Partners Pending Whatever

by Pattie

Title: Partners Pending Whatever

Author: Pattie

Rated: PG-13

Spoiler(s): FTF, Seasons 3 through midway Season 7.

Category: UST, Case file (under the OPR).

Summary: Once again, the OPR is ready to dismiss our favorite agents on trumped up charges. This time, their ally is the person they would least expect.

Archive: Gossamer. I keep my stories at www.trish59ontario/tripod.com

Feedback: Please be gentle at patfiler@hotmail.com

Disclaimer: These characters belong to Chris Carter, Ten Thirteen Productions and Fox Studios. I am airing them out to prevent mildew. I do not gather a cent or intend copyright infringement.

Author's Note: Rising to Sadie's challenge to write a story with Mulder and Scully starting out UST, someone out to shut them down and separate them for good, and once again they are not defeated.

2360 HEGAL PLACE
ALEXANDRIA, VA
APARTMENT 42
11:47 PM

It was a rare occasion these days for Mulder and Scully to be off of the road, actually in the office most of the time instead of somewhere they really didn't wish to be. It had been another movie night at Mulder's. This time, it was a Saturday night.

Mulder opened the door and Scully stepped out into the hallway, turning to smile at her long-time partner. "If you really think that was a great movie, that's all right. Just remember, I still think Roger Corman made some of the most nonsensical films of the genre."

"Okay, okay. You win. If I say that, will you still come over for beer and a movie once in a while?" Mulder held her left forearm and gave her a 'pretty please' look.

Scully placed her hand on Mulder's and vowed, "I most certainly will. It's my duty to save you from the influence of bad taste cinema--as a federal agent, that is. See you Monday, Mulder."

Mulder watched until his partner had safely reached her car, then locked his apartment for the night. What neither of them noticed was a middle-aged man at the door of another apartment, quietly taking in everything he had seen and heard. Of course, there were also devices that would be of good use in the very near future, as they documented Mulder's comings and goings, and those of anyone visiting him.


DANA SCULLY'S APARTMENT
TUESDAY
9:19 PM

It had been a long day, and Scully was half-asleep on the couch reading yet another autopsy report before submitting her final verdict on a gruesome slaying. "I hope this is the last time I have to do a partially decomposed body," she whispered. The ringing phone brought her out of her sleepy comfort. "Mulder, if it's you I'm not going to ponder the mysteries of the universe with you now," she growled. "Scully."

It was Skinner. "Are you alone, Agent Scully?"

"Yes, Sir. What's the matter?"

"Listen carefully. I'm warning you and Agent Mulder to keep your association totally at the office." Skinner was at a telephone booth near the Capitol Building.

"Sir?" She didn't like the sound of Skinner's voice. It was a nervous, surreptitious voice. He sounded as if he was sneaking around just to call her. He sounded afraid.

"I can't say any more. Just that they're watching, listening. Tell Mulder they're watching and listening. I'll see you at your office tomorrow morning. Be there at 7:30."

"Certainly, Sir. Are you sure you're all right?"

"I'm fine." That wasn't very convincing. "Worry about yourselves. See each other at work, nowhere else. Go over any field cases away from the motels. That's all." He hung up before Scully could find out anything more, or the reasons for his warnings, for that matter. It wasn't as if there was anything wrong going on between Mulder and her. Regardless of the warning, she dialed Mulder.

"Mulder."

"Mulder, it's me. I just got a call from... "

"I can't say anything right now. I'll be at the office early and we can discuss this matter. 7:30 sharp." Click.

Scully felt a chill run down her spine, and a sinking feeling in her stomach. It was the same way she felt when they discovered Mulder's apartment was bugged, and the office. She turned the lights out and ran her bath.

Mulder hated to just hang up on Scully like that. They'd been through hell and high water, literally, for a long time. Skinner had become their friend, and he supposed the answers would come early at the office in the morning. Once more, he felt the ax was about to fall, or at least someone was threatening that sort of action. There was no way he was going to let them bring down the X-Files again, or break up a good partnership. As far as Mulder was concerned,any feelings he and Scully shared were their own business, and had never interfered with their work. He made it his business to protect his partner, and knew that Scully had always done the same for him.

J. EDGAR HOOVER BUILDING
WASHINGTON, DC.
OFFICE OF THE X-FILES
7:32 AM

Since Skinner's words seemed to have an ominous tone, Mulder had been in the office since 6:18 am, and Scully hadn't been far behind him.

