I hate meetings.
I struggled for years to climb the Bureau ladder. I've always been a perfectionist, a workaholic; it only made sense to do my best, to go as high as I could in my chosen profession.
In those early days, living on takeout and working 80-hour weeks, I never dreamed I'd end up a bureaucrat. I don't know what I expected. A life full of intrigue? Well, I've certainly had my share of that over the last decade. But what amazes me is how ordinary my job is most days, in spite of mystery men with cigarettes and deadly PDAs. There are days when I look around and wonder how my drive and ambition ended up entombing me in paperwork.
TV shows make it look like FBI agents spend all their time in hot pursuit of terrorists and serial killers; I guess the network lineups would be pretty boring if they showed the way we spend most of our days. I can see the blurbs in TV Guide now: "In this week's episode, Agent Roberts spends four hours in a budget meeting. Later that day, he files an expense report and a 302 and argues with Bob from Requisitions when they turn down his request for an ergonomic chair." Yeah, that one oughta sweep the Emmys.
I glance around the table. Everyone looks bored, except for Mulder, who is absorbed in something he's writing on the back of his agenda. He stares at a spot of nothing two feet in front of him, then shakes his head a little, scratching something off the paper with an emphatic stroke of his pen. I wonder what has him so engrossed. Alien landing sites? Government conspirators? Insane mutant cultists? It sure as hell isn't Johnston's presentation on computerizing the expense report filing.
"Agent Mulder?" I say sharply, as the presenter pauses. He jumps as though someone had pinched him. I feel a little guilty--after all, it's not like I was paying any more attention to Johnston than he was--but if I can get Mulder to participate, this meeting might turn into entertainment after all. When Mulder gets bored, he can get wicked. I love to watch him play head games with his peers.
"You were shaking your head," I say. "Do you disagree with Agent Johnston's analysis?"
He pauses for a moment before replying. "No, sir," he says at last. "I think his analysis is very insightful."
I let him get away with that, although I know he has only the vaguest idea of what said analysis was. At least now he knows I know he's out in space somewhere. From the look she's shooting him, Scully knows too. He somehow manages to convey amusement and a total lack of contrition without disturbing his deadpan expression, then feigns a nod of understanding and returns to his scribbling.
After a while, he seems to have come to an internal consensus on whatever it was he was so absorbed in earlier. He circles something in his notes several times, then folds the paper and tucks it into his pocket. Gradually, he allows his attention to return to the meeting, his quick eyes turning from one face to another in a half-distracted search for the one person who will have something interesting to say.
Scully turns in his direction. He is looking away from her, but as soon as her gaze comes to rest on him, he turns and leans forward into it.
It's both frustrating and fascinating, the way they behave. They're like a binary star, two bodies orbiting each other so closely that they seem to be one entity. There are many words that describe them, but none really capture the full flavor: exclusive, intense, intimate, absolute; they are all of these things, but no list of adjectives can get precisely the right feel.
Agent Reimer is finishing the last item on the agenda. Thank God, we're finally through. I clear my throat loudly, hoping to discourage anyone who might feel like bringing something else up for discussion.
"Thank you, Agents," I say, unable to hide the relief in my voice. "It looks like we're finished here."
The murmuring rustle of people gathering up their papers and overheads and coffee cups has a light, almost joyful tone today. As I sort various reports into their ubiquitous buff folders, I watch out of the corner of my eye as Mulder drifts across the room to join his partner. They make an interesting picture as they stand talking quietly together; she is vivid and upright, her bearing resolute and almost military in her surprisingly high-heeled shoes. He stands very close, bent over her as though to block her awareness of everyone but him. A half-remembered phrase from the ballroom dancing classes I took with Sharon a lifetime ago pops into my head: "the closed position." It's a good description of the way they are together.
It's as if there's some elemental force between them, something like magnetism or gravity. I remember having a conversation with Mulder once, while Scully was getting a cup of coffee. He was talking to me, but his eyes followed her; his entire body leaned the smallest bit in her direction. He reminded me of nothing so much as a houseplant turning its leaves toward the sun. What do they call that? Helio-something? No, photo... phototropism. Mulder must have Scullytropism, then.
I hear her saying something, just catching the edge of her low voice as she speaks to him, and he laughs. It's a quiet, delighted sound, a rarity from Mulder, and I glance toward them in time to see her secret smile. He bends even closer, so that his lips almost touch her ear.
As I leave the room I hear Scully speak, her voice warmed by a feeling without a name.