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OTM sheildOUT OF THE MAINSTREAM

02-REA

SCULLY'S CASE FILES

REASSIGNMENT.

F.B.I. HEADQUARTERS,

WASHINGTON D.C.

Scully was still in a state of shock, shattered by lack of sleep and Mulder’s late night phone call. Her feelings of dread had been compounded by the nightmare she had experienced just prior to it. Unable to rid herself of the horror of Deep Throat’s murder, nightmares had plagued her for three nights in succession. And then Mulder’s phone call . . . the conversation had burned itself into her memory; she didn’t think she’d ever forget it:

"They’re shutting us down, Scully."

"What?"

"They called me in tonight and they said they’re going to reassign us to other sections."

"Who told you that?"

"Skinner. He said word had come down from the top of the Executive Branch. It’s over, Scully."*

Over? She could hardly believe it. Ordered to report at 10am sharp, Scully found herself in Skinner’s outer office on tenterhooks, reminding her of that intolerable wait for her first selection board years ago, not knowing what to expect. She had dressed in her best blue skirt suit automatically, something she had always done when summoned to appear. Scully could not rest easy in the soft couch and sat staring at the filing cabinets immediately before her, glancing only through the blinds of the window when the small talk between the agents in the corridor became too loud.

Skinner’s personal assistant continued with her work at the desk away off to the left and they paid each other no attention. Scully knew that Mulder was inside, facing Skinner’s wrath and that she would be next. She resisted the temptation to keep checking her watch. It served no useful purpose anyway and only served to make her feel more anxious.

Skinner’s door opened abruptly and Scully stood at the sound. Mulder appeared and walked toward her to the outer door. As he grasped the door-knob he paused. He said nothing; he didn’t need to. Scully found all she needed to know in his eyes, and it concerned her. Mulder looked like a boxer who had been beaten so badly he was out on his feet. Before she had a chance to say anything at all, he opened the door and walked out.

"Agent Scully, Assistant Director Skinner will see you now," the woman sounded just a little too patronising. Scully watched Mulder stride away then turned to walk purposely into the larger office, determined not to let them see how upset she really was.

If anything Skinner appeared even more imposing than usual. He wore his jacket and that meant business. He stood just a little taller than Mulder and was built like a linebacker. Just standing next to him made her feel like an elf in comparison; but this elf could bite. Skinner wasn’t alone. The Cigarette Smoking Man (Mulder’s Cancer Man) stood behind the Assistant Director at the window, apparently a disinterested observer, just drawing heavily on those infernal cigarettes and casually watching the activity in the street.

Who the hell was he? Obviously a government official, possibly Defence Department, CIA, or worse, NSA. For some reason he took more than a passing interest in their investigations. He had been there in the beginning, present in Blevins’ office when she had originally been assigned to the X-Files. Seemed to her ever present since then, too. Scully looked to Skinner. "You wanted to see me, sir?"

"Yes, Agent Scully, please take a seat." His tone, while authoritarian, wasn’t condescending either.

Scully sat down. She noticed her personal file before him on the desk. Skinner resumed his chair and clasped his hands over the file. His opening sounded familiar, and ominous. "You’ve been writing regular field reports on the validity of the work on the X-Files for almost a year."

"Yes, sir."

"Recently we spoke about our displeasure with your reports. Despite the requirements outlined to you during that meeting and a warning to submit those reports by the book, you have failed to remain within the guidelines of strictly proper procedure. As a result both yours and Agent Mulder’s unorthodox methods of investigation have led to a re-evaluation of your continuance on the project."

"Sir-" Scully felt the need to interject, but she was ignored.

Skinner continued. "Now, we are aware that you were compelled to take direction from Agent Mulder in his position as the senior partner and this has been taken into consideration. The X-Files are, as of this moment, terminated." He paused, and then became very formal. "Agent Scully, this is to inform you officially that you have been reassigned. You will report to the FBI Academy to begin forensic instruction tomorrow morning."