Scully hadn't had that much sleep, really. She'd been used to the threats to close down the X-Files and separate her from Mulder, and it wasn't any news to her that something was going on upstairs once more. They'd been shut down before, and threatened with transfers.

Mulder had had no sleep whatsoever. They had come too far to get the heave-ho, and there was so much both he and Scully had seen that they couldn't afford to lose their place now. "Scully, at least we can be thankful Skinner's warning us this time. And outside of the building this time. He must be worried about his association with us."

Scully tried to be reassuring. "Maybe it's nothing, Mulder. Maybe it's just hearsay. I hope. Who am I kidding? They've got Skinner under scrutiny, and if you want my opinion, I have to agree with you this time: No one's immune from 'them' anymore." She sipped her coffee and sat nervously waiting.

Mulder had been pacing all along, and he finally took his place behind the desk. "Well, I feel better now that we're all paranoid. No, it's not paranoid when you know people other than just you are being watched. The question is: To what extent ARE we being monitored?"

Just then, Skinner entered the office and locked the door. "What I'm about to say to you, you didn't hear from me. I'm in the middle here, and I've found a phone tap in my office and at my apartment. There have been rumblings around here that this time they want to shut you down because of your personal lives."

Mulder smiled slightly. "What personal lives? Walter, we don't have personal lives anymore."

Scully tried her best to be calm. "What are you getting at, Sir?"

Skinner lowered his voice. "Any and all personal interaction during and after office hours."

"Sir?"

"Your friendship is seen by some as a means to twist things to their favor. A simple pat on the back might be translated into a loving caress."

As Mulder paced once again with his hands on his hips, Scully was hoping for a more specific answer. "In what way? Why?"

"All I can tell you is they're still looking for ways to shut you down, separate you. You've seen too many things, figured them out. They don't like that. I have to answer to them, and nobody knows I'm warning you. I have to leave. Just try not to raise any eyebrows. Ever since you were assigned to Kersh, I've been trying my best to see to it that you're not in any further danger since the last OPR hearing."

"It's not easy," Mulder replied. "I mean, keeping out of their way."

"I'm sorry. Just try to keep things as professional as possible."

"You mean impersonal," Scully retorted. "Well, Sir, I take it all personal now. Too many people have been killed in the name of 'business' including my sister."

Mulder intervened before Scully became angrier. "Let it go, Scully. Thanks for this little talk we had, Walter. Take care."

"You take care. There may be an assignment to get you out of the building for awhile. I'll see what I can do." He left the same way he had entered the office: serious, expressionless, and with no emotion.

"I guess beer and a movie is out of the question for a while," Mulder whispered.

Equally as quietly, Scully decided, "Time for a look around."

That meant only one thing: Sweep the office for bugs.

10:32 AM

Scully was browsing through old files as Mulder was catching up on emails, when the phone rang. "Mulder. Yes... We'll be right there. Scully, Skinner wants to see us."

"Skinner? But we're not under his direction any more."

"I know. Oddly enough, Kersh is out of town, and left us to Skinner."

Scully closed the file she had been reading and stood. "Lucky us."

Five minutes later, they were sitting inside the outer office wondering why the higher ups trusted Skinner to them again. Skinner exited his office and beckoned them to join him behind locked doors.

"This is like old times," Mulder quipped. "Remember how he used to chew us out, Scully?"

"Agents, I don't have the time or freedom to reminisce and neither do you. I can't tell you where Kersh is, because I don't know. He's due for a vacation, so maybe he took a couple of weeks off. I do know that he was so pleased with your investigation in the Kazminsky interstate prostitution case, that he's recommended you for this case."

Mulder opened the folder Skinner handed him. "Grand theft auto in Birmingham. Scully, we get to see the inner workings of a chop shop. Sir, this isn't our usual work."

"I know. Just don't ask any questions here."

"By the way," Scully interjected, "We found nothing in our office of the insect variety."

"Good. I've been checking things myself," Skinner added.

Mulder had had enough at this point. First the warnings of getting too friendly with Scully, keeping everything on a 'professional level', then the cryptic language. "To hell with it, Sir." Then he shouted as loudly as he could, "I hope you've heard enough gibberish, and I know who you are!!" Mulder threw the folder to the floor.

Scully took his arm and cautioned him with a look. "Mulder, let's just investigate this case and do our jobs, okay?"

Mulder tried to calm down. It wasn't easy, as they both knew they were constantly under the microscope. "Sorry, Sir. I didn't sleep well last night."

