opted for casual.  If they were going 
                                    to be slogging through pastures her high heels would 
                                    be completely out of place.
                                    
                                    Mulder was glad that he was able to get by without a 
                                    suit.  He had changed as soon as he got home and 
                                    selected the Doc Marten boots to keep the swelling 
                                    down and give his injured ankle some support.  
                                    Tripping over that extension cord had really done a 
                                    number on that joint and it wasn't the first time 
                                    he'd hurt it either.  Before he left he downed 
                                    several ibuprophen tabs and threw the rest of the 
                                    bottle in his suitcase.
                                    
                                    He really wanted to connect these new deaths to the 
                                    group from Chaney, Texas.  He had to hide his injury 
                                    from Scully at all costs or he could kiss this 
                                    assignment farewell.
                                    
                                    Walking to their gate at the airport was pure 
                                    torture.  The ibuprophen wasn't helping but he'd just 
                                    have to make do.  He thought he noticed Scully 
                                    staring at him several times and vowed to try harder 
                                    not to limp.
                                    
                                    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
                                    
                                    After a very uncomfortable flight both agents were 
                                    tired and somewhat dismayed to find the Lariat rental 
                                    booth was on the opposite end of the terminal.  To 
                                    top that off there wasn't a baggage cart in sight, so 
                                    the two weary agents had to hoof it, dragging their 
                                    bags behind them until they saw the familiar sign.
                                    
                                    In keeping with their prior bad luck their 
                                    reservation had been lost.  Mulder turned on as much 
                                    charm as possible but they still had a thirty-minute 
                                    wait.  By the time he wrangled a free upgrade to an 
                                    SUV and it was delivered, Mulder was more than happy 
                                    to let Scully drive.
                                    
                                    Since it was so late the agents decided to check into 
                                    the motel and contact the local law enforcement first 
                                    thing in the morning.  After a quick room service 
                                    meal Mulder and Scully made plans to meet for 
                                    breakfast and retired to their rooms for the night.
                                    
                                    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
                                    
                                    Mulder sat on the side of his bed and stared at his 
                                    injured ankle still encased in the boot he'd put on 
                                    earlier in the day.  Knowing that it would swell if 
                                    he removed the boot, he opted to sleep in his 
                                    clothes.  Maybe he could take a very quick shower in 
                                    the morning and get the boot back on before the 
                                    swelling got too bad.
                                    
                                    In the meantime he needed sleep.  To add insult to 
                                    injury the pain was causing him to run a fever.  The 
                                    suffering FBI agent removed his belt and shirt and 
                                    lay down on top of the covers.  That would just have 
                                    to do.  He was too tired to turn the bed down.
                                    
                                    Sometime around 2AM, Mulder decided that the night 
                                    would never end.  After downing a few more ibuprophen 
                                    tablets, he pulled out the files on Chaney, Texas and 
                                    the current deaths.  He took several pages of notes 
                                    and made a list of things for Scully to check when 
                                    she autopsied the latest victim and reviewed the ME's 
                                    findings on the earlier death.
                                    
                                    The clock read 5AM by the time he was finished.  
                                    Since a run was completely out of the question he 
                                    decided on a very quick shower.
                                    
                                    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
                                    
                                    The quick shower and ensuing struggle to get his boot 
                                    back on left Mulder tired enough to fall asleep 
                                    again.  He was roused from a fitful slumber at 7:30 
                                    AM.  Knowing it was Scully he called out for her to 
                                    come in while he went to the bathroom to wash his 
                                    face and brush his teeth.  He almost went down to his 
                                    knees when his injured ankle protested mightily.  
                                    After several minutes of intense pain he was able to 
                                    pull himself together.  With only a very slight limp 
                                    he threw open the bathroom door and greeted his 
                                    partner.
                                    
                                    "Rough night, Mulder?"  It was obvious he hadn't 
                                    slept much and he looked almost ill.
                                    
                                    "You could say that.  I had a little trouble 
                                    sleeping, which you know is nothing new."
                                    
                                    "Did you sleep at all?"
                                    
                                    "Yes, for a few hours.  I made productive use of the 
                                    time I was awake though."  He handed her a sheet from 
                                    his yellow, legal pad.  "Think you can look for these 
                                    things when you do the autopsy?"
                                    
                                    Scully skimmed over his notes.  "Mulder, you're still 
                                    assuming that this is the same group we encountered 
                                    in Texas."
                                    
                                    "Yes."
                                    
                                    "We don't have any proof of that yet."
                                    
                                    "We will after you do the autopsy.  A word of advice, 
                                    don't order pizza today."
                                    
                                    "Would it be all right to order a fruit plate for 
                                    breakfast?" she huffed.
                                    
                                    "I guess, as long as Ronnie Strickland doesn't 
                                    deliver it to the table."
                                    
                                    The agents decided to eat in the motel restaurant.  
                                    Scully ordered her fruit plate and was quite 
                                    surprised when Mulder only ordered toast and coffee.
                                    
