Foreign and Domestic by Maureen S. O'Brien DISCLAIMER: Mulder, Scully and the usual UNSUBs belong to Chris Carter and 10-13. Certain other agents belong to Shoot the Moon Productions. Heh, heh.... That's _Scarecrow & Mrs. King_, if you've forgotten. It just goes to show that two agents _can so_ have a romance and still get the work done. ---------------------- Skinner checked the price of milk with dismay. How could they possibly charge this much for a quart? A gallon was cheaper, but it would spoil long before he had finished drinking it. Maybe he could freeze some of it in other containers.... A shopping cart bumped into him, and the question became moot. At least for that particular half gallon jug, which went skidding away from his hands and halfway across the aisle. He could only be thankful he'd picked up a jug and not a paper carton. "Oh, I'm so sorry!" a woman's voice exclaimed. "Really, I can never steer these carts...." "Here's your milk," a man said amusedly. He was tall, blond, and had more hair, teeth and muscle than Skinner felt was strictly required in a man his own age. "Say, don't I know you? Walt Skinner, wasn't it? From the Bureau?" "You're right, Lee." The brunette woman, also middle-aged, smiled at him with a sort of homespun warmth. "We must have met you...at the reception at the FDA last year? Or was it on that cruise? Well, anyway...Amanda Stinson. And this is my husband Lee. International Federal Film?" Skinner gave them a blank look, then nodded. "Ah, yes. Your people produced those training videos we used. Good work, from what Quantico said." "Well, we've got a new line. Workplace training videos. It lets the people with the busiest schedules catch up with whatever's new in their field without taking them away from work for more than an hour or two. Which would mean you wouldn't have to send people all the way out to Quantico. Just have them watch the videos once in a while." "Well, to a certain extent we have to send our agents there. For recertification and the physical training...but for some of the less meaty classes...yes, that could come in handy. Say, why don't you make an appointment with my secretary? Bring your sales presentation. If I like it, I'll pass it on to the Director." "Wonderful!" gushed Mrs. Stinson. "We'll be sure to do that, first thing Monday morning. Oh, and one more thing?" "What's that?" asked Skinner. "You really should check the expiration date. Look, that milk's just about to expire. Now, this one's not going to expire for another two weeks. That's a much better buy." Mr. Stinson chuckled at Skinner's befuddled look. "You should listen to her. She knows her milk. Oh, and sorry we ran into you so literally, but it was nice seeing you again." "The same to you." Skinner loaded the approved milk jug into his grocery cart. Outwardly, he shook his head and moved on. Inside, he was laughing. The first phase of their plan was underway. And that Morley- smoking bastard wouldn't know anything about it until it was too late. ------------------------------ "The Stinsons are here. From International Federal Film?" "Thank you, Kimberly. Send them in." The blond and the brunette walked in, all smiles and salesmanship. The brunette began making the presentation. The blond pulled a small pen out of his pocket and began waving it around, as if to shake ink into the tip. Then he started walking around the room, pulling rubber erasers out of his pockets and placing them in front of certain things. The windows. The chairs. An ashtray. In the middle of the conference table. On the frame of Janet Reno's picture. In front of the US flag. And several places around his desk, of course. At each stop, Skinner inwardly groaned. He thought he'd been sweeping better for bugs than that. The blonde man shook the pen a few more times and then gave them the high sign. The brunette sighed with relief. "I thought for a minute there I might have to recite the whole presentation...I've already done it once, for the minicorders there." She waved vaguely at the 'erasers'. "You might have had to," the blonde answered. "Don't feel bad about missing them. Whoever's bugging you is right at the cutting edge. I can think of some names...." "So can I, Lee," Skinner answered grimly. "And if you can help me out with them, I'd be grateful. But I can't deal with it officially. Too many of my superiors -- and maybe yours -- are in on this." He rubbed his face wearily. "I thought I was done with wars when I left Vietnam." "I never had that luxury," Lee Stetson answered him seriously. "I went from Army Intel to the Agency, from dodging NVA to dancing with the KGB and GRU. And when the Cold War ended, suddenly there were more new players and disgruntled old ones than anyone ever imagined in the old days." "And you love every minute of it," Amanda Stetson reminded her husband. "Well, look at the gorgeous lady spy I get to work with." Amanda's lips quirked. "When we got married, Walt, our boss raked in the office pool. Is that what you're planning to do with your X-Files division?" Skinner almost smiled. "Of course you know about them. The entire Bureau rumor mill, mutant serial killers, and these damn conspirators know all about it. In fact, everyone knows about them...but them." "That's a shame," Lee said, with all the conviction of a happily married man. "Especially since they've got a nice private office down in the basement. Remember when Billy had us in Q Bureau to clean out the unsolved backlog?" Amanda smiled at the reminiscence. "But we didn't have all these bugs around," she pointed out. "And we got our own department as an added responsibility. It was a step up in the world." "If it were up to me, the X-Files _would_ be a promotion. I'd love to send Mulder and Scully some more agents. But as you can guess, my hands are tied. "Since I can't