A/N – This was first fanfiction I ever wrote or posted. I posted in 1998 from Sharbot Lake.
Title - "Communication"
Author - Wintersong
E-Mail address - wintersong .ca
Rating - PG
Category - V, 3POV
Spoilers - Detour - (sort of)
Keywords - none
Summary - So, what if Mulder and Scully really did get to
build a tower of office furniture someday? What would we
Disclaimer: They belong to CC and 1013.
Author notes - This is my first attempt at an x-files
fanfic. Let me know if you like it.
FBI Academy, Quantico
Twenty teams of agents who had to know each other well
enough to trust the other at his or her back with a gun-and
then buy the other the right cup of coffee. It was my job
to teach them how to communicate. To locate the habits of
their own behavior and show them how it weakened their
relationship. The marine escort at my left elbow smiled
slightly at my mumbled commentary on the situation, but
didn't say anything. He was used to me by now.
The most difficult part was that I never knew what I was
getting ahead of time. I've had field agents who've never
drawn a weapon - there are a lot of those - and agents with
more scars than an SAS operative. There have been ex-cops,
ex-soldiers and ex-lawyers. Action-orientated individuals
vs. thinkers and the macho and the meek. And every single
one of them was smart enough, tough enough, committed
enough and just plain competitive enough to qualify for and
successfully complete one of the most challenging law
enforcement training programs in the world.
Did I say I love my job?
So what were all these highly trained, well-paid and
generally intelligent individuals doing? They were getting
ready to build towers of office furniture.
Don't laugh. If you think it's easy - try it sometime. More
to the point, it's amazing what you can learn about people
in a situation like this. Did I mention that these people
were competitive? You have no idea. So, they'll do
their best even if they think it's stupid. But it's not
exactly life threatening. We haven't lost an agent yet. But
it's tough enough that all those little quirks and
peccadilloes these people normally keep under wraps in
public are going to come pouring out. They aren't going to
have time to react how they think we want them to react.
That'll be the real people on display out there.
I can't wait.
So we were gathered in one of Quantico's largest gymnasiums
where twenty large circles had been taped on the floor with
masking tape. Identical piles of office furniture were
sitting just outside each circle, and two teams of
paramedics were watching the proceedings with interest. I
said that we hadn't lost an agent. I didn't say that they
hadn't tried. We'd left the climbing ropes down on purpose.
Dr Samuels was appalled. He's convinced that one of them
will break their over-competitive necks. But hey...I'm not
the one filling out the paperwork. And I was curious to see
what would happen. We'd given them larger piles of
furniture this year and a large percentage of the groups
were mixed gender pairs.
Wanna take a bet? I can give you good odds on what will
happen. No? Smart move. It's a sucker's bet anyway. You
think trust comes with time? Understanding? Late night
stake-outs and heart to hearts over stale coffee? Not a
chance. The kind of trust these people need is generated in
only one way. Proof. Action. The fact that the shit has hit
the fan and your partner was where he was supposed to be
when it happened. Until that test under fire, these people
are just going through the motions.
It makes for odd relationships. Some of these people will
never draw a gun during their careers. These are FBI agents
- not SWAT team members. What kind of combat reflexes do
you think you need to take down the average white collar
criminal? But there's that one chance in one hundred...
These people are just as romantic about the hard-boiled
image as the next guy. Hell - some of them are hard-boiled.
And the fact they generally don't get into firefights
doesn't mean they won't. So they wonder. They wonder if
they'll be the one to screw up. If they'll be the one to
let their partner down. And because they wonder, they
figure that everyone else is wondering too. So now they've
got to prove themselves. To their partners - to themselves.
Ain't ego a bitch?
So we play these little games. Give them as many chances as
we can to learn how depend on their partners without
actually shooting at them. Because until the shit really
does hit the fan - these people have to work with each
other. Through tough cases and boring cases and cases where
all they'll want to do it go home and cry. Only they won't.
Because the last thing they'll want their families to see
is the horror trying to crawl out of their brains. So
they'll pick a fight with their partners and trust that
they can still work with each other after the case is
closed. Because sure as the sun rises, there'll be another
case waiting on their desks when it's over.
Bloody damn heroes. The lot of them. Even the pencil-
The marines get a kick out of these sessions. Most of the
time they're not allowed on the training grounds so I
thought at first it was just the novelty of the situation.