                                    "What's up, Mulder?'
                                    
                                    "Huh?"  Her question puzzled him.
                                    
                                    "You usually order a huge breakfast when we're in the 
                                    field.  Are you sure that toast and coffee will hold 
                                    you until lunch?"
                                    
                                    "Yeah, I'm feeling a little off this morning.  Lack 
                                    of sleep, I guess."
                                    
                                    Scully looked him over carefully.  "Are you sure you 
                                    aren't coming down with something?"
                                    
                                    "I don't think so, but thanks for your concern."
                                    
                                    The doctor, turned FBI agent, strongly resisted the 
                                    urge to feel his forehead.  "I am concerned.  You 
                                    really don't seem yourself."
                                    
                                    "It's nothing that a good night's sleep won't cure," 
                                    he assured her.  Mulder hated to lie to his partner 
                                    but he really couldn't admit how much pain he was in.  
                                    Scully would cart him off to the ER so fast his head 
                                    would spin.  He really needed to find a connection 
                                    between Texas and Nebraska.  Once he had his proof he 
                                    would gladly go the doctor.
                                    
                                    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
                                    
                                    Once again, Scully noted how out of character Mulder 
                                    was behaving.  He sent her ahead to ask for 
                                    directions and when she got back he was already in 
                                    the car, in the passenger seat to boot.  "What gives, 
                                    Mulder?"  She climbed into the seat and turned to 
                                    look at him.
                                    
                                    "What do you mean?"
                                    
                                    "Since you charmed this big, manly SUV out of that 
                                    rental agent, I would think that you'd want to at 
                                    least drive it."
                                    
                                    "I'm still trying to clear my head.  I should be 
                                    ready to go after another cup of coffee."
                                    
                                    Scully gave him the once over again.  She knew that 
                                    Mulder wasn't his usual self but she just couldn't 
                                    put her finger on it . . .yet!  She vowed to get to 
                                    the bottom of it before the day was over.
                                    
                                    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
                                    
                                    After talking to Sheriff Nacke and one of his 
                                    deputies, Scully went to the back of the building to 
                                    perform the autopsy.  Mulder had to settle for some 
                                    very hurried directions to the two RV parks in the 
                                    area.  After a truckload of cattle overturned on the 
                                    town's busiest street, the sheriff and his men were 
                                    needed as wranglers and couldn't supply anyone to 
                                    accompany an FBI agent who wasn't familiar with the 
                                    area.
                                    
                                    The first site didn't turn up anything out of the 
                                    ordinary.  The second location had evidently been 
                                    abandoned during the night.  According to the local 
                                    newspaper carrier, it had been thriving only the day 
                                    before.  After questioning him and the letter 
                                    carrier, Mulder was able to determine that Ronnie 
                                    Strickland, Sheriff Hartwell and friends had lived 
                                    there for almost a year.
                                    
                                    Mulder was so frustrated that he started to kick the 
                                    left, front tire of his vehicle and he would have if 
                                    his injured ankle hadn't screamed in pain at the 
                                    sudden movement.  The FBI agent was forced to lean 
                                    against the car until the ensuing nausea and 
                                    dizziness abated.
                                    
                                    "I give up," he muttered as he carefully slid into 
                                    the car.  "Time to admit to Scully that I'm in pain 
                                    even if she does haul my ass off to the nearest 
                                    medical facility."
                                    
                                    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
                                    
                                    The sheriff's secretary scurried to the office door 
                                    as soon as she saw Mulder drive up.  She was beside 
                                    the car before he even had his seatbelt unfastened.  
                                    An uneasy feeling settled in the pit of his stomach 
                                    when he saw the concerned look on her face.  He 
                                    quickly hit the power button to lower the window.
                                    
                                    "Agent Mulder, I'm so glad you're back.  I was about 
                                    to come looking for you.
                                    
                                    "What is it, Mrs. Clay?" he asked, dreading the 
                                    answer.
                                    
                                    "Your partner, Agent Scully, was hurt.  The sheriff 
                                    took her to the hospital."
                                    
                                    "What happened?"
                                    
                                    "That stupid kid the sheriff hired to help out around 
                                    here threw open the door to the morgue and knocked 
                                    that woman clean out."
                                    
                                    "Where's the hospital?"
                                    
                                    "Unlock the door and let me in.  I'll show you the 
                                    way."  She patted him gently on the arm.  "Agent 
                                    Mulder, she came to after a few minutes and started 
                                    complaining that we were fussing over her for 
                                    nothing.  I think she's going to be just fine."
                                    
                                    He flipped the lock mechanism.  "Thank you, Mrs. Clay 
                                    but I'd feel a lot better if I could see that for 
                                    myself."
                                    
                                    "Of course, you would," she smiled and made her way 
                                    to the passenger seat.
                                    