"Try to keep your temper, Mulder. I understand, if it's any consolation." Skinner removed his glasses and massaged his temples.

Scully stood. "Thank you, Sir. Mulder. Let's go."

He picked up the papers and the folder, and they quietly left Skinner's Office.


OFFICE OF PROFESSIONAL REVIEW
THREE WEEKS EARLIER

Three assistant directors and one in particular, Alvin Kersh, sat in a conference room. Numerous folders, video and audio tapes were on the table.

Jana Cassidy opened the meeting. "We have here before us rather disturbing evidence that two of your agents, in particular Special Agent Fox Mulder and Special Agent Dana Scully, have become more than just partners in more than just the professional sense, Mr. Kersh."

"I am unaware of such evidence. If what you say is true, I have only seen them treat each other with the utmost respect, 'professionally', and if they are good friends as I believe they are, then until it is proven otherwise, I can only repeat what I have just told you. Whether they go bowling or play baseball for that matter is nobody's business as long as their job gets done. Or as long as they stay out of certain areas of investigation. Am I right?"

"Mr. Kersh, I realize you haven't been at the Washington Office long enough to have observed these two particular agents, so I forgive your impudence this time. I do however have some news for you. Within four weeks of this date, there will be an OPR meeting and a move for dismissal of Agents Mulder and Scully from the Federal Bureau of Investigation."

"On what grounds?" Kersh asked
suspiciously. "Well?"

"On the grounds of sexual impropriety. This meeting is adjourned until such time we have decided on an appropriate date to begin proceedings."

"Are you suggesting they're having a sexual relationship?"

Cassidy looked at Kersh sternly. "I am not 'suggesting' anything. The evidence says it all. Good day."

Kersh left the conference room, shaking his head. "Now THAT'S unbelievable," he said to himself, as he pressed the elevator button. He picked up his cell phone. "Walter? We need to talk. In private. Barb's Bistro, around seven tonight."


SOUTHERN MOTEL
BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA
THREE WEEKS LATER
THURSDAY
9:42 PM

As if there was anything to be paranoid about, Mulder and Scully tried to go over the events of the third day of their investigation of an auto chop shop involved in the stripping of cars stolen from several states. "Arkansas, New York, Florida, Georgia, Delaware... Mulder, is it really necessary to meet in our car?"

"Well, you heard Skinner. We can't meet in each other's motel rooms anymore. Are you finished with the reports from New Mexico?"

"Look, if we were having sex, we could be having it in the car for all they know."

"There's an idea!"

"I still think this is paranoia carried too far, Mulder. Besides, I left the New Mexico folder in my room. Maybe I should just slip inside and bring it out, along with our kinky toys."

Mulder smiled. "Don't be silly, Scully. It was my turn to bring the toys. Isn't this stupid?"

"Yeah, it is, Mulder. It's a witch hunt. I have to admit, this auto theft ring is the real thing. Vern Webster has quite the inventory here."

"Scully, put the files down a minute. I know this case is legitimate, and I also know that this is crazy. When you asked me to help you with the in-vitro I was flattered. I must admit, the old-fashioned way looks a lot more appetizing, but I don't think we'd be doing anything wrong if we were in a very deep relationship and everyone knew it."

"What if we were, Mulder? Would it ruin our partnership?" Omigod, I just ruined our partnership, she thought.

"What if we were? Well, then, so what. They don't want people jumping in and out of bed on the job. We both know that. But we're not the types to jump in and out of beds, and we have an excellent partnership. We're always there to cover each other's backs and get the job done. That is what counts. 'Nuff said. Speech over. Turn in for the night, Scully. We're both beat."

"I guess you're right. No sense worrying about what may or may not happen, as far as 'they' are concerned. Mulder, thanks."

"For what?" He threw a sunflower seed hull into the parking lot.

"Almost everything."

As Scully made her way toward her room, Mulder leaned back and thought for a good long time. He thought about how long it took Scully to believe there was a conspiracy behind many things that had happened to both of them. He thought about the time he had searched for her, cried over her hospital bed when she was dying of cancer, and all the times he had held her after some horrific experiences: Donnie Pfaster, the man turned wolf, the time he rescued her in the Antarctic. He thought about all the times she had supported him, stood by him, patted his hand, reassured him, held him and even scolded him into not giving up on his quest for the truth. He remembered the heartbreak Scully had gone through with the discovery and loss of her daughter, Emily. He remembered how he cautioned her to leave the F.B.I. and be a doctor, and he remembered her promise that she was in for the long haul after what she had seen under the Antarctic ice, including the departure of the large, strange ship from the icy depths where she had been held only minutes before. "To hell with all of them," he said to no one in particular, as he opened the car door. He realized it was now midnight, and carried the folders into his motel room. Hopefully sleep would spare him from his cares.