Scully was stunned. They’d pulled her from the Academy, now they were sending her back, just like that. She felt her anger rise and set her jaw in defiance. "Do I have the right of redress, sir?" She wasn’t about to take this lying down. It smacked of unfair treatment. Skinner seemed surprised. "This is not a reprimand, Agent Scully, simply a matter of reassignment. Do you understand your orders?" Obviously no argument would be considered. The decision had already been made. "Yes, sir." She couldn’t keep the anger from her voice and shifted uneasily in the chair.

Skinner reacted to her body language and his expression softened. He thought for quite some time before turning to Cancer Man behind him. "I want to talk to Agent Scully alone." Cancer Man apparently didn’t like the idea, but he finally came away from the window, stabbed out his cigarette into the ashtray on the conference table and moved slowly to the other door. Scully purposely ignored him, but she heard him light up again with a match before retiring. Skinner stood to take in the view out of the window himself. "All right, Agent Scully, I’m listening." She hesitated only for an instant. "May I speak freely, sir?"

"Yes."

"I want to know why."

Skinner turned from the window, looked at her steadily and then picked up her file. "Your record is exemplary, your credentials impressive, exactly what was needed. You were assigned to the X-Files to make the appropriate scientific observations." Scully checked herself from looking at the ceiling in disgust. Blevins had told her the same thing but nothing had ever been clarified. They had simply thrown her in at the deep end. "Appropriate? By whos definition?" Whatever, she was determined to speak her mind. "We expected you to be objective." Skinner reminded her.

"You wanted me to be a spy! " Scully shouted, unable to contain her anger- an outburst of pure pent up emotion, which took Skinner off-guard momentarily before he eased. "Dana -" She visibly stiffened at his use of her first name, and Skinner reconsidered. Under the circumstances perhaps it was unwise, but it didn’t change his line of questioning. "What happened? Was it his influence that made you start to act inappropriately? You even lied to protect him. That was not part of the agenda."

Scully took great exception to that. "I was never part of anyone’s agenda," she stabbed the air with her hand. "I did my job as best I saw it. I have nothing to regret." Skinner continued unabashed. "You were meant to be a steadying influence, and yet your approach became as unconventional as his." He dropped her file back onto the desk top. Scully shook her head and protested strongly. "You cannot judge Mulder by the same criteria as everyone else!"

"Scully, he defies protocol, ignores jurisdiction, is often in violation of Bureau procedure. Mulder is a maverick. He has placed you in unnecessary danger, risked your life . . . and still you continue to defend him. Why? Did you fall in love with the man?"

Skinner saw immediately by her expression that he had offended her. He knew only too well of the deep bond which had developed between them, and which, in effect, now necessitated their separation. The question had come as a result of frustration and the desire to put her in her place. Having said it he realised he didn’t like the after-taste. Scully was too good an agent to deserve such a personal attack.

Scully’s mind raced: how to respond without blowing her top, or worse, making a total fool of herself. Suddenly it became all too much. She had tried to be strong, but she wasn’t like Mulder. There was no use bashing your head against a brick wall for no other reason than because it was there. In that instant she felt so incredibly exhausted, all energy drained. How could Skinner understand? "He’s my partner." What else could she say?

The Assistant Director remained unmoved, and shook his head. "Was, Agent Scully." That was it. She stood, ramrod straight, unflinching, one last act of defiance. "Is that all, sir." Skinner adopted the same attitude. "Yes, Agent Scully. You have your orders."

Scully found Mulder in his office clearing out his desk. She stood in the doorway for a moment before entering, savouring the memory of their first meeting as it suddenly flashed through her mind. Not even a year; seemingly a lifetime ago.

"Agent Mulder, I’m Dana Scully. I’ve been assigned to work with you."

"Oh, isn’t it nice to be so highly regarded. So who did you tick off to get stuck with this detail, Scully?"

"Actually, I’m looking forward to working with you. I’ve heard a lot about you."

"Oh, really? I was under the impression that you were sent to spy on me."**

That had never been the case. Never.