                                    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
                                    
                                    Mulder unlocked the motel room door without taking 
                                    his right arm from around Scully's shoulders.
                                    
                                    "Mulder, let me go!"
                                    
                                    "Not until you're safely in bed."
                                    
                                    "This really isn't necessary," she huffed
                                    
                                    "The ER doc says it is."
                                    
                                    Scully opened her mouth to reply and Mulder put his 
                                    right index finger against her lips.  "Don't say it.  
                                    Don't even think it.  This time I'm going to be your 
                                    nursemaid and the first thing you're going to do is 
                                    get those cute, little buns into bed, per the 
                                    doctor's orders.  Now, you go on and put on your 
                                    pajamas and I'll be back in a few minutes to tuck you 
                                    in unless you need some help getting undressed." 
                                    
                                    Scully just stared at him.  She had intended to stand 
                                    her ground against him but one look at his face 
                                    convinced her to follow his directions.  Besides, 
                                    this could be fun, especially if she gave Mulder a 
                                    dose of his own medicine.  She smiled as she 
                                    carefully made her way to her suitcase.
                                    
                                    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
                                    
                                    So far, the afternoon had been uneventful.  Scully 
                                    had dozed off and on and Mulder looked at his watch 
                                    and decided it was time to go next door and check on 
                                    his patient.  He rapped lightly on the open 
                                    connecting door before going in.
                                    
                                    It was getting more difficult to walk without limping 
                                    but he vowed to grit it out.  Scully didn't need to 
                                    worry about him right now.
                                    
                                    Scully raised her head slightly as he entered the 
                                    room then sank back into the pillows with a groan.
                                    
                                    "Headache worse?"
                                    
                                    "A little."
                                    
                                    "Dr. Mulder has just the thing.  I'll be right back."
                                    
                                    He limped into the bathroom unaware that Scully was 
                                    watching every awkward step.
                                    
                                    "Mulder, is your ankle still hurting?"
                                    
                                    He stopped dead in his tracks almost spilling the 
                                    water he carried.  "Um . . ."
                                    
                                    "Mulder."  Although his name didn't ordinarily sound 
                                    like a threat, her tone of voice certainly suggested 
                                    it.
                                    
                                    "Well, maybe a little."  He handed her two Tylenol 
                                    tablets and the glass of water.  Scully swallowed 
                                    them, put the glass on the nightstand and patted the 
                                    bed next to her.  "Have a seat.  Take your boot and 
                                    sock off and let me have a look."
                                    
                                    Just as Mulder was about to give in his cell phone 
                                    rang.  Scully stared impatiently as he talked.
                                    
                                    After he hung up he turned to face her.  "Scully, it 
                                    was the sheriff.  Two men fitting Hartwell and 
                                    Strickland's descriptions are down the road looking 
                                    around an old, abandoned house.  He's on his way to 
                                    pick me up.  Do you think you'll be all right for the 
                                    next hour or so?"
                                    
                                    "Mulder, I've had worse headaches after a day of 
                                    paperwork.  Go, but I'm taking a rain check on that 
                                    ankle exam."
                                    
                                    "Thanks, Scully.  I'll be glad to show you my ankle 
                                    as soon as I get back."
                                    
                                    "Count on it."
                                    
                                    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
                                    
                                    Scully sat up and looked at her watch, surprised that 
                                    she had slept for five hours.  That was odd because 
                                    Mulder was supposed to wake her every few hours.  
                                    "Mulder?" she called.
                                    
                                    She threw the covers off and reached for the phone 
                                    when she didn't receive an answer from next door.  
                                    She dropped it back into its cradle at the sound of 
                                    someone at the door.  As she moved to get out of bed 
                                    a loud knock sounded.  Wary, she made her way to the 
                                    door and stood on tiptoe to look through the 
                                    peephole. 
                                    
                                    The petite agent quickly opened the door, surprised 
                                    to see the sheriff almost carrying Mulder.  After 
                                    dragging him to the spare bed the lawman eased the 
                                    agent down.
                                    
                                    "What happened?" Scully demanded, focusing on her 
                                    partner's splinted right ankle.
                                    
                                    "He's heavier than he looks," the older man wheezed, 
                                    holding his hand up to let her know that he needed to 
                                    catch his breath.
                                    
                                    "Broke my ankle," Mulder supplied, his voice slurred.
                                    
                                    "One of the steps at the old Anderson place had 
                                    rotted through.  Agent Mulder fell and dislocated his 
                                    ankle.  The doc said there was a hairline fracture 
                                    too.  They had to almost knock him out to get it back 
                                    in the socket.  Sorry I didn't call but things were 
                                    pretty hectic."
                                    
                                    Mulder tried to sit up.  "Sorry, Scully.  Just give 
                                    me a minute and I'll get your medicine."  It was 
                                    obvious that he was still under the influence of the 
                                    drugs he'd received at the hospital.
                                    