FBI BIRMINGHAM
ROOM 1400
2121 8TH. AVENUE N.
BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA
FIVE DAYS LATER
TUESDAY
4:53 PM

Mulder and Scully wrapped up the evidence gathered on the grand theft auto ring and chop shop that had taken them to Birmingham, Alabama.

"As you can see, A.D. Rutherford, my partner and I have all the evidence that Burridge and Flemming's Auto Repair were indeed stripping up to 65 cars for parts and shipment overseas, and their partners in seven states have all been recorded via wiretap and directly by Agent Scully and myself."

Rutherford, a late-middle-aged man glanced over the labeled boxes and file folders. "Well done, Agent Mulder. I trust we'll see you both here again someday. We could use more agents of your caliber."

"We appreciate that," Scully replied. "I'm really more suited to gathering medical evidence, but I think I can speak for Agent Mulder when I say we couldn't have done this without all the help your local agents gave us."

"Still, you've managed to nab quite a large group. You're welcome back here any time. Well, I guess I shouldn't keep you. They must need you more in Washington." Rutherford shook Scully's hand, then Mulder's.

"Sometimes I wonder..." Mulder quipped.

Rutherford smiled. "Well, I can't say as I feel appreciated here sometimes, but I believe every successful investigation more than makes up for it."

Mulder led Scully to the door. "It's been a pleasure, Sir."

"We need to get to the airport. Thanks for everything. If it hadn't been for you, we wouldn't have been able to get those bench warrants so quickly. It was a pleasure serving you."

As Mulder and Scully walked to their rental car in the parking lot beside the Birmingham Field Office, Scully thought about her words to Rutherford, the reference that she was more suited to gathering medical evidence. That led her to thinking about some of their cases, so on the drive to the airport, while Mulder was making the occasional bit of small talk, she was remembering that their real place was with the X-Files in Washington. She was remembering all the physical and emotional pain she and Mulder had endured, and all the caring that went into their support for each other. She was remembering the shutting down of the X-Files, the transfers, the threats of more of that... why had they been sent to Alabama? Surely a car theft ring could have been handled just as well by the agents in Birmingham and the police in the various other states involved. Just as they were pulling into the airport to turn over the car and fly home, she knew there was another reason for this assignment. "Mulder, why the hell would they send us out here? They have the manpower, the co-operation of all states involved. Why here? Why us?"

"Scully, I've been wondering that myself. Let's go home."

2360 HEGAL PLACE
ALEXANDRIA, VA
APARTMENT 42
9:51 PM

Mulder looked over the aquarium and sprinkled some food onto the surface, then turned to Scully. "Ever since we were sent to Birmingham, I've been thinking there was something fishy. Why would Kersh take a vacation, have Skinner assign us to a mainstream case, and not tell us what's going on?"

Scully was sitting on the couch, thinking things over. "Well, because maybe there's nothing to tell us, Mulder? I must admit, I've been wondering about a lot of things lately--especially Skinner's warning that we keep everything so... that we keep everything so above suspicion. Then again, I shouldn't be here. Mulder, I've got to go home."

"Are you afraid of them, Scully? Because if you are, I can't see why." Mulder sat beside her, putting his hand on hers. "There's nothing they can pin on us. Nothing! He gave Scully a weak smile, and couldn't muster anything stronger.

"No, Mulder. I'm not afraid of them. I just don't trust certain... levels that are in power at the Bureau. They don't seem to have justice on their minds. It's more like... "

"It's more like someone's producing a private subplot to keep the main players from knowing what the whole play is really about. It's time to give the puppet masters a lesson in plot outline."

"Mulder?"

"I don't know how we're going to beat them at their own game, Scully, but I'm pretty sure our friendship is NOT a reason for censure, dismissal or demoting us, for that matter." Mulder stood and went to the phone.

"Who are you calling at this hour, Mulder? The Gunmen?"

"No, Skinner. Let him know we're back in DC, and then I'm taking you back to pick up your car. I know tomorrow's a bit busy, middle of the week, but I want to have a private talk with our old superior, and I have a big question for him about Kersh as well."

"Mulder, don't go too far..."

