When Skinner called the office and asked to see just me, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. He very rarely meets with only fifty-percent of the X-Files team and when he does, it's usually Mulder because, well, frankly it's usually Mulder who needs a good ass-kicking from the boss. Not that discipline in any form really extorts good behavior from my less than mainstream partner, but I do admire Skinner's perseverance in trying. Anyway, this time... he just requested me.

If the wary expression on Mulder's face is any indication, he isn't particularly pleased to hear that he wasn't included in the summons. I would have attributed it to the fact that nothing good ever happens when we are separated, but given Mulder's propensity for ditching me on a moment's notice to follow up on a tenuous-at-best and perilous-at-worst lead, well... I doubt the man has even noticed the pattern. No doubt he is thinking of the abdominal bullet scar I sport as a memento of the last time I assigned to someone else.

"Want me to pick something up for you from the cafeteria on the way back?" I ask him, shrugging into my suit jacket which had been discarded earlier as I foraged through old, musty files. Mulder had asked me to find a file about leprechaun activity on the UC Berkeley campus while he typed up a report. Why he with the photographic memory didn't go searching for the file and why I with the hundred-plus words a minute typing speed didn't do the report, I don't know. What can I say? I work with a man who thinks the National Enquirer is not only a viable but a valuable source of information.

Suffice it to say that though a meeting with the AD wasn't exactly what I had in mind in terms of a diversion, it was a welcome departure. Unless of course I had missed one of Mulder's gratuitous cereal references in his last report (just remembering that 'ticks are for kids!' line in the Lyme Disease case is enough to make me shudder... and God only knows I almost missed the 'magically delicious' one in that hallucinogenic shamrock fiasco) and Skinner is going to chew me a new, ahem, nostril for it. It does upset me that Skinner chooses to go after me for Mulder's aberrant sense of humor, but then again, reprimanding Mulder never seems to have the desired effect. And Skinner and I both know my tempering effects on the eccentricities that Mulder seems to thrive on highlighting are the only things that maintain federal funding for the X-Files division.

"Not unless the cafeteria has taken to serving something more appetizing that week-old bologna," Mulder answers. He shrugs. "Though I hear Alf enjoyed a good cat every once in a while."

I heave a sigh for his benefit. It is long past the time when Mulder's day-to-day quirks have truly annoyed me, but I try to keep appearances up, lest he start to think he can get away with anything. I mean, this is how the man acts when he thinks he aggravates me... I shudder to think what might change if he knew how well I have acclimated to him. Instead of cereal references... my God, we could be looking at 'Mistress Cockburn' and 'X. Stacy' listed as legitimate sources!

The very possibility makes me wince.

"I'll be back soon," I tell him, turning to take my leave.


I freeze at his tone, my hand hovering above the doorknob.

When I turn back, I can't tell if he's leering or genuinely amused. His fingers are steepled in front of his lips, so I have no idea if it's a smile or a smirk that is tugging at his lips, but he slowly trails his gaze from my eyes to my hemline.

Since Mulder is not one to openly gawk at me - probably out of the sliver of self- preservation that he regularly suspends during his escapades - I realize there's probably something more significant about the gaze than mere hormonal interest. Not that there's anything wrong with hormonal interest, mind you, but...

I glance down and see the source of his entertainment: my black skirt, apparently victimized by the static cling I had tried to eliminate this morning before leaving for work, is frozen unnaturally over my rear, exposing the rather impractical black lace slip I chose this morning simply because it's the only clean one I have. I sigh. Leave it to me to choose the most impractically feminine slip I own on the one day when static cling is determined to expose it.

"Nice slip, Scully," Mulder tells me. "Is it an expression of your sublimated femininity?"

It takes me a minute to realize that he is not actually insulting my femininity but is instead making a pun. No doubt he expects me to be insulted, at which point he would gleefully turn the tables on me and inform me that he was just talking about a Freudian slip. He can be so transparent it's almost embarrassing.

Then again, I am supposed to be letting him think that I am not wise to his ways.

"The way you were eyeing my, ahem, slip, would indicate that I'm not doing so well at sublimating it," I toss out at him, rummaging through a cabinet drawer to find the Bounce sheets I keep there for just such emergencies.

"Would that make it a Freudian slip, Scully?" he comments.

Har har har. I don't bother even giving him a look because I'm too busy rubbing the Bounce sheet on the inside of my skirt.

"What the hell are you doing?"

I sigh. "You used the last of my static guard spray as insecticide the last time the ants got in here," I remind him. "Dryer sheets work just as well... you just have to be careful not to do it on the outside of the fabric because they tend to leave a white residue."

He smiles at me, this time openly. "Dana Scully, reduced to bachelor-tactics."

I snort, tossing the Bounce sheet away and smoothing my now static-less skirt down over my slip. Bachelor tactics indeed. No heterosexual bachelor I know even bothers with dryer sheets and Mulder, well, he gets all his stuff dry-cleaned. All his stuff. He tries to play it off, but I've picked up his dry-cleaning often enough to know that he sends all his laundry there, machine-washable or no. I wonder if he knows that whenever I have his dry-cleaning duty I wash his machine-washables myself? I doubt he would notice... besides, I'm going to bring up those 'Fully Functional' Star Trek boxers when he least expects it.

"See you in a few, Mulder," I tell him as I leave... and then, thinking about how embarrassed I would be if Skinner had to point out my exposed slip, I stick my head back into the office and say, "Thanks!" before disappearing from his view again.