Mulder regarded her with the same numbed expression he had earlier. "You shouldn’t be here," he told her flatly. She made a pointing gesture with her outspread hand. "I came to collect my coffee mug." That was about the only item she ever actually left in the office, surrounded by all his things. Her name plate had never even been fixed to the door. It was, and always would be Spooky Mulder’s office. Mulder found the blue mug, picked it up, turned it around in his hand as if looking for cracks, and then set it down again in an uncluttered place on the desk. For once, Scully couldn’t tell what he was thinking. Her presence, in fact, had a calming effect, her smile, as usual, got through the defences he’d firmly set in place.

"I suppose," his voice sounded a lot less stand-offish, "they’re sending you back to the Academy." It seemed the logical course. Scully nodded and folded her arms. "I’m to instruct Cherry agents on the procedures of the autopsy in determining the physiology of homicide," she explained in her best instructor-like fashion. But it didn’t make her feel any less unhappy. It was exactly what she had been doing almost a year ago. After her time here the idea of returning held little appeal. "And you?"

"I’ve been thrown into the bullpen."

"What?" She couldn’t believe it. "General assignment," he answered simply, but if it could have been a swear word it would have been. Scully was suddenly annoyed and she spread her hands. "But you were the best analyst the violent crimes section ever had. They know that!" Mulder almost grinned. "I was reminded of the fact that there was a certain appearance at a professional responsibility hearing." In effect he was being punished. "Mulder I’m so sorry."

He shrugged his shoulders - a resigned acceptance of the magnitude of the high government forces trying to pull his strings. He didn’t care much about his record, concerned only that Scully wouldn’t carry an official reprimand on her file because of her association with him. She’d reached the point of telling him openly that she was prepared to put herself on the line for him then proved it by lying to Skinner outright in his defence. Perhaps they had come too far. It had always been a matter of time. He’d bucked the system too many times, now his luck had finally run out.

Scully approached the desk, picked up and handed him a book which he packed into the cardboard archive box before him. "You predicted a change for us," she reminded him of his hunch so soon after the Tooms case. "This wasn’t what I had in mind."

"We both knew they were out to put an end to the X-Files, Scully. Any excuse would have done. I just didn’t expect that it would blow up in our faces." Neither of them did. She knew he was thinking of Deep Throat. Again Scully envisioned the shooting and just as quickly forced it from her mind. "It’ll be all right," she found herself saying mechanically. Would it? Could she even believe it herself? Mulder seemed to mirror her thoughts. "Maybe, but it won’t be the same."

When they first landed her on him Mulder was instantly suspicious and wary. He’d been so used to pursuing his enquiries alone, charging off at full speed and usually half-cocked. He made mistakes, took stupid risks and more often than not failed to close a file. Scully’s input had made all the difference. He knew the Bureau had thrown them together as partners to force on him a strong, steadying influence. What they failed to realise was they had succeeded.

Scully recalled that she had been much put out when informed she’d been assigned to the X-Files, unable to understand why the Bureau would waste her medical skills in such an off-hand fashion. Her inherent scepticism automatically categorised the paranormal as mere fancy. Mulder’s reputation had preceded him and she had been somewhat suspicious and wary.

Mulder had taken Scully’s scepticism with a grain of salt as he usually did with others he’d worked with, but he soon found her opinions and observations were never accompanied by the usual put-down or prejudice, simply a suggestion that there could be other explanations.

Scully, over time, had come to understand the nature of the work and her part in it. Her tendency to question and to push Mulder to consider more conventional alternatives had forged them into a workman-like team. And the case solutions increased.

Mulder found Scully to be intelligent, self-assured and shrewd even as early as their first case together. A touch ambitious perhaps, but as much of a workaholic as he and more than capable in the field. Her approach was more practical, of course, with a heavy and meticulous use of the scientific method. He’d made immediate use of her intellect and medical knowledge which in the end had proved invaluable. But there was something else.

