By Mary Kleinsmith
Category: Missing Scene, UST, M/S Friendship
Summary: Mulder has a very important first meeting with AD Skinner
Author's Notes: Written for After_The_Fact's Squeeze Challenge
By Mary Kleinsmith
"Excuse me, could I have a few minutes with Assistant Director Skinner?" He could hear the voice through the half-opened door, but it wasn't one he recognized right away. Listening s he heard his secretary confirm that the AD was free, he began to straighten the disarray on his desk. There were confidential reports that weren't to be seen even in passing, and the Bureau staff was nothing if not intelligent.
Within moments, the face of his secretary appeared in the doorway. "Agent Mulder requests to see you, sir."
So that was the voice. He knew of Agent Mulder very well, could practically recite his record from memory. However, not being his immediate superior, he had not had much interaction with the man. He was actually eager for the opportunity, he realized. As Mulder strode into the room, he was first struck by the man's presence. Not a giant of a man by any stretch of the imagination, he nevertheless exuded a sense of confidence. Skinner wondered if he'd donned the mantle for just this occasion or if he was going to prove to be one of those egotistical agents who felt they knew everything and were beyond reproach.
"Excuse me, Sir," Mulder said respectfully. "May I speak with you?"
"Of course, Agent," Skinner responded, motioning to a chair which Mulder took. Once he was settled, he decided to cut right to the chase. "Usually, I understand, you take matters up with Section Chief Blevins. What did you need that you felt you couldn't get from him?"
Mulder looked deadly serious. "Permission to speak candidly, Sir?"
"Granted, Mulder. Always," Skinner responded.
"Awhile back, when I was assigned Scully as my new partner, I had no complaints about it. I knew and understood why she was there, and I still do. However, in light of certain recent event, I'd like to request she be transferred out of my division."
"You found Agent Scully's skills or performance of her duty lacking?" Skinner asked quizzically. He'd only heard raves about Scully's work. In spite of the rumors, Mulder seemed level headed, and he was at a loss to explain the disparity.
"Not at all, Sir. Since joining me on the X-Files, I've found her opinions to be helpful and her work, inscrutable."
"So why the transfer, then? Not a male/female issue, I hope."
"No, it's not that either, Sir. Scully is a hell of an agent. Any department would be lucky to have her on their team. I've come to realize that especially succinctly recently. I'm glad to have her with me, but she deserves better."
"Yes. Better than being ridiculed by former Quantico classmates. Better than having to listen to 'Mrs. Spooky' jokes from coworkers and 'little green men' comments from supervisors. I know how a reputation can stick with you, probably better than most." He grinned slightly, almost painfully. "She doesn't deserve to have her record permanently muddled because of me. I've made my bed, and I've grown accustomed to having to lie in it, but that's because of who I am. She shouldn't have to take the blame for that."
"And you think that's what she's doing? Or, rather, what's being done to her?"
"Yes, I do, Sir. Scully's too good to be held back by this."
Skinner thought for a moment about everything the young man had said. God knew he had a reputation, but how much of it was bestowed on him and how much he'd earned, the AD wasn't sure. The nickname Spooky, he knew, pre-dated the X-Files, and was a reference to how amazing a profiler he had been. It merely gained additional meaning when the Files came along.
"I understand where you're going with this, Agent Mulder, but don't you think that Scully deserves a say in what happens with her job?"
"Normally, I'd agree with that, Sir. But I've worked with Scully for a few months now, and if Dana Scully is anything, she's loyal. She's also as stubborn as the day is long, and she's not about to choose a transfer over some childish behavior."
"Well, you're right about one thing," Skinner remarked, disappointed. "There is childish behavior going on here, but it's not on either of your parts."
Mulder looked puzzled, and the idea that he'd perplexed the agent somehow pleased Skinner. "I don't understand, Sir."
"Were you aware, Agent Mulder, that Agent Scully is required to file a report on each case with Section Chief Blevins in addition to the reports which you both submit jointly?"
"Yes, I was. Scully is also honest, and she told me that up front."
"Did you also know that a copy of her reports comes directly to me?"
Mulder's eyes grew wide with shock. Ah, gotcha, Skinner thought.
"No, Sir, I wasn't aware of that. I suppose it just never came up."
"Agent Scully submitted her report to me late yesterday on the entire experience you both had during the Tooms case. It seems that you both took your share of blows from fellow agents on this one."
There was clear doubt in the Agent's eyes, but it wasn't accusatory. "Excuse me, sir, but I find it difficult to believe that she included disparaging comments made by other agents against herself in her report. It just doesn't sound like her."
It was amazing how well he knew her in the short time they'd been partners. "You're right. She didn't. But she did remark enough on the other agents for me to do a little research of my own. Not everyone assigned to work on the Tooms task force appreciated the attitude Scully was given, including a certain lie detector analyst. And while they were less defensive of you, they also made it pretty clear what was said about and, especially, to you. Between the report and what I was able to glean from the team, I want to assure you, Agent Mulder, that there will be some changes."
Mulder's face suddenly grew nearly frantic. "Please, Sir. I really don't want to cause any trouble. That was not my intention in coming here."
"Understood, Agent. But you have to realize that Scully has earned the same right. She deserves to stay where she wants to be as long as she feels it's right. Oh, and one more thing. If you're going to appoint yourself her protector, as many partners do, you have to commit to letting her protect you as well. Anything else would disrupt the partnership." Skinner wondered if he could take one more step. "Agent, would you mind if I asked you a personal question? Off the record, of course."
Mulder looked uncertain, and a bit scared. "Umm. . . no, I guess not, Sir."
"Doesn't it bother you the way that some of the others treat you? I don't mean in relation to the paranormal cases - I think we both know that it comes with the territory. But . . ." He was at a loss for words for a moment. "Doesn't it hurt sometimes to not be one of the guys?"
Somehow, Mulder communicated volumes with his eyes, but he also managed to respond. "Hurt?" He shrugged. "After twenty eight years, it's all I know."
"And that's it? No one gets out because no one gets in?"
"I don't know that I'd have phrased it quite that way. If it's quite all right, Sir, I'd like to be excused."
"What about Agent Scully. Do you still want her transferred?" This was the moment of truth. Would anything he said have gotten through?
"If she chooses to leave, I won't fight it, but I don't have the right to make that choice for her. And thank you."
"What are you thanking me for, Agent?" It was Skinner's turn to be puzzled.
"For making me see things as they are. For reminding me that it's not just about what I think."
Skinner smiled, rising from his chair. "We all need reminders every once in awhile, Agent."" He extended his hand, shaking Mulder's. "Good partners are hard to come by. Believe me, I know. And I think Scully knows it, too."
They shook hands, and the agent left the room. Mulder was much unchanged from when he'd entered, but Skinner found he'd left a good feeling within himself. Crossing the now-empty office to the alternate entrance which opened into the hallway, he opened the door slowly.
"I presume you heard," he asked the figure lurking there.
"Every word, Sir. And thank you from me, too." With that, Agent Dana Scully walked away to rejoin her partner. He wasn't sure which member of the pair he admired more, but he, and many others in the Bureau, could do well to learn from their unselfishness. For now, he had to get read for his next meeting - a certain SAIC who needed a lecture on respect for and between the members of his team.