                                    "It's okay, Mulder.  My head doesn't feel too bad 
                                    right now."
                                    
                                    Mulder sank back down and was asleep within seconds.
                                    
                                    A wave of dizziness washed over Scully causing her to 
                                    stagger.  The sheriff steadied her then led her to 
                                    the other bed.  "You two are in fine shape, aren't 
                                    you?" he fussed as he helped her lie down.
                                    
                                    "I'm fine.  I think I probably just need to eat 
                                    something."
                                    
                                    Sheriff Nacke looked at her doubtfully.  "While we 
                                    were at the hospital Agent Mulder received a call on 
                                    his cell phone.  Your boss, Mr. Skinner, was a bit 
                                    concerned that neither of you had checked in.  When 
                                    he heard what happened he said he'd be on the first 
                                    available flight out here.  He's going to look after 
                                    you two until you're able to travel."
                                    
                                    "You are kidding, right?" Scully inquired, a look of 
                                    surprise on her face.
                                    
                                    "No, I'm not."
                                    
                                    Scully covered her eyes with her right forearm and 
                                    groaned.
                                    
                                    "Mrs. Clay should be here any minute.  She's going to 
                                    stay with you until Mr. Skinner gets here.  Agent 
                                    Mulder isn't in any condition to be up and around 
                                    until he sobers up a bit and from the looks of you 
                                    you're a little green around the gills.  Just relax 
                                    and let us help."
                                    
                                    "Thank you," she sighed.
                                    
                                    "Now, as soon as Mrs. Clay gets here, I'll go out to 
                                    my vehicle and get Agent Mulder's crutches and x-
                                    rays.  The doctor splinted his ankle up and said not 
                                    to put any weight on it until he sees a specialist 
                                    when he gets home.  Oh, I've got his pain medicine."  
                                    He pulled a bottle from his shirt pocket.  "'Course, 
                                    I doubt he'll need anything until he sleeps this 
                                    off."
                                    
                                    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
                                    
                                    Mulder opened one eye and looked around.  Both eyes 
                                    opened in surprise when he realized he didn't know 
                                    exactly where he was.  His surroundings looked 
                                    vaguely familiar, but his brain had that drugged, 
                                    fuzzy feeling that prevented him from processing 
                                    information at his usual warp speed.  When he turned 
                                    his head to the right and found two blue eyes staring 
                                    at him, he recognized the room.
                                    
                                    "Scully?  How'd I get here?"  He tried to sit up but 
                                    thought better of it when his stomach started doing 
                                    flip-flops.
                                    
                                    "Long or short version?"
                                    
                                    "Short version for right now."  He took a deep breath 
                                    to calm his stomach.
                                    
                                    "Sheriff Nacke brought you here after you were 
                                    released from the ER.  Ring any bells?"  Scully rose 
                                    to a sitting position in her bed.
                                    
                                    "Um, yeah.  I'm starting to remember the ER visit 
                                    from hell.  What did they give me?"  He closed his 
                                    eyes in an effort to stop the room from spinning.
                                    
                                    "From what I gathered it was a combination of a 
                                    pretty strong pain killer and a sedative.  Let's just 
                                    say that you were pretty relaxed when the sheriff 
                                    dragged you in."
                                    
                                    Mulder felt the right side of his mattress settle 
                                    under the weight of his partner as she sat on the 
                                    side of his bed.  He opened his eyes again.  "Scully, 
                                    how are you feeling?  Shouldn't you be in bed?"
                                    
                                    "Mulder, I feel much better but I need to tell you 
                                    something."
                                    
                                    "No, Scully.  You still need to be resting.  I don't 
                                    want you to worry about me when you should be 
                                    concerned about your own health."
                                    
                                    "Neither of you need worry.  I'm going to take care 
                                    of both of you until you're back in DC," a deep voice 
                                    informed then from the connecting doorway.
                                    
                                    Mulder did a double take when Assistant Director 
                                    Walter Skinner entered the room.  Dressed casually in 
                                    a polo shirt and jeans, he looked rather out of 
                                    place, especially carrying an ice bucket and several 
                                    canned soft drinks.
                                    
                                    Mulder looked back to Scully.  "That's what I wanted 
                                    to talk to you about," she whispered.
                                    
                                    He turned back to look at Skinner, then at Scully 
                                    again, hoping one of them would fill him in.  He'd 
                                    obviously slept longer than he thought or was in the 
                                    throes of a very realistic dream.
                                    
                                    Skinner finally took pity on him.  "Sheriff Nacke 
                                    answered your phone when I called for a progress 
                                    report.  After hearing about your situation I figured 
                                    the two of you could use some help."
                                    
                                    "Thank you, sir," Scully replied while Mulder 
                                    continued to stare.
                                    
                                    "Mulder, you've been sleeping since I got here about 
                                    half an hour ago.  I thought that you two might want 
                                    something to drink.  I have ginger ale and cola."
                                    