"Oh, I won't, Scully. Just far enough." There was no answer on the other end of the line. "Damn answering machine. It's Fox Mulder. Agent Scully and I are back from Birmingham. Meet us in the office at 8:00 am. I'd like to have a word with you." He slammed the headset onto the cradle of the phone. "At this moment, I think both our former and present bosses can do a great deal of good for us. I don't even know why I believe that, but I do."


OFFICE OF THE X-FILES J. EDGAR HOOVER BUILDING
WASHINGTON, DC
WEDNESDAY
8:02 AM

When Skinner arrived at the office, he faced two very serious agents leaning against the desk. Mulder had his arms crossed and Scully had her hands folded.

"Agents. You wanted to see me?"

"Sir, there's something going on here, and not that it's any of my business, but what the hell's going on upstairs that you don't want us to know about? I mean, since it's probably about us, we'd really like some answers."

Skinner took a deep, cleansing breath. "Agent Mulder, A.D. Kersh has returned from vacation. I suggest you address your questions to him."

Scully approached Skinner and looked him straight in the eye. "Sir, we'd rather hear it from you. Have we gotten too close to something again? Because if we have, we're not the only ones. Not that we're free to divulge any names. If anything is going down, we'd like to know about it."

"What HAVE they come up with this time, Sir? We have profiled, autopsied, done background checks, participated in several major cases, and behaved ourselves as far as the X-Files are concerned. We haven't been close enough to anything more lately, maybe that's it. Maybe they want us to paint ourselves into a corner."

"Agents, it's nothing like that. I suggest you meet with A.D. Kersh to address your concerns. He won't be available until noon, but I suggest you speak to him." Skinner turned to leave but then took a couple of steps towards Mulder. "I suggest you both busy yourselves with work, instead of your superiors. And, remember what I warned you about the last time we talked."

Scully smiled. "You mean about our torrid love affair?"

Mulder coughed. "I think he's in shock, Scully."

"Are you having one, Agent Scully?"

"No, but I think if we were, that wouldn't interfere with our work, and... as long as agents don't break the law, personal lives are still, to some extent, private, aren't they?"

"Yes. They are... under normal circumstances."

Scully turned and smiled at Mulder. "Do you believe this, Mulder?" She then stared daggers at Skinner and walked straight toward him until they were almost toe to toe. "You went through a divorce, Sir, and you weren't demoted or fired for that. And don't forget, we did prove your innocence in the murder of a call girl."

Her partner was stone-faced. "I think we'd better talk to Kersh, Scully. I'm sure we're done here. Am I right?"

"We're done." Skinner walked out of the office slightly taken aback.

"Do you believe this, Mulder? Frankly, I'm tired of checking for bugs and playing it cool everywhere we go and even where we live."

"Well, it's their problem if they want to take this on. We're not exactly 'torrid', are we?"

"No, Mulder. Just warm enough. We may as well check for messages and go through the mail. I think we can keep our hands off of each other for a few hours."

They weren't aware of it, but today their cause would be championed by an unlikely ally. The OPR was meeting that morning.


OFFICE OF PROFESSIONAL REVIEW
10:00 AM

A.D. Jana Cassidy and two other Assistant Directors took their seats in the conference room as A.D. Kersh entered the meeting. He set his briefcase, which was rather full, on the table and the meeting was called to order.

"Assistant Director Kersh, I trust your vacation was relaxing."

"I'm quite refreshed. You do know that Agents Mulder and Scully have returned from their assignment?"

The three other Assistant Directors looked at each other and whispered inaudibly.

"Then why aren't they here?" A.D. Dennis Monahan demanded. "This hearing concerns them, and they should be here."

Cassidy demanded an answer. "A.D. Kersh, just why aren't they present?"

Kersh put one hand on his briefcase. "I see no reason to have those two here right now to hear and see everything we're going to be discussing."

"Just what does that mean?" Assistant Director James Blandish angrily shouted. "Get them up here."

Hersh folded his hands and smiled. "Let's see your evidence against them, shall we? Remember, you have folders, audio and video recordings of a rather sensitive nature, as you see it. Oh, and don't bother turning the recorder off or sending the transcriptionist outside. This is a meeting of the OPR, gentlemen, Madam. Put this on record, I, Assistant Director Alvin Kersh ask this committee to present the evidence, for the record, on the record, and by the rules. Agents Mulder and Scully arrived late last night from Alabama, and I'm sure they will hear the evidence once it has been reviewed today in this room."