do anything else for them, I'd at least like them to make a life for themselves. And if they got married, the unwritten Bureau policy wouldn't apply." Lee glanced at Amanda. She had that look on her face. She was sorry for the poor Fibbies. Puppies were about to be adopted, matches made, and loose ends tied off. But he wasn't about to try to dissuade her. After all, she'd made him her project once, and look at how well it'd turned out! "But that, of course, is not the reason I called you here today." Skinner checked his watch. "Let's see how well I can brief you on the Consortium in 45 minutes." Lee and Amanda walked out of the Hoover Building all smiles and sales. They were feeling unusually paranoid, so they checked the car for bugs before they started to discuss what they'd learned. "It's got to stop, Amanda." Lee was in one of his intense moods, ready to go hunting for bear. "This 'shadow government' makes me sick. And based on what we heard today, I think we can assume that my parents were killed on their orders. They were getting too close." Amanda was equally unhappy. "And we must have been tangling with them back when we went looking for Hoover's secret files. Which leads us to the $64,000 question. Have they infiltrated the Agency?" Lee laughed harshly. "You mean, just how badly has the Agency been compromised?" He sobered. "I don't know, Amanda. I think we have to assume that any official investigation will come to their notice. We could try going to Blue Leader." "If we can trust him." Amanda smiled to show she wasn't serious. "If we can't trust Blue Leader, who can we trust?" Amanda answered Lee literally. "Skinner, since we believe him. His two agents. Francine...." Lee broke in, his voice husky. "And each other." "Always." Their next stop was a beautiful house in the suburbs of Washington. When they pulled in the driveway, a black woman waved and came out of the garden, pruning shears in hand. "Lee! Amanda! It's so good to see you again." "Hello, ma'am," Lee said respectfully. The woman frowned at him."My name is Jeannie, Lee. None of this ma'am business among family. Remember, my husband's not your boss any more." "Yes, ma'am. Er, Jeannie." Jeannie shook her head. "Isn't he ever going to outgrow this shy stage, Amanda?" Amanda pretended to consider the question. "Maybe when he's eighty or so." Jeannie laughed. "Well, before you ask, Billy's downstairs playing with his 'home theater'. It looks like just another big TV to me. You know the way." "Thanks, Jeannie," Amanda said gratefully. Downstairs in the basement, Billy had his home theater turned on with the stereo speakers going. "New laser disk?" Lee asked curiously. "New video. I just finished editing the tapes I shot last year at the Newport Jazz Festival into a highlights film." Lee looked impressed. "Hey, I think we'd like to see some of that." "Be my guest, Lee. Plenty of comfy chairs for all." Lee and Amanda sat down, and Billy turned up the stereo speakers until they were going full blast. At which point they silently left their seats and followed Billy to the dusty space behind the stairs. Billy pushed a certain brick, and the rest of the space under the house was revealed. They followed him into his secret command post, a space as free from surveillance as was humanly possible. Billy closed the door behind them and shook his head. "Now I know why Harry Thornton set up this Blue Leader bit to keep the head of the Agency secret. It wasn't to protect himself from the Soviets. It was his own agents he was worried about." "Then you really should have retired, instead of letting yourself get promoted over Dr. Smyth's head." "Are you kidding? Controlling Dr. Smyth was the only reason I let myself get promoted," Billy contended. It was only partly a joke. "Too bad you two figured it out." He smiled at them, still a little rueful. They were just too good a team. That was why, when he'd taken over, he'd made them joint section chiefs. It had broken all precedent, and Dr. Smyth and the other bureaucrats had complained. But Blue Leader had spoken, and that was it. He missed the day-to-day action at the Agency. He missed Mrs. Marston asking the password. He even missed the gossip. But this way, his people could work without too much interference from 'the big boss'. And if there was any really good gossip, Lee and Amanda passed it on. He was proud of them. They had adapted to the new world order without missing a beat. Amanda's resourcefulness and off-the-shelf shopping skills kept the section well supplied even in these days of budget cuts, while Lee's flair for operations planning kept their agents safe and successful. All this without neglecting their family or their marriage.... Yes, someday the two of them'd make one fine Blue Leader. He shook himself out of his reverie, listened to their report, and looked at the documents Assistant Director Skinner had given them. "You're right, Lee. This is a major threat to national security." He frowned. "Let me worry about our internal investigation. I'll pick the straightest arrows we've got and have them poke around on the q.t. Personal assignment from me, of course." "Of course," Amanda agreed. "And you'll make sure you sound like the voice of God Himself, just like the old Blue Leader did to us." "Of course. That's the fun part," Billy agreed. "Meanwhile, we should contact one of these agents to give them a briefing and some support equipment. Try the doctor. Her partner sounds like a loose cannon." "A nice loose cannon," Amanda amended. "And smart. All he needs is a little more stability in his life." "I don't recall matchmaking being part of our mission statement," Billy admonished gently. "It comes under our motto," Lee contended. "Servicium in umbris." Billy looked at him. "Service in the shadows, yes. But not that kind of service!"