                                    "I'll take the ginger ale," the woman decided.
                                    
                                    "And I'll have the cola.  It feels like my mouth was 
                                    stuffed with cotton."  Mulder sat up gingerly and 
                                    began to slide toward the head of the bed.  "Ow!"
                                    
                                    "I guess that ankle's pretty sore, huh?"  Skinner put 
                                    the ice and drinks on the nightstand.  "Here, let me 
                                    give you a hand."
                                    
                                    The older man helped his agent move up and 
                                    repositioned the pillow under his ankle.  "Sore seems 
                                    woefully inadequate when describing this pain."
                                    
                                    "Sheriff Nacke got your prescription filled before he 
                                    brought you home."  The AD shook out two pills from 
                                    the bottle and handed them to Mulder.  "You owe him 
                                    big time.  He stayed with you at the hospital, got 
                                    your medication and practically carried you into this 
                                    room."
                                    
                                    "Really?  I'll stop by his office before we leave.  I 
                                    honestly don't remember much after they started that 
                                    IV at the hospital."
                                    
                                    Skinner handed him the soft drink he'd just poured 
                                    into a glass.  "From what I've heard, you're pretty 
                                    funny when you're stoned."
                                    
                                    "They made quite a picture when they arrived at my 
                                    door," Scully laughed.  "Mulder, you were so loose 
                                    the sheriff practically poured you into bed."
                                    
                                    "Well, I'm glad I was able to provide some 
                                    entertainment."  He looked around the room.  
                                    "Shouldn't I have a pair of crutches somewhere around 
                                    here?"
                                    
                                    Skinner retrieved them from their resting place 
                                    beside the bed.  "You mean these?"
                                    
                                    "Yeah."  The injured agent carefully began to work 
                                    his sore ankle over to the edge of the bed.
                                    
                                    "Where are you going?" Skinner queried still holding 
                                    the crutches.
                                    
                                    "I'd like to go to the bathroom if that's okay with 
                                    everyone," he answered testily.
                                    
                                    "I'll help you."  Skinner held on to his elbow as he 
                                    stood.  "Just put your left arm around my waist.  I 
                                    don't want you to use those crutches until the drugs 
                                    from the hospital wear off."  He put the crutches 
                                    back in their place against the wall and helped the 
                                    younger man across the room.
                                    
                                    After Skinner got his agent back into bed he asked 
                                    them if they were hungry.  "It's getting late and the 
                                    kitchen will close pretty soon."
                                    
                                    "I think I'd like a bowl of vegetable soup with 
                                    saltines," Scully decided.  "Mulder, you haven't 
                                    eaten since breakfast and not much then.  You need to 
                                    put something in your stomach."
                                    
                                    "I'll have what you're having.  I'm really not that 
                                    hungry."
                                    
                                    "All right, then.  I'll call the order in and you two 
                                    can fill me in on the case while we wait."  Skinner 
                                    smiled and picked up the phone.
                                    
                                    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
                                    
                                    Skinner put the dirty dishes outside the door.  
                                    "Well, agents, I think it's time we called it a 
                                    night.  I think you could both use another day to 
                                    rest before we head home."
                                    
                                    "Yes, I agree.  That will give me time to speak to 
                                    the county ME about the autopsy results."
                                    
                                    "Agent Scully, I don't believe that falls under the 
                                    definition of the word rest."
                                    
                                    Scully opened her mouth to protest.
                                    
                                    "Is there any reason why you can't talk to him from 
                                    your office once we're home?"
                                    
                                    "Well, no.  I just thought I could get a head start 
                                    on my report."
                                    
                                    "I thought I might check a few of the neighboring 
                                    towns to see if any of the people from the RV park 
                                    might have passed through on their way to wherever 
                                    they are now."  Mulder shifted uneasily and just 
                                    barely managed to keep from crying out in pain.
                                    
                                    "Mulder, you can use that phone in your office as 
                                    well since both of you will be tied to your desks for 
                                    awhile.  I agree that the MO here is almost identical 
                                    to the case in Texas but you've pretty much reached a 
                                    dead end.  Your final report can wait for a few 
                                    days."
                                    
                                    "Yes, sir," both agents agreed.
                                    
                                    "I've ordered a cot for myself tonight.  I don't want 
                                    either of you moving around without me knowing about 
                                    it.  Agent Mulder, why don't I help you get settled 
                                    in for the night while Agent Scully brushes her teeth 
                                    and gets ready for bed?"
                                    
                                    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
                                    
                                    Skinner turned over uneasily on his cot.  "Stupid 
                                    things weren't made for comfort.  That's for sure," 
                                    he thought as he realized he'd been awakened by the 
                                    sound of someone being sick.  "Crap!  What bonehead 
                                    in his unit had spent the night drinking that rotgut 
                                    that passed for whiskey in this God-forsaken place?"
                                    