"Let's begin," Cassidy decided. These folders contain numerous photographs that clearly illustrate a partnership that is not entirely professional, and they date back almost to the very beginning of their working relationship." She passed the photos with notes attached to each of the other three men. "As you can see, there is a lot of... "

The doors to the room opened. "A lot of what?" Mulder demanded, with Scully in tow. "Alvin, why didn't you tell us about this little gathering? We would have brought the donuts."

An angry Jana Cassidy stood. "Agent Mulder, you are out of order. However, since you are here, you and your partner will sit and listen to this hearing."

"We wouldn't miss it for the world, Ma'am." He and Scully took the seats nearest to the committee.

"As I was saying, there is a lot of evidence that Agents Mulder and Scully have what is obviously more than a 'working' relationship. Mr. Kersh, now that they are under your supervision, we had expected you would keep a better eye on them. I see a lot of hand-holding, after hours dinners in one another's apartments, crying at one another's bedsides, dancing, and some of the conversations they have had during these many years... "

"Excuse me," Mulder politely pleaded. "It seems to me you have left out the shootings, slashings, near-death states, surgeries, and key arrests we've made over the past seven years."

"Not to mention the fact that I was dying of cancer when Agent Mulder was photographed in my hospital room crying, holding my hand. It makes me wonder, A.D. Cassidy, and gentlemen, just why cameras were placed in even the most supposedly private of places. You even have a photo of my mother speaking to Mulder. She is a private citizen!"

Kersh finally decided he had had enough. "Just so you both know, Agents, I am not here to condemn you. During my 'vacation', I managed to do some research on each member of this committee..."

"And you found that we have exemplary service records," A.D. Blandish interjected.

"That's true," Kersh conceded. "However," he reminded them, as he opened his brief case and dumped several audio tapes, folders, photographs and hotel and motel receipts, "No one is beyond suspicion if anyone in the F.B.I. has reason to believe that a colleague is involved in questionnable activities. What I have here is just the tip of the iceberg. The rest of my evidence is being sorted and catalogued in my office as we speak."

Mulder, Scully and Kersh began to notice the three senior agents were showing signs of stress.

"As you will see in this Casino receipt, A.D. Monahan has quite the gambling habit, along with the pictures of his exploits at a brothel in Reno Nevada during the past three decades. Then, there's A.D.Blandish's three failed marriages, no doubt caused by his dalliances as indicated here in some recent pictures of him with his current lady down in Violent Crimes. They're almost... pornographic. A.D. Jana Cassidy, shall I continue with the evidence of your wrong-doings?"

The woman remained silent, and stared at the table.

"I see. Well, it is nice to know that any evidence you have against Agents Mulder and Scully is tame compared to that which I have presented here today. Make no mistake, this is not my evidence, and you won't be able to go searching for it that easily. At this time, I have nothing further to say."

"He's defending us?" Scully whispered.

"Yeah. I don't quite get it." Mulder stood up and angrily looked at the panel. "You all think you can discredit us, despite all evidence to the contrary, but you can't. So, whatever you have set out to do, you have not won. Yes, Agent Scully and I are close friends, and in a lot of ways closer than most friends. I couldn't find a more loyal colleague than Agent Scully. What I see here is a deliberate attempt to close down the X-Files Office again, and I don't think that will happen today, will it?"

"In light of evidence refuting the accusations against Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, I hereby declare this meeting adjourned. The charges of sexual impropriety are dropped,and we apologize for taking up your time," Cassidy announced.

Once Mulder, Scully and Kersh were outside the conference room, Mulder shook Alvin Kersh's hand. "Thank you, Sir. I didn't expect you'd... "

"You didn't expect I'd be on your side? Agent Mulder, I am not taking sides. I just need good agents to do a good job, and that helps me do a good job. Now, I think you have some work to do." Kersh entered one of the elevators.

Scully stood in awe of Kersh and of Mulder. "What you said in there, Mulder, and Kersh on our side... "

Mulder took Scully by the shoulders and looked into her eyes. "We're partners in every sense of the word, Scully. We are free to do whatever we wish in our free time, as you already know." He wiped a tear that had started to fall down her cheek. "It doesn't matter what they put us against. We have won, and they know that. And we'll go on facing any challenge they present us with." He gently kissed her lips and pulled away, still holding onto her shoulders.

"We're partners despite everything, Mulder. You know that."

"Partners pending whatever life throws our way. It's lunch time. I'll buy."

END


If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Pattie