We'd been short a few strong bodies to move furniture a few
years back and I'd negotiated a temporary draft with the
marine corps. We had accidentally gotten combat veterans
and some of their insights into the agents' motivations had
been enlightening. Especially with the agents who had some
form of military background. So the marines stayed. Not the
same marines of course, but oddly enough we actually get
I don't ask why. What I don't know can't hurt me. And I
wasn't joking when I said I valued their input. My
observers and I are good. I mean, we are really really
good. This is what we were trained to do after all. But
we're human. And we're not combat veterans. Sometimes we
see what we expect to see.
There's no time limit on this exercise. Not really. I've
had pairs stay until midnight getting the job done. I've
had one partner stalk off after he/she realized they
weren't going to get it done first, leaving the other to
finish alone. One time that always makes me smile is the
time one pair spent hours struggling to get the tower done.
Both were on the small side and damn if they weren't
determined. Except one (let's call him Jerry) slipped at
the last minute and the whole thing came tumbling down. I
honestly thought he was going to cry. And no - that's not
what makes me smile.
There we were. Half of us waiting for Jerry to give up-he
really was that devastated. The other half were waiting for
his partner (call him Robert) to explode. None of us really
knew where to look. It was like being a witness to a train
wreck. But without a glance to the watching crowd, Bob
stepped between his partner and the observer and quietly
asked if he was all right. Jerry met his gaze for a second,
then gave a brief smile and nodded. Then they started
picking up the pieces. Nothing else. No jokes, no upbeat
comments. Just a simple question and answer to establish
priorities and then back to work. That in itself would have
made my day. That's what we're here for - right?
But the thing that makes me grin is the fact that when
Robert shifted to shield his partner from the observer, the
rest of the agents did the same to the rest of us. Not all
the observers caught it - but I'm damn sure the marines
did. Funny how many boots suddenly needed to be retied.
Then the agents -all of them - quietly and determinedly
pitched in to rebuild the tower. To this day they still
think they broke the rules.
And you wonder why I'm proud of these people.
A loud crash behind me had the marine beside me wincing
slightly. Marine Sergeant Alan Hutchins caught my eye and
"It's not my furniture."
Maybe I should have used smaller piles after all.
The pair from Chicago had made a respectable beginning.
They would be there forever though. This was another mixed
gender pair and I could see things were proceeding as
expected. The male agent had bowed to the necessity of
being the one to hand things up to the female.
Unfortunately he kept hopping up as far as he could to try
and balance her. What he thought he was going to do if she
fell was beside the point - it was taking twice as long as
it could and it was pissing her off to boot. Typical.
The two male agents from Denver were arguing over every
step while Louisiana was well on it's way to a critical
mass explosion. Whoever had paired those agents had
obviously hoped that opposites would gel into some sort of
wonder team. Uh huh. Right. And New York appeared to have
two towers taking shape in their circle. At least Albany
seemed to be communicating well.
I suddenly realized that my escort had stopped and was
watching something to my right. I turned, and then wished I
hadn't. Washington. I should have known.
I make it a point not to read the files of the agents
taking part in the program. I know. I know. It seems
counterproductive. You'd think knowing as much as possible
about the agents would give us more insight into their
responses. Maybe it would if we had months to work
together. But with only a few days, we only had enough time
to point out the agents' own actions and get them to
analyze them themselves. The less we knew about them, the
less chance we'd read too much into their actions and get
them started on old beefs and injuries. So we simply
pointed out what they did and asked them why they did it.
You wouldn't believe some of the answers we've gotten.
The expression on the face of the observer for the Dallas
team snagged my attention. I studied the pair for a moment,
then sighed. Hutchins spoke quietly.
"You realize that they are sleeping together."
I grimaced. Tell me something I didn't know.
" Nothing you can do about it. But I don't think they'll
last long as partners if they don't get it together."
And that was the rub. The pair was self-destructing right
in front of me. I wanted to help. I'd even instruct the
Dallas observer to see if he could bring it up in the
private debrief. But hell if I knew what would happen. I'd
never met these agents before. Maybe the sex wasn't the
issue. Sometimes it was and sometimes it wasn't. The hell
of it was that I would never know.
Did I tell you that there are things I hate about my job?
I realized that Hutchins was back to studying the two from
"What is it about those two that has you so fascinated?"