                                    With the weak, early morning light streaming in 
                                    around the edges of the curtains, he quickly 
                                    determined that he wasn't in his barracks back in 
                                    Vietnam after all.  "Mulder!" he gasped.
                                    
                                    Scrambling out of bed, he found Scully dizzily 
                                    holding onto the bathroom doorjamb while Mulder sat 
                                    on the side of the tub emptying his stomach into the 
                                    toilet.
                                    
                                    "I don't think the medication is agreeing with him, 
                                    sir," Scully reported, beginning to look a little 
                                    green herself.
                                    
                                    "Agent Scully, let's get you back to bed and then 
                                    I'll see what I can do to help Mulder."
                                    
                                    She had barely sat down on the side of her bed when 
                                    her stomach also began to spasm.  Skinner grabbed a 
                                    wastebasket and held it for her.  Since Mulder seemed 
                                    to have settled down, he stayed with the female agent 
                                    until her dry heaves stopped.  "Better?"
                                    
                                    "Yes, sir.  I have such a terrible headache that it's 
                                    making me ill."
                                    
                                    "I'll get you some Tylenol after I get Mulder back to 
                                    bed."
                                    
                                    During the next few minutes Skinner helped Mulder 
                                    clean up and put on a fresh t-shirt.  When he had him 
                                    safely back in bed he turned to Scully and stood by 
                                    her while she took the Tylenol he handed her.  The AD 
                                    glanced at his watch.  He hadn't even been up for ten 
                                    minutes and he already felt exhausted.  Wiping the 
                                    perspiration from his head and face with the hem of 
                                    his t-shirt he sighed and decided to get dressed for 
                                    the day.
                                    
                                    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
                                    
                                    It was turning out to be one bitch of a morning.  
                                    Both agents were in pain and nauseated.  Mulder's 
                                    pain meds were making him ill and Scully obviously 
                                    needed something stronger than Tylenol to ease her 
                                    headache.  Making his way to Mulder's vacant room he 
                                    put in a call to the ER.  Hopefully, the doctor could 
                                    prescribe something more helpful for both of them.
                                    
                                    After leaving a message for the ER doc, he called his 
                                    office to let his assistant know that they wouldn't 
                                    be returning home for at least another 24 hours.  
                                    Since both of his agents had been so ill he figured 
                                    another day of rest was in order.
                                    
                                    Skinner stood in the doorway between the rooms.  
                                    Mulder and Scully were both dozing and he thought he 
                                    might have time for a quick shower.  He decided to 
                                    wait until the next day to shave, uneasy about 
                                    leaving his two agents alone for that amount of time.
                                    
                                    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
                                    
                                    Mulder's stomach was doing a great imitation of a 
                                    trampoline.  He opened his eyes and tried to figure 
                                    how many hops on his good leg it would take to get 
                                    him to the bathroom before his unsettled stomach came 
                                    up again.  Before he was able to hop one time he felt 
                                    Skinner's arm around his waist.
                                    
                                    "Feeling sick again?"
                                    
                                    Mulder nodded his affirmation as Skinner helped him 
                                    move to the bathroom.  After heaving for several 
                                    minutes without much success he sighed and groaned, 
                                    "Why don't I just stay in here?  You could fix a 
                                    place for me to lie down on the floor and save us all 
                                    some trouble."
                                    
                                    "You're not any trouble, Mulder.  You need to be 
                                    comfortable and that means you need to be in bed.  
                                    I've left a message for your ER doctor to call me.  
                                    Maybe he can prescribe something different for both 
                                    of you."  The AD handed him a glass of water and he 
                                    took a small sip to rinse his mouth out before 
                                    handing it back.
                                    
                                    "Ready to get back into bed?"
                                    
                                    "Yes, sir."
                                    
                                    Skinner held out his hand and Mulder gripped it 
                                    firmly.
                                    
                                    "Thanks for helping us, sir.  I'm sure you'd rather 
                                    be doing anything other than looking after two puking 
                                    agents."
                                    
                                    Skinner chuckled as he helped Mulder back to bed.  
                                    "Well, it's not my usual job description but I'm 
                                    always open to new and different assignments."
                                    
                                    After carefully elevating his injured agent's ankle, 
                                    the AD spread the blanket and sheet over him.  A 
                                    sharp rap on the door drew his attention.
                                    
                                    When he opened the door the AD observed a tired 
                                    looking man in his mid to late thirties.  "May I help 
                                    you?"
                                    
                                    "Perhaps.  I'm looking for Agents Mulder and Scully."
                                    
                                    "Could I ask what business you have with them?" 
                                    Skinner inquired warily.
                                    
                                    "I'm Dr. Hammond.  I treated both of them in the ER 
                                    yesterday.  I got a message about a possible 
                                    medication problem so I thought I'd just stop by on 
                                    my way home."
                                    
