I'm aware that after this many years the team-building seminar story has been done to death, so I decided to do something a little different. Spoilers for Detour, but nothing else. I don't own the X-Files. Reviews are always greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading!
"I'm not happy Agents."
Skinner certainly didn't look happy. His jaw was so tense, he could have cracked a walnut, and his glasses lay discarded on his always neat desk. In his hands were a few of sheets of paper, pulled tight and slightly wrinkled where he gripped them.
Scully pressed her lips together, appearing almost as tense as Skinner. Her hands were clasped in front of her, and she tried to look professional while wracking her brain to try and figure out what they did to piss him off.
Mulder wasn't slouching, but he wasn't exactly sitting straight. He was the only one of threesome that appeared calm, and completely unbothered by the early morning meeting.
They'd returned from the team-building seminar they'd finally been forced to attend last night. Three days ago, Skinner had threatened to hogtie them, and have two agents literally drag them to the seminar. No side trips, no detours. If they tried to get out of it--again--he would send them to Wyoming for two months to examine fertilizer purchases.
Now though, Skinner was wishing he'd just let them skip it. He received a three page email from the organizer lecturing him on the blatant insubordination of his agents. It hadn't come as a total shock, at least not the letter itself, but the complaints of the organizer, one Geraldine Hughes, were rather unexpected.
"What happened at the seminar?" Skinner didn't need his considerable height to be threatening, his voice was more than enough.
"It was a waste of time." Mulder straightened his tie.
That's what they did. Scully let her head fall toward her lap. Trust Mulder to be honest when it was least beneficial to them.
Skinner ignored him, and brought the letter up to his face. "Failure to assimilate with the group, refusal to participate in group activities, showed obvious distain for the activities they did participate in, encouraged other agents not to participate--"
Mulder cut him off, "I only suggested to Agent Freemont that he first learn how to talk to his partner, before he tried to catch her."
Skinner looked at him. "Want to hear what she had to say about you, Mulder?"
He grinned. "Why yes I do."
Scully's head slid closer toward her lap. This was not going to end well for them, especially with Mulder being a smart-ass. As usual.
"Disrespectful, insubordinate, and sarcastic. Interrupted activities and discussion with his own commentary, skipped meetings, ignored instructions, and jesus Mulder, suggested Ms. Hughes was an alien-hybrid plant trying to control everyone?"
Skinner stared at his subordinate, unable to fathom what possessed the man to make that particular judgment.
"Trying to entertain myself, Sir."
"Is it safe to assume, Agent Mulder, that you used the same reasoning during the story building game, when you--and I quote," he said holding up the papers, "insisted that your picture was of a boy--approximate age, 10 years—who was being controlled by a parasitic, brain-sucking amoeba, and getting ready to attack his mother, as she washed dishes, end quote." Skinner glared down at Mulder.
"Yes, I believed that's what my picture showed, sir." Mulder's straight, serious face never faltered.
"The kid was eating milk and cookies, Mulder!"
"Sir, if you'd seen the picture, you'd have notice that not only was the child's head abnormally shaped, suggesting the presence of a growth or parasite, but also that the child wasn't looking at his milk or cookies, but rather that blood thirsty gaze was turned on his own mother...sir."
The AD went to reply, but both men were distracted by a high-pitched noise coming from Scully. It was either a sob or a laugh, and the latter seemed more likely. Skinner looked at her bowed head.
"You think this is funny, Agent Scully?"
She looked up, barely controlling the amusement on her face, as she'd been forced to do when Mulder had originally made that comment. She was the only one that had found any humor in it, except of course for Mulder.
Not that he'd showed it. The entire group had decided at that moment that Spooky Mulder was without a doubt, a complete nutjob.
"No sir, sorry. Tickle in my throat."
"Really? Well, then how about I read off what Ms. Hughes had to say about you, which to my continuing surprise was worse and more involved than her comments regarding Agent Mulder."
Then Mulder chuckled.
"Something funny, Mulder?" The AD glared at him.
Mulder continued to laugh. "She thought Scully was a bigger pain in the ass than me?" then he turned to his partner, "Did you spike the punch while I wasn't looking?"
"Agent Mulder," Skinner used his best warning tone.
It didn't phase Mulder, but he turned back to their boss, still laughing. "My work here is done."
Scully breathed in and pressed her lips together, struggling not to laugh with Mulder. This wasn't good.
"Enough!" He warned them, and then began reading off the email again, this time about Scully's behavior. "Was as disrespectful, insubordinate, and sarcastic as Agent Mulder, maybe more so. Continually argued the logic behind the exercises, disturbing fellow agents, also skipped meetings and ignored instructions, treated the seminar as a joke, grew defensive and argumentative with other agents, and evidentially, the one time you did volunteer, you relayed a rather elaborate lie to everyone?"
"I didn't lie, Sir. Ms. Hughes asked if anyone believed they already had implicit trust in their partner, and I confirmed that I did. She asked me to explain, so I thought it best to illustrate with an example," she explained.
"And what example might that be?"
Skinner shifted in his seat, but didn't respond.
Scully elaborated. "I explained that I had complete trust in Agent Mulder to watch my back, because after being shot, he disregarded his own well being, and tracked me down in Antarctica, and saved my life. There is no greater test of loyalty than that…sir."