I really was curious. Nothing I had seen of the pair so far
had particularly intrigued me. As far as I could tell they
were just another pair of semi-mismatched agents who spent
half their time arguing and half in dead silence. Truth be
told, I hadn't paid much attention. The people I got from
Washington tended to have a distressing sameness to them.
Most were politically savvy, ambitious and very aware of
the fact that they drew the higher profile cases. They
tended to be the creme de la creme of white collar crime
specialists and their concerns about their partners were
less about trusting a gun at their back than about not
being made to look bad before promotion time.
So I have my own blind spots. Sue me. Doesn't mean I'm
I wandered closer to see if maybe I had missed something.
Interestingly enough, despite the low-voiced and continuous
argument the two seemed to be engaged in, they had actually
gotten something accomplished. The heavy desk had been
pushed to the center of the circle and the two were in the
process of lifting a filing cabinet onto the top of it. The
drawers, complete with files were waiting nearby to be put
back in the cabinet and as soon as the filing cabinet was
in place, the female agent was heading back to the pile for
an end table and a couple of solid boxes.
"I still think that the coroner missed something, Scully."
"Mulder, there is absolutely no evidence to back your
theory up. You know that."
A case? These two were arguing about a case?
The woman-Agent Scully- hopped up on the desk and started
lifting boxes onto the filing cabinet. Her partner was
replacing drawers into the cabinet. As soon as she had
reached the limits of her height, Scully leaped down and
picked up the next filing cabinet drawer. Without a
noticeable pause, Mulder climbed onto the desk and picked
up where she had left off.
It was an excellent use of individual abilities - if that
was how they had planned it. Most of the men with female
partners started with the heaviest drawers first. Mulder
had started with the highest. Had they talked about this?
Worked this out despite their argument? I found that I was
catching Hutchins's fascination. How much of this was
communication and how much coincidence?
Scully was able to load boxes and pieces onto the desk
faster than her partner could lift them into place. I found
myself wondering what would happen as soon as they realized
they had reached the limits of individual height. Climbing
on top of another person's shoulders while balancing on a
desk was not totally without risk. Believe me, it takes
trust. You learned a lot about the pairs then. How do they
talk about it? Do they ask? Do they order?
Does the female half of the partnership just walk away
without a word?
Where the hell was she going?
Okay. I admit it. I was confused. Hutchins had a slight
smile on his face so I assume he was enjoying himself.
Probably had a bet on. But what the hell had I missed? Her
partner didn't seem to be confused. He just stood there and
talked while his partner dug through a box of sporting
equipment left near the climbing wall.
"It fits, Scully. Prove me wrong."
Agent Scully had found what she was looking for. Her
partner's eyebrows shot up as he took in the ropes slung
bad-ass style across her chest and the carabiners clipped
to her belt.
"We could just use the handcuffs, Scully."
He grinned as his partner glared, then he went to drag over
one of the climbing ropes and held it for her.
I freely admit that this was not what I had had in mind
when I left the ropes down.
Scully talked as she wrapped a climbing harness around her
legs. "Even if I find what you're looking for, what will
that do? The case is closed Mulder."
I could see my observer's pen fly as she jotted down
question after question. I confess I was a little curious
about the answers myself. Alright. A lot curious. How the
hell were they doing this? Sure, some of the female agents
would have demanded to be the one to climb. Some of the
male agents would even have been comfortable with that. But
these two weren't talking. At least not about office
furniture. Was she a climber? Was he afraid of heights?
Have I mentioned that sometimes my job drives me nuts?
I was even more amazed to realize that neither of these two
agents were attracting any attention to themselves. Neither
of them, I also realized, paid any attention to the chaos
That was when I began to realize that perhaps my itty bitty
blind spot about Washington agents had come back to bite me
on the ass. I poked Hutchins in the ribs.
"Are they military? Ex-cops?"
Hutchins grins the way he always does when he realizes that
my people watching fascination has gotten the better of me.
I know that grin. He invented it just to drive me crazy.
Especially since he knows I know he's probably read their
"If you listen to general gossip, they're a couple of
Flabbergasted is not an exaggeration for my response. Was
he insane? Screw-ups didn't work together like this. Hell,
screw-ups are too busy trying to cover their asses or
blaming the next guy. And they pay way too much attention
to how the guy next to them is doing. I scowled.