                                    "Nice to meet you, Dr. Hammond.  I'm Walter Skinner. 
                                    I'm the one who called.  Please come in."  Skinner 
                                    offered his hand in welcome.
                                    
                                    "Come on in, Doc," Mulder invited.  "Guess you 
                                    thought you'd seen the last of us yesterday."
                                    
                                    "I always hope that I don't have repeat business, but 
                                    since I'm here I think I may have a few things that 
                                    might help you feel a little better," the doctor 
                                    grinned as he made his way to Mulder's bed.
                                    
                                    After a brief examination the doctor administered 
                                    anti-nausea and pain meds by injection and left a 
                                    two-day supply of oral meds for each of them.
                                    
                                    Skinner stood in the doorway between the rooms and 
                                    observed both agents resting comfortably at last.  
                                    They both looked so young when they were sleeping.  
                                    He sighed and went to the empty room next door to 
                                    order something from room service.
                                    
                                    It was late afternoon before either agent awakened.  
                                    Scully was the first to open her eyes.  She looked 
                                    around the room and saw that Mulder was still 
                                    snoozing.  "Good," she thought.  "He really needs the 
                                    rest after such a rough morning."
                                    
                                    After taking a few minutes to evaluate her own 
                                    condition, she realized that she felt much better.  
                                    The injections the doctor had administered earlier 
                                    had really done their jobs.  She reached over to the 
                                    nightstand for a glass of water.
                                    
                                    In the next room Skinner could hear sounds of 
                                    movement.  He was at the connecting door in no time.  
                                    "Agent Scully, can I get anything for you?"
                                    
                                    "No, thank you, sir.  I've got what I need right 
                                    here."  She raised her glass of water in a salute.
                                    
                                    "How are you feeling?" the AD asked as he seated 
                                    himself at the small table by the window.
                                    
                                    "Much better, sir.  My head is a little sore but I 
                                    wouldn't actually call it a headache."
                                    
                                    "That's great.  Do you feel like eating?"
                                    
                                    "Yes, I think I could manage that," Scully smiled.
                                    
                                    "Let's start out with some broth and saltines.  Does 
                                    that sound all right?"
                                    
                                    "That would be fine, sir.  Why don't you order the 
                                    same for Mulder?  He's moved a couple of times since 
                                    I've been awake so I expect to hear from him any 
                                    time."
                                    
                                    "Sorry to keep you waiting, Scully," Mulder stated, 
                                    rubbing his eyes.  "I'm awake."
                                    
                                    "Sorry, Mulder.  I didn't mean to wake you," she 
                                    apologized.
                                    
                                    "Not a problem.  I've been awake for a few minutes.  
                                    How's your head?"
                                    
                                    "Not bad, actually.  How's your ankle?"
                                    
                                    "Throbbing."
                                    
                                    "I'll fix you an ice pack as soon as I order the 
                                    food," Skinner offered, rising from the table.
                                    
                                    Skinner called in the food order and spent the next 
                                    few minutes helping his agents to the bathroom.  
                                    Scully insisted that she didn't need any help walking 
                                    and he had to admit that she looked much better.
                                    
                                    Mulder, on the other hand, was still a little shaky 
                                    from the earlier bouts of vomiting and the pain in 
                                    his ankle was clearly causing him great discomfort.  
                                    Skinner finished making an ice pack and placed it 
                                    gently on his agent's swollen ankle.
                                    
                                    "Thank you, sir.  I hate to admit it but the two of 
                                    us would have been in a world of hurt if you hadn't 
                                    decided to drop everything and fly out to help us."
                                    
                                    "Thank you, Mulder.  I was itching to get out of that 
                                    office anyway."
                                    
                                    "Well, I'm glad we were able to provide an excuse."
                                    
                                    "Besides, it gave me a chance to use what I learned 
                                    in Boy Scouts.  Studying for that first-aid badge was 
                                    a real bitch."
                                    
                                    "Eagle Scout?" Mulder smiled.
                                    
                                    Skinner nodded yes.
                                    
                                    "I was an Indian Guide myself."
                                    
                                    Scully rolled her eyes heavenward.  She was pretty 
                                    sure that Mulder's scouting experience paled in 
                                    comparison to the AD's.
                                    
                                    Room service arrived and Skinner took on the role of 
                                    waiter.  Both agents seemed to be hungry and he hoped 
                                    their upset stomachs were a thing of the past.
                                    
                                    After quickly finishing his broth, Mulder asked if 
                                    Skinner could bring his briefcase from his room next 
                                    door.  The AD firmly refused and forced a couple of 
                                    pain pills on him instead.
                                    
                                    Surprisingly, Mulder took them without too much 
                                    argument and Skinner told both agents that the rest 
                                    of the day would be spent resting and recuperating.
                                    
                                    "Well, if I can't work could I at least take a shower 
                                    and put on some clean clothes?"  Mulder asked.
                                    
                                    "No shower, but I'll be glad to help you get cleaned 
                                    up and get some fresh clothes on."
                                    