Skinner still didn't respond, just kept studying her intently, silently telling her to continue.
"She didn't believe me, so I told her it was the truth." Scully grasped her hands together in an effort not to squirm.
"You argued with her."
"Well...yes sir. Yes, I did argue with her." She ignored Mulder's quiet chuckling beside her.
So did Skinner, he kept focused on her, his jaw tensing further. "That's not even my favorite part, Agent Scully."
"Sir?" Scully frowned, where was this going?
"No, my favorite part is when you apparently assualted Agent Pearson from the VCU and, I'm told, nearly broke his jaw?" Skinner eyed her, his jaw ready to grind those walnuts to dust.
"That was my favorite part too." Mulder was grinning.
"Was it, Agent Mulder?" Skinner turned his wrath toward the other half of the partnership.
"Oh yeah, five foot two decking six foot three, and sending him to the floor. I wish I'd had a camera. I told Scully I'd get her one of those plastic kiddie toy replicas of the championship belts--"
"Thank you Agent Mulder that's more than enough," Skinner cut him off, turning back to Scully. "Want to tell me why you resorted to such an action?"
Scully gripped her hands tighter in her lap, her lips pressing together again, fidgeting the way she wouldn't allow her body to. "He made a rude comment about Agent Mulder and his sister, Sir."
"Oh, what did he say?" Now Skinner was interested; trust Scully to get violent to defend Mulder.
"Sir, I'm aware that my actions were extreme and completely inappropriate, and I'll accept any disciplinary action coming my way. I will also learn to contain my emotions for future encounters."
"I appreciate that, but I'd still like to know what the man said to drive you to such an action."
Scully inhaled, "He said that Agent Mulder killed Samantha, and was so traumatized by his own actions, he made up a story about aliens abducting her so he wouldn't have to face what he did. And, he implied that Agent Mulder was a danger to me."
She turned to her partner and saw that look back on his face. It was part sadness, both at the mention of his sister and at the idea that he could have hurt her, and part wondering if that could actually be true. It was more seeing that almost-broken look on his face that had led Scully to her drastic (and satisfying) action.
"Then you refused to apologize." Skinner added.
"Why Agent Scully?"
"I believed apologizing for something I felt no remorse or sorrow for would be disingenuous." Really, she was just too aggravated with the seminar and furious at Pearson to apologize for anything.
Skinner sighed and shook his head, the rigid pose with which he held himself softening. "What the hell am I supposed to do with you two?"
"Not send us to lame FBI shindigs?" Mulder suggested.
Skinner shot him an unfriendly look. "Speaking of future outings, she did have one positive thing to say."
He watched two sets of eyebrows ascend toward their hairlines. Even they were surprised to find that there was one positive thing.
"Apparently, it seems that while you both failed miserably on the group trust activities, on the ones with only your partner, you passed with flying colors. In retrospect, she feels that the seminar may not have been as beneficial for you, as it was the other participants. She also suggested, with an intensity I didn't know one could achieve in an email, that I not send you back next year." Skinner rested the papers on his desk, folded his hands in front of himself, and regarded his two agents.
Truthfully, they were his favorites, but their actions often gave the effect of a sledgehammer to his head, usually in the form of phone calls or emails from angry law enforcement officials. Or his bosses.
And that one lawyer, with the uh, dead vampire kid.
He sighed. "Do you have anything to say for yourselves?"
Scully remained silent, performing a silent happy dance in her head at hearing they'd never have to repeat that experience. They were permanently excused from Bureau hand-holding games. Mulder, still as relaxed as ever, could resist the opportunity to offer commentary.
"She did say it was a waste of our time."
Skinner rolled his eyes, jaw tensing again. "You're excused agents."
What was the point in lecturing them? They didn't listen, and now the one who might have listened was apparently as insubordinate as the one who didn't. Mulder had completely and unapologetically corrupted his partner, not that Scully resisted much, or at all, so far as he could tell.
Neither agent moved. They just watched him with surprise; apparently unable to believe they were getting off without more of a lecture. That more than anything gave testimony to just how often the pair ended up in his office.
Skinner waved a hand impatiently shooing them out.
After exchanging a still unsure glance, they finally unglued themselves from their chairs, and walked calmly and quietly toward the door. They appeared as professional as ever.
"Agents!" Skinner called to them as Scully's hand was on the door. They turned back around to face him.
He looked up from his stack of paperwork. "On last thing--stay out of each other's rooms."
They'd been caught not once, not twice, but all three nights in each other's rooms after hours.
Suddenly they began speaking at once; Scully insisting they weren't doing what was implied, Mulder swearing that they didn't do anything improper, both stating vigorously that they were just talking, hanging out, watching a movie, whatever.
Never had Skinner seen either agent as flustered as they were over that one little sentence. It was kind of amusing for him. Scully had even gone a little pink in the cheeks, and beads of sweat had actually formed on Mulder's forehead.
Finally he held up a hand, stopping their desperate denials. "Relax agents, she made sure to mention that you were both fully clothed on all three occasions."
He watched as their bodies visibly relaxed, now relieved. Hiding an amused little smiled, he said simply, "Dismissed."
They couldn't get out of the office fast enough.