Scully had been warned even at the outset that Mulder was, what the guys called "way out there" and maybe even just a little insane. In fact she had found him to be extremely bright and blessed with a photographic memory. A little difficult perhaps and a certain eccentric but he was not vicious or cruel or for that matter a chauvinist. He had a compelling mischievousness about him and a dry sense of humour which he bestowed only in flashes. But it was true he was intense and driven to the point of obsession.

"No, it won’t be the same," she echoed. There was deep regret in her voice as she looked down. A confession. "I was always questioning and poking holes in your theories; never willing to open myself to extreme possibilities." He shook his head as if that didn’t matter now. "You may not have always agreed with me, but at least you never ridiculed the work." She looked up, straight into his eyes. Was it the work? It had been challenging and dangerous that she couldn’t deny. She had seen so much, been through so much. So much in fact it had given her cause to question her own beliefs and her once unshakeable faith in science. They had shared the hardships together, and yet when she had courted his friendship she had found him strangely ambivalent towards her.

Mulder, too used to the ridicule, had always suspected everyone and everything. He’d been the brunt of too many jokes and innuendos - until Scully came, a small energetic package bursting with generosity and compassion. He had tried to keep her at arm’s length for a good reason. Any kind of relationship with him spelled disaster and he’d maintained a purposeful distancing. But she kept coming back and chipping away and despite himself she made him feel comfortable and easy. He had grown accustomed to her being there. Now they were taking her away from him.

Scully had come to know Mulder as a man of complexities. Beneath the no-nonsense, single-minded exterior she could see there lurked a vulnerability and an uncertainty she alone understood and she did her best to support him, but now they were taking him away from her.

Mulder continued to pack the archive box. He found space against the side to insert several scrap files then turned to search for the lid. He hesitated, rubbed a hand over his face and looked at Scully long and hard before walking around from behind the desk. She moved back a little to give him room. He saw that despite her best efforts it was becoming increasingly difficult for her to remain professionally detached and her eyes threatened to betray her true feelings. He’d always been able to read so much from her eyes and wondered if she knew. They couldn’t remain like this. The die had already been long since cast.

Knowing he would have to be strong for them both he went back to familiar ground. "So, who was it you ticked off to get stuck with this detail, Scully?" He relied on banter to get them through. She smiled at the irony. "I don’t know, but I’m glad they took offence." Scully held out her right hand and Mulder took it in a firm, measured grasp. She placed her other hand over his and tightened her grip. He responded in kind and neither of them seemed willing to let go. It was some time before Scully could summon any words at all. "Mulder, I-" but she was interrupted by a loud knocking on the door and the moment was gone. She let go of his hand.

A heavy-set, balding janitor entered. "Agent Mulder? I’m here to seal up the office." They didn’t waste any time, it seemed. Mulder could see a trolley stacked with clear plastic sheeting behind the man."You just about finished?" the janitor asked. Finished? He couldn’t have said it better himself. Scully slowly moved to the door. She looked back once and was gone. Mulder stared at the doorway until the janitor made his presence known for second time. "Agent Mulder?"

"Can you give me a minute?" he asked in a low voice.

"Sure." The man went back to the trolley to wait.

Only one standard sized archive box, that was the sum of it. There were more of his things still here, somehow none of it mattered now. He remembered he’d tossed the lid onto the filing cabinet. The top drawer - the X-Files - was open slightly and he eased it shut. He turned back to the box, lid in hand, but an object on the desk top caught his eye, and he hesitated with a frown. Scully wasn’t absent-minded; there was a meaning and a message if only he cared to read it. Then it all seemed perfectly clear, and he removed something from the box. As much as Scully was a sceptic, she wasn’t above a little womens’ intuition. Mulder hefted the load and walked to the door.

Behind him on the desk top, two coffee mugs remained side by side.


...

*‘Little Green Men’, written by Glen Morgan and James Wong

**‘Pilot Episode’ written by Chris Carter

--end of file--

C L Goodwin 1996

RETURN FILE TO DRAWER..