                                    Mulder opened his mouth to state his side.
                                    
                                    "No negotiation, agent.  Now, tell me what you would 
                                    like to wear and I'll go next door and get it.  Then 
                                    I'll help you to the bathroom where you can sit on 
                                    the toilet and clean up at the sink."
                                    
                                    Mulder sensed that it wouldn't be a good idea to 
                                    argue.  "I've got a pair of black basketball shorts 
                                    and a gray t-shirt on the right side of my suitcase.  
                                    There should be some clean boxers underneath."
                                    
                                    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
                                    
                                    Mulder exited the bathroom to find Scully gone.  
                                    Skinner sat at the table playing solitaire.  "Agent 
                                    Scully is next door taking a bath.  How about some 
                                    poker?"
                                    
                                    Mulder rarely had a chance to play cards but he 
                                    figured he might be able to provide some decent 
                                    competition for his boss.  After losing five hands in 
                                    a row he yawned rather loudly and announced that the 
                                    pain pills were making him sleepy.  He grabbed his 
                                    crutches and made his way back to bed, thankful that 
                                    they hadn't played for money.
                                    
                                    Skinner and Mulder moved next door when it was time 
                                    to turn in.  Both agents seemed to be on the mend and 
                                    the AD decided to call for travel arrangements for 
                                    the following afternoon.  He was in luck and got a 
                                    flight scheduled to leave at 5:20.
                                    
                                    Mulder eavesdropped and was pleased that they would 
                                    finally be heading home until he heard his supervisor 
                                    making arrangements for a wheelchair.
                                    
                                    "No!" he protested shaking his head vigorously.  "I 
                                    can make it just fine with my crutches."
                                    
                                    "Give your superior a break, Mulder.  I don't want to 
                                    throw my back out juggling luggage and trying to 
                                    catch you if you get tripped up.  You will use the 
                                    wheelchair."
                                    
                                    The stern look on Skinner's face convinced him that 
                                    it would be futile to argue.
                                    
                                    Skinner hung up the phone.  "We'll stop by the 
                                    sheriff's office on our way out so you two can thank 
                                    them for taking care of you."
                                    
                                    "Yes, sir.  They really went out of their way for us.  
                                    We usually aren't treated this well by the local law 
                                    enforcement agencies."
                                    
                                    "I'll see that the director sends them a personal 
                                    note of thanks when we return.  A little PR never 
                                    hurts."
                                    
                                    Mulder smiled.  "Have you ever thought of running for 
                                    public office?  It seems like you've honed your 
                                    political skills to a fine edge since you've been an 
                                    assistant director."
                                    
                                    "It's part of the job, Mulder and not one I 
                                    particularly enjoy.  So, to answer your question, no, 
                                    I would not consider running for public office.  
                                    Office politics leave a bitter taste in my mouth as 
                                    it is.  Now, it's time to take your pain pills and 
                                    turn in.  Tomorrow will be a tiring day."
                                    
                                    "Yes, sir.  Could we leave the door between the rooms 
                                    open?  I'd feel much better if we could hear Scully 
                                    if she needs help."
                                    
                                    "Good idea, Mulder.  I'll ask Scully and be right 
                                    back.  I expect to see you under the covers when I 
                                    return."
                                    
                                    Mulder gave him a mock salute and began to slowly 
                                    maneuver himself onto the bed.
                                    
                                    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
                                    
                                    The travelers were exhausted after the long trip 
                                    home.  Skinner was instructed to drop both agents off 
                                    at Scully's place causing him to wonder once again 
                                    just what their relationship was.
                                    
                                    Scully explained that her apartment was larger and 
                                    easier to move around in with crutches but the AD was 
                                    still skeptical.  He decided to continue with his 
                                    'don't ask, don't tell' policy.  As he bade them 
                                    farewell he ordered them to stay out of the office 
                                    until the following week.
                                    
                                    Both agents agreed.  As Scully closed the door she 
                                    pulled her left hand from behind her back.  With a 
                                    big grin she showed Mulder that her fingers were 
                                    crossed.
                                    
                                    With an even bigger grin Mulder pulled his right hand 
                                    from its hiding place behind his back to reveal the 
                                    same thing.  "Great minds think alike."
                                    
                                    Both agents broke into laughter.
                                    
                                    Meanwhile Skinner chuckled as he unlocked his car.  
                                    He knew that both agents had crossed their fingers.  
                                    He figured they would be back in their basement 
                                    office in two days . . . tops!  He smiled, happy that 
                                    he could still see through them and looking forward 
                                    to their return.  The X-Files kept him on his toes, 
                                    but he loved it all the same.
                                    
                                    "Rest while you can agents.  All of that paperwork 
                                    that you repeatedly put off will be waiting for you."
                                    
                                    He slid into his vehicle still grinning and headed 
                                    back to the office.
                                    
                                    
                                    
                                    The End