Hutchins' grin got wider and he spread his hands in a
gesture of mock surrender.
"I didn't say it. Honest. Apparently, he's the resident
expert on aliens and things that go bump in the night."
Well, that was a new twist.
"And his partner?"
"She's a forensic pathologist."
A doctor? The red-haired woman halfway up an FBI climbing
rope was a doctor? Talk about changing your life in mid
"It gets better. He used to be a profiler."
You gotta be...That juvenile delinquent was ex-VCS? I had
half expected to see him start throwing spitballs in class.
His whole body language had shrieked that he thought he had
better things to do. Maybe that was why I had overlooked
them earlier. He had pissed me off.
Mature? Who... me?
"And they've both got more scars than I do."
And that told me what I needed to know. Unbelievably, the
two agents still weren't attracting any attention. Mulder
had raised his voice to compensate for the forty foot
distance between them.
"Come on, Scully. I've played nice. Don't you know you're
supposed to reward good behavior? Positive reinforcement"
Agent Scully had fastened one rope to the ceiling support
and was hooking her harness into it. "Do I look like
"I'd get arrested if I told you how you look right now.
Very commando, Scully."
The tail ends of the pulley rope nearly caught him in the
head. He wrapped one end around a piece of furniture, then
started hauling it up carefully. I noticed that while he
might not take the exercise seriously, he was careful not
to knock the pile over. I wondered if it was because she
was taking it seriously. Then again..they were both
professionals. Who said there can't be more than one
I had to smother a laugh at the last item Agent Mulder sent
up to his partner. Using a pencil and scotch tape he had
fashioned a tiny little flag from his conference badge.
Hutchins swore that she smiled when she put it in place.
"What am I thinking, Scully?"
Without fuss or fanfare she rappelled to the floor and
stared hard at her partner.
"You owe me, Mulder"
Had I missed part of the conversation?
"Pepperoni, green pepper and double cheese?"
Actually, that sounded good. I even spent a moment or two
considering whether I could rope Hutchins into going dutch.
I assumed of course that she had meant that he owed her
dinner. Which he did, but not for the reason I thought. I
found out later that the two of them skipped the afternoon
lecture in favor of cutting up a corpse over in the
Quantico morgue. I don't think they ever did realize that
they had not only had the highest tower, but the fastest
completion time. I don't think they ever asked.
Hutchins knew the two would fascinate me. He told me later
that that sort of communication isn't easy to find -even in
crack military teams. I believe him. It takes time,
knowledge, danger and a lot of trust. He was happy for me
that I got to see it.
And I am. Really. I've seen agents pull some pretty
cockamamie stunts trying to get one last item into place.
This was the smoothest, safest and most effective operation
I'd ever seen. Hutchins thinks I should be happy about
it...but I'm not.
Did you know that their observer thought they were
uncommunicative, uncooperative, each forging ahead with
what they wanted to do and forcing the other to follow suit
or go their own way? She has serious doubts about what will
happen if the two end up on different sides of the same
case. I was appalled when I read her report. And not
because she was wrong. Given two different people, she
might have been right.
But I had seen two people functioning as one. Both
independently thinking and reacting - and taking the
other's strengths and weaknesses into consideration. There
hadn't been a need for verbal communication, because they
hadn't disagreed on the course of action. That was how we
We use the tools we do because by and large they work. We
assume certain things about our agents and by and large
they are true. And yet - what did these two agents learn
from us? Nothing. For them, this wasn't a learning
exercise. It was just another hoop to jump through. And it
makes me wonder. If my trained observer can so
misunderstand who they are...than so can others.
We send our agents out into the field, out into harm's way,
and we assume that we have equipped them as best we can.
The best training, the best intelligence, the best support.
They have to be able to count on that. Because if they
can't - then they are on their own.
That's what makes me shiver every once in a while, when I
look up at the stars. You see, I gave in and read the files
Hutchins found for me. And I'm sure that those two are
alone out there... somewhere. We don't see them. Not who
they really are. And because we don't, we don't really see
the things they're fighting. Not until it's too late.
We've sent them into harm's way with no back-up or support.
That's the hardest thing I've ever had to admit. We, the
FBI. We, the people. You and I.
I'm glad that they have each other.
Because I don't think there's anyone else.